Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Hard Way

Restructuring around here. I’m back to posting on Mondays & Wednesdays.
Mondays I’ll focus on the Business of Creating.
Wednesdays will be all about The Love of the Craft (specific writing-related posts).
“The beginning is always today.” Mary Shelley

The Hard Way
Several summers ago, when we had a second story built on top of a portion of our house, our contractor didn’t really consider one important detail.
The vanity we’d already purchased would not fit through the doorways they’d constructed.
Which led to what happened in the picture above.
They found a way. The hard way. (Man, it was fun to watch though.)
How does this translate to novel writing? It begins with a confession. I’m not much of a plotter. I love the idea of characters being able to surprise me at any given moment while I’m writing a first draft. It thrills me knowing twists may come up out of nowhere. Think glorious blooms, not groundhogs.
However, through the years (and eleven novels later) I’ve learned it’s mighty helpful to have a few key concepts plotted. And after I spend time stewing, marinating, and plotting, I end up being rewarded twofold. During the revision process I don’t have to figure out how to hoist a 500 pound load on my back. In other words, I don’t have to work backwards and potentially rewrite three quarters of the book because it followed a rabbit trail. Or Uncle Jimmy filled most of the pages and it really wasn’t his story to tell. Second reward is that while crafting the first draft I still insist upon keeping the door open for twists to storm through. Guaranteed, there are always a few that insist upon dropping their luggage and moving in. I welcome them with open arms.
Now, I’m not claiming that once you plan your novel things always go according to plan. It’s by no means “easy” constructing a ninety thousand word manuscript. But, you save yourself from some of the pains you’d likely endure had you decided to forgo the brainstorming and plotting sessions.
So, what measures do I take before writing the first word? I make sure I have a firm handle on the basics.
The Basics
·         Introductions
I get to know the players. I do a psychological head dive to discern more about each and every character. I’ll go into more details about this in a future post.
·         Establish at least 3 Major Turning Points
Moments, events, hardships, decisions that challenge the main character, making life substantially harder for them.
·         POV (Point of View)
Who is best to tell this story? Whose story is this to tell?
·         Past or present tense?
·         Setting
·         Hook
What makes this story different than anything else I’ve read or come across? I craft a back cover blurb for every book I’m working on. I test it out on avid readers—see if it grabs their interest.
*I brainstorm twists, but I’m not rigid with this as they often grow roots and become more meaningful and developed as I work on the story.
Say no to the backbreaking way of novel writing. Don’t worry, novelist, I’ve got your back!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Turn Noise into Messages with Purpose

Restructuring around here. I’m back to posting on Mondays & Wednesdays.
Mondays I’ll focus on the Business of Creating.
Wednesdays will be all about The Love of the Craft (specific writing-related posts).
“The beginning is always today.” Mary Shelley


Turn Noise into Messages with Purpose

I don’t need to tell you how noisy it is out there. We’re bombarded. With sales pitches. Propaganda. INFORMATION.

If you have a message you’re hoping will reach people, then listen up. You need to be intentional about the noise you create. Turn the noise into messages with purpose.

We could learn a thing or two from dolphins. “Echolocation works by creating high or low-pitched sounds and measuring the time it takes those sounds to bounce off of nearby objects and back to the host. By using echolocation dolphins can determine how far an object is, what direction it is traveling in, if it is above or below them, how large it is and whether it is a dense or hollow object.”
We need to become echo-locators. Our goal is to find our audience, right? Dolphins are wise to measure. Each click and pulse they make is deliberate. Their noises contribute to an imperative part of their survival skills. Essentially, dolphins are locating what might be valuable to them under water. Or even what could present itself as a threat.
3 Questions to Consider

·         Does what I’m communicating serve any purpose? Are people gaining anything from this or discovering more about who I authentically am?

·         Has this been said a million times before? Put another way, am I contributing anything fresh or new to this topic?

·         Is all this noise I’m making distracting me from investing in something more meaningful/valuable?

It took a lot of restraint to not title this post Turn Noise into Messages with Porpoise. ;-)

*reference article

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Sarah Blake’s Mini-Dedication Declared the Winner of the #DelicateLove Giveaway

Today I’m thrilled to announce that Sarah Blake won The Delicate Nature of Love Giveaway. She’ll receive a signed copy of my book, a lavender scrub from Sugarlicious Scrubs, and this beautiful illustration by Meg Bauer of Tiny Two Avenue.
Here’s what Sarah wrote:
My inspiration. My dad. I was his princess, his bunny. He was my best friend, my hero. He loved so big. He laughed so loud. He tried so hard. He died so young. Alcohol. I want to be just like him. I want to be nothing like him. He is always here yet I miss him immensely.

Beautiful thoughts. Congratulations Sarah!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Five Years Gone

Here's my mini-dedication. . .

No more watching you stare out over the water, face frozen in a reflective gaze.
No laughing as you dance around like The Lion King’s Rafiki. Back hunched. Elbows jutting out. Wise pout pushing out your lips.
No one to direct conversations with an invisible baton.
No one to listen to the birds with me.
No blasting “Life is a Highway” with the windows down.
No deep conversations I always doubted you remembered the next day.
No dad to tell me how tall my girls have grown.
Or to give me that big frog smile with your thumb up and the words “I’m proud of you” rolling off your tongue.
No more worrying about you falling in the night or that you’ll say something you’ll regret.
No more sharing a love for the outdoors.  

