The Maya Angelou Guide to a Great Life

We’ve been inspiring the heck out of ourselves over at Writers In The Storm today with some great quotes from the incomparable Maya Angelou. Who doesn’t want some inspiration on this wintry Wednesday?

Maya Angelou, inspiration

Photo credit: Emily’s Quotes – http://bit.ly/2e6jcwF

My favorite video is her reading her own powerhouse poem, Still I Rise.

Her voice is so comforting, so playful, so moving. And her words…ohmygosh. Her words just shoot fire up my spine.

The most astonishing thing to me is her fortitude. This girl was shuttled across the nation by train at three years old, alone with her brother, with only the train staff to usher them from one leg of the journey to the other. She was raped as a child. She was battered by the chaos of a pre-Civil Rights South. Yet still, she rose.

After her rape at age seven, Angelou stopped speaking for five years. When she stopped speaking, she started reading and the stories kept her afloat. She finally spoke when a teacher challenged her with poetry.

She knew what most of us know: stories are important.

Stories are friends when we’re lonely, comfort when we’re scared, inspiration when we’re down. Stories are a gift and many of us write to pay that gift forward.

I’ve had a hard week, filled with pain from being glutened, so I’m rising through words today. If I happen to lift up some others at the same time…SCORE!

Here are some Maya quotes to lift you up:

We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.

Courage is the most important of all the virtues – you can’t be kind or fair or humane or generous until you find your courage. Courage is required to defend all the other virtues, and to be a whole person.

Be a rainbow in someone’s cloud. We may not speak the same language or dance the same dance, but be a blessing to someone.

You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody.

If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.

My wish for you is that you continue. Continue to be who and how you are, to astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness.

Continue to shine today, my friends! Don’t let anyone dull your sparkle or your swagger. 🙂

~ Jenny

 

Posted in Inspiration, More Cowbell | Tagged , , , , | 13 Comments

Undie Chronicles, Vol. 33: An Undie Jedi Master

When an article begins with “What kind of underwear do y’all mess with?” it’s a sure bet that I’m going to tune in.

The original tease said: “Staffer wears undies for a month and reports back.” I clicked, assuming the report would center around the odd fungus that developed in said staffer’s nether regions. I mean really, what kind of yo-yo wears their pants for a month?

Thankfully, the actual article, from wordsmith Andrew Cross, is about a brand he tried out (MeUndies). It’s titled, “I Tested Out MeUndies For A Month – The Results Are In.”

When an article has this in the second paragraph, it must be shared:

I like that snugness. I like to feel supported, you feel me? But regular briefs make me feel like I’m either 9 or 90 years old.

Especially when it’s followed by an Undie Timeline.

I bow down to a good Undie Timeline.

The underwear coming-of-age story generally looks something like this:

Age 0-11: Briefs. Because you don’t know any better and they’re cheap and your mom buys them for you. You’re wearing Fruit of the Loom if you’re lucky.

Age 12-16: Boxers. You heard a rumor at school that tight underwear will f*ck with your sperm count or your ability to get it up or other foolishness. You beg your moms for some silk NHL team-print Joe Boxers, and she comes home with some floppy plaid Jockeys, but you wear them anyway because you think that’s what you’re supposed to do.

Age 16-??: You realize that floppy boxers bunch up weirdly under your jeans, so you switch back to briefs. But now that you’ve grown and *filled out* a bit, they just feel weird. You feel disillusioned and lost. You’re not sure where to turn. You don’t know where to put your junk. Enter boxer briefs. Maybe you saw a homie in the changing room wearing them. Maybe you noticed them on a Calvin Klein ad in the subway. Either way, you have realized that boxer briefs are the only way to look like a grown-up while still keeping 90% of your clothes on the floor. You buy a few pairs of Calvins and feel great.

The boxer brief is surely the underwear choice of the distinguished man.

[I just want to bronze that last line in a Shrine of Awesome. Are you with me, friends?]

This article says it’s about MeUndies, but it’s really about great writing. I was ready to buy a case of these things after reading this line, and I don’t even have junk.

Honest to god, walking around the office with these things swishing delicately under my jeans is a borderline sick pleasure that everyone should experience at least once. It feels like I’m breaching some kind of weird societal taboo — but nobody knows.

