Serial Killers Are Everywhere

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I’m sitting in my office, at my desk fretting over what to blog about this week. Coming from behind me, outside my window is either the sounds of a squirrel on crack, the roof coming off, or a drummer on scaffolding because I’m on the second floor. I’m trying to keep my mind away from the possibility of an intruder. Albeit, not a very bright one if he’s making that much noise on a bright, sunny day, at lunch time. However, I trust no one and my first thoughts are always to be careful. Serial killers are everywhere.

You know when you’re watching a scary movie and the character on screen decides to go look outside because they heard a crash or a gun shot and you yell at the screen, “DON’T DO IT. DON’T GO OUT THERE!”? I was compelled to look out my office window just now and thought this might be the stupidest thing I’ve done all day. But, there must be an explanation to the noises outside. We want to reassure ourselves the world as we know it hasn’t changed. We like the status quo, don’t we? And what was I going to do when I saw the rabid squirrel or the crazed drummer suspended in mid-air? Panic, that’s what. Not pretty.

Several years ago, I think before I even had kids, I was home and had somehow forgotten the roofers we hired were going to begin work. There I was home alone, footsteps pounded on my roof. It wasn’t Christmas Eve so that ruled out Santa immediately. I didn’t know what the sound was and then I heard voices! Robbers. Vandals. Serial Killers!!!!!!!! I panicked. Grabbed the phone and debated on calling 911. What was I going to say? I didn’t want to sound ridiculous and I didn’t want to go outside. I did bring myself to look out the window. Saw the roofer’s truck and passed out. No, kidding. I called myself a lot of stupid names for being silly.

I’m going to get a baseball bat. I’ll be right back.

There are disadvantages to having a vivid imagination. One of them is the stories in your head never stop. With baseball bat in hand, I investigated the noise. I opened the window, climbed out onto the ledge below and shimmied up the drain pipe to the roof above. A turkey vulture’s wing had tangled in the weather vane.

Looks like turkey for dinner.

No?

 

We’re Live!

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That’s Dave packing the dance floor!

About a month ago I mentioned my good friend Dave Nase asked me to blog for his company NJs Best DJs. (I also edited most of the content on his new and fantastic website.)

I’m happy to report the blog is now live! I have three posts already up and would love for my faithful readers to stop by and say hi. I love to see familiar faces out in public. I’m not just writing about DJing. There’s plenty of advice on event planning too so if you or someone you know is in the midst of planning a party you might find a nugget of good information. Dave will also be doing great giveaways. And you know I’ll be poking fun a long the way. It should be a good time. Hope to see you there!

Thanks!

Stacey

 

 

The College Essay

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As you may know, Noodge 1 has begun the college search. We are months away from the dreaded application process, but I can see it on the horizon every time I peek out from under my, “don’t send my boy to college” barricade.

I hear the college essay is quite an important part of the application. I’m glad I’m a writer and I can help him. Not that he’ll want my help or even need my help, but since I can’t help myself I will be offering my services.

I’m under the impression it’s beneficial for the applicant to have a moving story. Some adversity they experienced and climbed from the rubble to succeed again. That’s a lot of pressure for a teenager. Haven’t we as parents been trying to keep them from calamity at all costs? It makes me think of that Modern Family episode where Haley is trying to write her college essays and realizes she hasn’t experienced any obstacles in her life. That’s when Claire, her mother, helps her out. Funny episode.

Haley from Modern Family and Noodge 1 have a lot in common. Thank God. So, what’s he going to write about? How he couldn’t get internet while on vacation with his intact and semi-normal family? Or should he try sometimes my mother doesn’t go food shopping and I’m forced to eat the expired pickles in the fridge? How about, several times my mother has forced me to wear clothes from the hamper because she didn’t do my laundry and I never bothered to mention everything I own is dirty? And if they really want to feel sorry for him he could tell them about the times he’s been booted out of the Netflix account.

Maybe I should take him for a ride in the middle of the night, blindfolded (him not me) drop him off at a cemetery without his phone and tell him to find his way home? He could write about his crazy mother and the lessons he learned about survival, trust, and navigating by the stars. Hmmm……It would make for a great essay.

 

 

Where Does Inspiration Come From?

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I am often asked where I get the ideas for my books. All stories start with an idea, right? The idea is the thing that gets you excited about writing. It’s the thing you need to remember when you’re 30,000 words in and you can’t remember why you started that stupid book in the first place. I know, I’ve been there. In fact, I’m there right now.

When my son was about ten he said to me, “Mom, I had a nightmare. I was trapped in Hell and I had to answer math questions to get out.” And the idea for Welcome To Kata-Tartaroo was born. When I wrote the second book in the series, Welcome To Bibliotheca, I wanted to revolve the adventure around a quirky character trait of my main character. He’s a kid that loves the library. And that story was born.

