Saturday, December 31, 2005

End of the Year Review

This'll probably be a quick post, as we're having a New Year's Eve party that should be better attended than last year's (two people). But I wanted to offer a few thoughts on the year.

Writing-wise, this year has been the most lucrative so far, but comparing $65 to $40 doesn't bring a great sense of satisfication. Reviews have been pretty much the same, novel work has consisted of mostly editing, but poetry has blossomed, albeit mostly of a personal, nonpublishable nature. Also, the hours I've devoted to writing this year have been fewer. Perhaps due to a better internet connection.

Friendships with other writers online have florished, though. I've continued to enjoy various forums and blogs. As other friends have moved away, connection online has been a big plus. I've also been able to keep up with a variety of things, including info on the Narnia movie. The Chronicles of Narnia have been among my favorite books for many years, and the Narnia craze is just to my liking. Even many of my Christmas gifts were Narnia-themed, including a Stratego game I'll probably be playing tonight.

I do better on those sort of games than bowling and putt-putt golfing, which I did for the first time in a long while this year. I prefer this year's other outings, especially trips to Rogers (huge flea market and animal auction place) with one of my closest friends and her family (p.s. Valerie, some of her kids are my age too).

Best Movie of 2005: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Best Nonfiction Book of 2005: Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge

Best Fiction Book of 2005: Tahn by L. A. Kelly (plus many more)

Best CD of 2005: The Art of Breaking by Thousand Foot Krutch (the Narnia score and inspired by soundtrack and Lifehouse were close seconds)

Best TV Christmas Movie of 2005: Silent Night

Most Faithful Friends of 2005: Charity, Ruthi, Charlie, and Hilary (plus my family)

Favorite Fad Followed in 2005: Italian charm bracelets

Favorite Article of Clothing in 2005: Jean shirt

Favorite Animal of 2005: Leopold (parakeet), 2nd place, Kiera (cat)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Landon Snow and the Auctor's Riddle

As soon as I lifted Landon Snow and the Auctor's Riddle from the box, I knew I was in for a treat. Even if I never opened the book. I loved the cover. It looked like a cross between Lemony Snicket's books and Mary Engelbreit's artwork. And the back cover warning - "Don't Fall In" - brought my mind directly to Mary's quote, "Books fall open - You fall in" But I took the chance anyway.

R. K. Mortenson dropped me directly into Landon's life, with his two younger sisters and perchant for reasons. I enjoyed following Landon's zany adventures, but I especially liked the depth of character Mortenson brought to his characters. The blatant theme seems overdone, as if the plot is merely a device to aid Landon's understanding. But in all, this is a charming, well-done novel by a first-time author. Bravo!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

I've Been Nominated!

My poem, Don't Go, has been nominated for Infuze Magazine's Best Stories and Poems of 2005! Vote here! It's such an honor to even be nominated - out of about 50 poems published this year, my poem is among the twenty people will vote on. I'm so excited!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

I've Been Tagged!

I'm an abnormal blogger. I don't post that often on here, mostly because I haunt forums and ramble about my non-writing life (which is pretty boring) on my private xanga (I don't normally give out the link, but look carefully, you may find it). I don't use Bloglines or any other of those nifty things to keep track of the blogs I like, but instead wait for those urges to "find out what everybody's up to" and randomly travel through links to visit my friends.

Which is one reason I didn't find out about the seven sevens meme until today.

I scanned through a few before wondering, "Hey, I wonder if anybody tagged me?" Thus began a purposeful search, skipping past others' ponderings on their lives, likes, and goals, to find one thing - my name. A bit selfish, I'll admit (though I'll visit your posts again later), but there was only slight hope of finding it - what chance does a once-a-month scatterbrained blogger have against all these talented, disciplined celebrities?

So imagine my surprise at finding my name on Chris Well's blog. And in the company of people like Dave Long and Matt Bronleewe. Yippee! Now I feel special. Thanks, Chris!

Seven Things to Do Before I Die
1. Publish 5 books
2. Get married
3. Visit England, Germany, Ireland, Scotland, and Austria
4. Learn to juggle
5. Live by a waterfall
6. Learn tact
7. Do something extraordinarily wonderful that everyone will remember me for

Seven Things I Cannot Do
1. Play the violin
2. Have a career in public speaking
3. Function normally without the internet
4. Wiggle my ears
5. Take things impersonally
6. (Dare I admit this?) Drive
7. Eat bugs

Seven Things that Attract Me to My [wife, husband, romantic interest, best friend, whomever] Since I'm not married, engaged, or courting (and since any romantic interest not in those areas must remain anonymous), I offer this glimpse into what I'm looking for, with these seven things as prominent:
1. His faith
2. His character
3. His smile
4. His humor
5. His intelligence
6. His kindness
7. His family

Seven Things I Say Most Often
1. Hi there!
2. Sure
3. Okay
4. Great!
5. I loved that book
6. What's your Myers-Briggs type?
7. See you later
(Can you tell I'm an introvert?)

