Romancing the NaNoWriMo Win Hailey wins NaNoWriMo 2014. This is the certificate.

55,142 Words Later

For our first assignment in law school, even before any class had convened, we were to read an article that appeared to be written in English – with a soupçon of Latin thrown in for good measure.  We all knew, for example, what the word “summary” meant.  Heck, in high school and/or college, most of us had probably bought summaries of, say, novels in which we should have luxuriated, but had only two nights to master.  Similarly, “judgment” was quite familiar to all of us.  But, and some of you are probably way ahead of me here, put them both together, and “summary judgment” is, at best, a distant cousin in meaning to it’s commonly used components.

Because I know some of you will not sleep unless you know the definition of “summary judgment,” a workable definition is this: it is a court’s judgment for one party and against the other party where there is no dispute between the parties as to material fact regarding the dispute or a portion of the dispute.  That raises the issue of “what is a material fact,” which leads me back to the article.

As I recall, the article’s author taunted us misguided, over-confident, know-it-all, former skim-the-assignment-and-regurgitate-it-on-the-test kids to persevere even in the face of having to redefine reality.  Words we thought we knew had strange meanings and were combined oddly.  It sounded like English, but, then again, it didn’t.  Towards the end of the piece, the author noted that we had probably skipped over dozens of words and phrases in order to complete the reading instead of dutifully looking everything up.  Yup.  Guilty as charged.

Eventually, and this means, for me, a few years later, all of those words were part of my everyday lexicon.  I didn’t skip any of those semi-English, sometimes Latin phrases; I scoured prior legal opinions and statutes for them.  And, in using them, I had lost that “new driver” feeling.

One of the Latin phrases in the article was res ipsa loquitur – meaning: the thing speaks for itself.  It’s often used when referring to negligence cases, and – –

OK, I’ll stop with the Intro to Law class.

In my small section in law school, there was a woman who married our Contracts professor after our first year.  Inside her wedding band, he had the jeweler inscribe, “res ipsa.”  Her finger was too small for the “loquitur” and it didn’t matter.  For a bunch of tough, analytical curs, we were all swoony over the romantic symbolism.  We’d pass her in the hallway sometimes and greet her with an admiring “Res ipsa, baby!

Which brings me to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).  Late yesterday, I made it to 55,142 words of my romance quartet.  I haven’t fully digested the experience.  I’m going to let the manuscript rest, like yeast dough, for a few days before I edit, rearrange, add to, and punch it down.  In the midst of writing 50,000+ words on one story line, several others invaded my imagination.  I jotted them down, and refocused.

On the NaNoWriMo website, if you are a registered user (it’s free, and I am), you have the ability to upload your daily word count, and then to upload your novel (it is immediately scrambled and deleted) to have that count validated.  You are sent a link to the NaNo staff cheering you with congratulations – it is awesome.  Then, you are provided with a link to your completion certificate.  Mine is above.

This win was a huge experience and maybe I’ll write more about it later.  In the meanwhile, as per my completion certificate, above, res ipsa, baby.

Romancing the Ingredients

Thanksgiving is getting very real, People!  Or at least People of the United States!  There’s a feast of food and family ahead, and planning must happen!

I should be pumping out words for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), but Thanksgiving can no longer be ignored.

Our plans are up in the air.  We have two possible locations (home or at a beloved relative’s house) and I haven’t committed to a protein yet.  For years, I did a port-glazed goose, and it was well-received.  Better than well-received.  Moaned-over – in a good way.  Then, three years ago, a family member complained (the nerve!) that we shouldn’t do goose again because there were no leftovers!

That, in fact, was the point: a succulent feast-protein with nothing annoying to pack up shortly after one is happily stuffed; no nasty dry left overs to face for days after The Day.

One of us will not eat the nationally worshipped Thanksgiving protein, turkey.

I’m jiggy with another poultry, although she-who-will-not-eat-turkey also will not eat duck.  Another contender is a baked salmon.  I make a really good baked salmon.  Really.  My kids call it “Fish Heaven.”  So that.  Or, or, I am flirting with a sole in white wine, lemon and butter sauce.  Must look up a good recipe – or twenty – to ignore.

So, protein to be determined.

And, just as I am thinking of all the elements of a good feast, the nagging thought that I really should be writing intrudes.

Those who raise the issue of “balance,” shall be exiled.  Go.  Away.  (But if you are a reader here, come back!  Just kidding!)

One element of Thanksgiving is non-negotiable for my immediate family: homemade crème fraîche.

Crème fraîche is a sour cream-like concoction, a cultured heavy cream.  If it’s done right, it’s thicker than pouring cream and a little bit thinner than traditional American sour cream.  It’s not hard to make; it just takes time.

Martha Stewart, in her seminal work, Entertaining, lists only two ingredients: heavy cream and buttermilk.  The second year that I made crème fraîche, it didn’t firm up in the refrigerator overnight.  Scarred by that experience, I modified the recipe and have ever after added a dollop of whole-milk yogurt.  Purists might be horrified, but adding culture is adding culture.

Therefore, henceforth, let crème fraîche be made as follows:

In a hinged mason jar, pour ~

2 cups of pure heavy cream that is NOT ultra-pasteurized, nor has any other ingredients (I used the Meadowbrook Farm brand in the glass bottle)

¼ cup of cultured buttermilk (I used the Friendship brand)

1/8 cup of whole milk, Greek-style yogurt (I used Fagé)

• Mix the ingredients well (I use a fork).  Leave the hinged lid ajar (there’s a joke to be made here about a lid being a jar; go ahead – knock yourself out. Then, send it to me).  The friendly bacteria that will firm up the cream needs air to grow.

