Tag Archives: life

Writers Have a Special Brain

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Kilian where are you???

Kilian where are you???

So just now I had a moment of sheer and utter panic, and I am sharing it with you because:

1. Everyone is fine and
2. Those of you who are writers can pass this onto non-writers so they understand us better.

My dear friend and editor Kilian was supposed to come and pick me up about 10:30 so we could go to Mary’s house for critique group at 11:00. She normally calls to let me know when she leaves her house—mostly because I’m always running late. So, no call. Hmmm. Maybe she is running late, or maybe she lost her phone again. I open the door to listen for her car.

10:40 I call her, no answer.

10:45 I check her Facebook—she hasn’t posted anything in twelve hours!

I look outside; what ifs start to whisper in my ear.

10:50 I call again, no answer. The what ifs get louder and I realize a key plot point, I don’t know where Kilian is staying. You see she is house sitting, and all I know are cross streets, major cross streets, not enough to go on.

I call Mary, who is calm for now, but my panic will spread like the flu through a daycare. We post a note on Facebook and see if anyone responds and each try calling her again.

Now you, as a rational person, might think I’m over reacting. However if this was a movie or a book you’d be yelling at the main character to check it out, and something is wrong.

“But Alica, this isn’t a book or a movie,” says a rational person who is no longer my friend.

In my head it is ALWAYS a book, not a movie because the book is always better. I am always prepared for people to burst into song, for dinosaurs to run down the street, for Thor to declare his undying love for me.

Alica Mckenna Johnson, Thor, true love

Art by marvelous Roland


“No, Thor, I mustn’t. I’m married.”

“Alica, I’ve tried to stay away but my body burns for you. My heart breaks every moment we’re apart.” He clasps my hand placing on his chest. I do my best to feel his breaking heart through those hot, firm, muscular pectorals.

Oh, um, sorry, anyway. . .

I have, at this point, imagined poor Kilian in a multitude of scenarios, waiting for someone to notice she is missing. Hoping a dear and true friend will notice her unusual behavior and rescue her.

The only clue we have is the couple she is house sitting for are part of her Mah Jongg group, at least I think they are. And her group is from her temple. But I don’t know what temple she goes to.

Alica Mckenna-Johnson, Mah Jongg, Kristen Shoemaker

Photo by Kristen Shoemaker

Facebook saves the day! Kilian was tagged in a photo reading Torah at Temple Emanu-El, and the temple has a Facebook page. Yes! Kilian, I’m on my way!

I call the temple and do my very best impression of a rational person. The lovely woman on the other end of the phone wants to wait an hour before calling the Mah Jongg group, does that seem reasonable? I say yes, because it does and it is, but my brain isn’t reasonable and I keep imagining Kilian hanging on for dear life waiting to be rescued!

I call my husband, who has put up with my crazy for 15 years. He is calm but understands my worry. Says it sounds like I’ve done what I can, but if I’m still worried, I could start calling hospitals.

I’d love to say I didn’t go that far. I’d love to pretend I was calm and rational and together enough to also be thinking, she could just have forgotten, maybe out with other friends having fun.

That would be a lie, I called them. No, Kilian, which means she could still be needing rescue!

Mary calls the Temple this time, the lovely lady has now been infected with my panic, but I’m sure a much milder strain, and agrees to start calling the Mah Jongg group.

And we wait. I suck at waiting. My brain goes a mile a minute, but I do my best.

Then Kilian calls. I want to cry with relief.

You see her phone was on vibrate and had been on a table when she lay down to nap, but was in the middle of the floor when she woke up—a clear sign some frantic, possibly deranged, person had been calling her repeatedly.
Kilian simply forgot to put the meeting in her calendar (the date had changed a few times in her defense and unlike me she has a social life). So Kilian was napping safely.

Not on the floor unable to move because a tiger had snuck into the house.

Photo by L E Carmichael

Photo by L E Carmichael


Aliens weren’t holding her hostage making her teach them proper grammar so they could blend in better and take over the world.

Kilian hadn’t been hiding from zombies in the closet, her phone on the other side.

No she was napping. I wonder if she was dreaming of weird buzzing insects from the incessant phone calls someone, not me, was making?

Anyway there is a look inside a writer’s brain. Scary, I know. But now hopefully you understand why we freak out when you’re late and forget to call. Or why we get upset when someone says something and we aren’t sure if it was a joke or a dig at us. Our brains create plots faster than the speed of light, and the more dramatic, the better.

