Monday, November 18, 2013

"A goal is a dream with a deadline." Napoleon Hill

I told you in the Nov. 1 post that I need to finish It’s a Dog’s Life, my NaNo novel, earlier than November 30th. That’s because there is a November 30 deadline for entering the OneBook AZ contest for Arizona authors. The upper word limit is 60K words. Since none of my completed manuscripts are that short, it occurred to me to enter my NaNo book for this year.

If you’ll remember, my plan is to revise/edit each day as a way to re-engage with my manuscript as well as cut down on the amount of time I have to spend editing at the end. I am convinced that revising and editing as I go--something I have never attempted before--should help me end up with a better first draft.

Sounds like a plan. Getting sick mid-month was not on the schedule, but, hey. It happens.

Last November was a busy one for me. I had 10 days with 0 word count because of travel and other commitments. This November is shaping up to be relatively free of other distractions (other than that pesky Thanksgiving--whose idea was THAT to plop the holiday into NaNo month?). I tend to bank words when I know something is coming up so I can cover the word count.

However, what if the book stinks and/or I don’t have it in good enough shape to submit by November 30? Submit it anyway? Nah, I won’t. Why waste the judges time with something that is unworthy? I can take more time, if the book warrants it, and revise/edit at leisure in order to submit it for publication.

Will I make it before 11/30? Will the book be decent enough to submit? Am I crazy? If you answered yes to all three, you and I are on the same page.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Playlist for It's a Dog's Life

Remember, I only need to write between 6-7 pages a day. That’s not so much! Stephen King writes 10 pages a day, every day, not just in November. Impressive, yes? I ain’t ascared of no word count in November. No sir!

Then again, how does one get in the mood, day by day, for 30 days to crank out a novel of 50K words? One way is selecting the right music, music that will enhance the creation of sad scenes, funny scenes, poignant ones. Hopefully, the right music will elevate the dull, pedestrian scenes to higher levels. C’mon. We all have them. That’s why God invented edits and revisions. (Or was that the Devil? Hmmm.)

I’ve been writing since last Friday, and I can say I am still really psyched about the tale of a walk-in soul taking over a dog’s body. Writing in first person, however, is tough. I am still not quite in the swing of it. First person means, of course, that Kitty, my protag, has to be in every scene. I am used to getting other POV’s represented, so this is stretching me.

Back to music, I identified selection criteria and then picked the albums that resonated with me.
*Music has to have energy, but not too much; also some mellow for
sad scenes
*No words = no distraction, but if I don’t know the words it could work
*Nothing overtly classical since it isn’t who my characters are

Here are the albums I considered, and I bolded the ones that made the final cut. (Cut? Get it?) What music would you choose to write a comedic paranormal about a walk-in soul who tries to take over her dog’s body?

Hachi: A Dog’s Tale
The Truth about Cats and Dogs
The Shaggy Dog
Far from Home
Marley and Me

Theme? Doggy stories, mostly, of course. Some sappy, some sad, some funny, many poignant. What do you listen to as you write?

Friday, November 1, 2013

BANG! [sound of starting gun] And We're Off!

Just a quick check-in with you (I’m busy, you know!) to let you know about the start. I could have typed the first word for NaNoWriMo 2013 at 12:01 am, but I was still asleep. However, being an early riser, I did log the first words while sipping my second cup of coffee at 4:34 a.m. As of this posting, I have completed most of three scenes and 1703 words. According to the NaNo Stats, at this rate I will complete my novel on November 30.

But I have to finish sooner than that! And I’ll reveal why in another post. More on my NaNo progress another day.

Below is a snippet of my 2012 time/word/pages tracker. I will fill this year’s table every day, each time I write that day. It is my accountability tool to myself. If I have 0 words one day, I will see that every time I pull this up to update. I hate 0’s!

The final column is the cumulative total, by day, to finish with 50K in 30 days. Each time I write, I log in how long I wrote, what the word and page count was at the end of the session, and how many total words I wrote that day. As long as my 4th column word count was more than the Running Total each day, I knew I’d make it. The Running Total column is what it takes to finish 50K in 30 days. I need to be ahead of that schedule.

I am eager to start filling in this year’s tracker! Here’s how I began last year.

