Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Grandma's House

Dad called last night to let me know that my grandma's house finally sold. My grandmother lived in the house from early in her marriage until the day she died. It started as a run-down shack, but the efforts of my Grandpa Rex, Grandma Ruby and their sons (including my dad), made it into a lovely home where people felt comfortable celebrating, mourning, or just visiting.

Back in 2004, I asked my grandma to tell me the history of the house, and I wrote an article on it. It's one of the best things I've ever done. I'm sending a copy to the new owners today, but I thought you might like to see it, too.

You can find it here:

Sorry the copy isn't so good: Fence Post liked the older, brownish newspaper paper.

This article is the only thing I have left of my grandmother's house, but that's okay. There's a new family in it, making their own memories. Isn't that what homes are for? I pray that they're mostly happy ones.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Conference Preparation Tips

The Catholic Writers Conference Live is in just a couple of weeks!

I've been working off and on the past few days getting things ready. I've packed my books, business cards and clothes. I've filled a binder with all my lecture notes and handouts. (I love page protectors for this). I've put important phone numbers in my cell phone. I've written out my schedule of panels, presentations, booth volunteer time and books signings and interviews.

On the home front, I've printed out my flight information and made daily checklists for the kids. If they follow it and Rob does the rest, I might come home to a clean house and minimal laundry!

The only thing I didn't prepare, much to my regret, is a book to pitch; however, I have a couple of concepts to discuss at the conference, so maybe I'll be ready next year or can make initial contact to follow up when I am more ready. And, I have to remind myself, two books in seven months is nothing to sneeze at, esp. with everything else I've done.

Are you heading to a conference? What do you do to prepare? Here are a couple of websites with some fabulous tips.

My list from February:

A great list I discovered yesterday:

Thursday, July 22, 2010

my novel's journey: Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator--Editing

I'm working now on editing Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator. I thought to start, I'd share again my "method."

Five Steps For Editing a Manuscript:

1. Spell and Grammar Check: I do this as a quick check, and I don't believe everything Microsoft says about grammar. There's a lot the word processor doesn't understand. However, it's a good start.

2. Use the Find function for spotting passive voice and other common problems I have. If you use the Find function for words like is, was, were, very, etc., you will discover the passive-voice sentences. I also use it for other common problems I have--words I tend to overuse; names I may have misspelled (I find the misspellings, or use the Replace to change them all.)

3. Print and read it. I always catch more stuff when it's on paper than when I have it on the computer.

4. Read it out loud. This lets me check for flow of narrative and hard to follow sentences. Also, by reading it to my kids, they will tell me what works and what doesn't.

5. Read it backward, one sentence at a time. By isolating each sentence from the narrative, I can better analyze it.

Usually after that, I will give it a final read, beginning to end, on the computer.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Ten Random Thoughts

It's 11 pm on Sunday and I've not prepared a blog as I've been working all weekend on the first-round (which really is first 2 rounds) of edits to Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator. So tonight, I present 10 random thoughts that keep me up tonight:

1. What's with the latest Dr. Who? Is he defective? I'm getting rather irritated at how he's so reactive and slow to come up with solutions. The "Tenant" Doctor would have solved half his dilemmas by mid-show and gotten into some really juicy trouble. Is it because he's not ginger like he wanted?

2. Why is geekiness cool now, and not when I was a self-conscious teen? (Glad it is, since we're raising geeks.)

3. What is it about me that ruins computers? This is the fourth time in six months a computer's died on me. Rob wants to build me a desktop. At least then, I know my tech support.

4. Why did God create wasps and mosquitoes?

5. If I get royalties from Damnations Books, are those the wages of sin?

6. WHAT is the lure of Facebook games? They're about as interesting as slot machines without tangible payoff.

7. Why is it so hard to come up with ten things when you want to--but when you don't want to, questions and thoughts don't go away?

8. Who really reads my blog? I supposedly have 130 or more followers--do they really follow or are they just being polite?

9. What IS the approximate air velocity of the unladen sparrow? (African or European.)

10. Now that I've finished this, will how many questions will I come up with?

Good night!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

My Novel's Journey: Fueling the Full Speed Ahead

Oops! It’s Thrusday, and I haven’t blogged!

All I can say is that I’ve been on a wonderful, awe-inspiring writing spree the past few days. I wrote 8300 words yesterday—good words, not stuff I’m going to cut or totally rewrite—and an hour after waking up this morning, I had another 600 to added.

This despite the fact that my laptop is down—yes, AGAIN!

