When Creativity Is Lacking…

I am blessed to find very shareable posts that speak to my heart!

Hope all is well and that Jami Gold’s post for feeding our creative and artistic side is helpful to you too! Her blog is packed with awesome, detailed how-to articles, along with several excellent writer downloads. Finally, if you’re into the paranormal, check out her stories!

Have a great weekend all! Happy Super Bowl Sunday, too!

Joanna

 

 

 

That Thing You Do

Yes, I’m a junkie when it comes to that movie and that song. Come on, how do you not root for Tom Everett Scott’s Guy  and Liv Tyler’s Fay? Guy pounds on those drums and transports me into the zone with him. 🙂

The more I watch the movie though, the more my favorite is Lenny. (Just MHO, but Steve Zahn stole the show.) Love the joy Lenny exudes whenever the band sings; how Lenny and every character (except broody lead singer Jimmy–y’all can keep him) are simply in the moment, fully caught up in the awesomeness of The Wonders’ experience.

Yep, that is I, all caught up in the not-to-be-forgotten Blizzard of 2016. The last humdinger to hit with this much (or more) was back in ’96. Got the best snow boots too: my kids’. They outgrew them but fit Ma perfectly, lol. Go figure.

Snow day 2016

Pauls car 2016
Hubby’s car ain’t comin’ out no time soon. Good thing we have another vehicle. 😉

Gear shift:

We’ve all got them. Some habit(s) strangely unique to each of us. No, it doesn’t have to be weird or something to be kept hush-hush.

I drink hot coffee through a straw.

People look at me like, “Whaaatt?”

How it started:

Mrs. Joanna’s students all know my coffee is “the most important meal of the day.” (And she never takes less than 20 ounces with her every morning.)

Being someone who tends to run late—there always seem to be long coffee lines in the morning—I got me a travel mug and started taking my java with me from home. (Dunkin Donuts stainless steel travel cup is awesome. It keeps liquids HOT.)

FullSizeRender (13)

At some point, I got a little scheeved from my lipstick layered on the container’s opening. I stuck a straw in there, got used to the action and now it’s the only way, lol.

So what’s That Thing You Do? What quirky habit have you picked up along the way? Which movie stops you in your tracks any time you happen to catch it?

Go for it. Watch the video. One time. You know you want to. You’ll be glad you did. (I just did–again. 😉 )

TTFN and have a great day,

Joanna

 

 

Linking Up to Some Great Recipes

Hi all,

Think I really like Halloween on a Saturday. I love the colorful, energetic foot-traffic that finds its way to our door every year. A few blocks away, Older Son and his friends did a haunted house. How fun to have a group of younger teenage girls I directed there ring my doorbell a second time. One plopped herself on my stoop as if she’d known me forever–I’d never met them before–to tell me “all about the haunted house” in that bubbly, giggly way girls do! They made my night.

jack-o-lantern-Nic-2015
Older Son’s work. Have a feeling Jack here is sporting Ray-Bans.

One day I’ll get back into a groove–lately all I do is school-related reports. Amazing the domino-effect created by one person’s good intentions. All the reports she sought to get done ahead of her maternity leave are already due for this school year–they just keep on coming. Very frustrating when one wants time to work on non-school-related endeavors.

So…in the interest of brevity, I’ll link you up with some of my latest go-to recipes. (Among the reasons I love oats and the internet!)

Over at bakerita.com, Rachel’s gluten-free banana bread (with chocolate chips and two minor tweaks by me) is absolutely delicious–moist and hearty every time! My tweaks: I replaced honey with brown sugar. (I rarely stock honey. We don’t use it, so it’s usually dried up whenever I go looking for it.) I also tried pumpkin in lieu of applesauce. That worked pretty well too, but I had to increase the baking time by 10-15 minutes. And this treat topped with a little Trader Joe’s almond butter? Breakfast is served!

Found this pumpkin chocolate chip cookie overnight oats this past Sunday morning. Simple and quick. Made it in a few minutes and gave it an hour in the fridge. This was more like a VERY yummy dessert, though I believe it’s meant for breakfast. Can I tell you how awesome it tasted over the pumpkin-banana bread (above) with a little shot of whipped cream? I’m sure vanilla Greek yogurt pairs nicely here as well. (BTW, I substituted brown sugar for the honey in this one too. Worked just fine.)

One more: cinnamon roll baked oatmeal. Easy. Quick. Elegant enough to serve at a brunch (or take to school for a holiday breakfast). My only change-up here was in the glaze. I LOVE cream-cheese glaze, so I searched for a simple one. (Yes, I found one, for cinnamon roll pancakes with cream-cheese frosting–my next venture. Sorry. I didn’t bookmark the site. That might not be a good thing, lol.)

