"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." - Walt Disney

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Thank you so much for visiting. I'm spending time with family and friends this week. We'll be celebrating our traditions, and maybe even starting a few new ones. I hope you are able to enjoy all of the blessings of this loving season. Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Christmas Book Flood

Our local schools have spent the past week talking with the children about how different countries and religions celebrate the holidays. So, a friend recently shared this graphic on facebook.

While it sounds like the perfect way to spend the night (what could be better than snuggling in bed with a good book and chocolate) I was curious if this was true and wanted to learn more. I came across this interesting article: Literary Iceland Revels in its Annual Christmas Book Flood.

Do you give books as gifts? Do you enjoy receiving them? What's your favorite?

Monday, December 14, 2015

Christmas Joy Blog Hop

Elizabeth at Liz’s Random Ponderings is hosting the Christmas Joy Blog Hop today. To participate, simply visit her site and add yourself to the list!

I am participating because Christmas is my favorite holiday. As a Christian, it is a reminder of what my Lord has done for all of us, and how we are meant to treat each other. I am most grateful for my faith, family, and friends.

I am lucky to have a wonderfully supportive and loving husband who is my best friend and has given me two beautiful daughters! (see picture to the right).

December is always a crazy month for us, filled with holiday cheer - Christmas concerts and show, activities, and parties. Any evening where we find ourselves without obligations, we spend driving around looking at Christmas lights, or snuggled on the couch with popcorn and a Christmas classic.

One of our favorite Christmas traditions includes reading "The Night Before Christmas" on Christmas Eve, while wearing new warm nightgowns. We reminisce over our favorite holiday memories, and enjoy staring into our Christmas trees - yes, we have more than one - before we settle in for the evening.

One of the best gifts I have ever received for Christmas is my dog who just celebrated her tenth birthday (see left), and, of course, there are always plenty of books and magazines subscriptions given as gifts. We all love to read!

One of my favorite Christmas songs this year is "Mary, Did You Know?" - the Pentatonix version. I hope you enjoy it as well - view below.

What are some of your favorite Christmas traditions and memories?

Thursday, December 10, 2015

3 Lessons Every Writer Can Learn from The Martian

A year ago, most people had never heard of Andy Weir. Even if you you were a follower of his blog, or had purchased a copy of his self-published The Martian, you had no idea what lay ahead for him. Today, he is a New York Times bestselling author receiving royalties from his movie deal.

I truly enjoyed the book, and wasn't disappointed in the movie (something that frequently happens to book lovers - especially if story changes are made). After reading this story and watching several interviews with the author, I realized there are three basic lessons any writer can learn, or have reinforced for them, from Weir's work.

1) First lines are important - We are frequently told that opening scenes matter most. Their job is to lure the reader in, and force them to continue. Some authors have condensed this advice to "hook them with the first line." Weir does an excellent job of this... I'm pretty much fucked. Your feelings about use of language aside, the reader is immediately invested in this character and this story. They already want to know what went wrong, and if it's possible to fix the situation. Curious how some of the best books ever written have begun? Take a look at these 100 opening lines.

2) Write what you know - Weir's father was a physicist, his mother an electrical engineer, and his own admitted hobbies include space travel, orbital dynamics, astronomy, and the history of manned space flight. Even when you specialize in a field, or have completed hours of research, believeability is more important than reality. When you know your material like a pro, you can take liberties with the facts and readers will follow you anyway. See more here.

3) Characters are more important than plot -  Even people who don't particularly care for science fiction were able to enjoy this book because of the characters. The main character had a personality you couldn't help but enjoy. And the author spent time allowing a glimpse into the lives - emotions and relationships - of the minor characters as well. If your reader becomes invested in the characters, it doesn't matter if your plot has a small hole in it; if the details aren't all there. The readers won't be able to put the book down if they love the people inside the story.

Curious what Adam Savage and real-life astronauts thought of Weir's tale? Check out the panel discussion with the author below.

Did you read this book, see the movie, or learn anything interesting from either?

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

IWSG: Year-End Review of Your Writing

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh. Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs. You can also join us on twitter using the hashtag #IWSG, or on the Facebook page.

I can hardly believe it’s December already, and this is the last IWSG post of 2015. The pressure of the season is already mounting. I’m feeling overwhelmed, and not yet enjoying the Christmas cheer. How about you?

