My One Word for 2016

Happy New Year! It’s time for resolutions and goals–and as usual I am rolling my eyes. I am prone to over-commitment!  And then abandoning my resolutions when I become overwhelmed. A one-word goal keeps things simple and focused.

BuyIn-2016For 2014, my word was READY. Even though I kind of wasn’t.

For 2015, I chose ENGAGE. As in stepping out, joining the conversation. And in spite of health setbacks, I did.

For 2016, I’m taking things to the next level with  BUY IN. Okay, so it’s two words, but still. This is plain old COMMITMENT, but with a kick. When we spend time and money, we’re serious.

As for writerly resolutions, two new titles are in the works for 2016: Sir Walter Elliot’s Marrying Well for Fun and Profit (blogged at Jane Started It!) and another lighthearted romp (as yet undecided). I’ll begin posting that Sunday nights at Beyond Austen sometime in March. And this time? I’m writing the ending first, not last! (I always struggle with endings.)

Consistency is the key.  I have 30 minutes in the morning and again after school–and Saturdays. Feed the pipeline, as they say in sales.

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.” -Robert Louis Steveson

Thank you, Panda Express
Panda Express says. “Time, once lost, can never be regained.”

Trust Panda Express to deliver a fortune cookie reminder: “Time, once lost, can never be regained.

How about you? Would you like to choose a word for 2015? Check out


Thankful is a way of life

vintage-thanksgiving-postcard-00282On a field trip recently, since I simply rode in the bus, I took in the autumn sights: the rolling hills with red and golden trees, the clear blue of the sky, the scattered clouds. What if, I thought. What if I had not lived to see this season?

I have every reason to be thankful this year. Is everything perfect? No. But God is good, and I am resourceful. I can adapt, and I can give thanks.

Thank you for following my blog and for your interest in my writing.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving day! Here is one man’s story of thanks.

Because giving thanks isn’t just for a holiday. It’s how happy people live.

When “The End” is the beginning

Photo: Saida (Creative Commons Flickr)
Just in time for Thanksgiving, a milestone accomplishment to celebrate! Photo: Saida (Creative Commons Flickr)

Late last night–as the clock struck midnight, ha–I wrote and posted the final words of Darcy By Any Other Name. I have been working toward this for a long time. Two-and-a-half years, to be precise. (What can I say? The three Mercy’s Embrace books took eight summers…)

WDisney-ImpossibleThe hours in ICU are long, and one of the things I thought about was how I almost left this earth with the story unfinished. Little did I know that my journey to The End would require another 25,000 words!

This morning I’m taking a moment to savor the victory. This afternoon the manuscript will be sent for Table of Contents pagination, and after that the cover will be finalized. Stay tuned for publication details!

If you’d like to read a lightly-edited version, it’s available at Beyond AustenThis is a password-protected forum, and membership is free. But you’ll have to act quickly. I’ll be taking the story down Tuesday night…

free vintage digi stamp_the end

The risk of showing mercy

I blog Saturdays at Jane Started It. Here is today’s offering.

Jane Started It!

Photo: Mauricio Lima (Creative Commons Flickr)A time to grieve with France, America’s first ally. Photo: Mauricio Lima (Creative Commons Flickr)

Homicidal hatred. That’s what the Vatican called yesterday’s attacks in Paris, and I completely agree.

I would use the word tragic, but tragedy involves happenstance. There was no element of chance last night. The attacks were purposeful and deliberate. More than tragic, they were monstrous and cruel.

Today we grieve with with the people of Paris, with families whose loved ones were “soft targets,” easy marks for violence. What did they do to deserve such hatred?

And yet Jesus said,Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you… (Matthew 5:44, King James Bible)

He did not say this would be easy. Jesus is like that. He challenges those who follow Him to show mercy, to take…

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Have you met Mog?

This is way off-topic, but it’s that kind of day. It’s a celebration day–with mourning turned to joy–because all of my students passed their tests. Quarter 1 ends well!

And while checking Facebook at lunch I discovered Mog and his commercial about Christmas sharing. So I’m passing it on to you. Just the thing for Friday the Thirteenth, right?

I love that in his book he’s forgetful. That’s what school stress does to me. Yesterday I staggered home and sat on the sofa staring into space. NaNo daily word count quota? Didn’t even cross my mind! So now I am behind, but not alone. I have Mog the Forgetful Cat to keep me company.

Yes, it’s too early for Christmas stuff. But around here, any time is the right time to enjoy a cat. Happy Friday.

Got NaNo Writer’s Block? Welcome to the club!

PrintI signed up for NaNo out of desperation. Yes, many of my writing friends were doing it, but for me it was a matter of survival. (I would say it was “write-or-die,” but having almost done that this last spring, I kind of can’t use the expression anymore.) I have no time, no time for NaNo!

Unless I train myself to write consistently and in larger amounts, my career as a writer is toast. This year’s NaNo is about resurrecting a novella that was hastily begun without a plan. It’s a fun story, but it has no real structure. The supporting characters are undefined, almost cardboard-like caricatures. Can’t have that!