Two more things I really liked about these recipes:

(1) each calls for staples that tend to be on-hand or easily obtained;

(2) each is gluten-free (but not necessarily CGF).

Do any of you have any go-to recipes to share?

Love fall colors and weather! (Wish we could skip straight to spring, though. :) )
Love fall colors and weather! (Wish we could skip straight to spring, though. 🙂 )

Off to my next evaluation!

Have a wonderful day,

Joanna

Finding My Way Back :)

Hey everyone, welcome to (almost) fall–hope all is well with all of you! Believe it or not, I’ve missed you!

Yes, I’ve been missing, and thankfully, for no particular (bad or unfortunate) event. The fan in my ‘puter (as a long ago student referred to the computer) went on the fritz in early summer. Took a couple of weeks before the correct fan came in (via Ebay and USPS—God bless both) and Older Son got the ol’ Acer up and running for his ma.

That kind of put me in a holding—and, yes, I’ll own it: avoidance—pattern. (I was sort of in one anyway, typical of the rather chaotic feel working our school’s summer academic program promotes.) Then August came and went. Before I knew it, summer was over and school is back in session!

I was blessed, though, with a restful and productive time. What I’ve been up to:

*Allowing myself to rest and enjoy the time off I am blessed and privileged to have every summer. Usually, I start mourning August’s end before it starts. This year, I got myself in check fast. Got to the beach a few times; enjoyed a free concert there one night and two spectacular sunsets on the other occasions. (Next up: getting there—with Hubby, of course—in time for a sunrise.)

Sunrise--Wildwood

Morning at the “bend” in North Wildwood.

Sea wall Wildwood

Sea wall, North Wildwood–now that’s a “serenity space.” 

me--5-2015

The gardens at the Hereford Lighthouse, North Wildwood. 

Sunset--8-2015  sunset-8-2015-2

Sunset–Sandy Hook (both images)

*Reading: I got in about seven books since in the last 5-6 weeks. (That’s an accomplishment. My attention span has been next-to-nothing for a while now. As with everything else, I blame hormones.)

Tennis: Practicing my shots and playing with Hubby, Older Son and anyone else willing to hit the court with me. Kept up with a teenage neighbor for an impromptu practice session. He quit before I did—how cool is that? Made it to the qualifying rounds of the US Open Tennis Championships! Awesome to watch the speed and power behind the ball as it flies live off the players’ racquets!

US Open--2015

*Cleaning/Purging/Organizing: Took me at least ten hours to clean the desk/office area in my semi-finished basement. (Younger Son thinks it’s his space, but his ma is willing to share.) I dumped notes and evaluations dating back up to 20 years, folks. I even found one of my very first, handwritten evaluations. Now I’m happily utilizing this space again—hopefully, more so as time progresses—for creative endeavors!

desk

*Sewing: I love making small quilts as baby gifts. I keep them very simple, and currently have four (?) in the works, started on a day when I dragged the Singer in front of the TV (during a Masters 1000 tennis tournament—what else?)

Quilting

sofa

Disguising cat-damage to the sofa arms is another art form I incorporate here and there.

*Writing: Some. Got inspired at the beach and got back to a work-in-progress started 3-4 years ago. I also signed up for an online novel-writing class and hope to be working through that in the upcoming weeks. (More on that in a future post.)

Best news of all: Booked my first two (PAID) speaker gigs!!! The first is my parenting workshop (10/8) and the second is about sensory strategies (1/12 and 1/19 of 2016). Go figure: an adult school in my area is going to pay me to talk—how awesome is that????

That’s what’s going on with me these days. What are you all up to?

Cheers!

Joanna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How do you do Point of View?

Happy Cinco de Mayo, folks. Hope those celebrating are doing so in a fun (and safe) fashion! Since tequila makes me sleepy, I’ll indulge in a virtual strawberry daiquiri instead. 😉

Several weeks ago I happened on Tips When Writing Multiple POVs at Writers Helping Writers. This very helpful article got my writer’s-side-of-the-brain’s-synapses snapping, and this post was born. Thanks to Angela Ackerman and her guest blogger, Lisa Gail Green for allowing me to quote directly.

Since I tend to be wordy (No!!! Really???  😉 ), I figured I’d challenge myself to one (or three) sentences for my thoughts on each of the areas—shown in quotations—that Lisa covered in her post:

“Understand each character’s goals, stakes, and pitfalls”: When I don’t overthink, hang in long enough and just write the danged scene(s), the nuances of that POV character’s goals, motivation(s) and conflict (GMC, from here on) begin to reveal themselves. Every round of editing helps me see more.

