Sunday, May 12, 2013

Simon's Cat fan art

If you have read this blog from the beginning, you might recall my love of Simon's Cat, an animated series featuring Simon's Cat whom is always up to no good in his quest for moar foooood. Simon's Cat has appeared in videos, games, comic strips, and books. He is freaking awesome. The creator, Simon Tofield, started Simon's Cat with a video called "Cat Man Do" somewhere around 2008 and it blew up from there.

I'm a huge fangirl and as such, I like to doodle Simon's Cat still frames from time to time. Well, the other day, I found some awesome knee high pink faux-chucks on clearance at Clare's. I couldn't pass them up even though they are pink. In fact, I bought 4 pairs of them- one for me, one for E, one for L, and one for the cousin staying with us. Let's be real- no one turns down knee high faux-chucks when they were as cheap as I found them. Seriously.

So when I got these things home, I knew I'd be decorating them. My cousin painted a braided chain of multicolored hearts on her's. L painted bows, skulls, and stripes. E painted stars, stripes, bows, and paint splatters. I didn't want to do that- I wanted a high concept that would challenge me and my very poor painting skills. That's when I came up with the idea to use Simon's Cat! Off to Google I went to find still frames that I wanted to use for my boots.

I painted the familiar logo on the tongue of each boot. I don't plan to lace them all the way up anyways so that worked out well. Then, on onE boot, I painted Simon's kitten in a teacup on the bottom and Simon's cat with a bat on the top of that panel. On the other boot, I painted Simon's cat trying to convince a birdy that he is the birdhouse. I think they came out beautifully. I have some complaints but since these are only for me, I won't list them. I'm very happy with the way they came out. :)

Love is love, no matter the back story. <3 DS

Monday, May 06, 2013

Hula Girl is Done!

Well, like it or not, my art project is finished. To recap: I painted a beach scene with a hula girl cutout for E&L's birthday party coming at the end of the summer. Voila!

Here is L trying it out just as soon as the paint dried. So we have a windswept sky, crashing waves, and a palm tree in the background with a hula girl in the foreground. I'm not good at making stuff non-cartoony but the girls love it and that is what counts. I have my own complaints (the tree... the freaking tree! It should have been bigger.) but the girls are flipping for it. I'll call this a win.

Love is love, no matter the back story. <3 DS

Friday, May 03, 2013

Revision is Done!

So all internet activity was put off for the past few weeks while I finished a final revision on my 3rd novel. I can proudly say that it is finished and ready for my beta readers. It took a lot longer on this revision than usual but the extra effort really showed. After a computer sabbatical yesterday, my fingers don't ache, my eyes are uncrossing, and the frown lines on my face may go away soon. Score!

I have 3 other projects in various stages of 1st draft-ness. The 2nd novel in my urban fantasy series is about 1/2 finished. My childrens novel is about 1/3 written. The 3rd novel in the Immortalis trilogy isn't beyond the 1st chapter yet but that's why they are called works-in-progress. I thought I would be going back to one of these projects now that the latest one is finished, but no.

Instead, I am taking on a massive art project. Yeah. E&L's birthdays are a few days apart at the end of the summer. They are having a luau themed party this year and asked me to make a stand-up cutout for photos. You know- those things where you get behind them and stick your face in the hole so that you are magically part of the photo. They want a beach scene with a dancing hula girl. I think they have completely overestimated my artistic abilities, but we'll see what can be done. It will be interesting for sure.

I've missed the internet. I had a good streak going with the blogging over the past couple months so I'll be back at that while I try to figure out how to paint using this awesome background technique I found but still be able to put my hula girl in the foreground. I'm out of my league here, but I'm not going to tell the girls that. Cross your fingers for me to figure it out soon.

Love is love, no matter the back story. <3 DS

Saturday, April 13, 2013


Today's free resource for writers is a web based program called WordCounter.

Like one of the functions of SmartEdit, WordCounter provides a list of repetitive words in a document. However, unlike SmartEdit where there are so many lists to capture your attention, WordCounter specifically tracks repetitive words. You can modify it to exclude small words like "the" and "it" as well as specify the number of words to list by 25, 50, 100, and 200.

It is a pretty handy tool if you aren't interested in downloading a program. I have ran my MS through this program a few times. As a word of caution, I encountered a server time out when I tried to run my entire MS. It works much better with smaller sections of text so I stick to single chapter analysis.

Love is love, no matter the back story. <3 DS

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Writing Rules

There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are. ~W. Somerset Maugham
If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun. ~Katherine Hepburn
I see so many "how to write a novel in X steps" blog posts and how-to books. It really gets under my skin that there is such a market for that crap. There is no sure fast rules for writing a book. This is my advice: Write your story first. Then come back to it and make sure you have all the elements in place. What are those elements you may ask?

