October 22nd, 2013

FREE Book & Giftcard Giveaway!

Today I’m kicking off my I-CAN’T-WAIT-FOR-CHRISTMAS-EVEN-THOUGH-THERE’S-HALLOWEEN-STUFF-EVERYWHERE giveaway. Actually, it’s even better than that because I’m holding TWO giveaways and they both run from today and until Midnight on Thursday October 24, 2013.

FIRST: Get your free copy of The Santa Society (my newly released Christmas novel)
1. FREE on Amazon 10/22 – 10/24.


SECOND: Enter the $25 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway 
2. Enter the raffle for a chance to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card. It’s easy to enter and involves tweeting about The Santa Society promotion. Pretty simple and super helpful to me, one very appreciative Kristine McCord who is not a zombie :)
ENTER the Giftcard giveaway

 

September 19th, 2013

I’m Starting a New Genre: Clean Fiction

I’ve been thinking about this thing for a while. Since this morning, actually. You’ll either think I’m brilliant, or you’ll brand me a heretic. Either way, here goes. There should be a new genre, a stepchild to the Christian market, and it should be called: Clean Fiction. If we can make that happen, people, that’s where I’ll be.

Because I’ve noticed a divided camp on what authors and readers think Christian fiction should be, and I know there is a multitude of people out there who don’t read it because they have some preconceived notions about what it is—like maybe it’s just 300-400 pages of conversion-oriented evangelism dressed up like a story. Or it’s filled with perfect Christian characters…doing what?

*crickets chirping*

Right.

Because that just doesn’t sound very interesting. I’m not a proponent of perfect. In fact, I think that intentionally cultivating a perfect image alienates people from Christianity. You might say it even borders on irresponsibility. And people get this idea of Christianity from somewhere, even it is not always completely accurate.

So where does such an inane idea come from? Maybe because there are so many topics that are considered unacceptable for publication in the Christian market because they are too dark, too racy, and so on and so forth. Those stories end up in the general fiction market where they may be too clean.

So I think it’s time for a new genre—one where characters are allowed to say “crap” or “that sucks” or maybe they drink a glass of wine or get caught up in something unseemly that they have to conquer—and when they get really, really super mad, maybe they let a (mild) curse word fly, or maybe they don’t. But at least it’s honest and it’s real.

These kinds of books are out there. People just need to find them. Google “clean fiction” and you’ll see what I mean.

And I think more people would publish as Christian if it weren’t for the paradoxical risk of Christian criticism where something is always too Christian or not Christian enough. In the end, meaningful fiction can touch people’s lives without feeling “religious.”

And readers should be able to find books they can feel safe with–where they can trust they are not going to stumble into a graphic sex scene after they just gave a copy of that same book to their teenage daughter or Christian coworker.

And that, my friends, is my big thought for the day.

February 22nd, 2013

Dear Diary, How do I Write More?

I’ve been so crazy-busy with projects, I’ve fallen a little behind on posting. So I thought tonight I’d share the single best thing I ever did for my writing. Except for my writer’s group, of course, because that one’s pretty far up there on my list.

Ready? (Drum roll please) It’s…journaling. Yep, journaling. That’s the first big secretive tip I have to share tonight. But wait, it’s not a diary. It’s not your grandma’s rundown of what everyone did today.

Here’s some background. I’ve been doing this for a long time, but when I really think about it, it took on it’s (almost) present form in the nineties. All my journaling actually helped me as a writer, just so long as I didn’t do it instead of writing fiction…which is what I did for way too long. And that’s another story.

So a light bulb went off when I drew the connection between that and my fiction writing. I’m here to tell you that sitting down to journal at least several pages (front and back) or more every morning trained me to let my thoughts flow onto paper. Twenty years of flowing and I finally spilled out some novels. Too bad it took me so long to realize how similar fiction flowing and journal flowing really are. You just go with it.

Even better, I can plot in my journal for a bit when I’m in the middle of a novel, before I start that day’s scenes. I always say I don’t outline, but I guess I do somewhat–loosely that is. I just do it in my journal day by day before I sit down to work. The journal habit taught me to take anything I need to sort through, think about or plan and do it through writing. Which is why it’s so helpful to increase word counts in fiction. And then I don’t refer to it ever again (more on that at the end of this post).

