Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Happy Birthday to ME!

Today is my birthday so I thought I'd share one of the easiest cake recipes I know. Since I found this recipe, I never bake any other cake. Oh, lazy me!
Take your favorite chocolate cake mix and pour in one bottle of Chocolate Slim-Fast. Just two ingredients! Mix well. You can bake in a sheet pan, cup cakes or traditional rounds. Just follow the baking directions on the box. This cake is super moist and delish. We usually pile whip cream on top and drizzle some chocolate syrup. Bake nuts in it, or sprinkle on top. Anything goes!

 Hope you have fun on MY special day!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Wise Words from Jane Friedman

Oh, the down-down days of summer. Too hot for much of anything. And to top off the oppressive heat, I fell leaving the church a week ago Sunday and twisted my right ankle. When my daughter was born, I was in labor for three hours so the pain definitely didn't last this long! I hate pain. I also hate being unable to focus. X-rays proved nothing was broken but the constant ache/throb has me shifting/twitching/wiggling, searching for comfort. I'm not even able to enjoy my web surfing.  Ah, well ... this too, shall pass. Hurry, hurry, pass already!

A few weeks ago, I popped onto twitter and found one of my writer heros about to give an interview on the radio. Ya'll probably know her: Jane Friedman. She has a terrific blog, however, she's turned it over to Porter Anderson while she concentrates on a new project.  Now Jane is web editor for the Virginia Quarterly Review.

Anyway, I tuned in to Jane on the radio. Yep, I took notes!

Jane said if we're using emedia as entrepreneurs we need to know our audience, the people who will buy our books or our products. We need to know what social media sites we're comfortable using. She said: There's a triangle at work here: Reader & their tools, Self & what you prefer, the work itself & what compliments that work. Think about all points of that triangle, and satisfy each point. Where is the sweet spot? This entails market research on the part of the author. If you don't enjoy it, you won't continue to do it. Consistency is necessary -- every day-- because things tend to snowball. Small actions every day add up. Consistency translates into a growing audience.

Jane also said if there's one quality we need to instill in ourselves, it's patience because success takes time. Small actions every day during a long period of time is what will get us where we want to be.

She also gave a few tips on blogging among other things and after the interview, I tweeted 'well done' and told her I needed to take a hard look at my blog. Here's what she said:

Jane Friedman@JaneFriedman

@jessyferguson Thanks for listening! As far as your blog, perhaps it just needs to be strengthened & taken to the next level. ;-)

So my question is: how do I strengthen and take it to the next level? Any suggestions?

Monday, July 16, 2012

You Got Rhythm: Another Look A Walter Mosley

I love this instruction from This Year You Write Your Novel by Walter Mosley.

Poets know that poems are songs, but few of us realize that novels are too. If there is no music to your novel, no sound, then the book will be at best incomplete. You must have a rhythm to your characters, a unique cadence to the way each one speaks, an identifiable cacophony to the world(s) they inhabit, and a beat to the story that, when varied, gives the read an almost unconscious sign of events about to unfurl.

No one will tell you how to score your novel, so that means you have to discover the music for yourself.
I've finished reading This Year You Write Your Novel and I wasn't disappointed in it. It was wonderful all the way through, from beginning to end.  I might be quoting from it for a long time. Near the end of the book, Mosley writes: And so when you perused the previous pages, you may have been a little let down. Perhaps you were looking for an epiphany, and all you found was a joke. If you find that the previous paragraph expresses your feelings, I say, "Don't despair." This book is meant only to teach the rudiments of novel writing. Greatness lies in the heart of the writer, not in technique.
That comment from Mosley brought tears to my eyes. Why? Because of his honest voice. Because of his sincerity. Because I can look back on every word he wrote in this small book and know that his heart was open and sharing. When i finished This Year You Write Your Novel, I felt/feel rejuvenated and anxious to get back to my own rewriting. I have specific things I can look for, listen for as I revise. I also picked up Mosley's novel The Man In My Basement. The first page yanked me into the story and wouldn't let me go.
The Denver Post called Mosley one of the country's best writers.  The New York Times states: Mosley is a kind of jazz musician, a Wynton Marsalis of the printed page..."
We would do well to find our own rhythm, allow our characters to live and march to their own beat. One way we do that is to read other writers, read poetry, write, read aloud and rewrite. Do you think of your novel as a song? Do you think it makes sense to do so? Why or why not?
If you'd like to learn more about Walter Mosley, try THIS interesting article from 2010.

