Monday, July 30, 2012

Author August: An Interview with Jessica McKendry

One thing that I have humbly learned over the years (all FORTY of them!) is that talent and generosity transcends age.  Since embarking on this writing journey, I have met so many talented people from all walks of life and all ages, and I am amazed at how giving they are of their time and talent.  One of those people is Jessica McKendry.  Jessica is an old soul with a knack for creating worlds that draw the reader in and force them to stay up late to turn just one more page...then one more...and one more. 

Jessica was kind enough to allow me to pose some questions and her thoughtful answers are here:

1.       What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?When I was ten... well... that was quite a while ago.  But it was probably Star Wars Attack of the Clones by R. A. Salvatore or Star Wars Revenge of the Sith by Matthew Stover.  (Yes, I admit to being a super Star Wars nut.)

2.       Do you think your early reading habits influenced what you write now?
Definitely.  Because of my early sci-fi and action/adventure habits, I honestly find it hard to write outside of those genres!  I guess that means I should read some different books!

3.       What character have you had a “book character crush” on?
Does Anakin Skywalker count?  I've always had a crush on him.

4.       Which of your characters do you feel the most kinship with, and why?
Definitely Jaina, my Main Character.  I mean, she's sixteen, so we'll be the same age in a few months.  How can I not feel a connection with her?  Although, she's less clumsy than I am, and not as awkward, either.

5.  You are a talented young writer, but do you feel like your youth is an asset or a hindrance as you pursue your goals?  Do you feel like you are taken seriously?
I guess it's a little bit of both.  It could be a hindrance, mostly because yes, some people won't take me seriously.  But it's also great because getting an early start on anything is great.  So I'd say it's more of an asset than hindrance.

6.       Do you plot out your stories or let your characters drag you on their adventure?
Well, I've written two full novels so far.  The first one I plotted it out completely before I wrote it.  The second, I mostly plotted before I wrote it.  But the last quarter I just sorta let it happen.

So, I'm not sure what my strategy is yet.  Maybe it depends on the story I'm telling.

7.       Where do you get your ideas for stories and characters?  Do your characters tend to come first or the plot line?
Ooh.  Tricky.  I get my ideas from just about everything.  I got the idea for my current story about four years ago.  It came as a mixture of Poptropica, Star Wars, 1984, The Hunger Games and a few other stories and life events.

And characters or plot line... again, it's hard to say.  I've only written two novels and they're part of a trilogy, so I count it as the same story.  Though for this story, I think the plot came first, then the characters.

8.       Are you publishing traditionally or indie, and what nudged you in that direction?
Indie.  For the plain and simple excuse of time.  I mean, I want my story to be as good as it can be, so I'm definitely not going to rush it.  But I want to still be a teen and a published author.  And finding a publisher or agent that's right for you could take a LONG TIME.  And I won't be a teen for much longer.  Besides, you have more freedom to do what you want and can keep it the story you want it to be.

9.       What part of writing is hardest for you?
Descriptions.  Imagery.  Yep, that's the hardest part for me.  I think I've got dialogue down pretty well, but there's only a number of times you can say "she smiled."  "he laughed."  Thinking of new ways to describe things is so difficult for me.

10.   What is your currently work in progress about?Thank goodness we're not doing this interview in person!  I always choke when someone asks me that. 

Okay so here's a brief summary:

They are chosen at birth.  The ones who are strong.  They are the gifted.

Trained to be highly skilled in both physical and mental abilities, they have potential to become a Superior.  They could live out their lives in the Crystal City, the richest, and by far the most beautiful city in the galaxy.  But becoming Superior has a deadly price to pay.

To gain the title, they must all survive the Trials.

Jaina Indera has been training at a Gifted School for sixteen years, waiting for her moment to prove herself worthy of competing in the Trials.  Those who choose not to compete or don’t make the competition will me marked as Inferior.

Yet being selected a competitor is only the beginning.  Each school sends a team of eight students to compete in a battle of both physical and mental challenges against other Gifted Schools around the galaxy.

Not all will survive.

