Thursday, October 24, 2013

How to Find a Literary Agent

A friend of mine who has written a children's picture book recently asked me what I know about finding a literary agent. That's an easy and a hard question all rolled into one. Simply finding agents that represent the kind of book you've written is pretty easy. You can read all about them, get their contact information, and sometimes even read their blogs. Here's where I find agents to contact:

That's the easy part. The hard part is getting one of those agents to actually read your work once you do contact them and then (the real goal) getting one of them to represent your work and help you get it published. Each agent has their own submission guidelines and preferences, and it's important to pay attention to these. They pretty much all have one thing in common, though. They will all want to read a query letter before they will even consider reading your whole book. 

If you don't know what a query letter is, there are lots of great sources out there that will give you the details of what is is, and what it is not. Basically, it's a very special, VERY SHORT sales pitch and hook for your book. You've got to pique their interest so they want to read more. To learn about query letters and get critiques on a query letter from a very helpful community, I use this website:

Many agents will also want to see a synopsis. The above website can help you with that as well.
I'll just take a quick minute to point out that, in the search for an agent, you should be a little wary of anything that seems too good to be true. Also, no real, reputable agent will charge you ANYTHING. They make a percentage (usually 10-15%) of the money that they get for you from a publisher. If they are asking you for money, run away.

Best of luck!!!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

When Life Happens

I wish I had time to write everyday (or even every week, for that matter). Sometimes, I'm in a groove and I get lots of writing done day after day. Then ruts (like the one I'm just getting out of) happen. Or rather, life happens. I haven't written anything - blog or book - in over a month. It's not that I don't have anything to write or desire to write. It's that I have a full life to live on top of my love of writing.

So, since I last blogged, I've been camping with a toddler (call me crazy), said good-bye to a nephew for 2 years as he heads off to Japan on a mission, found out I'm having another girl (Yes, I'm pregnant! Due in January). Oh, yeah, and I'm pregnant so I'm tired. I'm beta reading a book for another author. And then, there's simply trying to keep up with all the odds and ends of running a house and being a responsible parent and adult. Just thinking about it is making me tired.

Fortunately, I'm pretty well caught up on life for now and can put things back in some degree of balance, making a little time for writing. First off, I'm back on my blog, yea! And, I'm getting back to work on IN AN INSTANT. I have a draft of the synopsis written, and will be getting that critiqued soon. I'm also finishing up some last minute touch-ups to the manuscript based on feedback I've received from beta readers. My query letter has been done for months, so I just need to brush it off and make sure I'm still happy with it.

First goal: Start querying literary agents by the end of October, at the latest.

Second goal:  Blog more often. It's no fun having a blog if I never post to it.

Here's to life staying balanced and keeping a little time for writing in the mix!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Stick With Your Point-of-View Character

As a writer, I am very observant of the writing technique and style of the books I read. I try mainly to learn from this, deciding what I think is good technique that I would like to emulate and bad technique I would like to avoid. Still, I try not to be openly critical of other authors. Even in writing this post, I will refrain from mentioning the book or author I'm speaking of, only the bad technique that I wish to discuss.

I was reading along the other day in a book (which turned out to be a great book overall) that is written in first person present sense. Twice in the book, the narrator referred to characters by name that were introduced to her pages after she's already been using their name. Since this is written in first person PRESENT TENSE, how in the world could the narrator have known the character names to use them if they had not yet been introduced to her?

To me, this is sloppy writing. Of course the author knows the characters' names, but when writing, you have to stay in the moment with the narrator and your point-of-view (POV) character and only share details that they know at that moment in time. Of course, you can share more if the narrator is third-person omniscient. But whenever you have a book told in first person, you've really got to limit what you say to what they know (especially if you are writing in present tense where no future knowledge or experiences could be coloring the re-telling of the story).

This stuck out to me pretty strongly as I read the book, and really irritated me. Fortunately, it only happened twice and then the rest of the book was gripping enough that I got over it enough to love the story. Still, I wish that little bit had been a bit more polished. (And for anyone wondering, this is a professionally published New York Times Bestseller, so don't blame lack of editing or indie authors for this mistake).

That's it, I've said what I need to say about this. Now I'll get back to writing and hope that nothing I do will irritate anyone else so much that it will be the focus of a blog rant. You can't please everyone though, right?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Words of Wisdom Regarding Writing

These are some of my favorite quotes on the topic of writing. I can identify with most of these, or find them ironic, humorous, or pithy. Maybe I should warn you, I REALLY like quotes on writing. Here goes...Enjoy!

