Tag Archives: authors

A Year of Reading: The Books I Read for a Monthly Challenge

Gather in, bloggers and readers, I’m going to tell you a secret.

Are you ready? Here goes…

I love reading. 

Ok, that was not a secret at all.

51j4xd2ntcl-_sx355_bo1204203200_I’m actually going to tell you about the books I read for a book challenge I gave myself in 2017. I found this awesome little book on Amazon called A Year of Reading by Elisabeth Ellington and Jane Freimiller.

The book features a different theme each month with five options for what to read. What I loved about using this guide is that it includes diverse authors of various ethnicities as well as a wide variety of genres in its recommendations. Over the course of the year, I read a mix of fiction and nonfiction, poetry and prose, and even a few graphic novels.

It also includes discussion and reflection sections and extra credit opportunities with bonus book recommendations, interviews and videos to check out, and more!

Here’s a sample of what my year looked like using this guidebook to switch up my reading! I didn’t finish every book every month, because life gets in the way sometimes. But there were months I read more than one title for the theme too, so in the end, it evened out.

My Year of Reading

January: A Happier You
Book: The Principles of Uncertainty by Maira Kalman


What I liked about it: This book is a collection of the author’s art, sketches, and photography. It includes story snippets and random musings. It’s different than any other book I’ve read. For more info about this book, check out my previous post here.

February: Classic Romance
Book: Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg


What I liked about it: A fascinating look at love and relationships across generations, geography, and social media.  

Blog Review: Check out my favorite parts in my full blog review!

March: Focus on Justice
Books: Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
March: Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell


What I liked about it: Easily one of my favorite reads of 2017. Incredibly well written, the book chronicles Stevenson’s journey toward working with wrongfully convicted death row inmates and juveniles who were tried as adults. The book discusses one case in detail throughout, but includes multiple examples of cases Stevenson worked on. From tampering with evidence to racial prejudices, the author and lawyer tackles what’s wrong with our justice system.

Blog Review: Read my full blog review of the book.


What I liked about it: So powerful. Congressman John Lewis joined with illustrators to tell his story of the civil rights movement to a whole new generation in this graphic novel series. Definitely read all three books! Another favorite that will make you think, make you learn, make you humble, make you crave change, do better, be aware!

April: Creative Spirit
Book: Crazy Brave by Joy Harjo


What I liked about it: Beautiful blend of memoir, prose, and poetry. It’s emotional, artistic, and rhythmic. This one deserves to be read aloud.

Blog Review: Read my full blog review.

May: Families in Fiction
Book: The Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi A. Jackson


What I liked about it: Family dynamics are at full play in this story of sisters who move from Brooklyn to Barbados to live with their grandmother. It’s more than a coming of age story, that’s just a small part of the tale. There are family secrets and lessons to learn as the sisters create a new sense of home.

June: Families in Nonfiction
Book: Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast


What I liked about it: A humorous and heartfelt graphic novel and memoir about caring for aging parents. As much as you’d think this was a quick, easy read since it’s illustrated, I had to take my time and read this slowly. With older parents of my own, there were parts I could identify with, and the unknown future and potential issues this book brings up made me emotional. It shares real feelings and concerns about what we do with the people we love as they get older.

July: Journeys
Book: In the Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor’s Journey in the Saudi Kingdom by Qanta Ahmed


What I liked about it: I didn’t know a lot about the Muslim faith before reading this and it was interesting to have a woman’s point of view on the religion and its practices both in Saudi Arabia and the western world. Despite faith-based and gender barriers, the author and doctor was able to show the reader her deep love for the religion, the women who are making progress in unique ways, and how to be a strong, professional woman.

August: Starting Over
Book: The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord (did not finish)


September: This Digital Life
Book: The Circle by Dave Eggers


What I liked about it: Um, I didn’t care for this one personally. The storyline is interesting and brings up issues about social media, safety, and security. However, I was disappointed with the lead character and felt the author did not represent her very realistically. I think if a writer is going to write a main character that is a different gender or ethnicty than themself, they should make that character as real as possible. The numerous sex scenes that take place in public bathrooms did not do anything to move the story forward or seem true to the character. They very much felt written by a male for a male. This made my interest in the book lessen.

October: Reading About Reading
Book: The World Between Two Covers: Reading the Globe by Ann Morgan (did not finish)


November: Comfort Food, Comfort Reading
Books: Life From Scratch: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Forgiveness by Sasha Martin
Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley


What I liked about it: Sasha Martin had a very difficult childhood, and despite moving around and many unstable moments, she’s created a memoir that revolves around food. From the unique, makeshift meals her mother made to family recipes to attending cooking school, Martin finds meaning in them all.


