Tuesday, September 06, 2011


Missing: One brain. Description: Muddled mass of wet gray material, slightly squishy. Last seen: A month ago, when last I was able to form a coherent thought. Suspected culprit: hormones, overscheduled life, and/or "mommy brain"

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Shred Day Heaven

Shred Day made me grin
as piles and bags of papers
became confetti.

FYI, if you want to shred multiple documents (you know, old tax forms, bank statements, check duplicates, phone records, etc) in a VERY efficient manner, Google "shred day" and your area to find local FREE events where industrial size shredders (which means NO REMOVAL OF STAPLES/PAPERCLIPS NECESSARY!) can reduce all your sensitive information to bits in mere seconds. Many cities are starting to host these, as are private businesses, to encourage prevention of ID theft and also recycling (that's right, the shreds are all recycled!). (The one I went to was hosted by Iron Mountain Paper Co., and was wonderful!)

It was a revelatory experience for me. I clapped afterward with glee. The workers seemed a little wary of my outright joy, but that event removed pounds of old paperwork that would have taken me days to shred with my puny 6 page shredder (not to mention removing all staples first).

Try it--you'll like it!

Saturday, May 14, 2011


Today's haiku:

"Mama, you have blue,
purple, and pink on your leg!"
Vericose colors.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Reading as a writer

So I'm in the early middle of the book The Diviner's Tale by Bradford Morrow, and I'm finding it really slow reading, which surprised me because I love the premise of the story and usually read this type of fiction pretty quickly. I think the reason for this is mostly due to the fact that it's written as a mystery with a lot of backstory woven in early on in chunks--and now I'm reading with a writer's eye.
In my current WIP, I struggle with the art of weaving in the backstory and mystery elements without either going off track of the plot, or worse yet, losing the reader's interest. So, as I read this book, I am of two minds--one the reader, trying to soak up the story and be taken in by the fictional world, while the other mind is the writer who wonders what is working and what is not in this type of backstory delivery. I'm still not sure what I think about it, but it's certainly food for thought about how to handle my own writing challenges.
I also notice the voice of the character very strongly in this book, which I think is a good thing.
One stylistic point that is irritating me is that in several scenes conversations are not listed within quotes, but instead start with emdashes for each speaker's lines. Like:
--She told me to go the store.
--What did she need?
--Apples and bananas, said Jane.

These seem to be when the protagonist is recounting conversations not overheard directly by her, but still, I'm not sure it's worth the distraction...Sometimes it starts to sound like a voice-over in my head, which I'm not finding enjoyable.

Do any of you have thoughts about reading as a writer, or these kinds of issues?

Cheerios on the floor

Haughty, fluffy dog
Thinks Cinnamon Cheerios
beneath his palate.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

What's that orange glow in the sky?

At last--daffodils!
Was that a bumblebee that
zoomed by, or just hope?

Spring has come slowly here, dragging its feet and throwing tantrums. However, today I got to play outside with my family and we found some daffodils growing between two fences, and the trees are finally budding. We had to wear coats, and the wind was chilly, but you could smell the fresh earth scent and I swear I saw a fat bumblebee buzz by...

Hope springs eternal!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Holy guacamole

Diabetic rules:
holy guacamole, yum!
with eleven chips.

So with this pregnancy I'm pre-gestational-diabetic. Which basically means that I'll have GD by the middle/end of my pregnancy (had it last time at the end) and now have to follow the GD diet and glucose testing regimen every day. Which, if you've ever had to do it, sucks.

However, there are some bright spots yet--guacamole is a "free" food, and a fab snack. (Preggers folks need the fat more than regular folks to help the wee one grow, so we get to splurge a bit!) And after a LONG COLD winter, creamy green avocado dip really hits the spot. It is truly holy.

I know in the end the baby will be worth all this work and calculation of carbohydrates, and hopefully the diabetes will go away afterwards.

To those of you out there with diabetes, I salute you--it's a tough road! People don't realize how much effort goes in to managing carbs and blood sugar levels on an hourly basis.

This post links up with my previous post, too--exercise is part of managing this issue. So, keep moving!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Haiku, I can do...

