27 February 2015

Fast Five Friday: Favorite TV Shows

It's time for another Fast Five Friday! This blog hop was created by the ladies over at Cover Girls. This week they've asked us to share our five favorite TV shows. This was soooooooo much harder than I thought! Especially when I thought about opening it up to every TV show I've ever watched (Buffy please!) but then I was being ridiculous. So I figured I would limit myself to shows that are either on right now or will return at some point. Still not easy, so I added the much necessary question: is this a show where I will bite someone's head off if they talk during it? And then it was much, much easier.

1. Criminal Minds (CBS)
2. Looking (HBO)
3. American Horror Story (FX)
4. Doctor Who (BBC)
5. Game of Thrones (HBO) 

Because I'm lazy I just stole the main pictures from IMDb :P (But I know that CM one is totally from season 5! So old!).

What are some of your favorite TV shows?

25 February 2015

Do Characters Have to be Likable?

There are all kinds of characters in any story--heroes, villains, sidekicks, love interests. The possibilities are endless. The way a reader could respond to any of these can be as diverse as the characters themselves. Some people may love a book's main character; others might hate him/her. Or it could be both--love to hate, hate to love. There are so many different ways to like or dislike a character. So when you're writing these characters, which one do you want?

It can depend a lot on the specific character you're writing. If your story has a villain, then you most likely want your readers to hate him. But villains can also be entertaining and fun to read. He doesn't have to be a sadistic monster without a single redeemable quality (unless that's what you're going for). The opposite can be said of a hero. A hero doesn't have to be perfect. They can do stupid things that make us want to punch them in the face. Characters need flaws so the reader can relate to them actually believe these are real people. No one is perfect, and a story about a perfect person would probably be boring to read.

But let's focus on the main character of a story. How likable does he or she need to be? And what exactly does it mean to be likable?

I've been told that my main character is not likable. Which is disheartening, to say the least. And confusing as hell, since I actually let him write a monthly blog post and people seem to respond well, or they're entertained at least. So why the big turn off? I guess it's not completely understandable. The first word I would use to describe Jordan would be manipulative, which I guess isn't all that likable of a trait. And he's a little full of himself, but not in a ridiculous way. He just knows what he's capable of and how other people respond to him. So why all the hate? Do I have to change him, make him more likable so that people will actually want to read this book?

It got me thinking that being likable doesn't mean the same thing in real life as it does in reading a book. Think about all of your favorite book characters--if they actually existed, would you be friends with them? We don't choose the books we read like we choose friends. We want books to entertain us. That doesn't mean that the main character has to be some perfect, goody two shoes kind of a person. In fact, you would probably be turned off by this sort of character.

We don't have to like a character in the same way we would like a friend. We just have to like to read about this character. You could love a character's snarky attitude, but if you met them in real life, you might want to smack them. There just has to be something about them that makes you want to read more. Think about this: is Lolita's Humbert Humbert a likable guy? Good lord no. But do you still like to read from his point of view? Yes! Because there's something captivating about the way his words come across the page. Liking to read about a character isn't always the same as liking them as a person.

So keep your imperfect characters! Nobody likes a goody two shoes, anyway.

Do you consider your characters likable? Are there are any characters from books you've read that weren't exactly likable, but you still wanted to read about them? 

23 February 2015

What are You Trying to Say?

Everyone has their own motivations for writing a book. You may just have an idea in your head that wants to get out. You may just want to tell a story. Or you may have a big, giant message that you want people to get. Or it could be a little bit of both. But how exactly do you figure out what you're trying to say, and once you do, how do you get that point across?

The whole "bigger picture" thing may not come to you right away. You may even get through your entire first draft without having one. You may never have one, and that's ok, too. I've always thought that my main motivation for writing a book is just to entertain. I want to write a book that at least some people will like (and hopefully most people won't throw rotten fruit at me when I walk down the street). Not every story has to be complicated, or have some sort of message to get across. I call a lot of my story ideas "fluff" stories, maybe just because they feel a heck of a lot easier and lighter than my main WIP. Fluff can be great (and lots of fun to read!). But not every story is fluff. Some stories are a bit more complicated.

