Monday, November 28, 2011

Jumping Jenny Joe - Author's Challenge

Read Jumping Jenny Joe
I really dislike it when voting is required for a manuscript to take first, second, third or to even place at all in writing contests. I'd prefer the expert to choose. I mean, what makes the average reader an expert, after all?

On the other hand, that is exactly why the average reader should make the final say as to whom should be first, second or third. The public buys the book, therefore the public should be able to vote on their favorites. They know a good story when they read it!

Now, here's when I tell you to vote for my little story. See, I wrote this cute little rhyme-y children's story. I read to it my youngest, and he kept wanting me to read and reread it, so I thought "okay, why not enter it into a constest?" If I win, the book is published. If not, that's okay. All's fair in writing and publishing... or something like that.

Anway, vote for my story. There's a 400 to 1 chance I could be printed. Not great, but not awful. Go here and read it. It's silly, it's short, it's for kids. So take a look if you feel inclined, perhaps even say you like it, and I'll be more than satisfied. In fact, don't like it and I'm still satisfied. At least someone is reading the story.

Thanks for taking a look, and hey, let me know what you think.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Missing in Action

So, I've sort of been not blogging as of late. Sorry. Life kind of takes precedence sometimes, even though I would like to blog. But I find there's a blending of laziness, busyness and life events, which prevent me from being at this site. The whole doing what we don't want to do and don't do what we ought to, that the apostle Paul spoke of in the Bible. It's a mean and vicious cycle.

Pumpkin Pie Amazingness
Having said that, here's a lovely pie that I would want to make, but probably won't. Totally off subject, and a procrastinating sort of project. Sort of ... would be good for that big meal we're all partaking of this thursday. Interested in making this too? Click on the link for recipes at Family.go.com which is part of the Disney co. Great ideas abound at that website!

Have to say, if you're in the middle of serious life events, like lack of job, lack of initiative, lack of motivation perhaps, etc, there's a call for submissions for a new book coming out which will be titled "Life in Pieces." This is your chance to write about being unemployed, or some other economic hardship (not getting paid a penny for your thoughts) surrounding your life. Essays must be under 7500 words and submitted by February 3rd. Go here for more information and details.

Anyway, I have so much to be thankful for .... even if I can't even thank myself for blogging exactly one month ago. Or by not making a cool pumpkin pie. But hey, happy Thanksgiving to you all, for life, liberty and the pursuit of writing -- and pie eating.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Bad Austen Book

So, this is cool... remember that Jane Austen contest I told you about many months ago? The one where you had to enter your own story in the style of Jane Austen? Well, they just released the book and my story was in it, along with 55 others. It was a fun write, one that was harder that I thought, but also entertaining and enlightening.

Who knew how hard it would be to use long words, an ancient vocabulary and extremely wordy and unintelligable sentences? (Okay some intelligent sentences; Jane was a genius. Me? Not a genius)

The thing is, not a whole lot of people actually entered this contest, so had YOU entered this one, you would have probably gotten in too! Mine wasn't exceptional. But, they published it anyway. Go here, to Amazon, to see the cover and a few excerpts.

Let this be a lesson: always enter writing contest and call for submissions and send your work to agents... even if you think it's a long shot, it can never hurt to try. Because seriously, coming from someone who just had a manuscript rejected -- and wondering if writing was even her calling -- if they can publish me, they will publish you.

Cheerio!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

It's Almost NaNoWriMo Time!



Hey you writers! It's almost time for NaNoWriMo.
What is this, you ask? Just the most inspirational month of your year.
It's National Novel Writing Month.
Here's how it works. Let's say you have a book in your head that
you want to write, but the motivation or focus isn't there.
NaNoWriMo takes care of these two things at once. Here are 6 reasons how and why
you need to sign up to do NaNoWriMo.
1. This is proof that thousands of people out there are just like you. You can write, you can do it. And you are not alone!
2. You have one month: 30 days, to get 50,000 words down. They don't have to be perfect. Just written.
3.Once you see how a little bit every day (or roughly 1666 words a day) equates to a whole book, well
that'll motivate anyone to write!
4. You can write about anything you want.
5. You can write an outline even, and go by that everyday.
6. You have a network of people you can talk to in your part of town or the world, who are doing this just like you!

At the end of the month, you a have a written book -- yes, a book written by YOU -- and all you had to do was find your way during the day or night to park yourself in your chair and type away.  For me, that's one hour if very motivated, two hours if not so motivated and 3 or 4 if lagging in vision. Regardless, it's a goal. And I love goals.
What's also cool is that NaNoWriMo goes against the "quality vs. quantity." This time, it's all
about quantity... the quality comes later when the writing is done.

So get ready. In three weeks, November 1st, the writing begins. Go sign up! You'll be glad you did, especially 50, 000 words later.
Happy writing!


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Back to School

From this months' October issue of  Ladies Home Journal
I have this absurd fascination with Autumn. I think it's because when one lives in a climate with a hot summer, the yearning for cool weather comes to the forefront of our minds -- especially when, a few days before the first day of fall, it's 98 degrees!

We have seasons here in Sacramento too. Which makes this yearning so much harder.
know it's coming; I know the sweaters and boots and cool walks, the pumpkins and hot coffee are headed this way. It also reminds me of school. And I don't think that ever goes away. Though I've been out of college for years, I smell the autumnal air and it reminds me of going to class, happy for a new year, and ready to accomplish something important.

Or even better, school shopping with my kids makes me want to buy pencils and paper for myself.

So, I do.

And this is where the writing comes in because Autumn is a wonderful time for it. No more swimming pools, no ice cream or popsicles to divert one's attention (okay, the ice cream will always be a diversion --always). But, it's the "back to school" agenda that gets me, and needs to get me. And by golly, I'm going to get "Back to School' with my writing, and so can you.

Here's a couple of contests to enter to get your creative juices going:

1. Are you a children's book writer? Get a picture book published! Great contest, for newbies and pros alike. If you win, you'll have your story published and illustrated online by a real publisher. And who doesn't want that for their resume? It's a great foot in the door.

Check out MeeGenius for more details. Contest ends November 1st.

