Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Thursday's Children - A First Taste of Adventure

I've been struggling with what to write about this week.  For some reason I'm not feeling very wordy, or poetic, or thoughtful.  But then I saw a movie advertisement online and inspiration hit!


When you're a child, a towel tied around a your neck can become a cape that helps you fly or a bike ride through a cemetery at night becomes a harrowing escape from ghosts.  But, where do those ideas come from?  Would a child be afraid of riding her bike through the cemetery if she hadn't read or heard something like that before?  I don't know.  But, I do know that what we read informs our imagination and leads us on adventures.  So, what was your first taste of adventure?

I read a lot as a child (and still do).  I read a wide range of books, everything from The Babysitter's Club to books by Laura Ingalls Wilder and one of my all time favorites, Little Women.

But when I was six, on the nights when he didn't have class, my dad read The Hobbit to me as my bedtime story.  I can't imagine a scenario where that book wouldn't plant ideas of adventure in a reader's mind.  Now, did I remember every detail of the story from when my dad read it to me?  No.  I was six.  And there were lots of extraneous conversations involved about "reading it right!"  My dad sorely wanted to do all the voices and I wouldn't let him; I was a willful child.

But I digress.

When the book was finished and I started reading more and more on my own, I may not have remembered all of the details, but I remembered a group of companions traveling in order to recapture their homeland.  I remembered hobbits, who seemed to live wonderful lives in their houses with the round doors and fully stocked kitchens.  I remembered a wizard dressed in gray who provided me my first taste of magic; something I still enjoy reading and writing about to this day.

But most of all, I remembered the adventure.  The travel to distant lands, and the encounters with new people and species.  I remembered a man named Bilbo who went against the nature of a hobbit and stepped outside his round front door and went on a adventure.  How his life changed with that one decision!  And it had a lasting impact on him, and his family (although I wouldn't know about Frodo until years later).  Just knowing that books like this existed made me want to keep reading so I could follow more characters on their journeys; and it inspired me to have journeys of my own.

So, I guess my question is this.  What was your first taste of adventure?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thursday's Children - Inspiration

This is my first Thursday's Children post, so I'm going to start off slow.  Below are a few pictures that are helping to inspire my current project.  The majority of it takes place in Grand Haven and the element of water plays heavily into it.  I've also taken to listening to calming wave sounds as I write, it seems to help me get in the right mood to get inside my main character's head.  Water is extremely important to her family and they settled in Grand Haven because of that.

The first two photos show the Grand Haven lighthouse which has a role in the book.  The next picture shows a beautiful beach and while it isn't from Grand Haven (or even Michigan actually), it just has a certain feel to it that relates to my main character.  The last picture somehow says power and peace to me at the same time, which is what my main character feels when she is near or on the water. It quiets her mind and gives her strength.
The Grand Haven Lighthouse

It's odd, it wasn't until writing this post that I realized something about myself and this project.  This book is, or I hope will be, the first in a four book series.  All four books revolve around the four main elements (water, fire, earth, and air) with a character devoted to each.  The true main character of the series is my "water" character.  She is a high school girl from West Michigan who finds solace in the water.  Without even realizing it, I picked for her the same element I would pick for myself.  The water is someplace I have always felt at home, it invigorates me and stirs my imagination.  I'm hoping this means this project was meant to be and that I'm on the right track.  For now, when I get stuck, I'll think of water and imagine slicing through the waves on a sailboat.  Maybe that will help me get where I'm trying to go.

A Letter to Teenage Me

I follow a blog called Chatting at the Sky.  The author of that blog, Emily Freeman, recently had a book released (

As part of that release, she wrote a letter to her teenage self and has asked others to do the same. So, I thought, why not?

It was harder than I thought, but here it is; a letter to teenage me.

Dear Me at 16:

Lighten up.  People are going to tell you this your whole life and it will annoy you pretty much every time someone says it, but it’s true.  You need to lighten up.  I’m not saying never be serious, because seriousness has its place.  But so does fun, and wackiness….just be a little bit goofy.  So what if someone laughs, it might be because they actually think you’re funny.  You’re future husband sure does.

And that’s another thing.  You will get married to a wonderful guy you who loves you and makes you happy.  I know things aren’t great now; not having a boyfriend in high school seems like a catastrophe.  It’s not.  I’m not trying to be harsh, but I am trying a little tough love, you could use it.

