A Birthday Story In Pictures

The story goes, as Mother tells it, that I was born at exactly midnight. The doctor asked her which day she would like my birthday to be and since my only cousin’s birthday was the 7th, and I would want my own birthday, she chose the 8th. Obviously, her logic was WRONG, so I celebrate both.

I had some fun with my camera and canva.com yesterday and created a photo story birthday celebration to share with my cousin. I thought you might enjoy it to.

Happy Birthday

 

Happy Birthday(1)

 

Happy Birthday(2)

 

Happy Birthday(3)

New #LitMag+

fictional pairings

Tomorrow on Fictional Pairings  enjoy the music they pair to “Your New BAM-AG Home”

Almost every writer dreams of getting published. Most likely, that dream is the scene that comes after (and does not include) the effort involved in reading and researching hundreds of literary magazines, writing queries and perfecting submissions, only to receive rejection after rejection after rejection.

Finding the right place for your stories can feel elusive, but there is hope. New online magazines are cropping up and you can find them if you search diligently.

I recently happened upon some interesting online magazines that are right up my alley. Why do I call them #LitMag+ ? Because they offer something extra.

Fictional Pairings

As a musician as well as a writer, I am very excited about Fictional Pairings, an online magazine that pairs music from bandcamp.com with fiction and poetry.

My very short sci-fi story “Your New BAM-AG Home” is coming out tomorrow at Fictional Pairings. Please give it a read and enjoy the other stories and poetry with their musical pairings. I can’t wait to hear what they think my story sounds like.

The Evening Theatre

This magazine of the dark and macabre, premiering this month, will be setting up its issues like a theatrical performance with an opening act, a comedic interlude, a headliner, etc. I really like the premise and can’t wait for the firs issue.

Twistedsisterlitmag

For those of us that find our writing leaning to the dark and twisted, it can be hard to find a fit for our stories. Twisted Sister proudly lists their contributors on their Freaks and Wierdos page. I hope to join the ranks soon.

Speculative 66

This online magazine presents a fun challenge: to write a story in exactly 66 words. I feel inspired to give it a try. I enjoyed many of the stories in the current issue.

Have you been exploring new magazines to submit to and have some to add to my list? Please share in the comments. You can also add your finds on twitter #amsubmitting

Hope to see your work in the world of #LitMag+

Author Interview with Diana Rose Wilson – November: It’s not just #NaNoWriMo. Don’t forget #Movember.

pumpkins with mustaches

Visit saralukecreative to get your mustache stickers

bio pic of Diana Rose Wilson

Last month, author Diana Rose Wilson shared her great writing tips and tricks in her guest post Be Outrageous!  Now, just in time for her favorite holiday, Halloween, she has agreed to answer my questions about her writing, her websites and her love of mustaches.

We met at the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Conference (#PNWC16), so let’s start off with: When did you first know you were a writer?

I got the writing bug when I was in about 3rd grade. Between reading The Black Stallion and Watership Down, I knew it was what I wanted to do. I tried it up through high school but knew by then I didn’t have the chops to make a living doing it. In my twenties I wrote fan fiction and played text based role-playing games but couldn’t get anything published. I hung up my pen and went to the corporate world until a few years ago when I decided to try again with some life behind me.

Do you write every day? Tell us a little about your writing practice.

I do write every day but not always on a story. When I’m in story mode, I try to put down about 3k words. I love when I can get 5k but sometimes it’s more like 500. I am a little embarrassed to admit that I still play text-based role-playing games. When I’m in editing mode I don’t keep a word count and I will spend two or three hours ‘writing’ on the game.

Are you a plotter or a pantser (someone who outlines and plans or someone who writes by the seat of her pants)?

I was a plotter when I first started and then I went to pants’ing and now I think I’m a plantster. I like to have my characters fleshed out and some ideas of the story’s direction but I string the plots together a little like Christmas lights. Bulb by bulb. Right now I have a wide reaching story so I have a lot of wire to put bulbs in. I know where they need to go, I just never know what color light is getting hooked in next. Maybe I’m a new mutation: The Stringer.

What is your best trick for getting more words on the page?

When I can’t get a scene or plot to move forward, or when I’m completely blocked. I physically make myself type. I have sat down and wrote myself a pep talk until the scene started to form in my mind and I could transcribe it. I have written random character descriptions and histories and drawn up family bloodlines just to put fingers on keys to write something.

Where do you find creative inspiration?

I draw a lot of inspiration from music. Sometimes a song will just strike me just right and I’ll get an idea for a scene or a character or it will help drive me through a less than interesting point in a story.

Who have you found most influential to your writing?

My husband absolutely is the most influential. Not only because he’s a sounding board for all my ideas but he really pushed me to do what I love. He always encouraged me to write, even when I had completely thrown away the idea that I had ‘it’ in me.

Do you listen to music while you write? What do you listen to? Do you create playlists?

I always have music going when I’m writing. Depending on what I’m writing the music will change. I like a lot of sappy love songs when I’m doing the sweet scenes but very hard metal when for action and drama related scenes. I keep a few playlists and I have a songs I relate to various characters and tend to play them to get into the mindset to write them. I’m not a big country music fan but if I want to write something emotional it’s western music all the way.

Who are your favorite authors?

Richard Adams

Sharron Lee & Steve Miller

Jim Butcher

George R. R. Martin

Christina Lauren

What are your favorite books?

Watership Down (Who doesn’t like war-rabbits?)

MAIA

The Stand

Korval’s Game (Liaden Universe®), (Ok, so it’s two novels: Plan B & I Dare but do yourself a favor and try it. They are addicting. You’ve been warned.

Dresden Files (15 books) – I can’t order them in favorite.

What three writer’s blogs do you visit most often?

Jane Friedman – https://janefriedman.com/blog/

Janet Reid’s blog – http://jetreidliterary.blogspot.com/

L.M. Pierce’s most awesome and helpful blog – http://www.piercebooks.com/blog

What three writer’s websites do you visit most often?

http://www.georgerrmartin.com/ (For any whisper of the next book)

http://korval.com/ – Sharron Lee & Steve Miller. Sharron Lee has a great blog too.

http://christinalaurenbooks.com/ – Keeping up to date with release dates.

Also http://www.writersdigest.com/ – is a great site /for/ writers.

