Friday Freaky Fun

Okay, so Halloween is coming up and so is Fall. Because I enjoy doing craft-ish things, I couldn’t resist when my hubby showed me a link on Facebook that took me to the Mason Jar Crafts Love site. There are so many fun projects there! I chose a couple that I loved and got to work.

These are the things I made:

candy corn jars

Candy Corn Jars

I spray painted the outside with Krylon Color Master paints (they stick to glass better than some of the other paints). Since the outside is painted, I can put things on the inside. Like candy corn candies. Open-mouthed smile

Or maybe some LED lights or something. I’m still thinking about what to do with them. But I couldn’t resist making them because they’re so adorable. Or maybe it’s just me.

Ghosts in Jars in dark lighted

Ghost in a jar.

SOOO adorable. I put solar lights in the lids for the two on the sides. The one in the middle is an upside down jar one with no light. I turned the lights off for this picture so you could sort of see what they look like lighted.

Here’s a picture without the lights off:

Ghosts in Jars not lighted

It’s hard to see, but the two with lights also have little RIP headstones in the ground next to them and really creepy trees behind them.

And then, because not everything is about Halloween, I made this for a Fall decoration:

Fall in a jar

It’s got some little Styrofoam gourds inside with Fall leaves behind the gourds and Spanish moss on the bottom.

Too much fun!!

I’ve got more jars planned and am looking forward to working on them (like the one on the website with the spiders and webbing inside—though I may change it up a bit like I did with some of these).

So that’s my Friday Freaky Fun. How was your day?

Write/Craft on!

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September Surprise

Things here have been—interesting. I’ve been doing quite a bit of revising on my new middle grade novel, which has been a blast. No. Really. I’ve very much enjoyed doing revisions this time around. I just finished another go at the manuscript and made some pretty good changes. Now I’m waiting for feedback before I’ll attack it again.

So, in the meantime, I’ve been pondering ideas for future books with these same characters—for the just in case. I’ve been jotting down notes and bits of dialogue and whatever else comes to mind. And in the middle of all of this, something strange happened.

On Monday morning—just before 3am—I woke and couldn’t go back to sleep. This happens to me sometimes. Usually I lay there and generate ideas that I can jot down. This time I had these lines running through my head. I couldn’t jot them down. No. That wasn’t good enough. I had to get up, get out of my pajamas, put on clothes and shoes, and run through the pouring rain (yes, it was really pouring) out to my office. Once there, I flipped on my light, booted my computer—and it was agony to wait for it to turn on even though it’s quite fast—open a new document, and start typing.

Once I got down the lines that had been running through my head, I kept going for about an hour—and would have gone longer if I hadn’t had to wake up my oldest daughter for her morning class. It was thrilling and not just because it was new and different. Because while the words and character are new, the concept isn’t. This is a middle grade I first wrote years ago and occasionally pick up now and then to tinker with. After my last tinkering, I had set it aside and figured I was done for good. But how thrilling to know that I’m not. This new character breathes life into this old story like nothing I ever imagined. Perhaps it will actually go somewhere this time—I’m cautiously optimistic.

So as I’m waiting to do another pass at my completely new middle grade manuscript, it’s nice to have this old concept to make new again.

In addition to this new/old writing, I’ve been planning and doing some cool fall/Halloween decorating projects. Maybe I’ll post some pictures when I’m done.

How have things been going for all of you? Can you believe Summer is almost over? What are you doing in your last few weeks before Fall takes over?

Write on!

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Saturday Stuff

Ah, the weekend. Here it’s actually Rodeo weekend (that means there’s a rodeo happening—which is a big thing in my town) so things are crazy! The girls and I went to the parade this morning, though we didn’t stay through the whole thing. We only stayed long enough to watch J’s friend march with the high school band (she’s in the color guard). The friend has been staying with us while her parents are out of town (they’ll be back on Monday).

I’ve never been a parade loving person. To me, they’re hot and loud, and I always seem to sit near someone who is smoking—I don’t like that. I’m not a smoker, and I don’t want to breathe in other people’s smoke. And to make things even more fun, prolonged exposure to smoke usually triggers a migraine for me (even if it’s smoke from a forest fire).

