Navigating the Hills and Valleys of Holidays

I will not whine.

Let's face it, life has its ups, downs, and sharp curves, and we all experience them.  Looking back on this year, my first impulse is to say that it started out fairly well, then took a downward turn.  Not a steep hill, but slowly going down.  So there have been times, especially during these holidays when crawling into a hole or at least bed with covers over the head sounds divine and the only way to survive.  Adopting Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" as my theme song and heaving heavy, morose sighs are my usual response, but I've had some new thoughts on this.

It's easy to let the holiday rush and fuss, and the super highs we experience during these last few weeks of the year leave us tired and worn out. Emotional highs are good, but, like sugar highs, the crash when they're over are sometimes too hard to bear.  Those times when we crawl into a fetal position come too fast and too often.  My highs haven't been all that high, but then a couple of things happened.

The night after the day after Christmas happened.  I've been diligently working on revisions from hell and had gotten to the point where I didn't know where to go with the scene, so I decided to leave it for the morning and go to bed.  We all tend to get a little maudlin when we're tired.  Being worn out, especially mentally, makes it so much easier to see the negative things that have happened or are happening.  That was me.  And suddenly I realized that all wasn't as bad as I kept thinking.  Good things had happened recently.  Okay, not so good ones, too, and those were what I'd been focusing on.  How easy it is to miss the good things, especially the small ones, when we're down in the dumps.  As soon as I had that stunning thought that there had been good that I'd not embraced as I should, I felt a smidgen better.  So I thought a little harder.  I found two, specific things that made me take notice.

A month ago, I vanquished dark clouds that had hung over me for something that had happened way back in high school.  It took the simple act of stuffing my bad feelings aside and saying hello to the person who I hadn't seen or spoken to for 35 years.  In fact I've tried not to even think of it.  What surprised me that day was that, afterward, I felt proud of myself.  I felt good.  About me.  A little over a week later, that person called me, and we talked on the phone for nearly an hour.  (Let me say that I nearly didn't answer the phone when I saw the caller ID.)  But it was okay.  It didn't hurt at all, and because of it, I've put those bad times behind, where they belong.  Now I can smile.

Christmas Eve, there was a knock on our door, and outside stood a man holding a plastic sack.  The neighbor introduced himself, and handed me the bag.  "It's a ham," he said.  "Can you use it?"  Well, color me shocked.  Apparently he's gotten to know my grandsons and thinks they're great.  (Obviously he doesn't know them as well as I do. ;) )  It wasn't until I went into the house, after talking with him for a good ten minutes, that I realized who he was.  To be honest, I wouldn't have picked him as someone who would bring me a ham or even have a conversation with, civil or not.  And it was okay.  It didn't hurt at all.

How do I say this?  It isn't the things that happen that make us angry or sad, it's our thoughts about them.  Granted, life has its disappointments and sadness.  But it also has surprises and happiness.  If we focus more on the good, instead of wallowing in the bad by thinking and worrying about them, we find that it's a pretty decent turnover.  It's those little things, like a hello or a ham that can make a big difference.

With the end of this year coming to a close, it's a time of reflection for many.  A time to look back and decide what changes we want to make.  I'm not one for making New Year's Resolutions.  I know ahead of time that they'll be broken within days.  But if I want to make the most of the rest of my life, I will have to make one.  Not a resolution for the new year, but one to be carried out each day.  An Each Day Resolution?  Each night when I go to bed, I'll find one good thing--one thing that made me smile or laugh--that happened during the day, and then focus on it.  And it won't hurt at all.  In fact, it will probably make me smile.

Anyone want to vanquish the blues?  Would you like to join me on the Each Day Resolution and see if this experiment works?  Life, itself is an experiment, so let's make it a great one.

And I did not whine.  Well, just a little in the beginning. ;)

If you're looking for help on how to get through the holidays, check out 'Tis the Season of Madness, over at my blog, Diary of a Mad Romance Author.  You'll find links galore!  It isn't too late to start.


As you can see I managed to miss my commitment to write a blog post on the 26th!


Because I'm over-committed!

Who did that?



Because I don't pay enough attention to how many hours are in a day and how many days are in a week and how many things I've said I will do for others (as well as commitments to myself!).

This is the season, especially, to over-commit ourselves and then make ourselves crazy-mean (teeth clenched when one more person says, "Did you wash underwear today?" They're lucky to have dirty underwear! Keep up with the questions and I'll not only give them a perfect example of passive-aggressive behavior, but an up front seat of their underwear burning on the front lawn....


Are you paying attention?

Did you over-commit yourself too? I took a good look at myself today when I realized that I'd missed this blog YESTERDAY! Really?, Yesterday? Yup, 'fraid so.

I stopped. Thought. And realized that over-commitment is an overpowering thing that many of us do. My goal for the new year is to stop that! I'll be armed with a calendar and this time I'm going to use it! And I'm going to be practical on exactly how much time I really have to do things in a day.

