Thursday, June 20, 2019


I've neglected my blog as of late and realized I had not introduced you to the newest member of my family.

Readers, meet Leo, the cat.  Leo, meet my reader.  I mean readers.  Yeah.  Readers.  (Hi Mike)

After years of the girl child nagging and begging and wearing me down by promising to pay for most of the cat, I caved.  And so, Leo joined our family last July.

As a life-long dog person, it didn't take me long to figure out that this new creature is nothing like a dog at all.  I am very fluent in dog.  I do not speak cat.  But I've learned a few things about Leo in the past year that I'll share with you.  

Leo loves boxes.  He likes to chew on them.  Sit in them.  Hide in them.  Play with his toys in them.  I finally put a box lined with old shirts in our closet, which is his favorite place to sleep, and he slumbers there nightly.  He is particularly fond of Stitch Fix boxes.  (Endorsements, maybe?)  Forget the $300 cat tree I purchased.  He'll take a box any day.

Leo gets hangry.  When he has not been fed by 9:00 a.m., his little ears tilt backwards and he stalks around the house, starting fights with the dog and jumping up on the bed to glare at me.  He looks like a devil cat.  It still scares me into submission.

Leo announces his potty.  We always know when he's headed to the litter box, because he meows loudly on his way up the stairs and into the laundry room to his litter box.  This is not out of the ordinary for any member of our family, which tells me we chose the right cat.  

Leo is a Fancy Feast Cat.  He will only eat his wet food if it is on a plate.  But he cares not for being dainty, for he is a lion, and he noshes on his food with the ferocity of four hungry beasts rolled into a 12 pound ball of white fluff.  Unless the food is strewn about the floor around the plate when he's finished, he deems the feeding session a failure.

Leo wants his head scratched, until he doesn't.  He'll purr his deepest purr to indicate he is pleased with your work, and he'll let you know he's finished by biting your hand.  That alerts you in a painful, rather alarming way, that he's had enough attention.    

And lastly, Leo is in charge.  When Annie, our dog, is in a spot usually designated as mine, she will immediately move when I indicate I'd like to sit.  Leo knows everything in the house belongs to him.  Even my usual spots.  Therefore he'll stare me down with his brilliant blue eyes until a choose a new place to sit.  Often he'll start grooming himself, just to establish that he has no intention of leaving.  He also knocks items off my dresser to establish dominance.  If he wants it, he takes it.  That's just the way of Leo's world.

I've grown to love Leo, and I've learned one crucial lesson this year, which is no one really understands cats.  They are an enigma - mysterious, graceful, and dominant.  Good thing the dog and I are total wusses and let Leo boss us around.  Makes everything easier, if you ask me.  

Monday, June 17, 2019

Nature's Wonder Woman

Today, I "saved" a baby bird. 

When most people think of saving a baby bird, they envision gingerly placing the baby into a box lined with a soft towel before driving down the road to a wildlife rescue.  There, they relinquish the bird into the caring arms of a veterinarian, feeling a sense of pride and accomplishment.  A week later, when they call to check in, the vet tells them the bird flourished under their care, and flew away to join its flock that very morning.

You'd think that's what saving a baby bird would be like.  But you'd be wrong. 

My son flagged me down as I drove into our neighborhood, waving his arms and charging towards the street to stop me.  When I pulled over, he and his friend quickly filled in, babbling on about a baby bird they'd found at the base of a tree next to the sidewalk. 

There, just as they'd described, was an adorable little fledgling.  My son had already called animal control, who referred him to a wildlife rescue.  The wildlife rescue said we were welcome to bring it in.  We scooped up the bird and put him in a box lined with a yellow hand towel.  So far, the rescue was just like it is in the movies.  Then, I typed the wildlife rescue address into Waze. 

The rescue was 50 minutes away.  Fifty.  Minutes.  It was already 12:45 and I hadn't had anything to eat that day.  I peeked at the little black bird, with his tiny head and over-sized
beak, awkwardly perched on the towel, his feathers ruffled.  He looked disheveled and adorable.  A small bit of down poked out from his pink skin.  He chirped and chirped, as if saying, "If you leave me, I'll die!"  With a sigh, I piled everyone into the car, hurried home, dumped my groceries on the counter, ordered my daughter to put everything cold away (she responded with an eye-roll), and got back on the road. 

Waze doesn't lie.  It was a full fifty minutes, over the Blue Ridge Mountain and way back into the woods, down a gravel road.  The bird chirped every three seconds during the entire trip.  The boys tried playing soothing music to get it to go to sleep, but it only chirped louder. 

