Tag Archives: J Monkeys

Welcome 2013!

Hiddey-Ho – J Monkeys, here.  As Suze said, she, Katy Lee and I are typing away during the final hours of our retreat.  It’s been so productive, I’m borrowing Suze’s laptop while she reads my brandy-new 15 page synopsis of my WIP.  I’m giddy waiting for feedback.  But for today’s post: Welcome 2013!  Over the last few weeks, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how 2012 went for me and what I want 2013 to look like.  Last week, I gave you my 2012 report card; this week let me set up for the new year.

 Here are my 2013 goals:

  1.) Finish all that 2012 stuff that didn’t get crossed T’s or dotted I’s last year.   (PS: our mini retreat this week has given me a HUGE jump on this goal already!)

  2.) Find a better balance between my variety of responsibilities – motherly and writerly.

  3.) Develop a plan and work the plan.  Whether those are marketing plans or the daily get-stuff-done plans, either way, I’m going to be crossing LOTS of stuff off my lists this year.

  4.) Master social media.  Right now, I’m just a guppy when it comes to this whole social media stuff.  I can barely tweet.  I ignore Facebook entirely too much.  Goodreads seems to have WAY more functionality than I know about.  And I’m not very Linkedin, either. 

  5.) Market books.  2013 is going to be the Year of Marketing for J Monkeys – I can tell you that much.  I produced a ton of product in 2012, not that you’d know it because I have done a terrible job of marketing it.  I’ll update you all of my marketing results as each quarter goes by.

  6.) Write two novels.  I’ve got one well underway and plan to have it written by the end of March.  That’ll give me nine months to plot and write the other one by year’s end.

  7.) Either stop dreaming about Alexandar Skarsgard or write a hero who looks a LOT like him.  Alex and I have adventures two nights a week.  Not those kinds of adventures, get your mind out of the gutter!  But we fall in love, save the world and have lunch pretty often.  I’m a visual person and I need to be able to see my hero.  The hero for my current book is based on actor Owain Yeoman (Wayne Rigsby on The Mentalist) and even though I think to myself every night before I go to bed “Dream about Hayden,” I still dream about Mr. S.   

Today’s Secret: I love to have goals.  Even if I don’t achieve them, I like to have something concrete to shoot for, something to measure against later on.

Today’s Question: What about you?  Do you like to have goals?  Do you go back and look at the goals you’ve set for yourself and see how you did?

Why I’m Thankful Every Day…

Hi.  You guys know me as author J Monkeys, but as I sat down to write Saturday’s blog post, I knew that I had to do something a little different from my usual tongue-in-cheek rant because in addition to being a children’s author, I’m also a mom of very young school children.  My name is Jennifer Moncuse, and I live in Connecticut.

I live just about as far from Newtown CT as our tiny state will allow, but my twins will be starting kindergarten next year.  I have a second grader at home as well and today’s horrifying news of the heartless slaughter of innocents and innocence, practically in my own backyard, has shaken me.  I cried through some of the news coverage late this afternoon, watching on the sly because I don’t want my preschoolers to hear about children being killed at school.  How could I possibly talk with them about this in a way that they will understand when I don’t understand it myself?  I don’t think it is something that is understandable.

I had been planning to write next week’s post, due out 12-22-12, about why it was all right with me if the world ended on Friday, but I’m switching up the order and the slant because for a lot of people the world ended today.

In addition to sending my most heartfelt prayers to the families of those who lost so much today, I wanted to take a moment to be thankful for the wonderful things in my own life.

  • I’m thankful for my wonderful, healthy children, their laughter, their genuine-ness, the opportunity to teach them about the world.
  • I’m thankful for my incredible partner in this life, for his kindness, his sensitivity to others, his willingness to be responsible for 50% of everything, and for loving me just as I am.
  • I’m thankful for my family – drama and all, I wouldn’t swap any of you with anyone else, no matter the reason.
  • I’m thankful for my dear friends who really know me and accept me without reservation.

As I thought about all the other things I’m grateful for, especially the things, I decided that they didn’t really matter.  The house, the car, the job.  Maybe it’s easy for me to say that having a roof over my head doesn’t really matter, because I have the luxury of saying it under said roof.  There’s probably a lot of truth to that.  But on a night like this one, it doesn’t make the list, except as a safe haven for my kids.

Here’s my secret for today: However you understand God (as a him, a her, a them, or an it) take a moment to say “Thank you” for all the important things in your life, whatever or whomever they might be.   Hug your loved ones tightly and remember to tell them often how much you love them.  That way you’ll be ready when the world ends, no matter if it’s next Friday or more likely, some other day when you least expect it.

Characters

Hello there Scribbler friends! Vivienne Ylang here, filling in for J Monkeys. J’s off at the Scottish Festival in Hartford CT today, taking pictures for a future book on multi-culturalism in the United States for preschoolers…nope – that’s not a typo. I’m here filing in and since I’m putting the finishing touches on some characters for my WIP (a time travel romance currently titled Some Time), I thought I’d take a moment to tell you how I develop a character.

