When I need my mind refreshed before diving back into working on a novel, I like to “see” through a camera lens. Somehow, it changes my internal focus.
On Saturday, Tom and I went on a hike. It was a beautiful, cool morning, and not many people were on the trail. I had my camera with me, because I find I hike better when my mind is distracted.
Isn’t this a lovely path? Not too steep, not too straight, lovely curves with oak trees guarding it. I like to think even hobbits would be tempted to walk on this path.
But what I found my eye drawn to were the smallest of flowers, no bigger than my pinkie fingernail.
Another dainty flower…
And yet two more – while I was focusing on the yellow, take a look at the pink one in the background.
But what took my breath away was this beautiful guy. The biggest Coyote I can remember seeing, he owned the landscape. I was lucky to capture his photo – he obligingly posed a couple of times, staring at us across a huge meadow before running along. This is an extreme closeup, plus I cropped the photo even closer.
Isn’t he gorgeous? The best part about this hike is it’s not difficult to get to, at all. Give me a hat, sunscreen, some water and my camera, and I’m ready to go. It was a lovely, refreshing time that helped clear the cobwebs and steady my brain for the creative work to come.
How do you clear your mind for a creative challenge? I’d love to know!
Today on Wine Friday, I’ve got a white wine on sale for $11, and a red wine on sale at under $6. As I’m all about the tasty wine under $10 when possible, these two are a good fit for the blog (despite the $11 sale price).
Francis Coppola Diamond Collection Sauvignon Blanc 2011 Yellow Label Alcohol, 13% by Volume; Regularly $14.99, on sale at Vons for $10.99
On the Label: “Dramatic style, vibrant packaging and fruit-forward, smooth wines are the signatures of Francis Coppola Diamond Collection. Our Sauvignon Blanc delivers a beautiful perfume of tangerine, pink grapefruit, and honeysuckle followed by juicy flavors of tropical fruit, zesty citrus, and a int of minerals. Delicious with grilled fish or spring greens with fruit and goat cheese. Learn more about our wines at FrancisCoppolaWinery.com.”
My Take: It’s a good sipping wine, a good wine with crab quiche, good with your Easter ham. I don’t know what I was expecting; I’m finding that one Sauvignon Blanc tastes very like another, which is rather disappointing. I suppose some day I should have a Sauv Blanc tasting party, just so I can see if I’m right and they DO all taste alike, or if some have a better something than the others. Hmmm.
My Rating: ~ Drinkable to Very Drinkable ~ and if you’re going to relatives for Easter lunch or brunch, this would be a good bottle to bring along with you. It does have a certain panache, after all, with the Coppola name on it.
Robert Mondavi Private Selection Pinot Noir 2012 Alcohol 13.5% by Volume; $5.98 on sale at Vons.
On the Label: ” ‘One of a winemaker’s most valuable companions is patience.’ – Robert Mondavi
“Pinot Noir is a challenging grape to grow in any climate Winemaker Rick Boyer patiently selects fruit from our best California vineyards to create a wine with classic notes of violet, rose petal and red cherries.
My Take: Facebook? Hm. Maybe I will click “like” on that page. That said, I like Mondavi wines. They tend to be reliable, solid structurally, and rarely is there a bad bottle among the Mondavi line. This Pinot, while there is absolutely nothing wrong with it, doesn’t make my Smoking Loon test. (Which is, is this wine better than the Smoking Loon Pinot Noir, which I can almost always get for $5.99?) I usually don’t bring that test up when the price point is so dead on, but for some reason, while this is a perfectly acceptable Pinot Noir, it didn’t hit my sweet spot this week. Which means, of course, I’ll have to try another bottle (because at $5.98, why not?).
My Rating: ~ Drinkable to Very Drinkable ~ Maybe I was just in a mood.
With the continuing unpredictable weather we’re having, what are you going to be drinking this Easter Sunday?
It’s come up more than a few times lately, with more than a few of my friends. What is a “real” writer? When do I get to that point? When does it all just flow? Well, in the 13-plus years I’ve been writing, this is what I’ve come to know about being a “real” writer.
So Much Noise.
A real writer writes. They hide in their cave/laundry room/nearest coffee shop and write.
A real writer only writes on Wednesdays.
