Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2010 Is On It's Way

Happy New Year to you all!

My novel, Hada, will be published in 2010. At least one printed copy will be. Being a 50,000 word winner of NaNoWriMo last November qualifies me to have a free printed copy of my Nano novel. I have until July 1st to submit it to Createspace who has made the printing offer. That means I have to revise a chapter a week since I'm only halfway done with the second draft.

To have one copy of Hada in book form will be worth the work.

Monday, November 30, 2009

NaNoWriMo Ends Tonight For Another Year

Well, my new novel, Lilli, met the NaNo goal of 50,000 words in this one month. Time to relax and finish it at a more realistic pace. For you Wrimos that made it, Congratulations! It truly is an accomplishment. For those of you who have done it in the past, you know what it's like. Anyone who hasn't done NaNo, it's worth it...all the pressure, the all consuming time factor, the fun, try it, I'll be you'll like it.

Lilli is at 50,000 but isn't done. Actually, 50,000 was at a turning point for Lilli so I'll continue writing fresh with it and continue revising Hada.

Good thing I like to write.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Kennel the Inner Editor

This is my fourth year writing a 50,000 word novel with National Novel Writing Month. I missed last year's event because I was devoted to revising the previous year's novel, HADA.

LILLI is this year's sequel to HADA and to use a cliche, it's pouring out like slow molasses. Years past my fingers couldn't keep up with my muse and this year it's like a slow motion movie.

With the help of my fellow writers in this frenzy, I shall prevail. Leslie quoted the advice of Chris Baty, the founder of NaNo: Kennel that Inner Editor.

I did, but I think there was an escape reported.

Monday, November 2, 2009

National Novel Writing Month

The frenzy has started and it's great fun. This is Day Two and I'm at 5,925 words out of the 50,000. Check it out even if you don't want to sign up to write. There's interesting tips on the home page and you might be tempted. It's free.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Contest Clue

Books are boats on the River of Time. Some volumes survive while others vanish.

Clue 1. This summary of a quote is from a best selling novel published this year.

Remember, I need the title, name, and the page number.

If you're reading this fast-paced novel, those words will jump out at you.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

National Novel Writing Month Countdown

November 1st is coming up soon. Are you ready to write a 50,000 word novel in a month? Sure you can.

I did it three years in a row and have been revising ever since.

You will amaze yourself. What creativity develops when you focus on reaching the magical 50,000 word marker will astound you! Meet new writer friends at the write-ins, check out people internationally who participate, feel the frenzy.

See you in a few days at the NaNoWriMo site. You can find me by my initials: JMK.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Turn Blog Posts into a Book

From the Atlantic’s Daily Dish by Andrew Sullivan

Books And Blogs

Finally, a way to make some money. And it's amazing what can be done:
65-year old Toshiko Fukuda of Hyogo Prefecture, Japan, lost her husband to asbestos on April 17th last year. Her husband, Motoo, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2006, probably from the steel pipe factory he worked at. He got worker's comp, but the disease ultimately destroyed his lungs and left him with hallucinations for the remainder of his life. Shocked, the widowed Fukuda started sending text messages to her dead husband every time she thought of something she wanted to say to him. Things like: "I couldn't live if I didn't think you were still beside me. I can't live [without you]. I'm crying every day" and "I want to call you 'Otosan' to my heart's content. Why do you have to be inside such a small urn?" Every time she sent a message, the phone by his home shrine vibrated (she made sure it was always charged).
Now she's publishing a book with the loosely translated title Job Transfer to Heaven Without Family-I Wanted to Be With You Longer, a compilation of all her text messages from the past year that she hopes will educate the public about the dangers of asbestos.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Julaina's First Contest For You to Enter

Books are boats on the River of Time. Some volumes survive while others vanish.

These sentences are a brief summary from a paragraph in a novel. Name the novel and the page number in the hardbound edition.

The first person to blog the answer here wins a writer's gift basket that includes a book, of course, and other "tools" writers can use.