Seven Books (or Series) I Love
1. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
2. Songs in the Night series by Jack Cavanaugh
3. O'Malley series by Dee Henderson
4. Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge
5. Arena by Karen Hancock
6. Thr3e by Ted Dekker
7. The Rivers of Judah series by Catherine Farnes

Seven Movies I Would Watch Over and Over Again
1. Ever After
2. Shrek
3. Rigaletto
4. Princess Bride
5. Star Wars
6. Spider-Man 1&2
7. Pirates of the Caribbean

Seven People I Want to Join in, Too
Actually, I'm pretty sure the few people who read this blog have already been tagged. But in the rare case you haven't - you're it!

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Comes A Horseman

If Frank Peretti's books creep you out, don't pick up Robert Liparulo's Comes A Horseman. But if you're brave, be prepared for a ride.

FBI agents Brady Moore and Alicia Wagner are on the trail of a serial killer, one who doesn't seem to have a pattern for who he kills. But his methods are the same - attack dogs, gruesome beheadings, and an odd emblem burnt into the victim's skin. Just as Brady and Alicia make the connection between the victims, the killer turns to them.

But things aren't as simple as one deranged murderer. A conspiracy a thousand years old threatens to shake the world. And a powerful man covets the title of . . . Antichrist.

Liparulo packs his novel with vivid imagery - almost too vivid for one unused to flayed flesh and gouged eyeballs. But the plot refuses to let you put the book down.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Another Publishing Credit

Infuze Magazine published my poem, "Don't Go." You may need to sign up to read it if you aren't already a member, but Infuze is an excellent magazine with tons of media news and creative works. I even have it as my homepage. This is my second poem published by them -yay!

It's odd, though, the success I've had with my articles, book reviews, and poetry while my short stories and novels languish. Short stories have placed in contests, but remain unpublished. I imagine this is a natural thing - articles meet a need and are queried first, stories just show up and are rather subjective. My book reviews are assigned, though I did get many rejections or no response from magazines I've queried. But my poetry: I submitted two to a magazine - they published one. I submitted two at different times to Infuze - they published both. And every article I've queried has been accepted by the first or second magazine I've tried.

But I haven't done much follow-up to this success. Fiction is my first love - articles just give me publishing credit and a bit of cash. And my expertise is limited, so it's hard finding a good idea for an article I can write well that fits magazines with which I'm familiar.

As far as NaNo goes, after a weekend away from home my one page is looking rather pathetic. I haven't been able to climb inside my main character very well, and since I'm writing in first person that makes things a bit awkward. So NaNoWriSe it is.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Oh No NaNo

I didn't get done. Winter still lacked 3,000 words at the end of October, though after today it's down to 2,500, so it shouldn't take too much longer.

I've discovered that my average writing day gives me about 500 words. So I'm more suited to NaNoWriSe - National Novel Writing Season. My best writing month was about 18,750 words (75 250-word pages) or 625 words a day. I want to get past that. I was hoping to do NaNo to push myself into that, but Winter has priority. It's a Christmas story, so I need to submit it now. I also have reviews and a round-up to finish. Churning out 2,000 words a day (not counting Sundays and Thanksgiving) on top of that - I don't think so. Besides, I'm thinking this young adult novel will be more in the 40,000-word range. And a suspense subplot is eluding me.

So I'm sort of doing NaNo. I'm not signed up, and this week should be rather sparse, but if the book takes off I'll throw myself into it. I have a word count spreadsheet set up. And early December seems rather empty beyond Christmas preparation, so I could finish the book then if need be.

221 words seems quite pitiful for today. But I'm trying a new method. Since I'm on this computer so much, I'm going to try writing out here, amid all the family distractions. My computer in my room says its battery's low, but I doubt I'll be able to get one soon (or ever - it's an old one). Plus, out here I get to enjoy my new yahoo station. I just found it yesterday and I'm rating songs and artists like crazy.

Found this on Brenda Coulter's blog:


My blog is worth $4,516.32.
How much is your blog worth?



Mine's worth a lot less than hers, but then I don't post nearly every day like she does.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Dark Star

The title seems like something George Lucas would write - a merging of the Dark Side and the Death Star. And Creston Mapes' main character is the lead singer in a rock band called Death Stroke.

