February 27, 2013

Learning Curve: ROW80 Update

Isolation, too often it is the life of a writer. Feeling a part of a writing community has helped my writing in some many ways. The learning curve has been intense but rewarding, and I have so many resources for my questions about writing, publishing, editing, marketing, and on and on.

Most of my writing community is online. I feel much less isolated than before, but I still long to surround myself with flesh and blood writers sometimes. To that end, I am attending the Pamlico Writer's Conference this weekend. I'm so excited to pick up writing tips and tools. But most of all, I'm excited to share in the energy of other writers.

I'll be sure to share what I learn.

Back to online writing communities... the Winter Author Blog Challenge starts Friday, March 1. I participated in the First Author Blog Challenge back in June and met some amazing writers, one of whom (the amazing Jo Michaels) is editing my newest novel. Please consider joining us.

Note: I had scheduled guest posts for March 1 & 4, so I will double up on writing prompts on March 2 & 5 for the Winter ABC.

Now for my Wednesday A Round of Words in 80 Days (ROW80) update...

Writing: Depression Cookies chapters coming along nicely. Almost ready to hit send to my co-author, aka Mom. A stubborn scene is still befuddling me. 

Question: When a scene really perplexes you, do you let it go for now and work on it in editing or pound away at it until you get what you want?

Editing: I'm applying some of the editor's comments about my Prologue and Chapter 1 to the rest of the book. I plan to be done editing by early next week. 

Blogging: I'm keeping with my MWF schedule nicely so far.

Reading: Lots lately! Check out Mom in Love with Fiction for reviews.

February 25, 2013

American Idol & Writing: ROW80 Update

I am so grateful for parents who always pushed me to do better. If I brought home a 95 on a test, my parents often asked where I could improve. Not that they didn't congratulate me, because they did. They just didn't blow smoke and chant about their perfect kid.

As a parent, it's so much easier to jump up and down around your kid and tell them how awesome they are. My kids are awesome, and I tell them. But I also make sure to let them know how they can be even better, and I make sure and support their efforts to do so. I never strive to change who they are, just make them better versions of themselves.

After all, what good does it do to be the mom of that kid who shrieks out a song at the American Idol auditions and then cries when the judges tell them the honest truth... they can't sing. Inevitably, the kids says, "But my mama and daddy said I was the best singer ever!" Okay, that's an extreme. But some kids might make it with a few voice lessons or a different song choice. 

What does this have to do with writing?

I not only can take constructive criticism about my work, but I long for it. It's not that I don't have confidence in my abilities. I do. But, I also truly believe that everything can improve with good input. 

My NaNo novel, Chasing Memories, will soon be in the hands of my editor. I know she'll help me make this book better. It's like adding chocolate chips to my great-grandmother's banana bread recipe. A small change, a huge impact! (Yes, I can bring most things back around to sugar.)

Chasing Memories is a real departure for me. Although my character in Depression Cookies was a young adult, this is my first real attempt at the young adult genre. Plus, I'm writing this one in third person. Again, something new.

I can't wait to dive into this book and get it out there to face, yes, more criticism. But I can take it, especially since I know the edits, and ultimately input from beta readers, will make for a much better book. And I'm excited! Does constructive criticism and peer input make you nervous or get you pumped up?

It's Monday, and time for my A Round of Words in 80 Days (ROW80) update...

Writing: Working on my Depression Cookies follow-up. Two chapters are done and ready to send off to Mom for her response. I've got a bit of a scene to flesh out, something is simply not working, and then they are off. My goal is to have them to Mom by Wednesday.

Editing: I'm applying some of the editor's comments about my Prologue and Chapter 1 to the rest of the book. I plan to be done editing by Friday. Wish me luck, because I know there are some holes to fill.

Blogging: I'm keeping with my MWF schedule nicely so far. March begins a 15-day Winter Author Blog Challenge and then April will bring A to Z. Check out both challenges. I've met some amazing people doing both, and they've only helped me as a writer and blogger.

Social Media: Doing better about getting around to other people's blogs, Facebook pages, and Twitter messages without letting it be such a time suck.

Reading: Lots lately! My Beautiful Creatures review is up today, and I have three more books I need to review.

