Sunday, September 27, 2009

So You Think You Can Write Challenge 2

Time to join in HWG's So You Think You Can Write ...write ...write challenge. The month's guest choreographer Mama Say Mama Saw has designed what could be a tough challenge. Take some time and practice before you bring your A game to this task! Then by October 7th  send your scene to *lizzie privately for posting here on the blog.


What We Talk About When We Talk About Something Else

So many times when we speak, we use one topic, subject matter, or issue to stand for and illuminate what we feel about something else. Just like:

• When Jules tells Kim in “My Best Friend’s Wedding” that she’s crème brulee and she’s “never gonna be Jello.”

• When Carrie thinks of her own indiscretion in “Sex in the City” as her boyfriend Aiden talks about a piece of furniture he’s made. He points out the flaw in the wood and says the flaw is what makes the piece interesting.

• When, at the end of my all-time-favorite romance movie: “Love & Basketball,” Monica thinks she’s lost the man she loves, and he says [spoiler alert] “Hey . . . double or nothin.’”

• Or, how about the entire movie (or book)” Like Water for Chocolate.” The exquisite and painstaking preparation of food stands as a metaphor for love, especially making it? Simply delicious.

All right . . . your assignment is to write a scene between two people. Give these two people something physical to do: wash dishes by hand, paint a house, build a house, fix a car, take dragon-riding lessons, build a campfire, get corseted into dresses, etc. Have them discuss what’s going on, what they’re doing, their surroundings, but make what they’re discussing stand for something much more powerful and crucial in one or both of their lives.

Here’s an example of a scene I wrote in a workshop. It’s a short dialogue between two women, one of whom is sleeping with the other woman’s husband. They are in a kitchen making a salad together for a gathering of friends.

Melissa: You look like you really know what you’re doing.

Krista: Nah. It’s just a salad.

Melissa: No. I mean you’re really going at it. Those poor carrots.

Krista: It’s not really about the carrots.

Melissa: It’s not, huh?

Krista: No. It’s about the knife.

(Krista smiles, bounces a little. Rocks the knife through the next carrot.)

Melissa: So, who do you think you are over there, the Happy Chef?

Krista: Maybe.

Melissa: What’s so joyful about severing things?

Krista: Some things are just better in pieces.

Okay, we had two minutes and the emphasis was on dialogue, but I’m sure you get the gist. You have a lot more time for your exercise, so no shortcuts . . . only a fully written scene. Remember to keep your characters active, painting a picture of what they’re doing. Your characters don’t have to be adversarial, but it would be oh so fun if they were! If you choose to tell us what they’re really talking about, please hold your reveal until the end of the scene.

Happy subtexting!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

So You Think You Can Write September Winner Announced

HWG members reviewed and voted on the entries for the writing challenge of the month.
The results are in.

The Winner of September's So You Think You Can Write ::write::write::: Contest is....




almost there.........

ths suspense is killing you, eh?

April Berry-Sanford! whoo hoo!

Congratulations, April!

Watch for October's challenge by the next gifted talented and extraordinary guest choreographer, and be sure to get your entry in.

Friday, September 11, 2009

SYTYCW First Challenge Second Entry

A dry spring breeze tossed the colorful bouquet of hothouse daisies Sapphire grasped in a tight fist. The browned edges of sod replaced over the fresh grave deepened her sorrow. But as much as she missed her friend, she couldn’t stay here. This visit was too soon, her sorrow too fresh.

After carefully placing the tattered flowers next to the headstone, she brushed away a few stray bits of grass. Too soon for the monument company to have carved the second date, the stone looked empty, and a bit sad. Nothing left of a life but dried grass and smooth stone.

She turned and walked aimlessly along the narrow, square-curbed roadway. Bits of gravel and a winter's gray debris collected against the curb and crunched under her feet. Ambling through the old cemetery often brought her calm, and now the first signs of spring brightened the grass. If she stopped to rest on one of the memorial benches or scrape away some of the thick, dead leaves from the base of a headstone, she might discover the first brave shoots of spring flowers. At some of the oldest graves, the peonies had spread, and when in bloom, obscured the barely readable markers.