While Dark Star does contain an epic struggle between good and evil, I'm unsure of other similarites between the novel and Star Wars, as I haven't read it yet. Yes, I hear the collective gasp. Honestly, I haven't purchased a book in quite a while - the $5 Brandilyn Collins one mentioned in my meme post was the latest, I believe. Yep, back in April. If I wasn't reviewing, I'd probably go crazy (of course, I may have gotten a lot more novel writing done and finished the unread books on my shelves). Poverty is the curse of the struggling writer. But I must admit, this book's premise has me wishing I could splurge. For more in-depth reviews and info on this book, visit the Blogging Alliance members' sites.

I haven't had much time for reading anyhow with the revisions I'm hoping to complete this month. I still have 5,000 words to add to Winter, and only 5 days to do it. Ha. I realized that's one-ninth of my target length, and I don't want that much of the book to be description. I did come up with another subplot, so I should be working on that today.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

In Progress

I have finally gotten back to work on my novel Winter, which has been sitting at 8,000 words short of where I needed it for half a year. It was done. It was perfect. How could I mar it with extra words?

It's not that I'm against editing. I know that it's a necessary part of writing. But editing usually means taking out words, not adding them. I could remove 8,000 words from the book. It would be painful, but I could do it. Deciding where and when and how to place new words - that paralyzes my fingers.

Because it feels like I'm adding fluff. I mean, all the advice on writing says to be as clear and concise as possible. Even the current discussion on The Writers' View is about cutting the fat out of writing. So how am I supposed to balance that with my need for more words?

It's not like I usually waste words. With cutting out the 8,000 words, I'd be removing scenes or partial scenes. There's little excess verbiage within the actual scenes. I believe my writing might be even too sparse. Dialogue, thoughts, and action take up most of the page. Description is a word or two if I think about it. I know that's not ideal. I work on letting readers live in my character's mind, but they should also be able to live in my character's world.

Is it because I'm an intuitive that I miss everything around me blaring at my senses? I don't note all the little details; I take in the general aura of what surrounds me. I want to recreate the same sense of aura in my writing - but I don't know how to get all the little details to do that for me. I already have the atmosphere in my mind's eye; I need to let the reader see and feel it as well.

My goal is to complete these renovations by the end of the month, so I'm ready for NaNo. Seems impossible, but I'm determined. Despite the feeling of disgust at ruining my masterpiece. Despite the urge to leave it for another time and move on. Despite the discouragement of an hour of work and only 50 new words. I'm doing it.

A side note to others who are editing and hating it - reread your ending. It makes all the pain feel worth it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Keeping Things In Order

Hmm, I got exactly zero comments with my last post. Maybe it was too confusing.

Randy Ingermanson talks a lot about the snowflake method, scene and sequel, and motivation-reaction units (MRUs). Now I'm mostly a seat-of-the-pants writer, so the whole idea of planning and plotting an entire book in detail before I start makes me want to keep reviewing books. And trying to figure out scene and sequel is equally paralyzing. Not saying anything against Randy or his methods (btw, I do really like his books); they just don't work for me at this point.

MRUs are another story. It's just an educated way of saying, "Write what happens in the order that it happens." (For Randy's better explanation, scroll halfway down this page.) In other words, don't have your character scream in pain and then hit his thumb with a hammer. Or even write: "George screamed in pain because he hit his thumb with a hammer." What happened first? The hammer hitting the thumb. So you need to write something more along the lines of: "George swung again at the nail, missing it completely and hitting his thumb instead. The instant pain jerked an involuntary scream from his throat." Of course, if George isn't the point-of-view character for the scene, an onlooking character would most likely hear the scream, then realize its cause.

Randy's insights were a good refresher. I figured out that I'd been following the basic formula of MRUs in my writing without consciously thinking about it. I'd just been writing things in the order they would naturally happen. But not every writer does this. Not even published ones.

I just finished a series of books by Jeanette Windle - CrossFire and FireStorm. Both were over 600 pages long, but since I read an average of 100 pages an hour, I wasn't too worried. Fifty pages in, an hour had passed. Something was wrong. The story was moderately interesting, though I found the heroine's blind assumptions improbable. I looked closer. There was a bit of head-hopping, but it wasn't too bad. The thing I found eating up my reading time was that I was having to go back and reread sentences. A lot. Why? Because the author was putting reactions before motivations. She wasn't writing the story in order.

I ended up enjoying the last half of the first book (once the blind assumptions were gone) and the second book. But I'm still pondering how such a little thing made a profound difference in my reading experience. And I wonder how much better the books would have been if the author had mastered MRUs.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

MBTI and Other Random Thoughts

Saw Dave's meme, and decided to try it. Since I've lived in a Christian music cocoon most of my life, I didn't think I'd recognize many of the songs from 2001. I was right. I knew only two of the songs (though I did know many of the artists). Instead of posting the whole list with oodles of strikeouts, here are the two:

1. Hanging By A Moment, Lifehouse - one of my favorite songs of all time. Glad to see it at number one.
66. There You'll Be, Faith Hill - know this song solely from the movie Pearl Harbor. Great music video.

