Yoda Wisdom in the Real World

No matter how sad, anxious, awkward or lonely I may be feeling, this lesson from Yoda always makes me feel better.

1_Judge me with text2_My ally with text4_Life creates it with text5_Makes it grow with text6_Its energy with text8_luminous beings with text 9_Crude Matter2_with text“I grew up with the religion of Star Wars, frankly. That’s when I realized there is something bigger out there… and it’s called The Force.”

- Trey Parker

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Reading Recommendation: Rules for Ghosting by A. J. Paquette

Rules for Ghosting Cover

I have a new mid-year resolution which should supplement & enhance my Accentuate the Positive in 2014 New Year’s resolution. Every time I finish a novel I’ve truly enjoyed – no matter what its topic, age group or intended audience – I’m posting a quick recommendation here. And by quick I mean SUPER quick. An image of the book’s cover, some basic stats and a sentence or two on why I enjoyed it. Also, if the book I’m posting reminds me of other book(s) I’ve loved in the past, I’ll recommend those books too. 

(Why so brief? See, I have this issue that normally stops me from posting book reviews. I love to read, I love to write, but I do not enjoy writing detailed reviews about works of fiction. This issue has been preventing me from spreading the love and, for an author, that is just BAD juju!)

Today’s Recommendation: RULES FOR GHOSTING by A. J. Paquette

I have a voracious, nearly insatiable appetite for non-horror ghost stories and this one is fantastic! It’s full of eccentric, creative characters that made laugh. Paquette’s descriptions of Silverton Manor are pitch-perfect while her use of alternating viewpoints between the living boy and the ghost girl really brings the story’s tension and mystery to life. I should donate my copy of this novel to a library so more grade school readers can enjoy it, but I don’t think I will be able to part with it. (Sorry, kiddies!)

  • Age Range: 8 – 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 – 6
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Walker Childrens (July 9, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 0802734545
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802734549

Other middle grade fiction I’ve loved that you will probably enjoy if you like Rules for Ghosting:

Note: I’m always thrilled to find new, wonderful ghost stories that won’t scare me to death. If anyone out there would like to recommend books to me based on my avid adoration of non-horror ghost stories (a.k.a. Casper the Friendly Ghost Syndrome), please post in the comments here, or post on my Facebook author page, or send a Tweet to @SlaytheWriter.

Wil Wheaton on Bullying, Compassion & Being a Nerd

“When a person makes fun of you, when a person is cruel to you, it has nothing to do with you. It’s not about what you said. It’s not about what you did. It’s not about what you love. It’s about them feeling bad about themselves. They feel sad.”

Wil Wheaton, you are a credit to nerds everywhere. I salute you.

On Writing Conferences and Courage

Mondays are hard. But a Monday after a writing conference is especially difficult.

This past weekend I attended my first SCBWI SpringMingle Conference. After a whirlwind weekend of writing tips, trends and inspiration, this is how my brain feels:

Butterfly BrainSeriously, how can I be expected to function as a productive member of society with my little gray cells in this flittery fluttery state? *Sigh*

Anyhoo…there’s something else I want to discuss. Briefly. Before I have to drag myself out of bed and back to the mundane details of my weekday, workday existence.

During a fabulous presentation on her Fairytale Life, Illustrator Ruth Sanderson casually mentioned that she has a fear of public speaking (something you never would have guessed while listening to her). In fact, she wants to throw up every time she has to get up in front of an audience. But she gets up there and speaks anyway.

I think someone somewhere once said that’s the true definition of courage – when you fear something, but you do it anyway.

While I don’t fear public speaking, I have plenty of other fears to keep me awake at night. Most of them are pretty standard, silly little things. Some feel like gargantuan beasts that like to sit on my chest in the wee hours of the morning, sucking away all the oxygen in the bedroom. One of my most horrible, terrible, pressing fears is the next book in my Star Wars Fangirl Trilogy.

To be clear, I’m not saying that I have a certain fear that I’m transforming, by the amazing alchemy of writerly magic, into an inspirational topic for my next book. Nope. That would be healthy and productive. What I mean to say is I’m afraid of writing my next fangirl book.

There. I said it.

Sometimes We Strike Back is a darker story than NSLA. The narrative voice of this novel has some serious anger management issues. There’s suicide. There’s GLBT issues. The bullying gets far, far worse and my main character gives in to the Dark Side.

Oh yes, this story scares me. And yet I have to write it. I do.

What fears are you challenging yourself to overcome this year?

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Empathy – An Essential Tool in Life & Writing

This video is aimed at professionals in the health care industry, but I think it’s a wonderful reminder for each and every one of us. Fair warning: It makes me cry every time I watch it.

