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Mealtime, Reading, Writing

Mealtime Makes for Good Reading

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One of my favorite scenes in any novel I’ve ever read resides in Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

This family dinner scene with ham as the main dish of the meal is priceless. We, the readers, get a glimpse inside the head of a little girl who’s desperate to avoid starting the first grade the next day. It finally hits her that if she gets in trouble, her widowed father would punish her. And, of course, the punishment would be making her not leave the house the next day, right? Therefore, she couldn’t go to school.

I know this renowned novel is rife with drama and multiple layers of tension. But my favorite line is in this scene, when little Scout puts her plan into action by saying, “Pass the damn ham.” In her little mind, cursing was way up there on offenses. I’ve read this book numerous times over the years. But I still get a giggle every time I think about this scene.

Of course, Scout’s plan is ill fated. But the humor is also joined by the glimpse of just how wise and diplomatic her father, Atticus, is. It’s an important building block of the story.

When this scene recently came to mind again, it made me think about how important meals are in novels. We can all appreciate the significance of eating with family, friends, and even alone. There’s a lot tied to each of those scenarios – good, bad, and ugly.

Take J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series, for example. The Hogwarts dining hall serves as the setting for many a great scene. We see Harry struggle in the initial sorting hat ceremony, only to find his place in the school. The boy who lived, along with cohorts Ron and Hermione, also work out many a mystery at the Gryffendor table throughout the series. I could go on, but you get the point. Rowling expertly used mealtime as a device to move the plot along in each installment.

Classic authors knew their way around the table, too. Jane Austen was a wordsmith who made the most of a meal. Dinner parties at each of her novels reveal information about key characters and set the stage for drama or sentiment.

Agatha Christie is one of my all-time favorite mystery writers. Even she made the most of a good meal, with dinner time being quite fatal for at least a few murder victims. And in novels featuring her most popular protagonist, Hercule Poirot, we can’t help but giggle at the private detective’s quirks that baffle his fellow diners.

As I consider how mealtime impacts works that I love, it inspires me to make good use of it in my own writing. By strategically placing key scenes around the table, I hope to make them easy to relate to, revealing, and something readers will want to sink their teeth into.

 

What scenes around meals impact or inspire you?

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The One After

This is so compelling.

The Midnight Ember

The clock struck midnight and she was gone.

There was no spark of light, no crackle in the air, not a single silver shoe left behind.

She had simply vanished- vanished, not dead- when just the second before, she had lived. Her arms had hung limply at her side, breath held in, eyes fixed firmly on the clock as it ticked, closer, closer.

11:57

11:58

11:59

Voila.

And I was there, in the very place that she’d relinquished, breathing in the air that had whooshed out of her lungs, feeling the phantom touch of her, tingling.

Sparks of guilt and anger flaring up, uncalled for and unwelcome.

I felt like a snake slipped out of its skin; pristine in a way that is distinctly unpleasant, the knowledge of my own transience clouding the loss of my former skin.

You are reborn, renewed, they would say. Replaced is more…

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Books, Creativity, Inspiration, Motivation, Writing, writing prompt

To Prompt or Not to Prompt: What’s the Write Answer?

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I recently ran a poll on Twitter asking folks to weigh in on whether they liked writing prompts or not. This was an incredibly unscientific poll, to say the least. But the results were interesting, nonetheless.

It turns out that this is yet one more divisive issue, because the results of my poll were split down the middle, 50-50. Yep. It seems half of the people I surveyed don’t care for writing prompts and the other half enjoy them. One person even commented that they’re fun and inspiring.

Okay, I get that. I mean, I get all of it. After all, every writer is different. So why shouldn’t their views on writing prompts be? And as writers (and just plain people, for that matter) change over time, our views often do, too.

I understand the attraction for those who like writing prompts. When you’re just trying to flex your writing muscles, they can be great catalysts for ideas. The same is true if you’re going through a writer’s block. Taking a break and using a prompt to have a little fun can be just the thing to get you back on track.

But at this point in my writing journey, I have to say that I find prompts to be a distraction. With my novel in progress, I’m halfway through the first draft while changing genres in the middle of it. That means I’m also restructuring from young adult to new adult with the point of view making a seismic shift. And I’ve got my sequels in the series plotted out. So, I’m focused and honed in on my literary mission and definitely not in the mood for a writing prompt.

But like I said, there is value in writing prompts as there is in staying away from them. It just depends on what you’re trying to accomplish at any given point in your writing journey.

Content Writing, New Adult Novel, Personal Growth, Writing

Sometimes Crisis Brings Positive Change

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It’s funny how a crisis can impact your life. Although you may not see it in the midst of the storm, it’s that crisis that can serve as the catalyst for positive change. That’s true for any type of crisis – the loss of a relationship or job, or even a major health situation.

That’s especially true for me as I battled this horrible illness over the last few weeks. Although I’m still building my strength back up and the going is kind of meh, I’ve definitely come out of it with quite a few benefits to all aspects of my writing journey.

In my professional capacity as a contract content writer, I saw just how wonderful my regular clients are. My faculties and physical abilities weren’t by any means up to par for quite a while. But my clients understood and simply waited on projects I had planned for them. They just waited, with well wishes for my recovery.

