Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Earthquakes - Rocking My Literary World

Okay, this got a little long, but bear with me. I had a total literary epiphany the other day :D

So, as most of you know, we had a nice little earthquake on the east coast recently. And there were lots of west coasters amused at the reactions of the east coasters since to the west coasters a 5.8 earthquake isn't really enough of a shake up to even make them pause.

I know this because I was one of them. Even with my epiphany (which I swear I'm getting to) I was amused at some of the reactions around me. I grew up in California. I spent the first 21 years of my life there and still visit frequently as I have a ton of family and friends there. I've lived through major earthquakes. I will always consider myself a Californian Girl.

We had earthquake drills in school more frequently than fire drills. We were constantly woken up at night by little earthquakes shaking the shampoo bottles from the shelves in the tub - but if it wasn't strong enough to literally shake us out of bed, we rolled over and went back to sleep.

So imagine my surprise when this earthquake hit and I found myself standing in the middle of my kitchen, completely frozen, my mind completely blank as my kids ran to me freaking out and asking what we were supposed to do.

*Cue parallel to writing*ahem*

It used to bug me to no end when I'd read books where the MC would find himself/herself in a situation that he/she was totally prepared for and he/she would freeze up. I'd think, "What the heck!? You know what to do! There is no way you'd just stand there while that [insert whatever you've prepared for] hits! You know this!!"

It always seemed so unbelievable to me.

Now back to the earthquake. I KNEW this. I was prepared for it. I've lived through earthquakes that have demolished bridges and highways and buildings. I've literally seen the ground crack open right in front of me. This little earthquake was nothing (Though it did make my 150 yr old, non-earthquake code built house groan and creak like it was going to crumble, which DID freak me out quite a bit).

Yet I stood there in my kitchen, completely frozen before finally remembering what I was supposed to do and  grabbing my kids and heading for a sturdy doorway about 2 seconds before the earthquake stopped.


Because it was completely out of my frame of reference for where I was living.

Yeah. I knew earthquakes. But I didn't know them HERE. They didn't have them HERE. I was 3000 miles away from California. I'm prepared for earthquakes, but I'm not prepared for them HERE.

It took me several seconds to connect the dots. I kept thinking "this is an't, IS!" And for the first time I understood how a MC could spend his/her whole life training for something only to be frozen when unexpectedly confronted with that something.

Say your MC battles zombies, but has only trained for it in cemeteries where zombies supposedly live. And then one shows up at Starbucks. *Cue the WTH freeze*

Before, I'd scoff. I'd scorn. I'd yell "this is so not REAL!" at the book. But I think I get it now :)

Which will make both my reading life, and my writing life, a little more relatable I think. :)

Have you ever felt this way about reactions of characters in books and then had a real life experience that suddenly made it all click? If so, do you use this now in your writing?

Monday, August 29, 2011

This is What Happens When a Writer Can't Find Paper...

I used to have a notebook by my bed. Someone moved it last night. I had my pen...but no notebook. So of course inspiration chose the perfect moment to strike - a couple new stanzas for my picture book - and frankly I was too tired to go in search of paper. So I grabbed my pen and used the only available surface around (my furniture was too dark or I really think I would have just written on my dresser...or headboard :D ). I woke up with hands covered in ink.

Do you ever do this? What's the weirdest thing you've ever jotted a note on?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I Got Tagged! Welcome to 10 Random Facts

The lovely Rebecca Knight tagged me with a bit of randomness so I thought I'd play along :D I'm supposed to tell you 10 Random Things about myself. They won't be nearly as awesome as Rebecca's :D but here you go :)

1) I met my husband online. We were engaged about 3 weeks later...and we met face to face for the first time about a month after that :) He was my cousin's best friend so it wasn't entirely crazy. We lived 2000 miles apart until a month before the wedding so by the time we finally got hitched we were racking up $600 a month phone bills. It was either get married or go broke - so we got married ;-)

2) I'm not a huge fan of odd numbers. Not that I dislike them particularly, but they kind of bug me. I hate when my books end up with an odd number of chapters. I've actually add in extra plotlines just so I could even things out. If I buy a bag of apples, I guarantee you there will be 6 of them...or 8. My husband came home with 5 once and looked at me like I was crazy when I gave him a hard time about it. He took one out of the bag, took a big bite, and said "Is that better?"