• Next, place the jar in a room temperature place for 6-12 hours (typically, overnight).  Room temperature is warmer than a space in which you need two sweaters to survive.  It is cooler than a space in which you can only survive, sweat-laden despite multiple floor or ceiling fans, wearing a tank top and shorts.  Depending on your metabolism.  That is to say, between about 72 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit.

• After the 6-12 hours, hinge the jar shut and place it in the refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours (24 is better) before using.

In years gone by, I’ve made a sweet potato potage into which, at serving time, I swirl some of the crème fraîche and, for the grown ups, a swirl of port.  Salt for all.

On the other hand, with NaNoWriMo and National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) upon me, crème fraîche may be plopped upon salmon or yams or some-such.  With salt.  All good.

Compromises must be made.  But not for my Love U heroine.  She’s a young woman of principle.  She hasn’t had to compromise much, yet.  All she demands is that I get back to putting words to her story.

Romancing the Jump

Today marks a special milestone.

Today, I made the jump.

What jump?  The word count jump.

I made the word count jump.

Yesterday in NaNoWriMo land, Day 20, I should have completed 20 Days X 1667 words per day, for a total of 33,340 novel words.

For every registered writer who enters their daily word count, your dashboard on the official site shows you your words plotted against the total expected words so far in a nifty little graph.  From the start of NaNoWriMo until yesterday, the bars that represented my word count did not meet the ascending line that represented the target.

This is to say that, yesterday, my total was 31,028.

Today, I put my head down and barreled through.  It’s Day 21.  The target is 35,007 total novel words.   And my total is <drumroll> 36,195.  My word count bar is above the goal line for today.  <hooting around, flapping wings – – but quietly so as not to wake the kids>

We can talk about whether or not there is any real world significance to the actual number of words in a novel or the worthiness of keeping a steady level of productivity another day.  Today, I made the jump.  : )

Romancing the Voice

There’s a conundrum about blogging every day that is not true about writing a bit of one’s novel every day.

Whether you are a pantser (writing your novel without a pre-crafted plan or outline, by the seat of your pants), or a plotter, every time you write a bit of your novel, you are advancing the cause of finishing a unified work.  No one need ever see the work, and it is likely that your novel will undergo several revisions before anyone but your inner circle gets a look-see.  The idea of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is to encourage a daily habit of writing, quiet one’s inner critic, and give writers a community of support, encouragement, and accountability – or not (there’s a lot of flexibility here).  I’d wager that most works will go unseen by the public.

Blogging in a monthly writing challenge such as National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) is a different story.  You’re out there, baby, posting whatever, because you said you would rather than because you have something to say.  We probably all have lots to say and are too shy and/or self-critical.  For those of us with self-imposed blogging rules (we’re only going to blog on a certain topic, we’re never going to blog about our kids/ work/hobbies/health, etc.) there’s an extra pressure to tell a readable, relevant, enjoyable story. Readers are a precious commodity and we really, really want you to stay and visit with us.  Want a piece of pie?  Some coffee with that?

NaBloPoMo aims to lessen that inner voice that holds us back – as well as to connect us with our larger communities.  Still, in my mind, I am hearing the theme song from an old TV show, Mr. Ed.  Mr. Ed, for all of you who are too young or had no access to American TV of the 1960s, was a horse who could talk.   Generally speaking, he only spoke with his owner (who sometimes tried to have his equine friend convey his super-intelligent ideas to humans other than the owner).  It’s Day 20 in writing challenge land and I’m a little jealous of a horse who, according to the theme song, “never speaks unless he has something to say.”

See what you think:

Stephen King’s Romance of Writers

You don’t have to love reading about the supernatural, horror, fantasy, suspense and/or science fiction to love the work of Stephen King.  His work encompasses so much of the human condition of Everyman to make his writings accessible to all sentient readers.  For writers, I don’t have to tell about his inestimably great book of writerly advice in On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.  You probably already own a dog-eared copy.

You can empathize with the desperate revenge of a teen who has been bullied (Carrie), or an imprisoned man, wrongly accused, who nevertheless feels guilty but perseveres to find his freedom (The Shawshank Redemption).  It is the tongue-in-cheek horror of a writer who loses his writerly mojo in The Shining that appeals to me in this self-induced pressure cooker of a writing month – the pressure arriving via the simultaneously run National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) and National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), both of which I have embraced.

Spoiler alert.  I’ll be linking to the movie’s revelation of horror, so, if you haven’t seen the movie or read the book and live for the shock of what gets revealed, bookmark this page, stop reading, and come back soon.  For the rest of us, here is one of my favorite clips:

OK, one more thing.  In the NaNoWriMo portion of this month, participants are supposed to write uncritically.  Still, I can’t help looking at the movie’s typed sentence, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” without reaching for a red pencil to make the edit, “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.

Romancing the Word Count

There’s a push-pull between this month’s writing contests, National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) and National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

At the moment, NaBloPoMo is winning.  There’s nothing like having to post new work everyday to keep one’s attention.  With NaNoWriMo, a writer can promise her- or himself that she or he can slack off (er – recharge one’s batteries, do research, etc.) on any one day and make it up the next.

But in the past eighteen days, my novel writing has not been as prolific as I had planned.

