Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Have a Wonderful Holiday

The tree is up, the gifts are all wrapped, the house is clean and decorated. We're just waiting on Santa now. So from my house to yours - Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Entertain Your Readers – Essay Writing Part 3

Your essay may be informative, insightful or inspirational, but no one will read it if it’s not entertaining. Try to begin with a hook, a part of the story that is compelling or amusing and will keep the reader engrossed.

Tell the story in your own voice, the way you would relate it to a friend. Let your personality come through but don’t lose clarity. Focus in on your theme, the unifying idea that runs through your narrative.

Be truthful, your reader will empathize with you.

Use dialogue, metaphors and description.

Bring your essay to a satisfying conclusion with an insight that your reader will identify with.

Edit and rewrite. Put it aside for awhile then edit again.

Oh, and it’s okay to be creative – a few little white lies won’t hurt and may benefit your story

Friday, December 19, 2008

Streams of Consciousness - Essay Writing Part 2

Okay you’ve picked a topic for your story but then you look at the blank page or computer screen and freeze. That first sentence can be daunting. Don’t be intimidated.

Let’s say your subject is a vacation gone wrong, the plane was delayed, your luggage was lost, and the hotel was by far the worst dump you ever stayed in. All these things are going through your mind in no particular order. Where to start?

Just put one word on the paper – I, we or they - and go from there. Just start writing. It maybe chaotic or fragmented. Your thoughts and memories don’t always flow in a linear fashion. Don’t worry about grammar, punctuation or time line. Just get everything on the page. This is sometimes called stream of consciousness – a continuous flow of thoughts, feelings and memories.

Maybe your first memory is how the airline found your bags after you got home – write it down. Then you think of a funny incident at the hotel - write it down. The more you write the more you’ll remember. Give it a rest for a day. When you go back to it things will come into focus.

That Eureka moment will happen and you’ll suddenly see that your fourth paragraph will make a great lead-in. Pretty soon you’ll be moving whole segments of your narrative and your beginning, middle and end will become apparent. It’s a satisfying moment.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

How to Write a Personal Essay - Part 1

I just finished up a short piece of creative non-fiction aka personal essay and I started thinking about how I started thinking about starting.

First comes the topic. If you’re writing for a particular publication the subject matter may already be decided for you. If the choice is yours and you have no restrictions you might choose a personal experience. A situation that is poignant, funny or inspirational would make a great story.

Perhaps you have a person you want to write about. We all have someone we admire. Perhaps it’s a friend who succeeded despite a debilitating illness, a teacher who influenced your career choice or maybe a parent who taught you a life lesson.

Your choices are endless – hobbies, pets, vacations, a special holiday or the day you bought your first house. Write about what you know and it will be a labor of love.

Next time – How to get past that blank page.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Vampire Series for Adults

With all the hoopla about “Twilight” I feel compelled to write about a vampire series for adults –Every book in the series is great, I suggest you start with the first one - “The Companion.”

The story moves from Regency England to Egypt and Squires is equally at home in both settings.

She gives her vampires a new twist by infecting them with a parasite, and the grisly passages depicting how the hero contracted his “companion” may not be to everyone’s taste.

The hero is Ian Rufford who was captured in Egypt and infected by the woman who enslaved him. When he meets Elizabeth Rochewell, on a ship heading from Egypt to England, he’s drawn to her. She’s attracted to him as well but his dark past, revealed in flashbacks, keeps them apart.

It’s a love story, a paranormal and an historical thriller. If you love vampires this is a must read.

To find out more about Susan’s books and read an excerpt go to her website at:

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Workshops for Romance Writers

I’m sorry to say I didn’t make my goal for NaNoWriMo – not even close. But my time was well spent and I’m not complaining. I took a great workshop and I learned a lot.


Online workshops are a great source of training for writers. They offer the convenience of setting up your own schedule in the comfort of your home. You don’t have to buy expensive books and all you need is internet access.

In my opinion a successful workshop is one where you get good critiques of your work. Nicole is a published writer who is generous with her wealth of experience and knowledge and encouraging with her advice and feedback.

Her workshops are so good; this was the third one I’ve taken. The other two were: WRITING HOT, DELICIOUS LOVE SCENES and TAKE YOUR WRITING TO THE NEXT LEVEL.

For those who write romance or are looking for a Christmas gift for someone who does, you can get more info on
Nicole North workshops at:

Monday, November 24, 2008

"A Cup of Comfort for Divorced Women" now available on

"A Cup of Comfort for Divorced Women" is now available on Amazon.
My story is titled "Getting Rid of the Drek." I'm running a contest on my website. Check it out for a chance to win your own copy.

Over two million copies of the beloved Cup of Comfort® brand in print!

A Cup of Comfort® for Divorced Women
Inspiring Stories of Strength, Hope and Independence
Edited by Colleen Sell

Going through a divorce in never easy. Children, cheating and money can be at the center of a tug of war with partners who—in most cases—no longer love each other. It’s estimated that half of American women’s first marriages end in Divorce according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Additionally, wives file for approximately 2/3 of divorces (NCHS). With divorce proceedings, increased hostility between both parties and visitation rights for children, how can women cope?

A Cup of Comfort for Divorced Women: Inspiring Stories of Strength, Hope and Independence (December 9, 2008: Adams Media) edited by Colleen Sell is a collection of over forty personal essays on the heartache and sometimes victories of divorce. Candid and poignant, readers will meet amazing women that survived their divorces—and came out stronger on the other side.

Untangling years of a life together is painful especially without a shoulder to cry on or guidance to help one through it. A Cup of Comfort for Divorced Women comforts, inspires and encourages women in the throes of divorce—reminding women that divorce is not just the end of something but the beginning of a new life.

There’s Anne who likened her life after divorce to the snapping of a twisted rubber band until she finds joy in the simple things and Barbara who collapses like a puppet with its strings cut when her husband declares he’s leaving and slams the door behind him. Filled will anger, tears and laughter A Cup of Comfort for Divorced Women is the perfect gift book for every woman who picks it up.

Colleen Sell is the editor of more than sixty published books, including twenty
volumes in the Cup of Comfort® series. She has also been an author, ghostwriter, magazine editor, journalist, columnist, essayist and copywriter.

Please contact Jacquinn Williams at 508-427-6737 or

Friday, November 21, 2008

Sarah does it again.

25 Years at Camp Swampy was a big influence on my life and probably my writing so I've decided to keep the title of my blog. Besides I've just moved camp from one place to another. But the picture doesn't cut it anymore so it's time for a change.

With this replacement I want to wish everyone a very happy Thanksgiving.

And speaking of turkeys someone sent me this link -

Click on the Palin video at top of the list on left column to see what Sarah thinks is fun.
Beware - it's brutal.
This woman definitely has foot in mouth disease.

Friday, November 14, 2008

NaNoWriMo Revisited

It's discouraging to be so far behind on NaNoWriMo. I'm at that point where I just want to say the heck with it and give up.

But that's crazy. I knew I'd never get to 50,000 words, I just wanted to keep at it. It seems like something else always has to be done first. I should have more time since I gave up the day job but I don't. I'm working on my book reviews and taking 2 workshops and dealing with city paper work, yada, yada, yada.

But I will get back to that first draft just as soon as I finish this post. And I put up a widget that will display my word count. I will shame myself into continuing.

So cheer me on - please. And I’ll do my best to hang in there until the end.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Anyone who reads this blog knows I love all things paranormal especially vampires. I just can’t resist those sexy blood-sucking alphas.