In a couple years you’re going to go to college.  Don’t sell yourself short.  If you want to go to a big name school, apply.  Just see what happens.  You might get in, but then again you might not.  Maybe it will be expensive, but you’ll figure it out.  And, find what you really want to do and do that.  Don’t do something just because you know it will pay the bills.  There’s more to life than paying the bills.  Do something that will make you happy.  Even if that means struggling to be a writer and having to work jobs that aren’t so much fun in the meantime.  Stick to it.

Talk to your brother.  He lives in Ann Arbor now and is only a couple of hours away.  In a few years he’s going to move to Seattle and it will just be that much harder to build a relationship with him.  Start now when he’s close enough you can go see him on your own.  Take advantage of that and try to come out of your shell a little bit.  He’s your brother, who cares what he thinks (or what his girlfriend thinks).

Oh, and one last thing, the clothes.  I know you like to hide in baggy clothes bought in the men’s section, but just try something a little more feminine.  You might be surprised at how it makes you feel (and look).

Things are rough right now, I know.  But stick out it and things will get better.  You will meet some great friends in college and at your job during college.  Stay in touch with them.  And when someone you sort of know asks you if want to go on a blind date with this guy who’s maybe related to your best friend’s husband’s sister’s boyfriend, go for it.  You’ll be glad you did.  But wear better shoes on your second date.

You at 32

Writing is not for the Faint of Heart

You know that saying, "faint heart never won fair maiden?" Well, faint heart never wrote a book as far as I'm concerned.

Lately my writing has not been going well. I can’t seem to find the motivation to write, and when I do sit down to write, the words won’t flow. I am forever hearing authors say they write because they can’t NOT write. It’s always in the back of their minds, their fingers itch to get to the keyboard, and they ignore everything else in the world to do this one thing.

What if I’m not like that?

Does that mean I’m not a writer?

Or that I shouldn’t want to be a writer?

I know I want to be a writer, for a number of reasons. I want to give young adult readers more options of well written, thought provoking books. I was (and still am) a huge reader and I want to encourage kids to read. It seems to be lost on so many these days.

I also want to be a writer because I have these stories in my mind that won’t go away. I figure the best way to exorcise them is to get them down on paper. Or on a simulated piece of paper on my computer screen. I’ve had some of these ideas for years, characters and scenes that cycle endlessly. I either need to write them down or talk to a professional because I’m hearing voices. Probably both.

I enjoy writing, I really do. Even though there are many times I can’t make myself sit down in front of the computer, I do like to write. I blame my laziness on a lot of things. I have a full time job. I sit in front of a computer for nine hours a day, why in the world do I want to do that when I get home? I feel guilty abandoning my husband in the evenings when it’s the only time we see other. I could list a million more, but they are all just excuses.

I want to be a writer, in part, because I want the lifestyle. I know being a writer is not easy, I know it’s stressful and you have to do things you don’t want to do and there are deadlines and all of that. But, I still want the lifestyle, the relative freedom to work from a different place every day if I want to and to work in yoga pants if I feel like it. Trust me, I would feel like it.

But at the same time, I’m completely terrified to have any one read anything I’ve written. That’s a problem, a huge one, I get that. See, I like to think that if I can get something to the publishing stage, it will have been read, reviewed, and edited by enough people that the terrible first draft will be hidden and no one will know how bad at this I actually I am. But, before it gets to that stage, a bunch of people have to read it and tell me everything that is wrong with it and what I should do differently. One of my biggest fears is looking stupid in front of other people, and that’s basically what I’m going to be doing. I’m going to ask other people to tell me everything I did wrong in this manuscript. It’s terrifying, and at the moment it’s crippling. So far, I’ve had exactly two people read a sample of my writing and both times I thought I was going to be sick from the nerves.

What I’m most afraid of is someone telling me I shouldn’t even dream of doing this because I’m that bad at it. That would be devastating. This has been a huge dream of mine for a long time.

I know I need to just get that first draft down on paper. That’s the first hurdle. I have a plot, I have a fairly detailed outline, and I know exactly what is supposed to happen at each stage in the book. But the words just won’t come.
My goal over this long holiday weekend is to make significant progress on my first draft. I need to just sit down and write whatever comes to mind, the revisions come later. Just breathe...and write.