Here's a rundown. Compare it to the things you can actually do.

In a day I,
wake up, get dressed, fix food, clean up after food, clean the sandbox we live in (work on it)--this will   require over four hours per day, then I will drive somewhere and do other things at least five times a week--going anywhere will involve no less than three hours, then I will be doing wash, doing bookkeeping chores, talking to loved ones and otherwise be doing things of importance.

How much time can I realistically count on to do things for others? About an hour or two a week--if I remember.

How much time can I realistically count on writing? Time unknown. However, with my new found resolve to watch time. I think I can get a handle on my commitments and start being better about my commitments to myself and my writing.

The New Year is soon. We have a bright and shiny new year, full of hope and possibilities.  Let's all commit to figuring out where our time goes and do we want it to be spent in that manner. Let us be aware of ourselves and each moment spent that can never be retrieved. This doesn't mean that we should give up goofing-off time. Our goof-off time renews us. However, thoughtless unknowing with a side of guilt I wouldn't think would do anyone any good.

See you on the other side--(In 2014 ya goofs!)
I'll be thinking of you!

My Library Christmas Tree (Melissa Robbins)

Merry Christmas Eve!  I thought I would share my library Christmas tree with all of you.  It’s a tree I have been dying to create for a while and it’s still a work in progress.  I designed the base out of necessity.  The original one was too small for the heaviness of the tree.  The two books are fake paper mache books I painted and stuck the base inside. 

Every tree needs an angel and one reading a book is perfect for mine.  That’s Skippyjon Jones photobombing my picture.  One can’t have a tree without a cat climbing up it or should I say a Chihuahua?  And yes that’s Lowly Worm around the base.  I am a HUGE Richard Scary fan.  The other ornaments reflect famous stories, mini books of Little Women, Wuthering Heights, and Alice in Wonderland.  Route 66 for Grapes of Wrath.  Many of the little ornaments are actually charms I found in the jewelry section of my local craft store.  I’m on the lookout for a pirate ship or the Jolly Roger flag for my favorite pirate story, Treasure Island. 

What ornaments to represent your favorite books would you add if you had a library tree?

Christmas Mission Possible (Penny Rader)

Happy holidays!  Your mission, should you choose to accept it (and I hope you will!), is to use as many of the following words as you want in a Christmas piece. No pressure to use all the words.  It can be a poem, a haiku, a short story, a scene, a paragraph, or a sentence. And feel free to use a portion of the word, if need be.

Ready?  Let's play!


And if you need some visual inspiration, maybe these will help:

by mararie, creative commons license  

by koko love, creative commons license

by HumanSeeHumanDo, creative commons license

by rika Oyen, creative commons license

I can't wait to read your offerings!

May your Christmas be blessed, happy, and merry.

The Dent in the Side of My Head

The theme this month is Gifts and the best gifts ever! Be very careful of gifts....

I only started writing because my mom bought a Tandy portable computer at a yard sale and thought I would like it. I had it in a Wal-mart sack for a few months before pulling it out to see if it would turn on. It wasn't until the week after I discovered it was alive that I thought about writing on it. It was more word processor than computer, but it did the job. It was a tiny white thing and every word on its tiny screen was in an odd grayish green written in computer font. After I wrote most of a book, I'd maxed out the memory as well as realized that with the year 2000 upon us, that I might lose everything I had to Y2K issues. I bought a real laptop, converted the files, and never looked back.

Each new computer is a new gift and a new headache with its own special problems. Much like a new puppy, the future is bright and the possibilities endless.


The first problems start. Slowing down. Making mistakes. Peeing on the new carpet. Oh, wait, that's the old dog, not the computer. But the emotion is much the same--dismay and aggravation.

Last monday, you know, the day I was supposed to write this blog? I discovered my e-mail was taking over a minute each to delete. Things had been slowing down, but oh, this was awful. So, still in my lacy long blue nightgown and fuchsia/orange caftan, with bed-hair waving, waiting for my morning coffee to perk, I did a bad thing. I contacted technical support.

Oh, my stars! (actual expletive exchanged in consideration for the faint of heart).

The tech people said they could help for the price of $$$.$$ and it would be good for six months. They could help me remotely and fix my computer as I watched and I had to watch because there was things they would need my assistance on. Since my computer was beginning to go into mini-comas, I decided their plan was best

Bad move.

I stole one potty break and one cup of very cold coffee at 3:10 PM when I accidently disconnected the tech when I re-attached my router.

At 7:15 PM, my beloved came home and peeked in the office door, took one look at me, and said, "What a life. Couldn't be bothered to get dressed today?"

If I'd have had a skillet in my hand at the time, instead of trying to stand up because my feet had grown roots, I'd have put a dent in the side of his head.

However, I couldn't catch him.

Computers make me want to bang my head against the wall. Repeatedly. With emotion.

Friends tell me that will leave unsightly dents in the side of my head.

