A Writer’s Birthday Wish List

Today is my birthday and I thought it’d be fun to make a writer’s wish list. We all have different quirks and desires when it comes to our writing, so we all tend to want different things. Some of us want a fancy writing program, some a new “How To” book, and others registration for a big writing conference.

Here’s are some things I’d like…

TIME! 

Above all else, I wish I had more time (don’t we all?). I started a new job just over a month ago, and it’s been a huge transition for me. Between learning a whole new skill set, meeting new people, and getting accustomed to a brand new routine, it’s been difficult to find time (and motivation) to write. So, I’m wishing for things to settle down so I can get back on track with my novel.

Peanut M&Ms

11127771_366454080213813_5284361540707845078_nMy number one favorite writing snack is Peanut M&M’s. Don’t ask me why, but they help me focus. Perhaps there’s something about the sugar that keeps me pumped up and moving along? I don’t know. But, I’m wishing (and always wishing) for a bag–or two–of those delicious candies to store in my cupboard for long writing days.

A New Laptop

I desperately need a new laptop. For the past two years, I’ve been borrowing my sister’s and I think she’s about had it with me (sorry, sis). I’ve actually been saving up to buy a new Mac, so hopefully I’ll be able to invest in one soon. Well, unless one miraculously shows up on my front doorstep today with a big pink bow (ha-ha).

A new mug

11182163_10102180090972203_6916619407502259585_nI love mugs. Whenever a friend goes out of town, I ask them to bring me back a mug from wherever they visited. The results range from amazing to laughable. But, I love them all! And I’m always wishing for more.

Starbucks Gift Cards

This is kind of a silly one, but I don’t tend to buy Starbucks unless I have a gift card. It’s just too expensive! But, I love Starbucks, so getting those is always exciting.

A Readable Draft of My Novel

13631659_500120940180459_3874970909998615130_nIf I had a magic wand, I’d point it at my messy manuscript and–poof! It’d be all written and ready to be sent to my beta readers. I’ve been working on this novel for over a year and I’m starting to grow sick of it. Novels definitely take patience and perseverance!

An Agent 

I’m not even close to the querying stage with my novel, but I’ll take an agent anyway. Please, please, please? Pretty please, with a cherry on top?

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Sundaes

13716059_10102906619438333_4603779641737206020_nDon’t laugh…Okay, laugh. But, every Saturday night, after I’ve spent an entire day laboring over my manuscript, all I want is a giant chocolate chip cookie dough sundae, complete with fresh chocolate chip cookies. But do I ever have these ingredients in my house? Nope! I always forget until the moment I close my laptop and emerge from my la-la fog. And then I always wish someone will magically arrive on my front doorstep with my sundae. I wish just once–just once–that would happen, hee hee.

More Time 

Seriously, I need more time!

Noise Canceling Headphones

13450319_493524594173427_2925694245634024988_nLike so many of you, I have loud neighbors. Really loud! The kids are always outside screaming and laughing, and the father is always doing some sort of home improvement project. Ack! On a normal day, I don’t really mind the noise. I come from a loud family, so I’m pretty used to the chaos. However, when I’m writing, it drives me nuts. I can’t really get into the zone unless I have absolute silence, and the only headphones I own don’t block out all the noise. So, I think it’s time to get some noise cancelling headphones.

So, that’s my list this year. Pretty random, but it’s what I’m wishing for most as a writer for my birthday.

How about you? What do you wish for on your birthday?

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My Neil Gaiman Book Signing Adventure

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a Neil Gaiman book signing.

And. It. Was. Epic!

16464868382_44a3911f73_kIt all began when a friend posted about the event on Facebook. At first, I hesitated because:

  1. The signing landed on a work day.
  2. It was at Old Firehouse Books in Fort Collins (about an hour and a half north of where I live).
  3. I didn’t want to go alone…Yep, I can be a scaredy cat who needs someone to hold her hand when she’s completely out of her element.

