From Adults to Teens and Everything In Between

From Adults to Teens and Everything In Between

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Reading, Writing, & 'Rithmetic

Here's a simple math formula for all us writers out there:

Better Story Telling = Writing + Reading2

Just as deep space travel depends on the relationship of energy to the mass of an object times the speed of light squared (e=mc2 for all those not familiar with Einstein's theory of relativity), being a great writer also depends on universal principles. In fact, the difference between a hobby writer and a great story teller is very similar to the difference between an amateur astronomer and, say, Galileo Galilei. One enjoys spending a couple of hours a week using his instrument to scan the sky and, occasionally, happens upon something interesting. The other completely immerses himself in his field, applying what he already knows to come up with new ideas that completely change how we think about ourselves and our universe.

Nicolas Copernicus studied the pioneering works of Aristarchus before developing his own revolutionary views on heliocentrism. Isaac Newton often pondered the moon's orbit around the Earth while gazing from his bedroom window at apples falling from a tree in his mother's garden (contrary to so many cartoon stories, he was not struck in the head). In fiction, Doctor Victor Frankenstein pored through books, spending years in laboratory research before assembling his fateful beast.

The point is this: in order to be better writers, we need to be better readers. That means reading...a lot! A couple of years ago, I sat down at my computer with a burning desire to write science fiction. Needless to say, I'm still trying to finish the same story. I realized one of my biggest obstacles was the fact I was trying to write science fiction, but it had been years since I had actually read any science fiction. I was out of practice, out of vocabulary, out of style, out of research, out of context. I was trying to write the science fiction I remembered as a kid without realizing that science fiction had progressed and surpassed everything I remembered.

As the year 2012 rolled around, I made a commitment to myself and to my writing. I made a list of books I wanted to read this year and use the opportunity they afforded me to study the craft of published writers in my genre. I wanted to learn how they wrote, how they captured my imagination, how they allowed me to visualize the worlds they created, how they made me keep turning pages long into the night when I should be sleeping, how they expressed the messages they felt needed to be told about humanity and the fate of our world.

My goal was twelve books, one for each month, with a promise that I would learn from the best and the worst. Even if I didn't like a book, I would read it and finish it and learn why I didn't like it, making mental notes about what worked and--just as importantly--what didn't so I wouldn't make the same mistakes.

So the key to good writing is good reading and reading a lot, which is why reading gets an exponential square in the equation above. We're just ending the first quarter of the year, and I've already read my twelve novels for the year. Here's the list:

Foundation's Edge by Isaac Asimov
House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
The Atlantis Code by Charles Brokaw
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Changelings by Anne McCaffrey
Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke
A Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein
The Bradbury Report by Steven Polansky
War of the Worlds by HG Wells
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Daniel X by James Patterson
The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Granted, most of these were in audiobook format during my daily commute to and from work. But the format doesn't matter. And I'm not stopping with just these twelve. I've discovered that listening to audio books is by far preferable to hearing Adele lament for the bazillionth time about love lost. Think about it, how many times can you really hear the same song over and over again before you tire of hearing it? And I don't miss in any way all the talk and commercials on the radio.

It was Isaac Newton who once said, "If I have seen further it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants." The important thing is to read a lot and learn from the masters how to construct a compelling story. Read a lot and write a lot and little by little your writing will improve until, one day, you can see further because the high road on which you travelled was paved by those who came before you. Happy reading!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

March; Lion or Lamb but mostly Soccer

If you are a parent then you know that regardless if March comes in like a lion or lamb it definitely heralds the return of soccer season.  Both of my boys started practice with their new soccer teams this week.

Monday was the first practice for my youngest, this is also the first year he's been old enough to play.  He is so excited to finally participate and not just watch his big brother from the sidelines.  So are his dad and I, no more sprinting onto the field to snatch him from the middle of a game. We hope.

My oldest has his first practice tonight. The fields the local soccer organization uses are outside of town in a very wide open stretch of treeless fields.  You are guaranteed that the wind will be whipping and the temps about fifteen degrees cooler than in the town.  We button up to our eyeballs in layers, mittens and caps.  Trudge blankets and chairs out to the sidelines for thirty minutes of non-stop ball-chasing hilarity to be rewarded with hot chocolates and exhausted children.

The excursion is well worth the effort. My boys have learned much about patience and team work.  So, as we say goodbye to March I sail forth two nights a week for Life Lessons I'm hoping will stick.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Needs a Catchy Name

Ok everyone, I need your best creative ideas to name a poem I wrote this afternoon. Winner gets a TimBit!

