Archive | April, 2013

The Love of Reading

17 Apr

On my first day of kindergarten, I woke up when it was still dark. I put on the dress my mother and I had picked out the night before, carefully packed my new Little Mermaid backpack with crayons, and crept into the living room.

My father had already left for work, and his worn green lounger was empty.  Beside it was a joke book that I loved reading to my brother.  I sat in my father’s green chair and read through the book until my mother woke up and found me.

I’ve loved books for as long as I can remember loving anything.  I knew my letter before most kids were even talking.  Legend has it that my mother was in line at CVS, and I piped up from my stroller–“Mommy, what does P H A R M A C Y spell?”  She said all the people in line turned around with big eyes and looked at the child in the stroller.  She had no idea I even knew the alphabet.  Sesame Street had taught me well.

As I got older, we went to the library at least once a week.  I would check out fifteen to twenty books at a time, and I would have the first one finished by the time I went to bed that night.  My desk at school was filled with books, and I would fly through my work so that I could get back to reading.  Even when I had friends come over for play dates, I would give them the book I had picked out for them before retreating back in my corner.  I would get in trouble because I would read at the dinner table while trying to eat–my spoon hitting my chin because I was too absorbed in the world before me.

Pretty soon I was writing the stories I loved.  My imagination was huge, and I would cast the neighborhood kids in elaborate plots–giving them their characters and their motivations.  We would be mermaids/pirates/lions/orphans/mothers.

My love of reading carried into high school, but I was cool then, and I hid it well.  I read in my spare time, away from everyone.  I was the girl who’d finished reading all her textbooks in the first week of school…the first week of college classes.  I chose English as my major because I loved words, and I wanted to teach kids how to love words.  For four years, I got to read books and talk about books and critique books and dissect books and analyze books and write books.


I bought a Kindle the other day.  I thought it’d be easier to take it on vacation rather than allot ten pounds in my suitcase to lug all my beach reads with me. 

Then I watched this short film, and my heart broke.

The thought of my children (or my children’s children’s children) never experiencing the thrill of imagining what Narnia/Stoneybrooke/Sweet Valley/Hogwarts could be like is disheartening.  I watched a toddler unlock his dad’s iPhone and find his favorite game in seconds, but then saw a child the same age swiping an actual magazine and looking confused when it didn’t work.  I take kids I babysit on imagination walks and point out the dinosaurs hiding in the bushes, and they look at me like I’m nuts. 

I wanted to write books because I love books.  I used to sit in the aisles of Borders/Barnes & Noble/Books a Million and look at the spot where my book would be one day.  And now the trend is e-publishing, and I’m thankful for any opportunity I get, but where does it eventually end?  Is there any comparison to holding it in your hands and smelling the pages right against the spine and arranging them on your bookshelf in the perfect order and holding your child in your lap and letting them turn the pages as you read?

The Kindle I bought sits on my nightstand, and I look at it and feel a shiver of fear.  Is the convenience/ingenuity/portability worth a world of children who can’t see the dinosaurs in the bushes? 



Eleven Things!

16 Apr

So, better late than never, but I’m finally answering Yelena’s “The Liebster Award” post from last week!

Basically, I’ll be telling you 11 Fun Facts about ME, answering 11 Fun Questions about ME, and then…uh…tagging eleven writing friends to do the same.

Okay, real talk.  I haven’t been in this whole writer-y world that long.  Now, if I could tag eleven of my fashion blogging friends… I might have to cheat and do that.  But, thank you, Yelena, for including me in this!  I appreciate it, and hoping I get to build better friendships with all of you.

Eleven Fun Facts about Me

1.  My name is pronounced Tear-a-knee or Tear-knee (depending if we are in the South or not).   If I were using the original Gaelic spelling, I’d be signing things as “Tigernaugh”, which is about as cool as it gets.  Legend has it that my name was supposed to be “Lacey”, but at the last minute, my mom switched to “Tierney”.  Why?   Well, she’d been reading a novel about a Celtic Warrior who saved his tribe, and his name was Tierney.  BALLER STATUS, am I right?!  Also, makes sense that I turned out to be a writer.

