And In Time, We Will All Be Stars

November is National Novel Writing Month. In short, writers commit to writing 50,000 words, the  better part of a novel, in thirty days. NaNoWriMo is not for the faint of heart. It is a laborious task that can seem daunting at the least and downright impossible at the most.

Given that I am 65,000 words into my work in progress, a YA Fantasy based on the ancient Mayan creation story, I have decided to NaNoWriMo a little differently this time. My goal is to finish the novel within the first week of the month. Let things simmer (meaning: DO NOT GO BACK AND READ IT) during the second week. Then, take the following two weeks (and a couple days!) to begin revisions.

I am at a crucial point in my story and because I am a “pantser” and didn’t know exactly where my story was going to land, I have found myself struggling with the ending. (Though my fabulous and wise Crit Partner could tell you I pretty much struggled through the ugly middle part too! Thankfully I can trust her not to share my deepest inner writer freak-out moments OR the strange rabbit holes my brain takes me down at times.)

For this manuscript, I know what the two POV MCs need to go through at the end. I was just not sure how to make it happen effectively. So, I spent a little of my writing time yesterday searching for inspiration. I had pretty much exhausted all of my Mayan culture references and was still coming up short. But something I wrote as a “place holder” line stuck in my head and I couldn’t let it go.  The line was something to the effect of “burn with the fire of a million stars.”

I tried to figure out where I had heard that before because it kept coming into my head with a specific tune. Then I was hit over the head with my past. That line, and that particular tune were from one of my favorite songs in the classic 1980 film, “Fame.”  (Yes, I was one of “those” nerds that not only had an intense love of all things Sci-Fi, but also stricken with a case of Broadway dreams.) The song was based on a Walt Whitman poem, so you can imagine the intensity that this word-geek loved that! The lyrics to the song and the poem itself are spectacular.

I sing the body electric,
The armies of those I love engirth me and I engirth them,
They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them,
And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the charge of the soul.

So, after I read the poem a few times, away to youtube, I went. I found a clip of the song. Just listening to it did the trick to open up my mind. The score of the song fit in perfectly for the scene I was working on, starting out in a vulnerable place, then building into a crescendo. I was able to find inspiration and a jumping point for a pretty large reveal in the scene I was writing. All was right with the world.

But, I caution you, my writer friends. This tale does not lead to a happy ending.

After I heard the song a few times, it was in my head. And I started remembering how much I loved not only that movie, but the TV show that followed it. Which led me to googling Lee Curreri, as he played Bruno Martelli, my favorite character from the movie and tv show. (Even named one of my characters in a previous MS, Martelli!) So I spent longer than I care to admit seeing what he’s been up to since the days of Fame. (A lot, actually. He’s a working composer in Hollywood with some decent credits. Ooooh, I wonder if he’d score a book trailer? Hm…)

So, the moral of my tale is this:Inspiration doesn’t have to match your genre or draw directly from your outline. Consider favorite old songs, poems you wrote in high school, movies from your childhood. Inspiration can be found anywhere. Just don’t let it get in the way of your writing.

For more info on NaNoWriMo, click HERE.

And to see my inspiration, I Sing the Body Electric from FAME, click HERE.

There’s No Place Like Homes

I have lived near Vegas for a little over two weeks now. I am adjusting to the new climate, the new home, the new, well everything.  I’m not sure it’s all hit me yet because it still feels like I am on vacation. Check back in a month or two. But one of the things that I think has helped me “cope” with my relocation is the fact that some things are just universal.

The love of my family and friends has not changed just because I moved away. I still text, email, tweet and facebook like we did when I was in Arkansas. Sure, I miss chatting with my kids every night, lunching with my friend every day and experiencing The Walking Dead with my friend and fellow fanpeople, but so far we’ve found a way to stay connected electronically and flights have already been booked for the future. It’s not the same, but it’s still good.

Last weekend, I just happened to find out about the Vegas Valley Book Festival. I couldn’t resist the chance to get my writer feet wet within a week of being here. Sure, I had to muster the courage to drive all by myself into downtown Las Vegas for the event, (Went right past the strip!) but I did it. I’m so glad I did.