My resistance, however, crumbled when my friend solved two of my three dilemmas. He offered both company and a ride. I happily scheduled the day off of work and spent the next two weeks preparing myself to meet one of the most influential, inspiring, and creative authors around.

Yes. An adventure…

Dear God! I had no idea the book signing would be such an adventure. I completely underestimated Neil Gaiman’s popularity.

The epic day began when my friend and I departed Denver at 1 p.m. With the signing starting at 4 p.m., we figured this would give us plenty of time to deal with traffic, drive to Fort Collins, find the bookstore, and get a decent place in line.

Yeah, wishful thinking!

As we pulled up to the bookstore, I asked, “Is that the line?”

“Yeah, I think so.” My friend looked equally shocked by the crowd stretching from the bookstore’s entrance, down the sidewalk, and around the building. We parked the car, hurried across the street, and searched for the end of the line.

And searched…And searched…And searched…

Seriously! There were so many people. I couldn’t believe it.

We finally found the end of the line and hopped in. While we waited for the signing to begin, we marveled at Gaiman’s popularity, the ever growing line, and the eclectic crowd. It seemed everyone and their brother loved Neil Gaiman.

As my friend and I discussed some of Gaiman’s work, a woman behind us jumped into our conversation. Then the guy behind her jumped in as well. And, before we knew it, we were in a small chattering group.

Side note: It always amazes me how quickly book nerds bond. You can be total strangers one minute and best friends the next.

After about an hour, the line started moving.

An enthusiastic cheer went up!

…And then quickly died when we only moved a few feet.

Yeah, in that moment, I knew it was going to be a loooooong afternoon. But, hey, at least it was warm! We’d lucked out with the weather that day–an unseasonably warm 75 degrees!

In fact, it was so warm, I’d decided to leave my jacket at home. Why would I need one when I’d be back in the car by the time the sun set?

Yet another idiotic assumption on my part.

For the first three or so hours in line, I was relatively comfortable. My feet hurt a little, I was a tad hungry, and a bathroom break would’ve been nice. But nothing major. I could easily deal with it all.

Then the sun slowly set…

As the temperatures slipped and the first shiver hit me, my friend kindly offered to go get his jacket for me in his car. And what did I say? “Nah, I’m good. But, thanks.”

Gah! I’m so stupid and stubborn and stupid!

Note to self: It’s okay to accept help from others. You don’t have to suffer because you’re too proud to show weakness.

Thankfully, a bookstore employee came by with hand warmers and I was able to use them to heat up my hands, arms, and feet (don’t ask about the feet; my plan failed). I also tried to–subtly–steal body heat from those around me by scooting closer and closer.

Actually, the chilly weather became a bit of a joke amongst our group. As the hours wore on, we realized the line wasn’t moving. It was just condensing from all the people huddling together.

Anyway, being cold was by far the toughest part of the experience for me. Sure, I was hungry. And, yeah, I had to use the bathroom. And, duh, my feet, back, and head hurt. But it was the cold that nearly did me in.

Thank God for the amazing people keeping me company in line. If it hadn’t been for their entertaining conversation, relatable sense of humor, and (semi) fanatical enthusiasm, I would’ve given up on the five hour journey to the bookstore’s entrance.

10351912_334456836746871_7954107548591425517_nYes, you read that correctly. Five hours! And it took another hour of windy-weaving through the bookstore to reach Neil Gaiman.

As we drew closer and closer to the famous author, my nerves got worse and worse. I had no idea what I wanted to say when I handed him my book: “You’re an inspiration.” Or, “Thank you for all your advice to aspiring authors.” Or, “I love your work!” Or…?

Everything I thought of sounded dumb and cliche. And the closer we got to Gaiman, the more I panicked.

Finally, I decided to mimic those in front of me with a short and sweet, “Thank you.” Yeah, not exactly the most eloquent or memorable thing to say, but at least I wouldn’t embarrass myself with an epic fangirl moment: I’m, like, your biggest fan, like, EVER! That would’ve been mortifying. And, also, untrue. Yes, I’m a Gaiman fan, but no, I’m not the biggest one. I’m pretty sure that lofty title goes to a guy in our group. After he got his book signed, he looked ready to pass out.

