July 31, 2011

ROW 80 Check In: Success and Failure

Goodbye July. My two-challenge month is over, and I can now devote myself exclusively to my A Round of Words in 80 days challenge. Not much will change, because I incorporated the daily blogging into my ROW 80 challenge. Still, I can put a nice check mark next to my goal to finish the Ultimate Blog Challenge. Check marks make me happy.

I knew meeting my ROW 80 goals this week would be tough. We've had back-to-back company. It's hard enough explaining "writing time" to my three daughters, much less to company I haven't seen in awhile.

Results this week:
I knew meeting my daily 750 word goal would be tough, but I don't make commitments lightly. I stayed up until midnight Friday night and wrote 1,027 words. But I did not write a single word on Wednesday, Thursday, or Saturday. Boo! To be fair, I hit a scene I constantly reworked and edited to get the 1,027. It was draining.

I blogged every day, and prepared for a Monday live radio interview. Please wish me luck. I've done interviews, but never a live one.

Newest WIP word total: 11,063!

Disappointed. I won't lie.

This week I am determined to average 750 words a day, post daily on the blog, and edit 10 pages a day on an editing project. I need to finish a book and complete a review as well. I terrified myself as I typed these goals, but I really need to reboot and get some work done. I wish I had a "do nothing but catch up" day, but I'm not sure how to get that on the schedule.

Do lofty goals motivate you or weigh you down?

July 30, 2011

Make New Friends But Keep the Old

July is almost over, signalling the end of the Ultimate Blog Challenge. A huge thanks to hosts Michele Scism and Michelle Shaeffer! One of the benefits of this challenge was the daily blog ideas. Today's was determination, how we push through to reach a goal. Challenges motivate me to reach goals, but so does reading other blogs and learning.

Both Michel(l)e's blog posts are informative and motivating, detailing the ins and outs of the blog universe. Their challenge brought together many types of bloggers all looking to learn more about social media and networking.

Highlighted blog finds:

* Putting Words to Paper: Tiffany Jansen's words on writing. Everything from common writing mistakes, tips on editing, and discussions about the publishing industry.

* Punk Rock Psychic: No, I'm not scouring blogs looking to unleash my inner punk rocker, but I've found Lisa Marie Selow's blog inspirational and thought-provoking. From the Home Page: "Live an authentic life with success, purpose, happiness, and freedom--on your terms!" I've had several oh-yeah moments reading her posts.

* WAHM Solution: "Work at Home Moms Building Success from the Inside Out" Some great tips this month on knowing your values and building your self-esteem. I love help with motherhood and business all in one site.

* Insignificant at Best: Lisa's "random musings" often made me stop to think and reflect. Great things for a writer, but beneficial to everyone. She engages readers. After the challenge, I plan to spend some time on her site getting ideas for mine. Beautifully put together.

Old friends enjoyed:

* BooksYALove: The authority on lesser known YA books. I have a small notebook filling fast with her diverse book suggestions. Katy, a huge thanks for enhancing my reading life.

* Teaching What is Good: That she does. Endearing and good for the soul, she touches me with her positive outlook and unshakable faith. Kate, keep the inspiration coming.

* Ramblin' with AM: Everything from interesting Civil War posts and beautiful flower pictures to touching posts about autism. A touch of beauty in every post.

Check out these great blogs, and let them know Tia sent you.

Do you have a great go-to blog to recommend? If so, please leave it in the comments below.

July 29, 2011

Friday Feature: My Favorite Thing I Read this Week and Why

Mom visits to talk about her favorite read this week. Enjoy!
Life Lessons from Kevin
My dear mother loved getting the Martin County, NC, Senior Focus flyer. Over time, I found myself, the newbie old folk, picking it up and delighting over the many rich articles on healthy living tips and funny anecdotes. One of my favorite is by an unknown author.

