Monday, November 28, 2016

Dialing Down The Stress of the Season

Do you get to the end of every month and say, "Oh my God, how did it get to be {insert month name here} already? Is it just me? (Please say it's not just me!!)

We're two days away from the end of November, which means The Holidays are right around the corner. We celebrate Christmas in our house and I LOVE it. But the preparation and organization required? Not my strong suit. I have the technology to help me stay on top of things, but somehow I still end up stressed. (Seriously, even typing this, I feel my blood pressure going up.) Add to that a book deadline looming...

Deep breath.

This year, I'm trying to take a different approach. Not only by making sure I take care of myself (and not letting my running routine slide into oblivion), but by planning ahead and/or cutting out things that ratchet up the stress.

First -- Food! Did you ever notice the people in your house seem to want to eat EVERY DAY? My kid, who's 11, actually wants to eat every 45 minutes when he's home. December is a busy month, so my first goal is to keep him out of the house as much as possible. BUT, barring that, planning ahead is a huge stress reliever since I'm the one who cooks! My new favorite go-to recipe site is, hands down, Gimme Some Oven. I've made the slow cooker butternut squash soup four times now, and it is downright dreamy. This from someone who actually doesn't LIKE butternut squash on its own. For Thanksgiving I threw all of the ingredients for spinach artichoke dip in the slow cooker and it was nearly as big a hit as the turkey. I'm a big fan of the slow cooker and I NEVER do any of that pre-cooking nonsense some recipes call for and everyone has lived to tell. So, take that for what it's worth and dig the slow cooker out of the basement.

Second -- Holiday cards. I'm really really bad at holiday cards. I always miss the international mailing deadline to send cards back to the US OR I've changed phones and not ported over my contacts correctly so I find I'm missing at least half of the addresses I need anyway. I love keeping in touch, but this year I'm taking a page from my mother-in-law's book and making a donation to a charity in lieu of postage and cards. I'll keep in touch electronically or, better yet, write two or three meaningful letters to send to those I really want to reach out to. In January.

Third -- Gifts. I'm a terrible gift giver because I can talk myself out of almost anything. "Oh, they won't like that/probably already have one/would buy that for themselves if it was something they really wanted." Every holiday/birthday I dive deep into the internet searching for that "perfect gift". And waste SO MUCH TIME. So this year I decided I'm not giving things at all. For the family, I'm making a "Saturday Jar", which is a mason jar filled with folded pieces of paper, featuring things to do. Some are local sightseeing things we always say we should do, some are lazy movie days and some are things we do anyway, like dog walking in the hills. For my husband, Mr. Tech Gadget, himself, I'm doing something similar but more couples-focused and giving him a year of date nights. This only works out to one/month because I'm not that creative, but it's the first gift I'm excited about giving him in the past several years. Plus, for some of the things that require planning ahead (like tickets to a play at the local theatre), it means we have a date on the calendar and something to look forward to, so yay!

Fourth -- Expectations. For a lot of us, the holiday season is filled with expectations about how things should be. And the stress in that is mind blowing! I've been following Hands Free Mama for awhile now and her message always seems to be spot on with what I need when I need it. Sure, sometimes it's a little touchy-feely, but the core message remains the same -- letting go to grasp what really matters. I'm not a motivational or inspirational writer, but Rachel Macy Stafford is and I daresay her site is worth your time.

Fifth -- Goals. Goals and expectations go hand-in-hand for a lot of people, me included. My goal is to finish my draft of my book before my kid gets out of school for the Christmas holidays. I'm only at about 25K so this is a major goal at a time of year when there are a million other things on (Including my kid just now telling me  -- at 9pm -- he needs to take Christmas chocolate to school tomorrow? Seriously?). I'm already mentally scaling back from my word count goal, but only slightly, because I know I need it out there to help me make some progress this coming month.

