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Monday, October 31, 2011

Nano-Nano-Nano

This year, I'm participating in NanoWrimo.



It's my first time, and I'm quite intimidated by it. For those who don't know what it is, Nano is National Novel Writing Month, and it's November. The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. It'll be a little different for me, since I won't be writing a novel (the definition of novel being fiction). But I will be trying to get out a 50,000 word book.

Nano requires preparation and planning. I have spent the month of October researching so I can write in November. I've also worked on other projects, trying to get them done and out of the way so that in November I can concentrate only on one. I won't be doing any critiques (for free--I'll still be doing copy-edits), very little emailing, and hardly any blogging. You can expect a word count update and probably some recycled posts from a few years back. :)

Besides the preparation, I'm also signing up on nanowrimo.org. This will allow me to plan my novel, meet with other people, receive encouragement, and provide accountability.

Along those lines, my critique group decided that we'll still get together this month, but instead of critiquing, we'll just write. Which I just love the idea of dedicated alone time to write.

So. I'll see you all in about a month. Happy writing!

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Value of an In-Person Critique group

I'm a member of three online critique groups. While they work great for me, I always envied people who have live critique groups. I couldn't even imagine how it world work in person. But I never knew how to go about finding people willing to commit to critique meetings, people interested in writing and reviewing and being reviewed.

And then it happened. While we were at the writer's conference in Eureka Springs, we met two lovely ladies who live in the next city over from us. We kept in contact after the conference, and the next thing I know, we have an in-person critique group.

It's only been a month since the conference, so we've just met twice. But let me tell you, it's awesome. There are some great advantages to meeting in person vs. through email.

1) Social time! I get to leave my house and have fun.

2) Speed. In half an hour, we go over the same amount of stuff that takes a week for my online critique group to do.

3) Immediate feedback. As soon as I finish reading, they're ready to give me feedback. Right away, while it's fresh on our minds, I learn what worked and didn't.

4) Learning. While I listen to the other critiquers give their feedback, I learn something. It helps me be a better critiquer and a better writer.

5) Food. We meet at a frozen yogurt place. It's a great way to start the evening.

I know it's hard to get a real live critique group going, but it's worth the effort. Part of the trouble is finding other people serious enough about their writing to commit to meeting with you. But if you find them, take the time. It's necessary.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Tips from a housewife

A broken dishwasher makes a great drying rack.

Brownies aren't bad for you in the morning.

The internet is the enemy.

Laundry folds better during an exciting movie.

House cleaning is best left for another day.

The car will not run on fumes.

Groceries need to be purchased before dinner.

Check your husband's pockets before you wash the pens and bullets with the laundry.

If the neighbor's cat has fleas, yours probably does too.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Dealing with Guilt

Yesterday I had a situation that left me feeling incredibly guilty. I couldn't eat and went to bed with a pounding headache, the kind that hurts so bad you can't sleep. And I knew, I knew it was something I should just let go of. But knowing something is easy. Doing it is something else entirely.

The interesting thing about guilt is, it's a safety mechanism. It's the equivalent of putting the hand on the stove and feeling the burn. The pain keeps you from doing it again. Guilt is meant to keep us from doing something harmful or bad again.

However, guilt sometimes becomes a problem of its own. Sometimes we feel guilty when it's not our fault. Sometimes we feel guilty for something we've already apologized for, something the other party has forgotten. Sometimes we feel guilty for being happy or having good things in our lives.

 I'm not talking about when we still  need to take he steps of apologizing, righting wrongs, and all that stuff. I'm talking about when that has been done or doesn't apply, yet we still feel guilty. This is not a healthy guilt, and we need to be able to let it go. The consequences of not letting go can be short-term, like a bad taste in your mouth, or long-term, like health problems. So we know it's something we need to do. The question is, how?

First: Understand what's causing these feelings. Pinpoint the exact action/moment that caused the stress. For me it helps to reason it out with a friend. Talk to people about your feelings. You want people who will help you understand why you feel this way and move past it.