So, yeah, I’m bragging a bit, but before you go hide in a corner (like one writer friend suggested she would do last night), let me share what got me here:

I’ve been working on Neeta Lyffe off and on since January. For the past 6 weeks, it’s been mostly off because of the move. In June, I gave myself permission to forget about writing obligations and just concentrate on the house. As a result of that and some major help from Rob, the kids and especially my parents who drove up to help, it is done. That took a major stress off my mind—and stress does stall creativity. (when we let it, but that’s another blog) I wrote when I had a chance and felt the need, but didn’t start my schedule. By the time I was done with the house, I was hungry for my routine. So, kill off stresses when you can.

However, just because I wasn’t putting a lot of words on paper, didn’t mean I wasn’t writing the book. The characters and scenes were still going on in my mind. Some people call this pre-writing. So daydream your stories when you can’t write.

My laptop dying probably helped. I didn't have as much incentive to be trolling the internet (which is hard on the netbook's tiny screen) or reading all my e-mailed newsletters (even harder on webmail and a tiny screen.) So cut distrations!

One thing I do have on the netbook is Yahoo IM. When I got stuck, I'd IM a writer friend (usually Rebecca Butcher, but also Ann Lewis and Susan Kirkland) and bounce ideas off them. Sometimes explaining helped gel a concept. So, talk through ideas with a friend or writer friend.

Two days before my writing spree, I had a day that was mostly spent staring at the same image on Google Earth for hours. (a concrete slab near West Burbank between I-5 and South Front Street in Burbank, CA. Twisting it, figuring out angles. Getting directions to the nearest hospitals and studios. Trying to figure out what it’d originally been used for. Drawing out the logistics of a zombie invasion spilling out of the imaginary factory I placed there. I am not a visualizer in the literal sense, so this was painful work for me, and wow—did it pay off in the end! So, do the research. Don’t be afraid to take time to think.

However, there came a point where I had to stop staring at the picture, get over my insecurities and self-doubt and just write. I chanted my mantra (“Sh**y First Draft”) until I had the nerve to start typing. Once I got into it, things flew! So, get over the self-doubt and just write!

Finally, I let the characters dictate the story. I had intended on a pretty grand battle, lots of strategy and good tactics, but these are a bunch of TV show contestants learning to be exterminators. Like reality TV contestants, they each wanted their moment. So that’s what I wrote—everybody got a scene, everybody did something cool. Then they surprised me: Katie finds courage, LaCenta meets a hot guy, Spud decides to propose. Neeta steals a HumVee and saves the very lawyer who sued her. As I wove these together, following their leads, I remembered a line Motzart said in the movie Amadeus about seven voices singing individually is music. They made music. So, don’t be afraid to let the characters take control.

Okay, enough for today. I want to get back. Everyone’s going to a big victory reception some political candidate is throwing for them Then I have to announce the winner of Zombie Death Extreme. Who will get the million?

Think you’ll have to buy the book to find out.

(BTW, yes, the house is a bit messy, but I did make a good breakfast for the kids, did 2 loads of laundry and cleaned the kids' bathroom. I also discussed some conference issues with Ann. You can do it and more!)

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Advertise the Catholic Writers Conference and Win a Book

The Catholic Writers Conference Live is being held Aug 4-6 in King of Prussia, PA. It's an awesome writers conference, but we're not getting a lot of registrants. We're trying to make one final publicity push and you can help--and win one of my books.

I'm asking folks to post about the conference. Here're the rules:

* You can post anything below on your blog, website, facebook, twitter, Yahoo groups, Linked In, Ning groups, etc.
At minimum, you need to post the conference name, date, location and website to register
* E-mail me with the link to where you posted. karina(at)
* For each post, I will enter you in a drawing. Aug 1, I will pick a winner. That winner will get their choice of any of my books. Check out my books at

You'll be doing a service not only for me and the CWG, but for any writer who happens to be Catholic and is looking for a place that not only will help them hone thier skills but will support their beliefs. If you might have someone like that in your readership, please help us out.

Minimum Post (140 characters): Catholic Writers! The Catholic Writers Conference Live is Aug 4-6 at King of Prussia, PA. Info/Register

Video link:

Conference graphic link:

Most Current Press Release


CONTACT: Ann Margaret Lewis
e-mail: annlewis(at)
Karina Fabian
E-mail: karina(at)

For Immediate Release

Catholic Writers to Hold Conference in Valley Forge, PA

World Wide Web--The second annual Catholic Writers’ Conference LIVE will be held August 4-6, 2010, at the Scanticon Hotel Valley Forge in King of Prussia, PA. Sponsored by the Catholic Writer’s Guild and the Catholic Marketing Network (CMN), and held in conjunction with CMN’s annual retailer trade show, the Catholic Writers Conference LIVE provides Catholic authors with a prime opportunity to meet and share their faith with editors, publishers, fellow writers, and bookstore owners from across the globe.

