Thursday, September 30, 2010

Get to the GOOD Stuff!

It was 92 degrees here at 5pm this evening. At 6, I heard what I thought was rolling like trash cans on pavement. I thought to myself, "Why are the neighbors taking their trash cans out today? It's only Wednesday!" Turns out it wasn't trash cans.

It was Wednesday's granting of my first wish! The clouds had rolled in, the thunder had started and by 6:30pm, we had RAIN!

Now to the GOOD stuff...

I'm in the middle of revisions. I got some great feedback from my small critique group at the Writer's Retreat. As you can tell from my blog, I tend to be looooong winded. I can make a story go on forever. I get that from my mom. Here's an example of a phone conversation with my mom:

Mom: You'll NEVER guess who I ran into at WalMart today.
Me: Who?
Mom: I was getting a birthday card for your Aunt Alice. Her birthday is next Tuesday. Did you get her a card yet?
Me: Not yet. I will.
Mom: Don't forget this year. You forgot last year and it really hurt her feelings.
Me: I didn't forget. I sent a belated card.
Mom: Well, I'm giving you plenty of warning this year. Get one tomorrow and get it in the mail.
Me: Who did you run into, Mom?
Mom: Oh, right. I was in the bedding section. Wait, why was I in bedding? Oh, that's right, I got a new pillow cover for the guest room.
Me: MOM!
Mom: What? You were miserable the last time you were down here. I wanted to make sure I had the right stuff for this visit. Do you think I should replace the air filter?
Mom: Alrightalready! You are SO impatient! I ran into Cindy (lastnamewithheld).
Me: How many kids does she have?
Mom: None. She's in your little club.
Me: I have a club now?
Mom: You know what I mean - still single, no children.

My mom ran into a classmate of mine and you see how long it took her to get to the actual name of the person. This is every conversation with her. You have to rush her along, God love her (and He does, I assure you, the woman is a total saint).

When I write, I can sometimes channel my mother. Instead of getting right to the name of the person I ran into, I mention everything about the trip to the store, someone's birthday, why I bought a new pillow cover, and so on and so on. This was the biggest knock on my writing. People wanted more of the story...faster. I was spending too much time on details. I want to describe the beautiful forest. And describe it. And describe it. Did I tell you that she's in a forest? But did I describe it for you? Well, just in case you missed it, here's more description for you!

I have two characters who "sizzle" when they are together. I need to get to them faster.

Those fairies? Need to make another appearance before they currently do.

See, not bad stuff. I can't tell you how many times I've read published books and just had to page ahead to get to the GOOD stuff in those written pages! I couldn't stand it another second. Because I loved the characters so much, I wanted them together sooner. I loved the story so much, I couldn't wait to see what happened next. (Yes, my mother is right - I can be impatient)

Critiques can be scary, but in the end they make our writing better. Stronger. Tighter.

They loved my story. They wanted more of it. Very exciting.

I grabbed my word wacker this week and started in on those pages, wacking away the extra words. Getting to the GOOD stuff...quicker!

It's already tighter. By the end of the week, I'll have enough shaved that I will then be able to get to the fun part - punching up that story, enhancing characters, adding nuisances. Fun fun FUN!

What about you - do you write too much? Too little? How quickly do you get to the GOOD stuff?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wednesday Wishes

This is Wednesday leaning out of her cat tree. She may look like just your average gray tabby cat, but she has many skills. Most of these skills, she uses for The Good. Okay, 'most' might be a slight exaggeration. Wednesday is a good little kitty, though, at heart. She loves her family, loves her sisters, loves annoying those sisters and she also loves to grant wishes. Every Wednesday morning, I will rub the side of the cat house and summon our magic cat!

My Wednesday Wishes for the week:

1) Rain. Rainy days are the perfect writing days for me. I'm off all week and would love nothing more than to curl up with my dog, my coffee, my burning balsam fir candle and my manuscript. I need to jump into revisions and I've started chasing a shiny new idea. Naturally, we broke a record with our temperature yesterday - 113 degrees. Even with the air going all day, it never went below 80 degrees in the house. I'm a wimp when it comes to heat. No, not a wimp...a whiney little baby! Me no likey. I curled up in the bedroom with the overhead fan on, Laini Taylor's Silksinger and the cats for most of the day. So, Wednesday - RAIN!!

2) Forgive me for a moment, I need to be a tomboy. Fantasy Football win. I hate losing to a bunch of guys especially when I know more about football than they do. I'm not lying. I grew up with brothers and cousins. I was the only girl. If you didn't know football, you didn't get to talk at the dinner table. I'm 0-2. I lost to my BABY brother last week. That was difficult. So I spent an hour tonight dropping and adding and dropping and adding after pouring over everyone's stats and weighing that with which team they will be facing this weekend. So a WIN! Please!

3) A Dragon. Just because. How cool would that be? Of course, I'd need a cave to keep him in. And lots of dragon food. I could swing that!

I would only be able to fly on him at night. We wouldn't want the secret getting out. My poor dragon, Max, would have far too many visitors. Someone might even steal him. This is L.A., after all.

When we saw How to Train Your Dragon in the theater, I fell in love with a small boy as we were leaving the theater. Here is how the conversation went:

Mom: Did you like it?
Little Guy: Yes! Mommy, I want a dragon!
Mom: You can't have a dragon.
Little Guy (whines): Whhhhhhyyyyy? I'll take really good care of it!
Mom: Like your goldfish you keep forgetting to feed?

