Liz Durano

After I broke the layout of the website while tweaking something, I figured it was time for a new look instead of constantly tinkering to see what I did wrong. And so this is the new look and I couldn’t be happier.

That’s change for you. Sometimes it’s not as painful as you think it’s going to be, especially when you take the time to read the directions.

I also made a few changes in my life overall, one of which was limiting my time on social media channels like Facebook and Instagram. It’s meant not posting things just to be relevant whether it be memes or “engagement” questions. It works for others but not for me. I like discourse. I like connection. What I don’t like is posting and then leaving. Or worrying about what to post at all hours of the day just to please the algorithm.

Such activities only served to take my focus off my true work: storytelling.

Speaking of storytellers, one of my favorite storytellers is currently in the middle of the fight for his life, colon cancer that’s metastasized to other parts of his body. Yeah, fuck cancer. I met Robert on Wattpad and was (and still am) enthralled by his quick and dry wit and charm. He wrote The Body, a personal account of his and his partner’s search for a missing woman and later, her killer. He’s also written essays about life in general, and his keen observations about the people around him always make me stop and think, and smile.

I can tell you a whole lot more about Robert but I’d rather keep it short. He’s one of the best people I know and right now, he needs our help. His daughter has set up a GoFundMe to help pay for the expenses related to his treatments. You can read more here and please donate if you can. If you can’t, send him good thoughts and a prayer.

I hope you have a wonderful day and week ahead. My plan this week is to rewrite the Salvation Society crossover novel I’ve been attempting to write since April. Somehow I never could connect with the first two heroines I wrote about and neither could the hero from the Salvation Society world. Poor guy. It felt like I was auditioning heroines for him forever and they just weren’t his type…

Yes, in case you’re wondering, I let my characters tell me their story even though I’d like to believe I plot their arcs out. I can plot all I want but in the end, they call the shots and all I end up doing is following them along with a notepad in my hand trying to catch the juicy details.

But third time’s the charm and this time, the heroine is the right one for the cross-over novel. I just never considered her before because I didn’t really understand cross-overs as much as I thought I did. And my goal today is to write 2,000 words and that’s exactly what I’m going to do as soon as I hit Publish on this baby.

Anyway, that’s the latest update from me (there’s a lot more in the personal front but it’s too depressing and mind-boggling to write). How are you? Anything interesting going on in your neck of the woods? Let’s reconnect again on this blog and don’t be shy. Say hi and let’s chat.

 

 

Hope I don’t jinx myself but I’m finally writing again!

Like, really writing.

Yesterday I wrote about 3500 words and as long as I don’t start doubting myself after my coffee, I’m aiming to write 3k more words today, continuing with the same goal every day until I get the book done.

I’ve also begun using a cool writing app called OmmWriter Gaia. I bought this when it first came out years ago as OmmWriter Dana and loved it! But something happened – either it stopped working on my old MacBook and other apps filled the gap it left behind. But after my Ulysses app gave me this same message about not being able to save my current work for whatever reason, I copied the whole chapter intending to keep it somewhere safe (in case Ulysses really couldn’t save the initial 1,000 words) and opened OmmWriter.

And I sure am glad I did. OmmWriter has everything in one app that I normally would have to assemble from two or three other apps.

 

  1. Pleasant writing background – there are at least 6 or 7 to choose from
  2. Distraction free – Once you open the app, all the other apps disappear.
  3. Focus Music or Ambient Sounds – I normally would have either Calm, Portal, or myNoise apps playing in the background for this.
  4. Keyboard sounds – From keyboard taps to little boops, my favorite is the keyboard one.
  5. Save function – Save as txt or pdf. I’ve only ever used the .omm or .txt files though since I also write in Markdown which OmmWriter is perfect for.

Overall relaxing feel that encourages creativity to bloom – Maybe it’s me missing the music I used to play during my massage sessions, but I miss the overall calm that writing gave me. In my head even while writing, I worry about deadlines, advertising, marketing, writing mistakes, did I use dialogue tags so much? Is my hero alpha enough and am I hitting all the beats?

