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Release Day!

Louie Burger is finally out in the world! Here he is in his native habitat.

I'll be bopping all over the web to promote Louie's big moment. Here are a few places I've already been.
I Read Banned Books
Green Bean Teen Queen

I'll be back in the coming days with more links!

And if you are so inclined, there are lots of great ways to buy yourself a copy of The Barftastic Life of Louie Burger.

Thanks for your support!!!


The Next Big Thing and OMG! My New Book!!!

Recently the lovely Sarah Aronson tagged me to participate in a great get-the-word-out game called The Next Big Thing. Basically it's a blog campaign that started in Australia (not sure which brilliant Austrailian author thought of it) wherein authors with new books tag other authors with new books and share the love all around. Each author answers the same series of questions and then toots the horns of their fellow friends with pens.

So, here goes:

1) What is the working title of your next book?

My next book is officially titled The Barftastic Life of Louie Burger. It had a lot of different working titles, the first one was Help! There's a Sister in My Closet and another one was Loudmouth Louie. I like the current title best. In the book, Louie Burger is a boy with a big dream. He wants to be a famous stand-up comedian, even though he only ever performs his routine alone. In his closet. He figures that someday he'll grow out of his stagefright, become rich and famous, and sell his autobiography. That autobiography will be called, you guessed it, The Barftastic Life of Louie Burger. Barftastic is Louie's catch phrase.

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?
One day, my middle son came home from school in a funk. As he sat at the kitchen table, eating his after school snack and telling me about all the ridiculous rules at his school, I thought he sounded like a grade school comedian. A light went off. Bingo! What a great voice for a middle grade novel. What's the deal with gym?

3) What genre does your book fall under?
This book is a humorous middle grade novel. Great for ages 8-12 or anyone who love silliness.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
I always find this question super hard to answer. I don't know many young actors, and in any case, they'd likely be too old by the time casting started. I typically imagine young people that I know personally, not actors. I could tell you their names, but you probably don't know them!
I do picture Joan Cusack, whose work I love!, as the mother.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A misfit boy dreams of being a stand up comedian but is in danger of becoming the class joke instead of the class clown.

6) Who is publishing your book?

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
The first draft took about six months. The revisions are another story. 

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
The Charlie Joe Jackson books have a similar vibe. I was aiming for a modern Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing feel.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
The first spark of this book of this book came from my son, but I'd combine that with my huge love of comedy. Especially older comedians. I love to see through they eyes of a character who's just discovering Buster Keaton or The Marx Brothers for the first time.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?
Well, it contains the world's longest word, tips for torturing your siblings, the world's most delicious sandwich and barf. Are there any better inducements than that?

Thanks for sticking around for all the answers!
Check out Sarah's post from last week, and next week look for three authors I think are super-fantastic to play the game. Jody Feldman, Kristin Tubb and Allan Woodrow!


My New Favorite Writing Helper

Some of you may have heard of the Pomodoro Technique. It's a handy time management tool for breaking up seemingly endless hours of work. You work for twenty-five minutes and then take a five minute break. It's named after those tomato-shaped kitchen timers.

I tried it as soon as I first heard about it, and found it did help me stay focused and get work done everyday.

Recently I stumbled across what I'll term a Pomodoro enhancement. It's an App called Vitamin R. I don't know if it's available for PC. Basically, it's a timer in my computer, but there are a few things about it that I think supercharge my writing.

First, it asks for a little summary about what I'm going to do with my "time slice" before I do it. It let's me set my time slice to any length, but I continue to use twenty five minutes because for me it's long enough to get stuff done, but short enough that I always feel like time passed quickly.

Second, at the end of the "time slice" my screen dims and I have to stop working. I cannot type anymore. The program won't recognize my key strokes. (I can of course override if I need to, but I find that I'm unlikely to forget over my break and then I have something immediately to start right back up with when break's over.

Third, just like taking a break is enforced, ending the break is enforced as well. The screen dims when it's done and you have to go back to work.

This takes all the mental effort of starting and stopping my work time and break time and passes it off to someone else. Kind of like working with a trainer, which I love.  (You'll have to scroll down to the third post. I couldn't figure out how to link to it separately.)
I've found I am able to write for much longer stretches like this.

Thanks, Vitamin R.


Mental Breaks and The Creative Well

Although I gobble up posts about how to write 10,000 words per day, in practice, I find that I'm just not capable of writing that much. Maybe that sentence needs a yet. Or maybe I'll never be able to do it. What I know now is that my brain is only capable or writing so much in one day and then it just does not want to compose any more. Very. Tired. Thoughts.

