And the Winner is…

editing example

Diane Davis! Congratulations! Look for my email about how to claim your copy of The Stone of Kings. ūüėÄ Thanks so much to everyone who entered! I hope you had fun cracking my code. ūüėČ

Here’s the solution:¬†“My heart is full of thanks for my God, my family, and books. When my days are filled with all three, my days are happy.”

If your so inclined to decode my diary page, go for it – but it’s a poorly written account of how I got sick at a carnival in front of my crush. The only thing interesting about it is the code itself. *snicker*

And Now, Announcing…

Masterpiece Editing!¬†Just in time for you NaNoWriMo-ers out there currently¬†in need of a copyeditor. ūüėČ

After much research, consideration, and discussion with my spouse, we have agreed that my Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature would be best spent as a freelance copyeditor. Instead of killing myself to¬†grade 350 high school papers a week for meager¬†pay and even less appreciation, I can focus on the enhancement of one story at a time.

I sincerely hope that I can be a positive benefit to any writer who desires to make their manuscript sparkle. If you’ll notice, there is a new heading on my blog about my editing services. Feel free to take a look to see if I might be a good fit for editing your manuscript.

I’ve been through the process myself, and know first-hand how daunting it can be to put your “baby” in the hands of someone else. It’s rather like dropping your child off at daycare for the first time.

Of course I will continue my own literary¬†pursuits between editing jobs. So Grannie’s story will eventually come. ūüôā

Happy writing!

Books I Love · The Stone of Kings · Writing

5 Quick Tips About Irish Faeries

That hat is red. Trust me.

I’ve been so busy learning about screenplays this past week, that I almost forgot to write today’s post!

With all due respect to the movie The Labyrinth, which I grew up watching over and over… and over, I’ve learned that faeries command more respect than from a fear of being bitten by them as if they were nothing more than beautiful bugs. ūüėČ My Grandma Caroline didn’t talk about the faeries often. But when she did, she spoke about them as if they were real. She gave me W. B. Yeats book on Irish Myth, Legend, and Folklore, and on page one I saw why she might have been so silent on them – “Beings so quickly offended that you must not speak much about them at all,…”

Huh, but we lived in America at the time. I guess old habits die hard.

But silence on the subject puts a damper in my story, so I did take a few liberties. I hope The Good People can forgive me. Which leads me to my first tip (many of these come from Yeats, some come from The Stone of Kings):

  1. “…never call them anything but the “gentry,” or else¬†daoine maithe,¬†which in English means good people,…”¬†I’d much rather refer to them as Good People than Bad People anyway. ūüėČ
  2. They are “…so easily pleased, they will do their best to keep misfortune away from you,…”¬†I think I’d want these guys on my side…
  3. Don’t mess with the rath! – A rath is the faery’s fort. This can be a simple mound of earth. My mom says that the Irish even build some of their roads in such a way to avoid destroying a rath. And yet – we come to a bit of inspiration for my book – Yeats says, “Carolan,…slept on a rath, and ever after the fairy tunes ran in his head and made him the great man he was.” This leads us to…
  4. They love good music!¬†My account of how O’ Carolan acquired his abilities is not completely accurate (you’ll just have to wait for my book to come out ūüėČ ). But I believe that it encompasses the ideas of how the faeries are easily offended yet appreciate a good tune. For more on this, read the story of Lusmore and the Fairies.
  5. If you want them to visit your garden, plant red foxglove. I believe this is something I borrowed from the story of The Priest’s Supper, found in Yeats’ book. When the priest comes along, “…away every one of the fairies scampered off as hard as they could, concealing themselves under the green leaves of the lusmore, where, if their little red caps should happen to peep out, they would only look like its crimson bells;…” In my book, anyone associated with fairies has red foxglove (lusmore) in their garden so the faeries have a place to hide. ūüėÄ

What are some tips you’ve picked up Irish faeries? Have you ever had a run in with them? Share your story! ūüėÄ

Books I Love · Writing

How Not To Be Below Average

Don’t get stomped on by making yourself less than average. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Do you remember the Monty Python sketch, “How Not To Be Seen?” I¬†recently received a request on my blog that made me think of this.¬†Here is the request that I didn’t actually approve because I don’t want to embarrass the person who made this comment on my Beowulf/Bilbo post and instead allow them to stay anonymous:

“What does Beowulf and Bilbo have in common in both stories? I need help for my English response‚Ķ Can someone help me pleaaseee ?”


