Friday, March 28, 2008

Writing Away Retreats

All-inclusive, luxurious, and intimate retreat
nestled in the mountains of Vail, Colorado
MS consultation and coaching sessions included in price.

Join your host, fiction and non-fiction writer: Cicily Janus
Award Winning Author: RA Nelson

Senior Acquisitions Editor for Champaign Books and Author: Lee Ann Ward

Life/Creative Coach: Lisa Gates

Join us for an unforgettable writing experience
against the
backdrop of the Rocky Mountains.

Come Write Away with us!

Sign up now for our retreat in October.
Space is limited to ten people.
Couples welcome and offered discount.
October 17th-21st, 2008
*Early bird special until August 1, 2008*

We hope to see you there!

Yours in Retreats, Resting and Really Doing What I Love,


**********Attention any readers of this blog with blogs of your own: I would REALLY appreciate it if you would repost this on your site. If you post it on your site, and send me the link, I will give you a ten percent discount off the price of the retreat if you attend. ****************

Thursday, March 20, 2008

New Competition Just Announced by Aesthetica Magazine

Hey Kids...Special Bulletin Blog: Spread the word and get to work on your entry now!

The Best Arts Magazine in print, actually in the announcing their new competition:

Exciting new opportunities are underway at Aesthetica magazine- New Aesthetica Annual Creative Works Competition

The Aesthetica Annual Creative Works Competition will champion new talent in the genres of visual arts, photography, poetry and fiction.

The competition is separate from Aesthetica Magazine, however the annual event is organised by the founders of Aesthetica Magazine.

Details of the Annual Competition:

1. The competition will accept entries of creative writing (poetry & fiction) as well as artwork and photography.
2. Each section will have one winner that will receive a prize of £500 and a subscription to Aesthetica Magazine
3. The new Aesthetica Annual will be a book that will present winning entries and runners-up in the genres of artwork, poetry and fiction.
4. Entry allows the submission of either five images of artwork, three short stories (up to 2000 words each), or five poems (up to 40 lines each).
5. The entry fee for the Aesthetica Annual Creative Works Competition is £10.
6. Deadline for entries is 31 August 2008.

For further information please go to: Annual Creative Works Competition

Aesthetica Magazine will still continue to be published bi-monthly covering visual arts, literature, film, music and theatre all in one issue. We will still continue to distribute through WH Smith and Borders. However our literature section is evolving and we will be working with major publishers to bring you exclusive excerpts from newly published novels


Yours in Contests, Continuing to Love Aesthetica and Coveting the Spring-like Weather,


Monday, March 17, 2008

Why You Should ALWAYS Clean Out Your Car Before an Oil Change

Quote of the Week:
Creativity is the sudden cessation of stupidity.
~Edwin Land

Currently on my IPOD:
Get Out of my Dreams (and into my car)
~Billy Ocean

Local Weather:
Unexpected snow showers followed by
fits of unexplained, non-drug induced giddiness.

Dear Friends Egg Hunters and Easter Bunnies,

In light of the coming holiday, I must promote the Bunny Blogs (There’s murder! Mayhem and general Insanity all Around!) I saw a piece on the RAW site, (aka Random Acts of Writing) and since I didn’t live near the magazine, I couldn’t contribute or submit. Well, I submit to everywhere. This would be no exception. I decided to respond to the story on the blog where it was promoted. Next thing I know, the writer of the story replied, in character. We kept it going for months. At this point there are 52 threads to the story. It was all completely off the cuff, every thread was in response to the last. In my opinion this was some of the most fun I have ever had writing. PLEASE go check it out. I am not sure what happened to the editors of this cute site, but the blog and story thread are still up.

Moving on...This week has been interesting. I have started the total re-write of the MS. I am taking it from third person POV to first person. A challenge to say the least. But I have to agree with my readers, the story is much better in this voice. We’ll see if I can keep it up for the next several hundred pages.

As the title of my blog says, this is often times, a blog about you. I like to catch people in their embarassing moments or when they aren’t watching and observe, write it down and laugh later along with you. So, I decided to write about one of my most embarassing moments today. Life in Colorado Springs has been more dull than usual as far as observances. The story I have to tell you has two parts.

