Friday, December 30, 2011

Vacations and Productivity

I'll make this brief.  I'm on vacation.  I get to spend a lot of time with my lovely wife :D.  I've been getting a lot of writing done, too.  And I'm loving it!

I started editing my rewrites yesterday, and I love how they turned out.  At this rate, I very well might have an agent by the end of 2012.  I can say that I'm confident in my work, both because I enjoy it, and because several people inside the industry have told me that it's good.  I believe it's just a matter of time and work.

So now I'm off to finish my late breakfast, then I'm going to get moving on more edits.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

And the Winner Is!

So in honor of my fourth wedding anniversary (yes, I've been married for four years!), I am going to give away a book!  I know I said that I was going to wait until I had 15 entrants, but it's giveaway day, and there are 10 people entered.  I think I'll do all of you the courtesy of announcing the winner today, rather than making you wait.

I have entered everyone's names into a random number generator, and by that I mean I numbered each and every one of you and rolled a 10-sided die, and our winner is... (drum-roll please) Meradeth!

Congratulations.  Shoot me an email so I can get your address to send you the book post-haste...via post.  :D

Oh, yes, and happy anniversary to my wife.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Oy Vey

I'm tired.  It was a long day yesterday.  We hosted Christmas for the first time, and we had a TON of people over.  My wife and I are EXHAUSTED.  It was a lot of fun, and we got to see family that we haven't seen in two years!

But despite the exciting weekend (including ice melting into the condo and dripping through the ceiling), I don't have much to talk about.  Except for ONE important thing!

The contest will be over on Wednesday!  I will announce the winner Wednesday morning.

Unless we have less than 15 entries.  Right now, only nine people have signed up to win a signed copy of SUPERNATURALLY by Kiersten White.  That's six short of the minimum.  So spread the word!  Two days to enter.  Let's get six more people to sign up.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas

I was going to put together a long post about writing-type stuff, but I imagine anyone not working today has too much to do to prepare for the weekend.  And I have to deal with a leaking shower (fourth time in seven months).

So Merry Christmas!  I'll see you on Monday.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Five Books You Should Buy for Christmas

So with our festive theme this week, I want to recommend five books that you should buy either for yourself or a friend/family member for Christmas.

Kiersten White's SUPERNATURALLY.  This is a great book by a great author, and I STRONGLY recommend that you go pick up that book.  Or enter to win it here.

Veronica Roth's DIVERGENT.  I haven't read this one yet, but my wife (who LOVES YA Fiction) thought this was one of the best books to come out this year.  I'm GOING to read it, but I think all of you should go get it, too.

Gail Carriger's HEARTLESS.  I've discussed this book before, I've reviewed all of Carriger's books.  You REALLY need to read this series.

I know this is an older book, but Suzanne Collins' HUNGER GAMES trilogy is a MUST read.  If you know anyone who hasn't read it (and that's still possible), remedy the situation.

If you're looking for a series or two, go pick up anything or everything by Jim Butcher.  He's a great author, he knows how to engage the reader, and he'll make you laugh.

What are your recommendations for the year?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Favorite Christmas Music

I worked in retail for nearly four years, and in that time I heard the worst of the worst Christmas music that the music industry has to offer.  I don't know why the music industry and the retail industry both insist on thrusting whiny, screaming R&B and Soul singers who couldn't carry a tune in a bucket down our throats when we COULD be listening to Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Vince Guaraldi Trio, Celtic Woman, and the many artist out there who DON'T want me to shove needles in my ears and forks in my eyes.  Seriously, the Jackson 5 Christmas songs are PAINFUL to listen to.

So let's share some favorite Christmas albums here today.  I'll start.

Vince Guaraldi Trio's CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS
The Celtic Woman Christmas album
Chicago's Christmas albums
and pretty much anything by Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby.

What are your favorites?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Parties!

I love Christmas parties.  And I have several ahead of me!  Tonight, one of my best friends is holding his fifth annual ginger-bread-house party (I think this is the third or fourth year that I've been able to go), tomorrow is the RMFW Christmas party, and then next week we have Christmas!

My wife and I are hosting Christmas for the first time, thanks to our new home, new furniture, and a desire to cook for other people.  I'm excited :D

I'm curious, how many of you have plans for Christmas?  Do you have parties to go to?  Are you looking forward to this year's celebration?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Child's Play Charity Update

I just got this in an email from the Child's Play Charity folks.  This is FANTASTIC news!


CHILD’S PLAY GALA AND AUCTION RAISED $351K FOR SICK CHILDREN

Donations From Gamers Surpass $1.5 Million So Far This Year

SEATTLE – Dec. 14, 2011 – Generous donations from across the game community helped raise $351,000 at the annual Child’s Play Gala and Auction. 

The Child’s Play Gala and Auction is one of the highlights of the annual Child’s Play Charity fundraising drive that donates toys, games and cash for hospitalized kids.  At the black-tie event the gaming community bids on rare and unique items.  Some of the stand out items from the auction included the life-sized Half-Life Gravity Gun that went for $21,000 and one of the rarest video games on the planet, the Nintendo World Championships Grey #60 that went for $11,500.  A lucky bidder also won a guest starring role in a Penny Arcade strip for $10,000.

The proceeds from the gala and auction add to donations already contributed by gamers around the world.  In total, Child’s Play has raised more than $1.5 million this year. 

“The gala and auction always brings in a lot of donations, but it is just one part of Child’s Play,” said Jamie Dillion of Child’s Play Charity.  “The real heroes are all the gamers who organize local events and send in individual donations that account for the vast majority of what we raise every year.  We couldn’t do this without all of their support” 

Started in 2003, Child’s Play http://www.childsplaycharity.org, supported by the entire video game community, has raised more than $10 million dollars in toys, games and cash for hospitalized kids since its inception.

Edit: I just got another email from CPC.  So far they've made $1.95 million, not 1.5 :D

Progress

It's amazing how much progress can be made on a single project just by getting a few extra sets of eyes to look it over with you.  I'm not done with my rewrites yet, but I'm making progress.  And so far, my critique group likes what I've written with the exception of a few minor things here and there.  (When I say minor, what I mean is that they're easy to fix, not that the changes would be unnoticeable.  I can fix these issues with a sentence or two, but the actual narrative takes a big turn by making those changes.)

If I keep it up, I know I'll be able to meet my beginning-of-January deadline to have this ready to query again.

What kind of progress have you made this month?  Have you reached any big goals for the month or year?  It IS December.  How did those new-year's resolutions go?  Have you surpassed your own or anyone else's expectations?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Spread the word

Looks like I only have three entries for the book giveaway that ends on December 28th.  Let's spread the word!  This is a signed copy of one of the best books that came out this year (in my opinion).

So here's what I'm going to do: I'm going to keep the contest open until I have at least fifteen entries.  That's not a whole lot, but I think that's fair.  All I ask of you, my readers, is that you tell your friends about the contest and get them to enter!  If I get fifteen or more entries by the 28th, then the contest will end on schedule.  But if we don't have fifteen by the 28th, I'm going to keep it open longer.

Just send them here!

Friday, December 09, 2011

Video!

So yesterday was my birthday.  My wife got me the DVD of Scott Pilgrim VS. The World!  So in honor of my birthday and this AWESOME movie, here's a video.


Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Modernizing Language in modern Fantasy

Let me start by saying that throughout this post, when I say, "modern fantasy" I'm talking about fantasy stories written after the year 2000.

So I picked up a novel at the book store the other day, read all the way through the first chapter and about half way through the second.  I really liked it: the characters and story were both VERY engaging and enough questions were posed that I wanted to know the answers.  But something kept me from wanting to read more: the language.  It felt stiff and archaic.  Not so much the word choices as the patterns of speech.  I didn't find it difficult to understand or annoying, but at the same time I couldn't find a "rhythm" that truly pulled me into the narrative.  As far as I could tell, everything was grammatically correct, just an older style of speech that forced me to concentrate too much on the actual sentence and distracting me from the story overall.

I'm going to go back to the book at some point because I had a pretty bad headache at the time.  I'm sure that influenced my decision not to buy the book, and I REALLY want to know what happens next, but it got me thinking:

How important is it to have older speech styles and patterns in fantasy?  Never mind urban fantasy, I'm talking about the classic settings.  Should the archaic styles be prevalent?  Should only a few characters use those styles?  Should those characters be major or minor characters?

Personally, I'd like to see more fantasy move forward with language.  I'm not saying a modern dialect should show up in the pages.  In fact, I hope that never happens.  But I love finding authors who use language in a way that is setting appropriate without making me, the reader, feel as though I'm trying to listen to an English professor from the 1880's.

That's my thought.  What do all of you think?  I'd love to hear other opinions AND suggestions for great fantasy novels!  I'm looking for a good book to read.

