Camp NaNo Update Day #20

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Jordan_sharp

School photo shoot

As my three adult children have not seen fit to add me to the ranks of adoring grandparents, from time-to-time, I get to play Nene to my grandnephew, Jordan.

He’s three… going on forty-seven, and the reason my posts are late today and totally off topic from what I had planned.

Jordan loves all things car-related, Monster Jam Trucks, popcorn, toast (yes, toast…with butter, NO jam) and Snoopy makes him gut-laugh without moving a muscle. He also likes to speak in the third person.

And he loves stories.

I’ve added a new computer and desk to the writing cave since he was last here, so of course, he had to check it out and we had the following short conversation.

J: Whatcha’ doin’, Nene?

Me: Writing a story.

J: *Gasps* Is it a story for Jordan?

Me: No, it’s a story for big people.

J: You’re not writing a story for Jordan?

Me: No, not this time.

J:  *Thoughtful look* Are there Monster Jam trucks in the story?

Me: No, J.

J: *shakes head* Then it’s not for Jordan.

Me: Isn’t that what I said, little boy?

J: Nene, you said the story was for big people, but if there’s Monster Jam Trucks, it’s my story too.

Then he turns and walks out of the room, leaving me sitting here with a “What just happened?” look on my face.

A three-year-old just schooled me on honing in on my audience and marketing my work.

Who am I writing for?

What am I including or purposely excluding?

Do I bring those points out when promoting?

Even though he’ll never know, I need to work a Monster Jam truck reference into Sins of the Mother… or serve someone toast.

Well played, Jordan… and thanks!

Jordan at the Sabino Canyon Falls.

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Day 20 word count – 34,314

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©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

Camp NaNo Update Day #19

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If my browser history were put on blast, I’d look like I was plotting MAJOR murder!

Back of head blunt force trauma

Ways to kill without spilling blood

Painless deaths

Pulmonary embolism

Air embolism

Empty syringes

Anaphylactic shock

Response time needed to save victim of Anaphylactic shock

Poisons with no taste or smell

Clear poisons

Deadly flowers

Edible flowers

Poisonous fruit

This doesn’t look good, does it?

If someone I know dies suspiciously anytime soon, I could have a problem… or two.

In these times of forensic pathology, it’s getting harder and harder to get away with murder.

Er, I mean I’m not up to ANYTHING, I swear!

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Day 19 word count – 32,637

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©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

Camp NaNo Update Day #18

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Look just about anywhere on the internet and you can find memes, coffee mugs, t-shirts, book bags, and dozens of other writer-inspired items with variations of the warning, “Be careful or I’ll put you in my next book.”

And, sometimes, it happens just like that.

The rude woman behind you in the check-out lane becomes the rude neighbor who gets bitten by a dog… in your book.

The nice guy you thought was The One but turned out to be a jerk becomes the arrogant coworker outed for embezzlement and hauled off to jail… in your book.

The BFF you’ve known since grade school steals and maxes out your credit card becomes the scheming queen who gets eaten by a dragon… in your book.

It’s a passive/aggressive way to take revenge or give karma a helping hand.

But it’s not always for justice.

In Free, a Novella, psychologist and retired pastor, James Richie, and his receptionist wife Alice, are modeled after my dear friends, James and Alice Richie.

Married almost fifty years before James’ death, some of the snarky banter battles they share actually happened. One of my biggest joys was Alice’s reaction after reading the book, “Girl, you nailed us.”

Counselors Diane and Leo Payton from the upcoming Family Matters are based on… Diane and Leo Payton, close friends who have been foster parents for most of their forty-year-marriage, in addition to having four biological children.

It’s not difficult to develop characters based on people you know. You simply have to remember. In the case of seeking/getting revenge a bit of embellishment could be added in. Maybe.

But what about when it’s not done intentionally?

Gavin Marks is a detective sergeant in my CampNaNo project, Sins of the Mother. While reading over a scene of him in the squad room briefing other detectives, I laughed at a comment he made and thought, “That’s something Jeff would say.”

And then it clicked.

