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"Everybody has a secret world inside of them. All of the people of the world, I mean everybody. No matter how dull and boring they are on the outside, inside them they've all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds. Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands maybe" ~ Neil Gaiman (A Game of You)

9.30.2011

Cleave Trailer (The Swan)

Angela Felsted entrances me with her incredible poetry on her blog, My Poetry and Prose Place.  Now, she is getting ready to launch her poetry chapter book called "Cleave."  Here is the trailer for her book.


A link to pre-order "Cleave" is on her blog.

Winning!

Woot, woot!  Well, I can never say I never win anything anymore.  Remember that blog contest on Wednesday?  Yep, I won a Kindle Touch from the fabulous K.M. Weiland!  I'm so excited!

And I've been reading her book, Outlining Your Novel, and it is fantastic.  Exactly what I needed to get me past the hump I hit while working on my WIP.  That's easily worth as much as the prize!

9.28.2011

Blog Contest!!!

The fabulous K.M. Weiland has just released her latest book, Outlining Your Novel.  As an avid fan of Ms. Weiland, I'm excited that she's willing to share the secrets of her success with us.  I can't wait to jump in and read this book.  To celebrate, she is holding an amazing contest with fabulous prizes.  Visit her blog, Wordplay, here to find out more.

9.23.2011

June Gloom

Another gray day. The sky darkened with low-hanging clouds, but no rain, no lightning to break the monotony of the gray. There was a heaviness in the air that settled into Tammy's bones. She sat in the big armchair, Springer squawking from the T.V., a wine glass in one hand and a near-empty bottle in the other.

She'd lost count of how many days she'd sat like this. Her cat, Mixen, jumped up into her lap and rubbed his head against Tammy's arm. She must've remembered to feed the cat; otherwise he'd be whining and spitting at her. Well, at least that was one thing she could do right. Tammy pushed the mewling ball of fur onto the floor.

I should do something, she thought. Something. Grab a bite to eat. Take a shower. Maybe a little yoga. She could use a few endorphins. She peered into the smoky bottle, watched the red liquid swirl around and up the sides. Maybe there were a few more endorphins in there. She replenished her glass. At least she was using a glass. That was the difference between being drunk and being a drunk.

She threw her head back and chugged the remaining wine. Then she put down the glass and the bottle and stood up. She stepped over the piles of dirty dishes and clothes that littered the floor. She grabbed her purse and set of keys and went outside, not bothering to lock the door behind her.

She knew she shouldn't be driving, so she took the side streets and drove at a crawl. Kids would be at school. Safe. Safe from her. The rest? Well, more people died from car accidents than anything else. They knew they were taking their chances when they ventured out that day.

She arrived at her destination without incident and parked a little too far away from the curb. She slipped off her sandals, leaving them on the floor of the car. She popped the trunk. She dropped her keys in her purse, then threw it into the trunk before bringing the lid down with a snap.

The wind whipped at her hair, raising goosebumps on her arms, and she tasted salt when she licked her suddenly dry lips. The sand felt soft and tickled her bare feet. She walked toward the angry, pounding waves, the roar in her ears growing.

She walked into the water and felt the icy waves lap around her ankles, splashing up against her calves, making her jeans cling heavily to her legs. She braced herself and pushed out further, turned her back against the breakers so they sprayed her back and drenched her hair.

When she was waist deep, she dove under a huge, threatening wave, and felt the undulations as the water frothed above her. It was a soft, rocking motion, and maybe it was just then, at that very moment, that she truly decided to go through with it. She wanted to be rocked in the ocean.

She began swimming away from the shore with strong strokes. She was a good swimmer. She'd be able to get pretty far. But she wasn't a great swimmer. She counted on that.

*****
Today's prompt:  Weave a story which uses this cliche – “Drown your sorrows."
To play along, visit Write Anything's [Fiction] Friday.

9.02.2011

The Perfect World

“Once upon a time, there was a perfect world. In this world, every baby born was wanted, celebrated as a blessing not a burden. Mothers held their newborns in their arms, close to their heart, while fathers stood nearby looking so, so proud. They dreamed great things for their children and promised everything to make their dreams come true.

“The perfect world was beautiful, but not because it was perfect. Muddy brown birds with speckles, bright colored birds, singers and squawkers, all of them were beautiful. And every flower was welcome in the garden. Can you believe people used to call some flowers weeds?

“And people were beautiful, too, not because they were all the same, but because other people looked for and knew how to find what made them so.

“Everyone in the perfect world had a soul mate. Sometimes it was a brother, or a best friend. And sometimes, people fell in love with their soul mate, and they lived together for the rest of their lives.

“And that's what made the perfect world beautiful.”

*****

Today's prompt:
Write a scene using purely dialogue. Nothing else is allowed ( no attributions, narration, description, scene setting etc).

This is from a previously written scene.  I just cut out everything in between the dialogue.  It's a rough draft and unedited, so it still follows the rules. :)  To play along, visit Write Anything's [Fiction] Friday.

8.26.2011

No Good Deed...

The gray, stooped man stood at the corner of the intersection. His mahogany cane with the ivory handle trembled in his hands as he reached out as if to enter the crosswalk. He pulled back as a car whizzed by uncomfortably close. He peered back and forth, trying to catch the eye of one of the drivers to see if they'd let him cross. Heads turned away from him and seemed not to notice he was there.

A cluster of teen boys approached, laughing and talking a little too loudly.  A boy in a red t-shirt and backwards baseball cap pushed the shortest of his friends who yelled as he reeled close to the passing traffic.  The short boy retaliated with a punch to the shoulder.

The old man looked desperately for a path across the street before the boys could arrive.  Finding none, he shrunk back, away from the road and into the corner under the shade of a tree.

The boys seemed too occupied to notice him, and the old man breathed a sigh of relief.  The small sound caught the attention of one of the boys.  Taller than the rest, he had the awkwardness of his age.  He was quieter than the others, too.  The old man sucked in his breath and waited.

The kid smiled and shuffled over to him.

"Do you need to cross?"

The old man nodded his head.  The boy stepped into the cross walk and beckoned to the gentleman when the traffic paused for him.  The boy's friends bounded across the street quickly and walked on, not noticing that he lingered behind them.  The old man shuffled as quickly as he could, the teen walking in a slow saunter next to him until they reached the other side.

"See ya, dude."  The kid started to jog to catch up with his friends.

"Wait."  The young man stopped, then looked around with knitted brows.  In place of the old man stood a tall, dark-haired man in jeans.  The cane in his hand had been replaced with a gnarly, twisted wand.  The man approached the boy.

"Don't look so surprised.  You know that there are magical creatures that walk amongst us."

The boy's eyes widened, and the man chuckled.

"Look, I appreciate that you helped me out.  I'd like to give you a wish."

"A wish?"

"Sure, anything you want."  The man waited, wondering, trying to guess the wish based on the little bit he knew about this boy.  Would he ask for world peace?  Or a million dollars?  Maybe just a new game system, he thought with a wry smile.

The boy shrugged.

"OK.  I want a fish."

"Excuse me?"  The man didn't think he'd heard him properly.  The boy flashed him a sheepish grin.

"Yeah, well, I've always wanted a pet, but our landlord wouldn't allow it.  We live in a small apartment.  I don't think he'd mind if I had a fish."