The week before this incident Ryan and I got married. Traditionally, after a wedding, the bridesmaids and groomsmen go out and decorate the get away car. Ryan and I rented a limo for after the wedding to take us to a hotel, The Ritz, to be exact...Was beautiful there. Three steps into the room, Ryan walked after me and stepped on the back of my dress, ripping the bustle out. Yeah, explaining that to my mother was difficult. She didn’t believe me. Anyway, we didn’t even get a chance to see the damage to our car, which we were driving to Michigan the next day, until the morning after the wedding. My poor father, had to drive the car for about twenty miles. So here’s this middle aged man, by himself in a decorated "just married" car. And of course there’s no gas...He stops at a gas station and the whole world was staring, at least that’s what he said it seemed like to him.

The next morning we stop for brunch with our families and then head up to Michigan. The car? Trashed. There is a gummy tongue stuck to the outside of the gas cap, a few billion condoms blown up all over the car, including the ones hanging from the antenna. Inside the car? Worse. Condom wrappers, bottles of lube in every compartment, I think there might have even been a book on sexual positions tucked away somewhere too. Front windshield had big circles drawn in paint saying bride and groom. The back, said: Just doing it since 10-28-2000.

Your friends are your life line, right? Yeah, I laughed, but then called them all later that week and said...Alright, next time...And we have an exact estimation of how many friends were in on the act. The photographer took a picture of everyone at the wedding afterwards and there were key guests that were missing. Uh-huh..Caught you with your hands in your pants, didn’t I.

Ryan and I survived the drive from Georgia to Michigan, including all the weird glances, stares and honks. And like all married couples, soon enough we settled into our lives.

About a week after the drive, I realized it was time to get my oil changed. Yes, we had the car cleaned out for the most part. The gummy tongue had been extracted (never stick gummy candy to the outside of someone’s car! Its damn near impossible to get off after a few hundred miles of driving with it on), the paint had been removed, and it started to look like a perfectly normal piece of shit car. (1996 Toyota Tercel) Before I started my new job as a nurse, I had to run a few errands, changing my name at the DMV, Social Security Office...and later that afternoon I had to get my oil changed.

I dropped it off to one of those Oil-O-Rama Drive through type places and then sat in the waiting room for about twenty minutes while the men worked. I was sitting right next to the glass window facing the oil bays and everyonce in a while, I got a curious look from some of the guys. Then one would point...and another guy would walk over etc.. This continued the whole time. Twenty minutes or so later a nice guy whose name I have forgotten walked into the smelly room and proceeded to tell me the car was ready. What was so weird? Well, couldn’t have been the shit-eating grin plastered around his face.

I must say that my wedding ring wasn’t on, I believe I either had to have it sized or something of that nature. But for whatever reason, it wasn’t on that day. He then started making small talk. All I wanted to do was get out of there and on with my life. So, where you from? What’s your name? You new around here? Hold on, my buddy Fred (or whatever his name was) wants to meet you. Yeah, we go down to the bar on Fridays...etc...

I quickly paid and despite their overly friendly nature, I left without offering any information. I had never really been to Holland Michigan before, and I thought that maybe these people were just really nice. I had heard the mid-west could be very accommodating.....Shaking it off as just some young guys hitting on a young gal, I got into the car and didn’t think another thing about it until...

The mats in the front driver side seat were kind of jostled around. I went to straighten them up and what do I find? Condom wrappers. EMPTY CONDOM WRAPPERS...AND LOTS OF THEM. Oh-no. Double oh-no. I continue to look around the car. There are wrappers under every single car mat.

I’m sure these guys were under the impression that I was the one woman red-light district in Holland. Fantastic. As I pulled out of the oil change station, mortified, ALL of the men working that day, stopped what they were doing and waved. Very politely, they smiled and I can only imagine what was going through their heads.

Lesson to be learned: ALWAYS CLEAN YOUR CAR OUT BEFORE AN OIL CHANGE OR ANY OTHER SERVICE IS DONE ON IT. Oh, and wear clean undies at all times in case you are in an accident and have to be stripped naked at the side of the road. I’ll give you the reason for that piece of advice next week. Stay Tuned for more Weird Car Tales from Cicily...