Therefore, today, I leave you with a romantic photo that I took of a sophisticated Upper East Side couple outside of an upscale gourmet market.  Discuss amongst yourselves. ‎Edit



Martin Scorcese’s Asthma Romance

From the time I was a school-aged kid, up to the November of my third grade year, I had many bouts of tonisilitis. I’d get a sore throat and a fever, the doctor would come to our home (those were the days!), I’d be given some antibiotics and an order to stay home from school for a while.

This was actually a suburb of Heaven, the staying home.  My mother and I would have a leisurely breakfast, there was often ice cream (often to disguise the bitter taste of the antibiotic), and she might play cards or a board game with me, or read to me.  Then, she tended to her tasks while I “rested.”

I had fun creating castles, moats, and caves out of the folds in my blanket so that my dolls, often a Ginny,


a Barbie, a bear (Pink Bear), and a rabbit (Pink Bunny – she had long plastic eyelashes – oooh!) could have adventures.  On TV, with only six stations, there were game shows (how did they remember all those clues and solve the rebus on Concentration?) and, twice a day, on Channel 9, was The Million Dollar Movie.

The Million Dollar Movie, which used Max Steiner’s lush musical theme from Gone With the Wind, showed Hollywood’s (mostly) finest, usually twice a day, every weekday.  That’s ten sweet times to watch Swing Time, arguably Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers’ finest work, and Love in the Afternoon, a sophisticated romantic comedy with Audrey Hepburn, Gary Cooper, and Maurice Chevalier.  I saw Eleanor Parker in the melodramatic Caged, a story of an innocent nineteen-year-old widow incarcerated for stealing an apple to feed her baby.  She was so hungry.  She was so distraught.  Most of the movie is set in a women’s prison with its inner corruption –  despite prison matron Agnes Moorehead’s true blue leadership.  Eleanor’s character was denied parole after parole.  She was despondent but wouldn’t take the easy way out and become a disciple of a tough old lifer – a white-haired woman who, gasp, was permitted to wear lipstick in prison!  Eleanor was determined to be reunited with her baby and, thus, made her bargain with the Devil. The lipstick turned out to be an important symbol of her transition.

Orange is the New Black has nothing on Caged.

My imagination ran wild – usually before lunchtime and a nap.

Years later, I found out that renowned director, Martin Scorsese, was shaped by childhood movie-watching due to asthma.  Not being able to engage in vigorous play in the open, Scorsese went to the movies with his Dad.  They bonded, and Scorsese got to be simultaneously in the wild, wild, west and Queens, New York.

Similarly, I’ve lived in a Parisian apartment with a (seemingly) hopeless crush on a powerful American industrialist who took me rowing, made my silk chiffon dress bounce while dancing with my tap dancing partner (who worked hard to gain my affections), and I’ve learned that resilience and survival, even when it means profound compromises with what I know to be an ideal life, are key.

Martin Scorsese wasn’t making movies yet when I was a kid, but I’ve continued to be mesmerized by and learn from great story-telling even after my tonsillectomy (third grade).  Now, when I’m in prison, developing grit with Eleanor Parker, and preparing a souflée that is a barometer of my romantic yearnings in Sabrina, I am also cooking with Pauli, the head of a “family” in Goodfellas:

Henry (v.o.)

Paulie did the prep work. He was doing a year for contempt and he had a system for doing garlic. He used a razor and he sliced it so thin it used to liquify in the pan with a little oil.

Thanks, Martin Scorsese.   Happy Birthday and many more.

Director Martin Scorsese

The Romance Filter

There are some communal artistic challenges that operate as scavenger hunts.  Each day, the organizer asks you to find/photograph/write about one prompt.  For example, on day one, you might be asked to photograph a shiny spoon, on day two: a child’s delight, on day three: a cloud in the shape of an animal, and so on.

I’ve participated in several December Daily photo challenges and, in addition to having a cool little album at the end of the month, I found the Power of the Filter.

I’m not talking about the brightening “Hefe” or maniacally yellow-casting “Kelvin” filters on Instagram.  I’m speaking about the experience of tuning-down one’s attention to various stimuli and exulting in every instance, or just one perfect instance, of one’s target.  The day you find that red number “8,” in the virtual company of a possibly worldwide community of red “8” hunter/gatherers, is a red-letter (or – er – number) day.  Looking through that time-limited filter can be meditative and peaceful.  It can be exhilarating.  Look ma, I found “tiny tots with their eyes all aglow!”

This leads me to romance.  In this intense writing month of blogging every day (NaBLoPoMoand typing the entries that will add up to the 50,000-words-required-to-win  (NaNoWriMo) in my romance series , I have my romance writing filter “on” – even when I’m not at my computer.

I’m out there looking, virtually speaking, for romance.  Here is my hunter/gatherer capture:



Romance Picture Stories

Is a picture really worth a thousand words?

That’s a strange question to ponder in the middle of two word-producing endeavors, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), with a goal of 50,000 words of a novel written by November 30th, and National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo), with a goal of posting every day.

I was out for an errand/walk with my kids one recent night.  We headed home as dusk fell. Needing to cross a busy avenue, we waited for the light.  Suddenly, I saw an awesome pair of boots crossing the road ahead of us – high heels, but they looked manageable.  What to do?  I quickly retrieved my phone/camera from my pocket to snap a shot of the boots so I could go hunting the next day.

But the boot-wearing lass was on the move.  Hence, the many photos.

For me, the photos show a romance with a happy ending.  For her.  A happy ending for her.  I’m still looking for the boots.

Here are the photos.  Are the five, taken as a unit, worth 5 X 1,000 words, 5,000 words?

