Monthly Archives: September 2015

The 5-Week Author Blog Challenge 2015 – Day 11

Prompt 11

Describe the research process for your book. Did you interview people? Travel? How prominent a role did the Internet play? If you didn’t do new research, how did you learn what you needed to know to write your book?

On going.

There are some major themes I want to use and one of those was/is love.

Love is an interesting philosophical topic and I started at Wikipedia for some thoughts… I used the Greek words for love as a start…. but at some point my own life experience intervened and I remembered that there had been some discussion of other Greek words, so I moved to google and found a list of six.

I liked the idea of the central characters to the story each representing these different kinds of love and how they can play out. So to this end I created a character spread sheep based on the specific aspects of each form that I wanted to use; who represented them, what was the conflict to illustrate it, how does the resolution show their aspect of love to be a higher state of being (this is magic realism after all, where emotions can have magical effects on the world).

If certain people inspire me, I talk to them, not as a strict interview process but as a way to see how the aspect of them that I am intrigued by affects their mannerisms and such. If there is something specific, like plane travel in the 1960’s , I look on-line and then follow-up with googling pictures and talking to people who experienced it.

Travel, since the stories I am currently working on are shaped by the landscapes of my youth in Latin America, travel was involved.. though not recent travel. I am starting to think that I should go back, with a keen eye… but the truth is that in many ways it is just a form of homesickness and I just want to go back.

In terms on doing that which did not involve research, I guess it is based on my very own experiences (which I consider a kind of research anyway and thus I find myself in a circular argument.


The hat tip today goes to Mary Ellen Stepanich, PhD as she reflects on the changing face of customer service. I have to agree, the face to face exchange between a provider and a subscriber has changed rather dramatically.

The 5-Week Author Blog Challenge 2015 – Day 10

Prompt 10

Describe your process for outlining your book. What do you do to stay organized? Do you use a software like Scrivener? Index cards? Sticky notes? Giant posterboards taped to the wall?

Is it OK to say that I do most of this in my head? While this is where I do most of my work, I do create documents to help navigate the complexities of the story I am trying to tell. I create a folder for everything related to the story.

Some of the documents include;

  • basic cast of characters; this gets added to as I navigate through the story
  • a narrative outline
  • separate documents with key interactions with other characters named by the other characters
  • files with background research (say, international travel in 1960 or the various forms of love, philosophy)
  • a character spread sheet
  • the story – in bits
  • the story as a whole

Wow, I guess there is more to my madness than I thought. I have thought about going the route of purchasing something but frugal is a gentle word for me and I would hate myself for buying something and not using the hell out of it!  So, that option is out for me… at least for now!

I wish that I could say that these work well for me… but I don’t write enough to think it is particularly effective. I suppose though, I should celebrate that there is something  actually that is written down.

Here is a second excerpt:

Clara’s parents suffered each other, as that is what unhappy married people did in those days, suffer the space the other occupied in their lives, though the pain was diminished by Clara’s presence in their life and was only acutely felt when she was not near them.

Katarina and Victor managed to have one other child, after Clara and because of Clara. Her presence alone was able to ignite another night of passion, though it was short-lived because she could not stay next to them.  They had boy who was conceived on a night that neither parents recalls after putting Clara to bed, and thus the baby boy was entrusted with the gift of oblivion. Clotilde, who had become a faithful servant to the family prayed to St. Jude Thaddeus when she pulled Theodore from Katarina’s body. Later, Clotilde would claim that she heard angels weep when Theo was born. Clotilde felt a devout devotion to the child as well, partly due, of course, to the presence of Clara in the room with them.

As a schoolgirl she had friends in everyone that crossed her path, and her presence alone would manage to make even the most vile of bullies and hateful people to stop what they were doing  and the most meek to smile and wave.  She was a remarkably happy girl, she had been taught to curtsy to everyone she met. Adults were filled with delight as this beautiful little girls with her pony tails in corkscrew curls would stretch one leg out behind her and dip low on the leg in front, lowering her head in a gesture of respect. The adult for whom this gesture was being performed would often roar with delight and little Clara would look up and beam at the happiness in their faces.

