Thursday, November 25, 2010
So, celebrating a traditional Thanksgiving has become one of our few traditions. We celebrate with family and friends and we remember the ones who are no longer with us. We watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. We eat turkey and stuffing, sweet potato casserole, cranberry relish, green beans, corn on the cob, and dinner rolls. We watch football, take naps on the couch, and round out the afternoon with razzleberry pie and coffee. We reflect on the highs and lows of the past year and look forward to the possibilities of the next one.
Some of the things I'm thankful for this year:
*Good health for me and the family. Something that wasn't always so over the course of the year.
*A day job that pays the bills and affords me time to devote to writing.
*Family and friends who cheer me on when I haven't the strength or faith to keep going.
*Two fur-babies who are always happy to see me
*A WIP that I've finally managed to get to "The End"
I could list more, but the turkey needs to be dressed and the fixins' need fixing. So, whether your celebration is traditional or non-traditional, Happy Thanksgiving, from our house to yours.
Also posted today at New Kids on the Writer's Block
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
In the Dark of Dreams by Marjorie M. Liu
Avon, Mass Market Paperback
Rating: 5 Gold Coins
Heat: 2 (Campfire)
Monday, November 22, 2010
|photo credit: kristal lee romances|
Next year will not be that year. I'm not sure that any future year will be either. Now, I'm not dissing my work because I don't think it's good. Rather, I'm reassessing my dream. My real dream.
As it turns out, the Golden Heart isn't my dream. Publication is. That means my current and future efforts are focused on that single, simple goal.
I've never entered the Golden Heart contest, so I can't speak to its judging and selection process. I have, however, entered other contests and found the feedback confusing. What two judges raved about, a third judge hated. In my inexperience, I found myself always catering to the critic who tore everything apart because whatever issue they had, I wanted to fix. It took me a long time, and losing my voice, to realize the not all feedback is golden. Some of it is crap and should be flushed down the toilet, pronto!
My experiences with the contest circuit caused me to forget the only writer's rule that should never be broken: my story is my story and I'm the only one who can write it. My story is not in the heart of some nameless judge who may not have expertise in the paranormal genre or who may have less writing experience than I do. My story is in my heart, my soul, my imagination. It is mine and mine alone. I need to own it. From the first click of the keys tapping out, Chapter One, to the last words, The End. I must stay true to my creation as I envisioned it, otherwise it's no longer mine.
My intent here is not to poo-poo contests, or tarnish the Golden Heart. All the finalists and winners are hard workers and deserve their moment in the spotlight. I begrudge them not in the least. And I will clap and whoop and holler with the best of them to show my support. They earned it. They deserved it.
For me, the stress of preparing for a contest and then waiting, waiting, waiting for the results takes away time from my heart's desire to see my work professionally published. Since my writing time is very limited, I must engage in those activities that have more of a potential of getting me closer to my dream. I need to finish my current WIP. I need to start planning the next one. I need to revise and edit the one that's been fermenting for a month or two. I need to query. I need to write that synopsis even though it gives me the willies.
I've gained an understanding that I'm not dedicated to the contest circuit like a bull rider is to the rodeo.The Golden Heart will probably never be my brass ring. But to those who are reaching for it, I wish you all the best from the bottom of my heart and when you hear the shouts and cheers go out when you're name is called, know that I'm somewhere in the crowd hooting for you.
Reposted from NKotWB
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Last week, Deb Sanders @ NKotWB wrote about "Rules? Where we're going there are no rules!". And she goes on to explain that to break the rules, one must learn the rules.
Generally, our first exposure to "the rules" is grammar class. We learn vocabulary, noun, verbs, pronouns, adverbs, adjectives, etc, into ad nauseum. We learn how to write the proper way. This is good, for without the basics, there is nothing to weave your words into coherent sentences. The proper way can also be bad when it restricts creativity and stifles voice.
But, knowing good grammar is the cornerstone in becoming an excellent writer. Notice I typed "excellent writer." Anyone who has a basic understanding of written language can write. The ability to become an "excellent writer" depends on the writing tools you have in your toolbox.
