When the Brain’s Been Hijacked

My writing bestie and critique partner, Charissa James-Weaks, said it best: Babies hijack your brain. Boy, is that ever true (especially during pregnancy)!

If you follow me on social media, then I’m sure you’re aware of my amazing news: there’s a Baby Collins on the way!

13 Week Ultrasound of Baby Collins

13 Week Ultrasound of Baby Collins (taken March 24th).

But I’m not posting to talk about the baby–at least not exclusively. I’m posting to talk about how pregnancy seriously hijacks your brain. If you remember, at the first of this year I made a commitment to get back into blogging and being active on social media and all that other jazz. BUT… the universe decided that after 2.5 years of trying to no avail to finally gift the hubs and I with a baby, and that’s when everything changed (and don’t get me wrong–I’m beyond THRILLED to finally have the child we always dreamed of, so my thoughts in this post no way lessens that or makes me ungrateful 🙂 ).

From that point on, whatever writing/revising plans I had, blog posts scheduled for writing, books to read…basically anything that wasn’t pregnancy, sleep, eating, dayjob, and hubby-related was out the damn window.

Whatever enthusiasm I had for my new blogging schedule, or my book and it’s schedule for completion became NONEXISTENT. I’m not even kidding a little on that. Between utter exhaustion and mood swings and the overwhelming excitement of a baby finally happening zapped every single bit of interest I had in my dream of publishing a novel. Cause my brain was literally hijacked.

So how am I going to overcome this so I can get the rest of this damn book revised (preferably before the little one arrives)??

Well, not quite sure yet, but I’m sure the first step is the simple fact that I’ve realized what’s happened and accepted that it’s totally okay for this to be happening. It’s my first pregnancy and I should enjoy it. If that means not being eyeballs-deep in revisions the entire nine months, then so be it.

So far the second step is shaping to be inching back into the creative part of my brain. For this I’ve just finished reading Art in the Blood: A Sherlock Holmes Adventure by Bonnie MacBird, and man, can I just say that it worked in getting that part of the brain churning? 😉

Next I’ve printed up the pages I’ve revised so far in the book (about 150 total), and plan to read in order to immerse myself back into that world. From there we’ll see what happens, but I’m hopeful I’ll be able to get back into some kind of revision schedule that allows me to spend more time away than I would under normal circumstances (because I know every weekend from now until the birth will be filled with getting things ready for the baby). So if that means the expectation is one fully revised chapter completed at least every two weeks should work, then that’s what it’ll be in order for this soon-to-be-mama to keep her sanity.

How all of this re-immersion into my writing-self will go is yet to be determined. But I do know one thing: Life’s too short to be hard on yourself. Give yourself a break, accept how things have changed (or how they’re going to change), and roll with it. Everything will work out how it’s meant to in the end.

Til next time! 🙂
Melinda

I’m Baaaack… Life & Other Updates

Oh my frickin’ God! Has it really been over a year since I blogged?!?

My guess is you’re wondering 1) Where the hell has Mel been, and 2) WTF is happening?

Believe it or not, I have LEGITIMATE answers for both 😉

1) I’ve been soul-searching and spending time with like-minded writers (at the RT Conference, for example), and busy, busy, busy with both my personal and day job lives.

2) I’ve FINALLY found my TRUE artistic self…among other things.

 

By soul-searching, I’ve been able to explore without expectation. This has allowed me to abandon any and all expectations m, which includes social media. And abandoning all things social media for the last year has allowed me the freedom to observe from the sidelines. When I say observing, here a few of my favorite moments:

