Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Self Sabotage: The Absolute Worst Thing Any Writer Can Call Themselves

This one word has the ability to single-handedly undermine what could otherwise be a long and successful career. Aspiring Writer, Aspiring Author, Aspiring Musician, Aspiring Actor, etc. But what does that do for us? Why do we do it?

Saying you're a Writer is taboo. Sure, if you are already a success, it's easy to feel validated, but for the rest of us, the world says, "Don't quit your day job." and rolls its eyes. It makes parent's shriek, makes friends schedule interventions, and makes landlords search for new tenants. For that purpose, using the word "aspiring" gets us off the hook, it says, "Hey, I realize that I'm not successful, so leave me alone."

Referring to ourselves as "aspiring" also has the ability to give us a buffer- a way to fail without having to take on the accountability or fault. If you never remove the "aspiring" from your title, then you have a fail-safe way to make sure people are aware you're not taking yourself too seriously. Thus, when nothing comes of your new venture, no harm no foul. Right?

Image courtesy of Pixomar at

Everyone starts off as a no one. Calling yourself an Aspiring Writer subconsciously prevents you from making your dreams a reality. It is the little voice in the back of your mind that causes you to see yourself as an outsider. With that little disclaimer, you can never be a participating member of the writing community because of the self-inflicted distance you created to feel safe.

We are afraid of being judged, afraid of someone telling us that we're not who we say we are. That thought, the idea that we're impostors, keeps us from taking the bull by the horns and taking claim over what we truly wish to be ours.

They say one of the things that a writer needs to succeed is thick skin. Very thick, thick skin. This is true, and  it's not just because we have to accept criticism about our writing, but because the very idea of being a writer is fraught with scrutiny. However, if we do not believe in ourselves enough, or have the courage to call ourselves Writer. Author. Who will?

Still not convinced? Please tell me, when will you feel justified in calling yourself a Writer? When you get published? Wait...does self-publishing count (um...YES!)? When you earn your first dollar? Or maybe you have to earn a thousand dollars...or get an agent...That first book is a fluke, you will feel like a real writer after you publish your second book. Do you see what I'm getting at? No matter how much or how long you are doing the job you "aspire" to do, you will always have to deal with taking accountability for it at some point.

Drop it. Completely banish "aspiring" from your vocabulary. (Unless you're describing a tragic character in your novel.)

I'm here to tell you that if you are writing, you are a Writer. If you are a Writer, you are also an Author. As writers, we usually have to write the book to get the contract, to earn the dollar. Would you say that JK Rowling was a Writer even when Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was just a word document on her computer. Hell yes, she was. And so are we.

I'm not saying that it won't take some getting used to. Our friends and family may snicker, we may chicken out the first few times, but we must do it anyway. We will hold our heads high and say it with conviction. We must fake it till we make it, as it were.

Read Kristin Lamb's book, Are You There, Blog? It's Me, Writer. She will tell you the same thing. If you tell people that you are an "accountant", "mom", "teacher", "shade-tree mechanic", that's what they will believe you are. If you want to be an Author, tell them you are. You'll be surprised how empowered it will make you feel. And when you feel empowered, you'll be more inclined to stick with it, to see yourself as a professional of the craft, and to create for yourself a long term career in the field.

It's just the beginning, but it's a great start.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Cherry On Top Tales- No More Room

A little story for you...Happy Halloweeen!


Just an empty room, but you’re not allowed inside. Why’s that, you ask? You came all the way here, paid your entrance fee and managed to make it down the narrow, stone stairs without scraping your head on the low ceiling. The air is thick and muggy, which surprises you because you expect it to be cool. It is underground, after all.

We know your type. You don’t believe in God. You don’t believe in ghosts, yet every step you take makes you feel more uncomfortable, burdened. There must be an electronic field, you think, something that makes my hair stand on end and makes my stomach turn. It offers little comfort but it'll do. Something nags at you…you push it away.

There are many doorways, spaces in this underground maze. We see you explore. The blood in your veins hardens. Laboriously, your heart continues to pump though every beat racks your rib cage. You duck and squeeze through the labyrinth where so many have died with relative ease. The tour guide points this way. “For those with a sixth sense…” she taunts. A smirk plays across her lips. You roll your eyes, but underneath, her words weaken your composure.