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I’m Invisible My Daughter Can Now Date

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Concealment Shorts, a must have. Photo by Optics Planet

Concealment Shorts, a must have.
Photo by Optics Planet


There is a new kit from Optics Planet, the Invisible Man kit. They say it is great for hunting, hide-n-seek and dating. But I think they are missing a valuable marketing tool, although it would make for a truly epic game of hide-n-seek.

I saw this kit and the first thought I had was Thank goodness. I can now hide from my children while still keeping an eye on them.

Just pop on that ghillie suit and you can watch the kids play in the backyard and eat your favorite treat without children trying to steal any. Oh, yes, I thought this is truly a brilliant idea, and then hubby came home, saw the kit and said. “Okay, Tala can date now.”

“Um, what?”

“Well now I can ‘watch’ her and the boy on dates, so she’ll be safe.”

I looked at the kit and smiled, oh yes.

Look at all the goodies. Photo by Optics Planet

Look at all the goodies.
Photo by Optics Planet

Ghillie suit for instant camouflage—woodland and snow!

A tactical vest to carry all your equipment.

Pro ears to make sure that boy is speaking kindly to our daughter.

Binoculars, night-vision and thermal scopes. You will see them anywhere!

And of course, in case the boy is stupid and didn’t take your threat—um, friendly warning—seriously, a knife and shovel.
Oh there is so much more to this kit, the possibilities are endless.

Don’t worry, I hear your cries. Yes, it’s true supernatural boys are all the rage these days, and yes, a werewolf, shape shifter, or vampire could detect a normal person’s presence. But you won’t be a normal person—you’ve chosen to buy the Invisible Man kit, and they have thought of everything!

Even more goodies. Photo By Optics Planet

Even more goodies.
Photo By Optics Planet

This preternatural boy won’t be able to smell you as you monitor the safety of your daughter because the Invisible Man Kit comes with four—yes four—different scents: skunk, cougar, white-tail deer, and boar! (Please don’t use animal scents on the full moon around werewolf boyfriends.)

What about your own scent? They have that covered, too. The Port-A-P hunting urinal seals so tightly that sensitive noses won’t sniff out your presence no matter how long you perch in that tree watching the den of sin. Or as your daughter said, “Relax. It’s just a party. I’m sure his parents will be there somewhere.” Never rely on other parents again! With the Invisible Man kit you can make sure your daughter is safe. It won’t matter if she’s dating a tattooed drummer or a hundred-year-old vampire, you will be there!

For more ideas watch the Invisible Man video.

What is your favorite part of the Invisible Man kit? How would you use it?

For only $20,000 I’m expecting one for Christmas, and hopefully hubby will splurge and go for the $20,009.99 kit so I can also get the hat!

Two Things That Have Helped Me So Much!

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Photo by Lynn Kelly Author

Photo by Lynn Kelly Author


As a rule I bounce between being a gung ho, do everything perfectly, type-A person, and a lazy, whiny, couch potato. But I have finally found a solution! Now this might not work for everyone, but I wanted to share the two posts that for the past six weeks have kept me focused, goal oriented, and getting the things done that are important to me.

The first is this post by Kristen Lamb. She talks about ADD and writing, and there a bunch of funny and useful information, but the one that hit home for me is FEELINGS LIE. At some point I had mixed my instincts with my feelings, my whiny, lazy feelings that told me I didn’t have to write if I wasn’t in the mood, that if I was too tired to exercise it was okay, and of course if I was craving nachos then there must be something in them I need.

Alica Mckenna Johnson, Kristen Lamb, 40 yard line

Feelings lie, you might be tired but it’s not time to nap.
Photo by Kristen Lamb

Now I take a deep breath, remind myself that feelings lie and I focus on my long-term goals and not whatever emotional numbing food or behavior my emotions are trying to trick me into doing.

It doesn’t always work, there are days when I lie in bed reading and eating foods that aren’t going to help me get healthier, but I’m not eating things that I’m allergic to, which is a huge improvement to my binges.

The next blog that helped me is Ginger Calem’s Writers Butt Wednesday. She gives you small, simple things to do throughout the day. When I started this I wasn’t working out at all, and for me having a small exercise that I do all day was really helpful. Writers Butt encourages you to do 10 squats or 10 push-ups every time you go to the bathroom, and of course since she has you drinking a lot of water you go a lot!

