Posts Tagged ‘Starbuck’s gift card’

Three best perks of being a writer

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Yep, it’ s a hard job writing fiction books for a living but really, the perks just can’t be beat! Here are the three best things about my wacky job.

1.  It fosters curiosity.  As you’ve probably heard me say before, my other job is an elementary school teacher and you’d think that would be high on the “fosters curiosity” list too, but frankly, teaching 26 kids of varying levels and needs takes every bit of mental stamina I possess. In a word, I’m too busy to indulge my curiosity much while in the thick of things, but writing is lovely because it causes me to ask questions. What if a massive earthquake hit an old opera house? How would a man react to having his childhood disease return? What would it be like to be uncertain of your own identity?

2.  It can be done anywhere. My favorite location to write is sitting opposite my wild tangle of tomato plants, banging away on the keyboard while butterflies and finches do their thing. I’ve also written in coffee shops, the back seat of cars and composed tricky sections mentally while in the bathtub. (Do yourself a favor and don’t imagine that last one!)

3. I can provide justice in an unjust world. I only read the paper on Sunday and it’s INFURIATING. I know God’s justice will prevail ultimately, but I’m maddened to see how things are going along right now. I mean this I.S.I.S group? Violent crime in the U.S.? Children betrayed by the people who were supposed to protect them? I feel powerless to set anything right on planet earth, but in my books? Oh you’d better believe bad people will be punished! SEVERELY! I know it’s only fiction, but there’s some comfort in that, right?

So what are the perks of your current job or those you’ve held in the past? It’s a big prize month here at the blog. The September prize is a signed book, Starbuck’s card and a fun fall treat! I so value all of your comments!

I’m a professional writer…have you seen my socks?



I recently read a swell interview from a multi-published romance writer. She shared her writing routine which involves entering her office (complete with walls and a door) and exiting only for lunch and at 6 p.m., the end of her day. Such is the life of a professional writer…but it’s not my life, to be sure, and right now, I wouldn’t want it to be.

First, my “office” is plopped in the middle of the living room between the box turtle and a treadmill. It doesn’t have walls, except in my imagination (kind of like Les Nessman from WKRP if you remember him.) It’s a laptop, some file drawers and a bazillion sticky notes.

Second, I’ve got two teenage daughters so my “uninterrupted” writing time is often bisected by questions like, “Mom, have you seen my socks?” or trips to the craft store for poster board, or vet visits for sick parakeets or church related meetings or fitness walks with my husband.

So how do I get three books written a year? I get up extremely early and I do it every day (except Sundays.) I work in fits and starts, between the needs of my children, my husband, my church and everything else. Is it the best way for a “professional writer” to use their time? Probably not, but at this point in my life it’s the only way I can manage.

Soon enough my children will be grown, and they won’t need me to find their socks and shuttle them around, but at the moment, I will cheerfully  sacrifice my efficiency. There will be time later when my house is sadly quiet and I will be able write for hours at a stretch, but for now, fits and starts will do.

How do you handle interruptions? What things do you struggle to balance in your daily life? Giving away a Starbuck’s card and TWO signed books this month!

The four #1 fiction books of 2014…a crazy mix!

Dog readingI’m always interested to see what types of books captivate the American psyche at any given time. It’s kind of like taking a peek into the reader’s refrigerator, if you will, to get a look at what they crave. So what has America got a taste for so far in 2014?

Here are the books which have snagged that coveted #1 spot on the NYT Bestseller list so far in 2014.

#1) The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt

Thirteen year old Theo miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates, and tormented by his longing for his mother, he clings to a single remnant of her: a  painting that  draws Theo into the underworld of art.

#2)The Invention of Wings, Sue Monk Kidd

Hetty, a 19th century slave in Charleston, yearns for life beyond the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something significant in the world. Kidd’s novel begins on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Hetty.

