Elation and Celebration (cheesy rhymes make me happy)

The amazing and talented Renee at Midnight Meditations has just been offered representation for her fantastic and super unique book, SEARCHER (which I've read and LOVED!)  Head on over to her blog and offer her a big pat on the back  and while your there, check out her photoshop Friday posts.  :)  Congrat, Renee!!

Word to the Nerd(s)

In this world there are nerds a plenty.  As a life-long member of the group, I should know. The nice thing about nerds is that there isn't any one kind.  The term nerd refers to more of a broad classification of people than any one particular group. Don't believe me, let's review a few.

There is the shy nerd, the straight-line-walking nerd, the musical nerd, the oblivious nerd, the proud nerd, the fourteen-going-on-forty nerd, the gross nerd, the brilliant-to-the-point-of -being-an-imbecile nerd, and even the faux nerd--you know, the person who is actually really cool and just wears nerd as further proof of the fact that they are too cool for it to look nerdy on them.  Now you may consider that this isn't actually a classification of nerd, but rather a subtype of cool, but you would be wrong.  Why, you ask?   Because nerds are not exclusive, they're inclusive. They're lovers not haters, acceptors not rejectors. They protect their eyes and their pockets. 

One of the things I love most about nerds is often they think they know how nerdy they are only to find out they don't.  I learned this lesson over and over in my youth when I would suggest a "fun activity" to my friends only to be met with bland stares or raucous laughter. Consequently, I thought I had a firm grasp on my exact degree of nerdiness by adulthood.  I was wrong. In a recent conversation with my husband and some friends I talked about going to Jr. High and High School dances on time...

"You went on time?" my husband said with a look of "I thought after eleven years of marriage I knew you."  "Ya, what's wrong with that?"  
"Why would you do that?"  (this from another self proclaimed nerd)
"Because I wanted to talk to all my friends."
"Your friends were all there early too?"
insert laughter
"You were such a nerd!"

Yes, yes I was.  Apparently even more so than I realized.  But I'm a nerd, so I don't care that I was even nerdier than my nerd instincts told me I was. Nor does it bother me that another nerd is proclaiming my nerdiness as if I've sunk to even new nerdy depths. I'll add to it, proudly (because nerds don't deny, they implicate themselves further).  I also wore the dress my grandmother bought me for my first dance.  She had good taste.  No, really, she did. The dress was black velvet and taffeta with puff sleeves and layers of ruffles on the skirt.

So you may be asking, why do I proclaim my love of nerds and fiercely covet my position among them?  It's simple, the nerdy, pimply, drama kings and queens of today, turn into the famous movie stars of tomorrow.   The computer geeks of today end up as computer geeks of tomorrow, only a whole lot richer. Nerds provide us with literature and art and science and the need for the entire dandruff shampoo industry.  In short, they make the world go round, and they do it with their own flare, or lack thereof.  So today, I honor the nerds, and I do it as only a nerd could, by taking a trendy phrase and using it in a such a way as to suck all the cool right out of it. That's right I say, word.  Word to the Nerd.

Were you a nerd?  What was the nerdiest thing you ever did?

Dear Kasie,

There's no substitute for good writing friends.  Without them I would have given up a long time ago, and I am blessed to have them! Especially my dear friend Kasie.  From the first time we sheepishly admitted to each other that we were both writing books, to our "book clubs" that consisted of just the two of us reviewing each others works and dreaming of publication, to our foray into the blogging world and the many other innumerable writing steps we've taken together, I've been blessed to have such a wonderful and inspiring writing buddy every step of the way!  So today, since it's her Birthday, I thought I would embarrass her with her own special blog post and message:

Dear Kasie,
You are the BEST!

The end.
(Kasie's the one with the cool sunglasses.  I am the one with the dorky regular ones. ;)

Dear Wisconsin, Where are your cows?

I just traveled across Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and South Dakota and I have a couple of question for these states.

Dear Ohio, Why do you insist on building such huge sculptures?

 Everytime I drove to Indianapolis while living in Dayton, I saw this.
And every time I drove to Cincinnati I saw this.
(Until it was struck by lightning a few months ago [true story])

Dear Indiana, Does anyone really need an ashtray next to the toilet in a public restroom?

Unfortunately, I have no picture proof.  I'm still kicking myself for not taking a picture of the lovely (full) ashtray in the restroom right next to the toilet.  Seriously,  is anyone so addicted to nicotine that they can't spare a minute to use the loo before resuming their chain smoking habit?  And isn't there just something wrong about putting anything in your mouth while you're sitting on the pot in a public restroom? Ewww.

Dear Illinois,  Why must you make me love your beautiful Chicago skyline so and then make your freeways so freaky and dangerous that I can't look at it or I become lost and end up at the airport on accident twenty miles away from my husband (who has the gps in his car) and I have to ask a airport worker for directions and he gives me confusing direction and then helpfully adds, "Don't get lost again," which I don't, but am a little disgruntled for the rest of the evening?
P.S. I can't stay mad at you and your beautiful tall buildings and gorgeous architecture for long.

Dear Wisconsin, Where are your cows?  I didn't see any.  Is the whole cheese thing just a big conspiracy?  Did all the cows move to CA?  Is this huge sculpture mouse lying?  And why is he standing out in front of Perkins (where we stopped for lunch)?
 And further more, what's the deal with all your huge sculptures?  Are you jealous of Ohio?  Are you trying to be more like them?

