Christmas Gift Ideas for Readers and Writers

I think I did this once before, though I don’t recall. I thought I would compile a Christmas Wishlist for readers and writers. The READER part of the list will be based on books I have myself read this past year. Please keep in mind that I read mostly in the area in which I write, young adult fiction. You’ll recognize one of my other passions through the other books I choose to highlight, if you don’t already know it through my previous posts. (-;

CHRISTMAS GIFT LIST FOR READERS AND WRITERS

READERS

1. FULL DISCLOSURE by CAMRYN GARRETT: I absolutely loved this story! It’s funny, heartwarming, and a pure delight. It’s filled with theatre kids and the relationship between Simone and Miles is adorable. The sensitive subject matter is expertly handled. I’d recommend it for those who love YA and those who seldom read it. It was an exceptional story. I cannot wait to see what Miss Garrett comes up with next.

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(From GOODREADS) Simone Garcia-Hampton is starting over at a new school, and this time things will be different. She’s making real friends, making a name for herself as student director of Rent, and making a play for Miles, the guy who makes her melt every time he walks into a room. The last thing she wants is for word to get out that she’s HIV-positive, because last time . . . well, last time things got ugly.

Keeping her viral load under control is easy, but keeping her diagnosis under wraps is not so simple. As Simone and Miles start going out for real–shy kisses escalating into much more–she feels an uneasiness that goes beyond butterflies. She knows she has to tell him that she’s positive, especially if sex is a possibility, but she’s terrified of how he’ll react! And then she finds an anonymous note in her locker: I know you have HIV. You have until Thanksgiving to stop hanging out with Miles. Or everyone else will know too.

Simone’s first instinct is to protect her secret at all costs, but as she gains a deeper understanding of the prejudice and fear in her community, she begins to wonder if the only way to rise above is to face the haters head-on…

FULL DISCLOSURE ON AMAZON

2. HOW TO BE REMY CAMERON by JULIAN WINTERS: This book was long awaited, as I devoured RUNNING WITH LIONS the previous year. Remy is a teenager struggling with identity; adopted, black, gay, brother, son. When asked to write an essay to explain who he is, he sort of comes to an existential crisis. Throw in the fact that he’s discovering a new romance while simultaneously being contacted by a previously unknown half-sibling, and you have the makings for a perfect storm of awesome YA-ness. I couldn’t read this book fast enough. Your YA reader will fall in love with Remy and his world. Julian is really the reason I sought out publication through Duet Books/Interlude Press. He’s just a lovely person…and I have fallen in love with the fictional worlds he creates.

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(From GOODREADS) Everyone on campus knows Remy Cameron. He’s the out-and-gay, super-likable guy that people admire for his confidence. The only person who may not know Remy that well is Remy himself. So when he is assigned to write an essay describing himself, he goes on a journey to reconcile the labels that people have attached to him, and get to know the real Remy Cameron.

HOW TO BE REMY CAMERON ON AMAZON

3. WALKING TO THE END OF THE WORLD (A THOUSAND MILES ON THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO) by BETH JUSINO: I can’t say enough about this book. I absolutely loved it. It came out in October 2018 and I have already read it three times. If you have a traveler on your gift list, whether or not they have ever heard of the world-famous Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route, they will love this accounting of its wonders. Trust me when I say that this book under any traveling-reader’s tree will make their January. I keep it on my bedside table.

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(From AMAZON) In April 2015, Beth and Eric Jusino, laden with backpacks and nerves, walked out of a cathedral in the historic village of Le Puy, France, down a cobblestone street, and turned west. Seventy-nine days, a thousand miles, two countries, two mountain ranges, and three pairs of shoes later, they reached the Atlantic Ocean.

More than two million pilgrims have walked the Way of Saint James, a long-distance hiking trail familiar to most Americans by its Spanish name, the Camino de Santiago. Each pilgrim has their own reason for undertaking the journey. For the Jusinos, it was about taking a break from the relentless pace of modern life and getting away from all their electronic devices. And how hard could it be, Beth reasoned, to walk twelve to fifteen miles a day, especially with the promise of real beds and local wine every night? Simple.

It turned out to be harder than she thought. Beth is not an athlete, not into extreme adventures, and, she insists, not a risk-taker. She didn’t speak a word of French when she set out, and her Spanish was atrocious. But she can tell a story. In Walking to the End of the World, she shares, with wry humor and infectious enthusiasm, the joys and travails of undertaking such a journey. She evocatively describes the terrain and the route’s history, her fellow pilgrims, and the villages passed, and the unexpected challenges and charms of the experience.