To defeat a man
Most thoroughly,
You need not weapon swift nor smart.
But sidle up most lovingly
And fasten to his heart.

As years progress,
Breathe promises
Of glory, wealth, and fame.
Instill in him the hope of bliss,
Make fortitude his aim.

Each time he stumbles
To the dirt
And bruises ego, faith, and will,
Encourage him to onward press,
Push forward fighting still.

At last success
Within his grasp,
At golden years of latter life.
As aged hands reach fortune's gate,
Then aim and thrust the knife.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

ABNA Quarterfinals

I found out yesterday that I made it to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest Quarterfinals with my Young Adult novel Call to Action.

I found out TODAY that you can now go download, read, rate, and review the excerpts of the Quarterfinalist entries over on

So if you'd like to read an excerpt of my current project, which is a Quarterfinalist in the ABNA competition, you can do so HERE!

First Conference Adventures

This past weekend, I went to my first-ever writers conference--Write Stuff in Allentown, PA. It was basically amazing and I got to know some pretty awesome people. After a long, headache-inducing flight debacle (which I've detailed on my personal blog here), I had such a wonderful weekend that I'm not even entirely sure I can put it all into words.

But, for you, I'll try.

Friday night consisted of two sessions (neither of which I could attend, because of the flight debacle) and then a reception. I was thrilled I was able to make it to the reception, at least, and after a couple minutes of awkwardly standing around, I got to talking to another girl who was ALSO a first-time conference goer. We ended up sitting at a table with a mix of other writers and had a great time chatting to everyone. (It was during this that I learned that the most common general icebreaker question asked at a writers conference is, "So...what do you write?")

Saturday started early with a breakfast and welcome and then we dived right in. I went to the agent panel, which was very interesting. I then went to a session by James Scott Bell about which I took a lot of notes and laughed quite a bit more than I ever thought I'd laugh in a session about revisions.

Then it was time for the session I was really intrigued about--Fictional Characters Anonymous. The 15 of us all gathered in a conference room and it started off interestingly enough, with everyone going around the table and introducing themselves as their character, telling a bit of their character's story. There was such a hilarious mix--from high fantasy characters to middle grade characters fascinated by zombies and everything in between. At first, the moderator had to pick out people to ask questions, but after a handful of minutes, people just started asking each other questions. And some hilarious answers happened. I know I definitely loved getting a little deeper into my character's head...and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

After lunch was the keynote presentation by James Scott Bell about how storytellers will save the world. But before this, the writers group that hosts the conference decided to recognize all the participants who had come from the furthest away. Color me surprised when I find out that I'm one of these participants...and I got a pretty cool little toy airplane out of it!

It was then time for my agent pitch session. It went better than I could have hoped for and I really enjoyed talking to Lauren Ruth. I was pleasantly surprised when she asked me to send her my first three chapters. And it was amazing how the anxious knot in my stomach went away after.

The last session I went to was another James Scott Bell one, this time about suspense. Again, I took away some great tips!

All in all, it was a GREAT experience. I met some absolutely amazing people and had a blast. If I'm able to go back again next year, I definitely will.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Dreaded Pitch

Well, the day looms before me. Tomorrow three of us Flurriers will be pitching to agents and publishers.  None of us participating have done it before.  So you can imagine, we are nervous as can be!  Last night four of us got together and practiced.  Our dear Colleen has been through this process multiple times and she graciously volunteered to play the part of devil's advocate and interrogate us.

A few glasses of wine got us in the spirit of the game. Two hours and much laughter later we had boiled our novels down to a handful of lines.

Today, I will be practicing said pitch on my unsuspecting co-workers. And possibly people I will bump into as I run errands.  I live in a small enough town that I'm bound to run into someone I know!

Wish us luck!  Don't forget to check back in for a recap of how it all turned out!

Monday, March 12, 2012


This novella-length romance (plus a bonus vignette) is a stand-alone sequel to Janie Mason's SERVICING RAFFERTY.
Gigi Thompson is tired of being window dressing. So when she is hired as the assistant to the Newtown High School athletic director, the challenge of making order from the chaos of his office is a welcome challenge. A recent sexual scandal in the school has made inter-office dating taboo, but that’s okay with her. She’s learned the hard way that dating co-workers leads to trouble.
Sean Fitzgerald is a high school history teacher and the new head football coach for the Newtown Lions. The school’s athletic director is as warm and fuzzy as a block of ice, and the team’s starting quarterback is on the verge of failing two classes. So, if teaching, coaching and tutoring a player aren’t enough to keep him busy, the sexy new assistant in the office is one distraction he doesn’t need.
But once Sean admits he's fallen for Gigi, it takes an all-out blitz to convince the redhead they're worth fighting for.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


A Chapter of Romance Writers of America

Opens March 5, 2012
Deadline May 20, 2012.