Perhaps it’s time for a reflective mood, and a year-end review. We should take a breath, remember, and be proud of what we’ve accomplished so far this year. DO NOT use this time to stress about what you didn’t do. It’s not about judging yourself. Instead, use this time to experience pride and gratitude. Remind yourself what you DID accomplish.  You’re still a writer and reader, you haven’t given up, and hopefully you still find joy in exploring your creativity.

How do I successfully perform a year-end review?

1)      Collect all your writing in one-place - You will need a lot of room. If most of your writing is on your computer, you might consider printing it out. Collecting everything into one place may be the most difficult and rewarding piece of this process. The act of simply handling your work from the last year will do magic for the next.
2)      Read - Read a little of everything. Whether you simply skim over everything, or dive deep into several pieces the outcome can be just as rewarding. The goal is not to read everything, but instead to become familiar again with what you’ve written.
3)      Enjoy - You are your own worst critic, but this is not a time for critiquing. Read your writing out of a place of appreciation instead of judgment. Rediscover the pleasure you found when first creating these works.
4)      Categorize - As you read, you may notice themes in your writing, images that come up again and again, or moods that you seemed to slip into often. If you like, you can use highlighters or colored pens to visualize these different themes, but simply noticing is enough.
5)      Consider - Why did you write what you did? Why these pieces? Why these forms (blog posts/poems/novel chapters)? What motivated you to write over the last year? Why were you drawn to this theme or that image? Who are you as a writer? And what are you about?
6)      Forgive - You may find that you are unable to give up judgment and enjoy your own writing. In this case, you must forgive yourself. Let yourself out of the expectation of genius and perfection. Accept that the year is what it is and choose to be content with it. Do not compare yourself to others, or even yourself (What you’ve done in years past, or feel you should have done this year). Only seek complete acceptance.
Don’t worry about goals, that can come later (January 1st perhaps). For now, remind yourself of why you like to write, and what you’ve been able to do so far. If you don’t appreciate your own writing and abilities, how can you expect others to?

I hope you’ll try this. What did you accomplish this year? Please remember to praise YOURSELF!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Authors Anonymous is Anticlimactic

I first heard of this movie about a year ago, but had completely forgotten its existence until I saw it in a clearance bin recently. The description reads:

After a dysfunctional group of unpublished writers with the motto "all for one" accept Hannah Rinaldi (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting) into their fold, the last thing they expect is her overnight success - but that's exactly what they get. While her career takes off, her eccentric and envious colleagues (Chris Klein, Teri Polo, Dylan Walsh, Dennis Farina and Jonathan Bennett) struggle to find their own paths to publishing fame and fortune. Tensions rise, rivalries form, and hearts are broken. Rejection turns to desperation. Good thing they're only armed with pens...

I scooped it up, and eagerly returned to my couch to enjoy this little known comedy. While it is mildly enjoyable and I can definitely see some familiar author traits and experiences in these characters, the movie was far from what I was hoping for in a montage to the craft.

The show begins with someone (an unknown and never revealed crew) following these characters to make a documentary about critique groups. The camera captures the best and worst in the differing personalities of these writers.

Since it is enjoyable enough to watch when you have absolutely nothing else going on in your life, I might generously give it three out of five stars.

If you're curious, here is the trailer:

Have you seen this film? What did you think of it?

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Thanksgiving Week

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.
              -Psalm 107:1 NIV

It’s the week of Thanksgiving in the United States. I’ll be spending time with family, friends, and finishing several projects. I hope you all enjoy a wonderful week full of good times.

In case I don't make it online again this week - Happy Thanksgiving! I'm extremely thankful for my online family. 

For some fun reading, here are ten reasons I'm thankful to be a writer.

What are you doing this week?

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Win NaNoWriMo in Just 9 Days!

As most of you know, I chose not to participate in NaNoWriMo this year. I won't bother recapping my reasons now. 

However, if you are struggling to finish, or if you find yourself wishing you had joined in it's not too late. There are nine days left to November, and thanks to Melissa Maygrove I found the article How I Won NaNoWriMo in 9 Days.  

That's right - nine days! The author, Ava Jae, shares her tips to completing her work in such a short amount of time. She also offers statistics to show you how she achieved her goal. It's worth a look.

Best of luck and HAPPY WRITING!

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? How are you doing?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Writing for Veterans

Thank-you to all veterans and active military. We may not show it enough, but you are so very appreciated!
A couple of years ago my interview of Vietnam War Veteran and author Tim O’Brien appeared in Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors, Volume 2. Since then, the publishers have continued the tradition of supporting our troops. 

