Tuesday, July 31, 2012

#Camp NaNoWriMo and #IWSG

© Donna B. McNicol
Breath slowly, deep,, out. can do this! Okay, I think I'm ready to jump in. Today is the first day of Camp NaNoWriMo and the first day of working on my mystery novel (I know, I already started the first chapter but that was in response to a Visual Dare).

I'm normally a plotter, although not overly detailed. I like to let the story flow as I write, making notes for consistency. (Thank goodness for Scrivener!). This time around I have a prologue that cam from a dream, a setting and a few barely defined characters. This should be interesting. There's been a murder and even I don't know who dun it...yet.

I've got my 15 day quotes pre-scheduled for every other day - just so you don't forget me. I hope some of you will join in the fun and do the quotes as well. I will try to drop some updates as to my progress as the month goes on but no promises. I'm not only trying to write at least 50k words, but our RV is parked where we have no Internet access.

So my worries about Camp NaNoWriMo is my post for the Insecure Writers Group this August. Will I be able to focus on my writing on a daily basis? Can I manage to write 50k semi-coherent words? I have no outline, barely done character profiles on a few main characters and have no idea where the story is going to go. Gulp!

So, till the end of August....

Monday, July 30, 2012

FOTO: Ocho Rios, Jamaica

From time to time I'll post a photo that I've taken at some time. Nice scenery, unusual topics, or just a picture that I like.

© Donna B. McNicol
Yes, that is mud up all the side of the ATV and me. Had a blast!

Living Life Tomorrow's fate, though thou be wise, Thou canst not tell nor yet surmise; Pass, therefore, not today in vain, For it will never come again.
Omar Khayyam

Sunday, July 29, 2012

It's almost time for Camp NaNoWriMo

It's almost time for Camp NaNoWriMol and I have no idea if I'm really ready to write 50k words for my mystery novel, "Not a Whisper." Here's my checklist:

  1. All blogs (3 of them) pre-written and scheduled through the end of August
  2. Basic novel outline written
  3. Characters defined
  4. Have at least a beginning, middle and end
  5. Mini-laptop set up for writing, writing and more writing
  6. Family and friends apprised of what is going on
  7. Lots of coffee, STRONG coffee on hand
  8. Notebook and pencil ready for quickie notes
  9. Located and corresponding with other Camp NaNo writer mates
  10. Ready to BIC-HOK-TAM [butt in chair, hands on keyboard, typing away madly]

See you in a month - but I will try to drop in an update weekly, a short one.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

TOOLS: Jarte Word Editor

I was looking for a free program to replace my old copy of EditPad Classic which had served me well over several Windows OS upgrades but was getting a little long in the tooth for what I needed. My version has been replaced with EditPad Lite and as much as I've tried to get used to that, I missed the cleanness of a basic text editor.

My search ended when I found, downloaded, installed, tried and fell in love with Jarte. NO, it's not free, but for under $20 it has proved to be my most used piece of software next to my browser and email. While powerful enough to create .doc and .rtf files, it's also simple enough to use as a plain text editor for those times that you just want to jot down notes.
Jarte \jär · 'tay\ noun (est. 2001) 1. A free word processor based on the Microsoft WordPad word processing engine built into Windows. 2. A fast starting, easy to use word processor thatexpands well beyond the WordPad feature set. 3. A small, portable word processor whose documents are fully compatible with Word and WordPad. [from their website]
[click to enlarge]
In this example I have several text files and one rich text file open. I am using the standard toolbar as well as the clickless menu buttons. I'm still toying with the best layout for me.

I love that I can mark files as favorites and quickly access them with a flick of my mouse. Once I got used to it, I love the clickless interface. Just hover the mouse over a button, the menu automatically expands. I love that I can define defaults for both plain text and rich text. I love the quick dictionary/thesaurus look-ups as well as the spell checking. I love the infinite ways I can choose which toolbars and layouts to use.

There are just too many features to list here, please take time to visit their website and read more. Oh, and did I mention that the support has been amazing? Twice I emailed offering suggestions, only to get a reply back that the feature already existed and an explanation on how to find and use it. ...and I don't think I have found all the great features yet, even after six months of use.

