Expand Your Horizons

Autism Awareness/Acceptance Month is past the halfway mark. Have you seen an increase of understanding around you? My blue hair has provided more opportunities to discuss autism with others, so I’m glad I was brave enough to try it this time.

Me, on World Autism Day.

Me, on World Autism Day.

I scrolled through some old posts and came across this one from two years ago—the then nameless Fernando has been making an appearance on the blog for that long. This is a timely find, because it talks about my two manuscripts that are now under contract for publishing in 2016, and it explains where I got my line, “Don’t let your fortitude get corroded.” It doesn’t seem like Fernando has grown much, but it’s more than doubled in size.

Fernando, before it was Fernando, April 2013.

Fernando, before it was Fernando, April 2013.

Fernando today, April 2015.

Fernando today, April 2015.


Seeing these photos today reminded me of my teen on the spectrum. Just like my son, Fernando is always responding to his environment. Outside stresses, like weather, can cause disturbances to growth and adaptability, while appropriate nutrients and habitat can promote expansion. Sometimes, the rate of my son’s maturing seems laboriously slow, but if I think back to how he was two (or more) years ago, I can see how far he’s come.

Fernando can be used as a personification of my writing, as well as a symbol of human needs and growth. What can your fern do?

If you don’t have a Fernando of your own, go find one and nurture your creativity.

Ain’t No Cure but Hard Work

If you know me or have been reading this blog for more than a season, you know that summer is my least favorite time of the year. Yes, I know that it isn’t technically summer, but it’s in full swing on the Gulf Coast. The thermostat has reached ninety degrees and the humidity is at sauna conditions.

Fortunately, I think I reached my yearly low last month (notice there were only two blog posts in the past thirty-one days.) But, never fear, I’ve slowly been on the upswing. The final shove came gently from my critique buddies at our meeting this weekend. Thanks, MeLeesa and Joyce! For me it’s now baby steps to the blog. Baby steps to the Scrivener file. But at least I’m moving.

May was rough, though. The month started with adding another year to my life chart, but ended with a great concert at the Hard Rock in Biloxi. Power metal, country, classical, world, folk, pop, oldies, classic rock, opera, R&B, rap… my music knows no genre boundaries, but I’m very selective about music groups/singers.

Last week, Diamond Rio played at the Hard Rock. They’re my favorite country group—I’ve been listening to them since I first heard “Meet in the Middle” during my freshman year in high school. (Of course, I was also listening to Firehouse, J.S. Bach, and Enya. Like I said, no musical borders in Wonderland.)

Besides the great show, all six band members did a meet and greet next to the merchandise table after the show. Naturally, I bought the band’s autobiography and gushed over the twenty-three years of music fandom while they all signed the book. (Here’s another bunch to add to the Fantabutius roster.) The experience of participating in the creating (composing music), sharing (concert), and spending time with fans (autographing) reminded me of my own goals as a writer. I need to work on my craft to have something for people to read, so I can hopefully inspire others to do the same. 100_5591

The Diamond Rio concert was a great way to end the moody month and start me thinking about creativity and positive vibes. This past week I finally started a mood music file for my current project and started thinking more about characters and less about the literary rejections. Here’s to a summer of magic and memories in the making. What do you have in mind?

Bonus, I’m going back to the venue for a BOSTON concert on Friday. Rock on!

Music for the Wait Time

It’s been two weeks since I finished the first major round of revisions (there were several edits along the journey) on FORTITUDE. While waiting to hear back from beta readers, I’m working on the synopsis and query letter for it. Plus, a lot of knitting and watching movies have happened—it’s not all work here. Also, I’ve been reading a couple of my friends’ manuscripts. Finished with one from MeLeesa Swann and now I’m on to Israel Parker’s latest epic.

The good news, among all this waiting, is that I can work on the official soundtrack for FORTITUDE. As noted in this post, I like the music to match the arc of the novel. With this being a historical journey, I’m trying to make sure the lyrics fit the times. (Think Bid Time Return—that’s Somewhere in Time to the movie buffs—so the listener/reader isn’t jarred out of the story. Yeah, I’m a geek.) So, out of over thirteen hours of FORTITUDE mood music, I’ve got to arrange a manageable list of timeless songs to share with others. But I’ve stumbled across a few gems in my regular playlist mixes that weren’t in my collection, including this one, which works perfectly during the lowest point for main character Claire O’Farrell, “Reason” by Europe.

Now for a dozen more.