How cute is that? Not that he forgets to feed his goldfish, but that he wanted a dragon. I also love that his mom didn't tell him that dragons don't exist. She let him continue to believe in that and led him to believe he simply couldn't have one because he wouldn't take good care of it. That Mom rocked!

What about you - what are your wishes for Wednesday this week?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Banning Happy Childhood Memories

I was a LUCKY kid - don't let those clothes fool you. Despite my Mrs. Beasley outfit, it was a happy, FREE childhood. You see, I grew up in the 80s.

I thought it was AWESOME when I got to play with Strawberry Shortcake, brush My Little Pony hair and cuddle my Cabbage Patch Doll.

I like totally destroyed my teeth on Now and Laters, Bottlecaps, Bit o Honey and Big Hunks.

Facts of Life, Family Ties and Dukes of Hazzard were killer, dude. A-Team, Fraggle Rock, Jetsons, Punky Brewster, Schoolhouse Rock...

My two favorite movies: Young Guns and Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.

I crimped my hair (except for my BIG bangs), wore my leg warmers and nothing came between me and my Calvin Kleins.

And the music? Totally bitchin'. Debbie Gibson (don't judge me), Tiffany, Go Gos, Hall and Oates, Michael Jackson...DURAN DURAN...Def Leppard, Bon Jovi. Radical. Tubular. Awesome.

We were lucky. So imagine my surprise when I was trying to decide on which Banned Book I would read to find...
Judy Blume on that list.

Omigod, NO WAY! Barf me out. Gag me with a spoon.

Blubber? Tiger Eyes? Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret? Forever?

And can that really be...Madeline L'Engle? A Wrinkle in Time?

These were staples of my childhood. These were joys. I read them more than once. I still have them - their pages worn, edges folded over where I stopped reading for the moment. They were totally awesome.

CHILL. Seriously. Stop telling people what they should or should not read. Let us read and take from them what we will. Don't rob children of the joys of reading - to feel like we aren't alone in this world, to be transported to another world through the magic of words. Why are you so threatened by a work of FICTION? What makes you so special that you think you have the right to decide which books someone can or can't read?

Here's a secret: ban it, protest it, burn it - and people will definitely read it. Especially the children you are trying to "protect." You made these books more attractive. Congratulations on achieving the exact opposite of your intent!

I really appreciate my childhood. I appreciate my parents - who weren't threatened by books, who encouraged me to read, who never denied me a book (including Go Ask Alice). Thanks Mom and Dad. I love you!

To see the list, click

Will you be joining us this week? What book will you be reading?

Are any of your childhood favorites on that list?

Friday, September 24, 2010

FUN Friday

Some kitten cuteness to start off FUN Friday.

And speaking of cuteness, you have to check out this site here.

I'm just so impressed that someone did this responsibly instead of scooping the babies up the first time the mother left the nest, thinking they were abandoned, and started bottle feeding them to make them "pets." I admit to being jaded by all the stories I hear in the classroom.

We teach the younger kids (pre-K, Kinder and 1st grade) that they shouldn't ever pet a dog that is sleeping (including their own). This week, I had two funny kids.

First one was a kindergartener. I make my puppet snore, which cracks them up. I have a "brave volunteer" then pet the puppet so they can see what happens when we wake a dog that's sleeping (he barks). So my poor helper pets Cooper, Cooper barks and I always say to the class, "Was that a good idea?"
A little girl was laughing (with snorts) and she said, "No, but it was REALLY funny!"

In first grade, I asked the helper, "Did you know that dogs snore?"
He shook his head and said, "Did you know grandmas snore?"
I started laughing. I couldn't help myself. This only served to encourage him. He upped the ante with, "I bet my grandma can snore louder than your dog!"
Poor grandma.

And the compliment of the week came from Pre-K. I finished the presentation and was packing up when a little boy leaned over to his friends, wide-eyed, and said, "That was AWESOME!"

You know what else is AWESOME? I'm going to the Working Writer's Retreat! That's right, I haven't been as attentive this week because I've been busy rewriting my first five chapters to get them solid enough for show! There will be critique groups, editors (three!) and chocolate! Two days of intense fun, I hear!

So I am off and I bid you all a FABULOUS weekend!

What's on your AGENDA for the weekend?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Pumpkin Hoarder

This can is worth a bar of gold to me. Maybe even a magic ring. The pumpkin crops last year took a big hit and it's been soooooo hard to find pumpkin this year. Anywhere. When I found this can (well, not this exact can, but one that looks just like it), I snatched it up...and the other four left on the shelf with it. My apologies to anyone who shops at my Henry's.

My pantry is full...of pumpkin. I have become a Pumpkin Hoarder.

Why this obsession with the other orange fruit? I have to feed my brain while I write - from brainstorming to outlining to writing to rewriting, this girl has got to keep the flow going. Pumpkin is my secret ingredient. It's my sweet treat without the fat and calories.

I make muffins. Yummy, quick, easy, delicious muffins. I'm going to share my secret with YOU. Because I love you and I know you don't live in my area so you won't be taking any canned pumpkin out of my local stores.

So preheat those little ovens to 350 degrees.

1 can Pumpkin (NOT the pie mix)
1 box Spice Cake Mix (Betty Crocker is my fave)
1 cup water (I use bottled...I live L.A.)

Mix them all together until smooth. Pour into 24 cupcake tins. Bake for 14-16 minutes.