Beth’s story is also about the assurance that an outdoor-based, boundary-stretching adventure is accessible to even the most unlikely of us. In her story, readers will feel that they, too, can get off their comfortable couches and do something unexpected and even spectacular.

Walking to the End of the World is a warm-hearted and engaging story about an average couple going on an adventure together, tracing ancient paths first created in the tenth and eleventh centuries, paths that continue to inspire and reveal surprises to us today in the twenty-first.

WALKING TO THE END OF THE WORLD ON AMAZON

4. A HUG FOR THE APOSTLE (ON FOOT FROM CHARTRES TO SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA) by LAURIE DENNETT: This is another delightful read set on the same beloved pilgrim path. This one is a sweeping narrative beautifully told, filled with history. If you have a travel-reader on your list who is also a history buff, they will fall endlessly into this story. Laurie Dennett walked the Camino back in 1986 when it was just a whisper. She did so for a cause, as well…MS research fundraising. She tells a riveting story about her walk, interspersed with historic references that leaves the reader simultaneously fulfilled and wanting more. It opens up a desire to dive deep into French history before the journey is even underway. It’s definitely one of those springboard books that will have the reader devouring entire sections of the library upon finishing. I find it a little disappointing that Dennett’s journey isn’t right up there in the Canadian consciousness alongside Terry Fox’s. She raised a massive amount of money for MS and she called in regularly to Wally Crouter’s CFRB radio program with dispatches from the pilgrimage along the way. This is the kind of story that legends are made of. Canadians should know about it. As someone who routinely devours information about the Camino de Santiago, I did not know of Laurie Dennett’s journey until it was brought to my attention recently through the Canadian Company of Pilgrims.

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(From the Publisher) HAVE YOU WALKED THE WAY OF ST JAMES? Have relatives or friends done so? Do you hope to travel it one day? Would you like to experience it, at least vicariously? This is your ticket. In spring 1986, Laurie Dennett walked the longest route of the Way of St James, or Camino de Santiago. She headed south from Chartres Cathedral, through the Loire Valley, historic Tours, Poitiers, Saintes, Bordeaux, and the Landes to the Pyrenees, crossing via Roncesvalles to Spanish Navarra. Then came La Rioja, the meseta of Castilla y León, Celtic Galicia, and finally Santiago de Compostela.
Her lively, 1987 account became noted for its direct style, cultural and historical insights, and depiction of the hospitality, kindnesses, and simple pleasures of life on the Camino. Laurie has remained active with the Way of St James, while pilgrim numbers grew exponentially and new modes of communication transformed travel.

An updated, lightly revised, lavishly illustrated version seems very à propos today. Inspired by the book, publisher John Parry and designer Anne Vellone have savoured, through Laurie’s account, the Camino’s joys, adventures, happenstances, and abundant treasures. Even if you never walk the route (and you’ll be tempted!), these evocative words and images will take you there.

A HUG FOR THE APOSTLE AT WORDSINDEED

5. I WISH YOU ALL THE BEST by MASON DEAVER: Another Young Adult title I want to shout about from the rooftops. It’s just soooo CUTE. Is it okay to sum up a book by saying it’s cute? It’s definitely also complicated, with its main character, Ben, thrown out of their house at the onset of the story for coming out as nonbinary. This OwnVoices story takes on a serious issue, the struggles of bigotry faced by LGBTQIA2 teens, and it does it with grace and love. There’s also an adorable romance This is a must read for teens on your list, but also for those who love a good YA read, no matter their age. Mason Deaver was put on my Immediate purchase list. I’m excited to see what they come up with next!

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(From GOODREADS) When Ben De Backer comes out to their parents as nonbinary, they’re thrown out of their house and forced to move in with their estranged older sister, Hannah, and her husband, Thomas, whom Ben has never even met. Struggling with an anxiety disorder compounded by their parents’ rejection, they come out only to Hannah, Thomas, and their therapist and try to keep a low profile in a new school.

But Ben’s attempts to survive the last half of senior year unnoticed are thwarted when Nathan Allan, a funny and charismatic student, decides to take Ben under his wing. As Ben and Nathan’s friendship grows, their feelings for each other begin to change, and what started as a disastrous turn of events looks like it might just be a chance to start a happier new life.

At turns heartbreaking and joyous, I Wish You All the Best is both a celebration of life, friendship, and love, and a shining example of hope in the face of adversity.