I’m posting this video for two reasons:

  1. The world always needs love…and more empathy!
    • Imagine what a wonderful world it would be if everyone looked at their fellow humans this way. What if that grocery store clerk who seemed rude is actually fighting through a migraine headache? What if that guy who cut you off on the highway is actually rushing to the hospital to hold his newborn for the first time? What if that waiter who messed up your order just learned his fiance is cheating on him with his best friend? Most of the mundane stresses and annoyances that suck the joy out of our daily experiences would pretty much disappear with a liberal dose of empathy.
  2. This video perfectly depicts my favorite way to build fictional characters; it’s how I walk around looking at the world every day.

Which is not to say I’m some omniscient being who casts my eyes upon mere mortals and immediately KNOWS what is happening in their lives. Nope. I make it all up. Walking through life in my little writerly, Walter Mitty-esque bubble, I assign the most outrageous, twisted, heart-wrenching stories from the darkest depths of my imagination to perfect strangers.

Some people might believe this practice to be rather sick and wrong. I believe it’s the perfect way to build a huge arsenal of complex characters.

What do you think? Am I the only one who does this? Or is there anyone else out there who endures a long checkout line by dreaming up weird and wild stories for everyone else in the line?

2014 Dahlonega Literary Festival – March 8-9

According to 11Alive news, this weekend is going to be absolutely gorgeous – sunny with highs in the upper 60′s – a glorious Spring day. In fact, Saturday is predicted to be a perfect 10 on the WIZometer.

Woo hoo!!! This will be a FABULOUS weekend for the Dahlonega Literary Festival.

Books

Even though I’m recovering from knee surgery – still unable to drive or walk without crutches or navigate stairs – words cannot fully express how much I’m looking forward to actually getting outside of this house and being around people who love books.

The lineup of authors is absolutely stellar this year! Here’s my own personal highlights:

  • Joshilyn Jackson – Anyone who reads my blog knows that I shamelessly hero-worship Joshilyn, but did you know her most recent novel (Someone Else’s Love Story) and the prequel short story (My Own Miraculous) are set in Dahlonega?? Both works are wonderful and amazing. Read them up!
  • Mark Braught – One of my favorite SCBWI illustrators. This guy is an incredible inspiration….and I should mention his illustrations were used on merchandising for the first Harry Potter movie.
  • George Weinstein – When I bought/read George’s first novel, Hardscrabble Road I was a little nervous to read it; afraid the subject matter might be depressing. The MC’s life seemed so desperate and dreary! Guess what? I fell in love! Completely, hopelessly in love. I can barely wait to dive into his second novel, The Five Destinies of Carlos Moreno.
  • Cassandra King – After listening to an NPR interview with her, I purchased Moonrise and thoroughly enjoyed the story. It’s a modern Southern Gothic with a heavy dose of inspiration from du Maurier’s Rebecca.
  • Deanna Raybourn – She writes a-MAZE-ing novels about romantic, mystical creatures, but I loved her most recent historical novel – A Spear of Summer Grass.

NOTE: The first person who walks up to me during this festival and says, “May the literary Force be with you” will win a FREE copy of my novel (NSLA, NSFA).

Here’s the full DLF Schedule (taken from their website):

Saturday, March 8th 
*All Programming at St. Luke’s unless otherwise noted

9:15-10:00:

  1. Creating Characters That Readers Care About (Rm. 103/105) - Panelists: Raymond Atkins, Michael Bishop, Kim Boykin, Terry Kay, Cassandra King, Erika Marks, George Weinstein
  2. Writing and Illustrating Children’s Books, a mini-workshop with Mark Braught (Rm. 106) (also featuring Patsy Henry and Ed T. Payne)

10:15–11:00:

  1. Dahlonega in the Spotlight: Someone Else’s Love Story, A Book Talk with Joshilyn Jackson (Rm. 103/105)
  2. Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, a mini-workshop with Alex Hughes and James R. Tuck (Rm. 106)

11:15–12:00:

  1. Glimpse of the Past: Incorporating History Into Fiction (Rm. 103/105) Panelists: Delilah S. Dawson, Cassandra King, Charles McNair, Erika Marks, Deanna Raybourn, Denise Weimar
  2. Writing Fiction: Regional Authors Share Their Experiences (Rm. 101) Panelists: Jim Booth, Sue Cass, Alison Reeger Cook, Mitch Doxsee, Mike Herron, C.D. Mitchell, Madelyn Shepard, Bill Stuart
  3. Character Drawing with Mark Braught (Rm. 106)

12:30–1:30 - Lunch with the Author (at area restaurants–attendees responsible for their meals)

2:00–2:45:

  1. Fantasy for Everyone: The Many Realms of Speculative Fiction (Rm. 103/105) Panelists: Michael Bishop, Delilah S. Dawson, Ann Hite, Alex Hughes, James R. Tuck, Jadie Jones
  2. Truth Be Told: Writing Non-Fiction (Rm. 101) Panelists: Susan Lindsley, William Rawlings, Kent Kammermeyer, Dennis McKenna, Carroll McMahan, Fiona Page, Carlotta Russell
  3. Writing Poetry, a mini-workshop with Kathryn Hinds, also featuring Jeff Newberry (Rm. 106)

3:00–3:45:

  1. From Chuckles to Belly Laughs: Hitting the Right Note with Humor (Rm. 103/105) Panelists: Raymond Atkins, Kim Boykin, Jackie Cooper, Joshilyn Jackson, Terry Kay, Charles McNair, James R. Tuck
  2. Stonepile Writers Reading (Rm. 101)
  3. Writing Mysteries, a mini-workshop with Deborah Malone (Rm. 106)

4:00–4:45:

  1. On the Edge of Our Seats: The Element of Suspense in Fiction (Rm. 103/105) Panelists: Alex Hughes, Susan Lindsley, William Rawlings, Deanna Raybourn, George Weinstein, Saundra Kelley. Julia McDermott
  2. Southern Poetry Anthology Presentation and Reading (Rm. 101)
  3. Preparing Your Manuscript, a mini-workshop with April Loebick, Managing Editor, University of North Georgia Press (Rm. 106)

5:15–6:30Author Meet-and-Greet, Open to the Public, Community House

7:00 Saturday Night Live: Dinner at Don Pollo’s
Buffet dinner for $17.99 plus tax, or order from the menu. Six of our featured authors will read short selections.

Sunday, March 9th 
*Programming held at Community House

12:30–1:15 - What is Southern Fiction, Anyway? Panelists: Raymond Atkins, Kim Boykin, Jackie Cooper, Terry Kay, Cassandra King, Charles McNair, George Weinstein

1:30–2:15 - The Role of Setting in Fiction - Panelists: Michael Bishop, Mark Braught, Alex Hughes, Susan Lindsley, Erika Marks, William Rawlings, James R. Tuck

After the Festival Fun for Writers:

3:00–6:00 p.m - Write-In (Starbuck’s next to UNG campus) How would you like to meet with other aspiring writers to discuss issues, offer support, share ideas, and even play a game or two? Word Wars and Word Challenges will be part of the fun.

photo credit: Thomas Hawk via photopin cc

Help! Pre-Surgical Jitters

Excuse me while I freak out for a moment…
Freak Out KittyAs I have been mentioning all over the Internets in every place where I normally post personal things about myself for the whole world to see, my right knee is badly damaged and in need of surgical repair. Surgery is scheduled for Thursday 1/23/14. And that is a good thing.

Whenever people notice me hobbling around on my crutch with a crooked leg and ask how I’m doing, I tell them I’ll be much better after my surgery. Every person who hears about the surgery responds in a way that tells me they think having surgery is about the worst possible thing aside from dying. It’s not. The worst possible thing aside from dying would be to hobble around on a twisted leg, in pain, with no hope of repair. Surgery is a blessing, folks.

To tell the truth, my knee has been wonky (a.k.a. unstable) for YEARS and this surgery is going to make it better than it has been since 1993. Seriously. A good thing this surgery is. (Picture me squinting and nodding with Yoda-like certainty.)

So…why am I freaking out?

1 – The beloved Man Pillow has a cold. He is shuffling around in his bathrobe, speaking in a voice that is a full octave lower than normal, drinking pots of tea, making chicken soup and coughing. Which is a polite way of saying he is spewing nasty germs all over MY living space. ARGH! When he told me he was sick, I cursed. Loudly. I was a flat-out, selfish, unsympathetic meanie. I seriously considered tying a bandana over my nose and mouth.

The poor man is miserable and I should be taking care of him. I should be making the soup and brewing the tea. I should be massaging his back lovingly with no selfish thoughts about my own health. I swear, this would be the way I would normally behave. But I’m not. Instead, I am hiding in the spare room. Why? Because I NEED this surgery.

When the medical scheduler called me, she tried to schedule surgery for mid-February and I unleashed some serious freak out on her. The words “Do you have any idea how difficult it is for me to take a bath like this?” came out of my mouth. (Side Note: If you are now or have ever considered a career as a Medical Scheduler, reconsider. Know that you will be dealing with a segment of the public that is coming to you damaged, upset, and possibly in pain. You will be verbally abused. On a daily basis.)

Long story short, I practically twisted off that poor woman’s ear to get this surgery scheduled for this week. Now I’m afraid they may have to postpone it if I get a cold.

Is that true? Does anyone know if you can get knee surgery with a cold? Or will my surgeon have to postpone if I catch this [bleep]-ing illness that has invaded my home?