What I liked about it: Another graphic novel for my list! Knisley shares short stories of food memories in this graphic novel. From learning how to cook mushrooms with her mother to traveling the world and surviving on pastries, her passion for food will be felt.

December: Heartwarming Classics
Book: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens


What I liked about it: I completed this one on audiobook and highly recommend the BBC radio production recording if you can get it. Excellent narrator and the story is infused with additional sound effects like the chains, the chimes of the clock striking the hour, and some instrumental music. I really enjoyed this classic and would read it again.


What reading challenges did you do or are you currently doing?
Do you think reading diverse books is important?
What do you want to read more of this year? 




Who’s Your Dream Author Panel?

James Rollins

Lunch with James Rollins at the Dallas / Fort Worth Writers Conference in 2012.

I’ve had the pleasure of attending several writers conferences around the country and met many great authors who I consider role models. I’m so honored to chat with folks such as James Rollins and Larry Brooks, to interview writing idols like Danielle Trussoni and Karen Abbott. I dressed alike with Jenny Lawson (AKA The Bloggess) and spoke Greek with Arianna Huffington. And I am beyond thrilled to welcome Nickolas Butler and Blair Braverman to La Crosse later this year!

Eventbrite, a company that hosts and assists with lots of great conferences and events – I’m attending several coming up including a travel writing course and a gallery reading with a medium! – asked the question “Who’s on your dream author panel?” 

I suppose it’s not practical to say ALL OF THEM!


There’s little that fills me with as much energy as chatting with other authors. When you’re in a room surrounded by “your people,” it’s pretty awesome. And I’m grateful for every opportunity.

So honestly, many authors are on my dream panel. Those I’ve had the pleasure of meeting before and new faces as well. But if I had to narrow it down, then I’d pick from my favorite genre, memoir, and specifically those authors with the ability to infuse humor into the hardships they face.

So Universe, if you can somehow swing these folks to gather AND put me in the same room with them, I’ll keep my fangirl under control (or try to). 

David Sedaris – Me Talk Pretty One Day, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, Naked
Mindy Kaling – Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?
Mishna Wolff – I’m Down
Elaine Lui – Listen to the Squawking Chicken
Caitlyn Moran – Moranifesto
Haven Kimmel – A Girl Named Zippy
Kristin Newman – What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding
Kevin Kling – The Dog Says How
Roz Chast – Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?
Laurie Notaro – The Idiot Girl’s Action-Adventure Club

Ten is kind of a lot on a panel isn’t it? I don’t care. I like to dream big.

I’d love to hear the perspectives from this mix of essayists, memoirists, and graphic novelist. This panel would hold stories of coming out, cultural identity, race relations, immigration, surviving abusive relationships, feminism, dysfunctional family, living with a disability, caring for aging parents, and living paycheck to paycheck. Topics to make us feel less alone, walk in someone else’s shoes, and find the laughter in the end. Definitely my favorite genre to dive into.

Dream big! Who would be on YOUR author panel if you could choose? 

Guilty Pleasures Mash Up: Read ‘Em, Fools!

Time for a little Weekend Madness – Mash Up Style!  Feast yourselves on these ballers of blogging!

Writing – Because it’s easier to write about writing than to actually just write.  Or is that just me?

Avoid every writer’s nightmare with tips from Jody Hedlund in Why I Don’t Get Writer’s Block and How You Can Avoid It Too.

Looking for some inspiration?  Jenny Hansen shared What Lights Your Creative Spirit on Fire? with advice from Sue Monk Kidd (The Secret Life of Bees author) and Forbes magazine about what creative people need to be successful.

Ever read a book where the dialogue or words take you right out of the story?  Susie Lindau rants her best in Do You Curse Brightly? – a blog that examines the usefulness and purpose of swear words in our books.

Tawna Fenske wrote possibly the funniest blog evah about making believable characters and relating it to a guy making spinach.  YOU HAVE TO READ The Domineering Male with Spinach and Dish Soap.

Interested in learning more about audiobooks?  Stacy Juba interviews Award-winning voice artist, Nicole Poole, for The Ins and Outs of Narrating Audiobooks.

Exciting news!!!  Ellie Ann has released the cover of her new book, The Silver Sickle and she’s sharing it with us!  Check it out in The Revealing.

