Thursday, February 28, 2013

Reading to Write

It's something you'll hear a lot if you want to be a writer: Read. A lot. This is something I've resisted somewhat because if I'm being honest, reading isn't my favorite past time. I much prefer eating cookies. But I understand the value of the idea, and I'd like to share some thoughts on the subject.

First of all, if you passed the 8th grade and still struggle with grammar and punctuation, you can learn what you need to by reading. (Excluding Junie B. Jones books.) As you read, pay attention to punctuation usage, sentence structure, and grammar. Okay, I have to make a confession here. Certain grammar rules still elude me. If this is the case for you too, instead of reading books, read grammar blogs and websites. (Here is one of my favorites.) Or, better yet, purchase an 8th grade grammar workbook. Don't forget to open it and do the work.

Second, read to study. It's great to pick up a good book and get lost in the story and characters, but if you're a writer, you've got stuff to learn. Pay attention to things you like and don't like. What works? What doesn't? What does the particular author do well? Do they add extra little details that contribute to their descriptions? Do they weave a complicated plot? How do they introduce their characters? What point of view and tense are they using? Does it work? Why or why not? What makes the book good or bad in your opinion? Pay attention. Study. Learn. Read. Read some more. There is an infinite amount of knowledge to be gained--as far as writing is concerned--by reading. So open a book, and get crackin'.

Hey, what's that cool book on the top?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Book Club Movie Review

I'm not really one to read a book again and again (unless you count the scriptures), and I read the Help a few years ago. So when it came up as the book of the month for book club, a friend of mine suggested we just watch the movie. I said, "That's pure genius."

I don't generally do movie reviews. I'm a picky book reader and I'm an even pickier movie watcher. Which means I'm very selective about the movies I watch. I can't stand movies with zero plot. I hate bad acting. And I don't tolerate inappropriate...what shall I call it?...crap.

This movie was delightful. It followed the book well. The acting is stunning. If fact, I can't think of another movie in existence that is better cast. Usually in a movie, there are two or three actors that were made for the part. In this movie, every actor fits like a tailored glove, even down to the minor characters like Constantine, Rachel, and the editor (played by Leslie Jordan, who perhaps had one role in his life he was more fit for--Murray from Ski Patrol).

Anyway, I really enjoyed the movie, probably a little more than the book. I recommend it for people who loved the book by Kathryn Stockett and anyone who likes a drama with some good, hearty laughs. It is rated PG-13 for some thematic elements, underwear, and the editor's mouth. (I think I much preferred him in Ski Patrol where all he said was, "What in the Sam Hill?")

Friday, February 22, 2013

It's Your Lucky Day

I'm so excited because I've invited the characters of my brand new book Blue Sky to join me in a round table interview today. They are each allowed to ask one question of a fellow character. To my left sits Sunny, followed by Lewis and Jack. Meg is to my right.

Jack: Can we get this over with?

Me: Please contain yourself, Jack. Otherwise, the lovely people who read my blog will think you’re rude.

Jack: Can I at least go first?

Me: Sure. Fire away.

Jack: Meg, would you like to go out on a date with me?

Meg: (Blushing) I’m flattered, really. But I’m sort of seeing somebody else right now.

Jack: That question doesn't count then. Sunny, will you go out on a date with me?

Lewis: (Glaring) That’s enough, Jack.

Me: Okay, okay. No fist fights here today. Let’s all try to play nice. Lewis, would you like to go next?

Lewis: Yes. Jack, when are you going to stop hitting on my wife?


Me: Jack, would you like to answer?

Jack: (Smiles and shakes head)

Me: Okay then, Lewis would you like another question?

Lewis: No. (Still glaring at Jack)

Meg: I’ll go next. Hey Sunny, you wanna catch a movie next week? Say Saturday night?

Sunny: (Shrugging) Sure.

Lewis: Can we double?

Meg: Nope, just the girls.

Sunny (Patting Lewis on the back) Isn’t he cute when he pouts? Wait, that doesn’t count as my question, does it?

Me: Go ahead Sunny. Ask whatever question you would like.

Sunny: (Sits up straight) My question is for Lewis. (Looks into his eyes) When did you fall in love with me?

