Tuesday, December 18, 2012

12 Blogs of Christmas Redux - Cartoon Classics

Welcome to the 12 Blogs of Christmas!  Last year, some of my favorite bloggers and I got together to bring you 12 blogs filled with holiday magic and cheer.  We enjoyed them so much that we decided to share them with again this year, so be sure to visit everyone, and enjoy the 12 Blogs of Christmas Redux!

Cartoon Classics

What is your favorite Christmas cartoon?  When I think of Christmas, I think of those magical evenings leading up to the holiday when my sister and I settled down to steaming mugs of hot cocoa and Christmas cookies while we watched favorites such as the ones you'll find mentioned here.  


The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus

Marie Patchen
Stop-motion animation is one of my favorite formats for Christmas cartoons.  I must have been spoiled by all of the good classics: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Jack Frost, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and of course, The Year Without a Santa Claus.  Being the huge fan of fantasy and magic that I am, The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus quickly took its place among my favorites when it first aired in 1985.  I think it is because it finally confirmed my suspicions that Santa Claus is not only magical himself, but he also rubs elbows with some pretty powerful immortals.  He would almost have to, given the fact that he delivers presents to all the kids in the world in one night.  Not to mention the fact that he's been kicking around the North Pole for hundreds of years.

Mickey's Christmas Carol

Amberr Meadows
 
As soon as the holidays come around, I'm always eager to see my favorite Christmas cartoons. One that I really love and have watched every year since childhood is Mickey's Christmas Carol. Technically it's a movie, but it's a cartoon movie, so I think it counts for the theme. Naturally, I'm a little old to get all gaga over a child's movie, and that's where my kiddo comes in handy (aside from being a spoiled, precious princess). I can still enjoy all of the classics from my childhood, because I feel it's my duty to pass on the tradition. It's too bad she won't stay young forever, but I'm hoping to enjoy the same things with my future grandchildren. Merry Christmas, everyone!  
Please visit 12 Blogs of Christmas: Tasty Traditions to read Amberr's part of the 12 Blogs of Christmas.  


Frosty The Snowman

Ciara Ballintyne


 I watched this cartoon every year as a kid. So many years later, I can't even tell you what I loved about it. I still remember I hated the greenhouse scene where Frosty melts. But I watched it anyway - maybe kind of like watching Dumbo even though you know he gets taken away from his mother? My brother would do that when he was very little. Perhaps it was the magic hat. I wasn't quite into fantasy when I was heavily into this cartoon, but it wasn't far behind. Clearly I have a magic fetish. Yeah, that must be it.
Please visit 12 Blogs of Christmas: Decorations That Have ‘Kangaroos In Their Top Paddocks’ to read Ciara's part of the 12 Blogs of Christmas.


Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too


D.C.McMillen
I hated most Christmas cartoons when I was a kid. I became depressed over the fact that the snowman was banished to the North Pole just so he could survive to see another winter. It annoyed me to no end that Rudolph became loved and admired only after Santa found a use for him. I was all but convinced that those little Whos were faking it when they sang around the giant tree in the middle of the square. I mean, come on, who sings loud enough to be heard at the top of a mountain? And when the Grinch doled out that ridiculously oversized slice of roast beast to little Cindy Lou Who all I could think was, “How are all of the Whos going to get a piece of meat when the Grinch is slicing portions that large? Maybe they should get someone who has actually been to one of these celebrations to carve the damn meat.” I did like the Grinch’s facial expressions, though, and also that Grinchy song.
Although there was something in almost every Christmas cartoon that irked me to no end, there was one that made me truly happy - Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too. It is an adorable movie about Winnie the Pooh and all his friends. They write a letter to Santa, asking for items like an umbrella for Eeyore and a single snowshoe to help Tigger bounce in the snow. Unfortunately, the gang gets greedy and spends so much time upgrading the list that the wind changes so the letter has zero chance of making it to Santa. Pooh takes matters in his own hands when he decides to play the role of Santa, since the whole thing was kind of his fault. Sounds awesome, right? If you haven’t seen it yet then get on it!
Please visit 12 Blogs of Christmas: Christmas Drinks to read D.C.'s part of the 12 Blogs of Christmas.


Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer


Erica Lucke Dean
 Ever since I was a little girl, watching the Christmas specials on TV was an annual ritual. My sister and I would wait on pins and needles as the clock ticked down to show time.  I loved them all, but I will forever have a special place for Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and his band of misfit friends.  In fact, it was inevitable each year when something in our stocking wasn't quite right, Mom would tell us it must be a misfit toy. We never complained about the doll that was supposed to talk, but didn't...or the Teddy Bear with a missing nose, because surely Santa brought them to us because we were the special children who would love the misfits as much as if they were perfect toys.
Please visit 12 Blogs of Christmas: Somewhere In My Memory to read Erica's part of the 12 Blogs of Christmas. 


