29 September 2011

The "Why?" Game

I like figuring out what makes people tick, why they do what they do, and then I like to write about it. Still, no matter how much or how little I know about you, I may never know why you write. I could ask you this personal question, and you may give me a reasonable explanation, but I doubt I'll fully understand your motivation. I can't feel what you feel as you write, hear your intimate thoughts, or know the intent of your heart.

Despite this gap between us—you don't fully know what exists in my heart either—you (the bloggers I follow) do a marvelous job of sharing bits and pieces of your soul. You've done this by voicing your opinions, your highs and lows, and your experiences. I admire your courage and honesty and I appreciate each glimpse into your mind and heart.

We've all heard that a successful writer shares his/her inner most thoughts and emotions. If you're like me (I suffer from the occasional trust issue, denial, and plain old ignorance) opening my heart to an audience can be a royal pain in the you-know-what. I'm not a stage performer for a reason. Bearing my soul to strangers makes me feel vulnerable and exposed—both of which are very unappealing emotions. But I accepted this reality when I chose, body and soul, to be a writer.

William Wordsworth said, "Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart." And that's just what I intend to do.

How has your intent shaped you as a writer?

26 September 2011

Blogging Mentor Mondays: Angie Cothran Goes to Lunch with J.K. Rowling

It's my pleasure to introduce you to today's Mentor, Angie Cothran, a co-contributor of the blog Live to Write...Edit When Necessary. I've recently had the honor of reading Angie's manuscript, THE ALABASTER REFUGEE, and was sucked in by her complex characters, enlightening use of color, and old world setting. She's a gifted writer and a dedicated blogger. I'm glad to have her here!

Give us a low-down on yourself, your writing, and your blog: Myself: I have a love affair with books. Sometimes I think my husband is jealous, but I can’t stop reading. I’ve always loved books, but I never considered writing until five years ago. I had a pesky thought that just would not leave me alone—WRITE A BOOK. It took me four years, but I did it.
My Writing: I’m not a structured writer or a balanced writer. I write my scenes out of order and then link them together. And I don’t sit down and write at a specific time. I write when the idea strikes me anywhere I am. I once wrote an entire scene in the car while driving to Texas (I was driving). I made my 12-year-old watch to make sure I stayed in my lane. I know it was dangerous, but I couldn’t lose the idea. J
My Blog: I attended my first writing conference in May, and the agents there talked about how important it is to have a web presence. So my two critique partners and I started a blog. I've LOVED it!

I write like you. It can be chaotic, but I get things done. I've also plotted while driving, and I bet we're not alone. Man, we writers will go to great lengths to get a scene down on paper.

How did/do you build your blog following? I’m a big believer in sincerity and reciprocation. If someone comments on my blog I always check out their blog, become a follower, and leave a comment. I also think a great tool for building a blog is to join blog fests. I’ve meet the best people that way. You and Deana have a great one coming up. I’m all ready working on my posts.

I agree about reciprocation in blogging. That's part of the reason why I do Blogging Mentor Mondays. I like to introduce bloggers (and all of Blogging Land) to the awesome bloggers I follow. By the way, I'm psyched to read your entries for Killer Characters Blogfest. It's going to be so much fun!

Do you have any advice for writing good posts and comments? My favorite posts are about the craft of writing. I love to learn about writing, so if I find something I think can help authors I love to post it. I try to make my posts: informative, funny, and brief. Sometimes I fall short on the funny part, but I try. As for writing comments, I think it’s important to be sincere and positive. I think if you show people who you really are they will respond. Just be yourself (I sound like and after school special. Ooo, maybe Tiffany Amber Thiessen can play me :)

You ARE funny! And you know, you kind of look like Tiffany Amber Thiessen...

What about blogging benefits you the most? Oh, that is easy—the relationships I’ve built with other authors. I’m constantly amazed at the support authors give each other. I’m pretty sure accountants don’t have a blogging community where they can share their journeys and fears. Authors are incredible!

I'm with you on this one: it's wonderful to meet supportive people working toward similar goals. : )

What is your favorite blog (besides your own, of course) and why? There are so many great blogs out there (like yours, Emily), but I think my favorite is author Janice Hardy’s blog. She’s a genius. I could browse her archives for hours. I’ve learned so many things from her: how to show and not tell, how to pull in your POV, how to up the stakes, how to write a synopsis…I could go on and on. If you’ve never checked her out, you should. http://blog.janicehardy.com/

I haven't been to her blog, which means I'm sure some of our readers haven't either. Thanks for the referral!

