Manic Monday

Happy Monday, everyone! I'm sure you are as happy to be back to the grind as I am. Ah, the joys of nine-to-five.

I did receive a wonderful surprise from a co-worker earlier, a Texas Milk Chocolate cupcake.

Today is also National Toasted Marshmallow Day!

We should all celebrate by having a s'more.

Fun fact: The first recorded version of the recipe, originally called "some more", can be traced back to a Girl Scout publication from 1927. Way to go , ladies.

On a more distressing note, I have nothing to read. If you are a friend of mine on Goodreads (if you're not, I'd love you to become one. Just clicky on that link at the top of the page) you know I have about eighty wonderful books on my "to-read" list. I don't, however, have any of them in my hot little hands at the moment and I was unable to make it to the library this weekend (lamentations abound).

I did happen to snag a signed copy of Dangerous Neighbors by Beth Kephart from Marissa and Martina and an ARC of Extraordinary by Nancy Werlin from Sara through their wonderful blog contests, so all hope is not lost, just delayed. I guess I could work extra hard on that little novel I'm writing in the meantime.

So what are you reading? Have you won any contests lately?

Google Me, Google You

My favorite Google logo

Shannon Whitney Messenger recently had a post on her wonderful blog about Googling herself.  She found all sorts of interesting things, including a clothing accessory with her same name. Well, she inspired me. Here's what I found when I searched for myself:

  • A Dog trainer in Springfield, Arizona
  • A manager at a day-spa in Pasadena, CA
  • Co-owner of a hair salon in Ottsville, PA
  • A lawn care specialist in St. Augustine, FL
All interesting, but fairly normal. But then I came across this:

  • Former nursery school teacher, injured in July, 1996, while protecting her students at a West Midlands, England, grade school from a paranoid schizophrenic wielding a machete. Her arm was almost severed in the attack, and she was awarded the George Medal, the second highest decoration a civilian can receive, by Queen Elizabeth II.
I mean, WOW. I feel slightly inadequate now.

Have you ever Googled yourself?  What interesting things did you come up with?

On This Day In History

 Truman Capote, the author of the true-crime novel In Cold Blood, died at age fifty-nine in Los Angeles.

While researching the book, he traveled to Kansas with his childhood friend, Harper Lee, who is the author of my favorite book, To Kill A Mockingbird. He also wrote the novella "Breakfast At Tiffiany's" among many others.

He died of liver disease in 1984 at the home of Joanna Carson, the fourth wife of talk-show host Johnny Carson.

On a lighter note, there are also some notable birthdays today. Say what? James Bond is eighty?
The amazing Tim Burton

The crazy talented Elvis Costello

Sean Connery in all his 007 FINEness

Is this a special date for you? A birthday or anniversary perhaps?

One Lovely Blog Award

As I gulped coffee this morning trying to return to the world of the living, I was greeted with a wonderful message from Maryam over at Books Glorious Books. She had awarded me the One Lovely Blog Award.

Here's how it works:
  1. Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award and his or her blog link.
  2. Pay it forward to fifteen other blogs you have newly discovered.
  3. Contact those blog owners and let them know they've been chosen.
Here are the fifteen wonderful blogs I have chosen in no particular order:

Real Girls Eat Food

I have to admit, when I sat down to do this  post I had nothin'. My mind was a complete blank. It happens quite a bit, actually. That's when my beautiful daughter walked in and asked me if I thought she looked fat.

"Why would you ask that?" I said.  I assumed her answer would be that someone at school called her a name, but that wasn't what she told me.  My beautiful, smart, athletic, funny daughter proceeded to list all of her faults starting with her calves and working her way up.

After much prodding she admitted this was not brought about by something that was said to or about her, but simply a realization she'd had on her own. This answer, to me, was so much worse.

I'd always made a conscious effort to tell her how wonderful and amazing she was, hadn't I? Was this somehow my fault? Had I made some comment about her without realizing it?  I tried to assure her that she was perfect just the way she was, but after she rolled her eyes when I said it, I knew I needed some new material. Luckily, I found this wonderful video on the Dove Campaign For Real Beauty website that we watched together:


Of course this one video may not rid her of those negative thoughts about herself, but maybe if she sees enough of the truth, she will begin to discover nobody really looks like the models you see in magazines, not even the models.

