Jane Austen. Edgar Allan Poe. F. Scott Fitzgerald. Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Maya Angelou. Ernest Hemingway. To me, they were literary rock stars, who played the written word like Eric Clapton plays his guitar, Billy Joel his piano and Phil Collins the drums.

Each of these authors has influenced what I read, and not surprisingly, what and how I write. They’ve moved and inspired me with their stories, passages and verses.  And each time I “jam” to their work, I learn more about a character or uncover a theme that might have escaped me the first time around.

Probably my first and strongest influence in writing is American writer, commentator, activist, and educator—Nikki Giovanni. Over the years, I’ve swayed to the rhythmic verses of “Ego Tripping,” and felt spiritually and humanly empowered as I read, “Those Who Ride the Night Winds,” a collection of her poems dedicated to “the day trippers and midnight cowboys, … who have shattered the constraints of the status quo to live life as a “marvelous, transitory adventure.”

The author of 27 books, a Grammy nominee, and now a professor of English at Virginia Tech, Ms. Giovanni still moves me. And isn’t it the very nature of a writer’s existence? To move others? To enlighten others?

After all these years, I still want to be like Ms Giovanni–embracing my thoughts and my work without the internal editor or virtual someone looking over my shoulder. I will be forever grateful to Ms. Nikki Giovanni for her masterful command of the written word and her fierce grasp on what makes us think.  She rocks.

Nikki_Giovanni_speaking_at_Emory_University_2008

Who’s your literary rock star?

Write like a rock star …

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Taking the first step toward normal …

Another year has passed.  Birthday wise that is.

It’s been another year filled with accomplishments and let downs; defeats and triumphs. And while I’ve gone through it all, there’s one thing that I couldn’t get out of my mind. WRITING.

I’ve doodled a sentence here and there.  Concocted two or three new ideas for upcoming stories. Revised a WIP. And even (much to my dismay) received a good tongue lashing from one or two of my characters who I have neglected tremendously.

Another year has passed, yet a constant theme drummed in my head.  I LOVE TO WRITE. I WAS BORN TO WRITE. I’M NOT REALLY HAPPY UNLESS I’M WRITING.

So, my new year starts today–with my birthday. Not on Jan 1.  My resolutions can’t wait until then. My life as a writer is urgent, critical and I have to take steps to secure my future. I have to get back into the swing of things.

Apparently, my characters are making bold statements in reminding me of who they are.  I’ve seen their names on the backs of trucks, street signs and even storefronts.

One thing about life is that we all go through stuff–king-size mounds of stuff that seem too overwhelming to move, or small droplets of stuff that are still annoying as hell to remove. The good thing is that we can learn from each other’s stuff. You know, share best practices for overcoming stuff.

If you’ve experienced a period of inaction or piles of stuff, but are doing better now, how did you get over it? What was your first step toward normal?

N’oreaster and all …it’s STILL a good day to be Friday

nor'easterI’m not going to be the grim reaper with news of doom and gloom. I’m just going to say that the northeast, which includes New Jersey, New York, (particularly Long Island) and Connecticut is bracing for a massive blizzard.  And for those who have yet to rebuild their lives after Hurricane Sandy, this is not a good thing. Between the three states, we’re expecting between 6-24 inches of snow, 60 mph winds, blustery conditions where you can’t see in front of you.

Yeah. Welcome to winter.

Although we’re used to it, you do get tired of preparing, and the urge to scream “Enough of this #$@@#!” is high.   (But I have to admit the need for people to run to the grocery store and buy food like we’re on lockdown for the next month is still a mystery to me.)

One good thing about this storm is that it’s happening over the weekend and should end on Saturday. This, at least, gives you a day to dig out. It also gives you a chance to enjoy some of your weekend.  Speaking of digging out, shoveling is my least favorite sport, so I’ve learned over the years to keep a little cash handy for anyone feeling ambitious enough to earn a little money, and help dig this tired soul out of the snow!

Poe and I had plans to attend the 13th Annual Super Pet Expo, and we still may go. I definitely want to check out the latest gifts and gadgets for our animal friends. There’s shopping and shopping and did I say, shopping? Oh, and you can even adopt a pet, which is very cool.

If the power keeps flowing, I’m going to catch up on my writing and reading.  First up is J.K. Rowlings’ grown up book, “The Casual Vacancy.”   I’ve heard mixed reviews and now it’s time to dive in and see for myself. Besides, I’m in the mood for a little dark humor.

