Monday, January 30, 2012

What I Learned from Mr. Miyagi

For the next few Mondays I’m going back to the future. Not really. It’s a play on words. Soon it will all make sense to you. (If you could see me now I’m performing the Star Wars hand swipe the Jedi are famous for.)

What we see has immeasurable potential to root into our souls and sprout inside us, contributing to the people we become.

And this all happens discreetly. Life osmosis. Without a doubt, our 100 billion neurons and quadrillion synapses are invisibly tunneling images inside our minds at any given moment.

Enough math. Now onto my point. I watched the original Karate Kid when I was nine. Do I remember the movie well? Not so much. I recall bonsai trees, those funky leg kicks I had a blast trying to imitate, of course a little wax on, wax off, and a handful of other details about the film.

But here’s what stayed with me (at the core): Mr. Miyagi. When he taught Daniel he was teaching me. I was paying attention. From the wise karate instructor I understood the value of patience. I gleaned how imperative it is to work hard at something if you want to achieve success. Images of Daniel on the beach as the sun rose and set come to mind. Creative lessons plans (say it with me: wax on, wax off).

Know what else the man with the bonsai beard and bandana headband that made all bandana headbands cool (sorry Boss) taught me?

The power of transference (the good kind). Mr. Miyagi impressed upon me how incredibly primed we are to pass on our knowledge the minute we stand firm in that knowledge. It’s one thing to live a respected life, working hard, and daily tapping into an ocean of wisdom as we discern our way through the this maze called life. It’s quite another to willingly splash some of that water on another with the hope and intention to help.

Can you think of an example of something you saw in your youth that is contributing to the person you are now?

Some teasers on what’s to come: What I Learned from The Wonder Years & What I Learned from The Golden Girls.

*photo by flickr
**fascinating related
article (also ties in with one of my novels)
***All "I"s here today!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Moving Thoughts Friday

Every Friday I’m going to ask a question. The questions I choose might be ambiguous on purpose. The goal is to have you answer the question according to your beliefs, where you’re at in life or a circumstance that might have recently impacted you. The only thing I ask is that you provide an explanation for why you answered the way you did.

It’s my hope to understand you better through this and also to gain a greater understanding of humanity and how people make decisions.

Do it all over again or Not on your life?

*photos by flickr

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Where You’ll Find Me

Okay, so I’m not somewhere over the rainbow right now. Maybe someday. But until that day, I have found a few other hotspots online and I want you to know where to go when you’re looking to have your brain poked, or when you need a hearty belly laugh, or if you just feel like interacting with me.

Some of my favorite online haunts:



Facebook writer page

email me @ millerct1{at}cox{dot}net


& now I'm on Pinterest (look out!). wendypmiller

here at my main blog

& your blog…

(I love to comment…if I’ve been eerily absent from your space, your blog, your site, etc., shoot me a message and I’ll make an honest effort to come connect.)

I’m due for a hearty laugh, so if you know how to make that happen, reach out on any of the above sites!

*Raela Schoenherr posted some additional online sites for writers on Twitter yesterday. Check them out!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Moving Thoughts Friday

No question today.

Just wanted to give you a heads up that I might be kind of sporadic and a little scarce online over the next few weeks.

I have some pressing things to tend to at home.

Oh wait, here’s a question…

Finish this: When it’s all said and done…

*photo by flickr

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Eight Things to Consider When Seeking to Understand

If you’ve been talking as long as I have, then you know that it isn’t always easy. Disputes can readily erupt from a misguided interpretation of a hippo yawn. Words have the ability to bend and mutate so they come out sounding entirely different than the speaking party intended.

So what’s a human to do? As always, think before we speak. And we’re wise to think about the following eight considerations when engaging in conversation and truly seeking to understand.

What are they trying to communicate?
Words might be misfiring, emotions shooting off like flares, and facial expressions could very well pass for a remarkable imitation of Jim Carey in all his impersonating glory, but it helps to ask ourselves what could possibly be the heart of the message the other party is communicating. (Wow, that was a mother long sentence.)

What is going on in their life that might affect the way their conversing?
Period anyone? Ever feel like elephants were raining on your head. All. Day. Long. And then you’re thrown into a necessary, but hypersensitive convo with oh, say your spouse. You’re already so on edge it would take less than the brush of a feather to make you crumble like Lot’s wife. Raining elephant days are something to consider when diving into the deep stuff.

What are they not saying and does it matter?
Body language. Long silences. Completely distracted by a football game. I’ve learned the hard way not to bring up a sensitive topic when there are less than four minutes remaining. Of any game at any time during any season.

Are they arguing because they feel put on the defensive?
We demonstrate discretion and introspection when we take a step back from the heat to evaluate if the manner in which we presented our thoughts potentially put the other party on the front burner.

Is this a sensitive topic for them?
We might not have a particular opinion about Tim Tebow. Hypothetically, we might not have understood the firestorm surrounding who to us has always been “just a football player”. Issues have layers. If we happen to know that bringing up the rotting green pepper incident strikes a chord with such and such, we might want to couch our words with extra care.

How many times have you discussed this topic?
Is it getting old as a rotting green pepper? Have you talked the bad boy to death? Humans can only tolerate merry-go-round topics so much. We need to feel like we’re getting somewhere, like there’s hope and a potential solution or resolve. You know what they say about the definition of insanity? So if the issue must surface, I say bring it up Loch Ness monster style and do it with a song and dance. In other words, try something new.

Take assumption out of the equation.
Resist assuming what every little eye roll might mean. Maybe there really is one fat dangling wooden plank in their eye (ha!) or perhaps there’s a lightshow of falling stars up to the left. It’s worth it to remind ourselves to assume nothing.
Because you know what assuming does to U and Me.

Be specific.

Ask for what you want. As much as we like to pretend we are, none of us are adept mind readers. As Johnny (date every woman in Hollywood) Mayer would say, “Say what you need to say.”

Any other things to consider whilst in the midst of a tête-à-tête (oh so fun to write)?

*photo = me modeling this behavior with my sister’s dog, Cael. :D

Monday, January 16, 2012


Boat wake. Loud singing. Prayer vigils. Brain-churning speeches. Long walks. Private talks. Nature trails. Kite tails. Raucous laughter. Waving flags. Protests and Support Parades. Celebrations pushing into dawn. Driving with the windows down. Books with characters vastly unlike me. Engaging in a rowdy debate. Worship in my home. Worship in a church. Worship anywhere I feel like it. Smiling at an interracial couple holding hands. Locking in my vote. Voicing my thoughts. Having a voice. Fighting for the rights of others. Righteous anger. Caring. Letting the Bible light me up inside. Respectful disagreements. Encouraging. Concert lights. Walking away from a fight. An African American choir. Music pulsing through my veins. Choices. Letting go. High fives. Birds against a milky backdrop of snow. Everywhere and nowhere to go. Planning. Hope. Tomorrow full of breath. Heaven waiting. No fear in death. Truth.

What makes you feel free?

Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, we are free at last!
Thanks MLK Jr.!

*On a private note, I’d like to express my gratitude for honorable & dedicated law enforcement!

**photo by flickr

Friday, January 13, 2012

Moving Thoughts Friday

Every Friday I’m going to ask a question. The questions I choose might be ambiguous on purpose. The goal is to have you answer the question according to your beliefs, where you’re at in life or a circumstance that might have recently impacted you. The only thing I ask is that you provide an explanation for why you answered the way you did.

It’s my hope to understand you better through this and also to gain a greater understanding of humanity and how people make decisions.

Take it or leave it?

*photos by flickr

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Weathering the Winter Grays

This time of year the doldrums try mighty hard to breeze through the door with the chilly weather. I’m not one to just step back and take the icy gusts in the face. Nope, I’ve learned how to be proactive and resourceful so winter doesn’t have its way with me.

Eight methods of weathering the winter grays:

Every single day, carve out time to savor something. Appreciate the funny way your son’s hair sticks up in the morning. Get closer to that spider web frost on your windshield. See just how enormous and orange the moon can get.

Think back to how far you’ve come and all the ways you’ve grown. Celebrate how you’ve changed for the better.

When stress hits like a bird on a glass window (poor bird), take a moment to slow your breathing. Focus as you might during childbirth. You’re birthing a calmer you.

Go outside. Yes, even in the cold. Being cooped up can shrink the senses and cramp creative mind flow. Toss a ball to your dog. Go for a walk. Sled your heart out.

Do something differently. Make something. Take on a small project. Paint a room. Glue a mosaic. Allow your vision to be electrified and inspired. Don’t settle for the sameness of things.

Commit to going to bed one hour earlier one night a week. Rest is good. See if it helps.

Make quiet those negative voices in your head. Replace them with positive affirmations. Church Lady it on yourself (retro SNL, anyone?). Laugh while you’re at it. And vlog the entire experience. I could use a good laugh, too.

A summer vacation. A party. A night out with your spouse. Plan something—anything. Get excited about an event. Create a moment to look forward to. And in the meantime, make your now proud.

What do you do to ward off and chase the grays away?

*photo by flickr

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Phantom in my Novels

If you’re a novelist, you have a phantom that creeps across your pages, a shadowy menace working hard to remain anonymous and undetected.

He stalls your work, keeping it from all it’s meant to be. And your phantom happens to like changing capes. (If he’s anything like mine.) So he shows up in disguise, lurking, chameleon-like with a tenacious bent toward flubbing your work.

Time to name the different disguises the phantom likes best:

The Frasier
Forced and flowery prose. Longwinded diatribes. Desperate to come across sounding erudite, the phantom likes to imitate Frasier. And while he’s at it, he’s good at distracting the reader from what’s really going on.

The Rambler
Frasier’s cousin. Purposeless dialogue bumping up against purposeless dialogue. The Rambler is bound to get our books slammed closed.

The Offroader
I often enjoy discovering a story within a story within a story. It’s like a Chinese nesting doll reading experience. But being entirely offroaded while reading a novel isn’t quite as fun. When I’m taken out of the story for no reason and plopped into another story, I can bet the phantom is hiding in the pages. He’s struck again, only I’m so offroaded I have a difficult time finding traces of him.

The Yawn Maker
You know how Mentos is the freshmaker, right? Well, our slippery phantom likes to be the yawn maker. He throws on a beige cape (poor beige, it’s always gotten a bad rap) and has our characters act like patients, always waiting, stuck in the purgatory of a boring doctor’s office. Excitement, escalating conflict, and action are nowhere to be found.

The Clogged Drain
Wearing a slightly different color cape than his Yawn Maker one, our phantom stalls action in our scenes. He slows everything down to a Sunday driver pace and causes readers to lose focus and any investment in the plot. Because good ol’ phantom is stuffing Styrofoam in the scenes you want to read fluidly.

The Light Dimmer
Sneaky phantom steals the power from setting when he plays his light dimmer role. He throws the entire scene on mute and thwarts it from living up to its potential by making the setting mundane, commonplace, and unimportant.

The Mary Poppins
Remember when Mary jumps into the sidewalk chalk drawings and the new fairy tale world is one big tribute to her? Phantom loves when we do this with our novels. He encourages us to let our own emotionally experience blend into our work so much that our MCs act in uncharacteristic ways. Why uncharacteristic? Because they’re acting like us and not them. A surefire phantom stamp.

Isn’t this one big beautiful example of displacement? Not fun to admit we make these mistakes readily in our novels, so go ahead, just blame it on that nasty phantom. Makes me rethink the term ghostwriting. ;)

Can you think of any other disguises our phantom wears in effort to weaken our novels?

*photo by flickr
**All “I”s are on somebody. Check out who (in a bit)

Friday, January 6, 2012

Moving Thoughts Friday

Every Friday I’m going to ask a question. The questions I choose might be ambiguous on purpose. The goal is to have you answer the question according to your beliefs, where you’re at in life or a circumstance that might have recently impacted you. The only thing I ask is that you provide an explanation for why you answered the way you did.

It’s my hope to understand you better through this and also to gain a greater understanding of humanity and how people make decisions.

Did you ever wish you were a twin or that you gave birth to twins? Are you a twin or do you have twins? If so, please shed light on your experience.

*photos by flickr

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

How My Birth Order Prepared Me for a Career in Publishing

It’s I 8 Wednesday. Today I’m unraveling 8 reasons why being the youngest prepared me for publication. Birth order central served up with a platter of eight nuggets for you this fine Wednesday. I’m channeling Kevin Leman by digging into my cornucopia knowledge of birth order to detail how being the baby set me up for industry ingenuity.

Yoo Hoo
I’m the youngest of four girls. Feelin’ for my dad now, aren’t you? (Sounding a little Irish now, aren’t I?) As the youngest, I had to brainstorm creative strategies in order to garner attention. I won’t even mention the time my older sister shined as one of three golden angels in the Christmas pageant while I dimly stood as one of twenty silver angels. I won’t even mention how I “fell” off the stage close to a dozen times. Yes, I was a weird kid. I’ve never denied this. But it was a pretty clever way to snare some attention, too, eh? Gives new meaning to fallen angel (ba dum dum).

In the writing industry I’m challenged to conjure up similar creativity when it comes to marketing, though now I do it without the drama or woe is me silver angel mentality.

Practicing Patience…Waiting for My Turn
Whether it was trailing behind as my sisters made a beeline to the bathroom, watching my sisters talk for hours on the phone with boyfriends, or eagerly awaiting my period (yeah, I know, what was I thinking?) I grew accustomed to waiting. It became a way of life.

And as anyone in the publishing industry knows, waiting = breathing. It’s just part of it.

Weight to Words
Because around our dinner table it was often difficult to get a word in, I made sure the words I said (or wrote in letters) counted. I knew I had three point six seconds to grab attention and keep it, so I truncated and gave the headlines as opposed to the entire news story as often as possible. My dad liked this. My husband likes this. Must be a guy thing, too.

Editing is the art of truncation.

