Thursday, May 30, 2013

Finding My Blog Voice

Oh, no. I gave in. My head started blogging at 4:35 a.m. and now I’m awake doing just that. And for some reason the above image is what my brain chose to accompany this post. Not sure why. Maybe it will all come together in the end. But I hope my brain doesn’t make a habit of this. I enjoy my sleep. Does that ever happen to you? You think of a main idea and before you know it you’ve got a whole paragraph written in your mind?

Some questions have begun to pester me ever since I started this writing blog. Why am I writing this blog? Who is my audience? What should my focus be? How is this different from my family blog? Or should I just meld the two blogs and include my writing stuff into my family one? How open am I willing to be? Which of my myriad opinions am I willing to share therefore opening myself up to criticism? What if I post something that offends someone? These are the questions that wake me up at 4:35 a.m. And as a caveat I probably won’t answer all of them. At least not today.

All I know is I love to write. That’s all I really know for now. I always have. I’ve kept a journal since I could scrawl letters on a page. There’s never been a time when I wasn’t inventing stories. It’s always been a way for me to process my emotions and, to be broad, my life. Strong emotions are possibly the fuel for my writing. It’s evident when I review past journal entries. (I don’t journal-write every day. Only on the days I feel compelled.) Most of them have an overarching theme of “today sucked” or “today was the BEST.” There are very few ho-hum entries. My posterity is going to think I was bipolar.  But the truth is that, fortunately or unfortunately, strong emotions make me want to write. This blog gives me an opportunity to unearth my thoughts and emotions to whomever might be listening.    

 Early on in this line of questioning it became clear that I needed a separate space from my family blog. My family blog is more of a travelogue of our family adventures, mostly of my son, Jed. A huge part of my life is my family and I do want to showcase that. But I don’t necessarily want to be a mommy blogger that focuses on the deep, often controversial, motherhood issues. Nah, there are already so many good ones out there. A lot of controversial ones too. But I do want a space where I can go and be…me. Perhaps a slightly deeper version of me. Dr. Suess said, “There is no one alive who is youer than you.” I love Dr. Suess. So literary with all his silly rhymes and his cacophony of sounds.

My focus will probably change and grow over time. Blogging is a different animal, as they say. It’s different than writing in a journal, a college essay, a magazine article or a novel or short story. For one thing, I need to get faster. I can’t fret and rework things again and again the way I do with my book. And I need to be willing to put my thoughts out there knowing that some may disagree. Keep in mind, the last thing I want is controversy. But you never know what will strike a nerve with someone. I must allow myself to write what's in my heart. With that in mind, I'll use this blog to share things I'm passionate about, lessons I've learned, my favorite things, and my progress as a writer. I hope to become better at this, like learning to dance. Aha! I knew I would find it: the conclusion to this entry that is all over the place. One day I hope to be able to do “the lift” so to speak. For now I’m just clumsily carrying a watermelon.  

Monday, May 27, 2013

Blown Away

I've long been a fan of a well-crafted, character-driven crime drama, my favorites being NCIS and Foyle's War (British). Last night Bob and I were treated to a mind-blowing episode of the BBC's Sherlock, which is basically a modern version of Sherlock Holmes. I say "episode" but one could easily call it a "movie" because each segment is movie length and there is no expense spared in its production (at least to my untrained eye).

Last night's epi-movie (ha ha) was called "A Scandal in Belgravia" and I'm telling you, there were more twists and turns than there are synapses in my brain. In fact, my brain couldn't fully wrap itself around this intricate plot. I'm afraid I'll have to watch it again to catch everything. I'm a bit leery about watching the next episode because I don't know how they could possibly top this one.

I offer a tiny apology because there's nothing worse than something being over-hyped, which is exactly what I'm in danger of doing. But if you're looking for fresh, interesting, well-written, slightly edgy entertainment then check it out. The best news of all: it's on Netflix, which is what I like to call poor man's cable.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Pitch It!