I have had to rewrite and edit today’s post more than usual¬†to keep it from sounding condescending and mean-spirited. It was a challenge because the request posed was kind of over-the-top. A bit like Monty Python. ūüėČ

I wrote a post last year about my thoughts on the Hobbit versus Beowulf¬†and while I’m happy that it tends to be my most viewed post, I’ve often been worried that lazy students might use my words for their assignments. Indeed, all this anonymous person had to do was to actually read my post, and they would have found what they needed. But now I figure, that if they plagiarise me and don’t get caught, then their teacher needs to do a bit more legwork. I did when I taught.

The sad thing is, that those students who don’t get caught, begin to think that they will never get caught. And when their chance to learn, grow, and be great passes, they become just like¬†Mrs B.J. Smegma of 13, The Crescent, Belmont who didn’t have the sense to learn from the mistakes of the guy ahead of her.


Okay, so maybe they won’t get blown up or shot, but eventually they will get caught. If not for plagiarism, then for some other shady deal they’ve gotten themselves into. Plagiarism IS stealing.

Notice how I’ve titled today’s post. I didn’t say, “How not to be average.” Average is fine. Average can be hard work that you can be proud of because you did it yourself. But keeping yourself below average, when you are fully capable of doing the work… well, you’ve just set yourself up for failure in life.

Those who don’t learn to become independent will forever continue trying to live off others. This doesn’t fly in the real world. No one is going to earn your living for you, no matter how nice your¬†pleaaseee is. Oh, you may get away with it a few times, but eventually, your luck will run out.

So instead, to this person, I’ll give you a gift. Pride. The feeling you get when you work really hard on something and get a good score and the score ¬†belongs to YOU. It’s YOURS. Not the person who secretly did the work for you. If you have enough gumption to have something to actually turn in to your teacher then you can push yourself to do your own work. Just imagine Jillian Michaels hovering over you – “Come on! You CAN do it!” – as you plow through the material. ūüėÄ

I’m allowing this person to remain in anonymity in hopes that they’ll read this post instead and understand why I did not respond with “write this verbatim for your assignment…” Though somehow, I doubt that will happen :/ but at least I’ve had my say.

I won’t do your work for you. It’s YOUR responsibility. OWN it. Or you will never own anything.

Have you ever been mooched from? How did you handle it? Did you try to teach a life skill instead?

Blogging Contest · Books I Love · NaNoWriMo

#21 Number of Books on Your Bookshelf

Image attributed to Elliott Brown from Birmingham, United Kingdom via Wikimedia Commons.

Hee hee. This topic is how I got my first e-reader. Before I was married, I use to haunt used bookstores for hardbound versions of classic books that I hadn’t read yet. I think I still have a copy of The Mill on the Floss that I was afraid to read because the pages seemed so brittle. But it looked so awesome on my shelf!

My favorite bookstore used to be Trans Allegheny Books in Parkersburg, West Virginia. The building was built in 1905 as a Carnegie Library. Yes, that Carnegie. It had stained glass,¬†a wrought iron spiral staircase, and the floors creaked just the way I like. ūüėÄ I would have loved to wear one of my period dresses,¬†which I had from playing harp, and wandered around the shelves, pretending I lived in a time before I was born.

I don’t think I ever really grew out of the dress-up phase.

Anyway, I was drawn to used book stores like a moth to flame, and at one point I counted over 300 books. I would categorize them by author. When I lived with my parents, my bedroom was a converted attic with sloped ceilings, so I used wooden crates stacked on their sides for my bookshelves. When I got married, we got a traditional bookshelf. And no matter how many times I organized and re-organized my books alphabetically by author, hubby always went through them at some point, and messed it all up somehow.

I never understood why, because he doesn’t read fiction.

Hubby is a very practical minimalist. My books were sitting on my shelf doing nothing “useful.” So I did a purge of many of the paperbacks that I’d already read. I got an e-reader by convincing him that I would purge more of them (which I did). Fortunately, most of the digital copies of my favorite classics are free, so I didn’t pay to have the books¬†again. Now, I’ve added about 90 Astraea Press books to my Kindle and them some. So I’d say I have upwards of about 400 books. ūüėÄ

[This post was written as a part of the NaNoWriMo Pre-game Kick Off over at Jessica Schmeidler’s blog.]

NaNo word count: 19,425. I miss the Y. I haven’t been able to go as much as I thought I would. ūüė¶

Blogging Contest · Books I Love · NaNoWriMo

#20 Words Or Storyline? How Do Books Make Your “Favorites” List?

