Monday, January 30, 2012

Curse you comma

The comma. One of those pieces of punctuation that can be a pest. Really, these little buggers are magicians. I swear. I think I put them in the right place, but it's not always the right place. Then, they seem to move or disappear. I'm sure it's my brain playing these tricks, but commas can be confusing.

For some of you, using the comma is as easy as putting on a sock. For the rest of us, it's like solving a really difficult trigonometry problem. So, what's a comma?

I hear you snicker. I'm serious here.

Definition: Comma--(Thanks to for the definition.)
1. A punctuation mark ( , ) used to indicate a separation of ideas or of elements within the structure of a sentence.
2. A pause or separation; a caesura.
There's also a type of butterfly, but I'm not talking about nature today.

We use this little mark everyday. How? Maybe you need to write the date. January 30, 2012. Maybe you received a huge advance--$500,000. Nice, right? But I'm in the process of going through line edits and I'm trying to make my sentences stronger. Plus, I don't want to look like an idiot.
Let's start out with a simple use.

-- Separating items in a series. You'll need pencils, erasers, and paper.

Okay, maybe that's obvious. Easy peasy, right? What about this one:

--Separating main clauses linked by a coordinating conjunction. I see your blank stare. Here's an example: My ears ached, and my chest hurt. Two clauses that make sense on their own linked by a coordinating conjunction--for, and, or, so, but, nor, yet.

Let's take a peek at some more.

--Separating coordinate adjectives. The short, pointy sword sat on the shelf. The rule is if you can place an and in between them, or you can switch the adjectives around and they still make sense, then a comma is the way to go.

--Setting off nonrestrictive elements and clauses. Nonrestrictive element--Emma, who is from England, lives in West Chester. The element that's set off by commas is added information and can be omitted without changing the meaning of the sentence.
Nonrestrictive clause--She hated his lectures, which could last for hours. These are clauses or phrases that act as adjectives or adverbs to the main clause.

--Setting off most introductory elements. Unfortunately, his car ran out of gas. Unfortunately is modifying the clause that follows.
--Before and after direct speech. "I'll meet you at the diner," he said. I don't think I need to elaborate on this one.

See, the comma can be your friend. I know I blew through those faster than a cheetah chasing it's prey, but these are the more obvious uses. On Wednesday, I will go through more examples.

Meanwhile, check out the links below for more comma info:

Commas/Punctuation rules.

The comma is a mysterious thing, but knowing some simple rules can alleviate some headaches. I hope. :)

Do you get confused with the magical comma?

Thanks to the THE LITTLE BROWN HANDBOOK by H. Ramsey Fowler and Jane E. Aaron, and IT WAS THE BEST OF SENTENCES. IT WAS THE WORST OF SENTENCES., by June Casagrande. I used them for my research. :)

Have a great day!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Desire to run

Sometimes it's hard for me to change, but this year I vow to include more exercise. My body is telling me too. I don't know why. I've never liked running, but for some reason, my body wants to do it. So, I'm trying to fit it into my day. I value every second I have on my lappy, but I'm realizing time away from it is valuable too. Brainstorming is part of working, and from what I've been told, exercising is a good way to brainstorm.

Brainstorming is one of the best parts in writing a story (at least, I think so). I do talk a lot when I do it, so if anyone is in the house, they may question my sanity. It amazes me how much can be worked out. It's like you're acting in your own movie. Way fun. So, I think a little exercise may get some of these juices flowing.

It's also important to stay healthy. I'm not saying cut out the chocolate. *holds heart* Unless it's absolutely necessary, then cut back if you have too. What I'm saying is --we exercise our brains pretty much every minute of the day-- I think our body needs to move too. Plus, I'm thinking this will help with working problems out in my MS and helping with some new ideas that have appeared in my brain. Seriously, I've had four new ideas this week with characters speaking to me, which I had to write down immediately (I was writing one down last night while waiting for a friend at a restaurant). My brain is about to explode and I'm ready to eliminate sleep and write them all. (I keep picturing me wearing those eye devices from A Clockwork Orange, and typing all night long.) I know, weird visual.

Of course, I could get the treadmill desk, or figure out how to make one, and all my problems would be solved. The only thing is--I don't think I'm that coordinated.

Are you brainstorming and working out the kinks by exercising?

If you have the laptop treadmill, let me know how you like it?