I made sure no one around us was smoking before we sat down. But people kept showing up—like they wanted to watch the parade or something—and, sure enough, a man sat down behind us and started smoking (about three cigarettes in the hour and a half we were there). Thankfully, there was a breeze that helped blow the smoke away. I still have a bit of a headache, but it’s not bad so far, and I think I might have escaped triggering a migraine (oh, please let it be so).

But we survived and are back home for now. K has a birthday party to go to later this afternoon, and I need to get some fuel in my car so I’ll have to go back into the crazy traffic later today.

Oh, it’s been so long since I posted, I suppose I should catch you all up on a few things. First of all, I got a 2006 VW Beetle TDI (that means it uses diesel fuel). It’s green and we call it The Hulk. I even got a Hulk license plate for the front and some Hulk decals (one says “Hulk Smash Your Stick Family and has stick people trying to crawl out from under Hulk’s fists—I think it’s hilarious). But the main reason we got it is that it has amazing gas mileage—well that, and I always wanted one. Plus, the Expedition has some damage to the bumper from a lady smashing into the back of it while I was stopped at a light. That happened at the end of July. I’ve been seeing a chiropractor to help my neck and back since then (it kind of messed me up), but other than that, I’m okay.

Just after I got the Hulk, I drove to NM to visit the amazing Kimberley Griffiths Little and attend her book launch party for THE TIME OF THE FIREFLIES (awesome book, by the way!!—review coming soon). It was so much fun! I also got to meet the incredible Nikki Loftin. I’d never read her work before, but I bought a few copies of her newest novel, NIGHTINGALE’S NEST, and had her sign them. Then I came home and read it (loved it!!—review of it coming soon, too). I intend to add her other books to my collection and can’t wait for her next release.

It was an amazing experience and so much fun to have lunch with these wonderfully generous and kind authors. And another great thing about the trip? I had free time to do some writing (the launch party was on Saturday so I drove down Friday night and stayed in a hotel). It put me that much closer to finishing my new middle grade novel—which is some more good news.

I finished it last Saturday! Hooray!! I sent it off to a few people for critiques and have made changes based on the feedback I received. Now I need to send it out for more feedback, and then there will be more changes—yeah, it’s a process—so even though I say I finished, it, it’s not really “finished” I suppose. So maybe I should have said it’s drafted. Whatever. It’s a huge thing for me and makes me feel better to say it’s finished. LOL

It’s been a long time since I actually finished a novel. Started many, though. And I LOVE LOVE LOVE this main character. She’s so much fun! Witty, smart, hilarious. And it made the story a joy—yes, a JOY to write. The words just flowed. I started writing it at the end of June—and even though it seems like it took a couple of months to write it, it really didn’t. I wasn’t writing every day or even every week. All total, it took me about three weeks of writing days to start and finish this novel. Amazing!

And even if nothing comes of this new work (though I’m cautiously optimistic), it helped bring back the thrill of writing for me—and got me to finish something. So it’s worth every second of the writing time.

So those are a few highlights since my last post.

How have things been out there for all of you?

Write on!

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Friday Fishing

So it’s Friday. The last weekend of freedom for my kids before school starts on Wednesday. Daughter 2 has wanted to go fishing all summer but things have been so crazy, she hasn’t had a chance to. Hubby, Son 2, and I all went fishing in June, but Daughter 1 and Daughter 2 were at camp so they didn’t get to go.

We planned to go on Wednesday. Got in the vehicle, drove to the lake, and were met with a downpour. So we had to cancel. Daughter 2 was not happy. To appease her, we promised we’d try again this afternoon. Now we just have to hope the monsoon cooperates and stays away long enough for her to do some fishing.

Anyway, all this planning got me thinking about how writing is like fishing.


1. It takes time. Just as it takes time to prepare to go fishing—loading up the car with poles and equipment, making sure the bait is good, packing snacks, etc.—it takes time to prepare your writing. First you have to write it—huge amount of time. Then you have to revise (and often let it sit for a day or two—or more—before diving into revisions) and polish. And even after all your planning and writing, things can still go wrong—just like the downpour. That project you started writing may not be the one you should be writing. You may fizzle out halfway through. You may get an even better idea and start writing that one. So if you encounter a downpour, be flexible enough to alter your plans—if you need to—and try again. Time.