Have a great week and an even better Easter. Start thawing out your ham’s now my friends. Anyone that wants my Bourbon Pecan Tart or Key Lime Pound Cake Recipe for Easter dessert, feel free to email me.

Yours in Condoms, Condoning Dirty Cars and Covering My Face in Light of Utter Humiliation,


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

In Need of Repair

Quote of the week:
Nothing can cure the soul but the senses,
just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul.
~Oscar Wilde

Currently on my IPOD:
"It's My Life"
~Bon Jovi

Local Weather:
Humidity dropping around 2pm giving way to an
inevitable and unseasonable cold front
with occasional, late afternoon feelings
of total inadequacy

Dear friends, family and everyone else,

Right now, I am eating marshmallows out of the Lucky Charm cereal box. Just as I told my kids not to do, but their in school, so no one but you and me and the world around us will ever know. I think I am stress eating. I know I am stress eating. I must stop this plague of stress and weight gain. And stop it right now.

I consider myself in repair at the moment. After a rough few years and hurricanes of medical crap, MS crap and re-writing my life story, I am repairing the damage. I have started to exercise, which as my accupuncturist says, will give more life and blood to my brain, which makes me feel fantastic. I have been running, on average, a 5K every other day. Its like I’m addicted. Can’t stop. And even though it burns through my core, I don’t stop until the treadmill says I have to. My heart rate soars close to 180. But it is a type of high. A natural high. Endorphin, knock me down on the ground and kick me kinda high.

What else am I doing? I am trying to get rid of the doctors. All of them. I know, out of necessity, I have to see at least one to get my very necessary meds refilled from time to time, but I have decided that I don’t need them anymore than that. I have gone all natural. I have supplements for my gut, for the mind and everything else in between. I am seeing an accupuncturist and I feel great. She has me focusing on the whole body, seeing myself as whole and not just parts that don’t fit in the puzzle. And the accupuncture feels fantastic.

But in need of more serious repair is the manuscript and I’m not going to whine about it. I’m just going to keep swimming on it until I either drown or finish, which ever comes first. I have the feeling that the finished product will come way before I drown, I’m just pessimistic because I’m having a hard time breathing when I’m in its presence.

But the blank page, the characters, the ones whose story has yet to be told calls out. Including me. My blank page, my story, my inner character is coming out slowly but surely. For now, just ignore the big orange sign telling you that the road is closed for repairs ahead in the road. I shall repair, rejoice and re-do what has been undone. Just a minor transformation taking place, never mind me.

See you guys next week!

Yours in Repair, Recycling Old Material to Make Way for New and Refining,


Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Tibet and the Free the Goat Rally and other things about Setting

Quote of the Week:
Invention, my dear friends, is ninety-three percent perspiration,
six percent electricity, four percent evaporation,
and two percent butterscotch ripple.
~Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
(Not the new movie...the older, better one)
~Roald Dahl

Currently on my IPOD:
Strange Meadowlark:

Dave Brubeck

Current Weather:
Spring like weather followed by disappointing
transgressions of multi-system manuscript failure.

Dear Friends, Family and My Family of Friends and Pretty Much Everyone Else,

I've decided two things. First, California is beautiful, but WAY too expensive. Second, I really think that the Burger King and Starbucks and every other restaurant in the airport system needs to get a serious reality check on their pricing. Not that I was going to eat the Burger King. It always has the power to land mein the hospital with serious gut problems when I eat there. But a whopper with cheese meal, not super-sized or open heart surgery portions, 10.75 in LAX Int'l Airport. One espresso triple shot mocha, with no whip, grande size...6.50. Come on people...don't be ridiculous. So, I had a small cup of water and waited patiently for the plane to arrive.

Okay, onto the story. You're done with the backstory. As in you've placed it in a different file for later, right. Of course. I know you don't want a lecture on it...As a matter of fact, we talked about openings last week, this week, we're going to delve into setting. The scene. The Where of the Who, What and Why...and of course, When. Without a scene, or shall I say, proper scene what do you have? Nothing. Jack crap. Nadda, Zip, Zilch.

