Sunday, April 26, 2009

crazy 8's

my bloggy friend JULS gave me this cute idea. technically its a tag where you pick 8 people - but she passed it along to everyone and so will i. today's my 698th post... so it's a good day for 8's!

8 things i did yesterday:

1. made chicken soup for Beloved and meg, who both have bad summer colds
2. attended the purple rose writers' circle
3. began weeding the gardens
4. re-established diplomatic relations with Beloved, who acknowledged he understood my main issue.
5. picked up some mommy-i-have-a-bad-cold tea for meg at passiflora and spent some time with laura.
6. began to refinish the mirror from my room
7. watched gilmore girls with libby and meg
8. posted two entries on the Angel blog

8 things i wish i could do:

1. fly - no, not really, im afraid of heights.
2. round up all my friends from high school and college, and spend as much time as i wanted to catching up.
3. grow amazing gardens from seed
4. ensure my children will lead happy, healthy, wholesome, productive lives and leave this world a better place than when they entered it.
5. meet the dalai lama
6. sell a new book
7. see my name on the ny times bestseller list
8. leave this world a better place than it was when i entered it.

8 things i'm looking forward to:

1. finishing a project - any project
2. seeing my bedroom all fresh and new
3. not having to watch baby jake three days a week - the old gray mare really isn't at all what she used to be - or maybe it's simply it's more physically tiring to take care of a giant baby than it is to take care of a normal sized one.
4. summer
5. seeing my father
6. pagan study group
7. my radio show with laura this evening
8. catching up on blogs!!!!

8 shows i watch

1. im not sure i can think of 8 shows.
2. jeopardy
3. seinfeld
4. gilmore girls
5. golden girls
6. ghost hunters
7. ghost whisperer
8. i'm sensing a theme - ghosts, girls and smart people.. can you detect any themes in your viewing habits, gentle readers?

here's the "rules" (snicker):

mention the person that tagged you (i did that)
Complete the lists of 8's. (i did that too)
Tag 8 of your wonderful blogger friends...nah, too much work... just like JULS did, i'm tagging EVERYONE! play if you will! happy sunday!

please come give me and laura a listen this evening on blogtalkradio - our topic is the FAIRY REALM.... how to nurture your relationship with these magical nature entities... call in or join our chat and get a free mini-reading...

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.


Saturday, April 25, 2009


eating the Angel way may not make you thin, but exercising Their way sure might. i just realized i've been doing what They suggested religiously (please pardon the pun) and this morning i realized i've lost TEN pounds, in less than three weeks! i'm more than forty percent of the way to my goal! for more details, please check out this post on my Angel blog.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

ps.... for everyone who has sent me hugs and healing and kind thoughts... things are...hanging in.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

when the wind blows

sometimes, when you least expect it, the universe steps in and rolls the dice in a whole new direction, exposing things you'd rather not see. something like that happened to me last evening, when it suddenly became clear to me in the space of a few minutes that what i believed to be true, and what was really true, isn't necessarily true at all... that even the people who say they love you best will hurt you, not necessarily out of malice, but sometimes out of something as banal as their own sense of entitlement.

but when you are in a relationship with a person, are you entitled to do something if it hurts the other person?

this morning, i drew the Tower card and this evening, i pulled it again.

the wind's been blowing all day.

and the towers... they are falling.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

ask annie

Question: Last week you suggested upping the amount of conflict in my story. But how do I do that? How do I know what kinds of conflict my story needs?

Answer: Begin by analyzing what kind of conflict you already have. Most novice storytellers are quite adept at what i call second-tier conflicts - which are conflicts with other people. These tend to be the central conflicts in most mainstream fiction and drama - good girl (or guy) vs. bad guy (or girl).

First tier conflict, as I like to think of it, is the character against him or her-self. Remember Hamlet? Hamlet knew his uncle killed his father and usurped his own throne, but still he hesitated. Hamlet's self-doubt is the fatal flaw that brings about the tragedy. In my own much more recent novels, Silver's Edge and Silver's Bane (Harlequin, 2004, 2005), Cecily, one of the story's three heroines, must claim her own power and take control as her country is collapsing into chaos. Her self-doubt, like Hamlet's, holds her back at crucial moments. It's not until she loses the man she loves she realizes exactly what's at stake. Cecily's final test comes at the very end, when she is asked to choose between having her love returned, and the wisdom that makes her Queen.

So one of the first places you might turn to look for conflict are the characters themselves. Take some time to analyze your character's strengths and weaknesses. Look for places you can make them want to change. Look for beliefs that could be changed in some way as a result of the story. Ask yourself how the character can grow.

The third tier of conflict is the characters against anything bigger than they are. Remember Frodo and Sam in Lord of the Rings? The Dark Lord was so big and powerful and scary all you ever saw, even in the movie was his burning eye. For Captain Ahab, Moby Dick was the embodiment of all that Ahab raged against - God, Fate, even all of Nature itself. In my Silver trilogy, the backdrop of both stories is war and imminent societal collapse. In Gone With the Wind, it's the Civil War. Thus, another way to beef up your conflicts is to look for ways to more deeply involve your characters in the greater world around them. How does what's happening in your greater story-world affect what your characters need and want and strive for?

It may help to create a chart to map out these three concurrent conflict levels. I find that when a story really starts to flow for me, these three levels appear almost organically on their own. But sometimes... that can take a lot of work. Until next week... happy writing!... Annie

Annie Kelleher is the author of 11 internationally published novels. Her latest release, a translation of her time-travel romance A Once & Future Love (Berkley, 1998) was in Spain in September, 2008. Please send your writing questions to Sited& and put ANNIE in the title.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

this n' that

it's Ask Annie Day over at Sited & Blogged - i invite you to click on the link (or wait til tomorrow, when i'll post it here) and check out this week's writing question, which is really a continuation of last week's question.

last night a combination of lightning, thunder and Beloved's snoring woke me up, and i was tired from our drive to my sister's. baby jake handled our road trip with aplomb. upon arrival, he put his head ever-so-charmingly on my sister's shoulder, laid his chubby-baby cheek on her face. then he charged into the toy room and ploughed over my far more delicately-built three year old nephew with all the dignity of a baby rhino. he gobbled his hot dog like a champion and stole alex's milk with the entitlement of a saudi prince. he's coming this morning at 10:15 because meg has a meeting at the main campus about her upcoming irish adventure. so no good deed going unpunished, baby jake is once again my guest for most of the day.

fortunately libby's coming home today... unfortunately not soon enough. katie tells me baby jake likes to pick up sticks. im thinking if this weather clears, we'll go outside and see if we can make some headway in the party house area. id love to get the outside in nice enough shape to have a get-together with the kids on mother's day.
this being earth day and all, it occurs to me to ask my mother...

a Gentle Reader asked if the herbal concoction i make for baby jake would be suitable for a child's diaper rash. i would hesitate to say one way or the other, because diaper rashes are something of a separate category of rashes in my experience. when my babies were little i diapered them in cloth diapers (and pins) and washable rubber pants - those cute lil diaper cover thingies were just being invented. the only product other than warm water and a touch of johnson's baby soap that i ever used was ammen's medicated powder. i hardly ever had problems with diaper rashes in the dozen years or so i spent diapering babies. because diaper rashes can be caused by fungus and yeast and all sorts of nasty gremlins, i'd see what your child's pediatrician or health care provider recommends. this combination of oil and herb might be appropriate if the rash were attributed to dry skin, for example. but in general, the diaper area should be kept as dry as possible... so that's why i'd hesitate to use this.

im having breakfast with laura this morning... hopefully great things will come of it. happy earth day to all my Gentle Readers... may your day be full of wonder and all good green things!

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

if it's tuesday.... must be time to visit sheila. sheila's my little sister who lives with her family outside boston. it's a two-hour drive that i don't make a whole lot, mostly because i'm lazy and i love being here on the manor. (in my own defense, i have to say most people who come here understand completely why i don't like to leave.)

but since i'm without my able assistant sitter, baby jake and i are going on a road trip. my plan is to leave around 1030, arrive in time for lunch, stay a couple hours and hopefully be back on the road by 230 at the latest.

in other news, the rain last night has dissipated the stench next door...even my SIL - baby jake's daddy - was amazed when he came to pick up baby jake yesterday evening. how do you live with that, he wanted to know. by staying inside with the windows closed a lot, i replied. so far there've been no signs of riotous growth among the gardens, so it's still possible, potentially, for me to get a good jump on things. and with the rain and the chill, there's no painting happening.

my stepson, ethan, has found himself that rarest of commodities these days - a full-time job, complete with salary and benefits. he starts on his birthday. what a good karma day, i said to Beloved last night when he shared the news. ethan doesn't think so, answered Beloved. i can understand why...the life of a call-center wage-slave isn't a chain i'd willingly yoke around my neck, either. but when you're 25 and just starting out, however, and you're not sure what path you want to walk, a job you don't like can be quite theraputic, not to mention instructive.

i'm contemplating what to do with my flat slab of a mirror in my bathroom. any clever, crafty, artsy Gentle Readers with any thoughts... i beg you chime in.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Monday, April 20, 2009

eating... the angel way...

my new blog, Eating... the Angel Way is now up and operational! please check it out and feel free to post a question :)!

monday mayhem

i survived. five hours with baby jake, two and a half alone. we went grocery shopping, out to michael's to buy a book on glass painting - do any of my Gentle Readers know anything about glass painting? - and ate a lot of animal crackers.

he's starting to lose some of his baby chubbyness, and he definitely needs a haircut. he's also starting to put words together as in.."more cook-cook na-na" ..."bye bye moo-moo" (his name for aunt meg)and "poopoo pup-pup." the rash on his face is back so i mixed up some of the new season's plantago with olive oil in the blender and smeared it on his face. it gave him a definite dennis-the-menace air in shaw's, i thought, not to mention that the faint green tinge on his skin added a certain je ne sais quoi. i tucked a small jar of it in his diaper back for his parents.

this morning i was disappointed to realize it was too cold to paint - i tried putting a coat of dark green on the interior of the book case im moving into my bedroom but it was just too cold. i sorted my sock basket instead. it's raining now and all my good intentions to get stuff done before Beloved's home are evaporating into my mug of hot coffee. the Angels want me to write about exercise. i think i'll go play the piano for a bit first.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

random sunday run-down

for the last few weeks, Spring has been drawing me out and away from the keyboard. i don't usually NOT feel like writing - or, at least, blogging, but every once in a while, the well seems to run dry. or, if the well isn't dry, i'm not feeling particularly thirsty.

so here, in no particular, is a random run-down of what's been happening in the annie-verse:

1. i'm almost finished my bathroom project. Beloved has to hang the new curtain rod, and i ran out of thread last night making the final panel for the sink skirt, but it's looking very very cute. i'll post photos as soon as he hangs the curtain rod... so if all my Gentle Readers could just clap really loud like we all did in Peter Pan to bring Tinkerbelle back... no, i'm kidding. i think.

2. libby's going off to gettysburg for a few days with a friend and her family as a reward for getting no grade less than A on her most recent report card. she now has the equivalent of a 3.93 gpa, an impressive statistic even in my world, where i don't much care about grades so long as the kid is trying her or his best.

3. the only issue i have with libby going off to gettysburg is that they happen to fall over the three afternoons i take care of baby jake. baby jake just turned 18 mos last monday. he wears a size 4 Toddler. need i say more?

4. the Angels on exercise ... finally. i've been asking and listening and asking and listening, and finally, finally, finally... i got it. look for an upcoming blog post AND the introduction of my new blog: Eating the Angel Way which i will co-author with my research assistant.

5. the first section of Evie is nearly finished to my satisfaction but i'm not ready to move on. i think the story is going to change somewhat past this point and i can almost feel myself gathering the courage to allow that to happen. there's a significant amount of manuscript, after all, and there's a part of me that really resists making deep changes. i keep reminding myself that it's still clay - a lot of clay, maybe - but still ... clay.

6. i've been spending a lot of time playing my piano. it was purchased for my mother some 65 or so years ago, and languished for many years an unplayed hostage in the war between my grandmother and my mother. but it's a lovely little piano - a betsy ross spinet with ivory keys that's found a cozy spot in the living room. the man who came to tune for the first time in nearly 35 years said it didn't sound bad for a piano that had been so neglected.

7. i finished my thank-you notes from my party but i've yet to buy all the stamps. my parsley seedlings are turning into parsley and my basil seedlings are sprouting. so far the only gardening i've been doing is indoors. the farmer next door has been bringing in manure - different kinds, even, if smell means anything - by the truckload and even the spring sunshine and riotous birdsong can't beckon me into that sulphorous bath.

8. i have a lot of catching up on posts and comments. thank you to everyone who's been so kind to check in on me!

9. don't forget to listen to laura and me on internet radio this afternoon at 6:00 PM EST... find us here at Discovering Nature's Spirit!

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

if its wednesday...

it's Ask Annie Day over at Sited & Blogged!

Question: I have lots of great ideas and even some stories started. But then I seem to run out of steam, and even I lose interest. Or I get so frustrated, I just have to quit. What's wrong? How can I keep my stories going all the way to the end?

Answer: This is a common problem, and one I sometimes experience myself. It always feels to me that I've "run out of story," so to speak. That's when I've learn to back up, and add more conflict. Conflict is the heart of all drama and fiction. We dont' really care about people without conflicts - we may be happy for them, but we aren't so interested in reading about them. They don't hold our interest for very long. Like Tolstoy said, all unhappy families are unhappy in their own way, and that's what makes them interesting.

