Thursday, December 29, 2011

How Many Did You Read?


Shelfari has informed me that I read 20 books this year while last year I read 22. Clearly, I am a slacker. I do have valid excuses. The first half of the year was a real trial. Plus I also write books, which includes revising, all that grammatical editing stuff, and tons of promotion. Nevertheless, I wish I had made a bigger dent in the stack of books I fully intend to read. I have ebooks waiting for me to read as well, but fortunately, they don't take up much room. :^)

The sad fact is there are so many books and so little time.

How many books did you read this year?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

In Perfect Harmony


Dear Santa,

I haven't written lately because I thought I had all I need. However, this year taught me a few lessons because it was particularly difficult. I have discovered that there is one thing I would dearly love but it is beyond my capabilities to obtain.

I would like PEACE. I know that's a tall order, which is why I am writing to you. I know people have been fighting each other since the dawn of time. Unfortunately, I've found raging hatred isn't only a problem between different countries, there's a disturbing amount of hostility and bitterness in our own United States.

There are people in my community who have beautiful homes, plenty of food on their tables, and who drive much nicer cars than the one I drive and yet they hate their fellow Americans. What's worse is their total lack of compassion for those less fortunate.

They are scary. The land of the free and the home of the brave is beginning to resemble the land of the mean and the arrogant.

Can you soften their hard hearts? Can you somehow make them realize how blessed they are? Can you heal their souls and take away the hatred that is not only eating them up inside but poisoning our own beautiful land?

I know this won't be easy, but since you're magical maybe all it would take would be a sprinkling of enchanted glitter. Or maybe a song would do it. You know, the kind that gets stuck in your mind.

I sure hope you can help me out. I'll leave some oat shortbread by the fireplace. Give my best to Mrs. Claus.

Thanks.

Love,
Penelope

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Matter of Trust


The girls in the photo are my daughters when they were very young. The guy in the Santa suit is my brother-in-law. He dressed in costume one Christmas and stopped at our house to surprise the kids. Daughter #1 and Daughter #3 enjoyed the special visit. However, Daughter #2 was more than a bit wary about the situation. She did not like the strange man in the red suit with the white beard.

Santa can be a scary guy. While some kids are perfectly content to sit on Santa's lap with a fistful of candy canes, there are youngsters who think the guy is not to be trusted. There really isn't much anyone can do to change the situation. I am glad I am not a photographer who takes pictures of children with Santa Claus. Hubby and I were at the mall this week and watched a photographer try to elicit a smile from one very unhappy youngster. She did not have any success despite her use of a number of strategies designed to distract the child.

I found some good advice online about the situation. You should check it out if you intend to take a photo of a young child with Santa. Just click here.

I don't blame Daughter #2 for being suspicious of Santa. I think clowns are terrifying.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

My Favorite Books

I read a lot and I read in a wide variety of genres. However, there are some specific books that I truly cherish. I know not everyone will agree with me on my selection, but these are books held my interest so thoroughly that I could not put them down. If you have a favorite book or two or three, add a comment to this post.

These are rather old books, which means some are now available for free. Some readers don't like antiquated language, but I am a patient reader and there are very few books that I have not finished, but I loved these books--despite the fossilized English. The characters are terrific!

These are not listed in order of preference. They were all great books for me.

Gone With the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte

Ravenscroft, by Dorothy Eden

Ammie Come Home, by Barbara Michaels

The Crystal Cat, by Velda Johnston

Uncle Tom's Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe

In addition, almost any book by Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt, Grace Livingston Hill, and Charles Dickens.

There are newer, more modern books that I have enjoyed as well and I'll have to put those into another post. However, the books above are what I read when I was young and they had a great influence on me as a writer.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Vignettes from the Past


All went well at our house for the Thanksgiving feast. Uncle Gene and Aunt Georgette joined us and brought ambrosia and spinach/pepperoni bread. Cousin Jeannette drove six hours to eat with us and brought a pumpkin/pecan pie. Daughter #3's true love brought homemade cranberry sauce and a broccoli casserole. Daughter #2 arrived with her laptop and work to do, but she was very attentive at dinner in listening to the conversation. Daughter #1, as usual, was my extra pair of hands. She washed pots, provided beverages, and picked up Granddad while hubby was picking up Daughter #2 at the train station.

Hubby carved the turkey.

It's hectic putting a big feast together, but the part I enjoy comes when everyone has had their fill and sits around the table to talk. We seldom see my father's side of the family. So it was especially nice to catch up with what has been happening in their life.

Eventually, the conversation came round to family genealogy. I do not know much about my father's family, but I told some brief stories about some of family members I had known. My uncle thought I should write everything down. However, all I really have are some short vignettes from the past--brief incidents and interactions that became embedded in my mind because they were either funny, tragic, or pointed out someone's unique character.

For instance, my Great Aunt Marion--my grandfather's sister--was truly devout. Once, when I was staying with my grandfather, Aunt Marion came to visit. However, at a certain time, all conversation ended. She was involved in saying a Novena. Every hour for nine hours on the hour, she pulled out a prayer card and recited the prayer. My grandfather and I had to be patient and quiet. As soon as she had finished the prayer, the conversation went on where it had left off.

Yes, I write fiction, but I find inspiration in people and their real-life experiences. I love characters--and we have been blessed with a wealth of relatives who have been fascinating individuals. Hosting the Thanksgiving feast is work, but for someone who has spent a lifetime studying human nature, the effort of all that cooking and baking is well worth it.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Are You Still Writing?

Since I grew up in the county, taught in local schools, and have been an active member in several organizations, I often chance to meet people I may not have seen in several years. I bump into them at the deli counter or in the mall and very often the conversation starts out, "Are you still writing?"

Oh well. They are not great fans and haven't looked me up on Amazon or Barnes & Noble lately. That's okay. From what I've heard, there are a lot of people too busy to read. :^(

I find it a disconcerting question. My sister thought as a conversation starter it was a step above, "Are you still breathing?"

At any rate, I figure I'm lucky they recognize me.

But yes, I'm still writing. I started writing a long time ago and I enjoy the process. Telling stories is what I do. I retired from teaching, but I am not going to retire from writing--unless I become too feeble to type.

Other writers understand the joy of it. I had a blast the other day typing out my heroine's dream sequence. I suppose some people thinks that's really crazy, but I can't help myself. I've got plenty of stories to tell.

Nevertheless, I feel I need a witty comeback for those people who ask if I'm still writing. Any ideas?

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Like My Fan Page, Win a Book



I will give away FOUR paper editions of The Fiend of White Buck Hall tomorrow night (November 10, 2011). Due to a dark cover, it has not received much attention, which is sad because it is a great story! (Warning: It is a rather spicy paranormal.)

To enter the contest go to http://www.facebook.com/penelopemarzecbooks. That is my fan page. Click the LIKE button at the top of the page and become a fan, in addition leave a comment on this post. The four winners will be posted both here and at my fan page tomorrow night.

