Wednesday, July 31, 2013

July 31 - Last Day of the #31 Day Blog Challenge


Whew!  I made it 31 days!


This has been a great exercise for me. I’ve had a blog for a couple years now, but I’d always been pretty lax about keeping up with it.  Having a challenge to blog every day really made me work hard to come up with topics. It also gave me some incentive to come up with several topics and write ahead, which really helped when I took that trip mid-month.  Who knew I wouldn’t have steady internet access for over a week?? Yikes!


I am curious to know which posts were the most useful or interesting to people. If I were to judge by the numbers of comments received, it would appear that topics that cover writing craft are the most popular with my readers. Do you agree?

As much fun as this was, I do think daily blogging is a bit much. What reader is going to visit me every day? I know I’m not *that* fascinating! I do want to keep up with more frequent, regular posting though. The question is, how often to do them? Any ideas?  I’m thinking perhaps weekly…but first I’m going to take a few days off and relax :)
I’ll check in with you soon though. Take care and keep reading, Lisa

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Blog 30 Goonies Never Say "Die"!!

Lately, I’ve noticed some of my writer friends are unhappy.  There are a variety of reasons, but most of it seems to revolve around criticism. Notice I didn’t say “critiques”, but criticism.  Opinions are like those other things everyone else has, right? They’re always going to be there.  The trick is to keep those criticisms or unhelpful opinions from bogging us down, or worse, stopping us from writing altogether.
When I first self-published Storyteller, it took a long time to get my first review. The jist of it was, “Meh, its ok.” At least, that’s what I took away from it. Needless to say, I was hoping for a little better than 'meh'. Actually, I was crushed.  And that was from someone who probably thought they were being kind. I can’t imagine what I would have done if that someone had been actually trying to hurt my feelings.  I’ve always been a sensitive person and I can take a lot of things to heart – way too many things- but I’m getting better at separating myself from criticism. At least I think I am. I guess we’ll see how I do when Hush Puppy is released and the first reviews come in.
A few years back, I facilitated a Dove Real Beauty Workshop for Girls. What’s that and what does it have to do with criticism? A lot actually. The workshop teaches girls how to deal with all the messages they get each day, both positive and negative, but the advice is excellent for anyone of any age. I love the message so I’m going to pass it along to you.
Imagine yourself in a giant bubble, everywhere you go. This is your personal space bubble. It protects you. You decided what to let into your bubble and what to keep out. Let in the good things around you: supportive friends and family. Reject the bad things, in this case: unconstructive criticism that only seeks to unsettle you or separate you from your dreams. We don’t want to completely shut ourselves off from constructive criticism, but we should be selective as to whom we let into our bubble.
My favorite writer about writing, Brenda Ueland, says this:
"The only good teachers for you are those friends who love you, who think you are interesting, or very important, or wonderfully funny; whose attitude is: Tell me more. Tell me all you can. I want to understand more about everything you feel and know and all the changes inside and out of you. Let more come out. And if you have no such friend,  -and you want to write, -well then you must imagine one."
If you haven’t read her book "If you want to write: a book about art, independence, and spirit" , I urge you to check it out. I’ve raved about it in posts before, so I won’t do it here. I’ll just say there are some lovely passages. Whenever I get discouraged about my writing, I open it up and quickly find comfort.
And if you find yourself the subject of unwanted criticism, decide what to accept and what to disregard. The choice is truly yours.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Blog 29 Exciting News Peeps!!


I’ve accepted an offer from Month9Books to e-publish my young adult, scifi fantasy manuscript, Vessel in early 2015!  Hehe!  So excited! 2015 sounds very far away, but it’s really not and I’m sure I’ll have lots of editing work to do on it in the meantime.  But for now, I feel like celebrating!  Somebody give me a beer! I could actually use the expression ‘squee’ and I normally hate that expression ;)

Month9 is not a traditional small press. It’s a bit of a new breed, I guess you might say.  This book will be sold as an e-book until it sells enough units and would then be available in print. I suppose that lessens the risk for the publisher that they might be left with a bunch of copies if it doesn’t sell.  I’m not averse to saving some trees. It’s a little funny though, since the book is about humans that have lost all their digital data due to solar storms, including all their books. Ha!

I don’t have too much more to tell at this point. Now is when the work starts. If you hear me moaning and groaning about editing in the coming months, feel free to metaphorically slap me.  I’ll deserve it. As always, stay tuned for updates.  And since the cat is out of the bag, I might as well release my formerly private Pinterest board for the book.  Enjoy~


 
 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Hush Puppy #SampleSunday

Happy Sunday peeps :) You may or may not be aware of a little hashtag fun on Twitter called #SampleSunday.  For those of you not familiar with it, many authors use it to mark links to samples of their writing you can read for free on Sunday.  If you're on Twitter, you should check it out.