Lewis: (Smiling) I think it was the second time you tried to punch me.  Remember?  The one I blocked.

Sunny: (Gasps) It couldn't have been that fast!

Lewis: I was infatuated with you from the first time I saw your picture.  But that second time you swung at me, I made up my mind that I wasn't going anywhere without fighting for you.

Jack: (Clears his throat) If it gets any mushier in here, I might puke.

Meg: Agreed. If they start kissing, I’m gone.

Me: That’s okay, we’re finished with the interview. Thanks for coming everyone. And thank you my lovely readers for coming and getting to know the characters of Blue Sky.

Click on the blog tour schedule to the right to see the stops today. Happy reading!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Meet Mercedes M. Yardley

Hello. Thanks for being a guest on my blog today. Can I offer you a virtual cookie?

MMY: Thank you so much for having me! And yes, I’d love a virtual cookie. May I offer you an actual cookie? Seriously. I have about two dozen cooling on the counter right now.

Of course. I love cookies. Thank you. Pretend for a moment that your books are your children. Please introduce us. We’d like names, ages, quirks, birth story, any details you would like to share.

MMY: Oh, wow! Welcome to my brood!
This is Shock Totem. Well, these are the Shock Totem Sextuplets, I guess. ST is a dark fiction magazine. I originally submitted a story to their first issue as a contributor, and now I’ve been on staff for about four years. Mommy loves you, darlings!
That mass o’ children over there, they’re my short stories. Too many to count, in a bunch of wonderful magazines and anthologies. I can’t remember them all or where I’ve placed them. They run around too much. They have skinned knees and wild hair, but I love them fiercely. “Murder for Beginners” and “Blossom Bones” are some of my favorites. 
This is Beautiful Sorrows, the baby of the bunch. She’s my first full short story collection, and was just released in October. I cried when she was born.  I think she’s beautiful. Don’t you think she’s beautiful? Here, I have about 200 pictures of her saved to my phone.
At home, I have two novels that need revision (they’re angry adolescents, both of them), one that’s ready to be shopped (she’s the golden child. My favorite one. But shh, don’t tell the others) and my current WIP is in its revising stage. I can’t wait to kick that one out of the nest. 

That is quite the clan. Somehow I'm thinking of the old woman that lived in a shoe, but you don't look old at all. And thanks for the cookie by the way. It was awesome. Please give us a peek into your writing life. How much time each week do you spend writing? Is your desk messy or clean? Do you have a schedule or are you sporadic? What helps you stay motivated? We want to know what makes you tick as a writer.

MMY: I spend all day, every day doing writing-related things. I read slush for Shock Totem while I eat breakfast and lunch. I turn the computer on and leave it running all day so I can hurry to it whenever I have a few minutes. I write with my 18-month-old on my lap. That isn’t super conducive so the art, but it’s necessary.
I have difficulty separating family and writing. They both merge together, and that works for me right now. I take about a two hour break when the baby naps.  I take another break to watch an episode of The X-Files with my husband every night, and I don’t write during dinner. The rest of the time is free game.
And my desk is clean. Probably because I hardly ever write there. Wherever the kids are, whether the living room or the bedroom or outside, that’s where I’m writing.  I just wander around after them.
I write because I have to. I have that inner desire. If I’m not writing, I feel like part of my soul is missing. The lovely part, the important part. Writing is how I process. My biggest difficulty is finding time. I have a wonderful, loud, boisterous family. They come first. They always come first. But writing comes second.

That sounds crazy busy, but I have to admit, writing is that much a part of my heart as well.
Please tell us some of your favorites. 
Favorite treat: Coke Zero, hands down. Slit my wrists and I’ll bleed the stuff. I also love marshmallow treats made with Honey-Nut Cheerios. They’re sweeter than Rice Krispies. I have an insane sweet tooth.
Favorite stress reliever: A bubble bath with a magazine and no children. It never happens. I also bake when I’m stressed. It’s soothing and makes the house smell wonderful.
Favorite office supply: Notebooks! Cute little notebooks. Ugly notebooks. Big bulky ones, sleek ones, ones with colored pages. I can’t get enough of them. And colored pens.
Favorite punctuation mark: Exclamation marks! I’m naturally enthusiastic.  (Me Too!) Favorite day of the week: Tuesday. Usually I hate my Tuesdays, until Tuesday nights. Thursdays are nice, too.
Favorite movie: Labyrinth is a go-to favorite. It reminds me of when I was young and the world was full of magic.

