"...everything in life is writable...if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt."..... Sylvia Plath

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Writing Resolutions

Journal Avatar to Link Back to Blog Hop
In 2013, I will be focused on selling my bed and breakfast and moving to New England. It's a big undertaking and requires a lot of planning, organizing, and time. My resolutions for the New Year are not completely worked out but they will all center around finding time to write while carrying out my plan to move by the summer of 2014.

I resolve to work with my two realtors, one here in Louisville and the other in Vermont to come up with a plan to sell my Victorian home (which is also my bed and breakfast), hold an estate sale (to pare down the furniture I'll take to Vermont), and  find a condo in and make a smooth transition to a small town near my daughter in Burlington.

I further resolve to make time to work on my new memoir, while still running my business and making plans to move. I will spend half my writing time on the extensive research my new project demands and half on creative sessions to develop a first draft. In addition I will  post on my book and writing blogs at least twice a month and continue to develop my platform on social media sites.

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Monday, December 17, 2012

Emergent memoir update

Monday (12/17): Since last I posted about my new memoir, I 've gotten lots of comments suggesting that I emphasize the sensational parts of my story, such as my mother's relationship with a member of the Purple gang during the 1920s and the incidences up in the mountains of North Carolina when my grandpa and his bothers were making Moonshine and running from the revenue agents. (I love long sentences!)

I am not averse to hanging out my dirty laundry, as I've learned that my family is not much different from most. We all have our dirty little secrets we'd rather not disclose, but it's important to me as a writer of memoir to be honest and authentic. Not that I'm looking for shocking events from my family's lives to expose but, if it's an integral part of the story, I do not want to be afraid to write about it.

The Purple gang connection has piqued my curiosity. In addition, I received an email from the brother of an on-line writer friend, who is writing a book about that era and the gang. He wants to exchange information, and I'm tempted to do so, only I really don't have a lot of information. So, I've decided to do some research about how my mother met this person, where she was living, and what she was doing at the time. 

Tuesday (12/25): I've started my research on the "Purples" and, honestly, what I've found so far is somewhat frightening. I'm not sure I want to pursue this. And, I can't believe my mother would have been involved with a man who was part of this gang.  She was a gentle person, beautiful and loving. At least as far as I know. But I only really "knew" who she was, after I became an adult. Before that, I saw her through the eyes of a child.......(more later)

Saturday (12/29): With Christmas over and my family gone, I've returned to my research. I'm going to give it another try even though the last exploration turned up some awful things about the Purple gang that turned me off temporarily. Today, I'm trying to figure out how and where my mother met her gangland boyfriend who, according to my sister, wasn't her boyfriend for very long. 

Seems my grandmother was in the room when my mother received a Christmas gift from him. It was a huge box that contained a sable coat with a diamond ring in the pocket. Guess the family, including my mother, had thought he was a nice young middle class boy with a crush on their daughter. When Roxie (my grandmother) saw the coat and ring, she freaked out and made my mother send it back and break up with him. Roxie, the matriarch,  always had good instincts and suspected immediately that he was part of  the Purple gang which, at that time, was running rampant in Detroit. Guessing again,  he may have looked like someone she saw in the newspaper.


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Sunday, November 25, 2012

My Next Big Thing

I had the pleasure of being selected to participate in a blog hop called My Next Big Thing. I was tagged by professor, blogger,  and creativity expert Michele Tracy Berger and asked to respond to the following ten questions concerning my most recent project.

1.  What is the working title of your book?
I’m working on my second memoir, Roxie, Alfred, and Me. I just started it and have only completed a few chapters, but have come up against some issues I didn't have to deal with in my first memoir. It's an interesting challenge.

2.  Where did the idea come from for the book?
If you've ever had wonderful grandparents, grandparents you were very close to and loved more than anyone in the world, then watched as they withered away with age and died, you will understand my story. I knew no more caring and generous people in my life. They loved me, they listened to me, and they understood me like no one else did. They were creative, intelligent, and lived life to the fullest. My grandfather, Alfred, was my pal and wanted me by his side to share his love of the sea. My grandmother, Roxie, watched out for me. She was sensitive to my feelings and respected me as a individual. The pain of losing them has never really dissipated. I write this in memory of the two of them and in hopes of finally facing and dealing with the loss of them.

They are both in my heart  and will always be. And, even though it has been years since they passed away, within six months of each other, my emotional feelings remain close to the surface. I don’t know if it’s possible but I’m hoping, by writing about them, I will be able to talk about them openly without tears flooding my eyes and falling down my cheeks.

3.  What genre does your book fall under?
I am a non-fiction writer who frequently writes journal articles and essays. But I have a penchant for memoir. This will be my second one in book form, and I’m sure there will be more after this one.

4.  Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Max von Sydow, now 82 years old, would be the perfect actor to play my grandfather. In fact, my grandfather looked a lot like him, especially after his hair turned snow white. There’s a shyness and a creative intelligence about von Sydow that my grandfather also possessed. Despite being Swedish, I’m sure von Sydow could capture my grandfather’s voice and stature.  Both men were thin and tall, close to 6 ft. 4 inches. “I'm a family person” wrote von Sydow. ”… rather private and enjoy my work. I like nature and being outdoors. I'm a gardener at my summer home and like to travel.  I really don't know myself too well.” This quote by von Sydow could have been my grandfather talking. It sounds so much like him. (They are both from middle class families.)

Although a little shorter than my grandmother, there is a striking resemblance between Rosemary Harris, the actress and Roxie.  My grandmother had the same beautiful smile and bright, intelligent eyes. Again as with von Sydow, Harris is not an American but, being an actress, I’m sure she could portray Roxie in speech, stature, and mannerism with no problem.

5.  What is the one-sentence synopsis of your manuscript?
A story about family and significant relationships and events that leave an indelible mark on one young girl’s entire life.

6.  Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I have recently decided to self publish my first memoir and, since I think this one will be much better than the first, I will be looking for an agent in hopes of getting it published traditionally.

