Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Dock (book inspiration)

This is a photo of Highport Marina. It is the inspiration for the slip where Kate's mother's houseboat is docked. I tried to find an image of the houseboat that I see in my mind, but that always leads to looking at all gorgeous possibilities for houseboat living and from there I move on to dockominiums and I completely forget that I'm searching for a smallish less-than-elaborate boat that Kate's mom has. Happy summer 2013!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

What's in My Summer Beach Bag?! Summer 2013

It's summer! It's beach time for my kids and me. I love this Target beach bag, and I have stuffed it with....


Apparently that is how we will measure summer success. How many Band-Aids did we use in a day? I have a 10-year-old and a five-year-old. Also, the five-year-old gets these ouchies that the human eye cannot detect but a Band-Aid cures them. Stops any crying of whining cold. I can get on board with that. So far, our record has been six Band-Aids between the two kids.

In addition to Band-Aids, the beach bag includes these things.
1. Beach towels! I love this hibiscus towel from Target. I take one beach towel per person, plus one to stand on or use as a back-up.

2. Sunscreen. Last year, I discovered that I love Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunblock. It doesn't leave my hands feeling greasy after I apply it. This year, I also found that I like Banana Boat Sport Performance Coolzone Sunscreen. This is only 30 SPF, so we use Neutrogena first, and then use the Banana Boat for re-application. It's a spray and nice and cool, so it's great for the beach when it's hot. I use Coppertone WaterBabies Sunscreen on everyone's face.

3. Goggles. My kids love wearing goggles when swimming, so I keep several sets in the bag.

4. Dive toys. When beach boredom sets in (I know...who can get bored at the pool or beach other than my kids?) I pull out dive toys.

5. I love Bubba drinking bottles this summer. This is the only brand I've found that truly does not leak. 

6. Sunglasses. I buy sunglasses at Target because I lose, break, misplace them. I also like options. If I wear sunglasses, I can afford lots of options.
7. And the secret stash. I wrote more about it last year, but I always have some work in my bag for when my kids aren't paying attention.

What's in your beach bag?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

How to Beat Writer's Block - My Version

Inbox Art
Creative Commons licensed image by user Beck Tench

Today, I'm suffering writer's block. I write for fun. I write for work. I read others' writing for work. I cannot escape writing, so trying to find another job to do in the meantime just doesn't work.

Do you have days like this?

When this happens, I go into WRAP mode. A WRAP plan is a Wellness Recovery Action Plan for people who experience mental health changes. Mary Ellen Copeland, who came up with this idea, probably doesn't list writer's block as a mental health change, but I am here to tell you that writer's block affects my mental health.

How about yours?

Here's the deal. WRAP is for people who have real crises, and I don't want to underplay the importance of Copeland's work. I believe this plan really helps people, and my version of it does not do justice to the thought and research behind Copeland's work. Plans can be simple or complex, depending on each person's needs.

I believe Copeland's ideas can help writers, too, though, because being creative is a brain function, and when the words don't flow, it's a problem. At least for me. I started life as a gymnast, and in that mode, when something feels stuck or doesn't work, you get up and try again. That effort is hard to replicate when writing. Try what again? Sitting at the keyboard? Staring down an electronic stack of PDFs that need reading?

So, WRAP is the plan that triggers action when I've hit a block. My plan is fairly simple.

Check for pain. Something is always hurting from my former athletic life, so sometimes, that pain can be annoying me more than I realize. So checking to see if I can't concentrate because I'm sending all my energy to a knee that's annoyed, then I get some heat on it, or stretch, or take something, or all of it. Twinges are part of my life, and most of the time, they're minor and not that noticeable. Other days, they are big and bold and a distraction.

Straighten my desk. It's physical. I like a straight desk. And it gets me started.

Make a list. Let's face it, the list is just a procrastination technique, but it gets me to sit down and focus on something.

Work on an inbox. I have a physical inbox and an email inbox. I pick one and spend about an hour on it.

And then, magically, I can write. If I can't, I start over and straighten my desk again.

