Monday, April 30, 2012

Z is for Zeal

After a month of blogging, I haven't lost the zeal for writing. Sometimes, when I'm writing things that don't strictly have to do my creations, the zeal has a tendency to disappear. It's like editing other peoples' work: after weeks of taking care of their work, the enthusiasm for working on my stories seems curbed.

Hopefully, the almost two thousand blogs (perhaps less) involved in this blogfest energized your zeal. It absolutely has for me, as I got to "meet" many other authors -- those who are trying, succeeding and failing at the same things I am attempting -- and I've met book reviewers, agents, readers, etc. It's been extremely educational and it means I've got sources to go to, when my zeal is lacking.

Thanks for reading a long with me on my blogging journey for the month of April. I've had a lot of fun, it's been challenging only a few times when I had no idea what to write, and rewarding too to see how many others are in this journey with me.

Keep the zeal!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Y is for Young Adult

This post is going to read like my kindergartner's books he's currently learning to read:

I like young adult books. Have you read them?
Young adult books are very trendy right now.
They make a lot of blockbuster movies from them too.
Do you like blockbuster movies?
Adults read young adult books.
Kids read young adult books.
Young adults read young adult books.
So, what makes a young adult book?

Okay, enough of that. But really, there is always a strong debate about what makes or doesn't make a young adult book. Without a doubt, I believe young adult books' main protagonist needs to be a young adult. I know, that's one of those "duh" comments. But, Harry Potter was ten, wasn't he, when he began at Hogwarts? And yet, those books are more young adult now than ever because the books take Harry through the young adult years.

I think young adult books can be read by children and adults alike, especially if the book deals with serious issues. This might be a reason that kids shouldn't read them, but an absolute reason for adults to read them. Which leaves me to wonder, when is the property line crossed when going from middle-grade to young adult? Young adult books aren't young adult only because of age, right?

My story, The Puzzle Master, deals with a couple of twelve year olds, but the subject matter is beyond their young little minds -- it's almost beyond some adults minds.

So, what do you think? Do you like reading young adult because of the "age" of the characters, or because of the content? Or both? Or, maybe it's neither of that?

I love young adult because it takes me back to when I was metamorphosing into an adult: times that were turbulent, strange, exciting and confusing.

And perhaps, the very reason this age group can bring forth such amazing -- blockbuster --stories.

Friday, April 27, 2012

X is for (E)xit

It's time for me to stop blogging. Because, I'm losing my mind, and doing dumb stuff.

Yesterday, I added a picture of the letter U to my W word.

Ummm.... yeah. That's not good. And because blogger changed their site, I'm having to relearn where all the functions are, and my formatting looks horrible at times, like the other day, when my title didn't go into the post, and there weren't any spaces between words after a period. Argggghhhh.

Hopefully, you've learned a lot over this past month. I know I have. I also have a ton of blogs to visit still, which I hope to do over the course of the next month.

I've also learned that I still really love to write. And I'm glad to be a part of this blogging fest.

Even if, I'll always have an issue with editing my blogs ...

Thursday, April 26, 2012

W is for Writing Exercises

Unlike real physical exercise, I love writing exercises. And I especially love writing prompts. Those few words or sentence gives me a freedom to write about anything, without my own creative restrictions, precisely because I didn't come up with the writing prompt. Weird, but that works well for me.

I also like coming up with book openers. You know, the way the first couple of sentences look on the first page -- sentences that are supposed to hook you immediately.

I try to do this frequently, just for fun, but I really try to do this on genres that I don't typically write in.

For example:

Murder is tricky. Sometimes, it takes the victim by surprise and other times, the victim knows it's coming from miles away. Kind of like the sound of a train whistle on a train not yet visible. But when Matthew Sasson murdered me, I'd heard that train whistle for months.

-paranormal mystery

I don't write paranormal. But, it would probably be pretty fun. This is a small way for me to be a paranormal writer, without writing a book.

Another example:

Her blond wig was far too big for her face. Her fake tan and giant sunglasses were glaringly obvious as a hasty disguise. But here on the Florida coast, no one seemed to give her appearance a second thought, because Carrie Tran looked just like every other woman there.