So, WARA-ites and others, please be advised. The tech showed me disgust in his 'chat' with me by telling me my multiple issues could have been addressed and taken care of if I'd have been optimizing my computer regularly. His tone was much like someone pointing out that if you get a dog you have to clean up the droppings in the yard and why hadn't I? I had to ask what optimizing is. He showed me.

Optimizing: Use a program like CCleaner and Malwarebytes. They have free versions.  Do it monthly. They fix Registry errors that occur when other programs snag pieces of your computer's operating code to do their thing. They don't put it back in place and sometimes take it permanently.  Much like guests, husbands, or children using the kitchen. Silverware disappears, sticky residue marks appear in odd places, bread hardens, mayo resembles plastic, and crumbs may be found in the butter.

I have checked this advice with other more savvy computer users and it turns out, that yeah, you gotta do this or you're asking for trouble.

I tried to do other work while incarcerated in the chair, but found out that I'd missed a cue on my computer screen which had the tech drawing red circles to get my attention--again. I didn't make that mistake a third time.

Save yourself from wanting to put a dent in your head or someone elses. Optimize.

I went online and researched CCleaner and Malwarebytes from the company the tech guy was using. He used professional versions that also came with Recuva. Recuva can do miracles--it finds lost files even if you've put them through the trash can and deleted them from there (something I did with this entire years financial records a mere two weeks ago). I bought all three professional versions from for less than ninety dollars. This would have been a lot cheaper than last monday's activities.  By the way, the tech guy deleted his from my machine so that I couldn't use his. If I hadn't been paying close attention, I'd never have noticed what programs he was using and the rest he was doing.

One of my best gifts ever is finding out I can write novels. Another is a computer. And of course the members of WARA who make it all come together like rich warm chocolate sauce over ice cream and a brownie. Thank you--every one!

And now I give you a gift of knowledge: OPTIMIZE!  (before you have to....)

My Wildest Christmas Gift? by J Vincent

I looked at the calendar yesterday when I sat to rest a moment from packing up our temporary home and saw it was the 5th! The topic this month is our wildest gift wish.  What I am getting for Christmas isn’t my wildest wish.  This was never on any list I had.  It still confounds me how this all came about but it is certainly the biggest “gift” I’ve ever gotten.

Our new home.  Not exactly a “gift” but in many ways it is considering we’re making the move because of my health problems.  Having no steps will make my life immeasurably easier.  And my DH is sacrificing in leaving his large garden behind as well as all his nut and fruit trees.  Any  sacrifice is a gift and this is a huge one.

We start moving in this weekend.  Kansas is helping with some extra balmy weather but my kids assure me they will be warm from all the lifting and carrying.  Our temporary quarters have taught us many things.  Mainly that we can live without a great deal which we once considered necessary.  I have to admit I revel at the idea of a kitchen with a stove and oven, a full sized sink, and a pantry!  Not that we haven’t managed perfectly well with a microwave, a toaster oven, and an electric skillet.  It’s been a lot like camping.  I think the best part will just be having our own space.

We’ve learned gratitude in a big way.  So many things to be thankful for--the generous son and daughter-in-law who provided this temporary space, for our daughters who have chipped in time and again, for those who have helped with the move out of the old and into the temporary and now into the new, for the support of friends through a very trying summer, for those kind souls who make up WARA and encourage and support writers even when they aren’t writing, for authors as well as readers.  I’m especially thankful for the gift of being able to see the good, the blessings even when they seem to be in thin supply or when there are difficulties to surmount.
All of this combined makes a pretty incredible gift!  Wishing you many blessings. Merry Christmas one and all!

What the &%^$$ is a Story Bible?

Small shelf of current WIP bibles

I'm a plotter.  I didn't start out that way, but as I continued to write, my critique partners/writing buddies told me I must learn to plot.  Yeah.  Sure.  Right.  Me plot?

But their reasoning was that once I sold a book or two, I'd need to be able to write a full synopsis.  I thought that if I knew what would happen in the story, it would totally ruin the fun of writing.  Those CPs were ruthless, and so I learned to plot.  Now I can't write without plotting. ☺

I'm visual.  I wish I would have known that in high school.  It might have saved a lot of hours...days...weeks.  But now that I know it, not to mention that the memory of something I thought of two minutes ago can vanish into thin air, I've become aware that if I don't write it down and keep it somewhere, a thought, an idea, a name, a conversation/dialogue between characters can be gone in a the blink of an eye.

I didn't start out building a bible.  I didn't even know there was such a thing.  Now I know that a lot of writers make them and use them.  Do a search on the internet for *how to build a story bible* and see how many articles are available.

The key to a bible is how you put it together.  Sue's won't look like Jane's.  Ann's won't look like Sue's.  It's an individual "thang" when building a bible.  You make and use what you need.  Pick and choose what works best for you.

