Thursday, July 28, 2016

Dear Diary by Connie Vines

UPDATED blog post:  Additional information about the "Gratitude Journal" and photos!

It wasn’t I until experienced a seven-hour power-outage during a rainstorm on Sunday that I really pondered the world before electricity.

With the rain and cloud-cover, it was very, very dark and icy cold.  I could actually see the alignment of the five planets quite clearly.  For those familiar with the southern California skyline, you know that we cannot see the constellations or planets unless we drive to Palm Springs, the mountains, or the high desert.  So, combined with the exceptionally cold temperatures and wind chill factor, and an inability to prepare a meal inside my kitchen, I felt as if I plopped into the center of one of my historical novels.

This is what had me ponder the act of writing in a diary.

I hadn’t read a diary (except for research purposes in years).

 As a teen or pre-teen, you probably received a diary as a birthday gift or a Christmas present.  I know I did.  The diary with a lock (which anyone, on a whim, could pick) and a key.  At first, my entries were made daily, then weekly, then, seldom at all.  Later, the diary evolved into journaling for a writing class, or jot down events, or milestone in my toddler’s life.  Now I have a journal app on my iPad that I often use for notes and thoughts about my novels points.

None of scribbles in my journals were as emotionally purging or filled with day-to-day angst of a teenager’s life.

Why?  I believe because my of my journaling was via the keyboard.

Scientific studies prove the act of pen to paper stirs creative thoughts.

While I have no real interest in keeping a detailed diary for myself

What about fictional characters?  Do you ever have your fictional characters write a diary?

That is when I recalled my salad days are a writer.

When I starting writing fiction and non-fiction for the magazine market.  I published in “Jr. Medical Detective” and “Humpty Dumpty”.  In my article, “A Candle in the Dark” (still available as part of the Thomas Gale Education Series), my heroine, Sarah kept a diary.  The story dealt with the Salem Witchcraft Trials.  I found the diary to be a very effect plot device.  It was also a good way to give the reader information without using a backstory to interrupt the flow of my story.

What are you feelings about diaries in a novel?

Are there diaries you’ve read you found of interest or diaries that change how you viewed the world?
Why is it a good idea to have a diary in your storyline?

Fictional characters are forced by their authors to carry the story (the process of the narrative).  At the most basic level the diary gives you a first-person narrative without the protagonist knowing what is going to happen.

The use of diaries in novels of the past.

Pamela (1740) by Samuel Richardson is usually described as an epistolary novel.  However, our heroine also writes a journal, and then sews it into her underwear for secrecy.

Wuthering Heights (1847) by Emily BrontĂ« has a skeletal framework of a diary: “I have just returned from a visit to my landlord. . .Yesterday afternoon set in misty and cold.”  Mr. Lockwood will learn about true emotion day by day as he finds out and writes down the story of Heathcliff and the Earnshaws.

Bridget Jones’s Diary (1996) by Helen Fielding is well known to be based on the plot of Pride and Prejudice.

The more I ponder the use of a diary in my next novel, the more I warm to the idea.

I have my favorite pen and I also have turquoise Martha Stewart premium journal I received as a gift for Christmas.  While there isn’t a lock and key, there is an elastic band to keep the journal closed.  There is also a fabric bookmark so that I may keep my place.

I can picture myself writing today's date, time, and my first entry. . .Dear Diary.


For a self-growth I've also began keeping a Gratitude Journal.

I do not write in the Gratitude Journal on a daily basis.  I write in the journal weekly, or when there is a moment I would like to remember or ponder as too why this event/ conversation was so meaningful to me.

I had jotted down the words, "Music is what feelings sound like."

Yes.  This spoke to my soul; called to my very being.

This is why I play music that complements the story I am working on, or is the choice of my hero/heroine.

What music speaks to me.  Immediately, I knew. The musical I had attended at the Ahmanson Theater in Los Angeles. "The Phantom of the Opera."

