Thursday, March 26, 2015

TBT: Hot Chicks Who Kick A$$ and the people who write them

For today's TBT I'm sharing a post inspired by my brilliant best friend's thesis. A few years back this friend of mine wrote his graduate thesis on Buffy (sounds freaking cool, right? It totally was). So in the spirit of my recent post about Strong Characters I thought it was time to share Hot Chicks Who Kick A$$ and the people who write them.



My brilliant bestie, @Proper_Rich, is defending his graduate thesis today which is a monumental moment in anyone's education. Countless hours were spent writing, and revising, his work so that he could get to this point. It's a huge milestone that could not have been possible if not for lots of hard work and Mountain Dew.

But this event is so much more amazing because the premise of his thesis is near and dear to my heart for two reasons:

1. It's about female empowerment (woot woot!)
2. It's about female empowerment in Buffy the Vampire Slayer!!

And in light of the recent, amazing #yesallwomen Twitter conversation I felt like roaring. And this post might need has some awesome roaring. So,*cue butt kicking*

Studying television and movies is something we writers do everyday. I can't watch ANYTHING without dissecting it into a three act structure, seeking the inciting incident, stacking the deck, and tracking the character's growth. So I think it's abso-freaking-lutely cool that @Proper_Rich got a degree doing it. (Well, he did a hell of a lot more than that, but you get the point.)

Aside from plot structure and craft, why study television? What's the value in studying that form of media?

He astutely notes that, "Fictional television programs can be viewed as a reflection of imperfect reality—human flaws are intensified and accentuated on the screen in order to provide moral lessons and entertain the masses." TV programs, movies, and novels are the mirror in which we can examine ourselves.

In celebration of his thesis defense here are some awesome quotes from his thesis and Buffy Gifs. If you don't know Buffy, or if you aren't a fan, this might just convert you. Enjoy!

Why Buffy? What makes her so special?

"Buffy did not spend her time pining for a man or primping in front of a mirror, engaging in stereotypically traditional female activities. She fought the forces of darkness while maintaining a social life anchored by her small circle of friends."

"Buffy was mature enough to realize that her abilities isolated her from her peers and that her responsibilities far outweighed the societal pressures of having the most recent blouse by a famous designer or dating the high school quarterback."

"When viewing her combat of demons and vampire metaphorically, it is clear that the monsters Buffy slays are not just present to provide antagonists for the protagonist to battle. She is battling the patriarchy that has oppressed her biological sex for centuries—she just uses different weapons, like stakes, axes, and sarcastic commentary."

"Buffy is a woman, Buffy is the Slayer, but Buffy is more than that—Buffy is a symbol of how women can take the power for themselves, elect to be a hero, and disavow the patriarchal society that keeps them from achieving their potential."

Cheers to you @Proper_Rich, on an amazing paper; a wonderful accomplishment.

What characters from TV or film have inspired you? Share your stories here:

Monday, March 23, 2015

What Really Makes A Character Strong?

I’ve seen some posts recently about what it takes to craft a strong character. Specifically, strong female characters. Probably the best stated post about this subject comes from Chuck Wendig over at Terrible Minds. (Go ahead and read his post, then come back here).

What I love about Chuck’s strong character theory is that the key is agency. Strong characters have to have it. Don't know what agency is? Check out his post Just What The Humping Heck Is Character Agency Anyway.

I agree that agency is vitally important in the characters we build. Stories are flat without characters who can enact change in their world. We mortals can relate to characters in stories who have doubt or fear but we look up to characters who choose to act in spite of that fear and doubt. It’s the action that makes a hero.

For me, what makes a character ‘strong’ is their decision to act. It’s what the character faces and chooses to overcome that makes them strong. At least for me.

Some of my favorite ‘strong’ characters in TV:

· Mindy from The Mindy Project – Sure it’s a comedy but Mindy chooses to move forward and chase the things that are important to her (even the silly things). Her choice to follow her dreams is what makes her strong.

· Felicity from Arrow – I’m always drawn to ‘normal’ people in ‘super hero’ shows/movies because their ‘normalness’ makes their choice to act more powerful. Felicity is that powerful normalness. The quiet hero.

· Tara from Sons of Anarchy – She faces horrible circumstances and what she does with those circumstances makes her strong. She's not strong all the time, which I think makes her more interesting. Example, Season 1 Tara would never have said 'I don't need a boy to handle my shit.' She has growth throughout the story which makes her one strong cookie.