The Nightmare Before Christmas


Justin Bogdanovitch
Tim Burton is still considered an acquired taste. If you love Tim Burton, you'll see his version of Sweeney Todd, even though Johnny Depp's singing voice has a range from A to B. At this point in Burton's career, and with a lot of help from Depp, he's what Hollywood calls an auteur, someone who can wake up one morning, call a Studio and say, "I'm thinking of remaking Planet of the Apes, with Marky Mark. I'll make it Burtonesque!" And get the picture greenlit. Now, that picture was a head-scratcher, a blip, in Burton's career, but he's allowed to make his films because of the great ones that came before, and The Nightmare Before Christmas, from 1993, is one of those great films. If you haven't seen it, go see it. It's a Christmas cartoon movie adapted by the late, great horror writer Michael McDowell -- if you haven't read his The Amulet, you're missing out -- who also wrote Beetlejuice. Both films written by McDowell had a whimsical beating heart among the kooky characters and fantastical situations. In The Nightmare Before Christmas, the pumpkin king of Halloween Town, Jack Skellington, stumbles his way into Christmas Town and falls in love with the Christmas philosophy and tries to take this back to his minions. Hilarity ensues! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Justin
Please visit Justin to read the 12 Holiday Faux Pas -- Part of the 12 Blogs of Christmas  :-)


The Muppet Christmas Carol

Karen DeLabar
I don't know what it is about the Muppets that make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, maybe it’s the fact that they themselves are fuzzy, but every time I see them, I smile. So what more can a Christmas loving girl ask for than her favorite fuzzy puppets putting their spin on the classic A Christmas Carol? I love how they integrated my favorite Muppets into the timeless roles of Marley, Bob Cratchit, etc., and paired with Michael Caine as Scrooge, this rendition is perfect in my eyes. However, I do think Gonzo and Rizzo the Rat (one of my personal faves) steal the show with their sarcastic wit as narrators. Here is one of my favorite songs from the movie (I love when the little caroler gets hit and his face scrunches up... is that wrong?).
Please visit 12 Blogs of Christmas: Favorite Holiday Movies to read Karen's part of the 12 Blogs of Christmas. 

I'd like to take a moment here to tell you all that it's been a rough year for Karen, who has been battling TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome) as a result of a strep infection.  Please visit her here to read about her storyThe good news is, Karen is a fighter and on the road to recovery.  The bad news is that no war is won without casualties, and the family is struggling to recoup its losses, especially financially.  A donation account has been set up to offset the extensive medical expenses that have accrued over the course of Karen's battle.  Please considering donating.  Every bit helps!


The Year Without a Santa Claus
Kelly Stone Gamble
 My favorite is The Year Without a Santa Claus.  I love Heat Miser (maybe it's the flaming red hair) and still can sing every word to his song.  I'm too much. 
 




Please visit 12 Blogs of Christmas: Books to read Kelly's part of the 12 Blogs of Christmas.

Santa's Workshop (1932, Walt Disney)


Maureen Hovermale
Check out the doll getting her hair done on the assembly line. The moment before it gets curled looks like a normal day to me. Lol! 

I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas Day!   

to read Maureen's part of the 12 Blogs of Christmas.


A Charlie Brown Christmas

Melody-Ann Kaufmann
My favorite Christmas cartoon is A Charlie Brown Christmas.  Charlie Brown gets depressed because he feels that Christmas has become too commercial. He wanders through each day of the season seeking some meaning in all of the hustle, bustle, and marketing hype that has become so common at Christmas time.  In the end it is Linus who takes to the stage to share the Christmas story.  Charlie Brown finds that Christmas has exactly the same meaning it always had and that if you look hard enough you can see it is still there.  The whole gang is reminded by Charlie Brown’s perseverance of the Christmas Spirit which they had been too busy to share.  It really is a classic in terms of reminding us to slow down and enjoy the spirit of Christmas.  Sharing what comes from the heart is more important than sharing what comes from the wallet.
Please visit 12 Blogs of Christmas: Favorite Christmas Toys to read Melody-Ann's part of the 12 Blogs of Christmas.


A Chipmunk Christmas

Natalie Kenney
My favorite Christmas cartoon is A Chipmunk Christmas (Alvin and the Chipmunks). There's something about those squeaky little voices that brings me back to my childhood. I actually had the record (yes, vinyl) of this song and played it over and over until the grooves wore down. And every time I watch the movie, I still want a hula-hoop!

Please visit 12 Blogs of Christmas: Yummy Cookies to read Natalie's part of the 12 Blogs of Christmas.
  


How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Raine Thomas


 My favorite Christmas cartoon of all is definitely the original Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas. We used to look up the time it would air every year (waaay back before DVR) and then sit down as a family to watch it. My parents would also read the story to us on Christmas Eve, making sure to imbue it with a similar tone to Boris Karloff. But the cartoon has the song! “You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch...” Classic.
Please visit 12 Blogs of Christmas: Songs of the Season to read Raine's part of the 12 Blogs of Christmas. 

Be sure to visit the rest of the blogs in the 12 Blogs of Christmas.  You can visit by clicking on the link underneath a person's picture or at the end of their cartoon recommendation. 

Merry Christmas to all, and a Happy New Year!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Working in the World of Words By Melanie Saxton

Melanie Saxton
I remember as a little girl how those brightly colored refrigerator magnets beckoned, tempting me to figure out the alphabet. Sure, I loved dolls and stuffed animals as well, but always seemed to set them up in a classroom to "teach" them how to read and write.

I didn't fully understand then that I'd become a writer, although I penned little crayon books about whales and dolphins and sold them, instead of lemonade, at a stand at my curb. I suppose that was a prelude to what would be coming, and God bless the neighbors who spent 10¢ on my little masterpieces. How kind of them, and they'll never know how that affected my journey to this very day.

And so I played with poetry, entering contests and going for scholarships. I simply loved writing and did it for free, putting together announcements, handling church newsletters . . . anything to write. People came to me for everything from term papers to eulogies. Honestly, it never occurred to me that I could earn a living from it, even after majoring in English. Being practical, I segued into corporate America, always seeming to gravitate toward positions that included a writing element. Still, writing independently and being published never really crossed my mind.