There's no time limit on this contest. I'm patient. I'll wait for the winner's answer.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Page Turners

Sarah's Key by Tatiana De Rosnay and The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown are two page turners that have held my attention these last couple of weeks. I couldn't put them down long enough to blog!

Since I'm only half way through Dan Brown's fascinating book, I'm ready for the next chapter right now. Back to blogging after I finish the book.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Chapters Alternating Historical Times

SARAH'S KEY by Tatiana De Rosnay takes place in Paris with alternating chapters in 1942 and 2006. The character in 2006 is researching the Paris Roundup of Jews in July 1942, and it looks like a character from that 1942 event might be a connection to someone she is close to in 2006. The book is a page turner. I find I'm reading it more than I'm working on my novel. Hmmm.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

"A Frigidaire Song" by Carly Anne

Carly Anne West wrote "A Frigidaire Song" for the S.F. Writers Conference Anthology that inspired a short story I'm writing for the West Oakland Anthology due October 1st. My story is called "Goldie, the Mirror".

I'm always interested in what motivates people to write what they write. Carly Anne's character writes letters to her Frigidaire, my character talks to a mirror. My character began as a dear friend of ours who passed away a year ago, but the character morphed into his own identity, not just our friend's.

Maybe we writers could compile a book on what inspired us in each of our writings. I'd buy it.

Peter's "Thirty-Five Across"

In the S.F. Writers Conference Anthology I posted about last time, I forgot to mention an outstanding story, "Thirty-Five Across" by Peter Dudley. I'm not biased because he happens to be in the same writing groups that I am. It is my all time favorite short story by him.

I've previously posted about setting, especially with the novel about Locke, California. Peter's setting is not ominous like Locke, but he describes the cafe and the people who come in out of the rain and it puts me right there. I'm doing the cross word puzzle with the narrator and I hear his sighs. I feel the rain. Nice story to read on a hot day like today.

S.F.Writers Conference Anthology

"Building Bridges from Writers to Readers", the 2009 anthology is filled with short stories, essays, and poetry. It's available for purchase from the conference co-founders, Agents Elizabeth Pomada and Michael Larsen.

They invited those of us whose written work was printed in the anthology to their home in San Francisco on a very warm Sunday a couple of weeks ago. We writers were able to sign our work in each others' copies while we enjoyed wine and snacks provided by Elizabeth and Michael.

My entries were "The Bees' Nest", a short story about a mother and daughter and a poem, "Life Preserver in the Jungle" about a couple vacationing in Costa Rica.

The anthology was expertly edited by Vicki Weiland who was supportive, encouraging, and detailed. This edition is outstanding in the quality of the pieces.

The conference is held every year in February, on the weekend closest to Valentines Day. Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Another word for grin

Margie Lawson, in her on-line writing classes, encourages writers to be creative with body language, especially facial expressions. That's great, but how many new ways can we express grin? Thanks to Dictionary.com's Word for the day, here is a new one to add to our list:

Word of the Day for Wednesday, August 26, 2009
rictus \RIK-tuhs\, noun:

1. The gape of the mouth, as of birds.
2. A gaping grin or grimace.

A rictus of cruel malignity lit up greyly their old bony faces.
-- James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

His belly swelled grotesquely, his hands curled, his cheeks puffed out, his mouth contorted in a rictus of pain and astonishment.
-- Tony Horwitz, Confederates in the Attic

Then, as the sympathy and praise engulfed him, Hector would invariably roll over onto his back, legs in the air, his mouth twisted into an otherworldly rictus.
-- Bruce McCall, "Writers Who Were Really Dogs", New York Times, June 5, 1994.

Has anyone read "Writers Who Were Really Dogs"? Sounds interesting!!!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Time to Blog or to Edit, That is the Question

No new post for over a month. I sigh and search for a creative thought. But I'm not too unhappy about it because I've almost reached the half way mark in final edits for my novel, HADA. That is, if there is such a thing as final edits. Maybe I should say that chapters in the first half of the novel have been critiqued at least two to three times by my great writing group members and I've diligently followed up with the edits to the point that I'm satisfied. Then it's onward to the next chapter.