How I Fell in Love with Books

I honestly can’t remember the moment in which I first fell in love with books.  But, I do know that for as long as I can remember, they have been a part of my world; many times the best part.  When I was young I read, or had read to me, the obligatory children’s books.  My favorites were always the Little Monster books by Mercer Mayer (which I think are called the Little Critter books now).

And then when I was six, my dad read the Hobbit to me as my bedtime story, a few pages before bed on the nights he didn’t have class.  I remember he wanted to do all the voices for the characters and I just kept telling him to “read it right!”  I was a willful child.  But, the memory of having that book read to me stuck with me, and I know that in some part it fueled my desire to keep reading.

The first book that I remember reading that had a significant impact on me was Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.  I think I was in third grade the first time I read it and to this day it is still one of my favorite books.  I read it probably every other year.  And getting to visit Concord, MA and actually walk through Orchard House was like a pilgrimage for me.  There was just something about getting to see inside the lives of these four girls (and their family) that drew me in.  They all had such different personalities, yet they complimented each other well and loved each other no matter what; even when Amy threw Jo’s manuscript in the fire out of spite.

Another book I fell in love with at an early age was To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  When I was growing up my dad had bookshelves full of everything from science fiction to historical fiction to murder mysteries.  I used to spend hours looking at the books and the covers, fascinated by them.  It was this hobby that led me to certain books earlier than might be the norm, and To Kill a Mockingbird was one of those.  (On a related note, the movie is also one of my favorites – if you haven’t seen it, go watch it.)  One of the aspects that drew me into this book was the setting.  A large portion of my family is from, and still lives in, the South.  So, when Scout described certain feelings or customs I knew what she meant.  The deference paid to those considered ‘elders’ is more prominent in the South.  And those lazy summer days where you can’t possible do anything in the heat and humidity, I had experienced those, too.  So to me, it was like reading about a place I had spent time almost every summer for as long as I could remember.

I also read less literary, I guess would be the term, books growing up.  I devoured Nancy Drew mysteries (both the original and the new series) along with the Babysitter’s Club books and horror stories by R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike.

I was a voracious reader all through high school, and college, and I still am today.  There is just a kind of joy when you immerse yourself in a book and forget everything that is going on around you.  My poor husband as endured many evenings where the only response he can get out of me is uh-huh or what?  Really, he should know better by now than to talk to me when I’m reading.  :)

I think this love of books from a young age and throughout my ‘growing up’ years is one of the reasons I am so drawn to writing YA.  I loved a good book and I couldn’t wait for the next one in a series to come out, I spent so much of my allowance on books I didn’t have money for much else.  (Still true today, by the way.)  I want to give young adults a good book to read, I want to give them something to anticipate that brings them happiness, and I want to encourage them to be readers for the rest of their life.  Sure, you read in school because you have to.  But, to me, there is no greater joy than finding a book you love not because you had to read it, but because you chose it out of the millions of options available.  This is why I write.  I hope that one day, a young girl (or boy) will fall in love with one of my books and decide to become a reader for life.  I think life is all the better for it.

Time to face the

I’m getting whiplash from all the changes going on around me lately.  Most of them are out of my control, some of them are very personal to others, and some of them (I’m hoping) will lead me down a positive road of changes.  Despite that last fact…ENOUGH already!  I know change is supposed to be good and can lead to great new opportunities, but can things please the stay the same for five freaking minutes?!

One change I’ve implemented myself was a tough decision to make, but I hope it will be worth it in the long run.  When I finished my Master’s degree in May 2010, I started taking violin lessons.  I’ve always wanted to learn to play the violin and ever since I was told in 5th grade that I didn’t have the ear for it (not that I’m still bitter about that, not at all), I’ve listened wistfully to violin music wishing I could do that.  Okay, maybe I didn’t listen wistfully when I was in 5th grade, but definitely when I was in my 20’s.  So, after I finished school I decided, I’m an adult, if I want to learn to play the violin, I damn well can!  So I started taking lessons.  Well, this week I decided to stop.  I’m stopping for sure for the rest of the summer, I’m not sure if I’ll restart in the fall or not.  It got to the point where it wasn’t fun anymore.  All I did was stress about how I didn’t practice enough, didn’t want to practice, and how much I was going to suck when it came time for my weekly lesson.  That is not fun.  It got to the point where it was just an obligation.  I don’t need any more obligations in my life.  I’m hoping this change (while minor) will help relieve some of my stress and free up some time for me to do other things I want to do, instead of being paralyzed into inaction by worrying over other things I ‘should’ be doing.

