Monday, January 31, 2011

Ch-ch-ch-changes.... And a Winner!

I've been wanting to change the blog for a while (it's been over a a year since I changed things), but until this past Saturday I hadn't been able to find a template I liked enough. I used to change it every couple of months when I was making my own scrapbooky type backgrounds, but those were flat and boring. I like the more websitey feel that a template provides. Now if I just had the knowledge and tools to do web design.... ;)

I'm not positive I love this one yet, and I still really like the old template, so if I change everything back in a week, well, you'll know why. :)

And now for the important stuff. The winner...

of Homework Helpers: Essays & Term Papers by Michelle McLean...

(chosen by the very scientific method of pulling a slip of paper out of a bowl)


Corinne O'Flynn!!

Congrats, Corinne! Email me your mailing info: abbyannisblog (at) earthlink (dot) net :)

And my MUG Monday post will be a MUG Tuesday post this week since I spent all my spare time this weekend playing with my layout instead of writing a blog post.

Happy Monday, everyone! :)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Totally Random Friday: New Stuff and Old Stuff

New Stuff:

I started writing my new story and I think I'm in lurve. :) I'm excited to tackle a male POV, but I'm even more excited to be writing again! It's YA sci-fi (of course), and I even have a title--DESCENT.

Maybe I'll get brave and post a snippet next week. We'll see. :)

Old Stuff:

Have you seen this awesome contest over at the Shooting Stars blog? They're giving away a 1913 copy of Grimm's Fairy Tales! How cool is that? You better hurry, though. Contest ends today at 5 p.m. MST.

And don't forget about this
↓ ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓

Any new stuff or old stuff you want to share?

Have a great weekend everyone! :)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Word Tip Wednesday: Track Changes

This is one of my favorite features in Word. Discovering Track Changes has saved me so much time. I can't believe I used to do my crits without it.

It's very simple to use. Just go to the Review tab* and click on the top half of the Track Changes button. As long as this button is selected, all changes will be tracked and noted within the document. How the changes show on the screen will depend on your settings.

More options are available by clicking the bottom half of the Track Changes button. Click Change User Name to change the name that shows up as the author of all your documents and as the author of any comments you add to a document. (We'll cover comments next week.) To adjust your settings, select Change Tracking Options.

That brings up this screen and you can make changes according to your preferences. These settings are specific to your computer and will only affect the way the Track Changes appear to you.

You can also adjust the way your Track Changes show by clicking the Balloons button and selecting a different option.

I hope this was helpful to some of you. If you have any questions or if my explanation was confusing, please let me know in the comments. And if there's anything specific you'd like me to cover, please let me know. I'm open to any suggestions. :)

More Word tips posts here

*Microsoft Word 2007

Update: In the comments, Sarah Ahiers (Falen) asked, Do you know how to change tracking options on Word 2003?

I've never used Word 2003, but I found this awesome pdf that should help anyone using that version. :)

For more info on using Track Changes and for how to add Comments to your documents, check out this post.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Making it Up as I Go (MUG) Monday: Letting Go

My first Making it Up as I Go Monday post! Henceforth, to be known as MUG Monday, because I'm lazy.
This post is about writing. Seriously. You’ll see. :)
I recently went to a parent teacher conference for my oldest child. He’s in junior high now, so I got the pleasure of knowing a week ahead of time that I would be meeting with not one, but seven different teachers at the same time. Terrified seems too mild.
Just to give you a little background, my son is a very intelligent boy, but he is a boy in the truest sense of the word and he's much too busy for silly things like studying and homework. Though, I will say (quite proudly) that he’s an avid reader. :)
First day of kindergarten 2003
So, even though I was nervous, I wasn’t really surprised by anything they had to say. I just nodded and explained that I was aware and we were working on it—an ongoing battle since his first day of kindergarten. The teachers were actually all quite genuine and I felt like they really want my son to succeed. Sadly, this hasn’t always been the case in the past.
As we were coming to the end of the meeting, his reading teacher said, “Thank you for understanding your son is human.”
What she meant didn’t sink in at first, but she repeated herself a few more times (I’m assuming this is a teaching technique for us slow folks) and my sleep-deprived brain finally caught her meaning. I wasn’t making excuses for my son and allowing him to continue on the dead-end path he was on. Not without a fight anyway. In other words…. Hey, look! I’m not totally failing as a parent after all. :)
Now for the writerly connection….
If you were lucky enough to be my closest crit partner and writerly friend, you would’ve been bombarded with several angsty emails over the last few weeks about the fate of my current (and only complete) brain child. And after her most recent email, where she told me straight out that I needed a break from said brain child, I had a major duh moment.
I’ve become one of those parents whose child can do no wrong. Not only that, I’m a helicopter parent—always hovering and tweaking, always thinking about what I can do to make my child better. Not always a bad thing, but I let myself get too close. I convinced myself she was perfect and any suggestion that required major changes couldn’t possibly be a good suggestion. Even worse, I haven’t allowed myself to see my brain child’s imperfections and accept them so I can do something about them. Bad book parent.
Of course, my crit buddy knew just how to say it so I would finally get it. I know. She’s awesome. No, you can’t have her. Don’t say you’ll fight me for her. You know I’ll win. ;)
So, though it’s extremely difficult after spending the better part of two+ years carrying my baby with me everywhere I go (if only in my head), I’m sending my brain child to space camp for a month or two. Yes, this makes me very sad, but it will be good for everyone. And if I’m a good book mama, when my first born gets back, she’ll have a new little brother to share my time with. :)
What about all of you? Have you had a project you became too obsessed with? Do you always send your brain children to space camp so you don’t get too attached? Does time apart help?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Blog Tour and a Giveaway!! Michelle McLean: Homework Helpers: Essays and Term Papers

