Saturday, June 29, 2013

Rugs and the Saturday Evening Project

If you've been following my recent blogs, you'll know that I've recently moved into a new house. Unfortunately or fortunately, (depending on how you look at it), my husband and I have been in remodel land.

Today we bought new rugs for the hardwood floor and new baseboards to finish off the floor project. It's been 101 degrees in Utah today, and my new home has a swamp cooler.

How I've been wishing for a central air conditioner today. Not even my new rugs seem as nice.

And that's how it is, isn't it? We're always wishing for something we don't have; especially if that 'something' will make our lives that much easier to live.

Someone once said, "The more stuff you have, the more you have to do, and the more you have to dust."

Not my veranda, but isn't it beautiful?
Photo by: bluekdesign, courtesy of Flickr
That said, I think I'll hold off for awhile getting new things for the house. Besides, the credit card is, well, you know taking a good pounding lately. While the sun is hot and I'm not even in the mood to sit still for very long (don't you hate it when you stand up and your back is sweaty?)

I think I'll have a Popsicle or a bottled water and read a good book on the veranda...Wait! I don't have a veranda.

At least, not yet.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Feeling...Boxed In?

Today my husband put an ad on KSL. FREE boxes! I think it did the trick. In just a few minutes one person had called. I saw the young man drive up in his white truck just as someone else called. I had to tell him 'no.'

In less than half an hour the moving boxes are gone.

Photo by: Photocapy, courtesy of Flickr
Can you do the same thing with your writing when you're feeling stuck?

I've previously spoken about options when it comes to writer's block, but sometimes we feel boxed in and it takes more than a writing exercise or a changing of projects to get us going again.

Years ago I was really struggling in my life. I'd kept a journal for a few years only to stop writing for about 10. Life was hard, and I would have healed faster, I believe, if I'd written stuff down, even if it was the painful stuff. As it is, there is much forgotten during that period of my life.

When times are especially hard it's often hard to write. At least for me. Besides, I don't want to write day in and day out about the terrible stuff, especially when I prefer writing about LIGHT.

But I have to tell you that writing about the terrible stuff may just have gotten me out of my box that much sooner. I believe in therapy, especially free therapy, and I believe that God helps those who help themselves. And in this case, those who write even when it's the most painful.

If you're feeling pain today, or your pain has lasted a year or two and it just doesn't seem to want to let up, get something to write on and your favorite pen. Even if you have to write in your box, write.

And let me know if writing in your box helps.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

5 Things You Can Do To Improve Your Writing

Improving your writing is as important as eating a balanced meal, and yet, many forget that improvement takes daily effort, as does eating a meal with grains, fresh fruit and veggies. 
Photo by: fensterbme, courtesy of Flickr
Through the years I have learned some things that have improved my writing. They are:

1) Read. Read. Read. Especially the genre you want to write in. Learn how authors have done it. Read with a highlighter and pen.

2) Read for enjoyment without the highlighter and pen. There's something about taking in a book, without focusing on the grammar, that teaches you even more.

3) Write. Write. Write. Every day. When you don't feel like it. When nothing is coming. When you keep getting interrupted.

4) Write without editing. This is known by many as a free write. Just get your thoughts out and don't concern yourself with the layout of sentences.

5) Write like a professional. For most writers, writing is not a hobby, it's a career. Take your writing seriously and you'll improve that much faster.

Improving your writing takes guts. It takes work. But writing to improve is also a joy. Just compare what you write today with what you put out, say, five or ten years ago, and you'll see what I mean.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

I'm Not Getting Any Younger

I have been thinking a lot about age recently, mainly because of my recent move, and the opportunities that have been presented to me to paint walls, empty boxes and move furniture.

Photo by: Hryck, courtesy of Flickr
And I have to admit, I'm not getting any younger.

Unlike me, you might be in your 20s or 30s, or yes, even in your 40s, bygone eras for me. Suffice it to say that I don't always feel older, but when I look in the mirror or do heavy labor I'm unused to, the old girl makes her presence known.