Also, go enter my contest!

Monday, December 05, 2011

Um...

So I came up with what I thought might be a thought-provoking post, but as I sit at my computer on my lunch break, I'm trying to sit still enough to settle my stomach.  I'm feeling VERY queasy, and that's making it hard to think.  I'll try again on Wednesday.

In the meantime, go to last Wednesday's review of SUPERNATURALLY by Kiersten White and enter to win a signed copy of the book!  Contest closes December 28th.

Also, please click on the Salvation Army link in the sidebar and consider donating a couple bucks to help keep shelters open as the weather grows cold.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Charity of the Month: The Salvation Army

You see them on the street corners, in front of the supermarket, the mall... pretty much everywhere you might happen to go throughout the Christmas season.  They're the Salvation Army Bellringers.  I didn't know until this year, but the Salvation Army has homeless shelters, shelters for battered women, family shelters, drug and alcohol rehab centers, and many, many more community programs that help those in need.

I picked the Salvation Army this month specifically because the weather is getting cold.  Their shelters are a great place for the homeless to find safety and warmth when the temperatures drop.  I know that these shelters provide Christmas celebrations, and that's wonderful, but I really want these shelters around so that these men and women without a home have a place to stay warm and stay alive.

So please click on the link in the sidebar and give a few bucks to help out those in need.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Book Review: Supernaturally by Kiersten White

I've mentioned Kiersten White several times, and I even reviewed her first book, Paranormalcy.  I was excited to get Supernaturally, her second book, and I just wish I'd had MORE time to read it so I could've finished it sooner!

This book has everything that I liked about the first novel, and it improved on the few nit-picky things that I didn't like.  Ms. White is obviously growing as an author, and I'm REALLY excited for her next book and the series that she's going to release some time in 2013.

On to the story, though.  I'll avoid spoilers, but Evie has a new problem now that she's not working full time for IPCA.  For one, her locker (which she DESPERATELY longed for) is actually not as cool as she hoped it would be.  Her gym teacher hates her, her boyfriend is going to school in another town, and for some reason, she's getting chased by monsters.  Again.

The overall narrative in this book flows very smoothly.  And the characters are much easier to get attached to than they were in the previous book.  There's depth to these people that brings them to life.  Even the antagonists are likeable in their own way.  While many of the characters ARE supernatural beings who don't really exist, they still strike me as real people.

Ms. White doesn't spend a whole lot of time bogging down the story with detailed scenery descriptions.  There are some details here and there, but she lets the reader use their own imagination to fill in many of the blanks.  As a result, I enjoyed the setting as a vivid world that I could picture in my mind without having to adjust my inner perceptions to include irrelevant details that authors sometimes like to force into scenes.

While this book is the second in a trilogy, I believe it could stand on its own as a book.  There is some back-story that's important, but it gets filled in in ways that moves the story forward without dwelling on previous events.  It's a book that's not trying to ride the coattails of a previous volume.  It's a new story with a beginning, middle, and end.  There's no cliffhanger that makes you wish the author had tied up loose ends because they all get tied up satisfactorily.

All in all, this is a FANTASTIC book.  I recommend it.  Highly.

So highly, in fact, that I'm giving away a SIGNED COPY!  That's right, it's a contest!  I have ONE signed copy of SUPERNATURALLY that I will give away to one person who comments on this post.

Rules:  You must comment.  You must use a real name.  No anonymous posters will win this prize.  You must live in the United States (sorry, I can't do international shipping).  This isn't a must, but I'd love it if you followed this blog.  And maybe send out a tweet or two about the review.  Seriously, I want Kiersten White's third book to be so highly anticipated that it hits #1 on the NYT Bestsellers list!  So link to her website, link to reviews, and get people to comment in this post so someone will get a free copy.

The contest will be open until 7am EST, December 28th.  So to celebrate my anniversary (yes, you get to celebrate with me), I will put all of the entries into a random number generator and then announce the winner!  Update: Contest Closed!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Holidays!

I hope everyone had a great holiday!  I'm excited because Christmas decorations are up in my condo.  I like decorating for Christmas, mostly because I love this time of year!  I never overdo it, I just put up a single string of garland and hang Christmas ornaments from it.  I'd do a tree, but my cat would destroy it.  And there's not really room for a tree in here, anyway.  This year my wife and I might get another string of garland, but that's about it because I just hate over-decorating.

I have something fun planned for this Christmas season, too: a contest!  Details will come later this week, but I will be giving away something AWESOME!

In that spirit of giving, I want to ask all of you to head over to Child's Play (link to the right) to donate either directly to them or to your local children's hospital.  I'll be introducing a new charity at the end of the week, but I don't want to short-change Child's Play.  I'd love to help them beat last year's total money raised (though I think they passed it by a long time ago).

Anyway, happy Monday, enjoy your turkey leftovers, and go listen to some decent Christmas music (I recommend the Charlie Brown Christmas album).

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Giving Thanks

It's turkey day tomorrow, and that means I get to spend time considering all of the things I'm thankful for.  There are the obvious things, of course, like my wife, my family, my job, etc., but this year I'd have to say I'm definitely thankful for a new circle of friends that I found through the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers.

I'm thankful for the opportunities that I've had to expand my writing abilities, and I'm especially grateful for time to write my books.

Rather than bog down your reading time with a long list of stuff, though, I want to open up the discussion with all of you.

What are you thankful for this year?  Have you reached any big goals that you want to brag about?  Did you do something you've never tried before?  Are you in a better place than last year?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Growing up...

Or maturing, if you prefer.  The other day I made a statement to myself that made me think, "Wow, I'm really an adult, now."  And that was kinda depressing.

You see, my wife and I plan on having kids some day, and about two years ago I thought, "Hey, I'm totally ready to be a dad!"  But recently I realized that I really don't want to put a kid's needs before my own wants.  I'm more than happy to put my wife's needs and wants before my own (most of the time because, let's face it, I'm not perfect and I can be selfish at times, but I'm working on that).  Sometimes I just want to hang out and do my own thing, and at this point in my life, having to take care of a child would irritate me at times.

But then I was thinking about a few video games that are coming out soon.  Games that I really want to play.  And I thought to myself, "Hey, I don't have to get them on release day.  I can wait until the price drops or they come out with an edition with all of the downloadable content that I would otherwise pay a lot of extra money for."  And then it hit me: video games excite me, but it's easy for me to just ignore them until it's convenient and/or economical for me to buy them.  It really made me think, "That's the mindset of an adult who has 'bigger' priorities."  My job, my career, my wife (not in that order) are all more important to me than video games.

I'm growing up.  Despite my efforts to retain a childlike love of life.

What's happened to you in the last few years that makes you look at your life and realize, "Hey, I'm more mature than I was last year? Two years ago? When I was in high school?"

Friday, November 18, 2011

Smile!

I had a post that I'd thought about over the past few days, but I decided I'd just skip it until Monday in favor of something that I hope will make you smile.  Check out this video buy the guys at ForestFire Films.  I know, it's cutesie, but I got a kick out of it.

Have a great weekend!


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Progress

I've actually been making a lot of headway on my rewrites!  I threw out some of what I wrote for the Chapter 1 rewrite and started over again, but what I wrote yesterday is much better than the stuff I wrote the week before.  I'm excited for where this is going, and I'm getting great feedback from my critique group!  (Not feedback that says what I have is perfect, but feedback that's helping me improve my work.)

I don't have a whole lot to say right now, mostly because there's not much to update.  Very little news in my life.  I'm also pretty much out of the loop as far as the blogosphere is concerned, so I don't have much to discuss there, either.  But I'm trying to get back into the loop.  Maybe I'll have something intellectual to discuss on Friday.

In the meantime, go donate to Child's Play, read a book, and have a great day!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Child's Play

I really want today to be about giving.  In the U.S., November is the month where we celebrate Thanksgiving.  Yes, it's a holiday that celebrates the memory of our ancestors arriving here and surviving their first winter, but to me it's more than that.  It's a day where I can step back and really look at all of the blessings I've received.  Many kids won't be able to spend this holiday with their families, or at the very least at home.  Our charity this month can be really helpful this time of year for kids who might otherwise get depressed, lonely, or just plain bored in their hospital rooms.

Please check out these videos to see some behind-the-scenes of the Child's Play annual fundraiser.  Listen to some of the stories about how this charity has touched the lives of so many people.  And please give what you can, even if it's only five bucks.

And have a great week!

Friday, November 11, 2011

When stuff happens...