7.  How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I am not finished with the first draft yet. I usually write pretty fast. I love the feeling of just letting the story flow out onto the pages without monitoring, then seeing what emerges. When it has some shape to it, I let a couple of alpha readers take a look at it before going on to the re-write process. After a few re-writes, I send it to my Beta readers for more feedback and then I’m on to the final crafting. My first memoir took six weeks for the first draft, then almost two years of re-writes and crafting. However, before I self publish it, I’m going to do even more re-writing. It never really stops until you put the kibosh on it and just let it go.

This memoir is going much more slowly than the first. What's different is the increased amount of research I'm having to do. Besides trying to remember what happened over fifty years ago, to whom it happened and where, I'm having to research information on World War II, Cherokee Herb Doctors, moon-shining in North Carolina, and much more. Another issue that’s slowing me down is the time line. There were no documents, diaries or journals to refer to when I started this memoir, only vague memories. Family members were long gone, except for my sister, who doesn’t remember very much. So getting the time line straight is really difficult.

8.  What other books would you compare this story to within the genre?
The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls, Half Broke Horses by Jeanette Walls, and Tender At The Bone by Ruth Reichl.

9.  Who or what inspired you to write this book?
My grandparents and my family are my inspiration. I have two daughters and two grandchildren whom I’d like to share my early life with. I would also like to share, with my sister, a different perspective of our parents and grandparents than she had when we were growing up. Finally, I hope readers can either connect with my stories or marvel at the wonderful relationships I was afforded in my crazy family.

10.  What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest? I come from an extraordinary family of writers, artists, moonshiners, plumbers, carpenters, professional musicians, chefs and so on. I am in hopes the mixture of divergent personalities, talents, and interests will make for some pretty entertaining reading. My grandmother was extremely funny and at times had us rolling on the floor in laughter. Despite being crippled, my beautiful mother dated a gangster (a member of the Purple Gang in Detroit during the 20s) ‘til my grandmother found out and told him to get lost. My grandfather and his three brothers spent a lot of their early lives in North Carolina moon shining and outwitting the revenue officers. My father was a professional musician who met my mother in her beauty salon (after she broke up with the gangster) when he came in to get a manicure. There were so many real characters in my family, I don’t have to make anything up.

The following writers and authors will be discussing their latest projects on their blogs or websites. Visit their blogs and comment. Keep the circle moving.

Nov. 26: Julia Hanna http://mystories.sweetbeariesart.com/2012/11/26/my-next-big-thing-a-writing-blog-hop/ "I am working on a novel which I can best describe as contemporary fiction that re-envisions the traditional romance novel. It is about how a woman can be happy for the rest of her life even if she does not get married. Being an old maid is not some reprehensible thing."

Nov. 29: Thelma Zerkelbach http://www.widowsphere.blogspot.com/
Thelma will talk about her new memoir Stumbling Through The Dark, a story of an interfaith couple facing the greatest spiritual challenge and of a woman who lost her husband but eventually found herself

Nov 30:    Marcia Meier www.marciameier.com/
" I plan to talk about my completed memoir, Sweeping Down the Sky"

Dec. 3rd: Carol Clouse:  http://www.carolclouse.com/
"My project focuses on Native American philosophy in conjunction with sustainability in Architecture."

Dec. 4th: Susan Bearman:  http://2kop.blogspot.com/
"I wrote and self-published a picture book called the Animal Store Alphabet Book 
(http://alphabetanimal.com) based on my husband's pet shop. My illustrator and I 
launched a successful $10,000 Kickstarter campaign to fund the printing and 
distribution of the book and companion products (coloring book, poster, canvas 
prints and book bag)."

Dec. 5th: Valerie Neiman http://valerienieman.blogspot.com/
Valerie will talk about her  new book, Backwater, a taut crime novel and coming-of-age story, as a teenage girl struggles for her identity – and her life – against the backdrop of her cousin’s murder.

Dec. 7th:  June OHara www.juneohara.com
"I'm finishing up a humorous memoir about being a psychotherapist and having my own breakdowns, neuroses and humorous life circumstances."

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Friday, November 9, 2012

Emergent Memoir

Author's notes: This project is just getting underway. It may be too early to start posting excerpts as I haven't even finished the first draft. But I want to explore different approaches and test the content to see if a story about me and my grandparents might appeal to readers. Aside from ny children, no one in my family is still alive except my sister and she doesn't remember much. I've been able to unleash quite a few memories because I spent a lot of time with and was very close to them. But the memories are coming from all directions and I've found dealing with the time lines rather difficult. 

Also, there's a lot of research necessary to the various locations and events in the story, which is slowing down my flow (a major part of my process).  My voice as a young child seems to be coming through, which is good, but I sense there are a lot of emotional feelings that are trying to get out. It's a little scary, but I want to dig deeper and open myself up completely. 

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Monday, October 22, 2012

Early excerpts from a new memoir

Roxie Alfred and Me 

Chapter 1 

Author's Notes: I've done my first rewrite of this introductory section. I like the idea of starting right in the middle of the action but, in this case, felt compelled to start out by mentioning how close I was to my grandparents. I think it flows well and doesn't bog down in a lot of backstory. And the third graph leads right into the first scene. (The first 10 c0mments below were written before the rewrite
     I grew up not particularly close to my mother, or my father for that matter. And I never stopped to figure out why.  It was what it was. Besides, my grandmother was more like a mother to me.  Not because she loved me any more, but because there was a rapport, a special bonding between Roxie and me like no other I've ever had.

     Roxie was the rock of the family, the glue that held it together. She was smart, caring, and funny. She was a farmer's daughter who married a farmer's son. Both were capable and hard working. They stayed married for over fifty years, despite some serious ups and downs. I can still hear her calling: "Aaaal - fred" whenever she needed him..

