Trailblazing on the Wine Trail!

Girl Wearing Walking Boots Hiking Up A Mountain

I mentioned last year some time that I was working on a wine tour  tie in for a book tour.  For those that don’t know, Missouri has some of the best wineries! There are several wine trails, numerous wineries,  and wonderful locations to visit.

Fall is just around the corner, can you believe it? I’m looking forward to the cooler weather for certain!

Our local town is having an Oktoberfest celebration. That centers around beer,  but we may have to participate in it anyway.

These celebrations and special events at the wineries are lining up during the cooler fall months,  which  holds a great deal of potential for possibilities. This is where my planner comes in. Just when you thought I had set aside the bullet journal, it resurfaces.

If it weren’t for my bullet journal I’d be drowning by now with numerous balls dropped. Sadly I had to admit I dropped a few even with the planner but that was because of my own overachiever tendencies. I”m juggling as fast as I can. I have made myself a promise that I can’t add any new balls to the  act until the others are taken out of rotation either by completion or being dropped. I hate to drop them. I really hate to drop them. I am doing better about not taking on new projects.

Thanks to my morning writing buddy, she has encouraged me to focus on one project at a time.  In doing so, I have been breaking down the tasks in my planner. This is really working well for me. It’s more than a to-do list.  using the calendar to schedule dates that I should accomplish specific tasks from the overall project have helped me progress forward. Ideally, I should be able to just do it but that isn’t the case. Left to my own I find  creative time-wasting activities that do not help in progressing me towards my goals.

I would think that the older I get, the more second nature these things would be but it seems to be the opposite. I can’t wing it like I used to. I have to make myself a list or I forget. I must have a list to keep myself on task when my mind is wanting to do anything else.

Yesterday I sort of spilled the beans about my latest project. In working on this, it has  rekindled the fires that I had nearly let go out.  Renewed, invigorated, and  reminded how I’ve let myself become derailed. No problem, set a new course! The only problem is I find myself in a situation akin to my first encounter of orienteering. For those of you who don’t know, orienteering is a sort of race where you are given a compass and a map and you find your way to the specific markers in a specific order in a timed event. Picture this, a fourteen year old girl, her stodgy teacher, a compass shared between us and a map. I got the map. I didn’t care about the compass. I understood maps. A topographic map of the park where the event was held with a trail marked on the map. Easy peasy right? WRONG!

Things look different at ground level than from a bird’s-eye view. We found ourselves in a thicket of brambles that blocked the direct path (a short cut because I was a newbie and we had taken a long time to find the first marker) to the second marker. No problem. We’d simply go around. Going around involved climbing up  a six-foot embankment, crossing a shallow creek then ascending the embankment on the opposite side. The opposite side was muddy. It was slippery and  we ended up going further upstream to climb up,  where the water had deepened in the small creek to about ten feet across, maybe six feet at the deepest point.. We managed to climb out of the creek bed and find the path at the top. It was a short distance to where the marker was. YAY! I ran in my enthusiasm towards it,  not hearing the yells of the teacher until it was too late and my head banged into a low hanging hornet’s nest. Literally a hornet’s nest! They were instantly pissed and on the attack. We ran back towards the creek, basically taking a flying leap from the top of the embankment. We waited out the hornets but not before several got us both. We still had three more markers to find and we were way behind schedule.

Let me just say, I have learned to listen to my teachers since then. We were soaking wet, with several hornet stings, and our map was now useless as it deteriorated in the water.  Just before dark,  the group had sent out a search party for us. My teacher had twisted his ankle climbing back up from the creek, so we were moving slower than ever. I never went back for a second attempt, I was too embarrassed at my failure.  I was fourteen. Today I would take the map and compass and find my way through their stupid maze and be done.

So how is it similar? So glad you asked.  That point where we found ourselves faced with a hedge of brambles blocking our path, then having to detour around. . . yup I’m right back there again. Well, I was.  LIke I said, in working on this project, I’ve rekindled the fires.

YOu don’t realize the fire is dwindling until you are left with just embers that are about to die out. I have to retrace some steps and find a new route. I can do this. You can do the same in your own life. It’s never to late to make changes unless you are si feet under. We aren’t there yet so there is still time to do some trail blazing!

Any day above ground is a good day!

Write on my friends, write on!




Life is constant chaos.  It throws curve balls at you,  it throws spit balls at you,  then when you’re expecting a  curve you get a speedball.

Do you ever wonder if  there is someone up there dropping trouble into a machine like they use at a batting cage?  NO? No one but me?

I tell you what, sometimes it seems  that would be more logical than what is truly going on.

I was expecting to dodge, parry, thrust and  my thrust was misdirected due to a secondary dodge and pivot. I try to anticipate, but more often than not I end up on the defense instead of offense. This is where that part of me that likes plan and order goes nuts.

Enter the magical powers of the bujo – my sanity keeper. Well, attempted sanity keeper.

For this month, I tried a new thing.

20160527_062525A weekly spread seemed like a good idea at the time.  It’s all right there and I wouldn’t be redundant in my daily to do lists.








But no.

As it turns out,  this wasn’t such a good idea. I entered a few things,  but for the most part, I  ignored it and fell into old habits.  Those habits that I worked so hard to break. The ones that kept me  in the same  loop time after time.

One feature that I do like however, is that little box in the middle of the right-hand page.  See that space called word count?  YES!   My weekly total for May 30 through June 5th – 7,321. For the week of June 6 thru June 12 however,  my word count for the week went up to 10,083 with a whopping 6352 for one day. This week I had one day with a word count of 6214, and a total for the week of 12,608. Do you see the trend?  Do you see the increase?  This part is working much better for me than the graph chart for the month.

