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Your Next Novel Could Already Be On Your Bookshelf…

February 13, 2019– First, let me say a very happy birthday to my momma. I love you and thanks for supporting me in everything. You are the best, and I’m so glad you’re my mom.

You read the title of this post correctly in that your next novel or storybook could very well be sitting on your bookshelf right now! I’m not talking about plagiarizing or copying other artists work, I’m talking about inspiration. As authors, we own a ton of different books that range from fiction to non-fiction, to romance, thrillers, biographies, magazines, historical fiction, and everything in between because we read as much as we write.

A few months back when I decided it was time to pitch a children’s story to some agents in New York, I knew I needed some fresh material. I also knew that I made a promise to myself that in 2019 I would use what I have. Now, normally, I would have gone to the bookstore and bought a bunch of books for inspiration, but this time, I went to my well-stocked library and pulled a book off the shelf. I was determined to take an idea and make it into a story, and that’s precisely what I did. I can’t give you any more details on this until it’s the right time, but I’ll update this post with news from what transpired with the agents:)

So, how can you use what you have on your shelf to write a great story that’s your own? Here’s how:

  1. Start with non-fiction. You’ve heard the old adage that truth is stranger than fiction and if you’ve ever thumbed through a newspaper you’ll know that it’s true! Use headlines from your daily delivery that catch your attention. Here are few that I’ve put in my back pocket for later use: Woman searched for 24 years for the daughter she was forced to give up, Kitty hitches 40 km ride to Grimsby in a garbage truck, and Spiders Alive-The eight-legged exhibition. Also, think about using some headlines from around the world, a quick Google search will help you find inspiration.
  2. Page 47, paragraph 2, sentence 3– This is a fun way to start a story! Quick, go to your bookshelf and choose a book. Turn to page 47, paragraph 2, sentence 3. Here’s what I found from the book that I chose by following the above directions: Toe wrestling began in the town of Wetton in 1970. How awesome is that for a starter? You can do this with any book and with any numbers you choose.
  3. Turn to professional publications– I subscribe to a bunch of publications that are relevant to writing and publishing and one of my favourites is Writer’s Digest. It’s always packed full of information and good advice and sometimes even an idea or two. Pick up your trusted magazines either digitally or the ones that are covering the sofa and flip through them for ideas. Here’s one that I picked up from the most recent issue of Writer’s Digest: Investigative reporting often involves tracking down reluctant sources… Are you thinking what I’m thinking? What about a story about a reporter who goes to get answers from a source and they end up running for their life? What if they’ve uncovered a secret that’s too big to keep hidden? What if the reporter finds out that the reluctant source is their spouse? And the list of ideas go on and on.

There you have it; inspiration for your next book is almost certainly lurking in the corners of your bookshelf! It’s up to you to find it:) Happy Writing! X LLB

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The Power of Thinking Negatively…

February 6, 2019– I’m sure that most of us have heard about the power of positive thinking and how optimism can add years to our lives. I do not disagree with all of that good stuff, but I am saying that there are both sides to a coin; sometimes thinking about what could be wrong, is the right thing to do. Let’s back up for a second.

The Power of Positive Thinking was written by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale and is an international best selling book with over five million copies in print; pretty impressive! Here’s what an excerpt online says about the book: The Power Of Positive Thinking will show you that the roots of success lie in the mind and teach you how to believe in yourself, break the habit of worrying, and take control of your life by taking control of your thoughts and changing your attitude. Great! Is that all I have to do is change my thoughts? Not so fast. Here’s where the skeptic in me shines through.

It’s one thing to think good thoughts, but it’s quite another to take action toward your goals. You can sit on your sofa all day and think about collecting cheques in the mail, but if you don’t get off your butt and earn some money, you’ll lose your house eventually. It’s not to say that I’m a pessimist, I’m really not. I believe that all things start in the mind and that if you control your thoughts and your attitude, and put forth consistent action toward your goals, that you can achieve anything. But, it’s the combination of these things that is the ticket. You can have a terrible attitude and take tons of action toward your goal, and I’d be willing to bet that you won’t achieve it. Sometimes it’s a good thing to think negatively…let me explain.

Here’s how the power of thinking negatively can actually help us in the long run:

  1. It causes us to THINK before we act. Thinking of the worst case scenario allows us to stop and think before we make rash decisions. It allows us to think CLEARLY not QUICKLY. Thinking negatively can help us consider if the next move we make will create an unexpected chain reaction in the future. Quitting your full-time job to start a writing career is a big risk. We should think of this situation from a slightly negative point of view in order to have the best possible plan going forward. Perhaps once we see our budget and expenses are in order, we could take the leap, for example.
  2. We won’t take success for granted. To say, “Don’t worry! Everything will be okay!” to someone who is unable to pay the bills is like poking holes in a sinking ship. If you practice this type of thinking while ignoring reality, you are being reckless and dangerous. We need to eliminate false illusions that create or compound our problems instead of pretending they don’t exist. One of my biggest fears? Being a one hit wonder. Nothing scares me more than being a has-been. That’s why when I look at things, I look at them from a slightly skewed, negative perspective that reminds me to work harder even on the days when I don’t feel like it.
  3. It let’s us know where we are vulnerable and how to fix those vulnerabilities. Thinking negatively can let us examine where our weaknesses lie. Let’s say that you’re going to pitch your book to some agents for the first time ever, what could your vulnerabilities be? This goes for anything with your writing whether it’s submitting a query, doing a public speaking engagement, or signing a book deal; if we don’t know what our weaknesses are, how can we possibly fix them?

