Thursday, April 28, 2011

Blogfest Bloopers and Special Guests

Tomorrow I'm being interviewed on the lovely Michelle Merrill's blog "Perfecting the Craft." (link) So I won't waste your time reading about me here today, when you can be reading about me there tomorrow! (Just remember to check back--LOL!)

Michelle is very cool, and she has great posts about writing and craft. If you're not already following, I'd recommend doing so.

In other news, I announced Dr. K's and my "Laughter is the Best Medicine" blogfest in my last post, and it was a total disaster.

First, my Mr. Linkey wouldn't appear. Then it did appear. Then I deleted it... AND everyone who'd signed up to play. Then I fixed it, and emailed everyone to apologize... I think everyone who signed up before re-signed up.

And that wasn't even the funny part!

Our graphic said "Monday, May 15" when everyone can clearly see Monday is May 16.

le sigh.

Below is the CORRECTED announcement for our blogfest, with Mr. Linkey below it. And it's my first blogfest (can you tell?), so I do hope you all forgive my technological ineptitude and inability to read a calendar and join the fun! (Here's the link to my lovely and much more talented partner, Lydia Kang.)

Here's how it works. Sign up with Mr. Linky below, then on May 16, do the following:
  • Post your favorite writer joke.
  • If you don't have a writer joke (are there any?), post your favorite job-related joke.
  • And if you don't have one of those (either writer- or work-related joke), post your favorite joke (or funny story).
See? We're making it super-easy, and we hope it will brighten everyone's day. Maybe help those of you recover from your A-Z challenge.

And help us spread the fun! Grab the graphic, post it on your blog, and link it back here (or to Lydia). Your prize is a better heart--because of the laughter. (Get it?)

Have a great weekend, reader-friends! Til Monday~ <3

Monday, April 25, 2011

Writing a Classic

Writing is hard, solitary work. It's painful and emotional and yes, sometimes it's like giving birth without painkillers or lamaze classes.

Nothing's worse than struggling to find the exact right words or phrases, the right combination of syllables, the perfect sensory description of a mood or a setting, and for whatever reason, it just isn't happening.

But it's also tons of fun.

When all the forces come together and the storyline's flowing, hours can go by in seconds.

And the rush of capturing that moment--that emotion, that interaction between two individuals, that meaning or realization. It's very cool.

If it weren't, we wouldn't be doing it.

When I started, I just wanted to write anything.

I was learning how to put it all together, to pace it right, to incorporate just enough description without wearing out my reader, and learning to wait just long enough to allow what just happened to sink in before moving to the next thing...

Then somewhere along the way I started thinking about writers like Shakespeare and Dickens and Kafka. And books like Little Women and Jane Eyre and Pride & Prejudice. Even Gone With the Wind.

How do these books continue to touch readers centuries after they're written? What makes them classics?

Is it the storyline? The way they're written? The themes? The timing of when the book's published?

I don't know.

Maybe there's no answer. Not every book that becomes a classic is the best-written or the most polished, or fits into what everyone's saying your writing should look like.

But readers cherish them. They laugh, cry, write in the margins, give them to their children, complain when the movies are made...

It's bugging me. I want to make one of those. But how?

Do classics just happen? Is there a common trait? Is it something I can learn or study? Or is it just serendipity? What do you guys think?

* * *

In the meantime, Dr. Lydia K (link) and I are having our first "Laughter is the Best Medicine" blogfest on May 16!

Here's how it works. Sign up with Mr. Linky below, then on May 16, do the following:
  • Post your favorite writer joke.
  • If you don't have a writer joke (are there any?), post your favorite job-related joke.
  • And if you don't have one of those (either writer- or work-related joke), post your favorite joke (or funny story).
See? We're making it super-easy, and we hope it will brighten everyone's day. Maybe help those of you recover from your A-Z challenge.

And help us spread the fun! Grab the graphic, post it on your blog, and link it back here (or to Lydia). Your prize is a better heart--because of the laughter. (Get it?)

In the meantime, have a great week reader-friends! Til Thursday~ <3

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Spring Break!

In the last week, I've gone from freezing rain and 40s in Indianapolis to almost 90 degrees, hot and humid back home. I'm not complaining--I love spring break at the beach!

The girls and I've made the drive from our house to Orange Beach or Gulf Shores or Pensacola more times than I can count in the last seven years. So for this vacation post, I'll share some of my favorite landmarks and send warm thoughts to you guys still dealing with winter.

Here's my two little ladies loving the Gulf.

It's all over the news that it's been a year since the oil spill. That made me realize it's been more than a year since I started blogging. One of my first conversations with Matt was about the oil spill.

This next shot is amazing.

An ancient shack on Alabama 181--on the road to the beach. The house appears a million years old and abandoned, but the roses are growing over the roof to this day.

That's the nice thing about this area. Everything grows forever here. Except tulips. My grandmother always wanted to grow tulips, but no dice.

I threw in one of the farmlands between my house and the beach next. Baldwin County used to be predominantly farms. I interview natives all the time who talk about working in the fields as teens, picking vegetables, working at the produce stands, etc., for summer jobs.

In the 1990s it became more profitable to sell the land to developers, and it looked like the farms were on the way out. Then in 2009, all the developers went belly-up, and now it's more profitable to farm.

I have to confess. I'm glad the farms are back.

These next two are waterways. Wolf Bay Watershed, Fish River, Weeks Bay Watershed, the Magnolia River, and more crisscross the drive to the beach.

First is the Magnolia River. There's this old pirate-type sailboat (right) always docked there. You have to look closely. Next is the overpass at Weeks Bay. It looks out to the Gulf.

But for me, it's all about the beach. So I'll leave you with two more beach shots.

One's a beautiful house right on the Gulf wedged between the high rises.

The other's just one of Orange Beach. One of my favorite places in the world.

Wish you were here!

Have a great spring break, reader-friends! Happy Easter! Til Monday~ <3

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Houses and Airline Chat

People like to talk to me. I guess I have one of those faces or maybe I'm just approachable. I don't know. On my flight from Atlanta to Pensacola yesterday, a fellow sat next to me and looked over to ask if I was reading a Kindle.

Yes, I was reading.

It was okay. Turned out he was a Michigan native, headed to a job interview in Pensacola with some company involved in air-transport. He was not a handsome fellow, but he had the most unusual eyes. They were the color of gunmetal, and they had light-colored lines bursting out from his pupils. All around. It was odd.

Anyway, he mentioned that take-offs and landings always made him nervous, so I figured that was why he was being so chatty. And I'm always willing to help others talk it out if they're having a moment.

On our descent into Pensacola, we flew over a stretch of wetlands. I watched them from my window and thought about that ValuJet plane that crashed into the Everglades and completely disappeared. Remember that? If not, here's the link (link).

I glanced back at my neighbor and said, "You doing okay?" He smiled and nodded. Then he said, "Remember that plane that crashed into the Everglades?"

I am so not lying. He said that unprovoked. Then he said, "There's a lot of babies on this flight." I nodded and smiled. He said something about it being a good omen--all the babies. (It was hard to hear.)

Then I looked back out the window and started thinking about L O S T...

As for inspiration, I read this quote while researching Goethe the other day: "A really great talent finds its happiness in execution."

He also said this: "A creation of importance can only be produced when its author isolates himself. It is a child of solitude."

I guess those are both nice ways of saying, "Stop chatting online, and get to writing."

I'm planning to keep those in front of me when it's time to get back in the writing cave. That is so. Hard for me.

Finally, I promised you all something funny. My friend Scott told me a funny joke in Indy, and now I can't remember it. But he's one of those types who always has a new one for ya. I love folks like that.

Sticking with our theme, here's an oldie:

A doctor, a lawyer, a little boy and a priest were all flying on a small plane, when suddenly, it developed engine trouble.

The plane started going down, so the pilot grabbed a parachute, yelled to the passengers to jump, and bailed out.

Problem: only three parachutes were left.

