Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Five Writing Tips I Learned From My Cat: Guest Blog and Giveaway with Judith Ingram

I’ve been fortunate to share my home with at least one cat for most of my life. I find them beautiful and mysterious, intelligent and supremely confident. Cats seem to know who they are and what they want without reference to anyone or anything else. In observing the quiet complexities of a cat’s ways, I’ve discovered five principles—tips that can help writers to approach their craft with similar poise and confidence.

Tip #1: Staring isn’t rude. If you’ve ever lived with a cat, you’ve undoubtedly experienced The Stare. You look around to find a pair of round eyes fixed on you with unnerving intensity. Another human being would have the decency to glance away, but cats have their own agenda and little regard for social graces. As writers, we, too, bend the social rules and make it our business to study our neighbors. We may even take notes on their appearance or conversations because these details will find their way into a scene we’re writing and give our characters depth and credibility. In the train station or the coffee shop, don’t be afraid to stare. If the person objects, tell him he’s the ideal embodiment of the lead character you’re thinking of for your next novel, and you might gain a new fan.

Tip #2: Nothing is off-limits. To a cat, “all places are alike,” as Kipling once observed. Tell your cat to stay off the sofa, and that’s where you’ll find her. Leave your dinner unattended on the kitchen table, and you may have to share it. The cat’s boldness and curiosity are legendary. Likewise, as a writer, don’t let convention keep you from exploring new angles and ways of approaching a subject. Try a new genre or a protagonist who is so unlike you that he forces you to explore unknown aspects of your own psyche. Research a profession you know little about but sounds perfect for your new character. Live on the edge of your experience and let your writing push you into unexplored territory.

Tip #3: Catnaps are essential. All cats have mastered the art of snoozing. The average adult cat sleeps up to 16 hours a day, three-quarters of that time in a light doze that rests and refreshes the brain and body. As a writer, give yourself permission to snooze during your writing time. It’s amazing how ten minutes of light sleep can purge your mind of obstacles and release your imagination. Countless times I have emerged from a doze with fresh dialogue in my head or a terrific new scene idea or the solution to a problem that’s had me stumped. Give your muse the freedom to work on your story while you rest.

Tip #4: If you’re stuck, get help. A cat’s claws are hooked for climbing but not for descending. If she’s climbed a tree too high for her to jump down, she’ll need help. I know—our cat likes to climb our neighbor’s redwood trees, which spear up 40 to 50 feet, and on three separate occasions we’ve paid a tree service to come out and get her down. Notoriously independent, cats will nevertheless cry for help when they need it. As writers, we sometimes go out on a limb with our stories and don’t know how to get back to level ground. We need another pair of eyes to see through our blind spots and suggest alternatives. A critique group or a trusted friend can provide those insights that will help us get off that limb and our story back on track.

Tip #5: Groom, groom, groom. The phrase, “fastidious cat,” seems redundant. Most cats groom themselves obsessively. They wash their faces, their paws, their tails, and sometimes you, with industry and thoroughness that any writer can admire. Conventional wisdom tells writers to get their story down as fast as it will come, sloppy and artless though it may be, while the passion and seed ideas are still fresh. But then comes the difficult work of grooming the manuscript—repositioning story elements, discarding what’s unnecessary, and perfecting what’s left. Have you ever seen a cat suddenly awaken and furiously wash at a particular spot, only to settle back after a few moments with a satisfied expression and a blissful sigh? Writers do the same thing. Suddenly jarred out of complacency, we rush back to the computer and rewrite that sentence, that paragraph, that scene, perfecting and polishing until at last we are satisfied and can settle back in our chair with a blissful sigh.

Finally, I must say I’ve never met a cat who was hampered by low self-esteem. Cats perform bold and daring feats because they don’t carry a false sense of fear or self-doubt. As a writer, you must believe in your story. Love all your characters, even the nasty ones, and trust that your story has an important place in this world and must be written as only you can write it.