“If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn't brood. I'd type a little faster.” ― Isaac Asimov

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” ― Ernest Hemingway

“You can make anything by writing.” ― C.S. Lewis

“Let me live, love and say it well in good sentences.” ― Sylvia Plath

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” ― Stephen King

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” ― Anaïs Nin

“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.” ― Robert Frost

“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” ― Madeleine L'Engle

“If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” ― Stephen King

“If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.” ― Toni Morrison

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” ― Mark Twain

“You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.” ― Saul Bellow

“Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality. It's a way of understanding it.” ― Lloyd Alexander

“Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” ― E.L. Doctorow

“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” ― Philip Pullman

“There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” ― W. Somerset Maugham

“Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” ― Anton Chekhov

“Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly -- they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced.” ― Aldous Huxley

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.” ― Stephen King

“Being a writer is a very peculiar sort of a job: it's always you versus a blank sheet of paper (or a blank screen) and quite often the blank piece of paper wins.” ― Neil Gaiman

“I write to give myself strength. I write to be the characters that I am not. I write to explore all the things I'm afraid of. ” ― Joss Whedon

“This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until its done. It's that easy, and that hard.” ― Neil Gaiman

“Write the kind of story you would like to read. People will give you all sorts of advice about writing, but if you are not writing something you like, no one else will like it either.” ― Meg Cabot

“The true alchemists do not change lead into gold; they change the world into words.” ― William H. Gass

“The role of a writer is not to say what we can all say, but what we are unable to say.” ― Anaïs Nin

“You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” ― Jack London

“You don't write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say.” ― F. Scott Fitzgerald

“I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions.” ― James A. Michener

“The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.” ― Albert Camus

Monday, June 10, 2013

Do You Book Group?

Book clubs and groups are a great way to learn about new books and share your love of reading with others. I have a local book group I attend occasionally, and I am also a part of several groups on Goodreads. I'll admit that I'm not the most regular attendant at these groups, but I still enjoy being a part of them, and often I read the books even if I can't make it to the meetings.

Book groups offer several great advantages. If you find a group you fit well with, you have a network of other enthusiastic readers who understand your love of books and can help you find new books to read. Hopefully, you'll enjoy most of these books, but it will also challenge you to step out of your book-box and try some things you may not have otherwise. You'll likely be surprised from time to time.

Interestingly enough, a book group can open up new opportunities for you. I've come across several authors who are willing to do free skype chats with book groups (something they won't do for you personally, but will do for a whole group). You can even ask for review copies of books and may get them sometimes for free (assuming you are actually willing to write the reviews). I recently sent out free advance ebooks of a novel I'm currently writing (In An Instant) to a book group who offered to read it and give me their feedback. I greatly appreciate this as an author.

You'll also have a group to discuss the book with who can help you see it from new and interesting perspectives. This is fun and will help you understand things you may have missed initially. You'll bring those expanded perspectives to every book and interaction you face in the future.

And, book groups are a great way to get out and do something a little different from time to time. If reading is something you enjoy, or would like to get into a little more, I highly recommend finding a book group that shares your tastes and interests.

Are you a member of a book group? 

What are you're thoughts on book groups?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Friends Life Forever in Our Hearts - Poem

This is a poem that I wrote when I was 14 years old an had recently moved away from many dear friends. I wanted to share it now, because I think it's something that is always true no matter how old you are, where you live, or how many friends you've said goodbye to over the course of your life.

Friends Live Forever in Our Hearts

Poem and Illustration
by Melanie James

Sometimes life presents a rocky road,
A path not easy to take.
And I am forced upon this road
With no other choice to make.

When life seems hard to face
And I feel there’s nothing more,
I think of a warm embrace
From a friend which I adore.

This friend and I parted long ago,
But in heart they are still near
Which gives me strength to go,
And I know I never need fear.

Whenever I feel like giving in,
I remember the good things
And always find a reason to grin
And feel better about what life brings.

Friendship is reaching for a hand
And touching a heart.
Friends hold your heart and hand
Whether together or apart.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Funnier Than Fiction

They say that real life is stranger than fiction, and if you wrote it no one would believe it. I've found that to be true on occasion. In this case, the following tale is a true-life experience of a friend of mine (shared with permission). I bet if this were included in a novel, people would say the author was reaching, going over-the-top, and needed to get a reality-check. No one could be this clueless. Welcome to real life...

For the sake of a good laugh here's a stranger and funnier than fiction story!