Hurry up and sign in to win. Good luck!

The lucky winners in the contest are Jenn, Deanna, Leann, and MarkD! Thanks for playing!

Friday, November 04, 2011

Love and Marriage

This is a photograph of the top from our wedding cake. At thirty-five years of age, what was once sparkling white is now turning yellow, but it is a precious and tangible sign of the commitment hubby and I made to each other on our wedding day.
I believe in love, which is rather obvious since I write romance novels. I believe in relationships that last forever. I’ve seen plenty of other couples who are devoted to each other and who have celebrated many anniversaries. However, the brief marriage of Kim Kardashian, last week’s big news story, wasn’t what I would call a marriage.

I have no idea what the truth is in that situation. Though the wedding boosted the television ratings and made lots of money, it did not resemble any kind of committed relationship. The big party was lavish. Kim had a beautiful dress and she looked stunning but she could not have paid much attention to the words she recited.

While I cannot claim to be a marriage expert, hubby and I ran a Pre-Cana program in our church for seven years. The Catholic Church has an excellent marriage preparation program. Anyone who wants to get married in the Church must attend either an Engaged Encounter or a Pre-Cana. Yes, there are Catholic couples who divorce despite the instructional course, but hubby and I believe it can be helpful. We went through both a Pre-Cana and an Engaged Encounter before we were married. We were serious about our marriage. Do we still argue? You bet we do.

My parents were married for sixty-two years until my mother died. Did they argue? Sure they did. Hubby parents have been married for an incredible seventy-one years. They have had disagreements, too.

Love is a decision. Marriage involves work, communication, compromise, and a whole bunch of forgiveness from both partners to build a sound, permanent relationship.

It isn’t easy. Unfortunately, Kim Kardashian’s stunt cheapens the idea of marriage, which is a shame. It would be wonderful to see entertainers setting a good example, but I guess that isn’t going to happen anytime soon. :^(

Nevertheless, I will continue to write about two people who find love and make a permanent commitment to each other. It can work.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Notes from the New Jersey Romance Writers Conference


There I am, waiting for someone to buy my books at the New Jersey Romance Writers Conference Book Fair. Shelley Freydont took the photo for me. Thanks, Shelley. :^)

At the New Jersey Romance Writers Conference last weekend, the theme was “Empowering You Muse.” NJRW runs a terrific conference every year which offers inspiration, support, and plenty of nuts and bolts writing advice whether a writer is a novice or multi-published.

I took notes at most of the workshops I attended. However, in the interest of brevity, I am posting only the best of the best. Reading my notes will not make anyone a better writer. Writing makes better writers. Nevertheless, some may find a few useful nuggets of information here. One thing I cannot convey in this blog is the wonderful sense of camaraderie that is an integral part of the conference. Writing is a solitary endeavor—and just a little bit crazy, but rubbing elbows with other writers...well, it’s really nice to share your dreams.

On Friday, the conference provided a special retreat for published authors. Wine and chocolate-covered pretzels were served.

Eloisa James kicked off the retreat by giving an overall view of the publishing industry, which—as most people know—is going through major upheavals. Authors are expected to do far more in terms of promotion—particularly on Facebook. They are expected to engage their fans, but they must also post direct links to their books on Amazon. Getting Facebook fans to use the share button is important.

Comments on Amazon are imperative. Authors need at least fifty comments—good or bad—to make a difference.

After Eloisa’s talk, I sat in on a roundtable discussion titled BLOGS, TWITTER, AND FACEBOOK. The moderator was Suzanne Brockmann, who is a perennially enthusiastic author with plenty of great ideas of her own. She started her writing career before the internet became a factor in promotion. Her first book was the last book published by Kismet. She gave away many copies of her book to help establish her reputation as an author.

Much of the discussion concerned Facebook fan pages along with automatic connections an author can make to blogs, Twitter, and so forth.

There is now a conversion app that can change a Facebook friend page to a fan page. However, though the contacts are transferred, all other status messages and photos are lost. The “friend” page will also vanish. Therefore, all information should be backed up before starting the conversion process.

One author suggested offering a contest to get fans to switch from an author’s “friend” page to a “fan” page.

To get a blog to automatically show up on a Facebook page, the author needs her RSS feed (usually nameofblog/feed). Feedburner will do this for the author, as will Feedmyinbox. They dump the information for you.

Some authors consider Tweetdeck extremely useful. All of an author’s accounts can be set up at Tweetdeck. Hootsuite will time tweets automatically.

When it comes to giving away books in a contest, one author noted that it is far easier to give away her books on Kindle, rather than to mail paper editions.

Several authors suggested gathering their fans into a promotion team. Fans get a free book, bookmarks and other promotional items to hand out. The author puts these special fans’ pictures on her Facebook page.

Another author suggested including book club questions at the end of the book. Book clubs are a great promotional tool! Barnes & Nobles offers book clubs for their customers. Getting in touch with the store’s community relations person is the place to start.

A Facebook chat is a convenient way to get in touch with fans. Get other authors to join in but take other time zones into consideration so fans in Australia can chat, too.

On Saturday, I listened to WHEN ONE BOOK JUST ISN’T ENOUGH given by Lauren Willig. Ms. Willig said readers love a series. To them, it’s like going to a reunion. Editors also love a series because it’s much easier for them to sell.

There are several types of series:
Family Series
Friend Series
A Series Based on Geography, such as a small town.
A Thematic Series (with a fairytale line, or a spy link)
A Series With a Recurring Protagonist (this is tough to pull off in a romance)

A series can be open-ended or finite. In a finite series there’s usually an overall story arc. A finite series is easy to pitch to an editor. Even if an author settles upon a finite series, a spinoff series can be written at a later date. However, editors and readers are afraid of a longer series. (Too much to read!)

World building is at the heart of a series. An author can personalize it and create recurring events along with recurring themes. However, the world should remain small with common places in each book. Keep the framework specific. Consistency is important.

For a series, an author needs a detailed record of everything. For instance, what time does the store in the small town open and close?

Readers must love an author’s people. Still, every book must be able to be read as a stand-alone book. All the characters do need not to be in every book. There should be no random reunions. In each book, each character must be there for a reason.

Secondary characters can turn into protagonists in the next book. The character’s basic personality should not change—that would disillusion the reader.

An author needs to decide whether to write linked stand-alones or to make an arc over the series.

There can be a slight switch within subgenres as long as the world is already firm. For instance, a character who has ESP might fit into a small town story that is not a paranormal.

There must always be a resolution at the end of each book. However, if there is an overall arc, that must continue.

With a series, an author can get lots of reader email. Readers sometimes insist upon a book for their favorite character, but an author should not feel forced to write it. Sometimes a novella or short story will satisfy readers—or a bonus chapter.

CREATING RESONANCE: THE SUBTLE ELEMENTS OF FICTION given by Winnie Griggs and Laura Marie Altom was a long workshop, but it didn’t feel long. These two authors covered a lot of ground.

