19 Oct

Preparations for National Novel Writing Month

For those of you who want to be writers, November is a perfect time to put your writing skills to the test. It’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), so I thought I’d give you some pointers on the site and writing.


National Novel Writing Month is where writers from all over the world gather and write 50,000 words between November 1 and November 30. The only thing you win is the satisfaction of knowing you succeeded in writing a novel, and possibly gaining new friendships.

Before getting into it, I thought I’d share my experiences regarding NaNoWriMo. I had participated in 2008 and 2014 with success. My 2008 novel turned out to be my first publication in 2011; Net Switch, a dark, psychological suspense thriller. At the time, I was a full-time employee, so I know about the struggles in finding time to write. I’m currently working on my 2014 crime mystery novel, which will be a 2-book series.

The Site

1) Create an account on NaNoWriMo.org. Most people are wary of putting personal information down, but it helps other writers get to know you. Leave out where exactly you live. Let others know how long you’ve been writing, what type of genre you write, hobbies, books and authors you love. This is also a good time to add a writing buddy. If someone you know has signed up, get their exact username (a site glitch, so it must be accurate), pull up their profile and add them.

2) Then go to Regions – Find a Region, and search for the areas closest to you. The support of others, along with those nearby, is extremely helpful when writing. They also have write-in meetup places to join other NaNo participants.

3) Go to Inspiration – NaNo Prep and check out what’s available and convenient for you to do. Under Conversations, the Forums are another great way to connect with writers before, during, and after November.


1) Make an intention. Why are you doing NaNoWriMo? What is YOUR purpose? Then write it down and tape it somewhere visible on your computer.

2) If all you have are a few characters and a premise for a story, that’s all you need. Don’t be discouraged that you don’t have an outline or know how it’s going to end. Writing will decide character and plot. What you had planned doesn’t exactly mean your characters agree. Things will fall into place as your fingers tap away.

3) Write and don’t look back. Forget about spelling, sentence structure, and punctuation. Before I did NaNoWriMo, I constantly went backwards, editing sentences and paragraphs. This is about getting your story down. Editing comes later. Let the flow of writing happen. Let your characters’ hijack your thoughts and the plot twist whichever way feels right at the time. You can always change it later. You have a limited amount of time to get the story down.

4) When you need guidance or support, rely on the forum, your regions and buddies. As I stated in a previous post, I Want to be a Writer, it’s a journey of solitude, but it doesn’t always have to be. Reach out to others, and you’ll find there’s always at least one person feeling the same as you.

5) Don’t worry whether someone has more words than you, or if you think they’re a better writer. It’s not a race between writers. This is about YOU. Can you throw caution to the wind and write your butt off? Can you focus on your story and word count to finish on time? Like writing, this process is a journey of self-discovery.

6) If you fall behind, don’t panic and quit. That’s the easy way out. If you want to write, get your butt in a chair and refer to your intention. Remind yourself why you wanted to do this in the first place. When there’s no accountability or physical reward, people are okay with walking away from a challenge. Don’t! Your intention is just as important as public recognition. Make NaNoWriMo one of the defining moments in your life. What do you have to lose? Even if you decide not to work on your book for publication, you can say that you wrote a novel in a month.

7) Once you plug in your word count to receive your badge, take a break from the 50,000 words or more you have written before returning to it. Let it sit for a week or two, go treat yourself to something special, and then start revising. Revisions are what raise the word count, adds dimension to your characters, and meat to the story.

Good Luck! Write like the clap of thunder. Finish with the air of an Olympian.

Have you participated in NaNoWriMo? Would you like to add to this experience?

Self-Discovery and Narratives,
Baer Necessities








12 Oct

A Constant Flow of Creativity

Today’s author interview is from a fellow Chicagoan—Susan Bass Marcus—a woman submerged in creativity. From early childhood to years working at a museum, she has led a life that lets her imagination soar. Give a warm welcome to Susan.

Describe yourself in 150 words or less.

