Friday, December 2, 2011

Blog Chain: Where and When

This round of the chain was started by Tere. She asked:

What conditions do you need to get your best writing done? Closed door, crowded coffee house? Computer or notebook? Can you just sit down to write, or do you need to wait for the time to be right?

This varies for me. If I'm on a roll, I can usually tune everything out (TV, video game noise, fighting children) and just write. Okay, that's not entirely true. My oldest daughter has recently developed the habit of listening to her current favorite song over and over and over. And over. This is VERY distracting and does stop me from making progress.

Any other time, if I'm stuck or I find that I'm easily distracted by email, Facebook, Twitter, and other internet things, it usually means the story isn't going in the right direction. Once I realize this is happening--I'm slow, so sometimes it takes me a while--I'll grab a notebook and move somewhere without immediate access to my computer. And in this situation, I need quiet, so I can think.

Now, I'm not saying I can't find ways to procrastinate with just a pen and paper. My notebooks are filled with doodles in the margins and in between paragraphs. But those are usually pretty mindless and help me think. And I don't know what it is about notebooks, but they have this magical way of getting me unstuck. One time, I was stuck on a scene for over a week. Every time I sat down and opened Word, I made no progress. But as soon as I turned to the notebook, it all worked itself out, and it only took me a couple of hours. Totally magical. ;)

As far as time of day or location, it doesn't matter. With kids, I've had to learn to be flexible.

What conditions do you need to get your best writing done?

Be sure to check out Jon's post from Wednesday and Amparo's post tomorrow. :)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Blog Chain: Greatest Accomplishment

This round was started by Michelle Hickman. She asked:

This is the month in creating writing goals and making big accomplishments. What is your greatest accomplishment -- in writing, your life or perhaps something incidental that had a big effect on you?

I'd like to say I've accomplished a lot over the years, but my life seems to be filled with many, many half-finished projects and ideas that probably could've gone somewhere if I hadn't gotten bored with them. At one point, I thought maybe my kids were an accomplishment, but truthfully, they're really only halfway to adulthood. Not that I'm giving up on them, not at all, but most of the time, I think the accomplishment belongs to them, for surviving another day with me as their nutso mother. ;)

Two years ago I probably would've said my greatest accomplishment was that I'd written a novel, start to finish. And I could've stopped there, patted myself on the back, and congratulated myself on actually finishing something. But now I know it wasn't really finished, and I think deep down I knew it then too. My subconscious just knew better than to make me aware of that fact because it probably would've stopped me from moving forward. I mean, a year to rewrite the entire thing from scratch and then another nine months to do it again? Talk about daunting.

So, at this point, I'll say my greatest writerly accomplishment is sticking with that story until it was as good as I could make it, despite HATING it at least 50% of the time I was working on it. Now I just have to muster the courage to query the thing. I know I said I sent a query out a couple of weeks ago (and I did), but that one doesn't really count since it came with a safety net. It's those this is your ONE chance to impress me queries that keep stalling me. Maybe that'll be my actual greatest accomplishment: hitting send on an email. ;)

What about you? What is your greatest accomplishment, writing or otherwise?

Be sure to check out Jon's post from Tuesday and Amparo's post tomorrow. :)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

NaNo... Out... Mo?

I'm sure all of you are aware that NaNoWriMo starts today. I thought about participating, but I just can't write that fast. I'm too much of a perfectionist. Yes, I realize getting over perfectionism is a really good reason to do NaNoWriMo, but I think it would be counterproductive for me. I tried it once, for a week and a half, and I wrote a lot (around 18,000 words). But I got so burnt out, I couldn't write anything for like a month. So, yeah, not happening.

I'm a pantser through and through, but I think I might be able to outline successfully if I really dedicate myself. So that's what I'm gonna do. I've had a story bouncing around in my head for several months now as I've been wrapping up the last round of rewrites on Embrol. And now that I'm querying Embrol--first query goes out today (yikes!)--Descent can finally have my undivided attention. Poor Descent. So neglected. ;)

Armed with my shiny new copy of Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success by K. M. Weiland, my goal is to have my whole story completely mapped out by the end of November. And the number one rule is NO WRITING. This will be hard so for me. Every time I try to outline I only make it through three or four chapters before I just want to get going on it already and then it's bye-bye outline and hello 7000 rewrites. :(

So, who's with me? Any pantsers out there who want to join me? Maybe we can form a support group. ;)

Good luck to everyone doing NaNo!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Query Contest

To celebrate her move to Nancy Coffey Literary, Suzie Townsend is doing an awesome query contest. Submit your query to her between 9-10 am EDT tomorrow and she'll respond with complete honesty. Totally scary, but so awesome at the same time.

