Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Something To Cheer You Up After Doing Your Taxes

Today, April 15, is perhaps the most dismal day of the year for Americans, particularly writers, who are more often self-employed than not. If forking over your cash to Uncle Sam didn't make you grumpy today, it certainly ticked off a lot of other people, as evidenced by the numerous anti-tax tea parties that went on across the country.

While I understand the sentiment there, I really don't think the protests will accomplish much. Then again, I'm not the most politically active person in the world. To be honest, I can't even think the phrase "teabagging" and keep a straight face after reading Mark Terry's post on the subject. All I can say is, it pays to know your vocabulary, folks!

So...moving right along. I figured we could all use a little pick-me-up after being made considerably poorer this month, and I found a fantastic new website today called that should do the job nicely. After playing around on the site for awhile, I discovered a brilliant little video of over 200 dancers performing to "Do, Re, Mi" from The Sound of Music in the Antwerpen Central Train Station in Belgium. In the 3 weeks since it first posted on YouTube, the original video has already garnered more than 1.3 million hits. And once you see it, you'll figure out why:

This made me smile from ear to ear, and I'm not at all a fan of musicals. The moral of the story? When you're having a crappy day, sometimes it's the littlest things that can turn it all around.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Decisions, Decisions...

To everyone who sent me words of encouragement and virtual hugs during my recent slump, I have two words for you: THANK YOU. I mean it. Muah! It was just what I needed. I'm doing much better this week, and it's a good thing too, because I can't afford to crash and burn right now. I have entirely too much to do.

Here's the deal: I live in Florida, where, in case you've been living under a rock, the housing and job markets have been utterly demolished. To make matters worse, the cost of living here is obscenely high, particularly in our neck of the woods. Don't get me wrong: I love Florida. Warm weather all year round, plentiful sandy beaches and easy access to Disney World--what's not to like? Before the country fell into a financial abyss of awfulness, it was a great place to live. Of course, now...well, now it's not so hot (pardon the pun).

So, it looks like my hubby and I have some decisions to make. We're quite blessed in the sense that we're not tied to a home right now, so we can feasibly move as early as this summer. Texas is the most obvious choice, since it's where most of our family is and it's one of the few states that has managed to thrive in this recession. Another major plus? Our son is young enough to make a seamless transition. The question is, should we make that step? Can we afford it? Will we be able to find jobs, a new place to live and get everything packed in time? These are the questions that have been spinning through my head for the last few weeks.

The issue is coming to a head for us now because we're rapidly reaching a point of no return. We have a very small window of time to make this move happen, otherwise we'll be stuck where we are for at least another year. I guess that's my problem. It seems like everything would have to happen so fast. I don't do fast changes well, at least not like this. I was raised by two meticulous planners, folks who needed a week's notice whenever I wanted to have a play date in elementary school. Like them, I like months and months to get my ducks in a row before a decision like this, but it looks more like I've got weeks. It feels like days. And that freaks me out.

My husband will be meeting with his boss on Monday to request that he be transferred to Texas, if that's what we decide to do. We've given ourselves the weekend to commit one way or the other. And what a long, prayer-filled weekend it will be--even more than usual for Easter.

Everything in my gut is pointing me toward this move. I really don't think we can afford to live here another year. But still. Change is hard, especially when it flies in your face like a spaceship jumping to warp speed (did I mention my parents were also Trekkies?). I suppose that's what separates the kiddos from the adults in society. Grownups make the hard choices so the munchkins don't have to, and apparently I'm a grownup--or so says my driver's license. But I must confess I don't feel too grownupish today.

What do you think? Am I overanalyzing everything? What would you do, given what you know about my situation? How do you go about making major, life-altering decisions in your family?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Flutter: The Future of Twitter?

Check out this mockumentary from Slate V on "Flutter," which is basically Twitter with less characters. Hilarious! And scarily perceptive.

While you're laughing, observe the following:

Irony #1: This link is going straight to my Twitter page. How sad is that?

Irony #2: I honestly thought this was real at first. Says a lot about where our society is headed as our communication becomes more and more instantaneous. Kinda makes you wonder if language itself will eventually become obsolete, like we'll be hooked up to some creepy hive mind or something. Resistance is futile, anyone?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Shadow Play: Thoughts About Writers And Depression

I've been in a weird, tired, cranky mood lately, and it's doing some not good things to my writing. For one thing, I haven't touched my WIP in almost two weeks. For another, I'm having a really rough time composing blog posts. I started at least three or four this week, but for some reason I couldn't finish any of them. Even writing about how much I don't feel like writing is proving difficult.

I'm convinced this is a nasty phase that will pass in a few days, but that doesn't make getting through it any easier. I don't care for myself when I feel this way--and I'm sure my DH doesn't, either! Coincidentally (or not), Colleen Lindsay posted a link to writer Colin Rowsell's blog, where he started what might be the most thought-provoking discussion on writers and depression I've ever seen. Many of the stories told there were deeply moving, mainly because I could relate to everything my fellow writers said. Reading their words was like walking through a funhouse of mirrors; the images I saw took different sizes and shapes, but in the end, they were all very much like me.

There. I said it. I am one of the thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of writers who has struggled with chronic depression. It is the gloomy cloud that has followed me throughout my teenage and adult life, and it has taken me to some devastating places. Over the years, I have fought hard to overcome this invisible nemesis; some battles I've won and others I've lost. Ultimately, it is my belief in Jesus, support from family and friends, and some occasional professional help that keep me from falling headlong into the darkness.

Surprised? Don't be. Chances are, if you don't suffer from the same thing, you know someone who does. Especially if you're a writer.

Ours is a lonely, isolating craft. We have a unique ability to see the beautiful and the ugly parts of humanity, and like a mirror, we reflect what we see back to our readers. It is both a gift and a curse. The loveliness is exhiliarating to witness and thrilling to capture--I could spend all day writing about the birth of my son, for example--yet the evil is equally disturbing, and that is what drives so many of us to pills, to the bottle, to despair, to suicide. We must have both sides of the coin. It would be impossible to for everyone to write about sunshine and rainbows all the time; the challenge is for us to observe the shadows from a distance without becoming consumed by them.

I don't have all the answers. I wish I did. I only know what I do when depression rears its disgusting head and tries to take away all that I have worked to obtain. I breathe, step away from whatever I'm working on, regroup and try again later. I allow my husband and son to make me laugh. I eat really good chocolate and drink delicious, satisfying tea. I seek support from other writers who have felt the same pain. I pray until the storm passes. And it does. Every time without fail.

Because in the end, it's all just shadow play.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Why I Love Me Some Google

Allow me to introduce you to my brand new favorite technological doohickey: Google Calendar.

Before you say anything, yes, yes, I know--I'm the last kid on the block to take advantage of this small-time wonder. Let me have my fun. It's neat, okay?

For those of you who are like me and have dwelt in ignorance for far too long, let me explain. Google Calendar essentially does what most of us did on our own, but makes it look much cooler. Meaning, it takes the "Monthly" page from those old-fashioned planners you find at Office Max (which are so last millennium, by the way), and allows you to customize it to fit your needs. You can add events that can occur once, twice or even weekly or daily--all at the touch of a button. No more handwriting those monthly office meeting dates over and over again, kiddos! With Google Calendar, you just enter in the information one time, and it's all done for you.

And here's my absolute favoritest favorite part: You can have multiple calendars side-by-side and color-coordinate all of them to tell them apart! Eeeek! Back in my perfectionist high-school days, I used to color-coordinate everything in my planner just like this, except I used highlighters and multicolored pens. Oh, but this is so much better! Sheer awesomeness.