The Romance of Recognition


This evening, after a full day including a meeting that ended at 7 P.M. (!), then getting dinner together for my fam (because platters of food in the refrigerator and wads of take-out menus apparently only prompt, “Hey, what’s for dinner?”), pumping out some words for my romance novel series for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and then checking email (Hello, email, I missed you!) before I hid sat down to blog as part of NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month), I received this from prolific blogger extraordinaire, Blogging & Social Media editor as well as Health editor at, and author of several must-read books:

I’ll be adding your post on NaBloPoMo vs NaNoWriMo ( as a featured member post in the Blogging and Social Media topic on, on 11/14/14.

 Squee squee squee!!!

It’s so perfect that my post on writers needing feedback and recognition gave me a little bit of feedback and recognition.

Thank you, Melissa!  And I’ll be trying to figure out the whole social media piece as per your recommendations.

Romance Reading

My mom didn’t ban romance reading – neither books nor comics — when I was a kid.  She was much too smart for that.  Instead, I had access to my parents’ bookshelves (Freud on Wit and Humor was memorable), my mom read age-appropriate stories to me (in “voices” – heaven!), she read grown-up appropriate works to me (selections from the then current Best American Short Stories and the like), and she supplied heaps of appropriate books for me to read on my own.  I devoured biographies of Clara Barton, Helen Keller, and Thomas Alva Edison, “realistic” adventure fiction such as Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh, classics such as Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women and Little Men, a pale tooled leather tome entitled Wonder Tales of Old Japan, and Danny Kaye’s Around the World Story Book.

There was a huge Doubleday bookstore on the west side of Fifth Avenue between 56th and 57th Streets.  My mother and I would make our pilgrimages to buy books there – the children’s section was in the back on the left.

To satisfy our more lowbrow tastes, we went to our neighborhood newspaper and magazine store, Epstein’s.  It doesn’t exist anymore.  Where Epstein’s once stood, on the southwest corner of Madison Avenue and 93rd Street, is now an upscale restaurant, Le Paris Bistrot Français.,+New+York,+NY+10128/@40.7851417,-73.9556874,3a,60y,303h,90t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sKag6EdvVxkfXMUNfRDTpMw!2e0!4m2!3m1!1s0x89c258a3d0753de9:0x2a1ddb0d22b80fdc!6m1!1e1

Le Paris Bistrot Français is on the right.

No matter.  Back then, Epstein’s was a tiny Wonderland for me.  There were zillions of comic books from which to choose – all just inside the door to the right.  My mom must have steered me towards the relatively innocent Archie series while she browsed fashion magazines or bought The New York Times.  She never bought gossip magazines – she told me they were hurtful and untrue.

Actually, the gossip magazine discussion often seguéd into a discussion of McCarthyism, blacklists, and how the beneficent power of The Press can be corrupted if we, The People, are not vigilant.  Then, I was taught never to sign a petition for anything because the header information on the petition, the very words that induced one to sign the thing in the first place, could be, and sometimes were, easily removed and different material could be substituted (before scanners and home computers, mind you) so that your name could be used to support a Communist cause.  And then you might never get a job.

But I digress.

Romance paperbacks and comics, with their melodramatic covers, were looked down upon in my home.

And so I read mom-approved works ~ until my one encounter with a romance comic book.  For purists and comic book devotees, it could have been True Romance or perhaps Secret Hearts.  Or one of their close relatives.

Across the hall from our apartment, two girls, P and K, and their mom moved in.  P was about two years older than me, and K was two years older than P.  That made K unreachably cool.  K had little use for P, but she taught me how to draw a cardigan.  P and I often played together, tumbling in and out of each other’s apartments.

One day, when I was across the hall, waiting for P and K to finish getting ready so that we could go out, my eyes fell upon the not-explicitly forbidden bounty, a romance comic book.  A Benday-dotted young teenage girl with a blonde ponytail and Capri pants was sitting in a tree looking down upon the slightly older (not creepy older) handsome boy-next-door.  It’s possible his name was Brad.  He was passing by in a convertible with a raven-haired beauty.  Our Benday-dotted heroine was desperately in love with Brad, but he barely knew she was alive.  Oh, the heartache!

Once in a while, if she mustered enough courage to greet him, he’d wave, “Hi, kiddo,” (or so I remember).  From her window, or from behind a fence, she watched as he squired around one after the other of sophisticated teen beauties.  You knew they were sophisticated by their coiffures, shoulder-exposing dresses, and thick eyelashes.

Then, he went off to war.  She grew into a late-teen Benday-dotted beauty, and she always thought of Brad, no matter what she was doing or whom she was with.

This wasn’t an actual specimen from that comic, but it is evocative of the genre:

And then ~ Brad returned home!  He was a changed man, and not for the better.  He sported a head bandage and used crutches.  He was no longer carefree.  There was no longer a bevy of beauties around him.  I don’t think Brad could drive anymore.  Somehow, I think our Benday-blondie offered to help him – or maybe his mother welcomed her to help him.  Brad didn’t quite remember Our Girl.  Oh, Brad!  Oh, the heartache!

The bittersweet end (and, spoiler alert if you ever find this comic from the 1960s) is that he fell in love with her, and she remained in love with him, even though the comic book made it quite plain that she would be doing some serious caregiving in the happily-ever-after.

My first and only romance comic – and pretty heady stuff for a kid.  I think I read the whole thing standing up near K and P’s dining table right inside their front door.  It was an oh-no-he-didn’t/oh-no-she-didn’t page-turner.  Then, P and K were ready and we went out to play.

