Trip Planning

shrek gateuniversal

When I looked for pictures I realized I had not been there since 2004!

Planning a Trip to Universal Orlando

Last year we had a Disney adventure.  This year we plan a Universal adventure.  Since my kids are 5 and 14, this is a little tricky.  Add into that my distaste for wet rides!  So to make it a pleasant trip I’m doing some research.

Universal will be making a Harry Potter expansion in “Summer 2014″.  When exactly?  I still haven’t found out, one blogger’s speculation was July.  It could be anywhere between the first week of June and the last week of August!  What they are doing is putting in Diagon Alley in Universal Studios, then adding a train that runs from that park to the other park (thus encouraging people to buy a 2-park ticket!).  Whenever this opens, the crowds will be ridiculous.

universal mythos

Research resources for Universal Orlando trip:

When reading blogs on travel tips, be aware that some bloggers are paid or compensated to blog about destinations.  (I am not).

A Disney World Freak’s guide to Universal Orlando- WDW prep school. This woman was obviously not paid by the park.  Freaking hilarious. It looks like it was written June 2013, and is very thorough, with an itinerary, ride descriptions and more.

A lot of Disney World guidebooks have a chapter in the back of the book for “other parks.”

Visit Orlando- the official visitor center for Orlando.

Yahoo Travel- crowdsourcing at its finest.

Wikitravel- Orlando

Theme Park Insider- History of the park, crowdsourced ratings on the rides, and an ad for his book.

Fodors- a trusted publisher of guide books.


Book: Universal Orlando 2014 by Kelly Monaghan.  I haven’t read this, but it seems the most up to date guidebook on the subject.

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy Party

dontpaniccakeDon’t Panic and Always Know Where Your Towel Is

To celebrate a certain person’s 42nd birthday, we had a Hitchhikers Guide party.  42 is the answer to the question of life, the universe and everything.  We all wore pajamas and robes like Arthur Dent, and many brought their towel with them.  We decorated with “Don’t Panic” signs and dolphin balloons.

(If you are reading this and have no idea what I’m talking about, go read the Hitchhiker’s Guide series by Douglas Adams.)

My husband made pan-galactic gargle blasters, both alcoholic and non.  He put in flashing ice cubes and gave them a rim of salt- they were awesome.


We had a cake from Quigley’s Cakes, along with potted petunia cupcakes.

Work in Progress

Paintingpainting in progress

I pulled out a canvas I’ve been meaning to use for years and gave myself permission to use it.  ”But I’m not good at this.  I’ll ruin it.”  Right.  How is a blank canvas helping anyone, and who is going to cry if it’s been painted on?

The first face came out the way I wanted it to, the second one has the perspective wrong, especially for the eyes.  But, it was fun to make, and I’m not angry for “wasting a canvas.” Instead I’m thinking of how I will finish it, what I need to learn about perspective, pre-sketching, and color balance for noses.  I’m thinking about getting real paints instead of the 50 cent bottles of acrylic I got (blue, red, yellow, white, and black).  I’m thinking about brushes and techniques, books to read and artists to study.

Creativity is often about giving yourself permission to take risks and mess up.

Egg Dye Art

Recycled Egg Dye project


My son and I decorated eggs using a basic dye kit.  When we were finished, we had all these cups of dye. On a whim, I made a design on a piece of paper with a white crayon, taped it to a cutting board, and poured the dye over the paper into the sink.  My son really enjoyed making one himself.  Anyone else have ideas for recycling egg dye?

eggsdye art


great view

Boosting Creativity

Sometimes it’s good to get out of the house.  Julia Cameron, in her famous book on creativity, The Artist’s Way, suggests taking an “artist’s date”.  Explore a museum.  People-watch at a mall.  Visit a zoo.  It doesn’t have to be expensive, complicated or a long way away, any kind of excursion will help your creativity.  Sometimes writer’s block is just a sign of stagnation, becoming a drying pond instead of a flowing stream.  If you keep learning, doing and seeing, your experiences will enrich your art.



penniesThe Muddle in the Middle

I haven’t posted in a while. I gave myself a deadline for finishing the second draft of my novel, and then life happened. Nothing serious, but my life is pretty full.  Still, I’ve been doing my best to slog through the middle of the rewrite.  I’m narrowing it down from four viewpoints to two.  I’m bringing in foreshadowing for events that I didn’t know about in the first writing.  The hardest part of doing this is getting started, it takes at least a half hour of dithering to really get into it.  If I’m not careful, I get sucked into the internet and lose the time I have.  I’ve started turning off my wi-fi before writing time.

I have developed a new behavior system with my son.  He has twenty points, which are represented by pennies in a cup.  When he has all twenty points, he has all privileges. Misbehavior means taking away points.  We emphasize adding points for any small good deed or kindness.  I should do this myself.  When I’m slogging away in the middle and it feels like I will never be able to untangle and smooth out my writing in time, I should give myself points for every effort instead of focusing on feeling bad for not doing more.




