Friday, April 30, 2010

Tornados and Oil Spills

If you follow the straight line of the boot across to where it turns north, we are just left of that crook.

At first they said this severe weather outbreak wouldn't be as bad as last weekend when a powerful F2 devastated Yazoo City, Mississippi which is northeast of here. But it's getting pretty tough out there with Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas and Wisconsin already reporting tornados.

Dr. Forbes of the Weather channel has what he calls a Tor Con Index. This will be another night where I keep getting up and looking out the window listening to the wind and asking myself, "Is that a train?" They say a tornado sounds like a train, but I always wondered if they meant the roar, the whistle, or the train on the tracks as it passes.

Last week we were expected to get extreme weather. It didn't even rain. Our farmers are out of time. They must get a rain to plant this week or it will be too late. So what's a little severe weather stacked against the loss of their crops.

Three weeks after the oil rig explosion in the Gulf, BP and the authorities are finally mobilizing as it dawns on them that our coastlines, beaches, wildlife and seafood industries are fixing to be devastated by what they originally said was not a large spill. Who were they kidding? The original estimate was 1000 barrels a day. New information suggests 150-200,000 barrels a month are spewing into the waters of the Gulf and Southeasterly winds are blowing them straight at the coastlines of some our most popular beaches. Shades of the Valdez.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Besides all That

This morning, Bill Kirton mentioned some of the hazards of being a writer. If you need a laugh, read this most surprising and thought provoking blog on having a relationship with your vitamins and toilet paper. You won't be sorry. I'd love to experience more of that particular hazard - a soaring imagination.

For the last couple of years I've had a different issue. That of the writing/typing arm hurting and going to sleep. Between, writing, using the computer, playing the guitar and delivering the mail, my write arm hurts all the time and goes to sleep very easily, staying asleep most of the night. Numb, not just nighty night. I'm using my left arm when I remember, for like, drinking coffee, brushing my teeth. It seems odd.

I asked my supervisor if the postal service would pay for me to go to the doctor because it's been much worse since the holidays. He said, nah, they will just say you can't do the job anymore, 'maybe you should quit'. I said, "Remind me again why anyone would want this job? No benefits, lots of the heavy mail days, extreme wear and tear on the personal vehicle, the necessity to be on call 24 hours a day, and very little chance of going full time (especially now that they are considering a five day work week).

I finished my manuscript Sunday handwriting approximately 15,000 words so I sat down today to start typing them into the computer. My arm went numb while I was typing so I had a brainstorm. I pulled out my Dragon Naturally Speaking program, reprogrammed it and began dictating. I will have to spring for the newer and Mac version of this software but I think this will be the solution to my problem of writing the MS twice. And for transcribing my dictated notes from my digital recorder. I'll let you know how it goes. I should have the upgrade tomorrow and will get back on the MS Friday.

Mammy's Cupboard, a Natchez attraction on my route.

Fun news! I have another singing gig Friday at a B&B in Natchez, MS across the river. Natchez has a month long event called Pilgrimage which draws tourists from all over the world. Years ago I had a tour guide job at this fabulous antebellum home decorated with antiques from all over the world, including wall paper on the dining room walls saved from some cave in Europe. They extend the March pilgrimage season with music festivals, art festivals, and tours of the antebellum homes. I'm the entertainment for one of them Friday afternoon. It should be fun!

An unfinished octagonal multi story home is one of the favorite homes on tour.

Natchez, Mississippi - a wonderful place to visit. It will remind you of a smaller, cleaner, cooler New Orleans. Come see us!

Sunday, April 25, 2010



I finished Tempest Rising.

On April 11th after being stuck for almost a month, and getting a boot from various writer friends, I turned to the pen and notebook method of writing TR. I concentrated only on creating, moving forward, not trying to project when the ending might come, not counting words, just letting it happen. I really didn't expect it to happen today. But I wrote about 6000 words. Then it was there! Done!

Yey!!! And I don't even care that now I have to type those typewritten words into the computer so I can print the whole thing out and start re-reading it.

