Friday, September 28, 2012

60-some pages in

Why is it that as soon as you start a serious project, your creative juices overwhelm you and nag you to return to your fun projects? For me I think it has to do with my stress levels, that my brain automatically defaults to thinking about my characters to remove myself from the difficulties of day-to-day life.

Speaking of some escape, I recently devoured Laura Florand's The Chocolate Thief. Truly delightful. I didn't think the epilogue chapter was necessary, and if anything, it weakened the romance of the whole story. I also found myself enamored with Sylvain, the chocolatier, who seemed more interesting than the main female character. Rounder and less two-dimensional than the rich girl character.

I love the French feel. Love the language and the easy flow of the book.

I think I enjoyed it equally, or perhaps for different reasons, compared to her first book, Blame it on Paris.

My hectic life enjoyed a little breather.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

And September winds down

This summer, the amount of traffic on my food blog ( has doubled and I periodically see days where it quadruples from what I used to see as my baseline.

Yet while I updated that blog usually once or twice a day, I can't keep this one active or interesting.

I have completed 2 assignments for the internal communications office of USAID as the start of my eInternship at the department of state.

The first newsletter I laid out for the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group appears to have reached its audience successfully. This I credit to my template designer (Gayle Hendricks) and my contributors who have made the editing easy.

Meanwhile the honors thesis is taking shape-- rough but written. I have a mini proposal document my professor requested and really rough drafts of the introduction and chapters one through three.

In the midst of all this, I'm applying for jobs, working with freelance clients and wondering what written endeavors will come at the end of this year: academic or creative?

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Chapter One AGAIN

Last night, I finished my first week of school and a hectic work week. After a week of lectures, it becomes hopeful that my psych class will be easier than I thought and maybe I do have time for everything.

Last night I didn't go to bed early. Instead of collapsing when my daughter went to bed, I rewrote chapter one of my second manuscript, Courting Apparitions. Except it wasn't a rewrite as much as stripping stuff out.

At the end of the first novel, two characters ended up bound together in an unusual circumstance and I thought this would impede the conditions for the start of the second book.

In the previous draft, the protagonist runs into the antagonist and his emotional state upon seeing the antagonist causes an event that sets the book in motion.

I thought that would be a problem if the antagonist had a partner and through that partner learned more about himself that would theoretically keep the event from happening.

But then I realized the simple answer, what if the antagonist went looking for the protagonist because he needed to revisit what happened in the previous book and this would upset the protagonist and spur the event that sets the book in motion.

The simple solution in writing is best 99% of the time.

New first line:
"No man ever deserved anything more than Étienne d'Amille deserved this beer right now."

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Current projects

This summer I agreed to take on the newsletter for the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group and the first issue of the redesigned newsletter went to the printer last week and I'm told it's in production. When it appears on the web site, I'll post the link.

My honors thesis is to the point where I should write a rough draft. I've done a draft of the introduction and started chapter one.

My big news is I got an "eInternship" with the internal communications office of USAID at the department of state. My first job was to write a labor day message. My supervisor approved and will share the edits with me soon.

Creative writing? Not happening right now... But I also have some new freelance clients, which could lead to some exciting exercise for my pen.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Jimi Hendrix

I'm in Hippocampus Magazine this month, in the rock and roll issue:

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

History based

My stories very much blend the history of the real world with what happens in their universe.

My first novel takes place in 2002 because of some of these elements. The characters don't work if they are removed from that time.

Etienne and Basilie must be children of post World War II. Basilie has to be a corporate raider circa 1980s. Adelaide can only rise as a supermodel in the pre-waif days and in the shadow of beauties like Cindy Crawford.

More importantly, Etienne's uncle dies in Algeria. His father probably served in Indochina. He completed his national service in a post colonial Djibouti, which means he didn't see the action his father and uncles did.

I was reading Frantz Fanon yesterday, and as a anti-colonial philosopher AND a psychiatrist, he had some interesting notes about the impact of warfare on the Algerians and the French alike during the war for Algerian independence.

I realized, reading these notes, that I had finally found my link to Uncle Gaston's service, conduct and death. This excites me.

The intricate crossing of fiction and history allows the author to comment on the actions of nations and the state of society.

I've already written a short character sketch to introduce Khadijah, who may challenge everything Etienne believes about his family, his country's "civilizing mission" of yesteryear and what it means to be "French."

It may help him do what's right in the aftermath of his own actions.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Why write?

When writing non-fiction, it's easy to explain your motives. You have a goal. You want to educate. You hope to prove something.

Fiction... Sometimes it can feel like a waste of time. You're making up stories. Who cares?

The simplest answers may be that writing fiction addresses the human condition or comments on a moment in time in our society. Both are important.

But why bother? To a certain extent there is the ego factor. I did this. I like this. I want to share. I seek feedback.

Seeking publication is hard and serious work. Is it worth it? If you don't know if you'll reach the end goal of publication, why bother?

The answers vary.

It can be therapeutic to transfer energy and emotion into ideas on paper.

It can provide a sense of accomplishment.

I have trouble finding enough books I want to read or stories that hit all the criteria that make me enjoy reading.

So, I write them.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

May resolutions

I always anticipate the month of May. Spring approaches, and to me that's the sign of a new year and a new beginning. When the chives sprout, the forsythia turn yellow and my hyacinth pokes its head out of the ground. At least, I think it's a hyacinth. I did not inherit my mother's green thumb.

By May, the roses are blooming. They usually open their buds for Mothers Day weekend but this year they bloomed two weeks early.

Spring in recent years has started with hope and ended in disarray. Losing a job (twice in spring), fighting anemia, breaking my teeth, recovering from anxiety, and now the stress has threatened its resurgence with an incident at work that has been fighting old anxiety and knowing I got a 59 on the economics final about which I felt really confident.

