Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Monday, May 30, 2011

Friday, May 27, 2011

Friday Funnies

"There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about." 
Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray 

Writing is the only profession where no one considers you ridiculous if you earn no money. 
— Jules Renard 

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

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

There it is...Again...

I had a movie night with my kids last night. We watched Gnomeo and Juliet. It was sooo cute :D It got me thinking (as the little gnome states at the beginning) - it is a story that has been told...a lot. And there are a lot of stories that have been told...a lot.

Cinderella, Romeo and Juliet, Beauty and the Beast...

How do you feel about retakes on classic tales? Do you cringe away, thinking "Ugh, not another one!" or are you excited to see what new spin might appear? What does it take to perk your interest in a story that's been told a million times? And what are your favorite retellings?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

You Tell Me...

My mom gave me a little book called You Know You're a Writer When... by Adair Lara. It's HILARIOUS :D Quite a few of the entries will be making appearances in my Friday Funnies :D There was one that got me curious.

If you're not writing, you do something crazy, such as invest in uranium or weave a room-sized tapestry.

I do get into some odd projects sometimes when I'm not writing. I usually go for cross-stitching :D

Tell me - What do you do when you aren't writing?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Blog Chain - The Positive Side of Things

I totally flaked on this round of the blog chain -  I was supposed to post several days ago. My sincere apologies for my extreme tardiness!!!!

This round's topic was chosen by the lovely Michelle Hickman. The topic:

Be positive! Name some of the positive aspects of your writing --- be it a compliment from a mentor, friend or crit partner to anything special you learned concerning your writing skills.

I love this topic. Sure, there can be a lot of down sides to writing...rejections, a messy house, a backside that spends more time in a chair than is healthy for it ;-)

But the positive sooo outweighs the negative. Here are a few of mine:

  • the sense of accomplishment I feel when I finish a project. There really is nothing like it.
  • the amazing people I have met along the way. My closest friends now are writers. It is beyond wonderful to have people in my life who GET me, who know how I tick because they are hardwired the same way. My life has become so much richer, more full since I've met my writer friends. I don't know how I ever got along without them.
  • I've always always written stories and been good at essays, etc. But my skills increase with every word I write. It's gratifying to see how far I've come. There is nothing like developing a talent that you love. 
  • I've always had a little fantasy world going on in my head - and writing allows me to experience all those wonderful stories in a new way. Writing makes my stories come alive and allows me to share them with others. I sleep better when I'm writing. Yeah, I'm still somewhat of an insomniac. My brain has the hardest time calming down enough to let me sleep. But when I'm writing, it's not so bad. I have an outlet.
  • There is nothing like the high I get when I'm in super creative writing mode. It really is like a drug for me. I'm giddy, happy, in love with life and the world. Just talking about it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy :) It's my absolute favorite subject :) There is nothing like being able to do what you love.
How about you? What are some of the positive aspects that writing brings to your world?

Be sure to check out our amazing Mr. Eric's response and head over to awesome Shaun Hutchinson's to see his positive side of things :)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

All 4 Alabama Tornado Relief Auction

Hey guys! My book, Homework Helpers: Essays and Term Papers, will be going up for auction at 1 pm CST today. It's a great book for students, perfect for a back to school present for the fall, or for anyone stuck in an English class this summer :) And it's for a good cause.

Head on over and check it out - there are TONS of other awesome items up for bid as well (including a signed copy of my new picture book, A Magical World) :D

Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday Funnies

An artist is his own fault.
— John O'Hara

Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, 
but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards. 
— Robert Heinlein

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Project Finish Line Celebration Michelle-style :D

So, the book is done, out with a few readers for the very last time, what ever am I going to do? :D

Well, work on another project of course LOL But, I get to play a bit first. There are two traditions I started a couple years ago when it comes to finishing a book.

1. I buy a piece or have a custom piece of jewelry made by my awesome and talented friend Bonny Anderson (here is a link to her FaceBook page - she makes GORGEOUS jewelry!)