I’m not saying that OmmWriter Gaia is the answer to all my questions about craft and sales and life’s angst, but it sure helps get the job of writing done while leaving me relaxed and feeling accomplished.

If you’ve never tried OmmWriter, definitely check out their website where you can give the app a spin right there on the website. It doesn’t have the bells and whistles of apps like Ulysses and Scrivener but maybe that’s my problem.

It’s not all the bells and whistles, writing and social media apps, advertising courses from so-called gurus that I need.

All I really need is to write.

The first time we grew sunflowers in our yard, the squirrel got to every single one of them before I could take pictures. He’d jump on the roof and launch himself on the sunflower and eat all the seeds. While I didn’t mind it (too much), it bummed me out that I never got to take pictures of them first.

So this year, we decided to plant the sunflowers in the front yard away from the pine tree he calls home. I’m sure the squirrel in residence is no longer the same guy but probably one of his kids but we weren’t taking any chances.

The sunflowers have been blooming all week but it’s been HOT (in the 90s some days) and by the time I’d go out there, it was just too bright to take my pictures.

But I lucked out this morning and managed to snap a few pictures before the sun got too hot and so these pictures don’t need a filter. There were two other sunflowers opposite these two large ones but the background (cars) wasn’t as pretty as the fence separating our house from the apartment next door.

Considering how my deadlines are all whizzing past me, I really should be writing but it’s nice to take time out to enjoy the roses and sunflowers now and then, harvest cherry and beefsteak tomatoes, and eggplants I don’t know what to do with, and try to keep busy at home. I’ve been tempted to take the kid to the beach but hubby isn’t too thrilled at the idea with infection rates reportedly on the rise again especially here in California.

To further procrastinate from writing, I have been reading, and even watching a few TV shows like CBS Seal Team and early episodes of Hoarders which I’d never watched before. Have you guys watched Hoarders? Most of the time, my jaw just hangs open whenever I watch an episode and then I end up on a de-cluttering spree afterward. It’s just mind-boggling sometimes… actually, every time.

What about you? How’s summer treating you?

 

 

Movie Review: Family Romance, LLC

Last week, I watched Family Romance, LLC, a Japanese-language film that premiered on Mubi, written and directed by Werner Herzog who I think is also the movie’s cameraman and cinematographer. You get to see him at the beginning of the film where he introduces you to the movie and the inspiration behind it and at the end of the film, in a Q&A.

The film opens at a park where a man in a suit waits for someone. When a young woman walks past him for the fourth or fifth time, each time trying to sneak a peek at him, he calls her name and approaches. Her name is Mahiro and he is Yuichi Ishii, her father. It’s an awkward meeting with Mahiro constantly sneaking glances at him as he tries to keep the meeting lively while looking at the cherry blossoms or watching a group of re-enactors play out a fight scene and then later, a hara-kiri.

During this meeting, he tells her that he and her mother met and fell in love, but when Mahiro was a baby, he left and now he has another family of his own. Mahiro doesn’t quite react to this. It’s all still awkward, this initial meeting between a daughter and the father she never knew.

“At Family Romance, we are not allowed to love or be loved.”

Only Ichii isn’t her father at all. When he visits Mahiro’s mother at her home, he tells her how the meeting went and she pays him for his services. Ichii, it turns out, owns Family Romance LLC, a company were relationships is a business.

Need someone to stand in place of your alcoholic father at your wedding? Family Romance, LLC has the man for you. Need to look important as you walk along a busy street with paparazzi trailing and taking pictures of you as if you’re famous? Family Romance, LLC will make your social media go viral.

Unfortunately for Ichii, a father simply doesn’t “meet” his daughter one time. He’s hired to meet with Mahiro again and again until – you guessed it – the young woman gets attached to him and soon, we find him asking a funeral director if a live man can fit inside the casket comfortably for a short time.

It’s a brilliant premise, this comfort for hire business model, and one that Herzog covers because it’s based on a real business model in Japan. While some viewers may find that scenes meander a bit too long, it still works because even though Herzog gave the actors the important elements or dialogue required for a scene, he also gave them free rein to go about it, and even an unplanned interruption makes it into the final cut.