Clotilde watched Clara grow and realized that while Clara was a happy child, that there was something amiss. Clotilde surmised that perhaps it was that Clara felt very lonely as her ability to love was unsurpassed by any other person around. Clotilde surmised that the young girl in some way suffered through the tremendous amount of love that she exuded and that it was not that she did not feel love, it was that Clara had yet to meet someone who would fill her heart with the kind of love that created her and for that, she was still much too young. Clotilde was not entirely wrong, for it was indeed that Clara longed to be loved as much as she was capable of loving but it was not the kind of love Clotilde imagined.

Anyone have any thoughts? Am I being silly for sharing?


My hat tip today goes to Habit Daddy… aside from posting pictures of a beloved park near my home, shares with me a transition from night-owl to morning person and what it has brought us…. he advocated for vodka in a previous post of his and I kind of like the idea! A good read!

The 5-Week Author Blog Challenge 2015 – Day 9

Prompt 9

Describe how the idea for your book first came to you. Where were you? Who was the first person you told? How did they respond?

Goodness, the idea for my first book (the one I wrote and illustrated when I was 6 or so) must have come from a frank discussion about the “birds and the bees” that my mother had with me. I must have asked a ton of questions, because I filled out an entire notebook with what I had learned. I often joke, with a sense of seriousness, that my friends were very lucky having me be the one telling them about the “facts of life” in that proverbial gutter of education of all matters taboo.

In all seriousness though, the story that is still working itself out of me came after telling a friend a story, about how I grew up, when I was in high school.  I don’t recall the story but I do recall their reaction. My friend looked at me and asked if I realized how un-real my life was.  This had never ever occurred to me. My father is a bull-fighter, my mother an adventurer. The life I have is the one I know. It is familiar, and knows of no other alternatives of how it is to be lived. The country that I was born in and the other one nearby that raised me are magic… with ghosts and magic and mysteries that one just has to accept. The terrain of these places are story book, with fences that grow, and many snow-capped active volcanoes, with ties to islands that inspired many where birds are born with bright blue feet or magnetic magenta ones, where other birds puff out a chest so bright red and large that it seems impossible to be real.  I grew up talking to jungle shaman, Amazonian head-shriknkers, writers, poets, artists, musicians, and bullfighters.

I realize how precious that was, to grow up in such a complex environment.

And so it was that one conversation that pinpointed just how unusual it was that prompted me to write something semi-autobiographical about the magical world I grew up in, and it is because of that started me on that journey.

Several attempts have been made, many scrapped because I allowed others to come in and direct the tale to the extent it became theirs and was not mine any more.

I am working on making it mine, one step at a time.


Today, my hat tip goes to Ashley Howland because her tale about how her book Ghostnapped came to be made me smile, and I love that she had her husband redo the cover when it was re-published.

The 5-Week Author Blog Challenge 2015 – Day 8

Prompt 8:

Who is your favorite literary character? With which literary character do you most relate? Which literary character would you most like to invite for tea/coffee? What would you ask him/her? What do you think you could teach him/her?

My most favorite literary character is also my alter ego, at least she was in high school. I tend to think of her with a more motherly affection now, though the character is till very close to my heart. That is Modesty Blaise.

MD fan art.

I wanted to be as tough as she was, I wanted to be as tough and as beautiful as she was. I wanted to be as tough, and beautiful, and interesting as she was.  I suppose I related to her because of who she was and who I wanted to be.

I would love to have coffee with her, or even with her sidekick Willie. Though I would venture they would be more apt to drink tea.  I don’t know that there is a set conversation i would want to have with them, nor do I think I would have anything I could teach them.