I know you love Halloween. Are you dressing up this year? Tell us about your favorite Halloween costume.

I love Halloween and El Dia de los Muertos and Samhain too. Then there are costumes! There’s something fun about pretending you’re someone else for a day (or weekend). I am pulling off Wonder Woman this year, just so I can wear tights, a cape and a mask! My favorite costume would be the year we cross-dressed as Napoleon and Josephine. I make a sexy Napoleon!

Very cool. I made Napoleon and Josephine costumes for my friends’ band. He wore his Napoleon costume for Mardi Gras this year.

I noticed you changed your name on Twitter from @DianaRoseWilson to DIE-ana Thorn Wilson. Are you doing any fun Halloween themed things on your website spiritbeast.org? The name sounds perfect for Halloween already.

I don’t have anything planned for Halloween but I am trying to get a gathering together this weekend. I released a free Halloween story for fans and hope to reconnect with some people I haven’t seen around for a few months. I welcome people to drop in and make a persona and check it out.

Let’s talk more about your webite. You have to swear you’re 18+ to enter. Is it scary in there?

Scary? Well, not really. I have been writing primarily erotica and worried if I didn’t have my disclaimer someone was going to get offended. I set up the spiritbeast.org site for fans that were dying for updates. I have this page set up for guests to make more of a persona rather than their ‘real’ information. I want it to be a safe chat area to talk about adult themes in text. There are forums and a chat feature. I have a few story-related goodies like the Harris and Wallace family trees (going back to the 1800’s). I’ve really thrown myself into world building so the website is a place to share some of the goodies.

You have another website Direwill.com. What will readers find there?

This is more of a general author website with information about upcoming books and what’s going on with me. I keep it tame and all-ages appropriate without spoilers, goodies or role playing.

You play a mean game of #pessimisticmoustache. Where do you get those great mustache GIFs?

I love me some manly facial fuzz! https://giphy.com/ is a great place for some action GIFs, or I do a search on Twitter for them. I have some secret weapons in my photo ‘stash’ as well. I come from a long line of bikers and outlaws, I think it’s part of the rule book that the men must have face fuzz.

This November you and I will be talking a lot about Movember. Can you tell the readers what that is and how they can participate?

Movember is a fundraising effort for men’s health issues. Like wearing pink for breast cancer awareness, the ‘mo’, slang for mustache, is the ribbon guys wear. For the 30 days of November men grow their ‘stache and form teams to raise money. No shaving for the guys upper lip for the month. Check out information and how to set up a team here: https://us.movember.com/

Since I’m not going to grow out a sister-stache, I’ll celebrate facial hair using your awesome game I have hijacked: https://experiencewriting.com/2016/07/22/the-pessimistic-moustache-game-avoiding-cliche-description/

There will be a mix of blog and twitter posts coming out using the #pessimisticmoustache hashtag.

Now, in your original game you encourage other body parts and throw an ‘ism to name it, but for the sake of Movember and awesome beards/mustaches/goatees/chops everywhere, I’m going to focus only on the hair.

I’m locating some random face-fluff pictures ala Santa Clause and players are encouraged to describe it with one word. An ‘ism, an ‘istic or something completely off the wall. I may have a list of a few for a multiple-choice vote to mix things up.

What are you going to do for Movember?

In past years KISW’s The Men’s Room (Seattle seriously has the best radio station!) usually has a Movember team and I donate to that. A have threatened to try to grow my own stache, but I’m just not brave enough. 😉

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? Have you ever?

I will! NaNoWriMo got me back into writing when I decided to try writing again. The first two years I didn’t win but the third year is when it finally clicked and that is the story that started the whole ball rolling. I’m not sure what my project will be exactly but I have a few weeks to pick what to focus on.

When you’re not writing, what is your favorite thing to do?

I’m very lucky to live in wine country between Napa and Sonoma where I can enjoy as much wine and fancy food as my little heart can handle. Food. Wine. Writing. Sounds prefect to me.

Are you a dog person or a cat person?

Cat person, on the crazy cat lady end of the spectrum.

What bit of wisdom would you share with new writers?

I encourage writers to to keep writing. Give yourself permission to write what you enjoy. Write as much as you possibly can and experiment until you find what brings you the most joy. The other thing is to find a support group of writers who you can talk and work with. Look for people who will lift you up and be kind in their feedback. Not a lot of non-writers can grasp what we go through when we’re living in an imaginary world with our invisible friends for weeks, months, years at a time.

Thank you, Diana.

Currently Diana lives in wine country with her husband where she enjoys good wine, better food, loud Harleys, 3-day eventing and the delights of deviant erotica. She is a member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association, Redwood Writers, Snoopy Writers and CFTW Writer’s Block.

Readers, make sure to visit Diana at spiritbeast.org and Direwill.com and follow her on twitter @DianaRoseWilson.

Diana and I look forward to more players at #pessimisticmoustache for the month of #Movember.

 

#NaNoPrep – Tips and Tricks

NaNoWriMo 2016 Banner

Getting ready for National Novel Writing Month in every way

Last year was my first November observing National Novel Writing Month. I had an idea for a novel and had done some research on my topic, but didn’t prepare other than that. I won, but it was really hard and came right down to the wire.

If you’re still not sure if NaNoWriMo is right for you, I wrote a post about my experience last year #NaNoWriMo Yes or No? The Pros and Cons of Participating in National Novel Writing Month that you might enjoy.

This year, I have a fresh story idea that has been running through my head since a newspaper article inspired in April. I’m using all the tools at my disposal to do some plotting and planning. Prepared, this year should be rewarding AND FUN!

Whether you’re a plotter, pantser or planster (like me) you should find some of these tips and tools helpful.

Declare your novel

Once you set up your account at nanowrimo.org  it’s time to declare your novel. This is the fun part where you type in your title and your summary.

Writing your novel summary is a great exercise to organize your ideas and will be a tool for down the road, when you have a finished novel that you want to pitch to agents and share your amazing story with the world.

Try this exercise: Imagine that you’ve already won NaNoWriMo. You’ve written your amazing story from beginning to end. Quickly write down everything that happens in your story. Great! Now look at what you’ve written and pick out your main character, what they want more than anything, what/who stands in their way and how they overcome the impediment. Try to get that all into one sentence. You have your logline. You’re ready to pitch your novel.

