Tag Archives: books

What can you accomplish in 5 years?

time bloomingHow about 20?

Taking a break from writing my YA Paranormal first draft, I hopped over to see what (one of) my fav YA authors was up to. Laurie Halse Anderson focuses more on writing her books, than blog posts, which I truly admire. But, Here’s a post she shared back in September, 2012 that got me thinking.

Yes, I’ve been struggling with my own creativity doubts, droughts and bouts of frustration. Some bouts and droughts last long. Too long. And then, I start to think… “Am I REALLY a writer? Or am I posing as a writer because that’s what everyone THINKS I am?” Have I been at this writing thing too long with not much to show for it? It’s depressing. It’s defeating. Anyone else with me on this?

So, reading Laurie’s post about giving herself 5 years to make a name for herself in writing gave me an idea. What if I started right now? Like, took it seriously. 5 years from now, I can have a book published. 5 years from now, my oldest son will be a freshman in college, my younger guy will be a freshman in high school. They’d both be pretty independent and not need Mom around as much as they do now. I could go on a book tour! Ha! O.K. One.Thing.At.A.Time.

Finish first draft.

Submit my piece to my crit group TODAY. (eek!)

Meet with said crit group on Wednesday.

Critique one more story on CritiqueCircle.com

Complete first draft for Anthology 7 & post on CritiqueCircle.com

Where will you be in 5 years with your writing? With your life?

Random tidbits…

Written to the musical muse of: A Fine Frenzy – “Almost Lover”

Movie I’m psyched to see: Warm Bodies

Book I’m reading: well, just finished Anne Lamott’s Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith

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AM I a traitor?

I received a Kindle Fire for Christmas. And I really, truly love all the capabilities. But, as empty wallets follow full holidays, alas I have no money left to purchase ebooks.

Any suggestions for some great fiction or books on creativity/inspiration/art/writing for cheap?

 

I loved words. I love to sing them and speak them and even now, I must admit, I have fallen into the joy of writing them. — Anne Rice

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Winner!

Today’s Thankful Thursday is being interrupted to announce the winner of Kathy Handley’s Birds of Paradise…

Randomly selected from those who left a comment, the winner is…

Sandi Hershenson

Congrats, Sandi!  I sent you an email with details. Thank you to Kathy for her inspirational post and to all my readers who stopped by.  Keep us posted on your progress with those writing contests.

Quick list of love:

  • My followers!
  • My Man
  • My boys
  • Pumpkin Spice Lattes
  • Deep purple Nailpolish
  • Led Zepplin (I’m adding to my LAKE RESORT NOVEL’s playlist and Zepplin figures prominently.)

Who do you LOVE ??

 

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Are Old Fears Dragging You Down? (Guest post & Giveaway!)

Are Old Fears Dragging You Down?

Guest Post by Mari McCarthy (Don’t forget to enter the ebook giveaway @ bottom of post!)

It’s the human condition to experience fear every now and then. No one is entirely immune to it. Part of growing up is learning how to handle your fears.

A friend observed the other day that people seem to be inexplicably drawn to challenging situations, circumstances that will force us to change and grow. It’s easy to build a cozy cocoon of our daily routines, but the time for metamorphosis comes around sooner or later. And often, you find yourself facing the very thing you hoped to avoid forever.

Win this Book!

The challenges that beckon us can bring us face to face with old fears. It’s as if the growth is directly aimed at making us resolve these ancient terrors, so we can progress in life. Our fears are barriers, keeping us from becoming what we naturally wish to be.

A highly effective tool for making your old fears disappear is journaling. Try the following process.

  1. Set aside a notebook that is dedicated to journaling about your fears. Write in it regularly.
  2. Make a list of everything you are afraid of.
  3. Identify several childhood fears that you had. Have you overcome any of these? How were you able to erase your fear?
  4. Write about the sensation of fear, how it feels in your body, what it might look like if it had a tangible form.
  5. Write in detail about the conditions present when you experience fear in your current life. Describe the external circumstances as well as the sequence of your thoughts.

Now return to the list of all your current fears and work through them in whatever order you wish.

Write about:

  1. where you are when this fear arises
  2. what happens in your body when you feel it
  3. your response to the fear
  4. the value of this fear to you (don’t forget that some fear is good; it protects us from harm)
  5. and end with an observation (or two) about your fear at this point

As with all journaling, don’t neglect the important step of reviewing previous entries after some time has passed. It is when you look back on the past that your journey is revealed.

