Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Questions You Always Wanted to Ask . . . And Did

See those eyes flashing in the dim light over in the corner? Don't worry. It's not a mutant killer spider or a crouching zombie waiting to take a bite of your brains. It's just me.

I'm a lurker.

Yep. One of those. I'm on lots of Facebook groups, but I don't usually participate. Why? Well, besides the fact that it's hard to explain why my persona is an adolescent boy named Jayshua, I'm really content to read what others have to say without adding my two cents. Except for last week over at Avid Readers of Christian Fiction. Someone asked the question:

"You can ask your favorite author any one question: what would you ask?"

So I did it. I **gasp** commented. I said I'd answer all the posted questions over at my blog, and just in case you didn't realize what you're reading, this is my blog. Here are the questions from that post that I figured I'd give a whirl answering. . .

Why do pets make the best readership appeaser in between books? Almost every author I follow on FB has a pet they reference in their daily posts.

Would you rather hear about my laundry pile or my elderly mother's daily battle with constipation?

Where do you get your inspiration from?

Eavesdropping. Wasting time on Pinterest. The burning desire to make more money for another trip to England.

Do you start with the beginning? Or where?

I start with a feeling. Emotion. The soul of a character. Goals, motivations, conflicts. Who are my players and what are they like? Then I figure out my beginning, end and climax, with a few inciting incidents leading toward that climax. Once those items are ticked off my checklist, I start at chapter 1, scene 1 and plod along until I hit somewhere around 90k words.

Can we sit down for coffee and a chat???

Sure, I sit for coffee. Shoot, I'll even roll over and play dead for dark chocolate.

How did you get started writing?

I ran away from home one night a week to escape from the insanity of four children. Yes, they were mine and I might be slightly to blame for their sometimes bizarre behavior, but honestly, I'd rather blame my husband for that.

What's your favorite book and why?

I'd say the Bible, but the Bible and Jesus is always the easy answer. So I'm going with Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Jane is a passionate, strong woman who knows herself and is willing to sacrifice the good for what is best.

Who is YOUR favorite author, why, and what would you like to ask him/her?

Sweet pickled pineapples, Batman! How can anyone answer that? A single, favorite author? Gah! Can't be done. Well, maybe by genre. Yeah. That's how I'll get out of this one. And guess what? I'll answer this one tomorrow in a post of its own.

Why do you make your readers wait so long for new books and tease us relentlessly with progress and snippets of the books progress?

There's this tiny little thing called life that sometimes gets in the way of our writing schedules. Yeah, I know. I hate it when that happens too. Writing takes time. A truckload of time. Thinking, scheming, plotting, capturing, rearranging, and research kind of time. Extracting what's in our head so that it doesn't look like a pile of dissected grey matter splattered on a page but instead is a heart-warming, soul-wrenching piece of magical fiction that lives on in a reader's memory for years to come takes a FAT LOT OF TIME, people. 

The teasing part is just a bonus to satisfy the sick and twisted half of our creative mind.

Why do you write?

Because being a pirate is frowned upon and I'd make a crappy life insurance salesman.

There you have it. Got any more questions? I'm just getting warmed up. Bring it on in the comment section.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Dealing With Doubt

A lot of writers struggle with low self-image because of taking so many rejections on the chin, getting kidney-punched with one-star reviews, low sales numbers, yada yada. But even more humbling is receiving a review like this:

"Finishing this book was like having to say goodbye to a loved one for an indeterminate length of time! I had never heard of Michelle Griep before finding this treasure of a book free on Amazon and now I have added another author to my top 5 (she jumped into 2nd place, bumping a few other authors down a notch or two!) There are simply no words to describe this book! You know that feeling you get when you eat something so delicious that you just have to close your eyes and savour every bite, making the meal last as long as possible? That's what this book does to its readers! The description in it and the turn of phrase is beyond exquisite! Sentences such as "...yet the darkness deepened more. Black crawled in and made a home behind his eyeballs." "...he used up every profanity he owned, then borrowed a few he'd heard down at the wharves;" and "Whispers passed around the sanctuary like an unholy wind" compete to make this reading experience one of the best you've ever had! The characters were well rounded and described uniquely (I'll never forget the hedgehog policeman!) and the story was incredible! It was clearly very well researched and historically accurate. My only complaint (apart from the fact that it didn't last forever!) is that it ended on a bit of a cliffhanger and there doesn't appear to be a sequel - at least not yet. I'm hoping and praying that will change in the near future! If you want a compelling read pick up this book - you won't be sorry! 5 stars are not enough for it - even 20 would be too few!"