Magazine writing changed everything. I recall how my hands shook as my first payment came in the mail, the anticipation of opening that envelope making me giddy. Oh my word, I couldn't get to my sister's house fast enough to spill the wonderful news! I was in print! It was a defining moment and one I'll always cherish. Now, without a doubt, I was a writer. The weight of that responsibility registered deeply. It mattered how I wrote, how I pursued each article, and how I treated others in the publishing world. As the assignments came, so did other opportunities. I dipped my toe into it all, becoming a contributing editor, an online editor, a news reporter, and now, a book editor.

I still write for magazines and probably always will, although now I'm especially drawn to high profile and celebrity interviews. I've learned that apart from the glare of the limelight are people, just like you and me, who have their own hopes and fears. That they've achieved something spectacular with their lives is simply the icing on the cake, making them, well, fascinating. I've also become a certified English, Language Arts and Special Education teacher— something that was on my bucket list, tracing back to the dolls and stuffed animals I once tutored. I'm not sure I'll ever teach students full time in a classroom, though. When would I find the time? Perhaps the right school will find me one day, but until then I'm busy working in the world of words!

I've learned so much from my authors, all emerging and all with new and different missives. Editing their books has taken me across many genres and reminded me that I, too, have a novel or two percolating. Taking care of other people's manuscripts, juggling single motherhood, arranging interviews, meeting deadlines . . . well, these are challenges to my own writing. So for 2012 I finally have a resolution I must keep. No weight loss or exercise promises, no vows against fast food or determination to get more sleep. No!

Rather, for the new year I pledge to carve out time to write a novel— a really good novel, and then more. In tribute to those little crayon books from yesteryear, I really feel it's time to come full circle. I should be creating a manuscript and now, taking my cue from talented authors like Marie Patchen, I will.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

I Am a Writer: A Guest Post by Alexander Diakonis

Alex Diakonis
I am a writer. After all the years I have tried different things: soldier; linguist; cyclist; barista and more, it feels good to say that I have finally accepted what and who I really am.

People can go their whole life not knowing who they are and then, like a bolt of lightning, it hits them. BAM! “That is what I should be doing.”

I wish I was one of those stories, I think it would have been cool.

Not me though. Ever ignoring my father’s advice, I never make things easy on myself. I’ll give you, dear reader, the beginning of this path and some practices which have worked for me.

The year was 1987. My mother had to work and my aunt had a day off, so she was babysitting my younger sister and me. I never was one for Barbies, so I resorted to asking if I could play on the computer. My aunt hesitantly obliged and gave me one of maybe 3 programs available at the time on her Macintosh: word processing.

I started out typing things like my name and things like that. Eventually, though, I crafted a short story about a kid who went to a magical land where personified Dalmatians were walking as bipeds. It was maybe one page in length but I was proud of it. I wanted everyone to come and look at it. It was as if I was a cat that just brought my people a dead bird: Look what I did; it was not easy, but it is for you.

Fast forward one decade and several mistakes in life. I ended up joining the Army. I was proud of that—am proud of that. I was doing something. I was no longer just walking through life like an apparition: trying to get noticed by someone. I loved Service life but I spent most of my time writing letters and journals. It was as if shooting well or running far was rewarded by writing time. It may have been.

Eventually, I received my Honorable Discharge and went home. I got a job as a cobbler (shoe repair). I wrote a lot in those days, too; it was a very slow, boring job. I was still in the perfect job, I just sat and read and wrote my spiritual insights.

My lovely daughter was born during this time and I put the pen down. I worked as a barista and gas station attendant. These jobs put food on the table but little more.

Eventually, I decided that I was going to go to college because, well, that is just what you do. I had no idea what I wanted to do or where it was going to take me, but I went.

I took a first year composition class with Dr. Ali at Oakland Community College. I will never forget the day that she told me that we needed to write a four page essay by the following week. When my five pages were finished and turned in, I waited. The following class period, she gave the papers back and asked me to see her after class. What she told me will stick with me and reverberate through my life. She said that I simply needed to take the conclusion from the end of the essay, add a few more pages to it, and she was willing to accept it for the second-year composition class because I, as she said, am a “natural writer”.

I dropped out of college. I think that was the worst thing I could have done for myself at the time. But, you live, you learn.

Later, I finally heeded the pressure of my father and went back to school. Dad never finished college so it was really important to him that I have a better life. I went back to school and it was during this time when, on his deathbed, he told me to finish school; to promise him that I would go until I was done. I promised him. I graduate this year with a BA in journalism.

I have a BFFF (I’ll let you figure out the additional F) who one year called to tell me about NaNoWriMo. Write 50,000 words in 30 days. I couldn’t see the point of it. I was blinded.

Last November, I was reintroduced to NaNo, this time by my girlfriend. She thought that it was something that we could do together. I ended up with a story in my head and I was frantically writing it.

I do NOT type fast, but I was going as fast as I could. The story wanted out. I obliged the release of the characters from their vaults.

I did not finish it. I will though.

Every day, though I am guilty of not listening to my muse sometimes, I write. Even if it is just to finish a paragraph or one line of dialogue, I write.

I am a writer. I write.

I have a moleskin notebook that I almost always have with me. If I get inspiration anywhere, I jot it down. It might not make it into this story, but who knows?

I have resolved that I will only keep people in the loop about my progresses that actually support me. I have friends who laughed when I told them that I was going to write a novel. I do not talk to them about it.

I am on Twitter A LOT. I have met some awesome writers, editors, publishers and the like there. I heard once that the only way to become a millionaire is to spend time socializing with other millionaires. Want to be a better writer? Spend time socializing with other writers.