-thriller

I don't write thrillers. They aren't my style, and honestly, I haven't read many of them. But, does that matter?
As a writer, it's kind of like being an actor. You should know how to write in different genres, like acting a good guy, bad guy, nerd, jock, etc, because it's fantastic exercise. 

These openers aren't even very good, but they're something to work on and work with. It may seem counterproductive not to focus on your genre, but in the end, these exercises will not only help your writing style and character development, but you might just get a brand new book out of it.

-H

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

V is for Vacillating

The definition, according to Webster, of vacillating: to sway to and fro: to waver, totter, stagger.

Such a strange word. Yet, I do this all the time.

I vacillate between writing a middle grade book, or literary fiction.

I vacillate between excercising, or sitting down to watch something on the TV.

I vacillate between a warm sour-cream laden burrito for lunch, or yogurt and fruit.

I vacillate between a lot of different things, and usually, it's because my wants are trying to overpower my true needs.

Though, I don't know how I account for the writing thing ... I vacillate on writing a lot of different styles, mostly because I like so many-- from young adult to fantasy -- and to see if I can write in a particular style that I'm not used to. Well, that's the reason I'm coming up with, anyway.

What about you? What do you "stagger" and "totter" over? Facebook or actual writing? Folding laundry or eating chocolate?

And really, have you ever used this word in your vocabulary? Or in any of your writing? If not, you should.

It's a great word to vacillate over using in your next story.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

U is for Unbelievable!

For some reason, I was having a hard time coming up with a blog post for the letter U. It may be because my head is a little fuzzy. Why? Because I was awake last night, in the middle of the night around three a.m., thinking about a young author (age nineteen) who this year, wrote a book in two weeks, did one week of revisions, and submitted it to agents with an offer for representation a week later.

Unbelievable. Unsusual, yes. And still, always unbelievable to hear stories like that. Stephanie Meyer was one of those in the "unbelievable" category too, and though rare, these writers are out there.

I was awake thinking about what I was doing at nineteen. Wanting to write, but not thinking I could sit down a write a book. It's amazing how all authors find the road to their writing, and how most of the roads are similar and very different, too. I was in college, studying literature at that age. I was writing too many papers to even think about writing a book that I wanted to write. I was also working part time, trying to also (unsuccesfully) keep a social life, and still have fun.

But, why didn't I think of writing a book? That would have been fabulous practice. Oh well. I'm too old for regrets. Life is the way it is for a reason. It takes some writers decades to learn how to write, and others, a couple of years or less.

I suppose for this age nineteen author -- her name is Taryn, and here's her blog. She's also a literary intern, freelance writer, YA writer extraordinaire --  found her calling early on. And she wrote, studied, wrote and editing a ton before she wrote this agented book. She worked hard! It also helps to be a literary intern. Perhaps, every writer should be that. It teaches one how to write (after seeing so much of the same, boring, uninteresting, blah queries and manuscripts). Lucky her. I hope she sticks with it. Because if she can whip something up that an editor likes in a few weeks, what could she write if she spent a few months on it?

Unbelievable, unusual and very inspirational at the same time. I hope you are inspired to keep writing. Because when I hear stories like that, it makes me want to get back to writing and writing and writing, so I can be unbelievable too.

Monday, April 23, 2012

T is for Typos

Because, we all have them! I even have a book out, one that I published mind you,
and I'll still find a missing period, or misspelled word, and I cringe to think about all the people that have
read those mistakes! I'm a perfectionist, but not to the point that it had to be so perfect before I put the book out there. If that were the case, I never would've published. I had to let it go, typos and all, and then fix them, once the book was out--once I had many sets of eyes telling me what I missed. Some folks don't like that, but really, I don't mind it at all. I need the help.While I can edit for content, sometimes, I just CAN'T see the formatting, or grammatical or punctuation errors because I'm looking for so many different things.
Again, this is one of the negatives to self-publishing. And also a reason to hire an editor to fix those things
before you put something out there. And sometimes, even that isn't error-proof. I've read many a bestsellers,
with errors. So, it's a lesson learned, with nothing to lose, at this point. There are probably a half a dozen typos in this post as well. We're human, we make errors, and I'm all for doing one's best. Yet, though we need to be polished, sometimes, it doesn't happen perfectly ... and that's okay!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

S is for Sparks

As in Nicholas Sparks. I know what you're thinking ... we've already heard about this guy. But, probably far less than you're hearing about Suzanne Collins of The Hunger Games, right?

