27 March 2013


Rule 2

What is sincerity, you ask? The dictionary can help us with that.

the quality or state of being sincere : honesty of mind : freedom from hypocrisy “

Often times, during belt tests for Kempo, the instructors will start asking you random questions to try to mess with your head. If you're doing really well on a test, and don't see you being rattled by anything else, they'll start asking you about stuff from the manual that no one reads after they look at it once as a white belt.

One of the more common questions is what are the five rules of the dojo? Remembering them isn't too hard. But this one time, I had a fourth degree black belt escort me into the office of the studio, sit me down and ask me which rule I thought was most important.

My first reaction was relief—no facing off with a fourth degree black belt. A few breaths later, I said, “Sincerity.”

He raised his eyebrows and asked me why.

The words are gone now, but I remember trying to explain that if I'm going to commit to doing something, I want it to be for the right reasons and I want to be able to put all of the energy into it that it deserves. If you don't know why you're here, what do you care about anything else?

So instead of rambling for a few more paragraphs, I'm going to ask all of you to think about what you do each day. Why do you do it? What do you hope to gain from it? Do you like it, hate it, do it out of obligation? Are you sincere in your activities, or do you fake it a lot?

Think about it, then do something about it.

And don't forget, that being sincere doesn't mean that everything is always bubbly and happy. I think it means that in the end you'll be very satisfied with what you've done.

24 March 2013


Rule 1

What is self-control? According to the dictionary, it is the restraint exercised over one's own impulses, emotions, or desires.

Glancing down at my thighs, as well as the pile of chocolate wrappers I have sitting on the other end of the table, it is apparent that I don't have a great deal of self-control when it comes to eating.

I suppose I could try to make myself feel better and say that I don't eat EVERYTHING I want, just almost everything I want. That's exercising some sort of control, right? (I'm not really feeling better, by the way.)

The USSD manual definition is as follows:

Self-Control - Control over impulses, emotions and weaknesses. Do what you have to do.

Often times in the dojo, the self-control factor comes into play when someone hits you too hard or rolls you up into a little ball and kicks you out the door while you're sparring. (I do hate getting trounced, I'm not going to lie.) The trick is to look at every experience as a learning opportunity, and not let it go straight from your emotions to your fists, and then hit someone too hard. Er, or not at all.

Sure, we also practice control, but that's control over your muscles, balance and coordination, not your emotions. And emotions are way harder to manage.

Thus it is in writing.

Wow, that makes all of this sound very dramatic.

Back to writing...I feel like there are two sides to Self-Control:
1-Butt in chair and hands on keyboard
2-Dealing with the meltdowns

The first is easy to explain—do not allow anything to interrupt your planned writing time. Get in the chair and start typing. It might be awesome and it might be awful. Doesn't matter. Do what you have to do.

The second—dealing with the meltdowns—is a little more tricky. As a writer, it is sometimes hard for me to NOT get angry and upset at: my manuscript, my characters, my life for not cooperating with my writing time line myself for not writing everything perfectly the first try.

These are mental games. I hate mental games—I loose too much. But as a writer you need to be able to deal with your own inner dialogue, which may or may not be helpful, and move forward, no matter what it screams at you. Own it. Control it. Do your best to get over it.

Any other aspects of self-control that I didn't cover?

21 March 2013

Passion and Desire

What do you really want?

Right now. Take a second and think about what your biggest desire is. Not need, desire, There's a difference.

So, what is it? A snack? Your best friend? Sleep? To go play? To stay home? To read a book? To see what Lady Gaga is doing on Twitter? To go shopping? To sit around and watch March Madness for the next two weeks? To go get a pet? To go for a walk? To be with the person you care most about? To go back to work? To do anything besides going back to work? To laugh? To cry? To love? To leave?

The options are endless, and only you can decide what it is that you want most.

If you're not sure, think about this: what activity makes you the happiest? Or what makes you smile the most or the easiest? What gets your blood pumping? What leaves you better than when you started?

Passion and desire do not come to me naturally. Especially as a kid. I was the queen of getting involved in a bunch of stuff and just coasting along for the ride. I played the saxophone in the jazz band, and liked it. I was on the swim team, and had a great time. I used to tap dance, and thought that was pretty fun. I was on a Brain Bowl (don't make fun) team and kind of felt like I fit in.

At one point I was a pretty good musician. But I didn't continue after High School, because I had no passion for the subject. Enjoyment? Yes. Passion? No. Did I go home and pull out my saxophone to get in that thirty extra minutes of practice? Uh, no.

It took me years to figure out that the reason I liked to do so many things is because of the people I met while doing them. The band crowd was much different than the swimming crowd who were way different than the tap dancers who may or may not even acknowledge the Brain Bowl team. But I liked everyone, and while I'm not always social, I like to be amongst good people and watch them be them.

And my favorite part about that was making people happy. Giving them something to smile about—either a joke or a compliment.