Finally, notice that the journal writing therapy prescribed here makes no demands on you to change. It is important not to feel pressured about changing. Know that you are journaling to record, to illustrate, to discuss; but not to achieve anything.

Let the change come of its own accord as you continue to observe and write.

#

Mari McCarthy

 By Mari L. McCarthy – The Journaling Therapy Specialist, founder of Journaling for the Health of It™.  Please visit Mari’s blog at CreateWriteNow. In Who Are You? How to Use Journaling Therapy to Know and Grow Your Life, Mari presents a gentle process for self discovery through journaling. Mari’s latest publication is titled, Your Money Matters! Use Journal Writing Therapy to Get Financially Fit Now.

Enter to win! By leaving a comment or question on today’s post, you are entered to win a copy of Mari’s ebook: Who Are You? How to Use Journaling Therapy to Know and Grow Your Life. I use random.org to select a winner – posted tomorrow, Wed., Aug. 31)

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Reader Wednesday: CONFLICT

To continue our series….

What I'm reading now

From Beginnings, Middles & Ends, by Nancy Kress, I’ll share the “four elements that make a first scene compelling,” along with how my novel stacks up. The four elements are: CHARACTER, CONFLICT, SPECIFICITY  and CREDIBILITY.

This week: CONFLICT

CONFLICT:  in real life, we avoid it, in fiction we live for it and so does your story and its readers.

CONFLICT doesn’t necessarily mean an argument or a fight scene.  In Beginnings, Middles & Ends author, Nancy Kress, uses Raymond Carver’s short story “Fat” as an example of CONFLICT. The overall theme of Carver’s story is based on a touchy subject. The writer and reader both know that in our society, weight is an emotional issue.

 

 In my novel,  I show CONFLICT in the following ways:

  • ABANDONMENT: Humans thrive on the need to be needed, loved, connected. We learn early on, page one to be exact, that Lily has been abandoned by her mother.
  • ALCOHOLISM: This disease has far-reaching affects, not only on the abuser, but their circle of family and friends. Lily’s mother’s disease effects Lily’s entire outlook on life: past, present and future. It is what drives her need to flee, yet grounds her at home, where she hopes her mom will return for her.
  • GRANDPARENT RAISING GRANDCHILD: As common as this situation is, it comes with its own set of problems. The age gap, the resentment on both the grandparent’s end and the child’s end, anger at the absent parent, yet a need to protect and defend them. Lily struggles with her Nonna’s prudish ways and strict work ethic on their lake resort. She depends on Nonna for being the only stable thing in her life, yet resents when Nonna bad-mouths her mother.
  • FAMILY SECRETS: anytime secrets are kept within a family, something is about to explode. Truth revealed and the reaction to that truth can cause a riptide in the gene pool.  As the new young guest, Frank, confides in Lily about the horrific secret his family is keeping, Lily discovers a buried box, filled with secrets her own family has been keeping from her.

Ask the Question: What is the CONFLICT and how early is it introduced?

Kress says the First line, or at least the first page,should promise CONFLICT and raise questions for the reader.

So, take the first page of your draft and see if  your CONFLICT  makes its grand entrance. Share your findings with us!

Next week we’ll discuss SPECIFICITY

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Reader Wednesday

This week, I picked another writing book – cause I have a slight problem. With books. And writing. And buying things ; )

What I'm reading now

From Beginnings, Middles & Ends, by Nancy Kress, I’ll share the “four elements that make a first scene compelling,” along with how my novel stacks up. The four elements are: CHARACTER, CONFLICT, SPECIFICITY  and CREDIBILITY.

This week: CHARACTER

CHARACTER:  described by her voice, internal and external dialogue, thoughts, clothing, surroundings and her reaction to them.

In my opening scene I show CHARACTER in the following ways:

  • IN HER ROOM: Piles of mismatched pillows that Lily swiped from the houses of her mom’s long list of “hook-up’s”
  • IN HER SETTING: Lily’s reaction and interaction with the lake, the air, the sun and the island
  • IN HER TASTES: Coffee – no sugar
  • IN HER PHYSICAL APPEARANCE: her complex with her large nose, the scar, her tanned skin, dry chapped feet, long windblown hair, cut-off jeans
  • IN HER DREAMS: culinary school brochures & applications

Ask the Question: What does this promise?