If you could meet anyone (dead or alive) who would it be? Of course, my first choice would be Jesus, but I think 50% of the world’s population would pick him. So I better pick someone else—someone authory. I’m going to cheat a little and invite three authors to lunch (I think we will go to Toucanos, because I love Brazilian food). I would love to meet J.K. Rowling and ask her how she manages such intricate plots. I’ve never read her equal in that regard. Next I’ll ask Shannon Hale, because she is just so darn funny. I want to know how she can write such lyrical books for teens and such funny books for adults. Then I would round it out with C.S. Lewis. How does he manage to use symbolism in such an effortless way? And his philosophy books on Christianity—nothing less than genius!

I'll overlook you cheating—if I get an invite to lunch.

Thanks for having me, Emily. This is so much fun and you are so sweet :)

Thank YOU! For those of you who are just now meeting Angie, check out her blog. And don't forget to come back next week so I can introduce you to another fabulous Blogging Mentor!

22 September 2011

In Loving Memory

Last night at 10:51 p.m I received a phone call from my mom saying that my grandmother had passed away.
The first emotion I felt was disbelief. I knew my grandma was sick. I knew she was in the ICU, but I didn't know her cancer was stage IV, not stage I, or that her organs were shutting down. Only after I was told she'd died did I know this.
The tears came next as I tried to make sense of it all. My crying mother, her voice unusually high, described how it happened: The doctors told my grandmother she was dying and there was nothing they could do, but she didn't believe them. She'd fight this. She'd get better. She said good-bye before falling asleep surrounded by her loved ones, fully expecting to see them again. She never woke up. Her tired heart slowed until it stopped beating. My mom held her hand till the last beat.
Grandma's death was a horrible one, long and painful. I'm glad she isn't suffering any longer, but I'm sad that my youngest children won't remember Great-Grandma's high-pitched gasp of laughter or her firm kisses on the mouth. I'll miss both.
I cannot express how grateful I am that I know this is not the end. I will see my grandma again.
I look forward to celebrating her life with my family and her friends at the funeral. Her name was Joy, and she was that—a joy.

Joy Stone October 26, 1937—September 21, 2011

21 September 2011

Laughs, Tags, and Awards, Oh My!

First off, Grammar Girl posted this on Facebook the other day and I had to share with you. I'm a huge defender of the Oxford comma. This is why:
See? That second comma is important!

Of other importance—I've nearly reached 200 followers! Do ya'll think you can get me to 200? Yes? Well, you can start by signing up for KILLER CHARACTERS BLOGFEST! Grab the button, display it proudly on your blog, and join the fun!

Next up: tags and awards. Kelley at Writtled tagged me in a post two weeks ago and Christa at Christa Writes tagged me last week. I'm supposed to share ten things about myself. I apologize if I bore you.

1. The only video game I play is Mario Kart Wii, and I'm a three-star racer (for those of you who don't know what that is, it means I'd kick your butt in racing). Princess Peach and I are tight!
2. I eat chocolate religiously. It's good to have daily rituals.
3. I was born in Canada, eh.
4. My cell phone doesn't have the Internet or text messaging. I know, I'm a dinosaur.
5. When I'm upset, I bake cookies. Then I eat them by the dozen.
6. Top Gear is my favorite TV show. The American version is okay, but I could watch the British version nonstop. Jeremy Clarkson, you're my hero!
7. I'm a mother to three perfect children: one know-it-all, one suicidal maniac, and one demanding princess. Life is good!
8. I'm a cat person. Nothing is more satisfying than harassing a cat. Their dirty looks are well worth the effort.
9. Real Housewives of any season is my guilty pleasure. Just because people are rich doesn't mean they have class... or brains.
10. I would wear my housecoat (that's a bathrobe to you Yankees) all day long if it were socially acceptable. In fact, I'm wearing it now.

And finally, Angie at Live to Write... Edit When Necessary gave me the Versatile Blogger Award and The Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award two weeks ago, followed by L.A. Speedwing of A blog about Writing, Arts and other Randomness, who passed on The Versatile Blogger Award, and Lindy at Lindy Legends who also passed on the Versatile Blogger Award and the Liebster Blog Award. Thank you ladies! I've already posted facts about myself, so I must pass on these awards to more bloggers who are irresistibly sweet AND versatile. Check them out!

Julie at Quiet Laughter
Samantha at The Frog and the Princess
Rachel at Dreamer, Bread Baker, Story Maker
Cortney Pearson
Ladonna Watkins
(If none of my picks know the rules of the awards, let me know.)