Second: Stop feeding the negative energy. If you're having a hard time getting the actions surrounding the guilt out of your head, start thinking about positive actions you've done. Watch an uplifting movie.

Third: Make a plan for the future. Often the guilt is caused by something that could've been avoided. What's done is done. Going over how you will react differently in the future may be enough to alleviate the pains you have now.

Fourth: Forgive yourself. Recognize that you're not perfect, that you don't have to be, and sometimes you're going to make mistakes. It's okay.

I found this quote on aspirenow.blogspot.com:
Another form of guilt happens when someone was overbearing with us. In that situation, we may feel guilty that we didn't do what they wanted. More likely, we might feel guilt over allowing them to dominate us. After all, we have our own inner voice. Can't we listen to that and heed the call? We think these thoughts, and they create guilt within us. This guilt will also built up pain in your body. Let it go. You cannot control what other people do. You did what you did, the past is the past. Leave it there. Some people want to be dominated, others like dominating, and it isn't the end of the world. Just reclaim who you are, let your shoulders be strong and back again, and let your guilt go free. You'll feel better when you do.
I like this quote because it is pretty much exactly what happened with me last night. I felt pressured into doing something, and I felt guilty for saying no. And then I felt guilty for giving in and saying I would do it. How's that for confusion? But apparently this is normal. And I love what it says. So, for number five.

Fifth: Reclaim who you are, let your shoulders be strong and back again, and let your guilt go free.
The bottom line is: Let it go.

Any other advice for dealing with guilt?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Getting Credible Sources

I've had a breakthrough with my Joplin book, and I'm so terribly excited about it.

For those of you who don't know, I recently started tackling a nonfiction project about the Joplin tornado. I've spent a lot of time this month interviewing survivors. But I also wanted some factual, scientific information to include in the book.

I wasn't sure how to do this. I've done research for fiction, but nonfiction is a whole different beast. I knew I could find most of the information on the internet, but how credible is that? So last night I googled "tornado experts" and started searching out their emails. The first email I sent out was to the National Weather Service, asking them to put me in touch with anyone who could help.

Within 30 minutes I had a reply from the representative over Joplin. A very positive reply. I explained a little more about the project, and I got back this EXCITED response:
I TRULY wish you a best seller!  Your framework largely covers what sociologist have said is necessary for people to respond to warnings.  It would be my hope that your work would encourage families to respond proactively without being prompted by a horrific situation that touches their lives first. 

He then went on to tell me all the data and information he has available and wants to know how he can help.

I'm so excited I can hardly sit. I can't believe I'll be able to get all of this from the source!

This is all new to me, nonfiction, but what I've learned is, ask. If you need sources, go to the person in charge. They might be very willing to work with you.

Oh, and if you're googling people, be aware they are probably going to google you...he did. :)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Uniqueness

I had a poster hanging on my bedroom wall through my childhood years. This is what it looked like:



Somewhere along the way of my childhood, I realized that I didn't like doing what everyone else was doing. I wanted to be different. When I was in first grade, I received an award as the "most original" girl in my class. At the time, I took that to mean "most creative." However, as I've grown and realized my talents don't like in creativity, I understand that I'm original. As in unique. Or weird.

And I enjoy it.

Of course I went through the adolescent stage where I wanted to be a carbon copy of my friends. I wanted their bangs, their purse, their clothing, I wanted to talk like them, giggle like them, write like them. How very lame. I grew out of that, luckily. And now I find myself constantly resisting the pull of the trend. Not always, but in a lot of instances. 

For example, when I was in college, everyone talked about these "awesome books" that "everyone was reading." Well, that right there turned me off. I wasn't getting on that bandwagon. No way. Then I befriended a girl in my apartment complex who seemed to be very lonely and isolated. When she found out I hadn't read these books, she loaned me the first one. How could I say no? I didn't want to be rude. (The end of that story is that I hadn't even finished the first book before I went out and bought all four. That was Harry Potter, and resistance was futile.) 

