Friday, November 28, 2014

Plaid Friday

Disclaimer: The formatting on the video is a little wonky. Oops.


UPDATE: Guess what? We made the Plaid Friday & Ace Hardware Facebook Pages. I hope all this fame doesn't change us as human beings.

THE SHOPPERS: Mariah Griep, Linda Ahlmann, Joshua Griep, Erna Ahlmann, Yours Truly, Samantha Anderson

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Writer's Thanksgiving Menu

All around the country today, millions of Americans will belly up to the dining room table and scarf down gallons of gravy and tons of stuffing. But these common holiday foods have a double meaning to writers . . .

GRAVY
Royalty checks.

RAW TURKEY GIZZARDS
The first draft of a novel.

MASHED POTATOES
What all the ideas for a story look and feel like inside an author's brain.

CRANBERRY SAUCE
A returned critique of a manuscript if the editor used a red pen.

STUFFING
What an author would like to do with all the 1-star reviews on Amazon--stuff them in the trash.

MINCEMEAT
When a writer misses a deadline.

DESSERT
Typing "The End."

THE "AAAH" AT THE END OF THE MEAL.
A fan letter from a reader.

Happy Thanksgiving from me to you!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Stump the Chump: How Do You Wrangle An Epic Story Onto Paper?

QUESTION:

"My story ideas always seem so different (better) in my mind. How do you get a story from your head to paper without having it freak out and become something totally different?"

SHORT ANSWER:

You don't.

LONG ANSWER:

Don't panic because of the short answer. I hate to be the pin holder bursting your authorly balloon into flying shreds of latex, but honestly, there's no way you'll ever capture the Cinemagraphic story in your head so that readers see exactly what you do . . . but that is the inherent beauty of every story. Just because it changes and comes out differently doesn't mean that it's bad.

But sometimes it is. Just today I read a Facebook status from one of my favorite authors, Travis Thrasher. He said:
"Hello, Solitary Tales fans. I wanted to let you know about this particular title that I had planned on releasing before the end of the year. Well, that plan changed, not because of busyness but because the story went places that I didn't want it to go. Actually, Chris Buckley (that's his main character) said that it was unbelievable. He told me he'd never do that stuff. He said that readers would be confused if I went in this direction. So yeah . . . I stopped writing and am now figuring out how to tell this story."
Writers at every stage of the game continually wrestle with the beast of wrangling a story into words. At times it can be downright discouraging.

All that being said, though, I'm still of the belief that change is good, and here's why . . . even if you wrote exactly the story you wanted to tell, every reader who picks that book up will experience it in a different way than you intended. Why? Because readers come to the table with different baggage, a plethora of backgrounds, and assumptions galore.

Writing is art, and art is like that. For all we know, daVinci had a blonde-haired, blue-eyed vixen with a toothy grin in mind when he painted the Mona Lisa, but that doesn't change the fact that it's a beloved masterpiece.

Go forth fearlessly, little writers, and pen your masterpieces. Embrace change. And it never hurts to eat much chocolate along the way.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Stump the Chump: How Do You Hold a Reader's Attention?

Today's question comes from a young writer who no doubt will become a superstar author one day. How do I know? Am I some kind of prophet? Do I read tea leaves? Did I get a screaming hot deal on a crystal ball at Woot? Nah. Nothing like that. I'm confident she'll succeed because the girl has a hunger to learn the craft. Here's her question:

"My story is long. How do I keep a reader's attention?"

The answer to that question is to raise a question. At the end of every scene, leave the reader wondering about something. . . 

Will the heroine give in to the temptation to eat a slab of chocolate cake and ruin her chances of fitting into her wedding dress next week? 

How is the hero going to escape the clutches of the ninety-seven-year-old granny who's stalking him? 

Where in the world is the villain's rubber ducky--the one that fell off the back of the pickup truck and is filled with C-4?

Not every scene has to end with a helicopter crash, but there does need to be some hook to make the reader turn the page instead of setting down the book. And that's accomplished by raising a question in the reader's mind.

Apparently I'm on a Dear Abby roll, so if there are any other questions you'd like to stump the authorly chump with, leave them in the comment section.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Dickens Meets Sherlock Holmes

What do you get when you mix a shade of the darker side of Regency London with a quick-witted lawman? Nicholas Brentwood—a hero who’s a little rough around the edges, colorful as a Dickens character, and observant enough to be a forerunner of Sherlock. But he’s not just any lawman.