  • Witnessing Sylvia Day as she drank a cocktail at the hotel bar at RT 2015 (and may I say she looked damn fine?).
  • SITTING NEXT TO CHRISTOPHER RICE in the bar area of RT 2015 (Such a nice man, BTW).
  • Seeing Kami Gargia as she conversed with Mr. Rice, who was sitting right next to me (did I mention this already?).
  • Meeting authors Charlaine Harris  & Marie Lu during the big book fair day
  • Remaining in my room and refusing to go down to the bar or lobby even though we had a *confirmed* sighting of the famous author known as E.L. James (I won’t go deep into my reasons of why, but I will just leave this link to a post from Jami Gold to give you an idea).
  • Hanging with these pretty ladies (my crit partners) at the RT Booklover’s Convention in Dallas, Texas. 🙂
Authors Charissa Weaks & JL Henry Authors Charissa Weaks & JL Henry

Detailing the findings of my TRUE artistic self will end up being detailed later in this blog, so I’m not going to go into too much detail right now, but what I can share are a few personal things that have been going on for me.

  1. That new position with my company that I got in May 2014? I still enjoy it very much…I just don’t have time to breath, much less pee, on most days. S’okay, though, the good days outweigh the bad, and that’s all that matters, right?
  2. My husband and I decided, after 2 years of trying to conceive a child with no luck, to start seeing a fertility specialist in March 2015. So far, so good with nothing truly wrong with any of our baby-making parts *whew* so we’re just taking it a month at a time and leaning on the specialist to get us through what’s turned out to be an emotionally difficult process.

So yeah, not blogging over the last year has allowed me enough time to rest and catch my breath and figure quite a few things out. And thank goodness because I’m baaaaack and feeling mighty refreshed and ready to rumble mingle again. 🙂

Stay tuned, as I’ll be posting writerly things on Mondays and randomness on Thursdays.

Tune-In Tuesday: Peace of Mind

We’re taking it back this week on Tune-In Tuesday to an old favorite by Boston: Peace of Mind.

The good thing about writing playlists is you can have such a variety of music–from Boston to Thirty Seconds to Mars, from The Beatles to Muse, from Madonna to Evanescence. I, for one, really enjoy the good vibes and inability to sit still when bands such as Boston, AC/DC, and Foreigner come on the radio.

Enjoy!

What about you? Are there any old tunes that you just have to have in your writing playlist? What are some of your favorite bands from “back in the day”?

Tune-In Tuesday: Hail to the King

Welcome to a new installment of Tune-In Tuesday!

This week’s song is the title track to the new album from Avenged Sevenfold (A7X)–“Hail to the King”. When I first heard this tune, I automatically thought about J.R. Ward’s BDB series. I mean, come on, the next book due out in this series is, “The King”.

BUT…

I then thought about my current WIP–you know, the one I’m sloooowly revising and editing but will have completely polished and ready for submission by December 1st? Yes, RETRIBUTION. When that story came to mind, I listened to this tune again … and again … and again, and this song gave me such fantastic inspiration that when I arrived home, I locked myself in my writing cave and began writing his scene. A scene where we first get to see him behind the mask he shows everyone else. A scene where my skin crawled and I had to take a break because I couldn’t keep myself inside his head for too long.

For me, that’s not only a fantastic antagonist to write, but “Hail to the King” is a fantastic song for writing inspiration. 🙂

Enjoy!

 

 

On Candy Crush and Writing

Ahhh, Candy Crush. I wish I could say that I have loads of self-control.That I was able to not succumb–yet again–to an online-Facebook game. But … I cannot. *grin* I mean, come in, cute rainbow-colored candies and nifty power-ups? Why, it’s like Bejeweled. But on crack. 😉

Candy Crush_Level

Looks complicated, huh?

In any case, I was incredibly lazy the weekend before last. My sister and I held a Slumber Party at our house, and so in preparation for this female-only gathering, I cleaned my house top-to-bottom, inside-out. I ran myself into the ground to make this place shiny and perfect for my guests. So what happened after this party? *crash*

My brain was not going to cooperate with my over-worked ass. Nope. So I lazed around all weekend and played … Candy Crush! I passed about 7 levels that weekend–woo hoo–and probably grew about a hundred new gray hairs in the process–boo! That’s when I realized how much Candy Crush is like writing. 🙂

