30 December 2010

#reverb10 Prompt, Day 29: Defining Moment (late)

Describe a defining moment or series of events that have affected your life this year.

Everything you do affects your life in some way. So I don't think I look back on the year and select a defining moment or series of events to write about. A lot has happened this year, after all. I much prefer to look at the year as a whole and be hopeful that the decisions I've made and the things that have happened will make 2011 a good year.

27 December 2010

#reverb10 Prompt, Day 19: Healing (late)

What healed you this year? Was it sudden, or a drip-by-drip evolution? How would you like to be healed in 2011?

I don't think I am (fully) healed. There are things still affecting me in a very real and negative way, and I'm still working on them.

I think some of the things I'm dealing with I'll still be dealing with for a long time, while others I hope to get past in 2011. And some of the things I'm dealing with will depend on what happens in 2011 as to whether or not I can move past them quite yet.

I know that's sort of vague, but the things I can talk about I've already written about this month, and the other things are staying private. Sorry.

#reverb10 Prompt, Day 20: Beyond avoidance (late)

What should you have done this year but didn't because you were too scared, worried, unsure, busy or otherwise deterred from doing? (Bonus: Will you do it?)

I've been avoiding this prompt.

And in an effort to show that I truly am letting go of "should" in my life (I should do this, I should be that), I'm not going to do this prompt.

Ha ha!

#reverb10 Prompt, Day 27: Ordinary Joy

Our most profound joy is often experienced during ordinary moments. What was one of your most joyful ordinary moments this year?

"Do you want to 'bock-a-bye'?"

A sleepy Bean nodded, rubbed his eyes, and toddled over to the recliner, patting it to show me where I should sit. I climbed into the chair and pulled my son onto my lap. He snuggled down against me, twisting so he could watch TV while we rocked.

I knew it would only take a few minutes for him to drop off to sleep for his afternoon nap, and I was already thinking about the things I needed to do while he was sleeping. Laundry needed to be folded and put away, the lunch dishes needed to be washed, and I needed to send an email to a client.

In the midst of my mental to-do list, Bean twisted back around and pushed against me with his legs to nearly standing. Just as I was about to remind him that we don't stand on chairs, he wrapped both arms tightly around my neck, rested his head on  my shoulder, and gave me a big hug.

"I love you, too, buddy."

#reverb10 Prompt, Day 23: New name (late)

Let's meet again, for the first time. If you could introduce yourself to strangers by another name for just one day, what would it be and why?

I don't know that I would change my name, given the opportunity. I've become sort of attached to the one I have.

I can't help but think of writers when I look at this prompt. How long do we writers spend perusing names and their meanings, looking at character personalities and biographies, trying to come up with the perfect name for a character in a story?

For writers, names seem to bring life to words on a page. With a name, a character is no longer an abstract, but a person. Writers no longer refer to this being as "my antagonist" or "my M.C.," but as "Vivi" or "Tristan." A character name changes things, doesn't it?

But naming isn't as easy as searching a baby name book until something strikes your fancy. Names are a complicated beast. There's a contradiction people encounter when discussing the idea of a name. After all, Shakespeare said, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet" (Romeo and Juliet, II.ii.1-2). Names don't make the man or woman, but everything else does. After all, with a different name, wouldn't I be the same person?

And yet, names do hold power. In Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, handmaids are given the names of the men for whom they work. The lead character's name is "Ofglen," or "of Glen." She and the other handmaids have no individual identity, but are known only by the men they serve. Taking their names was one way power was taken from them.

So where do we stand, then? Who are we with different names? With no names?

#reverb10 Prompt, Day 22: Travel (late)

How did you travel in 2010? How and/or where would you like to travel next year?

By land

Bean with Uncle Trev, April 2010
In April, Hubby, Bean, and I drove from central Florida to central Illinois to visit my family for Easter. It was a long drive, but worth it for my extended family to get to meet Bean for the first time, and we got to spend a holiday with my mom and the family there.

I don't get to spend a lot of time with my family simply because of the logistics involved in traveling to see them. (I'm terrified of flying, which leaves driving. That isn't always easy with a little one, as I'm sure many of you know.)

By sea

Bean's first cruise, October 2010
In October, we took Bean on his very first cruise! Hubby's parents surprised us with a three-day family cruise, and the little weekend getaway was just what we needed! Bean had a lot of fun going to the beach for the first time (after getting over his initial fear of the sand), and of course the food was delicious!

We also just got back from Hubby's family's family reunion Christmas cruise, which was a week long. This was a great time, as well, and reminded me of why I enjoy cruising for vacations.

In 2011

I hope to be able to spend more time visiting my family in 2011. Any traveling we do will have to be in the latter half of the year (since Bunny is due the first week of May), but we're hoping to spend Christmas in snowy Illinois next year.

Bean has never seen snow, and it would be wonderful to have a white Christmas (and then come back down to 70-degree weather afterward, of course!). I don't know whether or not that will happen, but it's what I'm hoping for.

26 December 2010

#reverb10 Prompt, Day 21: Future self (late)

Imagine yourself five years from now. What advice would you give your current self for the year ahead? (Bonus: Write a note to yourself 10 years ago. What would you tell your younger self?)

Dear Future (but really present) Coffee-Stained Writer,

As I stand at the edge of 2015, waiting for 2016 to rush up and meet me, I have a few words of advice for you. I urge you to heed them, since anything I recommend to you really affects me, you know.

First, remember that haircut you're thinking of getting when Bunny is born in the spring? Don't. It didn't look that great when you did it in 2008, and it annoyed the crap out of you when you were trying to grow it out because you realized you missed your long hair. As much as you think you want it again, trust me: you don't. It won't look that great, and it'll annoy the crap out of you when you try to grow it out because you'll realize you miss your long hair. Please, please keep your hair the way it is. You like it this way.

Next, don't get too frustrated with how the coffee house's first draft goes in 2011. It's going to get written, and you're going to have to edit it, so relax about it. It doesn't have to be perfect the first time. It won't be perfect the firs time. Just remember why you want to write it and you'll be fine. Save the obsessing for the later drafts. It'll go a lot smoother that way. After all, it started as a NaNo novel and you did everything you could to boost word count. Remember that draft? ::shudder::

I also want to tell you that things will get better. I can't tell you too much because of that whole crazy space-time continuum thing, but things will get better. Hang in there. You'll come out of things a better and stronger person, and then you get to be me, which is pretty cool.

Finally, keep trusting yourself. It works for you. You'll be healthier and happier that way. You won't worry so much. And you'll definitely have a lot more fun. So don't let other stuff get to you too much, and remember that you know what's best for you.

Have a great year in 2011, have fun, and be safe. You have to get to where I am, after all.

