Thursday, August 28, 2014

Ha! Take that.

I've been blogging more than a decade, and sometimes I still sit here wondering what to write about. My friend posted a great link with questions to help with About Me pages. I thought it might be fun to answer the questions as a blog series. I've done similar before, and I always enjoy it.

Artist Statement - Part 1

1. Why do you do what you do?

I suppose this isn't about why I started writing, but about why I continue to write. It's the one area of my life where I feel at peace. It's not that I never struggle as a writer. I do. Lately I am on a veritable rollercoaster everyday. But I never question that this is what I am made to do. It feels right. I feel right when I am creating with words, whether it's a novel, a poem, or a post for this blog... Heck, sometimes, I revel in a finely crafted email reply. I still write people letters, longhand, for fun. I have been known to read the dictionary. I get excited over etymology. This is who I am.

2. How would you describe your own work?

Metaphor heavy. I love a good metaphor. I think I write poetry even when I'm writing prose. I also feel like my work is a reflection of my entire life experience, pieces of everything in a blender, spit out on paper in new form. My work is also searching. I am always using my writing to dig for answers.

3. Why did you choose the kind of materials you're currently working with?

For my purposes, this means fiction. For a long time, I thought I couldn't write fiction. I scribbled scenes but not stories. Instead, I wrote (and published) poems and essays. When I was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult, I blamed that for my inability to finish a novel. Then I read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. I read it, but I didn't act on it. It sat inside me.

Funny story: We were at a psyche office with my oldest son, back when we were trying to figure out some issues. I ended up really disliking that doctor, but something he said stuck with me. He saw my occupation on a form and asked, "How can you be a writer? You have ADHD." He was genuinely baffled. At the time, I explained that I wrote poems and essays. They didn't require a lengthy attention span. But the assumption that I couldn't do it ticked me off. Sometimes, I want to stop by his office and show him my stack of completed novel manuscripts. Ha! Take that.

Anywho, I decided to write a story for my stepdaughter for her 12th birthday. I used the Bird by Bird method, writing a scene at a time. Since I had a deadline and a purpose, I actually finished it. That was it. I was hooked. I have written quite a number of novels since then, though they are in various states of readiness. I feel good in this kind of writing. I no longer feel restless career-wise. This is it. This is my thing.

Friday, August 22, 2014

In Which I Recover (or try to)

School started 3 weeks ago. I've enjoyed a quiet house and gotten quite a bit done. However, I fully expected to be doing more. I could call and get on the sub list for the high school, but when I think about doing that, I feel like this...

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Wednesday night, while the youth were singing "Oceans," and I was thinking about my friends and the big struggles they are facing, I had an epiphany.

I'm not facing those big struggles right now.

Four years ago, I went into crisis mode. Stuff was going on with my kid and I didn't know what it was. Every time I thought I had a handle on it, something changed. Halfway through the year, I started homeschooling him. I spent the following three and a half years treading water 90% of the time. We survived it. I made the best decision for my son. He benefitted greatly and is doing well now.

But me?

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My body and brain are recovering from years of stress.

No, I am not doing as much as I could be doing. I still haven't reorganized the bookshelves in the kitchen. The hall closet hasn't been cleaned out. Yada yada yada.

Now, as if to reinforce that point for me, I'm sick. The kids brought home a cold. They coughed for about 48 hours and now they're fine. Me? I'm a mess.

So, today includes Project Runway, coffee, a good book, and my couch.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Secret Place: A Review

I am a big fraidy cat. I have to pretty much drug myself to get any sleep while my husband is out of town. I've been this way for as long as I can remember, and my mama is the same. In high school, for some ungodly reason, I got addicted to Fear Street novels, and I don't think that helped. I have had nightmares about demons for decades, and I have night terrors also.

All that to say, when Dana suggested I read In the Woods by Tana French, I was not running right out to buy it. However, Dana insisted I would love it, and 9 times out of 10, that girl is right about me and books. I read it. I was hooked. I read every novel Tana had out and then started stalking Net Galley in hopes of snagging her next one.

And I did!

I started reading The Secret Place last weekend, but Corey was out of town so I stopped until he got home. Her books don't scare me the way I thought they would, but reading about an unsolved murder while all alone in the dark didn't seem wise.

I finished yesterday.

It was every bit as good as her other books. But also different, which is another thing I appreciate about Tana's stories. Each one is very much it's own. You do not need to have read the others, but if you have read the others, you will pick up some extra atmosphere and detail. Each new story has some sliver of connection to the last. Usually, a side character from the last book becomes a main character in the next book. In this case, you get two side characters from the last book, Detective Moran and Holly Mackey.

The setting in The Secret Place is ripe for drama - hello, all girls school. It touched on the kind of friendship I dreamed about as a teen girl and also the intricate and often dangerous relationship dynamics of teen girls in cliques.