Friday, July 27, 2012

I missed it...My 6 month blogversary

I missed my six month blogversary, it was on July 7th. So I thought I'd take a minute and look back over my past posts. It's been a great six months with a wide variety of topics, a lot of flash fiction that has since been published in my ebooks, some humor and hopefully some good information.

So, in honor of six months, here are what Blogger thinks (stats wise) are my top six posts. Nope, that won't audience has been expanding rapidly in the last thirty days (thanks to my Twitter Journey).

Okay, you'll have to settle for my favorites - hoping you'll see something of interest that you missed before.
  1. No Use Crying [flash fiction] - this was the first flash fiction I wrote in response to another blog's prompt
  2. Blogger and Word Verification [rant] - it's gotten better, but when I make the #IWSG rounds, I still hit a lot of site requiring word verification
  3. Picture me.... - using images in our blogs and on our websites, chose the right way
  4. On being a motorcyclist.... - a little history on my motorcycle riding
  5. Science Fiction and TV Shows - remember these?
  6. Writing Excuses - one of my top favorites

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Mini Notebooks for Everyone

I love little mini-notebooks, ones small enough to tuck into the corner of the smallest purse. I thought I'd pass along some of my favorites as well as a way to inexpensively make your own. Remember, some of these are one of a kind notebooks, so if you see one you like, you'd better grab it!

Recycle cereal boxes into mini-notebooks
Notebooks from Stephen James Keatley @Etsy
• Handcrafted.
• This journal measures 5 1/2" by 4 1/4" (14 cm by 10.8 cm).
• The front cover image is printed on professional quality ivory cardstock made from ecofriendly recycled paper.
• Inside, 50 sheets (100 pages) of white, unlined paper.
• The back cover is made of chipboard, an environmentally-friendly product.
• Bound with a sturdy double coil wire, a convenient feature which allows the inside pages to lie flat when you open the book.
Elisha Sherman and Lee Taylor @Etsy
Gorgeous Handmade Multi-Media Journals & Notebooks
Mini Kraft Notebook by Angel Perez @Etsy
All paper is custom cut and all corners are rounded. Notebook is bound with staples and measures 5"x4". 30 white blank pages.
Hand Stamped TYPEWRITER Mini Moleskine Journal Pocket Notebook
Moleskine pocket cahier: 64 lined pages; last 16 sheets are detachable; 9x14cm, acid-free paper; inner pocket.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Writing, Creativity and Flash Fiction

I've never considered myself a very creative person. I've always been a detailed analytical person, thinking/working/reacting with the non-creative side of the brain. This worked out very well in an IT career, and even translated well into non-fiction freelance writing.

Both my daughters are creative; photography, poetry, writing, crafts, art. They have the gifts...they must have gotten it from their fathers, certainly not from me.

There are days that I wonder why I think I can write fiction, days where I really think I should just quit and go back to being a voracious reader. These days usually happen after reading the writing of others. My brilliant writing friends who turn words into a mellifluous flow that fires the mind and ignites the spirit.

Flash fiction has been helping me find my creative center. Every time I write something that starts out sweet and turns dark, I know I've been tapping a hidden creative core. A core that I hope will continue to be exposed, regardless of how vulnerable it makes me feel. I don't know where the stories come from, and I'm not always pleased with them, but at times I surprise myself and I really what I've written.

My favorite flash fiction prompt sites are listed below. The first is my sister site, Write 4 Ten where you can find a daily (M-F) word prompt for ten minutes of writing. The next is Lillie McFerrin's Five Sentence Fiction, one of the first flash fiction sites I found and wrote for. Next is Angela Goff's Visual Dare at Anonymous Legacy, a site I've only found recently. Finally, Sweet Banana Ink where you'll find a multitude of flash fiction to read as well as a spot to write. Click the logos to visit the sites.

    Five Sentence FictionAnonymous LegacySweet Banana Ink

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Scavenger Hunts for the Giveaways

As I've already mentioned, the hottest blog hop of the summer is going on now through July 31st. Amazing prizes, be sure to check out each individual blog participating in the giveaway as well as the main site with the grand prizes.

Two of the sites are using a scavenger hunt which I think is a unique idea. I hope you'll stop by both of them and play the game!

