Author Archives: 2wauthor

Why Writing?

This is for all of you readers out there who have ever pondered the question Why did you choose writing as your passion? Well, the truth of the matter is – writing chose me. It is just something I have always done, literally from the moment I first picked up a pencil or a crayon or whatever. I have always told stories.

I began writing long before I even knew that was what I was doing – writing stories. I just had these words in my head that demanded to be put on paper so, like the good little girl I was then, I did so. I put them on paper. I first learned to write by following the format in the books I read. I learned the intricacies and the “rules” of writing in school. In fact, it was my junior high school
English teacher who first put a name to what I was doing – writing. She was the one who unraveled the mystery of the process to me and led me to where I am today. It was her encouragement that helped me to keep at it because she was the first person who acknowledged what I did – and validated it. And for a shy girl who didn’t know her place in the world yet, that was everything.

I have always had an active imagination and many were the times that I would watch a movie or a television show, or read a book and think, I could’ve done better than that or I didn’t like the way that ended, this is how I would’ve done it. That assertion fueled my desire to write. Of course, imagining my favorite actors playing the parts in the movie versions of my books helped, too! And then there were the vivid dreams, dreams that just begged to be made into books when I woke up. So of course, I had to do it.

There are many reasons why I am a writer, but the most important one is this: I absolutely love it. I eat, breathe, and dream – literally – writing. It is my passion, my one true love, the constant that has been with me through every awkward moment of youth, every heartbreak, every triumph, every fright, every success. Whatever I have done – or wanted to do – throughout my life, my writing has been right there beside me, reflecting back to me the life I have led and the dreams I have carried through every moment of my life.

What’s your passion?

Margay Leah Justice is the author of Nora’s Soul

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Revision: The Result

Not too long ago, I posted about the art of revision and supplied a series of choices for the opening of a YA story I’m working on. Here (hopefully) is the final product:

I always knew my name would get me into trouble one day. I just didn’t think it would take this long. Maybe I have a slow fuse or a short attention span or something, but, anyway, it finally happened – I snapped. And my name got me in trouble.
Seriously, with a name like Irene Goode, the probability ranked pretty high, if you know what I mean. Well, I guess Irene’s not too bad – unless you’re like a certain someone who shall remain nameless (Bridget Taylor), who once told me, “We had a cow named Irene once. We ate it for dinner.”
But she was one twisted sister. I mean seriously twisted. Even in grade school. Who would name something and then eat it? Or even say they did? That’s a demented thing for anyone to say, but really disturbing coming from a seven-year old.
Yeah, so tell me something like that and you make an issue out of the first name. But most of the time, it’s not so bad. Not great. (Like Maxie or Roxie, my idols!) But not bad. Oh, no. The problem is the last name.
Goode.
Do you know how hard it is to live up to a name like that?
I do.

So what do you think? Did I make the right choices?

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Revision or: How Do I Make This Better?

I thought I’d do something a little differently today. I thought I’d show you a little glimpse into the process of revision. Below is the latest of many incantations for the opening of a YA novel I’ve been working on for some time. But, like all of the openings before it, it just lacked the punch I was looking for. After weeks of trying to come up with a better opening, I submitted this portion of the opening to an online contest for the feedback and in so doing, had a breakthrough. I finally came up with something that I think packs the punch I was looking for, as well as conveying the information I wanted to convey in this section. Following this version is the new version. I invite you to read both and tell me what you think. Which one does the better job of conveying the information? Or do I still need to work on it? All suggestions are welcome.

Version #1:

I don’t ask for a lot. Really. In my family, there’s not much to ask for, anyway. I guess you could say that demand out-weighs supply. But even if there was anything to ask for, I wouldn’t. It’s just not me. I’m kind of happy with what I’ve got so why ask for more when I don’t need it? Still, it would be nice if, just once, I could ask for this: To get through the day without someone making fun of my name.
Just once.
Please?
No, of course not. That never seems to be the case. Inevitably, someone, some time, is struck by the urge to make fun of my name. And how could they resist? With an unfortunate moniker like Irene Goode, they have a lot to work with.
Yes, that’s right.
Irene.
Goode.
That’s me. A born punchline for all the budding comedians of Amory High. Or wanna-be mean girls.
Today, it was Bridget Taylor stepping up to the mike for her shot at school fame. And me. One thing about Bridget: She lacks imagination. So rather than dazzling her classmates with her stunning wit, she fell short with a dull pun. A variation of which she’d been slinging at me since our first encounter in grade school.
“Can you pass this to the Goode girl?”