I know a lot of people like his writing. I know a lot of people don't like his writing. Usually, the latter group says this because they've never read any of his books. They're only basing their opinion on what others have said, what they've heard in an interview, or how bad they thought the movie was. Don't base your judgement of a book from the movie ... ever. You know the cliche: The book is better.

Here's two super reasons to read Nicholas Sparks.

1. His writing is real. I know. Some of you guys are thinking, come on, he's so not real. But he is! He's real for guys and girls, and on so many levels. I just read The Last Song. Sure it was sad, as he usually has sad elements in his books, but how is that any different than other book? Life is about sad. But it was also positive too. His male characters aren't all good-looking, sweep-you-off-your-feet guys either. They work, they have faults, they learn how to love and how to protect. His female characters have just as many faults too, which makes for a great story. This particular book isn't just a love story. It's about discovering the truth to each character, revealing what has been hidden, and getting rid of the things that have hindered their lives from growth. All good stuff. Most of his books are about friendship and family; what life is all about. His writing is real so we all will relate.

2. He knows how to tell a story. If you're not going to read his works because you hate the genre, then do yourself a favor and read one of his works to get a feel for how he weaves his stories. He hooks you from the first few chapters. In the past, I've read a few of his works that seemed slow to start. But this book, The Last Song, got me from the start. He even got me to care about characters I didn't want to care about. That's a good story teller. He doesn't overwrite his stories, either. His editor actually makes sure that all he puts in the story is truly relevant, not just something to fill up the pages. Some best selling authors have fluff in their books. That's so not cool. Just ... fluffy and unfulfilling. Sparks is a bestseller for a reason.

I suppose I'm an advocate for him because he's also from Sacramento, where I live. Maybe there's something in the water that will teach me how to write as well as him too.

Friday, April 20, 2012

R is for Rebecca Ward Design


Okay, so this has NOTHING to do with writing. But, it does have to do with my family. My younger sister, Rebecca, is an interior designer. She has been in business for quite a few years already and is only a young pup herself.

http://rwarddesign.com/default.aspxShe has incredibly reasonable rates, she is located in central California, and whether you need new lighting and paint for a single room -- or an entire house-- she can do it all. She's a member of ASID, worked years as an intern, received her degree in design, and now runs a business of her own.

My point: she's good at what she does because she studied and worked for it.

Kind of like the way good authors become published with reputable publishers when they study, write and do it until it's perfect, day in and day out, and even when the writer feels they're moving at a snails pace. She is that dedicated, as a designer.

Here's her fabulous blog. Here is her design website. She blogs quite regularly, and honestly, she should have done the blogging from A to Z. She always has awesome design tips. I'm not the only one out there who doesn't know how to properly match the drapes to the walls, choose the right sconces, or the perfect sofa for the living room.

But then ... that's why she's my interior designer.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Q is for (Agent) Query

I wanted to write about quesadillas. They're one of my favorite foods of all time. But, I won't. I'll save the food for a foodie.

I've mentioned this fabulous site before. But, I'm going to do it again, since I didn't just want to talk about those querulous queries.

Have a book you want to query? Children's book, romance or sci-fi? Find an agent -- and hundreds more--for each genre at AgentQuery. It's a database of information that any writer has to bookmark. Too valuable to ignore.

There are also helpful articles and interviews to go along side the lists of agents, and updates on agents --if they're open to queries or not-- every day. The site is extremely simple to navigate, easy to use, and with the click of the mouse, you've got ten or more agents to send your quite marvelous manuscript to. Your quest has begun ... or rather, it is continuing.

Go to AgentQuery today and find that agent for you!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

P is for (The) Puzzle Master

So, it wouldn't be right if I didn't plug my own book for the letter "P." A few months ago, I ventured into unknown territory ... and self-published a middle grade book.

Here's the synopsis:

Twelve-year-old Marshall Thompson's favorite place in the world is Luke's Junk Store. With one more trip in before school begins, he's intent on finding the perfect thing to take with him on his first day back. But his "great find" ends up being a girl -- and a friendship begins that will change him forever.