Dear Minnesota, Why didn't you warn me that I needed my running shoes and water bottle to walk a lap around your giant mall?

Dear South Dakota,  Do your inhabitants always drive so slow?  Is your air always this clear and your sun always this bright?  And what made you decide that you wanted to carve your giant statues into mountains?  
P.S. South D. Please like me and my family.

Self portrait - The moving cross country version

I'm afraid I don't have time for a "good" stick figure drawing today.  This is what I looked like about eight hours ago.  Since that time I've been cleaning and packing for the third day in a row.  The truck is loaded (not everything fit, so we're going to try and make it fit tonight). Now all that's left to do is load both cars and drive 1200 miles. Gaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh!  I'll see you guys in about a week on the other end of this waking nightmare known as moving cross country.  Wish me luck!~

Mary's Request

Mary won first place in my recent contest and as part of her prize she was able to request a "stick figure" drawing. She suggested I draw a Shrek-like picture of her as an Ogre who then magically turns into a lovely princess after receiving Paranormalcy, (the other part of her prize). I did my best to oblige Mary, and she posted the results on her blog here. Thanks for playing Mary, and I'll have you know I spent an extra five minutes or so on your drawing than I normally devote to my "art."

The rest of the story/contest winners!

I had the hardest time picking a winner for the "What's the Story?" contest. You guys were all so dang funny and creative, not to mention many of you came close to the real story.

Some of the entry highlights:
Tricia started things off with her finely honed funny skills and suggested that the mysterious object was a "a bang trimmer and reverse mohawk doer." Clearly my bangs were having a very bad day (actually year) when this picture was taken. As always, I would like to thank Tricia for raising the level of humor on my blog. It's much needed.

Chantele brought in the possibility of dream catchers and rain dances. Intriguing and the object did look distinctly Native American. Kasie later expanded on this idea to include an Indian Chief giving me a headdress and requiring me to dance, which I couldn't do since I only knew the running man.

Then my father decided to get in on the action and reveal to all my readers that this was simply how I looked every morning when I woke up. True. Thanks, Dad.

WolfLuva said I had a unicorn horn, which was funny in and of itself, but mostly I just love her screen name, Wolfluva. I almost gave her a prize based on that alone!

Also, I have to thank Jessie for interpreting the Chinese comments I always get. Jessie, can you take a job as a full time interpreter? If so, you're hired!

Seriously, I wish I had time to mention all the entries they were so great!

Laurel was the first to pick up on the Christmas tree. Kudos to her for her impressive observation skills. This was followed by many other Christmastime theories.  Indeed it was Christmas, and I loved all the variations on what could be causing the look of teenage angst on my face.  But it was Mary who came closest to the truth with the following explanation:

I think you're at your grandparents house at Christmas time and your wondering when you can go home - the party's getting kind of lame. The blurry dangler is one of your grandma many homemade ornaments.

I was at my Grandparent's house for Christmas Eve.  I was helping with the traditional Christmas Eve program and getting ready to play some Christmas songs on the piano.  The ornament was one of many homemade ornaments on my grandmother's tree. 

The only thing Mary didn't get right was the reason for my expression.  I actually loved being at my grandparents during Christmas.  What I didn't love was getting my picture taken, and my little sister was the queen of picture taking. She tried to be sneaky and get one from behind the tree, but as you can see I caught her.  This picture is famous in my family.  I was that year's official Grinch.

 Recognize me now?

For her excellent guessing skills I award Mary with first prize, a pre-order copy of Kiersten White's Paranormalcy, which comes out the end of this month and a lovely stick figure drawing. Congratulations,Mary and thanks for participating.

Second place goes to Laurel for picking up on the Christmas theme in the first place. Laurel gets bragging rights and a stick figure drawing of her choice.

Mary and Laurel, let me know what you would like me to draw. It can be anything, I promise I will do my best! Mary if you could shoot me an email with your address at candice_kennington(at)comcast(dot)net I will get that book ordered for you today!

Thanks to everyone who participated. I really thought the entries were awesome and wish I was rich enough to give you all a book! I think I will run a similar contest in the future so that I can give away copies of upcoming author's books. I like the idea of supporting debut authors.

Sticking it to the Woman (The refusing to shower in the mornings rant)

No, this is not a statement of feminism, more just one of fact since it seems that it's woman's expectation who rules my life (my husband is very accepting of me and all my imperfections).  And when I worked in my career field most of my bosses were women.  Now that I'm a stay-at-home mom I'm surrounded by women.  So I'll say it again, I'm sticking it to the woman, the one that makes me think I need to get up every morning and fix my hair to clean my house. She has many other expectations for me (ones I'm sure we'll get to in future installments of this rant), but the getting-ready-for-the-day-and-the-showering one is what I'm focusing on today.

Why would I shower in the morning so that I could remain clean for all of two minutes before I'm covered in boogers, dishwater, chocolate milk and any number of unnamed and unknown substances?  Listen here, Woman--THAT MAKES NO SENSE!  And I hate things that don't make sense.  Therefor I am henceforth (yes I used two conjunctive adverbs right by each other, get over it WOMAN) reserving my shower until the early to late afternoon and on occasion evenings.  That way I can exercise, clean, cook, garden, and make award winning play doh sculptures without cursing your name every minute of the day.  And since I'm not showering until later in the day, why would I change out of my pajamas?  As I said before, that makes no sense.