Version #2:

I always knew my name would get me into trouble one day. Seriously, with a name like Irene Goode, the probability for trouble ranked pretty high, if you know what I mean. Well, I guess Irene’s not too bad – unless you’re like a certain someone who shall remain nameless (Bridget Taylor), who once told me, “We had a cow named Irene once. We ate it for dinner.” Seriously twisted. Even in grade school. Yeah, so tell me something like that and you make an issue out of the first name. But most of the time, it’s not so bad. Not great. But not bad. Oh, no. The problem is the last name.
Goode.
Do you know how hard it is to live up to a name like that?
I do.

Or how about Version #3, which adds more detail:

I always knew my name would get me into trouble one day. I just didn’t think it would take this long. Maybe I just have a long fuse. Or a short attention span. Something. But, anyway. It finally happened. I snapped. And my name got me in trouble.
Seriously, with a name like Irene Goode, the probability ranked pretty high, if you know what I mean. Well, I guess Irene’s not too bad – unless you’re like a certain someone who shall remain nameless (Bridget Taylor), who once told me, “We had a cow named Irene once. We ate it for dinner.”
But she was one twisted sister. I mean seriously twisted. Even in grade school. Who would name something and then eat it? Or even say they did? That’s a demented thing for anyone to say, but really disturbing coming from a seven-year old.
Yeah, so tell me something like that and you make an issue out of the first name. But most of the time, it’s not so bad. Not great. (Like Maxie or Roxie, my idols!) But not bad. Oh, no. The problem is the last name.
Goode.
Do you know how hard it is to live up to a name like that?
I do.

So what do you think? Which version do you like better? And do you have any revision tips for other aspiring writers out there?

Margay Leah Justice

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When Life Comes Before Writing

Although I often quip that writing is  my life, there are some times when life comes before my writing. This is one of those times. For the past several months, I have been dealing with the latest in a long list of medical issues that have plagued my younger daughter. Issues that were supposed to be resolved on March 16th with surgery on her back. Unfortunately, once she was under sedation, they discovered more problems that resulted in the surgery being postponed until they are resolved. Which necessitated more appointments with more doctors and specialists, all without the convenience of my own car. As fate would have it, my car started succumbing to many little issues a couple of weeks before the scheduled surgery, so I have been forced to find rides to all of my daughter’s appointments. Not fun, but I did it.

So for the past several weeks, my life has been consumed with doctors’ visits and attempts to get a replacement car – and the sheer frustration of not being able to do what I want when I want to because of the lack of a car. For instance, my sister was in the hospital Easter weekend having kidney stones surgically removed, but I couldn’t visit her because I had no way to get there. My older daughter needs to come back on the 29th for an orthodontist appointment and then she is out for the summer on May 18th and I worry that I won’t have a way to get her here. And let’s not get into the inconvenience of not being able to shop without depending on someone else for a ride. Which wouldn’t be so bad if the two people I would call for that purpose weren’t having car issues themselves.

So instead of writing, I am worrying. About how I am going to get my younger daughter to her next appointment; about how I am going to get my older daughter home from college; and about how I am going to get a new car. Believe me, I would much rather be throwing these problems at my characters and making their lives more difficult (for creative purposes) than scrambling for the resources to purchase a new car. I would rather be lost in the fantasy of my written world than mired in the issues of my real world. But, sometimes, life comes before writing.