But he wasn't Alfred to me. To me and my sister, he was Papa and we adored him. He could be cantankerous and argumentative, but not to us. To us, he was kind, generous, and funny. He told us stories, sometimes the same ones over and over, but we didn't care.  Bebe and I would go into his smelly little room and jump up on the bed and he would take us away into a land of his imagination. He had been a seaman and a ship's cook at one time, so most of his stories were about the sea.
* * * *
     The strong smell of pipe tobacco swirled around our noses whenever we entered his room. It was very small with a narrow brown metal bed built high off the floor and pushed into one corner. It was covered with a home-made quilt and khaki army blanket. Three pillows were stacked one on top of the other at the head. There was nothing on the small window above the bed except a tan paper shade. Next to the bed, was an old Oak table with spindled legs. The large square table top was littered with everything from fishing tackle to car keys to smelly tobacco.

     We poked our heads in the door.

     "Papa, can we come in?"

     Papa jumped up. His 
brown leather bedroom slippers clicked against the linoleum floor as he shuffled to the door and opened it wide, letting out some of the stuffy pipe tobacco-tinged air.  He stood, all 6 foot 4 of him, in the doorway, his beautiful full head of white hair nearly reaching the door jam.

     "Good afternoon, ladies. Do come in."

     "We came to hear some stories" I said.

     "And to have our backs scratched," my little sister, Bebe, chimed in.

     Papa's  favorite silver lighter glistened in a beam of sunlight which had somehow made it's way into the dark room. An open closet with no door stood across from the foot of the bed. Homemade pale yellow curtains were pushed to one side revealing a scant collection of worn clothing. Next to the closet was a narrow dresser where he kept all his underwear and valuables. There were two shelves tacked up over the dresser housing cardboard boxes filled with letters, cards, and old newspaper articles. A picture of Roxie sat on one side of the dresser.

     "Okay" he said. "But first, let's see what we can find in my magic purse."

     We scrambled up on the high bed, grabbing onto the army blanket and bed posts to steady our climb.

     "What's in it? What's in it?" We both giggled, as papa opened up the silver clasp on the tiny leather change purse.

     "Well, let me see now." He peered slowly into the bottom of the change purse. Bebe and I held out breaths, our eyes wide with excitement.

     I slid as close to papa's side as possible and Bebe jumped up and ran around to his back, grabbing him by the shoulders and peering over one side to get a look into the change purse. She was so excited, she nearly toppled forward over the edge of the bed. But papa caught her just in time.

      "Alfred, there you are." Roxie appeared at the doorway.  She wiped her hands on the front of her faded apron. "I've been calling you. It's dinner time. Come on girls. Your mother will be here soon to pick you up."

     Roxie was tall and still beautiful. Her shiny black hair was evidence of her Cherokee heritage. She and Alfred met in North Carolina where they were born, and married. Both were raised in large God fearing Baptist families, the kind that stuck together no matter what, and were slightly rigid and dogmatic in their thinking. But Roxie was amazingly liberal. She eventually rejected her Baptist upbringing for the Unitarian Church. She had a strong personality, was assertive, and outspoken. She definitely ruled the roost at home. Alfred complained a lot but usually, although grumbling loudly, did everything she asked.

     Roxie pulled on both oven mitts, opened the oven door and lifted out a golden brown  roasted chicken, and baked yams. I leaned over to see what she'd left in the back of the oven. There two pies side by side just waiting for us to finish our meal. I was sure one was apple and the other cherry, both my favorites. 

     Bebe and I washed our hands and sat down  close to papa who was already at the head of the table. Roxie returned to the oven and came back with a steaming bowl of rice and a covered baking dish full of collard greens and salt pork. Bebe and I hated cooked greens, but they were always the first thing papa reached for...............

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Monday, September 17, 2012

The Making of a memoir (the process)

Author's notes: This is not in story form yet. I've just collected data and research together here. I've loosely pulled together information for 11 chapters so far. I'm posting some of the information to see if readers and writers think a story of this nature would be interesting. I've already started writing this chapter as a story and will post it as soon as it's complete enough for a first draft. I really don't have a title yet for this chapter. Please bear with me. Thanks to all who are taking a peek. I have a specific system I use for writing larger works and a lot of it involves letting the story emerge on its own.

My Mother and Father Meet and Fall in Love
Info to be used in  Roxie Alfred and Me
a work in progress

My mom, the flapper: 1928
      My parents met in Detroit when my dad was booked into the Webster Hotel as a musician with the band. My mother had a small hair salon on the lower level. She had come up from North Carolina with her family (Roxie, Alfred and my aunt, Florence, whom we always called auntie Flo.) at age seventeen. My aunt was three years older.

     When they arrived in Detroit in 1925, they moved into the Webster Hotel where Roxie had gotten a job as housekeeper and Alfred became the engineer. My grand parents had the good sense to send both of their daughters to trade school, my aunt to secretarial school and my mom to beauty school. When my mom finished beauty school, the people who owned the hotel let Alfred build a nice little beauty shop in a spare room on the lower level. Soon, my mom was in business cutting and styling hair and doing manicures.

     Once he discovered the hair salon on the lower level, Daddy would wander down often to have his nails done and talk to the cute owner. I guess the band was staying in the hotel. The way it turned out, they were there long enough for my parents to fall in love. I don’t know if daddy left town and came back or if he just stayed after meeting my mom. Either way, they ended up getting married. That happened in 1928. Two years later, I was born.

     Prior to meeting my father, my mom dated a member of the Purple Gang. Of course, she didn’t know he was a gangster until he started taking her to places where his cohorts hung out and then made the major mistake of giving her an expensive fur coat with a huge diamond ring in the pocket. When Roxie saw that, she and Alfred forbade mom to ever go out with him again. Roxie was smart and knew a man flaunting that kind of money could only be up to no good. Mom broke up with him immediately. She was only nineteen and, besides you didn’t cross Roxie. No way. No how. I remember mom telling me years later how handsome he was and how nice he was to her. But I kept thinking wow, that’s pretty scary, never mind the handsome and nice part.