Ode To Social Media Tips:

Lisa Hall-Wilson guest blogged at Jenny Hansen’s with Facebook Tricks for Better Engagement and My. Mind. Was. Blown.  I really hadn’t been watching any of this, but she gave us a cool easy challenge to consider how we’re sharing links on Facebook and what exactly we want those links to do!  Must read for those building an author platform!

And if Twitter is your thing, Marcy Kennedy guest blogged at Kristen Lamb’s with The Proper Care and Feeding of Hashtags.  Don’t get thrown in Twitter jail!  Read Marcy’s tips!

Nina Badzin posted on Kveller.com the amazing plea Let’s All Stop “Replying All” to Every Email.  Sing it, Sister!

Life Lessons – Growing pains mean wisdom gains!

Do you struggle with the “meantime”?  That time of working out of/working towards something?  Kristen Lamb shared a life lesson she learned that hit home with many of you in To Find Success, Learn to Embrace the Meantime.  Another Must Read.

If you’re not reading August McLaughlin’s blog, you’re MISSING OUT!  She’s one of the most honest, genuine, supportive female writers out there!  True to form, August shared another heart-baring blog in Singing Naked: Honesty on Stage, about growing through vulnerable moments.  Beautiful voice – inside and out!

I bet no one has ever told you THINK NEGATIVE before!  Rachelle Gardner shares the smarts about goal achieving in Try “Thinking Negative” for a Change.

Entertainment and Smut – The stuff you won’t tell your boss you like, but secretly gossip with the secretary over…

Tiffany A. White gives the master rundown of Season 4 of The Vampire Diaries and its soon to be spin off, The Originals, from the CW network.  Death and Evolution with The Vampire Diaries and The Originals

Remember the books you read as a kid and picked out what character was you?  Sherry Isaac brings us Tribute to Trixie with Author Gloria Richard, sharing her love of the Trixie Belden books.

Got a favorite James Bond? What about the original?  Piper Bayard and Jay Holmes share The Original James Bond – Ian Fleming.  Fascinating guy!

The Funnies – Read these for your weekend funny bone!

Ironic Mom, the Comic Queen, shared You Know You’re An Optimist if You

Miss Snarky Pants is sharing her best “Fictionary” – a play on words, often pun-like, to make new meanings and she’s got some good ones in Fictionary:  Preventing the Extinction of my Muffin Top.

Julie Glover had me snickering over her Wednesday Words series in Laugh With Me: It’s Punny!  Go pick your favorite pun!

Myndi Shafer shared in her Quick Giggle series Celebrities Read Mean Tweets.  Should this one go under Social Media tips?

(photo courtesy Creative Commons – Mrs Inman)

Happy Reading!

Author Interview with CJ West: Why He Might Be Dexter Morgan’s Best Friend

Welcome to the Kickoff of June’s Featured Writer posts!  Every Tuesday I’ll be hosting a different author where they gush the gory details on writing and life.

CJ West

It’s a double dose of CJ West this week, whom many of you may know from the twitter #MANday challenge that’s been tweeting around.  CJ recently released his new digital short, Thugbook; his seventh publication.  He writes thrillers, and his blog is captioned Suspense.  Creativity.  Action.  You can also find him at his website or doing author interviews on his Blog Talk Radio Show.  But today, he’s here with us, answering  my questions about the writing life.  And, he’ll back this Friday, sharing his guilty pleasures right here on The Happiness Project!

CJ Answers Questions About CJ:

JW:  You have led a diverse pathway of careers.  You wrote your first book while still in school, pursued your love of golf and considered going pro, then got your degree in Business Management and made a living helping companies with computer networking, and then went back to writing.  What has each of these roles taught you about life?

CJW: In each of these things I was following a passion and I have been very fortunate thus far to work at things I love doing. My greatest lesson learned is to seek good advice. I grew up in an environment that highly valued independence. My life’s journey would have been vastly different if I had embraced the advice of knowledgeable people early in my life. I have worked very hard at each of my passions and with sound advice I could have achieved much more with all that effort.

JW:  As a novice writer with a time-sucking day job, I’m always curious know to how other writers did it: the switch to writing full time.  What was the game changing moment where you decided to focus on writing, and what struggles along the journey did you have to overcome?

CJW:  The big moment for me was when Sin & Vengeance was optioned for film. The offer came out of the blue and when it did, I began to believe I could entertain readers well enough to make a living writing books. The writing life for me is still a constant struggle. I don’t believe I’ve made it yet, but I have had the great pleasure of entertaining many readers and I’m thankful that I wake up and write every day.

JW:  You host a Blog Talk Radio show called The Thriller-30, what authors have been the most inspiring to you on that show?