For my #SampleSunday, I thought I'd offer an excerpt from Hush Puppy, my contemporary, young adult novel.  Enjoy~


 The weeds had deep roots. They kept breaking off in my hands as I yanked on them, cursing under my breath. Sweat dripped off my nose, making wet spots on the red soil. The beans were in flower and it seemed like every insect in town was humming around them. I was so busy trying to avoid the bees with my hoe, I didn’t notice the shaggy-haired boy walk up behind me.

                “Kind of hot for yard work, ain’t it?”

                I snapped up and spun around too fast, the blood rushing out of my head. I steadied myself on the hoe as stars blurred my vision. As my sight cleared, I saw Jamie’s face, a halo of glittering lights around him.

                “Hey, Hush Puppy!” he said. “Those were good.”

                “I’m Corrine.” Still blinking, I wiped my sweaty forehead with the back of my dirty glove.

                “I’m Jamie.” For a minute, he just stood there holding a red spiral notebook in one hand. Not knowing what else to do, I tried to make conversation.

                “Going to summer school?”

                “What?” He seemed confused.

                “You look like you just got off the bus,” I said, pointing to his notebook.

                “Oh, this?” He glanced at his notebook. “I just write stuff sometimes.”

                “What kind of stuff?”

                “I…the kind of stuff my old man don’t like, I guess.” Jamie smiled like he thought that was funny. I threw the hoe down in the wilted weeds.

                “I need a drink. Want some tea?” I offered.

                “Sure,” he said, following me to the house.

                I got the tea from the fridge and found two glasses while Jamie sat at the table, setting his notebook on the red and white vinyl tablecloth in front of him. The kitchen was stuffy so I cranked on the window air conditioner until it blew frosty gusts at us. Jamie watched quietly while I cracked a tray of ice cubes and tossed a few in each glass before pouring the tea. We both took a long drink.

                “You’re not like most boys around here.”

                “Oh yeah?”

                “I can’t think of one who would actually admit to writing something that wasn’t for school.”

                Jamie smirked and chugged some more tea.

                “So what’s in it?” I asked.

                “In what?”

                “Your notebook. What do you write?”

                “Um…” Jamie’s thumb fingered the corner of the pages. “Stories, essays mostly.” His eyes traveled over the plastic tablecloth between us, not daring to look up.

                “Can I see?” I reached for the notebook, but Jamie quickly slid it away from me.

                “Naw. You wouldn’t like it.”

                “How do you know?” The questions sounded ruder than I meant and I tried to make up for it. “I like a lot of stuff.”

                “It’s just that it’s not that good.” He pulled it off the table onto his lap where I couldn’t see it. I felt myself frowning.

                “Fine. Be like that.”

                The crunching sound of a car on gravel grabbed my attention. Memaw wasn’t due home for hours. I jumped up to check out the tiny kitchen window, but there was no one there. When I turned around, Jamie was gone, his empty glass on the table. I walked into the living room and saw him down the short hallway, standing in my room.

                “What are you doing?” I asked, hoping I hadn’t left my underwear on the floor that morning. It was dark in my room because we kept the windows covered during the day to keep it cool. I walked up behind Jamie, who was gazing up at the world map on my bedroom wall. I caught our reflection in my mirror and realized just how different we were next to each other. My dark skin, the color of rich, black coffee, made his skin look that much lighter. My kinky hair, poking out of the braids that were coming undone, made his hair seem that much straighter. But Jamie didn’t notice any of that.

                “Cool map,” said Jamie. “What are the pins for?” He fingered the blue push pin I had stuck in the map at Munich.

                “Places I want to see one day.”

                “You sure got a lot of traveling to do.”

                “That’s the plan. Red is for must-see, blue is for nice to see.”

                “There’s a lot of red. These your books?” Jamie asked, looking over my shelf.

                “Yeah.”

                Jamie paused a minute and then sighed. “I should probably go. My dad would freak if he knew I was here.” He turned to walk down the hall toward the front door. I should have been relieved to get him out of my room, but some part of me was disappointed to see him go. I followed him outside and across the yard toward the driveway. He glanced back at me once or twice, as if he thought I was going home with him.

                “I gotta finish weeding,” I explained.

                “Oh.”

                “Thanks for stopping by,” I said. It was something Memaw would have said.

                “Yeah, thanks for the tea.” He kicked a grubby sneaker toe into the fresh garden dirt I’d just cleared of weeds. The notebook dangled from his fingertips. He stared at me like he had something more to say, but he never got the chance. Harley’s truck, held together with duct tape and wire, rattled down the road, stopped suddenly and backed up. Harley drove his truck into our driveway and hung his head out the window.

                “What the hell are you doing over here?” he shouted at Jamie, who didn’t answer. Instead, Jamie looked at me and offered me the notebook he had been so reluctant to share before.

                “I’ve been looking everywhere for you!” Harley kept ranting.

                “I think you dropped this,” Jamie said to me, somehow ignoring Harley.

                “What?” I couldn’t understand what was happening.

                “Damn it, Jamie! Get in the truck!”

                “Isn’t it yours?” Jamie’s eyes pleaded with me to play along. “Take it.” I finally did what he said and he joined Harley in the truck.

