Friday, November 29, 2013

Black...Umm...Thursday Shopping

Yeah. I caved into materialistic pressure and went Black Friday shopping on Thanksgiving evening... and I'm taking you with.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Tidbit: Turkey

For the past twenty years or so, I've served Lemon Sage Turkey to my fellow Thanksgivians to kickstart our holiday poundage. And now, at long last, by popular request, here is the recipe...


3 tablespoons grated lemon rind (but stop when you get to the white part, it's nasty and bitter)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (you had to do something with all those naked lemons, right?)
3 tablespoons dried thyme (I like fresh)
2 tablespoons dried rubbed sage (ditto)
1 tablespoon cracked black pepper (I wimp out here and just used the stuff already ground)
1 teaspoon salt (go ahead, it won't kill you unless you eat half a container every day)
A 12 pound turkey, thawed (this is the deal breaker if you're vegan, and 12 pounds? really? My 19 year old could eat that much for a bedtime snack. Today I'm cooking a 24 pounder...and I doubled these ingredients.)

1. Combine everything except the turkey. Come on. What'd ya think? Would you seriously have had a big enough bowl to mix in the turkey?

2. Give your turkey a bath in the sink. Remove the oogly-googlies from inside. You can cook them in a separate dish or give them to the dog. Your call.

3. Starting at the neck, loosen skin from breast and drumsticks by playing proctologist, I mean inserting fingers and stretching it out a bit. Then shove the sage mixture to coat between skin and turkey flesh. Oops. I think I just made a few vegans throw up in their mouths a little.

4. Do the flip side of Mr. Turkey and use up all the herb deliciousness. Then put the bird breast side down in a big ol' roasting pan, add 4 cups of chicken broth, cover with foil, and voila. However many hours later (depending on size), you will have a a tasty mouthful of poultry to start your 10 pound holiday weight gain.

Oh yeah, little tip... let the turkey rest for at least a half hour before you cut it up to serve. Keeps it juicier. And don't forget to make some mouth-watering gravy with all the pan drippings!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Times, They Are a Changin'

The publishing world is changing with whiplash speed. In the ten years I've been writing, the stigma of being self-published isn't a big deal anymore. In fact, superstar authors are self-pubbing like crazy-go-nuts.

Another seismic shift is all the merging going on. Large houses are eating smaller ones or even swallowing other sizable pubs like ginormous PacMans. Whoa. Dated myself there. Don't worry...I won't start blasting any KC and the Sunshine Band. But I digress.

These are just a few of the changes in the writerly world. If this topic piques your interest, check out Christian Fiction Sees the Light, an in-depth article put out by Library Journal.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Think Small for Big Success

Prolific blogger and author Jeff Goins says,
“Spending five hours on a Saturday writing isn’t nearly as valuable as writing thirty minutes every day of the week.” 
Hmm. Personally, I'm not sure I buy that. 30 minutes doesn't give me enough time to get my head in the game. I'd much prefer an hour a day for five days. Two hours, even better, but how realistic is that?


And therein lies the dilemma of every writer. Not only how to find the time to write, but how to flip on the switch of your muse for those snatched moments of time when you can write.

Whenever I sit down to pound away on my Great American Novel, it helps to spit out a sentence or two of scene details. Who's in it. What they're doing. Why they're doing it. The emotion of the scene. The purpose of the scene. Yeah, that about covers it.

And then I kick into dialogue mode. Dialogue is the easiest thing to write when you're short on time. All you have to do is listen to the voices in your head and type down what they're saying. What? You don't hear any voices? Then move on to Plan B...write 1  paragraph of setting. Just one. It's manageable and not very intimidating. In fact, you'll be surprised how often capturing a blurb of setting leads into one more paragraph, and then one more.

Ideally, we'd all like to have 5 glorious hours of uninterrupted writerly hours, but those word feasts are few and far between. Live in Realsville and aim for smaller chunks if you want to be successful.

Monday, November 25, 2013

What Writers Do When They're Bored

Yeah, I know. I'm looking down the barrel of 15k words that are s'posed to be written by the end of the week. I've got to prepare a Thanksgiving feast for 13 people, and I have no clean underwear in the drawer. Oops. TMI?

The point is, there is no freaking way I should be surfing the net wasting time...but that's exactly what I did yesterday afternoon, and have I found a few fun sites for you!

Snap Bubbles
Who doesn't love to pop those little plastic air bubbles used as packing material? Besides fun sucking kill-joys, I mean. Oh, you don't have any on hand because you popped every last one? Never fear. This is the site for you. Pop away, you deviant plastic smashing killing machine. Granted, you don't get the tactile sensory gratification and the sound isn't quite the right tone, but it is kind of addicting nonetheless.