And don't forget to stop in on my giveaway page and enter daily!

Monday, July 23, 2012

FOTO: Big Horn Mountains, MT - July 2008

From time to time I'll post a photo that I've taken at some time. Nice scenery, unusual topics, or just a picture that I like.

© Donna B. McNicol
“The possibility of stepping into a higher plane
is quite real for everyone.
It requires no force or effort or sacrifice.
It involves little more than
changing our ideas about what is normal.”

~ Deepak Chopra

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Win a Kindle, Gift Cards, Books and more

[learn about blog hops]

It's here! The biggest blog hop of the summer kicks off today. There are 70 Independent Authors participating in the Summer Splash Blog Hop.  Authors like Cheryl Bradshaw, C.J. West, Angela Muse, Julia Crane, S.L. Wallace, Steena Holmes, Allen Schatz, Tracy Sumner and many more. Mysteries, Romance, Horror, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Thrillers are all represented.

Each site, including mine, has a different contest and offers their own prizes. Some area scavenger hunts, some want comments, some use sites like RaffleCopter to track entries. Stop by each one to read about their hop and enter their contest. You can hop to all the individual sites from this page.

To enter mine, visit this page. Please be sure to pass this amazing contest along to your friends. Many, many chances to win a wide variety of prizes.

My Prize Offerings
Remember, the contest ends at midnight July 31st so you have plenty of time to enter (and some sites allow daily entries). Good luck!

Leaving [Flash Fiction Flourish]

Trying my hand at a new flash fiction challenge, Flash Fiction Flourish, thanks to Rosalind Smith-Nazilli. The instructions say to use the photo, the word specified and stay within a 100-150 word count. This week the word is 'leaving' and the photo is similar to below. Here is my contribution.

The shoreline was more quickly than she would have liked; a leisurely exit would have been nicer, but not her decision. It was completely out of her hands now; no more choices, no more chances, the door was closing behind them.

Time for another city, another name. She continually recreated herself; blonde, brunette, redhead - she'd tried them all. Maybe platinum this time or a snow white that would accent her youthful face. No, you never want to call attention to yourself; always blend easily into the crowd, nothing but a blurry image left in the mind's eye.

She sighed, this wasn't the life she had envisioned growing up in small town USA. An international art thief was not what she aspired to be but it was what she had become. A very good one for sure, but still a thief. She preferred to call herself an "Art Appreciation Relocation Expert".

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Sunday Snippets - Sundry Somethings - THE END

I'll be taking Sunday's off until September...maybe even longer. Everyone needs one day off, right? Enjoy your weekend....


Friday, July 20, 2012

#Write4Ten Prompt: Solitude

I've been writing my Write 4 Ten stories in the actual prompt but now that my online time is sporadic and limited, I will be posting them here...when I have ten minutes to spare.

This is for yesterday's prompt of  "Solitude" and is a short scene out of my upcoming mystery novel, "Not a Whisper".

Kat heard the front screen door slam and a deep voice boomed out. “Hey Kat, get yer butt out here.”

She sighed, the last thing she needed was a confrontation with Hal Lockworth today. Wiping her hands she walked to the doorway to the dining room, “What can I do for you, Hal?”

He leaned towards her, “You know what I want. When you gonna sell this white elephant and make yourself a tidy profit?” He leaned close enough that she smelled the whiskey on his breath. “I know you’re late on your mortgage payment - again. Sell now and walk away with cash in your pocket or sit it out and I’ll get it anyway.”

Stunned, Kat spun and ran back into the kitchen, holding back the tears. “Pompous asshole,” she muttered, but she was worried. Hal wasn't going to stop till she sold to him or got out from under the mortgage. She couldn't tell her husband Erik about the threats since he never wanted her to buy the Kafe in the first place.

There was no one she could talk to. She was friends with the locals but no one she could confide in, no one with a shoulder she could lean on. Besides, the locals already knew too much about her personal life; having the police visit your house on a regular basis took care of that.

Pouring herself a cup of coffee, she sat at an empty table and closed her eyes. Take me away to my happy place, she thought. A little island in the South Pacific, that would be perfect. A deserted beach, a comfortable chair, warm sunshine and a soft breeze. Perfect.