A creator of alternative worlds, from childhood on, I’ve explored many ways of expressing my imagination, including the visual arts, performance, and art education. Whether entertaining my younger siblings with shadow puppet stories (a babysitting strategy that distracted them from squabbling) during my adolescence, doing the same with my own children, performing with my puppet theater, or spinning archaeology into an accessible and interesting subject, I’ve been telling stories throughout my life. Since leaving a long career as a museum professional, I have found great satisfaction in writing fiction, and turning out blog pieces about the creative process and its outcomes, which I publish on my website www.malevir.com and on Goodreads.

Which do you enjoy most—character or plot development?

My characters drive the plot. I enjoy watching them unfold and reveal their inner life to me. Sometimes the narrative gracefully falls in place because a character surprises me with some action or response that I didn’t anticipate when I sketched the plot.

Tell us about your published works.

Malevir: Dragons Return is my first published novel, in the fantasy genre. I aimed it at both a middle-school audience (little violence and no sex) and adult fantasy fiction fans. Publishing the book was quite an education. My editor helped a lot at the time I was preparing the manuscript, but the real lessons sank in months after publication last November, 2015, and affect the way I approach my writing now. I am about 100 pages into the sequel, working title: Where Dragons Follow, and I must say the second book is tighter, the story arc is like a rainbow, and the characters have a depth not explored in the first work.

Otherwise, online journals have published three of my works: a supernatural horror story, a speculative dystopian short story, and a psychological fantasy. The latter also appeared in print this summer in After Hours Journal, promoted at the Printers Row LitFest in Chicago.

Do you belong to any critique groups?

I do. The first one I joined is a rather relaxed group of avocational writers who socialize more than critique, but it’s a great group for raising self-esteem. The other group I attend regularly is the Writers Group at the Union League Club of Chicago, a mix of serious writers and dabblers who do not hesitate to offer constructive criticism. Recently, members have proposed me for membership in the Chicago Literary Club, a venerable institution founded in the mid-nineteenth century.

If you were a picture, which room in the house do you want to be in and why?

We live in a very open, big loft, without many partitioned spaces. I’m tempted to say the bathroom, because it’s private and allows for contemplation, but since I like to be out front and noticed, probably I’d want to be installed along the long inner wall facing a line of windows that offer a great view of our metropolis.

What writing advice do you have for aspiring authors?

I can’t say much that is original. For example, my first impulse is to advise practice: write something every day, parse out a story, devise a list of compelling prompts, caption cartoons, draw a comic book/story board, and if you’re up for the commitment take a class. The best preparation for writing is the practice of active observation.

What’s your favorite Jelly Belly jelly bean flavor?

Oops, I don’t eat them. But if I did, I’d go with licorice. I used to love Good N Plenty candy.

In regards to writing, what are you working on now?

A sequel to my first fantasy genre novel and a bunch of short stories, mostly in the surreal realm. Karen Russell is a big influence.

Where in the virtual world can people find you and/or meet for a chat?



Twitter: @AuthorSMarcus

Facebook Group

Chicago HomeTownReads

Chicago Writers Association

I asked Susan to send a picture of a place in history she would have liked to have been present.

Paris 1889, From the Library of CongressParis 1889, From The Library of Congress

Conversations and Creativity,
Baer Necessities







05 Oct

I Want to Be a Writer!

posting boxI belong to several writing groups on Facebook, Google+, and Goodreads. The groups have a mixture of beginners and experienced writers with many questions and conversations regarding new writers’ concerns. I thought I’d tackle some of the postings that I’ve come across, and see if I can clarify a few things for the newbies who want to become writers. This is only my advice… which is Gold. 😀  Before I start discussing these concerns, I’d like to mention a few things.

First, don’t have too many expectations. Writing is a lonely journey. Most people in your lives won’t take much interest in your writing or publications. I’m not saying this happens to every writer, but most writers find out the hard way that their family and friends aren’t as enthused as they had hoped. But don’t get discouraged. There are plenty of writers feeling the same defeat as you, so reach out and connect with them. That’s the beauty of the internet.

