Friday, November 17, 2017

The Voices In My Head

I spent a whole day this past week wondering why I bother. Why do I even think about writing? What's the use? What's the point? Who am I kidding, I stink. I'm terrible. I'm sick all the time. I don't write enough. I can't think. I have so much to do and can't get my act together.

I give up! I just quit. I'm not going to bother even trying. I can't do it anyway and my mind seems to have taken a permanent vacation. So, I should, too.

Yeah, I said that.

And was immediately miserable.

I don't write because someone makes me. Maybe if they did, I'd be more productive. I do it because I can't help it. Even when I feel awful, I try and write something. But it seems so little that I end up angry and frustrated with myself.

Every year I start a schedule but then something happens about 4 months in that totally derails me. Usually, my RA or Fibromyalgia flares and I'm knocked down. I keep writing but the momentum is gone and sometimes, even the energy. I become too ill to get anything done.

Today was one of those days. I went back to bed after I got Sarah to school and slept hard for two more hours. The rest of the day I lay in my recliner, still exhausted. I can't tell you what I did because I don't remember. I dozed off and on all afternoon. I think I read some. I think I went somewhere.. oh yeah, to lunch with Mike. Wow, totally forgot that. My back hurt, my hand hurt, and I was so tired when I got home, it was an effort to stay awake. So, I slept. Those types of days are frequent.

I beat myself up. I flay myself until I'm bleeding from every pore. Metaphorically, of course. I fall into a depression and despair of every producing another completed piece. I quit. At least once a year.

Then, I find something in a file that I wrote. And I'm shocked because I don't remember writing it and I wonder how I wrote such beautiful prose. Then, the voices in my head start talking about the story, pouring details so fast I can't keep up. I'm driven back to the keyboard to get it all down and repeat the process.

Maybe I'll finish something. Maybe I won't. That bothers me most. But I can't stop. I can't quit. I have no choice. The voices in my head won't let me quit. They may become overwhelmed by pain and despair but they refuse to remain silent for long.

NaNoWriMo: In Still of the Night

Middle of the night, in a strange city, on a lonely street. A woman alone. Or is she?

Is she in her own city and couldn't sleep?

Does she make a habit of walking at night for some nefarious purpose.

Is she going to meet her enemy? Or a friend?

That's the thing about these images. You can write it anyway you want. As long as you build your word count.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

NaNoWriMo: Thursday Initiation

Again, this is for those who are writing unusual stories. I won't label them with a genre. You can do that. But try and get this little scene in there.

I know there are at least 1000 words in this photo. Really. I could do it. 

What's this drink for? Why is it being served in this manner? Who will drink it? Is this some sort of ceremony? A picnic in the woods? Is she just warming the wine/drink with her hands? WHAT! 

Come on, fill in the story here.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

NaNoWriMo: Wednesday Wizardry

Thanks to
What is this? One of my NaNo novels might get more added to it from this photo. I have to keep it in mind when I'm working on it. I love the texture and intensity of the flames and the person in the robe with their ... whatever it is... pouring flames out of it. Awesome.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

NaNoWriMo: Tuesday Terror

Thanks to
It isn't my thing but if it is yours, go for it. I like my gentlemen with bite but this is taking it a bite too far.

You know, I could really keep going with this but I'll leave it here for you to toy with, just like a cat and mouse.

Monday, November 13, 2017

NaNoWriMO: Monday Wash Day

Thanks to
Something a little more mundane today for you to try and get more words. 

Some of you may not have a use for this but surely some of you are writing novels where your character could be going to the laundry? 

Why as photo prompt? Because sometimes a photo can make something click in your mind and if you try, you can get a thread of a story started. Keep weaving that thread and you'll have a paragraph, a page, several pages. 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Nanowrimo: Sunday Sunday

So, you're moving along. Your story is flowing from your fingers like Niagra Falls in the spring. Right?

What? It isn't? You're not at 20,000 today? Surely you will be by tonight! I'm sure.


OK, well, here's a little something that might help. I don't know what your writing but maybe you can use this photo to get a shot in the arm and 1667 words down.

I mean, just look at it. Dark foggy night. Lonely deserted road. Or is that a lonely deserted house you just pulled up to? Whatever it is, you strain to see and there, in the glare of your lights, the fog parts and you see...

Well, I don't know what you see. You can share it later. Just write it now!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

NaNoWriMo: Saturday Storm

Hopefully, your Saturday is a productive one and your word counts are soaring.
You should be at 18,334 words.
If not, try using this photo to generate a new scene. Your MC needs help or someone else needs you MC to help them.

Who is in the car? Who was driving? Is that someone lying on the ground? How did your MC come to be here? What caused the accident?

You see, there are lots of ways to go and you can get an easy 1667 words out of this. Get busy! The clock is ticking!

Friday, November 10, 2017

NaNoWriMo: Friday Fog

You've worked hard all week but there's the weekend waiting for you.

Here's your Friday photo challenge. Anyone have a city buried beneath that poisonous fog?

Perhaps your in your mountain cabin watching the morning fog roll down the mountains while you drink your coffee and enjoy a moment's solitude on your mountain island.

Or perhaps your character is trapped on that mountain by the release of toxic gas from that nearby facility you've been investigating.

Whatever it is, run with it and get those word counts up!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

NaNoWriMo: Thursday Apocalypse

Depressing. Bleak, War-torn. Destruction.

It's a stretch for me. I rarely write such depressing stories. 

