A Supernatural Weekend in DC

Wow, it’s been a long time for me since posting. What have I been doing? Writing. Yup, I’ve been running a local memoir writing group and that means I have to do a bit of writing myself in order to keep face. I love it, and it’s been fun. But it does mean that I have less time to do what I also like to do, which is cook, watch TV and remember to blog. But that’s all changed since I’ve reworked my schedule. I’m sure you’re happy to hear that (all three of you!)

But last week I had to take a writing break to accompany my daughter to the Supernatural DC Con in Washington D.C. Yup, an entire convention for the TV show, Supernatural. If you haven’t seen the show, let me fill you in. Two hunky guys, brothers on the show, fight demons, vampires, ghoulish creatures, and even a few angels gone bad, as they travel all over the back roads of the United States. They have some angels on their side, but mainly they are in mortal danger every week. But man, do they look good doing it. The fans are rabid, and I mean that. The convention was filled with people cosplaying most of the characters, and loving every minute. My daughter cosplayed two out of three days and she looked amazing. It was a three-day show filled with karaoke, cabaret, photo ops, autographs, and lots of laughter and good times. I was quite excited for a photo op with Mark Sheppard, also known as Crowley on Supernatural, Jim Sterling on Leverage, Canton Delaware on Doctor Who, Romo Lampkin on Battlestar Galactica, and one of my favorites-Badger on Firefly. Turns out, he was having a bit of a bad day and wasn’t as friendly as I’d hoped. I saw him as I stepped out of the elevator and said Hello, only to get a grunt as he kept walking. Ok, maybe he’s in a hurry. Then he had a Q&A panel and seemed a bit touchy, but Ok, maybe he’s tired. Then, during the photo ops I heard a young girl ask him something when it was her turn for the photo. His response was simply, “That’s not gonna happen.” This was said in a gruff, quick tone and I saw her face fall. I don’t even know what she asked, but his answer pretty much punctured the fangirl bubble around her. He put his arm around her and smiled for the photo. Then it was our turn. Hmmm, we smiled, he smirked, photo over, move on. But, I’m going to tell myself that he was having a rough day and I won’t hold it against him. I’ve had bad days, but I guess I don’t have to deal with 500 people who adore me every day.

The phenomenon of these shows building such reputations is amazing. The power of social media keeps this show going with Tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter pages dedicated just to the show, and each character and actor. When characters are killed off or hurt, fans rally. And speculation over whether Chuck is God (yes, that actual God) or not is still up in the air. My daughter and I are still debating it. Each brother has died and come back to life a few times and each time they grow closer to each other. I can only imagine after nine years how close the actors must be. Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki sure seem to have a great rapport with each other, but why not after all that time?

The highlight for me was the chance to spend time with a dear friend who drove down from Long Island to spend the weekend and hang out. Martinis, hugs, and even a few tears-that’s what friendship is all about! We sat in the lobby bar watching the cosplayers mingle. We waited while my daughter attended the actors’ cabaret in the ballroom and we had a few more martinis while we waited. (Just doing what a good mother would do…wait for her kid.)

So, I’m back and ready to dive into the memoir essays, writing, and editing. Watch for more blog posts and keep commenting. I love hearing from you!

Blogs I follow and why

I don’t follow a lot of blogs, I just don’t have the time to read them all and sometimes blogs can be a bit narcissistic (ok, maybe that’s what blogging is all about, but why read even more?) But in case you were looking for some great blogs to keep track of, here are just a few of my favorites these days:

1. Saving for Someday. On top of some great tips on saving money, bargains, and deals in stores, Sara also shares some insights into her life and daily living as a giving, caring person trying to raise a daughter in this crazy world. Follow her, you won’t be sorry.

2. Pirates and Fireflies. Vicariously travel through Europe and other parts exotic, with photos that make me say AHHHHHH so many times it may be annoying to anyone around me. The posts are short enough not to be tedious, but interesting and bucolic. You won’t regret this one, unless the jealousy eats away at you. (What? I can’t help it.)

3. Nail Your Novel. Roz Morris, author and editor, shells out some great advice and quick tips to do just what she says…Nail Your Novel.

4. TIPPR Blog. An aspiring writer/editor who blogs a bit of poetry. I’m not a huge fan of poetry, but I do enjoy it sometimes, and I like getting just a bit every so often in my inbox and these are quite nice. Give a look.