I've come to the part of the novel that I haven't worked on for a year so I'm actually surprised at what I wrote. It's like reading my own novel. In one chapter I couldn't wait to see what Samuel would say next to convince his mother (Hada) that he was still perfect.

Chris Baty of NaNoWriMo once told me that he likes editing as much as writing the first draft. I do too.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A character with louche behavior

Today's dictionary word is louche. Do you have a character that you could describe with this word?

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louche \LOOSH\, adjective:

Of questionable taste or morality; disreputable or indecent; dubious; shady.

You've got to keep yourself free of any suggestion of louche behavior.
-- Anthony West
A man in a bar, utterly average, though there is something louche about him, something sly.
-- Andrew Holleran, In September, the Light Changes
Danny would be sipping a mai tai or a whiskey sour in some louche West End club.
-- Will Self, Tough, Tough Toys for Tough, Tough Boys

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Dialogue Boulders

Margie Lawson teaches terrific on-line writing classes: www.margielawson.com. In her Empowering Characters' Emotions classes, she talks about dialogue boulders. What are they?

Dialogue boulders are when one character's dialogue goes on for a long paragraph or continues for half a page or more. Long dialogue and/or when it turns into a monologue, disengages the reader. Margie tells us to think WHITE SPACE. Have the other characters respond several times, either with a few words, or with body movements that show how they feel about what the character is saying.

Another tip is to read all your dialogue aloud. Scrutinize every word. Do you really need the character to say all of it? How does what is being said move the story along?

If it doesn't, take some of it out. Make a note to yourself to check for those blocks of words on a page, break them up, create some white spaces. Give the reader a book they can't put down.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Fragrance in your stories

On a recently purchased box of Pacifica Avalon Juniper Soap, I read,

"Much like music, fragrance is a beautiful connection between cultures, experiences, and memories. It has the ability to place us in the moment or bring back the past".

In the box of essence oils I have, Juniper is not one of my favorites, but when I smelled this bar, another scent took over Juniper. It sent me back to my mom's kitchen in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and the freshly cut grapefruit that waited for me on the table many mornings. I read the other side of the soap box label, and sure enough, it is a blend of juniper and grapefruit oils.

Fragrance in our writing is very important and I reminded myself to include it more often.

Yesterday, when I polished Chapter Nine of my novel, Hada,I used the sense of smell: "Neither one spoke as they prepared for bed. Hada, in her nightgown, her face washed and rose-fragranced moisturizer applied, sat on the bed and gave her feet a rub with Balsam Fir ointment."

I've put a post-a-note by my computer that says, "Use scents". Now I have to go back through the eight chapters I thought were polished, to find the perfect places to name some fragrances that add to the characters' experiences, as well as the readers'.

Friday, June 19, 2009


Ransom Stephens’ e-book is available at www.TheGodPatent.com for those of you who would like to experience e-books. As Ransom says, his book is “on its way to becoming the first debut novel to emerge from the new paradigm of publishing”.

The God Patent is not in print yet because “it has to succeed as an e-book to ever become a book as we know them”. Checkout the process since we might need to publish our writings in a similar manner in the not too distant future.

Ransom describes his novel as “the story of a laid-off, deadbeat-dad engineer trying to rebuild his life who gets caught between science and religion in a battle over the origin of the universe and the existence of the soul”.

I met Ransom at the San Francisco Writers Conference several years ago and participated in Litquake when he was involved in organizing it. Ransom’s contact is

Ransom W. Stephens, Ph.D.
Writer*Physicist*Public Speaker

His website is one of the best in layout, color, and class. It would be worth your time to check out both links.

Friday, June 12, 2009


Have you started a new novel and it has you hooked, but you find yourself not REALLY reading and "getting" the wonderful nuances or the "aha" of how the author captures your attention? The characters are new and the writer's voice is new. You like the book, but you haven't quite settled into it yet?