Well, grammar is one of the elements. Yeah, there are tons of grammar rules. When dealing with English, those rules are often arbitrary, attributed to a "style" preference, contradictory, and frustrating. It is worth learning the rules of grammar. It is worth learning those rules so that you can not only break them but also so that you can tap dance on their graves. English is a language that is always evolving so writers need to stay up to date on those rules- again, so they can gleefully break them later.

Another element is story structure. I'm not really talking about "introductory paragraphs, body paragraphs, and concluding paragraphs" that are taught in school. Those lessons may prepare an early writer to write from point A to point B but it is rarely anything interesting to read. Let's face it: Writers need to write something interesting or no one will want to read it. Writing is interesting because of the structure. The basic structure is this:

You start the introduction with exposition (or set-up), set the rising action with a conflict or obstacle (tech term: inciting incident), move on to the climax where the crap really hits the fan (or crisis if you want to be technical), drop into falling action where the pieces finally start to come together, and then even out in the resolution where you find out if everyone learned their lesson, met their goals, etc. that basically explains where everyone goes at the end of the story.

That is all neat and tidy. However, writing is seldom neat and tidy. This is my version of structure:

As you can see, my structure doesn't follow the traditional 5 step story. I like to lead with an introduction but then things get a little muddy. I like to vary the rising action with mini-conflict and mini-crisis just to keep the characters jumping all in an effort to get them ready for the big bad ultra-crisis that everyone else knows is coming. I usually tie my conclusion into the end of the falling action and then make sure there is wiggle room for one more story in the resolution.

A third element is industry standards. As an unpublished author, of course you can write a 200,000 word single volume space opera in the year 2732 where the reincarnation of President Lincoln fights the invading Atlantians over water rights on Earth That Was in iambic pentameter. Good luck getting it published though. Word count requirements vary depending on the genre, intended audience, and personal preferences of agents and editors alike. Another variable? Setting up the final manuscript. Some folks (meaning agents/editors at publishing Houses) don't really care too particularly about Courier vs. Times New Roman, .5" and 1" margins, etc. and others care very, very much. If you are submitting your manuscript for publication, you damn well better know the specifics for every single person you submit your manuscript and tailor each submission to suit.

The fourth, and last, element I'm going to discuss is writing. I'm not talking about commas and subject verb agreement here. I mean this- Are your characters tangible? Your characters don't have to be likable. They don't have to be neat and tidy. But they do need to feel real enough to touch. Everyone has a back story and has reasons for why they do what they do and needs and wants and goals and fears and dreams and... You get what I'm saying I hope. Is your story compelling? I don't want to read a story that plods along from point A to point B. I want a story that careens from point A into a detour that barrel rolls through points X, Y, and Z before finally railroading its way into point B. Stories, good ones, elicit emotional responses from readers. Take Harry Potter for instance. Readers were so emotionally ensconced in that series that some readers experienced genuine emotional anguish when Sirius died. And again when Dumbledore died. And again and again when all the others perished. Seriously, there were tears and angry words in my living room.

So in conclusion (see what I did there? :3), there are definitely rules for writing novels. But the rules are different for every writer. Write your story then worry about the rest after. That is why we have a 1st draft, a 2nd draft, and a 10th draft. It will all come together in the end.

Love is love, no matter the back story. <3 DS

Saturday, April 06, 2013

I Need an Editor!

Okay, I don't need an editor. I already have a fantastic editor, Booksteve. But...

Even if you have a wonderful editorial friend or pay for a professional editing service, that doesn't change the fact that you are the first editor of your MS. At least, you should be. My first drafts are Bad with a capital B. They are random meandering piles of run-on sentences, continuity errors, and repetitive words. In order to make Steven's job a little easier, I do an edit and a revision before he ever gets his paws on it.

Now, I am one of those people that hates editing. No, I loathe it. Really, I do. Why? Because it isn't fun for me. I like creating things, not tearing them apart. And that is how editing feels when I have to edit my own work. Steven doesn't have the emotional attachment to my MS as I have to it. Also, he is much better at editing than I am. However, I found a tool that helps take out a lot of the guess work for me.

SmartEdit is Windows-based software that is just oodles of help. The program, once downloaded, is easy to use. You copy and paste your MS into the window and then it does this thing not unlike a scavenger hunt: it finds the adverbs, repetitive words/phrases, cliches,  and monitored words (that you can set). It does not make changes for you (like the find & replace function of Word). It merely compiles the list of things for you to check against your MS and fix as you see fit. The free version can be found at the bottom of the download page. The full licensed version is pricey at about $50 but it may well be worth it for some of the items in the full version.

