Literary Abandon – That’s a Wrap!

Today is the last day of NANO. I have been  extremely focused, er mostly. It’s that last-minute push to deadline, 90 to nothing, write like the wind, all systems GO!  It hasn’t been a great month writing wise. Two weeks ago I got the creeping crud, that had me down for days. My weekends are already off-limits for writing, and the past few days, well with Thanksgiving and my daughter being home from college . . . there hasn’t been much wordage accomplished.

I did however manage a fair amount of handwriting the story in my trusty spiral notebook. Have pen will travel!  While football was on . . writing or crocheting.  While the bird cooked . . . writing.  While the rolls were rising. . . writing.  OH! Then there was a great inspirational  burst of eighteen pages of handwritten glory.  I spent the morning dictating my  massive amount of wordage to my Dragon,  and then came up 7500 words short.  GAH!

The race was on.  Write like you’re on fire from 6 a.m. until my fingers are bloody stumps or I reach my goal. Whichever comes first.

It was a close call, but I have done it.



My 50000th word that sealed the deal – Versailles. But, that wasn’t enough for a performance oriented overachiever. NOOOOOO.  My final count is at 53, 611. The story isn’t complete, but  at least I hit my goal.  So . . . I’ve decided to go ahead and join the ranks of my writing buddies and participate in Snippet Sunday.   I’ll be sharing  just that – little snippets of Valkyrie’s Curse with you but you have to promise that you’ll leave feedback on it! If it sucks then I expect you to tell me it sucks, OK? Do we have a deal?

Much has transpired in the last few months, just in case you were wondering why I haven’t been posting.  I’ve gone from the ranks of the dual employed down to singularly employed, now I am officially unemployed.   I can’t file for unemployment however, because  the company I worked for was located out-of-state, and has not payed in Missouri taxes for the 5 years that I worked for them.  Yeah,  it was a bear at tax time.  I’m back to filling out job applications and pounding the pavement. OH the joy!

As much as I love doing this blog,  a paying job always comes first. At least until everyone buys my books and I can earn a living from the sales. OOH! That reminds me, about my book Red Wine & Roses;  I’ve been nominated on the Best of the Best for 2015 for five categories! The  categories close today for the next round, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I  will still be in it for at least one of the categories.  The categories that I was nominated for are:

  • Favorite Book of 2015
  • Favorite Contemporary Romance 2015
  • Favorite Romance Author 
  • Favorite Debut Book
  • Favorite Contemporary Romance Author

I am thrilled and excited to be nominated even if I don’t make the top ten to go into the next round.  Also, I was invited as honored guest at the Library Book Club, and they chose my book for their December read – YAY!!!    I dare say, I may have to let it slip that I was nominated.  SQUEEEEEE!   Just a moment of excitement there, I promise not to get  egomaniacal on you!

With this writing abandonment this month, it has  had me reflecting on my past NANO projects. My first NANO in 2011 I wrote Kiss of the Dragon. Some of you may remember the excerpts I shared from that one. It is definitely a paranormal fantasy. I edited, revised and tweaked that one multiple time, having submitted it to three different publishers where it was rejected. I shelved it.  Then there was my Pirate tale, Cabin Fever which I did not win at NANO, then shelved it, incomplete out of frustration. I’m not sure what  I can do with that one because one of my former associates took my idea and ran with it, publishing  his version as an erotica. Do I trash it,  try to revise it?  I don’t know.  Last year’s NANO winner was the first Valkyrie’s Curse, which started as a short serial installment on the group blog I formerly managed, Storytime Trysts.  It was supposed to be scary, which it failed.  It was supposed to be romantic/erotic, which it failed. What it  is though, is an action adventure with  the best antagonist that I have ever come up with.  If Hannibal Lechter gave you the creeps,  then  Dr. Sheffield will set your teeth on edge.

