Monday, November 14, 2011

Writing Exercise - Mixed Tapes/CD/Playlist

I love music when I write, everything simply flows better with tunes bumping in the background. As a writing exercise, I will ask myself the following question:

"if where to make me a mixed tape/CD/playlist, what would be on it?"

Addie's Playlist 
Calgary - Bon Iver
Dog Days of Summer - Florence & the Machine
Techno Fan - The Wombats
Wishing Well - The Airborne Toxic Event
Shine - Alexi Murdoch
Sabotage - Beastie Boys
Sara - Jefferson Starship
Guido's Song - Nine the Musical
Fast Car - Tracey Chapman
Breathe - Telepopmusik

Whenever I am writing about Addie, I throw her playlist, it is amazing how her character comes to life.

Some of my best playlists have come out of this writing exercise. I'd highly recommend trying it. If you need help, shoot me an e-mail.

Friday, November 11, 2011

1,000,000 words !?!?!!



Someday. I’d like to write, 1 million words in a year or several books, short stories or novels. That is tall order for someone {anyone} who works a full time job and has many other activities {kids, social life etc.} going on outside of work.

I've been working on formulating an obtainable goal for myself. I’ve finally settled on 500k words for a year. I’ve managed to break the goal down into achievable parts –

Plain O’ Logistics

About 41,666 words per month {Not bad considering if I keep on pace with NaNo, I will have 50k worth or words} Or {broken down even further}
1370 words per day.


Other considerations -

Editing – My least favorite task but a necessary evil - decided I will edit as I go. If I am feeling smart, I will take my trusty iPad with me to work and edit on my lunch breaks.

Burn out - is always a risk in anything you set out to do however, I will rise to the occasion and figure out how to beat it and get the mojo back.... I realized it will never be the perfect time to begin. The key is to quit wishing, wanting, procrastinating my time and do something I truly


Amazing what you'll do when you truly love something. You will move heaven, earth and anything in between to do it. Anyone care to join me on this venture? Let me know!

Happy writing!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Tragic Hero

Snape has to be one of my favorite characters of modern literature. He is multi-layered and complex, one moment he is the villain, the next moment he is a saint, he uses his cunningness for survival however it is not solely for himself.

When I am writing, I LOVE for my characters to have depth. I like my villains to invoke a sort of empathy. My heroes to create a sort of rage. In short, I don't want my characters perfect or too idealistic. When the characters are over simply or perfect, I there is a sort of disconnect from the reader.

I am working hard to write a Tragic Hero however I have discovered how incrediabilty difficult it is. I will keep working on it...

Happy writing!


Sunday, November 6, 2011

A lifeless hair cut begins a path of clear vision in writing

Earlier this summer, I had to divorce my hairdresser/colorist of nearly 10 years. Why? His became too expensive. I am a woman on budget, I strongly believe in living within my means so, I set out on a quest, to find a colorist and stylist. The other day, I received a perfect technically correct haircut – great lines, every hair falls into perfectly into place…I don’t like it, at all. Why? It has no life to it. It doesn’t flirt, it doesn’t look like “me.” The results have let me in foul mood however, the stylist isn’t entirely to blame. I went into the salon with a half-assed vision and I did not bring pictures or other visual aids to help present my ideas.

This indecent reminds me of sitting down to write a novel with no vision. For some people the no vision process works very well however, for the rest of us writers, we need some direction. After all, there is a blank page waiting to be filled with wild whirling words!

I don't believe in "one correct pathway" to writing a novel. I believe the process is different for everyone. Over the years, I've taken ideas from other writers and applied them to my process. Most didn't work for me however the handful of tips I have kept, are beautiful!!! One of my favorite tool of the trade is creating a picture outline. (Like a storyboard, vision board or story map...all terms are correct - you pick whatever is best for your process...)

Here's what you do, plan one spending an hour...(trust me, you'll end up spending more but if you are pressed for time, 1 hour will do.)

Step 1 (Hunt and Gather - 5 minutes)

Head to the closet and grab all your old school supplies...
  • Yes, get out the scissors
  • glue stick
  •  a piece of foam core (or other LARGE paper, Moleskine, or even a white board)
  •  glitter sticks (my personal favorite)
  •  fortune cookie fortunes,
  • colored pencils, 
  • Markers, Mr. Sketch Markers (another favorite)
  • All the magazines you've been saving
  • Leaves or ticket stubs or anything else you can think of that might be a part of a story
  • Favorite pictures of actors that might play the part of your characters (or make up your own! Draw them out! Don't worry about being perfect, the pictures don't have to be, this is for you, your eyes only....)
  • Index Cards
Step 2 (Quick Plot - spend no more than 10 minutes on this section)
Take 3 index cards - write a sentence (or two) on what happens in the beginning, middle and end.
Take a few more cards write your main characters names, brief description of what they look like, what they are fighting for etc.