So I've decided to boost my blogging and get my writerly groove back on, I should make my own blog challenge. Thus, I'm going to write a haiku a day, and post them here. Hopefully that will spur on more writing.

For today:

Yes, yes, butt on chair
but then, exercise, dammit,
to keep on writing.

I wrote this after visiting my Grandpa and looking at my Grandma's old writing office. She wrote several books in the last 20 years of her life--she was a geneaology genius! But since she became so devoted to sitting and writing, she didn't get much movement in, and despite her healthy eating habits, lack of splurging, and general good sense, that sedentary lifestyle shortened her life. So, to keep on writing, we have to get up and move, too!

Saturday, April 09, 2011


So as I read up on how to prepare my two-year-old for the baby-to-be, I am reminded of how a pediatrician friend described the conflict for me years ago:
"Imagine that your husband comes home one day and says, 'Honey, I'm going to have another wife. She's coming to live with us, and I love her just as much as I love you. But don't worry, you're still special to me! Plus, she's so cute and sweet--you'll love her too!'"
This, my friend says, is how the first child will feel about the new baby, at least for a while.
Oh no! So what, do I have to watch _Sister Wives_ to understand the rollercoaster of emotions my son will have as he deals with this new addition to our family? NO, no, of course not! Besides, that guy's Beauty & the Beast hairdo irritates me no end.
But it does make me wonder how my son will ever understand. My hope is that he enjoys the pride of being a Big Brother, and that as the baby grows up, he learns he can enjoy the kid's company too. That maybe they can even be (dare I write it?) friends?
So, this new anxiety can be added to my list of things to pretend I'm not worried about.
It's going to be a long 9 months.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Different kind of productive

So you may have noticed that I haven't been posting in quite a while. And this right after I was all geeked up for getting some writing mojo going...but I do have a good reason--I'm going to have another baby!

Due in November, and so thankful and happy that this has come to be.

However, my energy has been zapped by all this interior knitting, and I haven't had the momentum or time (because frankly, I'd rather sleep these days when possible!) to do any writing. And I mean ANY writing! Well, aside from grocery lists...

So, I'm accepting the fact that I may be unfocused as a writer in the coming year, but not giving up. I'm trying to do a little bit of writing every month, and helping a friend with her revisions on her book, and continuing to go to my writers' group, even if I have nothing to share.

We'll see how well this low-self-pressure deal works for me. I promise to keep you posted! Till then, thank you for bothering to keep following my posts!

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Inspiration, check! Perspiration...working on it!

They say success is 10% inspiration, 90% perspiration--and watching an amazing writer in my writers' group has totally given me that inspiration!

She has been working on a novel for some time, and in the past few months really made it her focus to finish a first draft. Which, she DID! Then, she continued on and did three revisions of that draft, which is painstaking work.

Now, we in the writers' group get to read the full book, as a third draft, and it is such a thrill to see the whole thing come together and flow. (Normally we share like a chapter or 2 per month, and it's not the same as reading the book as a whole.)

I've been plugging away (in micro-plugs, mind you) at my first book for years, and after a while, I started to wonder if anyone "like me" can actually finish a book and edit it and get on with the rest of the process. Watching my pal Annemarie do just that is really amazing, and proves to me that this isn't all a waste of my time. I just need to get more focused and keep working at it!

My goal for this year is to finish the first draft, but I see that I really need to get going on this, as it's such intensive work, and I have a job and a family too. But now I know that it is real and possible.

So, thank you, Annemarie, for inspiring me, and I look forward to seeing your book on the shelves someday soon!

What inspires you to think your writing dreams can come true?

Monday, February 28, 2011

Location, location, location!

I'm currently reading the novel _Raven Black_ (by Ann Cleeves), which is set in the Shetland Islands (north part of Scotland). The setting really makes the story unique, and I'm enjoying all the foreignness of the landscape, dialogue, and customs (lots of Viking references). Also, now that I'm nearing the end, I'm realizing how much of the scenery and customs are linked to the plot and theme of the book.