Rules = Tools. (But they aren't always the sharpest tools. In fact, they can be quite dull.)
Consider adding online writing workshops, enrichment classes, college courses, lectures, books, books, and more books to vary your tools.
[Beeeep~ This is a Writer's Public Service Announcement: Be mindful of the workshops and classes you choose. I took a class in college that was all about diagramming sentences. For me, diagramming sentences = writer's hell. Lesson learned? Know what you're taking before you sign up for it and investigate the instructor's credentials. Some have less experience writing than you do. Now, back to the regularly scheduled post about those workshops and classes and books that are essential to your toolbox.]
In our busy lives, it's unrealistic to attempt to attend workshops and classes that aren't in our generally vicinity. Thank god for the internet. Many RWA chapters host monthly writing workshops via Yahoo and Google loops. Other online classes are independent of RWA affiliations, such as Margie Lawson's workshops. Margie is uber psychologist by day and super uber writing guru by night. At least in my estimations. I've learned so much from her intensive online classes because she gets into the psychology of writing. Her classes include Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors, Empowering Character Emotions, Deep Editing, Writing Body Language, and Digging Deep into the EDITS System. I love her workshops because she not only shows you the tools, she teaches you how to use them.
If online classes don't work for you, and even if they do, I also recommend that you attend your local RWA chapter meetings. Oftentimes they will host guest lecturers on the craft of writing. And, if you can, attend the RWA National Conference. They have beaucoup workshops on writing. If you can't make it to the annual wingding, don't worry. The workshops are recorded on CD's and available for purchase. Check out the RWA website for details. You can also ask your local RWA chapter if they purchased a set for their members to peruse.
On to books, books, and more books. Another key to unlocking the secrets to becoming an excellent writer is to read, read, read. My to be read pile is at least 75 books high and climbing. I aim to read 2-3 books a week. I don't always hit that goal, but I try. Some books I'm reading are for reviews at The Season or here at It's KRISTAL kLEEr. Others are craft books or books I'm reading for personal interests.
Whether I'm reading for enjoyment, enrichment, or education I always have an agenda. I'm studying voice. I'm studying POV switches. I'm studying what holds my attention and what parts having me skimming. I dissect the plot. I take copius notes about what I like and what I don't and why. I meditate upon what I'm reading, not the story but how it's written. I keep my favorites close by. I do the same with the ones I dislike. I am a student of the craft. You should be too. Read the genre you write. Study your competition. Read outside your genre. You may discover a hidden gem.
To become an excellent writer, you must, you must, you must read and study your craft. Here are a few books I believe that every writer should own. My list is by no means exhaustive, but it can be a starting point if you haven't begun stocking your toolbox.
Everyone, and I mean everyone, should own a copy of Strunk and White's The Elements of Style. If you don't, your writing skills are greatly disadvantaged. Originally published around 1935, this master tool is a timeless and a priceless resource for all writers.
Number two on my list is GMC: Goal, Motivation & Conflict by Debra Dixon. She delves into the critical elements of creating a plot by ferreting out what it is that your characters want or need and the obstacles hindering them from obtaining their goal. Plot is essential. Without a plot, all you have is a random series of events that no one cares two hoots to holler about. Again, I say, this book is a must for every fiction writer.
Another treasure for the chest is Donald Maass' Writing the Breakout Novel. For those who may not have heard of Mr. Maass, he is a highly-sought after literary agent and author in his own right. Writers, pay close attention to him. He not only knows how to write, but how to write what sells.
Also worth mentioning is Brandilyn Collins' Getting Into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn From Actors. She demonstrates how to use Method-acting techniques to deepen characters' emotional and behavioral presence on the page.
Though my list goes on and on, I must make mention of the RWR (Romance Writer's Report). This is a free publication available to all RWA members. Inside each issue are numerous articles on the craft of writing. I've read and kept each issue I've received since becoming a member. If you aren't a member of RWA: Romance Writers of America, I seriously encourage that you become one. Their goal is to educate writers on how to become excellent writers.