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Workout Wednesday

Yep, the middle of the week. Right in the middle. No closer to the end than the beginning. This week hasn't been the most productive. I'm hoping I get an awesome editing session in today. My freeze is starting to thaw a tiny bit so I'm hoping I can get into the groove and kick some butt. I'm also hoping my book reading speeds up. It seems like when one thing slows down, another picks up. It happens with everything. Focus on kids--the house is dirty. You know how it goes. I've also been watching a little more TV.
The shows I've been following:

1. Storage Wars

2. Grimm

3. Once Upon A Time

4. Ghost Hunters

5. Bones

A mixed bag. It's hard for me to pick up a new show, though. I started to watch Lost Girl on Syfy and have been told to check out Being Human. The problem is-- I compare shows I used to love to these newbies.

Ahh my favorite vamps. Plus, David Boreanaz is a local celeb.

Buffy and Angel were my favorites. *sigh* Really, JossWhedon = genius (George Lucas falls into this category too). The funny thing is--I loved them so much I wrote a new character for the series, Angel (2 journals full). I even dreamt that I'd send my character to Joss Whedon and he'd love it so much, he'd put it
into the show. It was only a dream because my self-confidence was minus zero so nothing happened there, but a great writing exercise came out of it.

What is it, you ask? Develop a whole new character for a show you love and write them in, maybe make new stories/episodes. It works for movies too. I've done it many times. You can play with emotion, senses, actions, dialogue, etc. You learn to write a character with characters you are familiar with. Plus, it's fun. You can even imagine it's you and write how you would interact with the characters on your favorite show. I've never tried it with a reality show, though.
So, have you tried writing a new character for your favorite TV show? Any favorite writing exercises you'd like to share?

In the news: Go here to learn more about an opportunity for a query critique from Elana Johnson. Yes, the Elana Johnson. There's this big event NiNoCon going on February 4th. Elana will be talking about writing a killer query and a few folks will be able to get a critique by this lovely lady.

Have a great day!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Trying to thaw a deep freeze

Lately I've been having one of those deep freezes take hold of my brain. You know the ones where you can feel what you're writing. It's like something or someone removed a chunk of my brain. I know I've had them before and they scare the flippin' daylights out of me, and I'm starting to figure out why they happen to me.

Every time I learn something new or work on a 'technical' aspect of writing, it seems to freeze all creativity. It grabs hold of comfort and joy of writing and stuffs it into a bag that's black. I have so many new ideas (I can see vividly) and so much I need to do on the manuscript I want to query, but I freeze and that part of me trembles and curls into a corner. I want to feel it again. That love. That freeness. I know it will come back. It has to--to fill the void it's leaving. And I finally figured out why it's happening this time.

Remember my grammar post? Yeah, my weakness of grammar is holding that euphoric feeling captive. My fingers start then I stop in fear that it will be horrible. When I'm being technical, things don't flow. It's so scary because I miss that feeling when everything just pours out without thinking. I know I'm growing and my writing is getting stronger, but it just feels uncomfortable. Even in my posts--I'm afraid I missed something important and it's making me look stupid. It makes my writing rigid.

I've tried other things--taking a break, reading, free writing--all of it still leaves me frustrated and scared. This is one of those dips in the roller coaster ride. You know, where you're screaming your head off trying to make sense of which direction the coaster will go next. Where your stomach is in your throat and you can't let go because you might fly out of your seat. Yep, that feeling. It leaves a shiver.

The question is--How do you thaw out the frozen part of your brain? You're trying to learn, grow and strengthen, yet all the rules make you analyze and over think, stopping anything creative to flow. How can you recapture that feeling of being free?

Have a great day!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Test the waters

Getting critiqued can be scary. The idea of someone reading what you (heart and soul) wrote may give you  nightmares of blood red ink scratched across each page with comments of how to fix this and that, along with what you need to learn in the margins. Embarrassment, hurt, saddness can take hold and a tear may fall. You open your eyes. It was a nightmare. A big sense of relief, but at some point, you have to share your work. Why? To grow. To strengthen. You need to know what is wrong to fix it.

For some, it's easy. For others, not so much. For me, I wanted lots of people to read my stuff and tell me what I needed to do. It doesn't mean I wasn't chewing my nails or eating a load of chocolate everytime I sent it, or I didn't fall hard when I got some of them back. I did and I still do. You learn how to deal and tolerate it in some way. But I realized the only way for me to learn is to 'see' what I'm doing wrong.

Where do you start? There are many places to begin.

1. Ask a fellow blogger or writer you trust. It's a start. Send something small if you want to test the waters.

2. If you are feeling brave try one of these ultra helpful sites. Both take only small snippits of your work and give some great feedback. Plus, you can remain anonymous. Easy peasy.

