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Character Comforts

It’s funny, what comforts a person.

For instance, Big Bopper loves napping on the couch to the sounds of cartoons.

Bottled Lightning loves silence.

BoyWonder likes to sit around the dining room table with his family and talk, after a big meal.

Freckles McYoungest loves a stormy afternoon, curled up with a book.

I like wind…

An unremitting sea breeze on the beach.

warp-dogThe relentless gale that whips through a car speeding down the highway with all the windows down.

i always want to say "and my other brother daryl". anyone else do that?

i always want to say “and my other brother daryl”. anyone else do that?

An afternoon gust that cools the porch and blasts away the mosquitoes on a summer evening.

catfanA floor fan, pointed just right, that puffs up your t-shirt and makes tendrils of hair dance around your face.

I wonder if it’s because the first house I lived in, situated in a coastal town, had no air conditioning. But every room had windows designed to catch a cross-breeze.

Or, could be I’m just weird.

As writers, though, it’s interesting to think about what would comfort the characters we invent. For instance, there are times that I get a whiff of stale oil and hot engine parts, and maybe a little pee, which reminds me of the Paris Metro. Would that be a comforting smell to someone raised there? Maybe a character loves raking leaves because it reminds him of New England and maple syrup and red flannel shirts—and home?

I dunno. I ponder these things, when I write characters.

Hope I’m not weird.


Outlining VS Pantsing, Again

I once heard a talk by a lovely Kansas SCBWI member—whose name I wish I could remember—about Walter Dean Myer’s process. It involved lengthy and detailed outlines.

At that moment, I wondered if I’d ever be a good writer.

Trouble is, I didn’t want to give up the freedom of pantsing. The interesting discoveries you make when you just let ‘er rip.

I’m starting a new story and this time, I’m making the effort to get the bones in place, first. With the caveat that I’m still free to run wild and crazy when belching out my first draft.

Two memes for the price of one.

Two memes for the price of one.

I hope the extra time spent pre-loading the manuscript makes me write faster. And still gives me room for those Aha! moments.


Because that’s what makes it fun.

Get the Most Out of Your Ghost…Tour

It’s that time of year again, full of thrills and chills and things that go bump in the night.

When many usually sane people decide to attend commercial haunted houses and ghost tours.

Now, I haven’t attended a haunted house and I never will, based on this:


flashight gif

And this:




And this:



But I have gone on a bunch of ghost tours, and I’ve got a few tips for writers and others about…



  1. Stay in the front–sounds obvious. But if you trail the group you will miss things. Even if the Ghost Walk Conductor uses a bullhorn, you’re gonna miss stuff. Random people walking down the street will ask you what’s going on. Other ghost tour customers will buttonhole you with their own personal ghost stories. Which are almost never any good. And the tour leader will often talk to the people in the front, off-mike.
  2. Laugh, gasp and generally encourage the guide–even if it makes you feel like a bit player in a melodrama. An engaged audience is a lot more fun for everybody–including the speaker. If he enjoys delivering his spiel, he’ll ham it up. Throw in extra tidbits of information that he might skip if he’s in a hurry to ditch a surly group.
  3. Ask questions–figure out whether your speaker is more interested in the ghosty or historical part of his job. If he’s working for a ghost tour company, he’s enthusiastic about at least one. And usually knows a lot more about his subject than he’s telling you. If you’ve got a question, ask it. But dear God, please don’t tell the group about the time your great-grandmother heard the Banshee cry. Nobody cares. Sorry.
  4. Interrupt–honest to Murgatroyd, I have become intolerant of fools in my middle age. As far as I’m concerned, a chatty audience member gets one it’s-all-about-me comment per situation. If a fellow ghost tourist feels the need to continually take the speaker’s presentation off track, interrupt with a question that will help the him get back to business. (“Did George Washington sleep here?”) Or simply repeat the last thing the tour guide said. (“You said he had a wooden leg named ‘Smith’. Go on.”) 99.999999% of the time, he will be grateful.
  5. Tip–come on, cheapskate. You flattered and cajoled your host into giving you the ghost tour of a lifetime, now tip him. And while you’re at it, ask him to recommend historical and paranormal sources you can check out. After all, this is book research, right? RIGHT?


not another writer’s new year resolutions post

Geez Louise, I despise New Year’s resolutions. I never keep them, and don’t even remember what I resolved past January 3rd. Usually, along about October I find the notebook I was supposed to write in every morning, stuffed under the car seat or kicked under the washing machine.

