Enchanted Spark
Melinda Moore
Speculative Fiction Writer
Spark Tally Friday!

"Blah," as the famous Toad from Frog and Toad would say. That pretty much sums up my writing week. It started out good. I spent a lot of time revising one of my fast writing stories. 9000 words into it, I decided to make the evil character good with an evil past. So, much needed to be changed. I'm feeling like a hypocrite. Both stories I'm working on have beings of dubious character for the love interest. Several times this week it seemed something came up on the television where I had to pause it to tell my girls "You never date a fixer upper." When they are old enough to read these stories and if they have the interest, I'm sure I will get an earful. However, I'm ready with my defense: What makes for interesting storytelling is not always the same as what makes for a great real life.

Anyway, I got a bit off topic. While I was revising, my son got sick. Though I enjoyed playing hooky with him by playing the legendary video game Plok, perhaps I should've Lysoled the game controller we were passing between us because now I'm sick. The final result is much like the deficit in the Super Bowl game: 1500 words out of the 10000 word goal.

I hope all of you did better than me! I'll repost this over at the regular blog if and when they get it fixed.


I've been blogging for a half year! In an effort to make sharing, tagging and monitoring easier, I'm changing over to a full Wordpress blog. Everything else on the site will keep the same address, but the new blog is here. Please join me!

Writing Recharge

Since the holidays I have been floundering in my writing. I'm not talking about the steady stream of rejections, though that hasn't helped. I'm talking about my inability to focus. I sit down, check email, check blog, check Duotrope, check Facebook, surf the net and then start my checking all over again. It seems like I do this several times before I start writing. When I'm finally tuned into my story, I get stuck and start the web checking all over again. This is a very low production schedule, and I don't recommend it to anyone.

Finally this month I was able to sit down and concentrate enough to complete a short story. The experience was so difficult and the story became so personal that I feel like I bled all over the keyboard. This is the story I wrote in second person and switched to first person. I didn't even want to send it anywhere when I was done and exhausted.

This is not normal for me.

Luckily, my sister invited my family to Durango for the long weekend. We played card games, built card houses, did jigsaw puzzles, went sledding and drank hot chocolate and Kahlua for two days. I didn't even think about story plots and character building until the drive back. It was the perfect mellow weekend I needed to get back in the groove.



Obviously, we can't always take a weekend getaway when we need a recharge. Sometimes a day off writing and a walk around the block will do the trick for me. How do you recharge? Please post your tips!

P.S. Another great recharge was receiving a new bundle of pictures for the contest when I got home. No dragons, but there was a gargoyle!





Spark Tally Friday!

This week my word count is 2800ish. I received my first rejection on the story I wrote about last week, and they were kind enough to tell me that the second person perspective made the story distant and the characters flat. I spent this week rewriting it in first person. The first story had a word count of 3000 and the new story has a word count of 3800. So since I did some cut and paste, I'm not giving myself the whole total. But there was a lot of original writing for it this week, and the story is a bit different.

How did your writing go? Please post your totals!

Unnoticed Inspiration

Happy Chinese New Year!

Friday I wrote that I had finished a story that had been sorting itself out in my mind for the past year. I didn't know why it finally came to fruition---I was just glad it had. Then I sent a picture to Julie of my smallest child wearing her paper bag dragon head that she had painted in class. Julie's response was a joke comparing my daughter to the dragons in the story I had just finished.


I realized that I had had dragons on the brain for the past month. I teach music to both my daughters' classes, and we had been drawing and painting the paper bag dragons and singing dragon songs. Additionally, I had been dropping my son and middle daughter off for extra Kung Fu practice since December for the Chinese New Year performance and often saw the lion dance and the dragon rehearsing. It's no wonder that my dragon story finally came together at this time of year.

Dragons are by far my favorite magical creature. Unfortunately for me the vampire has been dominating literature, TV and movies for the past two decades or so. It is an enigma. Vampires are dead and drink blood---grotesque. Dragons, on the other hand, represent power and life. They have more of a mystique across cultures that lends itself to a variety of stories. The character with the most presence in the new film adaptation of The Hobbit is Smaug, even though we have only seen his eye. Is it wrong that a part of me hopes the story gets rewritten and he wins, or at least remains alive and flies away to another cave?

But even though vampires rule the box office, dragons are pervasive in our everyday lives. I have never seen a vampire tattoo, but I've seen hundreds of dragon tattoos. Dragons get made into jewelry, decals for cars, stuffed animals, glass blown statues and many many more ways. Maybe we have grown so accustomed to them, we don't think of them as inspirational anymore. Take a second look at what's going on in your life. Maybe it's inspiring a story in you right now that you didn't realize, or maybe when you take a second look, a spark will be lit.

To help inspire more dragon stories from people and to celebrate the dragon season and the completion of my story, I'll leave you with some dragon pictures:


One of our glass blown dragons.



One of my favorite renaissance fair purchases.



My favorite dragon created by my husband for his D&D campaign. He's a gold dragon named Algalarond. The artwork was created by Kevin Yancey. His Deviant Art page is here. I highly recommend hiring him for your art needs. He is easy to work with and as you can see the results are fantastic.

Spark Tally Friday!

I'm pleased to report that I made it to 3200 words this week. A short story that has been assembling itself in my brain for a year finally came together. Damon Knight in his book Creating Short Fiction (which you should read if you haven't) talks about letting the subconscious mind work on your stories if they're not ready to write, which is exactly what happened with this one. Unfortunately, it's in the dreaded second person POV. It seems that every editor says they don't like second person, but still publish stories in it. I'll let it wrack up a few rejections and then consider changing it to a different POV. I think I like the rhythm of it in second person. Maybe the rhythm could be achieved in first person too. I'll let you know what happens to it :)

Please post your tallies! Jump right in and join us if you haven't yet! Last week I gave away Starbucks...it could happen to you :)

AEIOU Stats for month 11

Before I post the stats for month 11---Megen's story is up! Check it out in the Photo Flare Past Winners area. It's her first publication.

Almost to my goal!
10 submissions made
12 responses received (4 responses were for the same story...ouch)
12 rejections and 0 acceptances
4 personal rejections
1 story published!
Response counter is at 96.
Longest wait is 182 days and counting.
Shortest wait is a day.
0 new stories written, though I've finally started 2.

General feelings: Having a story published this month was great. I met new people on line because of it and it's one of my favorites. But the rejections were hard to take this month. Maybe it was getting four in one weekend, maybe it was one of the stories getting four rejections in one month. Maybe I was just cranky. The twelfth month of this experiment is looking good. I should reach my goal of 100 responses soon and I have started two stories. I'd like to eek out one more acceptance before I hit 100 so my fingers are always crossed, which makes typing hard :) My last month will have more details as I sum up this year long experiment.

February Photo Flare Pictures

Here are the pictures for February's contest. Congratulations to Megen Winkler who won the January contest! Her story should be posted this week.  Please spread the word to your writer friends about the contest. I'm looking forward to reading this month's submissions.

Spark Tally Friday!

Word count this week is 1200. And I sent in two stories. Hopefully I will send in two more tonight. Thanks to Shari for joining me again! She has received the first random $5 gift card to Starbucks! I hope more people join us this week.

A couple of links for your reading pleasure. The first one is via Stupefying Stories about surviving the slush pile. If you've liked us on Facebook, you will see a conversation Holly Jennings started about it...thanks Holly! http://stupefyingstories.blogspot.com/2013/02/the-slush-pile-survival-guide.html

The second link is an article about pinball. Pinball is a great way to blow off steam when you are blue from rejections. It's almost as good as gambling ;) Julie's husband is interviewed in the article...hooray! Pinball

Mama's going to the Casino Stuffed Bell Peppers

There's a movie called Waitress starring Kerri Russell and Nathan Fillion. Kerri Russell's character makes pies and always has a long outrageous name for each pie. It's a wonderful movie and should be watched by everyone. Anyway, I received four rejections this weekend. I'm depressed. Normally, I would spend the day writing a new story because that's usually the best way to get over it. But today, I say screw it. I'm going to the casino. If I was a mom with a gambling problem, I imagine I would always make dinner ahead of time and put it in the fridge for the kids to bake later. So here's my recipe for Monday: Mama's going to the Casino Stuffed Bell Peppers.

1 ½ cups uncooked instant rice

1 small onion diced

16 oz. hot sausage

5 green bell peppers

2 tomatoes diced

1 cup corn (I use frozen)

½ cup shredded cheddar cheese

Cook the instant rice according to directions. Cook the onion along with the sausage, crumbling the sausage like you would ground beef. Drain off the grease and set aside. Cut in half the bell peppers, removing the stems, seeds and membranes. Fill two baking pans a quarter of an inch with water and place the bell peppers in open side up. In large bowl, stir together rice, cooked sausage and onion, tomatoes and corn. Fill each bell pepper half with mixture. Sprinkle cheese on top of each bell pepper. Place in 375 degree F oven and bake for half an hour. If you make this ahead of time and refrigerate it, I would cover it with foil for the first twenty minutes and remove the foil for the remaining time.

Spark Tally Friday!

If I had done this to show off glorious word counts, I couldn't have picked a worse time to begin. Fortunately, I started this to have an outside motivator for me and other writers. Again, my word count is low. Today was the first day in two weeks that all of my children went to school and the first day since Tuesday that I haven't spent plastered to the couch. But I made more of an effort to write than I normally would with a week like this so that I could post something. I'm glad I did.

The total word count for me this week is 1000. Thanks to Tina and Shari for posting their word counts last week and congratulations for having so many. Please post again, and I hope more readers join us.

One more day to get your stories in for Photo Flare!

Spark for "Tritess"

Sometimes a story is inspired by another story. “Tritess” came about because I saw a call for a publication that wanted sword and sorcery stories about women---much like the publication it was accepted for. In one of the novels I've completed several drafts for, I have a strong female secondary character who is a sorceress named Farrah. In the novel, she's in her late thirties and has been ruling her province for some time. I wanted to write more of a backstory for her and thought the open call would be a great place to submit it.

I think the real reason I wanted to work more with her character is because I love the setting: a tree that has grown into the brick and mortar of a mage tower. The top of the tree sprouts out of the tower and can blanket the ground below with leaves in the fall. I can't be certain where I got the idea for the tree tower, but I like to think it was inspired from the trip I took to the redwood forest when I was little. Walking among giants is awe inspiring at any age, but especially when you aren't fully grown. I didn't want the tree in the story to be an evergreen tree, however. The foliage of deciduous trees seemed to offer more as far as beauty and creativity in a story went, so I made the tree an oak.

The story did not get accepted at the place I originally wrote it for, and I continued to submit it. One place I sent it to was kind enough to tell me that it didn't pull them emotionally. I did another read through and decided that it did feel like I was pulling my punches. I rewrote it and added the romance as well as changing the second test completely. I guess that did the trick because the editor of Lorelei Signal was kind enough to accept the current version.

“Tritess” is not the first story I have changed to find it quickly accepted somewhere else. The first versions of “Brownie Bites” were written from the point of view of the Brownie. I thought that made it fresh and original as well as funny. Few people liked it and I had put it in the retirement pile. Then one of the months I didn't have enough submissions to make my goal of ten for the month, I pulled it out and decided people really wanted to root for the woman and it should be from her point of view. It got good comments from the first two places I sent it after that and got accepted on the third.

So take time to look over your old stories. The original spark often needs a lot of tending before it becomes a warm fire for people to gather around.



Spark Tally Friday!

Welcome to the first week of Spark Tally Friday. I apparently still live my life as if I was in college because I am just now coming out of my holiday vacation time, which means I have a low word count this week. But it can only go up from here. The point of Spark Tally Friday is for everyone who is a writer and stops by my blog to have a place to be held accountable. Writers have to be very self motivated at the beginning of our careers. We have no boss saying she needs something due by such and such a time. It's easy to procrastinate. But if you have a group of people you set goals with and they say, “Hey, I thought you wanted to have your novel done by now,” it can really help.

I'm going to post my goals for the year here followed by my word count for the week. After today, I will just post my word count and if I finished a story. Feel free to post your goals or skip it and just post your word count in the comments section. If you haven't written this week, start tomorrow and come back next week and post your word count. I'll be here all year doing this, so jump in anytime! I also love to give spontaneous prizes like Oprah, though they will be on a much smaller scale. You never know when you will get a Starbucks gift card for a job well done or a Suckbucks card to encourage you on to more words! I hope to hear from you soon!

Melinda's writing goals for 2013:

Make 15 story submissions per month.

Write 1 flash fiction story each week.

Write one short story per month.

Complete a first draft of a novella or novel every two months.

One story each month should be Science Fiction.

Word count for the week: 1300

Tritess is published!

I'm thrilled to announce that My story "Tritess" is published today at Lorelei Signal. It even has wonderful artwork by Marge Simon. Please check it out!

Also, my statement on compression is posted at matterpress.com. They run a neat flash fiction ezine, and while they didn't accept my story I sent them, they wanted to post part of my cover letter.

Come back tomorrow for a new event on the site!

Inspiration for Brownie Bites


I have a story appearing in Lorelei Signals this week. Please check back for the link or like Enchanted Spark on Facebook because I will post the link there too.

My uncle Dr. Nasario Garcia is doing a book signing in Albuquerque at the Barnes and Nobles at Coronado Mall Tuesday, January 15 from 4-6pm. Please check it out if you are in the area!

On Thursday, January 17, my thoughts on compression will be posted on Matter Press Blog. Check it out!

Please come back to the site on Friday, January 18 and post your word count for the week! I imagine lots of people will beat my word count this week!

Inspiration for Brownie Bites:


When my third child was about seven months old, I discovered cooking contesting in the form of the Pillsbury Bake-Off: one million dollars for a recipe. I spent a month researching, baking, creating all sorts of things and ended up sending twenty-three or twenty-four recipes in. Much like short story submitting, you have to wait a long time for a response. While waiting, I entered several other contests and found a community called CCC where many people post about contest cooking. In the fall, I was notified that one of my recipes had been chosen as one of the hundred to be cooked in the Bake-Off. I had made it to “The Big Dance.”

After it was all over, I wrote an account of the Bake-Off for CCC as many people do. I thought I would put excerpts here since I think the original write up was longer than Brownie Bites.

Orientation: Fairmont in Dallas, Texas

During orientation, we met a slew of General Mills people.  We met the runners on the floor, the ref type people, the organizers, the publicity people, and the lawyer.  We also met the people who knew our recipes inside out.  They assured us they would be in the judges room making sure our recipes were treated as if it would be the next million dollar winner and tested at the correct temperature.  This was a big relief to me.  We also learned the runners were allowed to carry our tray to the judges for us, but if they dropped it, we were responsible.  They could also get stuff for us from the fridge, but if an egg broke or something it wasn't going to be replaced.  So I decided I would do everything myself.

There were several questions about what we were allowed to bring onto the floor which was absolutely nothing. All possessions would be kept at the hospitality area.  And we found out we were not allowed to communicate in anyway to the guests in the viewing area.  Finally this poor woman raised her hand and said, “I have a three week old baby who I have to communicate with every two to three hours.  Will that be allowed?”  The General Mills people said there would be a nursing room available.  The woman asked, “Will my baby be at the Hospitality Table?”

The Bake-Off

Dark and early the wake-up call came at 5:30 am.  I think I had just been asleep for thirty minutes without my baby  on top of me. But I was pumped and got up and showered and put on my new shirt/sweater that made me feel like a million dollars. After breakfast, it was time to line up. They made us stand there for like 30 minutes which I think took it's toll later on.  Finally we got to “march” in.  We had to wave our arms and clap our hands and whoop it up big.  I saw my husband and quickly looked away after I smiled!  I was a little unclear about the marching.  Some people broke off right away and went to their ranges.  I thought we were supposed to go all the way to the end and go back which is what I did.  I might have done it wrong, but it was not a big deal.  Then we had to stand there clapping for five minutes, I swear!  It was crazy.  I kept thinking they were winding down the music, but then it kept going.  When the music finally stopped, the announcer guy came on and said it was now 8 o'clock and we had until one to get our dish to the judges.

So this was it.  We were promised no reporters on the floor for twenty minutes.  David kept asserting that I could have mine almost done, but I didn't want to rush.  First, I went through all of my equipment.  I made sure everything was there that I needed.  I had to send back a ¼ measuring cup and a fork that were dirty.  My runner actually had a job to do which I think was exciting for him :)  I started smelling garlic and onions right away and somebody behind me was pounding on their chicken already.  I guess they had sent their runners to the fridge right when they got there.
I got everything out and headed to the fridge for my cold food.  My runner was a little disappointed I think, but I just needed to do it myself.  I only had one knife and since I had to use it for the dough and the butter, I went ahead and cut all my butter and put the butter back that I didn't need for the first time.  Then it was time to start my recipe and I realized that all the reporters were on the field.  Pillsbury had there own reporters there and we actually had a checklist that we had to have officials sign when events occurred.  A camera crew showed up to mine right away, and I am still unsure where they were from.  I think they were food Network and that food Network came to my oven a few times.  I gave goofy answers that I don't remember now.  They shot me mixing the yogurt and egg together I think.  Then they left.  Pillsbury picture people showed up next and took a few pictures of me and then me cooking.  The food network people descended on the person next to me and stayed and stayed.

Then the moment of truth arrived.  I had to open my rolls.  If I was catholic, I think I would've crossed myself. My rolls prior to now had been mutilated every time I made my recipe.  So I opened them and they were the most beautiful rolls I had seen in a long time.  Texas must get better batches than New Mexico!  I took them out and unrolled them and “Oh NO!”  They were short and fat rolls and I was used to long skinny rolls.  I tried not to be flustered.  I dipped and twisted and watched them kinda unroll in the baking dish.  I fidgeted with them and arranged them and finally put them in the oven.

I started on my syrup and someone came by to interview me.  Fortunately I had not turned on the burner yet, so it was fine. I really don't remember what I talked about.  I was focused on my recipe.  So I made my syrup and I checked my rolls and they looked terrible.  It looked like they needed a couple of more minutes which surprised me.  So I left them in and when I pulled them out, I was really unhappy with the results.  I practiced putting the syrup on how I wanted, but I didn't take them out of the baking dish.  I set them on the stove and placed my “Do not Eat” sign on it and took my first bathroom break. I needed an escort and I was not allowed to talk to anyone while I was out of the room. I didn't see my husband and learned later he went to check on the kids and when he got back someone told him she thought I had taken mine to the judges.  Fortunately, that was not the case!

When I got back to my stove I had to gather my wits.  I decided that the fatter rolls needed to be twisted more times.  I went to the fridge and got all my stuff again.  I started doing my thing and the rolls were a little longer this time, but not much.  I got them in just as the food network showed up to tape next door again.  Good thing too because I hit my contest low here.  She was telling why she would win the million dollar recipe again and by this time I was sold.  It was like her voice came in and squeezed the life out of my self confidence.  The camera people were also in my way, which was okay because I was not at a critical point, but still slightly annoying.  I felt like this anime character who is always saying to herself “Get it together.  Get it Together.”  I did manage to talk myself back into my winning mood and got started on my syrup.  When they were done filming Audrey, they filmed me some more and that made me feel good.  When I pulled the rolls out or the oven, I was really excited because they were just about perfect.  The extra twist had really paid off (btw my recipe calls to twist 2-3 times and I had twisted the first ones twice, so I wasn't cheating with the twisting here!).  I decided these were the ones going to the judges.  I cut them and drizzled them and then had to make my decision on how many to plate.  I turned around and asked a ref person to be sure that I didn't have to send the whole thing in.  I decided to go with twelve because there was a squashed one and one a bit too brown.  I trimmed any crusty parts off and lined them all up.  I got nervous because I could tell one of the refs was watching this whole process.  I actually turned and asked her if I had done everything right meaning to the rules.  She looked surprised and said something like yes.  So I headed down.  The runner had to clear the way for me.  He was not nearly as loud as some of the others.  My husband got a picture of me I think.  I signed off on it and hoped for the best. I was done!!

The Awards
So we were all sitting and waiting to hear the prizes.  Sandra Lee did a great job.  I knew I was going to cry if I won or lost.  It wouldn't be such a big deal if I won because they would be seen as tears of joy.  But when my name was not called I had to fight those tears back.  I did not want to be seen as a sore loser because it was not that at all.  It was just the let down after all these months.  I was truly happy for the Marscapone Roll lady.  I had met her and she was very sweet and truly thrilled.  I knew when I tasted her rolls that she would be trouble!   General Mills served us Champagne and we said goodbyes to people we had met.
So it was over.  I finally had a good cry in my room and got it all out.  There was just no avoiding it.  It was only 9 in the morning, so Dad took the kids down for breakfast while my husband and I did some packing.  I ended up going down too, and it is a good thing I did because then the most thrilling thing happened.  The hostess greeted me and asked how I was doing.  I said, “Well, I didn't win a million dollars, but otherwise I am good.”  This woman at a table next to my dad asked which recipe had been mine.  I told her and she kind of nodded like she was trying to remember it.  I didn't think anything of it.  My son asked me all sorts of questions like if I would enter again.  I said yes but I didn't know if it would be the next time or if I would wait.  Then the woman got up to leave and said, “I was a judge.  You did a good job.  You should keep entering.”  How cool is that?!?!  No one ever gets feed back from a judge at these things.  And she could've kept quiet and I never would've known she was a judge.

The link to my PBO recipe is under Sites That Spark: Orange Almond Breakfast Bake. Let me know if you try it out.

January Photo Flare Pictures

Please read the Photo Flare Guidelines and get your stories in by January, 26. $30 prize this month!

Photos for the January Contest:




AEIOU Stats for month 10

Good morning! If you take a look around the site, you'll notice there are some changes to the Schedule and Publications page which used to be the news and events page. I have also updated our Photo Flare Guidelines. And finally, we have a page on Facebook! Please like us there!

I couldn't post my AEIOU stats yesterday because my site was down along with several others hosted by the same company. It looks like everything is back to normal. I'll post the stats now and then the pictures for this month's contest. Stay tuned!

Statistics for AEIOU and Sometimes Why? A Writer's Journey to Publishing Month 10

Stories submitted:10

Responses received: 5

Rejections: 5

Personal rejections: 2

My novella query came back with a “Please send the rest of the manuscript” email!

1 story published!

Response counter is at 84.

Longest wait is 151 days and counting.

Shortest wait was one day.

0 new stories written.

General Feelings: I said I wouldn't do any submitting in December and then I submitted 10 pieces. Even though I didn't get very many responses this month, I apparently couldn't stand to let the pile get higher than three before I started submitting again. After New Years, I realized I didn't need many more to get to 100 submissions, so I decided to take a few pieces out of retirement and submit them. I made it to 100 submissions! But I had to withdraw 2 stories because the markets were unresponsive, so I need to make two more submissions to get 100 responses. I'm going to continue after that, but that's for another post. I'm really excited about the coming year. I have several pieces out beyond the normal response time. I was hoping a few would get unstuck before I posted this, but they are still languishing in a pile of ones and zeros in somebody's inbox. Only 16 left to get to 100!

First Published Story in the New Year!

Happy New Year! It's already starting out great for me. I won $15 at bunco last night which pays for half a Photo Flare Story. That's right...the prize next month is $30 for the winner of the contest! I'll be posting pictures on Monday, January 7 and I can't wait to get the submissions!

Also, my first published story of the new year went live this morning! Please check it out at http://www.allegoryezine.com/browniebites.htm. I'll be blogging about the inspiration for it on Monday, January 14. Have a super day!

Contest Winner Posted!

Congratulations to Kathryn Woronko! Her story Winter Wine is the winner of our first contest! Please read it here!

Inspiration from Bad Events

I've had several ideas for my end of the year blog, but what keeps coming up the most is something a high school English teacher said to my class. I can't remember what book we were discussing---my guess is The Grapes of Wrath or The Jungle, but it doesn't really matter. She went on a tangent and said, “If you're lucky, you have four high points in your life: high school graduation, college graduation, marriage and kids.” Even at the young age of sixteen or seventeen, I thought that was about the crappiest thing she could say to a bunch of high school kids. Talk about missing the journey for the destination.

Looking back on the year, I've had far more high points than the four she espouses. While I think I'm a lucky person, I also like to think that more people in the world are experiencing high points beyond the social rites of passage. And what if you opt out of some or all of them? According to her you're screwed, but I know people who have great lives and are missing some of her proclaimed high points.

However, I think from her speech I've found inspiration to strive for more. To me they're often found in moments I share with people, the moments that the universe seems to align in perfection. I call it quintessence. There are other times that are great without quintessence like getting a story acceptance or a spot in the Bake-Off or, on a smaller scale, times when I laugh my head off.

Life is good, especially if you can appreciate smaller moments on the way to a bigger goal. I really really want to get a novel published, but more than that, I love the writing of it. I even like when I have to toss out ideas because I know better ones are coming.

So maybe it's a good thing my teacher painted such a grim picture because I've spent my life appreciating many moments and feeling sorry that she couldn't see them in her own. I hope you appreciate the smaller moments in your life and can enjoy the journey on whatever goals you make for yourselves.

Remember to come back and look for the winner of my first contest!


Thanks for the submissions to the contest! We will be reading them and notifying everyone before the New Year. Watch the site to see who wins!

Last Day to Enter this Month's Contest!

Please get your stories in today for a two month subscription to Duotrope! The pictures are here.

Merry Christmas!

I was not a coffee drinker until I started writing regularly. I had to do a lot of writing away from home at night because children can be a bit distracting. Even now that they are all in school, I still find my best writing getting done at coffee shops. I'm a sucker for the ambience and the lack of housework staring at me. But it is far more economical to stay at home. So my Christmas post is an easy mocha recipe.

1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon cocoa
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon instant espresso

Place all ingredients in a small pot. Cook and stir over medium heat until bubbles form on the edge. Pour into a mug and enjoy. If you are done for the day, add a shot of Irish Cream :)

It's a College Holiday

After finals in college, which for musicians includes several performances on top of the standard tests and papers, I used to spend a day with a migraine followed by a day of spewing my guts out. When that was over, I spent the rest of the break enraptured with books and video games---the sparks that always made me want to write my own stories.

Last week when I got sick after a particularly hectic month, I told my husband it was just like being in college again. I'm not sure if he consciously took that to heart or subconsciously because for my birthday, I received books and a video game!


Daphne Du Maurier was one of the first authors who made me want to write. Recently, I realized The Loving Spirit, which I read during a summer college break, had parts that have inspired some of the plot lines in my Silver Magic stories. I've wanted to go back and reread it, but I thought it was out of print. My husband found a new edition for it along with some short stories by her that the kids gave me.

He also got me part of the Zelda game series. My oldest daughter said, “Mom doesn't play video games,” and he said, “Oh, yes she does.” I had to laugh. I quit playing video games in favor of writing, but since I'm taking the month off of writing.... Now I just have to get all the Christmas shopping done and I can indulge. I'm looking forward to fresh ideas and invigoration in January when I start to write again. I hope everyone gets some time off this season to revitalize themselves and start the new year off with a roaring fire.

P.S. I received the first submission to the Photo Flare contest! I hope to get more this week. The pictures for this month are here.

Christmas Inspiration

Happy Tuesday! Sorry about the late post, but I had to take a sick day yesterday. I'm feeling considerably luckier than my friend who was out three days with the same thing. Anyways, onward.

The seasons and holidays are inspiring to many people. In the fall, I often want to write a different type of story than I do in the summer...at least I did until I got into the regular habit of writing. When writing was an on and off hobby, lots of things swayed my mood and plots. When I was a child, I used to make up stories in my head about the ornaments in the tree under the glistening icicles. I know my children love Christmas trees too, but this year, they have something even more inspiring to look at.

When my siblings and I moved out of my parents house, my parents began collecting buildings from Department 56. My dad designed a way to set them up on the pool table with trains running beneath. He hasn't set any of it up for about four years now, but my son talked him into it this year. They spent about three weekends putting it together, and I wanted to share the results with you in the hopes that it would inspire the holiday spirit:

Statistics for AEIOU and Sometimes Why? A Writer's Journey to Publishing Month 8

Before I post statistics, I got another acceptance! Two in one week! It's my first science fiction story to be published, and it's for an anthology about the planets discovered by the Kepler telescope. I'll let you know more when I find out.

10 stories submitted

10 responses received

2 acceptances!!

8 rejections (3 of them were personal)

1 story made it to the shortlist, and I have my fingers crossed!

Response counter is at 78

Longest wait is 120 days and counting. The story has recently changed status from “received” to “in progress” so maybe I will be hearing soon!

Shortest wait: 1 day

1 new story written ( and it was already accepted!)

General feelings: I was blue at the beginning of month 8. I finally started submitting the novella I had been working on since July, and it racked up 3 rejections this month. Ouch. I mean, this is a long piece and it's being rejected faster than my flash fiction pieces. I'm guessing editors are reading maybe the first page before clicking no. But the month has ended with a bang with two acceptances in this last week! With my renewed confidence, I changed up the novella and sent it to a new market just before posting this. Now envision me dressed as a black jack dealer, clapping my hands together and then showing them palms up. I'm out of the submissions game until the beginning of January. My schedule has kept me on track for 100 responses by March, and I am ready to enjoy the frantic holidays. I'll still be posting on my blog and reading submissions for my new contest, but that's the extent of writing in December. Thanks for all the support!

Photo Flare Contest!

Today is a photo blog day, but before I post the pictures, I have some announcements. Firstly, an acceptance arrived on Sunday! My story “Brownie Bites” will appear in the January issue of Allegory. It's my first humorous story to get published, and it was inspired by my trip to the Pillsbury Bake-Off.

Also over the weekend my favorite short-story-author-tool-site Duotrope announced they'll be running on paid subscriptions now instead of donations like they have been for seven years. Unfortunately, donating wasn't working out for them. Fortunately, the subscription price is low at only $5 a month or $50 if you subscribe for the whole year. There are three reasons why $5 a month is worth it:

  1. Editor Interviews. Not all markets, but enough, fill out interviews expanding on how they run their publications and what they're looking for. The extra insight is really beneficial to submitting stories to the right market.

  2. Submission Tracking. Sure, I could make a spread sheet myself but I don't want to spend that time. On Duotrope, authors can not only track where their stories are, but where they've been, how many times they've been submitted and rejected, how long it took for each rejection and many more ways.

  3. Responses from Publishers. My favorite aspect of Duotrope and the one that I'm addicted to is logging in to see which of the publications I've sent to have sent out responses that day. It's especially exciting when my story is near the average response time. I liken it to a cooking site I'm a member of. When one person hears back from a popular contest, everyone is sitting close to their phones and posting updates. Duotrope doesn't have a forum, so it lacks the personal interaction, but it makes my day exciting to watch the report updates on a market. I can dream that because I haven't heard yet, they must be seriously considering my story ;)

To show my support for Duotrope.com, I'm going to start a contest I had planned on starting next year. This month the prize will be a two month subscription to Duotrope. I'll award it to three people. The following months, there will be one prize of $30. So without further ado, I give you:

Photo Flare Contest!

Each first Monday of the month, I'll post three pictures taken by Julie. Write a story in 3000 words or less using ALL three pictures in a meaningful way. Send it in by the 26th of each month. On the last day of the month, the winning story will be posted and the prize money sent. Full guidelines are listed here. Please read them carefully and good luck! The photo's for December's contest are:




Post Delayed till this afternoon MST

Good Morning! I usually try to have my post up by now, but it will be a big announcement today. I'm trying to get everything just so before the posting. If you've come by to check for the weekly blog, thank you! And please come back later in the afternoon!

Fuel For the Fire: Corn Chowder

This will cheer you up after a long cold day of rejections:

Creamy Corn Soup in Garlic Bread Bowls

1 Pillsbury® Grands!® Homestyle Butter Tastin'® Refrigerated Biscuits 16.3 oz (8 ct)

1 egg white

5 butter (divided)

½ cup chopped yellow onion

¼ teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon paprika

2 cans Progresso® Rich & Hearty Chicken Corn Chowder Soup 18.5 oz

½ cup whipping cream

¾ teaspoon garlic powder

½ cup sour cream

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 green onions, tops only, chopped

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. On cookie sheets, place 8 (6 oz) ramekins or custard bowls bottoms up. Spray outside of ramekins with nonstick cooking spray. Roll out each Pillsbury® Grands!® Homestyle Butter Tastin'® Refrigerated Biscuit with a rolling pin until it has a 5 inch diameter. Place rolled biscuit over ramekin, pressing down gently. Beat egg white slightly and use pastry brush to brush egg white over biscuits. Place cookie sheets with ramekins and biscuits in oven for 10-13 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow to cool five minutes before removing biscuit from ramekin.

In the meantime, Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a small frying pan over medium heat. Add onions, turmeric, and paprika and cook 5 minutes over medium heat or until onions are softened, stirring frequently. Pour onion mixture into blender. Add 2 cans Progresso® Rich & Hearty Chicken Corn Chowder Soup and whipping cream. Cover blender and Blend for one minute, or until smooth. Pour into medium pot and cook over medium heat for 15-20 minutes or just before boiling, stirring occasionally. Melt remaining butter in a small microwaveable bowl in the microwave. Remove bread bowls from ramekins and brush insides with butter. Sprinkle evenly with garlic powder. In small bowl, stir together sour cream and vanilla extract. Place bread bowls on serving plates and pour soup inside. Top with a dollop of vanilla cream and sprinkle with green onions.




Short Story Sparks

Last week I talked about nanowrimo inspiring novel writers around the world. But maybe you don't want to take on the enormous task of a full novel. So this week I'll talk about places that help spark shorter stories.

Sometimes you want to write but simply have no idea what, who or where you want to write about. Even people, or maybe especially people, who write all the time hit a void in their brain that has nothing to say. There are lots of blogs out there about how to overcome writer's block such as writing a daily journal and culling it for ideas or listening to people talking around you for snippets to get your story going---many numerous and wonderful ideas. But the places I'm going to list will pay you if they like the story their little fire starters have lit.

For flash fiction publishers with themes, I have two: The Whidbey Student Choice Award and Kazka Press. I'll start with Whidbey because they were kind enough to select one of my pieces :)

Each month The Whidbey Student Choice Award opens their mailbox for writers of any genre to submit stories based on a theme. For the month of November, the theme is Taking Risks. The judges for each month read through stories until they get to one that “knocks their socks off”, and then they close the email box and post the story. Contests like this are fun: not only do I get a story starter, but also there's a time constraint to get my story in before someone else blows away the judges. And I don't have to wait for a rejection email. I can just wait and see whose story gets posted. The prize is $50, which makes them a professional paying site.

Kazka Press holds a similar contest for science fiction, fantasy and horror writers, though they accept stories all month and actually send out rejection and acceptance letters. The press is run by an editor whose blog I enjoy reading because he's also a determined writer and posts his rejection letters. His blog is at http://llambertlawson.com/. But back to the contest. Kazka Press has the theme for the next five months listed, so if you don't like this month's theme, you can start working on a story for one of the other months. Just be sure to send it during the correct month! They pay $10 for each story, which makes them a semi-pro market.

If you think you need more than 1000 words to write your story, I have three publishers for you. The first is Crossed Genres, a market for speculative fiction writers. They have the themes for the next ten months listed on their site: November is Myth. They pay professional rates of 5 cents a word. Again, you have to submit in the correct month, and they send out rejection and acceptance letters after the close of the submission period.

Penumbra is another professional market for speculative writers. They have the next 12 themes listed on their site!

And finally, if you write general fiction, Thema has the next three themes listed. They're a semi-pro paying market at $25 for short stories and $10 for flash.

I hope you find a place that lights a story in you or a new place to read!

National Novel Writing Month or Nanowrimo

This week I'm going to talk about something that I've never done but has been an inspiration to thousands of writers around the world. November is National Novel Writing Month which is shortened to nanowrimo. The program is to write a 50K word novel starting on November 1 and ending on November 30. You're not supposed to worry about editing or rewriting or anything that would stop the word count. Last year there were 256,618 participants and 36,843 of them made it to 50K.

I've never participated in nanowrimo because by the time I heard about it,I had already finished the first draft of my first novel and was well into my second novel. I can't write straight through without editing either. My ideal way to write is to get a huge chunk written, think it over and go back and change all the details I realize are wrong. This often results in everything I've just written being deleted. I love it when I write a scene in my head and can delete it before I've typed it out, but that just doesn't happen often enough. But for people who have never sat down and tried to make it from the beginning to the end of a very long story, I think nanowrimo is a good impetus. Success in anything is about making goals and a plan to follow through with them, and the nanowrimo site has everything set up for you on how to make the word count goals.

Nanowrimo has become so big that there was an article on the Time website about it this month. Of course, it had to have a dramatic title: NaNoWriMo: Is National Novel Writing Month a Literary Threat or Menace? It made me sigh. And then I had to read it. Although the author of the article eventually ended with nanowrimo being a good thing, he quoted some people in his article who were against the endeavor. One particular quotation from Laura Miller I want to address because, although she is being derisive, I think it's important. “Why does giving yourself permission to write a lot of crap so often seem to segue into the insistence that other people read it?”

I have two answers for the question. The first answer is very simple. Anyone who reads or has ever been forced to read in conditions like school has thought to themselves at one point, “This got published? I can write better than this.” The second answer is simple as well: humans want to share their achievements. I have friends who embroider, sew quilts, stamp cards, create scrapbooks and on and on. They love to show what they've done and I love to admire it. And why not? They've worked hard at something they enjoy doing. Spending a month of writing close to two thousand words a day is hard work. If you write a story from beginning to end at any rate of word count, it's hard. And often the stories are very meaningful to the author. So of course we want to share it with our close friends and family and maybe, just maybe a publisher would think it was brilliant too. And why not? I've read xxxx and I know I can write better than that. The big difference is it takes about five minutes to admire the beautiful quilt my friend has spent all of her free time for the past year on. Reading your best friend's book requires a much larger time commitment. I'm very grateful when someone reads my stories. I'm also hesitant to ask because I know the time commitment is huge. But of course I want to show off my work. It's part of being human.

So if you have always wanted to write a book, join nanowrimo. Or if you think it's too late in the month for the official site, send me your word count every week. I'll even type up a certificate for you when you get to 50K...melinda@enchantedspark.com. :)

Statistics for AEIOU and Sometimes Why? A Writer's Journey to Publishing Month 7

10 stories submitted

9 responses received

1 acceptance!!!

8 rejections: only one was personal this month.

Response counter is at 68.

Longest time waiting was 155 days.

Shortest wait was a few hours.

1 new story written this month.

General Feelings: I got an acceptance which always makes the month good. I spent the second half of the month writing another novella. I was so wrapped up in that project that I wasn't as much on edge for responses about other stories. The novella I wrote this month is set in a world that I have been developing for over a decade now. It was a joy to write in it again after a long hiatus, and I plan on devoting more writing time to stories in that world this month.

Novemebr Photo Blog

Happy November! I think today's photo blog could be strung together in a nifty story. Let me know if it inspires one!



Four Reasons why Blackjack is Better than Short Story Submitting.

The novella I finished this month is set in a fictional version of a pueblo with a casino near where I live. I told myself when I was done with the novella that I would go and celebrate by playing blackjack. I celebrated three times. As I was sitting there, getting my gambler's high and chatting with the other players, it occurred to me that parallels could be drawn to the short story submitting process, and that playing blackjack won. Please note that I am saying short story Submitting. The actual writing is completely different.


 The first way blackjack is better than short story submitting is the odds. Each hand, I have about a 50/50 chance of winning. Of course, that's inaccurate---the house has a slightly higher advantage, but we will use 50/50 for the purpose of this blog. Turning to short story submissions, we will call rejections a loss and acceptances a win. I have four wins and sixty-two losses. Duotrope, a site where I track my submissions, has my acceptance ratio listed as 6.1% with a little asterisk next to it. When I follow the asterisk it says: Congratulations! Your acceptance ratio is higher than the average for users who have submitted to the same markets. I was amazed the first time I saw that. I don't know how many writers use Duotrope, but I imagine it is in the thousands because they have received awards from Writers Digest as well as Preditors and Editors.

On my last celebration at the casino, I kept track of my wins and losses for a little while before an irritating man sat next to me and I had to leave. When I went back, I decided I had enough “research”. Here is the break down:

First shoe (six decks): 5 wins, 14 losses, 1 push, 1 sit out. (I normally would've walked away from this shoe without playing it all out, but I suffered for the blog ;) )

Second Shoe: 10 wins, 5 losses, 2 blackjacks but one was a push.

Third shoe: 7 wins, 10 losses 3 pushes.

So even on the shoes I lost overall, I still had more wins than I do for short story submitting.

The second way playing blackjack beats out short story submitting is I am only playing against the house, not the other players. When I submit a short story, I am competing with several other people, often in the hundreds. Our stories are vying to knock out all the other stories. At a blackjack table, all the players can win. We are rooting for the dealer to bust every time, and the dealer is rooting as well so we will tip her more.

The third way blackjack beats out short story submitting is I can talk to the dealer. In some cases, the dealer will offer advice on a hand as to what winning strategies say to do. Most submissions get a form rejection. I am lucky when I get a response that is tailored to what I wrote. And I rarely enter into a conversation with an editor about it, which is really too bad. I often think it would be interesting to send emails back and forth with editors because they seem like interesting people, but of course, that's not where they put their investment of time. I could pay several hundred dollars to go to conferences and listen to the big name editors and agents talk about the process, but it's not the personal face to face chit chat (meaningless though it may be) that I get with a dealer.

And the last reason why blackjack is better than short story submitting is immediacy. I know right away whether I have won or lost a hand. I have a story that I have been waiting 148 days to hear about. That's extreme, but somewhere between 30 and 60 days seems to be the average.

All that being said, blackjack is not going to further my writing career which is way more important to me. But after a long list of rejections, it sure felt good to play.

Fuel For the Fire: Texas Style Chile Stew

The air is finally cooling down here which means hot and steamy comfort foods. At the top of the list is, of course, chile. Chile means a lot of different things to people. In New Mexico, if you are talking about chili stew, you are most likely referring to green chili stew with Hatch green chili and pork. Please don't tell anyone here that that is not my favorite kind :) I admit to being partial to what I think of as Texas style chile which is ground meat and beans in a red chile sauce.

I will also admit that my husband makes better Texas style chile than I do. He actually soaks a variety of beans all day, sometimes adds potatoes and because it's different every time, I cannot copy the spice mix.

But if you are getting home from work and have forgotten to put the custom mix of dried beans in water all day, you might consider my recipe. For me, it's all about the condiments. I hope you enjoy.

Zesty Cornbread Chile Stew

1 tablespoon butter

½ cup chopped sweet onion

2 cloves garlic minced or pressed

1 pound ground turkey

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper

1 tablespoon red chile powder

1 tablespoon dried minced onion

1 teaspoon garlic powder

2 teaspoons cumin

1 14.5 ounce can of fire roasted diced tomatoes (undrained)

1 14.5 ounce can chile beans (undrained)

1 cup frozen corn


Cornbread mini-muffins (I use the recipe on the back of Aunt Jemima Corn Meal and bake in mini-muffins for ten minutes.)

4 tablespoons sour cream

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

4 lime wedges

In large skillet or pot melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté one minute. Add turkey, salt and pepper to onions and garlic and cook until turkey is brown. In the meantime, stir together red chile powder, dried onion, garlic powder and cumin. Sprinkle over cooked meat. Add tomatoes, beans and corn. Stir together, cover the pot, turn the heat to medium low or low and simmer for thirty minutes, stirring occasionally.

Divide chile stew into four bowls. Place two cornbread mini-muffins on top of each bowl. Place a tablespoon of sour cream over the muffins. Sprinkle each bowl evenly with cilantro. Squeeze a wedge of lime over each and serve.

Makes four servings.


Next week is an extra Monday! Please stop by to read: Black Jack has a better winning average than Short Story Submissions.

Also, I hope you saw my post yesterday about a new acceptance!

Have a great week!

Exciting News!

I had another story accepted last night! This is a particularly exciting win for me because it will be the first story from my Silver Strands world to see light beyond my computer monitor. I have been developing this world for years and years, so I am really excited an editor wants to publish something from it! As soon as I get the contract squared away, I will post all the details.

Metal and Mystery

Last week, I talked about the spark for Stephanie Minagawa, the protagonist for the novella I recently finished. This week is for her love interest, Bruce Tortula.

Several years ago, I went to an Iron Maiden concert with my husband and some friends. We had seats, but no one sits at a concert once the band takes the stage. Next to us stood a man by himself. He was about average height and had black hair pulled back in a pony tail with several hair bands instead of just one. He was one of those people with a great presence: stoic and self assured. He didn't seem the type to be at a concert by himself, but he didn't seem bothered by it either. When I was imagining a counter to Stephanie, this man came to mind right away, as well as an imagined past that would put someone at a rock concert by themselves. It also seemed apparent to my imagination that his parents were Iron Maiden fans and named him after the lead singer. One of the songs I listened to while I was writing the story was:

Of course, being a head banger was not all to this character. He also made musical instruments and played the violin with notable talent. In a class I took a few years ago, I wrote about another character who played classical music professionally, but rocked out in the privacy of her car. This seemed a stretch to my teacher, but when I was getting my music degree, most of us liked all types of music and several people I knew played in bar bands.

But being a speculative fiction writer, I couldn't leave it at that. I had to make something about him mysterious. When Stephanie enters his family's instrument repair shop, she is greeted by sunset colors and ghosts inspired by the Sandia Mountains at sunset:

I don't want to give too much away today, so I will leave you with another music selection. At the same Iron Maiden concert, we saw Queensryche, Julie's favorite band and one of mine. During one of the crucial moments in the story for Stephanie, Silent Lucidity is playing in the background:

I Finished My Novella

I finished my first novella this last week. It's not finished to the point of submitting it to editors yet, but finished to the point where I have asked my first readers, to whom I am ever grateful, to read it over for me and let me know how it is. I think I have mentioned that the protagonist for it is Stephanie Minagawa who is the protagonist in my second published story Elegy of a Violin.

Growing up in Albuquerque where dust and tumbleweeds skittered together across the mesas and mountains, I was always fascinated with people who moved here---on purpose.



I decided it would be interesting to write from the perspective of someone seeing The Land of Enchantment for the first time. I also wanted to highlight the Pueblo culture which gets scarce mention in American literature. There is supposition that Native American ancestors crossed the Bering Straight from Eurasia into North America. Studying some of the eastern religions and the pueblo religions made me want to mingle the religious philosophies together in a story.

The protagonist for the novella was inspired by a couple I lived next door to when I was five and under. They were the Minagawas who had immigrated here from Japan. Their backyard was a mystical garden to me. It was always green and filled with vegetables and outdoor ornaments that I had never seen before. Mrs. Minagawa and my mom would chat across the wall and I would just stare at everything. Why on earth had they moved here when obviously they came from a place much lusher? I never found out and so have enjoyed the mystery all my life. One of the scenes in the novella was set in a Japanese garden inspired by the Minagawa's garden. Here are some pictures of the Japanese garden in the Albuquerque Botanical Gardens:


Next week, I will post more about what sparked her love interest, Bruce Tortula. Have an inspiring week!



Statistics for AEIOU and Sometimes Why? A Writer's Journey to Publishing

10 submissions sent

10 rejections received

Response counter at 59

7 of the rejections were personal

Longest submission is 125 days and counting

Shortest response 1 day

4 new stories written including finishing the novella!!!

1 story taken out of retirement and rewritten

General Feelings: I'm really happy to have finished the novella. It is not submitted yet. I'm sure there will still be revising before I do that, but to have it complete from beginning to end is a good feeling. Getting so many personal rejections is both good and bad for me. Many of them said things like “This is a really good story, just not good enough, or we're not the right market.” That gets a little hard to take after awhile and I feel like I need to be a mind reader, especially when I have read the market and am surprised by my story not being the right fit. But ever onward. I am hoping the sixties are better than the fifties as far as acceptances go :)

October Photo Blog

Julie's pictures for September's photo blog inspired a short story called Rambling Bones that was well received in my current class. I revised it and sent it off to a slush pile for a market near you. Of course, I will post as soon as it is accepted :)

I now present the photo's for October taken by Julie. I hope they spark your imagination:




Gold Bars

A few weeks ago my husband went camping with our son's Boy Scout troop and made a sort of treasure hunt for them. The treasure was gold bars which I volunteered to make so I could use the recipe for the blog. Before I volunteered, my husband found very different gold bar recipes on the internet than what we make them like in New Mexico. 

Since my son doesn't read my blog, I feel safe saying that they were my lunch in middle school---not my dessert, but my whole lunch. They sold them at the snack bar for less than a hot lunch, and I would use the extra money to buy books at the end of the week. I mean, they're nutritious, right? Well, maybe you make them differently, so I'll put the recipe below and you be the judge :)

The basic recipe came from a cookie exchange I was a part of several years back, but I felt it was plain. I made them again with my tweaks of adding salt and vanilla and putting more chocolate on top.

Gold Bars (as made in New Mexico)

1 1/2 cups peanut butter
2 tablespoons butter (softened)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups Rice Krispies
1 cup melted semi-sweet chocolate chips

Mix peanut butter, butter, salt and vanilla in a food processor or use a hand blender until smooth. Add powdered sugar and mix again. Stir in Rice Krispies and spread into a 9x9 pan. Spread melted chocolate on top. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour. Cut into as big or small pieces as you like---depending on if you want a lunch size portion or snack ;)

Sparks from my Culture

During the time I was trying to decide what to do for this week's post, Julie sent me links to a couple of videos. I'm always scared when I get a link from Julie. They are often hilarious but hilarious in ways that are completely wrong---for instance a link to sexy baby high heel shoes for actual babies.

But having friends and family who make me laugh is one of the many ways I am blessed. Her two links that arrived shortly after I had decided to write about inspirations for a cyberpunk story showed so many quirky places and slangs in New Mexico, that I changed my mind right away and decided I had to post them for the blog as an introduction into what inspires me from the Land of Enchantment...being able to laugh at ourselves is at the top of the list.

I'll post the video for Shit Burqueños (New Mexicans) say here and then point out a few things:

So it had me hooked with the first word, “Ummmmber.” Man, I used to say that all the time in middle school and didn't know it was still around. My kids haven't brought it home so maybe it has left their generation. “Are you going to get down from the car?” I'm sure I've said that at some point as well as the “or what” and “or no?”. I was in college when Martin Chavez was the underdog and then elected mayor in 1993....he went on to have three non-consecutive terms and now is running for senate. Sadly, the “I'm too drunk to walk. Let's drive.” is a little too close to the reality of my state, but I was amazed to find that we are not in the top ten of the states with the most drunk driving fatalities. The reference to the rain is a classic. Living in the desert, rain has a mystical quality even when it only lasts five seconds. The closing credits song is De Colores which I think every school age child in New Mexico is required to learn.

Part 2:

Putting “all” in front of everything is definitely something I was guilty of growing up. The glimpse of the Sandia mountains at thirty seconds is a view I love. The Sandia's have had an influence in many of my stories, and I am sure I will post several pictures of them. The giant arrow at fifty-five seconds is a landmark I have always wondered about. There is also a giant candy cane outside of a candy shop that I'm sure will appear in a story at some point. And the shot at the end credits is our very famous gazebo in Old Town. At Christmas time, all of Old Town, including the gazebo is lit up at night with luminarias. I will have to find a picture of that for the site.

As a bonus, I am also posting the video about going to a Lobo basketball game. We have no professional team of any sport in Albuquerque, so college sports are big. I'll just let the video speak for itself.

Thanks to Black Out Theatre for sparking my blog this week!

Spark for Elegy of a Violin

In thinking about this post, I discovered I had a lot to say about Elegy of a Violin. The problem is, the character Stephanie has a long history because she is actually from a novella I'm working on called The Sunset Finish. But it's not really fair to have a blog post twice as long as the story itself, so I will attempt to keep this short.

One of the first problems I encountered in writing The Sunset Finish was where to begin. At first, the violin exploding seemed like the inciting incident, but it's a speculative fiction story, and nothing speculative happens when her violin cracks. I wanted to draw my reader in right away with ghosts and weird instruments that play music when no one is using them, so the violin dessication had to be relegated to a brief flashback.

Which I really hated to do.

I don't know how many of you are musicians, but to have your instrument literally fall apart in your arms is devastating. I was in pursuit of my music education degree when, all alone in a practice room, my bass exploded. Even though my bass was well acclimated to New Mexico and I did have the little green snake humidifiers, the glue for the neck had dried out. I remember a loud popping noise and me scrambling so the neck and body wouldn't fall to the ground. When I mentioned how heart wrenching it was to my professor, he told me he would've crawled under his desk for a week if it had happened to him. I felt a little bit better.

So that's the real life event that inspired the story of a woman from Boston coming here and having her violin destroyed right away. It really is dangerous to move instruments from climate to climate, especially from high humidity to a low humidity. The results are not always as dramatic as depicted here, but it can happen.

Onto the event that sparked Elegy:

I signed up a month ago for a flash fiction course taught by Barbara Henning. Our first assignment was to write three haikus and then write a short story with the haikus embedded in the prose. I thought this was brilliant. Not only could I use the moment of the demise of Stephanie's violin for this assignment, but I could also use haikus in the novella as Stephanie's journal entries at the beginning of each chapter. I definitely thought the course had already been worth the cost.