My method is to use a 3" binder.  I started using white, but I've found that using a different color for different genres works well, too.  If I'd known I'd be writing a 10-book series, I might have chosen a special color for it.  I didn't, so all 11 binders are white.  (One for each book and a separate for the series.)

Outside front of bible
Like Penny and Melissa, I use pictures to start.  One of the hero, one of the heroine, and one each of a child or pet or whatever is needed.  I use my B&W printer to print them--no need for color.  Those are in a file on my computer. I slip the photo of the main characters into the front of the binder.  In the photo on the right, you can't see the photos, but there's a method to my madness.  Because I only plot the main idea of each scene, I don't know exactly what is going to happen, so as I'm writing and realize I need to change something in previous scenes that are written, I use sticky notes and put them on the front of the binder.  I also keep track (upper right of photo) of how many words and pages I've written, both by scene and chapter, and by date.

Heroine & Hero
Inside the binder, I use sheet protectors on the things I use the most.  The order in which I place them isn't always the same, but the basics are...until I realize I need to add something new.

Characters are the most important thing in a story, both who they are and what they look like.  (Harlequin likes us to send pictures of well-known people for our cover ideas.)  There are many places to find pictures for characters.  Modeling websites, photo sites (do a web search), even Pinterest are helpful.

Character List

Next comes a complete list of character names, starting with the hero and heroine and including the names of any characters that appear in the book or are mentioned by name.  After having to hunt for the name of the waitress at the local cafe, who appears randomly throughout the series, or the parents who were mentioned by name, but never appeared, I decided everyone with a name was needed, after all.  If a new character appears, the name and who they are (related to hero/heroine or minor character, even if only mentioned), that character goes on the list.

It helps to know the ages of each of the main characters, their children, brothers and sisters, and babies born that are relevant, so I create an age chart for each book (below left).  The first year at the top (in the right column of the graph) is the year in which the book takes place, then drops by each year, until the oldest character is born.  There's enough room to put a few words for something such as "moved to Desperation" or "Graduated high school," anything that might be a major event in time that appears as backstory in the book.  If it's a book within a series, I have a chart with the main characters' ages in all the books.  If there are children, those ages are listed, too. (below right)
Age charts story and Series Main Characters
Then comes the plotting.  While I do the original plotting on a big white board, I like to have a portable copy I can take along or have at hand to look at as I write.  I also create a calendar that has the scene on the date it takes place (one page per month).  It helps me know how time is progressing throughout the story, and I don't have to hunt for how long it's been since something has happened...or will happen.
Small storyboard and Calendar of Scenes

Another handy tool is to have a calendar of a full year.  I found a great place online that has a printable calendar that goes back in time and goes forward a few years, too.  Another aid in plotting is a timeline, which comes in handy with the full year calendar when working through the story calendar.  The timeline includes time of day.  It helps when plotting forward to see if all makes sense, before using the monthly calendar.
Full year calendar and Timeline
I've always loved looking at house designs and house plans.  When many scenes will take place in a particular place, such as a house, I look for a plan that will suit my character.  Why?  Without a "map," I get lost and forget if the kitchen is to the left or the right, or even where the staircase is located.  It's like playing with a dollhouse on paper. ☺  Because the setting of the series is based on the layout of the area around the town where I spent my junior high and high school years, I pulled up Google Maps and have several aerial shots.  Three of the books in the series involve two brothers and a sister.  A little mini-series within a series.  The house of the hero in DESIGNS ON THE COWBOY (June 2013) is modeled after my great-aunt and great-uncle's house, a Victorian built in the late 1800s.  I had to go by memory on the inside, but for the farm/ranch, itself, an aerial view helped with the outbuildings, roads, and more.  This house and surrounding area play a big part in my upcoming August book (the sister), and a neighbor's house, which really isn't there.  I added squares of paper to show where the house, barn, a large pond, and other things were located on the hero's property.
House plan and photo, with aerial shot of the layout of the land
Last but not least for the August book, I kept getting myself turned around in the area around the hero's ranch house, so I created my own little map, so I would know what the characters would see and how they would get to where they were going. (on left)  The photo on the right is my working calendar.  I began it about halfway through the series.  It helps me keep on deadline and get things done when they need to be done to beat that deadline. ☺
Layout of ranch yard and My Working Calendar
All of the above--and sometimes more--are kept in protective sleeves in the front of the binder, now a story bible.  Behind them are tabs for each printed chapter.  Again, for portability.  I often work while waiting to pick up grandkids from school.  Nearly everything for writing the story is in the bible.  Some have more information from research I've done, most don't have aerials or ranch "maps."  If I think I might need something, I'll add it.  Pockets in front and back of the binder are handy for extras, such as scribbled notes or ideas for later.

For more information on Story Bibles, check out Taming the Series Beast on my author blog.  There are also links there for information on how other writers create their bibles.

So there it is.  My method of keeping track.  While I'd never dreamed of writing a 10-book series, the first two books grew into more new books, and I'm thankful I'd already begun to keep a bible for each book.  To keep all the major series information and a complete list of all characters (even those mentioned) and a complete age chart, who they are and what books they appear in, I use a 1/2" binder.