Describe for us what your surroundings would be if you walked into your favorite piece of art. Feel free to be as literal or figurative as you would like.

MMY: The ambiance would be very much like my work: dark, slightly sinister, but with a touch of the sweet and innocent. I think you’d walk into my favorite piece of art and you’d be torn about whether you’d want to run away, screaming, or stay and explore. 
My favorite painting is Mark Ryden’s “The Night Visitor”.  I love the terrible beauty of it.

Sounds irrevocably creepy. Thank you so much for being a guest on my blog today! If you would like to know more about Mercedes and her writing, check out her blog.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentines!

I thought I'd share my first ever vlog with you. I hope you enjoy it! 'Tis the day for love after all. I'll be at LTUE for the next two days. Check out the blog tour stops while I'm away. 

You can see the original post and read an awesome review on Jean Booknerd here

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Hey, What Are You Doing Here?

Yeah, I'm supposed to be blogging about writing again. But life grabbed me by the heels, yanked hard (yes, I fell flat on my face) and said, "What you thinkin'? You think you can blog regularly and still pay attention to me? Well, you wrong." I'm not kidding. That's what it said. So, to appease your love of all things bloggy, please check out the blog tour stop today. My good friend R. K. Grow asked the characters from Blue Sky some fun questions and gave a fantastic review. And, if you're an aspiring author, an established author, or even a smelly fish gutter, you should probably check it out. Cool place! She interviews behind the scenes people at publishing companies. Brilliant. Anyway, check it out and have a fabulous day!!

Wishing I were here!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Book Review--The Uses of Adversity

Have you ever wondered why life is so hard? Ever felt abandoned by God? This book is for you. It's a super short, but super powerful read. It helped me more fully understand that God is always there for us, but because we live in an imperfect world, we are going to suffer losses and pain. I used to hear someone say, "Poor God,  he gets blamed for everything." But the fact is, God loves us and wants to help us. He sent us here to learn. How can we learn without pain? I think it is hard for Him to watch us sometimes. But like the wise parent who understands the importance of allowing their kids to fail, of allowing them to struggle through their problems, He watches anyway. Ready to help whenever we ask.  Here it is on Amazon.

Meet Author Andrew Leon

Hello. Thanks for being a guest on my blog today. Can I offer you a virtual cookie?

Ooh... a cookie! Okay, since it's virtual, I'll say yes. Unless virtual cookies have sugar in them? They don't, do they? Because that would be bad.

Virtual cookie = zero sugar and zero calories. Here you go. 
Pretend for a moment that your books are your children. Please introduce us. We’d like names, ages, quirks, birth story, any details you would like to share.

Well, I don't really get into that whole "books as children" thing, but I can tell you about them. The House on the Corner just turned two last week (Feb 6). I wrote it as a bedtime story for my kids, taking inspiration from Tolkien in how he wrote The Hobbit, so that I would have outside motivation to follow through and finish the book. I also modeled the structure loosely off of Paul Zindel's The Pigman because I hadn't seen any other multiple 1st person perspective books around. At the time, I wasn't really aware of how prevalent 1st person had become in books aimed at younger readers, or I wouldn't have done that. At this point, I'm more than a little tired of all the 1st person stuff out there. The follow up novella, "Christmas on the Corner," and the sequel (which will hopefully be finished before the end of the year), Brother's Keeper, are in 3rd person.

I just finished my second book in January, but I've been serializing it for quite a while, now. Shadow Spinner should be ready for release as a complete book in the next few months sometime, as soon as I finish the editing. Parts 1-14 are available for the Kindle, though, and I make those free as often as possible. Part 15 will be out on February 18 and will be free for a couple of days along with several of the other parts.