What SmartEdit can do for you (* indicates item available in the free version):

  • Repeated Phrases List*
  • Repeated Words List*
  • Adverb Usage List*
  • Cliché Usage List*
  • Dialog Tag Counter*
  • Monitored Word List*
  • Separate Dialog & Prose Checks
  • Misused Words Highlighted
  • Foreign Phrase Usage
  • Profanity Usage List
  • Suspect Punctuation List
  • Proper Nouns List
  • Acronyms Usage
  • Sentence Start Phrases
  • Sentence Length Chart
  • Straight & Smart Quote Checker
  • Dash & Hyphen Checker
  • External Reports

Not sure if the full version is worth $50? There is one way to find out- download the free version and use it for a few days. Then, go back and download the free 10 day trial of the full version. I personally use the free version because I have very little use for at least 6 of the 12 other items. That external report item does look neat though, as well as the misused words highlighting and sentence start list.

Before I found SmartEdit, I edited and revised at the same time. My desk (and kitchen table, and bed, and couch, and pretty much any other flat surface) was littered with pages covered in red ink. I am old school. I print my MS out and then have at it with a red pen. My ADD kicks in when I try to edit/revise on the computer. Plus, the screen kills my eyes after a while. I am much more comfortable doing a line edit on paper with a red pen and may as well do a revision while I'm at it. This process takes upwards of weeks with many hours a day invested. It is exhausting, boring, and downright painful.

I used SmartEdit when I finished my latest MS to go through and find a lot of the things I would have taken out in editing/revising. I used it to find the multitude of adverbs that sneak their way in every single time. I didn't have to discover the repetitive words used by shuffling 300 pages of paper or searching for random words and phrases that I think I might have used. By taking out a lot of the guesswork, I ended up editing directly from the Word file without the eye pain and ADD issues because I was constantly in motion while working on my MS. Surprise, surprise- when I printed the MS to do my revision, it only took a few days to work through it because the editing was pretty much done!

I hope SmartEdit is a beneficial tool for you too!

Love is love, no matter the back story. <3 DS

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Hand in Hand

I posted on Twitter about this a couple weeks back, but just in case you missed it, check this out.

There is a website called SharedWorlds from Wofford College that has started a photo listing called Hand In Hand with the goal of asking writers to give writing advice written on their hands. Here is the introduction letter:

Some days you just need a little nudge…

a simple reminder that you're not alone on this path you've chosen. Maybe you want help getting out of a plot hole or breaking through a block or you simply need to know that someone else has been there before--behind a different keyboard, holding a different pen, staring at a different blank page or screen.
Other days, it just might be cool to have someone who's been there walk hand-in-hand with you--to urge you to persist, to tell you to write something new, to remind you not to lose faith in your imagination.
Me, I often just need someone to tell me to calm down, sit in a chair, and write.
In preparation for Shared Worlds 2013, we have asked some of speculative fiction's finest artists, editors, and writers to write advice on their own hands and send us a picture.
We gathered up all this advice, all these helping hands, because that’s what we do a Shared Worlds. We bring people together; we bring writers together. For two weeks in the summer, students from across the US and around the world gather at Wofford College in Spartanburg, SC, for two weeks of collaboration with fellow students, interaction with professional writers and editors, and everything else that goes into the building of imaginary worlds.
Sort through these images and read through the text. Bounce this advice off your own writing experiences. Connect these words of wisdom like puzzle pieces.
If you enjoy this gallery of advice and images, please lend Shared Worlds a hand by telling your friends and sharing the link to this page. Also, if you'd like to help send a student to Shared Worlds or help with the operating costs, consider making a donation. With the generous support of, we are able to fund a variety of need-based scholarships, both full and partial, but there are always more students who'd love to come to the camp but whose families need a helping hand to do so.

Jeremy L.C. Jones
Founder & Co-Director
Shared Worlds @ Wofford College

How cool is that? As of this post, they have over 2 dozen writer contributions to their project, including (SQUEEEEEEEE!) Garth Nix and Neil Gaimon. Yes, I'm a fan girl. No, I'm not ashamed one teensy bit. I've mentioned before that I adore Garth's handwriting so his picture was awesome. I decided to make my own version of this concept. Check it out below.

Love is love, no matter the back story. <3 DS

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Red Dots

Do you remember, back during NaNoWriMo, when I agonized over writing a short story for my writing group? This was the assignment: Write a short story about [Firefly, Star Trek, getting lost in Nebraska, etc.] and include [Galway hooker, ninjas, pirates, plot bunnies, etc.] that will entertain our former ML while she heals.

I spent some time thinking about the assignment. I know Firefly. It is one of my favorite shows. And I'm pretty familiar with plot bunnies (little things that happen solely that destroy - or at least temporarily derail - a planned out plot). I decided to make that work. A few days into the competition, it hit me- the Reavers in Firefly are plot bunnies!

I spent a few days examining each of the characters from the show and deciding what animals their personalities matched the best. Mal was a wolf. Shepherd Book was the sage turtle. Kaylee was a squirrel. Wash was a raccoon  Jayne was a ferret. The Tams were parrots. Zoe was a jaguar. Inara was a cat. The animal characterizations made perfect sense. From there, I just needed to decide if I would rewrite an episode from the show (because Lord knows I pretend Serenity never happened) using my anthropomorphic animals, or if I'd write a new episode in that way.