He’s a Bow Street Runner.

Traditionally, male householders in London were expected to police the streets in their neighborhood, and every citizen was to report anyone they witnessed committing a crime. This changed in the eighteenth century because of increasing concerns about the threat of dangerous criminals who were attracted by the growing wealth of London’s middle class.

Prompted by a post-war crime wave in 1749, Magistrate Henry Fielding hired a small group of men to locate and arrest serious offenders. He operated out of No. 4 Bow Street, hence the name “Bow Street Runners.”

Fielding petitioned the government and received funding, but even so, he soon ran out of money to pay these men a worthy salary. Still, the runners were committed to justice, so they took on odd jobs such as watchmen or detectives for hire or even—as in the case of Nicholas Brentwood—guarding people or treasures.

What attracted my interest as an author was an old newspaper advertisement put out by Fielding. It encouraged the public to send a note to Bow Street as soon as any serious crime occurred so that “a set of brave fellows could immediately be dispatched in pursuit of the villains.” I wondered about those “brave fellows” and what kind of villains they might come up against, and thus was born Nicholas Brentwood.

Despite Bow Street’s efforts, most Londoners were opposed to the development of an organized police force. The English tradition of local government was ingrained deep, and they feared the loss of individual liberty. So, as gallant as the Runners were in tracking down criminals, the general public did not always view them in a positive light. Even the nickname given them by the public—Bow Street Runners—was considered derogatory and was a title the officers never used to refer to themselves.

Bow Street eventually gave way to the Metropolitan Police, and by 1839, the Runners were completely disbanded. But that doesn’t mean they don’t live on in the fictional realm. See if you can match wits with an experienced lawman as he tracks down a dangerous criminal in BRENTWOOD’S WARD.

There’s none better than NICHOLAS BRENTWOOD at catching the felons who ravage London’s streets, and there’s nothing he loves more than seeing justice carried out—but this time he’s met his match. Beautiful and beguiling EMILY PAYNE is more treacherous than a city full of miscreants and thugs, for she’s a thief of the highest order…she’s stolen his heart.

Available now as a pre-order in paperback, ebook, and audiobook formats at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine booksellers.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Stump the Chump: Book Reviews From Hell

BOOK REVIEW QUESTION #3:

"What should be avoided when writing a book review?"

Every author's had at least one . . . a kidney-punch of a review that sucks the creative juices from his body and leaves him whimpering in the corner for his mommy. Those are the absolute worst. But what exactly is it that makes for a bad review?

Expecting more than what the story promises.

Before you haul off and whack an author over the head for handing you a plate of literary lasagne when you wanted a steak and potato novel, how about this: read the freaking back cover copy. If the blurb gives off a dark tone, don't expect bunnies and lollipops. Or if it reads lightheartedly, then the novel is probably not going to delve into deep topics. Be realistic.

The spelling and grammar of a three-year-old.

Really? Do I have to mention this. Yep, I do. Bad reviews almost always include typos and grammar that's worthy of a felony. If you're going to rag on an author's writing then yours better be impeccable.

Dishing out judgment as if you're God.

I understand that everyone has different worldviews and morals. Newsflash: books do too, because they're written by humans. So if sex outside of marriage pushes your buttons, don't buy 50 Shades of Grey and go on a rant about promiscuity. Instead of writing a review condemning the author to hell, I suggest that your time would be better spent praying for the poor slob.

Spewing pride poison.

Oh, so you think you can write a better book? Go for it. Writing a novel is stinking hard work, I don't care how bad you think the writing is. Because of that, do not -- read my lips here -- do NOT attack the author's work ethic. The novel may not be Steinbeck quality but I guarantee you the writer put in as much effort as Steinbeck would have.

Those are my top 4. What else do you think should be left out of a book review? Leave your ideas in the comment section and your name will be tossed in the Tupperware for tomorrow's big drawing. You could win the Gannah book of your choice!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Stump the Chump: What An Author Likes to See in a Review

BOOK REVIEW QUESTION #2:

"As an author, what are things you wish your reviewers would pick out from your books and mention in their reviews? Or, in short, how does one review a book in a way that will be helpful to others?"

A clear statement of what the reader liked about the book.
Characters? Plot twists? Skill with sewing words together into a stunning literary quilt? As an author, it's helpful for me to know exactly what it is that connects with a reader so that I can continue to do that in the future.