It’s Addictive

Yes, yes, yes. Writing is like a drug for us writers. If we’re not writing, revising, editing, reading, thinking about writing, or making plans to write, then we’re grumpy as hell. And when we’re in our perfect little writing world doing any of these, we’re do deep in the hole that we don’t ever wanna come out and see the light of day. Just one more chapter to revise before bed.*wields red pen* 

Hmmm….. that sounds a lot like how I feel when I can’t get past a stupid level on Candy Crush! I’m addicted and have to keep playing to win the level. Just one more level, honey, and I’ll come to bed. Promise. 😉

Every Level is Like a Puzzle

Whether you’re a plotter or a pantser, at some point you have to stop writing and take a look at what’s on the page. Whether it’s at the end of the first draft and we need to map the bigger picture to ensure all the inner-workings are playing nice with one another, or if it’s a bit of plotting at a time as we’re writing that first draft, or if it’s before we even begin to type Chapter One. We look to decide how to move forward. What scene should go where. What’s the most logical follow-up to the scene we just wrote? Where does the character go from here? How do we get the Hero into the same room as the Heroine? How are they gonna serve it to the villain? Ugh, why won’t they just freakin’ cooperate already?!?

Again, this sounds pretty familiar. Because once you start getting into the higher levels on Candy Crush, you have to start thinking ahead. *gasp* There are obstacles in your way like jelly that you have to bust away, cages you need to spring a candy from, chocolate you must keep from growing and taking over the game board–er, wait … do we really want the chocolate to stop growing?

It’s Frustratingly Fun

At some point we all dart out of our chairs and threaten to throw our computers across the room. And instead of throwing our technological best friend against the wall, we walk away thinking that we’re never going to figure this scene/plot/character out. Never! BUT, after a nice, longer breather, we calm down, and suddenly the answer comes to us. So then we run back to our computers and BAM! We did it! We figured it out and we can move on. Am I right, or am I right? 🙂

Hehehe … yeah, this is me and Candy Crush. When I have to play a certain level more than 10 times to pass it, heck yeah my phone’s going to find itself breaking against a wall. Just kidding. Sort of. But in all seriousness, I keep coming back to it, like I do with writing. It doesn’t matter how frustrated the damn game makes me feel at times ’cause when it’s good, it’s good enough to outlast the smaller moments of frustration that I feel at not being smart enough to figure out the puzzle.

Candy Crush_Failed Level

Grrr….

Help! I’m Out of Lives. Help! I need more Moves to pass this level!

Every writer and author needs a good beta reader and/or critique partner. Someone to cheer us on, tell us we’ve got the power within us to make our stories shine. Whether online or in person, we have to not only surround ourselves with other writers/creative personalities, but we have to be willing to ask for the help!

In Candy Crush, you only have certain number of moves in which you can beat each level. And to make it a bit more interesting, you only have five lives. When you run out of your lives, you have to wait a certain amount of time before accruing more. *cries* But, wait! I have friends who also play Candy Crush. And they see that I’ve been stuck for a few days on this level. *checks Candy Crush inbox* WOO HOO! Friend A just gave me three extra moves and Friend B has given me a life. SCORE!

Candy Crush_Help Your Friends

Do Unto Others

It’s All a Part of Our Journey

Every word, every sentence, every line of dialogue, every scene, every chapter, every novel, every critique, every beta read, every blog post, every rejection and every acceptance are the building blocks that make up our writing journey. They are what makes us into better, stronger, NYT-bestselling-level writers. If we want to win at this publishing game, then we’ve gotta do the work. We’ve got to learn, master, and surpass every level of writing craft–especially if we wish to not only draw our readers in, but keep them wanting more.

We have to know when to sacrifice for our passion, when to take a break and decompress, when to stay up all night and when to listen to our bodies and go to bed. And we have to make smart investments with our money, energy and time. I have an hour before work. Should I write? Or should I play Candy Crush? *ponders* Writing it is!

Candy Crush_Journey

Wait, there’s more levels?!?

