My 2017 Social Media Resolutions (that you can adopt too)

My 2017 Social Media Resolutions (that you can adopt too)

While we can’t do anything about some of the people we may lose, or the natural or even man-made disasters that may befall us in 2017. We CAN work TOGETHER to make social media and the internet better for us. We can reclaim the equalizing communication tool that it could be from the people who would use it to manipulate and misdirect us.

So, I would like to introduce some new year’s resolutions that I will be enacting or continuing. And invite you to try some of these too. They’re simple behaviors that we can all do to change the tone and quality of the flood of information we take in every day. If we can all agree to these, we can make social media a better place all around.

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A Word About Spoilers

...and why I don't hate them.

 Tomorrow I will be lucky enough to go to a book signing at the National Press Club with Diana Gabaldon (super excited). It occurred to me when I opened her latest, Written In My Own Heart's Blood on my Kindle this morning that there will be A LOT of spoilers for me tomorrow. The book has been out for a week and I have barely cracked it open. I know from many tweets and Facebook posts that many of the people I'm meeting up with tomorrow have already finished it and will very likely be unable to contain their excitement. I thought about this for approximately one second and then shrugged and read on.

Unlike some folks out in the reader/viewer world I do not hyperventilate at the thought of knowing what's going to happen, nor do I stick my fingers in my ears and shout LALALALALA...when my friends/family/coworkers start talking about something I have yet to watch or read. Much is made around the water cooler and online about spoilers and avoiding spoilers. People get up in arms or downright cranky if they think they've encountered even a hint of a spoiler and seem to place the responsibility of keeping their worlds spoiler free on everyone around them. 

The trouble with that is, that it implies that the book or film or TV show is nothing more than its plot and that knowing any points of that plot (no matter how obscure) ahead of time ruins the whole experience. Quality of the writing? Not important. Strength of the characters? Inconsequential. Performance of actors in a part? Could be done in clay-mation or with mannequins. Direction, set-design, costumes? Who cares? This slavish and sometimes neurotic avoidance of spoilers suggests that HOW a story is told doesn't matter, only the story matters. 

If that's true why ever bother rereading anything? Why go to movies if you've read the book? Why watch a show if you already know what's going to happen? Or why watch a remake of an original movie? Who cares that Jane Austen's writing is elegant and beautiful? What does it matter than Aaron Sorkin's writes snappy dialogue makes us all feel smarter, or that Elmore Leonard creates characters that you just want to follow around to be near them?

Not so. There is so much more to a story than it's plot points. There is context and voice. There are characters and how they react to events. There is frequently a sea of emotion and any number of resulting actions or events that come from a single plot point. Knowing one plot point, or even a few shouldn't ruin the effect of the whole story. Stories and the work of the story tellers in whatever medium are worth so much more than that. 

I've probably read Pride and Prejudice a dozen times, and I still get chills when I Darcy proposes to Elizabeth again, whether it's delivered by the Darcy in my imagination or Colin Firth (to Elizabeth Bennet or Bridget Jones) or Matthew Macfadyen or anyone else. I still cheer at Elizabeth's spunk when she refuses him the first time, but I've watched every adaptation I came across. And they've ALL shown me something new. I read all the Hunger Games books, but I'll still go see the movies, because I want to see how they translate. And you'd better believe that I'll be glued to my TV come August to watch Outlander even though I know exactly what's going to happen. I've reread the whole series several times over, not because I forgot what happened, but because the author does such an incredible job of telling the story. 

I get it. I like to be surprised sometimes too. The Red Wedding blew me away. I had no idea what the secret to The Crying Game was. Those were great moments of surprise. But, once the shock wears off, I'm left with to marvel at the quality of the performances, or the direction or the editing. I don't NEED the element of surprise to appreciate the beauty of the work. 

With that said, I'm not going to tell you what's next for Dermot and Sarah. But I might post a few lines now and then, and they MIGHT give away some very minor plot points. You've been warned.

I just couldn't do it

As a busy mom working mom-ing and writing, I tend to gravitate toward the most time efficient way of doing just about everything. If I can run errands, or go grocery shopping, or pick up dry cleaning without two kids in tow, then I will. So, since they are now in daycare in the afternoons, I tend to do those things on my way home from work. It's just faster that way. I thought yesterday when I was making my game plan for today that I would vote before picking them up from daycare.  It would be faster. I wouldn't have to worry about referee-ing, herding and voting all at once. It would just be easier. Then I realized it would be the first time in nine years that I would have voted without one of them with me. It gave me a kind of hollow gut-twisty feeling.


