3 Life Lessons from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”

It’s no secret that I’m a huge Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan. On the surface, it might seem like an action-packed show solely meant for entertainment. But it’s so much more than that. I believe that this show contains valuable lessons for our lives. Here are a few. Feel free to add your own in the comments section.

1.) Never judge a book by its cover.

Joss Whedon is great at taking stereotypes and upending them. A cheerleader can be a vampire slayer. A vampire can have a soul. Buffy was as far from the flaky cheerleader stereotype as one could get—street-smart, clever, and kick-ass, she was a girl no vampire should want to tangle with.

Or take Cordelia, the head cheerleader slash “mean girl.” She ends up falling for Xander and playing a role in Buffy’s vampire-fighting gang—even if she never quite loses the urge to make snarky comments about everyone else’s wardrobe.

Everyone is complex. People can be strong and vulnerable, smart but naïve, silly but serious—we’re each many, many qualities rolled into one person. And Whedon’s work reminds us of that.

2.) “The hardest thing in this world is to live in it.” –Buffy

Have truer words ever been spoken? The world can be a scary place. Sometimes, even on the most peaceful of days, violence can break through and upend our lives. Uncertainty lies under every step we take.

But so does beauty. As I type this, I have a view of the deep-pink blush of buds on the maple tree outside my window. Maybe today I’ll spot a deer in the small stretch of woods behind my apartment. We can take pleasure in these simple things—a cup of tea, a deer pausing in mid-step, the pages of a much-loved book.

Yet we also have to challenge ourselves. Because Buffy was right. To live in this world requires bravery. We have to try things that scare us—even if what scares us is something that never makes the news. Maybe we want to go skydiving or bungee jumping—or maybe we simply want to try our hand at a new career or tackle an overwhelming project.

I remember the day that I told my boss I was leaving my job in university publications in order to write full-time. A voice inside told me it was silly to leave a job I liked to pursue writing. But I knew if I didn’t, Old Denise would regret it. I would regret the stories I’d never told, the characters I hadn’t meant, the road I hadn’t taken. So I took the plunge. It was a hard decision, but I’m glad I made it.

Was there ever something in your life that scared you but you knew you had to do it anyway? Have you ever moved toward something that frightened you?

3.) We all fight our own battles—but it helps to have back-up.

Buffy may have been the Chosen One, but that didn’t mean her ragtag group of friends didn’t have something to contribute. Giles supplied the wisdom and book-learning; Willow supplied the tech skills and later, the magic; Xander supplied the much-needed comic relief. We all have a role to play, and none of those roles is meaningless. We might not be fighting vampires or saving the world on a daily basis, but we can all help our friends, our family, and our community.

Are you a Buffy fan? If so, what lessons do you take away from this show? What is your favorite TV show, and what has it taught you about living in this world?

Lastly, a midweek ROW80 check-in…

ROW80Logocopy1.) Writing: Wrote 2,165 words in a short story. I’ve put revising on hold for the moment to do some work on this  new short story/novelette, so this goal is slightly revised. Instead of revising two WIPs, I’m going to finish this new one, then dig into revisions on the WIP I finished last round.

2.) Reading to hone my craft: Haven’t read any writing books this week, but I plan to start reading a new book later today. One of four writing books read for this round so far.

3.) Social media: Checked in on Twitter on Tuesday, but took Monday off to spend the day with hubby. Commented on 5 blog posts on Tuesday, none on Monday. On track with my blogging for this week.

What about you? What life lessons have you learned from your favorite TV shows? And how are your goals, writing or otherwise, coming along?

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. It’s also a blog hop!

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Slow progress and ROW80 check-in

Writing seemed to be moving slowly this week, and I’m not sure why. I only revised two chapters, and only one of those involved major additions. The other chapter was just line editing to clean it up for critique. Since I’m one of those people whose self-worth is tied up in how productive I am (if I’m being honest), I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t get more done. But last week is over and there’s always the upcoming week to push myself harder.

Revising is always more difficult for me than writing a first draft. I’m not sure I’ve cracked the secret yet, but hopefully I will this year.

The heart of the problem is this: When I envisioned myself writing full time, I imagined sitting at the keyboard eight hours per day, regularly hammering out thousands of words on a daily basis. A few months in, I’m still trying to find my stride. In her most recent book, “Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World,” Kristen Lamb notes that the pace for a professional writer is somewhere around 2K to 5K per day. I’m still building up my endurance to reach those levels, but I know I need to get there. More than that, I know I can get there.

original image by Myndi Shafer, accessed at WANA Commons

original image by Myndi Shafer, accessed at WANA Commons.

What about you? What do you consider to be a good daily goal for a writer?

