paperback writer

I have a confession: I’m in a stalemate with my current project. Every time I sit down to write, I can’t seem to get into the groove.

My characters sound like they’re verbally constipated.

My descriptions have lost their senses.

My attitude is leaning toward obligation rather than passion.

Sometimes, writing is this way. We can’t get around it. There are times when we stare at our project and want to walk away and just start something new in order to avoid this feeling all together.

(Which I would never do… or maybe I’ve already done just that? Temporarily, of course.)

But if we never finish the project, we will never continue down the road of “success” as authors. And that road is paved differently for everyone.

Have you ever heard the song “Paperback Writer” by The Beatles? I’m pretty terrible with my music knowledge, but my dad used to play it for me nonstop because he was certain it was my future.

At least, to be a writer.

I don’t think he meant that I was going to be begging to sell my soul with the rights to my book to make a million overnight. Which isn’t entirely the point of my song, but you catch my drift.

The point is, sometimes you have to accept the mood you’re in and find a way to push through. It’s hardest to take my own advice, but if I don’t I’m going to end up like the song– just wishing and thinking I’ll add more in a week or two, never reaching the end of the manuscript and wasting my dreams away.

Yikes. That sounded like a TERRIBLE rain cloud.

This is why I’m blogging right now instead of writing. Because I have no idea where my characters are. I know the story, but man…my poor MC is going through hell and I just don’t think I’m doing her justice.

Now I’m word vomiting while my characters sound stuck.

I think I’ll stop here and leave you wondering….

 

Maybe not.

 

I started a new project, plotted another, and now I’m back to working on the WIP. Sometimes, you have to empty your mind of what you see as distractions in order to get back to where you are really needed.

The life of the writer. Sometimes, it sounds more like a psychiatrist (er, or psychopath?) than anything else.

 

 

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trackback thursday: burning of D.C. in 1814

classroom_1812-02On August 24, 1814, a British force led by Major General Robert Ross occupied Washington, D.C., and set fire to many public buildings– including the White House, the Capitol, and other U.S. government facilities.

The Burning of Washington was an attack during the War of 1812, between British forces and the USA. The attack was partially a “tit for tat” response to America’s destruction of Port Dover in Upper Canada. (This is when American troops went to destroy grain and mills that were used to provide flour for British soldiers on the Niagara Peninsula.)

This is the only time in history that Washington, D.C. has been occupied by a foreign force.

Less than a day after the attack, a heavy rainstorm put out the remaining fires. After this heavy storm (which also provided a tornado that went through D.C.), British troops retreated to their ships– which were also damaged. This allowed Americans to regain control, making the occupation of Washington last somewhere around 26 hours.

History Buster:

This is where the story of First Lady Dolley Madison comes into play. It circulated (and still does) that she saved the portrait of President Washington from the flames, cutting it from the frame that held it to the wall.

BUT

Paul Jennings, President James Madison’s personal slave, published his memoir in 1865 (after purchasing his freedom from none other than Mrs. Madison), and said it was not Mrs. Madison who saved the painting! She would have, apparently, needed a ladder and other tools to accomplish this– and he said there was not time for her to do it. Who were the saviors of this famous art?

According to Jennings, it was John Suse (the French doorkeeper) and Magraw (the president’s gardner).

In 2009, President Obama held a ceremony to recognize Jennings for his bravery and assistance in saving the painting and other valuables from the fire. Several of his descendants attended, and even took a family portrait in front of the very painting.

 

Have you ever visited The White House? I have actually never been to Washington (D.C.).  I say “actually” because I’ve been a crazy amount of places, (stateside) but D.C. is still on my bucket list!

 

“between shades of gray” book review

imageI previously read Salt to the Sea and decided I needed more Ruta Sepetys in my life. I feel behind the times this year, catching up on so much YA that I missed out on in the last couple of years. But this book…oh, this book.

While I enjoyed from salt to the seaBetween Shades of Gray is more my style. With only one POV and Lina as the narrator– I connected with it so much more.

Here is the Goodreads description:

Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they’ve known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin’s orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously–and at great risk–documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father’s prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.