Next month I’m going back to daily entries,  but I am going to figure out a way to incorporate this little gem. I like the freedom to doodle when I want. I like the idea of order and structure. It seems like the right thing to do but I find it inhibitive.  I would rather have the same to do list practically every single day, because face it –  life is routine most of the time and days blur into each other out of routine – than  have a sterile planner that I don’t use.

I think most of my friends would agree, this isn’t me.  The previous pages I’ve posted are more me. A little messy, a little artsy, a little order, . . . but all me. This is an idealistic  outline, sort of what I do with my books.

This is the backbone – the place to start.  Then we build from there. Will it have long legs? short legs? Will it have a tail?  domestic or wild?  Who knows what  it may morph into, but I can guarantee that it’s not  as simple as  this weekly layout. If you notice,  I had to  jazz it up a bit with a couple of flowers.

The section for Funky Junk –  that’s our resale business. I like that as well, as this past week I have some  great tips written down there.  I am considering  making a single page entry for our home business instead of just a little box. That way,  I can write down all those little tips and tricks and business ideas in the same place.

A bullet journal is a personal tool that can be adapted to meet your needs.  You don’t have  to do it the same way I do. Which is a good thing,  because I don’t have it all figured out yet either. I’m still molding mine to fit my hand.

Adapt, overcome, improvise!

You know the best part about a bullet journal as opposed to a preprinted planner?  It’s changeable. The outlines are unwritten. Nothing lays before my eyes but blank squares on a page, waiting to be transformed into a bright future.  You should write that down, that’s good stuff right there.

That’s all each of us have, each day of our lives –  blank squares  waiting to be transformed.

I should use that in a book!

Write on my friend, write on!



5 Reasons Why We Fail

If you’re anything like me, new  ideas run through your brain constantly. Sometimes, we come across a true gem that we just can’t stop thinking about – because it’s Brill!

Come on, you know what I’m talking about.

All rights reserved to artist Sarah McAtee.

All rights reserved to artist Sarah McAtee.

 Constant brainstorming, rapid note taking, and visions of success are all symptoms of this sort of “genius moment”.  I obsess, can’t think of anything else, skip meals, get sweaty palms. . . and sometimes other symptoms as well including visions of grandeur, best case scenario, maximum outcome positive thoughts.
But then, a few days later or even a month or so the motivation behind the spectacular grand idea just seems to die and never evolves into the next step.  Or you bounce the idea off of a realist and they bring you back down to earth, outlining sometimes in detail why it won’t work.  Sometimes, it’s not even subtle they just poke your big balloon with a giant pin and you feel like crying.
OK maybe you don’t feel like crying but I often do.  Then the evil voice inside my head starts in on it and viciously tears apart any good that I could have ever imagined was in that stupid idea.

I am my own worst critic, and am a confessed self defeatist.

It’s rather sad, because some of those ideas are serious money-making material.
If we can get a grasp on why we repeat this cycle over and over and over again,  we can escape that matrix and build momentum taking our lives to the next level.
So, here are 5 reasons why the ideas in our head ends up in our own slush pile:
1. We Don’t See Any Immediate Results
 Let’s face it, we have become a microwave generation.  In fact the microwave just isn’t fast enough anymore. Instant messaging, drive thru orders, instant search on google, it’s what we are used to.
Ideas take time to grow. Quitting or giving up before there’s even a bud on the vine is a guaranteed way to kill a great idea.  Remember what your goals are and why you were so excited about your idea in the first place.
One trick I learned is to make a road map.  Brainstorm, mind map whatever you call it. Get it down, and out of your head.  Create an outline, a business plan whatever it takes to see what it takes to make the idea become a  plan. Think about transitioning this to a dream board to see your plan to fruition.
Write down the steps it will take to get to where you want to go.  You’ll see you’re only in the beginning phases of the entire process. But, seeing the rest of your “roadmap” (including your goal) on paper will  give you the boost you need to keep going.
2. Uncertain What To Do Next
 This happens all of the time, but it shouldn’t stop us. It’s just the first hurdle, and we just have to do a little more research (or simply ask someone for help!), in order to jump over it.
Also, you can go back to your “roadmap” and see what the next steps are. Remember to take things one step at a time. Often the details will work themselves out as you near the next step.
“Cinch by the inch, hard by the yard.”
3. We Just Don’t Care Anymore
 For whatever reason, you’ve lost sight of why you’re working so hard. When it comes to motivation, here’s what you can do:
  • Remember why you were so excited about your idea in the first place! Envision what life will be like at the end of the tunnel. Revisit the gem, ooh shiny!  Get yourself motivated.  (And people think I’m a dork for posting my self motivational stuff!) Journaling can really help with this  because you have a written reference documenting your excitement in the beginning. Revisit it,   it might breathe the enthusiasm back into your plan.
  • Read an inspirational book. One of my favorites is The 4-Hour WorkWeek, by Tim Ferriss.  I also like Michael Hyatt and Dan Miller.
  • Display your favorite quotes. At my desk, I have this quote posted up on the wall next to my computer: “The Harder I Work, The Luckier I Become.”
  • Reading that always gets me going again.  My favorite is framed, done in Calligraphy, very simple.  It says “If not now, when?” Now that I am reminded of that,  I will have to go find that one as it was moved when I relocated  my “office” to a real desk and not at the kitchen table.
  • Talk it out with someone. If you’re feeling low on energy, sometimes all we need is a pick me up from a buddy. That’s why so many people say it’s a lot easier to go to the gym or stay on a diet if there’s someone else there with them. My Facebook writing friends are the best on the planet.  I’ve been in a local group, and it was a bunch of posturing peacocks.  Everyone looked down their nose at me because I was green.  It’s ok though because I’ll have the last laugh, I already have in some measure.  I find that I often need a sounding board.  My husband is willing,  but when I am firmly in the grasp of the brainstorm frenzy describing my ideas, my eyes glistening with zeal, my husband is looking me like Martin in Finding Nemo – she’s speaking to me and I think she’s speaking English, her lips are moving but I can’t understand the words. Sometimes I wonder if he gets glimpses of the sick depravity that is in the recesses of my mind and isn’t working on his plan for what to do when I finally snap.
  • Take a quick break. We often work on something so much that we forget why we’re doing it. Take a day or two off, and you’ll often see the motivation come back in no time.