As of this morning, I’ve actually managed to stay off Candy Crush for 2 days. Okay, well, not completely. Because I want to continue to support my friends’ addiction to the game, I’ve logged in via cellphone and sent them lives and extra moves to help their progress. But other than that, no playing for this writer.

The new rule in my home is: No playing Candy Crush unless I write 500 fresh words. Oh! That means I get to play today since this post is well over 500 words, right? 🙂

What about you? Do you play Candy Crush? Can you think of additional writerly lessons from this game? Do you have another game-crack of choice? How do you abstain from playing?

Advice to My Newbie Author Self, Part 3: The Dream vs. The Reality

Many times as a newbie author–heck, sometimes a seasoned author–we get a whack in the head, or a face-full-o-concrete from a little thing called reality. For many of us writers, the moment we type “The End” on our first full manuscript is the moment we sit back and begin to daydream about huge book tours, TV interviews, movie deals, having our favorite band write a song inspired by our novel.

Yes, I seriously imagined that last one.  🙂

The Dream Scape

At the start of our writing journey, we set goals. These goals can range from, “I’m going to snag a large, multimillion dollar contact,” to “I’m going to as famous as Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, and Danielle Steele.” Even our family and friends will say things like, “Don’t forget about us little people when you become a big and famous author.”

After thinking these goals, we sometimes sit back and imagine how our first TV interview would go. Maybe it’d be on Good Morning America. Maybe it’ll be Matt Lauer. OR … maybe it’ll be with Baba Wawa herself. Oh, that’d be so awesome, wouldn’t it?

Dreaming and imagining future interviews, movie deals, and everything in-between is okay. Day dreaming is what our imaginations do. And our imagination is what made us an artist in the first place. So turning that part of our brains off is impossible. And even if we could our imaginations off for a moment, would we even want to? Hellz no. Because we’re artists. We’re writers. And we can’t imagine going a second without the vivid imagery our brains conjure at various times of the day.

However …

At what point–and when–do we draw the line in the sand between dreams and reality?

When should we reign in our imagination? When should we begin telling ourselves, “Ya know, it’d be great to nail that TV interview with Baba Wawa. And it’d be great to sit on a movie set and watch my characters come to life. But maybe I need to think small-scale. Baby steps. How about I snag the title of published author first?”

The answer to those questions are for each of us to decide. Maybe we don’t start telling ourselves to slow our day-dreaming-roll until after we knocked down by a brutal critique. Maybe we pull our heads out of the clouds when we attend our first local RWA chapter meeting.

It doesn’t matter when we stop and come back to reality. What matters is that we do, at some point, take a look at our writing journey from a realistic standpoint.

I recently had a conversation with a mother and her oldest son. Mom told me that her youngest son wants to be a published author. Older son told me that he felt bad because he might’ve discouraged his younger brother by telling him, “It takes hard work and it doesn’t look like a goal you’ll achieve quickly.” My response? Well, I said that maybe little brother should’ve discovered that reality on his own. However, I also said, “You’re definitely right about what you said, though.”

Because that’s the reality.

Now it’s just a matter of the younger brother’s perception. If younger brother wants to become a published author bad enough, he’ll accept the reality as a challenge and face it head-on. And throughout his entire journey to becoming published, he’ll continue to dream of the day that he signs a publishing contract on a daily basis. 🙂

So the perception question is: Do we fall now? Do we face reality now, in that first moment of typing “The End?” Or do we allow ourselves to hold on to those BIG publishing dreams as long as humanly possible and run the risk of doing more damage to our hearts at a later time?

For me, personally, I wanted a cold, hard dose of reality as soon as possible. The more time I spend day dreaming of meeting Matt Lauer in person, the more my heart’s going to crumble when I realize I have a snowball’s chance in hell at that ever happening. The more I keep going through life believing I’m already the best at my chosen profession, the more I’m going to look like an idiot. And I already embarrass myself enough as it is, thank you very much. 😉

So even though I waited a little longer than I might’ve liked to get my dose of reality, I still sought out the facts and welcomed the smack of reality. Searching out articles like “Author Reality: Today’s Book Publishing Industry” is my way of bringing myself back down to earth. Which is just my style since I’ve never really been one to make large decisions without facts (in life, not writing–that’s a whole other topic). After I got the facts, I knocked a few items off my “ultimate goals” list. And now my goal list is a bit more in line with what’s realistic and possible.