Scarlet [five sentence fiction]

Glancing at her parents, she slowly unwrapped the box, taking time to fold the wrapping paper for reuse. She looked at the box, she didn't dare wish or even hope that they had bought her what she wanted; her dream shoes, the ones guaranteed to bring attention to her and help her feet fly in the race today.

No, they were too expensive, she knew that and she knew that as much as her parents loved her, the shoes she wanted - the shoes she needed, would not be in the box. Determined to look happy regardless of what the box contained, she pasted a sappy smile on her face, took a deep breath, opened the box lid and moved the white tissue paper aside.

She gasped in surprise, the silly smile wiped out with an expression of sheer joy, a pair of brand new Scarlet Red Nike Air Max 90 shoes; the impossible was now possible, her parents had proven that and she believed it with her heart.

Visit Lillie McFerrin's Five Sentence Fiction
for a new prompt every week.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

#VisualDare Prompt: Gutted

Angela Goff posted a new Visual Dare that hit me right in the gut...and not because of the prompt - gutted. And gave me the opening lines of my upcoming mystery, "Not a Whisper", that I will be writing during my August participation of Camp NaNoWri Mo.

Needless to say, what you'll read below is a rough draft and much of it may never make it to the final book, but it gave me the kick in the butt I needed to get started. Now I am defining my characters and may attempt a rough outline before August 1st hits.

Cherie didn’t know which was flying faster, the coffee, the food or the gossip. The Klondike Breakfast Club, or KB’s as they called themselves, were energetically discussing the a fire that burned down a local business last night and speculating about the owner’s part in it. These folks, mostly closer to her aunt’s age, were definitely not what she was used to in Tuscon, AZ. Back there, she couldn’t call it home anymore, older folks mostly talked about their medical problems and where to find the best buffet deals.

Pansy Tucker, her aunt, was the unofficial founder of this unorthodox group - or maybe the unorthodox founder of this unofficial group would be a better description. She sipped her tea and listened to the voices rising above the clatter of dishes and silverware as everyone finished eating and continued sharing their snippets of gossip.

“Yeah, that fire was something else. The volunteers had their hands full. I heard they brought in the Bradford Fire Department, too. The chief told Tony it was so tough to fight cause of the way it’s been built up and added to over the years. That and it had probably been burning for hours before it got seen and called in.” This from the gentleman at the end of the table, Tom she thought, struggling to remember who was who, married to the tiny lady beside him.

The oldest person at the table, Bob Rounder spoke up. “Well I heard it was so bad the walls fell smack into the basement. They had to let it burn to the ground.”

“My Jimmy said it was really bad. Worst he’d ever seen since he started as a volunteer.” This from a woman who walked over from a neighboring table.

“Hi Janie. Was Jimmy at the fire?” asked Tom’s wife, Edy.

Before Janie could answer, Ed Williams piped in, “You know this ain’t the first fire at the Drop Inn. Back in 80’s when old Earl owned it, there were a couple of ‘em. Never burned to the ground though and he just kept adding on.”

The only waitress and also owner of Kat’s Klondike Kafe, Kat Dailey, started refilling coffee cups as she listened in on the conversations. “More tea, Pansy?”

“Sure, but fetch me some more Sweet n’ Low, too. Gotta watch my girlish figure.” Pansy hefted her more than ample bosoms in her hand, smiling innocently at her table mates.

Edy looked up from her coffee, “Did you hear about the fire last night, Kat? I can’t believe the Drop Inn is gone.”

“I know,” answered Kat, looking over her shoulder at her son Danny sitting by the cash register listening to his iPod. “Danny.” No response. “DANNY!”

He pulled out an ear bud, “Yeah?”

“Turn up the scanner, might hear some more news about the fire.”

Danny reached over and turned the volume up a bit, then went back to his music.

Kat turned to Edy’s husband, Tom. “You up for another cuppa decaf?”

“Sure thing and you got another sugar-free blueberry muffin back there?”

“Sure do, been saving it just for you, Tom.”

She walked towards the counter where she stored the pastries and made a note to pick up more blueberries when she went to town. Bradford was a good fifteen minutes away and she liked to make as few trips as possible.

