Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year - Let's Get This Party Started!

I thought I would do a quick New Years Eve post about the small additions I made to the blog.  I have seen several blogs (like Trisha at Word + Stuff) that have their goals listed on a page of their blog. 

I thought this was a great idea and decided to jump onto the bandwagon.  I made a goal page of my own and came up with a list of goals for 2012, so if you're interested about what I'm doing (or how I'm doing) feel free to check it out.

Amazingly, Yoda tweeted me today with the quote about "Try not. Do or do not." I have heard the quote used many times in writerly circles, but it was so fitting that the message would be sent to me on New Years Eve when I'm looking forward to goals of 2012 that I made it part of my page.  If you want Yoda to tweet you, put a hashtag (#Yoda) at the end of a tweet and the Yoda-bot will pick it up and tweet you.  It's pretty cool!

Finally, I would like to say a big "Thank You" to all of you who come and read what I have to say, follow this blog, or follow me on twitter.  I have had a wonderful 2011, and have made several new friends, thanks to you all.  I look forward to seeing what 2012 has to bring with you!

Happy New Year!! 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Nightgale Blog Challenge

I’ve had so much fun with blog fests that I thought I’d give a blog challenge a try!  The Nightgale Blog Challenge is, as copied from the post on Glitter Word (the host of the challenge):

“…to create four stories 200 word minimum that includes a sort of journey or realization about immortality or the lack there of in striving for it.”
There are four prompts, one for each week of the challenge, based off of John Keat’s poem, “Ode to a Nightingale”, and Percy Shelley’s, “Hymn to Intellectual Beauty.”
January 5th – PROMPT Through Hemlock
Keats: “That I might drink, and leave the world unseen, And with thee fade away into the forest dim:”(Ode To A Nightingale)
January 12th – PROMPT Immortality comes to you, you do not go to Immortality
Shelley- “Why dost thou pass away and leave our state, This dim vast vale of tears, vacant and desolate?… No voice from sublimer world hath ever, To sage or poet these responses given – Therefore the name of God and ghosts and Heaven, Remain the records of their vain endeavour,”(Hymn To Intellectual Beauty)
January 19th – PROMPT To Die and become one with Nature
Keats – “Darkling I listen, for many a time, I have been half in love with easeful Death, Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme, To take into the air my quiet breath; Now more than ever seems it rich to die;”(Ode To A Nightingale)
January 26th – PROMPT : Writing is Immortality
Keats – “But on the viewless wings of Poesy, Though the dull brain perplexes and restarts: Already with thee! Tender is the night, And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,”(Ode To a Nightingale)

I'm a person who is better motivated to perform when I have a destination.  I don’t particularly like exercise bikes because you put all that work into pedaling, and end up nowhere.  I’ll do it if I have to for exercise, but it isn’t as enjoyable as going out for a ride on the road.
It’s the same for writing.  After finishing the first draft of Finding Meara, I started working on writing exercises so I would be writing while I edit Meara and develop my next story idea.  While the writing exercises were more enjoyable than spinning on an exercise bike, I kept wondering if I shouldn’t be working on the new story, itself.
When I came across this challenge, it fell in line with my next story idea perfectly.  I decided the challenge would be a fun and purposeful way to delve into my new characters.
Each of the first three prompts will be character studies (in flash-fiction form) of my main characters.  As far as what story comes out of the fourth prompt, it’ll be as much a surprise to me as it will be to all of you!
If you want to join in on the blog challenge, you have until January 5, 2012 to sign up, but that is the day you also have to post your first story, so I’d take a trip over to Glitter Word and sign up now!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

First Draft Done! Now What?

This has been a great writerly week for me. 

It started on Tuesday, when I got an e-mail from Hogglepot, a fantasy webzine, that they did indeed want to publish my story, Bear Hug, in February.  Yay! 

Bear Hug is the first contemporary fantasy story I wrote, and I really wanted people to read it - not because I think it's the best story I ever wrote, but because I genuinely like the story.  The ending came with a flash of inspiration, not planning. I think that is when my muse introduced herself to me.

I will post when it is up over at Hogglepot, in case you want to take a peek!  I have been reading their webzine since I found the listing on duotrope and I've enjoyed the stories they have run.  If you like quirky fantasy, I suggest you check them out!

Then, on Wednesday, I finally finished the first draft of Finding Meara.  Yay!

However, my reaction when I put down the final period baffled me.  I don't know what I expected to happen, but I can tell you what didn't happen.

A choir of angels did not come down from heaven to sing the hallelujah chorus.

A marching band didn't parade through my living room, playing kick-you-know-what music.

President Obama didn't call me from the Oval Office, offering congratulations on a job well done.

What did happen:  I sat very still on my couch, and thought "That's it?"  And then my next thought was, "Now what?"

I wondered if there was something wrong with me.  I still don't have the need to do a happy dance.  I could analyze myself to death about why I am feeling... well... nothing, really, but I think it would be a waste of time.  This week I read an excellent post at The Write Practice called Your Successes Will Never Be Successful Enough, so I'm just going to link it here.

I'm not whining, mind you.  Finishing the first draft of Finding Meara is a milestone on the journey to becoming a novelist, for sure.  I am happy to have finished, and proud of the work I have done so far.  But it is only one of those action steps every writer must take on the path to publication.  

