Brainy Quote = Inspiration

Years ago my hubby gave me a copy of Bartlett’s Quotations, which I can lose myself in for hours because there are so many wise and thoughtful things said throughout the ages.  It’s tucked onto the “most important” reference shelf on my desk along with my Flip Dictionary. But, the other day, I read a quote on-line about “doing.” I loved what it had to say and instead of reaching for Bartlett’s I stayed on the computer. Using Google, I ended up at and found out it was attributed to Leonardo daVinci, who definitely had quite a bit of experience in doing.

So, of course I read everything that Leonardo had to say about life, the universe, and everything. Although we can’t meet this genius doesn’t mean we can’t glean something from him in our time. And then I wondered, “What did Michelangelo have to say? Anything quotable?”

Two guys who said a lot of very smart things.

Two guys who said a lot of very smart things.

Because Michelangelo is mentioned and admired by Grace in Winging It! And he’s going to make an appearance in book two and I was mulling over what would happen in that scene. What did the artist think about? Would there be quotes to help me to bring him to life on the page?

So guess what quote popped up first on the site.

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”


At any rate, he said many other wise and wonderful things, and then I started to wonder if he might say one of these to Grace.

You know what? I think he just might.


February 27, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , . Uncategorized. 4 comments.

Music Monday — Novel Pacing like The Beach Boys

Music Monday is back after a long hiatus and we’re going to go completely old school today circa 1966 or 67 with The Beach Boys.

As we quickly approach the end of summer, I thought it’d be nice to have one last hurrah. I’m fairly certain all of you have listened to the classic “Good Vibrations” at some point in your life. It’s catchy, upbeat, retro and perfect for summertime.

But how closely have you listened?

Because, it’s a much more complex song than it sounds on the surface, and in fact, that’s part of the genius of it.

I love the harmonies on this song—not only on the vocals, but also what is being done instrumentally.  It’s incredible the way Brian Wilson wove parts of this song together, which is what I aim for when writing. (I fall short, but aim for it, anyway.) While harmony could be a topic for its own post, I really want to talk about this song as a model for pacing.

“Good Vibrations” is a long song by the standards of the 1960s.  Three minutes was what musicians were supposed to shoot for and it’s over four, so it definitely broke some pre-conceived notion of what a song was supposed to be. Still, beyond its length, the the unusual way its paced is remarkable; sometimes happily upbeat, sometimes melancholy, sometimes building toward a climax.  After a quick listen I counted at least seven significant changes to pace and could probably argue for more if you include chorus or  transitions.  The ones I’m counting occur at 1:50, 2:18, 2:55, 3:09, 3:28, 3:46 and 4:00.

What’s amazing is that all of these distinctly different tunes blend into one practically perfect song.

If you look purely at timing, the changes occur at fairly regular intervals.  There are also two times where the song echoes the good vibrations rif  from the beginning:  it happens during the piece that begins at 2:18, and again at the piece that begins at 3:09. One thing is certain when you listen for pacing–the changes are not predictable.

When I think about trying to translate that kind of structure into writing, my brain feels like it might explode.

It’s not an exaggeration to say Brian Wilson is a genius. I think he took huge risks with this song, although we probably take them for granted because the song has become so familiar.

So, how does this help me or you—any writer or reader or music fan?  It helps me to think about looking at my novel holistically.  Can I take readers through a series of different emotions? Can I tell a story without it becoming too predictable? Can I look for places where an echo might unify things?

For readers or music fans I hope it provides some insight into the truly remarkable things that are possible when we create.

Now, I hope everyone enjoys this version of “Good Vibrations.”

September 17, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , . music. Leave a comment.

Music (the day after) Monday — With a Little Help From My Friends

One of the things I struggle with is a perfectionism.

Is this the right word?  The right way to phrase this?  Is my grammar flawless?  How ’bout punctuation?

It’s O.K.  Or, on second thought —  is it okay?

The lyrics in this song, What would you do if I sang out of tune?  Would you stand up and walk out on me? express this fear…well, perfectly.   Joe Cocker is not Pavarotti, but I’m okay with that.  I’m also, for the record, O.K. with that.

When it comes to my writing, the thing is, I know I’m not perfect and I’m pretty sure I never will be.  In fact, look at the title of this post.  It should have been posted yesterday.  It’s not Music Tuesday, right?  Not to belabor the point or anything.

So if a part of my writing is out of tune, will readers stop reading?  Some will.  But my friends will hear the heart beneath that sour note.  Today, I was given an incredible reminder of why it’s O.K. (okay) to sing your own song, your own way.  Cassie Deaton posted a review of Dolphin Girl over at her Shadow Kisses blog.  She gets me, warts and all.  It reminds me that like Joe Cocker, I need to say, Lend me your ear and I’ll sing you a song and I’ll try not to sing out of key.