Friday, April 23, 2010

So Much for Good Taste

Amazon reviewers are coming under fire and seemingly for good reason. It's been reported by some sources that there has been a conspiracy of sorts among reviewers to intentionally give bad reviews to some books and to elevate others.

The Salon blog had an excellent article chronicling some specific infamous reviews. Go here to read the entire article. Don't miss it.

But here are a few highlights:

One reviewer wrote of the Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank:

'I didn't like this book because it was boring. That's all that needs to be said. It was very very very very very very very very very very very boring. If you have to read this book shoot yourself first.'

And of To Kill a Mockingbird one said: 'Looking for a sappy, cliched, novel to read? One predictable as most young-adult books and more degrading than harlequin romances? Well, To Kill a Mockingbird is your book. In this novel, all Harper Lee gives as a theme is "life isn't fair." I think most of us couold have figured that out without a book that should have started where the first "part" ended. Ms. Lee merely portrays a terrible, biased, southern society that seemingly places its main goal on ruining everyone elses life. Her female characters are flat, simple-minded women. Wether or not this is due to its setting is irrelevant. Lee places guilt on a group of people instead of individuals (the Ewells) as it should be. Thank God Ms. Lee only wrote this book; surely her next would degrade society even further. I'm sure it too would be deemed a classic as long as it dealt with politically correct subjects that are far too worn out to remain interesting.'

One more - on the Bible the reviewer said: 'Man, this book is boring. All this weird stuff happens and it's harder to get into than Lord of the Rings. And what's up with the red writing and the LORD says stuff. All caps = rude, peter paul and mark, whoever the heck you are. And this is just badly written. James Patterson could do better.' Whew.

Makes you want to see your book on Amazon don't it?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Pray for the Missing and Injured

The sky is a dusty pale blue, with only one puffy cloud and some jet trails to mar its perfection. Normally, it would be considered a beautiful day but the dread and terrible possibilities seem to hang in the air like grey matter.

Last night there was an oil rig explosion off the Louisiana coast. Most of the men working on that rig were from south and central Louisiana. One of the seriously injured is from our wee town and three of the missing this town's sons. As of now, they haven't been found. There's a good chance if they made it into the waters they will be found by the Coast Guard as seas were low and the weather good.

This was a devastating explosion which we heard sunk the drilling barge/ship/platform pretty quickly. How often do we see reports like this on the news and not knowing the victims, we forget that someone just like us is suffering the loss or uncertainty about his or her loved ones.

Ironically, the breaking news of the Steelers quarterback has now taken over the followup of this story so it's difficult to stay on top of the progress.

I can ONLY imagine what these families are going through...

UPDATE - unfortunately the most 'local' channels to our area are at least 75 miles away and they aren't covering the explosion so we're forced to get news on the web or CNN. As of this morning, they are still searching for the 12 missing workers.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Scottish Hunks and Ear Candy

Okay, I'll admit it's a cheap ploy to get some traffic since I haven't met him, but just listen to that beautiful voice... (Michael's probably blushing if he reads this, not one to tout his own horn. )

I first heard about Michael Malone's blog, May Contain Nuts, from Thea on our Scottish loop. Not only is Michael a Scot, asset number one (don't you love being cheapened, Michael?), but a crime writer and poet. He's produced two poetry books, In The Raw and Running Threads along with CD of his and some fellow poets.

Here is a YouTube Michael posted yesterday of one of his poems. If you like clever repartee, funny stories and candid opinions, you need to follow May Contain Nuts.

And now without further ado...

American women have had a love affair with Scottish accents for a long time but especially since Jamie said to Claire,

"I prayed all the way up that hill, yesterday. Not for you to stay; I didna think that would be right. I prayed I'd be strong enough to send ye away. I said, Lord, if I never had that kind of courage before let me have it now. Let me me brave enough not to fall on my knees and beg her to stay."


"I want to hold you hard to me and kiss you and never let you go. I want to take you to my bed and use you like a whore til I forget that I exist. And I want to put my head in your lap and weep like a child."