2. There is really nothing quite like holding your book in your hands....even if it's not completely "real". And thanks to the wonderful world of self-publishing, I can do that, just for fun.

Whenever I finish a book, as in finished finished, there is nothing else I can think to do to it (which has only happened a couple times), I head on over to Lulu and print up a copy. I don't put it up for sale or even list it anywhere. I keep it completely private. This is something I do just for me.

I have a blast putting together a cover and getting everything formatted and then I order a copy for my very own shelves. It's handy to have when friends or family members want to read my latest creation. I can loan that out instead of emailing them a big old file. And it's also extremely handy for spotting mistakes. For some reason it's just easier to see them in book form, even more so than when I just print it out and put it in a binder.

So...while I will be diving back into picture book country next week, for the rest of this week, I'm going to prepare another book for my personal shelf. It just makes finishing the project that much more fun - I get to see my book as a BOOK, even if it never makes it past my front door :)

How do you celebrate when you finish a project?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

How I Write a Synopsis

Well, I am just about finished with my final read through. Which means my thoughts have turned to less fun things (at least for me). The synopsis. I despise writing these. I might not even need one, but I like to be on the safe side and figured I might as well just get it over with, just in case :)

When I write a synopsis, I start out by writing chapter abstracts. Basically, I take each chapter and write a 1-3 line blurb about what happens in that chapter. Then, I combine them. I take out the chapter headings and mash all the blurbs together. And I have a rough draft synopsis.

I go through, clean it up, edit things out, reword to make it more exciting/more cohesive/just plain better. I add or subtract depending on the length I'm going for, and I beef up the most important plot points.

And I'm usually left with a pretty decent synopsis.

How do you go about writing these annoying little necessities? :)

**Also!!! I've donated copies of my new picture book, A Magical World, and Homework Helpers: Essays and Term Papers for the tornado disaster relief auction site All 4 Alabama. A Magical World goes up at 1 CST today. Please come over and check it out. It's for a great cause and there are tons of awesome things to bid on!!**

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

You Tell Me...

Every man's work, whether it be literature or music or pictures or architecture or anything else, 
is always a portrait of himself.
~ Samuel Butler, The Way of All Flesh

I think this is true, at least in part, of me. There is a lot of me in my work. Experiences I've lived through. Emotions I've felt. Some of my hopes, dreams, characteristics, traits I wish I have, traits I wish I didn't have, and all sorts of other things get peppered into my characters and stories. 

How much of you is in your work? Are your works portraits of yourself in any way?

Monday, May 16, 2011

When to Break It

Well, the exciting thing in my neck of the woods this morning? I FINISHED MY BOOK!!!

Holy moly, I'm so beyond ecstatic I can't even tell ya :D Although by "done" I mean I need to read through it once more, send it out to a few people, and then incorporate whatever last minute edits they give me, but still....DONE :D

Now, when I write and edit, I do it by scene, not chapter. I find it easier to rewrite and rearrange that way. So when I finished last night, I went back through and pieced everything together into one file and assigned chapter numbers. Most of the scenes end up being their own chapters, but there were several I combined.

I ran into a few that I just didn't know what to do with. I had broken them where I did because I liked the cliffhanger that was created. But leaving them left me with several very short chapters. For the most part, I don't worry about chapter length...I try to keep them around 10 pages a piece but if they go longer or shorter (even very much shorter) I don't sweat it too much.

However, there were a couple where the only reason I had cut them was for the cliffhanger...and having a two page chapter just so I could have a specific cliffhanger didn't seem like a good enough reason to have that short of a chapter in a couple instances.

