Tag Archives: writing

Do you choose happiness?

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Things can be done in the boring mundane way, or you can be like this guy.

In other happy news, I just wrote The End on my fifth novel! Time to start on the next one. LOL

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Pick a Bio

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Okay, everyone, I need some help picking a bio. Feel free to tweak them as I am open to all help.

“Wait,” you cry, “there is no mention of shirtless men in kilts chained to your bed! Alica has been replaced by a pod person! Get your flamethrowers and let’s go save her!”

STOP. While I am thankful for your concern and willingness to burn aliens for me, the first series of books I am putting out is YA.

Yes, I can write ‘clean-ish’ enough for YA. Yes, I’m serious. Yes, in book three there is a guy in a kilt. 
I choose to write a YA series because I spend so much of my time writing that I wanted something my kids could also read. Of course I decided this five years ago foolishly thinking I would have my book ready in a year. Wow, was I ever that naive?

Anyway, I still need your help to pick a fun bio that won’t scare YA readers too badly.

Bio 1
Alica spent the first thirty years of her life walking around with stories constantly running through her head. She never thought of herself as a writer due to her poor spelling and grammar. When the story would stop she wrote it down. Then one day—like a savior in a shining breastplate—a woman with vision, excellent taste, and mad editing skills swooped into Alica’s life and slayed her mistakes, allowing all to read the fantastic stories running through her mind.

In the mundane world Alica is houseparent to an ever-changing collection kids, ranging from 2-12 depending on the time of day. Wife of one amazing husband who helps plot, works out fight scenes, cooks, and always has a stash of chocolate ready. She also startles easily because no matter what she’s doing Alica is always plotting her next great novel.

Bio 2
Being told she was a horrible speller and would never learn to use a comma correctly, Alica never thought to write down the stories she constantly had running through her head. Doesn’t everyone daydream about flying on a spaceship while walking to school?

Not until she was thirty did Alica dare to write down any of the people living exciting lives in her head. The relief was instantaneous. By giving them life on the page they could be released from her mind and given greater adventures.

As her books grew in size and the voices in her head learned to wait their turn, Alica found a loyal group to journey with. Women who would help her slay her commas, and use their magical gifts to traverse plot holes, transform words into their proper spelling, and release characters from any Mary Sue spells they might be under.
In-between magical adventures, Alica is mom to two personal kids, five foster kids, has one exceptional hubby, a bunny she knows is plotting her death, and some fish, aka her daughter’s minions.

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.

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?

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!

Brainwashing, it’s not just for cults anymore

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docguy, weight loss , ice cream

Photo by docguy

I am always my own worst enemy. The thoughts that run rampant in my head can take a turn for the worst, and when this happens my life crashes. Of course, I have big batches of time where I am sane-ish, when I get things done, take care of myself, and feel good. But when things tip, when I lose my balance, these thought come rushing in, and suddenly not writing and sleeping all day sounds great. Instead of eating an apple, I eat ice cream, and getting enough sleep? yeah, that’s one big joke.

So how does one stop crazy thoughts?

I could read books. There are plenty of spiritual/ self-help books that focus on being in the here and now, that offer meditations to let those negative thoughts go. But really I don’t have the time, and I would only do it when I’m doing well.

So I have opted for an easier way, a more passive way, and I’m doing it right now. Subliminal messages. Oh, yes. I am employing the ancient art of brainwashing on myself. I am using a series of tapes, some that are subliminal, some guided imagery, some sleep programming.

If I can’t find will power within myself, then I shall brainwash myself into it!

Right now I am doing tapes that focus on health, healthy eating, and weight loss. But they also have ones on creativity, getting more done, overcoming fears, and tons of other topics.

I have had enough of my brain getting in the way of self-discipline, leaving me the moment things get tough. Maybe these won’t work. Maybe they will. The other day I was planning on eating nachos for lunch. I started to grab the stuff and suddenly did not want them anymore. I had fruit instead and an hour later when I was actually hungry, I made a sandwich.

apocalypse, mango, magoes,

Photo by Tatters:)

I figure as long as the messages aren’t turning me into part of some mad woman’s secret assassin army, it’s all good.

Do you have self-discipline? Are you able to keep the negative self-talk to a minimum, or do you also try to drown the voices in egg rolls and cheese cake?

Please State Your Subject Before You Speak

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Alica Mckenna Johnson

My poor abused hubby, I think he’s ignoring me.

So, conversations with me can be a multidimensional event.

I’ll start a conversation, one line, in my head, in an email, and then start talking out loud, frequently to my husband, who for some reason hasn’t yet mastered the art of reading my mind an therefore has no idea what I’m talking about.

Here is an example:

Me (looking up from my computer): Logan, the book definitely has homosexual themes.

Logan (my 18 year old son): Okay.

Me (frustrated sigh): The book you are reading for school.

Logan (laughing): Oh okay. I wasn’t sure if you meant the book you wrote, or the one you’re writing, or some new plot you’re working on, or a book you read, or a fanfiction.

Rod (hubby bows and spreads his arms): Welcome to my world.

I glare at them all, just because the conversation started in an email with a friend didn’t mean they shouldn’t have known exactly what I’m talking about!

So how do I adjust to fit the lack or unwillingness of my family to maintain a psychic connection with them at all times in case I need to speak to them?

I announce the subject before I start speaking.

Example

Me (walking into a room): Phoenix Child, book one.

Hubby (sighs and continues folding laundry): Okay, go.

Me (ignoring the sigh): So what do think Sara would drink after being attacked by a walk-in while recovering at a trendy San Francisco café?

Hubby: Water?

Me (snorting): No, it’s cold. It needs to be something hot.

Hubby: Tea?

Me: she’s not British. (rest of conversation completed in head). Oh, great perfect, and the shot of caramel really shows her hidden girly side. Thanks honey.

Hubby shakes his head in awe of my awesomeness and continues to fold the clothes.

Are you a multidimensional conversationalist? How do you start conversations with your family that started in your head?

Do writers make good cult members?

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Kevin Bacon, Alica McKenna-Johnson

Kevin Bacon by Sagindie


I watched The Following with hubby, okay I peeked at it while doing other things like hiding behind pillows, and hubby. This is a seriously scary show, very good, but I’m thinking too scary for me.

Anyway one of the followers gets a text saying “do it now.” She strips revealing words written all over her body then stabs herself in the eye with an ice pick.

While wondering how the serial killer could control other people so easily via the internet, the answer came to me.

They are all writers! The killer is a Lit Professor, he has obviously promised to help them craft the perfect novel.

Kristen Lamb, Alica Mckenna Johnson

Photo by Kristen Lamb, an author pushed to the limit?

The woman, poor, poor creature, obviously went insane after being told to revise her book for the fourth time. The text was telling her to get to work, the words on her body her finest, most beautiful, and poetic lines which he has told her to remove from her novel, and the ice pick to the eye? Well hasn’t every writer felt like that when they’ve been told to revise?

Yes, this graphic, violent, bloody, scary show is all about the writer’s process, and our willingness to ‘kill our darlings’ or possibly other people to get a book deal.