The Crash Test Novella and Other Updates

2020 is nearly over, and as we all know, it has been A YEAR.  There isn’t much I can say about it that hasn’t been said hundreds of times already.  Y’all been living it too.  So, I’ll just say, here’s hoping 2021 goes a little easier on us. 

In the lead up to 2020 the theme of clarity was a thing. It was an optimistic reference to 20/20 vision and the hope for a clear view of the future ahead.  But 2020 turned into chaos, confusion, heartbreak, political division, and all kinds of opacity about what the future holds. 

However, in a strange way, the pandemic shutdown of everything did give me some clarity on life and goals and the things I truly want to focus on.  The things that will make 2021 a happier, more successful year for me personally.  At least, I hope.

As long as I’ve been able to form letters and string together words, I’ve been writing.  But there was a long chunk of time where I was busy living and the only writing I did was for school, work (incident reports, ugh) and personal journaling.  That changed November of 2010, when my sisters talked me into trying National Novel Writing Month

I was reluctant to say the least. 50,000 words in a month?  With toddlers to keep alive and a tiny business to run?  That’s crazy.  So, I decided the easiest way to succeed was to write a fictionalized version of parts of my own life.  I was right, it worked.  I wrote just over 50,000 words.  I finished NanoWrimo with a story that has a beginning and an end—and tons of NanoWrimo filler.   

I attempted NanoWrimo again in 2012 and that’s when the seed was germinated for the story that has become The Compass Legacy series.  It has since evolved into something vastly different from how it sprouted, and it is the primary focus of my writing.  But it is a complex story involving many characters and decades of back stories.  It proved difficult to finish even before the 2020 disruption of everything.

So, I have largely shifted my focus the past few months.  For some time, I’ve toyed with the idea of using my very first NanoWrimo project as a test run for learning the ins and outs of self-publishing.  With The Compass Code getting close to being ready to publish, I’ve finally gotten serious about putting together my little crash-test novella and sending it off into the world. 

This story is vastly different from what I normally write, and it’s definitely not written in my usual style, so I don’t plan to publish it under my name.  I mention it now as an update on what I’ve been up to these days.  I am still writing.  Not as much as I would like to be, or as much as I was before March 2020, but I am getting things done. I’m re-writing the crash-test novella and cutting all that NanoWrimo filler as fast as possible so I can get back to the story I truly love.

All of this means I have to make 2021 the year of publishing.  First, the crash-test novella, then hopefully both book one and book two of The Compass Legacy series.  I also plan to make some changes to this website, start a newsletter, and conquer the fear of rejection that has kept me from launching a Patreon page.  (I’ve gotta pay for an editor somehow.) 

So, 2021, here we go. Check back for more updates in the coming months.

Image courtesy of Pixabay.

Creativity Adapting

No question about it, coronavirus has left me feeling like this is my writing career…

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Way back in January, I had hopes of publishing my first novel in time for the summer reading season.  Even before the pandemic-shutdown-of-everything in March, I was behind on that schedule and struggling with editing The Compass Code, for various reasons.  After the pandemic-shutdown, it felt like everything came to a screeching halt and was suspended in uncertainty.  Including my ability to focus and create.

After a few months, I was ready to give up on the train wreck.  Ready to take the easy way out…

novel burning
Image courtesy of Pixabay

I stopped thinking about it.  Stopped thinking about characters and plot lines, back stories and threads that need tying up.  Mostly.  Well, I mean, I tried, anyway.  But these people I created and have spent so much time playing make believe with just won’t go quietly away into oblivion.

I could burn the papers that hold the words that are their lives, but that won’t sear them, or their stories, from my mind.  I made them, I’m stuck with them.  At least until I can unleash them all on you, dear readers.

So, over the past few days, the irresistible urge has finally boiled over and I’ve sat back down with my laptop and my notebooks and all the words I’ve been neglecting.  I can no longer evade the work using the excuse that I’m just doing my best to get through this pandemic-shutdown-of-everything.


It’s nearly August.  COVID-19 cases are on the rise again and it looks increasingly unlikely schools will reopen in September.  My life isn’t going back to the old normal anytime soon.  I’ve got to adapt and carve out time from this hectic new normal in order get this train back on track.

There’s no question, it feels good to reunite with my imaginary friends.



‘He resisted’ does not justify

three men with guns and armor

holding down one man handcuffed

and pleading to breathe

Knee to the neck

choking off breath

While another stands guard



Minutes pass, life fades

Still the knee to the neck

There is no resistance

There is no fear for their lives

as they kneel on a dead man

No shame in their faces

No compassion no conscience

No excuses left

to justify this



Image courtesy of Pixabay

Creativity Cancelled

I was feeling uninspired and frustrated with writing weeks before coronavirus took over the world.  It was bad.  It’s a whole lot worse now.  It’s even a struggle to focus on reading anything but the news.  Creativity has been cancelled for now and I’m not going to try to fight it.