                “When I call you, I expect you to answer, boy!” I heard Harley shouting as they drove away. I didn’t understand how or why, but suddenly the mysterious red notebook was mine.
****
For more of Hush Puppy, please see Amazon, B&N or Goodreads!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Blog 27 ~ Open Mic Night or “There’s Room Enough on my Soap Box for Two”

So I’ve been babbling on for nearly a month here. Now I’d like to extend an invitation to anyone who might like to post a guest post on my blog.  I have several guest posters already lined up, but I wanted to open the invitation to any of my readers.  Of course, every topic is subject to my approval, but in general, guest posts on writing, reading, and/or publishing would be most welcome. 
Author interviews or blog/book tours are welcome too.  I recently did an author interview for Gary Vanucci and it was a lot of fun.  Hop on over to Gary’s blog and check it out.  In short, I’m open to anything bookish J  I’m always interested in exchanging interviews or book promotions too.  Just shoot me an e-mail here – writerlisacresswell (at) gmail (dot) com .
I look forward to hearing from you~

Friday, July 26, 2013

Blog 26 One of my favorite things~


Hush Puppies
I had hoped to be posting a release day post about Hush Puppy in July, but it seems I'll have to wait just a bit longer. There is  a lovely galley in existence now, which means it's getting oh-so close to being published.  There's also a blog post, all ready to go on release day, to tell you just how the book came to be. Until then, I thought I might chat a little with you about the themes in the book and what I was striving for when I wrote it.  You already know how much I love themes, right?
 
Hush Puppy could succinctly be described as a coming of age story, but I like to think it's also about growing into one's own sense of self esteem, something many of us don't truly achieve until later in life.  In addition to that, the book is about a funny little thing called friendship.  It's one of my very favorite themes and it crops up in my writing again and again, no matter what I write.
Friendship is a hard thing to get your metaphorical arms around. If you were to define friendship, how would you describe it? An affection between two people? Is it trust or an understanding and acceptance of another's personality, their flaws and foibles?  Is a friend a confidant, a person you can trust with your secrets?
 
I myself have very definite opinions about what makes a friendship and I wanted to explore that in Hush Puppy.  What happens when the trust of a friendship is betrayed? Or when that friendship gets tangled up with feelings of love or dependence?

To me, a friend is someone you can be totally yourself with without fear of rejection or ridicule.  Even then, there's a constant push-pull between the two of boundaries, of affection and closeness. Some friends are more distant than others and we're constantly trying to gauge where we stand with them. The friends we're closest to are those that know our inner most fears, those that support us, and encourage us to grow, maybe even against our will.

What do you think makes a friendship? Have you ever had a friend betray your trust? What happened?
 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Blog 25 ~ The Golden Rule

I recently signed up for a critique session through my local Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrator’s chapter. I live in a rural area and I don’t have many critique partners nearby, so when opportunities like this come up, I try to jump on it.  Now I have several manuscripts and synopses to review for a workshop in August.

Before I get started, I thought it would be useful to think about how I’m going to do this in terms of how I like to be critiqued myself.  I’ve had a rather brutal critique style in the past and I wonder if I might need to soften that. I witnessed a lot of verbal critiques last week and I came away with a better feel for how I personally would like to be critiqued.
First off, a critique is not proofreading. I don’t think focusing on grammatical errors is helpful at the early draft stage. It wastes valuable time on words that may end up being cut anyway. The only time to mention spelling, punctuation, and grammar is if they are so glaring as to be a complete and utter distraction to the reader.
For me, personally, here’s what I want to know:
Does it grab you? Intrigue you? Or is it confusing? Does it make you feel something? Anything?? Does it make you want to read more?
What words, dialog, or speech tags pop you out of the story? Where does it begin to bore you, or make your mind stumble over clunky, awkward language? Are there plot holes or things that don’t make sense?
Does the writing have heart? Does it have a theme, or at least a feel? Can you hear the author’s voice lecturing you or can you hear the voice of the characters? Do the characters seem like real people or card board cutouts that could be anyone?
Do you feel like you’re in “good hands”, as if the author has a sense of mastery that you’re comfortable with?  What parts to you love? What parts do you hate? How can I make it better?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Blog #24 Starting over~

Omigosh you guys!! Writing conferences can make you think about your writing in a whole new way - a fact proven to me once again in Oregon at the Oregon Coast Children's Book Writer's Workshop.  I submitted a first page for group critique. It was read aloud anonymously (which I love) and critiqued by the group of instructors in front of everyone.

I submitted a first page of a story that I knew needed work. I wasn't entirely happy with it and I couldn't really figure out why. I had written the book and decided it needed a better beginning, so I wrote a new chapter one and stuck it on the beginning of the book. It was a beautiful chapter one and I was very proud of it, but as it was read aloud and I listened to everyone's comments, I realized it doesn't match the rest of the book. The tone is literary, reflective, and somewhat sad, but the rest of the book is a silly, little paranormal romance I wrote for fun. I think I've come to the realization that this chapter one doesn't belong to this paranormal story at all, but to another sort of story.