I didn’t hide this reading experience from my mother, but I never thought to discuss it with her, either.  We had bigger fish to fry when I allotted more time to Archie than I did to my summer reading one year.  That resulted in a comic book ban altogether.  It was back to Esther Forbes’ Johnny Tremain and Louise Andrews Kent’s He Went With Marco Polo: A Story of Venice and Cathay.

It wasn’t long after that that artist Roy Lichtenstein appeared to burst on the art scene, recontextualizing the art of comic romances, stripping them of their extended narrative, but preserving their intensity of emotion.  My parents were big fans of the work of Lichtenstein; I am, too.

Abruzzo’s original art (left) upon which Lichtenstein’s pop art interpretation was based (right).

My parents and I, however, did not delve into the merits of the original works, not the art nor the stories, that inspired Lichtenstein. I’m sorry, now, that we never discussed Lichtenstein’s source material, or my reading of it, on its own merits.

I would love to have known what my mom thought about true romance.

The Romance of Following a Mentor-Part Three

I’ve written about inspiration Jasinda Wilder before on this blog.

Like Hugh Howey (discussed here, yesterday), Jasinda Wilder is a prolific indie author.  She and her husband, Jack, approach the production of novels as a business – one that would make the payment of their mortgage, and then the support of their family possible.  Although it is Jasinda’s name alone on the cover of all of the early works, the couple produced at least sixteen works, as reflected on Amazon, from August 29, 2012 (The Preacher’s Son #1) through January 11, 2013 (Rock Stars Do It Dirty); that was before their break-out, longer, more literary novel was published.  More about that, below.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting her and her co-author husband, Jack, twice, and each time they were fun, encouraging, and supportive of other writers.  In 2013, in the midst of signing autographs for an adoring throng ~


~ Jack and Jasinda told me that their first works paid their mortgage, but that their then-just-released big breakout novel, Falling Into You was an income game-changer.  Since then, they have produced at least a dozen more original novels, contributed to multi-author anthologies, and have packaged some previously released works into boxed sets.  This success has allowed them to purchase a vineyard for commercial wine production.

Jasinda takes a different approach to blogging than that of fellow indie author Hugh Howey.  Her blog does not contain posts reminiscing about a beloved parent, or analytics about the publishing industry.

Instead, Jasinda’s blog focuses on reaching out to her fiction readers about her books.  There is occasional news about future appearances.  There are occasional teaser snippets from her latest work.  She lets her readers know when to expect a new release.  But blogging is not a frequent phenomenon.

Although neither Hugh Howey nor Jasinda and Jack Wilder know that they are my mentors, I look to them for, among other wisdom, the practicalities of how to allocate my scarce writerly time.  The Wilders and Howey are industrious, creative, and smart about the business side of publishing.  Both camps have a readership that welcome more content and contact, but pursue different blogging philosophies.

As for me, the BlogHer challenge (NaBloPoMo) to post everyday in November keeps my nose to the blogging grindstone, my fingers to the blogging keyboard.  What’s my novel’s word-count again?

The Romance of Following a Mentor-Part Two

Yesterday, I blogged about the benefit of following the example of a virtual mentor (for planning my wedding, and it was Martha Stewart).

Today, I look to indie author Hugh Howey to help me decide how to balance the demands of blog-writing with novel-writing. And yes, just as with Stewart, Howey would also not know me from Adam.

If you’re writing a novel or non-fiction work everyday, particularly against a deadline such as the one in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) (50,000 words by November 30), you have to wonder how much – and about what – you can and/or should blog everyday as part of National Blog Post Month (NaBloPoMo). Enter Hugh Howey.

Hugh Howey is prolific. Since August of 2009, he has published over two-dozen works, most of them in science fiction, although some might be categorized as coming-of-age stories, traditional fiction, horror, and young adult science fiction. His brilliance comes to life, for me, not in his adept creation of post-apocalyptic worlds, but in inviting a reader’s emotional response.

Since May 25, 2009, Howey has also been a prolific blogger.

His early posts were about his then-forthcoming work, Molly Fyde, and were very creative and unsettling. A first-time reader might not know if these writings were snippets of his novel, an outside-of-the-novel created character’s views, or Howey’s own author-view. He has some beautiful posts about his father. Lately, the vast majority of his blog writing is about the publishing industry, indies versus the Big Five publishing houses, Amazon versus the Big Five, Amazon versus Hachette, and the like. All interesting, enjoyable reads.

It’s Hugh Howey’s post from this past Halloween, NaNoWriMo Eve, that inspired me to write this post. He wrote about his participation in NaNoWriMo. The very same NaNoWriMo in which I am participating. About this challenge, he wrote, “It’s that time of the year to disappear for a bit.” But he then continues to blog every two to three days!

For me, disappearing entails, among other choices, writing fewer posts, or at least shorter ones, and possibly escaping to the second floor space at my local Starbucks. Because I am participating in NaBloPoMo, fewer posts are out of the question.

Hugh Howey blogs vigorously while producing fiction prodigiously. His posts are absent of snippets of his novel, thoughtful, and inspire numerous responses.

The mad drive towards completing 50,000 words in 30-ish days (I maintain that there are fewer days due to holidays and other obligations) is meant to encourage writers to lose their inner critic. I confess that my inner critic is along for the ride. She whispers to me that I should return to my novel as I draft a blog post, and jeers as I write a chapter when I could be sharing on this blog. But she and I both admire Hugh Howey’s fiction and blogging output. Maybe she would like a latte?

The Romance of Following a Mentor-Part One

Often, we are better for following mentors – even ones that we don’t personally know.