Virtual Piano
Okay, so admit it. You've always regretted dropping out of piano lessons. And now you don't even have the space in your living room to own a piano. Don't worry. Be happy at Virtual Piano. Bang away all you like. You can even record your session and play it back. Don't be intimidated. You'll be surprised when you play it back at how great it sounds.

Just because you have a stupid phone doesn't mean you need to miss out on the fun of Siri. In fact, Cleverbot is even more of a hoot. If you can't think of something to say, it will ask you a question.

I suppose that's enough time wasted for one day...unless you'd like to share some other fun sites with me???

Friday, November 22, 2013

I'm thankful for...

Black jelly beans, fat pants, a french press full of burundi, purply pink nail polish and...

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Tidbit: Abduction

How do you get yourself out of an abduction situation? Scream? Kick? Bite? Not if you're in the middle of a cemetery, it's just past midnight, and you're one against three. What to do?

Google it. That's what I did. Of course, that won't work in real life, but I sure picked up all kinds of tips and ideas for KC, a character in my latest WIP.  Just in case you ever find yourself abducted, here are a few things you should know...

Say anything to distract, confuse, or make the thugs think twice about abducting you. Ideas? Make up a contagious disease. Tell them there are security cameras in the area. Tell them your dad is the chief of police. Whatever.

While panic is only natural, calm yourself as much as possible and become uber observant. Not only will details about your captors help later on when/if you're rescued, it gives you a chance to formulate a possible escape plan.

A positive attitude is essential. This is one thing all abduction survivors have in common. No groveling, begging or hysterics. Keep your dignity because it is psychologically harder for a person to harm or kill if a captive remains "human" in their eyes.

Everything your captor says is a potential tool to use against him/her. Background noises can be helpful as well to let you know where you are and if there's a possibility of help nearby.

The number one rule is do whatever you have to do to stay alive. In the case of my character, the poor girl is going to have to dive into an open grave.

Hopefully you'll never have to use these tips--except for spicing up a story of your own!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Judgment Day

There's no way you can create a novel without revealing who you really are. The dialogue, the characters, even setting and action all expose tiny bits of an author's psyche. It's called voice, and that's exactly what makes a book work.

It's also what makes a writer vulnerable. Is it any wonder writers lug a backpack full of fears around with them? Fears like:

- Everyone's going to realize what I freak I am when they read what I've written.

- People will never read what I'm writing. It's stupid. I'm stupid. I think I'll go eat worms.

- What if that one star review is really what everyone is thinking about my writing but they're too afraid to say it?

These kinds of fears can cause a writer to over-think their writing, making their words painfully stilted. Being afraid of what people will think sucks the life out of a story, robbing it of intensity and freshness.

The thing is, though, that what other people think about a writer's work is just that. What they think. As in opinion, not fact.

Writing is risky, especially penning down the words closest to your heart then exposing them for the world to see. If you're not willing to take that risk, then maybe the publishing realm isn't for you. I'm not saying don't write. I'm simply saying you might want to rethink pursuing publication.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Black Tuesday

Wal-Mart is opening at 6:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving. Seriously? That barely gives you enough time to belch after dinner. Remind me again why I'd want to be resuscitated from my food coma just to go buy a violent video game or a bajillion-inch flat-screen TV?

Have I got a better deal for you...

Skip the Black Friday scene and really go shopping early, like, oh, let's say... TODAY! Scoop up your copy of A HEART DECEIVED and buy a few as Christmas gifts for the readers in your life over at CBD (Christian Book Distributors).

Today only
For a mere $0.79
you can purchase a gift and feed a starving author. 
Win, win!

Yes, indeedy. I am as shameless as Wal-Mart.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Snake Oil Salesmen
Writers are insecure little mammals, all spastic and twitchy. No, really. Poke one with a harsh review and watch them curl up into a ball.

As a result, writers flock to conferences and seminars, forking out cash they don't have for all kinds of crazy workshops...

- How write a kick-butt Amish cozy romance space opera

- Creating characters that rip out a reader's heart, juggle it around for a hundred pages or so, then replace it with a kiss

- Rules to make the publishing gods bless you with a contract

I know. Those sound like stupid, made-up classes, and you're right, but the thing is that if these topics were offered as workshops, writers would attend. Why? Because they're looking for answers. Writers want to find the golden ticket to publication, but here's the deal...

There are no answers. 

Stephen King doesn't have them. Charles Dickens didn't. Not even J.K. Rowling can spout off the magical answer for how to hit the big time in the book biz. They can give you ideas, suggestions, and possibilities, but there's nothing carved in stone (hieroglyphics aside) that's an instruction manual for landing a contract. It's all advice.

You are the ultimate master of your writing success namely by writing. That's it. That simple. Anyone saying anything else is a snake oil salesman.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Date Night

Where would an author choose to be taken out on a Friday night? Slap on some lipstick because you're coming along!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Love me?
Is Writer Off the Leash valuable to you? Valuable enough to nominate as a favorite writer blog? 