The answer to my "Now what?" is, of course, revisions, writing more stories, and learning how to write query letters, a synopsis, a "blurb," a pitch, and so one. Already I am planning my next few months, fitting my writing goals into the cracks of time left over in my everyday life.

But, I am going to take the lesson learned from Joe Bunting at the Write Practice, and enjoy this successful week for what it is. 

Because I finished my first draft, I am going to take a four day holiday (instead of just two days) from writing, and enjoy my Christmas, and my family, and not worry about the novel.

And I am going to wish you all a very merry Holiday Season!  I hope it is filled with peace and contentment and all the important things!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

"Wrap It Up" Blogfest

I think I have become a Blogfest junkie.  The "Wrap It Up" blogfest , hosted by David Powers King, J.A. Bennett, and Leigh Covington just looked like too much fun to miss out on, though! 

The basic participation rules are to write a piece of flash fiction, poem, or song (300 words or less) for someone you know (real or imaginary). It may be in any genre, but it must have a holiday theme (real or fictional). Post it on your blog anytime between now and when the linky closes (which is late on December 16th). You will then give it to that someone, sometime before the new year.  For full details, check out Leigh Covington's blog linked above.  There are prizes involved!

The Gift (for Dyan)
   Annie pulled the blanket over her arms, afraid to look at her sister.  The sight of Michaela on the other end of the couch was wrong. She shouldn’t be here.
   “I just wanted to say hi,” Michaela said.
   Annie didn’t know what to think, much less what to say, so remained silent.  She stared at the sparkling lights of the Christmas tree. She always left it on all night on Christmas Eve.
   Michaela moved into the cushion right next to Annie.
“Will you please just hold my hand?” she said, offering it to Annie. 
   “Okay…” Annie said.  Wondering if she was in the middle of a dream, she grasped her sister’s hand, the familiar contours firm and warm under her palm.  “But Michaela, you’re dead.”
   “I know,” Michaela said.  Sorrow deepened the blue of her eyes. “But I’m still here.”  She cleared her throat. “You’ll never guess who crossed over yesterday.  Do you remember my ex-boyfriend, Steven?”
   “The alcoholic?”
   Michaela nodded.  “Well, the drinking did finally catch up to him.  But you know, he’s not such a bad guy now.”
   The clock in the living room chimed.
   “Uh-oh, it’s time for me to go.”
   “No, wait.  Don’t…”
   Michaela stood.  With each ring of the bell, her image grew fainter, until she completely disappeared on the twelfth chime.
   “…go.”  Annie stared at her palm.  She could still feel the impression of Michaela’s touch. 
   She didn’t fight the tears that dropped onto her cheeks like rain.  She let them wash away the pain of losing her sister, once again.  After the tears slowed, Annie smiled.
   It wasn’t just the gift of touching Michaela, and talking with her like they had before.  Michaela’s visit let Annie know that sisters are forever, and one day they would be together again.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Dare to Call Yourself a Writer (Guest Post)

I would like to welcome Nicole Pyles to Motivation for Creation.  Earlier this week, I guest blogged at her "place." If you would like to know how I believe writing creates mental unrest in the blog titled Fiction Fears, click here.  Otherwise, please enjoy the fabulous post Nicole has provided us.  Take it away, Nicole!
I have a confession to make.

I've never been published before.

Trust me, it isn't like I haven't tried. The latest short story I have sent to a literary magazine has seen the submission rounds since 2008. I've been working on this story for nearly four years. I'm determined and dedicated when it comes to finding a publisher.

But, so far, this short story - one very close to my heart (but then, aren't they all?) - has not found a home yet. It will. I'm determined.

So, how dare I call myself a writer.

When I first started blogging, I made a post about why I've decided to call myself a writer. For some reason, it feels a lot easier to say it to people, who haven't met you before, and right out of the gate you introduce yourself as a writer. On the blogosphere, I'm comfortable making myself known as a writer.

But, everywhere else? Like around work, around friends it isn't so easy (my family already knows and sees me as a, I'm at least one step ahead).

Of the 164 people I have as friends on Facebook, I'm not sure how many see me as a writer. Most are people from high school that I barely even spoke to back then. A few do know me as the person who would make up stories at PE, as the person who would encourage everyone to share scary stories on Halloween during lunch time, and as the person who shared and wished for her dream of becoming a published author to come true.

So, one day. I decided to take a daring step forward.

I went into the work and education field.

I added a new field, and in the position title I put...


Of course, I added my own blog and a couple of others that I write for....I felt like I needed proof of some kind. But, despite that, I still dared to call myself a writer.

I am a writer.

I will be a writer today, tomorrow, and forever.

But it isn't easy to announce it like that, you know? You have doubts. You worry someone will question you, ask you about it.

To be honest, I don't think any of my friends noticed that I even added that.

But to me, it meant a lot. It meant that someone "friending" me in the future will see that I am writer...right out of the gate.

Today, call yourself a writer. If you have a full time job non-writing related, that's okay...include an "and" in the statement of what you do for a living and say, "and I am a writer."

Because really, if you keep telling yourself you're a writer. You will begin to really believe it. Write that short story, today. Write that article you've been meaning to write. Start that novel. Handwrite it if you have to. Type it on the way home. Type it at work. Text it to yourself. It doesn't matter if you have fame, fortune, or publication. You can call yourself a writer even if you don't have that. Hell, I did.

