Happy NaNoWriMo


I’m thousands of feet in the air as you read this, or I’m on the 4-hour drive from the Utah airport to my folks place in the high desert of Colorado. My parents don’t have internet, and even if they did, my time isn’t likely to be my own.

NaNoWriMo starts on Sunday, and I’ll spend my private nighttime minutes on a cot behind the sofa, cranking out a smattering of paragraphs. I expect a slow start and will make up the time when I return. For me, it’s better to just accept it, take a deep breath, and let the week unfold.

The point of this post is to graciously advise my friends in blog-land that my November presence will be intermittent.  I’ve preplanned posts for once a week. My reward for achieving my word-count goals will be some luxurious browsing of your blogs, but I know I’m going to miss many wonderful posts. For that, I pre-apologize and send everyone gigantic virtual hugs.

Oh, And Happy Halloween! Some pics that still make me laugh.

My daughter at age 2. Mother of the Overlord.

My daughter at age 2. Mother of the Overlord. She dressed herself and walked in to show me.

The Overlord as Yoda. (Wearing a costume for a dog). Ha ha!

The Overlord as Yoda. (In a costume for a dog). Ha ha! The woman behind him had blue clown hair 30 yrs ago.

I have turned off comments for this post.
Have a wonderful weekend!

Mothers and Daughters

My great great great grandmother. Her mother was Indonesian and her father was a Dutch sea captain.

My great great great grandmother. Her mother was Indonesian and her father was a Dutch sea captain.

mothers allMy mother called me and told me I need to drive to Colorado (17 hrs each way) to pick up six boxes of family heirlooms and transport them back to Oregon…Now.

The timing isn’t convenient as I’m committed to weekly babysitting for the Overlord so his mother can work, and I’ve signed up for NaNoWriMo for the first time ever. I shall write on the plane…yes, I’m traveling by plane and engaging the services of USPS for the boxes.

My mom grew up in Indonesia where my grandfather worked for the Dutch government. Our family goes back quite a few generations in that part of the world, and we are proud of the sliver of Indonesian heritage that flows through our veins.

My mother still identifies as Indonesian, an assertion that earns her an odd look from time to time. During WWII, my grandfather was interred in a Japanese POW camp. My grandmother and her children escaped that fate – because of those droplets of Indonesian blood.

When I was a girl, my grandmother told me stories of those years, of supporting her children by painting portraits of Japanese officers, of lobbing chickens over the camp wall.  My grandfather, a large man, weighed 95 lbs at the end of the war.

My mother has a few Indonesian plates and vases, batiked linens, wood carvings, and other unusual pieces that I have mused over since I was a little girl and first allowed to touch them. I like old things that are infused with history. I think about the artists who made them, my ancestors who cared for them. Some pieces go back over two hundred years to my great great grandparents. They’re part of our family heritage and as the family grows, these heirlooms will be dispersed to an ever-widening circle of descendants.

Sometime in the next year or so my parents will be relocating to Oregon to live closer to me. My mom has entered a packing frenzy and has begun giving items away in an effort to lighten the load. I asked her not to part with the family history. She doesn’t understand what I mean. She wants me there to explain and so I will go.

Writing that First Draft

troll enwikipediaorgNaNoWriMo looms. My outline has taken shape. The terrain of a new world sprawls before me, rife with civilization. Characters chatter, love and battle in my head. If you’re like me, that first draft is a molten caldron, uncontainable and ready to erupt. I can’t hold myself back anymore.

troll enwikipediaorg3A first draft is a flawed, untamed, tainted, wonderful, intense piece of art. Before I started using the volcano metaphor, I likened it to vomiting, spilling my guts over the keyboard. Disgusting, but so cathartic.

A first draft has nothing to do with perfection. It’s about the story. It isn’t the time to edit, to labor over weak verbs, revisit dialog, or craft flowing descriptions. You’ve spent weeks fleshing out your outline; it’s time to put it to work and start spinning your tale.

troll enwikipediaorg2A few sections of that first draft will feel inspired and flow from your fingertips. Other parts will require patience and will-power as you drag them like whining teenagers across your page. Your outline will help you persist through those hair-pulling hours, because with an outline, there’s no writer’s block. No matter how painful, you know what you have to do.