Other characters that I have loved deeply might be any of the Greek gods as depicted in D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths. It was (and remains) a favorite book. I loved the illustrations as a child and spent amazing amounts of time reading and re-reading this book.  I loved the characters in Geek Love, but am not sure if I want to meet them, I think I would be better off just observing them, they do both intrigue and scare me.


OK, so today my hat tip goes out to the Interpreter of Inspiration.  I loved that post, curse words and all. I think she nailed exactly what I love about complex characters. I have also added her suggestion of Tigana to my Amazon wish list!

The 5-Week Author Blog Challenge 2015 – Day 6

Take us through your writing process. Do you keep a regular writing schedule? Do you write on your laptop or longhand? Do you have a favorite place to write? Are you most inspired in the morning, afternoon, evening, or middle of the night?

Ohhhhh. Emmmmmm. Geeeeee.

I wish I thought I even had a writing process… or even a writing schedule. I have a bunch of files in google docs, separated out into folders. Some have ideas, other have actual writing, some have pitiful versions of outlines. I write on my phone, my desktop and even a laptop.. ok, in the interest of full disclosure I haven’t written at all recently. That is exactly why I am here today, doing this blog challenge… though it is easy to do when you have prompts. I can write the answers to the prompts, getting myself to open one of my folders is another story. I don’t do it. I get to the point that I rarely even think about it except as I am drifting off to sleep.

OK… I will just do it!

So here, for your perusal are the first two paragraphs (which is all I can bear to share, mainly from shame, but I do have about 70 pages of this story down in all kinds of stages of development):

Clara was a very happy child, this is in spite of her parents disdain for each other as well as her brothers most innocent oblivion.

She and her family, and all the servants, lived in an old home whose walls were filled with the memories of all who had lived and loved there before.  The memories were often made better by her mere presence in the house. It was amazing how hate or indifference seemed to shrink away in her vicinity. Couples arguing as they walked in front of the family home stopped arguing and would begin to giggle like young lovers, cars would slow down, and even the stray cats and dogs that roamed around her neighborhood would stop and rest against the walls enclosing her home; the cats purring, the dogs wagging their tails, and birds singing a lovely song.

Clara was conceived at the the apex of her parents love.  He mother, Katarina, and father, Victor, must have entrusted all the love their bodies could posses to her, as they never seemed to like each other much after that one spectacular night in which Clara was conceived. As a result of their magnificent lovemaking, Clara was endowed with fawn eyes, a generous spirit, and the ability to nurture love with a glance or a delicate touch of her hand. When the midwife, Clotilde,  pulled Clara’s small little body from her mother almost ten months later, she fell hopelessly in love with the beautiful baby and made a silent vow to Saint Raphael to help her protect this divine little girl.   In later years Clotilde would say that angels sang when Clara was born.

I would appreciate any and all feedback!


Today the hat tip goes out to Ashley Howland. She writes books for children and they all look fascinating! (note to self, add to wishlist – check)

The 5-Week Author Blog Challenge 2015 – Day 5

There’s a Stephen King quote that says:

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

How do the things you read impact your writing? What do you love to read? What do you avoid reading at all costs? How would your writing change if you read more of the things you typically avoid?

Style, I think is what impacts me most… those occasional authors that have a real and present voice in their stories. If I find one that is exceptionally striking I find that I tend to “try it on” for a bit, to see how it shapes what I have in mind and the stories I want to tell… I think of it a lot like a child imitating a parent (though in this case it is more of a peer to peer thing). I have seen it annoy people when I do that, but I think it is all a part of finding and developing one’s own voice.

I love to read magic realism, give me Gabriel Garcia Marquez and I am happy. I love young adult and children’s books. I love illustrated books and recoil when I hear people making fun of those as if they were somehow lesser forms of literature.  I think these two often share so much in common. They both tend to incorporate a hero’s journey into the story, there is redemption and learning.