I sat in on three different YA panels during the day. I learned a lot about some exciting authors and their works and I got some great craft tips from published professionals. It was during one of the panels after I asked a question about crafting the love interest (YA LOVE AND LONGING panel) that it hit me. The writers on the platform and the writers in the audience were just like me and just like my writer pals in Arkansas. We all have the desire to produce great words and have our MS published.  It doesn’t matter why each of us chose to begin writing, the genre or age we write in, or the path to publication we end up traveling. We’re all in it together.  There’s a common thread that connects us all together. We writers are the lovers of words, the spinners of stories, the witnesses to the world.

Suddenly I didn’t feel like I was sitting alone in a (very warm) tent miles and miles away from home. I was sitting in a (very warm) tent with my tribe that extended beyond that tent, all the way to Arkansas and beyond.

Most writers I have encountered are unfathomably supportive people. We want each other to succeed because we know the struggles and we have felt them.  We understand the odds of publication, the anguish of crafting the perfect pitch or query letter, the bite of rejection. I have seen it time and time again–in every Twitter pitch contest I have entered, in the responses to my crazy emails from my amazing Crit Partner, in every writing group Starbucks gab session. We feel for each other and we root for each other.

And it doesn’t stop when (not saying IF, saying WHEN) we are published. At the festival, I had a great conversations with authors C.L. Gaber (*ASCENDERS), and Brian Yansky (*ALIEN INVASION AND OTHER INCONVENIENCES) Not only were they excited to talk about their works, but she was interested in mine too.  The spirit of community was overflowing at the festival. It made it feel like home.

No matter how long we stay in Vegas, my heart and my home will be in Arkansas with my friends and family. But it will also be here in my new community. It will be on Twitter and Facebook and other places I can’t yet imagine.

*These two books have moved up to number 1 and 2 on my TBR list. Can’t wait to read them!

Strep Throat – By the Numbers

On Friday I was diagnosed (*sort of) with Strep Throat, capitol S and capitol T. (That’s how it felt in my throat anyway.) I started antibiotics and took to the bed as the doctor ordered and as my body demanded. I am almost back to the land of the living, though I suspect it will be a while before I am back in peak form. In an effort to document just my illness, and because I never miss the chance to make a list, I thought I’d break it down by the numbers.

During my illness I:

  • Showered 1 time
  • Missed out on 2 things I was planning to do with friends
  • Called out of work 3 ½ days
  • Went through 4 boxes of Puffs Plus lotion tissues
  •  Lost 4/5 of my senses (Way to hang in there sense of touch!)
  • Tried 7 kinds of home remedies and/or medications that didn’t really work
  • Slurped 8 cans of soup
  • Binge-watched 13 episodes of The Tomorrow People (To be honest, I think the drug-filled stupor helped me to suspend my disbelief a little on this one. No way Robbie Amell is high school aged as portrayed on the show. NO. WAY. Also: Sad this was canceled.)
  • Failed to write approximately 10,000 words in my manuscript
  • Consumed Infinity cups of hot tea

The moral of this list is take care of yourselves folks. Get your flu shots! Sanitize your hands! Don’t drink after strangers!  Do what you gotta do to stay well!

*And a final number:  Apparently if you test positive for strep, there is a 99% chance it is accurate. If you test negative (as I did) there is only 70% chance the test is correct and the doctor gives you the meds anyway. So that begs the question I intend to ask the next time: Why do the test?

Rolling the Dice

This is going to be a personal post today. For those of you who don’t know me personally, I hope you’ll bear with me this week so I can share a little bit about what’s going on in my life. There will be more writing stuff next post!

To be honest, this is just too much to write on Facebook so I am using my blog to tell the story of my impending relocation.

Welcome to Nevada

To put it out there in the (cyber) world, my husband and I are moving to Vegas! More specifically to Henderson, NV, a suburb of Vegas. But let’s be honest, it sounds so much cooler to say we’re moving to VEGAS! Amiright?

It was not an easy decision to make but we are both confident that we’re following the path we are meant to follow. This journey is already requiring a lot of stepping out in Faith and that won’t change once we’re permanently out there.

This is not an opportunity we were expecting, but it is one we’re choosing to embrace. To use Vegas terminology, we’re rolling the dice on this move. So far, it’s coming up [whatever number is good in dice. Not much of a gambler. Yet.] He’s been living in an apartment in Henderson and working at his exciting new job since the end of July.  He’s flying back very soon to get me and my car and we’ll drive out into the sunset. (Probably more accurate to say drive out into the noonish sun.) Then we are going to Nevandans. (Note to self: Check the proper term for people living in Nevada when I get there. Nevadans sounds like something from Star Wars.)