I went back and forth on this idea and they both sucked. It was a time of amazing self-discovery. I learned:

  • I am not a fanfic writer.
  • Rewriting some else's stuff is hard and boring.
  • I dislike writing short stories.

I almost gave up on the entire assignment. It just wouldn't work. But the Reavers = plot bunnies idea just wouldn't go away. I knew there was a story in there. I sat down again, a week before the project was due and decided to do my go-to when I'm frustrated with my work in progress- I started drawing.

In my drawing, I drew a Reaver/bunny as I saw it in my mind. Broken. Savage. Reconstructed with metal and scar tissue. My Reaver bunny came out amazing. I'm not an incredible artist by any amount but I was proud of my drawing.

So a new idea hit me. Use the bunny but set it in the real world. And that is what I did.

What started out as a Firefly fanfic turned into a dark tale that even I was surprised with in the end. Click after the jump to read the short story RED DOTS and see the picture I drew. I hope you enjoy it because it was hard as hell to write. *Caution for adult language, descriptions of gore and violence, general scary-ness*

The Cloud Wall

Click the jump to read the first chapter of my children's fantasy novel THE CLOUD WALL. This is a current work in progress so I'm sure Chapter 1 will need a more extensive editing and revision down the road but I think it serves as a good jumping point.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Free College Level Courses for Writers?

No way! Right? Wrong!

Coursera and a growing list of other companies are making college level courses available for free. Colleges from around the world getting involved and their professors are making classes web-friendly for students everywhere. Are you creating a complicated religious system in your work in progress? Consider taking a history course on the ancient Greeks from Wesleyan University or a course on Greek and Roman mythology from UPenn. Need a refresher on basic writing skills? Writing Composition 1 from Duke is available for your current needs. Or, Crafting an Effective Writer from Mt. San Jacinto College could help you too (this one starts May 13th).

All participants that meet a certain standard (ie. do all the work as presented on the course syllabus sufficiently- you know, like real college courses) get a certificate of completion. Don't count on being able to use the courses from Coursera or any of the growing number of companies like it to pad your transcript. But your resume? Definitely that.

Love is love, no matter the back story. <3 DS

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Do Something!

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. ~Benjamin Franklin
It is my sincere hope that everyone finds a passion that is worthy of writing. Books (and blogs and websites and podcasts and fanclubs) about every subject imaginable abound. Find your passion and start making history!

Love is love, no matter the back story. <3 DS

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Free Resources for Writers #1

This is the first post of many regarding free resources for writers available online. Today's post has only one link and I'll tell you why. This link directs you to the complete 2012 lecture series from Brandon Sanderson's college class on science fiction and fantasy creative writing from Brigham Young University. Brandon Sanderson is the writer that finished Robert Jordan's WHEEL OF TIME series after Jordan's death. He is the author of the MISTBORN series, the ALCATRAZ series, and has been credited for creating Sanderson's Laws of Magic (in relation to magic systems in stories).

This series of videos is long. Not just a few hours long. It took me days to get through all the videos. They range from 10 or so minutes to over an hour long and there are nearly 80 videos. The background commentary by the students is sometimes hard or impossible to hear/understand but Brandon does well to answer so that the question is understood. The 9th series of videos were especially useful to me as I was in world building mode when I found them.

Want even more cool free stuff? When you go to the site, check the page for the 2013 interactive web class coming June 1, 2013. It is free and as far as I know, there is no limit on enrollment so share the information with your friends! I will definitely be signing up.

Love is love, no matter the back story. <3 DS

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Breathing in the Words

The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt. ~Sylvia Plath

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. ~William Wordsworth

Writing, even in fiction, is so much more when the writer is allowing the story to be honest. I won't say it is easier, because it is still difficult to make connections and transitions between main plot, sub-plots, character motivations and agendas, rising and culminating actions, dialogue and description. Writing a scene is difficult. Writing an entire novel is even more so. But the story is more cohesive, more fulfilling  and more consuming when the connections and transitions are allowed to happen naturally rather than being forced to conform to A, B, C, D rules of form.

Love is love, no matter the back story. <3 DS

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Wizard of Oz

OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL is enjoying a very strong run at the box office right now. Headed for its 3rd weekend, it doesn't really look like its going to fall out of the top spot any time soon. I've heard really good reviews and I've heard really bad reviews. I haven't seen it yet so I'm holding off judgement until I get the time (and money) to see it for myself.