If you have a story screaming in your head that you simply need to get written, resolve that you will write it, a little at a time. You need not - and likely will not - finish it in one sitting; but write. If your soul is screaming at you, telling you that you are a writer: LISTEN. Just write. It is what you are and it is what you need to do.

You will feel like I do—complete. -- Alexander Diakonis


Alexander Diakonis
Alexander Diakonis resides in Ann Arbor, Michigan with his BFFF Danielle and their 3 mutant spider plants. When he is not studying the finer points of journalism at Eastern Michigan University or writing his novel, still a work in progress, he can be found making the best burritos you will ever eat at the local Chipotle Mexican Grill.


As an avid reader he can also be found with a Kindle in one pocket a dog-eared copy of something Sci-Fi in the other. More general musings or thoughts can be found at www.alexdiakonis.com and @alexjdiakonis on Twitter.

Friday, January 13, 2012

12 Steps For Fostering Your Creativity: Weekend Workshop 1

SARK isn't exactly a Muse, but she puts mine to shame.
When I was a teenager, I found this poster by SARK in a Toronto mall and immediately fell in love.  I took it home, gave it a place of honor on my bedroom wall, and made it a point to read it from start to finish at least once a day.

Some of the best advice I've ever received for fostering my personal creativity came from "How to be an Artist", and to this day, the words remain with me, even though the poster has long since disappeared.

If I could, I would take every single bit of advice in this poster and turn it into one of the 12 Steps For Fostering Your Creativity this weekend. However, rest assured that you don't need to stop at the 12 steps listed here today.  Find your own copy of this poster, frame it up, and hang it in your writing space - and don't be afraid to open yourself up to being the creative creature that you are.

Are we ready, then?  Grab a notebook and a pen or open up a fresh word processor document, and let's dive right in to this weekend's Mynx Writes Workshop. Let's play!

Step One

Refuse to "be responsible".

That's right.  Blame your creative dry spell on your Muse.

I do it all the time.

My Muse is a flighty little thing that refuses to stay put and help me get my creative juices flowing.  When it is around, it spends most of its time in the closet playing drinking games with my Boogey Man and antagonizing the herd of zombie unicorns that I keep under the bed.  Mostly, though, my Muse is AWOL.  I'm pretty sure it has a standing invitation to hang out with Carmen Sandiego, wherever in the world that might be at any given moment.  I'm also fairly certain my Muse has not only been playing "Where's Waldo?" with me, it's also been dating Waldo on the sly.

In other words, my Muse and I have a long standing love/hate relationship, and I am not to be held responsible when it picks up and blows town again. (Which also means that when it calls me at 3 A.M. looking for me to bail it out of a Mexican jail cell, I refuse to answer the phone.)

Exercise:
It's time to start laying the blame on your Muse.  For this exercise, you are going to compile a list of all the things that your Muse is doing when it is supposed to be helping you be creative.  Did it skip town with mine and now they are both off somewhere on a beach drinking dirty martinis and laughing about how lame we are?  Is it holed up in your closet planning a keg party with your Boogey Man?  Whatever it's doing, it's obviously not concerned about you in the slightest, so don't be afraid to imagine worst case scenarios - maybe it got caught in Vegas with two dead hookers and a briefcase full of blow.
Your list can be as long as you need it to be, but make sure you have at least 12 things that your dickens of a Muse is doing when it should be joined to you at the hip and cracking the creative whip.  Don't spend too much time on the items on this list.  Make this a quick and dirty exercise.  Write down the first things that come to mind and move on.

Step Two

Invite someone dangerous to tea.

That Muse of yours might not be much of a homebody, but it's going to want to be present for this tea party, my friend.

First of all, let's define "dangerous", and how it applies to your tea party.  Are we talking Chuck Norris "dangerous", or are we talking Hannibal Lector "dangerous"?  Or maybe we're nowhere near that kind of "dangerous".  Maybe your type of "dangerous" is Big Bird on roller skates.    

Exercise:
Create a guest list for your tea party. List 12 possible "dangerous" guests, and next to each guest, explain in a sentence or two why they are "dangerous". I sure wouldn't want Big Bird on roller skates anywhere near my antique china tea set.

This is also a quick and dirty list - write down the first things that come to mind and move on.

Now that we have a guest list, we're going to narrow down our possibilities for the guest of honor. For each guest, explain in a sentence or two why you would want to invite them to tea.
Finally, we're going to go back to our list from Step One and determine which guest on the tea party guest list our Muse would most like to have tea with, based on what it is off doing when it's supposed to be helping us be creative.

Exercise:

Write a short story or draw a cartoon depicting your tea party. Who did your Muse decide to invite? Why? What happened at the tea party? What did you talk about? Detail the conversation. Who ended up being more "dangerous" - your guest or your Muse?

Because my Muse is such a tool, it would have invited Big Bird on roller skates, spiked the tea with roofies, and then sat back and watched the magic happen - meaning - laughed its fool head off while that over-grown canary stumbled around the parlor like a drunk sailor and smashed my antique china tea set to smithereens. Bastard.

Step Three

Read everyday.

Okay, enough with the Muse bashing for now.  Fun as it is, we need to talk about how reading everyday can benefit you creatively.  We already know that reading is a very important part of any writer or blogger's regimen, but that doesn't mean that you should limit yourself to books on writing or skimming other people's blogs.

In fact, that's exactly what you shouldn't do.