And above all else, no matter what you do...never doubt it. You are a writer, damn it. Let someone challenge you on that. And if they do? Let me know. I'll stand by you and say with assurance that, damn it, you are a writer.

Nicole Pyles is an aspiring author who writes to inspire other writers to keep writing (yes, she knows that's a mouthful). When she's not writing stories or writing on her blog, you can catch her at the library, making video poetry, keeping up with the latest social networking fad, and at the beach. Check out her blog (especially on Wednesdays where you can catch her blog hop!) at:

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Embarrassment by Twitter

Blog Hop!!
The Easily Flushed Blog Hop, hosted by  Cassie Mae at Reading, Writing and Lovin' It, begins on December 6th.  She is hosting the blog hop to celebrate attracting over one-hundred followers on her blog (Yay, Cassie!) and then also will be giving away a $10 Amazon gift-card to a lucky participant of the blog-hop.  Click here to learn the details of how to participate in the hop, or to go ahead and register your blog.  You can also click the picture of the embarrassed polar bear.

One of the participation requirements of this blog hop is to share an embarrassing story of yourself, or of one of your characters.  Initially I had planned to write about the heroine of my novel, Hazel, but I don't think it would translate well out of context, so you will all have to settle for my own story.

This is where it gets hard, though.  You see, embarrassment is a way of life for me.  It is so much a way of life that I have stopped getting upset over the typical, run of the mill embarrassing situations.  I regularly say the wrong thing, trip over my words, or just plain trip, for that matter.  I have learned how to mentally wave it off, make a joke of it, or to take preventative measures by keeping my mouth shut in most social situations.

I have moved my embarrassment into new and different realms.  Twitter, Facebook and even blogging provides a whole new arena in which I have no choice but to open my mouth, into which I unfortunately end up inserting my foot.  I try very hard to think about how what I say might sound to the receiver, but every once in a while a poorly turned phrase slips past my carefully constructed defenses.
A couple of weeks after I started tweeting, I encountered an author by the name of Colin Falconer.  He has written more than thirty books, writes historical fiction, and lives in Australia.  His blog is Looking for Mr. Goodstory, and I recommend checking it out because his posts always make me laugh or make me think.  On Twitter he was one of very few people who followed me early on, and I enjoyed the links he posted about history.  One of those links was to a web article about the Romans

I laughed, I cried... Well, not really, but I did enjoy the article.  I tweeted back to Mr. Falconer that "I especially enjoyed number one."   

Number one is an extremely vulgar, sexual poem that Catullus the XVI wrote in first century Rome. It was only after I hit send that it occurred to me that I had just commented to a man I barely knew that I had "especially" enjoyed a poem with explicit sexual content.  Granted, I certainly didn't enjoy it for the sexual content.  The sexual content is so over the top that it totally cracked me up, which is why I tweeted that I "especially" enjoyed number one.  It made me laugh.  However, Mr. Falconer wouldn't know that from the tweet, and neither would the hundreds of his other followers since I had replied in such a way that everyone could read it.  I felt a little sick, I must admit.  Here I am trying to build a platform, and I start off by looking like a pervert.

I was so embarrassed that I couldn't even talk to anyone about what to do to repair the situation.  I couldn't tell my husband, who is my social filter much of the time, what I had done.  It wasn't that he'd be mad, but he'd be embarrassed for me, which would heap burning coals upon my own embarrassment.

I decided to direct message an apology.  I am happy to say that Mr. Falconer was quite gracious, for which he earned my undying loyalty on Twitter.  Since that incident, I am extremely careful about what I say in my one hundred forty characters.  I also stick to G-rated retweets, no matter how funny I find those with a rating further down the alphabet!

Do you have an embarrassing twitter story you would like to share?  Feel free to do so in the comments section!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Addendum to Aren't We There Yet?

I told you in the post A Celebration of Blogging that I'm a worry-wart.  Here is my worrying in action.  I have to give clarification about the sentence where I said if I don't finish my novel, I'm not a writer.  I don't want anyone to think that I believe you have to write a novel to be a writer.  I don't.  What I meant by that line is that writers finish stories.  It's that simple.  A novel may not be the avenue for everyone to express themselves, and I love writing short-stories.  But I started a novel, and I have embraced Heinlein's rules, and so I have to finish it.  That's all. 

If the barriers to finishing it were real, such as my family had needs of me, or my job suddenly required me to work a zillion hours, then the length of time I have been taking to finish the first draft would be understandable.  However, it has just been good old procrastination that has been stopping me, and so the blog post.  Now, if you haven't read the post yet, get going!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Aren't We There Yet?

HEINLEIN'S RULES FOR WRITING (from his 1947 essay "On the Writing of Speculative Fiction."

1. You must write.
2. You must finish what you write.
3. You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.
4. You must put the work on the market.
5. You must keep the work on the market until it is sold.

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I learned these rules by hanging out on the Writer’s Digest forum.  I believe they are the wisest of advice for writers, and I have always done very well following them, up until now.  For some reason, I am having trouble finishing the first draft of my novel.  I am within five-thousand words of typing those magic words “the end.”  Five-thousand words!  It’s not writer’s block.  I totally know what needs to happen.  I just don’t seem to have the desire to write it down.  I am procrastinating, and I don’t know why.