My life is about to change. From now on my husband will no longer need to plug his nose to give me a hug after work.  I will enjoy eating my dinner in clean clothes.  My sheets will not be stained with residue of housework.  I will wear new pajamas every night and the same clothes for days in a row.  It's gonna be epic, awesome, life changing.  And to prove I'm serious I ran on the treadmill in my nightgown this morning.

So take THAT, Woman!

In unrelated news, my contest closes tonight at midnight.  Your entries have been awesome! I seriously don't know how I'm going to choose.

The New/Old Blogtacular - Win a Copy of Paranormalcy!

Since I'm beginning anew with my new/old blog (see previous post), I thought I should do something I've never done before ... a contest! I hear they're all the rage. So I figure what the heck, I'll give it a try. Maybe we can have a little fun, and if you win I will pre-order a copy of Kiersten White's Paranormalcy and have it shipped directly to you! How cool is that?! If you don't know how cool that is then I highly suggest you check this out.

The winner and runner-up will also receive a custom stick-figure drawing by yours truly.  It's guaranteed to take me at least three minutes to complete and will be sent directly to your inbox.  I bet you can't wait to get your hands on one of these (note the sarcasm in my blog voice).

*Example only.  Your drawing may or may not be of similar quality.

So now that we know the stakes, let's get down to the nitty gritty.  Time to play...

What's the Story Here? 

The following is a crop of a picture of me (no, I have no shame. Why do you ask?).  Your task is to tell me what you think the full picture will reveal (e.g. what are those objects in the picture, why do I have such a lovely expression on my face, what am I doing, etc.). The length of the answer is up to you. It could be a few words or a few paragraphs.  The person who gets the closest will win. If nobody is anywhere near the right answer I'll just choose my favorite guesses.  Winners and full picture will be revealed in one week, so you have until midnight Tuesday to enter.  Let the games begin!

Take 2

I was thinking the other day how nice it would be if I could take what I know now, after a few years of blogging and being active in the writing community, and start over.  And then I realized, hey wait a minute, I can.  I do it every time I start a new book, why not on my blog too?  After all, it is MY blog.

So without further Ado I present to you, Suffering From Writer's Blog TAKE 2.  Apparently the first year and a half was just practice. 

Now for the nitty gritty--what to expect from my blog:

-Stick Figures (done exclusively with the highly technical and exclusive program, Microsoft Paint)
-An ocassional outcry of frustration using strong language (like sassafrassa and dagnabit) 
-Antics, lots and lots of antics
-An utter lack of filtering between my brain and the type written page
-TBD (Yes, the rest is To Be Determined, but you can also expect lots of acronyms because I love them)

**I've re-added a few favorite posts for blog flavor.

Something to Miss

I love the way thunderstorms roll in here.  Last night we opened the curtains and the windows and all sat on the bed and watched the, now familiar, phenomenon. At first there was a dark, jagged line across the sky where the clouds turn from steely blue to dark charcoal. Far back in the distance bright lightning flashed,  still too far away for the resulting thunder to be heard.  Then came the wind, it was almost instant,  stillness one second followed by whistling and howling the next.  Finally the rain.  We watched it appear in the street light of the culdesac behind us before it hit our window.  I'm truly going to miss the way the storm gods seem to pull the weather across the sky here like a giant, metallic sheets, rumbling a cracking as they pass.


I'm peeping out of my hiatus to share this bit of humor with you.  I haven't laughed so hard in a long time.  This man is an idea factory.  If his wife were a writer she would have an endless well of ideas to draw from. 

Warning: This video is totally clean, but the website that documents his sleep talking is full of uninhibited ramblings which contain a lot of swearing, so be aware of that if you decide to check it out.


For some reason Youtube won't let me embed this.

***My personal favorite:
"Garlic cheese! Double death to you, you lactose intolerant vamp man!"

What I expect from you!

You know that thing you feel when waiting at a stoplight for thirty seconds seems like it takes too much time out of your day.  I've been feeling that a lot lately.  Life is a series of crests and troughs.  Sometimes I'm riding high, sometimes I get a bit bogged down.  I'm not complaining, just stating the facts.

My husband's work is taking him to D.C. for the rest of the month, and we're going with him.  After we get back from D.C., I have family coming into town followed by a long trip to California for more family excitement stuff, and then we will be moving (again).  No, I don't know where to yet.  Could be Arizona, could be Guam or a number of other places... Hopefully we'll find out by the end of April. 

So that's my long way of saying that I'm taking a hiatus from blogging for a while.  Maybe a month, maybe the whole summer.  I haven't decided yet, but I hope you'll all be here when I find my way back.  Don't forget me ;)!  I expect you all to be agented, published, and on your way to a life of literary success when I get back.

I don't care how many cool monsters you have in your story.

Put me, a pretty girl in a toga, and a hero with an accent in your story, and you won't have to worry about anything else.

As I become more and more involved in the writing community I must admit, I have a hard time not analyzing everything I read and watch. I find that the typical bad boy just doesn't do it for me and a lot of cool special effects won't make up for a lack of characterization.

I can enjoy some aspects of almost any book or movie, and I always try to look for what was done right as much as for what was done wrong. I want to learn from both. But in the end I favor great characters over almost everything else.