Together, they share a love of puzzles and something else: sickness. With his asthma, and her in cancer recovery, they're linked as kindred spirits. But when a life-changing incident threatens their friendship, Marshall has to learn to pick up the pieces to his broken puzzle of life and put them back together.

The Puzzle Master is a story of friendship, love, forgiveness and hope; issues that surround us at the youngest of age. Through Marshall's tragedies and triumphs, he learns to accept change and overcome his trials even when they seem insurmountable.

Engrossing story, with engaging characters. This novel could stand beside Bridge to Terebithia in a classroom -- it's that good.-- Goodreads Review (I had to add this awesome review!)

Needless to say, this isn't some happy little book. It isn't about vampires, or some fantasy world (though those are great too.)  It's somewhat serious and it's not that long (42,000 words, or about 125 reading pages). But it's a little story that I felt needed to be told. It's that simple. Great for middle grade, and even better for young adults and adults. Check it out on Amazon. I have it in Kindle and paperback versions. Kindle is only $.99. Would love imput, or a review, if you feel so inclined.



Tuesday, April 17, 2012

O is for The Oregon Coast

I love coastal Oregon. It's always lush and green, even in the dead of summer. Though I don't live there, I've been traveling there probably twice a year for the past thirty years or so, vacationing on the same beach, and loving it more and more each time I visit. It's a great place to do a lot of writing too.

The beaches are clean and beautiful. The air is crisp and clear. The views are astounding. And that the forest meets up with the ocean, makes it consistantly breathtaking. I did a lot of coffee drinking ... duh.

If you've never visited, I highly recommend it. I was just there for ten days and I would love to be there right now. But I'll especially wish to be there when it's 105 degrees here in July, but a balmy 75 degrees there.

Here's their tourism site, just in case you want to make a trip. Oh, and if you want a beach-front vacational rental to rent, e-mail me. I've got the hook-ups.

Monday, April 16, 2012

N is for Newbie

We all have to start somewhere, right? This year, actually, exactly two months ago, I self-published my middle grade book, The Puzzle Master, through Amazon and Amazon kindle. (only .99 cents! get it here.)

Great experience, great learning curve, and wow, do I feel like a newbie. I feel like a nothing and an everything at the same time. I am one of millions, vying for readers attention, and yet I have the ability to have full control of editing, marketing, writing, etc.

This is both good and bad. Good because I'm learning a lot, and again have full control of my work, and at the same time, bad because I don't know what the heck I'm doing.

Here's an exception, a guy who has made a huge success of himself and is also willing to help us newbies: his name is Joe Konrath. He's a great writer, who has put in decades of writing to finally get to where he is today.

His blog has tons of info on how to be a self-published author and do it well, and argues that his success wasn't a fluke: that he had to work hard to be successful. His blog is called A Newbie's Guide to Publishing.

He wrote a great blog post about how he made 100,000 in three weeks (hard work, long hours). And another post about how a lot of people aren't so sure he deserved it (he did!)

If you're interested in self-publishing, or want to learn more about the writing process, check it out. It is a wealth of information.

Newbies, you can do it.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

M is for Masterpiece

As a writer, it's easy to lose sight of the big picture.

I'm sure this is a common theme for any artist -- from painting to acting to dance -- as they have to daily focus on small segments, perfecting those parts, which in turn creates the final masterpiece ... even if it takes many, many days.

What artists have to do, in order to remember what the whole thing is about, is to step back and refocus ... take a look at the whole picture and remember what it was they had originally intended to create.

Writing is the same way. We work a chapter or page at a time. But, after months of this, sometimes we don't remember the passion; what it was that sparked imagination or flamed the fire of this story.

Sometimes, we need to reread what we wrote to remember. Other times, we have to sit on it. And usually, we just have to keep doing what we're doing, one day at a time, having faith that the final project will appear.

Masterpieces don't come over night. They don't even come in six months or a year, sometimes. It requires our patience, daily or hourly even, to keep steadfast in the art and steadfast in the continuity.

It takes persistance in going into the characters and the setting of an unreal world and maintain a belief in that world, despite what's going on around you, which ultimately carries over to the reader.

Isn't that the whole point?