Do not the lyrics make you grateful that you can experience the depth of emotion of the tormented hero of the story (I am no fan of Raoul).  However, it is the music that haunts and calls to you; leaving an imprint on your soul.
Phantom for the Opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Music of the Night
Night time sharpens, heightens each sensation
Darkness stirs and wakes imagination
Silently the senses abandon their defenses
Helpless to resist the notes I write
For I compose the music of the night
[Verse 2: Phantom]
Slowly, gently night unfurls its splendor
Grasp it, sense it, tremulous and tender
Turn your face away from the garish light of day
Turn your thoughts away from cold unfeeling light
And listen to the music of the night
[Verse 3: Phantom]
Close your eyes and surrender to your darkest dreams
Purge your thoughts of the life you knew before
Close your eyes, let your spirit start to soar
And you live as you've never lived before
[Verse 4: Phantom]
Softly, deftly, music shall caress you
Hear it, feel it, secretly possess you
Open up your mind, let your fantasies unwind
In this darkness that you know you cannot fight
The darkness of the music of the night
[Verse 5: Phantom]
Let your mind start a journey to a strange new world
Leave all thoughts of the life you knew before
Let your soul take you where you long to be
Only then can you belong to me
[Verse 6: Phantom]
Floating, falling, sweet intoxication
Touch me, trust me, savor each sensation
Let the dream begin, let your darker side give in
To the power of the music that I write
The power of the music of the night
[Ending: Phantom]
You alone can make my song take flight
Help me make the music of the night
[Ending: Phantom]
You alone can make my song take flight
Help me make the music of the night

What music has touched your soul?  
If you are a novelist, what music speaks to you?

Happy Reading,


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Vacationing Vicariously

One week away from starting our vacation and I have moved from counting days to counting hours. Well, maybe not that anxious to get going, but darn close. Hubster, myself, and two of our closest friends will be heading out to Montana and Glacier National Park and then we will spend several days in Wyoming after Glacier. (Hopefully, we'll still all be friends after this trip, too.)

Because there are going to be three people in this group who have to take a blue-billion photos everywhere we go, I’ve set up a Facebook page to share these photos. Right now, there isn’t much on the page, other than a profile picture and one photo of me and friend’s hubby scrubbing the camper down. (Yeah, dragging a dirty camper all over the country isn’t something I want to do.)

Check there often because I know we’ll have lots to share. That’s the joys of having a semi-retired hubby and fully retired friends. We don’t have to have a schedule, so we can take all the time we want and all the pictures imaginable. 

Friday, July 22, 2016

Sheep Crossing????

During our vacation in South Dakota, I saw a sign I'd never seen before  

In Tennessee, I've seen plenty of deer crossing signs, and in Arizona, I watched for Elk, but this was a first for me.

It's not uncommon to see these surefooted animals on the rocks near Deadwood, South Dakota  Their agility is amazing, but not so great as that of the Mountain Goat. How do you tell the difference?

Mountain Goats are  a stark white color with smaller horns while the Bighorn sheep, especially the rams, are named because of their large, curling gray horns.  The ewes also have horns, but much smaller ones.

Although these animals are part of the 'cloven hoof' group, the Bighorns and Mountain goats have fatter or wider hooves with softer pads on the bottom that help grip the rocks.  Other cloven-hoofed animals would ultimately slip because of the rigidity of their hooves.

Even though the goats and sheep are superb climbers, falls have been documented, and other have been killed by vehicles.

The herd was released into a "burn area in February 2015, and except for a few strays, have remained in the area.  Twenty-Six animals were released, and at least thirteen lambs have joined the family.  The newest crop is likely to be born in mid-May.

Note:  All the photos were borrowed from Google Images.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

A Woman's Signature Fragrance--a Lasting Impression by Connie Vines

In my current anthology, Gumbo Ya Ya for women who like romance Cajun, one of my main characters is a perfumer.  Since I have past experience as a fragrance in an exclusive perfumery, I thought I’d share some helpful times when selecting a signature fragrance.

Perfume Terminology (or ABCs)


Pure, natural extracts and oils from flowers and other vegetable materials. Very expensive for a small amount. Example: pure rose oil.
tuberose from Morocco


An odoriferous element in the perfume or cologne. When we smell a composed fragrance, we smell different notes within it. When the first scent — or top note — dissipates, we smell the middle note, also known as the bouquet. As that fades, we are left with the basic note, which is the third element of a composed fragrance. It’s like a symphony.

*test by spraying a small amount of fragrance on your forearm.  It takes 20 minutes before the alcohol evaporates and you smell the ‘true’ scent.

Secret Number One: Don’t commit to a scent until you smell the final note.

my fragrance testing kit

What exactly is Eau de Cologne?

Eau de Cologne is three to five percent oil in a mixture of alcohol and water. It tends to be lighter and refreshing, typically with a citrus oil component.

Eau de Toilette
Containing about the same amount of perfume oil or a little more — somewhere between four and eight percent — than Eau de Cologne, Eau de Toilette is mixed with alcohol instead of water.