I pulled up Gavin’s profile. I scanned over all of his dialogue, and I laughed again… at myself.

I’d modeled the detective after my younger brother, Jeff, without even realizing it, right down to his being a life-long Dallas Cowboys fan.

OOPS!

My first thought was to re-sketch Gavin. My second thought was all the scenes and dialogue he’s included in.

Not happening.

I called Jeff and told him what I’d done. He laughed it off and made me promise to see him a free print copy after the book is released. He also said, “No worries, sis. If this Gavin-dude is based on me, he’s awesome!”

Ugh, brothers!

I hate it when he’s right.

Day 17 word count – 30, 717

©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

Camp NaNo Update Day #17

Camp NaNo Update Day #17

While working on Sins of the Mother, certain scenes made me question the story’s genre.

I listed it as Thriller/Suspense for CampNaNo, but the mystery of the story is a common thread throughout the read.

Not wanting to settle for the all-encompassing Mystery, Thriller, & Suspense garbage-bag term, I consulted my wise Literary Wizard, an ex-pat Brit with a way with words and a fondness for chocolate.

After a few pertinent questions, she sent me a link defining the genres in question.

The link helped me decide, but it also opened up the whole confusing realm of writing genres.

After several searches, I found there is an accepted definition of genre but not so much what falls into those genres.

Merriam-Webster defines genre as

a category of artistic, musical, or literary composition characterized by a particular style, form, or content

Key in that definition is “… particular style, form, or content”

Who gets to decide?

In the past, traditional publishers categorized books for maximum exposure and sales.

But with the advent of self-publishing and small presses, the decision now falls to authors themselves.

Are we doing it correctly?

Depends on whom you ask.

Wikipedia defines literary fiction as one or more of the following:

a concern with social commentary, political criticism, or reflection on the human condition.

a focus on “introspective, in-depth character studies” of “interesting, complex and developed” characters, whose “inner stories” drive the plot, with detailed motivations to elicit “emotional involvement” in the reader.

a character-centric work (here in a pejorative sense) and, even, portraiture at the expense of any substantive plot.

a slower pace than popular fiction. As Terrence Rafferty notes, “literary fiction, by its nature, allows itself to dawdle, to linger on stray beauties even at the risk of losing its way”.

a concern with the style and complexity of the writing… “elegantly written, lyrical, and … layered”.

Browse the literary fiction category of any online retailer. None of the criteria will apply to many of the books found there.

The same goes for the sub-genre, multicultural.

What makes a book multicultural? The author? Content?

Is multicultural the inclusion of more than one real-world ethnicity or culture, or does it also apply to alien, vampiric, and lycanthropic pairings?

Sounds bizarre, but you’ll find all the above and more in the genre.

Genre placement (or misplacement) begs the question, “are genres even relevant anymore?” And are they for passion—writers sharing their work with like-minded readers; or profit?

It’s an issue which will continue to be debated while the onus is on readers to sort it all out.

Day 17 word count – 30, 717

©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

Camp NaNo Update Day #16

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I may or may not be just a tad bit anxious.

Okay, fine. I am.

I’ve reached the “now what?” stage of NaNo.

My project goal for Camp NaNo was to add 30K  to an existing piece and by the time this post goes live I’ll have reached that.

No, it’s not done, not even close.

Characters even threw another plot twist at me in the middle of the night! Can’t be mad at them though, it’s pretty good.

Also got the board updated and as you can see,  Act 3 is blank.

Updated Storyboard

And the post-its along the bottom are scenes ‘looking for a home.’

Uh-oh.

Perhaps I low-balled myself with a goal of 30K?

I should adjust the total up, huh?

Or, should I leave it alone?

Maybe I should just keep writing.

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Day 16 word count – 28,977

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©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

Camp NaNo Update Day #15

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Camp NaNo has reached the mid-point! Two weeks, two to go.

No major meltdowns to report… yet. There’s still plenty of time left for one… or two.

Still working on updating my board. Last week was riddled with doctors’ appointments, unplanned visitors,  and fibro issues, so while I did complete my scene cards, they haven’t made it to the board, and I need to figure out where they go! Only me, right?

