Guess What I Did with Gene Simmons Last Night

Last week a family emergency found me spending several nights at a hospital in a neighboring town. The room had a recliner that, while certainly better than the Flintstones-era char found in rooms at the hospital in town, was no sleep number mattress.

Sleeping in strange places is a good way to have strange dreams, especially when you’re already sleep-deprived, forget to eat dinner, and people are in and out of the room at all hours. This unexpected adventure did not disappoint.

The dream started out fairly normal, with my husband and I arriving at the home of one of my clients. The Christmas holiday was in full swing and twinkling fairy lights lit up a large stone patio that greeted us at the end of the driveway. 

Our host and my husband found common ground quickly and began discussing guns. Had my husband ever tried the newly modified gun from the NES game, Duck Hunt? My husband had not! Our host immediately invited him to come into the backyard to try it out on his skeet shooting equipment.

I was invited to join other guests in the basement rec room, where our teenage sons had retired to play authentic 1980s arcade games. Upon entering the rec room I was impressed to see it looked more like a hotel lounge with white leather sofas and light fixtures of shiny brass and sparkling crystal.

And who was sitting on the sofa with a glass of bourbon? Gene Simmons! I wasted no time striking up a conversation about an interview of his I’d recently watched, in which he discussed his mother, a holocaust survivor. 

Gene Simmons then invited me to play foosball. Every time he got a point, he’d stick out his tongue and wiggled it like a worm. I could feel my cheeks blush as I laughed.
“That’s what I do when I get a point,” he explained. “You want me to do it again? I need to get another point.” 

When I let him get another point he continued, “This is how I win. I seduce women into letting me win.”

Then I woke up.

As the day went on I realized the dream’s message. If I want my books to be popular and “win”, then I’m going to have to seduce my readers with a fabulous plot, interesting characters, and creative conflicts that will keep them glued to the page.

So tell me what you like in a book and, more importantly, what you don’t like. Let’s talk about it in the comments section!

5 Offbeat News Headlines and How Authors Can Use Them

Some of the most curious headlines are listed in MSN Offbeat News. This is my favorite section because these headlines inspire the most unique characters for my books. Here are seven recent selections and how I might choose to use them in a book.

1. Pranksters Block Road with 25-foot Triceratops
The Treasure Pines senior class prank involved blocking main street with the rival high school’s mascot, a 25-foot fiberglass triceratops. The problem is the next morning when the principal of Treasure Pines High is found impaled on one of the animal’s steel horns.

2. Someone Actually Came Up with a Breakup Cake
When Grandma Opal’s boyfriend dumps her for the newcomer at bingo, she fuels her angst into a new home-based bakery business offering cakes for offbeat life situations.

3. Rescue Dog Raises a Paw, Gets Sworn in as Mayor of Reno
Harvey Wallbanger, the town’s favorite golden retriever, helps find the mayor’s missing toddler granddaughter. To show her thanks, the mayor swears him in as mayor-for-a-day.

4. N.J. Mailman Locks Himself in Truck as Wild Turkeys Attack
A flock of wild turkeys has become a menace in Treasure Pines. When they chase the mailman into his truck, nobody expects to find his corpse there several hours later, with an ace of spades playing card taped to his forehead.

5. Just 2 Protesters Show up for anti-Beyoncé Rally
Two new families move to Treasure Pines and agree the high school students would benefit from a dress code–complete with uniforms! Unfortunately they’re the only two who show up at school to picket on Meet the Teacher night.

Another great source of odd bits of information is Mental Floss. Here are five articles I recently enjoyed reading on the site:

What are some of your favorite offbeat headlines? Do you have any sites like Mental Floss bookmarked that you use as a reference? Let’s chat about it in the comments section!

Why I Kissed Blackbeard Goodbye

Here’s a plot twist I never saw coming.

During the 2015 MAFWI conference, I attended a workshop led by Jim Rada, an author who hails from Pennsylvania. He stressed the importance of research when writing historical novels. This is also important, however, when writing any works that mentions a real person, trademark, or other type of brand.

I knew this would mean quite a bit of rewriting for HAUNTED WOMEN OF THE APPALACHIANS, my collection of 13 strange and inspired by true stories, but surely I’d be smart enough not to let it happen again. Right? Absolutely!

It was more like absolutely not. It started when I read How to Use Brand Names in Your Fiction (Just Like TFIOS), a guest blog article written by Kathryn Goldman on the Better Novel Project blog.