Can I get an “amen?” Doesn’t everyone want to “swish delicately” at some point in their life?

This guy had me from  the first line, but he finishes strong with an Underwear Hierarchy. This was the part that convinced me we need to induct Andrew into the More Cowbell Posse. Posthaste.

Let’s review: 

  • Briefs are for small children and old men.
  • Boxers are for insecure teenagers.
  • Boxer briefs are God-tier underwear worn by the true players of the world.
  • MeUndies makes the best god-damned boxer briefs to ever grace the temple that is my body. 

Trust me, daddy: You want these on your junk.

You can get yourself a pair starting from $20.00 at MeUndies.com.

That’s salemanship, y’all. Stellar salesmanship. Andew is an Undie Jedi Master. Ole, dude. Ole!

I’m wishing you guys a wonderful holiday season, filled with the people and activities you love. I hope it’s filled with much cowbell and plenty of love.

What’s the best ad you’ve heard or seen this holiday season? Feel free to post the link in the comments section. Enquiring minds love to know these things here at More Cowbell!

~ Jenny

Posted in Humor, Undie Chronicles | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

Cool Weather Recipe That’s Great with Food Allergies

When you have food allergies, you spend a significant amount of time and energy altering recipes. Many of you know that I am crazy-intolerant of gluten. Cutting it out of my life changed everything for me health-wise.

There are some unexpected things you must substitute for when you have a gluten allergy. Here are five of the most common.

  1. Spices! I need to find spices that aren’t cut on equipment shared with wheat (McCormick is pretty reliable).
  2. Beer. GF people need alternatives for beer (I cook with cider quite often). The cooking beer I use is plain old Redbridge, because it’s the cheapest. When I drink beer, it’s usually Daura, Green’s or New Grist.
  3. Soy sauce. I use tamari sauce to replace soy sauce.
  4. Soups. Pacific Foods has the best creamy soups around because sometimes you just need Cream of Mushroom or Cream of Chicken Soup.
  5. Bread crumbs. I use a lot of gluten free flour and breadcrumbs for chicken, and the best fried chicken I’ve made is from Corn Flakes crumbs, which are now totally gluten free. This is a recent change in the last year, so be sure your Corn Flake boxes say gluten free. Ditto for Cheerios. There are still some non-GF boxes running around.

Sometimes I run across other wonderful souls who do most of my work for me. Those are beautiful moments. That was the case when this chili recipe gave me back one of my favorite dishes. (I can’t use our family recipe because a lot of the ingredients, like Campbell’s tomato soup, contain wheat.)

Fox In the Kitchen blog has this recipe for a kickass Gluten Free Chili Seasoning Mix:

  • 2 tsp cornstarch or other gluten free starch of choice
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 3/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp herbamare or seasoning salt
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red chili pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder (not garlic salt)
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp sugar

I also add Italian Seasoning to my chili spice mix. And I make such big batches that I always double the above so my chili still has a huge flavor kick.

Time saving tip: Make a bunch of individual batches and save them. They’ll keep in sealed bags or containers for a while.

spice-list

Instructions

  1. Place all seasoning mix ingredients in a bowl and throughly mix until very well combined. If preferred, you can use a mortar and pestle or spice grinder to grind and mix the spices.
  2. Each single batch makes about 2 tablespoons of Chili Seasoning Mix. Use one batch of seasoning per pound of ground meat. We prefer ground beef but ground turkey, or ground chicken also make really good Chili.

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)

spices-mixed

A double batch of spice.

This recipe is Gluten Free, Grain Free, Dairy Free and Egg Free. It can also be Vegetarian if you use extra beans to replace the meat.

What I do for meat

I adore meat in my chili so I usually take a pork shoulder roast or pork ribs, trim off any fat, and throw them into my pressure cooker with a bottle of cider, 3-4 chopped cloves of garlic and a sprig of rosemary. I cook it for 55 minutes on High Pressure.

roasted-pork

Here’s what pork shoulder looks like before shredding. Usually I use 1 pound per batch.