#3)Private L.A., James Patterson and Mark Sullivan

Thom and Jennifer Harlow are the perfect movie star couple. When they disappear, facts are hard to find. They live behind such a high wall of security and image control that even  Private Investigator Jack Morgan can’t get to the truth.

#4)Concealed in Death, J.D. Robb

Lieutenant Eve Dallas’s husband begins the demolition process in a long unoccupied building. When the dust clears, there are two skeletons wrapped in plastic behind the wall. He summons his wife immediately—and by the time she’s done with the crime scene, there are twelve murders to be solved.

So we’ve got two deeply moving, poignant heart wrenchers, and two edge of your seat suspense type books. Interesting! Would you (or have you) read any of these books? Would love to hear your comments. Giving away a Starbuck’s gift card this month.

Which books deserve a “best fiction” Oscar?

What is success in the book world? A book that moves people? A book that entertains? A story that sells wildly and zooms to the top of NTY bestseller list? Or maybe all of the above? If we define success by sales figures, here are someimage selling fiction books of all time, according to the Neilson Bookscan.

#1 DaVinci Code

#2 Harry Potter

#5 50 Shades

#12 Twilight

#13 The Girl Who Played with Fire

#25 The Very Hungry Caterpillar

#28 Kite Runner

So there you have it, a sampling of success. Now it’s your turn. Have you read any of these “Oscar worthy” fiction books? Would you give them the trophy? Or are there other books that come to mind that you feel are more worth of the award? Giving away a Starbuck’s card for our March raffle. Comments welcome!

Beam me up, Scotty! Are you ready for a virtual vacation?

Big screen or small, they take us on journeys to imaginary places far and wide! I’m just putting the finishing touches on a novel set in a lovely little town on the California coast which makes me wish I could visit!

The next stop on our fictional vacation journey must be a place found in a television show or movie. Have a yen to see Pandora? Looking to visit a carnivorous island like the one found in Life of Pi? How about the Ewok village on Endor? Here are my top two vacations, snatched from movies and t.v.

1. I’d love to visit Cabot Cove. I know this would be risky as folks around Jessica Fletcher have a tendency to succumb to murder, but the town itself seems quite charming.

2. Beam me up, Scotty! I’d enjoy spending some time on the Star Ship Enterprise, as long as there were no angry alien intrusions or Borg sightings.

Your turn! What imaginary place from T.V. or movies would you like to visit? Giving away A Starbuck’s card for October.Relaxing

Top movies feature top notch protags.

Working with our earlier theory, that all great novels feature unforgettable characters, let’s see if the principle applies to movies, too. Here’s a list of the American Film Institute’s top movies of all time (just the first ten for the sake of space.) I would venture to assert they are all character driven, wouldn’t you say, as opposed to propelled by plotmovie?

#1) Citizen Kane
#2) Casablanca
#3) The Godfather
#4) Gone With the Wind
#5) Lawrence of Arabia
#6)The Wizard of Oz
#7) The Graduate
#8) On the Waterfront
#9) Schindler’s List
#10) Singin’ In the Rain

What’s your favorite on the list? What is memorable about the main character?

Best gift for writers…and box turtles.

Let me introduce you to my writing partner, Boydie the box turtle. For several decades we thought she was a boy, until an astute veterinarian corrected that misconception. She’s been in our family for more than thirty years now and each morning she sits on her rock and watches me write. She’s an excellent listener and patient as the day is long. She believes in long naps (3-4 months minimum), enjoying the sunshine (on a golden morning in California, Boydie stares pointedly at me with her orange eyes until I get the hint) and most importantly, the art of perseverance. Boydie, like me, is not ferocious, nor is she particularly brilliant, graceful or athletic. She has survived for decades using her one shining gift, the ability to persevere. Sure she may get hung up in the shrubs, or stuck half way in or out of the bath, but nearly every situation can be overcome or at least improved by patiently pressing on. To persevere through difficulty is the turtle’s way. Who knew a box turtle could be so wise? blog motivationalDo you have an animal in your life that has taught you something? Do share.

