A bridge over a beautiful waterfall

A bridge over a beautiful waterfall
Nature brings magic

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sunday Snippet - Beauty and the Beast

Here's a little snip from my rewrite of the tale of Beauty and the Beast.

Rosalyn made it into the castle. She could hear screams and moans, heavy furniture being moved to blockade a door to prevent Arkadiy’s entry. Over it all she heard his chanting. She made her way to the great hall. A scene of terrible slaughter met her as she pushed open the heavy double door.
The young lord sat on the chair that had been his father’s, his face white with terror. All around him, his advisors were screaming in agony as their bodies were slowly ripped to shreds by Arkadiy’s magic. “Arkadiy, stop,” Rosalyn cried. “What are you doing?”
“He was preparing to send his soldiers to our house, Rosalyn,” Arkadiy said. “Their orders were to kill all seven of us. He was getting ready to order the deaths of our children, all because these men flattered him and called him a prince.”
“I wouldn't have done it,” the boy on the dais said. “It was them that were giving the orders, not me. I didn't want anyone to hurt your children.”
“But you would have stolen us from them, just like your parents were taken from you,” Rosalyn said softly, seeing a copy of the orders lying on the floor. “Why? We served and protected you for your whole life. Why have you abandoned everything your parents taught you?”
“It was because of you and your ideas that my parents died,” the boy said. “They would never have tried to help the peasants if you’d just left well enough alone. But they did and they caught the plague and died from it.”

“It was because of us and our ideas that so few ended up dying,” Arkadiy said. He finished dispatching the men who’d been trying to facilitate the murder of his children. He turned his cold, burning eyes on the young lord. “Now, for you.”

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Saturday Story Building - Creating your world

What is the hardest part of being a fantasy/sci fi author? To me, and this is my opinion only, I think the hardest part is building the world you want your characters to inhabit. There is so much detail to work out, and you never put all of that detail into your books. At least, I would hope you didn't put all of that into your books.

The most comprehensive version of world building put into a print form comes from David and Leigh Eddings in the publication of their The Rivan Codex. Into this book they put all the details they came up with for the world that the characters of the Belgariad and the Mallorean series inhabited. Not all the details were used in the books, but enough of them were there to establish that this was a populated world and each race was unique.

The grandest scope of world building, from what I've read, is a toss up between J.R.R. Tolkien and his Middle Earth and George R.R. Martin and his Westeros. The details needed to create the rich tapestries that make up those worlds is astounding.

I'm discovering this as I work to build Aleran. There are so many details to work out, details that will probably never end up in the story but are still essential for me to know. Races, lands, laws, coinage, mannerisms, costumes. All of these things need to be worked out. Thankfully I'm able to do so with a little help from Himself, who has built many worlds for his D&D campaigns.

What world building tips do you have? Mine is keep a spreadsheet of ideas that you're using. The more you expand on them, the better you'll do.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Frivolous Friday - I have no clue what I'm doing here

Okay, so I really don't know what I want to do with my Friday posts. I don't know if I'm going to keep up the recipes or try something new. So...this week we're trying something new.

Word association.

Here's how it works. I post a word. You post the first word that comes to mind in the comment. The next person goes based off of your word. So on and so forth until we have a long list of words connected with each other in some way.

So, the first word for this is...SPOON!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Thursday Thoughts - DOMA is dead

As many of you are no doubt aware, on Wednesday the Supreme Court ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional and violated the civil rights of those who were recognized as married by the states they lived in.

All I can say is it's about damn time.

According to Wikipedia, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington —as well as the District of Columbia and five Native American tribes—have legalized same-sex marriage. There are states out there working to legalize same sex marriage now. With DOMA ruled unconstitutional, those couples in these states can now receive the federal benefits due to married couples.

What does this mean to me?

I have friends living in New York and Connecticut who are legally married. They have long been denied the benefits of marriage because of the fact that their spouses are the same sex as them. With this ruling, they'll be granted all the rights that I have since I am in a heterosexual relationship and legally married to my husband.

There are going to be religious groups who scream that now they have to perform same sex marriages against their religious beliefs. My answer to that is no they don't. They are protected under the First Amendment with the proviso that they follow the laws of the land. Nowhere in the law does it say they have to perform these marriages. They don't even have to approve of them. All it means is the federal government is now forced to recognize same sex marriages and legal and legitimate marriages.

What I would like to see is the allowance of a redefinition of family. I vote we let same sex couples adopt children. Let them work through surrogates to have children. Give them the same rights to have a family, a life, to fulfill their dreams that a heterosexual couple has. End the discrimination and hate towards those who do not fit in with the classic definition of "normal".

This quote aptly sums up my feelings on this matter. It is a quote from a Unitarian Universalist minister. The UU church is one of the few churches that recognizes same sex pairings as legitimate and is openly welcome of the LGBTQI community.

"As we celebrate today's historic decisions, I think of the hundreds of thousands of people--some no longer walking among us--who took the actions that made today happen. Courageous, specific, undramatic, often repetitive, actions that always lead to the big moments. For all of the actors, known and unknown, my heart swells with gratitude." - Rev. Meg Riley, CLFUU.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Writing Wednesday - Multiple points of view

How many of us are not in at least some way familiar with George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series? (Game of Thrones and it's subsequent sequels, for those not familiar with the series name.) I'm still trying to plow my way through the first book, mostly because I get confused by the constantly switching POVs from one character to the next.

That got me thinking about my own stories. I tend to switch POVs between two people. I don't think I've got a full length novel written or planned out that doesn't switch POVs from one person to the next, though I do limit it to two people to avoid extreme confusion. (I hope.)