CJW:  Tim Hallinan was a wonderful guest and became a good friend after doing the show. Many of the authors really appreciated the time I put into preparation and enjoyed having their work highlighted that way.

JW:  I listened to your podcast with author Vincent O’Neil where you discussed his book Death Troupe, a book about a roving band of murder mystery actors.  I learned that you love getting involved in murder mystery theater!  How did you start that?

CJW:  I was invited to take part in a murder mystery show by a friend. I was hesitant to get up on stage as many authors are, but I discovered after about 5 shows that I really enjoy acting. I’m getting a bit better at being in front of a crowd and the great thing about the shows I’ve been involved in is that they are very interactive. The crowd gets involved and it is a great time playing a role and getting to know people.

JW:  So let’s talk about your readers!  You have some really innovative events and outings to connect with your readers.  What kinds of things have you done, and what events do you have coming up?

CJW:  I have put on dozens of fun events for readers. We’ve done everything from Advanced Driving Classes, Firearms training, Murder Mysteries, Poker Lessons, and of course I’ve been to most of the big conventions to speak to readers. I’ve hosted many online events and parties including an online murder mystery. Right now I’m getting in shape for a MANday challenge. If I lose, I’ll have to post pictures of myself half naked – a scary prospect for a writer!

CJ Answers Questions About His New Short, Thugbook:
JW:  You recently celebrated your birthday!  May 23rd you launched a twitter party and giveaway in honor of your new digital short, Thugbook!  Tell us about your book.

CJW:  Thugbook is the story of a social network gone wrong. Thugbook (a practical idea, I think) is a site where citizens post photos of criminals. The site soars in popularity and at the same time is engulfed in controversy. Criminals are turning up dead and the blame lays squarely on Thugbook. It’s an exploration of greed, revenge, and the power of technology to shape our society.

JW:  I was lucky enough to read Thugbook, and would you say “it’s part Big Brother, part Dexter, part Hustle and Flow and part The Social Network” is an accurate description?

CJW:  That’s a lot of parts! I think it certainly fits in there somewhere.

JW:  Do you think Dexter Morgan would approve of Thugbook?

CJW:  Dexter would love Thugbook. It would be the ideal research tool for him to plan murders!

JW:  The head honcho of Thugbook is a young CEO named Blaine.  He’s not very likeable when we start out.  What helped you create his character?

CJW:  People are motivated by different things and power changes people sometimes. Blaine started Thugbook to avenge the rape and murder of his sister. Along the way Fame and Fortune come to Blaine and the trappings of success change him.  I wanted to contrast this with Jones who is true to his mission to repay the criminals who have caused him harm.  The men accomplish great things, but their methods and the way they deal with success are very different.

JW:  The driving force of your story is that the reader never knows quite who to trust.  You have presented one story from several perspectives, always asking the question Is this right or wrong?  We know there are vigilantes taking the gang members into their own hands, but you ask us to think about issues like privacy and moral ethics.  What plotting tips can you share?

CJW:  I really enjoy plotting novels and my plots evolve with each new work. I think it is important for plot to grow out of character and if you start with interesting and motivated characters in conflict, good things will happen.

JW:  Well said!  What other writing tips do you recommend for writers?

CJW:  Get good advice. I also heard a great commencement speech by Neil Gaiman and his words of advice were, “Make Good Art.” That really hit me and I think it is what we all need to focus on.

CJ Answers Nonsense, But Fun, Questions:

JW:  We writers work hard, and often alone, describe your perfect day off.

CJW:  I must admit that I rarely take a day off. Maybe two or three a year.

An ideal day off would be a day on the water with my kids catching blue crabs.

JW:  What last words of advice do you have to share with our readers?

CJW:  Enjoy every moment of life’s journey. Drink in the wonders of nature and the complexities in the hearts and minds of the people you meet.

Thank you, CJ, for taking time to chat today and for sharing your new short, Thugbook, with us!

What other questions do you have for CJ?  What do you think of the idea of Thugbook?

And, don’t forget, learn more about CJ’s guilty pleasures this Friday! 

A Christmas and Bookywook Blog Mash-up

Ha Ha Holiday Laughs: 

Mark Petruska lends his blog to Lisa Nowak so she can teach us all How to Write a Farcical Holiday Letter.

Jenny Hansen celebrates her 15th Risky Baby Business post with her Holiday Collection of Fun Baby Links.

Wendy Matheson is back and blogging!  She recaps the holidays in Smiles, Soup, Santa and Silliness.  Go and play her Santa photo caption game!