A real writer writes five thousand words a day when it goes well. Other times it’s like pulling teeth to get five hundred words done.
A real writer only writes when the muse strikes.
A real writer complains. They talk to like-minded writer friends about their hopes, dreams, and fears for the current manuscript, and no matter what, they go back to that manuscript until that sucker is done.
A real writer feels like a fraud, and when they do write a book that sells, they’re secretly afraid they’ll never be able to repeat it.
A real writer dives into each novel without planning, never knowing what’s going to come out.
A real writer gets to go on author tours and talk to kids about their middle grade books,
and opens minds and changes hearts while on said tour.
A real writer has Hollywood knocking on their door constantly.
A real writer does it all – writes, edits, designs covers, reviews books, formats books, and puts books out all by themselves. All the time.
A real writer never gets screwed by her agent/editor/publishing house.
A real writer has discussions with his agent/editor/critique partner about what’s just not working about the current book, and how to make it better.
A real writer doesn’t make good money.
A real writer plots meticulously before starting a new book.
A real writer gets reviews wherever reviews can be posted. Some are glowing. Some are not. Sometimes it looks like the person reviewing never read the book. Sometimes there aren’t many reviews, and the writer’s heart bleeds for that book.
A real writer has written books that will never see the light of day. Conversely, a real writer publishes everything they’ve ever written.
A real writer makes serious money.
A real writer only writes and pushes his wares to real publishers. Big five or nothing, baby.
Market market market. Twitter and FB and Instagram and Goodreads until you die. It’s the only way to make an impression.
A real writer can only write one good book a year.
A real writer refills the well when life hits hard, and puts the writing aside until the storm has passed (because it always passes).
A real writer can write a good book every month.
A real writer only writes for the intelligentsia.
A real writer writes no matter what’s going on in his life – death, birth, hurricanes or earthquakes, they’re writing.
A real writer gets agents and editors excited about their work.
A real writer writes every fucking day because there is no muse and the bills need to get paid.
A real writer eventually learns that there is no correct way to be a real writer, and that what works for one person just won’t work for another. There are as many different roads to Publishing Nirvana as there are people trying to get there.
What is very interesting, is there are a LOT of people out there who want you to buy THEIR way to get to Publishing Nirvana, because THEIR way is the ONLY way. To which I call bullshit – be very wary of ANYONE who says their way is the only way to do anything, especially anything to do with writing. One size does not fit all, and these folks are preying on artists (because writers aren’t the only ones who get scammed in this manner).
So, to all you real writers out there, wherever you are on the writer’s journey, know you aren’t alone. What makes the journey worth while, for me at least, are the other writers/agents/editors we surround ourselves with, and the readers we reach with our words. You CAN do this. You CAN make this into your dream career.
Every writing career is a roller coaster. Sometimes it seems like we’re in free fall; other times it feels like getting to the top is taking forever. What is irritating and fascinating is that no two writers are on the same roller coaster.
Writers, musicians, artists of all kinds, actors, singers, dancers – the arts help to put the world around us into perspective for those who aren’t artists. It’s a gift, an obligation, for us to work on our art.
What is a “real” writer? One who doesn’t quit.
Go out into the world, dear hearts, be brave, and write. Paint. Sing. Film. Dance. And do it with your whole heart. Sending love and hugs to you.
Oh, and check out the writers depicted above. If you know a real writer, please give them a shout out by putting a link to their Amazon page in the comments.
Okay, I lied. You don’t really need these two books to write ANYthing. Grocery lists, for instance, or chores lists. Or, you know, poetry. Either the really fancy kind (Shakespeare’s sonnets come to mind) or the wild n’ woolly kind (Charles Bukowski).
Why? Because. Okay, that’s really not an answer. Because they’re damned good. Because they tell you what is in every story imaginable that you didn’t realize was there. Because they help you SELL your story. I took a day long workshop with Michael at the end of March (the weekend we had a couple of earthquakes in Brea, California), and what he said made sense. What’s more, it was accessible to me. ME. Me. The gal who, after she took a 4 hour workshop with <name redacted>’s several years ago couldn’t write coherently for a YEAR mainly because of <name redacted>’s ego pumping up the workshop making most of us feel like shit. But it took time for me to see clearly beyond that fiasco.
