Happy Leap Day!

 Happy Leap Day everyone, especially you Leap Year babies!  By the way, what day to you celebrate your birthdays, usually…February 28 or March 1?


I was talking to my twelve year-old neighbor today and he asked me why we even had a leap year, and that got me thinking, how many other people (especially kids) don’t know why we have a leap year?

Simply put, the Earth doesn’t take exactly 365 days to orbit the sun. It’s closer to 365.242 days, and while that doesn’t seem like a whole lot of time, when you add it up, it amounts to almost six extra hours a year.  Without ‘leap year’, there would be a  shift in our calendars because of the extra hours and our calendar would eventually fall out of sync with the weather.   Without it, we would eventually see winter-like conditions in July and warm, sunny days in December.  (Of course, if you live in Florida, you pretty much have warm, sunny days year round.)

So who was the clever genius who invented leap day?  Why, it was none other than the Roman leader, Julius Caesar.  And while it was a brilliant plan, it wasn’t perfect.  The leap day threw the calendar off by one day every 128 years.  It wasn’t until 1582 with the introduction of the Gregorian calendar (what we use today), that the problem was remedied.

But who cares about all the historical mumbo jumbo?  How about you just enjoy your day and have fun.  I know I am.  Why?  I found out today my non-fiction short story, From Traps to Talons, has been accepted for a reader’s choice competition at Midlife Collage!  Whoo Hoo!  The story will post on Sunday, March 5, and readers can pop over between March 5 and March 11 to vote for their favorite story (hopefully mine – *wink* *wink*).  I hope you all will take a peek and participate in the voting process.  Maybe even take the plunge someday and enter  your own short story for a contest.

See you later.  Have some blog leaping to do.




What do ‘novel’ teens wear?

Every weekday I drive my teen son to the other side of our neighborhood to his bus stop.  Weird, I know, but it’s our time in the morning.  I have my cup of coffee, he drinks his juice and/or eats his breakfast (he’s a jump-out-of-bed-and-go kind of guy), and most of the time we talk, listen to music, laugh.  It’s become a routine since I lost my job in 2010 and trust me, I’m not going to balk when my teen wants to spend time with me.  (It’s also my way to protect these kids from kidnapping, bullying or sexual attacks).

Some days, like today, he had a headache and didn’t feel all that well, so he kicked the seat back and rested his eyelids until the bus came.  During that time, the writer in me kicked in and I became an observer once more.  Have you ever really looked at what teens wear to school these days?

There is one kid.  He’s average height and skinny as a rail, and I swear he doesn’t own one pair of jeans or pants.  Every day he arrives at the bus stop in knit shorts to his knees, black crew socks and a t-shirt – even when it’s 30 degrees outside.

Another bigger, bulkier guy wears either black socks or one black, one white sock with sandals every day.

There is this little petite brunette that wears the shortest shorts I’ve ever seen every day.  And on cold days, she throws on a pair of tights underneath and maybe some leggings.

Then there is the girl who wears tights for pants and they leave nothing to the imagination, including the fact that she either doesn’t wear underwear, or maybe there’s a thong in there somewhere.  Over that she wears a hip-length tunic or shirt, some really cute jewelry and her hair and makeup are always perfect.  I tell you, she must get up at 5:00 to get the look just right.

There’s another kid who smokes and another who smacks gum constantly. Oh, and did I mention they all have cell phones, and they are all texting and chatting at 6:20 in the morning with other peeps not at the bus stop?  And, they stand in cliques.  Every now and then, the cliques will talk to each other, but they still keep their respectable distance.

It dawned on me this morning how predictable these kids are and how much fun it would be to incorporate their ‘quirks’ into characters.  We all know the cliché characters who wear all black to meld into the background, or how certain colors show the personality of a character.  But what story could you write around any of the students like the ones above?

What kind of story would you write about a mom who takes her 17-year old son to the bus stop?  Without knowing the true story, we can all make up scenarios for what we see.  We can all draw conclusions.  We can all judge…

And it’s all acceptable to do when you’re a writer.  How else are we to develop our next teen characters in our novel?  It’s part of the process.  Observe.  Wonder.  Write.

What do your ‘novel’ teens wear?  Where do you find the inspiration for your teen characters?