God’s Under the Bed
My brother Kevin thinks God lives under his bed. At least that’s what I heard him say one night. He was praying out loud in his dark bedroom, and I stopped outside his closed door to listen.
“Are you there, God?” he asked. “Where are you? Oh, I see…under the bed.”
Kevin’s unique perspectives are often a source of amusement. But that night something else lingered long after the humor. I realized for the first time the very different world Kevin lives in. He was born 30 years ago, mentally disabled as a result of difficulties during labor. Apart from his size, 6’2”, there are few ways in which he is an adult. He reasons and communicates with the capabilities of a 7 year old, and he always will. He will probably always believe that God lives under his bed, that Santa Claus is the one who fills the space under our tree every Christmas, and that airplanes stay up in the sky because angels carry them.
I remember wondering if Kevin realizes he’s different. Is he ever dissatisfied with his monotonous life? He was up before dawn each day, off to work at a workshop for the disabled, home to walk our cocker spaniel, returning to eat his favorite macaroni and cheese for dinner, and later to bed. The only variation in the entire scheme is laundry days when he hovers excitedly over the washing machine like a mother with her newborn child.
He does not seem dissatisfied. He lopes out to the bus every morning at 7:05 eager for a day of simple work. He wrings his hands excitedly while the water boils on the stove before dinner, and he stays up late twice a week to gather our dirty laundry for his next day’s laundry chores. And Saturdays – Oh, the bliss of Saturdays! That’s the day my dad takes Kevin to the airport to have a soft drink, watch the planes land, and speculate loudly on the destination of each passenger inside. “That one’s goin’ to Chi-car-go!” Kevin shouts as he claps his hands. His anticipation is so great he can hardly sleep on Friday nights.
I don’t think Kevin knows anything exists outside the world of daily rituals and weekend field trips. He doesn’t know what it means to be discontent. His life is simple. He will never know the entanglements of wealth or power, and he does not care what brand of clothing he wears or what kind of food he eats. He recognizes no difference in people, treating each person as an equal and a friend. His needs have always been met, and he never worries that one day they may not be.
His hands are diligent. Kevin is happiest when he is working. When he unloads the dishwasher or vacuums the carpet, his heart is completely in it. He does not shrink from a job when it is begun, and he does not leave a job until it is finished. But when his tasks are done, Kevin knows how to relax. He is not obsessed with work or the work of others.
His heart is pure. He still believes everyone tells the truth, promises must be kept, and when you are wrong, you apologize instead of argue. Free from pride and unconcerned with appearances, Kevin is not afraid to cry when he is hurt, angry or sorry. He is always transparent, always sincere.
And he trusts God. Not confined by intellectual reasoning, when he comes to Christ, he comes as a child. Kevin seems to know God – to really be friends with Him in a way that is difficult for an “educated” person to grasp. God seems like his closest companion.
In my moments of doubt and frustration with my faith, I envy the security Kevin has in his simple faith. It is then that I am most willing to admit that he has some divine knowledge that rise above my mortal questions. It is then I realize that perhaps he is not the one with the handicap – I am. My obligations, my fears, my pride, my circumstances…they all become disabilities when I do not submit them to Jesus.
Who know if Kevin comprehends things I can never learn? After all, he has spent his whole life in that kind of innocence, praying after dark and soaking up the goodness and love of God. And one day, when the mysteries of heaven are opened, and we all stand amazed at how close God really is to our hearts, I’ll realize that God heard the simple prayers of a boy who believed God lived under his bed.
Kevin won’t be surprised at any of this.

We'd love to hear from you. Let us know the best, or worst, thing you've read this week.

July 28, 2011

Writing is a Highway

I hate traffic, unless it's blog traffic. Unfortunately, I live near the nation's Capitol. Traffic abounds. Every time I get stuck in it I go tense and joke about losing minutes off my life. Nothing about aggression, congestion, and speed goes with driving vehicles in my book.

Don't worry. This isn't a post ranting about traffic. Instead, while I was stuck in it today, I realized how much like writing it is. Sometimes there's flow and all the structure put into place keeps things moving. Other times no matter how well-prepared a writer is, you just sit. Nothing happens.

Traffic equals chaos to me, and I prefer order (and manners!). Same for my writing. I like the words to follow the plan. I am learning to appreciate some organized chaos. If the words are flowing too fast, I type faster. But if chaos outpaces order for long, I lose focus and productivity.

Patience, perseverance, and problem-solving are required in traffic and writing. Writer's block is my writing traffic. I don't have patience with it. I've learned the best medicine is writing, even if it's a blog post, and reading. The more I persevere, the better it flows. Characters block me out sometimes; they throw me problems I wasn't expecting in my story. Usually the character wins.

Today I was impatient to be home and complete my blog post. Blame D.C.-area traffic for this long analogy. All I could think about was frustration. I felt the same way last night staring at a blank screen. I made time to write, wanted to write, but the writing wasn't working. I was at a standstill.

I sat and waited. Nothing. I realized I couldn't force it, those cars weren't moving. I picked up a book and read. Fifty pages in, an idea sparked. I put the book down, opened the laptop. The words came slowly at first, but the scene started developing. It wasn't the way I wanted to get to my destination, but I did get there.

How do you deal with roadblocks?

July 27, 2011

ROW 80 Check In: Accountability and Advice

Joining the A Round of Words in 80 Days challenge in summer might not be the smartest thing I've ever done. But it is definitely a challenge. Accountability is a major motivator for me. It's always been true: exercise, dieting, and now writing. I like knowing I need to report and people will be stopping by to check in and help me through.

Not just accountability, but advice. I received some great advice from fellow ROW 80 participants about letting the story flow and following it. I'm happy to say for the first time I wrote out of order, and it felt good. A bit naughty even.

My progress:

Sunday, July 24 through Tuesday, July 26
Results: 1,927 words total (averaged 642 a day), posted every day
Reaction: Happy to be writing and trying something different.

New WIP total: 10,036!

I understand ROW 80 continues year-round with small breaks. I just might become a permanent fixture. It feels good to know the next time I struggle I'll have support and some wonderful suggestions from writers who have been there.

A huge thank you!

That being said, my other favorite thing about ROW 80 is reassessing goals. My baby sister, and blog and web designer, is visiting with my adorable niece, Samantha. It's 10:47pm on Wednesday and I haven't written a word on my WIP, but I hope to sneak in some writing while they visit. I have some pivotal scenes floating around my head, and I'm going to do some more non-linear writing!

Looking forward to seeing others' progress. Any stumbling blocks? If so, how did you face them?

Guest Post: Lisa Carter Talks about Finding her Voice

I am honored to have Lisa Carter of Intralingo guest blogging again today. I met Lisa during May's Blogathon. She posted then about Shameless Self-Promotion Dos and Don'ts.