Making the Chili

  1. After shredding the cooked pork and removing the rosemary stem (leaving the spice), I pour the whole shebang into the chili pot.
  2. In a saucepan, sautee your onions and any other types of veggies you want to add. When in doubt, ALWAYS add more garlic. 🙂
  3. I brown some sausage and drain it while I’m on my meat craze, but you can leave this step out if you don’t want the extra calories. Add it to the “big pot.”
  4. In the chili pot, add one batch of Gluten Free Chili Seasoning Mix per one pound of cooked meat and as many beans as you want. I usually toss in 4-6 cans of various kinds.
  5. If you like chopped tomatoes, throw in a few cans of those.
  6. The recipe calls for one can of tomato sauce (14 oz) for each pound of meat. One day I didn’t have any and used spaghetti sauce and it was so much better. Now I just open the Prego, or some other gluten free marinara, and pour in a few cups. The amount comes down to a personal choice about how much you wish to sauce up your beans and meat. Some people use two cups, some people use four.
  7. Simmer uncovered for 20 to 30 minutes, or until mixture has thickened. Stir occasionally.
before-sauce

Before the sauce.

After the Prego.

After the Prego.

Serve warm, topped with a sprinkling of shredded cheddar cheese, chopped green onions and extra crushed red chili pepper flakes, if desired.

Personally, I love to add sour cream or a slice of American cheese. It’s great over fries or chips too, for those times you need some crunch.

Enjoy!

What is your favorite cold weather dish? Let’s trade some recipes in the comments section. We all have enquiring minds that want to know!

~ Jenny

Posted in Holidays, Recipes | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

5 Lessons I Learned From Winning NaNoWriMo

nanowrimo_2016_webbanner_winner_fb

After eight years of trying, I finally won NaNoWriMo this year. It was glorious, affirming, life-changing. I proved to myself that I could write at a professional pace, banging out 2K a day with amazing regularity.

So, what was different this time?

I plotted a bit more than I usually do before writing, but that wasn’t what helped me win this one. I’ve put these lessons below, in order of importance. Some of them completely changed the way I write.

Note: For any of you who haven’t heard of NaNoWriMo, it’s a writing challenge that happens every November where people from around the globe try to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

#5 – Writing every day is about momentum.

I’m not a person who generally writes every day. I have a kid and a job and a social life and it just doesn’t always happen. I have friends who swear by it, but it just isn’t something I can keep up 365 days of the year.

However…

Writing every day kept me immersed in the story in a really creative way. Writing every day kept said story at the top of my mind in a way that taking lots of days off just didn’t match.

#4 – Writing everyday increases my output. A LOT.

Seriously, look at this graph. Look at what happens when I’m really in that story, multiple times a day, every day.

NaNoWriMo

At the beginning of the month, I was hitting between 1800-2400 each day. My birthday is November 10 and I took a break with my honey for a few days. When I started back with NaNo, I just inched ahead on that story.

I’d lost my flow.

I got the flu the week before Thanksgiving, and then prepared a magolicious gluten free Thanksgiving feast. And I didn’t think I’d win NaNoWriMo.

That’s okay, I reasoned. I never win NaNo. I have 24,000 words I didn’t have. That’s close to what I usually do.

Blah. Blah. Blah.

#3 – Enlist the support of friends and family.

Several friends told me they were going for it and I was too. That’s right, they informed me that I was capable.

Jamie Raintree, Julie Glover, my WANA pals and all my fabulous writing friends at OCC/RWA were like, “You can easily do 26,000 words in a week. You write fast. You’ve got this. Plus, we want to be accountable to you and have you be accountable back.”

And my family picked up the slack for that last week of November, which was pivotal.

#2 – Accountability and group sprints are like rocket fuel.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I freaking love group sprints. I’ve been doing them for some time online in Facebook groups or at Twitter hashtags, or over in Kristen Lamb’s WANATribe. They’re lovely and I set a timer. And that ringing buzzer often jars me out of the story.

The NaNoWriMo site has a group sprint tool (under Word Sprints) that’s rocking my world. I’m still using it, even though the challenge is over, and I hope they keep it on the site FOREVER.

nano-word-sprints

The NaNo timers have a cute little “time’s up” voice that isn’t jarring at all. Plus, you are prompted for word count at the end of the sprint so you can visually analyze later if there was a time of day or part of the story where you wrote faster. And you see how everyone fared. If you’re competitive, that part is groovy too.

nano-group-sprints

Being accountable about reporting numbers and meeting up online for sprints is just a little extra oomph to get me back to the page. Love. It.