Remember, if you decide to create a story bible, do it your way.  Mine is only one of many.

Are you completely confused?  Overwhelmed?  That's okay.  It's done little by little.  For more details, you can give me a shout in the comments.  There are always little tricks to make it easier.

Oh, and HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!  (We're having our turkey day tomorrow.)


With writing inspiration, creative sparks, craft techniques and other assorted stuff, I come up dismally short. I don’t use a plotting board. I never know when a turning point is about to show up, and I seldom know my characters life history before I begin. I have no picture boards or books to ignite my imagination. My ability to get from start to finish doesn't fit the instruction manual. I've tried these other methods, but instead of helping, I end up with brain freeze.

I do work at punctuation and grammar, and I did have to learn proper formatting, but those have nothing to do with the creative part of writing a story. I don’t look for inspiration either, it finds me. Whatever goes into my brain eventually comes back out. I write by instinct. That’s what I call it, anyway. My only muse is life.

My current WIP is almost finished. It began with me jotting down my feelings about a motel room I stayed in while visiting my mom’s hometown. The next day I ran into an elderly gentleman on the street who graciously allowed me to take a peek at his 1800 era mansion. I saw another gentleman that same day, much younger and infinitely more handsome, wearing a green work jacket of unknown origin. Those three minor events have spawned one-hundred and twenty-four thousand words.

My first book came from my lifelong love of horse ranching and kids. I've never worked with horses. I've never lived on a ranch, but I've always wanted to. I wrote a novel based on my desire to live that kind of life. I wrote a story about the redemptive power of God’s love in the lives of my characters. I wrote what I know.

The second book I penned is a sequel and there is yet a third to be written. It’s next on my to-do list. Why I decided to start my writing career with a trilogy is beyond me. After that comes a Christian fantasy novel. I have a beginning, and a vague idea of where’s it’s going, but that’s it. Oh, the good guys win, and the guy gets the girl. Does that count as plotting?

I can’t even say where my third novel came from. There is nothing in my life that reflects what my characters go through besides the pain that comes with living, and the fact that God can redeem all. This isn't much help for new writers but it’s all I've got. 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!!!!!

My Top Five Tools for Writing (Melissa Robbins)

There are so many stages of writing with different tools helping in each stage.   Here are my top five.

Plotting Board –  When I wrote in my teen years, I didn’t plot, so my stories eventually failed.  Now, with my plotting board, I can move around scene cards and see what’s missing. It’s hard to see the big picture in a word document.   I use Alexandra Sokoloff’s screenwriting techniques and her Element of Acts. 

Sketching – I find if I sketch my characters, describing them comes easier and inspires me to write more.  Oddly enough, my sketching also helps my critique partners when I sketch their characters.  They see what I see.  Did they give enough detail that I could draw a scene or too much?  These sketches are Fran and Connor.  Of course, I drew Connor shirtless.  You’re welcome. 

Critique Partners – For years no one knew I liked to write, because I kept the pages hidden from everyone else including my family.  I became friends with Fran in Irish Dancing and discovered she was a writer too.  We swapped our wips and have come a long way since then.  Critique partners see the things we miss and help you when the words won’t come with encouragement or ideas. 

Spreadsheets – Wonderful invention; I have an aerodrome full of people, eight pilots in one story!  Spreadsheets allow me to keep track of all my WAAFs, pilots, RAF support personnel, and their families.  Just call me Group Officer Robbins or better yet Air Commandant Robbins (highest rank a WAAF could receive, equivalent to a Major General).  I also have family tree spreadsheets since my characters seem to hook up.  ;0) 

Lately, spreadsheets have helped me with my plot.  In mystery writing, everyone has secrets.  The key is finding out which character would kill to keep those secrets hidden.  My Agenda Spreadsheet lists my main characters, but not my first person pov character.  I always know what she is thinking, but by keeping track of the agendas of the rest of my characters, I can see where to insert clues or reveal them.

Google – I’m convinced that writers need to know a little bit about everything.  That’s probably why I earned the nickname, Queen of Useless Knowledge from my husband.  I have googled things on occasion, like the scientific name of clouds because a pilot will know that.  I guess before Google, writers spent all their time at the library.  

Do you use any of these tools? 

Writing Inspiration in Images (Penny Rader)

Where do I find writing inspiration?  All over the place, but I'm especially fond of pictures.  I feel a weird sense of contentment when I have a pile of magazines next to me and a pair of scissors handy.  Pictures for characters and settings get clipped.  Words and phrases are added to the pile.  Bits from articles that might add perfect layers of backstory make the cut, too.

These boards remind me that I am creative and urge me to get words on paper.