Hmmm. Are you not into this because you're a man? That's okay. Next.
Please give us a peek into your writing life. How much time each week do you spend writing? Is your desk messy or clean? Do you have a schedule or are you sporadic? What helps you stay motivated? We want to know what makes you tick as a writer.

Oh, man, I don't even know how much time I spend writing. It seems like all of it. I suppose it depends upon what kind of writing you mean. I spend two to three hours a day, generally speaking, on fiction writing, but there's also writing blog posts and commenting and things like that, so it ends up being a lot of time.
My desk is messy but organized. Mostly. If that makes sense. (It does.)
I'm pretty scheduled, but it's because I have to be. I have things during the day that have to happen at certain times, like carting the kids to and from school, so those things keep my writing confined to particular parts of the day, since I can't really do the fiction writing when they're home. They make thought impossible.
I don't tend to have an issue with motivation. Once I decide I'm going to do something, I'm pretty good about doing it. Once I established my pattern while writing House, I haven't had an issue holding to it. Right now, I have so many projects planned that I kind of can't stop. Any time away feels like a huge loss.

It sounds like you should give us some advice on motivation. I'm sure a lot of writers struggle with that. I know I do. Perhaps a blog post some time?
Please tell us some of your favorites.
Favorite treat:Gosh, I don't know. We cut sugar out of our diets several years ago, so I don't keep that kind of stuff around much. Hmm... special occasion type stuff... chocolate from Recherche Du Plaisir. I swear it's the best in the world, and I'm in the middle of giving away a box of the stuff as a prize for a short story contest I was running. Also croissants from Cafe de Croissant. Any kind, although I might like the chocolate raspberry best.
Favorite stress reliever:Hmm... that would have to be the hot cocoa I make. No sugar. When the kids really get to me, I want to sit down with a mug of that in  the evening.
Favorite office supply:Um... paper? Or a pen? Paper and pen. Because I carry a notebook with me when I go places to work on my secondary project that I work on when I'm away from my computer.
Favorite punctuation mark:Semi-colon. Definitely. It's completely underrated.
Favorite day of the week:There are different days of the week?
Favorite movie:Well, if you've been to my blog, you'll know that I don't do the whole "favorite movie/book/song" thing. Those things are too likely to change over time. That said, Star Wars. It's been with me longer and has been more significant in my life than anything else.

Describe for us what your surroundings would be if you walked into your favorite piece of art. Feel free to be as literal or figurative as you would like.

Well, you'd need to define "art," I suppose. Do you mean, like, a painting? Or any kind of art? Because if you mean any kind of art, I'd walk right into Star Wars as a Jedi Knight. But I'd have to think about when I'd want to do that in the continuity of the movies. I certainly wouldn't want it to be during the Clone War era. That would be a short life as a Jedi.

See the resemblance? Hey, art is art. That totally works. Thanks for joining me today, Andrew! If you'd like to learn more about Andrew and his writing, check it out here.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Blue Sky Theme Song

When I finished the first draft of Blue Sky, this song hadn't even come out yet. But when I first heard it, I was like, "Man, that was written for Lewis and Sunny." I think I like the original Daughtry version a little better, but I love the snow in this video. Snow is a significant part of Blue Sky. It is the reason Sunny and Lewis meet in the first place, and it nearly costs Lewis his life in the end. I've never heard of this band before. Anyone know who they are and where they come from? You can check out today's blog tour stop here.

What's the theme song of your latest novel or WIP?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Writing Romance and Michael Buble

You know when you're reading a romance and get to that part where the main characters are separated for some reason? And you have to keep reading because you're dying to know how they get back together, if they get back together (gulp)? Well, when I was writing Blue Sky, I found this part of the story unbearable to write. I hated when Lewis and Sunny were not together. But writing takes a little more time than reading, and I couldn't drop my life to finish the book. (I often take huge breaks when I'm writing). This song, Lost by Michael Buble, got me through.

