Saturday, December 28, 2013

Soul Inspiration -- Mom

Hi folks, the week marks the twelfth year since my mother, Lera Lee Kelly Barlow, passed away from early-onset Alzheimer's disease. She was 61 years old and had suffered for over a decade. If you long for a cure for this disease and want to donate to a worthy cause before the end of the year, here is the donation link to the Alzheimer's Foundation of America. 

Mom was a free spirit. She was a person of visions. Here is a bit out of her journal:

A totem is given, not chosen. And mine was given by God for his purpose. No one of this society would deliberately chose the turkey vulture for a totem.  Egyptians considered vultures holy, but we think them untouchables.

Three times God has given me visions of the vultures. visions whose meanings are clear to me. Once I saw them slicing down a cold north wind on a sun-bleached winter day. When they slowed, the wind would catch at their tails, and they would loop-the-loop. I wonder which one found this trick. Looked like fun.

The other vision I was given twice. Mainly because even now, I look away from the meaning of it. The vultures were swarming in the sky like bees, hundreds of them. There was one who held back. A reasonable thing to do considering how poorly vultures fly. They were flying into each other all the time and falling down out of the sky. It looked scary to me. At last, the one who held back got the courage to enter the melee. I cheered him on. Then, he was gone. When he entered the circle of life, he could no longer be distinguished from the others.

The first vision means I should get out on the winds of life and enjoy life. Even if it is scary, it is great fun. The second, I can make a decision. I can stay an individual and out of it, or I can join the circle of life and be one, no longer different, no longer alone.

Hard decisions for me. Vultures were given to me for a totem. Like them, I don't fly well and it takes me a long time to get up and it's difficult,  but once I make it, then I can soar for a very long time.

I hope you find your totem like Mom and it tells you what you need to hear. It feels good in my soul to remember all that she was.

Here is Mom and Dad with my older sister Lee in the spring of 1962.

Here is a detail of one of mom's paintings from when she was a teen.

One last quote for your pocket.
Always something new to learn. Lera Lee Kelly Barlow. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Soul Inspiration -- Daring

Hey, folks. Hope the creative efforts are humming. I finished the rough draft of my novel a couple of days ago. The WOW factor has worn off and now, and I'm staring at many, many pages that need a ton of work.

Inspiration keeps me on task, and this month I'm writing a series on what inspires my soul. I hope this help you too. I'm inspired by daring. I think about this in big ways and small. As an added bonus, I also like to tuck in a Christmas poem during this time of year. So here goes--

Anyone who dares...

to try,
to give,
to learn,
to believe,
to practice,
to appreciate,
to understand,
to chase a dream,
to embrace change,
to hope for the best,
 to choose happiness,
to turn the other cheek,
to think and then speak,
to put up with tough stuff,
to head down the road less taken,
to help even when it isn't convienient,
 to make the most of tough circumstances,
to continue in the face of impossible odds,
to admit wrong-doing and make no excuses,
to change when the current way isn't working,
to be more when intolerable circumstances arrive,
to devote time to caring for those less fortunate,
to show mercy to those who need it,
to stand up for the truth
to say no to injustice,
to stop running,
to forgive,
to love,
I thank you with all of my heart. 

I hope you are daring in every way.

 Here is the doodle: "Merry Christmas!"

Here is my quote for your pocket. It has been in my pocket for a long time.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Soul Inspiration --The Unexpected

Hi folks, this month I'm writing about what inspires my soul. Here is a listed of unexpected moments that have stayed with me and inspired me. I'm not even sure I can give these moments justice, but I will try. I hope this post makes you create your own list.

1. I stopped on the side of the road on Oahu to snorkel in a cove. I was suddenly engulfed by a school of white fish. Hundreds of them zipped around me.

2. My first time to Paradise on Mount Ranier, I thought I was looking down into an impossibly deep valley and realized that I was really looking at a lake that was reflecting the gorgeous mountain scenery like a mirror.

3. I was a young mom overwhelmed by the unending grind. I'd put my three children ages 2, 3 and 4 down for a nap, and I sank down in the hallway in tears. A minute later my youngest son's arms went around me and he whispered, "You're awesome."

4. I was driving past a lake on the way to Banff, Canada, and one half of it had a rainstorm, kicking up the waves, and the other half was calm, lit by sunshine. 

5. I was driving to the grocery store early one morning and saw a clown on a unicycle, juggling bowling pins.

6. The first time I looked through a telescope at Jupiter with four visible moons, I was shocked at the richness of colors in a sky I see in black and white. This can't be captured by a photograph.

7. A squirrel chattered at me every day I went outside for several days.  I would ask him what is wrong, and he would come up to my toes and chatter. One day I asked, "Should I follow you?" He nodded his head and scampered away. I followed the squirrel to the dead body of another squirrel on the side of the hill beside my house.  The body was full of bees.  I buried the dead squirrel, and the live squirrel never bothered me again.