That isn't to say that I think my book has one big message. If people assumed that, they would probably get it wrong. I do think that it does have several smaller messages, some of which I'm still trying to figure out. So how do you figure it out? How do you know if your story even needs one? And then how do you get those messages across?

It's probably something that you'll figure out along the way, or maybe you already know what your message is before you write the first word. Every story is different. It all depends on how subtle or obvious you need your message to be. How important is it that the reader gets it? If they don't get it, will the story still work? All of these factors will go in to your thought process as you're figuring it out.

And there are plenty of ways to get a point across. Think about all of those English papers you had to write in high school. Themes, motifs, symbolism, characterization. When you start trying to crack a story open, you can figure out what the writer was trying to say. So when you're the writer, utilize these tools. Put some symbolism into your book. Have a character represent something bigger. How often you do this will depend on the story, and you obviously don't want to overdo it so that you're hitting the reader in the face (didn't I talk about this before...?).

The first step in telling a story is to just tell the story. The next step may be to figure out what it is you're trying to say. The first person who has to "get it" is you.

Ever write a story with a message in it? How do you utilize themes and symbolism? 

20 February 2015

What To Blog About...

Sometimes it's hard to figure out what to blog about. Other times, you have ideas but they just don't work out for whatever reason. I think today for me is a little bit of both.

My original plan was to post a book review today, but since I didn't actually finish the book I've been reading, that plan kind of went out the window (anyone surprised?). So, ok, no book review. So then I thought of doing another Fun Facts post, because I haven't done one in forever. I had a few ideas for some facts already, too. But I was having a hard time coming up with more facts for the theme I had in mind, and knew I couldn't get a decent blog post done in a short amount of time. So, no fun facts post, either.

So...what to blog about? I have no idea! But I'm not going to not blog, because that would just completely throw off my momentum.

Well, maybe I can make a list, after all. Here are just a few things that I'm trying to do. Succeeding and/or finishing is another thing entirely...

- Trying to plan out all of my A to Z Challenge posts. At this point I'm just trying to find out which ideas can fit under which letters. Eight definite ones picked out so far (including Q and Z!!! But X feels impossible). I really really really want to have all of the posts written before April starts so that I can have the whole month just to visit other blogs.

- Trying to make a giant editing list for the first two thirds of UL. Since I don't really think I need to completely rewrite these chapters I think it would be helpful to know every small thing that I want to change (some not so small, actually, but not huge, either). Then I could cross things off the list! How awesome would that feel?

- Trying to write every day. Well, trying to plan to write every day. I haven't actually started yet. But I think if I forced myself just to get the words out for say, 30 minutes every day, without staring at the blank screen or caring how crappy the words are, eventually I'll get somewhere.

That's it, pretty much. Well, I'm also trying to stay on this diet and not eat an entire pizza tonight. Still haven't decided yet...

18 February 2015

The Great Time Lock Disaster

Today we're celebrating the launch of a new book by C. Lee McKenzie! Check it out!

There's nothing’s more dangerous than a wizard-in-training. And Pete Riley, has just proven it. He's worked a bad time spell--a very bad time spell.

No YouTube, no smoothies, no Manga. Not ever again. Not unless Pete figures out how to reverse his spell and free Weasel and him from Victorian England. 

He has until the next full moon. Only a few days.

Tick. Tock.

Here’s how the story starts, and it only gets worse.

One minute the clock was tick-tocking on the mantel and the next it was a smoldering mess.

“No,” Harriet shouted. Then she braced one hand on her desk and covered her eyes with the other.

Pete froze, not blinking, not breathing, but waiting to see if Harriet would point one of her long, bony fingers at him and turn him into a turnip or something slimy.

To celebrate the launch of The Great Time Lock Disaster I'm giving 20 eBooks away. Hope you'll jump in to the copter and go for a ride!

Usually, C. Lee takes on modern issues that today's teens face in their daily lives. Her first young adult novel, Sliding on the Edge, which dealt with cutting and suicide was published in 2009. Her second, titled The Princess of Las Pulgas, dealing with a family who loses everything and must rebuild their lives came out in 2010. Double Negative (2014) was her third young adult novel. Researching it turned her into a literacy advocate. Her fourth YA, Sudden Secrets came out in December 2014. 