(spelling and punctuation reflect actual texting conversation)
I got two calls from a number in Florida I didn't recognize. The second call I answered but heard nothing on the line, so I hung up. The number then texted me, and here follows our conversation. I am not making this up:
Florida Number (FN): Hey sam its savanna I tried calling u but it sounded like ur mom i thout u had ur own phone
Me: Sorry, you must have the wrong number
FN: Ill call u what is the right number give me and ill call u.
Me: Sorry, what I meant was this is not Sam. Nor Sam's mom. I have never heard of him.
FN: what
(I'm thinking, what do you mean what? what is not clear about this?)
Me: You must have written the number wrong, this is my number and I am in no way related to this Sam you are looking for.
FN: Text me ur right number
Me: *face palm

I gave up.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

IN AN INSTANT - Beta Readers Are Awesome!

Over the past couple of months, I've had the fabulous opportunity to have the manuscript of my novel,  IN AN  INSTANT, beta read by a group of awesome readers. It has been an exhilarating and illuminating experience.

First off, here's a little about the book:
Draft cover just to have
something to look at
At twenty-one, being diagnosed with leukemia is the worst thing Liz can imagine—but also the catalyst for better things than she'd ever hoped for. The fight for her life soon becomes a powerful force that touches everyone she cares for most and transforms their lives in unimaginable ways.

This novel also tells a parallel story, in alternating chapters, of what would have happened if Liz never had cancer. Without cancer, Liz prepares to graduate, lands the perfect job, and gets to keep her life as she thinks it should be. But, it turns out that life as usual just isn’t enough for Liz or any of the people she loves. Through the contrasting storylines, the effects of what, on the surface, seem to be tragedy are shown for what they really are: opportunities and perspective.
So now, what are the results from my beta readers? I'm still waiting on some feedback from a few, but here are just some of the comments I've received so far:
 "I am literally freaking out right now. I just finished your book in tears! It was SO good! Wow! So so good!" ~Callie
"Such a fabulous story! Everything about it is just so electrifying, well-written, engaging. What other words can I use?! I loved all you similes and metaphors, etc." ~Nona

"Great job! I like that it was different in the sense that it had two realities...I look forward to seeing it published." ~Kellie

"That was one heck of a book. And I'll admit that I finished it much faster than I thought I would. It drew me in from the very beginning...The characters were very well developed. I liked that you were able to convey their distinct personalities so well." ~Shalla
" I LOVED IT! Couldn't wait to finish it while I was reading it. When I would have to walk away I would get mad. Great job!!!" ~Trish
"Your style is very clear, immersive with tiny but intimate details and everything feels very real and immediate." ~Jim
Along with wonderful praise, I've received lots of feedback to make this terrific book that I love so much even better. I'm working on edits that I know will make the book's message more clear and the characters more real and dynamic than they already were. Even minor comments or questions from my readers have proven to be so invaluable in helping me see my manuscript and story more clearly and through different perspectives. 

I want to give a huge THANK YOU to all of my beta readers. Any that are still reading and have yet to give feedback, it is still very welcome and will be useful and appreciated! I value all of your time as well as your opinions and I can't say thank you enough for your kind words as well as your criticisms. Honesty is what I hoped for and appreciate most of all!

 If you're interested in beta reading my next draft, please let me know! It'll be ready soon.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Outlining: A Love-Hate Relationship

When starting a new writing project, should you make an outline or not? This is something that I have personally gone round and round about at different times. Clearly, there are advantages to writing an outline.

First off, you have a clear picture of how the whole story will unfold before you ever type the first word. This way you don’t get to page 100 and realize, let’s say, that it was actually the school teacher that kidnapped the president, and you should have been dropping hints all along the way. Now you have to go back and work these details in, which can be a lot of work and lead to inconsistencies if you don’t pay close attention and edit well. I’ve even had to go back and add in whole characters when I didn’t plan well. Not an easy task.

Another advantage of an outline is that you have a quick reference of your whole book at a glance. This can be helpful for submitting to agents and publishers, especially if you are trying to write the ever daunting synopsis. It can also be helpful when you think of something you want to change, but can’t remember what chapter Aunt Sue lit her hair on fire. It saves a lot of time from paging through the manuscript to find it. Admittedly, though, an outline for these purposes can be drafted as you write the book or even after it is complete.

Image by Stuart Miles
Something everyone tends to be short on is time, and writing an outline lets you do all, or at least a good chunk of the planning work up front. From it, you can write faster and have a better idea if the work is worth writing at all before you even start.

So with all of these advantages to outlining a book at the onset, why am I bothering to write this post? Shouldn’t it just be: Outlining – Do It! And I end the post right there? Well, to me, it’s been far from so simple. I have tried several times when starting a new book to outline the entire plot and subplots before I started chapter one. What I got had mixed results.