2. It takes bait. Just as fish need bait before they’ll swallow your hook, so agents/editors need a good story. But we can’t just send them the story, they want a little nibble first. Thus we have a query. Sometimes, writing the query is more difficult than writing the book. The query has it’s own hook and bait. The hook has to be shiny to attract attention, and then the bait on the hook has to be tasty enough that the nibble will lead to wanting more—a request. Once the request has been fulfilled, the agent/editor will do more nibbling at your work. They’ll read it, see if they like it before deciding to really bite down—offer representation. Bait.

3. It takes patience. Once your hook is baited/query written and polished, you are ready to cast your line. In writing, this is the point where you send your query to agents/editors. You research their guidelines and tastes, then send your query out there. Ah, the dreaded waiting phase. Here we have to wait for a bite. Sometimes we’ll get completely rejected—the agent/editor fishies won’t even nibble. Other times, a few nibbles will occur—you’ll get requests for a partial or full—but as often happens with nibbles, the fish get away. For some reason, the bait/manuscript wasn’t quite enough to get that bite. And we all want that strong bite we can real in to find a contract on the end of the line, but it often doesn’t happen right away. It can—and often does—take years and may even take many different manuscripts (baits) before we are able to catch an agent/editor. Patience.

4. It takes persistence. If we aren’t able to catch an agent/editor with our bait, there comes a time when we need to switch it up. A completely new manuscript/bait might do the trick. So we start over baiting our hook and casting our line out again. Sometimes we get the same results, but giving up isn’t an option. We keep trying new baits and throwing out our lines until we get the fish we came for. Again, this can take years. We can’t catch a fish with our first try (though there are exceptions—but it’s not the  norm). We have to find what works. What makes the fish bite? We have to read work in our genre, write work in our genre, and keep trying. Persistence.

5. It takes cleaning. If you are one of the lucky ones to catch a fish, it isn’t over. Now you have to clean it. No, I’m not talking about gutting the agent/editor. I’m talking about your manuscript. Very rarely will there be a manuscript that doesn’t need some revision after signing a contract. Writing is work. And if you’ve signed with an agent, there may be more revisions/gutting when you eventually find an editor. Cleaning.

So writing is like fishing. It’s not an easy process, but the end result is worth it. You have a beautiful fish that you worked for. This fish will feed your writing soul and help get you closer to your dream of dinner—er a published book.

Write/Fish on!

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Saturday Stuff

Another weekend is here. Yay! The kids are having a birthday party with their friends this evening. Not so yay.

Actually I’m sure they’ll all have fun, I’m just not sure I will. Winking smile

I’m a lame mom so instead of having birthday parties for each individual child, we have one big party for all of them. In my defense, their birthdays are in June, July, August, and July. And only a few weeks apart (well years apart in age, but weeks apart as to the date of birth—just to be clear). So it got to be too much to plan birthday party after birthday party. Plus, I’m getting older and have less energy. Um, yeah. Let’s blame age. Winking smile So they’ve invited their friends and we’re all meeting at a local pizza place this evening to do birthday celebrations.

Yesterday we made a trip to Gilbert, AZ (which is about an  hour and a half away). We made the trip so we could do some shopping at a bulk store and stock up on supplies. Oh, and get me a little refrigerator for my office so I don’t have to keep going inside when I want a cold one. Bottle of water, that is (I don’t drink alcohol). I may keep a few snacks in the fridge too. Some cottage cheese (yummy), maybe some veggies, and whatever else may strike my fancy. Oh, and maybe I can keep some of my chocolate snacks in there so they’ll stop melting.

Anyway, it was HOT down there in Gilbert!!! Oh my. I was glad to get back to our little part of the world. It was still hot here, but not the blistering, melt-your-skin-off, make-you-want-to-die kind of heat those poor people down in the valley have to live in. I don’t know how they do it, honestly. And then the dust storms they get down there, too? Brave souls, all of them.

