Giving a little thanks…

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Since today is Thanksgiving and I figure many people (at least those in the US) are gathered around the table giving thanks and eating good food, I thought I would take a moment as an author and blogger to give thanks too.

thank-you

 

Thank you…

to those who have read my stories…I hope you enjoyed them as much as I have loved writing them.

Thank you…

to those who follow or read my blog. I hope you have found some interesting or helpful information here.

Thank you…

to my family for their support as I try to balance writing and being a mom. It seems lately writing has taken a back seat to other life activites but hopefully I can change that this coming year.

Now get back to your Thanksgiving Day activities….

Counting down to Christmas with Advent calendars

As a child, it is hard to wait for Christmas. To help my kids countdown to the big day, I introduced them to Advent calendars.

Now when I was a child, we had advent calendars but they were much simpler. We opened a small door to reveal a picture or maybe a piece of chocolate. My brother and I shared a calendar, each opening a door on alternating days.

When I first started the kids on Advent calendars, I bought them ones filled with their favorite toys. They make one for those that like matchbox cars, Playdough, Legos (Friends, City or Star Wars), Barbie, Tsum Tsums and more. They also have ones with chocolate, nail polish, makeup, or even alcohol (for adult, obviously). Prizes range from $6 for picture/cheap chocolate to $20-$35 for ones with toys.

Every year, Jase chose a Lego one. Most often it was the Star Wars version but sometimes it was the Lego City one. In the beginning, he would immediately open the daily bag and build the miniature Lego creation. But now that he is a teenager, the thrill seems gone (though he still likes Legos as that is the majority of his Christmas list.)

Lexie is the opposite of Jase. Every year, she picked something new – Playdough, Tsum Tsums, Lego Friends, Hatchimals, and Littlest Pet Shop. But as she gets older (she is 11 now), she isn’t as interested in toys.

I looked for other options, thinking maybe one with candy would be better. The choices were limited. I didn’t want the same chocolate every day. Lexie is allergic to nuts so that also limited my choices.

There are several advent calendars where you fill the drawers, pouches or boxes with your own gifts. These run about $20-45 each. I would need two. And the boxes usually are tiny so I would have to find really small things to stick in them. Then I got the idea to buy little boxes ($10 for 50 on Amazon). I can fill them with little gifts or candy.

The kids were game to give it a try. And I figured it would cost me about the same as buying a toy advent calendar. Well, I was close. Last year, I spent $55 on 2 advent calendars (Star Wars Legos and Hatchimals). This year it was about $64 in addition to the boxes. But, they will (hopefully) get 24 days of things they like and enjoy. With the toys ones, there were always disappointing days where you got “accessories” instead of something to build or play with.

Fancyleo Christmas 12 Pcs Mini gift box Christmas tree New Year decoration decoration Christmas ornaments

This year’s boxes are filled with their favorite candies (and gum for Lexie). I also bought small toys though it was hard to find things I thought they would like. Ok, it was harder for Jase than Lexie. It is always easy to find small, inexpensive things for girls like nail polish, tinted lip balm, bath bombs, hair accessories or earrings. The items cost between 50 cents and $3, except for the Holiday earrings set of 5 earrings that cost $8. (I know, way over what I wanted to pay but she has no holiday earrings. and these were so cute.)

So, I guess we will see how this goes this year and if they want to do the same thing next year or do something else. Or perhaps they won’t want an advent calendar at all. (Who am I kidding. Of course, Lexie will want one and then Jase won’t want to be left out.)

 

Using timelines to organize information for your novel

Timelines can help you keep track of your information as your write your novel. These can keep your story consistent. A timeline suggests a past, present, and future or in the case of a plot, a beginning, middle and end. we can see cause and effect. We see patterns and turning points.

Characters

The most common timeline author use is to keep track of their character’s past. Charting their backstory helps you understand the character’s current attitude/characteristics. Or it can simply help you keep track of their past events or even the lineage of the royal family. If you keep timelines of your main characters, you can make sure the events work with one another.

Plot

Timelines can help with story planning. Or it can keep track of plot sensitive events like the order of battles or clues your mystery sleuth uncovers. You can track your hero’s movement as he journeys place to place. It can also help you plot storylines for dual protagonists or a protagonist/antagonist combo.

Pre-Planning

If you are a planner, instead of using an outline, you may want to plan out everything on a timeline. The benefit of the timeline is you can see at a glance what happens when. If you are unsure of when events need to happen, you might put the information on note cards which you can move around as you plan out the order of your story events.

Methods

There are many options on how to create your timeline and will depend on what type of timeline you are creating. For characters, you might be able to do something in Word or Excel. There are even programs online that can help you such as Timeline Maker, Timetoast and Timeglider.

When working on where my characters are since I often have multiple characters in different locations, I find Excel works well. Each column is a different character with each row being a different day. At a glance, I can tell where everyone, and it makes it easy to keep track of how long it takes to travel to the different locations. (I’m writing fantasy, so they are either riding horses or dragons to their next location.)

excel travel

If you have not tried timelines, give it a shot. You might just find that it keeps you organized, and your story flows better because of it.

Navigating makeup and my tween

Last Friday, my daughter attended her first middle school dance. This was just a casual dance, not a boy-ask-girl type thing. She was very excited to be meeting up with her friends and picked out a simple black dress.

This is somewhat of a surprise because Lexie isn’t a girly-girl. She doesn’t wear dresses, fuss with her hair or care about fashion or typically her looks. But I know the day is coming when she might want to do some of these things. She is after all 11 years old.