  1. Lily obviously has a problem with theft and possibly her mom’s promiscuity – how will this play into the story?
  2. The Setting of being on a lake and how Lily walks around in that world shows us her skills, her upbringing, her culture and lifestyle. Also may play into conflict later (with weather)
  3. Her tastes and family traditions surrounding coffee and all foods and cooking play a large role in the book
  4. Having a complex about the size of her nose makes her human, relatable. The details of her appearance and clothing pull the reader into Lily’s world – making her believable
  5. Lily’s goal of getting into culinary school is central in the theme of the book. When the Protagonist has a goal, the conflicts stacked up against her are that much more tense. Makes the reader Care!!

So, take the first scene of your draft and see how your CHARACTER stacks up. Share your findings with us!

Next week we’ll discuss CONFLICT

 ~~~~~~~~~~

Don’t want to forget to check in for new posts? No problem, let them come to you – SUBSCRIBE!

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Reader Wednesday

What I'm reading now

Once again, from Write Great Fiction – Plot & Structure (Techniques and exercises for crafting a plot that grips readers from start to finish) – James Scott Bell

Stretching the Emotional (tension)

We humans are a circus of doubts and anxieties. Play them up! Give us the whole show.

To stretch the inner tension, ask these questions to get your raw material:

1.    What is the worst thing from the inside that can happen to my character? (This encompasses a whole universe of mental stakes. HINT:  look to the character’s fears.)

2.    What is the worst information my character can receive? (Some secret from the past or fact that rocks her world can be stalking her through the scene.)

3.    Have I sufficiently set up the depth of emotion for readers before the scene? (We need to care about your LEAD characters before we care about their problems.)

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WINNER! and Reader Wednesday

Random.org selected commenter # 1 – That’s you, Beth MacKinney!

Congrats! Pls send me (mjwriter”at”comcast.net) your email contact  info and Mari L.McCarthy will send you her ebook: 27 Days of Journaling to Health and Happiness

 

And now back to our scheduled programming….

What I’m reading now

 

From Plot & Structure, by The Great James Scott Bell

Stretching the Physical (tension)

Questions to ask before you write a tense scene involving physical action:

What is the worst thing from the outside that can happen to my character? (This may be in the form of another person, a physical object, or a circumstance outside my character’s control.)

In my Novel-in-progress I’m thinking of a scene in the woods where Lily and Frank are digging up old relics in the dark. They’re found by Frank’s older brother, Vince, who’s been drinking and is belligerent.

What is the worst trouble my character can get into in this scene? (You may come up with an instant answer. Pause a moment and ratchet it up a notch. This may suggest further possibilities.)

Currently, Vince seems like a dangerous physical threat, but Lily fakes him out and she and Frank speed off on the mini-bike, avoiding any real danger. Too boring. Have you ever heard the advice to keep your characters in the room? It’s easy to get them out of trouble quickly and change scenes. But easy doesn’t make for interesting, tense reading. And building trouble, not dodging it, is the key to memorable scenes. So, Vince needs to get closer – be a real threat  – a hint that something terrible could result. Lily, a drunken boy. The dark woods. A scared little brother. Who’s going to be the hero? Will they be too late? How will this scene change the rest of the story? Change the characters?

Have I sufficiently set up the danger for readers before the scene? (Remember, they need to know what’s at stake before they start worrying.)

At this point in the story, Lily is no stranger to verbal abuse, but I don’t show any physical abuse. Perhaps that needs to explored. At this point, we also know that Lily is a tough girl with a sassy mouth, but we haven’t seen her in any confrontations. I think I need to add a few flashbacks of how Lily reacts to her mother’s abuse (cowers from her, folds into herself) to see how she will react to Vince’s threats.  Hm, sounds like I have some re-writing to do!

How can this exercise help your story? Which scene are you working on and what will you do differently to build that physical tension? *Next Week: Building Emotional Tension!

 

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Filed under books, characters, Fiction, Novels, Reader Wednesdays, Writing prompts

Reader Wednesday

How are you guys liking the Reader Wednesday Series? I’m having fun posting my findings…

What I'm reading now

This week, From Write Great Fiction – Plot & Structure (Techniques and exercises for crafting a plot that grips readers from start to finish) – James Scott Bell

RE: the Lead Character

I love creating characters, probably my most favorite part of writing fiction, hence the reason I’m reading several books on developing plot! In Plot & Structure, Bell tells of the four characteristics your lead must have in order to hook the reader and carry them along for the journey of the book, the “why should I care about this character?”

