Row80 check-in for October 30, 2011

I’ve been a bad girl this week and haven’t done much of anything but try to finish up novel one in my Fallhollow saga.  I keep finding things that could be done better and I’m hunting for all the ‘looks’ and other repetitive ‘telly’ words I can find and eliminate them from my vocabulary.  It has not proven to be easy.

I’ve visited a couple of blogs and sent over another short story to midlife collage. I’ll let everyone know if they accept it for another contest.

Set up my NaNoWriMo info and added some buddy partners to keep me focused.  I’m going to be a writing fiend as I HAVE to finish book one before starting on book 2.

Need to get motivated on some kind of exercise routine, even if it’s walking.  The mornings are cool enough now, I just need to get off my lazy rear end and do it.

Will take a break from writing for an hour tonight to watch Once Upon a Time.    Streamed Merlin from the UK and watched it.  I am addicted to that show.  Got a little sidetracked Friday night when I went to see Josh Groban in Tampa with my sister-in-law.  The man is funny, amazingly beautiful with a voice of an angel. I’m so glad I went but the whole time between songs I was plotting my novel, editing in my head.  I really must get a life.

Have no other plans this week except to continue to write, look for jobs and blog hop a bit.  Talk to you guys next month!

Good luck to all you NaNoWriMo freaks.  Two more days to self-inflicted insanity.  You can find me as Slavandria if anyone needs a writing buddy.  ;-0

Hi ho, hi ho, it’s back to writing I go…

All you need is a little talent and a whole lot of passion

I had the extreme pleasure of seeing the beautiful, amazing, and multi-talented Josh Groban perform last night in Tampa, Florida.

From the instant that strains of Straight to You resounded in the arena to the ending notes of Play Me, the evening was pure magic!!! Josh connects with the audience in a way I have never seen; bringing fans on stage, alternating between two stages, drawing the crowd into the music.  He pulled a 9-year old girl and a couple married for 46 years onto the stage and sang a duet of The Prayer with a girl from the audience.  While I’m sure the duet was arranged and ‘staged’, it was entertaining nonetheless.  He has a quirky sense of humor and interacted with the audience a lot.

Besides the large variety of beautiful vocals, he can also play a wicked set of drums.

But beyond all of the reasons people flocked to see him, there was something else about him that touched my soul:  his passion for what he does.  It came through in every note, from Galileo to Broken Vow, to Machine to Bells of New York City.  I realized as I listened to Josh sing and watched as he interacted with his fans, no matter how much training we have, no matter how much we say we want to be successful or need to be a certain way, without passion to drive us, all our wants mean nothing.  We can have all the talent in the world, but without passion, who will see it?

Josh’s show was unforgettable.  He sang his heart out and in doing so, fueled the already burning passion within me to write.  I may never be famous.  I may never make millions from my novels, but I will leave this earth one day knowing that pieces of my heart and soul are buried between every word of every story I write.  Other than my kids, I can’t think of a better legacy to leave behind.

What about you?  What are you passionate about and who inspires you to follow your dreams?

Row80 Check-in – Oct. 26

What a roller coaster week this has been.

I won a readers’ choice award at Midlife for my non-fiction short story, Baby.  (It’s posted on my blog under short stories if you want to read it).  I was also a semi-finalist in Brenda Drakes’ Can You Leave Us Breathless contest.  Both accomplishments I was not expecting and they both left me breathless and very thankful to all who participated and made the venues available.

I re-wrote several of my chapters of In the Shadow of the Dragon King, which I need to re-submit to a publisher; however, my astute 16-year old son found some holes in 3 of those chapters that didn’t make sense to him, so off I go to fix them (geez, I hate it when teens are really right!)

Gearing up for NaNo.  The scale tipped in the wrong direction this morning.  My power went out while I was in the shower this morning and hubby had to call the power company to fix the main line outside our house.   I put a bid out for an freelance editing job and I submitted some poetry for possible submission in an anthology.

Bopped around to a few blogs, visited my online critique sites, and touched base with some other writer buddies I fell out of contact with.

Next book on my reading list:  The Glass Man by Jocelyn Adams.  It’s been getting great reviews and from the excerpts I’ve read, I can’t wait to dive in.

Well, back to writing.  I have a feeling it’s going to be a late night.  Keep writing and whatever you do, hold on tight to your dream.