Oh, and on Sunday, I might take in The Grammys. It depends. I think out of all the awards show, I’ve outgrown the Grammys the most.  Don’t get me wrong, there are a few performers who I enjoy watching like Alicia Keys and Adele.   But there’s no one who makes me want to sit through the whole thing, at least not on this year’s roster.

I hope the snow melts fast because on February 14, I have a date—with John McClane and his son.  “A Good Day to Die Hard” hits the theater and I’ll be there. It looks action-packed and filled with classic John McClane, and a side of all grown up Junior McClane. Take a peek at the trailer.  That alone gets my heart fluttering. Bruce Willis is still at the top of his game!  Yippee Kai Yay!

Well, I’m off to the store to buy gummy bears and a bottle of wine.  In my humble opinion, THAT’s all you need for a blizzard!

Have a great weekend and wherever you are, be safe.

Super Bowl fever …did you catch it, yet?

super bowlNot exactly.

I’m not a football fan (gasp …), so I’m going to take the time this weekend to write, and revise. The majority of my family members will be hosting their own Super Bowl party, touting their predictions on Facebook and texting their disdain for the other team. This means my phone will remain silent! Yippee!

I’m not watching the Super Bowl (horrified gasp …). However, I will tune in for some of the commercials. I’m still captivated by the subtle, and oftentimes, in-your-face creativity of the advertisers who come up with slogans and taglines that annoyingly stay in your head until you buy the product.

But I have contracted Super Bowl fever on one level. And should my family call me on Sunday, I’ll offer a bit of historical data about this year’s teams. (Yeah, right. That will go over big.) 🙂

This is probably old news for you football aficionados, but it was all new to me. The origins of the team names have great historical value.

For example, The Baltimore Ravens get their name from Edgar Allan Poe’s poem (a favorite of mine), “The Raven.” It seems as though Baltimore residents chose the name during a poll conducted by the Baltimore Sun. When I read this, I perked up a bit. It’s been said that the Ravens are the most literary NFL team. Yes, Edgar Allen Poe lives on! Evermore!

And The San Francisco 49ers, are historically golden or so their name implies. During the California Gold Rush, the largest gold rush in U.S. history, thousands of people of different cultures and background flocked to Golden State in search of their fortune, and their actions would be the beginning of the city of San Francisco. Although, the rush officially began in 1848, the first wave of prospectors looking to hit the jackpot came in 1849 and were dubbed, “forty-niners.”

I’m impressed. I think I’ll do a little more research about other teams’ names.

On second thought, maybe I’ll just save my research for next year when the Super Bowl comes to New York and New Jersey! At least then, I’ll have something to talk about at a Super Bowl extravaganza. (Hey, it will be the first time the Super Bowl has been to NY/NJ, I must represent!)

In any case, TGIF! Enjoy your weekend. For those of you watching the game or waiting for Beyonce’s wardrobe to malfunction, extra wishes for your Super Bowl weekend.

Why DO we write?

writerI wanted to share  a wonderful article I ran across yesterday about a newly-released book entitled, “’Why We Write: 20 Acclaimed Authors on How and Why They Do What They Do.”  The book, edited by Meredith Maran, features 20 well-known authors who share what keeps them writing. Just as the rejection letter of well-known authors can serve as a form of encouragement, so will these snippets of motivation.

It was interesting to see what the authors, which include Isabel Allende (Island Beneath the Sea), Sara Gruen (Water for Elephants), Sebastian Junger (The Perfect Storm), and Terry McMillan (The Interruption of Everything), had to say about the craft of writing and what makes them do it day in and day out.

Some of the authors’ motivations were humorous, others introspective and honest. I particularly enjoyed what Ann Patchett (State of Wonder) wrote, “”I write because I swear to God I don’t know how to do anything else.”

And after reading the article, I was inspired to answer the obvious: Why do I write?

  • I write because I don’t want to do anything else. I get excited about having letters fill a blank computer screen with my thoughts. I have a great day job. But if I could devote all my time to writing, I would.
  • I write because—according to my daughters whether they just lost a boyfriend, a job or a piece of jewelry—“I have a story for everything.”
  • I write because the restlessness in me wants to leave something worth reading when I’m no longer here.

This book is now on my “to be read” list.  In a writer’s world of self-doubt and uncertainty, I don’t think there’s ever too much support, motivation or advice.

Why do you write?

Do we write what we know or play favorites?

Sound of MusicRaindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things!


From “My Favorite Things,” The Sound of Music–

Everyone knows you’re supposed to write what you know. But I often wonder how much of what we know, involves what we like. How much of our favorite things go into our writing?

