Monday, March 11, 2013

Season Your Writing Wisely

My son made a pot of chili last week. He’s a great cook, and his chili is super. But I remember when he was working on this particular recipe. In one batch, the jalapeno peppers were so strong, the batch had to be diluted. He said he liked the taste of jalapenos, and he thought by adding more, the chili would be better. Instead, the extra peppers simply shouted, ‘Here I am!’
I thought of that over the weekend when I picked up a book from a multi-published author whose work I had yet to read. I was pulled into the story immediately. What a good book, I thought as I turned the pages. Along about the fourth page, I stopped to examine why I liked it. The fact I stopped is a sign, right? So I went back and identified examples of excellent rhetorical techniques, beautifully woven throughout. I identified some of those familiar devices as ones I use, ones, in fact, I recommend to my English students.

Then I continued reading. Ah, another wonderful use of that particular device. And another. Soon my attention was diverted from the story, and I found myself congratulating the author (silently, of course) at the masterful use of a variety of elements to heighten drama, to increase effect, to intensify emotion.

I continued reading but a little slower. I lost track of the plot; the characters began to slip away; all I could do was identify yet another (admittedly brilliantly executed) rhetorical device.
I kept longing for a simple sentence.
Now don’t get me wrong. The author is a popular one whose work receives excellent reviews. I undoubtedly will read more of the author’s work.
And I’m probably among the few who even consider this a problem. But it can be.

Rhetorical devices are like spices. Used in the right amount, they blend into the dish making it stand out, making diners clamor. Those diners may not be able to name the ingredients, but they know it’s the best dish they’ve ever eaten, and they want more.
So I’m making an admittedly dangerous suggestion here: Use specific techniques sparingly, to season the writing but in such a way that the reader doesn’t recognize what you’ve done. No need to use the same one on every page. Skip a page. Vary the techniques.
Because when I can recognize the jalapenos in my son’s chili, I know he’s used too many.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Power to Change

I'm a big believer in people taking control of their personal power. As of late, I've heard a lot of people asking how they got to this place in their life, or lamenting their fears that they can't do anything about their situation.

Any goal you have, any desire, begins with one step. I wanted to be a published author, but it's been a few years in the making. Nothing happens over night. Anything worth pursuing takes perseverance, determination and effort. It takes patience and a strong belief in yourself. If I hadn't believed in my dream, I never would have met these wonderful Angels to blog with :)

Do you believe in yourself?

Tough question to answer, isn't it?

There are times in our lives when we question what we're doing, wonder if we're doing the right thing or perhaps we want to throw in the towel. It's all normal when we're making the conscious decision to make changes in our lives.

Even at the most rough times in my life, I have faith that things will work out the way they're supposed to. Is it difficult? Sure is! I'm human after all. Some times I want something and I want it right now! LOL Or maybe I'm going through a difficult time and it feels like it'll never end. We all experience these things, so know you are not alone.

Although it's tough at times, I trust that where I am in the moment is where I'm supposed to be. All the decisions I've made up to this point have brought me here. The beauty of it, is that I am free to choose what step I take next.

So no matter where you are in your life, or where you want to go, remember these things -

BELIEVE in yourself
TRUST in your ability to make the right decisions for yourself, and most importantly

To find out how I'm helping others change their lives one step at a time, visit my personal blog and check out the contest I'm running in conjunction with a fundraiser to assist women and children escape abusive situations:

What's Good For Your Soul Giveaway
Visit with me at:

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Death Becomes Us...Eventually

Death.  It’s all around us.  It’s part of our world.  It’s the natural order of things; whether in living organisms or the non living. You see it within nature while walking on a hiking trail.  Once strong and vibrant trees now lay dying on the forest's floor.  A spider snatches his prey from the stickiness of the elaborate web he wove.  A hawk swoops down and clutches his talons into a field mice’s small body.

Not only have you seen it from afar with others, you experienced it up close and personal as well.  It may have been while sitting with a loved one during his last night on this earth.  You held his hand and prayed for serenity for him and the family.  Softly whispering in his ear, you reassured him that everyone in the family would be fine and that it’s ok for him to ‘go home’. 

In technology, death comes much more easily.  There’s always the new and improved gadget of some sort of another.  As a child, I recall the eight tracks and vinyl record players being used in the home.  Now one usually will encounter the use of MP3 players, I-pods, and Satellite radio for one’s listening pleasure. That’s just to name a few sources for the advancements in society’s technology.  Some items become obsolete and the birth of something new and improved takes its place. 

Awww, now birth comes into play.  When there is death, there is also life.  Birth.  New beginnings.  It is a beautiful thing.  One hears it in the cooing sounds of a newborn baby or even sees it by the playfulness of a frisky kitten. 

I’m amazed by the cycle of life.  How fragile and unpredictable it is.  Nothing is certain and nothing is promised to us but this…death.  We know it will come eventually but when to be exact is not revealed to most of us.

