Monthly Archives: February 2012

Leaping Over This Post!

Sorry, my dear readers, writers, family and friends.  I am leaping over this day and concentrating on my writing.  Tweaking a few things for my agent on my MG novel, ABIGAIL BINDLE AND THE SLAM BOOK SCAM.

That, and I should shower at some point today!

Get Up and Write, Already!

This morning Middle and Youngest sons pounded the ivory keys at 6:20.  For some reason, the only time Middle wants to practice is when the rest of the world sleeps (ie, big sis who sleeps directly under the piano–one floor down).

But I’m no different.  My absolute favorite time to write is the minute I wake up.  For some reason, my creative juices are more creative when the sky is still dark and the world slumbers on.  Yet, I have four kids who need to get ready for school, two dogs who need to go potty and a Dear Hubby I love bonding with over a cup of morning coffee.  Not exactly conducive to early morning muse sessions.

Even so, it’s six thirty and I’m writing.  In between saying goodbye to DH, getting bowls of Berry Berry Kix for the boys and listening to my zombie teens arise from the detritus of their beds.

Nike has it right.  Just do it.

Get up and write, already.  Tickle the ivories, quilt the next block or swish a three pointer.

In other words, get in touch with your body’s natural rhythms and use them to your advantage.  Don’t apologize for being the odd one up–whether it’s because you wrote through the night or woke before the sun ever thought to stretch its rays across the land.

Through trial and error, I’ve learned that you need far less time to accomplish great things if you let your body/fingers/brains lead the way.

When are you the most efficient, creative or motivated?  What real life things get in the way of this time, and how do you overcome them? 

Curious minds want to know.

PS: a little SPRING FEVER side note.  The writers, designers and editors featured within the e-pages have graciously traded any pay for a byline.  All profits will be donated to charity, so feel free to spread the news–and the wealth.

Spring Fevers Anthology: It’s Contagious!

I’m so old my first published material was printed on dead tree scrolls under a completely different name.  But, alas, technology has advanced, my byline has changed and trees don’t always make the cut for showcasing the upcoming talent of new writers.

Enter a refreshing digital anthology.

Edited by successful freelance writer, Matt Sinclair, this unique collection of short stories has enough variety to entice readers of all genres and ages.

From the gentle brush of a first kiss to the last poignant farewell, SPRING FEVERS explores relationships–the good, the bad and the very different.

Not to mention, it features some of my favorite writers.

So, before winter gets the best of you, catch your copy of SPRING FEVERS on Smashwords or Amazon.

~Cat (author of Annabelle, SPRING FEVERS, 2012)

 

Medicate Your Manuscript

It’s a week after my surgery, and I’m still feeling the side effects.  My jaw aches, my incision itches, my stitches pull and I look like I was mugged due to swelling and bruising.  When I add in the upset tummy from my medications, I’m a walking, talking mess.

In terms of real life, these side effects stink worse than road-kill skunk.  But when applied to writing, they receive serious kudos.

If you read the warning labels on medications, you often note a list of dire consequences along with a disclaimer that “your doctor has deemed the benefits of this medication to outweigh the bad.”  This statement implies a choice.  The Good Doc has chosen this medicine for a specific reason.  In taking it, we choose to put up with the repercussions (side-effects).

Sometimes we don’t have a feckin’ clue what we’re getting ourselves into.  We think we know.  We imagine we do.  We pretend the really bad stuff won’t happen to us.  We believe we’ll walk away from the experience better off.

And we might.  Or, we might not.

That, my friends, is the beauty of writing.  We are doctors prescribing certain actions and medications for our patients.  We force our characters to choose.

Do they walk down the dark alley toward the noise or run in the opposite direction?  Do they get in the car with their bestie even though Bestie had a fifth too much to drink?  Do they make that phone call, go to that game, kiss that girl?  Turn left instead of right?

Every choice is fine, as long as we allow our characters to suffer the consequences of their decisions.  In short, side effects to character actions are crucial in creating tension and moving the plot along.  And only through suffering can the ultimate benefit be reached.  Recovery isn’t easy.  Not in real life, nor in a great book.

Today I challenge you to medicate your manuscript.  Make your characters choose a path.  Throw in a nasty side effect or two and watch them suffer, persevere and win.  Despite the discomfort.  Despite the conflict.  Despite the pain.

Do you make your characters choose their actions and hold them to it?  How do you make them suffer?  How do you relieve their pain?  Do you allow your characters to make the wrong choice?  If so, how and why?

Curious minds want to know.

Brand Reminder: Connect Yourself

As one tiny writer in the giant school of writers swimming upstream toward the ultimate goal of spawning a book deal, it is important to connect yourself–to yourself.

Please make sure your twitter feeds your blog which feeds your website which allows access to your writing communities which links to your…

Okay, you get it.

But do you?  Because if you don’t, your readers will not be able to either.

I just bought a domain name (yay, me) and will now have to go through and make sure that my connections still feed each other in the way I intend.

