Thursday, October 31, 2013

Tidbit: Creepy

It's Halloween. Did you notice? Fern & Zula didn't, the two old lady heroines in my current work OUT OF THE FRYING PAN. Their life is frightening enough with the mutt Zula dragged home. Read a short excerpt and then vote on which dog you thing ought to be the winning picture of Fifi the wonder dog.

We now have a dog Zula insists is “adorable.” Not a puppy, mind you, but a decrepit rat terrier who has to be lifted in order for it to fulfill its purpose in life — sitting on laps and yapping. Though other body parts fail, its barker is in perfect working order.

Fifi moved in three days ago when poor Randolph Johnson checked into Shady Rest. . . the nursing home, not to be confused with the cemetery of that same name three miles further south.

Zula walks the silly thing around the block with great drama but has to stop every few feet to let the rodent-on-a-leash catch its breath. It’s the most ridiculous sight here at Sunset Paradise. She’s sewn several doggy garments for their outings — which would look a lot less ridiculous without the bedazzling, but at least they hide the bald patches.


Okay, voters, here's your chance. Which photo do you think represents the best Fifi?

or...

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

To Believe or Not Believe - That is the Question

I don’t believe in Mack trucks. Only wimps who need a crutch to get through life think they exist. Stupid people. When will they ever learn to think for themselves?

But if I stand in the middle of a freeway, those same beliefs won’t stop a Mack Truck from mowing me down. Why? Because…

That which is real has being in itself.
It does not depend upon the observer for its validity.

Whether you agree or disagree, this concept makes for some great debate…and just might change your life in the conversation. It’s also a theme that runs throughout A Heart Deceived, a gothic story of faith and ultimately hope.

Intellectually, heroine Miri Brayden knows about God, but that knowledge doesn’t fill the emptiness inside her. Concluding that God exists doesn’t bring her any personal pleasure. It’s no different than deciding sea-faring vessels exist—though she’d never seen one. Faith in a ship meant nothing. However, if she had an urgent need to travel to another continent, a ship was the way to go. She had to decide to act on what she believed to be real, and not only seek out that ship, but get on board and test that belief.

After a series of events, Miri makes the decision to talk to God on an intimate level. It finally makes sense that if she’s going to believe in God, it’s an all or nothing game. If God is real, He has every right to influence and direct her life—and that humble stance makes all the difference in her life.

Hero Ethan Goodwin is a control freak. After growing up under the influence of an overbearing and unloving father, he now lives life on his own terms. Unfortunately, those terms lead to an opium addiction that’s nearly the death of him.

In a chance encounter with the Reverend John Newton, Ethan admits that he doesn’t believe in God—and finds out that just because he believes something isn’t true does not mean it doesn’t exist. The idea is new to him, that whether or not he knows God, God knows all about him. It is a sobering thought, especially in light of his debauched lifestyle.

A Heart Deceived is a piece of historical fiction, but there’s nothing fictional about the character John Newton. He was a living, breathing, sinner saved by grace. Some of his dialogue in the book uses direct quotes. This one is not:

Your belief—or lack of it—doesn’t change God’s existence.

However, after researching the man, I have no doubt he would’ve said it. Newton came to the Christian faith after leading a rebellious lifestyle, which made for one tender-hearted pastor who told it like it was, direct yet compassionate. He wasn’t afraid to speak truth, but he did so in a way that made you think.

And that’s the purpose of A Heart Deceived. To rattle your cage and make you dig deep into the truths that you hold. Believing in the existence of God is one thing. Putting your life in His hands and trusting Him is quite another. 

It’s called faith.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Learning From Zombies

What makes zombies so attractive? It's certainly not their good looks. There's no denying, however, that many are fascinated by the living dead, especially at this time of year. I'm not a zombie fan-o-maniac--celebrating death and evil isn't my idea of a good time--but let's not throw those little flesh eating babies out with the bathwater.