When we returned home, we saw lots of wet spots around town. Either giants went through town and urinated everywhere, or it had rained. I’m thinking it’s more likely that it rained. Bummer that I missed it. I really like the rain this year (no, I haven’t always). Maybe it’s because we haven’t had much in the last few years so I appreciate it more. I don’t know, but anywho, I was sad to miss it.

As soon as I’m done blogging, I have to head into town to run some errands. Like mailing off some packages to my son (who is probably suffering more in the heat of Africa than we did in our brief time in Gilbert yesterday). Hopefully the packages will reach him intact. I’ve heard sometimes they get opened and things taken out. And after I mail the packages, I need to pick up the birthday cakes and probably something for lunch for my kiddos.

I’m hoping to get all of this done and still have some writing time before the birthday party. We’ll see if it happens. But I do hope so. I’m just over ten thousand words into a new project I’ve been writing. I was aiming for a chapter book, but I think it’s ending up more on the middle grade side. But it is FUN!! I’ve never enjoyed writing anything as much as I’m enjoying this. Of course, maybe I did enjoy those other writings, and I just can’t remember it. But I doubt it. This project is something I’ve wanted to do for quite some time but never did. I flirted with it, but was too afraid it would reject me to actually make a move on it. And then I got up my courage, and went for it. And we’re very happy together.

So having more time to work on it today would be amazing. But, family (and all the errands involved in caring for them) comes first.

I hope you all have a great weekend and accomplish something amazing (even if it’s catching up on your sleep or relaxing).

Write on!

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Saturday Stuff and Recent Reads Review

Happy 4th of July weekend (for those in America who celebrate Independence Day)! It’s been cloudy and rainy. YAY!!! No really, I’m excited about the rain. It’s monsoon season for us here in AZ and we’ve been praying for rain since it sort of got a late start. There have already been forest fires in AZ this season, so we’ll take any rain we can get. Plus, the rain and clouds help cool things down. It hasn’t been as hot here in my part of AZ as it has in Phoenix, but we’ve reached triple digits here and that’s way to hot for me. Of course, I’m a wimp so when it’s in the nineties, it’s too hot for me. LOL

In addition to the benefits of helping keep forest fires down and cooling things off, the rainy weather puts me in a writing mood. I don’t know what it is about it this year, but in years past it hasn’t been this way. Usually the rain is a deterrent for me, making me want to stay inside and read or something, but this year, it makes me want to be out in my office writing. Not a bad thing. I’ve written and revised a couple of picture book manuscripts, started a chapter book/MG (not sure which direction I’m going to take it at this point, but I’m leaning toward chapter book), done some work on writing a past MG that I’d set aside, and jotted down some notes for a couple of YA (one I’ve started in the past and one new one). So, bring on the rain!

When I haven’t been writing, I’ve been reading or cleaning house. Believe me, I prefer the reading. Winking smile I recently finished Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige. Here’s my review:

As a reminder of my scoring system, I’m using emoticons. Here’s what they mean:

Open-mouthed smile–WOW—I loved this book and will talk/have talked about/shared it with others.

Smile–Not totally in love, but this was a great book and I may talk about/share it with others.

Thinking smile–This was okay. I enjoyed reading it, but it’s not my favorite.

Sad smile–This wasn’t for me. I stopped reading and couldn’t bring myself to finish.

Steaming mad–How did this get published?

If you happen to be the author of one of the books I review, please remember this is my honest opinion. Don’t hate me if I don’t give your book a great big happy grin. I am only one reader in the whole wide readership and I’m sure there are those who’ll love your work—it just wasn’t me.

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

RatingThinking smile

The Story—Amy is a girl from Kansas who dreams of going somewhere else to escape a mother who’s an addict, a father who left to start a new family, and a school life that pretty much sucks. So when a tornado whisks her away to Oz, she isn’t too heartbroken—confused and unbelieving for a while, but not heartbroken. But the Oz Amy ends up in isn’t the same one Dorothy left.

For starters, Dorothy has returned to Oz, and that’s part of the problem. Dorothy isn’t the same happy, sweet girl from Kansas that she used to be. This Dorothy craves power and gets power from magic. The magic of Oz is being harvested by Glinda the-not-so-good witch for Dorothy to use as she pleases.