“Don’t redo the same scene from multiple POVs”: Every now and again there’s a call to do so—in a ‘scene and sequel’ format that SHOULD forward the plot. At ‘big’ moments involving both POV characters, I’ve ended the scene in one character’s POV, but opened up the next chapter picking up (almost) where I left off from the other’s perspective.

“Have a reason a particular chapter is in a particular point of view”: This goes back to the basics: GMC. Often, the character who has more ‘at stake’ in a given scene gets the POV honors. Try working the scene from the other POV character’s perspective if you’re not sure—about to do that with a scene of my own.

“Ground the reader as soon as each switch takes place”: I love Virginia Kantra’s technique of “zooming” the lens deep into one character’s POV, “pulling away” then honing back in deep, but in the other character’s perspective. The Wild Rose Press, who trad-pubbed my debut novel, kept it simple: Jessica thought… or something similar.

“If you’re still unsure whether you should undertake a multiple POV manuscript, try it out and see how it feels”: Trying my hand (for the first time) at four POVs in my current WIP . Wish me luck!

Do you agree with the Lisa’s tips? Is POV a challenge or just come easy for you? Which POV do you like to write in?

For more talk on the topic, here’s a great article on self-editing by Rachel E. Newman at The Book Designer.

Have a great week,

Joanna

©Joanna Aislinn, all rights reserved, 2015.

 

 

 

Fan-Fiction or Handbook to ‘Die For’? BOTH!!!

Hi everyone. I’m keeping busy and getting very excited about some upcoming stuff I’ve been looking forward to. Since I was raised with Italian superstitions, I’ll talk about them after the fact. Hope all of you are well.

SSXpedition FINAL

Those of you who are kind enough to follow and read all my posts are most likely sick of me discussing ‘reviews’ at authors’ blogs. When online author-pal PJ Reece asked me to give his (then pre-) released book a look-see prior to it going live at Amazon, I had to say yes.

Why? B/c I’d already read–and loved and internalized–this book’s predecessor, STORY STRUCTURE TO DIE FOR. I also enjoy PJ’s blog articles, so I had a very strong inkling I was going to get somethin’ real good out of PJ’s latest work.

STORY STRUCTURE EXPEDITION: JOURNEY TO THE HEART OF THE STORY by author PJ Reece is (to me) a fan-fiction based on Joseph Conrad’s classic novel, HEART OF DARKNESS. The author sets himself up as protagonist while his writer takes him through his story journey (i.e., character arc) via a Congo River expedition, based on the events of Conrad’s novel.

I found PJ’s hundred-page essay (as he referred to it) VERY entertaining. Had I paid attention in high school and read Heart of Darkness, I might have related even better to PJ’s work. Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed his excellent command of language and writing skills; his wit and humor, as well as the story journey. PJ also challenged and put me in a position to expand my vocabulary: I looked up many words via the electronic dictionary built into Kindle’s app.

This is what you’ll be reading: (from PJ’s protagonist’s “writer’s” ‘synopsis’): story fanatic commissions a tin-pot steamer to retrace Marlow’s journey up the Congo into terra incognita. Our protagonist imagines a series of instructive dispatches along the way, scenes that portray the river as a metaphor for every story’s journey to the story heart.

So: Author takes story structure, sets himself as narrator, and becomes the protagonist being thrust into the throws of story structure. He discusses how the writer’s job is to “love her protagonist to death”—death to the protagonist’s belief system and the inexplicable freedom from having “died” to one’s self. (On pp 50-51 you’ll find a lively “discourse” between author and his “writer.” Every now and again, he revisits their ‘relationship,’ typically to question what the heck she’s putting him through.)

Same story structure mechanics told a different way? Perhaps, but PJ puts a spin on it that I related to and seem to be digesting and/or internalizing readily.

IMHO, the brilliance of PJ’s essay is how he nestles simple and straightforward story mechanics into excellent, highly useful tips to writers during his metaphorical expedition. I took copious notes and highlighted like crazy as I read. I hear PJ’s words resonating as I work on my current WIP, nudging and guiding my protagonist toward his own awakening. (Trust me, my  guy has a LOT to learn.  😉

STORY STRUCTURE EXPEDITION: JOURNEY TO THE HEART OF THE STORY is a refreshing companion/follow-up to its predecessor, STORY STRUCTURE TO DIE FOR. I can’t imagine any writer won’t be a better writer after having read either (or both) of these works.

The Last Book I Wasn’t Crazy For But Read Anyway

Welcome to the fourth week of March, everyone. Finally, spring is upon us! I have been ‘snow done’ for a while now; I was definitely done with polar cold before it started, but temps in my area are supposed to hover just above or below freezing all week 😦  ). Give me the dog days of summer anytime over the chilly weather.

