Sunday, October 12, 2008

Reading Black

Black by Ted Dekker

An incredible story of evil and rescue, betrayal and love, and a terrorist's threat unlike anything the human race has ever known. A virulent evil has been unleashed upon the people of earth. The only man who can stop it is Thomas Hunter, an unlikely hero whose life is stretched between two worlds. Every time he falls asleep in one reality, he awakens in the other. Soon Thomas no longer knows which reality is real. Yet it quickly becomes apparent that his choices in each world impact the other-and that the fate of both rests in his hands.
(This synopsis hardly does the story justice, in my opinion.)

Ted Dekker wrote 3 books in the original Circle series. He has written two other complete series (3 and 4 book sets) whose stories and characters intertwine and follow the same theme throughout-good vs. evil and man's free will to choose.

Black is the first book in the Circle series followed by Red and White (the most amazing stories I've ever read). I am reading the part when Thomas, who up until now is a man of little faith, encounters Elyon (God) for the first time.

(I apologize for the slight buzz... and the part where I bang my leg into the desk trying to reposition myself in my chair.) :o)

Thanks to Robin for listing all of the readers on her blog!

Friday, October 3, 2008

On The Fritz

I am sorry to say that my dear old computer has been (will likely be again) on the fritz. I will post as long as it runs, but if the geek gods have other plans for me, please forgive my absence.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

I'll Take a Million Dollars!

I am in general agreement with the views expressed here, especially the idea to give each of the 350 million Americans a million dollars to stimulate the economy rather than bailing out Wall Street. Who wants a million dollars?

Sometimes businesses fail. The government's purpose is not to bail out a particular industry because of poor decision making and management. If all of the small business owners (like me) were to suffer like the banking/credit industries are now, do you think the government would bail us out. I think not.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Inspiration at 20,000 Feet Above the Earth

This is the picture that inspired the previously posted sketch. It is one of the treasures I found today during my ramblings in the garage.

Happy Digging!

Today, the weather is nice and cool (and when I say cool, I mean cool for Arizona = 80°). It's also wonderfully windy. I believe it's nice enough that I can actually go dig through boxes in my garage and find my original "Duke" drawings. Who knows what other goodies I'll find!

Happy digging!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Frantic Scribbling

A while back, Natalie wrote a post in her own handwriting. This was a unique and clever idea and her writing was very neat and legible. Her post prompted a few others to do the same.

Which brings me to this post. If I were writing a personal letter, a quick note on a card or even a journal entry, my penmanship would be quite different than what you see here. I call this frantic scribbling. (If you have other ideas about what to call it, keep them to yourself.) :o)

You're probably wondering why I don't write on the computer since it's much easier to edit the work. I usually do. But when it comes to overcoming writer's block or difficulty organizing ideas on the computer screen (or in my head), I prefer to do things the old school way... with pen and paper.

You might also be wondering why I don't write in pencil so I can just erase what I want to change. There is a reason for that, too. Sometimes I write what comes to mind first, and then change it... ten times. In the end, I come back to the first idea I had. The problem with erasing or deleting is that I can't always remember what it was I wrote to start with (or the other nine edits in between). I find that my scratched out ideas/edits can be re-read and re-used if they work better than others I have come up with.

This particular work is the product of twenty minutes of fast and furious scribbling and it is FAR from finished. After I have composed the content, I will start rearranging so the rhymes will flow. I am careful with this part because it often ignites a whole new round of editing content. Once it's done, I will type it and save it on the computer with my other completed projects.

At some point, I will submit it for publishing. And then the process of editing will begin again. :o)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Tying Shoes

20,000 Feet Above the Earth

In-flight magazines are hardly worth the energy expended just taking them out of the pocket only millimeters away from your knees, but I got lucky this time. There on the cover was Ben Affleck looking up at me. Out of the bag came the sketchbook and charcoal pencil (I love working with charcoal- pencil or block). I decided to keep my tacky magazine as a reminder that inspiration can be found in unexpected and unusual places... even 20,000 feet above the earth.

Twenty Two Years Ago

Drawing was an emotional outlet for me when I was a child. Twenty two years ago, I had a sketchbook that I kept in the drawer of my grandmother's antique sewing table. I grew up and moved out- leaving the book behind. I served in the army, got married, had two children and moved on to other forms of artistic (and quite emotional) expression.