Over the years I've found a few things that I am passionate about. Not many, only one or two. But my main focus is still to make people smile. I think the world houses enough angst, pain and darkness, and I feel like it's my calling in life to push that back a bit for those I get to hang out with.

I have to remind myself that this is why I do so many things, and that it's okay if I'm busy all the time, because it gives me the chance to coax a smile from someone who has had a bad day.

And you know what? People pass this stuff along. It's amazing how much one person in a good mood can change the atmosphere of a meeting or an office or a home.

So that's a little more about me. I know I promised some rules of writing, but these crazy quacks I Tweet with challenged me to write a blog NOT about writing. So here it is. I wanted it to be funny (shocking, I know), but felt like talking about this.

Passion and desire are important. Find yours. Go after it. Sacrifice for it—if you do it right, you'll never regret the choices you make.

16 March 2013

Pitch Green

Hey all,

Today you have the honor and privledge of meeting the Brothers Washborn.  Andy and Berk.  Supposedly Andy is below in the green shirt, and Berk is in blue.  But who knows?  I mean really, they could say whatever they wanted to, right?

Anyway, their novel, Pitch Green, comes out on March 16th!  Wait, that's today.  Yay!

So the Brothers Washborn have agreed to a quick interview.  Below are there answers to my (as usual) bizarre questions.

<> If you could eat anything for breakfast, what would it be?
Both Andy & Berk: Hotcakes (buttermilk), Bacon (crispy) and two eggs over-easy, with a tall glass of ice-cold grapefruit juice.

<> Do you prefer leather or cloth seats in cars? Why?
Both Andy & Berk: Cloth, because it does not get too hot or too cold.

<> If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Andy: One of two places. Anywhere or to bed.
Berk: An isolated South Pacific Island.

<> What is the most interesting job you've ever had to this point?
Andy: Repossessing cars.
            Berk: Organizing finance subsidiaries in foreign countries.

<> Tell us about a strange writing habit that you have.
Andy: I occasionally yell random things at the dog while I am writing.
Berk: I occasionally have to stop writing to go eat fast food.

<> What is your favorite quote/saying about writing? What does it mean to you?
      a. It is better than working for a living. b. If it’s fun, it’s not work.

<> What scene of this novel proved to be the most difficult for you to write?
Where one main character, Cal, buries his dog after it was killed saving
Cal’s life.

<> What scene turned out exactly as you imagined it?
As far as we can tell, each scene turns out like we imagine it. We just don’t know for sure how the reader imagines it.

<> What aspect of your life has most influenced your writing?
Reading and daydreaming.

<> Why should people read your book? What does it have to offer them?
If you like interesting characters in a scary story, something to get your heart beating, then you should read this book. (And the monsters are awesome.)

<> If you could write a spin-off novel about a side character, who would you choose?
FBI Special Agent Linda Allen

<> Tell us why you love this story.
We love the mystery and suspense, the scariness and the characters who have taken on lives of their own.

If' you're into scary stories, this book is for you!

Trona is a small, smoggy, mostly insignificant town in Colorado. Besides a booming chemical plant, the only thing that characterizes this dismal town is dirt, sagebrush, and an enormous abandoned mansion.

The mansion is, admittedly, the only notable addition to Trona, but it's something everyone tries to avoid due to its creepy facade. Everyone except for Camm Smith, who is obsessed with the need to get inside.

Seven years earlier, as Camm herded a pack of little trick-or-treaters past the mansion, her young neighbor, Hugh, disappeared, becoming just one of many children who have vanished from Trona over the years without a trace. Now a senior in high school, Camm is still haunted by the old tragedy and is sure the answer to the mysterious disappearances lies hidden somewhere in the decaying mansion. Joining forces with her best friend, Cal, who also happens to be Hugh's older brother, Camm naively begins a perilous search for the truth.

As things spiral quickly out of control, and others die, Camm and Cal discover it will take all their combined ingenuity to stay alive. An unseen creature, lurking deep within the bowels of the mansion, seems to have supernatural powers and is now hunting them. Making matters worse, they become entangled with hostile federal agents, who care only about keeping old secrets permanently hidden. Left with only their wit and seemingly ineffective firearms, they know they are running out of time. Unless they can make sense out of the few pieces of the puzzle they manage to unearth, the monster will certainly destroy them, and like so many others before them, they will be gone without a trace.

If you'd like to stalk these gentlemen, feel free to do so through the following avenues:

Twitter:    @BrosWashburn
Facebook:    TheBrothersWashburn
Blog:    thebrotherswashburn.blogspot.com

14 March 2013

The Five Rules of the Dojo

Okay, so I've always wondered why they call them rules. I mean, rules should be things like, “Don't steal, stay on your side of the road when you drive and no white pants after Labor Day.” Those make sense. But the rules of the dojo are as follows:

Self Control

Wow, I had no idea that's how you actually spell etiquette. Good thing for spell check. Sometimes I love that little, red line.

