Monday, December 11, 2017

10 Things Anyone Can Benefit from Doing this Holiday Season


It’s a mad-rush time of year. Lines are long. Tempers flare short. Traffic stresses. To-do lists feel endless. These are the best times to keep perspective—to focus on the things that matter most.

I’m throwing out a few ideas that help me to stay centered and spirited during the holidays.

Hope they help you.

10 Things Sure to Benefit ~

Let Go of a Grudge
Aunt Mabel forget to include you on the holiday Christmas card. Nephew Troy didn’t invite you to the big event. Yep, you were hurt. You still are. You have every right to that hurt. You also have every right to let it go. Now’s the perfect time. Let that hurt solidify rock-solid inside you or witness the change in your attitude and countenance after you choose to let it disintegrate.

Get Outside
I walk my youngest to the bus every morning. It’s not a long walk, but it does take about five minutes. And every morning I’m grateful I go. I have no idea if she even wants me there anymore, but aside from giving us a few moments alone together, it feels good to move. I’m also in love with the stars I see when I look up.

Take a Break from Social Media
But then you wouldn’t be able to read this. So? I’d rather you reboot and spend a good chunk of time away from “liking” and binge-reading recipes you’ll never try. We’re losing something in our culture by spending so much time online. Take a piece of it back. I’ll be here waiting for you when you return.

Reflect with a Grateful Mindset
What went well this year? Who were you most thankful for? What new and impactful interactions did you have? Have you changed for the better?

Write a Handwritten Letter
Lost art. I know it. You know it. Imagine what a surprise it will be for someone to open their mail and read actual handwriting. Think of the things you could express.

Make a Christmas Gift for Someone
Maybe I’m hinting on this one. I’m a real sucker for homemade gifts. I could spend all day on Etsy (see point above about a social media break). There’s a real opportunity to tap into some creative juices when you don’t throw a credit card at everything. Resources are everywhere (says the woman who keeps painting on drywall she keeps finding in her basement).

Ask What Kind of Impact You’re Making
Through your language, how often you volunteer, the way your children look at you when you’re talking, how often people look to you for support…what has been your role for making this world different than it currently is?

Try Something New
Studies have proven when you launch into learning something new you unlock potential in other areas of your brain. A new recipe. Language. Subject. I kid you not, I’ve been learning a great deal while watching Narcos with my husband. Laugh all you want, but it’s inspired a lot of conversations between us.

Set a Goal & Stick to It
I happened to catch a show the other day when famous comedian, Tiffany Haddish said a fellow actor nudged her in the life-changing direction when he gave her money at a time she needed it and insisted she create a list of goals. There’s something to be said for direction. Motivation. Accountability. I also wanted to mention her because I love that she’s a unicorn on the cover of her book, THE LAST BLACK UNICORN. (Want to read.)

Make Peppermint Crack
My husband says we probably shouldn’t call it this, but I can’t help it. It’s so much fun to say. Think graham crackers, melted chocolate, sprinkled with peppermint candy. Look it up. You’ll thank me later.


Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Book Crafting Lessons from a Bug


Let me preface this post by letting you know I’m not usually scared of bugs. Normally I don’t hesitate to squash ’em when I see ’em, but it was my turn to sleep in when one particular crawler, track-racing around my ceiling, caught my attention. Here’s something else, this little guy captivated my focus for a healthy duration. I watched, intensely curious (and still hazy from sleep), as he trekked almost entirely around the room. You may be wondering why I didn’t hop up and take the little guy down. I’ll tell you why. He’s perfect fodder for this post—that’s why.

Because that bug (I refuse to call it a roach because I’m still in denial that’s what it was and our bug guy comes this Tuesday, so it’s better for me if I just remain in denial) somehow led me to think about what makes a reader stay with a novel. And not just stay with it, flip pages with vested interest.

I came up with a few parallels between my bug buddy and a book that successfully pulls a reader along.

Fear. Of course not all books must make a reader afraid per se. But compelling novels will evoke emotion in a reader. They will make you feel something. I couldn’t shake the thought that maybe that roach-looking thing was going to go all ninja on me. So I studied it with hawk eyes. My interest was hooked in part due to my emotional reaction. Tension is gold.

Curiosity. I wanted to see where my bug buddy would go. Strong novels lure the reader deeper in when they include characters to care about and a plot that goes somewhere. Truth be told, my bug buddy could move it, move it.

