Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Whatever Word Wednesday

What I like in a good author is not what he says, but what he whispers. 

~Logan Pearsall Smith, "All Trivia," Afterthoughts, 1931

Monday, June 28, 2010

Blog Chain - From Where Do The Words Flow?

This round's topic was chosen by the ever awesome Bonny. Be sure to check out Laura's response from yesterday and Shaun's answer tomorrow.

Bonny asked:

Is there a place you like to write that's extra special? Have you carved out a writing niche? Is there a certain time of day (or night) when the words fall into place, and your brain is focused on nothing but writing?

To answer this question, I'll take you on a visual tour ;-) First stop, the place where I almost always spin my tales. This is my desk:

  Yes, it's messy, cluttered, surrounded by more mess and clutter - but it's my home within a home :) Although, with the arrival of my wonderful, darling laptop, I can often be found here:

As you can tell by the way my son is sprawled out fast asleep, this couch is ridiculously comfy. One of those where you sit down and sink right in. My laptop is on a little tray in the picture, but when I'm writing here, it's usually on my lap, supported by a pillow or something.

Now, these two spots are really my faves, however, with the arrival of a stinking hot and horribly humid summer (that my previously desert-bound body just isn't used to), I am more often than not found here:

This chair is uber-comfortable and more importantly, located right beneath a very powerful ceiling fan. This combo makes me happy :D

As for writing times, it's a toss up sometimes. I used to be the most productive at night - LATE at night. Now I seem to do better in the early morning. Both times have something crucial in common - the absence of my loving family :D Be it late night or the crack of dawn, as long as my little ones are slumbering deeply I can write to my heart's content. 

When they are awake, I try the "Look, a shiny!" trick - this generally takes the form of a new or favorite DVD and a few junk food bribes. Hey, we writer mommies gotta break a rule or two if we are going to get anything done (no worries...I make sure to read them lots of stories and brush their teeth for twice as long) :D
For inspiration - almost always, I get my best ideas, break through the worst writer's block, and solve the most troubling problems, right here: 

The shower is also a great spot for unexpected ideas to crop up, but I'll spare you the pic of that :D Now, why the horrid act of washing dishes spurs my creativity, I'm not really sure. I detest doing dishes with a capital D, yet something about the mind-numbingly boring task triggers my best stuff. I think it has something to do with the warm water and the fact that it takes no brain power whatsoever. I'm also usually listening to music, which is always a huge inspiration. 

And, miracle of miracles, the second I start doing dishes, everyone else in the house tends to disappear. Go figure ;-) Or, maybe it is because I hate doing this particular chore so much that I must go to my happy place to escape it :D Whatever the reason, I won't question it too closely :)

So, there you have it. Late nights or early mornings, at my desk or cuddled on the couch, writing words that were inspired by a sink of dirty dishes :) How's that for magical :D 

How about you? What are your favorite times and places?

(Update: Holy cow! While looking through quotes for Thursday, I came across this: The best time for planning a book is while you're doing the dishes. ~Agatha Christie. Wow - now I'm feeling better about the dishes thing!) :D

Papers and Poetry

In an effort to simplify things a bit, I've decided to keep everything in one place and will be moving all past and future posts of the Papers, Prose, and Poetry blog to this blog. There is now a tab above where you can find information on writing essays. As always, please email me if there are any questions you may have! :)

Pre-Editing Problem

In going through my awesome stash of quotes the other day, I came across this one:

"People have writer's block not because they can't write, but because they despair of writing eloquently."

Anna Quindlen

I read that and thought "Oh yeah - that's my problem RIGHT THERE." Well, let's face it, I have many problems (ha!) but this is definitely one of them. I don't think I often have writer's block in the sense that I can't think of what to write. I have a definite overflow of ideas most of the time. But I think I have a hard time OVERTHINKING things. 
Instead of just sitting down and writing, I am constantly editing myself, before I've even put a single word on the page. I'll think of a line and instead of just getting it down, I think "Hmmm, that's not quite the right way to say that. What is the exact right way?"

And I end up with a whole lot of blank pages.