ROW80 check-in

ROW80Logocopy1.) Writing:

  • Work on revising Made of Shadows, a paranormal romance novel. No progress on this story this week. To be honest, I’m not sure I’m quite ready to revise this manuscript yet, so I might revise this goal and select a different project to work on. This one might need to sit on the shelf a little while longer.
  • Finish the second draft of the novella I finished in Round 1, Good, Old-Fashioned Magic. Revised chapters 4 and 5, sent to critique partners.

2.) Read 4 books on the craft/business of writing.

  • Finished “Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World” by Kristen Lamb. Highly recommend it.

3.) Social media:

  • Check in on Twitter daily. Every day except Friday.
  • Comment on 3-5 blogs per day, Monday-Thursday. Target met.
  • Blog 3 times a week. 2 out 3. (I didn’t blog on Friday.)

A Round of Words in 80 Days (ROW80) is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. It’s also a blog hop!

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Writing Exercise: 100 little ways to discover your authentic writing voice

Quick question: Have you spent a lot of time trying to discover your writing voice?

Another quick question: Does your writing voice reflect what you love?

On another blog post, I included a link to author Barbara Samuel’s voice worksheet. I was fortunate enough to attend her voice workshop at a conference a few years ago, and her approach to writing and discovering your voice stuck with me. One of the exercises included on the worksheet and in the workshop was to make a list of the things you love. Making this list, she reasoned, would help us to better understand our unique voice.

Exercise: 100 favorite things

A simple version of this exercise is to write a list of 10 things that you love. But I think 10 is too easy. Let’s make it 100. Sound overwhelming? I promise, once you get going, it’s much easier than you would think.

What are a few of your favorite things? (Image from Dreamstime.com)

What are a few of your favorite things?
(Image from Dreamstime.com)

Writers are, by definition, observers of the world and the human experience. We observe birth, death, relationships, love, loss, pain, joy, elation, laughter and sorrow, trial and triumph. Justice is done; hearts are broken. Winter freezes the landscape, and with spring comes the thaw. The things we love in this world are often those that we are most attuned to. And they often show up in our stories, whether we intend them to or not. They just seep out of us onto the page.

After you’ve made your list, examine it. How many of these things appear in your work? If the things on your list often appear in your stories, chances are, you’re writing what you love. And therein lies the secret to your writing voice.

The exercise in action

Here are a few things that made my list: robins’ eggs, the vibrant green of spring and summer, starlit nights, Earl Grey tea, fireplaces, fairy tales, cottages, trees, the scent of lavender, magic.

From this partial list, it’s easy to tell that nature is a strong influence in my life.

After I made my list, I turned to a manuscript I’d recently finished a draft of, and I wasn’t surprised to find that many of these things made a cameo appearance in my story—not all, but a fair number of them.

What makes your list? Maybe you’re in love with New York City. If so, have you written an urban fantasy or a gritty suspense set in the Big Apple? I’m not saying every story needs to be set in New York, New York, but why not allow your love for that city to shine through in your work? If your story needs to be set, say, in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, maybe one of your characters is a transplant and notices how different this locale is from where they grew up in Brooklyn.

Once you have your list—tell me, was it as difficult to come up with 100 things you love as you though it would be?—compare it to one of your manuscripts. What are ways you could make the story sing with this newfound knowledge of your heart’s delight? In what ways does that voice shine through already?

Take, for example, this sentence from my manuscript: Relief bobbed inside her like a harvest apple.

I should note that the main character is a witch, so this sentence, in her point of view, suits her as a character, just as it suits me as a writer. The image is unique, to the character and to the story. It’s not just relief bobbing inside of her, but like an apple—and not just any apple, but a harvest apple.

Now, voice is made up of many things, but one of the key aspects is what we choose to observe in the world. The sentence above could’ve been written in any number of ways, but I wrote it using my unique voice.

Can you identify 10 specific examples in your story where the things you love help create the voice?

Now, can you identify 10 more?

Having a unique, authentic voice is part of what helps a reader connect to a story. Some writers with voices that I love include Sarah Addison Allen (Garden Spells, The Sugar Queen), Alice Hoffman (Practical Magic, The Ice Queen), Yasmine Galenorn (Witchling, Changeling),and Jane Austen—among others. Given that magic, nature, and fairy tales made my list of things I love, the fact that these writers’ voices speak to me isn’t surprising.

I challenge you to look back through one of your manuscripts and compare the imagery, the details and descriptions, the characters, the setting, and the overall word choice to your list of 100 things. Hopefully, you’re pleasantly surprised.