Yes...yes it was :D

3) When I turned 30 my hair went curly. was straight, with a slight wave if it got longer. Now, when I get out of the shower in the morning it looks like I've just gotten a perm. It takes a good 30-45 mins with a flatiron to tame the mane. But, I prefer curl to gray so I'm not complaining too hard. :D

4) My husband is 10 years older than me and is the baby of his family. So I have nieces and nephews who are older than me, a brother in law who is older than my father, and a mother in law who is the same age as my grandmother. I'm also my husband's second wife, so I have step kids who are the same age as my youngest brother and my children are the same age as my mother in law's great grandchildren. It makes family get togethers interesting lol

5) It took 4 schools and 7 years to get my bachelors degree. I moved a lot...kept losing credits...all that good stuff :D I like living in different places but I wouldn't recommend trying to graduate from college that way.

6) One of the reasons I fell in love with my husband was because of his heritage. I had just finished reading Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series (about a time traveling woman who falls in love with a Scottish warrior). I found out Tom's last name was McLean and that his grandfather had immigrated from Scotland and immediately handed over my phone number :D

7) I like watching period movies - not for the history (my BS is in history...the inaccuracies tend to bug me) but because of the big poofy dresses. I would really love a closet full of those gorgeous monstrosities and a thousand costume balls to wear them to :)

8) I'm claustrophobic. Not get-in-fetal-position-and-rock-while-moaning-and-sucking-my-thumb claustrophobic, but yeah...I do NOT like small, enclosed spaces. This includes tanning beds (I tried it once and kept the lid open far enough I could see out), small cars, and crowded places. If you ever see me in a shopping mall the day after Thanksgiving, call the cops because I am there against my will and am probably seconds away from a panic attack :D

9) I wanted to name one of my kids Anakin. Yes, I'm a Star Wars fan, but that's not why, I swear. I just think it's a cool name :D The hubs vetoed that though....spoil sport. Too bad too because my son is a HUGE Star Wars fan and actually requests on a daily basis that we call him Anakin.

10) I live in a century or so old farmhouse across from a very old cemetery (there are headstones there from the late 1700's and 1800's). I'm pretty sure my house is haunted and I have a ghost that likes to cuddle at night. We occasionally hear voices like a radio or tv has been left on somewhere (but if we tell it to shush the noise stops) and twice now I've felt someone snuggle up behind me, and once felt someone shove their arm under my pillow and then pull it out as I rolled over...only to discover my husband wasn't in bed with me at the time. And sometimes it feels like someone is sitting on the end of my bed (you know how you can feel the bed dip down?) and the last time it happened I was almost asleep and it woke me up because it felt like someone was sitting on my foot so I sat up and said "can you please stay out of my bedroom because you are kind of freaking me out!" The pressure on my foot eased up and it hasn't happened since. least we have a very considerate ghost :D

Annnd now I'm supposed to tag 4 other bloggers so I think I will tag:

Kate Karyus Quinn
Katrina Lantz
Kristal Shaff
Amparo Ortiz

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Blog Chain - So What's the Plan?

After a nice little break, our blog chain is back in action and we are thrilled to welcome several awesome new members (check out the list on my sidebar for their links) This round's topic was chosen by our wonderful Sandra who wants to know:

Have the recent changes in the publishing industry affected your writing plans/career? If so, how?

I don't know if the rise of self pubbing and ebooks has changed my plans for my writing career, or just made me feel better about them :) Self pubbing is something I've been looking into for a few years, at least in regards to my picture books, but it's something I've held off on in the past because of the cost and the stigma attached to it.

I've considered self pubbing my picture books for several reasons, one being the control self pubbing affords an author. I never liked that I wouldn't really have any say about the illustrations in my book if I went traditional. The illustrations are such a HUGE part of what makes a picture book that it seemed strange for an author not be more involved (and I'm sure different publishers handle this differently but from what I've always understood, the process is similar to how covers are chosen...the author might get some input but at the end of the day, the publisher will go with the illustrations they feel fit the book best).

However, I didn't go ahead with my self pubbing plans in the past because I didn't have the resources to put out a book that I felt was up to par. It's expensive to print full color books. But with the rise of ebooks, this isn't as much of an issue.

I didn't truly decide to go ahead and self pub my PBs until I bought a Nook. And saw how much my kids LOVED reading PBs on it. And decided to go to CA for vacation and started thinking about lugging a backpack full of books through several airports :) I'll tell you what, that Nook is a FANTASTIC purchase if you are going to be traveling with children. You can download a hundred PBs guaranteed to keep your kiddos well stocked in reading material until you reach your destination, and just slip one little device into your purse that stores them all. Love it.

And I love that I can now produce a beautiful quality picture ebook. I'll still go traditional first when it comes to my NF and novels (though I haven't ruled out self pubbing if any of my books fail to sell in the future...I love that I have that option available) - but for my picture books, all the recent changes in the publishing world have opened a lot of doors for me that were previously closed.