They reminded everyone that an author’s use of descriptive language is much the same as an artist’s box of crayons.

There are many types of descriptive language. In using an analogy a writer is teaching or convincing the reader. Analogies are stronger than similes.

Comparative language is ZEUGMA (new word for me).

Symbolism is a kind of shorthand. There are two types of symbolism in literature: universally understood (road signs, shooting stars, falling leaves) and author-created symbols. These must be used subtly.

An author should avoid clich├ęs and strive for fresh imagery. Setting and mood can add to that imagery. For instance, songbirds and sunshine portray a light-hearted image.

Imagery should be focused, but one image will do—avoid several at one time which would create an overload. Figurative language is powerful. An author can repeat the image but in a different way.

Foreshadowing involves either a broad stoke, providing a big picture, or a pinpoint and specific clue. Which one is used often depends on the genre. The best type of foreshadowing is a surprise.

The subtext of a story is inferred. It is what the character is really saying between the lines. When they try to hide something, the story gets interesting.

There are types of subtext:
When words are at odds with tone.
Body language.
The author’s word choice.
Snippets that have little weight alone, but can have a cumulative effect.

Subtext can deliver your agenda. It elevates an author’s work to art.

Sensory description involves the five senses. To make a richer scene, layer in the details and tailor those details to the story.

Backstory involves secrets. Hold back on those secrets. Wait until they can answer a story question. This builds reader involvement because they feel some satisfaction in guessing some of the revelations, but be subtle.

Hold back the big surprise until the last possible moment.

The epiphany is when the character reaches a revelation on his own. Set the moment up knowing who he is at the beginning and who he is at the end. His outlook will change.

An author needs to train herself to choose the right word. Choose concrete words over vague.

Transitions must condense time in a book. They bridge the gap and aid in the seamless unfolding of the story. The trick is to know what details to enclose. Mundane life events are uninteresting.

Changes in time, changes in place, POV changes, and changes in scene focus need to be handled with transitions.

There are two kinds, either simple or complex. The simple one uses individual words that cue the reader. These are short and direct. For instance, later that day or once they arrived at the beach.

A complex transition can be conveyed by mood. Sensory passages can signal the POV. A memory trigger for the character can be a transition. The memory can be that of another character, an object, or the environment (weather or seasons).

Transitions can layer in emotions but leave out the trivial things that are not important to the plot.

Atmosphere should be matched to the story. Weather can heighten a conflict. Let Mother Nature ruin your characters’ lives.

Music adds a three dimensional aspect. Just a touch is effective.

Interior design reflects the character. Give the character surroundings to match their personality.

Winnie and Laura gave a great presentation and handed out several of their books. In fact, I received so many free books at the conference that my To-Be-Read pile is now higher than ever!

If you write romance, plan on attending the New Jersey Romance Writers Conference next year.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I Have a Lot of Words


I have an assortment of magnetic words on my refrigerator. Romantic words, corporate words, spiritual words, rock and roll words, and country words are all jumbled together in a big jar. I put the words together to create silly little poems out of them or clever phrases. Most people who visit our kitchen play with them. My daughters and hubby switch them around and laugh at the results--so I'm never entirely sure who wrote what.

Now and then, I take all the words down and put up a different batch. However, before I remove the poems and phrases, I write them in a notebook for posterity ascribing the name of the author, if I suspect the guilty party.

For instance, here's a good, short one for Halloween. I think hubby put the words together--that's why it's such a brief piece.

his song was full of moist blood


The next one sounds very artistic.

come dance on
your sensuous wet canvas
imagine a color
of love


Daughter #1 wrote the following:

liquid dew
surrounds the rose
secret petals blush
in a red bouquet


Here's one of suspicious origin:

champagne cloud note
I always sing sweetly
into the drunk microphone
breathing an alcohol miasma
like slow lyrics in metal blues


Here's another with a musical theme:

righteous raucous roadie rap
by punk artists
crank it loud
group scream between songs


Words are fun. More words are more fun. Get a few sets of magnetic words and watch the silliness begin. :^)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Romantic Encounters of the Wrong Kind


I have three daughters. Sometimes the discussions in our house are rather illuminating. Recently, I listened to my daughters detail situations where they were with a young man who had the wrong idea about their relationship.

This discussion was a bit scary for a mother to hear, though I was not surprised about the problem. When I started dating, my mother warned me, "Men want only one thing." She was speaking about sex, of course. In my mother's day, making a pass--or getting "fresh" was liable to be rewarded with a slap in the face. Nowadays, young women accuse men of "hitting" on them. Whatever term is used, it refers to an unwanted advance and it has been going on since the dawn of time.

There is a crazy statistic making the rounds about men thinking about sex every seven seconds. Snopes has debunked this and you can read about it here. Still, men do have all that testosterone flowing through their veins and it can ruin their judgment at times.

On several occasions, my daughters assumed they had a platonic and casual friendship with a young man. However, the young man had other ideas--and my daughters claimed that very often it was the setting that seemed to turn the young man's thoughts to sex. Granted there are times when a woman would welcome an advance, but that would be with Mr. Right--not Mr. Wrong.

Here is the list they made of situations which could turn too romantic:

  • Sitting on a roof together.
  • Sitting on a couch together.
  • Playing the guitar, listening to music, or simply hearing music in the background.
  • Riding in a cab or a car together.
  • Riding on the ferry together. (In fact, any vehicle other than a bus seemed to be conducive to turning a young man's thoughts to sex.)
  • Eating together.
  • Sitting in a park together.
  • Sitting next to each other at all.
  • Being near the woods and/or near a body of water together.
  • Sitting next to a fire together.
  • Crossing paths on the way to separate destinations.
  • If either party is staying in a hotel. (i.e. for work)
  • Drinking coffee together.
  • Holding onto the same subway pole.
  • That five minutes when you are at your parents' house but your parents aren't there.

As a romance writer, I looked at this list and thought that I could use some of these ideas for my characters, but as a mother it disturbed me. I worry about my daughters.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Too Many Distractions?


I am the kid in the middle, holding the baby--my sister--and pointing to the picture in the book. My brother is holding the book. I am wearing a lovely dress and my brother is missing a few teeth. :^) My sister is looking at the books on the shelf. We always had plenty of books and since Dad was a journalist, we had lots of newspapers, too.

There were fewer diversions in those days. Maybe that's why more people read books and wrote letters. Yes, we had television, but we did not have 200 channels. Every summer some tubes in the television would burn out and my mother would refuse to get it repaired until September. So we caught lightning bugs and roasted marshmallows on the beach and we read books, and wrote stuff.

When I was several years older than I am in the photo above, my brother and I built a treehouse one summer. There was a tree by the southeast corner of our house with a triple trunk. From scraps of lumber we put together a rather rudimentary structure. My brother did most of the actual construction. He was better at wielding a hammer than I was. My job was to straighten out the bent nails we had gathered to use for our building.