I WISH YOU ALL THE BEST ON AMAZON

WRITERS

Writers love to experience. You can always go with pens, paper, notebooks, books on writing, etc…the tools of their trade. OR, you can think outside the box and create your own certificates and coupons for RETREATS, WORKSHOPS, MEMBERSHIP, etc, etc, etc. Give your writer EXPERIENCE. Search for local workshops you can sign them up for, or simply create a gift certificate of intent for a workshop of their choosing. Below is one way to GIVE BIG, as well as a couple of more local thoughtful ideas for the writer(s) on your list:

6. LEFT BANK WRITERS RETREAT – A GIFT FOR THE WRITER ON YOUR LIST: I will never stop extolling the virtues of this yearly retreat for writers in Paris. What better way to honor the writer in your life, by giving them this uniquely immersive experience in the city of lights and love?! I took this retreat in 2014 and it stays with me still. It’s a romp through Hemingway’s Paris while simultaneously taking time to write in places like the Tuileries and Jardin du Luxembourg. This gift is for the soul and it will keep on giving years after it’s wrapped and under the tree. Click the pic below to go to the LBW website:

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7. MEMBERSHIP IN A LOCAL WRITING ORGANIZATION: I can’t say enough about how enriching my own local writing organization is for me. Membership in such organizations is not often expensive, and to give such a gift is to embrace and support the writer in your life in ways that will see them growing both in their craft and in appreciation of that support. We like to know that the non-writers in our lives are encouraging of our passion. What better way to show it than to give the gift of fellowship with other writers. There are such organizations everywhere. In the Toronto area, might I suggest the WRITING COMMUNITY OF DURHAM REGION? WCDR (Membership begins at $25 for students and caps at $75)

8. SANCTUARY! WITH SUE AND JAMES AND INKSLINGERS: Two bright lights in the local writing scene are Sue Reynolds and James Dewar. Whether your writer loves poetry or fiction, memoir or sonnets, steering them towards the light of the Inkslingers’ Sanctuary Days will give them an endless and endearing supply of creativity. Explore the website, find something that fits the writer on your list…or create a gift certificate with the promise of Sanctuary in the new year. THE GOOD NEWS IS THEY DO HAVE THEIR OWN GIFT CERTIFICATES AVAILABLE. If you’re local to Toronto and the surrounding area, this dynamic duo is located close-by to Port Perry and they’re expertise and enthusiasm–their sheer love of craft and community–will ignite the writer on your list. Give them a look. Click on the banner below to visit their website:

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I hope these suggestions have helped with your Christmas list. Enjoy shopping!

A Sure-Fire List to Help Motivate Your Inner Writer Into Actually Writing! Follow This List Carefully and You Will Be Writing Again!

Have I done a list lately? I should keep a list of the lists I list. Or is that list the lists I keep?

In a writing slump? Finding it hard to finish that Great Canadian (American, Armenian or otherwise) Novel? Trying to dedicate more time to writing this year because you’re one of those people who makes New Year Resolutions? Follow this list to a tee and you should find yourself back on the writing wagon. If you’re already on the writing wagon and you follow this list, you will find yourself even more connected to your writing. My point? Follow this list and you will write more.

The questionnaire
Do not skip items on this list. Follow it closely, or there is no hope for you. If you falter, you might go gently into the night and get lost forever in the vast vacuous land of NOT WRITING. Proceed with caution and a willingness to adapt yourself to the points made on the upcoming list you are about to read…

How to Write When You’re Not Feeling Writerly (OR When You’re Feeling Stabby and Murderous Towards Words, How Do You Embrace Them and Make Them Work in Your Favour…Even Though You Hate Them)


  1. Turn OFF the social media and Click the wifi to OFF. I know it’s impossible to imagine, but these things are distractions…killers of the imagination, even while they are stimulating it. If you follow this first item in this list, you will significantly increase your outflow of words. The increase could quite possibly be tenfold.
  2. See the first item in this list. Quite frankly, if you got this far in the list you aren’t following the steps properly.
  3. ARE YOU STILL HERE. Stop reading this. Turn off the internet and write.
  4. Don’t make me yell at you. SIT. WRITE. Open only one window…whatever program it is you use to write with.
  5. I’m gonna keep this list short and to the point. Only 5 items. Item 5 is CLOSE THIS WINDOW. SIT. WRITE. <<This advice works if you’re a beginner writer, or if you’re someone like that up-and-comer Stephen King…who has a couple books under his belt.