This is a dream job for him and he’s loving it. I am truly thankful for that. He’s sacrificed a lot for our family over the years and I am thrilled he’s found a job that he is going to enjoy. I’m still in the job market out there, but hopeful something will happen for me when I arrive and can physically get to interviews.

We’re keeping our home in Arkansas. The kids will be living here, taking care of the cats and themselves! That’s the hardest part of this, but as my practical child put it, “Mom, we’re not going to live with you and Dad forever, so you may as well take advantage of a good opportunity while you have it.”  Wise, that one.

I am excited for this. The adventurer/writer in me is super pumped to be living “thisclose” to a thriving city plunked right in the middle of a beautiful part of nature.  There is so much to see and experience in a large city (besides the whatever you do that must “stay in Vegas” things). I’m looking forward to exploring all the area has to offer. Plus, I never thought I’d live in the desert, but I’m hoping it will turn out great for my tends-to-frizz hair.

Bonus: Do you know how much closer I will be to San Diego Comic Con? 1,297 miles closer. I DID THE MATH.

I am sad about this. I have literally have moments of unspeakable despair when I think of who I am leaving behind. Beyond my amazing children, I have friends here who “get me” and love me anyway. It will hurt to leave them, but I am banking on technology keeping us together remotely. I am persistent so I don’t plan to give them a chance to forget about me when I’m gone. Besides, I already had loads of experience with long-distance friends. I’ll just have a few more now.

I am scared to death about this. Who does this kind of thing? Who uproots their entire lives with very little advance notice and moves to a completely unfamiliar area and environment on the chance that it will be great? Um, apparently we do. I already know it was the right decision for my husband and I am hoping that relocation may help my writing too.  I’ve already been inspired by the landscape in the little time I was out there in July. (Watch out Nevada SCBWI, I am invading you soon!)

This is a huge thing we’re doing and some people will not understand it or judge us for this decision. But my home is where my family is. It’s just working out that I will have two homes. I feel extremely Blessed by this opportunity and that’s going to get me through the times when I begin to wonder “What have we done?”

In the last few weeks as I prepared to go, I have already missed a lot. I missed my daily writing and emailing my CP every day and Tweeting. I am ready to get in the same city as my husband and back to life as I know it, no matter what form it takes.  I still have a couple weeks left at work and then last minute packing. (And donating a lot of clothes to Good Will.) Then I’m off to Nevada. After that, I’ll be back to writing and living life and I can’t wait to see what that will look like!

Me and Jeff Goldblum

As I backed out of my driveway yesterday, I noticed a dead fly on the dashboard of my car. It was a pretty big fly. Big enough for me to detect flecks of green and gold in its lifeless body. I thought to myself, “Poor guy, he probably fried to death in the sweltering southern sun.”  Then I thought, “What are you thinking? It’s a fly, a pesky, buzzing, menace to society. It doesn’t matter if he fried, choked, or succumbed to old age! IT’S A FLY. Dead flies are good.”

I vowed to get rid of the corpse as soon as I came to the first traffic stop.

So I drove along my route as I normally do, singing along with Ed Sheeran (because he’s Ed Sheeran). I was right at the bridge of the song, time to really belt it out, when I approached the stop sign. I applied the brakes and something surprising happened. The force of the car slowing flipped the dead fly over. He was no longer belly-up as he had been. He was suddenly standing there on his spiky spindly fly legs. And I thought, “Hm, SCIENCE!” Then I tried to remember what type of force it was that created the phenomenon and how many legs flies have.

When I passed through the intersection and was underway again, naturally, I paid attention to the road and the other drivers. But, something caught my eye. It was a tiny flicker of movement first, but it increased until I had no choice but to investigate. Imagine my surprise when I realized the fly was alive and he was staring in my direction, taunting me, daring me to swat him away.

I knew at that point there were three possibilities. One, the fly had been playing opossum, or some insect version of opossum (ladybug?). Two, the virus is real and this fly is a Walker. Or three, it was stunned and had regained consciousness. I was forced to quickly discount my first two wild (but creative!) theories, so I decided my third theory was correct. This fly was a fighter and it wanted to live.

So I named him Jeff Goldblum.