Christina Lee and Stina Lindenblatt's First Words Workshop

Dianne Salerni and Marcy's (Mainwords) First Impressions

3. If you're really brave try something more. There are forums where you can load more of your work for feedback.

YALitChat-For young adult



Miss Snarks's First Victim

It's not easy. No one said it was. Testing the waters is just another step in becoming a better writer.

Have you tested the waters?

If you want to share any other tips or sites, please share in the comments below.
Have a great day!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Winner of the signed CRACKED giveaway

Well, I have a winner. Thanks to the handy for making the decision. And the winner is:

*Michael Offutt*

Congratulations! Send me an email (cdanek13(at)gmail(dot)com) with your mailing address and I will send it out to you.

Congrats again! Have a great day!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Conquer the weakness

First, don't forget to enter to win a signed copy of CRACKED by K. M. Walton. Go here to enter. I will announce the winner tomorrow.

On with the post (Sorry if there are mistakes, I'm super sick):

It has taken me years to face my weakness. It's not easy and I'm still embarrassed by it. I finally decided that I need to confront it. I need to in order to grow. It's actually holding me back. I'm not talking about chocolate or a super hottie.What is it? Grammar. I stink at it. It's embarrassing to admit, in fact, I'm ashamed, but I need to overcome. I must work my butt off to perfect it.

Now, I'm sure a lot of you are laughing. Fine. Maybe teasing. Whatever. Or saying to yourself, "She calls herself a writer?" I get it. But I'm sure you have a weakness too. That's why I'm pushing through, because no matter what others think of me, I know in my heart I'll get there. I will get an agent, I may be 80, but I will. I will get published, again I may be like 100, but I will. Why? Because I'm willing to work. I'm willing to learn and grow and help others.

So I asked some friends what self help books they'd recommend. Thanks to Stina Lindenblatt, Lydia Kang, and Theresa Milstein for their suggestions.

The recommendations:



SIN AND SYNTAX by Constance Hale



STRUNK AND WHITE. THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE by by William Strunk, E. B. White and Roger Angell

Web sites that may help:

Grammar Girl-- Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing

Crystal Clear Proofing

Justine Dell- Check out her grammar police posts.

I'm sorry if I've forgotten any websites (remember I'm super sick). Please add your link or your favorite link in the comments and I will put it in the post.

Also, what are your favorite self help books on grammar?

Have a great day!

Friday, January 13, 2012

The "Q" word.

Photo removed.
This is what it may feel like when writing a query. All levels--do I go up? down? change this? do what?Where do I go? One step at a time.

I'm not talking quitter. I'm talking query. Ahh... the query. Just the sight of the word makes many folks want to curl up in a ball or go hide in a cave of darkness, maybe even attempt cliff diving instead of writing it. You can see it on fellow writers' faces right when you say "que", their noses scrunch up and their eyes squint like they've eaten a lemon (unless they have no idea what you're talking about, in that case, they just give you the distant stare).

A page that is what your whole story is about. It must have voice, important info, sass, must be eye catching, I could go on. All of it in one little package. It's the first impression. Yeah, talk about pressure. The logline  or pitch is less than 40 words and must be catchy enough for an agent to want to read it. The crazy part (just like everything else) it's subjective (not all agents read the whole thing either). Of course, there are some rules, or should I say, guidelines, but all in all, you're putting it out to gain an agent's love.

Really, it's like your ticket to the ride of a lifetime. Okay, calm down. Breathe. Eat some chocolate or get a drink. Whatever soothes you. I'm not writing this to scare you. It's something we all must face. I, of course, am not there, well I've written them, but have not sent any out. Last night, I started to freak out a little after reading my query and researching agents. I wanted to print it out and crumble it into a ball, thinking for a second to light it on fire as I look at a flameless candle (little freak out crazies, no biggie). Yeah, the thought of "it's never going to happen" made an appearance and I may have posted my fear on FB. Then I calmed down. Turned my mindset to growth and calmly tuned it out. Nothing will happen if I don't try. Will there be rejections? Yep. Disappointment? Probably. But there is always hope. To try again and NEVER give up.

So, I thought I would share some links that may help. Believe me, there's lots of support and info out there.

YA Author, Elana Johnson. Her book From the Query to the Call is free go here to get it.

QueryTracker. net. Helps you find agents and publishers and tracks your process. I was on there last night for a few hours researching and getting a little scared. :)

More info on writing the query:

Fiction Notes:

Writer's Relief-Has tips on what not to put in your query.

