Camp NaNo Update Day #21

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Yes, I’ve reached the weird point of Camp NaNo.

I’m used to new characters popping up.

I’m okay with plot twists breezing in from nowhere.

I’m even okay with rewriting a scene several times.

But I hate when I get to the I don’t even know what I’m writing about stage.

I Don't Know What I'm Writing About meme

And I’m there… big-time.

Here’s a brief excerpt—while I go figure this thing out!


Startled and disoriented, Sally bolted upright. She looked around the dark room, trying to get her bearings.
She laughed at herself after glancing toward the hallway.
Real good, Bennett. What kind of caregiver are you falling asleep on the job?
A swipe of her e-reader provided light and the time.
12:50 am.
My word! Has it been almost four hours since I gave Graciela her meds? I’d better see if she’s sleeping or needs them again.
Sally held the reader over the edge of the chair, looking for her overnight bag. She reached for it, but froze when she thought she heard a large thump.
What was that noise?
She sat motionless on the edge of the chair listening for the sound again. Hearing nothing, Sally grabbed the bag and tossed it onto the foot of the bed. Reaching for the table-side lamp, she heard the noise again, louder and closer.
No, no! I hope Graciela isn’t up trying to get her own meds. Why didn’t she call out for me? Damn it! Maybe she did and I was asleep.
Feeling her back pocket for her cell, Sally raced the few steps down the hall to her client’s room.
She froze in the doorway.
A dark figure was on top of Graciela.
Without thinking, Sally charged the bed, launching herself at the assailant. She heard a sharp intake of air as the intruder fell toward the foot of the bed.
Sally took the few precious seconds to drag the small woman from the bed. Not able to tell if Graciela was wounded and too terror-stricken to speak, Sally pushed her toward the bedroom door, screaming one word, “Run!”
With her arms out in front of her, the spry senior bolted for the door, feeling her way down the hall.
Before Sally could follow, she felt a hand grab her arm, pulling her back to the bed. She whirled around, swinging blindly with her free hand. Her punch connected with the intruder, but he didn’t let go. As he pulled her closer, Sally bit the hand clutching her arm. Muttering a curse, he let go and Sally flipped onto her back, kicking her legs wildly.
Her attacker leaned down, grabbing the front of her shirt and flung her from the bed. She crashed into the dresser, slumping to floor.
Praying Graciela had found her way out, Sally knew her time was growing short. Her heart raced as she looked up at the shadowy figure approaching, blocking her path to the door.
His breathing was hard and labored.
Sally froze. Something about him was familiar.
She could see him raising his arm and the hallway light behind him allowed Sally to see he wore a ski mask… and the glint of his knife.
Adrenalin barreled through her body. Sally Bennett would not hand this killer her life.


Day 20 word count – 35,987


©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

Camp NaNo Update Day #20

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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.


Day 20 word count – 34,314


©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!


Day 19 word count – 32,637


©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.


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.’


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.


Day 16 word count – 28,977


©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.


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.


Day 15 word count – 28,640


©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.


Day 14 word count – 26,986


©2018 Felicia Denise, All rights Reserved

Camp NaNo Update Day #13

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Emotions can ruin a good story.

Don’t close the browser! Read on.

I beta-read five chapters for an author recently and it went from a bizarre reading to a learning experience.

I’d read for her before, as well as being an admirer of her work and owning most of her back catalog across three genres. I knew her writing style well.

After reading two chapters of the manuscript, I put it away and sent her a text about questions I had.

We talked a short time later and since we never minced words with each other; I asked her why reading about the emotional reunion of a married couple separated by a wildfire during a camping trip read more like a five-year-old tax return. Was she trying something new? Did I get the first draft?

Her response?

She laughed and said she should never have sent the chapters.

Confusion and I were BFFs by this time but she continued before I could respond.

She explained the chapters were written… after an argument with her husband.

Ah-ha moment.

And yes, she proofed them but she was still angry and considered the chapters ready.

While we were talking, she pulled up the chapters and read aloud…. And laughed more.

She promised to send me edited chapters in a few days after she got her head right. The difference was like night and day. I was keyed into the emotions of the couple… not the writer.

We still laugh about the incident but wonder if we’ve compromised past work with our real-time feelings.