Yes, think positively and have a good attitude! But every now and then, examine the situation from the other side of the dock. Happy Writing! X LLB

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Middle-Grade Vs. Young Adult…(What you need to know!)

February 4, 2019– A lot of aspiring authors get confused when asked by publishers who their novel is for. It can be tricky to differentiate between middle-grade novels and novels for young adults, so I thought that we would explore that topic today and clear things up.

Middle-Grade:

  1. For ages 8-12
  2. Length is 30,000 to 50,000 words
  3. No profanity, graphic violence, or sexuality. Romance in middle-grade novels is limited to first kiss or crush.
  4. Age of protagonist is 10-13 (ten for the younger MG and 13 for the older readers)
  5. Focus on friends, family, and the immediate world of the main character and their relationship to it. The characters react to what happens to them with zero to minimal self-reflection.
  6. Voice is usually third person.

Young Adult:

  1. For ages 13-18
  2. Length is 50,000 to 70,000 words
  3. Profanity, graphic violence, romance, and sexuality (except for eroticism) are all allowed thought NOT required/necessary.
  4. Age of protagonist is 14-18 BUT NOT yet in college/university. Young adult protagonists can be 14-15 years old for the younger reader, with safer content aimed at the middle school crowd. For older and edgier young adult protagonists, the can be up to 18.
  5. Focus on how they fit into the world and what their place is beyond their friends and family. They spend more time discovering who they are and reflecting on the choices they make. They are analytical with the meaning of things.
  6. Voice is usually first person.

This is a quick and easy way to know which group your novel fits into. Happy writing! X LLB

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I Challenge You to Challenge Your Challenges…

January 18, 2018-Read the title again. It sounds confusing, I know, but in reality, it’s quite simple. This year I want you to challenge your challenges! But what does that mean? Let me help you with the process:

  1. Make a list of all of the challenges you’ve had in your writing career to date. I’m talking everything. Some of these challenges might include not getting a traditional publishing deal, not meeting deadlines, not getting enough or any speaking engagements, not selling enough books or earning enough income to survive with your work. Maybe it’s not having enough time to sit down and write or scheduling blocks of writing sessions. Perhaps you haven’t been able to join any associations, or you haven’t been able to do any continuing education for your writing. Whatever the challenges you’ve experienced, write them ALL down.
  2. Make a list of all of your writing accomplishments to date. Yes, again, this means everything! Perhaps you’ve been able to read your book in schools, or maybe you’ve had something published in one of your favourite magazines, perhaps you’ve been able to secure a grant for the historical fiction book you’re writing, or maybe you’ve been asked to be a guest speaker somewhere. Maybe you’ve started a blog that has received tons of visits, or maybe you’ve self-published a book on Amazon. Whatever the accomplishment, however big or small, be sure to write it down.
  3. Find the gap in between. This is where challenging your challenges comes in to play; look over your list of accomplishments, look at everything you’ve been able to do thus far, you should be proud of yourself! Now study the two lists you’ve made and find the gap in between, the difference in between your challenges and your accomplishments is ACTION. So, let’s go back to the challenges list and use not having any speaking engagements as an example. Why haven’t you had any? Have you put forth enough action? Have you contacted everyone you know? Have you sent out emails introducing yourself and what your work is about? Have you labeled yourself as an expert in your field and have you knocked on every door to see if people are interested in what you have to say? Now, if you look at your list of accomplishments, do you remember what you had to do to get there? Do you remember the hours you put in? Do you remember the emails, postcards, phone calls, rejections, and getting up and trying again? When you apply enough effort to something, eventually, you get exactly what you want. Apply the same amount of effort to your challenges as you did to your accomplishments, and soon enough, the list of accomplishments will grow, while the list of challenges, changes.

I love the saying, you can do anything you set your mind to, even though I believe something needs to be added to that statement. Here’s what I’ll say instead, “You can do anything you set your mind to and anything can be accomplished with enough effort, discipline, and action.”

This year, I challenge you to challenge your challenges. Happy writing! X LLB

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Lie to Me…

January 4, 2019– Humans lie. Whether it’s white lies or big lies, or the lies in between, we all do it at one time or another. Lying can be essential for your manuscript depending on the genre! Here’s a really cool infographic explaining how to detect a lie; this is great for implementing into your manuscript if one of your characters is being interrogated by the police, or if a parent in your story is asking their teenage son what time they came home on Saturday night, or if you want to convey some subtle gestures throughout your novel for when your character is being less than truthful. Here’s to your success, and that’s no lie! X LLB

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Let’s Talk About Excess…

January 2, 2018– By now, I’m sure you’re sick of Christmas. Ok, maybe not sick of Christmas, but sick of the hullabaloo. It’s been over for about a week and the entire lead up to the special day has been excessive; holiday parties, work parties, get-togethers with friends, kid’s plays, decorating, shopping, eating, drinking, cleaning, spending, rushing, and cooking, it all becomes too much.