Eau de Parfum
A higher percentage of perfume oil — roughly 15 to 18 — mixed with alcohol makes up Eau de Parfum. It is more expensive than Eau de Cologne and Eau de Toilette.

Perfume is 15 to 30 percent perfume oil mixed with alcohol. Because it contains such a high percentage of perfume oil, it is far more expensive than Eau de Cologne, Eau de Toilette, or Eau de Parfum.

I Wear Eau de Parfum and Perfume.

Fragrance Families for Women
fragrance family chart

Fragrances are classified according to predominant scent characteristics. Four basic families make up most feminine fragrances. Floral/Sweet, Citrus/Fruity/Fresh, Oriental/Spicy, and Woody/Chypre. Within those families, there are sub-groups. Aromatic Fougère, a masculine scent family, used to be its own category, but was recategorized as a sub-category in the 2010 change. It has notes of lavender, fresh herbs, and moss.

At the perfumery I tested each client’s pH level and selected fragrances from each family for the pH level.  Without knowing your pH level you will need try several scents from each family to see what scent appeals to you.

Secret Number Two: Floral and Sweet for daytime, and perhaps an Oriental/Spicy scent for date night. In cooler weather, stronger scents can be worn without overwhelming everyone around you. Conversely, lighter scents are better in warmer weather. Think of how summer smells like fresh cut grass and scoops of vanilla ice cream. December smells like evergreens and gingerbread. You can evoke those same wonderful emotions and memories with your own aroma.

Orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit, and other citrus fruits. Apricot, apple, peach, etc. Clean, light, and invigorating.

Warm vanilla, spices and incense resins. Reminiscent of the Far East. Also ambery and musky. Kind of mysterious!

Scents like bergamot, oakmoss, labdanum, and patchouli. Mossy and very earthy smelling.

Choosing The Perfect Perfume
Perfumes and colognes are made up of many different accords to produce a harmonious scent. Because our body chemistry is unique to us, the same perfume will smell slightly different (or completely different) depending on who is wearing it.

Further, it will smell different in the bottle or sprayed on a card than it will on your skin.

Secret Number Three: Spray it on a card first. After five or ten minutes, smell it again. See if it still speaks to you. Then and only then, spray it on your skin. Remember with will take 20 minutes before the fragrance will be true to you pH level.

Secret Number Four: Never spray more than 4 fragrances at a time for testing.

Have you ever noticed how perfumeries have tiny jars of coffee beans scattered here and there? Take a sniff. It serves the same purpose as sorbet between dinner courses and cleanses your palate — or olfactory perception — in between scents.

How To Wear Your Perfume

Never spray on your wrists and then rub your wrists together, never tip the perfume bottle onto your skin because your body oil spoils the properties of the fragrance oils.

Apply the fragrance to the base of you skull because the warmth of your body and the movement of your hair creates release of the scent.  Or one spray of scent to your abdomen.  Do not spray on the front of you neck as even high priced Paris perfumes have properties that, over time, can create a slight discoloration on your skin. Remember, your fragrance will last all day.  There is no reason to spray the perfume into the air and walk beneath it.  If my room needs to be scented, I light a candle!

Enjoy your perfumes.  Purchase a small collector bottle or s sample before committing to a fragrance.

Signature fragrances chance as a woman matures.  I wear Chanel no 5.

What fragrance do you adore?

My signature fragrance

Coming Soon!

See you next week,

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


I forgot to put up a blog post last week. I don’t know where my head was, but apparently it was not firmly attached to my neck and shoulders.

This week, I’m in Tennessee at our little homestead. I’m amazed at the amount of writing I get done here because there aren’t the distractions which seem to be joined at the hip with my “real” life. Unfortunately, real life interferes here, too.
my writing space at the TN homestead

Yesterday, I visited with a friend who is undergoing chemo for two types of cancer. My friend is a strong woman, she’s not going to give in, and I have seen too often that prayers and faith smaller than a mustard seed can and do move mountains. I would ask for your prayers for this friend.

However, all of this got me to thinking about how often I hear of friends who have been diagnosed with cancer. Are we just getting better at catching it before it becomes a death sentence, or is there something in our modern lifestyle that is contributing to all these shattering announcements of cancer? I don’t know. I just know I have more people on my prayer list undergoing chemo than I have ever had before.

Hug your friends. Tell your loved ones how much they mean to you. Cherish those people in your life you call friends and family. Tomorrow is never guaranteed. 

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