Inspiration can come from something someone said. In 1967, Smokey Robinson was shopping for a Christmas gift for his wife with Motown producer Al Cleveland. Mr. Cleveland meant to say, “I second that motion.” A very common phrase. Instead he said, “I second that emotion.” The men went home and wrote a song around that misspoken phrase. It was a #1 R& B hit.

Inspiration comes from stories on the news or life experience. But be careful about the life experience thing. I hear a lot, “you should write my life story.” Yeah – No. Not everyone’s story is interesting enough. Sorry. Hard truth. That adage, write what you know, doesn’t mean tell your life story in a book. It means write what you know and if you don’t know something research it. But we all take pieces of things from our lives or from people we know and incorporate that into our books. That’s perfectly fine.

Inspiration can come from anywhere. What’s really important is what you do with that spark. Do you breathe life into it or do you let it burn out?

Any questions?

 

 

How To Handle Rejection: “It’s not you, It’s me.”

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If you’re writing books, you’re probably going to decide at some point to take a gigantic risk and query an editor or agent to find out if your writing has any chops. What will you do if it gets rejected? Because, it will. Sorry. Hard truth.

I attended the NJRW Put Your Heart in a Book Conference this past October. Great conference. I pitched my women’s fiction novel, A Second Chance House, to four editors and agents. Three of them loved the premise. I had read my pitch, perfectly acceptable way to pitch, and one agent said she loved my writing! Hot dog, things are looking up. Nah. I’ve been down this road a few times. I know the drill. She liked my book, but not enough to rep me. At least that’s what she said after she and others in her agency read it.

I received another rejection yesterday. From an editor. And though she said some nice things about my writing she felt the book wasn’t for her and passed.

Getting rejected in the publishing industry is the equivalent to breaking up a relationship. “It’s not you. It’s me.” That’s what I heard (and have heard with other books) from these two rejections. Not right for me. Not a fit for me. It’s not you. It’s me.

Where does that leave me? Besides standing in the snow without a coat and holding only my wet and soggy manuscript?

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There are many choices when the rejections hit. Eat tons of peanut M&Ms. A serious possibility. Hide under the bed until your computer battery runs out and you can safely walk past it without torturing yourself by rereading the rejection. Or dust yourself off and keep going. The last option boarders on insanity, but hey, who said authors had any sanity? (As if hiding under the bed states normal psychological behavior? Of course it does! What? You haven’t done that?)

What do you usually think when someone you’re dating says, “It’s not you. It’s me.”? (I can’t answer that because I haven’t been on a date since 1990 and he didn’t say that. We ended up married with two kids and a dog. He said something funny and I laughed. The rest is history as they say.) Anyway, if I were dating and someone said it’s not you, it’s me, I’d probably say, “Hmph. What do you know. It’s not me, It’s you!” Yes, very mature, I realize.

But that’s exactly what I’m saying to these rejections, because it isn’t me. Now, having said that, there are times when it is your book. Never you, but your book and it takes time and lots of writing practice when to know it’s time to let that book sit in a drawer and rest and when to keep going. If you’re not sure which one you are, email me, we’ll talk.

But I’ve been around the block a few times and have a decent idea that my novel is worth publishing. My critique partners won’t let me embarrass myself. They’re good like that and I love them for it. Another reason why critique partners are invaluable, they won’t let you walk around with your dress stuck in your underwear.

So, where are you in the publishing process? Are you ready for an editor, ready to pitch or ready to shove that book in a drawer and start a new project? Or is time for M&Ms?

Any questions?

 

 

 

 

Joanna Gaines Taught Me a Lesson

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Have you ever watched HGTV‘s show Fixer Upper? Fixer Upper is a home renovation show hosted by Chip and Joanna Gaines. They fix up homes in Waco, TX. Chip is the brawn and Joanna is the design brains and beauty. I’m in awe of Joanna Gaines.

She is a mother of four, has a successful television show, a design business, a bed and breakfast, is a devout Christian and is younger than I am.  I have two kids. Compared to her I’m not really a parent. I don’t have the kind of successful business she has, I don’t feel at home in any religion, and I’m getting older by the second.

I’m not saying I would trade places with Joanna. I don’t know what her life is really like behind the cameras. Her kids might hate that she’s not around or their whole lives might revolve around the business and just once they’d like it to be different. She seems super nice, but maybe she’s a good actress. I don’t want to live on a farm with all those animals. Some days I’m not even sure I want the dog. But she sure does make life look clean, neat, and well-adjusted.

