Jack’s Fight

Please keep Paula and Jack in your thoughts and prayers!

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It has been an emotional time here at Baker’s Acres. Our Jack, an American Dingo, who stars in his own book- Jack Learns to Grill , was diagnosed with a fast growing cancer. He has a tumor on his side and it has gotten quite large very quickly. The vet told me surgery was needed, but I didn’t know how that would play out since we  live, like some Americans, paycheck to paycheck. How we were going to pay for his surgery, we didn’t know.

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Enter my friend, and fellow author Jackie Smith. Jackie is such a great friend and would do anything for her friends. Upon hearing my sad tale of Jack’s cancer and having helped me publish Jack Learns to Grill, she offered to create a Go Fund Me campaign. Maybe there was a light at the end of the tunnel! Maybe there was some hope for…

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Rules For Writing

“There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one know what they are.” – W. Somerset Maugham

A friend of mine share this quote the other day and it got me thinking. What are the rules for writing a novel? You know, aside from the obvious grammar rules (that I’m still attempting to master) and the no stealing other authors’ work rule. But you know, the beautiful thing about any form of art is that no one artist creates in the same way. We all have our own different styles, our own different ideas, and our own different rules when it comes to our crafts.

This particular quote got me thinking about what my rules for writing a novel are.

  1. Write the book you want to read. It’s been said a million times over, but it’s so true. If you don’t enjoy what you’re writing, chances are your readers won’t either. How you feel about your book is reflected in your work.
  2. Characters, characters, characters. For me, characters are what make a story. Setting is great and plot is a must, but if you can’t relate to the characters, if they don’t seem real, if you’re not rooting for them… It’s just not going to work. If I don’t like my characters or the characters of a book I’m reading, I simply won’t continue writing or reading. I once read a book with a beautiful cover, a great story, and it was exceptionally well-written. But I couldn’t finish it because I hated the characters.
  3. Trust your work, trust your story, and trust yourself. It’s true what they say about stories writing themselves. Sometimes I feel like the story already exists, it just needs my fingers to type it all out. I’m still surprised by how many unexpected twists and turns my books often take. I’ve written full paragraphs of dialogue that I had no idea existed inside my mind.
  4. Don’t be afraid to start over. I once wrote over half a novel, realized that the story wasn’t going anywhere, that it wasn’t even really a story, and I started over from scratch. I didn’t delete what I had written. I never do that. But when you write a book, you’ve got to accept that you’re not always going to get it right the first time.
  5. Be patient. Yeah, some geniuses can churn out a bestseller in two weeks, but for most of us, it takes months, even years, to write a book. And there’s no shame in that. We care about our craft and want our books to be the best they can be. Like anything worth doing, writing a book takes a lot of time, a lot of dedication, and a lot of hard work.
  6. Don’t write because you think it’s going to make you rich or famous. I mean, yeah, we all dream of seeing our names at the top of that NYT Bestseller list, but I would still write my stories even if I was the wealthiest person in the world, and it’s because I love it. I love to write. I love to tell stories. If you write for the wrong reasons, you’re not going to enjoy it. And you’re more than likely going to wind up disappointed. Because guess what? Most of us are not rich. And that’s okay. I’d rather live paycheck to paycheck doing what I love than make a fortune working a job that makes me miserable.
  7. Don’t forget to be thankful. You’ve found something that you love, that you want to do for the rest of your life. Believe it or not, that’s actually pretty rare. I’ve met so many people who have no idea what they want out of life or what they want to do. I’ve always had big dreams. I was lucky enough to figure out that I wanted to be an author when I was a junior in college. I knew what I wanted to work for and once I figured that out, I didn’t look back. I figure that if I’m fortunate enough to know, I’d regret it if I didn’t take every chance and every opportunity to make it work.
  8. Be proud of yourself and your work. You wrote a book. That’s pretty badass.
  9. Writer’s block happens. It happens to the best of us. Don’t let it discourage you. If you need to set one project aside and go concentrate on another, that’s exactly what you should do. Chances are when you come back to your original project, you’ll be able to pick up again and keep writing.

What are your rules for writing?

Superstitions

Halloween is within our reach and everyone I know is getting in the spirit. I love Halloween. I love all the pumpkins, the costumes, Hocus Pocus, and how everyone reconnects with their inner kid to partake in candy consumption and make-believe magic. Halloween is most certainly one of my favorite days of the year.

As everyone is getting in the spirit, old superstitions are bound to arise. I think it’s safe to say that in 2016, most of these stories and legends are taken for fun. There is one, however, that seems to persist and often affects those living in the present, and that is the Curse of the Black Cat.

The black cat is inarguably one of the most recognized and celebrated figures of Halloween. We decorate with black cats, we dress up as black cats, Hocus Pocus even stars a black cat. But the myth still remains: black cats are bad luck.

This morning, I woke up to this:

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This was posted on Buzzfeed’s SnaptChat Story. Now, Buzzfeed is huge. I know they meant this to be fun, a way to get in the Halloween spirit. But it still made me sad, because it perpetuates that age old stigma that black cats are evil, black cats are witches, black cats are cursed. Even if there weren’t several studies that state that black cats are the most likely to be overlooked and euthanized in the shelter, I’ve seen the fear of black cats first hand.

I used to volunteer in an animal shelter in college. I was in playing with the cats one day (because cats are my favorite) and a preteen girl and her dad walked in. She walked right up to one cage and gasped.

“An evil black cat!”

She was absolutely serious.

