Photo Credit

Photograph by Justin Sheely - used with permission.

About Me

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When I grow up...oh wait I'm already there :) 

Writer, Star Gazer, Adventure Seeker, Mischief Maker, Gamer 

Lover, Daughter, Sister, Friend.


Monday, March 11, 2013

Tools For Writers: Excel - Character Profile Sheet

Greetings & Salutations,

I am a writer with a technical background. I teach software and write software documentation. When I decided to begin work on my first novel I was very interested in the software and tech tools that writers were using to assist them with the writing process. To my surprise I didn't find a whole lot out there in the vast wilderness of the interwebs in the way of Microsoft Excel spreadsheets or templates. 

After reviewing several popular options I came back home to Microsoft Excel. I believe that most people probably equate Excel strictly with math which it certainly does very well. I wouldn't have made it out of my college math classes without it but Excel also happens to be fabulous for tracking and keeping a variety of information in one place. This is why I choose it as my writing assistant/tool. 

So how exactly do I use Excel to help with my writing process? 
Each of the following is a tab/sheet in my Excel Workbook:
Beat Sheet
Notes, To Dos & Tasks
Novel Summary
Novel Conclusion
Plot Outline
Character 1
Character 2 (10 Character Profile Sheets Total)
Scene Worksheets
Story Timeline
World Building

While I'm writing Excel is always open. The Character Sheets are particularly useful for not only character development but tracking changes and actions that happen to the characters throughout the story. By keeping good notes on my character sheets I am able to ensure the integrity of my continuity.

Example Character Sheet

One of the things I have come to love the most about the online writing community is how generous and helpful I have found it. I adore the fact that so many writers freely give of their time, knowledge and resources to help other writers.  In that spirit I am freely sharing the Excel Character Sheet Template that I created. I hope you will find it as useful as I do in your writing process.

File Facts
  • Free Excel Character Sheet Template
  • Created it in Microsoft Excel 2003 on the PC (the oldest copy of Excel I still own) so if you use 2003, 2007 or 2010 you will be able to open it.
  • File located on Google Drive
  • File link

This Blog Post was inspired by the following ladies who tirelessly support and give back to the writing community:
Dahila Adler -
Becca Weston -
Natalie C. Parker -

Friday, March 1, 2013

Winter Snow Magic & Chicken Tortilla Soup

In the last week we had a record snow fall in Kansas City, Mo. We are currently sitting with two fabulous feet of snow on the ground!  Fall and winter are my favorite times of the year and I think that Mother Nature's most magical gift is snow. I adore how it transforms the world around us and brings a natural hush to the land. I love it so much that seasonally I join with other snow lovers in our area and take part in a super secret snow invocation dance! OK not really but I tease my friends about snow dancing to summon Jack Frost and call down the snow. They've been rather insistent that I stop as they feel two feet is sufficient. I politely disagree. 

We built our snowman after the first day of snow. I discovered that our snowmen building skills could use a little work, but we had an awful lot of fun building him between snowball fights. My dad was thrilled that he is sporting a Texas Rangers baseball cap. The second picture was taken from my front steps after the snow storm came back for round two. 

Chicken Tortilla Soup 
During the snow storm I was texting with my next door neighbor and dear friend Bryan. I mentioned that I had just finished making chicken tortilla soup. Thirty minutes later I answered the door to find that he had shoveled the sidewalk from his house to mine and was standing expectantly with a smile and bowl in hand. Soups and stews are a terrific part of winter and I had made this same soup in December when everyone I knew had some version of a cold or flu. Bryan had tried and loved it then. 

My absolute favorite chicken tortilla soup is made by a restaurant in Texas called Mi Cocina. I missed it terribly when I moved and decided that I needed to recreate it and make it at home. Duplicating a restaurant recipe is easier said than done as it turns out. Most chicken tortilla soups I've had had are thick, Mi Cocina's is brothy which is one of the features I really like about it. While visiting the fam in Tx I went to Mi Cocina and had the soup for investigative purposes. We wrote down what we thought were the ingredients and took pictures. Oh and yes I did ask for the recipe, they politely declined to give it.

There were several attempts and another home visit before I was able to craft a recipe that satisfied my cravings and was pretty easy to make.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we do. 

