What it Takes to Be a “Real” Writer

For those of us getting ready to jump into the abyss that is NaNo (and I mean abyss in the best sense), remind yourself everyday that you are a PROFESSIONAL WRITER! You can do this! Don’t think in long terms (God, who can write 50,000 words in one month – I must be crazy), think about what you can do today! “Today, I’m going to finish my outline. This will help me stay on track during November. Maybe even today I can write a character background.” Small goals. One step at a time and one foot in front of the other. You can do this!

Also, check out the different Facebook groups and NaNo page for buddies – don’t go this alone. This is the brilliance of NaNo – so many people are with you this coming month – reach out. 🙂 You can “buddy” me; my NaNo user name is: Ngrabner. Best of luck to everyone!

Kristen Lamb's Blog

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Since we are only a couple weeks away from NaNoWriMo, I thought this would be a great topic to discuss. If you don’t know what NaNoWriMo is? You aren’t a real writer. Kidding! Calm down 😛 .

November is National Novel Writing Month and it’s a fun challenge to see if we have what it takes to write a novel (50,000 words) in one month. Though the challenge is geared toward newer writers, I can attest that writers of all levels join in and it is my favorite time of year. Even though I have written millions of words and five books, I love being part of the challenge because of the creative energy new people bring to the table.

Countless folks will join the challenge just to try and see if they have what it takes to seriously pursue the dream of going pro. Fifty thousand words isn’t…

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Of Mice and Money

Between increasing housing costs, medical, and school loans; it’s no wonder that so many American’s are facing problems with debt. The subject of finances is nothing new and one that usually causes the most stress. (According to an article on eHow.com, marriages in America “at this time have a 50/50 success rate potential…one of two marriages potentially heading to divorce due to a money issue.” This is not good news.

Speaking of news, did you happen to see this article from CNN that talked about how 1 in 3 American’s are in debt collections? Now, I know the data collected might have all different kinds of contributing factors, but how often have you met with someone who had money problems? It’s not unheard of for me to start talking with someone and they end up mentioning something like their mounting student loans or overwhelming medical bills. It can almost make you feel that you don’t even stand a chance, which is pretty scary.

I know that companies are even now checking applicant’s credit before interviewing. Following this train of thought, you might be someone in debt trying desperately to work your way out, but you can’t even get an interview for a job because your credit isn’t great.
I know this is an unusual topic for me to blog about, but when I read the headline, something just grabbed me and I couldn’t stop myself. I really wanted not to go on any kind of rant about the state of the economy or anything like that, but I was thinking maybe I could encourage a collection of wonderful money saving ideas on this post, so if you have some ideas – PLEASE SHARE THEM BELOW.
So, here is a personal story of mine when it comes to money.  I have noticed that I never seem to have a financial emergency until after I spend a good amount of money on something else.  For example, we just recently got a new dining room table (it was needed our old one was falling apart), but the day after we made that purchase, my husband and I hear “scurrying” noises coming from above our head in our bedroom at night. (And yes, you could hear the theme music from Halloween here.) Sure enough, after calling our pest control company, it was discovered that we had mice in our attic. (Insert girly scream…three times….by me, not the hubby.)
You remember Indiana Jones and his fear of snakes?

Still of Indiana Jones Raider's of the Lost Ark (1981) from www.imdb.com

Still of Indiana Jones Raider’s of the Lost Ark (1981) from http://www.imdb.com

Yeah, imagine that multiplied by a thousand or so. (This is what I think of when I hear mice.)

Still from The Princess Bride image courtesy of www.imdb.com

Still from The Princess Bride image courtesy of http://www.imdb.com

I know it’s silly, but I just can’t seem to control it. So when our unnamed pest control person quoted us a price tag of $1500 to seal up “multiple wholes” for the “infestation”  in our attic, not even to set traps, I was this close to discussing payment plans, just to get the process started before I lost my mind. Luckily for me, my very level-headed husband, who is not afraid of mice, was like, “Uh, no,” and we got a second opinion from a good friend who not only came over and put some traps in our attic for free, but helped us look around and find that we really only have one or two places that we might need to cover to fix this problem. (God Bless our awesome friends – we have the best.)

So, aside from flesh-eating, zombie-killing mice, all is right in our world again….for now.