The blog tour for Blue Sky starts today! Check out the schedule here.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Blue Sky Playlist

I'm supposed to be blogging about writing today, but I'm a little preoccupied with the blog tour (which begins Friday), proofing, life, etc. So, I thought I'd share some of the songs that are part of my Blue Sky Playlist. These songs either helped to inspire something about the book, remind me of the book, or helped me get through writing the book. Sunny Came Home by Shawn Colvin inspired a lot of Blue Sky, including the main character's first name. Even though the book has no fires, this song reminds me of the grief and insanity Sunny feels after losing her parents.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Meet Helen Boswell, Author of Mythology

Hello. Thanks for being a guest on my blog today. Can I offer you a virtual cookie?

Thanks so much for hosting me, Melissa. I would LOVE a cookie. :D

Pretend for a moment that your books are your children. Please introduce us. We’d like names, ages, quirks, birth story, any details you would like to share.

I have an only child named MYTHOLOGY, who was born in August, 2012 (I suppose she's still a baby or maybe a toddler by now). MYTHOLOGY had a fairly long gestation time because she started off as an adult novel, but I rewrote her in almost its entirety to be YA about a year and a half ago. Her story is about two high school kids and their struggles to defy "The Fates" and to assert the choices they make in their lives. Ironically, a little bit of "Fate" is ultimately what brought them together. It's a coming-of-age story of two rather unique people with love and thrills along the way. Quirks? My child MYTHOLOGY has a penchant for the arts and music, and interestingly, the cover art was painted by an artist-musician named Brian Hoover.

Sounds intriguing, and I noticed on goodreads that it's getting fantastic reviews. Please give us a peek into your writing life. How much time each week do you spend writing? Is your desk messy or clean? Do you have a schedule or are you sporadic? What helps you stay motivated? We want to know what makes you tick as a writer.

I write opportunistically and a little bit chaotically. And what is a writing desk? ;) Much of my YA rewrite was done with a baby or toddler in my lap. I try to write a little every day, but sometimes I hit a block and take a break to read for a while (reading amazing books always jump starts me back into writing). When I get to that point when I feel that the characters are yelling at me to keep going, I know I'm in a good place.

I love that word "opportunistically." And you wrote with a toddler in your lap? You amaze me. I know from experience that is not an easy task.

Please tell us some of your favorites.
Favorite treat: Anything with chocolate. Or ice cream. Ideally, chocolate ice cream with chocolate Magic Shell.
Favorite stress reliever: Listening to music. That's one of my favorites, too!
Favorite office supply: Sticky notes. They are everywhere. Sounds ominous. 
Favorite punctuation mark: The em dash. Probably to a fault.
Favorite day of the week: Thursday. Because I know Friday is coming up.
Favorite movie: I love movies that provide a sense of escape. Superheroes are good. I love all of the Batman movies.  And I enjoyed Chris Hemsworth... I mean, Thor. (Can you tell that I live in a houseful of boys?)

Describe for us what your surroundings would be if you walked into your favorite piece of art. Feel free to be as literal or figurative as you would like.

I'm walking into a field of fire, and grey eyes peer at me from under a shroud of green. There's a tree in the distance, and the tips of the branches are ablaze with hopes and dreams. (This is an original painting given to me by an artist friend named Lindsay Miller).

That sounds amazing. I wish we could see it! Thank you so much for joining me on my blog today. I hope Mythology isn't an only child for long. If you would like to check out Helen's book or follow her, here are the links.


Friday, February 1, 2013

How Are Your New Years Resolutions Going?

Sounds like a polite and nosy conversation starter, right? Well, this is what has been on my mind today because it's February 1st. I love the cycle of our earth. It goes around and around, always landing again on that 1st day of the month. I've taken some time today to evaluate my New Years goals and plan to do the same at the beginning of every month. My writing goals are coming along fantastically, but I've suffered for it a little personally. I need to balance more, meditate more, spend more time NOT working and more time enjoying my beautiful family. My weight loss goal did horribly last month, and so I decided to set a goal to count calories for the entire month of February. Any amount of torture is doable for one month, right?

If your New Years resolutions are already shot, I encourage you to simply re-evaluate. There is no need to give up, no need to get discouraged, no need to binge. You're a human being. And I am giving you permission to be a human being. Learn from your mistakes. Take the time to experiment with what really works for you. Don't forget to celebrate the successes.

Try again.

Here's to New Month Resolutions!

Thanks SouLar Bliss for the graphic.