A week or so ago I downloaded the War of Art by Shawn Coyne and Stephen Pressfield onto my Nook.  It’s short, very easy to read, and very wise, as well.  I think I found my answer to my procrastination issue within the electronic pages, in a chapter labeled “Resistance is Most Powerful at the Finish Line.”  If you want to know what Resistance is, I recommend you get the book and read it, but my understanding of Resistance is that it is the thing that holds us back from achieving that which we are called to be.  Mr. Pressfield states “The danger is greatest when the finish line is in sight.  At this point, Resistance knows we’re about to beat it.  It hits the panic button.  It marshals one last assault and slams us with everything it’s got.”

Resistance for me says “You can write it tomorrow.  You don’t have to be in any hurry.   Stop being so neurotic about finishing, it probably isn’t good enough anyway.  It’s a first novel, for God’s sake.”  And I slowly lose my momentum, like a car that gets a flat tire and flops to a stop on the side of the road.

I know I have to finish this novel.  I am not a writer if I don’t.  I am just someone who wrote most of a novel.  And there is no remedy, except to “Just Do It.”  Nike really got it right.  No therapy, no conversation, no reading, no inspiration is going to get me going.  I have to just do it.  Grit my teeth, get my butt in my new office chair, log on and do it.

The thing is, I know that once I do, it is all so easy. I can relax, and let my imagination take me by the hand and lead me down the creative pathway to the finish line.  What perplexes me is that I make it so hard on myself to get to that point.  How silly to fight against such a positive experience.  The fight is what makes me think Steven Pressfield is right.  Resistance is only as big as we make it out to be.  Every day we have to take up the fight to be more and to achieve more than the last day.  No excuses, no procrastination, no fear allowed.  Just do it.

Friday, November 18, 2011

An Unrecognized Positive of Platform Building

I have a confession to make.  I have been platform-building obsessed.  The fact that last night, when I started talking with my husband about this blog post, my four year old asked me if I had any new followers is proof of it.  Both of my children are knowledgeable about Twitter, tweets, and Tweetdeck.  They know the logos by sight.  But my need for a self-help group is not the subject of this blog post, so I'll continue one.

As a beginning writer, I put platform-building off because it seemed a silly idea.  I hadn’t had any success, none of my writing had been published anywhere, and who would I be talking to, anyway?  However, after it became clear I was hooked on writing, I decided to join in and began platform-building.  I started a personal Facebook page, and then a blog several months later.  My last holdout was Twitter, which I started in August.  Over time, and as my platform has grown, I have begun to recognize some positives to platform-building, the biggest two being support and motivation.

When I started writing, I concentrated on short stories.  I learned Heinlein’s Rules early on, and once I had a finished story that seemed to make sense, I started sending them out onto the submission trail of tears.  Having stories in submission, even if they were ultimately rejected, gave me the feeling of being a “real” writer.  I was engaged vicariously with the writing industry, and on occasion editors gave me favorable feedback, even if they ultimately rejected the story. 
Then I began writing my first novel.  I no longer submitted short stories, because I didn’t have any new ones to offer.  Without submitting, I also lost the sense of engagement with the writing industry and/or community.  That’s when my blog became important.

I moved my blog from tumblr to Blogger last November, about the same time that I started my novel.   I felt pretty sad about the whole blog thing because I had no followers, except my husband, one of my best friends from high school, and my cousin, who also writes.  I sincerely appreciated their kindness, but it did feel like pity-following.  At my cousin’s wise counsel, I soldiered on, and eventually got two non-related followers.  Then I was in business.  The knowledge that there were two people out in cyberspace who expected me to deliver my writing to them on a regular basis kept me blogging, even if it seemed useless because I didn’t even have a book to offer them.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago, when I received a rejection from a big-name webzine.  The typical “what the heck am I doing” started running through my mind.  I thought about giving up, but the knowledge that I now had a few more than twenty followers on my blog and a little under a hundred twitter followers held me accountable to my dreams.  How could I just close up shop when all these people were watching?  I didn't want to be a quitter in front of an audience.

No, the numbers aren’t large, but they are my numbers, and quite honestly, I feel pretty convinced that the followers I do have are meaningful.  Yes, on Twitter especially, there are the people I know followed me because they want to sell me (and my friends) their book, but many of the people I have gotten to know through blogging and tweeting are people that I enjoy hearing how their lives are going.  They are people who have similar thoughts and ideas, hopes and dreams.  I have found support through platform building that motivates me to continue down the writing road.

Have you recognized any positives from platform building in your life?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Three Magical Quotes Supporting Writing Regularly (whether you feel like it or not)

Over the last year, I have mentioned in my blog posts, on forums and to pretty much anyone who would listen how writing daily has been one of the best bits of advice I received when I first started writing.  While I was researching this post last night, I read a post-repeat from James Scott Bell about the Ten Commandments for Writers (read it here) where he stressed again coming up with weekly word count goals.  Whether it be writing daily for ten minutes or creating weekly word count goals, regular writing is key to improving your writing skills and exercising your imagination muscles.

