Fanning the Creative Flame ~ Why Conferences Matter


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Asilomar Conference Grounds, Pacific Grove, CAThe SCBWI San Francisco/South Golden Gate Conference (at Asilomar) was earlier this month, my first conference in over a year. Such an amazing conference! I can’t believe I was so short-sighted, to go that long without attending a writing conference.

Oh sure, I had the standard rational excuses, that made perfect sense. Taking a year off from writing conferences would save time, money, and effort that would further my work in progress.

What I totally forgot, was how invaluable it is to connect with people who share the same passion. Writing can be such a solitary journey. I always come away from a conference with my creative energy renewed, and a feeling of deep kinship with others who are called to the writing journey.

Motivational Milestones & Inspiring Insights

Initially, I think of  conferences as motivational milestones for my current work in progress (WIP). I admit I am motivated by fear. So when I sign up for a professional critique, I am dangling a figurative hatchet over my head. I will work harder than ever to deliver the best possible pages by the submission deadline, out of fear of public humiliation. I put my self through this trial, because feedback from the editor of a major publishing house is invaluable. I always come away from such a critique with tools for improving my craft, and a clear path for strengthening my story.

Just as important as professional level feedback though, are the insights that arise from the talks and workshops given by the conference’s faculty.

Award winning illustrator E.B. Lewis reminded us all, writers and illustrators alike that:

We’re in the business of amazement.

Jodell Sadler, of Sadler Children’s Literary, invited us to see:

Language is music  … music is language.

E.B. Lewis delivered the most profound insight (for me) with his presentation on the language of pictures. He explained the components of an image that make it a story: narrative (plot), emotion, and anticipation (what’s next). A light bulb went on in my head when I realized that these are the same elements that comprise a well crafted scene in fiction.

Stories aren’t bound by format or medium. E.B. Lewis told us of a young boy who said he “writes the pictures”. We writers, paint with words.

E.B. Lewis, profile picture and quote

Synergy Happens

Creativity is contagious, and the Golden Gate Conference Brochure cover synergy at conferences is nothing short of miraculous. Sparkly new ideas dart about like fireflies, lighting new pathways of possibility.

I learn something from everyone I meet at a conference, and the connections forged can blossom into friendships that last years. 

If you’ve ever thought about writing for young readers, join SCBWI now. SCBWI provides extensive professional resources to its members. You won’t find a more welcoming and supportive group.  And they’re super fun.

I feel fortunate to have found the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). They are my tribe, my people.

[All images are my own]

Naturally Bach


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Simply Brilliant

In honor of Johann Sebastian Bach’s 330th Birthday (Yes, today!) …

Here’s a unique performance of Bach’s famous “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring”. It’s played by wooden balls rolling down an incline of wooden steps … in the middle of a forest.

I kid you not.

Watch the following video.

Seeing (and hearing) is believing!

“BLACK ICE” by Becca Fitzpatrick ~ Author Signed Giveaway!


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BlackIce_coverBritt Pheiffer has trained to backpack the Teton Range, but she isn’t prepared when her ex-boyfriend, who still haunts her every thought, wants to join her. Before Britt can explore her feelings for Calvin, an unexpected blizzard forces her to seek shelter in a remote cabin, accepting the hospitality of its two very handsome occupants—but these men are fugitives, and they take her hostage.

Britt is forced to guide the men off the mountain, and knows she must stay alive long enough for Calvin to find her. The task is made even more complicated when Britt finds chilling evidence of a series of murders that have taken place there…and in uncovering this, she may become the killer’s next target.

But nothing is as it seems, and everyone is keeping secrets, including Mason, one of her kidnappers. His kindness is confusing Britt. Is he an enemy? Or an ally?

Black Ice is New York Times bestselling author Becca Fitzpatrick’s riveting romantic thriller set against the treacherous backdrop of the mountains of Wyoming. Falling in love should never be this dangerous… [Jacketflap Synopsis]

A Chilling, Edge-Of-Your-Seat Tale

Honesty Hour: I got this book last Fall when Becca Fitzpatrick visited Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park, CA. It took me this long to read it, because psychological thrillers scare me more than anything else. That’s because they’re so real.