Chicken Tortilla Soup Recipe

To Prepare
Bring to boil and simmer for 1 hour before serving


2 (14.5 oz ) cans of chicken broth
4 Cups of water (Or equivalent chicken broth)
4 Chicken breasts
(I usually grab 2 roast chickens from Sam's or Costco and shred them.)
2 Large cans of diced tomatoes
4 Cans of green chilies
1 Large white onion
1 Large can of peas
1 Large can of black beans
3 Cloves of garlic
2 Tsp cumin
2 Tsp chili powder
2 Tsp salt
1 Tsp black pepper
4 Tbsp chopped cilantro
2 Tbsp lime juice
1 or 2 Jalapenos (This is for heat and flavor. If you don't like spice, skip it.)
Tortilla Strips
White/Mexcian Soft Shredded Cheese

In large stock pot at broth and water. 

Add vegetables and seasoning.

Shred chicken into medium pieces and add.

(avocado, cheese and tortilla strips are added serving)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Grief - On My Mind & In My Heart

Grief is a difficult topic to broach but it is on my mind and in my heart right now because yesterday I lost one of my dearest friends. I find myself dunked back into the shocking ice bath of emotion that is deep grief. My first experience with true grief came when I lost my mom. Up until then I only thought I understood what grief was and I had no idea how it would pull my world into sharp perspective or that it would always be with me from that moment forward. I'm writing about this today because I feel like grief is something we tend to gloss over as a society and have some pretty unrealistic expectations about. Maybe if I talk about how it is for me someone else will find comfort and hope in knowing that they aren't alone in how they live with grief and that it is in fact ok to live with it. 

We all acknowledge that grief is something we experience but it is supposed to be this brief thing that we move past. We give our condolences and expect those suffering to be sad for a little while...but what happens when it doesn't pass? I know people who talk about it and those who don't but are clearly still suffering. When grief came to visit for the first time I certainly didn't expect it to be a creature that would take up permanent residence in my soul and live with me day in and day out for the rest of my life. Nor could I imagine that it could be something I would be ok with, but you know what? I am.

I am usually on a pretty even emotional keel and generally more happy  than not so it might come as a surprise to those who know me that grief is a very real part of my daily life. How often have you heard, "Time heals all wounds" and "Everything will get better with time?" That simply wasn't true for me, no matter how many times people said it. The holes in my heart left by loved ones who have passed from this world didn't heal, instead they became a tender and familiar part of my interior terrain. What I mean is that the pain of losing my mom didn't pass, instead it became a known and understood part of my spirit. Even though I don't see it coming I am no longer surprised when a memory or experience triggers tears and sorrow and the deep aching missing of my mom. It has been  years since I lost her but that still happens frequently. I don't dwell in it when it does. I have the experience, pull myself together and keep going with my day. That's how it really is and has been for years now. I imagine it will always be this way. When you lose someone who is an integral part of your life, who helped shape you into the person that you are I don't believe it is something you really ever get over. It is something you learn to live with which is very different than "getting over it." 

We all want to be happy but I consider one of the hard truths in life to be that we rarely learn or grow when we are happy. Happy is usually complacent. Grief has taught me more about compassion than anything else ever had. It has also given me perspective. I have found myself in the middle of situations where emotions and drama were running high and was grounded in the truth of the situation. No one is dying here, no one has a terminal illness or is injured or truly suffering.  In comparison this situation is a small manageable one. Grief also reminds me to demonstrate through word and action my love and appreciation for all of the important people in my life. I say I love you not just to my family but to my friends that are my chosen family as well. I want them to know often how cherished and important they are in my life and how they make my life better. For me it is love that makes life worth living, these people I love don't enrich my life experience they are my life for what would my life be without them?

Grief is a normal and healthy part of our life experience. Understanding and seeing it that way helps me deal with it when I am having a deep grief experience as I am now. Sorrow is familiar to me and I know the depth of it will change though the missing ache of this loss never will. My life will always be different without my friend Jacky and it should be. That's what it means when someone really touches your life and leaves it, change. I've been changed by my beautiful friendship with this incredible woman and my life will be less for the future experiences we will not be able to share but is richer for our history and everything we did. I will always grieve for her loss and understanding why I do and that the grief is a memory of how important a part she played in my life will help me process and live with it.  

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Guillermo Del Toro's: Mama - Horror Done Right

I was seven years old when I watched my very first horror film, John Carpenter's The Fog.

