Thursday, November 16, 2017

November at Our House--Thanksgiving Traditions

   “Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off - then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.” 
― Herman MelvilleMoby-Dick

I don't have an urge to go to sea in November, but I do agree the days can be gray. I love the holiday season, but because I love Thanksgiving, I don't want to treat it like the pickle in the middle stuck between Halloween and Christmas (I love those holidays, too.)

Here are some of our family's Thanksgiving traditions:

Tate Turkey Trot--Thanksgiving morning, we all run around the Rancho Santa Margarita Lake. My oldest son's girlfriend coined our new phrase: Thighs before pies! This year, I've been told that there will be medals.

Candy Corn Gratitude--We place three candy corns beside each plate and we take turns expressing three things we're grateful for. (And we can't repeat anyone else.)

Boy Pie Baking Contest--All adult men are required to bake a pie. My oldest son has won every year.

The Day After Turkey Pizzas-- You might think that these are pizzas made with turkey, but you would be wrong. Turkey pizzas are individual pizzas made to look like turkey. Colorful bell peppers are key to making a great looking turkey pizza.

My daughter is a professional photographer and here's her blog post about our family's Thanksgiving. (Her pictures are better than mine.)

Monday, November 13, 2017

Notes From Orange County Romance Writers of America Workshop. Ara Grigorian, Story Beats

On Saturday, I did something I rarely do. I went to the Orange County Romance Writers of America meeting. And I'm really glad I did! Not only because it gave me a chance to visit and chat with some of my favorite writer friends, but also because I got to listen to Ara Grigorian speak on story beats. It's a subject I've studied over and over again, but I took notes anyway. For writer's, learning about story structure is like listening to a discourse on the Beatitudes--it's something you need learn and relearn, apply and reapply over and over again. Here's Ara's bio:

Ara Grigorian is the international award-winning author of GAME OF LOVE, his debut novel. He is a technology executive in the entertainment industry. He earned his Masters in Business Administration from the University of Southern California. True to the Hollywood life, Ara wrote for a children’s television pilot that could have made him rich (but didn’t) and nearly sold a video game to a major publisher (who closed shop days later). Fascinated by the human species, Ara writes about choices, relationships, and second chances. Always a sucker for a hopeful ending, he writes contemporary romance stories.
Ara is a workshop leader for the Writer’s Digest Novel Writing Conference, the Santa Barbara Writers Conference, and Southern California Writers’ Conference (both Irvine, CA and San Diego, CA). Ara is represented by Stacey Donaghy of the Donaghy Literary Group.

And here's my notes and favorite quotes from Saturday's meeting:
If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. Sir Isaac Newton
Every story has two storylines.
A story= the plot
B story= the character transformation
If your characters don't grow and transform, you've got a Dan Brown book.
In today's look-inside Amazon feature, the first act needs to be powerful and happen quickly.
A story beat is an event/decision/discovery that alters the course of the story.
An indication that something isn't quite right. Your character needs to be flawed, but redeemable. Their beliefs and worldviews have to be in conflict. A change is coming, but your character has to want to resist change. Here is where you plant the thematic seed.
Thematic seeds:
Katniss needs to learn that one person can change the world. And that she can be that person.
Sleepless in Seattle: "Look, love just doesn't happen twice." Obviously, he needs to learn that it can.
Inciting incident or the crack in the glass:
An unforeseeable force of gravity. In Notting Hill, he sees her world and she sees his. Neither of them fit. But they make new friends who help them on their journey.
Midpoint. I like it here, but...
This is where your character has a "mirror moment" where they examine themselves and realize they don't fit in their new world. There are dings in their armor. And just when they think they have everything right, the new world turns upside down. Time clocks appear and begin to tick.
The character needs to feel like they are worse off than before everything started.  "A whiff of death." But going back isn't an option. Show the humility. The breakdown is inevitable, because without it, there can't be a breakthrough.
There needs to be an orchestration of scenes that lead to the fight or die battle. In a romance, this is an emotional win or die.
You will be called Nicolas Sparks if you kill off your characters. And that is not a romance.

For those who care, I'm at about 40k words into my NaNoWriMo project. You can read the beginning of it here: means I'm about to write the ah-ha moment where my character realizes she has a fatal flaw. And the cool thing about writing fatal flaws is it helps me to see my own. Sometimes I wish I didn't know this. But I do.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Muddling through NaNoWriMo in Oceanside

Yesterday, in an effort to kick my NaNoWriMo efforts into gear, I came to the beach. I realize I'm incredibly lucky to have a place on the beach. A place not only blessed by beauty--but also peace, meaning that there's no internet and not even very good cell service.