2. Like to write non-fiction? Ladies Home Journal has a personal essay contest going on right now. All you have to write about is an aspect of personal growth in your life -- very broad, yet very good because you can write about anything -- and have a chance at having it published in their magazine and win $3,000 too!

Check out Ladies Home Journal for more details. Contest ends December 13th.

Okay, grab a hot cider, crank up the proverbial fire place and get going on writing for your "Back to school" season. School is in!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Door Swung Open

So, I am taking on a writing challenge today. Awesome blogger, and author Rachael Harrie, has a writing contest for those who are interested in participating (tomorrow is the last day). This is a flash fiction contest, so the content has to be short. In this case, under 200 words.

There is one requirement: to begin the story with the words "The door swung open."

That's pretty cool. And if you want to make it even harder on yourself, end it with "The door swung shut." If you like it even more difficult, keep it EXACTLY 200 words. This is what I decided to do in order to learn the most.

Though flash fiction is difficult --trying to develop, and execute an actual story within 200 words is excrutiating -- it can be done and is a fantastic writing excercise. Below is my story. Go there today and enter your story!

The door swung open. It glided like a dove hovering over the ground, and reminded me of Grandpa’s pond on the ranch in winter, when the ducks were the only ones out there.

The door was lighter than I anticipated. I mean, how did I explain it? Sure, it looked like a pearl, but not like any pearl I’d seen before. The user’s guide never told me to expect an unseen color and that it would be a door-like gate, glowing and shimmering at the same time.

Man's words always seem to be the most inadequate when trying to explain extraordinary places.

I walked through of course, not knowing who opened it. No one was around, but I heard water flowing, and heard grasses swaying, and I swore they were singing…

I pondered the gate again touching it as I walked by. It seemed to quiver with my touch, the way Grandpa’s pond used to look when I threw in a stone.

Then, there he was … Grandpa. Though gone years ago, he was here.

I laughed and saw someone else next to him, and cried out in joy, His gaze pulling me towards Him.

And, the door swung shut.


 
-Heather Spiva

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Get your writing on! (even on the cover of a card)

I've been down-for-the-count with a cold I caught from
my youngest son. The irony of this all is that I assumed I would
get even more writing done now that he's in school, having just begun all day
kindergarden. While I do have uninteruppted time, being sick is not
condusive to writing, especially when all I want to do is lie down.
So, yes, it's an excuse. But hey, it's legitimate.
Now, something for you: Have you heard about Hallmark's card contest?
They have one or two contests every month devoted to great pictures
-- and most importantly, well placed and perfect writing to go with it --
by people like us, and NOT their in-house writers.
Here is an example, as I won one of their contests last year.
If you're like me, you have a ton of pictures on the computer that are
going to waste. And if you're a writer,
 then this is the perfect contest for you.
Go to Hallmark today and find out the latest contest. Enter it
and you never know ... the whole world may see your writing!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

WriteonCon 2011

Calling all children and young-adult writers!
If you haven't heard about the most educational, fun,
crazy and inspirational three days of our writing year, then you MUST
go to Writeoncon.com and sign up for
 hours of packed, fun-filled days of writing skills, tips, trade secrets, author-
advice and agent-wisdom. This is some of best stuff you'll ever find in one place (Well, other
than a writer's conference in person).
But, that's what writeoncon is. A conference, but online - and one that you writers
can't miss. It starts the 16th and goes through the 18th.
Sign up today. And get this: it's all FREE!
Writeoncon
Be there (in your sweats, with coffee and chocolate in copious amounts)!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Movies and Inspiration

Though I've briefly written about this before, in a previous blog post When Not to Write, I wanted to go into further detail about the notion of creativity in writing and movie-viewing. Though I don't recommend writing after watching a movie (as the writing can be horrific, like a knock-off Gucci bag to the real thing) there is something to be said for finding a way to rejuvenate the ideas and inspiration we once had for a story, or novel when watching something both amazing, and inspirational.

For example, last week, I went to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 2. While JK Rowling's writing is pretty much INCREDIBLE (that lady is a master of storytelling), what really lights my writing fire is knowing that her ideas, her brain activity and education, actually went somewhere ... as in phenomenal, once-in-a-lifetime, everyone-loves-you, let's-make-a-movie-out-of-all-your-books type of success. And sitting in the ice-cold theater, with the AC set at 65 degrees, doesn't shut me down either. No, I push myself into the story (which isn't hard to do) so I don't have to think about how cold I am!

Here's what I'm trying to say: her books are successful. She's like Stephanie Meyers with the Twilight series, and myriad other writers whose books transcend the usual New York Times top-ten because they also make it to the big screen.

I am reminded of their success when I watch their stories made into movies. And it makes me want to keep on trying for my success. Not for a movie, mind you. I'm not asking for that kind of accomplishment. I know, I'm nuts. But really, that's a heck of a lot of responsibilty to have a huge following of fans along with the truckload of cash to deal with. Okay, so some don't think that's such a bad thing. But, I think it  is. Very few people can handle success in their bank account and success at home at the same time. I prefer a great home-life, with peace, than a great bank account.

So, let's get off this tangent ... if JK Rowling can write a story when her toddler takes a nap, then by golly, we can write something we want to tell, with the little bit of time we have too.

My kids are both in school for the first time, starting this week... I officially have NO excuses not to produce something good in my literary world.

We may not have best sellers, or books turned-into-movies type of writing, but that doesn't matter. If you are inspired by other authors' successes (as I am) then let that motivate you. Go see a great movie, a great story, and keep on writing, even just a page of your book a day, and that can be all the accomplishment you need to feel like a world-success too...

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Finally...

So, I was on vacation for forever! Well, maybe 11 days. But, if sure felt like forever, and it also felt like about 10 minutes, all at the same time.

Here is some of what I was up to:

And, I actually not only answered a few emails, but wrote down some book
ideas as well. I'd say it was a vacation well spent. I had a relaxing time,
and didn't feel guilty about not writing either.
Do I want to get back into the writing "saddle"? Not really,
but I am going to do it anyway.
I've got nothing to lose... even if all
I want to do now is be on the beach.