My mom bakes them for 18 minutes. I find they are perfect at 15 minutes. You'll have to play around with your baking time. I don't know your oven or your elevation. Both will have an effect on it.

I freeze half, keep four on the counter at a time (I like them room temperature) and the other 8 go in the fridge. They are very moist so they will mold if you keep them out for more than a few days.

You will thank me when you taste them, then curse me when you go to buy more pumpkin and there is NONE.

Do you have a favorite food to fuel your creativity when you write?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wednesday Wishes

This is Wednesday leaning out of her cat tree. She may look like just your average gray tabby cat, but she has many skills. Most of these skills, she uses for The Good. Okay, 'most' might be a slight exaggeration. Wednesday is a good little kitty, though, at heart. She loves her family, loves her sisters, loves annoying those sisters and she also loves to grant wishes. Every Wednesday morning, I will rub the side of the cat house and summon our magic cat!

My Wednesday Wishes for the week:

1) Lower Grocery Bill - this will truly take some magic. Don't ask me how I manage to spend $800 a month for TWO people (I know, I know), but I manage. When The Hubster put me on a budget, I did great...for two months. It has slowly crept back up again and I'm not sure why. It doesn't feel extravagent. I stick to my list (for the most part - if there is a big sale and I need it, I'll stock up). Sigh. I'm already $30 over for the month. I think I'm going to be doing some digging in the cupboards and getting creative with meals next week.

2) No More Insomnia - well, one can hope after all these years, right? You might think this would be helpful to have during a rewrite. You'd be wrong. With insomnia, I can't concentrate to write. I can't concentrate to do much of anything. I have to distract myself because I get all tied up in thinking how little sleep I'm going to get ("now I'll only get five hours", "now I'll only get four hours"), my heart's no fun. I pop in "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone", curl up on the couch so I don't wake up The Hubster and try to breathe. Eventually, I fall asleep. It's not a big deal so I don't know why I get so worked up over it, but I've been this way since I was a young child.

3) A Magic Carpet - So I can soar through the air, wind whipping my hair, like Whisper Silksinger. If you haven't read Laini Taylor's Dreamdark series, I highly encourage you do. What is more than fairies fighting demons? Skive! Her writing is so delicious, you could eat the books. Wouldn't a flying carpet be fun!?! I could visit so many people in an evening without having to bother with traffic. Suddenly, the two hours that separates my mom and I would be down to under an hour! I could be there to make her dinner and home to walk the dog before bed!

What about you? What are your wishes for Wednesday this week?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Turntable Tuesday

Let's talk music! Do you have a current soundtrack for your current work? If so, do share! I have only one rule...


Primarily because I'm going to unfold mine for you and I guarantee there will be a few giggles and even an "Oh Jennie, really? I mean...REALLY?" Be prepared to chortle or guffaw.

Here it goes...

1. R Carlos Nakai - Song from the Morning Star

2. Sia - Breathe Me

3. Lykke Li - Possibility

4. May It Be - Celtic Women (sorry, Enya)

5. Ricky Martin - She's All I Ever Had (Don't judge me!)

6. Snow Patrol - Run

7. Gavin Rossdale - Love Remains the Same

8. Corey Hart - Never Surrender

9. Paramore - I Caught Myself

10. Krokus - Screaming in the Night (Don't you judge me!)

11. Melissa Etheridge - I've Loved You Before

12. Bonnie Tyler - Holding Out For a Hero (Pull yourself off the floor and wipe those tears!)

13. Muse - Uprising

14. Pillar - Frontline

Apparently, that last one is a Christian song. I must confess that I actually got it here...

Huge Wallace fan. I had dreams of doing that with Lily when we got her as a pup...but she grew and she grew and she grew. She's a monstrous 75 pounds. Thirty five pounds larger than she was expected to be. Far too big for her supposed breed and far too big for a disc dog. I've had to settle for therapy dog instead, which she's quite happy with. But someday I will get my little disc dog. But I digress...back to music.

I also love this song, but can't find it anywhere so I've just been tuning in to YouTube.

I try not to watch the video while I listen to the song and write. Try. It doesn't always work. If anyone recognizes the song and knows where I can find it, I will be forever in your debt. The credits say it's called Zero Gravity by Songstress but I've had no luck finding it anywhere!

So that is on my playlist for my current rewrites.

What is on yours?

I promise not to judge. Or laugh. Pinky swear even!

Monday, September 20, 2010


Alex J. Cavanaugh is having a Top Ten TV Shows Blogfest today. Here are mine:

10. Home Improvement - This was my first show after graduating from college. It was also my favorite at the time! Such a thrill to actually be hired to work on your favorite sitcom! Very formulaic but it worked for millions of viewers out there.

9. Little House on the Prairie - A childhood favorite. Such a favorite that I would write in my little Strawberry Shortcake diary about it. Right after I recorded who I sat next to in chorus that day (because that was VERY important in a 4th graders social status). The first few chords of the theme music take me back! I always ran down hills pretending I was Half Pint. Was all of that an overshare?

8. A-Team - In 1972, a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn't commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire... The A-Team.

7. Unsolved Mysteries - Join us. Perhaps YOU may be able to help us solve a mystery.

6. The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. - A Harvard educated lawyer turned bounty hunter out to avenge the death of his father by the Bly Gang. Of the 13 members, they only caught 10 by seasons end when the show was canceled. I don't think the network had a sense of humor. This was a great show!