What to do with my drawer full of projects?  I am pursuing publication of Valkyrie’s as a series because  it has grown from the feeble serial posted on Storytime to  a full-blown novel, and  now a  whole series of seven books.  NaNoWriMo has been a great catalyst for me to get the first draft down.  I would in no way feel that  any of my NANO drafts were publishable, but as a great writer once said “You can’t edit what isn’t written. Although this year has been a trial for me,   with this final push I did it.

What this tells me is that each of us,  me, you . . . ALL of us can do more than we think we can.


We CAN achieve our goals.  

We can accomplish our dreams. 

The new year is coming up fast which is the perfect time for goal setting. I’ve accomplished a few things on my list,  but not as many as I would have liked to. Start thinking now as to what  you want to accomplish in the coming year.  Take ten minutes today to evaluate this year and what you would like to change in your life for next year. Aren’t you worth ten minutes?  YOU BET YOU ARE!

Write on my friends,  write on!

Till next time ~~~~~



NANO Novelists

It happened. A nonwriter asked the question “What’s the point of NaNoWriMO anyway?”

“30 days of literary abandon, 50000 words in a month. OR in other words to write a book in a month.”

“Pffft. Right. Like anyone can actually write a book in a month.” She rolled her eyes discounting the efforts of some 30000 people. I was mildly annoyed.

“It’s getting the first draft down.  I’m not saying that it is publishable by the end of 30 days, but that it is written. Any good writer knows they need to edit their work.”  I add a note to my character pages, an expendible character that will die in the next chapter that bears a striking resemblance . . . 

She sipped her coffee with her jaw in a stern line before asking.”Do you actually know anyone that has finished  and published a book from NaNo?”

“Why yes I do!”


Foul is Fair (Book I in the Fair Folk Chronicles) is a Young Adult contemporary fantasy novel.


Lots of girls play Fairy Princess when they’re little. Megan O’Reilly had no idea the real thing was like playing chess, guitar, and hockey all at once.

Megan had known for a long time that she wasn’t an entirely typical girl. But living with ADHD—and her mother’s obsessions—was a very different thing from finding out she wasn’t entirely human. Somewhere out there, in a completely different world, her father needs help. There’s a conflict, revolving around Faerie seasonal rituals, that could have consequences for humanity—and if Megan’s getting the terminology straight, it sounds like her family aren’t even supposed to be the good guys. As she’s further and further swept up in trying to save her father, Megan may be getting too good at not being human.

Buy Link:

Excerpt (PG):

“So…” Megan asked, finishing a bite of the sandwich Lani made her and occasionally wincing at the disinfectant being applied to her arm. “My dad is what, ’80s David Bowie? Glammed up, stealing babies, turning into owls?”

Lani frowned. “Sort of, but don’t get me started on owls.”

“What is your problem with owls?”

“I’m not scared of them, to be clear. I’m a big girl. I just think they’re up to something”

“Okay, okay, forget the owls.”


“So aside from something about attachment issues with the father I’ve never met, exactly what’s going on? Why would someone want to kill me?”

“I’ll take this one,” Cassia said. “Faerie is all about politics and schemes. Bad blood can last a lot of centuries, and your dad is one of the major players. He’s done a hell of a job hiding you all these years, particularly after he managed to spend four years with your mom. The people who knew were either actual allies, or weren’t willing to cross him. Now that he’s missing, somebody also leaked word on who you are and where you are. As word gets out, plenty of people want to meet you—and at least a few others are just as interested in making sure you’re not around to meet. The redcap may just be the start.”

Despite the threat to her life, Megan fixated on another part of the explanation. “My dad is missing? Like, missing from, uhm, Faerie, missing?”

“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you,” Lani said. “I got some advance notice from Ashling, but not much. I knew it wouldn’t take long for more people to find out.”

“How did Ashling find out?”

“After the thing with her wings,” Cassia said, “Riocard took her in. She’s been his hunting guide for a while, when he’s not sending her to keep an eye on you.”