The title of Michael’s workshop was Story Mastery, and he made good on his promise. He gave us the steps to every story. EVERY. STORY. And there wasn’t any need to “find the elixir” either (though, hey, elixir. Pretty yummy stuff.). (Let me know if you get the first reference. The second will only be understood by my hubby. Sorry.)
Formula? Um, heh. Okay, you can call it a “formula”. But most good stories have these points in them automatically. For those of us less naturally gifted, these books and Michael’s workshops are gold. GOLD.
The Screenplay book talks about Story Concept, Character Development, Theme and Character Arc, Structure, Scene Writing, Exceptions to the Rule, Marketing Yourself as a Screenwriter, and on and on. If you’re writing a screenplay, you must – simply must – read this book. A 20th Anniversary Edition has just been released (and mine is signed so no, you cannot borrow it).
Michael’s Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds book basically tells you how to pitch clearly and cleanly and with passion (because without passion, what is life?). If you’re a writer who wants to sell, at some point you’re gonna need to pitch your product. You have to get out of your writing cave, put on your DIVA panties, and pretend to the world that you’re comfortable shilling your wonderful novel/screenplay/play/book of poetry (shrug). And his book gives you the tools to do just that.
Nothing, however, beats passion. I just went to a conference in Arizona where, for the first time, I had enough passion behind my product to convince several really cool people to take a look at the full manuscript. And it felt fantastic. FANTASTIC.
So, if you’re a screenwriter, a novelist, a playwright, heck – even a poet – you just might want to pick up these books. And if Michael Hauge is speaking anywhere near you? Go ahead, dig into your savings, and go hear him. Because what he has to offer is so worth your time, energy, gas, and money (says the gal who is limited on all fronts at this point in time).
And no, I don’t get a commission, and he doesn’t know I wrote this. Just being clear.
What craft books have you been reading lately? I’d love to know!
Me again. Wines that won’t break your pocketbook but that are tasty. (Or that you should really stay away from.) These are both under $10, though I don’t recall the actual price. And I’m talking California prices, so if it’s a California wine and you’re elsewhere in the country, so sorry. You’re probably paying more.
La Vieille Ferme Recolte 2012 Rose Wine Alcohol 13.5% by Volume – Southern Rhone Valley
On the Label: “The Perrin family are the producers of this excellent rose wine. The vines from the appellation are planted on the hills of the renowned Mont Ventoux, and benefit from great sunlight and fairly cool temperatures for the Southern Rhone Valley. The Blend is made from Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault and the wines have a beautiful rose color, a floral nose with hints of aniseed and brown sugar. The mouth is on notes of white flowers, cherries and fruit drops. The finish is fresh and balanced. Winemakers reviews, recipe ideas, for all details, go here.” (My thanks to Pull The Cork for the photo. Go check them out!)
My Take: Okay, well – the label is obnoxious. Really? You’re gonna tell me how it smells AND tastes? Maybe it’s the translation, but when I read this I got irritated. (As if you couldn’t tell, lol!) But it’s a French wine from the Rhone Valley. I usually like those wines, and this fit into my price range, so I tried it.
My Rating: ~ Drinkable ~ Though I will say its not that different from a stringent (i.e., no oak) white wine. Fine when well-chilled – just don’t expect sweet from this wine.
[Noble Vines] 337 Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 Lodi, California 14.5% Alcohol by Volume
On the Label: “Born in France…Raised in America. Not all wines are created equal. Noble Vines 337 is the most coveted Cabernet Sauvignon vine stock in Bordeaux, France. These rare vines are prized for their concentrated flavor and thrive in the red soils and cobblestones of our Lodi vineyard.
“This wine exudes seductive atoms of mocha and dark cherry followed by intense flavors of ripe blackberry and spice. Enjoy with savory pasta, pot roast, thick steaks and creamy cheeses.”
My Take: Richer than I had suspected it would be. I’ll definitely try this wine again. It has a bunch of potential, even if it’s a bit pretentious. I wanted to try a Lodi wine, and I’m glad I chose this one.
My Rating: ~ Drinkable ~ I keep searching for the Very Drinkable wines for you, my dears! But this will definitely do, in the meantime.
So yeah, I went to the Desert Dreams Conference put on by the Desert Rose chapter of RWA. This year, it was in Tempe, Arizona, and I had a blast.