In a world where mercy is a weakness, and only the ruthless prevail, Jaina must discover who she is and what she’s really fighting for.

I am grateful for Jessica to agree to this interview and to share some of her insight with us.  (I always like having a window into writers' creative process!  I am nosey like that.)  Take a moment to check out Jessica's blog and offer some encouragement to this up and coming author!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Author August: An Interview with Jen Veldhuyzen

I have decided that the month of August will be an "Author's Month" here at my humble blog.  I will be interviewing writers and posting writing quotes and inspiration.  And, since I can't play by the rules (not even when I am the way making them up), I have decided that I am kicking it all off a bit early.  As in...NOW! 

I was recently interviewed over at and Jen Veldhuyzen was gracious enough to answer some questions for me as well.  Here are her really thoughtful answers to my questions:

1.  What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?
10's a hard number! I'm not sure if I was still in C.S. Lewis phase or StarWars books. I do remember when I was 8, though: I loved 'The Indian in the Cupboard' by Lynne Reid Banks so much I decided to write my own story, back in elementary school. I wrote about a little girl who found a magical Easter Egg that transported her to other dimensions!

2. Do you think your early reading habits influenced what you write now?
Sure! I read everything and anything when I was little, from the dictionary to the encyclopedia to fairytales, so my writing kind of carries a wild blend of ideas and facts. My early reading habits also hurt my writing, though, since some non-fiction books made me think longer words=better writing. Not true! It's also taking me a long time to disavow myself of the idea that more convoluted sentences meant more poetic writing.

3. What character have you had a “book character crush” on?
I'd never actually had a bona-fide "crush," but the dark and adventurous Peter Pan from J.M. Barrie's book "Peter Pan" quickly became my favorite boy in high school, like a brother or something. I carried that book everywhere I went, right in the same pocket I carried my Bible. (Is that weird?) Right now, I've written about a superhero who shoots his author--is it okay if I say I think he's pretty hot? I love his handsome attitude and free-spirit as much as I love his nerdiness and vulnerability.

4. Which of your characters do you feel the most kinship with, and why?
Lem Benzaran's an undercover assassin who must brainwash herself so that her target, an enemy mind-reader, can't discover her. She must think and feel like her enemy, not just look and act like it, so when her best friend finds her in enemy uniform, she can't explain to him why she's helping the people who tortured him the year before. Ouch!

I feel like her because sometimes, life's a 'damned if you do, damned if you don't' proposition, and I just have to have the faith to choose a path and plow onward. Sometimes I have to balance self-control for the good of others with the fear of losing myself and my beliefs, just like she does. Sometimes I'm not sure if it's possible to reach my goals, and I hate failure as much as Lem does. Sometimes I have to stand alone, and yet I often find, like she does, that I'm never REALLY alone when I stand strong. Does that sound creepy? It's meant to be comforting.

5. Do you listen to music when you write or do you need silence?
It depends on what I'm writing!

6. Do you plot out your stories or let your characters drag you on their adventure?
At first, I just kind of write. Things just come to me, and then they slow and I have to plan and nudge things along a bit. Sometimes it takes a few pages--and sometimes a few chapters of failure--to get to know the characters well enough that the story takes off naturally. When it does, the characters just do what their nature determines in each situation. Then the problem is harnessing them so that I don't include absolutely every conversation they might have or every action they might consider important.

7. It can be hard to feel like a “legitimate” author when you first start writing.  When did you first call yourself a “writer” and not feel like a fraud?
I started calling myself a writer when I got paid to write non-fiction, and when rejection letters for fiction began coming back with actual unique-to-me copy instead of form drivel.

8. Are you publishing traditionally or indie, and what nudged you in that direction?
I want to publish traditionally because 1) I need the feedback, critique, obstacles, and purifying fire to make my work shine and 2) I'd like to reach a wider audience with "the Man" on my side.

9. What part of writing is hardest for you?
Cutting things out.

10.   What is your current work in progress about?
I've written about a comic book character who shoots his author; after losing four girlfriends and his parents for the sake of entertaining the fans, he becomes bitter. The story follows his slow healing as he struggles with loss and tries to figure out whether shooting another author will save his world from supervillains or damn his soul.