Wow. Really? Me--little ol' me--impacted someone enough for them to take the time to write down all those sweet and wonderful words? Amazing.

Yes, of course I basked in the glory of good feelings for a few minutes after reading this, but then my companion self-doubt put his arm around my shoulders and squeezed with this question:

How do I ever live up to that standard in the future?

Writers really are that messed up. I suppose that's what comes of baring one's soul to the world. So I did a little research and found out the

1. Stop making excuses.
Just because someone loves or hates your work, don't use that as an excuse to quit producing. Painters paint. Writers write. Bankers, umm, bank. Just do what you do no matter what.

2. Don't ask for validation.
Seeking outside counsel on a piece of work, a particular project, or even an issue that you're dealing with can be helpful if you take what you hear with a grain of salt. If you seek for validation from anywhere else but from God, you're going to be disappointed.

3. Shut up and put up.
Don't just talk about what you're going to do because your brain mistakes the talking for the doing, and then when you don't see any real progress, you feel even worse.

4. Choose your companions wisely.
Who you hang around with affects you as a person. Rubbing elbows with upbeat, positive buddies can and will keep you from sliding into a downer of a mood.

5. Self-compassion is key.
When you fail at something important, do you keep things in perspective, or do feelings of inadequacy consume you? If so, cut yourself some slack. Extend yourself grace. No one is perfect. Ever.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!

Okay, so not really a poultry feast. More like the winners of a new journal, some Pilot G3 pens, and an advance copy of Writer Off the Leash: Growing in the Craft of Writing. Who are the lucky ducks? Dang. There I go with the whole poultry thing again.

Winners: email me with your snail mail addie (michellegriep@gmail dot com)...and congrats!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Bookaholics Anonymous

Writers are readers. You can’t separate the two. Words are an addiction. Here’s what I’m currently mainlining . . .

By Sarah E. Ladd

Cecily Faire carries the shame of her past wherever she treads, knowing one slip of the tongue could expose her disgrace. But soon after becoming a lady’s companion at Willowgrove Hall, Cecily finds herself face-to-face with a man well-acquainted with the past she’s desperately hidden for years.

Nathaniel Stanton has a secret of his own—one that has haunted him for years and tied him to his father’s position as steward of Willowgrove Hall. To protect his family, Nathaniel dares not breathe a word of the truth. But as long as the shadow looms over him, he’ll never be free to find his own way in the world. He’ll never be free to fall in love.

When the secrets swirling within Willowgrove Hall come to light, Cecily and Nathaniel must confront a painful choice: Will they continue running from the past . . . or will they stand together and fight for a future without the suffocating weight of secrets long kept?

By Jessica Dotta

London is said to be the glittering jewel of society, a world unto itself—but to Julia Elliston it is a city of shadows. Her life is swiftly dissolving into scandal. And in Victorian society, even a whisper of scandal—substantiated or not—can be the death of a young woman’s reputation.

Now under the watchful eye of Lord Roy Pierson, one of most influential men in England, Julia begrudgingly accepts his protection. But Chance Macy’s power is far-reaching as well, and he is eager to assert his claim over her.

Thrust into society as the Emerald Heiress, Julia is the toast of London, a celebrated curiosity. But in reality she’s trapped between the clutches of two powerful men. Aided only by a gentleman whose intentions she prays she can trust, Julia must finally take control of her own fate—but outwitting one’s foe rarely goes according to plan.

By Jane Kirkpatrick

Letitia holds nothing more dear than the papers that prove she is no longer a slave. They may not cause white folks to treat her like a human being, but at least they show she is free. She trusts in those words she cannot read--as she is beginning to trust in Davey Carson, an Irish immigrant cattleman who wants her to come west with him.

Nancy Hawkins is loathe to leave her settled life for the treacherous journey by wagon train, but she is so deeply in love with her husband that she knows she will follow him anywhere--even when the trek exacts a terrible cost.

Betsy is a Kalapuya Indian, the last remnant of a once proud tribe in the Willamette Valley in Oregon territory. She spends her time trying to impart the wisdom and ways of her people to her grandson. But she will soon have another person to care for.

As season turns to season, suspicion turns to friendship, and fear turns to courage, three spirited women will discover what it means to be truly free in a land that makes promises it cannot fulfill. This multilayered story from bestselling author Jane Kirkpatrick will grip readers' hearts and minds as they travel with Letitia on the dusty and dangerous Oregon trail into the boundless American West.

