Friday, March 30, 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.

Recently I confided in someone after wrestling with an ongoing situation, “Sometimes I think I care too much.” Obviously you have no idea the circumstance I speak of, but I want your thoughts in general…talk to me about caring. Is it possible for someone to care too much, feel too much, invest too much? Have you ever felt this—that you care too much?

*photos by Stock.XCHNG

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

8 Things My Dog Would Say if She Could

We taught our dog to talk. She can say I love you and out, though the two often get confused. We sometimes think she’s expressing her affection for us when she really just needs to hit the grass.

This got me thinking. What would our beloved canine say if she really could talk? Here are my thoughts on this I 8 Wednesday:

  • I like how my mom (she calls herself that, but I’m no fool. I don’t believe I grew in her belly like those other three non-hairy ones) nestles next to me when she’s sad. Yum…salty tears.
  • I’ve worked hard to master what they call “a cute puppy dog face” when I’m drooling, and dying to have a little nibble of what they’re eating. Mom caves easily. The non-hairy ones seem indifferent and usually let me take a few licks. Dad, he’s the hardest one. Gotta work on my face more.
  • My family feels bad for me when I get squirted by a skunk. Sheesh, it’s happened enough times. What they don’t know is I’m the one who wins. They’ve never seen the skunk after the fiasco, have they?
  • Mom must really enjoy picking up my poop. She saves it all for one day toward the end of the winter and spends over an hour scooping it up in the backyard (aka: my kingdom).
  • Yes, I eat my own fur after they brush it off of me (if I can get to it in time). What they don’t know is every time I eat it it goes into my stomach and finds a way to grow on my skin again. So the brushing thing—it’s really a futile act. Wonder when they’ll wake up and smell the truth? Humans!
  • The vet = public enemy #1. Cats in our neighborhood are spies for the vet. I can’t figure out what side the mail carrier is on. But I’m beginning to understand those pesky squirrels in the backyard (my kingdom) aren’t just gathering nuts. I think they’re transferring messages to the cats to take to public enemy #1.
  • Yeah, so, I walked straight up to the police station where the animal control guy parks his truck? I wanted to see what it was like on the inside. Mom’s a writer. She gets this. All in the name of research, right Mom?
  • I’ve been all around the country, but I’d have to say the coolest place my parents took me (other than a park in South Dakota where my parents had to chuck graham crackers out of the car…dropping some inside the car…in order to get past the enormous donkeys) was Mount Rushmore. Loved seeing those big rock heads. A little afraid they’d tumble down on us, but I tend to pick up on Mom and Dad’s anxiety and they didn’t act near as scared as when they do when they detect the first whiff of skunk.

What would your pet say if they could talk?

*Just ignore the dopey looking picture of me. Pay attention to the cooler one.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Art of Connecting Thoughts

While reading through a book titled 8000 You Should Know yesterday I came across this:

“Dhows are wooden Arab boats that have been used in the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean for thousands of years. In the past dhows were made, not by nailing planks of wood together, but by sewing them with coconut fibre. Dhow builders rarely work from plans. They judge entirely by eye and experience. Dhows traditionally had lateen sails—triangular sails in line with the boat. This allows them to sail almost into the wind.” (bold mine)

When I put the book down bottle rockets went off in my brain. My synapses danced. Do you see it? Well, of course not because I haven’t made the connection for you yet. But I saw it sure as the sun rising in the sky reminding us of a new day.

Dhow builders epitomize the methods of a pantser.

They sew the boat together. They don’t nail it together, using forceful step by step plot techniques to guide them. They sew. Then get this…they rarely work from plans (wow, are the plotters out there about ready to faint now, or what?). Here’s the kicker, dhow builders trust their eye and their experience to get them through the process. And dhows have been around for “thousands of years.”

So what’s the takeaway other than my mind tends to be on steroids when it comes to drawing parallels? As writers, when we see something like this it’s worth it not to ignore it. Take notes. Craft an analogy that makes sense for the reader. Truncate the details. Test it. Some will work, some won’t. That’s what rough drafts are all about—freeing the mind to step out of its comfort zone.