If you want change, you have to vote. And I want to make sure my children, even if their views may be different from mine, know how important it is. So, I just couldn't vote without them. I love voting with my kids.


I love explaining the issues to them. I love going through the process with them, and I love how excited they are when they get their "I voted." sticker. When I was a kid I voted with mom, and it has stayed with me. I'm sure my parents wonder some days where they went wrong as our political views lie on opposite ends of the spectrum. Still, I learned at a young age about the importance of participating. We live in an amazing country with a system however flawed is still a system that relies on our participation. If you don't like a policy, it's not going to change if you just throw you hands up and go home.

I picked them up and fetched my husband. We continued a tradition that we started while I was at home with the kids. We voted, each of us taking one of the kids. Then we went to dinner together to celebrate.



Nothing like a Deadline

There is nothiwebbadge4ng like a deadline to get my butt in gear. I've been attempting all summer to balance the consulting gig with revising The River Maiden. Meanwhile my husband/alpha reader has been harassing me about how I need to be sending queries out already and who cares if I think it's ready. Well, I care.  Still, I'll probably always find words that need to be rearranged and things that I could have written better. So, I see his point...somewhat.

In any case I'm trying to finish my revisions and adding to the end to answer some of the questions my beta readers wanted answered. Unfortunately, the list of things jumping in the way over the last few weeks have included no less than, consulting gig, back to school, home renovation and some stuff that was just plain invented to get in the way. (When I finish reading it, I'll review Stephen Pressfield's The War of Art and all of the things he has to say about resistance).

In the spirit of stepping out of my comfort zone, I decided to step out and take myself to a writer's conference. So, I'll be attending the James River Writer's Conference in Richmond next month. Hopefully I'll be connecting with some other writers in the area and maybe even some agents. There is even an opportunity to pitch books on Sunday. I may even step up there and try. In any case, should be a good way to make some connections.

I'm also hoping that the date of next month will put a little pressure on me to step up my revision efforts. Hopefully I can finish this draft before the conference. At the very least it gives me a date to work toward rather than a vague hope that I can finish quickly. They've very nicely added a countdown clock to their page that displays the days/hours/minutes/seconds until the conference. Let's hope that its a good fire starter.

Q2 Review - Giving it all away

I have been sorely lacking in blog posts lately. This is mainly because my training/instructional design client has been taking up a lot of my time. It's also summer and my kids are well underfoot. Still, I wanted to give a little review of the 2nd quarter of my year of living outside my comfort zone. Unlike the last quarter I don't have quite so many things to report. However, this quarter did see me: Return to the corporate training room for the first time in 4+ years Since I haven't lead anyone other than my two children for he past few years, returning to the classroom was more nerve-wracking than I thought. Fortunately, my first batch of trainees was gentle with me and were mostly successful leaving the training room. Client was pleased. I'm feeling pretty good about it. So good in fact that I'm hoping to make this gig a more permanent thing.

Participating & posting online I am a chronic lurker online. I'll find a forum related to something that I'm interested in and watch it for activity without really adding anything. These days I am trying to be more active in forums like the Writing subreddit, and others. More on that stuff in Q3

Made my short stories FREE What started as a Stoddard-palooza promo has turned into something longer. It was a tough decision, because I worked hard on those stories. Still, the royalties I was getting were minimal and I decided exposure was the real priority.

I made them free on Smashwords first and the response was "meh".  That's mostly because Smashwords is a bit of a niche market. However, once Amazon started matching that free price the downloads there took off. Now both A Fond Kiss and The White House have reached the top 100 Free Kindle books in Literary Fiction and Historical Fiction. Now, I went from measuring downloads in single digits to triple digits and I could not be more chuffed. I'm hoping that all these downloads will result in more reviews and more exposure.

I did however, have an acquaintance who downloaded them for free, hand me cash the other day. She said the stories were worth paying for, and she wants more. Makes me a little misty.

Overall, the increased interaction with folks has generated some interesting trains of thought. I've been pondering the concept of Creativity lately and how people can unlock theirs. I expect to have more blog posts to come on that front. I'm currently working my way through Steven Pressfield's The War of Art. and hope to have a review/musings on that for the blog soon.

Q3 Looks like it may include:

  • My entry into fangirl-dom (Can anyone say Outlander!) Because you're apparently never too old for that kind of thing.
  • Spearheading an online Gaelic learning group (if the logistics can be worked out)
  • Home renovations! Finally getting a space for all my work; writing, spinning, knitting, felting, and consulting from home.
  • Putting my kids in a proper daycare. You have no idea what a nail-biter that is.

