Thursday, March 29, 2012

Knowledge and the A to Z Challenge

For the most part this month on my blog has been all about Virtue and it's many different avenues: respect, self-control, kindness, and creativity. I've learned a lot from your comments. I very much appreciate your stopping by.

April is going to be centered on the theme of Knowledge.

To celebrate knowledge I'm going to participate in the A to Z Challenge. It's going to be a learning experience for me, and I hope for you as well. I'm going to focus my posts on the nuts and bolts of writing, using the alphabet as my guide. I think I've planned some very interesting topics for us, for instance, do you know what a chiasmus is? How about hobgoblins? Or kismet? Please stop by, and I'll let you know my take on them and how they pertain to writing.

The challenge starts April 1st.

Why don't you come along on the challenge? See that A to Z Challenge badge up at the top of my sidebar. Click on the badge and see what the challenge is all about. Let me know what you think. Would the challenge be something you're interested in?


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Virtue of Creativity

Mom painting Mount Moran

My mother was one of the most creative people I have ever known. This picture was taken on a vacation we took to Jackson Hole Wyoming. She loved to paint landscapes, so while the rest of us went hiking, she set up her easel, grabbed her paints and paintbrushes, and got busy. She had an artist eye.

I didn't inherit her talent. I remember one day she tried to help me paint a portrait. I spent hours just on the hair. But I learned something that day. While it was true my mother was a gifted artist and could sit down and easily draw a picture, it was still work. She made it look very easy, but I was seeing someone who sacrificed to learn a craft she was passionate about. Her creativity flourished because she loved art and because she had a passion to learn all she could about it.

I think we all have creativity. It's just a matter of finding the key that will unlock it.

The key that unlocked my creativity was my love of stories, reading and writing them. It took me a while to figure it out. And then it took me even longer to see the success I wanted. But I finally did.

Even though my mother couldn't teach me to paint, she did teach me to go after my dreams and unlock my own creativity.

Who or what helped you find the key to your creativity?


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Adventures in Ireland

I've always thought that someday it would be fun to visit Ireland, so when my daughter, Trizia, asked if I'd like to go with her, I said "Sure."

We had an awesome trip.

However . . . driving in Ireland is quite an obstacle. And it's not that they drive on the left side of the street and the steering wheel is on the right side of the car that was difficult. No. The real challenges were understanding their road signs and getting use to roundabouts.

Here's Trizia as she drove away from the Dan Dooley's Car Rentals.

See how she's gritting her teeth and both hands are white-knuckled. I wasn't much help. I was supposed to be the navigator. It was a little hard when most street signs were on buildings or the name of the street changed without warning OR the roundabout pointed in one direction, but actually meant for you to turn down the second exit.

We soon learned that when we became lost to pull into a gas station and ask for directions. I must say the Irish were very kind and patient with us foreigners.

We saw many castles. Here are three of the most famous ones that we saw.

KilKenny Castle

Bunratty Castle

King John's Castle

At Killarney we took the Ring of Kerry bus tour. Our driver's name was John.

He spoke with an Irish brogue and told us all sorts of delightful tales.Trizia asked his secret for driving a bus on those small Irish roads. He said, "What ye do when ye see an oncoming car is close yer eyes. That's what I do. Works every time." Of course, everyone laughed. She remembered his tip and for the rest of our trip every time she'd hear me gasp as a huge vehicle came our way, she'd say, "Close yer eyes."

John was nice enough to take a picture of Trizia and me.

My hair looks wild, but in my defense the wind was blowing.

On St. Patrick's Day we decided to drive down to see the Cliffs of Moher. On our way we saw the two million-year-old Aillwee Cave...

visited the Poulnabrone Dolmen the portal tomb in the Burren...

and saw the breath-taking Cliffs of Moher.

Oh, I forgot to tell you that one day we stopped at the Blarney Castle, and I even kissed the Blarney Stone.

Yes, you have to lie on your back while a fellow holds you. You then bend over, take hold of two poles, and put your head way back so you can kiss the stone. But kissing the stone is supposed to give you creativity. So, yes, I kissed it.

Our last day was spent in Dublin, and what a day it was.

We saw St. Patrick's Cathedral...

walked through Christ Church...

 saw the Book of Kells...

They don't allow pictures taken. I got this from photobucket.
and ate dinner at . . .