Going with this theme, I recently read a book called, America’s Cheapest Family, that if you ever get the chance to read, I highly recommend it! This family survives on an income of less than $40,000 a year and they are very happy. They’ve got some really great suggestions in there that I believe everyone could benefit from.

So, what about you? Have you had any mice emergencies lately? What are some great money-saving tips that you would suggest for those out there trying to save?

Sweet Surprises

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you read this title? Are you thinking about the last time you got flowers at work? Are you thinking about the notes your mom sent in your lunch when you were a kid? Or perhpas you are remembering a moment when you were happily shocked by a stranger letting you go first in line at the grocery?

This world is a crazy place. I’ve almost given up reading the news in the morning. (The morning routine used to be get up, have coffee – most important -, turn on the news.) Sometimes while sipping my life-saving java I would scroll through my news app on my cell phone and I could feel my mood (which is already not super since I’m not a morning person) plummet after a few minutes. How in the world are you ever supposed to go from reading this (see below) to having a positive and happy attitude with the rest of your day?

Screen shot of USA Today news http://www.usatoday.com/

Screen shot of USA Today news
http://www.usatoday.com/

So, I’ve started to swap from reading the news to checking Facebook or just catching up with my reading, and I think that I’m a happier person for it. I almost with there was a site that you could go to that would only list happy news – maybe stories about a volunteer in your community, a funny clip about the neighbor’s dog, or even a goofy riddle that makes you laugh out loud.

Look, my Reece's is smiling at me - right before I ate him!

Look, my Reece’s is smiling at me – right before I ate him!

In fact, this thought has led to an idea for a new book that I’m considering. It would be nonfiction, so something a little different than what I have been writing lately, but the idea has been circling; enough so that I’ve had little else to think about creatively.

What about you? What’s your morning routine? Would you like to see something in the news that wasn’t so sad? Have you had any sweet surprises in your life lately that you wouldn’t mind sharing?

Tagged – A Glimpse into “A New House”

My friend, Diana Beebe tagged me (and a few others) in a blog post about what other writer friends are currently working on. For myself, I have a couple of mansucripts going at any given time, which allows me the chance to work on a little bit here and there – where ever the inspriation flows.

Reminder

So in consideration for this “tag”, you are supposed to go to page 7 or 77 of your current manuscript. Scroll down to line seven and post seven lines from there…exactly as they are. Okay, my first instict is to put something more “polished” on here, but I think the intent of this exercise is to provide the fun and new, so here is an excerpt from a work that I had actually placed aside until recently, called, A New House. (The name is subject to change.)

Turning her head to see where the noise had come from, she locked eyes with a man, a very handsome man she admitted to herself, who was standing at the end of her driveway with an amused expression on his face as he watched her struggle to lift one of the boxes filled with books. He was tall, though she couldn’t be sure how tall, given the way that she was bent over the trunk, but she would guess a little over six four, and he appeared to be really fit with his black collared shirt and tan slacks.

He had eyes the color of a sweet looking caramel macchiato, which had her considering her still brewing coffee, and a smile that was confident in it’s ability to set you at ease. Thinking back, she was sure that she probably could have lightened this load of books if she had just listened to her mother when she recommended that she go through her collection and get rid of the ones that she was never going to read again and maybe that would have saved her from this moment of embarrassment.

She was ridiculously stuck over a bunch of books in her trunk, her ever expanding ass hanging in the air, and her hair constantly falling over her face since she forgot to pull it back into a ponytail this morning. Lessons learned. Instead of letting the moment get to her though, she attempted an air of authority and perhaps a degree of mirth when she replied, “Can I help you?”

The man took a moment with this, it appeared that he was weighing his next words carefully given the frown lines that began to show on his forehead, which was wonderfully tan like the rest of his face giving the impression that he spent a great deal of time outdoors. “Actually I was going to offer to help you.” His voice was rough like he was holding back a chuckle at her expense. She narrowed her eyes at him showing that she was on to him. He just smiled and waited for her to make the next move.

And the last part of the tag says that I have tell you five things about my protagonist, Rachel:

1.  Rachel prefers to handle things her way.

2.  She is embracing a new change in her life to try to gain some control.

3.  She doesn’t believe in ghosts.

4.  She has some drama in her family.

5.  She doesn’t trust strange men.

 

So, that is the glimpse into my old but new manuscript, A New House.  I really hoped you enjoyed it and learning a little bit about Rachel.  For all my friends out there, consider yourself “TAGGED” for this! *evil laughs*

What about you?  What kind of projects have you got going on right now?  I have a friend who is currently redoing the floors in her house and is thinking about redoing the bathrooms as well.  This seems to be the season for repairs.

