Getting back to writing…

Sorry I have been gone for so long! Have taken a break from fiction writing for the past few months because I found myself obsessively revising my novel and older short stories. I became stuck in a kind of “judgment whirlpool” in which nothing I had written seemed good enough. I had about 15 versions of just about everything – the literary form of hoarding. Realized that I needed to STOP!

So, I did some painting — am still doing some drawing and painting for fun — and recently started a kind of freewriting-poetry-thing. Basically, I just write down whatever I’m thinking in poetic form, rather than worrying about whole sentences, grammar, etc… I don’t edit. And I don’t censor myself. If I feel like deleting these “poems” at any point, I give myself permission to do that, rather than numbering them and saving 50 different versions on my hard drive.

So far, it’s been fun to see what images pop up from my subconscious, sort of like writing down your dreams! Later, I analyze my poem to see if anything resonates. If not, that’s okay, no pressure. That’s the whole point of this break — to take the pressure off myself to write for a specific genre (mystery? YA? literary?) and to a specific audience (12 year olds? adults? women?). I was so busy focusing on getting published, whether independently or “traditionally,” and trying to “brand” myself and my writing that I lost track of what I wanted to say in the first place!

Have you ever felt like throwing in the towel and quitting writing? It’s a scary prospect, but at the same time kind of freeing. I realized that I don’t have to identify myself solely as a “writer.” I can just be someone who likes to write!

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Great Book on Typography and Stenciling!


I have recently (last weekend!) started to learn how to paint. I really enjoy it, but I also wondered if there was a way to incorporate my writing into pictures… Then I saw the review of this book of typography and stencils in the blog Fifty Shades of Wonderful. I’m curious — I love putting together digital book covers and messing around with graphic design (very amateurly!). And I think letter stencils would be a great way to mix the visual and the textual, so to speak. I’ll keep you posted…

Originally posted on Fifty Shades of Wonderful:

I am addicted to all sorts of Fonts and Typography.  I use it on my handmade cards, scrapbook pages and free-form art I create.  When I had the opportunity to receive and review Dina Tanamachi’s newest book; DIY Typography & Stencils I jumped all over it!  This book may not impress everyone, but to artists from amateur to intermediate they will quickly recognize what a fabulous asset this is to their toolbox arsenal for lettering.
You will find this book to be amazingly simple with very little text.  Dina describes her personal experiences in design and provides how she has used lettering in her day to day life as well as taking her ideas to market.  Aside from that small section of the book, the rest is comprised of two sets of lettering stencils which can be removed from the book and used as reusable templates (Lower and Uppercase).  There…

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How to make an easy book trailer!

I’ve been experimenting with Windows Movie Maker again and created a book trailer for my mini-collection of short stories, Rocky Road. It’s not exactly Spielberg, but it gets the message across!

It’s easy to make your own simple book trailer. With Movie Maker, I combined some free clip art (the turtle at the beginning) from Microsoft Office with a movie my daughter made on my phone while we were driving home from the beach! Then I added the picture of my book cover at the end. The background music I got from

Movie Maker is free, and it’s easy to use. You just click on the icons/buttons to add video or photos, background music, and captions for your “scenes.” Then you can choose different transitions between each scene — for example, my turtle photo fades in gradually, and the cover picture at the end “pans” out slowly. That way, I kept the images moving, rather than having clunky jerks and stops between the still photos and the moving video.

If you’re interested in making your own book trailer, try downloading Movie Maker and experimenting with some videos and photos you already have on your computer. Add some background music, and try out different features to see how it works!

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The Rain Catcher, first peek

I’ve been working on a novel set in Scotland for the past hundred or so years. It was published as Rest and Be Thankful by the lovely Pilrig Press in Edinburgh, but since then I decided to re-write it for the American market and slant it more for kids aged 13 and older. So, I’ve been reworking it under the new title The Rain Catcher.

I thought I was finished a few months ago. The excellent Susan Buchanan of Perfect Prose proofread it for me, and I was all set to go. Then the doubts started creeping in… If you’re a writer, I’m sure you’re all too familiar with the feeling: “It’s just not there yet!” And “I just read this other YA book, and it’s much better than mine! I need to make mine better…” And “What if it’s too long/simplistic/complicated/short?” Oh, the debilitating self doubt!!