It makes me think I'm not using setting enough in my WIP. My story isn't set anywhere that fascinating (southern-ish US), but I think I still need to add in more elements of location to make it feel real...after all, we're shaped by where we grow up and live, right? So should my characters be also.

What book(s) have you read where the setting really made the story something special? What about the location really connected with the tale itself?

Friday, February 25, 2011

20th Follower Celebration!

Well, I am very pleased to be able to celebrate the acquisition of my 20th follower on this blog. Thanks, ladies and gentlemen, for your interest!

I must also thank the Writers Digest Community group "Today I blogged about" for the increase in readership--I think that's how many of you found this blog.

So, let me pose a question to stimulate some conversation with my fellow writers out there. My local writers group had an interesting discussion about the issue of taboo or controversial topics in writing (yes, even fiction writing), and how they affect sharing your work with other people. Have you ever had this happen to you, or been on the other side of it as a reader/critiquer?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Ultimate POV Change

So today I had jury duty. That wouldn't be that interesting of a fact, except that I'm a prosecuting attorney. (Yes, we have to serve as jurors too.) Normally I'm one of the lawyers at the table, eyeing the prospective jurors with skepticism and scrutiny. But today I got the experience from a totally different viewpoint, and it really opened my eyes.

It was like being a secret shopper--I have all this inside information, and I know most people who work in the building. So, as I waited in the hallway, I'd get lots of smiles, nods, and funny comments from passing attorneys, cops, and other staff. But to the other jurors I seemed just like them--bored, tired of standing (we don't have much seating outside of the courtrooms themselves), and wondering when they'd call us into the courtroom.

I've had jury duty before, but have never been called into a courtroom before (I just languished in the big waiting room until they ran out of cases needing jurors for the day). But today, I not only got inside the courtroom, but seated in the jury box to be questioned individually by the judge. The judge knew me too, of course, and made some comments to that effect, which caused my fellow jurors some whiplash trying to look at who he was referring to. It was like being a minor celebrity trying to go incognito for a few hours. Kind of fun.

But as I sat in the box, watching things in the courtroom from this very different perch, I noticed a few things. First off, I was nervous! Even though I knew my setting and that it was very unlikely I would be left on this jury panel--it was a bit unnerving to answer questions in front of a group of strangers, knowing that the lawyers were staring at me. Secondly, it really is difficult to think straight when there's pressure and the formality of the courtroom. I suddenly felt more compassion for those jurors who couldn't quite remember how many children they had (yes, this happens), or how long they had worked at their current job, or when they'd served on a previous jury. Before, I realized that it wasn't easy for an average citizen to appear on a jury panel, but now, I saw how rough it was from a first-person perspective. Lastly, I saw how focused the pannel is on the defendant's table. You're staring right at the person on trial, and his or her lawyer. That's a very different viewpoint from where I normally sit, facing the judge and witness stand. It kind of makes more sense how scared jurors get to make the wrong decision, and how they often seem to err on the side of the defendant, even where most lawyers would agree there was sufficient evidence to prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Of course I got kicked from the panel by the defense, but I really am glad that I had the chance to see this from the eyes of a juror.

And, unfortunately, I recently was served with a subpoena to be a witness in a case (in which hopefully I won't have to testify), so perhaps I'll get the POV of the loneliest chair in the world, being questioned and cross-examined as a witness. Who knows.

This all makes me think of POV in my writing too. Maybe it's time I shook the book I'm kind of stalled in up--maybe write a bit of it from a different character's POV, just to see what light is shed on the story. And maybe I need to put my protagonist in the witness chair and cross-examine her until I really understand the ins and outs of what she's thinking. That could be just what I need to regain my momentum!

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Craters in my mind

Working on my novel-in-progress has really hit home to me how very difficult it is to write a book. I know, DUH! But seriously, how many of us as readers zip through books and yet fail to understand how much blood, sweat, and tears (and time!) went into their creation?