If you’re still here, clearly you’re not heeding my warnings. If you’d rather read than write, click on the image below to get yourself over to GOODREADS to enter to win a paperback copy of my latest novel, BURN BABY BURN BABY. The contest ends JANUARY 11, 2015!

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If you’re on INSTAGRAM, follow the steps in the picture below to win a paperback copy of BURN BABY BURN BABY in the INSTAGRAM contest! The easiest way to enter this one would be to go to Instagram and repost this image from my account. Instagram is sometimes tricky with resizing, etc.

Follow the Directions in this image to enter to win a paperback of Burn Baby Burn Baby on Instagram!
Follow the Directions in this image to enter to win a paperback of Burn Baby Burn Baby on Instagram!

Okay…now there is still a chance for you. Turn it all off. SIT. WRITE. That’s it. That’s all you have to do. No magical equation. No tricks or gimmicks. To write more all you need to do is write more. One word in front of the other without the everyday distractions that weigh you down and mess with your creativity and drive. SIT. WRITE.

Zuzu’s Petals! Make Your Magic Authentic to Your Readers!

Unless one has never heard of the invention of a television, it’s fairly safe to assume that we all know the reference ZUZU’S PETALS. In case one among you (AND YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE!) has not yet seen a particular movie, I shall explain Zuzu’s Petals before going into the point I want to make about writing. (-:

ZUZU’S PETALS. They are perhaps the most glorious evidence of magic that we have in the universe today. Let’s just go right to it, shall we. Behold! Zuzu’s petals!

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ZUZU and her PETALS!

 

Aren’t they glorious!? The most beautifully gorgeous symbolism in all of moviedom! Yes…I’m excited. Of course I’m excited. I get excited every time I think about those petals. And tis the season.

In the above picture you will see Zuzu Bailey and her father George Bailey. They are characters in the movie IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. Zuzu’s story is a sad one. But it’s also one that is, at first glance, such a small insignificant role in the vast scheme of things. At first glance. I’m going to forgo the announcement that a spoiler follows here. Because all but maybe one of you have seen It’s a Wonderful Life.

Zuzu comes home from school with a beautiful flower and can’t wait to show her father. But some of the petals have fallen off. George, in his infinite desire to please everyone–and especially his lovely Zuzu–pretends to reattach the petals. But he secretly slips them into his pocket. Zuzu’s tragedy is averted, and her love and adoration for her father grows three sizes that day. Her flower is returned to its beautiful self and her tears retreat.

George Bailey then falls into the rabbit hole. He is taken into a world that would be the world how it would exist if he had never been born. It’s a much bleaker, darker world. It’s quite frankly a terrible world. It’s also a world in which Zuzu’s petals do not exist–no George means no Zuzu. Folks, don’t ever shout to the universe, “I WISH I WAS NEVER BORN!” That’s a rabbit hole you will not want to go down, right there.

As the movie wraps up, George is allowed to reverse his error and come back into the world he left behind. He has seen the vast changes his life-force has created in the world. He knows that the third rock from the sun is a better place with him in it. His faith in humanity is restored and he feels glorious.

Of course, he must be thinking, ‘Wow. What an awesome dream!‘ Because something otherworldly like that just can’t happen, right? But lo and behold…George Bailey reaches into his pocket and what does he find there? You guessed it! ZUZU’S PETALS. They were a huge symbol the whole time. Right in front of our noses. George IS. And how does he know he is? Because ZUZU is. Because…Zuzu’s petals!

“Zuzu’s petals…Zuzu… There they are!”

Today’s lesson for writers is simple. In truth, I just wanted an excuse to talk about Zuzu’s petals. Because they’re glorious and what not.

Firstly, did you know that It’s a Wonderful Life is based on a short story called The Greatest Gift. Written by Philip Van Doren Stern, it was privately published. I have to wonder if that means self-published.

My point? I do have one. No matter what magic you write into your story, it must be authentic. I use the term magic loosely here, because this can apply to any genre…not just magical realism or fantasy or paranormal or anywhere you would normally find MAGIC. I’m talking about anything from coincidences to ghosts to flying to world-building to Zuzu’s petals. Put clues in your work to authenticate the reality you want your reader to step into. Subtle clues. Tidbits of information that they can reflect back on when they reach the story’s conclusion. Something that will make them go, “AHA!”