If you’re a writer, I highly recommend it – it’s limited to about 200 people, and there are some top agents and editors who come to get out of the snow back east. Plus the presenters are always wonderful!
If you’re a reader, there is an awesome book signing – this year there were about 50 authors signing their books, and the energy is always wonderful. But otherwise, the conference is really geared to writers, not readers. (Sorry.)
Cathy McDavid had an excellent workshop on Creating a Story Skeleton – I managed to plot out book 2 in my StarTide Talent Agency series during that workshop. Loved it – clear, concise, and OMFG so freaking helpful to a panther pantser like me. (Damn you, autocorrect!)
Jennifer Ashley had an amazingly wonderful workshop on Successful Single Title Series; she’ll be partnering with a category author to make it Single Title/Category Series at RWA in San Antonio this summer, and I’ll probably go again.
Christie Craig gave a fantastic luncheon speech. I first saw her speak in 2012 at RWA in Anaheim, and she’s just amazing. She lit a fire in my belly that hasn’t gone out and I’m so damned glad of it. I also promised her I’d see her in San Antonio, and I’d have the two books in my series done by then. Gulp. SO looking forward to it!
After lunch, Shelley Coriell did a wonderful presentation on how to create a business plan as a writer. I’ll be following it as much as I can from here on out, because it makes damned good sense.
Oh, and Allison Brennan’s The Villain’s Journey was A MAZE BALLS as you might expect. It mainly reiterated stuff I already knew, but she’s so fun to listen to. My main take away that I’d learned some time back was this: The Villain is the Hero of his own story. So you damned well better make him/her three dimensional, and not a cookie cutter.
In other news, I had three fabulous pitches (the guitar book, book one in the StarTide Talent Agency series) with two publishing houses and one agent, and I managed to get those submissions sent out before I left the hotel on Sunday. Finally, I feel like I know what I’m doing. Seeing the spark of interest in their eyes totally made my day. Week. Okay, heck, the month of April. When I know anything of any interest, I’ll be sure to let you know.
I didn’t win any baskets that were raffled off, but the conference made more than a thousand dollars to donate to literacy in Maricopa County (I think that’s where they donated it.)
Oh, yeah…and there’s this, too.
Yeah, I’m proud. And shocked. And thrilled. Because this is the book that I pitched, and got such GREAT feedback on. So, that’s my weekend. Any questions?
Good wines without breaking the bank. I’m all about that. I believe that a good bottle of wine can be had for under $10, and I’ve appointed myself the job to sniff those out. (I’ll be sure to let you know if it’s MORE than $10, because every now and then I taste those, too.) If YOU have a favorite wine, I’d love to know – so please leave a comment!
As the title says, I’m mad for red wines. I mostly prefer Pinot Noirs and Zinfandels, but there are some surprisingly good red blends out there, too. So sit back and enjoy!
Trader Joe’s Reserve Zinfandel 2012 Paso Robles, California Lot # 84 Alcohol 14.5% by Volume
On the Label: “Juicy raspberry, boysenberry and black cherry notes lead to vanilla oak and spice notes with a smooth, jammy finish.”
My Take: First off, a bit of snark. I’m really, really tired of wineries saying their wines taste “jammy”. I’ve never tasted a wine and said to myself, gee, that tastes like jam! I should dip my toast into it with breakfast! (Okay, so that IS a good idea – but you get my meaning.) On the positive side, that’s it for label chat. Boom. Done. LOVE it.
A bit of wisdom for you – when Trader Joe’s puts out a reserve with a Lot # on it, you can almost guarantee that it’s a good winery wine in that bottle. I met a wonderful guy who works at Letitia when Tom and I were up in Cambria; he told us that Letitia wine was in one of these bottles (I’d tell you which one, but TJ’s doesn’t stock it any more so there’s that). We grabbed two bottles and wish we’d grabbed more, as they were $9.99, and I don’t think you can find much Letitia wine under $10.
Oh, and the wine – yes, tasty. TASTY. Not “jammy” to my tastebuds at all, but definitely full of flavor and perfect with steak and potatoes or maybe a hearty lasagna. No, I don’t know which winery it’s from. If you find out, please let me know! BTW, here’s an article on it from Trader Joe’s online Fearless Flyer.