The movie certainly made me think and here I am, a week later, writing my review because I like films that make me think and wonder what happens next in the lives of the characters after the movie ends. I hope you’ll check it out.

Family Romance, LLC is now playing on Mubi.

Below is a review and a more in-depth study of the film:

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Pucker Up! #NationalKissingDay

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A little birdie told me that today is National Kissing Day! As if we need a special day just for kissing, eh? But considering this whole pandemic going on, it’s nice to have a little distraction. If anything, maybe we’ll learn something new about kissing!

  • Kissing moves as many as 34 muscles in the face and 112 postural muscles!
  • A passionate kiss burns 6.4 calories per minute
  • The longest kiss clocked at 58 hours, 35 minutes and 58 seconds in 2013
  • According to neuroscientist Onur Güntürkün who people-watched people kissing for two-and-a-half years, he determined that twice as many people turn their head to the right than to the left when they kiss
  • An average kiss lasts more than 12 seconds
  • With the exchange of saliva during kissing, there go exchange of bacteria – which can help strengthen the immune system!
  • Speaking of exchanging spit – men’s saliva contains the sex hormone testosterone which triggers libido!
  • In ancient Rome, a public kiss pretty much sealed the legal contract between couples during the marriage ceremony
  • Kissing is practiced in 90% of the world population

Pretty interesting, huh?

Before I go and hit my daily goal of writing 1500 words today, here’s one of my favorite kissing scenes from one of my favorite movies!

 

A Saturday Update #authorlife

I’ve lost count of how long it’s been since we started lockdown. The vegetables we planted when this all began are now ready to be harvested, like the tomatoes I used for this morning’s breakfast omelet. I still have to figure out when to harvest the Japanese eggplant because I have no clue. Looks like they’re ready. Looks like they’re not.

This is why I am a writer and not a gardener.

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Our second sunflower. The squirrel got the first one the moment it opened up and ate half of it.

Speaking of writing, I need to hunker down and write 60,000 words in the next four weeks for one book. And then the next book after that. After all this time, I should have had a book done but nope, I have outlines instead. Outline after outline after outline, all because I can’t quite get the beginning right. And for me, the beginning of a story is whaat counts. If I don’t get my footing right from the start, I won’t be able to sustain the conflict. And this morning, I think I finally got it. It only took six tries, six scenarios, and I finally have the beginning I want.

Between my kid’s online schooling and writing on my laptop for hours (those outlines don’t write themselves, ya know!), computer glare finally got to me. Last night, I switched off my laptops before 9pm and wrote on my Freewrite. I did the same today as well and it now has its spot on my desk.

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My roses bloomed at the same time and so I had to commemorate the event with a photo shoot together with my Astrohaus Freewrite.

Many people have asked me whether it’s a good investment (it costs about $400 – $500) considering it’s basically a WiFi-connected typewriter. Here’s what I think: It is a good investment IF you use it. If you write with it and are getting the words in, it is worth its weight in gold. If not, then it’s a hell of an expensive paperweight or a good Instagram-worthy picture.

It’s great for writing your first drafts, the kind where you just type and go. Then you click a button and have the file emailed to you or to your Google Drive or Dropbox. I do this for every chapter or section I write because I then transfer it to my Ulysses app for further writing and editing.

Speaking of editing, I have moved on from Hemingway, Grammarly, and ProWritingAid to Autocrit. These four are computer-based editing programs that help your writing before you send your manuscript to an editor. I actually don’t send all my work to an editor, just the long ones. The shorter ones (between 5k – 30k) are all edited with these online editors. EDITED TO ADD: I do have a proofreader for all my works, long and short!

I held out on Autocrit forever but three weeks ago, I finally bit the bullet and bought a lifetime license and proceeded to edit a few of my already-published books. You see, I have this bad habit of adding new stuff after I get my manuscript from the editor. And then I don’t submit the updated chapters to her for another pass. Instead, I hit publish and readers end up finding the mistakes.

