Thursday, March 31, 2011

Blog Chain - It's All About Me ;-)

My turn on the blog chain today and the hilarious Cole wants to know:

How about you? What hobbies, tips, or techniques do you have for 
keeping your writerly battery charged? 

Ahhh such an awesome question. Writing is a tough job. There are lots of highs and lows and many, many hours of just plain hard work. It's easy to get burned out. It's easy to get bummed when someone else seems to be more successful than you. It's easy to get overwhelmed with blogs, and tweets, and Facebook posts, and on and on and on.

So, when I get too bogged down in it all, I stop. I stay away from my computer. I get outside and breathe real, fresh air. I watch movies (mostly comedies because nothing makes me feel better than a good laugh) and read books and maybe write, but I stay away from the internet. Aside from emails and posting on my own blog.

I think it's good to just take a step back and refocus. Get back in tune with what is really important to me. Remember my goals, remember my successes. Basically, I go totally self-centered and just focus on ME ME ME. :)

It's good to do that every now and then.

How about you? What do you do to recharge?

Be sure to stop by Eric's to see his awesome Irish Hobby Song response from yesterday, and make sure to hit Margie's tomorrow to see how she handles the writer blues. To start at the beginning of the chain, don't miss Cole's hilarious break up letter with the internet :D

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

And How Writing is Like Dieting

I was going to post this tomorrow, but tomorrow is my turn on the Blog Chain. So, for your reading enjoyment, more ways writing and dieting are alike :D

4. It's easier to do when you have support

Dieting isn't easy. Neither is writing. They are both solitary journeys in that no one can do it for you. No one can force you to type out a few words anymore than anyone can force you to put down that cake (mmmmm....cake...) *ahem* However, when you have the support of a spouse or friend or crit partner, it is a lot easier to get through the bad times, and more fun to celebrate the good times.

My sis, mom, and I are all doing this diet together. We text every morning to report our weight loss from the day before, we call or text when we are feeling weak and tempted, and we celebrate with each other when we've overcome a temptation or dropped another pound. And when my mom is here, she walks the track with me. So much easier to have people to do this with.

Same with writing. I have awesome writer friends that I call, email or text every day - we report our word counts, our weak moments, our good news. We set up write-a-thon times and chat while we write. It's just easier to share this journey with those who are doing it too.

5. You can't compare journeys.

Everyone's journey is different. What works for one person might not work for someone else. My sis tried Nutrisystem. Loved it. Lost a ton. Same with Atkins (we've tried them all :D ) Me...I hated those diets. Did horribly. I did like Weight Watchers though. Did well. Now we are on the same diet. We are both doing well. But she's lost more than I have. My friend has lost more than I have also.

Does that mean that I'm doing poorly? Does it mean I won't meet my goal weight? No, of course not. I am still being successful and I will continue to succeed. It just might take me a little longer to get there.

Same goes for writing. Some people go the self-publishing route and make millions. Others do the exact same thing and barely break even. Some query and query and query and get no where even though they have a spectacular book. Others query five agents and get signed immediately. Does that make one writer better than the other? Not necessarily. Does it mean that writer will never reach their goal of publication? No, of course not.

It just might take a little longer to get there. People's success comes to them at different times. Comparing yours to someone else's does nothing but discourage you. Focus on your own awesomeness.  :)

6. If you give up, you'll never reach your goal.

Bottom line, whether you are dieting or writing, you've got to stick with it. There are going to be tough times. There are going to be temptations to quit. There are going to be people who are doing it better and faster.

But only one thing is absolutely sure....if you quit, you'll never reach your goal. Your waistline will stay the same, your manuscript will never be completed.

As long as you don't give up, you have succeeded. 1 pound or 1 page at a time, you will get to your goal. Just keep at it. :)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

How Being on a Diet is Like Writing a Book

One of my goals this year (like many people out there) was to lose weight. Starting in January, I hit the diet trail...and I'm doing pretty well. While doing dishes yesterday, I got to thinking (as I often do...I really should do dishes more often - great epiphany zone)...

Being on a diet is a lot like writing a book.

Why? Well, I'll tell you :)

1. There are a lot of ups and downs

Some days you are going to get on that scale and see an awesome weight loss. And other days, you might see might even gain. Even if you did everything absolutely, perfectly right, sometimes the scale just doesn't reflect all your hard work.

Same with writing. Sometimes everything just falls into place. Your prose is perfect, every scene is turning out exactly how you wanted, your manuscript is polished and gorgeous and requests are overloading your inbox. And other times, all that may be true but you still hear nothing but crickets. Even though you put in all the hard work, even though everything is perfect and there is nothing more you can do to help your manuscript improve, sometimes you still don't get the results you deserve.