About a year ago I went to the hair salon to get blue streaks put into my hair. My beautician tried her best to convince me that red or gold would be so much more natural. Obviously, I wasn't going for natural. I wanted to be different.

I love singing soprano, and the higher, the better. And yet, when the majority of women also jump into the soprano section, I often will join the altos. The soprano melody tugs at me, pulls at me, but what would a choir be if everyone sang soprano? We need the harmonies. The first time I remember this happening was in fifth grade. (When we sang "Angels We Have Heard on High," however, I asked to switch back.) 

I've been known to sign up for classes because nobody else has.

I resented my major all through college. I majored in English, and so did 50% of the rest of the student body. The unfortunate part for me was, I really couldn't think of anything more interesting or unique that fit for me. I resented EVERYONE ELSE for daring to sign up for my major. Yeah, my uniqueness can be sort of a complex. :)

I love to do things nobody else is doing, go places nobody else has gone, eat things nobody else eats. That's not to say I'm a total rebel trying to stand out. I just don't want to be the same. 

I know I'm not the only one. What do you do that helps you feel unique?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Those Three Little Words

BFF.

Or in other words, best friends forever.

There's something very intimidating about the phrase. It seems to indicate some sort of commitment, some sort of mutual affection. Saying the words too soon can bring an early death to a relationship.

Last year I met a really fun girl who seemed to just love hanging out with me. After several weeks of hanging out all the time, she pronounced me her BFF.

I remember feeling like, "Whoa. I guess I better start being a BFF."

But it turned out that she was really just infatuated with me. After a few more weeks, she disowned me. As in, she quit answering my phone calls, wouldn't make eye contact with me at church, and even defriended me from Facebook.

Now that's low.

It stung me pretty bad. Those words mean something to me, and I was committed to the friendship. I seriously went through the whole mental processing of "what did I do wrong?" and "why did this happen?"

But anyway, that's a story for another day (or never). What's interesting is that now I have a new BFF. And what's cool is the way this relationship developed. We've known each other for over a year. We've always been friends, but over the months, as we've hung out together and gotten to know each other more, we've built connections. We've discovered things we have in common that we didn't notice at first. We've learned each others flaws and we've learned to laugh at them (okay, so she's usually laughing at me).

This is a friendship that began with no expectations, and grew very naturally from there.

Besides building slowly (which is quite different from the previously mentioned friendship), I don't feel like I have to be the leader/coordinator/instigator in this friendship. Which is really really nice. She's ambitious, responsible, and positive. I'm not trying to pull her out of her shell.

And she makes me want to be a better person. She's inspiring and admirable and amazing. The other girl was so much fun, but she didn't push me to improve myself.

It's so easy to put all this into a blog post. I can tell the whole world she's my best friend. And yet, for some reason, saying that to her is frightening and panic-inducing. It makes my palms sweat and my heart race. What if it changes the friendship? What if she's not ready for that? What if it scares her off? What if (gasp) she doesn't feel the same?

Silly, right?

And funny too.

What do you think? Do those three little words mean anything anymore? Or is it just me?

Oh, and chances are, she'll be reading this blog post...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Stake-out

This is another scene from Perilous that got cut because the villain's POV was cut. In this scene from The Hand (or Truman)'s POV, we see his strategies to find the girls after they narrowly evaded him in Canada. We also get to know a little more about his henchmen, names and characters that don't really appear in Perilous. (I think The Hand deserves his own book, don't you?)