Time Started/Ended
Total Hours

Day’s word count
Nov. 1
3:33 a.m.-5:13
9:55 a.m.-11:55
5:45 p.m.-6:11
~ 1.5
~ 2
~ .5
1723/7 pages
4047/11 pages
4516/18 pages
Nov. 2
3:30 a.m.-5:32
3:40 p.m.-4:45
~ 2
~ 2
6792/28 pages
7872/32 pages
Nov. 3
5:30 a.m.-6:00
6:50 a.m.-7:30
10:40 a.m.-11:17
~ .5
~ .75
~ .5
8468/34 pages
9385/38 pages
10,132/41 pages

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Who's Who in It's a Dog's Life

My comedic paranormal, It's a Dog's Life,  for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is about to begin. November 1st I can pen the first words of what I think is going to be a fun book to write. Who is in this opus and what are their relationships? I turn to astrology to help identify character traits and who gets along with whom.

Kathleen (Kitty) Stanley is a somewhat overweight, 5’7” early-40’s woman with fine and straight dark brown hair she mostly wears in a ponytail or with a headband. She writes household how-to books and simple cookbooks. They are moderately successful books, providing income for family treats and trips, but not for living expenses.

Her passions are cooking, reading, and she is an avid word puzzle and word game addict. She is a coffee and chocolate addict. She hates cleaning, which is how her first book, The Phony Housekeeper, came about. She has always volunteered at her kids’ schools and can be counted on for last minute details for the PTA and other groups she is in.

Maudie, the family dog, came to them several months ago as a favor for a friend who couldn’t keep up with a younger dog. Kitty likes Maudie, but sees her more as a responsibility than as a companion. She foists most of the love-time off on her two kids. She does the feeding, walking, cleaning up after despite her threats to the family to stop and let them pick up the slack.

Aquarius Life Pursuit: To understand life's mysteries
Aquarian's Secret Desire: To be unique and original
Strengths: friendly and humanitarian; honest and loyal; original and inventive;
independent and intellectual
Limitations: intractable and contrary; perverse and unpredictable; unemotional
and detached
The Sun signs are trine (Libra and Aquarius). The individual emotional dispositions are similar enough to understand, and different enough to be exciting

Maudie is a yellow lab with dark brown velvety pools for eyes. The family threatened to change her name to Velcro because she is always in whatever room Kitty is in if that is possible. There is no happier dog in the world than Maudie. A middle-of-the-pack dog, Maudie is confident and curious. It is impossible to hurt her feelings because she can’t believe anyone could stay mad at her for long. She lives to eat, and she will eat anything. A strong dog, only Kitty and husband, Robb, are able to handle her on walks.

Cancer Life Pursuit: Constant reassurance and intimacy
Cancer's Secret Desire: To feel safe (emotionally, spiritually, romantically and
Strengths: emotional and loving; intuitive and imaginative; shrewd and cautious;
protective and sympathetic
Limitations: changeable and moody; overemotional and touchy; clinging and
unable to let go

Robb is a genial guy the same age as Kitty. He is 5’11, hazel eyes, thinning black hair with the beginnings of gray. He enjoys sports and being with his wife and kids. He’s present in their lives, but he defers in many matters to Kitty’s judgment. A typical Libra, he doesn’t like conflict or chaos. He likes things to go smoothly. He is heart-broken to have lost his wife, and he is oblivious to the moves the casserole ladies put on him. He is an architect who designs energy-efficient, green, low-footprint buildings for socially-conscious corporations.

Libra Life Pursuit: To be consistent
Libran's Secret Desire: To live an easy, uncomplicated life.
Strengths: diplomatic and urbane; romantic and charming; easygoing and
Sociable; idealistic and peaceable
Limitations: indecisive and changeable; gullible and easily influenced; flirtatious
and self-indulgent.

Libra with Aquarius:
Both of you are very social, active people. You are involved in community groups, and your line of work probably brings you into contact with lots of people. You harmonize well with each other and are great friends.

AQUARIUS is very attached to clubs, social groups, and colleagues. LIBRA may feel that AQUARIUS needs friends more than a marriage partner or lover. In fact, LIBRA devotes much more attention to any close partnership. This difference in orientation is fairly subtle, however, and may not be a source of difficulty or conflict. You both tend to live in your minds, and enjoy a partner who is awake and alive mentally - an intellectual peer. Fortunately, you have this in one another.