Happy scribbling from the future,

#reverb10 Prompt, Day 24: Everything's OK (late)

What was the best moment that could serve as proof that everything is going to be alright? And how will you incorporate that discovery into the year ahead?

Hubby and I, as a family, have had some difficult moments in 2010. Of course I won't get into them here, but we've had our share of struggles.*

And yet, everything always has a strange way of falling into place so that everything is okay in the end. It's not always easy, and it's not always in the way we expected, but things have a way of working out for us. I'm thankful for that.

There has been one particular instance that stands out to me as proof that everything really will be all right, particularly in 2011.

On December 17th, I received bad news from one of my clients who would no longer be needing my services after December 31st of this year. I won't get into the details for the protection of this client, but I will say that this came as quite a shock to me, and I'm still dealing with how I feel about how it all played out.†

Despite this, we're looking at 2011 with as much optimism as we can. I have received some good news from a couple of other clients, and am hoping to hear more after New Year's.

Once again, facing what could be a devastating struggle, things seem to be working out for us. It's not working out the way I would have expected, but everything's going to be okay. Again.

Funny how things work out, isn't it?

*We've had our share of successes and joys, too, though!
†Anyone who wants details can email me, and I may be able to give you a bit more insight.

#reverb10 Prompt, Day 25: Photo (late)

Sift through all the photos of you from the past year. Choose one that best captures you; either who you are, or who you strive to be. Find the shot of you that is worth a thousand words. Share the image, who shot it, where, and what it best reveals about you.

Photo by Hubby at our (former) Orlando home, May 2010

Skirt: Veggie Patch Skirt (similar here)
Accessories: clay bead wrap bracelet
and recycled magazine bead necklace
from Soul Flower (no longer available)

This picture reveals who I want to be. Some of the changes I'm making in my life in 2011 include living a more natural lifestyle, and my clothing choices is one way I'm doing that. I feel better wearing more natural fabrics, and I feel better knowing my clothing choices have less of a negative impact on my world.

25 December 2010

Flawed Characters

Neil Gaiman wrote about his gloriously cranky cat a few weeks ago, and concluded,
When Zoe died, it was really easy to explain to people how much you could miss a sweet, gentle cat who was nothing but a ball of utter love. I'm going to have a much harder time one day, months or even years from now, explaining why I miss the meanest, grumpiest and most dangerous cat I've ever encountered. 
If you look in his boat, you'll see me there paddling right beside him.  I've got the kind of cat who makes people think thrice before coming over.  She once sent a friend, white-faced and wide-eyed, fleeing from my bedroom (appropriately enough, I'd sent said friend in there to retrieve Neil Gaiman's Sandman, which she'd sadly not yet read).  When I inquired why she'd emerged on the porch sans book and in a wretched state, she informed me it was because my feline had given her the hairy eyeball and growled a growl that said, "If you're still in this room two seconds from now, I shall be ripping your limbs off."  And she'd have done it, too.  She once chased my mom out of the apartment for the simple offense of trying to clean the house.  I've had to wrap her in blankets, towels and once a cloak to prevent grievous bodily harm; ended up with severe bruising and quarter-inch deep fang marks when I stepped between her and the husky she was trying to eviscerate, and she's even terrified a vet into a corner.

She is on Santa's NAUGHTY list.  All caps.  She's not just got issues, but subscriptions and a full set of back issues.  And yet, I love her more than any other cat I've been owned by, and I'll miss her fiercely when she's gone, and I won't be able to explain why.  People will probably assume I'm suffering from Battered Cat Servant Syndrome. 

That's not the case.  It's just that she's a Flawed Character.  So was my pony, who was known for beer-begging and his 1001 Clever Tricks for Unseating Unsuspecting (or Suspecting) Riders.  I still miss that little bastard.  My most cherished pets put me in mind of what John Clare said:

And e'en the dearest--that I love the best--
Are strange--nay, rather stranger than the rest.

And that brings me to writing, because there, too, I'm a sucker for Flawed Characters.  Neil Gaiman's Dream, for instance, wasn't some majestic, perfect being - for all his power to shape our dreams, for all his mystique and morality and incredible powers, he was still something of a stuffy jerk who failed horribly at relationships: with women, with family, with just about anyone.  I mean, seriously, when his son Orpheus lost Eurydice, he couldn't even give him a reassuring pat and a sympathetic shoulder to cry on.  No, he just gave him a lecture:
"You are mortal: it is the mortal way. You attend the funeral, you bid farewell. You grieve. Then you continue with your life. And at times, the fact of her absence will hit you like a blow to the chest, and you will weep. But this will happen less and less as time goes on. She is dead. You are alive. So live. "
It's great advice, fantastic advice, and I've followed it more than once.  But diplomatic and empathetic it ain't.  And that's Dream: wise, but clueless when it comes to interpersonal interactions.  Which is one of the many reasons I loved him so.

There's R.D. Wingfield's Jack Frost, a first-class screw-up who's constantly in trouble with the brass and only solves cases through improbable strings of coincidences and fortuitous mistakes.  There's Terry Pratchett's Rincewind, a dyed-in-the-wool coward who only lusts after potatoes and boredom.  Elaine Cunningham's Danilo Thann, a pretty rich boy who's so full of himself that if he were a sofa, he'd be so overstuffed you couldn't even sit on him.  They've been my friends all these long years, not despite their flaws, but because of them.

They're Flawed Characters, y'see.  And Flawed Characters can be incredibly endearing.

Why do we love them so?  They're memorable.  They're interesting.  They're unpredictable (or predictable, but whose flaws put them into unpredictable situations).  Their flaws provide a nice contrast, making their good qualities shine all the more.  They're imperfect, like us.  We can relate.

Awesome! you think.  I'll just slap my characters with a really severe character flaw or two!

Not so fast, there, you.  Consider carefully before you go tacking flaws onto a perfectly good character willy-nilly.

First, remember that the really great Flawed Characters are a mix: they're not all flaw.  You'll have a rough go of it if you've got all Flaw with no Character.

Watch out for ye olde hackneyed cliches, like the prostitute with the heart of gold.

Flawed Characters haven't usually got a single flaw, but a few, with one standing out above all.  And their good qualities endear us to them despite it all.

And, most importantly: be careful with character flaws.  Don't just throw one in so you can say, "Look, Ma, my character's flawed, too!"  If you're choosing from a list of potential flaws, you're doing it wrong.  Flaws should arise from who that person is and what they've experienced in life.  Otherwise, all you've got is a bad version of deus ex machina, and that's not a good thing.