8.  A boy working in the drive-through at McDonalds took my money, and I noticed he had George tattooed on his wrist.  I asked him why. The boy had tattooed his grandfather's name on his wrist to remind him of his grandfather's love.

9.  I'm always running into birds at strange times. A barn owl in father's driveway, a peacock in the middle of nowhere near Waco, an eagle in middle of road while driving my kids to school, a vulture on the corner of my very suburban street, a lone snowy egret on my porch, a flock of hundreds of starlings in my small backyard....

10.  Driving along Highway 1 on the way to Hearst Castle, we went around a wide curve and I saw a beach with thousands of people laying on it, and then I realized I was looking a sea lions. 

Keep your eyes opened for the unexpected.  I will be back next week with more soul inspiration.

Here is a doodle for you. I call this "Christmas Trees."

Here is a quote for your pocket.

Nearly all the best things that came to me in life have been unexpected, unplanned by me. Carl Sandburg.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Soul Inspiration -- Passages

Hi, folks, this month I try to cover the stuff that inspires me. We lost some talented authors and illustrators this year. This is how I feel when we lose someone: No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee. John Donne's No Man Is an Island.

I will miss you, Barbara Park,  and Junie B. Jones.

A little glitter can turn your whole day around. Barbara Park

E.L, I made it a goal in life to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art because of The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. The museum was just a fab as I imagined it would be.

Happiness is excitement that has found a settling down place, but there is always a little corner that keeps flapping around. E. L. Konigsburg

Rollin, I miss your unfailing belief in others. Rest in peace, my colleague, my first illustrator, and my friend. You sketched "Jo and Louie" at my very first book signing, and I still treasure it.

credit; Rollin Thomas

I will return next week with more soul inspiration.

I'm skipping my doodle and just letting Rollin's work speak here.

Here is a quote for your pocket.

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.  Kahlil Gibran

Saturday, November 30, 2013

My Favorite Things -- Cats

Hi folks, last day of November and I am wrapping up my favorite things posts.  This week I'm keeping. I'm speaking at the upcoming Montgomery County Book Festival on February 15, 2014 and an interview question sparked this post. Do I have a pet and do they help me write?

I'm going to put a longer answer here. I have two cats: Mr. Tibbs and Mr. Oreo. I call them the Kings of the Earth.  Both have rags-to-riches stories. They were rescue from horrible circumstances -- one from underneath an abandoned shed and the other from certain death at a shelter. Yes, they are a little damaged because of their journeys. Mr. Tibbs is sort of crazy about killing stuff (starvation at some point in your life does that to you.) Mr. Oreo has to be reminded regularly that he's safe and everybody loves him. That's OK, I'm a little damaged from my journey too. It's nice to have companions who get that.

Cat are fab for the lonely business of writing. I spend tons of time in front of a computer, and it's comforting to have a purring cat in my lap or one bumping its nose against my computer screen.
Mr. Tibbs is the most squishable cat that has ever lived and is fine to hug when the draft is so tangled that I've begun to lose hope. I also like Mr. Oreo for the times when I've got to make a story decision that's freaking me out. He purrs like a motorboat and feels like a hunk of meat. There is something of the ridiculous in him but also solid and comforting. I hug him and put that into my story, and it always works out right.

Who doesn't need help like that? 

Cats are independent souls and the speak to the independence in my soul.  I also like that they love to nap because I am also a big fan of the nap.

Here are is a favorite cat cartoon sites:  Simon's Cat. Enjoy!

I have some favorite cat books.  For the picture books set, I love: Koko's Kitten, Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons, SkippyJon Jones, Bad Kitty, and Hondo and Fabian. For middle graders, I love the Cat Who Went To Heaven by Elizabeth CoatsworthTime Cat by Lloyd Alexander and The Underneath by Kathi Appelt.  I've written two unpublished middle grade novels, TORNADO ALLIE, with a pretty awesome bestie cat called Jacksboro, and another WIP book, THE BIG THICKET, with a mysterious cat named El Gato. I hope these books reach kids everywhere someday.

I will see you next month with some inspiration!  Keep creating master works!

Pics instead of doodles this week!

Here I am with Mr. Tibbs. He likes to snuggle while I'm hard at work.

Mr. Oreo is more of a cat TVguy.  He's always staring out the window. Very good writing advice BTW.

Here is a quote for your pocket:

Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea. Robert A. Heinlein.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

My Favorite Things -- Wordsmiths.

Hi, folks,  I'm continuing my series on favorite things. This week, my favorite wordsmiths. I'm going to chat about a few and share tidbits of how these connections inspire me, move me, and improve me.

I went to a conference recently (KidLitCon) and I really didn't know anyone.  This is always a challenge for me. You know, new-kid-on-the-block fear.  Happily, as I find time and time again, there are friends everywhere.