2.  I’m a  style blogger over at The Preppy Leopard.  I started blogging after college because I was constantly finding great deals in stores and wanted an easy platform to share my shopping/style tips with my friends.  I also get sent some pretty sweet swag, but lately, it’s getting hard to keep up with that blog, this blog, and then writing in general.   I have gotten to do some pretty cool photo shoots though!

3.  I’m a born again Christian, and I’ve been attending the same church since I was born.  I get a lot of cool opportunities to volunteer and give back to my community.  I’ve been on four missions trips to Kenya, Africa, and then two trips to St. Kitts.   While there, I primarily work with young children (usually six and under).  I also teach Sunday School every week to a very rambunctious group of 3 & 4 year olds.  I write and perform children’s puppet skits every week, and usually whenever I travel overseas on trips, I bring my puppet in my backpack! (Makes for funny TSA encounters.)  Many times, the tribal kids are afraid of people with lighter skin (wazungu!), and having the puppets helps them come out of their shells and not be afraid.

4.  I wear costumes.  A lot.  Usually, it’s when I perform in different plays and skits, but I also have done birthday parties and outreach events where you stay in character and play with kids.   My best/favorite character is Snow White–I can do the voice and everything!

5.   I really love the South–specifically Charleston, SC.  Gone with the Wind (and the sequels!) are some of my favorite books, and I’m a giant Civil War history nerd.  If you show me oaks with Spanish moss, I’m the happiest girl in the world.

6.  I’m also really into retro glam–red lipstick, leopard print, cat-eyes…the works!  I wear red lipstick almost every day, and when I don’t, people usually ask if I’m feeling ill.

7.  I play a lot of video games.  I actually prefer to play games rather than watch TV or movies.  I have a hard time concentrating for long periods of time unless my mind is actively engaged, and video games are kind of like interactive movies for me.  I love anything with action and a great story, and my favorites are the Bioshock series, the Fallout series, the Uncharted series, and The Elder Scrolls.

8.  As much as I love writing, I have a really big love-hate relationship with it.  I don’t write very often, but when I do, I’ll write half a book in a day.  It’s kind of like all the words and characters build up inside of me until I have to sit down and get them all out.  Part of it is probably due to my terrible attention span–it’s just really hard to sit still that long.  But, when I’m on, I’m really really on.  (But still, it makes me feel kind of inferior when I see all these writers on Twitter talking about how many words they wrote that day.  “2k words this morning!” “#amwriting”  I want to be like… I did 45k in one night…two months ago….nm.)

9.  I once filmed a reality television pilot for a popular network.  It was really surreal, and I went through all these Skype interviews with producers to get the part.  They found me randomly on Youtube, and I actually ignored their emails for awhile because I thought it was a scam.  The show never went anywhere, but I basically got paid to talk to a camera about my life and go shopping.

10.  I have two big vices in my life — Diet Coke and tanning (outside).  People like to tell me how unhealthy they both are… but usually they are quieted down once I tell them that I don’t drink alcohol…or smoke…or do any drugs…or sleep around… and that I just want read in the sunshine while drinking a Diet Coke with lime AND IS THAT SO MUCH TO ASK FOR?!  Real talk, I do acknowledge the dangers of too much sun and aspartame, and I try to be careful.  I get yearly skin cancer screenings and drink a ton of water.  I just am so happy when I’m outside on a lounge chair with a good book and a cold drink!  Plus, I’m half Italian, and I feel really weird when I’m not tan.

11.  In college, I was really active in our Student Media department.  I’m very outgoing and I’m comfortable in front of the camera, so that meant I ended up getting to film a lot of cool segments!  My favorites were some of the celebrity interviews–I got to hang out with guys like T-Pain, the Plain White Tees, and The Cab.  My shining moment though (when I got all shaky and unable to breathe) was when I met Travis McCoy from Gym Class Heroes.  GCH was one of my favorite bands at that point, and I could barely talk to him without laughing nervously.  Luckily, he was incredibly nice and down-to-earth!