You’re five years gone. And the world feels a little less full. A little less erratic. 

You were a rush of wind blowing through an open door. A hurricane and a sinking stone.
You were something to me. 

Miss you, Dad.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

#DelicateLove Giveaway

Shaking it up around here. I’m not asking you to do the usual tweeting, facebooking, yodeling from the mountaintops about my latest novel, THE DELICATE NATURE OF LOVE for a chance to win a super cool giveaway.
Instead, I’m asking you to dig deep—to remember a time in your life when someone’s influence on you made a permanent impact.

I want you to capture the impression this person had on you in a very specific and creative way via social media. To create a mini-dedication.

A few “rules” to win:

1.  Keep it brief. The goal is to evoke emotion in as few words as possible—to help us to understand why you’re changed because of this person. Be imaginative.

2.  You must add #delicatelove wherever you decide to post.

3.  You need to attach my cover somewhere to your story. If you’d like and if room allows, you’re welcome to provide a more detailed explanation for what you’ve written/come up with.
Four Places to list your mini #delicatelove gratitude reflections à

In the comments of this post
On Facebook (make sure to include a picture of my cover, #delicatelove & try to tag me if at all possible—at the very least notify me that you’ve posted something to enter)
On Twitter
On Pinterest
I will compile responses on March 17th, and then consult a select group of trustworthy folk to let me know which story moved them the most. When I get a unanimous vote, I’ll announce the winner here on March 18, 2015.
Hear that? You have two weeks to creatively express a mini-dedication to the person who changed your life forever...for a chance to win the #delicatelove giveaway.
Have at it!
You’re all considered winners in my book (especially those dedicated to inspiring others)!

*Heads up, I might repost, retweet, or recycle what you’ve written if it moves me. Keep this in mind if what you’re creating is more of a private reflection.
**If you see me posting, it’s not to win. Only having fun with the contest myself & hoping to provide examples.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Your Thoughts Matter

Reviews are starting to come in for
I’m honored, delighted, and blown away by your thoughts.
Because they matter.
Here's a sampling of early reactions to my latest book...

Thanks to everyone who has 
taken the time to post a review!

Check back for details regarding my
Delicate Giveaway NEXT WEEK.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Six Qualities that Entice Me to Read More

By this point you probably know that I’m a writer. But did you know I’m also an avid reader? I try to keep track of everything I read on Goodreads but each month I miss a few.

I’m not afraid to start a book and 10, 20, even 50 pages later, put it down.
I thought I’d share with you today the qualities I find in the books that keep me reading all the way until the end.

{Warning…I’m about to do a ton of name dropping—or make that title dropping in this post.}
Fascinating Characters
Immediately Mudbound and The Poisonwood Bible come to mind. Such expert delineation of multiple voices in these works.
I also got quickly attached to the characters in Belong to Me. Introduce me to a curious, engaging, or witty character, likeable or maybe not so likeable, to start and I’m hooked.

Plot That’s Going Somewhere
Stories like Defending Jacob and Sister had me turning pages faster than my fingers could move. A strong plot has an exceptional pull that’s nearly impossible to resist.

Rich Concept
Uh…The Giver, anyone? I have no idea what took me so long to read this wonder of a book, but the moment I finished the last page I felt like I stumbled upon a majestic treasure. I felt thrilled the rest of the world had the opportunity to be in on it and in a strange way sad. The Gollum in me wanted to stroke the book and say, “Mine, all mine.”
I also enjoyed The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. The conceit for this book was right up my alley. A sheer delight of a book (liked it so much I recommended it as my choice for one of my book clubs).
Make Me Feel
Give me at least one character I can empathize with, someone I want to root for and I’m all yours. Front cover to the last words of the acknowledgements.

I adored Swede in Peace Like a River and felt a strong sense of empathy for Victoria in The Language of Flowers. The authors of these books succeeded and then some in making their stories come alive.

Emotional Depth
Go deep or go home. I’m not much of a fluff reader. I just don’t have the patience for it. When I’m reading a book, I also want to experience it. I crave for it to instigate reflection. Marley & Me and The Art of Racing the Rain tugged and tugged hard. Not just because the main characters were hooked to leashes throughout the pages, but because these stories tapped into the great feelings of being a pet owner, a mom, and a human being.

Seamless Flow + Word Choice
Jamming two in one. I know, guilty as charged. But there’s something to be said for a novel when you forget you’re reading—when you’re so swept up in the story world you’ve metaphorically crawled inside the book to nest for as long as it takes to finish it. An almost musical, carefully worded flow can accomplish this. Word choice matters. This is why The Book Thief won my heart and Night by Elie Wiesel. And I still remember powerful lines from Water for Elephants.
A magnificent novel finds a way to take each of the above and knead it into a miraculous ball of dough that balloons into the unforgettable.

*Fun announcement ~ Enter my Goodreads Giveaway for THEDELICATE NATURE OF LOVE for a chance to win a signed copy. Enter by March 1st!