Thursday, October 4, 2012

Little effort, little publishing

Got another Twitter Fiction published: Writing these is about all I can do with the energy I have left these days. Hopefully I'll get my vertigo solved and I'll be more productive.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Long, pointless stories...with a point

One of my favorite types of story is the Shaggy Dog story. They aren't about dogs, necessarily, nor are they about shagginess. Shaggy Dog stories are generally long, drawn out yarns that either end with a surprising twist on an old saying/cliche, or end with a pointless, "Oh." My faves are usually the first, but my father would tell the second a lot! Here are some good examples.

Shaggy Dog stories with the twist on a cliche ending are fun for me because as I'm listening, I'm trying to figure out what the end saying is going to be. It's a puzzle. A challenge. Sometimes I'm a little right, sometimes I have no guess or am totally wrong, but the fun is in the attempt, not necessarily being right. Although, being right is a lot of fun.

Some people don't like them because of their long, drawn out qualities or the pointlessness of the ending on some of them, but isn't that life sometimes? You think there's meaning in everything and sometimes there's none!

I guess my biggest reason for liking them is I grew up with my father telling them, a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his lips. He enjoyed the humor and the anticipation, and now so do I.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Wallowing in Freakish Misery...

For the last few weeks I've felt pretty miserable. Nothing has been particularly wrong, and in fact, I can say I'm one of the most blessed people I know. My malaise is biologically based, I realize this, but sometimes it's hard to see the foam at the end of the roller coaster when the cotton candy has been smeared all over your glasses. And how do you fight your own body?

So when I got up today, I grudgingly went to go workout, then with much internal whining went to work, fully expecting to need a nap after 30 minutes. Only planned on staying a few hours. Didn't want to go hungry for my little time there, so packed a post-workout drink and a snack.

Ended up staying all day, only briefly stopping to eat, and came home feeling GOOD. Really good. As in I wanted to clean and make supper good. Sigh.

Structure and work. Solves the biological spiral. I think I'm going to puke. Could I be turning into an adult?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Wasting Time

Have you ever had a project you looked forward to completing, got everything together to work on it, rubbed your hands in in anticipation, then spent the next two hours in frustration because it JUST WILL NOT WORK?

I hate wasting time. The older I get the more I realize I probably have less time left than I've spent on this planet. Scary thought! And to spend time and get nothing out of it irks me more than many things. Including burnt toast, which only wastes a few minutes of time and a cheap piece of bread.

Then I get all philosophical about what wasting time teaches me. All the positives. Yeah, right. Wasting time is pointless, fruitless, and boring. All it teaches me is that I should have planned my project better. Done more research. Left open other possibilities instead of burning bridges so at the end I'm not left with nothing.


Monday, July 2, 2012

Driven: Why DON'T I get out of the car?

A friend of mine was listening to my schedule (workouts, workshops, committee meetings, family obligations, church obligations, writing projects, etc.) and asked me why. Why did I keep pushing myself? Why did I continue to say "yes" when I could very easily coast through the next few 5k runs, let administration do their evil work without me, and forget publishing the novel that haunts my dreams?

He has a point. I could have a generally stress-free life if I chose to. But I don't. In fact, I often make trouble for myself to the point I'm toeing deadlines to the second and having panic attacks. Why don't I just get out of the driven car and relax?

I guess because I was brought up with the attitude that if I have a talent, I need to use it to its fullest, not sit around and waste it. There's a balance I've yet to achieve between pushing the limits of my capabilities and taking on just enough to be efficient. There's a goal in there somewhere!

But I think more to the point, I like the challenge. In a weird, self-depreciating way I enjoy criticism and stress and struggle because when I DO achieve my goals, it makes them that much more enjoyable. It proves to the nay-sayers that I am more than they think. I'm worth more than what they think. And even better, proves to MYSELF I'm worth more than I think.

That last one, folks, is an achievement.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Rhetorical Questions in Queries

You know how people are always advising you to use rhetorical questions in your blurbs, query letters, and any such "attention getting" materials to make your writing pop? Here's one agent who says otherwise and gives great reasons why not to ask, "What if...?"