To be honest, I'm not sure how/if any of this is going to work. I can easily imagine deciding something like, "Oh, I've got dinner sorted with an easy recipe, so maybe I should bake thirteen kinds of cookies." I have a feeling it will be very much a work in progress, so any holiday stress-busting solutions -- throw them my way and maybe we can muddle through these next few weeks together? In the meantime...I've got to go scrounge the cupboards to see if we have anything that will pass for "Christmas chocolate."

Thursday, November 24, 2016


Welcome back to ATB's renowned, recurring, book review, BACK JACKET HACK JOB! Cheryl Oreglia here, and let me just say I am horrified, I mean honored, to be the writer for this memorable fifteenth installment. I confess it gave me heartburn. So in honor of Thanksgiving, anxiety, and multiple deadlines I offer you a new back jacket hack job for the famed novel by Nora Ephron, appropriately entitled Heartburn. It's just too perfect. Right? Hack away I will, with a neutralizing look at indigestion, infidelity, and key-lime pie. And yes, I get paid by the comments, so do be generous.

Rachel Samstat is mad.

Heartburn might be the result of Ephron's real life experience of infidelity, but this book is full of witty euphemisms about life, and in spit of it all she keeps her sense of humor intact. It's a story about a husband who goes out to buy socks every evening but comes home empty handed only to say, "You would not believe how hard it is to find a decent pair of socks in this city." It takes Rachel four weeks to catch on. This is life. I sometimes feel I am the last to know what my kids are doing, why my dog is looking so guilty, and who keeps leaving packages on the front porch. But I persevere and so should you. A writer always gets the last word.

Rachel Samstat fights back.

Infidelity is horrible but Ephone spins her experience into a gut wrenching comedy. She is bold, honest, and refreshingly real. Who hasn't been deceived, heartbroken, and dubbed the idiot? I can relate, "Thelma Rice, a fairly tall person with a neck as long as an arm and a nose as long as a thumb and you should see her legs, never mind her feet, which are sort of splayed." Ephron brings the other woman "Thelma" brilliantly to life, repeatedly harping on her oversized nose and ugly feet. This is how writer's deal, "everything is copy."

Rachel Samstat wins.

Key-lime pie smashed in the face of her adulterous, insouciant, hack job of a husband is how she ends the relationship for good. Bravo Nora Ephron. She will not go quietly into the night, "If I throw this pie at him, he will never love me. But he doesn't love me anyway. So I can throw the pie if I want to. I picked up the pie, thanked God for the linoleum floor, and threw it. It landed mostly on the right side of Mark's face, but that was good enough." A win is a win. Sometimes the only thing available to right all the wrongs in the world is pie. 

Heartburn is a must read, available at Amazon, it might be worth the purchase just to see the drone. Just sayin... 

Haven't had enough? Mosey on over to Living in the Gap, drop-ins welcome.

California Dreamin

California is home for me, I have traveled her roads for decades, and fallen for her arrogant elegance. The shape of her body bent, like the joint of an elbow, resting on an easy chair. California is hip, she's got ocean front, and laden with fleshy produce. I'm in my autumn years so I've adopted the fall as my own. The weather outside is crisp and cool, which makes me grateful for the intermittent presence of the sun. It must be the bright illumination juxtaposed against the dullness of the season that draws me into a reflective pose (a nice way to say I'm post menopausal and no longer watch what I say)  I love to sit in the fall, perched on the edge of a hearth, gentle fire warming my back, staring out the window of life. I’m enamored with the glory of the season, with the prospect of multiple celebrations, and universal good cheer.

I have a comfortable lifestyle, when held up to the deficiencies in the world, I live like a queen (of a small country), without the help, trust fund, or press secretary. This year you can't help but notice the widespread suffering in the world, whether self inflected, or structurally inescapable. How do we render this situation? I feel impotent when confronted with the enormity of it all, the prospect of real change fills me with a corrosive fear, which hinders my ability to move. I'm always trying to find my way back, back to a childhood I've no doubt idealized in my mind, to a time when the vulgarities of the world seem distant and vague. Now they're splashed across a forty-two inch screen, in high definition, and my parents no longer shield me from the R-rated stuff. As a responsible adult, I've decided I have two options (keep it simple), I either act out of love, or I act out of fear. This much I control. I'll admit it's a challenge to respond from a place of love all the time, even part of the time, but this is my California Dreamin.