I was always a reader, but only in the past decade have I become a writer (yes, unpublished writer, of course). So now I want to give props to ten (in no particular order) of the fiction books that really made an impact on my brain:

1. The Sound and the Fury, by Faulkner. I read this book in high school and was blown away. Then in college I took a course that compared Faulkner and Garcia Marquez, and was even further impressed.
2. 100 Years of Solitude, by Garcia Marquez. See above. But also, it was recommended to me by my cousin, who is always a good source for cool books! Plus, magical realism, anyone?
3. Corelli's Mandolin, by Louis DeBernieres. I credit my husband with tipping me off to this read--I fell totally in love with this story (and my hubby) while reading this book. It has it all, like Casablanca: war, love, revenge, honor, beauty...
4. Classics of the Macabre, by Daphne du Maurier. A collection of wonderful short stories. Take a look at the illustrated version, if you can get it. This helped me want to write short stories myself.
5. Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield. This book has my very favorite atmosphere. Creepy, mysterious, yet compelling.
6. Farenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury. I wrote an entire post about this book (see below). The man is a genius poet with a mad sense of humor. Wow.
7. Pigs in Heaven, by Barbara Kingsolver. I loved her voice so much. She is also a good one to watch for how she uses setting.
8. The House With a Clock in its Walls, by John Bellairs. Young reader mystery--loved it. Plus, Edward Gorey and I were introduced through his book covers. See the weblinks to the right for their fan pages.
9. Curtain, by Agatha Christie. I grew up loving all her mysteries, but this book showed me that you CAN kill off your darlings.
10. The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James. I love haunting tales, and this one really stuck with me. Great use of suspense and subtle tension.

What are your favorites?

Monday, February 07, 2011

We have a title!

Maybe it was the summer I spent working at a video store. Or perhaps my love of cheesy horror films. But whatever the root cause, I get such a kick from goofy movie titles! I used to cruise the horror aisles reading the boxes, giggling at the wordplay on display--even (especially?) on low-budget movies.

For example, SyFy (yes, I am annoyed that they now misspell their own name) Network's films Mansquito (about a man-mosquito hybrid monster), Caw (about evil crows), and Carny (obviously about Carnies, right? With the added tagline, "Death becomes the main attraction"). The other night I was flipping channels and came across Husk (yes, as in corn--a kind of Children of the Corn flick, with the awesome tagline: "Prepare to be stalked.)

Then there's the "classics"--Bride of Chucky, "Chucky gets lucky." Or Final Exam, "Some will pass the test, God help the rest."

Now that I'm writing, I appreciate these titles even more. Coming up with a great title is more difficult than I ever imagined!

How about you? Any favorite movie titles or taglines?

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Top 10 Ways That Writing Is Like Driving in a Snowstorm

(or, Ode to the Snowpocalypse That Wasn't)

10. Some days you just don't want to do it.
9. Staring at that much white (be it blizzard or blank page) can give you
a headache.
8. It can be terrifying. See numbers 4 and 3 below.
7. It can also be exhilirating! (Come on, admit it: fishtailing is fun!)
6. It takes serious focus. Note: coffee may help. Then again, coffee may spill, causing treacherous conditions (since, unfortunately, neither gearshifs nor laptops have the ability to appreciate a fine Guatemalan blend).
5. Your progress may seem small in proportion to how much time you spent at it.
4. It's hard not to notice others on your same path--especially the ones who whiz by you even without 4 wheel drive. See you in the ditch, bub.
3. Sometimes you can't see where you're going.
2. It is possible for the experts to be wrong about how it will all turn out.
1. Though success may be due in some part to innate talent, it's mostly due to much practice and a willingness to learn from your mistakes.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Flak jacket

As I was watching an episode of the TV show "Castle" (a mostly cheesy crime show where a fiction writer (portrayed the poor man's Jason Bateman) is assigned as a police consultant), I had a revelation. It was sparked by a scene where the lady cop was busting in on a suspect, wearing her bulletproof vest that read "POLICE". Castle (the writer) followed, wearing a bulletproof vest that read "WRITER" in white letters. It made me laugh out loud.

Then, later, thinking about yet another contest that I didn't win, I thought about how another name for a bulletproof vest is a flak jacket, and that flak has another meaning as well. We writers really do need flak jackets--in order to protect our writer-ego from being murdered by flak: criticism, rejection, and even self-doubt.