What my muse learned from riding roller coasters

Riding roller coasters and writing have several similarities.

They both:

Go up and down
They both make you scream
They both make you laugh
The both can make you cry
They both start and end
They both are a lot of fun…except when they’re not.

I love roller coasters.  I always have.  My very first roller coaster was The Great American Scream Machine at Six Flags over Georgia.

I was 10 years old when I convinced my 8-year-old cousin to go on the ride with me and sit front row.  I lied and told him I’d done it a bunch of times just so I’d have someone to ride with.

I was hooked on coasters ever since.  My cousin…not so much.

What does riding the Great American Scream Machine have to do with writing?

Lesson 1:  I guess you’re either cut out for it, or you’re not.  You never know unless you try.

Six Flags was my hangout spot while I lived in Georgia.  I was there almost every weekend.  One of my other favorite rides was the Dahlonega Mine Train, a wicked fast steel coaster.  After moving to Florida 23 years ago, I tried out the Disney rides and while they were tons of fun, they didn’t hold the thrill, the passion of the larger, faster coasters.  I needed more.

What does this have to do with writing?

Lesson 2:  Maybe you like to write, but you’ve lost your passion.  You’re bored.  Move up to the next level and try something challenging.  You may be surprised at what you find.

I soon discovered Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida.  Can I have a big YEAH!  Now, Busch Gardens is no Cedar Point or King’s Dominion (trust me, they are both on my bucket list), but this theme park rocks and rolls.  When I first started going to Busch Gardens, they only had The Scorpion and the Python, two steel inverted coasters. The next coaster to get added to the park was Kumba in 1993.

It’s 143 feet tall, goes 60 mph, has 7 loops and pulls 3.8 Gs.  This machine is incredibly fast and roars like a tiger.

The next addition to the park was in 1996 with the yellow and blue Montu.  Give this ride a big Woot Woot!  It is 150 feet tall, goes 60 mph, has 7 inversions, pulls 3.8 Gs and is floorless.  Yes, that’s right, your feet hang beneath you.

(are you starting to see a trend here? :))

Then comes 1999 and the arrival of Gwazi.

OMGosh!  A wooden coaster!  Can I say how much I love wooden coasters. Don’t’ get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of the steel coasters that strap you in and turn you upside down and make your tummy flip, but there is something almost super thrilling about a wooden coaster.  Maybe it’s the chain lift, or the rickety rackety sound it makes.  Or maybe that it’s made of wood.  This one is especially cool because it’s a dueling coaster, meaning there are two coasters that run side by side:  the lion (red) and the tiger (blue).  At one point, both coasters pass each other on the track and from the front seat, you get the perspective you’re going to crash.  It’s sort of like playing a safe game of chicken while going 51 mph.  While this coaster is the shortest of all the others, standing at a tad under 106 feet, it is a wicked, fast ride that whips you around and makes you laugh, a lot.  Max Gs on this baby…3.5.

The next baby added to the Busch Gardens family that I rode (this one is at Sea World in Orlando) is Kraken!

This ride opened in 2000, and at the time, was the tallest coaster I’d ever ridden, an amazing feat for someone who is afraid of heights.  It stands at 149 feet, is floorless, has 7 inversions and travels at 65 mph.  Max Gs on this baby…3.9!!

The next edition came to Busch Gardens in Tampa in 2005, with Shiekra.

Now, I have to tell you, this ride scared the beejeebies out of me for years.  For heaven’s sake you can see this ride from the expressway, several miles away.  That makes it taller than the vertical clearance (between bridge and water) of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

I wouldn’t ride it.  I refused.  It was just too tall.  I’ve been over the Skyway Bridge.  It’s scary looking down at the water and imagining falling that far.  Uh uh. No way, no how.  But I didn’t have to worry about it for awhile as we sort of fell into a tight money crunch and I couldn’t go to my favorite theme park…until two days ago.  My husband and son wanted to ride this beast.  I said I had to check it out first.  I had to get my nerve up.