I've also got a story about a teenage soldier, Roz, who catches his best friend Lem in enemy uniform. (That's the story I mentioned above with the mind-reader.) Roz decides between the friendship and his long-time enmity with Lem's grimey new boss; when he chooses poorly, he nearly costs Lem her life, and the enemy swindles Roz into a mental prison. He must break free of mind control and Lem must find the strength to complete her mission alone--before their common enemy eliminates everyone they love.

They both sound a bit dark, but really they're quite hopeful. I like hope, love, and healing, so that's what I write about.

You should definitely check out some of the amazing work going over at  It is wonderful to find someone who is as talented as Jen Veldhuyzen is who is also so encouraging and supportive of other writers!  You can check out some of her other projects here, here, and here.

If you are interested in being interviewed for the "Author August" series, email me at gingerlovinmind (at) gmail (dot) com.

Friday, July 20, 2012

I Wish I Had Known...

I  wish...

  1. I wish I had known that you can't make other people happy.
  2. I wish I had known that it was okay to go to bed when I was tired.
  3. I wish I had known that it was not weak to ask for help.
  4. I wish I had known to stop and play with the kids in the rain and not worry about the extra load of laundry it would cause.
  5. I wish I had known to give more hugs and kisses.
  6. I wish I had known when to bite my tongue...and when to speak up.
  7. I wish I had known when to walk away.
  8. I wish I had known how to hold on to my dreams instead of setting them aside until "a more convenient time."
  9. I wish I had stopped what I was doing and listened more.
  10. I wish I had taken better care of myself...and the people and things that I care about.
  11. I wish I had tucked away more money, and ideas, and surprises, and memories.
  12. I wish I had worried less about what people thought.
  13. I wish I had worried less about failing.
  14. I wish I had laughed more, and smiled more, and done more cartwheels on the lawn.
  15. I wish I had sang more without being ashamed of my woefully out-of-tune voice.
  16. I wish I had not been my own stumbling block.
  17. I wish I had called my parents more.
  18. I wish I had insisted on more family meals.
  19. I wish I had told more stories.
  20. I wish I had set aside my fears.
Now that I am forty, I know better.  There is so much  more that I know now that I never understood...could never twenty or thirty. 

Now it is time to make some changes.

Look out world!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Up to No Good!

Things are looking up (knocking on wood wildly here!).  There, I said it.  I have been plugging away on the book during quiet moments when the kids are asleep or playing on some-or-other electronic device, and I am happy with my progress and how things are coming together.  I hope to start revisions soon and am now shooting for an autumn launch date.  Which is fine...I love autumn.  This will just give me yet another reason to look forward to it!

I am also doing some freelance articles.  Which takes up a lot of time, but it brings in money FROM WRITING, which  makes me happy.  It still amazes me that people actually get paid to write things!  (It amazes me even more that I get to be one of these people!)

I am also planning some Author Interviews starting in August.  I have a couple lined up already, and I hope to schedule a few more.  So, without further ado:


If you are interested in being interviewed, please email me at gingerlovinmind (at) gmail (dot) com.  Seriously!  Don't worry if you not (yet) published, or if you only have three followers on your blog and  your spouse and your mother are two of those people.    I just really dig the idea of talking to people about their writing, and their experiences, and their method (or lack thereof), and their inspiration.

So, as summer blazes on, this is where things stand in my world.

Oh and, lest I forget...tomorrow I turn forty.  To commemorate the occasion, I am posting my very last photo from my 30s

Why do I always look like I am up to no good?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Art Doesn't Come Cheap

Today has been a day full of juggling.  I have juggled schedules and budgets and my mental focus to accommodate the giant back-to-school beast that is looming a month away, as well as other life-stuff and, frankly, it is making me cranky. 

I feel like every moment is being sucked away, and that it is being squandered.  You see, I do not have set writing time.  I have a "write at stoplights" kind of life.  I have been known to scribble on the back of an envelope while in an elevator.  I have texted myself ideas and lines of dialogue so I don't forget them.  I have written on my arm when paper was scarce.  Because ideas are precious, and they cannot be taken lightly. 