Are you still shopping?  Ellie Ann Soderstrom has you covered in her Holiday Gift Guide.  So go ahead, buy Aunt Marge those spandex shorts!

Books, books, books and Writing:

I love ‘Best of’ blog posts and Sara Grambusch just did hers in My Favorite Books of 2011.

Jillian from A Room of One’s Own blogs Happy Birthday Jane Austen from a Former Naysayer.

Tiffany White interviews new author Stephanie Nelson about her paranormal series Craved and Deceived.

Kristen Lamb serves up awesome in her psychedelic post Aspiring is for Pansies:  Tough Love and Being a Writer.

Jenny Hansen blogged this past weekend for the Life List Club at Sonia Medeiros about the Most Important Writing Lesson I Ever Learned.  This one stuck with me.

Awesomely Paranormal:

Catie Rhodes shared the history of Folk Magic in Appalachia and you can learn by through the research books and stories in her blog comments too!

I’m off to get some wrapping done!  But stick around, chat a little.  I’ll be back with cocoa!

Wednesday’s Winter Mash Up

source: google images

Hello Everyone,

While I’m buried beneath boxes and Christmas gift lists at the mall, please enjoy the phenomenally written posts that others had time to write.  These blogs are awesome and so are their WRITERS!!!  Thanks to everyone for the blog love on my last post.  Sounds like the marketing for Excedrin: NEW for Retail Tension Headaches is going to be a big success!  I’m putting a bottle in everyone’s stocking!

On Writing and Reading:

Kristen Lamb tells it like is when it comes to plot structure and prose in Is Your Novel a Spineless Weakling?

Renee Schuls-Jacobson, my amazing Warrior Writer partner, gave honesty a new metaphor and exclaimed I’m Going To Do a Book.

August McLaughlin interviews  Author Roni Loren on Writing Sexy and Her Novel Debut.  Prepare yourself for drooling and feverish laughter.

My favorite new author, Jody Hedlund, wrote an AMAZING and honest blog post about book giveaways.  She recaps how FREE has a cost, how book sales are trending, and includes very simple and awesome gift ideas that help a favorite crowd of mine, writers!!!  Even Though Free is In, Don’t Forget to Buy Books Too.

The top books of 2011 are already starting to be listed!  Nina Badzin shares her favorite reads of the past year in Top Ten Reads of 2011.  Be advised, read this before making your master list for the 2012 TBR Pile Challenge!  Or do what I did, and keep adding to your Goodreads “to-read” collection!

The Necessary Belly Laughs and Bright Moments for the Holidaze:

Pam Hawley almost brought me to tears in her beautifully heartfelt post about Finding Thankfulness: I Love This Bar.  She talks about growing up in her own version of “Cheers” and makes me want to go meet her for a drink at Hawley’s Pub soon!

If you want pee your pants kind of laughter, you’ve got to visit Jenny Hansen’s post Can a Cup o Joe Make Your Man a Ho.  True story.  And a hilarious one!

Myndi Shafer discovers the real reason for the crankiness factor of the Dr. Seuss villain in The Grinch is Pregnant.

How is your week going so far?

My Five Year Plan (Or Lack Thereof): Guest Post by Sonia Medeiros

Welcome to another round of Life List Club Fridays.  Many of us are in the ho ho horror of the holiday stress load, and you should know, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.   We’re all right there with ya!  So if you’re struggling with your “big life plan” allow the wonderful Sonia Medeiros to help today!  Then please pop over to the outrageous Jenny Hansen’s blog for my post about the 2012 To Be Read Pile Challenge!  Reading is a great way to de-stress, so I think you’ll like this challenge.  See you soon, but for now, here’s Sonia!

My Five Year Plan (Or Lack Thereof)

This is a little embarrassing for me to admit, being a Life List Club member and all but…I don’t have a five-year plan for writing and my one year plan seems to change all the time.

Truth is I’ve always struggled with setting long-term goals. Feels too much like getting tied down to one path. The pantser in me just can’t handle that. After all, there’s so many ways to get from A to B. Why spoil the fun of the discovery along the way?

But…I’ve also learned the value of plotting a story. Making an outline doesn’t lock me onto one path, it just gives me some guide posts along the way so I don’t get lost wandering around.

And ROW80 has taught me loads about setting reasonable goals. Because my previous MO was to set the bar way too high and then flip out when I couldn’t keep up. So I’ve learned to start small and adjust as needed. And that failing to meet a goal is not the end of the world but an opportunity to figure out why I failed and how to adjust the goal or my approach to it.

I’m flying along just fine with my writing goals week to week but, when it comes to planning out the next year or five, I choke.