Making a masterpiece -- something you are truly happy with -- takes work and time. Don't rush through it; don't think you'll never get it finished; don't try to short-change yourself and slap it together just to have something completed. It won't be good. It won't be that masterpiece you want. No one will care to read it again, or even read it in the first place

It's quality. Not quantity.

Stick with that, and everything you churn out, even if it takes five years, will be worth it in the end.

Friday, April 13, 2012

L is for Library (Week)

This entire week of April has been National Library Week, the 8th through the 14th.
So here's my questions: when was the last time you were in a library?

For a lot of writers, we can't live without them: they are our eternal reference, even though
we have the internet. Most libaries have that slightly dusty, papery, hard-bound goodness
to them, so that every book you pick up feels like you've found gold.

Libraries are probably more economical than ever, as plunking down $15 for a book (and more)
isn't as viable as it used to be.

Whatever your excuse is for not visiting, try to make it into one -- even if just for old times sake.
Check out a book, something that makes you love to read, be it a mystery, thriller or memoir.

I grew up living about three blocks away from a library. My sisters and I were there all
the time. So much information, so much to read, so much to pour over and ponder.

I absolutely love libraries. And if you love to read or write, you really should too.

**Check out the National Library Week website for more info about what your local library is up to.**

Thursday, April 12, 2012

K is for Kaffee Klatsch

I seem to write about coffee a lot. I think there's a book in that somewhere. Partly because I know I should write about what I know and love, and partly because I need to get this out of my system. I could begin a new book that revolves around coffee, perhaps a murder mystery or something devilishly good. That goes well with a cup of joe too.

Anyway, what is a kaffee klatsch? Just the best thing ever.

It is, by Webster's dictionary definition, of german origin and is "an informal gathering for drinking coffee and talking."

Um, hello? That's so great. In fact, I do this a lot with my sisters and family. Well maybe not a lot, but when we can, we ge together on saturday mornings, and we talk .. a lot. And we drink coffee ... a lot.

So, if you ever, EVER need an excuse for yet another reason why you need to go to coffee with a friend, the reason is your "activity" is defined in the dictionary. You have legitimate meeting, with a legitimate meaning, and it is therefore your right to excercise your freedom to drink and talk ... over coffee. And add books or writing elements to it, and it's practically a tax write off.

I think I'm done writing about coffee, for this A to Z blogging festival. Not because I don't want to, but because I think you might throw things at me if I do. I should have a coffee blog, about all things coffee.

And if you're feeling the need to read more about coffee, read this Ode to Coffee, which was my "C is for Coffee" day last week.

I have to go now, and refill my cup with coffee. See you tomorrow, where I shall write about something other than coffee, that begins with the letter L.

Something other than L is for "light roast" or "latte"... you see my issues.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

J is for Joy

Yes, I wrote Joy. Because, true joy is really hard to come by these days.

There's a whole lot of negative, a whole lot of stupid, a whole lot of vanity and myriad of joy-stealing things happening all around us.

Yet, who is in control of our own joy? We are. It's all up to us, whether we're going to say "today will be a great day" or stay grumpy. It's up to us to say, "I'm going to be productive today" -- even if that means one solitary, but solid, paragraph of writing.

Many days, the joy just isn't there, despite those words, despite yelling them out, or repeating them over and over. Joy is very elusive -- it is much like that missing sock when you take the clothes from the dryer ... sometimes never to find it again, but believing it is still very near.

For me, and my belief, my mantra -- if you will -- is "the joy of the Lord is my strength." That may not be yours, you may not agree, but I don't really care. It's the only way to explain how I get out of my funk. I don't have to do it in my own strength, but God's. I'd like to think that's far better, than trying to eek out joy from my dismal self, knowing full-well that it's nowhere to be found in my own strength.

That makes joy seem not so elusive, suddenly. It's mine to have, mine to obtain, mine to open up because God is in control of that very thing that is taking my joy.

Joy can be my middle name!

No actually, Joy is my middle name. It's a name I don't always live up to, but I know that when I am thankful for everything -- fingers, vision, food, my dog -- I will find joy. It will be my middle name.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I is for Ink

When was the last time you wrote a letter?

I know. A letter.

