Saturday, December 29, 2012

Soul Inspiration: Madeleine L'Engle

Howdy, folks. This is the last in the series, and the last for the year. I dug into what really moves me about books in this series, but I can't write about what inspires my soul in books without taking some time to talk about Madeleine L'Engle. Madeleine is my guiding star when it comes to book inspiration. Her books have had a profound affect on my life. She was one author who understood that which I feel so deeply: we are people who have a profound need for that which we cannot see -- that which we cannot explain -- that which we cannot hold onto. We have an innate ability to see what cannot be seen.

We're full of the spiritual. Madeleine understood what I instinctively understand -- that love must be at the center of the universe, or I'm not sure I can live in this universe. Are we men or are we monsters?  This is something we all wrestle with at times. Will love somehow rise over every tragedy? Will it swallow up darkness with light. It will if we are willing to fight.  Her books were full of great battles that acknowledged that the small stuff going on in our corner of the universe was a thread in the giant tapestry of history, and if you pull one thread in a tapestry you might ruin the whole cloth.  Everything is precious. Everything has purpose. Everything has a season.

Life and death are great mysteries. Love is mysterious too. Hate is also just as mysterious. Madeleine introduced me to the great mysteries. She saw all these connections. She lifted them from the world around her. A mighty chorus reverberated within her. She firmly believed that all the flaming darts that struck through the hearts of men were akin to tossing a live coal into the sea.  Ah, this is an on fire thought -- good wins!  But, but, but -- the wars, the fires, the guns, the suffering... All this mystery is wrapped up in faith and art. My favorite books step out with bravery, offering the substance and evidence of  things hoped for and things unseen.

Be brave as you move forward with your stories in the new year. Say what you believe. Serve your art. Don't be afraid.  If you have not read Madeleine L'Engle's book: Walking on Water: Reflections of Faith and Art, consider giving it a look.

See you next year!

Here is an oldie but goodie doodle: "Girl with trumpet!"

Here is a quote for your pocket.

When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability... To be alive is to be vulnerable. Madeleine L'Engle 

Sorry, about the garbage you might have found at the bottom of this post!  New software, buggy...

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Soul Inspiration: Heart

Hi, friends. I find that books help me face the hard times: present, past and future. It is the beating hearts of the best books that stay with me. I know that recent events have left many of us reeling with questions. How can such things happen? Is there no place sacred or safe? At the same time I hear the heartbeats of  countless stories.

Here's a secret: stories are born out of experience. Writers transmute the storms of their days and do the hard work of turning those sorry experiences into something of meaning. Somehow they take the spark of life and place it on the page.  My hope is the emotions that I've felt when the storms that have swirled around me will inform my stories and help put my heart on the page. I believe this deeply, that these things that we suffer together will ultimately make us more.

One example that comes to mind is J. R. R. Tolkien, the author of Frodo's journey. Tolkien served in World War I and by the time he was 28, every close friend he had except one had died in the war.  When we read of Frodo's wish that the ring had never come to  him, when he wishes that none of the troubles in the world had happened, I feel my heart syncing with this book. Gandalf's reply beats inside me. "All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." But I know at the heart of this is a man with a wild imagination who suffered deeply and strove for meaning in that suffering.  

We have no control over the events of this life: we are fragile and limited. I am sure we will all face  "raging waters that could sweep up away" in our personal lives, in our communities, in our countries and in our world. My heart beats to the lasting commitment to do something meaningful with my life, to be generous, and to love as much as I can. I am also committed to write stories that are useful and make a difference. I hope that I place my heart on the page. I hope you do too.

Here is the doodle: The Light of a Single Candle
My quote for your pocket:
True glory consists in doing what deserves to be written; in writing what deserves to be read; and in so living as to make the world happier for our living in it. Pliny the Elder

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Soul Inspiration: Who am I?

I'm taking this month to look into the core of what moves me in books. This is the third in the Soul Inspiration series.  My inspirational mix is varied: Robert Heinlein, the comfort of words,  and this week, I'm going to dig into  how I've found myself in books. I think that this a deep reason why I love books so much. I can remember thrashing about, try to figure out life and such, and I kept getting calmed by books. I can't say how many times I've come across a better self in books.  I'm going to touch on a few random moments that I can never forget.

Early on, I became the kind of person who believes every person counts, every voice counts, no matter.  "A person's a person no matter how small." Dr. Seuss, Horton Hears a Who

I found what I was going to do about not achieving my heart goals for decades.
“Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.”   AA. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh.

I found what I was going to do the loss of dear friends in the pages of a book. “It was up to him to pay back to the world in beauty and caring what Leslie had loaned him in vision and strength. ” Katherine Paterson, Bridge to Terabithia

Here I found truth who I would strive to be every day. “Keep good company, read good books, love good things and cultivate soul and body as faithfully as you can”  Louisa May Alcott, A Rose in Bloom

Here I woke up to the secret that every human is a whole mystery. “A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.”  Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities.

Here, I sighed and understood that we are all very complex stories and love holds the pages together.
"We are thickly layered, page lying upon page, behind simple covers. And love - it is not the book itself, but the binding.”  Deb Caletti, Honey, Baby, Sweetheart 

Here I understood it's fine to strive for something that almost everyone has a better aptitude for, as long a I have buckets of tenacious desire.  "Talent and all that are really for the most part just baloney. Any schoolboy with a little aptitude can perhaps draw better than I; but what he lacks in most cases is that tenacious desire to make it reality, that obstinate gnashing of teeth and saying, "Although I know it can't be done, I want to do it anyway."  M. C. Esher, In Art

Yes, this was my truth, too, “The best books... are those that tell you what you know already.”   George Orwell, 1984

I hope that we all place the keys of self discovery in every book we write.  Dig deep, folks. Someone really needs your help.  Peace. Molly.

This week's doodle is called stormy night.

Yes, this quote is always in my pocket. 
“But blessed is the man who trusts me, God,
the woman who sticks with God.
They’re like trees replanted in Eden,
putting down roots near the rivers—
Never a worry through the hottest of summers,
never dropping a leaf,
Serene and calm through droughts,
bearing fresh fruit every season." Jer 17:7-8 MSG

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Soul Inspiration: The Comfort of Words

Hi, folks, I'm continuing my soul inspiration series. I'm spending the month chatting about what moves me in books. This week I'm going try and wrap my mind around the comfort of words. I find such comfort in books, and I thought I'd write about what that means to me. Many authors have managed to "lighten the load" in my life with their stories. When I find consolation and solace on the printed page, I feel so blessed, like I have been allowed into a sacrosanct place. Ah, the power of words.
Here are few moments of comfort that stand out in  my childhood memories. I will never forget as a young teen reading By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Mary has gone blind and Laura decides to "see" the world for her, describing everything.  I felt the struck chord within, that in midst of great suffering, glorious gifts for others are being born. I remember saying to myself, I will see too, and share what I see with blind.  I cannot say how comforting that moment was. 
In Lloyd Alexander's Taran the Wanderer, Taran seeks to be a potter and studies with the master. After much effort he realizes that he does not have the gift to be great potter, but understands the gift of striving to achieve something is just precious. The warm cloak wrapped around me. I have felt comforted since I was girl because Taran failed and yet found the gift of the journey.
And one more,  who can't be comforted by Charlotte's Web by E.B. White. The whole book speaks to me still today. When Charolotte tells Wilbur she helped him because she was trying to lift up her own life a trifle, it felt like balm. When Wilbur learns that Charlotte spent her short life to give him the opportunity to live, I was so comforted that every living thing's life, short or long, is an opportunity to do good in the world, to make a difference.
The power of the written word to comfort has always stunned me. It continues to stun me. There are no words for the gratefulness I feel to be a small part  of the world of writers.
My hope is that you think about about infusing your stories with some comfort. Add good reports. Add grace. Add good things. Your readers will hold these gifts in their heart for their whole life. I know I do.  Seize the day.