5. Boston Legal - Denny Crane!

4. Burn Notice - When you're burned, you've got nothing: no cash, no credit, no job history. You're stuck in whatever city they decide to dump you in. You do whatever work comes your way. You rely on anyone who's still talking to you. A trigger-happy ex-girlfriend... An old friend who used to inform on you to the FBI...Family too... if you're desperate. Bottom line? Until you figure out who burned you... you're not going anywhere.
Yes, I have a crush on Bruce Campbell.

3. X-Files - The truth is out there.
I was living with my younger brother and we were both working in television production. We taped (yes, we didn't have TiVo back then) every episode and then watched it together when we woke up on Saturday afternoon (Fridays were tape nights, which ran late). One of my favorite shows during one of my favorite times of life!

2. Justified - My current favorite show. Smart, funny, with kick ass characters (literally and figuratively - yes, I used two adverbs...they were necessary). You will fall for U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens or want to be him.

1. Xena - "In a time of ancient gods, warlords, and kings, a land in turmoil cried out for a hero. She was Xena, a mighty princess, forged in the heat of battle...Her courage will change the world."
Yes, the Warrior Princess. My all-time favorite show. You got a problem with that?

What are your top ten shows? Do any on my list match yours? Pop on over to Alex's blog and join the fun or blog hop to see what everyone else has picked!

Frazzle Dazzle 'Em

This is how I feel today. I have a Working Writer's Retreat coming up on Friday. Last night, I received notes on my first 50 pages. GOOD notes. The kind that mean lots of rewriting that will make your manuscript stronger notes.

I check in at noon on Friday. The retreat is a good drive from my place and I am carpooling. This means, realistically, I have four days to do my rewrites. Thank Kinko's for being open 24/7 so that I may make copies late Thursday night.

My dog will only get walked by my husband this week. My husband will be feeding himself. I won't have any time for lunch, dinner or coffee with friends. I may only get to watch Robin Hood once on Tuesday (and only as a reward for much rewriting).

I am not whining. This is what a writer's life is like, right? We get notes, we implement them. We get more notes, we implement them. Until our MS is shining like a flawless diamond. I can hardly wait for the finished product!

These are just a few of the "Pros" of this week:

1) Lots of pajama time! Is there anything better than writing in our comfiest pair? I love any excuse to wear cute, matching pajamas!

2) Coffee, coffee, coffee. Tomorrow morning it will be Caramel. Tuesday and Wednesday are teaching days so those will be Skinny Vanilla Latte days with a swing through Starbucks on the way home for a Venti Shaken Iced Green Tea with two Splenda. I think I'll kick Thursday off with Double Dutch Chocolate. So many days, so many flavors!

3) Music. Whatever inspires me. I'll probably start with a little R Carlos Nakai before moving into my playlist for this particular character. Here is Desert Song to start your morning.

4) Balsam Fir candles. The house will smell like the forest all week! I heart that smell.

I really don't feel that I sacrifice for my writing (although my husband might disagree since he misses out on a homecooked meal or four when I'm in the "zone"). It's something that I love doing. I feel stressed out if I don't get time to write. A few days and I am climbing the walls like an addict. Maybe that's not such a fun Monday morning metaphor, but it's truly how I feel.

What about you - do you give up things for writing? What are they? What's on your "Pros" list?

Friday, September 17, 2010

FUN Friday


Let's start off with some great music.

Most of my classes this week were Dog Bite Prevention - Pre-K, Kinder and First Grade. When I arrived at my first Pre-K class this week, I admit I was nervous. They were just waking up from their naps. I was expecting cranky kids. I didn't get any.

The cutest little girl with her corkscrew curly reddish hair was busy giving orders. They had napped on cots so she pointed to one on the ground and then to two girls, stating, "You two pick up that one. You grab that end and she'll grab the other end." Then, she turned to the little boy next to her and ordered him to grab one end of her cot. As they were walking the cots across the room, she passed a girl who was trying to fold her blanket. "You're not doing that right. I'll be right back." I was trying not to laugh. The teacher told me that she doesn't have to do anything because little Molly has them all pitching in to clean up every day.

The floor was cleared within minutes thanks to Molly...except for one cot with little Miguel still sound asleep. Molly leaned down and gently shook him. "Miguel, it's time to wake up," she whispered to him. He didn't move. Suddenly, she bends over and looks under the cot. She straightens up, shakes him a bit rougher and proclaims, "Miguel, wake up! You didn't have an accident!" Little Miguel shot up in his cot and FELT his pants (I thought this was adorable). He turns to her and says, "I didn't! I didn't have an accident!" She leaned over to hug him and Miguel put his hands up. "No. Hi-five!" So they hi-fived. How cute is that??

Are you Molly - ending a busy week giving marching orders to your troops? Or are you Miguel - celebrating your accident free week?


And have a GREAT weekend!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Proper Grooming

Grooming should not be attempted alone. When it comes to properly grooming our manuscript, we need help. I have several trusted friends reviewing my MS at the moment and it never ceases to amaze me:

1) What I miss. Even having read it numerous times.

2) What they miss. Each one has picked up different things in story, character and the use of my new favorite word "though."

My mom used to edit my papers in high school and college. She's the Queen of Grammar and the Top Speller. My favorite part is when she calls me with something not entirely grammatical. She immediately asks, "Did they get that?" meaning my other readers. If I reply no, she's jumping up and down like she won the lottery. This is not a competition, Mom. We're all editing together for The Greater Good.