I'm putting the cart before the horse, I'm counting my chickens before they've hatched, I'm eating the cookie dough before it's cooked (oooo....cookie dough....)

I am editing BEFORE I write. And it is definitely something I need to quit doing. It's counterproductive. It's discouraging. And it is a ridiculously effective way of procrastinating LOL

Yeah, it's hard to turn off that internal editor. And yes, editing is a big part of writing. But I've gotta give myself something to write before I edit, instead of trying to get everything perfect on the paper the first time. Of course, knowing this and doing it are two totally different things :D But I can give it a good shot :)

How about you? Do you find yourself editing before you've even begun to write?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Blog Chain - Inspire Me :)

The incredible Shaun started this chain - and before we get into it, you simply MUST check out his newly released book, The Deathday Letter. I devoured this book in one day. It made me laugh, it made me cry, it was just completely AWESOME :D Go to my MUST READ BOOKS tab and take a look. Congrats Shaun!!!!

I am the last link in this chain, but be sure to swing by Shaun's to start at the beginning and don't forget to check out Laura's answer from yesterday :)

Now, for our topic, Shaun wants to know:

From where do you get your inspiration for stories? Give me the oddest, coolest, things that have inspired you.

I don't know if I've gotten a ton of ideas from cool places, but odd, yeah - if you count the inside of my head LOL But for the most part, I find inspiration everywhere. From the wicked cool cemetery next to my house, weird things I might see, funny things people say - just, well, anywhere and anything. For fiction, especially. But with fiction, it’s more about the emotions that are evoked by what I’m experiencing…the songs I hear, the things and people I see and hear.

Like several other wonderful writers in our chain, music inspires me a great deal. But usually not a whole book idea. I pick up on the general mood of a song and scenes pop into my head; it’s kind of like watching a movie with that song as the background music. And it’s never happy music or scenes. It’s usually music from groups like Evanescence, Apocalyptica, and Rob Dougan. I absolutely LOVE the music from these groups, but it usually isn’t happy-go-lucky stuff. I have gotten some really good, heart wrenching death/separation/despair type scenes from some of these songs.

And of course, the Romeo and Juliet type of love, the all consuming, burning, make-your-heart-jump-into- your-throat-every-time-you-see-him type love is just pumped into every note of some of these songs, and when I hear them, I can’t help but write about characters who feel the way the song feels and sounds. Listen to Apocalyptica’s Bittersweet (which has lyrics) or Romance (which does not) – or Evanescence’s My Immortal or Good Enough – or Sarah Brightman’s Deliver Me – or Rob Dougan’s Nothing at All or Furious Angels or I’m Not Driving Anymore…..these songs just stir something that I can’t shut off.

I also often use things that have happened in my own life….I have had an…interesting….past at times :) A lot of it has made it’s way into my stories. Of course, I change names, combine different people I’ve known to make one character, greatly embellish situations….but some of the more colorful parts of my own history have made it into my books. It’s therapeutic in a way, to write about my own life through other characters. I can make them do the things I wish I had done, or change things I wish I had not….I can finally requite that unrequited love :) or kill off the jerk that broke my heart. Really, some great real life situations make perfect fiction situations – it’s all in how you spin the tale:)

When it comes right down to it, I suppose I’m inspired by life in general. Events of the past, my own life experiences, the experiences of others expressed through music, theater, art (a really great painting can get all kind of creative juices flowing – the walls of my house are plastered with historical romance inspiring art), movies, books, etc, watching the world around me, experiencing that world, living in other worlds through vivid dreams….all of this combines to create the stories that run through my head at all hours of the day or night.

With NF, I’m more inspired by the needs I see and the subjects I enjoy. The struggling student’s need to understand what is going on so they can pass their hated English course without pulling their hair out. The desire to share the things I love – history, poetry, reading, writing. I want to share the joy I find in these things and show people who may not be interested in these subjects that they aren’t as bad as they might seem.

For my children’s books, I get most of my inspiration from my own children and the stories I hear from other parents. Honestly, while my kids make me pull my hair out in abject frustration most days, they are completely hilarious little people. I just sit and watch them, listen to the things they say, how they play with each other, the crazy things they get into in their little make believe worlds. And when I am done cleaning up the mess, I write :) And then I test my stories out and them and if they like them, we are golden.