Reviewing is going really well. I have about 3 hours worth of writing to do, then I'm all caught up with the books I have - and no new ones are on the way. The last three books I'm reviewing were all exceptional in different ways, making them a lot of fun to write about.

Of course, I'm still getting books for the roundup I'm doing. Most of the work is in reading the books, and I'm ready to dive into espionage, terrorism, exotic locations, CIA agents, intrigue, Marines, daring rescues, drug lords, and the like. Should be enjoyable.


One thing I've been studying with Myers-Briggs is how people introvert and extrovert different functions. The functions are divided into two groups - the perceiving functions, sensing and intuition, and the judging functions, thinking and feeling.

It's a bit confusing, since introversion, extroversion, perceiving, and judging are used to describe the first and last letters of Myers-Briggs type. But the functions (the two middle letters) and how you use them determines the other two type dimensions.

Everyone uses all four functions. Feelers think sometimes, and intuitives use their senses. But people are more comfortable with one perceiving and one judging function, and those are their dominant and ancillary functions. Yes, one of the functions in your type is dominant over the other. The other two functions (those not represented in your type) take third and fourth place.

For example, I'm an INFP. Feeling is my dominant function, followed by intuition, sensing, and thinking. The dominant and fourth functions are always the opposite functions, likewise second (ancillary) and third. But how does the NF of my type determine the IP of it?

You use different functions for relating to the outside world (extroversion) and in your own private thoughts (introversion). Introverts use their dominate function (in my case, feeling) with their private world, while the outside world gets only their second best (in my case, intuition). Extroverts put their best foot forward by using their dominate function to relate to the outside world, while their ancillary deals their inward thoughts.

The third and fourth function are also extroverted and introverted, but to a much lesser extent. INFPs introvert feeling, extrovert intuition, introvert sensing, and extrovert thinking. But what about perceiving and judging?

You might notice that my dominant function, feeling, is a judging function (used to make decisions, while perceiving functions take in information). Why am I a perceiver, then?

The judging/perceiver variable in type refers only to how you order your outside world. So extroverts with a dominant judging function (thinking or feeling) are judgers. But introverts with a dominant judging function extrovert their ancillary, which is a perceiving function (sensing or intuition). They (including me) are therefore perceivers.

The opposite is also true. Extroverts with a dominant perceiving function are perceivers, introverts with a dominant perceiving function have an ancillary judging function and are judgers.

I'm sorry if that's more confusing than helpful. Feel free to ask questions.

One interesting insight I've gained from understanding this: I'm a feeler, so I make decisions based on my personal values rather than logic. But I use this primarily in my inside world. I hadn't noticed it before, but the hierarchy of what I value is very clear-cut in my mind. Friendships, beliefs, past events, feelings - it's all ordered so well that it's nearly a shock to my intuitive perceiving side. If I deem someone or something important to me, it takes quite a bit to pry that person or thing from that rank of importance in my mind.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Myers-Briggs and Writing

I'm fascinated with Myers-Briggs types - how I can use them to understand people better, including my characters. Determining a person's type has now become a vital part of my character-building. It helps prevent me from using a similar hero/heroine in all my stories. It provides framework to flesh out characters consistently. It makes it easier to see what a person will do in a situation. (It doesn't help with varying sentence structure, though.)

I'm also curious how my type influences me as a writer, and how others' types influence them. Do extroverts do more speaking to promote themselves? Do intuitives delve more into hidden meaning, while sensors focus on real life? Does character- vs. plot-driven novels have anything to do with whether the writer was a feeler or thinker? Are perceivers SOTP writers while judgers outline?

I'd love to hear your comments on how your type relates to your writing. Here's a questionnaire if you don't know your type, and here and here are great sites for learning more about Myers-Briggs.

I'm an INFP - introverted intuitive feeling perceiver - which happens to also be the type of Isabel Briggs Myers, who did much with developing and promoting type theory. My type has a lot to do with how and why I write.

I - I'm an introvert, so I get energy from spending time alone. I'm more comfortable with writing to express myself rather than speaking. Long hours in front of a computer screen don't bother me.

N - Intuitive. I've found that most writers share this type. Intuitives like working with ideas, while sensors prefer concrete, tangible things. Ideas are a writer's lifeblood.

F - I'm a feeler, which is more common for women than men. I like my readers to empathize strongly with my characters, and also enjoy a romance plot or subplot.