Then I despair.

no more writer resolutions

Not this year, bucko!


I don’t want to generate failure anymore. No more promises to work on habits and goals that I don’t really want, no matter how many Good Writers recommend them. Instead, whatever interests me, I’m just gonna do it.

And when it doesn’t float my boat anymore, I will stop.

Maybe I’ll end up making the same changes in my life that a New Year’s Resolver does, but I won’t feel like I’m being punished, and I sure won’t feel guilty if my self-improvement ideas don’t work out.


dragging revisions

Oh, I am the easily amused type.

I will play with the snow on WordPress All. Day Long. Move my cursor back and forth to watch the flake flow change as if buffeted by breezes unseen.

That’s enough alliteration for one day.

I love the annual WordPress Snowfall so much I changed by background to a dark spacey thing to make it show better. Sure, it takes forever to load, but it’s just until January. HUMOR ME.

I am still in the revising doldrums, very soon done. And that’s my testimony about revising today:


I’ve been three chapters away from finishing this revision for about, oh, six chapters now. How does this happen? Am I futzing around, going in circles because I don’t know how to end the dang book?


Am I fooling around because I have a fear of finishing?



Here’s what has happened: layers.

I’ve discovered several more layers to my main character, which twisted the plot a bit. Which is ramping up the tension as I near the end, and of course, will make the climax sing like an opera.

I admit I’m a little impatient to be finished with this draft so I can be on to something else while it simmers a bit, then start fresh on the third draft. (I do love my own work. *cough*) But I’ve read an awful lot of books with hurried endings. It’s an easy trap to fall into, assuming the reader is as ready to be done with the story as you are.


You may have been working on your novel for a year by the time you get to the end, but your reader has been working on reading it a considerably shorter time.

You’ve got to maintain the same enthusiasm for the story you want the reader to have.



beginnings, planned and otherwise

New beginnings.

Sometimes they are planned, a satisfying denouement to a well-lived story.

But other times a new beginning is thrust upon us out of nowhere.

If you’re blindsided, the first reaction is…

…that deer-in-the-headlights feeling–caught. Frozen. Blank.

This is when you must make The Decision:

Choose to turn your face toward the past, long for lost friends, lost loves and lost opportunities.


Fix your gaze on the future. Create a new adventure with joy and enthusiasm.

I choose Joy.

photo credit: <a href=””>Chris Gin</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>cc</a&gt;

stretching in every direction

Where have I been? Geez. You ask all the hard questions.

The Kansas SCBWI conference is in TWO WEEKS, and I will be PRESENTING A WORKSHOP THEREUPON. Why no, I’m not nervous at all.

I’ve presented a bitty-workshop before, as part of a miscellaneous-Saturday offering, on choosing what age to write for. And I’ve done a Friday Night Demonstration at the conference about the benefits of revision. Sue Ford, my past RA, kind of nudged me into those baby steps. But this is my first workshop,  And I’m excited–to the point of hysteria. Oh, I could never lie to you.

My topic: USE YOUR iPHONE TO WRITE YOUR NOVEL. Pretty intriguing, huh?

You may remember this post about my solution for note-taking at the LA SCBWI conference, when I got that super-spiffy and much-appreciated scholarship, thanks to Colleen Cook, my current RA. Well, I’ve learned many things since then through trial and error, enough for a workshop. Or two or three.

I’ve got my talking points organized, and I learned Keynote so I could put together an astounding whiz-bang slide show. Still have to finish the bonus website–constructed from my iPhone of course–and open only to peeps who attend the presentation.

Yeah, I know how to do these things. I’M A MARVEL.


I’ve just learned how to stretch, and take a chance.