Today, we are exchanging blog posts about the importance of voice for writers. Please read both posts and leave a comment letting us know what you think. We'd love to know how you tap into your voice. My post is Listening to the Voices in My Head.

Finding My Voice -- And Subverting It

Writing is all about voice. Blog posts, articles and books abound on this very subject: defining voice, finding it, understanding it, analyzing it, strengthening it! I work hard at writing in the hopes of one day mastering my own individual style. As an undercover writer (aka literary translator), however, I have to work just as hard at subverting my voice to ensure the author's shines through every word and phrase.
It can be a fine line to walk, and I must acknowledge that, no matter how hard I try, my voice will always peek through in some small measure.
You see, there is no such thing as a "neutral" or "perfect" or "definitive" translation. Translators are individuals with a particular background, education, life experience and, therefore, personal vocabulary and style. The choices we make when translating will invariably reflect this personality.
If the same text were translated by two different people, you would get two entirely different renditions. One will not necessarily be better or worse than the other; they are just informed by different realities. Similarly, as a reader, whether you like one more than another is also a case of personal preference given your own background.
Regardless, my primary aim as a literary translator is to analyze and capture the author's voice. So, how exactly do I do that? How do I ensure that I subvert my voice to the author's, prevent too much of my own from shining through?
For me, it is about listening closely to the text. I must study it to see what the author has done and make decisions in the translation that reflect the author's choices.
Whenever I begin a new book, I read it through in its entirety at least once. I then jot notes on a macro level: What did the text evoke? What did I see and feel as I was reading it? Then, when I get down to the actual task of translation, I analyze the text on a micro level, looking at sentence structure and vocabulary choice. Does the author prefer passive to active? Long sentences to short? Are the verbs punchy or understated? How are the metaphors structured? What vocabulary is specific to the time in which the story is set?
All of these aspects are carefully considered in order to make a myriad of style choices along the way. The result, I hope, is a faithful portrayal of the author's voice. As a new creation, however, there is inevitably a hint of me, too.
Lisa Carter is a literary translator with five novels and one book of non-fiction to her credit. She is currently striving to capture an author's voice in a book of women's fiction while finding her own, writing for the Web and creative non-fiction essays. You can find her on Twitter @intralingo and at her website www.intralingo.com.

July 26, 2011

Tub-Full Tuesdays: My Little Teachers

Sunday, I was over-stimulated. Monday, seeking balance. I'm so glad it's Tuesday. Now I can reflect on something that fills my tub, my little teachers (aka my children).

I love being a mom with rare exception. What I didn't necessarily expect from having kids was to learn from them. I thought I'd be the teacher. While they will never convince me a sandwich without crusts is superior, they do make me a better person.

Jackie, 11, always has a book in her hands. She loves to read. She gets that from me, but it also inspires me. I feel guilty not getting some reading in when she makes time at the dinner table, while brushing her teeth, riding in the car... She takes the book everywhere hoping she'll sneak in a page. I admire her dedication.

Reagan, 9, finds the humor in the most mundane things. I can be running around completely absorbed in chaos, and she'll chase me down to make me laugh. She will go to any length to get a chuckle. She brings a lightness to our house that is much-needed.

Maddie, 6, is a spit-fire. She has enough energy to fuel a city. Just watching her makes me tired, but I love her spirit. She reminds me life is about doing front rolls down the stairs. So as not to increase our medical bills, I don't roll down the stairs, but occasionally I will skip home from the bus stop with her.

These are just a few of the ways they brighten my life and teach me new things.

Yesterday, I needed my girls to be patient with me. I had a deadline and was struggling with the piece. Self-doubt clouded my vision. It's summertime, they want to have fun and enjoy every second before school starts. With a bit of bartering, we are spending today at Beaver Dam having fun, they agreed to play in the basement until I could finish my work. I must commend them. They did it.

Our dog, however, is probably not as appreciative. Seems she entertained them in my absence.

My tub is full, just in time for more writing and posting. What filled your tub this week?

July 25, 2011

HARO and The Writer as Entrepreneur

A marketing friend recently passed along a great site for publicity: Help a Reporter Out (HARO). It's a site for reporters and sources to come together. At first I was dubious. Was I an expert source? Expert seems such a high standard. I'm a word dork so I often consult the dictionary when in doubt.

An expert, according to Merriam-Webster, is one with the special skill or knowledge representing mastery of a particular subject. Getting closer, I then looked up mastery to find the synonyms were command and proficiency. I was feeling better about qualifying as an expert source in certain subjects. I signed up. If nothing else, it would be interesting to see the stories reporters were pursuing.

I receive daily emails listing media outlets and topics. I respond where I feel I can add genuine input, and I've been surprised by how many subjects I can contribute to: motherhood, writing, women's issues, and moving/relocating to name a few. Then I noticed another trend. As a writer, I am indeed an entrepreneur, one who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business (yes, I hit the dictionary again). Interesting. I also found myself in the newly coined mompreneur category.

When I decided to write a novel, I did not set out to start a business. But now I file income tax returns, have an executed Limited Partnership agreement, file quarterly sales tax returns, and do my own marketing and sales. That's a business. More and more authors are finding themselves in this situation. Artist and business person collide.