Happy writing!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Lack of Pain, Lack of Gain

Okay, so we all know the well-worn cliche of "no pain, no gain." This goes for weight loss (yes, less food equals less weight) and exercise (must do the treadmill, if I want to see the muscles through the fat) and even beauty (yes, a shower is necessary, even though no one but you is around to smell you.)

Perhaps it's a summer problem, or just a phase I'm going through, but this overwhelming desire to do absolutely nothing -- instead of something -- ripples through my veins (and flabby calf muscles) in the middle of our summer. Just writing a blog post is like pulling a boulder into the chair with me. How do I work with this? It's in the way. It (boulder and writing) is too heavy.

Really, this is just me being lazy. So what I've been writing for years without much gain. I love writing anyway! I should be glad I have hands and fingers and get to be creative. That's amazing. Just because I feel like not writing, doesn't mean I should -- or shouldn't. Vacations are in order, but I've talked about that before too. And we can't be on vacation forever.

Writing is tough because writers/editors work for long periods without reward, merit, affirmation or even money. But, if it's what one is called to do, then none of that should matter. Write when every fiber in you says "no." Write, when the pool beckons you (and you just got out of it). Write when the ideas have evaporated, or when you feel your stories will see only the inside of your mind. Write because this is something you love. And when you begin to write (again) you'll see that --like riding a bike, or eating a donut -- it will all come back to you.

No pain, no gain.

I can't stand going through life without trying. If I tried writing for 50 years, and still wasn't published, and if I gave it my all, then hey, that is good enough. Writing isn't a waste. Writing teaches us patience, critical thinking, psychology, how to understand people, finances (the lack of funds), love (and hate) and above all, it teaches us to persist when everything around us tells us to stop.

Don't let the pain stop you this summer. After a quick dip in the pool, or sprinklers, get back at it. Only you can tell that story, so get going!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Driving Home a Point with Devotions

Buy it at Amazon
There is something so perfect about a devotion. Maybe it is because a verse is singled out, and focused on, which in turn gives insight into something so simple, but profound. Or maybe it's because the writing is short, but always incredibly sweet. Maybe it is because there is usually a personal application through the whole thing that makes it easy to relate to.

Whichever the reason, or all three, I'm honored to be in this devotional book that just came out a few weeks ago, called Faith and Family: A Devotional Pathway for Families.  Here is a picture I took of it yesterday when I got it in the mail.

Christian Devotions compiled this work. They are a fanstatic website that delivers a daily devotion, and keeps archives of them for one to peruse any time they want. They also have a radio program, many books, and several of the founders speak regularly at conferences, meetings and gatherings year-round. They are devoted to devotions!

Their slogan is: A devotion may be someone's only Bible. Isn't that so true and amazing at the same time? This little book is perfect for family devotion time, for new or older familes, small or large ones. Anyone can benefit from it, every day, with both the stories and verses -- even people without families of their own.
Because, really, we are all a part of the family of God.

Thank you Christian Devotions for your constant work towards making, editing, creating and propelling great devotions and ultimately, for driving us to the Source.

-H

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Gift of Goals

So, here I am, turning 35 today. Haven't accomplished what I thought I would accomplish, and have already accomplished what I never thought I wanted. Life is sort of like that.

Now that the hill approacheth --that yucky-ish one with the big 40 on the top of it-- I've begun thinking about what I want for the next milestone year-- what it is that I want to have done, or helped, or begun. Here's a small list.

1. Trip to Holy Lands: Okay, so I know this is sort of a really vulnerable area right now, but it doesn't change the fact that I want to go. I've wanted to visit for the past five years, and figure I have another five to get there. It is rather difficult trying to scrape the cash to get there with children's private school tuition, a college education savings fund, and pay cuts, but I'm not giving up. Mark Twain wrote fondly of Israel. And if the witty and cyncial author loved it, no doubt I will too. Someday, I will get to Jerusalem.

2. Book: So, I'm going to be really vague here, but I want to have a book published. That is to say, one of my own. Yes, I sort have been published already. And that's super cool. But, I want a book that I'm not only proud of (with my name in small letters), but one that says something great. Again, I'm being vague. And I'm sorry. Let's just say, that as the years have passed with the desire to be published, all I can really think about now is making sure that what is published is worthy, helpful ... and semi-coherent. I really don't care if it doesn't makes a dime, as long as someone gets something valuable from it. Having said that, I wonder if any publisher would ever take me on with that kind of goal? Sort of "not their type of client," I'm thinking.

3. To be Happy: Wow, this is a broad goal, isn't it? But it's true. We all want to be happy in our work, in our family and in our living. This is extremely possible, and all the time too - despite the bad economy, despite the miserable mess I feel our America is turning into, and despite the fact that the very people we should protect are being targeted by others all over the world. To be happy means that I give up what I think I want for what I actually need (or what God wants to give to me.) And right now, I have everything in the world that I need: husband and kids. Don't need that published book or the trip to the Holy Lands to be happy. (But, it sure would be nice.)

Getting older does make one think more ... at least it should. And listing out goals, as I've mentioned in a previous post, means we want to do something meaningful with our lives- even if it's, say, losing five pounds. I only hope that my thinking --and goals--will eventually help others and myself, every day. And this is a perfect gift for me, today.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

New Road for Writers

Authonomy
I found this crazy cool website, called Authonomy. It's not a website I've ever seen before. Not only does this site allow you the opportunity to submit your work -- work that other writers, bloggers and professional editors will read and possibly critique -- but you gain feedback from all of these groups, thereby increasing your chances of being published.

Oh, and did I mention that this site is a part of the HarperCollins company? Wow! This site reminds me of Amazon's Breakout Novel Award competition, only much more hands-on and ... friendly. It reminds me of submitting manuscripts to an agent, (which it is!) only this site is much more hands-on and ... friendly. You see where I'm going with this? And who can't use this?

Though I haven't actually created an account or submitted a chapter or two, it might be just want we need to get that book published. Check it out! http://www.authonomy.com/

Friday, May 13, 2011

Boundaries

So, I was talking to a writer friend of mine this week, and she mentioned that she was having a problem getting everything done that she needed to do. This included work, home, marriage and kids; everything she wanted to do, and everything everyone else wanted her to do.