Anyway, those are the five rules of the dojo. They've all got definitions, which I will share later, and they're all very important. But because we're here, and not at the dojo, I'm going to call them something besides rules. Something awesome. Something that won't come to mind. (Don't you HATE it when this happens?)

I could go with “Guidelines”, but that's so Pirates. I could use “attitudes”, and it might work, but I wouldn't want anyone to get it mixed up with the beatitudes, which are way different. I think. Especially if you read Hebrew, which I do not.

Let's go with code. Sounds cool, and kind of sinister. And I can't think of anything else.

So if the list above is my code for the dojo (and they gave it to me, so I didn't have to think too hard about it), then what is my code for writing?

Certainly there is plenty of both Self Control and Effort going on. If not for them, then I would be drowning in Easter candy and feel fulfilled. Character relates. I'm just sayin'. Sincerity? Huh, not sure about that. I guess we write what we know, and every author strives to help other see the world in a new light. That should be sincere. But Etiquette? (Whew, spelled it right without having to look.) It's your writing chair, your keyboard, your story...I may have to think about that one.

So over the next few weeks, I'll be talking about my code of writing. I'm a process girl, and I think sometimes people wonder if I'm having fun, but I'm happiest when I get something finished. The journey is cool, but the ending is the best part for me.

What about you? Any thoughts? (About your writing code, sheesh.)

10 March 2013

Once Again into the Breach

I'm pretty sure that's the correct breach up there...The other one would just be awkward. 

The past six to eight months have been very difficult on the writing front. I can't say that I've failed. Looking back I see that I've finished season 4 of Babes in Spyland, word-vomited a really rough draft of season 5, written a 80k first draft for a YA Sci-Fi novel, and read a handful of manuscripts for other people. So I've been trying and putting effort in and all that...but things aren't falling into place as I would like them too.

Anyone else ever have this problem? I make a plan, and three days in some “more pressing than writing” aspect of my life pushes its way to the front of my attention, and totally blows me up. I'll refrain from pointing fingers, but I'm sure you all can think of a handful of these minor turned into mountainous distractions. And where one resides, three more live next door, hear the commotion, and come over to join what they seem to think is a party.

Sorry, I'll stop rambling. So I've been stressed. Once I got my last writing obligation finished, I vowed to take a break. And that's what I did.

Over the past two weeks, I've written next to nothing. I read three books, changed the sheets on my bed, dusted, washed my car, took five minutes to sit in peace and quiet with nothing pressing to jerk me out of it, exercised (gasp), and in general felt a little better about life, the universe and everything. Well, maybe not everything, but a lot of stuff.

Now, as I'm staring down the barrel of writing, I'm a little concerned. The point was to give my brain a break, to refill it and allow it to rest. Is it ready to go on?

I'll let you all know how it goes later this week.

What do you do to give your brain a break?

04 March 2013

Five Step Sparring

Because sometimes the first try (or four) just don't work

My Sensei is always tossing out random statistics. I’m not sure if he’s addicted to useless information he finds on the web, or if the bits of knowledge float around in his brain and randomly spill forth.  Sometimes I wonder if he’s not making it all up, which is entirely possible.

This is one of the statistics he has given us before.  I’ve tested the truth of this one for myself.  If you’re fighting someone, and punch them only once, they have like a 90% chance of blocking you.

But punching just once is silly, so let’s say they block, and you punch or kick again.  They then have something like a 60% chance to block it.  The third strike goes down to 30% and the fourth goes to 15%.  If you have the chance to strike them five times, it’s almost guaranteed that you will hit them.

Moral of the story: Strike more than once.

This particular analogy can be taken a few different ways. Today I’m going to go in the direction of ideas.

Let’s say I want to write a story about the end of the world.
First idea=Zombies
Second idea=Attack of the weather/projectile from space
Third idea=God smites us all
Fourth idea=Super Virus
Fifth idea=We run out of toilet paper

Okay, most of these have been done, or are in the process of being done.  If I went with my first idea, I’d have a hard time making it original and have it stand out from all of the other zombie stories.  People are tired of zombie stories (fools), and want something new.

The second, third and fourth ideas have been done a lot too.  Can you make these ideas work? Can you make them totally original and awesome beyond comprehension? Of course you can.  But it’s hard, and new tropes are formed each year, limiting the direction your story can go without being contrived.  Without someone saying, “Oh, it’s just like this movie I saw ten years ago.”

Forgive my last idea, but it would be a serious problem for some of us, and could indeed lead to the end of the world. Would you as a reader see it coming? Toilet paper being the crux of the whole story?  I hope not. If so, you’re as twisted as I am, and you may want to seek help.

Moral of this section: Don’t go with your first idea.

Okay, sometimes you can, but 99% of the time you should dig deeper, and be more creative.  That way, when you’ve hit them with the first four plot twists they’re reeling, and they’ll never see the fifth one coming.