Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year Resolution

I second Toni Lynn's sentiments and endorse Paula's practical realism.

I have been nursing a sick child this week, a calling I honor over any other passion. Amend that: I have left temporarily a sick child to milk cows.

But if I were to add to the previous posts, it would be to vow to keep being brave. Brave enough to post. Brave enough to approach published authors and agents and editors. Brave enough to believe I have stories worth telling.

May we all be brave.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Year Resolutions

Evidently the top ten resolutions are – lose weight/get more exercise, keep to a budget, reduce debts, have more quality time with family and friends, find a soul mate, stop smoking, find a better job, learn something new, volunteer and help others, and get organised.

All very laudable, but – it seems to me - all very vague too. They are general aims rather than specific objectives or actual targets.

I started to wonder whether, as writers, we should have general aims (e.g. to finish that novel, to get published etc) or whether we should set ourselves attainable objectives/targets. Not just as a New Year resolution but all the time.

Write 1,000 words a day? Sounds good, doesn’t it? At that rate, you could complete a novel in 2 months. But isn’t it quality and not quantity that really counts?

So how about “I WILL write through writer’s block, or when I get stuck on a plot, or a conversation, or about how to get my characters from A to B”.

But does that work? Sometimes it’s better to take a few days break, do something else, and come back to it feeling refreshed (even if you have been thinking about it in the meantime).

So what are my targets? Mainly, I suppose, to stop ‘wasting’ so much time on Facebook when I could be writing!

And to write something, even if it’s only a paragraph or a short piece of dialogue, every day.

Achievable? We’ll see.

Monday, December 28, 2009

New Year Resolution....

I stopped making resolutions years ago. I never stuck with them, so throughout the year I felt guilty because I gave up on them. Way too much pressure on myself!!

So now I take each day as it comes. I hope and pray that the year will bring good health and happiness to my family and friends!


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Blessings of the Season

This just arrived in my inbox, and I thought I would share it with you all:

Remember, be thankful for what you have.

If you have food in your refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep -
You are richer than 75% of the world.

If you have money in the bank, some cash in your wallet and spare change in a dish some place -
You are among the 8% of the world's wealthy.

If you woke up this morning with more health than illness -
You are more blessed than the million who will not survive this week.

If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture or the pangs of starvation -
You are ahead of 500 million people in the world.

If you can attend a religious meeting without fear of harrassment, arrest, torture or death -
You are more blessed than 3 billion people in the world.

If you can read this message -
You are more blessed than 2 billion people in the world who cannot read at all.

If you hold up your head with a smile on your face -
You are blessed because the majority can, but most do not.

If you can hold someone's hand, hug them or even touch them on the shoulder -
You are blessed because you can offer the healing touch.

Have a good day, count your blessings and remember throughout the coming year to be thankful for what you have been blessed with.

I wish you peace, joy, happiness, good furtune, good health, strong family, good friends and unshakeable faith. Beyond that, nothing much matters.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Holiday cheer

Years ago, we burned wood for heat. Fearing that Santa might decline a slide down the chimney into a hot fire, my children opted for reindeer insurance. Every Christmas Eve we arranged nine piles of best green hay, then scattered around them a mixture of oatmeal and glitter. The glitter would sparkle in the moonlight and the reindeer would see the hay. Unlike Santa, who had more cookies than he needed, the reindeer were hungry. They'd swoosh down to park and eat. Santa could use the front door. (Unlocked. See sign.) Presents were under the tree in the morning.

The city granddaughter came up with her mom last weekend. We celebrated, and she took back a big box of hay. The next door grandkids have hay stacked by the front steps for Thursday night. When something works, you don't fix it.

My choice for Santa cookies are called Tillie's Coo-coons. My grandmother's cook made them every holiday. I ate them as fast as I could find them.

1/2 lb. butter
4 Tablespoons confectioner's (powdered) sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups flour
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cream together butter and sugar. Add vanilla and 1 cup flour. Mix well. Add remaining flour and walnuts. Roll into balls and arrange on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake until lightly browned, 15 to 20 minutes. Roll in confectioner's sugar two times until covered. Cool. Store in a tightly covered container.

I wish for you and yours a peaceful, joyous holiday season.

Happy Holidays....