I watched Jeff Goldblum attempt to crawl across my dashboard. He was wobbly, but he was moving. He inched along, a few steps at a time. Soon he had somehow managed to limp almost five inches toward the window. See, Jeff Goldblum was a smart fly and he instinctively the way to freedom.  (Or remembered the way he came in.)

By the time I turned onto the street by my office, I was rooting for Jeff Goldblum. I cracked my window to show him the way, like a lighthouse shining through the  dawn mist guiding sailors home. He fluttered his wings, bouncing and hitting the dashboard hard, but he would not give up. I spoke to him. “You can do it, “I said. “Fly, Jeff Goldlum, fly!” I said.

For a brief shining moment he took flight. He ascended into the air, hovered for what was probably a lifetime to him. (Roughly three seconds for me.) Then he plummeted downward,crashing in front of me and slowly drifting his way toward the gap in my steering wheel column.

I gasped in horror. Was this the end for Jeff Goldblum? It couldn’t be. He had a life yet to live. He had places to buzz and leftover food to devour and people to annoy. I didn’t want him to be dead.  I wanted him to live.

After what seemed a long time to me (probably another three seconds in actuality) Jeff Goldblum twittered to life. I had never been so excited! (At least that morning anyway.)

So I did what any good and benevolent lifeform would do. I used a discarded menu found in the recesses of my car and I scooped Jeff Goldblum from his precarious perch and I carefully opened the car door, depositing him among the flowers in our beautifully landscaped flower bed.

I don’t know what happened to Jeff Goldblum. I’d like to think he regained his full strength, flew to a nearby rosebush and met the fly of his dreams (Geena Davis, of course.)  After a honeymoon in the Landfill, they’ll come back and make hundreds of little fly babies.

(Okay, maybe not the fly babies part.)

The moral of this story. writers, is to give your characters goals and then give them a thousand different roadblocks to keep them from them.  I don’t like flies, yet when I found one that faced an insurmountable odds, I rooted for him.  I wanted him to succeed in getting to freedom, so much so that I helped him to do it.

Sometimes it is difficult to put our characters into challenging situations, but if we do, we create characters that readers WANT to win. They journey with them, experiencing the pain, the torment, the obstacles, along with them. They have no choice but to keep reading to see them succeed, or sometimes, fail.

I’m going to remember Jeff Goldblum because he was a profound, if not strange, reminder to make my characters struggle to get what they want. I want to give my readers someone and something to root for.

Like Jeff Goldblum.

Inspiration in Every Day Things

Last night I was half-paying attention while we were watching tv. A local commercial for insulated windows came on and I happened to look up at just the right time to see a photo of a house that had been covered with a gray filter whiz by the screen. The purpose was to show how terrible these windows were, but LOOK at these crisp clear insulated windows in this bright shiny photo next to it! You want them for your house!

I was struck with inspiration for my work in progress.

Now, insulated windows have absolutely no place in a fantasy based on the ancient Mayan culture, yet a very cool scene materialized itself in my head because of that photo-shopped picture in a modern commercial.

I am often asked “Where do your ideas come from?” And the simple answer is everywhere. For example, window commercials.

My brain has been conditioned to find inspiration in the most random, sometimes insignificant, and always unpredictable places. I believe you’ll find this is the case with most writers and creative types.

I think this has been the case most of my life, but since I have actively started pursuing publishing my stories, I have trained myself to see things and find inspiration all around me. Yeah, sometimes I get the occasional odd stare when I whip out my notebook to write something down or inadvertently shout, “Oh, I can use that!” But in the end, I hope my lightning bolts of inspiration produce stories that people want to read.

Since I’m a fan of lists and to show you how easy it can be, here’s my list of things I have found inspirational in the past week.  Maybe you’ll be able to spot them in my published stories one day!

USA Women’s World Cup Soccer Team

The poetry of Robert Frost: Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.

Matt Damon’s ponytail


Flipping an omelet without breaking it


hate is easy

The finish line

Baby toes


Seriously, have you seen Matt Damon’s ponytail?

Four leaf clovers

The first word typed on a blank page


Norman Reedus’ cat

Mozart’s Requiem in D Minor

A brand new box of crayons

May you find inspiration in every day things!


(See what I mean? Although, now that I look at this closely, I’m not sure it can be counted as an every day thing. This is a special occasion ponytail to be certain.)