Spring has Fully Sprung

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I just love the Crab Apple trees in the spring. The purple, pink, and white flowers aren’t only breathtakingly beautiful, but their sweet, tangy aroma is candy for the nose. (The legal kind!) As I was running this past weekend, I was in awe of how the landscape is painted and planted so perfectly, so pleasing. The patio furniture is out, the sun curtains hung, the grill ready, and flowers planted. Now if I can keep a very persistent robin from building her nest under the awning, we’ll be ready to roll.

On the writing front, another Spring session of Camp NaNo is now over and I met my goal–just barely, but I did. That means the first 40,000 words of book two in the Whispering Pines Mysteries are written. My plan is to keep the momentum going throughout May to finish the first draft. Also I have a story due by May 22nd to a publisher. Getting these two things accomplished while also working my day job as a Paralegal may require a weekend writing retreat where I head to the mountains and hole up, doing nothing but writing. My idea of a perfect weekend! July brings the summer session of Camp NaNo (and my favorite) in which I’ll be revising book four of the Melanie Hogan Mysteries.

May is also when we typically go for our first long bike ride of the season to Confluence Park in Denver. It’s about a 30-mile round trip and exhilarating! The park is home to all walks of life–similar to Boulder.

Do you have any plans for the remaining spring days and for summer? I would love to hear them.

Crab Apple Tree

Unique Boulder

We had family visiting from Minnesota this past week. With all the snow Minnesota has had this spring, my husband and I thought we would treat them to new sites. And the sites don’t get any better–or crazier–than Boulder, Colorado. In fact, Boulder is like it’s own little state. Comments like “Only in Boulder,” “That’s something you’d see in Boulder,” “Of course that happened—it’s Boulder!” And the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder is the cream of the crop.

However, that being said, Boulder is the best place to escape. It’s in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and home to University of Colorado Boulder, so it’s populated with full-of-life college students. It’s home to people who are comfortable being themselves, free from the chains of what society expects us to be. It’s a city that celebrates art and all walks of life, embracing human uniqueness, and holds no discrimination. It’s pure human freedom.

Below is a sampling. The gardening along the Pearl Street Mall was breathtaking, and the rest of the photos–well, there aren’t even words to explain. The pictures say it all.

Enjoy!

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And here’s a little shot of beauty with which to end.  And in the end, I’m all too happy to get home, where I’m free to be me. There’s nowhere like the quiet beauty of home.

And now it’s back off to Camp NaNo to finish up my writing goal.

Have a beautiful week!

Being different gives the world color.  Nelsan Ellis

Nature at its Finest

We spent some time at our place in Estes Park, Colorado this past weekend. In fact, we’re actually there now as I write this post. Before me is the amazing mountainside on the other side of the river right outside my sliding glass door, a cup of coffee at my side, one of my fur babies at my feet. This morning I enjoyed the hot tub right outside my door as the sun rose on the mountaintops. Typically there are a lot of tourists here, as Estes Park is consistently recognized as one of the top visiting sites, but this weekend was quiet and so peaceful. Every time I’m here, I’m reminded how blessed my life is.

Since I can’t seem to get enough of this place and would live up here if my day job and my husband’s commitments didn’t keep us elsewhere, I thought I’d share some of its charm with everyone. It doesn’t matter the season, it’s heaven on earth.

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This is one of my favorite little walkout hiding places. It’s located right off the trail that circles Lake Estes. The lake’s shoreline is about 4 miles.

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A lot of weddings are held here, also on the shoreline of Lake Estes.

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Bear frequent the area so these are located everywhere. Last fall as we were walking the fur babies in the early morning hours at our place, we ran into a mama and her two babies in our parking lot. That was a little too close for me!

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The art of fly fishing has always fascinated me and is on my bucket list. Someday. This river connects to Lake Estes. I’ve never fished here–yet–but rumor has it there are Rainbow trout, Brown trout, Sockeye salmon, Yellow perch, and Cutthroat trout.