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Oscar Dreams

When I was younger, our version of reality television was comprised of beauty pageants and awards shows. I grew up watching them all, but the Academy Awards was by far my favorite. With its red carpet and the women wearing the most fabulous gowns and jewels and the clips of movies interspersed throughout, it was a movie nuts’ ultimau knte dream. And, boy, did I fit that profile! It didn’t matter if I’d seen the movie or not, I had to watch the awards show every year and I still picked my favorites. Inevitably, somewhere in the midst of all that glamor, I would start to daydream about what it would be like to win an academy award – I even rehearsed a speech in my mind, imagined myself up on that stage with some famous person presenting the award to me and saying something brilliant and inspiring when they presented me with my statuette.

Flash forward a number of years and…nothing much has changed. I still watch the awards every year. I still pick my favorites. And I still have dreams of taking Oscar home with me (the statue, people, the statue). Of course, it would be in honor of something I had written as my dreams of being an actress faded somewhere in junior high school, but the dream of writing  – and being recognized for that writing – have never faded. I still wonder what it would be like for someone to honor my writing with some kind of award and I still wonder what I would say if I had to get up and do a speech – especially since I have an aversion to public speaking. (Contradictory, I know, but there you have it.) Would I be as eloquent as Mo’Nique when she accepted her Golden Globe for Precious? Or would I be as shocked and tongue tied as Drew Barrymore when she won the SAG for Grey Gardens? I might never know the answer to that, but still, it’s fun to ponder.

So you know where you will find me tonight – watching the Academy Awards and hoping that Sandra Bullock and Jeff Bridges finally get the recognition they deserve for all their years of wonderful performances. And it would be incredible if Kathryn Bigelow won Best Director for The Hurt Locker. Come on, Academy, it’s time to bestow the honor on a female for the first time! And it will be interesting to see how Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin handle the hosting duties together. With those two, anything could happen.

Well, now you know who I’m rooting for, what about you? Any favorites? Who do you want to see win? And do you have any Oscar dreams yourself? Do tell, I’m curious to find out. Until next time, keep the dreams alive.

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Recognition

We all secretly crave it, don’t we?

Recognition.

No matter what we do in life, whether it’s to get a problem eater to try peas or to crack the genetic code, deep down we all wish for the same thing: Recognition. For that one person to notice us and in noticing us, to let us know we are doing a good job. It doesn’t have to be anything grand, just a simple “well done” will do. But that simple gesture can go a long way to helping us validate our own self-worth.

If you’re a writer, that validation comes in the form of someone saying, “I loved your book.” There are no sweeter words than those – except, perhaps, “So when’s the next one coming out.” For a writer, this is more important than an award, more important than critical acclaim, for when a reader tells you that they love what you wrote, that is the culmination of your life’s work. Validation. Proof that all those months, if not years, of slaving over your masterpiece were well worth all of the blood, sweat and tears you wrung out of yourself in the process. And although I, for one, write the stories for myself first before deciding if I will share them with the public, secretly I yearn for that recognition. For someone to read what I wrote and say, “Hey, this is good.”

If you’re anything like me, it takes a lot to get from the just-for-me-stage to the ready-for-prime-time stage for two reasons: 1) I have a wicked internal editor who is constantly dogging my steps, driving me to perfection and goading me with the possibility that I might never achieve it because what I am putting down onto paper is drivel; and 2) I also have a fear of recognition. Deep down, I fear that someone will read what I wrote and proclaim it utter crap.

So you see, Recognition is a double-edged sword; it can cut either way.

What are your thoughts on Recognition? I’m curious to know.

Margay Leah Justice, author of Nora’s Soul

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Distractions

They’re everywhere. Everywhere you look, everywhere you turn, there are distractions laying in wait for you, ready at a moment’s notice to keep you from doing what you set out to do that day. They come in every shape and form and are so stealthy, so sneaky, that we don’t even realize they’re upon us until it is much too late. And then, of course, we must deal with the distractions before we can get back to the plan for our day.

For me, being a mother and an avid reader and knitter, those distractions can be wide and varied. I could be distracted by receiving a new book in the mail, finding a new pattern book in the store – isn’t there always at least one pattern in there that I have to try RIGHT NOW? – or by any number of things my children might need at any moment. Fortunately, my older daughter is delightfully self-sufficient, but my younger one still needs her mom to help her with things. Or we might need to go to one of her several appointments or meet with a counselor or just run to the store because she needs a certain thing to make her feel better when she’s sick. All of these things, added together, are distractions that keep me from the thing I love to do the most – write.