This was especially apparent to me last night as I watched Clash of the Titans with my husband. I don't want to dissuade you from going to it. I love Greek mythology, and it was entertaining enough, not to mention the special effects were really cool. But I just found something lacking in the main character. He was so flat to me. His motivations should have been clear, but at times were confusing, and he did a lot of raspy-voice, tough-talking one-liners. Honestly, I like Hades more (played by the amazingly talented Ralph Fiennes). His character I understood. Even though he was doing bad things, in a way, I liked him more than the hero because his character was three-dimensional. By the end of the movie I wasn't sure if I was rooting for Perseus or the Cracken.

The whole experience felt like eating pancakes without anything on top. I was full, but everything was a bit dry going down and felt heavy in my stomach afterward. A little syrup or jam and a edible meal would have become a delight.

When does your story open up?

I'm always interested to see other writer's creative process. I've learned that as writers we share so much, yet there is so much individuality in methods. This post may be more for me than for you, but I would like to document my own creative process.

*I find my stories start in different ways--sometimes it's a character, sometimes a setting, sometimes a song inspires me, or a book or funny anecdotal story.

*Writing the first chapter almost always reveals the arc of my novel.

*After I know the arc, I write down an overreaching, very broad outline in my notebook.

*I think and think and think about my characters motivations. I ponder them when I'm washing the dishes, folding the laundry, laying in bed at night, listening to music.

*The nuances creep in at random times (often early morning or right before I fall asleep), and I must act. I keep notebooks everywhere. At the beginning of the school year Walmart had one subject notebooks on sale for .05 each. I bought one hundred of them, literally. I use the notebooks to write down details of my story, or I go to my computer if I can and type them at the bottom of my manuscript to use like a checklist.

*I would say, in general, by the time I've reached ten thousand words I know all the major plot twists and the ending of my story. At which point I may, or may not write a chapter by chapter outline.

What about you? When do you know the whole story? Do you outline everything before writing it? Are you a free-writer who discovers your story all along the way? What works for you?

Writing a Query is HARD!

Consider the title of this post my "duh" statement for the year.  This week I've been thinking life would be so much easier if I could just write a novel to explain my novel.  Seriously.  I would also vastly prefer to illustrate my novel with stick figures, or better yet, I would just send the illustration Natalie Whipple drew of  Jade and Jet arguing.  That would get fulls requested for sure! 

I know there are a few of you out there who love writing query letters.  You baffle and amaze me.  I have rewritten my query one ga-jillion times and cannot come close to your awesomeness.  Yet I persevere (insert heroic, martyresque  music). I continue writing and rewriting until my eyes are crossed and I am roaming my house like a query-brained zombie, mumbling plot lines like lyrics from a pesky song. 

I need a distraction stat.  I think I still have some of the Chocolate cow pie Jessie sent me.  I'm going downstairs to look for it...


I was doodling this morning and I thought I would share.
 I would just like to personally apologize to these contestants for liking them.  Apparently my support is the kiss of death on American Idol.  What in the world was America thinking????

AI and Querying Fun.

First off, I want to cover the important stuff going on this week--American Idol. The top twelve are about to be chosen! Yep, things are getting interesting. I'm rooting (at least for now) for Alex Lambert. That kid can sing and I never thought a sflb (short front long back) haircut could be so cute. I must admit his first performance was PAINFUL. He looked so incredibly awkward, but man did he come back and now I'm rooting for him. Other contestants I really like, Siobhan, Michael, and Crystal and Lily. What about you guys?

Now on to writing. I'm working on my query letter. It is WAY harder to write than I expected, even with awesome help (you know who you are). But I'm so happy to be moving along in the process. Wish me luck! Have a good week.

I was on American Idol!!

I know what you're thinking (at least those of you who know me personally), you're thinking I'm too old (true, my American Idol dreams died five years ago).  You're also thinking I can't sing that well (undeniably true), but neither of those things stopped me from having a very realistic dream in which I was performing on American Idol.   I have new respect for those contestants and what they go through now that I've "experienced" it.  Let me tell you, it's not as easy as it looks. 

My journey on American Idol started with the contestants  sitting in the audience, not the red room. It was our first live performance. I was sitting on the end of the front row, waiting from my turn when they went to a commercial break.  Knowing I was next, I looked down to smooth out my clothes and found, to my horror, that I was wearing a long, stretchy, cotton-knit skirt, ugly, dirty tennis shoes, and a oversized, wrinkled t-shirt.   How could I have chosen these clothes and not even realized what I was wearing, I thought? They were ugly and wrinkled and  made me look fat! So, without permission, I darted from my chair and down the hall into the dressing room to find something else to wear, because America could not see me in that!

As I tore through my suitcase, I found more of the same, wrinkled oversized t-shirts, stretched out tube socks, stretchy skirts and pants.  The only exception was a green, ribbed, v-neck shirt and a pair of designer jeans.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  I was saved.  I ripped off my hideous ensemble and started putting on the clothes.  Down the hall I could hear Ryan talking to America.  The commercial break was over.  I panicked, I still wasn't finished dressing.  Outside a producer yelled through the door (not nice things).  I grabbed the waist band of my jeans and tugged on them.  I remember thinking that I would just have to go barefoot and pretend like it was intentional because there was not time for shoes.  The jeans stuck at my hips.  I pulled harder.  I was frantic.  I could hear Ryan stalling.  Finally they inched over my hips, and I was just barely able to get them zipped.  I am going to make it, I thought with a surge of hope.