This week's doodle is called "Cloudy sky."

This week's quote for you pocket:  We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty. Maya Angelou

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Soul Inspiration: Robert Heinlein

Hi folks, welcome to the blog. A friend of mine and I were talking about what makes good books.  We both agreed research, plotting, character study, revision -- so many things -- help in writing,  but we also agree there is some alchemy going on in writing good books too. Proof positive, there are really poorly written books out there that grab the whole planet, and there some so wonderfully written books out that don't. Why is no one reading that wonderful writing, and why are they reading that poorly written story? What gives? A secret: writing is one thing, storytelling is another.  As a reader, I'm all about the telling and herein is the alchemy. 

This month I'm going to talk about the alchemy of some of the writers are my soul inspiration to become a writer. These writers are the ones that hooked me early, and I've never let go. First up is Robert Heinlein. Robert was a flawed writer. He got on his soapbox at times. He left entire plot threads untied. Sometimes he didn't exactly make sense. Some of his stories wrapped up entirely too quickly at times with no climax to speak of. You get it; he wasn't a perfect writer. So what enticed me to read most of his books multiple times.

Robert had ideas to tell -- big ideas about the future of humanity, our place in the universe, and what we might achieve if we are given half a chance. He also understood what it's like to be humdrum person who has been dealt a serious bad hand in life and yet is full of impossible longing and dreams.  He understood passion and how that has the chance to improve our lives or utterly destroy us. He had a serious handle on what war is about and how it shapes us collectively and as individuals. He knew what meant to be a stranger in a strange land. He understood all these things and put them on a page. As a young reader, I was so hungry to know things. I had limited experience, raised up in a blue collar life. Many similar readers  want to know things, but they struggle with the tone of academic books. High falutin' isn't the blue collar strong suit. Robert wrote to the plain folk. Yay!

Let me wrap up. One part of the alchemy is message.  Do you have something important to say?  If you can wrap that up in the vast landscape of a story that spans the galaxy, you might have something there. I hope that you think about the writers who have grabbed you. The alchemy they put on the page has profoundly affected you, and you would do yourself a favor to take note. Then think about this: What lights your world? What do you know that might benefit humanity?  What injustice do really have something to say about?  Put that in your books.

Come back next week for more soul inspiration.  Meanwhile, let us conjure up incredible books of our own.

No doodles this week. The interweb is being persnickety. 

You can have peace. Or you can have freedom. Don't ever count on having both at once. Robert Heinlein.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Rattle Readers -- Make'em laugh.

Hi folks, I'm continuing my series called Rattle Readers. I'm exploring the emotional landscape of books, and this week I'm going to chat about making readers laugh.

First off, laughter isn't far from tears. If you can pull off both in the same book, you are drawing close to revealing life as it truly is. Laughter is about the utterly or obviously senseless. It hits what is illogical and contrary to all reason.  Laughter bubbles up when common sense flaps in the wind. We laugh at the foolish, irrational, and disorderly, especially in the light of close relationships. We laugh at the meaningless. I think it's the slant that's important. In dark places, the author heals our heart by pointing out the humor in the situation.

I love to laugh when reading. Plenty of authors have made me laugh and I love them for it. A few come to mind: Douglas Adams' THE HITCHHIKERS GUIDE TO THE GALAXY is one great laugh-my-head-off memories. I'm sure I laughed so hard I fell off my bed more than once. Another book was Louis Sachar's SIDEWAYS STORIES FROM WAYSIDE SCHOOL; this one snuck up on me. I was like ho-hum for like eight chapters, but by chapter 30, I was laughing so hard I spit. Another book that made me laugh so much I slipped out my chair was THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN by Sherman Alexie.  I get the life of poverty, the ridiculous stuff you put up with when you are one the outcasts of society. Sometimes, if you don't figure out a way to laugh, your heart won't function anymore.

I believe that books make me laugh when the author reveals the impossible truth. This takes a sense of humor; an author who can ease the confrontation in the world has a real gift. You might offend people; a good laugh doesn't sugar coat life. You must write what you think is ridiculous in the everyday. Uncover the absurd about life. Reframe tragedy. The best humorous books will make readers laugh and cry. Think about this: Trade mourning for joy. Laughter may be the only thing that gives your characters the strength to endure and will be the gift that is passed on to your reader to alleviate tension in their lives. A secret, you  get to fall out of chair laughing before your readers.

Laughter is powerful and leading and must be used with care. I don't laugh at belittling others. Laughter for me is about uncovering joy in the darkness. Your story will give your readers an island of happy, a place to escape to.  Laughter  helps us dream or dream again. It is a way to reframe all the stupid circumstances the universe has given us. Laughter is relief that danger is over and the promise that good things are to come.  I think laughter is about bonding with each other about the human condition. We are not alone. No.

I hope that you will consider making readers laugh as you write. I'll be back next week with a new series called: SOUL INSPIRATION. Meanwhile, seize the day!

Here is this week's doodle. I call this:  "Woman 2."

Here's a quote for your pocket.

If we couldn't laugh we would all go insane. Robert Frost

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Rattle Readers: Make 'em weep

Hi folks, I'm continuing my series about called Rattle Readers. I'm exploring the emotional landscape of books, and this week I'm going to chat about how to make readers cry.

I'm a bit of  faucet, so I don't think it is that hard to make me cry. That said, I think the stack of books that have made me cry is higher than for most folks. A few come to mind: Neil Gamain's THE GRAVEYARD BOOK (I cried because in way aren't we all growing up in a graveyard seeking a life), Holly Cupala's DON'T BREATHE A WORD (I cried for Santos), and SACRED SCARS by Kathleen Duey (I cried for Sadima when she finds love after her memory is ripped away by Somiss.)  I'm moved by emotion on the page. I'm  not always sad when I cry, but I am changed forever. I don't forget these moments. I find some truth on the page that I have always known but never had words for. You will rattle readers to tears if you place truth on the page.

I believe that books make me cry when authors are honest and write down the stuff that terrifies them, breaks their heart, or when they write something that is taboo to say. This takes bravery. You must write what you won't say. You must reveal those hidden secrets of the heart. You must suffer.  I mean the best books show that the human condition is fraught with suffering. We are fragile, so fragile, and with ease can be shattered. I think about this: Confess your sins to one another that you may be healed.  I think placing those sins on the page is very compelling.  It will touch the core of your readers. It will make them burst into tears.  Secret, you will cry before your readers.