There's an old adage that "Practice Makes Perfect," but that is misleading. Only perfect practice leads to perfection. Okay, so we all know that perfection is a myth, but what we can relate to is that excellence in practice leads to excellent performance. Learn from those who've gone before you. Fill your writer's toolbox and practice, practice, practice your writing. Once you master a tool, experiment and create your own method of utilizing that tool outside the norm.
I've given you a glimpse into my writer's toolbox, tell me, what's in yours?
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
In a previous post, I Chose the Nook, I commented on how much I liked the ebook reader that I purchased in June 2010.
Today, the Nook and I have an issue. It stopped working, stuck on the screensaver that wouldn't go off even with the battery out. I don't panic, though. I believe in the power of tech support.
Tonight, that belief was challenged.
The first person I spoke with had no clue what he was saying. Told me to hold the power button down for two minutes and take out the battery so that it could "air out." Hmmm, the battery wasn't wet, I hadn't spilled anything on the device so I asked, "why does the battery need airing out?" The response, "It doesn't. It's a technical thing."
Of course I ask for clarification of this technical thing and got mumble, literally mumble, for an explanation. A few more trying minutes into the conversation I realized that the person on the other end of the phone couldn't tie together coherent sentences if he'd been given string and super glue. I felt that annoyed worry rising in me and it beckoned to my inner snark. Word of warning, my snark is a shark with big teeth and a bigger bite.
I'm educated and have a great deal of common sense. I'm not an expert, but I know the jargon and have a reasonable knowledge of the inner workings of electronic devices and computers. My issue now becomes not only that I have a broken e-reader, but that a poorly trained CSR/tech advisor has insulted my intelligence.
Engaging in a heated discussion on my ability to understand technical things and his inability answer simple questions would've been futile because you can argue with a door post but it accomplishes nothing. So, I simply did as he instructed: Held the power button down for two minutes, took the battery out for 15 minutes. Then, put it back in and pressed the power button. For some oddball reason, he didn't want to stay on the line for the 15 minutes to test his "solution". I, of course, knew from the get go that his fix wasn't going to work.
My assumption wasn't proved wrong. So, I called tech support again and got a pleasant, communicative lady who provided similar instructions, minus the "air out the battery" crap. This time I was to hold the power button down for 45 seconds, remove the battery for four hours and put it back in. Charge for 4 hours and then press the power button. And, as a courtesy, the nice lady will mail a replacement battery first thing in the morning. My snark shark is thinking the courtesy would've be in providing me with a Nook that wasn't going to start having problems within months of purchase. Tonight, the filter on my brain actually worked. I didn't lend the snark shark my outside voice.
I don't think removing the battery for four hours is the solution. My gut fear is that the problem lies with the Nook, not the battery. The device is barely 5 months old. I paid full price and then it went on sale about six weeks later. Geez, my timing back then sucked but that was okay, because I liked the Nook and it came with a $50 gift card. Tonight, I'm wondering if I got suckered.
When I invest in something, I take care of it and expect it to last. I bought a hardcover to protect my Nook. I don't throw it around or misuse it. I charge it when it tells me the battery is low. The Nook and I had a good rapport until this fizzle.
Time will tell if this problem will be a tiny bump in the road or a major pothole. A tiny bump means that I may consider a Nook upgrade in the future. But, if the technical issue turns out to be a major pothole, then my favor will no longer shine on the Nook and I'll research other e-readers for an upgrade.
If anyone has had technical issues with their Nook I'd be grateful if you'd share your experience and resolution or lack thereof.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Thank you to the men and women of the US Armed Forces, here and abroad, who diligently protect our freedoms with their hearts, souls, and very lives.
Saturday, November 6, 2010
About twenty Florida authors gathered around the fountain inside the Altamonte Springs Mall to meet readers and autograph copies of the their latest books. Barnes & Noble's supplied the books and will donate 20% of the proceeds to Central Florida's non-profit Adult Literacy League. Goody bags stuffed with more books donated by out of the area authors and several publishing companies were handed out to the first 100 customers. Also, drawings were held to give away even more prizes.
What a great way to start off the holiday season!
