Monthly Archives: September 2012

Frivilous Friday: Swapping Seasons

I know it’s fall. Despite my confession on Wednesday that I’m unobservant, I do get that the leaves are changing and the temps are dropping. Fall is in the air. And soon, THE FALL will be on sale.

While the digital revolution has changed the way stories are shared, one author, editor and publisher holds on to the love of short stories and strives to share the magic of this unique art form. Short stories have all the same elements of a novel–characterization, plot, conflict, arc and setting–with far fewer words. A challenge for any writer, to be sure.

I am so pleased to have a short story accepted for publication in this second anthology by Elephant’s Bookshelf Press. The first was Annabelle, in SPRING FEVERS.

If you haven’t read this delightful anthology on relationships, I urge you to do so now. Quite a few of the authors found within the covers of SPRING FEVERS will be sharing another short story with readers of THE FALL.

In fact, Mindy McGinnis, whose short story First Kiss was the anchor story in SPRING FEVERS, has a debut young adult novel (Not a Drop to Drink) coming out in less than a year. Mindy is an amazing writer. Her storylines are unique, and her main characters are stong.  When I grow up, I want to be just like her–even though she’s way younger than me.

But that’s not all. Another writer friend of mine, RC Lewis, holds the anchor spot for THE FALL. Her YA novel was recently picked up by Hyperion. As in Disney Hyperion. As in, “Holy Wow!” Yeah, she’s that good.

Several more authors found within the pages of both anthologies are agented and working toward snagging that publishing contract like RC and Mindy have. In other words, there’s talent between the covers of these anthologies.

And that’s what I like about Matt Sinclair, founder and editor of Elephant’s Bookshelf Press. He’s not afraid to cultivate undiscovered talent and showcase it in a gripping, bed-side read. He’s currently working his way through the seasons by putting together a refreshing mix of short stories for lovers of all genres.

Each season has a theme with no limit to the voice of the piece (excluding erotica). The only requirement is outstanding story telling within the scope of the theme for readers of YA and above.

SPRING FEVERS is a book about relationships. But don’t think they’re all sappy love stories. They’re far from it. To get your free e-copy, head over to Amazon or Smashwords. If you’d like a paperback copy, please indulge. I have one on my nightstand and love reading a story or two every now and again.

THE FALL: TALES FROM THE APOCALYPSE (coming October 2012) is much more than zombies and war and the destruction of the Earth. It promises to be an anthology of hope, where relationships change and grow and life perseveres.

So, despite the chill in the air, or maybe because of it, you should switch seasons and cuddle up with a little SPRING FEVERS to warm your nights.

Hugs to all~

 

Writing Wednesday: In which I’m blind, stubborn or stupid!

Okay, so the revelation that I’m likely the World’s Least Observant Human Being isn’t new. If I don’t wave to you when our cars meet on the road it isn’t because I’m a snob. It’s because I don’t see you. I won’t notice your new haircut–sometimes even if you chopped off twenty-seven inches and dyed it bright pink–and don’t ask me what my kids are wearing. Heck, I don’t know what I’m wearing unless I look down to check. (Striped jammies and a fleece, for the record.)

I’m not being rude.

Sadly, however, this trait plagues me in my writing. Two separate editors in the past two weeks have begged for more description in my manuscripts. And they’re not the first ones.

  • “Give me more detail.”
  • “What does the room look like?”
  • “I don’t quite see the garden.”

I suppose this recurring mantra means I’m simply stubborn in that I refuse to accommodate the continued request for more. Except that I do try. I actually do. And when I complete a  new manuscript, I’m like, “Hey, compared to what I usually write, this stuff is drowning in visual detail.”

Inevitably, however, I hear the same-old, same-old. “What does this look like?”

To which my soul screams, “I don’t know what your imagination is showing you, but my imaginary garden is filled with bright bursts of orange, yellow and red. I mean, I said ‘the garden was abloom’, isn’t that good enough?”