I sympathized with her because I, like most people, find myself in this situation frequently.

But for once, I felt like I could actually give her some sound advice. Just that week, I had turned down two rather important offers-- one dealing with my kids' school, and another with more editing-- and I actually felt fine about it.

There are times to say yes, and moments when we have to do more in 24 hours than should be legally allowed. But because writing is important to me, I've learned to say no in order to focus on just that. I understand we are here to love, give and serve. I get that. But, we’re also to do what’s in front of us to the best of our abilities. If we’re overburdened, how then does this really work?

This is all so easy to write and not actually do though. Believe me, I've been there... and being a people pleaser, for me saying no can be hard. However, it does get easier. When someone asks something of us, we have to ask ourselves, “To whom does it benefit?”

If it is to help people, well sure, I'm all for that. Yet, realistically, one person can only do so much! And if it in turn burns out the very person whom everyone is so intently relying on, that does absolutely no one no good.

My answer to my writer-friend was to learn to say no. Not because she has to, but because she needs to in order to feel like her head is above water! If writing is my passion, or being published a goal, then my thoughts and actions should focus on that.

Of course, life is full of things we have to do that have nothing to do with our immediate goal. But to get to that destination, there are times when we need to be selfish; where we need to say no for our own good.

Boundaries are there to serve us. But it's up to us to implement them. Your blog, article or book will thank you. And you’ll thank yourself too.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

What would Jessica Fletcher Do?

Sometimes, just saying this question outloud -- "What would Jessica Fletcher do?" --can be the absolute best way to work through a scene, or maybe in the extreme case, your entire novel.

I know, it totally sounds hokey ... at best. But, it's true!

If you've never watched an episode of Murder She Wrote, or really an episode of almost any crime/drama, then you need to. It can help to focus in on what it is you're trying to explain, reveal, hide or introduce in your story.

In reality, detectives -- or in her case, unofficial detectives -- rarely solve a murder case within the time frame that these shows take place in. However, that's because the show is limited to an hour or two. If it isn't short and quick, our attention wanes, we get up for a snack, or we will change the channel. In our writings, even if things don't move quite this quickly, we too need to move the plot along. Otherwise, no one will want to read our words either!

Watching J. B. Fletcher go through the murder, find the suspect, pick up clues, and of course, exonerate the wrongly accused, is sort of like watching a ball go from point A to point B. We know, as writers, that we want our "ball" to sail through the air from point A, and make it to point B.

However, it is easy to get hung up on back stories, unnecessary chit-chat, or excessive characterization. And our "ball" ends up dropping very short of the goal, hole, or basket. By cluing in (excuse the pun) on what we need to focus on (moving the plot to the climax, or revealing more necessary aspects to the sub-plots), watching a crime/drama unfold, play its part, and close within about 52 minutes, can really exemplify what we should be doing in our stories as well.

Think about how every episode opens up with a problem, how characters flaws and attributes appear in all the suspects, and how at least two subplots appear in the story as well. Watch how the protagonist learns from her mistakes, uses her knowledge and small-town cuteness to keep us entertained and charmed - along with the other characters whom we like just as much.

This, in turn, keeps us watching the show, wanting more (I think), and amazingly enough, thoroughly satisfies us with the quaint and perfect wrap up. We even anticipate the mandatory smile at the end.

Yes, Jessica Fletcher's role, and detective work, remind me how to keep those literary loose ends at bay, and keep the story moving. While the gooey-perfection of the show doesn't have to show up in our work, just thinking about the story aspect to it while watching it on television, can remind us to keep that "ball" moving for our benefit, and the reader.

It also makes me wonder how in the world we live without pantsuits, blue eye shadow, and feathered hair today. Okay ... not really.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Making the Most of Your Vacation

I'll admit it ... the title of this post sounds suspiciously a lot like a travel article, or a top ten to see while you're in Aruba. But this post is more about being writer/reader productive -- without actually feeling like you are working -- while on vacation (or holiday, if you're on the other side of the pond).

Even when I'm on vacation, I still have this infinitesimal -- and sometimes grand -- urge to write. Something. Anything, especially when a postcard doesn't quite cut it as literary work. If this sounds like you, yet you don't want to write too much because heck, you are on vacation, keep a tiny notebook with you.

Jot down story ideas, characters flaws for your hero, write a poem as you watch the ocean, or end that novel with the final two hundred words you were trying so hard to write back at home.

While vacation is just that, vacation, it doesn't mean you have to abandon all creative writing. That's sort of like cutting out your oxygen supply line... not cool.

For my next getaway, I plan on bringing that little journal, have a great time doing nothing -- and everything that's fun -- and taking 10 or 15 minutes a day to write down those notes, or whip out words that are spilling from my head.

It's only right to be a writer, even when you don't need to be a writer. And your next story, poem, or perfectly blockbuster-movie-making-character will be there waiting for you when you come home to reality and put to good use when you are supposed to write -- and when you absolutely need something to write about, while you day-dream about your latest vacation instead.

Please feel free to tell me here what great work you created when you came back from your vacation. I would love to know! Oh, and send a pic or two of you in Aruba too. It's good to see where the inspiration came from.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Awesomeness of AgentQuery

I don't know if any of you are looking to be published, or need a great agent, but if you've tried to find the right agent, it can be grueling. All those requirements, or quirky specifics, and every agent is different. Some are big-timers, and some are small-town folks.

And if you're like me, and you don't feel like shelling out 30 bucks for an agent book -- the kind that list all the agents all of America, along with their info, in really small print -- then you have to check out AgentQuery. They are a database of agents, and yes, I'm warning you, it's overwhelming!  But, really, AgentQuery is like finding a gold mine.

Oh, and did I mention that most of it's free? Jackpot!

I've been casually going to their website for a couple of years now. The agents' info --all thousands and thousands of them --stay relatively current, you can specify to the city what you are looking for in an agent, or an find agent by genre or category; those who specialize in what you want to have published.
They also list whether the agent prefers online queries to snail mail queries.