Now that you’re ready to pitch, head over to 30 covers for 30 days and submit your novel for the cover contest. Graphic designers volunteer to design covers for 30 lucky winners. It’s only a NaNoWriMo souvenir, but could get your writing some attention.

Once you’ve entered your novel for the cover contest, look over the rest of the forums, there is a ton of great information in the forums. Then, make sure to hit the Regions tab on your dashboard and introduce yourself to your local MLs (municipal liaisons). Your home region site should have events to put on your calendar and people to be your writing buddies and support. Here’s a chance to reach out and make friends.

You may want to hit the NaNoWriMo shop to get yourself the T-shirt you’re going to live in and a coffee mug to attach to your hand/face.

Set up your files

Last year, I used the NaNoWriMo discount to buy scrivener. I didn’t end up using it very much because I hadn’t gotten used to it. This year, I’m using the Scrivener’s note card view to outline my chapters. I’ve also set up character pages using character worksheets and character interviews, setting pages, word substitution and theme word sheets and name idea sheets. Having everything in my project file will save me a lot of time and keep me on the page.

You can set up files for any program you plan to use. The fun part of prep is thinking about your characters, your settings and themes. There are tons of fun downloadable worksheets and questionnaires around the web to help you flesh out your ideas. Explore and have fun, but remember to keep everything organized.

I recommend creating one file folder named for your project that you keep on your desktop. You can put a million different folders inside it, but put everything, EVERYTHING to do with your novel in that folder.

Tools

Websites

Dictionary.com and Thesaurus.com – I played around at thesaurus.com to create word pages for my major themes. I also have word selection pages for my overused words.

Your local library’s digital library – kcls.org is one of my favorite websites. I’ve been using it to try out African, Arabic and Worldbeat music for my writing soundtrack. It has a variety of newspapers and magazines, videos and e-books for research.

Google News Archive – This is a wonderful site full of old newspapers you can peruse just like microfiche. I wrote a post about it last month: A great tool for research, inspiration and hours of fun if you’d like more information.

Social Media

Facebook – My local region already had a writing group page to join. It’s a great place to meet other people planning for NaNoWriMo and to find out about upcoming events.

Twitter – Other than the obvious hashtags #nanoprep and #nanowrimo, there are a lot of great hashtags for writers. You may want to try them out during prep. Turning your favorite lines in to tweets is  great practice for creating succinct sentences with emotion and meaning. You may want to check out my previous post Twitter #Hashtags That Motivate Revision to find the hashtags and writing challenges that are right for you. Twitter will also be a great way to keep yourself motivated throughout the month. There’s nothing like a few likes on a sentence you just wrote to keep you writing more. Make sure to read and retweet your fellow writers to keep them happy as well.

Pinterest – I’m using Pinterest to create vision boards: one for characters and the other for themes and settings. I’ve recently found a lot of writing inspiration from images I collect.

WordPress – If you’re a wordpress blogger, you can use your blog to tell your readers that you’re participating, creating a promise to yourself and others that you will do the work. You can also type nanowrimo or nanoprep into the search bar of your reader page and find other writers who are participating and will be going through the same things you are.

Tumblr – NaNoWriMo.org has a Tumblr blog. I have found many fellow Nano writers have Tumblrs and I’ve filled up my reader quickly with tips and advice.

Youtube – last year I really enjoyed the NaNoWriMo write-ins on Youtube. I got a lot out of them and wrote some fun scenes I might not have written otherwise.

Your Personal Arsenal

Though there are a ton of tools available to you, only you know what’s best for you. Take a minute to reflect about your writing process and make a plan.

Do you journal? Do Morning Pages?

Gather up your journals- take a look at what you’ve been writing and organize your notes. What are your themes?

Where do you write?

Now is the time to get your writing space just the way you like it. Vacuum, dust, clean the windows, get some plants and candles. Put up motivational posters or seascapes, whatever works for you. If you like big visuals like I do, put up your big piece of paper for your timeline and plot point post-its. Make sure you have tons of colorful, big post-its. Have fun. Make your writing space a place you want to be and don’t forget your Keep-Out and Beware of Deadly Plague signs for the door. You may want to install a lock if you don’t have one.

Set up your play lists

Now is a good time to scour your music collection, your friends’ music collections and your library’s music collection. Think of your themes, your characters, your scenes. Do your characters have theme songs? Think of your settings. What music would be playing there?

You may want to make collections on Youtube, stations on Pandora, or playlists on Spotify.

It doesn’t matter how you do it, now is a good time to plan it out. Give it a test drive and see what really gets you writing.

Make exercise easy

One thing that can get pushed aside during NaNoWriMo is exercise. But getting some fresh air in the lungs and circulating it through that brain will help those ideas churn. So plan ahead.

Make sure to take a walk every day. Start the good habit today.

Keep exercise equipment like small weights, a mat, mini-trampoline, etc. near your writing space and use them when you take a break.

Don’t Procrastinate

Been wanting to paint your office? Do it now! You know the evil procrastination monster will hit hard during NaNoWriMo, so anything you can do now to head it off. Do it! Seriously, some of you know you’re suddenly going to need to clean out the crawl space in the attic in the middle of November (or November 1st). If that’s you, go clean the crawl space and paint your bedroom now. Just to be safe.

Everyone wishes they had more time to write.

What if you could just buy some?

You can!

Have you ever thought about having someone come in to clean once a week or just twice a month. Use NaNoWriMo as an excuse to try it out. It doesn’t have to be terribly expensive. I had cleaners come for a while and for a large house, they charged $70 each time they came.  It was so worth it.Not only did you just buy yourself hours to write, you bought peace of mind. You’ll feel better and  write better.

Hate yard work, but can’t leave the lawn for more than a week, let alone a month? Try hiring a lawn service or maybe a kid in the neighborhood. If your yard work is anything like mine, you just bought yourself at least six hours of writing time!

Have you ever thought about ordering your groceries to be delivered? Some large grocery chains will let you order your groceries online and deliver them to your home if you give them at least twenty-four hours notice. If you set up an order, don’t change it much to save time and  re-order each week instead of grocery shopping, you could add at least 4 hours to your writing.