Know Your Audience

I've always considered myself a hip bitchin' cool Mom (though I'm sure my kids wouldn't always agree). After all, I listen to their music (I actually like it), watch their TV shows and read the same books they read (I love YA and I'm not the only one).

As a children's writer, keeping up with what your audience is and isn't "into" becomes crucial. They can smell "old" from miles away. For example, having a contemporary children's character twirl a telephone cord around her finger while talking on the phone is probably a no-no.

According to The Beloit College annual Mindset List which provides a yearly recap of the things that shape the lives of students entering college during any given year, most of the eighteen and under crowd have never used a corded phone or worn a watch, Beethoven has always been a dog to them,
and John McEnroe never actually played tennis.You can find the whole list here.

All of this information is useful to a writer when getting down to the details of a story. I consider it a natural part of my research.

So how do you stay current in your writing? Do you have any tips or tricks you use?

The Importance of Critiquing

While it's valuable to have your own work critiqued by fellow writers (notice I didn't say family members), I think it's even more beneficial to critique the work of other non-published writers that are at or near your own writing level, the ones who make the same mistakes you do.

By critique, I don't mean snarky comments about not quitting their day jobs, but a thorough written statement that starts out with what they're doing right before pointing out what they can improve upon. The word wrong should never be used in a critique. Period.

In his brilliant book This Won't Take A Minute, Honey, Steve Almond talks about his own revelation:
My critiques sometimes ran longer than the stories in question.  A number of my comrades found this behavior presumptuous.  I, on the other hand, assumed I was being wildly generous. We were both wrong.  As it happens, I was explaining to myself how to stop sucking as a writer.

I have found a couple of pretty good online critique sites and I always give at least five for every one I get, because I've found it helps me exponentially to do so.

If you haven't tried giving a critique, don't be shy. Take a deep breath (at the very least your chest will look bigger) and jump on in. Even if you are a non-published writer your opinions are valuable. Most writers know that, and they appreciate any and all feedback they can get on their work. I know I do.

PLOT is a four letter word

When I think about plot, I cringe. Devising a plot in my current manuscript has given me fits.

I've always been a pantser which I find easy for short stories, but is proving extremely difficult for me at a novel length.

By definition, plot is a literary term referring to all the events in a story that take us from the beginning to the end. The most basic plot structure consists of three acts: the inciting incident, the main conflict and the climax. Seems simple, right? But it's so much more complicated than that. There are story arcs and critical choices and reversal and resolution-lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

Author and literary agent Weronika Janczuk gave an excellent mini-clinic on plot this week at writeoncon.com. I highly recommend you click on over there and absorb it.

I particularly loved her description about challenging your character,
...throw rocks at her, I guarantee you - I guarantee you - that, even if you have a beautifully rewritten and polished manuscript in front of you, ready to query, which an agent may sign and even sell, you could have challenged your character more.
She also gave a wonderful explanation of a plot template which turns out doesn't have to be a step-by-step list of scenes or chapters, but can help you explore your story arc before you take the plunge into your novel.
This really clicked with me and gave me a renewed sense of excitement about my current project.

So now I'm off to write as a pantser with a plot template. Lions and tigers and bears beware.

Reader review - PARANORMALCY

So, I just finished Kiersten White's Paranormalcy and I have that same feeling I get when the credits roll after one of my favorite movies; it's over and it's heartbreaking.

I loved the characters, cried a few tears, laughed out loud and read the whole thing in record time (the kissing parts twice).

This is the story of Evie, an orphan taken in and raised within the confines of the International Paranormal Containment Agency (IPCA). She is both strong and sensitive as she tries to figure out her role in the larger scheme of things while attempting to be "normal".  Lend, a shape-shifter, is caring and oh so yummy, and it's nice to see a guy who's not telling the main character what she can and cannot do in the name of  "love".  I'm crushing on Reth, a faerie of questionable motives. (I've got a thing for bad boys, so sue me).

Even though there are vampires, werewolves, and mermaids involved the story is fresh and exciting and lovely.

I'm not one for spoilers, so I'll simply say you don't want to miss this book. I can't wait for Supernaturally!

Channeling Maria

I love reading and writing but that doesn't really tell you anything about me, so I thought I would list some things that I hold dear.