A great deal I would imagine.

Out of curiosity, I scanned through some of my story lines/themes and was amazed to find how many of my favorite things appear in my work or become my character’s favorite things.

For example, I love traveling to Puerto Rico. One of my short stories takes place, where? You guessed it. Puerto Rico. I vividly remember the rich, lush scenery of the island, and it helps when seeing through the eyes of my heroine.

In another one of my stories, the main character is a lawyer. Once upon a time long ago, I wanted to be a lawyer. I was always fascinated with the legal system and the idea of “arguing” for a living appealed to me! The lawyer’s love interest just happens to be a police officer/detective.  There’s only one explanation for that: men in uniform. Hot damn! 🙂

I collect pieces of art and sculpture. And to my surprise (or not) one of my heroines is an artist/sculptor. Her love interest is a journalist. (Go figure!) At one point, I majored in journalism, but then quickly changed to English Literature. I figured my imagination could run rampant with the latter.

Hmmm ….This self-analysis stuff can be scary.

Okay, so it seems quite a bit of my favorite things or “likes” wind up in my stories! And because they do, at times, I make a conscious effort to write the opposite.

For example, Octavia Middleton, my heroine in the “Heat Between Us,” is a shoe fiend. She  goes absolutely bonkers over them. She will spend her last dime on a pair of Louboutins. I’m the same way …but only about purses and handbags.

Writing the opposite “like” works well. After all, the book isn’t autobiographical and I don’t want the character to sound like me. One neurotic writer in the house in enough!

On the flip side, when we include some of our favorite things, as we are bound to do, the reader actually gets a glimpse into our personality through our work. Or they’ll at least wonder about certain aspects of the book.

Romance author Rochelle Alers is a favorite of mine and at the top of her game. I’ve read just about every book she’s written. In one of her books, her character is relaxing to the jazz sounds of my favorite saxophone player, David Sanborn.

OMG! Talk about being thrilled to read that! I was happy because 1) His name was in the book and 2) someone else was a big fan (or so I immediately wondered).

I’ve met Ms. Alers and on one occasion I told her how thrilled I was to see that she’d written about him in her book. We chatted about it for a bit and then went on to talk about writing.

Hmm …now that I think about it, I never did ask her if she liked David Sanborn. I guess if an author counsels you on pitching your story to her editor, you shut up, and do what she’s advising, right? David who?

What about you? Have some of your favorite things made their way into your characters’ thoughts, ideas and motivation?

Back in the saddle again …

cowgirl-riding-horseWe’re moving into February and I’m just getting around to saying Happy New Year to everyone. For that, I apologize.

I’ve been away from blogging for a while and I’ve missed it. It’s not that I didn’t have any crazy thoughts or tidbits to share, I did. But life sometimes takes the wheel, and with all its unexpected twists and crazy turns, you sometimes have to put on your seat belt, say a prayer and hang on.

I’ve missed the camaraderie with friends, and the interesting conversations. But I’m back in the saddle and although my blogging schedule may be a little spaced out this time around, I intend to rejoin the hoedown! (Yes, I love westerns and everything cowboy!)

I’m planning to pitch at the next writer’s conference I attend. So, I have to keep my “ass in chair,” and focus on making both manuscripts the best they can be. I’m hoping to pitch two books this year. However, if I can churn out the third book by October, I’ll be pitching the entire three-book series.

Last month, I attended my first meeting with my new critiquing group and it was SO helpful. They’re an extraordinary group of writers who discovered things in my manuscript that went right over my head. That’s usually the case when you’re so close to the project. In addition to identifying the problems, they made awesome recommendations on how to revise it.

I’ve mentioned how important having a critiquing group or partner is in prior posts. And I must again. Having a critiquing group or partner is one of the best things you could ever do to advance your writing career.

Speaking of writing, how snazzy is the new format for WordPress?! It looks like they’ve added a few bells and whistles. Do I need a tutorial? Has anyone discovered if any of the new features offers a greater blogging experience? Hmmm ….note to self investigate this.

Thankfully, some things have remained the same. PoeWP My faithful buddy Poe is still here, and he’s still like Velcro. I move. He moves.

I hate to even throw this out into the universe. But one day, I’m going to break something because I was trying not to trip over him. In his defense, he’s there when I need him. When I’m working on a book, he offers his literary opinion with one or two barks. And if he totally hates the storyline or the character, he’ll howl. It’s nice to know that he takes his namesake (Edgar Allan) seriously!

In any case, I’m happy to be back and blogging, and look forward to catching up. Happy trails everyone!