If so, toodle on over to the Write to Done contest. Nominations are now open.

Tidbit: Housing

This week I figured I'd be all kinds of merciful and give you something pleasant to vote on since you were such troopers through the ugly dog and criminal pix.

The story I'm currently working on takes place at Sunset Paradise Retirement Village, a fictional community just outside of Ocala, Florida. Each resident has their own cottage, located around a central community/dining center. Fern and Zula Hopkins are sisters-in-law who live together in Fern's cottage. Which one of the following pictures do you like best?





Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Hamster Principle

Ever get stuck? Maybe you're writing along, la-la-la-la-la, and bam! The scene stalls out. Your characters are looking at each other, mouths open, but the dialogue is dead in the water. You have no idea what to do.

Or maybe you're not a writer. Maybe you're simply in the middle of a conversation and you notice a glazed look in the listener's eyes. How do you get someone's attention back when you've completely lost it?

Toss in a hamster.

No, not a literal one, you sicko. I'm pretty sure animal rights activists would have your head on a platter. I'm talking about the concept of spicing things up with a surprise.

Take the scene, for instance. Type in a ridiculous line that's completely random, just for fun. You don't have to keep it. It will, however, get things moving along, and the surprise will eventually be on you because you can come up with some winning banter that you might not have discovered otherwise.

Or in conversation, lob an off-the-wall question at your listener. Not too, freakish, mind you. You're going for attention grabbing, not an institutional commitment. Need an example?  Say, "Oh, by the way, I noticed your socks. Super cute! Where did you get them?" Socks are always a curve ball. People don't expect you to notice them.

Go ahead. Give it a whirl. Hamster things up and get unstuck.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Book Signing Observations

Last night I attended an author fair and sold 4 books. Not a killing, by any stretch, but not skunked, either. And not bad for sitting there for only an hour.

I noticed that most people are hesitant to approach a table with a nerd sitting behind it. Yes, writers are nerds, though I'm not entirely sure which grouping should take offense.

To defeat that table-approaching fear, I put out bowls of Hershey Kisses as bait. Unfortunately, that worked all too well. One lady kept swooping in and out, snagging Kiss after Kiss. She did not buy a single book. She didn't even hover long enough for me to tell her to knock it off.

Of the several authors that were there, a few of them didn't bother to bring a tablecloth. They simply plopped their books right down on the ol' white plastic folding table. They didn't get as many shoppers. Note to self: keep the Hershey Kisses at home next time. Tablecloth bait works just as well as chocolate.

It's interesting to explain your book to a prospective buyer, especially after they've asked about it, and then receive an entire discourse on how you could've improved the plot. Or how their great aunt once wrote a book exactly like it. Or listen to them name the fifty-two other authors that have written a similar story--only not.

Oh, and here's a little tip for attenders going to an author signing...the author doesn't really need to know exactly how and where your stint was placed. Just sayin'. Maybe think about sticking to the weather if you don't know what else to say, or here's a thought: step away from the table.

On the up side, my favorite thing about author fairs is the diversity of reading material, everything from kids books to self-help. Plus, it's gratifying to purchase a book from an author that you know can use the money. Google author fairs in your area and see if you've got any coming up in your neighborhood. Christmas is just around the corner, and what a fantastic way to support local business.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Monkey See, Monkey Do

photo courtesy of IMDb
I saw the movie Thor last night. Besides the fact that it stars Chris Hemsworth (whew, is it hot in here?), this is one fantastic two-thumbs-up movie. Drop what you're doing and go see it. What? You're still here? No, really. Go ahead. I'll wait.

You may be a bit skeptical as to why I'm shilling for Hollywood on my blog. No, I don't have an uncle in the biz. The thing is that this movie, as in any memorable book, employs the perfect balance of tension, action, and humor. Just when you think you can't take another horrific plot twist that ups the danger, bam! A one-line zinger makes you laugh, or a ridiculous scene sideswipes you and you can't help but smile.

Good reads are like that as well. Intense scenes are magnified via the light of a quirky character or some snarky banter. Dark isn't really dark unless it's compared to light. Tension isn't felt as acutely unless it's contrasted with moments of tranquility. The trick is to keep the reader breathing. You can't keep them holding their breath with danger or they'll pass out...but neither should you lull them into a coma with no action.

A motion picture is worth a thousand of my words. So, if you want to write a stunning story, set your writing down and go watch Thor like a good little monkey. Then mimic what you learn.

Friday, November 8, 2013

A Shopping We Will Go

I've got 2 book signings coming up next week. Seems like as good a reason as any to go shopping...right?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Tidbit: Villain

What does a bad guy look like? Sometimes it's hard to tell. How many people who've lived next door to a serial killer say, "He was the nicest fella! I can't believe it! Why, just the other day he brought me over a plate of chocolate chip cookies." Just goes to show that not every thug has an evil leer and shifty eyes.