Another author tool I just purchased recently is BookBrush. It’s an online graphic editing website for authors and after I get the hang of its many features (mockups, box set creator, and even a cover creator), I’ll be able to stop my subscription to Photoshop. I’ve been holding off on Bookbrush for the last year because I already have lifetime licenses to similar apps like Stencil and Promorepublic which can create social media images and post them for me, as well as a monthly subscription to Canva. But Bookbrush does everything I need in one app like my social media ads and headers (minus the actual posting to social media) and I like that, even box sets with different color spine that you create right in the app!

 

 

But I haven’t just been writing those outlines! I’ve also been watching SEAL Team on CBS. Love that show and love that over a hundred military personnel have worked on the series. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a drama starring David Boreanaz, Max Theriot, and AJ Jackson. I like the family stuff they include in the show, the private struggles Navy SEALs go through once their gear is off and they return to regular life.

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How about you? How’s your weekend/month/year going?

What happens if you fall in love with a writer?

While going through my Tumblr feed today, I found this and so many other jewels about writers and writing. It made me realize (again and again) how the men who made such an impact in my life are all found in my books.

Ashe Hunter most especially who to this day does not have a “face” inside my head even though I’ve had to translate his features for book covers. As a writer, the best ones never do.

Have a wonderful weekend! Stay safe out there!

Elvis Has Left the Building

Today, I surrendered my key to my massage room and said good-bye to a career that has spanned a total of 23 years. Located in a major thoroughfare in Manhattan Beach, it’s one of the best locations I’ve ever set up a practice and it was sad to let it go. There was nothing to take pictures of this time for the couch was gone and so were the armchairs and the side tables. Even the foyer table where we had a bowl of candy mints and flowers was gone. The Keurig machine and water dispenser would have to go, too, because there can no longer be common-use equipment on site.

It was bittersweet knowing that my roommate/landlady had just renewed the three-year lease a few months ago and even re-tiled the countertops of the bathrooms at the beginning of the lockdown when it looked like we’d be back open in no time. Of course, that’s not what happened. Instead, with California opening up in phases, massage therapy services are included in Phase 3 which may be around mid June or July. But with the new protocols for practice that will include having the therapist change clothes after every client besides wiping everything down including the chairs and tables in the waiting area, it no longer looks feasible to continue. And since I normally take the summer off to be with my son, there was no point for me to keep my room.

So I surrendered my key and picked up whatever I had left in the office. In this case, a set of sheets, an herbal eye pillow, and a statue of Kuan Yin that two clients (a married couple) gave me as their parting present when they retired out of state about three to four years ago. As I looked at the bag, it hit me that it pretty much represented the end of 23 years of massage therapy.

And while I felt a sense of loss, I also felt a sense of relief. It was my official retirement party sans the balloons and cake. But it’s okay. I had a good run and in life, we have to keep moving. I’ll have cake and balloons tomorrow for my birthday.

I also have books to write!

Movie Review: The Painter and the Thief

I first heard about The Painter and the Thief a few months ago when it earned rave reviews at Sundance Film Festival. The trailer was pretty compelling that I made a mental note to see it when it released on May 22.

A few words come to mind in summarizing this documentary – and I had to remind myself many times that it was a documentary because sometimes it didn’t feel like one. It’s just that good. And I hope down the line I don’t find out that this was all staged because I’d really be bummed… but I digress. 

In The Painter and the Thief, we watch as the thief “Karl Bertil” is made vulnerable through the eyes of the Czeck painter, Barbora Kysilkova, whose paintings he and a partner stole in broad daylight. After asking to paint him, she does so in a way no one has ever seen him and you can see the shock and awe on his face. It’s devastating and beautiful and you just can’t look away.

But as the documentary progresses, flitting back in time a few months here and there, it’s not just Nordland who is exposed, we also see Kysilkova’s traumatic past laid bare through his eyes. To him, it’s why she paints such unflinching pieces that’s not exactly perfect to hang on someone’s walls.

Barbora Kysilkova, L’amour est mort, vive l’amour, 2011. Oil on canvas. Barbora Kysilkova

I stayed up till 2:30 am to watch this (rented through iTunes) and that final frame was such a twist for me that it brought an audible gasp in the room and I lay there until the end of the credits, just transfixed. The editing, I thought. The editing is amazing*. But that would be my writer mind talking. As much as the director’s choices, the subjects make the documentary as riveting as it is, resulting in a gorgeously edited documentary of two people who end up, through one’s drug-fueled act of theft, seeing each other for who they really are.