In my narrow little world I'm currently pummeled by seasonal distractions. Acts of love seem at time impossible. It’s the end of the semester. There are projects, papers, and presentations to grade. I have to meet with disgruntled parents, wrestle missing work from half my students, and post grades. On the home front there is food shopping with lines as long as airport security, the unachievable Martha Stewart table, the oversized bird in an undersized oven, lumpy gravy, and the inescapable fact I'll run out of butter in the middle of dinner. If I gave all my students A's, used paper plates, and served Kentucky Fried Chicken I could be as loving as my husband, who's enjoying a cold one, and watching the game. It is much more likely I'll loose it just before the first guest arrives, somehow scrap myself together, slice up the bird, whine about the dishes, and wake up five pounds heavier. But is there another way?
"The more things change, the more they remain the same." Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr

California is where I was born but Hollywood, Silicon Valley,  Disneyland, and Napa Wines also claim birthrights. I remember listening to a final interview with Steve Jobs of Apple Computer. He was an extreme sort of guy and I was always intrigued by his creativity. He seemed obsessed with work, perfectionism, but he changed the world with his unique vision. At the end of his life when considering death he said, “What I can bring is only the memories precipitated by love.” I don’t know if he really thought he would be able to access his memories after death, but clearly in life, he thought this important enough to mention. If nothing remains but our acts of love what a world it would be. Maybe this year I'll solicit some masculine help in the kitchen, enjoy a cold one by the fire, and forget the idea of a perfect table. This is my California dreamin. Happy Thanksgiving all and may our love reign.

There's more to enjoy at Living in the Gap, come on by.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Rumpus Room Reads #1 - "Smart Women" by Judy Blume

Sometimes a book is so good that reading it becomes a part of your life cycle.  “Smart Women,” a quintessentially ‘80s Judy Blume novel about a couple of divorced mothers who moved to Boulder, CO to start over, is not really that kind of book.  It’s a pretty good book, not great.  While the back of my battered copy of the novel reads “May just be the most emotionally satisfying big bestseller of 1984 . . . compulsively readable . . . triggers both laughter and tears . . . you’ll be utterly captivated” (thanks, shoulder-padded ladies of “Working Woman”), reviews on include the phrases “mediocre at best . . . robotic, predictable, and blah!” “This book was not about any smart women, it was about stupid women and their stupid mistakes”  “all of them . . . were absolutely horrible people, who were incredibly miserable in their amoral, meaningless lives.”  Actually that last one sort of makes you want to read it, right?  “Smart Women” is no great classic, but it is worth reading, and somehow I have managed to find it at three touchstone moments in my life.  So I guess it has become a part of my life cycle after all.

I first found “Smart Women” as an unhappy newlywed in Fort Myers, Florida, a town best known as one of the centers of the housing bubble crashes of the mid-to-late aughts and as a frequent filming location of hit TV series “COPS.”  Fort Myers is where Ohioans and Michiganders go to die, for the sole reason that it’s directly down I-75 from the Midwest and there’s no snow to shovel.  It is strip malls and never-ending blistering hot summer sun.  It is not the place for a (too) young, educated couple to start a family.  But start a family we did, and I spent countless hours down there just circling the man-made lakes with their fountains (to keep the waters moving so the mosquitoes didn’t breed) in our apartment complex, watching the hideous Muscovy ducks make violent love to each other while pushing a stroller containing my first son.  He  was born two months before we moved there in diametrically opposite Seattle, Washington, where his conception had necessitated my dropping out of law school.   