Into the Mist
Moonseed Trilogy
Book 3
Judith Ingram

Genre:  paranormal romance

Publisher: Vinspire Publishing, LLC
Date of Publication: July 30, 2015

Number of pages: 
Word Count:  91,500

Cover Artist:  Elaina Lee/
For the Muse Designs

Book Description: 

For the past six months, time-traveler Victoria Ashton has been living life as Katherine Kamarov on a ranch in rural California, circa 1890. A contrast to Katherine’s brash personality, shy and gentle Victoria has won the hearts of Katherine’s family and particularly her cousin Michael. Despite her deepening love for Michael, she has rejected his offer of marriage and sent him away, knowing that she must return to her own time on the night of the new spring moon.

In this third and final book of the series, sinister forces threaten Victoria’s new family, her property, and even her life, testing her for courage and ingenuity. A confident new self emerges, and when Michael unexpectedly walks back into her life, she questions whether she must remain a victim of fate or can find a way to determine her own future.

Meanwhile, Katherine has been living a parallel year of exchange in Victoria’s modern-day life, married to the handsome but remote Ryan Ashton. Hardened by her past, Katherine nevertheless falls for Ryan and, like Victoria, begins to search for a way to defy fate and keep the life she has come to cherish.

As the night of the new spring moon approaches, both women must search their hearts to discover how to hold onto what matters most, even if they should be forced back through the barrier of time.


He didn’t hear her slide the door open and step out behind him. Her arms circled his waist, and the faint scent of ginger spice shot twin arrows of joy and pain through his body. Wordlessly, he turned and brought his mouth down on hers. Enveloped in the soft twilight hush, they shared a kiss that was deep and long and achingly sweet. When they pulled reluctantly apart, Ryan let his eyes linger over her, already naming the vision being etched in his memory. This is how my love looked in twilight.
She was wearing her white robe, and her blond hair curled softly, just brushing her shoulders. It’s gotten longer, Ryan thought. He suddenly wanted her to cut it again, as if keeping her hair short would somehow help her to keep her claim on this body—on this life—and prevent Vicki from coming back.
Tori moved to the rail and stared out over the city deepening into dusk. “It’s started, Ryan,” she said quietly.
He moved to stand beside her. “What’s started?”
She turned and leaned an elbow on the rail, holding him with a steady gaze. “What we’ve dreaded. I dreamed about the bridge.” She lifted a shoulder. “It’s only a week away. I should have expected it.” She drew in a breath that trembled. “She was already there, standing on the bridge. Waiting for me.”
At his look, she put out her hand and covered his. “Don’t hate her, Ryan. She didn’t ask for this to happen any more than I did.” She smiled faintly. “I would have, though, if I’d known you would be here. I wouldn’t have missed this time with you for anything. No matter what happens, I’ll carry you in my heart until the day I die.”
Ryan couldn’t speak. He couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe. He could do nothing but stare at her in mute despair.
She turned her back on the glittering city and leaned both elbows on the rail, staring through the glass doors into their living room. The soft light of the table lamps was growing imperceptibly brighter as the dusk surrendered to night.
“Do you ever wonder, Ryan, what Victoria will be like when she comes back?”
“She’s not coming back.” His voice cracked.
“She’s had a whole year, Ryan, just like me. A lot can happen in a year. She may surprise you.”
“She won’t get the chance.” His jaw tightened. “I’m not letting you go, Tori. I can’t. Vicki doesn’t belong here anymore. This is your home, with Christina and me.” He covered the crack in his voice with harshness. “How can you stand there and calmly talk about Vicki coming back while you just up and vanish from our lives? Like it’s already decided, like it’s so easy for you—”

About the Author:

Judith Ingram weaves together her love of romance and mystery as well as her training as a counselor to create stories and characters for her novels. She is also the author of a Christian guide to forgiving and posts weekly devotionals on the role of forgiveness in healing relationships. She lives with her husband in the San Francisco East Bay and makes frequent trips to beautiful Sonoma County, where many of her fiction characters reside. She confesses a love for chocolate, cheesecake, romantic suspense novels, movies that require three hankies, and all things feline.

Website, blog and free weekly devotional: http://JudithIngram.com

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Anonymous said...

Comparing writers to cats is terrific! Well done, Judith! And I read your wonderful book, "Into the Mist" and just loved it!

Judith Ingram said...

Thanks, Claire. I'm so glad to know you enjoyed the book! Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts! --Judith

Judith Ingram said...

Thanks, Roxanne, for hosting my book on your blog today! --Judith