I stood there, looking at this 200 foot goliath of a coaster.  I had to watch it a few times, assess the situation.  Shiekra is unlike any coaster I’d ever seen up close and personal.  It’s a diving coaster, which means it takes you up, hangs you for about 6 seconds over the edge, and then freefalls you 90 degrees before carrying you into a vertical loop and onto the rest of the ride, which included another straight down 137 foot drop.  It is floorless, the climb to the top is some outrageous angle, like 85 degrees (you’re almost flat on your back), it tops you off for a few seconds at the top to give the rider a fantastic view of Tampa (and if you look hard enough, maybe even Orlando 90 miles away).  I jest but this sucker is high.  The first time you ride this ride, your breath is sucked out of your lungs (kind of like pitching your novel to an agent), and then you can’t help but scream the rest of the way.  This pup goes 70 mph, has one inversion and has maximum Gs of 5!!!!!  Yes, I said 5 Gs.  OMGosh!!!!

This fear-of-heights person rode this baby 3 times in a row on Friday, and 3 times yesterday.  I swear it is the reason I have no voice today.  That’s okay.   Whew…what a blast!

The newest ride added to Busch Gardens is Cheetah Hunt.

Man, this is a fun, magnetic coaster!  Don’t get me wrong – love The Hulk at Universal (it’s a blast), and Rockin’ Roller Coaster at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, but this one is just uber fantastic.

The ride opened in 2011.  It’s 102 feet tall, drops you 130 feet, goes 60 mph, has one loop, and maximum G force is 4.  I think it’s the longest coaster Busch Gardens has.  You’re launched out of the station, turn a corner, take a little dip and are then launched straight up where you then go into a set of helixes before falling 130 feet!  Later on in the ride, there is another launch that just sends thrills through the body.  This ride made me giggle and laugh and I rode it twice in row.

Again, what does any of this have to do with writing?

Lesson 3:  Try new things, no matter how much they might scare you.  Take the leap, even if you don’t think you can do it.  Get on the ride.  Talk to that agent or that publisher.  It may seem scary and difficult.  You may look up and say to yourself, ‘I can’t do this’, but do yourself a favor.  Take a minute, step back and assess.  Look at all those others who went before you, who tried.  They have smiles (or tears) on their faces, but they survived.  No matter what your hurdle is in writing, you’re not the first one who has been at that juncture.  You can do it.  You’ll either come out laughing, screaming or crying.  Maybe even all three.  Either way, you’ll come out alive and enriched from the experience.  And, after you pass the hurdle, you’ll probably end up riding the ride again because you’ll realize it wasn’t as bad as your fears led you to believe.

Are you ready to take the leap?  Go for it and enjoy the ride!

Chain Story Blogger Contest Winner Announced!

Copyright (c) <a href='http://www.123rf.com'>123RF Stock Photos</a>As promised, today I announce the winner of the Chain Story Blogger Contest and Award!  I would like to thank all of you for participating and I really loved all the responses and seeing the story develop over the last week.

My 17-year old son, Kevin, read over all the entries several times and debated them, trying to decide which one he liked the best.  In the end, he had to pick only one, and that winner is…


Julie Catherine

Congratulations, Julie!  *throws confetti in the air*

I asked my teen which post of Julie’s was the deciding point and why.  He said the following was the one that he really liked the most:

“Green scales glimmered in the sunlight, flashing down the length of his sleek back and long, flickering tail. Darren’s emerald eyes rimmed with gold shone as he raised them towards the heavens and roared, belching crimson fire and tendrils of curled gold flame.”

Copyright (c) <a href='http://www.123rf.com'>123RF Stock Photos</a>

He loved the description of the dragon and the atmosphere she created in this scene.  Kevin went on to say that he enjoyed all of Julie’s entries the best for her choice of words and how she was able to get across the meaning intended in as few words as possible.  She evoked a sense of mystery in her writing and kept him wanting to turn the page.  He also thought she made the characters pop off the screen.

There you have it, straight from the mouth of a seventeen-year old avid reader.  I liked this exercise, even for me, because I got to hear an unbiased view from a teenager about what he looks for when he reads:  few words, tight scenes, mystery, description and characterization.

Julie Catherine, as the winner you get the Chain Story Blogger Award

and a free critique from moi of the first 10 pages of your manuscript.  Please send your ten pages, double-spaced to me at kford2007@gmail.com.  Please allow 2 weeks from the date I receive the pages to send back my comments (I do not foresee it taking this long but, just in case…) J.  Also, please stress in your e-mail exactly what sort of feedback are you looking for in addition to the line-by-line edit and critique.