#1 – I can do way more than I think I can.

I’m not calling myself a lazy-ass. It’s more that I get in my own way. My “you can’t do that” voice seems to be much louder than my “you can totally do that” voice, and that’s a damn shame.

This was my biggest lesson this last November: Get. Out. Of. Your. Own. Way.

When I sat down and played with my story every day (being accountable to my friend, Julie Glover) we moved mountains.

I busted out 3-4-5,000 words in a day. Easily. One crazy day, I wrote almost 7,500 words. I’d never done that before because my silly brain didn’t know it was possible. What a huge eye opener that was!

Get immersed in the story and sit down and write until you can’t any more. Take a break. Repeat. That was the “magic formula” for 2016. It worked and I had so much fun because I got out the way of my inner happy storyteller.

What is the last goal you worked for that you met? Is your “no you can’t” voice louder than your “sure you can” voice? Have you every participated in NaNoWriMo? Enquiring minds love to know these things here at More Cowbell!

~ Jenny

Posted in Inspiration, NaNoWriMo | Tagged , , , , , | 49 Comments

The Almost X-Rated Garage Sale Reboot

Photo from YourHoustonNews.com

After a weekend of family holiday time, I thought y’all might appreciate a family story about my grandmother and “The Almost X-Rated Garage Sale.” Since y’all are my posse, I’ll give you all the deets (except the parts that would get me disowned).

It all began with a kitchen table discussion about the “color of the covers” for Harlequin/Silhouette romance novels…

I distinctly remember getting the following information at a writer’s meeting:

The colors on the covers of Harlequin and Silhouette category romances tell you about the amount of sex you will find in the books. (At least they used to.)

  • Pastels such as pink or blue will have no actual sex scenes and will end in marriage.
  • Deep greens, blues, purples will have at least one sex scene and will end in marriage.
  • Red covers will have multiple sex scenes and do NOT have to end in marriage.

Here’s a great post on what Harlequin has to say about their covers.

You know I had to clue my female relatives into the whole Red Covers thing. They love being “in the know.”

Several of the ladies immediately went in together on a monthly subscription. My mom’s best friend got them delivered to her house because she has a covered porch. (Remember this is a small town in Missouri.)

Y’all have heard about my family before. We’ve got creative potty-mouths and gang-banging chickens. There’s even a Bag Whore or two. Very few subjects are sacred.

[Don’t say I didn’t warn you.]

The friend would read them and pass them on until everyone who was interested got a peek. We had a fine time talking about the anatomical impossibility of some of the scenes and, when one of the authors described a hero as “God of Beefcake,” all the ladies in my family nearly peed themselves laughing.

Apparently, my grandmother was into the red covers. Really into them.

When she passed away, there were TONS of Blaze novels and various “red covers” at her house. She never said a word…just somehow made sure she was the final stop  on the “Red-Cover Train.”

And my mom and aunties also found other  things. Things we REALLY didn’t want to know about…

They were cleaning out my grandmother’s bedroom when one auntie opened the drawers of the bedside table. Her jaw dropped and all she could say was: “Oh. My. God.”

My other aunt walked over and peered over the first one’s shoulder before sitting down on the bed and saying, “Oh. My. GOSH” a ton of times.

Apparently, there were some…um…personal massagers in that there drawer.

My mother, being who she was (hilarious), immediately started cracking jokes about “what a big bang the garage sale was gonna be.”

My favorite gems:

  • “Maybe we can curtain a corner off like they do in the video store and sell them in there.” (Everyone wanted to know how she knew about the adult section in the video store.)
  • “We could have PG-13 and X-rated sections – one would just have the Red Covers and the other would have BOTH.”
  • “What if we get some of that raffia like they have at the mall and tie the Red Covers together with the massagers?”
  • “Do you think it would make things more upscale if we included a pretty washcloth like they do at The Body Shop?”

I was over in California, busting a gut laughing about all this. I didn’t get to see any of the items in question (thank you, Jesus), but I heard about them for weeks.

