Welcome to my self-indulgent location for the stories (good and bad) that I can't prevent myself from writing. All comments and criticisms welcome. I post on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Ballet Bragging

I can't keep this to myself. I went to see the Nutcracker twice this year. Before this year, I can't say I was a huge fan of the ballet. I wasn't raised going to the ballet or the opera. I only became interested in musical theater in high school. Before college, going to the theater meant the movies, and usually the $1 theater (back when they had those).

But we saw the Nutcracker twice. Why? My niece, who's 11, was Clara this year in Ballet Arizona's professional production. Each year, the ballet had children audition, and usually picks three Claras to split the performances up, but this year there were only 2, and one of them was my niece. And if that weren't enough to have my entire extended family bursting at the seams with pride, she was in one of the shows which the New York Times reviewer attended. And if THAT weren't enough, she gotten mentioned BY NAME in not one, but TWO articles—one on his blog, and one that was actually in print last week.

So I offer my congratulations to her and my bragging for your entertainment.

What surprises have you gotten this holiday season?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Writing Over the Holidays

Whew! Getting writing done over the holidays sure is hard, isn't it? I've been at my in-laws now close to two weeks, and have hardly opened my computer, much less Scrivener. Granted, I've been reading like a madwoman because, well, I can. But I haven't been writing.

This morning, my husband and I went and spent a few hours at a coffee shop. He wanted to get out of the house to get some work done, and I tagged along to do my own work. And MAN am I rusty. It's only been two weeks, and the words were NOT flowing. I tried editing my NaNo chapters, and realized I needed a new chapter 2.5. I tried working on a new project, and only wrote about 100 words.

The moral of the story: write every day!

Okay, now, that being said, I can't go back in time and write over the past 14 days. I need to get back into the swing of the writing, find the groove and the muse.

So, I ask you: What do you do to find your groove after a break, be it from the holidays or other reasons? Any tips?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it!

May you be surrounded by love and warmth today!

See you on Monday  :)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Review of No Place for Heroes

No Place for Heroes by Laura Restrepo

From Goodreads:
From one of the most accomplished writers to emerge from Latin America, No Place for Heroes is a darkly comic novel about a mother and son who return to Buenos Aires in search of her former lover, whom she met during Argentina’s Dirty War. During Argentina’s “Dirty War” of the late ’70s and early ’80s, Lorenza and Ramon, two passionate militants opposing Videla’s dictatorship, met and fell in love. Now, Lorenza and her son, Mateo, have come to Buenos Aires to find Ramon, Mateo’s father. Holed up in the same hotel room, mother and son share a common goal, yet are worlds apart on how they perceive it. For Lorenza, who came of age in the political ferment of the ’60s, it is intertwined with her past ideological and emotional anchors (or were they illusions?), while her postmodernist son, a child of the ’90s who couldn’t care less about politics or ideology, is looking for his actual  father—not the idea of a father, but the Ramon of flesh and blood. Anything goes as this volatile pair battle it out: hilarious misunderstandings, unsettling cruelty, and even a temptation to murder. In the end, they begin to come to a more truthful understanding of each other and their human condition. No Place for Heroes is an addition to that long tradition of the eternal odd couple—in works ranging from Waiting for Godot to Kiss of the Spider Woman—waiting for their fortunes to change, written by one of the most talented and internationally celebrated authors at work today.

I am of two-minds about this book. This is probably due to the fact that there are three stories going on at once—the main story, and two main flashback-stories. The flashbacks are wonderfully crafted, as the narrator reflects on past events with the occasional dialogue interruption from the two MCs in the present. Not only that, but those story-lines are gripping, and things HAPPEN. Unfortunately, the "present" time of the story involves only reminiscing for about 98% of the time, and feels like a gimmick to reveal the flashback stories. The final 5 pages feel rushed, as if the author realized that something needed finally to happen in the "present" and threw together a quick, unsurprising ending. I'm giving this 3 stars on Goodreads because of how much I did enjoy the flashbacks, but that's all. 

Also, a note on translation. This book was originally written in Spanish, a language I can moderately read and understand. The translations feel like Spanish with English words, which simply make the English feel full of choppy or run-on sentences. I even noticed the occasional Spanish noun-adjective word order, which is only confusing when rendered in English. Finally, the translator changed all the swearing to some of the strongest of English, which I don't believe properly carry the meaning of the words in Spanish, and felt jarring in the prose. Don't get me wrong—I love a good swear word in my reading and my own writing, but only when it flows naturally from the characters or from the narrator. None of the swearing came across as natural, which I can only attribute to the lack of ability to really translate these words properly. 