Recently I saw a HARO topic about mompreneurs and finding balance. I responded, but more than that, I looked into the media source. I am constantly trying to find balance as a mother and a writer/business woman. I found a great website and story.

Andreea Ayers is a mom who followed her heart and started her own business. I find her outlook and know-how both encouraging and inspirational. Today, she features an article on MompreneursHow They Do It All, Part 3. A little bit of advice from me is included, so please take a look. I know I will be searching her blog for Parts 1 and 2.

Consider HARO. Whether you respond to the reporters looking for publicity or find sites with great information, it's a beneficial resource. And to my writer friends out there, remember you are business people, too. We may not have mastered it yet, but we are certainly gaining proficiency.

How do you find balance?

July 24, 2011

ROW 80 Check In: Importance of Foundation

Sundays and Wednesdays seem to roll around with greater speed since I joined the A Round the Word in 80 Days challenge. Not a complaint, just an observation.

For those that might not know, my mother and I are writing the sequel to Depression Cookies, our coming-of-age story. Continuing with the two-author theme, Mom again writes the mother's point of view while I write the now college-age daughter's point of view. It's a delicate balance. We often need to discuss plot and character development and how our characters' stories weave together.

Wednesday, before I rebooted my 750-word-a-day writing goal, it was time for a strategy conference. Two hours later, I was exhausted. Armed with tons of notes and ideas, I was also inspired.

Somtimes over-stimulation is a curse. I found myself so overwhelmed with ideas, it was hard to harness them. I was ready to jump straight into the juicy scenes, but building takes patience. Without a good foundation, the structure falls.

I find it easier to write "in time" instead of skipping around and then sewing it back together. But I might have to give into the urge to write a few pivotal scenes and then go back. What to do, what to do.

My progress this week:

Wednesday, 7/20
Results: Lots of story consultation and pages of notes, but no words written toward my goal. Did post.
Reaction: Happy with the progress in the story even though I didn't write.

Thursday, 7/21 to Saturday, 7/23
Results: 2,034 words written on the sequel (averaging 678 words per day). Posted every day.
Reaction: Mixed. I wanted more, but I also feel I'm in the "building momentum" stage. I'm ramping back up for some big writing days. Now, I just need my co-author, AHEM, to catch up.

My new WIP total: 8,109 words!

One thing I've definitely learned... if I'm going to seriously consider doing NaNoWriMo, I must go in prepared. Writing 50,000 words in a month won't leave a lot of time for plot developing, outlining, and other tricks of the trade. We featured a great guest post about NaNoWriMo this week. Check it out if you missed it.

What do you do when you find yourself over-stimulated?

July 23, 2011

House that Grew Me

Mom's back with a post about going home again. Enjoy!

They say you can never go home. I agree.
Two months ago, we drove by and saw the old home place was for sale. We knew it was in rough shape. But the draw of “home” had us stop to look around. One of the neighbors saw us snooping, and politely came out to inform us the last owners had been evicted after a cocaine raid. We winced; then we called the realtor.
Here’s your sign! If the dang thing is torn halfway off the post, you might want to consider your redneck status or lack thereof. I don’t know what category we fall into, but we actually got nostalgic thinking about going through the house. Well, technically it’s my husband’s; I adopted it when my parent’s home burned down in 2001.
Two days later we met the real estate agent at the property. The screen door almost fell off when she opened it. To our dismay there were six bolts and locks running down the doorframe. Luckily she only had to open the top one. She said the previous owner couldn’t afford a security system. We still didn’t bite, only anticipation was mounting. It had been 16 years since we’d stepped over the threshold.
While waiting, I thought I heard children playing cowboys and Indians and dogs running after them, barking their fool heads off. I closed my eyes, and I heard the old rooster crowing, wanting to get in on the action. The creaking of rockers and the scratchy rub of the metal chain on the porch swing sounded as real as real can get.  
The door finally opened with a thud, ending my daydreaming. The living room was dark, dank and smelled like urine and distilled liquor. As my eyes adjusted to the faint light, I stood dumbstruck. The plaster had been torn off in wide, gaping sheets; the overhead light fixtures were missing, wires dangled, splayed in several directions. This was not a pretty sight. My mother-in-law, Miss Daisy Mae, would have had one hell of a hissy fit over the mess before me.
I touched my husband’s shoulder. I couldn’t imagine the pain of seeing my home destroyed. This was the home he had been born in, learned to walk through and grew up within its meager space. I could see him looking around; his eyes stopping every once and awhile in one spot. One was the area where the kitchen table used to be. I remember seeing him spread out his homework and watch Ed Sullivan or Maverick with his folks.  
We didn’t waste a lot of time looking around. The home had died. All the love poured into it had stopped when the older members died or went into the nursing home. Sadness filled our ride home. Words sat between us, crying.
The whole affair made me stop and reflect. We really can’t go home. But then again, it’s not about a home at the end of the day; it’s about the people we love that also grew up in the home or the many people who visited – friends, extended family, the pastor and the doctor who delivered several of the children in the front bedroom. A structure is temporal; building and keeping relationships are forever.


When I read Mom's piece, I was sad remembering the place I visited my grandparents as a young kid. A family grew me. I barely remember any details of structures. I've never been in the same house for more than four years (and that record I just set in Colorado) my whole life. And I'm happy to say, since a family grew me, I can go home anytime, and I do!