She inhaled the end of winter dank air. Cemeteries no longer allowed planting lilac bushes or peonies in their family plots. Even the tiny, tight leaf buds of wide spreading shade trees were uncommon in newer 'places of rest'.

The curb ended and the road narrowed. The new cemetery. Unimpeded by trees, visitors could pull off the asphalt and park on the grass to leave their silk flowers or commercial 'mom' or 'dad' wreaths. Rather than the lush natural comfort of the old cemetery, this newer section had been designed as a caretaker's dream. Little existed there but modern remembrances, leaving a clear path for wide lawn mowers.

With slow steps, she crossed an empty plot and stood before a low, plain stone. No flowers would ever adorn this memorial, not from her anyway. She grinned at the bird blessings scattered over the mat-black stone. Blessings? No, more like just a taste of what the six-foot down occupant deserved...

“Our secret, right Faithie?”

When he was done, he held her head, and she wished he'd squeeze until her skull burst. Then she'd never have to do this again.

“Faithie? Our little secret?”

He wouldn't let her go until she said yes. Wouldn't let her brush her teeth and scrape the hard bristles over her tongue. “Yes.”

He shook her head then pressed her cheek against his thigh. “Yes what?”

“Yes, it's our secret...”

His fingers tightened and for a second she considered not answering.


Anger held her as tightly as he had and she glared at the headstone. A gust of wind battered her back, angling her shoulders so her shadow darkened the deeply carved name. A tremor of dread coursed her spine.

A windchime's mellow tones flowed on the cool breeze. Sapphire relaxed and managed a weak smile. The chimes hanging from a shepherd's hook reminded her of music, music of the loss of her friend, Paul.

And Paul of his son, Jeffrey.

A crow added a harsh cry to the quiet day. Sapphire shaded her eyes and looked into the clear spring sky. The dark bird soared, dipped then landed a few feet away. Unconcerned, it returned her stare.

A crow in a graveyard. How appropriate. “Hey, was it you who decorated this grave?”

The bird preened one wing.

“Good job. Keep it up and before long no one will know who's here.” She hugged herself and grimaced, then spoke to the stone. “I buried the memories of what you did when Mom buried you. But now, I remember. I won't hide it any more. No more lies. No more secrets.”

At the dry crunch of footsteps behind her she backed away, turned and froze. Jeffery. What was he doing here?

He smiled and tiny cracks splintered the ice around her heart.

“I thought it was you. Did you leave the daisies at Dad's grave?”

She glanced toward the comfort of the older cemetery and nodded.

“Visiting someone over here? Family?”

Sapphire straighted her spine and shook her head. “Nope. Nobody here worth remembering.”

Thursday, September 10, 2009

GREAT Resource for Work-At-Home Moms

I just had to spread the word to my writer friends about this new book from my friend Jill Hart! Jill knows what she is talking about because she’s run a successful business from home for almost a decade. HIGHLY recommended resource! : )

* * * * * * * *

Home-based businesses are estimated to be a $427 billion-a-year industry. In recent studies it was found that as many as 105 million people in North America alone were working at home. Considering this information, it is obvious that home-based businesses can be successful and authors Jill Hart and Diana Ennen will help you succeed with your own.

So You Want to Be a Work-at-Home Mom
details all the basics of starting a business in a spiritual, motivational, and comprehensive manner. From deciding what type of business to start to keeping your family and faith first, this helpful tool details every aspect of establishing a business. With proven success tips utilized by the authors and others who own work-at-home businesses, this inspiration approach will provide you with the resources you need to start your own home-based business.