What do you do to stop writer's block?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Reviews of my young adult mystery & the next installment

Two reviews of One Crappie Summer (a young adult mystery) are available online. & GoodReads review:
I really enjoyed this fun mystery, set in Texas. When Kate Carlton misses out on a big time journalism fellowship and has to settle for returning to her small home town where the biggest thing going is the summer crappie fishing tournament, she never thought she'd soon be embroiled in a [read more...]
A warm and entertaining novel dedicated to ‘every twenty something trying to build a career and a life. There are some nice moments with Kate negotiating her self-centered mother, and her own frustrations. The pages are littered with ‘J-speak’ and all conversations among friends and potential lovers are either on or off the record, while being chased by heavies torn between their need to follow orders and their desire to go fishing certainly promises the laughs. [read more...]
I'm getting excited because next installment is almost finished! More on it soon.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Library, aka, Jackson's Bar

So this summer, I visited a lot of the places that were inspiration for One Crappie Summer. I thought I'd show you some of them here. Today, I'm showing you my inspiration for the bar owned by Jackson. It looks like a house, but is definitely not. Plus, when you're a college student, you can say, "I'm headed to The Library" and parents are so proud.

Do you have places you use for inspiration when you write?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

What Do You Do at the Beach? (book inspiration!)

This beach is located on Lake Texoma
in Oklahoma. It's called West Burns
Run. It's an awesome beach for
swimming. Not so much for thinking...
well, not in July. It's too hot!!

I’m very much in love with the idea of the beach. I want to be the kind of person who uses the beach like Kate does in my little ebook, One Crappie Summer.

Kate uses the beach to help her think. She’ll drag her lawn chair down there and plop down with a glass of iced tea for a good long think. In one scene, Kate and a cute television reporter take a walk on the beach. Evening gray-blue sky. Waves. Gentle breeze.

In reality, I’m very much in love with the beach, but the use of the beach is much, much different.

Take today. I took my children there at 9:30 this morning. The sand was already so hot that they insisted that I apply the sunscreen while they stood in an inch of tepid water.

Then, (in my vision as I packed the car this morning) I planned to the latest issue of O (it has quizzes!) while the children splashed each other in the water.

In reality, the sun was so hot and blinding that I sat on the chaise lawn chair I’d brought with me for no more than sixteen seconds before I dove in after the kids and got wet head to toe.

I had fun. We had fun. But this is not the beach I envisioned Kate using to think about how to get her life together after college. 

The beach I envisioned in One Crappie Summer was the one I used in late afternoons after work during high school. I kept a lawn chair in the trunk of my car. I'd stop at the convenience store for a diet orange soda and then drive over to a little strip of sand that very few people knew about. I'd plop the chair in shallow water and lay out in the sun until the chair's legs had sunk into the wet sand so deeply that I could feel the water under me. I thought about a lot of things on those days.  I was restless then, waiting for the next phase of life, impossibly unsure of how to make it happen.

And so badly, in this book, I want Kate to find her own way. I want the beach to work out in that way for Kate.

What do you do at the beach?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Why an Ebook?

Let’s face it. We all know that I published One Crappie Summer as an ebook because I couldn’t find an agent interested in it. I didn’t ask all of them, but I did ask a few. Agents who read the book said good things like, “Love the story, but Kate needs to be younger for me to sell this.” “Kate really needs to be younger so this fits the YA market.”

Kate, sitting on the boat dock
behind the cabin she rented from a
fishing guide named Skeeter.
For one agent, I tried to write her younger. And then the agent said, "This isn't realistic. A high school kid wouldn't photograph a dead body."

Of course she wouldn't.

Because Kate is not younger. She’s 22. She just graduated from college. And can’t find a job. So she has to go back to her old one where she writes how-to stories for the annual crappiethon. As in fish. And it totally sucks. Until she finds a dead body but not the shooter. To figure out what happened, she enlists some frat boys for help. And all goes well until they find themselves needing to do one little tiny breaking and entering…

One of the problems more than one agent mentioned is that this novel fits into the category very few authors publish in…the category between YA and chick lit. A protagonist needs to be 16 and coming of age or 28 and needing to make life happen before the big 3-0. But I believe there’s an audience, though, even if it’s small.

Of course exceptions exist. Dianna Peterfreund, for one, whose books I adore. 

I have another reason for publishing this book as an ebook. When I was a teenager, I could buy novels for $3. And even though that was a “few” years ago, I could afford $3, and I don’t think it’s fair that novels cost so much more now. I love that Kindle books can be downloaded for less than $3.

When I published a textbook recently with a big publisher, we had a long discussion about the price point because the book is a crossover title written for students and professionals. We all know textbooks cost much-much-much money, and I wanted the book to be affordable for anyone who needed it.

I’m being vague about that book because I’m up for tenure this year at my job that pays the bills, and writing novels doesn’t jive with my research field, so I have to keep the two worlds separate for a little while.

So there you have it. A three-in-one post: You now know: (1) C.J. Branscome is a pseudonym; (2) I write novels secretly at night when no one is looking; (3) I’m completely stressed out about getting tenure. (Well, that last little bit just goes without saying, don’t you think?)