What’s for Dinner?

Yes, this post is about food, and no, this blog is not about food. How many parents out there have things they want to do besides churning out three meals every day for the foreseeable future? No? It’s just me?

I’m not that picky. I want a healthy, delicious dinner on the table every night at a reasonable hour, it can’t take forever to prepare, and oh yeah, the kids have to actually want to eat it.

Here’s a sample schedule of dinner at my house.

  • Sunday: Eat dinner at Grandma’s if possible, otherwise, pasta.
  • Monday: Burritos
  • Tuesday: Chicken, rice, vegetables from the freezer
  • Wednesday: Mac N’ Cheese
  • Thursday: Something in the slow-cooker
  • Friday: Tuna Melts and roasted garbanzo beans
  • Saturday: Left-overs

Is it boring? Yes. But these meals are inexpensive, quick to prepare, and generally healthy.

Not spending hours producing dinner means I might be able to squeeze in another 500 words that day. (See how I brought this back around to writing?)

What are some go-to meals I’m missing? Share, please!


Berry Bombs of Wisdom from Mysti Berry

Recently, I was fortunate enough to have a coffee date with Mysti Berry. Mysti is a screenwriter–novelist–short story writer and all around awesome human being. We talked writing for an hour and she gave me permission to share some details of our conversation.

I told Mysti about my quest to be Jessica Fletcher, ie, a successful mystery writer who also does other things (such as work, raise three small children, etc, etc). I know that Mysti has a full-time job that is not writing fiction, so I asked her about her personal writing routine and her writing goals.

Mysti’s routine includes early morning writing and writing with friends which she says helps her stick with the program. She also takes writing retreats where she disappears into a dark lair (or just a hotel room) for a weekend to power through some writing or editing goals. The idea of writing for a weekend kid-free sounds like heaven to me. I hope my husband is reading this post.

I asked Mysti what she does when she gets stuck. She said she first yells at herself, which she does not recommend as a strategy. Some strategies she does recommend are:

  • Look for where the plot went wrong earlier in the story. Sometimes you can eliminate a later problem that way.
  • Ask certain questions about the problem: Is it structural? Is it character? Am I taking the story in the wrong direction?
  • Talk about the problem with others
  • Make a list of ten things to try to fix the problem

I then asked Mysti about her writing goals. She has both aspirational goals, like getting her novel published, and more concrete goals, such as:

  • Finish dialogue edits by x date
  • Send to agent by x date
  • Word count goals (if working on a first draft)
  • Hourly goals (spend x amount of time writing)

She also has a writing strategy. Mysti has had her short stories published, so she intends to keep writing and submitting those. She is working on an anthology of short stories as a way to dip her toes into the self-publishing world. And she continues to work on her novel and submit it to agents.

My talk with Mysti inspired me to come up with my own list of strategies to try when I feel stuck in my writing and to work on a long-term strategic plan for my writing goals. In the meantime, I hope I get to drink more coffee with Mysti soon.

Types of Writing Goals: Output Versus Outcome

If you’re wondering how last week’s goals went: very well! I wrote a 5500 word short story, some book reviews, and worked on this blog. I exceeded my goal of fifteen minutes per day, some days writing up to an hour.

It got me thinking about types of goals. The goals I set for myself last week were output goals. In other words, I just promised myself I would produce words, not that they would be any good.

Goals around output can be short-term, measurable, and quantifiable. Examples of Output Goals:

  • Write 1,000 words per day for a week/month
  • Write one short story/article/blog post/chapter per week
  • Write every day for fifteen minutes
  • Enter one writing contest each month
  • Query one agent per month

Output goals are within your control and you can easily tell whether you’ve met them or not. But the ones listed above don’t measure quality. I actually do want my work to be measurably good. I can judge my own work, to an extent, but having outside validation feels important too. So I also made some outcome goals.