When we finally arrived, I put the box on the counter and told the man behind the desk what had happened.

"Is it hurt?" he asked. 

I glanced at the bird and shrugged.  "I don't know."

"Is his wing broken?" 

This man obviously gave me way more credit in the area of bird injuries than I deserved.  "I have no idea.  We just found him at the base of a tree and couldn't find a nest anywhere." 

The man appeared annoyed, but picked up the box and walked to the back of the building while I filled out a form.  The boys high-fived one another, and I beamed at them, filled with pride at my offspring who wanted to do the right thing and pleased with myself at this act of kindness towards the universe.  I was nature's friend. Nay.  I was nature's Wonder Woman. 

I was just getting ready to round up the boys and head back to the car when the man came back, holding the box.  A familiar chirping echoed from inside.  "Good news!" he said.  "The bird is very healthy.  We gave it some fluids and it's ready to be re-nested."  He was way too excited, and I was way too confused. 

"But, I thought you were going to take care of it."  A small voice in the back of my head was telling me to get the hell out now before he shoved the box back in my hands.

"Oh, no," he said, laughing and shaking his head at my adorable ignorance.  "You need to put it back where you found it and re-nest it.  The parents will feed it until it's ready to fly in the next few days."  Then my nightmare came true and he shoved the box back in my hands. 

He rattled off instructions while I furiously wrote them down.  Make a nest by putting pine needles and grass inside a blueberry container.  Place the baby bird in the new "nest," and strap it to the tree about five feet off the ground.  When he stopped talking, I paused and looked up at him. 

"How do I strap it to the tree?"

He looked at me like I was an idiot.  "Duct tape."

Of course!  Strap a blueberry container filled with grass to a tree with duct tape.  Couldn't believe I hadn't thought of it myself.

The car ride home was silent, except for the chirping every three seconds.  At one point, my son said it might have been better if they hadn't found the bird.  I made some off-handed comment about doing the right thing, but happily strapped that blueberry nest to the tree with duct tape when we got back, put the baby bird on top, and walked away.

I'd feel a lot better if I knew the baby bird was at the rescue center an hour away instead of inside a blueberry container attached to a tree with duct tape. The whole experience reminded me of the day the nurse at the hospital placed my first child in my arms, shoved me out the front door, and told me to take her home.

Long story short, most animal saving stories are crap.  Just thought you should know. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Breaks and New Beginnings

I've been blogging for Women on Writing for about two years now and have decided to take a break to focus on my own blog and to get back into the writing groove, so to speak.  A link to my final post with them is below. 

What does that mean for you, my loyal readers?  Well, you can expect more blogging from me right here!  In the New Year, I'll focus on writing, teaching, family, and self-discovery.  Hope you stick with me and enjoy what is to come!

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

World-Building Research Guidelines - Guest Post!

I'm delighted to have a guest blog today!  This is a fantastic article about world-building in fiction, and I hope you find it as useful as I do!  Make sure you click on the links for additional information, and check out when you've finished reading!

A detailed and well-developed imaginary world is the backbone of every good sci-fi and fantasy story. For an imaginary world to be believable, it needs to be supported with plenty of small details by the writer of the story. Moreover, a reader must feel like he is inside of a story, witnessing every scene with his own eyes. Little do regular people know that writing such a story is easier said than done. For starters, a writer needs to conduct a thorough world-building research, one that will include even the most minuscule things, such as the characters` choice of food and drinks. Therefore, having some guidelines can be helpful when creating your own world. 

There are no boundaries to your imaginary world.

Three main categories of world-building 

Before dealing with the key elements of any world, whether fictional or real, a writer needs to have three main categories of world-building in mind. 
  • The first category is that of imaginary worlds. What is typical for this category is that the writer has to come up with an entire fictional universe, oftentimes including more than one planet. Mostly used by fantasy writers.
  • Next, there is the category of an alternate reality. Here, we have the basics of the world we know, with a couple of altered details. Mostly used by science fiction writers. 
  • Lastly, we have the category of actual locations. As the name itself implies, this category is the one of the world as we know it, and it has no made-up details. Due to its nature, it is mostly used by novel writers. 
Clearly, world-building is only necessary and essential for the first two categories. Sci-fi and fantasy writers are the ones who have their work cut out for them when it comes to the world-building process. 