When I read Ruta Sepetys’ books, I feel as though I’m being plunged into areas of history I previously had no knowledge of. I suppose when we learn things ins school, or even on our own time, we focus so much on what is closest to us. With WWII, I am very aware of the American part, and more of Britain and the Western European front than anything else. But Ruta Sepetys has introduced me to something I hadn’t thought of in so long, and that is what happened to so many others.

This book pulled on my heart and opened my eyes to Lena’s world. I wanted, more than anything while reading, to see her drawings. While Septeys describes everything so vividly, I kept hoping to flip the page and find an illustration. I know that many times this is the beauty of novels, that we can see without seeing, but this was an exception where I wanted it in front of me so badly. I wanted to see the pain in her charcoals, and her twisted views like Munch.

I want to call this book beautiful, but in fact the images that come to mind are anything but your standard “beautiful.” They are heart breaking, and stomach churning, and mind blowing– as they should be.

If you have yet to read this book, or any of Ruta Septeys books, might I suggest changing that– especially if you are a lover of YA historical fiction.

 

trackback thursday: first transatlantic hot air balloon flight

In August 1978, three Americans made history by being the first to cross the Atlantic Ocean via hot air balloon. Before this, (debatably) thirteen attempts had been made and failed.

The lucky gentlemen traveled in Double Eagle II over 3,000 miles in 137 hours, taking off from Presque Isle, Maine and landing about 60 miles west of Paris in Miserey, France. They were: Max Anderson, Ben Abruzzo, and Larry Newman. All of them were from Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Why was it Double Eagle II, you ask? It was the second attempt for Mr. Abruzzo and Mr. Anderson, who tried their first attempt at crossing in the first Double Eagle.

Why does this matter, you ask?

Because hot air balloons are magical.

I have a small obsession with them, though I’ve actually never been in one myself (bucket list). Also, if you see a picture of this balloon, you’ll be amazed, too. It was fitted with a gondola in case they had to have an emergency landing, which is on display at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum annex at Washington Dulles International Airport. But if you can’t make it there, here’s a picture that probably doesn’t do it justice:

I moved to the Southwest in 2013, and though there had been hot air balloon events where I had previously lived(ish), I had never looked into or thought of them much. But when we moved, the first thing we saw when we reached our new “hometown” were three hot air balloons just hanging out– and come to find out we could see them from our backyard! It made the move not so horrible, and I still swear by ‘balloon days.’

(OK, I don’t really swear by them, but it’s always a pick-me-up because it lets me know that it’s not TOO hot for the balloons and something about seeing them makes a person happy.)

Have you ever been in a hot air balloon?

 

 

Also, today in history, my mother was born. HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM! I won’t put the year because she might kill me, but here’s a picture for your viewing pleasure of the last time we were together:

mother's day 1

changes: when to do it & when to stay true to your story

As writers, we have to learn to go with the flow. Sometimes the best ideas don’t translate on paper, and we learn to be open minded and not bitter when others point this out. Whether it’s critique printers, beta readers, or editors–we tend I learn that our first draft is just that: first. Odds are, there’s almost always going to be a second. And potentially a third, fourth, fifth, sixth….

When I was working on my first manuscript with Katelyn (of Stark Contrast Editing), I ran into a lot of places with the book that I wasn’t sure I wanted to change. It was so near and dear to my heart, loosely based on something I had been through myself, that I didn’t know how to take her suggestions. At first I wasn’t open to them, and she handled it with grace. However, as time grew, I knew she was only trying to help me. The manuscript took on a new life, one it never would’ve had if I hadn’t opened my mind to changes.

This was a good type of change.

Recently I got some feedback on another manuscript and i wasn’t sure what to do. Thankfully, I have an agent who believes in me and this manuscript and we decided to make changes not to the book itself but to how we were presenting it. I went through maybe a week of stressing and trying to find things to move around and chapters to cut and more things to add, but in the end I just knew I didn’t WANT to change it. Going in with an open mind to what my agent was going to say, it was the biggest relief when we ended up on the same page.