Needless to say, I shouldn’t have waited so long to read this amazing story. Once I was brave enough to read the first line, I was hooked. From then on, I kept turning the pages until I was done. Black Ice is expertly written with well-developed characters I could identify with, and plot twists I never saw coming. That’s all I’m going to say. Watch the trailer below, and then enter to win a signed copy of this book. If you dare…

Beware if what you can’t see. -Becca Fitzpatrick

Becca Fitzpatrick, Black Ice signed copy

Win an Author Signed Copy & Swag

NOTE: The FREE giveaway of an author copy of this book is open to residents of the United States only, due to shipping costs. My sincere apologies.

Here’s how to enter:

  1. Leave a comment on this blog–explaining WHY you’d love to read this book– by midnight Friday, February 27th (1 entry).
  2. Tweet about this giveaway, using #BlackIceGiveaway in your tweet (1 entry).

I’ll tally the entries and pick a winner that I’ll announce on this blog Sunday, March 1st.

BLACK ICE ~ Official Trailer

The Quirky Quotient ~ The Secret Ingredient of Memorable Characters


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I’m in the “first-draft phase” of my current project, so I thought it would be a good idea to blog about the process. To create a log of reminders for myself when the next project rolls along, and hopefully benefit others who are blazing through their first-draft.

For me, the first draft of a novel is as much about discovering the characters as it is about formalizing the plot. Don’t get me wrong, before I write the first sentence I have a list of each character’s traits and flaws. But that’s only a two-dimensional view of the person. Their wholeness comes to life in the writing.

Quirky = interesting

BandJ1The discovering the wholeness of my characters is a process of revealing their quirks. Those little idiosyncrasies that make each character unique.

A person’s quirks are what endear us to them, and make them memorable. Quirks can show up in how they dress, unusual habits, and how they interact with others.

A character’s quirks can affect the choices they make, and indirectly the outcome of the story.

At the beginning of a project,  coming up with new and unique traits for each character can be a bit overwhelming. So I start with one simple rule:

Don’t be boring.

Quirks that Delight and Deepen Character and Story

For fictional characters to not be boring, they have to stretch beyond our every day patterns. To start the idea mill churning, it helps me to review stories where characters surprised and delighted me, and analyse what and how they created that affect.

If you’re looking for an author, Meg Cabot is the queen of quirky characters, secondary as well as main characters. Her Princess Diaries series is classic, as are her Vanished and Mediator series. But don’t stop with just books. Films are also a great resource for character studies.


One of my favorite films for quirky characters is the 90’s comedy/drama Benny & Joon. It’s a story about Benny, an older brother (Aidan Quinn) who cares for his mentally disturbed younger sister, Joon (Mary Stuart Masterson). Doesn’t sound like a good time, does it? But wait. Enter eccentric young Sam (Johnny Depp), who models himself after Buster Keaton, and the story lights with genius.

Sam dresses like Buster Keaton and imitates the comedian’s classic sketches, but his BandJ4quirks are much more than a “Keaton copy”.

Sam uses a steam iron to make grilled cheese sandwiches and a tennis racket to mashed potatoes (wish I’d thought of both of those quirks!).

His quirky habits endear him to Joon, helping her break out of her extreme dysfunction that often manifested in alarming ways.

The video below (featuring the song by the Proclaimers) includes some of the classic scenes from Benny & Joon. Johnny Depp’s physical comedy is hilarious.

Making It Fresh

Analyzing the successful quirkiness of characters in other stories is a jumping off point to brainstorming ideas for my own characters. The goal is to make my character’s quirkiness fresh and real. Here’s a few tricks:

  • Turn a trait on its head or switch it around. Do what’s least obvious. Johnny Depp’s impersonation of the pirate captain, Jack Sparrow, is a great example of turning typical pirate traits on their head.
  • Give a character a hobby that clashes with society’s view of their trade or line of work. For example, a welder who creates his own line of feminine bath products under an assumed name, or a concert musician who competes in monster truck rallies.
  • Combine unexpected character traits. Such as a Navy Seal who’s afraid of spiders, but wrestling with bears is a rollicking good time.
  • Cast against type. This comes from the film industry, and is shorthand for “give us something unexpected.” Such as a mail man who’ s actually a recruiter for an intergalactic assassin agency.
  • Get wacky. Have fun with it!