Let's face it - for most, if not all writers, it was your love of reading that led to you becoming a writer in the first place. If you aren't taking the time to read for pleasure anymore, you are cutting off your creative nose to spite your creative face. Reading for pleasure keeps your imagination fired up - picturing scenes, characters, and settings from descriptions in the books you read is just the beginning of how your creativity is stimulated by reading.

Long story short, reading is good for your creativity, your writing, and your blogging.  Do it.  Every. Day.

If you do take the time to read for pleasure every day, good for you!  (But you should still do the exercise along with the rest of us.)

Exercise:

Make a list of all of your favorite books.  This means all of the books that you have read in your lifetime.  If you adored "Harold and the Purple Crayon" as a kid, make sure it goes on this list.  If Judy Blume's "Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing" was a favorite, add it.

Now make a list of all of the books that you want to read.  Pull out your Kindle and add all of the books that you've downloaded but haven't read yet.  If you have a Goodreads profile, grab your list of books that you want to read there.  If you don't have a Goodreads profile, now would be a great time to start one.
Finally, search out reading lists and make it a point to incorporate them into your pleasure reading regimen.  For example, there is an excellent list compiled by Stephen King of the books that "do it" for him at the end of his book, "On Writing". 
Your mission this weekend, and every day from here on out, is to read as much from these lists as possible, starting with your favorite books.  These books are your favorite books for a good reason - they made you think, they got your imagination working, and you enjoyed spending time in the world that they offered.  
Whenever I get stuck, or find myself in a creativity rut, I find that falling back on my favorite books gets me moving forward again.

Step Four

Play with everything.

There is entertainment to be found in even the most mundane situations, and it is your job to find it.  I like to give inanimate objects their own personalities, especially when they frustrate me.  It not only helps me to see the humor in the situation, but it makes a potentially stressful time a shiny happy fun time instead.  Plus, even though I've gotten a few weird looks, most people just laugh along with me. It's probably a safe bet that I won't be committed to a mental institution anytime soon just because I'm an adult who likes to play.

Exercise:

It's time to turn your writing space into a play ground, complete with shiny happy fun time friends. Even if you do most of your writing and blogging on your laptop down at the local coffee house, you can still practice this exercise.
Meet Spike, the all-seeing aloe.
  • Adopt a writing mascot. For example, I've got a tiny green lizard that probably came out of a gumball machine who sits near my monitor and reminds me not to take myself so seriously. Carry your mascot with you so that it can be there where ever you decide to set up shop and write.
  • Turn the local flora into instant imaginary friends. All's it takes is a couple of novelty eyeball straws and you've got potted plants with personality. If you write in a coffee shop, try leaving the straws in the plants and see how long they stay there. Sometimes, when you play, others will decide to play too.
  • Personify your tools. Name your computer. Glue some googly eyes on your stapler and your pen. Turn that paper munching printer that is constantly jamming up its feed into the monster that it is by giving it a face and a ridiculous name. Writing can be lonely business, so why not create some friends to keep you company - with the added benefit that they will only distract you when you want them to.

Step Five

Build a fort with blankets.

If you are going to be playing with everything, you might as well build yourself your own personal Fortress of Doom.  I mean, c'mon! Who doesn't remember stealing the kitchen chairs and turning a corner of the living room into a blanket castle when they were a kid? (And if you never did, isn't it about time you did?)

Exercise:

Scope out a prime piece of real estate to build your fort.  This is going to be your creative retreat, so no kids allowed.  (Although, if you do have kids, you should make it a point to build one with them, too.  It's good practice for yours, and it's just plain fun!) 

Raid the linen closet for blankets, sheets, and extra pillows.  Raid the Christmas decorations for strings of lights.  Raid the garage for unused clothesline or rope if you have it.  Gather up clothespins, thumbtacks, safety pins, hair or binder clips - anything that you can use to secure the blankets and sheets into something resembling a fort. 

Build your fort and leave it up for the weekend, at least.  Leave it up forever.  It's up to you.

Put whatever you would like inside your fort - stacks of books, your iPod, your musical instrument if you play.

Name your fort.  Mine is known as Evil Mynx's Fortress of Doom.  Take a few pictures to commemorate your creation.

Retreat to your fort with your laptop, your notebook or journal and a pen, or a good book from your reading list. Pretend you are on a spaceship en route to a newly discovered planet.  Pretend you are on safari in Africa.  Pretend you are hiding from an army of androids hell-bent on taking over the world.  Pretend you have been exiled to a desert island until you get your creativity flowing again.

Spend at least 45 minutes in your fort everyday, and don't forget to have fun!

Step Six

Draw on the walls.

Drawing on the walls doesn't have to be a no-no!
Why else would Crayola make washable markers if not for us to draw on the walls on purpose?

When I was in college (the first time), the girls in my dorm wing got themselves a hold of a few sets of washable markers and a bottle of Formula 409 and spent an entire weekend turning the hallway into a work of art.  There were the obligatory flowers and hearts, along with inspiring quotes, stick figure drawings, trees, cartoons, names and words graffitied in every color of the rainbow up and down the walls.

For one magical weekend, the plain white walls of the dorm were transformed into a fun and inspiring place to be.  (That is, until the janitors showed up to our floor on Monday and effectively cock-blocked the creative spirit that had possessed the residents.)

Exercise:

Make sure you test the markers on your walls for color-fastness first.  Take out your washable markers and test them in an inconspicuous corner of the room.  Draw a line in every color and leave it to dry for an hour or two.  Come back after that time and use Formula 409 or another cleaning agent safe for your walls.  If the marker washes off completely, you're good to go.  If it doesn't - you can still draw on the walls - just cover them with paper first.