· Daryl, Maggie, Glen, and many more from the Walking Dead – I love this show (even though I haven't kept up on the last season). There are so many different strengths to see in this show it's impossible to pick just one fave (but if you made me pick I'd choose Daryl, of course).

Some of my favorite ‘strong’ characters in recent reads:

· Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins – a Romance!! Yes, characters in romance novels can be strong. Lola is strong. She chooses to follow her heart – even when that choice means pain.

· Maggie from the International School series by Chanel Cleeton – Maggie travels oversees for school and chooses to have the time of her life. Her choices lead her into some challenging and steamy situations.

· Ava from the After the Rain by Renee Carlino – Ava is haunted by personal tragedies but she chooses to grow and live. It's her choice to bravely love herself again that makes her a strong character.

· Anna from the Sweet trilogy by Wendy Higgins – She faces enormous pressure (internal and external) from both sides (evil and good) and what she chooses to do in the face of that pressure is what makes her strong.

Those characters stand out as 'strong' for me. What do you think?
How would you define a ‘strong’ character? Share your favorite strong characters from books/tv/film here.

Monday, March 16, 2015

How I Keep My Workspace Healthy

I came across this cool coworking company called WeWork. They focus on providing healthy and productive office spaces and I was inspired to share how I stay healthy at work!

Being a writer means spending a lot of time BIC, HOK (Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard). Heck, my Day Job (DJ) requires 8+ hrs a day BIC, HOK and I spend another 1.5-3 hrs a day writing on top of that. As you can imagine, sitting for that length of time can be bad for our bodies (we were made to move). It’s sedentary. Sure, your brain is working hard but your body – the machine – isn’t working all.

It’s important to keep your work space healthy. For me, keeping my work space healthy means balancing function, inspiration, and flexibility. Here’s how I do it:

1. Function – of course you need a comfy chair and a desk. All the work essentials. But it’s also important to keep things ergonomically sound for your body. My DJ has a great program to assess whether or not our desk area is ergonomically sound.

a. Here’s a similar article on ergonomics you can use. Give it a try.

2. Beautify to inspire – First, I worked hard to make both desk areas pretty (IMO). The space at the DJ is a little tricky as we have gray fabric cubes but that didn’t stop me.

I brought toys from home (to remind me work should be play). I brought reminders of my proudest moments (my Dopey Challenge bib, Goofy Challenge bib, some race medals, and pictures from the trip my hubby and I took around the country). And of course, I brought books that inspire me and pictures of my family.

a. Here’s a pic from my home office. You can see I’ve decorated my space to include toys, pictures, books, and things I love. At home I control the color of my surroundings so I choose dark, dramatic bookshelves and desk. (I’m actually thinking of updating the desk with some fab teal but more on that later).

3. Let there be light – natural light is a huge morale booster for me. I hate the feeling of working in a closet. I’m lucky enough on the DJ that I have a cube with lots of windows. But it took time to work up to a window cube (What’s the old saying in corporate America? ‘First you work for a window, then you get a door’ meaning you start in the center cubes with no window and work your way, eventually landing an office with a door *be still my corporate heart* *chokes back sarcasm* *cough, cough*). If you are suffering away in an inside-cube try bringing in a live plant. A lot of my coworkers do this and really enjoy it. The real, living green plant helps break up an otherwise artificial space.

a. At home I set my desk up in the old dining room area. Our eat-in kitchen is big enough that we don’t need a formal dining room so it became my office. The great thing about using the formal dining room as an office is that the window is large. Yay! The down side to using the dining room – no door.

4. Flexibility – This is so so so important. Your brain works better at better times. You are more productive in different environments, different times, different moods. For me, the key to producing high quality is understanding how and when I work best and adapting my work space to fit my needs.

a. I’m a morning person – sort of. I work best from 8-noon. I kick out words fearlessly and tackle obstacles with abandon during 8-noon. After that, it’s an uphill battle to maintain concentration for periods of time greater than 45 mins.

b. I’m an ambivert – half introvert and half extrovert. Being an ambivert means I half like people and half like books…wait, no. That’s not what it means at all. LOL. Being an ambivert means some extroverted activities refuel me and some drain me. Same with introverted activities: some refuel and some drain. I love ambient noise. I love people watching. I need minor distractions from time to time to spark new ideas. But remember, I’m also easily distracted in the afternoon.

c. Walk breaks – I take walk breaks from time to time to get the blood flowing and to get steps in (yay Fitbit). Sometimes a walk break means walking the long way to the women’s bathroom. Sometimes a walk break means taking my doggie for a walk.