I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) ~ The Proclaimers

Grumpy Cat says: Watch funny videos and feed cats in need!


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Grumpy for a Purr-fectly Wonderful Cause

Grumpy Cat can try to hide her true nature behind that frown, but she doesn’t fool me. Not one bit. Her recent Instagram shout out about the new Friskies YouTube channel that’s helping to feed hungry cats proves that she’s got a heart of gold.

Friskies will give 1 can of wet food to charity for every new video view and 2 cans of food for every new YouTube subscriber during the month of January (up to 100,000 cans).

Grumpy Cat on a pillow

Watch Friskies Videos to Feed Cats in Need

It’s easy! And so much fun!

Here’s all you have to do (before January 31, 2015):

  1. Click this link:
  2. Click the Subscribe button in the upper right corner of the window, follow the prompts (if you haven’t already subscribed to this Friskies YouTube channel), and 2 cans of wet food will be given to feed needy cats.
  3. Click a video, laugh as you watch through to completion, and 1 can of wet food will be given to feed needy cats—for EVERY video you watch through to completion.
  4. Watch as many as you can before January 31st! Feeding needy cats couldn’t be more fun!

My Fav ~ Cat’s Knocking Things Down (in slow-mo)

Time is Light & Other Relative Topics


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Calendar/ClockThe ending of one year—one complete circle of our planet around the sun—and the beginning of another. Milestones in the passage of time cause us to reflect on our past and speculate about our future. Time.

What is time, anyway?

A concept humans cling to in order to create structure from the chaos of the universe. Einstein proved time is relative. At the speed of light, time stops.

An award-winning art  installation unveiled at Milan Design Week in April 2014 brought Einstein’s theory into concrete reality.

Frozen Time

Light is Time is an art installation developed by Tsuyoshi Tane of DGT Architects. Featuring 80,000 suspended main plates—the basic component of a watch—to create the illusion of frozen time that people can actually move through.

Light Is Time

If there were no light, then there would be no time. In the 20th century, mankind digitized time, measured it and continued to economize our time, until eventually we forgot about its relationship with the essence of light. Without light we never would have had the wonders of the universe, the richness of our planet or the joy and pleasure of our lives. “LIGHT is TIME” — the manifestation of light’s return to time — is our great challenge of the 21st-century. – Tsuyoshi Tane (DGT)

Take a walk through the exhibit in the following virtual tour.

Citizen Milano Design Week 2014 “Light Is Time”

Operation #OccupyTree


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The Cat-agious Movement Sweeping the World!

Orange cat in Christmas treeYou thought your cats were just cute kitties–sweet and fluffy. Dumb animals that can’t grasp the concepts of an organized movement to reshape society. That they couldn’t instigate their own potent paradigm of social action based on contagious memes.

That there was no way they could comprehend the construct of a global revolution that evolved as a result of the Occupy Wall Street protest. That they weren’t paying attention.

Cat-agorically WRONG. You have no idea.

While protesters occupied Wall Street and you were glued to the TV, arguing with neighbors and Gray cat toppling over Christmas treecoworkers, and perhaps organizing an Occupy protest in your community…

A fatally feline hairball of increasingly sophisticated and dynamic change was purrr-posely set in motion.

Cats around the world were plotting their own protest to end hunger for felines around the world.

A collaboration of such magnitude that it would transform the existing social order for the benefit of all cat-kind. Forever. Stealth and cunning, they waited for the perfect cat-a-clysmic moment to pounce…


The Brazen Brains Behind #OccupyTree

Evidence of the claw-dacious overthrow is flooding in. The following video documents the sheer audacity. NOT for the faint of holiday heart. Grinch, move over! Cats everywhere are commandeering Christmas, demanding food and adequate shelter for everyone in their feline family around the globe.