The feedback was solid, but what someone has to remember with feedback is that it’s all so subjective. Everyone has a different opinion, and just like we don’t all love every book we read, so it is with everyone else. Not everyone will think your manuscript is the bees-knees– and that’s ok.

So how do you balance between being open to change and sticking to your original art?

STICK TO THE HEART

Are the changes going to stick to the heart of the story? If they’re going to make the feel of the story even stronger, odds are they’re good suggestions. Take time to think about the possible changes. Sometimes they won’t be easy, but if you are avoiding the changes because of how difficult it could be or how much work it will take, you might want to rethink what you’re getting yourself into as an author.

 

DON’T SACRIFICE FAVORITES

Sacrifices are always necessary, but if there is a certain line or phrase or moment that you don’t want to let go, then don’t. Sure, it might need to be moved or tweaked as your manuscript goes through edit, but you don’t HAVE to cut something because someone says so.

 

GO WITH THE FLOW

In the end, I can’t say more than this:

Every manuscript is different. Every author is unique. Every editor, agent, publisher works differently. All you can do is go with your gut. Sometimes you might be ‘wrong’ to everyone else, but overall the most important person that matters with YOUR writing, is you, the author.

 

trackback thursday: jesse owens wins four gold medals

In August 1936, Jesse Owens won four gold medals in Berlin.

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Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics; picture from wikipedia.com

Before this, in 1935, Owens made sporting history when he broke five world records, including the long jump which would not be beat for another 25 years.

At the 1936 Olympic Berlin Games, Owens won his four medals in the 100m, 200m, 4x100m relay, and the long jump. He managed to break or equal nine Olympic records, and he set three world records.

Yep. He was pretty much awesome.

At the Berlin Games, Hitler thought and hoped that they would prove his theory of Aryan racial superiority. As you can imagine, this did not go as he planned. Instead, Owens’ achievements led the people of Berlin to hail him, revere him, applaud him– an African-American– as a hero.

Here are some of Owens’ awards and achievements:

 

  • On May 25, 1935, at the Big Ten Conference Championships in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Owens broke three world records (long jump, 220-yard dash and 220-yard low hurdles) and tied a fourth (100-yard dash), all in a 45 minute span.
  • In his junior year at Ohio State, Owens competed in 42 events and won them all, including four in the Big Ten Championships, four in the NCAA Championships, two in the AAU Championships and three at the Olympic Trials.
  • In 1936, Jesse became the first American in Olympic Track and Field history to win four gold medals in a single Olympiad by winning four gold medals: 100 meter dash in 10.3 seconds (tying the world record), long jump with a jump of 26′ 5 1/4″ (Olympic record), 200 meter dash in 20.7 seconds (Olympic record), and 400 meter relay (first leg) in 39.8 seconds (Olympic and world record).
  • In 1976, Jesse was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award bestowed upon a civilian, by Gerald R. Ford.
  • Owens was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1990 by President George H.W. Bush.

A recent movie Race was released this year about Jesse Owens. There are also plenty of books and at least one documentary about him. You can check Amazon for these.

Are you watching the Olympics this year? What’s your favorite event?

 

book review: the wrath & the dawn

imageThe Wrath & The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh is one of my favorite books that I have read thus far. Based on A Thousand and One Nights, the story of Scheherazade. It was one that I could not put down, and now all I want to do is life my self-inflicted-book-buying-ban to get the sequel, The Rose & the Dagger.

The Wrath & The Dawn was released in May of last year, and the sequel was released in April of this year.

Here is what Goodreads has to say:

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad’s dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph’s reign of terror once and for all.

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she’d imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It’s an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid’s life as retribution for the many lives he’s stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

 

When I was young, one of my favorite books was The Shadow Spinner, by Susan Fletcher, was one of my favorite books. It was also based on Scheherazade, but was from the perspective of a young girl who was taken into the story-tellers confidence to fuel her with more stories to share with the Sultan so she may continue to live.

The Wrath & The Dawn was like the story went even further for me, only better. Being able to see from the perspective of many characters, and get to know Khalid and Shahrzad in an entirely new light, I literally could not put down the book.

