Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Unearthing Conflict

On Mother’s Day weekend I got to take time off. Not jsut from work, but from the family as well. I took off all my hats, leaving only that of daughter and writer on, and whizzed away into the Poconos.

It was awesome.
Mountain Spreings Lake Resort, PA - cabin no. 24, already reserved for next year!
My mom and I stayed in a lovely Cabin, with a dock. Hiked about a forest on well maintained trails to view lots of waterfalls. Took a guided horseback ride on a wooded trail. And generally relaxed and bounced writing ideas off each other.

It’s funny how different we are. She’s writing children’s books, and collecting family stories. I’m working on a fantasy with elements of steam punk. Yet we helped each other out quite a bit. Like contemplating over what would happen if my crystal powered undead managed to infect a fish. The thought of flopping fish that desired human flesh and needed to get to the capitol city incited a plethora of giggles. On a more serious note, we discussed a way to tie in all her family stories, via one over arching thread, and just how that thread would lead to the breaking of the curse.

Importantly for me, I figured out just how I want Unearthing Magic to begin. Thanks to the cabin wall and sticky notes, I whittled down my opening scenes and played with character motivations and conflicts. 
Plotting on the Cabin Wall

Lori was my hardest character. She’s passive-aggressive and prefers to she avoids conflict.
Case in Point: After Ara died, Lori knew she ought to go home to her birth mother, but she doesn’t want to. So rather than asking her parents if she can stay, or asking Mart to do so for her, she just stays and says nothing.  – But then I realized, this is her conflict.  – Because she’s passive, if her birth parents call her to move back home, she’ll do so to try and avoid her mother’s volcanic temper, even though she wants to stay with Mart. And until Lori finds herself pulled into the troubles of the larger world, she’s always going to be fearful that she’ll be called back across the road to stay.

Goes to show that even passive people can have conflict, even when they’d rather avoid it – and the avoidance of conflict can also make that conflict bigger.

Final outline of Chapters 1-3
I’m quite happy with how this revision is turning out. So far I’ve got the first three Chapters plotted out, each with four viewpoints. as you can see in the diagram below. I didn’t want to wait too long introducing each character, but Travis and Angela got the whole first Chapter to themselves. After all the ball starts rolling downhill with Travis’s last assassination attempt, that leads to his kidnapping and it’s not until after that kidnapping that Herbert and Lori enter the picture.

Yes, I’m quite happy with where my first three chapters are going. And when I have them set, I’ll work on the next bunch – however many that may be.


Bushkill Falls - if your ever in PA near Wilks-Barre Scraton - check it out - a very well maintained private park with fourteen (yes 14) waterfalls, and a look out, we didn't make it too because we'd already walked around for thre hours. :}

:} Cathryn Leigh

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Unearthing Chowder


I originally wrote this blog back in the middle of March, trying to be proactive (ha ha right, I know *sigh*). Unfortunately, it’s in a notebook at home and I am here at the day job, with nothing to do. (I’ve written myself into a quandary in Unearthing Magic, perhaps more on that later.) So what better way to amuse myself than to recreate my blog post, since I have the pictures already taken and ready for uploading. So may I present to you:

Corn Chowder: From Simple to Fancy

I know some of my readers may be going off to university soon, which means living on your own and, heaven forbid, having to cook for yourself. Now a person can live on ramen or pasta and sauce. And  they work great for the University student’s budget, but let me add another dish to your repitour (how in the world do you spell that?); Corn Chowder. Easy to make, and easy to impress the boys (or girls) with (as I did).

my favorite brands

The simplest version is three cans:
  • 1 can, Cream Style Corn (I tend to use white)
  • 1 can, Whole Kernel Corn, drained (I like the Fiesta because it adds a dash of color)
  • 1 can, Evaporated Milk (E-v-a-p-o-r-a-t-e-d... not to be confused with Condensed with will give you a very, very sweet chowder)
  1. Open the three cans. Be sure to shake the Evaporated Milk and drain the whole kernel corn.
  2. Dump all three cans into one smallish sized pot
  3. Heat until it just starts to bubble.
  4. Serve and Eat!

Now, say you’ve got a family to feed now, but still want to fall back on a simple meal (and you’re tired of spaghetti and sauce), you can still make this dish, but add a few extra things to make it go further and fill up rumbling bellies.
(ham, peppers and onions not shown, sorry)
Before heating add:
  • 1 can, diced potatoes, drained
  • 1 pkg, diced ham ~8 oz (found in the meat isle)
  • 1 cup, frozen, chopped, peppers and onions

And now I’ve got the fanciest version, that I’ll feature here. Use the ingredients above but:

  • 3 to 5 slices of cooked and crumbled bacon for the ham cubes
  • Fresh chopped peppers and onions for the frozen
  • Dash of dill and white pepper to taste added at anytime
  • 1 cup of shredded cheese of your preference
  1. Add these cheese at the end (when the soup bubbles), otherwise it will melt in clumps rather than adding a smooth cheesy flavor to the whole thing. The other key is to stir it well.
  2. Serve the Chowder with rolls (Pillsbury buttermilk –American- biscuits are what I like to use).
Now if only Unearthing Magic would be as easy to edit. Instead it’s thinking about rearranging itself as I delve deeper into my Antagonist’s motivations. That and my added perspective, doesn’t seem to know what route it wants to take to get to the end. Hopefully my fellow writers aren’t having such issues. *grins*

:} Cathryn Leigh

P.S. Us New Englanders call this dish Cohn Chowdah. ;-}

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Flying Phoenixes Flutter and Flounder

I’m late. I’m sorry. Moving on... *grins*

Last month I mentioned I was working on reading though my Videra Phoenixes. When I started, I was worried because reading and taking notes on Book 1 was arduous. But once I was past that relic, the reading speed up (as note taking slowed down). Yes, this once trilogy clearly shows that with practice, even sans reading craft books, my writing has improved.  
Now that I’ve gotten through all 890 or so pages, I’m transcribing my notes into word so I can put them all in their proper categories (I color coded them as I took them) to figure out how to turn this massive story into books, that maybe, people might like to read.
Yes, the characters started commenting after a certain point...
One of the first things I’ve figured out is that there are really about five books in what I originally wrote as a Trilogy:
  • Book 1: Sarah’s Phoenix, needs the most work (written in 2005, edited in 2009, yup a relic)
  • Book 2: Phoenix Rising, more a romantic interlude than anything and I find its plot puzzling
  • Book 3: Phoenix Burning (was second half of Phoenix Rising), the plot definitely works
  • Book 4: Phoenix Triumphant, again a good solid plot
  • Book 5: Phoenix United (was third, third of Phoenix Triumphant), seems to be mostly romance with a euphoric ending (well it gave me a permasmile)

Now, I’m going through the joy of figuring out where Book 1 ends and Book 2 begins, because I’ve decided that I’m rewriting Book 1 for April’s Camp NaNoWriMo (my goal is at least 25,000 words to keep the stress and lack of sleep minimal). But how do I revamp the plot of Sarah’s Phoenix without having to rewrite everything?

It’s tough. When I was first reading it, I had a brilliant idea, which slowly got squished as I read the other books realizing just how important the set up in Book 1 and 2 were. So I’m trying my hand at plotting, but I’m not going to do it chapter by chapter. Unearthing Magic taught me that that method doesn’t quite work for me. Instead I’m trying a five point plot – Intro, Call to Action, Midpoint, Climax and Resolution.

Not working so well. At least it’s not feeling like it is. I could be over complicating the issue. I’m really good at that. But the plot is pretty complex, because you’ve got the political backdrop to the romance, acting as the main obstacle keeping Sarah and Hasón from their ‘Happily Ever After’. My little private Facebook group (spawned from NaNo, how I love thee) has recommended I diagram each plot so I can see where how they merge.

Do I tackle the whole Book 1 through 5 plot, or do I do it book by book? And how many plots do I have... I know my two main ones, but what about the characters? Are their character arcs another plot... Or am I, as I said, making this way more complex than it needs to be? *HELP*

I also just realized I’m turning... 36 (phew I thought it was 37, opps *grins*) in April, and I would like to have my first book published by 40. That means I only have four more years, and I figure at least the last two ought to be for the query process *gulp*

Better get to work, hadn’t I? I also better figure out what book I’d like to query first, because strangely, I’m wondering if it shouldn’t be Unearthing Magic as opposed to Sarah’s Phoenix. What do you think? How should I choose?


:} Cathryn Leigh

Friday, February 15, 2013

Tea and Granny Squares!

January was one of the craziest months I’ve very lived. Very stressful too. I mentioned in my last blog that my company was undergoing a transition. Basically they filed bankruptcy and then had the assets bought by another company. Then, the company that won the auction (that’s right our company went up for auction!) wasn’t who they’d thought it would be. So now the original intent to hires were null and we were all put in limbo hoping to either find another job (without knowing exactly when this one would end) or pick up an offer from the purchasing company.

Unfortunately my job leads haven’t been that great, so the stress was really high. Then at last, a week ago, I was given an offer. It may only be for three months, and it all around closing out this office for good. BUT, it’s something and it gives me more time to keep looking.

Now to the fun part, and explanation of the pictures. See I’ve been using my ‘down’ time at work for some personal project, just too keep myself form going insane (or bursting into tears). Can you guess which items below correspond to the pictures above and below?
  • Using Visio to create floor plans for a variety of things (my own creative space, Mart’s house, Mom’s space arc, blanket design...)
  • Working on completing Unearthing Magic (totally completed and partially 1/3 fist pass edited)
  • Crocheting granny squares and using Visio to create a blanket design
  • Reading through my Videra Phoenixes (aka Phoenixes of Vervell) with an eye for plot, character, setting and how to revise the darn thing so it all makes sense and flows well
If you guessed, the first and second to last one, you’re right! It was the knitting moms at the Dance Studio that reminded me I had a blanket to make for my daughter. SO after deciding I wasn’t going to knit it, but crochet neat granny Squares, I started making all sorts of cool symmetrical designs in Visio where no color ever touched itself. But my daughter wanted to make changes. Not having Visio at home I gave her a bunch of colored paper squares to play with. The picture is the design she came up with after looking at mine for ideas. Hey it’s her blanket, so I’ll go with it!

As for the tea mentioned in the title, well...
My mom came down with fabric (color coordination picked out by the daughter as well)  all cut out for our tea gowns. See my church has been having a Ladies Tea around Valentines Day for four years and we like to make it a point to dress up for it. This year we went with pseudo Regency dresses. Which my mom finished making at about 1 am the night before... Whew. Go Mom!

Now I need to keep working on the Granny Squares (I got about 20 more to go before I can start putting it together) and my Videra Phoenixes. Unearthing Magic will be put aside, as I’ve found one major writing project at a time is all I can do.

Hopefully, in three to four months time, things will settle out into something more normal and less stressful.

 :} Cathryn LeighP.S. sorry for the delay, given the work situation you’d think I’d have been able to keep up *facepalm*)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Jump Start My Blog!

Okay so the song is Kickstart my Heart (by Motley Crue), not Jump Start, but hey it was the tune in my head as I wrote the title. *grins*

So I promised myself I’d write a blog post on Friday (Jan. 4), edit it on Monday (Jan 7) and post it on Tuesday (Jan 8), but I didn’t find much motivation. At least not until I kicked my own butt in to gear and opened the file to do it.

You see, I seem to have run out of blogging steam. Combine that with the explosion (metaphorical) at the day job to super busy,  NaNoWriMo and the Holidays and my quietness can be explained. On top of all that is the business transition that my company is going through which will likely result in the fact that I’ll have worked for three different companies before 2013 is done. The last one of those jobs I’ll be hunting for. But my resume been updated and thoroughly proofed by my hubby (after all he’s looking to maximize his ‘return on investment’ *grins*). I just need to send it out and wait for the calls to interview.

But let’s not worry about that right now shall we? Let’s worry about my blog instead. I don’t want to see it die, which is what it was doing these last three months. So after a little jump start, thinking about goals and life situation I came to a decision. I’m going to cut back to monthly.

The plan is to post something on the second Tuesday of every month, aka Microsoft Tuesday*. Why that Tuesday? Because it’s handily marked on all the calendars I get from my hubby’s work. Plus I know when it’s coming around due to the amount of work my hubby has to do for it.
*It is labeled this because this is the day Microsoft publishes its monthly patch for updating its software to all users who have it, specifically related to their programs’ security.

As to topics, well this is labeled a Diary so I’m not going to tie myself down to any one subject, though it will likely be related to reading, writing, crafting or my family in general. And speaking of such things, I do have a book review for you!


“No Place Like Home” by Anne R. Allen

Camilla Randall thought her life had become perfect. She works in a book store owned by her best friend’s fiancé, she even has a little cottage that’s all her own. Okay so there wasn’t a hunk of a man in her life, but that wasn’t a make or break it thing. But of course life doesn’t stay perfect, and when a cute quirky suited tourist starts flirting with her and asking about homeless guys things go up in smoke. Suddenly paychecks are bouncing and her one employee accuses her of withholding money. But it’s not her fault, her friend is going bankrupt and he has to sell the store to a posh rich woman who redecorates Camilla’s house right under her nose!