Libra wth Gemini
You have an excellent mental rapport, and you enjoy one another's intelligence, wit, and style. Both of you are very social creatures who thrive on interaction with people, cultural activities and conversation. Your match is likely to be a very egalitarian one, for you both want a partner who is an equal and a friend above all else.

LIBRA is very considerate, has a strong desire to please GEMINI (or any partner) and will compromise readily; LIBRA always sees numerous possibilities or desirable alternatives, and you both have trouble being decisive or making up your minds sometimes.

Paige, a senior in high school, is a typical self-absorbed teen with her first serious boyfriend. She is on track to get academic scholarships. 

Brian, an 8th grader, has done well-enough in school, but he is easily distracted and doesn’t apply himself as he could.

Eve, Brian’s science teacher, encourages his interest in science and worries about his work ethic. She meets Robb and family at a coffee shop and Robb is intrigued by her. They begin to date, cautiously. She is bright, caring, and an intellectual match for Robb. The kids are not so crazy about her entering their lives, but for different reasons. Paige resents another woman trying to take Mom’s place. Brian thinks it’s weird to have your teacher date your dad. Kitty/Maudie ignore then antagonize Eve before finally accepting her. She is slender (which Kitty hates), eats healthful foods (which Kitty likes), is athletic, and has short brown hair in a bob. She dresses in very casual, informal clothing. She is divorced from her husband, no kids.

Gemini’s Life Pursuit: To explore a little bit of everything.
Gemini's Secret Desire: To be ahead of the crowd
Strengths: adaptable and versatile; communicative and witty; intellectual and
eloquent; youthful and lively
Limitations: nervous and tense; superficial and inconsistent; cunning and

Those personalities ought to allow for some interesting conflicts and collusions!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Plot Points and Planning for NaNoWriMo

Like last year, I am using a grid to plan my scenes. I am finishing those up early this week. I’ll let them percolate a couple of days and tweak them. Then, early next week, I will print off the scene grids and affix them to 5x8 cards, one scene per card.

I came up, initially, with ten key scenes. From there I built out on either side to create scenes leading up to and leading from the key scenes. I ended up with ~40 planned scenes that way.

Here are the 10 Key Scenes for It’s a Dog’s Life:
1. Kitty and Maudie are walking behind the grocery store when Maudie is distracted by a neighborhood dog friend. While distracted,  a pallet of dog food falls on them and kills Kitty.
2. Kitty can’t accept she is dead, so she becomes a walk-in to the still-live body of Maudie, the dog who resists the effort. They negotiate a sharing arrangement. She teaches Maudie spoken vocabulary.
3. Maudie finally released from vet hospital and Kitty/Maudie come home where Kitty tries to let them know she’s there.
4. Kitty tries to adjust to her new reality: eating dog food, limited communication skills, and watching the family slide into poor eating habits and loose supervision. Worst are the casserole ladies vying for husband Robb’s attention.
5. Waiting at door when Calista her daughter breaks curfew. She breaks up a necking session with a boyfriend Kitty hates.
6. Helps son Brian with homework assignment for science report. She teaches Maudie to read/count.
7. Maudie fed up with sharing and wants her body to herself. Tries to boot Kitty out. Kitty resists because she’d be finally dead.
8. Family starts calling her “Mom” because she involves herself in everything about their lives. She gets peace from that.
9. Dad finally gets a serious girlfriend Kitty grudgingly accepts after Maudie chides her for selfishness.
10. Maudie and Kitty settle into their life but Kitty realizes Maudie is pregnant. A sequel maybe???

Each day of NaNoWriMo, I will type one or two scenes from the cards I made. That way I will complete the novel easily before November 30th.

This year I am adding in two other components. Before I begin each morning, I will read over what I wrote the previous day and do some edits and revisions. This is because I want to have the novel in pretty decent shape by November 30th to enter it into a contest run by One-Book Arizona. Deadline: November 30.

The second piece I am doing that is new this year is when I finish for the day, I will put in italics at the end any questions/thoughts/issues I want to be addressed in upcoming pages. These will be the “hot off the press” issues that I am dealing with in my mind as I write.