But as promised, below is the first short excerpt from Sins of the Mother.

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I refuse to be treated like an invalid.

Seventy-four-year-old Greta Lancaster fumed.

I had the batteries replaced in my pacemaker and a defibrillator implanted, not open-heart surgery.

She maneuvered around her bedroom, taking out a fresh nightgown. The surgical area was still numb from her early morning procedure but Greta guarded her movements.

I cannot believe Lawton hired a private duty nurse for a week. A week! Humph! I raised him and his three brothers, helped raise their children, and took care of their father through almost three years of cancer and chemo treatments while dealing with this lazy heart of mine. The day hasn’t come yet when I can’t take care of myself.

Greta sat on the edge of her bed to calm down and collect herself.

She was grateful Lawton took time off from work for her outpatient surgery, but he was wrong for hiring a nurse without consulting her first. To have the woman just show up moments after they returned to her home after the surgery was outrageous. She had no regrets asking them both to leave.

Greta put her clothes away and turned down her bed, ready to spend the rest of the afternoon napping away the anesthetics still in her system.

She reached out to fluff her pillows and froze, a sharp jolt of pain flaring on the left side of her chest near her shoulder.

Oh dear. Guess I will need a pain pill sooner than I thought.

Padding down the hallway to her kitchen, Greta was struck with pangs of regret and a foul stench.

She made Lawton leave before he emptied Catastrophe’s litter box.

She entered the kitchen and exchanged glares with the plump mustard-yellow tabby perched on the kitchen counter.

“I gave you the right name all those years ago, Catastrophe. Some days you’re just one problem after another.”

Greta tried to bend over the offensive litter box to peel away the used liner but pain and lightheadedness ruled out that move.

Keeping her left arm close to her body, Greta Lancaster dragged a bistro chair from her breakfast nook over to the litter box with her right arm and sat down. Leaning over to the right, Greta could peel the edges of the used liner free and lift it from the litter box to reveal a fresh new layer.

She looked at Catastrophe and smirked. “See? I can take care of myself.” Easing from her seat, Greta headed for the back door. “But this cannot stay in the house.”

Still grasping the liner bag, Greta leaned against the counter.

Catastrophe showed his displeasure with a loud mewl.

“Oh, hush, Cat. We’ve been at this so long you should be cleaning your own litter box by now.”

She eyed the back door. Three steps to the door, three steps to the recycle bin… and back.

I can do this.

Standing erect, the senior citizen walked to the back door and gave the knob a slow turn with her left hand. Despite the care she took, sharp stings radiated from her wound site.

She needed that pain pill now.

Foregoing the recycle bin until later, Greta decided just outside the door would be okay for now.

Opening the door, she stepped out onto the stoop and leaned to the right to drop the used liner.

Greta Lancaster didn’t know she wasn’t alone until the figure dressed in black grabbed her from behind, covered her mouth, and dragged her back inside her home.

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Day 15 word count – 28,640

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©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

#MondayBlog The Rules of Writing?

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Don’t use prologues.

Don’t write multiple points of view.

Don’t write in the first person.

Don’t write in present tense.

Don’t write in passive voice.

Don’t head-hop.

Don’t use adverbs.

Show don’t tell.

Sound familiar? These are just a handful of the Rules of Writing. There are more. Many. Many more.

But no need to fear—rules are good things created in part to establish order and organization, maintain quality and maximum outcomes, and define best practices.

They’re also made to be broken.

I’m not saying anyone should write Rebel across their forehead and pen a prologue filled with adverbs. I’m saying you need to know when to break the rules, and moderation is always key.

If you want to include a prologue, go ahead. Prologues can be effective, giving just enough details to set-up the story and prime readers. They should never be info-dumps, burdening readers with information they’re supposed to carry and remember throughout the book.  That’s what plots are for and story details should be shared and shown to readers as the story unfolds.

If your prologue is full of plot points, skip it.

The debate over POVs (points of view) will never end. Some prefer one POV—the protagonist, while others feel the protagonist and the antagonist should be heard from. Still, in genres like romance, POVs of the hero and heroine are popular.

