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A little plug . . .

My friends Margaret Stohl and Kami Garcia’s new book in their Dangerous Creatures series just released. To celebrate they are doing a book drive. All you have to do is post a picture of yourself with a book you love. Their publisher, Little Brown, has agreed to donate a book to an underfunded school library for every picture posted. Here are some details from Margie:

During the two weeks of May 12-May 26 (starting this Tuesday) hashtag, #BooksArentDangerous & post your photo with a book. The book can be one that mattered to you, one you wish you’d had, or a current read you would recommend. You can post on facebook, instagram, twitter, or tumblr. For every photo you post, Kami & Margie are working with Little Brown to match it with a book donation. (Details TK!) In addition, we also encourage our author, reader, teacher, librarian, blogger, and bookseller friends to take this opportunity to donate books to underfunded local school libraries. If you do, please post those pics too, and we’ll be reposting at http://www.booksarentdangerous.com.

I think this is fabulous and a great cause. Here is my picture that I just took which is beautiful and sexy. IMG_5004

I love the WESTING GAME. Love it. Since I was a little girl. Now I’ll hashtag this #BooksArentDangerous and voila!

Join in the fun! Books for all!

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Three Things Thursday

Cheryl
The weather out here in California has been so beautiful lately…Not too hot, not too cold, and of course, no rain–ever. 

When I was younger, my mom would always push me to go outside at times like this. For me, of course, that meant finding a comfy spot outside to read a book.
Now I’ve discovered that having an occasional day to write outside can also help. Take a break from the computer. Grab an actual pen and pad of paper and just write. It can break up the monotony, and it always helps me focus on sense of place. Inside, all my senses are dulled, but outside, everything comes alive again.
Brenda
Write to Done, an online blog about — well, blogging, often — put one up on Monday about improving your writing skills by traveling. As I am now “on vacation” in Alabama I thought I’d mention the idea here. Travel gets you out of your rut, gives you a chance to get some distance from your everyday experience with a new perspective. Almost anything can work: a change of address, a vacation, a day trip  And what if you only took the day trip to a place you’ve never been n your own home town? Still can’t “afford” it? How about spending some time in the library reading about some place you’ve always wanted to go, looking at pictures?
The first time I came to Alabama three years ago, I experienced breakfast at a Waffle House. A PECAN Waffle!  Scrumptious! Needless to say, we’ve already been twice during this trip. Still scrumptious! But I’m also noticing the people. The “family” working there. On the crowded Sunday Mother’s Day breakfast crew, the job of two men was to keep on cookin'; another one gathered all the sales slips and called out the orders –as they came in— to  the cooks who were ready to handle the next order. One fellow kept drying the knives, forks and spoons hot out of the washer. This well-oiled machine seated the waiting crowd efficiently, quickly, and took orders as soon as the customers had time to decide — and while they sipped on their first cup-a-joe! Another guy handled the cash as each party prepared to leave. ALL the workers were friendly, to each other, and to customers. Numerous asked if we “had everything” we needed as they buzzed past. This was a small, narrow diner with AT LEAST 11 workers working in harmony AND with a jaunty, jovial air about them. It was THE place to be on that wonderful day.
And it gave me a new appreciation for working together, living together, getting along, and making the trip FUN as it progressed. How can that NOT affect the way I feel, act, write, think and appreciate today and EVERY day for some time to come?
Where/when are you “going” next — and how will it inform your writing?
Carol
You’re worried as you work with your writing partner:
1. She’s leading you in a way you didn’t expect. Should you follow?
2. He’s making your character seem a little silly or angry even. You don’t want that.
3. You can’t force the story to go the way you want because whenever your partner steers the car, you start going east instead of west.
4. Your partner doesn’t ‘get’ your character.
5. You don’t ‘get’ your partner’s character.
6. Now you don’t ‘get’ your own character.
7. Your partner isn’t picking up the clues you’re leaving behind.
8.  His clues are weird.
I remembering reading King’s On Writing and when he discovered the importance of blood in his novel Carrie. He’d left so many bloody hand prints (his own) that when he went to rewrite he emphasized the natural place his storytelling had taken him.
This is going to be the biggest clue I can give you as you write with your friend. Trust her and yourself and this odd process.
One of the funnest parts of writing with Ann Dee was when I allowed myself to just experiment. If she mentioned screaming at my character’s house, I got to decide if it was a man or woman screaming. Or a kid. It could have been a kid. (It was a bird.) Ann Dee was great at leaving cliff hangers for me to leap from.
About three or four short chapters in, Ann Dee said, “What are we doing? I say she hates dogs, you have her with dogs. I say there’s screaming, you don’t mention in. You said they’re making out and I said there was only a hug.”
This trip is one about you both steering. No one can force the story. If either writer does, you may end up with one unhappy person. Or you may end up with two people struggling for control.
Then you’ll have two stories that won’t work together and you won’t succeed.
Look for the odd clues left behind by your partner. How can you change it up from what she might have meant? Can you make that clue your own? Twist tears out of it? Laughter?
Understand that much of the worries you have will be taken care of in revision. And when the book is done, Like Stephen King, you’ll see what you set up that you didn’t realize you had. In our books it was fathers. I knew my character’s was sick and Ann Dee’s was absent. But then there was one that was dead and a couple others I didn’t even see until I read through the novel.
Ann Dee probably knew.
She’s smart that way.
So–to answer the statements above–trust yourself. Trust your partner. Trust the process.
Talk to each other.
Have fun.
NOTE–I COULDN’T MAKE THE PARAGRAPHING WORK

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Continuing on . . .

So this week has been more hectic than I anticipated. I told my husband this morning, it feels like it should be Friday.

It’s not Friday.

Far from it.