Goals around outcome are not necessarily measurable in the short-term and depend on outside factors coming together as well as your own hard work. Examples of Outcome Goals:

  • Win a writing contest
  • Sign with an agent
  • Get a book deal
  • Sell x number of books by the end of the year

My output goals are to submit to four anthologies/writing contests between now and May 31. My outcome goals are to have at least half my submissions accepted/win something. Spoiler alert: I’ve already submitted one story to an anthology and had it accepted! More details to come.


Highlights from Bouchercon 2014, Murder at the Beach

This year, I attended my first ever Bouchercon: The Annual World Mystery Convention, for readers, writers, publishers, agents, booksellers, murderers, and general lovers of crime. Fiction. Crime fiction.

The conference travels to a variety of locations. This year, it was in Long Beach, CA.

Top Three Best Moments:

  1. Pulling a Dr Livingstone, I presume? on Terry Shames in the Oakland airport.
  2. Socializing with Oakland writer friends Gigi Pandian, Sophie Littlefield, Juliet Blackwell, and Mysti Berry, because really, why hang out at home when we can go hang out in Long Beach?
  3. Deliberately sitting in front of Charlaine Harris in the audience at a panel, having her introduce herself to me, then best of all, waiting in line to have her sign a book and having her greet me by name. Yes folks, Charlaine Harris recognized me and remembered my name SEVERAL HOURS after meeting me. And she didn’t even check my name tag first.

Things I learned for next time:

  1. If you don’t want to eat cookies for breakfast—and even if you do—it’s smart to bring your own food.
  2. Take breaks if you need to. There is always another panel.
  3. Room with Gigi Pandian, because she’s awesome. And she’s armed with chocolate.


Me and Gigi at Bouchercon 2014, which was held entirely underwater.







Writing Process Blog Chain

Thanks to Michele Cacano and Struggling Writer for tagging me in this Writing Process Blog Chain. You can find out more about their writing processes on their blogs, A Dream and A Scream for Michele and The Struggling Writer for Struggling Writer.

The purpose behind the blog chain is to learn more about fellow writers. Also, if you break the chain, you’re looking at seven years of bad luck. I wasn’t about to risk that, so here goes.

What am I currently working on?

An urban fantasy about huldras (telepathic super strong women), shape shifters (who can turn into animals at will and are mostly super hot) and the humans who bumble around in their midst. My main character, novice huldra Jolene Birch, is trying to adjust to her new reality and take control of her powers when she stumbles over the body of a dead shape shifter and find herself framed for murder. Hilarity ensues.

I have several other WIPs including a YA science fiction and two murder mysteries, but those are in the “on the shelf” stage.

How does my work differ from others in my genre?

It’s not as dark and gritty as a lot of urban fantasies. I’m not into blood and gore. Death and danger, yes. Intestines and severed limbs, no. There is a murder mystery at the heart of the story. There’s also some romance and humor thrown in. It’s kind of a blend of all the genres I like to read.

Why do I write what I do?

Because the voices in my head tell me to, of course. Why else?

Also, I write what I want to read. I love books that are funny and suspenseful and have female leads who are strong but have a lot of growing to do. There’s got to be at least one love interest, preferably a couple of murders, and if someone has a secret superpower, all the better.

I was kidding about the voices. Really.

How does your writing process work?

I get ideas all the time. Usually they’re ideas for characters and/or scenes. I like to put my character into situations and imagine how she’d react. Then I start writing the scene. I often don’t end up plotting/outlining until I’ve written a lot of scenes. This doesn’t always work out well for me. I wish I could be more of a planner. Sigh.

Next, the piece gets workshopped through my writing group. They are always kind and invariably tough. They don’t let me get away with clichés and plot holes. They only occasionally confuse me with my main character.

Then I rewrite. And rewrite. And rewrite. Throw my hands up and start on the next thing. Go back to the original and rewrite some more. I don’t know exactly where all this will end, but that’s the good, bad and the ugly of my writing process.

The next step


Now it’s my turn to tag another writer. For your reading pleasure, I’ve chosen MA Scott of Masfiction, a spousal writing team that creates extraordinary stories of adventure and romance. They’ve seen reality and it’s not for them.