There is not enough blog to share every wordsmith I know. I'm just going to toss out some impressions that hit me.  (If you are not here, it's only because I keep my blog is too short.

At Kidlitcon, I had the pleasure of meeting Liviania, In Bed With Books blogger. She was just a bubbling fountain of the good news about books.  I also met Lee Wind,  I'm Here and I'm Queer. What the Hell do I Read, blogger --  a man with a mission and  one of those folks who offer a better understanding of the universe at large. I also met fab, Margo Rabb -- Books, Chocolate, Sundries, a deep thinker for sure, and really connecting with joy, I think.  I also met the genius behind -- MotherReader, Jen Robinson's Book Page, Wands and Words, and 5 Minutes For Books.  So many. Jazzy.

Next, I'm going to chat about my current friendly critique galaxy. Kathy Whitehead writes middle grade and picture books and is an anchoring soul who brings steady wisdom with every word she speaks or writes. Ellen McGinty is the author of YA realistic and fantasy. Gosh, she's young and amazing. I will say I knew her when someday. Robin Overby Cox writes for children and adults. She has a clear, salient view of the way books should flow. Yay! Liz Mertz writes YA and digs deep into spiritual side of  story. Amen. I also enjoy the genius of Susan, Angela, Candilynn and Andy, all powerhouse voices who drop in some.

Now my expanded critique universe.  Oh, Vijaya Bodach, author of non-fiction and YA,  an original kindred spirit. We are all better because of her words. Conrad Wesselhoeft writes YA and is "a word master." His writing will change you. It will. Holly Cupala. No words of  to express how grateful I am to know this author. She understands the resiliency of the broken spirit and puts this on the page.  Katherine Grace Bond, author of YA, she has this uncanny knack of revealing profound belief in a relevant way. Amazing. Chris Eboch, author of everything, (it is true). Chris's writing is the intersection of clarity, adventure and the impossible things before breakfast. Louise Spiegler, oh, she's so talented and brings new wind into the fantasy/sci-fi genre. Definitely blazing new trails. I must add Kevan Atteberry --  heart and soul and laughter, all rolled together.  Stasia Ward Kehoe! -- new book alert -- The Sound of Letting Go -- astounding voice. Peggy King Anderson and Lois Brandt...take their classes, Seattle folk. You will thank me. A few more names...Allyson Valentine Schrier, Janet Lee Carey, Cathy B., Shelley, Megan.... so many more...

I think you get it. I am the friend and fan of so many wordsmiths.  I hope you take a minute to reflect on your favorite wordsmiths. (I didn't even get a chance to mention my imaginary friends!)  Be back next week for more of my favorite things.

Here is the doodle for the week. "Another Herd of Turtles."

A quote from my favorite imaginary friend.

When I say it's you I like, I'm talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see or hear or touch. That deep part of you that allows you to stand for those things without which humankind cannot survive. Love that conquers hate, peace that rises triumphant over war, and justice that proves more powerful than greed. Fred Rodgers

Saturday, November 16, 2013

My Favorite Things -- Sci-fi Movie Moments

Hi, folks, I think we take inspiration from what resonates with us. I thought I would chat about my favorite sci-fi movie moments, why I loved them, and what those moments mean to me as a creative soul.

And for extra special fun, I took a simple programming class at Kidlitcon last week from Sheila Ruth over at Wands and Worlds. I learned a nifty trick.

in the movie CONTACT, the beginning scene shows the Earth. The air waves are noisy. We begin to pull away from the Earth. We pass the planets. The layers of sound begin to fall away. We are catching up with sounds that left the Earth decades ago. We move away from the solar system, and there is a great engulfing silence. Our star becomes a point of light.

I feel that silence in my soul to this day, this hunger within. Is there anyone out there? This speaks to faith in me as a creator of good books. I'm on a journey to write something meaningful that will connect with someone, someday, and regardless of the silence, I will find that connection. This belief is enough.

this one comes from a silly movie that to this day still makes me laugh my head off. It's called GALAXY QUEST. I have several favorite scenes in this movie, but I really love the moment with the spaceship is about blow up and the hero and heroine have to travel through a number of ridiculous traps on their spaceship to stop the self-destruct ticking in the ship's belly. When they reach the button, they push it. It keeps counting down. The thing does not stop until it is a second before the last moment. The hero and heroine laugh together.

Of course, the button doesn't work until the last moment. We should know things are going to work out at the last moment, and not a second earlier. For some reason we always forget. Always! It's like a human condition. This sci-fi movie moment resonates.
The Last One,
yes, "Use the force, Luke." I'd be a big fat liar if I didn't include this sci-fi movie. My favorite scene in STAR WARS: Episode IV - A NEW HOPE. I guess tossing a bomb into a hole about the size of a womprat will never get old to me. I have never worried what an epic fail the first Death Star was. Engineers always build Titanics. That's just what they do.