Once, I spent several days outlining a book that I was so entranced with I couldn’t stop thinking out it. As soon as I completed the outline I instantly lost interest in the project. For a long time, I thought the outlining had ruined it for me. As I reflect now, I think that I realized that my story wasn’t as interesting and complex as I imagined in vague snippets in my head, so it was a good thing I didn’t waste my time writing the whole book.

Another book I outlined went differently. I finished the outline, thinking that I had a pretty solid book and went to work writing it, still enthused about the project. But it didn’t take long for me to realize that the plot looked a lot more interesting all condensed in bare-bones outline form. Once I tried to flesh it out and write the story around the outline, I found that my plot was pretty skeletal. When I ditched the outline and just wrote the story from scratch, it filled in remarkably. This book still needs some major re-writes, but it’s not a lack of outlining that was the problem, but rather my lack of adequate vision until after I’d written it and set it aside for several months.

For a long time, my bad experiences with outlining, and the challenge they can be to write, made me think that I was better off not trying.

My most recent book that I am working on now, currently called TEMPO (you’ll hear more about this in the future, I am sure), has taught me a different lesson. This is, by far, the longest and most complex book I have written to date. I knew when I started that I had to outline, or I would get lost. I didn’t just make a skeletal and dry outline, I wrote a 29 page outline. When I thought of a line of dialogue or a perfect description or analogy, I wrote it in so I could include it in the final book. This kept it creative and interesting. I found that I really enjoyed the process because I got to discover what happens in my story, which is one of the most exciting parts, quickly. The process took a couple of weeks.

I feared that once I finished the outline, like my previous experience, I would lose interest in the book. On the contrary, I was anxious to start crafting my exciting plot-twisting tale into beautiful and full scenes, characters, and descriptions. Crafting language is fun, and I now knew that I had a great story to mold it into.

I am currently about one quarter of the way through the first draft, and it has been a great experience. I have made changes, which I update the outline to reflect, but they mainly deal with detail and pacing rather than substance.

Simultaneously, I'm re-editing IN AN INSTANT to finalize the manuscript. That is a book I did not outline, and that hasn't really been a problem except that I have frequently gone back to add new scenes that broaden understanding of the characters journey and the meaning of the book. But, I think that nothing short of time and experience would have brought those to light for me. With or without an outline, I would still be adding to this captivating and heart-wrenching novel.

So, my final verdict is: Outline! If you lose interest in the project afterwards, it probably wasn’t worth writing. If you’re having trouble writing from it, then it’s not complete enough and needs more work. I am positive I will outline all of my future books with scary-long outlines like the 29-page monster I am working from now for TEMPO.

Still, if an outline is preventing you from getting started, then forget it and just write. The most important part of writing isn't an outlineit's passion. As long as you have passion, you're writing is well worth the effort and will move your readers to feel, know, love, and hate right along with you.

Happy writing!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Being Punctuated: A Matter of Clarity and Comedy

I recently had a discussion with some friends about why so much time is spent on grammar and mechanics in school. Isn't it all a little arbitrary and pointless? To partially answer that, I submit the following cases where the grammatical mechanics (punctuation in this case) make all the difference in meaning.

Try not to laugh too hard.


1. Say "No" to drugs

Incorrectly punctuated:
Just say "No" to drugs from the D.A.R.E. police officers.

Whoops, lets not turn the officers into drug dealers.
Just say "No" to drugs, from the D.A.R.E. police officers.


2.A comma could save a life

Incorrectly punctuated:
For all those who like to cook and eat my wife just made a blog with recipes.

Let's make sure no cannibals show up:
For all those who like to cook and eat, my wife just made a blog with recipes.

Incorrectly punctuated:
"I want to eat Mom!"

Or, for the good of the whole family:
"I want to eat, Mom!"

3. Declaration of love?

I'm sorry I still love you.

Or, is it...
I'm sorry. I still love you.

4. Emphatic Quotation Marks


5. Who needs who?

Woman without her man is nothing

Could be:
Woman: without her, man is nothing.

Woman, without her man, is nothing.

You decide.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I've Decided to be Happy!

“I have decided to be happy;
it is excellent for one’s health!”

I came across this quote today, and I have to say - I LOVE IT. It is good for your health to be happy. As a nurse, I can state this as a fact. And, I truly believe that happiness is a choice. So, I've come up with the following list of reasons that I have to be happy today (and every day). Hopefully in sharing them, I'll spark some realizations of why you should be happy too!