Honesty. . . always has been and always will be the best policy.
Above all, be honest. If you hate something particular in a story, name it. An author needs to know when they've crossed the line with their writing. Disclaimer: Don't beat the pathetic author into a bloody pulp. That's what sales numbers are for. 

Share your gut feelings.
Avoid a lengthy summarization of the story because guess what little ninja . . . you're not writing a junior high book report. Instead, tell others what caused you to weep, laugh, or shout. What was it about the story that connected with you on an emotional level?

What's the tone?
As a reader, what did you think the overall feel to the book was? Lighthearted? Fast-paced action? Gut-wrenching or gut-splitting?

And lastly, this isn't a must-have, but it's nice to know who the reader would recommend the book to (examples: middle-aged women, teen moms, diabetic warthogs, whatever).

And don't forget that anyone leaving a comment this week will get entered into the grand prize Gannah drawing this Friday.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Stump the Chump: What I Look For in a Review

I'm asked questions all the time. . . 
  • "What's your next book going to be about?"
  • "How much money do you make?"
  • "Can you get me an autograph of Ted Dekker?"
  • "How come we're all out of Pop Tarts?"
I think I've pretty much covered the answers to those perennial favorites in past posts, but guess what? I've got a new batch of questions recently emailed to me that are all about book reviews. 

BOOK REVIEW QUESTION #1:

"When you're checking out reviews of a new book and trying to decide whether to invest money, and more importantly, your time, into it, what are the most useful tidbits *you* find in those reviews that help you make your decision?"

Great question! And no, I don't say that about every question because I'm of the firm belief that there are stupid questions. 

Before I go forking over cash on Amazon, I always check out the reviews. Sometimes I even pop over to Goodreads and read a few dozen more just because I have a handy-dandy button in my tool bar and it's easy to punch it.

The most important piece of information I'm looking for in a review is what struck a nerve in people. To find that out, I gravitate toward the 1 star and 5 star reviews. Those tend to be the most passionate. If I'm going to read a book, I want it to make me think or connect at a deep emotional or spiritual level. 3 star reviews scream milquetoast. Ain't nobody got time for that.

I want to know why people loved or hated the book. Were the characters flat? The plot implausible? The writing so beautiful it made the reader weep for three days straight?

I also like it if there's a quote or two taken from the book so I can get a feel for the writing. But if there are spoilers, grrr! Especially if I'm not warned ahead of time with a **spoiler alert** and a plot twist is revealed.

It's nice to know if there are any overarching themes such as justice or forgiveness or whatever that's carried out through the story. This kind of information is usually hard to come by, though.

That's what I look for in a review. What about you? Leave your answer in the comment section and I'll enter you in Friday's drawing for your choice of one of Yvonne Anderson's Gannah books.

Oh yeah, and you might want to check out her reviews here.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Stop it! You're Killing Me!

Yes, this IS her happy face.
Today I'm handing the leash over to my BF (yeah, I know, there's an F missing but you'll have to read on to find out why), Yvonne Anderson. Don't worry. You'll like her. She's a snarkmeister.

First off, I’d like to thank Michelle for inviting me to stop by. It makes me a little nervous that someone let her off the leash, but as long as I keep her in sight, she won’t be able to slip around and bite me in the behind. So, with one eye on her as she sniffs around the yard, I’ll begin.

I’ve been thinking about killing people.

More specifically, I’ve been thinking about how frequently we writers kill people in stories.

You’ve probably seen the statistics collected over the decades concerning TV and movie violence. One study estimates that by the time a person is 18 years old, he or she will have viewed 200,000 acts of violence, including 40,000 murders. (And that’s not counting video games.) If that’s the estimate for a teenager, how many grisly deaths will have played across a person’s vision by the time he’s old and gray?

Even those who avoid the graphic, gory stuff often find death to be entertaining. For instance, have you ever read a mystery, even a cozy one, that didn’t involve murder?

Count me among those who don’t like gore. I’m not a fan of shoot-em-ups with crazy-high body counts. I don’t care for stories in which characters pick people off with no more concern than they have for the lint they pick off their clothes. But the fact is, sometimes a novel needs a well-placed death to give it depth and dimension.

Since the Fall, death has been an inescapable fact of life. We all experience the pain of it in our lifetimes, and when it touches us personally, death matters a great deal. Fear of death—our own, or that of loved ones—provides the motive for much of what we do.