What about you? Are you writing dystopian drama? Has a deadly disease ravaged society and lead to internal wars to survive? 

I'm depressed now. I am going to find chocolate.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

NaNoWriMo: Wednesday Word War

Add 500 words to your story using this image. You can change what you like but use this as a jumping off point. 

Just think 500 words! That is about 1/3rd of the day's requirement. It will do your story good.

What is that guy doing anyway? How did he get there? Who is driving the car? Why are they driving with him on the hood? Why don't they stop? Is this a stunt, an attack, an accident? 

See, lots of ways to work it. Now, start.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

NaNoWriMo: Tuesday Terror


 I was just walking along minding my own business when I heard a noise. I looked back and ... well there he was and I started to run.

Whew! Running up the down escalator is exhausting. But when something like that is after you, well, you don't dare stop.

Let's be clear. I don't do horror very well.

Monday, November 6, 2017

NaNoWriMo: Monday Word Watch

Did you ever feel that someone was watching you? You know, when you're walking down a dark alley and there is that spot between your shoulder blades that aches? Or you're lying in bed and that crack in the closet door is really giving you the heebie jeebies?

Or maybe... maybe your character locked someone in a barn? Or a chicken coop? Perhaps, she is hiding from the person stalking her?

Well, whatever, here's the next photo prompt to help you create more words.

NaNoWriMo: Sunday Morning Word Surge

We're starting the second week of NaNo today and this is commonly known as the Second Week Slump. You may hit a wall by Friday and feel like you can't do it. You can! Just use every tool in the arsenal your ML's and NaNo provide:

  • Attend as many Write-ins as you can
  • Try the Sprints
  • Use word and photo prompts
  • Check out the Twitter feed for NaNo
  • Check out ChatNaNo and get in the chat room with friends for Wars. 
Now, about this photo - what is she doing? Filling a bottle? Washing something? Disposing of something? Getting something out of the water? So much is going on here! Is she alone? She looks tired? 

Try a scene with your character in this situation. Doesn't have to be a female. Or an adult. Or human!

Just go for it and good luck getting the word count up.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Character is Everything

I got a text message a while back from a friend that made me laugh. This friend and I met through NaNoWriMo, started a writing group together, discussed writing over the last 8 years, and we've read one another's work. During the conversation today, which was quite long, he paid me the nicest compliment anyone has ever paid me. Here is the initial message and the praise that followed.  

"Do you have a process you go through to create a character, or do you just say I need this and sit down and "pants it" and the character comes naturally?"

I responded, "LOL, say what? Give me a minute to reread and process that." 

After digesting it I took several minutes to explain several aspects of my character creation techniques, and how I might be crazy. His response was so nice.

"You are BRILLIANT with characters. If that's crazy, I'd take it in a second. Yes REALLY! You have characters that just come to you. You take a simple character and make the reader care, even if they aren't doing anything. I see plot. I can create setting. I suck at character.You SEE character, that is by far the most important of the three."

I was a bit taken aback because I'd never thought about it much. And certainly no one had ever told me I was brilliant, except family.

My friend and I have discussed this character creation issue several times and he does seem to have a mental block when it comes to it. But in some of his stories I've read, he has some wonderful characters. So, it confuses me when he says he has difficulty creating one. I can't even imagine not being able to do so.

Still, the conversation made me think about my process in a different way. I had playmates as a child but I distinctly remember playing alone quite a bit and I always made up characters and played parts, like a play. I was a nurse or a teacher. My made-up characters might be a doctor, or patient or a student. Or all of them. I suppose you'd call them imaginary friends but I don't remember anyone ever saying that and, in fact, no one ever said a word but they must have heard me because I talked! 

I created stories with characters in my head long before I could write. My grandmother said at three I sat on the sofa and "read" the comics. Dick Tracy was apparently my favorite. She said I couldn't actually read but it didn't matter because I made up my own story based on the pictures and read that aloud. I was three! That shocks even me. 

What it amounts to, then, is for nearly 60 years I've created characters. I've made them walk, talk, and act. I've imagined them doing and saying things and things happening to them for decades. Not until I was 11 did I start writing it down. 

So do my early years have anything to do with my ability to create a great character? Maybe it does. I do think I'm good at creating a character. I wish I had my friend's talent for plot. The man can sniff out a plot hole faster than a bloodhound could find your mother-in-law. 

Toward the end of our conversation he said "Character is everything." I agree with him. I've always believed the best stories had characters that reached out and grabbed you and it didn't matter how exciting the plot, if the characters were flat, I wouldn't read it. It was quite nice to know that  my characters can reach out and grab someone. 

NaNoWriMo: Another Chance to Up the Count


Another day and another prompt to give you something to think about. This may not be for everyone. It is a bit post-apocalyptic but surely someone is writing post-apop.

I found it intriguing with the person on the near bottom right standing with their bike and staring at the burning city. I may tackle this in a short story later. For now, give it a try if you can use it.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Some Days You Don't Want to Wake Up

Some days are just unpleasant. Today is no exception. I woke up feeling terrible: groggy, sluggish, sleepless. It was a rough night. And yet I dreamed pleasant dreams. A dark-haired man walked along the road with me and then hugged me. We sat down in the grass and he kissed me. I didn't recognize him but he felt familiar.

True story. 

I've missed him for several days now. I should have realized what time of year it is but totally forgot in the craziness of my ruptured disc, my pain, and the surgery. I've been too busy trying to recover and juggle NaNoWriMo to remember it is that time of year.