While I still use my regular planner for my day-to-day scheduling, Google Calendar is great for helping me establish and maintain certain routines (i.e., taking daily walks with the hubby or setting aside regular writing time), which is exactly why I find it so ingenious. I'm a tad embarrassed to say it, but I'm actually looking for things to schedule into the calendar now just because it looks so darn cute. We'll see if I still feel this way a month from now. Perhaps it won't help me become more organized at all. For the time being, however, I plan to revel in the novelty of yet another web application.

Time to share now, boys and girls. How do you keep your crazy schedules straight? Any technology involved? Or, are you still searching to find a method to the madness?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

And Now, For Your Viewing Pleasure...

Hey there, all! Well, as I said in the last post, I've been working hard all week. I'm quite sleepy, so I'm turning in early tonight. Here are some clips of writing advice for you to check out, spoken by some of the greatest writers of our time. Enjoy!

First, the legendary Ray Bradbury:

Next, whether you love him or hate him Stephenie Meyer fans, you gotta admit Stephen King knows a thing or two. And don't you just love the tie-dye shirt?

Lastly, critically acclaimed author Joyce Carol Oates talks about creating characters:

Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Brief Hiatus/POV Concerns

Gracious! Has it already been a week since my last post? Wow. I've been working on several newspaper articles lately, and I have one more piece to finish before the end of the week. Between the research, interviewing and the writing itself, I'm keeping quite busy. Not that I'm complaining. Quite the contrary. These days, I'm grateful for whatever work I can get.

Anyway, today I thought I'd pose a question to you all about my current WIP. As I've mentioned before, it's a YA sci-fi novel tentatively titled, The Shifter Files, and I'm totally and completely psyched about it. As much as superhero stories have been done to death, I'm hoping to tell the same ol' yarn in a fresh, exciting way. Most of the characters are still pretty sketchy, but they have the potential to be really dynamic. I just need to flesh them out...a lot.

Therein lies the problem. See, the other day I came across this post by YA author Dawn Metcalf (via Super Agent Janet Reid's blog). Metcalf doesn't mince words when it comes to her dislike of first-person narrative, despite the fact that it's practically the standard point-of-view in YA fiction. And yet, she goes on to sing the praises of Avery Cates, the narrator and protagonist in Jeff Somers' The Electric Church. Here's an interesting snippet from her comments:

"...there is no question in my mind that Avery Cates is not “redeemable” – he will continue to kill people, he will still make bad choices, and he will continue to do horrific things in order to keep himself alive and I’ll still want to read what happens to him...I can empathize with Avery Cates (even though I’d never want to meet an Avery Cates!) but it’s not because I can sympathize with him; it’s because in the pages of Somers’ book, I am Avery Cates."

That got me thinking--well, perhaps I should say worried--about how I'm handling TSF. I adore my heroine. She's tough, she resourceful and she doesn't think twice about shooting her mouth off at shapeshifting terrorists. She's a heck of a lot cooler than I am. So when the idea for TSF first popped into my head, my first instinct was to tell the story from her perspective. And it worked the beginning.

Problem is, the further I get into the story, the more I find myself wanting to pull out of her head and take a bird's-eye view of everything. I feel like I'm losing my heroine's voice. Like Avery Cates, she's an assassin, and sometimes I wonder if the impartial, observatory tone of third-person would be a better fit for the story. On the other hand, I'm nowhere near finished developing her yet. It could be that the reason I'm struggling with her voice is because I simply don't know her well enough yet.

I'm halfway through the story right now, so I feel the need to choose one way or the other. I'd hate to discover that I was using the wrong point-of-view the entire time and have to completely rewrite it.

What do you ladies and gents think? Any thoughts? Suggestions? How do you determine which point-of-view to use in your stories?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Know What Publication By Omission Is? Join The Debate!

Yesterday, the fabulous Moonrat over at Editorial Ass posed some questions that desperately needed asking about racism in the publishing industry. Here's the link: Editorial Ass: Publishing by Omission (or, Fighting Racism from Your Very Own Nightstand!) She explains it far more eloquently than I can, but the crux of her argument is that racism in publishing--as it is in most other industries today--occurs not with blatant attacks, but by the more insidious, subtle act of omission. In other words, projects from writers of color are systematically rejected in favor of more "marketable" work from white writers.

Here's my favorite quote from the post:

Writers of color aren't disadvantaged, per se; it's just that white authors are very, very advantaged. You know. No one's trying to be mean. (Or, at least, most people aren't.)

Personally, I think Moonrat's logic is spot-on, and she would know--she works in the industry, folks! But, as the guy from Reading Rainbow says, "You don't have to take my word for it!" Read the post and decide for yourself. Once you're done, don't be afraid to give feedback in the comments section. If Moonrat is right, what the heck are we all supposed to do about this?

I've been following the discussion since the post was first published, and I'm amazed at how insightful and (remarkably) respectful it has been. I'm learning a great deal from other writers' comments--even ones I strongly disagree with--and that's what makes these type of discussions so fascinating to me. I'm thrilled that we can still have a candid conversation about a difficult topic like racism without us biting each other's heads off.

Believe it or not, I'm convinced this is something every writer needs to think about, regardless of your race. The landscape of this country is changing. The election of President Obama was just the beginning. Experts say that by the year 2050, minorities will be the majority race in the U.S. Our world is more interconnected than ever before. As writers, we need to figure out how we're going to deal with these changes and whether or not they should affect our work. We can't afford to write 20th century stories in a 21st century world.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

25 Reasons Why You're Stuck In The Slush Pile

Between blogging, novel writing and freelance projects, I don't have much time for reading online magazines, much less submitting to them. However, after reading Douglas A. Van Belle's essay via Colleen Lindsay on Twitter (who got the link from spec writer Brandon Bell), I just might have to subscribe to Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine.

It is, without a doubt, one of the greatest essays on the craft of writing I've ever read. Seriously. It's freakin' brilliant. Every writer should have a copy of it bookmarked under their favorite websites and refer to it at least once a month. I'm quite certain that at least 90 percent of the writing population suffers from at least five or six (or ten) of the 25 ailments listed, if not all of them. I know for a fact that I'm totally guilty of Problems #1, 2, 10, 11,, let's just say I have a lot of work to do.

Anyway. Read it. Think about it. Did Van Belle hit the mark, miss it completely or something in between? Why do YOU think most writers never leave the slush pile? We'll go ahead and eliminate not following directions, since I've already written a post about that. Let the discussion begin!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Need To Save Money? Use Salt!

Okay, I know this post has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with writing, but I couldn't resist. I love to share fun stuff I come across on the Web, whether it be news briefs, cool videos or the occasional bloggy rant. I think it breaks up the monotony, keeps things fresh. Don't you agree?

Anyway, since everyone's broke right now (I know I am!), we're all on the lookout for interesting, inventive ways to save money, especially if it means using things we already have at home. A great example of that is this article I found on the website Planet Green. It gives some great suggestions for ways to use salt around your house. Check it out.

Table salt?! Can you believe it? Who knew salt could do more than just increase your blood pressure? What I love most about this article is that everyone has it. It's not like energy-efficient appliances, where you have to spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars upfront in order to save more in the long run. Nope, this is all about my new favorite word: FREE.

And who doesn't like the word free these days?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Proof That There Is Truth In Jest

If this doesn't cheer you up, there's something wrong with you. I had tears in my eyes from laughing so hard, even after seeing it multiple times.

The next time you want to complain about the economy, just think to yourself, "At least I don't have a rotary phone."

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Time For Some Spring Cleaning!

Yay! Spring officially begins this month, although in most parts of the country, the weather doesn't seem to have gotten the memo:

Still, you know what they say: "March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb." Let's hope it happens that way this year!

In honor of the changing seasons, I'm doing a bit of spring cleaning--starting with this blog! Those of you who have been with me for a while will notice that I've given it quite a face lift. While I always liked the old design, this one feels a bit more like me--colorful, quirky and a little whimsical. So what do you think? Is it a keeper? Let me know your thoughts!