What does this mean? Well, I like working in public places but also need quiet space. I like observing people and ambient noise but I also need to be somewhat distraction free (especially in the afternoon).

So I change my work space from time to time. I work from home one day a week for the DJ and that helps (note – I do not do DJ work in my home office. My home office is dedicated to writing). Also, I take my laptop to nearby cafĂ©’s when I’m writing. Yes, even though I have an awesome space dedicated to writing at home. Sometimes you just have to mix things up.

Some writers in bigger cities use coworking environments where they can rent work space (like WeWork). You rent space to meet your personality/productivity needs. Sounds pretty awesome (especially if you need something a little more structured/dedicated to your professional needs than a Starbucks).

Staying flexible to meet your individual productivity needs is healthy and helps avoid burnout. Check out these posts on burn out:
Avoiding Book Burnout
Cross Training to Avoid Burnout

Want more inside scoop on writing spaces? Check out this post:
Author Interview with Karen Rock
Chuck Wendig's post about his writing shed
And Neil Gaiman's Magic Writing Gazebo

How do you keep your writing or work space healthy? Share your stories here:

Thursday, March 12, 2015

TBT: Showing vs Telling - an 'ah ha' moment

For today's TBT I'm sharing Showing vs Telling - an 'ah ha' moment. For me, this was as significant as my first kiss, my first love, my first....well, you get the picture. The moment when the 'showing v telling' advice finally clicked and made sense was the moment my writing changed forever. Now, I'm not saying I never tell. I do. But I tell far less and I actively edit out my telling far more. So, in the spirit of #amediting I thought it was a perfect post to share.



We've all heard it before, 'show don't tell.'
And if you're like me, this is how you respond:

'Duh, I totally do that.' And you might be right - but I wasn't. I kept getting feedback form CP's time and time again about showing. Needless to say, I was as frustrated as this little guy:

It wasn't until I received a crit during a recent LitReactor class that I realized what I believed to be showing was, in reality, telling (with lots and lots of pretty adjectives). Luckily, the comment I received in class clicked.

*Cue beams of light* It was my aha moment. *Cue angelic singing* - Wait - No - It was more like a punch to the gut. The impact of this new understanding left me spinning. Will I need to toss my current draft and start over? Yes. Will I be a stronger, better writer because of it? Yes. Am I happy about it?

I guess so.

This article is very similar to the advice I received. If you haven't had you're Showing v Telling aha moment I encourage you to check it out. Here is the highlight:

To transform our 'telling' into 'showing' we need to become adjective detectives. We must pounce on them like this awesome fox:

Attack the adjectives currently telling the story and create action or dialogue to illustrate their meaning.

Is your MC boy crazy? Don't call her boy crazy - show me. Show the MC moving from one hottie to the next. (Hello!)

Is your setting isolated? Don't tell me - show me. Maybe they don't have modern services like internet, trash pick up, etc.. Maybe they get no cell signal. Maybe the characters get no house guests.

You say you're MC is tough? Show me through her reactions to the obstacles in her path.

What was you're 'aha' moment?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Preview: INTERIM by S Walden

Hi all, today I'm happy to host a blog tour featuring S. Walden's New Adult thriller: Interim. It releases April 14th, 2015.

Here's the blurb:

High school seniors Jeremy Stahl and Regan Walters aren’t friends. Not even close. He’s a picked-on, picked-apart loser outcast. She’s a cool kid running with the popular crowd. It’s unlikely they’d ever speak to one another. Too bad he’s madly in love with her. But what does it matter, anyway? He’s got no time for love. Only revenge.

Meticulously detailed in the pages of his battered red notebook is his master plan: April 14, 9:30 A.M., two guns, eighty rounds of ammo, backup knives, eleven victims. He’s finally ready to answer every single taunt, jeer, and flying fist—unwarranted abuse that’s spanned six years of his lonely life. He’s justified. He’s ready. But he never readied himself for her.

