Monthly Archives: December 2013

Writing Tuesday: So What Have I Done

What songs make you think about your life? There are so many types of music out there that hopefully a certain type of music appeals to you whether it’s alternative, rap, hip-hop, pop, jazz, classical, R&B, swing (Big Band), country, Broadway, folk, blues, Reggae, New Age and even more. There are also so many holiday songs to enjoy as well. Inevitably when I turn on the radio during the holiday season, I hear John Lennon’s “So This is Christmas” at least one time. One line in that song always made me think about my life. The second line in the song asks what a person has done (I think fair use allows me to say that the second line is “So What have you done”). A few years ago, I would hear that line and would regret that I hadn’t started writing. So finally I started writing.

I wrote a book and almost finished another when the pregnancy test came back positive. I thought it would be a cinch to write whenever the baby was sleeping or whenever my two older children helped out with the baby. Then I discovered I was having twins. I developed writer’s block and put writing on the back burner, but I still had ideas running through my head. When the twins started mother’s morning out, I decided my “maternity leave” was over and that this time, I would be serious about it. This time I sought out writers’ groups and attended conferences. I’ve sought out critique partners and received invaluable information from people who have cared enough to read my work and tell me what I’m doing wrong as well as told me if something made them smile.

Although I gave up on my first attempt citing writer’s block and life issues, I’m learning the meaning of perseverance. This year was not easy as I’ve been dealing with the loss of my father after my mother passed away eighteen months earlier. During one of our last talks, my father told me how proud he was that I discovered that I’m a writer. Even though I’m not published, I can finally look back whenever I hear the John Lennon song and say I am doing something that I love. I’ve finished my first book (my first after the “maternity break” because I’m not counting the book from before my “maternity break.”) and I’ve started my second and third books. I’ve joined three wonderful writing organizations whose members are encouraging and generous with their time.

So if you have a book in you and haven’t started writing, don’t even delay until tomorrow. Start today. If you’re a plotter, start your outline and your research. If you’re a pantser, start writing.

I’m very thankful that I have a family who is encouraging me in my endeavors. My wonderful hubby and my four kids help me in my quest to find time to write, find stories to write, and find time to attend conferences and meetings which will hopefully help me become a better writer. Telling others about your writing can also be a huge step to finishing the book that you have in you.

So thank you, John Lennon, for your question that is one of the reasons I finally spurred myself to take that first step to writing books. Has any song helped you realize something about yourself?

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Writing Monday (hey, I’m a little behind): Books about writing

This past January, little introverted me braved the waters and went to her first ever Georgia Romance Writers meeting. I only wish I had known about this organization sooner. That very first meeting, a wonderful person pulled me aside and asked me if I knew about Deb Dixon’s book, Goals, Motivation, and Conflict. I shook my head no and wondered to what she was referring. That same day I drove home and ordered a copy of the book off of the website she recommended  (this alone told me the person who recommended it to me is definitely a person who knows about her craft because she saved me around a hundred dollars.)

I read the book and wondered about the line that said that finding goals, motivations and conflicts would become invasive and that writers look for goals, motivations and conflicts all the time.

Additionally, I had the honor of listening to Ms. Dixon present a major speech based on her book at this year’s Moonlight and Magnolias conference. In addition to reading her book, I now heard her information presented to me, yet another way of assimilating the information contained in the book.

If you haven’t read this book, I highly recommend it. Ms. Dixon presents a new way of looking at characterization that I had never realized before I read it.

To my surprise, I discovered she was right. I do analyze other works to discover character’s goals, motivations, and conflicts. Last night, my wonderful hubby and I went to a retro screening of It’s a Wonderful Life starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. Throughout the movie, I found myself thinking about George Bailey and how his goals and motivations were thwarted at every turn. I also found myself thinking about Mr. Potter’s goals, motivations and conflicts. I wondered for the first time if Mr. Potter knew exactly how much George Bailey meant to him. It can’t be very much fun to have your flunkies do your bidding all the time. George provided him with a challenge, a reason to get out of bed. Without George around, what was Mr. Potter going to do? How would he enjoy life with no conflict in it?