Eventually, the treehouse was finished. There wasn’t much to it—a floor, a simple railing, and a roof. We didn’t have any paint. The wood quickly turned to a weathered gray color.

Once it was done, my brother busied himself with another project. He was more of a doer. I was the dreamer. So the treehouse became my private domain where I would sit, gaze out at the lake, and make up stories without being bothered by distractions--like my younger sisters. :^)

Life was simpler and there seemed to be more time--for everything.

Today, everyone is so busy! There are people who don't read a single book in an entire year. There are people who never write a letter and have given up sending cards. There are so many forms of entertainment vying for their attention that books and writing are altogether forgotten.

I find that very sad.

Friday, September 23, 2011

I Told You So


My first book, Sea Of Hope, was published in 2001 by Awe-Struck EBooks. It was originally published only in digital format. However, for those who wanted a physical "book" it could be purchased as a file on a 3 1/2 inch diskette. (Remember those?)

It was very difficult being an e-published author at first. While I believed in the viability of ebooks from the first time I held a Rocket eReader in my hands, most of the world had no idea what I was talking about. Worst of all, many traditionally published authors denigrated those of us who had decided to try our luck with ebooks. That stung a bit, but I knew I was right and that ebooks would catch on.

Nevertheless, I spent several years attempting to educate people on the wonders of ebooks. For the most part, it was a wasted endeavor.

Then came the Kindle. It was the right gadget at the right time with the right price. Suddenly, reading on an electronic device was the height of fashion. Ebooks took off and soon their sales surpassed those of paper books.

Now traditionally published authors, who were unwilling to give any credence to ebooks at first, have mined their backlists and republished their books on their own, making tidy profits in digital sales.

I hold no grudges. I was aware from the first that the traditionally published were fearful of the new media and waiting to see what would happen. In truth, ebooks turned the publishing world upside down. To those traditionally published authors who are now enjoying success in digital publishing, I offer my congratulations. I am glad that ebooks have become accepted as I knew they would.

I am happy writing my stories and being a published author. That's all I wanted in the first place.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Unity


You can see it if you look closely. Printed on our United States currency you can find the Latin words, "E pluribus unum." Translated it means, "Out of many, one." In other words, despite our country's many states, races, ideologies, and regional differences, we are united.

Most of the time, it doesn't seem that way. We proclaim ourselves as Republicans or Democrats, liberals or conservatives, Northerners or Southerners, white collar workers or blue collar workers, Christians, Jews, or Atheists. We divide ourselves with labels.

Out of the tragedy of September 11, 2001, there was one big miracle. We were all united. The feeling did not last long, but it was there for a time. The churches were full, the flags were flying, we were all listening to patriotic music--we were all Americans. It is sad that we have since returned to putting ourselves back into our respective corners, keeping ourselves separated from each other.

Yes, I have labeled myself into my little corner, too. However, I do mingle (as every writer should) and I do my best to be open-minded. As my father always says, "Live and let live."

May we always strive for unity, for that is where our strength lies.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Simply Amazing

Dad bought a Mac Mini this week. This amazing computer is very, very small--but very, very powerful. Dad had been frustrated by his old WebTV. Microsoft stopped supporting it and the browser cannot display such sites as Facebook or YouTube. Nevertheless, it had been easy for Dad to receive and send email with the WebTV, so he was reluctant to change.

I thought the Mac Mini could nearly duplicate the experience of Dad's WebTV because he could use his television as the monitor. With a wireless keyboard and trackpad, I had hoped it wouldn't be too difficult. It was a breeze to set up.

However, there's a huge learning curve involved. Dad now has a very powerful machine. I bought him a book on the Lion operating system, which is the latest Apple system. I went through the steps of how to turn the machine off and on, find his email, and log on to Facebook.

It's going to take a while before he is proficient, but it is wonderful that he is willing to take this on at his age. Many elderly people refuse to use computers and they miss a lot.

Dad signed up for Facebook when I told him he had to do it to keep in touch with his grandchildren. He enjoys the gossip. He also enjoys reading the New York Times online. He gets a big thrill out of sending pertinent articles to everyone, a task that had become impossible with his old WebTV.

Watch out world. Dad will soon be cluttering up your inbox with news he believes you should read. :^)

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Too Much Water


Hurricane Irene is gone, but she left a lot of misery in her wake. For the first time in the thirty-two years we've live here, the reservoir near our house overflowed at the same time the tide rose. This created a huge flood.

There have been several storms where the level of the river was high. I have a blog post with photos from several years ago here. However, Hurricane Irene dumped more water on us than any other storm.



There is a bridge somewhere underneath all that water. Fortunately, the dam did not break--though we were worried that it would. Other dams in our state did not hold.

Our house was safe up on the hill. Our neighbor's house, to the left of the road in the photo, was flooded and knocked off its foundation by a chunk of the bridge that broke away. That house has now been condemned. Another neighbor had a tree fall on their house. Many of our neighbors have lived for a week without electricity.

Other communities in our state had far more devastation from this one storm and my heart goes out to all of those who have lost so much.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A WRITER’S INFLUENCE


Many authors have promoted worthy causes and influenced readers’ opinions. Philip Freneau, the poet of the Revolution, rallied patriots to the cause of freedom. Rachel Carson sounded a warning about the grave danger of synthetic insecticides when she wrote Silent Spring..

Harriet Beecher Stowe helped to abolish slavery in this country when she wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin. She did it with fiction. (If you haven’t read her book, you should.)

Not all authors set out to change the world, but all have the potential to do so. Some—like me—intend to entertain and offer their readers hope in the beauty of everlasting love.

Other writers do not expect to change the world—only a small part of it.

Marguerite Henry was given such an opportunity. As a children’s author, her publisher sent her to Chincoteague, Virginia, to write a story on the town’s wild ponies. Ms. Henry stayed at Miss Molly’s Bed and Breakfast, visited the Beebe Farm and forever immortalized Misty, the little filly who is still loved by millions of children. It wasn’t quite the same as fomenting a revolution, but the book’s popularity has endured and among other things provided a booming tourist trade for Chincoteague.

We visited Chincoteague through a Road Scholar program. Last summer, hubby and I joined the Road Scholars and journeyed to White River Junction in Vermont to learn about the railroads of that area. You can read about that adventure here.

Road Scholars’ motto is “Adventures in Lifelong Learning.” An elderhostel, their programs are all-inclusive. In addition to all meals and lodging, they provide participants with lectures, excursions, and other experiences so that they can understand more fully the culture of the area.

We were treated to the seafood at various restaurants on the small island. We learned about the wild birds of the area, watched an artist demonstrate her skill in painting a duck, and saw a decoy carver fashion a sandpiper from a block of white cedar. We listened to the music of the Three Sheets. We heard the tale of a waterman and how he spends his days catching crabs or gathering oysters.

We also went on a safari of the interior of the wildlife refuge.

We heard about the history of Chincoteague and how the ponies came to the island.

Nearly every shop has copies of Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry. You can see Misty and her foal, Stormy, at the museum in town. They have been preserved by a taxidermist.