I don't mind writing young adult (YA) contemporary. Hush Puppy is YA contemporary, but I seem to have to stumble into these kinds of books. The first chapter of Hush Puppy placed well in a contest and I knew I had to write the book. The first chapter of this book, written in contemporary style, got such positive feedback in the critique session that I think I had better write it too. Perhaps my strength lies in YA contemporary?

I know I probably worry too much about writing heavy subjects...I'm not sure why I hesitate to go there. Probably because I know it will be much work and will require much soul searching, some of it probably gut wrenching. I also know those are the kinds of stories I seem to do the best so I suppose I should listen to the universe and get busy writing.

But where to begin? Reimagining the entire story completely differently is a little daunting. I wish I could erase my memory!  Have you ever scrapped an entire manuscript to start off in another direction? How did you do it??

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Blog #23 The Best time to Write


I’m finding more and more that the best time to write, for me, is in the morning, which kinda sucks because when do I find the time to write? In the evening, of course.  I can still write in the evening. I do it a lot actually, but mornings seem so much more magical. Especially that oh-so brief bit between entirely awake and entirely asleep. On really good days, I can brainstorm my whole writing day right there.

The other morning, I wrote a short poem, thought of a blog topic, and realized what needed to happen in my next chapter, all before getting out of bed. Since I had no paper or pen, I typed out a few brief notes on the iPhone and went back to sleep. The poem will fit nicely into Storyteller Book III because each chapter starts with a poem or a snippet of a ballad or a word from the wise fictitious character.  When do you write your best stuff?

Just for fun, here’s my poem for you. Enjoy!

Where ever the wind blows,

where ever the owl calls, and the fern grows,

I’ll be there with you~

Monday, July 22, 2013

Blog #22 Letter to my Fifteen Year Old Self


Today is my 43rd birthday.  I had to give some extra thought to what I might write today.  I finally settled on this letter to myself when I was a young writer. Please feel free to pass it along to any young writers you may know too~
Dear me, 
I know there are lots of kids out there, just like you, who want to write something, but lack the confidence or the support to do it. I’m here to tell you, do it anyway.

Maybe you think it’s stupid or silly or you wouldn’t show it to anyone in a million years. That’s ok. Keep every single scrap of paper you ever wrote a story on anyway. You might use it later. You don’t have to show anyone until you’re ready.  Just remember, there’s no one like you in the whole world and you have something important to say. Everyone does.  Don’t listen to the naysayers that tell you otherwise. Ever.

And it may not be very good at first, but you’re learning. Like anything, it takes practice. Keep at it. Read everything you can and then write some more. Find your voice, your “you-ness”, and put it on the page.  When it is true and honest, it will shine and you will know you’ve done your best.
 
 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Blog #21 Homeward bound~


As much as I love to travel, I also love going home and it’s time. Dorothy said it best “There’s no place like home.” For me, it’s back to work and the heat of summer. I hope my tomato plants didn’t burn up in the greenhouse. L I guess I’ll know tonight.

I have a pile of manuscripts to critique for a group of people in Boise, due late August. I gotta get crackin’! I don’t have a regular critique group, for a variety of reasons, but I try to take every chance I can to get a critique. 

This last week has been a lot of critiquing for me, by several people. I met with an agent, a writer, or an editor every day of the week, to talk about my writing. Thank you, David Greenberg, for a great conference! I learned some new things and had some old things reinforced. And of course, I was able to meet with agents and editors I would normally never get the chance to meet. I’m always grateful for that opportunity. You are a perfectly delightful, gracious host beyond compare. :)

I’ve had my share of bumps and ego bruising in my years of critique, but they’re usually always pointing me toward something better. I do my best to take the critique in the spirit in which it was intended.  It sucks, but you have to take the experience and learn from it. You’ll know you’re improving when people are having a hard time finding anything negative to say about a piece.  If you keep at, it’ll come; I promise.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Blog #20 Don't Knock it till you try it~


One morning, outside the writer's workshop classroom, I was waiting with some other classmates for the room to open and they were reminiscing about games they played as kids. There was hopscotch, kick the can, jacks, and marbles. And of course baseball. But then the conversation took a funny turn, as conversations often do, toward the comparison to today. “Kids today don't play motor skills games, except with their thumbs.” “Kids don't go outside.” “They're not interested in those things.”
 
And I thought to myself, because I'm not a very outspoken person, “And you people think you want to write books for these kids you don't even respect?” They won't get very far. If there's no respect for the reader, and that's just what this is, there will be no respect for the writer. Judging kids today by your experiences without bothering to understand their experiences and perspectives is a mistake and it will ruin any writing you do for children.
Maybe that’s why they say writing for children is just like writing for adults, but harder. You have to set aside your superior attitudes about the way things should be or your misty-eyed, sugar-coated versions of the past being better than the future to do it well. There is no room for nostalgia in children's literature. Young readers want the best you've got.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Blog #19 Writerly Persuits


I’m constantly surprised how many of my compatriots in writing for young people are so much older than I. Sure, there are a few of us that are younger (not that I’m all that young), but many folks are retired and have now found the time to write. No doubt, writing while working and raising a family are not for the faint hearted. I know from my own experience trying to do it. Things have to drop. Your house can’t stay clean all the time. Your physical fitness might be ignored. Your family might even get a little testy if you spend all of your free time writing.