Here are the four, and how my lead character, 16-year-old Lily Capriani, ranks:

IDENTIFICATION: How will readers identify with Lily?

Bell says readers will identify with lead characters using “the marks of a real human being.” Most likely we are 1) trying to make it in the world, 2) a little fearful and 3) not perfect.

This is how Lily is…

1)      Trying to make it in the world…

Surviving her mother’s abandonment

Needing to separate herself from her alcoholic mother and the gossip she left behind

Wanting to study culinary arts overseas to create her own future, far away from her current circumstances

2)      A little fearful…

Hoping her mom will return

Shelters her emotions, keeps a distance

Being stuck on Half Moon Bay Resort forever

Ending up like her mom

3)      Not perfect…

Low self-esteem

Workaholic

Kleptomaniac

SYMPATHY: Why will readers care about Lily? Root for her?

Bell says there are 4 ways to establish sympathy: 1) Jeopardy (physical or emotional trouble) 2) Hardship (facing a misfortune not of her own making) 3) The Underdog (we love rooting for those rags to riches heroes) 4) Vulnerability (we worry about a character who can be manipulated or injured or worse)

Lily evokes SYMPATHY by…

Vulnerability: she is stuck in her current life on the lake, reliving her mother’s abandonment each time she reappears to wreak havoc; Lily has an unsettling suspicion that her Nonna is keeping a terrible secret from her, which would have devastating results on her already unstable life.

LIKABILITY: Why would readers want to hang out with Lily for her journey (through several hundred pages?)

Lily is a likable character because…

She has an empathetic heart, kindness especially towards the elderly (her Nonna, the older resort guests) and underdogs (Frank) who she observes in an abusive situation, even though she struggles with her own distrust of people and need to remain “disconnected” so not to get hurt (mom’s abandonment)

She has a witty sense of sarcasm and humor and some smart ass one-liners

INNER CONFLICT: What inner voices battle within Lily making her a complex, multi-dimensional character?

Lily battles with the decision to leave Half Moon Bay and her Nonna to study culinary arts overseas

She justifies this decision by the need to live her own life and get away from the looming family secret, yet guilt over leaving her elderly Nonna to run the resort.

Lily also battles the improbable dream: that her mom will return sober, wanting to have the perfect mother-daughter relationship. If she leaves, she leaves that dream behind.

So, how does your lead character rank?

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Book Blog Tour: Mindy Friddle, Author of Secret Keepers

mindyTALK3-797755Today, I am excited to introduce novelist, Mindy Friddle, who brings a seasoned writer’s expertise to the muddle of writing we all face.

Bio: Mindy Friddle’s first novel, The Garden Angel(St. Martin’s Press/Picador), a SIBA bestseller, was selected for Barnes and Noble’s Discover Great New Writers program in 2004, and was a National Public Radio (NPR) Morning Edition summer reading pick.Secret Keepers, her second novel, was published by St. Martin’s Press in May.She lives, writes, and gardens in Greenville, South Carolina where she directs the Writing Room, a community-based nonprofit program she founded in 2006. skeepersorder2

Mindy will be checking for your comments, it’s her “favorite part of blog touring!” So, be sure to leave a comment or question regarding Mindy’s novels, writing in general, or even gardening!(She’s a Master Gardener.)

 

Interview by: Mary Jo Campbell

 
   1. Wow, Mindy, your list of credentials are a novel in itself.  Let’s talk about your fiction awards.  Are you always on the look out for contests that suit your writing style, or is this something your agent or publisher does for you?  How do you prepare your work for a particular contest?  What about a residency contest?

Something I love about entering writing contests: the deadlines. Sounds funny, maybe, but consider two important points:
1. You have to prepare and submit something by a certain date—which can motivate you to finish or polish.
2. You’ll find out whether your manuscript made it or not within a certain time frame. Even if your work didn’t make it this time, take heart. So often when you submit a story or article for publication, you wait a loooong time to find out if it was read, much less accepted. At least in contests, you’ll know for certain if your work was considered or not. And you can move on.
Poets & Writershas an excellent calendar and listing of contests. You can find it at bookstores and also online.

 
 2. I, myself, sit on the board for a national non-profit for young writers and volunteer my teaching for a local non-profit organization for children.  So, your non-profit program, the Writing Room, touches my heartstrings.  Can you tell us how you founded this program, and how much time you now are able to devote to the Writing Room?  How do you seek out reliable volunteers or do they seek you out?