Finally, the garage sale weekend came and I could NOT wait to hear all the details. I called my mom the minute I woke up Sunday, asking “How did it go??? Did you get arrested for porn trafficking?”

“Your aunt wouldn’t let me do it,” she said. “She was afraid we’d end up in the Daily News and she’d have to go into seclusion.”

“Well, what did you do with all of it then?”

“We gave it to Goodwill.”

And the jokes started all over again…

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen at a garage sale? Have you ever sold anything you were embarrassed about later? Ever been written up in the paper for it? Enquiring minds LOVE to know these things here at More Cowbell!

Jenny

Posted in Humor, More Cowbell | Tagged , , , , , | 19 Comments

How to Survive “Turkey Block” and Other Thanksgiving-y Things

More Cowbell

Oh my sweet potato pie! It’s Thanksgiving week here in the U.S. and I am in the usual flurry. I had the flu last week, which was not a pretty thing as it brought my world to a screeching halt for several days. But there are several bright sides here that I thought I’d share in case anyone else is acting like a headless chicken.

I’m not completely knocked out of NaNoWrimMo contention.

Okay, I probably am. I’ve been hovering around 24K in NaNoWriMo for days, and I’m unlikely to win with Thanksgiving prep in front of me. Still…TWENTY-FOUR THOUSAND wordaroonies. That’s more than I get to some years and it’s not even the end of the month. Wahoo!!

My Thanksgiving shopping is 90% done.

If you know about my gluten free Thanksgiving needs, you know that’s major. I have everyone over here every year so I can eat my favorite things and not get glutened (which equals the Migraine of Death).

GF SoupsThat’s two super cool things up there. I like to cook and I like to write. And I LOVE to see my family. But hello? Hosting Turkey Day is a ton of work, as many of you know. And I just had the flu.

Also, I fear that I am the only one who still has Turkey Block.

Y’all remember the dreaded Turkey Block, right? This ain’t no gastric thang. This is a major phobia.

Turkey freakage.
Poultry Interruptus.
Fear. Of. The. Bird.

Every year, I start getting wiggy about the gobbler until my husband takes pity and volunteers for the bird. I just can’t take the responsibility of the main event.

Here are the 5 signs that you too suffer from Turkey Block. (It’s a thing. Don’t judge.)

Today is the Thanksgiving feast at the girlie’s school, so I’ll try to get a recording of that cuteness for you guys. And I’ll be hard at work, writing and prepping. And cleaning the house. The Hubs is giving my ginormous stack of paperwork the side eye so I’ve got to go save it.

But in the midst of all that, I am thankful. I am thankful for the tremendous friends I’ve found through this blog and through my online writing groups. I’m thankful for my family and that we are able to gather for this holiday. I’m thankful for the service men and women who sacrifice time with their family so we can be with ours.

What is on tap for you this week? What dish do you most look forward to at Thanksgiving? Which one do you dread making? Share some favorite recipes, will you? Enquiring minds love to know these things here at More Cowbell!

~ Jenny

Posted in Holidays, NaNoWriMo | Tagged , , , , , | 9 Comments

30 Things I’d Rather Be Called than Pretty

We all have that one word that sets us off, for reasons that elude others. For some it’s “nice,” for others it might be “tall.” None of those words are bad, but have you considered what you’d rather be called than that word you hate? Oddysey’s post “30 Things I’d Rather Be Than ‘Pretty‘” got me thinking about this. It’s shocking how hard it was to come up with thirty.

How do I want to be perceived? How do I want my daughter to perceive herself?

Throughout her short life, I’ve worked to find other qualities to compliment my child about, rather than her looks. I tell her she’s smart, creative, responsible, grown-up, so cute…and yes, sometimes a girl just needs to hear that she looks awesome and pretty.

What would I rather be called? What words make my soul light up and dance? Here are 30 that make me feel downright zingy:

[And yes, I alphabetized. I dream of being an organized person, you know.]

1.  Badass

Badassery is a highly underrated quality, in my opinion. It encompasses many other qualities. I read a book on the topic I think y’all would love: You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life.

2.  Brave

The dictionary says this means: “ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage.” To me, bravery means doing things that scare you.