Did you know that the first Oz book, written by Frank L. Baum, came out 1900? Baum wrote a total of 14 books set in the world of Oz and near dozen other related written endeavors. The publisher (Reilly and Lee) published another 26 books set in Baum's world of Oz. Many other books have been written, adhering to the Baumian canon or completely deviating from Baum's story aside from names and some descriptions (such as Gregory Maguire's WICKED). I'm sure someone- somewhere- has collected the names and links to all the books, plays, movies, etc. created from Baum's story that started with THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ. I'm not going to do that. However, I think it is important for people to read the original stories! So here are the 14 original books by Frank L Baum (in order by publication) with links when possible to download them from the Gutenberg Project.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
The Marvelous Land of Oz
Ozma of Oz
Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz
The Road to Oz
The Emerald City of Oz
The Patchwork Girl of Oz
Tik-Tok of Oz
The Scarecrow of Oz
Rinkitink in Oz
The Lost Princess of Oz
The Tin Woodman of Oz
The Magic of Oz
Glinda of Oz

Other books published by Reilly and Lee came out after Baum's death. They chose writer Ruth Plumly Thompson to write 19 more books from 1921 to 1939. Her style took the stories back into a more fairy tale style than Baum wrote the originals. John R. Neill, the illustrator of 13 of the 14 Baum Ozian books and all of Thompson's books tried his hand writing about Oz from 1940-1942, penning 3 books. His style was a little sketchy and described as manic in comparison to Baum's. A Baum "scholar" Jack Snow penned 2 Oz books in 1946 and 1949. Reilly and Lee published two more Oz books, one in 1951 and one in 1963 by author Rachel R. Cosgrove and authors Eloise Jarvis McGraw and Lauren Lynn McGraw respectively.

Over time, other books have come out based in Oz. Some have stuck to the cannon fairly well such as PARADOX IN OZ by Edward Einhorn (1999). Others have deviated from the story so much that it is pretty much just an Oz book in name like THE DARK TOWER IV: WIZARD AND GLASS by Stephen King (1997) and all of Gregory Maguire's Oz books published from 1995 to 2011. Baum's family attempted to continue his stories as well. His great grandson Roger S. Baum wrote two Ozian books in 1989 and 1995.

In 113 years, Baum's stories are still read over and over again. Writers often name the Oz books and Baum in their lists of favorites. Thanks to the countless movies, each new generation is introduced to the Munchkins, Glinda, and Dorothy. Some of those new fans will take time time to read the original stories and I really hope they enjoy them as much as I have.

Love is love, no matter the back story. <3 DS

Monday, March 18, 2013

CD is Growing!

Creative Differences is a collaborative blog but I'm really starting to call it my own. Finding prompts that aren't childish is sometimes difficult but I'm having a blast with it. I hope Steven is as well. Have you visited CD yet? You should go now, check it out, and leave some love!

Love is love, no matter the back story. <3 DS

Saturday, March 16, 2013


When I was a little girl, I was a pathological liar. I lied to get out of trouble. I lied to insert myself into someone else's conversation. I lied to get other people in trouble (sorry Bro). If Mom knew 1/8 of the lies I told, I'd still be burping up bubbles. I learned when I was 6 that this penchant for lying was not worth it.

Friday, March 15, 2013


The past 24 hours has been an emotional roller coaster and I can honestly say that I can't imagine a worse feeling that that which I have felt in this time. However, I got a fantastic gift today that I couldn't wait to share with you.

My friend Rene (Steven's wife) is featured in the latest Chicken Soup for the Soul book called Raising Kids on the Spectrum: 101 Inspirational Stories for Parents of Children with Autism and Asperger's. This title is due for release on April 2, 2013 and can be pre-ordered on Amazon here. As part of her publishing contract with Chicken Soup, Rene was given 10 copies of the book and those books arrived a little bit earlier that we expected. They arrived today rather than near the end of March.

Like I said before, I have had a really, really bad day. When the box arrived, Rene didn't hesitate in pulling the first one out, writing a beautiful inscription and signing it to me. I'm super freaking stoked. I already flipped through to read Rene's story (and laughed my butt off!) and can't wait for the kids to go to bed so I can read the other 100 stories!

If you are a fan of the Chicken soup franchise, know of a family that is raising or has raised a child with Autism/Aserger's Syndrome, or need a really thoughtful gift for a loved one, teacher, etc., you should consider pre-ordering this book.

Love is love, no matter the back story. <3 DS

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Discourage the Writer

It is impossible to discourage the real writers - they don't give a damn what you say, they're going to write. ~Sinclair Lewis

This quote is particularly relevant this week. Despite criticism, despite set-backs, and despite everything the Universe throws at a writer, she will eventually find a way to write what is in her heart and mind. Remember that when you read Saturday's post about storytellers.

Love is love, no matter the back story. <3 DS

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Art with my Students

My long term subbing position ended today and I can honestly say that I am going to miss that place! The kids were wonderful little critters. They were a challenge at times, but I always left with them on my mind and in my heart and I always returned the next morning ready and happy to see every single one of them. The teachers and faculty at this particular school are an incredible exception to the rule that when you get a bunch of women together, all you'll have is back-stabbing, nagging, and constant bitching about everything. Those ladies (and men) are fantastic educators- professional, caring, intelligent, and ready for anything!