So the question then remains: How do you deal with the distractions? How do you make sure that they don’t keep you from doing what you want to do or getting back to what you want to do? For me, that is the hard part. Getting back in the groove if I have to leave my writing for a moment. Especially if I’ve been in a groove and that groove is interrupted by a distraction. It is so hard, once I get up from the desk, to sit back down again and get back in the groove.

So tell me, what do you do? Do you have any suggestions for me, any secrets to getting back into that place where I can write once again – until the next distraction, that is. I would love to get your input.

Alas, as I sit here writing this, I am trying hard not to be diverted by yet another distraction – my two cats chasing each other through the house!

Margay Leah Justice, author of Nora’s Soul

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‘Tis The Season…For Remembering

As I sit here writing this, I am reminded of the fact that this is the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. All across the country, there will be remembrances and commemorations of this day, which really puts things into perspective when you stop to think about the fact that we are once again, sixty-plus years later, embroiled in another war. This is a difficult situation any time of the year, but it’s especially heart-rending during the holidays.

Whenever I see a clip of a soldier wishing his family well during this season, something pulls a little harder at my heart and I say an extra prayer for their safe return to their families. And I give thanks for the fact that there are people out there who are willing to give up their time, their holidays – and even their lives – so that I might live in a world that is safer for their efforts. Growing up, I was surrounded by people who served their country in such a way. My own father did tours in both the Army and the Air Force. His brother also served in the Army. My mother and one of her brothers served in the Air Force. My stepfather and two of his sons served in the Army and one served in the Marines. My stepmother’s two sons served in the Army. And that’s just my closest relatives.

Fortunately for me and for my rather large family, all of my relatives came back to us safely, some of them better off than the others. Of the group, my father and one of my mother’s uncles (who served in the Army) probably fared the worst. My uncle came back from World War II a little worse for the wear and spent many of his remaining years (for most of the time I knew him) in a veteran’s hospital. My father, who served during the Korean Conflict, suffered from post traumatic stress disorder, which exacerbated his bipolar disorder. In his later years, he was in and out of veterans’ hospitals and never did get a good handle on his condition.

This brings to mind all of the veterans of our current wars and how they often return home damaged in some way. Whether it’s a traumatic brain injury or post traumatic stress disorder, they come home with a condition they did not have when they went overseas to serve their country in this war. I think we owe it to them to take care of them as they took care of us.

So as you grumble through your every day life or brave the malls to shop for your loved ones this Christmas, don’t forget to take a moment to appreciate our men and women who keep our country safe. Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard or National Guard, Police Force or Fire Department, they are all one. They are the people who make our country safe, our world safe. They are the people who make it possible for us to live in relative peace in a country where we still have the freedom to make our own choices and enforce our rights. To all of our soldiers and military personnel, to all of our police officers and firemen – and women! – I say a hearty THANK YOU and I send out into the universe my wish that you all remain safe always but especially in this holiday season. You are never far from my thoughts. And to your families, I also say a hearty THANK YOU for allowing your loved ones to serve us and for taking good care of them when they come home. You are truly special people.

Wishing everyone a joyous holiday season!

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Did You Catch NaNo Fever Yet?

Okay, kids, it’s November, which means, on top of making ourselves crazy with holiday plans and trying to remember what to give thanks for, it’s time for NaNoWriMo once again. For those who are deeply enmeshed in the writing community, there is no explanation necessary. We all know what NaNoWriMo – affectionately shortened to NaNo by the diehards – means: One month of self-induced lunacy whereby we cough up 50,000 words of a novel in a 30-day time period. No pressure!