Oh. My. God. Now all we need is for Michael to read the quotes off this fantastic Jamieisms YouTube. Michael have you ever read Outlander? You must. When I visited Scotland in 1998 I was on the third book of Gabaldon's now seven book series. I was struck by the accurate way she portrayed the history of the area. Or at least that's the impression I got from the people I met.

Here is the Jamieisms YouTube.

Flash Fiction

Truly extraordinary fiction doesn't have to be long. Check out Understanding, by Bill Kirton at Rammenas. Experience how romantic a paragraph can be.

If you like Fantasy and Scifi - I just discovered this SciFi flash fiction site - which is also available on their podcast - Voices of Tomorrow. Check it out.

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Frolicking Muse

If you are one of my zillions of fans, you know that I'm always coming up with some new process to circumvent or streamline what's not working in my current writing process. Whether it's new software - I'm the Queen of Software, a new book, listening to and completing exercises from a RWA workshop. From reorganizing the files and storyboard in Scrivener or Write It Now to printing out calendars and using post-its to analyze my plot lines. And much more.

I've been writing on TR now for over a year. Granted it started off as a mystery romance and has morphed into a paranormal mystery romance urban fantasy, sort of. The world building took forever. Then I got the Sh$$ scared out of me as I got closer to the end and the dragging and dropping, reorganizing, analyzing (there's a reason that word starts with A-N-A-L) and thinking seemed to have taken on a life of it's own.

Last week, I posted that I was going to just go forward, no matter what and chose to do it the way I started out - with a really good gel pen and a spiral bound hard backed notebook. This is working so well, I may do all my first drafts from now on manually. Aack, ME writing without any software!

A few PROs I've noticed:
1. I'm NOT on the computer to get distracted.
2. I'm NOT in my favorite environment, software, to explore better ways to analyze, organize and format the story.
3. My muse loves working with the characters and plot on the fly. She skips ahead - yes I finally know it's a she - to figure out what directions the plot needs to go while I'm writing the current scene. SHE doesn't like creating on the computer.
4. I remember what I've written better. When I pick up the notebook again, I don't have to re-read as much. For me, handwriting notes has always helped me retain the information so that makes sense.
5. I can carry that little notebook and pen with me where ever so I'm able to make better use of those little moments of writing time.
6. It seems that when I write on the computer I'm consciously or unconsciously keeping track of word count, giving myself mental pats for wordiness. THe handwriting seems to entail less wandering around, more suitable material.

The CONs:
1. Yeah, eventually I'll have to type the whole friggin thing into the computer. But that should serve as a excellent first revision. I hope.
2. The re-writing.
3. No ability to cut and past but hey, I'm not supposed to be revising on the first draft right?

Anyway, I'm pleased that I was able to post what I intended to do and for once I can report that I did it. And it worked! IS working, gotta be careful about those blanket statements made to a global audience who may hold me to it.

TR is now at 103k. Wrote almost 10k this week - see there I go again. I'm going to stop tracking that statistic until the last couple revisions when it's necessary. My muse is skipping through a field of butterflies.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

May Contain Nuts turns one

Happy Birthday, May Contain Nuts!

Don't you just hate it when you miss somebody's birthday? I feel so so bad. I'm so sorry, Michael. What can I do to make it up to you?

When you discover you've missed a birthday, there's always a temptation to regift the person with something on hand. Something quick. "Here, I got this for you, but lost track of time…"

So, I think, what do I have on hand that I could give MCN for it's birthday. I know, I'll send you my old lottery numbers. No, they weren't winners, but they're probably still useful, eh? I mean the numbers are perfectly good, they just didn't happen to make it on the right lotto ticket.

And what about that lovely clock I got two years ago. It's still new. I never could figure out who to give it to. The Hartford Insurance logo on it makes it unsuitable for some but you could always paint over the logo. It's a rather spiffy little clock.