The man shook his head incredulously.  He nodded, then turned on his heel and walked wordlessly away.  When the boy arrived home, he'd find a new aquarium on his desk with coral, wavy green plants, and a few exotic fish swimming around.  The man decided he'd throw in a year's supply of fish food, although that was technically against the rules, since the boy didn't officially wish for it.

But hey, he liked the kid.

*****

Wow.  I am really rusty!  The inner editor was going crazy as I wrote this one.  Still, it feels good to get back into Fiction Friday again.

Today's prompt:  Use the images on the dice for inspiration.  The images were a cane, a magic wand, and a fish. 

To play along, visit Write Anything's Fiction Friday at their new website here.

6.27.2011

Lazy Days of Summer

All right, I'll just make it official and say I'm taking a sabbatical for the summer.  That's better than neglecting my blog and having that nagging feeling of guilt, right?  Instead, I'm giving in to the siren call of a crisp, cool pool on a steamy hot day, the 500-piece puzzle strewn on my coffee table, and of course, the story that is itching to find its way onto paper.

6.08.2011

It Is What It Chooses to Be

Funny how I like to think I'm in control of things.  Take this novel I'm working on, for example.  I did a little plotting for a change.  I won't say I went as far as putting together an outline, but I knew where I wanted to go.  My main story happens on a small island off the coast of Africa.  A romance, a washed-up castaway that throws a wrench in the story, and an attempted assassination that sends my MC back home.

But then I started writing the beginning of my story.  You know, the first 25%, the set-up.  And I found myself adding certain details I hadn't intended.  And I thought, shoot, that's pretty good, but if it's in the first couple of chapters in a novel, it's a promise to the reader.  You just told them that these things are important.  That you'll explore them further, that your audience will get to learn more.  How in the world am I going to do that?  Sure, I saw possibilities, but it veered so very far away from my little island off the coast of Africa.

It hit me last night.  My novel has decided to become a series.  I never would have expected myself capable of writing a series.  I have an idea, and I follow it through to the end.  But here I have four individual stories waiting to be told, all tied together with an overarching main concept.  WTF (let's choose "fudge" this time; I'd never say that other word)?  How did that happen?

So, here are my four stories:  a young boy with unusual powers who becomes a test subject at a laboratory built in a renovated slave plantation; that same boy who grows up to become an assassin; and then goes to work for Doctors Without Borders on a remote island; and finally comes home and initiates the end of the world.

Tada!

6.03.2011

Lullaby

Esther felt a wave of exhaustion settle into her bones as she shuffled her way through hugs and good-byes to the door.  Her son, Edward, ushered her outside and helped her into the car.  Another Christmas dinner come and gone, another year of loneliness spanned ahead of her.

He kissed her forehead at the door.

"Sure you'll be all right, Ma?" he asked.

She was in remarkably good shape for her age.  Spry, she would say, of both mind and body in spite of her 93 years on this planet.  It was the reason they let her stay in her home -- in their home -- by herself.

"Shush, son, I'm just fine.  Ready for a little sleep, though."  She smiled up at him and patted his cheek before going inside.

She went through the motions of getting ready for bed: changed into her flannel nightgown, brushed her teeth, took her meds.  She turned out the light, too tired for reading tonight, and climbed into bed.

Sobs overtook her, racked her body.  She missed him so much.  He was her best friend.  Twenty years gone, and still she missed him, still reached for him across the bed, still expected to see him sitting on Janey's couch, bouncing a grandbaby on his lap.

She wore herself out, quieted, and a strange peace settled over her.  She couldn't sleep now, but that was all right.  She had plenty of time to sleep.  She wouldn't be getting up again. 

It wasn't really suicide, right?  After all, they stopped feeding that Terry Schiavo lady so she could pass on, and no one thought that was murder.  She wondered if it had really been painless for that woman, like the doctors said.  Terry couldn't rightly tell them otherwise, now could she?  Esther hoped that when the time came, if it did hurt, and she faltered, that she'd be too weak by then to do anything about it.

God would forgive her.  He'd have to.  He'd have to let her in, have to let her through those pearly gates.  He had to let her find him.

*****

Today's prompt: 

Use this sentiment or theme for your story “I miss my best friend”.
To play along, visit Write Anything's [Fiction] Friday, here.

Ironic note -- as I post this, Brahm's "Lullaby" is playing on my stereo.  Cosmically fitting, I think!

6.01.2011

Questions, Questions, Questions

A woman from my writing group shared that she was advised at a writing workshop to never have a character ask questions in her thoughts.  She couldn't remember why; she just remembered that rule.  That's silly, I thought.  People naturally ask themselves questions.  I chalked it up to a rule I was determined to break.

But occasionally, I'll be reading a book, sometimes a very good book, and I'll notice that the character is asking a lot of questions through inner dialogue.  And it begins to irritate me.  The character starts to seem whiny and weak.  Is that really what the author intended?  I'm especially annoyed if all the characters keep asking questions, and it doesn't seem authentic to me.

Here's an example:

"Good grief, I think.  Do people really do that?  Do they ask themselves questions over and over?  Why can't they just form an opinion and stick to it?"

vs.

"Good grief, I think. People don't really do that.  They don't sit there and ask themselves questions over and over.  They form an opinion and stick to it."

Guess which example reflects my actual thought?  The latter.

Maybe I was being unfair.  I decided to investigate.  Since reading The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron, I have been writing stream-of-consciousness morning pages for several months.  I have three or four notebooks filled with my uncensored thoughts.  I picked up one of my old notebooks and thumbed through it, looking for question marks.

What did I find?  Long expanses where I did not use a single question mark.  I discovered I'm very opinionated when it comes to my husband, my children, the birds outside, and the weather.  I noticed I occasionally threw in a rhetorical question, especially if I was trying to be clever or funny.

But then I'd hit a passage that blew my theory out of the water.  Tons and tons of question marks.  I read closer to find out what was going on.  I discovered that when I was truly soul-searching, I used a lot of questions.  If something was bothering me and I needed to dig it up, I asked questions.  But here's the kicker.  They were not rhetorical questions, and I always answered myself.

My conclusion, then, is that questions can be useful in inner dialogue if used purposefully.  If you have a weak character, questions are a subtle way to emphasize that weakness.  It's also a subtle way to show character arc when you have a weak character gaining personal strength -- change the inner dialogue from questions to statements of opinion.  And it's very powerful to show your character wrestling with inner demons -- if you remember to answer the questions you raise.

What do you think?  Do your characters ask too many questions?

5.26.2011

Pay The Writer

My apologies for the language in this video, but I applaud the man's message and his passion.  Never, never, never undervalue the work that you do.

5.24.2011

Contemplating (Blog) Suicide

Interesting phenomenon.  I participated in the A-Z Blog Challenge with the intention of meeting new friends and establishing a habit of regular blogging.  While I achieved my first goal, I was unprepared for the existentialist crisis that completing the challenge triggered.

I realized that blogging about writing had taken precedence over actual writing.  I was using my blog to avoid my novel.  Why?  Fear, a lack of confidence, perfectionism -- my personal bullies, I recognized them all.

But my novel was NOT happy being left on the sidelines.  My main character has a story to tell, he wants to tell it to me, he wants me to write it down.  And so I considered taking drastic action to cull all the unwanted obstacles that prevent me from focusing on my writing.

I could just delete the blog, I thought.  No one would really miss it all that much.  Would they even notice?  Maybe. 

I believe that social media is essential for marketing, but I'm so far away from publishing right now.  I could always start a new blog later, once the story is finished and polished and a third novel under way.  That would make more sense, right?