Megan scratched her head. “I’m having trouble keeping track of who is on what team here.”

Lani applied a little more disinfectant and started bandaging Megan’s arm. “It’s not always about teams. My dad might disagree with him a lot of the time, but it’s absolutely critical that we find your dad before Halloween and get him back where he’s supposed to be.”

“So he’s … he’s not even on your team. You’re just worried because he’s my dad?”

“Not just. I want you in on this because it’s important, and you deserve to know. But just because we’re not affiliated with the Unseelie doesn’t mean they’re not important. If I’ve learned anything from Neil deGrasse Tyson, it’s that without Autumn, we’d all freeze to death.”

“How are you trying to use science geek stuff to explain to me that… that we’re faeries?”

“Well, we’re only half.”


Jeffrey Cook

Jeffrey Cook

About the Authors:

Jeffrey Cook lives in Maple Valley, Washington, with his wife and three large dogs. He was born in Boulder, Colorado, but has lived all over the United States. He’s the author of the Dawn of Steam trilogy of alternate-history/emergent Steampunk epistolary novels and of the YA Sci-fi thriller Mina Cortez: From Bouquets to Bullets. He’s a founding contributing author of Writerpunk Press and has also contributed to a number of role-playing game books for Deep7 Press out of Seattle. When not reading, researching, or writing, Jeffrey enjoys role-playing games and watching football.

katepicKatherine Perkins lives in Mobile, Alabama, with her husband and one extremely skittish cat. She was born in Lafayette, Louisiana, and will defend its cuisine on any field of honor. She is the editor of the Dawn of Steam series and serves as Jeff’s co-author of various short stories, including those for the charity anthologies of Writerpunk Press. When not reading, researching, writing, or editing, she tries to remember what she was supposed to be doing.






Pirate Princess by Catherine Banks (written NaNoWriMo 2014, published 11/2/15)

Pirate Princess was written during NaNoWriMo 2014. I had challenged myself to write 100,000 words in November instead of the normal 50,000 word goal. I exceeded 100,000 words on Day 14 and ended on Day 22 with 122,964 words.

Pirate Princess’ Blurb: As the daughter of the Pirate King, Tilia Swanson has an unusual upbringing learning skills that aren’t often available to women. As the heir apparent for the Kingdom of Crilan, her skills set her apart as she is trained by the best in the land and taught to harness her magic. However, piracy is in her blood, and draws danger to Tilia in the way that treasure draws pirates. Some treasures are more valuable than others. Will this lesson be learned in time or will the betrayal of those around her be her undoing?

NaNoWriMo can seem daunting and unobtainable when you first look at it, but even if you don’t finish, at least you tried! I recommend anyone who has ever considered writing to join in this free challenge. You may surprise yourself like I did and write more than your original goal. If you just write 1,667 words a day for 30 days you’ll end up with a 50,000 word novel! Try to find your writing style, I’m a pantser so I can’t plan things out or I end up not writing as much as I would have without planning. Just give it a try and try to think positively. Fifty words in a novel is more than the person who decides not to participate just because they “might” fail. So join NaNoWriMo and if you’d like to add me as a buddy, my username is cbanks. Happy writing!







Createspace (paperback):




Christopher Cullum is living at home. He works fast food. His mom does his laundry, but she’s ready to move on. If he doesn’t accomplish something notable soon, she may invoke some tough love. He may even have to clean his own room.

If he can write a novel in a month and get it published, maybe he can continue living at home. Unfortunately, Christopher is more in love with his main character, Elsa, than he is with writing. His book won’t get finished by itself—and neither will his laundry.

When he falls through a plot hole into the pre-published world, he finds character Figments who aren’t very happy with the Writers who’ve made their lives a literal hell just to finish a story. To top it all off, that plot hole he fell through is eating up the very fabric of space-time-space. Can he survive parody flux, plot bunnies, and Nana Romo to get back to his own world before he destroys the written one?