Plus, in the comments she said that if you query her for the contest and she rejects you, you can resubmit your revised query later as a regular query. And if you've queried her before and been rejected, you can still submit to the contest. So cool, right?

You can check out all the details, here. Don't wait. The entry window is really small. Good luck to all of you who enter! :)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Spaghettification: Making Up Words for Your Story

For those of you who are not familiar with black holes, spaghettification is a real-life term used to describe how the gravity of a black hole (or anything with a very strong gravitational pull) affects objects that get too close and are subsequently sucked in to their deaths or maybe transported to another place or time. Lots of sci-fi possibilities in black holes. If you want a more detailed explanation, you can find one here.

I'm not a scientist, so I don't know how frequently this term is used outside of television (I watch a lot of astronomy shows because I'm a huge nerd), but every time I hear it, it makes me laugh. And the last episode I watched on black holes had the black holes rolling around in space looking like space Roombas, so I don't think that helped.

And then at the end of that episode, the narrator said something to the effect of, "Black holes truly are the masters of the universe."

The use of the term spaghettification (and my amusement over it) got me thinking about how it applies to writing. Doesn't everything apply to writing?

If you write in the worlds of science fiction and fantasy, you've probably, at some point, had the need to make up words unique to your worlds. But how do you know what works and what doesn't? You don't want the reader to laugh because it sounds too ridiculous or totally made-up.

Personally, nothing pulls me out of a story like a made-up swear word. I know that most pretend worlds wouldn't have the same swear words that we do, but most of the made-up ones sound silly and we all know what they're supposed to replace so why not just use the real thing? Okay, so that may or may not be one of my pet peeves. ;) 

In my own writing, if I need to come up with a world-specific word or even a name, I'll usually turn to other languages and try to find something I can tweak to fit my world. Or I might type the meaning into a baby naming site and see if there's something I can use there, and not just for names. I've come up with at least one world-specific word using a baby naming site. Even then, I'm not always sure that what I've come up with is working. I just try to go with what feels and sounds right for the story.

And I always google the word to make sure it doesn't already exist. Except for when I forget to do that and one of my crit partners has to point out that one of my character names is a gelato flavor. :)

What about you? How do you feel about made-up words in stories? Have you made up any words for your own stories? If so, how did you go about it?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Backing Up

You'd think I would've learned this lesson already.

Friday morning, I sat down at my computer to find that some "wonderful" updates from Microsoft had been applied during the night and my computer had been rebooted automatically. I'd saved everything I was working on, so no big deal. Well, except that the computer kept locking up. So I restarted it, since that usually corrects any issues.

That was the beginning of the end. Okay, so maybe it wasn't that dramatic, but when it got stuck on the welcome screen (probably not the actual name of the screen) and refused to boot, I freaked out a little. Other than the whole I can't write without my computer concern (yes, I know technically I can still write without my computer), I was mostly worried because it's been at least six months since I backed up my hard drive, probably a lot longer.

Periodically, I will save my WIP to my hard drive and then to a flash drive where I keep the most recent version, plus I recently uploaded it to my crit group and printed it out, so I knew that was okay. My photos and all my other documents, on the other hand, are only on my hard drive. Fortunately, my computer is setup with a recovery program, so I was able to go in and backup all my files--four very stressful hours, especially when it got stuck at 89% for over twenty minutes, but it did work.

Then it took three tries, but System Restore finally decided to cooperate (I swear System Restore HATES me) and I haven't had any problems with it since. Well, except for my Norton Internet Security which either got damaged in the process or was the cause of the problem (and probably the reason System Restore hates me), but that's taken care of, too.

So, my point? Remember to backup your files on a regular basis. This could've been so much worse. Losing my writing would be hard, but my photos? I once lost six months of photos (including my youngest daughter's first birthday) thanks to a computer crash and I was sick for a week. It still makes me a little nauseous when I think about it.

What about all of you? Do you backup your computer regularly? Is it set up to run automatically or do you run it manually each time? Anyone using an online backup system? If so, how do you like it?

Photo credit.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Writer Therapy

Ever had one of these days?

I've threatened to do this many times, but have never followed through.

Just using a lighter does not work. Plain old matches don't work either. The stack is too dense to get hot enough fast enough. I finally spread out some dryer lint across the top and that got it going really strong. Dryer lint is SUPER flammable. If you feel compelled to do this, you'll probably want to do it outside on a grill or something else non-flammable. You know, so you don't set your house on fire. :)

And now I smell like smoke, but I do feel better. :)

How do you vent your writerly frustrations?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Blog Chain: Critter Love

This round of the chain was started by Sarah. She asked:

Do you work with critique partners? How did you find your crit pals, and what influence have they had on your work?