This book would have been my ideal if 1) There had been no "present" time, because I truly loved the historical time and the parallels the author drew between the relationships in the story and the struggles against the Argentinean dictatorship; and 2) I had read it in Spanish. Perhaps I'll try that in the future.

Bottom Line: Read it in Spanish, if you read it at all, but I'm not gonna push it.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Review of Scrivener

For those of you who are writers, whether you are technologically savvy or not, I would like to recommend Scrivener, a program developed specifically with the novelist in mind. With all the hype surrounding different programs for NaNoWriMo, I decided to take a step away from my traditional Word and try something different, and Scrivener offered a NaNoWriMo trial version that lasted not 30 days, but until December 7. So I tried it. Now I will never go back.

Scrivener's design is user-friendly for the every-day operations. Each "page" is meant to be an individual scene. You can title it anything you want without it printing (though see below on my inability to make this work at first), which makes them easy to find. There's a list to the left of all of your scenes and chapters (in this list, folders are chapters, and when you Compile it, they are automatically numbered in chapters without your numbering them). You can see each "file" clearly, and drag them up and down to rearrange.

You can also rearrange your scenes easily on a "cork board".You simply drag the note card to where you'd rather it be. The entire "file" with all of your text automatically moves without the nastiness of cutting and pasting and hoping the clipboard's not too full already.

To the right, there are a number of helpful tools. The two I found most helpful were 1) the notes and 2) the links. You can leave yourself any amount of notes for the scene or chapter that will never be printed in your compile or counted in your word count. In Word, I would simply type these in for myself and highlight them or change the color of the text, but then I would get an inaccurate word count. This is ideal for those of you who are as forgetful as I am in terms of adding this action, or who want to give yourself ideals as you read through without heavily revising at any given moment. The links option is also great because it gives you direct access to your research from the same file.

Another great option in this program are the character and setting sketches. It's wonderful to have quick access to your characters without opening other files. You can even include a picture. None of the notes in these "files" are included in your word count (although you can have them included with a simple click of a check box), but are still right at your fingertips. You can even include pictures, which I LOVE.

For more detailed information on any of these features, Scrivener tutorial videos can be found here.

Bottom Line: If you write novels, this will spoil you to no end, and you won't be able to go back to Word ever again :)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Review of The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors

The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors by Michele Young-Stone.

From Goodreads:
On a sunny day in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, eight-year-old Becca Burke was struck by lightning. No one believed her - not her philandering father or her drunk, love-sick mother - not even when her watch kept losing time and a spooky halo of light appeared overhead in photographs. Becca was struck again when she was sixteen. She survived, but over time she would learn that outsmarting lightning was the least of her concerns.

In rural Arkansas, Buckley R. Pitank's world seemed plagued by disaster. Ashamed but protective of his obese mother, fearful of his scathing grandmother, and always running from bullies (including his pseudo-evangelical stepfather), he needed a miracle to set him free. At thirteen years old, Buckley witnessed a lightning strike that would change everything.

Now an art student in New York City, Becca Burke is a gifted but tortured painter who strives to recapture the intensity of her lightning-strike memories on canvas. On the night of her first gallery opening, a stranger appears and is captivated by her art. Who is this odd young man with whom she shares a mysterious connection?

When Buckley and Becca finally meet, neither is prepared for the charge of emotions - or for the perilous event that will bring them even closer to each other, and to the families they've been running from for as long as they can remember.

Young-Stone has an amazing gift of craft when it comes to both language and time. This book takes the reader on not one, but two adventures for over 300 pages until the stories finally converge. Maintaining interest in two protagonists for such a long time can be a difficult and daunting task, but Young-Stone has done a beautiful job. Each person is appropriately human, and the reader loves or hates them as if they had walked out of real life and settled on the page.

I was extremely lucky, because I won this book from Therese Walsh's 50+ book contest in August. I suspect I wouldn't have read The Handbook otherwise, as it's not within my personal realm of genre fiction. So, thank you to Theresa for holding the contest, and thank you so much to Michele for including her book and sending the copy to me.