OK, that’s four. I’ll put a few more up for you soon. What blogs are you following? Let me know.

 

My Stand-Up Desk Experiment (Day One)

For those of you following, my week of solitude was a success. I spent a lot of time getting the writing done that I wanted, I watched a few movies, and I spent time with my great-nephew. Daughter had a fabulous time at camp and can’t stop talking about it, which is wonderful to hear.

As a matter of fact, I had such a wonderful week in my office that my back was starting to yell. Sitting in a chair too much can be quite painful, especially for anyone with prior back/spine issues. Considering how bad it is for you to sit in a chair all day, I decided to get/create a standing work station to see what all the fuss was about. First, I talked with Sean Preuss, a trainer to friends of mine and an author who writes standing up. Then I searched Pinterest and the Internet for stand-up desk DIYs just to get a feel for what I needed. Here are a few of the sites I visited:

1. One Year at My Standing Desk

2. The Standing Desk Experiment: Five Months In

3. Forbes Magazine: What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Standing Desks?

4. Lifehack: The True Benefits of a Standing Desk

What did I learn? The desk should be at elbow height or just below. Your arms should be at right angles from your body, including your wrists, while typing. An anti-fatigue mat for standing is a good idea. Get ready for a sore back and legs at first. Move around a lot if you can.

My Standing Workstation

My Standing Workstation

So, after all that research I started the search. I was planning on stacking books on my desk until I searched my teenager’s room and found a study computer desk we had bought for her a few years back. Since she doesn’t use it all that much anymore, (the dining table worked fine and she just graduated). It has two heights, and the lowest height is perfect for me. As you can see from the photo, it’s wide enough to put a mouse/trackball to the right. There is actually a built-in mousepad there. Too bad I don’t need that. There is also a light on the left for late-night reading.

Day one: I find myself shifting my feet a lot, side to side. I finally decided to put a box under the desk and rest one foot on it, similar to standing at a bar (except nobody served me a martini here. This bar sucks!). I have even stood for a bit with my foot propped behind me on the chair I’m not using.

The space right between my shoulder blades is screaming at me. I think this is just my body telling me that my posture is pretty damn bad and I should just sit down, but I’m not giving in that easily.

This little table gets cramped quickly with the laptop, trackball, and speaker. (What? I need my Pandora when I work.) The wire is too short to sit on the desk. But the good news is that there is a lot of room under the desk to put things. And, it can be folded down in case I want to sit for a little bit and take a breather.

I need better shoes. I think I need to invest in some really good shoes to stand in all day. It’s like walking all over Disneyland but without the big annoying mouse. My feet hurt like crazy, but I didn’t get any ice cream shaped like a mouse head.

From what I’ve read, it does get a bit uncomfortable the first few days. Some people say don’t do it all day on the first few days. I may sit after finishing this post, or I may take a walk. I will definitely be finding a gel mat to stand on soon, and hopefully one that doesn’t cost the same as my computer. Have you priced those out? Geez! I suppose it’s worth it, but I may be trying to make my own.

So for now I’m shifting side to side and shrugging my shoulders a lot. I have actually found myself swaying to the music and walking around my little office a bit more.

If you have one of these, let me know what you do to ease fatigue and soreness. I’m hoping this will be a great solution. I have heard that people lose weight after doing this, although that is not my goal. This is just my first step at trying to get a bit more fit, work out a little more, and live a bit longer.

Stay tuned for updates. I’ll let you know how the long-term standing sits with me. (Get it? Standing-Sits. Hehe, I’m crack myself up!)

Thanks for stopping by!

My Week of Solitude Begins

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I have one week of solitude, one chance to get as much writing as I want completed, one chance to do all the crafty things I need/want to do. I feel as if I’m going back into a time capsule without kids, without responsibilities, without deadlines. Why do I have this week? My daughter has gone to summer camp for one week. This means I am alone in the house for a week (not counting the Husband, who comes home at night.) Now, those of you who know me know that Daughter is a teenager and pretty much sleeps till noon and does her own thing once she wakes up. But the idea that someone else is depending on you to give them a ride, share lunch, go shopping, etc. means you work around those things.