I don’t really get up in arms about a whole lot. I’m a pacifist. I don’t like to argue and I don’t like to make a big deal out of most things. But I love black cats. I have a black cat. And it breaks my heart that they’re still feared, still overlooked, still abandoned.

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My sweet girl, Midnight, is my best friend. And she’s had to beat some pretty remarkable odds. She herself was abandoned in the streets. She was terrified of people when she found us. Even now, eleven years later, it kills me to think of all she must have gone through. She’s my baby.  She’s also one of the lucky ones. She has a home and a loving family. She’ll never go hungry. She’ll never want for attention. She has her own Papasan chair that was actually supposed to be mine but she has since decided otherwise.

I know Buzzfeed didn’t mean any harm. Heck, they have a whole article about what makes black cats so awesome. Still, I had to say something. I’m afraid I don’t advocate for very much. I’ve just never felt it’s my place. But I love my black cat, and I would love nothing more than to see every black cat out there adopted into a loving home. That goes for every homeless animal, actually. They deserve our love far more than we deserve theirs.

 

 

What I Like About Me

This afternoon, a friend of mine challenged her Facebook followers to post one thing that they love about themselves. My initial response was to post, “My cat,” because honestly, my cat is the best part of me. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized she was being sincere and that there was no room for my self-deprecating snark on a good-hearted, genuine post.  So I started thinking.  What do I love about myself?

The sad thing is I’m able to come up with at least ten things I DON’T like about myself right off the bat. I hate my thighs. I hate that I have NO sense of direction. I hate that I get frustrated when I’m stuck in traffic. I hate that I still struggle with social anxiety. I hate that I’m such a procrastinator. I hate that I’m stubborn. I hate that I’m judgmental. I hate that I still don’t understand percentages. The list goes on and on.

As I was sitting there, thinking of all the things that I don’t like about myself, I realized that that’s not uncommon. As a society, I feel like we’re programmed to dwell on the negative. We’re constantly told by the media, by celebrities, by corporations trying to sell us things HOW much we could improve. We could be skinnier. We could be richer. We could have cooler things. We could visit cooler places. We should not be satisfied with our mediocre lives and our mediocre bodies because look at how much better these other people are living.

But you know what? Screw that. I have a great life. I have wonderful friends, an amazing family, I love my pets, I love my job… Life has been pretty good to me. And there is a lot to love. It’s okay to love yourself. It’s healthy to love yourself! Maybe our world would be a more positive place if we all learned to love ourselves, flaws included. And let’s face it, this world could definitely step it up a notch or two on the positivity scale.

So here it goes. Even though it goes against everything we’re taught (i.e. to be humble and NOT to brag on ourselves) here are a few things that I love about myself.

I love my sense of humor. It’s probably my favorite thing about myself. Other may not appreciate it as much, but I personally thing I’m hysterical.

I love that I’m a pretty decent judge of character.

I love that I have my Master’s Degree. I worked hard for that degree. I’m proud of it.

I love that I’m brave enough to go after the things that I want, that I’m not afraid to take a few chances.

I love that I love to learn and that most things come fairly easily to me (except percentages… that’s just a lost cause. Oh, and carrying a map in my head. That’s not gonna happen either).

I love that I’m healthy and that my blood pressure is super low. With all the heart disease and cholesterol problems that run in my family, I will never take low blood pressure for granted.

I love that I still believe in what can’t be explained.

I love my books. I love my photography. And I love that I’ve found things that truly make me happy.

I love that even though I’m a free spirit by nature, I can be serious and professional when I need to be.

I love that at 28, I’m still dreaming.

Okay, now it’s your turn. In the comments section or in your own post, tell me everything that you love about you. And don’t be ashamed! You are an amazing person. It’s time you owned it.

Hey Writers

This past weekend, I attended the Texas Teen Book Festival in Austin, Texas. It was absolutely one of my favorite book events to date. I met several young readers who had earned their spot at the festival by reading books in class. I met several teachers and librarians who love to promote literacy and who offered to spend their Saturdays with their students at a local book festival. I met several authors who shared their books with me, including NYT Bestsellers CC Hunter and Sabaa Tahir. I reconnected with old friends and had the time of my life talking books, exploring Austin, and playing with Lightsabers.

There at the festival, I spent most of my time with my friend, Kara, who has written her own children’s book and is in the process of illustrating. As an aspiring authors, she went around and asked established writers what one piece of advice they would offer to those hoping to follow in their footsteps. Sabaa Tahir gave an incredible answer. It was “Never make excuses for why you’re NOT writing.”

That really got me thinking about my own writing journey and the questions I would have asked and those questions I would still like answered. Even now, three years later, I’m still learning everything I can from other writers. I will never pretend to have all the answers, which is why I wanted to ask these questions today.

So, if you are a writer (published or unpublished) these are for you. I will post my answers to these questions within a day or so. I know I haven’t been very good at blogging recently. Life has been so crazy (in all the best possible ways).

  1. What got you into writing? Did you start off thinking it was something you wanted to do professionally? When and what made you decide to pursue writing as a career?
  2. Do you prefer writing series or stand alone novels? If you like series, do you prefer to finish them off consecutively, or do you pursue other projects in between installments?
  3. What’s your favorite part of writing a new novel? The characters? The world building? The action?
  4. Why do you write what you write? If you write sci-fi, why sci-fi? If you write romance, why romance? What inspires you? Why THAT particular story?
  5. What books do you like to read?
  6. Finally, what advice would you give to your younger self? To aspiring writers?