Then I noticed my pockets.  The were bulging out, the interior fabric flapping around my hips like tiny useless wings.  I grabbed them and tried to stuff them back in, but there was no room.  The levi fabric was hugging my body like a second skin.  I shoved harder, but I only managed to tuck the fabric back inside the very top edge of the pockets.  It looked like I was carrying wadded up socks on each side.  If only I had a longer shirt, I thought, but there was no more time.  I would just have to risk it or lose my chance forever.

I walked toward the stage as fast as the confining jeans would let me.  Ryan looked at me out of the corner of his eyes, ever the professional, his relief didn't show on his face, but I knew I was going to hear about my stunt later.  He introduced me, handed me the microphone.  "Take it away," he said.  I took it from his hand and turned to face the audience and cameras.  I had made it in the nick of time.  I didn't look great, but at least I didn't look like a hobo either.  I didn't ruin my chance.  I took a deep breath as the music started to play, and then it hit me; I had no idea what to sing.  In all my worry about wardrobe I'd forgotten that I didn't even prepare a song.  And what was worse, I realized, I didn't know how to sing either.  How could I have forgotten that?  Humiliation washed over me, but fortunately that was where the dream ended.  Thank goodness, because I don't think I could have kept my composure through the judges comments after that.  You know how in dreams you just know things.  Well, I knew that they judges were not fans of mine. 

When I woke up the next morning I have to admit I was a little confused (not to mention stressed). Why would I have such a strange dream?  I'm not one to put much stock in dream interpretation, but I do think our lives can sometimes influence our dreams.  So just for kicks, I decided to investigate the possible causes of my stress dream. I came to two conclusions:

1) I obviously take my American Idol watching a little too seriously (and I had watched it that night).

2) This whole getting ready to query thing may be more anxiety provoking than I consciously realized.

There are all kinds of possible parallels I could draw between my performance anxiety (and lack of preparation) and querying, and I have been drawing them, but I would be curious to hear what you guys think?  Was my American Idol experience just a metaphor for my querying fears? Do dreams really mean anything?

Tribute to the characters of Fablehaven

I am a huge fan of the Fablehaven series. Some of you may have heard me talk about it before on my blog or yours in the comment section.  I really just think the books are charming and enjoyable for all ages (from my 11-yr-old brother to my age-not-to-be-mentioned father) .  Two weeks ago I got to hear the author of the series, Brandon Mull, speak about his books to a group of kids and adults.  I also attended a few workshops where he was a panelist and went to a book signing.  So this week, in honor of the forthcoming, fifth and final installment of the series, Keys to the Demon Prison, I bring you,

Characters and Covers of Fablehaven
How Brandon Mull makes well known mythological characters new and unique.

My art vs. the professionals (there's very little difference, as you can see).

There are witches.
And then there is Muriel

The creepy-house-in-the-forest-knot-chewing-until-your-gums-bleed Fablehaven witch.

There are Frogs

Then there's Ollach the Glutton
The eating-everything-and-person-in-sight-growing-bigger-than-a-house-demon-frog.

There are centaurs (Napolean Dynamitesque)

Then there is Cloudwing and Broadhoof (and others).

The powerful-and-noble-yet-arrogant-to-fault Centaurs of Fablehaven.

There are Dragons

And then there's Navrog

The-Demon-Prince-lord-among-dark dragons-covered-in-oily-black-scales-belching-fire-like-liquid-gold dragon of Fablehaven

There are Fairies
And then there's this dude!

No, I don't know who is yet (the book comes out March 23rd),  but the cover is beautiful!  My guess is this is the fairie king.  I guess we'll see.

If you haven't read these, you've still got a month before the final one comes out.  Happy reading!

LTUE Life the Universe and Everything (I couldn't think of anything original for this title)

I just got back from a long weekend in Utah where I attended the LTUE writing conference, a phenonmenon known to husbands everywhere by it's true name "excuse to hang out with the girls" (or maybe that's just at my house).  There may or may not have been some workshop skipping, hanging out moments (or hours).   But the important thing is that while we were hanging out there was much discussion of books and authors and becoming book authors.

I actually did attend several workshops and learned a great deal of useful information. There were a variety of panelists ranging from best-selling authors to artists and even ghost hunters.  Some highlights for me were listening to the podcast Writing Excuses by Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Howard Taylor, and special guest James Dashner.  It's a fifteen minute writing podcast that is entertaining AND useful (it reminded me of my husband, funny and useful).  *Note to self: writing can be funny and useful, not just people.* 

 I also loved the keynote address.  Brandon Sanderson was inspiring! I wish I could have recorded what he said, but Jenn did a great job of restating it on her blog, so I'll let you read it there.  Suffice it to say that I got goosebumps a few times. It was like a big pep rally for writers of speculative fiction. So awesome.  I felt like standing up afterward and turning to the audience and saying, "I love all of you people," and then turning to the attendee who was snorting and making other wet sounds behind me and pointing at him and saying, "even you."  There was that much good feeling in the room.   I am also that cheesy.