But what drives me to write it from multiple POVs? What gave G.R.R. Martin the idea to write his epic series from multiple POVs to the extent he did? I think both of us have the same situation: there's a lot of story to tell and we need to have more than one person telling their part of it. Martin's series would be a whole lot longer if he told the same events from different perspectives, repeating things in a book based on each character. We'd get bored. The same problem occurs with my stories. If I told the same events twice, once for each character in separate novels, I'd have an exceptionally long series with a lot of boring repetition.

A story with multiple POVs isn't easy to write. You have to maintain a balance that I'm still learning about. You have to give each person as close to equal screen time as the other so as to keep the audience informed about what's going on. Time lapses have to be explained or referenced at some point to keep people up to date on when in the continuity the events are happening.

Why would anyone put themselves through the trouble of trying to write a story with multiple personalities taking the lead? I'm doing it because I think it'll make my stories better. Or I'm out to torture myself and possibly my readers. I don't know which it is, but I'll figure it out eventually.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tuesday Travel - Kuna, ID

Kuna, Idaho.

Kuna is a small town. As of 2010 the census has it standing at 15,210. It is only 17 miles from Boise, so most of the residents commute into town to work. There are some wonderful small businesses in Kuna, and the people who live there are rather proud of their small town.

One of Kuna's main attractions is actually south of the city, the Kuna Caves. The Kuna Caves are an underground lava flow cave. People explore them on a regular basis. Indian Creek runs right through town. It's a great seasonal waterway and is a favorite with locals for swimming.

Kuna originated as a railroad stop with coach transport to Boise. It is popularly believed, as cited by the Kuna Chamber of Commerce, that the translation of the name "Kuna" means "the end of the trail", but Charles S. Walgamott cites the origin of the name as a Shoshone Indian word meaning "green leaf, good to smoke".

Kuna has a large park and is not far off from the Snake River Birds of Prey Wildlife Preserve. You go just a little ways out side the city and you get to a sheer drop off and a magnificent view of the Snake River.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Monday Maundering - Marriage Equality

Image courtesy of George Takei, Facebook

Today I'm getting my soapbox out because of the landmark decision the SCOTUS is having to deal with. That is the ruling on marriage equality.

I'm for it. 100%. I believe that everyone who is over the age of consent should be allowed to marry the partner of their choice, assuming that partner is also over the age of consent, regardless of gender. I believe that every person over the age of consent who wants to be a parent should be allowed that opportunity whether it's through natural child birth, IVF, surrogacy, or adoption. Everyone should have the right to be a family as they define it.

Not everyone defines love, marriage, and family the same way. The government needs to stay out of our definitions and allow those of us over the age of consent to choose the way we live our lives. If a child is under the age of consent, but knows that he/she is gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender we need to support them in that too. It's not a phase they'll grow out of. It's who they are.

Children should be brought up recognizing that it doesn't matter if who they love is black, white, purple with green polka dots, or the same gender as they are. They have the right and the privilege of loving that person and hopefully being loved back. A boy who wants to wear a dress to prom should be allowed, just as a girl wanting to wear a tux should be allowed. A woman who believes she should have been born a man should be given the same rights and protections as a real man would be. The same goes for a man who thinks he should have been born a woman.

Relationships need to be open and honest, and how can they be if you're forcing one person to deny a part of who they are? Society's fear and hatred of those who follow the LGBT path needs to end. All those who follow the LGBT path are not sinners, not freaks, and sure as hell are not evil. They have the basic human right to love who they wish and they should be encouraged and welcomed. We need to open our eyes and our hearts and bring about equality for all.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Snippet Sunday - Marked

Here's another little snippet from my current WIP.

Aislinn watched her cousins work and wondered again who her parents had been that she was so different from them. Catriona, Osheen, and Daragh were all fair haired with gray eyes and rosy skin. Aislinn was dark skinned and dark haired with bright blue eyes. Daragh was the only one shorter than her, and he was only eight. He’d hit a growth spurt soon enough.
Aislinn often dreamed of things she couldn’t explain. Who were the people she saw so clearly in her sleeping mind, yet the only features she could recall was the woman’s dark skin and the man’s blue eyes? The colors, the smells, the sounds that surrounded her were nothing like what existed in her world. She had no names for some of the things. Others she knew only the truly wealthy could afford. She’d once told her aunt about the dreams. Her aunt had told her not to speak of such foolishness. The fear in her eyes convinced Aislinn to keep silent about her dreams from that day on.
The ache in her leg subsided so she made her way back to the house. “All finished in the fields?” Ena asked.
“I planted the last of the vegetable plots,” Aislinn said as she washed up. “Uncle Fionan told me to come back when I was done.”
“Well, you came in time to help me with the laundry,” Ena said.
Aislinn changed out of her dirt covered clothes and brought them down to be washed with the rest of the laundry. She sat on a stool beside the wash tub and started scrubbing as her aunt hung up the clothes that had already been washed. “Aunt Ena, what were my parents like?”
“Aislinn, you’ve asked me this question how many times now?” Ena asked. “I’ve already told you everything I know about your parents.”
“I’m just wondering how I came from your sister and yet I look so different from you and the others,” Aislinn said.
“Your father was dark skinned like you. You favor him more than your mother,” Ena said. “You know that.”
“Yes, but where did father come from? Do I have any other family besides you? Where did I come from?” Aislinn asked.
Ena turned and looked at her. “Where did this come from?”
“Sheen says I’m not a part of the family,” Aislinn said. “He’s said it before. He’s right. I’m not really a member of this family, am I?”