These two pieces will serve two functions: 1) they will get me into the novel again pretty quickly, and 2) they will keep me focused on the story so I am not as likely to stray.

Here are some of the early scenes that, as of now, I plan to write the first few days:
Point of scene
What happens
Store back lot near home
Kitty, Maudie, truck driver
mid-morning on a week day
Kill Kitty but not make it too awful (absurd death)
Dog food truck accidentally dumps pallet of dog food on Kitty and Maudie while the dog is checking out a male dog of interest
Store back lot near home
Kitty, Maudie, truck driver, police, paramedics
mid-morning on a week day
Show Kitty as a walk-in soul who will still be part of her family. If she went into one of the other people, she’d be separated from them.
Kitty panics when she realizes she is dead & the dog is gravely injured. She slams her soul into Maudie. The dog resists her but is too weak to fend Kitty off entirely. She hangs onto her body, too.
 Vet hospital
 Kitty/Maudie, Vet, tech, Robb, Brian, Calista
Early afternoon, day of accident
 Kitty isn’t hurt in mind, but she is frantic about how to let the family know she’s alive
Licks family members, whines, as she tries to let them know who she really is; they take it as sweet she knows them; worried about her pains
 Vet hospital
 Tech, Kitty/Maudie
 One week after the accident
Kitty shows her human side
Tech spills coffee and she laps it up while he gets a towel; doesn’t suspect the dog; happens again so tech slips her coffee everyday thinking it’s a weird side effect of anesthesia or the pain

Any comments? Suggestions? Concerns? Please comment below so I can adjust if I need to before writing! Thanks so much for any help you can give!

Friday, October 18, 2013

In the Beginning . . . NaNoWriMo Prep

As I was doing the preliminary planning for this year’s NaNoWriMo, I realized something very interesting. I’ve written before about Holly Lisle’s One-Pass Revision method and how impressed I am with the process she describes ( Check her out at for lots of good, practical writing tips. Wish I could perfect it, but I’m still a newbie.

Anyway, while implementing the first steps of her plan, I realized that I had inadvertently fallen into one of the important components of her process. She talks about finding your theme by identifying those questions you still struggle with, wonder about, puzzle over. Hmm, was my first thought last year. Like I know what that means or is!

So, last year, I didn’t search in myself, but in my paranormal ghost story for NaNoWriMo to find the theme. Then, voila! This year, looking at my second NaNoWriMo paranormal, the theme hit me! Both years my story premise centers around is death the end of the road? What happens after death? Is it a permanent state or can the dead communicate with the living?

Is that interesting, or what??? I AM intrigued by the questions surrounding life-after-death and have been for decades. So it is no wonder that my paranormal novel ideas center around that, too. You gotta love the subconscious!

Holly’s point is that, in part, doing some serious upfront prep will speed up the revision process. She claims that she edits 125K in two weeks and that she has never had to do more than two light edits for an editor. Okay! Sign me up!

One of the things to do upfront is called “Discovery”. Discovery includes identifying the theme, subtheme(s), one-line story arc of MC, writing a 25-word book summary, creating a back-of-book story blurb, and writing MC descriptions.

Theme (15 words or fewer):
         What happens to the essence of a person when the body dies?

Sub-Themes (1-6, depending on manuscript length):
         1. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
         2. Accept what you can’t change.
         3. Why do bad things happen to good people?

Micro-Summary (25 words or fewer):
         Kitty’s life abruptly ends and then restarts in her dog’s body causing more
than a little confusion for her, the dog, and the family.

One-line Story Arc for Kitty Stanley:
         Kitty resists the finality of death by sharing the body of the family dog
where she learns to accept her new role in the family.

Book Blurb (no more than 250 words):

What’s a busy mom to do? Killed in a freak accident, Kathleen Stanley freaks out. Staring down at her dead body, her spirit realizes her only hope for survival, and a continuing life with her family, is to become a walk-in soul to Maudie, the family dog.

She meets with understandable reluctance from the dog because likes living in her body. In fact, efforts to boot out the dog’s soul do not work, so they come to agreement on terms for sharing the body. The family are puzzled by the changes in Maudie but put them down to the trauma of the accident and missing Mom. All goes along well enough, however, until the dog starts aggressively parenting the kids, sticking like Velcro to Dad, and demonstrating increased vocabulary.