I fall behind.  I have a lot of catching up to do today because work was busier this week than I expected it to be.  I have today off, but there are three or four projects I need to work on.  I wouldn't be so far behind of Wednesday hadn't happened.  My poor wife got in a car accident :(

Since I'm a loving, caring husband, as soon as I found out about it, I dropped everything to go take care of her.  She's just a bit sore, but her car is totaled.  On the total right-off scale of 1-50, her car scored a 55.  So it's a real miracle that she only has a couple of bruises.  Unfortunately for my writing, I lost two days of work.  Totally worth it to make sure my wife is okay, but now that I have a day off, I need to take the opportunity to get something done.

So go hug a veteran, go donate to Child's Play (link to the right) and enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

No Update

Dealing with a minor family emergency today, so I'm not updating.  See you Friday.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Rewrites

I love writing.  It makes me happy.  I get to sit at my computer, punch the keys, and make a story come to life.  When I get really into it, I'll pause when I get "blocked" to pace around the room and brainstorm.  I drink tons of water (or coffee), I eat compulsively, and I pace some more.  But I always get my thoughts on the page!

I started my rewrites today, and even though I'm struggling with it, I'm enjoying the process.  I'm still not sure how I'm going to change this book to make it better, but I have a few ideas.  That's coming through.  I think what I have is a better start than where I began in the generation of this story.  And I think I found a way to get more tension into this story.

And I learned something today: rewriting is writing!  You don't really think of that very often.  At least, I don't.  I always looked at rewriting as editing, revising, changing sentences around, making different word choices, etc..  But I've never had to craft new scenes like this before (not because I'm that good, simply because I didn't know it was necessary on this book until now).  And I remembered why I love writing!  I have a better grasp on the characters, too.  This means I get to shape them the way they're meant to be shaped from the beginning!

Anyway, I have a weird week ahead, so I'm going to finish this up and get a bit more writing done before I have to go to work.

Question of the week: Do you like rewriting?  Why?  Why not?

Friday, November 04, 2011

Denial

In many areas of our lives, we live in denial.  We try to convince ourselves that the ways we're going about our lives, our careers, hobbies, friendships, etc. are just fine.  My denial came in the form of my book.  It's not bad, as I've been assured by several people, but it could be better.  It's missing a few key components that would turn it from a solid piece of writing to a publishable novel.  Is denial of this form dangerous?  Well that depends on how I react when I discover that I am in denial.

Personally, I opened myself up to criticism, critiques, and advice.  And I allowed myself to listen to the opinions of the folks who looked over my writing.  What they told me makes sense.  Now that I know what they're looking at in my book, I can see that they're absolutely right, and I need to make changes.  I'm no longer in denial.  It's not always that easy to get over that mindset, and it took me several years to grow a thick enough skin to step away from my writing and allow myself to see where problems lie in my books.

Are you in denial in regards to your book?  As you participate in NaNoWriMo, are you letting yourself view your writing with enough distance to let other people tell you what needs to be fixed?

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Charity of the Month: Child's Play

I love Child's Play!  They donate video games and VG systems to hospitals.  They do board games, too, and hospitals can sign up for their own wishlists that Child's Play donors can then donate to the hospitals.  I know it's November, but Child's Play has started their annual holiday drive.  Since Christmas is next month, I wanted to highlight this charity to give everyone the chance to donate some Christmas Cheer in time for kids who are stuck in the hospital to receive it.

This charity is actually run by the men who created Penny Arcade.  They're avid gamers and essentially created the video-game-centered webcomic.  They've been drawing comics since 1998, I believe, and they've turned their business into an industry!  They have web-tv shows, a comic, of course, this charity, and they run one of the biggest geek conventions in the country, if not the world!

So please go donate and help these young men cheer up some sick kids in hospitals across this country.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Crazy Monday

It's Halloween.  I've never really celebrated this holiday, mostly because there's no significance for me.  So we'll move on.

It's been one CRAZY week!  And I have another one ahead of me.  I'm pretty caught up on all of my writing-type projects.  At least until I have to start revisions on Wednesday.  Which will be difficult because I have a ton of deliveries to make for my day job that are scheduled during my usual writing hours.  But I'll make time elsewhere assuming I'm capable of keeping my eyes open.

In other news, I have a new Charity of the Month for Wednesday!  But don't let that deter you from clicking on the link in the sidebar and donating to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  They do so much great work, and they could use all of our help.

Since I only have a few minutes left on my lunch, I'll leave you on that note.  Have a great week!

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Voice of Jim Butcher

So on Wednesday, a few of you mentioned some great authors with distinctive voices.  I want to share with you, now, why I brought up this topic to begin with.  I just finished listening to Ghost Story by Jim Butcher.  It's the thirteenth Dresden Files novel.  I've read all of those books and listened to all of them on audio.  The first twelve novels and the short story collection were all narrated by James Marsters (Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer), but the most recent one was narrated by John Glover (Lex Luthor's dad in Smallville).

Jim Butcher already created a unique voice for his Dresden character: the character that narrates the story.  When you read the books, it's clear that it's the same "person" speaking in each book.  But I was a little skeptical about the change in narrator for the audio version.  I understand that Marsters wasn't available, so they had to get a new person, but I was braced for a DRASTIC change in the overall feel of the story.  But I could barely tell the difference.

This could be attributed to the quality of acting from both narrators, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to discover that Glover listened to at least one volume of the series to get a feel for Marsters' narration style, but Butcher's voice is so strong, so unique, that even though Glover has a different speaking voice, the narrator still sounded like Harry Dresden.

By the time I made it to the second chapter, I completely forgot that a new actor was reading the book.  I visualized the story in much the same way that I visualize all of the books.  And the few changes that occurred because of the new actor made sense because so many things have changed in Dresden's world.  At the end of the experience, I knew that no matter who narrates these books, it's Butcher's vocal style that makes Harry Dresden come to life.

So if you've never read The Dresden Files, go do it.  Or pick up the CDs from your local library.  Better yet, do both.  They're also available on Audible.

Have a great weekend.  I'll see you on Monday if I don't die of exhaustion over the weekend.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Great Voice

Voice is one of those literary terms that never seems to be explained well by anyone.  I've been cruising the internet for over three years, now, looking for a concise explanation as to what agents, authors, and readers mean when they say, "You need to create a unique voice."

Voice is, of course, something very specific, and it's vital to quality writing.  But all of the elements that it encompasses are hard to nail down at once.  Kinda like air.  We need air to live.  We know that air has oxygen, we know we can draw it into our lungs, and we know that without it, all life on this planet would cease to exist.  Of course, it's possible to find out exactly what air is, but it's not easy to do without the proper equipment.  (Remember, the oxygen in air is only one part of it.  There's also CO2, H2O, and many, many particles that could be floating around with the gasses that make up our atmosphere.)

As far as I've been able to discern, voice is that element of the writing that makes the narrator a character.  It's what turns the writing from academic formality to lyrical prose.  The word choices combined in the right pattern to make the reader believe that SOMEONE is telling them a story.  But telling them in a way that makes them LIVE it!

I want to discuss voice for a while, and I'd love to hear what you all think of when you hear that term.  Who can you think of who has a very distinct voice?  What sets them apart from the other authors who are out there?  Can you give an example of how their voice carries through their work in a manner that makes them recognizable, even without knowing that they wrote the piece beforehand?

We'll discuss this over the next couple of days, and then I'll give you my example on Friday.  Stay tuned... :D

Monday, October 24, 2011

See?

I really AM busy!  I'm taking a late lunch, and I don't really have time to talk.  I will start revisions on the book as soon as I get (make) a free moment.

On the bright side, my shoulder pretty much stopped hurting.  That means I don't have to go see the doctor!  If only the other issues would resolve themselves that quickly.

Have a great week, I'll see you on Wednesday.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Meltdown impending...

I have a lot going on, much of which is going to send me into a downward spiral of self-pity, self-doubt, and a generally bad attitude.  Most of this is because I'm overworked (I've been so busy at work I don't even feel rested when I get a full day off with eight hours of sleep two nights in a row).  Plus I have that book I'm beta-reading (which is awesome and still exciting!), the books I committed to/want to review, and the crit. group.

To top that off, I'm trying to step up my writing career.  That's taking a lot of energy, time, and effort.  Some information I'm waiting to receive is probably going to make a lot of work for me which means setting aside my WiP (and that's actually good because I'll have the opportunity to outline it which will remove some of my stress).

But more than that, I've had pain in my right shoulder for over a week.  I don't know what I did to it, so I don't know how to make it go away.  It's not impeding my ability to function, but it's bad enough that I'm constantly distracted.  This is stressing me out a bit, too.  I don't know if I need to see a doctor, get a serious massage, or a chiropractor.

Plus some stuff in my personal life that's been driving me nuts for over six months is coming to a head.

Sorry for the vent, and I'm sorry I don't have anything meaningful or funny for you all to read today.  But I figured I owed an explanation as to why my posts are so inconsistent in quality lately.  I don't know when this is going to change.  I'm learning to deal with it like a mature adult, but it's going to be a while before I can say I've settle back in to the routine.