I have to say, I smiled when I read this round's topic. This is an easy one for me. :)

Yes, I have critique partners. I belong to a the best critique group with three awesome writers. Love you, Tere, Plamena, and Jade! I also have a few other people who I've swapped manuscripts with and gotten great, honest feedback.

My longest standing crit partners (and writerly friends) I met through Query Tracker. If you're looking for critters, QT is an excellent place to start. Lots of helpful folks over there. I think I've found all my other critters through blogging or through other crit partners.

Having crit partners has had a HUGE impact on my writing. Sure, it was super scary putting my work out there for the first time, but I don't think I ever would've realized what a crapfest my first draft was without the awesome people who were willing to read and comment on that crapfest. And no, crapfest is not an exaggeration. It was so bad. The people who read it and didn't tell me it was hopeless should be given medals. And chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate. ;)

And the emotional and mental support I've received from my crit partners (especially Tere--you rock!) can't be measured. I really could not do this writing thing without them. 

I've heard horror stories about critique partners from Hell, so I consider myself truly blessed that I've connected with so many great writers and gotten so much helpful feedback. And now I'm totally addicted to critiques. Seriously, I think I might like feedback a little too much. ;)

I know I've shared this before, but I believe this commercial shows the critique process very well--painful, but necessary--and it makes me laugh every time I watch it. :)

What about you? Do you have crit partners? How have they influenced you?

Be sure to check out Christine's post from yesterday and Amparo's post tomorrow. :)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Pinterest is Awesomely Evil and a Kindle Giveaway

First of all, Pinterest will be my undoing. Seriously, what was I thinking joining this site? Having said that, have you joined Pinterest yet? Why not?! It's so awesome! I can almost convince myself it's productive procrastination. ;)

Second, have you heard about the official launch of K.M. Weiland's book Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success? 

She's giving away a Kindle and over $100 worth of craft books, plus a bunch of other prizes to celebrate!  

I know I'm a pantser and you're probably wondering why I'm promoting this, but through her videos featuring the first chapter of her book, Weiland has convinced me to give outlining an honest try. Maybe if I can master it, my next book won't take me a million years to finish. ;)

Want more info about the book? Here are links to the videos that reeled me in:

Should You Outline Your Novel? - Book Trailer for Outlining Your Novel, Pt. 1 of 3  

And a link to the giveaway: Win a Kindle and over $100 in writing craft books! 

In addition to the book, K.M. Weiland's blog is awesome. You know that short list of blogs you check every single day regardless of how much time you actually have to blog? If you're a writer, her blog should be on that list.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Blog Chain: You Keep Me Hangin' On

This round was started by Shaun. He asked:

What are three books you would tell people that they need to keep reading even if they aren't immediately sucked in by the first page?

This one was hard for me to answer. Before I started writing, I rarely put a book down because it didn't grab me right away. Now, I'm not so patient. There are just so many books I want to read, and my time is so limited, that if it doesn't hook me right away, I'm probably going to put it down and move on to the next one.

And this is why I've rewritten my opening 7,483 times. <That might be a slight exaggeration. ;)

Okay, here are my three. Please don't throw rocks at me for the first one. *ducks*

1. Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Even though this is one of the best books I've ever read, it took me a really long time to get into it. But everyone kept telling me I had to read it, so I persevered. And of course, once I was in, I was in. Excellent story, characters, pacing. If you haven't read it... Wait, are there still people who haven't read this book? ;)

2. The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. She uses a lot of description, which made it difficult for me to get going on the first one. And some of the dialogue is kind of cheesy and over the top. But there's something so compelling about her stories and her characters, that even with a slow start, I'll keep reading, because I know it'll suck me in eventually and ultimately be a fun read.

3. The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan. It's been almost twenty years (that number can't be right o.O) since I first read this book and I can still remember slogging through the prologue and wondering what was happening and if the whole book was going to be that confusing. But my dad insisted it was good and that I'd like it, especially after flying through the Lord of the Rings trilogy in a month. And he was right. I love the whole Wheel of Time series and I've read Eye of the World at least four times and the rest at least twice. Well, up to book 10. At this point, I'm waiting until all the books have been released so I can start over from the beginning and read straight through. :)

What about you? Any books you recommend that might not hook you right away but are worth it in the end?

Be sure to check out Christine's picks from yesterday and Amparo's picks tomorrow. :)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


I know I've been MIA, but I've been in my writing cave, wrapping up my rewrite. And now I'm done!

Now life can get back to normal. Ha! If there is such thing. ;)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Blog Chain: It's Writing Time!