5 Writerly Takeaways From Zombies

1. Give your characters dogged purpose.
Zombies know what they want and they go after it. And after it. And after it. Oh, there's a house with 5 humans locked in a cellar that's barricaded by steel bars and booby-trapped with a half-ton of C4? No problem for a zombie. He won't be stopped no matter what insurmountable odds are thrown against him. And that, my friends, is exactly how you should craft your characters.

2. Provide an opportunity for real change.
Much has been said about the zombie craze being connected with societal dissatisfaction, namely in governmental matters (here's an example). Unrest always comes before an upheaval, which results in changing the status quo. Do that in your plot and your characters. By the end of your story, there should be some kind of cataclysmic change in your protagonist and his world.

3. Kill your darlings.
Zombies are ruthless. So is the publishing biz. To survive, you must whip your manuscript into shape before you submit it anywhere. Every writer gets a little too flowery with their descriptions or metaphors or over-reaching literary prose. Edit those things out. Search and destroy. Then give your manuscript to a critique buddy and ask them to go after your darling little cutesy bits and delete those as well.

4. The underdog must be the champion.
Want to write a memorable novel, the kind a reader keeps on the shelf? You've got to have an underdog who beats the odds. Everyone loves the nerd boy to finally win (as long as he's been transformed into not being quite such a nerd...refer back to point 2). Zombies only look like they're the big winners until an unlikely band of scraggly humans join together to stomp on 'em. It's those humans we ultimately cheer for. Mimic that in your story and you'll have a winner.

5. They might be dead, but they're still pretty much human.
Even though zombies have parts of their faces falling off or are maybe missing a hand or a limb, they still retain their human form, albeit raggedy. That's exactly how you should craft your villain. No matter how cruel your antagonist is, give him some human qualities.

Whether you're on board with the current zombie craze or not, these tips just might endear the current crop of undead lovers to your story.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Creepalicious Reads

The tree outside my bedroom window creaks like an arthritic limb, which I love. It's an audible dare to my imagination, conjuring up all kinds of possible scenes to create, especially in the fall. Dark days. Skeleton trees. The rush of a cold breeze up my spine. Even though I don't celebrate Halloween, I can't help but notice that everyone around me does. It seems like a fitting time to share some of my favorite creepy books.


5 Haunting Reads

The Solitary Tales by Travis Thrasher
This series is set in the woods of North Carolina, where past and present secrets collide into one big scary place. As soon as teenager Chris Buckley and his recently divorced mom move there, they're swept into all the strange happenings. If bumps in the night are your thing, this is the best autumn read for you that ends with light crushing darkness.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Forget all the cheesy movies you've seen and don't even think about those stupid plastic green face masks lining the shelves at WalMart. If you've never read the classic, you are missing out, my friend. Frankenstein is more than just a monster. It's a theological debate on creation set in story format, raising questions in the reader's mind about our Creator.

Homemade Haunting by Rob Stennett
Funny. Snarky. This book is an interesting mix of what ifs and dude-don't-open-that-door. It's a light-hearted read that explores all the things good Christians know they shouldn't do.

A Heart Deceived by Michelle Griep
You didn't think I'd let an opportunity like this slip by, did you? While you won't find any monsters in this one, it's frightening nonetheless. A mostly empty rectory. Rumors of a missing vicar. Inmates with no faces inhabiting an insane asylum. Deception is a vile evil.

The Boneman's Daughters by Ted Dekker
I'm admittedly not a Dekkerite, but this story is haunting enough to meet my criteria for this list. It's about a serial killer who breaks the victim's bones one at a time. Ouch. Sick. Yep...creepy.

If romping around in a costume begging for candy isn't your thing, grab one of these books and settle in for an evening of reading instead.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Still On the Hunt

Slap on your safari gear because we are about to embark on yet another search for the ever elusive perfect library...


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Tidbit: Motivation

Last week I ran away to Iowa and conferred with my partner in crime, Kelly Klepfer, on the mystery we're writing. Our goal is to finish by the end of November. Can we do it, folks? Time will tell!

So today's Tidbit focus is on creating a detective. Our hero is Detective Jared Flynn. Want to vote on which picture we should use as his model?