As for me, well. I honestly can’t even tell you what happened when it was my turn to meet Neil Gaiman. I vaguely remember leaning in for a picture, and I think I stuttered through a pathetic “Thank you”, but other than that, I have no idea. I likely looked like an overwhelmed, OMG!, dazed moron.

Once I had my book signed, I staggered over to the exit to wait for my friend and the rest of our group. I’m not sure if it was exhilaration, exhaustion, or a combo of the two, but I had the worst urge to giggle. I couldn’t believe I’d just met Neil Gaiman!

I opened my book and admired his signature.

10390100_334456853413536_4687527123228986405_nOnce everyone had their books signed, we left the bookstore. By then, it was almost 10 pm. Sheesh!

After a failed trip to Starbucks (grrr, so annoyed they’d already closed for the night!), and a farewell to our buddies from the line, my friend and I returned to his car and made the trip home.

Later, as I collapsed in bed, I laughed and thought, “Did that really just happen?” Of all the ways for that day to go, I hadn’t expected it to go that way. But, you know what? I wouldn’t change a thing…Well, maybe I would’ve accepted my friend’s jacket, lol. But, besides that and the discomfort of standing in line for over six hours, I enjoyed every second of the Neil Gaiman book signing.

February 6th, 2015 will definitely go down as one of the funnest, craziest, and most adventurous days of my life. Thank you to those who stood in line with me and kept me distracted and motivated. And thank you to Neil Gaiman for being such a creative, inspiring, and patient author. I don’t know how you signed that many books without your hand falling off! Truly amazing.

If you’d like to read more about Neil Gaiman and his work, click here!

Neil Gaiman from Stardust QUOTES You have to believe-1

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Yes, Agents Google Writers

Welcome to Twitter Treasure Thursday! Earlier this week, I met up with a fellow writer to discuss the importance of building their author platform (blogging, Twitter, Facebook, etc.). As we chatted, I explained to him how nowadays most literary agents expect writers to have these social media sites up and running before they’re published.

twitter-icon-with-books-230x299Ironically, the day I went to meet my friend to discuss this topic, I came upon an article by literary agent, Carly Watters. In it, she explains why building an author platform is so important. She also offers excellent tips for how to approach and handle various social media websites.

Yes, Agents Google Writers

Agents have changed their mind about an author after searching them online. Yikes! How do you avoid that? Making sure you don’t have websites or blogs that are ghost towns. Post regularly. And regularly can mean whatever works for you (once per week or once a day, but no less than a couple times a month!).

To read the entire article, click here!

For more useful advice, follow Carly Watters on Twitter!

 Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 10.14.59 AM

Photo credit: 

http://ingoodcompany.com/classes/using-social-media-to-build-your-author-platform/

Friday Funny with Goals, NaNoEdMo, and Spiders

When I got out of bed this morning, I felt like doing this:

Yay for Friday! I say we all take a moment to celebrate and dance it up…Come on, dance! Shake that booty, wriggle those hips, and stomp those feet!

…Are you doing it?

Are you?

Well, hopefully you’re at least tapping your feet or bobbing your head.

Okay, okay. Enough dancing…for now. 😉

Overall, my week was calm and productive. On Monday, I received an email that lit a fire under my dragging feet and prompted me to promise someone I’d have a final draft of my manuscript done by January 1st.

Yeah, trying not to panic too much.

It’s going to take a lot of work, a lot of focus, and A LOT of hermit days to meet my self-imposed deadline for a final draft by January 1st. I’ve already started telling people in my life, “I’m sorry, but I need to be selfish the next couple of months to finish my book, so if you don’t hear from me or I have to bail on you, that’s why. Again, sorry.”

I feel horrible, but chopping out all distractions is going to be a necessity if I’m going to do this.