Authors get your pens out and enter the Central Ohio Fiction Writers' Ignite the Flame Contest today. This is a perfect way to get your writing seen by some truly wonderful agents and editors! 

The Ignite the Flame Contest is designed to help you polish that critical first meet scene so that it crackles with romantic energy! (A reunion scene is also acceptable.)

Entries should be 15 pages MAX, with an optional one-page, un-judged, set-up (no synopsis). 

The top 3 manuscripts in each category that score 80 or above go to one of the final judges listed below:

•Laura Bradford: Romantic Suspense (Agent at Bradford Literary Agency)
•Deb Werksman: Historical Romance (Editor at Sourcebooks)
•Rhonda Penders: Category-Length Contemporary (Editor at Wild Rose Press)
•Andrea Somberg: Young Adult (Agent at Harvey Klinger, Inc.)
•Katherine Pelz: Single Title (Editor at Berkley Publishing Group)
•Alicia Rasley: Erotic Romance (Editor at Red Sage)
•Lindsey Faber: Paranormal Romance (Editor at Samhain Publishing)

Monday, March 5, 2012

T minus 10 Days

A couple of weeks ago, you heard from Michele B about her preparing-to-go-to-conference adventures. I, too, am preparing to attend my first writers conference in a couple of weeks and it feels like it's the only thing I can think about lately.

Quick story: A little over a year ago, I was perusing writing websites for conferences and somehow stumbled upon this one. The GLVWG Write Stuff Conference in Allentown, PA. When I first heard about it, the 2011 conference was about two months from happening. I read through the information and the schedule and I thought it sounded perfect for a first conference--manageable size, not too terribly far away, and several interesting panels. The only problem was...I didn't want to go alone. I tried to talk a couple of my writing friends into going with me, but neither of them had the financial means to do something like that on such short notice. I lamented the missed opportunity--and my lack of courage to take the dive by myself (to be fair, part of the reason was because I thought I had to drive and 7 hours is a long way to go by yourself)--and declared that I'd keep my eye on the conference for 2012.

So, here we are. I registered for the Write Stuff about a week after public registration opened. Booked my hotel room. Booked a flight--I was overjoyed to find out that Allentown has an airport. The flight booking in particular was a stressful situation for me, because I've never flown by myself before, never had to book a flight on my own. I was so sure I was doing something sure that I didn't have the right flights or the right price or that I'd somehow manage to screw up's process.

I'm very good at throwing myself into panics for small things, in other words.

Now we're T minus 10 days until I fly to Allentown for the conference. What this means is that now I've started obsessing over the smaller things--like what I'll pack, and if my small suitcase is within the carry-on dimensions, and printing off every possible confirmation that I can think of. Write Stuff starts the evening of March 16 and then goes all day on the 17th. I'm signed up for a couple of awesome things. The first is an agent pitch session, which is the current source of my general anxiety about attending my first conference. The second is a very interesting workshop that they only limited to fifteen people--Fiction Characters Anonymous. This in particular intrigues me, because during the whole workshop, everyone will be acting, speaking, responding, etc. as one of the characters from their novel. It's supposed to help you get more into your character's head. And while my lovely fellow Flurriers pointed out at our last meeting that they see a lot of me in my current protagonist (and vice-versa), in fact there are a lot of parts of her that surprise even me. So I'm excited to see what I learn about her during that workshop.

Anyway, my to-do list for Write Stuff is getting progressively longer. I'm hoping to be able to get everything accomplished in the next 11 days that I need to get accomplished. And I'll tell you ALL about it when I return!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Welcome to Scrivener!

I decided to use some of my pittance of a tax return this year and purchase an organizational tool to help with my writing. Aside from having a serious lack of desk space to spread out all my research notes, galaxy maps, star charts, character profile sheets, and reference manuals, I find that I still struggle with some of the basic elements of writing.

I get lots of great ideas for stories. Getting the ideas is the easy part. My difficulty comes in trying to convert those tiny sparks of inspiration into full-fledged stories. I often struggle with moving from ideation and plot development into actual scene creation and producing a single cohesive story.