P - A perceiver, one who prefers keeping options open. I'm wondering if the "P" should also stand for procrastinator in my case. I don't like structuring my day or my writing, and start novels on the barest of outlines.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

A Bride Most Begrudging by Deeanne Gist

When I received Deeanne Gist's A Bride Most Begrudging in the mail about two weeks ago, I was in the midst of reading four other books, a rare occurrence for me. I usually pick up a book and finish it that day or the next. I don't like being in the middle of more than two books at once (one fiction, one nonfiction), yet there I was with four books started and wanting to read another. I'd heard good things about Deeanne's book and reading the back cover was starting to drive me nuts. Finally, I couldn't stand it anymore and read the prologue. Excellent. I forced myself to put the book down and finished one of my library books. All the while, it sat there with old-fashioned wedding gown and daintily crossed fingers, tempting me like Swiss chocolate. I wolfed down my "dinner" of the nonfiction title, then moved on to savor dessert.

I read fast. I can polish off even long novels in under four hours. But it's a rare book that makes me want to zip through to find out what happens and linger so it doesn't end too soon - simultaneously. A Bride Most Begrudging was that book. I enjoyed every minute of reading it.

A quick synopsis: Lady Constance Morrow is taken against her will to become a tobacco bride for the colonists in Virginia. After losing his fiancee, Drew O'Connor only wants a maid to care for his house and his younger sister while he takes care of the fields. What he gets is a wife with a feisty temper, a head for mathematics, and no knowledge of housework.

For more, visit Deeanne's blog.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Contest

Well, the week only has about 23 hours left, and I didn't get all the to dos done. I'm blaming it on the AC dying. Except for a nice rainy day Friday, we had highs in the 90s here in PA, and the house temperature ranged from 81-85. Nasty for both sleeping and writing. VBS (including dinner) took up from 4:30 to 10:30 at least each evening, one day we prepared food, and two days we babysat from before nine until after two. So, while I'm disappointed at not getting more done, I'm grateful I accomplished what I did.

Nevermind that I picked three more review books this week. Oh, well, one's a youth novel and I had three others I wanted. But I was strict with myself and kept my list short.

Dave Long at faith*in*fiction is challenging us writers with another contest. This time it's those dreaded conversions stories. Although I didn't place in the last contest, I'm hoping to give this one a try. Providing I get a brilliant idea. Otherwise, I'll just work on my own neglected writings. But a short story may be just the thing to get me back into the swing of weaving creative tales.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Out of the Shallows

Gradually coming to the end of a long review stretch. I love books. I love promoting authors. I love telling fellow readers that they should read a particular novel. I love getting advanced copies. I hate what reviewing does to my other writing.

For the past several months, my writing has consisted of reviews and freestyle poems trying to make sense of my life. Ideas and projects have been put into sleep mode. Marketing is at a standstill. I haven't been even feeling like a writer - just a reviewer admiring in increasingly similar words others' works of genius. Even if finances allowed me to attend a major conference, I'd feel like I was wasting resources.

But I can't blame it all on the reviews. Spending hours online, friends moving away, job uncertainty - all have contributed to this current state of limbo. But some words from our music pastor have caused me to realize I've been swimming in the shallows. Taking things the easy way. Forgetting my passion.

So although next week promises to be full with VBS and two of my sisters gone, I'm hoping to get all of these "must-do"s done during that time. And get back to my passion.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Forgiving Solomon Long

For a while, I'd been hearing only good things about Chris Well's debut novel, Forgiving Solomon Long. So when the opportunity came to review the book, I jumped at the chance.

Forgiving Solomon Long met my expectations. While I was hoping to become more emotionally connected with the characters, the plot kept me glued to the pages. The style suited the book's intended male audience more than a die-hard romantic like me, but I still found myself smiling at the humor and genuinely liking many of the characters.

Be looking for my review - I'll be posting a link to it on the sidebar once it's published online.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Processing

I've been neglecting this blog lately, I know. Mostly because there's nothing to report and I'm a bit embarrassed. Second reason (i.e. excuse) is that my family's nice broadband-connected computer caught a virus and now Windows must be reinstalled - whenever my dad gets around to it. It's been down for a month.

My writing for the past little while has consisted of rambling journal entries and freestyle poetry. Dumping my thoughts and emotions on paper is my favorite way of processing them. It's been a lazy though refreshing time, but tomorrow it's back to work. I need something to distract and inspire myself rather than endlessly brooding.

Just finished rereading L'Engle's Walking on Water. I love how that book makes me think.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

For Fun

Saw this on two friends' blogs, so I thought I'd add it to mine:

1. You’re stuck inside Fahrenheit 451. Which book do you want to be?

I haven't watched it, but from other's responses, sounds like I'd be memorizing the book. So The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe it is - 11 reads should give me a head start. "Once there were four children named Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy . . ."

2. Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

A few times, mostly as a young girl. Of course, I also like the ones I create.

3. The last book you bought was…?

Cast a Road Before Me by Brandilyn Collins

4. The last book you read was…?

Rereading The Two Collars by Jeri Massi for a roundup.

5. What are you currently reading?

Club Sandwich by Lisa Samson (advance copy)

6. Five books you would take to a desert island…going with der Fieldenmarshal about the Gideons

7-in-1 volume of The Chronicles of Narnia

Arena by Karen Hancock

The O'Malley Chronicles (6 books in 2 volumes - I read fast so more is better) by Dee Henderson

Thr3e by Ted Dekker

(Sorry, Jack Cavanaugh - if you get the Songs in the Night series into one volume, I'll dump the second Dee Henderson volume. The long waits you put your characters through will be inspiring.)

7. Who are you passing this stick on to and why?

No one, since it wasn't passed to me.

Friday, April 01, 2005

April Fools

I will admit that I'm somewhat gullible. I even skimmed through Dave's post at faith*in*fiction and didn't realize it was a hoax until I read the comments. (Though I'll admit, the mention of Narnia and Bethany House together threw me off track, with my hopes to write a Narnia sequel someday. And if you're ever wondering about the similar templates on the sites, remember, I had mine first before Dave changed his.) I have a tendency not to be able to focus on too many things at the same time, so I take things at face value and ponder them later. Not good with practical-joke-playing sisters. At least today they mostly ignored the holiday, since my brother's girlfriend spent the day with us. Much more relaxing than five years ago, when we moved in on April 1st.

I haven't done much writing this week as I've spent quite a lot of time online - listing auctions on eBay, checking out how to become an affiliate, and started an online forum for my young adult class at church. And the topic this half of the week on The Writers' View is on websites. I've been learning a lot, and enjoying it. But I'm wondering how all this spinning of wheels is affecting my writing. I fooled around too much in March - I don't want April to be the same way.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Living Writing

Just a quick note this time. I wanted to say thanks for all the encouraging comments on my last post. Spring is definitely on the way here in western PA. Just today we had three flies and a wasp in the house, and our snowman melted away. I'm also feeling more positive about my writing.

I felt a profound sense of deja vu when a few days ago I found myself living out a scene from one of my novels. It wasn't exactly the same, but the general setting and about a dozen details matched the ones I'd written, and I wasn't even trying. Even the phase of the moon and the day of the month match. Kind of strange, and very neat.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Writer's Muck

Today was just warm enough to melt some of the snow we got over the weekend. The unappealing result made me prefer to stay inside.

Muck.

As the seasons struggle to change, March is rarely anyone's favorite month. People are sick of the same old snow, bored and restless. The same is true for my writing this month.

Review books pile up. I love books. I love receiving stacks of them free in exchange for my reviews. But as my reviews leave the 100 mark in the dust, it's a constant battle to keep them fresh. I don't want to repeat myself.

My novel has stalled in the revision process. I just rewrote the ending, but length requirements are calling for another subplot. That involves more character development, research, and plotting before I can increase my word count.

My short story circles aimlessly. The characters are great, but I have no idea how I want the climax of the story to play out - nor whether the tale will remain a short story in the end.

I ache for the infusion of fresh ideas and the long typing sprees that follow them, but I need to get some of this wrapped up first. New ideas refuse to take off when I have too much baggage.

So I'm slowly plowing through this season of slush and mud - not writer's block, but nearly as disheartening - as I wait for spring. I know I'll get through this sometime, and the warmth and freedom of creativity will return. I'll wonder what was so hard.

In the meantime, perhaps I should get some boots.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Reviewing the Situation

Well, after the talk of not-so-good books last week, today I got a package that drove me crazy - trying to pick which book to read first! Among the choices were Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge, Club Sandwich by Lisa Samson, A Table by the Window by Lawana Blackwell, and With This Ring, I'm Confused by Kristen Billerbeck. Yes, advance copies, all (go ahead and drool). The latter was easily voted out since I still need to get the first two books in the series out of the church library. Chick lit and its companions have fascinated me ever since I read Flabbergasted, but it's so much fun to read that I think of it as book candy and feel guilty about indulging. Solution? Pick the last book in the series to review, that way with my perchant for reading books in order, I'll have to read all of them. Guilt-free.

I finally chose Captivating since I have several fiction books partly reviewed and I didn't want to mix one more in the bunch. It's good so far (btw, all of these reviews will be put online, so look for their links in a month or so).