But that’s not the worst of it! Beyond the missing homeless man our suited friend seems to care about, the mansion near Camilla’s friends’ house has gone up in flames, leaving the Doria, founder of Home Magazine, under suspicion and her husband potentially deceased. And it all starts with Doria going into surgery for a tummy tuck!

Anne does a great job alternating between Camilla and Doria, pulling their threads together in just the right way. My suspicions would be arouse and then confirmed or denied just a chapter or two later. It was great, Including the reappearance of a character from the second book (Ghostwriters in the Sky). Yes, ‘No Place Like Home’ was definitely worthy being a two am book (aka the latest I stayed up to read it without noticing the passage of time). I even managed to read it shortly after it came out! I think that’s a first for me. So there you have it. It’s another fun Camilla Randal mystery added to my shelf. Hope it doesn’t mind its fantasy companions.


Toodles (till next month)!

:} Cathryn Leigh
P.s. this was supposed to post itself on tuesday and didn't soo sorry!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

In Light of my Sanity

I’m trying to keep it, or what left of it, and as such my blog is suffering from it. Even now I’m taking time from what I should be doing to write this post.

But my readers, whether you’re the ones I know and love, who have been with me from the beginning, or newly discovered friends, you deserve to know why.
  • Why I’ve been silent.
  • Why I’ve written posts and yet not gotten them up
  • Why...

And yes I know this may sound like a whine, and I hate whining (especially when not served properly with chocolate and cheese), but this is how it is:
  1. I am tired, with no real hope of catching up on sleep in the near future. And not just because I’m getting up early and staying up late to write for NaNo. (And try as I might for an earlier bed time I nearly always end up staying up till at least 11 and then suddenly it’s midnight *resigned sigh*)
  2. As a mother, many things fall to my responsibility, cooking, laundry and dishes being the main two after the kids, and when Daddy isn’t in the house the Puppy as well.
  3. I have become the sole person in my department as a result of my Boss departing and my coworker going on Maternity leave, right as we hit a big push to manufacture more 'widgets' than we ever have before.
It’s a short list, I suppose, but it’s got high impact and some days I just want to curl up into a ball and cry myself to sleep. But I can’t, I must forge forward and let those things I can slip. This blog happens to be one of them.

I’m still here.

I expect to be back.

You may see me on your blogs.

But for now...


:} Cathryn Leigh

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Day We Can All Dress Up

Halloween is my favorite Holidays; hands down. Why? Because I can dress up, in whatever I desire, call it a costume, and no one will look at me funny. In fact I suspect envy in some people’s eyes because I was brave enough to do so. I guess we can’t all keep our inner child. Such a shame since I suspect the world would be a better place if we encouraged it.

But back to the topic of Costumes! It’s been a while since I’ve actually made myself one. After all I have two kids and you can’t get them to make up their mind until Halloween is drawing nigh. Take my son for example – for six months he wanted to be Spider man, but then Grammy showed him a costume website and he wanted to be Sonic.  At that same time my daughter decided she wanted to be Cinderella.

No biggie, I went out and snagged two patterns (on sale no less) and started putting together my list of materials. But as I started cleaning out last year’s costumes I gave them one more chance, bringing out what patterns I had. After some back and forth between the two of them, and some discussion with me, they decide; a Prince (he likes costumes with weapons) and a Princess (she doesn’t have to be a specific one).

They love to coordinate – you can easily see that if you look at what they’ve been over the course of the past 3 years
2011: Cheetah and Snake     2010: Batman and Batgirl     2009: Pirate and Mermaid

This year I totally scored though. We were able to find the majority of the fabric in my stash (I used to buy fabric I liked when it was on sale all the time). Still it cost more than I’m willing to admit to get the trim and two small pieces of fabric, even with some coupons. But hey, my kids love them and they get good use out of them. My daughter can still wear the Mermaid costume (after I let out two inches) and my son his batman one (though it’s almost a crop top with shorts now).

For the Hubby, I’ve already made a pair of ‘Ren Fest’ wearable pants (not authentic, having an elastic waist, but much more passable than jeans).  

I’ve started on my son’s costume, which is coming out nicely and I only have the hood and pants to finish his look. Then for my daughter we found we already had a dress in the pattern she wanted in their Costume Closet. Now They’ll be definitely set for Girl Scouts Trunk or Treating on The 19th.

As for me, I’m pulling out a fancy cape I made (just need to hem it) and a Princess dress my mom made. It’s not like I have a Costume Closet of my own to go through *wink*

What about you? What goes through your mind when you see adults dressed up, outside of some sort of fair or conference? Do you dress up? (And do you secretly wish you could do it more of the time like I do?)

:} Cathryn