Dorothy has displaced Oz’s true ruler, Ozma, and taken over as queen. She rules with an iron fist, torturing anyone who might get on her bad side. The Tin Man, Lion, and Scarecrow aren’t what they used to be either, and nothing will stop them from being loyal to Dorothy. Well, almost nothing.

Amy is “recruited” by the Wicked—the witches formerly good and bad who have banded together against Dorothy. Amy’s job? To assassinate Dorothy. But will she be able to do it?

My thoughts—First of all, I had seen this book in my local Wal-Mart. It sounded interesting, but I had no intention of picking it up. My oldest daughter, on the other hand, did pick it up and asked me to buy it for her. Who am I to deny the child reading material? So I did buy it for her. But then I had some doubts and told her I needed to read it first (that’s how I am—I try not to let my kids read things unless I’ve read and approved them first). So I took it that night and read most of it, leaving off when I was so tired I couldn’t take it anymore. I picked it up early the next morning and finished it, returning it to her before she had even crawled out of bed.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to let her read it because it has a few “f-bombs” in it. It seemed to be contained to the beginning of the book, but I could have lived without them, and don’t like my kids reading such things. So, even though I love books with all my heart, I will admit to taking a pen and inking over the bad words (gripe at me all you want, call it censorship or whatever, but it was either that or not allow her to read it at all—which I’ve done in the past).

But the “f-bombs” alone aren’t enough to determine rating. I’ve given great big happy faces to books that used the “f-word” before. So why the lower rating? Many reasons. This book was LONG. I enjoyed the concept, and there was lots of excitement, but it was all basically set up for future novels. I know, I know, the first book in a series is always set up, but it should also contain it’s own complete story. For me, this one just didn’t. The ending was too abrupt. Ending right in the thick of things. Yes, she had accomplished a task that needed accomplished, but it wasn’t until the end of the book that we found out there were things she’d need to do first before she’d be able to kill Dorothy. Yeah. Like I said, this was all just one big long set-up—kind of like a super long prologue.

Still, I did enjoy the concept, and I enjoyed it enough that I’ll probably pick up the rest of the series, or at least the next book to see how it comes along. Hopefully the next book will be the last one though. I can’t see dragging it out over more than one novel. At least I hope not. I want it wrapped up and concluded—I like closure.

So that’s my opinion. I liked the book. I didn’t love it.

Write/Read/Weekend on!

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Friday Fatigue

What was I thinking? About ten months ago (or so), I decided it was time for me to lose some weight and get in shape. Too many years of sitting at my computer eating junk food and fast food meals finally caught up with me. I found myself about 25 pounds overweight. I downloaded an app on my iPhone to track the calories I eat (wow, what an eye-opener—it’s the MyFitnessPal app, btw) and some other apps to help me get fit (mostly walking/step counting like Striiv). A couple of months ago, I even purchased an UP band (and downloaded the app)—it sits on my wrist and tracks my steps, but more importantly, my sleep.

What have I learned? I don’t get enough sleep (not surprised), but I do average more than most women my age (not telling how old I am cause I already feel older than I am). I quickly lost about fifteen pounds, but then stalled out. I’ve stayed around the same weight since then and it’s been a struggle to take off those last ten pounds.

Okay, I have never been a big fitness nut. I DESPISE exercise! No, really. It’s an eight letter word (that’s twice as bad as a four letter one, right?). But I figured I could walk a little more. You know, park further away from the doors in parking lots, walk to the mail box to get the mail. Little things like that. And it was working for me. Until it wasn’t. So I decided I needed a bit more help. One day, my UP app kindly suggested I try getting more exercise and offered a couple of apps as options. I decided to check them out. I downloaded the FitStar app. It wanted me to do a fitness test. So it sat there on my iPhone for almost a week. A little while ago, I decided I could do the test.

Yeah. The jumping jacks for forty-five seconds weren’t too bad. The elbow planks (45 seconds) and plank to downward dog (10 reps) almost killed me. I could barely hold the elbow plank for about 20 seconds before I had to stop. Then the kneeling push ups. Oh my! I made it through (there were only fifteen), and the bodyweight squats (10 reps) were no problem. The final thing was the split stance back extensions (15 reps) and they weren’t too horrible either. I felt pretty good, even though I was out of breath (yes, I’m that out of shape that these six minutes made me breathless).