When did you last take some actual paper, lined or frilly or otherwise, pick up a pen -- one of those tubular things that emits a liquid called ink -- and wrote out your thoughts to a friend?

With the use of e-mail, we are forgetting something quite remarkable: we are forgetting how to write with our hands ... and not just our brains. Like the keyboard, we can write out our thoughts in ink- giving life to our thoughts, words, deeds, images and feelings. Ink and paper are the beginnings of any writer.

But, ink is truly feeling your words. Ink lets you directly write out not just what you're saying, but how you feel about it through the way we write. Our words, though we can't write them out as fast as we can on a computer, are intentional when printed in ink; our words really mean something.

How about a journal entry? When was the last time you wrote out your thoughts in a notebook rather than a blog post? What about a little note to a friend at work or to a spouse at home, instead of a text? What about a postcard sent from a place you just went? We seem to want to update our facebook pages with our latest "wish you were here" picture, which ends up looking like a "look what I'm doing and you're not" picture instead. Not the same as a postcard. At all.

There is something about ink on paper that means more than any text, e-mail or blog.

There is also something great about writing out your story on paper too. Yes, you'll have to transcribe it to the PC, but so what. To write the way all the great writers of our past wrote is something you can't explain to a writer who only types. It's freeing; it's real ... it's the way all writing began.

Write a letter or a note to a friend or family member today. It will mean a lot to them, and hopefully, renew your creative world without the need for any electricity.

Oh, and just a heads up: you'll need one of those little square things called a "stamp" to put in the corner in order to mail it.

Monday, April 9, 2012

H is for Humility

I know what you're thinking. Humility and blogging don't go together.

You're right.

For the most part, especially bloggers who are authors --who's blog URL is their full name -- humility is NOT their middle name. (I'm guilty as charged).

So, in honor of "H is for humility," I'm not going to write about anything, especially nothing about me. Nope. Nothing. Except for these few words.

And even though my first name begins with the letter H, and I could write about that, instead I'm going to send you to another blog. Someone named DL Hammons who is one of the hosts of Blogging from A to Z.

His last name begins with the letter H. It's fitting. Besides, he has a great blog, great contests, great books and great posts. So head on over to his blog, Cruising Altitude 2.0 and tell him hello. Tell him I sent you over ... wait, no. Don't tell him that! That's not very humble at all. Just go over, visit and paruse his posts.

H is for Humility. Try some on for size today. Though it starts out "feeling" too tight, like shrunken cotton, it tends to loosen out over time ... so that eventually, it fits just right.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

G is for Gatsby

There are a lot of books, essays and plays that talk about or discuss The Great Gatsby, written by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

There's a reason for that: it's a great book.

I think I studied this book in one of my lit classes, but that part is a bit fuzzy now. I've been out of college for well over a decade, so I don't know if it was an undergraduate or graduate class. Or both. Either way, the book stayed with me. I loved it. I read it almost every year. And I'm going to tell you why I love it so much.


1. There is a little bit of Jay Gatsby in all of us. Enough said. We can relate. We may not have his kind of money, but we all feel the need to be loved and appreciated.
2. There is a little bit Nick Carraway in all of us. We can really relate to Nick. He is us. The average joe. In awe of Jay, and his wealth.
3. There is a little bit of Daisy Buchanan in all of us. Again, we can relate. She is mixed up; loves her husband and is frustrated by him. Is drawn in by money and glamor, but is truly none of that. A fake.
4. America can relate to this little book BIG time right now. We are coming off our sugar high of money, and materialism and have crashed into bankruptcy and the re-evaluation of true priorities. Just like we did in the 1920s.
5. I love the way Fitzgerald writes. Simple, funny--perfect.

If you haven't read this little gem, you must. The description of the book says it's an "exquisitely crafted tale of America in the 1920s." But, a mere one hundred years or so later, it sounds like today. Check it out here.

Read it in the perspective of the roaring twenties and read it from the eyes of someone from today. It's parallel-- it's a sad and realistic story. And I think we can learn lessons from it. Remember, we learn from our past. That's the only way to move forward.

Some people think this book is overrated. I don't. A new version of it in movie form will be out this year with Leonardo DiCaprio. I think that might not be the best idea. Hence, making it overated. But, oh well. I'll probably watch it anyway. And you should too, Oldsport!