4. We’re Not Certain if Our Idea is as Great as We Thought it Was

Maybe you’re having second-thoughts about your idea. Maybe it’s not as awesome as you thought. This is the thought that pops into my head more often than the others and it’s definitely a downer. It’s the reason I have dozens – yes dozens, and that is probably a gross understatement – of unfinished projects.  If I were to sit down and finish every book, every poem, and every article that I started, I would be much further along.  This is part of my plan for the coming years, to finish what I’ve started.
But here’s what you can do to keep your idea alive.
Simply put – think positive thoughts.
Have you ever heard of “The Law of Attraction”?
It basically states that people’s thoughts dictate the reality of their lives. In other words, think positively, and positive things will happen to you. Good juju in – good juju out!
I find it ironic that this is a Biblical principle, but the world is more attune to this than Christians.
“For as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Proverbs 23:7 
It takes a secular book like The Secret to get Christians off their duff, and in an uproar over a concept that the world grasps – The Law of Attraction –  before  they will ever consider that they should be following the same basic philosophy.  It isn’t difficult to figure out really, If you think you are worthless,  you behave as if you are worthless. If you believe that you are a person of value, then you carry yourself, value yourself, and work towards achieving  the goals that you have within you.  If you want positive results then  stay your mind on positive things. Makes sense to me.
Also, you have to realize that you’re not going to succeed unless you give it a shot. What’s the worst that can happen? If you’re doing business online, the worst is probably not as bad as you think it could be.  If it’s getting published, seriously take a look at some of the stuff that has been published and ask yourself if they can get published, then surely I can too.
5. We See Someone Else Doing Something Similar, and It Seems Better: we Lose Hope
Okay, so someone “stole’ your idea, or beat you to it. Either way, it doesn’t matter. Here’s why:
  • That fact that you see someone else doing something similar to what you had in mind is actually a good thing! In fact, it shows that it IS a great idea, that others are already using it to make money for themselves. There’s a proven market for it, and now it’s your turn to join in.  And, no one else can tell the story inside your head, or get the exact plan that’s in your head.  Do It!  Quit being a quitter!
  • The Dry Cleaners Theory: Have you ever noticed how many dry cleaners there are in one location? Here in St. Louis, there are over 100s (according to the yellow pages). My point is this: you don’t need have a unique idea in order for it to succeed. And if there’s a need for something, there’s always room for more options and solutions in the market. This is a concept that has been conveyed with affiliate marketing. You don’t need to control the market, you can do quite well with 5% of the market!
  • Lastly, all you have to do is build a better mouse trap. Put some thought into why people will choose to visit your website, read your content, and purchase from you, instead of someone else.  Spend some time asking yourself if you are a writer:  Would I read this? Would I spend my money on this?  What can I do to make it better?  Does it have enough plot twists? If it’s nonfiction, have I given factual data and clear instructions?  Think – engage your brain.

I hope you will agree that staying on course hurdle jumping is the backbone for the success of any business or blog, which is why I spent some extra time today. Truth be told it’s my own personal self motivational talk.  I just let you listen in because I’m a freaking awesome motivational teacher! Just ask my students from CS.

Work hard, play hard.  If you spent half as much time working hard for yourself as you do for a company, think where you will be in 5 years, 10 years.  Not still in the stock room that’s for sure. When you follow through on your own plans you are working for yourself, to achieve your own goals not the goals of a corporate CEO.  Soon you will be your own CEO.  Nobody is going to work as hard for your success than you are, so what are you waiting for?
I have three potential personal assistants lined up for my next step of success.  I’m hoping interviewing will begin soon.
I used some of Pat Flynn’s material in composing this.  Thank You Pat!  It applies to the writing life so well, and to entrepreneurial ventures as well.  I have enjoyed this self-help discussion, what about you?
Leave me a comment with your next step to pursue your dreams.
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!






Blog with a Bonus – NANO help!

Five days to go until NaNoWriMo begins. Now it’s getting real.

What’s the big deal? Why are you so stoked about NaNo?  A 50,000 word novel in 30 days? Are you insane? 

The big deal for me is this: My first time doing NaNoWRiMo in 2011 was revolutionary.  It took my hobby of writing and moved me into establishing a daily habit of writing, making time for myself and my dreams, and whether I won or not,  I was amazed at what I accomplished. For the record,  I did not “win” in 2011. Not by their standards anyway.  In 2011 I did not have a daily habit of writing.  By November 30th –I was writing 1500 words per day average.  Not a great deal,  but a great deal more than I had been the previous months.

In January of 2012, I started blogging after talking with a friend I met online for nano and he  suggested that blogging was a way to “stay in practice”. I liked it. You have him to thank for my continued blogging efforts! Blogging keeps me in practice when I hit a wall in my story. When the blogs are few and far between – you know I’m head down, butt in the chair typing my little heart out! Or life has left me gutted and reeling in pain.  Or . . . both.