I plopped into my chair here at the computer (didn’t even put away the yoga mat I was using to soften the wood floor) all ready to get on with my writing day.  And now my body is screaming at me. “You fool! You fool! What have you done?” And I’m like, “Body, chill. You forced me into it. If you would have lost the weight walking I wouldn’t have to do this.” And my body responds by sending messages to my brain that I need to go back to bed and sleep. I’m refusing to give in. I’m the boss here, right?

So I’m tired and my body really, really, really wants me to go back to bed, but I’m going to push through it and see if I can get some writing done on a MG or YA today. I’m hoping that my body will eventually stop whining at me, and that I’ll get used to somewhat regular exercise as well. I don’t plan to do this kind of a work-out every day at this point, because, let’s face it, I’d probably die. But I hope to work my way up to some kind of a daily exercise routine (in addition to my continuing to walk). Hopefully that will help me shed these last ten pounds and feel better about myself! And if I’m not so tired and depressed, I’m sure it will help my writing motivation (with which I’ve also been struggling during the school year). At least that’s what I tell myself.

What about you? Are you as out of shape as I am? Do you have an exercise routine? If you do exercise, do you find it helps you be energized or does it make you want to crawl back into bed and pretend it was all a dream? Winking smile

Write/exercise on!

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Thursday Thoughts

It’s June. Yeah. So much for being better at blogging. *sigh* So, since my last post in February, I’ve read MANY more books. I also got my kids through school. In addition to that, I sent my oldest child off to Africa (Ghana) in April (he’s serving a mission for our church). It’s been a crazy, busy time. But now it’s summer! This is my time, right?

I really hope so, but since school ended (May 30th) things have still been crazy. My youngest daughter had an appointment with her neurologist in Phoenix yesterday. The car started acting up on the way home so it’s in the shop today (still don’t know what’s wrong with it or how long it will have to be there). The kids have dentist appointments on Monday, and then my two girls go to camp on Tuesday (they’ll be home on Friday), so there’s trying to get everything bought and packed for that. Yeah.

However, I’m optimistic that I’ll be able to have some good writing time over the summer (I mean, here I am blogging today, after all). But once the summer break is over (July 23—yeah short break, darn it), things will be back to crazy town again. My youngest is doing the online school thing again next year. My second daughter might be as well, so it’s likely I won’t have much time for blogging/writing once school starts.

Even though I haven’t had much time for blogging/writing, I have had LOTS of time for reading (at night—I know, I COULD have been doing my writing at night, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it after a day of school with my son and then the household things and the crafting I’ve been doing to sell in the local shop—yeah excuses, excuses). In addition to my reading novels, I also read MANY books on writing. One that really stands out to me (maybe because it’s the most recent read) is Story Trumps Structure: How to Write Unforgettable Fiction by Breaking the Rules by Steven James.

This book was a HUGE comfort to me. I’ve been struggling for years to find MY way to write. I’ve tried many different methods over the years, and thought I’d landed on MY way to do things, only to find out I was wrong. The 3×5 index card method seemed to be “the way” to go, but I’ve discovered that once I get the story all plotted out on the cards, I have it out of my system (for the most part) and don’t feel the urgency to get it written anymore. I tried the Three Act Structure, the Four Act Structure, the Plot Clock, Save the Cat, writing the Synopsis first, and pretty much anything else I came across. I even purchased software that I thought would help (and I do still like the NewNovelist software). But nothing has.

Then I read Story Trumps Structure and felt SOOO much better. I’m thrilled for those writers who are able to use the three act structure, four act structure, 3×5 index cards, etc. for writing, but it doesn’t work for me. And that’s what this whole writing thing is all about. Every writer is different, so it makes sense that writers write differently too. I think I’m a combination of writing a logline or at least having a beginning and knowing where I want to end, and then letting the book unfold organically. Steven James tells us to focus on what lies at the heart of the story—that is tension, desire, crisis, escalation, struggle, and discovery—in order to write a story that will resonate with readers.