-H

Thursday, April 5, 2012

F is for Female Authors

I'm not going to get feminist on you. That's for somebody else to do. But did you realize that three of the best selling books --series -- of the last twenty years or so are written by women? The films didn't do that bad either. In fact, they were some of the highest grossing movies ever.

1. Harry Potter, written by JK Rowling.
Okay, no explanation needed here. Everyone knows who she is. She is a very talented writer. No wonder her books did beyond great. I love the stories, I love the friendships and familial ties that are promoted. Rowling is a true story teller, to me.

2.Twilight Series, written by Stephanie Meyer
Again, you'd have to be a castaway on an island not to know who she is. Her books sold in the millions, and though the subject matter isn't a new one, teens to forty-something moms loved them. I think (and this is just me) some of her books were way too long. As in, she could've told the same story and cut 25,000 words out of each book. Whatever. Still good stories. I'm team Jacob, by the way.

3.Hunger Games Trilogy, written by Suzanne Collins
I'll be honest. I haven't read any of her books. I know. I'm probably the only one out there. I'm not fond of dystopian fiction. Why? Because I feel like we're living in a dystopian book right now, or will be in one, very soon. And when I say I haven't read any of her books, that's partly a lie: I have read one chapter of the first book. Her writing is fantastic. She draws you in immediately and you care for the protagonist from page one. I understand why it's bestselling.

I've heard once, by another writer, that she thought female writers were discriminated against. Are you kidding me? That couldn't be further from the truth. A well-written story is a well-written story, regardless of their sex. Apparently, female writers have a hand on the pulse of children and young adults -- they get how kids feel and how they think! But then, these women are mothers, or could be. This empathy and sympathy --their understanding -- is practically innate.

There are plenty of male authors who are fantastic too. I'm just pointing out the recent blockbuster best-sellers, and how three of the top are female.

Anyway, go read them -- all of these books are great.

E is for Ebooks

I know I've talked about this before, but if you don't know about ebooks you're missing out on something amazing.While ebooks will never replace actual books, they are extremely convenient, easy to get to, and can go anywhere your phone goes.

Okay, here's why you should get into ebooks.

1. They're almost always cheaper than actual books. Need a better reason? Well, there's four more below.
2. You can read them from your phone, or ipad, or any ereader or PC at home. No excuses not to read.
3.You can get a plethora of free or cheap books. Pixel of Ink and Ereader News Today are the top lists. Be careful. You'll have a hundred books in your queue before you know it!
4. They go where your phone goes, on any plane, bus, car, train or boat. Everywhere.
5.They don't take up any room. It's all digital and fits in the palm of your hand -- or almost, anyway.

While I love, love books, i.e. the smell of them, they way they feel, the hoards of them on your bookshelves in your library, there is something remarkable about being able to fit thousands of books on your phone or ereader. And remember, you don't need a Kindle to read Kindle books. Just download the Kindle app to your phone, PC or IPad or ereader.

Readers of the world unite!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

D is for Distractions

If you're a writer, you know what distractions are. It's the facebook check, or the e-mail check, the laundry, or the sink of dishes. It's every single chore that's left to do in your house, but the actual act of writing. These distractions are sometimes intentionally put out by ourselves, and at other times, it's the normal routine tapping us on the shoulder trying to get our attention.

Distractions come to other folks too. But, their distractions seem different, maybe not as cruel. A writer sits by themself, everyday, alone to battle the demons of inferiority, writer's block or procrastination with no one else but themself to bat them away.

This isn't to say writers have it worse than other professions. We don't. The problem is we have to talk to our diversions all the time to be productive. We have to ignore the phone, the texts, and the books we want to read. Because, if writers don't do a simple two things -- sit down and type -- we don't accomplish anything. Some diversions are a part of life, but we battle them constantly.

Some days, the diversions stay at bay. Maybe because we had an extra cup of coffee, or we got the chores done first. But, sometimes I don't think this is so. There are times when I've had a zillion other things to do, but got gobs of words written. Other days, I've done everything there is to do first -- before writing -- and can't find a way to start the next chapter.