So how about you? Where do you find your inspiration?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Friday Funnies

"I never had any doubts about my abilities. I knew I could write. I just had to figure out how to eat while doing this."

Cormac McCarthy

"I try to leave out the parts that people skip."

Elmore Leonard

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Thirty Word Thursday

"Writing is rewriting. To fall in love with the first draft to the point where one cannot change it is to greatly enhance the prospects of never publishing."

Richard North Patterson

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Ten Word Tuesday

"Talent is helpful in writing, but guts are absolutely essential."

Jessamyn West

Monday, June 21, 2010

Word Games

I was playing a game with my family last night called Bananagrams. It's basically Scrabble, but everyone gets their own personal little game and you race to see who can exhaust the supply of tiles first. The first person to run out first, wins.

As I struggled to form words out of the mass of mostly vowel tiles in front of me (a consonant every now and then really does help), my husband came up behind me and said, "Oh come on. You're a writer! You should know all the words!"

I laughed at the time, thinking he was right...I mean, I do spend most of my days doing nothing but stringing words together. But later on, I thought more about what he said. Sure, I know a lot of words. But it's not really the words that make the difference.

Working on a WIP is just like that darn game. I may be able to spell a dozen different words with the tiles I have....but if I can't connect them to the existing words on my board in the right way, it doesn't matter. They won't work. It doesn't matter how many words I know if I can't make them fit together in just the right way.

Sometimes I'll get a pile of tiles and whip out a mess of words so fast it makes the other players' heads spin. And sometimes I stare at the few piddly words I've created with no clue of what to add. Other times, I know I can create other words if I rearrange a few tiles, but there is one glorious word that I just can't stand to break apart - but eventually do for the sake of the game. Sometimes, most times, another player will beat me to the punch and win the game. But that doesn't mean the words I created weren't awesome and it certainly doesn't mean that I can't win the next game :)

I just have to keep at it, keep playing, keep forming the words until I find a batch that will get me through the finish line. And it happens. Not always and not quickly, but it happens :) You just can't give up.

And play Bananagrams if you get the chance - it's really an awesomely fun game if you're a word nerd like me :D

Friday, June 18, 2010

Friday Funnies inspired by Lisa Amowitz

By perseverance the snail reached the ark.
~Charles Spurgeon

Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did. 
~Newt Gingrich

If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading. 
~Lao Tzu (on persistence)

PATIENCE, n. A minor form of despair, disguised as a virtue. 

“In order to keep a true perspective of one's importance, everyone should have a dog that will worship him and a cat that will ignore him.”

Thank you so much to Lisa for joining us this week! If you haven't become an avid follower of this amazing lady yet, head to her Blog and find her on Twitter. It's been an awesome week and a true pleasure to host such a fabulous guest :)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Thirty Word a few more :D With Lisa Amowitz

When you are describing,
A shape, or sound, or tint;
Don't state the matter plainly,
But put it in a hint;
And learn to look at all things,
With a sort of mental squint.
~Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll)


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Guest Blogger - Lisa Amowitz

The Four Ps and how I live by Them

It’s been five full years that I have been writing seriously (and I’m not even going to count the summers before when I secretly filled spiral notebooks with my mad ramblings). That’s five years of working with two online critique groups, attending conferences, querying, stopping, starting over ,WHINING, CRYING, threatening to QUIT..then starting again. Five years of thinking--THIS IS IT! This is the ONE! This ms is so ready—then finding out not. Five years of—if you would revise this, I’d consider it again. Then landing a big agent. Losing a big agent. Watching writer pal after writer pal get agented then getting a book deal. Feeling bad. Then feeling ecstatic that so many people I know have managed what I used to believe was impossible. Yay to all of you! You know who you are—my bookcase is filling up with your books with more on the way (four pals with books in print, nine with contracts).

Am I dying inside? Turning green with envy? Nope. Far from it. Let me be honest. I hate rejection. But it doesn’t have the edge it used to. I know it’s not personal. I know I can write! At the same time the thought of getting published doesn’t seem like the end all and be all, though I remain in dogged pursuit. I’m very goal oriented!