Image attributed to ALA TechSource from Chicago, USA via Wikimedia Commons.

Words certainly count for a lot, but I’d have to say storyline. And even then, if something turns me off I shut the book. Conversely, if I really love the storyline, I’ll read it again and again. So I guess I’ll talk about the repeat favorites.

As a kid, my favorite book was The Secret Garden. I loved how the magic of a simple neglected garden could benefit the lives of two neglected children. Burnett didn’t even have to mention it, but you could feel Lily’s spirit helping her son and niece become happier and healthier children. Personally, I don’t believe in ghosts but it’s fun to dream about them.

A Christmas Carol is another favorite. Another ghost story. Go figure. I suppose it’s nice to think of a spirit giving us a gentle nudge (or in Scrooge’s case not so gentle) in the right direction. But I’ve also favored¬†books such as Pride and Prejudice, where a girl doesn’t give up her values and marry for money just because her family is in a bind. I was going to list Jane Eyre and The Lord of the Rings, separately, but as odd as it is to lump them together they are both classic underdog stories. I’ve always loved the underdog.

Speaking of underdogs, Harry Potter is another favorite, but more so because of the lesson against bigotry that the books teach. A less epic, but more grown up version of this theme can be found in By the Light of the Moon. I love how the course of the story forces the characters to realize just how strongly they detest bigotry. The bonus in BTLOTM, is the words. Koontz is very descriptive, but I especially enjoy how poetic he seems to get during the more intense scenes.

One of the more frustrating books that I shut? Love In the Time of Cholera. I was enjoying the plot of life on a sugar plantation, but then it turned into page after page of details with prostitutes. What? Okay, really, I didn’t need that. Just a small description of how he went philandering, so I can get back¬†to the plot that drew me in. Ugh. Never finished it.

[This post was written as a part of the NaNoWriMo Pre-game Kick Off over at Jessica Schmeidler’s blog.]

NaNo word count: 18,912 lol, don’t think I’m gonna make 50,000 by November 30th, but I’m loving how my plot is going. At least it’s been circumstances that keep me from writing and not writer’s block. ūüôā I’ll keep pushing though, to see how much I can manage this month.

Blogging Contest · NaNoWriMo

#15 Dialogue Challenge: Talk to Your Pet or Favorite Animal

Image attributed to Gourami Watcher via Wikimedia Commons.

I don’t have a pet right now, but am thinking about getting a¬†guinea pig since I miss having a fuzzy animal curled¬†in my lap when I read or write (hubby’s allergic to cats ūüė¶ ). The following is what I imagine what¬†GP and I¬†will talk about:

I walk over to GP’s cage and undo the latch. “Wanna cuddle on my lap for a while?”

GP stays put in the far corner and says, “Nah, I was thinking about taking a nap.”

I give her an incredulous stare. “Seriously? You just woke up.”

“I wasn’t sleeping. I read somewhere that some insomnia is caused by the eyelids’ inability to close. I was just testing mine.”

“You made that up.”

GP looks at a random point past my shoulder. “No, I didn’t.”

“C’mon, there’s shredded carrot in it for ya.”

GP scoots¬†her wiggly¬†butt¬†over to the door and allows me to carry her to the desk. I pass her some carrot and she asks, “So, since I’m going to stay awake anyway, whacha writing?”

“A blog post.”

“You’re not much on elaboration, are you? Are you sure anyone is going to read this post of yours?”

“Maybe. It doesn’t matter yet.”

GP coughs on her carrot. “Doesn’t matter? Honey, I don’t do anything unless there is an incentive. If it doesn’t matter, then why do it?”

“Well, it doesn’t matter that hundreds of people read it. What matters is that it’s going to help me become a better writer.”

“What kind of writer do you want to be?”

“I want to change the way society thinks for the better. Kind of like Harriet Beecher Stowe or Charles Dickens. It’s part of the meaning of life for me.”

“I thought the meaning of life was forty-two.”

“Go to sleep GP.”

“Ah! Now that’s something I can understand.” GP promptly closes her eyes and begins to purr as I stroke her ginger fur.

[This post was written as a part of the NaNoWriMo Pre-game Kick Off over at Jessica Schmeidler’s blog.]

NaNo word count: 13, 691.

Blogging Contest · NaNoWriMo · Writing

#8 Thoughts On Writing Contests

Image attributed to mrzeising via Wikimedia Commons.