I hate the word ‘should’ by the way.  It makes me feel like a slacker.

That’s about the only recent change that is under my control.  Things are changing at work, for better or worse I don’t know at this point, but I have absolutely no control over those changes.  They are stressing me out, more because of the unknown and uncertainty in the future.

Things are changing in my personal life.  The changes don’t affect me directly per se, but they affect those around me and I wish I could help in some way, but there’s really nothing I can do except be a sympathetic ear.

The changes are overwhelming, there are too many at once and I honestly don’t know what to do about most of them.  I’m going to try to throw my overactive brain into a more productive environment and finally finish my outline in the next week so I can get back to writing.  I’m tired of outlining; I want to see forward progression on the manuscript.  (Not the best attitude I know, but that’s where I am right now.)

But, for better or worse, I’m going to embrace the changes and let them take me where they may.  Who knows where I’ll be in a year…and how many more changes I’ll go through before then.

Finally, a Writer's Group!

I went to my first writer’s group meeting on Saturday and I am so excited I can’t wait until the meeting next month.  The group meets once a month at a restaurant in GR and they bring a speaker that either talks about the industry, the craft, or a topic that can help writers in their research.  This month it was a presentation by Rick from Silver Bullet Firearms, to help people with all those pesky questions like:
-          What does semi-automatic mean?
-          What’s the difference between a clip and a magazine?
-          Where does someone go to find the “Black Market?”  (For the record, Rick didn’t know the answer to this, but it’s a  good question nonetheless.)

It was a great presentation and while it doesn’t pertain to my current project, I picked up enough details to at least have an idea on basics should I need them in the future.  I think I know the right questions to ask now, anyway.
The group – Grand Rapids Region Writers Group – is a diverse mix of people.  There are a number of genres represented and writers in every stage imaginable.  Meeting new people is not something I’m very comfortable with, so I can’t say I ‘met’ everyone there, but I did get to talk to a couple of people that were sitting near me and they were incredibly nice.  It’s really just comforting to know that there are people out there like me, people who think in stories and constantly have ideas running through their heads.  People that have day jobs but still find time to write, and make it a priority for themselves.  And, it was comforting to find a group of people like this in GR, not in New York or some other big city. 

They have a mentor program once you become a member, they can help you match you up with another member to give you advice and critiques on your work.  I’m not sure if I’m ready for that stage yet, but I like knowing the option is there. 

All in all I think this is going to be great for me.  Usually when people know I write or ask me about it, I feel like a phony…a poser.  I’m not a ‘real’ writer, I couldn’t possibly be, I’m just some delusional person who thinks in plot lines and character descriptions; the stories in my head are usually much more interesting than what is going on around me.  But this group will ask about my writing and understand where I’m coming from.  We may not have the same motivations or processes or backgrounds, but we all want to get to the same place.  We want to be Writers.

Think Before You Write

So, I’ve put my writing on hold.  Sort of.  Not really on hold, but I’m taking a few steps back.  I just finished reading Outlining Your Novel:  Map Your Way to Success  by K.M. Weiland.  And I have to say, before reading her book; I was a no-outline kind of person.  Sure I jotted down ideas, came up with a basic synopsis for my book, and knew what the ending as going to be.  I even put a fair amount of thought into the characters and the back story.  But then I started writing and I got through the prologue and about half of the first chapter only to realize I didn’t really know where I was going.  I know the overall story, but I don’t know the all the steps to get there.

I kind of picture it in my head like this; there is really big staircase in front of me, one of those ones that curves around and has landings on every floor.  In my story, I know the landings, but I don’t know the individual steps I have to climb on to get to the landings. 

So, after reading the book (which went quickly – it’s about 175 pages), I’ve decide to go back to the outlining stage.  I’m going start at the beginning of her book and going chapter by chapter and following her advice on creating a detailed outline.  I’m not sure I want to call it an outline because that brings to mind all sorts of scary Roman numerals and parentheses, but you get the gist.  It may be a little time consuming, which is one of the reasons I have avoided an in depth outline in the past.  But I think it will be worth it in the long run.  I think it will help with the actual writing and I think it will help in the crafting of the story; it will be that much better for it.
We’ll see after I get through the exercise if I feel the same way, but I’m thinking I will.  In fact, I think I will be completely pro-outline.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Practicality and How it Shaped My Life

Anyone who knows me knows that I am, by nature, a fairly practical person.  Sure, I have my crazy moments.  I fly off the deep end and can be totally neurotic about some things.  But when it comes to the big picture of life, I’m as practical as they come.  I went to a good four year college right out of high school, majored in a Business related subject and even worked for a bank for six years.  Then I went back to school and got my Master’s degree in Accounting.  What is more practical than accounting?  It brings to mind adding machines, spreadsheets, and black plastic frame eye glasses.  Yes, I know.  I love spreadsheets, I have black plastic frame eye glasses and I’m fairly attached to my adding machine.  But, do I want that to dictate the rest of my life?  The answer is a resounding NO!