This was set to post this morning, but I must have set something wrong or maybe it was just Blogger being Blogger. Either way, I am way late in welcoming the very awesome Michelle McLean on a blog tour stop for the release of her book Homework Helpers: Essays and Term Papers. Huge congratulations, Michelle!

Michelle McLean is a writer and the Chief Editorial Consultant for PixelMags, LLC. In addition to her non-fiction work, Michelle writes YA historical novels and other children’s books. If she's not editing, reading or chasing her kids, she can usually be found in a quiet corner working on her next book.

The newest addition to Career Press’s best-selling Homework Helpers series is a fun, user-friendly guide that takes the confusion out of writing essays and papers for students of all ages. Unlike other books that are so full of technical jargon they confuse more than help, Homework Helpers: Essays and Term Papers uses straightforward language and simple steps to guide students through the essay-writing process.

Homework Helpers: Essays and Term Papers
·  Describes in detailed "plain English" each element and step involved in writing a dozen different types of essays
·  Includes a rough, edited, and final draft sample of each type of essay discussed
·  Explains the necessity of proofreading and citing sources, providing tips and instruction on how to accomplish these tasks
·  Presents step-by-step instructions on how to write a great SAT essay
Students of all ages can find help on writing essays for every major subject in high school or college. Beginners will find guidance on the basics, while those further along in their educational careers can adapt the detailed instructions for more in-depth assignments.

You can purchase Homework Helpers: Essays and Term Papers from Amazon, Borders, and Barnes and Noble, but we're giving away a copy right here!! Plus some awesome swag!

All you have to do to enter is leave a comment on this post. If you don't have a blog or your email linked to your profile, please leave me a way to get in touch with you. Ends Saturday, January 29th at midnight PST. Winner will be announced Monday, January 31st.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Blog Chain: Olivia's Fears

This chain was started by the very awesome Christine. She asked:

What is the main character of your current WiP most afraid of and why? Don’t use a previously finished work. This is all about discovering the inner motivations of your current characters – the ones you don’t know all that well yet.

I feel a little like a cheater since my current WIP is the project I've been working on for almost 2 1/2 years. Wait. What? Has it really been that long? Okay, no more figuring out how long I've been working on this project until it's time to query. Which will be soon. Very, very soon. Ahem. Moving on.

Even with as much time as I've spent with my MC, Olivia, I had to dig pretty deep to sort out what she's most afraid of. After she loses her mother, Olivia worries a lot about being alone and losing the rest of the people who are close to her. And she has good reason to be afraid of that since the bad guy is willing to hurt anyone to get to her.

Ultimately, though, I think her greatest fear is that she won't be able to live up to the expectations she has of herself and the ones that have been placed on her by outside forces, seemingly against her will. This is compounded by the fact that she's very independent and doesn't like to rely on other people to help her, so she puts a lot of pressure on herself to just handle it, even though this isn't always a possibility. Learning to accept help from others is a big part of her character arc, so I guess it makes perfect sense that her greatest fear would tie into that. I just never really thought about it before. :)

What is the main character of your current WIP most afraid of and why?