19 September 2011

Get Real

Blogging Mentor Mondays is rescheduled for next week, so you get to hear from me today, you lucky duckies.

As my blogging buddies, you will understand that it can be a struggle to decide which topics to post about. There's so much to choose from! We can voice our fears, failures, and successes. We can share information we've learned, occasions to celebrate, and our goals for the future. In doing so, we are open, we are honest, we are real.

But how honest are we really? We lie, I mean embellish for a living (or in some cases, we'd like to make a living). No one wants to say it, but there's an elephant in this world-sized blogging room and that elephant is TRUTH.

Ask yourself this: How honest are you about your writing?

I'll answer first: I consider myself a straight-shooter. Either in my personal writing or writing for my blog, I put my best foot forward. But even after I've done my best, some of my flaws are disconcertingly apparent.

I'm not alone. We all have weaknesses in our writing that we don't wish to reveal, especially not on the Internet (yes, even in a world of Twitter, Facebook, and Blogger there is such a thing as, gasp!, privacy). As a human being you are entitled to your privacy, but you're not just any human—you're a writer. In case you don't already know it privacy isn't a perk. Everything you jot down on paper is you. If you share your writing with anyone else, you're out there, warts and all.

This isn't always unfortunate. You can learn a lot by exposing truths. One of the best ways to hold a mirror up to your writing is to have someone else critique it. But be prepared to see the not-so-pleasant reflection of your writing—and yourself, because that's how it feels. Receiving a critique is Personal with a capital P. No one likes to have their flaws pointed out to them. NO ONE. Still, being honest about your weaknesses—and strengths—opens the door to progress and success.

I've come across many writer/bloggers posting about their flaws. This is fantastic! Acknowledging a weakness is the first step to turning that weakness into a strength. We're writers, not gods. Although our words may be immortalized when they're put into print, we are mortal, and mistakes are inevitable. But beware that you don't beat yourself up too much. Truth is harmful when used as a battering ram instead of a tool for betterment. Focus on the good, shed light on the bad, and never give up.

We need not write perfectly—we need only write with integrity. And really, what more can we ask of ourselves or any other writer?

What role does honesty play in your writing?

12 September 2011

Blogging Mentor Mondays: Elana Johnson Stops By!

Elana Johnson, author of POSSESSION, has dropped by for a quick chat! Elana is, among other things, my go-to person for all things bloggerly. Her blog contains detailed information about how to build a better blog. More recently Elana posted about self-promotion, Getting Yourself Out There in 30 Minutes or Less, which includes a snippet about blogging. Elana definitely knows her stuff! I'm pumped to have her Mentoring us today!

Give us the low-down on yourself, your writing, and your blog: Okay, my life is sort of an open book, what with everything I post on my blog (http://elanajohnson.blogspot.com). I also blog for The League of Extraordinary Writers (http://leaguewriters.blogspot.com) and organize WriteOnCon (http://writeoncon.com). I like to write YA novels, anything from contemporary to dystopian to fantasy--sometimes all at the same time! My debut, POSSESSION, is a YA dystopian novel set in a brainwashing society, and is available now anywhere books are sold. The second book in the series, SURRENDER, comes out next summer.

How do you build your blog following? Building a blog following takes an extreme amount of time and long-suffering. You must get out there and comment on as many blogs as your schedule allows. Follow those blogs while you're there. Respond to comments. Be genuine. Be yourself. You'll get as much out of blogging as you put in.

What advice can you give for writing good posts and comments? I have a couple of rules for my blog posts: Brevity. No one wants to read and read and read your blog post. Keep it short. Second, ask a question. Some way for the reader to interact with you. You'll get more comments that way, and you'll get to know people better by how they answer. And really, blogging is all about community, so you need those relationships to keep your following/comments up.

How does blogging benefit you the most? For me, it's the personal relationships I've gained from either commenting on someone's blog or from them commenting on mine. And of course, my numbers look good, and publishing is a numbers business, so it makes me appear more popular than I really am. :) 

What is your favorite blog (besides your own, of course) and why? I can only pick one? I like Ali Cross's blog (http://alicross.blogspot.com). She's got an amazing community going on with her Ninja Dojo. I like Matt McNish's Query Experiment blog (http://theqqqe.blogspot.com). He does a great service for people, and he's super-nice to everyone. And I like about a million others!