Water Ghosts by Shawna Yang Ryan has been that way for me. As I mentioned, I love the setting: Locke, CA...the setting was the main hook...what a town! But now, on page 93, I know the characters well, I care about them, and the writing...wow...I want to go back to page 1 and reread what I missed. Shawna deepens the characters for us using many writing techniques I have recently learned and discipline myself to look for in the midst of an intriguing plot...such as internalization with metaphors that blend instead of popping you out of the flow, the descriptions of the several characters' faces as their once normal world changes...they have glimpses that life will never be the same because of the three new-comers to their town.

As a reader, I feel their emotions and wonder how the changes will make or break them. As a writer, I admire Shawna for her subtle, yet dynamite skill as a writer. Her voice is and will be memorable. And when I'm finished with her book, I will have to settle into a new setting, a new author's voice, new characters or maybe I'll go back to another author I'm already familiar with: Lisa See and her new book Shanghai Girls. The transition will be easier.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Tergiversation Can Make One A proponent of Redundancy

For those of you who don't subscribe to Dictionary.com, I thought you would like today's word:

Word of the Day for Monday, June 8, 2009
tergiversation \tuhr-jiv-uhr-SAY-shuhn\, noun:

1. The act of practicing evasion or of being deliberately ambiguous.
2. The act of abandoning a party or cause.

No doubt if I worked on it, I could evolve some kind of double-talk that would get around the offensive phrase, and make the, to me, face-saving implication; but to hell with that, I have too much respect for the English language, and for your understanding of it, to go in for tergiversation and weasely circumlocution.

-- Richard Gillman, "Standing Up to Ezra Pound", New York Times, August 25, 1991

Like most writers, I have always championed thrift . . . . Not long ago, however, I experienced an extraordinary tergiversation. Now I'm an ally of excess, a proponent of redundancy.

-- Michael Norman, "When an Author's Words Are Sold by the Pound", New York Times, September 15, 1991

Sunday, June 7, 2009


Checking not only what is said in dialogue but how it is said (without using adverbs) is what I'm working on now with Hada.

To deepen the characters with more body movements during dialogue and writing about the pitch, tone, speed, quality, and volume in a fresh way is a challenge...I think it is the hardest part of writing.

Monday, June 1, 2009

What happened to Locke, CA?

I've been to Locke (near the Sacramento River) several times over the years so when I found Shawna Yang Ryan's book Water Ghosts, I bought it because I've been fascinated by the history of the place (a Chinese farming town). In preparation for this post, I wanted to let you know the location of Locke, but I couldn't find it on Google maps. Actually, because Locke is filled with atmosphere that speaks to another realm, I wouldn't be surprised if it really doesn't exist.

Anyway, that is another topic. What I like about Water Ghosts is the ethereal (in a gloomy way) setting ...perfect for the story and exactly how I remember the town. Her story takes place in 1928, but it seems the same today...a place caught in the past.

The powerful feeling or mood that envelops me with each sentence I read, reminds me that setting is important in writing. Since I'm on page 30,I don't know if she makes setting an acutal character, but the town is more than a background for the characters, it permeates the reader's senses making it as alive as any character.

If you read it, let me know what you think/feel about the setting.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Mary Buckham teaches on-line writing classes but if you prefer reading a book, here it is! She and Dianna Love have written Break Into Fiction, 11 Steps to Building a Story that Sells.. I received it from Amazon today and I look forward to reading it.

The testimonial on the front cover states that this book "determines whether your book will bring a check or a rejection slip". The Table of Contents has two chapter titles that have hooked me: "Power Openings: Grab Them by the Throat" and "Dialogue: It's More Than Talking Heads".

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Pacing's Part in Plot

We all know what the plot of the story is and we know we should pay attention to the pacing, but sometimes pacing isn't our focus or how to pace optimally isn't clear.