There are WAY too many helpful things (at least for me) in the book to go into here, but let me say I highly recommend you all read it. Even if you are a lover of the three act structure method, or plotting or whatever other method you may use, you will find new and amazingly helpful ideas in the pages of this book! One of the most amazing things for me was the concept of The Ceiling Fan Principle. It’s the fist chapter in the book and an amazing place to start. In essence it all boils down to not asking what happens next in the story, but asking what goes wrong.

So “this happened” and then “this went wrong” which led to “this happening.” What goes wrong is what the story is all about. It’s what builds tension and keeps readers turning pages. We don’t want to read about what goes right for a character (at least, not usually), we want to know what went wrong and how they worked through it until the next thing goes wrong and they have to work through that and all of it leads to the moment when the character finally has something go right and is able to overcome the adversity/antagonist in the story.

Yeah. That first chapter was a light bulb moment for me. And it just kept getting better from there. Here’s a breakdown of the chapter titles so you can get a better idea of what this book is about.

Part one: The Essence of Story

Ch 1: Desire: The Ceiling Fan Principle and What it Means for Storytellers

Ch 2: Orientation: The Eight Aspects Every Story Opening Will Include

Ch 3: Crisis/Calling: Story Origins, Resolutions, and the Three Levels of Struggles

Ch 4: Escalation: Adding Complications and Weeding Out Repetition

Ch 5: Discovery: Crafting a Satisfying Climax

Ch 6: Change: How Situations and Characters Are Transformed by Conflict

Part Two: Secrets to Organic Writing

Ch 7: Responsiveness: Eight Secrets to Discarding Your Outline to Write Better Stories

Ch 8: Emergence: The Three Questions That Will Solve Every “Plot Problem” You’ll Ever Have

Ch 9: Awareness: How Context Determines Content

Part Three: Story Progression

Ch 10: Twists: Practical Steps to Pulling the Rug Out

Ch 11: Promises: The Keys to Building Suspense and Satisfying Your Readers

Ch 12: Scenes: Mastering Setbacks, Interludes, and Subtext

Part Four: The Narrative Forces That Shape Our Stories

Ch 13: Causality: How the Contingent Nature of Stories Affects Every Sentence You Write

Ch 14: Believability: Removing Coincidences and Sustaining Belief

Ch 15: Expectations: Working with Overlapping Genres

Ch 16: Continuity: how Narrative Momentum Carries Stories Forward

Ch 17: Fluidity: The Interplay of Pace, Flow, Narrative Time, and Flashbacks

Ch 18: Polish: Touching Up Your Story

Ch 19: Dilemmas: Creating Moral Quandaries for Your Characters

Ch 20: Meaning: Telling the Truth About the World

Part Five: Subtleties of Characterization

Ch 21: Status: What No One Is Teaching You About Characterization

Ch 22: Attitude: Quirks, Idiosyncrasies, and the Difference Between Intention and Motivation

Ch 23: Depth: Revelation Vs. Transformation

Part Six: Plot Flaws and How to Fix Them

Ch 24: Incongruities: How to Tackle Problem Spots in Your Fiction

Ch 25: Gimmicks: Common Traps Authors Fall into and What to Do About Them


WHEW!! Yeah, so many AMAZING things in these pages. Seriously. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! These were the things that really stood out to me: the Foreword by Donald Maass, all chapters in part one and part two, chapter thirteen, chapter sixteen, chapter seventeen, chapter nineteen, chapter twenty, and chapter twenty-one. All of the chapters were helpful in some way, but some of the stuff in other chapters I’d already learned.

And with the help of this book, I think I’m starting to discover MY way to write. It’s a combination of planning (basically just knowing what I want to happen—even though it may not be what actually happens as I write it) and letting the writing happen organically.

Another helpful book on writing is Write Your Novel From The Middle by James Scott Bell. I won’t go into that one here, but it did open my eyes to a few possibilities as well.

While I may not sit down to do any actual writing today, I plan to solidify MY way of writing. Figure out the best of all the things I’ve been reading and discovering a way to make it all work together in a way that helps me succeed as a writer.

How have things been going for all of you? Have you found YOUR way of writing? What works for you? What doesn’t? Share with the class so we can all learn from each other. Winking smile

Write on!