Of course, I am always working on finishing the revisions to The River Maiden. That includes completely rewriting the end and the death of my much loved Prologue (Read it while you can. I might not leave it online much longer). Looking forward to it all:)

News Roundup

Today I was bombarded with news stories related some of my own stories.  Thank goodness for facebook, reddit and news alerts. I've been working hard in instructional design mode that I might have missed them. But they're pretty exciting. First, archaeologists with the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources will be attempting to recover 8 cannons from the wreckage of Blackbeard's ship, the Queen Anne's Revenge. The ship ran agrounBlackbeard Ship Cannonsd near Beaufort Inlet in June of 1718. If you've read my story The White House (currently FREE on Smashwords) you know that it speculates on the events leading up to the demise of the Queen Anne's Revenge and is loosely based on some other legends surrounding Blackbeard and his relationship to the town of Beaufort, NC.  If you haven't read it then you really should. Did I mention it's FREE right now?

Then I saw a series of stories that relate to The River Maiden. (Yes, I am still working on it, I promise.) Actually, they relate more to the books following The River Maiden than they do to the first installment of Dermot and Sarah's story. So, I'll list these articles without comment to avoid possible spoilers. My husband will say I giving away too much, but he knows how my brain works better than you do. I'm hoping for you these are thought provoking teasers rather than spoilers.

1) A very interesting commentary on the role of Gaelic in the Scottish Independence movement.

2) A mysterious network of Stone Age tunnels stretching from Scotland to Turkey (or vice versa).

3) A European style Bronze Age monument found submerged in the Sea of Galilee.

Yes, I am just nerdy enough to be thrilled by these articles. I get super excited about languages, politics and history of any era, and if I can get them all in one day it's a very good day.




It's been about a month since my beta readers and critique group have given me their feedback on the latest draft of The River Maiden. The general consensus is that the characters and writing are good, and the story is mostly good but there are too many questions left unanswered for a first book in a series. I had come to this conclusion on my own before many of the readers even got back to me, but it was nice to have that confirmed. So there appears to be a good deal of rearranging, revising and rewriting to go into the next draft before it's ready to be shown to potential agents/publishers.  Since I have already outlined the next book in the series, I have some timeline gymnastics to work on.  There is the question of what to reveal in the first book, without completely ruining the plot of the second.  Also, the question of how far the romance in the first book can/should progress and how that might change some of the tension in the next book. There are storylines to be dropped and others to be built up. Needless to say with almost 250 pages of content, this is a daunting prospect, and one that I've been chewing on in the back of my mind like a particularly tough piece of literary beef jerky.

Fear not! I have not been idle while gnawing away on my various writing dilemmas. In fact, I have been even more active than usual though just not in the area of writing. (I know terrible to get out of the habit of working every day, but there it is.) So here are some of the things that I've been up to instead of revising The River Maiden.

- Taken on an Instructional Design consulting client.

- Added a Clearance section to my etsy store and marked down a bunch of items to go in it.

- Organized/customized our closet in the master bedroom complete with drawers and shelves.

- Planted my vegetable garden, succulent garden, herb garden, shade garden, water garden (with fish) and fairy garden

- Completely revamped our deck from it's previous jumbled state into a gorgeous oasis including container gardens, a new gazebo, social area and even a workspace for writing/editing outside while the kids play.

- And last but certainly not least, binge watched 4 seasons of Dr. Who.

I know, I know. I should have been working on The River Maiden. The good news is that I am getting back to the grind. Even though, I'm working for my client during the hours of the day that I would have previously devoted to writing, I have a plan. This morning I got up at 5AM and came downstairs to work on some reading and editing. I know this has worked for other writers with day jobs and I have high hopes. My characters and my story are usually the last thing I think about as I'm going to sleep at night, so maybe getting up and getting to work before any of my other responsibilities intrude will be a good model for getting things done. It went pretty well this morning. We'll see how well it works when I get to writing some of the new material.

Oh! I should also mention that in honor of Stoddard-palooza (Our month long family festival from our anniversary to our birthday's) I will be giving away my historical fiction shorts this month, though not at the same time. Right now The White House is free on Smashwords. I'll keep it that way for a couple of weeks. Then it will go back to its regular price and A Fond Kiss will be free. I hope that Amazon and Barnes and Noble will be adjusting their pricing accordingly, but I don't really control that the way I can on Smashwords. So, if you haven't read them or have read one and not the other, check them out this month to get a free taste.