In a straight hall, you peek inside this room. Off limits, though no sign is used or required. For some reason, you hold your breath. This is ridiculous, you tell yourself. Whispers float in the still air. We despise you. A man. Or was it a woman? The hissing of phrases in a foreign tongue caress your ear like the heat from a flame. Gooseflesh spreads over your skin as you glance around, realizing there's no one there.

The ropes are only plush sausages hung between two hooks. You could enter this space, but you don’t. You don’t even want to. Why? Because I follow the rules, you think. You’re fooling yourself. You know the real answer.

This room is already full.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Do You Love a Challenge? I've Got Just the Thing...


November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo- get it now?), which means that for those of us that enjoy writing, the next 30 days are an opportunity to write with abandon. Get wild. Get crazy. And let's do some creative storytelling!

NaNoWriMo has been happening every November for more than a decade. Aspiring writers (which is a term I have learned to hate but will explain at a later date), writers, authors, and people from any and every walk of life have joined the movement. To be perfectly clear anyone can do this. ANYONE- that includes you.

There are very few rules required to "win" this writing marathon, mainly that you write a new work of at least 50,000 words between the days of Nov 1 and Nov 30 at midnight. To do so means an average of 1,666 words per day will be typed, scribed, scrawled, and scritched toward a work limited only by the power of your imagination.

What is great about this is this is that it's a chance to join thousands of others in the world doing the same thing. Who knows? Just maybe you'll start a fire within yourself that you never want to extinguish. If nothing else, you'll have a guaranteed way to get out of any social engagement for a whole month. Also, it will stave off the gremlins that get in your brain to build cobwebs and turn off the lights. Yeah, that's right, thinking is good for you...go figure.

Image courtesy of ddpavumba at

So, we're getting interested, this idea sounds like it could be what?

Time to get those wheels a-turning, and if you want to make it "official" sign up for free on the NaNoWriMo website so you can track your progress and network with other challengers. I tell you, the writing community is full of some of the most inspirational and supportive people I've ever met! You can join forums and message boards to help cheerlead others and receive those essential pats on the back in return. Don't be shy!

Some of us are lucky enough to have an idea fluttering around upstairs, all we need to do is pay it some attention. Not so lucky? If you would love to act on this opportunity but don't have a clue where to start. Here is a good jumping off point. Click around on these pages and you're sure to get some sparks flying, or maybe look over here for some interesting seedlings.

But now you say, "But Amanda (that's my first name), what if I lose the NaNoWriMo challenge? Well then, my friend, large, muscular gangsters will knock on your door and give you an exuberant number of paper cuts. You don't want to mess with these guys, trust me. So, throw that defeatist mindset out the door and give it your all.

OOOH! I just got a great idea: Tell us what you want to write about. Post a comment with the tagline and genre so we can wait on the edge of our seats for the whole story. This is so exciting!!

While we're sitting around thrumming our fingers in wait of Thanksgiving's indulgence, let's do something productive.

You never know, you may be the next superstar!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Self Publishing and the eBook: How Credible Is It?

Image courtesy of adamr /

As an author, the allure of self publishing is definitely a draw. Higher royalties, no need for agents, no threats of rejection, and complete control (for better or worse) of your marketing and production. With the proper approach, it can be a way to launch us into a successful career as an Author- capital A.

Howsoever, for those of us that strive to write to the best of our ability, that aren't in it just for the money (not that we'd turn it down), and are honestly in love with writing, it's bound to get tricky. With so many "get rich quick" scammers and writers that purposely put out trash just hoping to ride the wave, the legitimacy of using eBook self-publishing stands to take a hit as consumers are burned. How many terrible books that don't entertain, educate, or have horrible editing can one take? If time and money is wasted on downloads, how many will a person buy before they begin to think that they have been duped and turn again to only the big names of traditional publishing. Probably not many.

How do we get them to take a chance on OUR book? What can we do or say to help keep the odds in our favor? I don't know all the answers.

My instinct tells me that if we write for QUALITY and not quantity, this issue will self-resolve. We build and utilize our networks from the moment that we make ourselves accountable as writers. We take responsibility for what we produce by making sure that the story is cohesive, that the information is accurate, and that it's readable and understandable. No cutting corners.