So, should you quit? No! Because if you quit, you negate all the hard work you've put into it. No matter what your results are that day, you have to just keep at it.

2. Everything in moderation

I love me some chocolate. LOVE IT. To the point of obsession, seriously. Is it bad for me? No. Not in moderation. Are french fries, chocolate shakes, ice cream, brownies, donuts, chips, dips, pies, cakes (getting carried away here :D ) bad for me? No, they aren't. Well maybe if I eat them all in one day....every day :D But in moderation? No. These things are just fine.

Well, when it comes to my writing, adverbs are my brownies. Sentence fragments are my pizza. Long, rambling, complex sentences are my Doritos. Are these things bad? No. As long as I use them in moderation. A few here and there are great, a treat for my readers. Too many and I'm in danger of giving my readers an overload that will cause nausea and cavities. :)

3. Do what you don't want to do and get what you want to get

Do I want to exercise every day? No. Do I want to eat chicken and celery soup for lunch instead of the leftover pizza or Mexican that everyone else is eating? Heck no!

Will I get better results and feel better if I do? Yes. *le sigh*

Do I want to write every single day? Not always. Do I want to rewrite a scene for the 1000th time? Not usually.

Will I get better results and feel better about my manuscript if I do. Yes *le sigh* :)

Does this mean that you have to exercise (or write) every day, or pass up every single piece of pizza (or ignore the rewrite)? Of course not.'s better for me, and the results I'm after, if I do these things at least a few times a week. Don't feel like writing today - fine. But write tomorrow, or at least the next day. Don't want to rewrite that scene right now? So don't. But if you want results, be sure to come back to it in a few days.

Stay tuned on Thursday for more ways diets and writing are the same :) Now if you'll excuse me, there's a nice steaming bowl of chicken and celery soup with my name on it :D

Monday, March 28, 2011

Writing - a Difficult but Glorious Process

A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people. 
— Thomas Mann

I love this quote. I find it hilarious because of the absolute sheer truth in it. I do think writing is more difficult for writers...because for us, writing isn't just the process of putting words down on paper. Getting the words down is just the tip of the iceberg. But while it may be more difficult for us, I also think it's more rewarding than it is for other people. There really is no feeling in the world like finally finishing a completed, polished manuscript.

I always find it interesting when I discuss writing with non-writers. I remember being surprised at the amount of work it takes to get a complete, polished novel out. And, being someone who has at least dabbled in stories my entire life, and being an English major who has spent the vast majority of my life writing in some form or other, I knew in advance that it would take more work than just sitting down and writing the actual story.

I knew there would be edits and revisions and rewrites. But I still never fathomed just how much work it really was until I wrote my first book.

Non-writers really don't understand. And it's kind of fun to watch their reactions when you explain it :D

Our neighbors came over for dinner last week, as they often do, but this time I had just gotten a brand new corkboard (that I am sooo in love with!) It's big and shiny and BIG :D My last one was small so when I chunked out my scenes I had to use both sides of the board - and it fit neatly underneath my desk. This one fits the entire book on one side and must sit loud and proud on top of the desk (as I have no available wall space in this house to hang it).

So when my neighbors came over, they saw it and asked about it. And I explained how I chunk out my scenes so I can see where I need to change things, add things, delete things, rearrange things, etc. Their eyes grew rounder and more glazed as I spoke (I do tend to get carried IS my favorite topic after all lol)

I've talked with my mom about how I agonize over finding the exact right word, the exact right way to say something, to describe something; the exact right scene to evoke the emotions I want or to get the results in the plot I want. How I go over and over and over everything to make sure every little comma is in exactly the right place at the right time :)

Writing for a writer isn't just sitting down and writing. It's so much more than that. Every word really is a labor of love, agonizing and exhilarating at the same time. There is nothing simple about it.

Have you ever had the "what it really takes" discussion with a non-writer?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Funnies

Never give up. And never, under any circumstances, face the facts. -Ruth Gordon 
Never pick a fight with anyone who buys ink by the barrel. -American adage about antagonizing newspaper editors. (I think the same can be said about writers) :D
Never offend people with style when you can offend them with substance. -Sam Brown, "The Washington Post", January 26, 1977 

A Messy Kitchen Is A Happy Kitchen And This Kitchen Is Delirious 
No Husband Has Ever Been Shot While Doing The Dishes 
A husband is someone who takes out the trash and gives the impression he just cleaned the whole house
If we are what we eat, then I'm easy, fast, and cheap. 
A balanced diet is a cookie in each hand. 
Thou shalt not weigh more than thy refrigerator. 
Blessed are they who can laugh at themselves for they shall never cease to be amused. 
A Clean House Is A Sign Of A Misspent Life 
Help Keep the Kitchen Clean - Eat Out 
Housework Done Properly Can Kill You 
Countless Numbers Of People Have Eaten In This Kitchen and Gone On To Lead Normal Lives 
My next house will have no kitchen --- just vending machines

(today's funnies brought to you by LOLCats and  Electronix Warehouse)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Chip Off the Ol' Quill

My husband and I had a meeting with my kids' teachers yesterday and one of them said something about my son that just had me giddy with proud-mama glee.

