Wednesday, March 27, 2013

In the Flesh

A couple of nights ago my husband and I watched the movie Ruby Sparks. In the film, the main character, Calvin, is struggling with a massive case of writer's block. After his shrink gives him an impromptu writing assignment, Calvin has a dream about a beautiful red-haired girl and begins writing about her. And then the unbelievable happens--Ruby appears, in the flesh, in Calvin's house. He fell in love with her from the moment he began her story, and his attachment only deepens now that she's real. Of course this creates conflict when he realizes he can control her actions and emotions through his typewriter.

Throughout the film I was enchanted with the idea that Calvin had created a character who was so well written that she could slip into the world and no one would know she was made of ink and paper. He knew every detail of her life, who she was, and what had shaped her. When Calvin is describing Ruby to his shrink, he slips into this beautiful narrative that delves so much deeper than what she looks like or her favorite foods. 

This brought to mind my own characters and how well--or not so well--I know them. If they suddenly appeared and a stranger asked them about their life--their family, what they do, what they love, what defining moments shaped who they are--would my characters be able to answer? Would they be able to reply confidently, in a way consistent with their personality? Would there be enough backstory, enough thought-out, relatable details, for my characters to take on a life of their own and make it in the real world without being found out?

Image courtesy of jannoon028 at
So I started thinking about my next project and my main character, Abbey. What does she look like? How does she wear her hair? These are pretty basic, so I asked myself "why?" Why does she wear her hair like that? I know her favorite books, but why are they her favorites? (This lead to the discovery that she feels Nancy Drew is far inferior to Sherlock Holmes.). I looked at some of the personality traits I'm drawn to the most in Abbey and realized it's because I share them (which helps me write these parts of her with more authenticity). I asked Abbey how she's different from those around her and whether she's okay with that (she is) and if she would be willing to maybe change the way she thinks about some things (she might eventually). And I soon found that one of the biggest perks to getting to know Abbey better is the more I know about her, the more the pieces of my plot's puzzle start to fall into place.

I've been wanting to watch Ruby Sparks for a while, but I'm glad I ended up watching it now (perfect timing since my writing group just happens to currently be discussing character development and interviewing your characters) because it inspired me to seriously delve into this process. Because really, my characters are a part of me and I owe it to them to get to know them well enough to tell their stories properly.

Hemingway said it well: "When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters."

Monday, March 25, 2013

Picture Quote Monday {Undefeated}

                                            This should be embossed on every rejection letter.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Off Switch? Ha!

This is a fairly extremely accurate representation of how my brain works.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Love Does by Bob Goff

We've all answered the question on social media quizzes and during those awkward "icebreaker" conversations. You know the one: "If you could have dinner with any person in the world, past or present, who would you choose?"

My answer would be, without hesitation, Bob Goff. Move over Dos Equis man, there's a new most interesting man in the world.

Love Does is filled with incredible stories. Underdogs succeed, the guy gets the girl, dream adventures are turned into reality. Disneyland becomes a corner office, world leaders come over for a sleepover, and jail doors are ripped from their hinges. And the best part?

It's all true.

Bob regales us with one crazy real life tale after another, showing by example what it says on the cover: Love Does. Never have I felt someone's heart, joy, and passion come through so clearly on a written page. With each chapter I felt myself becoming more and more inspired (and downright pumped) to go out and live my life with the same zeal and positive attitude that Bob does. This isn't a book filled with 14 steps to a better you, or a list of bullet points to check off on your road to success. What Bob gives us is a book filled with his own experiences and observations on what it means to love, and how living hand-in-hand with love and whimsy can lead to a secretly incredible life.

At the beginning of each chapter, Bob shares these great little gems of wisdom. Things like:

"I used to want to fix people, but now I just want to be with them."


"I used to think knowing God was like going on a business trip with Him, but now I know He's inviting me on an adventure instead." 

It's these personal lessons from Bob's life, and the paths he took to get there, that make this book so amazing.

There's a reason Love Does is a NYT Bestseller--it has the potential to be life changing if you'll let it. My review can be easily summed up in this recommendation: Put this on your must read list--your life will be better for having read it. I know mine is.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Saturday, March 16, 2013

A Few of My Favorite Things

Journals App

This Journals app is a great way to organize and jot down notes and ideas. With four different styles of journals and dozens of fonts, it's fun and easy to customize. I love the fact that each journal can be split into chapters and pages because I can keep multiple writings separate, but under one common heading. Plus, you can attach photos, videos, and even draw and record audio right there in the app. My only word of caution is to make sure you remember your password if you choose to create a locked journal, because as far as I can tell there's no recovery option. The app gets a 4.5 star rating in the app store and is available for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad.
NOTE: Since I originally posted, Journals has updated their app to allow for password reset.  