I thought I'd share some of the art-type things I did for a few of the kids that were interested during the last 3-5 minutes of the day. I have mentioned before that I'm not exactly an artist. I can cartoon in a passable manner and if I try really hard, I can make something look decent. Check out the pictures. The drawings are ones I did for my kids and the painting was made for my little nephew PL.

 for a kindergartner

  for a kindergartner

  for a kindergartner

 for a 5th grader

 for a 5th grader and a 4th grader

 for a 5th grader

 the first bunny I did for the 5th grader

 the picture that started it all (and that I forgot to post originally)

 for the baby!

Love is love, no matter the back story. <3 DS

Monday, March 11, 2013

More from CD

We've found some pretty awesome "quote-ables" over at Creative Differences this past week. Check the blog to see what I mean. Get in on the action by writing your own response to the prompts this week. I might choose a favorite and give a shout out here on Dee Declares...!

Love is love, no matter the back story. <3 DS

Saturday, March 09, 2013


If you ask Mom, I have been writing since I could hold a crayon. I don't remember it. I know that I took to handwriting well. The mechanics of holding a pencil, making the dots, bars, lines, and loops, and the connections between printing and cursive came easily to me. Creating a story, though...

I remember going out of my way to write during the school year after that refrigerator box of books arrived at my home. I was obsessed with reading at the time. When I was invited to join a writing group, I jumped in thinking we'd be writing books. Not so much the case as it happened. I joined a club called Power of the Pen. It was a competitive writing club. The kids competed against each other during each meeting, writing to a prompt in a short time frame following a set of rules (ex. don't write outside the box). Later in the year, we went to a meet where we competed against other kids from other schools. The winners got trophies and ribbons. Our essays were judged on a scale of 1-5 based on grammar, spelling, answering the prompt, creativity, etc.

I don't remember getting higher than a 2 on anything except creativity. I remember a 4 once in creativity. It was disheartening. I didn't want to write essays. I did that in school. I wanted to write books. Books! Glorious books! After one particularly awful showing, and snappy hateful words by the teacher leading the group, I decided I would never be a writer and left the group. That was in 8th grade.

In 10th grade, one of my friends decided that she was going to be a writer. She wrote poetry. I'm pretty sure I got an itch up my butt and decided that we were going to be writers together. I tried to write poetry like she did. She was pretty good. I was definitely not. I understood rhyming. I wasn't as up to scale on similes,  metaphors, idioms, and other figures of speech that made up a large part of my friend's early poetry. She used symbolism and alliterations and allegories. I used Shel Silverstein as my compass. Oops.

I remember asking my French teacher (who was also an English teacher) to read over the rough draft of one of my poems. It was a very visual depiction of... what I can't remember. Maybe it was an asthma attack? I remember the line "flopping on the ground/lips flopping open like a dying fish" and writing tough as tuff, rough as ruff, and enough as enuff. This woman hated the poem and she wasn't nice about it. She pointed out that my simile was stupid (like a dying fish). I didn't tell her I wasn't trying to write a simile. She pointed out that my "ironic" misspelling of tough, rough, and enough wasn't actually ironic. I didn't do it for comedic effect or irony. It was pointless to ask her what irony meant. This was before digital spell check and I just didn't know how to spell those words. She told me that the entire concept was ridiculous and that I needed a new hobby. Yeah, that was a teacher. Ah, the good old days.

It seems like, from early on, I kept returning to writing in a cycle of high hopes, dismal attempts, crushing failure, and utter contempt for the art. It took a very special (or stubborn, whatever) man to bring me back to writing in a serious manner. I was 18 when I met Steven at a bookstore at the mall. He was the manager then. It was through his friendship, advice, and support that I finally found the courage to try writing again. I was hesitant, resistant even, but over a period of years, I finally accepted that the universe has always meant for me to be a writer. Not short essays penned to the tune of a writing prompt. Not poetry. Books, yes. Novels! It only took 1/4 of a century, but I can now proudly say to the nonbelievers: I am a writer, dammit!

Love is love, no matter the back story. <3 DS

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Consumed by Writing

You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. ~Ray Bradbury
Writing is my time machine, takes me to the precise time and place I belong. ~Jeb Dickerson
I don't write to empty my mind, I go mad. ~Lord Byron
If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don't write, because our culture has no use for it. ~Anais Nin
There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed. ~ Ernest Hemingway

These quotes really struck me as honest depictions of a writer. Hemingway said it the best I think. Writing is hard. To say that it is easy, that there's "nothing to it" is lying. If a writer doesn't have a catch in her throat as her character faces the cliff, then she isn't writing the best she can. She isn't allowing the story to be honest.

