Happy Halloween!


MM 2014-10-31


This is my favorite Halloween saying. Do you have one?

My sister is really into Halloween and over the years, I’ve acquired quite a bit of Halloween decor. Fox and I had fun decorating the house for the holiday. I’ve read that Halloween is the second most celebrated holiday now (after Christmas). How do you celebrate?

Fox is going as a pirate. Let’s hope the parrot on his shoulder doesn’t turn into an Inspector Clouseau moment. Hope all your little ghosts and goblins have fun tonight. Be safe.

Lost Art of Second Chances, music, Writing

Book Soundtracks

Last week, I talked about music that I listen to during the drafting process. Usually, when I’m drafting, I listen to instrumental music. Lyrics just confuse the issue.

Writers use a whole bag full of tricks to wrestle their stories onto the page. I’ve tried all kinds of things over the years—free writing, Artist’s Pages, collage, casting…the list goes on. One of the tricks that consistently works for me is to create a soundtrack for the book. Because they are not usually instrumental songs, I usually use the soundtrack to keep my head in the story while I’m away from my keyboard, not when I’m drafting it.
The Lost Art of Second Chances is a dual narrative. Lucy’s story is set in modern day but Bella’s story covers from the mid-1930s to just before the opening of Lucy’s narrative in the present. That’s a lot of musical ground to cover. Part of both Lucy and Bella’s narratives are set in Tuscany.  Just as I started writing Lucy’s story as my 2011 National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) novel, I found Jim Brickman’s Romanza CD. With one exception, it’s instrumental. I played this album a whopping 57 times during the drafting process.
I also made a playlist for Bella and Lucy’s story. In the final draft, their chapters are more or less interspersed. I wrote them independently though—Lucy’s story in 2011 and Bella’s in 2014.

These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You) by Frank Sinatra
Always Something There to Remind Me by Naked Eyes
Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy by Bette Midler (I know the Andrews Sisters did this originally but I had the Bette Midler version)
Dreams and Disasters by Owl City
A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square by Harry Connick, Jr. (Just like Bette, this is the one I had)
There You’ll Be by Faith Hill
Give Me All Your Luvin by Madonna
Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive by Bing Crosby & the Andrews Sisters
Sway by Michael Buble
Crazy for You by Madonna
Moonlight Serenade by Frank Sinatra
Livin’ On A Prayer by Bon Jovi
That’s Amore by Dean Martin
Rock Around the Clock by Bill Haley and the Comets
Your Love by The Outfield
Mr. Moon by Dick Hyman (from Moonstruck Soundtrack)
We Don’t Need Another Hero by Tina Turner
Surfin’ USA by the Beach Boys
In the Mood by Glenn Miller
Shooting Star by Owl City
Save the Last Dance for Me by Michael Buble
La Vie en Rose by Louis Armstrong
Put On Your Sunday Clothes by Michael Crawford (from Wall-E)

Lucy and Jack are a second chance at love story. They were teenagers in the 80s so I chose the Madonna, Bon Jovi, and other 80s hits to reference their high school experiences. As I was also a teenager in the 80s, this was a bit risky because I have my own associations with these songs. Still, they remind me of being in high school and work for me.

The Frank Sinatra, Michael Buble, and Glenn Miller definitely harken back to the WWII era, which is just passing out of living history. Rock Around the Clock and Surfin USA connect to specific scenes in the novel and parts of Bella’s life.
I add to the soundtrack throughout the writing process as I find tunes that are appropriate.
What do you think? Any songs I should add?

music, Writing

Writing with Music

Do you write with music? I love to listen to music as I write but only instrumental. Lyrics are too distracting to me as I capture the story. I do use all kinds of songs in my story soundtracks but I don’t typically listen to those while writing. Those are more an out-and-about to keep my head in the story when I can’t be at the keyboard.

I’ve always been told that I have eclectic taste in music. My husband and I combined all our CDs into iTunes years ago. Between our widely varying choices and Fox’s kids music, I think our iTunes is perpetually confused. At least, I’ve never had very good luck with genius playlists. So, as a result, I’m always on the hunt for new writing music. I thought I’d share some of my favorites and new finds with you today. Next week, we can talk about story soundtracks.

