Thursday, March 31, 2011

Just quick note today...

I have to return to the JOB at 1 PM today to train some new team members, so most of the other time off will be spent sleeping.  Today’s blog post is really just a big Tweet or Facebook status update for my thoughts at the moment.

I am happy that it’s opening day for Major League Baseball.  Baseball was the only team sport I played as a kid, so it’s one of the only sports that I can watch; I understand it.  I’ll never forget  the 2007 season when the Colorado Rockies went all the way to World Series.  I was at Coors Field the nigh they won the National League Pennant.  Go Rockies and Go Kansas City Royals!

I am looking forward to getting some quality writing in this weekend.  I finally have my weekend staff at work stabilized so I shouldn’t have to go in.  I think I will work less than fifty hours this week, so I should have the energy to work on the novel.

My other exciting news to share is that I’m working on some upcoming guest blogs.  Be on the lookout for some guest blogs to be posted from new friends and old.

Have a great day!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Reflections After Reading This Time Together

This Time Together is Carol Burnett's memoir of her career in television and movies.  This is a delightful look at her career and life.  I love the fact that she shares so many behind the scenes secrets in the television industry and how her show was produced in the 1970s.

I remember watching re-runs of The Carol Burnett Show on TBS in the 80s when I was growing up.  Every afternoon after school I watched Carol Burnett, Vickie Lawrence, Tim Conway, and Harvey Korman crack up with each other.  I loved all the costumes.  My favorite sketches were 'Mama's Family' (that later became it's own sit-com) and the 'Gone with the Wind' episode.  Who could forget Scarlett's dress made from the drapes?

If Carol was producing her show today, I'm sure she would also have a behind the scenes reality show.  This Time Together is full of her memories that could easily be weekly episodes of that reality show.

One of my favorite things about this book is that it is written exactly how Carol Burnett talks.  You can 'hear' her voice as you read the tales.  It 'sounds' just like she is talking on the Today Show, Oprah, or any other TV interview show.

What I learned about my own writing while reading This Time Together was about maintaining my unique voice in my narrative.  I re-read some of the previous work I've done on A Place to Call Their Own and could distinguish how my 'voice' changed from the earliest pieces throughout the section I'm working on now.  I was able to go through and make some edits so my voice is consistent throughout the entire work.

Whether you're fan or not, I'm sure you'll enjoy this glimpse into Carol Burnett's career from her humble beginnings to the projects she's worked on more recently (who could forget her as Jamie's mom on Mad About You?  Especially the episodes preparing for Mabel's birth?).

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Reflections After Reading Leaving Unknown

Leaving Unknown by Kerry Reichs is truly a delight to read.  Leaving Unknown is the story Maeve Connelly and her trip across the southern United States to find herself in the world.  After being fired from her job and some prompting from her parents, Maeve sets out to start a new life in California.  Along the way she meets some new friends, discovers herself, and confronts the demons she's really running from.

Although probably "chick lit," I did relate to Maeve's wandering and feeling of life out of control.  Although I am a gay man and feel I can relate very well with women, reading women's literature helps me write to that audience better and balance my writing for that genre.  If anything, I want my writing to appeal to everyone.

I can also identify with her spending some time in a town much smaller than where she grew up.  I grew up in a small town in Nebraska.  After living in Denver, Colorado for thirteen years, I moved to Northwest Arkansas with my partner, Thomas.  After six months there, we settled in Joplin, Missouri.  Both places were big changes after living in the Denver area for so long.

Some of my favorite trips and vacations have been to smaller cities and towns.  One of my favorite business trips ever was to the Ferndale, California area when I was a corporate trainer for U.S. Bank.  I stayed in my first bed and breakfast and was treated like a king (ok, princess!).  In my current neck of the woods, Branson, Missouri and Eureka Springs, Arkansas are great places to get away from it all.