Some people need complete silence to write, others enjoy creating a writing playlist. I'm in the latter group. I love music and I love having a soundtrack attached to my stories (though admittedly the songs don't always have anything to do with what I'm writing about). English alternative rock band, A Silent Film (think sounds similar to Snow Patrol and The Killers) is one of my go-to bands to rock out to and get the creative juices flowing. I love lyrics that tell a story, and with tracks like "Danny, Dakota and the Wishing Well" and "Anastasia" Sand and Snow is one of my favorite albums to put on shuffle as I write.


When people ask what my favorite book is, this is the answer I give them. (Yes, I know it's not just one book, but who can really pick just one?). This series is about seven siblings who choose to adopt each other after leaving the orphanage where they grew up. As adults, each one has taken an intense job: Chicago PD hostage negotiator, US Marshall, forensic pathologist, firefighter, children's trauma psychologist, paramedic, and pediatric physician, respectively. Each of the six books center around one individual's story (with one sister's story being told across the books). The novels are filled with suspense, romance and incredible details about each sibling's chosen field. The result is a story you can't put down and characters that seem incredibly real. I've read through the entire series four times, and individual books several times more. The Protector (Jack the firefighter's story) is my favorite. Since I'd just finished reading it when I met my husband--who was a volunteer firefighter at the time--the book was practically his wingman.

Feel free to share some of your favorites (current or all-time) in the comments below!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Go Big or Go to Bed

This pretty much describes my typical Friday night plans. I party hard, people.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Self-Doubt Monster

The last few days have been filled with less sleep for me and more cartoons for the kids (hey, don't judge me!). Why? Because I'm in the midst of editing my novel (I have a novel! Saying that will never get old.).

Overall, I'm enjoying the editing process. It's exciting and exhausting and scary. You have to take an honest look at your work. You have to be willing to make changes (like cutting a lot of words that seemed brilliant while you were writing them, but turn out to be less than stellar in the light of day). You have to put yourself out there and start sharing your edits with trusted people who can point out what still needs work. But the scariest part of editing?

The self-doubt monster.

My monster's mantra goes something like this: Sure, you might have had one or two great moments, but is that really enough? Do you really think anyone is going to want to read this? Do you really think you could actually get a publishing deal?

If you're a creative person, chances are you've met this monster, too. It's the one that--just when you start to think, "Wow, this is actually really good!"--sneaks up behind you and whispers, "But is it good enough?"

This monster tries to convince you your talents are lacking, your chances of success are miniscule, and you're setting yourself up for disappointment.

What's the key to turning this Bigfoot into a dust bunny, easily swept away in the wake of your awesomeness?

Strike the word "impossible" from your vocabulary.

If you can grasp hold of the idea that anything is possible and really, truly believe it, it changes everything. Because if anything is possible, you'll stop at nothing to learn more and do better and your talent will grow. If anything is possible, you'll persevere, even in the midst of disappointment. If anything is possible, you'll try again and again and again, because you've got just as much of a chance as anyone. 

Remove the word impossible from your creative vocabulary and your dream becomes very possible. And if you believe your dream is possible, there's no more room under the bed for that monster of doubt.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Picture Quote Monday {Alice}

Today, a bit of good advice from one of my favorite books, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Meet Pinkletin

One of my early sketches of Pinkletin

Wondering why my blog is called Lemon Biscuits? For the answer, here's the synopsis part of the pitch I submitted to Pitchapalooza last month:

"But now, Pinkletin found that his list was much larger than his knapsack. And so it was that Mole found him, trying to decide between a set of encyclopedia and a tin of lemon biscuits..."

Dear Reader, allow me to introduce you to a teacup-sailing frog named Pinkletin. A frog with an adventurous spirit and an insatiable curiosity to find out what marvelous things are waiting across the pond, down the stream and over the horizon. From falling under the spell of the fairies' tales, to battling river pirates and accidentally joining the circus, Pinkletin soon discovers it doesn't take much to turn an ordinary journey into a fantastic adventure.

Hopefully Pinkletin and his delicious pastries will be hitting the shelves of a bookstore near you in the future. For now, I hope to have The Fantastical Adventures of Pinkletin Frog ready for beta-readers around June. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

You've heard the saying "never judge a book by its cover." Well in the case of Warm Bodies it's more like never judge a book by its movie trailer.

Don't get me wrong, I love the look of the film. Seeing the trailer was what got me interested in the story in the first place, and when I found out it was adapted from a novel, I knew I had to read it. But when I picked up the book, I was expecting something humorous; something along the lines of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies--thoroughly enjoyable, but so over the top it becomes almost comical.