I've always thought of the force as Socrates' daemon. (Lucas should have given me call before he went with midiclorians.) Socrates claimed to have a "divine something" that frequently warned him—in the form of a "voice"—against mistakes but never told him what to do. Ah, Mr. Lucas, this is a force! Big creative rule: Don't explain everything!

When Luke "uses the force" and sends those balls of light into the hole, I cheer. This hearkens to the impossible of the creative journey for me. Yes, writing a book is like blowing up a Death Star. It's a perilous journey with little chance of success and wholly requires divine invention.

In Closing,
I know this is a little silly list, but I absolutely believe that without the flexibility of creative play, creatives cannot find their vision. Think on your whimsy this week. I will be back next week with more of my favorite things.

Here is the doodle: "Dancing Bears."

You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. Plato

Saturday, November 09, 2013

My Favorite Things -- Simple Stuff

Hi, folks,

Last week I offered some conference kernels that are my favorite things. This week I'm at the KidLitCon in Austin, TX. There is some simple stuff that moves me to tears. I think these moments are part of why I am a writer.  Jerry Spinelli once said at a conference I attended that you should write down a hundred sensory memories. He said your novel is in there somewhere. He was right.

The moon in the daytime.
The sun shining like a disk on a foggy morning.
Bare feet on hot sand.
The smell of mint.
The taste of water when I'm thirsty.
Stretching out on a soft bed when I'm tired.
Watching giant snowflakes fall.
The sound thunder in the middle of the night.
The sound of a purring cat.
The feel of a dog licking my face.
The sensation of falling when swooshing on a slide.
Fall light in the afternoon.
Hugging my children.
The brown of my husband's eyes.
My father's laughter.
My mother's voice when she was reading me a story. 

I know all so simple but the core of me is in here. I hope you try writing your sensory memories.

See you next week.

Here's this week's doodle. "Stack of Farm Animals"

A quote for the week.

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain'd,
To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,
To turn, turn will be our delight,

Till by turning, turning we come 'round right.'    Elder Joseph Brackett

Saturday, November 02, 2013

My Favorite Things -- Conference Kernels

Hi folks!  This month I'm so busy. Crazy busy! I hope to see a few of you at the the KidLitCon in Austin, Texas on November 9, 2013.  I salute all the Nanowrimos! Good for you.

This month I'm going to share my favorite kernels of creative advice from wherever they have come my way.  This week I'm focusing on conferences.

Liza Ketchum -- Her talk flowed through my work like a spring Zephyr. Her advice? Use endowed objects to show emotional connections between characters.  You can do so much with this. Perhaps there is a ring. The golum has the ring. The hobbit has the ring. Everyone wants that ring.  You know you can get a lot of mileage out of an endowed object changing hands. You don't have to say anything more than the ring changed hands.

Brian Floca -- I walked around mumbling for a couple of weeks when I heard this guy talk. His deal was that you need to seek your best work and go for it.  Don't settle for a less than stellar career. Whatever is humming in your heart? If your soul is screaming, I have so much more to offer. Do it. Jump up. Namaste.

Mark Siegel -- This guy's talk took me by then neck and throttled me. I swear. He shared that the creative process is either dying or being born. You are either are coming from the outside and seeking the bright light. You see it, but it is out of your reach.The trip toward that light is a painful, digging deep process, and you will come to the end of yourself to reach that light.  Death.  The creative process can also work this way. You are in the light, dancing, full of it, but no one is with you. You are alone. You must go a narrow, harrowing journey, to reveal your light to the world. Birth. It's been years, and I'm still thinking.

Well, I hope some of this genius will help you do your thing. I'll be back next week with more of my favorite things.

This week's doodle: "Psalmist"

Here is the quote of the week:

A miracle is when the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. A miracle is when one plus one equals a thousand.   Frederick Buechner

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Chicken by Chicken: Feed the Fancy Bantams

I'm still on cloud nine about my upcoming novel in May 2014 PLUMB CRAZY from Swoon Romance. I hope that my personal journey offers you a creative spark to light the fire of your works. 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. I'm chatting about my instructions for writing and life. This week  my topic is "Feed the Fancy Bantams."  We creative folk are the fancy bantams -- that is the fancy chickens. Don't believe me about fancy chickens? They have a club.  We are fancy chickens and must feed our creative souls to keep the work fresh.

Here are some creative things that I have done lately. In September, Kathi Appelt had a party celebrating some awesome new books. She can sure throw a party! Not the best photo, but here from left to right, Greg Leitich Smith reading excerpts with Uma Krishnaswami celebrating the release The Problem with Being Slightly Heroic,  Kathi Appelt celebrating the release of The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp, and  Susan Fletcher celebrating the release of Falcon Glass.

These cakes from Cake Junkie were almost too pretty to eat. But somehow we managed.