I don’t know about you…but I eat that stuff up. I was just a child when I first watched It’s a Wonderful Life. And, for me…the most magical part wasn’t George suddenly running through a town that was COMPLETELY DIFFERENT than the same town we were just previously shown. The most magical part wasn’t the way people who lived as adults had suddenly died as children and lived-in houses became empty haunted spaces and even the TOWN became renamed in the blink of an eye. The most magical part were those petals. Placed lovingly into a pocket in the most subtle way…so that I would both remember their significance and forget their significance. Those petals were a glorious flower themselves…planted as a seed in a threadbare pocket. And when they blossomed, when George reached into his pocket and discovered those beautiful babies…well, my world stopped.

So the lesson for writers today is this—do that! Give your readers a whole boatload of Zuzu’s petals. Be like Hansel and Gretel. Leave glorious breadcrumbs throughout your story…breadcrumbs that will validate the story itself, make it more authentic. Every reader loves a great AHA moment. Just don’t manipulate them. Your breadcrumbs can’t have huge glowing neon signs on them that scream, “LOOK AT ME!” They need only be a few crumpled petals placed lovingly in a pocket in an effort to staunch the tears of a loved one.

It’s Not What You Say But What You Say and How You Say It – The Art of Talking Good Dialogue

For me, the chatter that takes place between the pages of a book is the most important part of the book. The connecting prose is merely the scaffolding, if you will.

There could be quite a few things wrong with a book, but if the talk is authentic it can still have legs. Yes, as writers we should concentrate on ALL aspects of our craft. It is incumbent upon us to do so. But I honestly believe there should be extra emphasis on the dialogue. The minute that becomes inauthentic and weighty, the book starts to take on water. Bad dialogue? It may never recover. For me, it’s the most inexcusable flaw in story. That’s why we should pay extra close attention to the words we choose to put in our characters’ mouths. Those words carry a LOT of weight!

Toronto City Hall Festival of Lights - The Secret to Writing Good Dialogue is to make yourself a part of the crowd. LISTEN. Then write!
Toronto City Hall Festival of Lights – The Secret to Writing Good Dialogue is to make yourself a part of the crowd. LISTEN. Then write!

It’s been a while, so… time for a list.

5 Quick & Easy Step to Writing More Gooder Dialogue

  1. Sorry about the list title. Every once in a while I like to make my writing readers twitch. I know that title is going to make someone scream. The FIRST step to writing excellent dialogue is LISTENING. It’s an easy step and it’s one you can do anywhere, anytime, anyhow. You don’t need any props or expensive equipment. Just plop yourself down somewhere and lend an ear to the environment in which you happened to have plopped. Great places in my Dialogue Listening Toolbox? DLT 🙂 My favourite for a while was Arrivals at the airport. Man, the dialogue! Coffee Shops, Subway Stations, Bars, Office Water Coolers, Hospital Emergency Waiting Rooms. You see where I’m going here, right. Anywhere! Just go somewhere where there are lots of people. Sit. Listen.
  2. Use slang and bastardized language at the proper acceptance threshold. Don’t weigh down your dialogue with an excruciatingly heavy amount of bastardized language or dialects. Just enough to suggest to the reader that it’s there. The only place I accept ANYWAYS ever is in dialogue. I do NOT consider ANYWAYS to be a word. In fact, the dictionary usually says this of ANYWAYS: informal or dialect form of anyway. So slang-a-lang-a-ding-dong is acceptable in dialogue. Because people use it. People hyphenate and shorten and murder words when they speak. So it is acceptable in dialogue. Don’t pepper it into your prose outside of those quotation marks, though!
  3. READ YOUR DIALOGUE OUT LOUD. Do NOT ignore this crucial step. I cannot help you, if you do. I consider it absolutely imperative to read dialogue out loud. It is unforgivable not to. If, when you’re reading it alive, you think, “NOBODY WOULD ACTUALLY SAY THIS. NOT THIS WAY.”, then you will know why this step is so important. And it will happen. I don’t think anybody writes perfect dialogue in a first pass. READ. IT. OUT. LOUD. If you have friends who will read it aloud with you, all the better. Sit together and go over the dialogue parts of your manuscript like you would a play reading.
  4. Don’t be afraid to murder your dialogue darlings. Sometimes, as writers, we write the perfect sentence. Then we sit back and bask in the warmth of the glow coming off that sentence. But quite often that stellar sentence is as useless as bark on a donkey. CUT IT! If your character gave some brilliant soliloquy that is just shining with the beauty of our language, but said soliloquy kills the flow of story by taking the reader out of its depth, SLASH IT. It’s your beautiful darling, but it just hiccupped your reader. Don’t do that!
  5. I don’t really have a #5 so I will just leave you with this. SAID rules!