Back to lighthearted discussions on Monday.  I hope your weekend is more relaxing than mine will be (I have writing, work, a late-night pick up, and a birthday dinner to go to.  I'm excited, but I'm going to be exhausted).

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Bloggers you should follow!

So it's Wednesday, and I think it's time to highlight some more blogs you should be reading.

Let's start with Janet Reid, also known as The Query Shark!  Ms. Reid genuinely helped me understand what a great query looks like, and why mine weren't working.  She also has a ton of great posts on the ins and outs of the writing industry.  Seriously, go read her blogs, you will learn a LOT!

Along those lines, go follow Rachelle Gardner, too.  Her advice is also invaluable, and since she's an agent, too, she has a lot of insight into how the industry works.  Of course it's different, at times, from Ms. Reid's advice, but that's important because it'll give you a different perspective, which gives you the opportunity to learn more!

Finally, check out Nathan Bransford.  He's a former agent who writes Middle Grade fiction.  His advice will also rock your world, and it may move you in the direction you need to go to get your work in front of an agent!

Seriously, go check them out!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Crit. Groups vs. Emails

I love reading other peoples' work, especially when it shows promise.  As I mentioned last week, I'm now a part of a critique group, and I got the chance to read and critique three very interesting stories.  I like critique groups, especially when I get to meet with them face to face.  Let me explain why:

I have given some very direct advice and tips on how I think a story could be improved (of course I mention what's working, and what I REALLY love!).  But without inflection, facial expressions, and the opportunity to ask in-depth questions, I always worry that I'm being blunt and even coming across as negative.

It's something I've struggled with as I beta-read that book I've been telling all of you about.  As I said, I'm excited about this book, but because it's a first draft, it does need work.  I hate nitpicking, and I hate telling her things that could come across as negative, and I'm afraid I might be sugarcoating my critiques in places just to keep myself from sounding rude.

It's definitely a rough balance, I whenever I click send on my critique emails, I'm satisfied that I'm getting my point of view across, but it still concerns me at times.  Which is why I'm SO excited to get into a roundtable discussion with my new crit. group tomorrow evening.

Question of the week: What do you like about emailing critiques over sitting at a table with your group? What do you like about face-time over email? I'll join in the discussion as much as I can, but I encourage you to have at it in the comments!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Voltron!

So I watch Diggnation.  And I will until they cease filming in December.  But I'm a huge fan of Alex Albrecht's work!  So this week he released a short film that is essentially a teaser for what could be (if the opportunity arises) a dark, live-action Voltron TV show or movie.  That would be AWESOME!

You seriously need to follow Alex Albrecht on Twitter (@alexalbrecht), and Google+.  And click on the link to watch his short film.  Or watch it below.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Building Connections

Jody Hedlund today had a great post about the purpose of a fiction writer's blog.  So with that said, I'd like to introduce you to a few of the other writers on the web who I've worked with over the last few years.

First I MUST mention Todd Newton.  He's a very good friend of mine, beyond our experiences as writers.  We hang out on an almost weekly basis, playing RPGs, discussing books, movies, and occasionally politics.  And to top it off, he's a GREAT author!

Miranda Hardy is the only other writer that I can remember who had the time to beta-read my novel to completion.  There's another writer who took a stab at it, but I haven't seen him active on the web in quite some time.  That's not why I'm telling you about Miranda, though.  Really, she took time out of her busy schedule to help out a fellow writer.  She's very friendly, observant, and willing to help!  Go show some support and check out her blog.

Next? I have bring up Hanna C. Howard again.  I'm still beta-reading her novel, and I'm convinced that she's going to be HUGE when she gets a publishing deal!  Go say hi, tell her I sent you!

It's important to make connection with other people in the industry in which you want to work.  I've been VERY fortunate to work with these people, and I hope to continue to work with them in the future.

I have a local critique group that I just joined, and I'm looking forward to the work we're going to do together!  They're equally as important as the folks I've mentioned here today, and I encourage each and every one of you to go make friends with other writers.  Offer your support to them, and be willing ask for help.  You'd be surprised at how many awesome people you'll meet!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Make 'Em Laugh

Serious emotions are easy to turn boring if they're not intense enough.  Too much tension can make a reader tired, distracted, or even irritable.  But if you combine serious emotions with a touch of humor? You'll have 'em eating out of the palm of your hand!

Examples?  Sure!  My favorite author, Jim Butcher, tosses humor into his books ALL THE TIME!  His protagonist, Harry Dresden, always throws a wise-crack into the dialogue, even when he's staring into the face of certain death.  No, scratch that, ESPECIALLY when.  Sure, there are plenty of serious emotions that enter into the Dresden Files, and they aren't always interrupted by humor.  But just when you think the tension can't grow any tighter, he tosses in a joke.  The lets out the tension a tad... just enough for it to get ratcheted even TIGHTER than before!

Next we have Gail Carriger.  Her stories are chock full of humor.  And it's very witty, too!  Her jokes aren't cheap or snarky, they're just a part of the world.  There's a level of frivolity in all but the most serious scenes in her books.  And it makes what could be very dark stories into light, almost cozy books about an odd woman and the companions she chooses to associate herself with.

Finally, let's talk George R. R. Martin.  I'm a newcomer to A Song of Ice and Fire.  In fact, I've never read any of his books.  I DID listen to the audiobook of A Game of Thrones, though.  And even that book, very heavy, deep, serious, etc. has its share of humor.  Don't believe me?  Just look at the Tyrion Lannister.  He always has a joke for the people threatening him.

So what makes you laugh?  What books can you think of that have humor in them, even though they aren't comedy or humorous books?  Do you like it or hate it?  And especially, have you read any books that take themselves too seriously?  Do they need jokes in them?

Friday, October 07, 2011

Emotion Sells

A great story needs emotion.  That's what sells stories.  Yes, a great plot is important, but the best plot in the world will be extremely boring without the emotion that engages the reader.

So rather than going on and on with examples of stories with great emotion, I want to hear what YOUR favorite books are.  Specifically the ones that invoke strong emotions.  And don't be shy: feel free to tell me what the emotion is, why you like that one over another emotion that could be invoked by the same scene.

I'll start: I love the Harry Potter series, especially the scenes that draw tears to my eyes because of how evident it is that Harry has people in his life who love him, and the regret and loss he feels when he recognizes that many of those people are gone.

Now it's your turn :)

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Guest Post: ChristaCarol Jones on Hope

I'd like to welcome ChristaCarol Jones to High Aspirations today.  ChristaCarol's daughter is the reason I chose the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society as the Charity of the Month.  But rather than telling you what little I know, I'll let ChristaCarol speak.



My daughter has cancer. Every time I think or say it, the thought still knocks my breath away…and in a bad way, like falling from a two story building and landing wrong. A little over 3 months ago, Alaina was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia—one day after my son was born. My story, and of how we have learned to cope and deal with our new lives, is not what I’m here to talk to you about today, though. It isn’t going to focus on all the trials my 2 ½ year old baby girl has had to go through, but if you ever do wish to follow her progress, feel free to plug into my blog.

Today, I want to talk about hope. There are many things in our new life that give us hope. People, friends, strangers….all who’ve come out of the woodworks to help us, support us, pray for us. And then there are organizations who offer financial assistance, support, community (ever thought of how hard it would be to find someone else who was going through the same thing you were, when it isn’t all that common?). Though Alaina’s diagnosis is one of the “better” cancers to have as a child, she is still high risk, which means more treatment than the average ALL patient. And charities like the LLS (Lymphoma and Leukemia Society) help us in more ways than just money. They provide ways for research…..training….etc. If this had happened to my eldest child, when she was the same age, so 4 years ago, the chances of survival would’ve been way less. So places like LLS help improve a child’s chance of survival based on where they put the funding. Not only that, but like I said, support! Community….it’s very difficult to find other people who have children with cancer, unless you strike up conversations in clinic while your kiddo is getting her chemo. Granted, I’ve done that, and have found a very good friend in the process, who happens to live a mile away, and her son is also 2. They also have the same diagnosis. High risk ALL. But, LLS offers a way to find that community of people to connect with. Sometimes, I don’t think people realize how important it is to be able to talk to someone who is going through the same stuff as you are. It helps so tremendously much! I find that as her mother, I cannot NOT talk about her diagnosis. It’s a way of therapy…a way of relieving myself of some of my daily anxiety. And a way to remind myself…this is not a nightmare. This is our reality. My daughter has cancer. It sucks. Life is hard. But there is hope.