Ah, but even better there are the glow in the dark planet and stars stickers you apply to your ceiling to give your office that little extra pizzazz. Inspiration for those uninspirational writing moments. I took them down two years ago and each one still has the sticky clay stuff on the back. Handy.

What the hek! I'll send them all. You deserve it for creating such an original and entertaining blog.

Many Happy Returns…

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Ruts and the Organic Muse

As promised, I moved on to the business of TR's ending. I stopped analyzing, planning and organizing the scenes in advance and just began again on the last scenes. And discovered why it had been so hard to know how to proceed.

The scene I was writing is the hero's black moment. The thing he's been dreading the most is happening and the heroine is introducing him to reality. Unfortunately, the author hasn't figured out the secrets to this reality so the heroine is having trouble 'splainin' it to said hero. Now, hold on, I didn't say I quit writing. I'm still going.

Bill Kirton of Living and Writing and Other Stuff commented a couple days ago, "There's no doubt, though, that whatever technique you adopt (careful pre-plotting, wading straight in with only a vague idea of your direction, a single event or a multitude of them), you're dealing with an organic whole which will grow in whatever direction it wants, however disciplined you are. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that disciplining it too severely risks stifling it altogether"

I'd been working and reworking my redetermined ending for this book for a month. Suddenly, as if struck by the lightning bolt from muse heaven, I realized that instead of trying to make the scenes fit my outline, I needed to just start writing and allow it to follow its own path. I know. DUHHHHH, Marley. But you know, we get stuck in ruts and need a shove to get out sometimes.

So I picked up my pen and my notebook and started writing. I wrote that HARD scene with the hero and heroine and just kept writing, penning around 6000 words in two days. I believe I may finish the book by hand as the plot seems to be developing more organically that way. Thanks, Bill.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Just Do It!

I spend waaayyy too much time thinking. Analyzing so that I don't waste time or words. I've wasted the last month worrying and analyzing how my book would change or how to make it bigger and I haven't even finished it yet! Sheesh. Does anyone else have this problem? Probably.

I need a Nike T-shirt to remind me to JUST DO IT! BUCHOK!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

More Tools for Writers

Writers will do anything to keep from writing when they hit a wall...
I wanted a word progress meter and found that several no longer work. In searching I found a couple cool tools.

Conflict Generator I asked for 8 random conflicts and this is what I got:

Crime Pursued by Vengeance
Murderous Adultery
Conflict with a God

Using the Readability Tool I pasted some of an old book into the readability box and this is the result:

Reading Levels
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: 3.5 grade
ARI (Automated Readability Index): 4.6 grade
Coleman-Liau 7.3 grade
Flesch Reading Ease: 88.4/100
Gunning fog index: 6.6 grade
Laesbarhedsindex (LIX) Formula: 29.0 = below school year 5
SMOG Index: 7.4 grade
Average grade level: 5.9 (mean of above grade levels)

Sentence Information
Number of characters: 1383
Number of words: 313
Characters per word: 4.42
Syllables per word: 1.27
Number of sentences: 30
Words per sentence: 10.4
Number of short sentences: 11 (37%, 5 words or less)
Number of long sentences: 4 (13%, 20 words or more)
Number of paragraphs: 1
Sentences per paragraph: 30.0
Number of questions: 6 (20%)
Number of passive sentences: 8 (27%)
Longest sentence: 31 words long
Shortest sentence: 1 word long

Word Usage
Number of to be verbs: 9
Number of auxiliary verbs: 4
Number of conjunctions: 14 (4% of words)
Number of pronouns: 51 (16% of words)
Number of prepositions: 25 (8% of words)
Number of nominalizations: 3

Sentence Beginnings
Pronouns: 13
Interrogative pronouns: 0
Articles: 3
Subordinating conjunctions: 3
Conjunctions: 1
Prepositions: 0

Interesting eh?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Worldbuilding and First Drafts

I'm about three hours from the end of Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy. When a book is really really good, I have to savor it, like the best dark chocolate truffles I ever had (there were only six of them in a little bag I purchased in London). And of course, as a writer, it's fun to analyze the author's style.