But, it’s the writer who gets to decide the POV of their story, and it should be compelling, always moving the story forward.

A writer once lamented she struggled halfway through her first draft before she realized she had the wrong character telling the story. With a different character’s POV, the story flowed, and in her words, “made so much more sense.”

Multiple POVs can be troublesome and too often lead to head-hopping—multiple POVs in the same scene or chapter.

And that will open up a brand new can of worms.

Some say never, ever, ever hop heads. It’s confusing to the readers and weakens the story.

The opposing teams say it can be done as long as the reader is cued in such a way to know the POV is about to change.

And again, from books and blogs I’ve read and chats I’ve sat in on, head-hopping appears to occur often and be acceptable in the romance genre.

Case in point—author Nora Roberts is a notorious head-hopper who sells books in the millions. Anyone complaining about her books being confusing?

In the end, the issue of head-hopping is between writers and their editors, because they don’t care for it and will point it out.

If you didn’t know any better (like me) or drifted into head-hopping by mistake, correct it and move on.

If it was intentional, be prepared for a fight. You’re not Nora Roberts.

Speaking of famous authors, Stephen King says, “the road to hell is paved with adverbs,” so don’t use them… ever, and who’s going to argue with Stephen King?

Well, J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer might. And William Golding definitely would… while waving his Nobel Prize for literature in your face.

I believe most writers will agree adverbs weaken writing. You can prove it to yourself by writing a paragraph laced with adverbs like, quickly, silently, suddenly, really, and only. Then write the same paragraph replacing adverbs with strong active verbs. There’s no question the second paragraph will be clearer and more compelling… and less exhausting.

Yes, adverbs are considered weak words, but all words have power if used correctly. Books like Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, The Twilight Saga, and Lord of the Flies are still leaving bookstore shelves—adverbs and all.

Again, the problem with the Rules of Writing is all too often you don’t know you’re breaking them until you do. So, it’s in any writer’s best interest to make learning an active part of their writing journey. We’ll never know it all, but it’s better to know when you’re breaking the rules… so you can high-five your inner rebel and enjoy it.

#52weeks52stories “The Sweetest Days”

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#52weeks52stories: Week 28

Word prompt: reunion

Word count – 813;

Reading time – 2 min, 10 sec.

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Moira exited I-94 and rolled to a stop at the traffic signal at the end of the off-ramp.

She drummed her fingers against the steering wheel, indecision tugging at her.

Turning left would take her back to the highway, her hotel, and home in two hours.

Turning right would lead her to the Marriott Hotel… and her thirtieth high school class reunion.

The last thing Moira Lambert wanted to do was attend her class reunion.

She turned right anyway.

High school hadn’t been unpleasant for the homecoming queen and class valedictorian, it just didn’t have the same meaning for her as it did her classmates.

Moira was proud of her accomplishments and honored to be so well-thought of, but everything changed near the end of her senior year and then the only thing that mattered was graduating and leaving Flanders, Indiana.

It’s not too late, Lambert. You could grab your things from the hotel and be home before midnight.

Before she could respond to her own heeding, Moira heard Alexander’s quips.

“Don’t focus on the pain, honey-bunny. God knows we’d never smile if we only remembered the bad times.”

Her pursed lips relaxed into a bittersweet smile. She continued on as though Alexander Lambert was right there guiding her.

She pulled up to valet park in front of the Marriott Hotel and stepped out of her Qx50 accepting her claim stub from the young Latino man who’d opened her door. She thanked him with a smile and headed for the entrance, pretending not to notice the look her valet exchanged with two other young men standing at the valet stand.

She wasn’t angry or offended. Moira knew far too women in her age group who thought nothing of bedding young men half their age and it didn’t matter if they were valets, wait staff or occupied an office across the hall. Moira Lambert didn’t judge. She just wasn’t in that group.

As she entered the hotel, large metallic green signs with yellow glitter text directed members of the Taft High School Class of 1988 to the Grand Ballroom on the lower level.

Moira smirked while walking past the sign.

