Wednesday, May 29, 2013

My Five Happy Ways

Morgan Shamy, my agency sister and all around inspirational person, tagged me in her "My Five Happy Ways" post. I love this idea, so I decided to participate.

The rules?

Shout out to the person who tagged me
List my five happy ways
Tag five more

My shout out to Morgan...she always has a kind word to say, and looks at the bright side of things. Her blog posts inspire me. Morgan's perseverance and positive attitude will bring success, no doubt about it!

My Five Happy Ways:

(I'll copy Morgan and Mark Koopmans and point out that my spouse and family automatically trump everything)

1. Books and water--Sounds like a soggy mess, right? Sometimes. I love sitting on the beach, warm sand beneath me, water lapping at my toes, reading a book. Or I can be lakeside, reading my book, as the occasional ski boat passes by. Or I can be lounging by the pool or floating on a raft, reading a book. Either way, this is one of my favorite forms of relaxation.

2. Silver linings--Life is full of dramatic peaks and valleys. When we're in the valleys, it's sometimes tough to remember the peaks. But I'm a firm believer that there's always a silver lining. If we try hard enough, we can find something to be thankful for.

3. Social media--For me, social media is like school with a super long recess. So many opportunities to learn, while also having fun. In real life, when meeting new people, I'm not always the most outgoing person. It takes a while for someone to really get to know me. With social media, it gives me a little more confidence to be myself and not worry so much. I've met most of you this way, and I'm so thankful.

4. Sing along songs--If there was a camera in our car while my family's on the road, you'd crack up. We play our favorite songs and sing our hearts out. We even have little dance moves that we sometimes manage to do within the confines of a small car. My sons are master DJs, and take turns picking songs. We may not sound great, but boy, do we have fun.

5. Birthdays--Ever since I was little, my family has made birthdays a special celebration. That carries on even today. I don't frown at the rising number each time I have a birthday. Instead, I'm thankful I was blessed with another year with the wonderful people around me. I seriously don't even care about receiving presents, because each birthday is a gift.

(Speaking of birthdays...a special shout out to my sister Joyce, who's celebrating her birthday today!)

Who will I tag? ALL of you! Why stop short at five? If you write a five happy ways post, I'd love to know about it so I can stop by and learn more about you.

Better yet, I'd love it if you listed YOUR five happy ways in the comments.

What made you happy today? Please share!

photo credit

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Interview with Author Lisa Gail Green

Lisa Gail Green's debut novel, The Binding Stone, released last week. I'm especially excited about this book, because Lisa is my good friend and writing buddy. I read an early draft of this book, and it was amazing then. But last week I downloaded the published version and wow, it's like reading it for the first time. Right now it's only $.99 so clicky clicky and get your copy!

Don't believe me? This is what Lisa Desrochers, author of Personal Demons, said about The Binding Stone: "Genies like you've never seen them, THE BINDING STONE is a wild ride of treachery and deception. For my first wish, I'd like a sequel, please."

Here's a quick blurb:

Tricked into slavery by the man she loved, the Djinni Leela has an eternity to regret her choices.

Awakened in the prison of her adolescent body, she finds a new master in possession of the opal that binds her. But seventeen-year-old Jered is unlike any she's seen. His kindness makes Leela yearn to trust again, to allow herself a glimmer of hope.

Could Jered be strong enough to free her from the curse of the Binding Stone?

Lisa Green was my first connection through SCBWI, and I'm so thankful we're on this journey together. Today, she opens up about her path to publication.

1. From idea to final product, how did The Binding Stone come to be?

That's about a three-year process! LOL. The idea was born because I had a demon (character!) that wanted to be written, but it had been done. So I started researching monsters on monstropedia that might be similar and that's where I came up with the DJINN. The idea fascinated me and my imagination went wild. 

2. Can you give us a brief summary of your writing process? Plotter? Pantser? Somewhere in between?

I've always been a pantser. I love the excitement of not knowing what happens next until the character does it! But practicality has forced me to do a bit of plotting as I've grown as a writer. I tend to fill out a Blake Snyder Beat Sheet as a short outline. I also like to pre-write a summary (like a query letter) and a pitch. Even if that changes, it helps to have as a reference. 

3. The Binding Stone is published by Fuzzbom Publishing. Can you tell us a bit about your experience with a small publisher?