The night lead them too a throne room, oh penned the door, and mow shunned them inn sighed.

As soon as the door closed behind them, something clicked back into place and they gave a collective sigh of relief.

“You didn’t think I’d let that continue in my throne room, did you?” Ellie was human again and sitting on the throne. “How annoying.”

“Why would you do it at all?” Christopher asked. “That’s…”

“Evil?” The queen laughed. “Exactly the point. Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like my crown back. In exchange, I’ll give you a free pass to your destination.”

“If you’re evil, why would you do that?” Elsa asked archly.

“Boredom, my dear. Besides,” she fingered the necklace around her pale white throat, “I like being the most evil being here. If he stays, who knows what kind of evil would show up.”

Eric looked at the crown in his hands, then at Elsa and Christopher. He sighed. “Just when I get something nice.” Dragging every step, he walked up to the throne and returned the crown.

“That’s better.” Ellie settled the crown on her head. Her elaborate hairdo immediately styled itself around the crown. “Time to die.”

“But you said…”

“I’m sorry. Did you miss the part about being evil?” The queen clicked her tongue. “Honestly, I cannot understand why anyone trusts me. It’s like you’ve never read a book before.”

Christopher blushed. “I read books. Sometimes. I have to read for classes.”

The queen waved a hand airily. “Not my concern. Time to die. If you could scream a bit, I do like that part.”

zanzibar zAuthor Bio:

Zanzibar 7. Schwarznegger is a fictional Figment-Writer who escaped through a plot hole into the real world. He resides somewhere on the west coast of the United States and moves frequently under the Character Witness Relocation Program. He has spawned a number of plot bunnies, tribbles, and squirrels. His hobbies include oxymoronic acrostics, weekend adverbial warfare, and braving the terrors of parody flux on a dare. He occasionally remembers to update his website.


Twitter: @Zanzibar7Writer


Three very different stories by three very different authors. Hail NaNo-ers! (Oh and did you notice that Zanzibar named her evil queen after me????  I do love that part!)  Support your NaNo authors!

Now it’s time for another character to die in my newest NaNo novel.

Write on my friends, write on!


A String of 30 Lights

book art

book art

Over on my friend’s blog, she’s talking about NaNoWriMo. I left her a comment at Cathy Brockman’s blog. You’ll find my comment below,  only expanded because sometimes, I have a lot to say about a specific thing.

This is what Cathy asked: When you are choosing a book, how important is the title to you?

I know that was the main point of her post,  but my mind went in a different direction because you know, one idea leads to another, then another, then you have a chain and pretty soon  it’s like a string of Christmas lights. She started off her post by discussing the difference  between a plotter and a pantser. This is what fueled the ignition, that started the  train moving.

I am a plotanser. I’ve used both methods in the past. The first time I did NANO in 2011, I totally pantsed it. Just off the top of my head, all I had to work with was an initial scene that a conversation with my eldest daughter had sparked about a dragon complex, hoarding gold. The light bulb went off, the writing frenzy began, and I exceeded the word count by a LOT. I mean a LOT. The goal is 50000 words,  I hit somewhere in the 90000 range.  However, I had to throw out a bulk portion of that wordage because it didn’t progress the story. It helped me to get to know my characters, it helped to understand their world, and it helped me in the practice of writing. It is painful to cut out large chunks of what you ‘have written’. It was discouraging. The next time, I plotted. I plotted to the nth detail. No deviations. I had a map and I had a destination but somewhere along the line, the thrill of writing the story, letting it unfold was lost in completely planning it and that story still sits unfinished.

Now, I use a skeletal structure plot with key points, which allows me to be creative. That’s what works for me. Let me expound for a moment.

I try to  think through my story using the 3 Act method. Of course, I can’t just follow that so I end up with a four act  method.

Act 1 – Establish the character, show the MC in their before life. This is how they are now.  There is something missing that they need to change. At the end of the first act is the inciting incident that launches the story.