Okay, so now I have to answer 11 questions!
1. When did you start writing?

I’ve written since I was little–like first grade!  (My first book was about me and my best friend, the Indian Squanto.)
2. Who is the one author you’d like to sit down with and talk if you could?

I feel like this might be a little cliched, but I would love to hang out with Ernest Hemingway.  I wrote a thesis paper about Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and the “Lost Generation” of the 1920’s, and I would love to talk to him about his life experiences and his writing.  Hemingway crafted some gorgeous, tragic characters, and from the recurring themes, you can tell he put himself in a lot of them.  I would just want him to tell me stories.
3. Who is your favorite fictional character?

Oh gosh, this is going to sound so fluffy, but I love Blair Waldorf from Gossip Girl.  (Combine both the TV Blair and the Book Blair.)  I can see a lot of myself in Blair–the constant need to be perfect and the trust issues and obsession with competition.  She’s one of the first characters I really latched on to and rooted for no matter what she did.

I also really love any woman created by Joss Whedon–probably Buffy the most.
4. Beach house, country house or city apartment?

This is probably my hardest question!  Is it cheating to say all three?  I love sunshine and the beach life, but I would only want to be there when it’s warm.  I also love the simplicity of a country life–houses with giant wraparound porches and sweet tea and horseback riding.   But, I love the chaos of a city, and I feel so alive when tromping through busy streets and dodging traffic.
5. What is your favorite time of year?

SUMMER SUMMER SUMMER.  I hate snow, ice, cold weather, etc.
6. What is your favorite sport or fitness activity?

I play a fair amount of sports through our Young Adults group at church, and they’re normally really violent ones like Ultimate Ball/Frisbee/etc.  The majority of us played sports in high school, and as result, we’re more competitive than we need to be.  Right now, I have a huge bruises all over my body from last week’s of Handball Soccer, although I’m proud to say I scored a bunch of points for our team.

As far as official sports go, I play basketball, softball, and volleyball.  I also like riding horses, and if I’m at the gym, I love Les Mills classes (specifically Body Combat!)  My mom owns a Tae Kwon Do school, and I took that when I was younger, and Body Combat is a nice graduation from that.
7. What is one bad habit you have?

See above.  Diet Coke and Tanning!
8. Tea or coffee?

Diet Coke.
9. What is your favorite TV show?

I still think LOST is amazing, and I will still get upset when people misinterpret the ending.  (THEY WERE NOT DEAD THE WHOLE TIME, PEOPLE!)  I also love(d) Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Gossip Girl, The Walking Dead, Revenge, Firefly, and any show with serial killers.
10. If you could only own one book, what would it be?

Not to be cheesy, but I’d pick the Bible.  I read it every day!  🙂
11. What is your favorite fruit?

Pineapple!  Especially when you get it fresh!  When we were in Kenya one year, there was this overabundance of pineapple, and we had it every single meal.  We actually started to develop these sores on our mouths from eating too much citric acid!

Okay, so this is the part where I tag people, and like I said before, I don’t have a ton of writer friends yet so the “no tag-back” rules are kind of hard for me.   I always love reading people’s answers, so if you’ve already been tagged and want to answer some new questions, please do it!

I’m tagging both my writer friends and my fashion blogger friends:

Laura Mallory

Fran – Franish
Rachel Robinson
Lexi – Glitter & Pearls
Kate – Nautical by Nature

Here are your new questions to answer:

1.  Do you have a special story of how your parents picked out your name?

2.  What did you want to be when you grew up?

3.  What was your favorite memory from a child?

4.  If you had to wear one color for the rest of your life, what would it be?

5.  What fictional place would you most like to visit?

6.  Who is your fictional crush?

7.  What is the craziest/most brave thing you’ve ever done?

8.  What has been your most embarrassing moment to date?

9.  If you got to spend one day as a member of the opposite sex, what would you do?

10.  What fictional character do you think is the most like you?

11.  What’s the most likely reason you could end up in jail one day?

The Liebster Rules:
1. The Liebster Award is given to bloggers by bloggers.
2. Each blogger should post 11 facts about himself / herself.
3. Each blogger should answer the 11 questions that are asked by the nominating blogger.
4. Choose 11 new bloggers to nominate for the Award and link to them in the post.
5. Create 11 new questions for your nominees.
6. Go back to their pages and tell them they’ve been nominated.
7. No tag backs.