Despite our casual attitude about killing on-screen, the death of someone we care about, even a fictional character, packs an emotional wallop.

Some years back, when Michelle was writing her second novel, Undercurrent, I helped a little with critiquing her chapters. When I got to Chapter 28, where Alarik died (and I hope you’ve already read the book so I’m not spoiling anything for you), I was enthralled. It takes guts to kill off a main character—and it was for such a good purpose! The story sang as a result of it. Yes, Alarik died a worthy death.

I was going to say I don’t kill a lot of people in my novels, but I guess that’s not true. In The Story in the Stars, the first in the Gateway to Gannah series, a whole planet dies (though off-screen, so to speak), along with a few miscellaneous others. Including two that the protagonist kills with her bare hands, with the reader a ringside spectator. So yeah, I guess it’s true: I killed a lot of people in that one.

In the second title in the series, though, Words in the Wind, that’s not the case. Wait a minute… I didn’t kill a whole planet, so I definitely did better with that one. But, okay, there were several people who died at my hands.

How about Book #3, Ransom in the Rock? Well… ah…. Let’s move on.

Book 4, The Last Toqeph. Not bloody at all. The only person who died in that one (that I recall, at least) was… um… Michelle’s favorite character. After reading that fateful chapter, she rescinded my longstanding BFF privileges. (I thought that second “F” was supposed to stand for “Forever,” eh?)

So, all right: I kill people. But that last death wasn’t premeditated. In fact, it surprised even me. The story reached a point where there was no getting around it; it simply had to happen. After all, how could I deny the character the right to go out the way he’d chosen from the time he first entered the series?

I’m curious what you readers think. Why does death play such a prominent role in fiction? Do writers (novelists, screenwriters, or all such scribes) kill too many people? In stories, can death sometimes serve a good purpose?

Oh, dear, I lost sight of Michelle. Where’d she go? Michelle? Yoo hoo, Mich— OUCH! Ow, oh, drat it! I knew I shouldn’t have taken my eyes off her. I need that leash. Where’s the leash? Somebody, get this writer chained up before she kills someone!

**spits out bite of heinie and marks another notch in her belt** See what I mean about Yvonne? Snappy little gal. And her novels will hold your attention every bit as much. Here's her latest and greatest  . . .

THE LAST TOQUEPH

While traveling through desolate terrain, Adam stumbles upon an impossibility: a village of Old Gannahan survivors. Hard to believe. Harder yet, it seems one of them is the true heir to the throne.

Will Adam right an ancient wrong and lose his inheritance? Or ignore the truth and lose his integrity?

AND A BIT ABOUT YVONNE:

Yvonne Anderson writes fiction that takes you out of this world.

The Story in the Stars, the first in the Gateway to Gannah series as well as her debut novel, was an ACFW Carol Award finalist in 2012. The adventure continues with Words in the Wind and Ransom in the Rock and concludes with The Last Toqeph, released in October of 2014.

She lives in Western Maryland with her husband of almost forty years and shares the occasional wise word on her personal site, YsWords. She’s been with The Borrowed Book blog for a year or two now and has coordinated Novel Rocket’s Launch Pad Contest for unpublished novelists since the beginning of time. (Or at least, since the contest’s inception.)

Oh, yeah: she also does freelance editing.

WANT TO WIN A PRIZE????

Who wouldn't? Yvonne's graciously asked me to reinstate her F in BFF if she sucks up and offers a free giveaway here on Writer Off the Leash. Never one to turn down a bribe and/or freebie, I said sure. So, simply do one of the following and let me know in the comment section what you did. I'll enter your name in a hat (or more likely a piece of Tupperware) and draw a lucky winner on my Friday vlog. You'll win the book of your choice from Yvonne's collection (and they're all great - I've read every one of them).

Choose one of these:

  • Like Yvonne on Facebook
  • Tweet this blog entry
  • If you've already read one of her books, post a review on Amazon or Goodreads
  • Tell one other person about Yvonne Anderson (anyone, even the mailman, but maybe not the dog)
  • Visit her personal site: Ys Words (yes, I just broke every rule of blogging by directing you to someone else's blog . . . deal with it)
And anytime you comment on any of my posts this week, I'll toss your name in the Tupperware just because I'm awesome. I mean Yvonne's awesome.

