Authors Answer, Consolidated

Most of you probably know that I’m a part of the “Authors Answer” panel over at Jay Dee Archer’s blog, I Read Encyclopedias. Every week 11 authors, including both myself and Jay, answer questions about our process, our experiences, or whatever the readers decide to ask. In the past I’ve reblogged many of these posts here, but I’ve often forgot to as well, given that Jay usually posts our answers at an odd time of day for me (he’s in Japan, while I’m in Canada). To make up for the ones I’ve missed, I’m taking today’s post to link to each of the questions we’ve already answered. I hope you’ll check them out, and don’t forget that there will be an new question and answers tomorrow!

Question 1: If you could design your dream writing studio/office, what would it be like?

Question 2: Is there an author who is often criticized that you love to read? Who is it?

Question 3: How difficult do you find it to write characters who have vastly different beliefs than you?

Question 4: If you could interview any author, who would it be, and what question would you ask?

Question 5: Have you read any foreign language novels, translated or not? What would you recommend?

Question 6: Which mistake or bad habit in writing is the most difficult for you to stop doing?

Question 7: Christmas is coming! In your opinion, what would be the perfect gift for a writer?

Question 8: The New Year is coming soon. What are your plans for 2015 in terms of writing?

Question 9: What are your favourite genres to read?

Question 10: What are your least favourite genres to read?

Question 11: If you were going to write in a genre other than what you normally write, what would you like to try?

Question 12: My daughter’s third birthday is on January 25th. What children’s books did you read when you were a child?

Question 13: Can you recommend an author you enjoy that is not well-known? Why did you choose them?

Question 14: When coming up with a new story, what comes first, the character or the plot?

Question 15: All of us write prose fiction (unless I’m mistaken) in an era that has an astounding variety of storytelling media. Has your writing been significantly influenced by any works of newer media?

Question 16: What are your favorite online resources/websites for writers?

Question 17: What authors, styles or intellectual movements have most influenced your writing?

Question 18: Have you ever wanted to rewrite the ending of another author’s published book? How would you change it?

Question 19: How did you get into writing and what made you select your genre of choice?

Question 20: What element of writing (setting, characterization, plot development, etc.) do you find most challenging?

Question 21: What is your ultimate goal with your writing?  Fame, fortune, changing the world?

Question 22: Barring a zombie apocalypse, is there anything that could make you stop writing?

Question 23: What is your favourite point of view and tense to write in? Why?

Question 24: How important is it to you to continue learning and brushing up on basic skills such as grammar? For instance, would you pay to take a course?

Question 25: Would you rather write one book that’s hugely popular or many books with little recognition?

Question 26: If you could date any fictional character, who would you date?

Question 27: Do you think there are any books that have changed history?

Question 28: Vanity Publishing? Indie Publishing? Self Publishing? Traditional Publishing? Author Publishing? What is the difference? What do you recommend?

Question 29: How do adult authors write from the point of view of children/teenagers so well?

Question 30: What do you think of fan fiction as a writing medium? Do you think it has credibility despite the subject matter?

Question 31: What is your current work in progress? What’s it about?

Question 32: Do you write about any controversial topics?

Question 33: Can you briefly describe your writing process?

Question 34: What software do you recommend for writing books?

Question 35: How do you feel about movie novelizations?

Question 36: How do you deal with sex in your writing?

Question 37: Do you use beta readers? How many?

Question 38: It’s summer, so what’s on your summer reading list?

Symptoms of Foolishness

Have you ever self-diagnosed?

In today’s world we have something that the people of previous generations could never have even fathomed: access to endless amounts of information from all over the planet, right at our fingertips at any given time. With just a laptop, a tablet, or a smartphone, someone can instantly look up facts and figures, learn how to fix an appliance, check out photos and videos being sent to us from outer space, and much much more. We are awash in a sea of information, if only we’re willing to dive in.

But of course, sometimes (*ahem* most of the time) we use this power for silly things, and one such silly thing is the Googling of symptoms.

I’m pretty sure everyone with access to the internet has used Google to try to diagnose themselves at some point or another. It’s just too tempting. You have this problem that has been plaguing you, but you don’t want to go to the doctor because it’s difficult to get in, or you’re embarrassed to talk about it, or you just plain hate doctors, so you load up Google and you start typing in symptoms.

“Why do I wheeze so much at night?”