In September, I also went to the Houston Fine Arts Show with sister Lee Ann and daughter Jubilee. I saw crazy cool stuff.   We saw what I call the headless multicorn. After, Jubilee and I headed to the Hobbit Cafe. Because what else do you do after you see a headless multicorn.

And now it's October and I'm up to more mayhem! This weekend I'm road tripping with Liz Mertz and Candi Fite to Austin, Texas for the Texas Book Fest. I plan to attend the cemetery crawl with R. L. Stine

Need some more chicken feed to fire you up? Here is an awesome book! Dirt Bikes, Drones and Other Ways to Fly (HMH) by Conrad Wesselhoeft is on my to-do list. I'm excited about reading this, but I have to wait until 2014. Waah!

In other related news, oh, blogging friends, I am also speaking at a conference in November 9, 2014: KidLit Con Austin  Austin, TX. I will be speaking about "Soft Sell Marketing."  If you are in the neighborhood, you might want to check this out.

Yep. You must feed the soul, folks.  Welcome to the fancy bantam flock!  

Here is the doodle: I'm calling it The CHULK!

Here is a quote for your pocke.

The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid. Jane Austen

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Chicken by Chicken: Enjoy the Good Stuff!

Hi, folks,

I'm still on cloud nine about my upcoming novel in May 2014 PLUMB CRAZY from Swoon Romance. I hope that my personal journey offers you a creative spark to light the fire of your works. 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. I'm chatting about my instructions for writing and life. This week I'm all about enjoying the good stuff! This takes a three skills.

One, value your own work. You must never compare yourself with others. I mean, someone can do it better. Someone will be paid more. Someone will receive greater accolades. Yadda. Yadda. Yadda.  You must celebrate your work for what it is -- the true expression of your artistic heart. Don't diminish your work because there are other stars in the sky and some burn more brightly than yours. Every star counts and is part of the great fabric that forms the universe.

Two, take to time to celebrate. Yes, raise a glass! Dance until people think you are mad! Gather your people and say those words of thanks. Fill up your life with moments of celebration. If you find the walls seem very close and there is no sense of the miraculous in the life,  ask yourself, have your taken time to be celebrate for the gifts of life, muse and genius. Loosen up. We are all created with a with a little party in our souls and to deny this is to lessen who we are meant to be.

Three, work out your happiness. Wait for bad stuff to happen to be upset about it. Worry will get you nothing but aching bones. Happiness is so much about a thousand little choices. It's as easy to think the best about every situation as it is to think the worst.  Don't hesitate to ask for help. Talk to someone.  Smile at the people you see. Try new things. Pursue happiness. It's on the list with life and liberty. See, more profound minds than mine have seen the value of openly seeking happiness.

I hope my little suggestions lift you into the winds like someone lent you a magic carpet. Seek your best possible self.  I will be back next week with more of this series.

This week the doodle is: AquaChicken!

Quote for the day:

I find this lyric very mysterious but satisfying:

I've heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don't really care for music, do you?
It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

Leonard Cohen

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Chicken by Chicken: Writing Every Day

Hi, folks,

Thanks for all the congrats for my upcoming novel in May 2014 PLUMB CRAZY from Swoon Romance. I hope that my personal journey will give you some needed encouragement as you move forward with creative endeavors. 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.  I'm chatting about my instructions for writing and life.

First, a sample day: the alarm at 6:30 a.m., I lay on the floor thinking wishing I could cry beccause I was so tired, but instead I got up and make French toast to ensure the teenager popped out of bed. A lifetime of study has taught me that the male teenager will wake up on time for school if food is provided. No other method of waking up the male teenager is viable.

Next, I headed to jury duty for HOURS (was selected), clipped off to an interview for a job (which I bombed), then topped off  the evening with several hours scurrying around the high school for a parent teacher night. During the day I had 4 asthma attacks, one migraine, and began to run a fever (pretty sure I had a sinus infection -- was right.) At the end of this day, after I made dinner and cleaned house, I opened up my computer and worked  for a COUPLE of hours on my work-in-progress.

Then I turned on my alarm around midnight for another round.

Writing is not convenient. It doesn't happen in a vacuum. There is the occasional glorious day where there is time and major progress, but mostly writing is part of the grind. It's the sum of the work that matters to me. That moment when I write the end, is like topping Everest. The hope that some day my book may offer a moment of clarity, a moment of laughter, a sense of connection, and more -- I live for this.

I also live for the art of writing. I love to up the stakes, find the tone, define the characters, bring the setting to life, delve into the themes. I'm this triptych of sorts: the creative, the emotional, the connector. I'm also in the business of fostering who we are and what we want. Every day. Chicken by chicken. For me, writing is worth fitting in.

I like this book by Leo Tolstoy called What is Art? You might check it out. Hope you write this week with more fervour. Back next week with more Chicken by Chicken.