Be sure to check out Kat's post tomorrow. :)

Monday, January 17, 2011


Okay, so I know I promised real posts this week, but I'm afraid I've done it again. I've taken on more than I have time for. This doesn't surprise me, yet I continue to do it. And I'm afraid it's all stuff that's higher on the priority list than blogging. :(

Anyway, I'll have a blog chain post up tomorrow (I totally missed the last one--bad blogger) and Michelle McLean will be stopping by on Saturday for her book tour. Her book Homework Helpers: Essays and Term Papers comes out on Thursday. Congrats, Michelle! Other than that, I'll be taking the week off from blogging, and, hopefully, I'll be able to get everything done before Friday that needs to be done.

And a huge THANK YOU to Karen Akins! I won Matched by Ally Condie on her blog. I'm so excited! :)

Have a great week, everyone!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Blog Chain: Strengths and Weaknesses

Blog chain time! This round's question comes from Sandra. She asked:

What do you think your strengths and weaknesses as a writer are? Did you have to develop your strengths, or did they come naturally to you? How are you trying to overcome your weaknesses?

Well, based on my inability to get my posts done on time, I'd have to say that my biggest weakness is procrastination. But I think that's more of a character flaw and doesn't really count as a writing weakness. :(

Excluding things like not being able to write without editing and being easily distracted by shiny blog posts and emails, my biggest weakness as a writer is probably description. Any scene that is heavy on description is hard for me to make myself write. And I usually end up with too little description to make the scene clear. To overcome this, I read books and blog posts on writing settings and creative ways to show my characters. And I do a lot of rewriting. I don't know if I'll ever be totally comfortable writing description.

My biggest strength is probably dialogue. I think, to a point, this comes naturally to me. Sadly, this is most likely because I spend way too much time in my head coming up with awesome comebacks and more satisfying conclusions for conversations that have already ended. And I've had to work some to improve it and make it more realistic, but it's probably what I enjoy writing the most.

So what about you? What are your strengths and weaknesses as a writer?

Be sure to check out Christine's awesome post before mine and Kat's post after. :)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

They Lurk in the Shadows

Sorry for another repost, but I'm still not 100% and my brain doesn't want to cooperate. Enjoy!

Upon realizing that literary agents are just regular people, my youngest daughter (8 years old) informed me she thought agents dressed in all black, like ninjas, and hid in the shadows, waiting to attack publishers who won't give their clients book deals.

I seriously don't know where she comes up with this stuff.

Originally posted November 17, 2009

Monday, January 10, 2011

Motivational Monday: Embracing Failure

I know today was supposed to be my first Making it Up as I Go Monday post, but I've had a fever for three days and I just don't have the mental strength to write a real post. So I'm reposting this updated version of a Motivational Monday post from March 1, 2010. Real post next week, I promise. :)


This post was inspired by this article by Rebecca Brown. Some of you have probably already seen it. If you haven’t, do yourself a favor and take the time to read it. It’s worth every second.

And along the same lines is this post from Rebecca Knight. Very inspiring!

A writer’s life is filled with what can be construed as failures. Sometimes it feels like no matter what we do, nothing will ever be good enough—for our crit buddies, for an agent, for an editor, for ourselves.

As many of you know, I’ve been seriously devoted to this writing thing for over two years. And when I started, I thought I was pretty good. Boy, was I delusional. I’m so glad I didn’t get published then.

Sure, the seemingly instant success of authors like Stephenie Meyer is appealing, but I don’t think I would be happy if I’d gotten published that way. Okay, the money would’ve been nice, but it would make me insane to know my work that was out there for the whole world to see was not the best I could’ve produced.

I cringe now just thinking about my first draft. Even after revising it a gazillion times, I can’t believe I actually thought it was good enough to query. Having said that, I don’t think I ever would’ve gotten to this point without those rejections. Every rejection—even the form rejections—led me to look at my manuscript with a more critical eye, eventually leading to my acceptance that it needed to be rewritten.

So even though they seemed devastating at the time, those failures have helped me become a better writer. A year from now, I’ll most likely look back at what I think is so much better now, and it won’t be good enough, but I’m sure there will be more failures along the way to get me there.

What about you? Do you embrace your failures?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Totally Random Friday: Evolution of a Snowman

As many of you know, our family moved from Arizona to Idaho at the beginning of last year. So my kids don't have a lot of experience with snow. As a result, they haven't built many snowmen.

We came up a few years ago (2006, I think) to visit family and that was my kids' first real experience with snow. This is their first snowman:

It isn't really their fault this one turned out so sad since the snow didn't want to stick together, but still, he's looks like he's already melting. Poor thing.

When we moved here, I thought the kids would be all excited to get out there and make some awesome snowmen, but apparently, it's cold outside when it snows, so they resisted. Then we had the great blizzard of Nov 2010 (not as blizzardy as they made it sound like it would be) and since we were on break, the kids finally attempted another snowman.

