Thursday, September 29, 2011

I'm in Deep Reflection Today. Be Forewarned.

I've been experiencing quite a bit of interesting thoughts this week. My main contemplation is on the issue of pride (my stinkin' pride *fist shaking at self*).

This business is a tough one. I've had many friends published (either e-pub or traditional). Some of my friends have changed (not everyone, but some. And I'm not talking about changing from human to vampire or something like that. That would make for a much more interesting story). 

Two acquaintances of mine have been published and both have had national successes. But the way they have responded to their success has been so different and at such opposite sides of reaction, that I couldn't help take note.

Not only have I seen it in the writing world, but I have seen it in my person life. Just because someone is skinner than me, prettier, had different responsibilities...does that make them better than me? More important?

But it didn't stop there. I was in a meeting with a group of accomplished women, one of whom kept bringing up her past achievements, who she worked with, how she went the extra mile. I started to feel...well...jealous (and to be honest, a little bit small compared to her). So then I went off, embellishing in my past (honestly, if I was going to go off and feel terrible for it, I should have made it more I had super powers or something-j/k It was bad enough).

By the time we were leaving, I felt awful.

This is not the person I wanted to be. My pride and jealousy was getting in the way. Too far in the way.

I spent the next few days trying to sort things out, how to stop my mouth from vomiting such things in times of weakness (Why does it happen like that? Why can't my logical mind say..."Hey wait, if you say that you'll be eating a pint of Ben and Jerry's tonight." I'm just saying).

I'm still struggling with it. I hope it works out in the end (struggling with the words, not the Ben and Jerry's...well, my weight is, but that's a whole different story).

I guess it comes down to who do I want to be in the end of it all? The friend who thinks they are the best or the one who humbly accepts whatever may come their way?  

It's a slippery slope, one I hate falling down (And Ben and Jerry's is getting rich off me...curse that delicious ice cream).

So tell me, what do you do when you find yourself tackling tough issue like pride? What do you do when you get into a sticky situation? (Okay, and honestly, I don't eat a pint of Ben and Jerry''s more like a gallon of the generic stuff. It's good too. *wink*)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Where Did I Put Those Scissors?

“The most valuable of all talents is never using two words when one will do.” Thomas Jefferson

I think I need to get to know Thomas Jefferson better. Using less words is an idea that I have been working on for a long time. My love affair with words sometimes get in my way. The shortest way to say something is usually the best.

When I think I have said everything I wanted to say in the most perfect way, that is the time to get out the scissors, the knife, the hatchet and start trimming. It’s surprising how many words I can cut without hurting the story.

Still, a hatchet can be a little extreme. You don’t want to lose any blood. Well, not much anyway. Some words are worth keeping. I love a word that adds a new twist or makes you think in a different way. I love a word that opens your mind to a new possibility. I love a word that sparkles.

There’s a balancing act with words. I should know. I’m doing a rewrite of one of my favorite pieces. It’s a picture book on self-worth for girls. A topic that is sorely needed and one that I am passionate about.

The publisher wants it trimmed. I am love with the meaning and the words. Can I do it justice? Can I trim without sacrificing the meaning?

Where did I put those scissors?

Linda Garner

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Magical Space

I just finished reading Snow Treasure by Marie McSwigan. It was written in 1942, and is about Norwegian children outwitting German soldiers during World War II. The children save millions of dollars of gold from falling into German hands.
When I posted it on Goodreads, I was shocked to find that Snow Treasure is still in print. (My copy is from the library, and our library is known to have some pretty old books.)
How would it be to have your book in print for almost 70 years? Seventy years!
Since it was written in 1942, there are some things that wouldn’t make it past editors today. Ms. McSwigan gets on her hobby horse a couple of times. There is some ‘telling’ that could be shown, but as a whole the book is full of tension and keeps the reader engaged.
Chapter endings are cliff-hangers, as they should be. There are adults in the story, but the kids are the ones that save the day. The adults empower the kids to solve the problem and get out of the way so they can do it.
How many children in seventy years have enjoyed this book? I love that magical time when a child is drawn into a story (or even when I’m involved in a story myself). As mothers we see it with little children when we read to them. As a child grows older and learns to read, he engages himself in that magical place by himself. As a writer, my one wish is that I might charm a child into that magical time with one of my stories.
I have this secret wish that I want to be invited into special space and be part of a child’s magic. To me, that’s the ultimate goal of writing.
What’s your secret wish about writing? Do you have one?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The E-Revolution...I Need to Know

Everyone is talking about e-books. They are changing the way we think about publishing. They are changing the way we buy books. What’s next we wonder. Will book stores survive? Will publishers?