I find the ancient paths lead to the truest emotions. Heal the broken hearted, make the blind see, make the lame rise up and walk. If you do this good work, yes, your readers will cry but they will also find curled up in the egg shell of their lives, hope. A most profound way to tears: confess that you haven't sinned but have forgiven those who have sinned against you. I think this is one of the most profound things you can do.

I hope that you will be as honest as you can be and say what you need  to say. Will be back next week with more shaking of the cages. Meanwhile, seize the day!

Here is the doodle. I call this: 'Girl in the moon'.

Quote for the week:

A book must be the ax for the frozen sea within us. Frank Kafka.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Rattle Readers: 7 Quick Tricks

Hi folks, I'm writing a series on what is provocative about fiction, what rattles readers. I'm at the SCBWI New Mexico Retreat right now, so this week is going to short and sweet.  I hope one of these tricks helps you rattle the cages!  

1. You're my sister, Leia.  I'm you're father, Luke. Yes, revealing a deep dark secret is a fab way to shock your reader. I do request that you shock me. Don't make me giggle. I'm borrowing from the movies.

2. Sixth Sense us, I mean if you can make the reader look over some very important fact like your main character is dead until a big reveal at the end, good. If you do this, well, you get a shiny sticker.

3. Strand us somewhere terrible: the woods, the ocean, the Arctic, a haunted house, in a pit with snakes, the desert,  the moon, the turret of a castle, Oz. Any convenient spot will do.

4. Have someone your mc absolutely trusts betray her. We will really appreciate it.

5. Take something tried and true and turn it upside down. You know Cinderella, or Seven Samurai, or the Poky Little Puppy.  Reinvent and twist.

6. This is obvious.  Murder the parents, best friend, dog, or any choice character. Violent deaths always rattle readers the most.

7. Have your mc murder the parents, best friend, dog or any choice character.   Yikes!

There are lots to ways to shock us. these happen to be a few that I think are AWESOME. I have a tear trickling down my cheek.  If you can think of more, please post. I hope you come back next week.

No doodles. Computer is not being nice. 

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.   Maya Angelou

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Rattle Readers: Shocks in Fiction

I'm starting a new series about what rattles readers in fiction. I've read a ton of books, and I would like to mention that only a select few of these books rattle me. So words aren't enough, and characters aren't enough, and plot isn't enough to rattle me. I'm going to write around this idea in my brain about what makes most excellent fiction, and hopefully I will uncover something.

A great book suspends me. The words on the page fill my brain and I'm there. The real world disappears and I'm lost in the fictive dream. The fictive dream idea comes from John Gardner's book THE ART OF FICTION. Many writers understand the mechanics of story and can adequately sustain a story over thousands of words, but few writers can send me into a fictive dream state and keep me there.  So here goes some thoughts about how to rattle readers: what works, what doesn't, how do you know you are creating that dream?

I search for stories that rattle my bones. I feel myself pacing inside when I can't find a book that really stirs me up.  One way authors hook me is by uncovering something I call shocks: you know, unexpected revelations (plot, character, theme, setting, etc.) that change the shape of the whole story. Don't get me wrong, I'd don't like lazy shock value pushing the story forward. The problem shock comes when the author begins to flounder in their fictive dream and then slaps down a shocking twist  that does not naturally rise out of the plot of the story. As a reader I feel frustrated. As a writer I'm shoving my story in the direction I want it to go. So annoying. Some writers slap down too many shocks for the reader to care. (Guilty!) Some don't even offer one shock. (Boring!)

When a shock is spot on, as a reader, I feel excessively nervous or I'm totally relaxed (no inbetween); the shock hits and I can't breathe. I shut the book and try to get my emotions under control. I go back a few pages and read up to the shock again. I'm that immersed in the fictive dream. As a writer, I know I'm in the sweet spot when I'm laughing out loud and falling off the couch when I'm reading my story back to myself, or I start crying when I've read the scene a hundred times, or I have to put my manuscript down because I'm so angry again.  Yes, if you are participating in your own dream, this is a good thing.  You think you have written the greatest thing ever. It may not be there yet, but if you able to enter into the dream and stay there, you are on the right track and will succeed.

Hope you place some shocks on the page this week. I will dig around more in this subject next week. Short post though because I am off to the SCBWI New Mexico Fall Retreat.  I'm excited.  Seize the day.

Here is the doodle: " Spider Chicken".  I know, enough with chickens already.

Quote for the week.

My task which I am trying to achieve is by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel--it is, before all, to make you see. That--and no more, and it is everything.
- Joseph Conrad

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Chicken by Chicken: Today

This week I wrapping series called Chicken by Chicken. This is take on Anne Lamott's BIRD BY BIRD, a helpful writing book. The idea is you take the writing journey one day at a time. You take it one word at time and that the important thing is always the writing and not the publishing. Writing for me is chicken by chicken. That's how I roll.

Write the words. Write the sentences. Write the paragraphs. Write the chapters. Write the books. This is the little mantra that keeps me going.

Here is the state of affairs: If measure myself to others, asking myself why haven't I sold books like x-y-z, I feel like a failure. If I examine my works, my current projects, my finished projects, focusing my eye on what has been done, I feel like I've come up short. If think about all the things I've missed out on, the times agents and editors have really thought about giving me a shot and decided not to,  yep, my stomach starts aching. If I think about all that I've invested into writing with no return, I feel nauseous.

But if I just don't think about those things, and instead write. Now. In this moment. Today. The world opens to me. I forget that so many have found success faster than me. I forget the failures, the missed opportunities, etc. I feel so alive, like I'm stretching toward something far-reaching and rarefied. The words bubble like a fountain of water, just spilling out in an unending way. I go all century plant -- agave. It blooms once in its long life. I feel like that plant that is sure to bloom at the end of its long life. Perhaps, my determination to live in this moment, in these words, in this scene, will give the you the jolt you need to write today, chicken by chicken.

I'm so glad I'm travelling with you all. Here is something to check out if you have a minute. I love this bit of inspiration from Kate DiCamillo. I love her story. I understand what it means to be at the margin of society better than most. When Kate says, "You're a loser." I tear up every time. I hope that you will be kind to yourself this week. What you are doing now is important. Don't warp it with anything negative.

Next month I'm going to write about what rattles me about the written word. I will dig around in Edward Bulwer-Lytton's quote: "the pen is mightier that the sword" and offer advice to help you "set the world on fire."  Meanwhile, everyone, seize the day!

Here is this week's doodle. I call it: "Wolverine Chicken."


Finally I'd like to add a quote for your pocket.

Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.
Corrie Ten Boom

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Chicken by Chicken: A Horrendous Book

Hi folks, I hope that you have dedicated yourself to the work. This week I'm  continuing my series called Chicken by Chicken. I'm riffing of a fine writing book title by Anne Lamont called BIRD BY BIRD. You must write at least one horrendous book to write one very good book. I know, this is daunting news. Who wants to write  a horrendous book? You must write a book that is full of telling, plot holes, weak characterization, and way too much description or not enough. Your book will be a slog to read. You won't like it. It will discourage you unless you are an eternal optimist. It will be very hard to write this horrendous book. You will sacrifice to do it. When you complete it, you will feel you have climbed a mountain. It will  be a rush and most people around you will not "get" your enthusiasm. You will put the book aside for a few weeks and avoid it like a scared chicken. Then one day you will pick it up again and realize just how bad it is. Ouch.