Another thing that it did was make me desperate for the food and colors of this Arabian world that Ahdieh created. With the descriptions of costumes, foods, surroundings, and traditions– I wanted to dive deeper and deeper into it, and Ahdieh did an amazing job of providing me with enough to fuel my imagination in technicolor.

There were a few parts of the story that I found myself questioning the tale, but then I felt like a ‘traditionalist’ and wanting all the stories of One Thousand and One Nights to come to life, not just the love story between Khalid and Shahrzad. With a killer cliff-hanger ending, I can’t imagine how readers who bought this book when it was first released felt without having the sequel ready at their finger-tips. I’m already itching as it is because I didn’t buy the two together at the same time!

This book gets 5/5 for me. Shahrzad, Jalal, Khalid, Despina– all the characters in this story have a voice of their own that makes a reader love (and sometimes dislike) them. If you haven’t read it (and I already feel late to the game), you must. And heed my warning: buy The Rose & The Dagger at the same time so you don’t end up like I am right now.

trackback thursday: colorado becomes a state

August 1, 1876: Colorado joined the Union.

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Sporting one of my #writerslifeapparel tops in CO.

It took sixteen years, four Colorado votes, three suggested state constitutions, and multiple attempts in Congress for Colorado to finally become the 38th state.

 

Coloradans went through many votes and re-votes to decide if they wanted to go from territory to state. The first of these was in 1860, and though it was only about 400 votes off, they stayed a territory. What was the biggest reason for this? Well, as a state they didn’t have to worry about the expenses of administering a government; as a territory, federal funds took care of that. If they were to become a state, it would be their responsibility.

Colorado’s first bid for statehood was vetoed by President Andrew Johnson in May of 1866, saying that Colorado’s population (which was around 34k) was too small to be a state.

Yep. No joke.

So after a lot of pushing, and when President Johnson was finally out of office, President Ulysses S. Grant issued a proclamation declaring Colorado a state August 1, 1876 – and Colorado officially joined the Union. This proclamation happened the year the United States celebrated its centennial.

Thus, the 38th state is known as the Centennial State. <– (I felt kind of dumb for never knowing why this was so until I looked it up.)

Fun facts about Colorado:

  • my older sister & her family live there (I knew you HAD to know)
  • Colorado is the only U.S. state that lies entirely above 1000 meters elevation.
  • The tallest sand dune in America is in Great Sand Dunes National Park.
  • Denver, lays claim to the invention of the cheeseburger. Denver resident Louis Ballast of the Humpty Dumpty Drive-In named his sandwitch the cheeseburger
  • The 13th step of the state capital building in Denver is exactly 1 mile high above sea level.
  • Katherine Lee Bates wrote ‘America the Beautiful’ after being inspired by the view from Pikes Peak

Have you ever been to Colorado? What was your favorite part?

#writerslifeapparel updates

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Anna from “Midwest Charm with Anna” sporting #writerslifeapparel coffee, write, edit, repeat tank

#writerslifeapparel, if you didn’t know, is a shop I created with items for writers! For more information, check out the tab at the top of the site.

After a lot of consideration and debate, I decided to make a few changes with how the items are distributed. Since it’s a small, from-home business, and I was disappointed when I ran into so many problems this last cycle of distributing products. While most of these problems were in the hands of the US Postal Service and the shirt distributor, it made orders very much delayed and caused some undue stress because of it. Once more, as a company, it suffered a few losses.

Because of all this, I’ve decided to set-up shop a little differently until it’s more established. The shirts will now be hosted through TeeSpring once again, taking out the ‘middle man’ of shipping from home for the time being. If you were a lover of our coffee mugs, not to worry- those will be sold through Etsy.

I will take as many do-overs as I can in order to make this happen, so please follow along and help #writerslifeapparel serve you with the best products it can offer.

Thanks, as always, for embarking on this journey with me. I continue to be positive, excited, and grateful for the customers & followers of this blog.

To connect on social media, follow the links included:

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Oh, by the way, I got to share this news plus more about something fun over at Brenda Drake’s blog. Interested in some Pitch Wars swag at (potentially) a lower cost? Read about the auction going on tonight by following THIS LINK