She said that she had posted a picture of a fish in the ocean and told the class to write about it, describing what they see in the picture. (This is a first grade reading class, my son is 7). She said my son wrote "I am a fish." And then described the picture from the point of view of a fish.

How awesome is that!? His teacher said she was very impressed with that (so was I!) that he would think of something like that.

I'm already envisioning all the books he'll be writing some day LOL He actually does like to write books. He'll sit next to me while I'm working and write and illustrate his own little book. Just like his mama :)

It made me think about my family...whether or not I got the writing bug from anyone along the family tree. I know my great-grandmother wrote poetry - I have a book of it on one of my shelves. And my grandmother also writes poetry and is an amazing artist. My mother was always an avid reader - I grew up raiding her bookshelves.

What about you? Are you the chip off of anyone's writing block? Are any of your kids following in your footsteps? Or are you the first in your family to develop our strange and wonderful "disease"? :)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Start at the End

There is a scene in the movie "You've Got Mail" where Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks are looking at books at the market. Meg picks up a book and flips to the end and Tom asks her what she's doing. She replies that she likes reading the end first - if she likes the end, she knows she'll like getting there.

This is soooo something I do. Well, I'm not quite as bad. I don't read the ending first. I usually get about 50 - 100 pages into the book before I sneak a peak at the end. Usually right about the time the first major twist happens...and I just can't wait and have to flip to the end to see how things go.

This drives some people I know crazy. They think I should wait and be surprised. But hey, I am still surprised and I still enjoy getting to the fact, I might even enjoy it more because I can see how the author weaves all the twists and turns into the story since I know how it's going to end. :D

So I'm many of you are end-first readers? Do you wait to reach the end or do you flip ahead a bit?

P.s. My book and a swag pack is up for auction over at Write-Hope until Friday at 2 pm. Click HERE if you are interested in bidding on it. There are tons of other awesome items up for bid, so if you are looking for some signed books, fun swag, critiques, etc, or just want to help out (proceeds go to Save the Children to help those in need in Japan) swing on by!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Writers Helping Japan

Good morning, all :)

I've been seeing these posts all over the blogosphere and it just warms my heart that so many writers out there are doing what they can to help Japan. I have added a new page to my blog (up above) with links to the writer-run sites that I know of that are holding auctions or other fundraisers to help. If you know of any others, please let me know in the comments and I'll add them to the list :)

For my part, I've donated a signed copy of my book, Homework Helpers: Essays and Term Papers, along with a swag pack that includes a T-shirt, a mousepad, a calendar magnet, custom pens, and bookmarks, to the wonderful writers over at Write Hope. If you'd like to bid on my item (I'll ship internationally!), here is the link.

There are tons of other fabulous items, including signed books, pre-orders, and critiques, up for auction, so head on over to Write Hope or any of the other sites and check it out! :D Also, check out Liza's comment below - she has a link for a fundraiser that ends today. Thanks Liza!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Blog Chain - Literary Love

Today is my turn on the Blog Chain - this round's topic is brought to us by our wonderful Kat, who wants to know:

How do you feel about love scenes? As a reader, are you put off by the gratuitous? 
As a writer, do you shy away from spelling out the down-and-dirty? 
Or do you write until your computer lights a cigarette?

Ha! I love this question. And if you know me at all or have read any of my stuff, you'll know why :D I LOVE love. Love romance. Love love scenes. Love love love :)

Having said that, I want to point out that while I enjoy a good love scene, and definitely love a good love story, I don't like books that are nothing but love scenes. Frankly, one bodice-ripping scene is much like another and if that is all that a book contains, it gets boring pretty quickly. In fact, I tend to skim over the actual love scenes in books.

What I really love is the actual love, the romance, the eyes-meeting-across-a-crowded-room-and-their-hearts-stop type thing. The rush of butterflies in her gut when she sees him type thing. The miss-the-basketball-shot-because-he's-staring-at her type thing. The I-love-you-so-much-I'll-kill-that-mean-vampire-who's-after-you type thing. :)

In other words, I want to read about the love, not so much the sex.

