Living Write

My Cat Hates My Writing

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Poe is my 15 year-old black cat. We named her after the writer, Edgar Allan Poe, because of our love for his story-telling, especially his tale, The Black Cat. Poe and I have this love-hate relationship. I love her and she hates me. Really. She spends most of her day hanging out on or near my desk, often positioned between me and my keyboard. She purrs. She flops over onto my arm. She acts as though she desperately wants me to pet her. She doesn’t. If I try, she bites me.

What she truly hates, though, is my writing. Not the actual stories – though I’m quite certain she would show her disdain if she could read – but what she despises is my physical presence in front of my word processor. Not only does she intrude on my typing, but as soon as I get up from my chair (to refill my coffee or such) she jumps into it and “falls asleep” by the time I return. Getting her out requires a sincere attempt at petting… and usually getting bit. Also, I’m pretty sure she’s swearing at me in kitty-cat language. She meows like a sailor.

Today I have been preparing for my November novel, Bare Essentials, which I will write (first draft at least) over the next thirty days. I have my outline all ready. I’ve been looking over my research and character notes. I’ve checked off nearly everything from my weekend to-do list. My desk is cleared and ready to go. My husband and I went out for a few errands this afternoon, and when I returned, I found cat puke in my seat. Nice. Poe’s perfect commentary on my chosen vocation.

For some, this might be a sign of doom, a dark foreboding, a disaster in the making. But what Poe doesn’t know is that her little gift is positive reinforcement for me. You see, every novel I’ve written has one common element. Someone throws up, yarks, unswallows, pukes – whatever you call it – it happens, and it happens in all of my stories. Gross, I know. You might say that it’s my way of facing one of my fears. And so Poe’s little critique mess is somehow a very appropriate way to start my next adventure in writing.

She may hate my writing, but I love her.


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Living Write

Ready to Write

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November is National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo, as promoted at That means that October has been NaNo Prep month!

For the last several years I have been participating in the writing adventure. I prepare outlines and inspiration boards. I do research and take notes. I revise my outlines. I clean my desk. I tell everyone that I love that I’ll see them again in December.

The trick of writing 50,000 words in 30 days is simply to write. Make the time—set aside a segment of every single day—and write. Write like the wind. Write as though your life (or income) depended on it. Write like nobody is reading. Write like… whatever it is that will get you motivated to write. No one will take your writing more seriously than you do. When you get real about it, others will, too.

Click to see and purchase!

Make a pact with your family and friends so that they help you write, not distract you from your task. Wear a “do not disturb” hat. Send them out for a day at the park or pizza. Offer them a “walk-on” role in your novel, or at least a shout-out in the dedication. Let them know how much it means to you. Tell them what writing your story feels like.

When it comes down to the end, though, don’t stress about not making 50K by November 30. Just do your best. And if you need another week to finish, take it. The deadline is there for motivation, but even if you do reach your goal—DON”T send your novel to be published December 1st. Do your editing. Make it right, make it clean, make it beautiful. Make it a quality product that on which you’ll be proud to have your name for years to come.

Sign up and participate. You’ll be glad you did. The rewards are amazing—nothing monetary, unless you pursue it—but the feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction are better than cash, anyway. Be my buddy on NaNoWriMo (Kim Black)!

Te help me with my character profiles (especially for a series of novels that I’m working on) I developed a workbook to keep everybody straight. It turned out pretty nice, so I have made it available on amazon. Have a look!

Happy writing!

Cinema Toast

Thank You for Acting!

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When I read a book, it doesn’t take me long to cast the “movie” that plays out in my mind. A few choice adjectives and verbs, a page or two of dialog, and I get a fairly clear picture of the characters. I suppose that most people do the same thing, considering the cheers and upset that an announcement of a movie adaptation can bring once the cast is announced.

I always thought of her as a blonde. And shouldn’t he be taller? In the novel it was a little girl, not a boy. Nobody will ever be perfectly happy in these cases.

When I write, I try to “reverse engineer” the story, and I feel like it makes a world of difference in my dialog. I cast my characters just as if I were creating a film with an unlimited budget. I pick actors that are suited to my characters, and then I collect pictures of them and watch their movies. I follow many of them on twitter, to pick up their natural patterns and phrases.

I put together a notebook with their pictures, along with my own character sketches and back-stories. I also collect photos of places in the story, weapons or objects that each character has and uses. I keep all my technical and historical research in this notebook, too.

Why bother? Does all of this really help? YES!

When I write an argument or a quiet conversation, I want it to sound realistic. If I couldn’t possibly imagine the actor I have cast in a role saying something, I change it to what he might say. Some of the most interesting plot twists have come about this way, and I’m always a little surprised and pleased when it happens. Pictures are also a great tool for referencing eye color, scars, etc. to keep continuity and flow in the story.

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I recently began a virtual notebook on Pinterest for my current work in progress. It was an experiment, as I have a hard copy of my cast in a real notebook, too. With the exception of a full character sketch—which I could add in notes, it’s worked very nicely. I plan to do this for all of my future novels as well. This should save time, paper, trees, and might even get me some input about how other people see these characters.

To the actors I’ve cast in my story, I’d just like to say thank you for acting. You are truly an inspiration!

To see my Pinterest Board, visit

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading.