Midweek ROW80 check-in

1.) Writing:

  • Work on revising Made of Shadows, a paranormal romance novel. No progress, since I was focused on other WIP.
  • Finish the second draft of the novella I finished in Round 1, Good, Old-Fashioned Magic. Revised chapters 4 and 5. Going to send those off to CPs today or tomorrow.

2.) Read 4 books on the craft/business of writing. Currently reading “Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital Age” by Kristen Lamb.

3.) Social media:

  • Check in on Twitter daily. On track.
  • Comment on 3-5 blogs per day, Monday-Thursday. So far, so good.
  • Blog 3 times a week with new blog schedule—Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. ROW80 check-ins will be included. So far, so good.

***

Now, tell me: What sorts of things made your list? Did you find some of these things in your story? What surprised you about this exercise? Which authors have voices that you just can’t get enough of?

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Down payment on a dream & Round 2 ROW80 goals

ROW80Logocopy2014 is shaping up to be a very goal-driven year for my husband and me. Last year, I left my day job in publications to write full-time, and I’m more determined than ever to be the best writer I can be and get my stories onto the page and then, one day, out into the world.

We’re also saving for our dreams—to buy a home, to visit a place we’ve always dreamt of seeing, and to be able to retire one day. Writing full-time meant sacrificing my former steady paycheck, but it’s an investment in the life I hope to build. Thankfully, my husband fully supports my efforts, for which I’m forever grateful. Storytelling is a calling, and one I couldn’t put on hold any longer.

So, to save up for a home, we’ve made sacrifices. We went from being a two-car family to only having one car, saving on maintenance, gas, insurance, and repairs. We try to stretch our grocery budget as far as we can, and we’re downsizing to a smaller apartment when our lease is up this summer. We’re striving to live as simply and as frugally as possible. We’re making progress, but I’m also trying to learn some patience. Whether it’s making progress in our writing careers or saving up a large sum, these things don’t happen overnight.

Finally, here are my goals for the second round of ROW80:

1.) Writing:

  • Work on revising Made of Shadows, a paranormal romance novel. I set this story aside for a while so I could get some distance, but I think I’m ready to return to it with a fresh perspective.
  • Finish the second draft of the novella I finished in Round 1, Good, Old-Fashioned Magic.

2.) Read 4 books on the craft/business of writing. Currently reading “Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World” by Kristen Lamb.

3.) Social media:

  • Check in on Twitter daily.
  • Comment on 3-5 blogs per day, Monday-Thursday.
  • Blog 3 times a week with new blog schedule—Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday.

***

Have you ever saved up for a major goal, such as buying a home or taking a dream vacation? (For us, the short list right now is Hawaii, France, and Ireland.) What were you willing to sacrifice to reach your goal?

What are your goals for the coming months—writing or otherwise?

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Tia Bach cover reveal, “Chasing Shadows”

Today, I’m handing the blog reins over to Tia Bach, for a cover reveal of her book Chasing Shadows. Without further ado, here is the cover reveal (lovely, isn’t it?) and the details:

Chasing_Shadows_Final_SFW

About Chasing Shadows (Tala Prophecy, Book 2)

Reagan thought one night changed her life forever, but her fate was written long ago.

Merging creature and white blood,
One of flame, one of night,
At eighteen years it will commence,
Spiritual warrior and power,
Will bring an end to the lawless ones.

A war looms: One that pits brother against brother for werewolf supremacy. Angels and demons will each have a say before a victor is chosen.

With her eighteenth birthday only six months away, time is running out. Reagan must find a way to harness the two powerful, ancient bloodlines coursing through her: Werewolf and Wiccan. Then, she has to figure out her role in the century-old prophecy foretold by her great-grandmother.

However, if Reagan can’t save her family from her most vicious rival, Rafe, the forces of Hell will be unleashed and the war will be over before it starts.

BookCover_Chasing_Shadows_Tia_Bach_SFW_RevealFile

Add Chasing Shadows on GoodReads.
Cover Design by Jo Michaels.

About the Author

Chasing Memories Tia author picTia Silverthorne Bach is an avid reader, sometimes runner, involved wife and mother, and rabid grammar hound in addition to being a multi-genre writer. Her three daughters were born in Chicago, San Diego, and Baltimore; and she feels fortunate to have called many places home.

She’s the award-winning co-author of Depression Cookies, a coming of age story written with her mother. Tia’s office is wherever her laptop takes her and any place that’s conducive to allowing a wild imagination like hers to flourish.

Connect with Tia
Website: www.tiabach.com
Blog: http://depressioncookies.blogspot.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tia.bach.author
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Tia_Bach_Author
GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/TiaBach

Thanks for stopping by, everyone! Have a great day. :)

The Beginning of the End of Winter—and a final check-in for ROW80 Round 1

ROW80LogocopyWow. I can’t believe that winter is almost over, spring is almost here, and that the first round of A Round of Words in 80 Days (the writing challenge that knows you have a life) is ending tomorrow. I enjoyed it a lot—so much, in fact, that I’ve signed on as a sponsor for the second round.