Now, draw on your walls.  Don't let the fact that you're not an artist inhibit you.  Can't draw?  So what.  Do it anyway.  The only person who is going to see this is you, and the point is not to prove to yourself that you are the next Picasso.  The point of this exercise is to free up your inhibitions.

Drawing on the walls is naughty business, so dare to be naughty.  Write swear words on the wall, like "poppycock" and "bloody hell".  Make them stand out.

Going back to Step One and Step Two, draw a picture of your Muse.  Pick an item from the list you made in Step One and draw your Muse doing that.  Draw a picture of your Muse having tea with the dangerous guest from Step Two.

Write your favorite inspirational quotes on the wall.  Doodle on the wall - add stars, pinwheels, curlicues, and nonsensical lines.

Take your time - spread this project out over the weekend, and come back when you have a spare minute to add more.

Leave it up for the weekend, or as long as you like, but take pictures before you wash it off, so that the next time you need to be inspired, you can go back and admire your work.

Step Seven

Swing as high as you can on a swing-set, by moonlight.
moonlight swing by Papkalaci

Have you ever tried this?  It's exhilarating! 

Once, when I lived in the magical pink house in Colorado, my back yard opened up into the local town park, complete with a playground and swings.  Even in the dead of winter, a clear night with the moon shining bright was prime time to sneak off into the park and go swinging.  (And then come home to a nice a mug of hot chocolate, complete with marshmallows and a shot of peppermint schnapps.)

There is something about flying through the darkness with nothing but the light of the moon shining down on you that breaks down the creative barriers and gets you thinking freely again.  Best of all, the moon is still rather full this weekend - so you won't have to miss out on the magic.

Exercise:

Find a playground in a safe neighborhood, or, if you are lucky enough, use the swing in your own back yard.

Wait for the moon to rise.

Go swinging!

Step Eight

Cry during movies.

Yes.  Do this.  Even if you are a man, don't be afraid to get so involved in a movie that you invest your emotions and end up bawling your eyes out.  When you do this, you are opening up your mind and connecting to the story in ways that get your brain moving. 

For the record, movies that make you cry aren't always "chick flicks".  I've seen three brothers simultaneously burst into tears while watching "Legends of the Fall" during the war scenes. 

Exercise:

Make a list of movies that never fail to make you cry.  Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Seven Pounds
  • Titanic
  • Forrest Gump
  • Legends of the Fall
  • Schindler's List
  • The Green Mile
  • The Passion of the Christ
  • Brave Heart
  • A.I.

Go to the internet and look for more suggestions.  Try to find movies you've never seen before, and add movies that you remember seeing a long time ago. 

Once you've got a good list, pick out a few for viewing, get yourself a full box of tissues, and pour yourself a nice stiff drink.

Settle in, and don't be afraid to cry yourself silly.

Step Nine

Get wet.

Admittedly, this is not the ideal time of year in most parts of the United States to be playing in water, but hear me out. 

A good soak in a hot bath with some relaxing music, candles, and a nice glass of wine can do wonders for your creative spirit.  And guys, that goes for you, too. 

Alternatively - go out in the snow and play until your clothes are soaked through.  Make snow angels.  Go sledding.  Build a snowman.  Build a snow fort. 

Then come inside and take a nice, hot bath.

Exercise:

All of the following can be done anytime the weather permits.
  • Have a water balloon war with your friends.
  • Dance in the rain.
  • Fill a supersoaker and hide out on your roof. Snipe unsuspecting victims.
  • Go mud puddle jumping.
  • Play Marco Polo in the pool.
  • Dive into a lake fully clothed.
  • Go skinny dipping. (Judiciously, of course. Getting arrested for indecent exposure is counter-productive to creativity.)

Step Ten

Make little signs that say YES! and post them all over your house.

This simple, three letter word can be a powerful weapon.  Use it to remind yourself to be positive, to think positive, and most of all, that yes, you are creative. 

Exercise:

Grab a pad of Post-It notes and a few brightly colored markers and start making your "YES!" signs. Get creative - use multiple colors, draw block lettering and color it in with polka dots or candy cane stripes. Make your letters big and attention getting. Don't forget the exclamation point!

Now, start placing your signs. Stick them to the insides of the kitchen cupboards. Put them on mirrors. Stick them all over the walls of your blanket fort.  Put one on your bedside lampshade. Put one in the refrigerator. Put one on the inside of the toilet lid. The more unlikely the place you put your sign, the more of an impact it will make when you see it.


Leave these up for the weekend, or however long you would like.

Get used to saying YES! to creativity.

Step Eleven

Imagine yourself magic.

The Magic Gateway
You are indeed magical, even when you have to imagine yourself so to be so.  So, fashion yourself a cape out of the nearest bed sheet, consider your pen a magic wand, and put on the silliest hat you own. It's time to become your magical alter ego - and we're about to figure out who that is.

Exercise:

Imagine yourself magic.  Make a quick list of at least 12 magical powers that you possess.

Go back and develop your list.  Answer the following questions for each magical power on your list in one to two sentences: 
  • What does this power enable you to do?
  • Why did you choose this power? 
  • How did you get this power?

What does your magical alter ego do?  What is its name?  Mine is Evil Mynx, of course, and I wrangle zombie unicorns. 
Now, take your magical alter ego and incorporate it into your daily creative routine.  I like to randomly pass out zombie unicorns to my followers on Twitter, but you can do whatever you'd like to do.  Just make sure that you do it.  Being magic is a lot of fun, and finding people who will play along is even more delightful. 