Choice #1?

Or Choice #2?

Make your selection in the comment section.

Now then, looks aside, the most key element in a detective is what makes him tick. What is his motivation to solve the crime? Why should he go after your killer instead of kicking back with a take-out pizza and Netflix? Something needs to make your detective decide to risk his life to capture a murderer.

Whatever it is should be a combo of past and present. An event in your hero's life caused him to choose to become a detective. Mix that in with the events that are currently going on in his life to trigger him into action. If you fail to do this, you won't have a believable character, savvy?

Motivation is a must have. Nail it down before you even begin writing a story and you'll save yourself a lot of grief later.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Whine Fest

You wouldn't think it would take a neurosurgeon (rocket scientists are over-rated) to print out a silly little wine label, would you? I've got a network administrator, a salon receptionist, an audio producer, a tea barista and a sales associate in my household. Not a dang surgeon in the bunch. Hence my dilemma of last night.

My second eldest son and I decided way back in April to revisit our Viking roots...as in barbarians wielding battle axes. Oh? You like those fellas? You should read UNDERCURRENT (sorry, couldn't resist).

Anyhoo--don't panic, this story doesn't involve any sharp weapons or blood--we thought we'd try to make a batch of mead. Mead is a honey wine, dating back to forever ago. It wasn't that hard to make, patience being the costliest ingredient. If you're interested in brewing your own, check out the Joy of Mead.

Back to story... Last night we were finally ready to bottle our beverage so that at Christmas when we entertain, we can whip out a bottle and everyone can ooh and aah. Nah. Who a I kidding? We'll probably just slug back a glass with din din, company or not.

Dang it. Off track again. Back to story... We've been saving bottles all year long, but the thing is that these bottles are naked. I stripped off the old labels and thought it would be super cute to design our own. Seems like innocent enough fun, right?

Wrong.

Who'd have thought finding an easy-to-use label template would make me want to stab myself a hundred thousand times with a sharp, pointy object? Seriously. It took me an hour and a half to finally get to a website that gave clear enough instructions and offered a template that would work. Grrr!

Hang with me here...it's about to get writing related. There ought to be a list on the internet that gives step by step instructions and a free downloadable label that can be easily understood and preferably written in English. And you know what? I just might do that and get paid for writing it. Is there something you could write in list format? Have I found site for you!

ListVerse will pay you $100 for a list. You don't need to be an expert--you just need to write English, have a sense of humor, and a love of unusual or interesting niche things (like, let's say, wine labels).

Here's how it works...you write your list (usually 1k words with a minimum of 10 items) and send it in. If they like it, they'll accept it and deposit $100 into your PayPal account. If not, you'll get a rejection and curl into the fetal position. But if it is accepted, they garner over 15 million views per month. Now that's an audience!

Even if you don't feel like writing a list, you can still pop over there to read some of the other lists. It is highly entertaining. Here's a link.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Eeyore Syndrome

"Poor writerly me. My writing is the suckiest in Sucksville with an order of sucky sauce on the side. The only place you can find my writing is if you pop over to Wikipedia and look up Steaming Pile of Literary Manure. 

I'm. No. Good."

This, my friends, is the most common malady of the species known as writernarium insecuricus. If you're feeling any measure of hopelessness or lack of self-worth about your writing capabilities, I applaud you with a loud clappy-clappiness because you, little buddy, are indeed a writer!

Dealing with doubt is the monkey on every writer's back. Why? Because...
  • the act of writing spills your soul onto the page making you vulnerable
  • there's aways a "better" writer out there that you aspire to but can never quite attain their level of writing because YOU'RE NOT THEM
  • what's in our brain never looks the same when forced into little black squiggly letters on a page

Writing is risky. It dredges up insecurities, accumulating them faster than the national debt clock. This is no excuse, however, to walk around as a living, breathing Eeyore. Face those doubts head on, wrestle them to the mat, then stand and howl a warrior's cry. Yeah, you might get some funny looks, but here's the deal...