AgentQuery is a wealth of information and all-around amazing. If you haven't checked them out, then you need to. It could be the difference between wanting to be published or actually being published. And AgentQuery has made it all too easy not to find the agent of your dreams.

Go there today, peruse, shop around. Then, make sure your manuscript is top notch, your query is perfect, and get busy finding an agent!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Thought You Should Know ...

Normally, I don't like to toot my own horn. It just doesn't sound right, doesn't ring right, doesn't jab with me or float my boat.

Cup of Comfort on Amazon
That being said, I'm going to do all of the above.

I have to tell you about a little book that published me. Okay, so the book isn't just about me. It's also about 40 other ladies who wrote fantastic words and essays and were chosen to be in the Cup of Comfort line of books, called A Cup of Comfort for Christian Women.

This book is seriously inspirational. I had more fun reading through it than writing my own story. It is a wonderfully encouraging book for other women, touches the soul, ministers to the heart, and puts a little more happiness into all of us.

The book is great as a gift, great for yourself, and great to have around when you need specific encouragement in a specific area.

Okay then, enough said. I am happy to be officially "published" in a "real" book (a national bestselling one at that) even if my name is hidden, small, shrouded and insignificant.

The editor, Colleen Sell, was a pleasure to work with, I learned a lot, and I'm most happy, knowing and hoping that my little story called "A Test of Tithe" will help others out there with their lives, as much as my experience helped -- and shaped me -- for the rest of mine.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Grand Grammar

I'm always forgetting correct grammar rules. I mean, always. And did I mention my punctuation is pathetic? Well, it is.

There's a really cool website that I just found, and it's called "Grammar Girl." Well, actually it's really called "Quick and Dirty Tips," and I'm certain I am not italicizing and parathentizing correctly here. But, if I really want to know the right way to write, this lady has the answers. There are a bazillion tips for careers, work, lifetstyle, pets, etc. Hence the name "Quick and Dirty Tips."

But, it's the grammar section that really spoke to me. This section is filled with quick tips, written in a way that will make me always remember a particular rule the next time I need to use it. Like, How to Speak English like the Irish, or How to Write Grammatically Correct Photo Captions, or Commas with Adjectives. Useful, funny and insightful ... all at the same time. Way cool!

There's always a quick tip, or a point I needed to remember in my editing and writing. And this little website has it all. Check it out and bookmark it.  Because a wealth of information -- especially grammar information -- should never be hidden.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Maximizing Your Time

So, I'm sure many of you out there could use a little ego boost with your writing. What if there was a great way to do this, and maybe make a little money (really little money) from it at the same time? You can.

I just recently signed up to be a part of the Yahoo!Contributor Network. What this means is that I am able write about whatever I want, whenever I want and have it all (almost) published.

Some of you may think this is a waste of time, or maybe even beneath you. But, I don't look at it like that. In order to be a better writer, we have to actually write, as often as we can, when we can, and learn, learn, learn the craft -- from content to editing. And to be published during that journey? Wouldn't that be swell?

Well, here's an example. I reworked an article I wrote months ago about how just doing a few simple things to your house, can make it look new again. I called it Live in a New House (... without having to move). It was published almost immediately, and I got a couple dollars for it.

Then, they just accepted an article I wrote about thrift stores in the Sacramento area, because I not only live in Sacramento, but I love thrift stores. I combined what I know, with what I love, and an article was born! Here it is: Top Three Thrift Stores in Sacramento

When publications are few and (very) far between, or if perhaps you have yet to be published at all, having the opportunity to write what you want to write about -- and have it published -- is like finding a pot of gold.

Yes, you have to write. Yes, you have to edit. And yes, by all means, you have to make it look like professional journalism. But, through trial and error and through looking at other folks' writings, you can certainly find a few things to write about, in short quantities, and have fun with it all at the same time.

You'll not only learn how to write better, but think critically, perfect your editing, and have your name published on the World Wide Web. And if you're extra lucky, you might make a few dollars a month.

I highly recommend doing this, even if you only write one article. What's not to love about seeing a great article --with your name on it -- in print (er ... online. But, hey you can print it out, right?)

Happy writing!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Can I see your I.D?

Are you in love with writing? Or just in love with the idea of being a writer?

This is a question everyone who writes, or wants to write, needs to keep at the forefront of their mind before they sit down and decide to make a career out of it.

I think someone famous said, "If you want to act like a writer, you can ... find a black turtleneck, act depressed all while hanging out at the local cafe." But, I don't know who said it, or the right wording or any of those important things.

However, I do remember the meaning behind it. The gist is this: Are you a real writer or a pretend one? Are you an author because you can't live without writing -- because it's in your DNA -- or are you just playing dress up?

A friend of mine gave me an article to read about a Belgian author, Amelie Nothumb who spoke of this same perplexity. What it comes down to is this: Writing, or being an author, isn't perplex. We may be perplex people -- and incredibly eccentric -- but the simple notion is that even if we aren't super-wonderful writers, that doesn't not make us a writer. It has everything to do with learning, trying, failing and continuing to write ... regardless.

Ms. Nothumb said this: "I found out that the question was not 'am I good enough to write?', because of course I am not. The question was 'am I able to live without writing?'. It is," she says, with another charming smile, "the only question."

And that truly is the only question. If you can't live without writing, etching words out of thin imagination --whether or not your work is published -- then this makes you a writer. If you can live without it (if the concept of looking like a writer is the most intriguing part) then perhaps you need to dig deeper into what it is you really want.

Not everyone can write. Everyone may say they "want to write a book" but that doesn't make one a writer until the book is written -- not published -- but written. And even then, the actual written word doesn't make you an "author" until it's published.

But, published or not, you're a writer when you can't go a day without thinking of dialogue, or character development, or if you edit your minds' conversation while drifting off to sleep. Or, in my case, when the casual day to pick up your kids from school becomes fodder for your next scene.

Writing is hard. But what's harder is acting like you're a writer when you aren't truly in love with your words. Love your writing, and the writing will come to you, on paper, on the computer screen, and always in your heart --no matter the final outcome of those words.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

New Life in Non-fiction

Whenever the writing bug isn't as pesky as it should be -- bugging me until I write something long --sometimes I go for little bits - like short story little bits.