My mother: 19 years old
     I can’t imagine my mother with a gangster. She wasn’t the type you would think a gangster would be attracted to. She was very naive and sweet….a darling little girl from the south, with the most adorable face and dimples. She was soft spoken and not particularly flirty, nor did she ever wear overtly sexy clothing. It’s still puzzling to me to this day. Maybe I just have  a stereotypical idea of what a gangster would be attracted to. 

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Monday, September 10, 2012

Roxie Alfred and Me

Author's notes: I'm writing a new memoir; the working title is Roxie Alfred and Me. I've drafted around six chapters so far. What's different about this memoir is the increased amount of research I'm having to do. Besides trying to remember what happened over fifty years ago, to whom it happened and where, I'm having to research information on World Was II, Cherokee Herb Doctors, and Moon-shining, among other things.

I've decided to start posting some of my research, chapters, and notes on this site, so I can check out photos, videos, and text easily and in one place. Today I am researching Moon-shining in North Carolina. I found a video and some pictures. I've posted the excerpt from my mss and detailed what I'm hung up on. This is one of my favorite parts. I remember, though it was so long ago, sitting around the dinner table listening to stories about my infamous family. My sister didn't think I should write about it. Guess it embarrassed her. But I want this memoir to be as close to the real truth as possible. I don't want to leave out the seemy parts.

     Great granddaddy had four sons, who followed in his footsteps, courageous, resourceful, and stalwart. They worked the stills mostly at night, when the rising smoke could not be seen by the revenue officers who roamed the area looking' to shut down "them blasted stills" and with whom they waged war continually. There were also rival gangs who ventured into great granddaddy's territory. Shooting or cutting the throats of livestock was the favorite method of revenge, but when gunning for his rivals the avenger either shot him from ambush or pounced upon him and slit his throat in the same manner he would his cow, horse, or any other animal. I like to think that great granddaddy never engaged in this type of activity.

     One Thanksgiving, when we were all gathered around the dinner table,  after a healthy helping of Pumpkin Pie, papa recited great granddaddy's famous quote. We got to hear it every Christmas and Thanksgiving.

     "As my granddaddy often said, back in them beautiful piney woods, 'God almighty made apples an' peaches and 'ef he didn't want 'em made into brandy by we mountain folk, he'd a kep' the secret of stillin' all to hisself... If a man caint be 'lowed to do as he wants with his own fruit, it's a damned poor country'. " And he believed this with all his heart.

     "I remember so many close calls up there in them back woods," papa said.

     "What kind of close calls?" my father asked.

     "Running from them damned revenue officers."

     "How'd you get away from them." I asked.

     "Well, mostly we just ran all the way to the coast and jumped into the Intracoastal Waterway. They could never catch us that way. They weren't about to jump in after us."

     "Yeah, my daddy was a great swimmer...still is, my mom said.

     "But those waterways were pretty rough, weren't they, papa?" I asked.

     "Papa, weren't you afraid of going to jail?  Bebe said.

     "Honey, we spent half our time swimmin' up and down them North Carolina waterways between the Atlantic and Wilmington. And them back woods? Fortunately, most of that area was pretty well cleaned out after great granddaddy got put in jail. Me and my brothers decided to stick to farming after that."

     "Jail?" I said. "Why was he in jail?"

     "Well, honey, they finally caught up with him. And threw his butt in the slammer for evading the law and not paying his taxes."

     "But how'd he get out? Bebe asked

     "He was very popular with what few neighbors he had, so they got together and came up with enough to pay for his bail. After that, he spent years paying off those back taxes...nearly killed him."

     "Wow," Bebe said. I'm gonna always pay my taxes."

     "Yes, I'm sure you will, honey."  Roxie gave Bebe a big hug and kissed the top of her curly head.

     I was very young when great granddaddy died, but I still remember sitting around the dinner table on Thanksgiving or Christmas and listening to everyone go on about our jaded family. My sister begged me not to scrutinize our genealogy too closely. She was afraid of what I might find. It didn't bother me though, I just keep thinking about what a hard time those early pioneers must have had and how resourceful and strong and courageous they were. Let's not kid ourselves, when it came time for the first ships heading for the new world from England to load up, they just opened up the jails and said "bon voyage"....and that is what America is built on: courage, strength and incredible resourcefulness.

Notes: My proof-reader has pointed out that I stated great-grandaddy was a farmer, Moon-shining in the mountains and my grandfather and uncles would run from the revenue officers and jump into the Intracoastal Waterways at Wilmington. Her questions to me were:

     1. Did they really run that far?
     2. Were they really farming in the mountains?

I think she has a point. I have to work on this and talk to my sister about it. She's the only one living that knows any of the details. And no one left a log or diary or even notes. I have to rely on my memory and hers.

Making Moonshine

Friday, August 10, 2012

Clouse's Houses: Book review

Book Review
Carol Clouse, an architect, has written a lovely book, heart-felt and enjoyable to read. Each chapter, in this memoir, deals with important phases of her life, including work,  relationships, and emotional growth.

Although the title of the book refers to houses, I found it somewhat confusing as to whether it was referring to houses she designed or lived in, because there were quite a few of both. To be frank, I think the sub-title is a more accurate description of what the book is all about: “…A story of challenge, creativity, and the heart of an architect”

It was obvious from the way Ms. Clouse approached challenges and life in general that both parents had a profound effect on her. “We were perpetually making things…cutouts, cookies, and dolls. We drew, we painted, we cooked, we sewed, and we did leather work. We played games together.” A lot of bonding went on.

The parts about her mother and father were wonderful. Her relationships with both played a huge part in her love of nature and her innate and nurtured creativity. Especially touching were descriptions about her mother: “Life with my mother was an eyes wide open adventure…she had an insatiable thirst for nature. [she] exposed me to many options, expanded my perspective...” “The confines of a wheel chair did not stop my mother from doing just about anything”

The book describes her educational life and how she became an architect, but I think the most compelling parts were about her relationships. Besides her family, she describes several relationships with the men in her life, a couple of women friends and three dogs. I loved the parts about the dogs. It was obvious they were very meaningful to her. Being a dog lover myself, I know how close those relationships can be.

