About Me

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I'm a published author of short fiction for kids and adults. I have an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University. I'm a former content writer for Spirit and Truth publishing on their Living the Word series. I've also worked as a paid book reviewer and as a student editor for The Louisville Review literary magazine. I'm a wife and mom to two great kids, three dogs, and a cat. I love books, movies, gardening, kids, and animals.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


?     ?     ?    ?

I'm currently reading a book that I can't put down. It is a fantasy and to be honest it isn't something I set myself to read as part of my research for my writing. But I'm glad I picked it up. Because, as it turns out, it is a wonderfully written book full of strong and fascinating characters. I was pondering it this morning as I considered what to write about in my blog. This in turn made me think about what I would say about this book and its story if I did write about it. In the end, I decided I wouldn't write about the book itself at all. Instead, I'd write about an exercise I've decided to do for myself out of curiosity to see where it leads and what may happen as a result.

I'll explain. The book I'm reading is the third in a series. In both of the books I've read so far, the underlying theme of each story and each character is the idea of choices. This might seem like a simple theme to consider for a story. But the writer in this case has made it wonderfully complex and has even stirred up quite a bit of controversy over the choices some of her characters have made. But to have choices don't we first have to have questions? How else would we know we have a choice to make in the first place if we didn't wonder why or what or when or how?

As I considered this I began to consider what would happen if I kept a journal of questions. People journal about lots of different things. Why not keep a journal of questions? When we are little we ask all sorts of questions, most of which start with, "Why?" At some point we stop doing this. Possibly because we're eventually told by the exhausted people we keep questioning to stop. Gaining a better understanding of the world around us could also cause our curiosity about everything to narrow down to only specific things that really interest us. Or a combination of both is likely too. You see how many questions can come up just by thinking about questions.

Keeping a journal of a few random questions everyday might prove very interesting. Who knows what things might result? 

In my day-to-day life I tend to shy away from questions that I can't easily answer. I don't think this is unusual. In my writing world not having all the answers to questions about my stories can lead to the story stalling completely and be dangerous to the believability of the world I've created. Its a fine line to follow knowing how many of the questions you have to create for a reader to answer, as a story unfolds. You can't answer too many questions but you also can't go around making them wonder about stuff without giving them a few hints or clues along the way to wet their appetite for more.

I don't know how recording a question about why my refrigerator makes noises when its running sometimes that sound exactly like the birds that bathe themselves in the outside gutter of my house is going to help me. Perhaps writing down random questions will give me ideas of things to include in a novel to build the setting and make the scenes more real for the reader. Maybe my daily questions I record will help me better understand myself. Or it might prove to be a completely worthless endeavor. But it is a choice and I'm going to try and pursue it to see where it takes me.

What about you? Have any seemingly random musings about things, whether it was a show you watched, or a book you've read, led to inspiration of some sort? Have these musings ever helped you choose to do something? If so leave me a comment about it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Entering the Scene of The Crime

Beautiful isn't it? This image of cascading water tumbling down a huge waterfall. Beautiful, loud  and potentially deadly. Especially if you are walking above it on a narrow trail where there is no fence or protection from it, if you were to fall over the ledge. It is scenes like this one that inhabit the worlds created by the very best of Alfred Hitchcock's films. They are breathtaking in their cinemascopic views and compelling, drawing the viewer into the scene and into the scene of the crime.

This is what I saw as I walked this same trail for a second time with my family. This breathtaking view. I was able to relax and enjoy it more the second time around because I knew it was there. I'd walked the trail before only a few weeks back. But the first time I saw it from this close range with nothing but air between me and falls, I'll admit it made me a teeny bit nervous.

Though not as big as Niagra Falls, the Cumberland Falls lives up to its title of the Niagra of the South. It is a large body of water both lovely and raw in its scope and force. A force of nature in every sense of the word. It is one of my favorite sights to visit. It is also an area in the Daniel Boone National Forest where I placed the final scene of a crime in my middle grade mystery. I wondered as I navigated the trails around it if my character would contemplate for just a moment pushing the villain, whose power he was under, off the trail and into the roiling water just below. Would it be better to never know what had become of his loved ones? Could he sacrifice them to keep a powerful object out the hands of a psychopath? These are important questions that I hadn't contemplated for my character until I walked the trails in the park and looked at the surroundings through his eyes. A very important thing to be able to do as a writer.

It gave me new insight into my character as I pondered the places I saw, people I passed on the trail, and the likelihood of the villain being able to carry out what I'd written. The scene of the crime was full of beauty, danger, and the occasional, other, hiker. It an area that is dotted with caves, streams, waterfalls, and wildlife, some of which include black bears.

