Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I'm on Facebook! :)

Hi, guys!

I just set up my new FB Author Page. Hope you can visit me over there and "like" the page. Thanks a lot! :)


Monday, March 28, 2011

Top Ten Movie Quotes* to Get You Unstuck

Rut. Funk. Writer’s Block. We’ve all been wedged at one time or another – in a routine, a project, the middle of a blog post or a novel. Luckily, it’s nothing a night at the movies can’t fix. So grab some popcorn and enjoy the show! (*Top ten movie quotes according to The Guinness Book of Film)

1. "...Bond. James Bond." (Sean Connery, Dr. No (1962)

Okay, now look into a mirror and say that with your best British accent. I’m kidding. But this quote made the cut because James Bond does have the coolest toys. An invisible car, a jet pack, an Omega Seamaster watch with a laser beam cutter – they helped him save the day. The good news is we don’t need anything nearly as fancy to save ours. Heck, even a Play-Doh or a box of Lego will do. Find a toy and play with it. Playing relaxes your mind and sets your thoughts free. Who knows? Your imaginary friends might even come out to join you.

2. "Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine." (Humphrey Bogart, Casablanca (1942)

Try working from some place new. Even if it just means picking up your laptop and moving from one end of the couch to the other, the move may help you see things from a different perspective. 

3. "Well, it's not the men in your life that counts, it's the life in your men." (Mae West, I'm No Angel (1933)

Take a hard look at each of your characters. Are they as fleshed out as possible? While figuring out where to take your story, examine your characters to see if they need to be developed more. This exercise might help you determine where your story needs to go next.

4. "I'll be back." (Arnold Schwarzenegger, The Terminator (1984)

Take a break. Step away from your project and breathe. Come back when the urge to throw your laptop in the bin has passed.

5. "Won't you excuse me for a moment while I ... slip into something a little bit more ... comfortable?" (Madeline Kahn, Blazing Saddles (1974))

If you wear pants while working, slip into a dress. If you usually wear shoes, go barefoot. Shaking up your routine should help get the creative juices flowing.

6. "My Mama always said, 'Life was like a box of chocolates; you never know what you're gonna get.'" (Tom Hanks, Forrest Gump (1994)

Keep a box of writing prompts handy. Draw a prompt from it when you’re stuck. It may not be an exact match for the particular writing project that you’re working on, but it may help to get the wheels in your head turning. (If your project isn’t writing related, I recommend keeping an actual box of chocolates on hand.)  

7. "I could dance with you till the cows come home...On second thought, I'd rather dance with the cows when you came home." (Groucho Marx, Duck Soup (1933

First of all, skip the cows, but do turn up the music and dance. Sing! Let the music carry your thoughts away and inspire you.

8. "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn!" (Clark Gable, Gone with the Wind (1939))

As “The King” said, don’t give a damn. Write, write, write regardless of whether you think it’s crap. You might find a shiny little nugget in the steaming pile the next day.

9. "You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? Well, who the hell else are you talkin' to? You talkin' to me? Well, I'm the only one here. Who the f--k do you think you're talkin' to?" (Robert De Niro, Taxi Driver (1976)

Sit down with your characters and have a chat with them. Ask them about their family, their favorite food and what they think about that last episode of Fringe. Their answers may surprise you. And if turns out that they don’t like Fringe, kill them off. 

10. "Gimme a whiskey, ginger ale on side. And don't be stingy, baby." (Greta Garbo, Anna Christie (1930))

Enough said.  ;-)

Do you have any favorite ways to get unstuck? I'd love to hear them. Go ahead, make my day :D

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Friday Field Trip: The REAL Slight Detour (Part 1)

"Writing, I think, is not apart from living.  Writing is a kind of double living.  The writer experiences everything twice.  Once in reality and once in that mirror which waits always before or behind."  ~Catherine Drinker Bowen, Atlantic, December 1957

Hey, campers! Welcome to our Friday field trip! Today we're making a u-turn in time, to the backpacking trip that helped inspire Before Ever After. 

This was a spur of the moment adventure that I took with a good friend during a time when we were both sick and tired of our jobs and had just watched the movie Before Sunrise. The film hopelessly infected us with a bad case of wanderlust. We flipped a coin on our lunchbreak to decide whether to take a camel tour of Mongolia or make our way around Europe. (I'll give you one guess which trip won out.) We hopped on a plane without any firm plans other than the fact that we needed to be in Athens on the date printed on our return ticket. 

So, are you ready to see the REAL Slight Detour? Oh, wait. Before we leave, there are a few new rules that you need to be aware of:

1.  There will be no laughing about 90s hairstyles or wardrobe choices. 
2.  There will be no laughing about 90s hairstyles or wardrobe choices. 
3.  There will be no laughing about 90s hairstyles or wardrobe choices. 

Hey, you in the back of the van - I can still hear you snickering!

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, follow the red umbrella!

Remember this picture. This will be the cleanest I will be on the trip.