The book is well written and I would highly recommend it to anyone who just wants to relax and have an enjoyable and interesting read.

Bio: Carol Clouse is a Pennsylvania native and now divides her time between Montana and her eastern home state.

A licensed and practicing architect, Carol has delved into various creative aspirations - in many shapes and sizes - including graphic arts, set design, oil painting, pottery, brain tanning, production design, and ...writing. In all these explorations, nature and spirit have held a prominent point of priority, and she is drawn deeper into the outdoors through hiking, rock climbing, backpacking, and foraging for wild edibles.

Spending the summer in NW Montana, she plans to return east in the Fall to complete her graduate studies at Penn State University. Her studies will include philosophy of nature and indigenous architectural materials. And of course, she is working on another book!
Available at Amazon:
Check out her website: 
Awaken Your Muse

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The arduous search for an agent

          First of all, it doesn't start with sending out query letters. It starts before that. You finally finish your manuscript, then you polish it, and you polish it, and you polish it. But even before that, if you're writing a memoir as I have, you spent the last year or so building a platform and gradually putting together a proposal.

     After you have a pretty good handle on that, you start writing that one page query letter. Yeah, the one with the hook at the beginning, and a brief description of your book, your self and why you feel you are the one to write your book. You edit, let other trusted people (mostly writers and editors) read it, you revise it, and re-write it. This may take a while.

     I actually worked simultaneously on my MS, my proposal, and my query letter. And while you're at it you may as well write a couple of synopses, a two-pager and a shorter one, if possible. Someone may ask you for it when you start the ever-lovin' submission process.

     I put it off as long as possible but finally had to get started. I decided to use Query Tracker to identify agents who handled my genre. You can keep a list of those you think might be interested, info about them, addresses, emails, etc, and when you sent out queries, and to whom. You can actually write out the letter, file it, and change it for each agent if you think you need to. You can add a synopsis, or proposal, or chapters at the end of the letter, if the agent requests it. Next, you wait. If an agent requests you MS or more info, you can post what you sent and the date in her file. Then you wait again. You wait to see if she rejects your MS or approves it and wants to work with you to find a publisher.

     To begin with, I identified 60 agents to query. As you go along, you realize, you have to go to their agency site, check out their bio, find out what they're interested in and look over a few of their clients and the books they represent. This is not a fast take. You might want to take notes.Then you carefully read what it is they want from you, how they want you to submit, what to include with your query letter, and in what format. This also is not a fast take. You definitely do not want to make any mistakes. When I write my query, I include a couple of personal lines at the beginning based on what I learned about them on their website or blog.

     The very first agent I sent my query to wrote back in a few days asking for my MS. Here's an excerpt from her email:

                    "Dear Nancy, I've had a chance to look over the first three chapters,  and I found the first chapters to be touching, humorous, and charming. I would like to see the rest of the manuscript. Please forward the entire ms at your earliest convenience."

      To say the least, I was overjoyed.  I sent the MS around a week ago. I still haven't heard from her. But at least I know that one person thought my efforts were worth reading.

     After that, I sent maybe five or six more letters. They all asked to see more from me. Two then wrote back with rejections, one very nice, the other not so much. The other four still have my materials. So now I'm waiting and, in the meantime scoping out more possibilities. To date, I've sent around 20 queries and plan to go through the whole list, unless someone commits to buy my book.

     No one said this was going to be easy, but I had no idea it would take up so much of my time. Did any of you have a similar experience or was it completely different for you?

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Monday, June 4, 2012

The Mysterious and Wonderful World of Africa

I was recently asked to write a personal travel-log on a trip I took to Africa. I thought I would post it, as some of you might be interested in visiting there.

After leaving Nairobi, we headed for Amboseli National Park

As we pulled away from the hotel in Nairobi, the excitement of a whole summer in Africa welled up inside of me. There were six of us from the states and we were off on a two and a half month journey through some of the most interesting parts of the country. I had signed up to travel as a single, something I frequently did. I would be rooming with another single who was maybe 20 years younger than I. There were also two couples

For the past three months I’d studied Swahili and prepared for the trip. I decided to go with a well-established travel company and had selected a package that would include shopping in Nairobi, a two week safari in Tanzania, and a gorilla trek in Burundi, a small country in between Zaire and Rwanda.

Our  SUV veered out onto the highway and headed for Tanzania. Salim, a big burly black man with a gorgeous smile, was our driver. Each morning he greeted us with “hujambo,” which meant good day. During the trip he let me practice my Swahili on him.

We stayed here at the foot of Mt Kilimanjaro
Our first stop was at the Amboseli Serena Safari Lodge, about five hours out of Nairobi. Salim parked the van directly in front of Mount Kilimanjaro. The lodge sat just beneath it, surrounded by beautiful Acacia trees.

With the help of Salim and several other drivers who had pulled up around the same time, we found our rooms and stored our luggage. We were treated to a wonderful dance by Masai warriors at sunset and wandered over to the dining room across a little bridge covering a stream of melted snow that had trickled down from Kilimanjaro.

Dinner was amazing. I didn’t know what to expect. But I will never forget walking up to that beautiful buffet table on our first night. There were fruits and vegetables of all kinds. Beautiful braided breads, and a variety of meats from roast beef, pork, and lamb to whole grilled chickens on a spit. And the desserts? Chocolate, lemon, vanilla, banana and coconut confections…tempting and irresistible.

The Maasi people are very friendly and welcoming
Early the next morning, I peered out of my window mesmerized by the hundreds of monkeys playing on our front lawn. We were scheduled to have an early breakfast before venturing to the Masai Mara. Again, the food was more than I ever expected.