The way I see it is, I’ve got stories to tell. Lots of them. Characters that want to be heard. They just aren’t going to shut up, whether some one wants to put them in print or not. I don’t know the ending to this story. I may never hit it right—the right hook, in the right voice at the right time.

They can write it on my epitaph in poor English: She plodded until she couldn’t plod no more, (or maybe plotted until she couldn’t plot no more).

So now for those Four Ps.

Perseverance—continuing to write and better your craft, in the face of rejection, while not concerning yourself with who sold what and who is repped by whom. Realizing that everyone walks their own path and that the only ones who get there are the ones who just keep walking, even if the soles have worn off the bottom of their shoes.

Persistence—Hammering away at a manuscript, re-envisioning it, buffing it, hacking it if need be, but doing whatever it takes to make it the best you possibly can. Then finishing that one and starting your next.

Patience— The patience to wait until your manuscript has been critiqued, edited, revised until you KNOW it’s where it should be. Of course, with each new book, you set the bar higher. Patience to wait for agent responses—you CAN’T bug them! And, even still, I’ve learned from my contracted friends—you need patience to wait for your editorial notes. (Which I will frame if I ever get one.)

Perspective (this one is courtesy of Emily Murdoch from the querytracker forum)—You are writing because you love it and there’s no limit on what you can achieve if you really want it. So remember to enjoy the ride, savor those words, and never compare your successes to others. Getting published is not the reason to write. Writing is the reason to write.

You see why I love her? :) Find her online!

Lisa's Blog
Lisa on Twitter

Monday, June 14, 2010

Interview with the Lovely Lisa Amowitz

Welcome to our June's Author Spotlight Week! This week, I am very excited to introduce everyone to my very sweet friend, Lisa Amowitz. I met her several years ago, in the wee-hours of Querytracker's beginnings, and have been truly privileged to have her as a part of my life. Along with being an amazing writer, Lisa runs the Why A? blog where she reviews and highlights YA awesomeness and interviews the unbelievable authors who pen them. Lisa was kind enough to join us this week to tell us a little more about herself and her work. 

MM: Tell us about yourself 
LA: I am a mom of one high-schooler and one college student, married for—yeesh—just let’s say before the invention of the CD. I teach graphic design at a community college and this is a day job I would never give up as teaching breathes life into me. My students are an inspiration and a joy. I’m also an artist and hope to complete my very first picture book in the next year. I’ve always loved to write, but never actually pursued it seriously until about five years ago when the bug bit me. It’s had its teeth in me ever since.

MM: What inspired you to write your first book? 
LA: I started with the hopes of doing a picture book (hey—I’ve come full circle) and realized my story idea was too long for that. I filled up piles of index cards and then a bazillion notebooks. I distinctly remember sitting on the porch of our summer rental staring into the woods when my main character walked out and plopped himself into my life. That book was awful, but the mc, Will MacGregory, still holds a dear spot in my heart.

MM: What book are you reading now?
LA: Three books to be precise—The Boneshaker, by Kate Milford, my good friend and critique-mate, Claire de Lune by my other critique-mate and good friend, Christine Johnson AND Ballad, by Maggie Stiefvater, whom I don’t know at all, but who’s writing steals my breath away.

MM: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? 
LA: Kate Milford and Christine Johnson—(shameless plug, here.) But seriously. They are GOOD.

MM: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work? 
LA: Hands down, my very favorite author is Suzanne Collins who wrote the Hunger Games. To me, Hunger Games is a perfect book—gorgeous language, gripping plot, unique premise, romance, great characters and a righteous cause. I simply must read those books in one sitting. I dragged out Catching Fire to a day and a half, but it was torture. I kept staring at it, able to think of nothing else. I would sell my soul to be able to write a book like that and it would be worth it.

(Totally agree with Lisa here :D I DEVOUR Suzanne's books)

MM: What do you do to keep yourself motivated when the writing business and all that it involves gets overwhelming?
LA: I ask myself if I would enjoy not writing. Then I answer myself: No, idiot, you wouldn’t. Write for the joy of it, I remind myself. Throw a ton of spaghetti at the wall. Eventually something’s going to stick.