Needless to say, I love It’s a Wonderful Life. It’s a marvelous movie and I find something new every time I watch it. This time in addition to the new analysis of it, I noticed that the crony that’s always in back of Mr. Potter is listed in the credits as his bodyguard. Hmm, that was telling. For the first time, I saw the guy in the scenes but thought he was the only friend Potter had, a fellow crony who delighted in suppressing the dreams and hopes of the citizens of Bedford Falls. Instead, the guy was his bodyguard.

But I digress. As a write-at-home mom, I am now searching out character’s goals, convicts and motivations. This book influenced not only my writing but also the way I approach movies and other books. What books relating to your career have influenced you?

Family Friday: Movie Theater Candy

ImageMy wonderful hubby and I don’t go to the movies very often anymore. When we started dating in college, we went to the movies all the time. We were both members of a cinematic group at our college and if we helped with the showings, we received free admission. Pre-marriage, you could find us at the college theater most nights of the week. We feasted on classic movies and newer ones. Pre-kids and post-college, we still went to the movies although not as often now that we had to pay theater prices. I remember being eight and three-quarters’ months pregnant with Kath and going to see As Good As It Gets with my wonderful hubby. Amazingly, I didn’t have to leave to go to the bathroom once during the movie.

Now that we have four kids and I’m a write-at-home mom who hasn’t been published yet, we don’t go to the movies as often. The last four movies we’ve seen together as a couple are Harry Potter 7A, Harry Potter 7B, Skyfall and last week, we went to see a retro classic showing of Holiday Inn at a downtown movie theater (that was simply dripping with personality-wonderful scarlet and gold draping in the screening room, a huge sitting room outside the bathroom with a little Christmas tree and big, comfy chairs). While we were buying our tickets, I looked down at the display case holding the candy. I realized that each of my four kids are like different brands of candy.

Kath is a little like SweetTarts. She’s sweet and tart at the same time; you might have figured out from the As Good As It Gets reference that she’s a teenager. One minute, she can be waxing eloquently about her bunny or something else that she loves. The next she can deliver a zinger and you wonder when she changed from the dancing figure on the fireplace mantel to the slightly sarcastic teen that she is. Nevertheless, she throws her whole heart into certain endeavors that she still reminds me of SweetTarts.

MJ is probably most like Raisinets. He’s a preteen boy (do I need to say more, but I will write more). On the outside, he wants to be slightly tougher now that he’s growing up. On the inside, there’s a gushy layer that still wants to stay little for a little while longer. He still likes his stuffed animals but wouldn’t admit that to his classmates. Another way that he’s like multi-layered candy is that he doesn’t like showers and he has a multiple layer of dirt attached to his ears that comes off when I pester him so much that he finally takes a shower. MJ does have a sweet side that made sure that he took his own money to school to buy his siblings presents for Christmas. There’s hope for him yet.

Cupcake (who is the 4 year old twin of Chunk) is like Sno-Caps. She’s sweet when she wants to be. In the morning, she wants Cupcake Cuddles until she is hungry and then she wants her breakfast that exact moment. She does have those little extra surprises that stay with you for a little while after you finish your first bite of candy. Cupcake is the more physically adept twin, but sometimes she’ll make little comments that make you realize she’s listening to every word you say. She also remembers a lot of little things. If I start a word game or a number game to help get through the morning traffic on their way to preschool, she’ll ask me to play it with her for the next two or three months until something else catches her fancy.

Chunk is like a Hershey’s chocolate bar. At four, he’s usually the most straightforward of the four kids. He loves food; he was so happy when Santa brought him a watermelon. He likes to cuddle, especially when he’s sleepy. Usually what you see is what you get, especially like a chocolate bar. It’s not the fanciest type of chocolate, but it’s dependable and you know what you are getting. Yes, he’ll get frustrated when he doesn’t get something Cupcake has, but he’s still relatively distracted if you try to get his mind focused on something else.