Bogged-down writers are not always rational. You saw me panic when NaNo began–I was lost! I had no direction! The pirate story wasn’t fun anymore! But NaNo is about word count, about putting thoughts on the page. As I’ve persevered this week–writing stuff in an exploratory way–story elements have dropped into place. Ideas have been bubbling up.

I’m making progress because I called in the “Marines” of storytelling, Pixar. The infographic (below) is new to me, but I bet you’ve seen this information floating around the Internet. I stumbled on it in 2012 and immediately shared it with my fiction writing class. To quote Wile E. Coyote, “It’s genius!”

What’s good for the student is good for the teacher.  So in my NaNo manuscript–yes, right in the middle of my poor blocked story–I have pasted in Emma Coats’ 22 Tweets, one by one. I’ve bolded them and have been using them as writing prompts. Taking two or three a day, I’ve let my creative mind spin ideas into bulleted lists. And sentences. And paragraphs. And dialog. (When dialog shows up, I know I’m hitting gold.)

So far I’m on #9, and new thoughts are flying. Want to give it a try? Here’s Emma Coats’ tweeted list. A storyboard artist for Pixar, she knows her stuff:




As the coyote says, “It’s sheer, unadultered genius.” For a text version–or to download a high-resolution, poster-sized version of the infographic–visit Joshua Vardanega’s Pixar Fansite.

When the doctor can’t stop smiling

Not going here! Photo: (image is link)
Not going here! Not this time! Photo: (image is link)

Some of you know that I was facing another surgery this December. Happy thought indeed! This would be a more invasive one, involving blood transfusions and everything.

Not that Miss Shake-It-Off Sepsis Recovery Girl has anything against surgery or transfusions, but she would prefer to avoid them. As would anyone.

Many faithful friends prayed. Students prayed. Colleagues prayed. I prayed too, but with a weather eye on my cowardice. I know what a chicken-heart I am! I focused instead on being a good soldier, since my usual perfect health could not be relied upon anymore.

God would see me through this surgery. That is how I looked at it.

In returning to the classroom, I faced many challenges–the stairs, the long hallways, the walk to and from school, the sheer physicality of the job. And yet what could I do but persevere? Movement has always been my friend. Apparently my right kidney finally agrees.

A miracle! The stubborn gunk and most of the small stones that my kidney was guarding so tenaciously suddenly decided to clear out. The CT scan showed significant improvement–hooray! “You are doing fabulously,” my doctor said. This to a patient who came in so often that she felt like an employee!

I tremble to think that Sepsis Recovery Girl can resume her identity as Miss Shake-It-Off. .Not at full strength, but well on my way to normal health…

Again, thank you for your prayers and encouragement. God is good, and apparently there is still more living for me to do. More miles to walk and stairs to climb. New friendships to discover and people to encourage. And, of course, more books to write…

I’ve veered back to the pirate story for NaNo, by the way. I couldn’t identify the “ticking clock” of urgency in the Regency. So ahoy, matey, we’re back on course!

Quit and then Start Again

I found this today on Facebook (posted by the author) and I shared it in several writers’ groups. And then I realized that you might like it too.

Stopping and then starting again have become a way of life for me: It’s an everyday battle, not only with writing but with so many important things.ColleenHoover

Art and Fear is not a book for NaNo; it’s the one you’ll need after that. In December or January, once the sweep and swing of NaNo have disappeared. When the floodlights are turned off and you are left alone in the dark with your manuscript and your fear.

Quitting is fundamentally different from stopping.
The latter happens all the time. Quitting happens once.
Quitting means not starting again—and art is all about starting again.

David Bales and Ted Orland, Art and Fear

A search shows that I’ve written about this subject before. Now you know why!

Today will you join me in starting over twice?  That’s the secret. “Never give up, never surrender!”

The Three Doors

Photo: Jason Rogers (Creative Commons Flickr)
Leftovers are a prize when one lives on student loan money. (Nathan wants you to know that this isn’t him!) Photo: Jason Rogers (Creative Commons Flickr)

NaNo is here, and I have a lot on my plate. Manuscript proofreading and a new Regency story, along with all the end of quarter stuff at school–report cards, parent conferences. (Alas, I’ve set aside the poor pirate story until December.)

So I will be living like my second son, the graduate student. He is busy always. I can be downstairs for hours and not know that he is home.

Why we don't have cats! Photo: Alisha Vargis (Creative Commons Flickr)
I couldn’t resist including this photo. Why we don’t have cats, right? It must be really hot inside, or else they are just that hungry. Photo: Alisha Vargas (Creative Commons Flickr)

One day last week I realized that around here Nathan opens three doors:

  • The front door
  • The refrigerator door
  • and his bedroom door

Meaning that he comes home, gets food, and goes upstairs to do homework. That’s where he is right now. He has three papers and a massive midterm next week. And I have a wad of writing–and thinking–to do.

I’ve put a word count thingy on the sidebar–the one with the evil calendar. When I miss, that day is red. My goal is to write words–even junk words–every day. So far so good!