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Monday’s Muse

My calendar says it’s February. And not only is it February, but it’s more than halfway over.  Calling my calendar a liar and ranting and raving that it must still be January did no good. It’s still February and it’s still more than halfway over. Stupid calendar.

In truth it’s not my calendar’s fault—time doesn’t stand still for anyone else so I suppose I can’t expect it to stand still for me either. At least not until I finish that time machine I’m making out of empty water bottles. Yeah. Then time better watch out!

Okay, back to reality. Even though it’s almost over, I didn’t miss February’s wonderful offerings. There was Groundhog Day—which I spent watching the Super Bowl. It seemed Denver was so depressed at the thought of six more weeks of winter, they forgot they had a game to play. Really, with the way winter has been slamming some parts of the country, I can’t blame them.

A few days ago was Valentine’s Day. Hubby and I went out to dinner—after which I wasn’t feeling well. It wasn’t dinner’s fault. I’ve been fighting a bug for the last few weeks and it finally snuck up on me when my defenses were down. So I’ve been curled up in a ball fighting the illness ever since. I’m feeling a bit better today, but not well enough to go with hubby and the kids to visit family in Flagstaff. So they went to play and enjoy Presidents’ Day (which they don’t care about other than the fact that they get a day off from school). And I’m here. Out of bed, sitting at my computer, writing this blog post (which may or may not make sense depending on how much of a fever I have at the moment).

While feeling lousy isn’t fun, it did give me time to lay in bed and read. And, oh, did I read! I used my Kindle App on my iPad to read some of the books I’ve had on there for a while, and some I purchased during my illness. I read The Space Between and Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff, Cress by Marissa Meyer, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black, Enders by Lissa Price, and Writing in a Nutshell  series by Jessica Bell. Then I got out Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott for another read-thru.

I enjoyed every one of the books I read. If I were feeling more up to it, I’d post reviews of every one of them. But I don’t feel up to it, so I won’t. But I did completely enjoy being transported out of my sick bed and into worlds of vampires (Coldtown), serial killers (Valentine), Purgatory (Space Between), Outer space and a plagued earth (Cress), body/mind snatchers (Enders), and writing advice (Nutshell). I recommend all of them.

And the reread of Bird by Bird was just what I needed to feel inspired and wanting to get back to writing. I haven’t wanted to write lately—and when I have, things have been to crazy busy to allow me the time. But the reminder in Bird by Bird to write at least 300 words a day seems more manageable. I can find time to write 300 words of something each day, no matter how crazy it gets. See, this blog post is more than 300 words and I’ve managed it!

There are many other muse worthy things in Bird by Bird but for today (because this blog post is wearing me out and I still want to see if I can get 300 words done in my WIP before I have to crawl back into bed), let me just post these inspirational words from the end of the book: “. . . if you are writing the clearest, truest words you can find and doing the best you can to understand and communicate, this will shine on paper like its own little lighthouse. Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.”

So let your words be your lighthouse, standing there, shining. Maybe they’ll save a boat someday. Maybe they won’t. But they’ll be there. Shining. Just in case.

Write on.

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Stuff on Saturday

It’s the end of the first week back to school for the kids. It didn’t go so well, and I ended up having sick kids on Thursday and Friday. They’re doing a bit better today so hopefully they’ll be back in school on Monday.

I did sign up for Julie Hedlund’s 12×12. I first heard about it at my local SCBWI conference last October (Danielle Smith, Agent) mentioned it as a great resource for picture book writing. I checked it out when I got home, but by then the year was almost over and the sign-up was closed. The goal of 12×12 is to write one picture book draft manuscript each month in the year so it made sense that I couldn’t sign up in October. But it’s a new year and a new sign up (you have until the end of February to sign up if you’re interested). I’m hoping to get a lot of picture book knowledge to expand my horizons and improve my work—as well as some picture book drafts I can revise and continue to work on.

I think this is going to be a great year. Of course every year is a great year, but I have high hopes for this one—hopefully I’m not disappointed. Winking smile

How have things been for you so far in 2014? Any new adventures or plans for this year?

Write on.

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