Anyway, I’ve decided to post little snippets of my novel here on Southern Bend Books. I would like to get it out there and see it from a different angle. Feel free to add your 2 cents if you like it or don’t like it, if you think it’s too “old” for a 13+ audience, or just anything you feel like sharing about your writing process! Cheers!

Snippet One

I dragged my suitcase off the conveyor belt and started to walk through the section that said “Nothing to Declare” when someone grabbed my shoulder. I shrieked, already jumpy from traveling all the way from North Carolina to Scotland by myself.

Calm down, I’m not going to bite you!” a man in an orange airport vest snapped. Then he smirked. “Or maybe I will…”

I shuddered and jerked my shoulder out of his grasp.

Are you traveling alone?”

Technically, I was an “unaccompanied minor,” although 13 and not exactly a kid. Not that it mattered; no one had met me off the plane. Once the doors had opened, I’d followed the nice American woman, Jane, who’d sat beside me, to passport control, where she’d gotten swallowed up in the swarms of passengers visiting Edinburgh.

“I need to search your luggage.” The man grabbed my suitcase and dragged it toward an inspection table, expecting me to follow him. My stomach started to ache. I missed Dad already.

The man’s walkie-talkie buzzed and he grunted importantly, putting his hand on my shoulder again, as though I was his property. An elderly woman sat on a luggage cart nearby, rubbing her stockinged foot. The passengers from my flight passed us, not one of them noticing I was being manhandled. Maybe people didn’t sue in Scotland. I glanced at the man’s security badge, wondering if he was really a terrorist who had sneaked into the airport, pretending to be an employee.

And then, out of  nowhere, came the shriek of a woman obviously used to telling people off: Get your sweaty paws off my NIECE!” It had to be my legendary Aunt Claire.

She had the same bellow that Dad used when the parking attendant at the North Carolina State Fair told him we weren’t allowed to park on the grass. We’d sat in the car for 20 minutes, inching forward while car after car parked on the grassy slope near Blue Ridge Road. When it was our turn, the attendant said the lot was full, and we had to park on the other side of the fairgrounds. Dad couldn’t believe it. “There’s a spot right there,” he said, pointing at the patch beside a Toyota minivan. The attendant shook his head. “It’s too close to the road.” Dad and I stared at the road, about 20 yards away.

“Are you kidding me?” Dad wiped the sweat from under his eyes. It was 93 degrees that day. Flies buzzed through his open window. The attendant pursed his lips and tapped his watch. “You need to park ACROSS the ROAD,” he annunciated, as though Dad was three years old.

That did it. Something inside Dad clicked “on.” He sat up straight in his chair.

“That’s just FINE!” Dad is kind of shy and hardly ever raises his voice. But when he does, he puts every inch of himself into it. “Never mind that my taxes are paying YOUR wages.” The attendant began backing away from our car. “I’ll be sure to lodge a complaint with the Agriculture Commissioner.”

The attendant waved his hands. “Okay, Sir. You can park there. That’s fine.”

“Oh, no. I wouldn’t want to break any RULES.” Dad slapped the steering wheel and jerked the car into reverse.

“Really, it’s fine. You can park here.”

“No, we’re just going to park in that field over there, next to the cows.” He pressed the gas, spinning up dirt as we careened out of the lot, the attendant still gesturing at us to come back. Now Dad uses his “State Fair Voice” whenever someone is trying to boss him around.

The airport security man’s eyes bulged at the sound of Aunt Claire’s State Fair Voice. She came marching toward us, lithe as a panther in her black leather pants and high-heeled boots, ignoring the airport official yelling at her from down the hallway to “Get your arse back here, Madam!”

The creepy guy let go of my shoulder– finally! – and waved his walkie-talkie at her, which only made her madder.

Don’t you point that bloody thing at me!” I half-expected her to headbutt him.

She seized my suitcase, and the security man gasped. I guess no one had ever taken the power, literally, right out of his hands.

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Yes or No??