It's blog chain time again already! This round started just yesterday with Christine.
Since we are all writers, I thought it was about time for us to stretch our creative muscles and do a little writing. So, take the following topic and go crazy! Show us what you've got. Your story can be as long or as short as you choose. 
 The topic: A dark and stormy night.
This is a possible scene from my currently on the back burner WIP, Descent. I say possible because most of it is still in my head and the plot is unclear at this point. I know it's rough. I just whipped it out this afternoon, so I apologize in advance if it's awful. I can never be objective about something I've just written.
I winced as a branch slid off Ethan and snapped me in the face. Again.
“Almost there,” he said for the thousandth time. Apparently, he only thought he knew where we were going. “Sorry it’s taking so long, Brynn. I’ve never hiked it in the dark.”
Another apology. He should change his name to Repeat. I took a deep breath. My crappy situation wasn’t his fault. Unfortunately for him, he just happened to be in the line of fire. And he was being way too nice about it.
“It’s okay,” I said, forcing a tight smile. “You’re sure Luke’s there? Because if he’s not…” Out of money and things to sell, this was my last chance. If Luke wasn’t there, I couldn’t afford to get home. Not that there was any reason to go back without him.
“He’s there.” Ethan put his arm around my shoulders—like he’d known me more than four hours—and gave me a half-hug. “Maybe seeing you will help him remember something.”
“Maybe.” I slipped out from under his arm and trudged ahead. If Luke really had memory loss, that would explain why he never came home, but it still stung that he could forget me so easily.
“So…” Ethan said, stumbling behind me. Good thing we didn’t need to be quiet. “Are you like Luke?”
“What do you mean, like Luke?”
“Uh, you know…”
I did know, but I didn’t want to talk about with him.
He cleared his throat. “Can you fly?”
“No.” We all had unique abilities, but that was none of Ethan’s business. If Luke wanted to tell random strangers he could fly, that was his choice.
The path ended abruptly, opening into a clearing in front of a small, wooden building. It was completely dark except for one narrow window illuminated by a dim, flickering light. I peered through the glass, my whole body trembling, and there he was, staring into the fire.
Luke was alive. A weight I hadn’t noticed slipped from my shoulders.
“You wanna…?” Ethan stopped behind me as a cute brunette walked into the room. “What’s Daisy doing here?”
Daisy? She wrapped her arms around Luke’s waist. He didn’t hesitate before he returned the embrace and kissed her on the forehead.
I barely noticed the biting wind that picked up, swirling around Ethan and me. A distant thought told me this was something I should be concerned about, but all I could see was Luke with that girl. He glanced up at the ceiling as freezing rain began to drum the metal roof. It quickly turned into a downpour, drenching me in seconds.
Ethan tugged on my arm, saying something about going inside, but I didn’t really hear him. I just stared, unable to move, as Luke pulled Daisy closer. How could he forget me so completely? Thunder rumbled in the distance. She slipped her hands into his dark hair and pulled his lips to hers.
Lightning struck a tree to my right. Then the tiny porch. That got their attention. And mine.
“Crap,” I mumbled.
“What the hell?” Ethan backed away from me, pointing at the tiny arcs of electricity crackling over my fingers. “You are like him.”
Thanks for reading!
Want to participate? Feel free to take the topic and post your own story on your blog. Be sure to leave me a link so I can check it out. 
Don't miss Amparo's post tomorrow. :) 
Have a great weekend, everyone! 

Photo credit

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Blog Chain: Changes in Publishing

The blog chain is back! This round was started by Sandra. She asked:

Have the recent changes in the publishing industry affected your writing plans/career? If so, how?

At this point, I'm going to say no. I haven't queried anything in quite a while, so I'm still in that delusional "I'm going to get published no matter what, because I'm awesome" mindset. Well, most days anyway. Today isn't one of those days, but yesterday was, so I'm sure I'll get back to that soon.

I'm really close to the end of my rewrites, so maybe I'll change my mind later, but for now I'm hoping to go the traditional route. Besides, I want to be able to hold my book, and I really want to see my book on a shelf in a bookstore with a pretty hardcover. Aim high, right? ;)

So what about you? Have the changes in publishing affected your writing plans?

Be sure to check out Christine's post from yesterday and Amparo's tomorrow. :)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Totally Random Friday: Tagged

I've been tagged by the very awesome Rebecca Knight. The rules state I have to tell you 10 random facts about myself and then tag four other bloggers. I've done this a few times before, so it was harder than I expected to come up with some new stuff, but here's what I got:

1. I'm left-handed, but I still feel more natural doing a lot of things with my right hand. Like throwing a ball or a punch. Or shooting a rifle. Tennis. Serving the ball in volleyball. Though I do bat and play miniature golf left-handed.

2. #1 makes me sound like an athletic person, which is really funny, because I'm about as far from athletic (and coordinated) as a person can get.

3. When I was in fifth grade I wrote a report on... um... I don't remember what it was about, but I was particularly proud of the writing. My teacher returned it with a lot of red marks and the words "Don't copy from the book" (I didn't, jerk teacher) written in big letters across the top. Turned me off on putting any effort into anything I wrote for a very long time.