I both love and hate that I can't figure out where he's going with his plots. The arcs of plot and character are so well done, the clues so patiently distributed that when they come together at certain turning points in the novels, I say, All Riiight! or Aack! A couple of times I've had a feeling of pure satisfaction at an unexpected but desired result.

This all makes me wonder about his rough draft. How much of his world and magic did he have figured out at the beginning and end of the first draft? How much developed through revisions and into the next two books? I've been trying to find some reference to this on his site.

TR now stands at 95K and I believe there's about 15 more to go. For some reason I'm still waiting to move to the end. Not sure why. Do I have that disease some writers get when they see the END coming? Fear of what comes next? I don't think so. I'm actually looking forward to the revision, to growing and deepening the story. Am I just suffering from inertia? Maybe. But honestly, I keep thinking up new paranormal characters, details, abilities, possibilities and want to incorporate them into THIS rough draft before I start over. And just maybe I'm afraid that once it's done, and I start over, the ENTIRE STORY will change and I'll be writing it over - an completely different book. Ugh! I think that's it.

You know how you read a great author's book and subconsciously you compare, okay, consciously, and it seems like David looking at Goliath in terms of dynamism. Well, you know what I'm saying.

Here's a great post by Donald Maaas on Writersunboxed that addresses this awesomeness. 'The Elements of AWE' Part I and Part II

How much do you know before you start writing? What is left to discover at the end of your finished draft?

Amended: I discover two of Sanderson's posts where he has made available the various versions of Warbreaker in two forms, one is a comparison side by side of how he made his revisions in Word 2007. I haven't gotten that one to open yet (slow internet you know).

AAHHH! Here he says "Before I wrote MISTBORN: THE FINAL EMPIRE I wrote a rough draft of a book I simply called MISTBORN. After that, I wrote a book I called THE FINAL EMPIRE. These were books set in separate worlds, completely unconnected. When it came time to do a follow-up to ELANTRIS, I looked back at these two books and remembered how fond I was of elements of both of them. I decided to combine them, starting from scratch, and using the best elements of both to create a new book. That became MISTBORN: THE FINAL EMPIRE."

Well, now I've faced the worst that can happen. I better get to it.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Out of Bagels!


I may never write again.

Monday, I reached into my cache of Einstein Bagels in the freezer. One lonely Asiago cheese awaited me. I dug through the freezer determined that this could not be true. After all, I still had enough Jalopena Salsa Shmear for another one at least. But then I remembered I'd stretched my supply by mixing a small amount of plain cream cheese in with it.

In January I packed a suitcase within a suitcase for wall strength in order to keep my dozen Einstein bagels and cream cheese shmear from being squeezed beyond recognition. They were bent somewhat, but it didn't spoil the enjoyment of savoring one every now and then.

And now.

They're gone.

The timing is probably about right since I was fixin to go on the Nutrisystem program for a couple of months. I'd just about have to be half a country away to stay away from them. And still I'm tempted to call my friend in D.C. while the weather is still semi-cool, 85 degrees, to send me another dozen.

Suck it up, Marley. That would be a good reward to give myself in October after I lose about 15 lbs, after the Atlanta conference. I just remembered a wonderful Einstein Bros Bagels in Atlanta.

I'll come home and celebrate a request for a full with a bagel and a piece of chocolate cake - or more...

Sunday, April 4, 2010


This is awesome! To have a copy of your blog for family or fans. Just go to sharedbook and choose your date range and get a preview of what your blog book will look like. You can order a hard copy or PDF to print yourself or view electronically.

Design your cover. Add a dedication.

Here's mine.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Joie de Vive

Michael Malone posted this video on his site and I think it qualifies for my Joie de Vive category. Gary Vaynerchuk is passionate about people doing what they love and taking responsibility for getting it done. No easy answers. Michael you may have created a monster, I took Friday and Saturday off...

Do yourself a favor watch this video a couple times a month, at least.