Monday, November 23, 2009

Contest Time: $20 Borders gift card

It's contest time. I'm doing a drawing on December 14th for a $20 Borders gift card. To enter, send me an email to, or use the form on the contact page of my website. All I need is a return email address. If you're the winner, I'll contact you by email to get an address I can ship it to. Now for the bad news. This is for residents of the United States only, but it does include Alaska and Hawaii.

Also, I'm curious to see what the readers think the Dragon War Relic is. There are a lot of relics and artifacts in the book, but which is THE relic? Include your guesses with your entry.

Some of you may wonder what I'll do with your email addresses. I will not sell them or give them away to anyone. That's just plain rude. I might start a newsletter in the future, but only if I can come up with quality material to send out. And, if I do create a newsletter, it will be once a month, not every flippin' day.

Tell your friends, and may the best man/woman/elf/ogre/dwarf/dragon/angel/gourdo/squemish/etc. win.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Where are all the Gene Kellys?

I planned on going to bed early last night. After a morning book signing, an afternoon matinee, and an evening performance, I was exhausted when I finally dragged into my home at 10 pm. I made the mistake of turning on the TV to a local PBS station which was showing "An American in Paris". I stayed up until midnight to watch it.

I was immediately sucked in by the music. First of all, I've played a version of the Gershwin score when I was a member of the Anchorage Symphony. Secondly, several of the other songs have become some of my favorite jazz standards, like 'I've Got Rhythm', 'Our Love is Here to Stay', and 'S Wonderful'.

The other thing that stood out to me was Gene Kelly. As a kid, I loved "Singin' in the Rain". I still enjoy it as an adult. Watching "An American in Paris" reminded me of what an incredible talent Gene Kelly was. For one, he was an incredible athlete/dancer. Watching his tap dance moves and how he worked his environment reminded me of Jackie Chan (only much better looking). Also, the guy could have been a great wide receiver or DB in the NFL. The dude was buffed!

Of course, he was famous for his dancing, but he could also sing and act. He presented a charming and warm character who could break out into a song at the drop of a hat (literally).

It makes me wish we could see more movies and people with talents like that. Now, all we get are actors that are all fluff and no brains and movies that are all special effects and no story. It makes me wonder, where have all the Gene Kellys gone? Maybe Pete Seeger should add another verse to "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?".

Friday, November 13, 2009

2B an Author part 2

The biggest hurdle I faced when it came to writing was strategy. I had taken some writing classes and read several books and I tried to follow the advice they gave. It didn't work. I kept getting stuck.

My biggest problem is that I'm a perfectionist. I would write a chapter, then want to go back and write and rewrite until it was the finished product. Of course, by then, all forward momentum was lost. I started four or five novels this way that ended at chapter three or four.

The other problem was that I had been taught that you are supposed to outline your stories. I would come up with outlines, but they never seemed to work for me. I figured that I must be a failure at writing and gave up for a while.

My daughter discovered an event called NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. Three years ago, we both decided to do this together, you know, so that we would have someone to commiserated with when we got frustrated. The main objective of NaNoWriMo is to write a 50,000 novel in 30 days (November, usually).

When I got started, the perfectionist in me said, "Let's go back and fix what we just wrote." In which I would have to answer back, "Quiet, we don't have time for that!" (Yes, I do have conversations with myself).

It turned out, in order to stay on schedule, that I had to turn off the perfectionist voice (it whined a lot, but eventually settled down to a whimper). This led me to find out that I am what they call a 'discovery writer'. Most of the time, I have no idea what is going to happen in the next chapter until I write it. This makes it exciting for me and can lead into unpredictable situations. There are also plenty of pitfalls, too, which I will maybe go into another time.

My main point is, though, that you, the aspiring author, needs to find a method that works for you. You might be an 'outliner' or you may be a 'discoverer' or somewhere in between. What you need to do is to try different writing approaches and see what works best for you. Just because some famous writer uses a certain approach doesn't mean it will work for you. We're all different. So, do some research and find out how different writers approach their art and then try their method for a bit. If that doesn't work, try something else until you find something that works.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

2 B an Author

Now that I'm getting out and meeting people at book signings, I'm constantly hearing how they wish that they could write a book. I say, just do it, don't wish for it. Anyone can write a book. Now, getting it published and sold are something else, but the first step is to get the book written. It can never get to those other stages if it is a bunch of ideas floating in your head.

I think there is a great reward just from writing the book, even if it is never published. If someone makes a quilt, are they disappointed if it doesn't make the front cover of a quilting magazine? No. They are proud of their accomplishment and feel they have something to show for the time and love that they put into it. Writing a book is the same thing.

I must confess that I used to spend a lot of my spare time playing computer games. I finally realized, though, that after I finished a game I had nothing to show for all that time spent. Once I got hooked on writing, I found it to be just as addicting and satisfying AND I had something to show when I was done.

It doesn't matter if the book can't be read or understood by anyone else. The first draft of The Dragon War Relic is pretty laughable (and not in a good way), but I learned so much from the process. In fact, I'm kind of curious to go back and read that first draft, but I'm afraid I might become nauseated.

Once I had hammered through my first book, then a lot of the writing advice and books that I had read started to make sense. When I read them before writing, they helped a little, but I couldn't understand a lot of what they were talking about. Afterwards, I would reread some of them and they would suddenly become clear.

So, don't wish to be an author, be one. Don't worry about it being perfect. What would happen if an Olympic gymnast decided they would never do the parallel bars until they knew they could do them perfectly? They would never learn.

Next time, I'll explore some ideas on writing strategies.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The fun begins

Okay, I'm getting nervous. Tomorrow morning I start the "Costco Tour" (should I make tour t-shirts?). I'm nervous because this is entering the realm outside of my comfort zone. As I've said before, I just want to write. This getting out and meeting people and trying to sell my book scares me. Now, I know I can do it, because I've worked sales before, but it runs against the grain of my shy, quiet nature. For those who know the color code, I'm a white. Very white. I don't want to rock the boat or upset people. I just want to live in my own little world in peace. I just keep telling myself to act naturally, to be friendly and make eye contact. I don't need to go act like a super salesman.

On another note, this week I'm also doing another show at the American Leadership Academy. It's called 'Stuck in the 70's' and is under the direction of Rick Lunt. The scary thing about it is that I know most of the music and remember when it came out. It's fun though, even if there are no Tower of Power tunes.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Still sane

Okay, I thought this week would be the lull before the storm. Boy, was I wrong. Next week, of course, I start my big push to see if we can get my book to sell. I really don't know what I'm doing and it scares me to death.

I would rather be writing right now. I have that draft finished for another book but no time to do anything with it. It's going to have to wait while I do stage three of being a writer. Stage one is where you actually get to write. Stage two is where you have to become an editor. Now, stage three, I have to go out and sell the thing. It boils down to this: if you want to be a writer, you have to be able to do all three areas well. I have yet to see if I can pull all of them off.

So, this week I'm trying to get word out about next week, which is pretty much taking up all my spare time. I just hope I don't completely stress out and go bonkers. But for now, I'm still sane (I think).