At any rate, I hope it’s not because folks have deferred their dreams. A dream deferred dries up like a raisin in the sun a famous author once wrote, and it’s true.  Reminds me a blog I wrote not too long ago about not putting things off until tomorrow.  What dreams have you been putting off until “someday”?


 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Blog #18 With sadness and regret…


I use Twitter as my news source. Some would say that’s ridiculous. Maybe it is, but all I really want to know is the 140 character gist of what’s up. If I want to know more, I’ll go to the internet or the tv after that, but it’s rarely necessary. I have an extremely low tolerance for television pundits. Anyway, you can imagine my dismay when the last news I got on Twitter (before losing my internet connection last weekend) was the verdict in the Trayvon Martin trial. I call it the Martin trial because it seems like Trayvon was the one on trial.

If a person can’t walk down the street to the convenience store and back without being considered “suspicious” what can they do? I know that being a black man in this country is not easy and I’ll never know what it’s truly like.

I just want to say this: The way we treat people is the way they tend to become. If we treat a child with contempt and distain, they grow into an angry, bitter adult. If we expect the worst of a child and we continually tell them they won’t succeed in life, that’s usually what happens. If we teach young people they should fear others and hate others, they won’t question it.  It’s a rare individual that can break out of that.  No one is born a failure or a success.  No one is born a bigot or a saint. We make them.  And I weep for us all.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Blog #17 On the Edge of Land and Sea




If this blog reaches you on July 17, it means I’ve found a wifi coffee shop here in Oregon and somehow managed to upload a few words. The house we’re staying in is a lovely little cottage, but it has no cell service or wifi. Not even the kind you can steal from your neighbor, not that I ever would. ;) My phone has effectively become an expensive, electric brick.

Oceanside is really just a collection of houses perched on a steep hill beside the ocean. The night we arrived, Ryan and I went down to check out the beach. I can’t remember the last time I’ve been so cold on a beach. The wind chill was bone withering. Coming from ninety degree temps to this was a shock. I found myself wishing I had brought more coats, jackets, sweaters, and hoodies! Where I grew up, going to the beach meant shorts and sunburns, so it’s always an adjustment coming to Oregon.

Still, we’ve had fun. It is good to unplug a bit, but I’m not sure I’d say I’ve loved it. I’ve missed refreshing my blog forty times a day and responding to your comments. I’ve missed Twitter because I’m addicted to it. I admit it.  I scheduled several blogs to post in advance of the trip here because I thought I’d be busy, not because I knew I wouldn’t have access! Good thing too, or I’d be way behind on my #31day blog challenge. J

More to come about the writing conference…stay tuned, same Bat channel!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Blog#16 DiversifYA Interview


This is a copy of a post over on DiverifYA today.  Marieke has been posting interviews by diverse young adult authors for about a month now and it’s been fascinating reading.  Here’s mine~

1.       How do you identify yourself?

I think of myself first and foremost as a mother, since it’s the most important job I’ve ever had and it can be all consuming.  Formal education is important, but I think it’s maybe more important that my children learn compassion, empathy, tolerance, and understanding.  I grew up in a non-traditional, white Southern U.S. family.  My parents divorced when I was young and I remember we were rather poor in those early days.  The South is all about social status based on skin color and economics, sorry to say.  It definitely shaped my outlook on the world. 

These days I’m working toward my dreams of being a writer, which means constantly fighting back that terrible inner voice that constantly whispers, “You aren’t good enough. No one will like you.” I’ve gotten a lot better at ignoring it.  I think a lot of people know that voice.  It’s based in fear.  And really, there is nothing to fear.  You and I are so much stronger than we know and we have to remember that.

2. What did it feel like growing up in a non-traditional family?


Back in the 1970’s, women were just starting to enter the work force. Being a single mother, my mother had to work whether she wanted to or not.  I see a lot of divorced parents nowadays sharing the care of their children, which is great.  In our situation, my mother was our only caregiver.  I remember coming home after school to an empty house many times. I was what they called a latch key kid.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but for much of my life, I longed for what I thought was a “normal” family, like the Brady Bunch I watched every afternoon.  I remember feeling poor because we were told so many times that we couldn’t afford things. And I remember feeling ashamed of the clothes I wore because they weren’t the hip and trendy things other kids wore at my school.  My sister and I certainly weren’t spoiled.

3. What are the biggest challenges? Conversely, what are the quirks/perks? 
Obviously, I think it’s hard for one parent to be all things to a child. A father brings different skills to parenting than a mother, and I think both are beneficial. Children are like sponges and they seem to need constant attention. I know my mother couldn’t give me all the time that I craved with her as a child, but she did the best she could. Sometimes it just isn’t possible for a child to have two parents living with them, but as long as they have positive adult role models in their lives, they can grow into healthy adults.
4. What do you wish people knew about having a non-traditional family?