Quote 1.  "Whatever you think you can do, or believe you can do, begin it.  Action has magic, grace and power in it."   Johann Wolfgang

By sitting down daily and creating, a door is opened which allows the magic, grace and power of the imagination (or what some call the muse) out for a little exercise.  Each time the door is opened, our muses venture a little further into the creative realm.  Instead of having to wait for Inspiration to smack us upside the head, our muses bring Inspiration to us.  But first we have to act, we have to open the door.
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Quote 2.  "Love and magic have a great deal in common.  They enrich the soul, delight the heart.  And they both take practice."  Unknown

I am a firm believer in practice making things better, if not perfect.  Two of the toughest things I am trying to teach myself in my life are how to love well and fully, and how to write engaging stories that bring magic to my audience.  I don’t think it is possible to ever reach the pinnacle of either pursuit.  The joy is truly in the journey.  In the case of writing, continuing the trip each day allows progression down the road.  With regular practice, we will find success much sooner than if we sit on the couch and wait until we feel called to write.
Quote 3.  "And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places.  Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it."  Roald Dahl

Have you ever written something, felt it was totally uninspired and dull, and then when you re-read it the next day or the next week, you were able to take the sentences, polish them up, and they turned out to be crucial to your story's next steps?  That happened to me this week.  I was feeling terribly dried up last week when I hand wrote about three pages of my novel in a notebook.  I was totally convinced it was crap, and I was dumb to think I would ever write something other people would want to read. 
At the beginning of the week, I pulled out the pages and grimly started typing them into the computer.  (Because, dammit, I’m going to finish a novel!)  As I typed along, I added some things, took out others, and suddenly I was kind of digging where the story was going.  A cool idea how I might incorporate a dragon arose from the unlikely place of those dried-up, uninspired words.  Charles de Lint says it perfectly.  “That’s the thing with magic.  You’ve got to know it’s still here, all around us, or it just stays invisible to you.” 

Saturday, November 05, 2011

A Celebration of Blogging

This week, a day apart, the Versatile Blogger was bestowed upon me by both Nicole Pyles of The World of My Imagination and Lacey Ferris of Inside My Mind. Thanks so much to both of you, for thinking of me and Motivation for Creation.

Nicole is an amazing blogger, who managed to entice hundreds of followers within four months of starting her blog.  She is definitely teaching me all about the world of blogging.  Plus, she writes her posts with a fun energy that flows through the keyboard onto the blog page!  Lacey has multiple blogs, but the one I enjoy the most is Inside my Mind, which is a friendly representation of her self.

The rules for receiving the Versatile Blogger is that you thank the person who gave it to you (check!), you give seven facts about yourself and then pass the award on to fifteen other bloggers, if you can.  Coming up with seven facts has been a challenge, but I'll share what I came up with.
  • I love to laugh and hate to cry.  This affects what I read and watch on the screen, more than what I write.  I avoid chick flicks, the Lifetime channel, and any of those books like Jodi Picoult or Nicholas Sparks.  Give me a thriller or mystery and add in a little humor and I'm set to go.
  • I am a drummer.  When I was younger, my sister (who played bass) and I formed the rhythm section of our high school jazz band, and a couple of rock bands.  I haven't played for a long time and I never was all that great, but I miss playing music a lot.
  • Two of my favorite places in the world (besides Wyoming when the wind isn't blowing) is New York City and Cusco, Peru.  They may seem incredibly disparate, but both have that magical quality I wrote about in my post about Star Wars.  I haven't gotten to Europe, yet, so my list may grow.  I've always wanted to go to the British Isles.
  • I am a worry-wart.  Enough said.
  • I guess I really do write Urban Fantasy.  A person may not know that about me, as the stories I have gotten published are horror.  I don't write about vampires, werewolves, or zombies, though.  My specialty, so far, is witches and magic.  I guess magic is a personal theme of mine.  I feel a blog post coming on.
  • I absolutely adore being a Mom.  I am really glad that I got to marry my husband and have two children with him.  My family is the center of my universe.
  • My husband says I am "the most genuine person he knows" and a past supervisor said I "have no guile."  I tried to be devious in highschool, but it didn't work out.  So, with me, what you see is what you get. 
Because many of the people I subscribe to already have received the Versatile Blogger award, I listed below blog sites I visit regularly, rather than people I am passing the award to.  I will let the people who haven't already gotten the Versatile Blogger award know that they have been included on this list, and so have become recipients of the award.
  • Kapehorn: An Author's Adventure - Kaelin Hornsby posts chapters of her novella, Antiquity, which is a fascinating mix of historical and science fiction.
  • Saucy Lucy Wisdom - On Mondays Aunt Gladys, a character from the Saucy Lucy books, shows up to post the irreverant humor of Cindy Keen Reynders.
  • Eric-Blues - the first writer blog I have found with a specialty in technology and how writers can use it.
  • word balloon - La Galerie Kenmore displays Lori Gilbert's artistic talents, as well as those of her eleven year old daughter.  The posts that support the artwork demonstrate Lori's writing talents as well.
  • Onward to the Written Word - A new find, full of fun, original flash fiction stories.
  • I'd Rather be Writing - I totally enjoy Heather L. Reid's voice.  She is conversational and friendly, and writes the most interesting blog posts.
  • Nina Badzin's Blog - My go-to place for social media advice and information.
  • jeff goins, writer:  On Writing, Ideas and Making a Difference - You just have to go see it to understand.
  • Writer Unboxed:  A blog site filled with generous writers at varying career levels, providing information and support on all things writerly.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Magic of Star Wars and Writing

I’m feeling a little empty today.  Bereft of thoughts that are interesting or engaging, even to myself.  While I’m writing this, I sound so depressed!  I’m not.  I think I have just hit overload, is all.  The pressure to be witty (which certainly is work for me!), to tweet, to blog, to write, and then all the demands of my non-writing life has just come to a head.

