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!