Second, write for the right reason. It’s wonderful to have big dreams, but if you’re planning to become a one-hit wonder—a bestselling author making loads of money on your first book then I suggest you rethink this through. There are some inspiring success stories of writers making it big traditionally and through self-publication, but it’s rare. If you want to write, write for your love of the craft, not for fame and fortune. You’ll only find yourself muttering obscenities to an empty bottle of your choosing.

Third, don’t be selfish. New writers and even some experienced ones have a tendency to reach out and ask for feedback, sharing of social media, and reviews. It’s all good just don’t forget to reciprocate. There’s nothing worse than asking for things, yet not being willing to do it for others.

I Want to be a Writer

“I want to be a writer but how do I get ideas for stories.”

The first thing that comes to my mind is, “If you want to be a writer, I would assume you already HAVE ideas.” How can you WANT to be something when you lack influences? When someone wants to be a doctor, painter, lawyer, it’s usually because they experienced some form of it whether it be curriculum and/or a long time passion. If this love of writing comes from reading, then more power to you.

follow your heart

So if you really want to be a writer, but have no ideas, get out there and live. Get away from all electronic devices. Venture out with a pad of paper and pen to people watch. Read the writings on public washroom stalls. Listen in on people’s conversations. Jot down things you see, hear, smell, and touch. Words, small phrases, or sentences you write might turn into something bigger. There are also sites that provide daily prompts, such as Creativity Portal. Write a paragraph or more from one of the prompts. It might conjure up an idea for a novella or novel.

I Got an Idea

“Hey, I have an idea for a book. Let me know what you think.”

Why? What does it matter if strangers like or dislike your idea. If you think it’s a great idea for a story, don’t share it with others because someone might beat you to it. Keep it to yourself or share with a close confidante. Bounce ideas off someone you know and trust.

F*** the Rules

“Why does writing have so many rules? Can’t I just write without having to worry about word count, adverbs, show vs. tell?”

I don’t consider people who don’t want to educate themselves, writers. These are lazy people. People who came up with a story idea, wrote a draft, ignored editing, and published it. That’s not what writing is about. Technology has offered a way for anyone to publish, and that’s great. The only problem is when you’re expecting someone to pay for your works, you should at least have the decency to put forth effort.

The rules of writing are guides. New writers should learn them. Read books to see what does and doesn’t work. Writing is a craft, which deserves studying. Once you understand the rules, then you can break them—create your own style.


“I have a story idea, but I think it might offend some people. Should I go ahead and write the story anyways?”

Whatever you write will offend someone, so go ahead and write. Don’t worry about offending people. Of course, if your story is taboo in subject matter, it’s a given many people won’t care for it. Aside from that, get your butt in a chair and write.

Writing Full-Time

“Can I make money writing full-time?”

I’ve seen this question asked by so many people who haven’t written a word. Or they wrote a few things and decided they want to write full-time. They’re getting a little ahead of themselves. It’s very difficult to make a living from writing. If you’re willing to work hard, start writing, A LOT, and submit your works to magazines, journals, etc. You’ll never know until you try.

What do you think? Anyone want to add?

New Writers and Concerns,
Baer Necessities

P.S. If you get a chance, enter my Goodreads Giveaway. The link is on the right sidebar. Best of luck to you!





28 Sep

Happy Palate!

Chinese food has always been one of my favorite foods. Whether choosing beef, poultry, or fish, there is such a variety ranging from spicy to sweet and sour. Although I have to admit, I love food. Period. I wish I was the type who ate when hungry. Instead, I’m the type who eats to enjoy different flavors and dishes. Since I’ve become a stay-at-home wife, I’ve learned so many things about foods, and the importance of healthy eating. We do stray sometimes, but I try to replace processed, starchy, carb foods with homemade and healthy choices. I’ve replaced much of our potato, pasta, and rice sides with bulgur, barley, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), white beans (cannellini beans), and couscous.