Step Twelve

Drive away fear.

If you've completed the previous eleven steps, you're much closer to succeeding at this final step than you were when you started this Weekend Workshop.  After all, it takes guts to be a grown up and play as hard as we just did, right?

So, now we're going to finish what we've started by acknowledging our fears, recognizing why we're afraid, and driving that fear off of a cliff and into the old quarry lake, which is rumored to be bottomless - extremely useful in getting rid of things that we never want to see again - such as our fears. 


Exercise:


What are you afraid of?  Make a list of every fear that has ever risen its ugly head and stood in the way of your creative process.  Up until now, the magic number has been 12, but this list needs to be all encompassing.  Make sure you leave no fears behind.  Get them down on this list.

Now - go back and with as much detail as you can possibly manage, explain each fear on your list.  Why do you have this fear?  When did this fear first materialize?  Do you know what caused this fear?  If yes, write it down.  If no, write that down, too. 

Start a new list.  For each item on your list of fears, write down one thing that you would do if you weren't afraid.  Word it in a positive way - "I can write a book, because I'm not afraid to finish what I start."  "I will have a popular blog, because I'm not afraid to share my knowledge with people."

Here comes the fun part.  Now that you've got a list of positive goals which you've extracted from your list of fears, you are going to get rid of those fears.  No, you're not just going to hit delete and send your file to the recycle bin.  Print it out before you delete it!  Rip the list out of your notebook.

Now, destroy your fears.  Rip the list up into confetti and flush it down the toilet.  Take a lighter or a match and burn it away to ash (But be careful not to start anything else on fire. That would be bad.).  Do whatever you would like to destroy this list, but make sure that you destroy it.  The more flamboyant the destruction  process is, the more satisfied you will feel when you are done.

Finally, take your list of positive goals, pick one, and dive in!

Open up.  Dive in.  Be free.

Do it now.

I hope you've enjoyed this Weekend Workshop.  Leave me a comment and let me know how you did!  Also, be sure to sign up for the newsletter for exclusive content and resources from Mynx Writes, and "Like" my page on Facebook. 

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The ABC's of Writing: A Guest Post From Leif G.S. Notae

Greetings and hello from the land of tomorrow!

*looks off camera, clearly confused*

What? You want me to say what now? You sure this isn’t the sci-fi and beer drinkers biannual Spock and Ale convention? Oh dear.

*throws away prepared script*

Hello there and welcome to my ramblings about my writing career. I have been tasked by our wonderful web mistress here to share with you my experiences with writing and pass along any tips I have to you, the reader. So, as soon as she puts down the whip, we can begin.

My writing hobby started with an obsession with wrestling.

You can come back now and stop laughing; it's the truth.

When I was a young pup, I was enraptured by wrestling. It wasn’t’ so much that I thought it was real (all wrestling fans know it is fake), but the intriguing characters and what they did in and outside the ring. In the 80s and early 90s, it was all about the over-the-top characters and their lavish lives. This made me obsessed with characters and how they could become who they were. My reading matched my writing and made me understand that this was an amazing method of portraying someone in writing.

So I took my writing on the road and started to do what we called efedding. Essentially, it is pretend wrestling for internet geeks who think they are wrestlers. My first pieces were pretty pathetic when I look back on it. 300 words; filled with errors, and had no story to them. However, somehow, my offerings were better than the others that appeared on those message boards so long ago.

It was getting into the habit of writing under a deadline and matching wits with other writers. It was looking over what they did and how they did it that allowed me to grow. I learned techniques that would help me grow faster and farther than I could alone in my room, writing on a spiral notebook. I learned how to write for readers of the genre, learned how to craft somewhat believable dialogue and still make my character stand out from all the others in the sea of pretend wrestling.  

Since it was competitive, we were all judged by our peers, and a winner was determined by votes. I walked away from the hobby last year at an 80% success rate from more than 500 matches with five different characters. However, that isn’t where I learned my success.

I learned it by failing miserably.

I was accepted into one of the more illustrious places in the hobby and was informed I was given a trial. I gave them everything I had, thought I was the greatest and then was handed my backside by the judges and my peers who said I had no clue how to write a story. They wanted finely crafted stories that would keep them enraptured. I was just a common thug with nothing to say.

I suppose this will dovetail into my tips and tricks for you. These are things I learned the hard way from that moment; I have applied them to my writing, and I hope that it translates out in my writing.

Always learn
There is no reason for you to stand pat on what you know and how you know it. There is always someone out there who can express what you want better than you can. If you think you are a whiz at dialogue, there is someone who can write circles around you. If you think your story writing abilities are untouchable, there is someone out there who can poke you with their superiority without even trying. Never take for granted that you can grow and still be impressive. There is always something to learn.

Be dedicated to your craft
This is a little extreme for some, but this is what it takes for me to get involved. I get up at 3:30 am, and I write in the morning (after scheduling things and catching up on the news). As soon as I come home, I write until I get my schedule finished. You must dedicate yourself to it fully and without reservation, whatever it is that you do. Amaze people with what you have, make them think it is effortless.

Center yourself
Meditate. Shake it off. Take a moment to be with yourself. These things will help you focus your energy and effort to something more constructive. Sure, you could come back from your cube farm and rant to your loved one while having your favored adult beverage; but that will not make your writing better, nor will it make you write. Use the negative energy that you have, convert it into a positive and make something with it. When I am afraid, angry or anything else; I stop and convert it to write a beautiful piece with no effort. This encourages me to keep going.