This pandemic and the resulting shutdown of almost everything has left me on a roller coaster of emotions.  I’m sure many can relate.  Anxiety, stress, frustration, fear…it took me awhile to recognize that underlying it all is a simmering grief.

Many have lost lives and loved ones.  Many have lost their livelihoods.  Many, like me, have found that our ability to create is paralyzed.  We have all lost normalcy for the time being, and it may never go back to exactly what it was before this.

It’s okay to grieve.

With the absence of creativity, I’ve found relief in accomplishing physical tasks.  Tackling projects that have been put off for far too long.  We’re rebuilding our chicken pen, building new raised beds for gardening, and renewing old raised beds that have sat empty for years.

I’m teaching the kids to sew by making cloth masks to give away.  We’re diving into schooling at home, together with our incredible teachers who have moved mountains to figure out how to make this distance learning work.

We’re getting through this, one task at a time.  As we adapt and settle into our new routine, I’m sure I’ll find some time to focus on my work again.  It’s spring, the season of new growth, and I have no doubt inspiration will sprout anew.  Creativity may be cancelled for now, but it always finds a way through adversity.

Making a Book in Grown Up Land

I have been telling stories as long as I can remember.  As a kid, when I wrote a story, I wasn’t content to simply write my words on a piece of paper.  I would staple pages together and write my story in these handmade books, complete with illustrations and hand drawn covers.

Some gems from early in my career.

I wish it was so easy to make a book in grown-up land.

Almost from the time I began writing The Compass Code, I planned to self-publish it.  The primary reason I decided on this route is that I like owning what I create.  I own the words.  I own the art.  I like having the freedom to do what I choose with it.  So, as I considered my options, self-publishing felt like the best fit.

Of course, self-publishing means–surprise–my job doesn’t end with writing the words.  I have to turn those words into an actual book.  Properly formatted, with things like headers and page numbers and a table of contents.  And a cover.

This has terrified me.  I can write the words, but formatting a document on a computer?  I was lost at the word format.  I have some skills with a pencil, but graphic design?  As in, art on a computer?  Did I mention how computer challenged I am?

Last month, I had the good fortune to take a class on formatting manuscripts into ebooks and paperbacks, and designing a cover using the free software GIMP.  I still have a lot of work and learning to do, both with formatting the manuscript and with my cover design, but for the first time, I feel as though I just might be able to actually make a real, not-stapled-together, grown-up book.

There will still be some hand drawn art on the cover though.  Because tradition.

Many in the industry say over and over again that authors shouldn’t make their own covers.  It won’t look professional.  It will look self-published.  (Oh the shame.)  People won’t buy your book.  I can appreciate the advice.  But, I have contrarian tendencies.  And remember, I want to own it all, the words, the art…

I drew the images I envisioned for my cover years ago.  I tried different configurations, colors, fonts, etc.  It was a lot of fun, and I did succeed in making an image I like enough to use for headers on social media.  But I knew it wouldn’t translate into a professional looking cover without help.  I filed all the art away and packed up the pencils and got back to writing.

The class gave me a reason to pull all the drawings back out and art to my heart’s content for a couple of weeks.

Figuring out how to turn my pencil drawings into an amazing cover I love using GIMP was extremely frustrating in the beginning.  (Could be my afore mentioned computer illiteracy.)  As I played around with it (subjected myself to much mental anguish) for entirely too much time, I finally managed to make some sense of GIMP, and it turns out, it’s pretty fun.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

After days of dangerously elevated stress levels, hours of raging, and a little bit of swearing (okay, a lot), The Compass Code has a cover design concept. And I’m really, really excited about it.  I can’t wait to share it, along with all the words it will soon be wrapped around.

Now, if I can just get through the formatting part…

Just A Little Faster

Her heart raced faster than her feet pounding the concrete.  Never had she run so fast, not even across the scorching dirt just south of the border.  She wore plastic sandals then.  Now she had canvas shoes—white, with blue stars.

Elena’s stride stretched from line to line on the sidewalk, but she paid no attention to where her feet landed.  She didn’t hear the sounds of traffic passing, or the voices of the people who jumped out of her way.   She gasped for air as cold dread squeezed her chest.

Just a little faster…

She reached the parking lot of the apartment building and skidded to a stop.  There was an ominous silence hanging over the place.  Elena ducked behind the long line of huge trees, pressing her slight frame against the thick trunk of the tree closest to the building.  Her chest heaved against the rough bark.

There were no unfamiliar cars in the parking lot.  No mysterious dark sedans, no police cars with their lights flashing.  But there were also no children playing in the shady patch of grass in the large courtyard.  No one tossing a ball, barbecuing, shooting hoops, gossiping on the stairs between apartments.