Another way to add some time is to stock up on prepared foods and healthy snacks. I just did a shop at my local Grocery Outlet. They have started stocking Amy’s frozen meals. I am in LOVE with the gluten free, rice crust pizza. It is shockingly good. I stocked up on those, her spinach enchiladas and veggie burgers. I also grabbed dips for veggies and dried fruit and nut mixes. Having low-prep foods and easy, healthy snacks will keep you energized, out of the kitchen and at the keyboard. Adding at least an hour and a half of writing time every day.

If you splurge on all of these options for just the month of November (I’m estimating having a cleaner saves you 2 hours a week could be much more), you have 63 hours to write that you didn’t have before. If you write a reasonable 800 words an hour, you have all the time you need! 50,400 words

 

Want More Tips and Tricks? Grab one of these books on the subject!

Ready, Set, Novel!: A Workbook

NaNoWriMo: A Cheater’s Guide: Tips, Tricks and Hacks for Winning This November (Write Better Books Book 1)

No Plot? No Problem! Revised and Expanded Edition: A Low-stress, High-velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days

How to Win NaNoWriMo: 11 Steps to Writing Your Novel in 30 Days

When Every Month is NaNoWriMo

Have more great tips? Need a NaNoWriMo writing buddy?

Please leave a comment. And Happy Writing and Reading.

Poetry and The Fiction Writer

Pictures of books I recently read as a poetry study

Discovering The Art Of series and further study

The collection of books pictured above was inspired by discovering The Art of series at my local library. The Art of discusses different aspects of writing with examples from a great variety of texts. I wanted to learn more about the authors who wrote the series, so I picked up their poetry and essays as well. I’m glad I did. This group of books :intelligent discussion, imparted wisdom and beautiful poetry.

But I’m a fiction writer, why spend time with poetry and poets?

Words are a writer’s tools and poets have to use words in the most efficient manner for maximum emotional effect.

Ellen Bryant Voigt

The Art of Syntax: Rhythm of Thought, Rhythm of Song

Rhythm is what makes Ms. Voigt’s poems so amazing. Her contribution to The Art Of series is my favorite of the bunch. I learned some interesting vocabulary specific to the rhythm of words:

enjambment – the running on of the thought from one line, couplet, or stanza to the next without a syntactical break.

trochee – a foot of two syllables, a long followed by a short in quantitative meter, or a stressed followed by an unstressed in accentual meter.

caesura –

1. Prosody. a break, especially a sense pause, usually near the middle of a verse, and marked in scansion by a double vertical line, as in know then thyself presume not God to scan.
2. Classical Prosody. a division made by the ending of a word within a foot, or sometimes at the end of a foot, especially in certain recognized places near the middle of a verse.
3. any break, pause, or interruption.

fricative

palimpsest – a parchment or the like from which writing has been partially or completely erased to make room for another text.

Headwaters: Poems

I loved these poems. Though completely lacking in punctuation, the message is never lost and the rhythm is clear. Her word choice is beautiful. These poems felt like a magical discovery.

Mark Doty

The Art of Description: World into Word

I enjoyed the idea of “the sensorium”–finding the places of sensory overlap and allowing the senses their complexly interactive life.

I also noted that I should read :

Middlemarch by George Eliot and
Resurrection Update: Collected Poems, 1975-1997 by James Galvin

Deep Lane: Poems

These poems take you on walks with the dog and inspections of the garden. They take you there through lovely description and word choice.

Charles Baxter

Charles Baxter is the editor of The Art of series.

The Art of Subtext: Beyond Plot

Full of examples of how subtext is used in fiction.

Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction

Mr. Baxter’s essays get into his thought process. They let the reader into the flow of a writer mind.

Here I also learned a new word: Pusillanimous – lacking courage and resolution

Brenda Ueland

If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit

It felt like serendipity when Charles Baxter started talking about Brenda Ueland’s book because I already had it on my bookshelf. It’s a great book for those times you need a cheerleader, which, as writers, we often do.

I just opened to a random page and found this bit of fun:

Now Blake thought that this creative power should be kept alive in all people for all of their lives. And so do I. Why? Because it is life itself. It is the Spirit. In fact it is the only important thing about us. The rest of us is legs and stomach, materialistic cravings and fears.   –Brenda Ueland

Excited to fill up on some poetry?

Here are some links to poetry sites I enjoy, so you can get your fill while you wait for the books you just ordered from Amazon to arrive  🙂

Poetry Foundation

Poets and Writers

Eunoia Review

Tweetspeak Poetry

Are You Thrilled

Joy Write

Happy Reading and Writing

Don’t be pusillanimous. Get out there and explore!

Who is your favorite poet?

What is your favorite poetry book?

What is your favorite poetry website?

Carving Through Writer’s Block: Guest post from author Christopher Bailey

3 Ways to Conquer Writer’s Block

Bad guy on a boatIt’s a simple two-word phrase that can make a writer’s blood turn cold; writer’s block. It is the dreaded barrier against creative flow that every author struggles with from time to time. There are a number of causes of this mental road block, and a number of theories on how to cure it.

In an effort to give my fellow writer a leg up and over that wall of resistance, here are the three biggest things I’ve found, and my own personal variants, that have helped me past my creative constipation. No doubt you’ve all heard much of this before, so I’m going to throw my own spin on them and tell you exactly what variants work best for me. Experimentation is key to finding your own magical keys to open the writer’s block door, so by all means try out your own variations. We’re creative people by nature, after all, right?

Clear Your Mind

Easier said than done, I know. We live in a world where we’re all drowning in the pressures of our lives. Jobs, family, social obligations, finances, the list could go on for pages. It all results in the same issue however; stress and mental exhaustion. These are two of the biggest killers of creative flow.

Thankfully, there are a number of things you can do to push such things from your mind, however temporarily. Anything that helps you to rest and restore your mental clarity will work here. A few suggestions are meditation, take a nap, go for a walk, enjoy a break filled with your favorite, oft-neglected pastime. The drawback of course, is that all of these things take time.

For me, meditation is my go-to cure for mental mud when I sit down to write. It doesn’t villain meditatestake long. Even a ten minute meditation with emphasis on mental clarity works wonders. That ten minutes will often buy me so much more productivity over the course of my writing session that it makes up for itself six-fold. It does take time, but the payoff is well worth it. It’s also nice that you can do this at any time during your writing when you stall out.