So You Want to Be a Work-at-Home Mom includes:
* Detailed information on types of businesses to start
* Ideas and assistance for setting up, operating, and marketing your business
* Definitions and descriptions of work-at-home terminology and processes
* Help for developing your Website
* Explanations of the business nuts and bolts, including bookkeeping, taxes, and more

About the Authors
JILL HART is the founder of Christian Work at Home Moms, Jill is a co-author of So You Want To Be a Work-at-Home Mom. Jill has published many articles and is a contributing author in Laundry Tales, The Business Mom Guide Book, I'll Be Home for Christmas, and Faith Deployed. She holds a bachelor's degree in human development and family studies. Learn more about working from home at .

Remember the Magic of Your Dream

It’s September already. The stores are displaying pumpkins and next it will be Christmas trees. It seems impossible that the year 2009 is three quarters of the way over. During the year I often encourage you to check back over your goal list and see if you’re where you want to be. A lot of times when the excitement has drained from our writing or we’re bored with the tedium of work and responsibilities, it’s because we’ve forgotten our dreams.

There are mortgages to pay and kids to raise and groceries to buy and dinners to prepare. Tucking away our aspirations at the expense of our personal well-being isn’t healthy. Eventually we resent the things that are “robbing” us, instead of enjoying each facet for the richness it brings. Certainly there is joy to be found in the dream of your own home and in the treasure of children, but sometimes we pause in the midst of all that busyness to wonder, “Is this all there is?” There has to be more, and we yearn to find fulfillment within ourselves. That’s most often the time to reprioritize our busy schedules.

Look at the goals you set for this year. It’s not too late to get started on something. Take time now to make a list. Sit down and write five things that you dream of doing. Divide them into categories if you like: Family, Professionally, Writing, Spiritually, or Just for Me. Now select one that you will work on before the end of the year. Make another list of the steps you will take to see that accomplishment come to pass. Now take those steps. Recapture the joy. We need to be participants in our lives, not spectators. We need to be passionate about our dreams. Sometimes simply revisiting our dreams is the kick we need to change our thinking and get us out of a rut. So dream big and dream often.

SYTYCW First Challenge--First Entry

Avin crossed his arms as he leaned back against the black Bently, watching the wind play. At his feet the leaves scraped dryly across the pavement in little eddies, circling his boots before vanishing off into the darkness again. The wind was wild tonight. It whipped through the treetops, making the old oaks moan as it battled the thinnest branches against one another in civil war. Avin grit his teeth and his lips thinned into their familiar scowl. Even the trees were complaining. Forcing himself to relax, Avin shoved the burgeoning irritation away and finally lifted his eyes to what was across the street.

It was abysmal dark under the canopy of the lifeless branches. Not many would be able to make out what was hidden there at the edge of the road between him and the thick of the forest. The moon finally slipped from behind the cascade of clouds and light played across what was left of an aged sign. The words had long since vanished and he caught himself straining to read what was written. Disgusted Avin quickly looked away again. He had a bitter dryness in his throat as regret and anger threatened to bubble up and strangle him. Avin didn’t need to read it, he knew what the sign said.

Everdale Cemetery.

He hadn’t forgotten in one hundred and forty-five years, and it wasn’t likely he’d start now. With a little huff that couldn’t even be called a laugh Avin turned to the oncoming rush of the storm rumbling above him. Pressing himself into the wind in silent defiance, he let the storm’s sharp autumn chill consume his troubled senses.

He smelled rain. Moisture hung heavy in the air thick enough to taste. The damp clung to his skin and coated everything in its cloying embrace. The mist was the storms subtle precursor to the onslaught to come. His night’s work may prove messy if time turned against him too. Avin thought briefly of the Bently with its creamy leather seats, but it was a moot. What needed to be done, would be, and that was that. Avin chuckled lowly at himself. It was funny really, in a way.

All the other times he’d done this very same thing he’d never had a moment’s hesitation… until now. This was so unlike him. His thoughts of late had been troubling him and this was no different. Maybe he was growing melancholy in his age.
With a heavy sigh, Avin reached behind him, grabbed the shovel out of the convertibles backseat and strode across the street.