Ena walked over and stood in front of Aislinn. “Aislinn, you are my precious niece. Your mother was my sister and your father her husband. You are blood of my blood. In spite of what Osheen may think, that makes you as much a part of this family as he is. You have more right to be here than Mairtin and you don’t hear Osheen complaining about him.”

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Saturday Story Building - Research

It doesn't matter what genre you write, research is the key to your writing.

Research can be as simple as reading books in your chosen genre to see what others are writing. Or looking up information on the city you're using for your setting. It can be as complex as researching the lives and cultures of different races to incorporate them into your world. It can be simply looking at maps or it can be poring over old documents to get a better feel for how things were done.

I've done a lot of research on what life was like in medieval times. Most of the books I've read detailed medieval England, but there was enough in them to show me what medieval life was like in other parts of Europe. I've started doing research on Ancient Egypt, on Ancient Greece, and the Roman Empire. These things will all find their way in some form into my stories, whether I borrow whole cloth or use just snippets of information to create my societies.

I know one author who researched how to cook over an open fire. Another one researched food in the Middle Ages to make a feast scene she was writing more believable. I know authors who have researched the etymology of the names they're using to make sure they fit with the story.

It doesn't matter what type of research you do, just do it. Open your mind. Expand your knowledge. Even if what you're researching isn't precisely what you need for the story you're working on, don't discard it. Keep it. You never know when you might need it for a story.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Food Friday - Any thoughts?

I'm not sure the Food Friday posts are working with my general blog. So I'm looking for some suggestions on what I can do to liven up my Friday posts. Do you want me to try a word association post? Do you want me to focus on something else? Do you like the recipes and want me to keep going with them?

Let me know what you think.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Thursday Thoughts - Depression

I want to talk to you today about something that plagues a lot of people's lives, and makes it so they can't live their lives well: depression.

True clinical depression is a mood disorder in which feelings of sadness, loss, anger, or frustration interfere with everyday life for weeks or longer. It can make it so you don't want to get out of bed, you don't want to see family or friends, you don't want to eat, you either want to sleep all the time or you can't sleep at all. There are so many signs and symptoms of depression that it's hard to pinpoint them all.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, symptoms of depression may include the following:

*Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
*Fatigue and decreased energy
*Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
*Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
*Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
*Irritability, restlessness
*Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
*Overeating or appetite loss
*Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
*Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" feelings
*Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts

I suffer from depression. I have days where I just want to crawl into a hole and not come out ever again. I lose interest in everything - my writing, my husband, my cat, my life. I snap at Himself when he tries to get me to come out of it. I feel like nothing in life will ever be right again. This can go on for hours, days, or as the definition suggests, weeks.

I am on medication to curb my depressive episodes and it works for the most part. But depression isn't something I can simply "get over". It's in my head, yes, but it's not "all in my head" in the sense that I can just push it away as if it were nothing.

I've contemplated suicide three times in the past few years. All three times I had a plan and I was just waiting to put it into action. Thankfully Himself, my friends, and my therapist all caught me before I could go through with it and got me the help I needed. Suicidal thoughts are not uncommon in people who suffer from depression.

According to Web MD, an estimated 19 million American adults suffer from major depression. That's 19 million people who have their lives interrupted by something they can't consciously control. That's 19 million people who may at one point or another contemplate ending their lives because they can't handle it anymore. That's 19 million people who need love and support, not condemnation.

I have faced a lot of ridicule and discrimination because of my mental illness. People don't believe that I have problems. They think it's something I can control. I can to a certain extent, with proper medication and other treatments. But it's always there and sometimes even the medication isn't enough to fight it off. On those days I curl up, I hide from the world, and I sleep. I sleep a lot. I don't eat unless Himself forces me to eat and I won't get out of bed unless Himself forces me out of bed. Those are the days I need love and support the most, and I get it from my husband.

If you have a friend or loved one who is suffering from any kind of mental illness, remember that it's not something they can consciously control. Offer them love and support. Don't turn away from them. Educate yourself on their mental illness so you can understand what's going on. If you suffer from a mental illness yourself, educate yourself on what to expect. Learn all you can about it.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Writing Wednesday - Zen in the Art of Writing

Today I want to talk to you about a book that I've recently started reading that I find absolutely wonderful. It's called Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity by Ray Bradbury. Now I know I'm probably coming late to the field on this one. I'm sure there are a lot of you out there who've already read this, as you've read a lot of Ray Bradbury's stuff. I'm sad to say I haven't read many of Ray Bradbury's stories, but the ones I have read I do like.

I think my favorite quote so far from this book is as follows: "If you are writing without zest, without gusto, without love, without fun, you are only half a writer."

That's good advice. If writing becomes mechanical for us, if all we're doing is keeping our eye on the commercial market and not pouring ourselves out onto the page, then writing loses its purpose. Writing is supposed to be a release, something we do because we enjoy it. For many of us, it is what we want to do or are doing for our livelihood. I won't deny that. But if you don't write what you enjoy, how are your readers going to enjoy the story with you?

Another part of the book that I like is this paragraph:
     The history of each story, then, should read almost like a weather report: Hot today, cool tomorrow. This afternoon, burn down the house. Tomorrow, pour cold critical water upon the simmering coals. Time enough to think and cut and rewrite tomorrow. But today - explode - fly apart - disintegrate. The other six or seven drafts are going to be pure torture. So why not enjoy the first draft, int he hope that your joy will seek and find others in the world who, reading your story, will catch fire, too?