Yesterday I went to the Denver Zoo with my family to attend a six-year-olds birthday party.  It was Boo at the Zoo, and there were tons of people, children, costumes, candy and fun.  The fall day was cool, and we actually saw more animals outside than we have ever seen before.  For the record, I’ve been to the zoo dozens of times throughout my entire life, so it really was quite amazing to see the tapirs outside and standing up.

One of the best highlights for me, though, was the Star Wars troupe.  I love Star Wars.  I was five, I think, when the first Star Wars: A New Hope came out.  Different stages of my early life have the different movies imprinted in my mind.  Harrison Ford as Han Solo was one of my first Hollywood crushes.  My first date was going to see Return of the Jedi when I was about thirteen years old.  The magic of the movie wasn’t ruined, fortunately, by the immaturity of my date.  He crunched spilt popcorn and laughed about it right when the duel between Darth Vader and Luke was occurring.  How rude of him!  We didn’t have a second date, by the way.

Back to the zoo.  There were Storm Troopers, a Tatooine family, and even a Tusken Raider.  I was delighted!  They had full-sized, accurate weapons, for goodness sake.  It was like being at Comic-Con.  Or maybe even on Tatooine.  I tried to get my sons –- who are Darth Vader and a Clone Trooper (Captain Rex, according to the zoo’s train driver) for Halloween this year—to get a picture.  They refused.  They love Star Wars, too, but they were scared to see Storm Troopers in their real world.  But I wanted a picture with a Storm Trooper! So, with a rush of excitement, I gave my camera to their handler, and got my picture with the Storm Troopers.

That’s me, in the teal shirt.  Can you see me?  I can’t, hardly.  But my friend took some closer pictures, so I’m hoping to get one of them from her.

What does all this have to do with writing, you may be wondering?  Well, it was a magical moment.  I was seven again.  I felt excited, and happy. 

That is what writing does for me, too.  The magic of creating, seeing what my subconscious comes up with, and sharing that magic with others is what makes writing enjoyable.  And we all need magic in our lives.  I think I'm going to concentrate on that part for a while, and not worry so much about the other stuff.  I have to believe the platform will come along.  Worrying about it isn't going to make it grow any faster, right?

For the record, I did make my kids take a picture with a Storm Trooper.  We caught them on the way out of the zoo.  This morning my eldest asked to see the picture, and told me he was glad I made him take the picture, because “I like storm troopers now.”  In the picture, we all look very happy.

What creates magic in your life?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Goal Setting vs. Patience and Persistence

As for goals, I don't set myself those anymore. I'm not one of these 'I must have achieved this and that by next year' kind of writers. I take things as they come and find that patience and persistence tend to win out in the end.  Paul Kane

The question that comes to mind is “Does it have to be an either/or proposition?”

Many years ago, I took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test, which is a personality test.  I don’t know how rare it is, but I scored exactly 50/50 for being an introvert/extrovert.  This tendency toward inner conflict is revealed in other aspects of my personality, as well, such as having the need to set goals, but then feeling boxed in by them.  It even shows up in my writing, as I am a “plantser”.  I have to have some sort of structure to guide me, but room to let the creative imps out to play.

Goal setting is very important, as it keeps us on track for whatever it is we want to accomplish.  Early on I read a wonderful book, Writing Brave and Free by Ted Kooser and Steve Cox, that said to write at least ten minutes every day and make goals.  This wisdom I took seriously, began writing ten minutes a day, and made the goal to be published somewhere within two years. (Which I am happy to say I met!)

The upside to goal setting is that we have a measuring stick for how far we’ve gone on the road toward reaching our dreams.  Goals also help us to know when something isn’t working, and fix it.  Unfortunately, if you consistently don’t meet your goals, it can be pretty demoralizing.

If I were to rely on only patience and persistence, I could rationalize myself out of finishing anything I started.  I could patience myself into stagnation.  But, especially in creative endeavors, a certain level of patience is required.  Words don’t always flow like a gushing river, editing can be time-consuming, and then there is always the inevitable wait after submission, whether that be to a magazine, agent or publisher. 

I have been frustrated lately, as each writing goal I set drops away, unmet. Other life needs get in the way of writing, and I have been reduced, for the time being, to making my goal to write ten minutes a day.  Now is the time I need to incorporate patience into my writing process – patience for myself, patience for where my life is right now, and patience with the long process writing a novel entails.  And keep persisting, moving forward toward the finish line, even if it is measured only in tiny steps.

How about you?  Do you lean more heavily toward goal setting or patience/persistance?

