Monday, January 31, 2011

I See Numbers

Last year my job required me to take an Excel workshop. I'm not sure the expense the agency paid was worth the small amount of use required at work, but I'm not complaining. What I learned, I brought home and incorporated into my after-hours writing career. I built a spreadsheet to track words written on WIPs, my blog posts, and book reviews.

On Jan. 1st, I began monitoring my writing habits and productivity. To my surprise, I discovered that I liked being accountable to a chart designed with my favorite colors, with columns and boxes and totals galore. I can easily turn those into pie charts and graphs and forget how much I hated those things in math class. You see, math is not "my thing."

Oh, I can solve those mathematical equations, teeth gritted and fists clenched, under protest. But, really, who cares how fast Timmy has to walk to get to the station before the train going 55 miles an hour from Cincinnati arrives at 3:45, if he leaves his house at 2:15. I'm more concerned with why is Timmy walking alone? Where's his parents? Why can't someone take him? And why the heck is he going to the train station in the first place? That's why I'm a writer and not a mathematician. Much to the dismay of Mr. D., my tenth grade geometry teacher.


Photo: http://lkysppeak.wordpress.com
Maybe if we'd had Excel back then, my life would've had a different direction....Yeah, probably not. It's not the science of formulas and what-not that excited me when I began using my spreadsheet. It was seeing the numbers. Numbers that titillate rather than fill me with trepidation. Numbers that equal words written. Numbers that finally mean something to me.

A glance at January's spreadsheet revealed 12,011 words completed on Howlin Grace (current WIP), 2,152 for it's KRISTAL kLEEr, 1,756 for NKotWB, giving me a grand total of 15,919 for the month. Not too shabby. Of course, I'm a goal-setter. I'll have to best that number in February. Quite a challenge, too. February is a short month. I'd better get busy!

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Staring out the Window

Photo: majorlycool.com
What no {husband} of a writer can ever understand is that a writer is working when {she's} staring out of the window.  ~Burton Rascoe

Sometimes it seems Professor X is more anxious than I am to see my stories published. On the weekends, which is when the bulk of my writing is accomplished, he always asks, "how much writing did you do today?"

Whenever I reply, "I did 3,000 words," his mouth folds with an expression more smirk than smile and with a nod he wheels on his merry way. I wouldn't say those days are rare, but neither are the ones where my response is simply, "I didn't get any writing done today." That garners a sigh, along with a chastisement that I won't get published by staring out the window.

That's true, if all that was happening was me staring out the window with a vacuous mind. Writer's rarely, if ever, have vacuous minds. We stare into space envisioning a sci-fi thriller, we peer beyond the backyard scenery into the past to ferret out historical plots, we gaze at the moon for a mystical glimpse into enchanted worlds.

And sometimes we wait. Wait for characters to emerge beyond the window so that we can invite them in and listen. Other times we're forced to watch as they disappear, taking with them our plans and predictions for their story. They aren't ready to tell their tales and we must wait until they are.

I remember working feverishly on a werewolf project in 2009. Everywhere I turned, I found massive road blocks to the plot, characters were running hog-wild all over the computer page. Out of control, unruly, and definitely not conforming to the character development worksheets I'd so carefully crafted.

I'm not sure if I was frustrated or relieved the day that stubborn Alpha Male werewolf launched himself off my computer screen and straight through the picture window framing my desk. His black fur, nothing more than a dark streak as he leaped over the fence and vanished.

He didn't venture far. I sensed him in the rustling brush in late afternoons, heard his howls riding the wind, felt his nearness in my writer's soul. He had oats to sow. I had other projects. Still, there were days when I found myself staring out the window. Wondering, wondering, wondering what would become of him.

Last fall, my wandering werewolf loped over the fence and nosed the back door. He was ready to tell his story and I was ready to listen. With rapturous delight I discovered my errant wolf had brought home not only his tale, but also a few friends with their own stories to tell.

I might've missed them all, had I not been sitting at my desk staring out the window.

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Friday, January 28, 2011

Where Were You?

On this day, 25 years ago, the Challenger Space Shuttle exploded over the eastern seaboard of Florida. Fiery debris littered the Atlantic ocean while vapor trails and curling smoke crisscrossed the otherwise clear, baby blue sky.

Even though I lived in south Florida, I could see the shuttles arch high in the sky mere moments after launch. That day was no different. I was driving down the highway on my way to work. The radio blared with the launch countdown and I carefully watched over the ridge of the dike surrounding Lake Okeechobee. I saw the marshmallowy trail and at the moment the fuel boosters should've separated I watched everything spiral out of control, like the inward workings of a clock that had sprung apart. I'd seen all the shuttle launches from the little town where I grew up. None had ever looked like that. Something went wrong. I knew it. I felt it.

Dead silence fell over the radio. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing but dead silence.

Once I made it to work, the televisions that normally showed the closed circuit cameras feed were all tuned to the news channels. The announcer confirmed what I had known in my heart. The Challenger had exploded. I knew there would be no survivors. No one could've survived that kind of catastrophe at that altitude.