New Orleans Revival

I finished the first draft of FORTITUDE last Tuesday, September 10, 2013. Cue the party horns!

It felt great and I immediately took a few days off from serious writing because I busted my fingers and brain the previous two weeks to get it done. Yes, even though it’s Laurie Halse Anderson’s annual WFMAD challenge this month, I played hooky. I’d planned on keeping away from FORTITUDE for a couple weeks to get the whole distance and perspective break most professionals suggest writers take before diving into revisions, but that didn’t happen.

What did happen was something like this:

DAY OUT WITH FRIENDS IN NEW ORLEANS

Last Thursday I drove Joyce, Lee Ann, and MeLeesa to the big sleazy for dinner and a concert at House of Blues. We bought tickets for the Hanson show at the beginning of summer but it happened to fall in place that we all had literary milestones to celebrate last week: fishing drafts, multi-book contracts, and waiting to hear back from NYC editors. It was—is—an exciting time and we all needed the change of pace to escape the writing cave and chill with those who understand.

(Yes, I did say Hanson and I’m not ashamed. My musical interests span genres and centuries and there’s a special place in my music library for the guys of Hanson. They rock, with a little Motown jive here and there, plus they’ve matured nicely.



Just to show a sampling of what I listen to, on the drive back I switched from Hanson to Mitch Malloy to Boston before settling on Helloween. The guitar chords got heavier as the night grew later because this driver needed to stay alert.)

What happened the day after was constant music playing in my head. Music inspires me—always has, always will—and by late afternoon I had to get back to FORTITUDE. Four days later I’ve finished a complete round of editing plus several scene rewrites/additions to the praises of my first beta reader. I think I’ve got something good here and I can’t wait to share it.

Nourish Your Goals

Did you catch my post earlier this month about ferns? I didn’t have to wait for the summer heat to test me or the fern.
This past Sunday I had a minor freak-out about my writing goal—finishing the first draft of FORTITUDE—while I’m in my seventh month of waiting to hear back from publishers about CORRODED.
First draft goals can be hair-pulling. Waiting to hear back from the publishing industry, also nerve-racking. The two together equals fighting for sanity on at least a weekly basis.
Enter mini-meltdown.
While venting my concerns to MeLeesea Swann via chat room, she gave me the little “you can do it” and “don’t stress the numbers” and “it will happen” friendly feedback that can be easy to dismiss during epic stress moments. But then she hit me with something that made me laugh so loud I scared my kids.

DON’T LET YOUR FORTITUDE GET CORRODED.

Personalized prospective was all I needed. I shared the quote with family and our other writing friends. I even printed out copies of it on purple paper and hung them up around the house to remind me.
Then Monday morning happened.
I went outside to finish up some weeding. When I passed my little fern on the water oak, it looked like this:

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ARGH! My little plant of hope, though surrounded in soft, green moss was withering away. If the fern couldn’t make it, then I might be able to keep my goals. Then I thought of fortitude being corroded and grabbed the hose. I soaked that thing and went on with my other yard work.
An hour later, no change.
Two hours, nothing.
Three hours, it looked slightly better.
About five hours later, it was back to this.

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What can you do to keep your dreams alive? Be sure to involve a support system.

Liebster Blog Award

I was tagged/nominated by R.K. Grow, a fellow writer on Twitter @tolkien418, for a Liebster Award. Thank you!
Liebster Blog
The Liebster is awarded to up-and-coming bloggers with less than 200 followers. The conditions that go with being nominated are:
1. Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog and link back to the blogger who presented this award to you;
2. Answer the 11 questions from the nominator and create 11 questions for your nominees;
3. Present the Liebster Blog Award to 11 blogs of 200 followers or less who you feel deserves to be noticed and leave a comment on their blog letting them know they have been chosen;
4. Copy and Paste the blog award on your blog.

My questions from R.K. Grow are:
1. Twizzlers or Red Vines?