What helped me to keep pacing's part in plot on my mind is to think of the story as a road trip or an adventure. I read something like that somewhere and recently in my rewrite of Hada ,I've been searching for the most effective way to pace her story. Anyway, getting back to the trip idea...

Plot is the road map of our story, and pacing is the characters' movement on that road.

If the characters get bogged down in a back story ditch or a too-long-dialogue bump or a description boulder on the highway, readers might put the book down and might not pick it up again.

To keep those pages turning, we can lead the reader up hills, through the forest, and all the way to Grandmother's house with good pacing.

Take a look at your work-in-progress (WIP) and think about pacing. What makes pacing successful?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Learn a word a day

Dictionary.com will send you a new word a day or a week or for as often as you want via email. Great way for a writer to increase vocabulary for "fresh" writing. Here is a sample:

bombinate \BOM-buh-nayt\, intransitive verb:

To buzz; to hum; to drone.

Sometimes the computer bombinates way into the night, stops for a bit of rest, then resumes its hum at the early hours of the morning.
-- Cheryl Glenn and Robert J. Connors, New St. Martins Guide to Teaching Writing

Sunday, May 10, 2009


On Mother's Day, I made a pot of Good Earth tea and the message on the string tab said, "If you want to make peace, you don't talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies." Hmm...could be a good writing prompt.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Book Signing

Friday night a member of my critique group and I went to a book signing at Rakestraw Books in Danville. Ellen Gelles talked about and read from her new book, Abigail and John: Portrait of a Marriage.

What was most astounding to me was that Ellen has researched and written about Abigail Adams for thirty years. She read all the letters Abigail and John wrote to each other when he was abroad for a long time during their marriage. Ellen wrote three books about Abigail with different women's issues focused in each one. Can you imagine thirty years?

Friday, May 8, 2009


After editing up to Chapter 14 of my novel, Hada, I'm back to polishing the first three chapters. Donald Maass's book (actually, it is a workbook), Writing the Breakout Novel, is packed full of information and gave me new ideas to rework Hada from the beginning. This is my second year of editing Hada and I still discover new ways to deepen the chapters.

Chris Baty of NaNoWriMo fame, says he enjoys editing just as much as creating the first draft. I do too.

Did you know that Author Dean Koontz averages forty reviews/revisions per page?
I'm not counting.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Writing Groups

At the Salinas Writers Conference last August, I won a free critique for the first three chapters of my novel, Hada, from Becky Levine, who is a free lance editor. She has a book out now that is called The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide. In an excerpt I read from her book, she compares building members for a writing group to cooking and adding spices. If you aren't careful about adding personalities into the critique recipe, you could have a spice that is too bitter or two sweet and it is hard to remove a spice already put into a dish.

The writing group I'm in had that problem not too long ago. It was a very difficult situation because the person did not have the experience in writing as we were led to believe. In the future we decided to interview a person and ask them for a writing sample. Agreement by all present members must be unanimous to include a new member.

Becky has many suggestions and as far as I know her book on critique groups is one of a kind right now. If you are interested in building a critique group or adding to one you are already in, I think her book would be worth buying.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Writing prompt

Reading "Speed of Light" by Elizabeth Rosner has inspired me to write back-story in a different way...she's a master at it. Here is a prompt that helps me make decisions about what is important in the past, not only in writing, but in real life too:

When the past demands attention.....

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Einstein Quote

This week I am on the evaluation board for teacher interns presenting portfolios to qualify for their teaching credentials. They have been in Project Pipeline's program for two years (General Ed) or three years (Special Ed). Five out of my 13 interns are graduating this year.

One of the general ed. young women who presented yesterday had a philosophy of education that was astoundingly comprehensive for a new teacher. She wrapped her presentation around the following Albert Einstein quote that I think can be an inspiration to us all:

"The important thing in life is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing." Albert Einstein

Wishing you all a week filled with exciting curiosity.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

POV Changes

The Speed of Light by Elizabeth Rosner has an interesting way for using three points of view within each chapter. I was a little concerned that my novel, Hada, had alternating viewpoints...Hada's in one chapter, then the next her husband, Lev's, then the next chapter, Hada's again and so on throughout the book. What Rosner does is changes fonts and leaves double spaces when she changes points of view within the chapters. It really works...very well!