I know where I fantasize about being in five years.

*begins daydreaming about seeing my name on the top of the NYT bestseller list, book signings, movie deals*

Something like this would be nice. (Source: Google Images)

*comes back down to earth*

But figuring out how to get there? That’s where I come up short.

Part of it is that I’m not all that attached to fame and fortune. Oh sure, I wouldn’t toss ‘em out on their behinds but I don’t know if I need that to feel like a successful writer. Even if I had only a small readership…I think I’d still be pretty thrilled just to have folks reading my books.

But the biggest part seems to be that I just don’t know how long it takes me to actually finish a novel. I’m still working on my first. And, if I don’t know how long it takes me to write one novel, how can I know how many novels I can write in five years? Because I’m assuming I’ll need more than one book to build any kind of career as a novelist.

I know what I can do week-to-week. I can set a minimum number of scenes to write per week. And given the outline for my WIP, I can figure how many working days it might take me to finish a first draft.

But…my outline’s still not exactly right. The story’s evolved so much since I started writing it and it feels like there’s so much more I need to do (or maybe I just need to stop reading books on the writing craft because they keep sending me back to the drawing board). And no matter how many scenes I write, it feels like there’s so many more to do.

Then there’s the whole revising, beta reading and more revising.

My mind is shaking in its boots.

So maybe my fear of making a five-year plan really isn’t about the numbers at all.  Maybe it’s just plain fear. Fear that I can’t cut it with this writing thing. That I can’t really finish a book after all. Fear that I’ve only got one book in me. Fear that even that one book is gonna suck. Fear that it won’t suck and I’ll have to not suck even more with the second one. And the third.

Hmmm…guess I better put on my big girl pants and make a five-year plan. Even if it means I have to revise the heck out of it each and every week.

What do you think? Have you got a five-year writing plan worked out? Were you able to figure it out before you finished your first book or are you still figuring it out? Did you have to battle any writing fears to make that five-year plan?

     Sonia G Medeiros is a writer of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. She’s the author of more than a dozen short stories and flash fiction pieces, blogs at WordPress, and is working on her first novel, a dark fantasy. When she’s not wandering along the tangled paths of her wild imagination, she wrangles home life with one fabulous husband, two amazing, homeschooled children, three dogs, one frog and two cats who battle each other for world domination.




Must Read Monday

Hello friends!  I’m catching up on my NaNo goals today, so no post from me, but I won’t leave you empty handed.  Check out my favorite posts from the past week.  There’s a bit of something for everyone, practical writing advice, book reviews, creepy legends, and hilarious love advice!

Word Stuff:

MuseInks gives us the Top 5 Reasons You Should Do NaNoWriMo.  Reason number 6:  It’s fun!

Kristen Lamb talks Successful Writers and the real truth about the word “lucky.”  A must read for all writer wannabees.  Take control of your career!

Kristen Lamb also did a post about how to focus on relationships with other writers.  She warns you of the bad advice and assists with how to make a real connection happen in How to Win the Hearts of Bloggers – Scoring the Book Review, Guest Post, or Interview.

Freshly Pressed blogger, Jolie O’Dell, gave her Secrets to Productivity recently and really revealed how this gets her a jump start ahead of her peers and what tricks she uses to help wake up in the morning.

Writer Unboxed shared a guest post on how to Be a More Confident Writer and offer 5 tips to help you on your way.

Jillian at A Room of One’s Own wrote a beautiful review on the biography and history of author Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Get swept away into The Big Woods of Little House on the Prairie creator.

Health and Wellness:

Mark Landen gives you the health advice and brain foods you’ll need this fall to crack your “WIP” into place.  *LOL, I’m hilarious!  Ok, seriously*  Must read:  11 Ways to a Healthy Brain and Healthy Writing.

Piper Bayard gives us the health care resolution for her presidential candidacy:  Granny Care, Putting the Care Back in Health Care.  To which I may add, a vote for Granny is a vote for free chicken noodle soup for all!

Social Trends of the Season:

Margaret Reyes Dempsey guest blogs at Celluloid Zombie about the Willing Suspension of Disbelief for movie watchers everywhere.  Join the heated debate:  300 zombies out of nowhere, now spotted yards in front of you with binoculars…believe it or not?!

If you haven’t yet checked out Gene Lempp’s Zoo Arcane series, you’re missing out.  He’s got great mythology research, enticing book ideas for your use, and never fails to find something most of us have never heard of before.  His latest spooky series was on Evil Little People, a title I’ll try not to take personally at my whopping 5’2″.  😛

Amber West’s edition of Worth a Watch Wednesday was on ABC’s new show Once Upon a Time.  Fairytales and present day crime drama combine.  Just caught my first episode Sunday night, and I’m intrigued!