(HA! Love this analogy)

MM: Can you give us any tantalizing hints about what is coming up on your blog? 
LA: I guess your posts about MOI seem the natural choice, no? Right now I am knee-deep in querying my lates MS, so I’ve been pretty absorbed. I just completed a month of interviews, so I guess after I catch my breath I’ll interview some more folks with books coming out. You and I know quite a few, (including yourself) don’t we?

MM: Yes we do (and thanks for the plug) ;-D It is so exciting seeing everyone's work coming out! :)

Thanks so much for being with us this week, Lisa!

Coming up, Lisa is hosting our 10 Word Tuesday and 30 Word Thursday and will be treating us to a guest pot on Wednesday. So come on back tomorrow for more of the awesome Ms. Amowitz!

Links!!! Be sure to head to Lisa's blog and give her a follow and you can find her on Twitter HERE.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Deathday Letter Fun

Nothing like coming back from vacation to super fun news :D The awesome Shaun David Hutchinson's book, THE DEATHDAY LETTER, will be released on June 15th. And he's celebrating in style - head over to his blog for a few celebration contests!

If you want to join in the fun, you can create a Deathday Postcard like this one:

Monday, June 7, 2010


All righty everyone - I thought I could pull this off while being out of town, buuuuut, yeah LOL Apparently I'm not as slick as I thought I was :D

We are supposed to be doing our Author Spotlight Week this week, highlighting the utterly fabulous Lisa Amowitz. But, I left all my file behind on my other computer, so we are going to have to postpone until next week.

In the meantime, swing by Lisa's awesome blog and check it out. And please come back next Monday for the kick off to our spotlight week featuring Lisa. She is an incredible lady and you don't want to miss out!

I'll be gone until later in the week, but I'll start regular posting again as soon as I get home.

Hope everyone is happy, healthy, and writing up a storm!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Woohoo I'm Finished! Giveaway Winner :D

And the winner is.....

Janet Johnson!!!

Janet, email me (contact button on the side) and I'll get your prizes out to you as soon as I get back in town :D

Congrats, and thanks everyone for celebrating with me!!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Friday Funnies

"If you can't annoy somebody, there is little point in writing."

Kingsley Amis

"Substitute 'damn' every time you're inclined to write 'very'; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be."

Mark Twain

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Thirty Word Thursday

The first essential is...Don't wait for an idea. Start writing something and the ideas will come. You have to turn the faucet on before the water starts to flow."

Louis L'Amour

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A quick note...

I am going out of town for a week - I will be bringing my laptop, but I won't be as on top of moderating comments as I usually am, so if you post a comment and don't see it show up for a while, don't worry, it will post!

Hope everyone has an awesome week. I have posts set to go up as normal, so it will be like I'm not even gone :D I'll be announcing the winner of the Giveaway sometime on Sunday so if you haven't entered yet, hurry and enter! (Click the fireworks pic on the sidebar)

And next week will be our June's Author Spotlight Week with the simply fabulous Lisa Amowitz from the Why A? Blog! I am so excited. She absolutely rocks, you won't want to miss it!

Blog Chain - Motivation-Suckers Beware!

This round's topic was chosen by the amazing Amanda, who wanted to know:

What do you do to keep yourself motivated when you feel like you're not making any progress in your writing career?

I actually posted about this topic a year or so ago - and when I went back over that post I realized that what I said then is as true now as it was when I wrote it.

Staying motivated is something I struggle with at times, as we all do, I'm sure. Writing is hard work. I enjoy it. But when Real Life or the little green monster in my head rears their sometimes ugly heads (and they always do), finding the time, energy, and motivation to write isn’t always the easiest thing to do.

So, here are a few things I do to help get me “in the mood.”