Photo by: enggul, courtesy of Flickr
Just yesterday, about 3 p.m., I was needing a nap. My body just couldn't go any further. Instead, I sat down and watched a television program for an hour. Dr. Phil was on and he had on his show one rough teenager along with her parents who had no control over her.

Dr. Phil was pretty upset. You could tell by the way he looked away and stiffened when the parents spoke.  He was much friendlier to the young girl who was doing great at spilling her guts and taking responsibility for her actions--unlike her parents.

Like me, those parents, as well as the teen, weren't getting any younger. I thought of all the wasted days I had given myself, all those times when I could have been writing or meditating instead of watching some depressing television show.

Once the program finished I did not feel any younger. I wished I'd picked up a good book, or taken that well needed nap, a sure-fire way to dip into the spring of youth.

But I was appreciative of what I had learned. Not to waste a single moment.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

GUEST POST: Making Characters Believable

Need some help pinning down your characters? This guest post from author, Marie Lavender, will help!

Photo by: themonnie, courtesy of Flickr

So, you have this story in your head.  You have to get it down on paper (or type it…whatever works for you).  So, you do.  You have a pretty good idea of where it’s going.  You can see the arc of the story, how it all comes together.  You have a good main character for it too. 
But, how do you make that character someone readers will love, or at least like?  There are plenty of different kinds of characters out there…some we love, some we love to hate.  But somehow, the protagonist is usually someone we want to root for.  Right?  But, why is that?  Why do writers have the innate ability to make their heroes lovable and their villains worthy of hating?

I have two rules, and I think they might help you.  One is pretty simple, but it can get complicated.  Know your character.  This is a blanket statement, and it might be a little repetitive for some.  Know your main character like you know yourself, or like you know your best friend.  You need to know their motivations, their deepest fears, their secrets.  Know their background – what kind of family they came from, what their relationship with their family is.  You have to know this character so well that if someone quizzed you randomly, you could answer off the bat.

So, how do you get to know your character?  By writing, of course!  Some of those characteristics will come out in the writing.  Some you’ll have to dig for.  Some you won’t even use, but it’s nice to know anyway.  You may want to do a character worksheet.  This is where you describe your character completely: name, age, race, physical traits, anything that makes the characters stand out from the next person.  Then, you want to dig deep into the basic motivations of the character.  What do they really want in life?  How will they go about getting it?  What is really important to them?  For my current projects, I’m using a questionnaire that I will provide you with for your own characters.  And you can add your own questions, or delete the ones that aren’t applicable.  I find this kind of worksheet usually helps.

Character Profile

1.      Name:

2.      Age:

3.      General physical description:

4.      Hometown:

5.      Type of home/ neighborhood:

6.      Relationship status:

7.      Current family:

8.      Family background (parents, previous marriages, etc.):

9.      Friends:

10.  Other close relationships:

11.  Relationship with men:

12.  Relationship with women:

13.  Job:

14.  Dress style:

15.  Religion:

16.  Attitude to religion:

17.  Favorite pastimes:

18.  Hobbies:

19.  Favorite sports:

20.  Favorite foods:

21.  Strongest positive personality trait:

22.  Strongest negative personality trait:

23.  Sense of humor:

24.  Temper:

25.  Consideration for others:

26.  How other people see him/her:

27.  Opinion of him/herself:

28.  Other traits, especially those to be brought out in story:

29.  Ambitions:

30.  Philosophy of life:

31.  Most important thing to know about this character:

32.  Will readers like or dislike this character, and why?

You can also dig even deeper with other questions.

  1. If your character has a job, is he or she good at it? Does he or she like it?
  2. What are your character's bad habits?
  3. If you asked about his or her greatest dream, what would your character tell you?
  4. What's a secret dream that he or she wouldn't tell you about?
  5. What kind of person does your character wish he or she could be? What is stopping him r her?
  6. What is your character afraid of? What keeps him or her up at night?
  7. What does your character think is his or her worst quality?
  8. What do other people think your character's worst quality is?
  9. What is a talent your character thinks he or she has but is very wrong about?
  10. What did his or her childhood home look like?
  11. Who was his or her first love?
  12. What's the most terrible thing that ever happened to him/her?
  13. What was his/her dream growing up? Did he/she achieve this dream? If so, in what ways was it not what the character expected? If your character never achieved the dream, why not?
  14. In what situation would your character become violent?
  15. In what situation would your character act heroic?
Of course, this really helps.  It won’t answer everything, but it definitely helps you fill out some things about the character.