The last night in Ireland we took a ride on the Grave Digger Ghost Bus Tour of Dublin.

Our spooky guide.
We walked to a haunted castle...

drank pus from the River Liffey (it really wasn't pus, but I didn't take a picture), and had a night full of scary stories.

Here's Trizia driving at the end of our trip.

She looks more confident, doesn't she?

I haven't told you everything we saw and did. I forgot to tell you we visited the Waterford Crystal factory (The battery in my new camera needed to be recharged, so I didn't get pictures. Lucky you.)

We had the most wonderful time. But I was very glad to return home. Would I go again? Oh, yes. And don't be surprised if one of my future books is set in beautiful, magical Ireland.

Have you been to Ireland? Did you drive? Did you see some of the castles? Cathedrals? Or other historic landmarks? What did you find most remarkable? Would you go back? 


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Feet on the Ground, Head on the Plane.

I'm suffering from a good dose of jet lag. I returned late last night, and even though my feet are on the ground my head is still on the plane.

Please forgive me.

But PLEASE stop by Thursday, and I'll share some fun stuff about my trip to Ireland with you.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Show a Little Kindness

Have you ever had to rely on the kindness of strangers?

Kindness is a very important virtue, and I think many times it's overlooked because it's so simple. Kindness can be as simple as a smile, merely opening a door for someone who has their arms full, or to push someone down a hallway in a wheelchair.

If you work at it kindness can become part of who you are. Do you remember the "Random Acts of Kindness" craze that was so popular a few years ago. The movie Pay It Forward, used random acts of kindness as a theme. Kindness can become part of your character.

Did I say character?

Well, of course, that's going to bring up writing. Do you have characters in your story who are genuinely kind? So kind that they would give the shirts of their backs to help another character? I hope so. Your story needs characters who are mean, but also characters who are kind. Show your hero's kindness by his thoughts or actions. And he doesn't need to be kind at the beginning of the story, but hopefully by the end he should have grown and learned the value of kindness.

Take a challenge and write a scene where one of your characters performs a random act of kindness.

I'm in Ireland this week with my daughter. Hubby stayed home. :(

My daughter and I will be relying on the kindness of strangers, in a strange land. I hope we have the luck of the Irish with us.

Oh, Happy St. Patrick's Day on the 17th. We will be in Dublin that day. It might get very interesting.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Self Control is a Virtue

Self control is a virtue every person should aspire to achieve.

Self control breaks down to choices. We choose how we react to given situations.

However, I think an exception to this is if you hear of a loved one dying. When I received the phone call that my father had unexpectedly died, tears automatically rolled down my cheeks. It was total reaction to something beyond my control.

Another exception, when suddenly scared out of my mind, I scream or freeze. Both reactions just seem to happen.

And yet another exception, when I'm extremely happy a smile comes to my face.

But wait a minute . . . it's only human to react to situations with emotion. But self control is learning how to contain those sudden emotions and master them.

To master self control perhaps we should:

1) Stop
2) think
3) what could happen?
4) and is that what you want?

Hmm, so yeah, when I'm happy I'm going to smile. And when I'm scared, well I'd rather not freeze and scream, I'd rather take stock of the situation and act. But when a loved one dies, it's perfectly all right to cry. I guess I've already decided that.

What about the characters in your story? Do they have self control? It's okay if they don't. They are only characters written by humans who are also struggling with self control and we want our characters to ring true. A writer needs to show characters struggling with their emotions, characters with flaws, and characters learning self-control.

We (writers and characters) are all learning the virtue of self control.

Have you ever written a character who has struggled with self control?


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Respect and Love Through the Lens of a Writer

Respect is a virtue. It isn't given, it is earned. The same can be said about love. (Makes one wonder what happened in the picture.)

How do writers earn respect from their readers? Of course, we must write the best story we can, but I feel it also has to do with the content in our novels. Do we show our readers characters who overcome trials by making wise choices? Do we take the time to give thorough context in our stories? Do we deliver a story that teaches a value and when the story ends leaves your readers with closure?