Now my favorite food has morphed into Thai Food. The fusion of lemongrass, curry, coconut milk, ginger, to name a few, are gorgeous on the tongue with the heat of chili peppers.

After numerous Thai food meals, I’ve come up with my own little Thai Dish that I’d like to share today. It’s called Thai Seafood Bulgur Cuisine.

10 - Seafood Bulgur ThaiIngredients

Shrimps (how many is up to you)
2 Fish Filets (Pangasius or any type you like)
¾ cups of Bulgur
3 small carrots
1 green onions
1 large garlic clove
½ hot pepper (the hotness comes from the seeds, so add as many seeds you want for hotness)
1 cup coconut milk
Coconut oil
Ground Ginger
Ground Lemongrass (if you can get fresh lemongrass, that would be better)
Pescado Sazonador fish seasoning or any other kind you have on hand
Salt and cracked pepper for taste

1) Pour some coconut oil in a deep pan and cook the fish filets over med-high heat along with ¼ of the garlic clove. This takes about 4 to 8 minutes. Sprinkle with fish seasoning, ginger and lemongrass. When it’s almost done, add some cracked pepper.

01 - Seafood Bulgur Thai2) While fish is cooking, chop the 3 carrots and green onion and ½ of the hot pepper. Take fish out and put aside. In the same pan on med-high heat, add more coconut oil, the carrots, onion, the rest of the garlic and pepper, again adding as many seeds for desired heat. Cook until carrots are somewhat tender.

03 - Seafood Bulgur Thai3) Add ¾ cup of bulgur and cook with the vegetables for about a minute or 2 before adding 1-1/2 cups of water. Season with ginger, salt, and lemongrass and then let bulgur cook until soft.

4) While bulgur cooks, breakup the fish filet, and remove tails from the uncooked shrimps. When water is almost soaked up by the bulgur, add in ½ cup of coconut milk. Cook for another 5 minutes and then add the fish to the bulgur mixture and another ½ cup of coconut milk. This is a good time to taste to see if you need any additional seasonings.

5) Increase the heat to high and add the shrimps. Cook until shrimp is pink. If need be, you can add more coconut milk. When done, dish out onto plates and enjoy!

11 - Seafood Bulgur ThaiWhat’s your favorite food? Have you ever created your own dish?

Recipe and Foods Orgasm,
Baer Necessities




21 Sep

Rewards of Reading

It’s been a while since I’ve lost myself in a book, ingested the writing style, and finished with the proud feeling of ‘this is what writing is all about’. Over the summer, I read three books that I fell in love with for the writing styles, the stories, and characters. Fiction writing isn’t as easy as most assume. One must understand language, create a plot and setting where the reader can join in the journey, and flawed characters that you either fall in love with or hate. In my opinion, these books achieved and went beyond the fundamentals of writing fiction.

First Recommendation (Literary Fiction)

The first book I read was The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler. Now this woman knows how to write. Mermaids, tarot card reader, contortionist, a mute, and many other odd characters spun into a magical story. First line: “Perched on the bluff’s edge, the house is in danger.”

: The Book of Speculation is about a young man, Simon, who is lost to a past. His parents died and his sister, Enola, is on her own destructive journey. Simon struggles with the guilt of not being able to save his childhood home on Long Island Sound. His job is teetering on non-existent. One day he receives an old book from Martin Churchwarry of Churchwarry & Son; sent because he cannot sell it due to damage, and thought the family of Verona Bonn could use it. The book turns out to be a journal of Hermelius Peabody, the head of a carnival. While researching the book, Simon learns about his history and the fate of the women in his family.

Writing: I loved Swyler’s writing style—distinct, avoiding the regular verbs and comparisons. I’d like to share a few sentences that I highlighted. These are surreal descriptions. A reader can feel the emotion from the first one, and visualize the others.

  • Paperback, page 14
  • Paperback, page 108
  • Paperback, page 284
  • Paperback, page 317
“Hunger, his enduring companion, was all that kept him certain that he lived.”
“She is frenzied motion, elbows flinging, hips shimmying, dancing and detonating.”
“The bald back of his head shone in the moonlight as the river coursed over it like a stone”
“The house is in silhouette, hanging off the cliff’s edge, tilting like an Irishman’s cap.”