Every year in July, the ponies are rounded up to swim from Assateague to Chincoteague. Thirty thousand—or so—people come to witness the event immortalized my Ms. Henry in her book.

How’s that for influence?


Whatever you write, write well.






Friday, August 19, 2011

The Circus Came to Town

Hubby and I went to the Cole Bros. Circus yesterday. We haven't seen a traveling circus show for a very long time. The last time we went our daughters were very young.

The Cole Bros. put on a good show. There were tigers, elephants, ponies, poodles, trapeze artists, clowns, and the guy who gets shot out of a cannon. The motorcycle act was something new to me. There were three motorcycles inside a huge metal cage--they drove around inside the ball--at a very fast speed--and did not crash. They made me very nervous.

Hubby and I were entertained. We truly enjoyed the show. It was far superior to a movie. It was all live. Simply watching the speed at which the stage was set for the next act was intriguing.

My brother was a circus roustabout one summer. He needed a summer job after high school and when the circus came to town, he decided to join it. In a few weeks, he was muscular and tanned. He had lots of exciting stories to tell about the way the circus works, how the whole circus moves from town to town, and the life of a roustabout.

I never forgot my brother's tales of the circus life. When my hero in The Fiend of White Buck Hall needed an intriguing past, I decided the circus had been a part of his life. It fit.

If the circus comes to your town, go and see it. It is well worth the price of admission. Maybe it will inspire you. :^)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Grounds for Sculpture



Manet painted The Boating Party. Seward Johnson made it into a life-sized reproduction. And I put myself in the picture, just for fun.

If you haven't visited Grounds for Sculpture, you should. Seward Johnson founded it and many of his works are there. However, many other artists are featured there as well.


We were there last week because Daughter #3 had some of her pastels displayed in a special exhibit.



Grounds for Sculpture is incredible. I would love to go again--soon. I highly recommend it.




Friday, August 05, 2011

Just Write

Last week, a friend asked me what software I use to write my books. I was a bit surprised by the question. I just type my novels into Word. The publishers want the books in Word, or Word's rtf--depending on the publisher's preference. I don't know of any other authors who use a special software to create their stories--and I belong to several writing groups. None of those groups has ever had a workshop on writing software. Of course, I only belong to fiction writing groups. We all make up stuff in our heads and I don't know how that could ever be programmed. :^)

I went online and discovered a wealth of software programs for those who want to write a book. Some are very expensive. You can see a bunch of them here.

In looking at the features of the various programs, I must admit that having a program to help organize an index for a non-fiction book would probably be a good idea. However, for a fiction book, there is no index.

I have attended many, many writing workshops. I have read many books on writing. I have had my work critiqued. I own several dictionaries and I am a frequent visitor at dictionary.com. I have a favorite thesaurus. I write my own outlines and if I need to brainstorm, I call up a friend.

Word count and spellcheck are built into Word, but it's always good to have a real editor because Word can screw things up.

I think the best aid to help any writer in getting the job done is to put glue on the chair and sit down. Then just write and keep writing. Don't stop until you've reached the end.

You can save a lot of money on software programs that way.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Carrot Crunchies Cookie Recipe

This cookie recipe is an old favorite. There's some real good nutritious stuff in these cookies so I think it is perfectly acceptable to eat them for breakfast. Everyone in my family agrees. :^)

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup butter
1 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup finely shredded carrots (about 2 small carrots)
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 cups toasted rice cereal

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare 2 large cookie sheets with parchment paper. (Or you can grease them, but the parchment paper makes cookie baking easy.)

In a bowl, combine first 5 ingredients; set aside. In large mixer bowl with electric mixer at medium speed, cream butter, sugar, milk and vanilla. Beat in eggs until light and fluffy. Add flour mixture. Stir in remaining ingredients. Drop batter by tablespoonfuls onto cookie sheets. Bake about 15 minutes. Remove from sheets, cool completely on wire rack.

The original recipe called for pecans, but I like walnuts. I also substitute a small amount of shredded coconut for some of the carrots--if I happen to have the coconut. The original recipe called for dropping teaspoonfuls of batter onto the cookie sheets and baking the dough for 10 minutes. However, the cookies came out puny. I like big cookies so I use a tablespoon.

Enjoy!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Inventions and Fiction Writers

I have an iPad. One of my sisters has an iPhone. Lately, instead of talking on the phone we video chat with FaceTime. It is almost as good as having my sister here for a visit. Way back when we were kids, the idea of video chatting was science fiction. Now it's a reality.

The amazing thing is that so many inventions were dreamed up in fiction. Most readers are familiar with the gadgets Jules Verne and H.G. Wells wrote about that were able to be produced much later when technology caught up. However, I found an incredible site on the web that details many more technological wonders that were dreamed up by novelists who were way ahead of their time.

Go to http://www.technovelgy.com/

This compilation will show that ebooks were thought up in 1961 by Stanislaw Lem. Frederik Pohl wrote about cellphone voicemail in 1965. Poul Anderson wrote of laser rifles in 1966.

So though truth may be stranger than fiction, fiction writers are rather clever when it comes to devising useful tools that people need.

Thanks to fiction writers, my sister and I can talk to each other in real time. I love those fiction writers!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Two Years Ago


Two years ago today my mother died. In the photo above, my mother is the toddler on the right. She was the daughter of a coal miner and grew up in a family with six other children. She went to art school and then joined the Marines in World War II. She met my father after the war.

Mom was truly gifted as an artist, but she also had an indomitable spirit and a heart filled with compassion.

I miss her, but I can't help but believe that she's still busy painting, giving out good advice, or delivering food to some poor soul somewhere.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Invasion

Large, black carpenter ants live in New Jersey. In fact, carpenter ants are hearty and find many locations just to their liking. Though they are not termites, they are still destructive to wooden structures like houses. You can find information online about these prolific insects here.

Over the years, carpenter ants have wandered into our house--typically during the springtime. We stepped on them and bought ant baits which we placed in corners about the house. That seemed to alleviate the problem.

However, on Thursday the ants chose our home for their annual convention but they really should have made reservations first. We were totally unprepared for the invasion. There were hundreds of them crawling around in the living room. It resembled a scene in a horror film. I got out the vacuum to remove them and while that did not kill them, I placed the scurrying contents of the vacuum into a plastic bag and tied it tightly in the hope that they would suffocate.

An exterminator came later in the day to assess the situation. He was impressed with the size of the ants. Maybe what we had in our house was a convention for bodybuilding ants. The exterminator set up an appointment to have the house treated on Saturday. Meanwhile, I had to deal with the ants. I spent much of the day vacuuming the aliens life forms crawling across the rug. Some of them came in carrying food on their mandibles. Maybe there was a potluck supper going on.

By that evening the influx of bugs had diminished but Daughter #1 read online that carpenter ants are most active from 10 pm to 2am. She placed another fresh ant bait near the spot beside the chimney which the ants appeared to be using as their special entrance to the big convention.