Every time I was certain I knew who did it, one tiny detail would be revealed and I'd have to question myself. By the end, I somewhat figured it out, but not entirely. That's a good mystery to me. I don't want to be totally blindsided with, "Oh, actually, that guy from chapter 1 did it, even though the story gave you NO INDICATION that was possible." A good writer leads the reader. Sometimes she leads you in the wrong direction and then draws you back, but when you get the answer, you should be able to see the trail of clues left behind you.

As usual, Tana is amazing.

And the best part?

The book starts with the popular girls being dubbed The Daleks. I laughed out loud and tweeted about it immediately. Whovians rule the world, y'all.

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Oh, and, after reading one of Tana's books, I go around saying "arse" and "bollix." You've been warned.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Currently: August Hangs

Current Books: I'm reading The Secret Place by Tana French. It comes out next month. Pre-order it. Everything she writes is golden. And that's saying something from me. I don't read her genre, but I am so glad my friend Dana convinced me to pick up Into the Woods

Current Playlist: I hit shuffle a lot lately. 

Current Shame-Inducing Guilty Pleasure: Too much time on Twitter

Current Colors: Springy colors

Current Food: We've been grilling a lot lately. Burgers, hot dogs, chicken…

Current Drink: Coffee with caramel vanilla creamer or peach soda, when I'm not drinking water

Current Favorite Favorite: gifs - I know I came late to the party. They are fun though. I am a bit addicted to them. I apologize if they show up a lot on the blog for a while.

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Current Wishlist: This bag, this sticker, this shirt

Current Needs: To start writing a new story… I function better when I am writing.

Current Triumph: I got my house cleaned last week. It looks pretty good. Minus those corners I can't stay on top of.

Current Bane-of-my-Existence: Housework. I am tired of corners. I want a round house. Every corner or angle collects dirt and cat hair. Just let me live in a giant ball, please.

Current Indulgence: I bought a new purse. I love my purple Hobo, but it is small, and since hubby bought me an iPad mini and I am now carrying Jamberry catalogues everywhere, I needed more space.

Current Mood: I'm in a good place.

Current Outfit: dark jeans, green fitted tee, black & silver sandals

Current #1 Blessing: my husband's support

Current Quote:  “sometimes something makes perfect sense, and then it's a complete mystery when you look at it the next day,” ― Dana ReinhardtHarmless

Current Photo:  ((the 11th day of this manicure with Jamberry wraps))

Title taken from:  Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Pitch Wars (Hopeful) Mentee Bio

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I have been wracking my brain trying to decide what to put in my Pitch Wars possible-mentee bio. I already have an About Me tab you can click on, so what different kinds of things can I put here?

I decided to use gifs.

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You'll be wanting to know what kind of a writer I am. Am I the kind who just wants to get published, writes to trends, etc… I'm not. I DO want to get published. A lot. I have come close to doing so, actually. So close I could taste it (with my previous book and previous agent), but if I never land a book contract, I will keep on writing. I have to. I am not a nice person when I am not writing. My mind needs stories. I need to be reading them and writing them. 

That leads us to revision. Here is how I used to think of revision…

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Then, I actually revised a book.

And the book got better.

And it was fun.

Stressful, yes, but also fun.

So, now I look at revision more like this:

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If you have poked around my blog, you've probably learned that I am a youth minister's wife. People often assume that means I write Christian fiction.

They are wrong.

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I rarely even read Christian fiction. There are a few authors I enjoy (Lisa Samson is amazing), but they are good writers, not just good Christian writers. Jesus told stories. All the time. And he didn't just hang out in the Temple being all holier than thou. 

So, yes, I love me some Jesus. I don't always love me some Christians. At least not in mob formation. And I am struggling with many issues, with what I honestly DO believe. I try to be open about that. I don't have all the answers. But, I see the good too. I see the group from my church currently working to send 100 Honduran children to school. I see the people serving at our local food pantry and clothes closet, the compassion and love they have for everyone, just like Jesus. And that's what I come back to, again and again. 

Jesus was this smart-mouthed story teller with a heart as wide as the ocean and then some. When I struggle with every other aspect of religion, I never struggle with Jesus.

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I'm not a fan of guns. School shootings scare the bajeezus out of me. So of course I decided to write a novel from inside the head of a school shooter.

I'm fun like that.

Writing helps me face my fears. 

My friend's hubby let me hold his 9mm. He talked me through ammunition and other types of guns and how my MC would pull off her crime. I also spent time at the county jail with an investigator. I sat in an interview room, held the phone in the visitor room, watched an inmate be shackled and taken to court… I emailed the oddest questions at all hours and that dear man found answers, connected me with people who could help, and never batted an eye at any of it. 