Now get out there and LISTEN. It’s easy. SIT AND LISTEN. Then… SIT AND WRITE.

I’ve Gone Mobile (Or, Writer Gone Wild!)

I have made the move. And it feels great. I wasn’t sure if it would work out or not, but I’m LOVING it!

No more laptop, no more desktop. No more pens, no more pencils, no more books…no more teacher’s dirty looks. Oops. I didn’t mean to go there. It just happened. What I’m trying to say is I made the switch from laptop to tablet. And I’m loving it.

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I thought I would give it a try because it’s ridiculous how quickly we get used to the downsizing of our electronic lives. The desktop computer seemed impossibly large when the laptop came into existence, and now…just the mere thought of carting my humungous laptop around exhausts me. (-;

When I got my new tablet, the first thing I thought of was writing. I was excited to get the closest app to MSWord and see if it would work for me. I immediately downloaded the free version of OfficeSuite, and loaded my latest manuscript to the app to see what I could see. It’s a go. The onscreen keyboard works well, the functions are similar enough in the app that I was comfortable transitioning without feeling lost in new technology. I began editing and writing. And I did so for a couple of days. Once I was sure that I could work in the new environment, I upgraded to the full version of OfficeSuite. For $21 a year, I felt it was well worth the investment. I now have writing on the go. Right there at my fingertips, wherever I am.

It feels liberating. That laptop–at least in my mind–was beginning to weigh a thousand pounds. With the tablet, and its functioning and acceptable 10″ screen, I have the freedom of mobility with the comfort of a bigger size than the smartphone I was considering using as my go-to writing implement.

To be perfectly satisfied, I created a new file and switched it back and forth between my laptop and my Samsung tablet. Just to make sure that formatting didn’t get messed up, or anything untoward would happen to the files compatibility-wise. It’s all good. It’s a go. I am now a tablet writer. (-:

I’ve been wanting to try this for quite some time, but I was leery. I thought it wouldn’t work out, for some reason or other. But I’ve gone mobile. This writer done gone wild…

Now…time to write.

I leave you now with Mr. Writer, by the Stereophonics. Because all writers are beautiful clowns…

Solitary by Design – The Writing Life

Yesterday I talked about writers and community by sharing some information about the writing community I myself am entrenched in. Today, I wanted to talk about the solitary life of the writer. Because when it comes right down to it, we need to be solitary while in the thick of things. Putting words on the screen is done by a committee of one. In today’s social media based universe, it is becoming more and more difficult to focus long enough to put words on the screen when those words are in a manuscript. IF you’re easily distracted.

Guess what. I’m extremely easily distracted. I could easily write 3,000 words in an afternoon. And suddenly realize that all 3,000 words were shot off into the social media stratosphere…while my manuscript lies dormant.

That’s not a good thing.

I sometimes wonder how many of Mark Twain’s short stories (or novels, for that matter) would not have been written had he had a Twitter account and/or a Facebook account.

Wondering about things is what often gets me into trouble. If I had my TWENTY MINUTES back every time I wondered about something and ran to Google, only to be lost in a vortex of wondering and searching and reading, I would have hours of writing time accumulated. I’d be able to write a novel in one sitting with that lost time. Sadly, lost time stays lost. One of the biggest skills a writer can possess in today’s information epoch is CONCENTRATION and an unflappable ability to FOCUS. Please God, give me focus!

I sometimes go days…no, weeks…without opening a manuscript. I intend on writing every day. I used to write every day religiously. I still conceptualize myself as a person who writes every day. Man, I’m bad. I have this ONE THING. And I mess it up.

And what am I doing about it. Writing about the fact that I’m not writing. I’m participating in the social media phenomenon of blogging as a way to distract myself from writing. I feel like somewhere inside that runaround logic I should declare myself a winner. But if I stand up and shout to the universe, “WINNING!” I might be declared insane. What I need to do is give myself structure so that I’m back to an every day writing schedule. Maybe I can limit my social media time better if I schedule it. Maybe I can fly to the moon with the wings on my back, too.