We had a big, June, outdoor, country wedding a while ago.  The ceremony was in a clearing in a forest, and the reception took place under tents in the adjacent fields on a family friend’s property.  My dad likened the set up to the planning that was required for the invasion of Normandy.  I felt pretty good about that – particularly because he served in World War II.

My husband and I thought of our reception as a kind of birthday celebration (two goofy kids’ idea of a good grown-up party), so we decided on a buffet with lots of our favorite foods, live dance music that would appeal to many generations, awesome cookies plus a croque-en-bouche (choux pastry balls assembled into a tall cone and bound with threads of caramel) wedding cake, and no assigned seating.  For the pre-service, the processional and recessional, we wanted a baroque quartet.  For the planning, I was armed with Martha Stewart’s Entertaining (circa 1982).

Martha Stewart's _Entertaining_ on

There are several weddings described in Entertaining and I borrowed details from them all.

I learned something from my experience booking the baroque quartet.  Martha, on page 280, casually mentioned that, for her younger brother’s Connecticut wedding, she engaged a student baroque quartet from Yale University.  That fact about musicians and Yale is nowhere in the index; that’s why I surmised that this was a casual bit of reporting.  My husband and I were getting married ten miles east of Poughkeepsie, New York, in a hamlet that is no longer on the map.  I approached a prestigious local college that had a well-respected music program to see if any students would like the gig.  The music department assured me that their students were eager for this type of opportunity.

That should have worked, right?  Except that the well-respected local college could not get out of its own way.  Could. Not.  The few students I was able to locate, classically trained college music majors seeking performance careers, could not guarantee that they could learn the first few bars of Bach’s Cantata No. 208, “Sheep May Safely Graze.”  Could. Not. Guarantee.

So, I returned to my mentor, the controversial woman who wouldn’t know me from Adam, Martha Stewart.  Instead of analogizing her text to my circumstances, I went literal.  I called Yale University.

Yale, even though they were not close to our wedding site, and even though our site’s location was obscure, provided several fine students who were able to master more than one piece.

Our wedding was a great celebration.

This brings me, several years later, to mentors and November’s two writing challenges: National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) and National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  How much does blogging impact one’s productivity in novel-writing?  Do you include actual bits of the novel on your blog?

For answers, I will be turning to virtual mentors tomorrow (Monday, November 10) and Tuesday (November 11).  I hope you’ll join me ~ and I welcome your comments.

Romancing Day 8 of NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo

In Getting Unstuck without Coming Unglued: A Woman’s Guide to Unblocking Creativity, author Susan O’Dougherty says that, “Writers tend to identify patterns and connect random events, to find – or create – meaning in a chaotic universe.”  I have been thinking about the relationship between National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo).  In NaBloPoMo, writing must be produced every single challenge day.  Regarding NaNoWriMo, one award-winning author and writing coach, Beth Barany, said that she takes days off during the month to recharge.  Days off!  And she’s on track to write 80,000 (of the 50,000 required) words by the end of this month.


And, according to the rules of NaNoWriMo, one need not reveal one’s outpouring.  This potentially “secret” writing is aimed at having us quash our inner critic so that we may produce a robust first draft.

Here, in my hand-drawn infographic, are my thoughts about the relationship between both Na’s and creating a body of work.


I photographed this while there was still sunlight.  Of course, one may add more pay-offs above “Great Writing.”  “Creating Community,” and “Dissemination of Ideas,” come to mind.

In this month of word production, we carve out the time, soldier through distractions and blocks, grumble about having to write through a Major (American) Holiday, tap into our resourcefulness, renew our faith in ourselves, and create meaning in a random universe.

Romancing Your Writing Space

Before this National November Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) began, I enrolled in Beth and Ezra Barany’s “30-Day Challenge to Preparing Your Novel for NaNoWriMo” program. In one session, we were asked to describe our ideal writing place.

I came up with a lovely ~ imaginary ~ work space, influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Desk on HaileyReede.comI’d like the work surface to be a bit longer than the one in this photo, please, with lots of pencil cups and a way for my laptop’s power cord to be hidden. Maybe a little more window along the new, longer desk, as well. And a fireplace. And it should be in a turret attached to our apartment – accessible to my family, but not quite convenient for them.

What I have found, however, is that I am writing more by hand than by laptop, and transcribing my words later. I use a 6” X 9.5” spiral bound notebook for all kinds of notes and To Do lists.

It wasn’t until I read Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking that I took seriously the snippets of fiction that would come to me; I have made certain to write them down as close to their appearance to me as I can. Didion describes how her husband, the late John Gregory Dunne, had used 3” X 6” note cards, printed with his name, to capture thoughts that might otherwise evaporate. She carried a small notebook. Didion reported that her husband had warned her that the “ability to make a note when something came to mind was the difference between being able to write and not being able to write.”

I agree. But what is one to do when one has a rambunctious, engaging family that wants your attention now, please? Here’s my I-am-woman-hear-me-roar solution: use snippets of time that otherwise go unnoticed and/or hide. I can jot down notes in the waiting room at the pediatrician’s office, or standing on line at the grocery store, or waiting for something to simmer in my kitchen. I can steal time away from the world at a Starbucks and, as I write, enter The Zone that is very productive. I confess, not only do I have pencils, pens, and markers in the kitchen cabinet where we used to keep the baby food, but I also have supplies in my bathroom. [Hey, Mom? Are you in there? Can I come in? Can I show you something? Will you be out soon?]

The Writer’s Zone is in my head for now. Turret to follow.