It was the first National disaster that I remember. Mind-numbing. Breath-stealing. Heart wrenching. We were all affected. One Nation in mourning for our heroes: Commander Francis Scobee, 46; pilot Michael Smith, 40; Judith Resnik, 36; Ronald McNair, 35; Ellison Onizuka, 39, Gregory Jarvis, 41; and Christa McAuliffe, 37.

Photo: FoxNews.com

Today I remember them again and think of the progress we've made with the International Space Station and the sacrifices that got us there. But priorities change with time.

Living closer to the Space Coast than I did in 1986, I'm more aware of the perilous politics surrounding the space program in Central Florida. Shuttles are scheduled for retirement without replacements. Funding is strained and thinning. NASA--once a shining star, has lost it's luster in these economically depressed times. 


My hope is that our country will one day experience a renewed passion for space exploration. With it comes a sense of wonderment, the vastness of endless possibilities, and the hope for a better future for all generations. I believe those dreams are what the Challenger heroes held in their hearts as the launched into history.

God speed, Challenger crew. Though you rest in peace, we have not forgotten you.


Do you remember where you were when the Challenger was lost?

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Blast from the Past

I'm hanging with the New Kids today. Stop by and comment on the first romance novel that you remember reading.  www.newkidonthewritersblock.blogspot.com

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tuesday's Treasure: Goddess of Legend by P. C. Cast


Goddess of Legend (Goddess Summoning #7) ~ P.C. Cast
ISBN-10: 0425228169
ISBN-13: 978-0425228166
Publisher:
Berkley Trade
Release Date: Dec 7, 2010
Pages: 320
Retail Price: $15.00

Gold Coin Rating: 3.4
Heat Level:  2 (Candlelight)

A Goddess will do anything…including challenging the fates and rewriting the history, all for the love of Merlin.

Devastated by war, award-winning photojournalist, Isabel Cantelli returns to her native Oklahoma hoping to soothe her battle-scarred soul. Little does she know that the whispers of an ancient magick has been sent forth through all the ages to find one, just as her.

Careening off a bridge and plunging into Grand Lake, Isabel didn’t see flashes of her life as she lived it. All she saw was the coulda, woulda, shouldas as she drowned. Lucky for her, the Water Goddess Coventina, offered a magickal amulet and a second chance at life and love…in Camelot.

One condition--Isabel must lure Lancelot away from Guinevere before they destroy Arthur and his kingdom.

Sure, no problem. Lance is supposed to be the most handsome knight of the realm. Isabel is confident in her skills as a woman who gets what she wants. This assignment would be a no brainer.  Until she realizes Lance doesn’t hold a candle to Arthur and the only feelings of lust or love she can muster are all directed at the King.

Isabel is quirky and out-spoken and hilariously out-of-place as she barrels forward with her mission to save Camelot and its people. Some of the comedic interplay is over the top and some things a bit cliché. Yet, the essence of the story is entertaining, with a few laugh out loud moments.

Isabel with all of her shenanigans manages to help heal the rift between Arthur and Mordred, and teaches Arthur how to love again. Soon, Camelot is threatened by an invading army. Because of all that Isabel has witnessed in war, she finds a way to defend Camelot so that none of its people are harmed. Her plan truly is a work of genius and quite funny in its conception.

During the victory celebration, a straggler from the defeated army makes his way into the castle and attempts to assassinate Arthur. Mordred jumps in front of his father and takes an arrow to the chest.

Isabel must make a choice between saving Mordred and staying in Camelot. She loves the King and knows it would destroy him to lose his son, so she uses the amulet to save Mordred.Isabel is flung back to her own time where she is being rescued by none other than Arthur reincarnated.

Personally, I didn’t find the ending rewarding even though it’s technically a happily ever after. The reason I was disappointed was that in Camelot, Arthur told Isabel that he couldn’t live without her. She had become his heart and soul. So, what happened to the King when Isabel warped through time again? And what happened to Camelot?

The conclusion was brief, awkward in dialogue and provided no insight into what happened after Isabel left. I would’ve liked to have seen her make a trip to the library and do a little research on the outcome. She is, after all, a journalist.



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Thursday, January 20, 2011

TBR 2011

It's Thursday and I've skipped over to New Kids on the Writer's Block. I'm sharing what's on my to-be-read list for 2011. Stop over and tell me yours.  

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Kristal's Choice: Best Read 2010

I'm hanging with the New Kids today. Drop by NKotWB and check out our favorite reads of 2010.
www.newkidonthewritersblock.blogspot.com

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tuesday's Treasure: Firewalker by Allysson James

FIREWALKER by Allysson James

Berkley Sensation
RELEASED: November 2, 2010
The continuing adventures of Janet and Mick.
Read an Excerpt  (Hyperlink  redirects to author's page.)

Reviewed for The Season.

Gold  Coin Rating:  4                           
Heat Level:   Bonfire                              
{Click here to review treasure chest rating system.}


Firewalker is unlike any paranormal romance that I’ve read.  It’s reminiscent of Tony Hillerman’s Navajo Tribal Police mysteries, but with a sharp supernatural edge and an enduring love story.