What about you? Have any of your plans for the future changed with all that has been going on?

Be sure to stop by Eric's and see how he views all the new changes, and stop by our new member Tere's blog tomorrow for her take on it all :)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Wiping Walls and Polishing Manuscripts

So, I was wiping down the walls the other day (please...contain your jealousy of my glamourous life) ;-) and, as often occurs, was reminded of writing.

See, I grabbed a rag just to wipe off some finger prints I saw on the door jamb going into the kitchen. But after I wiped those off, I noticed more over on the back door. And then I noticed more on the doorway leading to the stairs, and then I saw more....well, you see what I mean. Pretty soon I had a bucket of suds and was wiping down every wall, door, and doorway in my house.

I tend to do this with my manuscripts as well. I often go into revisions thinking "everything is pretty good, I just need to make a few tweaks here and there."

And then I get into my pages and notice just a few more things that need some cleaning up...and then a couple more things pop up...and then those things lead to a few more things...and before I know it I've gone in an done a complete overhaul of my whole book :D

This doesn't always happen, of course. But I almost always find more to fix than I thought I needed going in.

Do you do this? Do you go in thinking all you need is a quick wipe down and end up with a bucket and a scrub brush? :D

For me, this actually works well. My preconceived notions help keep me from freaking out when I go into revisions. By the time I realize it needs more work than I thought, I'm already elbow deep into scrubbing and am (usually) pumped to keep going :)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Unplugged Week

It's Write On Con Week!! And I'm getting my kids ready to go back to school next week. And starting new revisions.

So....I thought this might be a good time for an unplugged week :D I'll be back bright and early next Monday morning! And if anything exciting happens I'll of course pop on for a bit :D

Have a great week!!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday Funnies

Q:How many science fiction writers does it take to change a light bulb?
A:Two, but it's actually the same person doing it. He went back in time and met himself in the doorway and then the first one sat on the other one's shoulder so that they were able to reach it. Then a major time paradox occurred and the entire room, light bulb, changer and all was blown out of existence. They co-existed in a parallel universe, though.

Q. How many mystery writers does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A. Two. One to screw it almost all the way in, and the other to give it a surprising twist at the end.

Q. How many cover blurb writers does it take to screw in a light bulb?

Q"How many screenwriters does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Ten
1st draft. Hero changes light bulb.
2nd draft. Villain changes light bulb.
3rd draft. Hero stops villain from changing light bulb. Villain falls to death.
4th draft. Lose the light bulb.
5th draft. Light bulb back in. Fluorescent instead of tungsten.
6th draft. Villain breaks bulb, uses it to kill hero's mentor.
7th draft. Fluorescent not working. Back to tungsten.
8th draft. Hero forces villain to eat light bulb.
9th draft. Hero laments loss of light bulb. Doesn't change it.
10th draft. Hero changes light bulb.

(jokes from Jokes About Writers)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Link and a Mystery Agent Winner :D

A good friend of mine sent me this link this morning - I love reading success stories like this :)

Kathry Stockett, Author of THE HELP
(awesome story, she's hilarious, and I love her attitude, though I'm really not too impressed until rejection numbers reach the triple digits. THEN I sympathize) ;-)

Annnd I'm over on OA today announcing the winners of our August Mystery Agent Contest so if you entered (or just want to know all the deets), head on over!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Know Your Audience

I think one of the most important things, if not THE most important thing, for any writer is this:

Know your audience. 

When I sit down to write anything, I always have a target audience in mind. If I’m working on a YA novel, I’m thinking of teenagers between the ages of about 14 and 19. When I’m working on children’s picture books, I’m usually envisioning my own kids at ages 5 and 7. When I was in school and working on an essay or paper, I had my professor and classmates in mind. And when I wrote Homework Helpers: Essays and Term Papers, I had an audience of frustrated students who had to write a paper in mind.

If you know your audience, you can gear your book or project for them. And I'm not talking about writing for trends or trying to force your books to be what someone else wants them to be. I'm talking about knowing who you are writing for. Who is going to be reading your book?

If you know this, you can keep the writing, and the language specifically, appropriate. Now, I’m not talking about swearing or questionable jokes or anything. I mean using the big, field-specific technical language in your papers where your professor will appreciate them and keeping your young adult novels teen-friendly by using the type of language teens use when they speak; using kid-friendly words and terms in picture books; keeping the aliens in their sci-fi worlds and adding the hot and heavy sex scenes to the romance novels, but maybe keeping them out of a NF textbook :D

Can they blend a bit? Sure. I love a little overlap. I love a touch of romance in my sci-fi novels (or any novel really) :D I love a little supernatural in a good mystery. I love a hint of maturity in a cute MG. And maybe a bit of playful youthfulness in an adult novel. It can be hilarious to see an adult talking like a kid or a really smart kid sound more adult than the adults. Nothing is absolute and it certainly doesn't need to be when writing.

