Monday, April 29, 2013

Picture Quote Monday {Cultivate}

It's so important to take time for those things you're passionate about--those things that make your heart happy. This week, set time aside to do what you love. (Thanks to Chris Rebo of Rebo Photography for this week's photo!)

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart

Nicholas Benedict is back (though far younger than when I last saw him) in The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict--the prequel to The Mysterious Benedict Society books.

Nicholas is being taken to a new orphanage...again. And right from the start, things take a dramatic turn--despite his best efforts to avoid attracting attention. But when you're the new kid who also happens to be an extremely observant genius with a photographic memory, you're bound to have trouble fitting in. All Nicholas wants is to spend his free time in the library and avoid a painful run-in with the Spiders. But when he discovers the journal the director possesses may hold the key to a long lost treasure, Nicholas begins a covert search for something he hopes will change his life, and the lives of his two unexpected (and only) friends. That is, if he can stay awake.

Nicholas Benedict is what most would call an odd child, and some (smarter) folks would call gifted. He has a photographic memory, can read an entire encyclopedia in mere minutes, and with his wits and quick thinking, can solve almost any problem and avoid almost any disaster. His new home at Rothchild's End is brimming with mystery and tales of a hidden treasure. Add to that a rather cold and desperate headmaster, a cast of strange staff, and a group of bullies known ominously as the Spiders, and you have a recipe for one exciting tale. Especially when Nicholas's narcolepsy tends to send him off to sleep at the most inopportune moments.

One of my favorite things about Stewart's books is his ability to create such unique and interesting characters. This cast includes a handyman whose specialty is silently fretting over the children, a nurse who doles out questionable remedies, a young girl with a kind but heavy heart, and a bad tempered mule named Rabbit. And who wouldn't love Nicholas? As a mother, my heart went out to him, and as a once shy and socially awkward kid, I could identify with him, too. The mystery is fun (though not as difficult to piece together as those in the rest of the series, it did have its own clever twists), and Nicholas's determination to solve it places him in one perilous situation after another. Throughout it all, there are plenty of great lessons on conflict, trust, friendship and sacrifice, which kids will find inspiring and parents will appreciate. All in all, fans of The Mysterious Benedict Society will enjoy this glimpse into the past of the society's eccentric and loveable founder.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Picture Quote Monday {Pencils}

As a graphic designer and a writer, most of my creativity is captured on a screen using a keyboard and a mouse. But I find when I get stuck, the best antidote for writer's--or creator's--block is to step away from the electronics and go old school. That's when it's time to break out the pencil (or pen) and paper. There's just something magical about a blank page that you can see and feel, and a nice sharp pencil with a brand new eraser. (Quote by Joyce A. Myers. Handwritten text by me. Paper effects done in Phoster app).

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Calvin On Storytelling

The blog has been quiet this week because I've been hard at work on the final draft of my novel! The end is near! I'll be back next week with more posts, including my review of  The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart. But for now, enjoy a little Calvin and Hobbes...

Bonus Challenge: What do you think Calvin's explanation of "The Noodle Incident" was? Leave your story in the comments. Extra points if you can Twitter size your reply at 140 characters or less. :)

Monday, April 15, 2013

Picture Quote Monday {Never Enough}

So true. (And the fact C.S. Lewis said it makes me love it even more). 
Hand drawn on my hubby's iPad using the Paper by FiftyThree app.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Small Things

After my Favorite Things post, I decided I wanted to make that sort of thing a regular deal. So every month, I'll be sharing the stuff that I'm currently in love with--the small things that bring an extra dose of happy to my day. They might be writing related...or not. Here's what I'm digging this month...

Alter Eco Dark Chocolate with Quinoa

I love everything about this chocolate...the taste, the ingredients, the gorgeous packaging. It's just the right level of darkness (not too sweet, not too bitter) so it's still smooth. Plus, it's split into the perfect sized squares--small enough you don't feel guilty, but big enough you're not so tempted to break off a second piece. And with crispy Quinoa instead of rice, it's like a beautiful, grown-up Krackle for hipsters.