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Now, I'm ready to get to work. If you want to help, that would be…

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Check out the other mentee bios by CLICKING HERE.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Funny Scenes from Real Life

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Actual conversation with an 8th grade boy:

Him: What's that?
Me: (looking down at my Kindle Paperwhite and then back at the boy) A Kindle
Him: (eyes wide) That's the strangest looking Kindle I ever saw.
Me: That's because it's just a Kindle, not a tablet. It's for reading.
Him: Wow. (leaning over to examine the screen) It looks like a plastic book.
Me: Yes, well, it IS a plastic book.

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And to share another funny…

In church this morning, our pastor was explaining how he felt on the airplane getting ready to leave for Africa. He is a black man and had been dreaming about the trip and fellowshipping with the African people, etc… However, once on the plane, he had a bit of a panic. People were speaking other languages all around him, and he was alone and there was other stuff to freak him out. He told this whole story with a lot of animation.

My 10-year-old looked at me and said, "Well, bless his heart," with perfect Southern twang.

I definitely did high five my kid in church.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Back to School

I am late joining the gif bandwagon, but there seemed no better way to explain to you the joy of a quiet house since my kids returned to school.

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Friday, August 1, 2014


No cats harmed in the
writing of this novel.
It's my turn to play! Welcome to the #MyWritingProcess blog hop. I am following on the heels of my awesome Critique Partner, Tracie Martin. Her book is a ghost story (among other awesome things) and therefore not my usual fare, but I LOVE IT. So, there ya go. Read out of your comfort zone from time to time. You never know what you will discover.

1) What I'm working on…

I am taking a poetry class. In between book projects, I like to focus on something different than what I just finished. Someone recently described it as changing crops in the field when you are a farmer. I'm planting poetry for a bit.

My next project is forming slowly. Or a future project is forming slowly. I don't know for sure it is what I will write next. It will involve a lot of research. I can't say much about it, because I don't KNOW much about it.

2) How does my work differ from others in the genre…

It's mine. It comes from my head, my heart, my experiences and fears and passions. I've spent my whole life being told I don't think like other people, and in writing that is a very good thing. Every writer comes to the table with a different past and present. We also have read different books, watched different movies, listened to different music, etc… Therefore, different stories come out of us.

As for concrete differences, I will say poetry usually plays some part in my stories. Sometimes a very very small part, but it's there. Poetry is my first love. It shaped me as a writer.

3) Why do I write what I do…
I read all kinds of writing
books when I am writing.

I write for two reasons, generally…

I write to face my fears (mental illness, suicide, school shootings, cancer) and to put my passions into stories - to put topics that anger me into a form others can see from many angles (homelessness, the apathy of the church, statutory rape, death).

Aside from that, I write because I am a writer. I always have been. I feel more myself with paper and pen. I don't know what I think or feel until I write about my thoughts and feelings. Stories make sense to me. The worlds inside my head make sense to me. This world? The one I live in? It baffles me on a daily basis. Only in writing can I begin to find my place.

4) How does my writing process work…

For fiction, it starts slow and builds to a crescendo. I may begin with a character or a news story that ticks me off. It's different each time, but there is always one thing that grabs hold of me. With The Tornado Year, it was a small homeless community in my town. It was bulldozed. I was angry. Then a tornado wiped out a nearby community, and the two events became linked in my brain. Callie, the MC, appeared next. She started telling me about her family, and I realized she was homeless because of the tornado. I wrote a page. Later, I wrote another page. Eventually, I had a book.

Once I have a draft, I get readers. I listen to their thoughts. I re-examine my story. I revise. I edit. I revise again. I get more readers.

As for the physical process itself…

I write best at the start of the day, after coffee and breakfast. I write best in silence or with background noise that has zero to do with me (like in a coffee shop). With homeschooling, that meant locking myself in my bedroom and typing away sitting on my bed. I was constantly interrupted to referee disagreements and re-explain concepts. Luckily, I tend to write in short bursts. I work with my ADHD instead of forcing myself into someone else's mold. I know writers who can sit for hours, writing scene after scene. I rarely manage that. I write a scene, maybe two, and I feel drained. I have to reboot before I write the next scene. It was Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird that helped me. I thought I could never finish a book because of my short attention span. Then, I read Bird by Bird and gave myself permission to write a scene… and then write another scene. Eventually, the scenes made a story.

I keep poetry books by my bed.
Sometimes they spark something new.

I am tagging two people to follow me in the blog hop…

My friend, Maria, blogs at A Problem Like Maria. She and I have been talking a lot about writing and editing and all that goes with it. Plus, she doesn't write fiction, and I thought it would be fun to see how all sorts of writers do things. Those of you who read my blog regularly may recognize Maria as the fearless leader of the Middle Sisters.

Next up is Gina at This is Not Your Blog. I met Gina through some Twitter writing friends, and I liked her pretty much instantly. I love her fairy tale concepts, and look forward to a whole shelf of her books one day. Again, if you read here often, you may recognize her blog. She ran the Thinks You Can Think series a while back, and I had a poem and a scene featured there.

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