I give myself a groom over twice before I start sending out pages. I chunk it as Elana suggested here, which I have found gets you revisions much quicker! And is easier to manage as they come in. Instead of doing 100 page chunks, though (see, there's my fave word!), I do it in chapters. Three at a time seems to work the best. At the moment, I'm getting pages back the following day.

Mom helps me talk pretty. My other readers/friends are each experts in the following (by expert I mean much better than I am at spotting and fixing in my own MS) plot, character and format. Each one reads specifically for that one part. That's not to say that my plot reader doesn't catch a spelling error here or there before Mom does. But they focus on just that one aspect. It makes the revisions less scary as well. Each is grooming a different part of my body so it's not all happening as once. A bit easier to part with things that way, I've found.

How do you groom? Do you do it in groups like monkeys? Or one on one like our kitty friends? Or do you hold things close to the vest and do all the grooming yourself?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wednesday Wishes

This is Wednesday leaning out of her cat tree. She may look like just your average gray tabby cat, but she has many skills. Most of these skills, she uses for The Good. Okay, 'most' might be a slight exaggeration. Wednesday is a good little kitty, though, at heart. She loves her family, loves her sisters, loves annoying those sisters and she also loves to grant wishes. Every Wednesday morning, I will rub the side of the cat house and summon our magic cat!

My Wednesday Wishes for the week:

1) A magic wand - My mom used to say to me "I wish I had a magic wand I could wave that would just make it all better." I want one of those. I have two friends who are hurting emotionally right now and I want to make it better for them. I have a cousin who isn't doing well physically and I want to heal him. I want to take the itchies away from my dog. I want my football team to win the game in the final seconds. And I want a clean office. Is that too much to ask for? With just ONE magic wand, I could accomplish all of that!

2) A neverending supply of Venti Shaken Iced Green Teas with two splenda. That is my afternoon obsession at the moment. It would be nice not to have to pay for them. Maybe the magic wand could make those appear as well?

3) The ability to manage my time wisely this next week. We're very busy (non-profit) and I'm in the middle of polishing up the first five scenes of the MS for the upcoming Working Writer's Retreat. I love to blog. Too much. I actually had to set the timer today. And then I reset it. Twice. I can accomplish everything plus make dinner from scratch plus walk the dog plus clean the house till it sparkles plus do my own super sweaty workout plus do laundry - if I just manage my time well this week. Please oh please.

What about you? What are your wishes for Wednesday this week?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Scooping the Gloop

We talked about Coughing up Wordballs yesterday so I thought we'd keep with the cat theme. Scooping the Gloop. This happens during rewrites (for me). The hardest thing for me to do is to write straight through. If I allow myself to Scoop as much as I want to, I can spend an entire week on a page. Not a chapter. A page. I can edit and edit and edit some more. Lately, I've been better at writing through. The March Mini NaNo that I participated in really helped with that. When you write straight through, though, even with an outline, you still have to scoop some of that gloop.

What is gloop, you ask. Gloop varies in everyone's writing. I define gloop as all that unnecessary stuff that ends up in that first draft. The the overly flowery description, the same words used over and over again, the overkill. For example, in this last rewrite I used no less than 2 "tiny"s, 2 "little"s and 3 "small"s on the SAME page. Yep. I admit it. In my rush to describe the scene, not only did I get overly flowery, I was dropping adjectives like they were pez. Flipping them out on the page. One of the writers in my critique group caught it and underlined each one. I owe her big. GLOOP. I scooped all but one. It's all about cleaning it up.

Fortunately, manuscripts are not litterboxes. We can allow them to sit so that the gloop really gloops together. It makes it easier to spot and easier to scoop. It's so nice to go back through and get rid of that extra...words, sentences, chapters. If only I felt such joy when it comes to the litterbox. Luckily, I have the Hubster for that. When it comes to my MS, though, it's all up to M-E. Tiny, little, small me.

When do you Scoop the Gloop? Do you edit as you go along? Or tackle it all in the rewrites? What's your idea of Gloop?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Coughing Up Wordballs

This is my beautiful cat, Eowyn. Thrown over the fence during the night at the shelter I was volunteering at. She was six weeks old. Someone put her in a box and taped the lid shut. They forgot air holes. Anyway, she is now living the good life and will be helping us today with something she suffers with at times...hairballs. Only, as writer's we cough up Wordballs, don't we?

We all have those days where we spend the time writing but nothing comes out the way we wanted it to. It feels like a hairy, sticky mess. Verbal vomit on the page. It can be discouraging. We have this gorgeous vision in our head that just isn't making it to the page. Stuck in our heads, we can't coax it down our arms, through our fingertips to the keyboard and onto the computer screen.

So what to do with those days? There is no medication we lick off our paws for Wordballs. You just have to suffer through those days and try to salvage what you can. While I admit there are Wordball days where I can't use a single typed word, there are others when I can take what was vomited and spit shine that sucker into something quite beautiful. Or less hairy. The point is, we all cough up those suckers. As a writer every day can't be a full, perfect chapter that needs no rewrites or reworking. We embrace the suck and move forward. We hang in there and keep writing.

Do you have a remedy for Wordballs? One that you would so generously share with your fellow writers? How do you deal with that mess you cough up some days?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Contests That Scream AWESOME!