Looking for love in all the wrong places?  Tawna Fenske just may have the answers after cat-sitting for a friend.  For a good time, read Please Pee So I’ll Know if You’re Sexy.

Any other NaNo’s out there?  How’s it going?  And everyone else, what fun have you been up to since we’re all shut inside? 

Going for the Great

Hello my ghoulies!  We interrupt your normal spookifying blog posts for another blog hop edition of the Life List Club!  Join in the camaraderie of new and old friends helping each other progress towards our goals.  Today I’m talking about zombies over at Sonia Medeiros’ blog and joining me today is the sassy and fashion savvy (she has leopard print pants!!), Jenny Hansen from More Cowbell.  Please welcome Jenny to the stage!

Going For The “Great”

NaNoWriMo is less than two weeks away and writers are flexing their fingers and cracking their knuckles in anticipation. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and it’s when hundreds of thousands of writers around the world swarm to the website, chat rooms and local write-ins to try to bang out fifty thousand words in a month.

That’s 1,667 words per day, or just under seven pages, for all of those who haven’t done the math on this. That’s a big commitment, but it can be done. The goal – at least it’s my goal – is to do it smart.

Like most writers, I don’t just want to end up with words on a page. I want to end with a framework of good words that I can (hopefully) fashion into something great when the dust has settled in December.

I came across a quote at work that I used in a motivational seminar that applies to us crazy writer types:

“Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.” ~ Kenny Rogers

Note: Those of you over here at Jess’ place might not have visited me at my blog (More Cowbell) yet, so you won’t know that I’m a software trainer (aka “Training Goddess”) by day for an accounting firm. It’s my job to get those accountants out of their comfort zone and enjoy the process while they’re at it.

There’s countless ways to motivate people, but a sure way to fire up my accountants is to appeal to their sense of competition. This can be competition with themselves or with someone they admire. Accountants, as a rule, are highly motivated to be the best – each of them strives to have the best research skills, deepest knowledge, etc. Sound familiar?

Here’s five points I presented this last week in a seminar called, “Are You A High-Value Employee?” Below, I’ve adapted these 5 key areas to writers since we are the boss and employee all rolled into one.

Key areas of high value to which all WRITERS should aspire:

1.  Relationships: The ability to connect and interact with co-workers fellow writers, clients publishing professionals, and the community readers.

You and I are building a relationship right now. I post thoughts, you read them, then we discuss (because hopefully y’all will cavort in the comments section). If we enjoy the process we do it again, either here at Jess’ blog or over at More Cowbell. Perhaps you’ll come find me on Twitter (@jhansenwrites). Maybe I’ll come find you.

Relationships will build naturally if you’re open to them. I’ve got writing friends who’ve been on Twitter since January (because I forced them to join a week after I did) and have yet to send a single tweet or monitor a single hashtag. They’re not involved in ROW80 or The Life List Club. They’re not doing what Jess did when she founded Life List Club with Marcia Richards to support other writers: they’re not forming relationships.

As much as we all love to play with words, writing can be a cold, hard endeavor when it’s not going well. Relationships with supportive friends can help brighten up the process and keep you from getting stalled. Building relationships is essential to a writer’s success.

2.  Analysis: The ability to extract the key critical factors of a specific situation.

While accountants get all zippy and hopped up on the word “analysis,” most writers experience an odd yearning to scratch out their eyes or iron their underwear each time they hear it bandied about. Analysis, to most creative people, means numbers and spreadsheets and pain.

Here’s what analysis really means:


Noun:    Detailed examination of the elements or structure of something, typically as a basis for discussion or interpretation.

The process of separating something into its constituent elements.

In writer-speak it means “good Craft” and deep edits. We spend a lot of time learning 3-Act structure or creative use of Setting in the hopes that it will seep inside and flow through our fingertips to the page. Those are good goals.

To be a “great” writer, we must be able to revise. If you’re like me, you might be thinking things like, “I don’t wanna!” or “I’ll just ‘know’ what belongs there when I see it.” That kind of whining will let you be a good writer, but probably not a great one.

We must know why we’re adding or taking away from a scene, which means we have to analyze our scenes for what they’re missing (and learn as much as you can about Craft).

3.  Innovation: The ability to design solutions to effectively solve problems.

Writers are incredible innovators. We build people and worlds and invent entire stories. Are we bringing our full innovative powers to bear when we do this? Spending the time and energy to move beyond the nice and easy, to the far-flung limits of our imaginations?