Friday, November 5, 2010
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Three days of NaNo behind us, twenty seven days to go. I have visions of writers all over the world sitting in their cubby spaces typing like mad. Each one racing a thirty day deadline to achieve a common 50,000 word goal.
This is an exciting time for me. I've always worked better under pressure. And to ensure that I had the best chance possible to "win" this challenge I undertook a few preparations.
First, I finally finished an outline for my WIP. I used a trial of the software program SuperNotecard. It's like virtual index cards. I'm not really a plotter, at least not on paper. So, believe me, typing out an actual outline, chapter by chapter for the entire WIP was quite a feat. I patted myself on the back, because finally I figured out a pivotal plot point that brings the entire story together. Woohoo! So, after I finished my little "I got it, I got it" dance, I printed the virtual cards because I work with a netbook and the smaller screen isn't conducive when I have too many windows opened. The sad thing is that I won't look at them very much. Because really, the whole story is in my head now. I wouldn't have been able to say that, if I hadn't been forced to sit down and figure out the outline.
The second thing I did was read a book. Writing Magic by Gail Carson Levine. Now this book is written for kids who are writers. But, I found it relevant because it doesn't matter at what age you start writing. Writing is a craft and every writer needs tools.
The third thing I did was pour over the many drafts I've started of this WIP. I looked at what was the constant thread through each version. Keep in mind these were incomplete drafts because I never could get past a certain point before I'd start over.
Which brings me to the fourth thing I did. I made a promise to myself that I wouldn't rewrite anything until I typed "The End." I realized that with constant rewriting while typing the first draft is so much more than merely counterproductive. It's like a stake in a vampire's heart. It kills the story dead, dead, dead. At least for me. I get so obsessed with making every thing perfect that I never finish story.
In Writing Magic Ms. Carson-Levine states "there is no such thing as a perfect book or a perfect story." That simple statement stuck. I could spend a lifetime working to make the first few chapters perfect before moving on and end up never finishing the story. I recognized that I needed to set a more reasonable standard for myself. That doesn't mean I'll slouch to being happy writing crap. It means that I can give myself some breathing room to make mistakes, especially in the first draft.
The first draft is hard. In my head I already see the story as a finished product. The difficulty comes in the translation from the imaginative concept to the written word and the discipline it takes to get there.
In the first three days, I've had a lot of distractions. Three book reviews to write, two dogs who insist that I should give them belly rubs, scratch their ears, play tug, and give them treats because they are jealous of the contraption that sits in mommy's lap so much of the time, and a nap that just couldn't be put off any longer. Still, I've managed to pluck down 7,701 words. That means about 15 % of my WIP is complete. Now that's progress!
So writers of the world, where are you and how much have you written?
This entry also posted at the blogunity New Kids on the Writer's Block
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
|photo credits: kristal lee romances|
Monster puppy likes to burp.
I thought this kinda weird, but I've discovered it's not as uncommon as I would've guessed. Dogs burp for the same reasons humans do...to expel unwanted air lodged in the stomach. Out of instinct, dogs tend to scarf down their food which can create air bubbles as they swallow. (This can also explain flatulence at the other end, but we won't gasp that topic today.)
So, Monster Puppy's burping isn't strange after all. But the manner in which he does it makes me wonder. You see, MP doesn't just burp after eating. No. He waits until later, giving you this cute, little, please give me some love look that has you bending over to do just that. And still, he waits. Waits until you're eye to eye, nose to nose, and then he lets loose. What escapes from his esophagus could rival a fog horn and the force is strong enough to blow your hair straight back from your head. You're so startled that you forget to breathe. That's a good thing. Monster Puppy breath could lay you out on the floor.
Burping is one thing. His stage production is quite another. I'm still trying to figure out where he learned to do that. Probably the television. It wouldn't be the first time he's picked up a bad habit from watching TV.
What weird or annoying behaviors have you observed in your pets?