“What are the black marks on my toenails?”

“Why am I so tired all the time?”

It usually starts as a single complaint, but quickly snowballs into hypochondria as the screen flashes lists of conditions and their possible symptoms at you. You start with a concern about your frequent headaches, and suddenly you’re thinking, “Why yes, actually, I DO have pale skin, brittle nails, occasional nausea, achy joints, and regular heartburn”. Then next thing you know you’ve diagnosed yourself with everything from restless leg syndrome to stage four cancer and you’re two breaths away from a full-scale panic attack.

This very astute definition courtesy of medicalminded.com

Of course, the problem is that people are very susceptible to suggestion. You’d never have complained about achy joints until you read the symptom and started imagining that you’re this poor soul who is in constant pain and nobody understands, dammit. We just have this way of imagining that we’ve had symptoms that we never really had if they fall neatly into a list that helps explain the one thing we were actually curious about.

Why do I bring this up? Well, I’ve been a pretty bad self-diagnose-junkie for years. I know enough to know when I’m being foolish, but I still can’t help myself sometimes, and all of a sudden I’m convinced that I have Crohn’s Disease or Fibromyalgia, or whatever else explains the complaint-of-the-day. Luckily I’m not the kind of person to leap on a bandwagon and start trying to change my entire lifestyle according to my latest diagnosis, but I have definitely brought enough concerns to my doctor for him to probably start wondering if I’m a little nuts.

But if your guts twisted and turned for no reason at random times of day and sent you running to the bathroom in a mad panic, wouldn’t you be scouring the information highway for explanations? ^_~

So how about it? Have you ever self-diagnosed? Come on, don’t lie…you’ve Googled a symptom or two. Did you bring your concerns to your doctor, and if so, did they lead to anything? Please share!

NYC Midnight’s “Flash Fiction Challenge”

You guys know that I’m a writer (hopefully, otherwise you haven’t been paying attention at all), and a published novelist at that. No, I’m not what you might call “successful”, but for better or worse writing is the thing I love, and I fully plan to spend the rest of my days publishing more and more novels.

So it might surprise you to find out that in all my “career” of writing since the third grade, I’ve never entered any writing competitions. Now, there may have been a school thing or two back in the day, and I once had a poem published in the local newspaper back when they had such a lighthearted feature as that, but I’ve never actually sat down and committed myself to an actual contest, of the type that involves competing against other writers for a prize.

Today I decided to change that. After months of getting emails from NYC Midnight about their “Flash Fiction Challenge“, I finally decided to bite with only a couple of days left until the entry deadline. The idea is this: competitors are divided into groups, and each group is given a genre, a location, and an object that they must use to create their piece of fiction. This is a flash fiction competition, so your creation must be less than 1000 words. Each group gets to write two stories, and are awarded points and get feedback on their pieces from the judges. The top five scorers from each group then move on to the next round.

The fact of the matter is, I don’t expect to actually win anything from this competition, as it is actually quite popular and thus there are lots of other (presumably talented) writers to hold up against. But I think it would be fun, and sometimes you’ve just got to put yourself out there and take a chance or two. Since my current manuscript isn’t nearly ready for submission to publishers, I think this will be a fun way to do just that.

So what do you think, fellow writers? Want to join me? ^_~

Round is a Shape…Ha ha ha >.>

Memoir MondaysGetting – and staying – in shape is super-hard. Have you ever noticed that?

At the beginning of this year when I made my goals for 2015, I purposely didn’t say anything about weight loss or getting in shape, because I knew damn well that I’d just be setting myself up for failure. There are just too many other things that always end up taking priority with me. But lately I’ve been thinking about such things, and I can’t help but frown like a grumpy toddler as I do.

Probably the best shape I was ever in in my life was during high school. I was a cheerleader for two of the three years, and I also took Tae Kwon Do classes with my boyfriend. Combine that with a very healthy metabolism (I used to eat like a horse and never gain a pound) and I was slim and trim. I’ve always had huge thighs and a sizable rear end, but back then they were two parts of a strong, toned lower body, not the result of too many pizzas and donuts. I was a teenager, so of course I still thought that I was fat and ugly, but in truth I was the perfect size and shape for my body, and I could rock bikinis and belly-shirts like nobody’s business if I could just muster up the confidence. And though I suffered from mild asthma related to physical exertion even back then, I was healthy and fully capable.