Writers take a chance every time they sit down to the keyboard–will the words come? Can I shape them into something publishable? Will the critics like it? Will the readers?

For me, that sense of daring has somehow spilled into real life.

Cool, huh?

11 firefox add-ons to make your life easier

Hey everybody! I missed you SO MUCH!

Like you all, we have dealt with upheavals galore around here. But now I’m finally down to the last five chapters on ye olde revisionne.

I thought I’d sidetrack today and talk about something I’d never paid much attention to until lately:


There are plenty of browsers to choose from. (What’s a browser? It’s the thing you travel around teh intrawebs on: Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera, etc.) Many add-ons are designed to work on all platforms, some are only developed for one. You’ll have to check with the browser you’re driving. Today I’ll talk about some add-ons I’ve found useful for Firefox.

Click on “Tools”, then “Add-ons”.

You’ll go to a page jam-packed with tiny programs to add to your browser. Some are worthless and will drive you nutz. Some will make your life worth living. Read what the tiny add-on program is supposed to do, then read what the reviewers have to say. Pay attention to the date of the review, because the add-ons don’t always keep pace with the browser updates.

And now I present…


  1. Adblock Plus–Yes. You want to block those malware ads and pop ups, automatically. Yes. You do. I’ve had this a long time, and it has not let me down.
  2. Ghostery–Just downloaded this one a few days ago and it’s remarkable. I theoretically knew that there were data collectors out there, but son of a gun. This app shows you the ad networks, behavioral data collectors and web analytic providers on each page you visit. These puppies FOLLOW YOU AROUND THE INTILWEBBS and report to their masters about your habits. CREEPAZOID. But with Ghostery you can block them. I LOVE IT.
  3. Newssitter-News Sidebar and News Ticker–It’s a–uh–sidebar. You choose the news feeds you want in it. And it kind of…ticks. Choices range from Facebook to the New York Times. I believe we can apply the word “eclectic” here, and be safe. Collapsible.
  4. Forecastfox–Weather strip, sits up on the top right of your screen. Customizable, several days’ forecast at a glance, radar, moon phase, all kinds of stuff. From AccuWeather.
  5. RSS Icon in url bar–I get tired of looking for the RSS feed icon on blogs, don’t you? Put one in your url bar and you can subscribe to blogs right from there.
  6. Lightshot (screenshot tool)–Easier than looking for the Prnt Scrn button and opening Paint and…oh what a PAIN. Just click your little icon that floats on your bottom bar, then you can choose however much of the page you wish, to screenshoot. Then save to whatever folder you want, or email, or send directly to your printer. Very nifty.
  7. Share This–Gad, I use this so many times a day. It’s a green button sitting in my url bar. When I want to share an article to ANYWHERE I can do it through Share This. (What’s Corkboard? What’s Nujij?) Mostly I email links, but if you want to Tweet, Tumblr, Yammer, Yigg or Xerpi, then here’s your conduit.
  8. Pocket–Used to be called “Read It Later”. Another add-on I can’t do without. See something you want to read later, toggle the button and it’s archived. Beautiful layout, you can tag your pages to organize them in folders.
  9. TinyUrl Generator–I fell upon my knees when I found this and gave thanks to my Creator. I crank out an informational newsletter for the Kansas SCBWI every week with lots of links, and some of the urls are really. Really. Long. But tick this little icon and when it’s done spinning, you have a tidy little url that anyone would be proud of. Happy happy joy joy.
  10. Internote–Only been working with this a few days, but it’s funky. You can stick virtual post-it notes on web pages, and they’re still there when you go back later. Huh. And you’re the only one who sees it.
  11. Joliprint–This last one is not available through the Firefox browser . Get the bookmarklet here and stick it in a toolbar. Joliprint converts an article into a PDF. You can collect numerous articles all day into a PDF to read that evening, if you want. When you’re ready, download the PDF, post it in Google docs or send it to your email. A handy aggregator when researching.

Now I have let you in on all my little tricks of the trade. Anybody else got an add-on they love?

There’s one in every crowd.

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