So with that being said, 1) don’t wait to tell a loved one how much you care.  Yet, most importantly, show them. Actions definitely speak louder than words.   2) Don’t hold that petty grudge because one day it really will be irrelevant on who did what to whom and why.  Forgive and let go.  It’s holding you back and in essence it’s killing your spirit; therefore, one day closer to death.  3)  Be grateful for everything and everyone in your life.  Regardless of what has happened to you.  I believe there are no coincidences and that everything happens for a reason.  We learn and grow from the good and bad; whether they come from situations or people.  4)  Now go out and live.  Truly live.  Live your dreams and your goals.  Reach for them every day until you conquer them or until you are gone from this world.  Be your authentic self and live your life with abundance, peace, and grace.

Hugs, my friends.  I love you all. J

Monday, January 14, 2013


The only constant is change. ~Heraclitus, 535-475 BC

Ain’t that the truth. My world shifted just before Halloween, and continues in a state of flux even now. My dad’s been really sick, and as I type this, I’m sitting in his hospital room, where he’s been since October. I have an entirely new routine. I’ve lost weight (not by choice, at first, but I used it to jump start the conscious weight loss plan). I see my kids through Skype video chats more often than I see them in person, which sucks. My phone has gone from an only-when-I’m-out accessory to a constantly-on-my-person-day-and-night appendage. And when dad’s stint at the hospital is over, I’ll have to get back into my old routine again. But I’m not sure I will be able to. Or that I want to.

Several of my new habits and behaviors have to get integrated into that old routine. For one, my exercising. I’ve started Jillian Michael’s 30-Day Shred (and yes, I curse her repeatedly, EVERY DAY, but it works, damn her). When that’s done, I’ll switch to her Ripped in 30 program. After that, who knows? Maybe I’ll start training for a 5k, like I wanted to do before Christmas.

I’ll also have to make more time to cook healthy foods. I’ve been sticking to a vegetarian diet most of the time, mainly to increase the amount of vegetables I’m eating. I have meat maybe once a week, but I’ve grown to prefer a vegetarian meal. I can eat a lot more without the additional calories, and I’m a lot less hungry in between meals. I’d never have tried it if I hadn’t won a copy of EAT TO LIVE, by Joel Fuhrman, from a contest on Elise Rome’s blog. Never thought I’d like it…but I do. A lot.

The most important integration will be to add more music to my day. Some of you are looking at that statement and wondering how on earth music could be more important than exercise or eating vegetables. Well, because those things keep my body healthy, but music is for my mind. And to me, that’s way more essential. Music inspires me. Drives me. Rescues me from myself. I have playlists for every mood I’ve experienced in the last three months. I have Pandora stations for my moods, too, but I use those more when I want to experience new songs I may not have on my iPod already. (If you’ve never used Pandora, I highly recommend it). Thanks to my long hours in the hospital, I’ve gotten used to listening to music when reading, walking around, eating lunch, and as soon as I get back to my dad’s house for the night, my iPod is plugged into the speakers there—I never realized how damned quiet my childhood home was. I run to David Guetta, Flo Rida, and Pitbull. I fall asleep with Frank Sinatra. I wake up to Neon Trees’ EverybodyTalks.

Maybe it’s because if I’m dancing/singing/feeling the music, I don’t have time to think about all the other stuff. As coping techniques go, it’s not too bad. What I do know is that without music, I’d be lost. So it’s definitely going to be a part of my new routine when I’m finally home for good.

And now that I’ve completely derailed from my original idea, I’ll stop there. *grin*

Since it’s the new year, many of us have made resolutions for change. What are/have you changed in your life?


Oh, and the song for which this blog post gets its title:

Monday, January 7, 2013

We All Want the Fairy Tale, Right?

I'm not bragging or anything, but I currently have a teenage daughter.  (You can stop laughing in ridicule any time now.)  Many days, I remind myself that despite her head-swiveling moodiness and her know-it-all attitude (when did my IQ drop suddenly?), she's still my baby and I love her.  Of course, what's not to love?  She's athletic, smart, good-hearted, spiritual, and she makes me proud--most of the time.

And, turns out, she still needs me.  Never more am I reminded that she does still need me (and secretly still loves me) than when she, totally out-of-the-blue, throws a hug around my shoulders and isn't satisfied until I've squeezed her back.  She'll usually ask me to hang out with her and watch a little TV or go shopping.  These moments are rarer now that she's older, but they still happen.

Another pastime she enjoys is watching reality shows.  So much in reality television is cringe-inducing, but one of her favorite, favorite, favorite shows is on TLC.  She loves to watch, Say Yes To the Dress.  It's a show about brides picking out their wedding dresses.  Yeah, one of those.

Now, let me say here, I never was the girl who dreamed of her wedding day, someday.  For various reasons, not the least of which is that I'm a realist (some would argue pessimist), when it comes to love, I never imagined my wedding day or my potential groom.  As it turns out, this is completely atypical as young girls go.  Yet, I've been married to my husband for sixteen years, so I obviously believe in romance and love, just not the fairy tale version.