The only way to improve your writing is by writing. Yes, profundity abounds here at Writer Off the Leash.

So punch Eeyore in the head and quit playing your mind games. Get out there and write, team!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Duck Dynasty Writing Tips

I finally got around to watching some of the first season of Duck Dynasty. Yeah. I hear ya... Dude, Duck Dynasty's in it's fourth season already! So I'm a late bloomer. Don't judge me.

Anyhoo, it is freaking funny and endearing in a quirky sort of redneck way. And in case you're wondering, Uncle Si is my favorite.

Now that we've got that out of the way, let's dissect it. Why is this show such a hit? What qualities can a writer mimic that will attract readers to their story?

3 Writerly Tricks From Duck Dynasty

1. Construct real deal characters.
The members of the Robertson clan are wholly unpretentious, doing and saying things we all do and say, whether we admit to it or not. They are relatable, personable, and unpredictable...which is the best model for fictional characters. Fashion your characters into "people" that your readers will wish were real. Make them into folks that readers want to spend time with.

How is that accomplished? Hero, villain, or secondary nobody, each character needs to have some kind of endearing quality. Examples? Give your bad guy a puppy. Your hero a shyness around old ladies. Toss in a bartender who loves to give hugs. Get the idea?

2. Give 'em that old time religion.
One of my favorite scenes in the show is at the end, when the Robertsons sit around the table and pray before they eat. Despite their beards and antics, it's their traditional values that intrigues viewers, believers or not. People, especially in today's whacked out culture, are curious about what lived-out faith looks like. Unfortunately, this is somewhat of a novelty, but it's also inspiring and attractive.

Work Biblical truths deep into your stories. Don't just slap in a preacher who stands on the corner and blasts the Gospel. Some readers will like that but most will just be annoyed. Spread it out. Maybe your heroine is committed to never lying, or there's a trash collector who lives next to the hero that faithfully cares for his aging father. There's 2 commandments right there without blatantly denting anyone's skull with a Bible.

3. Yuk it up there, happy pants.
Duck Dynasty is a light-hearted show. The Robertsons love to laugh, especially at themselves. Case in point:

Humor MUST be a part of your story or newspaper article or even something as trivial as a letter to Aunt Matilda. No matter what you're writing, include something that will make a reader smile.

The best way to breach an intense topic is by humor because confrontational or uncomfortable subjects are unbearable without it. It's the mixture of tension with whimsy that makes a full-bodied memorable read.

Though I've only watched a few episodes of Duck Dynasty, I'm hooked...and that, my writerly friends, is exactly the feeling you want to recreate in your readers.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Obama's Young Adult Novel Plan

I've run away with my oldest daughter for a girlie weekend in Iowa. Don't panic, though. In my absence, I'm leaving you with nothing but the best...


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Taking the Mystery out of Mystery Writing

It’s Thursday. Excited? Most people aren’t. Thursday is a meh leftover of Wednesday, bland as cold mashed potatoes without any salt...and I’m talkin’ the instant kind with lumpy bits of dried flakes. Cough, yak, gross.

That’s right. Nothing even remotely exciting ever happens on Thursday. 

Until now! Introducing (cue a cymbal crash loud enough to make you cringe and/or want to punch said crasher in the head)…


A tidbit is a tasty little nibble. Think Kibbles-n-Bits but for humans. Every Thursday, I’ll toss a dainty little morsel your way that’s related to whatever I happen to be working on at the time.

For example, if A Heart Deceived was my current work-in-progress, I might share what an Airloom is (a mechanical contraption designed to insert thoughts into one’s brain…as believed by one of the lunatics in eighteenth century Bedlam).

Presently, though, I’m working on a contemporary mystery, so today’s tidbit is about the elements needed for the making of a good page-turner.


1. A Quirky Detective
While every mystery involves some kind of crime, it’s not the fictional corpses that tether your reader to the story. It’s the detective. Readers want to help solve the crime, so you’d better give them somebody that’s interesting to hang out with. I’ve actually got 2 detectives in my latest WIP. Fern & Zula are retired sisters-in-law that have a love/hate relationship and are freaking hilarious in their interactions.