Step 3 (Assemble - 40 minutes)
Divide your paper in three sections, place index cards with the sentence for the beginning, middle, end on top of the respective positions. Take your elements from step 1 and visually create a story. Remember you can always change it....

Step 4 (Clean up & Post  - 5 minutes)
Post the picture up in your writing space. Refer to it, when writing....

This is a great exercise for really thinking about your story in different thought process. Again, experiment and discover what works for you!

Happy Writing!!!!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Traditional and multi-platform publishing

The publishing world is evolving trying to re-invent its niche.
As an aspiring novelist writer, it is both exciting and terrifying to watch the progression unfold. From where I sit, I believe the next evolution of the book is going to multi-media platform.
Photo by HRJ
The multi-media platform will combine traditional publishing, self-publishing, e-formats (on the iPad, Tablets, Kindle, Nook, etc. etc.) along with social media and other elements.

In my humble opinion, we have not maximized the potential of e-formats. Why not include cool illustrations and graphics along with text? Way back in the day, Jane Austen’s books contained really amazing illustrations to go along with the story! (I’ve attached a cool link from the British Library.) Speaking of the British Library, wow! Um, the folks are really progressive in their e-book editions, you should see the copy of Alice Adventure Underground, by Lewis Carroll, available for your favorite mobile device FREE for the next two weeks!

Another idea, why not when someone buys a hardcover or actual physical copy of the book, offer a free (or low cost) e-edition download!?!?
The movie industry does this, with movies. I purchase a Blue-Ray copy of a film, I get a free download of the film to my favorite mobile device.

It is time to be forward thinking about the book formats. I love a beautifully bound book with amazing paper however I also like being able to travel with 3000 books at my fingertips.

Happy reading, writing and publishing!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Writers I Love - Paulo Coelho

Photo of Book Cover by HRJ
Paulo Coelho, is one of my all time favorite writers. His books are sensuously well-crafted and insightful. (I could go on and perhaps in future blog posts, I will.) Aside from his writing, what I love about him, is his un-conventional way of presenting his body of work to his audience.

Paulo is traditionally published but he also gives his work away.  Incredibly risky for any author (or artist), especially from a fiscal/business standpoint however, sometimes when you really believe in something, you must take risks.

As storytellers, our tales are meant to be shared with others. Stories help individuals understand their own lives. Sometimes a tale is meant to entertain or to teach. Whatever the reason, humanity feeds off the shards of mythos writers weave.

As a writer, when I release a story to the world, my intension is;  may the story find it's way to whoever needs the message in the story. In Paulo's case, through his desire to share his work, his stories are known to millions through out the world. 

My first copy of the Alchemist was downloaded from the internet. I read the entire thing in a few hours, after I was done; I went to the bookstore & purchased 4 copies - 1 for me, 3 for gifts.

To this day, I keep buying additional copies to give as gifts – I think my latest count is 24+. I have also gone on to purchase nearly everything he has ever written. 

Today, the New York Times did an interview with him; I’ve attached the link…

A copy of the Alchemist –

In this case his risk paid off. I believe other well published writers have given away their work…Neil Gaiman immediately comes to mind.

I am interested to know fellow writers and publishers thoughts on giving away work. If you are so inspired, please comment below.

Happy reading and writing! XOXO - HRJ

Friday, September 2, 2011

Blogs I like : The Teller

Happy Friday everyone! Welcome to: Blogs I Like, the Friday edition. AKA, if you need some time wasters while at work, waiting for the kids etc. Or if you need, "must look busy at work fodder" well, I am here to help you out! :)

This week is Crystal (one of the founding members of Minnesota Mermaids) she is budding author and photographer - her blog is about, whatever inspires her....check it out!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Finding the Funny

Photo by HRJ - Harvey & Snowman

Not sure of about you, but some times, I take my writing too seriously. After all,  I am writing a NOVEL! Novels are serious! Right?! I am so caught up in writing serious prose, I forget to add humor into my story. 

Photo by HRJ - Harvey Eating
I am not talking about using slap stick or grotesque humor, just little moments of lightness, could add a more connected element to your story. By simply adding a random chicken into your scene.....

