Notes From the Author

I hope to use this blog as a diary of sorts, in order to document my quest of perfecting my skills. Areas that I am particularly fond of include: photography, gardening, cooking - baking -canning, painting - sketching and of course writing. Like so many others, the word 'perfection' haunts me. I strive to reach it daily not truly knowing what it is or how to achieve it. Yet, I won't settle for less. Here is my blog showing my struggles and my hopeful successes. I don't need to be perfect but I must try to ascertain it.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Starbucks Love Me!

Like so many writers, I love coffee and Starbucks is one of my favorites. Grande, Americano with one pump of chocolate, please. But I had no idea
Starbucks reciprocated my love until I was admiring the new coffee mug my husband gave me for Christmas. There--hidden in the crossword letters--I found my name. Thanks, Starbucks. Love you too.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Pitch Perfect for Landing a Literary Agent


This year I've been working with the talented Book Doctor's, Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry. After purchasing their must-have-so-very-helpful book The Essential Guide to Getting your Book Published, I spoke with David. I'd been trying to perfect my skills at pitching to a literary agent, and David offered some additional advice. He wanted me to video myself giving my pitch. It sounded like such a simple request, but as it turns out, it's hard--very very hard to do (at least for me--it took me at least three tries just to be able to speak my name and the name of my novel).

A couple of tips I learned while trying to file myself are:

1.  Don't watch the screen.
          I would forget my pitch and loose my focus each time I caught a glimpse of myself
2.  Find a quiet location.
          This proved trickier than I imagined between dogs, ringing phones and odd lighting
3.  Have fun.
          I tried several takes before I gave up and had my niece join me. She lightened the mood and after having some fun goofing around I was finally able to look more natural behind the camera.

You can view our goofy out-takes at: https://youtu.be/zlJcX7YU5cw






Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Prejudice? Wrote a blog about it. Like to hear it? Here we go...

My grandmother, Virginia Alger was born in West Virginia.  To most people, the previous statement is nothing more than a declarative sentence, but in my family it's scandalous. My grandmother is from a long line of Virginians, and it was only by happen chance that my grandmother was born outside of the beloved state.  We're not supposed to talk about grandma's mishap.

 I was born in Nebraska and am currently living in the state's capital, Lincoln.

Today at work, several of my co-workers were engaged in an argument about whether West Virginia is a Northern state or a Southern state.  Everyone had an opinion and each opinion was attacked with scorn and sarcasm. I listened with amusement to all of their politically incorrect stereotypes before adding a log to the fire. First, I rebuked them for their unfounded logic since none of them had even been to West Virginia, and then I said, "only crazy people live in West Virginia, and I can say this because my grandmother was born there."

I knew my words were purely prejudice.  I'd spoken them on purpose, but to my surprise, nobody challenged me.  In fact, they seemed to take my words as truth so I quickly added, "well at least my grandmother's crazy, I'm not truly sure about the rest of the state."  The conversation changed, but my thoughts continued analyzing what had taken place.

The only conclusion I could reach was, somehow I'd gained expert status by declaring I had a 'right' to make prejudice remarks, and I realized I've heard and allowed others to do the same thing in the past.  We have to stop.  No one has the 'right' to say something somebody else shouldn't say.

I don't usually comment on controversial matters, but the world has become so misguided.  We have to stop labeling people.  I can't think of a single reason reporters need to print 'white man kills black man' or 'hispanic woman arrested for DUI'. But if we want the world to stop labeling us, we need to stop labeling ourselves.

We all have handicaps we have to overcome. Whether they are physically, mentally, culturally or socially induced, we all have stereotypes stacked against us, but it is how we handle these obstacles that defines us.  Our differences make us great and our challenges make us stronger.

Until we start viewing ourselves and each other as Americans first, we continue to allow a means by which prejudice can rip us apart.  It starts with each one of us.  We have to teach others how we are--not how we want to be viewed but how we are.

When I was a younger woman I studied in the field of Archaeology. Several times I was faced with sexist remakes and placed in uncomfortable situations. I didn't blame the men who tried to belittle me, I took it as a challenge to change their minds, and with one exception, I believe I did. But change started with me. I knew I was capable of doing everything they could do.  I learned how to handle and fend off sexual advances.  I fought for equal pay and rights. Just like my grandmother, Virginia Alger, did before me. She raised four children without the help of a husband during a time when such things were not done. She was a divorcee born in West Virginia who work in factories where only men worked. Outcast from her family because she'd shamed their name but she didn't let them or anyone define her.

Grandma is crazy. She was made strong by her mishaps. I talk about her--all of her.


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

CHUPACABRA: Evolution of Mangy Coyotes

It was a hazy morning about three months ago.   I was driving the familiar back-roads near my home when I spotted movement.

"Look kids, a coyote pup," but my voice broke, dissipating into the shocked silence of the vehicle.

The canine-like creature, standing next to my car, was no coyote.  Cloaked in a shroud of grey, wrinkled skin, the only fur upon its shriveled body was a tawny mane which ran from the crest of the creature's head along it neck, and dissolved above its shoulder blades.  Its ears were bat-like, too pointed and ragged at the tips, and its muzzle was curved into a permanent snarl.  Staring at us with its empty black eyes, it drew the innocence from my niece and nephew like a demon freshly emerged from the depths of hell.

"What is it?" my niece gasped.

"A chupacabra."  It was the first time I'd seen such a creature, but I recognized it instantly.