The conversation around her stopped as the screen door slammed and Ed Williams walked in. “They found a body,” he announced. “They found a body in the basement of the Drop Inn.”

#Write4Ten Prompt: The Raise

I've been writing my Write 4 Ten stories in the actual prompt but now that my online time is sporadic and limited, I will be posting them here...when I have ten minutes to spare.

This is for today's prompt of  "The Raise" and yes, I did write more than ten minutes. The story just grew under my fingers and I had a hard time stopping.

Jocelyn stood with her back to the door, hoping against hope that he hadn't heard her enter. Times were tough and she wanted to delay the bad news as long as she could.

"Joce, is that you," came the soft voice from the bedroom.

Her shoulders drooped. "Yes, I'll be in to see you shortly," she replied to her younger brother, the one who lay sick in bed, all because of her. If, she wouldn't do that. She couldn't turn back time and change things so she, they, had to live with the consequences.

Letting out the breath she hadn't realized she was holding, she dumped her purse out on the table. $14.33. That was it. All of it. Without the raise she had thought she was getting, their food wouldn't last through the month. Without the job that she just got fired from, they wouldn't make it through the week. What were they going to do? The landlord had already given them a free week but now, without the, without a job, he would evict them for sure.

She could survive on the streets but her little brother Willem wouldn't last one night out in the cold. She pulled three slices of bread out of the loaf she snatched on the way home, slathered them with a little butter and topped them off with a thin slice of cheese for her and a thick slice for Willem. She then neatly sliced up an apple and put it on the plate with his sandwich. She quickly downed her slice of bread and cheese before carrying the rest into the bedroom.

"How was your day, sweetums?" she asked him.

"Fair to middlin' good," he said taking the tray and favoring her with his angelic smile.

"I'm glad to hear it. No visitors, were there?"

"Oh yeah, Mrs. Luckletter stopped in for a minute to see if I needed anything. She told me they were selling all their property and were moving to the country." He took a big bite of his sandwich, slowly chewing as if it were his last meal. "Could we move to the country, Joce? I think I'd like that."

Jocelyn's heart clenched in her chest, feeling as though someone had thrust a knife in it. "I don't think so, Will. We have to stay here in the city where there's work."

He looked up from his rapidly disappearing apple. "Oh yeah, you got your raise today, didn't ya." He reached over to hug her, nearly toppling what was left of his meager dinner. She righted the tray and squeezed him, fighting the tears. No, she wouldn't tell him tonight, that would be too mean. Tomorrow or the next day maybe. She could keep them in bread, cheese and apples from the carts and use the little money she had for milk. Two more days to find a job.


Two days later and no work found, Jocelyn knew she was going to have to do something desperate but what that might be, she had no idea. Once again she stood with her back to the door hoping Willem hadn't heard her enter. Taking silent breaths to calm herself, she stood tall and readied herself to tell him.

She stopped short, realizing there was a conversation going on in Willem's bedroom. One voice was definitely her brothers but the other she didn't recognize. Alarmed, she grabbed the closest weapon, a broom and burst into the bedroom.

Startled the two looked up and she found herself staring into the bluest eyes of the most handsome man she'd ever seen. She took in the fancy dress clothes and simultaneously straightened her clothes and put the broom in the corner.

"I'm sorry, sir. Do we know you?" Her voice trembled a little but it was obvious he was a gentleman of means and had the power to toss her into gaol on a whim.

"Joce, you won't believe it. Mr. and Mrs. Luckletter sold everything to Sir Randley and he came to see us and he brought me jam. Real elderberry jam! Can you believe it? I couldn't-"

Jocelyn stopped her brother's monologue with her hand and turned to Sir Randley with a curtsy. "How do you do, Sir Randley. I am Jocelyn Southern and I see you have already met my mannerless brother, Willem. Could I offer you something to eat or drink?" She quickly inventoried their meager food supply and hoped he declined.

He did. "No thank you, Miss Southern. I'm sorry to intrude while you were out but the Luckletters had such high praise for you both, I felt I needed to stop in and introduce myself. I am the new owner of all their rental properties."