This year's conference will feature presentations on such topics as market tips and time management for busy writers, poetry, creating evil characters, working with an editor, creating winning proposals, journaling and much more. Speakers include Catholic publishing representatives Claudia Volkman - General Manager of Circle Press, Regina Doman - acquisitions editor for Sophia Institute Press, and Tom Wehner - Managing Editor of the National Catholic Register, all of whom will also hear pitches from writers.

Among the other speakers are Mark Shea (Mother of the Son), Michelle Buckman (My Beautiful Disaster), Donna-Marie Cooper-O’Boyle (Mother Teresa and Me), Susie Lloyd (Please Don’t Drink the Holy Water), and Publicist Lisa Wheeler from the Maximus Group.

“Attending this conference has been the best thing I have done for myself professionally,” Carol Bannon, author of the children’s book Handshake from Heaven, said of the 2009 conference. Her fellow writer Melanie Cameron agreed, saying she left the last conference re-energized. “I recommend [this] conference as a resource for any author (or wannabe) at any stage. You will walk away empowered!”

The Catholic Writers Guild, a religious non-profit organization, sponsors both this live conference in August and an online conference in February to further its mission of promoting Catholic literature. “Our conferences are totally focused on encouraging faithful Catholics to share genuine Catholic culture and faith in their writing no matter what genre,” says CWG President Ann Margaret Lewis. “These events are integral to our mission of ‘creating a rebirth of Catholic arts and letters.”

Registration costs $85 for CWG members, $95 for non-members and $42 for students. There's also a discounted combined membership. To register or for more information, go to

# # #
Graphics, interviews and further information available upon request.

Thanks for your help!

Holly Lisle, an Example to Writers

I'm pausing in my adventures writing Neeta Lyffe to share this inspiring story.

Holly Lisle is a fantasy writer, who has been both prolific and successful. She's also a strong believer in helping other writers learn the trade. As such, she teaches classes and puts out a newsletter that talks about her writing life and lessons she's learned and wants to teach others. Regardless of you genre, you can learn a lot from her.

Recently, she started having medical problems. Severe medical problems, the kind that, to paraphrase her newsletter, leave her lying on the couch with the room spinning, her head throbbing, not able to even read, and wondering if this is the new state of normal for the rest of her life. Nonetheless, she's managed to work on some bonuses for a course she teaches, write job descriptions for a magazine she wants to start (one of her life's goals), outline another class she wants to teach, and is figuring out how to write despite the dizziness and pain.

I can't help but think, "What happened to being sick?"

The answer, of course, is simple. She wants to write. She wants to create. And if she wants to continue doing what she loves, she has to learn to work through or around her health. So she is. Simple...

...but by no means easy.

What do you love? What's stopping you from pursuing it? More importantly, WHY are you letting it stop you?

The next time I get discouraged or feel too tired or busy or whatever, I'm going to think of Holly, lying on her couch, hardly able to get up, yet still making the effort to write her newsletter to inspire other writers. God bless you, Holly.

Monday, July 05, 2010

On the Care and Feeding of Hydras

You all know the story of Hercules and the hydra. He'd cut off one head, only to have it grow two in its place. He finally crushed the thing with a rock to kill it.
Sometimes, hydras are not evil monsters that need to be killed. Some have very useful places in society, but unless properly managed, they will overwhelm their owner.

I raise hydras. I never intended to, but they come into my life, and they're beautiful and important and needy and it seems I care for them or they'll either wither from neglect or someone (the Fates, maybe) will throw a rock on them and crush them.

The Catholic Writers' Guild is one such hydra. When I first met it, it was small and cute and so many people were interested in helping with it. In the past five years, though, it's become huge and frankly, the handful of people who are willing to help sometimes isn't enough. When I stepped down as president, I thought I'd rid myself of a head, but instead, circumstances have brought three more in its place--the secretary position, the membership coordinator position, and the changing of our bylaws--which I need to care for. I have help, but it's still three important heads. Frankly, we need more help, but I think people are intimidated by how big (and magnificent) our hydra has become. It's a lot of responsibility, but worth every effort.