OK, rewind.  Earlier that summer I'd attended a bonfire at my neighbor's farm.  The party had reached a lull, late into the night, leaving the few remaining guests in a trance staring at the hypnotic fire.

"I saw a chupacabra yesterday," my neighbor said.

I laughed, too loud, thinking he was starting a joke, but he didn't laugh.  He stared into the flames telling me how he'd discovered the road-killed animal just a few miles down the road.

I looked to my husband, but he was conversing with one of our other neighbors.  Was I the only one hearing this?  Surly, my neighbor didn't believe in the mythological beast, the goat-sucker of Mexico. He continued to explain, the creature was actually a coyote suffering from mange but the disease had mutated the animal's physical appearance into a horrifying form.  He couldn't get past the needle-like teeth and still seemed haunted by his encounter.

Since then, I've seen chupacabras several times, even captured images of the creatures on my camera phone, but still to this day, I have yet to snap a photo of it with my Nikon.  I remained intrigued by the creature, both by the disease which plagues our coyote population and by the myth of the goat-sucking beast.

All I know is, no matter how many encounters I've had with the creatures, my hair still stands on the back of my arms.  Be it disease or devil, chupacabras are a real nightmare.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Creator's Garden

Even though I've been fighting water in my basement, it's been a beautiful spring.  The abundance of rain has turned my garden into a lush wonderland.  I spend this morning pulling weeds enjoying the misty morning air as dark rolling clouds painted the sky.  Weeding was easy because the roots have never had the need to search for moisture.  As I knelt amongst the bud-laden peonies and baptista, I took notice of how my garden has matured.  It started as a meager perennial bed mainly composed of discount and shared plants from neighbors and friends.  I designed the layout carefully placing each species to create interest using leaf texture, flower color, and height.  But as I viewed my garden this morning, I noticed how several plants have moved.  Yes, moved.  Basically, they've stopped growing where I'd placed them in the soil and spread filling in new areas of the garden.  I realized that not only did my garden have a mind of its own, but it had created a better layout than my original plan.

My writing is similar to my gardening.  I design a plot, create characters, and draw interest by laying themes but the story takes on a life of its own.  Characters do things I never would have planned, themes pop-up through symbolism and plots go astray.  Yet, somehow, my words evolve into a beautifully constructed story.  In my garden, I plant plants.  Some die, some move but some flourish as planned.  In my writing, I use words.  Some are cut during the editing, some become more poetic during the rewrite and some were perfect the first time around.

I feel this is true of all art forms and I wonder, do we create art or does art create us?

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Savasana

Wow, spring is in full bloom and I find myself being pulled in ALL directions.  Gardening, writing, editing, query letters, conferences, local events, painting, bake sales, plant sales, and the usual plotting and planning!  I'm exhausted--I'm starting to loose focus.  And then I found the answer.  I began practicing the art of Yoga.  I've only attended two classes but I learned about a pose called Savasana.  Each yoga class has ended by dimming the lights and laying in a corpse-like pose which calms the brain and helps relieve stress.  Savasana relaxes the body, lowers blood pressure reduces headaches, fatigue and insomnia.  So while adding yoga to my already crazy schedule at first seemed like insanity, I'm learning how to relax as well as find balance and strength, and I've decided that these qualities are too important to leave out of my life.  I'm horrible at yoga but with practice I hope my body and my mind will benefit.

Perhaps try writing a scene depicting a character's mental tenacity as it remands stoic among a setting of chaos.  What physical ques would the character reflect?  What sources would the character draw upon?  Past experience, faith, serenity of mind, beauty of nature?  What do you draw upon?

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Cultural Inspiration

I LOVE to travel. Some of my fondest childhood memories are family vacations spent exploring Yellowstone, the Black Hills, the Northern Pacific Coast, Northern Saskatchewan, and the historical sites of Virginia, Maryland, and D.C. area.  My dad lived by the credo, "driving is the only way to truly see the land". Only once did he abandoned the car for a plane, and I believe if he could have found a way to drive to Hawaii, I never would have experienced air travel--at least not until I started discovering the world on my own during my college years.

Air travel is my primary method of travel these days only because I'm caught by the crazy American lifestyle which binds me with time constraints, but I long to re-experience the driving vacation. There is a truth to becoming part of the vacation, to immerse yourself into a different culture and view the world through new eyes.


I've recently returned from my annual trek to Cabo, Mexico.  Each year I try to experience a different aspect of the uniquely Cabo culture.  This year, because of my new low light camera lens, I focused on the celestial majesty that makes this region famous.  I still have much to learn, both about photographing night skies, and the local lore, but I'd say, I managed to capture a good sense of the magic.

This desire of mine to become completely immersed into a different culture is what drove me to study anthropology.  During the summer of my sophomore year of college I journeyed to Belize to work on an archaeological dig. Working in such an exotic environment made me realize that even though it maybe fun to do touristy things--living and truly experiencing a different culture is life changing.

The acute observations I gain by traveling in this manor expands my awareness of my own culture and beliefs as well as enlightens me to the host culture, giving me great insight which I incorporate into my writing.  We are all connected and yet different.

A friend recently introduced me to an adventure travel group whose main focus is the cultural experience; Wild Women Expeditions is a female based travel group I would love to join.  Maybe they could help me to fulfill my dream of indulging in an African Safari or enlightening me with the ancient rituals of Bali.  Even their Icelandic Pony adventure would combine both my love of horses and my need to learn about other cultures.

Nothing compares with my love of travel.  Photographing my experience as well as writing has helped me to relive my journeys even when I am bound to my computer as home.