So it got me curious. How do you decided when to add a chapter break? There are the obvious reasons, of course - POV change, different scene/setting/situation, etc. But aside from that, if you are in the same scene, the same setting, the same POV, how do you decided when it would be good to stick a chapter break in?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Blogger Gone Wild

Okay, I know everyone had issues with Blogger yesterday...crazy. Just noticed that it erased my post and all the comments from Thursday and then reposted it today. *shrugs*

Hope everyone is having a wonderful weekend! :)

Sometimes the Long Way Around is Best

There is no royal road to learning; no short cut to the acquirement of any art.
~ Anthony Trollope, Barchester Towers
 Yeah...I had to learn this one the hard way :D Still learning this one the hard way. I like my short cuts....Just sayin' :D

See, I always think I can get away with scampering across the bridge instead of hiking down the canyon and back up again. My crit partners are generally in the middle of that bridge with big grins on their faces as they toss me over the edge and make me climb. But then, that's what good crit partners are there for :) And hey, at least they stick around to cheer for me as I make my way to the top. No matter how long it takes me.

Just when I think I have it all figured out, just when I think I can take a short cut here or there, just when I think I've got this whole writing business in the bag, something new smacks me upside the head and teaches me otherwise ;-)

I learn more and more with every book. I pick up new "tricks of the trade" and figure out new strengths and weaknesses. I get better and better. But there will always be something new to learn. I might figure out how to do something better, faster. But there are some short cuts that will just never work. There are some processes that work for other people that will never work for me (and vice versa).

Perhaps that is the most important thing I've learned = There are no short cuts and no magic "rules". Just hard work, the love of what I do, and the satisfaction of a job well done....no matter how long it takes me :D

Do you agree with Mr. Trollope? What have you learned while you strive to acquire your art?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Friday the 13th Funnies :)

Happy Friday the 13th! Today wouldn't be complete without a few black cats and a funny that had me laughing till I cried :D Have a good weekend everyone!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

I Know They Aren't Real But...

I just finished reading the latest installment in one of my favorite series. And it looks like my favorite couple may not make it. People are arguing this one with me, but I think it's the beginning of the end.

And it just plain DEPRESSES ME.

My husband finds this odd...that I can feel actual sadness over fictional people in a fictional situation. Then again, my ability to do this is probably why I'm a writer and he's not :D After all, this whole emotional intensity thing is part of what makes writers be able to realistically express emotions in their books. Occupational hazard I guess that it spills over into our reading lives (at least mine) :)

Now, I know I'm not the only one who feels this way when reading (right? I'm not, right? I'm not the only one a little...off, am I?)

But I'm curious...do you consider this when you write? Do you, as a writer, think about how your audience will feel when writing your stories?

Given the main character in question, the outcome of this relationship was inevitable. I knew it when they got together (and the author has flat out said that they won't end up together on numerous occasions). Yet, still, I found myself hoping they'd find a way. And I find myself sad and depressed and revisiting happier times (i.e. books where they are all hunky-doory (emphasis on the HUNK)) in order to feel better about the whole thing.

So, I ask you, my dear readers/writers - how do you feel when things don't turn out how you'd like in a favorite book or series? And does this influence you at all when you write?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Quote of the Day

Some happy talent, and some fortunate opportunity, may form the two sides of the ladder on which some men mount, but the rounds of that ladder must be made of stuff to stand wear and tear; and there is no substitute for thorough-going, ardent, and sincere earnestness. 

~ Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

Monday, May 9, 2011

Winner of 101 Success Secrets for Gifted Kids!

And the winner of Christine Fonseca's amazing book, 101 Success Secrets for Gifted Kids is.....

Lisa Potts!!!!

Congrats Lisa!!!! Shoot me an email at authormichellemclean (at) gmail (dot) com and I'll get your prize sent out to you!

Hope everyone had a wonderful Mother's Day Weekend!!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Blog Chain - Stubborn Mule the Writing Fool :D

The new chain has started and this time our lovely Laura would like to know:

What keeps you going (either trying to get an agent or to get published or finish that WIP that's kicking your butt) when you know the odds are stacked way against you? 

Great question. With an answer that kind of changes for me depending on my mood and the day and the situation :D

Always, my writer buds. I'm not sure I could have kept this up if I hadn't met the awesome people I've met. It is a huge help to have people I can turn to who understand both the lows, and highs, of this whole crazy business. And part of it is that this is just what I want to do. Plain and simple. Given that, I don't really have a choice but to keep on pluggin' on.