Once you have written your horrendous book, you will start writing again. No, not a new book. You will begin writing your horrendous book again. You will cut scenes you love, you will see better ways to move your plot forward, you will begin to understand your characters and reshape them into more authentic souls.  You will be focused and  work on your book in a balanced way (if you are lucky.)  And after months of struggling, you will reach the end of the novel  again, and now you will have a mediocre book.  It will be meh, but you will feel that have climbed a big mountain. Only your writing partners and a few close friends will still be encouraging you to go on with this. You may now have some doubt roving around in your heart. You will feel weary. You will put the book aside for a few weeks (avoiding it like a scared chicken) and then finally pull it out again and realize it is OK. It's nothing special, but at least it has a plot, real characters who make some sort of sense. You will repeat this process again and again. You might repeat it 5 times, 10 times or more. 

Finally you will come to a draft that your scared chicken-self will pull out of the drawer and read. This book will need some copy editing. You might have to change a word here or there. But it will not be bad and it will not be meh.  Keep a box of tissues ready. You will feel you have reached the moon, invented time travel, and climbed Mount Everest. You have distinguished yourself in a most special and important way. You haven't attemped to "get published."  You have written a very good book. It is a masterpiece.

Getting published it not the same as writing a good book. But that is for another post.  I hope that you dedicate yourself to writing an awesome and lasting book.  I'm  happy to have had the chance to cheer you on.  I will see you next week with more inspiration.

Here is the next doodle. I call this one "Wonder Twin Chickens."

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. Benjamin Franklin

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Chicken by Chicken -- The Work

Hi folks: This week I continuing a series called Chicken by Chicken. This is take on Anne Lamott's BIRD BY BIRD, a helpful writing book. The idea is you take the writing journey one day at a time. You take it one word at time and that the important thing is always the writing and not the publishing. Writing for me is chicken by chicken.  That's how I roll.

Last week I wrote about the next big thing my book PROFIT.  That was a whole lot of chickens. This week, I'm going to muse about who writers are and what the do. I find that writers are generally dreamy folk, are often introverts, many have heard the news that their head is stuck in the clouds. All love to read and find it akin to breathing. Most have several outlets for all that creative energy, including music, art, landscaping, interior design, architecture, science, computers, dance, and more. I think writers face a little bit of disdain at times from folks who don't write because the work of collecting together a bunch of ideas that hopefully sets the imaginations of the world on fire is  a little outside the realm of general experience.

Many writers struggle with the inward doubt they are not trying hard enough to do the work.Writing is like this dragon dancing around inside of you and you are spending your time trying to tame it. You struggle because there are many chicken steps for writers that are frowned upon in the general population. They include staring out the window, not paying attention to current stuff, a predilection of being a little unaware of the time, need for quiet and breathing, talking to yourself in the car, walks to ponder the next step, naps to sleep on that idea, analyzing every story you come in contact with, oh, yeah, there is also so many hours in front of paper and screen, adding, taking away and shifting around words.

Don't be hard on yourself because you've chosen writing as a profession. It's a little different. Enjoy it. Chicken by chicken. I hope this wandering musing will help ground you, will help you create masterworks, will help you embrace who you are and what do.

I love to draw chickens, especially Halloween chickens. Here is this week's doodle: Wonder Woman Chicken.

And finally my quote for the week: Every memorable act in the history of the world is a triumph of enthusiasm. Nothing great was ever achieved without it because it gives any challenge or any occupation, no matter how frightening or difficult, a new meaning. Without enthusiasm you are doomed to a life of mediocrity but with it you can accomplish miracles.- Og Mandino,

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Chicken by Chicken -- The Next Big Thing

Hi folks, My friend Vijaya Bodach tagged me with "The Next Big Thing." I'm going to use this as a springboard for some insider stuff from the world of working writer. I hope that my personal journey will give you some needed encouragement for the days ahead.  My title "Chicken by Chicken" is a play on Anne Lamott's book title, BIRD BY BIRD, a helpful writing book. Chicken by chicken is how I roll as a writer. 

So here is my current project, it's sucking up a huge portion of the hard drive of my brain. Normal stuff for me when I'm polishing a book: family members talk to me and I don't answer until they physically shake me, I see people at the grocery store and don't remember to say hello until five minutes later after they are gone, and I forget to eat until I have a pounding headache.

"The Next Big Thing." 

What is your working title of your book? PROFIT

Where did the idea come from for the book? Off the top of my head, from a blue marble with a story to tell, an eight-year-old boy cursing in the middle of a street, a vision of a ghost trapped in a well, and a deep desire to make some sense out the travesty of war -- the idea for PROFIT sprang out of some weird and wonderful places.

What genre does your book fall under? Space Opera with a dash of cyberpunk thrown in, YA

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?  Ah, nothing like casting your own book. Right now, I'd like to see Chloe Moretz as Sarai. I'd like to see Jaden Smith as Terb. For Zilard, maybe Keegan Allen. Cody Simpson might work for Krish. Magine? Clarice Pempengco. My movie will require some voiceover actors too.  Mosi the Rat, I think Jonah Hill.  Risat the Oracle, I think Carrie Fisher. Yes, something like this cast would work.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?  In the far-flung future on the lush world of Poeia, fifteen-year-old Sarai Corren cares for shopping and snagging a hot guy; she never thought she'd have to go to the ends of the Milky Way and pay a terrible price to get what she wants.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? My hope is it will be published traditionally.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?  About a year, but spread that over four years.

May we see an intro? Here is my first line: "You’re the goddess of avoiding bots." Krish's lips touched Sarai's ear. His raven hair brushed her cheek. "How did you know it was coming?"

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?  I think some comparisons could be made to these books: THE STARS ARE OURS by Andre Norton, Orson Scott Card's ENDER'S GAME, William Gibson's NEUROMANCER with a slice of Douglas Adams' HITCHHIKERS GUIDE TO THE GALAXY.

Who or what inspired you to write this book? I was inspired by (of all things) the story of David, the books of Mark Twain, Robert Heinlein and Madeleine L'Engle, and the sacrifices made by peacemakers.

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?  I'm asking big questions about war, literacy and technology. I say: rattle the cages!  I'm letting the idea of identity roar within my pages. You might be challenged and comforted  at the same time by my vision of our galaxy.

This is an informative exercise. You might try it even if you don't want to publish it on a blog. Oh, yes, one of the rules is to tag some authors and ask them to tag five more authors(only if you have time and inclination, of course): Candilynn Fite, Andy Sherrod, Ellen McGintyKathleen Ruth, Katherine Bond. Thanks for dropping by and letting me spend some time chatting about my current project. Come back next week

Here is my doodle:  I call it: "Chick out of Control."

Here is the quote for the week:

I don't know which is more discouraging, literature or chickens.  E. B. White

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Writer Myths: Luck and Genius

Hi, folks, I'm enjoying a rainy day.  Love it. Writing my heart out over here. Today is going to be short and sweet because I'm busy. I'm jumping into the Harper Voyager submission call.  Knock on wood. Toss some salt. Rub Budai's belly. I hope magic and perseverance mix it up and produce another success. 

Here is an observation I've made, but tons of others have noticed also - we live in a universe of dualities. Writers,  artists, scientists, philosophers (inquisitive folk) really devote serious time to thinking about duality. Who I am and What do I want. Dark and light. Male and Female. Hot and cold. The list goes on and on.