Here is the doodle. My fav superhero: "Thor Chicken."

Here is a quote for your pocket.

 A dream doesn't become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work. Colin Powell.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Chicken by Chicken: One Writer Navigates New Publishing

This is one my favorite series every year: Chicken by Chicken. This is a 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.

Writing is a weird business. I spend a massive amount of time creating a viable story. I have a thousand tricks to place that story on the page. After a long while the writing has become more fluid, more entertaining, simply more. Meanwhile the entire publishing world evolved in a game-changing way while I was learning to write. Befuddled chicken.

The way books reach readers has changed - apps, readers, tablets, etc. Self publishing went from the poor step-sister to to the vogue new thing. Bad for me, I'm a joiner and poor church mouse -- not the self-publishing guru type. Major publishers changed their focus too -- almost exclusively to urban stories for sophisticated teens. Hype, slick, and charismatic stories written by hip young authors rule. I flipped  through my heartwarming, funny and wry  pages written by an ordinary down-home gal and thought: Oh, no!  Poor chicken.

New publishing models have proliferated. Many publishing experts view any new publishing model with a bit of sneering disdain, unless that model become uber-profitable. Then it is viewed as the enemy or the bandwagon. Me, I huddle in corners scratching out my words chicken by chicken and experience unease about the state of affairs.  I want someone to read my words and see if they resonate -- that's about it. A confession:  I don't really care how I reach readers.

I send to agents and receive massive stacks of  no-thank-yous. I realized if I wanted to be published in the brave new world, I'd have to try new things. I looked at self-publishing, crowd-sourced publishing, and indie digital-first publishing. And digital-first clicked -- my fangirl rom-com PLUMB CRAZY is being released in May of 2014 by Swoon Publishing. I think I'm changing my name to Indie Down-home Gal. I'm considering buying cowgirl boots to celebrate.

I am excited!  Can't wait to reveal my upcoming cover!  Meanwhile, I'm still doing what I always do, scratching out words, chicken by chicken. See you next week with more chicken scratch.

Here is this week's doodle:  "Princess Chicken".

A quote for your pocket.
I couldn't think of anything I wanted to do or any place I wanted to be more than home. Where I can walk around the yard, sweeping leaves off the slate paths to my heart's content. Sissy Spacek. 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Writer Myths: I wonder if this will ever get published.

Hi folks!

Short and sweet wrap up to the Writer Myth series. News next week!

This is a myth that trips up so many authors: I wonder if this will ever get published.  I say to you -- a myth  is wrapped up in this statement. It's like this: Danger, Will Robinson: Failure is imminent! Robby the Robot is the voice in your head and it isn't good. Yes, you are worried you are going to fail. You are worried your work won't be good enough. You are worried that no one will care. You are worried that Robby is right -- for you, writing is an ultimate fail!

Stop that!

Every thought you think is a choice. Why not choose the upside. It's just as easy to think success is imminent. Dream you are going to succeed. Dream your work will fly. Dream that everyone who should, will care. Start listening to Jiminy Cricket from the classic Disney movie Pinocchio. Wish on stars and let dreams come true.  Why not?  Jiminy is right.

I've never seen any writer fail who kept trying. Keep trying friends. See you next week with more good stuff.

Here is the doodle for the week: "Pocketful of Stars"

Here is the quote for the week:

 When your heart is in your dream no request is too extreme.  Jiminy Cricket

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Writer Myths: Avoid Clichés.

Hi, folks. Busy, busy, busy, but news is around the corner!

I'm continuing my series on writer myths.  It is true that cliches are often a sign of inexperience or laziness in writers, but sometimes cliches can be useful. Use them for humor or turn them upside down to create fresh language. Here is a useful cliche site. It's important in writing to always be aware of what you are doing, especially when you are breaking tried and true rules.

Cliches can offer great comic effect.  You can create some serious play by throwing in a string of cliches --  he'd worked his fingers to the bone --- literally, fragments of bone were spread across the table. Serving as a grim reaper was a thankless task. A self-deprecating character tossing cliches as ironic commentary can also add a ton of fun to a scene, too.

Sometimes in a first draft I use cliches as a way to move forward quickly in a draft. Cliches are a helpful way for me to get on with the story.  I do go back and scrub the manuscript, but the first pass is always mess. Cliches are just part of the mess for me.

I like to see if I can freshen a cliche. When I find them I ask myself: Why did you go there? Perhaps I've thrown out, "It was a dark and stormy night..."  The first words of a A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L' Engle by the way. So there! Use cliches! For me, I think a cliche is about seeking more lively ways of saying the same thing. I turn the phrasing to find something that is interesting. Wind stripped branches of leaves and the body was covered before the light of dawn. I'm happier now.

I hope this is a useful discussion and that you find it helps you create better stories. I will see you next week with another writer myth.

Here is the doodle: Puss in Boots.