1. Find something to make me laugh.
When I am in a bad/sad/stressed mood, the last thing I want to do is write. I’m not sure why that is. I have a great time going over the stories in my head. But getting those stories from my head onto my computer sometimes takes more effort than I want to put in just then. But if I can lighten my mood, laugh a little, I start to relax, and suddenly writing seems like less of another “to do” item and more of a fun activity. I find something to
make me laugh and help me take myself a little less seriously. A good British comedy or standup routine are always good for a few laughs.

2. Take a short break and fix what is bugging me.
If I am not motivated to write, chances are, there is something else bothering me. Maybe I need to fold some laundry and I just can’t settle in to write because I can see the 15 loads of clean clothes from the corner of my eye. Maybe I promised my kids I’d have cookies waiting for them when they got home from school, or maybe I forgot to make my bed, or any one of a hundred other things. Now, I’ll admit I’m a little more…anal than some people :D But if I just go take care of whatever it is that is making me feel guilty for writing, then I can sit and write and enjoy myself instead of fixating on other things.

3. Get inspired.
I am inspired by so many things that this one is actually a really good way for me to get motivated. A few of my favorite inspirations are:
- Music. Some songs just really hit me hard and make me want to write. For one of the stories I am working on, I pretty much have James Blunt’s “Same Mistake” on repeat. A few other bands that always inspire me are Apocalyptica, Coldplay, Everlast, Evanescence….those haunting melodies are just great inspiration for the drama needed for some good fiction.
- Art. My walls are plastered with art. My husband teases me about it because there is not one blank wall in our house. I also troll the internet… is a great place for inspiration. I collect gorgeous nature shots and other pictures like this...

I see some of these places and want to write a scene that takes place there, or I’ll see a picture like this…

and I want to write a scene where my characters feel the way the people in the picture look like they feel.
- Movies. Certain movies just really hit home and tweak emotions that are hard to contain. My current favorite is P.S. I Love You. I’ve watched it I don’t know how many times, because it makes me laugh and cry and drool (Gerard Butler…ummm gorgeous!). It makes me want to write something that will make people feel the way I feel when I watch it.

4. Read.
I read. A lot. And I mean A LOT. If you are going to be a good writer, I think it’s a necessary part of the process to read. I call it research. It gets me an eye roll from my non-reader husband, but it really is research. Most of the time I get lost in the story, but now, as a writer, I can never really shut off the edit mode. Sometimes I’ll come across a passage or a really good (or bad) dialogue sequence and think “wow, I love how she did this,” or “ooo, I never would have worded this like this, it just doesn’t work.” Reading other’s work makes it easier to spot both the good and the bad things in my own work.
And, like the movies and the music, sometimes I’ll read a book that just inspires me to write, inspires me to create something that will invoke the emotions that I felt while reading.

5. Almost last, and anything but least, I go to my patient and saintly friends.
They put up with a lot from me. A have a few very good friends who get a copy of just about every email, passage, chapter, query letter, and synopsis I have ever written. They deal with my insecurities about everything I do. They love me enough to tell me when I suck and are genuinely ecstatic for me when I succeed. They encourage me to write when I’m in a slump and they support me when I need to slow down a bit.

They make the whole process easier. If you don’t have any writing friends yet, I highly suggest finding some, because this is a tough business and it is more wonderful than I can express to have people to go to who understand what I’m going through.

6. And the real kicker – I try very hard not to compare my journey to anyone else’s.
I am unique and so is my work, so why on earth would anything about what is going on in my world be remotely the same as what goes on in someone else’s? If I start comparing my journey with others out there, yeah, it can be a real motivation-sucker. So I try very, very hard not to do that. And when I have a hard time keeping my blinders on, I shut myself off from everything but my own little story world – I stay away from blogs and Facebook and posts and everything else that distracts me from what is truly important….MY OWN JOURNEY.

These are just a few things that I do get myself motivated and in the writing mood. Everyone is going to be different, so these things may not work as well for you as they do for me. All you really need is the right mindset, a little inspiration, and the support of a few good people, and the motivation takes care of itself.

Be sure to stop by Laura's awesome post if you haven't heard how she handles motivation problems, and head to Shaun's blog tomorrow to see what works for him!

How about you out there? What kills the motivation for you? How do you get it back?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Ten Word Tuesday

"Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing."

~ Ben Franklin