As a writer, I don’t care if your garden matches mine. Feel free to plant as much pink as you want. Add a tree or two if necessary and a statue of a frog in a hammock or those crazy little fisher people with no pond under their rods. I honestly don’t care how my readers fill in the blanks, because if a detail is important, I’ll add it. If I need you to know that there’s a tree in the garden, I’ll tell you. And then you can color the leaves in to be a maple, a linden, an elm, oak, cottonwood, pine–whatever your imagination desires.

“Uhm, yeah, not good enough.” Or so I’ve heard.

Which means, maybe I am stupid. Maybe I’m incapable of understanding that everyone else doesn’t fill in the blanks as readily as I do. Or that readers like to be led to an amazing discovery step by step, flower by flower and tree by tree.

Blind, stubborn or stupid? Or maybe a bit of all three!

What writing issues plague you? What do your betas typically comment on when reading your manuscripts? And how do you fix these issues the first time around?

Curious minds want to know.

P.S. I do go back in and add detail. Just not too much. After all, I wouldn’t want anyone to start skipping passages!

 

 

MUM’s the Word: Parenting is forever…kinda

Eldest is a very level-headed, mature young man for just turning 18. Even so, has his moments of impulsive behavior. Like going off to the Renaissance Festival with my little sister. And buying a–hahum–very expensive trinket.

“But it looks cool. It is cool.”

Yes, I can appreciate his passion for medieval swords and gauntlets and throwing knives and chain mail and leather and jousting and turkey legs on a stick and, and, and…

Lord, why did I encourage him to hang with his aunt on his first week off of work and college?

Oh yeah, because I thought he would maintain the tight grip on his checkbook he’s proven to have. I guess it gets easy to assume that good kids will always make good choices. Even when history proves that great kids can let their passions override their level-headedness.

“But Dad bought…”

To which Dad said, “Yes, but I have a job and can afford to buy what I want.”

It was the classic Dad/Son headbutting moment. The one where the dad knows nothing, even if he knows everything and the kid rolls his eyes and swallows his guilt, but insists that he does have a job and can afford his newest collectible.

The easiest thing about being a parent is knowing all the dumb stuff we did. We spent our money in the wrong places and on the wrong things, hung out with the wrong kids or egged the wrong car. We were dumb and young and made poor choices on occasions. Heck, we still do, only we’re just a bit older and grayer and hopefully wiser.

Which is why we expect so much from our kids. We don’t want them to make the same mistakes we made. But the thing about parenting–really, the only true and honest thing about parenting–is that kids need to make mistakes. It’s how they learn.

It’s how we learned.

So, while we carry all the worry for our kids no matter their ages, at some point we have to sit back and let them experience life for themselves. We have to allow them to make mistakes. All the dumb mistakes in the world. Just not the life-changing ones.

And that’s what I’ve learned most about raising kids. There are two kinds of mistakes. The dumb ones and the earth-shaking ones. Eldest went to the faire. He bought a sword for more money than he should have. He didn’t get anyone pregnant, and he didn’t drink and drive. His mistake is merely dumb.

Or not. Only time will tell if he actually thought out his money situation and felt he could handle the burden of spending the money the way he did. Heck, he lives on campus with a meal plan. Worst case scenario is he can’t go to Buffalo Wild Wings until spring. He certainly won’t starve and he has a roof over his head.

As much as I’d love to control his every move under the advisement of my over-protective-mom-gene, I’m not going to. I’ll have to settle for parenting from afar.

Are you a helicopter-parent, or do you allow your kids to mess up and learn from it? What tips do you have for knowing when to step in and enforce the family law? When is it okay to give a bit more freedom than you otherwise want to?

Curious minds want to know.

Frivolous Friday: Greasing Palms…er, Pans

So, this morning I made muffins. No matter how many tried-and-true methods and products I’ve used, my muffins always stick tot he pan. Always. I buy good pans. Sticky. I buy “the best on the market” oils and greases and sprays. Sticky.

Let me tell you, it gets frustrating to always have chewed-on looking muffins.

Bad looking muffins=new product or method.