Elena eased around the trunk, then sprinted to her front door.  She pushed her key in the lock and shoved the door open.  Her heart nearly leapt into her throat and she could barely raise her voice to call out.


She pushed the door closed silently and inched toward the kitchen.  A shadow swept across the floor and Elena cowered against the wall.

“Mija?  What are you doing home?  It is so early?”

Elena gasped at the sound of the comfortingly familiar voice, as if she hadn’t taken a breath for hours.  She leapt into her mother’s embrace, stretching her thin arms around her mother and baby brother carried snugly upon her mother’s back.  The hot tears she fought so hard to control coursed down her cheeks.

“I heard…” she panted.  “The raids…ICE…”

“Oh, Mija,” her mother whispered into her disheveled hair.  “I am here.  It’s okay.”

Cocooned in her mother’s arms, Elena’s pulse slowed just a bit.  Baby Juan’s contented gurgles spilled into her ears, pushing away some of the panic.  She sucked in a deep breath.

And then she thought of her father.  Heat flashed through her as she remembered the embarrassment she often felt when she had to tell her father the things her teachers said.  Because he didn’t always understand.  Because he barely spoke English.  Elena pushed back from her mother.

“Where is Papa?” she whispered.

Elena stared desperately into her mother’s brown eyes.  And she saw it.  The cold fear that sent her fleeing from school that afternoon.  Elena’s gaze dropped for a moment, to the blue stars on her feet.  Her mother’s soft voice drew her eyes back up.

“He is at work, Mija.”

She didn’t watch the tear drop land, didn’t see it hit the center of a blue star on the toe of her canvas shoe.

“Why?  Why did he go today?”

“He has no choice.  He would lose his job.”

Never again, Elena thought.  Never again would she feel shame when she had to speak for her father. If only…if he would just come home.  Whistling along the walk outside the apartment.  Tugging her pony tail as he came through the door.  Stretching out his arms to grab Juan as her mother held the smiling baby out to him.

Elena squeezed her eyes shut tight.  She pictured him, so many years ago, his sparkling eyes dancing with energy.  He would wave his arms around and spring from foot to foot as he spoke.

“We will go to America,” he would declare.  “In America, we won’t fear the scary men anymore, Mija.  In America, they have this statue, and on it are the words ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.’  We will be safe there.”  She believed him then.

She still believed him as they crouched in the sage brush along the banks of the Rio Grande, soaking wet and shivering in the desert heat.  Hiding from the men with guns.  “Run, Mija,” he whispered.  “Just a little faster.”

Elena heard his voice echoing in her mind.  She felt her mother’s fingers push her sweat-soaked hair back from her cheek.   Baby Juan cooed and beat his fists on her mother’s back.  Elena’s mother whispered softly.

“He will come home, Mija.  He will be here.  We are safe here.”

But they really weren’t, Elena knew.  She could hear it in her mother’s voice.  She could see it in her eyes.   She could feel it in the oppressive silence surrounding the apartment building where everyone was hiding inside.

Before, it was the men with guns and drugs who beat her father and hurt her mother.  Now it was the men in uniforms emblazoned with big white letters on the back.  They would come, and they would take Baby Juan away and send her and her parents back to the terrifying streets they fled years ago.

She could never run fast enough.  Not even in her star-studded canvas shoes.



Image courtesy of Pixabay

On Snail Time

An old housemate of mine told me this joke once.  He found it hysterical.  He laughed and laughed.  This was years ago, and the exact details are a bit fuzzy.  Now, it’s true, the funniest thing about the joke was my housemate telling it.  But, I still appreciated the joke.

It went something like this:  dude’s hanging out watching TV when there’s a knock on the door.  He goes and opens it, and there’s no one there.  He grumbles and returns to the TV, only to hear another knock.  This time, he whips the door open and looks all around.  There’s no one there, but, he spots a snail on the door step.  He’s angry now, so he picks the snail up and throws it.  A week later, dude’s watching TV again and there’s a knock on the door.  He goes and opens the door–there’s no one there.  But this little voice says, “what was that for?”  Dude looks down to find a snail on the door step again.

I know, I know, eyes are rolling.  Snails can’t knock on doors.  Or talk.  But, hey, river guides always need family-friendly jokes to tell.  I mean, it ain’t all whitewater and action out there.  There’s miles of flatwater, an ever-present upstream wind, and people trapped on a boat expecting a show.  So yeah, lame jokes can serve a purpose.

Anyway, back to the point.  In all seriousness.  Seriously.  It took the snail an entire week to get back to the door!  That’s probably like, three decades in snail-time.  His shell was probably cracked too.  And that is exactly how I am feeling about writing my novel right now.