I realized in order for my villain's scheme to be successful I would have to look up when bears actually begin their hibernation period. The location of the crime would have to be far enough away from a trail for it to be unnoticed by other hikers in the area, but close enough for my villain to find it again without difficulty. It would also have to be someplace unlikely to be blocked by fallen trees, or ice formations that would prohibit them from getting back to the victims in question.

By answering these questions for myself as the writer I can go back to my final climactic scene and hopefully rewrite it to be as hair-raising and compelling as anything Hitchcock could create on film. If I can accomplish that I will have written something I would love to read and hopefully something others won't want to put down, as well. It was fun visiting the scene of my crime. I'm very blessed to be so close to so much natural beauty even if, in my fictional world, it may prove to be a very dangerous location for my character...

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Incorporating Magic into Your Writing

Image courtesy of jannoon028 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I've been having a lot of fun this week working on something I've always kind of dreaded having to do in the past, RESEARCH. For me this word brings to mind searching dusty archives in libraries, poring over informational books, talking to strangers, all the while hoping I'm gathering the right information for whatever paper, article, etc. I've been tasked with writing. The talking to strangers part was always my biggest fear. It still kinda is.

But this week I hit a stumbling block in revision work I'm doing on one of my stories. The only way to fix the problem was to do some research. It occurred to me that this time the research I'd be doing didn't involve doing any of the things I normally dread. This research would involve searching the internet, and delving into the best middle grade and adult fiction I could find that involved my two favorite genres, mysteries and fantasy.

Why you may ask was I having to read about and search for these two things? And why the need to look for both adult and middle grade fiction? Well I'll tell you. Because I'm revising a novel for middle grade readers that has magical fantasy elements of a nature I haven't successfully found examples of in this readership. Thus the need to read both adult and middle grade fiction that are both mysteries and fantasies.

The other thing I've been searching for are articles on ways to improve on the magic I've added  into my plot to make the overall mystery stronger and more complex. Two things that I've been told I need to work on with this particular manuscript. But something that is hard to do when your story is a little different in the way the magic is used. I've included links to some of my favorite articles on how to work in magic into a story or to build a magical system.

Writing Fantasy:A Short Guide To The Genre

How to Create a Unique Magic System for Your Book

So You Want To: Write an Urban Fantasy

Creating A Magic System

On reading these articles I've decided I need to write a magical guide for my novel and then use that to revise my story and make it stronger. All the while I get to do a lot of one of my favorite things, read and read some more, all in the name of improving my craft. What could be more magical than that? This is the kind of research I can really get into.

Do you enjoy stories that have magical elements? What are some favorite novels you've read (besides Harry Potter) that have been magical and mysterious? Share them in the comments section below.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

What's the New Year to Bring...

Happily, I'm starting out this new year with plenty to keep me busy. I have two different manuscripts to read for a couple of online critique partners I work with, lots of submission research to do, and I've already sent one short story on its way as a contest submission. The year is off to a good start. 

I haven't set any clear cut resolutions or made myself deadlines to strive for. I'm still trying to live in the moment day by day. It is going to be challenging this year. There have already been some big changes that have happened since my kids went back to school. Some families are moving, another teacher has taken a job elsewhere. My daughter, especially, is concerned how these things will impact her little cluster of friends. Last spring I admit I kept getting one of my 'feelings' that things were going to be different--that changes were coming. I thought at the time it would directly impact my family. And while there have been some big and unexpected changes over the last several months, most of them have been with other families and friends pursuing new opportunities and leaving the area. I've watched them go and wondered if my 'feeling' was about how their changes would impact us or if these sudden losses of friends we didn't expect to go elsewhere are just the beginning of a state of flux for my own family.

There are big decisions ahead for me and my kids in the coming year. I'm still uncertain about where my daughter should go for high school or whether I should take a year to home school her so she can pursue bigger opportunities for stage work with a professional children's theatre. My son I'm content to keep in his current school another year. I like the band program there and next year he'll be old enough to try band for the first time. He may decide playing a musical instrument isn't for him or he may decide he loves it. Either way it isn't an opportunity I want to deprive him of. I myself have been considering applying for a graduate program I've been looking into to earn another degree, this time in fine arts. 

Living in the moment will help ground me in the here and now as I look toward the future and which path I want to take next with my kids and in my own journey. One thing I really would like to do in the new year is whittle down my to-be-read pile...

This is what it looked like a year ago. It hasn't gotten any smaller. I'm afraid to take a picture of what it looks like currently. But I am determined to get a handle on it as a reward for getting my other work done as I wait out the cold winter months till spring. What about you? Any strong emotions toward this traditional season of renewal and setting resolutions? Anyone else have to-be-read piles that might have grown a wee bit out of control? I'd love to hear about it.