But think about it. How popular is your YA novel going to be if you use so many huge, unreadable words that your readers have to run it through a translator just to figure out what you are saying? How popular will your adult spy thriller be if your main character is a bunny named Buttons who solves crimes with his sidekick Terry Turtle? (Although that would be a totally cute PB! Might have to get on that....) What kind of grade are you going to get if you turn in that college-level essay peppered with phrases like “So, dude, like you should totally just listen to me cause I like tooootally get what I’m doing.” ?

No matter what you are writing, you’ve got to keep your audience in mind. I guarantee they’ll love you for it :)

Do you keep your audience in mind when you write?

Monday, August 8, 2011

What's in a Name?

I've been trying to rename a book I wrote a couple years ago. I've been going through it, doing some edits, and one thing it has ALWAYS needed is a really good name. I'm not good with titles in general, at least not my own titles. So this is something that plagues me every time I write something new.

And I know, for me at least, a title really does make a difference. I've chosen to read or not to read books on their title alone. I just finished a book in fact that I bought several months ago (I had a new Nook and the ebook price was cheap) :) but I hadn't really had an interest in reading it because of the title. The description sold me on it, but every time I saw the title in my library, I just passed it by. It has a really bad title that really has nothing to do with the book now that I've read it (and it turned out to be a pretty good story, one that has me wanting to read the many, many other books in the series).

So I'm curious, do you have a hard time naming your books? Do you stress over your titles? And do you ever judge a book by its name?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Friday Funnies - Shark Week Style

The Atheist and the Shark 
A diver surfaced on Molasses Reef, off Key Largo and is swimming back to his boat when he sees a shark behind him in the water. He starts swimming faster but when he looks back he sees the shark turn and head towards him. He's scared to death, and screems out "Oh God! Save me!" 
Suddenly time is frozen and a bright light shines down from above. The voice of God says, "Aren't you an atheist? Why do you call upon me when you do not believe in me?" 
Knowing he can't lie the man replies, "Well, that's true I don't believe in you. But can you make the shark believe in you?" 
The Lord replies, "As you wish." 
The light retracts back into the heavens and the atheist looks back to see the jaws of the shark start to close down on him when, all of sudden, the shark stops and pulls back. Shocked, the man believes he has been saved as the huge beast closes its eyes and bows its head and says, "Thank you Lord for this food for which I am about to receive..." 

(pics from - joke and cartoons found on

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Effect of Writing

Back in January, when my first book was released, I was asked how writing has affected my life, and how my life has affected my writing. In a nut shell…writing has affected everything about my life and my life has affected everything about my writing :)

Like any writer, my experiences, my personality, my relationships, my emotions on any given day…all of these affect my writing. But these things affect non-fiction and fiction differently. Fiction is very much an emotional sport. I sort of have to be in the right mood to write fiction. Because I take all my emotions and past experiences and make them a part of what I am actually writing, all the aspects of my real life that affect me tend to affect my work as well.

But non-fiction is very non-emotional (unless you are talking about creative/narrative non-fiction like a memoir or narrative personal essay). Actually, in my book, Homework Helpers: Essays and Term Papers, I’m trying to calm emotions down. I want to remove the stress and anxiety my readers feel about writing these assignments by making the process as entertaining and easy as possible. Non-fiction, for me, is more analytical, more technical. So, whatever is going on in my life at the moment doesn’t really affect my non-fiction writing.

Now, how has writing affected my life? In every way imaginable. In ways I never even dreamed. If I were to make a pro and con list, writing would probably seem like it affected my life negatively. My house is a mess, my kids live on cereal more often than I’d like to admit, I don’t spend as much time with them (or with ANYONE for that matter) as I should, I tend to spend all my time in front of my computer instead of out in the world…

But the pros are pretty awesome. Because of my writing, I’ve met the most wonderful people; I now have an amazing outlet for both the more analytical/educational non-fiction side of me, and the overly imaginative/dreamer fiction side of me; I get to spend my free time doing what I LOVE; I’ve learned to be patient and persevering and PROUD of who I am and what I do. There is nothing quite like working toward your dream. I’ve found out just how strong and determined I can be. Writing is helping me develop into the person I always wanted to be. :)

How has writing affected your life? And does your life affect your writing?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Mystery Agent Contest at Operation Awesome!

Head over with your one line pitches! Only the first 50 entries will be taken. Don't pay attention to the comment number - not all of the comments are entries.

Good luck!!!