When I find discover gems perfect for my current work-in-progress they go onto

Meghan's board


Gideon's board

Come Home to Comfort board

Extra bits find their way into binders

For those times when words refuse to flow from my fingertips, I'll pull a picture from the pile and use it as a writing prompt or in conjunction with a writing exercise from one of the creativity books on my shelf.  Writing by hand feels most natural to me, at least for first drafts.

And if that doesn't work, I'll take a time out, find a chocolate bar, and rearrange some blocks.

Or go play on Pinterest where I have boards for heroes, heroineskid characters, or characters in general, and my wip.  I was a little late coming to the Pinterest party, but I find it so relaxing and, well, inspiring.  A virtual version of snipping and clipping from magazines.  Who knew Pinterest could be so addictive?

How about you?  What inspires you?

Novel Writing—A Study of People

            Of all human endeavors storytelling is one of the occupations most involved in the study of people and why they do what they do as well as to whom—including themselves.

            Oh, how noble that sounded. Really, we’re third person busybodies. However, being the thinker I am, I made myself and enticed/coerced my sister into going to a communication seminar. That sucker was two days long and we had to go ninety miles each way to attend. It was fabulous!! During that seminar I discovered there are four main types of human communicators. There are subtype mixes as most people are not pure in their type, but each person is mostly one type. Turns out I’m a thinker. There are also, relaters, directors, and socializers.  And they all drive each other crazy.

            Oh ya-uh.  Stark. Mad. Bug-nuts.

            The idea behind the seminar is to communicate in ways to these other three types they will want to listen instead of bite, snarl, or cry.  We got to try different scenarios and be other types. Well…I got to find out I misbehave in every conceivable way—didn’t want to find that out. But they say education is broadening—or was that travel? The best part about the seminar was finding out that my dearest darling husband is a socializer.  Oops! No wonder I can’t get detailed information out of him without him acting like I’m drilling his head open! He and I are opposites in types. Now that I realize his inability to find a can of peaches in the pantry comes from the fact it doesn’t speak up, I can live with it. He can’t help it. He will NEVER be able to change. He CANNOT change for more than ONE day. Being snarky with him is the worst possible thing I can do as it gels his little gray cells into inactivity.

            Being a thinker, I tested the theory. Yup. He failed. Dismally. Or rather, he performed as now expected. So, I no longer give him any attitude if he can’t find something—even when I tell him exactly where it is and go find it exactly where I told him it was while he watches. I just cheerfully go get it. We have now reached a much calmer state in our household. We are also enjoying each other a lot more. Calm is good.

            Communication or relating is using the Platinum Rule not the Golden Rule. The Golden Rule, if you remember, is to treat others as you would wish to be treated. The Platinum Rule is to treat others like they’d like to be treated.

            So. With a Socializer—talk a story. Allow plenty of time to chat. Make it a story mission. They can persuade and get the word out. They don’t work well alone unless they have some of their own to work on that comes from their own brain.
            With a Thinker—have facts and figures and use cold hard logic. They aren’t going to get anything done unless it is right and all of their dominoes fall in order. They are not going to make a decision in a hurry. Do not mess in their piles. If they ask your opinion, realize that they are comparing it to other things they know. Your opinion is important to them, but sometimes will not be used as expressed.
            With a Relater—feel your way. They feel your pain, your joy, your whatever. They also expect you to feel theirs. They will not put themselves forward. Don’t tick them off. They won’t like you again and that’s a bad place to be.
            With a Director—expect to feel ran over. They are doing more in ten minutes than most people do in a week. Cut to the chase. Don’t give them the whole story. They are busy and likely to delegate. So, if you don’t want to help with whatever they have going—don’t get in range.

            Socializers and Directors talk. Relaters and Thinkers don’t.  Relaters and Socializers feel. Directors and Thinkers, not so much. Socializers and Directors tend to talk fast. Relaters and Thinkers talk slower, if much at all.  What good is all of this? Because if I find out what is the main character trait or main way these people relate, then I can try to bend the information I must give them or get out of them in a way that is easiest for them to understand and cooperate with me. Like learning a few French phrases when visiting Paris. Not to bend others to my will, but to cut frustration down for me and others.

            What good is this blog post in the written world? Because we write about people and the tensions between them. If you look at any given set of people, think about the things that would drive them crazy even if the other person wasn’t the light of their life. Imagine what it is like for my poor husband whenever he gets that, why don’t you want to go to a whole room full of people you’ve never seen before and know nothing about? attitude from me. He’s panting to get there. And when he does finally drag me there, he finding out what people are doing, going to do, have been doing. He even has the capacity to remember their names. I can’t remember his half the time. Other people’s? Oooeee. No. Now give me a bunch of people doing things and I’ll ask them in depth questions about how to do whatever it is they do. I want facts, figures, where it goes, how it works, what do you use to peel paint from aluminum, whatever. There is nothing so obscure I won’t want to know what you do with it. Like the famous line of the guy eating the bat, “needs garlic”. What else do you do with a bat? Stuff ‘em? Boil ‘em? Are they dark meat or light?