Bottom line: Read this book. You won't regret it, unless it makes you more prone to lightning. I seem to be safe so far :)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Note On Comments

Hey folks,
In case anyone's interested, I've been getting a lot of spam lately in my comments, so I decided to turn on the word verification. I know that many people find this feature irritating, and so I apologize. I don't plan on having it on forever, but just long enough to deter the spammers for a while.

Have a great week!


Thursday, December 16, 2010


I have temporarily extracted myself from cyberspace, and will be AWOL for a few more days, but I wanted to let you all know that I'm still alive and kicking.

1) Got the awesome hair treatment done, and I LOVE it! If you have hair like mine, I highly recommend the Global Keratin treatment (as well as Erin at Rocstar Hair in Chicago).

2) Drove back from Chicago in nasty, horrible snow. I was a little traumatized from the drive, but arrived home safe and in one piece. I have no desire to do any driving for a while, though.

3) My husband, my mother, and I are flying to Phoenix today to visit my in-laws for the holidays. I'm really looking forward to the break and time to eat cookies and work on writing.

4) Future blog posts will include a review of The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors by Michele Young-Stone (which I started in October and finally finished this week), and a review of Scrivener, which I got to use for NaNo. Preview: I loved both. Stay tuned.

5) Upcoming reading for me includes: No Place for Heroes by Laura Restrepo, Junction 2020 by Carol Riggs, The Hating Game by Talli Roland, and finishing On Writing by Stephen King. I'll post reviews of these, too, as I finish them.

What are you reading right now?

Happy Thursday, folks! :)

Friday, December 10, 2010

My Own Personal Challenges

I've been reading (among many other things at once) On Writing by Stephen King. I enjoyed reading his books when I was younger. After having read every Christopher Pike novel published to that point in my life at least three times, Stephen King was the next step, moving into the world of adult horror/suspense/thriller/what-have-you. And, honestly, even if you don't like Stephen King's style or his stories or are simply jealous, you have to admit—the man's got something.

So when a friend loaned me his writing memoir a few months ago I thought, "Okay, sure. Seems like a good idea."

Then it sat on the shelf until I reached 50K for NaNo.

I thought to myself, "What now?" as I'm sure many other NaNo's do. So I picked up King's On Writing to see what advice I could glean on how to dust off my work boots and get back into it.

The book is full of fabulous advice. Above and beyond the tips like "Read a lot. Write a lot", he suggests setting a daily goal. Don't do anything until you reach your goal. Don't give up and walk away. Write while eating your lunch if you must. Obviously great advice, and something I could stand to implement into my own life.

But the piece of advice that has resonated with me so soundly today is about description. I tend to be an under-describer in my writing, particularly in my first drafts. As I read, I thought about my NaNo creation (whatever it may be) and about the setting. What had I described well? Ne, what had I described at all? Oh, it hurts to admit that I may have let the description slide some. But now I know at least one thing to focus on when I go back for rewrites.

There are plenty of other gems in King's On Writing. This is just the one that inspired me today.

What's some great writing advice you've been given/come across?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

In Which I Have a Girlie Moment

It's Wednesday, December 8. Today I will turn in my final portfolio for my writing class and take my German exam, thus closing out this semester. By 8:30pm EST tonight, I will be FREE of academic obligations for almost a month.

So what am I doing to celebrate, you might ask? I'm going to Chicago to hang out with my old college roommates, reconnect with a high school friend I haven't seen since, well, high school, and get my hair done with the most amazing hairdresser. Hence, the girlie.

I am a woman cursed (or blessed—the grass is always greener, yada yada) with thick, curly, frizzy hair. I hate dealing with my hair because it can be such a tangled mess. When I do my hair—i.e., blow dry and straighten to defrizz—it can take at least 30 minutes. And for Thanksgiving, when I was fixing my hair, I fried the circuit in half the house by having the flat iron, hair dryer, and a space heater all on at the same time.

How excited am I to go to Chicago? Oh so very! In August I put up pictures from my college roomie's wedding. Said amazing hairdresser came from Chicago to Wisconsin to do the hair of everyone in the wedding party, and while she cut my hair on the loading dock of a building at Beloit College, she told me she was getting certified in a new type of hair treatment to straighten hair. This weekend, I will have this done. It's organic and relatively chemical-free. And it's supposed to be so amazing that I can walk straight out of the shower and let my hair air dry with little to no fuss.