Other than¬†a couple¬†blogging contests, I haven’t entered a writing contest since high school. Of course, I hadn’t done much creative writing after high school until a few years ago.¬† Nothing like time-and-energy-draining motherhood to get the creative juices flowing.

I’m not a terribly competetive person. You can thank my dad for that. Even though I had childhood dreams of playing baseball for the Mets (after all, they named their stadium after me ūüėČ ), I never got to play sports much. He was more willing to pick me up from¬†a theatre¬†rehearsal than driving me around to different games.

But I’ve always found sports “contests” to be easier to understand than writing or other artistic competitions. With sports, there are clear and definitive rules that make for a winner or a loser. There can be rules for artistic competitions, but in the end, isn’t the work chosen as a winner a subjective choice made by the judge?

I’m okay if I don’t win¬†writing¬†contests. It proves to me that I have to work harder at what I do. The challenge is the whole reason I enter in the first place. When I start getting better, then maybe I’ll expect to win or at least “place.” And if I still don’t win, then, well I guess I just didn’t tickle that judge’s fancy.

But that’s the nature of writing.

As an author, you’re not going to get the entire world to enjoy your book. Some people, for¬†whatever reason aren’t going to like it. Maybe you unintentionally dug up a bad childhood memory with your story, and that memory belonged to a contest judge.¬†If all a judge thinks about when reading my piece is how his older bully¬†brother, who had a bed-wetting problem, would stuff his head under the mattress for five minutes and make him breathe in the noxious fumes, well, I could understand if he doesn’t like it.

But I would hope a judge could be more objective. ūüôā

[This post was written as a part of the NaNoWriMo Pre-game Kick Off over at Jessica Schmeidler’s blog.]

NaNo word count: 7279

Blogging Contest · NaNoWriMo

#3 A Day In The Life of Your Favorite Author (Real Or Imagined)

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Okay, this topic threw me a bit. It’s hard to pick a favorite author. I was tempted to pick Shakespeare, but there’s a topic post on that later this month, so… I’ll go with my favorite author connected with 19th century America. After all, my NaNo book deals heavily on slavery and the Civil War…

Samuel Clemens stood in the engine room and sipped his coffee pensively. He studied the stationary mechanics of the riverboat that he was learning to co-pilot, and marveled about how travel over water had changed in the last hundred years or so. But even modern marvels could not make a boat float when the water was too low. He had little doubt that he would soon see steam powered carriages one day.

He heard a call from outside, “Mark twain!”

The mechanics sprung to life. As much as he would have liked to study them while they worked, he must return to his duties now that the river was at mark twain. No matter. He was just as fascinated by the bridge and eager to learn what he could there. The cry of mark twain always meant that he could continue to persue his dream of piloting a riverboat.

On his way to the bridge, he spied a drifting rowboat. When it got close enough, he saw that there was a little boy inside, laying down with his eyes closed.

“Ahoy there,” Samuel called softly. The boy’s¬†right eye¬†flew open and a vivid look of terror filled his features. His left eye was swollen shut.

Samuel was taken aback by the boy’s horrified expression.¬†He dropped his voice even lower. “Are you alright?”

The boy shut his dark eye tight as if frustrated with himself. Then he opened it¬†and¬†connected his stare with Samuel’s. Finally, without getting up, he looked in the direction of the riverbank.

Samuel scanned the bank trying to understand what the boy silently communicated.¬†At last,¬†he heard shouts, “Jim! Where you at, boy!” This was not the sound of a concerned parent and his helpful neighbors. Well, perhaps the neighbors were helpful of a sort, but they were obviously not concerned for the boy’s safety.

Samuel found the posse of about¬†fifteen men armed with shotguns and axes as if the slave boy in the rowboat were as dangerous as Frankenstien’s monster. He looked at¬†Jim, who again stared at him, this time pleading with his good¬†eye which had filled with tears.

“Ahoy, you,” shouted one of the men in the posse. Samuel looked to the bank and realized that one of the posse addressed him. “You can see in that boat. Is there a runaway in there?”

Samuel looked at the men, some of whom had actually aimed their guns at him,¬†and made his decision. “No, sir. It’s empty.”

“You ain’t seen a runaway floating down a boat at all?”

“No, sir. I’ve been in the engine room for the last few hours. Why would a slave float south anyway? He probably got out somewhere and started heading north. I’d search in that direction if I were you.”

The men muttered to themselves, and without so much as a thank you, they retraced their steps and dissappeared into the nearby wood.