Her book is worth reading, not only for studying how she accomplishes this way of showing the three main characters' viewpoints, but it is an excellent story...character driven and unusual personalities that keep you turning those pages.

I discovered her book when I went to her workshop at the Pleasanton Poetry, Prose, and Arts Festival earlier this month. The topic was "Writing Deeper". If you hear of her doing another one in the future somewhere, I recommend going.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Spring Reunion Poem

In honor of Poetry month (and inspired by Peter's blog), I wrote a poem. We planted a vegetable garden on Sunday at our new house (we've been here since November '08). We had not seen this tree in all its glory before. I'll try to take a picture of it for my next post. J9 I could use your photography expertise.

Spring Reunion

The white-blossomed tree,
With quarter-sized branches
Delicately reaches,
And touches,
My balcony.

Over the railing,
My branch-sized arm stretches—
Meets the white umbrella
Of faces—
Strokes a flower.

The canopy shimmers,
With its smiling delight,
Sunshine beams warmth and life,
Our connection.

trademarked 4/15/09

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Open Mic Night in Pleasanton

Me and My Friends Restaurant at 4713 First Street, Pleasanton, will have an open mic night on April 30th at 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. There will be music and complimentary coffee and cookies while you listen to poetry and prose readings.

If you want to read some of your writings for 2 to 3 minutes, please call to reserve your time. It sounds like fun.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Check out Nancy Drew Clues to Creative Writing

I highly recommend "Nancy Drew's Handbook" by Penny Warner. It not only is a handy book to have, but it makes a great gift! Check out Penny's blog to read "Nancy Drew's Clues to Creative Writing". As you all know, Nancy is one smart girl! (And it's fun to read the quotes from Nancy Drew books included with each rule.)


I felt honored to receive a first place award for my fiction short story, "Leaving Jersey" and first place award for my non-fiction story, "The Principal's Principles" at the Pleasanton Poetry, Prose, and Arts Festival in April.


Friday, April 10, 2009

When Characters Write

Graham Greene said in "Advice to Writers":

"The moment comes when a character does or says something you hadn't thought about. At that moment he's alive and you leave it to him."

Those moments (they happen through most of my first draft writings now) are like reading my own book before it is written. That's what makes writing exciting.

In my late twenties, when I began to write fiction short stories, one of those moments happened for the first time with a character named Alex. I didn't understand how wonderful that was then and it scared me (he was a very self-assured character!). I packed up the story in a box and put it into the walk-in style attic we had in our Oakland flat. With that box, I put my writing career on hold for too many years, and when we moved, I forgot Alex in the attic.

I wonder what would happen if I started writing about him again...would he be angry with me? Would he be happy to talk with me again? Would he.....

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

April is Poetry Month

My friend and fellow-writer-group member, Peter, is writing a poem a day during this year's poetry month as he did last year. What an inspiration.

At Pleasanton's Poetry, Prose, and Arts Festival last weekend, I bought David Alpaugh's new poetry book, "Heavy Lifting" so I could reach my goal for this month which is to READ at least one poem a day. Between Peter and David, I'll join the celebratory month and who knows, maybe next April, I'll be writing a poem a

David Alpaugh also wrote "Counterpoint", a great poetry collection I highly recommend...available on Amazon.

Anybody else writing poems for this month?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Pleasanton Poetry, Prose and Arts Festival

The Pleasanton Poetry, Prose and Arts Festival, an annual event in Pleasanton, is one to put on your April Calendars. Two days of workshops, networking, contest competitions and fun. Go to mustloveblogsclass.blogspot.com to check out picture with Good Morning America's Mark Curtis and the class. His book is available on Amazon. A link is on his website: www.markcurtismedia.com