I packed pre-made food and a bare minimum of stuff and arrived in Oceanside around nine a.m. I went to bed at ten-thirty. Between those hours I did little other than write. Although I did take a walk around dusk--my favorite time of day, other than morning, of course. I wrote 13k words. Today, I hope to write 15k.

My husband is on a business trip. He'll get back to Rancho late tonight. I won't return until Wednesday afternoon. My goal is to write 20k words. And post pictures of Oceanside.

Words cannot describe how much I love this place.

I ended up coming home because I hated being so cut off from anyone. If I needed to call or text anyone, I had to stand on the balcony. If I wanted the internet, I had to drive ten minutes to the McDonalds... I know isolation was part of the goal, but it was making me unhappy.

Overall, I wrote more than 50 pages--about 18k words. I'm still on track to make 50k words by the end of the month. I can still crush this goal, even though I abandoned ship and came home earlier than expected.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

NaNoWrimo Kick-off

In just a few moments I'll begin 2017's NaNoWrimo Challenge. (Don't know what NaNoWrimo is? It's National Novel Writing Month. It's a big deal.) It's remarkable to me that I've written more than 20 books (this still boggles my mind even though I know more than anyone that it's absolutely true) BUT I've never finished a NaNoWrimo challenge. This year will be different.

And I know this will sound funny, but somehow I imagine that if I complete this goal that all I'll rock my other goals as well--I'll lose 15 pounds by my birthday in January, my book business will take off in new and exciting ways, my backyard will magically become a place of peace and beauty...

So here are my goals:
NaNoWrimo: Write for four hours or 4k words a day (which ever comes first) five days a week until I've written 50k words...even though my real goal is a 70k word novel. I'll post each day's segment so you can follow along.

Health: Exercise an hour a day, six days a week and eat 4 300-400 calorie meals a day.

Backyard: Spend an hour a week (on Saturdays) gardening.

Monday, October 30, 2017

New York, New York

I went to New York with Bethany and Jen to celebrate Bethany's birthday. We had a blast. The weather was unseasonably warm and we rarely needed jackets. The trees were just as beautiful as the weather. We stayed in Harlem at a VRBO (vacation rental by owner.) As one friend said, Harlem didn't use to be a place for blondies, but we loved our neighborhood and our apartment. This is where we stayed. 

We arrived on Friday night and went to Times Square and went to the top of Rockefeller Center. Here's a tip. You can pay $40 to go the top of Rockefeller Center, or you can wear a dress and heels and go to the bar at the top of Rockefeller Center for free. That's what we did. We tucked our dresses and heels into our purses, changed out of our jeans in the bathroom at the mall in the basement and told the guards at the elevators that we wanted to go to the bar. I thought that we'd have to purchase drinks at the top, but no. We walked through the bar to the balcony and enjoyed the view.

We spent most of Saturday shopping and checking out flea markets. We caught the Stanton ferry (it's free) so that we could cruise past the Statue of Liberty around dusk. Again, there's a fee for visiting the Statue of Liberty, and I'm not saying it's not worth doing, but since it's something we've all done before, we chose to save our pennies. 

Since this was Bethany's actual birthday, we had dinner in Little Italy and bought cupcakes at Magnolia's Bakery. 

On Sunday, we rented bikes (after church, of course) and spent the day riding through Central Park and cruising along the river's edge. We ended the day at the 9/11 Memorial. After that, we needed a happy movie, so we went home and watched Serendipity. 


Monday was our museum day, but since the New York public library is one of my very favorite places, we had to go there first. 
We took this picture because my husband used to work for Met Life.
Here's some pictures from the Metropolitan Art Museum and The Natural History Museum.

Bethany and Jen left early on Tuesday morning. Because my flight wasn't until later that evening, I spent the day hanging around Columbia University tempting my muse with a story I'll someday write about the Buell Hall, a building on Columbia's campus that was once an insane asylum. 