Yesterday I missed him and said, "I just wish I could talk to him and feel him hug me and kiss me." And I dreamed. I don't feel better for it. 

Writing about it today seems the most logical solution to all of it. I am, of course, a writer. 

As Mike left the house he said, "Dad always told me "You've got more time than money, son". It was like a blow to my heart. I miss him so much again. I nearly choked on my supper. It suddenly tasted like bitterweed.

And then, searching for something to work on I ran across something I started several years ago and forgot because it was too painful to write at that point. 
My husband died, suddenly, on a cold, dark night wrapped in ice, on a dead-end road, in our bed. I thought, before that night, that my life was planned and despite the bumps in the road, the detours, and derailments, it was going according to plan. But you can’t plan for life. There is no road map, no compass, no GPS. You just start walking, telling yourself that where you’re going is just up ahead and all you have to do is keep moving and you’ll get there. It isn’t true.
I didn't read any further. I know how the story ends. I'm not ready to re-live it. I'd like to wake up and find him there, next to me. Not drifting away on some insubstantial dream that leaves me feeling cheated. I missed him more after than before.

So...the festive season begins with a subliminal greeting card from Death, to remind me how very cruel and powerful he is. It seems I'm to get one every year.

NaNoWriMo: Pushing the Count

Thanks to

Here's a new photo prompt to push that word count up. You're 5 days in and at the beginning of the Second Week Slump. 

So, find a way to incorporate the scene into your novel. You're a writer, you can dream up a reason he's out walking in the fog.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Photo Prompt Friday

Thanks to
So, are you doing NaNo? Well, have a look at the photo and use the scene in your novel in some way. Don't worry. You can delete it on rewrites but at least you can use it to get more words. Who knows? You might find your story going in a new and exciting direction.

I managed to get 93 words today. That isn't much as NaNo goes but with the challenge I've been facing with the nerve pain in my hand and the back surgery to relieve a compressed spinal cord, I think it's pretty good. 

No, no excuses! Go write!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

November Leaves

November is upon us and with it comes National Novel Writing Month. Remember that? 50,000 words written in 30 days?

Yes. That one.

Well, I'm not doing so well. With the ruptured disc surgery, I've been unable to even act as an ML outside of online. Thankfully, I have a great co-ML that is managing fine. I feel let down that I can't attend write-ins at this point but my hope is that in another week I might be able to do some online ones.

I'm not allowed to life anything over the weight of a gallon of milk. No pushing, pulling, or carrying heavy objects. So that knocks out my remodeling chores for a while. It is very frustrating because I have 5 rooms to address and a hallway. Never mind the finishing touches here in my dining/den/office. Did I say it was frustrating?

I haven't been writing yet either because the recovery has been difficult. The first week was horrible but things have improved and the doctor says the grip in my left (dominant) hand is amazing considering I'm only 2 weeks from the surgery.

 I can tell that some little improvements are happening but I really want the nerve pain to stop. It is horrible and makes it difficult for me to hold things in that hand for more than minutes. Writing with a pen is nearly impossible as it hurts terribly. I've taken to wearing a cover over the hand and wrist to alleviate the pain somewhat. It isn't much help but it seems to keep the nerve calmed a bit.

I finished one of my old novels a few days before surgery and now I need to edit and rewrite. I wanted to use November to finish another one but that plan fell thru with surgery. I'm still going to try and get it done before January 1. That's plenty of time. The nerve pain will play a part, of course, but I've been using speech recognition to write here and there so I think I can do that now.

I'm going to stop for now. Feel free to steal the top photo for a screen saver. I got the photo from and the verse from the KJV Bible. Have a wonderful and blessed day.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Sometimes Things Happen

This is true. Today I did some writing. It was not a masterpiece. It was, however, writing on my story. It feels like something good happened, even though the writing sucked. 

Read back over the blogs and you'll find I've been unable to do very much writing. A ruptured disc in my upper back has caused severe pain and numbness in my dominant left hand and arm. So, writing is harder than normal. Surgery is scheduled for this coming Thursday so we'll see if we can do better in November.

But today... I wrote 1227 words. Not breathtaking prose. Not classical literature. Not a masterpiece. I just wrote the next to last chapter of a 103K word novel. Wow.

Who said Friday the 13th was unlucky?

1227 Words
Sometimes things just happen.

Friday, September 22, 2017


I've had such a difficult time with my left hand and arm that I've been unable to write for two months. 

👈  Today, I decided to take care of the problem. I hired a new assistant to help me with my typing. 

I can manage the computer but not long periods of typing. So the writing has dried up. I'm getting very antsy about it, too. 


This new guy was eager to start and I'm hoping we can really knock out some words in the coming weeks. I have to have surgery on my neck but with his help, it won't be such a huge setback. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

When Life Goes Sideways

I'm posting this on all three blogs to save time. I've not posted anything on them for a few months. This serves as an explanation, not an excuse. 

Here we are at the end of September and I can't figure out where the summer went. I was doing rather well at finishing my novel, Hidden in the Mist. In fact, I'm probably less than 2000 words away. It was the 9th of July. The story was going well. I was working on the study/den/dining room to get it repainted and reorganized. I felt pretty good. There were plans to sell books. Things looked . . . bright. The road seemed smooth and straight. 

That's when things always go wrong. Somewhere, in the dark I hit something. 