Even when I'm reading fiction, I always look for passages that speak to me about success or chasing one's dreams.  Kerry Reichs writes a good one in Leaving Unknown:

"So what causes success?  Carefully designed hard work and reaching beyond your abilities.  Continually focusing on your weakest elements and trying to improve them.  Those who persevere are high achievers.  The key lies in knowing what you deeply want."

That speaks to my writing career in every way that I've wrote about here on the blog.  This talks about vision, goal setting, and following routines.  Check out Leaving Unknown, I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Here's a picture from one of my many trips to Eureka Springs, Arkansas.  Where is your favorite vacation spot and why?  Your comments are welcome below.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Living on Earth may be expensive, but it includes an annual free trip around the sun. - Unknown

Whether you're a writer, business owner, lawyer, or doctor, I hope you are enjoying your annual trip around the sun.  No matter what you do, I hope you are doing what enjoy most and making the most of your experience.  Life is to short to not enjoy yourself and what you do. 

With my new energy I'm putting into my work, I've been reviewing my five principles.  For those of you who are new to following me, they are Create a Vision, Set Goals, Develop and Follow Routines, Define Boundaries, and Find a Friend.

Since October, my Vision has remained the same:  to become a traditionally published author during a time of extreme change and upheaval in the publishing world. 

My goals have changed.  I originally set a goal to finish A Place to Call Their Own by December.  Based on my current work schedule, I changed that goal to be done by the end of September this year.  The fourth quarter at work is very busy, if I don't have it finished by September, I might not be able to get to it by the end of this year. 

Another goal last year was to create a freelance writing career.  Just like anything else, this has been a process.  I am hooked up with a client that provides me fairly  and have made his "Elite" team of reliable and proven writers.

I continue to work on my routines.  The last few weeks with a new shift at work, I've been focusing on personal routines.  Now that I seem to be getting the personal routines down, I need to weave the writing routine back into my daily life.  I've always said with all five of my principles, constantly revise.

Setting boundaries is another principle I've been focusing on.  I have a new distraction in my already busy life, it's called Twitter.  Just tonight I tweeted during the #Oprahtweetlive event.  I got retweeted, I was so excited!  I have new routines thanking new followers, finding new writers, editors, publishers, and agents to follow, and shout outs to my new followers.  Again, I'm trying to develop some routines and set some boundaries around the time I spend on Twitter.

Finding new friends has been easy on Twitter!  I've blogged before I never understood all the valuable information being sent out on Twitter.  I now enjoy clicking all the links and reading all the articles.  I continue to enjoy the new friendships and support I'm receiving from my followers.  I also love shouting out to my fellow writers and helping them promote their work. (And don't worry, I'm getting my fix of celebrity and current entertainment tweets as well!)

What a whirlwind couple of weeks!  I'm back to writing every day again (oh, how I've missed you #dailywriting!), I'm adjusting to my new third shift schedule at work, and I'm slowly building a platform on Twitter.

Do you have a set of principles you live/work by? Your comments are welcome!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Reflections after Reading Nowhere to Run

Nowhere to Run is the first novel I've read by C.J. Box.  I thoroughly enjoyed the action, plot twists, and character growth that play out in the story.  Nowhere to Run is the story of Joe Pickett as he tries to close out his temporary game warden gig in Wyoming.  Caught up in one final investigation, which he narrowly escapes, his temp job lasts just a few weeks longer than he expects.

I've mentioned before that reading action and adventure novels helps me to build tension within my own writing.  Reading other novels works as a model that I follow when crafting plot twists and turns and keeping the story interesting.  A Place to Call Their Own is a historical adventure story of two men who venture out West after returning home from the Civil War.

I also like reading about stories that take place in locales with which I am familiar.  Living in Colorado for thirteen years, Wyoming is like the backyard.  It's easier for me to get into stories when I can relate to the setting.

There are other novels about Joe Pickett.  I might just have to check those out as well.