People like you create that hope. So please, if you have just a few minutes, donate to Light the Night, our walk for the Lymphoma and Leukemia Society. Help children and adults of cancer, and their families, have hope for the future. Because in our future, I want my daughter to be able to do all the things she’s suppose to do…go to prom, have her first kiss, go to college, get married, and have babies of her own.  Thank you, and remember, shine on! One ray of light can touch so many lives.
Shine on,
ChristaCarol Jones

Help our little girl fight leukemia and donate blood today!
Carter Bloodcare Sponsor number: SPON050875
Follow my baby girl's updates:
https://christacarol.blogspot.com
https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/alainajones/


Thank you, ChristaCarol, for taking the time to join us today.  Please know that your daughter is in my prayers.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Charity of the Month: The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society

I must be honest, the first time I heard of this group was this year.  As it turns out, Rush Limbaugh does a radio-a-thon to raise money for this organization.  I don't know how much he raises every year, but this year I believe it was close to $750,000.  He himself donated $500,000 (if I remember correctly.  Which I may not, but it was close to that).

This charity has done a lot of great work over the last six decades.  Back in the '50s, and even the '80s, if you got diagnosed with a blood cancer, you were essentially given a few months or a few years to put your affairs in order.  But because of all of the research that LLS has been able to help fund, blood cancers are no longer a death sentence.  They've been able to fund some of the greatest advancements in cancer treatment, not just for blood cancers, but for other forms that are better understood through the research done on the many forms of blood cancer.

A kid I knew back in high school got diagnosed this year with a blood cancer (I can't remember which one).  My mom forwarded the e-mail from his mom, and one of the things she said is that with modern medicine, his cancer is treatable.  There's still no cure, but it can go into remission.  And through the research funded by the LLS, the chances that it will go into remission are so much higher.

I can't remember how I came into contact with ChristaCarol Jones.  But I can tell you that she's the reason that I'm telling you all about this organization this month.  Her two-year-old daughter is fighting cancer right now, and to help find a cure, she's participating in LLS's Light the Night Walk.  She's raising money for the 5k at the end of the month, and last time I checked, she's 62% of the way to her goal.  As you can see, the link to LLS's website is in the sidebar, but rather than donate there, please click on ChrisaCarol's like in this paragraph.  She has a widget on the top-right corner of her blog that will let you donate to her Light the Night team.  Let's see if we can get her PAST the 100% line!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Betrayal

My wife and I have been married for nearly four years.  We get along really well.  We never fight, and the only time there's tension is when there's an unspoken issue that we're avoiding.  We don't even avoid it for long enough for it to become a problem.  We're both so non-confrontational that we deal with our issues in a manner that avoids fights.

Sure, there are things that we've each done that bother us, but we say something in a very non-confrontational manner, adjust our behavior, and move on.  We're even closer afterward.  I don't keep track of the things she does because that's the fastest way to destroy a relationship (a tip for all of you!).  But I discovered the other day that my wife has betrayed me possibly beyond the point of forgiveness.  It began on July 4, 2011 on our way to a BBQ at a friend's house.  I didn't think much of it the first time it happened, but it continued.

Eventually I grew used to it and accepted it as a part of who she is.  Because I love her, I figured this wouldn't cause too much strife in our marriage.   But then, on Tuesday (I believe) I found myself...

Listening to country music.  Willingly.  Because my wife listens to it.  And because she's taught me to ENJOY it.  This overshadows the shame in my confession from a few weeks ago.  It is quite painful, as a matter of fact.

Don't get me wrong; I don't hate country music, and I can even appreciate quality music.  For a while now I've been listening to Bluegrass, and occasionally Johnny Cash shows up on that Pandora station.  I like Johnny Cash.  I like some of Elvis's early work.  I even like Charlie Daniels, Lynard Skynard, and some of the "twangier" classic rock bands.  But honestly.  I never thought I would voluntarily listen to COUNTRY.  I just don't like it.  Or I didn't.

Now for you country fans; don't take offense.  I have nothing against country performers, people who listen to country, or even those who choose to listen ONLY to country music.  I just don't find it pleasing to my ears.  Yes, I'm an American to the core with roots in the south, so the lyrics often speak to me (it's also something I love about Irish music.  There's Irish blood in my veins, and I'm proud of that, but I'm proud of my American heritage, too).  My dad even played in a country band before he started his A/V company.

But I prefer Fold, Irish, Rock&Roll, and even SOME Rap and Hip Hop (two very different things).  Now I guess I have to add country to that list of music that I "like".

And because I know she's reading this, I must say, "I love you, dearest wife of mine!"  :D.  I'll trade in my Honda for a Pickup, get myself a cowboy hat, and a faithful Golden Retriever.  (I'm just kidding.  I'd hate to perpetuate a false stereotype.)

On a more serious note, it's the last day of September.  Please head over to the Gary Sinise Foundation and donate to help out our soldiers.

A new Charity of the Month will be up on Monday!

P.S. If my wife's mother read all the way to the bottom, sorry if I freaked you out.  :)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Moment of Silence

A couple of weeks ago I talked about my favorite day of the year.  I mentioned a hoodie that is my FAVORITE piece of clothing.  Well, yesterday I found five rather large holes in that hoodie.  I don't know if it got caught in something or if the material just wore through (though the holes look like they were cut or caught), but it's time to retire the old thing.  A moment of silence, please, for my poor dead hoodie.

Okay, that's enough.

Two more blog posts left this month.  It's really been a productive month for me!  So far the blog campaign has been working out well.  I'm finding new blogs to read, I've gained over thirty followers, and I get to have awesome conversations with more writers!  I'm very excited for what the future holds.

I have a lot to do today, so I'm going to leave you for the day.  But please head over to the Gary Sinise Foundation and consider making a small donation.  Or a big one if you like :).

New charity will be up on Monday.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Moving forward!

So as many of you know, I went to a writers conference a couple of weeks ago, and I met some great people!  I had an agent request pages from THE DRAGON'S NEPHEW, and I got some great advice on how to make my manuscript pop.  I also learned how to write an agent pitch (which worked wonders...see above).  I spent a couple of days going over THE DRAGON'S NEPHEW with a fine-toothed comb to see where I could take what I learned from the conference and apply it to the book.  I like the changes I made, and I think it'll help the book appeal to a wider audience.

But now I'm going to take a few weeks off from writing.  Sort of.  I'm a big fan of the policy that says, "Write every day."  So I'm going to do that one way or another.  But I have a book to finish beta-reading (SOOO excited about it!!!), I need to finish SUPERNATURALLY by Kiersten White so that I can review it, I have to read THE PROPHETESS: ONE by Linda Rohrbough and review THAT one (because she asked me to and I'm looking forward to it), and then I have to put together a contest.

Yes, that's right, a contest!  No details until I get the prize.  Not sure what I'm going to do for the contest itself, either.  But we'll see.

While I'm doing all of that, I'm going to return to my DEFENDER OF THE CROWN story, scrap it, and start over.  I have some ideas to make the characters and plot so much better, but the rewrites would be so extensive that I might as well start from the beginning.  I'll hold onto a few passages here and there, but I'm also increasing their age to make it YA book rather than a MG on the verge of YA novel.

What are you doing that you're excited about this week?  How do you plan to re-integrate ideas from your past into what you're doing now?

Friday, September 23, 2011

And Now: Rapping Pirates

I had a VERY long day at work.  I have nothing to say because I can't think right now.  Have a great weekend, I'll see you all on Monday.  Until then, shiver me timbers and check out this video!


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Remember Where We Came From

I believe it's important for us, as writers, to remember where we came from, no matter where we are on our journey.  Often times it's easy to forget that we struggled to get where we are.  And even when we're struggling to move to the next stage of our career, it can be tempting to hold our experiences and knowledge over the heads of others in a manner that belittles them.

I'll admit that there have been a few instances recently where I looked at my book, where I am in comparison to where I've been, and I thought, "You know, I'm hot stuff!"  But then I look at where I am in comparison to where many published writers are and remember, "Oh yeah, they made that crucial step.  They worked hard, possibly harder than I have, and they moved to the next level."  The great thing about those authors is how well they treat me.  And I always want to be that author of whom all the other authors say, "You know, he's a nice guy."

Whatever they think of my writing, however many books I sell, I never want to be the author that "used to be really nice."

I've met many musicians, a handful of writers, and one or two painters ("artist" type painters who con people out of hundreds of dollars with a canvas covered in a single shade of blue... but that's another topic for another day) who treated me like dirt because I wasn't one of them.  I was still an aspiring musician or writer (never wanted to be an artist), so I wasn't worth their time.  They ignored me unless they were giving me orders.  As if their accomplishments made them better than everyone else.  And they even bragged about how hard or easy their path to success was.  Yes, some of them had it easy.  They knew people who gave them a shortcut into the industry of their choice.  But most of them struggled to make end's meat, even when they had the attitude.