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The mountains in the back of this photo were breathtaking on my run this morning.

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This beast was unconcerned with the growing crowd around him last summer.

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This duel was right outside of our sliding glass doors last fall.

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This beauty was allowing us to admire him this afternoon.

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We hiked this trail last summer. It’s located in Rocky Mountain National Park. Our place is a mere 1/2 mile from the entrance to the park.

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This is off the same hiking trail last summer in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Now it’s back to camp. Camp NaNo, that is. Book two in the Whispering Pines Mysteries is well underway. And no surprise, it’s set in the Colorado mountains. But I need to step it up a bit if I’m going to meet my goal.

Have a beautiful week.

In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks. John Muir

 

Writers and Writing

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Is there anything more intoxicating than being in a room full of motivated writers? If there is, I can’t think of what it would be.

This past weekend I was fortunate to attend a writing workshop in Denver, Writing Commercial Fiction, by Jeffery Deaver, hosted by Rocky Mountain Chapter Mystery Writers of America, and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. This was my second time I was blessed to learn from him, the first being at the Colorado Gold Writer’s Conference. What a talented, generous, wonderful man!

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The five hours were packed with useful information, no fluff, no time wasted.

He started with general rules of writing fiction which included:

Define your goal as a writer, remember your mission, writing fiction is a business, adopt the mint-flavored business model (as an author it’s our job to give the reader a pleasant experience, mint vs liver-flavored toothpaste), the subject of your story and what it should be about, plan your book or story ahead of time (he’s a huge advocate of outlining and research and completely convinced me to put more time into each), and know your craft (from style, prose, grammar, punctuation, syntax, the publishing market, and technology). He touched on being aware of your shortcomings, the importance of rewriting, continuing your education via classes and conferences, that rejection is a speed bump and not a brick wall (something we can all benefit from to remember) and take your time in all aspects of writing. Hurrying the process will only result in a lesser quality piece of written work.

From there he spent time on the four elements of a story:

Plot – Continually introduce conflicts. Every scene needs to raise questions. Aim for the WOW! factor. He suggested holding off on answering those questions as long as possible. Unresolved anticipation is good, but never leave a conflict, clue, or subplot unanswered. Every question needs to be answered at the end of the book and every clue resolved. He talked about adding subplots, humor, and even a few fun facts. He explained the importance of using plot reversals and how to energize the middle of the book. I was surprised (pleasantly so since I’ve always struggled with the 3-act structure) that he doesn’t believe in the 3-act structure but rather a linear structure with a series of ups and downs. He talked about the need for surprise endings, that your twists need to have consequences, and the necessity of creating risks for your characters by incorporating physical threats, death, or a loss of something, whether it be love, friendship, a career, or any other loss that’s significant to a character. He touched on using the Goldilocks principle when incorporating research–not to little, not too much, but make sure it helps the story and furthers the reader’s understanding.

Characters – It’s good to have a protagonist with flaws but s/he needs to be likeable, don’t create passive characters, observe people constantly to make your characters better, give them quirks and tics, the best way to reveal a character (telling the reader directly, describe the appearance, thoughts, and feelings, using dialogue, through the character’s actions, and through others reactions). And we can’t leave out that even the villain needs to be a little likable. Shoot for compelling characters instead of interesting.

Setting – The setting is essentially another character but less important than plot and character. The plot should be developed first, then populated with characters, then setting comes into play. He stressed the importance of doing your research on settings. Boots-on-the-ground research is best, but if that isn’t possible, use the Internet.

Dialogue – Don’t over explain during dialogue, write as if someone is talking (use contractions and break the rules of grammar), match the characters with their dialogue, and when using a dialogue attribution “said” and “asked” are best.

This is only a brief explanation of topics covered. Each section was chock full of information, suggestions, examples, and personal stories. And when I asked if I could record his presentation, he was kind enough to allow it. That’s generosity, folks! His passion for his profession is hugely contagious. (How’s that for the ole ly adverb?)