More than the resting place of Tamerlan Tsarnaev

It's not everyday that our little county makes the news, but it happens occasionally. Today, however Caroline County was in the news in a big way, and not for anything that anyone who lives here did. You might have heard by now that Tamerlan Tsarnaev has been buried in Doswell, VA which is in the southern part of Caroline, about 10 miles from my house.  Personally, I don't think it matters where he's buried and I don't really think it should matter to anyone but his family. The most important thing about Tsarnaev's death isn't where he's buried. It's that there is one less terrorist plotting to hurt innocent people. And by terrorist I mean a person who hurts or kills innocent people, causing mass terror to make a political/religious point. I do not mean Muslim, Chechen Separatist, Arab or any other specific ideology, nationality or religion. Fundamentalism of any stripe is dangerous and leads to that kind of behavior. I would like to think that through reason, kindness and tolerance potential terrorists could be reformed, but that's maybe not so realistic.

There are actually two things that do bother me about Tsarnaev's burial in my neck of the woods.

First - We're a very small and frequently cash strapped rural county. My husband likes to say we live in the Middle of Nowhere. I prefer to view it as the Edge of Somewhere. We're just 25 miles north of the state capital and only 75 miles south of the nations capital, but we're also 10 miles from the nearest grocery store. Here's the Wikipedia page on us if you're looking for more info.  Unfortunately, as idyllic as this rural setting can be it has it's issues, and funds are one of them. Our schools are barely adequate, no matter how hard the teachers and administrators try. Our county water system consists of a series of wells, some of which are prone to run dry in hot summer months. Our police and fire departments do their best to cover 539 square miles.

Now, they have to focus additional attention on protecting one small cemetery near the county line from vandals and hate crimes, whether they like it or not that is their job.  But our county doesn't have the money for that. So, I would like to ask Martha Mullen who arranged the burial how she thinks we should pay for her doing her "Christian duty".  Should the county put off digging a new well, or layoff one of my children's teachers to pay for the additional law enforcement around a cemetery that otherwise wouldn't need it?  Those are the kind of decisions that our county Board of Supervisors face every year, and unexpected expenses like this cause real repercussions for those of us living here.

Second - Caroline is actually a really nice place with some great people in it. On of my favorite things to do around here is ride through the back roads of the county and it really is beautiful. My Instagram followers will be vary familiar with some of the sights here. It's full of rolling hills and tree farms and gorgeous historic homes and a rich history.

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But like everywhere, we also have some bad apples. When the news broke today, some residents were actually calling 911 to voice their displeasure over the burial as if they could send police out with sirens blaring to stop something that happened yesterday. I've seen some of the comments on facebook and in our local paper loaded with intolerance. What the Tsarnaev brothers did was horrific, and inexcusable and people are angry about it with good reason. Unfortunately, I have no doubt that at some point someone from here or from outside the county is going to vandalize that grave or the whole cemetery. They are going to show the intolerance and bigotry that simmers under the surface of American society in ways that will not affect Tsarnaev or his family but will hurt the families of the innocent people buried there.  I would like to think that we're better than that, but just like reforming fanatics that too is probably unrealistic.

That should not be the face that Caroline shows to the world. There is a lot more to our home than one cemetery.  For me, this is the place where my ancestors first owned land in America after coming here as indentured servants. It's also the place where William Clark of Lewis and Clark fame was born. This is where John Wilkes Booth was killed after assassinating Abraham Lincoln. Until recently this was the home of Boy Scout Jamboree. This is where Secretariat was born.

Most significantly on the subject of tolerance, Caroline was the home of Richard and Mildred Loving.  The Lovings grew up in Caroline, but were forced to leave when their interracial marriage was discovered by local authorities. At the time miscegenation was illegal in Virginia and many other states. The Lovings challenged that law, and in 1967 the Supreme Court found anti-miscegenation laws were unconstitutional. If it weren't for the Lovings and their desire to live here in Caroline, those laws might have taken a lot longer to be struck down. There are a lot of couples in America who owe the legality of their marriage to the Lovings. Here's the trailer for an HBO film about them.

I sincerely hope that my neighbors of all creeds will put their best feet forward while the world is watching our little corner of Central Virginia. I would like for Mildred Loving's beautiful and determined face to be the face that represents Caroline County to the world, not the face of Tamerlan Tsarnaev and not the face of intolerance.