Friday, October 27, 2017

In a Dark, Dark Wood Book Review

Wow. This book won a lot of awards, making me wonder who paid for them. At first, I thought this would follow the plot line of Agatha Christies Ten Little Indians, or Then There Were None (depending on if you read the book or watched the movie.) Of course, the set up for the unreliable narrator was so blatant that I knew-or suspected-she couldn't have been the murderer. And then the ending and big reveal were so stupid...But it did keep me entertained on a ten hour road trip, so I can't completely hate it. But honestly, if I hadn't been driving through endless deserts with nowhere to stop and download another audio book, I would have picked up another book, one with likable characters and a surprising, believable plot line. But congratulations, Ms Ware, for getting someone to throw a ton of money on your marketing. That, at least, is impressive.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Pages of Fear Blog Hop and Three Chances to Win...Oh, and a Free Book

Hey all,
I'm participating in the Pages of Fear Blog Hop. Don't know what that is? Go HERE to find out how to win 20 signed paperbacks. The secret word is hidden in this excerpt from my Kindle Scout winning novel WITCH WAYS--the book you'll score if you win the hop. You can also win a signed copy of just my book, WITCH WAYS by signing up for my newsletter. Just tell me that you did so in the comments for your chance to win. Plus, EVERYONE who signs up for my newsletter gets a free e-copy of my novella MAKING MUSIC. (The sign up is on the top righthand side of the tool bar.)

So here's the excerpt for WITCH WAYS. The hidden word is all capitalized.
And here's the link to the next blog in the hop!

After English class, Mrs. Price requested I stay.
My stomach flipped, and not because it knew lunch was going to have to wait.
“Excellent article, Evelynn.” Mrs. Price motioned for me to take a seat.
I pulled up a chair and saw my paper on her desk. I was surprised that there wasn’t one red mark on it. In fact, it looked exactly as it had when I’d first turned it in, which was surprising. Mrs. Price usually returned everyone’s papers covered with painful scratches of red ink. Had I finally written a perfect paper? And if so, why wasn’t there the familiar WELL DONE! scrawled across the top?
My stomach flipped again.
Mrs. Price slid her thick glasses up her nose. “You’ve demonstrated not only strong writing skills, but also a true nose for news and the passion that all great journalists need to ferret out a story and pursue it.”
I flushed beneath her praise. “Thank you. So, I’m on the paper?”
Mrs. Price held up her finger. “I’m afraid not.”
“But you said I needed a great article . . . and you just called my article excellent!”
Mrs. Price fished something from her drawer, stood, and carried my article to the waste bin. Seconds later, she flicked the small cylinder in her hand and my article caught fire. The acrid smell of smoke filled the air, as flames licked away at my paper, making me feel sick.
Memories of the last time I was in a school on fire flooded me while smoke and ash lifted in the air, mingling with the smell of the dry-erase board and dusty books.
“That’s why what I’m about to say may surprise you.” She dropped the flaming article into the empty trash bin. “You’ll have to write another piece.” She tossed the cigarette lighter back into her top drawer.
“But why?” I fought tears and disappointment, knowing I’d never find another story as compelling as Andrew and Lauren’s.
“I’m sure you’ll stumble across another story, perhaps one less, shall we say, revealing?” She raised an eyebrow at me, as if to ask if I understood what she was trying to say.
I absolutely did not understand what she meant.
Leaning forward, she braced her elbows on her desk. “As you are fully aware, this school—this community—harbors a unique and talented collection of women. The safety of this community is dependent on discretion and trust. I’m afraid that publishing your article may raise unnecessary questions.”
I sat back in my chair. “Because Lauren thought she was a witch?”
Mrs. Price pinched her lips together, but didn’t say a word.
“But she’s dead! Nothing I can say can hurt her!”
“We have said too much already.” Mrs. Price pushed to her feet. “If you wish a place on the paper, you must find and write another article, a safer article. I hope, and trust, that in time you’ll understand. And learn to be more judicious.”
I stood slowly, my thoughts reeling.
“I know this must seem harsh, but I can’t guarantee you a place on the paper without a publishable article, and I will not publish an article that might garner suspicions and unnecessary questions.”
“But I don’t even mention witchcraft, or anything . . .
She lowered her eyebrows, and pointed to the door. “You have until the semester break. I wish you well. You’ll make an excellent addition to our newspaper.”
“Thank you?” I mumbled, feeling dismissed and confused. After gathering up my book bag and glancing at the smoldering ashes in the TRASH bin, I headed for the door.
“Oh, and Evelynn,” Mrs. Price began.
I turned around.
“It’s not necessary to be a witch to be successful at this school, and in life, but it certainly helps.”
Outside the door, I leaned against the wall, clutching my book bag to my chest. Down the hall and through the open cafeteria doors came the sound of laughter, clinking silverware, and talking—hundreds of students, each trying to be successful academically, musically, athletically, by studying, practicing, and sweating.
She’s wrong, I decided. Every day I make the choice of whether or not to be a witch over and over again. Magic and witchyness don’t have to be the key ingredients. I can be my very best self on my own.