Yet I can't quite pull the trigger and give up my playground.  I like my flash fiction.  I like the support of friends.  I like learning new things.  And yes, sometimes, I like being able to take a break.

I don't think my blog will be the go-to place for consistent, brilliant writing advice.  I don't promise to write on a schedule.  I'll consider it more like a nearby vacation home, a place to kick up my feet and have fun when I need to get away for awhile.

5.04.2011

Smart Branding

I came across a site by Neil Paricha, author of The Book of Awesome and The Book of Even More Awesome.  I love how he is promoting his books -- by extending the idea behind the books to his blog.  Each day he blogs about something awesome -- the small and simple joys in life that are all around you, no matter how bad a day you're having.  I loved it, so I thought I'd share it with you.

1000 Awesome Things

Enjoy!

How does your blog or website represent who you are as an author?  What brings you joy?

5.02.2011

Awards, Awards, Awards!

One of the great things about participating in the A-Z challenge was that it allowed me to meet so many wonderful fellow bloggers.  Today I am basking in the glow of being the recipient of their kindness, as I've been awarded the following awards:


From Jingle, I received the Talented Blogger Award and the Magical Butterfly Award.  Thank you, so much, Jingle!



From Catherine Ensley at Words, World and Wings, I received the Versatile Blogger Award and the Stylish Blogger Award. Thank you, Catherine!

Author Elizabeth Mueller has offered the aptly named "I Survived the 2011 A-Z Blogging Challenge Award" to all A-Z Blog Challenge participants. 

And finally, for everyone who finished the challenge, an award's being given by its fantastic hosts: Arlee Bird, Jeffrey Beesler, Alex J. Cavanaugh, Jen Daiker, Candace Ganger, Karen J Gowen, Talli Roland, and Stephen Tremp. Thank you to the hosts!

4.30.2011

Zoloft

I did it!  I completed the A-Z blog challenge.  It felt like a marathon, but I'm proud of myself for doing it.  I'll be blogging M-W-F from now on.  Let me know if you miss me during T-Th-Sa. :)

Now, it's off to pop a Zoloft and curl up with a good book and pounds of chocolate.

How are you celebrating your accomplishments?

4.29.2011

Yearning

The night was beautiful, the stars sparkling with an intensity you never see in town.  As I leaned back in my camping chair, I saw a shooting star flash across the sky.  I automatically made a wish, then chuckled at myself.  Years of wishes on stars that never came true, and I was still as superstitious as ever.

I leaned in closer to the campfire, rubbing my hands to warm them.  I picked up the bag of marshmallows and fitted two of them on the hanger at my side.  I supposed a couple more wouldn't hurt.  I'd certainly burn off the extra calories on my hike back down the mountain in the morning.

A rustle in the woods behind my camp caught my attention.  I loved the little creatures that visited at night, racoons and opossum and once a small fox.  I picked up my flashlight and shined it in the direction of the sound, hoping to catch sight of my visitor.  The beam illuminated two bright green eyes staring intently at me.

I froze, mesmerized.  I held still, afraid to frighten it off, and my heart accelerated a little with excitement.  Whatever this animal was, I'd never encountered it before.  I couldn't wait to tell my students about it on Monday. 

The animal moved towards me.  As it approached, I realized it was much bigger than the visitors I had been used to, and the first primal hint of concern throbbed in the back of my head.  It moved lithely, slowly, with grace and purpose.  Its furry head and strong shoulders came into view, and it stopped for a moment, considering me.  I wanted to move closer, to see if I could get close enough to touch, to wrap my arms around its neck, place my cheek against its chest and feel the beating of its heart.

A deep growl from its throat broke the spell, and I became aware of how precarious a situation I was in.  I stood up quickly, brandishing the now flaming marshmallows, and yelled like a maniac.  The big cat bounded off into the woods, disappearing from my view.  My heart sank, and I wished I could bound away with him.

*****

Today's prompt:  For some extra fun each month, we are utilizing  ”Story Starter” die. Look at each face of the dice, ponder on its significance to a character, setting or plot you may have bubbling away.. now write – using these as your inspiration.

To play along, visit Write Anything's [Fiction] Friday here.

4.28.2011

Xenophobe vs. Xenophile

a.k.a. Battle of the Verts.

In one corner, we have the Extroverts. Extraversion is "the act, state, or habit of being predominantly concerned with and obtaining gratification from what is outside the self". Extroverts enjoy human interaction; they are gregarious, aggressive, enthusiastic, and talkative. They are energized when spending time with other people and tend towards boredom when left to their own devices.

In the opposite corner, we have the Introverts. Introversion is "the state of or tendency toward being wholly or predominantly concerned with and interested in one's own mental life". Introverts are energized through reflection and sapped by interaction. They tend to be more reserved and less outspoken than their counterparts.

So, which are you? Chances are that you are an introvert, as the archetypical artist – and we writers are, indeed, artists – is highly introverted. The bigger question is, can you write extroverted characters? Or do you let your own biases sneak in where they don't belong?

Let's say you have a character who is a teacher. Does she come home exhausted every day, eager to lose herself in a little Jane Austen and a glass of wine? Then you'd better not make her the life of the party at her sister's wedding. But that scene is critical to your story, you say. Easy fix – she becomes more dynamic in the classroom, maybe offering after-school tutoring or mentoring a club.

How do you create characters that are alien to you? What are your strategies?

4.27.2011

WTF

Sheesh, get your mind out of the gutter. Of course I would never say that. WTF stands for Write the Funny.

I think I'm a funny person. I come up with a zinger or two from time to time. I'd love to be able to add some humor to my novels, but I find I just can't do it on purpose. So, I did a little research to find some tips on how to write humor.

The Set-Up. The set-up can be as important as the punchline. Sometimes it isn't directly stated. It's better if it's implied, but sometimes an explicit set-up is essential for clarity.

Surprise. The punchline should be the very last word of the joke. You want to hide the surprise until the very end. The more surprising and unexpected, the funnier the joke.

The Twist. Good humor often has a twist at the end.

Relationships. Relationships and connections are key to every joke. Pay attention to how things are the same and different. Look for positive and negative connections.

Life Experiences. Some of the funniest moments can come from real life. For example: My son did an experiment to see if the Tooth Fairy is real. He had his tooth under his pillow for four days without telling anyone.

Go Beyond Ordinary. Exaggeration and extrapolation can take you to a funny place.

Word Play. Also known as the double entendre. Play with different meanings of words.

Spelling. Similarly, you can swap homonyms to create a new, humorous meaning.

You tell me. What cracks you up?

4.26.2011

Verification

As in Word Verification. Three words: Just say no.

As you've hopped from blog to blog, you must have noticed the occasional Word Verification pop up. That's the annoying little box asking you to prove that you're a real person and not a spammer. It's also a roadblock for you readers who are trying to leave a comment and connect with you.

It puts emotional distance between you and your audience when you are trying to create a connection.

It announces to the world that you are an amateur.

It annoys people.

It discourages people from leaving comments.

Even worse? Comment moderation. That's telling your audience that you must consider the value of their comment before you deem it worthy for publication. It's like call-waiting to me, where you're put on hold so the person you're calling can talk with someone else. It's rude.

But what if you're really worried about spammers? The best thing to do is to moderate comments only after a certain number of days (I set mine to five days). Most spammers hit blog older blog posts because you're less likely to notice them and therefore delete them. Which you can do, under the setting to manage your comments.