4. I love paper. Especially the particularly heavy paper that feels all soft and smooth between my fingers. And scrapbook paper. I think the only reason I ever started scrapbooking was so I would have an excuse to buy the paper, because it always made me sad to have to cut it up and actually, you know, scrapbook. ;)

5. Same with books. I enjoy reading them, but I LOVE the way they look on my shelf. :)

6. I met my husband when I was nineteen at a Beastie Boys concert. Dated for two months. Engaged for three months. We'll be very happily married sixteen years in November.

7. When I was a kid, my brother and sister and I started a band called Electric Zodiac. Our instruments: the flute and the piano. Totally rockin', right? We were going to learn how to play the guitar and the drums. Someday. Maybe. For some reason we never actually made any music. ;)

8. Also when I was a kid, my brother and sister and I decided we were going to write a book. I don't think we ever made it past "It was a dark and stormy night." Yeah. Awesome.

9. I prefer to eat fried chicken cold, the day after it's made.

10. If I'm listening to music on shuffle, it drives me crazy when someone scrolls through and selects a specific song, interrupting the shuffle. Feels like they're messing with the natural order of things.

And that's it. Super exciting stuff, I know. Okay, now for the taggees. I'm going to pick on some of my newest bloggy friends:

Katrina Lantz
Rachel Brooks

Happy Friday, everyone! :)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Brain Science According to the Experts

I was going to do a Word Tip Wednesday post today, but I'm too lazy. And with my kids home it would probably take me a solid ten hours (not exaggerating) to put it together, so I'll wait. School starts Monday, so next week, for sure. :)

This episode of Look Around You goes along with the post I did on Monday, and though it's absolutely ridiculous, it's too awesomely hilarious not to share. Enjoy!

Happy Wednesday, everyone! :)

Monday, August 22, 2011

WANTED: Stream of Consciousness Recorder

Recorder should be especially accurate in capturing the perfect phrasing for my query letter that runs through my mind right before I fall asleep. I need it as soon as possible, so if you have a Stream of Consciousness Recorder I can borrow or you know where I can get one, please let me know in the comments. ;)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Disappearing for a while...

I know I haven't been super-present lately, anyway, but I'm going to be unplugging for a while. I've got a million things going on (so much for life slowing down in the summer) and WriteOnCon is coming up next month. Can't wait!

My rewrite is so close, I'm hoping to have it done and polished before then. With my kids home all day, every day, the distractions seem to be never ending. So by eliminating a big one, like the Internet, hopefully I'll be able to get this sucker finished.

When I return, I'll try to get back to a more regular blogging schedule. I already have more Word Tip Wednesdays planned. :)

I hope you're all having a fabulous summer! See you in a few weeks!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Congrats Donna K. Weaver!!!

You're the winner of LEGACY OF THE EMPRESS by Rebecca Knight!

Click on the contact button on the right and shoot me an email and we'll get you your prize! :)

Monday, July 11, 2011

How Did I Get Here?

Seems like it doesn't matter how many people are ahead of me, if I have several books on hold at the library they all become available at the same time. So I've been reading a lot more than usual lately and something has happened in a couple of books that made me step back and wonder if this was something that actually happened to real people.

The basic idea of this "event" is that the main character is so distraught/hurt/grief-stricken/angry/whatever that she goes wandering around the city (guided by her subconscious, of course) and ends up at some random place (usually a good distance from where she started) that is exactly where she needs to be. And then she says or thinks something along the lines of, "How did I wind up here? Oh, yeah. It must be because [insert some story-related reason]." Or worse, she just happens to be wherever she needs to be to witness something important, but that's another issue entirely.

Now, I'm not saying I've never been driving somewhere and unintentionally taken the wrong road out of habit because I wasn't paying attention--like starting to drive to work because I do it every day--but I don't think I've ever gone anywhere unintentionally because my subconscious knew that was where I needed be. Maybe it's just that I'm a very deliberate person (and a control freak) and I tend to think three or four steps ahead so a situation like this would never happen to me? Maybe I'm not that different from anyone else and this kind of situation wouldn't happen in real life?

What do you all think? Has something like this actually happened to anyone? Or do you think this is just another overused literary device to get a character from point A to point B? Do things like this yank you out of the story?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Science and Technology are Cool and Don't Forget to Enter!!

If you use Blogger in Draft, you probably already know Blogger made a few huge changes (the new look is so different, it's kind of stressing me out), making it super easy to publish your post with no effort whatsoever. So, sorry for the weird empty post before this one. :)

Only a few days left to enter to win one of three copies of LEGACY OF THE EMPRESS by Rebecca Knight! Not many have entered so your chances are good. Be sure to check it out!