Years later, my mother gave me a birthday gift. She found my old sketchbook, cut out some of her favorites and had them framed for me. I was quite surprised that she had kept them for so long, and I was thankful because it rekindled the passion I had for drawing.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Sneaky Cat

Being the food, shelter and affection provider for five very... let's just say unique cats, I find absolute joy in the way this cat moves (seemingly without moving).

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Slow Posting

I apologize to the one or two of you that actually read my blog for the delay between posts. As you can see, I have been giving it a major facelift. I am done for now, but as I learn more about editing HTML (which I am NOT fond of so far) I will add to, rearrange, and change the look of the blog during the times when I have nothing to say. (HA! I ALWAYS have something to say, but for now what I'm writing is not for posting.)

PS. Thanks to Kiersten for getting her background from the cutest blog on the block website. (I saw the ad on yours and found the two I used on their site.)

PSS. I figured out how to remove their little advertisement (or edit it) if you would like to know how. (I will be adding their tag/link back to my blog, but in a much cuter way.)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

RE: Off The Writing Track

A Different World by Bucky Covington

Off The Writing Track

In response to Fear Itself:

My life growing up in rural Mississippi is something my children will never quite understand. My sister and I were always outside and never had fears of drive-by shootings, being kidnapped or anything of that sort.

I am currently raising my family in a very busy suburb in Phoenix. While I want more than anything to keep my children safe, I also believe that some things in life just have to be experienced.

My sons are teenagers now and I tell them to "go play outside" at least a few times a week. I expect them to walk to their friends' homes a few blocks away, to the park down our street or to go climb the mountain about a mile from our home. I also expect them to return safely. My daughter, however, is five and lives by different rules (just as my sons did when they were younger).

I try not to let the media influence my decisions as a parent, but the fact of the matter is that three child molesters live within ten miles of my home. That would be unheard of twenty five years ago in the small town I lived in, but it's about average for a big city. (Trust me, I checked the crime statistics when looking for a home.)

While I may have some media-induced, irrational fears, I still believe that children need to be children. If I rob them of all the life experiences that taught me, that gave me the grit to know what in life is worth fighting for, it would be a great disservice to them. So, as a mother of three, I will push my fears aside and send my children to "go play outside."

Mumble Jumble In My Brain (And On Paper!)

So what do you do when you have a million ideas spinning around in your head but can't get them out?!?

A few weeks ago, I uncovered an incredible inspiration that brought about a flood of ideas. Since then, I've started about five children's stories and six feature articles (with many more ideas listed in my little red notebook).

I've dealt with what people refer to as writer's block before. This is something I can work through. I simply force myself to freewrite. After a page or two of scattered thoughts and assorted ramblings, the clutter from my mind starts to clear and the words begin to pour out... coherently. What's left is a very detailed and organized article or story.

This has been my method for many years. These past two weeks, it appears, I am in need of a new method. Freewriting only led me to about eight pages of story starts, or middles, or outlines that, for some unknown reason, I am unable to complete.

I have so much going on in my mind and I've put as much as I can make sense of onto paper. Now what?

How have some of you overcome being 'stuck'? (Natalie, this obviously does not apply to you recently!) :o)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Stirred Memories

The rediscovery of my Lowly Worm Word Book led me down Memory Lane (this is referred to as if it were an actual road on a map). In reality, my "Memory Lane" is called 8th Street or simply 'the strip.'

It began at the Sonic Drive-in and ended at College Park (a shopping center near the community college). It was THE place to cruise back in high school. All along this nearly one mile strip, kids would hang out in various parking lots. Each clique- defined by school, social status, financial status, interests, etc.- had their own place.

Lowly Worm was like an undersea earthquake that initiated a tsunami of memories. Remembering the 'strip' was only the first wave. The rush that followed was almost overwhelming. One of the waves that hit me with great force was Duke. Such wonderful memories.

Let me tell you a little about Duke.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Forever Indebted

Dear Richard Scarry,

I owe you a very special THANK YOU! After being inspired by the one sneaker wearing worm last week, I have completed one short children's bedtime story and have another in the works. Even though I have only written two, Lowly has inspired so many ideas that my computer (err... notebook and pretty red pen) will hardly have time to rest in the coming weeks and months. Because of this wonderful little book, Mr. Scarry, I am forever indebted.