Myth #1: I was published because of luck. I have met this writer. You worked for three weeks and sent out your work and bink! was given a major contract.  Sure. You were just accidentally at the right place at the right time! I don't believe you. You persevered (you suffered), worked hard (doing something), and you have scribbled at least a million words somewhere before this day, for sure, just as sure it was your lucky day.

Myth #2: I was published because of my genius. I have met this writer too. You believe you are just that good.   You worked hard.  You perspired. You burned midnight oil.  Yes, you did. You were also lucky. I absolutely believe no matter how hard you work,  unseen forces are out there. You can make bread but you can't make it multiply. Success is a gift, a miracle and blessing, just as much as a reward for your perseverance.

I think you get it. The myths involve not accepting the the truth of duality. I  hope you work hard this week. I will too. But, also, I wish you luck. Wish me luck, too! See you next week with more inspiration. 

Today's doodle is called. "Yin-Yang Girl"

Here is a quote for your pocket:

For a long time now I have tried simply to write the best I can. Sometimes I have good luck and write better than I can.  Ernest Hemingway

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Writer Myths: Three Pickles

Hi folks, I'm continuing my series about writer myths. This week I'm cover the three pickles. So these myths lead to plights, quandaries, and jams.  Here are three myths to avoid. 

Pickle #1 - You don't have what it takes to write a book. This is only true if you take a good portion of your day and surf the interwebs. Or if everything must be your way and your writing is perfect. Or if you really can't be bothered with marketing and stuff like that. Or if you don't have a MFA, iPAD, connections... Or you don't have enough time to write. Or you have done everything you know... Come on.  Either you want this or not. Make up your mind. Some Nike ad said it well: "Just do it!"

Pickle #2 - You can't write because your family doesn't support you.. Family wants to have Christmas turkey/tofu. They want birthday cakes, tons of hugs and help with the homework. They  will be with you in the hospital, when you have the blues, and on your trip to Disney. They may not have time to read your WIPs. You need partners to support your writing! Here is my short list: Cathy, Conrad, Louise, Megan, Shelly, Marion, Stasia, Chris, Chris, Gail, Kevan, Vijaya, Eileen, Karen, Allyson, Jen, Lois, Susan, Susan, Katherine, Holly, Peggy, Janet, Dawn, Judy, Kathy, Susan, Robin, Andy and Ellen,  I also think a cat can be very supportive.

Pickle #3- You are too old to write a book. Laura Ingalls Wilder was in her mid-60s when her Little House series hit the shelves. Mary Wesley published her first children's books in her 50s and in her 70s published her pièce de résistance,"Part of the Furniture." Richard Adams didn't publish a book until he was 50 -- "Watership Down." James Michner was 40 before his first book rolled off the presses.  You're not to old.

I'm going to be at this for one more week.. Hope you come back for more exposed writer myths.  Seize the day.

Here is my doodle: "Girl in Glasses."

Here is a quote for you pocket.

We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth at least the truth that is given us to understand. The artist must know the manner whereby to convince others of the truthfulness of his lies. Pablo Picasso

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Writer Myths: Three Dog Night

Hi folks, I'm continuing my series about writer myths. I hope that you are taking time to write. A writer friend of mine, Ellen McGinty, had some good advice for me about holding to your vision and not being moved by the fickle winds of conventional opinion. She inspired this post.

This week is for every writer that feels left out in the cold by the publishing industry. Maybe you need three warm dogs to keep you from freezing.

Dog #1: Your story is too different. No one will publish it. This kind of conventional thinking wars against originality  Here is the deal. Your story is not common. That doesn't mean it's not good.  Many, many publishing professionals will confuse not common with not good.  You must believe in your vision and keep knocking on doors. Do you believe in your story?  Be it's advocate. I am sure of this: readers will flock to originals if given the opportunity.

Dog #2: Your story is too regional. When this sage statement comes my way, I always think of this story. This guy wrote a story about a very unlikable slothful, unemployed guy in New Orleans who is looking for a job.  Man, lots of folks looked at this book and passed. The writing was wonderful, genius, really, and the rejections this guy got were flattering and encouraging.  Yep, John Kennedy Toole author of A Confederacy of Dunces hit snags with his regional work. His path to publication was through a university press. The book won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Sadly, John, took his own life before he got to see his book find its way. The deal is that just because it regional doesn't mean it's not for the whole world. If you have a regional perspective, but know your story is for the whole world: DO NOT GIVE UP!

Dog #3: Publishing is a business. Writers and publishers have slightly different goals. Publishers want to make a quick buck. Some writers want to make a quick buck too. For example, if you want to make money, "sex sells."  Check out Ellen Degeneres reading some of that shades of gray book.  I guess this will trickle down to the YA market soon enough. Write that if you want to make money. If you have other goals, read on.

Some writers' goals include to challenge, enlighten, empower, shock, etc.readers. Some write because they know there are folks who feel very alone, and they are not.  Difficult, challenging and deep books are never an "easy pitch"  to publishers. Here is something very important for writers, artists, any creative souls-- just because you are not creating to make money, does not mean that your work is worthless. It may make the publishers money beyond their wildest dreams. It may not. Your risk taking might hinder your success but not stop it. You've risked a lot by choosing a road less traveled. This is not the easiest road, but I believe it is the most satisfying. Publishing is a business but writing is an art form. Be true to your art.

I hope that my three dogs warm you up some.   I will wrap the series next week. :)

Here is my doodle: " Glass on Your Neck."

Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival. C.S. Lewis

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Writer Myths: Three Little Foxes

Hi, folks, I hope you are moving forward with your projects. I'm going to tackle three more writing myths this week. Last week, I wrote about the big fish myths in writing.  This week I'm going to hit what I call the the three little foxes.  The reference comes from the Song of Solomon: Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards.... I think these little myths may hinder writers. Anyway, I hope you find this helpful. Take what you need and toss the rest.

Myth 1: There is best age for protagonists of children's stories.  Many say 12 for middle grade and 16 for YA. Whatever. This little myth gets pushed around some.  I STRONGLY believe that you should not let "what is selling,", "how things are shelved", or "what expert say" choose the age of your characters. You should choose the age of your characters based on what provides the most authenticity to your story.

Myth 2:  Pansters vs. Outliners.  Yes, there are lots of folks on both sides of this argument. The myth is: there is  a WAY to write a book. There isn't one. Follow your soul's muse, mind's genius, your philosophical demon, and your deepest heart. I have a big recommendation on this though. If you are a panster -- learn how outliners work. And the same goes for outliners. Hint: You may have more in common than you thought.

Myth 3: Edit Ruthlessly.  Don't get me wrong. You are going to edit and edit your books. It will be work.  I do think if you are ruthless, you will wash out some of the voice. Sometimes a little rambling might serve the purpose of revealing something about your character.  So I say edit delicately. Shape and reshape. Form, and reform. Be bold. Be inventive. If you are a ruthless sort of person, I guess you might edit ruthlessly, otherwise edit with virtuosity and elegance.

I hope you write something wonderful this week. I hope you find your way. I'll  be back with some more myth's next week.

This week's doodle is called: "Longhorn."