Kat Volker still had an obsession with glitter.

Approaching the escalator bay, Moira’s steps slowed.

This was the first reunion she’d attended without Alex.

This was the first time she’d done anything other than work since losing her husband of twenty-five years. She knew he’d be disappointed in her.

Like Moira, Alexander Lambert was going through the motions of living when they met on the Purdue University campus.

Tragedy touched his senior year of high also when his mother lost her battle with breast cancer. His misery deepened when he had to move in with his father and stepmother.

Catina Lambert hated him for being a constant reminder Gil Lambert was ever involved with a woman other than her. Her lies and scheming kept the Lambert men at odds so much, Alexander applied for early enrollment to Purdue to get away from the Lambert home.

Melancholy washed over her as the escalator carried her down.

Moira knew she’d met a kindred soul and told Alexander about her parents’ reaction when her older brother, Kevin, came out to them after his college graduation.

Big Abraham Jennings had balked at his only son being a fairy, and Genova Jefferson Jennings knew the Flanders African Methodist Church would shun them all.

Moira stayed at her brother’s side, holding his hand, ashamed of her parents for the first time in her life.

But it wouldn’t be the last.

Moira could see the reception area outside the Grand Ballroom was filling up and took stock of her appearance in the mirrored wall as the escalator took her to the lower level of the Marriott Hotel.

She looked good.

The streaks of gray on the left side of her head gave her a mature look without being matronly. They ran through her soft, brown curls from her temple to her shoulder.

The knee-length, purple silk wrap-dress complimented her hour-glass figure and Moira didn’t even lament the illusive twelve pounds that considered her hips a permanent home.

She stepped off the escalator and approached the registration table to the left of the ballroom entrance, and her first smile of the evening was genuine.

“Moira Jennings!”

A tall, thin woman with snow white hair leaped up from the table and ran to greet Moira, pulling her into a tight hug.

“Oh. I’m sorry, I keep forgetting. It’s Moira Lambert.”

Moira pulled back wearing a big grin. “Mrs. Petry, you know I’ll always answer to whatever you call me.”

The retired history teacher beamed. “Still my best… and favorite student.”

Gayla Petry pulled her former student close for another tight hug.

“It is good to see you, my dear. I’m so glad you decided to come.”

Moira chuckled. “I am too, I think.”

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Thanks for reading! Stop in next week for the conclusion to The Sweetest Days.

©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

Camp NaNo Update Day #14

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I have nothing against deadlines.

They are necessary for organization, to accomplish tasks on time, and to move forward.

I’m a fan of deadlines and don’t believe life works well without them.

I have nothing against writing. How could I? I’ve been jotting down poetry and prose since I was nine.

Writing and deadlines work well together.

Most of the time.

Writing and deadlines disconnect for me when I add in another factor… chronic illness.

Missed Deadlines

It’s difficult to make plans and schedules when you have no idea what each day will hold. Will the pain level be tolerable? How much mobility will I have? Will my thinking be slowed due to brain fog?

So, I’ve stopped trying to make plans.

Now I make game plans and strategies.

If I can’t write, I can read. If I can’t read, I can edit. If I can’t edit, I can outline. If I can’t outline, I can search out art and images, check out new tools for writing and publishing, or work on my blogs.

I’ve taken my obstacles and made them challenges. No one likes to lose a challenge, but sometimes I do and a loss makes me push harder through the next challenge.

So while I still may not be able to say Sins of the Mother will release on April 3, 2019, I keep moving forward, closer to the time when I can publish dates.

Working through illness is my challenge. For others, it could be varying job obligations, multiple jobs, or having to travel frequently. I have several friends who are in school and try to set writing deadlines after midterms and exams. They’re still perfecting their systems.

But without a doubt, writers struggle most with meeting familial obligations, whether it’s spouses and children, elderly parents, or fur babies. It’s easy to get overwhelmed… and do nothing.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Make obstacles and disadvantages positive challenges and accomplishments and meeting deadlines will become less daunting and effortless.

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Day 14 word count – 26,986

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©2018 Felicia Denise, All rights Reserved