**No stuffed chickens or glowing snowmen were harmed in the creation of these photos.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

I Write Like

OK, Pixie Gretchen Ash, asked an innocent question and attached a web link, let's just say I am hooked.
The site is called, I Write Like, right now, I am getting H.P. Lovecraft. I am still giggling about it.
Here is the website, if you want to play along...

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Writer Pryde

The other day I walked into the living room to find my six year old son Harrison walking repeatedly into a wall.
“Harry,” I said, “What are you doing?”
“Oh,” he said (BANG!) “Nothing.”
“Really?” I said, “Because it looks like you are walking straight into that wall and then bouncing off it and walking straight into it again.”
He sighed tolerantly. “Mama,” he said, “I’m not walking into a wall. I’m trying to walk through it.”

Then he explained that he had been thinking about the X-Men, and in particular about the character Kitty Pryde, whose power is to be able to walk through solid objects. “I figure,” he said, “If I hold my breath and just keep trying, I’ll be able to do it, too.”
Now, this is when a more responsible mom would probably have told him to stop. After all, if he kept walking straight into walls he was likely to break his nose—and if he kept believing that he would have superpowers some day, he was likely to break his heart. But, try as I might, I couldn’t bring myself to say it.

See, being a writer is a lot like this. We believe that, if we keep walking into that wall—banging ourselves against that creative block, that hard part of the story, that closed publisher’s door—we will eventually develop the superpower of walking through it.

Impossible? Maybe. Except that I have known mutants who did it before, mutants who got good, got published, got through. I have even been that mutant myself and felt the giddy moment when the thing that was a solid block turns suddenly passable and I step through it as easily as a kid walking through the cool mist of a sprinkler on a long, hot summer day.

So I patted Harry on the head. “Carry on,” I said, “Just tell me when you break through.”
He gave me a thumbs up. “I will.” (BANG!)

You tell me, too, and I promise I’ll do the same.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Mentors & Authors Who Inspire the Death Pixies....

WisCon 35, 2011 - Photo by HRJ
A group of fantastic author's reading their work!
I've have decided at least once a month, to highlight mentors to who have inspired me to keep writing and authors who have influenced my work (and life). It is only appropriate to begin this series with author and Death Pixie mentor, Kelly McCullough.

About 7 (or 8, give or take) years ago, a group of novice writers took a class at the Loft Literary Center, on how to write science fiction and fantasy. At first, I thought he was China Mieville! {He sort of looks like China.} Through the weeks we were together, Kelly taught the class how to build a world, develop characters, magic systems and how to start and run a writers group.  Kelly has a straight forward, no non-sense approach to the craft of writing. His class inspired me to keep writing.

Not only is Kelly is an outstanding teacher. He is a phenomenal writer. He has penned several books and short stories. He has a new book coming out, called Broken Blade, it is available for pre-order. When he is not writing, you can find him blogging over at the Wyrdsmiths {his writer's group}.

I'd recommend taking a class from him and reading his body of work. :-)

Thank you Kelly for being approachable, honest and showing myself (the other Death Pixies) the ropes!!!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Writers With Wings

Every summer our family makes butterflies from scratch. Okay, maybe not our whole family—it’s my partner Marcy who does most of the work—and maybe not completely from scratch: Marcy finds the tiny eggs clinging to the milkweed leaves in the alley behind our house, then keeps them in a bucket until they hatch into caterpillars. She feeds them milkweed and cleans their frass (that’s caterpillar poop to you lay people) until they are big enough to be moved into the little butterfly house she built out of mesh and wire. That’s where they start their transformation.

The Rede family never does anything small, so we usually have about twenty caterpillars—or “cats,” as caterpillar enthusiasts call them-- at a time, and almost all of them live to form a chrysalis, the sleek green pod studded with tiny golden dots like fairy gems. They hang, green ornaments decorating the bare twigs in their cage, until one day the chrysalis becomes transparent like a theatre scrim when the lights go up behind it, giving us an intimate glimpse of the damp new butterfly huddled inside. The butterfly slides out into the world and uncrumples its wet tissue paper wings and beats them to dry them and pump them full of life. And then the butterfly flies away.

But there are always a few caterpillars who don’t make it, and I’ve noticed that the ones who die usually die right when they should start making their chrysalis. The caterpillar gets in the right position, “J-hanging,” as they call it, upside down like the Hanged Man on the tarot card, its body curved like a fishhook set to catch its future self. But when it comes time to actually make the chrysalis something fails. One caterpillar may get partway done and then mysteriously quit, its half-chrysalis hooding its head like a shroud. Another caterpillar may not make a chrysalis at all. It just hangs there as its body gradually straightens and darkens, withering like a leaf on a vine until we sadly take it away.