Can you spot me? I'm the white splotch sitting in front of the decayed tooth, er, Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

In my "Before Sunrise" sundress at Versailles. You will see this dress many (many, many) more times before the tour is over. Don't judge me. ;-)

Hmm. I wonder why Dan Brown didn't include this statue in the Da Vinci Code?

Or this one?

Luckily, unlike my main character, Shelley, I didn't have to race up the more than two hundred steps to the Sacré-Cœur Basilica to take this photo.

I was young.

Notre Dame required a more dignified pose.

The bridge in the background is where we spent a homeless night in Lucerne when we got kicked out of the train station when it closed for the day.

Meet our guide. We met him when we arrived in Austria and joined "Bob's Bavarian Mountain Tour." He offered to take us around Austria in his dad's convertible, but the van he drove had its own charm. (He's standing on the van in this photo - which explains the perspective of the shot. Why he is standing on the van is another story.)

That's all I have for you now, but make sure to come back next week for the second part of the tour!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Greetings. I'm from the Future.

Living on this side of the planet has its perks. For starters, I live a day ahead of most of you lovely people who read this blog. (Email me if you want me to sneak a peek at the lottery numbers for you. 50/50 split sound good?)
We also get summer early. But don’t be too envious. In a month, we’ll be frying eggs on the pavement. Personally, I prefer using the hood of the car. Asphalt has an aftertaste. Right now, though, the weather is just PERFECT. The sun is out, the wind is cool, and the sky can’t be bluer. So to everyone who can’t wait for summer to arrive, I’ve had a sneak peek and I can tell you that it’s going to be awesome. :D

But even if I weren’t in this time zone, I find that as a writer, living in the future is a job requirement. For me, knowing how my story is going to end is essential. Give me an opening line, a last sentence, a pot of dark roast coffee and I’m set.
The middle, however, is trickier. I want to be surprised as much as the next reader. If the middle doesn’t keep me guessing while I write it, I probably won’t be motivated to finish the book. And here lies the challenge: you’ve seen the future and now you have to herd your characters towards it - without being predictable. How do you blindside yourself? The solution: play “Pocket God.”

This app allows you to creatively torment the cute inhabitants of a little island who live only to appease you. Squish them, roast them, feed them to sharks – they won’t love you any less.
When I want to keep the middle of the story interesting, I unleash my inner Pocket God on my beloved characters. I heighten conflict, steal their hearts' desire, and raise the stakes. Then I make it rain and break their umbrella. And kill their pet turtle. I’m kidding, I’m kidding. No animals were harmed in the making of Before Ever After.

But all this of course comes from a place of love. I know what the future holds and I want the way to it to be as shark-infested, er, interesting as possible.  They will be richer for their experiences along their journey.  After all, they know that I would never lead them to an ending other than happily ever after. Sometimes. ;-)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Hi, Sam. It's Me, Sunday.

Dear Sam,

Hi. It’s me, Sunday. You aren’t awake yet so I decided to leave you a note to let you know what you’re missing.

The house is so quiet that you can hear the sunshine trickling through the windows. It’s wondering where everybody is.

I took a peek outside. The garden is starting to look like itself again. The flowers seem happy that summer’s come around. I know I am.  Gray is definitely not my color.

You really should get up now, you know. It looks like the perfect day for your boys to go out for a run.

And for your little girl to pick some flowers.

Hurry. The trees are waiting.

Come on. Wake up. I’ve made coffee. Come. Share a cup with me while the house is silent and we can listen to the sun.


Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday Field Trip: My Cave

The oldest known cave art can be found in the Chauvet cave in France. The most common cave paintings are of large wild animals. One theory behind this theme is that it was meant to magically help increase the number of animals the cavemen hunted. Hmm…now if I could only figure out how I could make that work in writing caves.

I’d probably doodle something like this:

(I have to say that this second novel is an entirely different beast from my first one. For starters, it has bigger horns – and it knows how to use them. I am presently firmly skewered onto one of them and am unable to budge from chapter thirteen. But enough about the-novel-that-is-slurping-my-brain-out-with-a-straw. This post is about caves. And magic.)

The cavemen were on to something when they lived in caves. Caves sheltered them from the elements and made them feel safe. Inside them, they didn’t have to worry about being eaten alive or drowning in tar pits.

There are arguably less life-threatening dangers surrounding us today, but one doesn’t need the threat of a horrible death to need sanctuary. Whether it’s a quiet place to put our feet up and inhale cupcakes or a spot to hunker down with the iPad and break our Angry Birds record, we need to stake out a little corner of the Earth for ourselves, even for just a little while. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. It simply has to be large enough to stretch our legs and spirits - without leaving any room for guilt. In this magical cave, for a stolen moment, it’s okay to not care about anyone but yourself.

Today, I thought it would be fun to take a field trip to my current cave. It’s perfect for hiding out from large predators, wrestling, er, writing second novels while the kiddos are in school, and exhaling. Are you ready to go? Hop on the van and follow the red umbrella! (Oh, and please try to keep the noise down. It's a "library" :D) 

How about you? What's your cave like and what do you like doing in it?