Imagine my dismay at realizing the way I displayed Blackbeard in my book could bring up some serious issues. The fictional character based on the real person didn’t show in the best light. There was only one thing to do.

I kissed Blackbeard goodbye.

Then I went in an exploration into the past to find a new pirate. Hours later, when complaining about the dilemma to my husband, he asked, “Why don’t you just make up a pirate?”

Excited, I returned to my research. Because I’m only about 1/3 of the way into my book, I don’t need to rip it out and start over. And because my new pirate is a fictional female with a sweet back story, I won’t feel obligated to force my plot to follow someone else’s facts.

I’m more excited about my book every day, and can’t wait to share the final product with you all.

I Won NaNoWriMo Now Where Is My Book?

Anyone who writes 50k words within the 30-day time period (i.e. the already hectic month of November) is eligible to “win” NaNoWriMo. The site requires you to validate your novel by copying and pasting everything you’ve written into a magical box.

It’s okay. Once your novel’s validated the site forgets whatever it saw, so nobody’s stealing your ideas. Besides, there are no original ideas. I mentioned (the highlighted, glossy parts of) an idea to a couple of friends in front of someone else who said, “Oh! So it’s JUST like Shirley Jackson’s THE LOTTERY?” Um, no, totally NOT like that. Kudos that she knew Shirley Jackson was the author, but I digress.

According to an array of reputable sources, including Writer’s Digest, a novel in the genre of general literary fiction is somewhere between 85,000 and 100,000 words. Depending on your genre and intended audience though, your novel might be slightly longer or much shorter.

If you just finished NaNoWriMo for the first time, then you might be thinking, “But I wrote 50,000 words!” So you did. Good job! And now it’s time to write the rest of the book.

While writing my current NaNoWriMo winner, a cozy mystery, ONE SQUASHED VICTORY, the characters revealed the ending scene, how the book will wrap up, and the plot for books two and three. But I still have about 27,000 words to go before I can say the first draft of the novel is really done.

Even after I write those words, there’s still a lot to go as outlined in “Revisions, Bloody Revisions,” a Midnight Ink blog post by Tracy Weber. Some authors the book, send it to the publisher, and from there it’s on your shelf or e-reader. Tracy uses a 14-step process. Mine is at least 14. (Does she mention drinking copious amounts of wine and coffee while crying on the dog’s shoulder because it’s 3:30 A.M. and everyone else is asleep?)

So there you have it! While finishing up this book, HAUNTED WOMEN OF THE APPALACHIANS (my NaNoWriMo “win” for both 2013 and 2014) is on the verge of dropping into the hands of my benelovent beta readers. It’s only slightly less terrifying as the day I put my sons on the school bus for the first time. Wish me luck!

Do you have any questions for me? Any comments on this topic? I’d love to discuss them with you in the comments section below!

How a Runaway Gourd Vine Led to a Cozy Mystery

Where do you get the ideas for your books?

It’s something people ask writers all the time. The answers, in its most simplest form, is anywhere and everywhere. Most of the time ideas happen when we are not even looking for them.

From Mystery Lights to Short Story Collection

For example, on an early fall morning in 2013, I scrolled through my emails while waiting for my husband. He was undergoing physical therapy for a shoulder injury that ultimately ended his firefighter career.

One of those emails was a newsletter from The Moonlit Road, a website that tells “ghost stories, folktales, myths and legends from the dark backroads of the American South.” This particular newsletter featured a story about the Brown Mountain Lights which led to this train of thought:

  • My paternal grandmother’s maiden name was Brown.
  • Those Browns hailed from North Carolina.
  • What if this mountain was named for someone in that family?
  • What if the lights are ghost-related?
  • What if I wrote about it?
  • What if I wrote a story for each state in the Appalachians?
  • What if I made them all about women?

With National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo) just over a month away, I took the chance to sign up. Two years and over 100,000 words later, I have a collection of 13 short stories in my collection, titled HAUNTED WOMEN OF THE APPALACHIANS.

How a Runaway Gourd Vine Led to a Cozy Mystery

Sometimes the inspiration is much more literal, which is what happened to me just a couple of months ago. I was in Baltimore, Maryland to adopt a rescued gecko when I pulled over at a fast food restaurant to double check my GPS.

