Monday, July 21, 2014

Common Scents

One thing some aspiring and many established authors forget to do is


And "smell the roses:" to live life, to garner new experiences, to step outside the box, etc.

In other words, leave the writing alone for awhile--it'll keep; life won't.

I've been catching up on yard/housework, taking care of family business, attending my cousin's wedding, listening to concerts in the park. I needed to do these activities, but more importantly, my Superior temporal gyrus (the section of the right brain where creativity is thought to spark) demanded a break.

I take a 'brain break' by working in my meditation garden, and this has been the result:

And this:

And this:

Other flowers will bloom after these are finished, so I will always have something of beauty to gaze upon, appreciate--and take care of. Just like my writing, there are times you simply have to enjoy something but turn your attention elsewhere. My garden doesn't need me now, but my writing does.

Need a fresh angle? Stuck on dialogue?

Don't write.

For now.

While you're mulling over the writing obstacle you're facing, do something else and let the solution come to you. (It will!).

I'm headed back to the writing cave, but I know this afternoon, I'll take a break and after some laundry, I'll be here:

Go enjoy a mini mind vacation.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

You're So Puny!

I've been frantic lately with both family and professional events, so I'm going to cheat and treat today.

Fancy yourself a writer? Better educated than most?

Here's some advice from one of my fave people, Weird Al Yankovic:

Word Crimes

(Click on the video for Word Crimes. You can look at the other funny videos after.)

LISTEN to this god of pun, sarcasm, satire and humor. And then appreciate.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

There's A Place For You...

A time and space for you... to paraphrase an old show tune from West Side Story. A time and space for you to write. Or draw. Or meditate. Whatever passion you follow. People who know me have seen my office:

(Keep in mind this is post-annual writers conference and middle of 3 projects mess.) Unfortunately when the kids are home or someone rings the doorbell or I want a cup of tea, it's 3 flights of stairs down. Good exercise, but by the time I get down the stairs and then back up, my muse gets lost on the way.

Sometimes though, I have to get out of there, or I'm simply not in the mood to sit at a desk, so I chill here:

But that darn TV is a temptation/distraction. (And that's my cat, lounging on the couch, trying to hide her face. She insists on laying on my lap while I try to type on my laptop.)

This past weekend it was a lovely day and I chose one of my favorite spots to work in- my meditation garden.

It was cool under the trees, and I had a comfy chair. Various flowers were blooming and I'd weeded it recently so there was no guilt. Plus, it was far enough away my family didn't notice me or were too lazy to come all the way in the backyard to get me to ask stupid questions like, "Where are my sneakers?"

Paradise. Perfection.

Persistent gnats.

Chewing the hell out of me.

I left.

Not being one to plaster myself with chemicals, I chose a different spot. Another of my faves is here, looking out over the pool. It's close enough to bathroom and refrigerator.

And the kids.

And the husband asking me what's for lunch at 10:30 a.m. (One of the hazards of living with a crazy person who likes to get up at 5 a.m. even on holiday weekends. I hadn't even had breakfast yet.)

And the neighbor's weedwhacking.

And the stereo from the other neighbors (either Frank Sinatra over and over and over, et al, or the kid's techno shout-your-tonsils-out horrors. And the speakers are pointed towards us because they think the whole freaking world wants to listen.)


There is no all-the-time perfect place. Conditions change. Your moods change. Your needs change.

So scout out a few places where you can work. Maybe the coffee shop? (too noisy for me). How about the library? (Can't bring my tea in with me.) Then there's the park (unless it rains or is too hot or is taken over by the loudest 9-year-olds you've ever heard).

Just remember that there is always a place for you. Figure out what you require for that span of writing time and get it.

Everyone deserves a space of their own.

Keep writing and keep happy.


Monday, June 30, 2014

When Does "NO" NOT Mean No?

This weekend was the New Jersey Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators annual conference. It's a great place to meet top editors, agents, authors, illustrators and people. It's a fabulous venue to network, get inspired, re-energize, rethink, revise.

And reconsider...

My middle grade novel had made the rounds to all the major houses and their smaller imprints and never found a publishing home.

(The main character of my novel.)

My agent said it had to go in the drawer, and I had move on.

Much as I didn't want to, I reluctantly agreed because there was no one left to send it to.

I began work on other projects and tried to forget that novel that owned my heart.