So, to my fellow writer friends, I ask, do you also find insight when reading other genre's outside of what you write?  And to my reader friends, I ask, do you like reading about locales with which you are familiar or do you like to read about places you've never been?  Feel free to comment below...

Have a great week, everyone!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Reflections after Reading Small Change

I recently finished reading Small Change by Sheila Roberts.  This was a delightful read, especially as the economy continues to improve. The story follows Tiffany, Jessica, and Rachel as they navigate love and life learning how to cut back and save money. Of course, doing so is harder for some more than others.

Small Change is a great story that's easy to follow.  The characters are an interesting mix of friends.  I was hooked from the start wondering what would happen to the three characters in the midst of their economic woes.

What helped me with my own writing was the relationship that these three characters had with each other, both as a trio but also separately between each other.  This delicate balance strikes a chord with me because A Place to Call Their Own has two protagonists.  It's been a healthy challenge to balance the relationship between my two protagonists as well as their relationships with the other characters in the story.

After I read a new author, I actively seek them out on Facebook and Twitter and start following them and their adventures.  I love the fact that Sheila Roberts does giveaways and connects with her readers and followers.  I just never see them soon enough to "win."

Whether you're an aspiring writer like myself, or just like a good read, I'm sure you'll enjoy Small Change as much as I did.  You just might learn a few tips about tightening your belt in today's economy.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Reflections after Reading 61 Hours

I recently finished reading Lee Child's 61 Hours.  I loved this book; I was hooked from the start.  What hooked was Child's description of the cold and desolate South Dakota plains town where the story takes place. I also enjoyed the reference to De Smet, South Dakota, childhood home of my first favorite author, Laura Ingalls Wilder, in the beginning.

While I as reading the novel, I was able to think more closely about the feeling of isolation and loneliness I wanted to evoke in A Place to Call Their Own.  I mentioned earlier this week I had been stuck and part of that issue was writing about those feelings when those feelings are foreign to me.  I like to think I am a generally positive and happy person.  Reading 61 Hours helped me understand how to write in manner that brings those feelings to the reader.

I'm not generally a fan of mysteries or thrillers, but reading that genre helps me build tension in my writing. 

So two lessons I learned I knew already, reading help you become a better writer.  The other one is using small bits of time.  I was honestly driving home from work this morning wondering where in the world was going to fit blogging into my schedule today and now I'm done.

Have a great day, everyone.

P.S. Today's picture is from my trip to De Smet, South Dakota last year over Memorial Day.  This is a picture taken on the original claim of land the Ingalls' settled on when they moved to De Smet.  The house is a replica of the house Pa Ingalls built for the family.  Enjoy my fellow Laura Ingalls Wilder fans!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

New Routines

Here is a picture of  late Spring flowers I took some years ago.  Earlier this week I wrote about my new adventures on Twitter.  The picture reminds me of some new Spring routines I've been able to get back to this week, thanks to Twitter.

The first routine that I’m happy to report is back is working on novel!  I mentioned yesterday that thanks to a newspaper article, I’ve found some inspiration and new direction for my novel to follow.  Yesterday I had to reluctantly stop writing when the timer went off because I did need to get some rest after already working a nine hour day.

The second new routine I have is making a blog entry everyday.  This has gone hand in hand with working on A Place to Call Their Own.  I should have listened to some of the advice I’ve read about that said to just write, even if it was a crazy free write for just fifteen minutes a day to keep that habit going.  Honestly, what worries me about blogging every day is running out of interesting topics to keep readers coming back.  I do have to admit, coming up with topics to blog about has been easy this week.  I even remembered to include a picture with today's post!  I just took a bit of encouragement and some new “friends.”

And my favorite new routine is thanking all my new followers on Twitter.  Showing thanks and gratitude for what I’m given has always been  an important principle to me.  I love being able to thank each and everyone of my new followers every day.  It’s been more exciting than watching the Friends list grow on Facebook!