How many of us worry so much about our first drafts that we sit in agony as we write it, pondering each and every line as if to make sure it's perfect the first time through? Why can't we sit back and enjoy the ride, and worry about fixing it later when it comes time to write the second draft? Our job with our first draft is to paint the background for our story. Each subsequent edit and rewrite is just adding detail to the picture.

Ray Bradbury has a lot of good advice in this book. I can't wait to finish it and see what else he has to say.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Tuesday Travel - Boise, Idaho

Welcome to Boise, the City of Trees. My hometown and one of the prettiest cities in Idaho...at least, I think so.

Boise is situated in Ada County and has a population of over 210,000 people. We're not a large city by the standards of the metro areas of Seattle, Portland, and New York City, but we're big enough to suit us. We're large enough to have the amenities of a large city, but small enough to still have something of that small town feel when you visit.

Boise has several parks. You have Julia Davis Park, Ann Morrison Park, Katherine Albertson Park, Barber Park, Camel Back Park, and as you get up above us you've got Discovery Park and Lucky Peak Reservoir. The city is full of trees and the Boise River runs right through downtown, so walking on the Greenbelt which leads you over and around and through many of the parks is a pleasure in the greener months.

Another landmark for Boise is our BSU football stadium. If you watch college football you'll know that the Boise State Broncos have had a good showing these past few years. Here is the "Smurf Turf" that is our home field. It's done in the school colors of blue and orange and is recognizable by anyone who's seen the Broncos play. Some people find it a little embarrassing. I find it amusing.

Boise downtown, or BoDo as it's now called, is where the action is. Clubs, restaurants, businesses. You name it, it's downtown. We also have historical districts where small businesses thrive. The most popular historical district in town is Hyde Park. It's a beautiful collection of houses and small businesses and the people in the area are very proud of their part of town.

In Boise, you can go fishing, hiking, and biking all within the city limits. There are a number of beautiful spots around this city where you can go camping. Boise is a phenomenal city and one well worth visiting if you ever come to Idaho.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Monday Maundering - My love affair with caffeine

I think just about every author out there has a love affair with something to aid their writing. Be it alcohol, cigarettes, or mine - caffeine. To be more specific, Mountain Dew. I have to have Mountain Dew at some point in my day to write. Which makes kicking the caffeine habit a hard one for me.

Did you know that caffeine is the world's most heavily consumed psychoactive drug? 90% of adults in America consume caffeine daily. The lethal dose of caffeine for most people is 10 grams, though we're not likely to see more than 500 mg of caffeine in most drinks. Those children and adults who had heart problems because of an overabundance of caffeine, such as is found in energy drinks, are believed to have a higher sensitivity to caffeine than others.

Me, my sensitivity to caffeine has been dulled by years of use. I don't get the energy boost off of Mountain Dew like I used to, which is fine by me. I don't do energy drinks because they leave me feeling jittery and generally give me a stomach and/or a headache with everything else that's in there on top of the caffeine. You have to figure that guarana, which is a key ingredient in many energy drinks, has caffeine in it naturally. So beyond what caffeine they're adding, you're getting an extra dose in the guarana.

Did you know that caffeine resides in chocolate too? It's there in minuscule amounts, but it's there. That's why I don't think I could give up caffeine completely. I love my chocolate too much. But I can deal with it in moderation, which is the key point of everything.

So why am I talking about caffeine? Because it's a habit that I want to kick. I want to be able to write without having to have Mountain Dew around. I'm trying to lose weight and guzzling soda all day isn't the way to do it. But I'm so addicted to the Dew (not that Mountain Dew is naturally addicting...it's just what I'm hooked on) that I have a hard time focusing on my writing if I don't have at least one can or bottle there with me.

So I'm slowly weaning myself off of Mountain Dew, and off of caffeine in general. I think I'd be a lot happier off of them and caffeine does tend to screw with my anxiety levels anyway. So the less I consume the better. So wish me luck in getting over this love affair.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Sunday Snippet - Raven

This is just a little bit of another one of my WIPs.

Arcturo waited until there was barely enough light to see. The fledgling ignited whatever the Aeryons used for lights and the cave entrance blazed in the darkness. “There,” Arcturo said. “Aim the grapples for that opening.”
Four of the men took a few steps back, the metal hooks whirling above their heads. They released the hooks and the metal barbs sailed through the air. The first one hit on the first try, but it took another shot to get the other three connected. Arcturo slung one of the tangle nets over his shoulder and started climbing. The others followed his example. A faint tingle in his hands told Arcturo that the anti-slip spell was in place on the ropes.
Arcturo pulled himself into the aerie. There, reclining on a pile of curtains with a book open in front of her, was the fledgling he'd come to steal. Her hair was as black as her wings, and strands fell over the feathers. She was paler than most Aeryons, which gave testament to her imprisonment in this cave. She looked up from her book, eyes wide. “Who are you?” she demanded, pushing the book to the side.
Before she could move any further, Arcturo gave his net an expert flip and it tangled around her wings. The fledgling shrieked as she struggled against the net. Two more nets wrapped around her. The more she thrashed the harder it became for her to move until finally she was completely immobilized.
“Fastest I've ever seen those things work,” one of the men said as Arcturo pulled a long, thin needle out of his belt. He approached the fledgling, who stared up at him with wide, frightened eyes.

“I'm sorry, youngling,” he said in a quiet voice. “I can't let you stay here.” He inserted the needle into the side of her neck. A few seconds later, her eyes fluttered closed and she went limp. “Quickly now, get those ropes up here. We've got to work fast.”