This yearly anthology presents essays, fiction, poetry, interviews, and photography by military-service personnel, veterans, and their families. It is an annual series published by Southeast Missouri State University Press in cooperation with the Missouri Humanities Council's Veterans Projects and the Warriors Arts Alliance.  

"The stories and poems of service and sacrifice are essential in understanding what has so broadly been termed 'the American experience.' For me, Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors is required reading and worthy of a thousand tears."     ―St. Leger Monty Joynes, veteran, Vietnam
Books can now be ordered from the Southeast Missouri State University Press and Amazon. 

Interested in submitting to Volume 5? They are already accepting submissions which are due by June 1, 2016. Contests and prizes will be awarded in each of the five categories. To learn more, please visit:  http://www.semopress.com/events/proud-to-be-writing-by-american-warriors/

Chicken Soup for the Soul publishers are honoring veterans and their families as well. They are taking submissions to two different titles this month: Military Families and The Spirit of America. To learn more, visit here.

Interested in reading more veteran related material? Try Noir and Returning War Vet Sub-Genre, or Being a Veteran.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

A Bridge to Publication 2015

Save the Date – Saturday, November 14th, 2015.
University United Methodist Church (3501 Patrick Street, Lake Charles, LA)
8:00 am – 4:30 pm

*SCHOLARSHIP: BWG is offering two scholarships this year to persons in need of having the registration fee covered. Please fill out the form below for your chance at receiving the scholarship.


1. Literary Agent Gordon Warnock, Fuse Literary Agency, www.fuseliterary.comWill be taking pitches. Represents a variety of nonfiction, graphic novels, & contemporary realistic literary fiction for adults, NA, and YA.
2. Literary Agent Heather Flaherty, The Bent Agency, www.thebentagency.comWill be taking pitches. Seeking YA and MG (middle grade) material.
3. Author Heather Hildenbrand presents: Author Platform, Economy-Friendly Publishing,www.heatherhildenbrand.blogspot.comwww.phoenixauthorink.comSpeaking Topic: Eco(nomy)-Friendly Publishing.
4. Pitch Coach & Author (and wearer of many other hats) Chantelle Aimee presents Mystery Writing. She will also be available for 15 to 30-min critique sessions for a fee (fee TBD).www.chantelleaimee.comSpeaking Topic: Mystery Writing
5. Exposure team, Warren Bujol (Editor) and Calvin Tyler (Publisher). Will be speaking about their local magazine. www.readexposure.comSpeaking Topic: Freelancing
(Speaker photo sources: All photos are taken from the speakers individual websites listed above.)
If you plan to pitch to the literary agents, or would like to have a critique session (cost TBD) with Ms Aimee, please contact them to see if material is requested beforehand and how to send it. (Email? Regular mail? First 10 pages. First chapter, etc…?)
Pitches will be only 10 minutes each, so it is best to be prepared and not waste your time or theirs. Pitches will be on a first-come first-serve basis with a sign-up sheet at the door.
Supported by grants from the City of Lake Charles, the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury, the
Lake Charles / SWLA Convention & Visitors Bureau, and the Louisiana Division of the Arts, Office of Cultural Development, Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism in cooperation with the Louisiana State Arts Council as administered by the Arts Council of SWLA. Also sponsored by American Press Foundation. Also donations from L’Auberge Casino Resort Lake Charles, Adsource Outdoor, Obvious Mobile with Obvious Advertising, Wise Publications, and Paradiddle’s Dancewear.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

IWSG: Audience of None

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh. Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs. You can also join us on twitter using the hashtag #IWSG, or on the Facebook page.

It's easy to let fear incapacitate us. We worry about no one liking our creation; agents and editors will turn us down, publishers won't see the merit, readers won't finish reading it. Writer's block takes hold and prevents us from enjoying craft. In short, we feel we're writing for an audience of no one and give up.

You should be writing for an audience of one: yourself. Tell a story you enjoy, exercise emotional turmoil in a tale of your choosing, keep working to improve your talent. In short YOU are the first and only true person who needs to be pleased with your writing. Don't worry so much about what others think.

"Imagine you are dying. If you had a terminal disease would you finish this book? Why not? So change it. Stop arguing with yourself. See? And no one had to die."
                                                        - Booker Prize winning author Anne Enright

This quote may seem extreme, but Enright is correct. Only spend your time working on projects you are happy with. Stop worrying about pleasing everyone else.

Are you enjoying your WIP?

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Pen-L Seeking Submissions

Many of you are busy participating in NaNoWriMo. However, if you are ready for the submission phase then the husband and wife duo at Pen-L Publishing is taking submissions.