Can you go home again?

July 22, 2011

Friday Feature: My Favorite Thing I Read this Week and Why

Borrowing from a blogger friend, Christine Calvin at Inspired Life, I have some scattered thoughts today. Sometimes it's all I can do to harness such thoughts into one concise theme for a blog post. Today I'm not going to fight it.

On Fridays we feature our favorite read of the week. This week several things made an impression on me, so here we go...


Call Me When You Land, Michael Schiavone

I review for Rebecca's Reads (in addition to my Mom in Love with Fiction review site). Why? For two reasons. I love to read, and I love being exposed to books I might not otherwise find. This novel made me glad I signed up. Call Me When You Land is a heartbreaking look into a family overcome by addicition. Katie loves her son, fifteen-year-old C.J., but she stuggles against poor choices, bad breaks, and self-destruction.

Reading this book was a lesson in character development. Shiavone exposed the characters in a slow-motion build, like watching an X-ray slowly come into focus. My heart was heavy, but I had hope and a strong desire to see this mom and child make it. The book is scheduled for a November 2011 release, please check it out.



I get way too many magazines. I don't remember subscribing to most of them. Every time we move, I swear I pick up some new ones. This month's Guideposts found its way into my bathroom reading wicker basket. In a feature called The Up Side, the magazine lists quotes from today's positive thinkers. This quote spoke to me:

"We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop."
from Mother Teresa, CEO: Unexpected Principles for Practical Leadership by Ruma Bose and Lou Faust

I often feel that way, especially with all the moving. I've often wondered, especially as a younger child: if nobody remembered me once I left a location, did I exist? I find it encouraging to think we are all drops in the ocean, but each drop affects the beauty.


The worst thing I read this week: Borders is closing all their stores. Reading is a family activity for us, so we often spend an hour or two roaming the bookstore. There's nothing like wandering a bookstore to see what cover pops out at you, turning to the back cover in anticipation, and occasionally uncovering a true gem. Searching on Amazon just isn't the same.

The upside... this will force me to explore my area more and find some smaller bookstores. I'm embarassed not to have done it already, but I'm loading with good excuses/Life.

The girls and I will go to Borders within the next week and have a moment of silence. We'll leave with a bit of sadness and hopefully a bag full of reduced-price books.


What was the best thing you read this week?

July 21, 2011

Guest Post: Morgen Bailey Talks NaNoWriMo

We welcome Morgen Bailey as a guest blogger today. I met Morgen through LinkedIn, and she recently featured us on her blog as part of her author interview series, found here: http://wp.me/p18Ztn-ng.


In March 2008 I was in a discussion group lead by local author Alison Penton Harper as part of our council’s Readers Day. One of the other attendees mentioned she was planning for NaNoWriMo. I’d heard of it before and knew the basic idea (50,000 words in 30 days), but I’d been quite happy writing short stories and the odd bit of poetry (and sometimes less odd) having not wanted to spend a year on one story. So this was my light-bulb moment; the perfect answer – a novel in a month.

As November drew near, I dug out my ideas file and University of Leicester course notes. It dawned on me what a mountainous task lay ahead. As I found what I was sure was the longest thing I’d ever written (it was) of epic proportions (it wasn’t) I was horrified. It was barely over 3,000 words. Now I was being asked to do the same (at least) every other day. Not one to be put off and with a clear deadline looming (if you ever want me to do something never say whenever suits), I set to work. I found a college piece which brought back fond memories. Armed with that, I fleshed out the characters, wrote a vague outline, set up a geeky Excel spreadsheet to track my progress, and eagerly awaited November 1st.

I started off strongly (Stephen King would tutt at me for using an adverb) with 10,057 words by day four, stalled with a zero word count on day five (and 13, 22, 24, 29), but achieved the required average 1,667 words on other days, catching up with two 6,000-worders. I’d reached the 50,000-word target on day 26 so I relaxed, writing just 2,595 words by month-end, when the story naturally ended.

Although I’d plotted further on than I’d actually written, I loved the freedom to waffle (which you can do to a point but it still has to be there for a reason) and create more lives than in a short story (the way they take over is still my favourite aspect of writing).

During the month you plot your progress on your page of the NaNoWriMo website’s chart and see the (from memory) green bar slide along from 0 until it reaches the 50,000 and turns purple. Then you’re announced as a winner. In the meantime you can make buddies, join the forums, and even meet in real life (I did in 2009). Although you don’t physically win anything, you have the satisfaction of a job well done (regardless of how bad you think your first draft is) and get to choose icons that you can splatter all over your website or blog (which I did with relish).

Although NaNoWriMo is annual, you can sign up any time. It’s all free and they keep it going by donations (which I did) and their goodies shop (I bought a t-shirt last year). They also have http://campnanowrimo.org for the first time this summer and http://scriptfrenzy.org; 100 pages of script in April – which I did 2010, not a format I liked but it became the start of a later novel.

I loved the process of my first NaNo so much I repeated it in 2009, writing a 117,540-word chick lit novel… yes, in the month, I’ve been a secretary for 20-something years so can type quickly. And again in 2010 which produced a 51,053-word self-indulgent and therapeutic crime novel which will either never see light of day or receive major plastic surgery.