But her style of writing wasn’t the only thing that captured my attention. Her story and characters were quirky, awkward, and weird, something you don’t find in many books. The past winds up colliding with the present, exploding secrets, bringing understanding and release to the characters so they could move on.

Second Recommendation (Young Adult)

My second book is Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira. I’m not one for young adult books, but this one is an eye-catcher. It doesn’t have the immature feel or regular subject matter I often notice in young adult. Famous dead people, teenager, letter assignment weaves a story of loss and recovery. First line: “Dear Kurt Cobain, Mrs. Buster gave us our first assignment in English today, to write a letter to a dead person.”

About: As the first line reveals, this is about a girl, Laurel, whose first assignment in a new school is to write a letter to a dead person. What was supposed to be a one-letter assignment, turns into a year of writing to dead people to help her overcome the loss of innocence, the death of her sister, and her mother moving away. Laurel speaks to the dead about her experiences, falling in love, grappling with her mother’s departure and her sister’s absence. In turn, her search into their lives answers some questions, and in the end, lets her forgive and heal.

Writing: Even though the story is told through a teenager, the style of writing is poignant. Of course, this might have affected me more than others since I recently lost my sister, but it doesn’t change the fact that Dellaira knows how to grasp a reader’s emotions. Here are a few descriptions I highlighted:

  • Paperback, page 9
  • Paperback, page 26
  • Paperback, page 101
“You used your voice like glue to keep your family together.”
“Each word felt like its own stone, falling to the bottom of a lake.”
“…how there is something fragile like moths inside of him, something fluttering, Something trying desperately to crowd toward a light … Even if I am only Sky’s street lamp, I don’t mind. It’s enough to be what he moves toward.”

Dellaira delves into feelings as her character, Laurel, researches and tries to understand a famous dead person’s actions or words. It’s touching and therapeutic to know that others struggle with depression and hardships, and Laurel connects with the dead through her writings. The letters are her survival manual as she finally learns to stop blaming herself and begins to mend.

Third Recommendation (Literary Fiction / Humorous)

The third story is The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin. I hadn’t even heard about this book when it was chosen by my book club. To date, not one of the book club choices heightened my love for words and writing. In fact, majority of the books we read were angry or depressing, so the opportunity to read something funny was refreshing. Books, baby, reading, infidelity, death, romance create this funny, eccentric story. First line: “On the ferry from Hyannis to Alice Island, Amelia Loman paints her nails yellow and, while waiting for them to dry, skims her predecessor’s notes.”

About: The title says it’s about the storied life of A.J. Fikry, but it’s so much more. A.J. Fikry owns a struggling bookstore on Alice Island. A lifelong curmudgeon, his misery increased after the loss of his wife. He lashes out at the community and publishers’ sales reps. Love of drink and little money, sarcastic A.J. has a priceless book stolen from him, and is given a small gift with ten fingers and toes. His interactions with Amelia, the new sales rep, and the baby girl left in his bookshop tilts his sorry world. A.J. acquires feelings for Amelia, a romantic, raises baby Mia, and soon finds that there is life beyond books.

Writing: Zevin has a way with humor. Her peculiar characters add zest to the story, and I found myself laughing aloud. Several secondary characters clash yet compliment A.J. Here are a few highlighted lines:

  • Paperback, page 72
  • Paperback, page 77
“…despite the fact that A.J. does not believe in God, he closes his eyes and thanks whomever, the higher power, with all his porcupine heart.”
“His breath smells like socks wet from snow.”

A.J. is not your typical bookworm. His pretentious, judgmental attitude doesn’t bode well with many. Recently losing his wife, thinking everyone is stupid, his circumstances are met with humor and hope. Behind A.J.’s disgruntled fits reveals a man with a big heart.

Reading and Engagement,
Baer Necessities