Lyyn Kelly, Alica Mckenna Johnson, bathroom

See plenty of room for squats.
Photo by Lynn Kelly Author

Because taking care of myself and getting myself healthy was in my thoughts all day, it really helped me stay focused on my long term goals. For a few weeks it was just push-up and squats and the water, then I added small work-outs. Spark People has free work outs on their website. I also have two DVDs that have 10- or 15-minute exercises. A few weeks after that I added yoga, because I missed doing yoga. And now I and a friend have started going back to the gym.

You might roll your eyes at doing squats or push-up after going to the bathroom, but really the squats are very easy to manage in almost every bathroom, and I save the push-ups for when I am not working. To help inspire you I have taken a tally of how many squats and push-ups I did in one day.

Squats 60
Push-ups 20

Not too shabby obviously I need to even it out.

So what pieces of advice have inspired you? What words of wisdom or even offhand comment helped you see things clearly? What small steps to you do every day that helps you to stay focused on your long term goals?

Hold My Hand I Have to Plot

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Photo by aarongilson

Photo by aarongilson


I have the best critique group. We support of each other, and always find the gems in a steaming pile of shitty words and clichéd actions. Not only can we find the gems, we help each other get rid of the crap so the story can shine. We put goals above ego. Because we are friends, we forgive each other for not instantly loving our works and we have learned how to curb our tongues to soften the blows. No need to use a broadsword when a stiletto will get the job done just fine.

Mary asked Kilian and me to help her plot her first cozy. I said ‘yes,’ not only because I want to help my friend, but this meant three weeks before I would have to bring any of my work for slaughter. Kilian, our editor, is the one who has to drive the dagger into our stories with her battle cry “PLOT HOLE!” Leaving us gasping for breath and curled into a ball on the floor.

It took three weeks, one week for each act. But what Mary achieved was a great structure that hit all the major points with room to pants as she wrote them, and, most importantly, no plot holes. This aspect was a bit more painful, but with the help of chocolate and wine we got through it.

When we finished Mary’s book, which is going to be awesome BTW, she turned to me an evil glint in her eyes and said. “Alica, I really want to plot out your third book.”

As a pantser, I cringed and threw up in my mouth a little bit.

Agreed, and so the next week I brought poster board, sticky notes, and a rather adorable pout.

In the past when I have plotted, I have felt the energy of my story bleed away and it takes weeks for me to be able to write any of it.

I can’t recommend plotting with your critique group enough. Not only was it fun, but it has saved so much time in re-writes because several plot holes were found before I even wrote a single word. We hit the major points, creating a skeleton for me to work with, but nothing was done in detail, allowing my pants self to dance and frolic as I write from one scene to the next.

Now I will admit before I started writing, I still wore my adorable pout and felt like maybe this wasn’t really my story any more, but once I started writing it, adding dialog, action, and TONS of description the story came to life for me.

And, yes, I still have the sticky notes. I also wrote a summary of each act before the next plotting session to help up remember what we did, and I am using the summary. When I get stuck on what to write next, I open my summary and highlight what I have already done and read over the bits I still need to add.

In the past week I have written over ten thousand words! They’re flowing because I know the basic structure of what comes next.

So not only do I suggest getting an awesome critique group, who are willing to kill your darlings, but also try plotting with them, especially if you are a pantser like me.

Do you plot alone, or do you need to hold someone’s hand?

I am a Movie Grinch

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My poor husband I am so mean to him.

My poor husband I am so mean to him.


I love movies, and I enjoy going to the theater, but I HATE spending that much money. It’s crazy for me and my family. To go and buy drinks and popcorn is over $80! For two hours’ worth of fun, I just can’t stomach it.

My hubby on the other hand LOVES going to the movies and the whole movie experience. So I bite my tongue and try not to act like the movie-going version of the Grinch when he asks the kids if they want anything.

They are children, the money sucking vampires, of course they want something!

I flinch when the total comes up and think of all the things I could have bought with the money we just spent, add in the money for the tickets, too, and my aversion to going to the movies grows. I keep these thoughts to myself as my hubby and the money vampires are now happily munching popcorn and slurping sodas.

Instead I settle in and allow myself to get lost in the film. We really don’t go very often, so the movie watching part is great.

