Share your first-line madness

BplantI’ve decided that summer is my favorite time to write, with my office completely open and all the windows wide so the wind blows through and I need to use paperweights to keep everything down. It’s warmer, too, and anyone who writes knows how cold that gets. Look at the old photos of your beloved writers’ s offices, and ten to one, they have their back to a fireplace or live in a warm clime.

If I’m lucky, I’m working rough draft in the summer, giving me solid office time in the morning/afternoon before it gets too hot, and garden/plotting time in the afternoon/evening. Dialog one day, full text the next. It’s a pleasant way to spend the hot months, half dressed and sitting at a keyboard while my mind is in another dimension making mischief.

So far this summer, I’ve hammered out a novella I’m thrilled about, and am now starting my next full length UF called SKINS. And because I’m excited to share it with you, I’m going to give you the first line of every chapter as I write it.

Are you working this summer? Share with me your first 130 characters of each chapter as they happen. (But no more than 130 characters, please! This is not meant to be a way to get your novel out. It’s an exercise in first-lines, and if you respond here at the blog, I will read/comment on them!)

Here’s my chapter one:

“Joe? This isn’t a good idea. All these places got generators.”

Chapter two tomorrow!


Filed under Drama Box

The difference a week makes

It’s raining, but I don’t mind, because it makes it easier to sit at my desk a few more days and hammer the last few chapters of Joe and Sidney’s story out of rewrite so I can get back to Peri again.

I like rewrites. I always say I like whatever stage of the book I’m in the best, but rewrites are where the magic really happens for me: a road ignored–taken, a new thought out of the blue that shapes and enriches the rest of a person’s life¬†the story. Yeah. That.

But it’s raining, and my garden has really begun to wake up. The bees are appreciating the early blooms, and giving them a head start will help insure that my cherry tree gets pollinated later this spring. The Crocus are giving me a good show, not yet trampled by wind. I’ve got lots of new ones popping up in unexpected places, because, like a squirrel, I forget that I plant them.

Most of these shots are from my front corner garden, wrapped by sidewalk on two sides, my yard on the third. It was nothing but Juniper, a few rocks, and bluebells when I moved in seven years ago? The first time I tackled it, it took two days to clean up. Now it takes about fifteen minutes. Boom, baby! That’s what I like. Landscape that takes care of itself.

The bluebells needed more light and were moved. The Junipers were drastically trimmed to look bonsai-ish. I added a few wheelbarrows of rock, and tidied it all up with moss and miniature plants. The crocus are new this year. And before you crab about the Christmas lights, they’re up all year on my corner garden, bringing a little fairy magic to it all. Soon as we get another nice day, I’ll put the mini-houses up. ūüôā

Siberian Iris



Grandkitty came to visit again. Aleix still isn’t sure about it.

Also, the mass market for The Turn just popped up for pre-order. Not a bad price! But the Nook won’t drop to match it until the mass market actually comes out.




Filed under Drama Box

Garden Tour! Green stuff coming!

You can’t stop the earth rolling through its gravity track, and the longer days have finally made themselves felt. My bulbs and early buds made it through the last few inches of sudden snow, and though we might get a few below-freezing nights, the stuff that’s up in my yard can take it. This weekend, I’m going to plant the pansies that I bought two weeks ago and brought into my office when snow threatened. Pansies can overwinter with a little protection, but I was not about to plant them with inches expected.

Now, though, the ground is soft again, and the buds on my Cornelian Cherry (which is actually in the Dogwood family) are ready to open. It is one of the first bloomers, and I put it in my yard for the early bees, starving when they wake up. The Mason bees, especially, appreciate them, and I’ve grown my volunteer colony from one or two bees up to many over the last five years. The red fruits are etible, but I usually leave them for the birds.

The Hellebore is a fairly new plant for me, but it thrives in shade with a bare hour of sun now and again, and it will sometimes flower late fall, holding the lion share of buds to open in the spring. They have got a lot of new varieties now, and I adore this as a replacement for Hosta as it looks good even in the spring. The one pictured here has only been in the ground for two years, and it has been flowering since February.

My crocus have been in the ground for almost six years, but I add a handful of to my established beds every fall. The yellow come up first. Always. This is where that ungodly expensive spice, Saffron, comes from.


Filed under Drama Box

Second star to the right, straight on till morning

I’ve been doing what I’m doing for what seems like forever now, so I’ve become pretty good at realizing when something is off in my process and pushing on regardless, getting it done if not by the joy of it, by muscle memory, so to speak. Not to imply that I can push out a book with no thought, because even on the bad days, there’s the satisfaction of the technique.