Another tool that helps is to write journal entries from the perspective of the character.  For example, such and such thing happened today (and it can be an event in your story) and this is why I’m so angry about it or happy.  You can also write letters from your character to another person (or character), using the same technique.

What I learned in Creative Writing classes was to make sure your character has consistent inconsistencies.  What’s that?  Well, that just means that sometimes your character might be a little contradictory.  Let’s say a character has a major fear of heights, but their greatest ambition is to fly.  Do they ever take the plunge and try it anyway?  Do they overcome that fear?  Or maybe your character considers herself a social butterfly on the phone, and yet she’s really agoraphobic.  Well, that would make an odd combination, right? 

And here’s where my second rule comes in.  Make your character human, capable of making mistakes.  No one wants to read about someone totally perfect.  Everyone is human.  Every one of us has made a mistake, whether small or large.  And we’ve all dealt with regret.  So, maybe your character should make a mistake too.  Maybe it’s an error in judgment.  They trusted someone they shouldn’t have.  They hurt someone they care about, and they regret it.  It can be smaller than that too.  But, make your character utterly and lovably human, and readers will love him or her too.

Any of these things can make a character believable.  What will you use to make your character come alive on the page?


Guest Blogger Bio

Marie Lavender lives in the Midwest with her family and three cats.  She has been writing for over twenty years.  She has more works in progress than she can count on two hands.

At the tender age of nine, she began writing stories.  Her imagination fueled a lot of her early child’s play.  Even growing up, she entered  writing contests and received a certificate for achieving the second round in one.  She majored in Creative Writing in college because that was all she ever wanted – to be a writer.  While there, she published two works in a university publication, and was a copy editor on the staff of an online student journal.  After graduating from college, she sought out her dream to publish a book.

Since then, Marie has published sixteen books.  Marie Lavender’s real love is writing romances, but she has also written mysteries, literary fiction and dabbled a little in paranormal stories.  Most of her works have a romantic element involved in them.  Upon Your Return is her first historical romance novel.  Feel free to visit her website at for further information about her books and her life.  Marie is also on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

A list of her books and pen names are as follows:

Marie Lavender:  Upon Your Return

Erica Sutherhome:  Hard to GetMemoriesA Hint of ScandalWithout YouStrange HeatTerror in the NightHauntedPursuitPerfect GameA Touch of DawnRansom

Kathryn Layne:  A Misplaced Life

Heather Crouse:  Express CafĂ© and Other RamblingsRamblings, Musings and Other ThingsSoulful Ramblings and Other Worldly Things 








Monday, June 24, 2013

Smooth Sailing: Writing When the Ideas are Flowing

As writers, we sometimes find ourselves in choppy waters wondering what to write, or trying to make that paragraph work for us.

At other times, things are smooth sailing and we wonder how long the sail will last. Until our child asks for a drink of water? Until the phone rings?

I have learned through the years that the muse is a tricky thing that comes and goes so I try to get in as much writing as I can, especially when the sentences are flowing.

Photo by: Mr Akyuz, courtesy of Flickr
That doesn't mean I won't be interrupted; what it does mean is that I write continuously without checking for grammar or sentence construction. When thing are moving, the last thing I need to do is to put my left brain in gear and do some editing. Editing should be reserved for other times, especially those times when the water is feeling a bit stagnant.

I can always tell when things are smooth sailing. It's almost as if I don't have to think; just record what I hear. Somehow the thoughts just enter, almost as if they skip my brain and drift into my soul. I write almost without thinking and allow the words to speak for themselves.

Does this make sense to you?