Around mid-college things started really slowing down, including my metabolism. Anyone who has been to college knows that it’s not a period of healthy eating and exercise; it’s a time of quick, cheap meals, copious amounts of alcohol, and lots and lots of sitting on your ever-expanding ass. I wasn’t a cheerleader anymore, and when my boyfriend broke up with me I quit Tae Kwon Do to avoid seeing him. I went through a mopey period during which I ate too much and moved too little, and even after that period ended I never really bounced back. My eating habits only got worse, and in about three years I gained upwards of 50 lbs. I felt like crap. I work baggy clothes and didn’t spend much time on my appearance, and I cringed every time I saw a photo of myself.

The job that I eventually got as a maintenance tech at a paper mill stopped me from gaining further weight, as I suddenly had a bit of actual activity in my life, but I didn’t lose any. It wasn’t until my husband proposed to me that I decided that I was going to slim back down. I was absolutely determined because I wanted to be able to look at my wedding photos and be proud, but it was far from easy. I really had to watch what I ate, and I struggled to force myself to exercise whenever I could. For a while I joined a gym, and I’d spend almost an hour there every morning before work because I knew if I waited until the evening to exercise I wouldn’t do it. Over the course of a little more than a year, I lost about 30 lbs. Then, a few months before the wedding, my husband and I took up the P90X challenge, and through that I managed to lose another 10 lbs. I was almost down to the weight I’d been in high school, and those last few pounds could be attributed to the fact that I was now much more muscular than I’d been then. I looked great and felt great, and both my husband and I looked amazing in our wedding photos.

After the wedding was over I got a little lazy, as people are wont to do, but I still managed to maintain my weight within 5 lbs or so. Then my husband and I decided to try for a baby; about 8 months after our wedding day I was pregnant. For the first six months of the pregnancy I took great care of myself. I was very concerned with eating good foods and avoiding anything that might not be good for the baby, and I made sure to keep active, even if it was only 20 minutes a day on the treadmill. I was gaining a healthy amount of weight and nothing more. But then the third trimester hit and things got out of control. I started experiencing a lot of back and foot pain, and thus stopped moving unless absolutely necessary. My appetite went through the roof and I started craving nothing but fat and sugar. And I started working from home, which meant that I was accountable to no one and within arm’s reach of chips and Netflix at any given time. I blew up to about ten pounds more than my previous highest weight. All of my hard work was undone and then some. Of course, it was all worth it to meet my beautiful baby princess, but I was beyond frustrated that after giving birth to a 7 lb 6 oz baby and all the associated fluids, I’d somehow only managed to drop about 5 lbs off my own weight.

In the months that followed my daughter’s birth I managed to lose a couple of pounds through breastfeeding, but I was so exhausted and hungry all the time that I never managed any more than that. When my daughter was about 18 months old I started my first “out West” job and started getting into running around the camp in the mornings. I lost close to ten pounds, but then disaster struck in the form of gastrointestinal issues. I literally became terrified to run, and quickly gained the weight back again. Since then I’ve tried several times to get back into shape, but always something else takes precedence (writing a novel) or destroys my efforts (the gut problems). I have never been able to get any closer than 30 lbs away from my goal, and have had a very difficult time even holding that weight.

I’m not trying to make excuses, because the fact is that a lot of the time I’m just plain lazy, or not willing to siphon time from other areas of my life, or completely unwilling to give up my junk food. I’m also not bemoaning my horrible body because although I might fervently wish my tummy and butt were smaller, I’m actually pretty comfortable with my “mom” body. What really bothers me, though, is that I remember how it felt…how it felt to be 50 lbs lighter and in infinitely better shape, and I would very much like to feel that way again.

I’ve Been Wrong Before

Flash Fiction FridaysThe world seemed to stop the moment he walked in the room. The red-cheeked bar patrons seemed to fade away around me, and the slightly off-tune notes of the cover band became nothing more than a whisper. My ears felt as though they were filled with cotton. My heart skipped not one, but several beats. I couldn’t stop staring at him, at the strong line of his stubble-covered jaw, the wave of his shaggy brown hair, and the playful glint in his ice-blue eyes.

And he was staring right back at me.