Quote for the week:
The first man who compared woman to a rose was a poet, the second, an imbecile. Gerard de Nerval

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Writer Myths: Kill Your Darlings.

Hi folks, I'm continuing my series on writer myths and that is coming up, but first, I've got to mention some egg action. You may remember that once upon a time I chatted about eggs.  It's been a while since I've had an opportunity to mention this fun part of my blog. This week we are near the hatching phase of "egg-dom." So, news is to come!

Now, back to myths. Last week, I chatted about the myth of bad reviews. This week I'm moving on to the myth of "kill your darlings." Okay, it is true that you must often kill your darlings. I mean, most of us remember some relationship that just wasn't moving us forward, and it had to go. Sometimes, we write bland, flat drivel that needs to find the nearest circular file, and that's fine.

But there are times when you need to put down the murder weapon. I mean, killing some of those darlings is a crime or  at least a crying shame.

Here is my story. Once upon a time I was collaborating with another author on a project. I would write an awesome line, and the other author would love it too. Then a few days later, I'd get into slasher mode and ditch my awesome line. Delete.

My collaborator was unhappy with the slashing of "awesome" lines.

I answered, "I can always do better." But certain things slowly became clear. I can't aways do better.

My collaborator was like, "I think you are killing our story, and please stop it."

I learned something I love about writing in that moment. Every story is about a kind of collaboration. You and the reader are sitting by a fire. You are the spell maker; they are the mesmerized.  If you have created magic the first time, just let it be.

Sometimes you will get it right without trying. Don't second guess yourself. Never leave genius on the cutting room floor.

See you next week with more about writer myths, and perhaps a reason to throw a party!

And now for a mythical doodle. This one is called "Pixie."

Finally here is a quote.

I wake up to the sound of music
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

Paul McCartney

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Writer Myths: Avoid Bad Reviews

Hi folks, I really love my series of writer myths.  I wrote about a number of writer myths last year and recommend that you give those 4 posts a look. I believe you might find something useful. I'm continuing my series the month. Short and sweet is my motto.

At the end of the day writing is a performance art. Reviews are audience feedback. (OK, I know, not everyone has reviews yet. Hang on, I'll get to that.) Some writers believe all reviews should be avoided. Other just toss the negative ones. They don't want all that negative energy. 


Let me start with disclaimer. Some people are out there slinging stones (I'll cover this down the road), and, of course, that kind of stuff should be avoided, but many reviewers are giving honest commentary that will help you improve your works. I suggest avoiding all reviews will keep you from a very honest and valuable way to improve your work. Writing is about reaching an audience. We want the audience to clap, but if they are not clapping, we need to listen.

Not every performance is stellar. I've read multiple books from single authors. I can attest from experience this is true. Don't overlook author response. It may help you sharpen you work.

Unpublished writers! You can benefit here. I stumbled into one big time helpful practice many years ago. I attended an open read and was at the end of the list of readers. Each participant had five minutes. I found myself fiercely editing my work, during the performance of the other readers. I had believed my work was perfect  when I arrived, but an audience responding to the writing put me on my toes.  "Brilliance" hopped out of me that I had been unable to access. During my reading, I saw the eyes of the listeners light up. I saw the eyes glaze. I saw the need to listen to the audience.

My advice, stop waiting for someday to connect with your audience. Find a way to connect now. It will change your writing life. I am sure.

Thanks for stopping by!  I will be back with more myth busting nest week.

Okay, folks, doodles are back: "Mermaid".

Quote for the week!

All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love. Leo Tolstoy

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Keys to Publishing Success -- Pursuit of Happiness

Hi, folks, I'm finishing up my series on the keys to publishing success. This  week I'm going to chat about the pursuit of happiness. It's one thing that many writers overlook. Happiness is important, but we forget to seek it.

We all have challenges, internal and external . Many of us are broken and limping forward anyway. Often times, circumstances are far from fair. We may be trapped by our own failings or the failings of others. Our mental and/or physical health may be failing. How are we supposed to be happy?

Good news. You can cultivate happiness.  Here is a list of happiness habits that may help lead you to happy ground. Put them into practice to find success.

Seek your truest writing self in your stories. Really know what you are about. I'm heartfelt, humorous, and intriguing. Find your own little thematic triptych. Know thyself.

Choose to think about the best possible outcome for your work. Not in a fairytale way, mind you. If you haven't written a book, you can't sell one. But, if you've done your research and sent out the submission or query, why not believe that it is going to work?

Kill the monster. It's time to decide that jealousy is worthless. Let it go. Every time you say you are not good enough because someone else is better than you --  you are jealous. Stop it.

Make the target bigger. If your goal is to be on the New York Times Best Sellers list. Fine. I like your ambition. But if that is your only goal, boo. I want you to add 20 things to your list. Here is the rule. If you don't have a 70 % chance of achieving your goals, you need to keep thinking.