Now, let’s listen to Joe rasp and growl together, cause the guy’s got a ton of heart and soul.

January 31, 2012. Tags: , , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Does anyone remember the TV show The Swan?

Was I the only person in America to watch that cheesy reality show The Swan?

I might have been.  It was cancelled pretty quickly.  But the fairy tale The Ugly Duckling was one of my favorites growing up, so of course I would be tuning in.  Much to my dismay it was cancelled after the second season.  So, if you weren’t in that original audience, here, check it out.  But read the rest of the post first!  Oh, okay, you can go now, but come back.

See I didn’t lie—cheesy, right?  Anyway…the gist of this show, was that Ugly Duckling women were given a panel of specialists—a cosmetic surgeon, a dentist, a personal trainer, a therapist—and in only three months they would be transformed into…wait for it.


There was a competitive piece to the whole show too, because the best transformation got to be THE SWAN, while the other imitation Swans were kicked off and sent home with only their veneers and lipo-suctioned thighs to keep them warm at night.

That probably sounds a little snarky.  And I suppose it is.  But the snark is not directed at the contestants; it’s more about the whole idea of a show like this.

Did I mention that I never missed an episode?  Can you say hypocrite?

Anyway…the reason I decide to resurrect the show for this post is that there is an analogy to my writing.  Or maybe it’s a metaphor?  Whatever.   I think the transformation is like the revision process, especially for our earliest work.  If you watched the video did you hear when someone said:

This process is not easy, as we know.  It’s painful, it’s hard work. 

I couldn’t agree more!

Revision.  Rejection.  Friends, like the personal trainer in the show, urging me to trim some fat and transform.

Here’s another line from the clip:

You have to wear your scars like jewels.

I love, love, LOVE this!  Why hide what you went through?  I don’t mean whine, “Oh, poor me!”  But there is no shame in transformation.  So your writing didn’t start as a swan.  So what.  Does anyone’s really?  Is there even a swan when it comes to writing?


The most swan-like writing I’ve read in recent years was W.P. Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe.  But I’ve read a lot of ostrich, grackle, ibis, heron, bald eagle, swallow, chickadee, even dodo bird writing and I must be a bird watcher because I can appreciate it all.

So, while swans may be rare.  And graceful.  And beautiful.  They aren’t the sole bird in our great, big world.  Nor should they be.

In the show’s final episode each season, they had what was called The Big Reveal.  The contestant stood in front of a curtain and the judges asked “Are you ready, Betty Lou?” (Or whatever her real name was) and then the curtains swept open to reveal the Swan who had emerged from the Ugly Duckling.

So, I wanted to let you know, next week’s post is The Big Reveal.

I know, that’s a cheapo way of building tension to bring you back to my blog. But frankly, this post has gone on long enough and I promised myself when I started this blog-thing I’d keep it fairly short and mostly sweet.  So, until then…

October 13, 2011. Tags: , , , , . Uncategorized. 4 comments.

How to use YouTube as inspiration

A little while back–right here to be precise–in a post about writing tools, I mentioned that YouTube can be invaluable.  I even promised to show you how I used YouTube as research for one of my novels.  So, here’s the post to keep that promise.

In Dolphin Girl, there is an important  scene where the main character, Jane, swims with the dolphins. So, because I live in Florida, I drove down to the Keys to do a dolphin swim in a more natural environment.  It was amazing and I was able to use a lot of it in writing the scene.  But even with the luxury of personal experience, the scene still wasn’t right.

The problem?  During my “real life” swim, my head stayed above water for the entire time and with Jane’s swim it was taking part mostly beneath the surface.  I wrote the scene  and wrote it and wrote it, but it kept coming out one dimensional.  Enter YouTube.  Check out this video:

In Dolphin Girl, the two dolphins end up playing the bubble scene with Jane. Here’s another video I used.  This one gave me the underwater sound experience.  Plus it was great to see this real life dolphin girl.

Cool, huh?  The clicks and creaks and bubbles and silence. These videos changed the way I wrote the scene and it became less about the action, more dream-like.  I think.  At least that’s what I was aiming for.

Anyway, I’m sure this won’t be the only book where I’ll tap into YouTube for help.  It seems like it would be great for figuring out setting. Or even to help picture a not-quite-fully-fleshed-out character.  In the meantime, I’m really curious, have you ever used YouTube for your writing?  If so, please leave a comment and let me know how.  If not, you can leave a comment anyway. 🙂

September 29, 2011. Tags: , , , , . Uncategorized. 5 comments.

Top Texting Tips (for writers)

Here’s a confession.  I’m a horrible texter.