Another highlight was meeting the authors at book signings, readings, and just around the conference.  I was so impressed with how generous they were with their time.  I just have to put a plug in here for a couple of my favorite books. 
The Maze Runner
by James Dashner (who was hilarious and so nice)
For the past several months I'd heard the buzz surrounding this book, but it wasn't until a few weeks ago that I got the chance to read it.  I was not disappointed. In fact, I read it in one day, staying up until the early morning hours to finish.  I had to know what was going to happen.  I think this is because Dashner is a master at pacing and hooks. His book is a true page turner.  At one point during the conference, after he had finished reading two chapters for the sequel, The Scorch Trials (aren't you jealous!), he mentioned that The Maze Runner is more than 100K words.  We were all shocked. It just flew by.  I think that speaks to the the authors story, but also to his technique, which he was kind enough to share elements of during the podcast. I highly suggest you listen to it.

I also highly suggest you buy the book.  What are you waiting for? Go now. 

Maybe I'll save my next book review until next week. I also want to talk about the aspiring authors I met who were so wonderful.  I think this blog post is probably long enough, and I've decided to adopt the Writing Excuses podcast philosophy of keeping it short because, as they say, "You're in a hurry, and [I'm] not that smart." 

Next week: Fablehaven (I may even draw)

Love - Beatnik Style

A couple of weeks ago Renee joked that she could imagine me reading something I wrote Beatnik style.  So I thought, hmmm I can do Beatnik.  I'll just write a rhythmic poem ending in death. (That may not be the actual, technical definition of Beatnik poetry.  Also, actual Beatniks may or may not take their poetry writing more seriously than I do.) So without further ado I present to you LOVE, beatnik style (or more accurately, my perception of Beatnik)

Perfect semblance of potential unrequited adoration
Unspoken obsession
Worshipping the notion of what could be
Reason, speaking softly doles out temperance
Blessed temperance
Cursed temperance
Longing builds to ecstasy when first met with hope
Heightened need and hesitation
He loves me
He loves me not
Then the magnificent first declaration
The sun rises on our love
It flows across the sky
Brilliant perfection 
Until sunset
Behind the mountain an explosion of scarlet and crimson
The color of love
The color of death*

*It should be noted that I take love seriously and do not actual equate it with death.  However Valentine's Day (and month), or the time when the commercial world tells you that you are required to show your love, I cannot take seriously. Ever.

Have you ever lost that lovin' feeling?

Love seems an appropriate subject as we go into February.  I think I may stick with it for a few weeks. This week I'll address love lost and how to get it back.

As you may be able to tell by the image above, I'm talking about losing the book love (Neal, honey, you can breathe a sigh of relief).  I think this past month or so I'd lost my way a bit in regards to writing.  I am beginning to recognize a pattern in myself.  And the pattern in this:  I get close to finishing a manuscript and I stop writing.  I haven't analyzed exactly why yet.  Maybe it's burnout, or maybe subconsciously I don't want the project to be over because I worry it won't be good enough or worth all the hours and hours I put into it.  Maybe I'm just a huge procrastinator.  But whatever the reason I found the cure...again.

Why do I say again?  Because every time this happens it seems I have to re-remind myself of what made me want to start writing in the first place. Reading.  I Love books.  I love reading.  I love sitting on the floor between the dusty stacks of the library and looking at spines with names of authors I've never heard of  and thinking I might just find a jewel among them. I wonder if my new favorite book is waiting to be discovered.

Over Christmas I decided to do some reading.  I set aside my writing and picked up a few books.  I started with Catching Fire (are you all gasping, no I had not read it yet).  I LOVED it, as much or more as the Hunger Games.  I just have to give a shout out to Susan Collins (though she'll never see this, I'm sure), Thank you for reminding me how awesome a book can be!  It seems that the title of that first Christmas read was appropriate because my desire to read was rekindled.  For months I'd only wanted to write, but that changed.  For the last couple of weeks I've been reading three of four books a week and I am in heaven. Oh, reading how could I have neglected you so?

What's more, my reading motivates me.  I want to write after reading a good book.  For some reason it's just a natural progression for me.  So, though I don't know why I get the end-of-book-writer's-block,  I now know the cure.  Find something to read, duh!

How do you rekindle your love of writing or reading?

A continuation of my "weekly" post

First, I want to say thank you to Tiana for giving me the Happy Blog Award.

Tiana has a wonderful blog that I suggest you check out!

Secondly, I would like to encourage you to go enter Jessie's Cowpie contest!  If you like talking about the end of the world and eating giant poo shaped chocolate than this contest is for you!  Who doesn't love that kind of stuff?

In an effort to avoid writing the end of my book (I've been like two chapters from finishing for almost a month now), I decided that it was imperative I enter her one paragraph contest with a three hundred word story.  Yes, I totally cheated, and know I probably cant win as a result, but the important thing is that I found something I  "needed" to do more than finish my book.    And since I only posted a semi-blog yesterday, I thought today I would post my contest entry.  Only this version is a spell checked, unlike the comment version. I call it:

Dairy Apocolypse: The Tragic End of Cowpies and Chocolate

Barbie and Kenneth laid on their backs staring at the sky.  The ash and smoke swirled above them in hues of russet and auburn.   Barbie thought it looked like rows of giant cow pies melted together by the heat of the sun they blocked out. 
                Kenneth reached for her hand and interlaced his fingers between hers.  “In a way it’s beautiful.  Like a sky of molten chocolate.” 
                “Yeah,” she said, “that’s just what I was thinking.  Except just there,” she pointed to a particularly swirly section of sky, “that one reminds me of cow pies on my grandpa’s ranch right before the war broke out, and all the cows were killed. I used to love the way the smell of manure hung in the air and mixed with the scent of cut hay…” The last word was muffled by the lump that rose in her throat.
“It’s okay,” he said.  “Let it all out.  Talking about your feelings is the first step to healing.” 
She felt so lucky to have him.  He was the only one she could talk to.  Even if he hadn’t been the last man on earth she still would have chosen him as a confidant.   She took a deep breath and continued.
“Now that cows are extinct…” 
She let the implication hang between them.  Kenneth gave her hand a squeeze.  She knew he could hear the pain in her words.   He felt it too, the loss of cows meant there would be no dairy for chocolate.  The swirls in the sky would be the closest to cow pies or chocolate they ever came again.