CAT’S TIPS ON STAYING CONNECTED

  • Start with your most obvious site (such as your website or blog) and click a link.  Follow that link all the way through until you return back to your starting point.
  • Pick another link and repeat until all the links circle back upon themselves.  This might take a while, but it is well worth it.
  • And, as long as you’re at all your sites, check your info.  Make sure everything is current.  For instance, in my family section, I talk about my kids.  Their ages were TWO years behind.
  • Now, double check your blog rolls and other important links.  Clear out broken links or repair them, as other writers may have updated their addresses as well–or fallen off the face of the cyber sphere.
  • Pay attention to the feel of your sites.  They should flow into each other and appear to be made by the same person.  Pictures, colors, themes, quotes and fonts can all ease a reader into knowing you or jolt them out of your life with the impression that you are MANIC.  And let’s face it, writers already have that stereotype hanging over their heads.
The goal of this exercise is to help your readers find you among the swimming masses with as much ease as possible.  It’s called survival of the fittest.
Go forth and spawn, my writer friends.

To Ban or Not to Ban: Kindle in the Classroom?

A student took her Kindle to school one day, only to have it taken away as an unapproved device.  The above student was doing nothing more than reading before class–the activity for which the e-reader was made.

In the same school, some students carry–and play with–ipads.  They browse the internet on Kindle Fires or watch movies on ipods.

When did reading become a crime?  When did books become unapproved devices?

On one level, I get the argument: it is an electronic device.  However, the original e-ink readers are nothing more than literary etch-a-sketches.  Nobody is watching movies on them or texting on them.  They are reading.  Because, really, that is the sole purpose of a designated e-reader.  It’s the only thing it does well.

By taking away a portable library, I think schools are undermining a great and educational hobby.  They are forcing kids to choose between carrying thick books or no books at all.  They take away the privacy of shy readers who may not want to be ridiculed for reading certain books (the jock who reads Twilight or the struggling readers whose thin books and juvenilish titles easily peg them as “dumb”).  Will these readers simply quit reading if their only other choice is being the butt of a joke?

What says you?  Do you feel that designated e-readers should be banned from the classroom?  Why or why not?  Which factors should be used to determine if individual devices are a hindrance or a benefit? 

Teachers, in particular, please pipe up.  I’d love to have your experienced wisdom in helping me determine where I stand on the issue.

Curious minds really, really want to know.

I Speech: Tapping into Your “Writer’s Ear”

On Saturday, I judged a speech meet.  Over the course of the day, I listened to teens present on various topics.  Some speakers were confident.  Others were self-conscious.  Some students were articulate while others spoke haltingly.  Some presentations were filled with emotion and character, while others felt well-rehearsed, though disconnected.  Often, all these characteristics were present within one single speech alone.

Just like they can show up over the course of a single manuscript.  I’m firmly convinced that all writers should witness a speech meet.  It is a great place to tap into your Writer’s Ear.

So, what is Writer’s Ear?

Writer’s Ear is a condition that allows us to “hear” our words, not just read them.  Writing can be technically correct, yet sound stilted.  It can be filled with alliteration in a way that comes off as juvenile.  It can have misplaced rhymes, a word that doesn’t quite convey our intentions or sentences that are so similar in structure they could be used as sleeping pills.

The words we put on paper are more than their immediate dictionary meanings.  They are nuanced and emotion inducing.  Some are difficult to pronounce while others roll off the tongue.  The way we string them together can make us cringe in near-physical pain or sigh with pleasure.

Tapping into our Writer’s Ears is extremely important for children’s lit and books that might be read aloud in the classroom or as bedtime stories.  Each word must be well-chosen and serve a distinct purpose.  Above all else, it must “sound” exactly right.

By listening to our writing, we can tweak our manuscripts to go beyond a great plot.  We can make them a work of art.

How do you tap into your Writer’s Ear?

Curious mind want to know.

A Day of Donor Thankfulness

For forty years my body has behaved perfectly.  My nephew’s only did for fourteen.  Within the last month, both of us have replaced worn out parts–him a tendon and me some jawbone.

My utmost thanks goes to the unknown donors who will make our lives–and our recoveries–easier.

My utmost thanks also goes to the known donors in my life.

I thank the writing community at AgentQuery Connect and the daily donations my fellow scribes freely give.  The gifts of time, talent and even treasure are exchanged between individuals who have never met and likely never will.

Thank you, AQCrew and the beautiful site you have provided us.  If it weren’t for you, I would never have met so many wonderful people I call friends.  I wouldn’t have my agent because I’d still be debating whether or not I needed one.  I also wouldn’t have the confidence I now have in calling myself a writer.  You will forever rock my world, and I would give my firstborn son to you out of gratitude if he wasn’t turning eighteen in a few months.

I thank the Class of 09 for being the wonderfully supportive group of peeps that you are.  As odd as some of us can be at times, we make a pretty stellar team when you lump us into one room.  I would do anything within my power for any one of you.

I thank the newest members who join AQC every day in hopes of reaching their dreams.  Your enthusiasm continually pushes me to be better.  You might not realize it, but your donation to the community is invaluable.