Random question: If you found a magic lamp, what three wishes would you ask the Genie to grant you? Holy mother of shiny things! I don't even know where to start? Make me look greedy? Selfish? Philanthropic? (Do you know how long it took me to spell that word? Maybe I should wish for stronger spelling skills... Wait! That's not one of the wishes!) How about... 1. I wish I could eat anything I wanted and not gain any weight. Bacon, FTW. 2. I wish I could make a living writing novels so I could quit my teaching job. 3. I wish for world peace and to end world hunger.

World peace? You're such a saint! I don't think you could appear selfish, Elana (I, too, would love to eat a whole pig and not gain weight). Not only did you agree to Mentor us, but you're also contributing great prizes for KILLER CHARACTERS BLOGFEST! Thanks for all you do!

For those of you who haven't perused Elana's blog, go and browse the bounty of resources she has available to fellow writers. And be sure to sign up for KILLER CHARACTERS BLOGFEST for the chance to win a 10-page critque from Elana!

09 September 2011

Killer Characters Blogfest!

Get ready for a killer blogfest! 

Deana Barnhart (she brought us Gearing Up to Get an Agent Blogfest this past July) and I are co-hosting KILLER CHARACTERS BLOGFEST!

The theme is, you guessed it, Killer Characters! Is there a hero who's haunted your dreams? How about a lower-than-dirt bad guy who's made your skin crawl? Or a spunky sidekick who's stolen your heart? Tell us about them!

Join us in three challenges:
1) Oct 24 post about your favorite literary supporting character
2) Oct 26 post about your favorite literary protagonist
3) Oct 28 post about your favorite literary antagonist
All entires should be 250 words maximum, but you may use all the pictures you'd like. 

Choose characters you feel strongly about. They don't all have to be evil—though seeing how it's Halloween, malevolent characters are welcome—but they should be killer (AKA awesome, incredible, terrifying, formidable, etc.). Note: The characters you choose should be famous literary characters. For instance, the Ugly Stepsisters (supporting), Batman (protagonist), and the Wicked Witch of the West (antagonist). Then write concise, clear, and convincing entries. Explain why your characters are the best!

To encourage you to join, we have three killer prizes. We're giving away Elana Johnson's book, POSSESSION, to the third prize winner. The runner-up will receive a 5-page critique from Elana herself, and the winner will receive a 10-page critique from Elana!

Deana and I will judge the contest. The winners will be announced November 2nd.

To participate you must be a follower of my blog and Deana's blog. Sign-up in the linky below and leave your e-mail address in a comment. Then grab the button in the sidebar and post it on your blog to identify yourself. The week of the challenges, blog-hop to read and comment on the other entries. Killer Characters Blogfest is going to be a scream!

06 September 2011

"Man, she's intense!"

I have often been told that I'm INTENSE. I think this is a compliment, but I deferred to the dictionary to be sure.

1. existing or occurring in a high or extreme degree: intense heat.
2. acute, strong, or vehement, as sensations, feelings, or emotions: intense anger.
3. of an extreme kind; very great, as in strength, keenness, severity, or the like: an intense gale.
4. having a characteristic quality in a high degree: The intense sunlight was blinding.
5. strenuous or earnest, as activity, exertion, diligence, or thought: an intense life.

Okay, so I admit (begrudgingly) to seeing a bit of myself in numbers 2 and 4, and this is why:

When I decided to be a writer, I already had my first story in mind. I'd been rolling the concept around in my head since I was twelve years old. As I outlined the book, I quickly realized I wasn't outlining one book, but six. Writing the first portion proved to be a lengthy process. I tried to jam too much of my six-part story into the first book. I revised, revised again, and cut my word count down drastically. All the while I wrote detailed outlines for the remaining portions.

It has been suggested that the best way to survive querying is to dive into another project. I totally agree! But in my case, my next project is Book Two of the same series, which I'm several drafts into writing.

My dilemma is this: the story in me is the one yet to be published. My characters are screaming for me to continue their journey, but if I appease them, the stress of querying will remain because all the while I'll be thinking, there's no point writing Book Two if Book One isn't published.

Now, back to me being "intense." When I am "in" a story, I am intensely focused to the point of total absorption. I don't write another story until the one in my head is on paper. This is true of my incomplete story. I am still in love with it as much as I was the day I committed to writing it. This is how I know that regardless of the outcome of Book One, I must finish telling this story.

*smiling sheepishly* I guess my family and friends are right, I can be a little intense.

What about you? Are you intense about your writing?

05 September 2011

Blogging Mentor Mondays: Natalie Whipple is here!