As a picture book writer, I didn’t think the e-book revolution would affect me much. I couldn’t imagine that e-books would ever replace picture books, but things are changing. Publishers are reluctant to take on picture books. Agents are hesitant to invest their time on picture books. Picture books are not selling like they used to.

Parents are stressed. Overextended. Most are not reading to their kids as much. They are encouraging their kids to read earlier and are more interested in easy readers than picture books. They want a short bedtime read, so they can get to bed. Many are ignoring the meatier, richly illustrated, meaningful picture books I love.

Richly layered picture books are being cast aside. I mourn their passing. Is there a place for picture books on e-readers? I didn’t think so, but I noticed that Barnes and Noble has six new e-board books for $3.99 each, and I have heard that more parents ae buying e-readers with kids in mind.

Is this true? Are parents reading to their kids from e-readers? E-readers are expensive. Are parents letting toddlers use their e-readers? Are they buying e-readers for kids?

I want to know what you think of the e-book revolution. Will it become a vehicle for picture books? Have you bought an e-reader for your child? Do you share your e-reader with children? Have you purchased any picture books for your e-reader?

I need to know.

Linda Garner

Monday, September 19, 2011

Three Dimensional Characters

Has anyone ever told you that your characters were flat, like paper dolls? My critique group is great at helping me see that my protagonist needs feelings. I have to get in their head and figure out what’s going on with them.
I think I already mentioned the Kathleen Duey, in her workshop at an SCBWI said that she interviews her characters thoroughly before writing the story. She said that you don’t just list their likes and dislikes, you get into their head and figure out what their inner most thoughts and feelings are.
Sometimes it takes me a while to get to know my characters. They need to become my friends—tell me what they think and let me know how they would act.
Larry Brooks, in his “Story Engineering” defines character this way:
First Dimensional characters, simply exists.  He may choose his or her car, etc, but no meaning is assigned to his choices.
Second Dimensional characters let us know the reasons for their choices. We may learn the back story and agenda of the person.
Third Dimensional characters become “subordinate to more important choices and behaviors made when greater weight and consequences are at stake.” In other words, the protagonist becomes a ‘real’ person or an actor in his story.
I love this concept. I’m probably not very good at writing it yet, but I’m trying.
How have you made your characters three dimensional?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

I Have Ten Minutes to Write this Post

Seriously, only ten. I've written this post twice already, only to erase it. Why?

I don't know. This whole day is  little off. I slept through my exercise time, I sat on the couch when I was supposed to be cleaning, and I haven't had anything nutritious to eat (Wait! Does chocolate count. does. sweet! I'm good on that one.) 

I think my day is out to get me. 

Oh no...only six more minutes. 

Plus I have a long list of things to do (remember the dead washing machine? There's a pile of laundry waiting for me. Curse you stinky socks & smelly towels). there's only four. I'd better get to my point.

If you are going to be a writer, time becomes very important to you. You need time to write, time to revise, time for crit buddies, time to communicate with agents,  time to eat ( 

Sorry, I got carried away thinking of food.

So to cure the time must block out time to get things done. Make your time work for you and remember...don't wait until the last minute to write a post (do what my friend Elana J does and  write your posts on one day for the entire week. Brilliant! And have you seen her blog? I bet she's not counting down minutes until she has to throw her socks in the dryer. Just saying.) 

If you are going to do it...plan it and do it. That's all there is to it. (Of course, it's probably the hardest thing, but still.) 

Okay, I have thirty seconds. Eck! So what do you do to keep yourself on the writing track? 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Choosing Light

Where were you on the morning of Sept 11, 2001? Do you remember?