  • I have a husband that is my best friend, who I love very much.
  • I have a beautiful little daughter who makes me smile everyday.
  • I went on a nice walk today with my family in the cool weather.
  • I have a comfortable home to live in, where I feel safe and loved.
  • I have been reading some interesting and fun books. (Check out my Goodreads page).
  • I have pretty good health. Again, as a nurse, I truly appreciate what a blessing this is.
  • I have the opportunity to work with the teenage girls at my church, whom I love and am inspired by.
  • I have great friends that I know I can rely on and trust.
  • My husband and I are both able to work from home together.
  • I had delicous homemade chicken soup for dinner.
  • I'm going to see my mom this weekend.
  • My daughter has slept through the night since she was 3 months old.
  • Chocolate - need I say more?  

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A Complete Story in Fewer Words Than This Title?

Yes. It's called Skinny Fiction. It's an awesome concept I just came across recently when I visited this blog, and I've been having a lot of fun with it ever since.

The idea is to write a story in as few words as possible. Potentially, try to get the story across in 10 or 25 words, but definable less than 100 words. This turns it into a poem, of sorts, but the key is that it must have a storyline. A character, a beginning, a middle, and an end.

A great example of Skinny Fiction is by the famous author, Ernest Hemingway. He wrote:

"For sale: baby shoes, never worn."

Now, tell me that doesn't give a whole story. Yes, a lot is implied, but that's the power of Skinny Fiction. It engages the imagination, and can lead each person down their own little road based on the connections and understandings they form.

The following is my Skinny Fiction story which is inspired by my novel, IN AN INSTANT, which I am currently having beta read and doing some edits. It's no wonder that it was on my mind.

by Melanie James

Uncertainty. Heart races.
A look. A sigh.
We cry.
I’m still me.

This story, I wrote a few days before Easter.

by Melanie James

Darkness surrounds me. 
I walk toward him; he walks toward me. 
Morning blooms.

And this one was inspired by my precious little one-year-old daughter, Allie.

Little One
by Melanie James

Awake; her face is the dawn. 
Sticky fingers, tears, hugs, kisses, mysteries solved. 
More hugs and kisses.
Away into dreams.
I watch. She doesn't know.

Can you write a story in 25 words or less? 
Bet you can't. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

How Writing Impacts My Life

To say that writing has impacted my life is probably too obvious to even mention. But how it affects my life is well worth discussing, I think. Here are the main 8 ways that writing has, and still does, impact my life.

1. Writing helps me make sense of my life. Everything I write has a little (or a lot) of me in it. Don't spend too much time analyzing and guessing what aspects of my work pull elements from my real life, because you'll likely be confused and guess wrong. But the fact of the matter is that I pour a little of myself into everything I write, and it all has special meaning for me. Through the course of the stories and development of characters, or even just the way I describe something, I find a little more meaning and sense in the world that is my real life.

2. Writing is one way that I connect to other people. Through my stories, I can share a little of myself that I may not otherwise divulge. My husband often claims to better understand the workings of my mind after reading a new story I have written.

3. Writing helps me say what I want to say. I'm not always the most eloquent person, but I have a lot I want to say. I love crafting those messages into stories that not only tell my message, but illustrate it in such a way that it, hopefully, comes alive for people. I want to make the world a better place.

4. Writing is my most consistent hobby. Through the years, I really can't think of many things that I have consistently stuck with. I do crochet, but otherwise, my hobbies change regularly and may never see a rekindling in months and years to follow. Writing is the one major exception. I have been writing stories and poems since I was in elementary school. I'll write a novel, then edit and re-edit it even if I don't think anyone else will ever read it. I get absorbed in my books and characters, and it is truly an enjoyable experience.

5. Writing lets me use words, which I love. Ever since I was a baby, I have loved words. I love it when I find the perfect word to convey the precise meaning and connotation that I am trying to share. I love it when a phrase makes me ponder or see something in a new way. I seek to create some of my own ponder-able statements.

6. Writing helps me relieve stress. At times, when I have faced a particularly aggravating situation, writing about it in the context of a fictional story, and letting the characters work it out, helps me see the situation from a different perspective. Often, it's the key to calming my emotions and seeing the solution. And no one gets hurt.

7. Writing is always a great conversation starter. If you write and have ever talked to someone about it, it's likely that you've often heard one of two things: "I'm also writing a book" or "I know someone who is writing a book". It's astounding how many people write. Taking the time to take genuine interest in other people's literary pursuits always leads to fascinating conversations and builds friendships.