You can modify your comment moderation settings under... Settings.

So glad I got that off my chest! Now, do you have any pet peeves you'd like to share?

4.25.2011

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand


Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand is the book chosen for our book club next month. I was excited to read it because Laura Hillenbrand and I share a couple of things in common. We're both writers, and we both have a chronic illness, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). I wanted to see what she was able to accomplish in spite of her illness. I found the author and her subject both to be very inspiring to me personally.

Unbroken is the biography of a remarkable man, Louie Zamperini, an Olympic runner and World War II veteran and former prisoner of war. From the opening preface to the final pages, Ms. Hillenbrand writes with a style befitting any thriller.

Tales of Louie Zamperini's childhood made me realize that my own “difficult” children are really not so bad. Their teenage antics pale in comparison to Zamperini's indomitable spirit. Like a wild horse that defies the best efforts of its masters to tame it, he remained unbroken and impossible to rein in.

Vanity and a desire to impress the ladies led Louie to train and discover his talent for running. He broke high school and college records and went on to compete in the Olympics. One of the youngest participants in a sport that favors age and experience, he did well but did not medal. His Olympic future looked promising, and it was believed that he would be the first man to break the four minute mile. But before he could prove himself in the following Olympics, World War II broke out, ending his career forever.

Ms. Hillebrand's description of the years Louie spent as a prisoner of war in Japanese camps is harrowing but never crosses the line into gory. As Louie survives over and over against all odds, you wonder how he could have done it. Laura digs deep into the character of the man and shows us how he was able to remain unbroken.

Louie's return home is heart-breaking, as you see the effects of his experience continue to haunt him. I admire the woman who married him; although she was human dealing with Louie, she always loved him and ultimately stood by his side.

Unbroken is a book about faith without becoming preachy. Louie's faith helped him survive months at sea, and it was a return to faith that allowed him to ultimately defeat his demons.

I loved this book and highly recommend it. I would give it five stars. It is a keeper, and I will be adding it to my Bookshelf.

For more of my five-star recommends, take a peek at my Bookshelf right under the title of my blog.

4.23.2011

Tips for Writers

Random tips, in no particular order:

1. Create a writing ritual. Mothers know how important it is to create a bedtime routine to help their children calm down and prepare to sleep. Likewise, a writing ritual can tell your muse it is time to write. A writing ritual could include lighting a candle, putting on some music, taking a few deep breaths, and repeating some affirmations.

2. Write a brief synopsis of your story from each character's point of view. Write as if your minor character is the main character of the story. This gives you a better idea of who all your characters are and what they want.

3. If you're struggling to deepen POV, write the scene in first-person first. Then change it to third-person, keeping much of the inner dialogue.

4. Delete every adjective and adverb in your novel. But make sure you save a copy first. This will force you to show instead of tell, and you will find out if your adjective is really necessary.

5. Pay attention to the lyrics of your favorite music. Lyrics are half-way between poetry and prose. Many songwriters find unique and descriptive ways to convey their meaning. It's a great way to understand metaphors.

6. Learn to write with distractions. Don't wait for the perfect circumstances to write. Smart parents know their new babies will learn to sleep even while the rest of the family goes about their business. Writers can train their muses to get to work in the same way.

7. But set boundaries. Don't answer the phone or check your e-mail. Have a code so your family knows not to interrupt if you're in the middle of an important scene, like raise your hand and have them sit and wait until you give them the go-ahead.

8. Write crap. Seriously, not every word has to be a masterpiece. Sometimes you just have to get a scene down on paper. Use place setters to keep it moving, like “neighbor girl, or “car” or “guard 1.” You can, should, and will go back and fix it later.

9. Experiment with your approach to writing. Like to write by the seat of your pants (aka “pantser”)? Try outlining your story. Love, love, love to outline? Run with it for a change and let your imagination go wherever it wants. You may discover that a combination of the two is right for you.

10. Do creative things that have nothing to do with writing. Cook, paint, sing, create something crafty. Knit, crochet, or sew something pretty. Press flowers, garden, create a collage.

What about you? What writing tips have been the most helpful to you?

4.22.2011

The Spat

I paced the living room floor, periodically peering out the window, watching the black turn to a lightening gray. Still, the Easter Bunny hadn't arrived. The kids would be up soon, spilling in with sleepy excitement, looking for their baskets. Dang, even if he got there soon, I wouldn't have enough time to hide the baskets.

I knew the Easter Bunny didn't have a magic sleigh like Santa to carry him from house to house in the blink of an eye. Instead, he relied on the sheer volume of his family to get the job done. Maybe our house had been delegated to one of the young uns. They were cute and shy, but sometimes they got lost. But I'd never had to wait this long before.

I heard a sound and whirled around. The Easter Bunny himself stood before me, looking haggard and apologetic.

"Dude, what happened?" I asked. "The sun is almost up."

"I know, I'm sorry.” He handed me the baskets in his hand. “It's just that last fall, I forgot my wife's birthday..."

I shrugged and looked at him quizzically. "That happens..."

"and went to a bar with the guys instead..." he continued. I winced.

"I guess I kissed a waitress and got lipstick in my fur..."

By this time I was shaking my head, knowing the story couldn't end well.

"and didn't get home until after three."

I cupped my balls protectively.

"Ouch." I patted him on the shoulder sympathetically. "So she..."

"Cut me off. No sex for a month."

I shook my head in pity, then furrowed my brow.

"But that was last fall." I did the math in my head, understanding finally dawning on me.

"Yep. That's why we're short-handed this year."

*****
Today's prompt:  Why was Easter Bunny held up with deliveries this year?

To play along, visit Write Anything's [Fiction] Friday here.

4.21.2011

Recommendations

I fell in love with reading before I fell in love with writing.  By about two years, I think.  I have read and continue to read some excellent literature.  Here are some of my all-time favorites.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.  I recommended this book to my husband, and it took him over a year before he finally gave in.  When he began reading it, he came in to me and said, "Listen to this."  He reread the opening scene to me with awe.  He continued to share morsels throughout the book, he loved it so much.  I said, "I told you so."  Now, go and do likewise.  Don't take a year.  You won't regret it.

The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck.  Sure, Of Mice and Men, The Red Pony, and The Grapes of Wrath get all the attention and accolades.  But this book is my favorite by Steinbeck.  The machinations of a good man using questionable means to rise to the expectations of others are brilliantly conceived and executed.  And I love a good redemption story.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mann Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.  Great characters, wonderful humor, and a sweet romance.  Written as a series of letters, it can be challenging to get into at first (or so I'm told), but well worth sticking it out.

Innocent Traitor: A Novel of Lady Jane Grey by Alison Weir.  I'm not big into historicals, but this novel was gripping and engaging. 

The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins.  Ms. Collins is a master of pacing and characterization.  She combines compelling story-telling with good writing.  If you haven't read these books, do it now before the movie comes out!

Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling.  I've heard J.K. Rowling disparaged before because she hasn't written anything since, but I would say she's not just a one-trick pony.  Her world-building is spectacular.  You can see her growth from book to book as she becomes more experienced and takes creative license as she gains her audience's trust.

I'm going to stop there, but if you want to see more of my recommendations, please visit my Bookshelf at the top of the page under the title of my blog. Or simply click this handy link here.  I update it regularly, so feel free to check back often.

What about you?  What is your favorite book of all time?