Get the story out of your skin. Just write it. That’s the point of the first draft–the story. Your outline is your guide, but remember that a creative outline is still fluid; expect it to morph, flex and grow as you write.

trolls pinterest2My first draft is a constant play between an evolving outline and the written page. My characters continue to surprise me, plots deepen, new scenes appear, dialog ripples off in unexpected directions. I have to go back and add or change scenes, hint at backstory, place the sword on the belt. This isn’t editing–this is getting a story down on paper. At the very same time, I am massaging my outline, changing what is coming based on these unforeseen tangles and turns. I’m deleting and adding, noting follow-up details, tying up loose ends, and making certain that the story is still rational and cohesive when I get to the end.

trolls pinterestThis marvelous, messy, raw creation is your own foray into new territory. I never share my first drafts with anyone. They’re too ugly. They’re warty little trolls blinking in the sunlight. They need baths and haircuts, a visit to the dentist, and a decent meal. But I love them, and they are princes when I get them cleaned up.

Artwork compliments of creative commons: en.wikimedia.org, flickr.com and pixaby.com.


Writing From the Inside Out

image from pixaby

The internet brims with advice on how to write (this little blog included). I most enjoy reading the ponderings of those of us who are still exploring the mystery of this craft, this art. So few absolutes exist in the realm of creativity. How wondrous that we all possess distinctive voices, styles and stories to tell. To me, writing is organic, personal. I believe we need to discover, encourage, and play with our inner muses.

I’ve read a number of blogs and how-to narratives that outline the steps for developing character and plot. Some offer great wisdom, while others (often those written by the “experts”) strike me as somewhat formulaic. And I don’t mean general guidelines with a few obvious rules. I mean fill in the blanks! To me, these strictures feel deadening, and I worry that new writers in particular will unwittingly lose the opportunity to discover the unique storyteller within.

creativity pixabyI wrote my first book without a clue as to what I was doing. And despite the painful drudgery of endless editing to address my ignorance and learn the craft, I’m glad I did it that way. Because I loved the creative process. I love writing from the inside out. I’m not sure if I would have come to the same conclusion writing a fill-in-the-blank book with fill-in-the-blank characters.

I’m close to finishing the Raven’s Shadow fantasy trilogy by Anthony Ryan. He breaks so many rules it’s exhilarating. Someday I’ll make a list and we can all celebrate. The first book in the trilogy, Blood Song, has 2, 124 reviews. I loved the series. Did I mention he breaks rules?

As I finish final edits on my current project, I’ve begun to stir the cauldron and will soon enter the contemplative process of conjuring up the next story. That’s what it feels like to me…magic. That spark of inspiration bubbles up from inside me, not from a formula, and when it arrives, it’s mine.

creativity pixaby4In his book, Eternal Echoes, John O’Donohue, the Irish poet and author, writes: “The natural and ancient creativity of soul is being replaced by the miserable little arithmetic of know-how.”

I would second this bit of wisdom and the attendant advice. As artists, we may relish our rules-of-writing consciousness, but inspired writing rarely springs from a formula. Writing is alive with subtlety, impression and intent. Listen, learn, revisit, and then find your own way. You are the artist.

image flickr

All images from pixabay.com

3 Day 3 Quote Challenge – day 3

Quote 5

The last day of the 3 Quote 3 Day challenge arrives. I offer up the final three quotes from John O’Donohue, Irish poet, philosopher, and theologian. He published Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom in 1997. Gaelic for “soul friend,” Anam Cara’s teachings, stories and blessings offer profound insights into what it means to be human, exploring universal themes of friendship, solitude, love, and death.

Quote 10

Here are the 3 Day 3 Quote Rules:

  • Post 3 quotations a day for 3 days (they can be from any source, including you).
  • Nominate 3 other bloggers to carry the endeavor forward.
  • Thank the blogger who nominated you.
  • And you’re under no obligation to do this. But have fun if you do.

Quote 8

Thank you to Judy at Edwina’s Episodes and Steven at Ordinary Handsome for the including me in the fun. Take a moment to visit these two marvelous blogs.