We did not sleep well, but in the morning while we did find a few ants it was nothing like the inundation of the previous day.

The exterminator sprayed outside and inside on Saturday. On Sunday, not a single ant was to be seen. I'm hoping it stays that way.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

My Experience in Sales

One summer, between my junior and senior year of college, I landed a job as an aide in a summer school program. It was a great experience since I intended to become a teacher. However, it paid next to nothing and I needed more money for college. To supplement my puny salary, I decided to sell cosmetics. My success in selling cosmetics depended almost entirely on the vanity of women. Fortunately, many women long to be beautiful and anything that will help them toward that goal is something they desire to own. (Especially if it is not too expensive.)

In fact there were only two real problems selling a line of beauty aids for me. One was my fear of getting bit by a dog. I went door-to-door initially to gather a customer base, but I skirted around any house with a snarling dog.

My other downfall was that I tended to use up my profits by buying many of the cosmetics for myself. Yes, I longed to be gorgeous and alluring just like everyone else. I believed all the hype--and, of course, I looked in the mirror and found myself lacking--even though I was twenty, thin, and did not have a single wrinkle in my face. Still, my lips seemed too thin. I had freckles. I wanted glowing cheeks and come-hither eyes. I put on way too much makeup.

Nevertheless, I had fun. I got to chat with people, something I've always enjoyed because in the process I collect gossip and characters--an extremely useful habit to develop for a writer.

My customers never complained about the products I sold. I'd douse myself with the newest fragrance, they would get a good whiff when I walked in the door and then they would order some for themselves.

It was a great business.

Selling books is far more difficult than selling cosmetics. Some people don't read and those who do read, don't read romances. Most people refer to my habit of touting my wares as shameless self-promotion. In addition to that, there's always criticism in the form of reviews.

Despite that, some of the techniques I learned in selling cosmetics actually do work in selling books.

Here are the salient points:

1. Stay away from snarling dogs.

2. Dress up and smell good.

3. Smile.

4. Enjoy the conversation, wherever it goes. (You might get an inspiration for another character.)

5. Always believe in your product. (I have had to explain over and over what a romance novel is. Some people really do not understand the genre at all.)

6. Help the customer find what they want. If they don't want to read any of your books, point them to another author who writes in the genre they claim to enjoy.

7. Keep writing!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

For Sale--Again!


Prince of the Mist was originally published in 2005 by New Concepts Publishing. At that time, the book received wonderful reviews and sold surprisingly well in those pre-Kindle days when few readers knew what an e-book was.

NCP decided to cull their collection at one point. Like all publishers, they wanted room for new books. Still, they quickly gave me back my rights and subsequently published two other books of mine--and one of those has been my own personal bestseller, so far.

Three of the four books returned to me were picked up by another publisher, but Prince of the Mist languished in slush piles here and there. I found it disheartening because I loved Wildon and Tia. I knew there were readers who would love them, too.

Fortunately, despite all the negative things said about e-publishing, it has created a wonderful opportunity for authors with a backlist. Any author can take their previously published books and publish those books on their own. Many have done it.

I decided it was time for me to dip my toe gently into self-publishing. I started by whipping up a new bookcover--something eye-catching. Then I uploaded the cover and the manuscript to Amazon's Kindle. It was not a difficult process at all.

Feeling confident, I decided to try Smashwords as well so my book could appear at other e-book distributors. Smashwords was a bit trickier. I had to carefully go through their style list, but I got the hang of it after a few tries.

Once the book was up for sale, I made another book video for it. I don't do anything fancy for the book videos, but I love the process. To me it makes the book comes alive.

Now all I have to do is promote the book, which is a job I have to do even if a publisher gives me a contract. I do not have plans for a paper edition of Prince of the Mist. For now, it can easily be read on personal computers, Kindles, Nooks, Kobos, iPhones. and iPads.

And that's awesome enough for me.

video

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Lowering My Blood Pressure

I was diagnosed with high blood pressure about seven years ago. Since my mother suffered from high blood pressure for over thirty years, learning that I had the same problem was scary. My mother took several prescription drugs specifically for high blood pressure, but her doctors believed her anxiety exacerbated her condition and so she had tranquilizers as well.

Nevertheless, her blood pressure would often spike. Her greatest fear was that she would have a stroke. She decided to take a proactive stance and though she never stopped taking her prescription medicine, she tried every alternative known at the time to keep her blood pressure in check. She went on the Pritikin diet--reducing her fat intake to the lowest level possible. She ate raw garlic. She tried juicing her vegetables and tossed into the mix every vitamin that experts claimed would help reduce blood pressure levels. She kept a careful record of her blood pressure readings. None of her tireless efforts cured her. Her blood pressure was never truly under control.

She had a stroke at the age of eighty-six. She died a year a half later. Maybe all her healthy eating did help--there are a lot of folks with high blood pressure who never get that far.

Last week, my heart rate plummeted but my blood pressure went up. I went to my doctor who ordered another medication for me. (This is the fifth one.) However, he also became very serious and told me I will have to start walking--a lot--everyday. I was relieved that he did not suggest tranquilizers. I do not want to live in a Xanax-induced haze for the rest of my life--especially since it never did help my mother.

My father was quite surprised by my doctor's advice since none of my mother's doctors had ever mentioned anything about walking.

Obviously, times have changed and medicine is continuing to evolve. Maybe someday the doctors and the pharmaceutical companies will figure everything out. For now, I'm happy to put on my athletic shoes and take a walk. It's great medicine!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Blogs I Miss

I have been going through my long list of bookmarked blogs and deleting some of them. There are bloggers who haven't posted anything for a year or two--or more. The blog is still there, but nothing is happening. I feel bad about deleting them from my bookmarks, but there is nothing fresh to read.

There are plenty of people who give up blogging after a while. I don't know why. Perhaps they are too busy. Perhaps they said what they have to say or they moved on to another hobby. I miss them. To me, for a while, they felt like friends. I especially loved the blogs written by other mothers about their families. It was easy to relate to them because I had gone through many of the same experiences. Sometimes I would offer advice. :^)

Inexplicably, they stopped writing. With most there was no explanation. One claimed she lost interest, but most simply no longer posted.

I worried about them.

There are those of us who continue to blog. I don't think I'll ever run out of things to say--but, of course, I also have an ulterior motive for blogging. I have books to promote and blogging regularly helps in garnering followers who might be interested in reading my books.

That's the theory. Blog and they shall read. If they like what they read on my blog, maybe they'll pick up one of my books. Marketing--not very subtle, but that's what it is. Besides, I don't always write about my books or writerly topics. I tell true tales about my family, our travels, and troubles.

The blogs I enjoyed most were the ones where nobody was selling anything. The ones where the busy mother was herding her kids here and there, feeding them, taking care of them--and the house, the garden, etc. It's not an easy job and eventually the kids grow up. Maybe that's why they stopped posting. Maybe their offspring were starting to go through that phase where they aren't cute anymore. :^(

Or maybe, they found that they enjoyed writing. Maybe they are writing their own book--right now. Maybe they'll come back to the blogosphere and start hawking their wares--like me.