E-Gad! Two months to Christmas and I’m out of vanilla extract!

And what does this have to do with writing?  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.

But holy crap! I looked at the calendar and it dawned on me, Christmas is 2 months away – to the day.  That means only one thing:  restock the spice cabinet!

I found out I needed, among many things, whole cloves, baking powder, and vanilla extract.  But it can’t be any vanilla extract.  It has to be homemade.  So…  time to get in the attic and bring down my mason jars and make a store run for rum and vanilla beans.  Yum, heaven.

So, how do you make homemade vanilla extract? Oh my gosh, it’s so easy, and I swear  you’ll never go back to store-bought again, but you’ve got to get started now (within the next 3 – 4 days at the latest).

You’re going to need:

a jar with a tight-fitting lid
3 vanilla beans
about a cup of rum (I prefer Appleton Jamaican Rum over Bacardi or Meyers). Taste it and you’ll understand why.

First, sterilize your jar and lid by pouring boiling water over them and then letting them soak in the scalding bath for about 10 minutes.

Next, with a sharp pair of kitchen scissors or paring knife, cut your vanilla beans in half, leaving an inch at the end connected.


Place the three beans in your sterilized glass jar with tight-fitting lid and cover with rum.

Seal it up good and tight and store in a dark cupboard for two months.  Once a week, give it a good shake and return it to it’s dark hiding spot.  Come December 24, you’ll have the best vanilla extract to ever cross your tongue.

Look at that great color!  And, the great thing is, it never runs out as long as you keep adding the rum.

I hope you try this recipe.  I know you will love it.  Enjoy!!!

I have a novel to publish, short stories to edit, and a new novel to write in 30 days. I’m swamped.

Remember this fantastic scene from the Princess Bride?

Swap the words for the title of this post and that’s me facing down NaNoWriMo which starts a week from today. Am I nuts?

Unlike Prince Humperdink, I am not a planner. I don’t outline, I don’t figure out my characters or what they’re doing. I just write. Now, I do have a plan in my head. I know where I want to start and how I want to end but that’s it. I guess you could say my writing style reflects my everyday look at life.

I don’t plan. In fact, I hate to plan because nothing ever goes right when I plan. The best vacations I’ve ever had were the ones where no plans were made except to say “We’re going on vacation to [fill in the blank]”. Once we got to wherever we were going, my family and I did whatever caught our interest. We’ve never had an itinerary to uphold.

One of our best vacations was the one we took two years ago to Key West over Labor Day weekend. It was literally a spur of the moment trip, completely unplanned. I told the boys we were going to the Keys the next day (you should have seen their faces! priceless!) and to go to bed early. I got online and made reservations for us and the pooches (they love traveling, too) at a fabulous Sheraton Hotel on Key West beach (at an AWESOME rate that I couldn’t even believe myself] and off we went. I even took 1 extra vacation day from work so we would have 4 fab days in the Florida Keys. I got to live out two of my dreams: to see Hemmingway’s house and stand at the southern most tip of the United States. Kewl!

Hopefully, NaNoWriMo will offer the same opportunity to fulfill one of my dreams: to write and finish the second installment in my 3-part saga. I have butterflies in my tummy, my nerves are starting to twitch, and my brain is gearing up to face the unknown. The trip is going to be a fantastic one and I’m going to learn a lot, especially about myself. Can I stay focused? Can I make and accomplish goals? I believe I can. What I am sure of as a writer, is if I can get through and succeed at NaNo, I can succeed at anything. Today – Little Town, Florida. Tomorrow, New York! Look out world! I’m coming for you!!!

(gotta love the ‘I am awesome’ message!)

I did it! I actually did it!

I won the readers’ choice award at Midlife Collage!  I’ve never won anything in my life for my writing.  I’m all tingles and smiles!  I can’t believe it!  I really can’t believe it.  *Squeal*  *jumping up and down*

Wow.  I would like to take a minute to thank everyone who voted for my non-fiction short story, Baby.  She was truly a special dog and she is still missed by our family.  I would also like to give a very warm ‘thank you’ to Donna Balon, Editor at Midlife Collage, for hosting these weekly contests and opening the door to many writers and authors.

In celebration of my first ever contest win, I would like to share some virtual goodies.  I hope you enjoy them.  I know I would if I really had them!!!!  🙂

If you are interested in reading my winning story about Baby, please head on over to my short stories tab.