Needs some feedback. Go to these sites:

Matthew MacNish --The QQQE--Can't even begin to tell you how helpful his feedback is.

Query Shark-- A place to go for feedback

Evil Editor--Another place to go for feedback.

Casey McCormick--For feedback and other advice.

There you go. Now go and get started on that query. I'm still working on mine. If you have any other sites that you love for queries. Let me know.

Have a great day!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Get inspired

The new year. New expectations. New goals. It's funny how every year we set up big plans on January 1st. To me it gets overwhelming. Once I set these so called "goals" I sit back and think. Can I really do all of it? Sure that's the insecure nugget in me. Even though a huge part of me is uber confident and ready to take on the world. This overwhelming feeling leads to limited creativity. It's scary and uncomfortable. So, how do you get through it? How do you clear the fog that is slowing drifting over your land of imagination.

Here are a some thoughts:

1. Write it all down. Take a few items at a time and sit them front of you. Keep only a few at a time in view. Once something is done, cross it off then add more.

2. Set a schedule. Yep, I know the most difficult thing in the world. I know for me it isn't easy but I do it. I have to or nothing will get done. For me, when the kids are at school, it's time to write. This may take a while to figure out and I would suggest to try different options. Be prepared to move things around if need be. The point-- be flexible.

3. Exercise. This goes along with schedule. Fit it in now and it will become a part of this routine. Healthy body = healthy brain. Don't forget to eat right. Although, chocolate now and again is totally fine. Really, it's a  food group. Shhh. It's a secret food group.

4. Read. Helps you grow and inspire.

5. Critique. Read over someone else's work. It will help the writing muscle and you may learn something or teach someone something they didn't know.

6. Music. This is what I'm waiting for. Some new music to totally pull me into my ideas that are just sitting. To take them to the next level and make them a full blown novel.

7. Go to a new place. You don't have to take a full blown trip to Australia (although that would be fun). Walk out your front door. Now watch the animals, people, smell the air, feel the ground. Write down what you saw, in full detail. You'd be surprised what may develop.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. Plus, I know I've posted some similar before. I want to sit and it all come to me. I love those moments of clarity when I'm sucked into the world I create, but sometimes if you wait too long you may miss something else. It requires work just like everything else even if you're taking a break.

How do you get inspired in the new year?

Don't forget Monday is the last day to enter my CRACKED giveaway. Go here to enter. I also added the blurb to the post.

Have a great day!

Monday, January 9, 2012

CRACKED launch party!!

I've got a few (maybe a little more) photos from the CRACKED launch party. Of course it was awesome. Kate is the most down to earth and optimistic gal I know. She's an inspiration and an amazing author (if you don't have the book already, go get it).

First, I stink at photos of people. I really do. I'm better with photos of inanimate objects (think buildings). So sorry. I'm also a blabber mouth so I wind up talking over taking photos.
Second, this was so much fun. Chester County Books and Music was packed (I think 300 folks showed up) to see Kate speak and sign. It was great to see so many familiar faces.

Some local authors that attended: A.S. King, Beth Kephart, Amy Garvey, Amy Holder, Dianne Salerni.

Of course, the PLN folks were there. Frankie Diane Mallis, Simon Larter, Jessica Corra, Donna Gamble, Sara De SabatoPaul Joseph, Kelly Lyman, Ilene Wong, Kevin Sheridan, Lillie, Jenna, Shveta Thakrar, K. A. Magrowski, Joanne Fritz. I hope I didn't forget anyone. (If I don't have your link, please let me know and I'll add it.)

On with the photos:

How cool is that cake?

The crowd.

The scene: Joanne Fritz starting off the night. Kate even had favors. See the bags on the table.

Big smiles from K. M. Walton.

Frankie, Jenna, Simon (partially hidden) and Kelly

Frankie taking a picture of me, taking a picture of her, and Jenna.

Kelly taking a picture of me and Amy Garvey

Frankie has way more pictures and an interesting vlog, so go check it out. Also check out the other folks' links (above) for more photos and interesting posts.

Don't forget, I'm giving away a signed copy of CRACKED. Go here to enter.

Have a great day! 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Fashion and book signing

Fashion. I like it. I'm not the best at it, but I know what I like when I see it and sometimes it's totally out of my price range. In high school and college, black was my favorite color of choice in clothing and something that no one else wore topped my list. Nowadays, jeans and a sweater are a daily combo. When I do go out, I have a couple of  "outfits of choice" that I like to put on. But now I have a dilemma--a book signing event/extravaganza. Yep, the K. M. Walton CRACKED book signing at Chester County Book and Music Co. in West Chester, Pa. (I know that sounded like an ad, right? :) Hey, I like to promote things.)