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Saturday Story Building - Sensory description

During the #WritersRoad chat on Monday, we talked about sensory descriptions in stories. How many times have you been drawn into a character's life by their perceptions of the world around them? How many times do your senses tell you about the world or trigger a memory?

Sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell. These are the five senses. Unless your character has lost the use of one of these senses, he or she will experience all of them. Writers need to give their readers those experiences. As a reader, we want to know what's going on in the character's world. As a writer, we need to tell our readers what's going on in the character's world.

That doesn't mean allow yourself to get bogged down in details. We don't need to include everything. As a writer, we want to whet the appetite of the reader so they continue in our world. We need to give them that world through sensory perception. Since they can't see the world as we do, they don't experience it the way the character does, we need to give them something to go by.

For example:

She walked along the shoreline, remembering. The breeze, redolent with the odors of salt and fish, drew her back to her childhood. The soft fabric sliding over her skin now was a far cry from the rough cloth of her clothing back then. Her shoes rubbed her feet raw, the stiff leather scraping against her skin, when she was still a child. Now she wore shoes that were soft and well fitted. They were as odd as her clothing was now with the memories of the starving child she'd been. Her stomach twisted in knots at remembered hunger and her hands shook as the cold, uncaring waves beat against her tiny body during the storm that almost claimed her life. She shook her head, chasing away the memories.

We see through this character the scent of the breeze, the feel of the fabric she's wearing. We see through her memories what life was like when she was a child. How different things were for her then. We can feel the difference in fabrics from her adult self to her child self. The ill fitting shoes she wore as a child compared to the shoes made for her feet as an adult. We see all of this through the use of sensory description.

Who's an author that you like who uses the character's senses to tell you more about the world they inhabit?

Friday, June 14, 2013

Food Friday - Free for all

Today I only have one recipe for you. I need to go through my files and find some new recipes to share. I thought it might be fun for you to share some of your favorite recipes. Just leave them in the comments and let us know what your favorite things to cook are.

Sausage Soup

1 kielbasa sausage, sliced
2 cans beef stock
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
2 c. celery, sliced into 1/4" slices
2 c. diced carrots
1 can diced tomatoes
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 tsp ground ginger
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried marjoram
1 tsp chili powder
Olive oil

1. Brown sliced kielbasa and set aside.
2. In large pot, drizzle a little olive oil. Add in onion and garlic. Cook on medium heat until onions turn translucent. Add in celery, carrots, and peppers. Cook on medium heat for fifteen minutes.
3. Pour in cans of beef stock and diced tomatoes (with the juice). Stir together. Add in herbs and spices and stir well. Toss in kielbasa and simmer for 20 minutes.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Thursday Thoughts - Gratitude

I realized, as I sat down to write this, that I'm a very selfish person. I think, in a way, we are all selfish. How many of us take things for granted that we shouldn't? I take a lot of things for granted. I just wanted to share some of the things that I am truly grateful for.

I'm grateful for a place to live. I've been homeless, so I know what it's like to not be sure where you're going to sleep. I have two places where I can sleep, eat, shower, and take care of all the other daily things you're supposed to do. I have friends in both places who are willing to share their living space with me. So I am very lucky.

I'm grateful that I have the ability to buy food. I've lived on food banks and little to no money for food. I know how hard that is. I'm on food stamps, but that just means I'm lucky enough that the state understands how poor we are and that we need the additional help to buy food. I'm grateful that I have this program to help me out.

I'm grateful for my husband. I don't know what I'd do without Himself. He's my anchor in this sea of chaos I call life. He encourages me to follow my dreams. He inspires me by following his dreams. He is my life.

I'm grateful for my friends. I don't have that many close friends. I'm not a social person. But I am grateful for the close friends I do have, and even those people I've connected with on Facebook and Twitter that may not be close friends but are friends nonetheless. I'm grateful for their friendship and the companionship of my close friends when I need them.

I'm grateful I have my laptop. My life is tied up online for the most part because I don't have the ability to get out and do a lot. My laptop is the key to that life. I'm grateful I have one that works well enough that I'm able to write and get online. It's not the top of the line but it works for me.

There are so many things in my life that I have to be grateful for. Think of some of the things that you're grateful for and share them with us.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Writing Wednesday - Writer's Block

How many of us have suffered from writer's block? How many of us struggle to put words on the page even though we desperately want to? I know that I've suffered from frequent writer's block. It stops me dead on whatever project I'm working on and I can't seem to get up the mental energy to start it again.

I've read a lot of articles and blog posts about how people combat writer's block. I've even read a few things that say there's no such thing as writer's block (there is). All of the articles and blog posts shared one thing - they all had suggestions on how to get out of writer's block. Some of them were even similar to each other. But I thought I'd share my technique for getting away from writer's block.

First, read back through the project I'm working on. It could be the characters are telling me that something isn't right and I need to change it. Find where the disconnect is happening and start writing from there. Sometimes this means whole chapters get rewritten, but once I locate the disconnect and fix it the words start flowing again.

Second, choose another project I've got and work on that instead. Sometimes you just need to walk away from what you're currently working on. You need to let it rest and let your mind work on the scene without obsessing over it. That's when you should work on any additional little (or big) projects you have.

Third, walk away from writing for a while completely. I don't mean for months on end. I mean for a day or two. Go read a book. Watch a movie. Go for a walk. Get away from your story completely for a day or two to let your mind go fallow and your story sit without any kind of work being done on it. When you get back to it, read over the last little bit to pick up where you left off. Then start writing again. This has been a huge help when writer's block has crippled my writing.