A few of my favorite things:

Fountain Cokes (I believe Pepsi is Eee-vil)

Chocolate (Dark or light, doesn't matter)

Thunderstorms (bonus points if the lights go out)

Virgin Snow (before anyone or anything steps or pees in it)

Halloween (pumpkins, scary movies, trick-or-treating, CANDY)

Watching children sleep (mine preferably, but anyone's will do)

Dogs of all shapes and sizes - this is Geisha - we belong to her

Naps during football games

'cause when you wake up, there's always
 another game on and you don't get that freaky
"what day is it" feeling.

Waking up exhausted then realizing you still 
have three hours before the alarm goes off.

Caramel lattes

Consumed while sitting in the swing under
the magnolia tree in the back yard.

Of course there are many more, but sheesh, I didn't want to overwhelm you.


Try This And You'll See [insert deepest desire here] In No Time!

I received another one of these emails today. The ones that promise in only thirty minutes a week you can have toned legs and an ironman tush. Really?

If writing has taught me anything, it's that practice makes perfect (Hey, Mom was right!) and you've got to put in the time if you want to see results.

Recently, I've been doing a lousy job with my time management. I haven't been writing every day. Sure there are lots of excuses I could use; the kids, the job, the dog with a sensitive stomach that just ate a pencil, but they're still just excuses. Some people have no problem writing for hours each day. I happen to know a few (damn them).

My only comfort is knowing there are plenty of writers out there that share my problem. I know this because they talk about it on Twitter and on their blogs and on Facebook, giving me hope that tomorrow really is another day!

Once I get going, I'm fine, great even, because I love to write. Sometimes it's easy and such a rush, but other times it's really hard like knowing you have to do an hour of cardio (yuck).

Maybe my priorities are just screwed up, or maybe I need to decide I'm only going to sleep four hours per night so I can get up at three in the morning and write undisturbed by the inside of my eyelids.

So if you see me wandering down the street in my pink fuzzy slippers with no make-up mumbling to myself, be happy for me because you'll know I've been writing. Feel free to point and stare, but no pictures please.

Too Old To Write For Children?

The other day, a non-writer friend and I were talking about children's books and she mentioned recently discovering the age of a popular MG/YA author. "She's too old to write for kids," she said. I practically choked on my caramel latte. I was shocked to say the least. After all, the writer in question was only five years older than me.

Later that evening, after dismissing the comment as silly and questioning my taste in friends, I did some research on my favorite authors. Turns out quite a few are beyond twenty-something including J.K. Rowling (hello?), Daniel Handler (the awesome Lemony Snicket), Rick Riordan (LOVE Percy Jackson), Judy Blume (how I learned about that time of the month) and Meg Cabot (have you been living under a rock?).

Of course there are many younger writers that I also love. Watch out for Kiersten White (Paranormalcy) and Stephanie Perkins (Anna And The French Kiss). They're gonna be big, just sayin'.

I don't believe that the age of the author has anything to do with whether or not they can write for children, although I do think you need to read current books and practice writing every day to get the voice down (that pesky 10,000 hour rule-thingy).

Of course, it never hurts to have test subjects at the target age living under the same roof as you; so brutally honest it's downright scary and dependent on you for food.


I've been on Facebook for quite a while now and have reconnected with a lot of old friends from school, but I hadn't become "Twitterfied" until I submitted a few stories to Twitter ezines that required an account.

Of course I'd heard all the reasons why you should have a Twitter account:

*Market your blog or book

*Create relationships with other people in your niche

*Stay informed about the industry

*Get writing motivation

*Learn to be concise

I was still skeptical thinking, who am I? Why would anyone care what I had to say? And the biggie, do I really need another distraction in my life?

What I've found since opening my account is that it's only a distraction if I let it be and there's room for everyone. I give myself a couple of hours each day for social networking, and I've found that works well for me. I do thirty minutes in the morning and the rest in the evening just to keep up to date.

I've been amazed at how cool Twitter really is. It's so much more "in the present" than Facebook. I started out with zero followers just like every other newbie, but I'm already up to forty (at post time), partially from three of those Twitter stories being published. I get motivated, inspired, and amused on a daily basis.

And today I got a true thrill. Goose bumps, I tell ya. Meg Cabot, the wonderful, witty and oh so gorgeous author of The Princess Diaries and Insatiable and many other brilliant books, is now following me. That's right, little old me. Because that's the way Twitter works most of the time, you follow a fellow writer and they follow you back. It's like a great big internet hug to say thanks for caring about what I love to do.

Now, isn't that what everyone is ultimately looking for?
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