I've sort of briefly (as in for a few seconds) toyed with writing a book that doesn't contain any romance, but tossed the idea immediately. I want the romance. All of my books thus far have centered around a romance. There is a lot of other stuff going on. I prefer the romantic suspenses where there is a lot of action and mystery and danger going on along with the romance as opposed to just the straight romance. But yeah, definitely love the romance.

Now, do I shy away from spelling out the down-and-dirty? Yes.


Because someday I know my mother and grandmother will be reading it :D

Seriously, I try very hard not to think about anyone reading while I'm writing because if I do, I start editing myself. I've written a few cigarette-inducing love scenes before, just to see if I could. And yep....I can :D But...I don't really want to. I want to write books that a large audience can read. I'm focused on YA right now, so of course I want to keep my books appropriate for that age level - something the teens will enjoy reading but that their mothers will also.

So, I keep it at the blood-pumping but sweet level, focusing more on the romance, the actual "love" part of the whole thing, rather than the "Mom, cover your eyes" thing :)

How about you? How do you feel about love scenes? Do you write them? Enjoy reading them? Or shy away from anything with the word "love" in it? :D

Don't forget to see what the ever awesome Eric had to say on the topic, and stay tuned on Tuesday to see how Margie feels about the whole Love scene :)

Friday, March 18, 2011

In Celebration of Christine Fonseca and 101 Success Secrets for Gifted Students

So, I know we usually do Friday Funnies today. But today we are going to do something a little bit different.

See, I have this amazing friend. The lovely Christine Fonseca. She's incredible - she's a crazy talented writer, an absolute marketing guru, she's determined, stronger than anyone I know, rips my manuscripts up better than the best editor and helps me piece them back together again over and over. She is always there for me through thick and thin.

One of the things that draws us together is the fact that we both write fiction and non-fiction. Christine's novels are awesome - wonderfully emotional, gripping, unique, and I have no doubt they will soon be appearing on shelves around the world.

In non-fiction, Christine is just a rock star. No other word for it. Her first book Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students is making huge waves in the gifted world. Her second book, 101 Success Secrets for Gifted Students is due out May 1st.


It is in so much demand, they are actually shipping it NOW!

Well, we just couldn't let that amazing news go by without a massive shout out :) This book is amazing. It really is. I've had the pleasure of reading it and all I can say is if you have a gifted child in your house, or if you know someone who does, go get this book for them. It is chock full of tips and ideas, many of them from other gifted children, to help these special kids navigate through their often intense worlds.

It's an amazing book from an amazing lady :) Congrats Christine!!!! And happy early release! :D

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Write Hope for Japan's Children

First of all, Happy St. Patrick's Day :D

May you wear lots of green, avoid plentiful pinches, and eat lots of corned beef (always a tradition at my house) :D

Now, on to something a little more serious. I came across this information on the blog of my awesome friend Bethany Wiggins. With all the devastation in Japan, I know many of you are looking for a way to help. And here it is :) Check out Write Hope, a blog set up to help the children of Japan. Here is what they have to say:

Welcome to Write Hope! We're an international group of Kidlit writers with a connection to Japan. Some of us have lived there. Some of us speak the language. Some of us love the culture. Some of us simply think Japan is exotic and mysterious.

We want to do our bit to help. To that end we have formed Write Hope. We're busy preparing everything now and over the next few weeks we plan to auction kidlit books, critiques, and other prizes for donation to the relief fund of our chosen charity Save the Children.

We'd love for you to be in too. Sign up, spread the word. If you have ARC's, books, critiques, swag to spare, pop us a mail. If you're a publishing professional, agent, editor, author, who wants to participate, pop us a mail. If you want to help, pop us a mail.

Together we can move mountains :-)


So, if you'd like to do something to help, please check it out. I hope everyone has a beautiful and blessed day :)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Like Mandarin - I Would Have Given Anything to be Like...

Welcome to a really fun non-blogfest blogfest! :D The wonderful Kristin Hubbard's book, Like Mandarin, just released and a bunch of us decided to blog about who our Mandarin was way back when. For those not familiar with the book, here is the gorgeous cover and blurb:

It's hard finding beauty in the badlands of Washokey, Wyoming, but 14-year-old Grace Carpenter knows it's not her mother's pageant obsessions, or the cowboy dances adored by her small-town classmates. True beauty is wild-girl Mandarin Ramey: 17, shameless and utterly carefree. Grace would give anything to be like Mandarin. 

When they're united for a project, they form an unlikely, explosive friendship, packed with nights spent skinny-dipping in the canal, liberating the town's animal-head trophies, and searching for someplace magic. Grace plays along when Mandarin suggests they run away together. Blame it on the crazy-making wildwinds plaguing their badlands town. 