And finally to close it all off. I add a quote for the week:

If my world were to cave in tomorrow, I would look back on all the pleasures, excitements and worthwhilenesses I have been lucky enough to have had. Not the sadness, not my miscarriages or my father leaving home, but the joy of everything else. It will have been enough.  Audrey Hepburn

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Writer Myths: The Three Big Fish

Hi, folks, whoa, I get busy in September. My youngest started high school. I've got two in college.  It's amazing how packed my days are right now. This month I'm going to touch on all the Writer Myths that I know.  I hope dispelling some of these myths will help you on your journey. I hope they put a smile on your face. I hope you find your spirit lifted and ready to do more work than you thought possible.

Writer Myth # 1: Write every day! Ha! Every writer finds her own rhythm. Some take a month off and write that month only. Some write on Saturdays. Some write on holidays. Some write during NaNoWrMo.  Some do write every day. There are dozens of strategies and some of them work. If you don't write every day and you are producing books, chin up! If you are not producing work, you may find writing every day helps you. Otherwise, follow your muse!

Writer Myth #2:  Write what you know! Baloney! You can read. You can research. You can write what you don't know if you want. The deal is by the time you are finished writing about it, you will know it. What happens if you want to write about someone who can fly. Do you really know about that? I mean, writers have BIG IMAGINATIONS. You might have to study stuff like bumblebees and birds and airplanes to get the flying just right in your story but I'm sure you'll find some stuff that is original to your view of flying. Writing is alchemy -- conjuring gold with a philosopher's stone. I like to say write what is true. If you start writing and find you don't know what is true, figure that out.

Writer Myth #3: Show don't tell. My eyes are rolling into the back of my head. This myth roams and roams. We don't call it story writing, but story telling. And the genius advice is: never tell anything. The trick  in writing a story is that you have to show and tell. Come on, did you go to kindergarten?  What do you show? What do you tell?  This is a good way to think about it.  Some things need more showing that others.  Somethings need more telling.  For me,  a good book has a lot to show, but slices in some telling.  The trick is to keep it all in a voice that I'm willing to stay up late at night reading with a flashlight under the covers.

I hope my mythbusting has cheered you up! I hope that you write your heart out. I really do because I love a good book. I'll be back next week with more myths.

Now it is time for our doodle of the week: "Kid Astronaut."

This week's quote is one of my favs:

"The unexamined life is not worth living."  Socrates.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Keys of Writing Success -- Jump up

Hi folks, This is the last in my series about the keys to writing success. I'm skipping the obvious keys like a good attitude, overflowing confidence, tenacious spirit, hard working, self-educating, a big time reader, loner ability, a happy reviser, works well with criticism, and a team builder.

My last key to writing success is something I call "jump up."  Ask yourself have you set the bar where you want it or have you placed the bar where you think you can reach. I hope that you consider placing the bar high and begin jumping up to that bar. Expecting more yourself is important.  If you have a little dialogue of "what if:"or if "only playing" in the background of your success stories, try some course changing. Why not jump up to what if or if only?  Why not try the improbable?

This is a little thought exercise I like to play. Once a person stood at the edge of the sea.  This was before anyone had ever thought to cross to this sea in a boat. I imagine that the feeling of seeing beyond that faroff horizon. I imagine how scary it is to go out there. I imagine how hard it is to get anyone to listen to that desire to go to the sea's horizon. I imagine that  many might say that is just not the way to go. They say: We don't see anything interesting or exciting over that horizon. Why persue such a dull prospect and waste of time?"No one has their eye on that horizon. Then I imagine building the boat and sailing away.  I know regardless of the outcome I have made the right choice.

Keep after your unique horizon. Don't stop. Let the improbable stretch you. Don't be afraid to go it alone. Go outside of the place of comfort. Try some great expectations. Jump up.

Hope this helps. Next week I'm going to begin a new series called "Writer Myths."

Now it is time for this week's doodle:

Here is a quote to tuck in your pocket this week.

Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” Maya Angelou

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Keys to Writing Success -- Failure

Hi folks, I'm continuing my series about the key to writing success. I'm skipping the obvious keys like a good attitude, overflowing confidence, tenacious spirit, hard working, self-educating, a big time reader, loner ability, a happy reviser, works well with criticism, and a team builder.

I had the opportunity to hear poet Carrie Fountain speak at a Writer's League of Texas Thursday meeting.  And she discussed failure as a necessary skill for any writer.  Ah, I thought, failure is one of the keys. Many recognize this. David Bayles' book Art & Fear also wraps around the idea of making ordinary art and explores why art doesn't get made, touching on what makes artists give up or fail.

So let's dive into to failure. You must learn how to fail with excellence. This is the bottom line. I mean everyone is all about success in America. Be number one, be the best, first is best, yes, the rhetoric has been stamped into us since we could toddle across the floor.

This is what you must examine: if failure is breeding anxiety, producing tears or sending you to bed with a huge pillow to hug, if failure is making you put away projects, if failure is getting into your head and messing with the work, if failure is keeping your from taking risks, if failure is freezing you out with blaming, fear or anger, you need to work on failing. Failure should work for you and not against you. 

So here are some strategies to help you fail with grace. Here is a handy video to watch from Angela Lee Duckworth, Ph. D., speaking about the need for grit to find lasting success. Failure digs grit into the fabric of your soul. A very good thing. When you fail, celebrate the new grit you have acquired.

Use failure. Failure is more information about your weaknesses.  When you fail, you now have data about your weaknesses. It may take some time to figure out what to do with data but with applied study you will find ways to make course corrections to reach you specific goals. Disconnect your value as a human being from your failure.

Knocking of all negativism and framing failure in a positive light will help too. Accepting being less than you wanted in a gracious manner is more that you can add to your failing practice. Failure is a great reason to be kind to yourself. Failure is a reason to reach out and get more support. Think about what you can do to improve how your fail.

I want you to get excited about how you are going to handle the next time you fail. Hope this speaks to you and helps you unlock what you are truly capable of doing. Seize the day!
This week's doodle is called: "Storm".

This week's quote come from someone working on a failure strategy.

"I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” Thomas Edison 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Keys of Writing Success -- Imagination

Hi folks, ready to unlock the door to writing success? I'm skipping the obvious keys like a good attitude, overflowing confidence, tenacious spirit, hard working, self-educating, a big time reader, loner ability, a happy reviser, works well with criticism, and a team builder.

I was chatting about my last dream with an acquaintance -- the one where I'm riding a metal wheeled bike in a velodrome in an Olympic-like setting -- in my dream my bike can also fly a bit. I'm trying to catch this serial killer who is not out to kill me but most possibly Lance Armstrong -- this time. The person looked at me and with all sincerity said, "Oh, I wish I had dreams like that."  My imagination is all slippy and flexible.  I've spent most of my life spending a little time dreaming awake and then putting that on the page. One fun perk is a very active dream life. Oh, yeah.

There is some stuff you can do to get your imagination flying. Active outsider art is one way. My mom and dad had a huge handle on how to foster the imagination. All the arts were encouraged at home but in very non-structured free formed ways. We didn't join a club to play ball or take classes to sew clothes. It was very much an outsider's art experience. Check out the American Visionary Art Museum for ideas. I really need to visit Baltimore some time. My friend and author Faith Pray is also very good with letting the art grow. Check out her Sacred Dirt blog.  And a last example, you can pretend to be some character and your friends do the same, and how much fun is that?  My friend and author Katherine Grace Bond occasionally puts on creative play classes for adults. Such play will add jazz to your writing. Add outsider art to your life.