It's hard to believe that another year is coming to an end. With two books coming out in 2010, I'm actually glad to see 2009 go... :)

My holidays are always quiet and it seems this year won't be any different. My sister will be over on Christmas Eve, but now that her kids are older they'd rather be with their girlfriend's, which is understandable. So, needless to say, their visit won't be long.

I'm one of those people who have their shopping done a month before Christmas. Being a stay at home mom I have the opportunity to beat the crowds. With the kids getting older, the shopping isn't fun anymore either. It's harder to buy them what you think they'll like, and unless they tell you, you don't have a clue. Gift cards are the way to!

2010 will bring new and exciting things for Heroine with Hearts. So make sure you check back for the big announcement!

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday and may 2010 bring you good health and happiness!

Friday, December 18, 2009

My Writing Habitat

"Where do you write?"

I wish there was an easy answer to this simple question. Alas, there is not.

I write on the floor, I write at a desk, I write in a mess. I write on train, I write in the rain. (I am channeling Dr. Seuss tonight.)

I can write in other places, but my favorite places to write are on the floor and in my bed. Those are the places where I first started writing. My earliest memories are of me sprawled on the floor of my grandparents' house with a pile of books, papers, and pencils surrounding me or of me sprawled out in my childhood bed (it was a twin bed so I didn't sprawl that much) with books and papers surrounding me.

I've moved from the floor to my bed. That is my preferred place to write. Once upon a time, I read that Jackie Collins or some famous writer wrote longhand drafts of her novels in her plush bed. So I decided to follow my then-idol, and it's been a bad habit to break.

Every doctor and Prevention article on sleep patterns tells me that I should not take work to bed with me. Your bed should only be used for sex and sleep.

Clearly, I break that rule.

My queen-sized bed has multiple functions: as a storage closet, DVD rack, my makeshift desk. I wrote term papers in my dorm bedroom. I wrote and edited most of my dissertation and theses as I sat on my apartment floor, eating Doritos and drinking wine. (I was a graduate student, and my food chart consisted of Doritos, burgers, wine, and rum raisin ice cream.)

My new duvet (or whatever my mom calls that thing on the bed) has puncture wounds and coloring streaks that have come from battle (me vs. a plot hole, me vs. a poorly written student paper, me vs. editing a poorly written book that I have to edit for a side gig).

My goal for 2010 is to move off the bed and into a desk. A desk seems more appropriate for a grown-up and more appropriate for a budding writer. And I think it would make my doctor and the writers at Prevention happy.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Where I write

My computer is on a corner desk in what I like to call my ‘study’ but in reality is one of the three bedrooms in my house. It’s the corner near the window, with a view (from above) of my garden, the backs of the houses on the next street and, in the distance, the lights of the motorway. Not very inspiring!

Within the room, however, I’m surrounded by my 'life'. Books which indicate my varied interests – medieval history, the American Civil War, family history, and Ireland. A couple of shelves of reference books – rarely touched now because the internet has become my main reference source. Four shelves of DVDs (a very eclectic mix) and another of CDs, and two shelves of my holiday files – the ‘scrapbooks’ with descriptions and photos from all my trips abroad. There are also photos on display - my daughters and grandsons, and a couple of my favourite actor Martin Sheen too! Plus the two photos I had taken with Stockard Channing, to remind me of the times I met her. My noticeboard is full with letters about appointments, reminders to myself and, most important, the phone number of the computer expert who rescues me when anything goes wrong with my computer.

Of all the rooms in my house, this room reflects me. I spend more time here than in any other part of my house. But sometimes I think about the different functions this room has had during the 40+ years I have lived here.

Originally, when we first moved in, it was the ‘spare room’ where all the ‘junk’ was stored. But in 1968 it had its first makeover. I opted to have my second baby at home and my younger daughter was born in this room (about two feet away from where I’m sitting right now!). I can remember that day as clearly as if it were yesterday.

The room then became a bedroom for my older daughter. As they grew up, my two girls swapped bedrooms several times, but eventually it became my younger daughter’s room. The walls were covered with all her popstar posters.