Dream Date Night

Thinking long and hard…what’s the best date you’ve ever been on?  Are you married?  How long have you been married?  Do you still have date night now that you are married?

I shot this on St. Thomas...talk about a "date night."

I shot this on St. Thomas…talk about a “date night.”

My family and I just recently got back from a Family Retreat at Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine, Texas, where we had a Chaplain talk to us about our marriage and things like that.  One of the books that he recommended (and you all know how much I LOVE books :)), was called, The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman.  Have you read this book?  I think the one on the link that I listed is a bigger book than the one that I have but the lesson is the same…everyone has a different way that they express love, so even though you might be wondering what is going on with your spouse and why are they frustrating you so much…there is a method to the madness. *smiles*

For example, in my case, when I think about how I show my husband that I love him (not that way people get your mind out of the gutter *laughs*), is by conversation.  I’m sure some of you are rolling your eyes at this, but it’s true.  I try to set aside time to listen to my husband and spending quality time together.  (Not when both of us are on the coach watching TV and checking Facebook – and one of you just thought, “How does she see me?”)  What I mean is sitting down and having a real conversation with my husband.

Do you remember when you first started dating your significant other?  Do you remember how special and wonderful it was just to get the chance to spend time with them talking?  Well, that’s what I mean when I say that I try to set aside time for us to talk.  And it’s not easy.  With both of us working, I know that sometimes the last thing that I want to do at the end of the day is anything other than getting dinner going and crashing on the living room sofa, and maybe catch an episode of The Good Wife.

So, with quality time in mind, I downloaded a list of questions that we could ask ourselves..something like a writing prompt for conversations asking questions like, “What’s your favorite memory of us?” or “What was the first music album you owned?”

****** Wait a minute…first music album…I have to share*****

Real quick, I wanted to share (knowing full well that I open myself up to public mockery), the first album that I owned was the soundtrack to the movie, The Adams Family Values.

Photo Courtesy of IMDB.com

Photo Courtesy of IMDB.com

I don’t know if you remember this movie or the music from it, but just in case, here’s a link:

–Let the laughing commence…

*****Okay, back to topic*******

So, basically, my husband and I are going back and forth talking like we did when we first met and it was great!  Really.  (I still see some of you rolling your eyes.)  I’m finishing that book, but was wondering along this same line…have any of you had an experience like this?  Have you read a book that changed your marriage?  What kind of book (aside from Women Are From Mars) would you suggest?

How about inexpensive date night suggestions?  How do you make it work?

Generating Ideas

It’s cold and quiet. The smell of alchol is strong as they must have just cleaned the exam room in between patients. I am sitting on the table, awkwardly swinging my legs like a little girl on a swing set, eyes scanning the room, wishing they at least had a poster on the wall so I could imagine myself anywhere else.

I couldn’t say exactly when it happened, but the next thing I know, I see this entire short story in my head. It was there, like a path clearly marked in the woods, just waiting for me to wander down.

Hosp 

I must have been speaking the story out loud, since when the doctor came into the room, she gave me a very odd look before starting my exam.

 Hosp1

Who hasn’t been there before, right? Okay, maybe not exactly like that, but I’m sure that every writer friend that I have out there can tell me at least one funny “for instance” of when a story idea came to them.  I know that many people will say that you can’t always rely on a good muse.  Because like any person, your muse is a fickle thing and is not always so reliable.  But man, what on earth could have prompted mine to take my mind down that road when I’m sitting on an exam table at the hospital?

I guess I could be thankful that this is the route my mind took instead of anything else.  (Because my mind can take some crazy turns, for sure.)

And I have to say, for someone who was raised in the romance genre, I get some dark story ideas that float around.  I’m not sure where all that comes from, but it’s what pops into my thought process when I start going.  Isn’t that weird?

Friends – do you have a story like this where you are doing one thing and then something completely different pops into your mind?  What’s the weirdest (yes, I’m using that word) time that has every happened to you?  Do you believe in writing prompts?  What’s the best writing prompt that you ever had?