I’ll confess, some days I’m lazy and I just don’t feel like stretching my “what-if muscle.” On those days, my writing is usually OK at best. It’s definitely not within a mile of great. I kick myself later and wonder why I didn’t take a walk, or a run through Twitter or slug down some coffee. All those things give me a boost. Finding out what gives you a boost will help you bring your Innovator to the page.

4.  Knowledge: Depth and breadth of understanding and applying bodies of information.

This is where the ever-present research comes in. Some writers love it, and some don’t. All of us are going to be doing it sooner or later and it seems everyone’s got a different way to go about it.

For some, research is an in-depth journey; still others research by watching reality TV. You need to find out what works best for you, but your end-goal is to know your subject well enough that you can describe it in just a few words.

5.  Experience: The ability to function competently and confidently at appropriate level, having performed in numerous situations and demonstrated task or job fluency.

The same as in your day job, “writing experience” is directly related to writing practice. The more we write and the more books we complete, the greater our confidence and level of skill.

I’ll never figure out why it’s OK to learn job skills slowly, but the same speed for a writer is cause for angst. Perhaps it’s because the writing means more to us than our day jobs. Most writers will tell you they started to hit their stride about the time they finish their third manuscript.

I know some of you are shuddering right now, thinking of all that “wasted time.” I have a question for you perfectionists: Why is it acceptable for multiple attempts when learning to ride a bike, or dance the tango, or knit but it’s an “epic fail” to write a few books before you get good at it?

Lots of first novels remain unpublished for a reason. They were practice for the other books. It takes years to learn the piano, and hours of practice. Maybe you could cut yourself some slack the next time you sit down at the writing page. Enjoy the journey; have some fun. You’re gaining on-the-job experience.

The beauty of being a writer is that we don’t really have to get it right the first time. We just have to try our very best. Eventually, our best becomes GREAT.

What do you think makes for great writing? What online tool do you like best for networking and building relationships with others? Do you participate in goal-based groups like ROW80, The Life List Club or NaNoWriMo?

Thanks for visiting with us on this Life List Friday! Have a great weekend.


     Jenny fills her nights with humor: writing memoir, women’s fiction, chick lit, short stories (and chasing after the newly walking Baby Girl). By day, she provides training and social media marketing for an accounting firm. After 15 years as a corporate software trainer, she’s digging this sit down and write thing. When she’s not at her blog, More Cowbell, Jenny can be found on Twitter at jhansenwrites and at her group blog, Writers In The Storm.

Writing and Reading, and Ghosts-Oh my!

There’s always so many awesome blogs to read, so I always appreciate mash-ups to help me find out what I missed and what’s happening in the blogosphere.  Here are my favorite reads from the past 2 weeks.  So settle in, enjoy some hot apple cider and a sweet roll while autumn rustles in.

Oops, I didn't mean to give you mine!

Writers and Readers and Speakers:

Piper Bayard blogs about her seven year journey towards being a writer and shares her tips on starting out and attending writer conferences.

Larry Brooks guest posts at Ollin Morales’ blog, Courage 2 Create, about The Most Powerful Learning Tool a Writer Could Ever Have.

Katie Ganshert poses the question of how to write a Love Triangle – will your reader love it or hate you?  She uses Vampire Diaries as her illustration!  *Squeal!*

Trish Loye Elliot from over at Wordbitches posted an interesting question for writers, Bookclubs – A Good Idea or a Huge Time Suck?  Share your take on the worthiness of reading when writing time is scarce.

Renee Schuls-Jacobson takes the Dialect Challenge and vlogs about pronunciation and accents in The Hybrid Accent.  It’s hysterical and fun, you must watch and share your own language quirks.

Creepy True Stories From Around the World:

Stacy Green writes about the creepiest child killer true story I’ve ever read.  Read it, it’s so eerie!  The Sweet Face of Pure Evil.

Catie Rhodes shares super spooky legends and videos about the Ghosts of Cameron Park in Waco, Texas.

Pam Hawley is turning Hawleyville into the Hawleyville Hauntings next month!  Check out her line-up as she gears up for Halloween!  Fall, Festivities, and Freakitude.

Exciting news:  Get ready this October as Jess Witkins’ Happiness Project turns into Jess Witkins’ Haunted Blog for the WHOLE MONTH!  Expect costume ideas, Halloween how-to’s, ghost stories, scary movies, books, and more ghoulie fun!  Muahahahaha!

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