Distractions are what we make them. While it's the proverbial  "monkey on our back," it's one we can tame into submission by talking to it, telling it to go away, and by putting both hands on the keyboard (or pen on paper) and begin typing anything; just something to get the writing spirit going. This spirit appears when we have faith it will come and keep persisting! It's quite remarkable.

D may be for Distractions ... but don't let it!

***Psst... hey ... need a good distraction? One that lasts about 130 pages? Check out my middle grade/ YA book The Puzzle Master for only $.99!***

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

C is for Coffee

Ode to Coffee

Some think you are empty, disgusting, void of
true taste. Misunderstood are you,
hot drink of mine; you who oozes warmth
and understanding, that quenches my
desire for peace, or inspiration, from
this ivory demitasse or mug,
sometimes tall or grande
and in an excepetion,
venti.
Oh coffee, depart from my lips
only when I depart from this earth-
for whom can I rely on for anonymous trust
who never judges, doesn't impair
(unless a five shot mocha is in order)
or doesn't deceive?
You awake my senses,
every morning, in my pot,
and like my dog, you're alway there,
wherever I roam ...
even on every corner,
in most large cities.
Coffee, my love, may you stay
at my side
... until I feel like tea.


-Heather Spiva


Monday, April 2, 2012

B is for Blogging

Okay, so this is really a lame word to choose for the letter B. I mean, how obvious is it that I'm blogging, we're all blogging, and we're in this blogging challenge together? The thing is, I want you to think about that word: Blog.

It's really a culmination of web log, which turned into blog. And truthfully, I hate that word. It sounds lazy, or boggy, or blah ... like you have something stuck in your mouth while trying to say log. I don't know. It's such an uneloquent word for the world of writing. And yet, is blogging eloquent?

Depends. Depends on what you're trying to get across, say, tell, brag, express, journal ... wait did I say journal? Yes! Journaling. That's what a lot of people use blogging for: a way to get our feelings across.

I'm not that into blogging so as to replace my journal with a blog. I don't wear my heart on my sleeve. I'd rather tell you something informative, so you'll return here, next week, to get another tidbit of information. To help you write better; to be better. Whatever. That's my thing. Not to tell you how I hated today.

I suppose blogging is all things to all people, and because of that diversity, we can be okay. Some bloggers will say too much, others not enough. Some can be eloquent, or poetic, and others as simple as a journal entry or text message. There's no right or wrong way to blog either.

So, blog away fellow bloggers! And read away, fellow readers! And come back tomorrow where I write about a word that starts with the letter C. Let's just say, it has something to do with a black substance that some refer to as black gold, it's hot, or cold, with a jolt of a heart-rate inducing drug, or not, you can drink it or have it in ice cream. You get the idea ... I think.

And I need to go get some of that word right now.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A is for Aspiration

I don't know if you've read those cool mystery novels by Sue Grafton, where she uses a letter of the alphabet for every title (and subject) for her books. I have. I've read a few. And her writing is fantastic.

I believe that's where the inspiration came for the blog challenge that I'm in right now. It's called Blogging from A to Z Challenge and I'm supposed to write a blog everyday based on one letter of the alphabet. And that one word I choose, that starts with that letter, is my subject matter.

Okay, super random moment: Did you know that right now that there is a huge mega millions lottery that's worth a half a billion dollars if someone wins? Wow. By the time this posts, someone could have a heck of a lot of money. Here's my angle: If you were to win a half a billion dollars, would you have the aspiration to do anything else, ever again? I mean, if I won that money, would I feel the need to write? Would I feel the need to make money?

Definitely not so much the latter. The money has been made! Would I write though? Yes. But, it would sure take a lot of effort, will power, dedication and aspiration to keep doing what you were doing before the big win.

To write well, whether a zillionaire or not, you have to have keep that desire alive. It would be so much easier to jet away to an island, spend the money, to take it easy, ponder and do the things you've always wanted to do. But, this aspiration -- this ambition --to do what you love has to be there if you want to achieve what you believe in. Whether you've hit the jackpot or not.

Aspire to write great, and you will ... despite your annual income. It will take a lot of work, but by keeping the desire alive, regardless of your circumstance, you will always feel good about yourself if you try.

Aspire for -- and to be -- the best. That's the biggest jackpot you'll ever win.