 

I’m Distracted

So, I’ve read in many places that a good idea if you want to achieve a goal is to write that goal down, whether on a scrap piece of paper, on the edge of buisness card, or on the blackboard, but write it down in place that you can see it everyday.  I like this idea, but to expound on that, I’ve also heard that it might be even better to have some kind of mission statement to better explains what your goals are.  Do any of you do this?

 List

I’ve been giving a lot of thoughts to my “long range” plan lately.  When I was in the Air Force, I was a scheduler, maintenance scheduler, and I got used to having plans, both long range and short range.  (Basically, I was responsible for tracking and scheduling maintenance on all weapons, aircraft, and engines.) But what makes me laugh is that even when I have these plans at work (day job), I have not applied this to my “home/professional” life. 

Calendar

I’m really good at excuses.  I am pretty good at procrastinating.  (It’s a little funny when I use laundry as avoidance for my work in progress – even if we ALWAYS have laundry!)  In fact, here’s a list of my favorite things to do when I should be doing something else:

1. Social Media (Yes, Facebook and Twitter are my first two, especially since I have them on my phone now and can see them anywhere!)

2.  Reading (I count this because even though I could justify it and say it’s good for an author to read, I still read more than I probably should right now.)

3. TV – It doesn’t happen as often as it used to, but sure I’ll kick back with an episode of Dr. Quinn when I’m folding laundry.  Who doesn’t? *smiles*

4. Household chores – The funny one because I’m not a real fan of any kind of cleaning, but sometimes I will gladly dust than get back to my revisions.

5.  Daydreaming – I think looking out the window or daydreaming should be counted as time towards writing – SQUIREL! – but being honest I would admit not ALL my daydreaming time is focused on my writing.

What about you?  Are you easily distracted?  What are your distractions?

Checking In

Good Friday morning everyone!  How have you been doing lately?  I tell you, not to complain, but it’s been busy in this mama’s life with work, revisions on my submissions to two agents (where I have been feverishly working to either delete or rework a character), I slipped in a quick family vacation down to San Antonio, and now I am enrolled in a two-week Fast Draft Course with the wonderful Candace Havens that is totally blowing NaNoWriMo away!

Phew! *wipes brow*

Insert also into this time busy time the fact that the hubby and I have made some major life decisions – just to make it a little more interesting.  First, the hubby and I have made the decision to get a better handle on our financies and we evaluated how much money we spent for the last year.  I don’t want to say how much I spent on books (it was a LOT), but I seriously must have lost my mind.  One of the driving forces for this review is not just because it’s important, in my mind, to have a good household budget and stick to it, but also because this leads to another life change that the hubby and I have decided on…and that is we are going to homeschool our four-year old daughter.

Image

I know that many of you are going to have varying opinions on this matter, and I appreciate that, but this decision was not made in haste, it is actually something that I’ve been researching for the last year or so. (Hubby took a little extra convicing, but we made the decision together, as a family.)

So now that the decision has been made, I’m going to have to figure out better ways to save money on books, becasue I mean, come on, I HAVE to have books.  I need to be surrounded by them and always have options of what I’m going to read next.  Are you that way?  I like to have all kinds of books at my finger tips because I never know what I’ll be in the mood for and thanks, in part, to a wonderful writer and friend, Roni Loren, I’ve been expanding on my reading list into other wonderful genres that I would have never given time of day to before.  It’s been so amazing getting out of that comfort zone.

On that note, I’m going to give you a quick review of three new books that I have read recently, in case you are interested.

1)  “Hold on to Your Kids,” Gordon Neufeld, Ph. D. and Gabor Mate, M.D. 2006 Ballantine Books Trade Paperback Edition

     This book was referred to me from another friend’s site and basically the premis is that our society is raising a bunch of peer oriented children.  Basically children that look to their peers for “their values, identifty, and codes of behavior.” (back cover)  I don’t know that anyone would argue this basic fact, given the media attention given to so many examples, the most notably the Miley Cyrus scandals that have been on TV.  Now, as a parent, I constantly struggle with being the primary influence in my daughter’s life while not overwhleming her and becoming that “helicopter parent.”  It’s a balance,  But until now, I’ve never read a book that so eloquently discusses what the problem is, how it begins, and what you can do to help fix it.  The only critique I have for this book is that it is a little in-depth, and doesn’t flow as I would prefer, but really that’s just a preference.  If you haven’t had a chance to glance through this book, parent’s I highly recommend it!