Shoot, I don’t even know if texter is a word.  Microsoft says no, but it is part of my vocabulary and I stink.  It might be that I use an old phone that’s not really condusive to texting.  It might just be that it seems like too much work.   My kids’ fingers fly and there are times that I wonder if texting is somehow the future of writing.

I hope not.

Still, I’d like to be better at it.  It seems like part of my problem stems from the fact that I simply don’t know all the lingo.  I’m almost convinced that if I did, I could be great.  Or at least better. Maybe?

So, I visited net lingo, a site that bills itself as having the largest list of text and chat acronyms.

It was a lot of fun.

Okay. Fun might be a stretch, but I’m a nerd, so it was fun for me.  And, as I read through all the abbreviations, it occurred to me that a lot of them could work for writers.  We could use them as quickie notes to ourselves when revising our own work or for edits/critique of others. So, as a weird-ish public service announcement I’ve compiled a list, through the letter D.  Here goes:

! – I have a comment
411 – Information
511 – Too much information
AAK – Asleep At Keyboard
AB – Ass Backwards (This one is really useful to me. I tend to get the order of events wrong in first drafts)
ACK – Acknowledgments
ALOL – Actually Laughing Out Loud
AR – Action Required (another way of saying show don’t tell?)
book – It means cool. (I don’t know how to use this, but just thought this would make a lot of writers happy!)
BWTM – But Wait There’s More (this one is good for when you leave out critical info)
CNP – Continued in Next Post
CRAFT – (It’s probably not what you think, it has absolutely nothing to do with craft! *hint* CR = Can’t Remember.  It’s similar to CRAT and CRAWS)
d/c – disconnected
D+M – deep and meaningful
d00d – dude also dewd (this has nothing to do with writing!  It’s just funny that none of these are shorter or easier than the original.)
DENIAL – Don’t Even Notice I Am Lying (extremely clever!)
ditto – Ditto
DNC – Does Not Compute
DNPMPL – Damn Near Peed My Pants Laughing (a good thing if it’s meant to be funny, otherwise…not so much)
DORD – Department of Redundancy Department
DUNA – Don’t Use No Acronyms (you gotta love the grammar)
DRIB – Don’t Read If Busy

And that’s it for the first (and maybe last) installment of texting tips! If you like this, share or LAC* and if it seems like enough people like it, I’ll CFP**

*Leave A Comment

**Continue in a Future Post

September 23, 2011. Tags: , , , , , . Uncategorized. 4 comments.

My To Do List

As of today, my To Do list just got longer.

I’ve known for a couple years that my approach to making “the” list might be different than how most people make theirs.  When I explained how I did it to a very close relative, she said, “Oh, Shel, you really should write an article and share that with people.”  The problem was, where would this article appear?  And why would anyone care about my To Do list methodology?  Well, at least I’ve answered the first question.

It’s appearing in my brand new blog.  Hurray!  And if you’re reading this, there is a possibility that you’ll care.

So, let’s get to it.  How is my list different?  Are you wondering?  Well, I’ve made it all about maintaining balance in my life. Instead of having a completely task driven list – and make no mistake about there are tasks on the list – I group those tasks into categories.  My categories are family, volunteer, writing, friends, home, spiritual, self.  If you decide you like this approach, your list could be longer, shorter or completely different, though I really suggest having categories for family, friends and self!

Now, let’s take a task like baking cookies.  It falls under family, home, and possibly friends.  It only falls partially under self, because while I love the act of baking, I’m on a diet which prohibits cookies.  I can’t give myself a full mark on this.  Okay, this calls for a compromise.  Self gets ½ mark for cookies.  BUT, if I decided to break the diet to have a cookie—yum—I could give myself a full mark and also I could log it under spiritual.  Cookies = Heaven. Get how this works?

Making my list like this, keeps me from retreating into my writing cave, never to see the light of day.  It reminds me to connect with friends, to volunteer (which I think is the responsibility of every human being), to make time to exercise, and to give the dog a bath.  This also makes sure that housework gets done, which by the way, keeps the family happy!  If I go more than a day without an item under friends or volunteering or spiritual, it clues me that I’m missing out on an important part of living.  This always helps me re-focus.  It also helps as I manage things for the Whatcha’ Reading now? website.

And while this new blog has been officially added to the list, I’m not sure where it will fall.  Under writing, certainly.  Friends, I hope.  In fact, if I’m really optimistic, it might meet every category (except the dreaded home/housework one). And that reminds me!  It’s time to go fold a load of laundry!

But before I go, I’d love to know:  What’s on your list today?  What is the task you’re looking forward to?  And which one are you avoiding?

June 30, 2011. Tags: . Uncategorized. 8 comments.

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