Just get comfortable, close your eyes, and breathe steadily. No, the lotus position is not required. Count your breaths, but only up to five. Focus on breathing smoothly and evenly, and when you reach five breaths, start over at one. This helps to keep your mind on the breathing.

It will be obvious if you’ve lost focus, since you’ll count higher than five. Don’t get frustrated, just calmly refocus on the breathing and start over at one. Any meditative master, which I am not, will tell you that meditation takes practice like any other skill.

Handy tip: don’t set any kind of timer if the alarm will be loud and jarring. Most phones have a gentle alarm feature. Startling yourself out a calm meditation can send you spinning right back into a tailspin of frustrated, foggy thinking.

Remove Distractions

bad guy at the pianoOf course, some distractions are inevitable. If you’re a stay-at-home parent you’re unavoidably going to have to deal with child-oriented distractions on a regular basis, for example. Often, there are many distractions we may not even realize are problematic until they’re removed. The point is, when you’re trying to overcome writer’s block, eliminating all possible distractions makes a huge difference.

For me, having a designated space to write in is a tremendous help. It can be a special chair with your laptop, a writer’s nook, or even a home office. Find some place that is as quiet and calm as possible, as free from distractions as possible. And for crying out loud, turn off your phone. Texts and Candy Crush notifications will not help your writing!

Handy tip: If you’re going to play music in the background, experiment with styles. You might be surprised what you find is most beneficial to your writing flow. I tried classical, which I love, and my writing stalled out constantly. I tried soft rock, and I found none of my scenes held any real intensity. I switched to industrial metal, and suddenly even my love scenes had more impact and power. Go figure.

Can’t Write? Just write.

Okay, I get it. This seems counter-intuitive. Despite how odd it sounds, many writers will Bad guy walking a dogtell you that the best way to get past a creative speed bump is to power past it. Some will tell you to just keep writing in your current project. I don’t encourage this, personally.

You want your work to be the best possible, and forcing your way through a tough patch can often lead to sections in your finished piece that are the literary equivalent of binge-eating a gallon of mint-chocolate chip ice cream to get over a bad breakup. It might get the job done, but it certainly isn’t healthy and the end result is guaranteed not to be pretty.

Many writers suggest free writing, the practice of opening a blank page and just beginning to write whatever comes to mind, cohesive and coherent or not. I spent a lot of time working with this method, and it works passably well for me. It is not, however, what has been the cure-all for my own creative blocks, though it may work great for you and I do encourage giving it a whirl.

Handy tip:

Ready for my personal favorite trick? Here we go!

I write random, unrelated back stories for my antagonists. Often totally unrelated to my current story or why my villains are, well, villains.

Villain in the gardenJust little things, like psycho cop’s bachelor party, or evil galactic dictator’s childhood trip to the pet store. This practice always takes me to unexpected depths in my anti-heroes, and allows me to see and understand my malevolent friends a little better. This is not only good for the depth of my bad guys, but fun writing practice. Simple, right? I get stuck, I open a new document and write a fun little back story for a much-maligned character.

The crazy part is that every single time I’ve done this, I’ve had a random inspiration on my main story. I suspect this works on the same principle as the theory that we have our best problem-solving ideas when we’re not thinking about the problem at all. For whatever reason, it works absolute magic for me!

Keep Trying!

Whatever works for you, or doesn’t, keep trying! Don’t give up, and if you have to walk away for a time, do it. But come back to it soon. No art form is improved without practice, and writing is no exception. Don’t let yourself get discouraged or frustrated. Just clear your thoughts, remove distractions, and just write.

Happy writing!

 

picture of author Christopher BaileyChristopher Bailey lives in Seattle with his incredible wife and daughter, eagerly expecting their second child. A lover of literature from an early age, he began writing short stories in the third grade for a school assignment and has never looked back. Having worked professionally with children and teens for many years, he has developed a particular fondness for young adult fiction, which is where he now focuses his writing in the hopes of helping a few more children learn to love the written word.

Hey readers! Want to meet Christopher Bailey in person?

Chris has a full schedule of fun events he’ll be at this fall. Want to pick his brain in person, or tell him how much you loved this post and his author interview? Stop on by and say hi.

Jet City Comic Show in Tacoma, WA, Nov 5th-6th
https://www.facebook.com/events/1321988751163825/

Silver Bells Christmas Bazaar in Puyallup, WA, Nov 19th
https://www.facebook.com/events/912423608864757/

Victorian Country Christmas in Puyallup, WA, Nov 30th – Dec 4th
(Disregard dates on the banner, they haven’t updated from last year!)
https://www.facebook.com/AVictorianCountryChristmas/posts

 

He’ll be signing autographs at all three. He hopes to see you there!

cover of Christopher Bailey's new book WHISPER

If you don’t live in the Pacific Northwest and can’t make it to any of the above events to get your copy of his new book Whisper signed, don’t worry. Chris is having a Goodreads Giveaway for 5 autographed copies.

Writing Prompt Contest Winner: Maria L. Berg

One of my flash stories won a contest! Head over to wakingwriter.com to see everything else on Bernadeta’s great site. And like my story there as well 🙂

Waking Writer

Premise: A family moves into an old Victorian house in a sleepy town where everybody knows everybody. The house has been vacant for the last five years, and nobody knows why the previous family left so suddenly. 
Prompt: Write a 500-word story, but write it from the perspective of the house, not the family.

She drips coffee on the counter and the floor not noticing the stains to be as she floats, almost dances, on a sunbeam to the boxes gathered in the living room. The children quarrel upstairs, but she hums as she lifts belonging after belonging, contemplating its perfect abode, then finding its home.

The neighbor arrives with a gift basket and peeks inside saying, “You’ve done a great job with the space.” She doesn’t mean it. She doesn’t mention her friends, The Wilsons, who had lived in the house until that day, five years…

View original post 389 more words

About Writing: Guest post by Michael Onofrey

picture of man sitting next to his dictionary on a grassy hill writing in the park

The urge to write is what got me into writing fiction, or trying to write fiction. And by “urge” I mean a feeling that I want to write. This was what motivated me and what continues to motivate me. I don’t think this is unusual—the urge to write. A lot of people have it. But of course those numbers diminish considerably when it comes to picking up a pen or sitting down at a keyboard.