I think you'll be happy to know that the blog's outward appearance is only one of the changes I have planned for this month. I'd like to add more features that will make it more interactive, more informative, and hopefully, more fun for you to visit! But to do that, I need your feedback.

So over the course of the next week or so, I'll be asking a lot of questions to get a feel for what you like about this blog and what you think should be done differently. You guys and gals are the lifesblood of this place; you're what makes it a great spot to hang out, and your comments and suggestions are what will take it to the next level.

I've had a few new followers over the last couple of days, so if you're new to the party--welcome! I'm glad to have you and I hope to make this the kind of blog you look forward to reading every day.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Follow The Leader

Several of my favorite bloggers have mentioned that they've lost a lot of followers lately, and most of them seemed to take it rather personally. I can understand why. After all, people follow your blog because for one reason or another, they're interested in what you have to say. So, logic dictates that if someone stops following you, it's because they've lost interest in what you have to say. Whether it's your words, your personality, the design of your background, whatever--you just don't do it for them anymore. And that stings. It's like that guy or girl back in high school who went out with you a few times and never called again.

Fortunately, cleared up the confusion with this explanation earlier this week. There, you see, it's not your breath, after all! Yay! (Seriously though, I lost a follower this week myself, and I thought something was wrong with me, too.)

Anyway, that little wrinkle in the blogosphere got me thinking. Out of all the potential millions--maybe billions by now, who knows?--of blogs out there, how do you decide which ones are worthy of your time? What makes the difference between you subscribing to a blog's feed and you passing on it completely? How do you choose your favorites? Any thoughts?

P.S. Speaking of blog mishaps, a few of you emailed me this week to mention you were having trouble commenting on my page. After checking into it, I've fixed the problem. It seems I changed the comment option by mistake. Silly me! *head desk* Anyway, it should be fine now. Feel free to email me again if it's not.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Will The REAL Writers Please Stand Up?

I've held my peace on this issue for quite some time now, but lately things have gotten out of hand. I'm mad enough to blow my top, and it's time you all knew why.*

Just about all my favorite literary agents have experienced a huge jump in the number of queries they've received this year over last year, and most of them (understandably) are not happy about it. Everyone from Nathan Bransford to Janet Reid to Jennifer Jackson has mentioned it at some point over the last few weeks. Many of them, like Rachelle Gardner and Colleen Lindsay, have had to change their submission guidelines just to keep up with the madness. Some, like Rachel Vater, are no longer accepting submissions at all.

And the reason the query floodgates have suddenly opened up? Most of the above agents seem to have reached the same conclusion: It's the economy, stupid. All the Joe and Jane Schmos out there who can't get jobs have mutually decided they are all qualified to become writers. Why not? They have nothing better to do. How hard could it be?

So, they park their happy behinds in front of their desktops, plunk down some 150,000-word monstrosity and email it off a month later to the first agent listed under a search for "writing agents" on Google. Grr. It's enough to make me want to pull out my hair.

It's not that I can't handle competition. Heck, I've been competitive since kindergarten, when I was the last person to finish coloring my picture because I wanted it to be the prettiest in the class. I have a true Type-A personality; I live and breathe this stuff, man. My problem is a little something we learned in elementary school--it's called following directions. It's something many of these new so-called writers aren't doing, and it's ruining things for the rest of us who actually take this thing seriously.

Look, I get that writing is a weird and mysterious thing. I also get that to people unfamiliar with the publishing industry, the querying process might as well be in another language for all the sense it makes. It can get complicated pretty fast.

But you know what? That's why we have the Internet. Five minutes is long enough to learn everything you need to know about a literary agent--any literary agent. Everything--from submission guidelines to lists of recent clients--is right there at your fingertips, waiting for you to take advantage of it. And yet, because so many writers are too ignorant, too lazy, too...I have no idea do their homework, they're making it that much harder for those of us who know what we're doing to get a fair shot.

I realize I'm probably preaching to the choir here. The people who read this blog are the ones who are not only querying agents properly, but getting requests for partials and fulls and even--dare I say it--that prized offer of representation. You're the ones doing it right, and I salute and admire you for it!

Still, if you could just pass on a message for me to the others, the impostors out there who call themselves writers... Tell them I said not to waste their time. If they can't bother to look up the name of an agent before sending a query, if they can't make the effort to find out what that agent represents, and if they can't find the time to read both inside and outside of their genre, they have no business chasing after the dream of the Great American Novel. Tell them they're better off self-publishing or not publishing at all. Leave the traditional publishing ventures to the pros--people who really do it for a living, not just folks who woke up one day and thought it might be sorta cool.

Being a writer is like most other things:
Just because everyone can do it doesn't mean everyone should.

*Thanks to Julie Butcher-Fedynich over at Fire Drill for inspiring this post with her fantastic rant yesterday!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Need Some PR For Your Book?

Even though I'm light years away from having a book deal or even an agent, I like to think ahead. There's a general consensus in the publishing world that authors need to take on the lion's share of the marketing for their books, so I'm checking out my options early. In addition to following the blogs of literary agents and published authors, I'm researching marketing and PR-based blogs as well. When I do get that prized book deal, I want to hit the ground running before the ink on my contract dries.

The Book Publicity Blog is one of my favorites. It's mainly geared toward book publicists and other publishing professionals, but there are a lot of nice tidbits for aspiring authors as well. Today's post is a prime example of that. Yen put together a fantastic list of freelance book publicists, including each one's website, experience and specialty by genre. Be sure to also read her earlier post about how to hire a freelance book publicist as well.

If you've ever thought about hiring a publicist for your book, you'll want to refer to these posts. If you're even remotely close to securing a book deal or know someone who is, they're must-reads. Take a look-see and let me know what you think. Would you consider hiring a book publicist in the future? Why or why not?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Breaking Up (With Facebook) Is Hard To Do

Disclaimer: The following post is rife with sarcasm and hopefully a good dash of wit. Please be advised. Those without a decent sense of humor need not read any further.

Before I had this fantabulous blog, and long before I began Twittering my life away, I was a Facebook junkie.

I was in undergrad when Facebook first exploded onto the online social scene, a sleeker, more sophisticated (read: "adult"-like) version of MySpace. University students signed up in droves, creating profiles complete with their weekly drinking/club-hopping escapades for all to see. And who doesn't want in on that? So, after months of fighting off the peer pressure from my buddies, I finally jumped on the bandwagon and created my own profile--minus the alcoholic binges. And thus the madness began.

In the early stages of our relationship, Facebook was everything I never knew I always wanted. It allowed me to cyberstalk my friends without actually having to--ya know, speak to them--and they could do the same with me. I could "friend" people I had never and would never meet in real life under the guise of so-called "networking," all without having to worry about someone filing one of those nasty restraining orders. Yay! L0000ve it! And of course, the biggest reward of all, having all the intimate details of my early-20's published on a profile that could be viewed by everyone from my grandmother to potential employers. Fantastic!

Once the honeymoon was over, however, I realized that my beloved Facebook wasn't quite all it appeared to be. It developed ugly web applications that allowed total strangers to know what I was doing at every minute of every day. It made my information easier and easier to spread around, and at the same time, it made my privacy harder and harder to protect. And when I complained about the changes it had made, Facebook responded with chilling indifference. This is the way things are, it replied, so you'd better get used to it.

I was mortified, but I loved Facebook dearly, so I stayed faithful and convinced myself that I could make it change its ways. We fought a lot, but it seemed like we were making progress. We were going to work things out. Or so I thought.

And then, this ridonculousness happened (yes, I did just make that word up).

Ugh. All I can say is, why, Facebook, WHY?! Why do you hurt me so? Why do you insist on pushing me away? We have so much history together, and yet, when I confronted you about your behavior, this is all you had to say.

Was that supposed to make me feel better? Stealing my time wasn't enough, so you had to steal my privacy too, is that it? What's next, selling pictures of my kid to the highest bidder?

I don't think I can take anymore of this, Facebook. This just might have been the last straw. I love you, you're one convenient piece of work, but unless I start seeing some major changes in you very soon, I'll have to move on. I really do deserve better.

Friday, February 13, 2009

When The Unexpected Happens

Whew! What a week. I'm still a bit disoriented, so if this post seems to ramble a bit more than my usual ones, bear with me. My head isn't quite screwed on right just yet.

On Tuesday, my mother called to say that one of my uncles had passed away from brain cancer. Haven't yet figured out how to feel about it. I didn't see him very often, but he was more or less a constant fixture in my extended family life. He came from Arkansas to Texas for my high school graduation. He played with my son the last time our family got together for Thanksgiving, and we saw him again last summer at the family reunion. He wasn't a talkative man, but nevertheless, he was there... And now he isn't.

Mainly, I'm shocked at how quickly it all happened. He was just diagnosed in November, and now he's gone. Bam. Just like that. How very fragile and short this life of ours is.

These are the moments when I'm most grateful for my faith. I'm not ashamed to call myself a Christian, but I don't shout it from the rooftops, either. I also don't knock anyone else for believing differently from me. But I'll tell you one thing: I don't think I could function in times like this if I didn't believe people have a place to go when they die. This life is far too brief; it can't be all there is. That's my thinking anyway.

What frustrated me most this week was the fact that I couldn't seem to write anything. Not. One. Word. I, a writer, one who plays with words for a living, could not pour out the words to say what I feel. I didn't want to grieve; I wanted to write, and I couldn't. Even writing this post is hard. My mind feels tired.

I know what you want to say. You have to grieve. Grieving is healthy. It will help you move on. It will help you cope with what's happened.

Um, 'fraid not. Writing helps me cope. It is how I move on. It's what keeps me sane. Writing and faith. I have the faith part down, but the writing is slow in coming. So I'm waiting for it to come back. Just waiting.

Everyone faces the unexpected, both good and bad. It's part of life. The question is, how do you take your personal tragedies and transfer them into your writing life? How do you turn life's lemons into writing lemonade? I'm still working on that. I'll let you know how it goes.

What about you all? How do you write when life deals you a crappy hand? How do you write through illness? Financial disaster? The loss of a loved one? What keeps you coming back to telling stories?

P.S. Sorry for the depressing post today, folks. I like to uplift people, not bring them down, so hopefully this stuff will be few and far between for me.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

You Like Me! You Really Like Me!

This week, I received not one, but TWO wonderfully pleasant surprises. On Tuesday, Jenn Johansson granted lil' ol' me the Premio Dardo Award! And then today, Michelle over at The Surly Writer did the exact same thing! How cool is that? Thanks, Jenn and Michelle!

I'm no expert as to how these awards work, but here are the details (via Jenn's and Michelle's blogs):
"This award acknowledges the values that every Blogger displays in their effort to transmit cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values with each message they write. Awards like this have been created with the intention of promoting community among Bloggers. It's a way to show appreciation and gratitude for work that adds value to the Web."
And here are the rules of the award system:
1. Accept the award (absolutely!)
2. Post it on your blog together with the name of the person who granted it to you.
3. Link to his/her blog.
3. Pass the award on to 15 other blogs of your choice.

I did a double-take on that last one. 15 bloggers?! Do I even know 15 bloggers?! Geez Louise, that's a lot of people! After taking a minute or two to think about it, however, I realized it wouldn't be that hard to find award recipients after all. In the five weeks or so that I've officially been in the blogosphere, I've come across some really fantastic writers. Folk that easily put my humble writing space to shame. And I'm happy to have the chance to give them their due.

This list is in no particular order. Although I love all the blogs on my normal blog list, these ones put that extra spring in my step. They're the ones I really look forward to reading every day. They make me say, "Hmm," or "Wow, I didn't know that," or "That's such great advice!" Some just make me laugh my head off every single day. I know some of them have gotten awards already, but they deserve more, trust me. These guys and gals are just stellar:

1. Erica
2. Jon aka "Lurker Monkey"
3. Spy Scribbler
4. Amy
5. Angie
6. Lori
7. Jenn (you know I had to give it right back to you! hehe!)
8. Michelle (you too, ma'am!)
9. Melissa
10. Debra
11. Anita
12. Carole
13. Kathryn
14. Brian
15. Shelli

Hmm... Okay, can I give this award out to MORE than 15 people??

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Waiting Game

Lately I've observed that quite a few of my fellow writers have taken that brave, brave step we all hope to make someday: querying literary agents. Yikes. I have yet to tackle it myself, but I've heard that the whole process is one big, ugly, scary beast, no matter how many times you face it. Even the jargon is intimidating; queries, partials, fulls, exclusives, contracts... Ugh! I can see why so many people opt for the self-publication route. Sometimes I feel like it would be easier to take my manuscript to the nearest Kinko's and hand out copies of it outside Barnes and Noble.

But no. I, like many of you, have chosen to take the road less traveled by. The traditional route, with all its wrinkles and hangups and inefficiencies. Say what you will about traditional publishing--it's still the best thing we've got, at least for the time being (although if Nathan Bransford's post today is any indication, that may change sooner rather than later).

As I read about each writer's querying experience, they all touched in some way on the agony of waiting, which was often compounded by the sting of rejection whenever it came. All of them also had different ways of coping while they waited. Debra "kept on truckin'" with other writing projects, while Michelle made light of the situation with hand drawn pictures and a fun discussion with her blog followers. When things didn't go in his favor, Jon kept his perspective by looking at the bigger picture.

Personally, I found all of their stories inspiring in different ways. They made me think about how I'll handle the inevitable waiting that happens during every part of the publication process. I hope when my time comes, I'll have the patience and grace to cope with it as well as these writers do.

What about you? Are you playing the waiting game right now? How are you coping? How do you plan to cope when it's your turn?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Are You Up For A Challenge?

Greetings, all! When it comes to freelance writing, I pride myself on working efficiently and producing high-quality results. However, it seems like whenever I pull out my fiction projects--which aren't paying me a dime--the right side of my brain seizes up and refuses to cooperate. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I'm a recovering procrastinator. *sigh*

Fortunately, all is not lost. I've discovered a simple treatment for my condition, one that makes it much easier for me to release the stories inside me that are just dying to get out. I need accountability. That's why I've been able to commit to this blog (more or less) for the past month, even though I've failed at every attempt I ever made to keep a journal. I don't love writing any more now than I did when I wrote my thoughts in a secret notebook. I just keep at it because I know someone out there is watching me.

It's also the reason I've done so well during National Novel Writing Month. Although I've never "won" by writing the full 50,000 words, I write more during that contest than at any other time of the year, simply because I have a support system. I have people cheering for me, urging me forward, and I do the same for them. We all have the same goal, and we're rushing towards it at full speed.

Well, now I get to have that experience all over again, thanks to fellow writer Melissa Marsh. She created an event called the Just Write Challenge, and I like to think of it as a smaller, more customized version of NaNoWriMo. Instead of everyone pushing to write 50k, we each get to set our own writing goals for the month. Those who reach their individual finish lines will receive fabulous writerly prizes. It's like a marathon where you can run as far and as fast as you want; in the end, everyone wins!

I love the concept, so I jumped on board as soon as I found out about it. My goal is a simple one; I want to write 1,000 words per day on my current WIP, a YA sci-fi novel that I started last November. I'll be chronicling my JWC adventures here at RLGL throughout the month so you can take part in every step of the journey.

Thanks a bunch to Angie Ledbetter over at Gumbo Writer for spreading the word about this great event! Check out the JWC info page on Melissa's blog for all the details. It's not too late to get involved. I just got plugged into the JWC blog yesterday, and everyone there has been wonderful. So, what do you say? Are you up for joining me in the Just Write Challenge?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Back From Neverwhere (What A Great Trip!)

A funny thing happened to me this week. I picked up an ordinary-looking book and took a peek inside, thinking that I would have no trouble setting it aside to go work on other things if I needed to. And in the beginning, I did just that. I read for an hour, maybe two, and went to cook dinner.

The next day, I came back and read a little more. I could feel the book calling me, like an itch I couldn't quite reach, but it wasn't impossible to resist. I could still stop whenever I wanted. Or so I thought.

On the third day, something mysterious and wonderful happened. I read for a couple of hours before coming to the startling realization that I couldn't stop reading. The plot had gripped me, the setting mesmerized me, and more than anything, I was irrevocably in love with the characters. Even the slimy, detestable ones. Those were my favorites.

I read until I was forced to stop, until something urgent like the sound of my son crying or the smell of burnt chili demanded it. But even then, I was reluctant to put the book down, and I found myself searching for every available opportunity to pick it up again. I read into the wee hours of the morning every night this week until I finished it yesterday evening. By then, the characters felt very much like living, breathing people, people who had come into my living room and told me their adventures over a cup of chai tea. They left when I closed the book, but their presence lingered, haunting me. They haunt me still.

The book was Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere. If you haven't read it, the only way I can think to describe it is to call it a grown-up version of Alice in Wonderland, part mystery, part fantasy and part suspense. For me, what made it so delightful was Gaiman's ability to partner darkness with whimsy and the logical with the bizarre. Croup and Vandemar are some of the most engaging villains I've seen in a long time, while Door and Hunter made some pretty exceptional heroines. Finishing the last page was bittersweet; a fitting end to the story, yet part of me also wanted to have more adventures in London Below. After reading Neverwhere, I doubt I will ever look at a doorway the same way again.

Every reader has their Neverwhere, a tale that absorbed you into it and surprised the stuffing out of you in the process. And we writers should want to create a Neverwhere, to make our readers feel that same sense of bittersweet satisfaction I felt when I put that book down for the last time. What is your Neverwhere? Which author brought his or her characters into your living room, and how do you plan to do the same thing for someone else?

Friday, January 23, 2009

5 Things To Do When The Magic's Gone

I'm not sure if it's the miserable weather, the sluggish economy, random, widespread peevishness or all of the above, but lately I've been seeing a lot of posts from writers who have the blues. And in most cases, it's on both a personal and a professional level. If you're not going through it now, chances are you've experienced it at some point in your writing career. You know the feeling; you can't really put your finger on it, but you just have a general "meh" attitude about everything. Like Grumpy Bear from the Care Bears with the raincloud picture on his chest. Not a happy camper.

Well, you can add my name to the list. I've been in that boat all year, and I'm just as clueless about my "meh"-ness as you are. It's as if the power has short-circuited in the creative part of my brain, and since I don't know which fuse has blown out, I can't fix it. Know what I mean? I just keep thinking, What gives, man?! I'm a writer. Words are supposed to just--ya know, appear--in my head, right? Right?

So. What to do? I've been thinking about it all week, and recently I came to an interesting conclusion. In my humble opinion, the act of writing is similar in many ways to a long-term relationship. The longer you do it, the easier it is to get into a routine, and although it's good to have some structure, too much can kill your Muse the same way it can kill a marriage. When that happens, some of the same suggestions relationship experts give to couples can help you regain your passion for writing. Bear with me; this analogy is a good one.
  1. Remember why you fell in love (with writing) in the first place. I'm reminded of the movie Brown Sugar, a romantic comedy starring Taye Diggs and Sanaa Lathan. The two of them play best friends who realize they're also soulmates, mainly due to their mutual love of Hip-hop music. Music plays an integral role during the ups and downs of their relationship, and in the end, it is what brings them back together after a falling-out. It should be that way for writers as well. Remember what it was like to fall in love with words--the power of that moment--and write about that feeling.
  2. Listen (to your inner writing voice). This idea applies primarily to your characters. You know that moment in the writing process when your characters seem to jump off the page? That's not you going crazy--it's the magic coming out. Listen to it, even when it doesn't make sense. More importantly, learn what your unique writing voice sounds like. We each have one, and even if it tells you to write something silly or impractical, do it anyway. Drowning it out with logic it is the first step toward permanent writer's block, and besides, you never know where that weird little voice might lead you.
  3. Try something new. Are you a stickler for composing at the computer? Try writing longhand for a few weeks. Work exclusively in your home office? Take a field trip to your nearest library or park. Sometimes a simple change of scenery or writing medium is all it takes to get the creative juices flowing again.
  4. Enjoy the little things. Like most careers, writing is a job that emphasizes the big accomplishments--publication, bestseller status, a three-book deal with a six-figure advance. We all want those things, but let's not forget about all of the wonderful little milestones we encounter along the way. Finishing a novel, for instance, is a remarkable achievement, and it's something millions of people will never do. Celebrating the little victories will keep you energized on your way to the big ones.
  5. It's about the journey, not the destination. It's easy for us writers to get so caught up in the goal of publication that we forget to enjoy the process of writing itself. We rush through everything, cranking out stories the way Kraft cranks out mediocre slices of cheese. Then, we wake up one day and find we've lost touch with our characters, themes and the voice that brings our stories to life. We may want to publish our work, but first and foremost, we are storytellers. As long as we remember that, our Muse--whatever form it takes--will never be far away.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Are You Better Than The Average Writer?

I'm not ashamed to say I'm a pretty faithful follower of literary agent Nathan Bransford's blog, and today's post is a perfect example of why that is. Take a look.

Is that not the most awesome conversation starter ever?! Needless to say, the discussion got very exciting very quickly. I love debates, so of course, I had to jump in and argue my case. There were quite a lot of comments, so for the sake of simplicity, I've reposted my thoughts on the issue below:

I'm surprised at how many people either "played it safe" with their answers or didn't answer at all. I answered "yes" right away, no hesitation. I don't consider that arrogant at all.

This is an industry that will eat your confidence for breakfast if you let it. In order to even get in the door, I have to convince you (the agent) to believe in my ability to tell a story. I have to sell my point-of-view to you. So, if I'm not confident that my work is better than average, why should I expect you to think it is?

I agree that it's difficult to tell the quality of someone's writing just from blog comments; personal blogs are a better indicator of that. However, I disagree that you can't know whether you're a good writer or not. I've seen enough "average" writing to know I'm better than average.

Do I still have a lot to learn? Absolutely. But I know my skill level. There's a difference between arrogance and confidence. Arrogant writers think they're perfect. Confident writers know where they need improvement, but they also know how they stand out from the crowd.

Hard work and "luck" aside, this business is all about standing out from the crowd.

Great question, Nathan! I had fun thinking about it!

Time for you guys and gals to share now. And let's tweak the question just a tad: Do you think you're better than the average writer...not just on this blog or any blog in particular, but better than the average writer in general? If yes, why? If no, why not?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

So, What Did YOU Do Today?

Today, this man made (and is still making) history. And you think your job is hard:

I say we do our part to help make his job a little easier.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Dream Realized

Eighty years ago, a man was born who would alter the course of history, both in this country and around the world. He was a man who dreamed of a world vastly different than his own, and sadly, as is the fate of most visionaries, he would not live to see it.

How fitting that this year, the eightieth anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday, is also the year that a huge part of his dream will become reality. Tomorrow, after we have finished celebrating one leader's legacy, we will crown a new leader for this generation, as Barack Obama becomes the 44th President--and the first African-American President--of the United States.

I wonder how Dr. King would react if he had lived to see this day. Would he weep openly, overcome with emotion the way Rev. Jesse Jackson was on the night of the Presidential Election? Would he sit in quiet reflection, considering how far we as a nation have come from the time of slavery until now? Or, would he roll up his sleeves, knowing there are still battles to be fought because the work is not yet done?

I believe he would have reacted in all of these ways and more, because a historic moment like this is far too complicated to be limited to just one emotion. And for me, that is the most important takeaway from this experience.

We may rejoice, cheer, cry and holler at what Barack Obama's victory represents, a breakthrough for a race of people who have been systematically denied the rights they deserved for the past four centuries. But let us not be so consumed by that emotion that we forget the struggles that lie ahead. We may sit in reverent silence as we consider the sacrifices of all who came before us to make this day possible. But let us not be so reverent that we refuse to take joy in the victory. We may grow even more restless now, knowing that at this moment, there are those in this country whose rights are still being denied and who are still suffering under oppression. But let us not be so restless that we cannot appreciate how long it took to get here, how much we have accomplished, and the fact that we are closer to our goals now than we have ever been before.

Has the dream been realized? Certainly not. We still have much further to go than most people care to admit. But a part of the dream, a critical part indeed, will come to pass tomorrow. I believe Dr. King saw this day coming, and I believe that is the reason why he got up every day, in spite of the odds, and lived his life the way he did. Oh, if only the rest of us could have this kind of foresight:

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Book Trailers... Yea or Nay?

Lisa McMann, author of the New York Times bestselling novel WAKE, gave a nice shout-out on her blog today to A.S. King, author of the much-anticipated book, THE DUST OF 100 DOGS. McMann encouraged her readers to buy King's new book--most likely due to the fact that she wrote a blurb for it--and included the trailer for it on the blog. Naturally, I checked it out, and I found it quite intriguing. I'm sure I'll add it to my ever-growing list of books to be read this year.

This brings up some interesting questions: How successful are book trailers in promoting new and established authors? Do you think they're more helpful for the newbies who are trying to launch a book for the first time, or the veterans who have already built a name for themselves? As a reader, how does the quality of the trailer affect your decision to buy a book?

I feel shallow for saying this, but I'm influenced by the quality of a book trailer even above its content. This trailer I saw for WAKE is what peaked my interest in Lisa McMann in the first place:

If the trailer isn't edited well or looks like a cheap knockoff of The Blair Witch Project, I stop watching, regardless of whether or not the story seems good. At the same time, if I've already heard good things about a particular book, seeing a lousy trailer won't keep me from buying it. It doesn't have the same power with me that a movie trailer does. It just gives me that extra push to buy a book that I'm already leaning toward anyway.

For anyone interested in reading more about the process of creating a book trailer, award-winning romance author Brenda Coulter has a wonderful post on her blog that outlines it in great detail. It's an old post since the blog hasn't been updated in a while, but much of the advice still applies. I'm fascinated by this stuff myself, especially since Coulter makes it all sound very doable. If you've bought a computer in the past five years, you probably have all the software you need to make a basic book trailer yourself.

I'd love to hear some opinions about this topic. As writers, we're expected to market ourselves now more than ever. The good news is that we have a mountain of resources at our disposal to do just that, if only we'll take advantage of them.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Playing in the Big Leagues

Wow. I must admit, I'm a bit overwhelmed right now in the best possible way. Something must be in the water, because virtually every post I read by my fellow writers today was stellar. Even more so than usual. Whether it offered a juicy editing tidbit or sparked a lively discussion between friends, all of them were spot-on when it comes to what I'm looking for in a blog post: a bit of humor, a bit of useful info, and most importantly, something to make me say, "Hmm..."

First up is Amy Sue Nathan with a useful list of words to cut during the editing process (inspired by Erica Orloff, but we'll get to her later). Sadly, I'm quite addicted to using just about every word on this list. I'm also addicted to procrastination, but as I mentioned in an earlier post, I'm also on the road to recovery.

Next is Michelle Hickman at The Surly Writer with a fantabulous post about how to release your imaginative powers...and the wondrous stories that can take shape if you do. What makes it so interesting is that she walks you through the entire creative process of building a sample scene within a story, complete with all the important elements: character, dialogue, setting and point-of-view. It's a long post, but if you have the time to sit and partake of Hickman's knowledge, it's worth every minute.

Now we come to Erica Orloff, whose post about training the editing eye to see became the inspiration for Amy Nathan's post today. Well, Erica has done it again today with another great post about shortcuts in character development. Let me tell you, it knocked my socks off. In my mind, the best type of writing is the type that shows me something about myself I didn't already know, and that's exactly what this post did for me. After reading Erica's words, I thought of all the times in my writing I had taken the easy way out when developing my characters; the child who is bitter from her parents' nasty divorce, the mother who is overprotective of her child after having a miscarriage, the emotionally vacant father who works long hours. My mistakes stood out to me like signs with neon lights.

And last, but certainly not least, Spy Scribbler wrote some intriguing and challenging words about being different that started an interesting, yet always respectful, religious debate. I don't know about you, but it's rare indeed for me to find people who can discuss controversial topics like race, religion and politics without going for blood. It was truly refreshing to see.

The one thing I learned from all of these posts was that me and my writing have a lot more work to do than I thought. I've been doing this thing since I was a kid--almost twenty years now--and though I've never been published (aside from articles in magazines and newspapers), I always believed I understood the craft fairly well. I knew what not to do, at the very least. And I knew I was good. Better than average. Maybe even a lot better. Colleen Lindsay just wrapped up a contest over at The Swivet today (The Swivet: Contest! Query in 140 Characters or Less!) Yes, you read correctly, that's characters, not words. I entered it, and at the time, I thought I had a great shot of winning.

I know differently now. Oh, I'm still confident--I believe in my abilities one hundred percent--but now I see how much I still have to learn. I see how much talent is really out there, and it's a humbling experience. Last time I checked, there were over 300 entries in that little contest I entered, and many of them were as good, if not better, than mine. Whoa (deep breath).

Eh, I'm not discouraged; I'm inspired. British statesman and literary figure Benjamin Disareli once said, "To be conscious that you are ignorant is a great step to knowledge." So I guess that means I'm doing okay. I may be a rookie in the big leagues, but I've found a lot of veterans who are helping me find my way.

Now it's your turn. What have you learned lately about the writing craft? What surprised you about this new knowledge?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Writing in the Rain

My 18-month-old is sound asleep, and it's raining outside. I love when it rains. I live in Florida, and even though they call it the Sunshine State (and with good reason), we get our fair share of rain here (not counting hurricane season, of course!). But it's been a while, and I've missed it. It always puts me in the mood to write.

By rain, I mean real rain, by the way, not a weak little drizzle or the kind you listen to on one of those relaxation CDs. Nope, I like to hear the strong pitter-patter of water droplets on rooftops, the splash of cars rushing through puddles on the road, a steady, rhythmic sound that can put even the most fussy baby to sleep. It's the kind of thing that makes me feel as if all is right with the world.

Everyone has their ideal writing environment, complete with its own unique little rituals and idiosyncracies. Some people insist on having absolute silence, while others want their favorite rock music blaring at the highest possible decibel. Some must have a cup of black coffee to get their Muse going, while others crave a bar (or two, or ten) of chocolate. And some change their routine like the rest of us change our socks.

The mind is a mysterious and wonderful thing, and I'm rather intrigued by the various ways that all artists, particularly writers, find to access its treasures.

For me, this is as close to ideal as I can get: sitting in bed with my laptop, listening to the rain and sipping on a cup of chai tea (with honey and a splash of milk, if you please). I could write all day like this. And maybe I will.

What about you? What's your ideal writing environment? What rituals, if any, do you perform to get you "in the mood"?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Embrace Your Inner Window Washer

Editor Morgan Mandel over at the Blood-Red Pencil wrote a fabulous post today comparing writers to window washers. My first thought when I saw the title was, "Huh?" But once I read the whole thing, I recognized the brilliance in the metaphor.

I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I'm definitely a "Category 1" window washer, although I'm trying to become a "Category 2." There are some days when my Inner Editor is so loud in my head that it's almost impossible for me to write, and there are other days when I lean more toward the Category 2 side, relaxed and in-the-moment and writing at a furious pace. Those are the moments I love, when the writing flows like clockwork, no holds barred. I'm working toward having more of those moments.

As I was writing this post, it occurred to me that the window washer metaphor doesn't just apply to writers. In fact, I'm convinced that just about anyone's approach to life itself can be defined by what type of window washer they are. I've broken down the list as follows:

Category 1 - People who diligently wash their windows. These are your "Type A" personalities-- they are often engineers, attorneys, brain surgeons, etc.; people for whom intensity, ambition and laser-sharp focus are practically job requirements. They spend their days finding flaws and correcting them (arguably, most agents, editors and publishers could fall into this category). Many of them are perfectionists.

(My father is a Category 1; so is my sister. It runs in the family. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.)

Category 2 - People who "plough ahead" and get the job done. These are the "Type B" personalities, people who tend to be more laid-back and easygoing. They don't get hung up on every little detail; they can handle it if the end result isn't perfect. They get things done, even if it's less than stellar, and they move on to the next project.

(My husband is this way, and thank God for it! He's probably the reason I don't have OCD.)

Category 3 - People who hire others to wash their windows. These, I believe, are the natural leaders of the world, the people who go on to become CEO's of Fortune 500 companies. They make sure the work gets done, but they don't do it themselves. Instead, they keep everyone organized and motivated so it gets done as efficiently as possible.

I'd like to add to this list a fourth category--the people who expect their windows to wash themselves. There are a lot of these, and if you're like me, you know more of them than you care to admit. Not to be confused with people who try and fail but keep trying anyway; no, they're the dreamers who never get off their butts in the first place. They're the ones who always say, "I'd like to write a novel one day," but they never write one word.

They don't go out and make life happen; they just expect it to fall from the sky.

So, what about you? What type of window washer are YOU? What kind do you WANT to be?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

I Have Been Officially Been "Twitterfied"

It's finally happened; at last, I've succumbed to the latest social networking phenomenon, at least as far as I know. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it's true: I've been "Twitterfied," and no one is more astounded by the event than yours truly. For months I ridiculed the entire concept of Twitter as being "the most pointless activity ever," and yet here I am, jumping my happy behind on the bandwagon with my own cutesy pink profile.

Let the madness commence.

Peg Corwin, a SCORE Chicago volunteer, put together a comprehensive list of posts that can help people get the best out of Twitter (which I found courtesy of Personal Branding Pro Meg Guiseppi). Also, SEO Marketing Consultant Jennifer Slegg wrote an excellent post back in March of last year about how to market your blog without spamming your followers. Interesting stuff, that. Me and my newbie self didn't even realize something like that would be a problem, but the implication there is that it's pretty widespread. I'm guessing it's just as widespread now, if not more so, since Twitter's popularity has grown so much since the post was written.

Most of you have probably heard about this already, but in case you haven't and you're also new to the Twittering scene, be sure to read this article about a nasty phishing scam going around on the site. Can't say I'm surprised; the "Koobface" virus has been floating through Facebook space since at least December.

Well, I suppose at the end of the day, what's most important is that we have more ways to communicate/stalk one another today than ever before. And if you're a budding author trying to make a name for yourself, it's probably best to take advantage of as many of them as possible. Does twittering really translate into book sales later on down the line? Let's hope so!

Oh, one more thing: Does anyone know how to add a Twitter feed to your blog page? Just curious...

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Welcome to Procrastinators Anonymous

ME: "Hi, my name is L.C. Gant, and I'm a procrastinator."

YOU: "Hi, L.C."

Welcome to the first meeting of Procrastinators Anonymous, a multi-step program that uses group therapy to give less-than-motivated individuals (particularly writers) a good kick in the pants to get them back to work. Take a seat. Relax. Have some chips and dip. We're gonna be here awhile.

So, why are you here? What mindless task stole your writing time today? Did you spend countless hours friending people on your favorite social networking site? How about updating web content that's already been updated five dozen times today? Or, are you more like me, tempted to read everyone and their grandmother's blogs at the expense of your own?

Hmmm... I hear crickets. Did I hit a nerve? (*wince*) Sorry about that. Perhaps I came on a little strong.

Very well. I'll start. I'm here because recently my characters sat me down for an intervention. "We can't go on living this way," they cried. "You brought us to life, carefully crafting our hopes, dreams and fears. You were the one who gave each of us a problem to solve, a world to save, a nemesis to defeat. And then, when we needed you most, you always found something more important to do. You've left our stories unfinished for months, even years at a time, and all because you were too afraid to dig deep enough into your psyche to write the hard stuff. The big, messy, confrontational, climatic scenes. For one reason or another, you just didn't want to go there.

"That, dear writer, is unacceptable," they told me. "Our stories need to end, or come to some sort of resolution at the very least. You can't leave us hanging in the cosmos forever."

They threatened to walk out on me, to kidnap my Muse and ride off into the sunset, leaving me weeping and gnashing my teeth. I promised them I would call a meeting and find others like me. I know you're out there. I can't be the only one who has half a dozen unfinished novels lying around.

And that's why I'm here. I have a problem and I need help. I can't seem to give my novels (and the characters they contain) the attention they deserve. I have commitment issues, and now my characters have abandonment issues. I want to change. I want to start the healing.

Now, who else wants to share?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Why Do You Write?

Janet Reid, literary agent extraordinaire, had the most amazing quote on her blog today from writer Arne Garborg. Truer words were never spoken:

"For money you can have everything it is said. No, that is not true. You can buy food, but not appetite; medicine, but not health; soft beds, but not sleep; knowledge but not intelligence; glitter, but not comfort; fun, but not pleasure; acquaintances, but not friendship; servants, but not faithfulness; grey hair, but not honor; quiet days, but not peace. The shell of all things you can get for money. But not the kernel. That cannot be had for money."

-Arne Garborg, writer (1851-1924)

The last three sentences are what really got me. They capture with perfect eloquence the reason why so many of our beloved celebrities have such bizarre, destructive lives. Brittany Spears, Michael Vick, Lindsay Lohan, Michael Jackson... Heck, I could go on for days. They all have the shell of a wonderful life. They appear to have everything: fame, power and beauty, most of which is gained by having a certain amount of money. But they don't have the kernel. So the best things in life still elude them.

Now let's add a new dimension to this idea. In an ideal world, what would writing give you? Bestseller status? A phone call from Oprah? Multiple homes in NYC, L.A. and Miami with great ocean views? It's perfectly okay to want all of these things (I know I certainly do), just as long as you don't expect them. Editorial Ass, a.k.a. "Moonrat," says it far better than aware, fellow writer, that the odds are very much against us.

Alright, before the more melodramatic among you reach for your drink of choice, remember that there is hope. One need only browse through your local Barnes & Noble or Borders to see that indeed, books still being bought and sold. Millions, probably billions, all over the world. Shocking, I know, but true. And out of all of those millions upon millions of books, a handful will become bestsellers and earn their authors a call from Oprah. A handful.

But you know that already. That's not the point. That's not why you get up before the sun or stay up long after it goes down, is it? Didn't think so. If you're like me, you do this thing we call writing because you love it, because deep down inside, you feel compelled to tell stories. You do it because there is something beautiful inside of you that needs to get out, and that something comes out whenever you put words on paper. You do it because it's what you were born to do.

So the money doesn't matter, or at least it shouldn't. If it comes to you, it's a wonderful bonus and you'll celebrate like you've lost your mind. But if it doesn't... Well, you'll survive, won't you? Because all of that extra stuff, it's just the shell anyway. It's not the kernel. The kernel is what you're doing right now. Writing. That is what "cannot be had for money."