For me, a story usually starts with a plot nugget, and this one was no different. Last October, I had an idea for a conflict. From there, I immediately switched gears and thought about who was involved in this conflict. Who were the players. I thought, and thought, and thought. And thought some more. When I had some details worked out, I pulled up my trusty-dusty Character Sketch file and started to fill in the blanks. Yes, yes, I’m a plotter. No pantsing my way around for me.

My character sketch is just a starting point – a place to capture some specific information about each of the main and major supporting characters in the story. I end up knowing much more about my character’s background than just the simple questions on the standard sketch form, but this is where I start.

Now, I know lots of authors who have a hard time casting their roles (come on, we all do it, we’re all ready for that call from Hollywood). Not me. I’m a visual person. I need to be able to see my characters. How did writers live before Google? I’m the queen of Google Images to find pictures of folks to be players in my story. I try to stay away from the Robert Pattinson’s of today’s world of fame and go with more obscure actors or other public figures. And time isn’t an issue for me, so often my characters have the features of long dead folks.

Check out this picture of Olivier – no wonder he won my namesake’s heart, huh? He was dreamy! Do you know the story of Olivier and Vivien Leigh?

So I like to know the basics, names, dates family history, size, likes, dislikes, hobbies, quirks, fears, goals, hopes and dreams of my characters. I like to know what kind of education they have had, what kinds of jobs they have had. I like to know what makes them tick – what do they want out of life? Why do they want that? What do they need to be happy and do they know what they need?

I’ve learned that I really can’t start writing the story until I have completed this step. I’ve got to write these things down ~ I can’t just wing it. When I try, it ALWAYS comes back to bite me in the butt. While I’m noodling my character sketches, I’m also working on a plot outline – but that’s a topic for another post.

Today’s Secret: It’s perfectly okay to borrow ideas for tools like my character sketch from other authors. I developed this one, but I bet lots of you will have seen some of these questions before. They are fairly common.

Today’s Question: How do you develop characters? Do you need to use paper or do you keep it all in your head? Do you like to cast your characters?

Thickening the Plot

Good morning everyone!  Sorry I’m a bit late getting this post up, but J Monkeys is heading out for the day (again!) and just asked me to post for her.  Vivienne Ylang here.  Happy Saturday.  Last week I wrote about how I keep my characters real during the writing process.  Today I thought I’d tell you a bit about how I develop the plot of the story. 

Of course, it all starts with a kernel of an idea.  For some reason, the synapses of the brain fire and an idea occurs.  For me, ideas come easy.  I have way more ideas than I have ability to focus and get the job done.  I guess for some people ideas are the hard part.  My mom went back to college to get a Bachelor’s degree while I was in college and she said that writing papers were the toughest thing for her.  The math, the science (she’s a nurse) were a piece of cake, but tell her to write something and she’d stare at a blank piece of paper for hours.  I always found this hard to believe.  I entertain myself with blank pieces of paper all the time – and they don’t stay blank for long.

At any rate, once the idea is firmly fixed in my mind and I’ve got characters to go along with the idea, then comes the plot grid.  Yes, yes, I’m absolutely the planner type of writer.  Why wouldn’t I be?  I plan everything.  I love to plan.  If I tried pantsing my way through a book, it might take 7 years to write.  Trust me on this – I have experience.  I know that being a pantser (pantsers are people who enjoy writing by the seat of their pants) works for a lot of people; I’m not one of them. 

The plot grid is simply a type of outline where the major points in the story are noted down.  I like to use a plot grid I got from another author.  It’s pretty straightforward.  The thing that I like about it the best is that it makes me think about my Turning Points.  This is new for me, I haven’t thought this way before.  Turning Points are those places where the story…well, turns…for lack of a better term.   Most books have three of them: the first “change of plans”, the “point of no return” and the “major setback”.

The other thing that the plot grid has me thinking about is the Black Moment.  This is the final build up to the climax of the story.  The moment when the hero and heroine realize that everything they thought was true earlier in the story is, in fact, either not true or doesn’t matter.  The black moment is what prompts the characters to push their way through the horrors of the climax of the story.

So in addition to continuing to populate my character board (see last week’s post), I’ve spent time this past week working on my plot grid.  I’ve still got a way to go, but that’s ok.  I’m going on a long weekend vacation with the family next week and have decided to push my official start date for this book out to July 9th when the kiddies start Summer Camp and I’ll have some free time.  Even now, writing this post, there have been interruptions galore – demands for breakfast, and movies to entertain them. 

Today’s secret: Think about those turning points and build your way up to them.

Today’s question: What tools do you use to plot your stories?

And as a bonus – since I was dreaming about him just before I woke to write this post – here’s a little something to inspire you.  Joe Manganiello and I were saving the world together.  Hmmm.  Too bad I can’t go back to sleep.  But there’s always tonight.