Nabby 03-2015 My pretty li’l Mauer McNabb always keeps me company when I’m working in the kitchen.  

Last time, I was inspired to write by suspense/thriller author Carrie Rubin, who was inspired by the ever-awesome Kristen Lamb. The discussion: Should an author publish book reviews?

In my previous post, I referred to a story I had just finished. Because I prefer to keep my ‘thoughts’ on books positive—I don’t refer to them as ‘reviews’ anymore. My ideas and/or issues are pretty subjective, thus making them MHO. One is welcome to take what s/he likes and leave the rest. 😉

Back to MHO on my most recent read. The author’s declared mainstay occupation is NOT writing, but another creative outlet, in which she is reportedly well-established. The story is inspired and built around her ‘day job.’ It pubbed traditionally by a Big-Five publisher in 2010. As an ‘author,’ my snarky side keeps asking, “Why?”

Not sure if the external plot (a.k.a., the ‘story’) or the characters kept me holding on, but something did.

The writing? Eh. Obviously, GCP thought more of it than I did.

I thought about emailing the author my issues. I’ve done so before re: other books—always as gently and kindly as I know how. I’ve never received a response from any author whenever I went there—most recently from someone who offered a book in exchange for a review. I really tried, but I couldn’t finish the book. I wrote the author’s rep and stated my reasons why—exactly what the rep asked me to do if I ran into ‘problems’ that would impact my review. Not even a ‘thank you.’

I realized most authors are not interested in my take on what their book(s) should be.

Guess what? That. Is. Okay. Saves me a lot of time writing emails loaded with editing notes and constructive criticism no one asked for in the first place. 😉

Back to Book-on-the-‘Hot Spot’:

What I liked:

(1) High-energy and fast-paced. With the exception of a back-story/flashback dump (or two), the plot held my interest and moved forward at a decent pace.

(2) Likable, interesting, well-flawed, relatable and highly human characters.

What turned me off to the point I WON’T write a ‘review’:

(1)  The author used a plethora of foreign-language words and didn’t italicize any of them. A minor issue, true, but ‘dems da rules,” right? IDK, it just turned me off, especially for a trad-pubbed, Big-Five novel.

(2) The author’s loose use of point of view (POV). Head-hopping, POVs assigned to whomever was reacting to the goings-on in a given scene, rather than sticking to the three lead characters. At times the author waxed omniscient. (That’s pretty much the exact opposite of deep POV, which I happen to love. The awesome Virginia Kantra has some great articles on POV at her website. Check them out—just scroll down the page.)

(2) The author infused a contemporary story with her love of movies. She referenced them in EACH character’s point of view (POV). Why is that an issue? I’m a product of the era of those movies, and I’m thinking the author is too. Her characters were far too young to think of themselves relative to the comparisons she used. Also would every one of them think in terms of movies? Far as I’ve learned, POV is supposed to distinguish one character’s voice from another.

(3) The author used the movie references repeatedly, typically as one “like” simile after another. Either I got more sensitive to it or she added more and more of them as the story progressed. Not only did it get old and gimmicky and sounded like “telling”, it got to the point where the similes felt random and not connected to the story. (NCIS’s “Tony DiNozzo,”—played by Michael Weatherly who looks the part of a classic movie star—is a movie buff. Tony is rarely sans a ready movie reference, but it always connects to his character AND the episode’s plot.)

(4) Lastly, I think I started paying less attention towards the end of the book, but I believe the author started introducing quotes, characters and themes at the “finale.” Forgive my snobbish attitude, but I’ve learned (via Larry Brooks’ Story Engineering) that adding new information after the second plot point and/or climax is a bit of a no-no.

Do I sound resentful b/c this writer got a big opportunity from a big-name publisher? I suppose I do, but considering I haven’t submitted anything in several years makes me think that’s not the case. (I like the indie idea better anyway.) IDK, but all the things that turned me off make me wonder why a Big-Five pubbed novel wasn’t held to a much higher standard. Just sayin’.

Have I become a reading snob? Maybe, but I’m older. My attention span and tolerance ain’t what they were eleven years ago, when I started on my writer’s journey. I’ve read a lot—I still read quite a bit. I am also more educated and experienced in writing and editing, which kills my tolerance for this kind of stuff that much more.  Sad that a really good—but not necessarily established—indie writer might not get the chance the author/celebrity of nameless book got.

So what’s my point in these long-winded pages? Maybe sharing what makes me crazy in a book can help someone else refine their skills on their authors’ journeys. Maybe I just felt like complaining about the book without bashing the author and making her or myself look bad. IDK—what say you?

Enjoy the week!

Joanna