Because all too soon, Grace discovers Mandarin's unique beauty hides a girl who's troubled, broken, and even dangerous. And no matter how hard Grace fights to keep the magic, no friendship can withstand betrayal. 

I haven't read the book yet, but I can't wait to! Let's face it - we all had our Mandarin's growing up. We all had someone we really wanted to be.

The drill team girls. Well, two of them in particular. They were both good friends of mine (I was always friends with the really popular girls, but not one of them myself). They were gorgeous, athletic, smart, gorgeous, funny, THIN, popular, and even really nice. All the boys liked them, all the teachers loved them, they could do anything and did, and I wanted to be them more than anything.

What I didn't realize, being a delusional teenager who only saw the worst in myself, was that I was like them. No, I wasn't super model thin, but I wasn't the huge blob of jiggly flesh that I imagined myself to be. I was smart, I was funny, I was pretty, I was liked by a lot more boys than I knew about (I found out much later), and if I had had an ounce of confidence in myself, I could have been good at sports or anything else I wanted to do.

I spent so much time wishing I could be like someone else I didn't take the time to appreciate the pretty awesome human being I already was. Took me years to figure that out :) But then, teenagers aren't exactly known for their powers of rational thought/behavior ;-D

If you want to participate in this non-blogfest blogfest, check out Kristin's blog for details and for chances to win a copy of Like Mandarin!

Who was your Mandarin? Who would you have given anything to be like?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

How To Promote Your Book

Nowadays, promoting your own book, especially when it comes to non-fiction, is something every author is going to need to do. Publishers do help (for instance, my publisher hired a publicity firm to work with me) but a lot of promotion responsibility rests on the author’s shoulders.

There are a lot of things you can do; some you are probably already doing (like blogging) and some that are fun things you can do once you have a book on the way. Since my book, Homework Helpers: Essays and Term Papers, is geared toward students, teachers, and homeschooling parents, I try to connect with those readers as often as possible. Here are some of the things I’ve been doing to help promote my book: 
  • A blog tour when the book released 
  • I created an Author Page on Facebook, Amazon, and Goodreads 
  • I began promoting my upcoming book through my blog and website and focused on building my readership
  • I’ve printed bookmarks and postcards featuring my book to leave on the counters of my local library and bookstore – and I recruited as many friends and family members as I could to do so as well. I will also be mailing the postcards and press kits (see next bullet) to schools and other institutions that might be interested in my book 
  • You can create press kits to send to newspapers, radio stations, and any other venue that might either plug or be interested in your book 
  • I spoke with my local bookstore about making appearances and will appear with my book at their bi-annual teacher convention
    • Any appearance opportunities you can find will be a great help in promoting your book. Whether it be visiting schools or speaking at conventions, these are a great way to get yourself and your book known. So if you find an opportunity to make an appearance or presentation of any kind, TAKE IT! Even if it is not specifically related to your book, it will help get your name out there.
    • Online appearances like Twitter chats, blog and website guest posts, Skype chats, forum chats, and any other venue where you can connect with your audience are great
  •  I even made T-shirts for family members to wear to their English classes and to Disneyland :D (hey, people have nothing else to do while they wait in those huge lines but read the shirt of the guy in front of them :D )
Many of these ideas I got from Steve Weber's Plug Your Book. He's got a ton of great ideas for how you help get your book out there using online sources. Also, look around at what other writers are doing. Ask your friends and family about the types of things they like to see, what they pay attention to the most. Think of anyone and everyone who might be able to help promote your book in some way and ask for their help.

This is one of the reasons you spend so much time and energy doing that social networking thing. Use the connections you've made! The writing community is one of the most helpful groups of people I have ever had the pleasure of associating with in my life. Most writers are more than happy to help a fellow author. Just gotta ask :)

Bottom line – connect with your audience. Let them know you have a book they need :)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Happy Monday

Good's was a very long weekend and Monday kind of snuck up on me. So :D Here's a little randomness for today. I should be back to fully functioning brain capacity by tomorrow. I hope :D

1. There's just no guessing what kids will like. While designing the website for my children's book pen name, I ran a few backgrounds by my kids. Thought they'd flip over the cool photo-manipped background I found. Didn't interest them at all. Their favorite - a pretty meadow scene with a windmill, rainbow and wildflowers. They reacted with audible gasps. Go figure.