Characters who grow . . .
Interesting characters overcome trails and are strengthened. They suffer, they cry, and they learn from their mistakes. Nothing is more boring than to follow a character who never grows. They are boring. Who wants to read hundreds of pages about a person who never has anything happen or who never learns from trials? No one. If your characters are stagnate so is your story. Every human being has bad things happen. Your readers want to learn how to overcome adversity. They want to cheer for someone. They want to see the underdog overcome and win.They want all this because it shows them how they can do the same.

Context in our stories . . .
There are always two sides of every story. Show them to your reader. A villain isn't totally bad. A hero isn't totally good. Give context (history) to your characters. This shows what made them the way they are by their choices. This will add depth and give your readers reasons to empathizes with your characters. If your context has been thorough your hero/heroine will do the right thing at the right time for the right reason.

Delivering the story . . .
Your book makes a promises to readers: that they will be entertained, have a thrilling journey, and will have a resolution. Deliver on those promises. Give them a story that will make them laugh, make them cry, and keep them on the edge of their seats. Also your story must have a satisfying resolution. I must confess I broke this promise with one of my books because it ended with a cliffhanger. I had written the sequel and fully expected it to be published right after. Unfortunately that decision was not mine to make. I'm working hard to deliver on that promise, and I'm hopeful I can very soon. But I learned this lesson the hard way. Don't make my mistake. Always have a good resolution to your story.

If you deliver the best story you possibly can to your readers you will earn their respect and love. And you'll add to your virtue. :)

Do you think the dog has respect or the mouse? Which symbolizes the writer? Which symbolizes the reader?


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Writer's Virtue is a Choice

Virtue: a characteristic of a person which supports individual moral excellence and collective well-being.

Doesn't that sound like an admirable trait?

We may be born with  moral excellence and collective well-being, but as we grow and mature virtue is challenged on a daily basis.

We work on virtue every single day of our lives. It's tested as we meet one obstacle after another. The choices we make reflect on our moral excellence and collective well-being.

Looking at virtue through the lens of a writer, we operate from the position of choice and responsibility. We make a choice about what we write, and we are responsible for that choice.

Case in point, I'm sure you've heard in the news lately about the woman who was a trusted member of a romance writers group who seemed to be very successful, having had several of her stories published. Many of her friends had her read their work and help them. Little did they know that she had built her success on the hard work of others. She had copied other writers books and used them as her own. I feel bad for the writers whose work she plagiarized, but I also feel sorry for her. She crossed the unwritten moral codes of being a writer: never plagiarize and always give credit where credit is due. The choices she made tarnished her virtue. 

The writer who truly has virtue and is successful does it the hard way. They study their craft, read everything they can, and write, write, write.

Do you think that writer will ever regain her virtue? Or can she? What would you do if you found out someone plagiarized one of your stories?   


Thursday, March 1, 2012

March's Value & Book Review

During February my blog's theme of the month was Faith. Most of my blog postings had to do with how important keeping faith in your ability as a writer will help you succeed. A healthy dose of faith will see you through rejections and self doubt.

March's theme on my blog will be . . .

Virtue is a characteristic of a person which supports individual moral excellence and collective well-being. There are many virtues that writers can work on not only in their writing, but in the stories they create. This is going to be a great month. We'll discuss respect, self-control, kindness, self-efficacy, awareness, regard, and creativity. So get ready. March will be an interesting month.

Now for my brief book review. The Miracle of Freedom: Seven Tipping Points that Saved the World by Chris Stewart and Ted Stewart is not only a lesson in world history, but it opens your eyes to how fragile freedom is. There have been times when those hungry for power could have changed the world and not for the better.

Did you know that only 5% of all the people who have ever lived on the earth have had the opportunity to experience freedom? That's a scary thought. According to the Stewart brothers the tipping points that saved the world were:

  1. the defeat of the Assyrians
  2. the victory of the Greeks over the Persians
  3. when the Roman Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity
  4. the defeat of Islam at Poitiers
  5. the failure of the Monguls to overtake Europe
  6. the discovery of the New World
  7. the Battle of Britain in WWII. 

I learned something new about each of these events. And I could plainly see freedom has been preserved in each case by the intervention of divine guidance. Everyone should read this book. I came away with a deep appreciation for those who braved incredible odds in the quest to remain free and with my faith strengthened in a higher power.

I hope and prayer there are still brave souls in this world to help preserve freedom for our children.

Are there other tipping points that you can think of that were crucial to saving freedom in the world?



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