16 Apr

If you find yourself hurting this morning and in need of comfort, here are some of my favorite Bible verses that never fail to restore my peace.

Psalms 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Psalms 30:5 Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.

Psalms 55:22 Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never permit the righteous to be moved.
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Nahum 1:7 The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him.

Lamentations 3:31-32 For the Lord will not  cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men.

My prayers are with those affected by the tragedy in Boston.

Character Traits-Create Your Own Cheat Sheet

14 Apr

When writing a novel, sometimes you have a huge cast of characters to develop and then keep straight.

Something that helps me is to keep a separate document that contains all the information I know about each character.  This started back when I bought the Sailor Moon RPG book in my early middle-school days.  I wasn’t into DnD or table games or anything, but I just wanted all the pretty Sailor Moon facts and pictures.

One section of the book was all about character building.  It asked you to fill out everything from simple physical characteristics (height, eyes, body type) to personality traits (naive, funny) to dreams (wants, needs, wishes).  I must have created like sixteen new Sailor Scouts through that book.

Fast forward like ten years, and I still do this for a lot of my characters.  It might not be as extensive, but anytime I write a part of their back story or a personality quirk, I’ll add it to their file.

You can search for “creating characters” online to pull up some sample sheets.  Sure, the superficial stuff is great, but don’t forget some deeper questions like:

  • What was the best memory from their childhood?
  • What embarrassed them the most in high school?
  • What did they want to be when they grew up?  Why?
  • What clothes do they feel most comfortable in?
  • Who is their celebrity crush?  Why?
  • What is their biggest regret?
  • Who is their best friend?  How did they meet?
  • What couldn’t they live without?
  • What’s their deepest, darkest secret?
  • What scares them?
  • What’s their worst quality?

This also helps when I’m suffering from writer’s block, I’ll do some free-writing about the character I’m working with–maybe writing their confrontation with a high school bully or running into their celebrity crush.  You can learn a lot about your characters if you really work at it, and even if these are minor characters, they still deserve to be richly filled out.

It’s one thing to have a brooding, creative musician who cares more about succeeding than anything else, but that drive takes on a whole new layer when you discover he’s the son of a famous guitarist who had two platinum albums.

Ways to Hit Your Reader in the Gut

12 Apr

I found this list of “10 ways to hit your reader in the gut” compiled by Keyboard Smash Writers! (original article here) and thought it was worth sharing.

10 ways to hit your readers in the gut

One of the strongest bonds that link us to our favorite stories is the emotional tie, or books that sink a fist right into our guts. When you finished a book where you couldn’t let go of after the last page, chances are, the author successfully punched you in the spleen. If you’ve ever wondered how to do just that, here are some of my favorite methods:

  1. Make your reader root for your main character(s). Make your character stretch out their arm toward their goal, as far as they can to reach, until their fingertips barely brush it. Make your character want something so much that your reader wants it, too.
  2. When your character trips and stumbles and stops to question themselves, the readers will hold their breath.
  3. Push your character to their very limit, and then a little further.
  4. When your character hits the bottom, they should scrape themselves back together and get back up. Give readers a reason to believe in your character.
  5. If your character is challenging your plot, your plot should challenge your character.
  6. Leave a trail of intrigue, of questions, of “what if?” and “what next?”
  7. If a character loses something (a battle, an important memento, part of themselves), they must eventually gain something in equal exchange, whether for good or bad.
  8. Raise the stakes. Then raise them higher.
  9. Don’t feel pressured to kill a character (especially simply to generate emotional appeal). A character death should serve the plot, not the shock factor. Like anything else in your story, only do it if it must be done and there’s no other way around it.
  10. What’s the worst that can happen? Make it happen. Just make sure that the reader never loses hope.