When she really want to have FUN, she writes middle grade books. Alligators Overhead and The Great Time Lock Disaster are now available.

16 February 2015

The Muse-iversary Gift

I'm one of those weird people who keeps track of important dates and occasionally celebrates them like an anniversary. Yesterday was especially important because it marked exactly four years since I wrote the very first words that would eventually be my novel. It's a weird feeling, because it doesn't really feel like it's been that long. And then again I think, holy crap, it has been that long and I'm still working on it. I really wish I had more to show for four years but I also know that a lot has happened in between that has kept me from working on it as much as I would like.

Ok, I'll talk about something else before this gets too depressing. I call February 15 my "muse-iversary," because it was the day that Jordan first popped into my head and then decided never to leave. And I think you should be able to have an anniversary with your muse if you want to. Go on. I give you permission.

Here's the best and most surprising thing about yesterday: Jordan gave me a present! It's so very much unlike him, right? I know you're probably wondering, what the hell could a muse give as a present? Well, it wasn't inspiration; I didn't write for hours and hours. I would have loved that, but what I actually got was even better.

I figured out not one, but TWO things that were bothering me about the book in one quick little five minute brainstorm. I basically was able to solve one problem, and then use that solution to solve another problem. I was so excited by this revelation that I started dancing. Other people do that, right? I just love that feeling when things that were so frustrating and so impossible to figure out just start falling into place, and you figure out something that makes so much sense you can't believe you didn't think of it before.

You're probably wondering if I got Jordan anything. Well, I made cupcakes, of course. There is a Valentine's Day cupcake in the third chapter of my novel, and since Valentine's Day and the muse-iversary are back to back, I kinda have to make them every year. I also finally got a spiffy cupcake holder!

There's a raspberry surprise inside! 

Ok, now that I've further convinced you of my insanity, I think I'll go check out some other blogs...

13 February 2015

Fast Five Friday: Romantic Movies

It's time for another installment of Fast Five Friday, created by the gals over at Cover Girls! This week in honor of Valentine's Day, we were asked to share five romantic movies we love. Here are some of my favorites:

1. Amelie
2. Breakfast at Tiffany's
3. Ever After
4. Love Actually
5. Moulin Rouge

That'll be all for today. I literally didn't get one minute of sleep last night so I'm sure I'll be a zombie all day. Or maybe if I'm lucky, I'll just be crazy enough to brainstorm some good editing ideas. We'll see...Have a good weekend, everyone! 

11 February 2015

Figuring Out Social Media

Being a blogger usually means that you have to branch out and talk to other people on the internet. As a complete introvert, this is easier said than done, but is also so much easier than talking to people in real life. I'd much rather send someone an email than make a phone call. But at the same time, if I've ever written you an email, even a really short one, then I've probably agonized over every word and spent at least twenty minutes on the thing before hitting send. That's just how terribly awkward I am.

But I digress (as usual...). In the scope of social media, I feel like I have two things pretty much figured out. The blogging is pretty straightforward--I know what needs to be done at this point, just need to keep doing it and do more. The second thing is Twitter. I'm not obnoxious with it, just mostly use it to promote my blog posts and connect with other writers. But tell the me from four years ago who was just starting to use it that she'd eventually have over 1,800 followers and she would not believe you (she would have said "I thought this was for stalking celebrities!").

So, blogging--check. Twitter--check. But I feel like I should be doing so much more and just don't know where to start. There are a few I'm considering, so if you have any input or advice on these, I'd gladly take it!

Facebook. I have a personal Facebook page, but I don't like to link it up with any of my blogger stuff (I used to post links there but quickly realized that no one actually read them...). I don't use it all that much, honestly, except to keep in touch with people I don't see anymore. What I've been on the fence about is creating a Facebook author page. Mostly because, well, I'm not an author yet. But I'm thinking it may be good to start one early. I've also had two things published in anthologies, so that counts for something, right? Mostly it would help me connect with other authors on Facebook, which I don't like to do with my personal one.

Google+. Ok, I have a Google+ account. A few of you have added me to your circles. My thing with this is that I just haven't taken the time to figure out what the hell Google+ actually is. It's on my to do list, I swear. I don't think I can really make a judgement call on this one until I actually figure it out, but I would eventually like to do more with it.