So I felt like a mad scientist. It thrilled me to discover I had not wasted all those years of lovely journals. I even felt pretty darn smart for realizing this connection. Then, I remembered a little book I read in the early nineties, called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. She called this “morning pages” and said it trained you to turn off the internal censor. You just keep going, whatever comes in your head. Okay, so it maybe it wasn’t totally my discovery after after all. I did this for so long, I’d forgotten it wasn’t even my idea. I did it like Julia said.

Well, so help me, it works.

The memories came flooding back. Suddenly I remembered that book was the reason I went from occasional diary writing about things that upset me, to daily writing about whatever crazy thought came in my head. I learned it from her, didn’t I? Pretty cool. Thanks, Julia.

Too bad, I did it in place of my art for so long. It became an integral part of who I am. Because I am a writer. I always was. And I know it gave me practice with letting thoughts flow onto the page, whatever they are. Even if they aren’t perfect. Similar to brainstorming, really. I guess I’m sort of a twenty-year case study.

Now, it’s true that I already liked to use journals. But this fondness took a distinct turn around the same time I read that book. I can now remember trying to follow her advice and just let it flow. I had a lot of trouble. Apparently, I totally overcame that if all these boxes of journals are any proof.

So if you struggle with letting your words spill out rapidly onto the page. Practice Julia Cameron’s morning page idea. You might just develop a new healthy writing habit to go with all that caffeine. You might even start to really “own” it, like I did, to the point you’ll forget all about this blog post and the book I just told you about. I hope you do. I hope you’ll get as much out of journaling as I have.

I can’t remember what the book recommends, but here’s what I do. First thing with my coffee, I write in the journal–anything that pops in my head so that I don’t pause. Pretty soon you won’t even have think about not pausing…you just won’t.

Once you’ve gotten to that point, translate that immediately to your other writing. Don’t become self indulgent like I did and turn into a journal-aholic, forsaking the muse.

If you have no clue what to do with your next fiction scene, try sitting down and going with the first thing that pops in your head–like in your journal. Better yet, journal about it first.

And here’s a bit of trivia about me and the real BIG secret of this post: In the last few years, I changed my handwriting for my journaling for the purpose of privacy and speed. I don’t even pick the pen up from the page between words. I just keep going. Which means I write even faster in it than I used to. . Weird, right? So, yeah…I’ve got this secret handwriting now that even I can’t read. No censoring. At all. This one was completely my idea, of course, because I’m THAT crazy.

It felt strange to do this at first, I admit. But soon I elongated the cursive letters into it’s own crazy looking non-readable thing. I still feels like writing–just now it’s writing on Nitro. And it helped me even more than just regular old word-space-word journal writing.

Definitely helps to turn off that internal censor.

January 12th, 2013

My Grandma’s Wok

When I was 17, my sweet Grandma discovered the wok. It revolutionized her kitchen. I guess you’d have to know where we came from for that to seem unusual. She was born and raised in the South. She was country folk.

She grew up on biscuits and collards, muscadines and peach cobbler. The wok was an entirely new species of kitchenware. Its outcome a whole ’nother country, literally.

But then, her retirement years were pretty daring, I must admit. Taken as a whole, I have to say she was living it up, whenever she could.

She was very involved in her church, particularly the Solos. It was the special Sunday school class for singles. These days, that demographic would be far different than it was then. But then, the group was mostly made up of widows with a few widowers sprinkled in.

The Solos class revolutionized her life too, much to my chagrin. I admit, I was a little jealous. Grandma had a pretty full social life for a small town girl. She still crocheted. She still read her romances (this is a story for later). And she still fed me well. But…

When Friday night rolled around, and many times in between, she was out. This of course, was when she was in town. She went to The Grand Ole Opry, Myrtle Beach, shopping in Atlanta, and on and on. All with the ladies.

“The Ladies” was how she referred to the women that became her inner circle of friends in those years.

On those nights when she was just out for the evening, dinner could be found on the stove. several hours old. And Grandma long gone. Yes, I know. Today with our worries over freshness and bacteria, this would have ratcheted a surefire visit from the local health department. Back then, no big deal.

I never thought about it then, when I was feeling deserted, but now, I realize she made those dinners just for me. Obviously, she was eating out. An entire meal made for me. That, I think, was pretty thoughtful.

The wok made it easier. All in one pan. Easy cleanup. And really, I have to admit, it was some darn good fried rice. With shrimp, even. How’s that for sanitary. I would just love to come home one more time to that wok.