Top Three Best Moments of Oscars 2014

In the spirit of full disclosure, I should begin this post by admitting I have not seen any of the movies that won Oscars this year, or any that were nominated, or any that were not nominated. You might be wondering, then, why I sat through the Oscars in the first place. I wasn’t planning on watching, but people in my house had it on, so I joined in. Here are my top three best moments from this year’s Oscars.

Best Moment #3: Lupita Nyong’o’s Acceptance Speech

Lupita began her acceptance by acknowledging the suffering of the real-life person she played in the movie, thanked about a million people in the middle, and ended with affirming that everyone’s dreams matter. And she never even mentioned her future self.


As heartfelt as her speech was, it’s worth remembering that Lupita Nyong’o is only the seventh black woman to win an Oscar. SEVENTH. Think about it, people. The Oscars have been happening for about a million years, and we only have seven black women winners. This win was a massive, well-deserved, life-changing step for Lupita and a minuscule, tiptoeing, have-to-look-really-closely-to-see-it shuffle in the general direction of equality for all humankind.

Best Moment #2: Robert De Niro’s Description of the Writer


Here’s Nathan Bransford responding on behalf of writers everywhere, via Twitter:

#1 Best Moment of Oscar’s 2014: John Travolta Epically Failing to Pronounce Idina Menzel’s Name

220px-John_Travolta_Deauville_2013                 Idina_Menzel_Defense.gov_Crop

The best part about this moment? Within seconds of the flub, someone had created a Twitter handle for Adela Dazeem. By the time Idina/Adela finished her song, @AdelaDazeem had over 1,000 followers and was tweeting things like “THANK YOU JORN TROMOLTO!” She now has over 18K followers. When somebody gets to be funny and clever on a global scale, I say that is truly progress. And we should all thank the Academy for not putting John Travolta in charge of presenting the award to Lupita Nyong’o.

Did you watch the Oscars? What did you think? Which movies did you love? Let me know!

Another Kind of Warrior

Last night, I had the opportunity to attend my first NBA basketball game, the Golden State Warriors vs the 76ers. My husband’s idea of date night: Free tickets courtesy of an educational technology firm called EverFi. They were sponsoring a group of high school students to attend the game. I agreed to go after being assured I wasn’t responsible for monitoring the children. Field trips are great, but not my idea of a hot date.

We met the EverFi folks in front of the Oracle Arena in Oakland. They seemed like a nice group, fluent in both regular English and Edu-speak. We donned our Oracle Arena lanyards with our Oracle Arena tickets, and were led by an usher into the Oracle Arena. He led us right past a line of people waiting outside a door marked VIP Entrance. As we cut in front of the VIP line, I started to think maybe my husband had the right idea about tonight.

Later, we were given Wilt Chamberlain bobble head dolls. What I knew about Mr. Chamberlain is he slept with about a billion women. What I learned is that he scored one hundred points in a single game. Good to know they’re giving bobble heads out for that instead of the other thing, no?

Another perk of being the EverFi guests: We got to sit courtside to watch the warm-up. Here’s a picture of us, which we immediately put up on Twitter and implied we would be sitting there for the whole game. Instead, it was about ten minutes.


The gentlemen warming up were quite large and tattooed.

Here’s a picture I took of one of them:


That’s Marreese Speights, who ended up leading the blowout against the 76ers.

Another player, Stephen Curry, was also really good, despite being neither as large nor as tattooed as his teammate. I did find his oral fixation a bit distracting. I mean, if you’re going to wear a mouthguard, shouldn’t it stay inside your mouth? I wore them back in my field hockey days, and I’m quite sure they don’t work when hanging out of your mouth.

Although we passed on the $12 Bud Lights, I still had a great time. The company was fun, the game was exciting, and we even got featured on the Jumbotron. All we had to do was wave around some big red posters that read Oracle Arena while wearing Oracle Arena T-shirts. And now I can say for certain that I know exactly where the Warriors play, and it’s named after that sailboat that won the America’s Cup.