Act 2 A – the MC tries to deal with inciting incident in their old ways and fail, something has to change. they fumble, meet with failure, get frustrated, angry,  and  by midpoint – MC has a false sense of comfort because they  think they can handle it but can’t. This is the point that they come face to face with the fact that change must happen.

Act 2B – things get worse. Consequences to the not changing are happening. They feel the squeeze. The only thing that makes us change is force. How is the MC handling that force? Emotional overload, stress overload. Change is forced.

Act 3 – They are either resolved to change or fight it every step of the way then reluctantly changing. If they have made the change then they overcome.  If they have not then they ultimately fail. Happy ending? OR Noir?

Think about it. Next time you sit down and watch a movie,  or  a tv show, test  it against the above.

From this I develop my skeletal outline breaking out into chapters.  Each chapter is a point that progresses the story.  Within a chapter may be multiple scenes that occur. On the current WIP I had 18 chapters. I broke these chapters down to 30 points, following Lazette’s method  for her 30 points of light! My points aren’t as laser focused as hers. I’ve made it my own.

For Valkyrie’s Curse: Trial of Aegir, the second book in my Valkyrie’s series, here’s a brief look at Act 1.

Act 1

  • Chapter 1
  1. Glowing Amber
  2. Super Hero Dreams
  • Chapter 2
  1. Playing Catch Up
  2. Discovering the gifts
  • Chapter 3
  1. Recurring dreams of paradise/Giant snake
  • Chapter 4
  1. Relationships
  2. Aella’s map
  • Chapter 5
  1. Atlantis

Keypoints that give me  a prompt for the day,  that keep me on track for the story, and  point in the general direction of the end. For the most part,  it works. But  sometimes I end up spending more time on one point than simply covering that point. For November 2nd, I wrote a volume of words to open the scene and set the stage, before I ever got to point one. Stage setting is important as well.

And in all of that,  I never did get to the point that Cathy asked about covers.  As to purchasing books –  I’ll buy a book if I like the title and conversely won’t buy a book if the title sounds lame.  As to my own books,  sometimes the title comes easily, other times I toil over them.  While revising my next to be released book Valkyrie’s Curse, I was inspired to expand it. It has now blossomed into a  7 part series. I’m using nano to get the first draft down for book 2 of that series. I toiled over the titles for quite some time on this, aggravating my close circle of friends until they were sick of me. While I was lamenting, trying to be oh so clever with titles one of those friends made a suggestion that was absolutely Brilliant.

I latched on to that puppy with both hands!

By the way,  the recipes will continue tomorrow.  I’m feeling rather ill today, and the idea of food pictures is . . .  even writing it made my stomach lurch.

Write on my friends, write on!






Rib Stickin’ Goodness – Part 1

This isn’t a food blog. I’ve never shared recipes before today, but hey. . . change is good, right?

Recently we’ve made some dietary changes. I’ve completely changed the way I’ve been cooking. I’m sure I’ve shared before I’m a pretty darn good cook. I’m never going to be on Master Chef, and I’m ok with that. I can create a fabulous meal with minimal ingredients.  I’ve had years of practice. Sometimes even the best household chef gets into a rut. This is when a change  can be good.  I have learned a few things from that show and enjoy watching it and sometimes get inspiration for recipes.

We’ve made the decision to go meatless for a time. Let me be clear here, we are not vegetarians, not vegans.  This was a decision made for various reasons.  I have to say that although I am enjoying the variety of new dishes, I’m looking forward to sinking my teeth into some Thanksgiving turkey!

A few observations before I share the recipes.

  1. I feel better.  My stomach has not been churning or upset over the past two weeks of our new eating plan.
  2. These meals are surprisingly filling!  (Honestly, as a dedicated carnivore I was shocked.)
  3. Meatless meals cost (in general, there are the exceptions) less than with meat.
  4. I’ve lost a few pounds, felt fuller after meals, and feel more energetic.  Coincidence or not – just being honest.