Whoo hoo!!!!

and  and

Row80 check-In for Oct. 23, 2011

I can’t believe it’s Sunday already.  Thought I’d check in before I get sucked into something else, liking making dinner or writing.

This week I entered a 300-word flash fiction piece in Brenda Drake’s “Can you leave them breathless?’ contest.  It’s a morbid, twisted piece that came from the dark depths of hell somewhere inside of me, but what the hey.   Who am I to battle the muse when it shows up?

Submitted a non-fiction short-story to Midlife Collage.  It’s up for a ‘reader’s choice’ award.  So far it’s in the lead.  Keeping my fingers crossed through midnight tonight.  I’ll find out tomorrow if I won.

Finished 2 more chapters on the novel I have to get back to the publisher.  I never knew this sort of edit would take so flipping long, but I want it right.

Sent my query for scrutiny to an author who is soon-to-be-published through Harper Collins.  I am really looking forward to her debut novel coming out in January.  She also said she’d put in a word for me with her agent when I’m ready to submit.  Can I say squeal loud enough?

Did a lot of blog hopping this week.  Here are a few out of many that I will continue to visit a lot:  Jennifer Eaton, Jennifer Randolph, Claire Gillian, Gene Limp.

On a personal front:  spent time outside in this beautiful, cool Florida weather.  Took dogs for walks, rode my bike, did a little gardening.  The air is so clean, the breeze so refreshing.  I wish it would stay like this forever – 50s at night, high 70s during the day with a soft gentle breeze.  I have every window open.  It’s cool enough to not need the AC, warm enough for no heat AND I can still get in the pool.

I saw Real Steel last night.  I really enjoyed it, but what’s not to enjoy.  It has Hugh Jackman in it.  😉  Anyway, it’s a great story.  I would have liked to have seen a different ending but overall, I felt it was a real good, feel good family movie.  The boy is a little cocky and he has a smart mouth on him but the language is pretty much limited to hell, damn and s*%t.  No ‘fudge’ words.

Well, that’s it for me.  What have you guys been up to?


Brenda Drake’s Can You Leave Us Breathless Contest

From Brenda Drake’s blog site:  It’s time to post to your blogs for the Can You Leave Us Breathless? blogfest contest. Yes, you can still join in, just sign up below. The linky will close sometime on Saturday when the first judge gets to the end of the list.  Read more here.

With that said, here is my morbid attempt at leaving the secret judges breathless.
Emergency vehicles surrounded seventeen-year old Michael.  Through the Camero’s smashed windshield, he could make out a car wrapped around the front of his.  A body slumped over the steering wheel and a child’s legs jutted at an odd angle from the dashboard.

His driver door snapped open and hands reached in.  Michael turned his head and vomited the drugs and alcohol in his gut.  A stethoscope touched his chest and a cuff squeezed his arm and then there was nothing.


Michael opened his eyes to the recognizable chorus of hospital beeps and voices.  A weary but familiar face stared down at him.

“Dad,” Michael said.  It was the first time since the accident he’d seen either of his parents.  He glanced around.  “Where’s Mom?”

Silently, his father withdrew a vial from his doctor’s coat and filled a syringe, then leaned over and pressed the needle against Michael’s neck.

“What are you doing?”  Michael asked.  He struggled to move but restraints held his arms.  He tried to yell, but fabric filled his mouth.  A tear rolled down his cheek as his eyes pleaded with his father.

“I’m sorry it has to be this way, son.”  Tears fell from his father’s eyes.  “But I can’t take it anymore.  You took away everything I loved.”

Michael mumbled something indiscernible.  The tip of the needle pierced his neck.

“You don’t know what I’m talking about do you?  Think.  The car you hit?  The people you killed?  They were my wife and son.  Your mother and brother.”

Liquid death ran hot through Michael’s veins.

His father stood, a gun held to his own head, tears streaming down his face.  “Goodbye, Son.”  A shot rang out.  A final tear dripped down Michael’s cheek.

And somewhere on the street, another teen tipped back a bottle and popped another pill.

If the chance to live forever came with an ugly price, would you opt in or out?

This is the question asked in Gemma Malley’s dystopian novel, The Declaration.

My son brought this novel home from school.  Apparently, this novel has been out since 2007 so I apologize if I’m a bit behind the times. Since I’m a huge dystopian fan, I thought I’d sit down and read it, see what my kid is reading.