You have to WANT it. Wanting is winning, IMHO. Right now, I’m not as hungry as I used to be. But I’m coming to the conclusion that social media IS killing some of the best writers out there. Proof? Oh, I gotcher proof. Let’s go back to Mark Twain, shall we…

EXHIBIT A
EXHIBIT A

Above, you will see exhibit A. I offer this as proof that some of the world’s greatest writers are being gobbled up by their own egotistical need to spam, blather, purge, gab, selfie themselves, and pontificate on social media. I came up with the theory and it took about six seconds on Google to prove it!

When was the last time you witnessed new work from Mark Twain? It’s been a while, hasn’t it?! Yet, he has all the time in the world to tweet about his life. He’d rather tweet past quotes and reflections than sit down and put new words to the screen. Social media has swallowed Mark Twain whole. We may never see another new work by this great author. WHY? Because he’s too busy tweeting, Facebooking, and pontificating. I won’t even search out his snapchat account. Heaven help us!

Are you a writer?

It’s time to take a pass on some of the distractions of the modern social media frenzy. Give yourself a daily scheduled block of time where you ONLY work on your Work-In-Progress. Don’t multitask inside this time-frame. Choose writing! Leave all your other windows closed…because you know if you don’t a little birdie is going to fly in at just the right moment to take you away from your work at hand. Twitter can wait. Facebook can wait. Blogging can wait. Tumblr can wait. Forums can wait. The NYT can even wait. Make YOUR writing the priority…at least once a day.

We have witnessed the decline of one of the world’s greatest literary treasures. Mark Twain may never again come out of the social media spiderweb long enough to give us new material. We all lose there. Don’t rob us of any other great works of literature. Sit. Write. Repeat…

 

Remember that it’s great to be social. Writers together is an awesome thing. To a point. Sooner or later you need to leave the party long enough to write. Writing–the actual act–is solitary. By design. Like I said. Sit. Write.

The party will wait for you…

I Made a Discovery – A Thing That Kills Creativity – Or Why I’m Experiencing Writer’s Block for the First Time Ever

This is NOT writing
Portrait of the Writer as a Non-Writing Entity. THIS HAS GOT TO STOP!

I think I figured it out. Finally. I was worried that I just completely lost interest in writing. That I might not be a writer, after all. I think I know what it is now. Apparently, when I have two definitive release dates for upcoming novels, I feel like I can relax. Take a break. Chill out. Quiet the pen. Check out.

WRONG. I have to get back into the swing of things. Because I have these two novels coming out, I should be writing MORE…not less. I don’t know why I took this as an excuse to stop writing. Oh, wait. Yes I do. Because I’m the laziest writer on the face of the earth. I saw an out and I took it.

I’m over the moon that two of my favourite manuscripts that I have ever written are being published (Burn Baby AND Half Dead & Fully Broken), but this feat should not slow me down. I need momentum now more than ever. I was actually feeling like I might not be a writer after all…how does one get to that place?!

Burn Baby hits bookstore shelves on December 11th. A cover reveal, among other things, will take place along the way to this release date. I’m extremely excited about this book and can’t wait to share it.

My author page at Curiosity Quills, the publisher of both upcoming young adult novels: CURIOSITY QUILLS

If you will excuse me, I have some writing to do. I’ve been sleeping for several months now. Resting on my laurels, you might say. Oh Christ! Might say? That actually nails it. I can’t believe I fell into that trap. The funny thing is, I even participated in the 2014 Muskoka Novel Marathon in this fog of I-no-longer-have-to-write-because-I-have-two-books-coming-out. What a sad attempt at writing THAT was. I should have a professional ass-kicker on hire for those times I get so lazy I don’t even look at my laptop for days.Time to catch a fire. It’s back to the writing grindstone for me.

 

 

I thought I would share the premise of BURN BABY while I’m here:

 

Seventeen-year-old Francis Fripp’s confidence is practically non-existent since his abusive father drenched him in accelerant and threw a match at him eight years ago. Now badly scarred, Francis relies on his best friend Trig to protect him from the constant bullying doled out at the hands of his nemesis, Brandon Hayley—the unrelenting boy who gave him the dreaded nickname of Burn Baby.

The new girl at school, Rachel Higgins, is the first to see past Francis’s pariah-inducing scars. If Brandon’s bullying doesn’t destroy him, Francis might experience life as a normal teenager for the first time in his life. He just has to avoid Brandon and convince himself he’s worthy of Rachel’s attentions. Sounds easy enough, but Francis himself has a hard time seeing past his scars. And Brandon is getting violently frustrated, as his attempts to bully Francis are constantly thwarted. Francis is in turmoil as he simultaneously rushes toward his first kiss and a possible violent end.