That there is no “normal” anymore.  Society told us for years and years that a family consisted of a mother, a father, and their biological children.  But the concept of a family is so much bigger than that. Its aunts and uncles, grandmas and grandpas, cousins and family friends that are so close they might as well be related.  Its domestic partners and step parents, half brothers and sisters.  It’s any home where you are loved, respected, and cared for.  That’s what’s important. Not whether or not you fit into neatly constructed categories created by someone in 1950.  There is no normal. Maybe there never was?
5. What are the biggest cliches/stereotypes you’ve seen?



Thanks to Cinderella, everyone one knows about evil step mothers and step sisters.  Unfortunately sometimes, they do exist. I never had an evil step mother or evil siblings, but I had an evil step father once that I’d rather not remember.  There’s also the “dead beat dad” stereotype.  Those people exist too, but I hope they are actually a minority. Not everyone is cut out to be a parent.  Children can try the patience of a saint and some people just don’t have what it takes.  (I’ve often thought there should be some kind of permit or license required before you’re allowed to have children.) 
Kidding aside, I think perhaps the biggest misconception out there is that there is one perfect way to parent.  There have been a ton books published on how to do it, but the truth is, every child is different and must be raised a little differently.  We can’t help being diverse. It’s the way we’re built and that’s ok. It’s what we are.

Bonus: What is your advice for writers writing diverse characters?

I read someone’s advice once, but darn if I can’t remember who said it. The message was this – everyone wants something, even if it’s just a glass of water.  So every character you make must have some deep inner desire they’re carrying around inside them.  You’ve probably heard the standard “What does the main character want? What’s standing in their way?” Take it a step further and figure this out for every character, not just the main character.
Secondly, we’re all human and we have flaws.  These may be real flaws, like arrogance, or imagined flaws, like self-doubt.  We have bad habits, like smoking or drinking too much or gossiping, and we have good habits, like kindness and thoughtfulness. Give each character at least one flaw, maybe more, and at least one redeeming quality.  The world is not black and white; it’s gray. No one is all good or all bad. We are a little of everything.  Creating your characters this way gives them dimension and makes them inherently diverse.
Lastly, I like to give characters something special and unique to them. It can be physical or not. We all have eye color and skin color. We all have a culture.  In fantasy writing, it can be a magical power unique to that character. In my current manuscript, I made my main character a burn victim. (That sounds so mean.) I also gave her an unusual occupation – slave. (Really mean.)  You can probably imagine how these unique qualities contribute to the character’s desires and conflict in the novel.
If you remember these three things – desires, flaws, uniqueness – and build them into your characters, you can easily achieve diversity in your writing. Don’t be afraid of writing a character of another race than you, but be respectful by avoiding stereotypes. Remember that we’re all human beings with basically the same desires for love and respect and you’ll do fine.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Blog #15 Thirteen Stories 'til Halloween or Why Flash Fiction is Fun

Not too long ago, I came across a link on twitter. I followed it down the rabbit hole to this website called Thirteen Stories 'til Halloween .  The web site had an open call for writers willing to write a spooky story to be posted just before Halloween.  Now Halloween is probably my favorite holiday, so I was all over that. I mean, my first book, Storyteller, takes place just before Halloween. :)



If you don't know, flash fiction is a tinnie, tiny story...like less than 750 words, which is maybe 3 pages. You'd be surprised how hard it can be to write a fully formed story in so few words.  It's quite the challenge.  Here's one I did last year for a contest called Troll Teeth.

Entries were due today.  Cross your fingers I get picked! Of course, I can write flash fiction any time I want to, but contests are always kind of a challenge to me.  They give me an incentive to meet the deadline and to make it especially good.  Maybe if I don't get sucked into this flash fiction event, I'll throw one of my own some time. Anybody interested??

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Blog #14 "The Importance of Theme" or "Why I Love Star Trek"

A few posts ago, I mentioned theme and said I'd do a blog post on it some time. Well, here it is. Aren't you excited?? Hehehe!  No, this isn't some boring English lesson about morals. This is the fairy dust that makes your story fly and your writing shine!  It's the good stuff, the cream with the cherry on top.  If your writing has no theme, it has no soul, no heart. It's dry, dull, and flat, and nobody wants that. So read on...

 When I saw the last Star Trek movie, I was completely enthralled with it.  It's a great movie. Later, after the excitement died down a bit, I thought about what made me, and so many others, respond to it with such enthusiasm.  There's a lot of great reasons why, but one thing that occurred to me is Star Trek has always had great themes.

Like what? you ask. Well, I'll tell you what I think.