            This kind of stuff makes writing so complex. Is it the meat of our writerly work. Maybe, but it plays to motivation quite a bit as well as how our characters go about solving their problems and why they have to find others to help them. I believe information like this also plays to what will smooth out stories somewhat as we help characters stay true to themselves.

Oh, and to what will help through the Holidays as far as organization tips that I’ve been occasionally blogging about: Um. We only have ten days. Read on for explanation.

11.     Use a timer-do your tasks in fifteen minutes at a time.
a.      Keep the kitchen clean including the table.
b.     Keep the bathrooms clean and uncluttered.
c.      Keep your car gassed up.
22.     Make your life easier by:
a.      Already answering likely questions
                                                    i.     Write down guest directions, on lovely card stock or a giant label and attach to mirror with tape:
1.     Towels/ washcloths/extra toilet paper in ? cabinet
2.     Aspirin in ?
3.     Lotion in ?
4.     Tums in ?
b.     Buy spare batteries-hide them. Write hiding place on Calendar
33.     You only have ten effective days until Christmas-use them wisely. I don’t care how many weeks. You have your regular life’s stuff to deal with too. Twelve days is all you’ll be able to carve out.
44.     Keep plenty of your favorite beverages on hand.
55.     Get one decoration put up each week.
66.     Get your Christmas wrapping paper found, and tape and labels.
77.     Get your must do thing found. My ‘must do’ is Christmas cards. I must get stamps, cards, list, addresses all put in a small thing I can carry around to do as I wait someplace.     
88.     Remember that list for writers? It works for writers in Holiday Mess too.
a.      Unclear big picture vision. What’s your vision for the Holidays and your writing?
b.     Fear. Don’t limit your possibility of success. Plan for success.
c.      Trying to force productivity. Don’t wait until the last minute. You have ten days.
d.     Shabby systems. Pick up after yourself. In your office, in your bedroom closet, in your car, in your purse. Life is easier if you’re not standing on your own foot.
e.      Lack of awareness about time. You have ten effective days.
f.      Transition turbulence. Minimize turbulence by keeping a master notebook with you at all times. One page is your day to day life now. Work the Holidays from a different place in the notebook. Tab the page with a piece of tape so you can turn there easily. Keep the book small enough to keep with you at all times. Like in your pocket.
g.     Perfectionism. Let go of it. Go for fun instead.  Even God made bugs to eat holes in petunias.
h.     Isolation. You have WARA. You are not alone.
i.       Negativity.  Do you remember you have ten days? Lack of time at the last minute can make anyone nasty. Delegate. Use your timer and make sure you take 15 minute real rest breaks that’s with a beverage, sitting down, as if you worked at a factory—doing nothing you don’t want to do.
99.     More advice:
Grandma said if the Kitchen is clean and the bathroom is clean then company can cope. Another woman I knew said to keep an onion, a bottle of Windex, and the front door and family entrance door window clean. The onion goes in the oven to make a homey cooking smell, even if you don’t use it immediately. The Windex gets sprayed as you answer the door so they think something is being cleaned. Clean door windows give everyone a hopeful attitude. Don’t do everything yourself. Offer to swap with someone duties you enjoy that are different from theirs.

I’m off to panic. I’ve only got ten days….


With a Little Help from My Friends

Making a Friendship
While I'm an avid plotter like Pat and it's done a lot to help me as a writer, when I really thought about what is "the most useful writing craft idea I've ever found", it isn't plotting, it isn't an idea or a craft.  It's friends.

When I came into this writing thing, my goal was to see if I could actually write a romance.  I'd bounced back into reading them after a long spell and discovered I enjoyed them.  Really enjoyed them.  A far cry from Stephen King books, for sure.  So I sat down and wrote, mostly longhand, a romance novel.  I liked it!  I really liked it!  Not that it was a great story, but it was fun and I wanted to write more.

Sometime later, I actually had an odd thought.  Maybe I could become a real author with this new found enjoyment.  I checked out books, I bought books, everything I could find on how to write a romance and what to do after it was written. And in the back of one of those books--Romance Writer's Sourcebook--I found information on Romance Writers of America (RWA).  My interest skyrocketed.

This was before the internet became what it is today, but as soon as I learned that my then-husband had been using the World Wide Web for some time---we won't talk about what happened when I found the charge listed on the credit card for it---I demanded I get a chance to give it a try.  I honestly don't remember how, but I found a romance writers chatroom.  I read it for weeks, never typing a word to interact with the others, just reading their conversations.  Not until my birthday, that is, when I decided, what the heck.  Introduce yourself, silly.  In that chatroom, I found people who were actually writing and seeking publication.  One of those people just happened to be an RWA member and a Golden Heart Finalist, who was going to the National RWA conference in Dallas in a little over a month.  I, too, decided that one way or another I would be at that conference.  I called RWA, paid a new membership fee and conference fee, booked a flight, a hotel room and a rental car, and informed the then-husband that I was going to Dallas.  He nearly fell off the combine, where he was standing.