Hey, a writer’s gotta do what a writer’s gotta do, right?

Strangely, right after I made the decision to finish my manuscript by January 1st, one of my best friends text me and said she wants to do NaNoEdMo in November to edit the story she wrote during Camp NaNoWriMo in July. After I finished chuckling, I told her I’d join her. I’m still chewing over what my exact goal for the month will be. I can’t really base edits off a word count, so I’m thinking a certain number of chapters.

Whatever I decide, I need to buckle down and get to work!

I did take a break last night to decorate my house for Halloween–finally. I’ve been putting it off because 1) I’ve been so busy, and 2) I really, really, really did not want to go into my crawl space to get my bins of decorations. You guys, it’s ca-reepy down there! Dark, dirty, spidery.

*shudder*

I despise spiders. Give me snakes or mice any day of the week. Just not spiders. Anything but those vindictive eight-legged monsters!

But, alas, I had to face my fears. So last night I put on my big girl pants, sucked it up, and journeyed into the dreaded crawl space. I saw one spider dangling from a web, but it was dead, so I didn’t panic too much. But then I backed up and got jabbed in the butt by my Christmas tree and freaked out, lol. I swore Shelob had crawled out of the darkness to gobble me up. I know, I know. I’m ridiculous. No need to tell me. I’m fully aware of it, haha.

Anyway, in honor of my focused week and my goal of finishing my manuscript by January 1st, here is today’s Friday funny. Enjoy!

1798100_875822442428382_3463484613586654032_nHow was your week? Have you set any goals for your own work? How many of you are participating in NaNoWriMo?

Jen’s Weekly Roundup

In case you missed my posts from earlier this week, here you go!

Music Monday – Mornay’s Dream – Braveheart

You Know You’re A Writer When…Favorite Mug

How to Write a Novel Synopsis: 5 Tips

Photo credits: 

http://www.nolanfans.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=17&p=547915

http://getoffmyinternets.net/thats-quirky-is-a-steaming-pile-of-no/comment-page-3/

http://orbitags.com/the-53-thoughts-every-college-grad-has-immediately-after-moving-home/

http://forums.superherohype.com/showthread.php?t=481237

http://www.tumblr.com/search/disney%20grumpy

http://www.nolanfans.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=17&p=547915

You Know You’re A Writer When…Favorite Mug

YKYAWW Favorite Mug

You Know You’re A Writer When…Frustration

YNYAWW - Frustration

Disaster Strikes – Round 2 – NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2014

Well, it finally happened, everyone. The worst case scenario struck this weekend. I received political satire as my genre for the 2nd round of the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2014.

As usual, I went to bed on Friday night without looking at my assignment–the last thing I needed was to be kept up half the night with swirling ideas. Around 4:30 a.m., my nerves woke me up. Unable to stand it, I turned on my tablet to find out what my new prompts were:

Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 8.38.53 AM

Blank.

My mind went blank.

Then it quickly screamed:
Ugh, I had so been hoping for comedy or sci-fi. Or, heck, even romance. ANYTHING but political satire, because 1) I don’t know jack about politics, and 2) I’ve never tried writing satire.

I ended up throwing myself back into bed, curling up in the fetal position, and battling between despair and anger for a solid hour. It. Was. A. Disaster! In fact, for a serious moment, I even considered throwing in the towel and giving up…

But, darn it, I’m competitive. And I wasn’t willing to just roll over and die. So I got over myself, and I went to work.

Thankfully, I happened to overhear a rant about a current event the day before, so I had a topic to use as my story’s inspiration. I pulled up Google and began educating myself on it. I spent most of Saturday morning reading articles and watching a Congress hearing on C-SPAN.

I know, it sounds borrrring, but surprisingly, everything I read and heard was fascinating. Better yet, it was mockable. There was one particular quote that inspired my story’s entire theme. Hint:

After a wicked case of Distractionitis (Facebook, Twitter, chores, etc.), I battened down the hatches and whipped out a first draft.