Ultimately, after all the explosions and fist fights and Vulcan mind melds, Star Trek is about the friendship between Kirk and Spock. It's about loyalty and sacrifice for others. It's about the push and pull between leaders and followers, competition and camaraderie. Other themes that make frequent appearances include war/peace, courage, teamwork, the quest for knowledge, equality, diversity, love/hate, and the power of emotions. In fact, Spock himself is a walking, talking study in emotion, or the apparent lack thereof. It's awesome!  (My apologies to my grammarian friends; I can think of at least two that are probably cringing at the sentences I just wrote there. Forgive me!)

Now maybe you're saying "Wait a minute, Lisa. Those aren't the moral of the story." No, they aren't, because there is no morality lesson in Star Trek.  Theme is not something you want to beat people over the head with. It's something you show the reader or viewer, and let them take from it what they will.  Let's take the example of Spock and Lieutenant Uhura. **This could be mildly spoilerish, so if you haven't seen Into Darkness, stop what you're doing right now and go see it before reading any further!!**

OK, so Spock has just managed to survive a very dangerous mission, but just barely. Uhura is upset with him for risking his life without any apparent thought of her or her feelings. There's a lovely little scene where he explains to her how the loss of his mother has affected his decision whether to feel his emotions or not and why he has made the choice not to. (I wish I had it memorized because I'm probably botching this explanation. I'm sure some good Trekkie will pop in and lend a hand.) 

My point is, nobody's on the screen telling you that we all carry pain in our hearts from some event in our lives and we all react differently to that pain.  But Spock, with his decision to be only logical, shows you intimately all the results of that in his actions. Love and loss are such powerful themes because we've all experienced them in some way. He pull us into his character because we can totally empathize with how he feels.  As readers, we love that feeling.  That's why understanding theme is so important to a writer.  What are your favorite Star Trek themes?  Why do you think that is? How does it speak to you?


 
And hey, if you totally love Star Trek humor like I do, visit my pin page for more fun :)


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Blog #13 Resolutions in Review

Half a year ago in deepest, darkest winter, I made a number of resolutions. I thought mid way through the year might be a good time to review and see what I still have left to do. Just to see how it's going.

1. Get published

I've been working hard with my editor on this one. Hush Puppy has made it through proofreading and has been sent off to the formatting department. Now, I'm just waiting for them to do their magic and tell me when it will be released...waiting...waiting patiently. Luckily, I have several other projects in the hopper to keep me preoccupied.  More about those in a later post...


2. Get healthy

I made it to a healthy goal weight in March and I'm in "maintenance" now. I fluctuate about a pound, up or down, each week. I can live with that. I feel good. My summer work schedule has changed how much time I have to work out, but I seem to be doing enough to stay in the right place. I never honestly thought I would lose as much as I did, but it came from changing eating habits and doing more exercise.  When you make up your own mind to change, it really isn't that hard to do. Honest.

3. Read and write more

Hmm. I read more during the winter. Lately, I've fallen off that wagon. Reading is one of those things that slips off the plate so easily for me. It's not for lack of books on my 'read' list at Goodreads.  See comment in a previous blog about cloning myself...

However, I do think I've been writing more or at least more regularly. My goal of a chapter a week seems to be keeping me on track toward finishing Storyteller Book 3 this fall, while giving me some flexibility in how much I get done on any given day.







4. Be more flexible, mentally and physically

For the physical part of this, I started doing yoga in the mornings. Nothing too crazy difficult. None of that 120 degree yoga class stuff for me. Just some nice stretching and breathing. It's good to take some time to just focus on your body and listen to what it's telling you. It's a wonderful way to start the day.

The mental part, well...I dunno. I do my best to remember my mental flexibility, but I'm sure I've had moments where I reacted with my gut to people, rather than being open to what they have to say. I guess that will just have to be a work in progress.

5. Rest when you need to

This is probably my downfall. Like a lot of people, I have a lot of balls in the air at any given time.  Like all this blogging, for instance.  Maybe in August, I'll take a break from daily blogging and read some more, get two resolutions done at once.

Did you make any resolutions this year? How's it going? I'd really like to know.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Blog #12 A To Do List a Mile Long~


Ok, so this post is me whining a bit about all the things I’ve gotten myself into this month. You can click past it or you can bear with me and maybe give me a bit of encouragement if you like.

First off, I don’t know why I decided to do the 31 Day Blog Challenge #31dbc this month, I’m so crazy-busy, but I’m glad I did.  It’s been great and I’ve blogged tons more than normal already. I’ve met some cool bloggers, learned some interesting things, and broadened my perspectives by reading the blogs of people I might never have met before. For selfish reasons, I wanted to gain more blog/website traffic and promote my upcoming book. I know of at least one person who discovered my self-published work through the blog, so makes it worth the effort. J

Next, I need to prepare for this writing workshop I’m attending next week. I sorta know what I need to bring, but I sorta don’t.  I figure I’ll take hard copies of two of my works in progress. I have a “consult” set up with an agent there some time during the week, but it’s not like the agent has reviewed my work beforehand. I’m supposed to use the time to pick her brain about any subject I like, but I need to figure out what that is!!  Do I ask for a query critique? A ten page manuscript review?  Maybe help with a synopsis…that could be useful.