Well last night I read a new book that’s coming out this month and it totally captivated me with a great storyline and unique characters.

“Seventh Circle,” is part of a series but can stand-alone. Like its predecessors it’s a dark paranormal romance with strong characters, action and romance with a bite.

It’s rare to find a romance that grabs you on the first page with both a great action sequence and an emotional storyline but this one did it for me.

This is the story of Lilith who’s spent her life hunting vampires and Lincoln, a powerful pure blood vampire. They must work together to unravel a mysterious contract between Lincoln’s Lord and the Devil, but will their mutual attraction be the death of them?

Highly recommended - This is a spine-tingling chapter in the “Vampires Realm” series. I’ll be looking for the earlier books and those to come.

Title: Seventh Circle
Author: F.E. Heaton
ISBN: 1-906023-63-x 978-1906023-62-1
Release date: November 16, 2008
Publisher: Alinar Publishing
Format: ebook
Genre: Paranormal romanceLength: 441 pages
Price: $4.99
Contains graphic violence, scenes of a sexual nature and bloodplay

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Just Reflecting

The NaNoWriMo site has been impossible to get to for several days. There must be umpteen people logging in. But I did get there today and updated my word count which is abysmally low - 1,135 - but I had other pressing things to take care of. I'm not making excuses but retiring is time consuming. The city requires all kinds of paperwork and then there's the cube to be cleaned out, etc. I do plan to make up for it. And really I never expected to reach 50,000 words. The whole idea is to train myself to write, write, write without looking back. I really need to get over this constant compulsion to edit ad infinitum. So far I think it's working.

I was sad to learn that Michael Crichton died Tuesday of cancer. I've read most of his books and I've been watching "ER" since its conception. I've always been a great fan. My dvd of "The Andromeda Strain" is sitting by the TV. Now that the election hoopla is over I can watch it.

Our new president elect, Barack Obama, gave an inspiring speech last night. It was great to see the enthusiasm for our country that has been missing for so long. I hope this will herald a new era for all Americans.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

We are the Champions!

What a great week this is!!! So many exciting things going on. I decided to do something I’ve wanted to do for a long, long time. I gave notice and I will officially retire next month. October 2009 was too far away and the negative energy at Camp Swampy was pulling me down. Right now I feel like someone who’s been let out of prison after 26 years. I plan to enjoy every minute of freedom.

One of the things I planned to do in November was NaNoWriMo. I signed up but I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with it. Between the full time day job, the new workshop that starts November first and my WIP (work in progress) I wasn’t too optimistic about sticking with it. Now I can give it a real shot. I’ll post my progress here on my blog. Wish me luck.

I’m sure you know by now that our Philadelphia Phillies are world champions. After a suspended game that left us biting our nails for 46 hours the Phillies vanquished the Tampa Bay Rays 4-3. Closer Brad Lidge was perfect, striking out Eric Hinske to cinch the win. The city went nuts. It was a great moment – one we’ll savor for a long time.
So October 2008 ends on a great note. I hope everyone’s November gets off to a bang-up start.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Halloween Treat from Juno Books

Sunday night was another great night for the Philadelphia Phillies. They trounced the Tampa Bay Rays 10 to 2 and Joe Blanton became the first pitcher in 34 years to homer in the Series. Here's hoping they wrap it up tonight!!!

I got a newsletter from Juno books offering a free download, and asking me to share the wealth so here's the blurb:

As a special Halloween treat, Juno Books has a FREE ebook (PDF format) for you! Five frightening classic tales--all written by women--that should send a shiver or two down your spine. FIVE CLASSIC GHOST STORIES: A HALLOWEEN TREAT FROM JUNO BOOKS includes "Let Loose" by Mary Cholmondeley (1890), "The Striding-Place" by Gertrude Atherton (1896), "The Lost Ghost" by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman (1903), "Kerfol" by Edith Wharton (1916) and "Spunk" by Zora Neale Hurston (1925). Enjoy!

Download now:

Sunday, October 26, 2008

What a Night!

The Phillies won game 3 of the World Series in the bottom of the ninth -- at 1:47 a.m. We stayed up to watch and saw the crowd go bonkers after Eric Bruntlett ran home with the winning run.

The game started at 10:00 after a rain delay. We saw the end of "Shallow Grave" and turned it on in the second inning. What a night!

BTW, that's a damn good movie. It was directed by Danny Boyle in 1994. I couldn't believe how young Ewan McGregor looked. Also starring Christopher Eccleston who went on to become the ninth reincarnation of Doctor Who and Kerry Fox, a New Zealand actress.

These three play obnoxious roommates who finally find someone they think is worthy enough to share their flat. But the guy OD's in his bedroom and leaves a suitcase full of money. The trio decide to get rid of his body and keep the money. This leads to all kinds of grusome situations; paranoia sets in and they slowly go crazy. It's a well-done story about greed and how it affects friendships. Highly recommended.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Let's Go PHILLIES!!!

We're cheering on our team - the Philadelphia Phillies - while we wait for them and the Tampa Bay Rays to kick off game three of the World Series at 8:35 – if the weather cooperates.

It’s been raining off and on here at the beach. From what I’m reading on the internet Game 3 hasn’t been officially delayed yet but the clubs don’t expect to start at 8:35. It’s looking more like 9:30 but they will play.

The teams are tied at one game apiece. Here’s hoping a return to their home park will help the Phillies’ slumbering bats.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Putting Another Book on the Shelf

I’m adding another book to my Writer’s Bookshelf. “The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile” by Noah Lukeman, the author of the Amazon Short "How to Write a Great Query Letter."

Mr. Lukeman is a literary agent and he shares his years of experience to help writers stay out of the slush pile.

From his introduction: “There are no rules to assure great writing, but there are ways to avoid bad writing. This, simply, is the focus of this book: to learn how to identify and avoid bad writing.”

Overburdened editors and agents are just looking for an excuse to reject your manuscript. This book will help you identify and correct the mistakes that will send your work to the round file.
The chapters are arranged in logical order to show each step in the rejection process from presentation to style.

Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Fireside (January 1, 2005)
Language: English
ISBN-13: 978-0684857435

Saturday, October 18, 2008


I signed up for NaNoWriMo. What is NaNoWriMo? It stands for National Novel Writing Month.

According to the website -

"It's a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.

Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It's all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly."

I might have too much on my plate right now to even attempt this but I have until Nov. 1 to decide so we'll see...

My goal in doing this would be to teach myself to write a first draft without going back and doing endless edits.

I know it would be worthwhile but I'm still on the fence.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Contest News

A reader in Newport, OR won a copy of "A Cup of Comfort for Families Touched by Alzheimer's." Congratulations!

"Having a spouse, sibling, or parent with Alzheimer’s affects a family in every way possible—and can leave people feeling like they have nowhere to turn. The moving stories in this new collection help readers recognize they are not alone—and provide comfort for those who need it now more than ever. Readers will be inspired by the husbands, wives, sons, and daughters who put their own needs aside and sacrifice everything for love. This story collection shows how compassion and loyalty prevails when a loved one has Alzheimer’s."

My own story is titled "In the Valley of Denial."

Please check back - here or my website.

There will be a new contest soon for a copy of "A Cup of Comfort for Divorced Women."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Recently I watched Children of Men starring one of my favorite actors, Clive Owen. It envisions a bleak England in 2027. People have stopped reproducing, although we’re never told exactly why, and humankind is facing extinction. Society is in chaos and the only hope is to get the last pregnant woman to a group called The Human Project in the hopes of finding a cure. Theo (Owen) is enlisted to deliver the woman and a violent, pulse-pounding adventure ensues.