Once the movie is over, I go back to the money issue. Did we just have eighty-plus dollars’ worth of fun? In a few months it would have been at the cheap theater (we have second-run three-dollar movie theaters in town) or even better at the video store. (Yes, I still go to one). Then the popcorn would be organic and a thousand times cheaper than the first-run movie theater.

Photo by Veggiefrog

Photo by Veggiefrog

Again, I do my best to keep these thoughts to myself. Because I live in Arizona, going from the cold dark theater to basically the face of the sun when I step outside, my scowl is mistaken for a personal war against the heat.
Thankfully we don’t go often due to not having a car, not having any free time, and me sighing and saying ‘Are you sure it will be worth it? What’s on Netflix?’

So are you a movie Grinch? Or do you love the movies enough to pay ten dollars for twenty five cents worth of popcorn?

This is what I have to live with.

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Logan

Logan

So I’ve been writing down the odd, creepy, and sometimes funny things my children have said. Please enjoy.

“I always try to have a magnesium block when running from bad guys.” –Logan

“Mom, that’s not how obsession works.” – Tala

“I want Dad to divorce you and become gay and marry Adam Lambert or Cheeks because that would be awesome.” – Tala

“Wait, you mean we have to kill everyone in the kitchen?”- Logan and his friend, age 4

“I’m watching you. My eyes are everywhere. The fish are my minions!”- Tala

Tala

Tala

“Americans are stupid and smell like grease.” – Tala (We are American’s BTW)

“If you find a body in the bathroom, it’s not mine.” –Tala

“I don’t mind the popularity, it’s the fans that get annoying.”- Logan

“I like to violate the law from the safety of my own home.”- Tala

“I want to become a cobbler. It is my life’s dream to become a cobbler. Okay, well, it’s not, but I still want to study to be a cobbler.” Logan

“Mom, guys who are into the things I’m into aren’t hot; they’re really not.” Tala

We’re looking at new cell phones, and, of course, Tala wants an iPhone, and I’m looking at the cheapest. “I feel like I’m in an arranged marriage.”- Tala

“I judge people on the bus, but I don’t look at them.” – Tala

Crazy zealot protesting gays outside a coffee shop see my daughter and her friend walking, and he says. “See: a good white American Christian couple.” And then my daughter said, “Thanks. I used to be a man.”

“Wait, you can get whatever you want carved on your tombstone? Then I want hot, shirtless, anime guys on mine.”- Tala

What is the craziest thing your kids have ever said?

When Showering makes Your To Do List.

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Alica Mckenna Johnson, showering, busy moms, to-do lists

Photo by CarlosPacheco

Mom*/author hybrids are the only combo group of people I know who feel a sense of pride and accomplishment when we manage to take a shower. We’ll even post it on Facebook.

*Note I haven’t added dads because they don’t post their showers on Facebook. I suspect they either don’t care or hose off in the garden when they’re ‘bathing’ the children.

I just showered, put on clean yoga pants, and remembered my deodorant! Woo-hoo. Now it’s time for bed.

I think it is important to note that showering is just body only. Washing hair is another mark on the to do list, and shaving gets its own special ticky box, and announcement.

I won’t say how long it has been, because you might call the health department, but today I showered, washed my hair, and shaved! I know it’s two in the morning but I’m thinking of waking hubby up so he can appreciate my looking like a regular human being.

Do you add showering to your to do list? If you have a different job/life and find showering a luxury that doesn’t happen every day, or week, let me know. We need to stick together.

Warning Signs

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My poor dad if only he had known.

My poor dad if only he had known.

There are a few events from my childhood that should have been a warning that something wasn’t right with me, I would grow up to be a writer. Here’s one of them.

When I was eight I spent hours one summer afternoon throwing a tennis ball against the garage door. It seemed innocent enough, but I was systematically not using a finger as I threw the ball. I started with my thumb, btw it is very hard to throw and catch a ball not using your thumb, then pointer finger, middle, ring, and finally my cute little pinkie finger.

As I tested each finger I would hold it up and see how well I could throw and catch the ball without using it.
The point? I wanted to see if I had to lose a finger which one would be the easiest to live without. At the time it was the middle finger, but I was young and innocent than and didn’t realize how important the middle finger really is for an adult.

So what about you? What strange things did you do as a child? Did you tell anyone? I never did, I assumed every one did these things so it wasn’t worth talking about. If only my parents had known, I could have gotten professional help LOL!