More than that, early enough to catch her still getting ready to go out. Or maybe, if I were being greedy, spend another quiet evening with her watching a Brave’s game.

There are some people that pass out of our life who just leave a hole forever. Grandma was one such person.

I admire her even more now as I grow older. She was an example of life in the golden years. An example of still knowing how to have fun, living to the fullest, and not being afraid to indulge a little.

She taught me that life has seasons, yes, but each are golden. It’s what you make of them. She made her last one pretty fun. I’m not jealous anymore. I understand completely.

The night she passed on, the remaining ladies came to visit her. They sat with us for a while and told wonderful, hilarious stories about their times together. Stories that showed the side of her that was full of life and vigor. It was a celebratory moment, a blessed rest from the sadness. Seems she was quite admired by the men, she just never cared about it. Seems she was also a whole lotta fun to hang out with. The ladies gave me something precious that night. It was a side of her I didn’t know. Thanks to them, now I do.

Every woman should have some ladies.

November 12th, 2012

My Ten Writing Quirks

NaNoWriMo is now underway. I feared it ever since my friends and I agreed to tackle it. I think secretly I hoped we would all abandon the idea. I worried I had too much going on in life and edits. Now I am really glad I’m doing it.

Yes, there is still a lot going on. But I am writing anyway. My family will probably get aggravated at how busy I am. But I am glad to be “really” writing again.

My pace is better than I expected. I think I am banking words. You, know for the days when schedule won’t allow much time to reach my daily goal. But, we’ll see. It may also be true that I needed this nudge, to show me I can still commit and make this daily appointment with the page, despite all things that I have to do.

I am seeing a pattern develop, though, aside from NaNoWriMo. It seems like my best way of writing is to jump all-in tirelessly, until I finish. I run from the fear of not finishing.

Once I have decided to go with an idea that I really love and have committed to. I swim like a crazy person, cranking out the scenes–flying by the seat of my pants. I do it like I will drown if I stop. It seems like, for me, if I swim along at a calmer pace, I will lose momentum and not finish.

Maybe it’s a self trust issue, I don’t know. But this is what ends up happening when I am productive. In the times I am not productive, it seems to be when I have not set a goal to finish in some insanely short period of time.

I know not everybody works the same. For example, many writers work better when they plan it out and take their time. I guess I’m too haywire to do that well. I end up bored if I already know where the story goes completely.

So, this all has me wondering about individual habits other people have while writing. I will confess mine first:

1. I drink a lot of coffee. If I write late in the day, it’s hot tea.

2. I feel like I write my best in the morning, as soon as my coffee kicks in. I am more creative in the first part of the day.

3. I write entirely on the iPad. I feel more relaxed there. Then I move it to my laptop and add it to my manuscript file. I do that every day. Piecing it together.

4. I track daily word count and use a countdown spreadsheet to tell me how many days I have left to finish. This keeps me running, so to speak. I am more willing to work harder and longer when I can prognosticate how far and fast that will get me if I continue at that pace. I am impatient. When I see the difference it makes in the numbers, it keeps me encouraged. And the fast pace lets me get caught up in the story. Like someone else’s novel I can’t put down. So I am loving the Nano stats that tell me all this.

5. I edit only on the laptop.

6. I go to bed earlier because I look forward to the next morning’s writing.

7. I start each day with little or absolutely no idea what my characters will do next.

8. I plan minimally. Things like character sketches, a basic idea of subject, and some ideas about where I want it all to go with enough cool details to pique my interest.

9. I have recently discovered that brainstorming with other writers is an awesome way to get motivated. The ideas I get are surprising, fun, and very helpful. Very good to get the creative juices flowing, and probably to get over a stall too. It’s amazing how a simple idea can become complex and striking with enough with the right amount of creativity and angles to see it.

10. I try not to say too much about the work in progress as I go, unless it is a scene I have already written. While I don’t do a lot of planning, at some point I get a sharper sense of where things are going, even though I haven’t planned those scenes. Just like outlining, if I try to tell the story in advance, I lose interest in writing it. I enjoy experiencing it for the first time. That’s what keeps me coming to the page.

Well, that’s all I have at the moment. Would love to hear from others about what is helping you write, along with any weird habits that seem to work for you along the way.

Good luck to all of you NaNoWriMo-ers out there! I think it helps to feel part of this greater thing, knowing so many others are going through it with me. Some I know, many I don’t. Think how cool it will be to have a brand new novel written–all before Christmas!! You can do it!