If you'd like to learn more, check out my interview with them in this months holiday issue of Southern Writer's magazine, or visit their website at http://www.pen-l.com/

Tomorrow, I will be posting my monthly contribution to The Insecure Writers Group. 

Best of luck on your projects!

Monday, November 2, 2015

No NaNoWriMo for Me!

I've decided not to participate in NaNoWriMo this time.

There are only 9 weeks left of 2015, and I hope to spend it finishing up some of my incomplete projects and submission goals.

If you are participating, let me know so I can stop by to cheer you on in your progress. I wish you the best of luck!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween from our family of super heroes! To the left is a picture of my two beautiful daughters, and below is my oldest child! ;-)

We've been celebrating with church and fall festivals, class parties, Girl Scout gatherings, pumpkin decorating, costume contests, shows, and parades. I cannot possibly eat another piece of candy! (Who am I kidding - I'll never turn down chocolate!)

The forecast is calling for lots of rain here this weekend, but we still have plans for a great time. Good food, movies, and some great books will highlight our haunting fun.

If you prefer to stay home cuddled up with a good book, try one of my suggestions from 10 Scary Reads to Terrify Your Inner Child.

Interested in FREE scary books? Try one of these!

Need a last minute costume idea? Try one of these 10-Minute Lliterary Halloween Costumes and dress like your favorite characters.

How are you celebrating this season?

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

To NaNo, or not to NaNo...

November is nearly here, and it's time to decide whether or not to participate in NaNoWriMo. 

I haven't made my decision yet. I'm so swamped with activities, obligations, and goals that I'm not sure I could pull it off. It's easy to think that ANY goal or writing is good for the soul, but not when it adds additional stress to an already worn out individual. I guess I'll make my final decision this weekend when it begins.

Not sure if you want to participate? Check out what best-selling indie author Glynis Smy says about the practice. And let me know...

Will you be participating in NaNoWriMo this year? Why?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Welcome Marty!

In case you've never seen the movie Back to the Future, today is the day the main character traveled to the future to visit.

In honor of this momentous occasion, many stores are hosting parties or celebrating by offering great discounts on their merchandise. Check your local listings and favorite haunts for more details.

Or, celebrate with one of these great reads and collectibles suggested by 2nd & Charles.

Will you be celebrating today?

Thursday, October 15, 2015

5 Things I’ve learned in Five Years of Blogging

Monday, October 19, will mark the fifth anniversary of my blog.  Instead of my usual excitement, I find myself reflecting on my purpose for this site and what I’ve gotten from it so far. I say “so far” because I intend to keep writing, sharing, and exploring this venue of the craft I enjoy so much.

Five things I’ve learned in these last five years of blogging:

1)      Schedules – while posting on a schedule can certainly help, it’s not necessary. I try to post twice a week (usually Mondays and Thursdays), but life happens. The stress involved in saying the perfect thing on a timeline just didn’t work for me. I felt pressed to find “fillers”. And my writing suffered. On occasion, I’ve just had to let the blog slide, and that was ok. I have readers who have stayed with me since the beginning, and I am so very grateful they enjoy sharing our love for the craft – when time allows.
2)      Comments – it can be depressing when you feel no one is listening, or “reading. After all, isn’t this whole blogging thing about interaction? The truth is, not everyone has time to comment on every post. I myself am guilty of reading blogs religiously, but seldom commenting. The number of comments you recieive is in no way a reflection of what you have shared. Some of the best blogs out there, with thousands of followers, may only get five or six comments a day. Think about the quality of the comments, not the quantity. After all, what does “Great post!” truly tell you? Interaction is the key. Did the comments left indicate your readers were affected by what you shared?
3)      Giveaways  – In the beginning, I was obsessed with giveaways. I continually handed away books, critiques, journals, gift cards, and more. I was driving myself crazy trying to “reward” my readers for “rewarding” me with their follows and comments. Don’t get me wrong – giveaways and promotion have their place. However, if it is no longer about the loyalty between reader and writer then it rings hollow. You are looking for a long term relationship, not just the day long boost to your numbers.
4)      Be Yourself – So many people (especially writers) have had a blog at some point. Don’t focus on what the crowd is doing. There have been times I felt I needed to discuss the same topics as everyone else. When in truth, this only made me “just like everyone else” with little original thoughts of my own. And even when they were original thoughts, they were not necessarily adding any benefit to the already highly debated topics. I’ve even gone back and removed posts because I felt they were too “repetitive”, or not truly representative of my best ideas. Don’t be sheep. Discuss your own experiences. Stop rehashing others. You are an individual, act like one.
5)      Never Stop Improving – There will always be someone smarter and better than you. Don’t settle for what you have now. Keep striving for more. More knowledge, more talent, and more friends, followers, or readers. Then give yourself a break. It doesn't all happen at once. Keep driving toward your goals!