8. Writing is just a whole lot of fun. What else can I say. I write because I love it. I can't count how many hundreds of hours I have devoted to writing. And I have loved ever minute of it. It is challenging, exciting, and rewarding. Even if I'm the only person who ever reads some of the things I've written, it was, in my opinion, time well spent.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

My Favorite Non-Fiction Books

This is my list of favorite non-fiction books. They make the list if I found them to be BOTH useful or educational AND entertaining. I'll be honest, I don't read a whole lot of non-fiction books, so the list is a little short, but here it is.

POP! by Sam Horn- This book is ll about how to come up with POP! out, get-your-attention titles, taglines, and marketing slogans. It's incredibly useful and helpful in addition to being a great read with lots of humorous and intriguing examples.

Me Inc. by Scott W. Ventrella- All about running your own life based on principles of successful businesses. It's interesting and insightful, and draws amazing parallels showing that truths remains constant through all venues it is applied to.

How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy by Orson Scott Card - Since I primarily write speculative fiction, this was a great resource, though it is useful for tips on good story telling and writing in general. It is written in an interesting and engaging manner that makes it an enjoyable read.

Three Weeks With My Brother by Nicolas Sparks and Micah Sparks - This is the autobiography of Nicolas Sparks (one of my favorite authors). I love reading the story of how other authors "came to be", if you will.

The Survivors Club by Ben Sherwood - This book looks at true life stories of people who have survived unthinkable circumstances in an effort to quantify what makes some people better at surviving than others, and how you can be a better survivor.

The E-Myth Revised by Michael E. Gerber - This is a great book about the problems most entrepreneurs and new businesses suffer from, and what to do about them. Being an entrepreneur, reading this book was like talking to someone who knew all my biggest business secrets.

The Other Side of Heaven by John H. Groberg - This is the exciting, humorous, and poignant tale of a Mormon missionary sent to Tonga and the adversity he faces, things he learns, and ways his life is changed as he helps others. Disney made a pretty good movie of this about ten years ago, but, of course, the book is better.

The Four-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss - This is a great book for anyone thinking about becoming an entrepreneur, but terrible for anyone trying to fight the independence urge.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

My Little Reader

How do you instill a love of books and reading in children?

I thinks it starts from when they are the tiniest of little babies. I started reading to my daughter, Allie, when she was just a few weeks old and haven't stopped. She is a year-and-a-half now and she loves books. She's gone through different phases along the way. Sometimes she would really let me read to her, and other times she wanted to turn the pages so fast that I could hardly get past two or three words per page, but I always tried to follow her pace and let her be involved. I think that really helped. I never want reading to be a frustrating experience for her.

Here's Allie reading in her rocking chair. The bookcase is close enough that she can grab books and keep reading (or at least turning pages) for a long time. They all end up on the floor before it's over, but Allie has a great time.

Amazingly, Allie spends more time looking at books than she spends playing with any other toys. She even likes to carry a book around with her when she's playing outside.

I read to Allie, and I take her to story time at the library nearly every week. After story time, she chooses several new books to check out and take home.

I really hope she continues to love books as she get older and starts actually reading on her own.

What have you found helps to instill and encourage a love of reading as children get older?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Editing, Writing, and Reminiscing

Life is exciting for me right now for quite a few reasons:

First off, I'm in the process of final edits on a new book that I will be adding a sample of to my website soon. The book is called IN AN INSTANT. It deals with the poignant question we all face when something changes in our life: What would life have been if this hadn't happened? The book follows the two divergent paths of Liz - one where she is diagnosed with leukemia, and (in alternating chapters) what would have happened if she didn't have cancer. Are the difficulties in life really the tragedies?

I'll be sharing the first few chapters soon, but if you'd like to be a test reader of the entire book, please email me.

The second exciting thing I'm working on is a new book I'm writing called TEMPO. I'm on chapter 19 of what my outline tells me will be around 65 chapters. I'm not ready to give too many details about this book, except to say that it deals with the questions: What if you could live more than 24 hours in a day? How would it change your life and the world we know? And what cost could you accept?  More details on this book will be forthcoming.

Third, and unrelated to my writing, but extremely exciting, I spent the last weekend with my brother, Ean, who just returned home from two years in Guatemala. He has been serving and teaching the people there, and I am so proud of him. I had a great visit with him. He is an inspiration to me to work harder and always give my all and very best.

Life is great. Time to get back to work!