When she eventually left home, the room became the ‘spare bedroom’ for a few years. But then, when I was involved with the local Musical Theatre for juniors, it was transformed into a costumes and props room. We raided the charity shops for full-length dresses, long skirts, Victorian-style blouses, cowboy shirts, black jackets and trousers, all of which were hung on the three racks I managed to obtain. Boxes of hats, and other stage props filled every remaining inch of the room.

In the mid-nineties, I decided it was time to remove my computer from the table in my dining room. The costumes went into suitcases in the garage, and I ‘moved’ upstairs. Originally I had a hotch- potch of furniture – old chests of drawers, old tables, old bookshelves. About six years ago I decided to give the room a make-over with purpose-made office furniture – cupboards, drawers and tables around 3 walls, and two bookshelves and a filing cabinet on the 4th wall.

This place is my home, my sanctuary, the room where I feel most comfortable and at ease. For several years, I resisted having a TV set up here, but I finally succumbed – and got a DVD player too. But I still have to go downstairs to make coffee!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Where I write

I think writers need to practice like pianists--practice finding words that describe settings, or feelings evoked by settings; words that chronical the past in ways that bring us to the present.

For this stage of my writing-to-publication journey, I have claimed my son's old bedroom. When we built our house, he was in high school and wanted to be a woodworker. He made an interesting pattern on each wall with tongue and groove siding. He refused to let me put in a ceiling fan. The desk is the one he built for the sister he teased mercilessly before she went to film school. The dresser is a demo model he took to craft shows.

The computer is a big Mac. I have had to relearn a few operations, but now I remember why I cursed Microsoft after I bought my first laptop. I hit the up volume key by mistake too often, but it is fun to type while streaming the Boss. The sole window underlooks the deck where our house cats roll in the soft, dry dirt. If I tap on the window, they leap up, surprised.

The baseboard heater clicks as its fins expand, and the smell of warming dust marks how long I have feared putting butt in chair.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

My Work in Progress

One of my favorite books in Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird. A writer friend introduced the book to me, and I have had the pleasure of introducing my students to the book.

The best part of the book is in the early chapters when Lamott discusses my favorite formal writing term.

Shitty first drafts.

Lamott argues that writers need to let their fears go and just write. Stop "reigning yourself in" and put everything down on paper. Get it out of your system and onto the page.

To date, I have three crappy first drafts.

I am rotating between all three, excavating the good parts from the drafts. I stopped looking at the notecards I had extensively and loving padded with scene details. I re-started writing with the general idea, my character sketches, and my imagination. And so far, it's working. I've written 10 pages (longhand because I am a dinosaur). 10 pages of a crappy first draft.

But it's 10 pages of something. Through the editing process, I expect a diamond to emerge from the rough.

What I have learned with my works in process is that I need and must write those bad, ugly first drafts. The first drafts are Cinderella pre-Fairy Godmother intervention; they are hideous, unpleasant, and terrible. But the first drafts have hope. The second and third drafts can only become coherent, brilliant, glorious, vivid, and dazzling works through editing and proofreading the craptacular words on the screen or papers.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


I thought I’d completed my second story but comments from my critique partners made me realise that something was missing. So I’m now embarking on a total re-write of the last two chapters in order to strengthen the final denouement.

That has distracted me temporarily from my third story. But I needed to take a backward step from that because I’ve had a feeling for a few weeks that there was (again!) something missing from it. I couldn’t decide just what it was.

A couple of days ago, I finally reached the conclusion that the conflicts were all ‘internal’ i.e. the main characters are battling with their own thoughts and feelings. What is missing is a major conflict between the two characters – something that threatens to keep them apart until the reader is left wondering how on earth these two are ever going to get together for a happy ending. So I’ll be going back to the drawing board with the whole of that story.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

As the week turns....

ToniLynn, I relate completely to your dishwashing inspirations. I get mine in the shower. (Hot running water is a blessing.) I am squeeky clean, but may turn pruney, for I am stuck (temporarily!) on my rewrite of Chapter 1.

I did write a super CSA newsletter describing my daily Minnesota-winter barn chores. Members and friends of the CSA have been emailing back how vividly I painted the picture, how they could hear the crunch of cow hooves on snow and see the newly weaned calves pining for their mothers. I proposed to them, as a winter activity, a book club-style go through of 'The Genius of Money,' by John Bloom. This book looks at the how money evolved, how it is working now, and how we need to think about its use in the future. I am tired of being consumed by money, yet I define my Self--and my success-- by it.