“WHO is responsible for this ferocious feline movement?” authorities are asking.

  • Sources report that the cat-tankerous Twitter sensation @CatFoodBreath has shamelessly tweeted about #OccupyTree since 2011, and is thought to be the mastermind behind the entire movement.
  • Christmas Trees at the Happiest Place on Earth isn’t even safe. @DisneylandCats unabashedly tweets up their #OccupyTree victories throughout the Magic Kingdom.
  • And then there is Grumpy Cat. She’s used her fame to fan the flame of the feline revolt with her @RealGrumpyCat tweets to #EndWetFoodHunger.

Four Paws in Favor of Ending Feline Famine

As I’m sure you’ve realized, this post is pure parody. However, feline famine is very real. In the spirit of the holidays, here’s what you can bring much-needed comfort to a few furry forgotten souls:

  • Buy extra cat food next time you’re at the store, and drop it off at your local animal shelter.
  • If there is someone in your community who cares for feral cats, buy extra cat food and give it to them. Your donation is a tremendous benefit to the caregiver as well as the cats under their care.
  • Donate to a local animal rescue organization. The animal shelter in your area can provide you with a list of rescue organizations and how to get in touch with them.

As Charles Chaplin once said:

Who feeds a hungry animal feeds his own soul


What Sparks the Romance of Writing?


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The force behind the creative process…

JossWhedonQuote2What compels writers to subject ourselves to endless hours of isolation, the nagging weight of self-doubt, and endless abuse from our inner critics? Not the lure of millions, I dare say.

Yes, there are writers who hit the bestseller lottery. But if you asked them “why” they write, I would bet many reasons would come before the mention of money.

Umberto Eco summed elegantly up the source of the writer’s creative spark when he said, “To survive we must tell stories.”

Joss Whedon (creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer) explained how writing is tangible therapy, a way to face and overcome weaknesses, fears, and insecurities.

And then there are writers, like Liv Rancourt, who embrace their craft out of the sheer love of the stories they create. Through the process they become the characters and live vicariously through them, experiencing their hopes, dreams, heartaches and joys.

Liv Rancourt on Romance and Writing

Liv Rancourt, is a paranormal romance author with a flair for witty dialog, quirky characters, and stories that resonate with the heart. I’m reposting an excerpt she wrote about why she writes fiction woven with romantic themes, because I can’t think of a better topic for the holiday season. Because everything is more magical when love is in the air

So, why romance? Yesterday I had a couple hours of downtime and spent it in the company of Aidan, Krys, Mirren, Lucy & their friends while reading the novel Redemption by Susannah Sandlin. Okay, there were vampires involved, but the love story rocked and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

That just about sums it up. Write a love story that’s grounded in reality (or some The Santa Drag coverparanormal version thereof), involving well-drawn characters and genuine conflict, and you will have me eating out of the palm of your hand…though that’s probably not an image we want to dwell on. Instead, know that I read to have fun, and good romances are almost always fun.

If I want real-world conflict (read: sadness & pain), I’ll go to work. Sometimes I don’t even have to go that far; conflict comes to me, invading my personal space. That’s how life is. When I read, I want the assurance that the characters are going to end up happy, which is one of the hallmarks of the romance novel.

And then there’s the whole falling-in-love thing. Like most people of the human persuasion, I love to fall in love. However, after seventeen years of marriage, pretty much the only falling I get to do these days is in the pages of a book. My husband is an awesome guy, but our infatuation days were a LOOOONNGGG time ago. With a romance novel, I can experience a little vicarious infatuation stretched out over two or three days, and almost always get dinner to the table on time.

It gets even better when I write my own. I have a whole thumb-drive full of crushes. My ideal romantic heroes are often tough guys with hard fists and soft hearts. Well, except for Joe, from my short story The Santa Drag. He’s an actor, and the heroine Mackenzie describes him as the Robert Downey Jr. type: good-looking, charming and just a little bit naughty. He’s turned up in a couple of my short stories now, flashing his “yep, I’m handsome” grin and driving Mack crazy.