And one evening, when my daughter and I were watching a particular episode of the show, she revealed something I never would have guessed.  This down-to-earth, future-focused young lady believed in the fairy tale.  She'd already started designing her dress in her head, knew colors and flowers, and so many other details about her "big some-day."

Who knew?  Even in today's world where my daughter knows she wants a career, she also wants the fairy tale.  She still wants a dream-come-true kind of life.  Don't we all really though?  Maybe not the Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White kind of fairy tale, but a more modern version.

I mean, even if I never fantasized about my perfect prince swooping in to rescue me from...whatever (because I knew there was no such thing as perfect, and I was in charge of my own happiness), I still had expectations for my spouse, my career, my family, my life.  It was a fairy tale of my own making though.  And just as the genre suggests, at times there's been magic and at times there's been obstacles to overcome, but the reality is--I want my little girl (who's not so little anymore) to want good things in her life.  I want her to dream big.  Just with a more modern fairy tale in mind where she's the hero of her own story.

What do you think?  Do we still want the fair tale?

Happy Reading and Writing,

Cherie Marks

Monday, December 3, 2012


Christmas is right around the corner. By now, my decorations would be up, the smell of the tree making a sweet fragrance throughout the house. This year none of those things have happened. It’s not because I’m behind schedule, but because we’re spending this year in Florida with my in-laws. My parents live on island, but my husband’s commute between Florida and North Carolina. This means alternating Christmases. One year in Cayman and the other in the US.
I love it, because it gives me a break every other year.  My mother-in-law is highly organized, so everything is usually done by the time we get there. The only thing to do is cook dinner, bake cookies, and make a ginger bread house; my favorite things.
Growing up in Cayman, my Christmas was a lot different than it is now. We put up decorations on our fake tree with horrifying, pain in the butt, tinsel. We didn’t bake cookies, but had what we call heavy cakes (cake made from cassava and yam) or fruit cake. YUCK! Instead of turkey, we had local beef with coleslaw, rice and beans, baked macaroni and cheese and potato salad. For entertainment, we visited family and friends, and went to various houses on island where their Christmas lights was an event. Santa, food, the works. 
When my mom married my step-father we started to make some of our own traditions. In came the turkey, stuffing and steamed veggies. I started to bake cookies, tarts, and sugar balls. (Get your mind out of the gutters ladies. You know who you are.) That was a tradition I picked up from my best friend, Katie.
When my son was old enough we tried a new cookie recipe each year (along with the easy bake ones from the supermarket) specifically ones that were kid friendly and easy to make. After I got married, more traditions came and with the birth of my daughter, I’m sure there will be more again. Some of the original traditions remain, while others fell by the way side for one reason or another.
What about you? What are your Christmas traditions? Have they changed over the years or remained the same.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Lost Chapter Teaches Organization Lesson

Ok. I’m not the most organized person in the world. I know, that’s a shocker for anyone who knows me *snorting here*. But last weekend, going through a revision, I discovered I’d lost a chapter. Really. It was nowhere to be found.

I was reading along about half way through the story, turned the page from one chapter to the next--and went into an entirely different place.

The heroine had been preparing for dinner, at which time she would confront her betrothed—a man she’d just met. She’d girded herself for battle, so to speak, and the chapter ended on a hook (I’d hoped.) Breathless to see what I’d written, I flipped that page—and found myself in the middle of a storm at sea.

Hummm. I checked the rest of the manuscript. I’d printed it off because it’s easier for me to check continuity that way. The story continued right along, with no more interruption and no out-of-place pages that I might have gotten mixed up. Didn’t find that chapter. Had no memory of what happened in the missing link.

I was so upset, I had to get up and get a cup of coffee and a peanut butter cookie.

Let me explain that part. Last weekend I went on a write-in sort of getaway at a campground several miles away. Seven women were there, along with an employee of the organization that owns the camp who cooked for us Saturday and again Sunday morning. OhMyGosh!! Food was homemade and So good. But I digress LOL.

This manuscript was one I finished at the end of 2011 and was so sick of, I hadn’t looked at it since. Last month, I decided to haul it out and try to get it in shape to send out at least once or twice. (It had done pretty well in contests last year.) I’d gotten through about half and decided to take the last half to the write-in for editing and revision.

That’s when the error was discovered. Saturday, I spent a good deal of time searching the computer and finally found the problem. I’d picked up the wrong file when I merged chapters. After a few whispered prayers of ‘Thanks,’ I realized the blame partly lay in my writing process.

I write in chapters, then merge them all. I’d revised that particular chapter, saved it under another name, but picked up the old chapter when I assembled the whole book. I was so relieved I celebrated with another peanut butter cookie.

That scare taught me a valuable lesson in organization, and my writing process will be structured differently from now on. 

What about you. Have you ever ‘lost’ a piece of your story? How do you organize a WIP?