Monday, December 7, 2009

Stage of WIP....

Not sure what stage I'm on. Revisions, I guess. I am revising chapter one. After my CP gave me her thoughts, I reread the entire chapter once more. This time I read it as..blah, blah, blah. There was something missing.

While I was doing dishes (which is why I don't/won't have a dishwasher), an idea came to me. So now I can't wait to get some time to sit and write the new beginning (Paula, wait 'til you see the change).

I could have wrote some tonight, but instead I set up a face book account. My head is still spinning. There is TOO much going on on the pages I can't keep up. My sister assures me that with time, I'll be a pro!

Take care!

Friday, December 4, 2009

I am my own work in progress

Do you know a person who has the talent and the skills but is going nowhere? The person with the plan whose plan never materializes? A person who is all talk but never demonstrates or shows any action or forward movement?

Well, now you do. Let me introduce myself. I'm Tiana Johnson, and I am working on a romance novel if I can overcome procrastination, an overactive mind, and wanderlust.

I am a hapless, pathetic mess of a writer.

I am the woman who cannot say no to a new idea. Whatever buzzes into my consciousness get immediate attention and pushes everything else out of the way. I am a commitment-phobe who flits and flutters between the current projects, my to-do list, my wants and needs but never settles on one thing for too long. I am a dedicated procrastinator, and I am the laziest person that I know who still manages to accomplish something every now and then.

I am bursting with ideas. On the first day of NaNoWriMo, I wrote a total of 200 words on my current WIP. I spent the other 29 days plotting out a new book and cramming new ideas onto my plate. That was not my intent. But that's what happened. And this morning, I woke up with two short story ideas and a novella plotted.

I cannot focus. That's one of my problems. I get involved in one idea, and then I hop to another idea. I am on the constant search for the better lily pad, the view from the other side of the septic tank, the new and more exciting thing.

My other problem is that I play the role of the writer. I act like a writer. I talk like a writer. But I don't write like a writer. I don't make the investment of putting in the work. Sometimes I think I am floundering with the idea of pushing past the beginning to get to the middle. Sometimes I think I should give up.

I have several works in progress. None of which have moved past a random assortment and collection of scenes. I have plotted scenes, but when I write, the words don't match up to my imagination or the characters don't live up to my expectations.

Therefore, I declare myself as a work in progress. If I can get over myself, then I might have some work that is in progress and that I am comfortable talking about.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


I risk wrath by double posting, but your comments enticed. Among my hats is one for professional astrologers. It's purple and red and sparkly'd love it! With approval, I will post about my astrological forecast as it relates to writing and the promise of being published. (I've been tracking that for a while... timing is everything.) I also do charts for my main characters... a fun way to flesh out characters.

What I'm working on

While I wait for a reply (ANY reply!) from the editors who have two of my novels (one for six months, the other for four months), I’m part way through a third.

I don’t really hold out much hope of the first two being accepted (by Harlequin/Mills and Boon), so I’ve been doing a serious edit of the second story – thanks to a lot of help, advice and suggestions from my excellent critique partners. Passive verbs are OUT, think active verbs; use adverbs sparingly; avoid starting sentences with ‘ing’ words; telling vs showing, etc. I really feel (and hope) that my writing has become tighter and faster as a result.

Once I’ve done the full edit of my second story, I’ll turn my attention to my first one and give it the same treatment.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What I'm working on

I finished taking my first historical through the Break into Fiction templates. My first draft was freeform pantsing. I tightened my plot, strenghtened my heroine and started the rewrite. I still need to catch my inner wave, but it is coming... and I'll be ready.

One more weekend of craft shows and (hopefully) lots more holiday orders to ship. is the soup and dip mix website, my bill-paying creativity.

It's been unusually warm, but night-time temperatures are starting to dip into the low 20's. Our stock ponds are starting to freeze over, so it's time to move cattle off pasture. They are not eager to go. We've managed to haul three back to the barn. Seven to go, hopefully today.

Two commissions came in last weekend for personal astrological forecasts--tis the season. My birthday was on Sunday, and I studied my 2010 progressions, returns and transits. Energy is shifting, opening up. Knowledge is power.