From the Magic Realism Wikipedia page

I do not like reading horror, ironic to write under a Stephen King quote – I am ok with psychological thrillers but horror – not for me… life is way too short to scare myself. I don’t like the way I feel after dealing with literature that focuses on ugly human behavior, it shifts something in me that I consider elemental… I get nervous, prone to more anxious states of being, I dream of blood and gore. It is not a pleasant thing for me> I don’t begrudge anyone that enjoys it, though I do wonder how they can manage that inner conflict or even if they get it or are they not affected by it.

I don’t know, I also don’t know if I want to know how this might affect my writing, I am sure it would have an effect though!


Today my blog hat tip goes out to Merlene Fawdry. I felt in like I was in like-minded company in regards to how we both claimed books from our youth helped shape us! I also appreciated her adoption story posts. I have a cousin who was given up for adoption and with whom we as a family have reconnected. It is such an amazing, difficult, heartbreaking struggle to navigate all these kinds of choices. I think my cousin had an epiphany of sorts about her own adoption when my aunt asked her to read a book written by young women that were sent to homes for un-wed mothers and what that process was like for them. I loved how Marlene tried to be impartial about the home where she was born, and had a change of mind of sorts regarding it and the program. I agree with her that adoption is a rough place with different issues depending on which side of the triangle one is on!  I put her book on my Amazon wish list!

The 5-Week Author Blog Challenge 2015 – Day 4

DAY 4 Prompt
Who are your writing role models? Whose writing has most influenced you? Who are your writing mentors?

I loved books as a child – my parents had a library with bookshelves to the ceiling and a fireplace and a nice rug… it was where my brother and I went after our bath-time to dry off in front of the fireplace and talk with our parents before bed.

There was a bookstore that we frequented (libraries were not all that common in Ecuador in those days) and the owner would let me sit in an equally cozy room with a beehive fireplace on a comfortable chair. To appease the expatriate crowd the bookstore owner, Heinrich, would order books in all kinds of languages. It was where the adult artist intellectuals would gather and talk and their children would huddle and read while they waited. I found all of my early favorite books here.

One of the people we met here was a man by the name of Moritz Thomsen. He was an author, a writer… he and my mother became friends and she would often take us to visit him. My brother and I wrecking havoc on the streets of Quito near his house while they pondered life’s more esoteric questions. I loved Moritz, I consider him to have been family. He put up with us as much as we had to put up with him.  I even asked him to marry my widowed grandmother over a nice sushi dinner once.

zun and moritz over sushi

There is a story about Moritz here, I should write more about what this picture is about though.

So I suppose it was my life that influenced me the most. Moritz told me to read voraciously, especially authors I liked. He loved authors like Wallace Stegner. He knew Paul Theroux, though Moritz’s last words about him to us were not all that kind.

I suppose another influence might be my great grandfather on my maternal line, he was a poet. He wrote beautiful poetry and had beautiful handwriting, There are also my mother and my aunt, they tell stories too… my mother through her writing (wish she did more) and my aunt through her art. My friend Bill writes too, and I suppose he was also a part of what influenced me to start picking up my pen again.

Today my blog hat tip goes to Christina over at Palace of Twelve Pillars. I was immediately charmed by the picture of a dark haired girl in a peter pan collar riding a purple dragon. I read through her post and saw that we both have a certain fondness for YA and children’s literature. I felt my heart thaw just a little.

The 5-Week Author Blog Challenge 2015 – Day 7

Do you ever experience writer’s block? What do you recommend to help overcome writer’s block? Any foolproof tricks that always work for you?

I live writers block… i think it comes from some deep place of self hate as I noticed that when I get some rather weird feedback I tend to stop. I once wrote a story about a young girl getting molested by an adult as part of a series of reflections on things that are not part of the beautiful like I want to pretend believe exists.

I had a writerly friend read it and the feedback I got was that it was “too porny”, which was the last thing in my mind that I was trying to go after. That comment sent me in to a tailspin. I haven’t even revisited that project, mainly for shame of trying to describe what it is like to have an adult sexually molest a young child.