And, totally unrelated to the giveaway, I came across this technological awesomeness and had to share. You have to watch. It's so amazing!

They talk about how cool it would be for space, but there has to be some great applications for it right here on earth. If it wasn't a bazillion dollars for the machine and the "ink" cartridges and "paper" (which I'm sure it is), how would you use it to make your life easier?

Have a great weekend, everyone! :)

Click here to enter the contest.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Win a SIGNED Copy of CITY OF FALLEN ANGELS by Cassandra Clare!

Tere Kirkland of the The Lesser Key of Tere is giving away a SIGNED copy of CITY OF FALLEN ANGELS, the latest book in The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare!

Contest ends July 12th. Hurry over now so you have time to get your extra entries! :)

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Blog Chain: Research

It's blog chain time and I'm a day late, thanks to some procrastination on my part and Blogger deciding to quit working as soon as I sat down to post this last night. *shakes fist at Blogger*

Michelle M chose the topic this round. She asked:

There are so many things we have to include in our storyworlds...characters, world details, settings, etc. No matter what genre you write, your stories are full of tiny details that help create your storyworld. I know that for me, at least, finding or creating all these details can sometimes be a bit tough.

Where do you go for help? And what types of things are you more likely to research/search for as opposed to making up on your own? Do you have any favorite resource sites? Share links if you have them!!

Honestly, the only thing I can remember researching for my writing is the moon. And then I just googled something along the lines of “how far is the moon from earth” and “what are the names of the seas on the moon.” Really important stuff. ;)

And once I knew how far away the moon is (225,622 to 252,088 miles), I got curious about the other planets. I didn’t get much done on my writing that day, but I learned a lot about distances and the way the planets move around the sun and other stuff I don’t really need to know.

Oh, and I searched on Google to find out if that old belief about only using a small percentage of our brains is true. Which, from what I could find, it isn’t true, in case you were wondering. And that warranted a small change in my ms.

For the most part, I prefer to make stuff up, which is probably why I write science fiction with elements of fantasy. It’s much easier to come up with my own reality that way.

Most of my “research” is about grammar and punctuation. And for that I use Google. You all know that one, right? So I don’t need to include the link? ;)

What about you? Do you do a lot of research? Do you have any favorite resource sites?

Be sure to check out Christine’s post from Tuesday and Sandra’s post today. :)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Guest Post: Rebecca Knight and a Giveaway!

Welcome special guest, Rebecca Knight, author of LEGACY OF THE EMPRESS! She has a great post for us today and we're having a giveaway, so stick around. :)

Take it away, Rebecca!

Staying Motivated When The Odds Are Against You

A question that I get a lot is what keeps me motivated, or rather what keeps me pursuing my goals against such staggering odds. Writing is such an emotional pursuit, that it’s difficult not to get discouraged or even depressed when there is a bump in the road. We often worry about every little thing. Do we suck? Is it all for nothing? Every word we put on the page is personal, at least to some extent, and the idea of putting it out there where people can judge it or hate it is terrifying. Plus, even if you do put it out there, the odds aren’t good that you’ll ever be a success.

So, why do we do what we do?

For me, it’s a combination of things. First off, I’ve always had a deep belief in my ability to make things happen. If I want it, and there is a tiny chance that I can make it, I’m all in, working as hard as I can to be in that top percentile.

My family didn’t have a lot of money when I was growing up, so if I ever wanted to go to camp or do any special activities for school, I had to raise the money myself. I remember one year my school was taking a trip to Ashland, Oregon to attend the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. I was deeply into drama then, but the trip was over $200 and there was no fundraising set up by the school .

I decided that I was going to sell candy bars on my own to pay my way. My mom and I went to the store and loaded up on 50 cent candy bars, figuring I’d try to sell them for $1 each at school. Well, everyone is always selling candy bars for something, so pretty much everyone told me it was pointless to try to do it myself. “There’s candy in the vending machines for 75 cents!” my friend told me. “Why the hell would anyone buy from you?”

Well, I was just going to have to try harder and sell smarter than all the girlscouts and vending machines if I was going to succeed. I made two brightly colored signs and literally taped them to the front and back of my shirt each morning, advertising my $1 candy and describing the deliciousness of the bars I had. I asked everyone I talked to if they were in the mood for one, and had strangers approaching me because of the signs—people I’d seriously never spoken to before. I even wore the signs to my after school driver’s ed class and sold candy there to jocks who previously hadn’t spoken to me. I made it more convenient to talk to me than to walk down the hall to the vending machine.

I made to Ashland with money to spare and had an awesome time. If I want it, I work my butt off to make it happen. No excuses.