February 22, 2013

Something I've NEVER Apologized For

I came across an interesting post on the Huffington Post this week: Stop Apologizing for What You Like to Read. The author of the post teaches Literature and finds it annoying that so many people apologize to her about liking certain books.

My husband gets onto me all the time for constantly saying, "I'm sorry." But I have NEVER apologized for the books I like, or the genres. Nor do I apologize for or try to defend those I do not like. (I HATED Wicked--loved the play, not the book. Couldn't even finish it, and I have only put down three books in my whole life. See Books I Quit.)

I will read anything, any genre. I'm very proud of this fact. And I like what I like. If I have had an overly stressful week, I turn to Nora Roberts. In fact, I keep several of her books on hand just in case. I love them all--they are my guilty pleasure. Except, really, I don't feel any guilt.

I also love Young Adult, but for now that's the cool thing to like, so I guess I'm good there. And although I try to stay open-minded, I'm not a huge non-fiction or horror lover. I'm just not.

I'm actually less impressed by someone who rattles off Hemingway, Dickens or Austen as one of their favorite authors. Granted, I love them all, but I feel like people say those authors because they think they are supposed to, not because they truly love them. If they do love them, however, all power to them.

I am just as happy reading To Kill a Mockingbird as I am Hunger Games, The Book Thief, or the latest Nora Roberts. Truly, I appreciate any book that transports the reader to a place that makes them happy.

But I'm never ashamed to admit to loving ANY book, nor would I ever apologize. The only person I can't talk to about books--a person who doesn't appreciate reading. Then, I really have nothing to say. 

Do you apologize for your reading preferences? Is there any genre you simply won't read, without exception?

For fun, here are two shots of the bookshelf next to my bed. It's all about variety!

February 20, 2013

The Best Laid Plans: ROW80 Update

I try to plan my writing. I really, really do.

I write the notes and ideas down. Even try to outline.

Yet, I am the writer that I am. And clearly, I am someone who needs to let the story reveal itself through writing, with some input from the characters. (Yes, my characters tend to have minds of their own.)

When I hear other authors talking about planning, outlining, note cards, etc., it sounds so much more like me. I write out a to-do list every single day and make a pro/con list for every important decision in my life.

But not with writing. No matter how much planning I try to do, my best ideas come to me through the scenes. I read the last chapter I wrote and then start typing. The details simply flow, and I have learned to accept it.

Now, what do I do if an agent asks for an outline? Guess I'll be making one once I'm done writing.

Now it's time for my Wednesday A Round of Words in 80 Days (ROW80) update...

My goal: Spend an hour a day writing/planning the Depression Cookies follow-up. My progress: Success. Falling back in love with this book!

My goal: Deep edits and "filling holes" work on Chasing Memories (my NaNo project). 
My progress: Got back the edits on the prologue and chapter one. Will tackle those tomorrow. Can't wait!

My goal: Post here on Monday, Wednesday & Friday and write some A to Z posts so April is not so overwhelming. 
My progress: Barely got this post up, but keeping my fingers crossed for Friday and a couple of A to Z posts.

My goal: Read two books per week. 
My progress: Reading. Published two reviews already this week on Mom in Love with Fiction. Still need to get the Beautiful Creatures book review up.

February 18, 2013

Bait & Switch: ROW80 Update

As I mentioned in Friday's post, I went with my daughter to see Beautiful Creatures. I really enjoyed the book, so I was looking forward to seeing the movie.

It was a good movie, but it was the classic bait and switch... something I see all too often happen with good books.

The movie had the same characters, although often with different purposes and traits, and even the same major plot points, but it was NOT the book I read. And it's a darn shame.

Was it a bad movie? No. But it's hard for me to be overly enthusiastic about it when it was such a deviation from the book. If I hadn't read the book, I think I would have liked it more. The biggest travesty: the main male character, Ethan, was a much stronger character in the book. The movie made him seem dorky and weak. Such a shame.

I have yet to see the authors' take on the movie, but I can see why they wouldn't want to speak out too publicly about any disappointment. Do you remember Anne Rice speaking out about Interview with a Vampire and her disappointment in Tom Cruise as Lestat? It didn't help the movie. Nor, I'm sure, did it help those who enjoyed the movie want to read her book. Catch 22.