Now, I've been to book signings. Sometimes I know the author, sometimes I don't, and my outfits usually involve jeans and a dressy top. This book signing is different.

1. It's for a friend.

2. It's more of a release party/book signing. Big time celebration.

3. Frankie Diane Mallis will be there. That means camera, people, and maybe a possible vlog. Sure, I will bring mine, but I'd be taking the photos (I'm not in the picture). When Frankie has a camera, well, lots of photos happen and somehow I get in them. I'm not camera shy, I just want to look put together. Plus, this gal is a fashionista. Have you seen her cool Tumblr page?  

So, the question is --what to wear? Dressy casual? Casual? And, no, I'm not wearing a gown. There is no red carpet or is there? I must double check on that. What would you wear?

I will have pictures to share on Monday.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Insecure Writer's Support Group--New outlook

First, don't forget to enter my giveaway for CRACKED by K.M. Walton. Ends January 16th. Go here to enter.
Thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for putting together the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Please go here to check out the other folks who take part.

If you read my post Saturday, you got a preview of what I will be briefly posting about today. Our outlook, how we see things, our perspective. It can be a big factor in our progress. Trust me, I know. For years, I've seen things in a negative light. I'd always think the world was against me or I'm not good enough no matter how much I'd learn. This is wrong. I know it. Last year, my way of thinking set me back. I let the success of others determine my success/worthiness and I wanted my dreams to happen now. The fact is--it doesn't work that way. Stupid, I know.

It wasn't until a friend (thanks Kate) told me that I had to look at things differently. I had to see how to get to where I want to be by taking on and loving challenges, and learning new things. Failure doesn't mean your worthless, it means your growing. Learn from your mistakes and grow. She recommended a book called MINDSET: THE NEW PSYCHOLOGY OF SUCCESS by Carol Dweck. I picked up a copy and started to read. Within the first few pages, my eyes opened and I slapped myself on the head. All these years, I've been holding myself back by simply relying on my fixed mindset. If it didn't come to me easy, I was hesitant to try, and if I failed, then I was worthless and stupid.

Now, after reading more of the book, I use what the author calls a growth mindset. I, for the first time in my life, have been smiling when a challenge is presented and realize how much I love to write and how much I want to grow and learn to make each of my stories better. I will get to where I want to be with a outlook on growing and being positive. Of course, this new mindset doesn't only apply to my writing, it applies to everything in my life. From being a wife/mother/friend to my other job as an interior designer. It applies to everything. It seems like once you change your outlook for one piece of your life, all the other pieces come into view and change. It a nice way to see things, it's refreshing. Of course, there will be bad days. Hey, nobody's perfect.

So how is your mindset?

I will be posting some great links over on my sidebar so stay tuned.

Have a great day!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Release Day for CRACKED by K.M. Walton and Giveaway

Happy release day to CRACKED. It's out!! Yep, I've been talking about this one since the summer when I was lucky enough to read a copy. I would write a review, but I would only gush and tell you to go and get it. K.M. (Kate) Walton is not only a talented author, but an amazing person. I can't thank her enough for what she has taught me, not only in writing, but about life. Thanks Kate!

So, I will be giving away one signed copy of this little number to one lucky person. All you have to do is promote it. I'm keeping this simple. Promote this contest any way you can (keep it legal) and let me know what you do in the comments below, and you're entered. I will be using to choose the winner on January 17. That means you have from now until the 16th to enter.

The blurb:
Sometimes there's no easy way out.

Victor hates his life. He has no friends, gets beaten up at school, and his parents are always criticizing him. Tired of feeling miserable, Victor takes a bottle of his mother's sleeping pills—only to wake up in the hospital.

Bull is angry, and takes all of his rage out on Victor. That makes him feel better, at least a little. But it doesn't stop Bull's grandfather from getting drunk and hitting him. So Bull tries to defend himself with a loaded gun.

When Victor and Bull end up as roommates in the same psych ward, there's no way to escape each other or their problems. Which means things are going to get worse—much worse—before
they get better…

If you haven't been to Kate's blog or website go check them out.

Also, thanks to Frankie for a great blogfest yesterday. If you haven't checked out the entries--go now (after you enter my giveaway). I'm still catching up on reading them, and let me tell you, they are awesome. Thanks Frankie!

Have a great day!!