A frat boy waving a twenty-dollar bill was trying to get my attention, but I scarcely even noticed him. My coworker shouted at me as I stepped out from behind the bar, leaving him to deal with the thirsty crowd, but I didn’t even hear him. I was drawn to him, unable to stop myself from elbowing my way through the crowd to get to him. For a heartbeat I lost sight of him, but as I pushed past a rowdy bachelorette party I discovered that he had been moving toward me as well.

We came face to face and stopped. He was a head taller than me, and he smelled like the rainforest. Without thinking about what I was doing – unable to think at all – I reached up and stroked the rough shadow on his chin. His hand found the back of my neck and sent my heart into a flutter. Before I knew it his lips found mine; a gentle kiss, but one vibrating with passion.

As he pulled back from the kiss I struggled to find my voice. “Do you believe in love at first sight?” I whispered.

His voice came back to me, soft and delicious, like melted caramels: “No, but I’ve been wrong before.”

YouTube-a-palooza!

I’ve mentioned many times before that blogging is a community “sport”, and that a big part of being in that community is sharing some love every now and then. The same is true for any community, including the YouTube one. Yes, you heard me say it: YouTube is a community. It’s full of a lot of morons and people being jackasses just for the sake of being jackasses, but there are also lots of awesome people who take care of each other and have lots of fun doing it. With that in mind, today I want to share with you some of my all-time favorite YouTubers.

Cinnemassacre

Plenty of you have probably already heard of Cinnemassacre, and those of you who have probably automatically equate the YouTube channel with the Angry Video Game Nerd. I love the Nerd’s game “reviews” and those videos have definitely skyrocketed Cinnemassacre’s popularity, but the channel is more than just that. I love their newest series – “Board James” – which features over-the-top reviews of old board games, and there’s something strangely amusing to me about the “James and Mike Mondays” feature, in which you simply watch two dudes play and talk about old video games. Long story short: if you’re a gamer, and enjoy a bit of a chuckle, you’ll probably get a kick out of perusing this channel.

The Grumpy Nerd

I don’t know why I (and tons and tons of other people) enjoy “unboxing” and “haul” videos so much, but we do, and one of my favorite people to watch doing these kinds of videos is the Grumpy Nerd. He does subscription boxes and tons of Funko Pop hauls, which I love, and despite referring to himself as “grumpy”, he actually gets adorably super-excited about some stuff, and that excitement is totally contagious.

Coffee Break With Dani

Despite all beliefs to the contrary, I can actually get super-girly at times, and at those times I love watching Dani’s channel. She is so cute and sweet as candy, and she’s also majorly knowledgeable about beauty and fashion. I look to her channel whenever I want to learn how to properly apply makeup, or if I’m just in the mood to listen to someone happily show off their awesome new jewelry. She’s also one of the happiest, most down-to-earth people I’ve ever seen, and that just makes her so easy to love that sometimes I even watch videos for which I have absolutely no interest in the topic, just to listen to her talk.

PixelDan Eardley

Dan is another subscription box fiend, but in addition to unboxing and haul videos he also does a lot of toy and collectible reviews. I really enjoy these reviews because he’s very detailed and gives you a really good idea of just what the item is all about; his videos are a great way to learn about something you might be considering ordering online, so that you have an idea of whether it’s actually a quality product before you go and spend your money on it. Plus, he’s just a really fun, happy guy who has a nerd collection that I would kill for.

surelyobsessed

I can never figure out how to properly pronounce this girly’s name (or remember how to spell it, for that matter), but she is a super-cutie who I just love to listen to. She does mostly beauty hauls and subscriptions, but she also does lots of excellent tutorials for makeup application. Her channel is definitely another mega-girly one, but I love it because she’s so cute and sweet and just seems like someone I would be able to be good friends with.


So that’s it for me, at least for now. Why not check out some of these channels and see what you think for yourself? And why not share some of your own favorites? I’d love to hear about them!

No Success Without the GRIND

TraceyLynnTobin:

I thought I’d reblog this post today because it full of TRUTH, of the variety that is sometimes difficult to remember. 😉

Originally posted on Kristen Lamb's Blog:

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Anamorphic Mike. Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Anamorphic Mike.

What do you want? How badly do you want it? What are you willing to sacrifice? These are the questions we must ask not once, but daily. There is no success without the GRIND.

Or perhaps, the G.R.I.N.D.

Give

Every day we have something to give that will keep propelling us forward. I love, love, love the movie Rocky. This is among my favorite quotes:

The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and…

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