Romancing Day 6 of NaNoWriMo

Do you love books?  I hope you do – especially if you are reading blog posts about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

There are a million ways to prep for NaNoWriMo and stay within the contest rules.  Some folks prepare for NaNoWriMo by creating detailed character biographies, complex world models, and flawless timelines in October.  These are all useful.  But when the Day 6 going gets tough, the tough search through their libraries for help.

This is to say that, so far, I love The Indie Author Power Pack, a (currently) $0.99 trio of helpful tomes by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant (co-authors of Write, Publish, Repeat), Joanna Penn (author of How to Market a Book), and David Gaughran (author of Let’s Get Digital).  If you are aiming for your 1,667 words per day, leave Penn’s and Gaughran’s works for December 1, when NaNoWriMo is over.  Instead, do a deep dive into WPR. Their sections on writing “beats” and figuring out the expectation of your reader center me. from

Platt, Truant, and their partner David Wright produced a 75,000+ word novel in 30 days with the whole world (potentially) watching as part of a Kickstarter campaign.  Fiction Unboxed was funded quickly.  They began with no idea of their story, characters, or setting and had a marketable work up and running by day 30.

It gives one hope.

Backing-up Romance

For all those participating in both National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo), this chapter is for you.

She ran her fingers over the scar on back of his muscular index finger….

 Nah.  Backspace, backspace, backspace, backspace.

“What’s this,” she whispered as she stroked the calcified scar on his muscular left index finger….

It was Day 5 of NaNoWriMo and Belleluluflower had her doubts.  Was her romance novel on the right track?  Could she finish it?  Should she finish it?  Wouldn’t it be more productive to produce a non-fiction manual that would be Good for the World?  She activated her screensaver, slipped into her flats, and headed out.

“I did this crazy thing,” she said to Coach, “I signed up for not only NaNoWriMo, but also, NaBloPoMo –”

Coach’s eyes widened.  She noticed.  “So, wait.  I know that’s crazy.  But I’m wondering if I should set this aside altogether and go back to my non-fiction.”

The coach took a deep breath.  “Belleluluflower,” he closed his eyes, “Whenever there is extra stress in your life, you dream up new projects.” Belleluluflower looked sheepish.

“No, no, Belleluluflower,” Coach comforted, “Having so many ideas is a good thing.  Make a list, jot them in a notebook, create a special document.  But Finish This Novel.”

“Really?” she said. “I think that you might be the only one who believes in my novel –”

Coach smiled enigmatically.

“Except for my BFF in California; she likes my novel, too,” she finished.

“There is joy in finishing.  There is fear of rejection in finishing.  But you must enter the realm of Project Finished to move beyond….”

On the walk home from Coach, Belleluluflower called her BFF.

“Listen, BFF,” she said over the crackly transcontinental transmission, “What should I do?  Maybe we could write a Great Legal Treatise together?  Or I could go back to my Good for the World solo project?”

“No!” crackled the bestie, “You must [crackle crackle] finish your [crackle] novel because [crackle] and I want to read all of it as soon as you finish!”

That was enough for Belleluluflower.  The Universe was telling her, through the availability of Coach and BFF, to get back to work.  She fumbled in her cross-body bag and retrieved her key a half block away from her apartment door, ready for her slender, but muscular, fingers to pounce upon the keyboard.

At her dining table, Belleluluflower’s laptop awaited.  She hit a key, and the interchanging beach scenes faded away, revealing her manuscript on the screen.

First her eyes, then her slender left index finger traced the calcified scar along his thumb.  He flexed his hand lazily, as a lion stretches its paw.  Then, suddenly, his muscular fingers entrapped her wrist.  He pulled her close and she could smell his salty – –


The screen went back.  No.  Really.  My laptop went black.  And, despite some prescient warnings on the NaNoWriMo website about having one’s work backed up, mine, alas was not.

Was this A Sign from the Universe to stop?  Or a swift Universe kick in the keister to own my project.  I choose the latter and embrace my resilience.  I found another computer, and, tomorrow, will see the good folks at Tekserve.

Let this be a warning!  Back up your work!

Romancing the Election

When my kids were little, I voted in metal booths with levers and a curtain. There were little levers by the candidates’ names; when you clicked one to the “down” position, a little red “X” appeared in a box next to your chosen representative or “Yes” or “No” on a legislative initiative. Below the panel of choices was a large red lever. If you pulled it one direction, the curtain closed and the small choice-levers were unlocked. Once your choices were made, you pulled the large red lever in the opposite direction with a huge mechanical groan, your voted was, thus, recorded, and the curtain opened.

Whether my children were babies or teens, I took them into the booth with me and delivered the following speech:

Today, we are participating in a quiet and peaceful revolution. It is both your right and your obligation to vote in every election for which you are eligible. Your grandfathers fought in World War II, as many others have before, then, and since, for our right to do this ~

And, with that, we would all put our hands on the big red lever and pull it to record our vote.
We, in New York, held out the longest to retain our metal voting booths, but the Modern Age of voting methods, pursuant to a change in Federal election law, is upon us.

NYC Election Day 2014 ©HaileyReede

Now, instead of pulling a red lever to record our vote, we feed a sheet with ovals we fill in with ink to a scanner. And I am still grateful, very grateful, for all the people, with a special message of love and thanks to my Dad, my late father-in-law, and my nephew, who have fought for my right to do this.