When I tell people I’m writing a book they almost always ask, “What’s your book about?”
At that point I usually start bumbling around for an answer that sounds something like, “Well, there’s this girl…she’s a really strong female character…her name’s Beatrice…she rides a horse really well...and…she has a best friend Charlie…her father dies so it’s kind of sad…but he dies before the story starts…and it’s actually a story of hope...”
The real tragedy is I gave a similar answer to a woman I chatted with at lunch at the LDStorymakers Conference. Turns out she’s an editor. She was at the conference specifically to find books and authors she’s interested in publishing. Well, there goes that pitch!
OK, don’t feel too sorry for me. Now I know. Always be ready with your pitch! No more bumbling for me. After attending Lisa Mangum’s presentation on how to give an effective pitch, I have no excuses.
There are different types of pitches, from a Tweet (140 characters) to a full query letter (500-1000 words). The most common is just a 1-2 sentence teaser that arises in normal conversation. Whatever the length, a writer always needs to be prepared with a quick hook to get people interested.
Without further ado, here are some mini-pitches for my book. Which one makes you most want to read it? (Some of these are more tongue-in-cheek than others.)
1. After Beatrice’s father dies, she’s desperate for adventure and distraction. Could the Pony Express be the answer?
2. The Pony Express promises money, adventure, even danger. Could this be the distraction Beatrice needs after her beloved father’s death?
3. Beatrice wants more than anything to join the Pony Express. There’s just one problem: she’s a girl.
4. Beatrice’s world may be crumbling like dry biscuits, but there’s nothing like a little trail blazing to toughen up a girl.
5. It’s Anne of Green Gables with a Young Guns twist.
6. And a bonus I just thought of: The movie trailer. This one must be read aloud in a deep movie trailer voice. A young girl. A family torn apart by tragedy. A small boomtown with silver ore and secrets running through its veins.  Will the promise of the Pony Express bring healing to a broken heart and hope to a divided town?
This was a lot more fun than I thought it would be. Be prepared to pitch your book proudly at any given moment!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Good Karma

Karma isn't mystical, magical, or other-worldly, in my opinion. Simply stated, it's what goes around comes around. It's quite logical (in my brain at least) that if I put goodness and positivity out there, I will receive goodness and positivity. (For the most part, of course. Bad things happen sometimes and those are just the breaks.) So what about honest and candid reviews for books you didn't like or even hated?

It has always felt a little strange to give a book a poor star rating and post it on Goodreads. I'm uncomfortable even placing a mediocre rating on it. Behind my flippant star rating is an author who has likely shed tears, nearly given up dozens of times, hashed and re-hashed the manuscript and has all but given life itself to get the thing published. Now I come along and--meh--I'll give 3 stars. It seems odd to me, especially when that author has achieved what I have not yet: publication.

At the recent LDStorymakers Conference (awesome, by the way) I asked this question of an acclaimed author and his successful agent: "How do you feel about aspiring authors giving candid book reviews online?" And both of them were adamant that it isn't a good idea. The author said, "If I like a book, I'll tweet about it and tell everyone I know, but if I don't like a book I never talk about it." This resonated with me, probably because they confirmed the conclusion I had already come to but just didn't want to admit it: it's just not good karma.

In this light, I have decided to close my Goodreads account. Well, that's what I had originally planned to do, but I think I'll keep it and only review the books I love. And there are so many I adore! I've just become hesitant about putting a star rating on anything. There is something to be appreciated in every book. Who am I to stamp it with some rating like it's the Miss America pageant?

So is there a place for less than favorable reviews in the world? Yes, I think so. I always appreciate knowing how others have responded to a particular book. I just won't be the one giving them out. What about outright rude ones? I say no. Writing a book is hard work. Anyone running their mouth about how bad a book sucked should be required to write one.

Funny, too. The more I write and seek feedback from others, the more favorable my reviews seem to become.