This is such a big deal to me because it keeps my livelihood intact. But it also means that the negative hype we hear about cut-throat business, etc. isn’t necessarily true in every case. If we have a good work ethic and provide quality work with a positive, courteous attitude, we get rewarded in sometimes subtle ways we don’t expect.

The change centered around my professional writing journey involves my committing to get out there and do some face-to-face networking, so I can meet some other folks who are just as off-beat as myself. With that, I’m planning to attend the WordCamp US 2018 in Nashville in December. I’m so looking forward to this because I love the Music City for a variety of reasons. If you’ll be there or just in Nashville December 7-9, look me up and we’ll swap howdies.

In my creative-writing journey, I’m making a huge change in my novel. Huge. I’m so excited about this change, because it shifts the genre slightly to New Adult and adds three additional installments for a four-part series. And I have absolute clarity for each installment. I can’t wait to finish them and get them out there.

That’s quite a lot to think about. But I’m up to the challenge. And I’m grateful to be coming out of this health crisis with positive changes on the way.

Book Review, Books, comedy, Harry Potter, International Day of the Girl, J.K. Rowling, Library, mystery, Reading, romance, Suspense, Teen Read Week, YA Novel, Young Adult Novel

Sharing My Favorite Fictitious Females

Happy International Day of the Girl and Teen Read Week! In honor of the occasions, I’m sharing my favorite fictitious females from fun novels I can’t help but love.

  1. Katie Parker – She’s the protagonist of the young-adult series by Jenny B. Jones, In Betweenaptly named… wait for it, A Katie Parker Production. She’s a foster kid who’s spent her 16 years of life as a perpetual victim of circumstance. She’s got a drug-dealing mom with all the stereotypes attached. She has also been shuffled around the DEFAC system with an experience that could be confused for a PlayStation game. But then she finally gets a break, which sets her on a completely different path. Start reading In Between to find out why I’m so impressed with her.
  1. Maddie – This is the reluctant protagonist of Ally Carter’s YA suspense thriller, Not Not If I Save You FirstIf I Save You First. As a child, she’s the daughter of a secret service agent and best friend of Logan, son of the U.S. President. She’s suddenly plucked from the Whitehouse when her father leaves the Secret Service and heads to Alaska to live a completely isolated life – completely. She’s heartbroken when Logan fails to keep in touch. At 16, she’s also startled to find him at her doorstep and danger soon follows. The way she rises to the occasion is, well – just read it to find out.
  1. Penny Nichols – This protagonist C.A. Belmond’s adult romantic comedy-mystery, A Rather LovelyA Rather Lovely trilogy, is just trying to make ends meet as a history consultant for period movies. The way she handles what happens at a will reading is hilarious and applaud-worthy. How? Find out in A Rather Lovely Inheritance.
  1. Hermione Granger – Common sense. Harry Potter’s female bestie is nothing short of awesome. Thank you, J.K. Rowling!

 

 

Which female characters from novels you love strike a chord? Share in the comments below.

Creativity, Inspiration, Motivation, novel writing, Writing, writing a book, YA Novel, Young Adult Novel

Taking a Break From Writing Can Be Valuable

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Anyone who knows me is well aware of the fact that I like to be productive and busy. When I’m working on something, it’s with a goal in mind. Professionally, that entails researching and writing contents for clients. It’s interesting, too, because I learn so much and no two projects are alike. Then there’s my first novel, which is a definite labor of love. Yeah, it’s good to be busy. I find satisfaction in knowing I get stuff done and that I have purpose.

But it’s also good to know when to step back and take a break. I always feel better and more equipped for the task ahead after I’ve taken awhile to get refreshed. Evidently, I’m not the only one. An article in Psychology Today, touts the merits of taking a little time out during the day.

But I also believe in the restorative powers of taking a longer break, when it comes to my novel writing. Fellow writers can back me up, I believe. Although many a meme circulating the internet tells writers, both aspiring and accomplished veteran, to soldier on every day. If we get stuck, suck it up and work through it. Just work, work, work.

But that doesn’t really make sense. At least not for me. I’ve been working on the first draft of my novel for over a year, now. I was doing so great up until a couple of months ago. That’s when the dreaded writer’s block hit (duh, Duh, DUHHHHH). I had finally arrived at the part where things start getting interesting (Well, hopefully the whole thing is interesting. But you know what I mean.) But my novel is a young adult mystery. While I’m a huge mystery buff and have read more who-done-it novels over the years than I can count, writing one is a whole different ballgame. So when I hit a wall, no amount of sitting, wishing, and trying worked. I just had to take a long break.

I’m so glad I did. As with any other kind of work, stepping away for a while has been good for me. It’s given me time to find inspiration and encouragement I needed. As a result, I can back to it earlier this week back in the right frame of mind. Once again, I get excited writing the story and can’t wait to see what happens next. Plus, I was able to pass the 35,000-word mark in my draft. That’s about halfway through. Besides, I brought back to the table some tools I didn’t have earlier that I believe will benefit my writing process. And that can only be good, right?

If you’re struggling with your writing project (or any other project, for that matter), taking a good, long break may be just what you need. I certainly helped me.