Fascination. I’ve been an animal lover since I was a child. Animals of all kinds intrigue me. And it’s a little embarrassing to admit, but I’m pretty sure I’m the reason why we turn on Wild Kratts every morning before school. All this to say, I had to know how this creature would play his next move. Would it eventually fly? I’ve seen a few creepy-looking ones do that. Would it leap down onto the window and flit against as though caught in a zapper? Would it attack my nose with its flesh-eating legs or spit venom on my forehead? Novels that excel at hooking readers incite readers to ask questions—they encourage readers to care. Whether a reader realizes it or not, they are constantly assessing how a book compares to their life. We want to learn something. Be it simplistic in nature or highly involved, humans are learners at heart.

I know you want to know what happened. Did I eventually smash the sucker and toss it in the toilet? Did it live on to procreate and produce hundreds of other bugs festering in the vents of my home? This leads me to my final bring-it-home bug-related point . . .

The bug made a Houdini great escape. It leapt into some Christmas shopping bags and instantly became invisible. Both my husband and I were not able to locate the little guy. He fled, accomplishing one of the most important things to remember from this post. He embedded himself into my thoughts. The bug is gone. The novel read. And it stays with you. That, my friends, is an indicator of a compelling read.

Think of me tonight as I sleep with one eye open because the bug has done its job. 

Monday, November 27, 2017

Shout-out-worthy Favorites 4 You


Having a little fun on this Cyber Monday by sharing with you a year in favorites. Health writer, Kimberly Maravich inspired me when she included The After Glimpse in her post recently. Now it’s my turn to name favorites. I’ve grouped each category into four for your convenience.

4 Favorite Products
Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara (what a way to kick this list off, eh? Seriously though, this mascara has lengthened my lashes!)
Stella & Dot (especially the silver hammered hoops)
Arbonne (especially the RE9 night cream)

4 Most Inspiring People
Sally Yates. One word. Integrity.
Reese Witherspoon. Two words. Book club.
Shauna Niequist. I love the way this woman writes.
BrenĂ© Brown. Her primary focus is on something I’ve been a fan of for years—vulnerability.

4 Binge-worthy Shows
Peaky Blinders
Stranger Things (Season 2)
Bloodline
And because I get a little kick out of being behind the times . . . Breaking Bad

4 Noteworthy Books Released by Friends

4 Best Reads Written by Folks I’ve Yet to Befriend

There you have it. Some memorable favorites from me to you. Happy Cyber Day!
  

Psst. I’m active on Instagram now. Would love to connect with you there. Find me wendy.paine.miller

Monday, November 13, 2017

Candid


My husband and I love to joke how in the 80s people didn’t care near as much what they looked like as they do today. Just watch 80s TV. Hair was often messy. Junk was stuffed into bookshelves. People didn’t clean and tidy before being captured on film. This is why I love, love, love candid shots. Of others. Of myself. They aren’t posey or some image people want others to have of them. They’re how life actually played out. Or a sliver of it at least.

My latest book, The After Glimpse zooms in on a few significant photographs. These photographs become larger than life to my main characters—and in some ways take on a life of their own. I ached to explore the whole concept of pictures and how we react to them.

Amy Tan, in her memoir, Where the Past Begins: A Writer’s Memoir, fleshes out more thoughts on the topic. “I used to think photographs were more accurate than bare memory because they capture moments as they were, making them indisputable. They are like hard facts, whereas aging memory is impressionistic and selective in details, much like fiction is. But now, having gone through the archives, I realize that photos also disorder what is really being captured. To get the best shot, the messiness is shoved to the side, the weedy yard is out of the shot. The images are also missing context . . . what happened before and after, who likes and dislikes whom, if anyone is unhappy to be there. When they heard ‘cheese,’ they uniformly stared at the camera’s mechanical eye, and put on the happy mask . . . I keep in mind the caveat that I should question what I see and what is not seen.

There’s a twist in my book. There are life-changing events that took place while photographs were taken. Not all is depicted. Then again, more is going on in photographs that could ever logically occur as well. I appreciated toying with this idea of how there’s always more to the story than what’s right in front of us.

Long live candid shots!

*Less than two days to Enter the Goodreads Giveaway for The After Glimpse!
**Happy Thanksgiving! See you on November 27th!


Monday, November 6, 2017

What is Chlot?


I live in a house with teenage girls. This means I’m constantly updated on the latest regarding Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez. One daughter is in favor of their rumored recent reunion. One not so much. The youngest is too young to care. I’m likely too old to care. No matter what you think of the recoupling of Justin and Selena, you probably cringe a little like I do whenever you hear their “couple” name. Jelena.

That’s exactly why I’ve decided to throw a new writing term at you. The next time you hear someone on the radio going on and on about Jelena, I want your writer brain to replace it with this word . . .
Chlot.

Every book needs it. It’s the essential coupling that must take place for a book to work. James Scott Bell and Jeff Gerke have written about it. I’ve heard numerous conference speakers address it. It’s a tried and true basic recipe for potent novel construction. Guess what it is yet?

The marriage of character & plot. Chlot.

Ten years and fifteen novels ago, I spewed out a book. It was an emotional journey. But when it came to plot it was sorely lacking. Call me a slow learner, but fifteen novels later I get how important it is to hurt my characters—to bring them to their breaking point. I understand that a novel that doesn’t include the cohabitation of character and plot is a novel with gaping holes.

Chlot. Character + Plot.

10 Questions to Help Build Stronger Characters

  1. What does my character want more than anything in life and how can I keep her from getting it?
  2. Who does my character feel closest to and how could I threaten that relationship?
  3. What does my main character fear most? How could I incite that fear in some way to the book
  4. Where does my main character place most of her trust? And how can that trust be damaged?
  5.  How could my character’s deepest secret come back to haunt her?
  6. Is there a way to force my character to relive a horrible experience, tapping into a psychological, torturous replay?
  7. What has the power to push my character to the breaking point and how can I introduce that something at a vulnerable moment in my character’s life?
  8. How will my reading audience best connect with this character? How will they relate?
  9.  Does my main character learn something powerful about herself that will impact the rest of her life?
  10. Am I being too nice to my character because sometimes she reminds me of a loved one or even me?
10 Questions to Help Develop a Compelling Plot
  1. What can happen in this scene that will cause readers to worry?
  2. Who can I kill, maim, or severely mentally injure?
  3. How can I force my character into a setting that terrifies her?
  4. What opponent can my character face that has a good chance of crushing her?
  5. What kind of danger can I throw at my main character?
  6. How can I set it up so my character is betrayed?
  7. How can I take what my character wants most and make it feel increasingly impossible to achieve?
  8. What is mentally or physically immobilizing my character so they are unable to act against their greatest threat?
  9. What perceived or real enemy can suddenly gain an advantage, causing my main character to doubt their strength/intelligence/ability to flee harm (whether perceived or real)?
  10.  How can time play a role in my character’s stress? Deadlines? Urgency? Life or death matters?

Monday, October 23, 2017

A Strong Start + A Theme Song


The After Glimpse has been out in the world for one week. And I have to say I’m loving the initial reactions I’m reading via Amazon & Goodreads reviews, texts, and Facebook messages. It’s thrilling to know my stories are stirring readers.

If you’re a member of a book club and your group would like to discuss The After Glimpse, please contact me. I’d love to be a part of your gathering. I’ll bring wine & cheese. Or my latest obsession, Kalamata olives.

Finally, if this book were to have a theme song I know the perfect one. It’s an oldie, but goodie. Have a listen, then if you haven’t already, buy my book and see why this song is such a great fit. 



*See you back here on November 6th. Be sure to enter the Goodreads giveaway for The After Glimpse starting November 1st!

Monday, October 16, 2017

A Book Is Born—THE AFTER GLIMPSE


At book clubs I’m often asked where my ideas come from. The concept for THE AFTER GLIMPSE (available now) was first sparked in an ice cream shop in Wethersfield, Connecticut years ago. The owner takes pictures of her patrons and hangs the Polaroid photographs all over the shop, so even the ceiling is covered. I knew somewhere inside that shop existed a picture from when my mom had visited the ice cream shop with us years earlier. When my family went back to the same store years after my mom’s visit, I spent time hunting among the hundreds of pictures for the one the owner took of my mom and my girls. Suddenly, I was overcome with a stab of nostalgia, thinking how cool it’d be if I found the photograph, and my dad, who’d passed away years before my mom visited, somehow materialized in the picture next to my mom.

I found the picture. My dad wasn’t in it.

…and so a book was born.

In the process of writing this book, and now releasing it, I understand how this book is about grief, but it’s also about so much more.

Our lives—every relationship—every interaction counts for something and as one endorser so profoundly put it . . . “maybe there’s more going on around us than we know.”

The After Glimpse is available in paperback and ebook formats—TODAY.



*If you read & enjoy, please consider writing a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads.

10 Things Anyone Can Benefit from Doing this Holiday Season

It’s a mad-rush time of year. Lines are long. Tempers flare short. Traffic stresses. To-do lists feel endless. These are the best times ...