Actually, in the wee hours of Sunday morning at 3 a.m. I woke up screaming and had to call Mike to come get me and take me to the hospital. My whole left arm was in excruciating pain and felt as if it were on fire. It was also paralyzed. I'm left-handed. I couldn't hold my phone, dial it, or pick up anything. Every move sent me into screams. 

I went to St. Vincent's ER (Primary care is at that hospital) and they did x-rays, gave me a shot of morphine and a steroid, a script for valium, and orders to go to physical therapy. I have a pinched nerve. I went home. 

At 5 a.m. Monday morning I was back at a second ER. This time I decided to use the hospital (Deaconess) where my records were for all my ailments. After CT scan and a couple of shots of something they sent me home with Loratabs and ordered to go see PT. Monday I went to urgent care at the orthopedic urgent care and the doctor said I could shoot myself. Yeah. Scheduled me to go to PT a few days later. 

It would be two weeks before I could see a PT doc but they could do physical therapy before that. I went to my primary care doc on Tuesday and she prescribed steroids, Gabapentin and Skelaxin. Let me just say that at this point, not a single medication had any impact. The narcotics took the edge off to stop me screaming. The Gabapentin made me a zombie who felt pain and I stopped it but it took three days to get my mind back. I had acupuncture the second week and believe it or not, 50% of my pain disappeared in 2 hrs and I could actually hold my fork! Brushing my hair and wiping my butt was still beyond me. 

I won't go into the rest of the last two months. Suffice it to say I alternated between screaming in pain and writhing with gritted teeth and sobbing. Eventually, after a fainting spell in my RA doctor's office, I was sent to a neurologist who did an MRI and found I have a compressed spinal cord. She immediately sent me to a neurosurgeon. Turns out I have a ruptured disc. I have to have surgery sometime in the next couple of weeks to repair it and to fuse some discs. I hope.

And that is how life has gone sideways. 

I was unable to type for three weeks and still have problems after typing for very long. The pain in my arm is bearable but only just. It still feels like it is on fire on the bottom side of my forearm, side of my hand and third and fourth fingers. I'm very clumsy and that is frustrating because I've always been very dexterous. 

Now it is as if my hand belongs to someone else. Thankfully, as a lefty living in a righty world, I'm a bit ambidextrous and I've been able to do a lot of things with my right hand. I'll never be able to write with it and I can't remember to do some of the other tasks with it but it has been easier to let the right hand pull extra duty. As a result, the right hand is a bit more functional. Probably a good thing since the doctor said he couldn't promise my left hand would return to full function with no pain. Apparently, when a nerve is pinched this long (07/09 thru 09/17) it might not recover. 

There's always a silver lining, isn't there?  I'm hopeful because God is good and I've got stuff to do. 

As a side note, during all of this, my son Mike fell off the delivery truck at work (about 4 feet) and broke his right arm and injured his shoulder. So the one person who helps me the most is also incapacitated. 

See, I told you there was a silver lining. 

And that's the way it is as of today, Sunday, September 17, 2017. 

If you pray, put us on your list. 

Sunday, July 30, 2017

July 2017 Word Count Tally

I'm amazed at the July word count. Despite the inability to use my hand for nearly 3 weeks due to a pinched nerve, I did really well. It is a bit satisfying.

All of that was done in Hidden in the Mist. At least I'm pretty sure it was. I'm a little fuzzy on a few days but pretty sure.

I'm nearly through with the darn thing! Thank God! It has been a long haul and we won't talk about how many years. Thank goodness for Alice's constant prodding. As a result of it, I might have a finished draft by next weekend. Every writer needs a friend like Alice.Nag, nag, nag, prod, poke, and berate. Well, it seems to have helped a great deal.

Once this is done, my plan is to set it down and finish the other story that is nearly done. After that draft is complete, I want to start the edits on Mist.

One foot in front of the other. Step-by-step.

I'm probably done for the night because my hand is bugging me a bit. Mobility has returned to some degree but hardly any strength and limited dexterity. I can't open tear open bags, cereal bag, condiment packets, opening jars is now more than difficult. They are sending me to a neurologist to see if they can determine where the problem lies.

Still, I'm pleased with that 3491 words for July.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Goodreads Giveaway

Beginning August 1-31 you can register for the Goodreads Giveaway to win a copy of River City Writers' Anthology: Crossroads. We have 5 copies to give away so make sure you spread the word. Keep watching this post for updates. T.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The River City Writers Presents Crossroads by Cynthia I Maddox

The River City Writers Presents Crossroads

by Cynthia I Maddox

Giveaway ends August 31, 2017.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

The Blank Page

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Shocking Update

I'm more surprised than you are by that number. The amount of time it took me to write that was ridiculously short and it is very frustrating that I didn't do more. I'm nearly done with the first draft and it is by now means "finished", meaning that it needs a lot of work, but it is going to be done soon.

The feeling is an odd one. I can do this in my sleep and there were times in the last month that I felt that is what I was doing. Some of the words suck but overall, I'm pleased with the outcome of the story. I know what to do now and the end is in sight.

In case you're wondering, it is the same feeling you get when you've driven for 800 miles with only potty breaks and fuel breaks. Yes, the very same one. I've done that kind of drive a few times and I know what I'm talking about.

When I write THE END, I will start on the next story I want to finish. If I can get the drafts all finished, I have something to actually work with. That's a goal, right?

To my friend, Doug, it won't be done by July 1 but it will be darn close. Then, I'm going out of town for a week.