Just don't force it, is what I'm saying.  We're not rolling characters for a D&D campaign where every Merit has to be balanced by a Flaw.  These are story people, and some will naturally be more flawed than others, and some may not even seem flawed at all.  And you know what?  Despite what people say, that's not all bad.  I mean, Neil Gaiman's Death was about as flawless as it gets, and yet she still shines.  She's fun, she's fascinating, she's a great favorite - not because she's flawed, but because she's unexpected.  I mean, Death as a cute and perky Goth chick?  But she works.  She totally works.

If you've got a character who's interesting without obvious flaws, don't go foisting flaws upon them just because you think that's the Done Thing.  Let your Wise Readers tell you whether that character works or not before you go fiddling with flaws.

 But if a Flawed Character comes into your life, allow yourself a little unconditional love and run with it.  Don't minimize their flaws, flaunt them!

24 December 2010

Linking stories through characters

The coffee house book is just the first in a collection of books I'm writing. The next book will be the funeral book, and the book after that will be the wedding book. (There are others planned, as well.) The books are not a series, but they do go to together.

Since the coffee house book is the first book I'm writing in this collection, I'll use that as the "foundation" for talking about the rest of the books. However, please know that each book is a stand-alone book. I could just as easily have started with the funeral book, the wedding book, or one of the others.

The books in this collection are all set in the same small(ish) town, with the different books presenting a different aspect of the town. And since it is a small(ish) town, some of the same people will be involved in those different aspects. For example, one of the coffee house characters is also a mourner at the funeral. In the same way you run into your friends and neighbors at the grocery store, you'll see some of the same characters appearing in different books.

The connection between the stories in these books, other than the overall setting, is the people in them. It's the people that make up the town, after all, and this collection is about the town.

So I've been faced with the prospect of connecting these books through the characters, while still allowing the individual books to stand on their own stories. I've discovered that the only way to do that is for each character to have an equal voice in the book(s) he or she is in.

For example, Shawn is a character in the coffee house book. He's a musician who uses the coffee house to escape a difficult situation at home. He's also in the band at the wedding reception. These two separate books reveal different aspects of his story, but just because he's already in the coffee house book doesn't mean his section in the wedding book will be any less significant. It's a different (sub)story about the same character.

This is another reason my character biographies are so detailed and so important. Different aspects of characters will appear in different books, so those aspects all have to be in the character biographies. By creating the same detailed biographies for all the characters, I'll be able to draw any character for any book for any other book.

What's interesting is that as I'm working on character biographies, I'm finding more connections among my characters that I didn't think of before, and these connections will work well as I build the world of this collection.

It's going to take a lot of work throughout the whole process, but I know it will be worth it when readers can connect with the characters I've created.

How do you create well-rounded characters for your stories?

23 December 2010

Guest Blogger Kelly Ward: The Villain

While attempting to finish my extensive rewrites, I've noticed that there are more issues at hand than my plot killer problem. I have a big problem with the villain. It's catastrophic in nature and needs to be addressed.

When you have an inept villain, you have no story. Unless you plan on having no villain and if that's your story, then what I'm about to tell you will do you no good. For me, the villain of my series is like Darth Vader. He needs to convey fear simply by his presence. Not such an easy task to complete when you have no visuals to help you.

This villain is complicated. He's not a simple psychopathic killer bent on the destruction of humanity. If that were the villain I was working with, I wouldn't have this problem. Psychopathic villains are wonderful and easy (for the most part) and equally terrifying for the reader if done correctly.

The villain I have created is duplicitous and slippery. He'll just as easily smile to your face while he plots to stab you in the back. He won't be found in the middle of the action like a warlord or evil king. Instead, he's holding the puppet strings, masterminding every single action of the pawns laid out before him. He's difficult to pin down and even harder to write without adding an edge of insanity or a vengeful streak.

If you have a villain in your story, you need to remember that you will either kill your story now or make it great with this one character. While a plot killer will simply kill the stories he or she is involved in, the rest of the series will survive. With a horribly written villain, your series is dead in the water.

If you need an evil genius, create an evil genius. Plot out every aspect of his or her personality and when writing a situation the villain will be involved in, think through it as if you actually ARE that character. Sure, it's good to do that with every single character you have, but it's vital with your villain. I actually have more notes on my villains than I do on my heroes. If only my notes made sense...

One last thing to remember about a villain: names matter here. You need a name that has an actual meaning. I named my first villain Varick because the name sounds evil and it means conqueror (at least it did on the website I was using). What better name for the Bringer of all evil? With my newest villain, I chose the name Nathail because it sounds oily and black and it means snake. It fits him. You can't call a bad guy Mark can you? Well you could, but would he be scary?

Take your time with a villain. They can be the greatest thing in the world or the biggest pain in the neck you'll ever have.

Kelly Ward has had a passion for writing since she was thirteen, and has since blended her passion for writing with her love of vampires into a writing career. Kelly is the author of Prophecy, Forbidden, and Awakening, which are available on her website. You can read more about Kelly's writing and life on her blog, The Fang Marked Writer. She is happily married to the love of her life, Nathan, and is expecting their first child in March.

22 December 2010

My series bible

Before I begin this post, let me make sure we're clear on something: I'm not writing a series. The books I'm working on are a collection of books that go together. They're all set in the same town, and many of the characters' are revealed more fully in the other books.

That said, I am creating what I'm calling a "series bible." Because the books are interwoven in many ways, I thought it would be helpful in keeping things straight, as well as planning ahead as I'm working on the coffee house book.

Right now, my series bible is in a five-subject notebook I had around the house. Here's what's in it so far:


The first page is a list of the books I'm planning, along with a brief description of each one. These serve as a quick reminder as I'm putting all the information together. It's got everything from the coffee house book to the waiting book (What? Did I just give away another of the books I'm thinking about? Whoops.) in it. That page is done unless I decide to write additional books, but what I have will keep me quite busy for quite some time.

Coffee House Book Notes

As I was thinking about the coffee house book, I jotted down some things I wanted to remember as I was planning and writing. A few notes are about some of the characters, some things about the coffee house itself, and reminders to myself for while I'm writing.

Cast of Characters

Since I only have the outline for the coffee house book so far, I only have the cast of characters for it. But each book will have its own page of characters, with notes about characters who are also in other books. The list also contains a quick note about who the character is. (ex. Vivi (Vivienne) is the coffee house manager, drinks espresso macchiato, is planning the anniversary party, and her story is about how she came to work at the coffee house.)

Story Line

Again, since I've only outlined the coffee house book, I only have a rough story line sheet for that book. It's not as detailed as my big outline, but is just a reminder of what the story is about, should I need it.

Coffee House "Chapters"

This is my "biography" of the coffee house. It goes through each year of the coffee house from it's opening/first year through its fifth year. Each chapter gives information about what was going on in the coffee house at the time, who was important, how business was doing, etc.