The beginnings of a world-building research

In the initial stages of planning the storyline of your work, it is necessary to decide what inspires you. Do you wish to base your imaginative world on some country from the real world? Which real-life creatures do you want to utilize for your story? One smart way to keep track of your thoughts is to create a concise overview in the form of a list. It is a known fact that using a bulletin board is one of the best writing hacks

Even though you might be a poetic soul, who is enamored with the smell of books and who wishes to be able to live in the 18th century, you are still going to have to use the 21st-century technologies for writing your story. Once you sit down at your computer, you need to use Google, or some other search engine, to get the details necessary for your story. Perhaps you will have to research the French law or the Australian animals. Remember, your imagination has no boundaries.

To create a world of your own, you need to research the real one, first.

For example, you might be writing a story about an alien invasion. Wikipedia and similar search engines could be your best allies for finding out all the information relevant to your story. Which planets do you plan to include? Will you be working with uninhabited planets from the real life? Only after you gather the needed knowledge can you start working on your story. 

Moreover, in the age we live in, it is not rare for writers to have their own websites on which they publish their stories. This presents a unique opportunity for amateur writers to earn some money, and get their name out there. If your purpose is to live solely on the money you earn from writing, then you should optimize your website for search engines. With this extra help, who knows how far you will get in your career. 

The key components to include in your research

The bulletin board would not be complete without the key elements, would it? When creating a world of your own, there are a few things a writer should be mindful of. 

The geography of your world arguably plays the most important role. Will your fictive planet be Earth-like, or will it resemble some other planet from the Solar system? What about the cities and their names? When creating the geography of your planet, have the complete storyline in your mind. Does your story involve time-traveling or alien invasion? The plot decides what your new planet will be like. 

Culture and history are what shapes a nation as a whole. They are what gives us personality and makes us into the human beings we are. Therefore, you need to put in a lot of thought and effort when creating the history of your planet. Will your world come from a rich cultural and historical background? Are you planning on creating a tortured world, plagued with horrible historical events? The options are limitless, and you are the one to make the final choice. 

Government and economy shape the modern world. Do you plan on creating a lawless country, where money has no value? Are your plans to make a futuristic society, where the storyline revolves around the economic welfare? Your story cannot go in two ways. 

Finally, you need to make some small decisions, which hold a lot of significance. For example, what type of clothing will the characters in your story wear? Will they hunt for their own food, or will there be lavish feasts? After all, the world is based on details, and these details decide whether the readers will find your story believable or not. 

When world-building research is thorough and comprehensive, the end result always leads to captivated audience.

If you approach the task of conducting a word-building research seriously, there will be a small chance for failure. Remember, even if you are still an aspiring artist, there is an opportunity for you to become a household name. With some dedication, and effort, you can create a website where you can publish your stories. If well-developed and optimized, your website will be a success. Moreover, if unsure how to create such a website, feel free to contact a professional in the field. Every field has SEO experts, and like is an expert in the moving industry, there are plenty of them for your purpose. Don`t shy away from using the advantages of living in the 21st century.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

This is Writing

Full disclosure:  This blog is originally on Women On Writing's Muffin.  Please check in and see the latest from their other bloggers as well!

This week, I had my writing center students complete an assignment based off the essay series called “This is Childhood.” In the series, bloggers for the Huffington Post reflect on what the various ages of childhood look like to them. This series inspired another blog, where author Emily Mendell muses about being 45 years old.

I have yet to see my students’ finished products, but it got me thinking about what my age says about me and, more specifically, where I am in life as a writer. It's long, but it's worth it.  So here it is:

This is writing for ten years.

Writing for ten years is remembering the delight of crafting your first novel. Each word - each page - was a step towards greatness. Your enthusiasm was at an epic height. You envisioned the literary agent of your dreams, a Random House publishing contract, and a billion-dollar movie deal. Writing wasn’t work, then.

Writing for ten years is accepting that the “first novel” magic is gone. You left it behind - perhaps on the same thumb drive where your novel now makes its sweet repose. You never access that file anymore. It’s a reminder of your “youth” when adverbs and dialogue dominated your writing. It’s cringing at the word count of your first novel - above 120,000 words - which is a major faux pas in the writing world. It’s regretting the name of your main character, because its a name you’d like to use in a different book, but it seems cruel to rip it away from your first “baby.”

Writing for ten years is understanding you’re no longer a fledgling but are far from accomplished. You’re an average, everyday sort of writer. You think about writing all the time, but put it off for your children’s after-school activities. For cooking and cleaning. For trips to the grocery store and Target and the doctor’s office. For grading papers and planning lessons. For family obligations. For calming down a hormonal teenager who is having her fourth minor crisis of the day and for the rare time you can go for a 30 minute run outside. You put it off for ten, quiet minutes on the couch without someone calling your name or needing something.