Sometimes, heads come off by themselves, and more take their place. Writing is such a hydra. Each book is a head lopped off, but in its place are the marketing responsibilities--from book tours to fan reaction. Smaller, but important heads that need attention if they (and thus the book) is to stay alive. Even more, each book seems to breed other books, so it's not just new heads, but new necks that are developing.

Sometimes, you prune one head successfully, but a different one takes its place. The education hydra is like that. I stopped homeschooling because it wasn't working for us--the head was too big and too demanding. Instead, public (sometimes private) schooling took its place, and there are just as many obligations there, although smaller in scope. Sadly, it's also a little easier to depend on others to care for those heads, and when they fail, I really have to step in. I feel I'm in that situation now with at least two of my kids. Those problems will become separate heads themselves before the year it through. My fault for not keeping better watch.

Then there are the hydras that stay dormant awhile, only to reappear fully formed and fully demanding and often with several hungry heads. Moving is like that. I expect these, of course, but I'm really hoping that we can go a couple of years without seeing another.

Of course, family is a hydra of its own, but we all deal with that one. I'm just thankful I have a great partner there in my husband Rob.

Will I give up any of my hydras? I'm tempted sometimes. My arms get tired, my blade dulls, and I can only feed so many snapping heads at once. Just when I think I have them all under control, one sprouts a new head (or someone gives a head a nudge) and I'm scrambling to control the situation again. However, they are all too important and too dear to me. So I keep at it, swinging away at one head, tossing food to another, soothing a third. I call for help and take it when it comes.

Because there's one thing that Hercules didn't learn about hydras. When properly cared for, they reward your attention. With friends, with blessings, with the satisfaction of a job well done, with treasure, and sometimes with gifts you hadn't even imagined.

I raise hydras. It's tough, but I wouldn't give it up for the world.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

On Doors and Relationships, Part 2

I'm still plugging away at Neeta Lyffe. I'd hoped to be in the editing stage, but life (not Lyffe) had other plans for my time and attention. However, we got our furniture on Saturday, which means we have the kids' stuff, and that might help some.

At any rate, I did get the second half of the Door subplot done. As you may recall from a couple of weeks ago, Neeta's boyfriend, Brian, offered to buy her a new door because her old one sticks and he thought it was annoying her. She compromised by getting it repaired so that it opens smoothly, but it didn't feel as secure to her. Her friend, Ted, then gave her a door limiter that he got at a wild party.

A couple of days later, Brian comes over and discovers that not only didn't she take him up on his offer of a new door, but she put on Ted's door limiter.

She shut the door and took his hand, but he didn't budge, still staring at the door as if it offended him.

"So I offer to replace your door, let you have the fanciest one you could ever want even, and all you asked for is some paint and a door stop?"

"It's called a door limiter, and actually Ted gave it to me. It's got kind of a funny story--"

"Ted? You asked Ted to fix your door?"

"What? No! See he got the door limiter at this wild party--Seventh Day Inventists, surely you know about them--and I own a door and he doesn't so--"

He pulled his hand away from her and gestured at the door. "I could have bought you a door limiter if you'd wanted one."

"I didn't! At least, it never occurred to me--"

"Yet there it is!"

Neeta looked at Brian's face, flushed from heat that had nothing to do with the day. Her jaw dropped. "Are you jealous?"

He opened his mouth, closed it, opened it again, then burst out, "Yes! Yes, I guess I am!"

"Of a door limiter?"

Again, he opened and shut his mouth, looking something like a giant carp, but this time nothing came out.

Part of Neeta seethed, but mostly she just thought he looked silly and pitiful.

"Wow. Maybe next time, I'll get Roscoe to get me a doorknob."

A pause, and then his anger turned from real to mocking. "Forget it, babe," he said. "If anyone provides the doorknobs in this relationship, it'll be me."

So what's this really all about? Is Brian jealous of a piece of metal? Is Neeta stubborn to have not accepted his offer of a great, new door?

Yes and no. The underlying issue is one of control and understanding. Brian has a romantic notion of Neeta as the strong but lonely heroine who needs a man to understand and protect her. Neeta, however, does not want to be coddled and cared for. She does just fine on her own. She really wants someone she can buddy with, who understands that she's not psychologically fragile because she whacks off the heads of the living dead. Someone who's going to give her a door limiter because he's thoughtful, not because he wants to rescue her.

Guess you know that means she prefers Ted, but will she get him in the end? If you want a spoiler, go buy The Zombie Cookbook and read "Wokking Dead."