That's all I have so far, but it's a start. Since my character biographies are so extensive, they won't be in the series bible, but will be in a separate folder (or folders) nearby so I have easy access to them.

As the coffee house book develops, I know I'll add to the notebook, and as I'm writing the next book, I'll be able to use the information from the coffee house book to develop the characters and the world I'm creating.

Just as with the biographies, there's going to be a lot of information in this notebook that will never be in the coffee house book.

Oh, the things writers do for their stories.

20 December 2010

The coffee house as a character

As I'm writing all these character biographies, I realize there is another biography I have to write before I can start writing the actual story of the coffee house book.

Image: Catherine Hadler / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I have to know "who" the coffee house itself is.

The coffee house is more than simply the setting of the book. It's the thing that drives the story. The characters are reflecting on their experiences in the coffee house, how they feel about it, and where they see it going in the future. Without it, there is no story at all. So it follows that I should know the coffee house as well as I know every other character in the book.

I won't be filling out the same life story interview for the coffee house that I've been using for the other characters. But I will be using a tool from Atkinson's Gift of Stories to track the "life" of the coffee house.

In the book, Atkinson provides a chart for the "chapters of your life." It gives you a place to provide information from different time periods in your life, from events and people to how you felt about what happened. Since the coffee house is preparing to celebrate it's fifth anniversary, there will be five "chapters" for me to fill out for it.

Just as the detailed character biographies will help me tell the characters' stories within the framework of the coffee house book, doing this worksheet for the coffee house itself will help me create the framework for the book.

This will be the last piece of the background writing I need to do before I start actually writing the coffee house book. I still have quite a bit of work to do before I get there, but I know that once that worksheet is filled out, I'll be ready to write the coffee house book.

Now the question is whether or not I'll get it done before New Year's Eve....

19 December 2010

Away on Vacation

Ladies and gentlemen, my family and I are off enjoying a family reunion Christmas cruise this week. See how excited Bean and I are?

Bean and the Coffee-Stained Writer on Bean's first cruise
October 2010

I do have a couple of posts scheduled for this week while I'm gone, and my tequila-stained heart sister may stop in to write something.

Happy Holidays, and please stay safe!

#reverb10 Prompt, Day 18: Try (late)

What do you want to try next year? Is there something you wanted to try in 2010? What happened when you did/didn't go for it?

Image: Sujin Jetkasettakorn
I want to be more conscious about how I take care of myself and my family, as well as how I take care of the earth. I try to be conscious about what I put into my body (food, medicines), and I try to be conscious about being somewhat "green," but I'm not as eco-friendly as I'd like to be.

Next year, I want to make a conscious effort to get to a more natural lifestyle, and not just by buying organic foods.


I am going to try and incorporate a more earth-friendly menu for my family. We're going to start eating less processed foods, and organic when we can. We're going to eat seasonally and, when possible, locally.

I'm blessed to be in an area that has lots of farmers' markets, and I want to take advantage of them.

In addition, I'm trying to gravitate toward a vegetarian lifestyle. I don't eat much meat to begin with, so it wouldn't be a big shock to my system to move to a meat-free diet. But I do feel it's a positive step for me. My sister-in-law is an environmentalist (she'd make a great activist/advocate), and has pointed me in the right direction for a lot of information I've been seeking. As a result, I just don't like eating meat.

Of course, I can't force that lifestyle on my whole family, but Hubby has agreed to one meatless day a week (to start), which I'll take as a positive step.

Household Products

I also want to start using natural cleaning products at home. When I think about all the chemicals I expose myself and my family to every day by keeping our home clean, it worries me (especially being pregnant!). By using natural cleaning products, we'll all be exposed to far less chemicals, and be healthier.


Believe it or not, there are chemicals in clothing, too! In dyes and in the materials that make synthetic fabrics. So as I start acquiring my post-pregnancy wardrobe (because, let's face it, I need new clothes), I'm going to buy natural fabrics dyed with natural dyes. (For example, I already have a skirt that uses vegetable dyes on all-natural fabric.)


I also plan to try and spend more time in nature. I always feel better when I take time to breath fresh air, to feel the sunshine, and to get to see the trees and animals in my area. So 2011 will be a year of much more time outdoors.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I'm a bit of a hippie. Big whoop. Wanna fight about it?

#reverb10 Prompt, Day 15: 5 Minutes (late)

Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010.

  • I want to remember how it felt to have a fresh year to start with, knowing it would be a good year.
  • I want to remember taking Bean to our family in Illinois for the first time, meeting my dad's family, spending Easter with my mom and family.
  • I want to remember my first Mother's Day.
  • I want to remember getting my full-time freelancing gig, and the excited anticipation with which I faced my first project.
  • I want to remember celebrating three wonderful years with my husband.
  • I want to remember Bean's first Independence Day, and how well he did with the fireworks.
  • I want to remember my son's first birthday party. 
  • I want to remember my son's baptism. 
  • I want to remember finding out that I was pregnant with our second child, knowing our family would grow in love, and that Bean would be a big brother.
  • I want to remember Bean's first cruise.
  • I want to remember watching Bean play in sand at the beach for the first time, and after being afraid of it, digging into it and crying when it was time to go back to the cruise ship.
  • I want to remember facing NaNoWriMo, and learning more about my writing than I expected in the process.
  • I want to remember finding out the gender of our second child.
  • I want to remember the feeling of facing 2011 with both wonderful blessings and struggles, knowing that it, too, will be a good year.

18 December 2010

#reverb10 Prompt, Day 17: Lesson learned (late)

What was the best thing you learned about yourself this past year? And how will you apply that lesson going forward?

I learned to trust myself this year.

I've spent much of my time trying to make other people happy, and worrying about how what I decide will affect others. As a result, I often make decisions that probably aren't the best for me. By learning to trust myself, I'm worrying less about what others think and doing what I know is best for me.

I know it's a process, and I may stumble, but it's something I'm working on little by little.

#reverb10 Prompt, Day 16: Friendship (late)

How has a friend changed you or your perspective on the world this year? Was this change gradual, or a sudden burst?

I think this is the kind of answer that writers will understand, but others may not. And that's okay since most of my readers are, in fact, writers.

I have had a few friends who have changed me (and my perspective) this year, but not in the way you'd think.

Of course friends have been important to me this year. My best friend, Kell, has been invaluable in listening to me complain, offering writerly and personal support, and just generally being there for me. My heart sister, Dana, is always there to listen, remind me of why I'm a writer, and keep me laughing. I had some rough moments in 2010, and my friends--especially Kell and Dana--have been the people who have gotten me through those spots.

But as for change, the friends who have had the biggest impact on me....aren't real.

I've done a lot of thinking and reworking of the characters in the coffee house book this year, and in the process have learned a lot about them, the coffee house story, and myself.