4.20.2011

Questions

Aight, peeps (cuz it's Easter and I feel like y'all got my back, word) – I'm gonna put it all out there and let myself be vulnerable. Today is...

Ask me anything.

Yes, anything you want. Leave a question for me in the comments, and then I'll update this post to answer it here. This could either be a very short post (in which case “Q” also stands for “Quiet”), or this could be a lot of fun.

Ready? Go!!!

Thank you, K.C Woolf, for starting us off!

K.C. asks: If you had to eliminate one emotion from your life, which one would you choose?

Interesting question, K.C.  As I have grown older and experienced both the ups and downs of life, I have grown to cherish and recognize the value in all of our emotions.  However, if I had to eliminate one emotion, I would choose fear.  Without fear, I would speak my mind, dance on the page, and do something daring every day.

Carrie asks: What book do you take on the deserted island with you?

Easy question.  OK, I would want my Kindle with me so I could devour as much as I could until the battery ran out. :(  After that, I would want to have The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.  That is my favorite book.  The imagery is so rich, the characters heart-wrenchingly compelling, the story gripping.  I could read it over and over again and discover hidden layers each time.

Laura asks two questions:  My questions is how long have you been writing?
I've loved creative writing since 3rd grade, but I began pursuing writing as a career in December 2008.
And what was one story you loved that you've written that you wished could be published?
That's a hard question.  I have several flash fiction stories that I love.  I've only completed the first draft of one novel, and I fell in love with it and my main character by the end.  It's the story of a wife and mother who finds that she has kind of lost herself somewhere along the way.  She receives an anonymous note from a mysterious stranger, sending her on a journey back to herself.  That's the one I would choose.  And boy, do I need to work on my elevator pitch!

Nutschell asks: 

What are some of your writing quirks/habits?
Ah, I wish I had writing habits. ;)  My biggest writing quirk, I would say, is that every time I sit down to write, I have a serious writing block.  My inner editor rages worst even before I put pen to paper.  I have to go through a writing exercise from The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron where I ask and answer two questions: What are you mad about? and What are you afraid of?  Once I give myself permission to write crap, I'm good to go.

Damyanti asks:  How do you handle rejection of submissions?

The first (non-fiction) article I sent in for submission to a magazine was accepted (but not yet scheduled) for publication. :)  That softened the blow, I would say.  I submitted a flash fiction piece to Writer's Digest's competition.  I didn't get rejected, per se, they just never contacted me back.  Read between the lines.  The worst rejection I've had was when I participated in a blog contest of only 17 contestants, and I didn't even make the top five.  I pouted, berated my self for lack of talent, and ate a lot of chocolate.  Then I went back to work.


Donna asks:  What's the film you like best adapted from a book you love?

I'd say it has to be the Harry Potter series, especially The Prisoner of Azaban.  But I am DYING for the Hunger Games to come out!  The story just begs for the big screen.


River asks:  How many hours a day do you sit and write? Is there a certain time of the day? :)

River, I have some health issues that keep me from writing as much as I'd like, but I can usually get in about an hour a day.  During that time, I can easily finish 500-1,000 words.  That's the size of a typical flash fiction story or a complete scene.  When I'm writing regularly, an hour a day makes good progress on my novel.  And my sweet spot time of day for writing is about 1 pm.  It's after I've gotten my morning routines and responsibilities out of the way and before the kids get home from school.

Thank you so much, everyone, for participating!  I had a fun time.  You've taught me not to fear the silence, and so I think I'll start asking questions at the end of some of my posts.

4.19.2011

Opportunitites in Publishing: Traditional or Indie?

(see how clever I am, combining "O" and "P" in one post, thereby catching up on the A-Z challenge?  *pats self on back*)

Traditional publishing or indie publishing, that is the question. You may have inferred from a previous post that I prefer traditional over indie (or self-publishing). Then my answer may surprise you: I say both! I want to have my cake and eat it, too.

The e-book revolution has shaken up the publishing industry, and the big winners are and will be authors. Never have we had more options and more opportunities to carve our own individual path to success.

Random thoughts:

I think the stigma of self-publishing is quickly fading, thanks in large part to the wonderful talent of such pioneering authors as Cathryn Grant, Amanda Hocking, and LindaCassidy Lewis.

All these great authors that are publishing independently are creating a need for the same services traditionally published authors are getting – editing, cover design, marketing. When a niche is created, entrepreneurial souls step in to fill it. Whether it is buffet style services or one-stop shopping, I believe demand will make them available and competition will insist on quality.

In the future, I see e-book sales as the new slush pile. The cream always rises to the top.  Smart literary agents looking for fresh voices will carefully watch Amazon to see what is resonating with audiences. Is it possible that the dreaded query letter will become a thing of the past, and that literary agents will come looking for us?

Smart literary agents will also have to shift the services they offer authors. Not all authors are going to want to be shopped to traditional publishers. A literary agent can make himself relevant to those authors by facilitating access to the services they need to make their books the best and most competitive as possible.

Amanda Hocking is the model to follow, I believe. She is a prolific writer, and each book sells the next. Her pricing is brilliant – the first book in a series is priced at 99 cents, the perfect price for a curious reader. Then, the reader is hooked and willing to pay $2.99 to $4.99 for the next books in the series. In addition, she has used her self-publishing success to land a reported $2 million traditional publishing deal.

Established authors aren't going to have to bargain price their e-books. Stephen King will never have to price a book at 99 cents. Let's be real. He knows his fans will pay a heck of a lot more than that for his new book. Nathan Bransford says he'd pay $100 for a new book by J.K. Rowling, but let's be real. Most of us wouldn't. I would, however, pay about $14.99. If Amanda Hocking could make a million dollars on 99 cent e-books, imagine how much money an author could make at the $14.99 price point. (Nathan Bransford would do the math. I, however, am no Nathan Bransford.)

The take-away message from all this? Get cracking! Write that book, and then the next and the next. Your dreams have never been more attainable.

Hey!  I just noticed I passed 100 followers today!  Thank you so much, I'm immeasurably flattered!


4.18.2011

Needed A Break

So I took one.

4.15.2011

Mixed Signals

"That's why I hate blind dates," Sheila said.
"Oh, come on, it couldn't have been that bad," Debbie said.
Sheila cocked an eyebrow.

"Dude, you rock," Rob said.
"Didn't I tell you?" James said.  "And to think you said you hated blind dates.  Good thing I didn't listen to you."
"All right, you were right.  Don't get used to it.

"I thought you said he was good-looking," Sheila said.
"He is.  At least, I think so."
"Don't you think you could have mentioned that he was so short?  I wore heels -- my spiked heels.  I towered over him.  It was like dating a Munchkin."

"Dude, she was so hot," Rob said.
"Yeah, I told you, didn't I?"
"I love blondes.  And those long legs that never stop?  It was like going out with a model."

"You must have had something in common," said Debbie.  "I mean, he's an architect, you're an artist."
"You would think.  When I asked him about his work, he talked for an hour about the city planner fighting with him, something about the size of his acroterion...?"
"What the hell is an acroterion?" Debbie asked, starting to giggle.
Sheila snorted and had to set her water glass down.
"I still have no idea."

"She was smart, too," Rob said.  "She asked me about my work, and she totally got it."

"He didn't just talk about work all night, did he?" Debbie asked.
"No.  Oh, no.  That would have made the night merely boring.  There was the city planner story, something about football, a conversation with his accountant, recounted word for word.  The guy jumped from topic to topic like a crazed Yorkshire terrier."