Review your goals every day. Post them on the fridge. Put them on the inside of your car visor. Make them your screen saver on your computer. Remember what you want and work toward it.

Stop saying you'll never be published. You are not lame. You are not the worst writer ever. You are not a failure. Remove yourself from the presence of those who say you are just dreaming, this will never happen, and this is a waste of time. Cut out the noise.

Share your genius. Do what you can to help others in your community find their way. Encourage the community around you. Did you know success breeds success? 

Okay, that is some stuff to think about. If you have some more personal habits that bring happiness to your writing life, share them here! Let's get what we need. Here is a link to a helpful clip about happiness: The Secret to Better Work, Shawn Achor, TedX.

Thanks for dropping by. I will be digging into writer myths next month. Seize the day.

Here is the pic -- "Comet PanStarrs above the Sun."

Here is the quote for your pocket:
Trust your heart if the seas catch fire, live by love though the stars walk backward. E.E. Cummings

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Keys to Publishing Success -- Elasticity

Welcome to Seize the day! I'm continuing my series --- the Keys to Publishing Success. This week I'm touching on the important key of elasticity.

Elasticity is a physical property of elements to return to their original shape after they are deformed. Writers must have this property to find brilliant success.

You might be smooshed out of shape sometimes, and you will have to bounce back. I mean editors might send you excited emails, and then write back that the accountants said your book isn't viable. Said book may simply sit in your closet for umpteen years after that. Sigh. More stuff can happen. Your new book, the one you worked on for five years, may get one partial request from an agent, and the agent doesn't ever get back to you. You might be strung along by an editor or an agent, rewriting, pouring your soul into your efforts, just to face another no. You might have to shake this all off and start that next book. Elasticity, honey.

There is more to this than you think. Your vision of what being published may be smooshed into the something wholly foreign to you, and you must remold into another vision. Here's the deal. The way books are published may drastically transform in your lifetime. You may get no advance, no agent and see you book as an electronic form only, after dreaming for decades about a physical book and an advance that might buy a beater. Communities may spring up, "incubators" for new authors provided by publishers. These are places to share your work with the world with no pay to you, like American Idol for writers -- many hopefuls, few winners. Self-publishing may transform around you and become a way many authors find their way to publishing success. The bad news, you are as poor as a church mouse. You must work evenings and weekends on top of your day job to gather cash for your endeavor. Elasticity, child.

You might find that you have to reshape what your are writing to meet the needs of the marketplace. You may love writing literary fiction but have to give it up to write a little contemporary middle grade novel. Maybe you will have to take your love of folktales into space. Perhaps your wonderful Biblical story will have to have a modern day retelling. And maybe it's all over for your vampires , and you have to write about a club of sociopaths in high school who engineer the other students to suit their life-sucking needs. Your creative self must be ready to transform . Elasticity, folks.
I hope that figure out a way to be elastic this week and turn the key of publishing! See you next week with one more key!
I'm eschewing doodles this month for pics. Here is this week's pic: "Pretty."

 Here is a quote for your pocket:

The willow which bends to the tempest, often escapes better than the oak which resists it; and so in great calamities, it sometimes happens that light and frivolous spirits recover their elasticity and presence of mind sooner than those of a loftier character.  Albert Schweitzer.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Keys to Publishing Success -- Fellowship

Hi, folks. I'm continuing my series on publishing success. This post is all about fellowship. You may have just guessed I like The Fellowship of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien. Gold star to you! To be successful at writing, you need a fellowship. This is better than a team. I think the component that is a game changer here is that when a fellowship forms, inception happens. I'm talking about the science fiction kind of inception in which shared dreams lead to amazing places.

Shared dreaming to me is the best parts of the creative journey. It's exciting to be a first reader on a project that is sizzling with wonder. It is thrilling when someone in your sphere makes waves in the publishing world. The bottom line, when writers band together magic happens. As the shared dream grows, more happy folks join the band -- agents, editors, publicists and finally the major expansion -- readers. Joining a fellowship is a sure key to getting published. Working alone is not a good way to readersBand together with a fellowship of writers to influence the world in powerful ways.

How do you join a fellowship? The first thing you have to do is read a lot, so you know what you like and what has potential. Next, you have to be willing to be generous with your time and knowledge. Try to help everyone in your sphere succeed. Don't despair if there is nowhere to join. You must step up. If no one will lead a fellowship, be willing to do it yourself, even if you were once voted most likely not to lead. Avoid anyone who wants to bring you down and disses your creativity. Always huddle with the encouragers. Look for people who love work, not folks who like wine, cheese, gossip and no work.

I hope you are you are sharing your dream. I hope you are sharing the dream of others. If you are, success is barreling your way. Yay! I will be back next week with another publishing success key.

This week I'm sharing doodle photographs: "Texas Highway."

Here is a quote for your pocket.

The next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are. C.S. Lewis