My writing has been more sporadic but what I'm finding is that I have to have a prod. Someone has to poke me with a stick. Alice has done that for me on this story, virtually since I began it. She sort of slacked off for a couple of years but I think she got disgusted with me not writing. So, she's not stuck me as much as she used to. And she does, after all, have a life. She recently moved back to Florida and is working, so she's busy. Still, her sporadic pokes have kept me moving forward.

Now I'm going to have to find someone as demanding as Alice to fill in the gaps.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

A Good Day's Work

That's the number of words written today in Hidden in the Mist. Not a bad day's count and I think the words were pretty good ones for the most part. It actually took me less than 2 hrs to do it so it is really good work.

We're in the homestretch now. I should be done in less than 10k words, maybe 5K. That would be nice. I'm at 94,000 already. My original word count expectation was 100,000 words and I reduced it to 90,000 because I didn't think there would be that much but the story took a turn and now... well, I'm almost to my original count. And I'm almost DONE with this mess! The only real annoyance is that I'd rather be done with a novel I actually like.

I've not had a good month so far and it is shaping up to be a total disaster in many ways. The car is in the shop. The house insurance payment didn't go thru and they've canceled it. I have to get both those fixed tomorrow! That insurance thing I've been trying to get resolved since mid-May and I'm ticked because they did this to me last year! I will be changing insurance companies next time.

My pain level is about maybe a 3. That's tolerable. I didn't get enough sleep last night and was up before I actually started hurting this morning. Maybe that's the trick? Still, I feel tired, despite lying around dozing for several hours this morning. I don't like doing that because I get nothing done! I haven't touched the paint in two weeks! That will never do.

So now to try and get a few words in one of the other novels. Or maybe I'll just do the next chapter in the same one. I'm not usually so prolific so I have to make hay while the sun shines.

Speaking of... today is a gorgeous day. The temperature is 81 right now with a gentle breeze and bright blue skies. I'm on the back patio under the red umbrella and I don't want to leave anytime soon.

I hope you find your perfect spot today and can enjoy it. Try and write something new or work on something old.

Monday, May 29, 2017

A Pile of Words

We ordered this set of words from Amazon and they're kind of cool to mess with. I already have a couple of sentences but there aren't enough words to complete my most recent one.

She entered a crack in the world of magic to escape a human monster.

He followed her.

I don't write fantasy but it is a great starter sentence. I could really do something with it and I may try. A few days later I had some more lines and rearranged the previous ones. 

Playing with the words is inspiring and I found that surprising. We want to order the original set because there just aren't enough words in this one. Problem is that they're expensive and there are at least a dozen different sets!

Ah well. More important things for now. Say sleep? 

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Interview with the Author

Several years ago I played around recording an "interview" of me talking about my writing. I kind of used it to give myself some encouragement and incentive. I don't know if it worked. It was fun. 

In light of my recent publishing of an anthology with my writer's group, I revisited this video. It is still amusing. And a bit prophetic?

I might try it again sometime.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Saturday Confessions #1

On Amazon
I did not write this week. I could tell you that things interfered. They did. I had sleep problems for a couple of nights and spent most of the following day trying to either stay awake or napping. I had to beat back some of the laundry and I nearly finished it. Of course, I have more to do. There has to be an easier way!

Wednesday I spent cutting the yard, trimming some bushes, and weed trimming. It cost me another day, well, nearly two since it took a day and a half to recover sufficiently to become mobile. I am still sore in some places but it is manageable.

The good part is that I spent the most of my downtime reading this week reading. Some pleasure reading but I finished the Story Structure Architect and started The Story Grid - writing books. I bought the Story Grid last week and it came in this past week. I'll put a review on Goodreads when I'm done. Story Structure Architect is really a good book I got free several years ago and should have read then. Many things would have been better.

On Amazon
Story Structure Architect, by Victoria Schmidt, gave me a very clear view of story structure and the various types of structures and what they contain. It is not a "novel" or a book to entertain. It is instructional and you'd do well to approach it that way. Some of the reviews called it boring but I'd say those are folks looking for a nice neat formula to write a story. There isn't one but this book clearly outlines the different structures, which in many ways is actually a formula, or maybe form is a more accurate word. I have the Kindle version I got free during a giveaway. If you're a note taker I would suggest that you spring for the actual physical book. There is so much here and referencing it on Kindle... well, for me it is a pain. I made over 200 notations and finding what I want again on Kindle is going to be a nuisance.

So, that is how my week played out. I feel lousy today with the weather. We've had storms all night and as usual, my joints are not at all happy. I love storms, always have, but my body does not. I'd like to get some writing done today if possible but I have so much still to do. I drafted Sarah to help with the housework. This morning I made beds, hung her clothes while she cleaned sinks and toilets and put away her legging, undies, and socks. She's gone for a while and I've got more laundry washing and have the tub soaking in cleaner for me to clean. Ugh!

I have a lot of pain in my neck and back today and a horrible case of indigestion that nothing is helping. So, I think it is time I signed off and got busy.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

All The Ways To Procrastinate... That I Know

It is one of those days where I scheduled writing time and with good intentions, sat down in front of my computer. I really did intend to work on the novel. Really. I showered and had breakfast and read my Bible and was ready to go. 

