Wednesday, December 2, 2015

December #IWSG: Things Are Getting Pretty Serious

Come join Alex J. Cavanaugh and the Insecure Writer's Support Group. We discuss our fears, insecurities, ups and downs of the writing process and post the first Wednesday of every month!

Did you finish NaNo? Whether your answer is yes or no, it doesn't really matter. As long as you planted the story seed and watered it, you win. I started two novels and got almost halfway finished with each, so there's that. In the words of Napoleon Dynamite: YES. And as his brother Kip would say, "Things are getting pretty serious."

The fall season continues to inspire me with endless amounts of writing energy. No, my stories aren't set on a farm and aren't about horses or cowboys. There's just something about my favorite season that wrangles my senses and returns me to my childhood. Over the Thanksgiving holiday I traveled with my family to the outskirts of Chicago. You can see I had a captive audience as I pitched them ideas for my new stories.

If you want to continue NaNo every month of the year, I challenge you with three goals. First, carve out a time everyday to write. You already know this, so then why do you resist and fail far too often? Turn off Twitter or Facebook or fill-in-the-blank! Second, spy on your kids or other people's kids, but if you're not writing MG or YA, this will come across as creepy. Last, but not least, read widely. But, once again, you know this. Now, get your butt in gear and just do it. This year I've read almost double the amount of books I read last year. Read the good, the bad and the ugly chic lit that you can't stand or the epic regency romance slash paranormal space opera that everyone is talking about.

Here's your photographic inspiration for the day. Now go find your own colorful tree to sit underneath, and I better see you reading or writing.

Did you enjoy the long holiday weekend? What are you reading at the moment? Did you finish (or at least start) any new stories this past month? Are you a fan of Napoleon Dynamite?

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

November #IWSG: NaNo Anyone?

Come join Alex J. Cavanaugh and the Insecure Writer's Support Group. We discuss our fears, insecurities, ups and downs of the writing process and post the first Wednesday of every month!

Living in the Midwest for most of my life has been a dream come true for this lover of fall. Who's gearing up for NaNoWriMo? The National Novel (in November) Writing Month kick starts my brain into high gear. Every year I participate, but I never register. One year while teaching fifth grade I registered my entire class. Every kid in my class wrote a novel. Achievement unlocked.

I must confess, I always begin writing my new novel a few weeks earlier in October. My goal is to finish it by the end of November with the rest of the NaNoers. So my goal remains the same every year: roughly six weeks and I have myself a brand new novel. I'm already 10,000 words into my precious, another upper middle-grade contemporary fantasy, but I fear I am quickly falling behind. I do love a challenge though!

What's so special about the fall season and writing books? Inspiration. My favorite season rapidly spreads inspiration into my veins like a flesh eating bacteria. Maybe that's a visual you weren't expecting, but it works.

Sometimes we just need a good excuse to get our butts back in the writing chair. And the fact that thousands of writers all over the world are participating in NaNo gives us a powerful motivation to join the party. Facebook, twitter, and critique groups all offer support and endless writing articles during this crazy month of cranking out a novel in thirty days.

So as you cozy up to the fireplace, your ten cups of coffee and your computer, remember to harness the inspiration all around you. Take my youngest teenage son, for example. I seriously can't make this stuff up. He came home from football practice the other day and said, "Mom, guess what we're reading in lit class? To Kill a Mocking Jay."

He was clueless. I laughed until my sides hurt.

So who's with me? Writing this month? Finishing up edits? Enjoying this season? Just for the record, the city of Hannibal is stunning in the fall.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

October #IWSG: No Character Left Behind

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I'm seriously late to the #IWSG party this morning. Instead of verbalizing the stress of a writer's life this month, I decided to offer a little bit of advice. Even with all of the ups and downs writing still remains my biggest passion.

In my finished WIP, I created a personality for each of my secondary characters. Some were quirky, funny, pranksters, annoying, smart-mouthed, you know, your typical teenager. I have two, I should know.

My writing mantra of "no characters left behind" was applied to all of my secondary characters. But I had glossed over a few minor ones. Those are typically the people who appear in only one scene and are forever forgotten. So I fixed the problem. I went back to each scene and created a personality for each of my minor characters. One of my previous chapters in my contemporary fantasy wreaked of a hurried, bored writer. Now, it's one of my favorite scenes in the entire story!

Whether your a newbie writer or a seasoned vet in this industry, it happens. Those minor characters get overlooked: gas station attendants, librarians, school nurses, lunch ladies. Even though they are very temporary characters in a quick and necessary scene, they are worthy of all your attention as a writer. Just as no two buildings are alike (okay, I'm stretching this a bit) and no two people are alike, so each person in our stories should be unique. Don't forget to breathe life into every last one of your characters.

Until next month!