Cinema Toast

Writing for the Movies

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After the amazing fun I experienced last November participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo~ 50,000 word novel in 30 days), I decided to get in on April’s Script Frenzy. It is a challenge to write a 100-page script (I’m writing a screenplay.) in 30 days.

I’ve written screenplays before, and I’ve done lots of research on what makes a good script. I study movies all the time.

I like the pace of writing screenplays. One page equals one minute on screen. It moves. I started writing my story last night and in 90 minutes, I had written eight pages.

Are they perfect? Nope. I didn’t say they were perfect. I said they were written. With a goal of 100 pages, I am now 8% finished. Yes, I’m a “glass is half full” kind of gal.

What will I do with this screenplay? Am I going to market it to Hollywood? Will George Clooney beg to play the lead?

The main character is a nineteen-year-old boy, so I hope Clooney isn’t too disappointed. No, I have always dreamed of making a movie. Thus, before I let any more of my life slip into a scrapbook, I’m going to do it.

I can’t tackle a project like this by myself, however. I have enlisted the help of my family and friends, and I will be building a campaign through to raise a little capital.

What’s so special about my story? It’s based on a tale told to me by a family friend when I was just a kid. I recently invited him back out to my house for dinner, and he told the story again—knowing that I wanted to make it into a film. He told my family about a series of events that happened to him and to his friends when they were teenagers. Remarkably, the story hadn’t changed in decades. With as unbelievable as his account is, this fact impressed me. He always stresses that it’s just a story, but WOW! What a story it is.

It will require special effects. I happen to know a man that can do just about anything with smoke and mirrors. My movie will require some minor pyrotechnics. I have another friend who can blow up anything. Up to this point, I have not really seen the positive side of this, but this project might change my mind.

My husband and sons have, and regularly use, sound and video editing software. They are all artists with mad print and computer skills. My husband is also in construction, and can build whatever we don’t already have. We have a house and land that is very close to the locations where the original events actually occurred.

Finally, I have raised two sons who love to act. They have participated in plays and musicals at church and school. They are naturals. And they can take direction objectively. Along with a good friend and a precious niece, I have my cast.

With all of this in my corner, the task of writing becomes simple. I describe the people and the places. I tell what they are doing. I put words in their mouth. I leave out the boring parts and embroider in some action.

I’m excited. Can you tell?

I’ll keep you all posted as the month progresses!

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading.

Cinema Toast

I Can Do That!

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Have you ever watched American Idol or Survivor or The Amazing Race and thought to yourself, “I could do that!”?

Somewhere in your heart of hearts you just know that if you had the opportunity, you could do just as well, if not better, than the people who are being lauded and praised on TV. They are winning hundreds, thousands, and even millions of dollars, as well as huge career contracts, just for using their God-given talents. You want in, too.

I feel the same way when I watch the Oscars. In fact, when I was in the eighth grade, I had a goal of being the first woman to be nominated for an Academy Award in the four top slots—writer, director, producer and actress in a leading role. Now that was two grown children and forty pounds ago, but I still have the love for movies.

A few years ago I decided to really concentrate on my writing. I’ve always been a writer, but most of my work has been incomplete, sitting in file folders, waiting until the day I could figure out how to make it good. I’m realistic about some things, at least.

One morning I heard about a local group of writers—The Panhandle Professional Writers—which is one of the oldest writing groups in the country. They meet right here in my hometown. I joined and attended meetings. I met another writer who was published. She took me under her graceful wings, and now I have two novels that are in polishing stage. NaNoWriMo got me motivated to get the words out, and Dianne G. Sagan and her editor/ husband, Greg, help me write efficiently and with pizzazz.

But then the Oscars come along, and I see how far away from my lofty eighth grade goal I still am.

I want to make a movie. My first really completed work was a screenplay. My second, as well. I’d love to make either of those screenplays into movies, but my first, The Privateer, is about Jean Laffite. It revolves around the 1814 Battle of New Orleans. The second script, Long Lost, is set in southern California in the late 1940’s. Both of these will be big-budget features. (Notice how I said will be?)

At the present, I have… ummm… how should I say… no budget, and I live in present-day Amarillo, in the Texas Panhandle. Just to film trees would take an enormous travel budget. So what do I do?

My very supportive family and I will be putting together a movie that we can actually shoot right here in literally our own back yard. We will write the script based on a story that a close family friend told me when I was a child. He’s agreed to refresh my memory about what happened to him and his friends, and allowed me to turn it into a movie.

We’ve got a rough outline. We’re working on a cast and some locations. I’m excited. The events that inspired the story took place in the early 1960’s, but the story itself is timeless, so setting isn’t a problem.

The main challenges will be the ones we make for ourselves. I don’t want to shoot a picture that looks like I shot it in my back yard. I want something special. I plan to give the story a real-time look and feel. I want it to have the “one-take” appearance without the Blair Witch nausea. I want the audience to feel the worry and suspense of Rope. I want to direct.

This project is small. It’s a first step. Spielberg, Scorsese, Bruckheimer, Lucas, Abrams, Howard—they all took first steps.

I won’t get Academy nominations for this one. It might not be good enough to show anyone at all. But I’ve learned that you can’t take huge leaps without taking first steps.

Over the next several months, I will occasionally blog about my movie-making challenges. I will blog about the movies that inspired my dream in the first place. I’d love to hear what you think. I’d love any advice you wish to offer. Talk to me!

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading!