It’s gotten a bit dusty and cobwebby around here!

Confession Time

I have a confession to make: I’ve been hanging out with my old nemesis, Burnout, for way too long. I won’t go into the gory details, but I went for too many months not writing or doing anything particularly creative. I was in survival mode.

But that’s not why I’m back. About six months ago, I stumbled upon mixed media art and started goofing off with paint and ink and collage and whatever else I could get my hands on.

Between you and me, I was procrastinating on Pinterest. I had another deadline looming, several projects in various stages of crisis, and was too exhausted to deal with any of it. But I noticed something really interesting. While I was painting, I wasn’t stressing about deadlines. I forgot all about the stuff I had to write and edit.

Art Beats Burnout

After an hour at the art table, my mind was clear and focused, and I was able to write easily – just like old times, when the words flowed out faster than I could type them.

So I tried again a few days later, and got the same results. Somehow, making art short-circuited the daily, sometimes hourly panic attacks I’d just gotten used to.

Even though I’ve realized how unbelievably healthy a daily art practice is for me, and how spending that hour every day actually helps me be more productive, I’m still struggling with the discipline of giving myself that art time.

Daily Painting Challenge

Last weekend, I signed up for an amazing mixed media class called “Ever After” hosted by Tamara LaPorte of Willowing Arts, and have begun working through “The Oil Painting Course You’ve Always Wanted” by Kathleen Staiger.

I’m basically embarking on a self-guided MFA program, along with a daily painting challenge. EEK! I’ll be posting my progress here. Some days I’ll post a painting or a painting in progress. Other days it will be a photograph or a sketch that I plan to paint from. The important thing is to create every single day. Hold me to it!

Here’s today’s image – a still life composition I plan to paint in oils. I’ll see you tomorrow!

Daily Painting Challenge - Still Life with Coffee

Daily Painting Challenge – Still Life with Coffee


Last week, I wrote about my latest insanity…er…project: The Yardless Yard Haunt. The madness has officially begun! Sure, on the outside, the house still looks like a boring suburban townhouse, but in my office….well, you can see the carnage for yourself:

Yard Haunt Attack of the Styrofoam

Attack of the Styrofoam!

That was my office! For the weekend, I had an extra table set up so I could create full-sized templates while my assistant cut the styrofoam. So far, the gravestones aren’t looking too bad!

Yardless Yard Haunt gravestones

Gravestones, ready for engraving.

This weekend, I’ll do the detail work and carve out the engravings. Which means I’d better get to work composing epitaphs! These will be how I’ll do my foreshadowing so guests will get a hint of what’s to come in the story.

I’ve always had this love-hate relationship with Halloween. On one hand, it’s the one night of the year when even the most rational among us (you know who you are!) can feel the magic in the air, and avoids those haunted places full of spirits he doesn’t quite believe in. On the other hand, I have vivid and cringe-worthy childhood memories of coming up with wildly creative costumes only to be met by hostile stares and the Worst. Question. Ever: “What are you supposed to be?”

I spend most of October watching those shows about over-the-top Halloween decorations and haunted houses, and I keep telling myself, “I can’t do that – I don’t have a yard.” or “I don’t have time.” This year, I’m calling my own bluff. I’ve wanted to do a really cool yard haunt forever, so…why not?


There are limitations, of course. I still don’t have a yard. I live in the back of a neighborhood that – sadly – doesn’t really *do* Halloween. I have a few neighbors who actively campaign against Halloween because it doesn’t fit their specific religious beliefs. I also have young kids who are scared by the creepier animatronics in the Halloween stores.


I’ll have to make every inch count, since I don’t have very many of them to work with. And I’ll have to work at keeping the scene nicely layered, so the grown-ups and older kids get a satisfying creep without frightening the little ones. As for the neighbors, I’ve thought about it. They’re not going to like what I’m doing, but in the end, I’m not going to *not* carry out what I think is a very cool project, just because they might make a stink about it. If they’re going to try and bully me to take it down, let them. But I’m not going to pre-emptively bully myself into not starting. I did enough of that as a teenager.

As for the problem of being in the back of a neighborhood that doesn’t get much action on Halloween night, there’s not much I can do about that. So I’m going to share my yard haunt with you instead!


Here’s my blank slate:

Yard Haunt Before


The one problem I have with most Halloween yard haunts is that the good ones might have a theme, but there’s very rarely a story involved. I’m out to change that! In fact, the story I have in mind is going to evolve over the next several years. This year, I’m setting the scene. Next year, you’ll meet the characters and get to know their *cough* fatal flaws. After that….you’ll just have to wait to find out!

Next Steps

For the next two weeks, I’ll be hard at work building gravestones. My biggest challenge right now is figuring out a way to let viewers know that this is a place where something terrible is about to happen. Any suggestions for creating a sense of impending doom, without scaring the little ones?

UPDATE: Attack of the Styrofoam!

I’m hanging out today with “writer, storyteller … explorer of truths” (LOVE how she describes herself!) Shauntelle Hamlett of Being is a Verb. This started as your typical author interview – “Tell us about your book…” and rapidly (de?)evolved into giggling and silliness. So if you’ve been dying to know what’s in my purse or how many books I can stack on my head, you have to check out my YouTube Debut, in which we cover Princess in the Making and six more popular tags.

When you’re done, go browse through Being is a Verb. You will not stop thinking “oh very cool….” Trust me.

You remember potential energy – from Physics class? I have potential creativity. (And possibly ADD. All I know is that I can’t write a word without a cup of coffee at hand. But anyway…)

Years ago, I went on an oil painting bender. I bought an easel, some canvass, a cupful of brushes and stuff, and paints. A lot of paints. I bought books on oil painting, because seriously, how else are you supposed to learn this stuff? I tried art classes is school. They intimidated me. And the teachers spent all their time hanging out with the kids who were already good at art, and pretty much ignored me while I struggled to figure out the basics. (Ok, that was one teacher in seventh grade. Looking back, she was a pretty lousy teacher. I never took another art class again.)

I even started a few paintings. I’ve never finished one. Partially because I only have so much time, and I have other things to do (like writing that book that everybody keeps asking me about…). But mostly because I can see the picture I’m trying to create and don’t (yet!) have the skill to make the picture come out right on the canvas.


An unfinished painting – there’s a really profound image in there. Really!

Normally, I’m the kind of person who doesn’t play the game unless I’m pretty sure I can win. But I haven’t thrown out my art supplies. I keep them, almost as art pieces in themselves. They are potential creativity, potential beauty, potential art. I want to do a self-study painting class, where I get a great beginners tutorial book and work through it, chapter by chapter, exercise by exercise. I’ll do it on my own schedule and at my own pace. Or maybe I’ll find a good online class. Or maybe I’ll do both. Any suggestions for me? Leave them in the comments below!

It’s being one of those weeks when you just want to go back to sleep. Maybe because I’ve been having a bout of insomnia. One sleepless night and my brain forgets how to go to sleep! And then I wonder why I can’t concentrate on anything…but at least I found some wonderful little fantasy art and clothing boutiques!

Daughter of Oreveille is coming along. The six or seven new chapters I’m adding to the middle should be done by tomorrow, then I’m putting the book away until next week to let it (and my sleep-deprived brain) rest before the final editing and polishing begins. In the meantime, yesterday’s procrastination wasn’t all a waste. I did find much coolness:

Fairies and Fantasy: Magical Artwork and Gifts – so much pretty to be had! And I need a new iPhone case. Choosing just one could be a major project though…check out the site. I’m not posting pictures due to copyright, so you’re going to have to actually click over.

Diagon Alley – I was a bit bummed out that you can’t actually wander into the shops, but still…the Google Maps Street View of Diagon Alley is very cool.  I tried checking out The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando, but all you can see are trees.

Holy Clothing – My new favorite boutique. Lots of flowey skirts and gypsy-inspired dresses. I love it when I can get clothing I actually like rather than whatever some corporate buyer decided the masses shall wear this season. Again, no photos so as not to violate copyright. But trust me, very pretty stuff!

Ok, so now it’s your turn. What’s the best little boutique on the net?

The holidays – at least for me – are all about the food. The decorations, gifts, and visiting family and friends are wonderful of course, but really – really if we’re being honest, the holidays happen in the kitchen. Planning holiday meals is one of those things I love doing every year – except this year, I’m totally stuck!

favorite cookbooks

Some of my favorite books

I remember, when I was in junior high, my mother started taking the month of December off work. I loved that time – even though I was still in school, I knew when I got home we would dig through cookbooks and plan wonderfully elaborate menus and bake prodigious amounts of cookies. By the time I reached high school, I started pushing the boundaries, making those cookies and candies more and more elaborate and complicated and wonderful. Insisting on trying new and interesting menus instead of the traditional fare.

Those were good times.

These days are a little different. I’ve been trying to come up with menus for two holiday meals – Christmas Dinner, which will involve just our immediate family, and Christmas Eve lunch with my in-laws. And I’ll be honest: I’m stuck – trying to balance everyone’s tastes and dietary restrictions, as well as my own desire to unleash some wild creativity in the kitchen isn’t as easy as it sounds!

This is what I’ve got so far:

Christmas Eve Lunch:

  • Egg nog (homemade, of course! Don’t worry, there’s enough booze in it to kill any bacteria.)
  • Fleur de Sel caramels covered in chocolate

Christmas Dinner:

  • Mulled wine for the adults, cider for the kids
  • Pork shoulder stuffed with garlic and apricots

Ok, so clearly I’m thinking in terms of drinks…Any suggestions? What do you love to cook for the holidays?


Love Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me cover

We’re in Day Two of the Hydra Publications blog hop, and today I’m hosting Lyndi Alexander, author of Love Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me. Lyndi was kind enough to let me peek behind her curtain and discover one of the inspirations that kept her going as she wrote this story:

The Music Behind the Story

Twisted every way
What answer can I give?
Am I to risk my life
To win a chance to live….

(lyrics from Phantom of the Opera, Andrew Lloyd Webber)

I often listen to music when I write, and one of the main pieces of music I listened to in the days when I wrote Love Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me was Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera. I’d just discovered the wonderful words and sweeping melodies a few years before, and it seemed apropos for a ‘damsel in distress’ kind of story.

Although, just like Christine in the musical, Sara Woods is stronger than she believes herself to be. She, like Christine, makes the choice to put herself out there to save others even though she may not survive. And like Christine, she finds her own sacrifice may have been wasted.

Sara comes to Ralston, Ohio, after a betrayal and divorce that have nearly broken her spirit. Working as a newspaper reporter, she investigates a string of young women’s deaths that seem, at first, to be totally unrelated. Her work unearths some long-time small town secrets that open the door to danger for Sara and several of her friends. She is in a unique position to stop what’s been happening, if she’s willing. And if she chooses her allies wisely. Unfortunately, not everything –or everyone—is what it seems.

What does become clear when evil conspires against everything she’s trying to protect, is that she had better be prepared to save herself, because she surely cannot count on anyone else.

More about Love Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me:

Running away isn’t necessarily the answer.

In her mad rush to escape a failed marriage, Sara Woods takes the first job available and lands in the middle of a mystery. Her first assignment as a news reporter for the Ralston Courier is the investigation of a string of deaths, all young women, all her age.

She becomes a patient at the Goldstone Clinic, a local mecca of healing, to deal with chronic pain from her past. But all is not as it seems at the Goldstone, its doctors and nurses are all the picture of perfect beauty and health. Patients at the clinic first seem to get better, then they deteriorate. Sara enlists the help of Dr. Rick Paulsen, who teaches her how to access her internal power, skills she never knew she had, revealing secrets from her past. Police officer Brendon Zale also takes an interest in Sara, but he acts like a stalker, watching her every move, and he won’t leave her alone.

As she digs deeper into the story, and more young women die without explanation, she tries to choose allies wisely, but not till the last confrontation does she discover the identity of her true enemy.

By then, it’s too late.

Sneak Peek:

Rick sat in the heavy tall-backed brown leather chair behind the desk. He studied me, and I studied him. Finally I asked, “How long have you worked here in the emergency room?”

           “Nearly five years,” he answered, an underlying amusement making me wonder how deeply he was reading my attraction to him. “Yes, I find emergency medicine extremely satisfying. Yes, I enjoy the adrenaline rush of trauma cases, but it’s hard not to take patient deaths personally. No, I wouldn’t prefer another specialty. Yes, there’s an increase in strange things during full moons.”

             I stopped writing about halfway through his speech, realizing he had anticipated my next questions. “You must have done one of these interviews before.”

            “Three, maybe. Or five. Since TV has inspired people to find out all about emergency room hotties and our raunchy sex lives in the drug and linen closets? Yes, definitely the flavor of the week.”