Instagram. This is one of those things where personally I feel like, what's the point? But then again, I feel like I'm the only person who doesn't have it. Seriously, if you look at the photos on my phone, all of my pictures are of food I've made or my cat. But then I've been told that's all Instagram is, really, so...maybe?

What do you think? Should I branch out? What other social media do you use as a writer? 

09 February 2015

Making Sure Readers Get It

Do you ever worry when you're writing something that your potential reader just won't get it? Not just the big picture stuff, but every tiny detail that you've put hours and hours of effort into writing? What if they miss the symbolism, or all of the intricate character details that you've thrown in? What if you spent forever crafting the perfect sentence and they breeze through it without even stopping to think? Is this something even worth worrying about? And how do you deal with it while you're still writing?

Think about all of the tools you use when you're writing as if they were on some metaphorical writer's utility belt. You've probably got pens or pencils, white-out, scissors, maybe. Well, my fake utility belt has a sledgehammer. If I feel like a reader isn't going to get it, then I want to bash them over the head with the idea until they do. What this usually means when I'm writing is that I'll spend a lot of time devoting words to a particular idea to make sure it sticks in the readers' heads and they understand what I'm trying to say.

This usually results in a huge amount of overkill. If you're constantly saying to yourself, "no, they won't get it," and then you write another sentence to make sure they do, how strong can that sentence really be? What are you saying that you didn't say before?

You should probably understand that not every reader is going to get every single detail. You can't be there next to someone reading your book, pointing to each significant line and saying, "Did you get this part?" I think readers would be annoyed if they had to deal with that. They want to be able to enjoy the story. And if they get it without your help, they would probably be even more annoyed, thinking, "Yes, I got it! Can we move on please?"

I think the solution is to just relax a little. Just say what you need to say and let the readers interpret things. They don't have to be babysat throughout the whole book. There's a moment in my manuscript where one character is basically giving in to his dark side, and I thought a good way to symbolize that was to have him wear a black shirt. But there was this nagging voice in the back of my head, sledgehammer in hand, telling me to add a sentence. Have the narrator say something like, "I guess he was giving in to his dark side." But I knew I didn't need that sentence. The reader will most likely understand this fact without me having to point it out to them. And if they don't, then so what? It's not the end of the world. Not everyone is going to pick up on everything, and that's ok.

So take the sledgehammer out of your writer's utility belt. You really don't need it. You can trust yourself that you got your point across without overdoing it, and you can trust your readers to understand.

Anyone else have a sledgehammer in their tool belt? Have you ever had to hold yourself back from overwriting something? 

06 February 2015

Cupcakes and Blog Progress

Things are a little crazy right now so I'll keep this short. My fiance woke up yesterday with some kind of stomach bug and luckily I have managed not to catch it yet but I have had a terrible headache since yesterday afternoon that just doesn't want to go away. I did take NyQuil last night and slept for about twelve hours so that was pretty nice, but anyway...

I promised cupcake pictures! I found a recipe online for something called "candy bar cake" and modified it into a cupcake recipe. It starts with just a box of yellow cake mix, but I added chocolate chips. The frosting is peanut butter cream cheese, and then I chopped up Snickers bars and Reese's peanut butter cups to throw on top. And since it made two dozen and my sister refused to keep any, I'm still eating them...

So I realized something awesome. January was a perfect blogging month for me! I managed to post something every Monday, Wednesday and Friday like I had hoped. That never happens! I actually have a binder with printed out calendar pages to keep track of my blog posts. If I have an idea or if there's a blog hop planned for a certain day, I make sure I write it in ahead of time. They don't get the little green check mark until I've actually posted them. This is pretty much as organized as I get. So I'm wondering if I can actually be organized with my blogging, why not everything else?? Like, say, editing! 

 We'll see, I guess. One step at a time...

04 February 2015

How Do We Deal with Fear?

It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means it's once again time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group. *insert drum roll here* This month I'm a co-host! So I'll be stalking...err...visiting lots and lots of you. As always, the IWSG is hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh, and my fellow co-hosts this month are Gwen Gardner, Dolorah, and M. Pax!