Obviously, not every novel we write will need tons of gut-wrenching moments, but I really liked step 1.  The ability to create a character that wants something so badly that the readers want it right along with him.

Some of my beloved fluffy YA books (like Sweet Valley High) aren’t good at this.  Jessica Wakefield wants a new boyfriend almost every book, and as readers, we are mostly just reading to see what happens–not because we’re rooting for Jess to get her new man (or steal Lizzie’s current man).

I think Hunger Games did this well–in the first book, all Katniss wants to do is to win in order to  protect her sister.  As result, I developed a real affection for Prim, and Prim’s eventual fate (no spoilers!) certainly delivers that epic gut punch.  Katniss isn’t the most likeable character, but I still like and root for her because I want the same thing that she wants–to win and take care of her family.

I might go further and add a step 11–make sure they want something worth fighting for.  (Did anyone else start singing Mulan in their heads just now?)  If all your character wants is to get a boyfriend (ala Twilight‘s Bella), then I really don’t have a huge emotional stake in your journey.  (I guess a bajillion teenage girls can disagree with me on that point.)

What are some of your strategies for creating powerful emotional moments?  Or have you read books where there are way too many gut-wrenching scenes?  (Step Nine made me instantly think of A Song of Fire and Ice.   Characters seemed to die left and right for no other reason than shock value.  It’s a big reason why I wasn’t a giant fan of the series.)

Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling

10 Apr

via Writer Leopard Advice

On Becoming a Writer

7 Apr

The movie Sister Act 2 has had a profound impact on my life.  When I was young, I wanted desperately to join a choir led by Whoopi Goldberg and practiced trying to hit that high note from O Happy Day.

When I got a little older, Sister Mary Clarence’s sassy words of wisdom were still impacting me.  Does anyone else remember this quote?

I went to my mother who gave me this book called Letters To A Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke. He’s a fabulous writer. A fellow used to write to him and say: I want to be a writer, please read my stuff. And Rilke says to this guy, don’t ask me about being a writer. If when you wake up in the morning you can think of nothing but writing, then you’re a writer. I’m gonna say the same thing to you. If you wake up in the morning and you can’t think of anything but singing first, then you’re supposed to be a singer girl.

I wrote my first book when I was six.  It was a picture book about me and my best friend Squanto (of Pilgrim/Indian Thanksgiving fame).  Squanto and I ran through the forest and shot guns and were chased by “woofs”.  My parents thought it was the most brilliant book ever penned, and I felt encouraged to keep writing.  I wrote stories about solving mysteries (during my Boxcar Children and later Nancy Drew days).  I wrote stories about exploring ancient ruins in Egypt (during my The Egypt Game and Indiana Jones days).  I wrote fan-fiction (really, really terrible fan fiction), and later I wrote for a magazine…and a newspaper…and a blog.  Did all that make me a writer?  Or was I a waitress/retail associate/admin/Sunday School teacher who also wrote?’

My father is one of my heroes, and he was one of the people who really propelled me to want to become a writer writer (and not an analyst who also writers).  Funnily enough, he paraphrased the Sister Act 2 quote about writing, and told me if that’s what I thought about and did all the time, then that’s what I should do.

So, I did.  I dusted off a novel I’d been tinkering around with for years, and I started polishing.  And polishing.  And polishing.

In less than a year, I finished a novel, signed with an agent, and am about to sign with a publisher.   It’s surreal to say the least, but I also still hesitate to identify myself as a writer.

I think my personal definition of a writer is someone who can make a living by their words.  But, then this small part of me argues that even if I end up making zero money and have to refund my advance…I still wrote a novel.  (Or two or three…)  Am I still a writer then?

How would you guys define someone who is a writer?  Can anyone be a writer?  Or are there talent levels involved?