Monday, September 26, 2016

In the Works

I wanted to give you some updates about what’s been going on with me lately. Often people will ask me if I’m currently writing something. Pretty much any time this is asked of me, the answer to this question will be yes. I am always working on something. As many of you know, crafting a novel is broken down into several stages. Plotting. Writing. Editing. Editing. Editing. And while I’m caught up writing novels, I also have a blast brainstorming other projects.
Here are some things in the works for me:
  •          I’m excited to be visiting our local newcomer’s book club in November. I was thrilled when the representative for the newcomer’s group let me know they are planning to read my books as a way to help spread the word about my writing. My town has demonstrated such a wonderful show of support. P.S. I’d love to be a part of your book club! Contact me and I’ll work hard to make it happen.
  •     Over the summer I fell into a bit of a start pattern. I started over five novels, waiting for one to grab hold of me and convince me to keep with it. Finally one did just that and I’m deep into the characters and tension of that plot. Looking forward to releasing this book. I’m shooting for late spring/early summer of 2017, but as happens in this industry, that could change. What I can share so far is that this book is women’s fiction and the characters have completely rooted into my heart.
  •  I’ve been feeling a real fire lit under me to continue plotting a nonfiction idea that’s been percolating for years. Will keep you posted about this. It’s beyond exciting for me.
  •  I’m also still working through details as I develop a new website. Release date TBD.
  • Finally, I’m pursuing a few works on the traditional publishing front. I feel hopeful things will come to fruition, but the wait keeps me grounded.

That’s the gist of my writing-related projects. What has your focus lately?

Monday, September 19, 2016

Gone to the Dogs

I’m hurting for sleep right now. Between kid nightmares and the humidity, I’m a walking blur.

So, I thought what better to write about than…dogs?

I was following updates an old friend of mine posted on Facebook over the weekend about a missing dog. His family Beagle pup had scampered off and had been missing for five days. He’d taken his kids to different places where people had either heard a dog howling or where there’d been a sighting. My heart twisted when I read updates that after numerous search efforts the dog was still nowhere to be found.

I kept imagining how I’d feel if our dog was out there somewhere.

Which is why I cheered when I read that on Saturday a hiker found my friend’s dog. My family cracked up at how celebratory I was. The best was seeing pictures of the Beagle peacefully sleeping, nestled in his dog bed. Home again.

I’m a dog lover. The books Marley & Me and The Art of Racing in the Rain rank in my top ten list of favorites. It will come as no surprise I spent a good deal of time visiting with dogs at my daughter’s soccer game yesterday. Dogs belonging to the opponents (if that doesn’t explain the extent of my affection for dogs I’m not sure what will).  

I’ll never forget the aptly timed and poignant thing the vet said to me when I took our fourteen-year-old Samoyed to be put down. I was a bawling mess. When I finally calmed enough and stopped heaving, the vet looked at me and said, “I completely get it. Sometimes we love these guys more than people.”

Crazy, but true.

Any other dog lovers out there completely get it?

*picture is of our almost three-year-old Samoyed making her Happy Monday face. ;-)

Monday, September 12, 2016

10 Ways to Fry Your System

I wanted to share a few ways I’ve figured out how to fry my system. They’re tried and true. Trust me,
have a go at these and you’ll be stressed to the limit in no time.
You are welcome.

The 10…

Expect Perfection from Yourself & Others
I’m not a perfectionist, but I find it’s the moments when I demand perfection from myself or others that I am quickly disappointed. Push yourself, yes. Help others to know what you value and expect. But also leave room for imperfections. Sometimes those allow for the most effective and life-impacting growth.

Consume Too Much & Sit All the Livelong Day
I combined these two into one because they are sort of a gimme. And they’re covered in every health magazine every single issue. Overindulgence of food or drink (especially on a regular basis and not just when you wedding crash or celebrate a big birthday) is guaranteed to leave you with little energy to spare. Lack of exercise will turn your body to jelly and it won’t just hurt to climb the stairs, it’ll hurt to walk from one room to the next. Think, no one wants to carry you through life. Better to carry yourself with strength.

Forget to Laugh
Take yourself too seriously. Go ahead, try it. See how it works for you. I really believe laughter is one of the greatest medicines known to man. It often accompanies humility and perspective. They’re a mighty fine threesome.

Go Hard All Day & Night
I have this tricky thing that’s been happening with me lately. I’ve been doing some insane plotting and writing in my sleep. Wonderful, you say. Double duty, you think. To which I respond, no--emphatic no. I can personally attest to the fact that burning the candle at both ends like this compromises my peak brain function during the daytime hours. Go hard, yes. But structure hours for this. No human is meant to mimic a fake pink bunny playing the drums twenty-four-seven.