As frightening as it might seem, at first, NaNo is actually a very good exercise for everyone who ever considered putting pen to paper. Or fingers to keyboard, as the case may be. First, it gets the writer into the mindset of writing something every day – and shouldn’t we be doing that anyway? It also teaches the writer about setting goals by committing to a certain number of words or pages a day, and discipline, by actually sitting down to accomplish those goals. But perhaps the most important thing, in my mind, that it accomplishes is that it gets the writer to write. You can talk about writing all you want, but unless you actually sit down and start the process of committing words to paper, you are not a writer. You are only a writer when you actually write.

So if you decide to take the plunge this year and join NaNo, here are some of my tips for you:

1. Don’t over-think the process or you will never get past the Chapter One heading. Don’t worry so much about paragraph spacing, punctuation, grammar, etc. That is what editing/revising is for. This is only a first draft.

(This is a hard one for me because I tend to over-think everything, but I’ve learned that if you curb that impulse to be absolutely perfect the first time out of the gate, the words will come and you can polish them later.)

2. Don’t listen to the little voice inside that says, “I could’ve done page so-and-so better…I’ll just go back and fix it.” No. Don”t go back, always go forward. Again, this is what editing/revising is for. If you’re afraid that you might forget what it is you want to change, keep a notebook beside you and make a note to change such-and-such on page-whatever. Then keep going forward.

(I am immersed in a constant battle with my internal editor. I love it when I win – but the editor gets its revenge in the rewrites.)

3. Don’t forget to post your daily totals on the NaNo site. When you see that number in black and white, it will give you a sense of accomplishment and encourage you to go on.

(I forgot to do this, so when I finally remembered to do it yesterday, I was pleasantly surprised that I had already topped the 10,000 word mark. Not that I expect to write that many words every three days – I was just on a roll.)

4. Don’t worry about trends and whether or not your story will fit in with what is being published today. Just write the story that’s inside you, clawing its way out. Leave the marketing worries to the time when the story has been polished and is ready to be sent out. And if you try to follow the trends and write something that is already popular (vampires, anyone?) but don’t have a passion for what you are writing about, not only will it show in the writing, the story will most likely fizzle out long before you reach The End.

(I’ve fallen victim to this before, not during NaNo, but just in the course of my writing, and then I lamented the fact that I could have spent the time writing something I was really passionate about, rather than what I thought publishers wanted.)

5. Add buddies. Believe me, having someone there to encourage you in your writing is a priceless commodity.

6. Have fun. Yes, writing is a job, it’s work, and can be very exhausting, but it has to be fun. If you don’t have fun writing, it will show. You should take pleasure in the whole process of creating characters and throwing them into challenging situations. If you start to dread the idea of sitting down to write, then you should probably re-think your reason for wanting to do it. If it’s for the fame and glory, then it’s the wrong reason. Many of us will never reach the same heights as Stephenie Meyer, Nora Roberts or John Irving, but we write for the sheer pleasure of writing. This doesn’t mean that we don’t want anyone to read what we write, we just write for ourselves first. Or at least I do.

7. Write the stories you like to read. Believe me, you will be reading your own story so much over the course of conception to publication that, if you don’t like to read the type of story you’re writing, you will hate the story long before it comes out. If it comes out. I have chucked out story ideas on many occasions, at varying stages of progression, because I just didn’t like the idea anymore and couldn’t bring myself to work on it any longer.

8. Most important: Just write. Now is not the time to talk about your dreams of being a writer. Now is the time to live the dream. Start the process, continue the process, finish the process. Only when you reach The End will you know for certain if you are a true author – or if it was better just to dream about it. If you reach the end and can’t stop thinking about what you just wrote and want to dive back into it,, you are a writer. If you reach the end and find yourself thinking about the next book you want to write, you are a writer. If you have more than one idea kicking around inside your head fighting to be the next to come out – I feel for you! – you are a writer. But if you come to the end and dread the idea of having to go back and revise what you just wrote, maybe this isn’t your calling.

(For me, I couldn’t imagine not writing. I have been doing it since I could hold a pencil and nothing has stopped me from pursuing my dream. Not falling on hard times, a stint in a shelter, being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis or raising a child with bipolar disorder and Asperger’s Syndrome. Writing is my therapy, my blessing, my saving grace. It has gotten me through all of the trying times and sustained me through the lean times. I don’t write because I dream of being the next Stephenie Meyer. I write because I couldn’t imagine a life without it. Kind of like breathing.)