Friday, July 13, 2012

This Year You Write Your Novel

One of the most important things that you will do this year will be to create complex, authentic characters that begin at one point in their lives and advance (or devolve) to another.
                 ~Walter Mosley, from This Year You Write Your Novel

I'm reading This Year You Write Your Novel by Walter Mosley. I picked it up the other day because I've been wanting to read it and because it's very short--less than 25,000 words, with lots of punch. I'm reading with hi-liter in hand, marking those passages that make me want to toss the book aside and get back to writing. Those are the good ones. Good, GREAT passages inspire me, motivate me, make me wiggle on the sofa with anticipation for my own writing accomplishments.

Walter Mosley is the author of 38+ books, including the Easy Rawlins and Fearless Jones mysteries, as well as numerous other works of fiction and nonfiction. He knows the value of a word and gets right to the point in this how-to book. I highly recommend it. You can go to Amazon to read many wonderful reviews but don't be swayed by those few naysayers who whine. They wanted an easy fix to their writing problems and expected Mosley to give it to them. Believe me when I say, I have almost every writing book available. They say the same thing over and over and over again. What differentiates them is the author's voice, his passion and his way of explaining something. The fact that Mosley has a straightforward, honest voice and didn't bloviate makes this book a winner!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Mum's The Word

I honestly like the idea of brainstorming with friends. Sitting around a table in Starbucks or in a mountain cabin and tossing out plot ideas sounds fun. I like it but can't do it. Something in my brain shuts down when it comes to verbally sharing my work. Guess that tells you how good I am at pitching to editors and agents, huh?
I love Anderson Cooper and catch him every day here in OK at 11 CST. Yesterday I watched him interview Sara Blakely, who founded a multi-million dollar undergarment company. Maybe you've heard of it: Spanx. Blakely is the world's youngest self-made female billionaire. Sara has some great business tips but one thing she said jumped out at me and I agree 100%.

Blakely said "I didn't tell friends and family my idea for a year; your ideas are the most vulnerable in the moment you have them. People will tell you things that will stop you dead in your tracks, and you have to explain the idea instead of pursuing it."

Did you get that? You have to explain the idea, defend it, instead of pursuing it. That's exactly the way I feel about my writing. If I sense negativity toward an idea, a proposal, my plot, I have a very difficult time going forward with it. I'm filled with doubt.

Blakely says we need to trust our gut.
When critique partners read the first three chapters of an unfinished work, and toss out ideas, suggestions, potential problems, I find my own personal roadmap getting a little fuzzy. Doesn't it make more sense to hand them a finished product--the complete manuscript--so they can read the project in its entirety?
Blakely also says we need to figure out how to differentiate ourselves from the masses, figure out how we're different. If you think about it, that's a great tip for our writing and marketing.
Do you believe your novel or NF book is different from anything out there? If not, how can you make it stand out from the crowd?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

IWSG: Visions of Glory

We took a road trip. Hubby read to me from William Manchester’s The Last Lion, Winston Churchill’s Visions of Glory 1874-1972.Interesting. Note what Winston wrote about writing: “Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement; then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, and then a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster, and fling him out to the public.”

Churchill’s early life, the way he tackled his writing and his dreams, is interesting and if we browse this huge biography, no doubt we’ll pick up a few tips. I can’t help but wonder if Winston’s mom was one of the first agent/publicists. He mailed her his articles; she placed them with newspapers, often calling on important friends to help promote and sell her son’s works.

I truly believe connections play an important role in our success. We have to network; we have to attend writers’ conferences. Of course, we have to write too, so that we actually have something to market. If Churchill, at 23, can be so driven to achieve his dreams, why can’t we? He didn’t appear to be afraid of making a fool of himself, but of course, he was mortified when he did.


If you enjoy biographies, you might take a look at Manchester’s The Last Lion.

Of course, we can’t take a look at this book without investigating the author of it: William Manchester--another role model we might consider studying.

From Wikepedia:

In 2001 President George W. Bush presented Manchester with the National Humanities Medal. Manchester is also the recipient of the Abraham Lincoln Literary Award, among other awards.[9] Following the death of his wife in 1998, Manchester suffered from two strokes. He announced that he would not be able to complete his planned third volume of his three part-biography of Churchill, The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965. In October 2003 Manchester asked Paul Reid, a friend and writer for COX Newspapers, to complete the Churchill biography. In 2000, Manchester received the Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award. The Helmerich Award is presented annually by the Tulsa Library Trust. Manchester died at the age of 82 on June 1, 2004

Why do we toy around with our dreams? Time is flying. It’s later than we think. We should make a list of what we want to achieve and do it. Just do it. Who's with me?