Finally, I found a cake grease that actually works. If I use a lot of it. Which I didn’t for two of my poor muffins today. And it got me thinking that in life, we are always greasing the way for things to go smoothly.

Some call it networking and some call it…well, this is a family friendly blog, so I won’t quite go there. But the point is the same. You behave a certain way, or do certain favors to gain a foothold in this tenuous thing called life.

As parents, we may suck up to other parents so our kids get invited to the coveted birthday party of the season or play on a specific baseball team or start as quarterback. As employees, we may butter-up our bosses to get that promotion. Students brown-nose while politicians glad-hand.

We’re all guilty on some level of playing the greasy-palm game.

Writers, you are too. Ooops, we are. It’s how we make ourselves marketable. We may glom onto the twitter queen in hopes of garnering half her followers just by association. Or, we schmooze at conferences when we’d rather poke our eyes out with a sharp stick.

Life is greasy, and sometimes those who get the dirtiest get ahead.

Alas, however, the case cannot be said for my poor muffins. My poor sad muffins who now taste like grease instead of poppy seed, and fill my hands with a slimy residue I can’t get rid of.

I guess greasing palms and pans can have some serious consequences, too.

So, what do you think? Have you greased any palms lately to get ahead in your life? If so, did it work? Has a greasy-palm plan backfired for you? Or, are you the hard-working, quiet muffin that looks a little rougher for the wear, but is really delicious inside?

And what, pray tell, do you use to get your muffins out of the pan without altering their inherent goodness?!?!?!

Curious minds want to know.

Writer Wednesday: Visually Impaired Awesomeness

Yesterday I had the pleasure of helping our elementary school with vision and hearing screening. You know, the time when you stand ten feet back and squint at the chart with your eye covered?

While the majority of the kindergarten and first graders had perfect vision and could rattle off the letters without even blinking–literally, there was one kid who didn’t blink the whole time he spouted off the letters–a few struggled to read even the giant letters at the top.

They would lean to the side, peak around the stick or squint really hard to try to get the letters into focus.

Books are no different. Many of them are formulaic. insert new character name here. Add a dash of new hair color and give the MC a cat instead of a dog. Boy meets girl. Girl likes boy. Best friend butts in…yada, yada, yada. Throw in a bully, and we’re good to go.

But every once in a while, a book comes along that appears fresh and new and exciting and never before read.

I picture two kinds of writers in the above scenarios.

  1. The ones with perfect vision who whip out formulaic novels without blinking an eye, and
  2. Those who squint and twist and lean just enough to see things in a different way.

What kind of writer are you? How do you find unique ways to look at your world? Better yet, how do you translate that into a novel novel?

Readers, what books took you by surprise with their originality?

Curious minds want to know!

pS. Spell check hates that I used novel twice in a row! Spell check meet novel the Adjective and novel the Noun.

MUM’s The Word: Reinforcing Bad Behavior

The other day, I arrived home just in time to see the garbage truck pull up to the house. Our youngest lab stood at the end of the driveway and barked her tail off at the sanitation specialist (I think that’s PC!). He promptly chucked a dog biscuit into the yard. As soon as Bailey took off after it, he went about his business of collecting our trash.

I was furious.

I mean, I get that he doesn’t want to be attacked by vicious, slobbery dogs all day long, but seriously, he just compounded his problem 100 fold.

He absolutely reinforced to her that standing her ground and barking at him earned her a treat. A treat! As in, “Good dog. Please bark at me again, and I’ll give you another yummy biscuit.”

Yeesh! No wonder beating her to keep her quiet doesn’t work. Okay, I don’t really beat her, but I do hold her muzzle and sternly tell her no. Though for her, this method of behavior modification isn’t nearly as fun as the dog treat from the sanitation worker. Nor is it nearly as effective.

I don’t think you’ll be surprised to learn that we send our kids the exact same kind of mixed messages. (Or our significant others, too, for that matter.) We are so apt to respond to the moment that we fail to keep focused on our long-term goals. In the end, we can be met with disasterous results.