Although I am now revisiting my first love (short stories) and am looking at eBooks, I plan to join in every November and would recommend it to anyone. Other than a month of your life, you have nothing to lose. Even if your first draft is dire, and it may not be as bad as you think if you leave it a while and come back to it, you’ve got words on paper (or computer screen) and that’s much easier to edit than a blank page.

November 2011 will be NaNo’s 13th year (thanks http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Novel_Writing_Month). With hundreds of thousands (I kid you not) of worldwide participants, I can only see it growing in strength. I know my writing will follow suit because even if practice doesn’t make this writer perfect, I’ll at least have given it a shot.

After enjoying English at school then dabbling with limericks in her 20s, Morgen came back to writing through a local college evening workshop in January 2005. It swiftly became a passion which over the past couple of years has turned into obsession. She has written four and a bit novels, over 100 short stories, a script and a half, some poetry and most recently articles in the NAWG Link magazine. In August 2010 she started the Bailey's Writing Tips weekly podcast then late March 2011 a blog which initially consisted of information she provides to her writing group, and some of her fiction but mid-June 2011 she added daily (which by day 4 became twice-daily) author interviews. She is always looking for writers of any genre published or non-published to take part and can be contacted via morgen@morgenbailey.com.


How does committing to a challenge like NaNoWriMo motivate you?

July 20, 2011

ROW 80 Check In: Reading and Writing Go Hand in Hand

I'm thrilled with my A Round of Words in 80 Days progress. I adjusted my goals to allow for a family vacation. I knew I wouldn't enjoy my time away if I was pressuring myself to write 750 words a day. When my six-year-old asked me to put my computer away because she hated it, I knew it was time for a change. Focus and balance are two things I struggle with, and adjusting my goals allowed me to be productive and enjoy my family. Win, win. 

My goal from Sunday through Tuesday this week was to read two books, write reviews, and continue to blog daily. I'm thrilled to say I accomplished all of these. My review of Elin Hilderbrand's The Beach Club can be found at my Mom in Love with Fiction blog. And, I completed my review for Call Me When you Land  by Michael Schiavone (scheduled for a September 2011 release) for Rebecca's Reads. It should be posted shortly. Starting today, I'm back to my original goals (750 words a day on my WIP, blogging daily, etc.). 

Image from http://www.dreamstime.com/
This goal shift reaffirmed my belief that reading makes me a better writer. Both of the books I read this weekend provided tips for my own writing. The Beach Club reminded me the importance of setting and description. Nantucket became a character in her novel. I even asked my husband to take me there someday. That's powerful.

Schiavone's book was a lesson in character development. He slowly revealed the depth of his main character's pain. Too much, too soon and I don't think I would have liked the character. But with the slow reveal, I wanted to both shake and hug her. Memorable characters are key to good story.

Better said:

"Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers."  ~Charles W. Eliot

Now, I'm off to find out how my fellow ROW 80 buddies are doing. Who knows, maybe I'll learn a few things from reading about their experiences so far this week.

How does reading make you a better writer? Or, for my non-writer friends, how does a great book affect you?

July 19, 2011

Tub-Full Tuesdays: Embracing the Red, White and Blue

It's time for another Tub-Full Tuesday. This week feature's Mom and what fills her tub. Enjoy!
I realize July 4th has come and gone, but our love of country isn’t about one day. It’s about a feeling rushing in whenever we hear the national anthem sung, or see a flag waving against a Carolina blue sky, or wake up to a tragedy similar to September 11, 2001 and feel Americans come together like a giant wave against terrorism. It’s more than apple pie and cracker jacks, baseball and boxing, it’s deeper and deeper still, to the core of who we are and what we are about.
Patriotism was exemplified for me recently. My husband and I took a riverboat cruise down the Rhine and Mosel rivers of Europe to celebrate our forty-first wedding anniversary. On one of our stops, we went to the Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial (pictured below) which was established on December 29, 1944. Situated on fifty acres of land that Luxembourg gave to the U.S. after World War II, it is the final resting place for 5,076 of our military, many of whom lost their lives in the “Battle of the Bulge”. Additionally the names of 371 soldiers are inscribed on two large pylons – young American men who gave their lives in the service of their country and lie in unknown graves somewhere in Europe.

When we exited the bus to walk toward the cemetery, I had not spent one moment thinking about anything except the reverence due while visiting. I was walking with a group led by a tour guide and we were doing the usual, not listening and chatting. As we rounded the large iron gates into the complex, I stopped cold.
Before me I saw a meticulous manicured lawn with row after row, as far as the eye could see, of white marble crosses. Thousands and thousands of crosses dotting the landscape like stars on a clear night.
Peeling away from the throng of people, I walked to one of the two large walls situated in front of a simple, but dignified chapel. Now the crosses became real, not just ornaments lining a pristine landscape, but Henry from Pennsylvania, John from West Virginia, Dale from Oklahoma, and Pierre from New York. I read each name, expelling them in a soft swish of air. The walls expanded and collapsed as I felt the pain and anguish of every family whose husband, son, uncle, nephew, father or brother never came home - Sons of America whose bodies lie across a body of water and thousands of miles from their loved ones and homes.
My heart broke over and over again realizing most of their families would never see where their loved ones were buried. Tears welled up and flowed. I wanted to take every soldier home to their families to give them closure. As beautiful as the dignitaries had tried to make it, it didn’t feel right.
I found a bench away from the crowds. I needed to get myself together before others gathered around me with questions. I was sitting in a field of death, of man’s insanity, of injustice, of which there were no answers. Then out of the corner of my eye something caught my attention. I turned and faced Old Glory flying high above the chapel - red, white and blue waving her banner of valor, victory and honor. I’ve never been more proud to be an American!
And I’m proud to be an American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I won’t forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.