We piled into our RV and took off for parts unknown, ready for anything. We arrived at the Masai Mara village enclosed in a circular fence built by the men and  thorned by Acacia trees. At night, all cows, goats sheep are placed in an enclosure in the centre, safe from wild animals. Maasai houses, designed for nomadic people on the move are impermanent in nature and constructed by the women. The framework is formed of timber poles fixed directly into the ground and interwoven with a lattice of smaller branches, which is then plastered with a mix of mud, sticks, grass, cow dung, human urine and ash.

We were welcomed with a performance by the women and invited to come into their homes and to purchase their fabrics and jewelry. They were very friendly and allowed us to take all the photos we wanted.

This tent is almost identical to the one I stayed in.
We stayed a couple more days at the lodge and then took off for the open plains of the Masai Mara and the Serengeti for a two week safari. We were told we would be staying at the Mara Plains Camp. But we had no idea the tents would be huge suites with marble baths and mahogany four poster beds and oriental rugs. It was like no camp grounds I’d ever seen. And, again, the food was sumptuous, creative, and delicious.

Hippos love muddy water
Each morning we would climb aboard our land-rovers and spend the day photographing animals in their own habitant. There were elephants, giraffes, lions, many varieties of wild cats, and wonderful birds. The monkeys didn’t hang out on the plains, but we drove to wooded areas where we saw many different varieties. And, for a look at the hippos, we drove to a muddy river and watched as they played and scrapped with each other diving in and out of the water.

We spent a couple of nights in beautiful Mt Kenya Safari Lodge
We were also treated to several side trips such as three amazing sanctuaries, one for elephants where we had lunch out on the lawn amidst beautiful flower gardens, and two others one for giraffes and one for rhinos. Then there was a night’s stay in a tree house at Ngorogo, where we watched the animals drink at a watering hole in the evening, beneath our window. In addition we stayed over night at the Mount Kenya Safari Club owned by Bill and Stephanie Holden.

In the mid 1950’s William Holden went to Africa on a hunting safari with two friends. There was one inn that was the favorite “repairing” spot for Bill and his pals and by some quirk of fate it was for sale! After many drinks and lots of dreams the three bought the inn and turned it into the Mt. Kenya Safari Club.

An evening boat-ride on Lake Kivu
Gorilla trekking up in the mountains of central Africa
Next on our agenda, was a short flight to Burundi, where we would go gorilla trekking up high in the mountains, stay on Lake Kivu in a small hotel owned by a couple of brothers from the Netherlands, and venture into areas were the locals fished and grew bananas. On either side of Lake Kivu are Rwanda and Zaire. We visited the entire area, including the city of Kigali.

Kigali, Rwanda
The evening conversations at the hotel were interesting but took on a political bent, which I wasn’t too happy about, as it made for some arguing. The subject of how the locals made a living came up. They were under the rule of Mbutu at the time, a dictator,  and they lived a very sparse existence, bartering for food and working at hotels and businesses run by the Dutch, where they were paid one dollar a day for eight hours labor. Since that time, Mbutu was ousted and the Hutus and Tutsis, who once lived in peace, ended up fighting a civil war in Rwanda in 1994, about which the movie Hotel Rwanda was written.  The area is once again safe and open to travelers from all over the world.

Rwanda is now as safe as (if not safer than) most other countries. However some common sense precautions should be taken. Do not flaunt your wealth by wearing expensive jewelry or carrying large wads of money openly. Avoid changing money in the streets. Likewise avoid overcrowded streets.

There are many travel companies listed on line that incorporate some of the same trips I took during the time I was in Africa. I would definitely recommend this kind of trip if you are interested in other cultures and curious about how other people in the world live. It was one of the best trips I every took.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Author MaryLynn Bast talks about How Reading Influenced her Writing

    I met MaryLynn on a writer’s site when she was still ensconced in getting her book published, then unpublished, then published again. I was attracted to her energy, genuine kindness and detemination to make things right. I don’t think I’ve met another writer who works harder on her craft, or has more stick-to-itive-ness when it comes to attaining her goals. 
     When she announced the release of her first novel, No Remorse,  I was anxious to have her write a post for my blog and was delighted when she agreed to let us in on how she became a writer. In her post below, Bast talks to us about her love of reading and how it has influenced her desire to write. Her novel, No Remorse, is slated to be part of the paranormal fantasy series titled: Heart of a Wolf.  A romance and  paranormal fantasy writer, she is busy at work on the next two books in the series.

How Reading Influenced My Writing
by MaryLynn Bast

 Reading has always been a pleasure for me. As far back as I can remember I had my nose stuck in a book. I could escape into the fantasy world and forget the struggles of life at home. I would inhale books, sometimes reading a novel a day after school. I would hide under my covers, hiding the light so my mother wouldn’t catch me reading. As I got older and understood the stories more and more, my mind would wrap around what was happening. I would take the story line in a whole different direction wondering what if they did this or that instead. So one day I sat down and started writing my own stories and I loved it. My family tells me writing is in my blood, that Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) is my fifth great uncle. I can’t completely confirm what this, but if it’s true, then Whoohoo!  

     I do have a passion for writing and find that it is a creative outlet that has never left me. I set it aside for years while I took care of my family and worked. I didn’t allow the stories to flow and I realize now that I always felt that something was missing. I was lost without my stories. I am now at a point in my life to where my kids are grown and I am waiting for my next contract to begin to go back to work. So I have lots of free time. The stories are flowing and I am enjoying the creativity. Sleep, who needs it!?