The hardest part often comes in when someone else reinforces a behavior we don’t agree with. Every home and every setting has a different set of rules. Daycare, school, grandparents and church might all have different expectations that clash with those we want to instill in our children.

Quick tip for garbage men everywhere: Don’t give the dog a bone until it sits nicely. Seriously. It wouldn’t take but a few times of withholding the bone and making a dog sit before he’d plop his butt down the second your truck rumbled up the road. Imagine how much more pleasurable that would be?

Same with you, parents and teachers and caregivers and coaches. Think beyond the moment. Determine how you want your charges to act and enforce those behaviors instead of the other way around. And don’t forget to consider the ramifications of acting on short term rewards. It may not be in your best interest for the long run.

Which kid behaviors drive you crazy, and how do you handle it? How do you enforce good behavior? How do you deal with bad behavior reinforced by others? Do the children in your life have different rules you must help them navigate? If so, your examples would be appreciated.

Bonus writer question: Can we, as writers, encourage bad habits/behaviors of other writers in the communities we frequent? If so, how do we combat this tendency?

Curious minds want to know.

Frivolous Friday: Balancing Writing and Parenting Schedules

I’m intuitive about a lot of things. Child rearing being one. It doesn’t mean I’m great at it. It simply means I get the big picture with relative ease. Yet there are other things I don’t get at all. Obvious things that everyone else in the universe seems to inherently understand.

This is fine as long as I remain blissfully unaware of my ignorance. Yet the moment realization crystallizes and I can see with the utmost clarity that I have totally missed the boat that everyone else in the universe is on, I feel pretty sheepish.

Like infants, writers need a schedule to keep themselves on track. I do fairly well with that as a whole. However, as I transform my blog to include all my passions, I finally figured out I needed a blogging schedule as well.

Duh, right?

Well, sometimes we’re slow on the uptake…or, at least, I am. So here’s what’s in store for you as I balance the things in my bloggerly life:

  • Mash Up Mondays (aka MUM): these days will be filled with the ins and outs of motherhood and marriage.
  • Writing Wednesdays: yep, the same great info on writing with the same quirky anecdotes from my life. It’s how I roll.
  • Frivolous Fridays: exactly how it sounds. Whatever tickles my fancy in terms of life, literature and liberty. Yeah, liberty. As in the things I feel passionate about like literacy, bullying, etc.

So there you have it. I’m moving on from infancy and heading toward toddlership. I’m trying to catch up with that boat before it completely leaves home port!

How do you handle those times your slow on the uptake? Do you find that realizing things a little too late is the end or a new beginning?

Curious minds want to know.

Confession Time: Rebuilding My Brand

I hate to publicly admit my failures, but I’m going to do just that, right here for all the world to read.

When I started Words from the Woods, it was my private space. A place where I could go as a wanna be writer to connect with other wanna be writers ina way that didn’t intersect with my real life. And I did.

But slowly, more and more of me came out in my posts, and readers began telling me, “I read your blog to keep up with your family.” Or, “I love your insights into kids and relationships.” Over time, I’ve found myself catering to two vastly different readerships:

  1. Those seeking posts on my quirky take on family dynamics, marriage, child-rearing and my unique soap box issues. Sure they enjoy the bits about the books I read, and more than a handful like to keep tabs on my writing. But, and here’s my public failure announcement, I didn’t start blogging with you in mind.
  2. The people I initially blogged for were those seeking writing tips. Guess what? There are a thousand and one aspiring writer blogs (times infinity). In fact, I blog at a collective with that as the sole purpose. I’m also very active at AgentQuery Connect where, as a moderator, I provide real-time tips to writers nearly every day. Seems a little redundant, actually, to expend the energy regurgitating the information here. Which is likely why I haven’t been blogging as much recently. (Public failure announcement number two.)

All this got me thinking that it’s time I repurpose my blog. My future audience of book buyers is not writers themselves. Well, actually some are, but, as a whole, my future audience is parents. Parents and grandparents, or aunts and uncles, or godmothers and godfathers or teachers and librarians who are looking for WHY my books should be on their shelves. Not writers. Not unless you also have a child or twenty in your life that you wish to purchase books for.