To read an excerpt of The Santa Drag, go here.

The Santa Drag is available exclusively from Amazon [Kindle Edition] for only $0.99. You can buy it here.

Connect with Liv!

I can be found on-line at all hours of the day and night:

Stop by. We’ll have fun!


“The Santa Drag” ~ This Santa has a secret only true love can reveal!


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This season the biggest surprise isn’t under the tree…

The Santa Drag coverMackenzie’s an out-of-work actress who takes a job as a shopping mall Santa to pay the rent. She fools everyone with her Santa drag, until the day Joe McBride walks into the mall. Joseph Timothy McBride – the real-life, got a soap opera gig and you saw him in Scream II actor. The only guy she ever really loved.

Can Mack stay in character, or is it time to strip off the red coat and peel off the beard for good?

The Santa Drag is a 6,000 word short story about a Santa with a secret, stressed out parents in the mall, and one very handsome actor.

Black Friday FREEBIE! ~ Nov. 28-30

Don’t miss out on this delicious holiday treat! From 11/28 – 11/30/14, The Santa Drag is FREE from Amazon [Kindle Edition]!

Reviewers have called this story charming and funny. Want a quick holiday pick-me-up? Get it here with one-click: The Santa Drag.

The Santa Drag is available exclusively from Amazon [Kindle Edition]. After November 30th, you can buy it here.

Read an Excerpt:

A kid in my lap threatened to throw up, taking my full attention for several moments, and when I looked up again it was Joe’s turn. Maya gave him a way-too-friendly smile, which he returned with his standard, ‘yep, I’m handsome,’ grin. His kids stood behind him. The boy clearly thought he was too old for all this nonsense, and his sister was trapped in between the excitement of seeing Santa and her brother’s ennui.

“Come on, guys,” Joe said, tugging the boy forward with an arm around the shoulders. I paid strict attention to the kids. I did not want to look at his face or see the dimple in his chin.  He turned around to say something to Maya. I really didn’t want to look at his ass.

“Uncle Joe, this is so stupid,” the boy said. Uncle Joe. I almost jumped out of my chair. They must be his sister Kelly’s kids.

“Get over there, Saxton. We’re taking pictures for your mother’s Christmas present. Mabyn, you too.” Joe pushed his nephew in my direction. Saxton and Mabyn? Wow, Kelly must be seriously into her Irish heritage. Or something.

Saxton was dressed in a red and green striped soccer jersey and jeans, his longish brown hair slicked back behind his ears. Mabyn wore a green sweater and jeans, with her hair pulled back in a thick red braid. Joe had jeans on, too. I tried really hard not to notice how well they fit across his thighs.

“Uncle Joe, will you get us some ice cream after this?” Mabyn asked.

“If you smile pretty for the camera.”  Joe gave her a shadow of the grin that I remembered. She gave him a pretty decent grin in return, though her big front teeth overlapped and there was a gap where one eye tooth should have been. Braces must be coming soon.

“She wishes she could smile pretty,” Saxton sneered. Mabyn smacked him on the arm. “Ow, she hit me. She should get in trouble.”

I would have hit him harder.

With Joe standing so close, it was hard to remember that I was supposed to be Santa. I gave a half-assed “Ho-ho-ho,” which sounded strangled, even to me. He glanced over at me, and I accidentally met his eyes. I looked away immediately, but not before I saw the flash. Not recognition, exactly, but interest. I could feel him watching me. “Ho-ho-ho.” It came out heartier this time. I was so not going to give myself away.

Meet Liv:

I write romance: m/f, m/m, and v/h, where the h is for human and the v is for vampire…or sometimes demon. I write funny. I don’t write angst. When I’m not writing I take care of tiny premature babies or teenagers, depending on whether I’m at home or at work. My husband is a soul of patience, my dog is the cutest thing evah(!), and we’re up to three ferrets.

I can be found on-line at all hours of the day and night:

Stop by. We’ll have fun!


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