Janet Begay must prove that she isn’t the one responsible for the grisly murders near her motel. Only she isn’t convinced that she didn’t do it, and neither is her dragon lover— Mick, or their reluctant friend, Sheriff Nash Jones.

Together they will take on demons, skinwalkers, the Gods Above, the powers Beneath, and the entire Dragon Court to uncover the truth. And, if they discover that Janet is the culprit then it will be up to Mick to execute the ultimate punishment…Death. 

It’s a topsy-turvy adventure from the start. Written in first person point of view, Firewalker takes the reader on Janet Begay’s perilous journey of coming to terms with her Beneath powers. Throw a supernatural murder or two in the mix, a magic eater, a dragon trial, and a ridiculously hilarious magic mirror and you get a thrilling and satisfying read to the end.

I loved the fast-paced action with Janet moving from one complication to the next with grit and guts. Her stead-fast determination to find answers, even if it kills her, and her utter devotion to Mick kept me turning the pages.   

Firewalker extrapolates on Native American legends to weave an intricate tale of what happens when a woman is gifted with the power of the Gods. This is a fascinating follow-up to Stormwalker, which first introduced readers to this vast and colorful cast of characters.

Allyson James creates an electrifying world of magic, mystery and romance. A world where a gal can sit down and have a conversation with a dragon as if it’s as normal as eating apple pie on Sunday.  A world where unlimited imagination brings new life to ancient mythos and a place where a dragon can love a human with all of his heart.

Ms. James’s originality seasons every scene. Nothing trite or over-written to be read here. The reader sees the world exactly as Janet views it and it is an interesting perspective, to say the least.

Packed with plenty of action, adventure, and hysterical moments of comic relief, Firewalker is absolutely fun to read.

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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sunday's Pondering

"Men {and women} acquire a particular quality by constantly acting a particular way...you become just by performing just actions, temperate by performing temperate actions, brave by performing brave actions." ~ Aristotle

And I like to add:  a writer by writing. 

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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Tuesday's Treasure: Werewolf in Manhattan by Vicki Lewis Thompson


Werewolf in Manhattan ~ Vicki Lewis Thompson
Penguin Group: Signet (Eclipse) ~ Mass Market Paperback
RELEASE DATE: January 4, 2011


Reviewed for The Season. Click on hyperlink to visit the The Season blog for a chance to win a free copy.

Gold Coin Rating: 3.75
Heat: BONFIRE


“Wanting her was dangerous. She was not of his kind, and if she learned what he was, she could put the pack at risk. Yet desire waylaid him each time he caught her scent.”~ book excerpt

Emma Gavin writes about werewolves. Her novels are so close to the truth that they’ve garnered the attention of Aidan Wallace, werewolf extraordinaire. When a renegade werewolf sends suggestive messages with an underlying hint of violence, Aidan acts as Emma’s bodyguard to send a warning to the errant wolf with ties to Aidan’s family.

Things go awry when Emma incites Aidan’s mating urge. Aidan is betrothed to another by means of a treaty between packs. He can’t risk breaking the engagement for a joining with a human without jeopardizing the peace. Besides, Emma doesn’t know that he’s exactly what she’s been writing about.

Aidan captured my heart with his fierce loyalty, torn between his obligation to his pack and loving the woman who should be his mate, but cannot be. He’s indulgent and protective of Emma and clearly makes some decisions based on emotion rather than logic.

As for Emma, I didn’t fall in love with her character because she was a bit stereotypical-- an introverted writer with a love for chocolate and coffee, and not as dimensional or multifaceted as Aidan. However, Emma is spunky, quirky. Not much else in the way of personality, except for her sincere compassion for Aidan’s predicament.

A Werewolf in Manhattan is definitely Aidan’s story. His character is the one who grows and matures. There wasn’t much development in Emma. Her character remained static as the story progressed. I realize that generally only one character undergoes considerable change, but I would like to have seen Emma experience some transformation in her journey. After all, I would imagine that finding out werewolves are “real” would inspire some sort of character change since it challenges a belief system.

Despite my initial reservations about a romance writer heroine, this story was engaging enough that I forgot about my initial prejudices. And all though I longed for something more substantial from Emma, A Werewolf in Manhattan was an enjoyable, sometimes laugh out loud, comedic read.
I went through it in one sitting and was smiling when I reached The End.

NYT bestselling author, Vicki Lewis Thompson kicks off her new Wild About You series with A Werewolf in Manhattan’s debut. A snippet of what’s to come in the second installment was included in the ARC and of course I couldn’t resist the teaser. I’m happy to say that the series definitely appears promising.

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Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year 2011

I love the new year. It's a chance to leave the struggles, disappointments, and less than successful endeavors behind and start fresh. A clean slate with only the hopes, dreams, and expectations for the good things to come. Blessings to everyone for a healthy, happy, and harmonious year.


~kristal lee



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