I've been hearing a lot about how most published authors can't support themselves full-time. A bit discouraging for an unpublished author. Yesterday marks one year since I sent out my first book query. No nibbles, but then I've been concentrating mostly on book reviews this year. It's hard to find a balance between long- and short-term writing projects. I do better consistently working on one big project, but reviews have deadlines. I wouldn't want to give up reviewing, though, unless a publisher was waiting for me to write my next book. Then I might have money to buy the books I love when they release. Or not, considering the first sentence of this paragraph. Perhaps if I split my work into weeks - 1-2 weeks of novel writing followed by 1-2 weeks of reviewing. That might work.

Does anyone get the idea that my problem-solving is done through writing things out?

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The Good, the Bad, the Published

Thanks, Kelli, for your excellent question. With reviewing, I do come across more mediocre books than I'd like. Some are chosen for me, some are from new authors I haven't read before, and sometimes a favorite author does a less than stellar job. I try to keep several things in mind while I write the review.

My first responsibility is to the readers. While I love supporting authors, if I tell people a book is great and it isn't, it only damages my reputation as a reviewer. That hampers my effectiveness when I praise a great book. Why should anyone trust what I say if I treat good and bad books alike?

All of my editors want my honest opinion of the book. They also have responsibility to the people who read their magazine or website. Two of the publications I review for provide reviews for church librarians, who will most likely not read every book they purchase. I don't want to mislead people to pay for a book they won't enjoy. And two of my editors have even complimented me for giving an honest review of a poor book.

I have a personal bias against certain genres and styles. I don't like most westerns, for example. To be fair to authors, I try not to review books I'm pretty sure I won't like. When I do review one, I ponder what a person who liked this genre would think about the novel. And I mention who would most likely enjoy the book in who I recommend it for. Age is also a factor. If the main character's a grandmother, that might be part of the reason I don't like the book, since I'm 21. But if the protagonist's a grandmother and I still like the book, that will raise the book in my opinion. Same with a western.

However bad the book might be, I have to remember that it was published. So someone must have liked it. This doesn't apply to self-published or POD books, though if I like one of those I'll give it a great review, considering some of the stigma those authors have to face.

I consider the author's history. Some authors continue to refine their writing. Others fall into a formula rut, letting their name sell the books while they churn out mediocre manuscripts. Some authors are brilliant, but this particular book is a dud. In the latter case, I don't want people to read an author's worst book and never give them a second chance. So I mention that it isn't as good as previous titles.

No matter how awful a book is, there's usually something the author did right, and I'll mention that in the review. With the book I talked about in the previous entry, I admired the author's use of in-depth description, something my writing tends to lack. I'll be sure to point that out in my review.

For a few examples of how this method has worked for me in varying degrees of quality, try the following links:

Only Glory Awaits
The Priest
Garden of Dreams
Leah's Way

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Misused Retrospect

Few things are as irritating as losing a blog entry into cyberspace. The book I was writing about on the lost entry is. Nearly every important scene was relayed in flashback. I could understand the flashbacks from the narrator's childhood. Though they came at odd places (the novel was similar to a printout of the character's thought patterns), there was a significant reason they were flashbacks and not the first chapters of the book. The narrator was viewing her childhood through the eyes of adulthood.

The other flashbacks seemed to placed only to trick the reader into reading further. As soon as the narrative began to get interesting (and trust me, the overwhelming detail made many parts uninteresting), the author would skip ahead to the next day or week, only revealing what had happened several pages later. And in a sketchy, unsatisfying way.

I've read a lot of novels (I've read at least one book by all of the authors on the sidebar, and dozens by several). I've even read novels with lots of unnecessary details. But this novel made Ivanhoe seem like a pleasure read. Even the climax was skipped. The two main characters meet at a restaurant, the guy asks one insightful question, and the narrative moves ahead to months later. I felt like throwing the book across the room, but restrained myself for Amazon saleability. I only finished the book (which took twice as long as usual) because I needed to review it.

I'm not going to reveal the author (though they're not listed to the right), though if you get Church Libraries you might see my review in several months. And it may be more unbiased now that I've got this rant over with. Twice. But this novel makes me question some writing advice: never take the reader where he wants to go. I don't remember which writing book I read that in, but it was a recognized expert. I can see how that works with multiple POVs, but not with one. Maybe you could squeeze it in once or twice, but frequent usage would frustrate the reader.

I'm still adding to my links, so if you know of a good one, feel free to let me know. And if I've linked to your blog or website, I'd appreciate if you could do the same for mine. Thanks!