I circled the apartments and watched “Cagney and Lacey” because we didn’t have cable and I circled my small collection of novels until we discovered the public library.  I can’t remember if my copy of “Smart Women” came from the Fort Myers public library, because they did have free old books there, or if it came from my grandma’s basement like a lot of the other books I want to talk about on this blog.  But I remember I read it for the first time in Florida, and I remember something in the novel pulled at the core of me.  Freshly crapped out of the Pacific Northwest into uncultured sun-blasted hell, I yearned for the kitschy quirky hippie mountain town described in the book.  The opening scene took place in one of the lead character’s patio Jacuzzi.  I could smell the crisp mountain air and cedar.  I also yearned for the 1980s, probably because of all that “Cagney and Lacey” I’d been watching.  But did I dare yet yearn for the freedoms and friendships enjoyed by these untethered women?

The second time I read “Smart Women” was in early 2015,  as my then ten-year-old marriage was coming to a crashing end.  I can’t remember if I read it before or after we decided to divorce, before or after I moved to my first post-marital home on the too-cheesily-named-for-a-writer-to-make-it-up Independence Street.  A lot has happened since then.  But I do remember that I found a whole new depth and dimension to the book as a woman herself on the brink of divorce.  I found it both hopeful and depressing, hopeful because by the end the women mostly find happiness and stability, but depressing because they all start out the story at levels of independence that I found hard to believe I would ever achieve.  They’d all been divorced for about five years at the start of the book, and had well established careers and personal lives.  I had been a stay at home mother since dropping out of law school, had only started making social contact with the outside world again in the previous year, and didn’t even know where to start with figuring out my career.  I related to the book, I so wanted to relate to it even more, but found it hard to believe I could ever really get to where Margo and B.B. and Clare were - “They cope with it all” says the back cover.  I was having trouble coping with anything.  And all those judgments of the characters I mentioned from the goodreads reviews before, calling them stupid and selfish, miserable and amoral?  I hadn’t read those reviews yet, but I certainly felt a lot of those judgments on myself.  

Now, picking “Smart Women” up again this month, after almost a year and a half of living on my own, I find it very encouraging that I can now more fully relate to the characters.  I’m in school and finally on a career path, have more confidence in my skills as a single parent and as the leader of a household, and have a much more established social network.  I’ve also stopped listening to those hateful voices of judgment, both interior and exterior.  I have confidence.  I am coping.  It’s not out of the realm of possibility to think that the next time I crack open this book I could be relaxing in my very own patio Jacuzzi.  Here’s hoping.  

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Awards Season

Another quality post brought to you by Steve!

Hey, kids!  I was going to post an Eek! today, but since Mary already did on Monday, I'll just keep that in my back pocket for now.  In a way Mary did me a favor because there was something else I wanted to talk about...and also to ask you a favor.

As the end of the year approaches, it means one thing in the literary community: awards season.  I mean, also NaNo.  And also the Christmas push.  And also that thing in Iceland where literally everyone buys books.  But I digress.  One of the things it means is awards season.

Now, I can only come at this from the perspective of the horror community, but hopefully through the power of synecdoche you can get an idea of what awards season is like for the other genres as well.  Since everybody loves a listicle, here's one of those.

1.)  Blogger and Reviewer Best Ofs

Last year I was absolutely flattened when awards season came.  BRAINEATER JONES was named one of the Top 5 Horror Reads of 2015 on Confessions of a Reviewer, one of the best horror reads of 2015 on Hey Said Renee, and the best read of 2015 by Horror Made.  All this in spite of being released in 2013.  :)  But that's fine.  When it comes to reviewer awards, it's what they read that year.

Winning blogger awards is really cool and definitely good for your self esteem.  You can also include it in your editorial reviews on Amazon.  (You do know how to update your editorial reviews on Amazon, right?  If not, this video should get you pointed in the right direction.) 

What they probably won't do is push sales or get you noticed by an agent.  There are actually very, very few review sites who will get you sales based on appearing there alone.  There are a couple, but even then we're talking about maybe one or two sales.  The important thing about these sorts of awards is that you know you're doing good work, and you know you're getting your work in front of the sort of people who appreciate it.  And don't forget to thank your reviewers and share their posts.  That's just common courtesy, and you'd be surprised how much they appreciate it because so few people have common courtesy.