And we got just a hint of what is to come last Friday evening. She got dressed and fussed over her hair, combing, styling and worrying about fly away hairs. We got that under control, and then she mentioned makeup.

She wore just a touch at Halloween as part of her costume and, yes, she played with my makeup when she was younger, but she proudly will tell you she isn’t a girly-girl, so I was a tad surprised she wanted a hint of lipstick and to use some concealer.

We picked out one of my lightest lipsticks. She still thought it looked too dark. So, after wiping some of it off and adding a light layer of powder, she was satisfied. She used my concealer on the darker skin under her eyes and whatever blemish that she could see (that I couldn’t).

Now, I know she doesn’t want to wear makeup all the time. (She said as much.) But I wondered when she would be ready. I recall being just about her age when I started wearing makeup. Of course, that was in the 80s and big makeup was popular. I just remember buying purple eye shadow (still one of my favorite colors though way subtler now.)

I recently volunteered during lunch time at her school. Most of the 6th graders weren’t wearing makeup, or if they were, it was subtle. Some of the seventh graders had makeup on, but it was the eighth graders whom I really noted the makeup use.

Looking online, it seems that many girls start between 13 and 15 years old. But 11% of 10 and 12-year-olds are wearing makeup. As with many things, it is a personal choice between tweens/teens and their parents.

I have no problem with her using concealer (as pimples and blemishes are certainly coming) and tinted lip balm. I don’t think she needs mascara and anything beyond light eye shadow. I certainly don’t want her to go crazy with makeup (at this age or really any age). I don’t think she needs it.

But I am also a realist. It is coming. And I don’t want her sneaking around and putting on different clothes and makeup when she gets to school. And she needs to use her own makeup. I know it isn’t good for her to share my makeup, and her skin is paler than mine so what works for me won’t work for her.

With this in mind, for her Christmas stocking this year, I have picked up a light concealer, translucent powder and two different tinted lip balms. I don’t expect her to use this daily, but she will have it for those occasions she wants to use it. And when she is ready to advance to different makeups, I’ll take her to the store and help her select some that will compliment her skin and age. And that day will be here before I know it!

Scenes of a Novel

I’m currently busy writing my sixth book, so I decide now was a good time to do a review of some of my previous posts on writing a scene in your novel. I have covered everything from starting the scene, ending the scene, adjusting the pace, and even specialty scenes. Hopefully you will find something here to help you with your writing.

Deciding how to begin a scene in your novel 

The goal of the beginning of a scene is to draw the reader in. It must make the reader want to read more. A few months ago, I wrote about writing the opening scene of your novel. That crucial scene is often where readers decide if they like your book or not. (Read more here)

Writing the opening scene of your novel

(Excerpt from my short story The Search) And thus begins my short story, The Search. I started with an action scene to draw the reader in. And that is the point of the beginning of your story. You want the reader to be hooked and want to keep reading. (Read more here)

Prologue and opening scenes

The very first words, sentences and paragraphs are some of the most important. This is where you are going to hook your reader into wanting to keep reading. (Read more here)

Finding the perfect ending to your scene 

cliff hangerEvery scene has a beginning, middle and end. The ending moments complete the scene and should leave the reader wanting more. It should make them eager to begin the next scene. (Read more here)

Beginning and ending scenes in a novel

Last week I wrote about one of the most crucial scenes in your novel – the very first scene. But there are still many more scenes to write. And each scene of course has a beginning, middle and end. Here are some tips and ideas on how to begin and end a scene in your novel. (Read more here)

Romance and sex in your non-romance novel

As a writer of fantasy novels, romance is not in the forefront of my plots. So when it comes to writing a bit of romance into the story, I begin to wonder how much to include and what exactly to do with the sex scenes if any come about. (Read more here)

Creating Fight Scenes

Since I write fantasy, I guess it is expected that at some point there will be a sword fight or other battle taking place. With each additional book in my trilogy, there seem to be more battles.  One of my reviews for Summoned said that I wrote, “awesome fight scenes.” I don’t know if that is true or not, but I do have a few tricks that I use when developing a fight scene. These hold true whether it is someone using a knife, a sword or their fists. (Read more here)

Writing a night or low lighting scene

So I was recently writing a scene that took place in a darkened street. A battle ensues and a chase. There is a lot of hiding out and sneaking down alleys. The fact that this takes place in a world without street lamps only makes the writing more difficult as I focus on what my characters would be able to see. (Read more here)

The importance of tension in your novel

Tension is the element of a novel that evokes worry, anxiety, fear or stress for both the reader and the characters.

One way to think about it is you are raising the stakes for your character, so he or she has to work to get what he or she wants. And this shouldn’t be easy. Basically, you want to keep saying no to your characters so that the conflict appears unsolvable. The more at stake for your character, the more emotions he feels about situations and events. (Read more here)

Not too fast…not too slow – it is all about the pace

Pace is the speed in which events happen in your novel. You need to balance the pace of your writing. If your scenes drag on and on (slow pace) then you lose or bore readers. If it is too fast, you will leave your readers unsettled and it won’t be a comfortable read.

The trick is to get the balance just right. And there is no one out there that can tell you what that balance should be. (Read more here)

Cutting unnecessary scenes from your novel

Every author at some point will write a scene that just doesn’t really need to be in their novel. The scene might be rehashing something the characters or reader already know. Or maybe it is connecting two scenes that could have been connected another way such as with a chapter break.

Every scene in your novel should be an integral to the story arc. If it isn’t, then it doesn’t belong in your story. (Red more here)