I happily pass the challenge to some new followers/followed:



If I’ve piqued your interest:

Anam Cara on Amazon.


3 Day 3 Quote Challenge – day 2

Quote 9

I received two 3 Day 3 Quote challenges! One from Judy at Edwina’s Episodes. Judy has a wonderful sense of humor – check out her Wacky Word Wednesday. The other challenge came from Steven at Ordinary Handsome. Steven is a mesmerizing author as well as an accomplished photographer. 

I offer up three more quotes from John O’Donohue, one of my favorite authors.

Quote 6


Here are the 3 Day Quote Rules:

  • Post 3 quotations a day for 3 days (they can be any source, including you).
  • Nominate 3 other bloggers to carry the endeavor forward.
  • Thank the blogger who nominated you.
  • And you’re under no obligation to do this. But have fun if you do.

Quote 3

I happily pass the challenge to some new followers/followed:

3 Day 3 Quote Challenge – day 1

Quote 7I received two 3 Day 3 Quote challenges! One from Judy at Edwina’s Episodes and one from Steven at Ordinary Handsome. I highly recommend both blogs – well worth the visit.

I offer up three quotes from John O’Donohue, one of my favorite authors. My copy of his book, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom, is double dog-eared, highlighted, and underlined. More so now than it was a few days ago.

Quote 1

Here are the 3 Day Quote Rules:

  • Post 3 quotations a day for 3 days (they can be from any source, including you).
  • Nominate 3 other bloggers to carry the endeavor forward.
  • Thank the blogger who nominated you.
  • And you’re under no obligation to do this. But have fun if you do.

Quote 2

I happily pass the challenge to some new followers/followed:

I am what I read.

image from pixaby.com

image from pixaby.com

By the close of summer, I’m often tired of my fair-weather pace. I tend to catch colds this time of year…my body nudging me toward rest when I disregard its subtler cues. One more hurdle, one more commitment, one more task, one more…cough cough.

I’m ready to surrender to the slowness of fall. My characters are stretching and yawning – a sure sign of my approaching hibernation. Autumn suits me. It’s a time of tethering those parts of me that I’ve flung wide while venturing from my cozy burrow to bathe in some overdue sunshine.

Sometimes I feel like a sponge, sucking feelings out of the air as if they’re spilled water. Is this a writer thing? A plague of empathy? An inability to separate oneself from the pathos of life? Do all humans do this?

I am what I read. I am what I write – a torch of outrage at injustice, a soggy heart at tales of loss, grinning like a lovestruck moon. I’m tickled into laughter, sailing with beauty, and slogging through the morass of political hell. Every choice, every action, every motivation is sparked by emotion. I’m not a rational being. My feelings wear me out.

Books tend to infuse and reflect my state of mind. Do your books do that for you? To you?

If I read an inspiring story, my words are sweeter, hopeful, and I believe that love will prevail over fear. Blogging is honey for my soul as I am blown away by the generosity of spirit that scrolls across my screen. All over the globe there are people who restore/restory my faith in humanity, sharing poignant tales of love and loss, of sacrifice and courage. Your words bring laughter and tears, draw the world’s vast human landscape within reach of my chair. You remind me of the myriad ways we are brothers and sisters, and I reap the needed faith to pour love and hope onto the pages I write.

If I’m troubled by the brutality of mankind, as I often am, that too bleeds into my work. My mother complains that my books are violent, and all I can say in response is “look around you.” I can’t pretend that what rends my heart and fires my blood doesn’t exist. I can’t erase it from the slate of my memory. I can’t unfeel it.

Lately, I sense my mood darkening, so it’s time for a boost of inspiration and infusion of peace. It happens that I recently received a 3 day, 3 quote challenge. To prepare, I’ve picked up one of my favorite books for a reread – something I rarely do, but who am I to argue with synchronicity.

Anam Cara, by Irish poet and theologian John O’Donohue, rests at the top of my heart’s list.  I’ll be revisiting the dog-eared pages, my old highlights and underlines promising gems of faith and ancient magic. I’ll choose a few – okay, more like 9 – favorite quotes to share with you.

Happy writing and peace.

image from flickr.com

image from flickr.com