Samuel looked back at Jim, dug around in his pocket and pulled out a few coins. He tossed them into the little¬†boat before it drifted away. The boy’s good eye again filled with tears, but the look in it this time was of gratitude.

[This post was written as a part of the NaNoWriMo Pre-game Kick Off over at Jessica Schmeidler’s blog.]

NaNo word count: 2, 145 (came down with a fever, ugh!)


Why “Talent” Doesn’t Equal “Ticket”

“Do” is the operative word.

When I started teaching, I had one of my 10th graders drop out of school within the first 2 weeks. His classmates told me that he had planned to drop out anyway. The day he left, he happened to leave halfway through my class because that was when his ride showed up. I’ll never forget the glory of ‘freedom’ in his eyes as he walked backward out of the door. He waved to the class with an expression that said, “Look at me! I’m onto bigger and better things!”


If he had any kind of talent for anything, except interrupting my class, I never got to see it. I hope he had some talent. But I fear that kid simply became a statistic that day. The thing is, talent isn’t always the ticket to success.

One of the comments that Kristen Lamb, author of Rise of the Machines-Human Authors in a Digital World, frequently makes on her blog is¬†when she started writing, she¬†“mistakenly believed that making As in English naturally qualified [her] to be a best-selling author.” I learned my lesson earlier than that.

I’ve always been a ‘book girl.’ I already knew how to read before I was in preschool, and created my own stories in the first grade. When I got to high school, my freshman English teacher was worthless. The saddest part about that was she taught the honors classes. You could write a paper for her, give it a good opening and closing, but fill the middle with gibberish and still get an A. Seriously. Someone did that. As a result, I became a lazy English student that year.

Boy, was I in for a rude awakening. My sophomore English teacher was very militant. At first I wasn’t worried because English was my talent. It was my ticket to an easy A.¬†I wasn’t supposed to work so hard at it. Ha. It took me earning a D to finally get my butt in gear.

Even if something comes naturally doesn’t mean you don’t have to work. I very much hope my drop out student managed to get his butt in gear. But I fear that too many young people see the flawless performances of singers like Kelly Clarkson or actors like¬†Will Smith¬†and think that they don’t have to work at what they do. Even superstar talent needs to put in a lot of effort. An NFL quarterback doesn’t just play one game a week and spend the rest of his time on the couch. If that’s all it took, anyone with talent to throw a football would play.

I’m still working on honing my skills as an author. Just because I have a published book doesn’t mean I’m above reading a craft book (or¬†two, or three, or more)¬†to get better. I’m working hard to make The Stone of Kings better than Harp Lessons. I’ll continue working to make my next book better than The Stone of Kings. If I don’t grow, I won’t succeed.

How do you work your talent? Are you growing? Did you start failing at one point and realize that you had to put in more effort?

Books I Love · Writing

How To Get Inspired – Part 2

Last week I talked about asking “what if.” This week, I’ll go more into what works for me as a writer.

So you’ve asked your “what if” question. Now what? How do you turn that into a book? What seems to work for me is to create some characters and let them tell the story.

Seriously. Let ’em have at it.

Harp Lessons was based on family stories. At first, I thought that Sarah was going to be a sort of modern mixture of Anne Shirley and Don Quixote. But I think my subconcious realized that I’m not talented enough of a writer (yet) to pull off a plot with such a minimal antagonist, and so Cal showed up and turned my story into a coming of age romance.

If you had asked me, when I started writing Harp Lessons, what Cal’s story was, I’d have said, “Cal? Cal who?” But this is what I find to be the greatest joy of writing. Surprise characters and unforeseen plot twists add to the charm of the craft and the best part is, you are the first to see it. As the author, you are the special guest of a super special previewing.

With The Stone of Kings, it took a lot more effort because of the historic and mythic nature of the plot. Research drove the plot. Literally. But with every new twist that showed itself, I was again mimicking an excited ape, “Oh! Oh! Oh!”

Image attributed to Mark Dumont via Wikimedia Commons.

But I must admit, it was a little frustrating not knowing how it would end until it was more than halfway finished. Even more so that I didn’t have a title until it was almost finished. But you know that old saying:

Good things come to those who wait.

I’m happy with the way the ending has turned out and I know I’ll be even happier with it after the polishing of edits is over. But I think I’m mostly happy that I don’t have to call it “Ardan Novel” anymore.

What about you? Are you a pantser like me? Or do you have to have everything plotted out first? If you do, does your story usually follow your plan?