2.)  Mid-Level Awards

Since people are more familiar with the way movie awards work, let's compare literary awards with that.  Blogger and reviewer awards would be the equivalent of a critic's top ten list, or in general terms, critical acclaim.  (Book sales in this metaphor would be your box office, and, as we all know, sales do not necessarily translate into critical acclaim.)  Then there's the Oscars, which we'll get to in a minute.  Everybody wants an Oscar.  But leading up to the Oscars are all those other awards that are great to get and raise your star, like the Golden Globes, the SAG Awards, People's Choice, that sort of thing.

Again, I only know about horror here, but I think most literary genres have the same basic set-up.  There's one big award that you can plaster on the cover of your novel and maybe get you noticed by agents.  Then there are all the more mid-level awards that suggest more that you're a rising name in the industry, not that you're at the pinnacle yet.

The Shirley Jackson Award is probably the big mid-level award in horror.  (Although I'm sure a lot of you will shout at me in the comments and say that it's actually the big one.)  The Shirley Jacksons are a very intellectual sort of award, chosen by a jury of horror experts and not by popular vote or anything like that. 

There's also the Goodreads Choice Awards, which are going on now.  That's entirely a popular vote, and they've got awards for every genre.

Oh, and, hey, you know what's another pretty good mid-level award?  The This is Horror Awards!  And, hey, now that I think about it, my very own HUNTER OF THE DEAD just so happens to be eligible for this year's awards!  Of course, I can't nominate any work I'm affiliated with.  All I can really do is encourage my fans and friends to e-mail This is Horror and include a single sentence about why they think HUNTER OF THE DEAD is worthy of best novel, alongside any other nominations they wish to make.  So if you happen to run across any of my fans or friends, maybe let them know about that. 

3.)  The Big One

And then, of course, there's the biggie.  For horror it's the Bram Stoker Awards.  Everybody wants a Stoker unless:

a)  they're far too cool to care about awards period because it's supposed to be all about the art, man, or,

b)  they already have one, in which case, they completely downplay the importance of awards in general, because it's supposed to be all about the art, man

So, yeah.  Basically everybody wants one.  I know, talking about awards in general can be crass.  And awards systems are, at the best of times, unscientific, so a lot of people get left feeling let down, or even excluded.  Yeah, it sucks.

But awards are also a nice thing.  They're a way of telling people that all that hard work they did was noticed.  They're a way of congratulating your peers with more than just a pat on the back.  They're a way of bringing a community together and opening discussion about what's good, what's bad, and what's great.  Despite the corruption that I'm not going to pretend isn't real, there is some foundation in awards that good and right should be recognized, and that's a good thing.

And I just realized I've kind of gotten off topic.  Maybe that'll be a post for another day.  What I was supposed to be talking about is the Bram Stokers.  And frankly they're a bit confusing.  You might say it's something like our electoral system in that it seems like a contest between two (or more) books, but there are a bunch of ins and outs like primaries and polling and the electoral college and it all gets a bit complicated figuring out who won. 

The Stokers are partly elected by popular vote by the members of the HWA.  But they're also partly appointed by a jury of editors.  Then they come out with a long list that's not actually the selections, it's just notable works of the year.  Then they come out with a short list that's the actual nominations.  Then I think there's a popular vote up and down the line.  Like I said: I'm not real clear on this and it seems to have a lot of ins and outs.

I've submitted so far the two of my works which I felt were worthy of a Stoker to the jury, the short story "The New Dark Ages" last year and HUNTER OF THE DEAD this year.  Last year I didn't even make it onto the long list, and this year well, I'll let you know.  I suppose having a This is Horror Award couldn't hurt, you know, the way having a Golden Globe couldn't hurt your Oscar chances...