Most writers consider it a win if their work sparks their own emotions and they’re optimistic about pulling the same tears, laughter, anger, or melancholy from readers.

But writing is a mind game and our subconscious guides us more than we admit.

The takeaway from the beta reading incident? If the emotions are there, use them.

Having a crappy day? Write the rude encounter scene.

Coworkers making you homicidal? Write the fight scene.

Real-time emotions aren’t a necessity when writing. Writers can pull from prior personal experiences. But don’t avoid writing just because you’re not in the mood. Using the mood and the emotions can give your writing a more authentic flare and keep Mr. Passive Voice at bay.

I used my personal emotions in a recent scene for Sins of the Mother.

The adult children of the protagonist are waiting to hear the outcome of their father’s surgical procedure. My own eighty-three-year-old mother, a cancer survivor, was undergoing a delicate procedure two-thousand miles away. The texts messages between the two siblings who were there and the five who weren’t should have taken down Verizon.

The mister suggested I focus on something else and told me to go write something… because he’s eloquent like that.

I read my scene-list several times before the hospital scene registered and I decided to give it a go.

I wrote until I received the message mom was back in her room and doing great, over an hour.

Of course, the scene is too long, but I’m pleased with the overall result and know the edited version will be spot on.

I have two fearful scenes to write. Channeling my own fear would involve encounters with the infamous Arizona spiders and/or scorpions.

I think I’ll just use my words this time.


Day 13 word count – 25,266


©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

Camp NaNo Update Day #12

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Writing is a solitary endeavor.

Writers peck away on laptops, tablets, typewriters, and in long-hand dictating stories being told by the voices in their heads.

Most times, it’s a comfortable collaboration. I mean, who doesn’t get along with their own brain? (Don’t answer that.)

But things aren’t always blue skies and free coffee refills.

Plot twists unwind, harsh thoughts are tossed around and characters retreat to the shadows to sulk.

Writers take their socially awkward selves straight to Snapchat and put on bunny ears, to Twitter to troll their friends, or to YouTube to watch sad videos about darkness and loveless worlds.

No words are being written and writers wonder yet again why they even bother. Careers in mass transit (read; UBER) or the culinary arena (read: DOMINO’S) are considered as well as taking a shot at being the next YouTube sensation because if that guy can do it, well…

But then you find a new four-star review on your last book on Amazon. You open your email to great feedback and winning praise from beta readers. A blog you follow has a great post on Scrivener that will save you time. An editing service you’ve wanted to use is running a buy now, use later special… and offering a 20% off deal.

And you smile.

Your day has turned around and things aren’t as dark and dreary as you believed. The sun will come up tomorrow, and you’ve figured out how to smooth the wrinkle in your WIP.

All because you walked away from your WIP.

No, this isn’t a post about the art of procrastination. No writer needs help with that.

It’s about knowing when to walk away from writing and reach out… for help, encouragement, support, FUN… and accountability.

Some writers can get so caught up in their own heads, they get stuck in a loop, moving neither forward nor backward. They need help and don’t realize it. They need to interact with like-minded individuals. (Who understands the mind of a writer better than other writers and avid readers?)

They could avoid a good deal of anxiety and thoughts of career changes if writers build—or strengthen—their network of support.

Families are generally the first level of support. Even if they never read a word of your writing, share the basic details with them. Never put up walls between your family and your writing.

Join a writing group. This can be a daunting challenge and can take time to find a good fit.

Just being a group of writers is not enough. Also writing in your genre is not enough. Even being close in age is not enough.

And being in a group is pointless if you do not interact. Trade blurbs or sales page details for critiques. Find a paragraph-partner or find out if the group allows public posting and critiquing.

It takes time to build trust in any group or team a writer joins. I wouldn’t advise joining any group and sending out entire manuscripts or even chapters to people you just ‘met.’

Make a plan with your group/team. Set dates/deadlines for brainstorming sessions, progress updates, and manuscript reviews.

Be reliable. Our obligations outside of writing will always be the priority but make your team aware of delays. Don’t be the weakest link.

I haven’t found my perfect fit writing group yet, but I do have a few amazing writer-friends who will point out my overuse of commas, my reluctance to hit the publish button and my tendency to use too many words when a few will do.

Not at all like this post. 😀


Day 12 word count – 23,519


©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved