Practice rather than genius #amwriting


This year for NaNoWriMo, I’m rewriting the first novel I ever wrote.  It’s awful.

Back at the end of the 20th century, I worked on my book for over two years, writing when inspiration struck. I rewrote chapters, added in elements, cleaned up sentences and changed the ending.  I asked friends for their opinion and got very politely worded feedback.  I had what I thought was a complete manuscript and eagerly sent it out to publishers, thinking it was just as good as what was out there.  I thought I had read enough books on writing, taken a college course, I was ready.  My friend cheered me on, even going so far as to get a copy printed at a vanity publisher (that’s the version I’m working from, with map endpapers and parchment-style paper.)  After a series of rejections, my enthusiasm waned.  She meant well, but I realized that was probably the only way I was going to be published, and was secretly crushed.  I put the gift away on a shelf and went back to writing short stories.

A quote from the tv show Supergirl that I just watched last night really resonated with me.  “You can’t walk into a company and expect to become the CEO.”

Unless you are some kind of genius, you must learn by doing.  I’m going through the book now, trying to rescue it from itself.  I gave my main character, living in a medieval society, a crushing fear of fire (think Frankenstein’s monster level).  I made her perfect in every way other than that.  I wavered my point of view between her and her love interest, whose main motivation was to follow around his unrequited love and mope.  The villain’s main motivation was to be evil.  I created horrendous monsters that wandered through the countryside, allowed to do whatever they wanted since the people were not at war with them at the moment.  I threw in random characters, some who were there just to have one conversation with the main character.  I created a group of twenty characters and had them travel together.  Twelve of those characters had names starting with “Z” because of a plot point.  Don’t even get me started on the fake medieval dialect, for I know not what I will do on that.

That was fifteen years ago. Now I have done eight novels (five polished and three first drafts) and I better understand the craft.  Just like a musician that practices and learns pieces, I know what is supposed to be produced, even when I don’t have the skill to produce it yet.

At Dragon Con, I went to a panel on writing and getting published.  One of the authors, Jenna Black, said she wrote 18 novels before she got published.  I tweeted that was discouraging, and she replied:

So I am encouraged, looking at my first fumbling attempts, because now I see what I did wrong and why it didn’t work.  So hopefully by my 18th novel, I’ll have work that is being read by others, characters that are loved and talked about like friends, and perhaps some compensation for my efforts.

Inspirators: Conspiring to Inspire

construction signStarting a Creativity Support Group

In Felicia Day’s memoir, “You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Mostly)” she talks about joining a creativity support group.  She kept coming to the meetings with nothing to show, until she finally started a project so that she wouldn’t show up empty handed.  That project was The Guild, a highly successful web-based show, one that allowed her to express her creativity fully.

My friends and I have started a creativity support group, that we are calling the Inspirators. We have a game designer, artists, writers, a meme creator and cake designer.  We set up a Facebook Group and we also meet in person.  We are a support and accountability group, encouraging each other to keep creating.  Members tell us a project they are working on, and then we determine what the next step is.  Then we know what to ask about, to encourage and nudge them.  While members can exchange work for critique, that is a secondary function.  We also share knowledge, resources and ideas.  I’ve read about creativity and goal groups in several excellent books (The Artist’s Way, Wishcraft,  and The Happiness Project)

For myself, I’ve put my other projects on the back burner while I work on NaNoWriMo.  This year I’m going back to the first novel I ever wrote and rewriting it.  I have discovered that it is awful.  I’m hoping that’s a good sign, that I’ve gotten better as a writer since then and rewriting it will be a good exercise.


Mario Costume

Mario costume

I made my son a Mario costume for Halloween.  It was both easy to make and comfortable for him, which is great.  It consists of a red, long-sleeved shirt and overalls.  I sewed the hat and fake buttons, and I was done!  He can wear the overalls again and again, which is great. Then he said he didn’t want to be regular Mario, he wanted to be Mario with powers.  His idea was to have three or four costumes and change into them- ice powers, fire powers, flying powers.  I was flattered that he thought I could just whip up some tear-away costumes for him, but unsure how to break it to him that I wouldn’t do it.  Then I had an idea- make him the power-ups and let him pretend.

felt Mario power ups

I made a star, green mushroom and red mushroom out of felt.  He put them in the pockets of his overalls and can pull them out to play being Mario.  (On a side note, why do these things have eyes?  Are they aware?  Are they eaten when they are used to give powers?  Is Mario really evil, rampaging through places, killing creatures and grabbing treasure?)

Making the star was straight-forward.  Just cut out two star shapes and sew them together, putting in stuffing before finishing.  Add black felt eyes. To make the mushrooms, start with a strip of white felt.  Sew it into a loop.  Make a running stitch along the bottom of the loop and draw on it to pull it closed, then sew the bottom shut.  To make the top, cut out a circle of colored felt that is twice as large as the stem loop.  Sew five white circles on the large circle.  Make a running stitch along the edge of the circle and pull on it to make the cap shape (but do not try to draw it all the way shut as you did with the stem.  Stuff both the stem and the cap and sew them together. Add black felt eyes.

Here’s the link to the pattern for the hat from Instructables. I used some leftover cloth I had, but it would work better in felt, which would stretch to fit.


Weight Loss For Dragons- Character Classes

Character Classes for Weight Loss for Dragons

A class isn’t the same thing as a profession, it’s more like a… vocation.  It encompasses not only your specialized skills, but also your outlook on life and your goals for the future.  What if you want to do everything, or at least a combination of things?   There’s a class for that.


Adventurers are doers, people who go out in search of new experiences, new ideas and interesting things to do.  They push past the fear of the unknown to live life fully.

Sub-classes of Adventurer: Traveler, Naturalist, Explorer and Socialite.

artist class


An artist lives to create.  They want to share their view of the world, in one medium or in many.  They find creativity in their daily lives, not just in their creations.

Sub-classes of Artist: Painter, Sculptor, Musician, Chef, Crafter, or Textile Artist.


Athletes work hard to hone their bodies to achieve great things.  They train daily, through discomfort and setbacks, to constantly improve their performance.

Sub-classes of Athlete: Runner, Swimmer, Dancer,  Cyclist, Martial Art student, Lifter, Team-mate or Crosstrainer.


A champion is driven by a need to right wrongs.  They see injustice in the world and they campaign to make positive change.

Sub-classes of Champion: Altruist, Protestor, Volunteer or Politician.

mystic class


A mystic finds true purpose in the spiritual realm, either in a chosen religion or a self-directed inner search for truth.  They use their faith and balance to help others with counsel or support.

Sub-classes of Mystic: Devoted, Soul-Searcher, Listener or Caretaker.


Scholars have a thirst for knowledge, to learn and grow every day of their lives.  They search for answers to how, what, where, and especially why, and they don’t take things as given.

Sub-classes of Scholar: Scientist, Linguist, Student, Writer, Researcher, or Inventor.

If you read over the descriptions and want to do more than one, you can.  It’s called a multi-class.  So you could be a Scholar-Artist or a Athlete-Champion.  Don’t want to be pinned down?  You are a Polymath or a Renaissance Soul.  This is your life.  You can make up your own class as long as you can define it for yourself.

Some ideas for specialized classes:

  • Social Justice Warrior
  • Food Explorer
  • Diplomat
  • Documenter
  • Happiness Expert

What do you think?  Any classes or hybrids you want to suggest?  What would you assign to yourself?

Weight Loss for Dragons character sheet


Creating a Weight Loss for Dragons Character Sheet:

When you are playing a roleplaying game, you start by creating a character.  In this book, that character is you!  Instead of rolling for your stats, you need to determine them.

NAME: well, if I have to spell it out for you, then it’s G-U-E-S-T.

LEVEL: One.  If you’re level 20, why are you reading this?  Go get in your helicopter and sit at a beach on your island or something.

CLASS: we’ll discuss this later, right now you’re all “Novice”

ALIGNMENT: choices- lawful good, chaotic good, neutral good, lawful evil, chaotic evil, neutral evil and neutral neutral.  If you go online, you’ll find some memes that will give you examples from movie or tv characters, and quizzes.

BMI: Body Mass Index.  Your number on a height and weight chart that indicates whether the medical community classifies you as overweight, obese or morbidly obese.  Healthy BMI range- 19-24, Overweight- 25-29, Obese, 30-39, Morbidly obese- 40 and up.  BMI calculators can be found online.

BMR: Basal Metabolic Rate- this is the amount of calories you body should need to run while lying in bed all day.  Note the should.  Sometimes your body is better at its job (which makes sense! Famine survivors were able to keep going on little food).  It’s a starting point.  You then account for burning some calories with daily activities (unless you really do just lie in bed all day).

SPEED: Here’s the first “gotta get off your butt” part of this endeavor.  Speed is how long it takes you to travel a mile if you had to.

To test your speed, go to the start of a measured mile, or use a treadmill. Time yourself. How long does it take you to get to the end of that mile by either walking, running or a combination of the two? (use a wheelchair? go ahead and put in your speed for manual)

  1. I can’t walk a mile
  2. I would have to rest, so about 2 hours
  3. about an hour (1MPH)
  4. about 30 minutes (2 MPH)
  5. about 20 minutes (3 MPH)
  6. about 15 minutes (4 MPH)
  7. about 10 minutes (6 MPH)
  8. about 5 minutes (12 MPH)

I’m not going to measure over 8 in speed.  PLEASE, if you are out of shape, don’t overdo it!  You can increase your speed, but only if you haven’t hurt yourself.

Statistics: For your stats of Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma, you need to honestly evaluate yourself.

  • Poor- 5
  • Average- 10
  • good- 15
  • astonishing- 20

Strength: your ability to use your muscles.  Not just how much weight you can lift, but your ability to carry, push, pull and hold yourself in a position like a plank.

Dexterity: your balance, agility, hand-eye coordination, and fine motor skills.  Also your flexibility in stretching and yoga poses.

Constitution: Endurance. How fragile are you?  Do you get sick easily, pull muscles, get migraines, or have trouble maintaining mental health?  How well do you bounce back after physical or emotional trauma?

Intelligence: Your ability to read, compute, remember and analyze facts, figure out puzzles, get organized, find information, follow complicated instructions and make calculations.

Wisdom: Common sense, life experience, big picture thinking and self-mastery.  Noticing changes in your environment and people. Knowing what the best path is and making good choices.  (being intelligent is being able to make a giant self-aware robot, being wise is knowing that’s a bad idea)

Charisma: being a people magnet.  Having lots of friends, online followers, celebrity status or notoriety.  Having influence over others.  It doesn’t necessarily mean beauty or talent (note the reality tv stars).

Armor Class- how well can you stand up to attacks?  For this we are talking about emotional and mental defenses, not actual armor.  When someone criticizes you, do you give up or keep going?  How do you handle insults, people ordering you to do something else, guilt trips, accusations of wrong-doing or rejection?

  • 1- collapse in a heap at the slightest disapproval
  • 2- sensitive
  • 3- hurt by others but able to keep going
  • 4- only certain types of attacks effect me
  • 5- F ‘em all, I don’t care what they think.

Gear: list any equipment you have that is important to your goals.  Put in parentheses anything you want to get but haven’t gotten yet.

Goals: How are you supposed to know if you’ve gotten somewhere if you don’t know where you are going?  Write down your goals in increments.  What do you want to achieve in three months?  six months? a year? Five years?  Goals should be S.M.A.R.T.- Specific, Measurable, Attainable, realistic and timely.  Don’t be vague, don’t be extreme, and only put down goals you are willing to commit to.

Skills: fill in the bubble of anything you know how to do.  If there is a blank line, fill it in with applicable information.  Put any bonuses to the right of the skill.

  • Kinda-sorta- no bonuses
  • pretty good- +2
  • impress your friends- +3
  • impress a television audience- +4
  • impress experts- +5

I bet half the people decided this was all too hard. If you kept going and filled it all in- congratulations!  You now have character…  sheet.

Disclaimer: The author is not a medical expert.  Consult with your doctor before undertaking anything advised here.  This blog is not intended as a substitute for the medical advice of physicians. The reader should regularly consult a physician in matters relating to his/her health and particularly with respect to any symptoms that may require diagnosis or medical attention.


Weight Loss for Dragons- The beginning…

Enter the Lair

The adventurer raced through the driving rain, keeping just ahead of her pursuers on the muddy trail.  She could hear the orcs’ shouts as they called to each other to cut off her escape.  There was little time left, she didn’t know if she had the energy to get to safety.  Her lungs burned, her muscles ached.  There it was!  A small crack in the rock.  An orc appeared behind her, swinging an axe.  She could see his teeth gnash as she slipped into the tunnel.  It was almost too small for her, and she scraped her skin as she pushed through, the buttons on her vest coming off.  The orc roared, too big to follow her, trying to stab at her with his axe, then she was on the other side and the passage opened up.  It took her a long time to catch her breath. She ran along in the darkness, stumbling and feeling her way.  It was warm in this tunnel, surprisingly so.  

When she reached the end of the tunnel she almost fell out into the massive cavern.  Gold gleamed in a dim light from high above.  She caught her balance, taking a step back, for she saw, in the darkness, a massive shape curled around the gold.  One golden eye opened a slit, and she tried not to breathe.  It was a dragon, with blue and green scales, reclining on a pile of gold.  

“Well, I know you are there.  Tell me why I should not kill you.”  The dragon opened both eyes, slowly raising her head.

“Oh great one, I beg your mercy.  I have come here to see you, to talk with you.  I hear that you are wise, that you know the secrets of the universe.”

“Flattery.  You are here to steal my gold.  I have no use for smoke blowing.” The dragon suddenly whipped her head around, stopping inches from the adventurer.  

“No, truly!  The treasure I seek is knowledge!  I want-“ the adventurer stopped, embarrassed to go on.


“I want to be like the great warriors of old.  I want to know how to become powerful.” The adventurer said softly.  She looked down at her body, sighing.  She knew her muscles were soft, her belly round.  She knew that she could not have lasted five seconds fighting off those orcs if they had caught her.  She had almost gotten killed because she had been too big for the tunnel.

The dragon pulled back her head, eyeing the adventurer thoughtfully. 

“Hmm.  Well, I was feeling a little bored, and this could be interesting.” she said, repositioning her wings.  A small cascade of gold tinkled down as she shifted.  “ I reserve the right to kill you, if you prove to be insincere.”

“Yes, great one, I promise to follow your guidance!”  The adventurer clasped her hands together in delight.  Finally someone would help her!

“We shall see.” The dragon said, chuckling. “I often find people don’t like the wisdom I impart.”

enter the lair


Dragoncon: Notes to Myself @Dragoncon


Dragoncon Notes

I had a crazy week after Dragoncon, as my kids started school the day after we got back, but now I’m jotting down notes before the memories fade.

Things I want to do differently:

  • Don’t bother packing entertainment beyond a device.  I didn’t need crafts, books, notebooks or other forms of entertainment.  The only time I wanted to read was when all my room-mates were asleep early in the mornings, where reading an ebook was better.
  • Make one costume, and start now, because you will be too embarrassed to show a poorly made costume amongst all the amazing ones.
  • Set up your day bag with water bottle, camp stool and anything you need for the entire day.  Waiting 30 minutes for an elevator to get lunch is just miserable.
  • Standing or sitting on the ground makes my knees ache, bring a stool.
  • Make a “can’t miss” list of guests, activities and friends to see.
  • try to get a later flight so you can stay up all night on Sunday
  • Write down when events are going to be broadcast on Dragoncon TV.  If you are in the very back of the giant auditorium, you’re watching it on tv anyway.
  • Going all the way through the tunnels to the Hilton means you only have to walk one flat block to the Sheraton.
  • The Subway at Peachtree Center doesn’t have the good bread.  The wrap place puts croutons in their ceasar wrap.
  • Definitely buy from CVS again, preferably on Thursday.
  • The Aquarium was a lot of fun, go early to get in line, buy tickets at home.  The bus leaves from the back of the Marriott around 6.
  • Don’t try to take pictures behind someone taking picturesP1110714
  • If you see someone you want to take pictures of, ask them, let them pose, and put your flash on!
  • Ask a group if you can take a picture of them having lunch at the food court- it would make a funny scene.
  • Write a script for a music video, plan it in advance with friends.

Favorite Quotes from Dragoncon (some may be paraphrased):

  • “Felicia Day makes people leave the Hyatt.” ( A friend, saying that she’s worth going to another hotel to see even if you’re exhausted.)
  • Friend: “I’m giving up John Barrowman.”  Me: “What, for lent?”
  • “My book could kill someone. Not that you should.”-  Felecia Day
  • “I like fans better than people.”- Friend
  • “You could do an intricate story, but really I want to make readers flip tables.”-  Jim Butcher
  • When asked what was the scariest monster on Sleepy Hollow, star Nicole Behave looked apologetically at the monster effects person and said it was the coin that made people their worst selves.  “It’s PEOPLE! People are scary!”
  • Audience member to Arrow cast: “What’s it like working with John Barrowman?”  Stephen Arnell’s chair falls apart (a wheel came out) and John leapt up to grab the lost wheel, giggling madly and running around behind the cast.  “Like that.” Stephen replied.

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Cosplay Armor (for dogs) #gishwhes

The Art of Creating Fake Armor

One of the things I love about GiSHwhes (the greatest internet scavenger hunt the world has ever seen) is that it challenges me to try new things and learn new skills.  Last year I made John Barrowman’s head out of duct tape.  This year, I made dog armor.

I have so much to learn.

I used craft foam, making a seam with duct tape, then sealing it with Mod Podge.  Two layers of silver paint, followed with “aging” with brown paint.  I used a toy foam shield and gave it the same treatment, as well as a gem for accent.  It was… well, it was like most first attempts at a new skill.  I have discovered it is easier to fake leather armor than metal, and crafts people out there are amazing.  I need to watch tutorials.  Many refer to a higher end material they work with besides craft foam, called Worbla that I want to look into.

Next on my list of things to try is armor for my son.  He might actually stand still for pictures.

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Appa was a good sport, but wanted to play.


10 things I learned from #GISHWHES

11267855_10203285720663909_640726525462153337_nThe Greatest Internet Scavenger Hunt the World has ever seen has just finished, and as I clear away the piles of paper lists, notebooks, craft supplies and random household objects, I reflected on my experience.  I was on team hugtheelbowsandhedgehogs.  We have no idea how well we did, but we completed 51 items (points will be assigned later when the entries are evaluated).

Ten things I learned from GiSHwhes:

  1. No one can do it all.  It is better to do a few things “whole ass” than to do too many “half-ass”.
  2. Doing ludicrous things is a bonding experience
  3. Some things are harder than you think, and trying them makes you appreciate the skill needed for a well made work of art, photograph or hand-made item more.
  4. Letting go is ok.
  5. Life is short and you need to find joy every day.
  6. Don’t assume you can’t do something just because you’ve never done it before.
  7. Accept your son’s love for a hitchbot, even though you know it won’t last.
  8. Appreciate the people who play along, they are what makes the world a wonderful place.
  9. Don’t let your daughter apply makeup and take a picture without looking in a mirror, even if it’s zombie makeup.
  10. The points don’t matter, the experience does.