How to write believable fiction

There are many articles on the internet, in books, and advice from authors/editors on how to write believable fiction.  One of the best online sites I found was Novel-Writing-Help.com   The articles are in-depth and far more extensive than I could go into here.  If you’re looking for information on

this site has what you’re looking for.

But what if you’re having difficulty coming up with a race of characters or a world or anything fantasy?  Maybe a character name or even a title for a book?   That’s where GENERATORS are invaluable.  Might I suggest the following:

Romance Title Generator

Seventh Sanctum – for any and all writer needs.  Awesome site.

Place Name Generator – Seventh Sanctum also has ‘place’ generators

Character profiles

Or maybe you’re brain’s frozen and you can’t think of anything to write about. Try:

Again, my first choice is Seventh Sanctum.  Afterwards, head over to these sites.

Plot Generator

Writers Plot Ideas

Logline generator

Need a twist to your plot but you don’t know what to do?  Try:

Plot Twist Generator

And when you’re done goofing around for a few hours, head over to your word processor or your notebook or whatever method you choose to write, and get busy on that novel!  The world is waiting to read your words!

First Campaigner Challenge!

For all the details, check out Rachael’s blog

The time has come for my First Campaigner Challenge, woot!!! The Challenge is:

Write a short story/flash fiction story in 200 words or less, excluding the title. It can be in any format, including a poem. Begin the story with the words, “Shadows crept across the wall”. These five words will be included in the word count.

If you want to give yourself an added challenge (optional), do one or more of these:

  • end the story with the words: “everything faded.” (also included in the word count)
  • include the word “orange” in the story
  • write in the same genre you normally write
  • make your story 200 words exactly!
My lovely attempt is below and sits at exactly 200 words.

Shadows crept across the wall.

I sat up in bed, my covers drawn to my chin. I shivered from the cold…and fear. Please, tell me he hasn’t found me again.  I stared at the patch of stumpwork roses on my coverlet.  No.  He couldn’t have. The fortress is protected.  I saw the sorcerer, Graffus, weave the spell himself.  But what else could project its winged shadow on the solar walls?

I threw the covers off and tiptoed to the window, the stone floor like ice against my bare feet.  The castle rose like a giant spiked beast from the ground in the moonlight.  It was the first time I’d seen the stronghold from this vantage point since I arrived yesterday morning. The Baroness and her handmaiden found me alongside the road to Coryt, battered and near death, a victim of his attack.  I don’t remember much of what happened, just strong arms and beautiful but dangerous green eyes.

Footsteps pounded the hall and stopped outside my door.  I spun around, my breath caught in my chest.

“Who’s there?” I shouted.

The door opened.  The last thing I saw were those green eyes and a breath of orange flame.

Everything faded.

Lord Voldemort has nothing on A Savannah Fuming Wright

Thanks to Lightning Droplets, I have a new distraction from writing:  a website that creates anagrams, wordsmith.org/anagrams.  The title of my post, one of 71429 variations, was derived from the words:  having fun with anagrams.

As if that wasn’t enough fun, I decided to pop in the names of two of my characters, David Alwyn Heiland and Charlotte Stine.

These are only a few for Charlotte:

Snatcher Toilet
Interacts Hotel
Chariot Nettles
Toenail Stretch

And these belong to David:

Aha Vainly Windled
Vanilla Added Whiny
Hallway Invaded Din

You can put in any combination of words.  It’s great.  It’s fun.  It’s addicting.  I even got a name I could use for a tavern.

I love anagrams.  I have two names in my novel that are anagrams.  I always loved those puzzles where you have to unscramble words to create a sentence.  What about you?  Are you an anagram junkie?

Would love to see some words you came up with using this handy dandy little tool, so post away.

First Page Contest – Judged by author of Halflings, Heather Burch

Today Jamie Ayres is hosting a first-page contest on her blog, to be judged by author Heather Burch. Five random winners will receive a personal critique from Ms. Burch.

[Since the contest is over, my novel’s first page has been removed for copyright and future publishing reasons.  The comments still remain. Feb 22, 2012]