The plot started me thinking of a book I read many, many years ago. I was thrilled to find it still in my collection because so many of my old books have gone MIA. I rarely get rid of books, but I do lend them out. Hopefully they’re in someone else’s collection and not in a landfill.

At any rate I did find the book I was thinking of – IMPLOSION by D.F. Jones. My hardcover edition was published in 1967. Wow that was over forty years ago! How can that be? I’m not a day over thirty-nine. Nuff said.

Dennis Feltham Jones was a British science-fiction author who died in 1981. The film Colossus: the Forbin Project was based on his book Colossus.

IMPLOSION is also set in the United Kingdom. A scientist from an Eastern Bloc country produces a drug, Prolix, that decreases fertility. Britain is targeted and the minister of health is forced to create concentration camps for women who are still fertile; one of whom is his wife. Other countries become involved and at the end it’s discovered that the women who can still reproduce will only give birth to boys; mankind is doomed to become extinct.

Aside from having a slightly sexist tone, (consider the year) it’s still a good read.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

My Milestone Month

This is a milestone month for me and I don't mean because it's the month I was born.

I'm a Libra. Sign of The Scales - September 24 to October 23
According to my traditional Libra traits are:
Diplomaitic and urbane

Romantic and charming
Easygoing and sociable
Idealistic and peaceable

On the dark side I'm:
Indecisive and changeable
Gullible and easily infuenced
Flirtatious and self-indulgent

I'm sure my husband and children would argue the easygoing part, but I'm definitely a romantic.

Anyway back to the milestone. I finally have less than a year until work release. As of right now the countdown calendar says: 11 months, 23 days, 12 hours, 29 minutes and 34 seconds.

Next year at this time I will be writing full-time. Yay!!!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Follow me on Twitter

What is Twitter?

TWITTER: To utter a succession of light chirping or tremulous sounds; chirrup; To speak rapidly and in a tremulous manner.

On the internet Twitter is a free service for social networking and microblogging. It enables you to stay in touch with friends and send and read updates. Updates are displayed on your profile page and delivered to followers – the people who have signed up to receive them.

Today I finally had an incentive to open my own Twitter account. Holly Lisle is running a contest and everyone who follows her on Twitter can win a prize. Well I love Holly and any time I get a chance to win one of her books or courses I’ll take it.

So now I have this account and Ezine is linked up with it and will announce any new articles I write. So if you have a Twitter account or wanna get one – scroll down to the bottom of this page and click on my Twitter updates and follow me.

I’m a newbie at this myself but I found a Beginner’s Guide to using Twitter at

Check it out and learn what Twittering is all about.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Watch the VP Debate - Help Alaska's Wolves

Tonight, Governor Sarah Palin will take the national stage at the vice presidential debate. Please tune in. I hope she will be questioned about her position on the brutal aerial killing of wolves and other wildlife.

Voters need to learn about her real record as Governor of Alaska, especially the barbaric killing of wolves from airplanes and the plan to pay $150 bounties for the severed legs of dead wolves.

Defenders of Wildlife will be running an ad on TV and targeted websites in opposition to her shameful policies.

Watch the ad here and please help by donating:

Defenders Action Fund

Monday, September 29, 2008

Writing is Magic

The last thing Stephen King needs is another review of his book ON WRITING. There are over 800 already on Amazon. But because it’s my favorite book ON WRITING and I’m putting it on my bookshelf list, I feel I have to add my two cents.

If you write – you want this book and if you’re a fan of King’s writing - you want this book. ON WRITING is actually two books in one. The first half is an autobiography that covers his life from childhood to the accident that nearly killed him.

The second part is all about the craft of writing. It’s good common sense advice, some of which you’ve probably heard before. King talks about the tools a writer needs such as vocabulary and grammar. He tells you about his own writing routine, how long it takes him to write the first draft and how he edits the second draft. He even talks about other writers.

But more importantly he offers inspiration and encouragement. After reading his book I wanted to sit down and immediately start writing.

King says, "If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot."

He also says “Writing is magic.”

On Writing

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Drill and Kill - The War Against Wolves and Polar Bears

Sarah Palin pro-life? – not according to wolves and bears in Alaska. She promotes aerial hunting. The animals are chased by airplanes until they’re exhausted, the plane lands and a gunner shoots the animals.

Palin sued the Bush administration over the listing of polar bears as threatened so she can protect oil and gas development. She based her opposition on a scientific review which she declined to release. When a copy was obtained it was revealed that Alaska’s marine mammal scientists agree that polar bears are in trouble because of global warning and will be gone from Alaska by 2050.

In 2007 she offered a $150 bounty for wolves; hunters presented a wolf’s leg to collect.

This year fourteen newborn wolf pups and their parents were dragged from their den and shot.

According to a statement by Tom Banks, Alaska Representative, Defenders of Wildlife:
"The recent news that the Alaska Department of Fish and Game illegally killed 14 wolf pups as part of their efforts to boost caribou numbers and that they intentionally excluded this information from a June 30 press release only further diminishes the public’s faith and trust in the department’s ability to properly manage wolves and bears and follow the law.
This is the first time in more than 20 years that department biologists shot and killed wolves from the air and the first time that it has killed pups in their den. Alaska law prohibits the killing of pups in their dens as part of a predator reduction effort (Regulation 5AAC 92.110(i)) What’s more, the state itself advised the Board of Game in January of 2008 that it should reject a proposal that sought to allow killing in the den. So, clearly the state is aware the practice is illegal even as part of a predator control effort. Had this predator control program been scientifically and legally based it would not have been conducted at a time of year when wolves are tending to newly born offspring, making the illegal killing of pups in the den inevitable.”

Defenders of Wildlife was started in 1947; at that time it was called Defenders of Furbearers.

From one full-time employee and 1,500 members it has grown to over 150 employees and more than 500,000 members nationwide.

I’ve just renewed my membership and I urge everyone to check out their website to learn more about their programs and policies that are dedicated to the task of preserving our nation’s native wildlife species and habitats.

Check my new widget for updated info and for more information visit

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Cup of Comfort for Families Touched by Alzheimer's - Contest!

Head over to my website for a chance to win your own copy!


Over two million copies of the beloved Cup of Comfort® brand in print!
Edited by Colleen Sell

There are more than 4 million people in the U.S. with Alzheimer’s and that number is expected to increase to 7.7 million by 2025 (Alzheimer’s Disease International). A devasting disease, Alzheimer’s can change a loved one into a stranger as it steals memories, motor skills and more.
A Cup of Comfort for Families Touched by Alzheimer’s: Inspiring Stories of Unconditional Love and Support (October 14, 2008; Adams Media) edited by Colleen Sell is a collection of more than forty personal accounts from husbands, wives, daughters and sons who put their needs to asideto help their loved ones wrestle Alzheimer’s with unwavering support.

A Cup of Comfort for Families Touched by Alzheimer’s—just in time for National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month—helps readers know they are not alone. Though Alzheimer’s destroys brain cells, causing problems with memory, thinking and behavior severe enough to affect work, lifelong hobbies or social life, it cannot destroy love. Anne’s mom was never at a loss for words until Alzheimer’s made it difficult for her to form sentences and Renea was the apple of her father’s eyes until the disease put their dog Lucy at the forefront of his memory. Despite the recognition fading from their loved ones eyes, each writer rejoices in those moments of clarity where their mothers, fathers, husbands and wives became the people they once were. Heart wrenching and inspiring, A Cup of Comfort for families Touched by Alzheimer’s shows that nothing can alter the strength and love that make up a family—not even Alzheimer’s.
Colleen Sell is the editor of more than sixty published books, including twenty volumes in the Cup of Comfort® series. She has also been an author, ghostwriter, magazine editor, journalist, columnist, essayist and copywriter.