Grey and Sanders entered Truman’s office, their faces glistening with a sheen of sweat. Truman glanced at Claber, whose mouth twitched and a vein on his neck pulsed.
Truman tapped his fingers on the wooden desk in a solemn staccato, letting the silence draw out. The men shifted and kept their eyes on the floor.
“Well?” Truman said. “What are your projections? Where are they now?”
Sanders cleared his throat and straightened his shoulders. “We followed the tip to a gas station in Victoriaville. The girls were gone, but we followed their path. They ditched the vehicle on the side of the road. They either have a new one, or they're walking.
“We’re monitoring all routes to the American consulate, the RCMP, and the border. Our agents are looking for any vehicle with a blond woman driving and three or more girls in the car.”
Truman's mind conjured up things he would do to get past his agents. Dye the blond’s hair. Get a different driver. Divide the girls. Head different directions. He shook his head. They wouldn’t think to do those things. “If our agents don’t find them, then what?”
Grey answered. “They only have two options: hide out in Canada or head for the States. The girls want to get out of here. I think they’ll try and hike it out. There’s plenty of unguarded land between here and the border, especially by Vermont.”
Truman nodded. His agents were going to be stretched thin, looking for these girls. He couldn’t pay them, either, not unless they found the girls. “I want people in that forest. Keep a satellite phone and any gear necessary to sedate them until back up arrives. I want people patrolling the border. I want men staking out the suburbs around possible points of entry.” He swiveled his head to Claber. “Get me a list of our agents in America. We need to get them on this, fast. If the girls make it to the States, they’ll find allies at every turn. We have to make sure we find them before someone else does.” His head pounded at the thought of all the effort going into this. He only had a handful of agents stateside, and they weren't fully embedded in his circle. He'd have to make certain of their loyalties before trusting them with this.
“On it.” Claber strode from the room. 
 "Grey, get men into those border cities. Here are their orders: First, I want that necklace. Second, I want the blond. Third, I want the Latin girl. Alive. Sanders, I want someone patrolling the border.”
Sander's round blue eyes widened. “How many men can I use? The border is quite long.”
How many men. How many more men did he have? “Get with the police. See how many they can spare. Get your camping gear together and get into that forest.”
Sanders and Grey still stood there. What were they waiting for? "You have your plan of action. Move!”

Monday, October 10, 2011

Agents and Hillbillies

This past weekend was the Ozark Creative Writer's Conference in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Talk about a town in the hills! It's an amazing little artsy town, with its own shopping strip, eclectic tastes, and expensive high-calorie bistros.

I convinced my friend Hillary, a budding author, to come along to this conference with me. That 3-day girl weekend rocked, but I'll leave out the details of the candy shop and the ghost tour and the corvette convention.

When I arrived at the conference last year and saw the board, I giggled: most had on jeans, big buckles, boots, and cowboy hats. Even the women. I was one of 2 people under the age of 30. I thought, "Well, this will be fun, even if it's mostly about westerns." And while there were plenty of classes on westerns and poetry, there were plenty of things for me to learn too.

Fast forward to this year. While the board remained the same, the crowd had changed. Several other younger authors milled about in attendance. And Gordon Warnock, an awesome agent from Andrea Hurst, was there. (Everyone ignorantly assumed he was from New York, which he quickly cleared up for us.)

Now I have to tell you a little bit about Gordon. This guy is amazing. (And he doesn't rep what I was pitching, which is too bad.) Gordon is the senior agent at Andrea Hurst, and HE'S YOUNGER THAN I AM. I consider that pretty amazing. Most people applaud me for being published at such a "young age" (though I suspect they think I'm younger than I am!). Gordon fast-tracked it to where he is, and he seems ambitious and knowledgeable. (If you want to query him, check out the Andrea Hurst website to see what he reps.)

Not only that, but he is so funny. He sat at our dinner table during the banquet, and I couldn't stop laughing. Of course that might have been because the fire alarm went off, we were worried about the sprinklers going off, and we got to spend fifteen minutes of our banquet outside waiting for the alarms to stop.

I did find it funny that this big name agent was sitting among us hillbillies. I had to ask him what he thought when he was invited to a conference in Arkansas. Gordon replied that he knew the author inviting him, and he trusted that it would be a good conference (and not a hoedown). And apparently he found some promising projects. (I still wonder what he thought of that 1 1/2 hour drive from the airport through the Ozarks, but I didn't ask.)