And I gladly stand up,
next to you and defend her still today.
‘ Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA.

What has filled your tub this week?

July 18, 2011

Books I Quit and Why

I love to read, and I pride myself on finding redeeming value in most books. After all, it does take courage to put your work out there. Recently I ran across an article by Steve Leveen, Giving Up on Books. In it he quotes information regarding the average number of pages before a professional reader gives up on a book:

"To help them know when to give up, many professional readers apply the 50-page rule. If the book hasn’t grabbed them by then, they give it the heave-ho. Nancy Pearl, the librarian and author of Book Lust, reports that some people take this rule further and subtract a page for every year of age over 50. This way a 75-year old would give a book only 25 pages to prove itself. As readers mature they become quicker and surer judges of what they like."

Wow. I guess 50 pages isn't as bad as the 5 pages most agents ask to see. I can't decide on what to eat in five minutes, much less decide on a book in 5 pages. It seems a ridiculous standard. I judge a book by the last 50 pages much more than I do the first. But I've also been known to skip to the last chapter if a book is slow. If the last chapter grabs me, I'll go back and read the whole thing (but I admit to skimming here and there).

When I came across my first book in school that I hated but had to finish, my dad gave advice I use to this day: read the first and last sentence of every paragraph and all dialogue. I would never do this with a great book, but it's gotten me through some less than stellar ones.

In my life, I have put down three books. I was not compelled to go further. Only three times.

The Three:

1. A Year in Provence, by Peter Mayle: Halfway through felt like an eternity. This book managed to bore me to tears with food and scenery. Not an easy task. I didn't give up on Eat, Love, Pray even when I swore I couldn't handle one more page. The food and scenery saved that book.

2. Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas: To be fair, I think this book suffered from all the ones I could not put down during my academic years. I didn't get past page 25. I was expecting an action book, and those I don't wait around for as easily. If action can't grab me, what can? I must admit I have considered trying this one again. It's a classic.

3. Wicked, Gregory Maguire: I get a lot of heat on this one. Let me start by saying I enjoyed Maguire's Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister. I wanted to like Wicked, and I love the play. But the book failed to make me care about Elphaba and completely tarnished Glinda. When it entered the absurd (some might say fantasy-land), I was done.

I wish I knew the exact ingredients for a great read. I've described my Five Elements of a Good Read, but it's so subjective. Even my moods can affect how I connect with a book. And notice I said a great read, not a bestseller. Publishing companies predetermine most bestsellers. A bestseller does not in and of itself equate to a great read.

For the flip side, Mom and I listed our favorite reads in the last ten years in an earlier post. Be sure to check it out.

Have you ever quit a book? Why?

July 17, 2011

ROW 80 Check In: Accepting Change

I'd like to thank Kait Nolan for the A Round of Words in 80 Days challenge and my newfound focus. Not all challenges are created equal. Some box you in and provide little support. This one allows you to set your own goals and readjust them as necessary. Yet there's support throughout. I think it's excellent preparation for my ultimate goal: participating in National Novel Writing Month in November.

My progress this week:

Wednesday, 7/13
Results: 0 words, posted
Reaction: Bummer. I have excuses, but excuses are easy. I'm not proud of easy.

Thursday, 7/14
Results: 737 words, posted
Reaction: Back on track. Felt silly to just miss my 750 goal, but I stopped at a logical point.

Friday, 7/15
Results: 982 words, posted
Reaction: You can't stop me now!

Saturday, 7/16
Results: 0 words, posted
Reaction: Life just has a way of stopping you, darn it.

To be fair, my family decided on a last minute vacation. We need it, so I'm readjusting my goals until it's over on Tuesday. I'm embracing a good excuse. I need to catch up on some reading, so I will focus on the reading element of my goals by finishing two books during my break. Two reviews will follow. My Mom in Love with Fiction blog needs the love.

My girls enjoying our break - Ocean City, MD
The fear of failure motivates me, but I refuse to see failure in 6,075 words (my new total!) and a vacation with my family. Plus, reading is an important element for good writing. And what's better than reading on the beach?

I would love to know how others are doing. Are you staying the course or reevaluating as you go?

July 16, 2011

A Day to Breathe and Soak in Life

My sweet girls
Life comes at you hard and fast. It doesn't ask if you can handle it or if there might be a better time. With each child we added to our lovely family, life seemed to explode all around us. Wonderous and exhausting all at the same time. In the last eight months, we moved from Colorado to Maryland, my first novel was published, we transitioned three kids to a new school, my husband joined a new company... we essentially started over.

Life was a rollercoaster ride, and every time it pulled into the station nobody bothered to ask us if we wanted off. We canceled a long-anticipated trip to Hawaii (hoping it gets rescheduled soon) to focus on our family and the changes. Months later, we were feeling the effects of not taking time off. So we decided a few days ago to come to the beach. Sure, it's just the beach in Maryland, but it's a break. Today through Tuesday.