Though I still dream of having Michael Sheen playing one of my first characters in a movie one day. 🙂

Michael Sheen

Yes, you will play one of my characters on the big screen one day, Mr. Sheen.

Note: The best part about being a writer on a journey like this is that there are many of us who prefer to keep that high dream alive and on the top of the goals’ list. And that is A-OK. Because we’re individuals, and what works for one of us, motivates and drives one of us to do and be our best, may not work for others.

Which means this particular debate–the dream vs. the reality–is an individual decision. One that only we can decide.

I’d love to hear from you! Which side of the scale do you fall? Do you have an ultimate goal for yourself? Did you shoot for the moon, or did you pull back a little? What was your “published author daydream” when you first began this journey?

Previous Advice to My Newbie Author Self posts:
Part 1: Patience, Young Padawan
Part 2: Buh-Bye Self-Doubt and Introverted Tendencies

What’s Your Favorite Craft Book?

Today I’m interrupting the continuation of my Advice to My Newbie Author Self series to rave about the latest craft books I’ve been devouring–yet again:

The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes & Heroines by Tami D. Cowden, Caro LaFever and Sue Viders

Heroes & Heroines

All fiction writers want to write stories with great heroes and heroines–characters who leap off the page and capture the reader’s imagination.

 

Fallen Heroes: Sixteen Master Villain Archetypes by Tami D. Cowden

VillainsThe villain is the hero of his own story – and is every bit as important as the heroic characters.

 

I’m in the middle of revisions, and I have to be honest on this one: I smacked myself upside the head so, so hard while reading these books. Yeah, it can be fairly easy to create characters and dissect their personalities and backstories until our eyes bleed, but if we start with an archetype, that job can–most times–be a helluva lot easier. 😀

I can’t recommend these two books enough. Easy to read and understand with character examples from movies we all know and love, these two books give us the starting point from which to leap into designing our characters. We can begin with one archetype, lightly cross into another (similar) archetype, and we can even take the archetype for a hero and pair him with the villainous archetype that’ll translate best for the readers (and vice versa).

Both of these books have a permanent position within my Must-Have Craft Books shelf. 🙂

Your turn: What craft books are you devouring these days? Do you have an absolutely favorite that you go to again and again?

Are You a Pen Addict?

Hi, my name is Melinda. I’m an author and a pen addict. *waves*

My obsession started when I was in high school. At first, it was fun making notes in so many colors. History was purple. Math was green. Journalism was blue. Chemistry was red.
Then I went to college, and the same thing happened.

Next thing I knew, when I was out of college and back home, I had a drawer overflowing with pens. I’m talking 20 different orange pens, 15 different purples, 10 different pinks, etc..

To rectify my pen addict ways, I cleared out my pen stash and took two large Ziploc bags full of pens with me to work and gave them to a co-worker. Figured her daughter might want to start her own stash. 😉

So here I am, seven years later, and I’ve apparently relapsed. I haven’t accumulated as much as I had back then, but I’m *ahem* well on my way.

Oh! And I’m not just a pen addict, I’m a pen thief! If you let me borrow a pen and it’s a smooth talker? Keep an eye on it ’cause it might end up my purse. If I’m in the doctor’s office and I find a drug pen I like, it’s mine (I totally swiped one with Viagra written on it one time 🙂 ). Don’t worry about your kids, I really don’t want them. I just wanna abduct your pens! 😀

Just to illustrate my addiction, here’s the stash at my office:

Stash #1 at Le Office

Stash #1 at Le Office

Stash #2 at Le Office

Stash #2 at Le Office

Petite Stash at Le Office

Petite Stash at Le Office

Here’s the stash in my back pack that I carry with me every day:

Stash in Le Backpack

Stash in Le Backpack

Here’s my stash at home:

Stash #1 at Maison (French for home)

Stash #1 at Ma Maison
Feeling Frenchy Today 🙂

Stash #2 at Ma Maison

Stash #2 at Ma Maison

Hmmm … that’s actually not as bad as what I’ve been told. Or maybe I’m in denial?