Writing (or Art of any kind, really) comes at a steep price.  I am not talking about the price that the consumer pays for the product, but the price that we as artists must pay in order to create Art. 

"Big Heart of Art" from qthomasbower on Flickr

At the moment, as my eye twitches a bit spasmodically, I am realizing just how much sleep I have been deprived of lately.  I have also been forced to say, "Hang on, sweetie.  Mommy is almost finished with this article" a few more times that I would like as of late. 

We pay in time, in lost opportunities, lost lunches, lost sleep, and lost sanity as we try to bring to life this thing that we can imagine so clearly in our mind.  It is all of these lost bits that help to give Art its value; the value grows exponentially with all the blood and sweat and tears.   

To all those people who claim, "You know, I could write a book" and to those who tear apart a work that encompassed four years of late nights and missed moments and peanut butter sandwiches...I wish to offer you a challenge:  If you really think you could do it, or do it better, but all means:  DO IT! 

But don't try to devalue our Art with your pettiness.


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Feast or Famine

I am an “all or nothing” kind of gal.  I tend to embrace the philosophy of “go big or go home.”  I am “all in or all out.”  (Apparently a lot of clichés define me…that can’t be a good thing.)  I realized (about five minutes ago…and I immediately decided that I should share it) that either I am writing madly…or I am mad about not having written.  My desk is either immaculate…or overflowing with papers.  I am either riding high and full of energy and ideas and enthusiasm…or I am struggling along, sapped of strength, getting by on sheer dumb luck.  There is not a lot of middle ground in my life. 

This tends to make things…dramatic.

I wonder how much drama in life is chosen and how much is beyond our control.  There are certainly some things that fall into our lap…car wrecks, illness, loss…but there are also things that we bring on ourselves.  Whether it is from a thoughtless comment, a long-held grudge, or an impending deadline long-ignored, we do have a hand in quite a bit of what happens to us, whether for good or for ill.

As you may be aware, the countdown has begun for my 40th birthday.  In fact, it is in exactly TWO WEEKS.  I had hoped to have my rough draft completed by now.  I don’t.  I have about three more chapters to finish.  Maybe four.  Possibly five.  But I can’t rush it; I don’t want to compromise.

One of the reasons that I decided to blog about this whole book writing process was that I needed some structure, some deadlines, and some accountability.  Also, turning 40 seemed like a turning point, and I wanted to make sure that my life was headed the direction that I wanted…toward a life where I can write for a living.  Whether that actually happens or not, I don’t know; I suppose time will tell.

Also, I hate birthdays.  Not in that Oh, woe is me, look at the wrinkles!  I have squandered my youth! kind of way, but because (as of 2005) the day that marks my birth also happens to be the day that marks the death of another young woman.  On my birthday, in 2005, my uncle walked into a diner and murdered someone.  For those who don’t know that story, you can find more on that here.  I have gotten somewhat better about my birthday the past couple of years.  I no longer want to spend that day in bed with the covers pulled over my head and refrain from any outward demonstration of joy, but I do think about it.  Probably more than is healthy. 

Sometimes events in the past tend to entangle us.  They keep us from moving forward, from changing, from growing.  Sometimes dramatic things happen, but we don’t have to keep feeding the drama.  Sometimes, we have to let things end. 

Good and bad…it all settles down eventually.

For me, I hope to set down this particular burden this year.  I have carried it around too long.  This is the year of change.  The year I disentangle myself from so many things that have hindered me. 

I am ready for change--not just with how I handle birthdays, but with how I handle life. 

When I look around, I see such possibilities.  There is so much that I want to do, and I don’t want to look back someday and realize that the only thing that was ever really holding me back was me.

So I will end this rambling jumble of thoughts with one more cliché:  Feast or Famine. 

I can see the possibilities, and I realize that I have gone without for long enough; now is my time for feast!

I don't mind a rocky path
as long as there is beauty along the way.