Because of that I haven’t been able to revise the next chapter in the novel. That means Carol has to wait for me. I also haven’t been able to blog, work on my other novel or take a shower.

But that’s all of us, right? We have good days and bad days. When you write with a partner it’s important to be flexible. I think, and we haven’t tried this, but I think it would be a good idea to get away for a day or two and write back and forth all day. We could write on our other projects while the partner works on the novel and go back and forth in a concentrated manner. I’ve found that with my life situation right now, big chunks of time are both precious and productive.

I think that should be our next experiment. Can we finish revising in a day?

Now to find a place to retreat. That allows babies. And has good food. And a pool. Or at least a hot tub. Or a clean tub.

I don’t require much.

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Writing with a Partner

I do love to write with other people for numerous reasons.

  1. It isn’t so lonely.
  2. You get to end a chapter and then send it off without having to figure out what comes next.
  3. You do half the work (like Carol said).
  4. You get someone else to help you figure out your writing problems.
  5. It’s kind of a game.

The cons are about the same. You don’t have as much control. You have to be adaptable. Schedules and writing times can vary.

For this book, it’s true, I kept feeling like we needed something more in the plot. We needed to up the ante. Carol, on the other hand, told me not to worry. That everything would fall into place.

She was right.

And I was right.

It was awesome to get the first draft done. We did it! And it was pretty solid. Now we have something we can work with. I realized through this process that sometimes I worry in the middle of my novels and stress about the trajectory rather than pushing through and finishing. With Carol assuring me that a) my character wasn’t as boring as all out and b) that even if it DID need more plot-wise we’d figure it out, the book got done much faster.

Now we are trying to figure out who to revise–in a big way–to add that plot thing.

Also, we are having issues with logistics. Should we be using word? How should we save each draft? Do we download it every time? Should we be using google docs? Dropbox? Email?

If you were writing a novel with someone else how would you navigate that part of it? Have any of you done this? Tips?

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Love

One of my good friends gave me a journal called A Line A Day diary. The concept is that for five years, even if you only write one sentence (there’s room enough for about three for each day), you will have a valuable record. You will also be able to compare what you did each year on each day.

It’s awesome.

And it takes discipline–a sentence a day! Who would have thought?

I am convinced that discipline more than anything else is the key to success as a writer (although the definition of success can be debated).

Right now, I am taking a look at my life and trying to decide what is most important to me. I am also trying to decide when and how and where I will write–I need to make it more conscious.

I think it’s important to take stock. To step back and re-evaluate.

I have decided that I am a writer.

And I need to make it more a part of my daily life.

And I need to let myself love it like I used to.

I need to make mistakes.

And write funny stories.

And spend more time with other writers.

And laugh.

And find joy in the process more than the product.

When do you write?

Is it fun?

Do you laugh?

Cry?

Eat pizza?

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Three Things Thursday

Cheryl:

One of the biggest problems I have with novels is boredom. The characters all start to sound the same, the scenes all feel repetitive, and it seems like I will never be able to stop typing.
Sometimes it can help to change a setting. If a scene happens in a school, can it be changed to an arcade? If it’s at a park, can it be changed to a hospital?
Just the act of changing a setting can inject new life to a murky middle. It energizes me and gets me excited about writing again. If it were a movie, an entirely new set would need to be built, and as a writer, we need to do the same thing. And for me, that sense of creating something new is what I love best.
What helps you with your boredom?
Brenda:
 I was looking at some gorgeous pictures of The Great Outdoors: snow, autumn leaves, sun breaking through clouds, sun trying to break over the mist disguising — who knows what?  Gigantic and ancient trees, showing the scars of their age. Mountains poking their noses through a morning mist.  Flowers of vibrant colors and various sorts. The occasional rabbit. Waterfalls, up close or at a distance. A distant moon hanging over a darkening landscape.  The design of the wind on hill after hill of desert sand. Rushing water. Still water.
What of nature can you include in your book, in a scene?  How can it change the mood, the feeling, of this scene or even that character?  What memorable marvels of nature could you include for atmosphere, or relaxation, or tension?
Carol:
Rick is now undergoing the radiation treatments. I’m not sure if he’s on a consistent schedule (every day at noon).  We will let you know what happens late this afternoon or evening.

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Summer’s coming

I’m sitting on my back deck and there are birds and people on skateboards and I’m not wearing a sweater. It feels like I can finally breathe.

My mom used to do this, every evening she could she’d sit in her house dress on the back porch with her Diet Pepsi, maybe some chocolate and a novel. She worked her tail off (her words) and the sweet reward was getting to have a little bit of quiet.

Is my writing a career? Am I making time for it? People have told me that no matter how old my kids, there will never be enough time. It will always be a struggle to find an hour to write. Is that true?

It feels like it has to get easier.

Sometimes I want to shave my head. I wonder if this is a sign of depression or just an indicator that I am really bad at doing my hair.

Today in an effort to exercise, I did a plank. As I was trying to hold it for sixty seconds, I looked and I could see right down my shirt to my sagging stomach, almost hitting the floor. Does your stomach almost hit the floor when you’re doing a plank? I thought to myself, this body, this body has been through so much and it still has so far to go. I thought, do I love this body? Do I love who I am? Do I love who I’m becoming? Why do I sometimes want to shave my head?

I also thought, does writing make me happy?  I’m pretty sure it does. I’m pretty sure that makes me a better person? A better Mom? A better wife? A better neighbor?

Today, after I did some planking, I ate a lot of cream cheese frosting cake from Costco. Just to fill up the holes inside. It sort of worked. And then I felt sick so it didn’t work.

Maybe what I need is to sit and drink Diet Pepsi (although I don’t like Diet Pepsi), eat chocolate and read a novel. It worked for my mom. And then I’ll get up in the morning and work my tail off. And hopefully write.

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