It's funny how characters will do that to you. As you're thinking about them, creating every facet of their personalities, you end up thinking about yourself, as well. They become sort of real to you, and as you think about the situations in their lives, their struggles and successes, whether or not they've made the right decisions, you also start to think about who you are in comparison. (Well, I do, at least.) And, believe it or not, the characters I'm creating are helping me make positive changes in my own life, and work to become the woman I want to be.

Funny how much writing can affect your life, isn't it?

16 December 2010

Twelve Coffee-Stained Months (2010)

My dear heart sister Dana posted this over at the cantina, so I thought I'd join in, as well. Her blog explains
The rules for this meme are simple, as explained by DrugMonkey: Post the link and first sentence from the first blog entry for each month of the past year.
So I present The Coffee Stained Writer in 2010:

January: One of my goals this year (I would say resolutions, but that sounds so...intimidating) is to read more. (from "Coffee-Stained Pages: an Introduction")

February: I'm adjusting to my schedule. (from "This Week's Task List")

March: Continue working on the coffee house book. (from "This Week's Task List")

April: Voting on the contest begins today (I know it was supposed to start tomorrow, but this is my contest and I say it starts today. Big whoop. Wanna fight about it?), and is open to all readers. (from "CONTEST VOTING")

May: Yesterday, you learned some things to keep in mind when selecting a beta reader for your work. (from "Beta readers, part two")

June: Traditional publishing is the process most writers go through in order to publish their books. (from "What is traditional publishing?")

July: Have you ever heard the term "BIC" in regards to writing? (from "BIC and me")

August: I know some of us don't really want to think about it yet, but I can't help but notice that November is a few short months away. (from "November approaches....")

September: Has it really been so long since I've updated? (from "All work and no play....")

October: The weather is getting cooler here. (from "Fall weather, family news, and a little sadness")

November: Congratulations! (from "NaNoWriMo Pep Talk #1: [insert clever, inspiring title here]")

December: Well, now that November is officially over, I'm curious about how the experience was for you. (from "NaNoWriMo Aftermath: How was it?")

14 December 2010

#reverb10 Prompt, Day 14: Appreciate

What's the one thing you have come to appreciate most in the past year? How do you express gratitude for it?

As cheesy as it may sound, the thing I've come to appreciate most in the past year has been the fact that I'm a full-time writer (from home).

I knew in college I wanted to be a writer. I decided to take a bit of a risk and earn a degree in English (creative writing) without education or journalism or anything like that. My degree is just in creative writing. Even then, I stepped out on the edge of practical in order to follow a passion.

After graduation, I took a job at my alma mater that involved writing. After that I took a job as a high school English teacher (for me: yech!). After that, I became a full-time freelance writer.

Since then my writing has developed, my career has developed, and I have full-time work from home as a freelance writer. And I couldn't be happier.

Not only do I get to stay home and play with my son all day long, but I get to have my dream job while I do it. Realistically, how many English graduates do you know that actually get to be full-time writers? I even have time to write fiction once in a while! How cool is that?

Of course, I've had my ups and downs, and there have been lean months. But every month, it's getting better. I'm building my client list, and was even told recently that in addition to more work from a previous client, I'll be getting referrals for additional work from a previous client. (Yay for a busy 2011!) I feel like I'm really making my way as a freelance writer, and all the work I put in a few years ago is paying off.

For those who are struggling, for those who are contemplating it, for those who think it's too good to be true.... it can be done. It's not easy, and it can take a long time, but it can be done!

And if you keep working, you'll put yourself in a position to be able to say you really do love what you do!

I'm livin' the dream, baby!

13 December 2010

#reverb10 Prompt, Day 13: Action

When it comes to aspirations, it's not about ideas. It's about making ideas happen. What's your next step?

This is the kind of prompt I've been waiting for. One of the things that drew me to #reverb10 was thinking about next year in terms of my fiction-writing. What do I want to put out there in 2011? How do I want to change the way things are to head the direction I want them to go?

Well, here we go!

For the coffee house, I'm working on the character biographies right now. It's technically under the category of background information for the coffee house, but since I can't write the coffee house book without them, it's also action. But for the sake of this post, let's look ahead a little bit.

Once the character biographies are finished, it'll be time to write the first draft of the coffee house book. My plan is to start writing it in January 2011, and be done with it before Bunny is born. (Since Bunny is due May 4th, I'd like to have the first draft written by April 10th, just in case.) Then I'll take May off from writing as maternity leave, and when I get back to fiction-writing in June or July, I'll be ready to start editing.

I feel good knowing I'm on my way to having this book written (finally), and that I'm taking action to make things happen.

It's all well and good to say I'm writing the coffee house book, but until I actually do it, it's not really true, is it?

12 December 2010

Character Biographies

Ugh. These character biographies are going to be the death of me. Let me 'splain.

No. Too much to 'splain. Let me sum up.

The coffee house book has a large cast of characters. And because of the way I'm writing it, each character kind of has to be treated like the main character. That means each character has a detailed character biography.

For my detailed biographies, I use the Life Story Interview found in Robert Atkinson's The Gift of Stories. (It's meant to write someone's life story, and covers just about everything you could think of for a life story interview. It's great for character biographies, not to mention the rest of the book is great for the craft of writing.) Some time ago, I typed the questions into a template in Google Docs, and when I need to do a character biography, I save a copy and go through and answer the questions. Easy-peasy, right? Well, yes, except that the unanswered biography is 9 typed pages.


I have one completed biography for the coffee house book, and it's 16 typed pages. And I have lots more of these to do. It's taking a bit longer to do than I expected originally, but I know it'll be worth it when I start writing.

I know some people who swear by character biographies, and others who create the characters as they write their first drafts. Whatever works for you is fine with me. I'm not here to persuade anyone into using character biographies anymore than I'm here to tell you that you "should" use outlines or scene summaries prior to writing (I use both). But I do want you to know why I do character biographies, and why these particular biographies are so important to the coffee house book, as well as some future books I'm planning.

Let me start by saying that I'm not writing a series, really. The stories I'm working on don't follow a bigger story in the way a series does. However, the stories I'm working on are connected. They all take place in the same town, and there are characters that overlap between the books, and personal characters' stories that are developed across the books. (I'm considering them a collection of books rather than a series.)

Because of the way I'm writing the coffee house book (and the future books I'm working on), every character is just as important as every other. It's up to the reader to decide who's "the" main character. That's why I'm using Atkinson's interview for all of them. They all have stories to share within the framework of the bigger story, and I have to do justice to all of them.

I have a lot of work to do if I want to finish these biographies by the end of the month. The good news is that when I finish the character biographies for this book, I'll also have some of the character biographies done for both the funeral book and the wedding book, as well as the other books I'm planning/working on.

