Sunday, December 29, 2013

Ice Storm 1

I starting to sort through the many pictures I took of the ice storm. Here's a few. More will follow. 

maple (I think)

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Warm and Wonderful

Due to an ice storm, we lost power for three days. The electricity came back last night, and the house is now up to normal temperatures. I took pictures of the ice but haven't looked at them yet because I was conserving my laptop battery. For the same reason, I haven't yet responded to comments on blog posts.

I gained a lot of experience in pioneer living. Maybe my next project will be historical fiction.

I wish you a warm and wonderful holiday.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Overheard #269

"Put down the semicolon, and nobody gets hurt."

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Postcard from Santa

First of all, thank you, Gina and Juliet, for featuring one of my pictures on City Muse Country Muse.

Yesterday’s mail included a postcard that read “That thing you are writing is awesome!” The return address was SANTA, handwritten in block letters. For a second, I thought one of my writing friends had sent some much-needed encouragement. Then I realized the postcard was an advertisement from a tutoring service in Ann Arbor. 

The experience made me realize two things. 
  1. Everybody needs a boost. People (myself included) don’t acknowledge friends’ talents and accomplishments often enough.
  2. Faint praise and vague criticism are not helpful. People (myself included) should be as specific as possible in both praise and writing critiques.  

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

"Baby, It's Cold Outside"

(I might need a different lens to get a better picture.)
Canada geese
(I definitely need a different lens to get a better picture.)

Sunday, December 15, 2013


maple leaf under ice
The ice formation on the left looks like a hummingbird to me.
Confession: I adjusted the contrast on this one.

I wore what I call grocery-store-gloves, the little knit one-size-fits-all gloves, under my mittens, then removed the mittens to use the camera. I was able to adjust the settings on my camera while wearing the thin gloves, and my fingers were only a little chilled. Some of my artist friends wear silk glove liners when sketching in the cold. I may try those as well.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Overheard #268

"We'd rather get used to something we like."

Thursday, December 12, 2013

I'm on Wordless Wednesday Again

Click on over to City Muse Country Muse. Juliet and Gina featured one of my pictures yesterday for their Wordless Wednesday feature.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Overheard #268

"You know as well as I do that I don't know what I want."

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Writing Days

Today I’m off to the café of a local independent bookstore to have a writing day with at least one member of my critique group. These writing days are invariably productive. Sitting across from hard-working people tends to keep my brain on task. Also, going to a different writing location not only removes household distractions but somehow inspires new ideas. 

I’m currently working on a hard-copy revision. I print my novel then correct it with a red pen. Some problems are more obvious on the printed page than on the screen. I hope to get through the last third of the manuscript today.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Red Cedar River

We hiked every day over the Thanksgiving weekend and watched the river freeze and thaw. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

Overheard #267

"It's dark enough to be scared. I tried it."

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

Okay, so I recycled last year's picture.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Few More from a Cold-Fingered Photographer

Sometimes the ice shines blue, when the sun is at the right angle.

Friday, November 22, 2013

On Blogging

Today while visiting Sarah Aronson's blog, Beyond Revision, I found this quote:

"As you teach, you learn. As you learn, you write. As you blog, you get to goof around."

Have a great weekend. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013


the first snow

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Adding Details

Nothing beats firsthand experience for writing authentic sensory details. I know of two authors who walked barefoot in the snow, one who slurped raw turtle eggs, and another learned how to fire a flintlock rifle. 

In my novel, my protagonist must crawl through a tunnel while wearing a long skirt. The scene needed details. I considered crawling through a plastic tube on a kids’ climbing apparatus, but those tunnels are significantly bigger than the one in my novel. I constructed a small tunnel by balancing a sofa cushion over a chair arm and an end table. I put on my one long skirt and made the crawl. My first discovery was I couldn’t make it through on my hands and knees. I had to drop down to my elbows. My protagonist’s sleeves would get wet and dirty. Then my lower back hit the top, so I had to slide forward in almost a combat crawl. Her poor outfit! Then the knot I’d tied in the skirt to keep it out of the way came undone. Of course my furniture construction project was a cushier option than the stone tunnel facing my main character, but the details still helped me improve the scene. 

What have you done to make your novel realistic?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Lantern Reprise

We had another sunny day, so I took more pictures of my Japanese lanterns. This is my favorite.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The First 250 Words

This morning on the SCBWI Blog, I found a link to the Fifth Annual YA Novel Discovery Contest from Serendipity Literary Agency. Contestants are requested to submit the first 250 words of their novel. 

I opened my manuscript and selected a bit less than a page then checked the word count. After a few tries, I discovered that 249-words landed at the end of a sentence. Then I copied and pasted that section into a new file and tried to imagine myself as an agent or editor reading it cold. I asked these questions. 

Is opening compelling?
How many characters appear in the first 250 words?
Is it clear who these characters are and what their relationships are?
Is the reader given a clue about the novel’s main problem?
Is the genre of the novel obvious?
Can the reader tell where the scene takes place? 

This is a lot to be answered on a single page. Certainly the most important consideration is having a compelling opening. 

My answers are: 
The first paragraph still needs work.

I haven’t decided if I will enter the contest.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Need a Critique?

Deborah Halverson is having a contest on her blog, The winner gets a free 10-page critique. The contest is for any type of fiction.