I'm taking a break from football today to point out a few contests that are going on in the Blog World. Contests that I think you all should know about! So great I would feel guilty keeping them to myself even!

CA Marshall is having another FREE EDIT contest! That's right - you're FULL manuscript! But I'm not done yet, you say. No problem. She'll even wait up to a month for you to finish! While I really want this one for ME, I am pointing it out for all of YOU. Because I love you that much. You can enter it here.

Rose Cooper's debut novel Gossip From the Girls Room! It is mandatory to gossip for this prize. Start here. Leave gossip about Rose for Jen (Unedited) and then click the link on her blog to take you to Rose where you can then gossip about Jen! It's really FUN! And Gossip sounds great. I want to win it myself, but, once again, I love you all too much not to include you as well. Maybe if you win, you'll pass it along to me when you're done (hint, hint).

If you have a contest going, please let me know and I'll include you on my sidebar!

Not a contest, but a cool new blog for you to check out:
Killer Chicks - Chicks that Kill, how can that NOT be cool? These are three female authors who write about killers. And do it well. Jennifer Hillier is one of them. Her debut novel CREEP comes out next year! Stop by and check them out. It doesn't hurt to broaden one's horizons.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

We have a WINNER

I have a virtual candle lit in memory of the lives lost on September 11th. This afternoon, I'm meeting the girlz for lunch. It's a day to be thankful for our loved ones so we spend time together every September 11th. A tradition.

Picking a winner was REALLY hard. I've been pouring over these entries for the past twenty four hours. Laughing, laughing, laughing. Okay, not the FULL twenty four hours. I did sleep last night. Then I laughed some more this morning over them...but I still couldn't decide so I made the hubster read them. And he couldn't decide. He actually told me to either stop having contests (because I made him help with the last one) or stop dragging him into the judging. Well!

So, again with the names in the button hat...and our winner is....(drum roll)...


"Look, Ma, she caught a monkey!"

That's actually Lily's favorite toy. She thinks it's magical because she and her boyfriend, Bubba, desqueak it, then destuff it, but it always "magically" reappears whole again in a few days in her toy box. (Shhh, I buy in bulk.)

Congratulations, Jennifer! Email me your mailing address ( and I will pop this in the mail on Monday (the $15 Starbucks gift card, not the stuffed gorilla).

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, my friends!

Friday, September 10, 2010

FUN Friday

HaPpY fRiDaY!

What's more FUN than stand-up comedy? Here is one of my all time favorite comedians, the late Mitch Hedberg.

And if stand-up isn't your thing, this commercial always makes me laugh!

Don't forget my FUN Friday contest ends tonight! If you want enter, click the link below and post your funny kid story. You're up against some stiff competition! There's a $15 Starbucks card at stake!

I'll announce the winner tomorrow!

Does anyone have super exciting weekend plans? Or even just exciting plans? Or how about a wonderful weekend just lounging around the house (don't laugh - I've heard those exist!)?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The View

Let's talk about View. Not the show. Point of View. The perspective from which our story is told! Here are the choices we have:

First Person ("I") - The writer tell the story from one character's point of view (usually the main character). I like stories told in first person because I feel connected to the story. I'm in the moment. I am the character! This works incredibly well in The Hunger Games with Katniss. The drawback to first person is that the reader only gets one side of the story. We only get to know what that character knows, go where they go, see what they see and experience life as them. It's very limiting. Like driving through a very thick fog and only being able to see what your fog lights illuminate. All else around you remains foggy, unknown.

Second Person ("You") - I debated mentioning this because it is so rarely used. The writer speaks to the reader. I'm about to completely date myself but - do you remember the Choose Your Own Adventure Series? Oh, how I loved those books. I still have all mine from childhood! Those are written in second person and work quite well because you, the reader, are the main character and you, the reader, have the fun adventures! Or reach THE END if you don't choose well. (Ooooooh, I think I just came up with an idea for a fun blogfest! I'll have to flush this idea out to see how it's going to work...see, amazing when inspiration can strike!)

Third Person ("He/She") - And now you have MY Point of View. Here is where it gets tricky, though. There are two types of Third Person.
Limited Omniscient - The writer lets you in on the thoughts and feelings of ONE character.
Omniscient - All knowing. :-) The reader gets to know EVERYTHING (thoughts/feelings of all the characters).

Third Person is more versatile. I have heard writer's say that they started in one point of view, then switched because it wasn't working for the story they were trying to tell. We can always change our minds. We don't ever have to married to anything. I started DARK FOREST in first person very briefly - a few scenes as I was trying to find my main character and flush a few things out. But it didn't work. Switching to Third Person allowed me to create a richer world. It helped me flush Eva out, to be sure that she wasn't ME. I could breathe life into her, and my other characters. My vision broadened. It works for me in this story. Now, I have the problem of switching from limited to omniscient at times. I have to really watch myself or I can do that. Yikes!

What about you? Do you have a tendency towards one point of view or the other? Or do you vary by story? Have you ever started in one and finished in the other? Anyone out there with a Second Person POV story?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Wednesday Wishes

This is Wednesday leaning out of her cat tree. She may look like just your average gray tabby cat, but she has many skills. Most of these skills, she uses for The Good. Okay, 'most' might be a slight exaggeration. Wednesday is a good little kitty, though, at heart. She loves her family, loves her sisters, loves annoying those sisters and she also loves to grant wishes. Every Wednesday morning, I will rub the side of the cat house and summon our magic cat!