A writer’s job…unlearning those school lessons.

My job is strange, I’ll admit it. Oh not the teaching gig, though that can be strange at times, too. (I will refrain from discussing the time when my student got his head wedged in the crayon bucket.) I meant the fiction writing job. It’s funny to me how much of my writing time is spent flagrantly ignoring or “unlearning” if you will, the lessons I learned as a child at school. Ironic, since I’m now a teacher of writing for third graders, but nevertheless, here is a big lesson that I’ve been busy “unlearning” for years.

“Don’t daydream.”
Yep. I heard that one a lot as a student. Short attention span. Way too much time lost in books. Head in the clouds thinking unimportant thoughts when there were essays to be written and math formulas to be mastered. I totally understand why the teachers over the years tried to break that habit. One shouldn’t be drifting to imaginary places when faced with a riveting lecture on prime factors. Now, however, I get paid to daydream. Odd, no? “Give us something new and fresh,” my editors say, fanning the flames of this daydreaming habit. I spend quite a number of waking hours lost in la la land. Walking the dog is the perfect time to wrestle with a way to save my characters from a flood. Taking a shower? Light bulb moment! In mid shampoo I have a flash about a new treasure seekers series. Sitting through a supremely boring movie? Hmmm. I wonder what would happen if the hero was suddenly visited by a brother he didn’t know he had? You see? I’m a professional daydreamer.

Do you ever daydream? When is your mind most likely to wander?Daydreaming

Avoid those writing cliches like the plague!

Cpencilslichés are just thick as thieves in some writing, aren’t they? I mean more tired and worn out sayings than you can shake a stick at. So what’s a writer to do? Read your work thoroughly with an eye to eliminating every overused phrase that you can find? Check! Then hand the piece to someone else to do the same thing. Double check! But what about those other kind of clichés? The plot devices and character traits that seem to crop up too often in novels and movies. Let’s take a look at a few in this blog series.

Number one in romance writing? The great misunderstanding. This occurs when the hero and heroine are apart because they have some erroneous assumptions between them that could easily be cleared up in chapter one. I once read a book where the woman thought her husband was stealing money. First thing this wife would do? Confront the hapless husband and demand an explanation. This confrontation did not happen in the before mentioned novel because that would have deflated the mystery/relationship tension. If the balance of plot and relationship issues are based on a misunderstanding, the book isn’t strong enough. I know. I’ve fallen into the trap myself. As a romance writer the tricky thing is to find enough character conflict to keep the hero/heroine apart, and then help them work their way through it to get to that happily ever after moment.

Have you ever read a book where there’s a great misunderstanding? Or are there plots, character traits that are overused in your opinion?

Are you ready for a disaster?

In California, we expect “the big one,” that earthquake that will rock us to the core. It’s a matter of time, really, as the faults crisscross the state and often bisect highly populated areas. Loma Prieta in 1989 struck in a most theatrical fashion, during the World Series warm up between the Giants and the A’s. Fifteen to twenty seconds later and 62 people were dead, billions of dollars worth of property was damaged and a span of the Bay Bridge collapsed. I remember standing in our front yard, watching the street rolling like water.

I’ve heard people from other states ask how we can stand it, not knowing when the next one will strike. Practically speaking, we do what we can. We store earthquake kits, and keep supplies of food and water, with the knowledge that we’re going to be on our own for several days or more. But in a deeper sense, we know that disasters will come because that’s part of life. In my novel Shock Wave, the characters have been hit by all manner of “shipwrecks” as the Biblical Paul would say, before they’re ever impacted by that quake. Post traumatic stress disorder, disastrous life choices, broken relationships. Life is a topsy-turvy, disaster prone adventure that is anything but safe, wouldn’t you agree? That’s why we so need to know that God is in charge and sovereign, no matter what happens on this planet. Whew! What a blessing!

What “disasters” is your home state prone to? What do you do to prepare for such things? Post to be entered in the August drawing for a Starbuck’s gift card. bay bridge collapse