I talked to a local arts foundation, the Emrys Foundation here in South Carolina, that was willing to sponsor a program for writers. So I agreed to direct the program, which offers seminar and workshops to writers of all levels. I’ve recruited some terrific writing teachers, and we offer at least one seminar or class at no charge every season, as well as multi-week intense workshops (from fiction writing, flash fiction, writing for children, and screenwriting) for a range of fees. One of our goals is to eventually raise funds to offer one or two scholarships every season for folks who want to take in-depth writing workshops, but need some financial assistance. It’s a new program, which I spearheaded because I sensed we had an untapped literary community. Our mission at the Writing Room is to “build a community of writers.”

 

 3. Aspiring novelists are often curious how much of a platform one needs before tackling the marathon that is a novel (both the writing and publishing.) “Where to focus our energies?” Can you tell us about your fiction writing credits and platform prior to landing your first book deal for The Garden Angel?

 
I didn’t have much at all, as far as credits. And no platform, really. I hope aspiring novelists will take encouragement from that. You can’t go wrong with focusing your energy on the writing. Easier said, than done—I know! But a set schedule—writing several times a week no matter what—and reading a lot—that will get you far. Also helpful: attending writing conferences and forming a supportive group of fellow writers to read each other’s work.  After winning a fiction award in my state—the first contest I’d won—I attended Bread Loaf Writers Conference. There, I met Julianna Baggott, a generous writer who recommended that I send my manuscript–when I finished it–to her agent. I followed up and queried, and was fortunate to acquire my agent that way.

 
 4. Back to your latest novel, Secret Keepers.  Where did you get the inspiration for Emma’s character and what kind of research was needed to write from the POV of a 72-year-old woman?

 
After I got to know Emma—her background, her yearnings—and observed her actions (which sometimes surprised me) it wasn’t hard to get into her head. I like to think that age, gender, race, class, etc. aren’t obstacles to writers. Yeah, I know– that’s one of those Big Ideas that crops up on panel discussions: Can you really write about characters outside of your own experience/age/gender? YES. Imagination. Empathy, Curiosity. They go a long way.  Also, the omniscient point of view in Secret Keepers allows the reader access to the thoughts of a cast of characters: Emma, but also her adult children, her teenage grandson, a landscaper, and a homeless guy.  I really loved using the omniscient point of view, with a narrator who occasionally chimes in.  I hope the reader does, too.  I have more about the story behind SECRET KEEPERS on my website.

 

   5. On your tour post at The Muffin, you gave great bulleted tips on the process of novel writing: how to be a “weekend writer” and get through the first draft of your novel before focusing on revisions.  What method(s) do you use to keep all of your writing, research and notes organized while pummeling through that first draft? Do you outline; use note cards; have a favorite writing software?
Organize…not one of my talents. I manage piles. I don’t outline, really, but I do take notes on subsequent drafts and revisions. I use notecards to keep track of characters’ basic bios—when they were born, for example—and also to track scenes. If I think a scene is missing—a conversation between two characters that needs to explain something that will figure in later, for example—I make a note of it on a notecard. “Dora and Jake need to talk about Will’s death before we know Bobby remembers…” something like that. Occasionally, when I want to see the big picture and step back, I’ll use flip chart pages to note when things happen—sort of a crudely drawn timeline. That usually happens in revision, when I’m having to nail down details. I think you can find out what works for you as a writer—I love colors, for example. Highlighting my notecards by character is helpful, and using the “highlight” function in Word to figure out what needs to stay [green for me], what needs to be cut [pink], what needs to be moved somewhere else [yellow].  It’s always interesting to see what works for different writers. I’ve interviewed a number of authors, and this topic often comes up. The interviews are posted on my website, on the Interviews with Writerspage, and there’s more commentary on my blog here, and here. I wrote about the zen of writing– you just walk the path– at A Good Blog is Hard to Find
 

Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and insights!  Please tell us what is on the horizon and where we can find more of your work:
I’m drafting a novel….and between drafts I sometimes turn to writing short fiction. Please feel free to visit my website and blog for more information on writing and reading, and drop me an email with questions or comments. Happy writing and reading everyone!


SECRET KEEPERS:  strong storytelling, comic touches, prickly family dynamics, and the magical power of nature.

St. Martin’s Press
Read an excerpt at www.mindyfriddle.com
On Sale: 4/27/2009
ISBN: 978-0-312-53702-9
ISBN-10: 0-312-53702-6
Also available: THE GARDEN ANGEL (St. Martin’s Press & Picador)

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Filed under Advice, Author Interviews, books, characters, Fiction, Get Published, goals, Inspiration, Novels, Organization, Perseverance, Platform/Marketing, writer markets, writers, writing inspiration