Now the flak jacket is not intended to prevent one from being wounded--only killed (or else it would be a flak bodysuit). So, in the same way, our writer's flak jacket shouldn't keep us from hearing criticism or rejection (thus allowing us to hopefully grow and improve from that feedback), but it should keep us from falling into despair due to criticism or failure, and declaring our writer-self D.O.A.

What, you may ask, constitutes the protective element of our writer's flak jacket? I'd say the encouragement of friends, family, or your writing community (or all of the above, if you're blessed enough to get that!). Also, the fire deep in your soul that keeps pushing you to continue to write. And the quiet, whispery voice that now and again says, "This is brilliant!" right before your brash self-editor comes in and makes ugly red marks all over what you've created. These comprise the metal that protects our writer's heart.

So, fellow writers--suit up with me in your own personal "WRITER" flak jacket, and boldly kick the door in to the dark and scary world of sharing your work! I've got your back.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Onward and upward

Well, the creative juices are flowing. I wrote a short story this evening, sparked by a blog commentary. It needs some revision, but it was fun to write, and a change from my usual type of story. Fantasy humor, if that's a category? This tale's about a dragon in court over charges that he stalked a maiden. Pretty absurd stuff.

Beyond that, I worked on revising my WIP's first paragraph to enter another free blog contest (Nathan Bransford's blog). It's difficult fitting important stuff into that first paragraph without it sounding stilted, but a very good exercise in focus and detailed line editing. And I think the result is an improvement (yet again) on my first page, so that's a nice bonus.

What next, a first line contest? First word? Oy!

Well, hope springs eternal!

Saturday, January 22, 2011


As I sit here in the frigid air of our not-well-insulated old house, fingernails turning blue, teeth chattering, I realize I've also been frozen in this one book I've been reading for SUCH a long time!

If you've visited my blog for a while, you've seen it--Tarzan's Tonsilitis--on my reading list since I don't know when. Not good! (I don't mean the book isn't good--it is!) So what's the problem?

The most obvious issue is that I've made it my before-bed read. And these days, once I get under the covers, there's no energy left!

Next problem is that it has a distinct voice to it (and is translated to English, so has some unusual wording at times) and it takes me a few pages to jump back into the character's heads.

But really, book, it's not you, it's me. I just need to give myself more time to read (while upright might be a good start!). I definitely find that more reading equals better writing. So--no more dawdling--I'm going to finish it and move on to the next book in the stacks!

Now, you tell me--have you ever had a book you couldn't seem to get through?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Aw, nice! :)

I was awarded this awesome award!
Thanks Tanya Reimer! http://tanyareimer.blogspot.com/

So to accept this award I must:
1.Thank and link back to the person who awarded it
2.Share 7 things about myself
3.Award 10 recently discovered great bloggers
4.Contact these bloggers and tell them about the award

Seven things about Betsy:

1) At various times in life I have played the violin, piano, clarinet, and bass clarinet (but by now I think I've forgotten how to do all of these)
2) My favorite old movies are _Bringing Up Baby_ and _Desk Set_ (yes, I love Katherine Hepburn!)
3) I have a widow's peak
4) My maiden name means "vulture" in German
5) I have taken a drink from a melting glacier
6) I once was in a small dorm room with a live bobcat, and it slapped me across the face (no joke!)
7) I love books and can't stop accumulating them

10 blogs I really enjoy (some are writing, some are photography, some are silly, but they're all interesting) that you should check out!

Pictureland at http://themoviegoer-danny.blogspot.com
Veni,Vidi, Vito at http://annemarieschiavipedersen.blogspot.com
PK Hrezo at http://pk-hrezo.blogspot.com
Erika Jean at http://www.erikajean.com
Serendipitous at http://chune123.blogspot.com
Forgotten Bookmarks at http://www.forgottenbookmarks.com
Milk Moon at http://milk-moon.blogspot.com
Rachel's Ramblings at http://racheldilley.blogspot.com
Shutter Sisters at http://shuttersisters.com
Land of Shimp at http://landofshimp.blogspot.com

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sometimes the surgeon must cut...