Friday, June 15, 2012

Why does pain have to hurt so much?

You really don't understand a situation until you go through it. As a writer, I understand this. So it behooves the good writer to try to experience as much as possible so he or she can write credible stories.

Pain wasn't on my list, but I got it anyway.

In two days I went from stiff neck to weeping in my car because I couldn't bend my neck enough to get out. Or in. Or look behind to back up. I'm not sure what the cause is, but my body doesn't seem to need a cause to do weird things.

So it occurred to me, as a writer, to analyze why pain has such a negative connotation. I mean, come on, pain is the body's way of slowing you down when you are going too fast, telling you something is wrong and you need to take care of it, and an indicator (if you do it right) that your workouts are actually making your body stronger.

First of all, pain in a body is rarely a localized phenomenon. Even if it's only your shoulder that hurts, you can't bend your neck, you can't lean over, you can't kneel down, you can't grab/hold/carry things because you use that muscle unconsciously with every action. You can't even breathe or sneeze or cough properly because your head is stabilized using the shoulder.

Second, pain inhibits clear thinking. Seems silly, I know, but if it hurts so much that every other thought is pushed to the back, it's nearly impossible to REASON let alone problem solve. Memory of where you put things is fogged by the shuffling haze of focusing on getting from one location to another without falling over in agony.

I think the worst part, though, is it's hard to see an end when the pain is so bad. Losing my perspective of knowing one day soon I will wake up without having to scream when I literally roll out of bed is debilitating. All I can see is pain and none of the recovery calm. We all need hope, and hope smeared with the mud of pain is sometimes too camouflaged to perceive.

After three trips to the chiropractor and a couple heavy doses of ibuprofen, I'm definitely better, but trying to take my lesson seriously: Characters in pain don't think straight, cannot fight as well as they usually would, and often have a more pessimistic outlook on life. And if my characters could talk to me now, they'd be screaming at me to stop the torture, but it's too late.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Inspiration for the week

“I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” - Michael Jordan

Say what you will about the man, one thing is clear. If you don't keep trying, you will NEVER succeed.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Another one bites the dust

How do you bite dust? I would think mixing it with liquid and drinking it would be easier, although not necessarily more pleasant.

In any case, agent #2 said no. Very politely and professionally, which makes me love her all the more.

I have a couple ways to look at this. One, I'm a horrible writer and I should just quit deluding myself and just do the things I'm proven successful doing. Two, I'm one step closer to getting published. Personally, I choose number two. Maybe I am deluding myself, but I'm having too much fun writing. I would be a much less positive person if I didn't have writing to turn to for stress relief.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Bald, toothless wonder

I'm beginning to understand why writers are a hermitish bunch. I just spent the last two weeks revising just ONE chapter (#2) in my massive tome and I feel like I've been run over by a Mac truck. I can't even celebrate because I have 38 more chapters to go. (Yeah, yeah. I know. Use my marathon strategies to boost my endurance, but a little whining is good for the soul!) I don't want to be around people, I don't want to do anything else on my never-ending list of ToDos, but the thought of re-writing another word simply makes my body droop in exhaustion. I'm considering buying a wig and false teeth for the ones I keep pulling out in frustration.

This, my friends, is work, not romance. Fingers to the grindstone, then....

Monday, May 28, 2012

One Stop Shopping

I recently presented on writers' resources, but knew at the time I hadn't found all of them...or even the best of them. This website I discovered today has the most comprehensive sets of information I've found yet. She's really spent some time on it. It may be titled for romance writers, but I found her resources are also good for writers in general.


Friday, May 25, 2012

The Power of the Printout

Last night I was talking to my sister about the novel she'd written over 20 years ago. She was sad about the fact she had no hard copies of it, and the only possible digital file was on a 3 1/2" disk that isn't formatted for any modern computer.

Today, I was looking for something else in my writing files and found an old printout of her story. Nearly in tears of joy, I called her and told her I had a surprise. She was astonished, and grateful, that someone still had a copy. The price for the gift, I told her, is to re-write the story and try to get it published. I'm a mean sister that way!