Entertain Negative Thoughts
Wallow in them. Believe every lie at its core. Marinate in the absurd, the outlandish and the malicious. Have a party for these thoughts and watch for yourself how they’ll trash your place and leave it a bloody mess.

Invite Worry into Every Relationship & Scenario
Moms have a secret oath we agree to the second our babies leave our bodies. Somewhere inside us we buy into the misguided notion if we worry we can sway the circumstances or the end results. Given this one is born from a strong sense of caring, you don’t need me to tell you worry is a magnificent timewaster. I’ve allowed hours to tick by when I’ve worked myself into a tizzy about four hundred devastating potentials only to be mocked when not a single one of my imagined scenarios plays out. How’s that for quality time management?

Answer to Everybody but Yourself
Pull an Igor and make everyone else in charge of your life. Become a people pleaser with little sense of pride. Great way to lose a solid sense of yourself. And tire yourself out faster than I can say, “Yes, Master.”

Become a Slave to Technology
Better yet let the Internet, your phone, or social media own your day. Whew, I’m wiped out just thinking about trying to keep up with the ever-changing scope of online communication.

Be Afraid of Changing a Routine or Life Pattern
Something’s not working? Stay the course, the exact same course you’ve been running hard at for five years. Then again, you could always take a risk. Mix things up. Learn to breathe again by stepping out.

Believe Doctor Visits Are for Sissies
A few months ago a dear friend of mine was diagnosed with lung cancer. She could have blown off her cough. I know I have a tendency to put off a call to my doctor, convincing myself that everyone in my family (and the entire world) come before me. I’m so thankful my friend made that doctor’s appointment because she gave herself the chance to fight beautifully and that’s exactly what she’s been doing. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a more joyful person.

I know you can’t wait to go try some of these. I won’t keep you. Go for it. What have you got to lose? Oh, that’s right. Your health, energy, strength, stamina…and so much more.

What runs you down the quickest?

*Bonus, just for giggles overbook your schedule and over-commit yourself. C’mon, you know you want to. ;-)

Monday, August 29, 2016

From Seedling to Story

It’s the job of a writer to create images in the minds of our readers. To illuminate moving pixels in their brains. Pixels that spark questions. Questions that cause the reader to crave more.

I don’t know what happens to most people when they see an image like this. 

I instantly feel a story move around inside me, testing the waters, seeing if it’s ready to be born. Often the embryonic seedling is comfortable in its womb, unwilling to blossom into anything more than a pondering, a fleeting curiosity. Multiple scenarios—what ifsflit around my head, like a halo of fireflies. But then there are times when an image like the above will conjure something from deep inside me, striking the center of a ripe idea, coaxing it to fruition. Or, at the very least, to climb out from where it’s been hiding and become a rough draft on the page. Messy ideas, dripping. Sluiced with amniotic remnants.

Until the day it stretches its limbs and becomes fully alive. Braver. Sturdier. Daring independence.

I know then that it is my job to raise the idea well. To listen. To invest time in understanding. To groom and do the hard work. I also know it would be cruel to ignore what has so beautifully and mysteriously found a way to the surface. In the process of bringing a story idea to life I’m at all times partaking in a nuanced and complicated dance of both nurturing and letting go.

It’s the best way I know how to honor both the story and myself.

So, what do you think about when you see an image like the one above?

Monday, August 22, 2016

What Not to Write

I bet you’ve seen the show that aired on TLC for ten years, the one where Stacy and Clinton raid closets and turn even the dowdiest dresser into a fashionista. Today I thought I’d put my own spin on that show by doling out insight I’ve gleaned throughout my years as a novelist—What Not to Write.

If I’ve learned anything, it’s that there are no hard and fast rules, so I’m not presenting any kind of mandates today. The following are simply suggestions based on knowledge I’ve acquired in the industry. Take them. Or leave them. But if I were you, I wouldn’t try to publish them.

While crafting your novel here are six things not to write…

A Flowery Bouquet
You want your voice to sparkle and shine so you force all kinds of flowery language into your sentences. Survey says, “Eh.” Stephen King makes some great points about this in his book, On Writing. The goal is for your story to flow. You don’t want readers to get tripped up by your purple prose. And you might think it would be cool for readers to oh and ah at your vocabulary, but the ultimate result is of peonies in prose is that the reader becomes entirely distracted. Story fail.

A Book without a Skeleton
Please don’t get so attached to your pants that you refuse to do any plotting whatsoever. I know, I get it. I’ve always been more of a pantser than a plotter, but if you jump in without any sense of where the story is headed, no idea of tension to introduce, ways to stretch your character, then you’re bound to lead the reader down multiple rabbit holes. This = more complicated edits. I’m trying to save you here. Books without bones to hold them in place bring me to…

The Loco-Emotive Journey
I’m guilty of this one. The first book I ever wrote (13 books ago) belonged in a journal. Why? Because it ended up being a long emotional journey. While I instantly gravitated to writing women’s fiction, which is character-driven, I’ve learned how essential it is to have a strong plot to carry a novel forward, to give it a backbone. Don’t make the same mistake I did with your first book and write an emotional geyser.

Copycat Craze
You’re going to write the next Gone Girl. Harry Potter. Hunger Games. Newsflash. You’re not the only one with this plan. Thousands of other people have clued in and think it would be awesome to make a killing by publishing a book similar to something else that has accrued great success. So they basically craft a copycat story. Multiple problems with this folks. #1. Readers are fickle. What’s hot this year likely won’t be next year or by the time you polish up your echo title. #2. It’s a bit like cheating because we’re being gypped of your voice—of the all the uniqueness you could bring to a book. #3. You’re better than this. The world doesn’t need another of anything. We need more firsts. Originals. Don’t fall prey to the copycat temptation.

The True-to-Life Enemy Tell-all
Know that person in the cubicle next to you who drives you crazy, the one with the widow’s peak, massive dimples and annoying habit of interrupting…yeah her. Don’t describe her to a T. Don’t do it for laughs. Don’t do it for cathartic release. Don’t do it for revenge. Get creative. Not only because you don’t want Cubicle Cathy to sue you, but because there’s a lot of material out there. It’s a blast to turn characters into Mr.  & Mrs. Potato Head creations. Widow’s peak here. Loud gum chewing there. Utterly unrecognizable in the end.

Teaching Preaching Jack Reacher-style
Readers are quickly turned off if they feel like you’re preaching at them, trying to pass on an overt moral belief. I get it. It makes me feel uneasy when I sense an author is trying to teach me a lesson Jack Reacher-style. The in-your-face approach to novel writing is better left unexplored. With that said, I’ve learned something with every novel I’ve written. In the process of crafting a work and developing characters, I’m always amused at how much I grow. This should be your goal as an author. See what your characters might possibly want to teach you. It’s adds a certain humility and delight of discovery to the process.

Can you think of anything else not to write?

*Picture is of me as a kid. My three older sisters stuffed me in this old lady dress and wig. I was miserable. It’s my perfect example of what not to wear because even then I didn’t want to wear it. ;-)

Monday, August 15, 2016

Speak Latin to Me

I have so much more to learn in this life. So, I’m starting with Latin. Why not, right? At some point
while watching Matt Damon in the latest Bourne movie this weekend I decided I’m going to teach myself Latin. I took this beautiful language for a year in high school (excellent for SAT prep…highly recommend). I’d already taken French and German in middle school and high school, and in college I went on to study Spanish.

I’m going to be upfront with you.

I’m not the best at foreign language retention. It’s quite common, while my kids are practicing French or Spanish phrases, for me to respond by tossing a little German out at them or bits of Latin or mashing up a nice medley of French and Spanish in one sentence. Don’t even get me started on how I botch numbers.

I’m expecting this to be a challenge.

But that doesn’t scare me. It excites me. I’m not taking this on with lofty expectations or a school mindset. No matter how quickly I learn Latin, I figure I’m setting myself up to be more prepared when my husband spontaneously sweeps me away to Italy on a romantic vacation. A woman can fantasize. It just takes a little yoga breathing and a Men in Black wand for me to erase the reality of our upcoming soccer + dance schedule + budget. Italy, here I come!

Part of my Twitter handle indicates that I’m an eternal student. Here I am backing that up. I always want to be learning something. A language. How to treat people better. How to write a more compelling sentence.

I’m a sucker for all things creative. On Twitter I follow #creativity and was amused when I came across this article called 6 Ways to Increase Creativity after I committed to learn Latin. Bet you can guess what #6 includes.


Monday, August 8, 2016

Embrace the. . . Limitations?

I’ve watched this TED Talk at least three times in recent days. I’ve showed it to each of my girls, curious to gauge and discuss their reactions. Carve ten minutes out of your day. It’s worth checking out. Few things have inspired me the way uber talented artist Phil Hansen does in this talk.

For starters, Hansen challenged me to think about how life circumstances—even and especially limitations—can be used to enhance our craft. He rejuvenated my belief that perspective helps to shape experience. Candidly he shared that at times he became creatively stumped. It was through these times of reflection and contemplation that Hansen grasped an appreciation for the process—for the love of creating itself.

By inventing twenty-three projects within a Goodbye Art series, Hansen grew to understand the liberation of letting go . . . of outcomes, failures, and imperfections. Can I get an Amen?!
I won’t spoil the rest because it’s just that good. Trust me.

But I will leave you with a quote that struck me as deeply profound.

“Learning to be creative within the confines of our limitations is the best hope we have to transform ourselves and collectively transform our world.” –Phil Hansen