But then again, I must admit to having the following problem...

Can you judge a movie without considering the book it was based on?


Mondays are my A Round of Words in 80 Days (ROW80) Updates. So here goes...

My goal: Spend an hour a day writing/planning the Depression Cookies follow-up. 
My progress: Bit of a fail, since I still need to write another chapter. Will finish Wednesday.

My goal: Deep edits and "filling holes" work on Chasing Memories (my NaNo project). 

My progress: Prologue & Chapter One have been sent. Why is the first reader always the scariest?

My goal: Post here on Monday, Wednesday & Friday and write some A to Z posts so April is not so overwhelming.

My progress: Posted MWF last week. Plan to do the same this week. Hope to write two A to Z posts this week. *fingers crossed*

My goal: Read two books per week. 
My progress: Finished Beautiful Creatures just in time for the movie, and will have the review of it up on Mom in Love with Fiction. Read one book already this week and one more to go.

February 15, 2013

Beautiful Co-Writing: Authors Working Together

One of the first questions most people ask me about Depression Cookies is how it was writing a book with my mom. What I find more intriguing is the idea of writing a book with another author, not related. 

Mom and I have a lifetime (my lifetime anyway) of figuring out our relationship and knowing what does and doesn't work for us. Plus, she's the one who fostered in me a love of reading and writing.

I have found many authors I've clicked with over the years. Could I write a book with them? I'm not sure. I'm not opposed to the idea, but I think it could be an interesting journey, to say the least.

So when I discovered Beautiful Creatures was written by two friends, Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, I was intrigued. Even more so when I read this from the back cover of the book: "Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl came up with the concept for Beautiful Creatures, their debut novel, over lunch."

Note: I think my writer friends and I need to have lunch WAY more often.

Then, in the Acknowledgments section, it mentioned that they wrote the rough draft (the book comes in at 563 pages) in three months. Wow! Three months and co-authored.

In an interview on the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, found here, the authors addressed writing together. 

An excerpt:

Q: As co-authors of The Caster Chronicles, can you tell us what it is like to write with another person? Is there a team process involved?

A: Kami: Our writing process is unique to say the least, and often makes other authors cringe when we describe it. We discuss the plot at length and create an outline together. Then we each work on separate chapters. When we finish, we trade, and hack away at each other’s writing--deleting, adding, and changing. We pass the same chapters back so many times that most sentences have a few words of Margaret’s and a few of mine.

Mom and I traded chapters, so we each had our own voice. I can't imagine sending chapters back and forth and each having pieces of the story, even pieces of a sentence.

Can you imagine writing a novel this way?

My daughter, soon 13, read Beautiful Creatures over Christmas. When we found out there would be a movie, I promised her I would read it. I am 100 pages away from finishing, and we are seeing it tonight. 

So far, I really love it. Look for a review next week on Mom in Love with Fiction (of the book and movie). Although I'm sure I'll mention it on this blog as well.

Two initial thoughts...

Cover: I'm not in love with it. It just seems they could have done a bit more. Too understated for my tastes. Thoughts?

Praise: "Give this to fans of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight or HBO's True Blood series." SLJ -- They could do better for their huge back cover quote. Actually they did, just lower down on the back cover and smaller. "A hauntingly delicious dark fantasy," Cassandra Clare AND "A lush Southern gothic," Holly Black. Both quotes more accurately represent the novel, so it's a shame one of them wasn't featured. Plus, there isn't a vampire in this novel, so why evoke Twilight?

And for fun, the trailer...

February 13, 2013

Life Has a Funny Way: ROW80 Update

Life has a funny way of getting me back on track.

My way of saying Happy Valentine's
Day tomorrow!
Since I was a teenager, nothing motivated me like a looming due date. Often I did my best work under pressure. Two weeks to deadline was never as motivating as twenty-four hours. 

The hardest thing about writing/ editing is the "artificial" deadlines, especially with my own work. I would do better with a traditional publisher from the pure aspect of having someone breathing down my neck with a deadline. It's sad, but it's true.