Love is love, no matter the back story. <3 DS

A Birthday Surprise

It is my birthday this week. I am 29 years old. So guess who got a new nephew for their birthday? This girl did! My brother and sister-in-law welcomed their first child yesterday at 6:11 pm. He is named after my maternal grandfather and the s-i-l's maternal grandfather, neither of whom lived long enough to see their grandchild. Baby PL came into the world almost a week late at 8 pounds 13 ounces and 20.5 inches. I have so many pictures (but I will not post them out of respect for bro and s-i-l), including one that was captured at just the right moment so he is sticking his tongue out at us! So freaking cute. I'm over the moon and can't wait to go see him again. Momma and baby are doing just fine. Daddy is still a little stressed out, but I expect he will be until they finally bring PL and Momma home after Thursday.

Love is love, no matter the back story. <3 DS

Monday, March 04, 2013

New Posts on CD

Creative Differences has 40-something posts to date and that number will continue to grow each week. I hope you'll take the time to go visit the blog, show Steven some love, and maybe even get in on the action yourself! If you find a writing prompt that grabs your attention but in a way different from Steven's response, feel free to write your own response to the prompt in the comments. We both love connecting with other creative types and welcome the interaction. :)

Love is love, no matter the back story. <3 DS

Saturday, March 02, 2013


I have written before about my first memorable experience with reading. It was the summer between 6th and 7th grade. It was before I discovered that some boys were attractive. It was during a very emotionally tumultuous time in my life. Mother Nature and I fought very bitterly over my body. My brother and I fought just as bitterly over why, all of a sudden, normally activities like jumping on the trampoline and going swimming were out of the question [for me]. For the record, my brother just didn't understand. Mother Nature, however, is just a bitch.

A friend of my mother's needed to unload a refrigerator box full of books. I was a good student so she assumed I liked to read. Until then, I read what I had been required to read without complaint, but never for fun. This woman brought this box of books to me. That box changed my life.

I was so desperate to escape my own life that once I cracked the cover on the 1st book, it was a done deal. I started with the easy stuff [aka age appropriate]. GOOSEBUMPS books were popular then and I found a few in the heap. "CHOOSE YOUR ADVENTURE" books were next. I always cheated by reading every page option before making a choice, yet somehow my character still always died. After that, I moved onto NANCY DREW. That chick could do anything! I read every single one of the Nancy Drew books, something around 50 of them, in the box and found a handful of Hardy Boys books too.

By the end of the summer, I only had a few books left in that box. Most didn't look like something I'd read. The men didn't wear enough clothes. Neither did the women for that matter. Instead, I picked up one called FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC. The cover made me think it was a horror story.  I guess I was partly right. The story probably traumatized me- or at least, it was responsible for good portion of nightmares. I read the entire series.

After V. C. Andrews, I decided to give the Harlequin romances a chance. I blame them, 100%, for my terrible taste in men, my unrealistic views on beauty and love, and my penchant for erotica.

Despite all of this, to this day my most beloved book is NOT NOW SAID THE COW, a reworked version of "The Little Red Hen" folk tale. I bought the children's book at a Scholastic book fair during Junior High. For years, I remembered the story but not the title until a student jogged my memory a few weeks back. Little Golden Books published a version of THE LITTLE RED HEN that the classroom library had and my student chose to read aloud. I knew then that my story was based on this story. After speaking to a couple teachers during lunch and multiple Google searches on our parts, we finally discovered the title I had been missing for almost 20 years. The reunion almost made me cry.

For such a little thing, a book elicits powerful emotions and memories. Some fond, some not so much, but always strong and honest reflections of time and place, real and imagined and remembered.

Love is love, no matter the back story. <3 DS

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Idle Time

The best time for planning a book is while you're doing the dishes. ~Agatha Christie
What no wife of a writer can ever understand is that a writer is working when he's staring out the window. ~Burton Rascoe

I get my best ideas during idle times. The prologue for Journey of Shadows came to me while laying in the tub. The titles for my WIP urban fantasy series and a second unwritten urban fantasy series came while driving. The beginning fragments of my children's series started in equal parts dream and surfing random Google images. Idle time is not all that bad!

Love is love, no matter the back story. <3 DS

Monday, February 25, 2013

Creative Differences

Are you running out of things to read on the internet? Have no fear, Creative Differences is here! The blog is part of the baker's dozen blogs from Booksteve aka my friend and editor extraordinaire Steven. I have a few posts there myself, including that Firefly fanfic that was short story RED DOTS from a few months back and the 1st chapter of my children's story THE CLOUD WALL. Check Creative Differences for my writing prompts (found on Writer's Digest, Tumblr, various other websites, writing prompt books, and my imagination) and Steven's responses. He never fails to amaze me with what he has managed to write. Steven also posts some of his creative writing from childhood (with pictures!). Steven tries to post something nearly every day and I try to send him a writing prompt daily, though I do tend to forget frequently and he has to remind me semi-often. We already have more than a dozen prompts and responses spread over 30+ posts. If you want something new to read, go to the blog!

Love is love, no matter the back story. <3 DS

Saturday, February 23, 2013


My parents didn't read to me. They didn't read my homework with me. They didn't read the recipe directions to me as they made dinner. They didn't read the newspaper aloud after dinner. They certainly didn't read me bedtime stories.