Saturday, October 08, 2011

My Top Ten Most-Helpful Writer Resource Books

Photo from
When I decided I wanted to seriously write with the goal of getting published someday, I was not exactly at a point where I could drop everything and get an MFA.  My parents have always been great role models of studying on your own, so I began borrowing books from the library on writing, bought several other books, read writing magazines, and joined forums and writing groups.  
Throughout my quest for education, I encountered people who held the opinion that all a person needs to do to learn to write is just write.  That may work for some people, but for me, I needed a road map to guide me.  I needed to know what I should be looking for, at least in the beginning.  Once I understood the basics, I knew I would be able to allow intuition to move me along, but first I needed the basics.
On the different forums and groups I belong to, I have noticed other beginning writers engaged in their own search for education regarding the craft of writing, and asking for resource lists.  As I have read an awful lot of how-to books, I thought I might share my own list of what I consider the most helpful.  Here they are--pulled from my bookshelves--my top ten favorite how-to books.
General Writing Information

English Grammar Workbook for Dummies by Geraldine Woods:  Who doesn’t need help with grammar?  This book has all kinds of exercises that are a great refresher, plus a quick reference card.

How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card:  This book is the best handbook on writing, no matter which genre you write.  It covers all the basics of writing, from idea construction to publishing information.

What Would Your Character Do? By Eric Maisel, Ph.D. and Ann Maisel:  Of all the books on character development I read, this was the most hands on with developing character and backstory. 

Scene and Structure by Jack Bickham:  This book took the mystery out of structure, and gave me concrete methods of developing scenes that go somewhere in a story.  Definitely a great book to read early on in the educational process.

Hooked by Les Edgerton (could also be up at General Writing Information): I bought this to learn how to write a compelling beginning, and wound up learning a lot about structuring a book/story.  He’s also very motivational.

Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell: I love James Scott Bell!  He’s not afraid to outline!  He is my book mentor! (okay, I know, enough with the exclamation points…)

The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maas:  Wisdom regarding taking a story to the next level.  I will be using this book when I get into edits on my novel. 

The Writer’s Book of Wisdom by Steven Taylor Goldsberry:  Short essays of writerly wisdom

Take Ten for Writers by Bonnie Neubauer: Puts fun in writing and coming up with ideas.  Encourages silencing the inner editor and just writing!

There it is, my list of “go-to” books.  There are others, of course, but these are the ones I think of first if people ask me what has been helpful for me.   

Wait… There’s only nine listed?  

Oh yeah, number ten falls in the Motivational category.  It’s Sometimes the Magic Works: Lessons from a Writing Life by Terry Brooks.  I loved this book because it was another writer who believes in the power of outlining.  I was feeling like a writerly weirdo, and this book helped me realize the writing process is different for everyone, and whatever your process is, it’s the right one. 

What resources have you found helpful along your writer’s journey?

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Three Things I Learned About Writing at a Social Work Conference – Part 2

This post details the last two lessons I learned about writing while attending the NASW-Wyoming Chapter’s Annual Social Work Conference.  If you haven’t read Part 1, go ahead and read it now.   I’ll wait! 
Okay, now that we’re all on the same page (pun intended), let’s talk about passion.
About Passion:  Recently I have read many inspiring blogs about finding passion in the task you are engaged in, and/or about writing about that which has meaning for us.  It isn’t just writers, either.  Society seems very concerned about re-igniting passion in its collective life. 
Social workers utilize a process called “reframing”, which is looking at a subject or situation from a different perspective.  Consequently, at the conference, the idea of passion was approached from a different direction.   In his opening speech, Rev. Rodger McDaniel referenced a book by French resistance fighter and concentration camp survivor Stephane Hessek titled “Time for Outrage.” He encouraged social workers to identify what issues ignite outrage inside of them, and then to strive to affect change in that area. 
Outrage is the other side of passion.  Writing a story about what you find abhorrent can be just as powerful as writing about what you love.  My own work in progress came to mind.  I began the story with the sole intention to have abusive parents receive payback for the misery they cause in their children’s lives.  Not terribly social work-y, but the abuse and murder of children by the very people who are supposed to love and protect them fills me with outrage.  The story ended up with themes about family, self-direction, and the protection of children (all of which I am passionate about), and the bad guy (read self-centered, murderous father) happens to really get it in the end.

A cover my you-know-what note to any mental health professionals out there--if I ever do have to work with a self-centered, murderous father, I will be both ethical and professional and request colleague assistance if I can’t be impartial.
About Myself:   The things that make me a social worker are also the things that make me who I am as a writer.  Any originality I have is a result of my own worldviews and personal experiences – my planet.  My writer’s voice is also the voice of the social worker-me, of the mother-me, the daughter-me, the wife-me, and the me in the various other roles I may fill.  By writing fiction, I blend those voices into harmony, and share my planet with the world.  What an amazing gift.

What fills you with outrage?  How would you like your writing to affect a change of perspective in your readers?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Three Things I Learned About Writing at a Social Work Conference - Part I

The infamous “they” say that inspiration for writing can come from any source.  In my case, “they” were right.  This week, my understanding of the craft and my personal process of writing was influenced by lessons I learned at the NASW-Wyoming Chapter’s Annual Social Work Conference.  As the post became rather lengthy, I have broken it into two parts.  This week I focus on an aspect of craft that gained clarity in my mind.   Next week I will finish with lessons  about some personal aspects of the writing process.

About the Craft:  Characters and plot are intertwined.  I understood this intellectually, but I never really grasped the simplicity of this concept until this conference.