But, this may just be preaching to the choir. If you're reading this, you obviously care enough to wonder if self-publishing is right for you, which means that you're not just looking to make a quick buck. How do we combat those that take this Golden Age of authoring and flush it down the toilet? Sure, eBooks are here to stay, but how do we ensure that our opportunities as self-published authors aren't tainted?
Image courtesy of Tina Phillips at

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

80% of Us Want To Write a Book- So Why Aren't You?

Did you know that statistics show that 80-something% of people would like to write a book? That figure initially astounded me- why don't I know more authors? But truly, I can believe it. I am a part of that percentage myself, and as I have said before in a previous post, if the rest of humanity is into something, I probably will be too.

Maybe we've started writing but quit when the urge passed, when we got too busy, or when we realized we didn't know what in the world we were really doing trying to write a book. What was I thinking? I'm not a writer. But you are- if you write, then you're a writer. Taking it to the next level just takes a lot of perseverance and little education in the craft of storytelling.
Image courtesy of Simon Howden at

Usually, we just start with a seed. A tiny little thing that resembles nothing worth looking at. Don't throw it away, that tidbit can be the start of something wonderful. Collect them all you want, save them for a rainy day. That's when you start to find the story inside of you. Fiction, non-fiction, it makes no difference. These odd little threads of thought have burrowed out of our subconscious and made an appearance, fweeping like featherless baby birds we find in the middle of the grass. Where did you come from, Little Guy?

Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane at

Sometimes, one of these strange fellows will appear out of no where and try as we might to ignore it, push it away, discredit it, the more it refuses to go leave. Suddenly, it sprouts feathers, and starts hopping around- What? Now you're trying to fly? We can always choose what story to write, but sometimes, the story actually chooses us. Those are the easiest to tell and are a great place to start if we've always been wanting to write, and if we have one of these twerps fluttering around in our mind, we should take the hint!

If you have a seed germinating in your mind for a story, write that puppy down! Take all the ideas you have, make a list. Ponder it, see which one nags at you. That idea that is like a toddler relentlessly tugging at your shirt tail is the one you should develop first. But don't just throw it to the wolves!  Ask questions about plot, about conflict, about characters. Get wild and crazy with it, and most importantly, stick to it! Bad writing can be made better, but you can't improve what you never write.

Need help with that- did I just make it sound easy? It's not. Trust me, I know this. But here are links to Kristin Lamb's Blog that will help with plot development and structure:

Structure Part 1- Anatomy of a Best Selling Novel...
Structure Part 2- Plot Problems...
Structure Part 3- Introducing the Opposition
Structure Part 4- Testing Your Idea- Is It Strong Enough...
Structure Part 5- Keeping Focused...

If you have advice for the 80% of the population that years for writing creativity, please share it. We need all the help we can get!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Apocalypse! They say it's coming, what will you do?

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti at

Who doesn’t love a good disaster movie? We eat it up from any source- books, movies, art, you name it. Sure, it’s morbid and a little twisted, but we love to think about how the world is going to come to a sudden, screeching halt. Why are we so sick?
First of all, let’s not be too hard on ourselves. I mean, it's not our fault that the "end of days" keeps coming up- we have a lot of experience dealing with the threat of an apocalypse. It's been shoved down our throats since...forever. Since the 80s alone, there have been more than two dozen predictions that our world would end (check out this massive list!) and yet, here we are still scratching our heads and searching for clues.
In case you didn’t know, we are coming up fast on another, December 21, 2012: The End of the Mayan Calendar —the day after my husband’s birthday. Better make this one count, Sweetie. The good news is it's unlikely to cause even a moment of inconvenience (at least that's what I hope.) But we're not out of the woods yet; there are many more predictions for the world to end in the future as well.
We are at our best and our worst when our lives are at stake. On any normal day, would we take in a stranger? Kill someone over a hill of beans? Pick up a hitchhiker? Probably not. But, throw a disaster in the mix, perhaps an epidemic, and we become so desperate for survival, companionship and power in numbers that something deep inside changes.
Whether we are faced with an asteroid (Deep Impact, Armageddon), global warming (TheDay After Tomorrow), solar flares (The Scorch Trials), disease (28 Days Later, The Stand), war (The Hunger Games), or zombies (Zombieland), we enjoy seeing how quickly humanity falls apart when the proverbial poo hits the fan.  But after the dust clears and the masses are dead, the few remaining band together, build alliances and unlikely friendships blossom. It’s really heartwarming stuff. Or so we hope...
Image courtesy of duron123 at
While we sit in our theater seats or relax in the comfort of our own home, we I the guy that gives up early just to avoid the stress? Perhaps I'm the undercover heroine that fights for life? Seeing it on screen is one thing. What if it happened for real? What would we do?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Next Big Thing!