My Wednesday Wishes for the week:

1) 100 Followers! I'm almost halfway there thanks to
KarenG's BBQ over the weekend. I've discovered some awesome new blogs (and when we're talking blogs, there is no such thing as TOO awesome!) With advice from Jen, Elana and Alex this week, I am confident I will reach triple digits soon.

2) Another cool day. Today was a perfect writing day. Perfect! Sixty-six degrees, sun never came out, the fog clung to the mountains and the chill crept in through the windows. My journals and laptop were whispering my name enticingly. I had to ignore them - too much real life to participate in. I won't have another opportunity to take advantage of this weather in the morning until Sunday. BUT if the weather is like this all day the next three days, I can come home in the afternoon, throw open the windows, turn on the soft music, light my candles and sit down to get write.

3) A new mattress. I'm overdue. Way overdue. An embarrassing number of years overdue. I'm shopping now. One of my besties is telling me to order through I'm leaning that way. Maybe. I'm not sure. You can see why I'm overdue. The Hubster has been complaining about not sleeping well and waking with a lower backache for almost a year now. I just started this past week. Is it bad that I thought he was being whiny? And I didn't start shopping until it was MY sleep interrupted and my back aching? I feel guilty.

What are your wishes this Wednesday? Our magical cat can't grant them if she doesn't know what they are! Share, share, share!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

How Awesome is TOO Awesome?

When creating our characters, we can fall in love to the point of making them perfect. Flawless. We love each and every character, even the antagonist (sometimes, especially the antagonist because they are so FUN to write).

But we want believable main characters - characters our readers can connect with and identify with. To make them believable, we have to make them human. And humans have flaws. This doesn't mean giving them facial scars or big, hairy moles jutting out of their chin. They don't need a traumatic childhood or a heavy drug addiction they just can't kick. They can be simpler flaws.

Each of us has a flaw or two - some of us have no patience, some of us are extremely judgemental, some of us are selfish with our time or money. We hold onto slights. We hurl insults. We don't play well with others. We're all human. Our characters need to be as well.

Did you know that being stubborn is a flaw? It's one of my greatest flaws personally. Eva may have a small streak of it. What she has a huge heaping of, though, is the inability to accept help or even ask for it. She's independent. To a fault. We need to know when to ask for help. We aren't superhuman. Neither is she. But she thinks that she should be beyond needing help. It makes her feel weak to ask for it, to accept it. She'll make things much, much worse with this flaw of hers.

Each of my other characters have flaws as well. Eva's Farathir (this means protector in elvish) is protective to a fault. He's old fashioned and wants to do everything for her. You can imagine how this drives our little miss indepedent up the proverbial wall. She doesn't make things easy on him in the least. He doesn't exactly make things easy on himself either. Things don't come out the way he means them to and she's quick to take offense. The two of them are like oil and water at times. Like moth and flame. Like Farathir and Ethavyn (the healer). It's a struggle - both internally and externally for these two. It's part of what makes them so much fun to write!

My antagonist - well, it's always easy to make evil a fault, isn't it? But she needs more than that. The inability to let go of the past. I know many people who can't move on in their lives and this certainly applies to my antagonist. We can sympathize with her because she's lost a great love. The love of her life. Her soulmate. A crushing blow. We'll overlook the fact that he was trying to wipe out an entire race of people for the moment. What matters is that her loss, her love, makes her human. We can sympathize with her. Some readers might actually want her to succeed.

Creating flaws in our characters can be FUN! It can also help our writing along. Conflict is a driving force in our writing. Giving people flaws that work against each other can create that naturally.

This diamond set is flawed. It's still incredibly beautiful, though. Our characters can still be beautiful inspite of (or maybe even because of) their flaws.

What flaws do your characters have? Or are they too awesome?

Monday, September 6, 2010

It Started With Red Nail Polish

Then came the bright red hair.

She's not a natural red head. Her natural hair color is very light blonde. But she's a sassy girl. Full of life. The red hair color she chose reflects her personality. She's very lucky to have a father who tolerates her wild hair color!

The more I wrote her voice, the more I formed a picture of my MC in my mind. Slowly, Eva began to appear to me.

This is Eva's favorite dress.

She pairs it with these fantastic shoes.

Eva is a very girly 16 year old. When life gives her lemons, she makes a lemon meringue pie...then invites over all of her friends for a party! Her parties are always themed and dressing up is a requirement! She's all about fun fun fun!

There won't be any friends coming over this summer, though. She's stuck in the mountains with her phytopathologist father who is trying to figure out what is killing the trees. While most girls her age would much rather be lounging poolside or, better yet, at the beach, Eva will set out to make the most of her time with her father in the forest. And spending a summer in the mountains won't hamper her sense of style. Her nails will still be red. Instead of her favorite dress, she will be wearing outfits like this.

And because it gets cold, she will be in need of this:

She can still be stylish even when she's sleeping in a drafty cabin in the middle of a forest!

How do you picture your characters? Do they come to you gradually or do you have them from the start? Do you do character collages? Do share!