So, what are your ways of combating the dreaded writer's block?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Travel Tuesday - Seattle

Welcome to Seattle! Seattle is a phenomenal city with a lot to see and do. I'm just going to tell you about a couple of my favorite things about the city. I suggest, if you've never been, to go yourself and discover all the wonderful things in the city.

The first thing I want to tell you about is the aquarium. Seattle has one of the largest aquariums in the Pacific Northwest. It has a large number of tanks and a plethora of aquatic life. It has seals and otters, and the dome. The dome is a way for you to see underwater in the Puget Sound. It's an incredible view. If you want to know more about the aquarium, you can always go here.

My other favorite place is Pike Place Market. It's nine acres of vendors and food, and it's all incredible. You can find fresh fish, fresh fruits and vegetables, handmade crafts, locally sourced products. It's amazing. It's open 362 days a year, and has over one hundred vendors peddling their wares. The sights, sounds, and smells are overwhelming. It's a great place for people watching, not to mention finding little treasures that you'd never think to find elsewhere. You can find out more about the market here.

If you go to Seattle, check out both of these locations. Then explore around a bit. See what else you can find that catches your fancy.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Monday Maundering - Why I love/hate summer

I have a love/hate relationship with summer. I'm not one of those people who likes going out and spending days in the sun. I can't swim so I don't go swimming. I don't go camping or hiking, though honestly I would love to go camping again. I do miss that. And fishing. I don't do either of those anymore.

I hate the heat. That's the biggest problem with summer for me. I also don't like sunny days. I miss the gray summers when we lived in Washington, where it didn't always rain but we had clouds most of the time and it rarely got above 80 degrees and usually stayed in the 70's. Here it's pushing the 90's already and summer hasn't even officially started yet.

Summer does give me an excuse to wear my tank tops, though I never really needed much of an excuse to wear them. I wear them year round, just with the addition of a sweater in the colder months. I don't like wearing shorts. I don't wear sandals.

But summer does have something going for it. Roses. This is the time when all the rose bushes are blooming. In fact, there are a lot of flowers that bloom in the summer around here. I love looking at gardens and one of my favorite places to go is the Rose Garden in Julia Davis Park. The smell is heavenly.

There's also ice cream. I know you can eat ice cream year round, but it's a lot more satisfying in the summer. The snow cone shops are all open now too and it's fun to occasionally indulge in one of those. Barbecues are awesome and this is the time of year when everyone who can is out with their grills.

Summer is also a good time to go to the park. The river is flowing at a decent level. The ducks and geese are all gathering in the ponds. Other animals are out and about and you're more likely to see something than in the colder months. It's a lot of fun, and it's the only hiking I get to do right now. It's worth the sun block to enjoy some time in the park, especially in the ones where trees shade the paths and the grassy areas.

Then there's the zoo. All of the animals are back from their winter care facilities. The zoo is full of people and the educational programs are in full swing. It's a lot of fun to go and people watch as well as gawk at the animals.

So there are things I hate about summer, and there are things I love about summer. Hence my love/hate relationship with the season.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Sunday Snippet - Marked

Here's a brief little snippet from my current WIP - Marked, formerly known as Only A Name.

It was a beautiful night. The moon was full and cast its silvery glow over the countryside. The stars were bright against the velvet blackness of the sky. Lord Mikhael looked out over his garden and not for the first time cursed the gods who had made him High Lord of Sorran Hold. He turned to his wife. “They’ll be here soon.”
Lady Rowan nodded. “We don’t have much time.” Even after all this time her voice still held a hint of the northerner’s speech. “Emberlie, come here.”
“Yes milady?” The dark haired maidservant stepped forward.
“Bring me Sorcha,” Rowan said. “Be quick. There’s not much time.”
“Yes milady,” Emberlie said. She ran from the room, her hair flying behind her.
“This is the only way, Rowan,” Mikhael said.
“I know. But she’s just a child. She shouldn’t be left alone like this,” Rowan said.
“If we aren’t here when they come, they’ll hunt for us. That would put her at greater risk. At least this way there’s a chance,” Mikhael said.
“I will miss her smile,” Rowan said.
“As will I,” Mikhael said. “If we survive this night, we will meet at the shrine. She’ll be there waiting for us.”
“I know,” Rowan said. Unspoken between them was the certainty that neither of them would live to see the dawn.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Saturday World Building - Names

How often do we, as authors, struggle with naming our characters, or the places we're writing about? I know that I have trouble with names. So what do we do about it?

One of the ways I name people and places is by sound. I put sounds together until I find one that I like. Then I figure out how to spell it. That's how I came up with Sindla. Another thing I'll do is take the names of key players and mash them together to form the name of a place. That's how I came up with Erondahl.

Then there's the names of people. How do you name all your characters? Sometimes I just put random letters together to see what I get (Tuleesi). Other times, like with country names, I put sounds together until I get something I like (Tinandril). Then there's the most common way I'll find names - baby name sites and books. In my current novel Marked (formerly Only A Name), I'm using a lot of Irish names because I settled on that naming convention for the country of Lytharia. Two of the name sites I use are here and here.

A word of advice on names: if you don't know how to pronounce your names, neither will your audience. If you want to use something obscure, learn how to pronounce it. Or find something different.

Titles. Those tricky little things that we have to come up with in order to put our story out there. A lot of mine end up with working titles like "Anne and Edward" or "Psionics". Eventually I come up with a title I like that fits the theme of the book, like Marked, Cracked World, and Burning Dreams. Those titles may change when I head to publication, but for now that's what they are.