I remember. For most of us, that moment will be permanently imprinted in memory: the moment we discovered that America had been betrayed. What did the betrayal feel like to you? Was it personal? Did you feel connected or detached? Were you angry, confused, frightened, sad, depressed, or all of the above?

A friend of mine who works in the mental health field reports that anxiety became rampant in wake of 9/11. She says that anxiety was relatively rare in the days before the terrorist attack and became widespread in the days and years that followed.

Not everyone gave in to terror. Some shelved their worries in a hidden place and buried them for another day. Some chose indifference. Some hardened their hearts. Others turned to faith.

Many chose prayer. A nation that had largely abandoned prayer suddenly became very prayerful…for a time. In a gesture of hope, my neighborhood displayed luminaries. We lit candles, laid them on a bed of sand in a one room paper house, and placed them near the street. A silent glow of unity lit our street against the ugliness of the day, and the shadowy curtain of night.

Things have changed since the day terror knocked on our front door. Security is the new game in town. War is our new neighbor. And for some, a new fear moved in to stay.

Is it a coincidence that ten years later our economy is close to ruin, taxes gnaw hungrily at our paychecks, beefy government fingers poke at every pie, and joblessness lives in the spare bedroom.

We voted for change, but not this change. We hoped for improvement. Government behaves badly, much like a chubby, spoiled, manipulative child. It stamps its feet and cries for its way. It bullies us and kicks us when we’re down.

When I was young, I thought the end of the world was around the next corner. This both thrilled and worried me, for I knew that it would be a great and simultaneously terrible day. Would I grow old enough to finish school? To marry? To be a mother? What kind of world would I introduce my children to?

As a young mother, I stewed about wars and rumors of wars. I wrinkled my forehead over earthquakes in diverse places. I watched for the moon to turn to blood. When I could afford to, I stored food and water and wheat. Lots of wheat. I stored fabric and flashlights. I stored batteries, and candles, and clothes.

I once had a depression coat, a walking to Missouri coat, just in case. It was ugly as sin, but it was sturdy and warm. I knew I would never wear it, unless there was a crisis, yet I clung to it like hope. I knew that it would keep me warm against a dark and sinister nameless storm.

The coat is gone, but I still store food, and also hope, for I have learned that storms are a part of life. The thunder and lightning may frighten me, but I have control. I can choose peace. I can choose gratitude. I can choose faith. The most dangerous storm is the one that rages in my mind. Shall I choose fear or faith? Shall I choose chaos or stillness?

I have learned that most storms pass and that if we are prepared we shall not fear. I have learned that the only true safety lies inside my heart, the hand of my neighbor, the touch of a friend. I have learned that peace lies not in absolute safety but in trust and in my bucket of faith. I have learned to cling to my family, to strengthen my friends, and to share that bucket of faith with those in need.

There are more earthquakes now, and they have moved closer. The voices of war grow louder. Peace is not for sale, but it is abundant even in the growing chaos. Would you like a drink from my bucket of faith? Here, take my hand.

Abundance is mine. Peace, joy, and trust are abundant for those who know where to look.

America has a wonderful way of reinventing itself. We still have a lot going for us. We have a lot to be thankful for. We can make a difference. Be part of the solution. Believe it or not, whining is not a solution. Become the change you long for.

Gather your family. Gather your stores. Gather your courage. Believe. Hope. Trust. Trust in the Lord with all you heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths.

9/11/2011. It’s a perfect day for finding peace. Light a candle of faith in your heart and feel the glow of peace. Hold it out against the darkness surrounding you. Refuse to give in to darkness. Choose light. Choose gratitude. Choose abundance.

Count your blessings. Rejoice in abundance. Share your gifts. Strengthen your faith.

Linda Garner

Monday, September 12, 2011

Character Flaws

I’ve been gone for a couple of weeks. My daughter had emergency back surgery. My crisis is over and my daugher is fine. Do you ever feel flawed? Sometimes I feel so flawed! (I guess my characters do, too.)