2 – Honey responded to my terror of infection by doing some research. Then he proudly told me I may not have to be put under general anesthesia for the surgery. I may even (he told me with an excited look in his eyes) be able to WATCH my surgery on a TV while it is happening.

Uh…what the WHAT?!?!?! Who thinks that is a good thing?!?! Not me. I have no (zip, zero, nada) interest in watching a sharp instrument cut into my flesh nor in seeing foreign objects rooting around inside my body. EEEWWWWWW!!!!

Both my mother and I think he is wrong about this. We think they will put me OUT like a light. But the very thought that they may not put me out is like this giant monster zombie chewing on my brain. And I won’t be able to ask my surgeon until Tuesday when I see him for my pre-op appointment. Hence this desperate plea for information.

Has anyone out there had knee surgery to repair the ACL? If so, did your surgery use general anesthesia or local? Please post in the comments or on Facebook or email me.

photo credit: macwagen via photopin cc

2014 Resolution #2: Write More Fiction Faster

That’s it. I have only two resolutions this year. Accentuate the Positive and Write More Fiction Faster.

Success Fortune CookieNow, if you know anything about setting goals for success (or if you happen to remember this post from my Creativity Diet blog), you will know that my resolution is a very poorly stated goal. How much more is more? And how am I measuring it? Words? Pages? How fast is faster? What is my motivation/reward? What’s the time frame for completing this goal?

Quick Answer: I need to complete two novels before June 2014.

What? Two novels in six months?!?!

Yep. Two completed (though not entirely edited) novels in six months. And I have not yet figured out all the rest of those questions marks. But I will. This month. Before Chinese New Year.

Writing your nameStrategy is my theme for January. I need to change my basic novel writing strategy.

In the past, I’ve always been a Pantser…which, in case you don’t know the term, is a silly word to describe a novelist who just spews out the first draft of a story without an outline. Writing by the seat of your pants = Pantser. That’s all well and good. It’s fun to type and type and type until you feel ready to type “the end.” It’s a hoot to print out a fat manuscript and wave it around saying, “Look, I wrote a novel. Isn’t it thick?”

But then comes the majority of the work. Months or even years of rewriting, editing, tweaking, critiquing, then rewriting some more. NSLA required no less than 8 rewrites before it was ready for publication. That is too much work!

On the other end of the novelist spectrum is the Plotter…which does sound a bit dreary, doesn’t it? But it’s not. Really. I want to learn to be a successful Plotter. Producing novels just takes WAY too darn long the other way.

So…I’ve renewed my lapsed subscription to Writer’s Digest tutorials. I’ve pulled all of my most favoritest How-To-Get-That-Novel-Written-Faster books (of which, I own an embarrassingly high number) off the bookshelf and stacked them on my desk. And yes, I’ve even cracked a few open and started taking notes; piecing together my new strategy.

These are not my writing books. Sadly, my collection is much larger. But I'm too pressed for time to snap a pic of my bookshelf and upload it.

These are not my writing books. Sadly, my collection is much larger. But I’m too pressed for time to snap a pic of my bookshelf and upload it.

2014 started out on a bit of a sour note for me. I have a badly damaged knee that requires surgery. (The full story is scheduled to post on Creativity Diet later today). But, in keeping with Resolution #1, there is a silver lining to my current state of impaired mobility and the forthcoming enforced post operative bed rest. I’ll have plenty of time to plot and plan my next two novels! Yay.

What’s your strategy for making the most of this year? Have you made any resolutions? Or are you pantsing your way through 2014?

photo credits: Jeff Hester via photopin cc, Kathleen Tyler Conklin via photopin cc & avrdreamer via photopin cc

2014 Resolution #1: Accentuate the Positive

Let’s start with the amazing, brilliant & endlessly buoyant John Green blasting just the sort of positive news needed to muster new hope for the new year: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUhA6fjgnLY

Woo hoo! You go, John! Sometimes it feels like rampant negativity is a modern disease more virulent and destructive than any influenza pandemic. The talking heads on TV are always screaming, “It’s the end of the world as we know it and no one feels fine!” Every time I log on to check my email, I’m assaulted by horrible news feeds depicting death, disease, despair and other tragedies. Even speaking to friends and loved ones can quickly devolve into a detailed discussion of all the “bad things” that plague our daily lives.

So, this year, I’m going to accentuate the positive. No, really. I am. The glass is now officially half full.

I resolve to write down 3 things that make me feel grateful every night before I go to sleep.

A list of 3 seems quick, easy and doable, doesn’t it? What actions will you take to accentuate the positive in 2014? Or do you think this is a woo-woo waste of time?

Have a Happy & Hopeful New Year

New Beginnings Butterfly

254

“Hope” is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—

And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard—
And sore must be the storm—
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm—

I’ve heard it in the chillest land—
And on the strangest Sea—
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb—of Me.

Emily Dickinson

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