Please contact Jacquinn Williams at 508-427-6737 or

Edited by Colleen Sell
October 14, 2008
ISBN: 1-59869-651-3

Thursday, September 18, 2008

brusha ... brusha ... brusha

I may be dating myself with that one. It's the from the 1950's Ipana toothpaste commercials starring Bucky Beaver. Still it seems fitting. We just picked up the cat from the dentist.

Last week Buffy & Spike had their check-ups. It was all good, except for Buffy's teeth. Yes, cats develop plaque and tartar just like we do. Unfortunately they can't brush. We give them dry food and crunchy tartar & plaque control snacks but Buffy had the dreaded tartar anyway.

So last week she had her pre-anesthesia blood work and this morning we dropped her off at the vet. Buffy is a tiny, quiet little thing compared to her brother. She rarely talks and you can hardly hear her purr. So when we went back for her this evening I knew it couldn't be her screaming in the back room of the vet's office.

The vet tech came out holding her collar.
"This came off," she told me.
Briefly I wondered why she hadn't put it back on. Then they handed me the bill and I forgot all about the collar.

After JP picked me up off the floor I pulled out a credit card and berated myself for not going to veterinary school. Then another girl came out carrying a crate that looked like ours but CatZilla was caged inside. They assured me it was Buffy but when I stuck my face in front of her she bared her teeth and hissed at me.

She'd pooped and peed in the crate and the tech offered to get me a paper towel. It was pretty obvious they were afraid to get near her. So was I. We opted to get her home first.

We put the crate on the kitchen floor and JP opened the top with a ten foot pole. After a few minutes she hopped out and Spike came over to inspect her. She hissed at him and waddled about for a bit, still groggy from the anesthesia. Then she disappeared upstairs.

I hope I can get her to come out from under the bed so I can give her the Clindamycin.

Friday, September 12, 2008

1 year, 0 month, 19 days, 11 hours, 18 minutes, 3 seconds

Today I’m writing from the beach. It doesn’t seem like I was here three months ago – it seems like a year. The days pass slowly at Camp Swampy. Everyone tells me the time will pass quickly. Why doesn’t it feel that way to me?

The weather is perfect. It’s an overcast 77 degrees. By 8:30 AM I was sitting on my favorite bench in North Side Park and starting a new story. Two hours later I was back trying to get hubby out of bed so he could enjoy the day. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee from Dunkin Donuts beans finally did the trick. I took my mug out on the balcony and enjoyed the view of sand and surf. Ah, this is the life.

Back at the computer I only had 150 emails to check so I surfed on over to I was surprised to see “A Cup of Comfort for Families Touched by Alzheimer’s” is in stock.

A Cup of Comfort for Families Touched by Alzheimer’s: Inspirational stories of unconditional love and support (Cup of Comfort)

Writing a story about my own life experience is always an emotional trip. Writing about my mother was a heartrending journey.

It’s excruciating to watch your own mother deteriate in front of your eyes. There’s no preparation for it. You fly by the seat of your pants. I read everything I could get my hands on – newspaper articles, medical books and most especially stories about real people. My inspiration came from the caretakers; people who were kind enough to share the insight that only comes from personal experience. It inspired me to write my own story. I hope it will help others to know they’re not alone in this journey.

Check my website for a chance to win a copy.

Go here to enter:

There’s a new book review up on Ezine - The Elements of Style - Is it Relevant Today?

Check it out when you have time.

And while you’re surfing check out this new blog – I know the blogger and he has some interesting things to say.

The Distraction Culture

And have a great day!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Sex Sells

I’m writing a paranormal romance, so this month I’m taking a workshop on writing love scenes. Now some people may ask why. Surely the love scene is the easiest part of the process. After all it’s just a matter of putting part “A” into part “B” and adding some sound effects. Not so. Actually there’s much, much more involved.

A romance novel focuses on the relationship between the hero and heroine. Everything else is secondary. The plot has to revolve around the couple and their romance. Each love scene has to have a purpose and move the story along. There must be sexual tension, conflict and a climax where the characters are rewarded with a happy ending.

In addition some readers want to see more steamy sex scenes; which is not to say the teasers of yesterday are gone. Romance runs the gamut and there’s something for everyone.

However erotic romance has come into its own and is very popular today. The stories include graphic sex scenes and frank language. All of which makes things trickier because the sex can’t be gratuitous. We’re not talking hardcore porn, which concentrates only on the sex act. An erotic romance still has to have a well-developed plot and three dimensional characters. When it comes down to it it’s still the angst that makes a reader turn the page.

We’re seeing more and more electronic publishers such as the very popular The market for these stories is growing so rapidly that mainstream publishers are starting new imprints for them. It’s probably an outgrowth of more stark and realistic movies and TV shows.

So what’s a girl to do? Become proficient of course.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Problogger contest is over

The PROBLOGGER contest “Killer Titles Group Writing Project” is over.

The prize goes to Mjuboy for the title
Sacrificing Goats and Eating Brains

Check out all the great submissions here:

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Submission is a Dirty Word

Shame on you if you thought today’s topic was sex. It’s not. I’ll give you a hint – two hints in fact as defined on RhymeZone

Submission - noun: something (manuscripts or architectural plans and models or estimates or works of art of all genres etc.) submitted for the judgment of others (as in a competition)
Example: "Several of his submissions were rejected by publishers"

Dirty - adjective: (of a manuscript) defaced with changes
Example: "Foul (or dirty) copy"

You guessed it. Today I want to talk about writing contests.

There are many, many contests out there; each one is different. Some want the first chapter and a synopsis, others ask for XX pages, synopsis optional. There are fees involved and they can add up quickly. It pays to be selective and check the rules, fees and judges to make sure it’s a good fit for you.

I entered my first contest in May. It asked for a title page, the first five pages of my manuscript and a synopsis which would not be judged.

Let me just say that it takes nerves of steel to submit. I suffered a severe case of agida before I finally dropped my entry in the mail. I tried to put it out of my head; it can take a long time to get results back.

Some people enter to win. Not me. I knew that wasn’t happening. I write book reviews and short inspirational pieces. This is my first novel and my first attempt at the dreaded synopsis.

So why did I enter - first and foremost to receive objective feedback from other writers. To find out where I’m going wrong and what I’m doing right.

Secondly I wanted the experience of formatting and submitting a manuscript. Its excellent training for the day I submit to an agent or publisher.

While I waited for the results I was still making changes and wishing I had another six months to work on my entry. Imagine if I had to enter a whole chapter.

Okay, finally the names of the finalists were announced and I was not among them – no surprise there. But now I knew my entry would be coming back shortly and while I waited I chewed off all my nails.

When the envelope appeared in the mail I grabbed it and locked myself in my office. I held my breath, tore it open and looked at the first page.

The comments were not unexpected - no dialogue in the first five pages, bringing the hero in too soon, etc. Three of the judges gave me good scores on formatting, the fourth not so good. In her opinion I should have used underlining instead of italics. I’m still not sure about that; I thought either was acceptable.

I’d been hearing a lot about contradictory feedback on my listserv. You gotta remember one thing - you can’t please everybody. I’ve reviewed more than one book that I loved and then found out another reviewer hated it.