Natalie Whipple has graciously accepted my invitation to be our Mentor this week! Natalie's blog, Between Fact & Fiction, is a must-read for blogging writers. I'm thrilled to have her here today!

Give us the low-down on yourself, your writing, and your blog: I’m a mom, amateur cook, otaku, and gamer (and of course writer). I’ve been writing seriously for five years, but have written on and off since I was a child. My first novel, TRANSPARENT, will be published by HarperTeen in Summer 2013, which is all kinds of exciting. My blog, Between Fact & Fiction, has been in operation for almost 4 years. I recently celebrated my 1000th post, and hope to see many more.

Congrats! I can't believe you've been blogging for almost four years. That takes serious dedication.

How did/do you build your blog following?
I’ve never set out actively build my following. If people want to follow, I’m happy to have them, if not, that’s fine, too. My numbers, I think, reflect a lot of years participating in the blog world. There have been big influxes around the times that I reached certain milestones like winning contests, getting an agent, and announcing my book deal. There were also a few instances where a post I wrote got a bigger-than-expected response, but I don’t know how to replicate those (otherwise I’d write them everyday!).

I used to be able to visit everyone who visited my blog, but once I got over a hundred or so that would take up a lot of time. So now I try to be as responsive on Twitter and in comments as I can. If people ask questions, I answer. I have monthly Q&A sessions where I take an entire day out just to answer whatever question people have. I think being responsive is important because blogging is about relationships—not numbers.

I can see why, with over 1600 followers, you don't have time to visit everyone's blog. It's great that you set aside a day every month for your Q&A. Very clever!

Do you have any advice for writing good posts or comments?
Write from the heart? I don’t know, it differs for everyone. For me, I ended up in this kind of “Keeping It Real” pov. It works for me. I’m the kind of person who can’t hide emotions to save her life, so it’s easier to get them out there and be real about it. Some people are great at funny. Some are great at advice. Some are good at being thoughtful. Writing good posts and comments is much like writing good books—have to find your voice first.

After that, I suppose it’s practice and presenting frequently-repeated topics in your own special pov. And don’t be afraid to be you, to express your interests. Funnily enough, that’s what makes you interesting.

I agree about having to find your voice to write good posts (or anything else). It is essential to sound like yourself. As you said, that's what makes us interesting.

What about blogging benefits you the most?
The biggest benefit has been meeting other writers. I found my crit partners online. I found my agent online. I found out how to query and write from largely online sources. It has been a HUGE help in my career, and I wouldn’t be where I am now without those people I met along the way. What were once casual online acquaintances are now real live friends who I’ve met and hung out with, call and email.

The online writing community is vast; it's no wonder you've acquired many great experiences, especially since you've been at this for four years.

What is your favorite blog (besides your own, of course) and why?
I enjoy many blogs. Nathan Brandford’s basically taught me how to survive the publishing waters. Kiersten White’s is never-endingly funny. Kasie West writes the most hilarious real life stories. Stephanie Perkins posts are fabulously quirky and rich with cool things, just like her. Laini Taylor posts the most beautiful pictures and is all around inspiring. K. Marie Criddle illustrates her posts and there are surly unicorns. Adam Heine covers writing and all around geekery. Carrie Harris is my daily dose of weird funny, and I love her for it. And Michelle Arglye (Lady Glamis) is thoughtful and beautiful and deep.

I always wish I could read as many blogs as I used to, but alas, I don’t have naptime anymore. It’s funny, how I’ve actually gotten busy the older my kids have gotten. I thought it would be the other way around!

I haven't been to three of these blogs. Thanks for the referrals! 

Random question: If you could be any writer, who would you be?
Hmm, you know I’ve never wanted to be another writer. I’ve admired a lot of writers—C.S. Lewis, J.K. Rowling, Laini Taylor, Sherman Alexie, Sarah Dessen, Julie Halpern, Holly Black, Ally Carter, etc.—but being them seems like a weird thing to want. I could never be them; I can only be me. I guess I’d like to be the best me possible. I don’t think I’ve gotten there, or that I will for a while, but that’s my goal.

I suppose it would be weird to "be" another writer, but we all have books we've read that have inspired us. Thank you for sharing yours.

Natalie, I think your "Keeping it real" pov has definitely shone through in this interview. Thank you so much for mentoring us today!

For those of you who haven't checked out Natalie's blog, get to it! If you're like me, you'll fall in love with her sincerity and talent. I've always been a sucker for a pretty redhead!