Something that causes a great deal of insecurity (for me, at least) is fear. Fear is something that holds you back, that keeps you from achieving your goals. There are plenty of reasons to be afraid, and it isn't always easy to find ways to work through it. If you manage to erase one fear, you might just run into another one. 

I'm afraid of a lot of things. I think everyone's go-to fear is failure. We worry that all of this work we put into what we do will never amount to anything. We're afraid we'll never get an agent or a book deal, or even if we do get published, that the book will never sell. Sometimes it's tough to keep going when you're constantly worrying if it's even worth the effort. 

But that's really only the beginning of the fear spectrum. You can be afraid of something even if you want it, maybe just because it's different and scary. I'm terrified of change, despite the fact that I desperately want things in my life to change. I'm even afraid of success, because I worry that I don't have the personality to deal with all of these elaborate fantasies of what a successful life could be like. I don't think I can live up to my imaginary self. 

I worry that I'm just not capable of figuring out everything that needs to be figured out in my manuscript. And even if that happens, if I somehow get it done, I worry that it will be a complete flop. I worry that people just aren't going to get it, or they're going to take it the wrong way and be offended. It's already happened more than once and I'm not sure how I would even deal with the situation besides saying, "it's just a story." I worry that people are going to think that I assume too much, or that there's some level of hatred inside of me that really is just nonexistent. How do I make people get it?

You can see how easy it is for fear to just build up and build up. There are so many reasons for it, so it's hard to escape it completely. I don't have all of the answers yet. I think it's important to try and deal with one thing at a time--block those fears from my mind until they're actually worth worrying about, if they ever are at all. Because right now, the only thing fear is doing is holding me back. 

How do you guys deal with fear? What scares you the most when it comes to your writing? 

02 February 2015

Jordan Takes Over: Questions Answered!

**The first Monday of every month, I let my muse take over the blog. I apologize in advance.**

Has it been a month already? It felt more like a short nap...

If you stopped in for my post last month, you'll remember I asked everyone what they wanted me to write about. Well, most of you ganged up and asked for some flash fiction and well, I'm not entirely sure how to take that. One the one hand, that shows that you really just want to know more about me, which is great. But I'm not actually the writer here, so I get the feeling that you're trying to give my only post back to Sarah, and that's just not fair. Do you know what happens to people who try and cross me? Do you??

Well, since I don't know what you actually want, I'll think about it. Maybe. If I can come up with something really good to tell you about, I'll do it. But you've been warned...

Anyway, there were a few random questions/suggestions, so I'd like to answer those because I said that I would. Here goes...

L. Diane Wolfe said: "Writers being stupid - go for it."

Don't mind if I do! Of course I could go on about this for days, but I'll keep it brief. Writers are stupid all the time. You fight your characters, try to make them do things that make absolutely no sense. You're stubborn and take forever to realize when things aren't working (I'm not talking about anyone specific here, I swear...). And worst of all! You ignore inspiration when your muse gives it to you! Do you think we're just sitting around all the time waiting around for you? We've got other things to do, too, and if you're not going to take advantage of our inspiration, well, I don't even know what to tell you.

Was that harsh? Uh...sorry? Next question!

Tammy Theriault said: "Hey Jordan! Let's see you write on your theory that women are from Venus and men are from Mars."

Best question ever! Do I think men and women are from different planets? Absolutely. Holy crap. Ok, I get the feeling that everyone thinks I hate women, which is just not true at all. I just have really bad examples in my life. There's my mom, first of all. Not the greatest influence there. And all the other girls I know are teenagers and don't you even try to pretend that teenage girls aren't the worst people on the entire planet. They're all moody and just completely insane. No thanks. But I think the more important question here is, how do I get on the first spaceship to Mars??

And finally! Huntress said: "Inspiration is one topic I need. I vote for that."

That's a tricky one. I could talk about this forever, but I don't think even I could hold your attention for that long. I would say seek out inspiration wherever you can. It's not going to be the same for everyone. Find what speaks to you and then use it as much as you can. My thing is music, for example, and I know a lot of writers use music to inspire them. So if you have a particular song that gets you writing, well, LISTEN TO IT. Several times, until you've squeezed every drop of inspiration you can get out of it.

Hey, if you have more questions, throw them at me! If not, then maybe I'll think about this flash fiction nonsense...