2. Clues as Prolific as Our National Debt
Don’t worry. I’m not going all debt ceiling kamikaze on you, though with the current state of affairs in Washington…Nah. I promised Thursday would be fun. Now then, there are 3 kinds of clues that need to be included in a good mystery.
  • Genuine Clues help the detective by pointing to the killer.
  • Fake Clues (red herrings) point to anyone else except for the killer.
  • Pivotal Clues are those on which the solution depends. Think of these as the final pieces of the puzzle that solve the crime.

3. The Big Reveal
A mystery must culminate in a killer of a scene that exposes who the criminal is and his motivation, forcing your reader to shout, “I knew it! I just knew it! Dang. I’m good.” It’s a feel good moment in which all the loose ends are tied up into neat little bows. However, this must be done with finesse and excitement or your reader will not shout but instead mumble, “I knew it! Dang. This book is a piece of dried bird droppings.”

So there’s your Thursday Tidbit. Whatcha think? Good addition to Writer Off the Leash? Keep or scrap? 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Writers Are a Quirky Lot

Virginia Woolf wrote her books while standing up.

Edgar Allan Poe habitually wore black.

Emily Dickinson and Mark Twain habitually wore white.

Charles Dickens walked nearly 20 miles a day.

Stephen King writes in the same seat at home and arranges his manuscript and notes in neat piles.

Writers are notoriously eccentric. It’s simply part of the job description. I’m not a famous author by any stretch of the imagination, but I do have a few of my own quirks. See if you can relate to any of these…

I’m a creeper.
I love crowds. The more people in one place, the better. Why? Because I’m the one eavesdropping on the conversation next to me. And it’s not just my ears that get a workout. I people watch too, mentally taking notes about interesting body language and unique individuals.

I’m a zombie.
Usually I’m a very good listener. Key word: usually. Sometimes, however, if a person is talking and they use a unique phrase or bring up a topic that makes me go “hmmm”, whammo! My brain sprints to left field, and while I’m still there in person giving off the appearance I’m listening intently, Michelle has left the building and is working out a kink in plot or character in her mind.

I’m not a homebody.
I cannot write at home. Impossible. There’s laundry. Dishes. The dog needs to go potty. My kid needs a ride to Timbuktoo. Whatever. The most prolific place for me to go is a library, though I usually end up at Starbucks.

These twanging any kindred spirit heartstrings out there, or am I the only freak? Come on. Don't leave me dangling. What quirk are you hiding up your sleeve?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Wingding Takeaway Value

I woke up this morning with a lampshade on my head, wondering why my tongue was fuzzy, and what is all that sticky goo on the floor? Yeah. The party is definitely over here at Writer Off the Leash.

But that doesn't mean the fun is! I received a lot of great reader ideas during the event. I've already incorporated one upgrade. Check out the blog roll on the right side of the page. You'll see a new addition. Redemption Draws Near is a blog written with a piratey flair and includes a lot of fun giveaways, so check it out.

Another new addition you'll discover on Thursday, thanks to reader Lis. Stay tuned for that on...uh...Thursday.

And as long as I'm talking about upcoming events, there's only 2 1/2 weeks left until NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month). On November 1, thousands of wannabe authors begin working towards the goal of writing a 50k word novel by November 30th. Any takers out there? I'll be in the sweaty pack of writerly animals straining toward the finish line. I'm not going for the full 50k, though. I just want to finish a manuscript that I'm half-way through. More on that on...uh...Thursday.

During the Blogaversary, I discovered a tool that might come in handy for pretty much anyone out there in cyberland that has a website or a blog. It's called Click to Tweet. All you do is insert the text you'd like made into a tweet, and it generates a URL for you to use. Handy and dandy!

The other tool I had a heap o' fun with was the meme generator. Want to make your own grumpy cat or Willie Wonka snarky posters? Imgflip is the place to go, even if you just want to play around. It's super easy to use and has quite a selection to choose from.