I hope so. We writers need to stick together, and it's not often easy to explain what being a writer means to those not walking the walk and writing the talk.

But I hope you do.

I hope that if today is a smooth sailing day that you will write and write and write, and if it's not, that you'll edit or focus on another project, or vacuum the living room carpet until an idea comes to you. And then I hope you can write (at least for a couple of hours straight) without ceasing.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Got Ideas?

We've all heard the "Got Milk?" slogan. We've also heard the myriad ways it's been translated, so I couldn't help but put in my two cents.

Photo by: NikonFilm35, courtesy of Flickr
Got ideas?

For many writers, ideas aren't always easy to dig up. Like an old tree that's been growing for 100 years, we can't seem to get a hold on those ideas that have been firmly planted in the soil.

Photo by: Mary J. I., courtesy of Flickr
The good news is, though we may not be able to see the ideas, they are still there, rooted to the earth. What we must do is to spend some hours digging for the priceless gems.

Here are some things I do when I feel stuck:

1) I think about what is going on in my life and write about it. Journals are great resources for great ideas.
2) I take a break from writing and work out in the yard. I read a book, or do something totally unrelated to writing like shopping or going out to lunch.
3) I take out my binder full of pictures that I've cut from magazines. I choose a picture randomly and write what I see, hear, taste, touch or smell. In other words, I work on the five senses; something that needs to happen in every piece of writing I put out.
4) I work on a different project. When I feel "stumped" I focus my energy on something else. Usually that frees me up to return to the first project.
5) Living life is the best way to find great ideas. Take a bus ride, go to the park, observe people at Wal-Mart and take notes.

Ideas are out there. Sure, they may be buried in your subconscious. It may feel as if you'll never again have a great idea for a book project, but you will.

That's a guarantee.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Mask of Fear: Why Good Writing Can't Do Without It

Fear. It's one of those things we must have in our book, whether the fear comes from our main character or the place in which our character resides.

Fear, like faith, rounds out the best of books and makes our story as real as life itself.

What of a life without pain?
What of a life without change?
What of a life without mistakes?

If fear or one of the related struggles mentioned here is not a reality when it comes to your book, you'll want to do some re-thinking.

If your fear is masked by sweetness, fine, but make darn sure that the fear comes out at some time and reveals itself. If your mask is a strong main character who isn't as strong as he thinks, or if she is constantly in debt or unfaithful to her husband, make sure that at some point the truth reveals itself.

The main character may be wearing a mask for a time, or the surroundings in which he/she lives may be a mystery to the neighbors, but at some point the mask of fear or pain or change or mistakes must come off.

A revealing of sorts must occur.

Like a masquerade party, where folks dress up and prance around, your main character may not at first appear in his/her true light. But that's what the best books are all about. Just as the most interesting characters in our neighborhood reveal themselves through time and place.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Editing is Like Moving Furniture

You should never feel bad about editing your piece of work, as wonderful as it is.

I did a bit of editing just this morning and the half an hour tweak for a writer's blog was just what the guest post needed.

Yes, editing is like moving furniture, but let me explain what I mean.

Editing is not:

Photo by: mrsdkrebs, courtesy of Flickr
Moving your prized (or not so prized) furniture into another room to make another room clean. My office is a mess, so I am trying to clean it out without piling a bunch of stuff into another room. Weeding is good, but so is throwing stuff out, especially if it doesn't work in the new space.

Editing is like moving furniture, yes, but it takes some well thought out moving to eliminate, or move favorite scenes to just the right places.

That's why the third chapter is often the best chapter. Why setting and dialogue needs to be intermixed throughout your story to be effective, and why your story must be read out loud to find those spots that your brain lightly glances over.

Real furniture moving is about throwing it out or placing it somewhere else where it will shine more beautifully.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Quick Update: You Should See Me Now

Okay, folks...

For those of you who don't know, I have recently moved into a new place with plenty to do. Far be it from me to tell you that you should NEVER move and renovate at the same time, but if you'll do a quick listen in to your conscience, it may be telling you the same thing anyway.