Because of that, my earliest experience of someone reading to me was in school. I know my early teachers must have read to me, but I don't remember them. I do vividly recall a story read aloud by a substitute teacher though.

This woman told us she was going to read a poem to us and that we could draw a picture based on what we heard afterwards. She read "Hungry Mungry" by Shel Silverstein. I closed my eyes as she read about the poor hungry kid. As the story went on, that kid turned into a big fuzzy monster in my mind. It was, in fact, a monster I had seen before. The sense of de ja vu was so strong, it twisted my stomach.

When the teacher finished reading, she passed out the long manila paper popular back then and crayons. She offered one of those little chunky notebooks with the kaleidoscope covers that were hugely popular in the early 90s as a prize for the best picture. I drew my version of Mungry until the sick feeling in my stomach went away. My Mungry ate the world in one big gulp. Though he wasn't describe in the poem, my little 9 year old self knew what Mungry looked like as he ate the Earth because I had dreamed about drawing him before.

I won the substitute teacher's contest that day. I honestly wasn't trying but it was one of those times that I just knew I was right (about Mungry's looks).

 This is a very poor recreation of my picture of Hungry Mungry as he ate the world. I drew it as close to memory as possible. I know, from some of my surviving artwork from that age, that my "action" always happened on the left side of the paper, my right side always ended up smaller than the other, and I splayed the feet in every single drawing. I tried to remember that as I drew this.

Love is love, no matter the back story. <3 DS

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Coming Soon

I have had the wonderful privilege of teaching at an elementary school for the past few weeks. It has been difficult to balance work, family, and writing. Add to that, I am now 100% sick. I beat the fever Monday on a day off but I've been alternating between congestion and a runny nose for several days and it doesn't seem to be letting up any time soon. Through the haze of cold medication, I managed to rewrite the first draft of the first chapter of my children's story. I mentioned this to my 4th graders today and they asked some amazing questions about writing. I was inspired.

Over the next few weeks, I am publishing a series of posts about my memories as an early reader, an advanced reader, a writer, and a storyteller. All four posts are already in the works. 2 are written (but not typed) and the other 2 are in note form. Those will arrive every Saturday until the series is finished.

I already tossed this other idea around with a fellow writer and she seemed very favorable, so my 2nd series will concern free resources for writers that I have gleaned through the internet. I found an amazing video series for fantasy writers that will take you days to watch. I found a few forums that have fantastic members that are serious about the craft of writing. I'll add to this as I write those posts. Stay tuned for those.

Those two series will put us into the middle of April I believe. I am taking recommendations for the topic of my 3rd series of related posts. Comment below or email me your idea. If I use your idea, I'll give you a shout-out here in the blog! Thanks.

Love is love, no matter the back story. <3 DS

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

I'm Always Writing

The past month has been a whirlwind for me! I finished the first rough draft of my 4th novel (or well, mostly finished at least). I made a full revision of my 3rd novel and sent it back out to Beta readers. I started working again full time for a short amount of time (6 to 8 weeks) as a long term substitute in a K-5 school. We've have had multiple major snowstorms. My Granny had a major back surgery and is now in a rehab center for recovery. My brother's baby is due in a couple weeks so we've just finished Christmas with them (for E&L since Christmas didn't really work out for a party time- the S-I-L's mother passed after a long battle with cancer on Christmas Eve) and then immediately jumped into baby shower planning.

Is everyone else always so busy in January?! I can't say that I remember ever having such a busy January myself.

Something else I've been working on: My friend and editor Steven is a fantastic writer and I've looked to him as a mentor for something around a decade now. As it happens, Steven has gotten out of the habit of writing. Yeah, I know- he's an editor and a blogger. He should be writing every day. And he does, sort of. He has a dozen or so blogs that keep him pretty busy between transcriptions, copy writing, fact checking, and editing. But, none of those activities is about him creating work- for a while now, he has only been able to manage handling the work of others, maybe with commentary and background, but he hasn't written his own stuff. Writer's block? Maybe.

Earlier in January, I came across Writer's Digest's weekly writing prompts. I sent him one. He told me that he would absolutely not be writing to those prompts. An hour later, I got his first draft. It was that simple. I have told him 100 times that he needs to write. Nooooo. Send him a prompt and he's freaking Kerouac all of a sudden! We (meaning mostly Steven) came up with the idea to catalog all of his first drafts to my prompts, various snippets of our unfinished works, sneak peaks at works-in-progress, old stuff and new stuff, and more in a blog. I thought I'd share it with you. Check out Creative Differences to see the writing prompts I've sent, his responses, some of his past work, some of my past work, and various writerly things. Yes, "writerly" is a word because I said it is. :) My "Firefly fanfic that was" short story (detailed in this post) was posted a couple days ago under the title RED DOTS if you'd like to check that out!

Love is love, no matter the back story. <3 DS