They worked on it for quite a while, so I thought for sure this one was going to be huge. I promised not to look until they were done. My patience was rewarded with this:

Not bad, though it looks more like a cake than a snowman. I'm sorry, snowwoman. And my daughter wasn't very happy with me when I started laughing. But it was so not what I was expecting and sometimes, the laughter just can't be controlled.

So when the response to snowman #1 was less than satisfactory, they set out the next day to make another one. This was the result:

And so begins the tale of the girlfriend snowwoman and the boyfriend snowman, as told by my 11-year-old daughter. The boyfriend (on the left) had to go out for some reason in a terrible snowstorm. It was so bad it buried him up to his neck. His girlfriend went looking for him and when she found him, she ran in circles, waving her hands around, screaming, "Help! Help!" And when no one came to help, she made a sign. And she lost her scarf.

Rough day.

As far as I know, the only help they got was our Great Dane eating their noses. Apparently, he likes carrots.

Have a great weekend, everyone! :)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Share the Bloggy Love

My awesome writerly friend and crit buddy, Plamena Schmidt, just started a shiny, new blog--her very first one. Head on over and check it out. She's got a great first post.  :)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Word Tip Wednesday: Keyboard Shortcuts

This tip probably isn't as unknown as most of the tips I plan to list here, but it's definitely the feature I use the most. And a lot of the shortcuts will work with programs in addition to Word, so I wanted to cover it first as one of the basics. :)

You can find a full list of keyboard shortcuts here, but I'll share a few that I find particularly useful and use frequently.

ctrl+z = undo This is probably the one I use the most. It's nice to know that no matter what you do to screw up your manuscript (or photo in PhotoShop--I love this shortcut for PS) you can undo it with a couple of keystrokes. And I love how close the "z" key is to the "ctrl" key.

ctrl+y = redo Nice if you undo something and change your mind. No retyping.

ctrl+a = select all This will select all text. Much easier than running through 250+ pages. Another one that super helpful in Photoshop.

ctrl+c = copy selected text

ctrl+v = paste copied text

ctrl+x = copy and cut selected text Saves you a step when you're moving things around.

ctrl+i = turn on/turn off italics

ctrl+b = turn on/turn off bold

ctrl+u = turn on/turn off underline

ctrl+s = save Quick way to save your document as you're writing so you don't lose anything. I know Word is supposed to do this automatically, but I've learned not to rely fully on what any program is supposed to do. Bad things happen when I do that. :)

The shortcuts listed here all work in Blogger Editor as well.

So, how many of you are using these already? Do you have any favorites I didn't mention?

More Word tips posts here

Monday, January 3, 2011

I'm Back! Really.

I'm not going to write a post about all my resolutions for 2011. The list would be way too long. But I will tell you what my plans are for the blog and my writing.

1. No more slacking. I got a little overwhelmed in 2010 for several reasons, most of them totally unrelated to writing. But new year, new me, right? Sure, Abby. Whatever you say.... ;)

2. I will blog regularly. I think I've got my head in order now (doesn't mean I'm sane), so I've set a schedule for the blog. I'll be posting three days a week.

Making it Up as I Go Monday: This will be the day I focus on writing topics. I'm far from an expert, hence the title. :)

Word Tip Wednesday: Since technology and I usually get along pretty well, I'm always finding new and exciting ways to use MS Word to make my writing life easier, so I thought I'd share a tip a week rather than keep it all to myself. I don't know how many posts this will produce, but I'll keep it going as long as possible. And I might throw in some spreadsheet tips for Excel while I'm at it. The spreadsheet I made for my WIP has been so helpful in keeping things organized, especially as I've been putting together outlines for the sequels to EMBROL. That's right, I said outlines. I, self-proclaimed pantser, made outlines. Yea! More on that in a minute.

Totally Random Friday: I think this one is pretty self-explanatory.

3. I will complete a new project that has nothing to do with EMBROL. I've spent the last two years focused on EMBROL--writing, revising, rewriting from scratch, more revising and rewriting. It's close to ready to query, so I need to start something new. And I need to prove to myself that I can follow through on something different without being sucked back into Olivia and Jack's world.

4. I will outline. I've discovered some new techniques for getting my thoughts in order before I start writing scenes, so I plan to implement those and hopefully have a little less chaos in my writing. Maybe I'll even do a post or two about how it works out, to maybe help some of my fellow pantsers out there. :)

Thanks, everyone, for hanging in there with me while I got my act together. I've missed all of you! I'm looking forward to catching up. :)

So, what are your plans for the new year? Anything huge? Any big news I missed?