These are not necessarily low-calorie,  but some are. My plan is to share with you 2 recipes a day this week, until Friday. Since it is November,  I  feel compelled to include NANOWRIMO into my repertoire.  I hope the Friday posts help encourage those who are  interested or participating in NANOWRIMO.

As kitchen manager, general dietitian, and master chef of the household, I spend a little time each week preparing a menu before shopping.  I shop from the menu, so that I have what I need on hand and reduce the amount of trips to the store, which in turn cuts down on impulse purchases. Yes, we use that nasty word here –  budget. I seldom buy convenience or prepackaged foods.  I also prepare my meals from scratch. It doesn’t really take that much time and the food tastes so much better.  Like Papa John says – better ingredients, better pizza.  OR in my case better meals all around.

Cost savings, no preservatives, fresh wholesome foods, and a sense of satisfaction for providing for my family. Yes, I am creative in the kitchen as well.

Alright, let’s get down to it then. Meatless meals. My definition for meatless –  it does not contain animal flesh, to include red meats, wild game, poultry, or aquatic (fish, mollusks, shrimp, lobster, etc) I do include dairy and eggs.  (No animal gave its life in the production of these meals!)

Hearty Vegetable Soup

Hearty Vegetable Soup

Hearty Vegetable Soup    

(7 on a scale of 10)

small bunch of parsley, finely chopped

1/2 onion, chopped                                 one clove of garlic, minced

2 stalks celery, chopped                         cayenne pepper

Black pepper                                          3 carrots chopped, ½ head of cabbage, shredded

Ginger                                                    4 cups vegetable broth

2 TBSP tomato paste                             2 cups water

½ cup pearled barley                             1 cup lentils, dry

2 TBSP olive oil

Pour olive oil into skillet. Saute onion and celery. Once onions are translucent add garlic and other seasonings to taste. (approximately ½ tsp each, but I add a dash more cayenne)  Add carrots.

Simmer  while adding broth to dutch oven. Bring to low boil.  Add lentils and barley. Add in the vegetables from the skillet. Cook for 20 minutes stirring occasionally.  Add in tomato paste, and 2 cups of water as the lentils and barley will have soaked up some of liquid.  Add in cabbage, and half of chopped parsley.  Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Top with parsley after serving.

This soup is 175 calories for 1 ½ cup serving. Surprisingly filling!

3 Cheese and Spinach Calzones

3 Cheese and Spinach Calzones

Three Cheese and Spinach Calzones.
(I’ll give this one an 8 on a scale of 10!)

1 package(10 ounce) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 cup shredded fontina cheese
1/2 cup ricotta
1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
3 scallions, chopped
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 egg lightly beaten
I tube refrigerated pizza crust. ( I make my own from scratch, but store-bought is much easier and faster)
1 cup marinara sauce.

Preheat oven to 375. In a large bowl combine first 8 ingredients.Unroll pizza crust into an 11 inch square. Cut into four squares. Spoon mixture over half of each square (diagonally because you’re making triangles)Fold the other half over, and pinch edges closed. I make a small slit on top so it vents. Bake for 15 minutes. Serve with warmed marinara.

1 calzone with 1/4 cup of marinara sauce is 540 calories.  served with a salad,   this is a very filling meal!

This was a big hit with the family and even got the approval of my meat and potatoes husband. Now that the weather is cooler,  I don’t mind heating up the kitchen to experiment with new recipes.  Tired of our usual fare,  this  dietary change has been  a welcomed change.  When the schedule gets crowded,  I tend to revert to the old standards, where routine turns into a rut.  I hate ruts.

Give these a try and let me know what you think!  Would you like to see more recipes from my kitchen? Has anyone tried any of the recipes that are featured in the mini cookbook at the back of Red Wine & Roses?  What???  You didn’t know there was a cookbook in the back?

A little bonus feature for my readers!

Write on my friends, write on . . . and eat well!