Another thanks goes to my blogging friends.  Connecting with you through your writing is always a joy.  Seeing your successes and commiserating in your losses–personal and professional–gives me hope that the world really is a wonderful place to be.

Additionally, the comments I receive on my blog are some of the best donations around.  Some make me laugh, while others nearly bring me to tears.  They all bring me joy and motivate me to keep writing.

And finally and most importantly, I thank my family and real friends (as opposed to my imaginary, cyber ones).  Your support is unparalleled.  Even if you don’t know what an anthology is.  Or should I say especially?  Because despite not knowing how gruelling the writing process can be, your encouragement makes me believe in myself.  I am almost more afraid to let you down than I am of disappointing myself.

Life is full of gifts, given to us in tiny, unimaginable ways.  We don’t always recognize them for what they are, or appreciate them when we do.  We take things for granted that we should cherish instead.  Like our knees and our teeth.  Like our ability to breathe and live life.  We forget that someone, somewhere, has donated a portion of themselves to help make our lives easier and better.

So thank you.  From the bottom of my heart, thanks for being you.

hugs~ cat

Consider Reviews Wisely

Picking a good book to read or settling on a resort for vacation can be daunting tasks.  Some readers rely solely on reviews to guide their decisions.  Likewise, vacationers use word of mouth to guide them in spending their hard-earned cash.

Our resort had a run of scathing reviews. My favorite came from a gal who had never been to our resort, yet bashed it ruthlessly on several sites.  Kind of reminds me of those peeps screaming loudly from the top of the book bashing bandwagon even though they’ve never seen a copy of the book, let alone read the first page of it.

Other reviews obviously came from the pampered and pretentious with nothing better to do than bitch about how their air conditioner was down for four hours, or how the entertainment department failed to fill their every waking moments.  I guess these people didn’t realize they’d come to a resort renowned for its beach (ranked in National Geographic’s top ten).  Sun screen and swimsuit, anyone?

Sounds eerily similar to the reviews a writer of steamy romance gets.  “OMG, there’s sex in this book!  How horrible.”  What did they expect after seeing the sultry woman on the cover?  A child’s bedtime story?

Another joyous handful complained about how lousy the natives were at speaking English.  Really?  Why travel to foreign countries where everyone is homogenized into your own native culture?  And how well would the complainers speak the language of visiting citizens from the other 190 some countries of the world?

Uhm, some things are bigger than you.  Just sayin’.  And just because a book doesn’t speak to one person, doesn’t mean it’s bad.  It simply means it wasn’t the right book for them.  You, on the other hand, might find a treasured favorite between the covers.

So, I have one piece of advice regarding reviews: consider the source wisely.

Readers are as varied as vacationers.  Likes and dislikes can meld or clash with our own.  Taking a review at face value without considering the person behind it can be a bit like trusting the school bully when he tells you to drink from his milk carton.

And for the record, our vacation was marvelous.  The natives were charming and helpful despite our lousy grasp of their language, while the relaxing beaches fulfilled our entertainment needs.  Sometimes it’s good to experience for yourself before you let others decide for you.

Have you ever loved a book others hated?  Or disliked one that your friends gush about?  How do you handle reviewing books for others, whether on your blog, in a forum or via word of mouth?  How do you keep your reviews balanced and sane?  How do you keep yourself sane after reading a seemingly unjust review of your work?

Curious minds want to know.

Intelligent Writing–Whether You’re Smart or Not

Our writing reflects not only our ideas, but also our intelligence.  Mistakes can peg us as unprofessional, lazy, stupid or uninformed.

“We fix duel exhaust.”  Really, well I don’t have two knights battling it out in my trunk right now.

“My work experience is vast and in compass’ everything you’re looking for.”  Except mastery of your native tongue.

“I will definately be there.”  I definitely won’t.

I’m not saying you can’t make mistakes from time to time.  We all do.  Spell check is not infallible, nor is our grasp of every single word and every single grammar rule.

But, when it matters, it can make the difference between selling your product–whether it’s dual exhaust services or yourself as a job candidate.  So, don’t sell yourself short by writing carelessly.

  • Read your work out loud.  Or better yet, have someone else read it to you.  The ear can pick up mistakes the eyes can’t.  A fun trick that works quite well is having your e-reader do the talking.  This automated voice system pauses on every comma and rushes (as much as computers do) through sentences without punctuation.  It physically hurts to hear them read a poorly constructed passage.
  • Use spell check on all those squiggly-lined words.
  • Check the dictionary to make sure you’re using the right word at the right time.  Sounds like isn’t close enough.
  • Grab a friend to look over your work.  Because, trust me, everyone else will be looking…and pointing and laughing.
  • If it’s really important, grab a professional.  Freelance writers/editors are everywhere and can help you catch the mistakes that make you look bad.

You don’t have to be smart to write smart.  But, writing poorly can make a genius sound uneducated.

How picky are you at checking over the things you write?  Do you have other read your important emails or do you self-edit everything?  Have you ever used a professional editor?  If so, what was that experience like?  Would you do it again?  Have you ever sent something cringe-worthy into the world?  How did you remedy that?

Curious minds want to know.