Gotta run. I'm feeling kind of bitey again.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Adsense Nonsense

I've been batting around the idea of using Adsense like a crazed feline hyped on catnip. Should I? Shouldn't I? Isn't wicked evil Republican-led commercialism the downfall of the entire human race? But what about the monetary opportunity smacking the knocker against my front door promising dollars, dollars, DOLLARS? And what the heck do I even know about economics anyway?

Whew. Tired myself out.

Now then, before I make a yay or nay decision, I figured I'd do a little research, and I'm yanking you along on your leash so you can learn a thing or two as well.

5 Reasons Why You SHOULD use Adsense
  • Not a huge time commitment. . . set it and forget it.
  • You can customize the look and feel of the ads used on your site.
  • There are no minimum traffic requirements so anyone can apply.
  • They've got a huge base of advertisers.
  • Its pay rate is better than any others.

5 Reasons Why You SHOULD NOT Use Adsense

  • Each click takes a reader away from your page.
  • You don't get to pick the ads, and as such, something might be put on your website that you'd never endorse in a bajillion years.
  • Rules, rules, and oh. . . did I mention rules? There are terms and conditions. You are not your own cowboy anymore.
  • You have to wait to get paid. You need to earn a minimum of $100 before they'll think about sending you a check, and then you have to wait weeks to receive it.
  • You can't just turn it on and off with a flick of the switch. You have to file to be approved. And if you don't follow those "terms and conditions" I already mentioned, you will be banned. For life. As in sit next to your dog dish until you die. Game's over.

Even after reading love/hate stories about Adsense, I'm still perched on top of a fence post. How do you feel about going to a blog and seeing ads? Personally, I zone them out, and I've never clicked on one. But obviously people do.

Anyone out there have any Adsense experience to share in the comment section? Do those ads annoy you, do you not even notice them, or are you an avid ad clicker?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

10 Writing Lessons From a Dog

Her Royal Highness Princess Ada Clare
I took my dog to special ed class today. She muzzle-punched the instructor last week, so it's rehab time. Apparently I have a knack for picking out special needs dogs. But she's young -- only 8 months -- and with practice, we'll be able to train her out of her naughtiness.

Because of this experience, I've learned a metric ton (which is equivalent to a crap load in laymen's terms) about dog language. Interestingly, this translates well into writerly speak. What in the world am I talking about? And why do I get asked that question so many times a day? Listen up, because I think we can all learn a few lessons from my wild girl Ada Clare.

Writerly Lessons From A Boxer

Go wild off the leash.
Rules are great guidelines, but following them too strictly is like a choke chain and sucks the life out of your story.

Sniff. Sniff. Sniff.
Let your reader experience ALL five senses - in good ways and in bad.

Eat voraciously.
When you're not writing, stick your fuzzy muzzle into a good read. The best writers are readers.

Let loose of your steaming piles of doo-doo.
Rejection stinks. Don't hold onto it and take it personally. Step around the big, brown, nasty review/rejection piles and go on your merry way.

Stick your head out the window.
Life's too short to get all bound up in comparing yourself to other writers. Let yourself be you, no matter if you look funny with wind in your jowls.

Naps are good.
Sometimes you just gotta take a break from writing. Live life a little. Those experiences will make for richer stories in the future.

Squirrel.
Every now and then, throw a diversion into your story. Something unexpected, even for you. It keeps you on your toes and delights a reader.

It's all about the treats.
What's your motivator? Dark chocolate? Java? A new pair of shoes? Set your word goals and when you meet them, reward yourself.

Take a walk.
No, really. Get outside and take a walk. I don't care if it's snowing. Put your dang boots on and exercise.

Lay down at the Master's feet.
What are you so amped up about? God's in charge of your writing journey. Rest in that truth.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Marketing ~ The Bane of All Writers

One of my author buddies mentioned to me that she's getting bogged down by all the marketing expectations heaped upon her head by her publisher. Maintaining an active presence in social media. Hip-hopping around on blog tours. Book-signings. Web-chats. The list is endless and takes a huge chunk of time. But is all that time spent trying to drive up sales really worth the effort?

Some say nope, the best marketing you can do as an author is to write your next book. I'm inclined to pitch my tent in that field. Not that I mind shooting the breeze on Facebook or putting up some pix on Instagram, but writing is in my blood, NOT marketing. Why does this work? Because each new title broadens your name recognition and generates sales for your previous works. 