"She was a good listener, too," Rob said.  "I could tell she was really into me."
"You sure she isn't just after your money?" James elbowed him in the ribs.
"I'm sure it doesn't hurt," Rob said with a wink.

"The worst part," said Sheila, "was that he didn't even leave a tip for the waiter."
"You're kidding."
"Serious.  The cheap bastard.  After we said good-night, I had to sneak back in and leave a twenty."

"I wish we hadn't driven separate cars.  I'd have loved to take her home," said Rob.
"Think you could've gotten some?" James asked.
Rob gave a half shrug with a smug grin that belied his uncertain gesture.  James shoved him.
"Dude."  Rob burst out laughing.

"I'm so glad we drove separate cars," said Sheila.  "Can you imagine if he knew where I lived?"
She shuddered.

"When are you going to ask her out again?" James asked.
"I thought I'd wait a couple a days, play it cool.  Probably call on Thursday."

"What are you going to do if he calls?" asked Debbie.
"Ugh.  I don't know.  Maybe I'll just change my phone number."

*****

I combined two different prompts today: "Leggo your ego" and "He jumped from topic to topic like a crazed Yorkshire terrier."

4.14.2011

Links, Links, Links!

I'm a giver.  I like to share.  So, here are some fantastic little helpers I have found over time.

Dr. Wicked's Write or Die.  Dr. Wicked is great for those first drafts where you just need to spit it out on the page.  He forces me to turn off the inner editor and just keep the words flowing.  I like to choose the Gentle and Forgiving setting, because it reminds me to be gentle and forgiving of my writing.

750 Words.  750 words sends you an e-mail reminder to do your writing and gives you a place online to write and track your progress.  I use it when I want to give my inner editor a little more freedom and I want to take my time crafting my words.

Edit Minion.  This is also from Dr. Wicked and is nice for a first pass through a piece.  It highlights my lazy writing -- adverbs, dialogue tags. and overused "placesetter" words.

The Bookshelf Muses's Emotion Thesaurus. Show, don't tell.  Show, don't tell.  How many times have you heard that advice?  This emotion thesaurus helps you do that.  Is you character angry?  Then I imagine his nostrils will flare and he'll clench his fists and a vein will bulge from his neck.  Maybe she's frustrated.  Then she might grit her teeth or throw her hands up.  Lots of emotions, lots of options for each.

Descriptive Faces.  Another site to help you show, don't tell.  Charity Bradford shares descriptions of eyes, lips, noses, hair, body types, and expressions.

You know I love writing flash fiction, and you're thinking you'd like to give it a try.  Write Anything has a weekly flash fiction prompt.  If the prompt du jour doesn't thrill you, you can also try WritingFix's prompt generator and keep clicking until something clicks.  Adam Maxwell's Writing Lounge also provides a nice prompt generator.

52 Projects.  Finally, we all need to find ways to recharge our creative energy.  52 Projects lists ... well, 52 projects that you can do to give yourself a boost.  If you're a fan of Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way (and I am! I am!), then these are perfect for a weekly artist date.

For more helpful links, visit my Toolbox right up there just under the title of my blog.  Or just click on the handy link I just provided you.

Do you have any wonderful tools that you use?  Let me know, I'd love to add them to my Toolbox!

4.13.2011

Kris Kindle

It was December 1989, our first Christmas as a married couple. I woke up Christmas morning to find a big box wrapped for me. Just one. Inside were about fifteen music CDs lovingly picked out by my husband. An avid audiophile, he was so excited, sure he had found the perfect gift.

Well. I come from a family of eight children, and each year, my mother gave each child ten gifts for Christmas. We were poor (although I didn't know it then), so the gifts were never expensive – she'd wrap a box of crayons for one gift, and a coloring book for another. But it was so exciting to go downstairs and see the piles of gifts overflowing from the tree. It was our one day of luxury, and to me it meant love.

I didn't show my disappointment, although we did discuss it later. He learned to wrap my gifts individually. I learned that if there was something I really wanted for Christmas, I should probably tell him. Many times I'll even buy it myself. (Look, honey, here's the camera you bought me. It's perfect! Thanks. Mwah!)

So, this Christmas, I received … a Kindle! (It's perfect, honey, thanks! Mwah!)

It has been a fantastic gift. I love that I can read tons of classics for free. (Hello, complete works of Jane Austen and Shakespeare.) I can buy newly released books for less than the hard back price. And there is a plethora of literature out there for – get this – only 99 cents!





And that's where I'm having the most fun. I've been able to discover so many new authors this way. Cathryn Grant, Tanya Parker Mills, Daron Fraley. Amanda Hocking, Eric Krause, K.M. Weiland, Richard Mabry, and Jennifer Donnelly. I can't wait to go mining to see who else I can discover. It's like Christmas never ends.

What about you? Are you an e-reader convert? Have you joined the e-book revolution?

4.12.2011

Jokes

Great Advice from Kids

HOW DO YOU DECIDE WHOM TO MARRY?
You got to find somebody who likes the same stuff. Like, if you like sports, she should like it that you like sports, and she should keep the chips and dip coming. - Alan, age 10

HOW CAN A STRANGER TELL IF TWO PEOPLE ARE MARRIED?
You might have to guess, based on whether they seem to be yelling at the same kids. - Derrick, age 8

WHAT DO YOU THINK YOUR MOM AND DAD HAVE IN COMMON?
Both don't want any more kids. - Lori, age 8

WHAT DO MOST PEOPLE DO ON A DATE?
Dates are for having fun, and people should use them to get to know each other. Even boys have something to say if you listen long enough.- Lynnette, age 8

WHEN IS IT OKAY TO KISS SOMEONE?
When they're rich. - Pam, age 7

IS IT BETTER TO BE SINGLE OR MARRIED?
It's better for girls to be single but not for boys. Boys need someone to clean up after them. - Anita, age 9

HOW WOULD THE WORLD BE DIFFERENT IF PEOPLE DIDN'T GET MARRIED?
There sure would be a lot of kids to explain, wouldn't there? - Kevin, age 8

HOW WOULD YOU MAKE A MARRIAGE WORK?
Tell your wife that she looks pretty even if she looks like a truck.- Ricky, age 10

From MyHumor.org.

4.11.2011

Indie Authors' Fatal Flaw

I enjoy discovering new authors, and I love to support indie authors in particular. I applaud their entrepreneurial spirit and admire the courage and hard work that it takes to launch their book into the world.

I recognize that there is a great deal of talent out there. But I have to admit, in reading their works, that I have noticed one major flaw. It isn't that indie authors aren't as good as traditionally published authors. It's that they are not pushed to the limits of their talent.

In traditional publishing, you get the dreaded rewrites. Your agent loves your book, but based on his years of experience, he knows what sells and doesn't sell. He zeroes in on a few weak points – raise the stakes here, too repetitive there, strengthen the voice and arc of your character – and sends it back to you. That process, I believe, stretches an author to her fullest potential.

The final product may or may not be that good, but it is the best the author had to give. When I read a novel by an indie author, especially someone I'm familiar with, I can see spots where they just missed the mark. And it makes me sad, because I know that with just a couple of tweaks, that book could have been amazing.

So, is this indeed a fatal flaw for indie authors? No. It's not fatal at all, as Ms. Amanda Hocking can attest. Most readers are there for the story, and if it's a good story, they are willing to forgive an awful lot. They take it at face value and most likely won't even notice that it could have been better here and there.