Anyway, what do you know about literary awards?  Have you been nominated for any?  Won any?  Got your eye on any?  Think they're all total crap and wish I hadn't brought them up?  Let me know in the comments.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Belated EEK! Put Some Pages Up For Criteek!

A post by Mary Fan
Hey y'all! So I've been in a helluva writing slump (actually, a helluva life slump) for several months
now, so when my turn came to do an EEK last month, I had literally nothing. Since then, the life slump has kept slumping, but at least I managed to beat a few thousand words out of me (the motivation/productivity seems to be returning in abrupt waves).

So here, for your consideration, are a few pages from my new project... that disastrous ball of insanity I have no business writing but can't stop writing anyway. It's a YA magical realism about six modern-day teens from different backgrounds whose lives bump into each other in unexpected ways.... Here's one of them, an aspiring opera singer named Rae (this is actually the start of Chapter 3, her first POV chapter)

So far, the fuck it side was winning.
She reached across the narrow twin bed—less than half the size of what she had at home, but whatever—tucked her purple sheet over the corner. Straightening, she felt her bra strap slip off—again.
The tiny, single room was stifling in the June heat, and the building was so old, there was no AC. Still, she breathed more easily here than she ever had anywhere else. Fireflies danced around her as they always did, though in the daylight, many mistook them for the gross kind of bugs. If only they’d stick around long enough to see how magical they could be.
“You sure about this, sweetie?” Mom looked like she was literally about to clutch the string of pearls above her sweater set. “Home’s only ten minutes away, and—”
“Moooooom!” Rae dragged her voice out. “I’m living on campus, and that’s that! So deal with it, okay?” She’d been dreaming of attending the Silver Star Creek Summer Arts Festival since she was in kindergarten, and living on the Rexford University campus was part of the experience. She wasn’t about to let Mom take that from her.
A whole summer of nothing but music and fellow young artists and independence—it was like a dream come true. And Rae was certain that hers were about to. The festival—which brought together aspiring young performers from across the country for two months of intensive training with world-class mentors—was breeding ground for future fame, and talent scouts knew that. They flocked to the end-of-summer showcase that exhibited the best of the best, and lots of greats had gotten their start here. Rae was the kind of operatic soprano that could make audiences gasp and weep, even though, as a teen, she’d barely begun to develop her talent. Imagine what’ll happen when my voice matures.
Surely, the scouts would notice too, and she’d get invited to all sorts of conservatories and young artist programs around the world. This was the start she’d always hoped for, that she’d been working for since she’d started taking voice lessons at age three. She’d been watching other opera singers triumph on stage for as long as she could remember.
She’d always known that someday, it would be her turn.
“Remember, we’re just a phone call away.” Mom placed a hand on Rae’s shoulder. “You got the list I sent you, right?”
Rae made a face. Mom’s lists were always full of nitpicky crap, like what Rae should and shouldn’t eat or what hours she could be out without an adult chaperone and other Mom-ish stuff.
“Relax, honey.” From the doorway, Dad chuckled. “She’s sixteen, not six.”
“Yeah, and I’ve got an audition this afternoon, so I don’t have time for your fussing.” Rae crossed her arms. “Go home so I can practice.”
“Wait, you have an audition already?” Mom frowned. “I thought the program didn’t begin until Monday.”
“Not for the festival.” Rae rolled her eyes. “Arthur Theater, remember? They’re staging a new opera about World War Two, and they have open auditions for the chorus.” The community theater specialized in undiscovered talent—both on and off stage. Growing up in an artsy town like Rexford, she’d always been surrounded by fresh ideas on the cusp of becoming something great. Now that she was old enough, she could finally take part.
This time, it was Dad who frowned. “Wait, you want to do an opera and the camp? Are you sure you can handle both?”
Rae didn’t dignify that with an answer; she simply lifted her brows and angled her mouth in an expression that said it all.