And I still can’t look away.

*One of the reasons I watched this film with a writer’s mind is because as a writer, I see the story like a movie playing inside my head. The “camera” has to be arranged just right, at the right place and the right time, much like a documentary because I usually let my characters do their thing (as much as I keep declaring I write thousands of words in outlines) and allow me in their space to document everything. But like a good documentary filmmaker, I also need to know how to edit the scenes right – which ones to keep and which ones to toss aside to tell the perfect story.

“That’s what I love about documentary filming,” Ree said. “It’s difficult to do something similar in a fictional film. To be there is to be present and observe with a camera. When in the crucial moments an amazing cinematographer is filming, it’s like dancing with the subjects. You have one shot at knowing where to position yourself. It’s intuitive work. If you fuck up the positioning and focus, you won’t get the same subtext and complexity of a scene.”

Source: Why ‘The Painter and the Thief’ Is Neon’s Latest Oscar Contender | IndieWire

“Hearts are fragile like that.”

I was tagged today by @rsaachit on Instagram and saw this beautiful painting she posted together with a quote from Loving Ashe.

 

 

 

For a moment, I forgot all about distance learning for a ten-year-old and how they’re going to manage the next school year, giving my final notice at my massage office and making an appointment to drop off my key tomorrow and pick up my things, and how to help the Navajo Nation that is suffering the highest rates of infection per capita in the United States, according to CNN. If you’d like to help, here’s one organization that needs it – Protect Native Elders.

Still, this beautiful painting made my day today.

What about you? How’s your day been?

Guess Who’s Joining Wattpad Paid Stories?

When 2020 rolled around, one of my goals was to diversify my stories. Some books would be exclusive to Amazon through Kindle Unlimited while others would be available “wide,” meaning they would be available everywhere where books were sold (Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Google Play, etc.). Some of those wide stories would also be available to read in their entirety on Wattpad like Finding Sam, Loving Ashe, and most recently, Collateral Attraction.

I first wrote Loving Ashe as a short story titled Elevator on my Morrighansmuse blog in the summer of 2013. When I posted it on Wattpad, readers were intrigued. What happened next? Did they end up together? They asked. We want to know more!

And so for NaNoWriMo 2014, I turned the 5k-word short story into the first two chapters. I called it Loving Ashe and finished it in 60 days with 110k words total. I would self-publish Loving Ashe in June 2015 and release the audiobook three years later.

Well, this year (tomorrow, May 13, to be exact!), Loving Ashe will also be part of Wattpad Paid Stories. While there are millions of free stories on Wattpad, they also have Paid Stories where readers pay with “coins.” You can pay per chapter or pay for the whole book outright (about the same cost of an ebook). Coins are available in packages of 15 to up 533 coins and you can also earn 3 free coins per day by watching ads.

It will have a new cover starting tomorrow, different from what you see above. But while Wattpad will have the exclusive rights to the digital ebook version which allows them to change the cover and have the ability to market, Loving Ashe will still remain available as a paperback and audiobook.

It’s a new adventure for me and one I’m very excited to be part of. I should have made this announcement a few months ago but in true ditzy Liz fashion, I got my dates wrong and tomorrow, it becomes reality! I hope you’ll support me and my stories on Wattpad and discover other new authors and stories along the way.

Date Night: A Mother’s Day Steamy Story

It was probably six or seven Christmases ago when my sister-in-law lamented the lack of books featuring older couples – you know, couples with kids who have are about to leave or have left home.

“Why are all the heroines in their early twenties and the men all in their thirties and forties? What about women in their thirties, forties… and older?” She asked.

Well, she did have a point because back then, there weren’t a lot of stories featuring older couples like there are now. In fact, Harlow James, my heroine in Everything She Ever Wanted emerged from that conversation three years later..

But before Harlow, there were Esme and Evan, my couple in Date Night, a short story I wrote for my SIL the following Mother’s Day after our conversation. You can read the story on my story site by clicking on the image below.

Happy Mother’s Day, everyone!