Maudie continues to fight with the invasive spirit she’s co-habiting with while dealing with her own doggy issues of independence. Will Kathleen ever accept her new reality or will she either find another way to be part of her family’s life or finally let go?

I am confident that knowing what my book is about at center, I will be able to complete it in the 30 days I have for NaNoWriMo. Stay tuned. In the next post, I am going to reveal some of the plot points and the chart I am using to track them.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

And We Have a Winner!

Voting is over and the count is in from both this blog and from FB postings. OVERWHELMINGLY, I mean by a LOT, It’s a Dog’s Life is my NaNoWriMo novel to write in 30 days.

Am I nuts? Of course, I am. What does that have to do with anything???

The title of my newest book came to me in a flash when I thought of the plot line. It is a double entendre, which I love. Not only is the title an expression often used to indicate an easy life, but in this story line, a walk-in takes over the dog’s body and life to save her own soul from perishing.

And it’s a comedy. Seriously.

I was disappointed that my FanFic option (Wayward Pines tie in) didn’t get a single vote. Sigh!

And the historical fiction about a Virginia Dare/Pocohantas connection garnered only half the votes of It’s a Dog’s Life. Sigh, again. You people! But isn’t this fun for you to be part of what is certain to be a blockbuster, breakout seller? Yeah. Right.

Below is the synopsis for It’s a Dog’s Life. Please comment if you think I should take the story in a particular direction. I’m still planning it, so I appreciate your help.

I will post here planning pieces such as plot points, character sketches, etc. as I did last year for your NaNoWriMo pick, The Quick and the Dedd.

Brief Synopsis:
It’s a Dog’s Life is a paranormal comedy. While walking her dog, Maudie, Kathleen Stanely has an accident. Both she and the dog are seriously hurt, and she dies. Not at all pleased she has been pronounced dead, she desperately looks around for a body she can grab that will keep her close to her husband, daughter, and son. Her spirit becomes a “walk-in” [walk-ins are an aspect of paranormal phenomena] trying to replace Maudie’s spirit in its dog body. She attempts to boot the dog’s spirit out, in effect, so she can inhabit a body and not be totally, absolutely dead.

Her family is unaware of the switch, of course, and hilarity ensues as she tries to let them know Mom is still with them. Other comic bits are when she and Maudie argue over joint control of the body. She monitors family food choices and other activities she used to be in charge of. She also devises ways to change up Maudie’s kibble diet to more palatable food. The family notice Maudie is more proactive and start to call her Mom. But things get really “hairy”, so to speak, when Dad begins to date again.

Any ideas/situations/changes you think I should make?

Monday, September 30, 2013

NaNoWriMo Time Again: Pick a Winner

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It’s a non-profit organization, so any donations made are fully tax deductible. C’mon! You can afford a few bucks and get a tax break, too!

I did NaNoWriMo last November for a personal challenge. I wrote a paranormal romance, a genre I hadn’t tried before. I met the goal, so that means I was a winner, and I have the t-shirts to prove it. This year-WHEN I win-I want the cool tote bag. And the t-shirt!

The rules are simple: you pledge to write 50K words during the month of November and upload at the end for a word count to verify. 50K uploaded? You’re a “winner”. Has to be done from scratch, but it’s on the honor system. You can plan in advance, write character sketches, and do research--just no composition of scenes or chapters.

That’s pretty clear.

Like last year, I have many options. What shall I do? I have tickler files with dozens of story ideas. I really should work on book three of my culinary mystery series (Potluck) or book three (Sex for Sale) of my erotic romance “Sex Sells” series, but I am always attracted to bright and shiny new things. I know I have to write those, so I don’t have the same sense of “new beginnings”, that urgency to write that I get with an unfamiliar project.

I dug into my tickler files to find three plots that really, really interest me. (Who am I kidding? They wouldn’t be in a tickler file if they didn’t really, really interest me!) So help me pick one of these three! Vote with your comments. As a side note, I have never written a novel in two of these genres, so I am stretching myself that way, too.