I ooze along at a snail’s pace, make it to the door and knock, only to be thrown for a loop.  As in, I find I need to write about something I don’t know, and so I have to spend another snail’s week researching so I can write about it.  Or, I fix a plot problem, only to find that the fix breaks another part of the plot, and there goes another snail’s week.  This has been a disheartening cycle.

But, I’m not writing this to whine about or make excuses for my lack of a publication-ready draft.  As I’ve made this snail-paced journey I’ve come to realize that my story is worth taking the time needed to get it right.  I’ve heard writers say that nobody writes a good first novel, and if you really love your story, you should save it.  Tell it after you’ve got a few published novels under your belt.  Get the bad writing out of the way, then write the story you love so you can do it justice.

That’s ridiculous.

I say, write the story you love every time.  And give it the time it takes to get it right, to make it good.  Learn the stuff you don’t know, even if it takes months of research.  The story is worth it.

I have to remind myself not to rush, and not to get discouraged.  I have to trust The Compass Code will be a better story for all my snail’s weeks lost to research and plot problems.  Because I really do love the story.



Featured image courtesy of Pixabay

Snow Days, Deadlines, and Editing Madness

Last week, it snowed.  A lot.  Winter finally decided to really make an appearance.  Which is awesome.  I love the snow and we certainly need the water.  But, all that snow isn’t great for getting any editing and writing done.

Schools were closed for four days, and the smallish bi-pedal beings (and the one that is now taller than me!) were stuck at home.  And I can’t seem to get much work done when I don’t have the space to myself.

We survived being home bound and school went back to normal this week.  In order to get my head back in the game, I committed to another deadline.  It’s still got some holes, but I’ll be sending The Compass Code, draft three, to a couple of beta readers this weekend.   Which is exciting, but extremely nerve-wracking too.

In order to get the draft ready to share, I’ve been editing like mad.  I’ve also given a lot of time to learning different techniques for self-editing and improving my craft.  Much to my surprise, this has been a lot of fun.  Maybe after all these years with this project, I’ve just gone mad.

If so, it’s worth it.  I think.

Anyway, in my quest to polish my writing, I stumbled across a couple really helpful podcasts I want to share.  They are The Book Editor Show and The Writership Podcast.  If you’re looking for some great tips on editing your own work, check them out.

And so, back to the editing madness I go.

Stolen Words

I’m incredibly naive, I guess, but until today I had no idea it was a thing to pay someone to ghost write fiction.  I mean, I know a lot of autobiographies are ghost written, but fiction?  Nope, I did not know of this.  I’ve considered the reasons why authors (and wannabe authors) might do this, and I’m trying not to judge.  But, I can’t deny feeling cheated by this revelation, it kind of almost ruined my morning.  It got worse, however.

Along came some for real, legit cheating.  And that is the scandal that has become known as #copypastecris on Twitter.  Short version, a romance author, whose Twitter bio describes her as a USA Today bestseller, was busted blatantly plagiarizing the work of numerous other authors.  She promptly apologized on social media.*  And laid the blame on the ghost writer she hired.  Thus admitting she didn’t actually write her books.  And perhaps doesn’t even read them?

Or worse, she didn’t care that her ghost writer was stealing the words other writers worked so hard to weave into stories.  Or even worse, she stole the words herself and handed them off to her ghost writer with the instruction to piece them together into new books she could put her own name on.  Whatever.  There is so much dishonesty on so many levels either way.

For me, this calls into question just how often this might be happening.  As indie authors struggle to put out more and more content in order to make a career for themselves, I don’t find it difficult to believe it’s happening a lot more than this one case.  And that just looks so bad for independent publishing.  And that makes me angry.  So many talented, hard-working authors out there self-publishing their work, the words they actually wrote, you know, themselves, and along comes this.

This is really disheartening.  It must feel so violating for the authors whose words were stolen.  And the thing is, this author has stolen more than just words.  She’s stolen trust and credibility from all indie authors.  She stole from her readers too.  That USA Today bestseller she takes credit for?  Yeah, stolen words.

There is some good news in all this, and that is the ways the writer and reader communities have come together to support the victims of this author’s theft.  That, at least, gives me some hope.

*I can’t link to her apology as her Twitter account is now down.


Image courtesy of


In With The New

As most of my readers know, I’ve been writing a novel for like, FOREVER, and had hoped to have it published by now.  That obviously hasn’t happened, but I’m 45,000 words into a third draft, and I’m feeling confident it will be ready for publishing early in the new year.  I promise to post some excerpts soon.  It’s been difficult to choose things I can post that don’t present too much of a spoiler problem, but I’ll find something.

I want to thank all of you readers for sticking with my little blogs.  My posting has been pretty sporadic this year, especially on Seeking Redress, but views have remained steady, so thanks to you all for stopping by.  I intend to be more active here in 2019 and I hope you’ll continue to join me.

Here’s to a good New Year, one that brings peace to our world.