2)  “The Brainy Bunch,” by Kip and Mona Lisa Harding, 2014 Gallery Books

     What an interesting book – another one that I pulled from a blog.  The pull for me was when another mom told me about this family that homeschools their ten children and all of them have started college by the age of twelve!  All kinds of thoughts ran through my mind about whether or not this was even possible, let alone a good thing, but the book (written jointly by both parents with inserts from the kids), gives an overview of the families values and teaching methods that allows each of their children to pursue their dreams and gather education in areas that interest them.  Among the children are a Navy Doctor, an Engineer, and an Architect.   The parents stress over and over that their children aren’t geniusus but that their achievments are made by allowing their children the pursue what interests them and to ensure that they are always challenged.  It gives you an interesting persepective about how you will look at your child’s education and the education system today.

3) “Smart Money, Smart Kids,” by Dave Ramsey and Rachel Cruze (his daughter).  2014 Lampo Liscensing, LLC.

    Now, I believe almost everyone has heard of Dave Ramsey and his secrets to “financial success,” but I never knew that his daughter, Rachel, was also a financial educator.  Their book, co-authored, gives a unique perspective on money that many parents might not have given consideration to before – how to help your kids make the best decisions when it comes to your finances.  As I said earlier, financial peace is something that even my husband and I struggle with today.  But Rachel and Dave explain in their book how to be a good role model for your kids and how to set them up for financial success.  They talk about not using the word, “allowance,” but instead having children work “on comission.”  It’s an interesting conecpt and a very easy read.  I highly reccommend this book!

How’s your Friday going?  Ready for one of these?

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Adventures with Family Photos

Living in northern Texas for a few years has given me a craving for a family photo surrounded by beutiful Texas bluebonnets.  I don’t know how many of you have seen them, but they only bloom for a little bit, which limits the amount of time that I can set all this up.  (I think they bloom for a few weeks at most.)

So for three years I have been thinking about this and three years I have been plotting planning this family photo.  I have the idea in my head and now the fun part is trying to find a field that isn’t on the side of the interstate to get this picture. 

I think I have the plan for that now.  Tomorrow, I’m going to drag my family out of bed early (to hopefully get the best light) and see if I can get us all together in a field of bluebonnets that aren’t inhabited by the local wildlife, and have a friend take our picture there.

Knowing my family, I’m sure that we will run into an obstacle or two *wink*, but I’m thinking if nothing else, it will be a great memory. 

What about you?  When was the last time that you took a family picture?  Was it anything like this

Continuing the 2014 Reading Challenge with John Grisham

How have I gotten to this point in my life without reading a book by John Grisham?  I can tell you that I have seen many of his books-turned-movies like The FirmThe Client, and The Pelican Brief.  All wonderful movies, and I’m sure even better books.  My husband is a huge fan of his and on one of our weekend trips, he had us listen to the audio book of Playing for Pizza, which I have to say was really interesting.  But nothing compares to when reading something that is what I consider, essentially John Grisham, a story about a trial.

So, when my reading group decided on Sycamore Row for our book for the month of February, I jumped at it!  It was going to be a new experience and I couldn’t wait.  I admit, I was a little nervous because sometimes when you hear about a famous author you come into their books with these high expectations.  You know?  So needless to say, mine were really high with this one…but I didn’t need to worry. This book was everything I expected and then some!  I wouldn’t have thought that there was so much about wills that I didn’t know about, or that you could even make them that interesting, but trust John Grisham to give you a story that catches you immediately and seamlessly keeps your attention throughout almost five hundred pages!

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Image courtesy of http://www.jgrisham.com

 

 

I read the synopsis of this book and realized that it was a prequel to the book/movie, A Time to Kill.  I rented the movie to make sure that I understood this new book and I was shocked by how much that story moved me.  I was glad that Grisham kept the interesting characters of Jake Brigance and Sheriff Ozzy.  I guess the only disappointment that I had with the story was that I hoping for an appearance, even if it was small, from Carl Lee Haley, but that’s okay.  It’s still an awesome story.

If I had to say just one thing that I liked about the book (and there were many), I would have picked that I really liked how you didn’t even know where the title of the book came from until you got to the end.  It was a clever way, I think, to keep the story rooted with you when it was done.  I’ll certainly never forget the importance of Sycamore Row. *smiles*

What about you?  Have you read this book?  What did you think?  Have you read John Grisham before?  What’s your favorite?