Why I’m stoked:  With life’s demands,  it’s very easy to get out of the habit of writing. And even though I’ve continued to write daily, I’ve let the amount I write daily slip. NaNo for me is about getting back to the basics.  Getting rid of the bad habits,  and re-establishing the  habits that bring success as a writer. It’s also kind of cathartic –  taking that deep breath and blowing out. This is what matters right now – focused writing efforts. Getting down the first draft.  In one sense, I very much consider myself a winner each and every time I do NaNo for 3 reasons:

  1. I make my writing a priority and during NaNo my family knows not to disrupt the writing mojo.
  2. There is a firm word count goal. 1667 words a day is what it takes to reach the final finish line. I tend to do more at the beginning of the month because there are days I will not be able to write  – like on Thanksgiving, unless I somehow manage to have energy at eleven at night to sit and type for about an hour.  More than likely, I will be in a deep near comatose sleep at that time. (I do the cooking and yes it takes a lot of time and effort.)
  3. The goal is to get 50,000 words –  a first draft down on paper, or virtual paper. You have to have something to work with.  I’ve hit 50K and wasn’t finished with the story. Never the less,  I had the words down.  Which means there is something to work with for  revisions and improvements. 

OK,  I’ll admit that on more than one occasion, when I’ve tackled the revisions of that first draft I am scratching my head thinking –  what in the wide world of NaNo-dom was I thinking? Half of what I had written was rewritten or removed. However,  I had something to work with.  You can’t work with what’s not written.

You can revise anything but you can’t revise nothing.

(Kind of sounds like a Yogi-ism doesn’t it??)

A 50,000 word novel in 30 days? Are you insane?   Yes, 50,000 words  in 30 days.  30 days of literary abandon. It sounds crazy,  but in all honesty this really isn’t that much.  For the newbie that isn’t in the habit –  it’s a LOT. But to be honest,  when the writer is in the flow state –  1500 or more words in an hour are  easily obtainable. Looking at it from that perspective, for the writer that has prepared for NaNo by writing an outline, it will take approximately an hour and a half a day to achieve the goal.  I will gladly give up tv for that amount of time.  I’ll give up the internet distractions.

Let me just say here,  speaking from the voice of experience – in 2011,  I had a vague notion of what I would write. Totally pantsed it! I ended up with 85000 words written,  deleted most of it down to 47000 as pantsing it took my story down rabbit holes and trails that had nothing to do with progressing the story. Word of advice –  DO NOT DELETE!  I revised and edited as I went –  DON’T!  You can edit come December 1st. That story is still in my files, because it was such a mess.  Last year I took Lazette’s outline advice and it is GOLDEN!  I’m telling you,  this method is like the easy button for me! I have hard copy index cards paper clipped together, that I add details on the back as I think of them.  One for each day of the month. Today I will be adding more details to each one.

In regards to the second half of that question – YES! but that has nothing to do with NaNoWriMo.

Get a system that works for you and kick NaNo’s butt! Now for the BONUS,  I am leaving  you with a bit of information that might help you get your NaNo novel off the ground. It’s a bit dry,  sort of classroom lesson-ish,  but it shows you a few options.   This is bare bones, down to brass tacks but it might help you take a step in the right direction for your story.

Story Themes

All stories have these four common elements that can determine story structure:  milieu, idea, character, and event. All are present but which one dominates in your story? (The next section is copied from an article by Orson Scott Cards.)

Milieu is the world—the planet, the society, the weather, the family, all the elements that come up during your world-building phase. Every story has a milieu, but when a story is structured around one, the milieu is the thing the storyteller cares about most. For instance, in Gulliver’s Travels, it mattered little to Jonathan Swift whether we came to care about Gulliver as a character. The whole point of the story was for the audience to see all the strange lands where Gulliver traveled and then compare the societies he found there with the society of England in Swift’s own day—and the societies of all the tale’s readers, in all times and places. So it would’ve been absurd to begin by writing much about Gulliver’s childhood and upbringing. The real story began the moment Gulliver got to the first of the book’s strange lands, and it ended when he came home.

Milieu stories always follow that structure. An observer who sees things the way we’d see them gets to the strange place, observes things that interest him, is transformed by what he sees, and then comes back a new person.

This structure is most common in science fiction and fantasy, but it also occurs in other types of novels. James Clavell’s Shogun, for instance, is a milieu story: It begins when the European hero is stranded in medieval Japan, and it ends when he leaves. He was transformed by his experiences in Japan, but he does not stay—he returns to his world. Other stories are told along the way—the story of the shogun, for instance—but regardless of how much we’re drawn into those events, the real closure we expect at the end of the story is the main character’s departure from Japan.

Likewise, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz doesn’t end when Dorothy kills the Wicked Witch of the West. It ends when Dorothy leaves Oz and goes home to Kansas.

When writing a milieu story, your beginning point is obvious—when the character arrives—and the ending is just as plain: when she leaves (or, in a variant, when she decides not to leave, ending the question of going home).

Such stories are typically most effective when seen through the viewpoint of the arriving character, as she’ll be surprised by and interested in the same strange and marvelous (and terrible) things that engage the readers.


The structure is very simple: The idea story begins by raising a question; it ends when the question is answered.

Most mysteries follow this structure. The story begins when a crime takes place. The question we ask is, “who did it and why?” The story ends when the identity and motive of the criminal are revealed.

In speculative fiction, a similar structure is quite common. The story begins with a question: Why did this beautiful ancient civilization on a faraway planet come to an end? Why are all these people gone, when they were once so wise and their achievements so great? The answer, in Arthur C. Clarke’s “The Star,” is that their sun went nova, making life impossible in their star system. And, ironically, it was the explosion of their star that the wise men saw as the sign of the birth of Christ. The story is told from the point of view of a Christian who believes that this must have been a deliberate act of God, to destroy a beautiful civilization for the sake of giving a sign to the magi.

When writing an idea story, begin as close as possible to the point where the question is first
raised, and end as soon as possible after the question is answered.

Character stories focus on the transformation of a character’s role in the communities that matter most to him. Sure, in one sense, stories are almost always “about” one or more characters. In most stories, though, the tale is not about the character’s character; that is, the story is not about who the character is.