This week is my chance to work around only what I want to do. And I want to write. Today I’ve written 2K words already and it’s just 1:30 p.m. Can I keep this up or will I sink into a week of rewatching Firefly and eating Ben & Jerry’s right out of the tub? We shall see, but for now, I’ve got a full calendar of lunch with friends and dinner with the man. In between those, I will be writing. If I don’t answer the phone, that’s where I’ll be.

What’s that you say? B&J has a new flavor? Wait, what? Joss Whedon is the one singing the Firefly theme song? Now I’ll have to watch it again just to hear that song. But hey, watching Firefly means I’m researching character development, right? No, wait, 2K words is not enough. Clara is on the threshold of going outside and I have to help her get there. I will not leave the writing studio, I will not leave the writing studio…Oh, this week is going to fly by much too fast.

Stretching your creative legs

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How do you stay inspired and creative? I seem to be on an inspiration rollercoaster lately. On the days I’m heading up the ramp slowly, it seems like I’ll never get to the end of this book, or ever get published. On the days when I’m heading down at breakneck speed and can’t stop writing, I feel there is no possible way I will fail. I’ve been to conferences, I’ve read the how-to books, I’ve talked to authors, etc. Now the only thing left to do is actually write the damn thing and get it published. No excuses…

But there are those days I’m heading up the slow ramp and I just don’t have anything in me to write, or I’ve written enough for the day. Sometimes I still feel the need to create and clear my head, so I break out the colored pencils and coloring books. A dear friend of mine taught me that coloring books are not just for kids. She came out for a visit and brought her coloring books and colored pencils and we sat drinking wine and coloring in our books. And I’ve discovered some of the most amazing coloring books out there are sophisticated and fun, as well as complicated and challenging. Some are based on famous paintings, history, intricate pictures of birds, waterfalls, flowers, abstracts, animals, etc. It takes concentration to color them in, and that means focus. And when focusing on my coloring project, everything else become clear. It’s almost a zen feeling to clear my head and create something colorful and fun.

So I’m coloring these days in between catching up on reading for book club, editing, writing, researching, and all the other things I feel I need to do. But this is something I do totally for myself and I love it. I’m renewed and ready to go after a page is finished.

What keeps you inspired and creative? Any new ideas?

 

 

 

 

 

The best kept secret in writing conferences

Comicon. The name makes people think of Superman, Anime, Manga, Zombies, Paranormal, video games, cosplay and more. But one of the best kept secrets of Comicon,  the Phoenix Comicon in particular, is the wonderful array of writing workshops offered during the convention. Regardless of what kind of writing you do, there are classes and workshops that will help you, I guarantee it. The authors are top-notch and the insights and advice are heart-felt and true.

What I love most about the presenters and speakers at Comicon is the willingness in all of them to answer questions, give advice and information, and help authors along on their journey. They all know what it’s like to wish to be published and work on that all-important novel. Whether it’s mystery, paranormal, sci-fi, steampunk or a cross of any of these, they are there to help. I took an entire notebook full of notes while in the 12 sessions I attended and I’ll be throwing some info out as I go, but just a few of them stick out without even looking at my notes.

1. Tom Leveen is the author of Party, a wonderful book with 11 chapters and 11 POVs, and Sick, which is his newest book featuring zombies and comes out Oct. 1st. He is an author with a genuine passion for writing and showing others how to be successful. In each panel discussion or solo presentation, he gives a grand performance and offers not only advice but has an infectious enthusiasm for writing that is hard not to catch. I left the convention newly determined to write the best MS I can, thanks to this guy. See him if he’s in your area giving any kind of presentation and go, and read his books. He lives in the Phx area so check out Changing Hands, a local bookstore with great writers visiting all the time.

2. Define your purpose. Just about all the authors at the convention made sure to mention that you must know who your audience is, what kind of book you are writing, and why you are writing. Sounds pretty basic, but if you don’t know who your audience really is (and “anyone who wants to read it” is not good enough) or where your book will be shelved, then you are short-changing yourself. Best quote (can’t remember who said it though, I think it was Tom)–There is a difference between wanting to have written and wanting to write. In other words, some people are happy just sitting behind the keyboard and writing away. But others are not satisfied until they get published. This takes another courageous step entirely.