This weekend, I listened to so many people, including myself, encouraging writers to persevere. Keep writing. Keep submitting. Keep revising.

And then... I noticed one of the editors from a smaller house.Her house was ranked so high on the list of houses because of the number of young adult and middle grade novels they'd published. They were practically bullying some of the older, more well-known publishers.


You all must know the story of Stephen King; unable to find an editor for his novel, he threw it in the trash, giving up. His wife, Tabitha, picked it out and sent it to one last publisher...

That was his breakout novel, Carrie.

"Be consistent, and persistent."  I tell that to all inspiring authors when they ask what's the best piece of advice I can give them. It's time to follow the second part of that command.

One more try...


Monday, June 23, 2014

It's A Pandemic!

Today I'm hosting YA author Yvonne Ventresca (disclaimer: friend! fellow SCBWI member! Writing Wench!). With all the recent pandemic-related movies (Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Last Ship, Helix, etc.) I thought it would be interesting to talk to Yvonne about her research for her novel, Pandemic.

My question: What five things have you learned while researching for your debut novel, Pandemic?

Influenza in general is a newsworthy item.  From the seasonal flu (the LA Times reported “8 things you need to know about the deadly influenza virus”) to the avian flu (which the World Health Organization monitors closely in China, although it has not been transmitted from human to human), the fear of a deadly disease is ever-present.

Here are five things I learned while researching Pandemic:

1. The first cases of the 2009 Swine Flu/H1N1 pandemic occurred in Mexico, California, and Texas. Most countries in the world have since experienced infections.
2. Because of airplane travel, germs can be transmitted almost anywhere in the world within 48 hours.
3. Waterfowl are carriers of influenza viruses. The World Health Organization (WHO) calls them “natural reservoirs.”
4. The Spanish Influenza of 1918 killed more Americans than all of World War I.

5. Too much research can cause worry! This was an emotion I was able to transfer to Lilianna, the main character in Pandemic. And I definitely wash my hands more than the average person.

Before becoming a children’s writer, Yvonne Ventresca wrote computer programs and taught others how to use technology. Now she happily spends her days writing stories instead of code and sharing technology tips with other writers. Yvonne’s the author of the young adult novel Pandemic, which was published in May from Sky Pony Press. She blogs for teen writers every Tuesday and for writers of all ages each Friday at

To connect with Yvonne:
Facebook Author

To buy Pandemic:
Books A Million

Coincidentally, I'm home sick, with the strep throat 'bug' I caught from my son. Take care!


Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Universe Has Gone Crazy....

That's what my last month + has been; everything off kilter, unaligned. People in the know about astrology talk about Mercury Retrograde and house of Cancer and such. All I know is that so many things right now, especially in the family sphere, are beyond FUBAR.

So bear with me. Now that my laptop has been repaired (Long, sad story. You know what I'm talking about if you follow me on Facebook or Twitter.), I'm back on the grid--way behind, out of the loop, and with a confused expression on my face.

I'm jotting this quick post so you don't think I'm lazing by my pool, have gone Ted Kacznyski because secret government agents are following me, or I've become a religious nut waiting for a comet to pick me up on the way to Nirvana.

I've updated the schedule post and Monday (hopefully if Armageddon doesn't arrive first) I will be back to my regular posts. I'll be featuring a post by Yvonne Ventresca about her research for her debut novel, Pandemic.

Thanks for sticking with me.


Monday, May 19, 2014

The "Flaw" In Our Stars...

I didn't like Draco Malfoy. And by the end of the Harry Potter series, I didn't like Dumbledore for the way he used Harry for selfish reasons. And who liked Belatrix LeStrange? Some characters will not be likable, even if by the end of the book they change.

The 'flaw' in these 'stars' of our works makes them more real. Recently, a reviewer said while she enjoyed Blonde OPS, she didn't like one of the characters.

But she wasn't supposed to like him.

We wrote him like that. (Nat and I didn't like him!) Didn't you ever have a co-worker, an employer, a teacher, a colleague, a classmate, etc. that you didn't like? Of course you did. And still do. There are annoying, bullying, arrogant, mean, etc. people out there (maybe you're even related to one or two). They are part of our world. So to say you didn't like a character isn't always a bad thing. And if there were nothing but likable characters, then I'd say a novel is a little shallow, even 'flawed.'

So bring on the bad guys, the gals you don't like, the people you can't stand.

Because that's reality.


Art courtesy of Microsoft.