I read all the comments from all judges and appreciated every one. The advice and encouragement was really helpful. One judge was exceptional. She gave me the reasoning behind her comments and critiqued my synopsis which wasn’t even part of the judging. I’m very grateful for her thoroughness and the time she spent on my entry.

The whole process was a very positive experience. I’ve already begun incorporating some of the ideas I’ve been given and I’m reworking my synopsis.

So I’ve gotten through my first contest and survived to tell the tale. I may even enter another one.

I've entered the title for this post on ProBlogger Killer Titles - a Group Writing Project
The contest is over Thursday Aug. 28, so if you hurry there's still time to enter. I'll be posting the winner and some of the best entries. Check back.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Toshiba Rules

I know its been awhile but I have an excuse. I know, I know. No excuses, but I've been afraid of my computer. When it started talking to me I was totally freaked. As I said before JP cleaned it up and its been quiet ever since, but I'm wary. I used to leave it on all the time, no more. Now I get on do whatever and log off.

Obviously this could not go on. I need a new computer. Desktop or laptop? Laptop or Desktop?

I really wanted a laptop but I also wanted a work horse and a decent size screen. Everybody I questioned had bought a Toshiba laptop so I narrowed it down somewhat.

My eyes being what they are I opted for a 17" display.

And I was dead set on Windows XP. I have too much software to worry about being compatible with Vista.

So here's what I decided on: a Toshiba Satellite L350-ST2121.

Here's some of the specs: Intel® Core™2 Duo Processor T5750 (2.0GHz, 2MB L2, 667MHz FSB), (Windows XP Pro Preinstalled + Vista Business® media), 2048MB PC5300 DDR2 667MHz SDRAM (2048MBx1), 200GB HDD, DVD SuperMulti drive.

I haven't gotten it yet but I'm super excited. More later when it's up and running.

Monday, August 18, 2008

My computer talks to me

Friday started out great. I was on a roll. My query letter and synopsis were looking good. I was in the Zone.

The Zone is where I go after an hour or two of work. All of a sudden my muse kicks in. A lightbulb goes off and everything comes easy.

So there I was furiously typing when I heard voices. I turned off the volume and went back to work. It happened again. It was a little weird but I ignored it and kept on working. The next time the Norton box came up and told me it found perfs.exe on my PC, a Trojan virus. Panic!

No sooner did I quarantine it then another box popped up. I removed 5 of the nasty things and was just about to pat myself on the back when they all came back again. Oh no. Not Good. My muse fled and I shut down. This was a job for JP.

It took Hubby the better part of the weekend to clean my computer. I resorted to using pen and paper.

Evidently some really nasty malware found it's way to my PC. Short of reformatting I don't think I trust it. My computer is eight years old; my OS is Win 2000. I think it's time for a new PC.

I'm leaning toward a laptop. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

ta-da! "A Cup of Comfort for Loved Ones of Alzheimer's"Coming Out

This has been a busy week. My second article, a book review, went up on Ezine today. Read it here:

I've been working feverishly to finish the first draft of my novel. It's not there yet but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

And I just sat down at the computer, opened my email and there in my inbox was a message telling me that the publication date for "A Cup of Comfort for Loved Ones of Alzheimer's" is October 14, 2008 - it was just changed from September 9.

Having a spouse, sibling, or parent with Alzheimer’s affects a family in every way possible—and can leave people feeling like they have nowhere to turn. The moving stories in this new collection help readers recognize they are not alone—and provide comfort for those who need it now more than ever. Readers will be inspired by the husbands, wives, sons, and daughters who put their own needs aside and sacrifice everything for love. This story collection shows how compassion and loyalty prevails when a loved one has Alzheimer’s.

You can preorder it here:

Friday, August 8, 2008

Ezine Article

This will be a very short post today.

I just wanted to let everyone know my first article was posted on Ezine today.

Check it out here:
Book Reviewing - Share the Fun

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Dreaded Query Letter

I’m feeling the “G” word because I haven’t updated lately. I am Guilty as charged but with good reason. The dreaded query letter has my head spinning.

A query letter is the first step in proposing a writing project to an agent or editor of a publishing house. It’s usually one page and it contains the following:

1. Title, length and genre of your manuscript.

2. What your story or book is about beginning with an intriguing one sentence blurb meant to hook the reader. Follow this with a paragraph that expands on the plot but doesn’t give away the end. I told you this was not easy.

3. Your biography. This is where you list any writing awards, published works and writing associations you belong to.

4. A sign off thanking the recipient for taking the time to read the letter.

5. Your name, address, telephone number, and e-mail address.

Believe me this is harder than writing the book. How do you describe a 75,000 word novel in one sentence? The first thing I did was to go online. There’s lots of help available and I went looking for it.

A search on brought up an Amazon Short by Noah Lukeman - “How to Write a Great Query Letter.”

At only $.49 it was a bargain. I was only a quick download away from a 76 page book by a man who is an agent and a former editor. Who better to look to for advice? It got better. The book was free.

How to Write a Great Query Letter

Mr. Lukeman says “I have written this book, and made it free, as a way of giving back to the writing community.”

It turned out to be great PR as well. I liked it so much I purchased “The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile,” also by Mr. Lukeman.

There are many how-tos online but this was one of the best. It began with ideas for research, went on to formatting and even talked about common mistakes.

Try it. The price is right.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

6 Reasons Why I Should Love My Job

Yesterday was a great day!

It took me the better part of the day to polish the synopsis of my novel so I could enter a writing competion. I did send it off and with 2 days to spare until the deadline.

The only reason I was able to do it was because I took a sick day and didn't have to go in to work. So now I see what I have to do - get sick more often. Just kidding.

On a more serious note it occurred to me that I do a lot of ranting about how much I despise my job.

So being in a good mood today I decided to come up with 10 reasons why I should love my job. Unfortunately I could only think of 6 so here they are:

1. I like to eat. It’s nice to have a roof over my head too.

2. I don’t have to worry about doing a bad job. I’ve been here so long I can do this in my sleep.

3. We have a secure gated parking lot – and it’s free.

4. It’s a construction office so I don’t have to spend a lot of money on clothes. Jeans and sneaks are the norm.

5. Many, many, many eccentric people have come through the doors to Camp Swampy and given me mucho material for a book.

6. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. NOT.
When I go home tonight I'm going to watch Discovery Channel's Dirty Jobs - Mike Rowe rocks.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Matron Literature

I thought I was familiar with all genres but “matron literature” was a new one on me. I wasn’t sure I liked the terminology but I decided to check it out anyway.

Turns out it’s an offshoot of chick lit. Sometimes it’s referred to as “hen lit,” “gray lit” or even “hag lit.” Ugh!
The stories focus on older female protagonists. I’ve noticed that heroines in romance novels have been getting older, but I never suspected they now had their own genre. Go figure.

It appears we women of a certain age need characters we can identify with. Now I have never had a problem perceiving myself as the thirty-something heroine or even the twenty-something heroine. I know what it’s like to walk in their shoes and in my fantasies I’d prefer to be rescued by the virile alpha stud rather than a bald, paunchy old relic. It’s supposed to be a fantasy right? We read romantic fiction to escape reality. But okay I thought I’d check it out and see what I’ve been missing.

A search on brought up “The Hot Flash Club,” by Nancy Thayer, which Publishers Weekly calls “chick lit for the AARP crowd.” Also “Loop Group” by Larry McMurtry, and “The Red Hat Club” by Haywood Smith.
At sixty going on thirty, I’m not sure I’m ready for “hag lit” but if I can find large print editions maybe I’ll give them a read.