Mom and Jackie today in Ocean City, MD

It was last minute. I'm very thankful right now for laptops and free wireless internet. My next few posts will be from the beach. I've been feeling a bit tight in my writing, and I'm hoping some fun and sun will loosen me up. You have to live life to write about it.

As Kenny Rogers would say, "you have to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, and know when to run."

How do you find time to soak it all in?

July 15, 2011

Friday Feature: My Favorite Thing I Read this Week and Why

My favorite thing I read this week: a rejection letter.

Now, let's get to the why.

I want our novel to be someone's favorite read. I'm not asking for Depression Cookies to make us millionaires, be made into a movie, be on Oprah (especially since her talk show is ending), or become a literary giant taught in public schools for years to come. Don't get me wrong, those things wouldn't be horrible, but our true intention was for people to read it, enjoy it, and let us know.

I love reading and the wonderful feeling of a good book, being transported and caring about the people in a new time, place, or situation. We want passionate reader reactions more than industry acceptance. We knew the odds. Not only is it our first novel, it doesn't fall in line with the current writing trends. We won't be competition for the paranormal writers, although teenage girls seem paranormal at times. Still, women make up between 60-70% of book buyers according to various data crunchers. Our story is written by women, about women, and for women.

Industry acceptance would be wonderful. If nothing else, it would get our novel into more hands. We won't lie, it felt good to be named a Finalist in Chick Lit of the 2011 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. A little industry approval, but it also meant people read and enjoyed the book.

This week we received a rejection letter from an agent. We've received many. I've become numb to them. I understand agents can only take on so many books and they need to pick something they love and can sell. I don't envy them their jobs.

The letter stated, "we have read and discussed your work at length, and although it is, indeed, a moving and original mother/daughter/family discussion, we don't feel we would be the appropriate agent for it." As far as rejections go, I'll take moving and original any day of the week.

We are not discouraged. We believe in our little story and we are pushing forward.

Has a rejection ever encouraged you or motivated you to keep going?

July 14, 2011

Celebrating 100 posts

Wow, time flies when you are having fun. Yesterday's post marked a special achievement for our blog: 100 posts! We started this blog in January, but began regularly blogging in May thanks to Michelle Rafter's Blogathon.

Mom and I want to thank our readers, especially those who take a moment to comment. We write because we love it, but it never hurts to get validation and feedback.

We are writers, readers, mothers and women. This blog details our writing journey as independently published authors. We have learned so much and want to give back to our writing community. Just as importantly, we share our mother-daughter journey.

Our novel, Depression Cookies, debuted in October 2011. For a sample, please visit our Taste of Depression Cookies blog post.

Our 10 Most Popular Posts:
(we used Google Analytics and total number of comments to determine popularity)

* What Not to Do During a Television Interview - humorous take on our Lifetime TV experience
* Five Elements of a Good Read
* Friday Feature: Favorite Thing We Read this Week and Why - featuring a great Ernest Hemingway quote
* Lesson Learned from a Child
* Tips for Taped Interviews
* Delicate Balancing Act - discussing the Lifetime experience and how to find balance
* What Most Southern Women Love about the "F" word
* Haiku Day - sharing Mom's haiku during a Blogathon theme day
* The Importance of Book Clubs - for readers and writers
* One More Thank You - Mom's touching tribute to her mother

We'd love some feedback. Take a moment to let us know how we're doing and suggestions for future blog posts.

July 13, 2011

ROW 80 Check In: The Big Picture

It's Wednesday, and time to check in on my A Round of Words in 80 Days goals. Quotes often give me inspiration, so I searched for quotes about goals. One name popped up in several, Denis Waitley. According to his website, Denis is "one of America's most respected authors, keynote lecturers and productivity consultants on high performance human achievement." Not bad.

His quotes:

Don't be a time manager, be a priority manager. Cut your major goals into bite-sized pieces. Each small priority or requirement on the way to ultimate goal become a mini goal in itself.

Goals provide the energy source that powers our lives. One of the best ways we can get the most from the energy we have is to focus it. That is what goals can do for us; concentrate our energy.

Learn from the past, set vivid, detailed goals for the future, and live in the only moment of time over which you have any control: now.


His points are valid. I like the ideas of managing priorities instead of trying to manage time, concentrating our energies, and focusing on the here and now. When I have a day where I don't meet my goal, I can't beat myself up. The more discouraged I get, the harder it is for the words to flow.

My progress this week:

Sunday, 7/10
Results: did not work on our sequel, posted on Depression Cookies blog
Reaction: Even though my goal was to write six days a week, I hated not writing.

Monday, 7/11
Results: 547 words, posted
Reaction: Disappointed. It left me wondering if not writing the day before threw off my rhythm.

Tuesday, 7/12
Results: 966 words, posted
Reaction: Thrilled. Best daily word total yet!

I am still reading two books and hope to have at least one done and reviewed by Friday, but I'm being easier on this goal than my word counts and posts. See there, I'm learning to prioritize already. My biggest thrill this week was my word total since starting ROW80: 4,356 words so far!

Hope everyone else is feeling good about their goals. If not, take a minute to redefine and prioritize. Undue stress is never a friend to goals.

Let me know how you are doing below. I'm heading over to give some encouragment and link love soon.