My Rating: ~ Very Drinkable ~ The only danger is having a love affair with this type of wine can lead to heartbreak when they – suddenly – no longer carry it. Sigh.
With every conservative bottle of wine (see above), there is its wicked cousin who comes to dinner (below).
Stark Raving RED by Rosenblum Cellars Sonoma, California Alcohol 12.5% by Volume $8.99 at Vons
On the Label: “Some might think quitting your day job to pursue your passion for winemaking is crazy – even stark raving mad. Stark Raving ™ from Rosenblum Cellars is a tribute to our founder’s maniacal obsession with experimentation, which still inspires us today. Our Red Wine is a playful and bold blend of plum and bright red fruit flavors, proving that a little dose of madness can lead to extraordinary things.”
My Take: I loved this wine. I picked it up for the label – I bought it for the fact that it came from Rosenblum Cellars, and I can tell you I’ll definitely be buying it again. It’s a big wine, and does better with a little airing. It’s also got a screwtop, which I love (makes it fit in my fridge easier).
My Rating: ~ Drinkable Plus ~ I did love this wine, but I didn’t LOVE it. There are some who won’t like it – it might be a bit too brash. It’s DEFINITELY a food wine – not a sipper, in my opinion – but that’s okay because I like to eat when I drink wine, lol! But do give it a shot and let me know what you think. Here’s a link to a YouTube video that’s really fun – give it a shot!
We’ve been planting for a few weeks now. Just added some zucchini, lemon cucumbers, more tomatoes, and some pumpkin seedlings that my dad gave me. Had to zap the zucchini and the cucumbers with organic bug spray (sounds weird, right?); hoping it works because I’m tired of my veggies getting eaten.
But before I show you the garden, here is my bulb bed – very happy with how it turned out!
The iris area the newest up. The daffodils are gone, as are the tulips; the freesia (red, in the foreground) seem to hang around the longest, and are definitely the most fragrant.
Aren’t these sweet?
Here, though, is the star of the garden – the first to be picked for consumption, and the first to be done for the year.
See the baby artichoke, right below the bigger one? Yeah. We’ve got nine artichoke plants. Nine. That’s a lot of artichokes…
Below are the pumpkin plants my dad grew from seed. Not giant pumpkins, just regular ones – it’s gonna be interesting to see if we actually get some pumpkins this year!
When they start vining, we’ll train the vines out into the yard.
Potatoes are the easiest thing to grow. Once a potato in your pantry (or fridge, or wherever) starts budding, cut it up so each bud gets a chunk of potato, and toss them in the ground, bud side facing up. I planted these about a month ago.
Here’s a mixed bed that we planted last fall – kale to the left (the insects leave the kale alone), boysenberry in the back (though Tom tried to dig that out, it’s hard to dig berries out all the way), and beets in the front. Almost time to pull the beets, the berries haven’t started flowering yet, and I’m cooking with the kale right now.
So, that’s the highlight of the garden. What do you think?
I love your comments! If you like the blog, I’d love to have you follow me (because that way, I’ll be much more disciplined about putting blogs up).
Wine Friday is mostly about the bargain. I’m always on the lookout for wines that are tasty, easily available, and won’t break the bank. Below is my honest opinion of the wines I buy and drink; they are all available for under ten dollars, unless specified. (My rating system is at the very bottom of this post.)
Today, I’ve got two whites, for the white wine lovers in the crowd (and I know there are many!).
Creme de Lys Chardonnay 2012 Sonoma, California Alcohol Content, 13.5% by Volume. $7.99 on sale at Vons
On the Label: “Slow down, exhale and enjoy this rich, creamy Chardonnay. You deserve it! Our Winemaker chose California vineyards that yield incredibly lush flavors of tropical fruit, baked apple and citrus. Sur lie aging gives this wine its soft, creamy style. Aging nine months, primarily on French oak, adds hints of vanilla and creme brulee on the finish, making this wine the perfect reward at the end of your day.”
My Take: For those of you who love the new “naked” Chardonnays, i.e., a Chardonnay that doesn’t have that big, buttery 1990s flavor, relax. Even though this wine is aged in French oak, it’s got a nice richness to it that does not harken back to those big, buttery days. As well, those of you who MISS those big, buttery Chardonnays, take heart. This has the creaminess that many of the newer, “steel” Chardonnays could never have. A little bit of the old style in a new, creamy flavor. Excellent with chicken, or a creamy pasta.
