The Best Moment Award

best-moment-award-winner1Wow! Just wow! I was nominated for The Best Moment Award by the lovely and talented Jill London.

The Rules:

Winners re-post this completely with their acceptance speech. This could be written or video recorded. Winners have the privilege of awarding the next awardees! The re-post should include a NEW set of people/blogs worthy of the award with notification sent to them of the great news. Display the award’s badge on your blog/website.

Resources: What makes a good acceptance speech?

  • Gratitude. Thank the people who helped you along the way.
  • Humor. Keep us entertained and smiling.
  • Inspiration. Make your story touch our lives.

Get an idea from the great acceptance speeches compiled in MomentMatters.com/Speech.

My acceptance speech:

“Hi, my name is Melissa Janda and I’m a writer… this is my story, my journey to becoming a published author. I hope it has a good ending.”

I didn’t expect to make that announcement on the blogosphere. When I started this journey, I expected to walk alone, or rather sit alone at my laptop and type thousands of words each day until I had completed a novel. Well, I did that. I submitted my first queries in February and received six fairly quick rejections. I realized I had a lot more to learn. That is when I discovered blogging.

The quote above is an excerpt from my first post and I didn’t know if anyone would ever read it.  But they did and they commented too. Their words encouraged me, inspired me, and told me I was not alone. It led me to their blogs where they shared what they had learned in their own journey. It’s shared in pure benevolence, in respect of other writers and the craft we love. I’m honored to read their words, to absorb the wisdom. They poured their hearts out by sharing hopes and dreams, tragedies and triumphs. At times I was left speechless by the beauty of the writing. Other times I literally laughed out loud. I was even brought to tears.

I dedicate the following video to those of you who have visited my blog, liked my posts, and shared your thoughts, and to all the bloggers out there who are sharing their story. You mean more to me than you know.

“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Here are my nominees for the Best Moment Award

  1. LorisInnerGoddess.wordpress.com
  2. KiraLynBlue.com
  3. ShanesBookBlog.wordpress.com
  4. LegendsofWindemere.wordpress.com
  5. ContentbyDawn.com
  6. Petitemagique.wordpress.com
  7. LauraAnile.com
  8. Dhdunne.blogspot.com
  9. James-Ramsey.com
  10. JohnWHowell.com
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The Sunshine Award

Okay, calm down, dork. This isn’t the Oscars, but wow! I really am very honored that someone would think enough of my little ramblings to nominate me for an award. A very special thank you to Kira Lyn Blue (Don’t you love her name?) for the nomination. Kira means “like the sun” according to the Russian translation.  How do I know this? I was tossing this name around for a character in a novel I’m writing and I always have to find out the meaning of the name. There are other translations but I really liked this one. Seems fitting that Kira “Like the Sun” Lyn Blue nominated me for the Sunshine Award.

So what is the Sunshine Award? It’s “recognition from fellow bloggers to those who sunshine-award1positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere.” I have received so much positive energy from others in the blogosphere. I never imagined I’d be included in that category. That just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, sort of like sunshine breaking through the clouds and warming my face.

The Rules:

  • Include the award’s logo in a post or on your blog
  • Link to the person who nominated you
  • Answer 10 questions about yourself
  • Nominate 10 bloggers
  • Link your nominees to the post and comment on their blogs letting them know they have been nominated

10 Things about Me

  1. Favorite Color: Can I just say ROYGBIV? I mean, it’s really hard to pick one. In high school it was red and black because I was going through a rocker phase and yes I owned a pair of parachute pants, in red to go with a black “zipper” shirt. Did I just admit that? When I met my husband it became the color of his eyes. Think of the beautiful hue of the Caribbean Sea as it reaches the sandy beaches of the shore – that’s pretty darn close! When I got married my favorite color was fuchsia (that’s hot pink for all you guys) because I love Stargazer Lilies and well, everything had to match. No, I wasn’t a bridezilla, at least I don’t think I was. And now, it’s orange because it just makes me HAPPY! See why I can’t pick just one?
  2. Favorite Animal: Dogs. Like I stated in a recent post, they have a way of wiggling into your heart.
  3. Favorite Number: My horoscope says I’m ruled by the number 9 (whatever that means). Any number added to 9 yields that number and any number multiplied by 9 yields a 9. Like karma, you get back what you give out. But, I like 13 {GASP!} I always felt like 13 got a bum rap, so I kind of adopted it. It was my jersey number when I played soccer. And wouldn’t you know it, some of the best things have happened to me on the 13th. My daughter was born on that day and she is one of the greatest blessings of my life.
  4. Favorite Non-Alcoholic Drink: Decaf Chai Tea Latte. Drinking one right now.
  5. Favorite Alcoholic Drink: Mexican Martini, with salt and extra olives and it must come with the shaker or I feel gypped. Oh, and another one that I’ve been introduced to recently: Diet Crush with Whipped Cream Vodka.It tastes like a creamsicle, remember those? Maybe that’s where my affinity for the color orange comes from.
  6. Facebook or Twitter: Before I started blogging I would’ve said Facebook but I agree with Kira. It’s WordPress all the way, baby!
  7. My Passions: Spending time with my family and friends, running/biking/swimming, reading and of course, writing.
  8.  Prefer Getting or Giving Presents: Giving because seeing the delight in their face is like getting a gift too. It’s a “twofer!”
  9. Favorite City: Austin, Texas. Although I’d love to visit Auckland, New Zealand, really any place in New Zealand. And yes, that was before they filmed LOTR, although that just increased my desire to visit. Okay, back to Austin: My family moved here when I was a little girl and I was horrified at the thought. “Won’t there be cactus and desert and cowboys wielding guns and shootouts? I’ll have to wear cowboy boots and eat steak and drink iced tea!” Well, Austin isn’t the cactus-filled desert I had imagined. It’s a beautiful place, with rolling hill country and lakes. It’s also known as the live music capital of the world so it has a rich nightlife. Oh, and I ended up liking tea and steak, and I own a pair of cowboy boots.
  10. Favorite TV Shows: The Walking Dead. How long must we wait for the next season to start? It’s torture! Never thought I’d go for post-apocalyptic zombie land but I’m hooked. It’s the best thing I’ve seen since Lost.

And my nominations are: {drumroll please}

  1. Lori’s Inner Goddess: My first friend on WordPress. She’s a writer/editor who has been going through a rough time lately. I miss seeing her comments. Hopefully this award will cheer her up a bit.
  2. Jill London: A children’s author who lives in the UK. I hear a distinctly British accent in my head when I read her blog, especially when she uses words like “lovely” (which I use too but I’m certain doesn’t sound nearly as eloquent). Oh, and sometimes when I comment I inadvertently convert to the UK spelling of certain words. I guess it’s the blogging equivalent of picking up the accent of those you converse with.
  3. James Ramsey: Author of Andromeda Rising, the first book in her paranormal fiction series coming out in May. Check out her blog. I think you’ll be as excited as I am to read it.
  4. Legends of Windemere: NY based fantasy fiction author Charles Yallowitz, who has released a new book: Legends of Windemere. It’s available on Amazon and will be free this weekend only (Friday – Sunday). I just bought my copy and have been reading it. The opening scene makes me think of the Prancing Pony in the LOTR. Yeah, like Charles, I’m a LOTR fanatic. I can practically speak Elvish, mellon (that’s elvish for friend, by the way).
  5. Disregardtheprologue: Don’t you love the title of her blog? YA/NA Fantasy author Kate Sparks.
  6. Thoughts and Ideas from Deanie Humphrys-Dunne:  Children’s book author who always has a kind or encouraging word for me. Her comments brighten my day so I wanted to return the favor.
  7. Readful Things Blog : Writer, book reviewer, prolific blogger, Ionia Martin. She posts several times a day, all very well written. Not sure how she does it. I’m wondering if she possesses magic powers or maybe she’s a vampire and doesn’t require sleep.
  8. The Wandering Barefoot Editor: A lover of books who offers freelance copyediting and proofreading services.
  9. Tricia Drammeh:   YA fantasy/paranormal author blogging about her experience with writing and publishing.
  10. Julie Green: An Australian artist/writer/photographer/intern/college student/whew! She is immensely talented and only twenty two! I hear an Australian accent when I read her blog.

Hmm…that’s got me wonderin’ if people hear a Texan accent when they read mine. Just so you know, I really don’t have that southern twang, at least that’s what I’ve been told.

Thank you again, Kira, for this MAJOR AWARD! I’ll end with a clip from one of my favorite movies:

Inspiration for Writers Spending Themselves in a Worthy Cause

After reading Jill London’s post about some of her favourite quotes, I decided to share one that I love by Theodore Roosevelt.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how theodore-roosevelt_114086tthe strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Does that get your heart pumping? Does mine. Now go spend yourself in a worthy cause!

Shoot ‘Em Up! Rawhide (We Write)!

wild_westAll this upheaval in the publishin’ industry feels a little like I imagine the Wild West did. Everyone is just tryin’ to survive. You have snake oil salesmen, cowboys, outlaws, train robbers, pony express riders, lawmen, and frontiersmen. Oh my! {fanning myself} What’s a sweet southern belle like myself s’posed to do? I guess I might as well keep on:

{Sung to the tune of Rawhide.}

Writin’, writin’, writin’

Writin’, writin’, writin’

Writin’, writin’, writin’

Writin’, writin’, writin’

We write!

Keep writin’, writin’, writin’

Though the slush pile’s swollen,

Keep them queries rollin’

We write!

Though I keep on submittin’

They’re hell-bent on rejectin’

Wishin’ my book would catch their eye.

What things am I missin’?,

Good novel that they’re dissin’,

If they would just read it they would buy

Move ’em on, head ’em up,

Head ’em up, move ’em out,

Move ’em on, head ’em out

We Write!

Set ’em out, write ’em in

Write ’em in, let ’em out,

Cut ’em out, write ’em in

We write!

Self pub’n’, pub’n’, pub’n,

Though agents disapprovin’,

Keep them novels movin’

We Write!

Don’t try to understand ’em,

Just write, e-pub, and brand ’em

Soon our books’ll be known high and wide.

My hearts calculatin’

My readers will be waitin’, be waitin’ for the novel that I write.

Move ’em on, head ’em up

Head ’em up, move ’em on

Move ’em on, head ’em up

We write!

Count ’em out, write ’em in,

Write ’em in, count ’em out,

Count ’em out, write ’em in,

We write!

Writin’, writin’, writin’

Writin’, writin’, writin’

Writin’, writin’, writin’

Writin’, writin’, writin’

We write!

WE WRITE!

Hope you enjoyed that. Now get back to writin’, writin, writin’!

Pets Have a Way of Wiggling Into Your Heart

Today marks the 9th anniversary of the death of our beloved Scout.me and scout

I remember the day my husband brought him home. I awoke to the jingling of a bell. My husband stood at my bedside with a grin tugging at the corners of his mouth. He slapped his thigh and said, “C’mon boy.”

That was the moment Scout walked, or rather lumbered, into my life. His massive paws were too big for his body and made him a little clumsy. The moment that adorable brindle boxer puppy with floppy ears and big brown eyes looked up into my eyes I was smitten.

“Happy birthday Baby,” my husband said.

“Oh my God! He’s adorable! What should we call him?”

“I’ve always liked the name Scout.”

scoutScout eventually grew into those monstrous paws and tipped the scales at eighty-five pounds of solid muscle. With his bulk and brindle markings he was sometimes mistaken for a pit bull and people would shrink back in fear. I have to admit there were times when I nearly jumped out of my skin at the sight of him too. He had this annoying habit of pawing at my bedside in the middle of the night. Still groggy from sleep I’d open my eyes to see “The Batman” silhouetted against the nightlight.

After recovering from a mini heart attack, I’d realize it was just my big goofy dog asking to go outside to do his business.

He certainly could seem menacing from afar but one look into those big brown eyes and there was no mistaking the sweet soul inside.  When asked if he’d attack we’d just laugh and say, “Oh yeah, he’s a ferocious guard dog alright.  If anything, he’ll just lick you to death!”

Scout was unaware of his mammoth size. He thought he was a lap dog. He often crawled in my lap, or at least tried to, especially when I was getting ready for work in the morning. Putting on makeup with a beast of a dog trying to cuddle with you and lick your face was quite a challenge.

I’ll never forget Scout’s first experience with the lake. My husband tried to coax Scout to get in the water with him but he just looked on from the shore, too scared to venture in. Scout paced back and forth as my husband waded deeper into the water. Scout couldn’t be persuaded to get in the water so my husband went under to see what he would do. Scout immediately jumped in, dismissing his fears, and swam to “save” his buddy.

One afternoon my husband was sitting next to Scout, repeatedly blowing in his face. Each time Scout glared at my husband as if to warn him to stop. But my husband loves to pick so he kept at it. Scout finally had enough. The next time he turned to my husband he opened his mouth and placed his massive jaws over my husband’s face. Of course he didn’t bite down but he was sending a very clear message. “Look buddy, I’ve had enough. I love you so there’s no way I would ever hurt you, but don’t tempt me.”

If you believe a dog doesn’t have personality, well then you’ve never loved one. Scout was the manifestation of Scooby Doo, just as goofy and lovable. It was as if he jumped out of the TV screen and wiggled his way into our hearts. In fact, he turned in circles until he found just the right spot, as all dogs do, and nestled there forever.

Had to Rush My Baby to the ICU.

“Oh my God! No! No! No!” My heart hammered in my chest as I watched my baby turn blue. I laid my fingers on her and tried to recall the technique. “Okay, on three. One, two, three!” I pressed CTRL+ALT+DEL on the keyboard and held my breath.

Ctrl+Alt+Del (webcomic)
Ctrl+Alt+Del (webcomic) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nothing.

“C’mon baby!” I tried it again.

Still…nothing.

Why hadn’t I signed up for that CPR (Computer Performance Restoration) class? My baby, aka my laptop, had turned blue and no remedy was working.  I cradled her in my arms and rushed to the closest ICU (Inactive Computer Unit).

With my baby protectively held to my chest, I threw open the door and yelled to the man behind the counter, “I don’t know what’s wrong with her! I haven’t heard a sound from her in hours! She turned blue! Please help!”

He smiled and placed a hand over his mouth. Wait, was he trying not to laugh?

“Ah, the dreaded ‘blue screen.’ Let’s have a look.”

blue screen
blue screen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I gently laid her on the counter and watched as he worked. I drummed my fingers on the counter as I awaited the diagnosis. He was so calm. What was that noise? Was he humming? Seriously? How could he be humming at a time like this? My baby’s life was on the line! I couldn’t stand it any longer.

“What do you think it is?”

“Uh, the hard drive may be going out.”

“What?” I covered my chest with my hand. “But – but she’s only two!”

He seemed to notice my apprehension and said, “Or it could just be a virus.”

“Do you think she’ll be alright?”

“Don’t know. We’ll need to run some diagnostics. It’ll probably take several hours.”

“You mean I can’t take her home with me?”

“We need to keep her overnight, just to be sure.”

“But – but I’ve never left her with anyone overnight.”

He laid a hand on my shoulder and said, “It’ll be okay.”

If you’re a writer like me, you can relate to the fear of something happening to your laptop.  Without it we feel like a bird without a song, a bull without its horns, a cowboy without his boots, a jockey without a horse…you get the point. For writers, the laptop is our lifeblood. Fortunately my baby received a heavy dose of antivirus meds and now she’s as good as new.

Special thanks to James Ramsey’s post, Inspiration. I guess she was right. You can find the inspiration to write by surfing the net. Her post reminded me of the trauma with my laptop last week and inspired me to write this post. Check out James’ website. She has a new book coming out next month which I can’t wait to read.

Reflecting on the Brief, Yet Bright Life of a Childhood Friend

Detail of sandbox with toys
Detail of sandbox with toys (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The loss of life at the Boston Marathon terrorist attack has me reflecting on my first experience with loss. His name was Timmy, and like the eight year old boy at the Boston Marathon, his life ended way too soon.

Timmy was my childhood friend. He was the brown-haired little boy who lived across the street. He was the boy with the sandbox, the biggest, coolest sandbox in the neighborhood. I ventured into his backyard every chance I got, not only to play in the sandbox but to spend time with him. There was something special about him. He had an energy about him that, to this day, has me wondering if some people light up the lives of others so brightly that their own light burns out prematurely. At least, that is the way I remember Timmy.

I didn’t even know he was sick until he died. As I recall it was leukemia (a strange new word for me then) that claimed his life. I’m sure his body had shown the effects of the disease but that’s not how I remember him. I suppose children have an innate ability for seeing straight through to the soul of people, bypassing the exterior and all the stereotypes that come with it. They haven’t developed the prejudices that inevitably come later in life. All they see is a friend, no ethnicity, no religious affiliation, no political viewpoint, and no disease; just a friend.

The world, my little world as I knew it then, fell off its axis when I learned he had died. It stopped spinning and my mind picked up where it left off as thoughts churned in my head. How could he possibly be gone? I had just played with him. He was only four. Only the elderly die and they die peacefully, in their sleep after a long and eventful life; a life well lived. Don’t they? Isn’t that how it works? How could one possibly cram all that living into just four years? It didn’t seem fair.

That is when I learned that life is not fair, that we’ll all experience, to some degree, heartbreak and tragedy. If Timmy could die at such a young age, what about the other people I loved? My parents had to reassure me that they weren’t going anywhere, anytime soon. But how could they possibly know? They couldn’t.

I cut out Timmy’s obituary from the newspaper and placed it under my pillow. As I lay in bed that night I worried about my family. I worried about my friends. I worried about all the other unforeseen events that could happen in this frightening new world. But most of all, I missed my friend. I just wanted to go to the sandbox and play with him. How could I have known I would never see him again? Eventually, I cried myself to sleep.

My parents didn’t allow me to go to the funeral. I’m not even sure that I knew enough to ask to go to it. They said his casket (another new word for me) matched the French Provincial style of my bedroom furniture. I suppose they hoped it would give some sort of comfort or allow me to feel that I had somehow been a part of the funeral by knowing that.

I went to the sandbox after Timmy died. Other friends from the neighborhood had gathered to play. His little sister, barely able to walk and talk, kept asking, “Where’s Timmy?” Someone spoke up and said, “He died.” I’m certain they didn’t know exactly what that meant since I was struggling to grasp the meaning of it myself. I remember seeing his mother wipe away tears as she looked on. I’ve often wondered how difficult it must have been for her to see life go on as usual, as if Timmy had never existed. I’m sure it must have looked that way but I was profoundly affected by his death.

The question that his little sister asked has stayed with me my entire life. What happens to us when we die? My faith tells me that this life is like a hallway or perhaps just a doorway for someone like Timmy. It is something we must all pass through to reach a place more beautiful than we can ever imagine. It is a place where the heartbreak of losing someone is replaced by the joy of seeing them again.

I don’t remember if Timmy’s family moved away or if I just stopped going to the sandbox. It just wasn’t the same. The light that burned so bright and beckoned me to play was gone. Timmy wasn’t there.

Where’s Timmy? Some day I’ll know.

IT’S ALIVE!!! Creating Characters that Come to Life.

Do the characters you write about become real to you? Do you sometimes find yourself wondering what they’re up to as if you could simply call them up and chat? I must admit I have done that once, okay maybe more than once.

Sure, they’re a figment of your imagination, and you’d do well to remember that, but creating good fictional characters involves more than mere physical description. In fact, some authors don’t provide a physical description at all; they leave it up to the imagination of the reader. What I’ve learned is that physical description is the least important part of good characterization.

If you want your characters to come to life, to know what they would say or do or feel, you need to get into their heads. You need to understand what motivates them. To do that you need to know where they’ve been. What has happened to them in the past? What was their childhood like? What environment did they grow up in? What are their likes and dislikes? What are their hopes and fears? What have they experienced that would give rise to any quirks, phobias or disorders? Do they have any special talents or abilities? Do they have any unique expressions? How do they treat other people?

“Sow a thought, and you reap an act; Sow an act, and you reap a habit; Sow a habit, and you reap a character; Sow a character, and you reap a destiny.”  ―    Samuel Smiles

Of course, all of this is up to you. The answers to these questions come from your imagination. When you create a character that goes well beyond physical description, it is as if you have brought that character to life. They not only become real to you but they become real to your readers. The reader becomes invested in your book and that is the ultimate goal.

“I will go to my grave in a state of abject endless fascination that we all have the capacity to become emotionally involved with a personality that doesn’t exist.”  ―    Berkeley Breathed

Words of Wisdom on Writing from the King

Yesterday I published, Reading Fiction: Guilty Pleasure or Worthy Pursuit? In that post I stated that I only read fiction. Well it’s just one day later and I must retract that statement.

I received a copy of Stephen King’s On Writing in the mail yesterday afternoon. Yeah, it’s obviously not fiction but it’s a book on writing fiction so cut me some slack, okay? I’ve read several excerpts in the past but decided I needed to read the entire book. Well, I couldn’t put it down.

Cover of "On Writing:  A Memoir of the Cr...
Cover of On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

It’s a book on writing but it doesn’t read like an instruction manual and that, is a lesson on writing right there. It felt like I had sat down with a wise, yet fun-loving uncle as he imparted nuggets of wisdom, but first hooked me in by sharing funny anecdotes from his childhood.

The section where he offered advice on writing is a must read for any aspiring author. There are many great tips but I’ll highlight just two (sorry, but you’ll have to buy the book to get the full benefit).

King believes “plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren’t compatible.” His advice was reassuring because I’m not big on plotting and I’d wondered if that was somehow a weakness. I have a general idea of the story I want to tell and create very detailed character bios, but they are mostly for my reference only. Once I’ve completed the character bios it’s almost as if I have breathed life into them. They become real and end up telling me what comes next and it’s often different from what I had originally imagined.

He also believes that factual information belongs in the background of your story unless you’d like your book to read like a user’s manual or history text. He mentioned a couple of authors who are a little heavy on the factual information and then made this statement:

“I sometimes think that these writers appeal to a large segment of the reading population who feel that fiction is somehow immoral, a low taste which can only be justified by saying, ‘Well, ahem, yes, I do read {Fill in the author’s name here}, but only on airplanes and in hotel rooms that don’t have CNN; also I learned a great deal about {Fill in appropriate subject here}.’

It’s interesting that I just published a post on this topic yesterday. I love it when that happens. It’s like the moon and stars are aligning for some future event.

At the end of the book he tells about an accident that occurred during the time he was writing it. While going on his afternoon walk, he was struck and almost killed by a reckless driver. This part was mesmerizing because I was almost killed in a car accident too. Then he said it occurred the third week in June. Hmm…my accident did too. What are the odds it was on the same day? Well, what do you know? We were both almost killed by drivers who couldn’t control their vehicles…on the same day, June 19th, but eleven years apart, mine occurring in 1988 and his in 1999. But there was another similarity: the driver who caused his accident was reaching behind his seat, trying to prevent a dog from opening a cooler full of meat and the driver who caused my accident was reaching behind his seat, trying to open a cooler for another beer.

As he talked about the long road to recovery, I recalled my own. Maybe I’ll write about it? No, not today.

Instead, I closed the book with a smile on my face and thought, “That was a good story. Thanks, Uncle Steve.”