9:00 a.m. I sat down to write. No, seriously, I did.
I checked my email. 
I checked Facebook.
I remembered I needed to take my meds.
I had to text Sarah's teacher.
I had to get something cold to drink.
I stopped to take my Humira shot. Ouch. The stomach is less painful than the leg, by the way.
Sarah's Mom replied to my text with several texts of her own.
I shopped on Amazon. I'll put the order in tonight.
I posted to Facebook.
Sarah's teacher replied to my text. 
I checked Goodreads and updated some stuff.
Mike came in and we talked and he kicked back in the recliner... for an hour. 
I checked email. 
I checked Facebook. 
I decided to write this post. 
I remembered that I need to call ChampVA about an insurance issue. That's probably a half hour wait time. 
I created the artwork for this post.

Now, I have a headache. Probably from looking at the screen so much.I probably should take something and lie down. I also need to finish putting away a load of laundry so I can wash the next load. And I have dirty dishes in the sink. The lawn needs mowing but I'll save that for later in the week  . . . when I need something to divert me. That's a two-hour job. 

I wonder what to prepare for supper?

Oh, I should probably work on the novel sometime.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Playing with the Grid

For several days I've been working on hanging my Long Summer Run novel on the Story Grid. If you don't know what I'm talking about, check out Shawn Coyne's website, The Story Grid or the podcast by the same name.

As I mentioned somewhere previously, I've been studying story structure for a few months now because I just felt I was missing something. Rather than wallow in self-pity and moan over my writer's block, I decided to do something constructive. So, I read Story Architecture, checked out Story Engineer, and started listing to the Story Grid podcast. Story Architecture helped me get a handled on different types of stories and plots. It is an exhaustive collection and well written and organized. Story Engineer was so poorly written I finally sent it back to the library less than half finished and feeling as if I'd never get it. After checking out the reviews of the book I felt better because I wasn't the only one.

Then, I found That The Story Grid wasn't just a podcast but there is a website and a book. Of course, I opted for the cheaper version. I visited the website and found the topics I'd listened to in the podcast and read up on them.

The sensation of dawning understanding is truly a beautiful thing. The sun came up and I think I actually smelled flowers. The breeze ruffled my hair. Things came together and made sense. Not everything but enough that I felt energized. As I listened to the podcast and read the articles, my mind was skimming through my novels and fitting the pieces together. Oh, this goes there. That fits there. That sort of thing. You know.

This week I sat down and began with The Long Summer Run. I wanted to start with them all. There's only seven. I forced myself to stick with one. For a few moments, I felt a bit squeamish. How was I going to do this? Coyne uses a Kubler-Ross Curve for Story. It would mean handwriting the whole process and I'm not up to that. Do I use an actual grid, like in Excel or do the curve? Since I use Scrivener I figured the ideal would be to use that. But how? It isn't like there's a template for it.

In the podcast, Coyne limits himself to the three act structure. At least in the ones I've heard thus far. The Story Architect also shows mostly three acts. In fact, it seems to be the universal norm, although there could be half a dozen acts. I decided to follow the herd.

I created three folders in Scrivener and titled them Act 1, Act 2, Act 3. Coyne talks about "The Math" and I encourage you to read that article on his site. He breaks down the construction so clearly that I decided to use the 100,000 word set up. This particular novel is almost that now. It may come out to less but I've got more to add and will just stick with this for now. It breaks down this way: 25,000 words in Act 1, 50,000 in Act 2, and 25,000 in Act 3. He says that the story may not line up exactly on that word count but if it is well structured, it will come close. The division is based on the length of the story and you'll understand better if you read the article. A good example would be if your story were 80,000 words. Then the breakdown would be  20,000 - 40,000 - 20,000. In my case, that would put my Act 1 over.

What I've been doing is moving my scenes into these folders based on where they fall in the structure. I've finished Act 1 and was surprised that my word count fell almost exactly on 25K, almost at the point it was supposed to end. I'm working on Act 2 now and the truth is, this is where the problems lie for me. I'll be interested to see how it comes out. I've actually got some of Act 3 written and as it seems I am at a point I'm ready to toss everything out the window, I may stop working on two and move to three to give me some balance.

Regardless of what I do next, this feels like this method will help me fix some problems so I can finish it and move on. I can already see a number of problems. Now I just have to figure out how best to solve them. The good news is it feels as if I can solve them.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Weekend Drama & Story Structuring

I've been working on The Long Summer Run this weekend. Saturday was the first time I was actually awake a whole day in a couple of weeks. I was able to do some planning here and there and Sunday I began to work on the structure and plot of the story. Not actual writing but some organization I've needed but didn't really understand how to fix until I started listening to a podcast called The Story Grid. It is based on the book by the same name and written by Shawn Coyne.

 On Saturday I cleaned, with the help of Sarah's mom. We're still good friends and she came and dusted, swept, and mopped - jobs that really cause me a lot of pain and fatigue. I rarely get through the whole house in one day. Sometimes I don't get through it in a month. I have a similar problem with putting away laundry. It is the bending motions of back and shoulders that do it.

The weekend was not without excitement. Becca was nearly finished with the floors and I was in the kitchen, putting away some things. I got my feet tangled in the vacuum cord and stepped in a bit of water on the floor. I was thrown off balance and since I was holding 10 lbs of oranges, there was no way to compensate. I did not bounce when I hit the floor but neither did I break. I did, however, feel it in ever inch of my body. Took several moments and two people to get me up. Mike had been working on the car and just as he came in I fell. So, between the two of them, they got me up and into a chair so we could determine the extent of the damage. Mostly bruises and by Sunday, a whole lot of stiffness and achiness.