The structure of a character story is as simple as any of the others. The story begins at the moment when the main character becomes so unhappy, impatient or angry in her present role that she begins the process of change; it ends when the character either settles into a new role (happily or not) or gives up the struggle and remains in the old role (happily or not). Most romances are character stories. The story begins with the protagonist’s unhappiness at being alone. The process of change begins right away, and the protagonist either learns about themselves and  realizes they are happy with who they are with the love interest,  or they realize how the love interest has changed them and their lives for the better.

In the event story, something is wrong in the fabric of the universe; the world is out of order In all cases, a previous order—a “golden age”—has been disrupted and the world is in flux, a dangerous place.

The event story ends at the point when a new order is established or, more rarely, when the old order is restored or, rarest of all, when the world descends into chaos as the forces of order are destroyed. The story begins not at the point when the world becomes disordered, but rather at the point when the character whose actions are most crucial to establishing the new order becomes involved in the struggle. Hamlet doesn’t begin with the murder of Hamlet’s father; it begins much later, when the ghost appears to Hamlet and involves him in the struggle to remove the usurper and reestablish the proper order of the kingdom.

Almost all fantasy and much—perhaps most—science fiction uses the event story structure.

Learn from Homer—and Tolkien, and all the other writers who have handled the event story well. Begin small, and only gradually expand our vision to include the whole world. If you don’t let us know and care about the hero first, we won’t be around for the saving of the world. There’s plenty of time for us to learn the big picture.

(The 4 Story structures that dominate novels by Orson Scott Card, August 24, 2010 for Writer’s Digest)

What type of story are you writing?

Write on my friends, write on!

Don’t Despair! Persevere!


The first week of  NaNoWriMo is finished.  the target word count as of midnight on November 8th is 13,333 words. This is where many begin to doubt themselves, to give up, or realize that writing isn’t as easy as most people think.  In the Facebook NaNo group, there was a few people who suddenly realized they had no plot, no purpose to their story. A few others  found gaping holes in their plots. This is why I plot mine out now.  The first year I was a total pantser! My story was all over the place.  I free wrote whatever came to my mind and my characters  were having quite a riotous adventure.  Danger and daring do’s – but at 78,000 words I realized that  nearly half of it was not essential to the story.  In fact that bulk is part of another story in a series.

One week in and most are beginning to feel the strain of writing on a schedule.  This is the point where we need some encouragement,  a voice of experience, a nudge or stroke to our ego.

My guest today is Stephanie Wideman. I love her spirit.  I hope that  she will encourage you!

Hi! I’m Stephanie Wideman and I’ve been a Nano Participant for five years now. I finished my first novel in 2009, and this year, I’m finally publishing it. When preparing for Nano, I am a plotter. I must plan everything, and I normally start planning around August. I simply must have all my notes in order, my outline finished, my research completed, etc., before I begin. The years I’ve tried pantsing it, I failed miserably. Barely a page in and I spent the rest of November staring at my screen in despair. Thus, I plot.

Take my upcoming novel, IONA, for instance. I thought it would be easy. It’s just a rewrite of the myth of Eros and Psyche. All the characters were there, the story was there, I barely had to do any research. Right? Wrong. I spent months hunting down every version of the myth possible, poured over maps of Greece (and then set it in space because I got lazy), and read up on Ancient Greek culture. I spent months leading up to November researching my topic so that there was little chance of me stopping in my writing to go, “Wait, would that be realistic”.

When I’m writing for Nano, I actually do my draft in a notebook. Since I work full-time and go to school full-time (yay college), handwriting is the easiest thing for me. I can pull out my notebook between classes, on lunch break, or anytime I have a few minutes. I work basically at 30 minutes to an hour at a time. On my days off, I can work longer and dedicate longer stretches to my craft. I generally lose the world when I write and concentrate on my words. I can’t say how much time I spend on average writing, but my goals is to always finish before Thanksgiving, so I write at least 2,000 words or more a day.

Nano Wrimo has some effect on my life. It obviously eats up some of my time and I have to balance between school and writing. I more often participate in Camp Nano since those months are not as busy for me. If I am lucky, I actually have more of a social life during Nano because I have a better chance to see my friends. During the year, I often get too busy to make it to regular meetings, but since my region has double the meetings during Nano, I have a better chance at making to one a week.

If I could give any tip to aspiring writers preparing for their first Nano Wrimo, it would be this: Don’t despair. There will be a lot of things thrown in your way that will make you want to scream and give up. Don’t! Keep moving forward. Your first draft will suck, you might hit a huge writer’s block, you can’t make it out to writer’s meetings, you miss your friends, life is getting in the way, your teacher just decided to dump a huge project that will take up all of November…we’ve all been there. Even if you don’t hit 50K, don’t give up. Take what you learn this year and apply it to next year. Don’t despair! Persevere!

James and I (1)
(Stephanie is the one with more hair)
Author Bio: Stephanie was born to write. At the tender age of seven, she started writing her first books in crayon. And tried selling them door-to-door. That didn’t work out, but she continued on. Next, while attending Y-Camp at the local YMCA, she started writing small five-minute plays. At eleven, she completed a whole play performed by the neighborhood children called, “The Underwater Friends”. There might still be VHS evidence in someone’s attic. After moving to Virginia in 1991, she tried once more to write. It wasn’t until she joined this strange writing event called Nano Wrimo in 2009 did she complete her first manuscript. Her first novel, IONA, the first book in the Space Station Olympus series, comes out in December of 2014. Her second book, VERUCCA VICTORIOUS, is slated to come out late 2015, and KORE, the next book in the Space Station Olympus series, is to come out late 2016. If you would like to see more on her books, stop by her Facebook page ( or her blog ( Or, drop an email at

Write on my friends, write on!