But every writer, published or not, knows when they find the zone that time has little meaning and you purely experience what flows through your fingers and onto the page. It’s¬†reaching back to touch what drew us to the written world when we were five, or ten, or fifteen; to be more than what we are, if only for a moment and remember what we knew then: to live it in your mind is to have lived it. Period.
The zone is the unicorn of the writing world, oft seen in the distance, worked toward, grasped for, interrupted and broken by the dog, the kid, the phone, the spouse, the printer running out of ink. Life intrudes. But when you find it, even for an hour, you connect to the essence of why we put up with the rest of the crap of plot holes, bad motivations and pacing, and the career killer, indifference.

I don’t want to say it’s been a while because I don’t keep track of my zone days. But I can say I’ve been finding them more lately, that the pure peace of creation has crept back into my daily routine again. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not roses and cream over here. Every day is still “the best day” my dog is going to have, there’s¬†this winter that won’t let go, and the “6:00 pm” haze of background noise coloring everything. But what defines me is satisfying again. There is movement, a growth toward the pure simplicity of story as the heavy dross is knocked away.

I think you’re going to like who I’ve been spending my day with, and if you don’t? Well, I’ve still got the zone.




Filed under Drama Box

Bluebirds remind me of my Grandpa

If you’ve been lurking on my blog for any length of time, you know that I live right in the city, but being small, my “city” is kind of rural, as in the middle of cornfields, lakes, and woods.¬†¬†I can walk to a handful of restaurants and shops, but there are deer jumping my fence to eat my Hosta, and we’ve caught them more than once resting in the middle of the road to soak up the heat.¬†With Ann Arbor and the university culture only fifteen minutes down the road, there are a lot of artists and retired teachers around, and our farmers market has everything from maple syrup tapped just down the road, to artisan goat, sheep, and cow cheese made within spitting distance.

To say I love living here between forest frog ponds and higher learning is an understatement. I’m doubly lucky in that not only did I have the good fortune to grow up here with the belief that this kind of mental diversity and artistic talents overflowing into cottage industry is normal, but I left it for over a decade so that I recognized that it is not. At least, not everywhere.

But I was supposed to be talking of my grandpa and bluebirds. I saw my first bluebird on a walk with my grandpa, who lived at the end of a winding dirt road between a shallow lake and a twisted woods, and so when they show up at my city feeder, I’m always reminded of him.

This week, the¬†sudden four inches pushed them from the thickets a block over and into the city looking for the feeders and some open water.¬†I probably won’t see the bluebirds again after the snow melts. Still, it was nice to see them just this short time, to know they are still around.


Filed under Drama Box

Lots of people got some, did you?

Snow has its place, and apparently, it’s in my yard right now. We are covered in the white stuff, putting us back into deep winter after we not only lost our snow, but the ground had thawed enough to have earthworms on the surface, looking for a hot date.

But it was too soon, anyway, so I don’t lament loosing an early spring as much as you might think. I will admit I’m anxious to get in the yard and rebuild my summer muscles, and believe me, there is a difference. To help compensate, I’ve been doing some prep exercises to rebuild my core so it doesn’t hurt so much when I finally do get into the yard.

I’ve had an absolutely gorgeous male robin lurking about the property. Yesterday, he came in to take the bluebird nuggets from my regular feeder, and now, desperate for water, he’s been coming in even closer to take advantage of the open water in my koi pond. If you want birds in the winter, put out water!

As for me, ¬†I’ve been lazing about in front of the fire with my dogs, busy making a dragon to auction off at Dragon Con this summer in Atlanta. Wings are done, and I’m starting the feet. If you look close, you’ll see I’ve got two sets of wings in the background, one gold, the other a dark blue. The way I figure it, if you’re going to make a dragon, make two. One to give, one to save.

If you want to make a dragon of your own, the instructions are here. And please be kind. It is my own pattern. Kim Harrison’s Dragon



Filed under Drama Box

Saw the sun come up this morning

“It’s cold,” I said this morning as I came in from walking the dogs, my lips pulled tight to my teeth, breath short, unable to feel the warmth of the house in the bubble of 7:00 am air I brought in with me. It won’t last but for a day or two more. Is it fleeting last caress of winter, or a desperate clinging to the past, a refusal to change? I find it doesn’t matter. It will be gone soon, either way.

But my office is warm, and there is pleasure in watching the sun come up, a satisfaction in setting the promotional mind aside and turing all thoughts to creation, the jiggling of ideas like marbles in my hand, picking out the ones that catch my fancy. A¬†red one with the golden eye of passion, flashes between the multitudes of slate grays, each with chips and dings, scratches of loss. Solid gold spheres of epiphany stand out among the steadfast greens, clatterings of perseverance and goal–motivation.

I roll them in my hand, each one chattering against the others like memories, sift them through my mind to create flow, and finally set them in stately rows upon my desk, stringing them together with words. But it takes time. Lots of time.

I think it’s going to be a good day.


The marbles pictured here were found while remodeling our old house, behind walls, under floors, but mostly outside in the garden, little nuggets of the past finding me while I had my head turned to the earth, fingers deep within it. I’ve kept them all, and they sit above my hearth as a connection to those who held this ground before me.




Filed under Drama Box