Jocelyn steeled herself for what she knew was coming, an eviction. She owed five weeks back rent to the Luckletters and that debt was now owed to Sir Randley. "Sir-"

It was Sir Randley who now held up his hand, "Please, sit down. We have things to discuss." She perched on the stool beside Willem's bed, watching Sir Randley pace, arms crossed behind his back.

"Miss Southern, it has come to my attention that with the transfer of the rental units, I have also assumed a debt that you owed Mr. and Mrs. Luckletter."

"Yes sir, and-"

The hand once again stilled her. "I have a proposal for you and your brother. I hope you will consider it fully before making your decision."


"I am a widower. I lost my wife in childbirth. My son is now five and beyond the age of needing a nanny but still in need of a governess. I would like to offer you that position and young Willem the position of companion to my son."


"Please, hear me out. My son is in residence at our country estate. I have a doctor on the premises at all times as well as a full staff for the house and grounds. I feel you would both fit in well and I believe that the combination of fresh air and a doctor's care would put Willem back on his feet in no time. Please don't answer now. I shall return on the morrow to get your answer. I'll see myself out."

Jocelyn sat there stunned. Did he know she was jobless? Could there really be a silver lining to the cloud over their life lately? Her mum had always told her things happened for a reason. Maybe there was a reason she hadn't gotten that raise.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

August Blog Schedule

I promised you something special during the month of August since I will be 1) without easy Internet access and 2) participating in Camp NoNoWriMo. I'm going to pre-post a blog every other day using the below schedule. If you are interested in doing something similar, post your blog link in the comments below and let us find you.

15 Day Quote Challenge
[which I'm spreading across 30 days]
  • Day One: A quote that describes you. 
  • Day Two: A quote from a favorite writer.
  • Day Three: A quote from your favorite book.
  • Day Four: A quote that makes you laugh. 
  • Day Five: A short quote.
  • Day Six: A quote from a song.
  • Day Seven: A quote you disagree with.
  • Day Eight: A stupid quote.
  • Day Nine: A quote from someone you know personally.
  • Day Ten: A well-known quote.
  • Day Eleven: A quote about love.
  • Day Twelve: A quote about friendship.
  • Day Thirteen: A quote about cats.
  • Day Fourteen: A quote about something you love.
  • Day Fifteen: Your favorite quote.
[Thanks to Raine Kingsley for this great idea]


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

FOTO: Rabbit Hash, KY 2008

From time to time I'll post a photo that I've taken at some time. Nice scenery, unusual topics, or just a picture that I like.

© Donna B. McNicol

“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge.
That myth is more potent than history.
That dreams are more powerful than facts.
That hope always triumphs over experience.
That laughter is the only cure for grief.
And I believe that love is stronger than death.”
~ Robert Fulghum

#Write4Ten Prompt: Rain

I've been writing my Write 4 Ten stories in the actual prompt but now that my online time is sporadic and limited, I will be posting them here...when I have ten minutes to spare.


It's the same thing, day after day. I am so sick of this rain. I used to think I enjoyed the sound of it, sometimes even the smell of it. You know, a warm summer day and a little rain while the sun still shines. I can even deal with the thunderstorms.

My mom hated thunderstorms, they terrified her. She made us unplug the television and wouldn't let us use the telephone or touch any faucets. But I know why she felt that way. When she was an Army nurse in WWII she was stationed in Key West. She told stories of sitting in the middle of the bed, a metal bed at that, watching the lightning travel round and round the room on the wires mounted on the walls up near the ceiling.

But I really don't think I can take another day of this before going stark, raving mad. Nothing smells fresh now, everything smells damp and musty, like a basement with a leak. Then there is the mud, you can't walk anywhere without getting stuck in the mud. It clings to your boots, sucking them in deeper with every step, clinging to your pant legs and anything else it can reach.

And the kids, the cable is out more often than not, all they do is argue and fight. They want to go outdoors but as soon as I get them dressed for the weather, they spend two minutes out there and are right back inside, driving me nuts!

I know, I'm whining when others have it worse. It could be a hurricane or a tornado or even an earthquake. Oh, wait a minute, I'll be right back. The weather radio just went off.

I've got to evacuate in 20 minutes, the dam has burst.