BTW – Today’s Camp Swampy Roach Count is one sighting.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Yesterday was torturesome. I spent most of it trying to steer clear of the roaches and came home in a foul mood.

JP hid out in his office while I ranted and raved. When I threatened to retire before my time is served he knew I meant business.

This morning he had an industrial size container of bug juice in the car and announced he would play exterminator today.

I thought he was just going to spray my cubicle but he did all of Camp Swampy. My Hero!

To Be Continued...

Monday, July 14, 2008

Munchkins = activators; Camp Swampy = inhibitor

It was a good weekend. I saw the munchkins on Friday night and I was activated to spend most of Saturday writing. I saw them again on Sunday and I came home and wrote some more – except for the hour I spent watching “Big Brother,” which I chalked up to research.

Today I’m breathing the stale air at Camp Swampy and I’m inhibited. I was actually semi-comatose until the guy in the next cubicle yelled “roach,” and I jumped up instantly alert. Now I’m too busy scratching and looking around my desk to write anything.

They say the three most important things in real estate are location, location, location. It’s also true for writing. I am so ready to retire.

And before you chastise me, I’m not wasting taxpayer’s money. I’m still entitled to lunch and 2 breaks and I prefer writing to smoking or playing Solitaire on the computer.

So there’s my rant for today and now for the good news.

I’m excited to tell you the first reviews are in for “A Cup of Comfort for Cat Lovers” and there’re all 5 Star plaudits!

“Cup of Comfort for Cat Lovers is a delightful anthology…”

“Some made me laugh and some brought a tear to my eye but all of them were very enjoyable.”

“I was in dire need of a "Cup of Comfort" to recharge my affection for my 3 cats and that is just what I got.”

“The fifty stories are a fairly quick read and will leave you wishing for fifty more.”

If you’ve read the book I hope you’ll add your thoughts on

Cup of Comfort for Cat Lovers: Stories that celebrate our feline friends (Cup of Comfort)

And if you haven’t there’s still time to enter my contest at and win a free copy. The deadline is July 31.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Life in the big city...

Last night we left Camp Swampy and headed north on the Boulevard. Traffic slowed and came to a complete halt at 9th Street. The inevitable honking started and after a few light changes my patience was wearing thin.

Two policemen walked between the three lines of cars and stopped at the gold vehicle in front of ours. Briefly they spoke to the driver and then started back where they came from.

Suddenly they turned back and ran to another gold car that had pulled up on our left. This time one of the officers pulled his gun and opened the passenger door. The other cop pulled his gun and yanked the driver out of his seat.

In a matter of seconds two young boys lay facedown in the street, hands cuffed behind them and guns pointed at their heads.

A woman stood on the shoulder screaming, "they stole my car from my driveway."

As the boys were led away to one of the many police cars blocking the road all I could think was thank God those boys didn't have firearms. We could have been caught in a shootout, something that happens all too often in the City of Brotherly Love.

Monday, July 7, 2008


I hope you all had a great Fourth of July. I celebrated in the best way possible – with family and friends at a BBQ. Although we expected rain the weather turned out okay and the munchkins got some pool time. They’re really enjoying the water and were so much fun to watch.

Then Sunday night I finished the four book reviews that were due today and sent them in. Now it’s time to get back to the novel. I’ve made some plot changes that I think will add more conflict to the story and my goal is to finish the first draft by the end of August. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

Lexophilia is kind of an unofficial word meaning “the love of words.” For those of you who love words and language here’s an interesting site I came across over the weekend.

Improving communication from the Federal Government to the Public.

Being a hardcore lexophile myself I decided to make this link the beginning of a list on the sidebar called - Lexophilia. Enjoy!

BTW, I was very excited to see the first review for “A Cup of Comfort for Cat Lovers” on Amazon.

The reader gave it 5 stars and wrote “The fifty stories are a fairly quick read and will leave you wishing for fifty more. If you never had a cat as a pet/friend you only need to sit back and wrap yourself around this lovely little book with the big stories of feline tales to warm ones heart and maybe instill a bit of what being a cat lover is all about. And for the cat lovers reading through the book it will only reinforce what we already know about the power of the purr.”

Read the whole review here:

Cup of Comfort for Cat Lovers: Stories that celebrate our feline friends (Cup of Comfort)

There’s still 3 weeks left to enter my contest and win a copy of “A Cup of Comfort for Cat Lovers.” Go to my website for more details.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Doing it the WriteWay!

I've been on the fence about writing software, but I finally made my choice. I’ll be using WriteWay.

If you read previous blog posts you’ll know I was using yWriter, free software downloaded from At the same time I tried various other programs both free and costly.

I downloaded the trial version of WriteWay and after using it for two weeks I found I couldn’t give it up. Of all the software I’ve tried WriteWay is by far the best.

The deciding factor for me was the Research Folders. I tend to collect massive amounts of information when I write, notes jotted on scraps of paper, URLs, pictures, etc. My binder fills up, the folders on my PC multiply and I have a mountain of papers on my desk. Needless to say I can never find anything.

In WriteWay, all of this can be organized in the Research Folders. Set up folders, name them and add pages which can contain both text and pictures. Add internet links and find websites with a click.

My second favorite feature is the Notecards. WriteWay's main workspace is split into two sections. On the left is your Outline, and on the right is your composition area with Notecards staggered and tabbed on the bottom. (They can also be used in Storyboard format). You can use the preformatted cards or make up your own templates, such as plot, characters, conflict, setting, dialogue – how you use the cards is up to you.

Other features include Dictionary, Thesaurus, Manuscript Formatting, Word Count Tracking, and more.

Regular price is $39 for Standard Edition and $79 for Professional Edition. I took advantage of the limited time offer of 20% off on either version and went with the Pro mainly because of the Research Folders.

If cost is a factor yWriter is a great program and it’s free. If you want the extra features - Test drive WriteWay by downloading the FREE 30-day demo.

Monday, June 30, 2008

“Techniques of the Selling Writer” - a review

Recently someone posted on one of my email groups and mentioned “Techniques of the Selling Writer” by Dwight V. Swain. There were immediate responses. Evidently a lot of people out there have read this book. My first reaction was wow – I should get a copy; I’ll check it out on Amazon.

I felt pretty foolish when Amazon came back and informed me that I purchased this item on November 16, 2006. I’d like to say I had a senior moment but this is more like a year and a half. I’ll blame it on cubicle brain atrophy. Thank you Amazon for not letting me buy a book I already have.

I can’t be the only reader who does this. You see a book you want, you buy it intending to read it in the near future. It goes on the TBR pile - to be read. Then you buy another book, and another. Soon they’re piled high and you have no idea what you have. Solution - buy your books from Amazon – it remembers everything.

Sure enough I found Swain’s book buried under umpteen others. I started going through it and I’m pretty annoyed with myself for forgetting I had it. It’s a classic. There are forty reviews on Amazon and thirty-two of them give the book 5 stars. Seven give it four stars. One gives it three stars.

I’d give it six if I could. I knew I had a keeper when I finished the first chapter. Here’s Swain on writing exercises:

“Most potentially successful writers have little patience with such. They’re too eager to get on with their own stories; too intoxicated with their own euphoria; too excited over their ideas. Exercises excite no one.”

Right-on! I’ve read many books on writing. Never read that before. Most how-tos include exercises. I tried them. I hated them. I thought it was just me. Even when I started drafting I had no use for practice, I wanted a real job to work on. But I felt guilty that I was too impatient. Can I ever be a good writer if I don’t want to do exercises? Evidently the answer is yes. Now I feel vindicated.

