Monday, September 24, 2012

What Books Should I Read For Halloween?

Every October I put myself in the Halloween mood by reading creepy, scary, or disturbing books.

But I'm running out of ideas so I'm asking the blogosphere for suggestions.

Here are a few that I really enjoyed, just to give you and idea of what I like.

Dracula by Bram Stoker
We Have Always Lived in the Castle and The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Basically anything that raises the hairs on the back of my neck. But nothing too satanic, that's where I draw the line.

So bring it on. What suggestions do you have?

Monday, September 17, 2012

On Finding Time

Free Stock Images: Times up. Image: 112269I've seen a lot of blog posts lately about finding time to do all the stuff we want to do.

When someone mentions one of their accomplishments like crafting, running, cooking, writing--anything that is not a bare essential, I often hear other people exclaim, "Oh! I wish I had time for that!"

The fact is, we all have the same amount of time. The only difference is how we allocate it.

I believe it's all about priorities. Stephen Covey used to do an object lesson where he would ask a person to fill a jar full of sand and rocks. Usually, the person couldn't make all the material fit into the jar because they added the sand first. Covey would take the jar and first put in the big stuff--the rocks, and then the medium stuff--the pebbles, and then let the sand filter in. A lot more fit into the jar that way.

And so it is with life. First, get the big stuff in place--the things that feel more like essentials than priorities: working for a living, taking care of our families and home, school and church and such.

For some, this big stuff takes up a huge amount of time, and it varies with the different stages of life--all my kids are in school all day so that has opened up more time for me.

Then decide which of the medium things are most important to you and fit those into your schedule. For me, this includes my writing time, some down time (which is something that I value and need), some exercise time, reading time, and so forth.

Last, try to fit in the little things, the stuff you care least about when you step back and look at your life objectively. Not all will be able to fit into your life. I've given up many hobbies and interests--even some so-called life-long dreams--to make time for writing.

I find that when people say, "Oh, I wish I had time for that." what they really mean is, "That is not a high priority in my life so I gave it up, even though I still miss it sometimes."

Finding time for everything is almost impossible and the need to be objective is absolute.

If you find that you never seem to have time for a particular activity that you claim to love, perhaps it is because you don't love it as much as you thought you did. Maybe giving it up for a better, higher priority is something to consider.

Specifically, writing. Although the idea of being a published author appeals to you, if you find you never have the time to write, maybe you love the idea of writing more than the actual act of writing. When you land a contract or an agent, the pressure increases ten-fold--so you'd better make sure you're ready to invest lots and lots and lots of time to writing.

Just something to consider. What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

It Doesn't Cost Me to Be Nice

Whenever I think about kindness, a song from the musical Les Miserables comes to mind. It's the part where the innkeeper says, "It doesn't cost me to be nice."

Although he is being sarcastic because he's trying to milk his guests of every last cent, the words themselves hit home.

Kindness really is free. It has a much greater rate of return than meanness or gossip or exclusion or withholding a compliment. Why poison ourselves trying to push others down when we can so easily lift them?

“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.” 
― Henry James

“No one has ever become poor by giving.” 
― Anne Frankdiary of Anne Frank

“For Attractive lips, speak words of kindness.
 For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.
 For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.
 For beautiful hair, let a child run their fingers through it once a day.
 For poise, walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone. 
 People, more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed. Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of each of your arms.
 As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself and the other for helping others.” 
― Sam Levenson

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.” 
― Plato

Why does our society struggle so much with kindness? Or does it?

Are we a kind people? Do you have a story of kindness you'd like to share?

Link up to The Kindness Project at Elana Johnson's blog.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Help! How Do You Write a First Draft?

So, I've written three complete novels. One to be published late next year.

I just finished my third a week or two ago.

And now, as I stare at a blank Scrivener document, I can't remember how to write something new.

Oh sure, I have lots of stories percolating in my brain. I don't have writer's block per se.

I just can't remember how to get the ball rolling.

So I need your advice.

What are your tips and trade secrets to spewing out that first draft? Do you outline? Do you wing it? Do you write without chapter divisions? Do you write in scenes? Where do you go to generate plot ideas? What is your one, fail-proof step that helps you get the story flowing?

Please feel free to elaborate!