Bravery

3.  Capable

I like to learn new things…except for those times when I don’t. You know what I mean. The things you must do and basic skills you must master to do this adulting thing. You’ve gotta do them, even when you don’t enjoy them. To me, it’s a great compliment when someone says, “That chick is capable. She gets things done.”

4.  Competent

Competent is even better than capable. Think about how annoying incompetence is at work. Now think of the glow that comes with competence. Those are the people you want to hitch wagons with, whether it’s a scavenger hunt or something much much bigger.

5.  Confident

Who doesn’t want to be confident? To feel good about their decisions. This is a great word.

6. Cowbellish

Yup, you heard me. Full of cowbell. A person who really uses their studio space.

7.  Creative

Creative is fun. Creative ROCKS. Creativity is what most of us strive for. Why just settle for “thinking outside the box,” when you can walk all the way around the box and draw cool pictures?

8.  Disciplined

I dream of being an organized person and organization takes discipline. I’ll think, “Oh, wouldn’t it be nice to have a routine and a schedule?” However, my brain doesn’t work that way, so except for external things like deadlines and training classes, or internal things like mealtimes, my world is pretty much a free-for-all.

9. Dreamy

Daydreams are vital for creatives, as studies have proven our life satisfaction increases when we dream about those we know. For authors, that’s our characters. I get a lot of creative work done when I take time to dream.

dreams_langstonhughes

10.  Empathetic

Everybody has a path of fire they must walk. You might not see it, you might not hear about it, but they have it. I’d like to be described as someone who could understand other peoples’ point of view and have empathy for their feelings.

11. Fabulous

Isn’t this a great word? Fab-you-lous! There’s so many ways to say this. Fab-uh-luss.

12.  Flexible

If Plan A doesn’t work, it’s nice to be flexible enough to go with Plan B. It makes life simpler when you can just go with the flowThis doesn’t mean being a pushover, it means being able to adjust.

Ultimately spiritual awareness unfolds when you’re flexible, when you’re spontaneous, when you’re detached, when you’re easy on yourself and easy on others. ~ Deepak Chopra

13. Friendly

Lots of words go with this – affable, warm, affectionate, outgoing, accessible. Friendly is a badass word. And who doesn’t want to live a life filled with badassery? (see #1)

14. Funny

You’re at More Cowbell! Of course “funny” is the best word in the dictionary.

//giphy.com/embed/l0HlBwsIWjIgEQXMk

15. Groovy

I know Groovy is a Java programming language, but that’s not how I mean it. I’m thinking the traditional meaning: fashionable and exciting (she’s sporting a groovy new haircut) or enjoyable and excellent (she grew all the groovy plants herself). Groove-y.

16. Hardworking

I respect people who work their a$$es off. I just do. I might not be the most organized gal, but I can outwork just about anybody.

17. Independent

I freely admit to being afraid of heights, but do you know my deep-down-super-secret fear? Being homeless and dependent on others. I’m a huge fan of independence.

18. Interesting

Every blogger or writer wants to be interesting. To arouse curiosity or interest, to hold or catch attention with my words.

19. Inventive

In the same ballpark as “creative” or “flexible,” inventive takes things a few steps further. Instead of thinking outside the box, you have the ability to think of a new way to use the box. Perhaps an entirely new box might come into being. I love this word.

20. Kind

Yesterday was World Kindness Day and, after the week this country just had, I don’t think kindness can be over-emphasized. Be kind, y’all. Be kind whenever and wherever you can.

kindness_is_free

21. Loving

As Maya Angelou says, “be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud.” Just love them. We all have enough rain clouds in our lives.

22.  Nice

I think people underestimate the power of niceness. It’s different from kindness, which often requires more thought and effort. In business, nice will win every time. There’s great books written about the Power of Nice.

23. Nurturing

To nurture is to cherish, help or encourage. Do this with your family and your friends. Believe me, they will pass it on. Do this for yourself . That’s the logical place to start, and typically where I fail. There are entire Pinterest boards on nurturing yourself. I’ve followed them!

24. Phenomenal

Maya Angelou says this wa-a-a-ay better than I do.

25. Quirky

I love this word. Unusual. Eccentric. Unexpected. Roll this in with some fun and you’ve got quirky.