I'll let you know how it goes, but hopefully the girl in the picture above will never have such horrid hair again!

Monday, December 6, 2010

After Emerging from the Hole...

A lot of stuff happened while I disappeared into the world of NaNo.

Most shocking to me was the announcement that Nathan Bradsford is no longer agenting (gasp!). I'm happy to hear that he'll continue blogging, and his new job over at CNET must have the potential for fewer hours, but I'm still shocked.

Talli Roland's new book The Hating Game hit Amazon.com's Kindle sales at a sprint. I grabbed my copy on the 1st, but if you haven't had a chance, pop over to Amazon and grab a copy. The Kindle version is only $2.99. Paperback will be coming out soon.

Okay, these are the big ones that I know about. What else did I miss last month?

Friday, December 3, 2010

What I Learned from NaNoWriMo

Okay, I've had a couple of days away from it, so I think I can write about it. Hurrah for Dec 3! :)

National Novel Writing Month was intense for me for many reasons, and many of those reasons were writing-related without being NaNo-related.

First, I learned that I'm not superwoman (even if I want to be). I can't do everything. I'm grateful I'm not taking more classes this semester, because nothing would have gotten accomplished if I were.

Second, I leaned a lot about writing. I have a much deeper appreciation for an outline now (which I might not have realized without seeing Lynda's post). I was so anxious to start writing for NaNo in October that I had to do something, so I outlined and character sketched. Amazing things about my story and about my characters came to light through that process. And without that outline, in my situation only superwoman (see #1 above) could have finished with 50K by Nov 30.

Third, I learned that it's okay to give up. I know. I did make it to 50K, but if you look at my NaNo stats, there was over a week of inactivity once I reached about 12K. I had other projects for school that took a lot of time (see my end-of-November posts on "Never Truly Gone"), and I had to tell myself it was okay not to finish the NaNo novel. In fact, it wasn't until I reached 40K that I honestly thought I would make it. If I hadn't given myself permission to not win I probably would have been so wrapped up in my own personal anxiety-hell that I wouldn't have reached 25K.

Fourth, I learned I'm not a writing multi-tasker. Oh, man. When I have to juggle three different traditional stories and one graphic-novel-like project, I can't think about more than one at a time. And that's okay. I don't see myself in this position again (too often) when I have to think about all of them on one day. Granted, I could work on story A on Monday and story B on Tuesday and that would probably be okay, but when I have drafts of three different stories open on my computer at once, it's probably too much. Hopefully I won't have to do that again.

Finally, I realized that I can do this. Maybe I won't be the next writing superstar, but I have something in my head that needs to reach wider audiences. And I WANT to write. And I love it, despite all the hard work. And while editing isn't exactly my idea of fun evening in, I like that, too. I'm ready to take on the challenge of the industry and move from being a writer to an author.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Hating Game Web Splash

I'm a little behind in the game (ha), but Talli Roland's new book The Hating Game just hit Amazon.com's Kindle sales yesterday. Help make her new release an amazing success and raise her book through the rankings on Amazon so others can hear about it, too. It's only $2.99 and delivered instantly to your Kindle.

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/hX2ieD

Don't have an actual Kindle? Don't worry! It's super easy to download and use on a number of different devices.
Download a free app at Amazon for Mac, iPhone, PC, Android and more.


When man-eater Mattie Johns agrees to star on a dating game show to save her ailing recruitment business, she's confident she'll sail through to the end without letting down the perma-guard she's perfected from years of her love 'em and leave 'em dating strategy. After all, what can go wrong with dating a few losers and hanging out long enough to pick up a juicy £200,000 prize? Plenty, Mattie discovers, when it's revealed that the contestants are four of her very unhappy exes. Can Mattie confront her past to get the prize money she so desperately needs, or will her exes finally wreak their long-awaited revenge? And what about the ambitious TV producer whose career depends on stopping her from making it to the end?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A New Month

It's December 1st. The new month starts with a thin blanket of fresh snow. A time for new beginnings and space heaters.

Okay, NaNo's over. My group project is done. My second story for my class has been turned in to be workshopped on Friday. So what do I do with myself now?

Blog catch-up!

Yes, folks, I'm coming to catch up on your lives and say hello. That's the plan.
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