So remember how hard you worked, and DON'T lord it over your fellow writers!  Use that struggle as encouragement for them.  When they come to you and ask, "How did you deal with all of the rejections."  Be honest.  Always.  Even if you only got one rejection before you got your agent or publishing deal, find a way to ENCOURAGE them to push forward.  Don't let them give up, and don't make them feel like failures for not succeeding the same way you did.

And if I EVER become arrogant at any stage in my career, I solemnly give my closest friends (you know who you are) permission to slap me across the face.  At a conference or book panel.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Awards and Mondays


I won this award from Brinda Berry.  Go check out her blog, buy her book, and tell her how great she is :).

At the bottom of the post I'll link to seven other authors who won this award.  For now, I want to talk about writing.

I'm confident in my current manuscript.  I have a friend who offered to look over the first fifty pages (and Aaron, if you're reading this, I'll get them to you shortly... sorry it's taking so long).  Overall, though, I'm happy with it.  If I need to make changes, then I will, but as it is, I'd buy this book if I found it on the shelf.  Not to sound full of myself (because I'm not... I swear).  I just enjoyed writing this book, and I enjoy reading through it.

Speaking of enjoying my books, the first book I finished is PAINFUL.  I hate reading through it.  It's a chore.  And I figured out why: it's boring.  The protagonist isn't real.  He's too good, too flat, too "meh".  And the plot is almost non-existent.  It's weak.  And I figured out how to fix it!

I know I said I had a new project to work on, but I'm not ready to give up on this first idea and universe.  So rather than jumping into a new project, I'm going to throw out the old story (metaphorically) and start over from scratch.  Sort of.  I have characters.  Granted, I have a protagonist without character flaws, but the other characters are quite fun, in my mind.  And engaging.  Yes, my protagonist has a problem, well several, but all in all, he's a messiah figure.  And that's just not good for quality fiction.  So I'm going to add some flaws to turn him into an engaging person.

I'm going to rework the plot, too.  That means that now two characters I originally planned on killing off are going to survive, instead of just one.  And the antagonist will no longer be the patsy of another man.  He'll be working alone.

So that's where I stand on my writing projects.  A new beginning to a project I thought dead.  I'm still shopping around THE DRAGON'S NEPHEW, and there may be some exciting news on that coming up.

Anyway, 7 people who won the 7x7 award:

Aaron Michael Ritchey: He's a VERY friendly guy, and he has a book coming out in December.  Go check him out.

Bree Ervin is a peach.  She's putting together a critique group, and she's been very kind to invite me along!

My friend Erik George has a fan-fiction blog that is REALLY good.  Better than most published Star Wars books.

Patricia Stoltey is a wonderful woman.  Very friendly, and she had her full manuscript requested from Rachelle Gardner at the RMFW conference last weekend!  She also writes for the RMFW Chiseled in Rock blog!

As always, I have to point you to my friend Todd Newton's site.  Go buy his book!

And, to close, I think you should go read Buffy Andrews.  She has some interesting thoughts, and her most recent post is a farewell to Borders.  A store I will miss!

Have a great Monday!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Meeting with an editor?

I always wanted to know how to write a book, and when I ran across this show, I finally learned what meetings with editors look like.  I desperately want to succeed in publishing just so I can have these types of meetings.  (And for those of you who accuse me of sarcasm, I'm not kidding.  I genuinely want to get published, and I look forward to meeting with my agent and editor to discuss changes that need to be made to my manuscript.  That's part of the biz, after all.)

Enjoy!  Have a great weekend.  I'll be back on Monday.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

10 Random Facts

I guess I got tagged in a meme.  The delightful Wendy Terrien (who I met at the RMFW conference over the weekend) tagged me, so go check out her blog, and then read my random facts.

1.  I love Southern Food.  I grew up traveling across the country, and we spent a good deal of time in Tennessee, South Carolina, and other states in or near The South.  Sure, gourmet cuisine is great, but sometimes I just want cornbread with maple syrup, biscuits and gravy, mashed potatoes, pork butts and beans, and fried chicken.

2.  I hate chicken on the bone.  It's a waste of my time.  I don't want to try to figure out which parts of the food are edible, and which ones are just chewy fat that I'm going to spit out after I nearly choke on it.  Fry it up after you've cut it up.

3.  I LOVE spam with scrambled eggs and cheddar cheese on a sourdough english muffin.

4.  I actually like English food.  A solid English Breakfast, Bangers and Mash, Shepherd's Pie, I love it!  And no, it's not boiled to death!

5.  The only authentic French food I've ever eaten is a can of Fois Gras my friend Gabe bought for me when he was in France on his honeymoon.

6.  I want to learn to make my own beer.  Homebrewing is something I've wanted to do for almost a year now.  I think it would be fun, and I know I would enjoy sampling the product, even if it sucked :).

7.  I'm more obsessed with politics than I am with food, but I try not to talk about it unless I really know the person I'm conversing with.

8.  I'd rather spend $5k on an awesome kitchen in my "dream house" than $1k on the "coolest bedroom ever!"  A bedroom is for sleeping, but food brings family and friends together!  You gotta have a great place to cook.

9.  Part of me wishes I could eat out more to sample the best cuisine the world has to offer, but most of the time I'd rather cook it myself.  There's just something about creating a product from scratch.  That's why I want to make haggis with a friend of mine.

10.  And you're not going to believe this: I only weigh 155 lbs.  No matter how hard I try (and I REALLY try) I can't gain any more weight.  And most of that weight is lean muscle.  Only in the last year have I shown signs of a bit of "flab."  That's mostly from not working full time in the warehouse.  Part time gives me more time to sit on my rear.

I don't think I'm going to tag anyone, just because many of the bloggers I know don't have the free time to read my blog AND put together a blog in response to this one.  But if you DO write one, post a link in the comments!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Post-Conference Haze

The RMFW conference this weekend was awesome.  I met a ton of great people, and in the days to come I'll point you to their blogs (if they have any).  I spent a good deal of time yesterday collecting my thoughts and preparing to follow up on contacts I made.  Not only did I find a few contacts, I truly made some new friends.  I look forward to working with them, reading their work, and sharing that work with you in the future!

I learned a lot, too.  Stuff that may move my career forward at a faster pace than I realized was possible.  I'll talk about that more in the future, too.  Like I said, I'm still collecting my thoughts.  It's been an amazing couple of weeks, what with the campaign and this conference.  I'm so delighted to meet so many new people.  It's one of the reasons I want to be a writer!

If I had a month to put together a proper post, I'd tell you all about my weekend, but I only have a few minutes.  So instead I'll point you to a few blogs that you absolutely must read.

Go check out agent Vickie Motter, Weronika Janczuk, and of course Janet Reid.

Writers you should be watching: Hanna C. Howard, Patricia Stoltey, and David Powers King.  There are dozens upon dozens of people I would love to recommend to you, but start there.  I'll have some more for you soon.

Also, make sure you head over to the Gary Sinise Foundation and donate.  They're our Charity of the Month, and they do such great work for our men- and women-at-arms.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

My favorite day.

SAD.  If there is a syndrome that is the opposite of SAD, I have it!  I love the autumn, the winter, the cloudy cold, the turning of the leaves, the snowfall, short days, long nights, and so on.  If some place in the world could give me a Colorado Autumn followed by a Colorado Winter over and over again, I would have to move there.  Forever.  I don't like spring and summer nearly as much.  Don't get me wrong, I still love them, but nothing reminds me of home like autumn and winter.

My favorite day of the year is today.  The first day since spring started where I needed to pull out my sweatshirt.  I have a favorite hoodie.  It's gray, big, with zip-off sleeves.  It's worn out, raddy, but soft and comfortable.  I've had it since I was 15.  I know I should get rid of it, but I just can't.  Call me Linus.  Anyway, today I got to pull my warm, fluffy sweatshirt out of the closet, clasp my coffee in my hands, and step into the brisk morning on my way to work.

It's raining right now, and I know it's only a matter of time before green trees turn to orange, yellow, and brown.  I get to light a fire in my fireplace.  The scent of pumpkin, egg nog, pine, and my central heater will fill the house.  I'll enjoy sweet and savory baked goods, warm coffee, hot tea, hot chocolate, apple cider, maybe even mulled wine this year.

What's your favorite day of the year?  Your favorite season?  Why?  What memories make it your favorite?

Monday, September 05, 2011

Campaign Challenge 1 Entry

The door swung open, letting a burst of cold air into the flaming limo.  Firm hands darted in and wrapped around Andrew.  Fire licked at the left side of his body, and at the age of nine, he wondered why it didn’t hurt more.  Gunfire exploded all around him, along with the whoosh of molotov cocktails crashing over the streets.

“I got ya,” a gruff voice said in Andrew’s ear.  “You’re gonna be safe.”

“Mom,” Andrew wheezed.  He reached for the limo, desperate to get his mother before fire engulfed the entire car.  People were running everywhere, screaming in anger, pain, and fear.