It wasn’t until well into middle age, forty-five years old, that I sat down at a keyboard with the intent of writing fiction. Of course in college (community college and then university) I wrote papers (essays and book reports) like everyone else. But that’s different than composing fiction with the intent of submitting to publications. Of course all writing counts. I’m not belittling college. I’m simply distinguishing between college papers, with the exception of creative writing classes, and fiction for publication. I think anyone who has done both understands the distinction.

Also, in college I majored in U.S. History, which is now call American Studies. So my only background and my only qualification for writing fiction was, and is, reading books, fiction mostly. But there, too, I got a late start, for I didn’t begin to read until I was in my last semester of high school (Industrial Arts major). I could hardly read. This might strike some people as strange. But it’s not strange. A lot of people coming out of high school are poor readers.

An odd set of circumstances prompted me to pick up a book. I was dating a girl from another high school, which made our dating possible because we were of very different social circles, for if we had been going to the same school we wouldn’t have gotten together. But by going to different schools neither one of us, her in particular, suffered any social embarrassment, for high school life is all about cliques. She was a half a year ahead of me, which meant she would be graduating in June, whereas I wouldn’t be graduating until the following year at the end of January.

When summer rolled around, the summer of her graduation, university life about to begin for her in September, she jilted me, which, even though I expected it, sent me into a mental tailspin. Strangely, on the afternoon of that devastating phone call I started driving and wound up in front of a bookstore. She had mentioned the titles of books during our time together and I, for whatever reason, had remembered two—The Stranger by Albert Camus and Another Country by James Baldwin. Still dizzy with confusion, I went into that bookstore and asked for those two books.

What a way to begin reading, not to mention having to look up words on nearly every page. Fortunately, as if it were a minor miracle, I was able to follow the stories, and a window flew open and there I was, looking out at a new world.

Man carrying dictionary by a lake
“I carried a dictionary and a novel everywhere I went”

I carried a dictionary and a novel everywhere I went for eight years, and when loading up a backpack every bit of weight counts. I’m still a poor speller. I still consult a dictionary often for spelling and definitions and word usage. I wouldn’t recommend getting a late start on reading, just as I wouldn’t recommend getting a late start on serious writing. Six years after I started writing and submitting, a small literary journal (Words of Wisdom, North Carolina, a publication that has since ceased publishing) accepted one of my stories.

Six years—that’s a lot of rejection. And I still get a lot of rejection. My writing is not consistent, and I don’t think it ever will be, just as I will never be a good speller nor will my vocabulary have the natural range that it might have had if I had started reading at an early age. Okay, so that’s the way it is. A lot of other people have it worse. Imagine trying to write in Aleppo, Syria.

Writing will probably never be more than a hobby for me, and by hobby I mean an activity that doesn’t generate enough money for me to live on. I wish there was another word besides “hobby.” “Pastime” maybe? But that’s even more nonchalant than hobby. If I were teaching at a college or university, I could say that publishing stories, while getting little in the way of remuneration, was worthwhile because it adds to my curriculum vitae (CV), which might serve to boost my position and income. But I don’t teach at a college or a university.man carrying dictionary by some shops

In addition to not making millions there is rejection, which is always painful. In dealing with rejection, stoicism would be a nice rejoinder. After all, rejection is part of the weather. Even the most renowned writers have had work rejected, primarily before they became famous. There are only two choices when faced with rejection: feel the pain and move on, or feel the pain and give up. This isn’t about heroics. This is pragmatism. Most stories that are submitted to a publication are going to be turned down.

I’m hardly different from anyone else. I like acceptance. I write, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, and submit. Rejection, rejection, rejection. After six months or so, another look, another rewrite. Revising has become fun. I don’t know why. Maybe because it presents an opportunity to play with words and sentences, as well as ideas and point of view. I do give up on stories, but I keep them on file. Now and then an idea will occur that pertains to a story I’ve given up on. I’ll draw the story up and try the idea. And then I’ll submit. Hey, all they can do is turn it down. Now and then one of those formerly dead stories will get accepted.

Also in the hash are different publications with different editors who have different tastes. Usually a rejection carries no real comment, perfunctory comments yes, but no real comments. Every once in a while, though, there is a genuine comment. Some are encouraging. But some . . . On a couple of occasions an editor has given me a totally pissed off lambasting, boredom and tedious detail cited. I guess they had had it up to their necks with that stuff, dull writing and details, and took it out on me. Or maybe they had a hangover, or maybe they couldn’t meet a mortgage payment, or maybe they were in the middle of a divorce. Yet, within that same week that same story (respective stories, but at different times) got accepted by a publication which I had deemed more reputable than the one(s) the tongue-lashing(s) came from. Highs and lows—the landscape.

man with dictionary walking by rocks

“Highs and lows—the landscape.”

 

At other times, I had given up on a story only to have it accepted after a whole lot of time by the last publication where the story was still (as it turned out) under consideration. Recently a story of mine was accepted and published by a university journal after the story went through two years of rejection and rewrites—forty-seven rejections. Why did I keep at that story? Because I believed in it. Giving up on a story or continuing with rewrites and submissions is a tricky thing, a case-by-case thing. But—I keep all my stories on file.

Favorite authors—here’s the link to my listing on Poets & Writers where I’ve listed my favorite writers: http://www.pw.org/content/michael_onofrey

About books concerning reading and writing—I return again and again to How Fiction Works by James Wood and Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them (P.S.) by Francine Prose.

 

author Michael Onofrey bio picMICHAEL ONOFREY was born and raised in Los Angeles. Currently he lives in Japan. Over seventy of his short stories have been published in literary journals and magazines, in print and online, in such places as Cottonwood, The Evansville Review, Natural Bridge, Snowy Egret, Terrain.org, Weber–The Contemporary West, and The William and Mary Review. Among anthologized work, his stories have appeared in Creativity & Constraint (Wising Up Press, 2014), In New Light (Northern Initiative for Social Action, 2013), Road to Nowhere and Other New Stories from the Southwest (University of New Mexico Press, 2013), and Imagination & Place: An Anthology (Imagination & Place Press, 2009). He can be found online at Directory of Writers, Poets and Writers, and on Facebook.