I set deadlines, but they are in my head. Too easily, I let other things with actual deadlines take precedence.

So Life handed me a real deadline.

I'm holding off on making an official announcement of a big change in my life (and let me just go on record to say: no more kids). This big change forces my hand. I really need to have my NaNo book, Chasing Memories, done and ready to be published before this event takes place. That gives me four months. FOUR months!

I also need to finish the Depression Cookies follow-up in the same time. Maybe this is just what I needed to overcome a couple of months of funk. Here we go...

Do you work better with time or under pressure?

And now, my Round of Words in 80 Days (ROW80) Update

My goal: Spend an hour a day writing/planning the Depression Cookies follow-up.
My progress: One chapter down, one more to write (by Friday) and then off to Mom for her response.

My goal: Deep edits and "filling holes" work on Chasing Memories (my NaNo project).

My progress: Prologue & Chapter One will be sent to the hopeful-editor on Friday. 

My goal: Post here on Monday, Wednesday & Friday. Now adding: start writing some A to Z posts so April is not so overwhelming.

My progress: Monday and Wednesday done. Hoping to write Friday's post tomorrow and two A to Z posts by Friday as well.

My goal: Read two books per week. Now adding: Finish Beautiful Creatures by Friday. I have a date with my oldest daughter to go see it, and I promised her I'd read the book first (since she loved it). 
My progress: So far this week, I finished three books and three reviews for Mom in Love with Fiction.

And thanks to inspiration from my ROW80-friend, Julie Glover... my newest goal: keep the weekends for family (except for a small 8am-noon window on Saturday for catching up).

February 11, 2013

Re-energized: ROW80 Update

My life was filled to overflowing with love and family this past weekend. The energy is pouring over into my Monday (and hopefully my week!), and I'm already hard at work on goals. I'm actually feeling quite pumped up for the first time in a long time. It's a great feeling. Nothing rejuvenates me like a few days of bonding.

Yesterday, my baby girl had her First Communion. It was such a special weekend, especially since my sisters came in to celebrate.

My baby is the mini-bride in the middle. *beaming* 

It's funny... I made her change right after the ceremony before she was allowed to have cake. I told her it was just like her wedding day would be... a gorgeous dress that she only got to wear for a few hours. And, yes, we are definitely women-strong in my family. The only girls missing: my mom and my niece, Dani. Both of whom were sorely missed. Not that we didn't miss the guys, too. (Hubby took the picture!)

Normally, Sundays are for my A Round of Words in 80 Days Updates, but I've switched to a Monday/Wednesday/Friday schedule until my April Blogging from A to Z Challenge. So, today's my update.

My goal: Spend an hour a day writing/planning the Depression Cookies follow-up. 
My progress: Did start back on planning, but need to get to writing. Goal is to have two chapters done by Wednesday.

My goal: Deep edits and "filling holes" work on Chasing Memories (my NaNo project). 

My progress: Spent time working on the Prologue and Chapter One. Goal is to have it to my hopeful-editor by Thursday.

My goal: Post here on Monday, Wednesday & Friday.

My progress: Oops, where did Friday go. Oh wait, see picture above!

My goal: Two books a week.
My progress: Read two books last week, and need to post both reviews on Mom in Love with Fiction.

Wishing all my writing friends a week of flowing words!

February 6, 2013

Being Sidetracked Isn't ALWAYS Bad: IWSG & ROW80

It's the first Wednesday of the month and time for my Insecure Writer's Support Group post. A huge thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for putting together this group. I appreciate the opportunity to share my insecurities on the #IWSG therapy couch and to read how others are doing.

Last month, I discussed my need to take life One Page at a Time. An excerpt:

Looking back on 2012, I can best describe it as wildly fluctuating. I'd have stellar months of focus and achievement followed by days (okay, weeks) of complete withdrawal. I was like a small puppy, either full steam ahead or collapsed in a corner.

Well, January was all about being collapsed in a corner. 

Thanks to the flu, which led to pneumonia, I was out for the count. The bright side: it forced me, and my body, to rest.

I turned 40 last August. Ever since, I've been a bit obsessed with discovery--I'd say finding myself, but that sounds like something you do after high school, while you are trying to decide what you want to be. I know the kind of person I want to be, but I'm finding out new things about myself every day.