Writing for ten years means having a list of story ideas on your phone. You probably don’t understand half of them anymore, because they were written in the middle of the night or after that third glass of wine. It’s listening to a song on the radio and picturing a vivid scene for your book. It’s replaying that same song ad nauseum until the scene is solidified in your mind because you’re driving, and you don’t have the capability of writing it down.

Writing for ten years means finding that precious hour to work on your current novel, only to spend that hour going back and re-reading in an attempt to rediscover your intended path. You fix problem after problem along the way. Sometimes you discover an excellent scene and congratulate yourself. At the end of the hour, you’ve written, perhaps, for ten minutes, before you are called away on another errand.

Writing for ten years means letting go of the strict grammar conventions of high school and recognizing that style, complex characters, and rich settings are of paramount importance. It’s okay to break the rules, because it creates depth.

After writing for ten years, you cling to the hope that your writing is worthy of an agent. You’ve sent out over one hundred query letters. You also recognize - with painful acquiescence - you may never land one.

It’s finally getting published by a small press and loving every minute of the publishing process. It’s jumping up and down when you receive the acceptance email. It’s spending grueling hours in front of a computer screen making all of your verbs active and removing the word “look” from your manuscript 300 times. It’s delighting in the cover art and sharing your accomplishments with anyone who will listen.

Writing for ten years is realizing, a year after you’ve been published, that book promotion is the most difficult part of the publishing process. It’s getting royalty statements with “0” next to “books sold.” It’s fighting the urge to give up.

After writing for ten years, you are aware of your responsibilities as a writer. You write as much for your audience - for that one person who might connect with your work - as you do for yourself.

Writing for ten years means embracing the joys and the rejection that come with writing. You acknowledge that you will not be the next Stephen King or Joyce Carol Oates. You accept that you will, most likely, never be able to quit your day job.

Writing for ten years means you love the craft. That never goes away. You know you will always be a writer. Especially because your license plate says "WR1TE."

This is writing for ten years. This is me.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Writing with Concussions

Hi Friends.

Turns out writing with a concussion is difficult.  I wrote about it over at Women on Writing.  Check it out!

The Best Laid Schemes:  When Life Forces a Writing Moratorium

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Need Character Ideas?

My newest post over at Women on Writing gives some great ideas for forming characters based on the people you see every day!

Check it out here.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

My New, Improved (and freaking beautiful) Website

As I was posting my last blog over at Women on Writing, it occurred to me that I never promoted my own website on my blog!  Time to fix that.

If you read my other post, you'll see why I waited so long before updating my website.  But, to make a long story short, I paid a student to create my original site because I was busy, tired, and too scared to create one for myself.  At the time, it was a perfect solution.

The problem?  I had no way to update it.  Only he knew how to make changes.  Four years later, I had no access to him.  Once he graduated, we completely lost touch.

My choices were clear:  keep the outdated site with information from four years ago and an unflattering photograph of myself, or wipe the slate clean and attempt to create a new website on my own.  It took some courage, a large serving of wine, and a short prayer to God before I made the leap and told Host Monster to delete all existing content.

I then started my rocky journey with WordPress.

WordPress and I have a love/hate relationship.  I love my final product.  I hated the road to get there. Before using WordPress, I had zero experience creating a website.  Blogger doesn't count, since a two-year-old could figure it out.

I made mistake after mistake.  I tossed four-letter words at the screen.  I stormed into the kitchen to get more wine when I failed to achieve what I wanted.  I spend hours researching how to complete every tiny aspect of the program.  Finally, however, it came together, piece-by-piece.  Each small accomplishment pushed me further, until I was satisfied with the end result.

Personally, I think my website is wonderful.

It showcases my writing, my (super amateur) photography, and my brand as an author.

If you haven't had a peek, please do!  And feel free to leave feedback in the comments!


Beth - 1
WordPress' Difficulty - 0
Beth's Courage - 1

Author Websites

It turns out is IS important for authors to have their own, updated websites!  Read my latest post about my struggles to update mine and the stunning end result.  Then, of course, feel free to visit my website!

Even if you aren't an author, having a website is a great way to showcase yourself and your talents.

Read the blog here:  The Need for a Website.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Summer Reading

Over at Women on Writing, I discuss the importance of reading - especially in the genre in which we write.

I also admit to nerding out when I discovered our local library has a summer reading program for adults.  I'm six books away from an ice cream cone, courtesy of Chick-fil-A.

Read the post here.