On a side note, this collection will have tons of bonus material for anyone who would want to know more!

#reverb10 Prompt, Day 12: Body Integration

This year, when did you feel the most integrated with your body? Did you have a moment where there wasn't mind and body, but simply a cohesive YOU, alive and present?

As has happened with many other prompts, this is something I've been thinking about lately. I've been fortunate enough to be able to peruse other participants' posts already, and this post has created a bit of mixed feelings about #reverb10, I think.

There are some who are saying this prompt is a bit too "new-age" for them, and implies that we should all feel something is "wrong" with us. I can see why they say that. And I can also see why others, who do strive for a deeper connection between mind and body, appreciate the prompt.

What follows is my take on it, allowing readers to realize, of course, that this is my personal view and I'm entitled to it, so pppbbbbbbttt!

I do try to have an integration between my mind and body beyond the normal my-mind-controls-my-body connection. But instead of seeing it as an integration or connection, I see it as an awareness.

There is a connection between mind and body in things like yoga, in which you focus your mind on your body, connecting your thoughts and breath to the movements of yoga. There's also a connection between mind and body when you're aware of how you take care of yourself, and what you do to ensure your body (and mind) is at its best.

In my post about things yesterday, I said one of the things I want to get rid of in 2011 is unhealthy habits. This includes junk food and lack of exercise, but also being aware of how my environment affects my body. I'm moving toward using more natural cleaners in my home, and am converting my wardrobe to natural fabrics. After all, if I'm trying to be more mindful of what I put into my body (pesticides in foods, processed foods, etc.), wouldn't it follow that I'm trying to be more mindful of what I put on my body (processed fabrics, chemical dyes, etc.)?

In this process of getting rid of unhealthy habits, I do feel more of an "integration" between mind and body. I feel healthier and better about myself, and I'm already seeing some of the long-term affects of the changes (more energy, less stress, etc.).

And I know it will only get better as I work to be a healthier me.

11 December 2010

#reverb10 Prompt, Day 11: Things

What are 11 things your life doesn't need in 2011? How will you go about eliminating them? How will getting rid of these 11 things will change your life?

I've been thinking a lot about eliminating things in my life lately. Since moving, I've been trying to de-clutter and streamline my life. It will certainly make for a less stressful lifestyle.

Household clutter. This includes things like clothes we don't wear anymore, knick-knacks that were gifts that we don't like, paperwork that has been taking up space in boxes and folders, etc. Since I work from home, clutter around the house is clutter in my work space, and is just one more distraction I don't really need to keep me from writing.

I'm going to start sorting as I clean. When I do laundry, I won't automatically put everything away. If it's worn out, it gets thrown out. Things that have been sitting for a while and haven't been worn are getting donated. Only the items that we wear will be kept. As for knick-knacks...if I don't have them out and am not attached to them, I'll be donating them. If they're broken, I'll be tossing them. It may sound a bit ruthless, but it's what's going to happen.

Television. I'm not necessarily saying I'm going to quit watching TV in 2011, but I feel like I watch too much TV, and that's something I'd like to work on. It's so easy to sit down on the couch and watch something mindless, and that's time I could be using to work on the coffee house book (or funeral book), or doing other things around the house that need to be done. I'm sure I'll still have shows I enjoy watching, but I'm not going to find something to watch just for the sake of watching television anymore.

Negativity. Sometimes I can be a bit negative. I don't like to be, and I try not to be, but it does creep in sometimes. And if others are being negative, it's worse. I let their negativity affect me, and I become negative, as well. I hate it, and it's something I've been working on getting rid of for some time. 2011 is the year I'll do it.

If I catch myself being negative, I'll make an effort to turn my thoughts to positive aspects of whatever's going on. I do this in my journal sometimes. For every negative thought I have, I have to come up with at least one positive one. It really does help, and I think by trying to be more conscious of it, I'll be able to get rid of a lot of negativity in my life.

Of course, there are also negative people in my life. Some of them I've already distanced myself from, which has helped, but others are in my life for life. When these people are negative, I'm going to have to either ignore it, or let them know (politely) that I don't really want to hear that kind of negativity because of the way it affects me. If they can't understand that, then I'll have to spend less time with them.

Procrastination. I can be a terrible procrastinator. Even when I'm excited about something, I can find reasons to not do it or to work on something else first. As a result, I'm not nearly as far in my coffee house book character biographies as I should be in order to start writing in January, and there are lots of boxes in our storage closet that haven't been unpacked.

I'm already trying to work on this by making task lists for myself for each week, and then dividing them into daily lists. By knowing what I have to do, and knowing how much I've gotten done, I'm better able to stay on top of things.

I also like to reward myself. "As soon as you finish this project for work, you can catch up on your blog reading." It gives me incentives to keep working and moving forward, as well as giving me periodic breaks which, for a pregnant woman, are much-needed.

Unhealthy habits. I'm terrible about the foods I eat and not exercising. Lately, I've been using the excuse of pregnancy to allow it, but I know I need to take better care of myself. So I'm working on creating healthier habits for myself and my family. I know that by exercising regularly (after this baby is born, I'm on the C25K bandwagon), eating healthier, and being aware of what's in my environment (chemical cleaners, non-natural fabrics), I'll be healthier, happier, and more productive in my daily life. Hubby thinks I'm turning into a bit of a hippie, but I just want to be healthy.

Letting everyone else decide what's best for me. This is a terrible habit of mine. I talk to people about what's going on in my life, and when they give advice, or tell me what I "should" do, I end up feeling guilty if I do something different, even if I know in my heart it's what's best for me.

That word--should--is a dangerous word when wielded by people who are about you. Of course, they mean well, but as much as you tell them about a situation, only you know what's best. I have to remember that and do what's best for me, no matter what everyone else says I "should" do.

This is a mindset thing, so I'm not exactly sure how to go about changing it, but it's something that will change in 2011.

Grudges. When I say grudges, I don't really mean that when I'm mad at someone I stay mad at them forever. What I really mean is that when something happens, even after it's been resolved, I think about it for a long time afterward. I think about what I could have done differently, what should have happened, etc. This is especially true when someone hurts me, whether they realize it or not.

I need to learn to let go of things. Most of the time, after something happens, the other person forgets about it and moves on. I'm the only one who obsesses about it for a long time afterward. And all it does is cause me to feel anxiety and to be stressed. So I need to stop. When something is over, I have to learn to move on from it, too.

Facebook. I'm not going to delete my Facebook account or stop updating or anything like that. I have family all over, and Facebook is a good way to keep in touch with people I don't get to see very often (or at all). But I also know I spend time on Facebook when I feel like I have nothing else to do (as in, don't want to do what I should be doing), and it's kind of a time-sink. So I'm going to work on updating a few times throughout the day (or even only once a day), and that's it. I have other things to do.