Bottom line is, the conference was awesome. And talent exists everywhere. And Gordon's a fan of Star Trek and Q, but that won't help you in a query letter because he doesn't represent sci-fi.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention. My WIP SHADOWS KEEP won an honorable mention, and a short story from my WIP WHITE MAGIC won second place. So. I left happy. :)

Friday, October 7, 2011

All About Deep Blue Secret

So Deep Blue Secret by Christie Anderson released earlier this month.


Never heard of it? Deep Blue Secret is a young adult romance with elements of science fiction and the paranormal. California teen, Sadie James, thinks her life can't get any better. She has great friends, an energetic mother she adores, and the beach practically in her own backyard. But her carefree life is turned upside down when she’s rescued by a mysterious and strangely familiar boy who won’t even tell her his name.

Each time the boy appears, Sadie’s unexplainable attraction to him deepens along with her need to unravel his secrets. The boy is there to protect her. But as wonderful and exciting as it might be to have an irresistible boy with crystal green eyes protecting her every move, every minute of the day...why does Sadie need one?

To be perfectly honest, I haven't finished the book yet. I would say it's more for the young adult audience than adult audience; I found the romance to be a bit over-the-top so far and the heroine's internal thoughts to be a bit distracting. It's not sucking me in like I like a book to. But that may be because I'm not the target audience. And by all means I intend to finish it. There are too many mysteries going on and I have to know the answers. This book is a clean romance, though, very good for teens.

You can check out the Amazon page here and buy the book or see other reviews. Definitely worth checking out.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Finalist

So remember that time in July when I had a video interview? Yeah, you might not. It only ran for three days. I tried to get the word out, but this is the internet. Not everyone is on here 24/7. Okay, most of us are, but not all of us.

The point being that apparently, this company, The Author Show, prints a book every year including 50 authors they interviewed, either on the radio or the camera. Well...I'm a finalist. Yep, it's official. Go me!

The Authors Show has posted all of the bios and final essays of the finalists. People are supposed to go over there and vote for their favorite author. But here's the thing: There's 113 of them. And since each bio/essay is about a page, that's about 113 pages of reading just to vote for an author. Yikes! So...in reality I suspect this will be nothing more than a popularity contest.

Not to be cynical or anything. Just saying.

But if you want to see it for yourself, head over here. Read the bios, find your favorite author, and vote!

And congrats to Emily for winning Clockwise!! I'll get that out to you!


Monday, October 3, 2011

Character Quirks

We all know that for our characters to be life-like, they have to have funny quirks, little ticks that set them apart from other people. The hard part is that most people have dozens of these, while if we give our characters more than 3 or 4, the little quirky things become more noticeable than the plot.

Thinking about this makes me think of my dozens of character quirks. Some I might not be aware of. But in a heartbeat, I can easily come up with ten:

1) I'm obsessed with lotion. I have pump bottles everywhere and in every bag because I hate to have dry hands. I always have to put on lotion after washing my hands.

2) I love eyeliner and mascara. Rare is the day when I don't layer up.

3) I watch my reflection when I talk and make exaggerated facial expressions. No reason.

4) My favorite expression is "Oh my word." Anyone else? Hands up. Who else says that?

5) I have to do things in order. My cookbooks, wardrobe, and ingredients all have an order to them.

6) I get really really annoyed if someone calls me by something other than my first name (there are exceptions to this).

7) I speak in Portuguese with my kids and prefer it over English.

8) I have aspirations to travel the globe.

9) I don't like eating the same thing twice unless it's really really good.

10) I don't like electric kitchen gadgets. Of course I have some, but I'd rather kneed and beat by hand than w/ a mixer/machine.

So there you have it. I'm pretty quirky. What about your characters? Is there something about them that really stands out as unique? Or are they all pretty much the same? Sometimes I don't know what makes my character unique until a later draft, and then all of the sudden, bam, it's there.

What are some of your quirks?
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