It's been AMAZING! They are so invested in my book. I get all the privileges of having a publisher like editing, copy editing, and assistance with marketing and layout. But I also got final say on so much and certainly input on everything.

4. Can you offer us any advice about book promotion? What's working for you and what isn't?

I'm just learning myself! But I'm happy to share. I do know from our experience with the Journeys of Wonder anthologies that the key is word of mouth. What you want is to reach your intended audience, but that's hard to do with all the books out there (which is wonderful really). So you work hard to get that first tier of people to read it and hope it's good enough to get them to recommend it to others! The more reviews you can get on Goodreads and Amazon the better. The more people you reach at once, the higher your ranking and visibility. So if you read it, please put up reviews and recommend it if you like it!

5. Is there any writing or publishing advice you'd like to share with us?

Ha! I always feel weird giving advice to others, because we're all in the same boat really. The thing I always say is PERSEVERANCE IS KEY. If you don't try it can't happen. So keep learning, keep reading, and keep writing. Never stop if it's what you love. At least you're blessed enough to be doing something you love.

Perfect writing advice. I couldn't agree more!

If you're published, how did you connect with your publisher? How did you market your book?

If you're pre-published, do you sometimes struggle with perseverance? Please share!

"I dream of Lisa Gail Green! The Binding Stone is magical in so many ways. My Djinn asks for my third wish? The sequel, of course!" -- NYT Bestselling Author Nancy Holder

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Writing lessons learned from BRUISED

BREAKING NEWS!! Lisa Gail Green's debut novel, The Binding Stone, released yesterday! She's my writing buddy, and I'm super excited for her. Click here to grab your own copy of this awesome YA book.

And now on to my regular post...

I recently finished reading BRUISED, by Sarah Skilton. Bruised was a great book with an amazing voice and many powerful moments. Sarah is a friend of mine, but this isn't friendship talking--this is a reader praising a worthy book.

From Goodreads:

When Imogen, a sixteen-year-old black belt in Tae Kwon Do, freezes during a holdup at a local diner, the gunman is shot and killed by the police, and she blames herself for his death. Before the shooting, she believed that her black belt made her stronger than everyone else--more responsible, more capable. But now her sense of self has been challenged and she must rebuild her life, a process that includes redefining her relationship with her family and navigating first love with the boy who was at the diner with her during the shootout. With action, romance, and a complex heroine, Bruised introduces a vibrant new voice to the young adult world--full of dark humor and hard truths.

Here are some of the writing lessons I learned from this powerful book:

  • Open with a snapshot of the major incident--When the book begins, the shootout had already happened. It didn't give a blow by blow of the shootout, only glimpses from Imogen's broken memory. Details of the shootout are dispersed throughout the book. Then Imogen describes the hard work that went into earning a black belt, ending the chapter with this powerful line: "My black belt represents everything I could've done and everything I didn't do, the only time it really mattered."
  • Connect love interest through tragedy--We meet Ricky, the love interest, right away. Like Imogen, he hid under a table while the shootout happened. He understands her fears and her struggle to merge back into real life. Ricky wants to learn how to fight, and Imogen teaches him. This connects them beyond school and family.
  • Use humor to lighten a dark subject--The author does a great job of injecting humor in unlikely places. It's not just humor for shock value, it's embedded in the character. There's a line in there about a weed whacker that still cracks me up. This wasn't a funny book, but the character's way of looking at life made me smile.
  • Sprinkle in unanswered questions--Some questions are answered right away, but there are questions about the shootout that linger on until later chapters. I'd forget about these missing details until the author strategically reminded me. It kept me wondering what I didn't know yet.
  • Forgotten past--When characters suffer a traumatic experience, authors can use this to create more mystery. Imogen thinks she cowered under a table during the entire robbery, but then she wonders, why was there blood all over my clothes? It's a mystery, and the author allows the reader and Imogen to discover the truth together. 
Miranda Kenneally, author of Catching Jordan, said this about Bruised: "Raw and real, Bruised is an important read for all teens, especially those who feel they've lost their way. This beautiful book shows the true power of sports."

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Have you read Bruised? What's your opinion of these writing lessons? Have you used them in your own work?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Expanding Our Vision

My sister *waves to Robyn* is having her kitchen remodeled. All along, her plan had been to keep the same basic footprint, but modernize the small space with current materials and appliances. She struggled to see beyond that.