So thanks again, gang, for participating in the Wingding. Until next year and...uh...Thursday.

Monday, October 14, 2013

And the Winners Are...

This is it! The culmination of the Blogaversary Wingding. I don't know about you, but I've got palpitations and sweaty palms. Drum roll, please...


Thanks so much for playing, everyone! It's been great to have so much interaction. Keep up the good work!

Contact me, winners and choose a gift from this list:

1. A signed copy of A HEART DECEIVED --or-- UNDERCURRENT --or-- GALLIMORE

2. A box of English Breakfast tea, a jar of orange marmalade, my personal favorite scone recipe (maple nut) handwritten on a cutesy recipe card (sure to be a collectors item someday) and 7 handcrafted book club invitation cards to host your own A Heart Deceived book club in your home

3. A critique by moi for the first 3 chapters of your WIP

4. An all-expense paid trip to Starbucks...as long as you don't spend over $5 because that's how much the gift card is for

5. I'll name a character after you in my next novel and/or you can choose a name and I'll use it

Friday, October 11, 2013

Blogaversary Wingding Day 5

Don't miss out...today's your last chance to enter! Watch the vlog, answer the questions in the comment section, and I'll draw the winners on Monday.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Blogaversary Wingding Day 4

All right partygoers. You know the routine. Answer the questions and you'll get your name entered for the fantastic prize of your choice listed in this post. Ready for today's questions? Slap a lampshade on your head and let's party!

What's one of your most favorite books you've ever read?

What's one of your least favorite books?


The Bible is a given, so we'll assume that's in first place and just write down your second.

As for me, everyone already knows Jane Eyre is my top pick, so I suppose I'll have to branch out a bit. Wow. This is harder than I thought.

I'm going to stretch really far, hoping to avoid a pinging sound in my lower back muscles, and yank a book from the annals of time. Okay, so it's not that old, late seventies, but The King's Brat by Constance Gluyas was one of the first historical romances that really, truly floored me. It put me front and center in the court of Charles II, totally consuming me with the rags to riches story of Angel Dawson.

One of my least favorite (and I see that rotten tomato you're waiting to lob so put it down) is The Great Gatsby. Stop groaning. Yes, I can choose a classic. Gatsby was just depressing no matter how great Fitzgerald writes. End of story.

Okay, your turn. Good luck. It's harder than it looks. And don't forget to challenge someone else to give it a whirl. Here's a Tweetable:

We're talking favorite and least favorite books over at http://writerofftheleash.blogspot.com/ Leave a comment to win a prize! #giveaway

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Blogaversary Wingding Day 3

It's kind of a bummer that this whole blogaversary celebration happens but once a year because I'm loving all the interaction! So let's keep it rolling with another question for today:

What's one thing you like about bookstores?

What's one thing you don't like about bookstores?


For clarity's sake, I'm talking brick and mortar bookstores, either big box or independent.

One thing I like is roaming the shelves, skimming from one section to another. It's kind of like sampling all the flavors at an ice cream shop but without all the calories. Anyone else besides me start in the discount area?

One thing I don't like about bookstores is sales tax. It's often cheaper for me to scoop up a deal at Amazon than to have to fork over extra cash for Uncle Sam. Yeah, I know. I probably just set off lots of bells and whistles with the NSA over that little comment.

Thanks for playing! Answer today's question in the comment section and don't forget to stop back tomorrow. Plus, here's a Tweetable to share the fun:

What's your favorite thing about bookstores? Least favorite? Share and win at http://writerofftheleash.blogspot.com/ #giveaway

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Blogaversary Wingding Day 2

Wowzer! Y'all know how to par-tay. So let's give it another go, shall we?

Here's today's question:

What's one thing you like about historical fiction?

What's one thing you don't like about historical fiction?

Answer in the comment section for your chance to win one of the prizes listed in yesterday's post.

Now then, today I'll play, though technically, I don't get to win. And I'll mix the questions up a bit just to keep things spicy.

What's one thing I like about writing historical fiction?