My first children's book is COMPLETE! I shared it with a parent today and she loved it! It's short and sweet... and will hopefully be a best selling little board book when it's published! (I'm naming it and claiming it!) A second story is written, but it just isn't flowing well for me. A little re-working of the sentence structure and a little rearranging here and there, and voila! It's amazing how exhausting writing something so short can be!

I believe it's because I pour all of my creative energy into everything I write, regardless of length. But isn't that what makes writing such a beautiful experience to start with? I have to say that I have gained a new respect for those of you who can write anything longer than ten pages! ;)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Name It and Claim It!

I love the way Prill Boyle describes doubt in her blog post Dealing With Doubt. Prill Boyle writes,

I'm struggling with doubt. The trick, I suspect, is to turn away before it grabs you by the throat. My personal demon sits on my shoulder wearing a gray business suit and a fedora and whispers in my ear that I'd better keep my day job. 'You're not a writer,' it taunts me. When I shared this with my mom, she remarked, 'That little devil sounds just like your dad!' I still struggle with doubt. (Who doesn't?) But these days I no longer ignore my fedora-wearing demon; I talk back to it!

The Bible says, "Life and death are in the power of the tongue."

Think back to the first time you truly fell in love. Every molecule of your being was consumed with a deep, passionate love for that person. You felt it raging inside of you like water boiling, the tiny bubbles of air racing to the surface trying desperately to escape. Do you remember how your feelings (and your relationship) changed when you spoke the words "I love you!" for the very first time? It made that abstract feeling real, tangible. Speaking those words changed the way his lips felt on yours, the way his arms felt wrapped around you, holding you close.

I believe in the power of spoken (and written) words. Speaking/writing what's in our hearts, our souls, and our spirits for the world to hear/read transforms our thoughts and feelings into living entities that can change and grow.

Face your fears and doubts and talk back to them! Shout to them that you refuse to let them control your life or prevent you from making THIS dream happen!

Name it and claim it!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Preparation... and not H!

I was in my daughter's room two days ago and we came across a little book that was given to me as a high school graduation gift by my best friend. It's a cute little board book about two inches by two inches. It's called Lowly Worm Word Book by Richard Scarry. I know, I know. You're wondering, "Why did you get THAT for your graduation? Did you go to a special school?" I assure you I went to a normal high school- as normal as it gets way out in the Mississippi sticks. But back in high school, my friends, my sister and I thought things like this little book were funny and we spent hours laughing and making fun of them.

My daughter and I read the book and then decided that it should be kept on my desk instead of thrown in a drawer in her room. Yesterday morning I sat at the computer staring at the blank screen trying to figure out what I should write. After about an hour of wasted time, I decided to read through some of my favorite websites and blogs instead. When I got to my "Writer's Guidelines" link, I clicked on one children's magazine that has been on my "I can and should do this" list for the past month. But this time, it was different. The site hadn't changed, but with Lowly Worm looking at me with his goofy little hat and one sneaker (that I've always wondered how he managed to tie), the gears in my mind started reeling! I couldn't slow the ideas down long enough to even remember most of them!

I picked up my mini book and headed into the other room with a notebook and pen in hand! (Sometimes, I find that I work better 'old school.') I wasn't writing a Richard Scarry or Lowly Worm related book, but my hand could hardly keep up with all the ideas for poems and short stories for children that Lowly had inspired. After an hour sitting at my dining room table, I had written about four book ideas and compiled four pages of lists. The lists were of rhyming word groups (to speed up the writing process).

Children... I love! They've been my life and my job for fifteen years. Children's literature... I know! I have an extensive collection in my home and I'm always finding new favorites to read/buy. And children's books... I can definitely write!

Now that I'm prepared, motivated, and overflowing with ideas, it's time to write!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

To Cross Train Or Not?

As I search through the thousands of writing jobs (freelance and staff positions), I see again and again that a huge percentage of the jobs require desktop publishing, web site design, or photography experience in addition to being able to produce quality content. The benefits and job opportunities for a good writer with skills in any/all of these areas seems endless.

But wouldn't studying all of these fields make me a "jack of all trades and master of none?"

I hardly have enough time now for writing. Should I push myself harder and train in these other areas or stay focused on writing content thus limiting the jobs I'm qualified for in today's changing market?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Fear, Self Doubt and Frustration

While I created this blog to chronicle my journey to become a published writer, there are some thoughts and feelings that are incredibly personal and difficult to share. We all experience some fear and self doubt. Is my work really good enough to be published? Absolutely, but maybe a particular piece needs a major rewrite before it will be accepted. We all experience some frustrations with the length of the process. How long should I continue trying if I get rejection after rejection, month after month? As long as it takes to make your dream happen!! (With the last sentence typed, I'm reminded of Natalie's post about Word correcting her writing even when she typed it incorrectly on purpose.)