Well, I hope you enjoyed my tips today. If you have any of your own, feel free to add them in the comments. I’m curious to read about your writing process. If you want to learn more about NaNo, check out the link below:

http://www.nanowrimo.org/

You can find me here, under the screen name peefie23:

http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/user/86996

Feel free to post your own screen names and indicate if you want us to buddy you. I welcome all who are willing to add me as a buddy.

Good luck with all of your writing – and reading! – ventures. ~ Margay

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My Whirlwind Year as a Second Wind Author

When I first became published with Second Wind, I was just beginning to build a presence on the Internet, one baby step at a time. I didn’t know a lot about blogging and promoting, at first, but I am the type of person who, when faced with a challenge or something new, goes out an finds information on the subject. So I began to read articles on blogging and promoting, took the advice of people like our own, incomparable Pat Bertram and all of my other fellow authors, and I applied it to my promotional campaign. What I learned can’t be contained in this one little blog post, so I won’t even try. Instead, I will highlight how things have changed for me in the past year.

I think the biggest change is a personal one: Confidence. By contacting blog owners to set up interviews and/or guest posts and just posting and tweeting on a semi-daily basis, I have gained a confidence in myself and my work that I didn’t have a year ago. And for someone who grew up in the shadow of ultra-talented siblings and suffered from a crippling form of shyness into adulthood, this is no small achievement. To be able to speak for myself, albeit through the written word, when I spent the first years of my life in relative silence is a major feat.

Another change: I’ve become more bold and adventurous; I’m taking more risks. No, I’m not bungee jumping off skyscrapers, but what I am doing can be almost as frightening – and adrenaline-pumping. I am entering more contests as part of my campaign to gain more exposure for my writing. As some of you may know, I met my publisher (and several other Second Wind authors) through a contest, which was the first time I’d taken such a major risk with my writing. Through that experience, I’ve learned how valuable contests can be. So, since that time, I have entered the Amazon Break Through Novel Contest, which is now closed, and a handful that are still open: the Dorchester Best Celler Novel contest over on Textnovel.com, the Scarlet Boa Contest on Stella Cameron’s blog (this is my second year participating; I finaled in last year’s contest), and the Romance Junkies Contest. What makes these particular contests unique is that they are reader-friendly in that readers come to vote on their favorite entries. And what I have learned from this experience is two-fold: one, it’s a great way to test an idea for viability in today’s market and two, it’s an even better way to establish a following and create a relationship with your readers. And it’s fun! It’s reinvigorated the joy I felt in writing when I was younger and my friends all clamored for a chance to read my book. Although I have never stopped loving writing, I haven’t felt that pure joy in it since my teens.

Perhaps one of the most important things that has happened to me since I first set out on this adventure as a published author nearly a year ago is that I’ve met so many wonderful people along the way. It has been an absolute pleasure to connect with people who are interested in what you have to say. People who have read your book and passed it along to someone else to read. Bloggers who make you feel right at home on their blogs and invite you back when your next book comes out. Authors who share the joy of writing and publishing with you. All along the way, the people I have met on this journey have been nothing short of amazing and I just want to thank every one of them for making my first year as a published author such a memorable one.

If you are interested in seeing what I’ve been referring to, here are the links:

Dorchester Publishing’s Next Best Celler Contest over at Textnovel.com. My entry is The Jane Austen Society Pages: http://textnovel.com/stories_list_detail.php?story_id=1347

The Scarlet Boa Contest: http://www.stellacameron.com/entries.html My entry is number 133

The Romance Junkies, my entry is Sloane Wolf: http://www.romancejunkies.com/rjblog/?p=611

You can also find me here:

http://margayleahjustice.com/

http://moonlightlacemayhem.blogspot.com/

http://www.myspace.com/margay1122

http://twitter.com/Margay

http://www.facebook.com/MargayLeahJustice

I look forward to seeing you all around the blogosphere! ~ Margay

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