I went to church on Sunday but left after the first service. I simply couldn't sit for another hour and a half. Everything was getting stiff and it was very painful. Getting up and down was difficult as my lower back, which had taken a licking the day before, was causing pain in my hips and legs. So, I came home, put the new recliner on the patio and carried out my computer. I stayed there all afternoon. I worked about two hours on the novel and I think it has helped me understand a few things. I knew that I had more to write but I couldn't figure out where some things went and how to get it organized.

Even though I've been writing stories for about 40 years, I didn't really understand story structure until recently. I think we inherently know the structure, at least I did. That's something I realized as I've been studying story structure for the last three months. Story structure seems to be mapped into our brains. That's my terminology.

I read The Power of Myth, by Joseph Campbell probably more than a year ago and based on that, I think that human beings are designed to tell stories and that story structure is probably just a part of us. However, I think it hasn't been clearly defined until Campbell's work. I could be wrong but I think his work is the first research of its kind to reveal that.

Anyway, since I've been studying it, three books later, I seem to be getting the idea. One book gave me a great explanation of the different types of story structure. Another one, Story Engineering, by Larry Brooks was so horrible at explaining it I couldn't get a quarter of the way through before I tossed it aside. Thank goodness I had checked it out of the library.

However, as I mentioned above, I stumbled on this podcast based on Shawn Coyne's book, The Story Grid and as I listened, and visited his website, something clicked. So, on Sunday, I sat down to look for some of the things he talked about and see if there were structured correctly. The story is a mess, as I knew, but one thing that began to show was I was very close in my structure to his example. Not in every instance but in some very important aspects.

I want to finish the basic outline (Scrivener helps with this) and get the whole story on the grid so I can clearly see where the fault lines are. They are many. This makes me feel much better about the story. If I can work on it every day, at least several days a week, I might have it done in a month. Of course, waking at 4 a.m. in terrible pain, as I did this morning, is not going to help matters. My hands are killing me as I type this but dictation is out of the question. I'm not waking the tiny blond beast down the hall this early. That would be as bad as the fire breathing dragon that woke me at 4 a.m.

I will stop now. I need another cup of Joe and prepare myself to face the beast in half an hour. Pray for me. She is not a morning person.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Update on River City Writers Events
My writing group, the River City  Writers just released our first book. We're so excited and I've posted several links. Here's a link to purchase the book on CreateSpace. It can be purchased on in both paperback and Kindle format. 

Check out our new book on CreateSpace!

We also are slated for a book signing in May at Barners & Noble and are planning an official launch around the same time. So stay tuned. 

Join us at Barnes & Noble on Green River Road, Evansville, Indiana for a book signing. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Tall Dark Strangers

Once upon a time.... nevermind. Let me just tell it straight. I was looking for something on my computer this evening and I ran across something I haven't seen in a long time, in fact, had forgot all about. It is about a man who popped into my life several years ago. He was a bit of a nuisance but he hung around and I guess he grew on me. I've not seen him in a while but he must still be here because this fell into my lap, so to speak, reminding me of his presence.

This was written as an "assignment" from a book I got somewhere. The instructions were to write about myself from my character's point of view. Well, I did and this is what he has to say. 

Me According to Simon

Bollocks! She didn't invent me. I told her all about myself and she wrote it down. She can be a bit difficult, our Dixie. Kept telling me to shut up and let her sleep. I spoon fed her the entire story and she's whining about a little sleep.

Am I supposed to tell you who I am? Simon. There is some mystery about my last name. She's keeping it a secret for the moment, probably because I've managed to keep it from her. I work for an agency specializing in … well, we collect information. You'd say spy. We say brokers. I attended university in England. Lovely English mum and GI father.

I came about when she was doing NaNoWriMo. I was a walk-on character in a forum. Don't think anything was supposed to come of it but I liked it and hung around. Played with some other characters a bit but then she got involved in my business. I have a unique talent and she became rather fascinated by it. She's insatiably curious, you know. I read minds, in a manner of speaking. When you are asleep, I can enter your dreams and obtain information. She quite liked that.

Now, all about Dixie. I doubt you have that much time. She's a widow and the grandmother of a precocious little girl. I quite like Sarah. Very direct child with a sunny nature. Dixie's a lot more childish with her and I suspect that's who she really is at heart. She'd be perfectly content to sit in the sandbox and build sand castles. Of course, she'd invent all the people and have them doing outlandish things. Complains when I feed her a story but can sit in the sun and spin a dozen yarns for a six-year-old. Bloody nuisance.

What else.... ah. Dixie was married 35 years and her husband died in the 2009 ice storm of a massive heart attack. Happened in the middle of the night. She did CPR. Difficult. Still, I showed up just after that, about six moths later. I think talking to me helped keep her mind off darker things. I found it amusing that she likes dark haired men with blue eyes. And perhaps a bit sad.

Dixie probably worries too much about her writing. She's capable but I don't know where she's going. She's bloody annoying at times. She knows she should get up and write and the blasted fibro simply wipes her out. Other times she's fine and she still doesn't write. She blogs constantly. Leaves me twiddling my thumbs far too much. She's got the blasted story nearly finished. Get on with it.

Honestly, after I read it I laughed out loud. I'd forgotten how charming he is. 

River City Writers Are Published At Last!

I'm so excited to introduce you to the new anthology by River City Writers. It went up on Amazon today.

It has taken lots of effort to make it happen. I'm so proud of my writers and so thankful for the hard work they've put into this. I can only claim credit for getting the ball rolling and writing two stories. All the rest is the result of their dedication to the project. 