I love the research. Yes, I was one of those nerdy girls in junior high who purposely looked for the fattest book on the library shelves just so I could have the satisfaction of having read the longest book. For the record, it was a 600 page version of The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. But I digress... Sometimes I wonder if I was born in the wrong century because I'm fascinated by all things historical. Reading about it is the next best thing to being there.

What's one thing I don't like about writing historical fiction?
No matter how hard I try, there's always a contemporary word or two that slips into my writing. Finding and replacing those words is a feat of super human strength, and if I happen to mess up, there's always a reader out there who's sure to crack me over the knuckles with a ruler.

Alrighty...it's your turn to play. Leave your comment and I'll enter you in the prize-filled drawing. And as always, be sure to spread the word.

Here's a Tweetable for today:
What do you love about historical fiction? How about hate? Your answers could earn you big prizes! http://writerofftheleash.blogspot.com/

Monday, October 7, 2013

Blogaversary Wingding

It's party time here at Writer Off The Leash. For the entire week, we're celebrating the second anniversary of this blog. Yep. For two entire years I've been blasting the cyberworld with my thoughts, kind of like a juicy sneeze gone bad. I'd say that's a landmark worth noticing. So, here are the Blogaversary Wingding rules...

Every day you can get your name entered to win simply by answering the daily Like/Don't Like question. It's that easy. No muss or fuss or dragging X amount of your friends over here by the collar to sign up as a member (but if you want to do that, hey, I'm game).

Today's Question:
What's 1 thing you like about reading blogs?
What's 1 thing you don't like about reading blogs?

If you go through the effort of actually thinking through those questions and leaving your pithy answer in the comment section, I will enter your name in a drawing. On Sunday, October 13th (the actually Blogaversary date), I'll pick 2 lucky duck winners. Those two winners will get to choose from the following list:

1. A signed copy of A HEART DECEIVED --or-- UNDERCURRENT --or-- GALLIMORE

2. A box of English Breakfast tea, a jar of orange marmalade, my personal favorite scone recipe (maple nut) handwritten on a cutesy recipe card (sure to be a collectors item someday) and 7 handcrafted book club invitation cards to host your own A Heart Deceived book club in your home

3. A critique by moi for the first 3 chapters of your WIP

4. An all-expense paid trip to Starbucks...as long as you don't spend over $5 because that's how much the gift card is for

5. I'll name a character after you in my next novel and/or you can choose a name and I'll use it

There you have it. You can enter every day if you like. It'll be great, clean fun, so spread the word! Anyone can play in this sandbox. Feel free to steal the meme at the top of the page and post it on Facebook or wherever, or if you're a twit, here's a tweet:

Win prizes galore at the Writer Off the Leash BLOGAVERSARY WINGDING! http://writerofftheleash.blogspot.com/ #giveaway 

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Tantalizing Ladies Tea: A Christian Book Coterie

Take a visit with me for an afternoon of books and tea.



My heartfelt thanks to the ladies of the Tantalizing Ladies Tea: a Christian Book Coterie. I'll be busy penning my next book so I can get invited back again!



Thursday, October 3, 2013

Writing Through Hard Times

"Ink is the great cure for all human ills."
~ C.S. Lewis

There are two camps in which you can pitch your tent. The ol' Time is the Great Elixer Campground. Or the green grassy area that C.S. Lewis proposes.

I'm going with Lewis. While it's true that time does heal all hurts, there is much to be said about writing in the midst of pain--the "stub your toe" kind or the "your heart's in a blender" type. Writing is a soothing balm and smells a whole lot better than Mentholatum (hey, it's cold season, so just in case you did want to order some, I'm an all service blogger).

Before you start complaining, "I can't write! I can barely spell my last name!" Calm down. You don't have to be an author to write through hard times. Writing isn't only penning a novel. There are other valid ways of writing through hard times. Here's a few...