Your turn! Are you a pen addict? How many pens are lying around in front of you right now? What about hiding in your drawers? Your bag? Your purse? Do we need to start a Pen Addicts Anonymous group? 😉

When Writers are Disappointed

 

I realize it’s been a while since I’ve posted. And usually, regardless of what’s going on in personal life, I always either post an update or at least put together a weekly mash-up of writing posts on Fridays.
 
However…..
 
During these last two weeks of what I’ll simply refer to lovingly as ‘life at its best’, I have been tested and pushed to my absolute max. I literally feel as though I’ve been beaten, shattered, shaken, and stirred. At first it was all about the balance between the home life, the writing life, the professional/career/dayjob, and time with myself. But boy does life know how to throw the most wicked screwball in your direction. As in, just when you think things are starting to look up, it turns out you were being psyched in an evil game of made ya look.
 
So, in honor of these events – none of which I can really share as most have to do with my professional/dayjob that I still love and enjoy – I’d like to post my first rant post: a lesson in what to expect when you disappoint, hurt or piss off a writer:
 
When a writer is disappointed, saddened, hurt, or angered, whether by a person or a particular situation, it should come as no surprise when one – or all – of the following immediately happens:

  • They yell, kick, scream, throw a punch or two — *ahem* generally a punching bag or a pillow…generally – or burst into tears at a moment’s notice
  • They become abnormally quiet, or abnormally loud (or in my case: louder then extremely quiet)
  • They politely nod their head and say, “Everything’s juuuuust fine.” – even if it’s only been a few hours or a few days since the emotional event
  • They suddenly become distracted – more so than usual – after the emotional event
  • The stay awake at night plotting and planning the what if’s (ex: What if I did get that job? What if I did get that publisher? What if I had actually been told blah, blah, blah? What if my response had actually been blah, blah, blah?)

 
That was Stage 1.
 
Again, don’t be surprised when one – or all – of the following happen sooner or later in Stage 2 of what happens when you disappoint, sadden, anger, or hurt a writer:

  • The catalyst to the writer’s pain winds up as a plot point
  • You’re reading one of the writer’s books and there’s a character who sounds an awful lot like you (ex: talks like you, has the same mannerisms as you, eerily makes the same decisions as you, etc.).
  • You discover the character – the one who reminded you of yourself in some way – ends up being a person you really don’t like. In fact, they end up being a fictional character that you loathe with passion
  • You cheer and fist pump when that character, the antagonist, ends up getting their ass handed to them by the writer’s fictional self protagonist
  • Thanks to the writer and their story, you learn a valuable lesson about how to treat others with the respect they deserve and you emerge from the end of the story wishing you had done things a bit differently, but ultimately vow to never make the same mistake again

 
Basically the bottom line is this: be very, very careful when you intentionally hurt someone. No matter if they’re a coworker, a friend, a family member, a husband/wife, sister/brother, or simply a stranger, just take care with their feelings and treat them as you’d want to be treated.
 
Because you never know if they’re a writer.
 
And if they’re a writer, and you’ve hurt them? Be afraid. Be very, very afraid.
 
Because writers know how to bounce back bigger and better than ever. Because writers have learned after many, many, many years of rejection and disappointment how to take those emotions and morph them into fuel for their writing. Because writers know how to draw from life to inspire their art. Because writers don’t know how to take no for an answer.
 
Because writers AREN’T quitters!!! And you’ll never, EVER get us down.
 
In the end, we’ll always win.
 
No! Matter! What!