3. Going along with the message above, if you write fan fiction, it’s time to branch out and write your own work. Fan fiction is safe fiction, right? You don’t have to create characters, someone has already done that for you. Break out of that and be brave-create your own characters and situations. For some people, fan fiction is a great way to begin writing and stretch (and for just a few, you can get it published if you change the names). But in the real world, you need to create your own universe.

Ok, these are the top three I remember right now. More to come soon. I’ve got some editing to catch up on and some writing to tackle.

Oh, and if you’re thinking all I did was sit in a chair and listen to authors, I did spend a little time nerding out in the convention hall, having fun with the cosplayers and even kissing a few TV stars. Now you’re really jealous. The photo below is one of my favorites of the convention, where my daughter and I showed our love for Michael Rooker, also known as Merle Dixon from The Walking Dead. He’s a sweetie and we had fun talking with him.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Zombie Walk kicks off the Convention and the street is closed off for hundreds of people dressed as zombies shuffling down the road. It’s fantastic and so much fun. Grab a seat on the outside patio at Majerle’s restaurant and watch them walk by, even kids get into the fun.

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Finally, although I walked and sat and wrote, I did take time to sit and observe, which is one of my favorite activities. Even a few of the authors I talked with said that eavesdropping and observing others is a great way to build characters. So, I guess I was working as I watched everyone, right?

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Take it easy. See you next time…

It’s not the space that counts, but the writer in that space

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Where do you write? Do you need to have a cup of tea on the desk and classical music to write? Perhaps you need Metallica in your headphones while sitting at the local coffee shop. Does it matter where you write as long as you’re writing?

That’s the big question here. Does it really matter? To some writers, it isn’t a big deal–Have laptop, will write. To others, everything has to be in order before any writing can be done. Which type are you? I have friends who are happy to set out to a coffee shop and type away on a laptop. They love the hustle of the environment, the voices in the background and the unending supply of coffee and muffins.

I know a writer who takes his laptop to a local resort and sets up in the lobby with a Scotch. He uses the WiFi and has a night out and gets a lot of writing done. Me? I think after a few Scotches I may need a ride home, and I don’t know what I would be writing by then. Hemingway I’m not.

When I read Stephen King’s On Writing, I was so impressed at how he described his first writing desk, shoved in a hallway with the washer/dryer. And this was a typewriter, not even a laptop. He wrote some of the best stories and books there, proving he certainly didn’t need an office, or even a room, to write.

But there is something to be said with being among your books and a familiar setting, behind a desk where you are comfortable, right? Virginia Woolf had a separate writing studio, as did Roald Dahl and many others. Virginia wrote about a woman having A Room of One’s Own.

When I think of all the things I need in my office such as the printer, printing paper, printer ink, laptop, extra monitor, heater, A/C, iPod speakers, etc., I become acutely aware of the sparseness of Thoreau’s little cabin with a bed, small table and tiny desk. Or even Virginia Woolf’s one big table with paper and pens strewn across it. For a glimpse at their spaces, as well as many other famous writers and their spaces, check out this Pinterest site, and this one with photos of famous writers’ studios.

For some writers, it’s not where they write, but how they write. Rituals abound like having a drink at hand, writing only in the morning, writing longhand on a yellow legal pad, etc. We all have our routines, and our needs, and they are all legitimate. I don’t have any routine or ritual, although I prefer to have music without words to distract me. I have a special iPod playlist titled “No Words” that I update occasionally. Joan Didion said she needed an hour before dinner each night, with a drink, to review what she’d written that day. (Perhaps the drink helped.) I may start this one, couldn’t hurt. Check these out for more famous writing routines.

I used to write while seated at an office armoire tucked in the corner of my bedroom. I could “close” my office at night and hide the mess. It was small, but it had everything I needed in one neat little package. Then my husband remodeled the small shed on our property (it was there when we moved in). He added wood floors and a bigger window with a view to the yard. I added a desk from craigslist, an air conditioner (a necessity in the desert), and a small heater for cold mornings. This is my perfect space, and it even has a small refrigerator with chocolate and a bottle of Scotch. I wrote about it when he began the remodel, here.

Where do you write? Whether you find a spot at the local bar, in your own corner of the house, or even a separate writing shed like Woolf or Dahl, it’s the writing that counts. I am always interested in how others write, and in what environments. These differ as much as the books written in them. So, I guess the bottom line is don’t wait for the perfect space, make your perfect space and get writing.