Who knows why this happens. Sometimes it seems like the caterpillar got confused at the crossroads, mistook death for transformation and absent-mindedly stepped down the wrong path. Other times I imagine that the caterpillar just chickened out. After all, transformation is scary. I used to believe that the caterpillar simply spun a cocoon around itself and changed inside it, like we might duck under our comforter to put on our pajamas on a cold winter day, but that isn’t really the case. The monarch caterpillar actually becomes its chrysalis. What I used to think of as an outer covering is actually something that comes from inside; the caterpillar sheds its skin to reveal the chrysalis within. Pieces of the caterpillar are lost, edited out in the process. Anyone would be afraid.

I’m telling you this because I have seen so many writers do the same thing: the writer who seems to loose interest in her book just when she’s about to write the climactic scene, or the writer who creates brilliant short stories but never sends them out, or the writer who writes story after story but never quite gets to revising them. Writers who quit, for whatever mysterious reason, right on the cusp of transformation, right on the threshold of the next stage of their creative lives.

I have been that writer myself a few times over. Luckily, writers—unlike the “cats” at our house—have nine lives and then some. It is never too late to make this the moment when you push through to the next step, whatever that may be. I truly hope that this time you do, and that you find your wings on the other side.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


I have been leaving mysterious tweets about, mermaid training. Concerned and amused family members, friends have been sending e-mails, asking for some sort of reasonable explanation. Here goes;

I love the water. I love to swim. Water sports in general, I am in. You would never catch me running a marathon however I would swim it in a heartbeat. In high school, you would find at the bottom of the deep end, hovering on my back looking upward the surface, with my fins. Holding my breath pretending I was a mermaid. During swim practices, I'd make-up mermaid stories while I swam laps. {I was a distance swimmer, this skill came in handy.} When I graduated high school, for the longest time, I wanted to move out to the west coast and become a professional lifeguard and surfer. I have not outgrown my love for the water and swimming. In fact, on my really bad days at work, I threaten to run away and join the mermaid show.

So far, I have not joined the mermaid show, yet. {Yet, being the operative word.} Right now, I simply write mermaid stories, draw mermaids and train for the day I am able to be a mermaid.

One day, I was listening to my web stream, when the host mentioned that there will be a mermaid convention in Vegas.  I could not sign up fast enough! The second weekend in August, in Las Vegas is the first ever, MerCon! I have attached a nifty link! So you can read all about it!!!

I will write more about mermaids, writing and other fodder soon!


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Tangled Moments

In Disney’s latest animation feature, Tangled, there is a well-written scene, where Rapunzel leaves the tower for the first time and becomes externally/internal conflicted. The scene moves from her saying, “this is so much fun!” To a imagine of her laying facedown on the ground in despair saying she is a, “terrible person.”

On the way to WisCon35, LA Rede and I were talking about our, “Tangled” moments as writers.
There are moments in the writing process where I think I am genius. Followed by instants of the inner critic rearing its ugly head, taking creative gusto and shredding it.

This manic nature of the, tangled moment, is unpredictable. This is where I usually pick up the phone and call one of the Death Pixies and sob, “tell me I don’t suck.” I’ve discovered, having another creative type to bare witness to your tangled moment, can help shift perspective also, taking a break and doing something completely physical like going for a walk, cleaning etc. helps shift perspective. Eventually the tantrum passes and creative flow returns.

My advice all hang in there (find a tender ear), and don’t forget to breathe.



Saturday, May 28, 2011

WisCon 35

It is that time of the year again, where the Death Pixies converge to Madison to attend, WisCon! :-)

I will be making mini posts throughout the weekend!

Stay tuned!


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Binge Writing part II - Binge Editing

HRJ - iPad Art with PenUltimate, 2011
The chaos to the left is pretty much what editing process looks like - colorfully messy.

Editing. Yes, editing, my most painful part of the writing process however it is necessary.

I should clarify, I LOVE editing other people's work. I detest editing my own especially copy editing, to be honest, I could not tell you where a period goes. Nor what tense I should be using. Etc. This is mainly due to the fact, I had terrible English teachers in high school who told me I could not write. Or I should say, I could write but NONE of them, ever sat me down to hone my potential. Even though, I begged them to. They simply told me I could not write.

Everything I have learned about writing and editing I have learned by doing. Synchronicity has been kind to me, lead me to the members of the Death Pixies and other beautiful mentors along the way.

I know that someday, I will find a great copy editor, who can tell me where a period goes. Tell me what I need to do fine tune my work.