 

Gift Horse & Anything…

We’ve all heard the idiom NEVER LOOK A GIFT HORSE IN THE MOUTH. What does it mean?

If someone gives you a horse, it would be extremely rude to inspect its teeth and gums. What you do is say, “Thank you.”

My gift horse is my writing. I have a bad habit of examining its teeth. But I’m working on it. I’m learning to accept that I’ve been given a gift. I am trying not to ask why. We should all practice the art of being grateful without questioning the thing that we are grateful for. I’m grateful that I get to do something I love to do…WRITE.

Here’s a song to empower and embolden. Enjoy…

 

Dear Writer: To Thine Own Self Be Kind

Why are writers always beating themselves up? I don’t get it. Writing is a choice. It’s a passion. It’s something we presumably cannot live without. But alongside the passionate love notes that writers offer up to writing, there are the inevitable self-hating notes. Are we masochists?

Side-note: Masochist is a word named after–you guessed it–a WRITER. Leopold von Sacher-Masoch was a nineteenth century Austrian writer who described the gratification he got from his own pain and humiliation.

So do we get gratification from the suffering we endure in the name of craft? Is that why people go on and on about the love-hate relationship they have with writing. Frankly, I see more of the hate than I see love. I often wonder why the hell some writers even bother. Between a strong desire to tell them to shut the hell up and a strong desire to lecture them on the good points of creativity I end up just feeling tired and cranky.

I enjoy writing. I don’t really suffer for the craft. A bad day of writing is better than a good day of roasting at the spit. No wounds. No antiseptic needed. I emerge from my writing relatively unscathed every single time. Sue me if you don’t like that I enjoy writing and being a writer.

What I can’t imagine is NOT having a creative outlet, not needing a creative outlet. I count my lucky stars every day I wake up a writer. What a passion to have! I can’t imagine it hurting as much as some writers complain it does. For the love of candy, let go of the animosity. If you are experiencing pain writing, you’re doing something wrong. Stop equating writing with misery. Go knit if you can’t take it. Or weave baskets. Find another outlet.

Just sit. Just write. For the love of all things writerly, be kind to yourself. Enjoy that you get to play with words. This isn’t a job or a chore, it’s a passion. Treat it that way. Be passionate. Be happy. Write.

 

Left Bank Writers Retreat in Paris – A Writer at Work – Please Excuse the Blog Silence…

I will be slipping into the blog cone of silence once again. (-: Today I head to Paris and the LEFT BANK WRITERS RETREAT. It has been a lifelong dream of mine to go to Paris. It’s at the very top of my bucket list. In fact, a visit to the Shakespeare & Company bookstore in Paris IS the #1 item on that list. And guess where I will be heading while I’m in Paris! (-:

I will be taking small workshops every day while I’m there…little exercises in the exploration of all things writing. On the menu is; poetry, finding your voice, place as character and more. PLUS—we will be exploring Hemingway’s Paris AND F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Paris.

You can find out about the retreat by clicking RIGHT HERE. You know, in case you’re thinking you may want to go to the retreat NEXT year. I hear it’s an annual thing. (-:

Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway

Do I wish to retrace the footsteps of Hemingway? Absolutely. His A MOVEABLE FEAST is one of my all-time favourite books. I’m going to attempt to re-read it on my flight over tonight. Although I tend to do nothing but sleep while on airplanes. I can’t seem to keep my eyes open. I’m not too worried about it, though. I have practically memorized the book. (-;

Some of my favourite Moveable Feast quotes:

“You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintery light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen. When the cold rains kept on and killed the spring, it was as though a young person died for no reason.”~ ERNEST HEMINGWAY, A Moveable Feast

“By then I knew that everything good and bad left an emptiness when it stopped. But if it was bad, the emptiness filled up by itself. If it was good you could only fill it by finding something better.”~ ERNEST HEMINGWAY, A Moveable Feast

“For a poet he threw a very accurate milk bottle.”~ ERNEST HEMINGWAY, A Moveable Feast

I’m going to Paris for Hemingway. And for Paris itself. I believe it to be a beautiful city. I’m about to find out if reality matches my belief…

 

See you on the flipside. (-:

Please don’t forget to check out my previous post! I’m having a fundraiser for MALESURVIVOR. For a limited time, 100% of the royalties of my book sales will be going towards their Weekend of Recovery Scholarship program.