“She’s lost, boy.  The tribes killed her.”  Bodies, broken and bloody, surrounded them.

“Why?” Andrew asked.

The man didn’t reply.  He just carried Andrew away from the chaos of the battle in the streets.  Dazed by the pain up and down his left side, Andrew watched as a man dressed in green carried a boy very much like him over to the car.  This boy didn’t move, and his eyes stared at the sky in lifeless horror.  The green man strapped the boy’s body into the limo.  The car burst into flame as the door swung shut.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Charity of the Month: Gary Sinise Foundation

This month I want to point all of you, my readers, to the Gary Sinise Foundation.  Many of you know Gary Sinise as the protagonist in Mission to Mars.  Actually, come to think of it, most of you know him better as Lt. Dan from Forrest Gump.

For more than 30 years, Gary Sinise has been working with Military Servicemen and Servicewomen and Military Veterans.  He's given a great deal of his time and money to programs to honor, inspire, and take care of the many needs of the soldiers who give their lives to the defense of our great country.  There's a great, in-depth history of the organization and Sinise's history with the military on the foundation's website, but I think it's important for all of you to know how much he's given to our nation's heroes.

With the 10th anniversary of one of the most horrific acts of terrorism in the world taking place this month, I want to highlight another group that tries to meet the needs of our soldiers.  I have many friends in the armed forces, and both of my grandfathers served in the Korean war.  And as many of my regular readers know, this isn't the first organization that I've highlighted that takes care of soldiers and their families.


We've been at war for almost a decade, and our neighbors, our brothers, sisters, friends, fathers, and mothers are sacrificing their time and their lives to keep us safe.  Regardless of how you feel about this war, please honor that sacrifice and donate to an organization that does so much good for this American Family.

Have a great Labor Day weekend.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Too Much?

A couple weeks ago I mentioned that I might be overextending myself. Well, for my new readers - fellow writers - it's definitely true. I love it, too! There are a lot of blogs that I need to read and participate in, and I'll get to as many of them as possible. I'm not stressed, though, because all of them are still there, I'm not avoiding them, and they're all quite interesting to read! I may not be able to read each post every day, but I'll stop by when I have the time.

Right now I'm getting ready for my first cup of coffee, and then I'm going to jump back into the book I'm beta-reading.

As with previous end-of-month posts, I want to keep this one short to give you time to head over to Samaritan's Purse. They still need help raising money for famine relief in Kenya, and with the aftermath of Irene, they could use our help for their US Disaster Relief fund. Even Joplin is still suffering from the tornadoes that destroyed the town several months ago. So please donate and help your fellow man :).

Monday, August 29, 2011

Working

I'm toiling away on a new project! That excites me. I love new projects, especially those books that come with inspiration rather than getting forced out through shear determination. As I've said before, the book I'm querying right now was a story that I "forced" into existence. I knew I needed a new book, so I sat down and wrote one.

This one came with inspiration. At a time when I wasn't planning on writing a new book. I wanted to focus on getting my current project represented and published, but since I have time to do both, I'm going to.

I have to get to the Day Job today, so that leaves me very little time to work on my writing. Since this is a short post, go over to Samaritan's Purse (link to the right) and donate to their famine relief fund! If you feel so inclined, they have US disaster relief, as well. Many people hit by Irene will need some help putting their lives back in order. Samaritan's Purse can help. We only have today and Wednesday in this month's blog schedule, so on Friday I'll have a new charity.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Make-Believe with Rules


First of all, welcome to all of my new readers, both campaigners and those who stumbled upon this blog randomly. Now down to business.

I play tabletop RPGs, as some of you already know. But something a friend of mine said (okay, my GM) got me to thinking. He's been going out with a new girl for a couple of weeks, I guess, and we asked him why she wasn't joining in on the gaming experience with us. You see, we love new players, and if a friend of ours is going to consider a relationship with someone, we like to know that person, too. Anyway, she wasn't there, but my GM said that she finds it boring. And she called it "playing make-believe with rules."

My GM admitted that he likes playing make-believe with rules, and I have to agree. Yes, we're grown men and women sitting around a table, making stupid jokes while we pretend to be wizards, warriors, elves, and half-giants, but it's no fun if all we do is get told, "There's a skeleton in front of you. What do you do?" And all we have to respond is, "I throw lighting at it, and it dies." No fun at all.

What makes RPGs fun are the rules. Now obviously that's not true of every RPG that's been created. Some of them have so many rules that they get bogged down with unnecessary math, charts and graphs. Some are so light on the rules that you wonder why you should even bother, and one game I played had one rule: you're going to die. Probably within the first two or three rounds.

But over all, it's those rules, that chance of abject failure in the midst of trying my best, that makes the game so satisfying. Knowing that you have to hit a 15 or better on a d20 (20-sided die) just to hit that skeleton that's ready to chew your arm off brings in a lot of tension. Rolling a 1 and then getting whacked in the head by a barbarian's club a second later ratchets the tension even tighter. When you're down to your last hit-point and finally roll that natural 20 (a critical that does a ton of damage... most of the time), it's so SATISFYING to hear the GM tell you, "The skeleton explodes in a shower of bone-dust."

But then the barbarian caves your head in.

Still, writing books is a lot like that, too. You have to have rules. The characters can't go around achieving success after success without any effort. They have to fail several times. Miserably. And then when they finally succeed, something else has to go wrong. That's what makes a story satisfying to the reader. If you don't believe me, just ask fans of The Dresden Files.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I'm Joining A Blog Campaign!

In the interest of networking and promoting other bloggers, I'm joining Rachael Harrie's Platfrom-Building campaign! I'll be participating in blog challenges, joining in discussions in the Yahoo group, and I may try to get a Google+ huddle going!

In other news, on Friday I'm going to talk about RPGs again. Tell your friends!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sometimes, I just like to sing


I sing in the car. It's weird because I don't have a radio. It got stolen a couple of years ago, and I never found it in my budget to replace the dang thing. But when I'm in a good mood on my way home from work, I find myself singing. Belting out, even. And not necessarily any real song. I'll make up a melody and just create lyrics to go with it. Often just singing about what my day was like, or what I'm going to do when I get home. I stretch my vocal chords, too. I really want to be able to sing in deeper tones, but I want to extend the high end of my range as well.

I don't have any professional training, so my voice doesn't always sound great, but I can carry a tune. Especially if I know the tune. When I sing regularly (something I haven't done in quite some time) I actually have a decent voice. These days, it would fit better in a choir, in my opinion. When I have a tune to follow, I'm rarely out of key, but there's not enough body in my voice to make it anything special. Perfect for a choir!

Anyone who's dug through my archives knows that I used to play guitar. I'd like to pick it up again some day, maybe when I have a few bestsellers under my belt, but I don't do anything by halves. I want to get a good guitar and a good amp. That's something that would cost me at least three grande. I spent $500 on a guitar once, and that was a huge mistake. Don't get me wrong, you can get a decent guitar for $500, but it's going to be an acoustic without any electronics in it. I want a real electric guitar with a solid amplifier.

But that's somewhere off in the future. Right now I write. I tell stories, and I belt out my nonsense songs in the car.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Book Review: HEARTLESS by Gail Carriger


Yesterday I finished HEARTLESS by Gail Carriger. Once again, Carriger delivered an amazing story!

Alexia Maccon is pregnant. Very pregnant. Weeks away from delivery, as a matter of fact. And the expected child is the progeny of a soulless (Lady Maccon) and a werewolf, Lord Connall Maccon. Of course life isn't easy for the country's only soulless in the employ of the crown, especially when the vampires fear the child in Alexia's womb. Not to mention the fact that SOMEONE is trying to kill the Queen, as Alexia discovers when a ghost appears from beneath the floorboards to tell her.

Like Carriger's previous volumes, HEARTLESS weaves an engaging tale with filled with wit, drama, and a mild touch of violence, both from a pregnant heroine's parasol, and some supernatural teeth. Lovers of Carriger's unique vocabulary will finish this novel with a plethora of new words to throw into your everyday speech, perfect for leaving even the most astute conversationalist discombobulated by your outlandish mode of articulation.

In the past, I have praised Carriger for her masterful execution of third-person-omniscient narration. It is one of the features I enjoy the most about her work. I was disappointed that HEARTLESS remained almost exclusively in third-person-limited, following Lady Maccon throughout the entire book, except for a few paragraphs dotted throughout the book. From a reasonable perspective, this novel would have been way too long had Carriger kept to a TPO POV. Too much happened in this book that was already pushing 400 pages, and following the other characters for any given time would have drawn out the novel in unnecessary ways. But I do miss that TPO. Rest assured, readers, that this in no way hinders your enjoyment of the book. It is still excellent, just slightly different from the previous three novels.