The opening speaker at the conference, the Rev. Rodger McDaniel, spoke about systems of care, and made a statement to the effect of “A judge lives in a world where he/she gives an order or direction and expects it to be followed.  Our clients don’t live on that planet.”  Light bulb moment.  Conflict exists between the judge and the client, not because they are at enmity with each other, but for no other reason than they have differing world views.  The planet our protagonists and antagonists live on is their worldview, their needs and desires - what makes them human and real.  It’s their character.  The conflict that arises because of their worldviews is plot. 

The best thing about this understanding is it makes sub-plots (finally) understandable.  Who we are spills out into a variety of areas of our lives.  For example, if I had been abandoned as a child, I may have difficulty trusting others.  This trust issue would present itself in my life in many different environments and situations.  I might have difficulty with authority, I may have poor intimate relationships, the list can continue in myriad directions.  Therefore, if I’m writing a romance about a woman with trust issues, the main plot would be her relationship with the male lead character, but I can throw in a sub-plot about her trust issues at work and the difficulty she has with a controlling boss.  Still working on the main plot, but it is augmented and strengthened by the sub-plot.

That’s it for this week.  Please come back next Saturday, when I explain the lessons I learned about writerly passion and myself.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


Twitter scares me.  I can be honest about it.  It is for that reason that, when I entered the social media stream two summers ago, I decided to wait on Twitter.  I focused on creating a blog and joining Facebook.  Over the last year, I have read numerous articles about Twitter.  The number of authors who mention Twitter as one of the most important ways they connect to others indicates it is an important social media tool to use.  In August, I read a fabulous two-part blog post over at Writer Unboxed by Nina Badzin, called the Art and Science of Twitter  (which you can find part 1 here and part 2 here).  I felt ready to take the plunge.  I got a twitter handle and jumped into the Twitter stream.

I was wonderfully surprised to find Nina there to meet me.   She gave me some pointers on my profile and even generously followed me, so I wouldn’t be talking to myself in cyberspace.  Personally, I think she deserves a place in heaven just for being so kind to me!  I set up twelve people to follow, and put out a tweet.  I have since tweeted eight times over the last several weeks, and retweeted once.  I have four followers, and I don’t know what to say to them.  The Twitter current is slowly pushing me to the shores of the Twitter stream.  But I’m not going to go down without a fight.

I have noticed all of the people I am following are big name people.  While that is wonderful, because I feel like I am listening in on a conversation Neil Gaiman or Prof. Brian Cox are having with some “other person,” it also is terrible, because I am not going to interrupt that conversation.  There is no way I am going to break into their stream and start responding.  I don’t even know if I am allowed to!
I have decided that I need to follow more people with whom I can have a conversation.  I need to find people of like interests that I am not afraid to approach.  To that end, I am going to search out Twitter users who are more “normal.”  Also, if any of you, gentle readers J, would like a follower, please let me know and I would be happy to follow you.

I also am going to go back to Nina Badzin’s blog and read everything she has about Twitter.  I am convinced that I can successfully use Twitter to reach out and communicate with others.  I am just starting the trek up the sharp side of the learning curve.  Hope to see you soon on the Twitter stream!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Trust the Process

To be truthful, I stole the title of this post from John Taylor, bass player of Duran Duran.  In his case, the title referenced the process of living a happy life, both clean and sober.  For me, the words jump to mind as I trip over rejections, uncertainty, frustration, apathy, and any number of obstacle illusions that appear in the path of this journey of becoming a successfully published author. 
Dr. Joyce Brothers said “Trust your hunches.  They’re usually based on facts filed away, just below the conscious level.”  For those who claim “Pantser” title (of writing by the seat of their pants, instead of outlining or putting much thought into direction), I imagine the trusting of hunches is quite a simple task.  I, unfortunately, cannot claim “pantser-ship.”  I am firmly bound by rules and like the structure of a simple outline.  I don’t know how much of an anomaly I am, but I have come to embrace the fact that I am what I am.  For me, structure provides stable soil in which my creative impulses grow to fruition.  That being said, I have had to learn to allow my hunches to fully expand.  I have to remind myself to trust the process of writing, of exploring and delving into the fertile ground of my subconscious outside of the outlined fences I erect around my work in progress.  It makes me uneasy at times.  I want assurances that I am writing the best story, that I’m doing it right.  It’s hard to step back and trust in intuition, but it gets easier with practice, and there is no more joyful surprise than when the muse speaks, pulling from my subconscious the absolutely most perfect ending, or story twist, or character so that I am shocked I didn’t think of it before.
I also have to remind myself to trust the process of becoming a writer.  When I compare my journey to that of other writer’s, I sometimes become frustrated.  I am acutely aware of the clock ticking and the years passing.  I have met most of my self-imposed goal posts, but still become afraid that the cost may end up outweighing the benefit.  Placing my trust in an unknown outcome is an extremely hard thing to do.  Trusting the process of becoming a writer means my journey is the best journey for me.  I do not need to compare myself with other writer’s, instead I can be happy for their successes.  I can take my time learning what I need to learn, because the next lesson will arrive when I am ready for it.  The process of becoming then becomes the goal.  And, as long as you continue to write and learn, you can’t fail at becoming. 


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