Tuesday, January 31, 2012


One of the things I find thrilling about being a part of this wonderful online writing community is the ability to connect with writers from all over the world. Social media and technology has evolved to the point where disparate people, who live continents apart, remain connected by a few types on a keyboard. I find this amazing.

You see, I grew up in the military. Technically, my father was in the Airforce. But for all the military brats out there reading this post, you know exactly what I mean. We were as much a part of the military as our parents. We shopped at the commissary, went to the movies, got our hair cut, went to school, and lived—On-base.

A military base is a city in itself. It is an insular community with own societal rules and behaviors. However, it was bursting with people from different traditions and ethnicities, quite different from the culturally homogenous environment many of the adults grew up in. Tolerance and acceptance of racial and cultural differences by us kids was the norm, because it’s difficult to hate what you understand: friendship and family.

We were all part of the same community. Yet, we were also different from the kids who lived in the cities the bases were located in due to our transient lifestyle. Two years, three at the most, then it was time for the goodbyes and inevitable broken promises to stay in touch with the friends I’d made, and pack up my belongings and ship out. I moved ten times before I turned eighteen: Missouri, California, Colorado, Spain, Kansas, Maryland, Guam, Louisiana, back to Kansas where I graduated from high school. Then, to California where I went to college while my parents eventually were shipped to New York, then retired in my father’s home state of Louisiana (we also traveled to Korea, Philippines, Okinawa, Japan, Canada and Mexico).

At the new base, I’d have to make new friends. It was pretty easy, because I’d done it so often, but also a difficult adjustment. Relationships were formed, but they didn’t stick. You never knew when you’d be separated. Going to a new school meant adapting to a new cultural environment. Going to school off-base meant pure culture shock. I adapted by learning how to pick up the speech patterns, dialects, and mannerisms of the kids around me. I still do. If I’m speaking with someone who has an accent, I unconsciously pick it up. I found that it was easier for me to be accepted by a new crowd if I blended in.

I share all this to explain how my life experiences have influenced my writing. I enjoy developing characters that have distinct voices based on the cultures they grew up in. A character that grew up in rural Louisiana speaks and sees the world differently from a character from urban California. Yet their basic desires remain the same, for the most part. Still, there are differences, and it’s those differences that make the characters unique—flavorful, like BB-Q chicken vs. jerked chicken, which are totally different from baked chicken. All of which are still delicious in their own ways.

It’s these life experiences based on our communities and cultures which make us individuals. One of the things we understand as writers is the need to find our character’s Voice, which should be as distinct and beautiful from one another as we writers are from each other. The same goes for style, or maybe they’re interchangeable. It’s something I’m fascinated by, and I’d like to learn about how culture influences other writers.

So, please pop back in the future as for some very special guest posts from writers who share how they receive inspiration from their life experiences and their communities. It should be exciting.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


We all know how difficult it is to find a critique partner.

First, you have to find a person who has similar interests. Ideally, they should read the kind of book that you are working on. They don’t necessarily have to love the genre, but at least not run screaming upon opening the first chapter.

Sometimes having a person who doesn’t read your particular genre is beneficial because they can provide an alternate view point from someone who is familiar with the genre. I have a wonderful critique partner who writes fantasy. She’d never read YA, which allowed her to ask questions about my ms that I’d never thought about. This ultimately allowed her to find plot holes in my manuscript that I missed. Thank you, Michelle H.

Being a partner is indeed a partnership. It’s about offering to reciprocate by reading their work. It’s about finding the good, the bad, and the ugly in a story and being able to provide a constructive critique that doesn’t demean the other person’s writing.

Hearing you suck, totally sucks! Make suggestions on how to better a particular scene by providing examples of what you are talking about. You know, the whole show don't tell. It works when giving critiques, too.

Everyone is at different stages of learning their craft, from the veteran to the newbie; yet, no matter what stage you are in, you should always be open to learning from another person’s point of view. You may not always agree with what a person suggests, but try seeing the critique through their eyes. You may be surprised.

If you think a particular critique is F.O.S., ignore that particular suggestion. Ultimately, it’s your choice which critiques you’ll take and which you’ll discard. Always remember, this is your creation. Trust your instincts. Enjoy delving into your world and displaying it to the best of your ability. Seek help when needed.

Once you find someone who is willing to give up their time to critique your manuscript, a certain thing is necessary to keep good will.

It’s called saying THANK YOU.

Two little words, but they mean so much.

Remember that the critiquer may be just as anxious about how their critique is received as you are by receiving it. Hit the reply button on that email to acknowlege that you received their critique and it didn't land in their spam box. Thank them for their time. It's the same as if you received a present. You may not totally love the gift, but at least let them know you appreciate they cared enough to knit you that ugly, Christmas sweater with the reindeer on it.

The critiquer took time from their own projects to help you. Don't take their willness to read your work for granted. Be humble. Be appreciative.

This is the key to finding and keeping your critique partners. And if you cherish them, they will cherish you.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I'm Back!

Did you miss me?

I have to admit, I've missed posting and my responses from my readers. Thank ya’ll very much for supporting me.

I spent the holidays in Virginia and Washington DC. If I ever find my camera, I'll post pictures. I had a wonderful time and the weather was beautiful. After we returned, I spent the rest of my blog hiatus editing.

Yeah, typically I’d say I’d rather be doing anything but editing. I include poop scooping during my dog’s evening walk in this list. However, do you know what I’ve noticed during this last round of editing—I love it.

How the world did this happen?  

I’d like to think it’s because I’m better at self-editing while writing the story. I tend to catch my tense slips, run-on sentences, and lapses into telling not showing. I’ve also learned a ton from my critique partners. They tend to catch the invisible words in the ms. You know, the words my brain tells me are there, but not. See, I forgot—they’re—in that sentence. I’m still sketchy on comma placement, but I’m learning.

I finished editing Djinni. It’s ready for my critique partners, but I’m holding off sending it to them for the simple fact that I’d prefer for them to read Quest for the Golden Apple first. I so totally love this story.

Yes, I’m biased. A bad mommy to play favorites, but this story has wiggled its way into my heart, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Still, I have a wee bit of a problem. I think subconsiously, or rather consciously now I've figured out my issue, I love Quest so much that I can't bear to finish it. I still have one last chapter to write. I've put it off for two months. It's outlined in my head. I know exactly what needs to happen, but I haven't put The End down on paper.

It's purely a matter of not wanting to abandon my characters. How can I say goodbye?

I guess I'll have to come up with a sequel.

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