Secondly, it’s easier for me to stay motivated when I’m able to be agile. It’s so easy to think that there is only one way to do things or only one “right” path to meet your goal. Then, when that path hits a roadblock or you find that whatever you’re doing isn’t working out, what can you do? You’re stuck, and it can be a huge motivation drainer. What’s the point if you’re not able to do react?

When I thought that the traditional publishing route was the only way to have a writing career, I put all my time and energy into crafting the perfect query and doing things the “right” way. Then, when the recession hit and agents basically stopped taking on genre epic fantasy writers, I thought my only option was to wait for the market to change. So, I waited. I waited for an entire year, and basically took a break from the whole thing. It sucked to feel so out of control.

With the rise of indie publishing, though, I’m agile again, and it’s wonderful to have options. That’s all indie publishing is—an alternate path to meet your goals as a writer.

My sales recently slowed because of the summer season. Book sales are notoriously bad during the summer because folks are outside, going on roadtrips, etc, instead of reading. Because of this slow down, I’m trying something new and putting Legacy of the Empress up for .99 cents until Labor Day. I also released a new story so I’d have more writing out there in general. I have the ability to be flexible and experiment, and its incredibly empowering. I’ve already more than doubled my sales from last month, which just makes me want to write more and more and more J. Being able to roll with the punches is crucial.

A lot of this business is luck, but if you have the will to work as hard as necessary and are able to stay agile, you can make a lot of your own luck. And that is motivating as hell.

Good luck to all of you, and may you never lose sight of your goals J.


Rebecca's awesome ebook, LEGACY OF THE EMPRESS, is available for purchase from Amazon and Barnes and Noble, but she's giving away a copy to three lucky commenters!

To enter, just leave a comment on this post. Additional entries:
+1 Tweeting this post (button below) @abbyannis or @twoheadknight (one additional entry per day)
+1 Linking this post on Facebook (one additional entry per day)
Contest ends Sunday, July 10th, midnight PDT. Winners will be announced Monday, July 11th.

She's also having an awesome giveaway on her blog, including a $25 Amazon gift card. You still have a few days to enter. Don't miss it!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Word Tip Wednesday: Clipboard

Today's topic is pretty basic and I think most of us have had some experience with it. But I also think that most of us aren't aware of all the features of the Clipboard, so I thought I'd do a quick post about it. Well, hopefully it'll be quick. :)

The Clipboard menu is under the Home tab* (Figure 1).

Figure 1

The basics (or as I like to call them--The Essentials) are all there--Cut (Ctrl+x), Copy (Ctrl+c), Paste (Ctrl+v).

Format Painter is pretty cool too. Just highlight the text with the formatting you want to duplicate and click Format Painter . Your mouse cursor will turn into a tiny paintbrush. Use it to paint (select) the text you want to format and you're done. Simple, right?

You can view everything you have on your Clipboard (everything you've cut or copied) by clicking the tiny arrow in the bottom right corner of the Clipboard menu (Figure 2).

Figure 2

That will bring up this (Figure 3) on the left side of your screen.

Figure 3

This not only allows you to see everything you have on your Clipboard, but you can also select text you copied several copies back (by clicking on the arrow next to the text (Figure 3)) and paste it without copying it again. Or with this menu, you can delete text you no longer need from the Clipboard to free up space.

The Options menu at the bottom (Figure 3) allows you to change the way your Clipboard appears within Word.

Anyone else out there who can't live without these features? Anything to add? If you have any questions or need me to clarify anything, please let me know in the comments. :)

More Word tips posts here.

*Word 2007

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Blog Chain: Cursed

This chain was started by Kate. She asked:

Curses, you've been cursed! You can write no longer. The story well has run dry, and you can't even remember how to type. Now what do you do? Where do you channel your creative energies? And to what lengths would you go to break the curse?

That is a cruel, cruel curse. Though some days I think it might be a blessing. I have my suspicions that writing actually kills the sane brain cells and causes the crazy ones to multiply. Rapidly. ;)

Now, it doesn't say anything about my desire to write disappearing, so I'd probably keep trying. I feel like I'm deluding myself most of the time anyway, so I don't know that it would really be that different.

But if my desire to write just faded away, I have plenty of discarded creative outlets to fall back on.

There's sewing, which I still do once in a while. Sometimes I need a break from writing. You know, to rebuild those sane brain cells.

This is my latest project, a camping quilt I made for my husband for Father's Day. Yes, this is totally a bragging photo. It turned out exactly as I wanted it to. :)

Or there's digital scrapbooking. Along that same line, I'd love to go back to school to learn graphic design and web design.

And someday I want to learn blacksmithing and welding and all kinds of metalworking so I can be the crazy lady with all the metal sculptures in her front yard. ;)

What about all of you? Where would you channel your creative energy if you couldn't write anymore?