Plus, I'm just plain stubborn. Me =

And (according to my husband) irritatingly optimistic. :D But hey, life's too short to worry about the down side of things. Pessimism isn't fun. ;-)

What keeps you going?

Be sure to check out the hilarious Shaun's answer from yesterday and stop by the fabulous Christine's tomorrow to see how she keeps going.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Friday Funnies

A story with a moral appended is like the bill of a mosquito. 
It bores you, and then injects a stinging drop to irritate your conscience. 
~ O'Henry, Strictly Business 

 "One should never trust a woman who tells one her real age. 
A woman who would tell one that, would tell one anything."
~ Oscar Wilde, A Woman of No Importance

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Something Worth Doing is Worth Doing Right...No Matter How Long it Takes

I often feel the need to finish something as quickly as possible, feeling sometimes frantic at the need to get something done...whether it be getting a project revised and out the door, getting a first draft done or meeting even more lofty goals such as getting published. Learning patience, and even more than that, learning to take the time to do a job WELL is one of the most important things to keep in mind. It's not quantity of time that matters in this business. It's quality of work. Something I try to remember whenever my frantic tendencies threaten to overwhelm me :)

"The power of doing anything with quickness is always prized much by the possessor, and often without any attention to the imperfection of the performance."

~ Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Blog Chain - Getting in the "Write" Frame of Mind

Today is my turn on the blog chain. The topic for this round was chosen by the lovely Margie who wanted to know:

How do you get in the mindset of your genre? Do you research people or facts? Do you just reach into the recesses of your mind for events that would make a good story? Something else?” 

I love this question :D

My answer has sort of changed over the years. I write historicals. When I very first started, I had a hard time staying in that "historical" frame of mind, and a lot of modern terms and phrases would slip into my writing. My first book was set in Victorian England, so any time I needed help to get in the right frame of mind, I would watch An Ideal Husband. It would help ingrain the language and mannerisms before I started writing.

Since I write historicals, I do a lot of research, of course, but for the most part, I need something visual or audible to get in the right mindset. Movies help me with the language aspects of writing historicals, but for the emotional part, I'll come up with a short playlist of songs that strike the right nerve.

For the most part, I can just sit down and write. I'll go back a few pages and read and that is usually sufficient to suck me back into my storyworld, but if I need that extra help, I find a movie in the right time period or a couple of good songs :D

I'm the last link on this chain, but be sure to check out Eric's response from yesterday. And head over to Margie's blog if you'd like to follow this chain from the beginning :)

How do you get in the "write" frame of mind?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

When My Creative World and Real World Collide

I've always been one of those people who has said that I have a hard time working when my house is a mess. Which is true. Yet there are plenty of times, probably more often than not, when I am plugging away at my writing while my house falls down around my ears, and my children are living off of cereal and digging their clothes out of laundry baskets. (In my defense, the laundry is at least clean...most of the time) :D

So, if my house is a mess, yet I'm still managing to work, then how can I say that I have a hard time being creative when my house is such a disgrace?

Well, I noticed something today. No matter how hard I seem to be working, when my house is a mess, I'm usually not really accomplishing anything writing-wise either. I have gone months without making any real progress. Yeah, my files are open all day and I even look at them from time to time. But no matter how long I sit at my computer, I'm not actually doing anything. And my house has been in a constant state of YUCK for months too.

Yet for the last few days, I have been amazingly productive. It's like something snapped and I just started DOING SOMETHING. My first picture book is FINISHED. I'm not doing any major promotion until we've done some final quality checks, but for the most part, it's done. My non-fiction proposal, the one I've been dragging my butt on for months? DONE.  By the time this post goes live, it should be in my agent's hands. Or...at least hanging out the door and waving goodbye :D

My next picture book project? Started...and the rest is outlined. My ever-patient novel? Completely edited, annotated and outlined, and impatiently chomping at the bit for me to focus all my energy on it so I can finish it and send it to my critters for one last round.