The doctor grabbed one and said "I'm a doctor, I save lives, so I must live." And he jumped out.

The lawyer grabbed one and said said, "I'm a lawyer, I'm the smartest person in the world, so I deserve to live." And he jumped out.

The priest looked at the little boy and said, "My son, I've lived a long and full life. You are young and have your whole life ahead of you. Take the last parachute and live in peace."

The little boy handed the parachute back to the priest and said, "Not to worry, Father. The smartest man in the world just jumped out with my back pack."
* * *

Have a great week, reader-friends. I'll be playing catch-up over here. Til Thursday~ <3

Monday, April 18, 2011

Be Here Tomorrow!

Hey, guys! I'm winging my way back from Indianapolis, where I've been house-hunting and spending time with my sweet hubby. I'll be back tomorrow with something inspirational, I hope.

If not, I'll go for funny.

If not funny, I'll at least try for jarring. :D

Miss you all, hope you had a great weekend! Til tomorrow~ <3

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Just Do It!

First, I have to say. Man! I have been so knocked out by all the congratulations and partying and just general outpouring of awesomeness since my announcement Monday. I'm floating around here on smiles and happiness. You guys truly rule. And I want to grab you all and give you the biggest squeeze!

Thank You!

I wouldn't have made it this far without you, and I most likely would've given up if not for this writing community and my awesome critique partners--all of whom I found through blogging.

It's just incredible.

Which brings me to today's post. On Monday, Katie Mills (Creepy Query Girl, link) wrote about Inhibitions (or a lack thereof), and she listed blogging as one of the things people are sometimes afraid to try. It's a great post about taking chances, and you should read it. (link)

And then on Monday as well, my friend Drexel Gilbert Cotton launched her own blog! (link)

Drexel is a former television news anchor, a mom of college-aged daughters, and an amazing inspirational speaker. I met her through my work as a reporter here in town, and we've maintained contact. She has so many wise and encouraging words, and she's been asking me about blogging, how it works, etc., for a few months now.

I'm so excited to read her posts, and I'm keeping it short in the hopes you'll take a moment to check out her new blog, "Words to Live By," (link) and maybe give her a little of your famous (infamous?) bloggie love. She's a cool, thoughtful, intelligent lady with awesome stories of her years in television.

As for me, I'm headed to Indy for the weekend to house hunt. Wish me luck! I'll be back next week. Have a great weekend, reader-friends. You're in my heart~ <3

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

How I Met My Agent...

The post is up! Go here to read it (link).

And thanks so much to all of you for your congratulations and well-wishes. I can't tell you what it means to me.

Update! Party at PK's (link). Ya-whoo!  Thanks, girl~ ((big hug))

Have a great week. Til Thursday~ <3

Monday, April 11, 2011

Blogging Wins

Tomorrow (Tuesday) I'll be at Miss Snark's First Victim (link) telling how I met my literary agent, Kate McKean of Howard Morhaim Literary, Inc.

Today I'm still walking around, smiling, and trying to wean myself off checking my email every five minutes. It's hard after a year and three months of querying, waiting to hear something. It's hard to think now I've moved to the next phase. Submissions.

I'm not sure what to expect.

Once again, though, I have to give it up. Blogging wins. After all those queries, I found my agent through a blog. It's possible my story's unusual, but maybe not. I'll be interested to hear your thoughts, so I hope you'll drop by MSFV tomorrow.

In the meantime, have a great Monday! After all this daydreaming, I've got to get back to work.

Til Thursday, reader-friends~ <3

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Writing Suicide in YA Fiction

I started thinking about this (again) because I was standing in line at Justice (a clothing store for girls), and "Hallelujah" by Jeff Buckley came on. I know--odd choice.

Anyway, first I started thinking about how much I liked Buckley's music back in the early 1990s, then I went home and dug out Grace and re-listened to the title song and "Last Goodbye."

It's funny to hear his voice now. He sounds so young, and it reminds me that I was just a kid then, too.

Buckley took his life shortly after that album's release. I don't remember why, but I remember thinking "such a shame, what a waste." From there my mind wandered to how twice I've had a character in my writing on the brink of suicide.

One was an attempted suicide. The character didn't give a reason, but the reader knows it was a dramatic attempt to force her estranged father to notice her. Or at least stop ignoring her. There's much more to the story, and the attempt comes later in the book.

The second I never actually wrote, but it was on the table for one of my characters. A secret about him comes out, and he disappears for a while. Had he gone through with it, the book would've been very different.

But in both situations, I backed away.

The first became an accidental overdose, and in the second, he turns up and decides to stop hiding. JRM disagrees with my choice in the first instance. He thinks the character's suicide attempt is exactly what she would do and exactly what should happen in that situation. I didn't ask for his input in #2.


Recently, some of my fellow YA writers have discussed language in YA, specifically dropping the F-bomb. In the past I've pondered the topic of graphic violence in YA, such as in Mockingjay. I know many agent-bloggers talk about explicit (or any) sex in YA literature. And I've heard of one agent who won't represent a book in which a character smokes.

The fear seems to be that kids will do what they read.

But is this true?

I know every so often there's an uproar about Romeo & Juliet being the Shakespeare selection for 9th-grade English. I personally love that play. It's one of my all-time favorites, and not once have I considered taking my life because of it.

Still, there are times when it does seem like life imitates art. And do I want to take that chance?

I don't know.

It's a heavy topic. I know some of our bloggie buddies have dealt with this subject in their own lives. Who hasn't been touched by suicide? My dad's first cousin, a police officer, called in a 10-00 (officer down) or maybe it was a 10-71 (shooting) after his wife left him. Backup arrived at the scene to find the victim was him.

What do you guys think? Would you write a suicide if your story or character took you there? Do you think it would cause a young reader to follow suit?

Sorry for the somber post, but I'm very curious. I do hope you all have a lovely weekend! Til Monday~ <3

Monday, April 4, 2011

Delightful Smells & Dead Stuff

Most everyone's doing the A-Z challenge this month. I'm not, but my post today happens to coincide with the letter D... It's D-day in more ways than one around here, but more on that later.

I got many different reactions to my assertion that boys stink--on both sides. As always, I'm ready to be corrected. Heck on this matter, I want to be corrected. All my male characters smell delightful.

And when I read Crazy Writer Girl's (hilarious) post, I didn't realize I might be writing unrealistic contemporary fiction by asserting my male love interests were fresh as daffodils.

I'm a MOG (mother of girls), and JRM is thoughtful enough to hang his sweaty clothes on the side porch after exercising. So we're not subjected to stinky boys.

The good news, is I was not all wet! Here's what I've learned from my MOB (mother of boy) commenters:

  • Not all boys smell! It's more a function of their age and level of physical activity.
  • The boy stink seems to max out around late-elementary school (around eleven). And Truth: our little ladies can hold their own in the stink-department after a hard day's playing.
  • Once the prospect of love enters the picture, our fellas (and girls) magically transform into frequent bathers who often drown themselves in perfumes and deodorants as well. (*cough*)
Now I'm thinking I need to get my sniffer to the store to expand my sensory vocabulary. So here's to heavenly scented teens (of the non-paranormal variety).

And my apologies for asserting they might smell otherwise. (I was misled!)

As for Dead Stuff, my good bleep Jen ("Unedited" link) sent her query letter through Matt's Q3E recently (link), and there was a mini-discussion in the comments over whether she should use the label Chick-lit, as that genre has been pronounced "dead."

Saying your book is a "rom-com" was also named the Kiss of Death.

I started thinking about other categories that were Dead until something new gave them the old Dr.-Frankenstein-electric-shock treatment.

Things like paranormal before Twilight, slasher films before Scream, even Westerns before the Cohen brothers remade True Grit.

-Should we just keep swimming in the face of assertions that our genre is DEAD? 
-Should we all start working on our YA dystopians immediately? 
-What if someone is starting a paranormal romance (which is on the verge of Death again)? ... irony.

Have a great week, reader-friends! Til Thursday~ <3