Opening your mind to see (really see) connections is one of the best ways to remedy clichés from cropping up in your work.

To quote a well-known song from the 90s, “Free your mind and the rest will follow…”

Do you enjoy when your brain synergizes unique ideas and concepts? 
What keeps you from attempting analogies in your work?

*photo by flickr

Friday, March 23, 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.

In light of the premier of The Hunger Games and rockin’ Katniss

When are you at your strongest?

*photos by Stock.XCHNG

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

8 Ways Being a Writer Time Travels Me Back to H.S.

Sometimes this industry brings me back in time. To a time in life when emotions ran high, math grades dipped low, and everything else seemed to fall somewhere in that elusive “waiting to graduate”  middle. Ah…high school.

Exploding Volcano
More often than not building a platform can feel like one huge science experiment. Half the time I have no idea what I’m doing. The other half I’m mixing social networking chemicals that surely aren’t supposed to be blended together. Waiting for results. For something to effervesce, pop, inflate, or explode. Funny thing is I’m the one who is regularly tempted to do all of the aforementioned.

Will You Sign My…
I have an embarrassing confession and it’s only coming out once. Here and now. In my early stages of blogging I actually had the gall (read: complete ignorance) to ask a published author I’d connected with to endorse my blog. My blog. Yep. So proud.

Anyhoo, now that that humiliation is out there (sheesh, this really is like high school) I’ll add that book endorsements remind me a little of getting folks to sign your yearbook. I remember some students had hundreds of lengthy notes on their yearbooks. Some endorsements exude the same attention and care. Makes me wonder about mine someday. Really hoping I don’t get the “see you around” version.

Ouch. Did you ever want to go to a dance with someone and they never asked? Or like someone who never reciprocated the feelings? Of course I’m not speaking from experience. Ha! Rejection = the one curse of every high school student must endure before graduation day.

Don’t think I need to make that link to writing. Most writers know exactly what I’m talking about.

I Am Free
There are times I need to decompress. These are my free periods. And during free period I head to FB and Twitter. And apparently so do a lot of other writerly folks.

Hey Look at Me Attitude
Would you believe we had mirrors that lined our high school hallways? The plight for popularity is at its prime (alliteration) in high school. Popularity and that all too recognizable hey look at me attitude. Everyone is out for attention.

When it comes to the writing industry seeking recognition doesn’t hold the same kind of negative connotation, but like high school it’s worth it to self-check on this one. Unless you want to be caught staring at yourself in all the hallway mirrors.

Cramming for Midterms and Finals
Studying the craft, preparing pitches, and knocking out a few Ks can evoke stress levels only reached during major test taking times of my life. SATs revisited.

There are times I literally have to sit down at the computer and verbalize the words, “Game on” before I sit to write.

What Did They Write about Me?
I went through a year where the librarian would hand me a permanent marker whenever I walked in the school library. Apparently some dude was having fun scrawling not so innocent messages about me in the mezzanine.

Hunting for my name to scratch out reminds me of the author’s amazon rank check. How many stars? How could she write that? Where’s my permanent marker when I need it? ;)

Uh, What Was I Just Doing?
I was a doodle master in Calculus. I still doodle. But now I call it painting, home projects, and the occasional clean sweep. Still is just as easy to lose focus on what I’m doing as it used to be back in the glory days.

Can you think of any ways being a writer is like reliving the glory days of high school?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Beauty in Uniqueness

Does it come naturally to you to see beauty in uniqueness?

Talk to me about beauty today…

*photo by stockXCHNG

Friday, March 16, 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.

 2 years.
I miss him.
Who do you miss?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

8 Ideas for Hosting a Dynamic Book Club Meeting

I 8 book clubs.

What does a group of women excited to discuss a book they’ve read and ready for good convo make? A mother of a good time.

I love my book club. I’m energized by the diverse group of women in my book club. They add value to my reading experience.

I’m constantly taking notes on what friends do in their book clubs. Needless to say, as a women’s fiction author who writes books primed for discussion, the idea of ladies gathered to discuss books thrills me.

If you feel like your book club might be getting a little stale, or if you’re interested in some ideas to get the conversation juices flowing, or even if you simply desire to put a creative spin on your next meeting, this post is for you.

Theme for Food & Décor
Say you’re discussing The Paris Wife, you might wish to pick out an assortment of French cheese and a nice French wine.

Dog bone shaped cookies for The Art of Racing in the Rain.

Or if you’ve read The Language of Flowers you can get creative and search the index of flowers in the back of the novel, buying one for each guest and attaching a note with its meaning.

My friend served all brain foods when we discussed Still Alice, a story about a neuroscientist who discovers she has Alzheimer’s. Berries galore.

Involve the Author
Authors love to be informed when their book has gotten through to you. Many authors today have websites or easy to find contact information. Consider asking whether the author is open to Skyping during your meeting or even throwing out a question for the group to discuss. Nothing like a personal touch.

Prepare Questions in Advance
Most books come with questions in the back (often labeled Reader’s Guide). But if for some reason the book of the month doesn’t, come up with a set of open-ended thought-provoking questions that are sure to trigger conversation.

Don’t Force Book Talk too Soon
This one seems small, but it’s actually huge. It’s important for members to feel comfortable with one another. 

Allow time for casual conversation, letting topics flow freely. However, at some point designate a time to transition to book talk.

We always know it’s time when someone moves away from the food (alas) and leads the rest of the group to the comfortable chairs.

Tap into Resources
There are incredible guides when it comes to book clubs today. Sites like Goodreads and are wonderful to explore when you’re debating your next book choice.

Also, check with your local library. Ours is fantastic. The librarians make an effort to call around, collecting enough books for our entire group (as many as 10-12). This is a great way to offer an alternative to having to buy the book.

Keep Conversation Open
If you want a lively exchange, one where all parties feel safe to share their opinions (even if that means they hated a book you loved) it’s essential all members know that all thoughts are welcome.

Encourage unique impressions. Offer validating responses. Appreciate how the room lights up with new ways of seeing the world.

Connect with Members between Meetings
Set a standard way of contacting each other between meeting times. We have a Facebook group. Whenever I need to check the time of our next meeting or if I’m curious what others thought of a specific book, I hop on Facebook and click on my Book Thieves group.

Another idea is to combine two book clubs for a novel party.

Switch up Who Selects Book
Some groups like to meet and plan out all their books for the entire year. If this works for your group, stick with it. But another way to go about this is to have each member in charge of selecting for their month of hosting.

This mixes up the style of books that might frequently get chosen and it enables all members to have a role in participating, therefore encouraging their commitment as a member.

What are some book club best practices that you’ve experienced? Heard about? Are you in one? Why or why not?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Where the Wild Things Are: A Writer’s Journey through Self & Back Again

There’s a funny thing that happens when you commit to being a novelist.

And by funny I mean an in your face confrontation where once you bump into some of the deep-rooted (at times gnarly) emotions driving your work, you must decide whether to run like mad or body check the beasts.

I’ve learned to write directly into the heart of my fears. When I do this I’m able to connect with my readers on a deeper level, trusting they’ve experienced similar trepidations.

This brings me to the woods.

What lurks amidst the pine needles and towering trees, those shadows of doubt and memory of pain, that’s where I allow myself to wander when I write. I escort my characters through these forests. There are times I hold their hands and times I let go and hide, watching how they’ll react to the owl’s hoot, the wolf’s howl, and the swishing of leaves that sends electric shocks of terror up their spines.

I remain in the woods with my characters at all times. Feeling. Entering their world—enmeshing with their emotions. Here’s a glimpse of what some of my forest treks have resembled…

Fangorn Forest from Lord of the Rings
Like the hobbits, aware Fangorn Forest is the only way to where they need to go, I tremble. I know what’s in there. Orcs. Sharp-eared, sneering, relentless in their pursuit,    hungry to devour me orcs. And worse, other nameless, indescribable things that might very well be the end of me. Raking me through past hurts and future worries.

And yet I take the first step in, leading my characters onward as the trees groan. Yes, we come across a bloodthirsty orc, but because we persist, we don’t give up, we also happen upon a forest filled with some other rather unexpected kindly characters that end up lifting us to higher ground.

Rotten apples from The Wizard of Oz
Dorothy and her friends clutch tighter as the road darkens. The rows of trees serve as bookends around the motley crew determined to walk the yellow brick road. But the trees are feisty. Feisty apple-throwing trees. And the felt presence of the witch’s nearness fills them with dread.

Criticism, judgment, names I’ve been called. Might as well call them Macoun, Red delicious, and Braeburn as I roam these woods. Like apples chucked at my head these are visceral reminders of how often I’ve failed. Insecurities and even pride rotting my insides far quicker than any of these apples could.
So what I do when I come across these apples as I write? I pick ‘em up and bite. I bite back. I throw back. I duck. I don’t let the apples get to my head.

Confusing Characters from Alice in Wonderland
The Cheshire Cat, Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum, the smoke-ring blowin’ Caterpillar. I think we can all agree Alice came across her share of enigmatic characters on her forest hike.

I’ve so been there. Real life truly can be stranger than fiction sometimes. People can be rude without warning in the woods I wander through. Deceptive. Just plain perplexing, leaving me to question next steps.
After stumbling across this lot, it’s often I’ll offer a kind word, grab my character’s hand, and take the nearest exit. Remembering. Always remembering and learning how it felt to be scared and treated in such a way. Remembering to not pass it on.

Max from Where the Wild Things Are
There are enough atrocities in this world to cause the whole earth to implode with anger. Max understood this. He got anger.

And then he got to escape it all.

He ventured to where the wild things are and instead of cowering, he “stared into all their yellow eyes without blinking once” and found his safe playground. Crowned ruler, Max conquered his fears. Until loneliness set in and he understood all-day rumpuses with the wild things aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

He went to the woods.

And then he came home.

There are few more allegorical descriptions of what I feel I try to do as a writer than the one of Max and his forest excursion. I bring my reader into the woods with me and my characters. It’s safe (even though tension and conflict are ripe). We rumpus. But then I find a way to bring my readers home.

To take what I’ve written with them, as I am challenged to do the same.

And to believe the power of imagination has the far-reaching influence to change anything.

Do you write into the heart of your fears? Which forest description resonates with you most?

*photo by stock.XCHNG
**Last (at least for a few months) All “I”s on __________ on my FB writer page

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Big Cover Reveal









And we have a winner…Congratulations Heidi Leanne! Heidi, please contact me with your information so I can either send you a little something, or if you’d rather, I’d love to offer a one chapter critique. (My contact email is on the sidebar.)

Oh Happy Day, it's Friday people!

Thanks for playing! You realize you encourage me with this type of stuff, don't you? Do you have a favorite book cover?

*If you have no idea what's going on here today, scroll down through Wed.'s post and you'll be brought up to speed. ;)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Name that Cover

Disclaimer: A fierce love of books can make you do some rather out-of-the-box things. I 8 Wednesday again in a whole new way.

I had my kiddos replicate images from eight popular book covers out there now. And your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to guess as many of them as you can.

For the person who guesses the most I will give (drum roll please)…………………..a new car (no, not really).

But I will give a little something…something special. Or if you’d prefer, I’ll give of my time and critique one chapter from your WIP. If there’s a tie, I’ll have my “model” children randomly select a winner.

Contest closes Thursday by noon, so get your guesses in early. 
I'll reveal the actual covers on Friday.









*This contest is not an endorsement of any of the above books. I haven’t even read most of them. I chose them based on the impression we could replicate them without too much effort. Not bad, eh?
**thanks to kidlets who let me photograph them
***post inspired by the countless plays my oldest sister choreographed when we were kids, in which I almost always had to be the maid. :D

Monday, March 5, 2012

Love in the Time of Social Media (Part 2)

Everything I’m about to share I’ve struggled with at some point or another. Ah, now that that’s out there…I shall continue.