Be Outrageous! Guest Post from Author Diana Rose Wilson

picture of cover of Blood Feathers by Diana Rose Wilson

Today’s guest post is from author Diana Rose Wilson. The book release party for Blood Feathers (Forbidden Secrets), her new book in the Forbidden Secrets series is September 28th from 6pm-7pm PST. Join the festivities on facebook or at spiritbeast.org.

 

I began writing believing that authors flexed their fingers and the stories flowed fully formed from their brains into their novels. From: ‘Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.’ To: ‘I am thinking of aurochs and angels, the secret of durable pigments, prophetic sonnets, the refuge of art. And this is the only immortality you and I may share, my Lolita.’ –Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (1955)Nabokov: Novels 1955-1962: Lolita / Pnin / Pale Fire (Library of America).

In 3rd grade, after reading Watership Down / Richard Adams, I decided I wanted to be a writer. I mucked through my masterpiece and my story came out in one start-to-finish jumble of awesome. No one explained with compassion that it should have sucked as a first draft and a first try. I tossed out hundreds of pages and started a completely new story. Results did not vary.

Years later I started again but my process was much different. Here is the important part to remember: a story doesn’t need to be delivered fully formed from A to Z.

When you begin, you don’t need to know every breath and every move your character will make.

The key is to keep things moving, and here are some ideas that I hope will work for you.

Start

Start where you want. Anywhere you want. Start with the description of his eyes and then go from there. Throw yourself into the middle or the end but just go. The important thing is starting.

This goes for every day you write. If you sit and stare at the screen and don’t know what to do, pick up a conversation between some random characters. Characters in your story or those from the last book you read or movie you watched or even a conversation you overheard. Once you get going, your muse will guide you around to what is important.

Eventually you will have some bones and you can weave your scenes around and those can be strung together.

Respect the Muse

Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED Talk ‘Your Elusive Creative Genius’ changed my thought process about writing and creating.

Part of my return to writing started when I watched that video and put a persona behind my muse. Besides, it’s fun having a character for my creative process. He needs a whole blog post of his own, so here I only encourage you to think about the concept. Embrace that muse.

Be Ugly

Watch Bob Ross. His canvas begins as globs of color and only slowly transforms into beauty. Go ahead and be ugly!

I live in wine country, and during crush season it stinks. Literally. Someday it will be lovely wine but it begins as fruits, stems, seeds and skin all fermenting in tanks. It is allowed to smell nasty and you should allow your first draft to be too.

Accept it is okay to be really gnarly old vines. Just throw it in there.

Don’t know what color Mister Perfect will wear? Just type blue, highlight that sucker and move on. Mister Perfect might not be who you think he is when you get to the end. He might need a leather jacket instead of a suit. Don’t stress the small stuff.

This goes for spelling and grammar. Just throw it all in there. Stems, seeds, skins and all.

Be Extraordinary

Have you ever sat down to write the scene you’ve been brooding over for weeks and suddenly the mind yanks the wheel away from the muse? You know the thoughts: ‘could/would that really happen?

Since we’re talking about first draft, it doesn’t matter during this part of the process.

For example; the hero is trapped behind a booth in the donut shop with the entire police force there ready for a shootout. Hero must get away to move the plot forward.

How? Mind: should/could/would/can he really do <whatever your mind comes up with>?

It is a great question to ask and for the finished product you will need to make sure your story is believable, but not today. Besides, when your Hero is a vampire/superhero/alien/ex-marine-fireman/super-sexy-smart-and-also-rich-babe, we left reality a few miles back.

Write your character out of that scene.

Have Hero leap over the seat and throat-chop the douchebag ex-partner. Then throw the DEA agent into the DA who just walked in. Toss in an eye poke or two before Hero takes a bullet. Sliding out the door on both knees, Hero flips double birds as she vanishes into a blast of sunlight.

Phew!

Through!

We’re through! *victory lap*.

Crazy? Meh. Sure. But hero sipping coffee for ten pages while you’re pulling out your hair unable to push forward is worse.

Right?

Now you can write the next scene, or write another way for Hero to get out. (Maybe she gets caught. Maybe her lady comes and save her butt. Maybe her new partner flies the helicopter in and zooms her out of there.)

Play around with it and have fun while you get the ideas out of your brain and onto the page.

Be Extreme

You probably don’t read books because the hero is a normal person who goes to an average job and does average things.

It’s okay to write things that are over the top. Chip it out later if it doesn’t fit. If you’re stuck, don’t let reality hold you back. Let the hero be so smart she could shame Sherlock Holmes and beautiful and rich and she only works her dead end job because she enjoys talking to people at the call center.

None of this is set in stone. Even the best crafted, based in reality character isn’t necessarily going to survive the creation process unchanged. Your good guys may become bad guys, and your bad girl might become your hero. Allow some over the top characters and then when you edit, pull out those wild stems.

Same goes for scenes. Write situations as dangerous and unbelievable as you can imagine. If it doesn’t fit into the story, just tuck it aside or turn down the volume.

Be Flexible

You might have your plot scripted from start to finish, but allow yourself to write a scene differently to test the waters. Try that side door and discover it leads to a back alley where a character can overhear an important secret. Maybe it will be useful, otherwise tuck it away.

If a scene fizzles, explore it at a different angle. Maybe you don’t have to kill that two-faced friend. Or maybe that cow has to go! You can find out a lot about a character when you put them in unexpected situations. Even if the scene is clipped, you have more information about how to detail your character.

Be Uncomfortable

Put Hero into a situation that really sucks. She has to go into the boss’s office and explain why she was using company time/money for her personal research project. Have hero get hit by that car and be physically/emotionally changed. Force the hero to face a fear to save someone important to your plot, but maybe not important to them.

Put yourself in the hot seat too. Try writing something outside your comfort zone. Drop your characters into a genre you’ve never tested. Maybe the serious story that has you stuck would loosen up in a different setting. You never have to show any of this, it’s just practice.

Don’t Fuss

You finished that story/novel/novella! Now, leave it alone. Set a time limit of a week or a few months and do not look! No poking or overthinking about it. Continue to write but move onto something different. Create some blog posts or try another genre.

Do not uncork that baby until it has some cellar time.