I don't know, but I pray they are all safe and well.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Peanut Chicken



This is delicious, quick and easy. The perfect dish for a busy writer to prepare.

1 onion, chopped
1 clover garlic, chopped
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup honey
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon curry powder
a pinch of cardamom
a dash of Tabasco sauce
4 chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces

Combine the onion and garlic, cook on high in the microwave for 2 minutes.

Stir in the peanut butter, chicken stock, honey, mustard, curry powder, cardamom, and Tasbasco. Add chicken. Cook, uncovered, on high for 6 minutes. Stir. Cook on high for 6 more minutes.

Serve over rice. (You should have a rice cooker for that!)

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Pantster or Plotter?


There's that white page. What am I going to write on it? The blinking cursor waits and time moves on. I close my eyes and start typing. I can see my hero and my heroine--shipwrecked...on an island with a white sandy beach...

This is going to be fun!

That white page can be daunting, but authors are brave souls. However, they use different methods to get their books written. Some are methodical. They are the plotters. Then there are those who just sit down and write. Those are the pantsters, so called because they wing it--flying by the seat of their pants, or in their case, writing by the seat of their pants.

There are some writers who employ both methods.

Much has been written on this topic and you can find plenty of other blogs covering this subject just by typing pantster vs. plotter into Google.

As for myself, I have used outlines for several of my books, but I have often wandered away from my original plans. I have written some books completely by the seat of my pants--winging it through the manuscript. When I use that method, I have a lot more fun but I tend to go off on tangents. That results in more editing when all is said and done.

Nevertheless, I always have the story in my mind even if I do not have a detailed outline. I know the main characters, the main conflict, and the setting. It is quite an adventure to set sail without a script.

A brief survey of my Twitter friends indicates the pantster method is alive and well.

MiaMarlowe Mia_Marlowe @penelopemarzec Definitely a pantster. Once I figure out who my characters are and what they want, keeping them from getting it is my plot.

suzanne lazear suzannelazear @penelopemarzec I'm actually a puzzler with pantster tendancies.


Lisa Kessler LdyDisney @penelopemarzec Pantster! :)

Marci Baun freyasbower @penelopemarzec pantster all the way. (g)

Some of my Facebook friends chimed in, too.

Nancy Sue Petersen Brandt I'm a pantster trying to reform!

Catherine Guerrero I'm a pantser and proud of it. Got my rough draft for a new novel started that way back during NaNoWriMo.

I believe using the pantster method is rather like recording a dream while being awake. To do it, I must turn off my internal editor. Then I just let it rip.

Are you a pantster or a plotter or a little of both?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Condolences on the Beach

My father's brother was a Marine in World War II. He was killed by a sniper during the battle for the coral atoll of Palau.

Days later, my father, a sergeant in the Air Force, had just waded onto a Philippine beach 800 miles west of Palau when the officer commanding his advance party came up to him with an envelope. He opened it and handed my father an American Red Cross message reporting the death of his brother. Then, while troops and equipment kept coming ashore, the officer handed Dad a cup, opened a whiskey bottle and poured it into the cup.


After a few words of condolence, the officer moved away and Dad went on with his work but he never forgot that brief moment of empathy shown by the major which lingers in his mind, 67 years later.




Saturday, May 21, 2011

Teenage Angst

Once upon a time, I was young--a teenager growing up on the "wrong" side of town--the side where the "hoods" lived. I was a shy and I wore all the wrong clothes. While I was bright and destined for college I never fit in with the "in" crowd.

Oh yes, I had plenty of angst. But I was blessed with loving parents and siblings so I eventually got over my social awkwardness--sort of. I went to college, got a job, met a nice man, had a family and started writing. Actually, I started writing when I was nine, but I became serious about my writing. There's a difference.

I have toyed with the idea of writing a young adult book for years. So today, the New Jersey Romance Writers had Cyn Balog speaking and I decided I needed to hear what she had to say. I took lots of notes and now have a lot more books on my TBR list.

She also recommended an excellent blog written by Mandy Hubbard, an agent and author of YA books.

Tonight when we went out for supper with Dad, I told him about today's lecture. He could not understand why I--as a mature woman--would want to write a book where teenagers were the main characters. I told him I was a teenager once and I remember a lot about it, maybe too much. My high school experience seems permanently embedded in my brain.

Not that I would want to write about my high school experience. Most of it was rather humdrum and while I did suffer through a few crushes, there was no great romance. But YA novels include romance and the books have happy or hopeful endings. How delightful!

So I will continue mulling over the idea.

But first I've got to finish my WIP!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Importance of a Smile


Good dental health is a blessing. It is also costly and not an option for many people. When I was young, I rarely went to the dentist. When I did go, it was always and only for an emergency. I went to get teeth pulled--like the time I cracked a tooth on a lollipop.

My parents could not afford dental visits either. They both had full sets of dentures by the time they were fifty years old.

Fortunately, I was lucky enough to fall in love with a man who had a dental plan as part of his benefits package at work. I still have most of my own teeth--except for a bridge in the place of that empty spot due to that hard lollipop.

Our daughters regularly visited the dentist throughout their childhood. Their teeth are in much better condition than mine.

I just got another crown on one of my teeth this week. A tooth had cracked when I chomped down on a hard pizza crust. Our dental plan does not cover the entire cost, but at least it does pay for a portion of the bill.

When I see people with terrible teeth, I remember the pain I had as a youngster.

We need affordable dental care in this country and we need it for everyone.

Friday, May 13, 2011

A Spiffy Newsletter

Until now, sending out my newsletters to friends and fans has been a chore. My newsletters were rather plain. However, today I decided to try MailChimp. What fun! There are a wide variety of templates offered, lots of colors and fonts. I used the header from my website, plenty of photos of my book covers, and a nice photo of me. My newsletter is now not only informative but gorgeous, exciting, and full of links.

I was able to easily import the email addresses from my computer's address list.

Finally, after a few simple steps I sent the newsletter off. MailChimp keeps track of any emails that bounce, the ones that are opened, and the ones that click through.

The same newsletter email went to Twitter and Facebook with another little click.

Best of all, MailChimp was free.

If you're interested in seeing the newsletter check it out here.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

No Time for Books?

I know a lot of people who don't read books. Some are friends, some are relatives, and some are coworkers. Many of them have college degrees. I could list their names here but that would be mean and it still wouldn't make them pick up a book and read it. They all have a reason for not reading. They tell me they are too busy. They often read magazines, or the newspaper. But they never sit down with a book in their hands and read it from the beginning to the end. Never.