Be sure to check out Margie's post from Friday, and Sandra's post tomorrow.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Goodbye to an Old Friend

Terk aka The Best Dog Ever, November 2001 - June 2011

Goodbye, buddy. We miss you already. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Word Tip Wednesday: Macros

Update 6/7/13: There is an error in this tutorial regarding the highlight feature. There are notes in the comments on the correct way to do it. I will be updating the post soon. Thanks goes to Serena Yung for pointing out that it wasn't working. :)

Today’s topic will be easier if you’re familiar with  Find and Replace, since I will be using those as part of my example.

Macros might seem a little scary, but once you understand what they are and how they work, I think you’ll find they’re actually quite easy to use and very useful, especially during revisions. Basically, it’s a recorded set of steps that can be accessed by a shortcut key, a button on the toolbar, or by selecting from a list.

With this feature, I recommend reading through all the instructions before trying any of it. It will probably be less confusing that way.

The macro options are under the Developer tab.* By default, this tab is turned off in MS Word 2007, so first, you’ll need to turn it on. To do this, click the Office button in the top left corner (Figure 1).

Figure 1

Select Word Options at the bottom of the menu (Figure 2).

Figure 2

In this menu (Figure 3), select Popular in the left column and check the box next to Show Developer tab in the Ribbon. Then click OK.

Figure 3

You should now have the Developer tab in your Ribbon (Figure 4).

Figure 4

First, click the Record Macro button (Figure 5).

Figure 5

This menu will pop up (Figure 6). Enter a name in the Macro name: box. You can also add a description in the bottom box if you want.

Under Store macro in: you can choose to have it apply to all documents or just the one you are currently working with.

Figure 6

Under Assign macro to (Figure 6), you can choose to access the macro through a Button (Option 1) on your Quick Access toolbar or through a Keyboard shortcut (Option 2). If you don’t select one of these options and just click OK from this menu, it will immediately begin recording your macro. In this case, after you have recorded your macro, you will have to go to the Macros button (Figure 7) under the Developer tab and select it from a list (Figure 8) and click Run every time you want to use it (Option 3).

Figure 7

Figure 8

Note: This window (Figure 8) is also where you go to Edit your macros, but editing macros requires editing code, so unless you’re familiar with code, I wouldn’t attempt this. If there is problem with one of your macros, the easiest thing will probably be to Delete the macro and record it again.

Option 1: In the Record Macro window (Figure 6), choose Button under Assign macro to, it will go to this screen (Figure 9). Select the macro from the list in the left column, click Add>> and it will add it to the right column, which lists all the buttons in your Quick Access menu (this shows to the right of your Office button (Figure 1)). You can change the icon for the macro by selecting the macro and clicking Modify. Then click OK to begin recording your macro.

Figure 9

Option 2: In the Record Macro window (Figure 6), choose Keyboard under Assign macro to (Figure 6), and it will go to this screen (Figure 10). In the Press new shortcut key: box, press the keys you want to assign to the macro (pressing the Alt key at the same time as another key will enter “Alt+whatever key you pushed” and the same works for the Ctrl key). It will show you if that shortcut is already assigned to something else next to Currently assigned to:. Once you’ve chosen your shortcut, click Assign to begin recording your macro.

Figure 10

Now that you’ve clicked OK or Assign, you are in record mode, and it will continue to record until you click Stop Recording.

You can record anything with a macro. For today’s tip, we’re going to create a button to highlight overused words. So, using the Find feature, follow the steps to highlight any overused word(s) (Figure 11). See this post for more detailed instructions.

Figure 11
  1. Go to Find under the Home tab.
  2. Type in the word you want highlighted, check Find whole words only (Figure 11) and select Highlight All.
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 for any other words you overuse frequently.
  4. Click Cancel or the X to close the window.

At this point, all instances of overused words should be highlighted in your document. Now go back to the Developer tab and click Stop Recording (Figure 12). Note: It will continue to record until you click Stop Recording so it’s very important not to miss this step.

Figure 12

Quick review of the steps:
  1. Click Record Macro under the Developer tab.
  2. Select your preferred method to access the macro (button, keyboard shortcut, or list) and complete the steps to set up that method.
  3. Complete the steps for the function you would like to record—highlight words, format changes, font changes, etc. Anything that Word can do, you can record in a macro.
  4. Click Stop Recording.

    Now, if you chose the Button (Option 1) as you were setting it up, all you have to do to highlight all your frequently overused words in future documents is click on the button in your Quick Access menu (Figure 13). It might look different, depending on which icon you chose.

    Figure 13

    If you chose Keyboard (Option 2) as you were setting it up, then when you want to run the macro, just type in the keystrokes you selected. In this case, I chose Alt+Z.

    Now you’re ready to set up macros for anything you do frequently in Word.

    Anyone using this already? Anything you love to use it for?

    More Word tips posts here

    *Word 2007