As a mom of twins (and singletons), I was asked (when they were babies) how do I tell them apart? I’m not lying. People would ask me how I tell Cupcake and Chunk apart. Although my mind wanted to say that I just take off their diaper, I usually politely reminded that person that one is a girl and one is a boy. The important thing with my family is that each member is unique and brings something different to the table. Just like there are so many varieties of candy in a movie theater display case, our family has unique voices that each strain to make themselves heard.  As a mom, I just have to remember they are each different and I hope I make each of them feel unique and special.

What about your family? Do any of your kids remind you of different types of candy even though they aren’t necessarily sweet all the time? Let me know.

“What am I reading” Wednesdays: Children’s books

Everywhere I go, I make sure I have my Kindle or a paper book with me. I love to read. When I was waiting for my husband for our date night, I had my Kindle with me and read part of a novella while I waited for him. The minutes went by like seconds as I waited because I made the acquaintance of the characters in the story.

Reading is an intrinsic part of my life. While I was writing this blog, four-year-old Cupcake walked into my room, carrying her night-night story. I stopped writing to read her the story of “Five Little Monkeys Wash the Car.” Eileen Christelow’s poem evokes images of childhood with rhyming stories and colorful pictures. The story itself tells of determination and elbow grease to reach one’s goals and aspirations with a little bit of ingenuity to throw off the bad guys. It also teaches about single parenthood as the five little monkeys exhaust their mother who is trying to take an afternoon nap.

But I digress from what I’m reading to what I’m reading my children although my children play a role in what I read this week. While I’m reading some wonderful romance novels (I am after all, a pre-published, aspiring romance writer), I also took some time this week to venture into some children’s novels. I finished What Happens in Scotland by Jennifer McQuiston (I stayed up late one night last week, reading until shortly after midnight to find out what happened to Georgette and James. I’m reading a spicy romance contemporary right now by Bella Andre who is scheduled to be one of the main speakers at the 2014 Moonlight and Magnolias Conference. I wanted to read some of her works before hearing her speak next October. Those books are both paper copies.

Sometimes I carry my Kindle as it is lightweight and can carry a virtual library. This past weekend I ventured forty miles away from home to chauffeur Kath on a band audition. In the noisy gymnasium where all the students were warming up, I found myself surrounded by high school students blaring scales and audition pieces. I needed something very easy to read on my Kindle. I had never read Pollyanna which I downloaded over a year ago. I figured some kid lit would get me through the loud time and then I could return to the romantic beach setting of the other Kindle book I am reading. To my surprise, I enjoyed Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter. I saw the movie with Hayley Mills and Jane Wyman years ago, but I had never read the book until this weekend. Although Pollyanna has come to be synonymous with an overly sweet, syrupy young female heroine, she wasn’t as saccharine as I expected. The girl was trying to find her way in a world without her beloved parents while living with an aunt who refused to allow her to discuss anything about her father. Yes, it was a bit dated and Pollyanna was a little bit cloying at times, but the book was different from what I expected. Pollyanna leaped off the pages as the author used setting and stories to develop her characters. Pollyanna discussed her life out West by describing the women of the Ladies’ Aid in detail. One had a sense of knowing women like those in the Ladies’ Aid even now a hundred years later. Her Aunt Polly adopted her out of a sense of duty, and that sentiment still applies today. So many times people perform tasks out of a sense of duty rather than of genuine commitment and dedication. So even though Pollyanna gets a bad rap today and is a bit dated, some of the book still rings true: the maid who has to get a job because her family has no money, the girl who wants to talk to people to get to know them, the aunt who doesn’t want to let go of her pride rather than let people get close to her.