2. Had a whole Twilight marathon over the weekend. Watched all 3 available movies and reread Breaking Dawn (well....skimmed through half of it :D). Love this series, yet feel guilty about it. Kind of like the way I feel about New Kids on the Block :) You know everyone else loves them too but for some reason it's not "cool" - whatev....I heart me some Twilight...and New Kids  ;-P

3. Whole wheat bagels have 49 grams of carbs....I'd be better off eating a piece of chocolate cake for breakfast....Does anyone have chocolate cake? I'll be right over

4. Dreams that are cool at night tend to linger in a disturbing way during the day and sort of throw all my plans out the window. All I want to do is get back to sleep and finish the story :D P.S. This is also why my idea file is so enormous.....I have the COOLEST dreams :D

5. Getting weird looks from the hubs about the scraps of paper all over the house with a bunch of different signatures all over them. But hey, if I have to pick a pen name, I need to be sure I can sign the dang thing.

6. It's hard picking a pen name.

7. Correction. It's hard to narrow down the pen name.

8. I'm extremely irritated because I thought of the PERFECT name last night. This morning, all I can remember is the last name. And it was the first name I was so in love with. I really need to keep a pad of paper by my bed.

9. I have a slight OCD thing about odd numbers, so I'm rambling about OCD tendencies so I can end on an even number :D

10. Woohoo! An even number :D Have a few funnies and see you tomorrow!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday Funnies

This writing business. Pencils and whatnot. Overrated, if you ask me. 
— Winnie the Pooh 

It is easy to finish things. Nothing is simpler. Never does one lie so cleverly as then. 
— Toulouse Lautrec 

The things that you know more about than you want to know are very useful. 
— Robert Stone

Thursday, March 10, 2011

When You CAN Use a Hyphen

Okay, I have a headache from reading all the rules on when to use hyphens LOL And I'm still confused at times. Holy Confusing Mix of Contradicting Rules, Grammar Man!


However, I found a wonderful site with tons of good info and lots of examples of all these confusing rules. So, thanks to The Grammar Curmudgeon, Rich Turner (please check out his site for all your grammar needs, he has TONS of good stuff over there - the info and most of the examples listed below come from his site), here's what I found out.

1. Use hyphens for numbers - twenty-eight; two-thirds, etc

2. Use a hyphen when you are using two or more adjectives that act as a single idea -

low-budget job (the job is not low and budget, it is low-budget)
first-class decisions
clear-headed thinking
devil-may-care attitude
well-known author (though after the noun you wouldn't use it...the author is well known)
go-ahead (She gave me the go-ahead on the project)

- In other words, if you can add a comma or "and" and keep the meaning, you probably don't need a hyphen. For example:

The red, ripe apple fell from the tree.

You wouldn't say red-ripe apple because the apple is both red and ripe, two separate descriptions that work independently from each other.

3. When prefixed by ex-, self-, all-


And occasionally cross-


4. When needed for clarity -

You need to re-sign the forms to resign your position.
We studied the re-creation process for recreation.

5. When the second word is capitalized -


6. Other examples -


Another interesting fact that I sort of knew but never really thought about -

Words evolve. They tend to start out as two words, then get hyphenated and eventually end up as one database.

For more examples (and rules....and explanations of those rules) check out The Grammar Curmudgeon's site. He's got more info over there then you ever wanted to know :D

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Blog Chain - Expect the Unexpected

Today is my turn on the ol' Blog Chain again, and this round's topic was chosen by the absolutely amazing Sarah, who wants to know:

What has been the most unexpected part of your writing journey up to this point? What has happened that you could never have predicted? Has it been a help or a hindrance?

Awesome question. And the short answer: EVERYTHING :D

Everything about my writing journey has been unexpected. From how much I truly love it, to how much work is involved, to how many rejections one really does get (my first novel numbered close to 200), to how long (and sometimes how fast) things can happen, to the absolutely amazing friends I've met along the way.

I started out with the very misguided misconception that I could write a book, edit it a few times (myself of course, after all, I have a masters in English, I shouldn't need help, right?), send it out, and get signed within days. My first attempt at querying didn't, unfortunately, break me of this thinking because I actually lucked out and received a few requests off my horrible query letter...and one was from none other than the Godmother of Romance herself, Roberta Brown (who wasn't even accepting queries at that time but who read mine and requested a full). 

Awesome, yes. Good for my ego, yes.  Realistic, no. I was rejected, of course, but with a very nice, personal letter that praised my writing. But, it didn't take too long to learn that querying doesn't usually go as smoothly and my journey was going to be a lot longer than I thought :)

So, yeah, really EVERYTHING about this journey has been unexpected....but I can't think of any of those things that has been a hindrance. Not even the never-ending waiting and crushing disappointment. All of it serves a purpose. I've grown incredibly close to some truly amazing people while we support each other through the lows and celebrate the highs. The long hours spent working and rewriting and shredding have served to hone my craft into something that's actually publishable. I wouldn't trade a second of it. It's helped make me the writer I am now and is shaping the even better writer I will become. 
Sometimes the unexpected can be fun - like signing with my NF agent within days of querying her, getting a request from an agent or publisher I thought I had NO shot with, or meeting another awesome writer bud. 