A tear rolled down Barbie’s face.  Kenneth pulled her to him and pressed her head against his chest. 
“We’ll survive.  We’ll adapt.  We have each other.  That’s all that matters.”
He was right.  She was strong.  They lay listening to the absence of sound around them.  There were no crickets chirping, no grass rustling, only the wind.  Then something broke the silence.
“Do you hear that?” Kenneth sat up so fast Barbie’s  head hit the dry dirt with a thud.
“What is it?” she said sitting up and rubbing the back of her skull with one hand.
“Be quiet.  Listen carefully.”
She held perfectly still and strained her ears.  Then a faint noise was carried on the wind.  It can’t be.  But it was.  Her heart soared they were saved, for amidst the dry desolation and absence of sounds of life could be heard the faintest reverberations of a,  MOO

If you want to enter to win what Barbie and Kenneth both longed for  click here to go to Jessie's contest

What's a picture worth? Depends on who's drawing it.

They say a picture's worth a thousand words.  I figure they're probably talking about the Monalisa.  So by my estimation that means my picture should be worth a sentence or two.  Last week I used my desk to illustrate the evolution of my day.  This week I present to you my night stand.  I think it's pretty self-explanatory.  See you all next week


Evolution of a Desk : a graphic novelette

This is really just a story with a few pictures, but graphic novelette sounded so much grander.

Candice was an aspiring author with a jovial disposition, supportive family, and writing habits of an irregular nature. One morning she woke up feeling fresh and full of hope, and thought to herself, perhaps I should tidy my work space today and provide my story a calm environment in which to grow.  

She walked into her office and stood, hands on her hips like the champion of cleanliness she was about to become, and made a heroic statement.

"I shall clean my desk and office," she said.

Her eyes took on a valiant gleam as they passed over the dimensions of her adversarial foe. The small room, which since the beginning of her novel writing had mysteriously become the hub of the entire home, would not get the better of her today. For today was a day for victory!

No, nothing could discourage Candice from her goal of ultimate spotlessness, not the toys on the floor; not the unmade guest bed; not the fifty glass votives that her husband had unpacked and left on the bed because he "needed the box"; not the stacks of papers rising higher than a congressional health care bill; not the duffle bag full of unpacked clothes from Christmas; not the piles of laundry both dirty and clean; not the  dirty dishes sitting on the printer cart; not the trash, over flowing with paper, that must be dragged down the stairs...

"I shall clean my desk!" she cried and let her eyes wander no further than the confines of the small wood and glass desk.  

The muscle under her eye twitched once. Like a pro, she gave it a decisive jab with her index finger, and it was still. She went to work.

Fifteen minutes later she splayed her hands on the cool surface of the clean desktop which was held up by strangely fawn looking wooden legs. Her breath was coming slow and steady. The serenity of her bubble of cleanliness worked its magic, and her imagination was freed. She sighed and closed her eyes. Her characters were there, vivid in her mind. They made jokes and did heroic deeds at her command. She laughed out loud. For the first time in many a week it was an actual sound and not an acronym on a computer. It felt good to be living in the real world again, just her and her make believe friends.

The scene was set in her mind and at her desk. It was time to write. She focused on her computer screen through her one good eye and ignored the throbbing from the one she had blackened.

"Better black than twitchy." The motto was as familiar to her as the back of her twitch-poking finger.

Her hands poised above her keyboard.  They flexed and stretched preparing for the marathon of brilliance that was about to be channeled through them.   But something was amiss.  The exertions of her ten minute cleaning had left her throat parched like the desserts of the Sahara after a millennial drought.

"Water," she choked through her nearly cracked lips.  "These working conditions are insupportable.  I must have a cold drink.  Then the proverbial creative juices will flow in vats, when I am no longer dehydrated."

She walked down the stairs, getting in her exercise quota for the day, and searched for her lucky green cup.  It lay in the sink under the cutting board used to prepare the chicken for the previous evening’s meal (another heroic achievement).  She smiled.  Then she frowned.  Was it too dirty to use?  People always talked about Salmonella like it was bad thing.  Perhaps a blue cup could be lucky today.  Yes! A blue cup for a new luck!

Back at her desk the great American novel beckoned to her from the depths of the blinking cursor.  She would answer its call.  But wait, there was a noise.  A grumbling that couldn't be ignored.  Clearly all the cleaning and exercise had awakened a monster within her.  One that needed oatmeal.

She walked back down the stairs. 

 "At least I won't have to work out tomorrow," she said, ever the positive Pollyanna. 