Right now, for me, that's typically between 800 and 2000 words per day, and I'm not going to push myself to write more. Some times when I push myself, I burn out and then wind up taking a writing break, even if I didn't mean to.

At my critique group holiday dinner grab bag this year, I received a lovely present that will be a great reminder to me of this. It's a meditation box, filled with all kinds of lovely inspiring and soothing items. I've placed them all over my office and used the finger labyrinth several times while thinking yesterday.

I don't know if it will help my productivity but it is a great reminder to take those mental breaks, which ultimately make my writing better, I think. Plus, it inspired me to have fun with photography. And I believe engaging in other forms of creativity is always replenishing for the creative well. And fun, too.


how to love writing

It's been over a year since the last time I posted. To that I can only say...hahahahahaha. If you had asked me yesterday, I'm sure I would have told you that my last post was about four months ago. And I think I've written something like that on my blog before so not only do I post infrequently, I also repeat myself. Ah, well.

During the past year, I went through a period of what you might call writer's block. Although, when I think about writer's block, I think of not being able to think of anything to write. And this was not, precisely, what was going on with me. It was more that I couldn't get myself to sit down and write at all, so who knows if I would have had anything to say. I had writer's resistance.

But for the past four plus months, I've made great strides in overcoming my resistance, writing nearly every monday-friday consistently (though for varying amounts of time.) The thing that really made the difference was creating a ritual.

First, I have a consistent place in which to write. Some people may argue you should train yourself to write anywhere, and that may be true, but day in day out, I like going to the same place. It's a place where I don't do much else but write, so my whole being associates being there with writing. This can be as simple as the head of your dining room table or in a cozy chair with a lap desk you only use for writing.

Second,  I do a series of actions that I only do before I write. If this seems new-agey, or hokey, or woo woo to you then don't do it. Or find actions that feel natural. It's not the specific actions that help, in my opinion. It's the fact of having them at all.
1. I open my word document or notebook.
2. I rub a scented oil on my hands and enjoy the aroma.
3. I meditate for five minutes, often using a mantra like I write with joy, or I accept whatever words come today.
4. I set a timer for however long I have to write that day.
5. I put on my wrist supports and I write until my timer dings.

I don't know why this helps. I do know that even if I can only set the timer for ten minutes, I still feel great and happy about my writing that day. Which brings me back to the title of this post. How to love writing. For me, the thing that kills the love of writing is the endless struggle with resistance. Once I'm in the midst of it, it's always pretty fun. But it's so hard to get in the midst sometimes.

The trick of the ritual is that, the early tasks are so easy, so unlikely to be met with resistance, that I'm happy to start them. But because they are all linked, by the time I get to step five, I've already bypassed the place where my resistance usually sets in.

If this resonates with you at all, then I recommend you check out The Creative Habit, by Twyla Tharp.


A Mini-Lesson in the Woods

Last week I traveled to Honesdale, PA to participate in a Highlights Founder's Workshop led by the brilliant Carolyn Coman and Stephen Roxburgh. A week in a cabin in the woods with nothing to think about other than my novel-in-progress. I'd been struggling with this book. Everytime I got two-thirds of the way through, I'd go back and start over because no matter which way the story was headed, I couldn't "see" the ending.

I'd always known the endings of my other books, but somehow the fact that I didn't for this book never stuck out for me as a red flag. What I can see so clearly now (in addition to the ending of the book) is that when I'm writing something and I don't know how it ends, what I have is an idea, not a story.

I can keep writing away at my idea forever, but until I know where it's going, I will never create something coherent and satisfying. This is not to say the writing process will then be easy. It may or may not be.

This may seem like a very simple insight, but if you struggle with finishing a novel, it may be an important one.

Okay...back to novelland!


No quitting 'til I'm done

I swear I posted last week. But no, it seems 22 days have gone by. Three weeks. I have every intention of posting more regularly, but then how's that to work when I can't seem to keep track of what day it is.

Today is daughter's last day of camp. She's old enough that I don't think it'll affect my writing schedule to much. She sleeps until noon anyway. Much can be done before noon.

Youngest son's camp ends one week from today. That will make writing trickier as he can not be unsupervised. (And there are many fun excursions to be taken!)

Older son has two more weeks. I will be happy when his camp is over. He's been away for 6 weeks now! I miss his funny sense of humor and interesting way of seeing the world.

But the clock is ticking. I so want to finish this first draft and it's just taking forever. I often think maybe I should just throw in the towel, but I'm stubborn. No quitting until I've finished!

(Sounds like a paradox, but really it's not.)

edited to add: it really has been only one week, only I have the dates set to post backward, so I misread. *blushes*