For those of you who haven’t joined, this writing challenge is a great way to set your own goals and hold yourself accountable via your blog and the #ROW80 hashtag on Twitter.

More than that, though, it’s a supportive community full of wonderful writers. So, before I offer my midweek check-in, I just want to say thanks to all my fellow ROW80ers who have offered their support and shared their goals and accomplishments for this round. :)

If you’re interested, be sure to join us for Round 2, which starts April 7!

Final ROW80 Round 1 check-in

1.) Finish a draft of “Good, Old-Fashioned Magic.” Draft finished! Woot! The finished draft is about 34K.

2.) Read to hone my craft, including the following books:

  • Roz Morris’ “Nail Your Novel”: finished
  • Donald Maass’ “The Fire in Fiction”: finished
  • Julia Cameron’s “Walking in This World”: finished
  • Stephen King’s “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” Read “2K to 10K” by Rachel Aaron instead. Loved it!

3.) Blog at least two times a week, on Wednesdays and Sundays: So far, so good this week.

4.) Check in on Twitter daily and on WANA Tribe at least once/week: Target met for Twitter, not yet for WANA Tribe.

5.) Comment on 5-6 blogs per day, Monday-Thursday: On track to meet this goal this week.

6.) Write two articles/posts each week for super-secret project: Not so much. I’m still trying to balance writing fiction and writing for my author blog with work on other unrelated projects. More on that balance next round, I suppose.

This is a blog hop!

What about you? How did the first round of ROW80 go for you? I’d love to know. Are you ready for spring to show up and stick around for more than a day or two?

Empty-nest syndrome for writers: What do you do after you finish a story?

photo by David Coleman | Dreamstime Stock Photos

The baby bird leaves the nest.
photo by David Coleman | Dreamstime Stock Photos

I reached a milestone this week: I completed a draft of my first major writing project as a full-time writer. As I typed the words “The End” at the end of that manuscript, I knew it wasn’t actually The End. After all, this is only the first draft. Plus, I have more stories bottled up inside of me, characters whispering in my ear, “Pick me! Pick me!”

Such is the writer’s life.

But my daily writing sprints working on that story framed my days. Whether I was ready to pull my hair out or completely caught up in the flow of storytelling, working on that novella filled much of my time over the past few months. I awoke Thursday (the day after I finished the draft) to a sort of confusion. No working on that story today, I realized.

That vague sense of confusion mixed with accomplishment led me to wonder, “What do we do after we’ve completed a major project?” I know I want to let it sit for at least a month before I dive into revisions, so I can see the story with fresh eyes. So, what to do…

Take a vacation to the Bahamas?

Sounds fun, but a bit out of the budget.

Clean my office?

Well, yes, this needs to be done, but I needed a day or two to recharge before I tackled the stacks of papers and magazines in there.

Start another story immediately?

Well, I’m guessing that’s what an extremely prolific writer like Nora Roberts would do. And I did spend a day writing down scene/character/plot ideas for a new story. I haven’t set fingers to keyboard yet, though. This one is still in the brainstorming/planning pre-planning phase.

Other things have filled my days: A workshop on the use of Twitter for writers, presented by Marcy Kennedy over at WANA International. Continuing other ROW80 goals, such as reading to hone my craft. Creating an editing to-do list for the newly complete first draft. Making planning notes for a new story. Editing an article I wrote to submit for publication. Add in a dash of spring cleaning, and that sums up what I’ve been doing.

What do you do after you finish a major writing project? I’d love to know!

Sunday ROW80 check-in

ROW80Logocopy1.) Finish a draft of “Good, Old-Fashioned Magic.” Wrote 3,132 words this week. First draft is complete! Yippee! And: Yay!

2.) Read to hone my craft. Read two more chapters in Donald Maass’ “The Fire in Fiction.” Finished reading Julia Cameron’s “Walking in This World.”

3.) Blog at least two times a week, on Wednesdays and Sundays. Target met.

4.) Check in on Twitter daily and on WANA Tribe at least once/week. Target met.

5.) Comment on 5-6 blogs per day, Monday-Thursday. Target met.

6.) Super-secret project: Write two articles/posts each week for that project. Target not met. Admittedly, I’ve been slacking on this one the past few weeks.

This a blog hop!

***

What about you? What do you do when you’ve finished a draft? Do you take time to do something else before you start a new story? Do you edit immediately or let the story wait for a while? Do you need a cool-down period between large projects?