Let's take Moby Dick. There would be absolutely nothing. For without the scene you would have a whale and a man and a boat, actually, not the boat, unless you are of the school of thought that the vessel itself was a character, and then I believe that it wouldn't be Melville writing the story, but maybe Kafka. Call me Ishmael, I am a whale... Hey that rhymes. Kudo's to me..

Anyway, your scene is of the utmost importance. It gives your reader something to grab onto. Somewhere they may or may not know. Which can have the power of transporting the reader into a wonderful place or a place like Hell.

Think about what a movie does for you. Take the opening scene in The Hours. We have Virginia Woolfe in post WWI England Countryside. Probably Spring, most definitely wonderful. Sets up the whole story. Well, until you get past the opening credits. Then the setting is jarringly moved to New York City Present Day. And after another few minutes, we have post WWII Southern California suburbs. Now we've really got the big picture. Not only does each of these settings provoke a whole different set of moral values in society, but it also gives light into the characters education backgrounds, their upbringing, their personal histories and their reactions to events that take place in the story which will also bring out the theme of the story. In turn, this makes setting an utmost necessary part of the plot and our characters. Now take this movie device of setting up the scene while introducing characters and apply it to your novel. Have a running movie version of your book in your head. Seriously, it works. This is why I like to write to movie soundtracks.

Regardless, your setting should create a world of its own, but in the most accurate way possible. Even if you are writing about Napoleon, you should be describing France to the detail when he reigned and not the France that we know now. If you are creating a novel that is Sci-fi or Fantasy, then your world doesn't have to be accurate to history, but it needs to be accurate to its own history. needs to be accurate and consistent throughout the story. If you have the story taking place in post WWIII Cleveland, please do not have tropical plants sprouting up from the ground in one chapter and then the next chapter have it barren and with no vegetation for the last century. Yeah, we're on to you...

Also your setting should evoke emotion. The setting of any place has emotion. Your mom's kitchen as she made brownies when you got home from school. Your college roomate's kitchen as he was making brownies for the party later that night. The first time you burnt eggs and bacon in your apartment, the first time you went to the beach and experienced the ocean, the first time you smelled sulfur after you visited the seventh level of hell...Get it? Each smell, sound, sight, taste, it all evokes some kind of emotion and memory and it is ALL a part of the setting and characterization and plot... Do this the right way in your story and you have drawn the reader in by giving them something to hold onto. Some kind of memory that they can take from their own and make the book all the more personal is a good thing, a very good thing.

Also the setting should provoke understanding in the reader. If you start out with, It was a dark and stormy night and then proceed to write the remake of The Sound of Music, then you've lost your reader. But if you start out with a naive' young woman, dancing among the top of some kind of mountain, waving her arms and singing as she strolls through the freshly bloomed flowers, then you got something entirely different.

The Setting can also give away what kind of character you are dealing with without saying a thing. You're writing about a widowed man with four kids...enter in the house. As a matter of fact, I might describe the house first. Are there pictures on the fridge from his daughter in Kindergarten, are there dustbunnies around every single corner, or is everything neat and tidy to a fault? What do the kids rooms look like? Are they neat and tidy or in the boys room is there porn posters plastered all over the walls and the eldest girl's room has scantily clad posters of New Kids on the Block? Or do the brother and sister say their prayers every night, while kneeling at the bedside where their mother used to kneel?

There are lots of different settings/scenes that could come from this scenario. But it is up to you as the writer to make it vivid, memorable and real to the reader. And don't get me wrong, this is no easy task. Make your setting a character, give it life, and as much importance as you do all of your characters. Your story will be stronger for it, I promise.

As the quote at the top of my page relays, genuis and inventiveness is hard work. And in order for you to pull off your story properly, you must work very hard at it. Take every line, every thought from your characters and every scene and apply the proper setting everytime and your story will come into its own...

I hope each of you have a great week. Don't forget to check out the writers retreat I am hosting in Vail this coming October. It will be held from the 17th-21rst. And this is a self guided retreat with MS consultation. Not a conference, just somewhere to be with like minded souls, in beautiful surroundings and working on your project. Space is limited. You can check out the site here: Writing Away Retreats.

Thanks, as always, for reading!

Yours in Settings, Showing--Not Telling and Some Other Place,