Dead leaves crunched under his passing as he waded through the tall grass and into the darkness between the massive trunks. The forest swallowed him in its primal presence just as it had the cemetery all those years ago. Walking deeper into the ancient grove his boots stirred up the deep earthy scent of the ground as he passed into Everdale. All about him the silver splashes of moonlight fell through the skeletal boughs above to find the stones, painting some into pale obelisks for their forgotten heroes where others remained simply shadows forever, their litanies faded smooth from time.

Avin’s steps slowed as he passed the marble markers. Resisting the urge to reach and touch them as he passed in a somber greeting. He knew each marker by heart and his memory was the only memorial for more than he wished to count, these men included. The small union cemetery was always this size, less than two dozen graves, but somehow over the years it always seemed to grow larger. As if each regret pushed its boundaries further every year he came here and the number of dead men multiplied. Blinking hard Avin stopped, and stood in the center of Everdale. Before him the broken flag pole had finally succumbed to time. The white oak shaft he had carved to stand for his fallen friends lay across the mausoleum door. Avin would never name the emotion that swam up into his throat and burned his eyes as he reached out lightly and grasped the pole. It disintegrated in his hand, the pieces of rotted oak falling away in splinters under his touch. Against his will his eyes blurred and his heart picked up pace as the pole crumbled.

Avin blinked away the wetness and pushed open the ornate iron door. The cold metal burned his palms. Avin gripped it tighter, relishing the pain it as the pattern scalded itself into his hands. The whorls and circles scarring his flesh as he sought his silent penance, just like he did every year. Finally Avin let go and the pain in his hands went away only to worm into his heart instead.

There it was. Joshua’s tomb.

Avin didn’t even remember pushing the center stone off carefully or digging down the several feet below the mausoleums floor, although he knew he did it. This whole night was only this moment. Avin was staring down at the lid of Joshua’s coffin.

Carefully he reached around the edge and lifted it.

Soft brown locks framed the boyish face of the man inside. A strong jaw and masculine beauty that always turned the ladies heads no matter where they traveled or how battle weary they were. Joshua Samuel Everdale looked exactly the same he had the night Avin buried him. The union uniform that never quite fit his broad six four frame had long since faded and turned to simple threads in spots.

“So my friend will you rise tonight?” Avin’s voice was a harsh plea.

Deep hazel eyes opened, and Joshua stared up at him. The pain of losing their troop still hot in his tear filed stare. Joshua’s voice was a whisper. “No.”

With a resigned nod, Avin closed the lid on his secret and wept.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Writing Challenges

There are tons of challenges when you make the decision to pursue a writing career. We all have them and face each one with varying degrees of success. Each challenge dealt with is a badge of honor for an author.

However, I'd like to talk about another kind of challenge.

Challenges of writing... not to writing.

Many author groups offer challenges for learning, fun and occasionally as contests. These challenges range from writing a high concept to a paragraph to a scene. Some will focus on one specific skill, while others may offer a scene set up or a list of words to include in your scene.

Why should I take part in these challenges? Why take time away from my current WIP and play around with a scene that won't fit anywhere? Why expose myself to more possible criticism...or ridicule?

Let me tell you why.

Short challenges such as these usually have a narrow focus. With a limited amount of words an author is asked to work on one aspect of their craft. Concentrating on a single requirement encourages an author to strive for understanding and take a step toward mastery.

And don't we all want to master our craft?

Cautious of presenting your challenge writing to others? Don't be! As authors our goal is publication. That means presenting our tales to the world. Perhaps this is a part of the challenge you need to conquor.

As for the argument of spending time on something different than your work in progress... A number of years ago I took part in a series of challenges with a group of authors. For each challenge we were given a list of words to be used. From these few scenes, a story was born. Beyond these original scenes, the worlds of Dancing the Stars came into being.

"If we listened to our intellect, we'd never have a love affair. We'd never have a friendship. We'd never go into business, because we'd be too cynical. Well, that's nonsense. You've got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.
~Ray Bradbury

Accept the call of a challenge. You'll never know how your wings are built until you fly!