Chicken Soup for the Soul
If writing novels or long stories is your thing, then writing a short story is going to be difficult. Having to think about dialogue, background, imagery and plot in 1500 words or less, is a challenge that many people have a hard time with -- me included.

However, this is where you have a chance to work at your skills. By writing in a few words, what would normally take a paragraph or two, we learn to activate our passive writing, condense our wordiness, and perfect our action scenes to precision.

Of course, what I'm talking about mainly has to do with fiction. And going from long fiction to short fiction is tough; it's almost like using a completely different side of our brain.

But, let me throw a wrench into this mix: what if you wrote a short piece of non-fiction?

If the thought terrifies you, it shouldn't! Now's the time to expand your repertoire of writing genres. Non-fiction -- something I'm working on more often -- is fun. It's real, it's now, and it's a world of fantasy I don't have to create ... because it's already here.

A great way to get your feet wet, and a fantastic way to gain writing prompts, is to visit the Chicken Soup for the Soul website and check out their submissions page, or their "Possible Books" page. This tells you what they are looking for, what they want to read, and what they want to print in their next books.

There are usually at least 5 different subjects one can write on. Not all of them will be something you know about, but probably one or two. Use this to your ability and write something good.

Try one of their topics today. Use it as a prompt to dole out 1200 words, edit it, and take a good look at it. If you like it, and it seems publish-worthy, why not send it in after a day or two? If you think you need to master your non-fiction craft a bit more, set it aside, and write something else.

The point is to write something that you're not used to writing, in a style you're not used to writing in. This will stretch you, teach you and make you learn more about writing well than ever before.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Slump -O- Rama

So, it's not that I don't like writing.
That's like saying I don't like coffee.
Neither one is true, and neither will ever happen in my lifetime.

However, when things around my life get busy -- things that have nothing to do with writing-- it seems that this is not only the first thing to go, but the first thing I don't want to do.

Okay, so sometimes I do want to write, especially when things get out-of-whack. It's an outlet of sorts; to get away from what I find myself so wrapped up in, and I can escape to a world of unreality.

But more often than not, like right now, I just can't get the will power to sit down and write anything major. Why am I telling you this? Because, going through a dry spell, a writers' slump, is a normal thing.

We go through periods of writing non-stop for days, thousands and thousands of words, only to look back a week later and wonder how we did that and now, more importantly, how we are going to write one measly sentence.

Here's the thing: if this is you right now, don't despair.

Currently, I too am sort of in this predicament. I can write for short -- very short-- moments, but my life beyond writing, the one that I'm more involved in now, is sapping my energy and creativity.

Many times this past week, I've terrified myself over the thought: What if I never get back that urge to write? What if my zeal for creating new worlds and characters disappears for good?

It won't. I won't. And it won't happen to you either.

Phases. That's what life is about. The Bible even talks about this sort of thing : "A time to weep, a time to laugh ... a time to be silent and a time to speak" (Ecclesiastes 3:4,7, NIV). King Solomon wrote those words, and he was -- and is-- still considered to be the wisest person of all time.

If HE had a bad day -- a day where writing was the last thing he wanted or felt he could do -- then, by all means, we are no different. When I think of this, I don't feel so bad. After all, he wrote books in the bible!

I almost didn't write this post because my circumstances seemed more pressing -- and even more enticing --than sloshing out words onto the screen in front of me.

But, here they are. And I feel a little better.  Many times, getting going is all we have to hurdle past and many times, that isn't a hurdle we feel like jumping over. The writing slump is what it is.

And it's okay.

Take the time to recuperate, restore your creativity, and wait for revelation for future writing. Because it will come. And when it does, be ready to write for a long, and fulfilling, time.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Heart of Writing

One of the last resolutions I talked about --in my first post of the year (click here)-- was to find a way to sit down and write a letter or note (amidst our busy life) by hand. A real letter. A real written letter.

As in, to write it: as in pen to paper sort of thing.

The idea is so vague and distorted now -- as if it were a dinosaur that we don’t want to reckon with anymore -- that we seem old-fashioned if we write something out, even a thank you note. But, if you really want to appreciate the art form of writing again, then that dino needs to remain alive and active and not extinct.

Because today is Valentine’s Day, let us briefly discuss this idea of actual writing. If you have a loved one, someone you cherish and are planning on celebrating Valentine’s day with (or even if you’re not and just wanting to wish them a happy day) then you better have actually written out that note.

Text messages and e-mails, in my humble opinion, don’t count.

Whip out a red or white piece of paper, get some stickers, or hey, go buy a card, and then sit down and write something sweet. It doesn’t need to be long, just nice, sincere and yes, heartfelt.

Now, wasn’t that nice? You just utilized a communication device of old: real hand-writing!

Happy Valentine’s day all my writing friends, and it’s not too late to get a card, write something fantastically simple, and make someone else think you are the most thoughtful and old-school cool (in the good, non-Dino kind of way) person in their life.

And I’m thinking that might just warm your heart a little bit too.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Jane Austen Writing Contest

Do you LOVE Jane Austens' work?

Do you LOVE writing?

Do you have a secret dream to write just like her? (Or in my case, to jump at the opportunity to write like Austen because it is so ridiculously hard?)

Then check out this great contest called Write Like Jane, where your love for both Austen and writing make a perfect combination ... just like Ms. Bennet and Darcy.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Being Book Smart

I had good intentions last year to read a book a week. That's 52 books. It really shouldn't have been an issue. Certainly I could find something worth reading, with the library so close by. And that there were tons of things I loved to read about, well, I had this 2010 New Year's resolution in the bag!

I fell very short of that goal.

And it is why I revamped my goals for this year (by a lot) to only one book a month.

Before you tell me that this can't be right, that it seems rather extreme, like I should be horrified at reading so little, don't say it. At this point in my life, with a dog, my busy kids, cooking, housekeeping, working, editing ... reading has almost become laborious. In 2010, I forced myself to be something I wanted to be, and was still failing. After failing my own others-driven goal, I knew I had a problem.