The Goal Post:

Yes, it’s that time of year.  The annual goal setting post for the coming year. NO, it’s not about football – sorry guys.


First a recap of 2013IT SUCKED BIG TIME!  Not the worst year, 2009 still holds that honor for me, but  it came in a close second.

Here’s a quick little recap for my  own sense of justification if nothing else.

  • January – food poisoning, yuck.
  • February – death of  my friend who was fleeing an abusive husband, totaled my Aztec – causing some serious  back injuries that I am still having trouble with.
  • March –  nearly overdosed with pain meds and muscle relaxers to which I  took myself off of. Felt like a victim of the t-virus.  3 Years of my work sabotaged – and  partially lost. Through friends and my  knack for making duplicate files I’ve managed to  rebuild most of it, and what I have to rewrite is better.  So there – * PFFFFFFTTTT* – Mr. Saboteur!
  • April – tested for sleep apnea, scored off the charts and finally got some much-needed sleep.( Yay April – although expensive, the testing virtually saved my life!)
  • May –  this was just a blur as the entire month was taken up with graduation  activities for my brilliant daughter.  Did I mention she won a full scholarship to SEMO?   Yeah, pretty proud of   her.  OH, and went to the doctor where he gave me the shocking news –  I’m fat.  DUH – so that’s what   this is.  I thought I was just stuck in a sumo suit. Silly me!
  • June –  a great month of futility as  I tried to regain the level of fitness I had before  my wreck, and was met with great pain.  Felt like a total loser and failure.
  • July- great improvements were made in  the sleeping, with the CPAP machine.  A stupid  Darth Vader mask at night is a small price for my life ,right?  Not very sexy, but  then again neither is a corpse.  Made  good progress in  my writing, and finally began to feel clear-headed about  matters.
  • August –  ah the bills came in for all the medical expenses that I had incurred, and the bills come due to University housing.  It’s only money right?  I can make more, can’t I?  At this rate I won’t be able to retire until I am  97!
  • September –  my first born child left home,  off to college.  It was an adjustment. Some of the injuries from the wreck have cleared, but the back pain has  become  nauseating at times.
  • October –   X-rays, and more bills.  Well,  I know now why my back hurts but the shock of seeing the medical proof that I  did in fact come very close indeed to losing my life was  a tough pill to swallow.  Injuries to my neck that may eventually lead to immobility – arggh.  A sideways S-curve  to my lower spine below the ribs and before my pelvis that wasn’t there before, an accentuated curvature to my lower back,   the last vertebrae crushed with the little knobby part sheared off and slid backwards and a fractured  pelvis that hadn’t healed.  Yeah, no wonder  I’ve been in pain.  And to top it all off you know x-rays cost a lot of money  – which my spouse was  quick to point out to me.   Yeah, not amused with him at all.
  • November –  family drama, physical therapy, emotional wringer, and  trying to function through the pain.
  • December –  I must admit the pain has diminished over the last few weeks – just in time to get hit with the flu, after a nice round of heartbreak.

Ah, but life goes on and the New Year approaches.  I’m really pulling for a better year this year. Now, y’all know I am not  typically a whiner. Sometimes life throws some  hard things your way. I’ve not posted much this year because I couldn’t find my voice to be positive a lot of times.  I gave in to the self-pity,  to the despair, and even  depression at times.  So sue me – I’m only human.

I know, y’all thought I was a goddess supreme.  Only in my fantasies sadly.  BUT, I didn’t quit.  I haven’t  quit and I won’t quit!  I am a fighter.  History is written by the victors and I intend to win!

This year has kicked my butt ten ways to Sunday, but I’m  getting up swinging.  I’m back on my feet and more determined than ever.

I’ve got plans and dreams that  no one can take from me, not fate nor any person – yeah I’m talking to you Mr. Saboteur.  It’s funny how dream killers are never content to just  let their own dreams die, they  try to destroy other people’s dreams as well.  Well Ellie is back in town and she’s going to KICK ASS!

I’ve got a lot of time to make up for and this next year is a milestone for me.  I’m not where I  intended to be and that ticks me off.  My coach assures me I’ve made progress, but I still  intend to push harder, longer, stronger, better than before.  Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and  the seven hells would not contain the fire within the woman pushed  to her limits.  I’m working on my goal list  now, it’s not complete. 50 is a big number.  It’s  sort of  the last chance workout to get this  thing right.  A spine of steel trumps a wish bone any day!

Are you working on your goals list?  Do you know what you want to accomplish in the coming year?  Or are you just going to float by day-to-day and let life pass you by?  Failure to plan is planning to fail.  I don’t work well without goals.  I tend to wander aimlessly down the path  tralala and willy nilly.  I intend to be focused and on target.  It might get a little intense at times but  so  was the pain  over this past year.  If I can survive that –  this should be a piece of cake.

Life is not a journey to the grave with the  intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “WOW, What a RIDE!”


I’m determined, how about you? Write on my friends – and have a plan!

Digging For Buried Treasure

treasure map

Quotidiandose does not own the rights to this photo. 

Goals are your friend!  A friend mentioned in a discussion before a meeting that setting goals at the beginning of the year was like a mental Garmin, or her mental Onstar system.  I can see her point.  By setting goals you’re setting your guidance system, then snapping the path to adjust for other obligations, just as you  would plan a course to drive to say The Grand Canyon.  Google maps can create a personal plan in a matter of seconds, and you have the option of adjusting your course, say for that side trip to visit The World’s Best Cone ice creamery outside of Denver.

I’d like to present another way of looking at it – it’s like your own personal treasure map.  THAT’S RIGHT!  There’s gold at the end of my map!   It’s usually not a direct path or even the most efficient path to get from point A to point B.  In my world life sometimes takes  me on a detour around mountain G, back through D,E,F, then jump over on the back road almost backtracking part of the distance to reach B.