I look at people who took chances in their lives and I’m envious.  My older brother, for instance, moved out to Seattle without a job or a place to live.  A decade later and he’s thriving there.  He’s part of something he loves (shameless plug – check out and he has a good life out there.  I, on the other hand, took the practical route and stayed in the area where I grew up, went to school here, and majored in accounting.  You can’t get much more practical or safe than that.  And, to be honest, I’m not happy with my choices; well, not all of my choices.  I do love my husband and I know if I had moved away when I originally thought about it I wouldn’t have met him.  So, some good has come from taking the road more traveled. 

But, I’m ready for that time of my life to be done; that practical, all planned out time.  Unfortunately, I’m so entrenched in it; I don’t know how to make a change any more.  I have a house, cars, bills - things that require money and steady income.  So, here I am going about my day to day life, not entirely happy and not sure how to fix it.  I know what I want to do.  I want to write, professionally.  I want to be published and I want to be good enough at it that I can make a living.  I don’t want to be a millionaire, I’m not looking to be the next big thing in the world of literature, I just want to make enough to be able to quit my day job, so to speak.  I want to be successful enough that I can write full-time and live the kind of life I want to live.  I hate working in a cubicle and shuttling myself back and forth to work every day like a hamster on a wheel.  I want to work from home and surround myself with my characters and my worlds.  In my head, saying things like that sounds cheesy and I don’t usually say them to anyone.  I don’t want to give people the opportunity to tell me I’m not good enough, that they can’t see my being a writer, or that only a few people make it and I can’t possibly be one of them.  People don’t see me as this type of person; they see me as what I currently am. 

So, I’m starting to take steps to break out of my practical mold.  I’m going to attend the next meeting of a writer’s group in GR.  I’m going to meet other writers; quite a few published, and learn everything I can from them so that I can hopefully take a step in that direction.  I’ve started following a number of blogs of writers I like, I’ve been reading every piece of advice they give about writing and their processes.  I know I have to develop my own process, but I’m feeling so mired and overwhelmed by the thought of writing a whole book that I can’t seem to get going.  I have an idea, I’ve been told it’s a great idea.  I have the background, I have timelines, I have plot lines and character descriptions…but I can’t seem to get past that.  I keep telling myself I need to write a detailed outline because I’ve heard so many people say they can’t write without one.  I can’t seem to get past the first chapter in an outline, it seems redundant to me.  I’d rather just write.

I have been advised, instructed, really flat out told….just get it down on paper!  I know this.  Get the ideas out, get the story written; embellishments and corrections come in the editing process.  But this is part of the practical side of my nature.  If I’m going to write it, I want it to be great the first time through.  That’s a lot to ask from a seasoned author, let alone someone who is trying to get through their first book.

So what is the point of this post?  I think the point is to tell my practical side to sit down and shut the hell up so I can get this story out on paper.  I need to silence my inner critic and not listen to the little voice in my head saying, “You can’t do this, you’re not good enough, you’re not a writer.”  I need to tell myself it’s okay to stay up until 2 am writing if I’m in the mood and not worry about the fact that I have to go to work the next day.  I need to just get the story down on paper and then worry about fleshing it out.  I need to abandon the practical side of me, just for a little while every day, so I can make progress. 

My goal for today through Sunday (the next six days) is to write at least 500 words a day (no averaging!).  That doesn’t seem a like a lot, but it’s a start.  No matter how tired or un-motivated I am, 500 words.  So, here we go…

The Beginning

So I'm going to try this blogging thing.  I'm hoping it will be a kick in the ass to get myself writing on a regular basis, that's really my goal.  You'll find a little bit of everything here; book reviews, new recipes, my writing progress, and really anything that comes to mind.  I hope you'll come back from time to time and see what's going on in my world.