Now, normally I will revise a first draft at least a couple of times before I send it to my mom, AKA, Mrs. Harsh Beta Reader. This time, however, I broke tradition and asked her if she’d come over to my house to read it/help me revise it. I didn’t want to waste time revising a story I had zero confidence in.

To my complete shock, she loved the first draft. In fact, she was crying she was laughing so hard at some of my jokes. I cried with her, but I think that was more out of relief than humor 😉 We edited the story to a semi-solid draft and I sent it off to a couple of other beta readers, one of whom had way more experience in political satire than me.

Their critiques came back positive, but the one who had political satire know-how said my story was too funny. Satire is supposed to suggest, not slap the reader in the face with comedy.

So, I revised it and tried to tone things down.

Tried.

Honestly, I would’ve needed to start completely over to make my story more “satire” funny than “HAHA!” funny, and I wasn’t going to do that. It was late and I was exhausted. Plus, I liked my story–for what it was–and I figured the chances of getting any points for it in the competition were slim-to-none. So why not write a story I liked–even if it didn’t meet the traditional standards of satire?

On Sunday morning, I sent my beta readers a polished version. One of them still thought the humor needed to be toned down and a specific aspect needed to be deleted, while the other thought the story wasn’t as funny anymore and thought that specific aspect needed to be emphasized.

So, I decided to leave the story as is. HA! I ran through it once more and submitted it. Done and done!

Now, is this the best story I’ve ever written? NOOOOO! Will it get me points? NOOOOO! Am I proud I sucked it up and wrote a political satire? YES!

One of the main reasons I do this competition is to push my boundaries and experiment with various genres. And although political satire wasn’t one of the genres I wanted to experiment with, I’m glad I did. It challenged me in ways I’ve never been challenged before. Plus, I learned a lot about a current event I wouldn’t have known much about otherwise.

Hopefully people will read my story and enjoy it, even if it doesn’t fit the traditional political satire standards. I plan to post it here in a few days. For now, here is the title and synopsis:

“OPERATION DISNEY”

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: It’s the 21st century and time for a new, inviting strategy for the Secret Service. But Director Peterson’s plan might be too Disney for special agent Prouty.

***

Okay, normally, I don’t offer explanations for my stories. But since this is a political satire and not all of us are on the up-and-up of various current events, I wanted to give you one to–hopefully–improve your reading experience.

Operation Disney is based off of Julia Pierson, the recently resigned Director of the Secret Service.

APTOPIX-Secret-ServiceSince she was hired back in 2013, there have been multiple security breaches. Some of these include: An armed man hopping the White House fence, running across the lawn, and entering the property through an unlocked door. A construction worker/felon being allowed to share the same elevator as the President (and snap photos of him with his phone). And, finally, a series of gunshots echoing outside the White House that were blamed for a car backfiring (five days later, a maid found a window in the President’s private residence damaged from bullets).

On top of all of that, Pierson made this comment (and it’s this comment I based the tone of my story off of):

Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 11.49.17 AMHopefully that explanation helps some of you enjoy Operation Disney more! Thanks in advanced for reading and providing feedback. I appreciate it.

Photo credits:

http://www.omgfacts.com/lists/7722/A-man-survived-the-Hindenburg-disaster-by-bailing-out-the-window

http://www.studentbeans.com/mag/en/campus/the-25-stages-of-writing-an-essay

http://gifsb.in/will-ferrell/

http://torimac.tumblr.com/

http://dailycaller.com/2014/10/02/julia-pierson-on-secret-service-we-need-to-be-more-like-disney-world/

http://www.i-am-bored.com/forums.asp?page_num=1&action=read&q_id=71067&ct=10

http://hotair.com/archives/2014/10/02/fired-secret-service-directors-strategy-for-the-agency-we-need-to-be-more-like-disney-world/

http://www.post-gazette.com/news/nation/2014/10/01/APress-Secret-Service-chief-Julia-Pierson-resigns-after-security-lapses/stories/201410010204