Last Monday, I addressed bringing the donkey when it comes to living out our calling…our love in the time of social media.

Today I’m homing in on a brotherly or sisterly expression of love. I’m tackling what caring for others online might require of us.

How do we love our online neighbors?

I highlight four elemental ways to love those we interact with on social media sites:

Truth: As “well-connected” as I feel at times, there are moments (lulls we’ll call them) after I’ve spent hours at the computer I come away feeling an indescribable loneliness. While this feeling often ends up eventually motivating me or reminding me just how in this I am, it also begs the question why am I in this? And, who am I in this for?

I’m guessing I’m not alone in this.

I hope to reach others. I want to make a difference. I want my life—my words to count for something.

Not alone in this, right?

We have the choice to go forward with this knowledge, building others up, pouring into them, and offering genuine support.

Or we can complain about our soggy tacos. Or wallow in our indescribable lonely feelings.


Every day. Every word typed. Every second we connect.

Be Honest
More than ever, and with the ever-increasing methods to interact online we must decide who we are, what we represent, and what messages we intend to put out there.

Emails sent in a rush of anger can have a lasting impact on the recipient.

In the same light, an honest and needed word (challenging as it might be) gives someone an opportunity to grow. Me like growth. Num. Num. Num.

Written words have the potential to come across differently than intended. Clarification is good. Integrity with word choice is good. Plain ol’ honesty is good.

Live with Boundaries (constantly learning on this one)
I recently saw a short video of Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love) I can’t get out of my mind (thanks for the tweet, RG). In the video, Gilbert expresses how she needs to be her own bodyguard of her time. Wow, this smacked me good. I whittle away my time doing frivolous things. Some of that is a form of decompression and perfectly natural. Some. But it made me think about some of the utterly pointless conversations I have. And also about how I’m not always protecting my time the way I’d like to be. Eye-opener.

How is this related to loving others? When we live with healthy physical boundaries we set an example. We protect others’ time. And we exude respect for ourselves and for others.

One of our pastors once threw out a challenging question. He asked, “Would you invite the people you watch on your favorite shows into your home?” Take a magnifying glass to that question and examine it this way…would you invite those you interact heavily (or regularly) with online into your home?

I always feel like singing the lyrics to “Wild World” by Cat Stevens to someone when they inform me they’re joining yet another social media site. I sing it to myself when I sign up instead. ;)

In all the complicated tangled webs on the web, how is it we discern who to love, when, how…? And how the heck is setting boundaries related to loving others?

Ever feel spent? Ha! You can stop nodding now. We all have. We are wise to be careful who we pour into and how often. I’m blessed to have found some beautiful mutually beneficial friendships (some of those established from initial online contact), but not all online encounters are healthy.

Whew doggie, you should have witnessed some of these encounters when I first logged onto Facebook. The reflective soul I am, it took months to finally be at peace with my new understanding of the word friend. I’ve had to make some discerning, and at times, difficult decisions about those who’ve crossed my boundaries.

Loving others online is also about being clear about what we will and won’t tolerate.

Did you know that a lot can be gauged by what we don’t say and how we don’t respond to that particular pot-stirrer?

Connections and expectations—I’m tellin’ ya, it’s a wild world loving in the time of social media. As Cat sang, “Just remember there’s a lot of bad…and beware.”

Selfless Outreach

Love is…

All this said, I crave to become even more encouraging while online. I want to become less. That’s what love is. It’s not about puffing up or trying to look like more—trying to be more. It’s about being more for others.

And I want to be more for you.

Which of the above ways of loving your online neighbor is most difficult for you? Why do you think?

*Check out the second to last All “I”s on _______ on my FBwriter page today!
**Fun post planned for Wed. (with a giveaway involved)

Friday, March 2, 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.

Best. Book. Ever?

*photos by Stock.XCHNG

Taking Time

college applications                 homecoming                            flag football                basketball             SATs   ...