What I found was a heartwarming story of hope, love, and choosing life.

R is a zombie. He wishes he could put into words the eloquent thoughts in his head, wishes he could remember more of his name than just the first letter. He doesn't want to be dead, doesn't enjoy eating the living, but that's just the way it is.

Until the memories.

Not his memories, but those of Perry, the young man whose brain R has just consumed. And when R chooses to save the life of Perry's girlfriend Julie, he sets off a chain of events that shakes what's left of the worlds of both the Living and the Dead.

My first clue that I was in for a surprise came in the first chapter. R is introducing himself, explaining what life is like when you're the walking dead. In an incredibly feeling inner dialogue, R mourns the loss of his and his fellow zombies' names because, "I'd like to love them but I don't know who they are." As the story progressed, I continued to be amazed by how touching and heartfelt it was. Even the love story seemed to fade in the midst of R's quest to give himself--and the rest of the world--a second chance at life.

As he and Julie struggle to fight the hierarchy and provoke change, you discover an eerie resemblance between the world of the Dead and the world of the Living. As R describes the zombie world with words like, "...the abandoning of quests, the surrendering of desires, the settling in and settling down that is the inevitable fate of the Dead" he could just as well be describing the living, who have made staying alive their number one priority while forgetting what it really means to live.

So much about this book is impressive. The pages are filled with R's deep, reflective thoughts on life and hope, which are downright inspiring. The characters are complex and authentic. Marion manages to create a zombie that you find yourself immediately rooting for, and more than that, a zombie that's not just a shuffling, possessed, broken figure of rotting flesh, but an altered human, with lingering emotions, thoughts and desires. In the end, I think readers like myself will find that while this book has all the elements of a great zombie story, it ultimately becomes much more than that--a beautiful tale of fighting for a second chance at life.

One last note for those of you who like to be forewarned: There's plenty of blood and gore and several uses of the "f" word, so despite the pg-13 movie rating, this is adult fiction.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

On a Whim (Or How I Bought My Favorite Band Coffee)

You know that post I wrote a couple of weeks ago? The one about going for it? Well, when the list of Pitchapalooza winners went up on Tuesday, my name wasn't among them. Which is okay. Even though my pitch wasn't chosen to be critiqued and thrown in the hat for the grand prize, the biggest win is that I HAVE A PITCH...FOR MY NOVEL...WHICH I JUST FINISHED WRITING. That's huge!

Despite knowing all that, I will admit to feeling bummed (and to reading the list through a second time, r-e-a-l-l-y s-l-o-w-l-y, just to make sure I hadn't missed my name in there somewhere). But then something really cool happened. Something that reminded me of the importance of just going for it, in every area of life.

I read the list of Pitchapalooza winners while sitting in a City Brew in Missoula. My husband and I were there to see two of our favorite bands in concert (Paper Route and Anberlin) and were killing time before we could go check into our hotel. Of course this meant that we were both perusing the interwebs while sipping our chai lattes. Round about the time I was getting over my disappointment, my husband was on Twitter. At that particular moment, Anberlin tweeted that they were sound checking. On a whim, my husband (who is much better at just going for things than I am) decided to reply.

"Hey @anberlin @paperroute you guys need a coffee run? We are at City Brew and will bring you some!"

Crazy, right?  An hour later we were sitting in our hotel room when we got this reply from Paper Route:

"@A_RMartin Seriously?"

And that's how we ended up taking coffee to our favorite band.

The moral of the story? If you have the opportunity to do something cool, go for it. Even if it seems crazy.

Oh, and the fun didn't stop there. Later that night I replied to a tweet by fellow writer and blogger Ksenia Anske to tell her about my successful strategy of tackling my novel one chapter at a time. She replied with this:

"Everyone, guess what, @AshleyN_Martin has completed 1st Draft of her novel. Let's all shout, WOW YOU DID IT!"

I was immediately flooded with congratulations and well wishes from a bunch of wonderful, encouraging, totally awesome complete strangers. 

All in all, it was a pretty great night.

To everyone who took the time to send those beautiful tweets my way--thank you! I am so grateful to be a part of such an amazing community of creative and talented people. Keep up the good work and don't be afraid to have a little whimsy and go for it! You never know what might happen.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Look Inside

It's Picture Quote Monday! A bit of inspiration to start your week...

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Book Zombie

Besides writing stories, the other thing I've loved to do since I was a kid is draw. Growing up, you'd typically find me with either a book or a sketch pad in hand. So for today's Saturday fun, I thought I'd share a recent bookish sketch, inspired by one of my favorite quotes.

Speaking of zombies, I'm currently reading Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion. Stay tuned for the review!