If you're having problems with a title, pick one word that describes your story and use that. Or use a character's name and say, "Today I'm working on __________'s story." Pick a sentence you particularly like and turn that into the title. Or figure out what the central theme in your story is and use that as a title. Working titles are just fine. A lot of times the original title doesn't make it past the writing of the story.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Food Friday - Red Beans and Rice, Spinach Salad, and Carrot Cake

This week is a little bit of a mish mash but I've made this meal plenty of times and it's a favorite in my house.

Red Beans and Rice

1 pkg. dried red beans
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, smashed
2 bay leaves
1 tsp chili powder
2 ham hocks (you can use 2 c. chopped ham or 2 c. chopped cooked bacon)
Hot sauce, if desired

1. Soak the beans overnight. Drain water. Place beans in a large pot and cover with water up to an inch over the top of the beans.
2. Add onion, garlic, bay leaves, chili powder, and ham hocks. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook until beans are tender. Times vary but I always start checking it at half an hour. Stir occasionally.
3. Prepare rice as it says to on the package. Place rice on a plate and top with red beans. Add a dash of your favorite hot sauce if you wish and enjoy.

Spinach Salad with Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette

1 pkg spinach, rinsed
1 pkg spring greens, rinsed
10 strawberries, sliced
1/2 c. sliced almonds

Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette
1/2 c. balsamic vinegar
1 small onion, chopped
1 T soy sauce
3 tsp honey
1 T white sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
2/3 c. extra virgin olive oil

1. Mix salad greens together with strawberries. Sprinkle almonds on top.
2. For the dressing, place everything except the olive oil in a blender. Puree on high, gradually adding the olive oil. Puree for another 2 minutes, or until thick.

Carrot Cake

2 c. all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
2 c. white sugar
4 eggs
1 1/3 c. vegetable oil
4 c. grated carrots
3/4 c. chopped walnuts
3/4 c. dried blueberries (you can use raisins, craisins, or another chopped dried fruit)

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour a 9 x 13 baking pan. Sift together all the dry ingredients and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, cream together eggs and sugar. Add the oil. Slowly stir in the dry ingredients. Once everything's mixed together, fold in carrots, walnuts, and dried fruit. Spread the mixture into the prepared pan.
3. Bake 40-45 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Serve with your favorite cream cheese frosting. (I cheat. I use canned frosting and mix in drained crushed pineapple for my frosting.)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Thursday Thoughts - Disabilities

I've posted a rant about this in the past. Not every disability is visible. I want to reiterate that fact.

I am permanently disabled. I am not on crutches or in a wheel chair. I am not blind nor am I deaf. I have no outward physical signs of a disability. Yet I have seizures and severe depression and anxiety. These things prevent me from leading a normal life, though I try to live as normally as possible. I am a woman with invisible disabilities.

My friend has Degenerative Disc Disorder. Walking for her is painful yet she walks without any additional help. No cane, no walker, no wheelchair. She also has severe depression and anxiety. These things prevent her from leading a normal life, though she tries to live as normally as possible. She is a woman with invisible disabilities.

We are the silent ones. The ones that take the ridicule, the scornful comments, the sneers. We are expected to silently ignore the comments of "You're not disabled." Or "You're just faking. There's nothing wrong with you." Except...we  aren't silent.

Too many people like us are silent because they're ashamed of being disabled. They're afraid of further ridicule if they talk about their disabilities. Yet just because we are not visibly disabled, that doesn't mean our problems are any less severe than those with visible disabilities. Those with visible disabilities are just more noticeable.

We are not faking it. We are not trying to garner sympathy. We don't want your sympathy. We want to be respected as human beings, even though we are not as able as you are. We want to be able to live our lives as best as we can without feeling like we're being judged every time we step outside our doors because people can't see what's wrong with us.

My friend and I, indeed many of us with invisible disabilities, we don't define ourselves by our disabilities. We define ourselves by our thoughts and actions. We just have to accommodate our disabilities in our daily lives so we can minimize their impact on us.

We are human beings. We aren't asking for you to treat us as fragile creatures. We're asking for you to accept we are less than perfect, make allowances for us when it's obvious our disabilities are making our lives difficult, and to deal with us like we are real people and not pariahs from the society of the "normal".

Even if someone is visibly disabled, I would hope that you would afford them the same respect. Accept they are less than perfect, make allowances for them when it's obvious their disabilities are making their lives difficult, and deal with them like they are real people and not the scum of the earth. They are as human as the rest of us, and they know when they are being treated differently.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Writing Wednesday - Real life inspirations

On Monday, Thomas Curran wrote this post on the Type M for Murder blog about how reality can be stranger than fiction. Those strange realities can be great fodder for our stories, if we open our minds to the possibilities.

I went through my local newspaper and went looking for articles that caught my attention. Things that I could add to my story idea file. Just today, an article caught my eye. A brilliant man in an Idaho prison managed to commit financial fraud to the tune of $64,000 from his prison cell by faking legal letters and sending them out to take advantage of class action lawsuits against major corporations. A career criminal, he managed to secure a lot of money just by exploiting a loophole in the prison mail system where letters with attorneys aren't screened because of lawyer/client confidentiality.

At face value, it's not much to work with. But what if I took that story and added my own twist to it? What if, instead of putting the funds in an investment portfolio, he was sending it to his sick mother who couldn't afford her medical bills? What would the repercussions be when the authorities caught him then? What if he'd never been caught? How high would his money have climbed? What could he have done with all that money from behind bars? All these questions can lead to a germ of a story idea.