Numerous members of my Sisters in Crime-Colorado writing group attended as well. (I’m third from the right with the cut-out shoulder shirt). To say it was beneficial to us as writers is an understatement. If he’s ever presenting at a conference/workshop in your area, I highly recommend any and all writers to attend. You won’t be sorry. It will be a mint-flavored experience!

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And now it’s back to Camp NaNo where I have a manuscript vying for my attention.

Write on. Have a beautiful week!

The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. ’tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.
― Mark Twain, The Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain

Camping and Writing

It’s Sunday, April 1st, as I write this. I saw (or at least noticed) my first Robin today.

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Watched a squirrel busily building his home.

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And got all settled into my virtual cabin with my awesome cabin mates at Camp NaNo.

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It’s off to the races. Additional family plans have been added to my calendar at the last minute, and family always comes first, so my Camp NaNo goal has changed from 50,000 words to 40 hours.

If anyone is interested in Camp, it’s not too late to start. Unlike NaNoWriMo in November, you set your own goals for Camp which is in April and again in July. You can set words, hours, minutes, lines, or pages as your goal. It’s a perfect way to get that project out of your head and onto the page. If you want to try, go to Camp NaNo and sign up. If you decide April won’t work for you and you want to try July, let me know if you want to share a virtual cabin. When the time comes I’ll start a cabin and send you an invite.

And I’m off to camp! Hope to see you there.

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Revisions, Revisions, Revisions

This past weekend I went on a short, but perfect, writing retreat at our cabin in beautiful Estes Park, CO. The typical visitors there are 4-legged.

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This particular weekend, however, they must have known I couldn’t have any distractions. I was on a deadline. There wasn’t a single 4-legged animal in sight. Not. One. In fact, the hot tub even decided not to work, so no distraction there either. The writing Gods were smiling down on me. After clocking 20,000 steps on my Garmin step tracker and 9 hours of revisions in one day, my manuscript was sent off to the powers that be, calories burned, and I counted the day a huge success!

Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.
—Virginia Woolf

 

 

Sandcastles

Building Sandcastles

When writing a first draft, I have to remind myself constantly that I’m only shoveling sand into a box so later I can build castles.   Shannon Hale

I’ve been struggling with my writing lately. Justifying the time it takes as well as the lure of everything else “out there” that sucks me in. All it took was meeting with my writing bestie, Karen Whalen, today to turn that around.

Women often base their worth on how much they accomplish and how productive they are. Cleaning, cooking, taking care of family, working (for those of us who work outside the home), church obligations, laundry…the list goes on a mile long. And what about saying “no” to a request someone has of you? Gasp!

Sometimes when we get caught in the vicious cycle of doing, doing, doing, all we need is that someone to issue a gentle reminder that it’s okay to be. It’s okay to take some time to do what we love. To nurture the side of ourselves that brings joy. Writing is not wasted time, but treasured time. Not to mention extra income for some.

During our conversation today my passion was re-ignited, writing projects planned, and Camp NaNo next month is one of them. For those who aren’t familiar with Camp NaNo, it’s a spin-off of NaNoWriMo in November but much more flexible. While NaNoWriMo requires writing 50,000 words in a month, Camp NaNoWriMo allows the writer to set their own word count goal, hourly goal, or page goal. Also, where NaNoWriMo means working on a new piece of work, Camp NaNo allows you to choose to work on a novel, short stories, poetry, revisions, etc. It also includes virtual cabins so you can check in with your cabin mates each evening for support and encouragement.

I’m setting a word count goal of 50,000 and beginning a new novel, book two in the Whispering Pines series. If anyone wants to join in and share a cabin, let me know. We can share virtual s’mores, sit around a virtual campfire, and maybe tell a ghost story or two. Too busy? Even if you set your goal at 10,000 words or 10  hours over the course of the month, that’s 10,000 words or 10 hours you didn’t have before. That could be the beginning of your beautiful sandcastle.

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Write on!

 There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.
― Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings