Tag Archives: writer

From the Archives: Had to Rush My Baby to the ICU.

To celebrate the one year anniversary of my blog (March 13th), I’m publishing select posts throughout the year under the title “From the Archives” for those who may have missed them the first time around. Next up…

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.

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From the Archives: IT’S ALIVE!!! Creating Characters that Come to Life

To celebrate the one year anniversary of my blog (March 13th), I’m publishing select posts throughout the year under the title “From the Archives” for those who may have missed them the first time around. Next up…

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.”  ―    Anonymous

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 main 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

From the Archives: Words of Wisdom on Writing from the King

To celebrate the one year anniversary of my blog (March 13th), I’m publishing select posts throughout the year under the title “From the Archives” for those who may have missed them the first time around. Next up…

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.”

From the Archives: How the Life of a Writer Resembles a Bee

To celebrate the one year anniversary of my blog (March 13th), I’m publishing select posts throughout the year under the title “From the Archives” for those who may have missed them the first time around. Next up…

 How the Life of a Writer Resembles a Bee

On this journey to becoming a published author, I’m discovering that the life of a writer resembles a bee, a very busy bee. I’m not referring to a queen bee or a drone, but a worker bee.

Honey Bee in Sunlight
Honey Bee in Sunlight (Photo credit: Scott Kinmartin)

The worker bee buzzes from flower to flower collecting nectar and pollen to make honey, but that’s not her (yes, a worker bee is female) only job. She builds the honeycomb and keeps it clean. She makes wax. She cares for the babies and protects the hive. When she finds a good source for nectar and pollen she buzzes back to the hive and communicates the good news. She is a social creature that shares her discoveries for the benefit of the hive. She collaborates with others to make something sweet. She is a very busy little bee.

So how is the life of a writer like a bee?

The days when a writer could simply collect thoughts and ideas and write a novel (as if writing a novel were simple) are long gone. No, writers, that is not your only job. You need to do your homework.

  • Read books on the art of writing.
  • Read books on formatting your manuscript, query letter and synopsis. I’ve read a dozen or so over the last few years and recently ordered several more.
  • Read the top rated novels. I started a project over a year ago to read the Modern Library’s Top 100 novels and recently merged it with Time Magazine’s Top 100.
  • Read current bestsellers.
  • Read books within your genre.
  • Read books outside your genre.
  • Research the submission process.
  • Research agents too. Read their blogs and get to know their likes and dislikes. After all, you hope one will represent you some day.
  • Read the blogs of authors they represent.
  • Read those authors’ books too.
  • Read…A LOT.

Of course most of you know that already, but did you also know that you are expected to market and promote your work? I’m sure visions of book tours and interview flash across your mind as you think, “Uh, duh. I knew that.” Let me rephrase that then. Did you know that you are expected to market and promote your work before your book has been published?

I didn’t know that. I neglected to read anything on social media. I skipped those chapters in the books I read. That comes later, after you’re published, right? Wrong. A writer needs to create a buzz, a following, prior to becoming published. In this technology driven world the best way to do that is through social media. Agents are more likely to take a chance on you if you can show that you have a presence on the internet.

Take a lesson from the honey bee. She visits several different sources (species of flowers) to make honey. Writers should do the same when writing and publishing a book. Don’t trust just one source for information. Read about the mistake I made doing this in my post, Word Count for Novels. Be social, like the bee. Flutter among the cyber flowers (blogs, online forums, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, author and agent websites, etc.) and make friends. Collect all that you have learned and create something that, like honey, lasts. Then go back to the hive (the internet), do the crazy bee “waggle dance,” and share what you’ve learned.

If you don’t have a blog yet, start one. I know. It’s a little intimidating at first. Creative people tend to be more introverted so this “social media thing” can push us out of our comfort zone. You may wonder if anyone will be interested in visiting the microscopic spec in cyberspace that is your blog. If you are like me, you may feel more like a bumble bee: poorly designed for flight. Sure, it may be a little difficult to get off the ground at first and you may wonder if your paper-thin wings can support your awkward body. You may fumble a bit, but remember:

“Aerodynamically, the bumble bee shouldn’t be able to fly, but the bumble bee doesn’t know it so it goes on flying anyway.” Mary Kay Ash

Defy physics and reason and soon you will be soaring high. Plus, I’ve learned that writers, by nature, are generous people. The followers will come.

Oh, and by the way, my name means “honey bee.” So, you see, I have been a very busy bee, indeed.

Against Idleness and Mischief

How doth the little busy Bee
Improve each shining Hour,
And gather Honey all the day
From every opening Flower!

How skillfully she builds her Cell!
How neat she spreads the Wax!
And labors hard to store it well
With the sweet Food she makes.

In Works of Labor or of Skill
I would be busy too:
For Satan finds some Mischief still
For idle Hands to do.

In Books, or Work, or healthful Play
Let my first Years be past,
That I may give for every Day
Some good Account at last.

Isaac Watts

From the Archives – Writers: What Was Your First Story?

 

To celebrate the one year anniversary of my blog (March 13th), I’m publishing select posts throughout the year under the title “From the Archives” for those who may have missed them the first time around. Next up…

 

Once upon a time

The first story I remember creating came after my first nightmare, or rather, the first nightmare I remember. I’m not even sure how old I was, maybe 4 or 5? I must’ve fallen asleep while one of my parents read Goldilocks and the Three Bears to me because my nightmare was a twisted version of that fairytale.

Illustration by David Merrell
Illustration by David Merrell

Mama Bear and Papa Bear had captured my parents. They were restrained outside the bears’ home with thorn bushes. I looked on from a secret hiding place in the woods as they lit a fire underneath a giant black cauldron. Flames licked at the sides and steam rose from the center of the cauldron as my parents struggled to break free. That is where my nightmare ended.

I woke up in a panic. To a young child their parent is everything and both of mine were about to be boiled like lobsters. I calmed down once I realized I’d been dreaming but something tugged at me. I suppose this was the moment my internal storyteller was born.

What offense had my parents committed to deserve such treatment? Had Mama Bear and Papa Bear suspected my parents of eating the porridge, breaking the furniture, and destroying the neatly made beds? Or worse, was it something I had done? Where was Baby Bear? Had I done something to upset him? Were my parents paying the price for failing to discipline a naughty child? How could I save them?

I couldn’t recall the events in my dream that led to my parents being selected as dinner. All I knew was that my parents were in danger. I had to rescue them. I had to finish the story and it had to be brief; after all, my parents were about to become the main course for two ravenous bears.

Somehow I knew Baby Bear was the key. I searched and found him wandering in the woods alone. He was lost and scared. I gave him a cherished toy for comfort. It was a little crocheted doll that my grandmother had made for me. He seemed to understand the value it held and hugged me. We arrived at his home just as my parents were being lowered toward the boiling water.

Mama Bear and Papa Bear were overjoyed to see Baby Bear. After learning I had rescued him they decided I wasn’t a naughty child after all and released my parents. Porridge was warmed over the fire instead of my parents and we all sat down for a scrumptious meal. Mama Bear and Papa Bear swapped stories with my parents and after a while Baby Bear rubbed his eyes and yawned. Seeing that he was tired, I walked him upstairs and tucked him in bed. He fell asleep with my cherished doll held tightly to his chest. I was the heroine of the story and everyone lived happily ever after.

I have created hundreds of stories in my mind over the years. I don’t know why this one has stayed with me while others have faded. Maybe it’s because it was my first story. Maybe the simplicity of it makes it easy to remember. Maybe it was the thought of losing my parents. Who knows? I’ve discarded so many stories over the years because they were “too this” or “too that.” Maybe it’s because this one, at the time, felt…just right.

Do you remember your first story? I’d love to hear it.

From the Archives: Are You in Your Right Brain?

To celebrate the one year anniversary of my blog, I’m publishing select posts throughout the year under the title “From the Archives” for those who may have missed them the first time around.

Here is the original post of Are You In Your Right Brain?

right-brain-left-brain-thinking-225x300I wanted to thank Kristen Lamb for the thought-provoking post How Being Tired Can Make You a Better Writer. I’m a new blogger and just started following her so I haven’t had a chance to read her other posts but based on this one, I’m certain they will be equally brilliant. She has also written two best sellers about social media: We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer. Since I’m a newbie I definitely have to check them out!

Now back to Kristen’s post. I especially enjoyed the discussion on the Conscious Mind vs. the Subconscious Mind. It reminded me of a college art class many years ago where we were learning how to draw using the right side of the brain.

As I recall the key was to focus on the negative space, the shapes surrounding the object you were drawing and not the object itself. The moment this shift in focus occurs, you are using your right brain and drawing seems to come naturally.

The right side of the brain processes information intuitively while the left brain processes it logically. People who are left-brain dominant are detail oriented and are generally good with numbers. Right-brain dominant people are good at visualizing and thus are more creative.

Sounds like the Conscious Mind vs. the Subconscious Mind in Kristen’s post doesn’t it? The left brain is the Conscious Mind, the side that wants to analyze everything and focus on the details. The right brain is the Subconscious Mind that doesn’t fret over the details. Who cares? Let’s just have fun, explore, and create.

I think we experience this when we write. Writer’s block feels a lot like our inability to shift from left brain thinking to right brain thinking.

Left Brain: “Wait, hold that thought. There’s a misspelled word.”

Right Brain: “You’re kidding me. Can we just forget about that for now? I’ve got something really good here.”

LB: “We can’t just leave it like that!”

RB: “Oh yes we can. Now move out-of-the-way before I lose this brilliant idea.”

LB: “Hold on. There…fixed it. Oh wait-”

RB: “What now? Will you please stop distracting me? I need to get this idea down before it’s gone!”

LB: “But, but-”

RB: “Not listening. La-la-la.”

LB: “Stop! There’s a dangling participle!”

RB: “Oh for heaven’s sake!”

LB: “Okay, we’re good to go. Now, what was your brilliant idea?”

RB: “I forgot.” {Sigh}

It’s frustrating, right? But when you do make the shift, when right brain (subconscious mind) finally tells left brain (conscious mind) to take a nap, well, that’s when the fun begins. I’m sure you can recall times when the words just flowed and when you finally stopped you couldn’t believe how much time had passed. It didn’t feel like hours, did it? That’s when you were in your right brain. Now if we could just make the switch on command that would be awesome. Imagine the novels we could complete!

I wonder if we could use the technique that I learned in art years ago to train our brain to shift focus?

Okay, I just googled it and here is what I found:

http://www.learn-to-draw-right.com/right-brain-left-brain.html

Follow the directions. If you really want to get the benefit of the exercise, don’t cheat. I did it and can actually recall the moment the two sides of the brain were warring with each other and when the switch occurred. Did you feel it? Let me know!

I also found this on that same web page and thought it was interesting enough to post here (with my edits in parentheses).

“However, by learning to access the right brain, you can learn ways to trick the left brain into leaving you alone quietly to get on with your drawing (writing) with your right brain – the side of the brain that really does know how to draw (write).”

I know I have right brain tendencies because I have always loved drawing, painting, and creating, but I do have a strong analytical side as well. I’m good with numbers. Hell, I made a career out of it. I wonder if I have a dominant side.

I just found a quiz for that:

http://painting.about.com/od/inspiration/a/quiz-rightbrain.htm

The quiz is designed for painters but writers are creative people too so just substitute “writing” for “painting” and answer it from a writer’s perspective. So how did you do? Are you dominant on one side? Let me know.

It turns out that my right brain is “quite dominant.” So this is why I was so miserable in my former career. I haven’t been in my “right” brain for years!

Book Review: We Are Not Alone by Kristin Lamb

We Are Not Alone by Kristin Lamb

Goodreads Description:

Forward written by NY Times Best-Selling Author and Co-Creator of Who Dares Wins Publishing Bob Mayer “I wished there had been a step-by-step guide for writers on how to not only do it technically, but do it content-wise. This book is the answer to that wish.” Social Media is more popular than ever. As society becomes more and more technologically advanced, people are seeking new ways to interact. Humans are social creatures. Relationships and community are vital to our survival and our mental and emotional health. Writers, published and unpublished, fiction and non-fiction are hearing words like platform and brand with increasing frequency as the publishing paradigm shifts into the 21st century. The world around us is changing faster than ever, and publishing is certainly not immune. There are more opportunities for a new author today than there has been in the entirety of human history. Yet, the flip side of that reality is, with thousands and thousands of authors with books and blogs, how can a writer ever hope to stand apart let alone succeed? This book will show you how. There are countless social media experts, but Kristen’s system is specifically designed to meet the unique needs of a writer. Take charge of your future today. You have great books to write, and don’t have time for rookie mistakes that can cost you years of rebuilding your name, brand, and platform. Kristen’s method is simple, effective, and helps you harness that same creativity you apply to your writing and harness it to build you social media platform. Best part is you don’t even have to be a computer expert or know anything about sales. This system is designed to change the writer’s approach, not the writer’s personality. And the best part is you have help. Remember, We Are Not Alone.

My Review:

I read this book shortly after I started blogging in March of this year. The most valuable advice that I gleaned from it was the importance of branding your own name. If you’re a writer, don’t use a moniker for your social media platforms. Readers will have difficulty finding your book if the author name is rarely mentioned. She also advised that authors avoid using the title of their book as their name/identifier in social media platforms unless they plan to write just that one book. And what if you change the title of your book before publishing? She recommends that you use your name or the name you will be writing under for all social media platforms.

This was eye opening for me. When I started my blog, I wasn’t sure what name to use. I remember coming across all these creative social media monikers, but I couldn’t come up with one that I thought I’d want to stick with permanently, so I just used my name. By sheer dumb luck, I did exactly as the author recommends. Well, it’s more than a recommendation. To her, it’s a must.

“…it is absolutely crucial for you to brand your name over and over and over and it is always associated with your content, that is like a non-stop commercial pitching your work every single day. This is why a moniker can absolutely KILL your platform.

When you use anything other than the name that will be printed across your book, you give up your most valuable marketing real estate…the top of mind.”

The book is a bit dated, but considering it covers the ever-changing world of social media and was published in 2010, that’s not surprising. Still, it contains useful information for those who are new to social media and with the author’s sense of humor mixed in, it’s a very enjoyable read.

4 out of 5 stars

Kristin has recently released an updated book titled Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World. It’s been getting rave reviews and is on my TBR list.

Blogger Quote of the Week: Christian Mihai

The Blogger Quote of the Week comes from the post Your Story by Christian Mihai and Holy cow, Holy Mackerel, Holy Moses, Holy…Whatever {insert your preferred exclamation of awe because it will apply}, his blog is fabulous. Every post is thought-provoking and inspiring. I adore the way he writes. I could select an excerpt from any of his posts to quote here. They are that good. If you haven’t been following his blog, then by all means, check it out now.

“The world outside your window becomes a shadow of a shadow, and people become ghosts, voices faint echoes.

For the first time, I knew what I had to do with a blank page, because the image had been engraved on my brain for so, so long. It felt like setting up a domino. I had done the hard work months and years in advance, and in a quick succession, it was all there… on the page.”

Quote of the Week: Neil Gaiman

“I had become someone who professionally replied to e-mail and who wrote as a hobby. I started to answer fewer e-mails and was relieved to find I was writing much more.” ~ Neil Gaiman

Photo credit: wikipedia
Photo credit: wikipedia

This quote is an excerpt from a commencement speech Neil Gaiman gave at The University of the Arts in 2012. I wrote about it in the post Listen to Your Inner Voice in June. If you haven’t heard it and you’re a creative type, then you should.

The words really struck a chord with me as I was trying to find some balance between blogging and writing, so I wrote it down on a slip of paper. I had intended to display it conspicuously so I wouldn’t fall into the same trap. Writing was to remain the primary focus of my day, but the slip of paper got tucked away, and the warning slipped my mind. I fell victim to the trap. The urgent call of e-mails screaming, “Open! Read me! Now!” became the primary focus of my day. Writing took a back seat to everything else.

I just came across the slip of paper, and although I’ve already rectified the situation, it is now prominently displayed on my desk. Answering e-mails won’t make me a writer, only writing can do that.