     Writing fiction comes easily for me. I allow my mind to float off into whatever direction it wants to go and the stories take shape. I always thought of myself as a romance writer, and I guess in my younger day that was true. But now, I am more into the fantasy, paranormal, sci-fi, action, suspense and mystery genres with a little bit of romance mixed in. Even did an erotica the other day at a publisher’s request, I’m waiting for his reaction to that. So I guess I’m not really stuck in one specific genre. One day I will figure out my niche and belt out the stories. But for now, I’m allowing my mind to take my pen, or should I say keystrokes, where ever they want to go.  
  About emerging author Mary Lynn Bast's new novel

      Due to her unusual birth, Amber has abilities no other werewolf has ever possessed. On the run since childhood, the lone wolf avoids contact with other werewolves at all cost, continually moving, constantly looking over her shoulder and always alone.  
     Everything changes when Amber saves a werewolf from the mere brink of death, Blake, the only werewolf to ever protect her. Love blossoms, but not without tribulations when Amber realizes she must help her new pack rescue a member who is being held hostage by a rival pack.
     Warring with emotions of going from lone wolf to the pack leader’s mate, Amber must decide if she is willing to risk Blake’s life to know true family and friendship despite the fact that the Council is hell bent on locating her and will stop at nothing until she is found. Will Amber’s special abilities be enough to keep everyone safe?
MaryLynn Bast
Heart Of A Wolf series, #1
Werewolf Tails Publishing

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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Just for Fun: Raising Baby

     I was doing a little surfing today and came across a site asking for advice on parenting. The blogger, who had just given birth,  posted several questions and was looking for answers to that age old problem of how to be a stellar mom. I couldn't resist taking a "tongue-in-cheek" approach to the questions and posted the following answers to her questions. Just thought you might enjoy them..... 

OK, Here goes: 

On a scale of 1-10, how terrified were you of becoming a parent? I'd say, a 2 or a 3. I was very young and stupid. This was during the 50s, when women weren't allowed to think much, so I didn't know what I was getting into. Maybe that was a blessing, in disguise.

What experience did you have beforehand? Baby sitting when I was 12.

How quickly did you get the hang of parenting? Right after the nurse left...around two weeks. Then I was on my own...absolutely no help from my hubby with anything...and I mean anything.

Approximately how long did it take you to get more than 2 hours of uninterrupted sleep? On the third night I fell asleep flat of my back with my baby on my stomach. I didn't move a muscle and we both slept for 2 hours and fifteen minutes.

What was your favorite part about becoming a parent/caregiver? The part where my daughters went to school. (Please don't hate me)

What general tips, advice and words of wisdom do you have to offer? Relax and enjoy your kids. Have fun with them...jump in the tub with them, take them to the zoo, eat ice cream with them. Enjoy them while you can. They grow up too fast. I have two beautiful daughters, one of whom  gave me two beautiful grand kids. The other is a psychotherapist. LOL

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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Profile: Meet Teresa Rhyne, author of The Dog Lived (and so will I)

Author Teresa Rhyne & Seamus
Check out Teresa's website
Due out in October of 2012, Teresa Rhyne's debut memoir is a book about triumph over the hurdles that life continually throws at us. I was one of her Beta readers and fortunate to be somewhat on the "inside", and so privy to her writing process as she worked on the final draft of her manuscript. I found it amazing that she could write with such clarity about about a subject that could have been devastating. Her humor and warmth come through loud and strong on every page.

Having gotten to know Teresa by working with her on line, my impression of her is one of a strong, courageous and loving woman who is capable of pulling up her boot straps when under fire and forging through what ever it takes to get the job done with humor, grace, and loyalty to those around her, including her dog Seamus...qualities we all hope we have. Her writing ability is evident in this poignant memoir.

The Book 
     "The Dog Lived (And So Will I)...is a tale of a dog who wouldn’t let go and the woman who followed his lead. It is the uplifting, charming, and often mischievous story of how dogs come into our lives for a reason, how they steal our hearts, show us how to live, and teach us how to love.

     Teresa Rhyne vowed to get things right this time around:  new boyfriend, new house, new dog, maybe even new job.  But shortly after she adopted an incorrigible beagle named Seamus, vets told Teresa that he had a malignant tumor and less than a year to live. The diagnosis was devastating, but she decided to fight it, learning everything she could about the best treatment for Seamus. She couldn’t have possibly known then that she was preparing herself for life’s next hurdle – a cancer diagnosis of her own. Teresa and Seamus would battle for their lives together, while at the same time she’d bare her heart for a seemingly star-crossed relationship." (taken from blurbs on back cover).

Teresa' Story
"When I found out I had cancer I said to Chris (writer, significant other...) If I die, given that Seamus lived, you have to write the memoir The Dog Lived. I love the irony. Seamus...was diagnosed with cancer more than 3 years ago and ...I was told, Seamus still doesn't know, that he would live maybe a year. Instead he's cancer-free and well into remission. That would be the great irony of my life story--the dog lives. I don't. Not surprisingly, Chris was not amused and did not want to write that memoir. Oh, and my prognosis [was}not at all that grim. So instead, in a rare mood [I attempted] to just put a positive spin on things. The Dog Lived...and so will I."

Book Trailer

Struggle with wigs
As a result of her Chemotherapy, Teresa lost her beautiful hair. "... Buying a wig should have been easy, but it wasn't...I just completely stumbled over it."  I am pretty sure buying and wearing wigs  isn't easy for most women who have had to face the same challenge. But Teresa took up the challenge and managed to wear them with style. I've included three pictures of Teresa in wigs, one blond, one brunette and a third flaming red. I think she's beautiful in all of them.

Blond Bombshell

Brunette Beauty

Ravishing Redhead
If you had to choose, which one would you pick?

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Self-Publishing: Who should you trust?

Traditional Publishing
     If you’ve tried traditional publishing and it’s not working, maybe you’re thinking about self publishing. Or maybe you just don't want to deal with queries, agents, and publishers and feel you'll have more control if you do it yourself. So you surf around the internet for a while and check the many ads in your email. And what do you come up with? Probably,  a variety of articles or ads like the following. They gently (or not so gently) beckon to you to self-publish. Does this one look familiar?

      Fill out the form below to start your publisher search!
About Us:
Designed specifically for budding authors, Search for Publishers gives you free access to an impressive array of options for anyone who wishes to publish a book. Our singular goal is to match the right author with the right book publisher. Search for Publishers is a unique publishing directory that gives you access to some of the most dynamic book publishers who are currently seeking to develop new authors. It doesn't matter whether you want to get a novel published, a non-fiction title, a children's book, a cookbook, etc. Search for Publishers can provide a wealth of essential information to help you publish a book.