This is part of an author’s blog tour. Each author who is tagged has the privilege of answering 10 questions about their current work-in-progress. I am honored to have been tagged by Melissa Lummis. You can see the link to Melissa’s blog at the end of this post. I've tagged two authors, who will post their blogs on October 10, 2012. (Their blog links are also at the end of this post.) After reading about my “Next Big Thing” be sure to check out the other authors to see what their NEXT BIG THING is!
What is the working title of your book?

The Paragon Trilogy is the name of the series. Book one is aptly named, The Paragon.
Where did the idea for the book come from?

A little over a year ago, when I was living in Okinawa, Japan, a friend of mine told me about a landfill in the middle of the ocean called “The Garbage Patch”. It’s a huge expanse of open water that houses masses of debris and pollution that floated into the gyre by currents and remains stuck. She told me it was larger than the state of Texas and I was flabbergasted! After researching it, I found out it’s REAL! The helplessness of what it would take to fix it was overwhelming…how do you stop plastic from entering the ocean?! Stopping it’s production is the only thing that I could come up with…impossible. Then it occurred to me, what if the world ended, and land was unlivable, and people fled to the ocean and made a home of this mess? From that spark of “what if…” West and her quest for life and freedom were born. The rest of the plot elements just fell into place.
What genre does your book fall under?

Dystopian fantasy set in a post-apocalyptic era. It’s also part of the Young Adult Fiction category.
What actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I think I’d want “no names” to act in the lead roles. If this story became such a sensation that it warranted a movie deal. I’d want fresh faces. After all, I’m a “no name”, it seems only fair. (Though, if we could work Johnny Depp in there, I’d be OK with it.)
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

In a world of hardships and unmentionable horrors, West Lambert’s search for purpose and freedom may save the human race…or be the key to its undoing.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’m not fully decided but I’m leaning toward self publishing based upon my research of the industry and the advice of some trusted friends. I’d like to be traditionally published at some point, it’s kind of a “bucket list” thing…but I know it will help to prove myself in the Indie market first.
How long did it take you to write the first-draft of your manuscript?

I’m still working on it, actually. I’m about 2.5 months into book one, so I’m predicting about 5-6 months, hopefully less.
What other books would you compare to this story to within the genre?

I've been told from some that it has a “Hunger Games” feel to it, something that I’m not sure I live up to yet. I did get a lot of inspiration from the Hunger Games books though, as well as from Veronica Roth, the author of Divergent.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Writing is something that I’ve always done, and completing a book has a top place on my “things to do before…” list. It was probably my mom, though, that has pestered me all my life about writing that made me truly believe I could do it. Since then, my ambition has gone from just sending out my one contribution into the wild world to a realization that this maybe the niche I’ve been looking for all my life. Thanks for nagging me, Mom!
What else about your book might pique your readers’interest?

This book is geared toward young-adults, but I hope that people of all ages can appreciate the story. West’s perseverance through each obstacle is something that everyone can relate to. Her feelings of love, betrayal, friendship, and hope encompass the human condition. The philosophical dilemmas presented to her are heavy, and make you wonder, ‘What would I do?’ Not only is it a story of survival and determination, but it exposes a very real situation, the ever declining condition of Our Earth.
I was tagged by Melissa Baer Lummis

Tag! You're next, Allison Silver

Tag! You're next, LeeAnn Rhodes

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Excuses are like...

It's 4:10 AM, time to wake up. That's what my husband's alarm said this morning via the sound of shrill bells. Silly me, last night I thought it sounded like a good idea to get up and work on the book before the rest of the world joined me, and Ryan is good at making me follow through on my goals...too good.

Though I didn't get a lot of time to myself before a bad dream wrenched my 7 year old out of bed for the day (at 5:20 a.m!), I am choosing to be grateful that I made any progress at all. Look at the bright side, I could have just sat on Facebook or Twitter for my entire writing period, or even worse (or better?) I could have slept until 6 a.m. like usual.