Sharing the Glory
When the igloo towered over our elementary school bodies, our folks applauded. When we performed elaborate play after play, our folks cheered. When we swam the lake in order to not have to wear life jackets in the boat, our parents celebrated (my sisters, not me because I never was able to swim the lake). Anyhoo…my point is in a big family it was rare to accomplish something, correction…anything alone. My sisters and I often worked together, learning the ins and outs of collaboration and receiving collective praise.

I try to remember this as I witness my friends succeeding with book contracts and multiple book deals. By sharing their news with me, I tend to view it as though they are sharing the glory. Someday I intend to share with them.

Humble Bumble
I liked to dress up as Mia the bee—way beyond Halloween (if you've read Little Bee, think Batman costume). That story got passed around our Thanksgiving table crowded with guests. So did the one about me falling off the stage and the one about how I painted an Easter egg with the words Don’t Tease Jesus. Hmm…the psychology behind that one. Anyway, I got used to embarrassing stories about moi being dinnertime fodder. It takes a lot to embarrass me now.

Receive one rejection and you know how this one helps in the publishing world.

Hand Me Downs
I wore my sister’s dresses. In fact, my thirty-eight-year-old sister still sends me sneakers she’s gotten minimal use out of. The idea stuck I guess. I don’t have a “you owe me, must be me” sense of entitlement.

You lose this pretty quickly when you walk around in hand me down tennis shoes as a thirty-six-year-old. Sort of brings it all into perspective. I’ll end up with the house I’m meant to be with. End of story.

Picked on—Tough Skin
I have calluses that would put a lumberjack’s to shame. My name wasn’t Wendy growing up, it was cry baby. At the first hint of a tear that name got slapped on me. In retrospect, I see why. I was good at crying. I knew how to get my feelings out. Really well. Ha! But I knew how to take the punches and this only inspired me to grow thicker skin. I still feel deeply, but I’ve well-learned what to let go of.

Paying Attention & Taking Notes
As the youngest, I got the rare opportunity to tune in to see which behaviors and life choices worked for my sisters and which ones led them to rock bottom. I took copious mental notes about how I wanted to live my life.

I’m still doing this with those ahead of me on the publication highway. I’m watching. I’m observing. I’m taking notes. Learning every step of the way.

Have you ever given thought to how your birth order impacted your decision to pursue your choice profession and/or how it prepared you?

*photos of Paine girls

Monday, January 2, 2012

One Oar Faith

We’re told to love God and love others. Seems simple. But I’m going to outright confess that the second instruction can get excruciatingly tough for me sometimes.

Loving God, seeing his goodness, this isn’t what trips me up. It’s his people that trip me up. (Last I checked, I’m a person, so I include myself in this category.)

I often find myself stretched with how I love others. I’m drawn to humble hearts, folks willing to admit brokenness and imperfection. (I also happen to like people who have a keen appreciation for laughter.)

The hardest people for me to love are the pious; the prideful ones screaming about the splinters in my eye as I silently stare at the lumberyard in their eye. Even as I’m wounded by these types of people, I’ve been through enough to understand I can learn from them—their behavior. I can choose to live differently and love all the same. This is growth in the big leagues.

So what’s with the title, one oar faith? When I was thinking about the day to day struggle of loving God’s people an image formed (yeah, this tends to happen a lot…probably why I slid into my career as a writer).

A rowboat. I’m in it. And when I’m loving God, appreciating his sovereignty, his unending, grace-filled love, I’m pushing the boat forward with one oar. On one side.

Do you see it?

I’m moving in circles with that kind of faith—that one oar practice of Christianity. I’m trusting God, but not the settings he’s placed me in or the people he’s plopped in my life.

Don’t get me wrong, both oars are in the boat. I’m able to reach down and take hold of the second oar at any time, but it tends to cramp my hand when I grip it, the wood splinters against my palm, and water splashes all over me when I pick up that oar and utilize it. In other words…it hurts.

Loving others hurts. But here’s the cool thing about that. There’s a verse in the Bible that says to consider it an honor whenever we identify with Jesus in any way. It’s impossible to imagine how deeply Jesus was injured by man (and still is). Words don’t cover it so I won’t try. The point is he gets what it feels like to row with both oars.

And you know what I hear him whispering to me? Pick up both oars. Full speed ahead. It’s time to move forward.

Big league faith. Both oars. Raw, cramped and bleeding hands, drenched body, upper arm muscles pulsing and aching with exertion.

And somewhere on the break of a wave I’ll be reminded it’s in loving others that I’m demonstrating my love for God.

Can you relate with my one oar vs. two oar image? What helps you when it comes to loving difficult people?

*photos by flickr
**Stop by here later to see who All “I”s are on!

Taking Time

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