Friday, December 17, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Okay, so for all of you who have been chomping at the bit for me to take a break, it's time. (If you have no idea what I'm talking about click here.) I plan on spending the next two weeks with family, and I look forward to catching up with all of you when I return after the New Year. So, anyone want to place bets on who gets some good news while I'm away? Happy Holidays, everyone!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Tis The Season, Part 4...

Finding the perfect gift for your child is a relief. Watching your child's eyes light up when they open that gift is heartwarming. But watching the same child pace in anticipation while they wait for someone else to open a gift is truly priceless. (Do I sound like the Visa commercial? That's what I was going for. No? Well, maybe I should practice a little more.) Anyway... one of my favorite holiday moments was when my mom, my two brothers, and I adopted a family for Christmas. Instead of buying gifts for each other, we decided to spend the money on a family in need. This is nothing new, I know. But we were fortunate enough to actually get to meet the family and give the gifts to them in person. My kids were so excited to watch these underprivileged peers open their gifts that they couldn't sit still. That was more exciting to them than walking down the stairs on Christmas morning to their own brightly wrapped presents. It really was a wake up call about the true meaning of the holiday. I don't think any of us have ever viewed Christmas the same way since we watched those children get excited about opening necessities like shampoo and toothpaste, coats and gloves, and if they were lucky, a doll or a toy car. Okay, so this is where I'd normally relate my post to writing in some way, but I'd hate to take away from the whole "giving" message, so I'll leave it alone. Have a great day!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tis The Season, Part 3...

If you've been around here this week, you know I'm sharing some of my favorite holiday memories. Since I told a farm story yesterday, I thought I'd stick with that theme and share another farm related memory today. As I mentioned yesterday, we have a dairy farm. What I didn't mention is that we don't actually live on the farm. We live in town in a neighborhood. (I'd explain why, but that would be some really unnecessary back story.) Anyway, a couple of years ago on Christmas morning, my husband brought home an unexpected guest who was in need of a warm place to stay and a meal. That's what the holidays are all about, right? Welcoming the needy into your home? Only this needy one came in the form of a newborn calf. It was so new, in fact, that it couldn't stand yet. It's mother had died while giving birth, and the poor calf was starving for milk and freezing. My kids took turns bottle feeding it in our garage while all the neighbors came to see the strange visitor. After all, most of them had never been that close to a newborn calf. Sometimes the most unexpected moments are also the most memorable. Same goes with writing. I just love it when something unexpected happens in my manuscripts. Any unexpected holiday memories you'd like to share?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tis The Season, Part 2...

So, you all know that I'm tired of my kids thinking the holiday season is all about the newest gadget they want. This week, I'm sharing some of my fondest holiday memories in hopes of negating their commercial mindset. Today, I'd like to share a memory about one of the first Christmases I shared with my husband. I was nine months pregnant with our first child, and my mom had just moved 800 miles away. My dad was spending his Christmas morning with his new wife and her family, and my brothers were who knows where. I felt completely and utterly alone. (I'm sure my hormones didn't help, but still...) Most of you know that we are a farm family. My husband runs a dairy farm and buys and sells Holstein cattle for a living. And anyone who knows anything about farming, knows that Christmas is not a day off. I was aware of this when I married my husband, but that didn't stop me from being a little miffed about the fact that he had to go feed pastures and pastures of cows on Christmas morning. Rather than sitting at home alone, I decided to join him. About halfway through the first pasture, I realized my mistake. It was a bumpy ride, and I had a five pound baby in my womb resting on my full bladder. There was a foot of snow on the ground and no bathroom within miles. My husband kept talking to me and making jokes, trying to keep my mind off my dire circumstances. At the time, I was absolutely miserable, but looking back on it, I can't say I have any regrets. I learned a valuable lesson while spending quality time with my husband. Isn't writing the same? Every stage we are in, we may make bad decisions, but sure enough, we learn from them right? We always, and I mean always, look back on those times fondly, even if we we're miserable at the time. And, more often than not, we have no regrets. So, what about you? Any holiday memories that didn't seem so great at the time, but you cherish now?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Tis The Season...

Does anyone remember what it's the season for? If my kids add one more outrageously expensive gift to their Christmas lists, I think I might have to boycott the holiday all together. No... I won't do that, but I am ready for them to start thinking about what it's really all about. Regardless of religious affiliation, I think this time of year is about family. Whatever holiday you celebrate, I'd venture to guess that it has something to do with spending time with loved ones. So, this week, I want to share some of my favorite holiday memories. None of which have anything to do with presents received. I'm going to start off with something that was a tradition for my family when I was growing up. Every Christmas Eve (if we weren't traveling to Grandma's house), my mom would cook up a big batch of beef stew and an enormous pan of monkey bread. (Hey now, I never said my favorite memories wouldn't involve food.) As a family, we shared many meals throughout the year, but this meal seemed special for some reason. No one fought or argued. No one was in a hurry to get to a practice or a meeting or whatever else we were involved in. It was just us with all the time in the world. Lately, I've heard a lot of buzz about the added stress the holidays bring. Thinking back to when I was a child, it was the opposite. Things seemed to slow down for my family. I want it to be that way as an adult. So, this holiday season, I think I'll try to slow down and remember that life is so much sweeter (with or without monkey bread) when I'm not in a hurry to get somewhere else. Same kind of goes for this thing called writing. When we're always trying to get the next best thing, whether it be finishing the next novel, signing with an agent, selling to a publisher, hitting the Bestsellers list, etc., we fail to truly enjoy the craft of writing. What about you? Do you have any slow-mo holiday memories to share? If so, please do.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Happy Friday Everyone!

I'm smiling because I got some great news yesterday! My dad has recovered faster than expected and will be released from the hospital today. Thank you all for your continued thoughts and prayers. You guys are the best! So, today's Friday's Fluff post is all about my kind blog friends. You've been there for good times and bad times. You compliment me when I have something of value to say and support me when I slack off. You congratulate me when I'm up and encourage me when I'm down. It never ceases to amaze me the caliber of people I've become acquainted with here. So, here's to you dear blog friends! You make this journey a happier one. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Totally Random Shoes...

...for totally random thoughts. (Please note: no writerly advice ensues.) Hey, don't judge me. I'm entitled to random every now and then, right? So, yesterday was a really weird day, and I thought I'd share some of the things I learned from it. #1--Blogger absolutely hates me. Seriously, it does. I couldn't log on to do my post (which was kind of a waste anyway, but still), and then I couldn't comment on a few of my fave blogs or access the follower tool to follow some of the new awesome blogs I came across. Not to mention, I couldn't see who my new followers were. Yeah, so, Blogger doesn't like me. (Maybe HATE was too strong of a word.) #2--My kids are hyped up on "It's Almost Christmas" drugs, and they won't calm down. I kid you not, one of them (who will remain nameless) tied another one (who will also remain nameless) up with the DVD cords to get his way with the TV remote. Its not like there aren't 3 other televisions in the house. Yeah, so my kids are in overdrive. (Maybe ON DRUGS was too strong a description.) #3--My neighbors are even crazier during the winter months. Apparently, dancing 1/2 naked around an open fire on the driveway in 20 degree temps is acceptable to them. Now, I'm not one to judge, but really???? This isn't working for me. The man is loony toons, not to mention too flabby to be flaunting his body, if you know what I mean. Yeah, my neighbors are crazy for sure. (In this case, CRAZY is putting it nicely.) Okay, so those are my random Thursday Thoughts. Do you have anything you want to get off your chest? Really, now's the time. The more random, the better. Come on, if nothing else, you'll make me feel better about my random rage of thoughts. So let's hear it.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Hold Onto Your Shoes People!

This may be my greatest Tuesday Tip ever! Don't believe me? Well, just keep reading. If you've been around here long enough, you know that when I get overwhelmed with the whole blogging thing, I take a break. What you may not know is that these breaks benefit you (my followers) as much as they benefit me. You see, every time I go on a break, someone who follows me (sometimes more than one person) signs with an agent or sells a book. Really, I'm not joking. During one of my breaks, my friends Roni Loren and Kate Walton both signed with agents. During my next break, my friend Tere Kirkland signed with an agent. The following break, Roni and Kate both sold their books. Most recently, on my last break, my friend Sherrie Petersen signed with an agent. (If you haven't already, you should go congratulate her.) See what I'm saying? My breaks bring good fortune to my bloggy friends. So, my Tuesday tip this week is this: if you want to find an agent or to sell a book, just follow me and strongly encourage me to take a break. I guarantee one of you will get exactly what you want.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Is There Anything Good About These Old Shoes????

Maybe. Maybe not. If nothing else, they might be good for working in the yard. Or perhaps the laces can be used in another shoe. You never know. It's worth taking a look at if you ask me. Most of you know that I was on a little break from blogging over the last few days. I'm happy to say that I accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish and then some. House clean--check. Christmas decos up--check. Some shopping done--check. Really, I couldn't ask for more. Anyway, while I was pulling out Christmas decorations, I came across a box of old things I'd written. I had seen them about a year ago but didn't pay much attention to them. They were mostly essays and short stories I wrote in high school and college, or poetry that I wrote anywhere between the age of 10 and 22. This time, I sat on the cold concrete floor of the basement and re-read every single word. Most of these words were complete crap (and by crap, I mean a total waste), but some of the words and sentences, and even the plots, were salvageable. In one work, I found the glimmer of a totally unique and interesting story line. In another work, I found a beautiful description that I was surprised I'd actually come up with. Neither work in and of itself is worth much, but those two little pieces might just find a home in my more mature works. So, today, I beg you not to discount any of your old writing. Just like the shoes above, you never know when those old words might find a new home. What about you? Have you ever salvaged old writing and put it in a new piece of work?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Stopping To Tie My Shoes

I wouldn't want my laces to trip me up, now would I? Every once in a while, we need to quit running full speed ahead and take care of the little details that might be holding us back. Right now, for me, those details involve laundry, dishes, Christmas shopping and decorating, dirty toilets and dusty dressers... you get my point. Even more importantly, my new WIP has sat untouched for over two weeks now. Today is Thursday's Thoughts day, and you want to know what I think? I think I jumped back into blogging a little too soon. As most of you know, my recent blog break was due to my father's hospitalization. Well, he's still there, and I am still being stretched quite thin between my constant visits with him and my responsibilities as a wife and mother. The past two days, I've spent every free moment at home catching up with blogs or visiting other social networking sites. It occurred to me last night when I returned from the hospital at 10:00 pm to a sink full of dirty dishes that I had neglected to catch up with some very important things. So, I've decided to take the next few days to do just that. I hope to get my house back in order, get a little shopping done, and dive back into my WIP. I think I'll feel more up to social networking without all of that hanging over my head. You might still hear a tweet or two from me (sometimes I just can't resist), but I won't be back on blogger until Monday. Hope you all have a great weekend!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Shoes of Teens

Whether you are the parent of a teen or a young adult author, it pays to know what teens are thinking. Yesterday, on my Internet home page, an interesting article popped up about this topic. It has no writing tips (sorry), but it does give us a little glimpse of the teen mind (which is always helpful when writing about teenagers). So, today's Wednesday's Website can be accessed here. I have to admit, even though I have three teens, I was educated on what they might be thinking. For me, it was a bonus read as a writer and as a parent. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hospitals Aren't My Favorite Place

But they sure do provide good fodder! As most of you know, I've been on a break from social networking. I want to express my gratitude for all of your well wishes while I was away. The reason for my break was my father's unexpected admission into the hospital nearly two weeks ago. I won't go into any details, but he has multiple health issues. For the first week, it was pretty touch and go. We truly thought he was going to die. I'm happy to say that he is recovering and should be fine. He's still in the hospital and has some major physical therapy ahead of him, but the scariest part is over. Despite his improved condition, I'm still spending much of my time at the hospital. It's been a great research tool for writing about emotion. You see all kinds of people feeling all kinds of things. The sad but relieved relatives of an elderly person who has just passed onto a better place. The happiness of new parents as they leave with their tiny bundle of joy. The fear of families like mine in not knowing if their loved one will survive the night. Don't get me wrong--writing didn't even cross my mind until we were certain my dad would be okay. But after that, I thought a great deal about it. Is that wrong? What about you? Have any of you ever been thinking about your writing at what might appear to be an inappropriate time?

Friday, November 19, 2010

An Unexpected Break

Due to an unexpected family emergency, I won't be around on blogger until after the Thanksgiving break. Hope all is well, and I look forward to catching up with everyone when I return. Until then, Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Putting Your Best Foot Forward

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about some helpful websites that might help you through the torture of SYNOPSIS writing. Today, I'd like to pass along some links for the other torture chamber, better known as writing THE QUERY LETTER. Dun-ta-Dun... (In case you don't get that, it's supposed to be the sound of peril.) No really, query writing is not that bad, especially if you do your research. The first impression an agent has of you is based on your query letter, so you better put as much effort into it as you did your manuscript. That being said, I'd like to pass on a few good places to start. Of course, there is the infamous Elana Johnson, brilliant author of FROM THE QUERY TO THE CALL. Her formula for the query letter simplifies the whole process into something understandable. Then, there is the notorious Janet Reid, better known as The Query Shark. Her query template provides the low down on what an agent really wants to know about your manuscript. My recent favorite is Jill Corcoran's information about her specific likes and dislikes when it comes to the query letter. And, finally, for entertainment purposes, you should check out my query blunders from almost two years ago. Yeah, they are laughable! In addition to these sites, I want to stress the importance of researching particular agents before querying them. Each agent has their own preferences when it comes to receiving queries. Hope this was somewhat helpful to all of those out there in the query trenches. Anyone have any other helpful sites to share?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Yeah, it's another empty shoebox...

I have to go work at my paying job today, so I may or may not be around the blogosphere. Those of you who work full time, write part time, and manage to blog/twitter/facebook consistently amaze me. It's hard for me to keep up with even on the days I'm home. So, kudos to you! Anyway, I'll leave you with a quick Tuesday Tip before I head off into the executive world... If you don't have something of value to blog/tweet/facebook about, then don't post anything at all. I obviously should have taken my own advice before posting this because I've got nothing! Have a great day, and I'll be around if at all humanly possible.

Monday, November 15, 2010

So Many To Choose From!

What shoe shopping, car buying, and agenting (yeah, I don't think it's a word either, but you get what I mean, right?) all have in common: We've been car hunting for my daughter for about six weeks now. We've come across several acceptable vehicles, but none of them screamed, "BUY ME! BUY ME! BUY ME!" Some looked nice on the outside without a dent or a scratch, but were seriously flawed on the inside with carpet stains or cigarette burns in the seats. They were kind of like a beautiful pair of shoes that are tortuously painful to wear. Or, like a manuscript that catches an agent's attention with a wonderfully written query letter, but disappoints with terrible writing. Some of the cars we looked at were nice on the outside and immaculate on the inside, but lacked mechanical stability. They were like an eye-catching, comfortable shoe that you would never wear because you have nowhere to wear them to. Or, like a manuscript with an attention grabbing query and a beautiful writing style, but a horrible premise. Finally, we came across a vehicle that was flawless on the inside and out, and was mechanically sound. It's like a stylish yet comfortable and functional shoe that people would stop to compliment you on. Or, a manuscript that grabs an agent's interest with an awesome query, brilliant writing, and a knock-out premise. Guess which car we chose? Which kind of manuscript do you think an agent is looking for? Don't even think that they will settle for less than the best. After all, we didn't.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Ah, Shucks... You Guys Are The Best!

You all made me feel so at home on Facebook and Twitter, I decided to take my shoes off and stay a while. In the spirit of Friday Fluff, I want to give a big heartfelt shout out to all my on-line buddies. I was leery of taking on more social networking, but I broke down and did it. You know what? It's been amazing. And I have all of you to thank for that. That's all for today, but I hope you have a fabulous weekend!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Putting Your Shoes Out There

So, I'm on a roll with this whole social networking thing. Yesterday, it was Twitter. Today, it's Facebook. That's right--I have a new Facebook page. You can follow me there and on Twitter by visiting the links on my sidebar. What's with all the new social networking? You might ask. Well, I think it's important. For today's Thursday's thoughts, I want to dive into this topic. How important do you think social networking is for aspiring authors? I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that I think it's highly important. Maybe not for the reasons you think, though. Here are my reasons to actively participate in social networking sights. #1: You meet people of like mind. There is nothing more valuable to the aspiring author than others who are in the same boat. My guess is, most of us don't physically interact with other writers. If we do, it's on a limited basis. Why not connect with people just like us on line? It makes sense, doesn't it? #2: You learn a lot in the process. Whether it's a tweet, a Facebook status, or a blog post, everything you read garners knowledge. Maybe it's about the industry as a whole, a particular agent or publisher, or a specific writing technique, there is valuable information to be gained from others. #3: You form a connection with people of importance. I know from experience that agents and editors do, in fact, check in on the on-line presence of prospective clients. The aforementioned may not choose to represent you based on the level of your on-line presence, but they do appreciate the fact that you have one. It builds a professional appearance if nothing else. #4: You are laying important groundwork. Whether you are published or not, the greatest marketing tool you have is your name. It's not one book you are selling; it's you as the author. (This does, however, require that the writing is good, as well.) Anyway, the more people who recognize your name, the more people who will choose one of your books over another on the bookstore shelf because your name is familiar to them. Why not start getting that name out there now? #5: You are having fun. Yes, you read that right. The most important part of social networking is that it's fun. It's like going to a party without having to get all ready. You can wear your pajamas for all anyone cares. No need to pull out the make-up and high heels. After all, no one can see you. Okay, so there you have it. My thoughts on social networking. Please share yours.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tweet. Tweet. Tweet.

So, I finally tackled Twitter. It was one of my goals for 2010. I put it off for almost 11 months, but I'm now an official Twitterer. Now, if I can only figure out how to get a link to my Twitter site on this blog. (Hey, I said I tackled Twitter. I didn't say I conquered it.) For now you can get to my profile page here. Please follow me so that I can follow you. Anyway, for today's Wednesday Website post, instead of sharing a new website with you, I'm hoping you will share your Twitter tips with me. I'm new to this game, and I haven't quite figured the whole thing out yet. Consider me Twitilliterate. Any advice, tips, secrets, etc. would be greatly appreciated. Happy Twittering!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Fast is better, right?

Or is it? Writing isn't a race in my opinion, but I do understand the whole NaNo concept. Especially now that I "unofficially" joined in. Most of you know that I recently put an old project to the side and started a new one. With a NaNo mentality, I dove in head first. I outlined for the first time ever, and on November 1st, I started writing like a mad woman. There was just one problem--my pesky little head-case of an editorial mind kept butting in. Every sentence was up for scrutiny. I only managed to write a measly 400 words the first week. I have to give all of you credit who actually succeed in the NaNo challenge. Writing 50,000 words in 30 days is definitely an accomplishment that I doubt I'll ever achieve in this lifetime. But, you know what? I'm okay with that. It just isn't my style. I prefer the slow and steady form of writing--second guessing every word, editing as I go, etc. In the end, I'm happier with my day's work. My point is this--write how you want to write. Whatever works for you is the best method no matter what anyone else is doing. If you're comfortable cranking out almost 2,000 words a day and going back to edit later, then do it. If you prefer to write a lot less and edit as you go, then do that. Either way, we all get to "THE END", right? My humble Tuesday Tip for this week is to write how you are comfortable, not how someone else you know writes. Whether you are the tortoise or the hare, you will make it to the finish line so long as you are determined. So, what kind of writer are you?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Football, Football, Football...

That's all I hear around here. Between the high school game on Friday night and the K-State game on Saturday, not to mention the Chiefs on Sunday... it's all about football. Don't get me wrong--I love football. I will say this, though, when a team is losing, they like to blame it on bad calls. To me, this is a joke. Yeah, sometimes bad calls make or break a game, but they don't make or break a season. If a team is good enough, they find a way to win more than they lose. Same goes with writers. Sure, we may have a lot of things going against us, but if we are good enough, we will find a way to win a game or two, hopefully the whole season. A bad call here and there isn't going to make or break us. So, go out there and play your best. You never know what might happen. And if you don't get what you want, don't blame it on bad calls. Just try a little harder. Maybe next time you'll succeed. Yeah, I know, totally random post. It is Monday, though...

Friday, November 5, 2010

It's that time of year...

The temperature is dropping like a deflating balloon, and I want it to stop! But, it's not going to. Instead, I have to pull out my furry slippers. I'm okay with that. Really, I am. It's just that I don't want to hibernate all winter like I usually do. Don't get me wrong; my writing is more productive than ever during this season. But, I abhor the cold. How you people up in Alaska deal with it, I'll never know. So, in preparation for my winter writing wonderland, I stepped out of my comfort zone. I've prepared an outline for my next project. This is something I've never done before, but after writing the synopsis for my last project, I realized the two are really one in the same. Doing it ahead of time could save a lot of frustration later on. As most of you know, I'm more of a pantster type of writer because I am afraid an outline will stifle my creativity. But, even with an outline, I can go astray if I want to, right? The outline just gives me a path to follow. If you were around here on Wednesday, you read my post about writing a synopsis. I want to thank all those who shared additional resources on the topic. One stood out to me, though. Katie Ganshert has some great advice for writing a synopsis. These same tips might prove helpful in outlining as well. Go check it out. What about you? Have you ever stepped out of your comfort zone to improve your skills as a writer? Whether you are participating in NaNo, in the midst of another project, or just taking a break, I wish you well. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

These Shoes Look Painful!

Don't they? Almost as painful as writing a synopsis. Most of you know that I spent almost a year rewriting and revising my latest project. What you may not know, is that I spent the last month or so rewriting and revising my synopsis. How can two pages be so difficult to produce? I mean, seriously, I've already written a 250 page novel? Why is this so hard? I don't have the answer, but I do know that I'm not alone. I thought for this week's Wednesday Websites post, I'd share a handful of sites which I found helpful in the synopsis writing process. Literary Agent, Nathan Bransford Author, Charlotte Dillon Author (and fellow blogger), Elana Johnson Author, Meredith Bond Although, it appears that no one has any concrete answers for compiling the perfect synopsis, these websites offer a place to start. Go check them out, and good luck if you're writing your own synopsis. My sympathies are with you. :) Only kidding! Any other websites or other resources you know about? Please do share.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Happy Shoes!

Okay, so I'm back from my little blog break. I planned on taking another few days off, but I got the best news from one of crit partners. I couldn't wait to share it with all of you. You may remember a month or so ago when I mentioned that my crit buddy K.M. Walton signed with an agent. Well guess what, one of her books sold to Simon & Schuster, and it comes out in the Spring of 2012. I'm so excited for her. Go by and congratulate her. She's worked hard for this, and I can't think of anyone more deserving. Anyway, I'll be around visiting today. I can't wait to catch up with everyone. I'm sure I've missed a ton of amazing news.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I see shoes in your future...

A fortune teller once told me that I'd be surrounded by shoes one day. No, I'm kidding. I've never been to a fortune teller. Well, unless you count the one when I was at my husband's high school reunion. She told me I would have one child and always wish for more. Huh? I already had three. Not very reliable. Okay, so I'm not one to believe in fortune telling, but I do get a kick out of horoscopes. They are typically so off mark that I get a good chuckle. So,when my blogger friend Kathryn Megendie pointed me to a writer's horoscope, I couldn't resist checking it out. I'm so glad I did because I found a website with a wealth of information. It offers all the latest publishing news, as well as writing contests and opportunities, not to mention the horoscope (you know, for entertainment purposes). So, go check out Writer's News Weekly. On another note, my post from yesterday seems to have been slightly misunderstood. I talked about the importance of taking a break from blogging when needed and mentioned that I would be taking a break soon. Judging from the comments, most of you thought I meant I'd be taking a break now. What I meant was next week. But, now that you all mention it, I think I'll start my break tomorrow. After all, my writer horoscope said something about that. :) I'll be around visiting today, but after that, I'll be on a little vacation for a week or so. Hope you all have a good one!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I Love Hanging Up My Shoes!

If you've been around here long enough, you know that from time to time I take breaks from blogging. I refer to these breaks as "Hanging Up My Shoes" time. Over the past few months, I've noticed an increase in people taking breaks from blogging. At first, I thought it was because of summer, but now that summer has come and gone, I realize that there is more to it than that. I think that the majority of the people I follow have been blogging for a while and they're burned out on the whole thing. I totally understand this feeling. I've been there more times than I count. That's why I take frequent breaks. There's nothing wrong with stepping back from the social networking chaos and focusing on other areas of importance. I plan on taking another break soon. So, my Tuesday Tip this week is to take a break from blogging (or any other social networking) when you need it. Otherwise, you might end up letting it go completely. What about you? Do you ever take breaks?

Monday, October 11, 2010

High School Football

It doesn't get much better than that, does it? Okay, at least around here it doesn't. I've got two in high school and one in middle school. That's what they do on Friday nights--go to the game. I joined them this past Friday. (Well, I didn't exactly join them because they would never allow that, but I did go. I just sat really far away from them, and they pretended not to know me.) I went to watch my daughter perform with the dance team, but I also figured it would be a great research opportunity. You know, watching teens in their own element and all. Some of you will remember a similar post from last fall about the same topic. Last time, though, I went to get a feel for the atmosphere, for descriptive purposes. This time, it was all about the people. You want to know what I discovered? Teens aren't much different than when I was one of them. They, of course, didn't know anyone was watching them, but I was soooooo watching. Great fodder. Great fodder. That's all I have to say. Anyway, that's beside the point. What I'm trying to get at is the topic of research and how important it is. This past week I read a post (please forgive me because I don't remember whose it was) about watching T.V. for research. I do that on an almost daily basis. For example, I watched hours of Wizards of Waverly Place today. Yeah, sad, I know. Some days, I find myself parked on the couch watching Degrassi while my kids are at school. And don't forget about Vampire Diaries. So much great research material out there. Besides T.V., there's also Google Earth. This is one of my favorite research tools. I've heard it said that you should write what you know, but really, I can pretty much know any place like the back of my hand if I take a stroll down Main Street with Google Earth. I've been known to spend hours doing just that. So, call it guilty pleasure if you must, but I prefer to call it Research. What about you? What fun methods of research do you practice?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Don't Kick The Messenger!

In fact, you should be thanking him (or her). In honor of Friday's Fluff, I'd like to give a big shout out to critique partners everywhere. It isn't easy being honest, especially if it's negative, but that's what it takes. Wouldn't you rather hear the truth than a fluffy bundle of lies? I know I would! I've had several crit partners over the last year, and I am so thankful for each and every one of them. They pointed out my dreaded faults with a kind honesty that I will appreciate forever. Don't get me wrong; there were times I felt like kicking them because they just didn't get it, but in the end, their feedback made me think. I'm a better writer because of them (you know who you are). So, instead of kicking your crit buddies, take a moment to thank them. They deserve a little Friday Fluff! Where would you be without them?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

What's In A Name?

A lot, I suppose! Everyone knows Converse, right? Writers struggle with this every day. Do they go by their given name, or do they invent a pen name? For each of us, different factors play into that decision. Maybe we are writing something that we don't want our families to know we wrote, perhaps a memoir or erotic romance. Or, maybe, we are writing in a different genre than we usually do. Or, in my case, our given name is so boring that we are afraid no one will buy our books. Seriously, how lame is "Susan Mills"? See what I mean? Okay, I'm still not changing my name, but I'm thinking about it... Whatever the reason, pen names are an issue that every author needs to think about. I recently received an email from Enna Scott. I have no idea the true identity of this person, but she (or could be he) asked fellow bloggers to spread the word about a new blog, under a new name. Go visit Enna Scott and support a fellow author in his/her decision to use a pen name. Maybe you can help me figure out who it is while you're there. Anyway, these are my Thursday Thoughts. What do you think about pen names? Have you considered using one? Or are you so excited to see your name on the spine of a book that you wouldn't even think of it?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

New Dangers For Writers Everywhere!

Today is Wednesday's Websites day here, and boy, do I have an important one for you. Writing... normally considered a safe profession, right? Well, according to CBS, we are all in danger! Check it out here. Yeah, apparently, writing is just as dangerous as fighting fires. So, next time you put that laptop on your lap (isn't that where it's supposed to go?), think again. You might be putting yourself in some serious danger of Toasted Skin Syndrome. First, it was microwave popcorn that was bad for you (this made me sad). Now, laptops are bad for you? Seriously, what will be next? What will be left for us writers? Okay, I'll survive without the popcorn, and I can put a pillow between my legs and the laptop. I'll quit writing, though, if they tell me coffee is bad for me. Oh, wait... they already have, and I'm still alive. Any funny warnings you've heard of lately?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Come On In!

But please leave a comment. Otherwise, I might not be able to return the favor. Over the last couple of weeks, I've noticed a few more followers in my sidebar. Most of you have a link connected to your picture, and a good number of you who don't left a comment, so I've been able to come check out your place. Some, however, don't have a link, and haven't left a comment. This leaves me without a way to come visit you. So, my Tuesday's Tip is this: when you follow a new blog, leave a comment. That way the person you follow can reciprocate. Blogger can be touchy, and sometimes, just following won't do the trick. I have a lot of other bloggerly tips, but I'll save them for later. I wouldn't want to overload you with my sometimes useless opinions, now would I? At any rate, I welcome all of my new visitors, and I can't wait to get to know you! Anyone else out there struggling with this issue? Followers are spectacular, but don't you want to be able to follow back?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Daily Exercise

It's so good for you. I've been struggling lately, though. Life just doesn't seem to want to cooperate with me on this. Okay, in all honesty, I'm making the choice to do other things rather than exercise. Not good. Not good at all. Same thing seems to be happening with writing. No matter how many times I promise myself that I'm going to write a certain amount every day, I still fail to follow through. I even had a little motivation last week with Patti Nielson's experiment. Didn't help. I made bad choices. I had plenty of time to write. In fact, I could have written for eight hours a day if I wanted to, but I didn't. It made me stop and think. Why am I not writing more? Then it occurred to me. I needed a break. I feel refreshed now, and I'm ready to start a new week, hopefully filled with exercise and writing (two of my all time favorite things). Ever been there? I'm guessing you have, but please do share.

Friday, October 1, 2010

My Comfort Shoes

After watching the weather forecast last night, I decided it was time to get out my favorite slippers. Am I a fan of cold weather? No, but I do love my slippers. I can't wait to wear them again. Almost as much as I can't wait to send my first page to Angela Ackerman for her feedback. Yes, you heard me right. I was one of the winners in her contest. It was like getting a brand new pair of Ugg slippers. (Okay, between me and you, I was hoping for the three month mentorship, so it was more like getting an off-brand of slippers, but still.) In the spirit of Friday Fluff, I wanted to give a big shout out to Angela for her generosity in prizes for this contest. I'd also like to congratulate all the other winners. So, whose feathers would you like to fluff today? You owe anyone a thanks? Remember, we're all in this together. That's the beauty of it.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

No Shoes Allowed?????

What's up with that? I don't think I like that rule. I'm sure they'd make an exception for me, right? One of the most frustrating things to me about the writing process is trying to follow all of the many rules. Some come naturally, but others require a lot of thought on my part. As I mentioned in a previous post, I taught two of my kids to drive over the summer. My sixteen-year-old got her license a month or so ago. I rode with her the other day, and despite the fact that her skills have improved, she still has one habitual problem: she's a fanatic when it comes to rules. Don't get me wrong; following the rules of the road is very important. But, what if following the rule is actually for the worse. For example, my daughter thinks she has to drive the speed limit no matter what. Sometimes, the car in front of her is going way slower, and still she tries to maintain the posted speed limit. In this case, isn't it better to break the rule and drive slower? Okay, so point is this: the rules of writing are very important, but sometimes, breaking them might be for the best. In other words, know the rules, but also know when and why to break them. Those are my Thursday Thoughts. What do you think? Should the rules of writing ever be broken? What's your favorite rule to break?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Way Too Many Shoes!

And are all of them usable? Today is Wednesday, and according to my new blog schedule, it's time for me to post about a helpful website I've come across recently. Well, Monday, when I was out blogging around, I read a post that stopped me in my tracks. It was all about how we suffer from information overload, which can cause us to lose our creativity. Jennifer Shirk shared here recent experience with trying to write while processing all the different things she'd read on the Internet. I have felt the exact same way, and instead of me trying to explain it, go read it here. What about you? Have you read so many conflicting opinions that you second guess your writing constantly? So much so that you're stalled? It really isn't a good place to be. I agree with Jennifer's take on the matter: TRUST YOUR GUT!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Under The Bed

That's where every manuscript belongs, at least for a while. My Tuesday Tip for today is this: when you finish a manuscript, stick it under the bed, in the closet, in the attic, or in the basement. Wherever you choose (even if it's in the dark corners of your hard drive), stick it somewhere. It needs to sit for a bit. Until you allow it to do that, you won't be able to see its faults or its strengths. When you come back to it, it will be like seeing that relative you haven't seen in a really long time. He's aged, or she's lost weight, or he's grown, etc. Time and distance make you notice these things. So, while your manuscript is sitting, move on to a new project. Be sure you write every day. How else will you get better? If you need motivation to write every day, go visit my blog friend, Patti Nielson. She's encouraging you to keep track of how much time you spend actually writing every day. I have to admit, I'm not off to a very good start. Yesterday, I spent nill, nada, the big fat zero, absolutely no time writing. How sad is that? Very sad, if you ask me. Today will be better, though! Okay, do you have any old manuscripts hiding under your bed? If so, have you taken a look at them lately? If so, I bet they look a little different than they did before.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Kid's Shoes...

Ah, the innocence of children. Yet, they are so wise in their own way. Because of the almost perfect weather yesterday, all the neighbors were out in the street. A couple of the little children caught my attention as they raced each other from driveway to driveway on their bikes. One of the little boys won every single time, and I could see the frustration on the other boy's face. He kept pedaling faster, but to no avail. Finally, the slow boy stopped the fast boy and asked, "Dude, how do you go so fast?" "I dunno. I just do," the fast boy answered. "Can't really explain it." The slow boy thought long and hard and then pulled his bike in front of the fast boy. "Hey, how about this time, the slowest person wins?" "Okay," the fast boy said. "Last one across the street wins." They both took off at a snail's pace, but the fast boy apparently couldn't stand it and eventually went flying. Fast boy lost, and slow boy finally won. Slow boy knew what it took to win and had the patience to do it. Fast boy didn't. Funny how redefining the goal can make a difference, huh? We all want to get published, and we want it now, right? But what's the harm in getting there slowly? It might even be better. The longer we spend on our craft, the better we will write, and the better our novels will be. So take your time, know what it takes, get there slowly, and you just might win the race. How's that for a little Monday Miscellanea? Anything random you'd like to share?

Friday, September 24, 2010

These are the Shoes of...

Heroes. Is your protagonist a hero? Or is he/she an ordinary person like me and you? Either way, you need to make him or her stand out and grab the reader's attention. How do you do that? Well, right off the bat, give the reader a reason to care about the character. If your protagonist is a hero, make sure he/she has some faults that the reader can relate to. If your protagonist is ordinary, make sure he/she has some strengths that the reader aspires to have. Villains. Creepy, huh? Is your antagonist a villain? If so, is he creepy enough? Try giving him or her some decent human qualities that the reader can sympathize with. Then, when your antagonist is bad, he or she will be that much scarier. Secondary characters. Do they matter? Well, they better! Why else would you include them? You can make these secondary characters stand out by showing how they affect your main character. This is what makes them important to the story. Okay, so, these are my Thursday Thoughts (yeah, I know it's Friday) on Writing Compelling Characters. Now, I'm off to read all the other posts on this topic. If you want to join me, you can click here. We are all sure to learn something. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

An Empty Shoe Box...

Imagine the possibilities! You can envision whatever shoe you want. It's kind of like a blank piece of paper, or in these times, a blank word document on the computer screen. Either way, it's like a fresh new start... a fresh new story... a fresh new cast of characters. Yes, today is supposed to be Thursday's Thoughts, but because I'm participating in the whole Great Blogging Experiment about Writing Compelling Characters tomorrow, I thought I'd flip flop the days. So, pretend it's Friday today and Thursday tomorrow. (Did that even make any sense?) I warned you this could happen from time to time. So, today, instead of offering my thoughts on a topic, I'm fluffing feathers by encouraging you to take a moment to appreciate all the possibilities that your writing has to offer. Your shoe box may seem empty, but just think of what you can fill it with? What are you filling your shoe box with?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Getting from here to there...

Do we need to know every detail in between? No, of course not! It's been drilled into our writer heads how bad telling is, but is it always such a bad thing? I think not. And, instead of me trying to explain it, I thought I'd point you in the direction of a great post that does just that. My blogger friend, Laura Pauling, outlined the difference between "bad" telling and "good" telling in her post here. I couldn't have summed it up better, so please go check it out. It might make a difference in how you "tell" your story. Even better, she's going to be talking about backstory today. Also, guess what... my friend Erica is having a 200 followers drawing over at her place here. Go pay her a visit! Okay, those are my Wednesday's websites. Any good ones you'd like to share?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Uh-Oh! There's a Problem!

How did this woman's heel break? I don't know. Do I care? Well, I might later, but I don't right now. I'm more concerned with where she's going and how she's going to fix it before she gets there. The rest would be unwanted back story at this point. I'm reading a popular novel right now (I won't mention the name or author) in which the entire first chapter is back story. I'm sorry, but I got bored and almost tossed the book to the side. I persevered, and as it turns out, it's a great book. Had it been written by an unknown, would I have kept reading? I doubt it. My tip for this Tuesday is to eliminate all back story from the first half of your manuscript. If you can't do that, at least eliminate it from the first third. I personally was hesitant about this with my own manuscript, but I finally did it, and guess what... it reads so much better. Some of what I thought was important information turned out to be not so crucial for the reader, and the stuff that was, well, my readers could have figured it out without me telling them. It's one of those pesky little rules, but I get the point. And, unless you are already published, don't risk it. So, read any books with too much back story lately? Written any? Go back and check. You'll be glad you did. Where do you suppose that woman was off to anyway?

Monday, September 20, 2010

It's Like Christmas Around Here!

I mean, really, with the awesome drawing over at The Bookshelf Muse. Angela Ackerman is offering three months worth of mentoring. What could be cooler than that? You can go enter if you want, but it might be a waste of time. Don't get your hopes up or anything, cause I'm going to win, you know? Also, in case you haven't heard, my blogger friend, Tere Kirkland signed with an agent. That's the third one this month! See, I told you it was like Christmas around here. Okay, that's it for Monday's Miscellanea. Anything you'd like to share? Have a great Monday, and tune in tomorrow for Tuesday's Tip.

Friday, September 17, 2010

It's time for a little fluffy inspiration!

Okay, so I was out with my friends from high school last night, and I realized something. We are all at different stages of life. Our night out ended early because of several reasons. One friend had to get home to make sure her seventeen-year-old wasn't up to no good. My other friend had to get home to put her eight-year-old in bed, and I had to get home to help my twelve-year-old study for a test. You see, we are all in different stages of life, yet we all have a common goal: to raise our kids to be the best people they possibly can be. Same holds true with my writing journey. I've made a lot of friends, some will be published soon, some have signed with agents, and some are just starting out. No matter where we are, we all have a common goal: get our work in the hands of readers. My friend with the eight-year-old commented at dinner that she couldn't wait until her kids were older because they were such a pain in the you-know-what, and I have to admit, I got a little teary-eyed. Sometimes, I wish my kids were still little. I'd love to go back and relive that part of my journey. Other times, though, I'm happy to say that I've been there, done that, and I survived. I don't want to look back on my writing journey and view the hard times as a bad thing. I want to look back at every stage as a blessing, as a necessary part of growing stronger. I want to look back and get teary-eyed because that part of my journey is over, but know that I've been there, done that, and survived. So, my point (and you know I always have one) is this: embrace where you are now and soak up everything. You can never go back to this stage of your writing journey. If you don't pay attention, you just might miss something. Okay, now, go and fluff your own feathers, no matter where you are, because, no doubt, it's a good place to be. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

These Shoes Just Don't Seem Ready

Of course, the person wearing them doesn't seem to notice that they have no toe. I think we writers sometimes fall into the same lack of awareness when it comes to our own work. On Tuesday, I posted about how the hardest lesson I've learned in my journey to publication was that you shouldn't query too soon. So many of you commented something like this: "Yeah, but how do you really know when your work is ready?" Well, I can't answer that, but I can tell you when it isn't ready. Below, you will find my list of the top three reasons not to query yet. (I had it up to 10, but that would have made for a really long post, and you all know how I feel about those.) Anyway, here is how you know you aren't ready to query: #3: It's the first thing you've ever written or even attempted to write, and the version you are about to query is almost identical to your first draft. Don't get me wrong; first novels can be successful, but not first drafts. I could be wrong here, but I doubt that even Stephen King himself submits a first draft for publication. REVISE. REVISE. REVISE. #2: You've never taken a writing course, read a book on the craft, or followed any agent/publisher blogs. A lot is to be said for knowledge. Not even the best athlete goes into a game without training. Practice the craft, learn the business, and then do it all again several times. #1: Your mom, husband, sister, daughter, dog, whatever, thinks your manuscript is the best thing ever written, but no one else has ever laid eyes on it. These people are great, but they are biased and some might even be afraid to be honest with you. Unless you've had a professional editor and/or awesome crit partners read your work, don't query! Okay, so these are my Thursday's Thoughts. I'd love to hear what you think. Do you know when your work is ready? If so, please share. If not, then please tell us how you know when it's not ready.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

That's a lot of shoes!

Why try to pick the cutest when someone else already has? Today is my first Wednesday's Website post, and I had a few ideas for ones I'd like to share with you. But, you see, one kept coming to mind because she does such a great job of sharing super helpful links every week. I could never top that. So, without further ado, please go visit Stina Lindenblatt here. And be sure to stop by there every Friday for more helpful links. Her photography tips on other days are pretty cool too. On a secondary topic, my post yesterday seemed to create a lot of buzz. Maybe I should have saved it for Thursday's Thoughts, but never fear, I'll abandon my original subject for tomorrow and address some of your questions instead. I'm no expert, but I'll be sure to tell you my opinion and hope that you will all weigh in as well. What about you? Any good websites to share this week?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

There's a Place for Trash

And it isn't with an agent or publisher. So many of you probably already know this, and I wish I had figured it out before I made the mistake, but I didn't. I queried trash. Yes, trash. My mom recently returned to me the first draft of my last project. I sat down on the floor of my study and giggled as I read. It was truly awful. This is the same awful I queried eighteen months ago. Seriously, what was I thinking?????? This is my first installment of Tuesday's Tips, and I figured why not start with the hardest and biggest lesson I've learned during my journey. I'm sure you've heard it said before, but it warrants repeating. DO NOT QUERY TOO SOON! It's really no surprise that I never found an agent after querying what I did. It stank! And by stank, I mean that it had no business ever being published. It was partly because of my writing, which was underdeveloped and mediocre at best, and partly because I didn't have a clue what I was doing. My Tuesday's Tip this week is to make sure you are 100% ready to query before you contact any agent or publisher. It would be better to wait years for a chance at publication than to blow your chances by submitting to soon. So, as cliche as it might seem, it's still the most important thing I've learned during my walk in the publishing industry. Throw the trash away to make room for the brilliance. So, have any of you ever queried your work before it was ready? If so, wouldn't you say that it's one of the biggest mistakes you made on the road to publication?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Now this is an interesting shoe!

Where in the heck did the designer come up with the idea? Acid trip? Sleep deprived stupor? What was he thinking? No, I'm only kidding. (Well, sort of...) Anyway, the idea, good or bad, came from somewhere, right? On Friday, my fellow blogger Sherrie blogged about the topic of where writers get their ideas. You can read the post here. I commented about how my good friend gave me my latest idea. I had encouraged said friend to write about it herself, but she claimed that she couldn't even write a grocery list, let alone an entire novel. So, I decided I'd take the topic on. Well, I ran into all kinds of problems. The topic itself was not necessarily unique, but the situation was. This made it worth pursuing, but I couldn't quite come up with a believable motivation for the main character. That is until I witnessed some bizarre behavior from my neighbors across the street. I won't go into any details, but let's just say that the behavior was the perfect motivation for my character to end up in the story line my friend envisioned. So, what is my point? Well, it's this: our ideas may be born in one light, but could come to fruition in another. We have to get out there and witness what goes on in the world around us before we can write about it. It's so easy for us writers to get wrapped up in our stories and forget that there are all kinds of things going on outside of our manuscripts. Taking a break and living life is just as important as honing our craft. Oh, and a little discreet people watching doesn't hurt either. Okay, okay, call it spying if you must, but still... Thanks for joining me for the first ever Monday's Miscellanea post. So, what do you think? Do you people watch? Do you soak up every detail of the world around you? How important do you think that is to writing?

Friday, September 10, 2010

There's A Time For Everything

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know this is a picture repeat, but that's me trying to maximize time and minimize stress. So, back to the title of this post--There's A Time For Everything. You know what time it is for me? Well, it's time to get organized. My writing time is sporadic, my workspace is a disaster, and my blogging is, at best, occasional. This isn't like me. I'm normally more on top of things. That being said, my goal this weekend is to get organized in all aspects. I plan on blocking out writing time, doing a complete overhaul of my workspace, and initiate a new blogging schedule. I'm thinking of a wordplay thing like this: Monday's Miscellanea--a day when you never know what you're going to hear from me, but it certainly will be interesting (I hope). Tuesday's Tips--a day when I will share with you something I've learned on my journey thus far. Wednesday's Websites--a day when I will share an interesting/helpful website or blog I've come across recently. Thursday's Thoughts--a friendly day of debate where I will share my thoughts on a timely topic and ask for your feedback. Friday's Fluffs--a day of fluffy inspiration. (We all need that, don't we?) I thought I'd give this a try as I attempt to get back into a regular blogging routine. Please keep in mind that this is all subject to change, but for now, this is my plan. So, what do you think? I'd love your feedback (good or bad). On another note, my aunt passed away Wednesday after a long battle with Alzheimer's. All of us who loved her are both saddened and thankful that she is now in a better place. Please keep my family in your thoughts and prayers as we lay this wonderful women to rest. We will do so with a mixture of tears and smiles. And, now, on a happier note, have a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

My Husband's Work Boots

Well, this isn't really his boot because I can't find my camera, but he wears something similar while he works fifteen hour days on the farm to support our family. Sure, his are muddier than this one, and that mud usually ends up on my kitchen floor. I gotta hand it to him, though. He does work hard so that I don't have to. Don't get me wrong; it's not like I sit around and do nothing. I spend my time writing. Some of you will remember when my blogger name was Lazy Writer. I chose this name not because I'm lazy when it comes to my writing, but because my writing makes me lazy when it comes to other areas of my life--cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc. I changed this name because I decided it might give the wrong impression. I wouldn't want anyone to assume that I wrote in a lazy fashion, would I? Anyway, my point is this: my husband has suffered many injustices so that I can chase my dream. There was the time he walked into a house full of smoke because I burned the pasta while revising a paragraph. He simply shook his head and went and got take-out. Then, there are the times when he wears two different socks because there are no clean matching ones. He just shrugs and says, "No one can see my socks anyway." Let's not forget the time he cleaned the house himself after a long day in the icy cold so that he could have his buddies over to watch a football game. Yes, it's safe to say that he puts up with a lot because of my writing, and I think it's about time I thanked him for it. Because of him, I get to do what I love most. What about you? Is there someone out there who you should thank? I'll bet there is. So what are you waiting for?