Neither. Licorice isn’t my favorite and black licorice is even worse.
2. Do you have a current WIP? If so, tell us about it.
FORTITUDE: Dauphin Island, Alabama teen Claire O’Farrell and her best friend, Loretta Davis, get caught in the middle of the racial tensions of the Spanish-American War camps in Tampa, Florida during the summer of 1898.
3. What is your favorite punctuation mark?
The—em—dash.
4. If you could pick the songs for the soundtrack of your novel what would they be?
The soundtrack—complete with YouTube links—for CORRODED, the novel I’m currently querying, can be found here.
I’m only about one third of the way through the first draft of FORTITUDE so it doesn’t have a soundtrack, just a “Fortitude Groove” playlist on my iPod. It has 121 songs with the majority of flavors being Irish-Celtic, country/blue grass, and soundtrack instrumentals that evoke the emotions I hope to create in the reader. For now, I listen to it on shuffle when writing, researching, or just getting in the proper mood.
5. What are three words that describe how you feel about writing?
Vocation
Joy
Anxiety
6. What is your favorite genre to read and why?
Middle Grade, especially those books geared for readers ten years and older. It can be contemporary, historical, fantasy, whatever—I’m just in love with the coming-of-age theme that is prevalent in literature for late childhood and the teen years. Part of that is because I’m still searching for where I fit in. I haven’t found my social niche, but at least now I’m comfortable with myself—usually.
7. What music do you listen to when you write, if any?
Music plays a HUGE part in my writing, but which music I listen to when writing depends on the story. I have over eight days worth of music up/down loaded into my iTunes account from a wide variety of genres. I gather music to fit the mood I wish to create when writing, then I painstakingly chose a soundtrack to mesh with the scenes of the novel as it progresses. This is something I’ve done since I began writing over twenty years ago. See question #4 for a sample.
8. What is your writing goal this year?
My immediate goal is to finish the first draft of FORTITUDE by my birthday (May 3.)
I also hope to hear at least one positive response from my queries about CORRODED in the meantime.
9. Laptop or desktop?
Laptop, but I use it on a desk/table/counter top with a full size keyboard and mouse whenever possible.
10. How do you stay motivated?
MUSIC—I’ve noticed if I don’t take time to listen to my music (as opposed to my kids’ stuff or whatever is playing around me) I lose inspiration.
BOOKS—Reading books by people whom I admire and hearing about them getting recognition for their efforts is inspiring, too.
GENEROSITY—The humility and generosity of some of the authors and musicians I respect the most is incredibly motivating. (See my posts on Fantabutitus.) I want the chance to pay-it-forward so I need to be writing successfully to do that on a higher level.
11. What is the primary focus for your blog?
Literature: both my own and other peoples.
I usually blog about reading and writing, though I often take themes from my novels as blog topics.
Seldom, I’ll post about my family or homeschooling—without it dealing with books—and even rarer do I mention current events.

So, now for awarding the next generation of Liebster Bloggers, and please don’t take offense if you have more than 200 followers—not all the blog have those stats public. If you don’t know these bloggers, take a minute and check them out.

http://www.ihaveaspergers.webs.com/
http://onconservatism.blogspot.com/
http://leeannward.com/blog/
http://www.tamratorero.blogspot.com/
http://www.meleesaswann.com/
http://joycescarbrough.blogspot.com/
http://www.prestonnorton.com/
http://stephanielawton.com/
http://www.teacakesandwhiskey.com/blog/
http://israelparker.com/
http://wyzreads.wordpress.com/

And here are your questions—looking forward to reading the answers!

1. What gets you going in the morning?
2. Morning person or night owl?
3. If you could pick one, what book would you want the world to read?
4. Do you prefer TV shows or movies for entertainment?
5. Is your blog your main writing project? If not, tell us what else is in the works.
6. What is your favorite place to catch up on news—print, online, web, etc?
7. Peter Rabbit or the White Rabbit?
8. What’s on your desktop wallpaper right now?
9. Radio or your own personal music selection?
10. Best or worst concert experience.
11. Fiction or non-fiction?

More R-N-R

Last night I was able to catch another Ricky Nelson Remembered concert. This time it was with two of my friends, Lee Ann Ward and Meleesa Swann. We drove more than two hours each way to Ft. Walton Beach, Florida, but it was well worth the time and expense.

Gunnar, Lee Ann, me, and Matthew

Gunnar, Lee Ann, me, and Matthew. Thanks, Meleesa!


When I caught the show last year in New Jersey, Matthew and Gunnar had a full band. The current leg of their tour was just the two of them—but they sounded great. Gunnar took lead/electric guitar and Matthew switched between bass and rhythm guitars. And man, the bass lines were smokin’ hot!
My favorite song presentation of the night was “Fools Rush In.” Love the song as it is, but their rendition was flawless.

As I bask in the memories of the good times and fabulous music, I’m still waiting to hear back about the fate of my Rick Nelson inspired novel, CORRODED. If you’re new to the blog, check out the category postings under Corroded and Rick Nelson on the sidebar. And don’t miss the soundtrack!