Character Flaws
Are your characters perfect? Sometimes we want them to be the heroes—to be bigger than life and better than anyone else.
When I encounter that kind of protagonist in a story, I can’t really identify with them because I’m so full of flaws myself I know I’ll never be like them. I don’t really find myself engrossed in the narrative as if I were part of the story world.
So, I must give my characters some flaws. What kind of flaws should they have? That depends upon what you want them to learn during their adventure.  What is your character arc going to be? Plan the end from the beginning and make your characters real for the reader.
Internal flaws vs. External flaws
I think it’s fun to give a character some external flaws as well as internal ones. For instance, I have a little Polish girl that is always biting her fingers. Sometimes they even bleed. She can’t seem to stop, and it’s frustrating for her. Find a fun way to tie these flaws into the story. They can even forward the plot.
Internal flaws must be more thoughtful. The driving need at the beginning of the story will engage us immediately with the main character. We will feel his or her struggle and make them our own as we read. I just finished “The Traitor’s Gate” by Avi. The hero is thrust into the role of finding out if his father is a spy. What a lonely place to be! He has no one to talk to or help him until he meets a ragged street urchin who cleverly helps him and becomes a friend.
If I study by own needs, I can find those of my characters.
What flaws have you given your characters?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Seriously? I mean...Really?

I wrote a whole post about how my dinner spilled under the oven and now my house smells like a warm dairy, my wash machine breaking down (no clean undies is a terrible thing), and how my mouse died (the computer mouse, not a real one).

But then I erased it, because I realized something.

Bad things happen to people.

Bad things happen to characters.

I have a scene where my main character gets into trouble, but her consquences aren't that bad. (have you heard the saying, once your character gets stuck in the tree, start throwing rocks at them...or something like that?) When your character is in a bad situation, make it worse.When your character thinks they are okay, make something happen.

Well, my character got in the tree and there really weren't enough rock throwings. Meaning, I have to make her consequences real. Right now...they aren't so bad. I have to take aim and make the

This will bring more emotions to the scene and keep the reader into the story.

So today my goal is to pull out the oven and scrub the floor, buy a new mouse, and get my throwing arm ready to sling some lemons, or rocks, or something like that.

What about you? How do you make the consequences worse for your characters? (Stinkin' smelly are so getting the evil eye!)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I've said it before...

Marketing is hard work. I've said it before. You've probably heard me. It's hard to know what's going to make a difference. Blogging? Facebook? Twitter? Book signings?

I don't make much money on my book, so it's not about money. It's about making a difference. Always has been. I've done all the above, but I also write articles. Getting them published hasn't always been easy. Like I said, Marketing is hard work.

A great lady named Susan Rogers runs a fabulous website on preventing sexual abuse. In fact she has tons of material on the subject and gives workshops. She likes my articles and has agreed to feature one each month.

Getting the message out there is super important. Getting my book noticed is terrific too. Do me a favor and check out Susan's website. It's called S.A.F.E. Network. She has some great information. Just click here. After all, keeping kids safe is everyone's job.

Like I said, Marketing is hard work.

Linda Garner

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Why Didn't They Tell Me Before?

When I first started writing, I thought all you had to do was write something and get it published. HA! There is so much more to having a book get published!

Have a great critique group. If you don't have one in your area, there are some online (because sometimes you will think it sounds perfect, when it just sounds like pretty gibberish).

Go to writing conferences. Not only will you meet awesomely-cool people, you learn the tools to have a great book! (Plus you can go to pitch sessions and meet uber-ific agents and stuff.)

Remember you will have to write, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite......(why didn't anybody tell me this when I started?)

Get a good writing snack. Why? Because most writers will start eating when they are thinking. I snacked on chocolate chips for years. Bad idea! I'm still working at getting off those last ten pounds (I hate you skinny Pilates instructor.  hee hee...Just kidding...please don't kick me off the stretchy team.)

It takes time. This is the biggest newsflash I can give you. It takes time to write, time to revise, time to edit, time to query, time to .... Oh the list goes on and on. So keep yourself busy with new projects and stay excited for those stories.  

Wish I had known all these things before. Now I know.

So my writing friends, anything I forgot? Anything you wish you would have known about before picking up that creative bug?