It is understood that writers are supposed to read. This is a school-driven, author-proven, writer-demanded way of living and thinking. And yet, after reading through my kids homework, reading (and editing) other people's work, reading how to un-train the dog from jumping over guests, and reading how to use my newest appliance, or how to remedy my kids' latest sickness, me sitting down to read for fun just isn't fun anymore. I'm too dang tired to read by then.

That's sad. But, I don't want it to be this way. I LOVE reading. It's what made me want to be a writer; it's what makes me strive to write the book I want to write so that others can feel as refreshingly escaped into that far-away place, and return happier for it. I want that back!

But I don't want to feel guilty for not reading either.

So, in order to relax but also to make myself do something for me, I'm setting a goal of a book a month -- a fun, silly, serious, crazy or out of this world book -- and have it by my bed for me to read not because I'm fulfilling a goal, or having to do one more thing, but because it is good for me to read - for me. And even if it is just two pages a day.

I may not even make it to a book a month. It might be a book every two months. But, it is a goal worth pursing because it is about reading for fun; reading to get lost; reading to be someone else and remember why I love it so much. Readers make better writers. This is true. But not to the point when they dread it.

Without sounding like a public health announcement or a "Mother's Against Illiteracy" commercial, (Yeah, like my own illiteracy!) get out there and read for fun -- that is to say, when you can, and at your own pace and leisure, of course.

Happy reading.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Editing and Your Teeth

That title seems horribly incongruous. Yet, I mean every word of it. Let me start this post by asking you a question: Can editing really be your friend?

Let me ask a second question: Is editing really necessary?

Well, here's another question to think about while you ponder the veracity of the first two: Does the sun rise every morning?

The answer to the third question is the answer to the other two as well. Yes.

You must edit. You must go back and get rid of the excess. You must face the daunting task of wiping away scores of words from your computer -- the very words that fill your heart with joy. You MUST do this because those superfluous words do nothing for the story. As in, they are only there because it sounds good.

Sounding good is really not good, in the literary world. Because most of the time when you think you sound good, you sound like a prolific seal, barking up a storm over nothing. And that, my friends, is no good. Good writing comes from knowing how to edit your words. Plain and simple.

Editing is like brushing your teeth. Really. You have to take care of your teeth to keep them healthy and shiny. That means brushing, flossing, rinsing and more. If you don't, you've got one heck of an ugly mess that needs massive amounts of fixing just to see the start of original, pretty teeth.

Your manuscript is your teeth. No one wants to look at ugly teeth or be near bad breath. It's the same with your writing. Your first draft -- and sometimes second and third with insufficient editing -- are your teeth with gingivitis. No good.

Instead, you have to clean them, polish them and make them shine. And when you do, your writing will be like that magnificent, white smile that gleams from the fake television commercials like fresh snow.

Yes, you have to edit if you want to be a writer. Yes, the sun rises. And yes, you should brush your teeth. Talk about incongruous, and yet, I think you understand my point, right?

Get out there and brush, or rather, edit your stuff. Make editing your best friend.

You'll thank that "best friend editor within" when you get that book deal, or writing gig, and someone needs a headshot or interview and you'll have an awesome batch of shiny, sparkling material to go with your batch of shiny, sparkling teeth.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

My Cup Runneth Over

Somehow, in one way or another, I end up writing (even if in brief) about coffee in my blogs.

This is a habit (not just the writing, but drinking) for a lot of writers, because it really may be the only thing keeping us in our chair -- trying to do what we were called to do -- but suffering horribly at times because of that enormous wall called “writer’s block.”

But this post isn’t about walls, and blocks and such. It’s again, about the coffee. Did you know that Swedes (as in the folks of Sweden) are the highest coffee drinkers per capita in the world?

My maiden name is Swedish, even though I’m a mix of all things European. And a whopping ¼ of me is Finnish. Though Finland isn’t Sweden, it IS next door to it. And I think that counts as a good explanation as to why I love the black gold so much.

This picture is of my most favorite coffee mug in the world. My blog friends Erica and Christy are having a blogfest about coffee cups today. Each blogger is supposed to post their favorite cup and why it is their favorite. That's pretty darn unique and clever of them -- not at all like my cup.

My mug is simple, a lot like me. There are no frills or fluff. Not that I’d mind a frill or two. But, you know what I really love about this cup? The size. It’s not 8 ounce or 10 ounce or 20 million ounces. It’s only 6. It holds just the right amount of coffee and I can drink it in the right amount of time before it gets cold. A little half and half, and I’m really doing great.

The thickness of the cup is key too. Not too thin, not too thick, just right. I think the coffee is actually better from this cup than any other in my kitchen. No really. It truly tastes better.

This cup is from the 1950’s as well, so we’re talking vintage here. Called Fire King, and made by the Anchor Hocking glassware company, this is not just a mug -- but a treasure. And I’m taking care of it. I’d like to believe this cup is taking care of me too.

The third resolution from my New Year's post is for all of us to have our writing “be just what the editor was looking for.” With this cup in one hand, and my other on the keyboard, I’m bound to keep writing -- and rewriting-- to where this (an editor fawning over my words) is an actuality. I may have to put the cup down for a bit to work both my hands. But hey, that’s good too.

Blood, sweat and coffee (or maybe for you, it's tea or something else.) This is what writing is all about! And when I am in the midst of my work, I really do feel like my cup runneth over. Running over with coffee, ideas and blessings.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Music and Me

So, this post is about music. Why? Because author extraordinaire Alex J. Cavanaugh is doing a music blogfest. For those who chose to sign up and write about this subject, like me, we get the opportunity to muse about the top ten songs that have inspired us the most over our life.

This is a rather subjective and varied blog idea, because sometimes the strangest music can inspire us, or move us, or allow us to remember a time or place or moment or person ... for the rest of our lives!

And that is also why it is such a grand idea to make a list of the most inspirational songs: to remember, to pontificate, and think about such like: Wow, that song was awful, but I sure loved it!

Warning: This list is going to be majorly filled with eighties music. Why? Again, for the reasons listed above. I was age "ten and up" in the mid-eighties. Talk about an inspirational and impressionable time of anyone's life!