But this brings me to my point: technology is a wonderful thing, but hard copy printouts are still a necessary part of keeping record of your writing. Personally, I don't see the point in keeping EVERY draft (although I know some writers don't throw anything away) but keeping at least the last two or three gives you an idea of where you came from and where you left off if by some tragedy you lose your digital copies.

Now, I need to practice what I preach and take some of the old dot-matrix stories I found and make them readable to someone other than an angst-filled teenager.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Power of a Loose Schedule

When presented with the classic psychological test, "Which shape do you like the best: square, circle, triangle, or squiggle?" I answer, "A squiggly square." I like structure, but also enjoy the freedom to be creative within that structure. Too much structure depresses me. Too much chaos confuses me. So a compromise makes my little psyche happy.

Once I figured out why my response is "a squiggly square," it's made my life a bit easier because I can structure it in a way that fits my psychological preference.

For example, my summer schedule is a list of things I must do every day. Doesn't matter what order or how long I do each activity, I must do at least one of each every day. And each category has flexibility within it so I'm not doing the exact same thing day after day. I've included fun things (crafts, reading) as well as necessary things (clean house, write, work out).

For those of us who have grown up with the Internet and computers, this culture of jumping from task to task randomly is an extension of how we process digital media. I'm not saying it's better or worse than those who can stay on a single task all day, it's simply how some of us work.

We'll see if this loose schedule really helps me achieve a clean house, a publishable novel, an emptier craft room, a healthier diet/body, a better understanding of the Bible, and more read books by the end of the summer. Or if it ends in epic fail.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Synopsis Revelation

I just figured out one of the "secrets" to writing a synopsis for a novel: leave out all the cool character stuff. NO! But that's the fun stuff! Yes, but a synopsis has to be 1) short and 2) about what happens which is the definition of PLOT. So any time I come to a place where I think, "OOoh, that character is cool!" I leave that out. Needless to say, this makes me a little depressed. I think I'll go put away laundry to cheer myself up.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

On-Line Resources for Writers

I want to thank everyone who came to the SEMO Writers’ Guild meeting Saturday May 19th. I really enjoyed presenting and talking to everyone.

Following are the links I shared that might be good on-line resources for writers. As I said in my presentation, please do your own research to make sure the you can trust the websites you’re using.  

Some tips on deciding if a website is credible:

§         Ask for references and CHECK THEM OUT

§         Do Internet searches on “review of ‘x website’”

§         Ask the writing community you know

§         Check the Better Business Bureau’s website

§         Don’t do something/buy something if your gut tells you it’s a bad idea. (If it’s too good to be true, it probably is!)

So, here are a few on-line resources for writers:

¡        How to find ideas/trends/what’s already been done

¡        Ideas



¡        Trends/what’s already been done



¡        Read blogs by your favorite authors of the genre in which you wish to be published.

¡        How to use writing/organizing software

If you want “real world” training on Microsoft 2010 programs (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and web design using SharePoint), the Career and Technology Center is offering one day workshops this summer, and I’ll be teaching them this year. Here’s the link if you want to sign up. “by Instructor” and choose Janet Cannon to see when and what times the classes meet.

¡        Microsoft Office Products (2003, 07, 10)

¡        Microsoft Word training (PPt presentation)

¡        Microsoft One Note training (PPt presentation)

¡        How to write and find our own errors

¡        What’s your focus?


¡        Various articles on writing

¡        Goal/Motivation/Conflict

¡        Grammar help

¡        How to get critiques/feedback

¡        Any genre


¡        List of on-line critique groups

¡        Find people through your writers’ guild and e-mail pieces/meet on occasion.