But as an author, that's not good enough for me. I want to be pushed to the limits of my talent, I want to be forced to eke out just a little bit more, I want to grow. I want my books to be amazing. I don't want to be the next Amanda Hocking, I want to be the next Kathryn Stockett.

4.09.2011

Honored

Today I would like to thank Deirdra at A Storybook World for awarding me the Magical Blog Award.




Deirdra interviews many wonderful authors on her site.  Also, if you are looking to connect with other great writing bloggers, her awards page is a great place to build your community.

Thank you, Deirdra!

4.08.2011

Great Cats

Sophie Hedley opened the door to the cage and stepped inside. She was greeted by a half purr, half growl. Samson came forward and stretched at her feet, his giant paws spread, his front legs rigid, his rear in the air. His mouth gaped in a yawn that showed his razor sharp teeth.

"Good morning, baby," she said, reaching out to scratch behind his ears. Samson moved his head against her hand, arching in delight, encouraging more. He rolled to his back, and Sophie laughed.

"All right, all right. So you want a tummy rub, do you?"

She knelt beside the great cat and scratched his tummy, working up to his powerful chest, watching his head loll back and his legs go limp. When she finished, he rolled onto his stomach and sat up on his forearms. She wrapped her arms around his neck and buried her face in his orange and black fur. She felt his breath rise and fall, and her own breathing mimicked his rhythm. She slid her hands down his back, past his shoulders, over his haunches, feeling the sinewy muscles. She placed her cheek against his chest and listened to the strong beat of his heart. Her own heart quickened. She felt so alive.

After a few minutes, she reluctantly stood up and backed to the door of the cage. Samson swatted at her lightly, and she lost her balance, almost falling over.

"Hey, I'll be back. You know I will. I always do." She closed the door behind her and clicked the lock.

Every morning, Sophie had to get her Samson fix before heading off to her job at the Department of Motor Vehicles. It was the only way she could stand it. The place was a crypt of dead-end lives, both the people in the cubicles around her and those lined in front of them. The mindless waiting brought out the worst in people; they rarely smiled, and often raged about the smallest mistakes, never taking responsibility for the things they could have prevented themselves. The hours dragged until closing time, and then while her co-workers made their way to bars or warring spouses, she eagerly returned to her Samson.

She'd had him since he was a kitten. Fate had brought them together. One day, she'd seen a classified ad in the newspaper. A tiger from a traveling circus had given birth to two kittens, and the owner was selling them. Sophie's father had left the family to -- seriously -- join a circus when she was eight years old. She often thought of him working with the big cats, and she believed she inherited her love of animals from him. Finding the kitten seemed like a cosmic gift from her dad.

Samson loved her in a way that no one else could. He never disappointed her, never took her for granted, never demanded anything more than her time and tummy rubs. Sophie broke off her relationship with her boyfriend and stopped going out for drinks with her friends. She had few visitors; Samson made people uncomfortable, everyone but Sophie.

Sophie's mother worried about her, warned her that Samson was a wild animal at heart, and that something bad would happen. Sophie soothed her mother's concerns and promised her Samson would never do something like that.

***

David, the supervisor at the DMV, called Mrs. Hedley. Sophie hadn't been in to work for three days. It wasn't like her to not call. He had left several messages for her, but she wasn't returning his calls. He thought she should know. Mrs. Hedley hung up and dialed 911.

The police car pulled into the driveway and two uniformed officers got out. They walked to the front door and knocked, waited for an answer. When none came, they canvassed the perimeter of the home. They spotted the enclosure in the backyard and approached. A magnificent Bengal tiger paced back and forth, spitting and hissing when it saw them. It stopped and bared its teeth with a loud, menacing growl. There, underneath its protective feet, lay a woman's body, her neck twisted at an unnatural angle but otherwise untouched.

*****
Today's prompt:  "Looks can be deceiving."   My kids love watching the show Fatal Attractions, where crazy people keep dangerous animals and think nothing could possibly go wrong.  That was my inspiration for today.

To play along, visit Write Anything's [Fiction] Friday here.

And welcome, A to Zers!

4.07.2011

Fun with Flash Fiction

If you've thumbed through my blog, you've probably notice that I enjoy writing flash fiction.  Here are some of the benefits I've discovered from it.

1. Warm-up. Like a singer who sings scales before a big performance, writing flash fiction is a way to get your creative juices flowing, to prime the pump. There is a great deal of freedom that comes when I turn off my inner editor and follow an idea wherever it leads me just for a little while. I find that creativity spills over into my novel writing.

2. Scene crafting. The length of flash fiction (under 1,000 words) is identical to the length of a typical scene. Like a good story, a good scene should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Writing flash fiction gives me practice in writing impactful scenes.

3. Story mining. Flash fiction prompts have led me to ideas that I never would have come up with on my own. Sometimes I stumble upon an idea or a character that is just begging to be expanded into a novel. I began writing with one good story idea; I now have six waiting in the wings, and I expect more to come.

4. Marketing. I've noticed many indie authors have compiled their best flash fiction and offered the collection as an inexpensive or free e-book. This is brilliant! What a great way to hook a potential reader who isn't quite ready to pay more for a new author's book.

5. Resume padding. Flash fiction is the perfect size for submitting to contests, magazines, and online publications. Even if it's not accepted right away, the feedback is invaluable.

If you're ready to get your feet wet, you can find a weekly writing prompt at Write Anything's [Fiction] Friday. 

4.06.2011

Excuses


  1. My muse is on strike for more chocolate.
  2. I'm letting my ideas simmer.
  3. The dog ate my... um... computer?
  4. It's that time of the month.
  5. My kids have the week off from school. What kind of mom would I be if I ignored them all day?
  6. I'm not goofing around on Facebook and Twitter. I'm marketing.
  7. I'm exercising my right as a temperamental artist to be difficult, petulant, and rebellious.
  8. My characters stopped talking to me.
  9. Um, research – yeah, that's it, I'm doing research.
  10. Ooooh, shiny!

4.05.2011

Dream Big

I want this:







And this:






Here:








"If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them." Henry David Thoreau

4.04.2011

Cutesy

I realize that if I'm going to keep my readers' interest for the entire alphabet, I may have to get creative. I've been pondering this thought, and I've come up with a couple of ideas.

what if i wrote my posts in all lower-case letters? doesn't that just scream twenty-something hipster? it's like i was born with a cell phone in my hands, that i'm a master at speed texting, and that i just don't have time to hit the shift key. squee!

Or perhaps I could switch up my font-size to show emphasis. Like when I get really, really excited I can let you know by enlarging the font. There's no way you could miss the important parts. And if there's something super duper important, I can even make it big and green. Like the Hulk.

Now, here's an idea that I already have a penchant for. I love exclamation points! Because it makes me seem cheerful and optimistic! Like I have this really great, happy life, and I just want it to spill over into yours! I've had to scale it back in my writing, because I once heard that adding an exclamation point to your fiction is like laughing at your own jokes. I thought that was a great analogy! At least when I first heard it. The more I think about it, the less it makes sense.