Lately, I've found it difficult to make progress as I should. I haven't failed any goals, mostly because I haven't made any, but I have gone from writing every day to writing three times a week. I've gone from being willing to write anytime, anywhere, on anything, to demanding a computer. I've even gone so far as to require absolute silence and focus to write, something that as a mother of three, I'm rarely never. So what happens? I didn't write for a couple of weeks. Then, when I began again, I only did so when I could take a break away from the house for a few hours- how realistic is that on a long-term basis...I'll tell you. It's NOT. This is part of a downward spiral of excuse making, and potentially something that would tear apart my ambitions. I'D BECOME A WRITING DIVA! Not in the awesome way, in the "nothing is good enough" way.

Then I was gifted a Kindle book called "Are You There Blog? It's Me Author" by my pal, Liz Shulte (who is a fantastic writer, check out her books on Amazon!), which I began reading right away since I need all the help I can get. Not 20% into the book, I got totally busted. The author gave three sample excuses for not writing and not taking ownership. Guess what? I got 2 out of 3, but unlike it was for Meatloaf, 2 out of 3 is really bad! Those two were 1) I'd write more if I had a better computer, and 2) I'd write more if I had more uninterrupted time. Oh, man. That hurt. I was totally pegged.

My computer, which has always been a bit of a lug anyway, died for the umpteenth time a couple of months ago. We've attempted to resurrect it countless times; it has more lives than our cat. But it flat lined again and I lost my will to keep trying, leaving us with only a teensy, tiny netbook left for all household computer needs. *gasp* I wanted to buy one, REALLY BAD, a nice new one, one that doesn't threaten to die on a daily basis making me backup my work every other minute, just in case. But, we're purchasing a home, so we are saving like crazy...not a good time for a major purchase. Frustrations mounting, I created excuse #1.

As you may already know from my profile, I have 3 young and very spirited children. They adorable, they're sweet, they're my pride and joy, and they're NOISY! They rampage around, playing with the dog, chasing the cat, eating everything, asking for drinks, wanting to draw, paint, make things out of clay, play guns, play video games, run outside, fight, cry, tattle, jump, hug, kiss, wrestle, talk, sing, scream...rarely do they sit still and never are they quiet. Quiet means trouble.

Though when the story hit me initially, nothing could derail my tenacity to make words appear on paper, but over time, when I had to work harder to make the story progress, get through writer's block, come up with problems, solutions, character development, etc...every giggle, every tap on my shoulder was a force strong enough to derail my train of thought, which had gone from being a Shinkansen (Japanese bullet train) to a rambling toy train half chewed by the dog. Why bother writing at home at all? I didn't. I wrote when I could leave and go to my favorite writing place...a certain coffee shop called the Inner Bean, which I could do only Tuesday and Thursday, because that's when they stayed open long enough for me to get there after my husband got home from work and I could escape. Wow, two days a week...regardless of the fact that I did get a lot more done during those times, my 2 year old would be in middle school before I could get this book published at that rate. Thus I beget excuse #2.

Forget the fact that we're moving (excuse #3). Forget the fact that movers are coming tomorrow. Forget that I need a new computer. Forget that I need work space and time. Life is messy and it will never be in a place that makes you slow down enough to take a breath, stretch out and say " I can do this." If I wait for that, I'll always be a writer that doesn't write, an author that never publishes. It's the only way I can be a failure.

So, I've made some changes.
- I'm going to make myself goals. I can't reach goals if I don't make them.
- I'm going to create deadlines.
- I'm going to get up early or stay up late, whatever it takes to find the time to write for a little bit at least 6 days per week.
- I'm going to make a plan to get a new computer, but in the meantime, I will work with whatever resources I have available. I will use the netbook, I will find a library, I will get out my pen if I have to.
- I'm going to keep a positive outlook and not allow life's curve balls to take me out.

So, for all those writers out there that fall victim to the "I would write more if..." thoughts, for anyone who thinks that the perfect moment to reach your goals will present itself naturally, WAKE UP! If you don't take accountability for your future, if you don't grab your excuses by the gullet and squeeze the breath out of them, they'll keep you down forever.

Remember, excuses are like Today. You've got one. What you do with it is up to you.

Have a great day. NO EXCUSES!