Journaling
Just thought I'd get this one out of the way right up front. It's the most common form of writing when one is in anguish. But just because your eighth grade teacher forced you to journal day in and day out until you wanted to beat her over the head with the dang thing, don't let a bad experience keep you from trying it again. Journaling doesn't have to be bondage. In fact, if you're doing it right, it's the complete opposite. Scribble down words when your emotions are roiling. They don't even have to be legible or grammatically correct. It's the act of purging out your angst via pen and paper that makes you feel better, not the quality of the prose.

Blogging
Start a blog. You can have more than one...they're free! You're not doing this to create a platform or to sell yourself in any way. It's just a place to spew your thoughts. Why go public? Because as exquisite and personal as you think your pain is, I guarantee you there is someone else out there in cyberland that is going through the same thing. Your honesty as you work through hard times can be an encouragement to someone else. But remember how I started this section: the purpose of blogging your pain isn't to garner an audience. That's just a byproduct. The real bonus of having a blog is that it magically makes you more accountable to keep writing. It feels official, so you're more likely to do it.

Mailing
Okay, so that's a super lame-oh sub-head. Cut me some slack. I've only had one cup of java so far. Anyhoo, what I'm talking about here is mailing cards to others. Write a note of encouragement. Peruse the Hallmark cards and find one that says something that someone else needs to hear. Take the focus off yourself and your pain and redirect your thoughts outward, even when you don't feel like it. Surprisingly, this little exercise will make you feel better.

Those are just a few samples. As for me, well, I am an author. My inky great cure is to simply kill off a character. You can usually tell what kind of mood I'm in by the manner of death. Sick and twisted? You bet...but it's a whole lot cheaper than psychoanalysis.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Failure & Freedom

Recently my 92 year old mother moved in with us. Epic. Disaster. Despite our best attempts to live in harmony, she is looking to move into an apartment. She is not happy in our home.

I have mixed feelings about her leaving...if she actually does. On one hand, I feel like a failure. What could I have done differently? How could I have been more humble? Shown more love?

But on the flip side there will be no more  verbal barbs that rip out little pieces of my soul. Smell that? It's the scent of SWEET FREEDOM! Yeah baby. Party at my house. Be there.
What does any of this have to do with writing?

Failure and freedom is the two-sided coin every writer keeps in their pocket. Each rejection is a stabbing defeat, no matter how many times you've been published. Failure is one of the squares on the writing game board that everyone lands on now and then, no matter how well you shake the dice.

If you turn that rejection coin over, though, you'll see an American eagle. Freedom to write what you want to write because, doggone it, you don't have any deadlines, and no expectations to wrangle the plot into a shape you never intended nor wanted to intend.  It is an off the leash experience to write whatever you want to without any boundaries.

Of course, that doesn't pay the bills, but hey...that's a whole other blog post.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

3 Elements of a Villain

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I love me a great villain, one I can shake my fist at. One who makes me growl like a beast as I read...and one who in some shadowy corner of my heart, I secretly understand and feel compassion towards.

The trick to writing a memorable bad guy is to get your reader to root for him on some level.

Example: In A HEART DECEIVED, bad guy Nigel Thorne is a real rotten fella. Think Grinch. Garlic in his soul. Heart's a dead tomato. Yada, yada. But throughout the story, poor ol' Nigel's got an even worse scoundrel after him, which drives him to antagonize Ethan the hero. Savvy?

There are many ingredients that go into crafting a character readers love to hate, but here are the top 3...

#1. VULNERABILITY
Make your bully as icky as you want but give him a teddy bear...or some other quirk that shows he's got a chink in his bad boy armor. This creates sympathy in the heart of a reader.

#2. BELIEVABILITY
A villain is more interesting if a few others consider him good or trustworthy. Granted, those others might be deluded or bad guys themselves, but hey, loyalty of any kind is an admirable trait. Your antagonist MUST have something in him that others respect, something that a reader can respect, or he's not going to be believable.

#3. INVINCIBILITY
A great nemesis must stop at nothing, for any reason. Ever. One of the most frightening things about a really evil dude is when they just won't quit. A hero wouldn't look quite as heroic if he was up against a bad guy who took his ball and ran home, right?

Weave these traits into your next thug to create a memorable villain.
 
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