Relevant Magazine/Podcast

There's not a website, publication or podcast I love more than Relevant. From social justice news to thought-provoking articles on current issues to tongue-in-cheek humor pieces, these guys are the best. Want to find great new music? The latest in Youtube hilarity? Interviews with authors, musicians, and world changers? Look no further. Not only can you get all this from the website and bi-monthly mag, but it gets even better when you throw in the weekly Relevant Podcast (a new one releases every Friday). And don't even get me started on the iPad edition of the magazine--it's pure genius in design. Check it out. Trust me.

Plant Nanny App

It's fun and it has a practical, healthy purpose. Pick from a variety of adorable plants, then care for it while caring for yourself! Plant Nanny calculates the ideal amount of water you need each day, based on your height and weight. Each time you drink a glass of water, give one to your plant. When your plant is fully grown, stick it in your garden and start a new one. Don't drink enough, and your plant will give you sad eyes and turn brown (yes, I know this from experience). The customizable reminder alert makes it easy to create a healthy routine. Happy plant = healthier you.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Picture Quote Monday {Beauty}

I came across this poem by G.A. Sala in my 1942 edition of Popular Quotations For All Uses and fell in love with it. Sometimes beauty is found in words, and that is one of my favorite things about writing.

Friday, April 5, 2013

In Good Company

One of the things I love about being a writer is the amazing community I'm part of, just by being a storyteller. There are so many people out there who are passionate about writing and there's an instant connection as soon as you find out someone is a fellow wordsmith. You get each other. You have a mutual understanding of the quirks and thought processes and emotions that come with the job description.

As a writer, I have a constant flow of characters, scenes and plots running through my head. Ideas come at random, and almost always at inconvenient times--like in the shower or the moment the lights are out and I'm snuggled in bed in blissful comfort. I mumble to myself a lot. I have emotional attachments to people who aren't real. I drift so deeply into my thoughts, I respond to my husband's questions and then three seconds later realize I have no idea what I just agreed to. The annual family Christmas letter goes through at least three drafts before I've deemed it ready to send out. Movies and TV shows are over analyzed--especially mysteries, which always beg the question, "If I was writing this story, who's the who whodunit?" On a good day a great book inspires me, on a bad day it leaves me feeling like I could never, ever write something that good. I battle a constant war of confidence and doubt, determination and despair.

Thankfully I have an incredible husband who loves all my crazy and wouldn't have me do anything else but pursue my dream (and he's learned to make sure I'm making eye contact when he has something important to tell me). But there's something wonderful about meeting people who are the same kind of crazy. Which is why I love social media and the ability to connect with other writers all over the world. And even more than that, I LOVE the writing group I'm blessed to be a part of.

I've heard it said over and over by so many authors that one of the best things you can do as a writer, if you're serious about pursing your craft, is join a writing group. And it's true (and if you're a writer and not part of one, you should be. Go find one. Now.). Last fall I decided to start a group with a good friend of mine, and I am so, so happy we did. It means more than I can say to have a safe place to share ideas and receive helpful critiques. My novel is so much better because of the time my friends have taken to point out the wrinkles and applaud the good stuff. These wonderful people have become a steady source of encouragement, knowledge, and motivation to keep writing, keep creating, keep chasing my dream.

The connections I've made through my writing amaze me. From right here in my hometown, to continents on the other side of the world, so many people have helped and inspired me. It's a pretty incredible thing to know that no matter our differences, the common love of words unites us. So to everyone I've had the opportunity to get to know--even if it's just been through a tweet or two--consider this the acknowledgements page. Thanks for being part of my awesome, crazy writing journey. I look forward to seeing where it takes us.

Are you a writer? Have a book, a blog, or a Twitter account? Feel free to share links in the comments--I'd love to learn more about you and your work!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Picture Quote Monday {BFF}

This week I've been stretching my creative muscles and trying some new design/artwork. Sketching is one way I love to relax, especially when my brain needs a break from editing. I've discovered a love for making my own handwritten type and decided to use it for this week's picture quote. Enjoy!