In addition to Pollyanna, I recently read another children’s classic that I had never read before: Mary Poppins. To my surprise, Mary Poppins is more sardonic than her movie character. She’s not quite as perfect but she gets involved in the family’s life all the same. Both of these books were immortalized as Disney movies, but each stands alone as interesting reads because of the perceptions of the heroines versus the way the writers develop them in the books.

Now I’m back to my romance novella and the romance novel I’m reading. I’m still finishing Meg and Caleb’s story in Beach House No. 9 and will finish Chloe and Chase’s story in a couple of days.

Have there been any books that you read because of a movie adaptation which surprised you because the characters were different from the movie characters? Have there been any books that you’ve read as an adult because you didn’t read them as a child? Let me know. Happy holidays.

Writing Mondays: Support, support, support

Writing is not a solitary experience. Unless you write something and stick it under your bed, there are at least two people involved in writing: a writer and a reader. So many times, there are even more people involved in the writing process.

When I first started writing, I thought writing was a solitary experience. I thought I would write a book, send it out to publishers and get a magical acceptance letter. For the most part, I thought a writer simply sat down at a computer or with a pen and paper or with a recorder and wrote words. (No, I do not wish to buy the Brooklyn Bridge from anyone.)

Over the past couple of years, though, I’ve learned that I was wrong. Although that may work for some people and may have been the way for writers in years’ past, I’ve discovered that writers need support.

They need the support of their family who will miss them while they go write the words, edit the words, edit some more, put the manuscript down for a bit, and then edit again. Writers need the support of other authors: to become their critique partners, beta readers, contest judges and so on. I am so thankful for the first person to ever read my work and how kind she was to a complete greenhorn who didn’t know the first thing about point of view. (I’m still learning the craft side, every single day).

I am very thankful (yeah, I’m running a little behind this year-I’m on  Thanksgiving when I should be writing out my Christmas cards and wrapping the gifts I haven’t bought yet) for writing groups. This year, I joined a local writer’s group and the experience has been wonderful for me. I’ve met new friends and discovered writers, some of whom have become my role models. I’m in absolute awe of several GRW members who are not only truly nice but truly gifted. Each meeting is a mini-pep rally which leaves me stoked to return to my work in progress and make it better as well as finish it.

So I’m learning that I cannot simply hole up in a little room and crank out a book. I could, but I’m learning that by reaching out and having others read my work and tell me that I need to work on POV, pacing, word repetition, characterization and more, that makes me a better writer (well at least, I’m hoping it’s making me a better writer).

So if there are any writers out there who want to write a book and haven’t, sit down and write it. Then have someone read it and give you feedback on how to make your work better. Support from your fellow writers will make you a better writer.

The gist of this is that support is necessary: support from family, support from friends, and support from other writers. When you reach out for it, you might be surprised at how well others respond to you.

What support has propelled you to become a better writer? If you don’t write, what about your hobbies? What support has propelled you to a greater love of your hobby?

Family Fridays: “What I Really Want For Christmas is…”

stock-photo-close-up-of-fresh-slices-of-red-watermelon-112684349   When you think you have them all figured out, kids can up and surprise you sometimes. Take Christmas. One of my favorite Christmas specials is “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” I love the Charlie Brown tree, especially when Charlie Brown says, “Aargh, I’ve killed it.” I love the kids dancing, especially the twins (this year Cupcake and Chunk danced like the twins in the video and I cracked up). The whole special is well, pretty special, the way it blends awareness of the commercial aspect of the holiday with the resonating delivery of the religious aspect of it as well.

As a mother, I always start worrying in October what my kids’ lists are going to resemble. Will it look more like our weekly grocery list with item after item after item? Will it be full of unrealistic expectations like a fleet of real airplanes and a yacht?

This year, I’ve received Christmas lists from three of my four children. Kath has asked for a WebKinz and a few surprises. Cupcake has the longest list, but it’s pretty reasonable. Haven’t received MJ’s list yet. Chunk is the one who was the inspiration for this post. Along with a dump truck and some chalk, he wants a watermelon and donuts from Santa. Especially the watermelon.