She’d find a way to make everything work, and nothing would stop her now.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Tackling big issues

Sigh. This election did not turn out the way I had hoped. My husband tried to cheer me up with his calm, rational optimism, but I would have none of it -- sometimes a person just wants to be upset. Anyway, how are you doing? Are you okay?

I wanted to blog today about tackling tough issues in one's writing -- something that seems in line with the current political climate on a multitude of levels. And when I say, tough issues, I don't mean craft shit like plot, characterization, setting, etc; I mean tough issues such as racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, sexism. You know the fun stuff dreams are made of.

I'm currently working through the hardest book I've ever written, a YA mystery set in 1995 featuring a M/M pairing. It's my passion project, but it's also a beast to write. I wrote 75K words and then realized I lost sight of the story (my mystery threads practically cannibalizing the book), and I started over. Now, I'm 50% through and while I think the story is structurally better, I'm still struggling because if I'm going to write a mystery featuring two gay teens in the mid-90s, then there is no way I can, nor should I, glaze over the blatant homophobia prevalent in that decade.

I mean, the 90s was a period where we used "that's gay" as freaking slang (I was guilty of this). Where words like faggot and homo were thrown around without any regard. Where politicians actually called gay people "morally weak." I purposefully set my book in 1995 so I could tackle some of these issues. But, I also have to make sure I don't bash my readers over the head with a point. There's a balance beam one must walk in writing fiction, careful not to tip over into the Preach Pit or on the other side, Way Too Subtle. I'm striving to entertain while making my readers empathetic and thoughtful, and communicate my message and themes.

What are your thoughts on this? Have you tackled or plan to tackle a tough issue? And what were your concerns?

Monday, November 7, 2016

5 Things No One Told Me About Being an Author

Many writers are currently pushing themselves for NaNoWriMo. I’m not. I keep saying maybe one year. Apparently, this wasn’t my year. Again. I think part of it is I’m always in denial when November comes around. I refuse to accept another year is almost over. Anyway, I figure those who are participating don’t have time for a long blog post (which I seem doomed to write). So here’s a quickie for you to enjoy during a break from your literary madness.

5 Things No One Told Me About Being a Writer

1. Reading would take on a whole new dimension.

Just about every established author tells the newbies they need to read if they want to be a strong writer. I considered it to be the best perk of being an author—justification for why I couldn’t take my nose out of a book. What no one said was that I’d start reading those books in an entirely different way. I can no longer just get lost in a story. I have to critique and edit and analyze the entire time. The way I rate a 5-star book these days is if it can make me forget I’m an author and pull me into the story.

2. My verbal communication skills would diminish.

This is especially noticeable for me since I no longer work outside the home, and I don’t get to practice my verbal communication as often. More often than I’d like to admit, I find myself in a conversation wishing I could run to my computer and send an email instead. My fingers have replaced my mouth and it’s a struggle. Maybe if I tried typing on an invisible keyboard while I talked. That wouldn’t be weird at all.

3. I’d become a creepy observer.

I always enjoyed people watching, but now it’s a required job skill. I am observing, taking mental notes of nervous ticks, mannerisms, reactions to situations—really everything you are doing, I’m watching. While creepy, I assure you I’m harmless. Unless you see me whip out my phone and start making a note. Then you may need to worry that I’m plotting your fictional demise.

4. I’d spend a lot of time on Google, researching weird facts.

Was there a full moon on October 10, 2014? What year did INXS become popular? Does a fire extinguisher leave a smell or residue? Do people say soda or pop in Colorado? On and on and on . . .

I had often chuckled at the search suggestions Google would pull up when I started typing in the search box. I’d think, “Who is researching this stuff?” Then I became and author. Click.

5. I’d become Dug.

You all remember Dug from the movie Up, right?

Yeah, creativity is like a magnet for distractions. I’d sit down to type and suddenly I’m rearranging my desk. I’d start researching some weird fact and then fall down a rabbit hole of fascinating useless facts. I’d go to answer emails and get sucked into blog post after blog post. I’d get on Facebook to post to my page and—SQUIRREL!