26. Restful

I’m craving restful after the election season we just had. Everyone has been hopped up for days. Quiet and soothing (restful) sound delightful right about now.

27. Sexy

Some days you’ve just got to have your hottie pants on. Celebrate yourself, and share your sexy with the world.

28. Smart

Perhaps I should have said shrewd or astute. Intelligence is grand, but the common sense to go with it is what brings people up to the level of  “smart.” I like smart.

29. Tough

Some people might call this fortitude. “Mental toughness” is what helps people cope with difficult situations. I don’t mean hard or jaded, but rather having healthy personal boundaries. That makes “tough” the highest of compliments.

“Being physically tough is measured by how many fights you win, but mental toughness is measured by how you react when all the chips are stacked against you, how fast you get back on track when life kicks you in the nuts. Any fool can win a fight, but it takes a person with true grit to never give up when all seems lost.” Benjamin Bayani, The Nation

30. Zany

I dig this word…I had to include it. Who doesn’t want to be described as “amusingly unconventional and idiosyncratic.” Zany is full of awesome sauce.

How about you? What is you favorite word on this list? What are some of the words you’d like to be described with? Enquiring minds love to hear about these things here at More Cowbell!

~ Jenny

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NaNoWriMo Success Tip # 3: Some Days You Need a Pep Talk

Typewriter KeysEspecially in the boggy barren tundra of Week 2 of NaNoWriMo, you will need a pep talk. You will need encouragement. You will need people to help lift you out of the despair of your giant plot holes.

Trust me on this one.

I’ve done NaNoWriMo for 9 years, and Week 2 is the hardest of the them all. That and the week with Thanksgiving in it. It’s no surprise why the Night of Writing Dangerously comes after the midpoint and before Thanksgiving. About this time of the month, you will really really need to gorge on some copious caffeine and sugar with like-minded individuals.

Plus, you need the shot of adrenaline after all those late nights chasing plot bunnies.

You can get your pep talk in three different ways:

Write-ins

You have local writing friends you might not have met yet, but they will come out when your local regions have meet-ups in November. Many regions love each other so much they meet year-round.

In the navigation bar at NaNoWriMo.org there is a drop-down called “Regions.” I guarantee you can find yours in there. Or, if you live out in the wild tundra, away from other crazy writers, you can find your write-ins over the internet. Or coerce your local library into holding them – they’ll do it.

Video Inspiration

Maureen Johnson gives my favorite video pep talk of all time with “Dare to Suck.”

She’s one of my go-to’s when I’m worried that I’m sucking. (Which is often.) But so what? So what if I’m writing the most putrid collection of words that’s ever been committed to the page. No one will see it but me at this point.

Write whatever crazy, flamboyant, flights of imagination come to your fingertips. That’s the beauty of NaNoWriMo.

This talk from Elizabeth Gilbert on the nature of creative genius in another inspirational winner. It’a 19 minutes of pure awesome-sauce.

Official NaNoWriMo Pep Talks

The NaNo team is kind enough to put out pep talks each week from famous authors. They’re short, they’re fun, and the whole collection is archivedYou can search that archive by year or by author. It’s tons of fun.

Need a quick shot in the muse by Neil Gaiman?

Or Diana Gabaldon?

Or Chuck Wendig?

Go to the archive! There’s great stuff in there. Or go to this post from GalleyCat – they reference 148 Tips From Previous Years of NaNoWriMo. That’s a lotta inspiration.

One of the things NaNoWriMo has taught me is there’s a great big writing world out there, with much support and many tools of inspiration. You just have to reach out for whichever slice of it you need.

~ Jenny

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NaNoWriMo Success Tip # 2: Focus On Your One-Inch Picture Frame

bird-by-birdOne of the most stellar bits of writing advice I’ve ever read was dispensed by Anne Lamott, the author of writing classic, Bird by Bird. Not only does Lamott give you “permission to write crap,” she also gives great brainstorming advice such as:

  • “Keep a one-inch picture frame on your desk to remind yourself that for each moment, you only have to write as much as you can see through a one-inch picture frame.”
  • In other words, when a whole project is overwhelming, break it into little pieces or as she says, “don’t try to eat the elephant in one sitting.”

I think of that one-inch picture frame all the time.