But just in case your writerly Winnebago is parked in the I-love-to-market-so-bring-it camp, here are some great resources:





Monday, November 10, 2014

Artistic Gastrointestinal Distress

What's up with girls and drama? As if my twenty-year-old daughter isn't dramatic enough, she's decided that the stage is where she belongs. So, off my family and I trudged to yet another theatrical experience at the community college this weekend. . . and boy howdy, what an experience it was.

You try explaining Anton Chekov's The Seagull to a 93 year old woman with dementia. Yeah. That was a rip-roaring conversation with my mother. Interesting, though, that even the twenty-somethings in the bunch didn't pick up on some of the themes or connect with the characters. They said it was too "artsy fartsy."

Which got me to thinking about writing as an art-form and opened up a whole can of wormy questions . . .

At what point does a writer take their story too far into the land of artistic expression and leave behind the masses who just want to be entertained by a fantastic tale? 

Whenever a reader's face suddenly freezes into a deer-in-the-headlights stare, that's a sign he doesn't have a clue what's going on. This is usually caused by the reader having no sense of connection with the characters.

Commonality is key. If a reader can't relate to the way the characters think and feel, then it doesn't really matter what the characters say or do, because the reader will check out. Or fling the book against the wall, leaving a nasty ding in the sheetrock. When a writer makes a main character think too far outside the norm, he's not going to connect with readers.

Is that a valid way to write? 

You bet. If you want to write in the philosophical twilight zone, go for it. Just don't expect the average reader to understand and/or like what you've put out. I realize that sounds an awful lot like "dumbing down" your writing, and in some respects it is, but here's a text message from Mrs. Reality: readers have way too many things going on in their lives to sit down and chew on a thick piece of literary existentialism.

What makes a piece artsy fartsy?

Besides lack of commonality, the story needs to progress in a logical sequence. Splattering words or scenes or characters all over the pages with no rhyme or reason is messy. Artsy, yes, but resonating in the reader's heart and soul, nope. Not gonna happen.

As for me, personally, I loved the production of The Seagull. The story was tragic, which I happen to have a sick and twisted affinity for, and one of the main characters was a writer who gave an accurate monologue on what it's really like to be an author, so I connected with him. As for my family, well, let's just say they would've been more likely to enjoy Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Living in the Land of Denial

There's sleety rain outside my window that's soon to turn to snow. What better time to go to England?



And just in case you're interested in Julie Klassen's upcoming book Lady Maybe, here's a blurb:

In the new novel by the three-time Christy Award-winning author of The Maid of Fairbourne Hall, a woman’s startling secrets lead her into unexpected danger and romance in Regency England… 

One final cry…“God almighty, help us!” and suddenly her world shifted violently, until a blinding collision scattered her mind and shook her bones. Then, the pain. The freezing water. And as all sensation drifted away, a hand reached for hers, before all faded into darkness…

Now she has awakened as though from some strange, suffocating dream in a warm and welcoming room she has never seen before, and tended to by kind, unfamiliar faces. But not all has been swept away. She recalls fragments of the accident. She remembers a baby. And a ring on her finger reminds her of a lie.

But most of all, there is a secret. And in this house of strangers she can trust no one but herself to keep it.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Go Green For Creativity

My thumb -- not one of the hacked-up digits in the bad boy butcher knife incident -- is not green. Leastwise, not when it comes to indoor plants. Oh, I can grow a mean hydrangea or variegated boxwood out in my front yard as good as my neighbor. I suspect that's because God's in charge of the watering, not me. But give me an aloe or philodendron and hello plant-slaughter felony.

Which is really too bad because studies show that adding greenery to your indoor environment -- such as, oh, let's say a writing desk perhaps -- boosts your productivity. Cardiff University's School of Psychology published a study last week citing that adding plants to your work desk can increase productivity by 15%. Of course, there are other benefits as well:
  • cleaner air
  • better focus
  • stress reduction (though I do take issue with this one since it totally stresses me out to see plant corpses littering my desktop)
Thankfully, though, the color green doesn't apply only to plants. Simply painting a room green, or facing a green wall can kick creativity up a notch. The bonus to that is you don't have to remember to water a wall.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Be Yourself . . . Unless You Can Be A Unicorn ~ Then Be That

"Don't worry about being original. Originality is overrated. The one thing that's unique about your story is that you're the one writing it. Your voice is the original thing."

~ Chuck Wendig

Overthinking ought to be a felony. Wait a minute. Scratch that. We've got way too many laws on the books as is. 