Friday, February 22, 2013

My Favorite Baby/Children's Books

I've mentioned before that I have a one-year-old daughter named Allie. She is a HUGE fan of books, which is awesome! She'll sometimes sit in her rocking chair pulling books off the nearby shelf to look at for half-an-hour at a time. I love reading with her, even though it's a departure from my usual literary standards.

Here is a list of my favorite books to read with Allie (in no particular order). I'd love to know what books you like to read with your little ones, as I'm always on the lookout for new books for my little bookworm.

No Matter What by Debi Gliori - This is a sweet book about the enduring nature of love a parent has for their child.


 I Love You All Year Long by Steve Metzger - Love endures through every season and the fun and special activities of those times.

That's Not My Monster by Fiona Watt - A touch-and-feel book where each monster isn't quite right "eyebrows too hairy" or "paws too bumpy" until finally, the little mouse finds HIS monster and "It's ears are so fluffy."

Where's My Teddy by Jez Alborough - This is an adorable book I actually memorized as a teenager because it was just so fun. Eddy's looking for his teddy in the woods, only to discover a real bear who is also frightened and looking for his own teddy.

I'm Not Sleepy by Jonathan Allen - This little owl can barely stay awake, every parent that has seen their child fight sleep will understand and relate.

Thank You Bear by Greg Foley - A perfect book for anyone who has ever had something truly great, even if those around them didn't see as much value in it.

Henry Babysits by Robert Quackenbush - A cute book about a favor to babysit that keeps snowballing out of control.

With You All the Way by Max Lucado - A meaningful allegory about how God is "with us all the way" if we ask him to travel with us.

But Not the Hippopotamus by Sandra Boynton - I never expected to have a favorite board book author, but I do, and it is Sandra Boynton. All of her books are really cute and cleaver. This one is really probably my favorite.

It's a Little Book by Lane Smith - A cute little story about all the potential uses of a book if you didn't know what a book was for.

Good Work, Amelia Bedilia by Peggy Parish and Lynn Sweat - Amelia Bedilia is a maid who takes everything completely literally, making for hilarious events.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Awe Inspiring Quotes: Overcoming Adversity

 "The difficulties in life are intended to make us better, not bitter." - Unknown

"Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents which, in prosperous circumstances, would have lain dormant."  - Horace

"The problem in front of you is never as great as the power behind you" - Unknown

"Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional." - M. Kathleen Casey

"If the going seems easy, you may be going downhill." - Fortune Cookie

"The only thing that overcomes hard luck is hard work." Harry Golden

"Triumph comes when we put a little more umph into our try." - Unknown

"After a storm there is always a rainbow, but you'll never know that if you are too afraid to go outside again." - Melanie James

"If you find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn't lead anywhere." - Frank A. Clark

"Don't wait for your ship to come in. Swim out and meet it." - Unknown

"Footprints on the sands of time aren't made sitting down." - Proverb

"Defeat is not the worst of failures. Not to have tried is the true failure." - George Edward Woodberry

Thursday, February 14, 2013

5 Tips for Striking the "Write" Balance

I love to write. I write stories, books, and this blog. As I write this post, my baby girl is pulling things out of the desk drawer next to me. At the moment, she’s only happy if she's right where I am, and exploring new things at the same time, so I have to find creative ways to entertain her while still accomplishing anything at all. I'll clean up the mess she's making later.

Even before I had a baby, though, at times, writing was a challenge to fit into my life. Balancing family, work, housekeeping, eating, sleeping, and still finding time to write can be difficult, to say the least.

When I get really excited about a project, though, I always somehow find time. Unfortunately, it’s my sleep that tends to suffer for it. And I fear sometimes my family doesn’t see as much of me as they should for a while. I love writing so I don’t find it hard to set aside other recreational activities for it. But still, balance is key.
 Here are several things I have found that help:

1. Make an outline. I was resistant to this for a long time, but now I am sold. With a DETAILED outline, I can relax, knowing my thoughts are recorded and safe. Then I can work on a book when I get time. If I have to set it aside for days or weeks, it's okay. I'll be able to remember where I was going and how to get there.

2. Make goals, then write. I tend to want to dart to the computer and start typing away the moment the baby is asleep and the house is quiet. Unfortunately, there are a lot of other things that need to get done during these precious, quiet hours. I try to set goals. Check off a few things from the list first, then write. If I reverse the order, I almost never get back to the to-do list.

3. Take every opportunity. I keep the files I am working on open on my computer so it's easy to type a few lines here and there. I also jot down notes on paper and keep an ideas notebook so that I can capture my thoughts while they are still occurring, before they flee.