This consult is unlike any I’ve ever done; all the others have been a ten page critique. I suppose I could just ask questions about the industry and ask for advice, but isn’t that what the conference is about??  I think part of my problem is I’m torn over whether I even want an agent as this point. For so long, I was operating under the assumption I had to have an agent.  With the ease of self-publishing and small presses that don’t require agented submissions, maybe I don’t?  I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want a cheerleader to go out and find me a lucrative contract. That would be wonderful! I would be thrilled!  But I also know if I don’t have an agent, it’s not the end of the world and it’s not the end of my writing journey. I’m still going to write and put it out there.

But honestly, I haven’t given any of this serious thought because I’m so wrapped up in travel logistics – who’s gonna feed the animals? Have I done everything at work that needs done before I’m gone? What do I need to pack? Laundry!  I feel like I’m running around like a chicken with my head cut off. Ack!  Wish me luck~

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Blog #11 Outlining a Novel: Why I gotta do it…


Years ago, I learned through a ton of trial and error, that I’m not a “by the seat of the pants” kind of writer.  I have to have an outline.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat down and started writing what I thought was a great scene or a great character just to run out of steam half way there.  I’d always get to a point where I didn’t know where I was going – what’s going to happen next?? Outlines help me get through that. Having one in place before I ever write the first page helps me when I feel stuck. I always know where I’m supposed to be writing towards.  And if one chapter is giving me fits, I can move on to the next because I know what’s supposed to happen next.



I know there are lots of writers that claim to be “pantsers” and write quite well, but I suspect they just have their outline thought out internally, rather than on paper. I, myself, like to write mine out.  Now I’m not talking about a traditional I. II. III., A. B.C. kind of outline here.  I’m talking about a chapter outline: a rather detailed description of all the plot points that will occur in every chapter from beginning to end.  When I do this, I take about a week to plan it all and write it down.  As a result, I’ve found that I rarely end up moving entire chapters around in the editing phase, because I’ve done that in the outline phase, and lemme tell you, it’s much easier to move a three sentence chapter description than an entire chapter any day. J
 


I’ve been taught in plot workshops that each chapter should have its own intro, middle, and climax, just like a finished novel does. I’m not sure that’s a hard and fast rule, but it’s a good guide to what each chapter should include.  If you haven’t come across The Plot Whisperer online yet, she’s a wealth of knowledge on plotting. I highly recommend her Youtube videos.  They're free!!

So tell me, if you’re a writer, how do you plan and write your novels? Is it working for you?  Do you think you might want to try outlining now?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Blog #10 A wee bit about my Website~


I thought I’d take a moment to tell you about the look of my new website and blog, lovingly built for me by the talented xuni.com team. Take you on the guided tour, so to speak.  I knew I didn’t have the skill to make a professional web site myself.  Maddee gave me the guidelines, but I chose the pictures and the colors. Quite by accident I think, I ended up with a banner that represents all the things I love. Well, most of them anyway.

The roses represent my love for all things growing, especially flowers. I’m so crazy about flowers I have an entire pinterest page devoted to nothing but flowers. Roses are especially lovely. And what’s more poetic than a lovely thing with thorns?



The ocean scene is also perfect for me since it’s probably my favorite place to be, on a beach somewhere. I almost became a marine biologist when I was younger. Oceans and water in general can usually be found somewhere in my stories. I even have a work in progress about pirates.  And of course, a pinterest page. J

The compass represents travel and exploration, and metaphorically, finding your way.  Exploration, both inside and out, is often featured in my stories as well.  None of these things was really planned! They’re just themes that appeal to me, I guess.  I’ll be blogging about themes and outlining in some future posts, but for now, check out my lovely Vintage pinterest page.

The arches of the old abbey represent the mysterious, intriguing places I love to take myself and my readers in my stories.  It was very difficult to choose just one image to represent “places” but I think this one captures it well.  I love travel and seeing new places, even if it’s just pictures of them.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Blog #9 Missing my Morning Yoga


When the weather got over 100 degrees there for a few days, I switched my schedule around. I’m a creature of habit normally. On a typical day, I get up and do twenty minutes of yoga before breakfast and waking up anyone else. Then I get dressed and go to work. 

I started the yoga over the winter and it quickly became a favorite part of my routine.  I use a couple of Rodney Yee videos with lots of different workouts so I never get bored with it. At least not so far.

 
 

But when it started getting hot out, I decided I had better feed my llamas early in the morning while it’s still cool outside. It’s been nice seeing the sun come up.  I don’t have time to do both in the morning without getting up even earlier, so I thought I would just move the yoga to the evenings.

Trouble is I haven’t remembered to do it. Too many other things get in the way! Writing, blogging, taking the kids to the pool, the dog to the vet, etc. etc. I swear I need to clone myself just to get all the stuff done I need to do in a day.

 
 
 

Anyway, it kind of worked before, so starting this week I'm back to yoga in the mornings!  I'll just have to sweat out feeding llamas in the evenings, even if it is hot. :)  What's your morning ritual?