My Rating: ~ Drinkable Plus ~ It’s not quite up to my Very Drinkable standard, but it will definitely fill the bill when you need a white wine for dinner OR for sipping. It’s versatile and very mouth-friendly. Enjoy!
Geyser Peak Sauvignon Blanc, 2013 Napa, California Alcohol Content, 13% by Volume. On sale for $6.99 at Vons.
On The Label: (Front) “Our historic winery is perched on a hillside overlooking the picturesque vineyards beneath Geyser Peak Mountain.” (Back) “Founded in 1880 by pioneering winemaker Augusts Quitzow, Geyser Peak Winery became California’s 29th bonded winery, and sits in the heart of Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley. Our Sauvignon Blanc, with fresh fruit character and balanced acidity, comes from a diversity of rugged, coastal-influenced growing regions. We seal our Sauvignon Blanc with a screwcap to ensure all of the delicate aromatics and flavors captured at the winery are delivered to you in the bottle – enjoy!
“Taste profile: Crisp and refreshing, with flavors of lime, grapefruit, honeydew melon and lemongrass.
“Suggested pairings: Fantastic with Asian food, especially Thai and sushi. Also great with salads, oysters, shellfish and grilled seafood.”
My Take: Whew. That’s a label that says a mouthful, plus tells you not only how to taste it but what to serve it with. Kinda pushy, don’t you think? Or maybe that’s just me. Anyhoo – despite the pushiness of the label, I really enjoyed this wine with the crab quiche I’d made. It’s definitely crisp and clean, and I wouldn’t hesitate to take it to any spring or summer party. Definitely prefer it with seafood.
My Rating: ~ Very Drinkable ~ And at that price, stock up on a few bottles. You never know when you’ll need a terrific wine.
What are you drinking? I’d love to know. Until next time – Cheers!
My Rating System: Undrinkable; Barely Drinkable; Drinkable; Very Drinkable; and the ever-popular “Stay Away! This is MY wine, you Slut!” All opinions are my own. You’re welcome, lol.
I’ve been tagged by the fantastic Jami Gray to participate in this blog hop that introduces you to writers you may not know, and gives a little insight into each person’s writing process.
Jami is the author of the Kyn Kronicles, tales of the supernatural hiding in the shadows of the mundane world. I was supposed to tag 3 more people, but I couldn’t find any who hadn’t already participated and/or were already doing too many blogs, so there’s that…but you can check out Jami, and the other two writers that she tagged – Michelle Miles and Julian West.
Here are the four questions I was given.
What am I working on?
Whooo boy, that’s a doozy. I’m currently working on a YA novel set in the world of ballet; a contemporary romance series built around the StarTide Agency, straddling the music world and Hollywood; plus another series that hasn’t yet been accepted. Oh, and I really need to get book 3 done of the paranormal romance Caine Brother’s series. There just aren’t enough hours in the day. And this doesn’t even touch the plays I’m working on!
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
What makes any one book different from another? The author’s voice. I like to think that even across genres, when you pick up one of my novels, you can tell it’s my voice that wrote it.
Why do I write what I write?
I write paranormal romance because I can let my imagination take flight (and it can get pretty dark in there, lol). I write YA because I love teens, and I can tap into my own teen years with no problem whatsoever. And I write contemporary romance because I’m a total sucker for happy ever after – and yes, I do believe in it. I’ve been escaping into books since I was a child, and reading Harlequin romances since my early teens. Having a writer as a father and a storyteller for a mom, writing my own books seemed to be the best thing in the world.
How does my writing process work?
I am a pantser (I write by the seat of my pants) with a pretty solid idea of where I’m going in the story. While I don’t plot the whole book before I start, I usually know what I want to happen, plus some of the highlights (and low points), and the ending – though sometimes the ending can be foggy until I get there. First chapters are critical and in my first novel, Demon Soul, I rewrote that first chapter probably ten times after the book was finished (a couple of times, that meant a rewrite of the first three chapters to get details to have the right continuity). So, I have to say my writing process is as messy as my desk. Which is pretty messy.
Thanks so much for dropping by. Hope you have a terrific week!