At the same time, I have been in an absolute TIZZY trying to get my house pulled together. I can't stand it right now. I've spent hours getting caught up on all my laundry, cleaning and rearranging furniture, organizing and tossing stuff out. There is stuff EVERYWHERE and my dog is shedding so badly I have to sweep the floor 12 times a day just to keep up with it. AND I'M DOING IT. I'm cleaning, washing, folding, sweeping...I've even cleaned out the litter box and folded AND PUT AWAY the laundry.

Because I just can't stand to do anything else.

So, my conclusion? Yeah, I might be able to eek some work out while my house is a total destruction zone. But in order to be truly productive? In order for my Creative World to reach its full potential? I apparently need to have my Real World in line.

Which I kind of find to be a cosmic joke. The universe's way of torturing me. Because now that I'm being ultra-productive and want to do nothing but bury myself in my writing, I'm spending a great deal of time focusing on beating my Real World into shape. Every second I spend sweeping or folding or washing, I'm thinking of my projects and how badly I want to be working on them. And every time I sit down to work, I notice something else that I simply must take care of before I dive back in to my writing.

Yet somehow, I'm accomplishing it all. I have no illusions that this will continue. But man! I love it when these little spurts hit me. For a few brief moments, everything in my life is working. Projects are getting done, house is clean, kids are clean and clothed, and all is right in both my worlds. These moments don't last long, but I try to enjoy them while they are here :)

How about you? Can you focus on work when things are a mess? Are you more productive when everything else is in order? And do you ever find yourself on this ultra-productive kicks where suddenly everything is getting taken care of? How long do they last? I'm already bracing myself for the fall :D

Monday, May 2, 2011

Blog Tour Stop for the Fabulous Christine Fonseca and 101 Success Secrets for Gifted Kids

The absolutely amazing Christine Fonseca is celebrating the release of her second book, 101 Success Secrets for Gifted Kids, and I am honored to be one of the first stops on her Blog Tour :D

Any parent or teacher of a gifted child needs to purchase this book! It's geared directly to the children themselves, and offers tips and advice both from Christine and from other gifted students. This book covers everything from how to deal with parents' and teachers' expectations, and the expectations the kids place on themselves, to how to deal with stress, struggles in school and with friends, and learning what being gifted really means. It really is just a wonderful book :)

Now, for a special treat, we get to hear from the awesome Christine herself :D Take it away, Christine! :D

Some of my Fav Tips from 101 Success Secrets 

YAY! Today is the first day of the official Blog Book Tour for 101 Success Secrets in Gifted Kids. It seemed only appropriate to start things off on Michelle’s blog. When I asked her what we should do, she immediately thought of a vlog…

Yea, um….

They turned out horrible. No really – HORRIBLE!!! I am far to vain to let the horrible embarrassment of that vlogging attempt out… So, instead, I enlisted the help of my daughter and decided to present two of my favorite success tips. These are the exact tips I do with kids on my parent-kid workshops. So, I guess this is sort-of a mini workshop! Enjoy…

So, did you enjoy it? Trust me, both techniques really help kids and adults focus on that which they can change and keep some of their emotions at bay. For more information on this and other aspects of giftedness, check out 101 SUCCESS SECRETS FOR GIFTED KIDS. Written for kids, this books covers perfectionism, performance, friends and more using tip sheets, quizzes and fun activities.

Thanks so much for stopping by Christine, and CONGRATS!!!!

And even more awesomeness :D GIVEAWAY TIME!!! I will choose one lucky commenter to win a copy of Christine's fabulous book! Simply enter a comment on this post by midnight Friday and you are entered! I will randomly select a name and announce the winner on Monday. Good luck everyone and congrats again Christine!!

To Find Christine Online:

Her Website
Her Blog
On Facebook or Twitter
Order the Book
Read an Excerpt Here

(p.s. The Mystery Agent Contest is going on over at Operation Awesome this morning! Hurry over with your 25 word pitch!!)