Self-doubt. As I said in the explanation of letting others decide what's best for me, I need to trust that I know what's best for me. I need to work on not doubting my decisions, and trust myself. I need to stick by what I believe is the right course of action.

I don't know how to do this one, though. It's something I've been trying to work on for most of my adult life. (Suggestions are welcome!)

The need for validation. This goes along with self-doubt. When I do make a decision, I often turn to others (usually Hubby) for validation, to feel like it was the right one.

Again, I need to trust myself.

Guilt. Yeah, these last few could probably be consolidated into one thing to eliminate, but I do see them as different things. They have to be worked on in different ways. So with the guilt thing, I need to let go of things once they're done, trust myself, and keep moving forward. Once I make a decision, it's made, after all. I can't go back and change anything, but just move on from where I am as a result of that decision.

10 December 2010

#reverb10 Prompt, Day 10: Wisdom

What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out?

The wisest decision I made in 2010 has to do with the coffee house book. I decided that the story needed to be told in first-person point of view.

It was a decision that wasn't easy to make, but once I did, I felt like the whole story came together in a great way. The pieces that weren't quite fitting fell together, and it made more sense to me. Using first-person point of view is going to make the writing process more difficult, but the end result will be much better.

It's funny how that happens sometimes. The best decisions aren't always the easiest, but worth it.

I'm still waiting to see how the whole process plays out for the coffee house book, but I will say I'm definitely more excited about the coffee house book than I ever have been.

09 December 2010

#reverb10 Prompt, Day 9: Party

What social gathering rocked your socks off in 2010? Describe the people, music, food, drinks, clothes, shenanigans.

I'm not a party person, really. I'd much rather have a quiet evening at home with my family than to go out drinking with friends (especially because of the whole pregnancy thing I've got going on right now). So I can't really think of a party that knocked my socks off.

I know, it's kind of a cop-out to say that, but it's true. Other than birthday celebrations for family, I can't think of any party I even went to this year. And really, that's fine with me. Being a bit hermit-y, I don't have much fun at parties, anyway.

Things may be picking up

I've been working from home since before Bean was born. I've been working full-time from home (with a particular company) since mid-May. It's a good job in a good field, and I enjoy it.

Well, I found out recently that I'm technically still in the running to be a guide for About.com. I applied for the position way back in March, and when I hadn't heard anything after a while, I just figured it had been filled. Well, when I was perusing their available Guide positions recently, I found out it was still open, and they still have my application. If I get the position, it will definitely add to my workload.

There's also a similar position I just put my application in for, and am hoping to get some news on it soon.

In addition, I heard from a previous client (I did an editing project for her) who will have work for me soon, and will also have some referrals for me. (Squee with me, won't you?) I don't know how soon this work will be, but it'll be in the "near future."

So it looks like I'm going to be a busy writer. I'm glad for the work, of course, but it may mean I need to adjust my daily schedule to accommodate the additional workload(s).

Right now, I like my work/writing schedule. It allows me to spend a great deal of time with Bean, stay on top of the housework (I can't think if my kitchen is a mess!), and keep up with my writing. I work throughout the day, for no more than three hours at a time.

On a good day I get about nine hours of writing in a day, and on a bad day, it's still at least four. But I don't know if "four on a bad day" would be enough if I get an About.com position and the work from the previous client and referrals. Especially considering the fact that I have a baby coming in the spring!

However, I still intend to work throughout the day with no more than a three- or four-hour writing block at a time. Not only do I start to get a little burned out after three or four hours and need a break, but that's about all Bean can handle, too.

So the question becomes whether I add time to the beginning of the day before Bean gets up, at the end of the day after he goes to bed, or on the weekend when Hubby is home? What say you, freelancers?

08 December 2010

#reverb10 Prompt, Day 8: Beautifully Different

Think about what makes you different and what you do that lights people up. Reflect on all things that make you different - you'll find they're what make you beautiful.

This is going to be a hard one for me, I think. I have this thing where I don't really think I'm beautiful, and that it's easier for me to believe the bad things about myself than the good things, etc. So I definitely see myself as different, but it's the beautiful aspect of it that's a little harder.

But the prompt says that what makes me different is what makes me beautiful, so I'm trying to trust in that for the purposes of this post.

So I present to you my differences (in no particular order):

  1. I've had chicken pox twice.
  2. I lived in Germany for three years.
  3. I broke my arm when I fell off a clothesline pole.
  4. I curl my toes under my feet when I sit with my feet on the floor.
  5. My body doesn't like dairy products very much.
  6. I often avoid Dr. Pepper because it's a little like a drug to me. When I get it, I drink a lot of it.
  7. I absolutely can't sleep with socks on.
  8. I talk to my characters when I'm working on stories. (Writers will get this, but to everyone else, it'll make me "different.")
  9. When I write, I tilt my head to the right.
And, because I'm different, I'm going to resist the urge to give you ten things that make me different. Ten is a nice, round number. You get nine things. Ha!

People are made up of every thing about them. Their personalities, their quirks, their differences. These are the things that make us who we are: individuals.

It's easy to say that these things make me beautiful, but it's much harder to put into practice. Because they are identified as differences. They're things that make me not like other people. And growing up, that's what I wanted was to be like everyone else. I didn't want to be different or weird or whatever else. And it's hard to break that mindset now that I'm being told that different is what makes me beautiful.

I suppose I'll figure it out someday.

07 December 2010

#reverb10 Prompt, Day 7: Community

Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011?

I don't usually feel a sense of community anywhere. Being a hermit-y work-at-home mom type, I'm usually content to be left to my own devices and gain my human interactions from my husband, or from online groups. So a lot of my sense of community comes from online groups--Facebook, forums, etc.--and a few of those have been strengthened this year.

But as much as I enjoy the friendships I've developed in my online communities, there is still a part of me that feels "outside." These connections I have are based online, and as much as I divulge to the people I talk to, they don't really know me, do they? They know the online me.

I know people say it's important to feel connected, and often when they say that, they're referring to a community of some sort. But when I think about needing to feel connected, I'm much more comfortable with the idea of being connected to something bigger than a group of people with common interests. I see it as much more important to be connected to the world around me on a deeper level.

That's why, I think, when I need a sense of community with something, I find myself wanting to be outside in nature. I want to feel the air and sun and smell the trees. I want to look at the clouds and the moon and the stars.

I can get human interaction when I need it. I can talk to adults when I want to. But community is about togetherness, about connection. For me, community is in nature.

And if I can keep that going in 2011, it will be a successful year.