Name your book publishing category:
Novel Publishing, Business Publishing, Fiction Publishing, Poetry Publishing, Children's Book, Self Publishing, Non Fiction Publishing, Publish a Short Story,Biography Publishing, History Publishing, Cooking Book Online Publishing,Memoir Publishing, Mystery Publishing, Christian Book Publishing

     Then to hook you, if you had any doubts in the first place, it ends with the following statement:

Some of our authors have sold their books at the following locations:

     Here it lists every well known bookstore you can think of, from Amazon to Barnes and Nobel.  Impressive right? So are you hooked? Well, some of you are, some are wavering back and forth, and others, like my-jaded-self are turned off. The thing is, you never know if these people are legit or not, so you have to spend your precious time asking writer friends what they think, going to your favorite writer sites and posting questions then chatting with the other members, or checking the organization or company out at the Better Business Bureau, Amazon, or wherever…Fun, huh?

I’m really curious…What would you, as a writer,  do in a case like this?

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Profile: One Passionate Woman Writer

I was very fortunate to join a wonderful writer's site a couple of years ago, and to meet many talented and courageous women there who are passionate about writing. It's a site dedicated to women writers. Some are already published...maybe several books, maybe their first. Some are getting serious about writing for the first time. And some are there to find out why all these women are spending so much of their time putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.  It is an exciting environment where exchange of ideas, support and sharing are rampant.

Writer Brenda Moguez
The following piece is by one of those women. It's beautiful, insightful, and  unabashed. It is the writing of a woman who has the courage to lay it all on the line and go for it. She has written her first novel and is going all the way by attempting to publish it. Her creative narrative on strength is reflective of of who she is ...a strong, compassionate, and sensitive woman.

What is Strength?

It is saying no but wanting heaven and earth to move out of your way so you can say yes. It is saying yes knowing the consequences of your decision and accepting the responsibility for both, the answer and the aftermath.

It is bending your will for the sake of another knowing your words cannot convince them of their folly, but vowing to help pick up the pieces; Standing with your back up against the brick and the hard place knowing the path you are about to walk will yield immediate heartache. In your heart, you will cherish the moments preceding your decision to leave, until you draw your last breath.

Watching your child take her first step, not wanting to, but allowing her to tumble, and then standing out of reach as she wails and waits for you to come, but knowing you cannot.  How to get up and try again, and again, is one lesson a parent cannot gift a child. It is self-taught and often fraught with tears of frustration.

Letting go of a piece of yourself –a chance, a person, a dream—knowing in the moment of release your heart will stutter and later howl,  but in the loss you’ll hear the sizzle of the setting sun burning into the horizon and see the ascent of a new moon.

It is taking a risk when the odds of success are stacked in favor of  karma, because the voice of your sixth sense is singing in your right ear, ‘we are the champions’… and sounding a lot like Freddie Mercury.
It is running at the speed of light—or as fast as your feet can propel you forward— then jumping with reckless abandonment into a mosh pit of possibility or chaos, just because you know there is something at the bottom meant for you to uncover.

It is giving love today, tomorrow, next month, in the moment, as the sun climbs, when the moon sets, as you watch the door shut, after harsh words, when words are not enough, after or before goodbye, between tears, the last kiss, at the wrong time, or  just because. But especially when it’s a foregone conclusion that regardless of the quantity, how perfect it seems, how much it means or how perfectly love feels snug on your skin, your heart will break, you’ll still give freely of yourself.

It is standing tall when all you have worked for or believed in is shattered when life is dealing from the bottom of the deck or because of lies another has fed to you.  And later, when the tears on your pillow are dried, you’ll draw from a strength you never knew you had and begin anew even though hope flickers with the evening breeze.

It is refusing a compliment or the key to the castle when it comes with a price tag, even if you can make the monthly payments.
It is accepting praise from a foe with humility and the grace of a seasoned diplomat,  and waiting until you are behind closed doors for a victory dance.
It is swallowing your pride or falling on a sword for another or a cause not your own but recognizing the value of your sacrifice will lift the spirit for one or many.
It is giving of yourself when there is nothing left to give because you know it’s in the job description of being a mom, a wife, a friend, a woman.

It is looking into the mirror naked—as scary as it is—and loving every line, curve, imperfection, with gratitude.It is speaking without filters, without an agenda, without expectations, honestly and from your heart.
It is being who you are in mirror by wearing your inside self on the outside.
It is being true to who you always wanted to be, have always been inside, and knowing being unique is sometime a lonely business, but throwing caution to the wind and not giving a damn.


BIO:  Moguez is a wife, mother, and writer living in San Francisco and working on becoming an author. She has completed her first novel and is in the process of trying to publish it traditionally. Her new book is a work of fiction, but she also blogs and writes nonfiction and poetry. Passionate about writing, she describes her writing experience in the following paragraph:

“Writing is a passion that drives me to the brink, and sometimes over. I hate it, love it, covet it, dream it, and cry over it. I found a voice, maybe three, sometimes four, by writing. It's all true what the established writers say to those of us up and coming, just write and do it often, as much as you can even when you don't want to, can't or won't. I found writing during the worst time of my life [when] I was in my very own personal perfect storm with me in the middle of it…”

*Excerpt from Moguez's just completed work of fiction:

Creative Woman Seeking Freelance Work
a novel, by Brenda Moguez

After spending two years mourning the loss of her husband–Bobby Delray,an almost famous, Country-Western, singer–Stella Delray, an understated, self-aware but lost, sexy thirty-seven year old, and mother of six-year old, Santiago, emerges from her grief coma to find her life needs an overhaul. The forces of nature, her own biological needs, her family, and the wider world, are pushing her to redefine her expectations of life.  However getting on with life means facing some demons, namely her mother-in-law, her own prejudices about happily ever after, and making good on some death bed promises....keep reading

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