DeWayne Todd deserves an award for a brilliant cover in addition to two very good stories. He also knows more about self-publishing now than he ever dreamed possible. He did it all while working, going to graduate school, and being a great Dad.

Kudos also go to Tammy Vick for her help setting up CreateSpace and assisting DeWayne with the process. She teaches high-school, paints, writes, and takes very long walks. She is also the best NaNoWrio Co-Municipal Liaison ever.

Please take a moment and check out our first efforts on Amazon. The Kindle Edition is The River City Writers Present Crossroads

If you would like to order a discounted copy for $8, email me at

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Dialogue Dilemmas

If you're a writer, you may already know that he/she said is a long debated issue. Yet there are numerous reputable publications that deal with writing and usage that have addressed the issue enough times that it should be understood by most writers.

If you read children's books you see he said, she said used a lot. That's an indefinite, by the way, but as accurate as I can get. I read a book to Sarah some time ago and it nearly drove me crazy because the author kept using "he said" in every instance of dialogue. Through the whole book. Which was not short enough. I wanted to throw it against the wall before I finished it. I didn't but I wanted to.

As I read the comments to the question posted in an online forum about this issue, I became equally annoyed. I'm not about to throw my computer against a wall so I'll vent by writing a post with my view of the he/she said debate.

First. there is nothing wrong with using he said or she said in dialogue. It adequately identifies the sex of the speaker. That's pretty much all it does.

Example 1:
"Bring me the basket of apples," he said.
"Sure, sweetie," she said.
It is clear who is speaking. It is also pretty boring as dialogue goes. There is nothing happening. But you know someone spoke.

Example 2:
"Bring me the basket of apples."
"Sure, sweetie."  
Now we have a real problem. We have no idea who is speaking. Is it man, woman, child, two men, two women, or Martians. To advocates of he/she said, this appears to prove the point. Clearly, he said, she said does something helpful but is it absolutely necessary to use those two tags to identify speaker? Is there a better way?

Example 3:
Nick snapped the newspaper open and squinted at the page. "Bring me the basket of apples, Susan."
"Sure, sweetie." She placed the small basket in the center of the table. "Nick, where are your glasses?"
He looked over the top of the paper and smiled. "On the nightstand."
Susan rolled her eyes and headed for the bedroom. "Of course they are."
 Note that we didn't use he said or she said one time. We didn't need to because it is very clear from the story who is talking. The usual tags have been replaced by the story moving forward.

Dialogue does not move a story forward, actions do. If I remove all the actions in this example, leaving only the dialogue the characters become flat and stagnant. And if I use he said, she said something else happens.

Example 4:
"Bring me the basket of apples, Susan," he said.
"Sure, sweetie," she said. "Nick, where are your glasses."
"On the nightstand," he said.
"Of course they are," she said. 
I admit this isn't GAN (Great American Novel) writing but which works better: 3 or 4? I think 3 is far more interesting to read and is far less bumpy. The tag he said is like a stop sign with a speed bump: unnecessary and annoying.

Maybe you see no problem with 4. In your writing you always use the he/she said tags and don't think there is anything wrong with it. You have to have it to identify the speakers. Right?  No. Sure you do. OK. Let me prove my point.

Example 5:
"You told me you'd be here at seven," he said.
"I'm sorry. I got tied up at the office," he said.
"Yeah, well, I've been standing here, under this skinny awning for 45 minutes in the pouring rain," he said.
"Look, I couldn't help it," he said.
"What's so important you had to keep me waiting?" he said.
"I got fired," he said. 

Example 6:
Mark yanked open the car door and slid into the passenger seat. "Brad, you told me you'd be here at seven." He shook the rain off his hair, spraying Brad in the process.
Brad winced and swiped his hand across his face. "I'm sorry. I got tied up at the office."
"Yeah, well, I've been standing here, under this skinny awning for 45 minutes in the pouring rain." He tossed his brief case over the back seat and buckled his seat belt.
"Look," he said, "I couldn't help it."
Nick paused and glared at him. "What's so important you had to keep me waiting?"
For several moments, Brad couldn't speak and he used the time to pull into the traffic. He took a deep breath and let it out. "I got fired."

Example 5 or 6? Obviously, in 5 you don't know who is speaking and what is happening. I could have put story before and after the dialogue but again, your reader is going to be annoyed trying to figure out who is talking. They'll also get tired pretty quickly with the repetition of he said. The last thing you want is your reader going to sleep.

"But it is more words!" they said.

Yes, it is. Very good words that move the story forward and don't bore the reader. Note I only used he said once. I could have cut that by restructuring the sentence but I got lazy. And that's why writers fall into the habit of he/she said. It is more work to write paragraph 6 than it is to write 5. It requires more thought.

In and of itself dialogue is boring. If it wasn't people wouldn't go to sleep during speeches. In speeches the speaker or speakers are standing behind a podium, talking to an audience. The average listener's attention span is only 20 minutes long. I suspect the average reader isn't much different unless the book is riveting. Obviously, example 5 is boring. Maybe 6 is too but you have to admit it reads much better.

My point is that using dialogue tags is a tricky business. Although you can use he said or she said after every piece of dialogue, you shouldn't. Really. Yes, it is all right to use it here and there and there are times it will be necessary but do so with exceeding restraint.

I challenge you to write your own page dialogue in different ways. I suspect you'll change your views about dialogue tags and you'll see a major improvement in your writing.

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