¡        How to write a query letter, blurbs/back cover copy, synopsis

¡        Query help-

¡        Kristin Nelson’s accepted query letters:

¡        Blurbs/back cover copy (plot catylist)

¡        Synopsis (one sentence from each chapter)

¡        How to pitch your work

¡        Kristin Nelson’s blog:

¡        Pitching advice

¡        How to get an agent

¡        What (not) to look for in an agent

¡        List of/guide to agents


¡        How to get published

¡        List of publishers, wait times, pay scale


¡        Blog that occasionally publishes short fiction

¡        Contests/grants/publishers/agents

¡        Self-publishing websites


¡        How to market yourself/your book

¡        Platforms for self-branding/marketing:




¡        Publishing/marketing tips


¡        How NOT to get scammed

¡        Predators and Editors


¡        Agents with a bad reputation

¡        Writer Beware

If you have any other great resources to share, please leave a comment!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Finish what you start

I'm one of the worst when it comes to finishing what I start. I have an ENTIRE ROOM in my house dedicated to projects I started with great enthusiasm, then for whatever reason gave up on. Sometimes it was due to disinterest. Sometimes I just wasn't good at it. Most times, something "more important" came up and I just haven't thought about that project since.

Last night as I was finishing the cut-in portions of painting my hallway, I was thinking about my tendency to go into a project, guns blazing, then leave the party before the last song plays. Why? Maybe I have a fear of seeing that the fun's over. Just like running 5k, 10k, a 1/2 marathon and a full marathon in one year, what's left after that? Maybe I fear failure: I finish but with a face-plant. Maybe I really am lazy and don't want to put the work in once I find out it's going to take a chunk of my time I could spend reading or sleeping or eating chocolate caramel bon-bons.

Many people say, "when I get around to it" or "when I have time" when it comes to unfinished projects. I disagree with that mindset. We will never "get around to" things that aren't important to us. We will never "have time" when other things in our life are a priority. (Sometimes its someone else who determines our priorities, and that's just life.) We have to MAKE the time. Set aside time. List our priorities and check off our list as we finish before we take on something new, otherwise we accomplish nothing. Is there anything more pitiful than the person who talks big but never gets off the couch?

Is preaching to myself like listening to the voices in my head? Maybe. But if it works, so be it.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Benefits of writing by hand

Any of us that have computers and use them frequently have this issue. Pencil (pen) and paper just isn't fast enough. I can type quite a bit faster than I can write. Almost at the speed of my thoughts. Pencil and paper just takes TOOO LOOONG!

But wait a minute. Maybe I'm hurting myself in this process. Good writing isn't a "from the mind to the page" perfect art form! It takes time, patience, thinking and re-thinking to do right. For many years now I've been outlining on paper then drafting on the computer. This time, as I was rewriting my first chapter, I wrote everything.

What I found astonished me. Continuity errors. Gaps in logic. Character miscues. Subtle mistakes that good agents and editors would have found on a skim through but because I KNEW my material, I didn't see it. But writing by hand made me stop longer and think longer about what I was saying.

I hate the idea of physically re-writing my entire novel. Even worse, typing it in again. But seriously, if this is going to be what it takes to make a good novel great, I need to do that. Good thing I'm not afraid of hard work!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Write What You Know?

That's the traditional advice: write what you know. It's good advice. Nothing's more annoying to a savvy reader than a writer who doesn't know what they're talking about, right?

While I agree with this advice, I have a piece to add: experience more so you can write more. Why write the same old things when you can deepen your writing, and enjoy your life more, by participating in new experiences?

This weekend I participated in a four-mile run + obstacle course. Having just come off of my first marathon last weekend, I was still tired, but wanted to see what I could do.

Frankly, I wasn't very good at the obstacles. I don't have the upper body strength to pull myself onto/on top of the walls/cargo nets/rope swings/monkey bars/etc. I'm not flexible enough to fling my foot past my head, and when I get more than 50' off the ground, I tend to freeze like a deer in the headlights. Oh, and I scream like a girl just before I fall.

But what I really learned is the true meaning of the phrases "dig deep" and "push past the pain". Digging deep isn't a physical manifestation, it's a purely mental one. It's that second of realization where you have to make the decision to either overcome your obstacle or give up and fail miserably. In this case, finish the obstacle or fall and hurt myself. With your muscles screaming that they're failing, your body hanging 20' off the ground and your mind convinced you're going to die, digging deep means deciding you WILL keep going, you CAN keep going and there is no other choice BUT to keep going.