I think this is very sad. Those who don't read are missing out on some amazing adventures. But more importantly, they are wrong about the time needed to read a book. Reading does not have to take much time at all. There are millions of audio books--and you can borrow them at the library for nothing. You don't even have to visit the library, you can download them from the library's website and then add them to your iPod. You can listen to them while driving to work, exercising, or folding the laundry. Seriously, what else are you going to do while folding laundry? Listen to Lady Gaga?

For those who own a Kindle, there are books that are speech enabled. The Kindle can read the books to you. You can dust the living room or crochet an afghan while listening to the latest Janet Evanovich novel. Better yet, you can listen one of my novels.

Books are special. Every book allows the reader to enter into someone else's mind. Please get into a book soon. It really doesn't take any time at all.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Creativity: A Gift? Or an Aberration?

I love writing stories. It's fun. Watching my characters in action and listening to them talk--in my mind--is usually better than watching movies.

On the other hand, I hate writing query letters and synopses. (That's work.) Writing blurbs is sheer torture.

I love writing letters (longhand) to friends and family.

I have been putting words on paper since I was nine years old. I have not run out of words or stories. I always have something to say. Some people call it a gift. Some think it's egocentric.

Some just think I'm crazy.

There have been many studies done concerning mental illness and creativity. There are some psychologists who are persistent in trying to prove that there is a link between creativity and madness. It is true that there have been an abundance of famous writers who apparently showed signs of mental illness. I found a list here, but there are others. I do not think it's fair or ethical to diagnose someone after they have passed on.

I know a lot of romance writers. I hang out with them. They are very nice, normal people. They simply have vivid imaginations. Children have vivid imaginations, too. Do you remember what it was like to be a child? A child can view a box as a house, or an army tank, or a boat.

Writers are people who have not lost that power. They can create stories out of almost nothing--out of little bits of information that most people ignore.

Writers are special, but not crazy.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

At the Monmouth Festival of the Arts Gala

Last Saturday, I was a VIP at the Monmouth Festival of the Arts Gala. As one of the exhibiting artists, I was treated to wine and tempting hors d'oeurves. Hubby was there, too, and took the photos (below) of me and the oil paintings I did which were part of the exhibit.

We both had a great time and enjoyed looking at the work of all the other exhibiting artists. It was an honor to be included in such a renowned display of artwork.


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Florida in April

Florida in April is quite agreeable. The temperature is in the eighties.

Hubby and I flew to Florida to see his parents for a few days. I do not enjoy air travel. I hate being pressed into the seat as the plane takes off, and I really can't stand the dropping feeling as the plane comes in for a landing.

I especially do not appreciate any weird mechanical noises in an airplane and bumpy flights are no fun either. Sleeping is impossible on a plane. However, flying to Florida takes less time than driving--despite the hours spent in airport waiting rooms.

Still, it is quite amazing to leave New Jersey wearing a coat and arrive in Florida where everyone is wearing shorts. We went from early April to what felt like June in a few hours, which is really quite a pleasant experience.

I felt like a time traveler. :^)

On the way home, I got a smoother flight and a window seat. I took photos.



When we landed in New Jersey, the temperature was in the forties and it was raining, but I'm glad to be back.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Downsizing


We had to resort to renting a dumpster to clean out the house where I grew up. Yes, there's the loveseat on the left and right on the top is the port-a-potty Mom and Dad used while camping. There's a small bookcase (we never had enough of those), some plywood panels of various sizes, a worn comforter, a rug, and a frame.

Before my mother died, we had an auctioneer take some of the stuff. After Mom died, we had the Salvation Army take some of the furniture. We made countless trips to donate stuff to Goodwill. Up until Dad broke his hip, he constantly filled up the trash cans with extraneous items he knew he would not need in his small apartment. But he moved into that house fifty-six years ago and in the interim, filled it up with lots of happy memories--and plenty of things. Mom was a prolific artist, so we all have the paintings she left behind. However, there was were also Dad's many tools. (Dad wanted to take his circular power saw to the apartment. I nixed that idea.) He a collection of old portable radios, assorted wires, and a host of ancient audio tapes. Too much stuff!

Fortunately, we had help in cleaning out the house. It is just too difficult to toss memories into a dumpster. I did retrieve one thing from the dumpster--but only one. And though the job is done, it is still sad to look at this photo.

I loved growing up at the edge of Treasure Lake by Raritan Bay.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Liberty States Fiction Writers Conference


I had a great time at the Liberty States Fiction Writers Conference today. This was only the second conference run by LSFW, but it was awesome! The workshops were great and there were top-notch editors and agents, too.

I particularly enjoyed the cocktail hour. :^) I had a nice time chatting with other authors.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Moving Dad

Dad is now living in a small apartment. We made the big move on Monday, but there are still things in the house that we must either donate, recycle, or throw out. It's going to take quite a while to go through everything.

However, the apartment--furnished with the bare essentials--is comfortable and with the addition of my mother's paintings, it does look homey. Dad will be getting physical therapy for a while and he'll have a home health aide, too. After two and a half months in the hospital, he still has a long way to go in regaining his strength. Nevertheless, his appetite has definitely improved. Daughter #1 made rice pudding on Sunday and Dad had three helpings of it on Monday after dinner.

Tonight we took Dad out for pizza. He only had one slice, but he downed a bottle of stout, too, and he intended to have dessert once he returned to the apartment. Dad has always had room for dessert. :^)

Friday, March 04, 2011

Handouts

There's another writers' conference coming up--the Liberty States Fiction Writers will be gathering to listen to MaryJanice Davidson and a host of other well-known fiction writers who are more than willing to give away their secrets of success.

I plan to be there and I intend to bring along my books in case anyone wants to buy some. I will also bring along my promotional handouts. Lots of writers buy pens to hand out, some buy little sticky notes, or bookmarks.

My handouts are rather simple. I used trifold brochure paper and set Word for three columns. One one side, I put the cover, the blurb, and some other information. Inside I squeeze in an excerpt from the book.




That's the easy part. The trick is to get the other writers at the conference to pick these things up. At the last conference, I attached a Twizzler to each brochure. Every single brochure disappeared from the table.

But my latest book has an Irish theme. What sort of candy should I attach for this one? Peppermint Patties?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Authors' Houses

I like to visit old houses. It's a real treat for me to tour the homes of famous authors. Several years ago, I visited Harriet Beecher Stowe's house in Hartford, Connecticut. It was modest and comfortable. Mark Twain's grand home is next door and it is where he was most productive. Yet, I've seen pictures of the birthplace of Samuel Clemens and that was a two-room cabin.

Here's Louisa May Alcott's family home. I'd love to go there. It is not at all what I envisioned when I first read Little Women.

Here's Edith Wharton's home. She designed it. This is not the type of home I thought the writer of Ethan Frome would have.

Here's Stephen Crane's house. I went there one evening to see an Poe impersonator. It was a Halloween event. Go figure.

Here's Edgar Allen Poe's house in Baltimore. Hubby and I visited it a few years ago. It's really small.

I've visited the House of the Seven Gables in Salem, Massachusetts. I have not visited any southern writers' homes, but I might.

Any ideas for me?