Elegy was well received in class with notes that showed me how to make it better. Because I needed more submissions for the month of August to make my ten submission quota, I revised it and started looking right away for possible markets. The first two markets I submitted to gave me rapid rejections. I had seen the Whidbey contest earlier that month and was surprised they still didn't have a winner for their Back to School theme. I adjusted Elegy so that Stephanie was coming to New Mexico as a graduate student instead of a professional and sent it off. The next day it was posted as the winner.

Unfortunately, I have no pictures of my bass when it fell apart. That was back in the early nineties before everything was photographed and posted on the Internet. But, I do have the haikus I wrote for Elegy of a Violin, and I drew a picture of a New Mexico flag with the Zia symbol to frame them:


Exciting Announcemet

Julie and her husband Joe are pinball wizards. They play in the Free State Pinball Association and go to a variety of tournaments in the nation. Today, they have a sound clip on Slate for the Hang-up and Listen sports podcast. The pinball article starts at about 50:45. Way to go Julie and Joe!

AEIOU and Sometimes Why? A writer's journey to be published.

On March 6, 2012, I undertook a project I had seen done by a short fiction writer I admire, Peter M. Ball: 100 rejections in one year. The idea for me was to get used to being rejected because it happens a lot more than acceptances. Logically, I knew I should treat writing as a business and learn from all comments, but the reality was, I was getting more and more upset.

When I decided on this undertaking, I was actually working on some novels, one of which I had spent years and years writing with the inability to get few people beyond friends and family interested in it. The time had come to put it away again. I thought if I went back to short story writing, I might learn a few skills that seemed to be alluding me in my novels.

I opened up all my computer files in search of short stories I could brush off and submit right away, ones I could rewrite and ones that had never been realized to a full story. My monthly goal is ten submissions. I have achieved this every month but June and July when I was off by one each.
Every month I compiled the statistics and sent them to interested friends---Julie was the one who dubbed it AEIOU. Since receiving a few acceptances, I have changed my goal to 100 responses from editors in one year.  I have decided to post AEIOU on my blog because I got the idea from Peter's blog. Maybe this idea will inspire somebody else.

So without further ado---Statistics for Month Six of AEIOU and Sometimes Why?

Twelve submissions sent! That makes up for the two I missed over the summer.

Nine rejections received.

Two acceptances received!!

Response counter is at 49---the goal was to be at 50 by six months, and I am pleased to be so close. I admit to postponing posting this to see if any responses would arrive today.

Longest wait for response was 119 days. The submission with the longest wait now is 95 days and counting.

Shortest wait for acceptance was one day.

Two new stories written this month...one of them was one of the acceptances.

Two stories taken out of retirement, rewritten and submitted again.

Still working on the novella. My goal is to finish it this month.

General feelings: Very happy this month. Getting this website up and running took a lot of time, but I am really pleased with it as well. I hope you like it too.

September Photo Blog

Today is the first photo blog! Putting disparate moments from my life together is often what sparks a story for me. Looking at pictures that seemingly have no relationship to each other and trying to string a tale together is a similar exercise. The site En World used to hold a game called Ceramic DM where players had 72 hours to make a short story out of a few pictures. I wanted to bring that same type of puzzle to the website with the photo blog. Here are the first three pictures brought to you by Julie Schober. I hope they ignite some ideas.




Contest Win!

Just an extra blog to brag that I won a contest! My story "Elegy of a Violin" can be viewed at http://whidbeystudents.com/student-archive-no-follow/.

It's a particularly gratifying win because it's a flash fiction story about a character who is a protagonist in a novella I am writing. The flash fiction story is general fiction, but the novella is speculative. I'll blog about the spark for it in September. I hope you enjoy it and thanks for reading!

Pillsbury Baguette Chip Pasta Bake

One of the great benefits of being a Pillsbury Bake-Off Finalist is they send you shwag for years. In the middle of the summer, I arrived home to find a huge box on my doorstep. Pillsbury was stamped all over the box, and when I opened it I found dozens upon dozens of little sample bags of Baguette Chips. As a past Finalist, I was in a select group to try out their new line of food. There was much rejoicing among the family.


I definitely love starch and salt, but these little chips made out of bread instead of potatoes are a flavorful snack with a great snap. They make a good addition to the lunch box because they have 50% less fat than potato chips and my fingers are not greasy after indulging.

Several recipe ideas with the chips have crossed my mind, but this pasta bake is the first to come to fruition. Of course, you can use ricotta cheese instead of cottage, but I find ricotta really dries out when it's baked. Also, ground turkey or ground beef would be a healthier option than the pepperoni I used. I hope you enjoy the recipe below as much as my kids (all of them asked for seconds), and please post if you try it.

Pillsbury Baguette Chip Pasta Bake

16 oz. package rotini
2 cups cottage cheese
1 egg
2 Tbsp Italian seasoning (divided)
2 cups mozzarella cheese (divided)
16 oz. jar spaghetti sauce (divided)
48 pepperoni slices
2 cups Pillsbury Baguette Chips Italian Cheese & Herb
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 375 F. Prepare rotini according to package directions. Stir together cottage cheese, egg, 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning and 1 cup mozzarella cheese. In 13x9 inch baking dish spread ½ cup spaghetti sauce on the bottom. Top with 24 slices pepperoni. Pour in half the pasta and spread evenly over pepperoni. Spread cottage cheese mixture evenly over pasta. Spread one cup spaghetti sauce evenly over cottage cheese. Top with 24 slices pepperoni. Pour remaining pasta evenly over pepperoni. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella over pasta. Spread remaining spaghetti sauce over everything. Cover with foil and bake for thirty minutes. In the meantime, place chips in a food processor and blend until crumbs form. In small bowl mix chip crumbs, Parmesan cheese and remaining Italian seasoning. After thirty minutes, uncover pasta dish. Use a spoon to push down any pasta on the sides that might dry out. Sprinkle crumb mixture on top and bake for another 15 minutes or until bubbly. Let stand for ten minutes before serving. Serves 12.



The Spark of Vanishing Letters

A few years ago I was reading a book of short stories by Neil Gaiman called Smoke and Mirrors. As I was reading it, some musings struck me. The first was that he and Robin McKinley are the antithesis of each other. She is American, writes books about strong female characters and lives in England. He is British, writes stories about wimpy men and lives in America. The story that hit me as the most cowardly was “The Troll Bridge.” As a boy, the narrator is accosted by a troll under a bridge and gets away by being clever. When the narrator is a teen, he actually offers his girlfriend to the troll as a replacement for himself. Then as an adult when his wife has left and everything is terrible, instead of trying to fix his life, he goes to the troll and is devoured. That was pretty much how most of the stories in the book impressed me: life is bad and in the end the protagonist will let go instead of fighting.


Another musing that happened while I was reading the stories is, as a writer, I had no voice. Smoke and Mirrors has annotations, and Neil Gaiman talks about “Looking for the Girl” being the first story where his voice is emerging. Some “how to write” advice I have read talks about copying other people's voices for awhile until it smooths out into your own.

While all these musings were churning in my conscious mind at times and my subconscious at other times, I noticed that when I signed my name, the “i” had completely vanished except for the dot floating around. The "n" was also being swallowed.


The spark ignited. What kind of character would lose the letters to her name without noticing and at the same time have something that drove the focus of her life? It could be a blend of Neil Gaiman and Robin McKinley characters.

I started the story thinking it would be around three thousand words, but put it away when I decided to focus on a novel. A couple of years later, last March to be exact, I put my novels away and decided to focus on short stories. When I found "Vanishing Letters", it occurred to me that changing it to flash fiction would make it the most poignant. It's being published at http://metromoms.net/category/metrofiction/ on Sunday, August 26. Please check it out!