            In spite of my determination to be professionally distant, I laughed at his self-deprecating humor. Good for him. “I hadn’t even gotten to that yet.”

            “I can wait if you like.” He picked up a pen and fidgeted with it. “I’m sure your angle is different than the last fellow who was here. He was more interested in blood and guts.”

            There it was. My opening handed to me on a plate. “Actually, I have a blood and guts kind of question for you.” I leaned forward even more and looked him in the eye, calling it brown, green, hazel or any color but blue. “About Lily Kimball.”
He pulled back, his smile fading. “What about her?”

            I could see questions in his eyes. Was I here to accuse him? To crucify him in some way? I spoke up quickly to get past his fears. “I was at the scene this morning. I’ve been trying all day to find out something about her, anything, any reason why she would have been out there in the cold.”

            His fingers tightened on the pen he was holding until they were red. “Tell me what you saw.”

            “She was so thin,” I said. “Pale, except for damage from the frostbite. She wasn’t wearing any winter clothing, just a jersey and jeans. She didn’t look like she’d been hurt, stabbed, bruised in any way. Just…limp.”

            Rick hadn’t moved while I spoke. His gaze had become more intent, like a microscope focusing in on a specimen for examination. “Which way was she walking?”
I closed my eyes a moment, orienting myself to the road. “She was on the west side of Route 24. If I had to guess I’d say she was heading for the Declan Highway.”

            He paused, silent, contemplating.

            “Was she your patient?”
My pen hovered over the pad as his stricken silence continued. I wished I could read him as easily as he seemed to read me. I’d shared more, perhaps, than I should, but all that information would be public record on file at the police department. Whether they chose to do more with it than shelve it away depended on outside information. Like whether Rick Paulsen had contributed in any way to Lily’s solitary winter death march.

Lyndi, thank you for joining me today! You can find out more about Lyndi Alexander on her blog at Love Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me is available at

I’ve been saying “just let me finish this chapter” since I was a kid. This morning, I’m saying it again – because I’m right in the middle of the good part of my curent work in progress, and my writing time is just about up. Maddening! But at least I know I’ll get this story finished tomorrow, if I don’t sneak in some extra writing time later today.

And no, I’m not going to post an excerpt. Not until I go back over and make some major edits! On the first draft, I just power through the story, getting the main events down. Then I’ll print it out and let it sit for a few days before I come back and read through it from start to finish, making notes to myself in the margins. Then I’ll break it back out into scenes and fix each of them individually, adding transitions and polishing the whole thing up.

I’m not going to have the first draft finished by the time I have to transition from wildly creative writer to just plain wild as the day begins. But that’s ok, it just gives me something to look forward to!

It’s no great secret: I like pretty pictures. I love the way a painting can tell a story – and that the story is different, depending on the person viewing it. I’ve always admired artists – people who can tell a story, evoke an emotion, without a single word. To me, that’s magic of the highest order!

I also come from a family of artists. My grandmother was a painter. My father was a casual artist. One of my earliest memories is sitting on the back porch with him one summer evening, as he taught me how to capture the sunset in pastels. Dad tried to teach me how to draw, but I didn’t have the patience for it, not when writing came so easily to me. I could write stories that flowed onto the page without any need to practice or try, so why spend my time learning how to see as an artist sees?

Ok, so I was young and stupid. Those were the days! But I still held onto the mystique of the oil painting.

Several years ago, I was in a rut with writing, so decided to learn to paint. I bought canvas, paints, brushes, and a boatload of other paraphernalia. I even played around and produced some truly abysmal paintings. No, you can’t see them. They really are that bad. Trust me.

So the brushes sat in a broken coffee mug my hero brought back from a business trip, gathering dust. The real kind, as well as the metaphorical stuff.

This morning, driving home after dropping my eldest off at art camp (did I mention I have artistic children too?), the creativity was flowing, and there were no words. Just this picture.

Don’t tell the local cops, but yeah, I sketched it out at a red light. Sometimes a creative has to do what a creative has to do. Then I came home, pulled the plastic wrap off a canvas I bought three years ago, and sketched it in real size. Oddly, the process of sketching and the plotting process I’m working through on my novel are very similar. I had never made the connection before this morning.

Here’s version one – just a background wash, but so far, so good. I’ll share more pics as it goes!