Blurbs and Pitches


Word cloud made with WordItOut

In a World…

I’m taking a short break from revising (I’ve gotten through the first five chapters!) to work on my blurb.  That’s the catchy description of the book that is supposed to draw you in.  I’ve looked at quite a few examples.  Unless I make up something, I can skip the favorable reviews from journals and magazines (“Simply amazing storytelling…” The New York Times). 

What seems to be standard is two paragraphs, setting up the situation and then asking questions the reader wants answered, like “will he finally find the lost broomstick before the blight destroys the forest?” or more often “which man will she pick, the naughty rogue or the simple but sweet neighbor?”

A pitch is slightly different, it is meant for a gatekeeper like an agent or editor.  The imagined scenario is that you happen to bump into an agent in an elevator and strike up a conversation, and between the second floor and the fourteenth, she asks about your book and you come out with your pitch.  ”It’s a love story between a bat and a bird, it’s “Stellaluna” meets “Pride and Prejudice”.  This scenario seems far-fetched, perhaps a little more likely at a convention where the elevator line can take hours.  More often you are sending these pitches as part of a query letter to agents and editors.

The Book Doctors discuss pitches and their annual contest related to NaNoWriMo, and they limit a pitch to 250 words.

Here’s a start for my blurb:

Flying ships, wild magic, a land in trouble and a toy duck.  Three women and a shapeshifter accidentally save their world.

Long ago, it used to be easy for pilgrims to journey to the northern temple and get a new, adult name.  Now wild magic is flowing like lava across the land, cutting off the route.  A nameless girl hires a guard named Brynn, and they venture into the cursed dreamlands, guided by a mad sorceress and her shapeshifting companion.  They fight their way past monsters, dangers and frightening wonders to reach the temple, where they will be tested to see who they truly are.

Anything can happen in the dreamlands, and there is more at stake than the three women realize.  Their actions will not only effect the rulership of a country, but the fate of their whole world.

*** too much?  Need to keep working on this.




Rewriting for “Pantsers”

If you write by the seat of your pants instead of carefully outlining, rewriting can be difficult.  I’m revising a first draft that I merrily wrote without any restrictions.  It was wonderfully freeing, and gave me a full, rich story I might not have gotten from a tidy little outline.  However, trying to follow the plot now is like following Billy in  a “Family Circus” comic strip.

I have four main characters and alternating points of view (close third person) with all of them.  The antagonist is on another continent and doesn’t actually show up for the final confrontation.  I separate the characters and have them “scooby-dooing” through most of the book.  At one point, I even gave one character the temporary ability to fly in order to get her where I needed her to be!

I am not giving up, for I really feel that there is a good story in this mess.  It is definitely encouraging me to have at least some preplanning before starting my next project!
13126099I am reading a great book right now- Wired for Story by Lisa Cron.  It talks about the science behind good story telling.

Do the Scary Things

rollercoasterTaking the next step

I’ve been invited to join a writing group and I’m both excited and scared.  I’ve technically been part of a writing group for years, but we’re 99% online and we hardly ever workshop our writing with each other.  This group meets face to face every month and members read and give feedback to each other’s work.  They seem nice (otherwise I wouldn’t even consider it).

Joining an active writer’s group is the next step in my development as a writer.  I am pushing myself past my reluctance because I know I need feedback to keep growing.

I just came back from meeting them for the first time and I’m really glad I went.

Maybe there’s something similar you’ve been meaning to do with your own creative endeavors?  Perhaps you’ve been meaning to set up an Etsy shop, take a class, submit a manuscript, join that club or paint that mural.  Do it.  Without the scary things, your life never moves forward, it either stalls out or goes in circles.

War of the Goals

Goals that conflict with each other

For most of my adult life I have had two major goals: 1, get down to and maintain a healthy weight and 2, become a print-published novelist.

You wouldn’t think that these two goals clashed with each other.  One requires a healthy diet and exercise, the other, writing and submitting manuscripts.  How on earth do they conflict?

They do.

It took me a long time to discover this, and a little longer to decide if it was just a silly excuse for my lack of progress on either front.  It seemed like I would make headway on one goal and completely stop at the other.  Working towards both these goals simultaneously is a challenge.

chart of goalsWhen you add in the rest of my life, which is happily crowded full of two kids, a husband, a dog, a house to run,  friends, interests, a full-time job, a love of tv and a tendency to waste time on the internet writing self-reflection blogs, you can see how I’ve set myself up for problems.

I can’t plan for one goal in isolation, and I can’t just expect time, motivation and energy to just come out of nowhere.  I have to make a life plan that incorporates both aspirations in a realistic way, anticipating many obstacles, both expected and unexpected.  I have to use all the tools and techniques I have learned together in concert, not one at a time.

It would be so much easier to throw my hands up in the air and say it’s too hard, to give up on both and just continue along, obese and unaccomplished, but I can’t, not for more than a few weeks.  Then I see myself standing sideways in a mirror or skim a horribly written book that somehow got published, and I need to try again.

Am I the only one who struggles with this kind of stuff?