So when you find yourself "running out of story," go back to the beginning, and see where you can beef up the conflict. maybe the heroine isn't so happy about her job. maybe she just got handed a big assignment. maybe your hero isn't handsome. try taking away something that's really important to the character. maybe they have a great relationship with a really supportive friend. put that person out of the country. in other words, look for places where they can have problems. make sure that what they want is something they really care about. then show us how much they care about it, by upping the amount of conflict around their achieving the goal. john grisham's book The Firm is an excellent example of how to build tension and interest by heaping conflict after conflict around the main character.

Next week, I'll talk a bit more about the three levels of conflict as I like to think of them, and how you can move up and down the levels as a way to power up your plots. Until then... happy writing... annie

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

me and the m-word: the first fifty days

i'm late... a lot late. a decade ago, this would have sent me frantic to the drug store, to my calendar, to a midwife. not any longer, though... i learned from watching Golden Girls and Little House on the Prairie what happens to "women of a certain age" and how silly or pathetic they can look, grappling with the what-if of an unexpected pregnancy when in reality, being so late is but the harbinger of something that's entirely to be expected.

i started reading up about menopause in my thirties. one of the first things that struck me was that the condition was... and still is, as far as i can tell... viewed generally as something pathological that throws the body into a state of disequilbrium. needless to say, this is a point of view i wholly, thoroughly and with every cell of my body and ounce of energy i can summon, reject.

menopause, i decided, like childbirth, is a natural process honed by billions of years of evolution. i refuse to see any of my body's natural processes as pathological. i made it through four childbirths without so much as a stick to bite on, because i believed all i really had to do was get out of my own way and let my body handle birthing by itself. the more i read the books and pondered what was being offered as wisdom, the more disturbed i became. no where, i think, is the insidious anti-feminine sentiment that runs all through our culture more obvious than in what we allow ourselves to be told about menopause.

let's take a recent new york times article that appeared - ironically enough - on my birthday, reporting on how menopause affects a woman's sex drive. according to the article, 47% of women studied in this particular sample experienced a drop in sexual desire. wow, that's a lot of numb women, i thought on first read. or is it, i wondered upon further reflection. maybe it's just a lot of women frustrated by a lot of insensitive or impotent men. or maybe there're a lot of women like me, who make love at least once or twice a day and thus don't feel anything close to the level of desire i, for example, felt in my 20's when i was married to an idiot who "punished" me by withholding sex. so is that a rise in desire? or a fall?

as far as i was concerned, the one truly useful bit of information was buried in a paragraph toward the end and it was a mere one sentence that basically said this: women who have a lot of sex, tend to have fewer problems sexually as they age. but our culture is terrified of women's sexuality in general, and older women who can't get pregnant might be even more terrifying if they start speaking out, not just about what satisfies them in bed, but in the world in general.

and oh, what a difference place that might be.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

it's sunday... and it's easter

It's Sunday

easter's not a big holiday in my world. as far as i'm concerned, i told my mother, the three major holidays worth celebrating are thanksgiving, christmas and my birthday. none of my kids have sweet tooths, chocolate i can take or leave. hard boiled eggs, even the shells, skeeve me out. baby bunnies and chicks grow into noisy roosters and randy rabbits who park themselves outside the window just to taunt buddy.

so it's an ideal holiday to spend in a soup kitchen. as part of his mission to Make the World a Better Place, Beloved helps run the holiday soup kitchen run by hands-on hartford (formerly center city churches manna ministry). there aren't too many soup kitchens open on holidays, and while at thanksgiving and christmas, volunteers come crawling out of the woodwork, everyone seems to forget about easter.

so i figured it was my turn and dragged meg and libby along for good measure. they served drinks. Beloved told everyone what to do. i waited on tables, scrubbed fruit and floors, and smiled to hear the latinos make poetry of my name.

i think it was one of the best easters ever.

oh, what a beautiful morning

the mist rising off the mum fields is glowing gold, the birds are singing out their hearts. buddy snores at my feet, worn out by our morning walk up and down the driveway. five times up and back is two miles.

last monday i decided it was ridiculous to live at the end of what amounts to my own personal track and not use it. it's like living on a lake and refusing to look. so cheered on by a heavenly host, i laced up my walking shoes and struck out. it felt so good i laced them on again the following day, but this time i had a Companion.