It’s hard not to compare myself to her when the laundry is piled taller than I am, dog hair tumbles across the hardwood floor, the mail needs to be sorted, kids need to be driven to a thousand places (that’s not much of an exaggeration) and I have words to write, clients to appease and appearances to be at. Joanna makes it look easy.

But it ain’t easy. In fact, even as I write this the laundry needs attention, again, I’m out of shampoo, I have to figure out how to grab both kids today at the exact same time from two different places, this blog post has been a thorn in my side for days, I need to write a blog post for my client, and I have a word count for the new novel I must hit. I did manage to brush my teeth, cleanup last night’s dinner, and set the house alarm before I left to go to the Starbucks and write. It’s a win, ladies and gents! It’s a win.

We all know social media and television make life look like it’s all homemade food and hand sewn clothes. It isn’t. Life is messy. I don’t believe half the posts I see from moms who go on and on about how proud they are of their children and how amazing this kid is and this mom can’t believe how lucky they are. Every parent (okay, not every) feels that way about their kid. We all love our children with such a fierceness it could blow up the universe. These same moms also want to pull their hair out of their heads from time to time, imagine a vacation alone on a sunny beach with no one yelling “MOM!!!” and have at some point wondered why they thought being a mother was a good idea in the first place. Oh, trust me, it’s true. (If you don’t have teenagers, don’t weigh in on that comment. Come back to me in a few years. We’ll talk then.) Doesn’t make anyone bad for thinking that. Perhaps our Joanna has glimmered that thought too.

Last night I was talking to a friend who had suffered the rampage of Hurricane Sandy. Long story short, she and her family recently moved back into their home. She’s expecting baby number two and the house isn’t ready, the room isn’t ready, boxes everywhere. I said, “It will all get done in time. Don’t worry about it.”

Why do women feel such pressure to be perfect? Me included. Is it because women before us burned their bras and fought for our opportunities to hold great jobs and raise families and own homes and not need the help of another human being while doing all of this, least of all a man? Or is it because the Joanna Gaineses of the world paint a picture we try to strive for? It would be easier to climb Mt. Everest than keep our stuff together in a picture perfect way without help. Heck, even the climbers of Everest have help. They don’t go to the top alone, why should we?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe in this whole it takes a village to raise a child business. No, your child is your responsibility. You raise him or her. The occasional car pool is one thing, but the constant watch my child so I can work and go on vacation in Disney mumbo jumbo doesn’t fly with me. Sorry, my opinion. (Before someone goes nuts, I’m not referring to the single mother working three jobs and living in a studio apartment trying to make ends meet. She needs the help. So, help her.)

But it is okay to say, I can’t do that right now. I can’t volunteer for one more group, or wash the car, or dinner is just going to have to be cereal. It’s okay to say to our partners, I need your help with the kids, the food, the horses, the bodies I’m trying to bury. And we shouldn’t feel guilty about it. Our home, children, job, and appearance don’t have to be perfect. And while we’re busy perfecting all these things we’re forgetting to better our souls. We should strive for more kindness, compassion, and generosity. We need to perfect our listening skills, because as a former Speech, Theater, Commmunications major I can tell you with assurance listening is a skill that can be learned. We need to experience things that make us feel better. Yoga, long walk in the parks, sunsets, coloring books, laughter.

When our souls are running over with warmth and peace we’ll be the better mother, wife, friend, business woman. Then and only then can we become the Joanna Gaineses of the world.

 

 

 

 

 

Ten Ways To Screw Up The Book You’re Writing

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  1. Wait for the muse. Yup, just sit there and wait. Your muse will show up dressed in pink satin and waving a wand. The muse will tap you on the nose three times then spin in circles spraying glitter everywhere and your novel will come spilling out of your fingers onto your keyboard at a rapid rate. You’ll write the best book ever, sell millions of copies, and be adored by fans world wide. Not.
  2. Do not set a daily writing goal. If you write one word or ten thousand, does it really matter?
  3. Only write a first draft. Your mother loves your writing. Who needs to edit?
  4. Never read a book on the craft, never attend a workshop on the aspects of creative writing. You read a fiction book in the seventh grade about a girl detective. What else do you need to learn to write that book?
  5. Believing all stories are worth telling.
  6. Only give your book to your parent, spouse, best friend for feedback. They know you take anti-depressant medication. They’ll be honest.
  7. Forget everything about grammar and punctuation. That stuff just clutters the page anyway.
  8. Rely on spell check to fix misspelled words. Does anyone really know the difference between there, their, and they’re?
  9. Put your hero in a jam and have a gun magically appear to shoot the bad guys with.
  10. Spend the first fifty pages telling the reader about the hero’s life before the book begins because the reader isn’t smart enough to understand your book without your long winded explanation.