Pushing past the pain is so much harder than I expected. I didn't have broken bones or strained ligaments or anything serious. Just major bruises and exhausted muscles. But when it came to the last few obstacles, just leaning my shins against the ropes or crawling through another mud pit (filled with rocks and sticks) made me want to scream in pain. I wanted to quit. Take the easy way out. But in those moments I realized the pain wasn't really that bad if I accepted it and looked to the goal rather than focus on the pain. I was making progress with every step. Painful, yes, but each time it hurt more was one step closer to the end.

Lessons learned this weekend: 1. Pain is a marvelous teacher. I don't think I'm going to do that again for a long time. 2. It's good to have friends to LITERALLY give you a boost when you're too weak to overcome an obstacle yourself. 3. Wet scrub grass/gumbo smells like cow manure and doesn't come out of white underwear even when bleached. 4. I know how to "dig deep" and "push past the pain" a little better than I did before. 5. I scream like a girl when I'm scared. But that's okay because I am one.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

POV-From 1st to 3rd

I'm currently re-writing my first chapter from first to third person so I can submit it to an agent who requested the change. At first, I didn't think I'd like yet one more re-writing of "CHAPTER 1" but now that I'm 11 hand-written pages into the project, I'm pretty stoked. I wrote the piece in first person for two reasons: one, to get closer to the heart of the characters and therefore get the reader more emotionally involved. Two, because I tend to be verbose and limiting myself to a first-person POV would force me to cut a LOT of material. But you know what? Now that I know a lot more about how to write and specifically how to manipulate POV, my third person version is, in my humble opinion, more tightly written and more emotionally sincere than in first. Who woulda thought?

Monday, April 30, 2012


This weekend I ran my very first marathon. Yes, THE marathon. All 26.2 miles of it. It was hot. I wasn't as prepared as I wanted. I feared my knees would give out, my mental strength would buckle, or a hundred other issues would impede my progress. But I pushed through the heat and the boredom and the mental uncertanty and finished, earning my little metal and the bragging rights of saying I'm one of the 1% of Americans that have finished a marathon.

Did I win? No! Came in 3822 out of nearly 4000. Did I get any money from it? No, and in fact, spent nearly 1/2 a paycheck in racing fees, hotel accomodations, and food. Am I in better shape? Hardly. With blisters on my pinkie toes and exhausted legs, I'll be wincing for a few days. SO WHAT'S THE POINT?

In this life, we are tested by many outside sources: schools, parents, coaches, teachers, governments, bosses, etc. When we pass these tests, the world tells us we are "worthy" in that area. But when we start to rely on validation of ourselves from outside, we become hollow. A "praised pinata" so to speak. We begin to doubt that we really are worthy. We begin to think that we have everyone fooled but inside we know better. One good "whack" and everyone will be able to see how empty we are inside.

To overcome this hollow feeling, we need to test ourselves. Running is one way to do that. You have to train your body to find the right stride and the right cadence, which is hard work, but not nearly the bulk of the test. It's your mind that tells you to stop. That you're not up to the test. That you're weak, not able, or worthy. Overcoming that mental block is the key to knowing you are better than what the world thinks. That there is something wonderful and marvelous about you that no one can see.

But God can see it. And once we love ourselves, we can accept God's love at a deeper level. We can understand that God sees the whole person, not just the outside that the world praises, but the inside that we have tested and made stronger. Once we accept God's love, we're more willing to share it with others and to test ourselves in spiritual ways, so that we can be a strong example to the world of what it means to be a Christian.

So from now on, when faced with a challenge, I can say to myself, "If I can run a marathon, I can ___"

Now I challenge you: find your marathon. Whatever it is you've always wanted (or now suddenly want) but for whatever reason haven't been able to attain. Go after it with all the physical and emotional and spiritual strength you can muster. Your friends and family may support you but don't let their "yay" or "nay" be your support. Run your own race. Be a whole person. And you'll be amazed at what you accomplish.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Metaphors and POV

One of my nephews and I got into a discussion about how some teachers delve into the "deeper meaning" of stories and novels so far that the piece is turned inside out in a literary (not literal) way. I agree that some people skew their favorite stories to their own point of view whether or not the author originally intended that meaning. But I do disagree that there are works with NO second meaning whatsoever.