I noticed a zucchini vine trailing out from beneath the fence separating the parking lot from the residents next door. This sent the author neurons in my brain into overdrive. I wondered:

  • Who owns the zucchini who grow on the opposite side of the fence?
  • Is it the fast food company, because the gourds are on their property?
  • Is it the private residence, since the vine originated on their property?
  • What if someone entered a wayward zucchini in a contest and won?
  • What if the property owner lost the same contest because of it?
  • What if the deviant entrant wound up murdered as a result?

The next thing I knew, I was plotting out my next book: ONE SQUASHED VICTORY. It’s my 2015 NaNoWriMo attempt. Follow Becky Muth Author Page on Facebook so you can keep keep up with my progress during the entire month of November.

If you’re a reader, then I’m happy to answer your questions. And if you’re a writer, then I’d love to hear where you find inspiration.

In the meantime check out this video about the Brown Mountain lights during a National Geographic shoot. Creepy isn’t it?

7 Ways Writers Differ from Everyone Else

Writers are not normal. I know this because I am a writer and my family tells me all the time how abnormal I am compared to them.

I like to think I’m the normal one and they’re weird, but whatever.

However when I get together with my writing group, it makes me realize that they might be onto something after all. Here are some common traits I see among members of my writing group as well as in other friends who are writers.

1. Writers always think about writing.
Whether it’s a character in their book, an idea for a new book, or someone else’s book, writers are always either jotting down or making mental notes about something writing-related.

2. Writers get really excited about writing.
If you really want to make a writer happy, then give them time, tools, and space to write. They will love you for it. My favorite gifts from my family include a journal covered in pink faux leather and a Doctor Who themed ink pen.

3. Writers get more emotional about writing.
They also get more emotional about reading, but that’s a different blog post for a different day. Only my fellow writers understand when I tell them that I cried over something that happened to the characters in my book.

4. Writers surround themselves with writing.
This one is huge. My desk not only holds my laptop, but it also bears host to a pile of hotel scratch pads, a small milk pitcher full of various writing utensils, stacks of journals and notebooks, sticky notes, and a pile of books on topics ranging from romantic fiction to how to organize your next novel.

5. Writers enjoy talking about writing.
If you want to make friends with a writer, then ask them about their book. Really listen as they explain it to you. Better yet, read the things they write, regardless if it is their blog or their latest bestseller.

6. Writers often balance chaos.
Getting lost in your writing means being distracted from things that might otherwise need your attention. Writers are gluttons for slipping into “the zone” and forgetting to do things like eat lunch, stay hydrated, sleep, and so forth.

7. Writers don’t give up.
Writers have terrific highs when things are going their way, and terrible lows when things don’t work out so well. Regardless of how it’s going, they don’t give up.

Are you a writer? Do you agree with the list? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

3 Reasons Why Writers Need Blanket Forts

I want to build a blanket fort. It is not for my sons, who are aged 18 and 17 and entirely capable of building their own stereotypical manly blanket forts. I don’t want to share it with my husband, because he thinks the idea is silly.

When I close my eyes and picture my perfect blanket fort, it has things like a chenille bedspread roof, fairy lights along the tie-dyed , a bean bag chair floor, a small bookshelf, and a maybe a goldfish bowl full of skittles.

Come on, everyone knows it’s not logical to put a goldfish in a blanket fort.

But getting back to my point, everyone could use some time in a blanket fort. This is especially true if you are a writer, and here are three reasons why:

1. Relaxation
Going into a blanket fort transports you into another realm. All the stress from the world outside the blanket fort disappears. You don’t have to look at your phone or laptop. You can read a book, take a nap, or just curl up and daydream about stuff.

2. Inspiration
All that daydreaming can lead to inspiration. One minute you’re wondering why the unicorn is Scotland’s national animal (Go on, look it up!), and the next your main character butts in with a thought. Then another character pipes up. Before you know it, the ideas are flowing like crazy.

3. Socialization
Can you imagine having your next writers’ group meeting in a blanket fort? Put away your notebooks, pens, and laptops in favor of a board game like Boggle or, my favorite, Scrabble! As soon as you tell your friends and family you have a blanket fort, they will beat down the fabric door to join you. (If they don’t try to have you diagnosed with Peter Pan Syndrome.)

So who’s ready to build a blanket fort? If you aren’t sure where to start, then check out the following YouTube video.

I’d love to hear your thoughts (or see the results of your fort-building) in the comments below!