I went on to chapter two – “The Words You Write.” I found myself highlighting lines on every page.
“Your two key tools are nouns and verbs.”
“The singular of a noun is almost always stronger than the plural.” Gems on every page. I learned a lot. Did I already know some of this? Sure. But it was explained in a clear and consistent manner that drove it home.

Chapter three – Plain facts About Feelings
Chapter four – Conflict And How To Build It
Chapter five – Fiction Strategy
Chapter six – Beginning, Middle, End

There are ten chapters in all and an appendix on “Preparing your Manuscript” and “Further Reading.”

This book was first published in 1965. There’s a reason it still remains a recommended read by so many. Without a doubt it’s one of the best books on crafting genre fiction. You’ll refer back to it time after time. I’ve added it to my list in the sidebar.

Techniques of the Selling Writer

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Joy of Writing

Yesterday I came home from Camp Swampy and found a box on my doorstep. That’s not unusual. JP and I do a lot of online shopping and my ARCs arrive by mail.

But this box engendered a lot of excitement. It was filled with books. There was no waiting to get it in the house. I had to open it right then and there. JP’s little knife came out, I lifted the flaps and there they were. Hot off the presses brand new copies of “A Cup of Comfort for Cat Lovers,” and each one containing my short story “The Power of the Purr.”

I went right to page 70 and read the story; then flipped to the back to read my bio. Let me tell you there is nothing like seeing your name in print. I wanted to knock on every door in the neighborhood and yell - Hey that’s me! It’s a high like no other. I felt enormous pride that others liked my baby enough to publish it.

I hadn’t let anyone read the story, preferring to wait until the book was released. Now I gave JP a copy and waited for judgment. He liked it, even seemed a little surprised – like it was way better than he expected. I’m not sure I like that, but you can’t complain about a good review.

Today I gave a copy to a co-worker and waited for a less biased opinion. She loved it, said it made her laugh and then cry. You can’t ask for more than that.

Every writer’s goal is to entertain, inspire and stir the emotions. That’s the best compensation ever.

Enter the contest on my website – win a copy of the book.

Monday, June 16, 2008


"A Cup of Comfort for Cat Lovers" with my short story "The Power of the Purr" will be released in July. You can win a copy of the book. Just send me an email with "A Cup of Comfort for Cat Lovers" in the subject line between now and July 30th. One lucky winner will be chosen from the entries.

Over two million copies of the beloved Cup of Comfort® brand in print!

Edited by Colleen Sell

There are more than 77 million pet cats in the United States according to the National Wildlife Federation. Peaceful, loyal, and loving cats bring joy to their owner’s lives in numerous ways. Now cat lovers everywhere will be uplifted by A Cup of Comfort ®for Cat Lovers: Stories That Celebrate Our Feline Friends (July 8, 2008; Adams Media) edited by Colleen Sell that celebrates the cherished bonds of over fifty cat owners and their favorite felines. From a wayward Calico that rescues his family from a deadly snake to a sophisticated Siamese that helps heal her ailing owner, A Cup of Comfort for Cat® Lovers—the latest in the A Cup of Comfort ® series—is a touching tribute to these furry friends.

The perfect follow-up to A Cup of Comfort® for Dog Lovers, this lovely assemblage is great for basking in the warmth only a pet cat can bring. A nationally best selling brand, A Cup of Comfort®- continues to delight and comfort readers everywhere with personal accounts of life’s sweetest moments. With stories like “A Cat Named Bob” and “The Purrfect Cure” this book is sure to capture the hearts of readers—one meow at a time.

Colleen Sell is the editor of more than sixty published books, including twenty
volumes in the Cup of Comfort® series. She has also been an author, ghostwriter, magazine editor, journalist, columnist, essayist and copywriter.

Edited by Colleen Sell
Adams Media, a division of F+W Publications
$9.95; ISBN: 1-59869-654-8

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Looking for Punxsutawney Phil

The past two days flew by in a blur. Monday we received sad news, a death in the family, and Thursday morning we left for Punxsutawney PA to attend the funeral. It’s a 297.4 mile trip from Philly and it took us about 5 hours including the delay caused by a tractor-trailer accident on I-80. We stayed in Dubois, 21 miles from Punxy, and a big town by Punxy standards. We barely had time to check in at the Hampton Inn, meet a few family members and grab a bite to eat before attending the viewing.

Friday afternoon following the funeral there was a luncheon at the historic Pantall Hotel, built in 1888 by Theo Pantall. It was renovated in 1970. Undoubtedly their busiest time of the year is February when Punxsutawney Phil makes his appearance.

If you’re remotely interested in the weather you’re already familiar with the groundhog that comes out of his burrow on February 2nd and predicts the weather for the rest of winter. If Phil sees his shadow, there’ll be six more weeks of winter. If he doesn’t there’ll be an early spring. On that day thousands of visitors gather at Gobblers' Knob and enjoy live entertainment, music and fireworks while waiting for Phil’s appearance at daybreak. The gates open at 3:00 AM.
We had to satisfy ourselves with a visit to the groundhog zoo located in the park across from the hotel. There were two sleepy groundhogs in residence and I only got to see their butts. But we did take some pictures of the 6’ fiberglass models, each an individual work of art and located around the center of town. You can see the rest of the pictures on my website:

All too soon it was time to leave the beautiful rolling hills of Northwest PA. We arrived in Philly Friday at 8 PM. Culture Shock for sure.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Behind the Barbed Wire

Like my new picture?
I was browsing and this one caught my eye. Considering the number and variety of prints they offer it might seem like a strange choice. But I knew as soon as I saw it - this is Camp Swampy!

Okay so we don't have a blue door or a cat. But we do have a chainlink fence with barbed wire on top. Really, it's true. For me this picture captured the essence of being on the inside looking out.

Besides I was in a pissy mood yesterday. Decided to try a new writing program. I downloaded the trial version and installed it at Camp Swampy. I know I'm not supposed to do my own thing at work but give me a break - I'm imprisoned here 9 hours a day, plus 1.5 hours traveling time.

Anyway, Liquid Story Binder is a beautiful program. The interface is gorgeous. It's got every conceivable bell and whistle - from color schemes to image galleries to music playlists. I wanted to love it. I was almost ready to buy it. You know we writers love our toys. So I played and played and played. Didn't get much writing done but finally I settle down and revised my first chapter. I saved everything and took the files home on my memory stick.

After dinner I sat down at my computer and got ready to play. I copied the files from stick to harddrive and opened my first chapter. No revisions. Where the heck were they? Maybe I didn't copy them from my stick. I did it again. Still no revisions. I opened the files from the stick. Nope they weren't there. Shit!

This morning I opened the program at work and there was the revised chapter. I still don't know why it didn't make it to my memory stick. Obviously I did something wrong. But should the learning curve be this difficult. Believe me I know how to copy files.

So my final opinion is - it's not for me. I don't want to spend a lot of time learning a new program or playing with extras when I should be writing. Ywriter is still at the top of my list.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Meet the Reviewer

Yesterday the July issue of Romantic Times BOOKreviews magazine arrived in my mailbox. I went straight to page 16 and was absolutely blown away.

There was my name in big block letters at the top of the page and a picture of me with Buffy and Spike.

Unless you’re a writer you can’t imagine the feeling of opening a book or magazine and seeing your name in print. It’s thrilling and terrifying at the same time. Yes, I see my name in the magazine every month; my byline appears under my reviews. It's always exciting. It's also humbling. That's the terrifying part.

When you see your own words staring back at you and you think – I should have said this or I shouldn’t have said that…

And the biggie – Will they like it?