buddy might be a dog in this particular incarnation of his existenc, but he's nobody's fool. he charged down the steps, closely followed by sam the beagle, sniffing, whining, quivering from nose to tail with anticipation. take me, take me, take me, he begged and pleaded: illbegoodillbegoodillbegood...promisepromisepromise...youllseeyoullseeyoullsee...

anyone who thinks dogs dont talk hasn't met buddy. even one of sam's behavioral therapists remarked on it... ("he sure is vocal, isn't he?" she observed, and looked only mildly startled when i replied: "yes, i think he's so young he forgets he's a puppy.")

how could i resist? so off we went, buddy and i... and the Dog Whisperer would be proud. every morning for the past week, rain or shine, and most evenings, has seen me and my buddy pacing five times up and down the driveway.

and furthermore, the war WILL end. blessed be.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

catching up

i can't believe its been nearly two weeks since i've posted. one minute it was my birthday and the next - whammo - its EASTER, and april is one third over. i've missed all my bloggy friends but every time i've sat down at my keyboard its either been the characters or the Angels whispering in my ear.

so what've i been up to?

the first third of my novel is slowly taking final form and shape. i realized it was straying too far into romance territory and not that i don't enjoy romance - i don't like romances - as in novels - as a general rule. the ending, after all, is always entirely predictable, and while i used to enjoy them when i was younger and more naive, and the heroines were younger and more naive, i just dont buy the modern versions where you have competent, functional women successful in every avenue of their lives but relationships. a slight tweak here, a few twists there and i like this new incarnation a lot better. (and yes, actually my heroine DOES get her Man, but only as a pleasant afterthought, a reward, so-to-speak, from her Creator (moi) for being such an interesting character... but that's not The Point.)

my seedlings are sprouting - tender little shoots of basil and parsley and cilantro. i finished my angel article for The Door Opener. and i've been walking... two miles every morning, two miles every night, with a couple additional three mile hikes on tuesdays and thursdays. i've been listening to the Angels on exercise - look for more information on that coming soon here - and pondering suitable writing-related topics for my Ask Annie column.

today's the day i read with laura and we have FOUR readings scheduled already.

and furthermore, the war will end... blessed be.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

announcing Ask Annie

over at Sited & Blogged, they have a new feature. arranged by interest, the site allows regular contributors to offer regular columns. and today i am very late in announcing my own column - Ask Annie - a column devoted to writing and writing questions.

so please pop on over to Sited & Blogged... check out my column (every Wednesday) and all the others...i know you will find something of interest to you!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

lost in space

i'm not sure who turned the lights off or what exactly happened. one day i was blogging along, happy as a clam on a cloudy day, and the next thing i know, BLAM - my blogging mind goes dark.

where'd i go, and what happened? my original intention was to take my birthday off. i was going to relax, catch up on comments, read my favorite blogs. it was supposed to be a laid-back, relaxing sort of day, and it WAS. it was a perfect birthday, and as it turned out, in more ways than one.

it began innocently enough - i was asked to write a one-page synposis of my current work-in- progress. so late on the morning of my birthday, i opened a new word-document and decided to get started. i thought of it as a fun exercise - i'm seasoned enough that the word synopsis doesn't paralyze me. it was just for a workshop, not for my agent or an editor, and so, with a song in my heart and the sun in the sky, i began to type as i've done a trillion times before.

and that's when it happened, as i was least expecting it.

an Idea occured to me - a tiny plot twist that ratchets up the tension and puts my poor main character's head in a thumb screw. the Writer in me shouted "hallelujah!".... the writer in me wailed "but this CHANGES stuff!"

ever-resistant, i felt my Self flung back and forth between the two poles of Delight and Dismay, and then, like a hapless trapeze artist who misses the cue, found myself plunged ass-over-teakettle back into the Story.

so that's where i've been... hijacked by my Muse, all the back to the beginning. i knew she was sneaky but i never expected THIS. i'm up to page 15 in the current rewrite. thank you so much to all the sweet people who took the time to check up on me either by leaving a comment here or sending me an email. i feel bad that i worried you!! next time i will leave a note... GONE WRITIN'.

and the synopsis that started it all? i thought you might enjoy the first paragraph...

Evie Alexander thinks she has the perfect life – a satisfying career, a supportive husband, great kids. When a psychic tells Evie that an old boyfriend is looking for her, it’s the last thing Evie wants to hear…especially this particular boyfriend, who wasn’t just the first boy Evie fell in love with. He’s the boy who fathered the child she bore all alone in Baltimore during her freshman year of college, and gave up for adoption, a child about whom none of her family or friends knows anything - including her mother, her husband of 25 years, her other five children and her best friend.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.