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Back into Things

Today was filled with many things - babysitting, watching movies, online browsing, a nap, but nothing was as fulfilling as the hour I spent writing. I freely admit I'm a procrastinator. Solitaire and freecell are so much more attractive than that next sentence I can't figure out quite right. But once I get past that sentence and get moving, I wonder why I waited so long to write it. What exactly was so difficult that it kept me from writing? Nothing. Just my own laziness. Which I am resolved never to let happen again (or until the next difficult spot - which is why I usually have two reviews in progress at the same time).

I'm finally getting used to when most people are online, so the need to stick to this computer has faded. I have enjoyed the browsing, which should translate into more links for the sidebar. I'm going to be gathering the blogs I visit frequently along with some new review links and fiction/writing sites. I'm open to suggestions - won't make any promises, but if I find myself visiting a site more than once a week, it'll definitely earn a spot.

Today I got a little written on my short story. It's so hard to keep it down to the bare bones, but I know that it will easily exceed the length requirements. Novel writing will not let me go. Anything beyond a one- or two-scene story evolves into a book. Hmm. Maybe they'll me submit it as a serial.

Saturday a check arrived with two complimentary copies of the March Christian Communicator. My article title (Maximize the Market Guide) was on the front cover, and the article itself was second in the magazine, right after Sally Stuart's. My toes curl at the thought of all the authors I love who read that magazine and may read my article! Monday I heard that an author liked my review of his novel, and today I received a wonderful endorsement for my first novel.

Still pondering the genre decision, but have pushed it away to allow it to simmer on low. I know what I need to do now - submit Freedom's Decision, edit Winter, finish my short story, write reviews, and look for other magazine writing opportunities. That's plenty to handle for the moment, and I'll see how God directs for the future.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Avoiding Focus

I've been avoiding my writing lately. It's not because of any particular difficulty - I'm not stuck on a plot point or trying to review an indescribable book. It's just laziness, I guess. Broadband has not been good for my writing habits. I keep hoping to catch friends online, and spend my free time glued to the wrong computer. I prefer silence (or great music) and solitude for my writing, but maybe I'll have to compromise and do some writing out here with headphones. Something to help me not waste my time.

This week in The Writers View the topic of diversifying writing came up. It's usually best, sales-wise, for fiction authors to stay in one genre. But I don't know which genre I would pick. I love historical fiction and romantic suspense and thrillers and fantasy and mysteries and contemporary fiction. It would be a hard choice. Since I'm not published yet, the decision doesn't need to be made overnight, but I'll be giving it some serious thought over the next few weeks. I want to decide a focus for my writing instead of floundering.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Overgrown Stories

Three Strand (the working title for my short story) is coming along well, though the word count seems pitiful compared to others'. But that's not a bad thing with a short story. I feel like Gwen, Emerson, and Chelsea will soon be asking for a novel of their own. I specifically took stereotypes, melded and twisted them, and now these characters are so complex I'm not sure they'll fit under 6000 words.

One of the things I love about writing is the characters that develop a life of their own beyond the black and white of the computer page. I hate to leave them when the story or book is done. I guess that's why many authors write series - and have characters popping up in different novels.

Received my first writing check of the year - small but appreciated. Hoping it's just the start of many.

Sorry this is a bit disconnected, but I wanted to get this entry in tonight. Now that we have broadband I'll be able to post more often - if I can tear myself away from the new computer games!

Friday, January 07, 2005

The Perfect Name

Finally came up with the perfect name for a goth/geek in my short story - Emerson. Tonight I'll begin fleshing out his character. I still need to get middle and last names for all of my characters, but the people are only vague ideas until I get the first names.

With all the work I'm putting into the characters and finding them the exact right name, it seems like I'm preparing for a novel, not a 4000-6000 word story. But I think names are more important in short stories. In novels you have to really like the name since you'll be using it so long, but you have oodles of words you can use to describe the character. In stories word count is limited, and every syllable needs to do double duty. The perfect name goes a long way toward creating a clear image in the readers' mind.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Looking Ahead

I must admit, each year I make rather lofty New Year's resolutions. And each year, December 31st finds very few of them reached. That includes writing goals, though I've learned to be somewhat flexible with myself. For instance, last year I wanted to write the sequel to my first novel. Later on I realized that until a publisher is interested in the first book in the series, it didn't make sense to have that as a priority.

Sometimes writing opportunities come up that conflict with my goals. At this point in my career, I'm open to most of them that I feel I can do well and that pay. I've reviewed many books this past year, and while I love free books (and early copies from many of my favorite authors), I know I need to cut back to focus on my other writing. So my goal this year is 30 reviews, slightly over 1/3 of what I did in 2004.

One of the goals I did reach last year was 10 hours of writing or writing-related work each week. This year I'm trying for 12. I hope to write a book, 6 stories, and 25 poems. We'll see how far that gets.