In honor of Scotland’s historical vote for independence today, here’s The Proclaimers! Whether the country votes “Yes” or “No,” taking positive action of any kind is a step in the right direction. My mother and I left Scotland more than 20 years ago because of the lack of jobs and the lack of livable wages. I don’t think things have changed hugely today; just look at all the Scots in America, Australia, and across the world who’ve had to leave in order to have successful careers. We didn’t leave because it was the easy way out — we had to leave behind family and friends, who we still miss dearly today. My mother and I came to the U.S. with two suitcases, leaving behind our mementos, culture, and everything familiar to us. We left our homeland because the choices were limited to none.

Let’s hope that from today onward, Scotland will push forward onto a brighter future!

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When not to listen…

For a few years, now, I’ve been thinking about what it means to take advice from “experts” in books (or in any medium for that matter). My husband was the one who first pointed out that whenever I read a self-help book, whether on how to train dogs or how to overcome shyness, I take it wholeheartedly as God’s honest truth! I’ve been aware of this tendency and have tried to keep an open mind whenever anyone gives me advice (for example, I need to start using wrinkle cream to “preserve” my looks!) or whenever I hear about a scientific study “proving” that dogs actually have emotions (gasp! Horror!).  

In the past few months, however, I’ve really started considering who is considered an “expert” and how much damage could that person possibly do if he/she gave bad advice to lots of people. For example, a friend of mine from out of state asked about local museums. I told him about a great one in Greensboro, to which he replied that this other museum had been voted #1 on a travel website. “That one?” I was confused. The museum he’d mentioned was okay but kind of boring, and I told him so. “But it was voted number one!” he exclaimed. “But I’ve been there,” I said. “It’s just okay.” He ended up going to the boring museum, trusting the guidance of the website over that of an actual person who had been to the museum. No harm done. He liked it.

But that got me thinking about how much trust we sink into just about anyone who is published. A famous author wrote a few years ago about studies that show older children do better in their academic careers if they are a little older than their peers, and now a generation of parents are keeping their five-year-olds back, waiting until they turn six to start school. A famous actress (not a doctor or even biologist) says that vaccines are causing autism, based on a study done years ago that has been disproved. Now, scores of parents are refusing vaccines — I wonder what the long-term effects of that will be! And a National Book Award Winner writes about depression — he states at the beginning of the book that he’s not a doctor — with the air of an “expert,” citing facts and studies but obviously he can’t cover everything that’s ever been written about depression. After reading the book, I’m left feeling more hopeless and depressed than ever!

My point is just what my husband told me years ago — don’t believe everything you read. Don’t take it as “truth.” Read from lots of sources and talk to people, experts and everyday people who have experienced depression or dog training or who have a child with autism. Studies can show just about anything, depending upon who conducts it and who funds it, who interprets the data. Maybe all this is obvious to you, but I have to keep reminding myself — just because someone is famous or has a PhD or went to Harvard or has an English accent or has won the National Book Award doesn’t make him/her holder of the world’s TRUTH. And, maybe just as important, trust your gut. Don’t take it from me; go out and find out the truth for yourself!

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Suffocating Motivation


Love this post about staying true to your soul’s motivation. These days, I am finding it hard to stay motivated. Kendall’s post reminds me to take small steps, put one foot in front of the other, and just do what I can. Don’t plan too much. Even one step counts!

Kendall also posts music with each blog entry — this one is great!

Originally posted on Kendall F. Person, thepublicblogger:

It’s so easy to get lost in the world and get down about things and not see your successes.
This really cheered me up today. Thanks for sharing and writing this.
the voice of  Idellavella, in The Neighborhood

suffocating motivation

dream, interrupted by Robert Couse-Baker

That touched me on the inside parts. I am still holding my breath.

- Kaiology, from Twitter

Our minds do play tricks on us. Sometimes we stare into the abyss and our mind tells our eyes that we are staring into a black hole and that nothing we do really matters so why do we even try. Sometimes, our mind throws us a pity party and we sit at home and cry, because things did not work out as planned. Sometimes, and even worse, our mind blames others for all that has gone wrong with our day or our lives. And when this happens, we feel vindicated…

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