Here's a little something I'm starting to get the hang of. :) I can sprinkle in those cute little emoticons. When I tell a joke, I can give you a little ;), and make you feel like it's just between the two of us. If I'm frustrated with my muse and how my story is coming along, I'll just :(. Sometimes I make mistakes. :/ I feel a little disconcerted or even embarrassed. :S You'll always have a stick-figure visual of my current facial expressions. Helpful, yes? :D

All right, all right – enough gimmicks. I'll just try to find some interesting topics to write about over the next three weeks. *shrugs* ;)

4.02.2011

Beauty







4.01.2011

April Fools

Dahlia was a wallflower.  Not because she was homely; quite the contrary, on the rare occasion that she lifted her eyes to meet your gaze and smiled, she looked surprisingly beautiful.  Dahlia simply got lost in the crowd of well-painted, lightly clad attention-seekers vying for boys' attention.

Dahlia sat at her usual location next to the table with the punch bowl.  She had a cup of pink sugar water in her hands.  She tapped her foot to the beat of the music, and from beneath veiled eyes, she surveyed the lively room around her.  Boys with sweat stains under the arms of their t-shirts, girls with wet tendrils on their brow, both with glittering eyes as they gyrated within acceptable limits, yelling to talk above the thumping music, and laughing, lots of smiles and laughing.  Watching was next best to being one of the participants.

Along the perimeter huddled groups of pre- and post-dancers, those waiting, working up their courage to approach someone who may or may not welcome their advances.  They arranged themselves in order of likelihood; rarely did a guy of questionable popularity approach the group of pretty girls.  That would be social suicide.

Dahlia watched as Kevin, the star quarterback and ASB president, broke from the group and made his way towards her.  She assumed he was thirsty and waited for him to reach for a cup.  He surprised her when he stopped in front of her.

"Would you like to dance?"

She looked around automatically, although she knew there was no one else behind her or by her side.  She set her cup beneath her chair with shaking hands.

"Um, sure."

She stood and followed him to the dance floor, where he cleared a path through writhing couples.  He stopped and turned to her, leaned in, and she had to strain to hear what he said next.

"Well, I wouldn't."

He turned on his heel and left, walked back to his friends who greeted him with high fives and heads thrown back in laughter.  Burning seeped into Dahlia's face and down her neck as she felt eyes turn on her.  She ducked her head and pushed her way off the dance floor.

She didn't see Aaron break away from Kevin's group, and she didn't hear his footsteps as he ran towards her.  She felt someone grab her hand, and she looked up with desperate, pleading eyes.  Please, just let me go.

"Hey," he said.  "Dance with me."

He slipped an arm around her waist and kept her hand firmly in his, not letting her pull away.  He guided her back to the place of humiliation and began to dance close to her.  He talked, keeping up a stream of idle chatter that she couldn't hear, but it didn't matter.  When the song ended, he whispered in her ear.

"You look beautiful tonight."

She scanned his face to see if he was lying.  He smiled and lifted her hand, still in his, to his lips and kissed it.  He walked her back to her place next to the refreshment table.

"Thank you for dancing with me," he said.

Dahlia waited, watched him walk away, and then slipped out the door of the gym, unnoticed.

*****

As always, my flash fiction is unedited.  I didn't work off a prompt today but wrote from a true story from my teen years.

Welcome, A to Z-ers!  I'll be visiting your blogs soon.

3.29.2011

A to Z Blogging Challenge

I know what you're thinking.  "Gee, I just can't get enough of Miss Shelli's blog posts.  I wish she would write, like, every day!"  (Sorry, I think I gave you a teenage California accent.)

Well, dear readers, I've read your mind and am going to give you exactly what you want!  For the month of April, I'll be participating in the A to Z Blogging Challenge:






"The premise of the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge is to post something on your blog every day in April except for Sundays.  In doing this you will have 26 blog posts--one for each letter of the alphabet.   Each day you will theme your post according to a letter of the alphabet.

"You will only be limited by your own imagination in this challenge.  There is an unlimited universe of possibilities.  You can post essays, short pieces of fiction, poetry, recipes, travel sketches, or anything else you would like to write about.  You don't have to be a writer to do this.  You can post photos, including samples of your own art or craftwork.    Everyone who blogs can post from A to Z."

So, what do you say?  Want to join me?  Visit Tossing It Out here,  or click on the button on my sidebar.

3.25.2011

I'm Just a Baby

OK, I know what you're thinking.  You've seen my picture and you'd like to beg to differ.  But that's just in people years, not in writer years.

I remember the day that I decided to become a "real" writer.  I've always loved writing, and I thought it would be fun to write a novel some day.  However, I was just a mom, just a housewife, and I was so boringly happy!  I didn't think I could find a story anyone would want to read.

Then my husband and I went to San Diego for our 20th anniversary, December 2008.  We were eating at an outdoor cafe (you can do that in San Diego in December), and I was enjoying watching the variety of people walk by.  It got me thinking about them and wondering what it would be like to actually "be" the 20-something girl in hip clothes laughing with her friends or the harried business man pushing through the crowds.  I wanted to get inside their heads, feel what it was like to live in their skins for a day.

And that spawned my Big Idea.  Finally, I had an idea worthy of a novel!  Something that people would be interested in reading.  In that moment, I became an author.  Eons away from becoming a published author, but in my heart, I was an author.

I quickly learned I had a lot to learn about writing a novel.  I decided to write a "practice" novel before tackling my big idea.  And I did... kind of.  I finished the first draft of "A Novel Idea."  It took me a year to do it, and it's only 36,000 words in length.  Still, I'm thrilled that I did it, and I learned so much along the way.  I fell in love with my practice novel, and I hope to revise it and see it published some day.

I'm still not ready for my Big Idea.  I need to work on my prose, learn how to write in first person point of view, do a lot of research, and learn how to edit.  I'm just a baby.  I've got time to learn and grow up.

3.21.2011

Lessons Learned

Participating in the "Hone Your Skills" blogfest was an interesting and eye-opening experience for me.  Most of my work is off-the-cuff, impromptu writing.  In fact, the rules for Fiction Friday forbid editing.  I love it, because you have to turn your Inner Editor off, and it helps my creativity flow better.  I feel like I can go wherever my muse takes me, and if it's not perfect, that's OK, it's not supposed to be.

But "Honing Your Skills" implies revisions.  And quite frankly, I don't have a lot of experience with that.  Inviting people to critique my work was very helpful but nerve-wracking as well.  Here are the things that I learned.

1.  I use a lot of "place setters."  I know where I want to go with a story, and I'm impatient to get there, so I have a tendency to use a generic word to hold my place while I move on to the good stuff.  I figure I can always go back and prettify it later.

2.  Related to that, I'm not specific enough with my nouns.  A room is really a makeshift laboratory in the basement.  A gun is a Glock, Berretta or Ruger.  Flowers are sweet-scented roses or little purple pansies.  I know that in my mind, but I need to get in the habit of sharing that with my readers.

3.  Especially since I write flash fiction, I can cut a lot of unnecessary action.  Sometimes less is more.  I don't need to detail every turn down a maze of corridors or every step taken to exit a car and enter a building.  I need to learn to give less attention to unimportant elements so the important events get center stage.

4.  I'm not as tough as I like to think I am.  I found myself alternately embarrassed ("I can't believe I missed that") and defensive ("But if I change that, I'll give too much away").  I admit to feeling a little cranky and doubting my writing ability.

In the end, all the critiques I received have helped me tremendously.  The final story is much sharper, clearer, and better.  It has a much better chance of being accepted for publication by going through the process.  So, thank you Charity and Rosie, it was a great experience!  If I can grow a thicker hide, I'd love to participate again.