Not that it was any of my business, but I had my own ideas for her kitchen. I didn't see the space as small at all. I saw that she had the perfect space to create the big, open concept kitchen most people dream of.

What was the disparity between our opinions? Vision.

In real life, and in writing, we sometimes need to expand the scope of our vision. How can we do that? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Widen the lens--If we look beyond what's already there, whether it's a kitchen footprint or a finished manuscript, the solutions multiply. Kitchens are not set in stone. Neither are words, plot lines, beginnings, and endings. Marinate on the story for as long as it takes. What's the bigger picture? How can it be deeper? Wider? Richer?
  2. Seek outside help--My sister was really good about this. She bounced ideas around with friends and family, and kept the margaritas coming while we brainstormed. We writers become so close to our own stories, it's almost impossible to be objective about them. I'm always amazed at how productive a fresh set of eyes can be. But, this leads to my next point...
  3. Make your own choices--Ask 100 people about a kitchen design, and you'll receive 100 opinions. Everyone brings different skills and life experiences to the table, and sometimes all the varied opinions become overwhelming. Same with story solutions. At some point, we just have to sift through the ideas, choose what we like best, and apply them. My sister's kitchen is her kitchen, and she makes the final choices. Same with our manuscripts. We make the final call.
  4. Go skeletal--Once my sister's kitchen was demolished, and nothing but 2 x 4's and insulation were showing, she finally saw how much room she had to work with. This helped her see the bigger picture. We can mentally strip our stories down to bare bones, or story structure. If we're satisfied with a solid structure, we can then rebuild the rest in (relative) confidence.
  5. Read widely--When we read widely, and in different genres, we open our minds to so many possibilities. I was surprised how reading the classic A Lesson Before Dying had such an impact on my current story. And even though they're not in my genre, reading paranormal, historical, or dystopian stories teach me so much.
  6. Accept imperfections--My hubby and I built our own home sixteen years ago. Even though it was built the way we wanted it, and we adore our home, there are still things we would do differently. When I read past work, there are always things I want to change. I could do that until I grow gray(er) hair and rock my future grandchildren to sleep. Houses, kitchens, and stories will never, ever be perfect. We must be at peace with that.
When it's finished, my sister's kitchen will be beautiful. It's always been filled with love, laughter, and margaritas, and that will never change.

Our stories can be beautiful, and filled with love, laughter, and drama. Hopefully widening our vision will allow the reader a much richer experience.

Is there anything you'd like to add? Have you struggled with widening your vision, or does a writing partner, agent or editor help you push past that? Please share!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Slay The Doubt Monster?

"Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt." -- William Shakespeare

Welcome, Insecure Writer's Support Group!

Do you ever doubt your talent?

Me, too.

Recently, I was asked to be a guest judge for a contest over at Adventures in YA & Children's Publishing. (Awesome blog, by the way, in case you haven't visited yet)

I didn't jump at the chance and write the organizers back immediately. Why? Not because I didn't want to offer any help I could to other writers. No, I doubted my ability. I even wrote Martina back saying yes, I'd be happy to help, although I don't consider myself a strong enough writer to offer critiques. After all, I have so much to learn myself.

When I mentioned this to my super supportive hubby, this conversation followed:

Hubby: "Why aren't you qualified?"
Me: "Well, there are a lot of better writers than me."
Hubby: *feins shock* *both hands to his face, Home Alone style* *super sarcastic voice*  "Why are other writers better? Because they have books out?"
Me: *sheepishly* "Yes, but..."
Hubby: *rudely interrupts* "You Arnold Schwarzenegger? Snooki? The Kardashians? They must all be better writers than you, because they have books out." 

Okay, okay, I got his point.

Something we tend to forget is that even experienced, multi-published writers doubt themselves and their abilities. It's normal. Tennessee Williams once said, "I don't believe anyone ever suspects how completely unsure I am of my work and myself and what tortures and self-doubting the doubt of others has always given me."


If we're doubtful, maybe it's partly a good thing. It makes us try harder. As Robert Hughes said, "The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize."


Let's embrace our doubting inner selves and still be creative, shall we?

Tell me, do you doubt your writing abilities on a regular basis? How do you push past it and remain creative?