Photo Credit

Photograph by Justin Sheely - used with permission.

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

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

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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)