I feel very fortunate that I do have a great imagination, I know how to frame and tell a story. Generally, I do not struggle with building characters, plot line, story arch and worlds. {Yay!}

With all that being said....

During this process, I have made three discoveries

  •   Binge editing is good for me sit down and hyper focus on this part of the process.
  •   Editing {much like film making} generally will take 3x longer than originally projected {I told the DP that I would have pages to them by last weekend. Um, this has not happened, yet.}
  •  I love writing/storytelling, I LOVE it, if I did not, there is NO WAY I would willingly subject myself to this process. {This is most important discovery...}

The binge process is working for me, so far....

I still have more to say on this topic but I will save it for another post.....

Until the next time, happy writing!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Binge Writing part I

Digital Photo - HRJ, 2010
One of the many aspects I love about being a creative type is the ability to morph my process on a whim.

The other night, I spoke with fellow writer, former Death Pixie, {she has relocated to LA}, Gretchen Ash about  cleaver time saving techniques {and other writing related matters.} Gretchen had mentioned how she was going to have a, "writing marathon this weekend."

That phrase haunted me all night long. By the time, Friday afternoon hit, I had an inspired idea, "binge writing."

I find it beautiful even though Gretchen and I had the same goal: to write as many words as we could over the weekend. Gretchen's term, "writing marathon" is her language, perfected and succinct. Whereas "binge writing," is me, I ravenously chaotic my process. No matter how the process is languaged, the results are same - finished material.

I digress.

By the time, I got home from work on Friday, I was ready to go.

Note - I did not go into this process without a plan. I am a strategic thinker, I always have a plan in the form of a mind-map full of words, phrases, paragraphs and drawings. During my lunch hour at work you can find me a coffee shop with my iPad creating. {I will explain more about this part of the process in part II}

The result from the weekend, 15K worth of words written.

Does anyone else have writing marathons? Or binge write? Any tips? Love to read about it.

I am going to pass out now....

Friday, March 4, 2011

More inspiration

Bird House - photo - HRJ
There are stories everywhere, they just need to find you....

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Lil' Inspiration

Bird - Photo by HRJ
I am a visual thinker. I see things in terms of pictures. When planning a story, I take photos, pull pages out of magazines or draw my own. The pictures help me create a feel and look of the story....

The above picture, is something that I snapped around the holidays...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I've become science fiction!!!

I had a moment today, realizing the technology of science fiction has become reality for example -
{I've included some cool links..}

  • iPad - being able to read the NYT or a magazine on a full color, touch screen, iPad.
  • iPod - Who would have ever thought you could store 4,000 songs in a device the size of two fingers? 
  • Skype - Ummm, I remember watching Star Trek were they are talking to each other through the screen?
  • Forehead Thermometers - No more sticking it under your tongue, this thermometer you touch on your forehead and it tells your temp. {It is sooo Spock!!}
  • Robot Vacuum - Yes, they do make them! My friends who have them love them!!! 

I believe science fiction writers {and other artists} have the gift of being visionaries. I like to believe we inspire science and the world around us to invent new technologies...I am excited to what other ideas we inspire people to invent.

It is my hope that we encourage the inventions of conscious design;  environmentally safe, using minimal resources, something that we can repair or recycle that does not fill up a landfill.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

What I Learned Today

Writing is like playing Pictionary: You may be tempted to just tell the reader something outright, but that would be like just blurting out the word you are supposed to be drawing. It's cheating and it takes all the fun out of it. Instead, your job is to make the reader think of the same thing you are thinking of, by drawing the most concise sketch you can (in scenes that use characters' actions and dialogue to get across what you want to say.) Today I worked on converting a bunch of "telling" to "showing" in my novel, turning a bunch of cheating into actual Pictionary. It was a lot of fun. (And it also helped me understand why some great writers are not necessarily great storytellers, why some people who can craft beautiful prose can not necessarily tell stories that grab me-- and, conversely, why some people whose writing isn't "perfect" can suck me into their stories instantly. The great artists aren't always the one's who win at Pictionary. Sometimes it's the clever stick-figure that gets the image across efficiently, and that's what wins the game.)

cross posted with "Children of the Night"

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Creative Beginnings Contest.....

Photo by HRJ - Anthropologie Store - Edina, MN
Let's have some fun! 

We are going to have the first un-official GGRBDP contest! 

  • Write a six word story about the picture on the left...
  • Submit your story in the comments section no later than January 31st at 11:59pm.
  • The Death Pixies will select the winner.
  • The winner will receive an original birch paper painting....made by your truly...{check out  Heather Rachel Johnson for examples...}