You need to mix active stuff with some passive stuff. Go stare at some art - local gallery, museum, just hang out at any artist's studio, check out a movie or play or opera, go to a concert, whatev. I mean soak it in. I have fab memories of gathering with friends in front of laser light shows and just listening to the Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon.  They still do this in Houston at the science museum. I also like that Sketching Gallery at the Getty. I've been there with my family several times.  You can soak in some awesome inspiration anywhere with a  clear sky this weekend. We are in the middle of Perseid meteor shower. Take your favorite music and watch the biggest show on Earth.   (Hint the more senses you involve the better the imagination juice...)

So one big key to success is your BIG IMAGINATION.  Don't let anyone get your down because your head is often in the clouds and you play like a kid. Do not be moved by folks who tell you to be more serious.  See you next week with another key. :)

So here's the doodle: "Cup on post."

I am imagination. I can see what the eyes cannot see. I can hear what the ears cannot hear. I can feel what the heart cannot feel.  Peter Nivio Zarlenga

Saturday, August 04, 2012

The Keys of Writing Success -- Flaws

Hi folks, It's time for the summer dial back.  I'm going to skip the obvious keys like a good attitude, overflowing confidence, tenacious spirit,  hard working, self-educating, a big time reader,  loner ability, a happy reviser, works well with criticism, and a team builder. 

This is a little nugget to tuck in your pocket this week.  Most writers are fearful and have times of self doubt. They have grandiose ideas about their work and feel substandard work is genius.  They don't always listen to good advice and wreck entire projects.  At times, they feel like their writing is absolute crap or worse derivative.

They moan and groan about the inability to finish their work, and yet they drive family members and friends crazy with their intense focus. They become blocked, distracted, and choked in cyclical turns. They face pricks of professional jealousy and  find themselves in valleys of despond because they just aren't good enough. They can be totally ridiculous and childish when confronted with critisim. They take wrong turns and end up on dead end streets. They backtrack a lot.

So here is the key -- you are flawed and  you will create a work that will be flawed. A good writer does not allow perfectionism to take them out.  The flaws within the matrix of your work bring it character, flavor and humanity. Yeah, tuck that in your pocket and keep it there.

I will be back next week with another key. Keep working! 

The doodle this week is called: "Peeps."

Thiw quote will keep you going this week.

“I am not an angel,' I asserted; 'and I will not be one till I die: I will be myself. Mr. Rochester, you must neither expect nor exact anything celestial of me - for you will not get it, any more than I shall get it of you: which I do not at all anticipate.” ― Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Pitfalls -- Distraction

Hi folks, I hope you are working this week. I'm going to wrap up my pitfalls series this week. This last writing pitfalls I'm going to cover is distraction and is considered another cause for choking. I talked about the  other cause -- "paralysis of analysis" -- last week. Again, I'm borrowing from other fields here -- sports and math performance -- and what they've learned about distraction

So what is distraction? You checked your Facebook, wrote your blog, updated your twitter, commented on several boards,  wrote a writing article, volunteered for a conference, revised your website, researched agents, read a book on writing, and didn't have any time to work on your novel.  You, my friend, are distracted and are this is no way to write your books.

Why are you distracted? You have a system in your brain system. This system actively holds information in the mind to do tasks. This system is called your SHORT TERM MEMORY.  Distraction is about an overloaded short term memory.  Writing a novel is already a multi-tasking job. Now, your short term memory has become full of ancillary tasks -- creating a network and building a platform.  Your mind is full of these tasks because many publishing voices are putting pressure on you to do them. These voices have you worried. These ancillary tasks have drawn you away from the primary task of "writing the dang book."

You are now in a multi-task weighted environment that has exceeded the limits of you short term memory. This multi-tasking environment  puts especially high pressure on newbie writers because they lack writing experience that helps a veteran writer stay focused when the pressure is on. There are some things you can do to alleviate this situation.  Compartmentalize. Dedicate one day a week to your ancillary tasks and the rest of days work on your main task. Build in a system of rewards. Athletes understand they must have a reward to train. Not all pressure is bad. Something about getting a gold medal puts the right kind of pressure on the participant to push past distractions.

Seek an audience for your writing.  This is writing on display, especially in front of experts in field and will put pressure on you to limit distractions.  Freelance. Newbies are at a disadvantage and can help themselves by piling on experience. I remember hearing a famed children's editor years ago saying you need to take any writing job for pay that comes your way.  Write menus for restaurants if you have to, he encouraged. A writing job will sharpen your skills. A writing job  comes with rewards (pay), an audience (an editor and readership) and the heat of a deadline.  The more experience you have the less likely you are to choke when you move forward with a mammoth novel projects.  Seek pressures that will make you excel.. Even a volunteer writing position will help. Experience will hone the automatic skills you need to write when  the heat is on.

I hope you see that the proper writing environment is fragile. It must be tended and tweaked. You need to think about the number of tasks you can reasonably perform and then let the rest go. You need shift some of your time tasks that bring your the right kind of experience.  If all your tweeting is building an audience with experts in the field, keep at that, but ditch the Facebook, the boards, the blogs, etc. Read experts books with a critique group and hold each other accountable to implementing knowledge in the book.  Are you getting the picture?  Create an environment that is conductive to the production of a product  and limits  distractions.

Okay, I can't cover everything in the universe about distraction here, but I hope this little discussion helps you get on the path to book production.  Seize the day.

Here is this week's doodle:: "Wide open sky."

Finally, I add a quote:

Sometimes adversity is what you need to face in order to become successful. Zig Ziglar

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Pitfalls -- Choking

Hi folks, I'm continuing my series on pitfalls. This week I'm going to talk about a real pitfall for writers with a term that is generally associated with sports.  You know, choking, a team is ahead and the star player just seems to fall apart on the field for no apparent reason and the game is lost. Writers have a similar problem. Choking is collapsing to the pressure of writing. It's hard to put yourself out there. It exposes your inner most self.  A big pitfall for writers is to squander your talent and hard work on a "choke."

To me, choking is all about a "paralysis of analysis." A writer becomes wrapped up in an unreasonable quantity of analysis that overwhelms them.  She find herself incapable of making the necessary cuts and revisions to make her work shine. All the writing is good, she thinks. She can't take any of this out. She can't move any of this around. She can't add that big new part.  Moreover, she goes over and over her first chapter, countless times paralyzed by the need to make that chapter perfect and somehow always coming up short. She reads writing books adding even more advice to the mix. She seeks the feedback of dozens and dozens of colleagues but never fully taking any of the advice, unsure because all the advice contradicts and she is unsure who has offered the best advice. Or she might try to implement all the advice and find that her purpose of writing the piece has become muddy and finds  the work is a train wreck. The writer may become anxious and depressed.  She begins to think of her lost writing dreams and how she is forever barred from success. It's self-fulfilling though, because she has "over thought" and "over complicated" what writing a book is all about. 