From the cover:

In the Year 2148, it is illegal to be young. Children are all but extinct. The world is a better place. Longevity drugs are a fountain of youth. Sign the Declaration, agree not to have children, and you too can live forever. Refuse, and you will live as an outcast. For the children born outside the law, it only gets worse – Surplus status.

Not everyone thinks Longevity is a good thing, but you’d better be clear what side you’re on. Surplus Anna is about to find out what happens when you can’t decide whether you should cheat the law or cheat death.

If the chance to live forever came with an ugly price, would you opt in or out?

There is much in this book that made me think.  It is implied that the earth’s resources are depleted.  Energy is regulated.  Old people are pitted against young, and in the end, it was decided the old have more rights to live.  But at what costs?  Children are considered evil marks upon the world.  Only one child is allowed per family.  Any others are to be killed or taken on as Surpluses.  Surpluses have no mind, opinion, thoughts.  They are beaten into subservience, ridiculed, belittled.

I found the plot to be well-structured and the concept engaging. I also think the author did a fair job at tackling serious issues about death, the natural progression of life, the role science plays in our future and our responsibilities to ourselves, our young and our old.

The novel started out well for me, throwing me into Anna Covey’s world where death is in the past.  Old people now have Longevity, and all children are an abomination. Drugs have been developed to stop the onset of ageing and there is no room left for children.

Anna is a Surplus, and according to the Authorities,  should never have been born at all. Like all Surpluses, Anna lives locked away in Grange Hall, where Surpluses are forced to make amends for their parents’ ‘sins’ for having conceived and given birth to them at all.  And they are punished severly.  Having known nothing else, Anna accepts her fate, and lives a life inside four walls, away from sunlight, laughter, and freedom.  Until the day Peter, a new surplus who’s lived on the Outside for sixteen years, arrives with news her parents love her, are desperate to find her and she’s not a Surplus after all. Does she trust Peter or does she trust what she’s been taught for fifteen years?

I think the author does a good job with tackling the issues facing our society these days:  a society where beauty and youth is everything.  A world where ailments can be remedied with some chemical cure, in spite of the three thousand side-effects these drugs carry.  A world that is being over-populated because the natural phases are life are not allowed to take place.  She also tackles to some respect society’s fear of teenagers and their culture. Where I think it falls short is in the writing. So much of it is a ‘tell’ story and not a ‘show’ story and I think it would have worked better if it were written completely in first person. As it is, parts are in first person, the rest in third.  I think this aspect of the author’s writing kept the characters from living and breathing on the pages.  Also, I felt some scenes could have unfolded better. The suspense factor was lacking. I felt there was a lot of melodrama going on by the end of the book and it wasn’t as chilling as I would have liked to have seen.

With that said, I still think fans of The Handmaid’s Tale would like this storyline. Over all, it is a good story and I would give it 3 ½ stars out of 5. I will definitely read the continuation, The Resistance, to see how the story ends.

Row80 check-in for October 19, 2011

I can’t believe it’s time for another Row80 check-in!  The days are just flying by.

Hmm, let’s see…what have I accomplished since Sunday:

I applied for 3 more jobs.  I finished 2 short beta reads.  I critiqued a short on  I finished two ‘horror’ stories for a contest, but am debating on entering them because they are just too twisted, even for me.  I finished 2 chapters on book 1 and deleted 2 chapters I had before – rather I fused them with a couple of other chapters.  I wrote a mini-synopsis, back-cover blurb for book 2.  I took a walk in this beautiful, cool, breezy Florida weather.  I told my kids I love them.  Gave my pups kisses.  Celebrated my oldest son’s 20th b’day.  Had birthday party weekend fun for my mother-in-law (aka second mom).  Oh…and I completely made a friend of mine in the UK salivate over possible cookies and treats I will send to her around Christmas.  She hates me now because I’ve tortured her.  🙂

working on book one.  getting closer to goal to pop this baby back over to the publisher by month’s end.  finger’s crossed.  *I will do it.  I will do it.*

Oh, and I entered a non-fiction short over at, a reader-driven contest site.  So far, my little ditty is in the lead!  whoo hoo!  Let’s hope it stays that way through Sunday.  If so, I win money and publishing shout outs!!!  🙂

So, what have you guys been up to?