Deborah's presentation at the fall SCBWI-MI retreat received rave reviews. I wish I'd been able to attend.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Friday, November 1, 2013

Not Me

I never do NaNoWriMo. Most Novembers, I use the excuse that I'm in the middle of revising, but I have other reasons.

First, I trust my process. I write by working every day, unless I’m ill, traveling or extremely busy. Writing every day is a luxury, and I cherish it. Churning out a specific word count daily would make writing a chore. 

Second, there are good and bad writing days. In the end, word counts are irrelevant. One great sentence can make a good writing day. Cutting a few thousand words can make a better one. 

Third I’m not much of a joiner. I wish all the participants of NaNoWriMo luck, inspiration and great writing days. It’s just not for me.  

Monday, October 21, 2013

Sunday, October 20, 2013


dried flowers from the farmers' market
and a sunny window
The arrangement is reflected in the window.
Japanese lanterns
I think this is a kind of thistle.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Overheard #266

"Genius hasn't been overdone."

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Local Talent

I learned this morning that a country western group, Restless Road, advanced to the final four in the Groups division on X-Factor. Zach Beeken, the bass voice in Restless Road, went to high school with Jeremy. They sang together in Chorale and Men's Chorale. Jeremy used to take voice lessons from Zach Beeken's dad.

Basses rule!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Useful Links

Here are two links to valuable blog posts on writing. Both were suggested by the amazing Shutta Crum on the SCBWI-MI listserv. 

The Writer Unboxed post by Lisa Cron explains how to trace your protagonist’s inner journey. The first time I read it, I stopped in despair at the words, “What they end up with is a narrative that’s basically just a bunch of things that happen.” I went back, read the article again and mapped my protagonist’s inner journey. Yes, she does change. As I revise, I can strengthen that.  

LaurieHalse Anderson’s post called Revision Roadmap is my next project. Anderson describes how to make a scene-by-scene roadmap of a novel, and ways to detect problems like unnecessary scenes, excessive dialog, misplaced subplots and pacing problems. My novel has already experienced a lot of cutting and significant expansion. Perhaps it’s time to see if it works.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Overheard #265

"It's hard to learn anything by doing the right thing."

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Asymptote Anecdote

During a discussion of science jokes with a group of friends, I mentioned that the asymptote is the mathematical model for my writing career. It’s a joke many people don’t get. 

Merriam Webster’s definition of asymptote is "a straight line associated with a curve such that as a point moves along an infinite branch of the curve the distance from the point to the line approaches zero and the slope of the curve at the point approaches the slope of the line," 

In other words, the curve approaches the line, gets infinitely close to it, yet never crosses it.  

One person asked about the origin of the word. Asymptote likely comes from Greek asymptōtos not meeting, from a- + sympiptein to meet.” (also Merriam Webster) 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Value Added

I promised to post about the Value Added aspect of going through Donald Maass’ Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook. First let me say the exercises are extremely useful. They also require thought, time and hard work. 

Between the exercises, Maass includes a page or two of explanatory material in which he explains his ideas and illustrates them with passages from novels. Usually when reading these passages, I realize that my novel could use a passage that is similar in some way. Character B never explains exactly how Character D makes him feel, or Character A needs a stronger reaction to [plot event], or Characters A and E need to have a bigger argument. I write all these ideas on a separate page, and when the exercises get too challenging, I go back and write these scenes. 

It’s working so far.

Sunday, September 22, 2013


I bet somebody will tell me what kind of frog this is. 
(northern leopard frog)
First fall colors
Snowy egret. (And no, I don't have the right lens for this shot.) 
Correction: great egret. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


We’re home from Boston and adjusting to a quieter lifestyle. A metal band no longer rehearses in our basement. 

I’ve started a revision-read-aloud of my work-in-progress to improve voice and writing flow. When I’m done, I’ll do the exercises in Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass. These exercises are useful for increasing tension and developing character. The value added part is going through the workbook often generates additional, unrelated ideas. I hope next week, I’ll share some of that in this blog. 

In a moment of weakness, I ordered 400 bulbs for my garden. To prepare the beds for ipheion, chionodoxa and anemones, I sprinkle a dried blood product that is supposed to deter voles and mice then add generous amounts of crushed oyster shells to provide calcium and make tunneling unpleasant. After I bury the bulbs, I cover the beds with hardware cloth to keep squirrels from digging. It might work. I’m also planting allium which is related to garlic. Wild creatures aren’t supposed to like the flowers or the bulbs. 

To finish, I’ll share a cover of "Bohemian Rhapsody" that explains string theory. 


Friday, September 13, 2013

Overheard #264

“Sleeping cats are sometimes better.”

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Quest

One of the local chipmunks likes to perch on our solar lights. I've been trying to get a good picture, but it's difficult because I have to shoot through a window, and the subject is shy. Here's my best attempt so far. I'll keep trying to get a better face profile. 

If I straightened the solar light poles, he'd have a more comfortable seat.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Overheard #263

"I have an unaccompanied negative charge right by the phosphate backbone."

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Packing the Car for Boston

seems like a long way from here
seems like a big city
seems like a demanding curriculum 
seems like he's ready to go

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

I Took A Lot of Pictures of This Butterfly

And this is only a few of my collection.