I was hooked. What wasn’t to love? The Fog is a creepy, very well told story that drew me in until I was on the edge of my seat and then over the edge and hiding under the sofa. The ideas and imagery have stuck with me my entire life and I never looked at fog the same way again. The Fog also captured my imagination as a storyteller. If you’ve never seen The Fog do yourself a favor, go right now and turn the lights off and watch what for me is one of the best scene’s in all of horror. No blood, no guts, so special effects or jump out boo, just a man sitting at a campfire telling a story to a group of children: (Actor John Houseman)

The problem with this genre is that it is flooded with absolute crap and well told horror stories don't come along very often. Hollywood can even take a well written horror story and re-craft it in to something miserable. Have you seen the re-makes of The Fog or The Wickerman? They were tragic.

In film horror often relies too heavily on the "jump out boo" factor, imagery and special effects, barely stringing together a sequence of events little lone a good story. If you've ever sat through a horror film and found yourself spending time thinking that the characters were stupid and questioning why they were making choices that no one you’ve ever met would make, then you have been the victim of bad horror. I sat through The Blair Witch Project so annoyed with characters that were too dumb to follow a river out of the woods that I didn’t care about what was happening to them. In Paranormal Activity I the boyfriend was such a tool that I was actually rooting for the evil entity to eat him. I find it impossible to care about fictional characters that are cardboard cutout idiots.

What I loved about Mama was that I was drawn in to the story and I didn’t have it all figured out in the first five minutes. If you have seen a single advertisement for the movie then you know what the story is about, but Del Toro does a very good job of muddying the waters around the story so that you aren’t exactly sure that it is what you think it is. Oh don’t worries there are plenty of creepy jump out boo moments too and they were a lot of fun. However, the win here for me is that beyond the special effects I was actually interested in the characters and the story. The characters were real and layered, the story had unexpected twists and best of all was the end. Endings in horror can make or break a film and this ending was excellent. I don’t want to give away anything about the ending but for me it was one of the better horror film endings I've seen in awhile. I loved Mama it was well worth the watch.

Horror is like junk food; everyone has their own opinions on what is good, what scares them, what works and what doesn't. As a frame of reference here is a list of films in this genre that I adore for a variety of reasons.

I’d love to hear about your favorite horror film or story. What are you looking for in  horror?

1408 2007
Alien 1979 & Aliens 1986
An American Werewolf In London 1981
Blade 1998
Cloverfield 2008
Constantine 2005
Dawn Of The Dead 2004
Dead End 2003
Dracula 2007
Event Horizon 1997
Insidious 2010
Jacob’s Ladder 1990
Jaws 1975
Jeepers Creepers 1 2002
Jeepers Creepers 2 2003
Let The Right One In 2008
Poltergeist 1982
Queen Of The Damned 2002
Rose Red 2002
Session 9 2001
Shaun Of The Dead 2004
Slither 2006
The Cabin In The Woods 2012
The Crazies 2010
The Descent 2005
The Exorcism Of Emily Rose
The Fog 1980
The Last Exorcism 2010
The Lost Boys 1987
The Others 2001
The Silence Of The Lambs 1990
The Strangers 2008
The Wickerman 1973
Trick R Treat 2007
Zombieland 2009

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Writer's Meet Up - Lawrence, KS

This Saturday my partner and I attended a "Writer's Meet Up" in Lawrence Kansas, hosted by local author and dear friend, Natalie C. Parker.

As with all new adventures one never knows quite what to expect.  Two hours can go by in the blink of an eye or they can span across a minor eternity.  Luckily the company was excellent and the characters in attendance were informative, interesting and a hell of a good time.

I came away from the event inspired and connected to other writers that I can't wait to get to know better. It also doesn't hurt to have a monthly deadline looming for a little motivation on the creative writing front.

The conversation ranged from the best multimedia platforms for writers and how to find an agent to bloody vampire baby fetus and zombies. It was definitely not boring!

I want to give a shout out to a few of the writer's that I had the pleasure of meeting:

1. Becca Weston her blog is terrific and well worth checking out

2. Children's book author Gwendolyn Conover author of Robot Party

3. Natalie C. Parker is hosting a contest/give away over on her blog of author Tessa Gratton's Blood Keeper novel, which releases in August.