What is something you’ve learned about blogging?

Monday, October 12, 2015

10 Markets to Inspire Your Muse

We all get stuck at times. Writer's block, a mute muse, depression... they all mean the same thing. If you've found yourself experiencing a rut then it's time to try something different. Try writing in a genre you've never tried before, or write for a new publication. Not sure who to try? Start with your own favorite reads. If you still feel stuck for inspiration, try perusing and writing for some you don't usually read. A new pace can mean fresh inspiration. Try one of the following 10 markets to get you going again. Simply click the title of each to view their writers guidelines:

Azizah Magazine — AZIZAH is the magazine for the contemporary Muslim woman, presenting her aspirations and achievements, and reflecting her experiences and empowerment as she seeks spiritual growth in today's world. All articles should be written from the perspective of the thinking Muslim woman. Regular features and fiction should be between 1500 and 2500 words. Rates vary depending on the article, and payment for first rights is made upon acceptance of the article. 

Chatelaine magazine(Canada) — Chatelaine is Canada's biggest, oldest and best women’s magazine. The editors are looking for topics that range from investigative reports, politics and crime to engaging profiles and first person narratives. The editors are always looking for informative or controversial health stories as well. Chatelaine pays $1/word and buys first North American rights in English and in French, as well as the right to archive your story and post it on Chatelaine.com 

Essence magazine — To submit your ideas, please write a query letter that explains your story concept, proposed story length, possible experts (if it is a reported piece) and why this idea would appeal to the Essence reader. Query letters should be no more than one page in length, and should be addressed to the editor whose section interests you at Essence Magazine. Payment to be determined. 

Ladies Home Journal — The editors are open to many topics, as long as the topic is something that most woman age 35-50 can relate to. They are not looking for tips or advice, but stories of personal growth told with insight and/or humor. Story length, payment, and deadlines are discussed with the writer upon assignment.

MS. Magazine — Co-founded by Gloria Steinem in 1972, Ms. quickly became a national and international forum for new ideas and issues, investigative journalism, fiction, the arts, political coverage, humor, women’s health, and international women’s news. Ms. is looking for pieces that use a feminist lens. We consider articles on politics, social commentary, popular culture, law, education, art and the environment. We do not consider articles on fashion, beauty, fitness, travel, food or of a "self-help" variety. Film, music and book reviews are covered in-house. Writers should reference several recent issues to familiarize themselves with content and style. Rates vary and are not discussed until an assignment has been made. 

REDBOOK magazine — REDBOOK is targeted to women between the ages of 25 and 45 who define themselves as smart, capable, and happy with their lives. Many, but not all, of our readers are going through one of two key life transitions: single to married and married to mom. Editors prefer to see queries rather than manuscripts, and suggest that you provide us with some ideas for sources/experts. Payment: TBD. 

Sasee magazine — Sasee welcomes editorial submissions from freelance writers. The editors seek essays, humor, satire, personal experience, and features on topics relating to women are our primary editorial focus. Diversity of subjects that reflect all age groups and variety of writing styles are invited. Articles should be no more than 500 to 1000 words in length. Payment for articles varies. 

Today's Christian Woman magazine — Today's Christian Woman's mission is to help Christian women grow deeper in their faith, influence their family, workplace, and community for Christ, and life out their calling and giftings. Today's Christian Woman articles need to offer first-hand, honest, biblical perspectives on a woman's life, relationships, faith, and ministry. Payment on acceptance of completed articles, $50-$150, exclusive online rights. For article that appear in print, we purchase first rights and pay $100-$300. 

Woman's Day magazine — Woman's Day publishes articles from freelance writers on a broad range of subjects of special interest to women, including marriage, health, diet and exercise, spirituality, saving and managing money, interpersonal relationships, careers, lifestyle issues, etc. Article lengths range from 650 to 1,600 words. Woman's Day pays top rates upon acceptance. 

Women's Running magazine — Women's Running is the only women-specific running magazine. The magazine covers all aspects of the running lifestyle, from active beauty needs to training plans. The editors are looking for experienced freelance writers to contribute. Payment to be determined.