Pleasure an Author Day

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Alica Mckenna Johnson, chocolate, wine, pleasure, author

Photo by Mastermaq


I have decided to make a Pleasure an Author Day!!!! Woo-hoo!Break out the whips and chains, um, I mean wine and chocolates. 🙂

So what exactly are we doing? Well, if you are naughty like me, you have a bunch of books you need to review, and today you shall go and review them. No excuses! Go to Amazon, Goodreads, B&N, Smashwords, anywhere and everywhere you can, and let the authors whose books you’ve read know how much you enjoyed them.
But what if I didn’t enjoy them, you might ask. Well, you have two choices: you can be a wuss like me and only review 4 and 5 star books, or you can review them anyway. For some sites once a book has a certain number of reviews, it gets added to their recommendations lists that pop up, so every review, even unenthusiastic, ones are helpful.

But, Alica I don’t know what to say. Neither do I. I am not a “reviewer,” and sometimes I leave a few sentences, but a few words is fine also. The only rule you must follow is that if you have spoilers, make the first line of your review a spoiler alert, Here, you can copy this one:
SPOILERS, THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS!!!
But, Alica, some places I can’t just leave stars; I have to say something, but what??? Don’t worry, I shall help you, please copy and paste any of the following phrases to make your reviewing process easier:

So much fun.
Couldn’t put it down.
I couldn’t sleep, it scared me so much.
I was on the edge of my seat.
I was afraid to put it down. The action was so intense I was sure things would happen while I wasn’t looking. (Admit it, you do this.)
Buy the super soft tissues, this book will break your heart.
Such a beautiful story.
So sexy, I would like the hero or heroine delivered to my home please.
Kilts *swoons* such hotness.
I feel inspired, thank you.
I laughed so hard I peed a little.

Okay, so in the comments, offer a few more review phrases people can use. Tell us how many books you reviewed today. I searched under the couch cushions and found ten dollars in change and a fuzzy butterscotch, so the one with the most reviews will win a $10 gift card to Amazon.

Da Rules-

1- It is per book, not per review so if you review a book in three different places (and please do so) you only get to count it once.
2- You have to have read it in the past six months.
3- Contest ends Sunday 8/4 at midnight.

Come on you have all weekend to make as many authors shudder in happiness as you can!

Type A persona engaged—warp speed ahead!

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Alica Mckenna Johnson, pasta

Photo by Nebulux76

I was watching So You Think You Can Dance, which I love it is one of my favorite shows. So there I am watching these amazing beautiful power dancers, while eating a huge plate of spaghetti. Then they showed this interview with a young male dancer who’d been in a bad car accident, and his back had been broken.

I teared up listening to his parents talk about how scared they were. Listening to his story, watching him work out with the trainer to re-gain his strength and to be able to dance again I was inspired. That he could go through all of that and fight his way back to being able to dance, and dance beautifully, gave me chills.

As I sat there eating spaghetti, I thought about how hard he had he had worked and what he must have suffered through to be able to dance again, to re-claim his body again, and yet somehow I can’t lose ten pounds and keep it off?

I thought about this, about how if this is something I want, then I should fight for it. And that’s when I realized I wasn’t even sure what I was fighting for. I have been overweight for so long that I no longer remember what it is to feel good about how I look. I want to feel sexy, strong, healthy, and confident in my body. I have no idea what that is any more. And in truth the last time I felt that way, I was a teenager. The body I remember liking was two children, 20 plus years, and thousands of cartons of Ben and Jerry’s ago.

Will I even like my body after I lose weight?

I mean I’ll feel better, be healthier, stronger, and when the Doctor comes I’ll be able to run away from Daleks and such. All very important. But will I like it? Will I think I look pretty, sexy, or be happy at all?

I have no idea, and I think that sense of wondering, that not knowing, makes things harder. The dancer could remember what it felt like to spin, leap, and move across a stage. He had a very clear goal in mind. And I think that goal, that focus, helped him get through the hard times.

I don’t have that. When things get hard some I have some ambiguous idea, but no “I’ll be stronger, I’ll be healthier, I’ll fit into a smaller size,” just isn’t that inspiring. And in that moment, I usually give up—I eat something fatty, I sleep instead of working out, I stay up all night to read instead of getting the sleep I know I need.

How do you stay focused on a non-tangible goal? Do you find a goal you can’t quite picture or feel harder to stay committed to?