Along with other little techniques that I have tailored to my personality, I have at least grown by leaps and bounds as a writer and as an individual. I suppose the 140,000+ hits I had in December can attest to doing something right.

Go forth and write, practice your craft and amaze us with the story you know. There is no one better than you to tell it! -- Leif G.S. Notae

Leif G.S. Notae
Leif G.S. Notae (also known as LeiffyV) is a hobby writer of short stories, flash and micro fiction, along with dark poetry.  He was published in Six Minute Magazine under his real name as well as local magazines and newspapers in the Santa Cruz area.  He maintains daily entries in his blog while working with green technology in the county.  

He can be found blogging on his daily blog, Writing More With Less.  He can also be found blogging on SagaWriting.com.

Follow Leif on Twitter @Vignirsson or connect with him on Facebook under Leif GS Notae.

Friday, January 6, 2012

12 Steps to Becoming a Better Writer (and Blogger) - Introducing the Mynx Writes Weekend Workshop

Writing and blogging is an addiction.

Admit it - if you write or blog - you are addicted to it.  It's your drug of choice, and you'd probably give up breathing before you put away your pen and paper or your laptop and bid adieu to the Internet forever.

This is also the only addiction (that I know of), that you should want to become better at.

With that in mind, every Friday for the year of 2012 I'm bringing you the Mynx Writes Weekend Workshop.  Consider it your own personal 12 Step Program for the weekend.

Starting next Friday, with each Weekend Workshop I will tackle a different subject related to your addiction, including:

  • 12 steps to overcoming writer's block
  • 12 steps to putting off procrastination 
  • 12 steps for brainstorming
  • 12 steps for fostering your creativity
  • 12 steps for creating believable characters
  • 12 steps for building a better blog
  • 12 steps for social networking for writers and bloggers
  • 12 steps for world building
  • Becoming a Grammar Nazi in 12 easy steps

-- and many more, for a total of 51 weekends to make you better at your writing and blogging addiction.

All you have to do to take part in the Mynx Writes Weekend Workshop is show up to my blog ready to participate, learn, and make your addiction something to be proud of.


My name is Marie, and I'm addicted to writing and blogging.  I want to get better at.

Do you?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

My Journey to the Bestseller List: A Guest Post by Renée Pawlish

I have been a writer for almost twenty years. By writer, I mean someone who has penned numerous stories and novels, but never had anything published. In 2006 I got tired of hearing from agents that my novel, Nephiim Genesis of Evil was a great story, but they didn’t think there was a market for it. This was before the ebook rage, at a time when the term self-publishing had an even worse stigma than it does now. I had a friend who encouraged me to go on ahead and self-publish the novel. I was hesitant but decided to jump in. I’m glad I did. Here are a few things I learned from that experience.


Self-Publishing Was Easier Than I Thought It Would Be

In 2006, I had to hunt for a printer to publish Nephilim and I was worried that the end product would look like a self-published book. I was pleasantly surprised that the released book was just like anything you could pick up at Barnes & Noble. I was also expecting to have a harder time getting it into stores and places online. It wasn’t. I wrote a letter to Barnes & Noble, as well as some of the local stores, and they all carried the book. Of course Amazon did too. Move ahead to 2011 when I began ebook publishing, and the process is even easier. I write about the paperback novel in a post on my blog so I won’t repeat it here, but I believe there is still money to be made in paperbacks. And the ebook market it wide open for creative ways to publish just about anything (novellas, blogs, short stories and more). And the ways to package books to increase your sales is wide open as well.

Self-Publishing Was Harder Than I Thought It Would Be

What? How can it be both? I can remember reading JA Konrath long before he was the god for indie publishers and he discussed how he spent way more time marketing his books than writing them. I’ve found that as I jumped into self-publishing with my whole body (not just my feet ha ha) that it’s a lot of work to market my books. It’s paying off, as Nephilim has hit the bestseller lists, along with some of my other books, but man, do I spend a lot of time talking up my books. I get asked for advice a lot now, and my biggest point (beyond writing a great book and making sure it’s properly edited) is to map out your marketing plan. If you want to sell books, you have to market them

I Do Have What It Takes

Let’s face it, most of us (if we’re honest) wonder if our books really are good. We wonder what the reader response is going to be. When Nephilim was first published, I realized that all the years of writing and rejection by agents, then working on my stories more, working with my editors (I have hired my own to help me), paid off. Over the years my writing had improved so that by the time I published Nephilim, I had a great story. Unfortunately, I see a growing trend of indie authors who automatically think their first book is great. For some, this may be the case. For many, they need to work on their craft more before they publish. But they’ll learn because you can’t fool all the readers all the time. It will show in your reviews and more importantly, your sales.

I love this journey I’m on. I love telling stories. I get a kick when I see the reviews for my novels. I love talking to other authors and helping give advice where I can. There are a ton of readers out there and we can all tap into that market. I wish every author out there all the success. Good luck! -- Renée Pawlish

Renée Pawlish
Renée Pawlish was born in California, but has lived most of her life in Colorado. When she's not hiking, cycling, or chasing ballplayers for autographs, she is writing mysteries and thrillers. She also has some middle grade novels waiting to be published.

Renée loves to travel and has visited numerous countries around the world. She has also spent many summer days at her parents' cabin in the hills outside of Boulder, which was the inspiration for the setting of Taylor Crossing in her novel Nephilim: Genesis of Evil.

You can find Renée on her website, on her blog, on Facebook, on Twitter, and on Goodreads.