06 December 2010

#reverb10 Prompt, Day 6: Make

What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it?

I think the last thing I made was adding to a scrap book I'd started about a year earlier. It's a scrapbook I love very much, and is quite important to me.

To make it, I used the scrapbook album I'd started before, and added pages to it. The only materials I needed for this were embellishment papers I bought from Target, and acid-free ink pens. Everything in it is handwritten, and decorated with the embellishment papers (and stickers that came with the pack). The time I took to work on this was much-needed time for myself, and I was glad to get it. I used it to sort of re-center and slow down.

I would love to make a quilt, but I definitely need time for that, since I've never done it before. Some day, I hope to be able to sew proficiently enough to make clothes and quilts. In the meantime, I'll have to live vicariously through those I know who do sew.

My New Office Space

As you probably know, we've moved. We now live very near to Hubby's office (we can see it from our balcony, actually, and Hubby walks to work) in a cute little two-bedroom apartment.

My office space is actually in the dining room at our table for now. We have a friend staying with us for a couple of months, and when he gets his own place, I'll be moving to the desk he's using now. When that happens, I'll have a bit more room to spread out (and keep things out during and after supper), but for now, this is where I am, and I'm happy with it. I'm in a good location in the house, I can have eyes on Bean as I work, and I have room on the table for what I need to do.

The only thing there's no room for at the moment is my printer, but since I do minimal printing, that's fine for now.

I'm still getting my space set up the way I want it, so I don't have pictures yet. But I have an office space, and I'm excited to be working in my new space!

Where do you write? (If you send pictures, I'll post them!)

05 December 2010

#reverb10 Prompt, Day 5: Let Go

What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why?

In many ways, this has been a great year for me. In other ways, it's been a difficult year. I've learned a lot of lessons this year, and one of them has led me to let go of something that has been causing nothing but problems in my life.

I've always been the type of person who holds on to things long after they've happened, particularly when I've been hurt by whatever has happened. It's not that I hold grudges against other people, but when someone hurts me, I think about what I could have done differently, what led up to the event, etc. Some might say I obsess over it. Because of this mindset, I often make decisions in my life based on what I think other people's reactions will be, or what they'll think of the decision.

This year, I realized that living my life that way has been hurting me, and I was tired of it. I can't keep worrying so much about other people that I don't take care of myself and my family.

So I've been working on letting go of all the "shoulds" in my life. You know what I mean: I should do this to keep so-and-so happy. I should avoid this because of that person.

Instead, I'm trying to live my life based on what I know is best for me, for my son, and for my husband. I've been remembering that the advice people give doesn't have to be taken.

And I'm letting go of should.

04 December 2010

Puzzle pieces are falling together

I haven't worked on the coffee house book in a long time.

Image: nuttakit / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Part of that is because I was struggling with how to pull it together in order to fit my vision of what it is, and part of that is because, quite simply, life got in the way. In fact, until NaNoWriMo rolled around this year, I wasn't writing any fiction at all for quite some time.

I learned a lot from NaNoWriMo this year. And what I learned prepared me for December 2010, in which I'm reorganizing everything I have for the coffee house book (as well as the funeral book and the wedding book--more info about those to come later), and preparing to start writing in January 2011. This means character biographies, a detailed description of the coffee house (perhaps even sketches, not that I'm really a visual artist), and pages and pages of notes in my notebook.

Thanks to my best friend and fellow writer, Kell, I have a better idea of the bigger picture of my writing, and am much better prepared for it.

Thanks to Hubby, who listens to me prattle on and on about random characters, I have a better idea of how the coffee house book fits together in terms of the funeral and wedding books.

And thanks to my heart sister, Dana, who has been a wonderful encouragement to me, even when I wasn't sure I could write the coffee house book, it's getting done.

Watch out, January. You're going to be coffee-stained.

#reverb10 Prompt, Day 4: Wonder

How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?

My son has always provided a sense of wonder in my life. In 2009, it was a wonder just to be near him and see him. This year, as he's growing and changing, my sense of wonder comes from the sense of wonder he experiences in the world every day.

Every moment is new to him, everything is interesting and needs to be "figured" out, and there's a new adventure around every corner. My life is wonderful because of him.

03 December 2010

#reverb10 Prompt, Day 3: Moment

Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors).

It was a Wednesday morning in November. It wasn't particularly early, but I had a little time to myself.

The apartment looked a lot smaller than the day before. Carefully labelled boxes were stacked in the dining room, making it temporarily unusable, dishes and kitchen appliances were on the kitchen counters waiting to be washed and put away in the cabinets, and the living room smelled very slightly like a storage unit and needed to be vacuumed. It was our first morning in the new apartment.

My husband was at work already, and my son wasn't up yet, so I sat on the worn couch, covered in a floral bed sheet until we could get a proper slipcover, with my laptop warming my pajamaed legs. Our TV and Internet wouldn't be hooked up until that afternoon, so I had a morning with no work and no mindless television to keep me occupied. But neither did I quite have the energy to unpack yet.

It was as good a time as any to work on the NaNo novel I knew I wouldn't finish. I didn't know why I'd decided to undertake the annual adventure knowing that we were moving in the same week my son had a surgical procedure, and only a week before Thanksgiving. As impossible as the task of 50,000 words seemed in 30 days ordinarily, this year seemed particularly insurmountable.

Still, it was a good reminder of why I called myself a writer. I missed fiction. I missed creating characters, conflicts, and watching something come from a blank white screen on my computer. NaNoWriMo got me writing fiction again, and that was important.

When I set out to write the novel I called Pondered in Her Heart in November 2010, I was excited about the idea. I could see it working, and I saw long-term possibilities to expand it, as well. It would be good for what it accomplished. But it was that morning, in those moment before the baby monitor signaled that it was time for a fresh diaper and a bowl of Cream of Wheat, that I realized exactly what NaNoWriMo 2010 meant for me.

Yes, it was about writing, and it was about sharing this story that had been knocking around in the back of my head for a while. But it was also about fiction. Just plain fiction. It had been so long since I'd really written fiction that I didn't need it the way I once had. I didn't think about my characters when I was doing other things, I didn't see a swirl of dish soap in my kitchen sink and jot a note to change a description in the fourth chapter.

Pondered in Her Heart didn't matter anymore. Oh, I was sure I'd keep working on it in November. And maybe I'd even finish it. Someday. But Pondered in Her Heart was simply a method to remind me of my real passion, my real project. It was just a writing exercise to warm me up to working on the coffee house again. I was, after all, the coffee-stained writer.

In the last half hour I had on the couch before my son called for me from his four-in-one crib, I did do some writing on my NaNo novel. But I spent most of it looking over what was saved here and there for my coffee house book.

And I made plans for December.