I also happen to like talking about the things near and dear to my heart, like child-rearing, education, literacy, marriage, bullying and friendship. I’m a speech coach, a mother, a volunteer, a wife and a writer. I advocate for at-risk kids (the traditional kinds and the kinds we seldom consider) and do freelance writing on the side. Someday I want to have my books published and in the hands of the children you love. It is my ultimate goal.

But in the meantime, these other passions are also a part of who I am, and they impact why I write the things I do. These are the focus of my new journey in blogging.

Over the next week or so, you’ll see some changes to my blog as I begin rebuilding my brand. Not as a whimsical walk with an aspiring writer, but more so as a whimsical walk through the life of a parent writer.

I hope you stick around to see where this takes me. Personally, I’m both thrilled and terrified!

If there’s anything you personally would like to see me do more of (or not at all) let me know. Thanks for your support up ’til now and hopefully through this and beyond.

Hugs~

PS. I’ll completely understand if I some of you abandon this new brand. Just know you can always follow my writing words of wisdom at From The Write Angle or on AgentQuery Connect.

Licking the Air

I don’t want to say my dog is retarded, but I think she might be. Every morning when Dear Hubby and I enjoy our coffee together, she licks the air. She’s a hunting dog, and her trainer said she has an amazing nose–one of the best he’s ever seen. Apparently, it’s so amazing she can taste our coffee fumes. Someday I’ll capture this on video and amuse the entire world with her quirk.

This morning, I’m sipping vanilla hazelnut coffee, which seems to be her favorite. Tasting the air appears to be a near-super power for her, and she’s been licking so hard for the last ten minutes her nose is starting to chafe.

Lick. Lick. Lick. Lick. Whine.

I think she whines out of frustration over not being able to fully satisfy her desires by tasting the air. I imagine it’s a bit like letting a chocoholic lick a chocolate silk pie and leaving it right in front of him. Unfair and frustrating.

Just like writers can feel when their hard work is denied a place in the publishing realm over and over and over again. We can just barely taste the air, but we can’t quite get full. Ugh.

So, what are your near-super powers when it comes to writing? What aspect of storytelling do you rock at? Is your nose getting chafed yet, or are you still able to stand up against the frustration that is the publishing arena? Are you ready to knock over the coffee mug or dive into the silk pie?

Curious minds want to know!

 

BRAVE the Unknown

This morning, my Dear Daughter and her Awesome Speechie Friend (aka, ASF) embarked on a BRAVE new journey.

They have spent the past few weeks creating an anti-bullying program for one of our elementary school classes. Only one, because a certain amount of research is going into this program to help them better understand the impact of teaching methods on behavior modification.

They have researched bullying and the way we learn. They have discussed deeply what they feel is the most beneficial message to spread to youngsters in regards to peer interactions. They put together a presentation and rallied support from teachers and principals.

They are BRAVE. Through their program, they will be Building Relationships Against Violence Everywhere. Their mission statement is clear. Their goals for the year extensive and measurable. They are committed to creating a program for the highest risk demographics for bullying: children in grades 3-6.

They are finalizing their website, which should be online in the next week or so. This site will be a resource for parents, teachers and students to help them build relationships based on respect. When it’s live, I’ll link to it for you.

I’m very proud of DD and her ASF, even as I’m sad as to how this program came about. Bullying is prevalent and damaging. It’s an issue nearly every child has to deal with on some level. It’s often under-addressed or swept under the rug by parents and educators who aren’t quite sure how to deal with certain behaviors.

I can only hope their research will indicate a new model of programming that will help our school district and community get a better grasp on the bullying that has almost become an acceptable and expected part of childhood.

BRAVE the unknown. Take a chance and make a difference.

 How about you, dear readers? How is the bullying in  your community? Does your school have a solid anti-bullying program in place? If so, have you seen a difference? If not, are you interested in starting one?

Curious minds want to know.