Because writing isn't my only job right now, I find it difficult to have enough quiet, uninterrupted time to clear my mind and focus on composing a witty, fun, or informative post. It's even more difficult to find enough time to research and write an article for submission. Blog posts are easy enough to edit if I find an error after the fact, but an error found after submitting work to an editor/publisher can mean sudden death for that piece.

I am somewhat frustrated and even irritated right now. I've wanted to do this for so long. I would love more than just about anything to be able to turn my current business over to someone else so I can dedicate 8-10 hours a day to writing. The bill collectors would not like that very much. For now, I will have to work harder to find a balance between my life as a single mother of three, running a business from home, and pursuing the third love of my life- writing. (In case you're wondering, God ranks #1 and my children are #2- second only because without God I would not have been blessed with the three most amazing children in the world!)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Query About Queries

Wow! There is quite a mountain of information about this topic on the web! Unfortunately, most of it is repetitive, generic and overall not useful. While I'm not looking to steal your business, I am looking to start one.

A few questions for the published writers out there:

Have you discovered specific tips through your experiences that make your query letters more effective? Have you found the editors and publishers respond more to specific elements or certain formats? What is a reliable resource of current editors names and publishing company contact information?

Your experience and knowledge are invaluable and I welcome your input!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

First Submission Jitters

As I prepared to submit my first article for publication, I realized that I was not at all nervous as I expected I would be. Nor was I giddy with excitement! This set in motion a series of thoughts that led to a series of questions. The first was "What's wrong with me?!?"

How can I, finally deciding my skin is tough enough to handle rejection of work I've poured my heart and soul into, NOT feel excited or nervous submitting my work for the FIRST time? Where are the first time jitters?

After delving into the recesses of my psyche, I have discovered the reason. Faith. Not faith that this particular article will get picked up for publication. Not faith that I won't ever fail or be rejected. But I realized that I have faith in me. I know how hard I work at producing quality material and that I pour my heart and soul into everything I write. So I have faith that my work will someday be recognized, respected, and PUBLISHED!

A Dream Began

When I was ten years old, I participated in a gifted program in Dallas, Texas. In this one day per week program, we (me and all the other nerdy types living within an hour of the host school) were given the opportunity to explore subjects outside the normal 'ABCs and 123s.'

Basic computer animation was fun, but back in the early eighties (yes, I'm dating myself a bit here), it was more like coloring in squares on graph paper and moving them across the screen. Our color selection was limited as well. Try creating the awe of the Sistene Chapel ceiling with the standard box of eight crayons! In the end, our giant, squarish brown gorilla snatched a pefectly t-shaped black airplane out of the plain blue sky while standing on a fantastic white rectangular building outlined in black.

We also learned how to take photos from magazines and turn them into transparent slides to be used in the new and high-tech slide projectors. Each slide needed a 2-3 sentence description to be read during the 'big show' at the end of the year. Woohoo! It was quite a party, let me tell you!

Making kites was ok, but not as much fun as the picnic in the park where the kite flying contest was held. A trip to a historic cemetery to take rubbings of grave markers made prior to 1900 was very dark and dreary and right up my alley! Typing class was not very exciting, but I was proud to be the fastest typer in the class! I could type 60wpm before my 11th birthday!

A life changing moment came for me when the poetry and short story writing class began the second semester. We were told that each year, the city published a book and selected only 100 poems and stories written by children 1st through 12th grades. None of this really mattered to me because there were more than 10,000 entries submitted from over 75 schools the previous year. I wrote the poems and stories required for the class and after two months, our teachers selected what they believed were the best and submitted them to the contest. None of us knew which ones were sent in. Our teachers didn't want us to feel rejected if we didn't win. We would only be notified that our poem/story was submitted IF we won.

After another four weeks of waiting, the complimentary copies of the books arrived and the children flipped through them wildly searching to see whose work, if any, had been selected. Then I saw it... right there... on the table of contents... in black and white... MY NAME! My poem had been published! A dream began. I have been writing ever since.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

In the beginning...

And so it begins.