Friday, September 3, 2010

FUN Friday

I had the cutest troublemaker in one of my first grade Dog Bite Prevention classes. His name was Johnny. I knew his name was Johnny because the teacher used it at least 20 times while I was setting up ("Johnny, is that your seat? No. Well go find it." "Johnny, why aren't you in your seat?" "Johnny, leave her alone." "Johnny, will you PLEASE sit down?" and so on). When I pulled out my lifelike puppet (Cooper), little Johnny proceeded to announce (repeatedly) to the whole class "It's a PUPPET!" "I can see your hand. It's a PUPPET!" I always respond with "yes, but Cooper thinks he's real so we don't tell him or it hurts his feelings." Then Johnny started in with "Ms. Jennifer, I need to ask Cooper a question." I must have told him "when I'm done" at least a dozen times. "But it's really, really important!" Again, a few times with that statement. He finally sat on his hands and pouted until I finished. As soon as I was done, he raced up to the front of the room. Cooper was sitting on a chair while I was packing up my stuff. Johnny asked, "Now? Can I ask Cooper a question NOW, Ms. Jennifer?" I nodded my head. The kid just stood there, speechless. He looked back and forth between Cooper and I, fidgeting. I leaned down and said to him, "You can whisper the question if you want to." He shook his head. I waited. He fidgeted. Finally, he said, "Ms. Jennifer, can you please put Cooper back on your hand?" First cuteness. I complied. Johnny said, "Hi Cooper!" He looked at me. Oh, I'm catching on now. "Hi, Johnny," Cooper replied. "Do you like lollipops?" Yes, this was the really, really important question he just HAD to ask. Does my puppet like lollipops. "I do, but Ms. Jennifer doesn't let me eat them because they're bad for my teeth." "What's your favorite flavor?" "Grape." "I like grape too. But I really, really like apple. You can get these sour apple ones with caramel on the outside and they're my very, very, very favorite." Kids. Gotta love 'em.

I had a fourth grader today ask me, "What do you recommend if you have a hyper dog and your parents aren't home. It's just you and your brother and your dog in the house. You're not allowed to leave, but they need their exercise." I asked, "Do you have a backyard?" He nodded. "Does he like to play fetch?" This fourth grade boy looked at me like I was a dullard and responded, "He's a LAB." Well, DUH. I started laughing. Like everyone is supposed to know that labs love to play fetch. Oh, and I was supposed to know he had a lab. It also killed me that a 9 year old was asking me what I "recommend."

And one from kinder..."Ms. Jennifer, did you know I have puppy?" I love when they start with "did you know". One of these days I want to say "Yes, I knew that!" just to see the look on that little face. Even cuter - "Ms. Jennifer, did you know I have a baby brudder (brother)?" Okay, that was two. But they're adorable.

Now on to the CONTEST - there's a $15 Starbucks card for the winner! Two easy rules:

1) Follow me (I'm very entertaining!)
2) Tell me a cute kid story or quote. Best one wins the prize!

Contest ends Friday, September 10th.

I will announce the winner on Saturday, September 11th.

Good luck! And have a MAGICAL weekend!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Saving Every Scrap

This is a quilt that my stepgrandma made. She raised her children in the 1930s and 40s. Everything was used. Nothing went to waste. Flour didn't just make the food that fed her family - the flour sacks provided material for her daughter's dresses. She lived through the depression so she learned to save every scrap. Once they were older and there were no more girls to wear the hand-me-downs, they became this quilt.

I urge you to click on it and see how truly wonderful it is!

Like Grandma, when I write, I save every scrap. I'm a plotter, but I start out with a vague idea and write scenes to get my characters voices. I have a working doc that starts me off. Then I keep it open while I'm outlining. Some of the working doc may end up in the first draft. Most of it does not. Sometimes, it shows up in rewrites! Often, though, it stays there in the Working Doc. A fond memory. When I cut during a rewrite, I save those scraps as well. I have a Cutting Floor Doc as well. I cut and paste it there. Perhaps I'll use it later like Grandma used the flour sacks for dresses, then the dresses for quilts. I think saving every scrap makes it easier to murder my darlings, so to speak. No one is ever really gone. They're just hiding out in another document. I can be emotionally attached and still let them go. Grandma had the right idea!

What about you? Do you save every scrap when you write?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Wednesday Wishes

It's WEDNESDAY! I've rubbed the cat tree and our magical has appeared, ready to grant your three wishes! Use them wisely!

Here are my wishes for the week:

1) A Healthy Dog! Still struggling with this one. My poor Lily is just a badly bred dog. I knew this when we rescued her having done all the research on the breed and her coloring, but my gosh! Allergies are one thing. Allergies that keep her skin pink and have her up all night itching, scratching and moaning - I just feel so bad for her. Switching her dog food is next on the list, but she's got an upset tummy to get over once again. It's just been one health issue after another with her since we got her. She's lucky she's got her sweet temperament and her good looks! So here's to wishing for her health. She's having to miss another "work" day, which she looks forward to. I think she loves educating rooms full of teens more than I do!

2) A Time-Turner. I'm up late again struggling to get this rewrite done because most of the day was spent trying to take care of the Lilster. Now that she is asleep, I can finally settle in to the quiet of the house and get some writing done.

Where does the time go? I mean, seriously - IT'S SEPTEMBER. What happened to the first 8 months of the year??? That Time-Turner would really come in handy!

3) True Blood season extension. There are so few shows out there that I look forward to. I hate that I'm so attached to cable shows because they don't have regular seasons - 22 episodes - like network shows. I'd much rather have 22 episodes of True Blood or Justified or Burn Notice than (ducking as people throw pies) The Office. I just would. I have one episode of True Blood left and then we're done until 2011? That's just not fair!

What about you? What are your three wishes for Magical Wednesday?