4. Always be thinking. When I can't write, I can still think. No matter where I am, I often find myself thinking about my stories. I'll work out specific scenes, lines, and dialogue in my head. If I can get to a computer soon enough, it's just like transcribing because it's already laid out in vivid detail in my mind.

5. Don't fight the current. If it really isn't happening, just accept it and go with it. Some days, my daughter will play happily while I write. Other days, the second I sit down at the computer, she starts fussing. It just frustrates everyone involved if I try too hard to push forward on these days. If I take a break and play with her for a while, we're both happier and sometimes, she'll calm down and let me write. Either way, I'm not being productive or respecting my priorities when I choose writing over my family, so I try not to.

Even so, it's not always easy. That leaves me wondering as I write this post, do other people have such a hard time striking the “write” balance, if you will? Even if you don't actually write, how do you make time for the things you love to do? It’s all about priorities, I know. Still, I’d love to know what your challenges are with balancing writing/hobbies and the rest of your life. How have you tried to overcome these obstacles, successfully or unsuccessfully?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Lively Quotes: Love

In honor of Valentine's Day, the topic for my favorite quotes in this post is love.

Please share any good quotes, or any thoughts you have on the topic of love in the comments. Happy and mushy, as well as bitter and cynical are all welcome.

Happy Valentine's Day!

True love stories never have endings
you can give without loving, but you can't love without giving 
The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return
Don't frown, you never know who is falling in love with your smile 
love can be magic, but magic can be an illusion
Hearts will never be practical until they are made unbreakable. 
Don't forget to love yourself

Monday, February 11, 2013

Burning (a short story)

Time to share another story! Burning is my delve into the realm of heroes.

It is ER meets X-Men.

This story is the first of a series of short stories I envision with a set of  robust characters who possess supernatural gifts. I haven't gotten back to writing any of the sequels, though. A lot of interest to this story may help nudge me to get back to work on this particular imaginary world.

Dahlia already knows what you'll think of this, but it's time for you to find out...

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Did Something Change?

Right about now, you may be looking at this blog asking yourself, "Did something just change?" And the answer to that would be, "Yes!"

Take a look at the top of the page, and you'll see that I have renamed the blog. It is now called Muse, Write, Repeat. I thought this was a more appropriate, fitting name for the process I got through in my writing. I also felt it was a more concise and pithier name than the mouthful it used to be (Something to Write from Home About).

You can still find links to my stories to the right, and I'll still be writing about made-up stuff, and writing, and life. It's going to be fun, so let's keep the process going!

Friday, February 8, 2013

My Favorite Books (Part 2)

See the first half of my list here.

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand - I won't say I completely agree with Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism that she presents in this book (especially where it comes to her atheistic view and aversion to doing anything nice solely for the sake of being nice). However, she presents excellent points about truth, rationality, responsibility for actions, and the value of hard work. The philosophy is conveyed through the vehicle of dynamic and compelling characters and events that makes this an enjoyable book that I would call a must-read.

The Uglies Series by Scott Westerfeld - This is a fun, futuristic sci-fi series about a dystopian society of tyrannical control. It's a page-turner for sure.

Watchers by Dean Koontz - An exciting and emotional tale that examines the dichotomy of good vs. evil.

The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins - A futuristic dystopian society punishes former rebels by making their children battle it out to the death in "The Hunger Games" each year. Excitement, adventure, and a sweet little romance weave through this gripping trilogy.

The Giver by Lois Lowery - I guess I like futuristic dystopian stories about oppressive governments, because here's another one. This is a great, thought-provoking tale of safety verses freedom, choice, and progression.

If You Could See Me Now by Cecilia Ahern - This is a fun story. It turns out that imaginary friends are real, wonderful confidants, and even open to a little romance. Sounds strange, but it's very fun and heart-warming.

A Walk to Remember by Nicolas Sparks - The heart-wrenching tale of young love, loss, and finding meaning in life.

The Host by Stephenie Meyer -Alien body-snatchers have taken over the world, but they didn't count on human tenacity and the way love changes people to the very core.

The Children of the Promise Series by Dean Hughes - This is a historical fiction series that takes place during the onset of WWII on through it's conclusion. It follows a family of Mormons as they are pulled into every aspect of involvement from life back home to life as a P.O.W. and more.

The Fablehaven Series by Brandon Mull - This is a fun and fabulous fairytale series (comparable to Harry Potter) where fables are real and the mythical creatures live on preserves where only certain people are privy to the truth. It is fun and gripping, and full of deep truths about the nature of good and evil.

What are your favorite books? 
I'm always on the lookout for something new to read and love!