My only true complaint is that Carriger seemed to run out of euphemisms for pregnancy. I did get a little tired with her reminders of Alexia's "current condition." The only phrase that I found to be overused. I must admit that I LOVED the term "infant inconvenience." Hilarious.

Thank you, again, Ms. Carriger for a wonderful tale! I look forward to the conclusion next year. And to those of you who have not read HEARTLESS, go get it. NOW!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

PS3's Broken. Again.

I tell you what, I got an instant headache when my PS3 crashed again. It broke. Yellow LED of Death. With one of my FAVORITE games stuck in the disc drive. This means I need to figure out whether or not the repairs I paid a LOT of money for came with a warranty. If I can get it fixed for free, great. If not, I'm going to choke down the pain and buy a new one. Why?

Well I said up there in the first sentence that I got an instant headache when it died. That's because this system is one of my biggest outlets for stress relief. I'm not addicted, I don't even turn the thing on every day. Most of what it's used for is Netflix instant watch. Be that as it may, when I have free time, I like to sit down and lose myself in a game. Now all of my stress (yes, there's very little of it, but it's still there) is gathering in my shoulders, threatening to make my head implode.

I know this is trivial, but this is like my books. If I suddenly found out I'd never be able to enjoy Butcher, Carriger, Tolkien, Lewis, or the other authors I love, I'd freak out. Pretty quickly. And the worst part about this is, if I need to get this thing fixed, I'm going to have to take time out of my busy schedule to run the system up to the repair shop. A big part of me is really hoping I can just replace the thing.

Stress relief is a big deal to me. Especially because of how stressful life can be. I think it's important for everyone, writer or not, to find a way to relax. Life is too short to spend it in a bad mood, freaking out about one thing or another. I know I don't always deal with stress well (though I know people who REALLY flip out about even the small stuff), but I am learning to remain calm under most circumstances. Still, my PS3 did help me forget my problems now and then, giving me the chance to regroup, recharge, and then face those problems with a fresh perspective.

How do you vent, release stress, and relax? (I know I've asked this before, but it's still a great question to think about.)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Change of Plans?

I may have changed my mind about my writing priorities. I still have a book to query, and I have another book that I want to revise and query out to agents who haven't heard from me yet, but after I finish my verbal pitch, I believe it'll be time to start a new book!

I've had this idea running in my head since I started listening to A Game of Thrones. I like the idea so much that, more often than not, I find myself STOPPING the book to think of more details for my own story. This is a story that has potential for a series, which is irksome because all of my books could be a series. The first two stand alone quite well, but this one will take some effort to transform into a novel that stands on its own. I refuse to write a full series before I'm published. I won't put effort into a set of novels (two or more) that may never get published. Sure, I love the idea of creating a vast universe, complete with history, wildlife, mythology, etc.. But without any credentials to speak of, there's no real point. Many agents recommend (and I agree) writing one book that stands alone, and if you get the opportunity to turn it into a series, go for it. If you don't get representation, or if all of the publishers turn it down, then you haven't wasted your time if you only wrote one book.

I've done pretty well with my querying lately, and I'm going to keep it up. Tomorrow, though, I'm going to start putting together a verbal pitch for the conference that's less than a month away. I believe I'll start with my query letter and make changes from there. My wife has volunteered to listen to me babble on until it sounds professional.

Have a great week, please donate to Samaritan's Purse to provide food for the Somalian refugees in Kenya. I'll see you on Wednesday!

Friday, August 12, 2011

People you should be reading

This Friday I want to point you to several people in the writing world whose blogs you should be reading. Let's start with Meredith Barnes from Lowenstein Associates. She's going through a series on how to build one's brand on the internet.

You should also read agent Rachelle Gardner's blogs. Just all of them. They're incredibly helpful. In fact, I'm going to use her blogs about verbal pitches to help write the pitch that I'll present at the conference I'm attending in September.

Finally, go check out Chiseled in Rock. They're associated with the RMFW, but they touch on many topics and share oodles of advice that's useful for all writers.

Oh, and when you're done with that, go donate to Samaritan's Purse (link to your right). They still need money to send food over to Kenya for the Somalian refugees!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

More Wednesday Wanderings

I hate synopses. They're no fun to write. I write them, and I do the best I can, and I truly understand their purpose. I just don't like them. I'm convinced that, no matter where I go with my writing career, synopses are going to be a major part of my future. I don't see any way around it. I just need to learn how to get better with the outlines while figuring out how to enjoy the process.

It's exhausting at work these days. We've been trying to catch up from the last two weeks. It's good because I'm REALLY getting my bills paid, and I'm building up my savings again. I'm just ready for a slow week so I can get more writing done.

I've done pretty well with my schedule, but there have been a few hiccups. I want a day to catch up on some stuff.

I'd like to say that I'll have more to talk about later, but chances are I'll be working all day. I should have time to respond to any comments, though.

Questions: how do you avoid distraction when you have a project to finish? What steps do you take to make sure you remain on schedule? And do you use that distraction as a reward for yourself?

Monday, August 08, 2011

Inspiration

Inspiration is important, but so is the ability to write without inspiration. Last year, I started a book with little to no inspiration. I knew I needed to write a book, and I wanted it to be about a sixteen-year-old dragon slayer. I don't know where I got the idea, but it wasn't really "inspired." I simply sat down at the computer and thought of ideas until I found one that I could turn into a story I would want to read.

Later in the year I tried the same thing again. I came up with a couple of concepts that showed real promise, but as I started to flesh out the characters, I started to hate the setting, the characters, and the idea. So I jumped back into revisions for both of the books that I had already written.

Well, last week I started listening to A Game of Thrones on my iPod. I barely got through the prologue before my brain went to work on a new book. I haven't started writing it yet because I haven't had time. I'm going to mull it over for a while, too, to make sure I like the various elements. I also need to figure out how to make the first volume stand alone. As much as I like the idea of writing a huge series, I don't want to put effort into one until after I'm published. The two books I've already written stand on their own, and until I have an agent, or a publishing contract, that's how I'm going to approach every project.

My point? Inspiration is everywhere, but you can't just sit around and wait for it. Write when you have the time, even if it's a silly blog post. When you feel uninspired, create a character, or write a short scene about something interesting. Take time to read. Listen to books on CD, or Audible.com. The man who narrates A Game of Thrones is amazing! James Marsters does a great job with the Dresden Files (except the newest one, apparently. They got another guy because Mr. Marsters couldn't do Ghost Story). Check out the Parasol Protectorate by Gail Carriger. Find inspiration where you can, and GO WITH IT! Take notes. When I had this idea, I was driving. I used to think, "Oh, I'll remember all of this." And I do, but I think it's because my brain made a memory trigger out of the fact that I took the time to pull out my iPod and record a message to myself.

Speaking of inspiration, please go donate! The situation in Africa is getting worse. Samaritan's Purse needs all the help they can get.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Friday Update

So it's a week in to my "overextended" schedule. I'm not getting up as early as I would like, but I'm making progress! I got a bunch of queries out, I put together some notes for the book I'm beta reading (I'll email those out when I have a few free minutes to clarify my thoughts), and I'm powering through Heartless by Gail Carriger.

Still no revisions on my other book (the one I'm NOT submitting). But that will come soon. My day-job schedule looks like it's going to slow down soon, but even if it doesn't, my wife goes back to school next week. That will make it (slightly) easier to get up when I want to be up.

That's about all I have today. I could get political, but this isn't a political blog. But go donate to Samaritan's Purse! They're sending food to Kenya for the famine victims.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Wednesday Wanderings

I like raspberries. And raspberry preserves. Both of my grandfathers had raspberry bushes in their backyards, and I got to pick fresh berries and eat them on a regular basis. I loved it! The seeds in preserves remind me of my childhood, and that's one of my favorite memories. I know it's kinda random, but that's how I feel today.

My brother paid me a big compliment. He said he liked my book. Why is that a big compliment? Because he doesn't read. He just doesn't do it. And when he does, it has to be a book that he really likes. Take that however you like. I'm my own biggest critic, so I don't know if I completely agree with him. At the same time, though, every time I read through my book for revisions, I enjoy it. It's a book I would genuinely like to own.

I enjoy bowling. I'm not good at it, I don't do it very often, but it's fun. I'm going to take my wife out to go bowling tonight. This is the last week in her summer break. She heads back to work on Monday to prepare the school for kids to show up soon. But we've been able to spend a good deal of time together. We went to Ikea on Monday, and that was a lot of fun. I don't know if we'll buy much stuff there, but some of it was cool. I can kind of understand the hype, too.

So... that's about all that's running around in my head right now. Time to eat lunch.

While you're here, go click on the Samaritan's Purse link to your right. Please give to their Kenya Food Relief fund. Save a starving child.