Another thing caught my eye. I have never seen a house go for more than $1 million dollars in Boise, at least that I can recall. I'm sure there have been houses that went for that. I just never paid any attention to them. But this one caught my eye. A 7 car garage? 5 bedrooms? 5 bathrooms? Who would live in such a grand house? What would they be like? What secrets might be told in such a palatial residence here in a little podunk state like Idaho? I must know. Since I can't know, I might just write a story about a house like this and the secrets the walls could tell about the wealthy family living in it.

Anything can be inspiration. You just have to open your mind to it.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Travel Tuesday - Shoshone Falls

(photo courtesy of Twin Falls, ID info page)

Let me tell you about one of the most gorgeous waterfalls in Idaho. It's located five miles east of Twin Falls, ID. This is the Niagara of the West, as it is one of the most spectacular waterfalls out here. Shoshone Falls is 212 feet high (45 feet higher than Niagara Falls) and 1000 feet wide. In the spring, the water is so plentiful it just showers everything with spray. Later in the year, much of the water is diverted for irrigation so the best time to see it is in the spring. This waterfall is one of the major landmarks of the Snake River.

There is a park, owned and operated by the City of Twin Falls, that allows you a good view of the falls. There is also a picnic area where you can spend time eating and watching the falls. There's also a boat ramp and a swimming area near the falls in the park maintained by the city. There's a lot to do and see around Shoshone Falls. If you're ever in Idaho, I recommend taking time to go and see this natural wonder.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Monday Maundering - My mini adventure

Yesterday I took a little mini adventure with Himself. The two of us were tired of being cooped up in the house all day so we decided to go for a drive. We wandered around downtown Boise for a little while, looking at the beautiful houses, but decided that we wanted to do something else. That was when Himself got the idea to follow Eagle Rd. to its end.

Eagle Rd. is one of the major thoroughfares in Boise/Meridian. It's always got a lot of traffic on it and is a pretty busy street. It has access to several shopping centers and is the primary access to one of our hospitals. It stretches a fair distance and we decided to go down Eagle past State St. since we've never been down that far.

Well, we followed Eagle down and saw some pretty green areas and some nice older houses. We passed through Eagle (the city) and beyond. We drove for probably half an hour total before we came to the end of the road. Only it didn't end there.

Eagle Rd. itself ended, but it took a rather sharp turn and became something else. We decided, being adventurous, that we would follow it down for a ways and see where it took us. It took us on a very twisty, turny drive with a few blind hills and a lot of open space. We saw a lot of quail and even a couple ground squirrels.

We followed the pavement until it ran out. Then we followed the dirt road it became down a ways until we found a turn off near a house. We used that and turned around and headed back the way we came. On our way back we saw a rattlesnake in the road. He was probably dead, but it was still cool seeing him. As long as he was on the outside and I was on the inside of the car at least.

We stopped by my dad's afterwards and Himself got his own personal mini adventure - he had to clean the malware off my stepmom's computer. That took almost an hour and a lot of muttered curse words for the idiot who got them on my stepmom's computer in the first place. She didn't do it. Someone who was helping her set up her computer to do something very specific managed to mess it up.

All in all, it was a pleasant day. We're hoping to take another adventure here soon. Maybe I'll talk him into taking the road all the way out to Horseshoe Bend. Just because.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Saturday World Building - Character Sheets

I know, I know. Everyone and their aunt has character sheets they use. But I'm one of those who never used to use them. I made things up as I went along and thought that was the best way to go. Then I discovered I was doing something that I find to be very annoying when some of my favorite writers do it - I was screwing up my own timeline and my characters.

I would have characters talk about things that they did that I never planned for them to do, and when I'd go back and read I'd find that I came up with a reason early on in the book why they couldn't have done it. I'd forget what they looked like. I'd give them character traits that went against what I'd initially had in mind for them. In short, I was messing up my own characters and with nothing to help me keep them straight it was a royal pain.

So I've devised my own version of a character sheet and I thought I'd share that with you. It's just some basic information about the characters. You can, of course, make them as detailed as you want. But I found this is what works best for me.

The first section is vital statistics. How tall are they? How much do they weigh? What color are their hair and eyes? What's their skin tone? These are basic things you need to know how your character looks. If they have tattoos or scars, this would be the best place to put those notes.

The second section is family. Where did they come from? Do they have any siblings? What about aunts and uncles? Grandparents? You don't have to go that far back in their timeline, especially if you don't expect to bring any of those family members in or the family members don't play an important part in the character's life. Even if their only purpose is to die to give your character drive to move forward with the adventure, put them on the character sketch. You don't have to give them names. I do, but I'm weird like that.

The third section is special characteristics. What makes your character so special? Are they hyper intelligent? Faster than everyone? Stronger than the strongest people in their village? Can they fly? Even if discovering this special characteristic is part of the story arc, make sure you write it down so you remember to put in the appropriate cues leading up to it. Another good thing to put here is their flaws. What makes them less than perfect? What are they afraid of? What is their attitude towards people?

The fourth section is the biography. This is where you get more detailed about where they came from. What is their history? What made them who they are now? Who were they before they became part of the story?

The fifth section is optional, and even I don't use it all the time. If you want, you can add some notes to the character sketch about how your character is going to evolve and change along the story arc. If you're like me and still don't know exactly how they're going to change, then obviously you wouldn't want to put in this section.

If any of this is useful to you, please feel free to adapt it to your own needs. I've adapted my method from reviewing several different character sketch outlines.