Chunk told me that he’s willing to share the watermelon. He gets the first piece. I get the second. His twin Cupcake gets the third piece. MJ, his brother, gets the fourth piece. His Daddy gets the fifth piece while his oldest sister Kath gets the sixth piece.

Chunk’s reminded me that sometimes the simplest things that we can share are the most special. It’s time together with the family this year that means so much. It’s sharing special gifts with those we love that can bring the best memories, ones we talk about years later.

When I was in eighth grade, my family didn’t have much money, but I wanted a record player stereo more than anything. I knew we didn’t have the money for it, but I dreamed of hours of listening to music on it. Early Christmas morning, my mom walked me into my grandfather’s bedroom and sitting there was the record player stereo. She worked overtime to make it happen. That memory returned to me as my kids surprised me by not asking for super expensive items. It turns out I was the one who expected and received something expensive and I projected myself onto my kids.

Christmas morning hasn’t come and gone yet so I don’t know if Santa will bring Chunk his watermelon yet, but I do have a feeling I’ll be eating watermelon on Christmas Day and loving it.

What’s the most unusual thing your child wants this Christmas? Let me know if it brings as much laughter to you as Chunk’s request for a watermelon.

 

“What am I reading” Wednesdays: Christie Ridgway’s Beach House Beginnings

ImageImageA couple of years ago, I remember saying that I would never want to read a book that wasn’t printed on paper. I was fiercely defiant in my determination not to purchase an e-reader. Why would I ever want an e-reader? I love books. I love the smell of the paper wafting toward my nose as I turn the pages one by one. I love the feel of flipping pages and the paper under my fingers. Then Amazon tempted me with an offer: I could access one free book a month. At the same time, my local library began e-checkouts with the book automatically returned at the end of the checkout resulting in no more late fines. I broke down and purchased an e-reader. To my surprise, I liked it. Consult Mikey from the gone-but-not-totally-forgotten Life breakfast cereal commercials. “She likes it.”

So now I’m always reading one printed book (because I still love reading an actual paper copy of a book) and one e-reader book (because I like my e-reader as well). Last week I shared that I was reading Jennifer McQuiston’s What Happens in Scotland. I’m still reading that. It’s the type of book that becomes more engrossing the more you read it. After I finish writing this blog and some online Christmas shopping, I’m going to read even more of it.

But I’m also reading Beach House Beginnings (Beach House No. 9) by Christie Ridgway. Ms. Ridgway was awesome enough to teach an online course last summer which was the first online course in which I ever participated. She was absolutely fabulous sharing her knowledge of the subject so I rushed out and bought this novella (which I am finally reading six months later).

One advantage of a printed version of a book is that you can flip to the back before you start reading it and refresh yourself about the plot of the book. With my Kindle, I often start a book without flipping to the back cover first.

One advantage of an e-reader is that you can take it anywhere. I was reading Beach House Beginnings while waiting for MJ’s choral performance to start. Parents were required to drop their children off at 5:45 and not leave until after the performance which didn’t start until a little after 7:15. There I was sitting in an elementary school cafeteria, really becoming enraptured in the romance novel when I noticed that the man behind me was looking a little too closely over my shoulder. I guess he was enjoying the book as well.

Beach House Beginnings revolves around Meg, a 29 year old heroine, who is returning to her family’s business of running beach houses to confront her demons over the loss of her first love who died while drowning. Peter’s cousin Caleb is staying in one of her family’s beach houses. (I hope I’m not giving any spoilers, I’m still pretty early in the book). So far, it’s been a fun read, easy to squeeze in while waiting for MJ and chauffeuring the rest of my brood around.

So I’ll continue to read one book on my Kindle while reading a paper copy of a book as well. What about you? Do you have a preference about an e-reader or a paper book? Do you read in both formats? If so, do you read one book at a time or one book on each format at a time?