A couple of weeks ago I discovered “Scrivener”, a wonderful piece of writing software developed by the inventive and understanding folks at Literature and Latte ( Not only do these guys understand software development, they understand the varying needs of writers.

To keep this short, I want to highlight just some of Scrivener’s features that I’ve found most interesting after using the tool for a week. I’m by no means an expert and I’m sure I’ll discover much more as I continue using the program.

Scrivener was designed with the writer in mind. When starting a new project, I can select from a number of provided templates. For example, suppose I want to start a new fiction project. Scrivener provides fiction templates for novels and short stories. Choosing any of these provides me with a basic structure already in standard manuscript submission format. And if I don’t like the standard formats, I can create my own customized formats and save them as templates to use later in other projects.

Scrivener’s working window gives me access to all my project files, located in one easy-to-find pane called the Binder. All my scenes, chapters, notes, research, character sheets, photos, pdf files, etc. are all stored in the Binder. If you have an electronic file saved somewhere on your computer or accessible on the web in almost any format, chances are you can import it into the Binder. Having all your files in one easily accessible location while you write means no more having to open up one reference file at a time, flipping back and forth between multiple windows on your computer to find what you need. Files from the Binder are easily “floated” over your open document for quick reference while you write. Scrivener’s basic templates also include simple character profile sheets so you can document everything you need to know about the people in your story.

When I begin a new story, I often use index cards to try and develop scene ideas and get a sense of the overall structure of my story. More often than not, the cards end up spread all over my bedroom floor. I write, cross out, scribble, tear up, arrange, and re-arrange all those cards endlessly until I’m happy. Then I number all the cards, just in case they break loose from their rubber band and go flying.

In Scrivener, I don’t have to worry about the cards getting away from me thanks to the Cork Board. With the Cork Board, I can create, change, add, delete, and move index cards all over the place without cluttering up my bedroom or risking their loss. All of the cards can be identified with a label (Concept, Chapter, Scene, etc.) and a Status (To Do, First Draft, Revision, Final Draft, etc.). The labels and statuses can also be customized to display whatever you need.

One of the coolest features I’ve found in Scrivener is the random Name Generator. Need help finding a male name? Female name? Foreign name? Hyphenated maiden-married name? Alliterated name? Simply use the Name Generator to make your characteristic selections, set the obscurity level, and move the slider to tell Scrivener how many names to generate, then push the Generate Names button and presto!

Personally, I’m easily distracted while I write and find it difficult to focus when it comes time to begin tallying up the word count. Scrivener’s Compose button lets me block out all the distractions on my computer and focus on getting my story written. I simply press the Compose button at the top of the screen and voila! No more distractions.

Everything on the compose screen is also fully customizable, from the background image to the size of the writing space itself, font sizes and paper colors, even the transparency and fade of the workspace. Since I write science fiction, I created a planetary theme for my Compose window using a wallpaper photo I found on the Internet.

In fact, everything about Scrivener is customizable, down to the color of thumbtacks you can select for your index cards (or you can remove thumbtacks altogether if you don’t want them). The essence of the program is to give writers access to all their tools and documents in one easily-accessible location. But the real beauty of Scrivener is the capability of working on your story in pieces, creating separate documents for each chapter, scene, etc. And when you’re finally done writing your drafts, the Compile feature lets you bring them all together into one cohesive manuscript, immediately formatted and ready for submission, including your name, address, title, byline, word count, and other necessary information.

Of course there’s a lot more to Scrivener than what I’ve shared here, but I didn’t really intend for this to be a pitch for Literature and Latte. I was just looking for a way to organize my work and get some help navigating my way through idea creation, plotting, scene generation, and finally writing my stories. I got a lot more than I expected from Scrivener.

The program can seem a little overwhelming at first with so many tools and ways of working. The great thing about Scrivener is there’s no right or wrong way to use it. Every tool is at your disposal and you can use it however you like, in whatever method best suits your writing style. And if you forget how to use any of the tools, there’s a helpful introductory tutorial that comes with the program. If you can’t find what you’re looking for in the intro, Literature and Latte has additional video tutorials and online user forums on their website.

Scrivener might not be for everyone and some will doubtless find other tools that work better for them. Personally, I needed a structured format for my writing and found that Scrivener does the job admirably. Aside from that, it’s so much fun and easy to use that it makes me want to dive in and write every day. And as far as I’m concerned, making it fun to write everyday is the best bonus I could have asked for.

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