I started February wanting nothing more than to get back on my feet and start moving forward. Okay, I wanted to go from zero to hero overnight and start accomplishing goals left and right... back to puppy mode.

Then, Sunday, my mom called and told me about a short story competition in her area. The deadline: Tuesday. All my goals went out the window, as I frantically edited some pieces I had been working on. Finally, at noon yesterday, I submitted two short stories in the young adult category. It felt good, even though I was staring at a pile of neglected work.

The moral of the story: sometime being sidetracked is good. Pneumonia = forced rest. Unexpected short story competition = forced writing / editing. Come close for a secret... I had never submitted to a young adult competition, and this is my new writing genre of choice. 

Has being sidetracked ever worked to your favor?

2013 is shaping up to be quite a year. Hope I'm up for the ride.

Wednesdays are also A Round of Words in 80 Days check-ins. Mine:

Spend an hour a day writing/planning the Depression Cookies follow-up. ST

For this week: Back to goal!

Deep edits and "filling holes" work on Chasing Memories (my NaNo project). I promised to get the Prologue and first chapter to my hopeful-editor. (She rocks! Once she's my official editor, I will share. Heck, I'll shout it from the rooftops.) ST 
For this week: Back to goal!

Finish the second edit and send it off to my client. ✓

Sign up for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. ✓ If you want to join me, check out the rules and sign-up here. The idea: Post an alphabet-themed post according to the schedule.

For February and March, my goal is to get back to a Sun/Mon/Wed/Fri blogging schedule. -- D = For some reason I'm finding the Sunday/Monday turnaround is not working for me. So I've decided to do my ROW80 updates on Monday and Wednesday, and then blog M/W/F. (well, until April!) 

ST = Sidetracked
D = Discovery

I hope everyone is discovering positive ways to get sidetracked this month. Please visit some of my great writing friends at ROW80 and IWSG!

February 3, 2013

Writing Away January: ROW80 Update

January was a hard month. For the first time ever, I missed two ROW80 updates in a row. There didn't seem to be a point. An update suggests there is something to update, and I had nothing. Nothing but excuses and complaints, and I didn't want to keep talking about it.

Then it dawned on me, I'm a writer. I needed to do what writers do best... use my imagination. So I decided to look at myself as a character, a character who had been written into a deep hole and needed a way out. I simply need to sharpen my pencil and redefine how I want this story (that'd be my life) to go.

A reader doesn't want a whiny, rolling in self-pity character, and I sure as Hell don't want to write one. And what am I if not the writer of my own life?! (Let's look past all the things I can't control right now. When they happen, I'll just "write" around them.)

2013 is my year of self-discovery. I wish I could say I ended 2012 with some eye-opening experience that told me I should look deeper this year. No, the idea for focusing on self-discovery has come from a rough end to 2012 that continued into a rough start to 2013.

So, I'm writing away January. It's in the past. My character, ME, needs to move on... get stronger. Looking back can teach us lessons, but we look back with what we know today--looking forward is my new mantra. 

Which leads me to new A Round of Words in 80 Days (ROW80) goals...

Spend an hour a day writing/planning the Depression Cookies follow-up. No more messing around on this goal. I don't want to lose the passion I feel for the piece, and I'm starting to.

Deep edits and "filling holes" work on Chasing Memories (my NaNo project). I promised to get the Prologue and first chapter to my hopeful-editor. (She rocks! Once she's my official editor, I will share. Heck, I'll shout it from the rooftops.)

Need to finish the second edit and send it off to my client. So excited about this literary fiction novel. I can't wait to share more information about it SOON.

I'm signing up for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. My theme this year are words that inspire me (or ones I just like and why). I LOVED this challenge last year. If you want to join me, check out the rules and sign-up here. The idea: Post an alphabet-themed post according to the schedule (so you'll post 26 times in April).

For February and March, my goal is to get back to a Sunday/Monday/Wednesday/ Friday blogging schedule. To help ease back in, I may recycle some old favorites on Fridays with some new thoughts. 

Thanks for sticking with me through a rough January. And please visit some other ROW80 bloggers and see how they are doing here.