Regan finds his journal. She reads it, and when he discovers her intrusion, he has to switch tactics. She’s a liability now.

Better fix that.

Sounds tense, right? You can pre order here: Amazon | Smashwords or add to Goodreads

Here's the cover:

And a teaser:

Who was he? What was his purpose? He knew it once. Once, a long time ago, he decided to be a hero. He decided to avenge himself and all the other kids who were helpless against abuse. Once, a long time ago, he learned the difference between justice and mercy. He learned when justice was required. He learned when mercy was allowed. Once, a long time ago, he faced himself in the mirror and saw a stranger—a better boy than he could ever be. A boy with a mission. A boy with convictions. And he reached out to take hold of that boy, through the looking-glass, falling into a wonderland where righteousness ruled supreme and evil was destroyed with the pop pop! of a gun. The world made sense to him. Then.

Sounds like a dark thriller with lots of suspense and emotion. Interim releases April 15, 2015 so preorder here: Amazon | Smashwords or add to Goodreads

About the author:

S. Walden used to teach English before making the best decision of her life by becoming a full-time writer. She lives in Georgia with her very supportive husband who prefers physics textbooks over fiction and has a difficult time understanding why her characters must have personality flaws. She is wary of small children, so she has a Westie instead. She is the USA Today bestselling author of Going Under. When she's not writing, she's thinking about it.

For more info on S Walden find her here:
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Monday, March 2, 2015

February 2015 Month in Review

**Recapping my monthly progress serves two purposes: first, it keeps me honest and accountable to my goals; second, it allows me to truly capture just how much work I’ve done over the last year. So let the recapping begin!**


I love February. Not because of the weather (ugh, winter) and not because of Valentine’s Day (or the post Valentine’s Day chocolate sale- although, yum). I love February because it’s my birthday month!! Woot woot.

I had a birthday and celebrated with my friends and family. Here’s a pic of my so-fabulous-I-must-document-it birthday hair.

Oh, and don’t you just love my super nerdy glasses. I love having them around to help out when I’m reading. So far I use them more at the Day Job than at home. But they are helping.

And of course I celebrated Valentine’s Day with Handsome Jack. We had a nice homemade date night. Dinner in and movies from redbox. We do romance right ;)

I even spent some time crafting, thanks to Pinterest. I got a fever, and the only prescription is more mason jars. Check out this thing I made (with the help of Handsome Jack of course).

On the Manuscript side, February saw another MSWL (Manuscript Wish List). I love love love MSWL. Don’t know about it? It’s where agents and acquiring editors post about what they are looking for in subs. It is so fun to see what is piquing the interests of agents and editors – not to mention inspiring. Also, if you are preparing to query a project it is a must. You can flip through older MSWL’s on this site. Go check it out.

Perhaps the most exciting/strange/scary part of the month was when I actually went to my future law school and sat in on a class. I felt a bit like Elle Woods in Legally Blonde when all the students took out their laptops and books and I had nothing.

But sitting in on class was ah-mazing!! I was hoping to sit through two classes (Civ Pro and Contracts) but Civ Pro was cancelled. Instead, I got to hang out with a really real 1L Contracts class. I was riveted.

With all this going on it might be hard to imagine I was able to get any goal related work in – but I did. Here are the details for February 2015:

1 Awesome Amazing Birthday dinner (with Margs)
1 Adorable Valentines night in (with yummy, homemade food)
1 Law school visit complete with classroom observation
11 gym workouts (including elliptical/treadmill and personal training)
1 complete revision done on my Romance draft. Now on to structural edits. See how I tackle edits in this post.
2 novels read for fun (and there are a few more burning up my Kindle I’m dying to start)

And on top of all of that I still had words. *does happy dance* This month’s grand total is 5,219 words. This brings my total ‘tracked’ word count for 2015 to 12,764! Not too shabby. I still feel like I’m off to a good start. (note: I gave up on tracking ever word during revisions - it as madness. Now I only track if I have net gain).

And as for miles, this month’s grand total is 21.4 miles, bringing my total ‘tracked’ mileage to 95.7 miles. I don't have any races on the schedule for the rest of this year. Not sure where running will take me in 2015 but I'm running anyway.

All in all, February was fun and over way too soon. I’m still feeling good about my start to 2015. #NeverGiveUp #NeverSurrender

How are your writing goals coming along?
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