First up, some favorites:

The Boston Pops. My mother is from Boston and both she and my father love the Pops. My sister and I grew up listening to them. We even saw them in a holiday concert a few years ago. If they ever come back to DC again, I’ll be there. My favorite non-holiday Pops offering is the Celtic album. But, how can you go wrong with the Pops? All the albums are great.

Celtic Album

Jim Brickman. Some of his radio hits do have lyrics or are piano covers of pop hits that my brain supplies the words for each time they play. Can’t remember the name of the person I just met or the title of the book I want to buy but song lyrics are all in there. I also saw Jim Brickman in concert which was an excellent show. Some of my favorites albums by him are:

By Heart NoWords Unspoken

I’ve also recently discovered Brain Sync and have the ones for focus and creativity. They seem to work very well. I did need to purchase headphones for those because listening with earbuds so long was hurting my ears. I got these Sony ones for less than $20 and they work great.

Soundtracks can be a great choice for instrumentals. Some of my particular favorites to compose to are:

Pirates of the Caribbean


Pride and Prejudice (BBC) and the Kiera Knightly version too.

P&P1 P&P2


How to Train Your Dragon


Harry Potter:




The Lost Art of Second Chances includes a World War II storyline so I’ve been listening to a lot of WWII era music. Glenn Miller is the perfect accompaniment to writing the war time scenes. I especially love In the Mood and String of Pearls.


I also just discovered the Piano Guys. How great are they? Their newest album just came out last week and went right on my Christmas list. They have several other albums and I’ve had those on nearly non-stop as I race to the finish line on The Lost Art of Second Chances.



How about you? What do you listen to as you write? Got any suggestions I should try out?



Becoming a Writer, Writing, writing challenge

Writing Challenges

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is one of the biggest writing challenges of the year. The concept behind Nano is to write 50K words in a month at a breathtaking pace to outrun the inner critic and editor. At 1,667 words per day, there’s no time for anything but the words. I’ve done Nano multiple times and won twice. It’s a wonderful, if exhausting, experience.

nanowrimo FB cover
I’ll definitely sign up this year and be writing at least part of the month. We’re going on a long-awaited vacation during Thanksgiving week and I’m pretty sure that Fox and the Pilot would object to me typing through it. Also, it happens to fall at the editing rather than drafting point in my process this year so…we’ll see. If I get though The Lost Art of Second Chances, than maybe I’ll start something new.


While Nano is the biggest and probably the best known writing challenge, my favorite is the monthly one on Twitter at  I’ve been using it to write Bella’s story in LASC.


The concept is simple. Write 500 words per day or edit for at least one hour a day and tweet your results using the monthly hashtag. This month is #octwritingchallenge. Because participants are supposed to check the hashtag and root their fellow members on, the community is supportive and fun. I also like that it addresses not just the drafting process but also the editing time needed to whip a manuscript into shape.

October marks my second month participating in the challenge. If you’re writing or editing your masterpiece, come on over and join us!


Waterlogue App

Doesn't the Lego Cinderella's castle look dreamy?
Doesn’t the Lego Cinderella’s castle look dreamy?

For my 40th birthday, the Pilot and Fox gave me a DSLR camera followed by an awesome lens that Christmas. My uncle, a former photography teacher, gave me lessons and I took a formal class. And guess how often I use that gorgeous camera?
About as often as I use my good wedding china.

Cherry tree at Winterthur
Cherry tree at Winterthur

That is to say, on special occasions a few times a year. I drag it out for the holidays, at the first sign of spring, and during autumn photo walks. Don’t get me wrong. I love my Canon Rebel T3i as well as my awesome glass (that’s lenses for the non-photo buffs). It’s just that the best camera is the one you have with you.

Tulips at Winterthur
Tulips at Winterthur

The rest of the time I’m snapping photos on my handy-dandy ever present iPhone. Then, usually, using a spare five minutes to create a collage, run it through instagram, and share it with the world. Fox has a well-documented life and very indulgent grandparents 🙂 Suffice it to say, I love my photo apps.