One of the last routines I've started is reviewing all the great information being put out there.  I love all the new information I’m being exposed to with all my new writer friends I’ve found on Twitter.  I am finding myself setting a timer so that I don’t spend too much time getting lost in all the posts and moving on to things like sleeping, eating, and cleaning… :-)

I hope everyone is having a great week, I sure am.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Book Review: My Brother's Keeper

I just finished reading My Brother's Keeper by Marcia Davenport for the second time.  It is one of my favorite novels of all time.  Although I didn't know I'd be writing a novel anytime soon when I first read it in 1992, I did fall in love with the story and a tip for writers that I've cherished ever since.

My Brother's Keeper was published in 1954.  It is the fictional story of the Holt brothers who grow up in an beautiful Chelsea mansion at the end of the Nineteenth Century.  Through a series of insurmountable events, the two brothers retreat into the house they both despise yet neither can escape.

The main reason that I fell in love with this story, is it's historical setting.  Ever since I saw the John Jakes' North and South trilogy on TV in the 1980's, I've been a fan of historical fiction.  (Hence, my inspiration to set A Place to Call Their Own in prairies of Kansas after the American Civil War.)  I do wish there would have been more references to the exact year everything was taking place.  It was more than halfway through the novel that the first mention of an exact year with the ages of the characters. As I grow older, age has become more important to me.  I can definitely relate to characters who are around my current age.  I can relate to characters younger than me when I remember some of the feelings and experiences I had at those ages.  And, because I am such a fan of history, I like to be able to understand the exact lifestyle of characters during a specific time frame.

The other reason this novel resonates with me, is the basis of it's origin.  The Holt Brothers of Davenport's story are based on real-life Collyer Brothers who were found entombed in their New York City brownstone in 1947.  Davenport followed the newspaper stories at the time to learn about the real-life brothers and their situation.  What a fascinating idea for a writer to find inspiration!  I've followed this advice ever since.  In the years I've been actively writing, I've filed away a dozen or so story ideas that have come from newspaper clippings. And this weekend I found an article in the Kansas City Star that has helped me get A Place to Call Their Own jump started again.  Thank you, Marcia Davenport!

My Brother's Keeper is a historic and fictional version of Hoarders.  Anyone who enjoys those types of reality shows will love this novel.  I also enjoy the view of history through the looking glass of the 1950s.
In closing, let me shout out to the universe and thank Marcia Davenport for her wonderful story and inspiration to get my own writing going again.  Make it a great day, everyone!

P.S. This is my third post in as many days.  Thanks for the inspiration new followers on Twitter!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Here's to Feeling a Peak Experience in the Creative Process!

Today's blog title comes courtesy of the Toast of the Day from The Awe-Manac by Jill Badonsky.  And what fitting title it is.  I wished it was because I had reached a peak in my creative process and that A Place to Call Their Own was done.  That couldn't be farther from the truth.  Today I wanted to talk about writer's block and my experiences of it in my writing journey.
I've been blocked from progressing my novel for a few months.  I have slowly limped back into it last week, partly from just reading some helpful articles.  Most of the advice, is "just do it" and so I have been setting my timer, set down at the computer, and hammered away at the chapter I'm working on.
At first I thought my block was coming from exhaustion at work.  This was my first Holiday Season at my new job and it as quite exhausting.  Then the opportunity came to start a new project at work.  That meant changing to a third shift schedule and I jumped at the chance, hoping to fit more writing time in my day.
But then I realized that my block is coming from my story being so, so incredibly boring at this point.
 Yes, I need to spice things up a bit.  And that is still the question of the day that I'm working on.  But in the meantime, I wanted to share some links to some helpful articles that have helped me at come to this conclusion, and at the same time, keep steadfast in my writing (click to open in a new tab or window or the link will appear over the blog):

Here's an inspirational article that really speaks to me about the art of being a writer:

I applied this article to my business writing this last week.  My (male) boss recently told me I write well in emails, but way too much!