Now, wait a minute. Sometimes a duck is just a duck! Yes, but we're wired to understand the world in metaphors. Everything is relatable to everything else so we can learn based on what we've learned before. You wouldn't think that playing the violin has anything to do with teaching computers, but trust me, the metaphors I learned from practice, patience, and persistence are paying off in the teaching.

But what if the author didn't mean anything? Sometimes, many times, authors don't consciously put in certain elements into their work. It just kind of appears. For example, in my novel, I saw it as a cool story. My readers have seen it as: my manual for raising children, my inner personalities duking it out for dominance, and/or my opinions on religion and politics, etc. I didn't start out meaning that, but when I went back and read it from their point of view, they were right. There WAS a deeper meaning, especially for people who knew me.

So point of view is not just in the perspective of the story, it's in the perspective of the reader AND writer. Isn't it amazing that we understand each other at all?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Writer's Treasurehouse!

Today as my husband and I were sifting through his parents' old dishes and whatnot, I found a box of old journals. They belonged to my husband's "uncle" who was really more of a cousin, but some of you know how complicated family trees can be these days! In any case, I started flipping through them and found a treasure trove of cool tidbits of information: maps with detailed suggestions/information, grocery lists, clipped in newspaper articles, minucia of everyday life. They date from the 60s through the 80s and are in tiny books the size of an adult's palm. His handwriting is tiny and his language is sparse, so it's not going to be easy reading. However, I'm excited to see life from his point of view when he was an young man. Maybe I'll get a story or two out of it. Maybe I'll find some steamy family secret! Who knows?

Monday, April 23, 2012


One of my favorite sessions at the MWG Conference was on Point of View. The presentor was Christie Craig, a romance novelist, author of over 3,000 magazine articles, and who just got a book listed on the New York Times Best Seller list. (Go Christie!)

The biggest revelation to me in that class was that point of view doesn't just mean which eyes are viewing the scene. It means which background is looking. From what emotional standpoint. How are all the senses involved in that point of view? A sweet little girl will describe a china teacup in a very different way than a NFL star. When a writer ties emotion and background to point of view, it deepens the connection between the writer and the reader, something all readers want to achieve.

This next week I will be putting this new idea to work as I re-write my novel's first two chapters from 1st person to 3rd. Why? One of the agents agreed to read it if I did. So now the pressure's on!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Clarion, Conference, and Collapse

How long has it been since I've updated my blog? Too long. Here's to new beginnings. Again.

I ended up not sending in pieces for the Clarion workshop. I'm disappointed, however, the stories were nowhere near ready. I didn't want to spend that much money on something I knew I wouldn't get because the writing was still in its 2nd or 3rd draft. Next year, I'll be ready.

I just got back from the 2012 Missouri Writers' Guild conference and am ready to focus on my writing career again. I had lost focus, and courage, and this meeting really bolstered both. Yet again I was asked by an agent to send chapters to read (yay!). I came away with two writing awards for my stories (double yay!). The workshops I attended seemed to highlight where I'd gone wrong this year AND how to fix it. Plus, I got to spend the weekend with my dear friend MB who is a kindred soul in the writing and living business. We laughed hard enough to burn several hundred calories!

So now it's time to go to bed and collapse, go to work in the morning, and come home to my REAL job, that of becoming a semi-famously published author.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Last night I finished the pre-writing for my latest story. I really like the idea, but I'm a little rusty on the writing front. My fault, completely, but I just need to sit down and WRITE to shake the bugs out. Ew! Cockroach!

The pre-writing exercise I got from MB is very good but very time consuming. Good stories take time, though, so giving stories lots of thought ahead of time should make the writing of them easier, right? Maybe. We'll see.

I have less than three months to get my two stories together for Clarion. Yeek. Means I need to write more and more often. Can I sleep any less?