Preparing the instant oatmeal took precious minutes off her writing schedule.  Perhaps she should just write the good American novel, she thought.  Clearly the GREAT American novel required more time than her tight schedule allowed her.

On the way back to her den of sanity and cleanliness she passed her ipod.  The battery was dead.  Her heart skipped a beat as she realized how narrowly a tragedy had been avoided.  The ipod needed to be charged and ready in case of a writing block emergency.  How could she have started such a strenuous endeavor as writing the good American novel without her writer's first aid kit?  She wondered what else she had forgotten.

Her phone! It was impossible to seek emergency validation without it.  The internet was just too slow.

Now she was ready to sit and work at her nice, clean desk, as soon as she grabbed her notebook off the night stand and reviewed the midnight inspiration that had struck right before she’d fallen asleep.  Putting the notebook next to her bed had been a stroke of genius.  Now she would never again wake up and mourn the loss of a cleaver phrase or description of the variety that could only be thought up when her brain was too relaxed to hold it back. 

She looked at the writing, ready to be amazed by her own intellect.  What would it say?  A single word sprawled three lines.  AUM.

AUM?  What could it mean?  A name perhaps, or a place.  A sound that would be bellowed by her hero at just the right moment.  Maybe it was an abbreviation.  What could it stand for?  She pounded her fist on the notebook.  Only something life-changingly brilliant could be this vague and forgettable.  In desperation she typed it into her MS Word sidebar. A definition popped up.  Success!

AUM- Another spelling of OM. Indian Religion Buddhism.

Could that be it, she wondered?  Was she going to write about a monk?  Maybe her next scene would take place in a monastery. She would have remembered that, wouldn’t she?  In a final desperate attempt to trigger some sort of memory she opened Firefox and Googled the word.  First result, Auburn University Montgomery—no.  American Utility Management—no. Hindu symbol of absolute—no,no,no!!

Wait…American Utility Management.  It all clicked into place.

“The gas bill,” she exclaimed and pounded her palm against her forehead.  It was late and she’d almost forgotten to pay it again.  

She grabbed for her check book and scribbled out the necessary letters and numbers, congratulating herself on another catastrophe narrowly avoided in the dead of winter. Little did she know what lay ahead...For all of her heroics had eaten up the morning hours, the time of good cartoons. And just below her the four-year-old had become bored…

The demands and requests began:

“I’m hungry, so very really, hungry.”

"I miss Louie.  He misses me too.  He’s my own special dog that misses me.  Mommy, will you please find a picture of him?”

“I have a tummy ache in my head.  I need a dinosaur vitamin.”

“I cut my hair like daddy’s.”

“I’m hungry, hungry, HUNGRY!”

Perhaps today was not the day for even the good American novel.  Candice knew she needed to be sensible.  What could her brain realistically accomplish after half a day of heroics and disaster avoidance?  A chapter, no.  A poem, maybe a haiku. She laid her head down on the desk.  The surface was soft, almost squishy.  Inspiration struck swift and strong, like an arachnophobic woman with a fly swatter killing spiders in the jungle.  When motivation had fled there was really only one answer.  She had to find a way to get it back.  She had to clear the chaos.  The answer was staring her right in the face.   

She stood, hands on her hips like the champion of cleanliness she was about to become, and made a heroic statement.

"I shall clean my desk and office," she said.

The Bullet, a token from my holiday season.

Hi Everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season. I know I did. I just returned from three weeks in Arizona, otherwise known as the land of eternal sunshine. I was so happy to escape the cold of Ohio that I didn't even mind not having a white Christmas. But now I'm back and the weather gods thought they would play a funny joke and send a storm my way. We're supposed to get four inches of snow today. The only bright side is that my husband may get sent home early from work to avoid the storm. Anyway... I ramble. Back to what we all love, writing.

I set a goal this month. Not a New Year's resolution, but a goal for January. I am about to finish my second book (Jaded, the one pictured in the post below), and I've decided that I'm ready to enter the world of querying in earnest before the month is out. To do that I'm going to finish the last couple chapters, re read my manuscript a couple more times, do some final fine tuning, and then send out my book to readers in ten days. Most of my beta readers are really, wonderfully fast and send me back edits within a week, so I'm planning on sending out queries before January is over. Wish me luck.

Soon I will be getting plenty of rejections and hopefully a few requests. I'm so lucky to have lots of friends who have gone through this process before me and shown me the way. Many of them are now represented and some even have publishing dates, but I know it took a lot of work and waiting to get there, so I'm expecting the same, but I'm hopeful.

In other unrelated news I would like to say that I left the the holiday season with a something I would rather not have, a new haircut. After six months of avoidance I decided I had to find someone to cut my hair, so to be safe I went to a nice salon and paid way to much for what I got. In fact I think the stylist should pay me remunerations for my pain and suffering. Frankly I could have done a better job with my own kitchen utensils.

  If you want to know what it looks like imagine the melding of a bowl cut with a mullet. So attractive. I call it the Bullet.

I would show you an actual picture, but I don't want to burn your eyes.

Let's just say there's no dressing this thing up.  If I wear blue to try and bring out the blue of my eyes, I just bring out the bowl of the bullet.  If I wear a hat I bring out the mull.  The bullet is like Niel Diamond and Broadway tunes it's a combination of two thing that should never have met, but once they do the result is unforgettable for all the wrong reasons.

Can you think of any other combinations that are so unnatural their unforgettable?