This is the first moment since the move Saturday that I've actually been connected to a computer. So you know, the blogs will officially begin again tomorrow (I had expected them to begin yesterday, but that's how things go when you are still putting in the living room flooring and all of your furniture is jam packed into your office).

Expect some great things the next few days!

No, this isn't me, it's my grand-daughter. But I want to feel like this real soon.

No, this isn't me either. But I feel closer to this photo than the first. This is a photo of my son-in-law.

You really, really don't want to see what I look like about now.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Recap of Some of My Most Favorite Posts

Since this week is heating up already, in outside temperature as well as work that needs to be done in the new home and away from it, expect some of my favorite posts this week.

A week from today you should see some new stuff, so this is your chance to get caught up on those posts you missed.

Thanks and a good week to all of my readers!


Friday, June 7, 2013

Going Steady With Your Books

Okay, so the book I'm reading right now, Memory Lake, is really bringing stuff up from my past. And let's just say that I'm thinking more about marketing and how much it really means in the success of my books.

I'd like to think that everyone will pick up Marketing Your Book on a Budget, but I know that's not being realistic. What's more realistic, is the thought that I continue to do all I can to get it out there, and those who are interested will purchase it or borrow it from a writer friend.

You're heard it before, but the words bear repeating: It's important that you know your audience. After that, it's all about marketing your book to those in your audience. It's as simple as that.

Yes, marketing takes a lot of time. But it is also worth it. I have seen results in the forms of new connections, more money, and even (dare I say it) more opportunities to review books and write guest posts, and do more interviews.

What is specifically happening may not surprise you, but it did me.

The more I've gotten out there, unafraid to share my work (no matter the positive and not so positive reviews I've received) the better I do.

I do online stuff like blog writing.
Old-fashioned marketing stuff like book signings.
Even stuff unheard of for most people, like selling books at a hair salon.

Photo by: ahhyeah, courtesy of Flickr
And it all works. Some better than others, but it all works.

If I sat in a room all day with my books boxed and never told anyone about them, now, that would be a tragedy. Selling only two books at a signing?


Because I sold 2 books!

Going steady with your book is better than going steady with that boy in high school, BECAUSE your books will never leave you! You can do whatever it takes (maybe even make a few mistakes), and the name, published author, will always be yours!


Enough said.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Sore Hands and Blisters: Writing that Creates Pain

I have been taking the staples out of my bedroom floors. In the process of my husband removing the carpets we discovered that the bedrooms had wood underneath but that the hallway and living room did not.

Photo by: rileyroxx, courtesy of Flickr

My daughter and I spend roughly 5 hours yesterday removing the metal from the bedrooms. Our backs are sore this morning and our hands feel like sand paper.

Was it worth it?

Of course.
Photo by: cletch, courtesy of Flickr
The floors will be beautiful. I can already see the light at the end of the tunnel. And, as for the family room and hall (areas we also thought housed hardwood) we have had to make a different choice. We have new hardwood coming this week, an extra expense we hadn't planned on, but needed.

Writing the painful stuff is a bit like pulling up old carpet and discovering something different than you expected.

Consider writing about your feelings about a divorce or your feelings about selling your home a few years back because you could no longer afford it. Consider a husband who had a surprise diabetic seizure or a daughter struggling with depression. Consider what your life would be like without death, without struggle, without fear.

We all feel it and so must your characters to be real and lasting to your readers. The sore hands and blisters are necessary to their development, just as your sore hands and blisters are necessary to your development.

Suffice it to say there's a lot we can learn about real life; ways of being and choice that not only heal us through the process, but create real, believable characters for our readers.

We shouldn't want anything different.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Al The Green Rain Train

If you're going to purchase Al the Green Rain Train, by Alfred Guajardo, don't take the back cover as a key to what you'll be getting in terms of writing style. You'll find the story much more rewarding.
Get it at Amazon
Don't get me wrong. A synopsis of a book is good, that is, if it works. I almost didn't venture into the land of Al in the beginning, simply because I found the synopsis needed a bit of tweaking, but I did like the subject matter of the book and so the rest, shall we say, is history.