This is a phrase my dad use to say when he was explaining something unpleasant or painful that must be done in order to heal or improve a situation. Now, my dad wasn't a surgeon, so maybe I should have taken his advice with a grain of salt.
But since I recently entered Lydia Sharp's blog critique contest of your first 500 words (to your novel), I took Dad's words to heart.

This contest (now known as The Awesome) was great, because even the losers (like me) got a great (and free!) critique of our first 500 words. So, having mulled over Lydia's comments, slowly digesting their meaning last night, I took the opportunity today to cut the heck out of my manuscript (well, the first 500 words of it, anyhow!) and try to address the issues she spotted.

The result? A much more interesting, dynamic opening! My biggest problem was that I didn't really give a POV, even though in the rest of the story I do have a clear protagonist who's POV is shown. Know what? I hadn't even realized I'd screwed that up in my hook! That's the danger of knowing your story too well--you can miss big problems that an unbiased mind might see.

So, big thanks to Lydia for taking time to do such a cool contest!

And soon we'll see if my writers' group agrees with my changes. I think they put The Awesome back in my hook. :)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Jersey Flu

So my writing resolution was (momentarily) derailed by this awful stomach flu I got that had me hurling and/or on the toilet for much of 12 hours. After that, I barely had energy to lift myself out of bed. Thus, no writing got done that day. (I call it the Jersey Flu because once I finally DID get myself up out of bed, I had this awful hair bump much like Snookie. Don't pretend--you know who she is!)

Anyway, two days later, and I'm starting to come back to life. I was able to eat chicken noodle soup today (ooh!) and even some pretzels (ahh!), and could stay upright for more than an hour at a time. Very exciting stuff!

Anyway, due to the timing of the unfortunate flu, I only missed one day of my writing regimen. So I took my husband's encouraging advice, and wrote for 20 minutes the next day to make up for my missed day. And you know what? I got a small scene out of it. Pretty good for a Jersey Flu Girl, eh?

And that's my lesson for the week--don't let the small failings kill your dream, or even deplete your momentum. Just get up and try, try again! (And for goodness sake, get rid of the bump!)

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

"I'm delightful!"

I've come to realize that being a writer (or any other kind of artist) means having to be selfish sometimes. We probably all struggle with this issue from time to time (either because we are too good at being selfish, or not good enough at it!). In order to focus in on our thoughts and sit down to pour them out on paper, one must shut the rest of the world (and its needs) out.

I was gleefully reminded of this while watching an old episode of Andy Richter Controls the Universe. (If you've never seen it, do--great laugh therapy!) In this particular episode, a friend of Andy's who's an actress is trying to determine whether to give up her dream of acting professionally some day. She's the understudy for a high-maintenance actress in a theater production who will never let her get a moment on stage. Thus, Andy tries to help his friend out by getting the main actress sick so the understudy can pay the role instead. While Andy's in the actress's dressing room, she's very self-centered and self-indulgent, and she says something odd, then laughs and murmers, "I'm delightful!" while smiling at herself in the mirror.

It just made me stop for a moment and think that it's ok to find one's self delightful now and then--that's how we get the courage to try to catch our dreams! If I don't ever let myself think my writing is delightful, I'll never bother to make time for it, or share it with anyone.

So, grab your inner diva and wallow in your own delightfulness for a while--it's good for the artistic soul!

Monday, January 03, 2011

Day 3 and going strong!

Well, OK, it IS just the 3rd day of my new writing life, but darnit, it feels good! That 10 minutes is so small, but that's what makes it doable. I did my writing last night before bed. I did it on the 1st in the middle of the day during my son's nap time. Today I had a half day of work and so spent considerably longer at it, lavishing in my new writing netbook that my dear hubby got me for Christmas, God bless him!

I'm noticing something already though--by this 3rd day, my pen (or fingers, depending on the media) is flowing better each day.

At this point, I'm not forcing myself to write solely fiction--but also allowing for more journal-type writing. The point is to get writing and get in the habit!

The juices are flowing and my brain found a good link in my WIP that wasn't clear earlier, so that's a nice bonus of this new focus, too.

Happy New Year to you, and I hope you meet your own goals too!