But the bad boy in my latest work sure does.

Rudolpho Vasquez is a hardened criminal, high up in the Mexican drug cartel. He's the kind of dude who kills puppies just for fun. So, which ugly mug gets your vote to play the part of Vasquez? Leave your vote in the comment section.

Creepy Guy #1
Creepy Guy #2
Creepy Guy #3

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Dollah Makes Me Hollah...How Bout You?

There's a chill in the air. Time to heat some apple cider, grab a blankie, and curl up with a good book...

And have I got one for you!

Spread the word. 
TODAY ONLY you can get 

Run on over to Vyrso Christian Ebooks and scoop up your copy right now. What's that? You already own an ebook version? No worries. Just pass this info on to one of your buddies. If they buy a copy, email me with your snail mail addresses and and I'll send you both some tea. Then you really can get all snuggly and enjoy autumn with a great gothic read. Here's a blurb:

Miri Brayden teeters on a razor's edge between placating and enraging her brother, whom she depends upon for support. Yet if his anger is unleashed, so is his madness. Miri must keep his descent into lunacy a secret, or he'll be committed to an asylum-and she'll be sent to the poorhouse. 

Ethan Goodwin has been on the run all of his life-from family, from the law ... from God. After a heart-changing encounter with the gritty Reverend John Newton, Ethan would like nothing more than to become a man of integrity-an impossible feat for an opium addict charged with murder. 

When Ethan shows up on Miri's doorstep, her balancing act falls to pieces. Both Ethan and Miri are caught in a web of lies and deceit-fallacies that land Ethan in prison and Miri in the asylum with her brother. Only the truth will set them free.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Suck It Up and Move On

Like other moms with little kids, I used to haul my ducklings to the park. It didn't take long to notice my parenting skills were a little, umm, different. When Susie ran to her mommy wailing about how it wasn't fair Johnny got to swing first, Susie's mommy wiped her tears and stomped over to Johnny's mommy. Negotiations flew hot and heavy until princess Susie landed her royal heinie in the swing.

When my kid came to me whining about unjust swinging arrangements, I told him, "Life's full of disappointments, kid. Suck it up. Move on."

Was I a bad mom? Yeah, probably. I've got to trust that God gave me my specific little mammals for a reason. However, should my offspring decide to enter an illustrious writing career, they'll be leagues ahead of little Susie, because the writing game is saturated with disappointment.

Writers are disappointed about a gazillion things. A plot that's stuck. Characters they can't revive no matter how hard they puff air into their lungs. The lack of a contract. Book sales. The frozen pizza they'll be having for dinner tonight.

You don't have to like disappointment, but you do have to experience it. There is a flip side to this depressing coin, however...

"Our best successes often come
after our greatest disappointments."
~ Henry Ward Beecher

Perseverance is key. Don't let discouragement stop you from moving forward, word by word. The only way out is through. Yeah, I know. That's sooo cliche, but completely true. Hang in there, little buddies, and keep writing!

And if someone gets to the swing ahead of you, get over it. Swings are overrated anyway. Go break a bone or two on the monkey bars and you'll have some war stories to swap around the fire when you're old and gray.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Rah! Rah! Write!

So. November 1st came and went. The Nanowrimo train pulled out of the station, and here I stand, suitcase in hand, looking down the tracks...with zero words under my belt. Kind of makes a girl want to run home and drown in a quart of Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey.

If you're one of those who are a day late and dollar short to the Nano party, you're not alone. Just because you haven't written 10k words by now does NOT mean you shouldn't start. Huddle up, team. This here is your pep talk.

Don't panic if your story isn't all mapped out. 
You should know your beginning, the end, and 3 major events that lead to the climax. Any more than that is nice, but don't let it stop you from starting your story. Getting bogged down in all the details can suck the life out of your creativity.
You get ideas when you write;
you don't just write down ideas.

Michael C. Munger

There's nothing magic about 50k.
Don't get me wrong...I'm not dissing the Nanowrimo goal. It's a noble effort. But (and I've always got a big but) pumping out words for the sake of pumping out words sometimes makes for major editing nightmares later on. Stretch yourself as far as you can by reaching for a high word count, but don't slit your wrists if you don't make it. What's realistic for you? I'm a happy camper if I do 600 a day.

This isn't a measure of your talent or ability.
Think about it. You could simply type the words "I wanna be a unicorn" 10,000 times and ding-ding-ding-ding we have a winner! Really? I think not. Nano isn't the master of your writerly gifts. God is. Don't confuse the two.

Writers write.
Do you really want to be a writer? Then write. It's that simple. 'Nuff said.

Get out on the field, team. It's never too late to begin a new story or even finish up one that you've started (which is what I'm doing). Adjust your goals if need be, but today make sure you write something.
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