Al the Green Train does three good things in my opinion:

1) It's written in easy to understand children's language
2) It gives children an opportunity to learn new words like environment, appreciation and conservation.
3) It offers colorful illustrations opposite a fun, learning story

What I found most interesting about Al was his fascination for all things of the earth and his ability to be a part of that through the rain he produced through his "rain" stack.

Expect a glossary at the end of the book explaining terms such as funnel cloud, tornado, thunder and lightning. Expect rhymes and a bit of poetic form.

I recommend Al the Green Rain Train, for its simplicity of learning within the pages; not for what it's got riding on the back cover.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Getting Lost: Why it's Important in Writing Your Novel

I don't like getting lost. When I'm driving to a new place I print out a Google map. My husband is showing me how to actually use my Smartphone so that I can plug in destinations and get to places without getting lost.

Yes, I get lost. And not only when I'm driving.

Photo by: grant_loy, courtesy of Flickr
I get lost when I'm reading and sometimes, I can get lost in my writing.

It isn't always easy to keep to the path that you've created for your characters, because sometimes, quite frankly, they like to get off the beaten path.

For the most part I let them. Okay, for "all parts" I let them.

Getting lost is important in a story. Not so far off that you can't find your way back to the main road, but far enough off the beaten path to lend interest and continued reading.

I have had characters who have told me, "You're making my life too easy. I like it, but will the reader?"

I've had nudges: "Don't you think that he should die? I mean, he's great and everything, but he should die. Your main character needs to struggle with death and overcome it."

Photo by: Fugue, courtesy of Flickr
I've had whispers. "Really, I would actually say that? I would actually do that?"

Getting lost is as important as getting found, perhaps more so. Because in the getting lost much is learned about a character's strengths and weaknesses, about his/her determination to work through problems and overcome.

Much like we do.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Reviewing to Improve Your Writing

I don't know about you, but I am constantly juggling one or more books in-between writing and marketing.

I'm currently reading, Memory Lake, by Nancy S. Kyme, and am (so far) enjoying it. It's just the book I need during the frantic-ness of moving. I couldn't have chosen a better summer read.

That said, I am also going to be reviewing this book. I have a Christian non-fiction book in the rafters as well as another book that's coming.

Suffice it to say that I love reading, not only for the escapism or even the opportunity to grow and become a better person, I love what I learn from other authors. I especially appreciate their strengths, where, frankly, I have weaknesses. And I love the idea of learning from them.

For example, I may always struggle with setting, but reading authors like Kyme, I learn how someone else has done it.

Photo by: IllinoisHorseSoldier, courtesy of Flickr
Through the years I have learned to slow down and to enjoy every moment of writing. I try not to hurry through scenes and skip parts so that I "can just get to the good part." If a book is written well, every part "is a good part" and needs to be described in vivid detail.

A scene at the ocean can be memorable. It's not enough that the main character "went there," more important is how she felt and what she learned and what she saw when she was there.

Photo by: J_O_I_D, courtesy of Flickr
Reviewing is a step above reading. Sure, I can read for total enjoyment, but with reviewing, the joy is still there, while, at the same time, my left brain is also blinking. If the sentence is choppy, or the direction of the book, uninteresting, or I feel as if I'm "lost" I make a note of it on a sticky note and place it on the page where I noticed it. After I've finished the book I go back to these sticky notes and write my review.

Something happens to my brain as I do this: sort of a sticky note inside telling me that not every writer writes perfectly, and that there is always room for some improvement; if only a little.

And that's what I'm counting on.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Moving Day

I am moving many boxes today, spending some time with my family ripping out lime green carpet to open the way for hardwood floors underneath, and doing a bit more than the usually fare for the day.

That's why I'm writing this post a day ahead.

Of course it will be all the same to you. You'll still get the latest news whether it be writing news or weather. Throughout the next week you'll still recieve ideas on writing and editing, and of course, marketing. All of these will be done a head of time.

But don't you worry.

I will be busy ripping up that old lime green carpet and painting some walls.

Wish you could join me!