Really, I've come to expect the unexpected along this journey. You just can't plan for anything that's going to happen, because even the things you KNOW will happen usually happen in a completely unexpected way :) 

Bottom line....I've learned to just sit back and enjoy the ride :)

What has been the most unexpected part of YOUR journey?

Make sure you stop by the ever awesome Eric's to see his answer from yesterday, and stop by Margie's on Friday to find out what she didn't expect :)


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

When NOT to use a Hyphen

I found this list over on the Terribly Write blog and just had to pass it along. Seriously, when or when not to use a hyphen just perplexes me at times. :) So, courtesy of Laura at Terribly Write, here are 30 words that do NOT need a hyphen:

breakup (noun)
comeback (noun)
roundup (noun)

And, the rule for using a hyphen when discussing the age of someone....if you are using "years old" (plural) you don't need hyphens. If it is not plural (year old) you use 2 of them.

For example - My main character is 18 years old, but she throws a fit like a 2-year-old.

For more awesome grammar tips, check out Laura's site HERE. And come back Thursday...I'll be spending some time with a dictionary finding words that DO need a hyphen :D

Monday, March 7, 2011

Life Lessons a' la American Idol

Okay, so I got sucked into American Idol this season. I haven't watched it since Kelly Clarkson won....I'm just too much of a bleeding heart boob. Watching Simon tear apart those poor kids (even when they really didn't sing well) just leaves me a blubbering pile of broken-hearted goo. So I steer clear.


My mom was staying with me for a few weeks and I started watching it one night with her. It was group night, where the contestants get together in groups and plan a little performance. And there was this kid, a sweet, very young kid, who was kicked out of his group by an overzealous groupmate because he didn't go with the vibe of the group (or something along those lines).

The real problem....the kid had the voice, but not the looks. And no matter what the other guy said, everyone knew the reason why the sweet little 15 year old was asked to leave the group. Had the kid not been able to sing, I would have been sad for him but probably understood. If the contestants were being judged as a group, I might have understood. But while they were judged on stuff like their harmonies, at the end of the day, they were judged on their individual performances. The sweet kid wouldn't have messed up the groups vocals; he has a wonderful voice. So....yeah....there you have it.

And yes....I was a total crying, slobbering mess. My mom suggested therapy :D But I had to keep watching every week to find out what happened to these two.

They both made it to the next round. I knew the sweet kid wouldn't make it further than that. He really has a beautiful voice, but it needs a few more years to mature. And as much as I hated to admit it, the jerk guy can really sing. Like REALLY. An amazing voice.  He made it to the top 24. The sweet kid did not. And going on voice alone, the jerk guy deserved to be in the finalists.

However.....I never in a million years would have ever voted for him because of what he did to the sweet kid on group night.

And apparently I'm not the only one. He didn't make it into the top 10. And the judges didn't give him a chance for a Wild Card slot.

Here's the thing that I think some of the contestants may not have realized. Image DOES mean a lot in a business where you depend on your audience for success. What you do, what you say, how you all matters. People are watching you, the people who will vote for you or buy your album, or see your movie, or read your book. And fair or not, their opinion of you and your work will be swayed by your actions.

Now, you might have the talent to get you pretty far. But bottom line, if your audience doesn't like or respect you as a person, it's going to hurt you in the long run.

So, what can we as writers learn from the poor guy who let his ambition get ahead of his common decency?

Don't burn bridges. Ever. Do what you need to do to succeed...but not at the expense of others. Pay it forward, don't slap them back. If you get a bad review, thank the reviewer for the time they took from their lives to read your book and move on. A simple "I'm sorry you feel that way but thank you for your time" and leave it at that. A rejection? Take the letter out and burn it if you want, but please refrain from firing back a hateful email to the poor agent. People are entitled to their opinions and unfortunately those opinions are not always going to be in our favor.

This doesn't mean you have to agree to crazy requests, spend all your time helping others at the expense of your own work, or put yourself in situations you don't want to be in. But be kind and professional no matter what the occasion.