~ Carrie

Thursday, November 3, 2016

It's Our Blogiversary!

 A Post By Jonathan 

Okay, guys. We really need to start keeping a calendar or something because we missed our Blogiversary again! Actually, I'm going to blame myself for this one because my last post was on October 6th, 2016 and our first post was almost exactly two years earlier, October 9th, 2014!!!

I can't believe we've been doing this thing, every Monday and Thursday rain or shine, for two whole years. Most blogs pack it in after a couple of months... This has got to be some kind of record or something, right? Anyway, keeping Across the Board alive has taken a lot of hard work and dedication. Here's to another great year (or just a little over eleven months now...) of insightful posts and the occasional mail-in! It hasn't always been pretty, but we have definitely kept on rolling.

A huge shout out to Stephen Kozeniewski who keeps us on track with his weekly emails, and to the other founding members: Carrie, Kimberly, and myself. A special thanks to Brenda and Mary who have been part of the team for an entire year now. And we're so happy to have our newest members, Cheryl and Abigail, "on board". We're really enjoying your super awesome posts! And to our past members, Amy, Brianna, Nilah, Alison, Beth, Tara and Leandra. We couldn't have done it without you! Please let me know if I forgot anyone... *crickets*

Lastly, I'd like to thank my mom for birthing me, my wife for standing by me as I freak out about what I'm going to write about each month, and my boss for ignoring the fact that I usually author my blog posts at work (like I'm doing right now)... Anyway, give us some blogiversary love, everyone! We deserve it, don't we? 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

NaNoWriMo -- Your (Marginally Helpful) Week-by-Week Guide

There are a lot of great resources out there if you're planning to join the #NaNoWriMo2016 crowd. There's the official National Novel Writing Month website, itself, Buzzfeed has some helpful gif-inspired tips, and even Bustle has a series of helpful articles, including one on best-selling books that started off as Nano novels.

If you're looking for helpful hints, tips, tricks...this isn't the post for you. If you're looking for a bit of humor and some tongue-in-cheek advice/ on!

NaNoWriMo Day 1:
There is a reason NaNoWriMo starts on November 1. Last night was Halloween. If you or your kids celebrated in any way, chances are there's a lot of candy floating around your house. Obviously, you need extra energy for all of the writing you're going to be doing, so it's important to pick your favorites from the stash and hide them away. If you could pick a few extra Reese's for me, please, that would be fab. (My kid got tons of Haribo and ZERO chocolate last night, which is a travesty, yes?)

NaNoWriMo Day 7:
Every writer has that friend who writes insanely fast and "wins" NaNoWriMo in the first week. If you're like me, you need to unfriend and/or mute this person if you haven't already. Only for the month -- I'm not advocating severing friendships over this. BUT it's super discouraging to be barely eking out your 1,1666 words per day and have a friend declare "done". I don't know the person who wrote this text, but I feel like maybe they could be my best friend.

NaNoWriMo Day 15:
By now, you're deep in the trenches -- wondering if you should have plotted more, cursing your inner editor, missing television. You're halfway there and doing the math on how to squeeze in your remaining words. If you're on schedule, you've got 25K to go. If not, I'd recommend doing the math with a glass in hand. Preferably filled with your favorite adult beverage.

NaNoWriMo Day 23:
You've got one week left. Hooray! Oh, God! Bloody hell! And, hate to break it to you, but if you celebrate Thanksgiving, that's in there, too. Obviously the only thing that will provide the proper encouragement is a Ryan Gosling meme. Failing that, a week is still plenty of time, and NaNo does provide the perfect excuse to bail on those Turkey Day dishes!

NaNoWriMo Day 30:
The End. Well, the official end, anyway. Maybe you made 50K, maybe you didn't. Either way, you focused on your craft and your writing for a month, putting in 30 days of effort at the expense of lots of other things you could be doing. That looks like winning to me. Now, go pat yourself on the back and have a celebratory drink/ice cream/burger. You've earned it!

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