They meaning you - Constant reader. The person I most want to inform, inspire and entertain.

I hope I succeeded.

Romantic Times Book Reviews

Friday, June 6, 2008

rambling patter WORDS chitchat babble

Carpenters use hammers and nails. Cooks have their pots and pans. Painters need rollers, latex and ladders. A writer’s tools are words.

Sometimes the joy of stringing them together into something eloquent is indescribable. We know exactly what we want to impart to the reader but we get stuck for the right word to convey our meaning. And sometimes we find the right word and overuse it.

That’s when I reach for J.I. Rodale’s
“The Synonym Finder." It’s a thesaurus in dictionary format which, in my humble opinion, makes it much easier to use. It contains an astounding 1,500,000 words. If you can’t find what you’re looking for it ain’t been said yet. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

My own paperback copy is getting dog-eared. The hardback is on my 2009 Christmas wish list. Are you reading this JP?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

I'm Baaaaaaaaaaaaaack!!

It's good to be back. I’ve been bouncing back and forth between the beach and Camp Swampy and writing time has been non-existent. Don’t think for one minute I’m complaining about the beach, no way. But it feels real good to be back at my desk again with a real internet connection. We use NetZero dial-up in OC and I can play a whole round of Zuma while a page loads.

I did manage to enter two contests in May and I’m hoping to enter a few more this month and next. While getting my entries ready I decided my descriptions could use some pumping up. You know – the word pictures that make you feel like you’re right there. I went to my collection of writing books for guidance.

I have quite a few books written for writers. Some are good and some not so good. The not so good ones stay on the shelf.

Today I’m going to start a list of the good ones; starting with one that gets pulled off my shelf a lot - “Word Painting” by Rebecca McClanahan. Non-fiction or fiction, this book made my writing better. It’s helped me turn ho-hum sentences into an electrifying paragraph.

McClanahan defines description as “eye, word and story” and she shows you how to move from one to the other - to look around and translate what you see into something that will transport your reader. There’s technical stuff as well - like point of view, active and passive voice, similes and metaphors. Exercises are provided to get your juices flowing. I guarantee you’ll refer back to it again and again.

Friday, May 23, 2008

A Note From Paradise

This morning I woke up and the first thing I saw was the ocean. I thought I was dreaming, then I remembered we drove down last night. It was late so we unpacked and fell into bed.

Ocean City MD - this is my favorite place to write hands down. I couldn't wait to feel the sand between my toes. Or maybe I'd walk the seven blocks to the park and sit by the bay. I could even sit on our balcony and watch the kids frolic in the Atlantic while I read or rote. So many choices.

But first we had to get the shopping out of the way. And since we were already out we stopped to see the new library at 100th St. and Coastal Highway. The parking lot is large and we got a pass at the front desk to put on our windshield. It was good for 2 hours.

I was impressed with the building and the new computers. There's a 30 minute time limit on the computers so you may want to bring your laptop and take advantage of the free wifi. They have all the newest movies and music in addtion to the books and periodicals. Everyone was so pleasant and helpful. My husband and I both got library cards.

Then it was off to Food Lion and the Hallmark Store for a stack of magazines. I opted for the balcony and read for 2 hours. Geez my biggest problem now is where to go for dinner. I'll let you know what we decided.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

"How To Write Page-Turning Scenes"

The past few weeks have been jam-packed. What with my son and DIL moving, getting our beach property ready for rentals and the day job there’s been little time for “The Novel.”

Frustrated beyond belief I took a few vacation days. Camp Swampy will survive without me. If I got down to business I could still make the deadline on a contest I wanted to enter. I only needed to submit the first five pages and a synopsis. Easier said then done. I wanted those few pages to be page-turners.

Lucky for me I just happened to have a copy of Holly Lisle’s “How To Write Page-Turning Scenes.” I’ve been a fan of Holly’s books for some time. Then I discovered her website was an excellent source of material for aspiring writers. I subscribed to her newsletters and downloaded her free e-books. They were so helpful that I decided to buy her newest course “How To Write Page-Turning Scenes.”

I went through the entire course Tuesday and Wednesday. By Wednesday night I was stoked. The course lit a fire under me that burned into the wee hours. This morning I mailed off my contest entry.

I’m not big on doing exercises but I did every one in Holly’s book and they were fun and I learned a lot. The chapters on conflict were especially helpful. You don’t have to zip through the course like I did. Work at your own pace. I was on a mission.

Check it out for yourself:
How To Write Page-Turning Scenes

About that contest entry - keep your fingers crossed.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Lost in Munchkin Land

This morning I woke up feeling like one of the survivors on “Lost.” The past two days were spent watching the munchkins while their parents worked on the new house. Yesterday I had a 3 year old, a 2.5 year old and a 9 month old.

Nobody was interested in a nap but me. The majority won. We played Wizard of Oz, went for a walk, watched SpongeBob SquarePants, read books and blew lots and lots of bubbles. Needless to say there was no writing going on at Camp Swampy home base.

We had a blast but never did I feel more like a baby boomer. There’s a reason why a woman’s fertility starts going downhill after thirty.

Eventually the babies went home, the house was put back in order and I sat down at the computer at 7 PM. I skimmed through 116 emails and started playing with the demo version of a program I downloaded a few days ago.

"WriteItNow" by Ravenshead Services is a software program that will help you write and organize your novel. It’s user friendly with tabs at the top and a tree view on the left. The help is well documented and there are plenty of extras.

It comes with a short story that illustrates the various features. I chose to use a story idea of my own and start from scratch although I wasn’t able to save anything.

I started with the “Characters” and added a few descriptions. You can even generate new characters and names when you get stuck. There are tabs for Locations, Events, Ideas, Chapters, Notes, Charts and Submissions. "WriteItNow" has a thesaurus, spell checker, word count and exports your work in plain text, RTF or HTML. The full version contains more add-ons and allows you to save your work.

I previously wrote about yWriter which is free. At $49.95 for the download or $59.95 for the CD WriteItNow is a reasonably priced alternative if you want the extra features.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Beyond Farchadat

This morning I walked past the car like it wasn’t even there and my husband told me I was confused, distracted and dysfunctional – in Yiddish no less.

Could I be having a senior moment? I convinced myself it was just mental fatigue. The daily struggle to cram 24 hours of activity into 18 so I can get some sleep is taking a toll. I was led to believe these are my "Golden Years" and I’m feeling more like scrap metal. I'm aiming for a steel alloy, something known for superior strength and malleability.

I can't eliminate a thing from my hectic life. The day job stays . I like to eat, drive and have a roof over my head. I’m spoiled that way. It's 1 year, 4 months, 19 days, 18 hours, 7 minutes and 44 seconds until work release. Until then I'm committed to Camp Swampy.

Seems like I'm always trying to squeeze in more quality writing time. My short stories were written in MS Word. I started my novel in Word as well and ended up creating a new file for each chapter. It wasn’t long before it was one awkward mess and I started looking around for something better. There’s a lot of software out there geared for writers but most of it is $$$$ and bloated with useless features. I don’t need a Dictionary-Thesaurus, a Spell-checker or a Typing Tutor. There’s already a wealth of that on the internet.

Luckily I came across
yWriter when I entered a contest for one of Simon Haynes’ books. I didn’t win the book but I found out he writes great software and gives it away free. I downloaded a copy of yWriter and I’ve been using it ever since. Thank you Simon.

It organizes your book using a “Project, adds scenes, chapters, characters and settings, provides a word count, automatic back-ups and much more

And did I mention it’s free.

Spacejock Software