It’s time for a break! That’s what I love about a new year; it allows us to regroup and reset our lives and decide what we want for the coming year. I hate the word resolution because I think there are such negative emotions associated with it. I resolve to get fit, I resolve to save money, I resolve to climb to the top of the CN Tower, whatever it is, it’s all been said before. As humans, we are conditioned to want more, do more, spend more, say more, eat more, consume more, work more, pay more, and buy more. I for one, am so sick of it! It’s time to take control in all areas of our lives and use what we have until it runs out. And not to be the bearer of bad news, but most of the time when we resolve to do something, we fail. Sure, we start out strong with lots of momentum and we’re taking our healthy lunches to work, we’re hitting the gym five days a week at six in the morning, and we’re finally cutting back on coffee and getting more sleep. But, then the inevitable happens; life gets in the way and we slowly sink back into our comfortable realities. Of course, I’m not saying that it can’t be done, people change their entire lives every day, I’m just saying that there’s a better way.

The better way is to cut the excess. That’s it. It’s that simple and that hard. As writers and creatives, we often do things excessively; we use too many words, we have too many excuses as to why we didn’t write today, we have too many notebooks filled with ideas that we never follow through with. We have an excess of coffee mugs, an excess of deadlines, an excess of commitments, and an excess of time spent in front of our computers when we should be spending time with our loved ones. I’m pointing the finger straight at myself on this one. So, this year, I don’t resolve to do anything, but what I am going to do is finish what I start, one thing and one day at a time. I am NOT going to do anything to the point of excess. NOT. A. DAMN. THING. 2019 is my year of minimalism; it’s the year where I finally take control of my schedule, my writing, and my professional life. The funny thing is, it’s all been in my control from the start. I hope that you’ll join me in cutting out the excess in all areas of your writing life. Who knows? You could have your best year yet!

So, for 2019, the only things that I wish for you in excess are happiness, joy, and love.
X LLB

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Why are (Insert Name of famous Card Company Here)Movies so Predictable?

December 24, 2018 I’m not a fan of Christmas movies. I’m not a fan of all  Christmas movies, I do like Die Hard (best Christmas movie EVER) and the Grinch, but that’s about it. My loved ones, on the other hand, are major lovers of all things Hallmark. Here’s the whole storyline in a nutshell; a single, career woman who is too busy for love, but she has to move to a small town where a local, handsome bachelor teaches her the true spirit of Christmas. It starts snowing, they kiss, and there is a dog. The End. 

Did I miss anything? Didn’t think so. Yes, there is a place for story lines like this, people want to feel cuddly and cozy, and they want simplistic, feel-good stories with a happy ending. It’s fun to watch these movies with a cup of hot cocoa and baileys, hold the cocoa, and some cookies, while snuggled up with a blanket and a cat. But, there is no place for predictability in your writing. There ARE formulas to follow when writing of course; whether it’s romance or thriller, or mystery, there are certain elements that each genre contains.  Here are two easy tips to follow so that your writing doesn’t become stale like the leftover holiday treats currently sitting on your kitchen counter.

1) Approach your story as a reader

The above tip is probably obvious, but it’s the most important step when writing effective plot twists. If your reader can predict where the story is going, you’re sunk. There’s nothing worse than watching a movie and being able to know what happens before it happens. I do this quite frequently as a viewer/reader; we’ll be watching a movie and I’ll get up to pour some more wine (I have to drink wine while watching holiday movies…it’s the only way I can stand it) and as I leave the room, I’ll say to my husband, “Then her fiance comes back, she leaves with him, she returns when she realizes he’s the wrong guy, the Christmas guy and the main character kiss and live happily ever after.” UGH (insert eye roll here) I hate always being right.

When you’re plotting your novel constantly put yourself in the reader’s shoes. Which direction would you expect the story to go? What twists and turns come to mind? Write all of these down and then throw them in the garbage and delete them out of your manuscript forever. If you think there’s the slightest possibility that the reader can figure out your plot twist, you’re probably right. Change it.

2) Ensure your twist is believable and necessary – and makes sense

Plot twists are sudden, unexpected changes of direction, but they must still be realistic and believable. No matter how unpredictable your plot twist might be, a plot twist doesn’t make sense or further the story is not effective. Readers won’t be impressed and they may even get frustrated and stop reading. Don’t resort to hacks, and never introduce a plot twist just for the sake of including one. Remember Sharknado? Yeah. Well there you go, see what I mean?

There you have it, two sure-fire ways to make sure your writing is unpredictable, but meaningful. Happy writing! X LLB