Yes, this is indeed heavy stuff, and some of the most powerful stories that I have read will often tell stories like these. It was a tough experience to even write, it was intense in a way writing has never been for me before. I was emotionally drained, physically exhausted, I was an emotional mess… but I went through it and wrote it.

Since then, it has been a year with relatively no writing for me… other than a woeful trudge through navigating my cancer diagnosis and trying to make sense of it.

But that experience is still in my mind, not the critique mind you, but how I felt writing that story. I think I have only let my writing be more like journaling because opinion is safe.

I think that for me, writers block is more about resolving some issues than a true inability to write. Those issues can be any variety of issues… from personal to literary.

So I love this prompt, and reading what everyone else wrote… I may have to go get some vodka as one person suggested.


I won’t hat tip another participant post, this post touches on some serious themes and they may not want to get associated with it.

The 5-Week Author Blog Challenge 2015 – Day 3

What kinds of classes, programs, or workshops have you taken to hone your skill as a writer? What sorts of exercises did/do you use to improve? Have you ever taught a writing class or workshop?

I have avoided classes, programs and workshops – mainly because I am still reeling from that comment made by a teacher in college (see here). I hate being judged in that way. My mother, at least, is prone to telling me “what works”… though she leaves out the meat I want which is the “what doesn’t word” and “what isn’t clear”.

Lately, I have been doing a mind exercise where I try to talk about the details that get missed when I write stream of consciousness.   So, for example, “she walked in to the room” might turn into “the orange glow from the lamp beside the door cast a long shadow as she walked past the door frame” (yikes, what a poopy example!).

But it is about noticing more than the singularly obvious… things that set the tone to the story or some such.

So that is what I want to work on, and to be rather frank – it is terrifying. I am crappy at getting down the details!

The fact that I am so bad at it in terms of writing my story is that it is somewhat shameful for someone who has a background in ethnography, something where attention to and description of detail is vital and important. But it is hard to translate that skill into writing! What are things you do?

I do a lot of technical and scientific writing. It is interesting to mix the two; scientific writing vs. writing for pleasure (though I admit they can be one and the same at time, I hope you will indulge the separation of them). One is defined by clear and specific text while the other has much more leeway.  As I try to write more that is not dependent on a precise data set, I find myself worrying that it is too muddled, not clear… Do any of you have this problem? What do you do?

Today my hat tip goes to The Quirky Philosopher for this post. As an armchair philosopher I loved the title of her blog, but found some really good things to think about regarding the prompt o’ the day!

The 5-Week Author Blog Challenge 2015 – Day 2

When did you begin writing? Describe your earliest memory of writing. Are you formally trained, or did your writing begin as a hobby? How did your writing habit/process/career develop?

I actually first started illustrating… when I was around five or so… it was before my writing skills were even formed, it seems that I wanted to tell stories. I filled an entire notebook with pictures of people having children. It was rather graphic, but there was a definitive story and one knew that I thought motherhood important. I recall being proud of the work. But as I look back on that, I am sure my mother was horrified to some degree that her precocious young daughter would come to her with something that showed a rather deep understanding about the mechanisms that need to be in place in order for an egg to be fertilized in humans.

I have never had an easy relationship with writing, my mother seemingly my main if only true fan. In college I turned in a writing  assignment only  to be told that it was obvious that I was not a native English speaker… to this day, I do not know what that meant. It seemed vaguely condescending at the time though I am sure a teacher would not offer up such a statement to a relatively unknown student with a vengeful bent.

I write very stream of consciousness. Which causes details to suffer. I am trying to explore how to bring details in to that kind of writing. How to write about the details that play in to the mood or the scene or even the characters. This is very important to me. Does anyone have any tips?

A hat tip to a fellow participant:

A poem by Caro Ness

A short gentle poem that captures details of a picnic at dusk. Go read it. It was a nice surprise!