Ever notice those treasure maps in movies or books?  I’ve never seen one with a single line from the left top corner to the bottom right hand corner.  There you go – hop a plane, fly over all obstacles and sky dive from said plane to land  safely ten feet from where a large neon flashing arrow  marks where the treasure is buried.  Doesn’t happen that way, regardless of how Lara Croft makes it look.

Typically treasure maps follow a sequence of short intervals to each landmark spot that is easily recognizable.  Treasure Island, Peter Pan, The Deep, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, National Treasure,  Into the Blue,  Sahara, Three Kings, Trespass, City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold, and Easy Come, Easy Go  are all treasure-seeking movies or books.  Nancy Drew frequently used a map.  The Nancy Drew computer games incorporate mental games and treasure maps into many of her mysteries.  Treasure hunting is big business for Hollywood.

Why not apply that principle to your own life and mine your own treasures? You may find rare gems, gold, silver, or platinum even.

But I just can’t stick to my goals.

Twenty jumping jacks while reciting “I will not say I can’t!”.  Yes, you can if it’s important to you.  Which leads us to the first point: 

  • Make sure the goal is something you really want, not just something that sounds good.  Just becasue Tiffany and Shelby are setting a goal of losing twenty pounds does not mean you need to also.   Be realistic, and evaluate your life, and set your goals accordingly.
  • Your goals should never contradict another goal.  I want a $350K house, with a swimming pool and a gated driveway.  I want to earn a promotion at my job to earn $55K this year.   Please tell me you see the irony there?  If you have this type of non-integrated thinking, please pm me, we’ll talk.    There is no way realistically you can afford the payments for a $350K house on an income of $55K unless your spouse or partner is bringing down $200K.   Living like you want to be wealthy and being wealthy are often two entirely different things.  the same applies to every area – eating anything you want because you don’t thinki t’s  fair that your friend, the little skinny minx can semingly eat anything and not gain weight while you can smell food and gain weight does not change the fact that you need to make some changes if you want to reach your goal weight.    Maybe your skinny minx friend wants to put on a good 10 pounds of toned firm muscle.
  • Write your goals in a positive light – avoid negative.   

Human psychology here – if you write down:                            Your inner child hears:

Don’t eat fried foods.                                                                      EAT fried foods.

Don’t procrastinate.                                                                        Procrastinate.

Don’t assume any more debt.                                                        Assume more debt.

Don’t spend so much time watching TV.                                    Spend much time watching TV.

We are quirky creatures, subtle nuances are often lost, and our mental games undermine our best efforts.  We have to learn to state things in the positive to “trick” our inner child.  It’s akin to the reward / punishment theory by B.F. Skinner. If we percieve it as a good thing, we are more likely to do it – hence reward.  If we perceive it as a  bad – DON’T is setting limits, it immediately prompts us to rebel – hence punishment.  If you don’t believe me think about the last diet you went on.  Let’s say it was a low carb diet, that restricted your carbs  to nothing for the first week.  What did you crave?  The very thing that was restricted. It’s the same thing with  making a resolutions – I am not allowing myself to have soda.  Dude – you just sealed your failure, you’re going to crave soda every single day until you can’t stand it. Then you are going to have more of that item  than if you’d never  restricted it.

But won’t my inner child know I’m tricking it?

Drop and give me twenty pushups counting off while saying “I will not whine!”

You’d think so wouldn’t you?  But it’s not the case.  Even though we may know  in the planning stage – ok, I have to word this in a positive light to appease “the child”,  that same child doesn’t want to focus and before you know it – ooh shiny!  Our mind is a million miles away on something else.  When the child comes back in from playing it’s all new and fresh as long as they don’t feel like we’ve set a bunch of rules:  Don’t do this, and don’t do that, and don’t do that other thing eitehr.  Instead you say:  We are going to eat tasty nutritious foods,  We are going to set a budget and allocate some for entertainment – (yeah!), We are going to tackle things right away and get them done so we have time to play.  By this time your inner child is jumping up and down wanting to be a good helper.  Just remember, children have short attention spans.

  • Write your goals down!  3% of the population utilize this little tool.  Those 3% succeed while everyone else scratches their head wondering why things went so well for the 3% and not for themselves. Meanwhile they are wandering aimlessly with no map!  You can’t find the treasure until you have the map!

Don’t argue with me just do it!  You’ll thank me some day.

Now, here’s the tricky part: Keep them private!  Do not freely share your goals with others. You do not need an opinion poll as to what others think of your goals.  I know, you want to be praised for accomplishing something and want approval from family, friends, coworkers and neighbors.  Just don’t.  Not everyone is going to agre or understand your goals.  In fact their negativity may undermine your efforts. Lemings – the lot of them.  they don’twant you to rise above, they will pull you back donw, sometimes pushing you below themselves.  Get your own self talk going, and if your goals are valid and something you really want (see first point above) you will be stoked to work towards them.

*shock face*  But, but how am I going to achieve my goals without support of others?

That’s it, we’re going on a road run.  Get on your running shoes.  While we are running you will recite the above points.

Isn’t it better to be praised for accomplishing something than seeking approval of what you plan to accomplish?  There comes a time when you have to make your own decisions and go rogue from the lemming crowd.

Review your goals frequently.  I review mine daily to keep me on task.  Of my goal list for last year, the ones that I had written down and reviewed daily were accomplished.   Visualize your goal, visualize the path your treasure map is taking you on and you’ll find these landmark obstacles aren’t really  as difficult as you thought.  If you follow this process you will be well on your way to achieving success and finding your own buried treasures.