Kat and moi on the road trip to DC 2000 Conference
I'll never forget how nervous I was, but when Kathie DeNosky, the Golden Heart Finalist from that
chatroom, came up behind me to introduce herself as I stood in line to register, it became one of the biggest turning points in my life.  (Note:  I'd told her what I'd be wearing and she'd been watching for me.)  We bonded instantly, and I swore to her that I would hang onto her shirttail forever.  I did, and still do.  She sold her first book to Silhouette Desire on June 14 (my birthday), three years later.  I sold my first to Silhouette Romance on April 3, 2000.

Along the way, we met and made friends with many romance writers, both published and yet-to-be-published.  Janet Barton, who now writes for Love Inspired, became one of our dearest friends, as did Belinda Barnes, who sold to Silhouette Romance before I did.  We critiqued together, we brainstormed together, we consoled and celebrated together.  Kat (Kathie) and I logged more times on the phone (me in Kansas, she in Illinois) with each other than two people ever should.  If it hadn't been for those three ladies, I would have thrown in the towel, dozens of times.  We shared good times and bad times, and even a few secrets.

Although we no longer spend anywhere near the time on the phone as we did in the past, Kat and I are still often in touch.  We brainstorm (along with chitcat and gossip) via phone (3-way calls) with Kristi Gold (Desire, SuperRomance, and back to Desire) in Texas, who once critiqued with Belinda Barnes.  Yes, it's a small world.

But it isn't just the ones I've mentioned that have inspired me along the road of writing.  It's also the many members of WARA I've been blessed to know, throughout the past seventeen years.  I love ya, ladies!

Writing is like making a quilt.  You can do it alone, or you can do it with friends.  Honestly? Both quilting and life are much better enjoyed with friends.

Writing Inspiration? Inspired Writing? by J Vincent

What prompts a writer to put words on paper?  The inspiration for these particular words is a deadline.  This blog needs to be posted while we babysit our grandchildren.  Since there is no internet access at their house I need to schedule this before we leave Sunday morning. A prosaic reason, but many writers will tell you deadlines can be quite effective.  The list of what inspires writers is endless but narrowed down to one writer--me--it is much smaller.  I’ve found many things can trigger a story, or a scene, or a character. 

The big picture--what inspires a story--and the much smaller--what inspires a scene or character--can be very similar.  When I was babysitting my younger brothers and sister years ago I used to make up stories prompted by cloud formations.  I still love to watch clouds and pick out shapes--cuddly bears, thundering herds, a horse head with flowing mane.  On hot summer nights when we got to sleep outside I would use the stars for my inspiration only later learning that the constellations already had their own tales to tell.

Maps.  As I grew older and read the Reader’s Digest avidly the maps with the stories prompted adventures.  I find that is still true today.  When I look at a map of the 18th century Great North Road in England stories of highwaymen, run-away lovers and ordinary travelers leap at me.  I have studied maps of troop movements in Portugal and Spain during the Peninsular War (The French and Wellington 1808-1814) and see tales of horror, bravery, tedium, romance, and so much more.  Maps inspire stories large and small for me.

Houses are much the same as maps.  When we travel and we pass by a tumbled down home or one the worse for time and wear I conjure up its history.  The excitement of those who planned and built it.  The day to day life in it.  Succeeding generations or different families?  What happened that led to its deterioration?  What events in the lives of those who lived there, internal and external, let to its abandonment?  Yes, stories abound in houses or castles and manors, hovels and estates or photos of such.

Photos of people work much the same way for me.  I always seek out photos to flesh out characters when I start a new project.  If I can match what I have in my mind’s eye for the character with what I see in a photo it helps flesh out the person they are.

Scenery also provides inspiration.  There are seventy miles of nothing but scenery between La Junta and Walsenburg CO on Highway 10.  Some of it is pretty desolate, but there is a stretch that is filled with seemingly impromptu promontories.  Sharply jutting crags and steep sloped hills of various sizes.  They make me think of Roman-Britain hill forts and of ancient burial mounds.  Removed from their present time and space they are the perfect setting for Bellum Drancontis --The War of the Dragon which I wrote long ago and have never polished enough for publication.  Druids, Bretons, and 5th Century Romans battle it out as we cruise past Colorado scenery.
Last mentioned, certainly not last on my list, would be music.  Put on the right piece of music and I can be in Versailles n the Hall of Mirrors watching Marie Antoinette flirt with French courtiers or perhaps its a mad crush at the opening ball of the London Season of 1810, or in a candle-lit bedroom in any time or place.  Music inspires intensity of emotion.  You know that from watching any tv series or movie.  Its as if emotions were the strings of a harp and only need plucked to fill the page with words.

These are some of the things that fill my mind with a kaleidoscope of images, action, emotion--stories.  I wish you all that the Rockwell Thanksgiving painting inspires. What do you find inspires you the most?