Tell me if you've ever overlooked a minor character and how you fixed the problem. Are you enjoying writing this month? Call me crazy. I'm working on two new books!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

September #IWSG: Don't Quit

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Roller coasters. We've all been on them unless you aren't human. When I was fifteen, I landed my first job at a Six Flags where I worked in food service. It sucked, but it was pretty cool because one day I met Tone Loc. (80s rap star) Before his concert, he ordered two foot long hot dogs and handed me a one hundred dollar bill. In his gravely voice, he told me to keep the change. But sadly, we weren't allowed to keep the change.

I've been to many a Six Flags, Great America, and amusement parks over the years, but there's one coaster in the Wisconsin Dells at Mount Olympus that would make Rick Riordan proud. Hades. Yes, they don't call it Hades for nothing. Welcome to the world's first upside-down, underground wooden roller coaster. One minute you are high in the sky, enjoying the ascent overlooking the vast, lush, rolling hillsides along the Wisconsin River. The next moment you are plummeting in a death drop, feeling your spine ripped from your body. Just when you think it can't get any worse (and you're hoping the big guy in front of you doesn't lose his lunch), you plunge into complete darkness, racing along at 70-freaking-miles per hour as the the ride shoots through the parking lot under tons of cement. You pray none of the bolts are loose, because derailing from a freak coaster accident in broad daylight is one thing. Cashing in complete darkness would be the end of me, literally.

Welcome to Hades

Okay, I give you my comparison between coasters and a writer's life. One day you are up soaring above the sweet clouds taking a sweet look at the sweet horizon before you. The writing life is good. The next scene, you on a downward spiral of fear and rejection, realizing your spine has been ripped from your body and you will never get out alive. Everyone goes through the good, the bad, and the ugly as a writer. Some days will be better than others and some days you will feel like quitting and getting a job at Six Flags selling hot dogs. Don't quit.You're almost there.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

August #IWSG: Back to Writing

Come join Alex J. Cavanaugh and the Insecure Writer's Support Group. We discuss our fears, insecurities, ups and downs of the writing process and post the first Wednesday of every month!

"Trying to clean the house with kids inside is like trying to brush your teeth while eating an Oreo." Writing with kids home for the summer is IMPOSSIBLE. But in less than two weeks, they return to their regularly scheduled programming, er, um, back to school!!!

After surviving TWO family vacations with the kids, I have only outlined, researched, and added a few chapters to my WIP. While vacationing in Michigan, we went blueberry picking. Think of the time it takes for the fruit to ripen before you can actually enjoy them. You can't pick blueberries all year long. The season lasts only a few weeks. Sometimes you just can't write. During those times, I choose to outline or research or read all the books. I can't wait to get back to my regular schedule of writing. I love my crazy kids, but summer is a whirlwind for me.

How's your summer? Have you been busy writing? Taking a break? Looking forward to fall?

Blueberry fields

My daughter experiencing Lake Michigan for 1st time.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

July #IWSG: The Waiting Game

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Waiting. That's all we do sometimes. We wait on the kids, wait for CPs and beta-readers (not complaining!), wait for book related news, wait for trains. As a writer, we wait and we wait and we wait. This train lasted FOREVER. It stood between me and my destination: a park next to the Mississippi River.

We can't control the outcome of certain things and we can't control other people (you can try, but that's called being a control freak). However, we can control how we wait: patiently or impatiently. Those are pretty much the only two options we have.

While I was waiting for this train to pass (all one hundred train cars give or take a few, moving at a pace slower than my youngest teenage son trying to clean his room), I was struck with the beauty of the perfect clouds, the bluest skies, and the vivid color swirls of graffiti art. I snapped a few pics while I waited and waited and... 

How do you handle waiting? If you're in the writing game and you think this doesn't apply to you, you're doing it wrong. I wish we didn't have to wait, but that's a writer's life! 

Some of you requested I post photos of the bathroom in Hannibal's newest downtown restaurant overlooking the Mississippi River:

I told you it was fun and photo worthy! Don't forget the 60th annual Tom Sawyer Days starts this week in Hannibal, Missouri, Mark Twain's boyhood hometown.

Monday, June 8, 2015

St. Louis City Museum

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What started out as a trip to the St. Louis Zoo turned into a day at the City Museum due to major storms. I have to admit, I've read about this place and even checked it out online, but nothing can prepare you for the scale of this ginormous fun house slash museum occupying an entire city block in downtown St. Louis. And the price for parking at $1.25 made it worth the $12 price of admission. The former International Shoe Company stands ten stories tall and has been transformed into what I think is an accurate description: McDonalds' playland on crack or steroids or both. A mini Ferris wheel adorns the roof along with a school bus that partially hangs over the side of the building. The stairs, railings, and slides have been constructed from recycled building materials. The three story indoor slide remained the highlight attraction for younger children. A visit to the ballroom on one of the upper floors is a must to get your sanity back. In this space, the chaos trims dramatically and you can finally hear yourself think again.

Once you've burrowed through the maze of rabbit holes (I'm not kidding how tiny and creepy some of these are) and Goonies-like shipwrecks and abandoned shacks, you enter the upper levels that resemble more of a museum. Just plan to lose your kids at least once, maybe twice, or more. At least the wrist bands provide a space for a parent's cell number.