Sunday, January 4, 2009

ANOTHER Bush for Prez? Don't Count on It...

Okay, before I start my rant, let me insert the following disclaimer: This is NOT a political blog. It is a personal blog about the various highs and lows of my writing life, and I intend to keep it that way. I don't mind discussing politics as it relates to the writing process (can't emphasize this enough), but that's as far as it goes. I've found that for the most part, politics brings out the ugliness in people, so unless I know for sure that my audience shares my viewpoint, I just don't go there. End of story.

That said, I came across this video clip from Bush Sr.'s interview with Fox News that made me laugh out loud. Really, H.W.? Really? Check it out:

Regardless of your political views, you have to admit that this is some funny stuff. Especially when you consider the context. Think about it: we're just over 2 weeks away from the inauguration of the nation's first African-American president. Even international newspapers are expressing a sense of optimism about the event. On the flip side, Bush Jr. is currently considered one of the most unpopular presidents in our nation's history, with an approval rating that reached a dismal 25 percent last October.

C'mon now, Papa Bush, did you really think this was the best time to suggest a potential heir to your family's tainted legacy? Ya know, with millions of people still somewhat bitter about the past 8 years? What's even more entertaining is that the former president appeared to reconsider his endorsement seconds after he'd spoken it aloud. He said, and I quote: "I mean, right now is probably a bad time, because we've had enough Bushes in [the white house]."

Yes. Yes we have, Mr. Bush. And perhaps you should take a moment to acknowledge President-elect Obama's accomplishment before looking for your next relative to replace him. Just sayin'.

Whew. Glad I got that out of my system. Tomorrow we'll be back to our regularly scheduled program, I promise. That is all.

Friday, January 2, 2009

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream...

Here's an easy question: When's the last time you suffered from writer's block? Perhaps a better question would be, what writer hasn't buckled under the weight of this inexplicable, often maddening condition? Call it what you will--an affliction of the mind, a symptom of stress, or what happens when your Muse takes a vacation without your permission--the fact is that whenever it occurs, it's pretty darn aggravating. And if it persists long enough, it can become toxic to even the most successful writing career.

I guess all of that was a roundabout way of saying WB sucks. I should know. I'm dealing with a rather nasty case of it right now myself, which I blame mostly on the fantastic insanity of the holidays. Between my letdown from the end of NaNoWriMo (the highlight of my year, people!) and the hubbub of continuous social gatherings, my writing gear always winds up on pause from December 1 all the way until the second week in January. Over the years, I've learned to anticipate the event and plan accordingly, but that doesn't make it any less frustrating. So, if any of you guys are in the same boat right now, trust me, I feel your pain.

However, it's a new year now, time to reboot the ol' creative hard drive. And I'm happy to say that I've found the perfect way for us writers to get our mojo back. Take a wild guess. Are you ready for this? C'mon, admit it...You're on the edge of your seat... No? Well, you should be. Give up? Alright, here it is...

Go. To. Sleep.

That's it. Seriously. If you haven't discovered it by now, dreams are a writer's best friend, an absolute gold mine of ideas just waiting to be dug up and written down. If you don't believe me, take a look at this article I found on about how to
effectively harness your dreams. I particularly like "Idea #4: Pay attention to how your dreams affect your writing."

"Do you find yourself eschewing writing after you experience certain types of dreams, such as nightmares? Do other dreams seem to invigorate you? If so, you may want to seriously consider working on overcoming the inability to work. Look for these types of psychological patterns after dreams and learn how to work with (or, if necessary, against) them. You may have underlying issues that need to be addressed before you can write at your personal zenith."

Aside from the use of peculiar words such as "eschewing" and "zenith," I found this idea fascinating. I would also add that the reverse is true, too: pay attention to how your writing affects your dreams. For example, I find that I tend to have a lot of dreams about children and pregnancy whenever I've spent too much time away from a work-in-progress that I enjoy, and some dream analysts suggest that in dreams, such images represent hidden creativity. Many times, your subconscious will remind you of stories your conscious mind has buried...and sometimes it will give you ideas you would never consider while awake...

Try writing down your dreams for a week and let me know how it turns out. You just might be surprised at the results...

Update: Two nights ago, I had a dream that gave me a phenomenal idea for a novel, a retelling of a well-known Greek myth. I find that the more I write down my dreams, the easier it becomes for me to remember them. So try it out for awhile, even if you have a hard time remembering your dreams at first. You never know what might happen... It worked for Stephenie Meyer!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Start the New Year Off Right... Watch The Twilight Zone.

So, lemme guess... You had a pretty wild time last night, didn't you? I mean, let's be honest here: everyone says Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/whatever holiday you celebrate in December is supposed to be fun for people of all ages, but the truth is you most likely spent all your time buying and wrapping gifts for the kiddies. New Year's Eve is for adults. It's our time to get a babysitter, round up a bunch of friends and go crazy as we watch the ball drop, at least for a couple of hours. And if you're single, you just skip the kids and babysitter part and go out. Fun times.

Now here's the not-so-fun part. You stayed out waaaaay too late for your age (which, if you're older than, let's say, 22, is probably anytime past midnight), you spent too much money, and you definitely drank too much. And to top it all off, you've got the world's worst hangover. Yay. Fabulousness.

Or maybe you didn't go out. Maybe you're like the millions of other grown folk in this country who can't even afford a whats-it-chino at Starbucks anymore, much less an all-night club-hopping adventure. Either way, you're off today and you're tired from staying up past your bedtime. You don't feel like leaving the house. So what do you do?

You turn on the Sci-Fi Channel and watch The Twilight Zone New Year's Day marathon, of course!

Okay, I know, that was the worst lead-in ever, but bear with me here. The Twilight Zone is considered one of television's most revered shows, and with good reason. The writing is excellent; the acting, superb. They simply don't make shows like this anymore. If you're a writer or just a person who enjoys a good story, this series is a must-see. It aired in the late 50's and early 60's, so yes, that means it's a "classic" (read "old" and "black-and-white" for those of you born after 1990). But it's also really, really good.

Even if you're not a sci-fi fan, the storylines explore themes and issues that we all can relate to, truths that highlight both the good and evil aspects of human nature. And don't even get me started on irony. Check out the last few minutes of "Eye of the Beholder" or "Time Enough at Last" and you'll see what I mean. The Sci-Fi Channel has a nice webpage devoted to the series, complete with an episode guide and a biography about its creator, the ingenious Rod Serling. They even have a schedule listing which episodes are on at which times, so you can tune in for your favorites. Plus, if you still need more of the Zone after the marathon ends, CBS has a webpage where you can watch full-length episodes as well. Go ahead and watch. You ain't got nothin' better to do...

Happy New Year! Time to Start A Blog!

Hello, world! I have no problem admitting that when it comes to blogging, I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing. I made a halfhearted attempt to start one last year and wound up quitting after, like, three posts. Sad, I know. What can I say? I'm allergic to forming new habits.

So, let's see if things turn out better this time around, shall we? It's a brand-spanking new year, and even though the economy's still pretty crappy, I feel good. I feel excited, adventurous, ready to boldly go where no man has...well, you know the rest. And my first resolution of the New Year is to start this blog and actually keep it up for longer than a week this time around! Hey, stop laughing. We can't all go skydiving or backpacking across Europe right out of the gate. Some of us have to take baby steps. So there.

Okay, so maybe my life is only slightly more interesting than a game of Uno in Grandma's nursing home. It's a start. What about you? What's the best New Year's resolution YOU'VE made? And better yet, which ones have you actually KEPT? Oh, and for heaven's sake, no "weight loss" resolutions, please...unless they're of "The Biggest Loser" caliber, of course!

Happy New Year! Here's hoping that 2009 is loads better than 2008 was! I'm keeping my fingers crossed...