The Romance of Feedback: NaBloPoMo versus NaNoWriMo

I once had lunch with a writer, someone I knew well from high school, who had brought her play for me to read – in front of her.  The play was cleverly written; it was a roman à clef – or, perhaps more properly, une pièce de theatre à clef.  It was about office politics that she had experienced and there was a vampire replete with cape and the other accoutrements of vampiredom.

Every time I laughed or my eyes popped, she’d grab the manuscript away from me and say, “Where are you?  What did you just read?”

This lunch took place at a time when the internet seemed like a private communication system between MIT and a few other, select, research universities.  In-person was it, baby, for immediate feedback on your work.

Writers need feedback.

It’s easier today.  Now, we email and blog.

With that in mind, I have begun the first three days of November writing for NaBloPoMo first, and avoiding NaNoWriMo until I could delay no further.  The results speak for themselves:


This leads me to the work of University of Pennsylvania research psychologist Angela Duckworth.  Duckworth is associated with studies on “grit,” that is, persistence and passion for long term goals.  An individual’s high “grit” factor correlates with success and leadership.  Says Duckworth and her coauthors:

We define grit as perseverance and passion for long-term goals.
Grit entails working strenuously toward challenges, maintaining effort and interest over years despite failure, adversity, and plateaus in progress.  The gritty individual approaches achievement as a marathon; his or her advantage is stamina.  Whereas disappointment or boredom signals to others that it is time to change trajectory and cut losses, the gritty individual stays the course.

 Marathon?  Check.  Stamina?  Check.  Disappointment leading to change in trajectory.  Hmmmm.  I’d like to ask Angela about this one.  Isn’t an essential element of learning the ability of an individual, whether rat or human, to modify or change behavior in response to feedback?  Is that not a definition of “change in trajectory?”  My NaNoWriMo word-count stats were, well, disappointing if my goal is the community-unifying 50K – although I am on track to finish 16,000 words (my individual goal) well before the end of the month.

I think I’m going to define myself right back in the game – while modifying my strategy to begin tomorrow with my novel (NaNoWriMo), and blog (NaBloPoMo) after.  What about you?

The New York City Marathon Is Not Like Writing Romance

In New York City today, we held the New York City Marathon.  The Marathon is a glorious thing, the amalgam of thousands of stories, the many personal triumphs, and, I hope, only a few disappointments.  The Marathon lends itself to all kinds of analogizing to writing and, in particular to NaNoWriMo.  There’s preparation, practice, repetitive training, even, possibly healthy eating, pushing oneself to one’s limit and beyond, and persistence.  As I watched the runners, however,


I was struck with how linear their progress was, and how non-linear mine seems to be.

A few nights ago, as I was driving to my son’s school for a grade-wide presentation, a whole chunk of a story came to me – the premise, the dialogue, the obstacle.  It’s as if the Heavens were dictating.  I even remembered enough of it to write it down after the drive, after the school meeting.  And, of course, it is not part of the novel on which I am working for National Novel Writing Month.  Still, it is progress, even if it is not linear.

The Romance of NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo

There is an amalgam of optimism and insanity in signing up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo).  Both are month-long self-challenges that could, possibly, cause a writer to form a Good Habit: writing every day.

Preparation for NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo 2014 begins with a list for Hailey Reede.

I slipped into my first NaNoWriMo challenge a few days ago, after a great, overdue discussion with a friend.  She’s doing it.  “Why not you?” she queried.  And, as if in a dream, I found myself on the NaNoWriMo website entering my information.  Fifty-thousand words by the end of November 30th is the goal of NaNoWriMo.  Just before November began, I tweeted (and doesn’t that make me sound like a social media savant), my first real tweet: Like waking up in Vegas and finding oneself married to a stranger, I find that I have signed up for my first NaNoWriMo.  (No, no!  Not that I have done that!  It’s just that I have a vivid imagination.)

In the spirit of in for a penny, in for a pound, I signed up for blogging everyday this month as well.  This seems like a natural pairing: enter the mysterious productivity zone, and then report about it to the world.  Of course, no one need see a writer’s wretched 50,000 words – the idea is to produce a draft without criticism or self-criticism.  A blog post, however, by its very nature, yearns to be seen.

As for insanity, there’s making a commitment to writing amidst the growing demands of the holiday season, as well as the usual (and sometimes unusual) family (and sometimes work) stuff.  There’s the sword of Damocles  – the threat of feeling “cut down” if one does not achieve the glory of 50,000 words.

Fifty thousand words is at the low end of most novels’ word counts.   That’s 1,667 words to write per day in November if you are including all weekends and Thanksgiving.  Would it comfort you to know that Animal Farm comes in at a mere 29,966 words?  Or that Harlequin seeks only 30,000 words for it’s erotic romance line?  Or that Indie author Hugh Howey successfully markets both his longer works (such as Sand at 252 pages/87,832 words) and his shorter works (such as Glitch, at 15 pages/4,884 words).  Jasinda Wilder’s Big Girls Do It Better (Book 1), is an appetizer sized 32 pages, but her break-out hit, Falling Into You is 369 pages.  Does size matter?  Really?

For my four-part series, I wasn’t aiming as high as a cumulative 50K.  Sixteen thousand would have been fine for me.  And so, on this Day 1, my own tiny struggle is: Am I aiming for the NaNoWriMo completion badge of 50,000 words – and can I make it, or will I feel grateful to have steadily produced whatever it takes to finish this work?

Set the technicalities aside for now.  This beginning is a cautiously happy one.  I shall push forward with a story I believe in and in the company of virtual and actual thousands.  For this little while, writing need not seem lonely – – and I just might end up with a completed four-part work.

[cross-posted at]