One of my favorite rooms turned out to be the taxidermy room with enough stuffed owls, hawks and dead bugs to complete any fourth grade science project. The vastness of the former Shoe Company grips you the moment you step through a tiny rusted door on the third floor where you squeeze your way through twisted metal staircases and tunnels several stories tall in this maze of Dysopian wonder world. You're left wondering if you've entered the Matrix or a Divergent dream or some other similar alternate universe or fictional world.

The side of the building features more intricate tunnels and slides and, yes, that is an airplane. 

Numerous artifacts (wooden, stone and metal facades) like these gargoyles are spread throughout the museum mostly from long gone skyscrapers from Chicago or St. Louis.

A wall of printing engraver's plates decorated one room. I could've spend hours sifting through these, but you have to read them backwards and it was giving me a headache and the room turned out to be off limits and I got kicked out by a really nice worker.

Are you taking any road trips this summer? Or do you prefer to take day trips? Now you know what I do when I am unable to write: urban exploring while dragging my kids along. The official countdown to our family vacation is in one month. Any trips planned? Hope you are having a fantastic summer!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

June IWSG: Writerly Inspiration

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On the Old Chicago Road about thirty minutes from downtown Chicago you will find an abundance of empty fields filled with windmills and a strong sensation you just crossed over into the fifth dimension. I gain inspiration for my writing through photographs. I can return to the same photo and linger for hours.

I get lost scouring through an endless assortment of Chicago IGers on Instagram. Since I'm several hours away, I must live vicariously, peeking into the Rookery, the Soho House, or catching a glimpse of Calder's Red Flamingo on the sidewalk just outside the Federal Building. Every fall I return to the city. Until then I stalk my favorite Instagram account, Skydeck. With its sweeping views, the Sear's Tower remains the single most photographed landmark in Chicago.

Tornado Alley runs through Illinois (and Missouri, oh joy). Typical flat farm fields stretch forever across this state where each spring and summer clouds swirl with potentially dangerous weather. And who doesn't love writing a good storm scene?

Another source of inspiration for my writing comes from reading books in my genre (and out of my genre). I can't tell you enough how much this inspires me--more than anything else. I'm always on the prowl for unputdownable books.

Did I mention my two teenage boys? Of course, you guys already know how much I shamelessly use them. It doesn't get any better than real live kids in your house eating all of your food, fighting with their siblings, and pulling a million pranks. I'm okay. Deep breath. Summer's just starting. I can do this. OK, who put the traffic cone on top of the house??

Where does your inspiration come from? Need to find some? What have you read lately to inspire your inner Hemingway or Jeff Kinney?

Monday, May 25, 2015

Twain on Main Festival

The "Twain on Main" festival is one of the highlights each spring in downtown Hannibal, Missouri, Mark Twain's boyhood hometown. The newest addition on Main Street (just before the lighthouse and the Tom & Huck statue) is the John Michael Originals furniture gallery. I absolutely adore his style. Sadly, the shop was closed yesterday.

The recently renovated building called the "Moses Bates Public House" was named after the founding father of Hannibal. It also has a new restaurant in back with seating available on top. The exposed brick and pipe works in the restaurant showcase the original structure of the building, which started out manufacturing and installing truck beds for Model T Ford delivery trucks. The most recent business was Murphy's Motors, a Dodge dealership. Now the furniture store and unbeatable smoked bbq eatery will keep this place in business for a long time.

Did I mention the red doors, corrugated metal and chalk board walls inside the bathroom? Did I mention I had the privilege of eating there over the weekend with my hubby for our anniversary? Our anniversary is actually today. Maybe I can convince him to go again. Next time, I will be dining in the outdoor area above so I can take pics of the Mississippi River only a few feet away.

During the festival, there were plenty of other food options on the street. I have no clue what a "roller dawg" is, so if you know, please tell me!

What festival wouldn't be complete without a petting zoo and pony rides? My five-year-old experienced her first pony ride. Afterwards, she said, "I'd like to do that again." Oh dear. Is this the start of a little girl's obsession with horses?!

Games with Tom and Becky in Twain's sideyard was a big hit.

Art vendors, the main attraction, lined the streets with everything from homemade soap and linens to clay pottery people, metal works, leather crafts, and jewelry. I discovered a Mark Twain leather bound notebook, my favorite find of the day.

Main Street was divided into thirds: Roughin' It, The Prince and the Pauper, and Tom Sawyer, all areas designed after three of Twain's novels. Although, the only one that was super obvious was the Roughin' It section. The others tended to blend with the mob on Main Street.

Over four blocks of wall to wall people for this year's Twain on Main festival. Until the next festival...or next post...Thanks for stopping by!

May #IWSG: Mayday!

         Come join Alex J. Cavanaugh and the Insecure Writer's Support Group. We discuss our fears, insecurities, ups and downs of the w...