Oh, yeah, folks, I have been here. Thankfully the fix is easy. One, kick back one day and reread a favorite book. You see, people can write books. You can do this too. Next, you have to really cut back the amount of information used to help you make revision decisions. You pick the three best colleagues advice and you don't listen to advice from anyone else. This will help stop the choking. Now, stop micro-managing yourself. I mean it. Loosen up and trust your GIFT. The love of writing, your love of story, your love of words, I mean this has been going on for a long while, trust that you were born to do this. Monitoring your every move in writing is making your work ponderous, choppy and uninspired. Finally, consider putting away all your work and start something from scratch, to alleviate the emotional baggage. Deliever a NEW product -- yes, books are products shot through a delivery pipe line with defined actionable steps like a set number of drafts with deadlines, limited expert feedback,  and a definite cut-off for completion. (You wonder why NANOWRIMO is popular -- it's freeing up choking authors by giving them a deadline that doesn't allow for too much analysis.) After you find some success with the new product, return to choked work and move it through the delivery pipeline to readers

I hope this helps you with your work. I hope that you find great success.

Here is the doodle: "The very big array."

Here is this week's  quote. A good one to help move forward.
Be unselfish. That is the first and final commandment for those who would be useful and happy in their usefulness. If you think of yourself only, you cannot develop because you are choking the source of development, which is spiritual expansion through thought for others. Charles William Eliot

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Pitfalls -- No Velcro

Hi folks, I'm coming in today with an idea that comes from one of my writerly friends Kathy Whitehead. She's the author of two picture books Art From Her Heart and Looking For Uncle Louie on the Fourth of July. Recently she was reading one of my chapters  in critique group and came back with this: Your writing is too slick. It lacks velcro.

So velcro is a fastener that consists of  a fabric component that features tiny hooks and a second that features even smaller and "hairier" loops. When you touch the pieces together, they lock. Many people say that a book needs a strong hook at the beginning but neglect to realize the rest of the novel needs to be peppered with hooks. This mass of hooks will keep your readers glued to your work until the end. 

A big pitfall that I have run into is not peppering the work with the tons of hooks needed to keep readers ingrossed. One writer who does a fab job of peppering her work with hooks is J.K. Rowling. I mean the lusciousnes of her world building just keeps you glued.  Wands, butterbeer, Bertie Botts Jelly Beans, magical chocolate frogs, sorting hats, Quiddich...all the little details that serve as tiny hooks to keep us stuck to the story.

Characters need hobbies, quirks, favorite sports, best drinks, etc. Look at every descriptive detail as an opportunity to hook your reader. Remember never put a piece of cardboard in the place there should be a hook.  Make your readers care.

Consider this too. Volume does not make a description have a hook.  It's about interest not about amount. Hooks always include sharp smart writing and new twists on dry-as-toast ideas.  So dig into your smooth bland work and add the hooks.

I hope you add the velcro to the work this week! Come back next week for more pitfalls to avoid.

Here is this week's doodle: "Lamb".

And finally this week's quote:

As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world - that is the myth of the atomic age - as in being able to remake ourselves. Mahatma Gandhi

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Writing Pitfalls -- Too Eager

Hi folks, I'm starting a new series in July about pitfalls in writing. This will be short but heartfelt. I've fallen into a number of pits in my writing journey, and I hope that some of my falls will  help you find good success with fewer skinned knees. 

My first pitfall is called "Too Eager." Oh, I do look longingly at folks who seem to jump out of the nest and soar into the sky instead of slamming their way down a bunch of branches and landing in a heap on the forest floor. Over eagerness is a true pitfall.  Different kinds of birds fly at different times. Stop comparing yourself to others. (I mean it. STOP!)  You must wait until your writing matures before you get to move forward.  Your worth is not part of your work, so if you have those two things connected, please disconnect them now. Appearing desperate is not the way to get published. Confidence is something that is born in you. It comes with your experience. Let it grow.

It can be a blow to the ego to write your first fab book and then have all the gatekeepers say  no. Then you write another book and they say no. Around book 5 or 6 they start saying you are better than 99% of what they see and still they say no.  Dang, gatekeepers. You have some choices. Don't take things too personally. Publishing is a competitive business and you are doing an excellent job by getting your books into honest discussions. Write your next book. Open up to new ideas. Innovate.  Spread good karma. Celebrate your work. Enjoy it  and keep trying. I have never seen a dedicated creative person fail. Not one time. 

I hope this little discussion helps keep you on your true course. Keep creating and I will see you next with for another friendly chat about pitfalls and what you should do.

Here is a little doodle: "A Row of Kids".

I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.  Audrey Hepburn

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Story Structure -- Climax

Hi folks, this is the last in my series of essential story turning points. Today I'm going to write about the pinnacle turning point of any book -- the climax. You know what it is, that moment we have all been waiting for -- Harry takes down Voldemort. Frodo defeats the eye of Sauron by tossing the Ring into the fires of Mount Doom. Mr. Darcy asks Elizabeth for her hand and finds her feelings are quite changed!

I mean a good climax is something you can never forget: a moment in a story where your protagonist triumphs, against all odds, against all obstacles, against every freaking thing you the author could throw at the poor gal or guy or bunny, etc. He, she or it has embraced truth, resolved difficulties and have found a way to the journey's end.

Ah, I feel so fulfilled. I mean, I'm so glad I stuck in there and reached the end of this story. The climax was a doozy. Everything is resolved and I can go to bed now because I've stayed up way past my bedtime reading and it was worth it. If a book has a really satisfying journey I will cut out time to reread it more than once. It will change my life. It will make me view the world in a new light. No pressure, dear writers, but I want you to write a book like this because I'm hungry to read books like that.

There are few things that can go wrong with the climax that I have noticed from time to time in books that I have read. Sometimes the climax is in the wrong order or is not big enough. The character took down the Philistine, the lion and finally the bear. Hey, that is the wrong order. Look at your story arc and make sure the conflict is rising. Or the character did a bunch of stuff but you know he met the girl and got the girl. No problems. It was pretty easy to destroy all those aliens too. Avoid. Avoid. Avoid.

Another problem is the the protagonist just doesn't get anything. This ending is a real bummer. You know he and the girl were going to hook up, but she decided to dump him and, yeah, that's it. In the last minute of the game, he fumbles the ball and it is totally not funny. The team loses and, yeah, that's it. Caution, the story does not have to work out for your protagonist, but your reader will thank you if you give her just a touch of satisfaction or hope or complete something for her. Katniss did end up with Peta in the end. Please. Please. Please.

One more problem that I see from time to time is the "Why not throw the kitchen sink at the protagonist too" climax. This one goes on and on. I mean, Billy Bob took down the zombie apocalypse, stopped the alien invasion, got the healing serum to Sanctuary, hooked up with Emmy Lou, climbed K-2 and resolved all his issues with his father. I mean, what was this book about anyway? Look at your ending. Books can only hold so much. Cut. Cut. Cut.

Oh, I hope something here helps your story reach its highest heights. I will be back next week with a new series about Pitfalls.  I've fallen into so many ditches writing.  Help is on the way.  See you next week.

This week's doodle is: "Face Study in Yellow."

Here is this week's quote:
Do what you can to do what you ought, and leave hoping and fearing alone. Thomas Huxley (Yes, his grandson wrote a Brave New World.)