NOTE: If your dog is prone to burping make sure to check for bloating. Although it's natural for dogs to burp, it can be an indication of gastrointestinal problems that require medical attention. Talk to your vet if you have any concerns.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Harlequin Books, Mass Market Paperback
Release Date: November 1, 2010
Reviewed for The Seasons
Format: eGalley via NetGalley
Rating: 3.5 Gold Coins
Heat: 4 (Bonfire)
Kellan Scott, “Watchman. Werewolf. And world-class fuckup,” is determined to do one good thing with his wasted life before he dies. That one good thing is to save the witch, Chloe Harcourt, from Gregory DeKreznick—the Casus who awakened her Merrick and will kill her to consume her power.
From the moment Kellan saw Chloe’s photo and learned of her plight, he’s been obsessed with her rescue. Meticulously planning and waiting for the right moment to slip into the Wasteland and bring her home. He’s determined not to screw this up, but right from the start things don’t go as planned.
Imprisoned within a Casus fortress, Chloe wants nothing to do with the hunky werewolf, fearing her family curse is manipulating his actions and toying with his emotions. But, her Merrick sees that Kellan is exactly what she needs to set her free.
Escaping the dungeon with Chloe in tow, Kellan meets up with family and friends have who’ve come to bring him home. Together they fight the Casus to get Chloe out of the Wasteland and back to the Watchmen’s safe house in England. If she falls into the hands of the enemy again, all hell will break loose. Literally.
With time and resources running out, Kellan sneaks away from the group to go after Gregory alone. Only, Chloe isn’t about to let Kellan sacrifice more than he already has and she’ll risk everything to save him.
Touch of Temptation is the sixth book in the Primal Instinct series and the first one I’ve read. Unfamiliar with the cast of characters and the complicated world of preternatural clansmen, I found the introductions, explanations, and references to minor and off-stage species distracting. There is a glossary at the end of the book, which would have been helpful while I was reading if I’d been aware that it was included.
Despite some confusion with the world-building, I found the core plot engaging and well-written. The author’s rich, detailed descriptions helped me see into the characters’ world, even when I didn’t understand it.
Kellan’s struggle to be the better man for once in his life is heart-felt and endearing from page one. He’s heroic, self-deprecating, and oh-so delicious. Chloe can’t help but to fall for him, even though she can’t trust that he’s acting on his own free will.
Rhyannon Bird’s fantastical world is filled with exciting adventure and imaginative characters. Kellan and Chloe, although not human, deal with issues close to the human heart: self-acceptance, trust, and love.
The plot twists and turns were sometimes a bit overwhelming, but overall, I enjoyed the read.
Click to Buy @ B&N
Monday, November 1, 2010
No, it isn't Mork crank calling from his home world, Ork. It's National Novel Writing Month and it starts November 1st.
NaNoWriMo began in 1999 with 21 aspiring novelists in the SF Bay area with a mission. Okay, so part of the mission might've included expanding their dating opportunities, but the point is that they stumbled upon something that has struck a cord with writers world-wide: "a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing."
So, what is NaNoWriMo exactly?
Well, it's a challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.
The organizers of this event state that NaNoWriMo values "enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft...[and is] for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved. Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It's all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly. Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that's a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down."
In 2009, NaNoWriMo had 167,150 participants and 32,178 winners. And, the number of words officially logged was 2,427,190,537. Holy guacamole, Batman! There was a whole lotta of typin' goin' on.
Now, I know that there are skeptics. But the purpose of NaNoWriMo isn't to produce a polished manuscript worthy of the NYT bestsellers list. It's simply to motivate you to get done with your first draft. You can't get published if you can't finish the story.
For me, I need this challenge. The past year has been a frustrating turn of spinning my writing wheels in the mud. I'm looking forward to the pressure of a time crutch and the competition to finish the race. My goal is simply to have a completed manuscript by November 30th. I'm dedicated to putting the words on the electronic paper and hold the editing until "The End." I'll try to abate my OCD with Hemingway's inspirational words. "The first draft of anything is sh**!"
If writing a novel in 30 days sounds like a challenge you're willing to undertake, visit NaNoWriMo to sign up. Then, come back here and click on the icon below to "Buddy Me."
If you're already registered for NaNoWriMo, you can "Buddy Me" too. The more the merrier!
Happy Tales, yall!
*Reposted from the New Kids on the Writer's Block blogunity article dated 10/21/2010.