Now it's your turn. Here's TODAY’S BLOGAVERSARY QUESTION:

What are you currently reading? Give that book title a shout out on Facebook , Twitter, shoot…you can even take a picture of the cover and post it on Instagram if you really want to go all out. Wherever you post, make sure to add a #writerofftheleash at the end and let me know where you posted in the comment section.

Remember, tomorrow’s the big drawing day so rack up as many entries as possible.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

More Dog and Pony Shows

Newsflash: Writer Off the Leash isn't the only writing related website in the universe. In fact, I write for two other very fine sites . . .

Novel Rocket

For several years standing, this site has been voted into Writer's Digest Top 100 Sites for Writers. Yeah. Its just that good. Ranging from market news to interviews to how-to articles, Novel Rocket is a go-to place for great advice.

Wordserve Watercooler

Here's what this site says about itself: "We are a group of authors. We write fiction and nonfiction. We write books about self-care and marriage. We write memoirs about Biblical womanhood and backpacking through Africa. We write lighthearted romance and supernatural suspense. We write for the CBA and the ABA. We are traditionally published and self-published." 

And here's a freebie for you. Though I don't write for this site, it's worth the hop, skip and jump to get to . . .

This group blog offers support, encouragement and information for the writing journey, all at no cost and no fees.

Now then, it's your turn. TODAY'S BLOGAVERSARY QUESTION:

What's one of your favorite blogs? Something with a literary flavor to it. Share a link to a blog you love on Facebook or Twitter or wherever, add a #writerofftheleash, and bam! You'll be entered into the grand prize drawing on Friday for each time you share. Just let me know in the comments.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Hamsters Are People Too

Some people learn visually. Others are auditory learners. Then there are the hamsters among us who bounce from wall to wall in order to imprint something on their brain.

I am a hamster.

Sitting still just isn't an option. Even now while I'm typing, my foot is swinging back and forth. When I read a book, I'm usually on a treadmill or elliptical at the gym.

Learning isn't a static kind of thing. What works for one person doesn't necessarily work for another. Different tactics can accomplish the same thing depending on what type of a learner you are. And if you're unsure, here's a quick 20 question quiz to find out at Education Planner. You won't find hamster on the list because it's a titch more scientificky, but you ought to be able to pinpoint the way you learn best.


What's one thing you've learned about here at Writer Off the Leash? A plotting tip? Characterization? How to look like an idiot in front of a camera? Share on Twitter, Facebook or the social media of your choice one little tidbit you've gleaned from this blog, and I'll toss your name into the big drawing on Friday. Make sure to let me know where you shared in the comments.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Blogaversary Blowout

A lot can happen in three years. Multiple root canals. A toenail fungus that just won't quit. Entering into witness protection and taking on a whole new identity so Guido won't fit you with cement overshoes. But don't worry. This week we'll be celebrating something not only as monumental, but a heap more zany fun.
It's the:

Woo-hoo! Cue the canned applause! The crazy midget car with twenty-five clowns piling out! Blow the Bleekerhorns and Bingzingers!

It. Is. Party. Time.

Yes, indeedy . . . it's been three full years of non-stop writing advice with a bit of quirk thrown into the mix. And what better way to celebrate than with a contest? Here's the deal . . .

Each day this week I'll ask you a question. All you have to do is answer it on Facebook or Twitter, and make sure to use the hashtag #writerofftheleash. Each time you answer/share, I'll toss your name into a hat. Okay, so not really a hat. Probably more like an old piece of Tupperware.

Anyway, the more you enter, the more your chances will be of winning. What will you win? Shhh. Listen. There's a drum roll gaining in strength and...wait for it...yep. A huge cymbal crash. The grand prize is:
An advance copy of the upcoming February release of 
Writer Off the Leash: Growing in the Writing Craft.

Second prize is a pack of G2 pens and third prize is a cute little journal for you to write your own inspiring prose.

Here is today's question:

What's one of your favorite Writer Off the Leash posts? Simply put a link to that post (you can look in the blog archive on the righthand sidebar to find one, or use the search function at the top of the right sidebar) on Facebook or Twitter and make sure to add: #writerofftheleash. Each time you share, I'll put one more entry in for you. Just let me know in the comment section where you shared.

And check back every day this week for a new question. I'll be drawing the lucky winners on my Fun Friday vlog.

Let the Blogaversary Blowout begin!