But May also brings my highest hopes. I plan to have fun with my daughter, read those books on the pile, clean the house, bicycle, scrapbook...


Finish the manuscript that I discovered is ready for a new ending. Yup. After all these years I noticed that book one of Fashion and Fiends cries for a new ending.

Finish the travel piece I'd started regarding my journey to Tunisia.

Get a good start writing the initial stages of my honors thesis, which will look at the role of the Algerian independence movement in the creation of the French fifth republic and how that affects "anti-Muslim" laws and the rights of Algerians/French citizens of Algerian descent in France today.

So, May is my New Year. My clean slate. And it sounds like I'm making resolutions.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Humdrum status quo

So, it's the last few weeks of another semester. Just handed in a critique of a speech. I'm working on an macroeconomic analysis of potential cash-carrying limits in Afghanistan (which is torture for my creative brain) which is due Monday. Then Wednesday I give a 5-10 minute presentation on my international affairs capstone seminar project on nation-building in Djibouti. The actual project isn't due until finals week. And on the last day of class I have a group presentation due on the British pound and the Brazilian réal.

In the midst of all this, it's spring and many of my writing friends are renewing efforts on old projects, launching various web sites and other endeavors

Via Twitter and Facebook I watch my friends and the industry and I miss _my_ projects. But in the quiet moments I brainstorm random scenes, and jot down bits of dialogue even if I don't know where they fit. It's more about stress relief.

It's keeping a finger in the pie and soon I'll have a slice.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

My Battle of Algiers

My debut with Hippocampus Magazine is now live:

I was expecting it to be the Steve Jobs' book, not this one. Surprise!

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Question

For writers, and people with anxiety, ideas tend to swirl in their minds. I'm used to ideas floating about in my mind and getting mashed and formed. I'm used to scenarios and what if questions.

I finished a cold reread of my manuscript, Manipulations, last week. I even transferred it to iBooks so my husband can read it and make comments.

I have to recommit to the writing game. Either pitching my fiction to agents or pursuing some nonfiction opportunities or both.

When I interviewed for Cedar Crest College's Pan European MFA in Creative Writing, we talked about portfolio building and the administrator said something very succinctly that hit home: what kind of writing do you want to do?

The fiction answer is easy. But I realized in an instant that I have not found a sustainable voice for nonfiction. Sure, with 15 years in journalism under my belt, I can write anything at any time. But it has no soul, no enduring message. It's a glimpse of a moment that I may or may not have witnessed.

I still don't know if I'll apply to the program. I want to, because it's time I took my words as seriously as I take my history or my economics.

But the next few months, barring the necessities of school and life, I will write something every day. And explore my voice and the different things I can do.

Last night, I finally started a non-fiction piece on my recent travels to Tunisia and I edited my Jimi Hendrix bio review. I had a paragraph in my head that I thought would open the Tunisia piece but something else came out.

In about an hour, I wrote 2,000 words.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

That might be settled

I submitted my first review to Hippocampus, and filled out their contributor form and am trying to get a nice headshot from my favorite photographer.Meanwhile, I had batted around some ideas about altering the secrets in my characters' pasts and I think those ideas have been defeated, pretty much by friends who reiterated to me my own logic of why I created those secrets in this manner in the first place. An author's slap in the face to snap me out of it.I have managed to transfer files from the computer to the iPad without an Internet connection. I thought this would facilitate editing on the iPad, but it doesn't. I had editing with the limited functionality of the Pages app. I can create this way. That's fun. But editing is tumultuous.I also figured out how to format my manuscripts so I can read them in iBooks. Now that is far-out cool!Spring break from my college courses commences tonight, and once this ends I'll be knee deep in projects and papers: an oral presentation on the Brazilian real, a paper on central bank policy during this global recession, and a capstone project on French and American politics/military presence and its effect on nation building in Djibouti.

Monday, February 27, 2012


I can't technically say that I haven't written, because in the last five weeks I have written two academic book reviews and two oral presentations-- one of the status of revolutions in the Middle East and another on the future monetary policy and goals of Her Majesty's Treasury in the United Kingdom.

But my enthusiasm for my fiction has withered. (it happens)

And I never got around to organizing my notes from my recent voyage into a travel essay on France/Tunisia.

I blame dental surgery. I lost five weeks of my life to an implant that got infected and had to be un-implanted.

And now I'm dreaming of my fiction, of creative non-fiction, and a potential MFA.

Last night something happened. A friend who is part of the Hippocampus Magazine community asked for reviewers of juicy non-fiction. I suggested Ted Morgan's My Battle of Algiers and the new book on Steve Jobs (which is not juicy in my opinion). She encouraged me.

Then I studied the publication and noticed they have a rock and roll issue coming up. I went to the library and found a biography of Jimi Hendrix.

And despite homework about the long term effect of monetary policy on the money market and the exchange rate, I found myself typing about Ted Morgan.

I loved his book and I think a lot of other people will too. And I suddenly remembered how much I should be writing-- that I love writing-- that I am a writer and it makes me happy.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Laptop turmoil

I was writing for the first time in weeks and I finished a sentence that had the word "eight."

The next sentence began with the word "the" and my h key suddenly stuck. No h.

A few minutes later all of home row died. So I turned it off and hoped it would work in the morning. It didn't. By the end of the day, the delete key and the numbers had died.

At this point, I had a few choices. I took the keyboard from our desktop, which worked, but wouldn't be a workable solution.

I could get out the five-plus-years-old laptop, but that would be slow and require using Microsoft word. That left the iPad and the Pages app.

And that's working! Offers a new vantage point, and in that way, it's exciting