Because of that, I feel the eighties were good to me. And I don't mean in the leg-warmer, semi-permed-hair or poufy-prom-dress-sleeves kind of way. I was all of those things, by the way. But the music, like literature, transcends decades or time (though, those keyboards are nowhere to be found) -- even today.

Here's that list:

1. Take on Me: A-Ha -- This reminds me of skating rink parties and that cute boy who didn't give a darn about me. Still love this song today (but, not the boy).

2. Sign Your Name: Terence Trent D'Arby -- Woah. Haven't heard that name in a while. Why this song? Because it was cool ... and it was tied to another big crush of mine. Moving on.

3. Thriller: Michael Jackson --You'd have to have lived under a rock if you can't agree. Yes, it's super-eighties. So what. I loved it. Still do.

4. Lead me On: Amy Grant -- She had a big thing going in the eighties. Still has a following today, and I love her stuff, but this song ROCKED!

5. Who's that Girl: Madonna -- I know, I know. I don't really like her either. But, this song was so incredible when it came out. It still gives me those eighties chills when I hear it today.

6. You give Love a Bad Name: Bon Jovi -- Yes, I still love this song, and yes Bon Jovi is still cute.

7. Man in the Mirror: Michael Jackson -- Not only an amazing, heart-felt song, but a life changing one as well. Who didn't hear this song and think about what they could change about themselves?

8. Tonight: Genesis -- Wow, such a techno cool song.

9. The Final Countdown: Europe -- I had completely forgotten about how great this song was, until I heard it on a commercial. This has to be a part of my musical youth.

10. Billie Jean : Michael Jackson -- I would be remiss not to include it. With that amazing bass line, it haunts me everywhere I go.  Never done before, never done since. A great song.

There you have it. Me in an eighties bottle. And I wouldn't change it a bit.

Now, where did I put my jelly shoes?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Carpel Tunnel Be Gone

Okay, so as my second resolution stated from the January 1st post, I don't wish anyone to acquire carpel tunnel from writing. That's not only painful, but really sad.

However, if you did happen to get sore wrists, say without the Carpel Tunnel, then that may be a good thing for this year.

Why? Because it means you are spending a whole lot of time doing what you told yourself you should do: write!

The literal act of writing is probably one of the hardest things anyone will ever do--even for "authors" too (crazy people who want to make a living through writing.)

But, take your plumber, or your firefighter, or your teacher and make them sit down to write a book, and really, they're not going to want to do it either. Writing, creating a world, visualizing dialogue and characters, scenery and hidden plots, well that's practically like coming up with an organized way to take over the world. It's that complicated.

Yet, it isn't impossible (the writing, that is). It's all about working those wrists, even if it potentially begins Carpel Tunnel Syndrome. See, writing is a discipline that even writers don't want to work on. Yes, they may want the book written. Yes, they may have great content. They may even be one of the best, florid and prolific writers of this century, but if the clickety-clack of the keyboard keys aren't clickety-clackying, then the reality of you churning a book out of thin air just isn’t going to happen.

Making myself write is hard, and sore wrists may potentially be a side effect, but if that's all that's stopping me, then I’m the only one stopping myself!

Here's what to do to overcome your block or that little voice that says you having nothing good to say, or that you can't write worth a hill of beans.

1. Sit down.

2. Open your online document -- your blank piece of paper (or your spiral notebook.)

3. Write. Anything, everything, characters, a list of feelings, your outline, or dialogue. Start with something, then later get an outline, and begin your work of art!

Who knows, if you ease into this writing thing -- like start with a few hundred words a day, then work up to a few thousand-- you won't get carpel Tunnel at all! You really do want to take care of your wrists so that when you are an author, you have your precious wrists to write even greater things ... or if you're like me, good wrists to wring out laundry, take the dog for a walk, or weed the garden.

Whatever it is -- wringing, walking, weeding or writing -- get busy doing the writing and be happy that you are fulfilling a goal.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Changing the World with Your Writing

Remember how my last post listed "resolution" type blessings on your writing life? Well, I want to get into those blessings with a little more detail.

This week, it's the "May your minds be full of creative, change-the-world-with-your-story- ideas" aspect.

I know. You may think I'm kidding, or that I wrote that one as a joke. But as far-fetched as it sounds, it isn't a joke.

Realistically, a change-the-world story is a crazy concept. We don't necessarily know what and how to change the world; or if what we write will make a difference to anybody. Can we change the world? Should we try to change the world?

Well, if you are passionate about what you write, then (and this is the kicker) it doesn't matter. What you have to do-- as a writer wanting to write something worth ... something -- is make sure that your words are as truthful, honest, heart-felt and real to what you feel and believe as possible.

If you are happy with this, if you are true to your beliefs, if you are writing to the best of your abilities, then who is to say or know that your work couldn't change the world? I'd like to think that if you work hard, keep a creative mind and an open heart to writing something that will help people-- even if it is small, or barely noticeable-- then you already have changed the world.

You are doing your good deeds; you are carrying your cross. You are trying to make a difference.

If you aren't doing this, perhaps you should. Maybe this small move will improve your chances of success (i.e. publication, whether online or in print). And if you already are doing this, then keep at it. Believe in your words, remain dedicated to your stories, and whether you become the next best seller, or influence only ten people with your story or article, you will be successful.

Success, to me, is simply helping or making one person happy, even if this takes years to accomplish.

And even if that one person is you.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy 2011

Wishing you a wonderful new year for all of you writers, readers and bloggers.
  • May your minds be full of creative, change-the-world-with-your-story- ideas.
  • May Carpel Tunnel Syndrome not set in until late, like after Thanksgiving, of this year.
  • May everything you write have that "just what the editor was looking for" quality.
  • May editing be your favorite --well, at least one of your favorites --hobby this year.
  • May reading "for fun" actually happen more than twice this year (and not while at the dentist).
  • May your new year resolutions have something to do with writing an actual letter by hand!
  • May your coffee (or tea) pot remain full, pressed in, running over and never-ending.
Now seriously, blessings and God's favor on your life this year.