1) Blake Crouch is writing a series of paranormal/sci fi/fantasy books that will be a TV series in 2014 (“Wayward Pines” starring Matt Dillon). Kindle Worlds has the rights to sell fan fiction for the books/TV series through their new initiative. I’d like to take some story threads from the series and do past events and future ones to submit to Kindle Worlds for publication. The town of Wayward Pines isn’t what it seems. You may arrive in the town, but you’ll never leave. At least not in the expected way of travelers. I plan to explore the “heartbeat” of Wayward Pines, the main character’s wife and child, and one of the watchers guarding the town. Untitled at this time.

2) One Heart (tentative title), historical fiction, goes back to the first novel I attempted in high school. This story explores the relationship of Virginia Dare (first white child in the Colonies) and Pocohantas, supposed savior of Captain John Smith and wife of a Virginia planter. My story premise is that Virginia Dare survived and was reared by Indians, eventually being sold to Powhatan, father of Pocohantas. She lived with and took care of baby Pocohantas thus engendering her regard for the invading British. This can explain how Pocohantas knew the English language.

3) It’s a Dog’s Life (working title) is a paranormal comedy. A woman walking her dog has an accident. Both she and the dog are seriously hurt. The woman dies, and her spirit becomes a “walk-in” [walk-ins are a realm of the paranormal] replacing the dog’s spirit in its body. She boots the dog’s spirit out, in effect, so she can inhabit a body and not be totally, absolutely dead. Her family is unaware of the switch, of course, and hilarity ensues as she tries to let them know Mom is still with them. She monitors their food choices and other activities she used to be in charge of. They notice the dog is more proactive and start to call her Mom. Things get really “hairy”, so to speak, when Dad begins to date again.

Vote--Pick this year's "winner" so I can write it and tell you how it goes in November. Voting closes October 8, 2013 at midnight. I'll announce the winner on Facebook, here, and on Twitter.

Recap: 30 days; 11, 669 words per week; 50,000 total words. On average, 1667 words per day or less than 7 pages. Pshaw! Nothing to it!  Find out more, and sign-up yourself, at

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Crone Lit: For the Modern Senior Woman

You read it here first! I am establishing a new sub-genre of women’s fiction and romance fiction: Crone Lit, coming to a book seller near you!

I happen to be one of the very few women, I discovered, who thinks crone is a perfectly good word that women ought to reclaim. I know I was influenced by the book, Crones Don’t Whine (Bolen, ). Until then, I never gave the word much thought. I loved the notion of being a “juicy woman”. Oh, and perhaps being a woman “of a certain age” I have come to a different perception, too. I don't know about you, but I'd rather be a "crone" than a "senior"!

I am convinced it was male underhanded dirty politics which led to the pejoration of the word. When you check it out, ignore the etymology from Old Northern French meaning “cantankerous woman”, and go to how the word plays out.

Here’s what Wikipedia had to say about “crone”:
The crone is a stock character in folklore and fairy tale, an old woman. In some stories, she is disagreeable, malicious, or sinister in manner, often with magical or supernatural associations that can make her either helpful or obstructing. The Crone is also an archetypal figure, a Wise Woman. She is marginalized by her exclusion from the reproductive cycle,[1] and her proximity to death places her in contact with occult wisdom. As a character type, the crone shares characteristics with the hag.

The word "crone" is a less common synonym for "old woman," and is more likely to appear in reference to traditional narratives than in contemporary everyday usage.[2] The word became further specialized as the third aspect of the Triple Goddess popularized by Robert Graves and subsequently in some forms of neopaganism, particularly Wicca in which she symbolizes the Dark Goddess, the dark of the moon, the end of a cycle. In New Age and Feminist spiritual circles, a "Croning" is a ritual rite of passage into an era of wisdom, freedom, and personal power.

What’s not to like about that?

Focus on these key terms: wise woman, wisdom, freedom, personal power. Okay, so hag is there, but really, that and the etymology are the pejoration pieces.

Focus on the fact that traditionally a crone could be either sinister OR sympathetic and supportive. Just like REAL people, right? So let’s write Crone Lit that shows real women “of a certain age” drawing upon those years of experience.

I have a play in progress with a crew of crones (that’s what I’m calling a group: crew), and I have outlined a novel. I think women want to read about women like themselves; older, wiser, without “work” having been done who face the realities of aging and loving. Don’t you?


Crones Don’t Whine: Concentrated Wisdom for Juicy Women, Jean Shinoda Bolen