I didn’t come up with this plan.  I have used it for so many years that I’ve forgotten where it came from.  You can probably find something similar from Zig Ziglar, or Dan Miler, or even Michael Hyatt.  It’s an old lesson but sometimes they bear repeating.  We learn by repetition, and sometimes it seems some of the things we knew fell off the back of the mental  bookshelf.

Write on my friends, and go dig for your treasures!

Mountain Climbing

Perseverance is  a good quality to have.  Determination is also a quality that will help you achieve your goals.  When perseverance is combined with determination it’s an almost unbeatable formula.  Unless it is applied to the wrong things.

In “hunker down” mode, head down determined to achieve the end, it’s not till you reach the top of the mountain that you realize you’ve been on the wrong mountain all along.   I can do this!  Pushing through the pain, setting small goals, and passing the milestones while failing to read the signs along the trail that read ‘Mt. Trouble’ instead of ‘Mt. Accomplishment’  is an unsatisfying victory.  Egg-faced and exhausted, Mt. Accomplishment still remains to be tackled.

Is it a complete loss?  Not necessarily.  Did you learn anything from the experience?  Like maybe read the signs along the way and look up once in a while?  SIGH!  The right turn at the giant sycamore led to a harrowing,  dangerous path, perhaps you learned from that little side trip. Sometimes even though we are sincerely trying, we are sincerely wrong.  I wont say it was wasted effort because there’s always something that can be learned.

We either learn not to do that again, do it in a different way, or in this case I know the steps that need to be taken to reach the top of the right mountain.  I’ll just chalk it up to experience, and practice.  Yeah, that’s my story and that’s what I’m sticking to.

It’s sort of like I got a chance to preview the terrain, a sneak peek at the course.  There may be deviations along the way because there are always subtle differences.  However, the larger scheme map is basically the same.  If you can climb one mountain, you can certainly climb another.

It doesn’t matter how high the mountain, it can be conquered.  My own personal K 2  may seem like a foothill to others, but that’s ok.  We each have our own strengths and weaknesses.  Where I’m strong, some one else may be weak.  Where they are strong is very possibly my own weakness.  When we work together we can accomplish more.  There are benefits to bringing someone else along on your mountain journey.  First of all you have a witness!  OK, when you’ve climbed the wrong mountain that may backfire but you have someone to laugh with.

Sharing our successes is even sweeter when our companion has shared in our defeats.  A true friend will rejoice with you, knowing that you’ve tried, knowing when you’ve been defeated and encouraged you along the way.  For every three mockers that said you couldn’t do it there’s at least one person that wants you to succeed.   Listen to the one that believes in you.

They are gracious enough to not beat you up when you hit the peak of Mt. Trouble.  Mine was as encouraging as possible, congratulating me on the success while subtly pointing out that the distant mountain “over yonder” was in fact the one I needed to climb, while taking a few moments to point out that I’m stronger now from my practice run.

Yeah, practice run.  I am stronger now, more knowledgeable and better able to tackle the right mountain. I’ve learned along the way and figured out how to lighten my pack from some unnecessary items.  You can guarantee that this friend is going to go with me up the mountain.  Besides, it’s never a good thing to start out alone.  Trail blazing is one thing, but when you have a course, bring along a friend.  Having someone to talk to along the way makes the trip more fun as well.

What about you?  Ever climb the wrong mountain?  Ever sincerely pursue an endeavor to find out that you were a little off course?

There’s always another mountain to climb, whether you tackle it or the practice hill, there’s always another.

Write on my friends write on!




I’m Back!

Summer is coming to an end.  School has resumed, the temperatures are finally dropping slightly, and to make it official we had rain.  After a long summer of record high temperatures and drought conditions the rain was a welcomed relief.  The kids thought it was ironic that it rained on their first day back to school.  I felt it just added closure, that the summer had wrapped up.

At the end of things I often reminisce about the highlights and lowlights. Evaluate what was right and what was wrong;  What I can do better next time, and what things should be avoided.  That’s sort of what I’m going to do here. Step into the way back machine, and here we go. . . (wavy lines across your screen.)

I have accomplished part of my goals I set at the beginning of summer, made partial progress on some, and others have . . . well, fallen by the wayside.  I should have established a firm agreement with accountability partners but I didn’t.  I have managed to drop a little more weight, but have by no means been as hard after it as I should.  Hey, I don’t deal well with triple digit temperatures.  The outdoor activities fell away quickly as the temperatures soared.  Seriously, I’ve had heat exhaustion before and put myself in that condition again even after I knew I should have just stayed inside.

Overall, though I have come to an epic decision.  This may not be such a surprise for those that know me, but it was  a shocker for my own realization. I have too many irons in the fire!  I will have to set some of them aside, for now.  Alright Penelope and Tim I see you laughing over there!

Reevaluating often means refocusing and realignment.  Definitely need that!  So, starting Monday, I’ll be starting a new schedule.  All other things will either have to fall by the wayside, be set aside for future planning or built into the schedule.   I have to schedule my priorities, then whatever makes the cut will stay, after that I don’t know when I can get to things.  Right now I’m still working on this. I have four more hours worth of stuff to cram into a 24 hour day.  I can make it work, really I can! Who needs sleep right?

In reviewing my blog, I am surprised at the posts that are the most viewed.  What did I do right, what did I do wrong?  Some of the posts that I worked on, did research for weren’t viewed nearly as much ones that were “fly by the seat of my pants” madness.  Apparently more people want to read my sarcastic wit than techniques for writing better.  Hmmm, that gives me an idea . . .

Scratch that – 6 more hours to cram into 24.  I can do it if I stock up on the coffee, figure out how to write on my phone while I’m on the elliptical, and eat my lunch while I’m showering.  It can be done I’m sure of it.  Or maybe I should just admit it and focus on only a couple of things!

Anyone else have system overload, with too many things to handle?

Write on my friends, write on.