And this is the article that helped realize what I was writing was boring right now:

And here are links to The Awe-Manac on Amazon and Barnes and Noble:


Barnes and Noble:

And here's Jill's Website:

What most of these articles have done is helped me remember my vision and long term goal:  to be a novelist.  My specific goal for this week is to remember my vision and get the novel moving again.  Have a great day, everyone.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

What I learned about Twitter (and myself) this week

Everything I read about the traditional publishing world says I need to create my own platform while I write my novel.  The top two tips out there are 1).  Blog every day and 2).  Get on Twitter.  The blogging every day I've started.  (Please ignore the fact that this is my first post in how many months?)  The Twitter account I didn't understand at all until this week.
The surprising thing about my resistance to Twitter is that normally I'm very open to change.  Especially at work, I've always been given very high marks for my willingness to be open to change and embrace change.  Now I know my resistance to Twitter has been my misunderstanding of it. 
I recognized immediately the impact that Facebook has on an aspiring writer's platform.  That's very similar to how I started in Tupperware.  You have a party with your friends who have your first parties and you get your party chains started from there.  I figured I'd start promoting my writing and my novel through family and friends on Facebook and they would help me.  (And I know they are keeping up because I have cousins who are passing along that I am writing a novel.)  That concept I understand very well.
I have even seen posts from Facebook listing the "best tweets for writers."  What I didn't understand, was how in the world was I to learn about my craft from short messages of two hundred forty characters or less?  I also didn't understand the impact of followers on my Twitter account.
 So after reading last week, once again, that I needed to be on Twitter, I created my account last Tuesday, and what a week it has been.  Here are my top revelations about Twitter this week.
My first revelation is that I actually like it a bit better than Facebook.  I see it as a business tool rather than social networking.  I love the fact that I can get just the information I want through the shorter tweets rather than sorting through the posts thrown up on Facebook.  It's also a bit easier for me to arrange my lists and get through the people I am following easier than it seemed to be on Facebook.  If am truly focused on finding tips for my writing or seeing what my writing friends are up to, I just pull up that list.  If I am relaxing or just wasting time, I pull up my Pop Culture list to see what the celebrities and TV shows are twittering about.  I also love how I can skim the news and follow links when I have the time or interest to look further.
My second revelation is the all the useful information for aspiring writers like myself out there.  And, by the way, I have figured out that one finds the information they might be looking for in all the links that are posted.  These links have been very interesting this week.  Now I can't wait for the "top tweets for writers" articles to be posted so I can go find those tweets if I haven't already read them.  It's also refreshing to know if I see @mentions posted or new tweets, they'll be more relevant than rushing to see a Facebook notification only to be let down that is yet another "gift" from a friend.
My third revelation is the power and excitement of followers!  My first tweets were Tuesday night during the GLEE episode.  I am totally addicted to GLEE and love to comment on Facebook about it.  It was even more fun to talk about it on Twitter and one of my first followers came from my GLEE tweets.  Since then, most of my followers are fellow writers.  It was fun on Follow Friday to find more writers to follow and learn from.  And I think Saturday is for  Shoutouts?  I haven't confirmed that yet, but I got two shout outs today and five additional followers! 
And finally, I think some of the celebrities are a bit more active on Twitter than they are on Facebook.  I do have to admit that social networking and social media has made me somewhat of a stalker.  I love to hear what's going on in their lives and have fun with them on Facebook.  But how else, except through tweeting, could I have told @BetteMidler she looked fabulous on the @todayshow on Friday?  And how else would I have let the @beekman1802boys know I missed them in Kansas City last week?
So I am on Twitter and loving every minute of it.  I'm on there more than Facebook now.  I finally listened to my fellow writers who have been telling me for about a year to get on Twitter and start reading and tweeting.  Alas, change is good and I am actively, tweeting and writing on.