My point is that wasting energy on your WIP -- be it a novel, blog entry, or letter to Aunt Gertrude -- by wondering if it's "good enough" or "fresh enough"  or "original enough" is exactly that . . . a waste.

Life's too short to fret over things we can't change. What's that? You think you can change your writing? Sure, writing can always be tweaked. You can grow as a writer, but -- step a little closer and listen up -- not if you're too busy fretting about your writing. 

Whatever it is you need to write today, just be real. Write like you speak, as if you're saying the words out loud. There's only one you. Unless you're a clone . . . and I'm pretty sure that is against the law.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Yanking Away Your I-Don't-Have-Time-To-Read Crutch

Shh. Listen. Hear that? It's the clickety-clack of thousands of keyboards, fingers pounding out words in a NANOWRIMO tribal thrum. Oh . . . and that off-beat tapping noise interrupting the sweet, sweet flow? Ignore that. It's just me, thumping away with 3 of my fingers on my right hand. Yes, I'm still bandaged up, but even so I managed to limp my way through 1k words yesterday.

Whether you are or aren't part of the crazed typing frenzy, don't let all this writing stop you from reading. In fact, don't let anything stop you from reading. Delving into a fat piece of literature is good for you in oh-so-many ways . . .

Toughens Your Skin
Yeah, I know. Winter winds or too much sun can do that too. But I'm talking about your precious little psyche. Fear of failure can be paralyzing, but when you read stories of characters that overcome their fear, it gives you hope that maybe you can do that too.

Earns You Time
Think you don't have time to read? Au contraire, Hoss. Reading might seem like a time waster, but in actuality, literature allows you to experience a range of emotions and events that would take a lifetime--if ever--to encounter.

Kicks Your Self Confidence Up a Notch
Via character and story, books show you that maybe you're not as big of a freak as you thought you were.

Makes You a Better Citizen of the Human Race
Reading stories from different points of view -- a native Hulu, a futuristic cyborg, an Aztec, whatever -- stretches your comfort zone and develops empathy for others different than yourself.

And those are just a few benefits of reading. There are a gazillion more. I'm not saying you need to kick back and let your family fend for themselves while you eat bon bons on the couch and peruse through War and Peace. Even as little as ten minutes a day is good. The point is to sneak in a few paragraphs on a consistent basis, and before you know it, you'll have read a stack of titles.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Nano Frustrations

NANOWRIMO kicked off on Saturday, and wowzer . . . lemme tell ya, folks, I was smokin' hot, or my keyboard was. 1400 words in an hour and a half. That's like Guinness material for me. So yeah, I was feeling pretty good, dang sure I'd be able to meet the NANO challenge this year. Woo-hoo! Look at me! Writerly champion of the universe. I totally rock!

You know where this is headed, right?

Salted Brownie Caramel Trifle
We had plans to go to a game night at a friend's house later that evening, and I always bring something chocolate. Where better to find some chocolatey deliciousness than Pinterest? And I did. Mason Jar Salted Caramel Brownie Trifles.

It looked fantastic and I had all the ingredients, except for pint-sized mason jars. So I bought some, then brought them home and washed them. Does anyone else have a counter perpetually full of dishes to wash? I figured I'd wash those, too.

Very carefully, I put in the bad boy butcher knife that my 20 year old used in culinary school. It's wicked sharp, the best knife we own, so I'm careful about how I wash it.

And then Ada Clare, my 7 month old bundle of fuzzy muzzle love, got into something she shouldn't.
Bad Boy

By the time I returned, time was ticking away, I was in a hurry, and I'd totally forgotten about the bad boy in the dish water. I shoved in my hand and pulled out bloody stubs. Okay, so not really stubs, but LOTS of blood. You'd think there were sharks in the water. I howled so loud, my boy working outside on his car tore in the house.

Now there's something you may not know about me. I avoid doctors and hospitals like the plague, and even if I had the plague, I'd think twice before going. So my husband is used to playing MD with me, as in stitching or bandaging, you sicko.

Want to see the final product?
Home Made Splint and Bandaging
The middle finger knuckle is sliced clean across, so the slightest bend will break it wide open again, hence the plywood splint he whipped up for me out in the garage. The index finger is gashed down to the bone. I've still got total feeling and movement, though, so no worries.

Yeah, I'll heal, but I may not recover from a seriously hampered typing speed. All that confidence I'd built up on Saturday morning is gone. As for my NANO count, umm . . . let's just say pride indeed goes before a fall.
 
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