Then, if you sample it and it tastes like vinegar, review what went wrong. The part about writing that you don’t get in wine making is that if you don’t like it you don’t need to start over from scratch. Don’t be afraid to make adjustments. Or, snip the pieces you like and put them into a new story.

Regardless of what happens with that story you will learn what no amount of coaching can teach you; the technique that works for YOU.

Try/GET Scivener

(https://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php)

I don’t have any affiliations to this company/product and this is only my own opinion but this software is a great tool. It is easy to use. It allows you to break your story into acts and scenes and scenes within scenes. You can easily shuffle whole acts/scenes like they are index cards. There is also easily accessible pages to keep your characters/places and research.

It also allows you to strain out the scenes that didn’t work and keep them away from the real product.

 

I hope this was helpful. Just keep in mind, everything you write is practice so even if no one sees it but you, it’s not a waste of time.

 

bio pic of Diana Rose WilsonDiana Rose Wilson grew up under the shadow of the Mayacamas Mountains, raised by outlaws and bikers. She has been involved in the lifestyle since 1989 including working at a high end adult boutique specializing in fetish, BDSM and LGBT merchandise. Her debut book is Wicked Masquerade, first in the Forbidden Secrets series. She has also been published in Finesse, a publication for the Thomas Keller Restaurant group.

Currently Diana lives in wine country with her husband where she enjoys good wine, better food, loud Harleys, 3-day eventing and the delights of deviant erotica. She is a member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association, Redwood Writers, Snoopy Writers and CFTW Writer’s Block.

Today We Write! #PNWA16

pnwa16 program

Last weekend I attended my first writers conference, The Pacific Northwest Writers Conference in Sea-Tac, Washington.  I learned so much at this conference that I decided to write a few posts about it. To start with, enjoy reading about my favorite events at the conference.

When I talk about moderating a session I mean, I took the opportunity to volunteer to help as needed and was assigned to moderate some of the session. That means that I got to meet and introduce some of the speakers. It was stressful at first, but went very smoothly thanks to Jennifer Douwes and D.C.C. Mealy. They kindly welcomed me, answered my questions and showed me the ropes.

My favorites from the conference:

The featured speakers (dessert/dinner)

The first night, Robert Dugoni was the featured speaker. I read his book My Sister’s Grave in preparation for the conference and really enjoyed it, so I was excited to hear what he had to say before he even started. His speech was moving (I was shocked to hear he had recently had a stroke) and inspiring (the twists and turns of his writing life). He repeated  two main themes. First, “It’s just stuff” which I took to mean, don’t write to obtain things but to write the very best book you can every time. Second “Hello, writing my old friend” which to me said, though life has its twists and turns and roller coaster ups and downs, a love for writing doesn’t go away.

The second night there was a sit down dinner with a panel of featured speakers, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had read The End Game by Catherine Coulter in preparation, but she wasn’t there. What did happen was Robert Dugoni posed unrehearsed questions to C.C. Humphreys, Steven James, Sheila Roberts and Gerri Russell. Most of the questions were about their writing process and careers. I really enjoyed the variety of personalities and viewpoints. There was a lot of banter and laughing and the vegan entree was even edible. What a night.

The Importance of a Strong Synopsis

I was worried about moderating this panel because it was first thing Saturday morning, directly before my pitch block, and I would be introducing four agents and collecting and reading all of the synopses. Luckily, the agents were happy to introduce themselves and were game to pick and read the synopses. Whew!

Like at dinner, the variety of personalities and viewpoints made this a great panel. I loved the discussion that arose from each synopsis read and the variety of the examples. It really drove home the point that everyone’s story is different.

Ask An Expert: Thriller/Mystery

I’m very glad I volunteered to moderate this panel. Though it took a little while to get the questions rolling, I thought the questions asked spurred a great discussion. Editor Anna Michels (pronounced Michaels)  of SourceBooks brought a great perspective from the publishing side to balance the two experienced and interesting thriller authors: Award winner and previous nuclear engineer Mike Lawson (I’m enjoying reading House Secrets) and New York Times bestseller and Jeopardy! champion Boyd Morrison. When I was researching the panel to prepare to introduce them, I was excited to see that Boyd and I have something in common–We both worked for NASA.

My uncle got excited when I told him Boyd writes with Clive Cussler. He says he’s a huge Cussler fan. Now he knows he’s a Boyd Morrison fan as well.

Take a month to save a year

Royce Buckingham‘s presentation held a very useful message. Not every idea we have is our best idea. Even the most prolific writer can’t write every idea they have. Save yourself time and test your ideas before you throw yourself into writing them. Tell your story ideas to people you think could be your audience/market. He mentioned pitching your story at parties as if they are the latest blockbuster movie you just saw. See which idea people get the most excited about and write that one. He recommends talking to at least 100 people before you get started.

Dancing with the stars: How to Connect with Celebrities for a Book Blurb

Chelly (pronounced Shelly) Wood also had some great, unexpected advice. Her presentation was about how supporting charities you are passionate about can help you network and enhance your author platform. I love this idea and am surprised how eye-opening it was.

Her message is that you don’t have to work for the charity, or donate a bunch of money (unless you have a bunch of money to give away), you can show support in other ways. You can promote charities on your website and social media to make others aware. You can volunteer for an event. You can donate (small) percentages of sales, etc.

Her further message is building your platform is all about asking what can I do for others. Get creative: Can you promote a local business that is related to something in your book? Can you invite a guest blogger who writes about something interesting in your book, not specifically the craft of writing? Or offer a guest blog for them?

Chelly designs doll clothes and gives away free patterns at ChellyWood.com

 

Was going to PNWA16 worth the time, money and stress? Absolutely and here’s why:

  • Meeting other writers

  • Pitching to agents and editors

  • Learning more about the craft

  • Building a better author platform

  • Putting the work in perspective

I’m going to write more about this next time. Don’t forget to follow this blog and sign up for my monthly newsletter. You know, free fun stuff for you!

You have so many links to follow and great writers to read from this post, I think you’ll be plenty busy. If not, below are links to other people who attended and wrote about the conference.

What other bloggers are saying about pnwa16:

Joe Beernink

Connie J. Jasperson

Renee N. Meland

Kisa Whipkey

Yurtlandia

 

Anyone else want to share their conference experiences (any writers conference)? I look forward to hearing from you.

Happy Writing and Reading!