One of my all time favorites is Waterlogue. Have you heard of this one? It’s the one that turns your photos into gorgeous watercolors. I could play in it for hours but, instead, I thought I’d just let the photos do the talking today.

Sunflower series (original photo credit to my sister, Meredith Runion)
Sunflower series (original photo credit to my sister, Meredith Runion)

Painted in Waterlogue

Painted in Waterlogue

Waterlogue looks great for still lives—those gorgeous flowers the Pilot brings for no special reason, a bright orange display of pumpkins, or the beach scene. I’ve had less success with pictures of people.

Myrtle Beach (original photo credit to Meredith Runion)
Myrtle Beach (original photo credit to Meredith Runion)
Same photo, just processed differently in app. Myrtle Beach (original photo credit to Meredith Runion)
Same photo, just processed differently in app. Love how this one looks like a vintage postcard. Myrtle Beach (original photo credit to Meredith Runion)

Have you used Waterlogue? Thoughts? Impressions? Hints for creating successful watercolors of people? Share in the comments.

Just a few more Myrtle Beach shots. I’m thinking of framing these for our powder room.

Rainy Beach
Rainy Beach
Stormy Myrtle Beach
Stormy Myrtle Beach
Another great shot by Meredith Runion. Love the pop of colors from the umbrellas.
Another great shot by Meredith Runion. Love the pop of colors from the umbrellas.



Podcasts, Writing

On Podcasts, Buffy, and Learning from a Master Storyteller



Do you listen to podcasts? I was a little late to the podcast party. Last time I tried to listen to a podcast, they were impossible to sync properly and, at the time, I had no way to listen in the car. One of my dearest friends, a fellow Outlander fan, suggested The Scot and the Sassanach. After her patient coaxing, I downloaded the first episode to listen to on my hour drive home from her house. Technology marches on and now, through the magic of Apple’s podcast app and my car’s bluetooth integration, I’m a total addict.

I’m working my way through their Story Wonk Sunday, Story Wonk Sessions, and Story Wonk Daily archives. The Story Wonk Sessions are especially fun since they focus on Pixar movies. I can multi-task and watch Pixar movies with Fox in preparation for my Story Wonk school. Win-win all around.


Their newest Podcast, Dusted, focuses on analyzing Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Now, way back before the Pilot and I became parents to Fox, we glommed Buffy via Netflix. So far back, we had to wait for the next disc in the mail. Now, most of our television watching centers on age-appropriate TV for Fox. Am I the only parent praying for Peppa Pig to become bacon?

Anyway, I never got around to re-watching Buffy. In preparation for Dusted, I just watched the first two episodes and realized how much Joss Whedon, the genius creator of Buffy, seeded into that first episode. He hid so much in that episode that would later be key, important, or pivotal details.

For example, the opening segment shows a couple sneaking into Sunnydale high, seeking a private trysting place. The girl—dressed in a Catholic schoolgirl style—is Darla. That’s right, the first vampire we meet is Darla. That’s the very same Darla who created Angel and gave birth to Angel’s son, Connor, in an alleyway. We also run into Angel in this episode too as a helpful stalker.

Also, we meet Harmony for the first time. Harmony of Spike and Harmony fame. Harmony-the dimwitted girl who later becomes a vicious and funny vampire—is there. She only has a few lines of dialogue with Cordy in the computer lab. Blink and you miss it kind of thing. But she’s there.


At the time we watched this (at least a decade ago), I only had eyes for Angel. And he’s cute and David Borenz’s acting’s come a long way. But Tony Head as Giles is the same age I am now (43) when Buffy began. And that Giles is awful cute with that accent and the Harry Potter glasses. How did I not notice that before?

One of my favorite things as a reader is being surprised when a tiny detail later becomes monumental. JK Rowling is a master at this and so is Whedon. As a writer, I know some of this is accidental or at least subconscious. For me, I’m looking at this wondering how I can integrate the big important details into the early scenes of my story to provide this same kind of reader surprise.

When I watched Buffy the first time, I mostly just watched for the story. But this time, I’m watching as a writer and taking notes. Then listening to the Lani Diane Rich and Alastair Stephens of Story Wonk help me break it down. Because part of being a great writer is learning from the master. Joss Whedon? Definitely a master.