Maybe it’s because I’m a writer, but I’m always looking for examples of “big message” in a little space.

My Hubs is a master of this.

The first time he did it was about six weeks after we met. We were on the phone, planning a date, and he said, “Don’t you have RWA this weekend?”

One sentence. . .six little words. . .and I knew he was a keeper. I knew this guy was tuned into me. When I’d said, “The second Saturday of the month is my writers’ meeting,” he not only listened, he put it on his calendar. That was the moment I knew, I was a goner.

That’s what I mean by a one-inch picture frame. You don’t have time to read Bird By Bird this month, but you can still use the trick.

Focus on your quick one inch picture frame when you’re stuck.

How can you quickly show, rather than tell? What small plot problem can you solve today. What little gesture says “I love you” to you? Work it all into your novel!

And if you’re wondering whether you really belong on this Crazy Writer Bus, take a second to read Laura Drake’s hilarious post, You Know You’re a Writer If . . .

Happy writing, y’all…
~ Jenny

p.s. Here’s yesterday’s NaNoWriMowhat to do when you’re stuck” tip.

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Day 1 of NaNoWriMo: Are You Writing With Abandon?

nanowrimo_2016_webbadge_participant

Last weekend I attended the Writer’s Digest Novel Writing Conference in Los Angeles. It was stupendous (and about 20 other sublime adjectives), chock-full of great people and inspiration. There was a NaNoWriMo pep rally with Grant Faulker…and a bunch of aspiring authors who were worried about “where to begin.”

Here’s the brass tacks about writing, y’all…I’m gonna let you in on the “big secret to writing success.”

Are you ready?

Are you really super-duper ready?

Brace yourselves. It took me years to figure this shiz out.

We all have to start somewhere, and that somewhere is in the chair.

Some days the writing chair feels like it’s at the end of the Green Mile, so I wanted to throw some ideas out there, for all the newbies navigating through their first NaNoWriMo and anyone who’s wondering what to write about.

3 Ideas for when “You Don’t Know What to Write”

NaNoWriMo

Photo credit: Deposit Photos

Combine Concepts: Seriously, stir up a few concepts and see what comes out.

Millennial starting his career under crushing student loan debt? Make him a YouTube blogger, or a stockbroker, or some career with the ability to generate lots of money if he’s good at it. Then make sure there are major impediments to being good at it.

What do I mean? What if your YouTube blogger still lives at home and his mother keeps crashing his videos…talking, or carrying laundry, or in her bathrobe. She won’t stop. She’s hurting his mojo. OhEmGee…

It doesn’t really matter what the problem is. Really. Truly. Make it some creative or weird problem that requires some creative or weird problem-solving and your book is going to rock.

Chris Baty’s fun kit, No Plot, No Problem, makes many seasoned authors shudder, but it’s rockstar for getting words on the page until the “writing every day” thing becomes more natural.

Whatever you decide to write about, do it with abandon.

Combine Genres: Do you read in two different genres? Combine them!

Romance and suspense are a natural fit. Or YA and thrillers. Historical fiction and mystery. You decide, or invent your own. Kristen Lamb and I decided awhile back that Amish Romance and Erotica could fit together if we were creative enough – Fifty Shades of Hay could take the world by storm, right? (Right??)

*slinks away*

Combine Stories: Speaking of Fifty Shades of Grey…it started as Fan Fiction.

There’s nothing wrong, especially when you are learning, with emulating a story that you love and throwing your own characters and twist on top of it.

Julia Quinn, a popular historical romance writer, said she started writing by taking her favorite book from her favorite author at the time (Johanna Lindsay) and typing up the first few pages of the book. By page four, Julia diverted off on her own tangent and was on her way to her own debut novel. Today, she is a New York Times bestselling author.

Everyone starts somewhere, and that somewhere is the chair. Wherever you begin — in the middle of your current work, or starting something new — and whatever you decide to write, do it with your whole heart and mind.

Enjoy yourself. OWN that NaNo draft of yours. It could be the start of something amazing.

NaNoWriMo’s slogan is: The World Needs Your Novel.

I believe that is 100% true, and I encourage you to believe it too. I hope you’ll share your NaNo name and talk about your writing process/fears/angst down in the comments.

Happy writing this month!
~ Jenny

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