Just remember, in businesses such as ours, talent is only a small percentage of what will make us succeed.
When it comes to entertainment, whether it be music, movies, or books, people have a LOT of choice in who they will spend their time with. Don't make it any easier for them to pass you over for the next guy. :)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Friday Funnies

I can’t write five words but that I change seven. 
~ Dorothy Parker 

Writing isn’t hard; thinking is hard. 
~ Saul Pett 

An editor is a person who knows more about writing than writers do but who has escaped the terrible desire to write. 
~ E. B. White

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Book vs. Movie - Confessions of An Adapation Snob

So my family and I went to see I Am Number Four recently. We enjoyed it. And, as I tend to do, much to my husband's dismay, I spent the entire car ride home comparing the book to the movie. (Hey, I've gotten better. At least I don't do this DURING the movie anymore. During the fourth Harry Potter movie, I kept leaning over and whispering to him what was different) :D We were at home though, so it isn't quite as bad as it sounds :D

Now, as adaptations go, I Am Number Four was pretty good. Stayed close to the book and the differences were understandable and not so far beyond the book that they were in another realm entirely. So all in all, I left having enjoyed the movie more than being irritated by its differences from the book.

I should probably explain that I'm a bit of a snob when it comes to movie adaptations. I tend to love the books so much that I just really hate when the movie versions stray too far. Like the HBO series True Blood. The Sookie Stackhouse books are among my favorites so I was a bit sad (and annoyed) when the cable series not only strayed but took a sky dive from the books' plotlines. Now, I do actually like the series, for the most part, usually, (mostly because of Alexander Skaarsgard if I'm going to be honest) :D but man, some of the storylines they throw in there are just stroke inducing for me.

I also hesitate to watch historical movies that are based on real life events or people for the same reason. I tried to watch The Tudors but the historical inaccuracies bugged me so much I just couldn't get into it. I love period films, but if they are based on real events, they gotta be accurate or I start to twitch :) And I start to announce to everyone (in a considerately quiet voice, or after the movie if I'm being really good) that what they just saw isn't what really happened. Hey, one of my degrees is in History....I have issues about that kind of thing :)

After we saw I Am Number Four, I thought of other book-to-movie adaptations I enjoyed. The Twilight series (though there are definitely aspects of the films I don't like); The Firm and The Client (John Grisham books turned movies) - these were probably the first book adaptations I'd ever seen that stayed really close to the book; movies based on the classics like Jane Eyre and Emma; Ella Enchanted (I actually saw the movie first on this one and read the book second...and sort of liked the movie better :) ; and the Harry Potter films - there are of course many things that get left out of the films and the books are sooo much better, but over all the movies are pretty great.

So, all this got me wondering if I am the only adaptation snob out there. Can you enjoy a movie for itself and disregard the book it is supposed to be bringing to life? Or do you want the movie to stay as close to the book as possible?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Chunking, Arcing, and Outlining....Oh My!

My crit partners and I got in a discussion the other day about outlining. I'm knee deep in revisions at the moment (and feeling bad because I should be neck deep), so the discussion came at a good time as I am currently outlining my poor little manuscript to death :)

Now, these methods are all new to me, but I absolutely love how they've been working out.

For my first draft, I try to do a bare bones story arc. I draw a little chart that looks like this (ignore the black spot...that was an accidental cut :D)

and I put up 10 or so highlights...the big turning/decision points, climaxes, setbacks, etc, in my story. If I know more specifics here and there, I'll add them in. But just having a few major points to shoot for gives me an idea of where I need to go and what needs to happen. Then I write.

When it's time to edit, I do what I call chunking (not sure if this is the real term or just something I latched onto one's a bit of a mixture of a few techniques I've read about in books or heard from other people).

Basically, I take Post Its and on each one I outline each scene in my book. When writing, I don't separate my scenes into chapters - I leave them as scenes until further into the editing process and then I designate chapters for each one.

Anyhow, on each Post It for each scene I write down who the characters are, whose POV the scene is in, the setting, and what happens in that scene. Then I stick it up on my corkboard, which looks like this (and p.s. I think I need a bigger board...the back is just as full as the front!):

THEN I go through and see what needs to be cut, changed, and added. And I color code. The original scene chunks are all one color Post It (purple this time around). A new scene that needs to be added will be tacked up on a different color Post It (blue this time). And any changes that need to be made to a scene are noted on the Post Its in red pen.

I'm a very visual person, so laying out my whole story in this way allows me to see exactly what I've got going on. It makes it easier for me to spot where changes, additions, and cuts need to be made, and when it's time to rewrite, I can go through each scene and then flip the Post It over when I'm done, so I have a visual of how far I've gone and how far I need to go.

How do you handle writing and revisions?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Mystery Agent Contest at Operation Awesome!

Operation Awesome is hosting our March Mystery Agent contest RIGHT NOW!!!! Go enter! The first 75 entries will be accepted, so hurry and enter your 140 Tweet pitch :) Head to Operation Awesome for full details.