One Step Closer

I love books. You know this about me. I love them so much that I dream of seeing a book I wrote on my library shelf. I am not one who sits by and dreams without taking steps to make it happen. One of my strengths is Achiever. (Gallup test) This means I set goals, break it down into steps and relentlessly work towards that goal.

So for my goal to become an author I wrote a novel manuscript and two short stories so far. The manuscript is a mess. Possibly a hopeless mess. A learning experience. The first short story wasn’t bad but I haven’t gotten it to sparkle yet. The second story clicked. I got good feedback from my two critique groups. I shined it up as best I could. I sent it off to Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine. It was rejected. No surprise. However, it made it through the slush pile! I celebrated that small victory. Then I moved on, entering it in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest. I just received word that it won Honorable Mention!!

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They will send me a certificate and I have something to put on my writing resume! They encouraged me to keep writing and submit more stories.

What this means is that there is something that wasn’t quite perfect but I’m really close to getting it right and publishable.

I’m still not published but I am one step closer. I intend to keep writing in my free time and will keep learning.

 

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10 Gift Ideas for Readers 

Do you have a reader in your life that you need to buy a gift for? Christmas gift? Birthday Gift? Hanukkah gift? Eid Gift? I’m here to offer suggestions! Basically, this is my Christmas wishlist, but I suspect I’m not alone in wishing for these items. The items are not in any particular order.


*Now for the legal gobbly-gook– I am not earning any money, no kickbacks, no commission, no nothing, from any of these places. I do not work for any of these companies. I am friends with Moulden Studios people though. I’ve ordered from some of these places, but not all so I can’t vouch for all of them. 


 

MORE Books! 

Readers love books. It is often hard to keep up with what readers have and have not read. We always seem to have the compulsion to buy the books we want as soon as they come out, whether we can afford them or not. May I suggest a gift card to help them with their addiction.  (price any amount you want)

Scarf

I have been eyeing the literary scarves on Storiarts website forever. (price: $48)

Socks or other bookish clothing

You can find fun socks here at Out of Print Clothing and fingerless gloves here at Storiarts. I purchased the banned book socks through their store in Amazon. (price: $20 and up)

Posters or Paintings

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Readers quite often love all kinds of memorabilia related to our love of reading. I found an artist on Instagram who paints influential women in her life. I fell in love with her JK Rowling painting. Alas, it was beyond my budget. She also did one of General Leia. The artist’s name is Elizabeth Hope and her handle on Instagram is @artistshope . If you have several hundred dollars to spend, her paintings are worth every penny. (price: posters $15 and up, paintings: hundreds. Rowling-$475 I think.)

Tea/ Coffee/ Hot Cocoa 

I love all of these beverages steaming hot! Republic of Tea, Blackberry Sage is my favorite Tea. I usually get it from World Market. For Hot Cocoa, I love good old Swiss Miss! I found some Peppermint Hot Cocoa K-cups. Oh Yum!  Amazon has a large selection of coffees, as does World Market. (price: $5 and up)

Bookish Mug or Cup

 

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Moulden Studios

 

What is a hot beverage without something to put it in? There are a million places to buy mugs. I am partial to Mouden Studios. Leigh and Daniel Moulden run this business and are friends of mine. Here is a mug and Portfolio they did for me. I’ve used the mug weekly for the last 6 months and it still looks brand new. They do all kinds of custom engraving and printing. (price: $5 and up)

 

 

New Case for Reading Device

Etsy has all kinds of cases for various devices. (price: $20 and up)

Audible or Kindle Unlimited

If the reader you are buying for has a long commute, then Audible might just be the thing they need! I have a 45 min-1 hour commute each way to work. I don’t mind a bit because I listen to Audible Books. #BestThingEver (price: $14.95 per month)

Some people prefer reading on an electronic device. If your reader is a voracious reader, then Kindle unlimited is a good gift.

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Funko Pop Figures

These figures are just fun to have around. Walmart, Target, Amazon and more carry these. You can get all kinds of characters. I was given a Dr. Who figure and Tardis last year.

(price: around $8)

 

 

 

 

Bookmarks

 

 

 

 Again, Etsy has a collection of delightful, creative bookmarks. If you want, and you are a little crafty, you can make your own. Buy watercolor paper (it is thicker) and paint a bit of color. Let it dry. Use a sharpie or calligraphy pen to write a favorite quote. (price: Free and up)

 

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NaNoWriMo for people too busy to write 50k words

Only 4 days until NaNoWriMo!

What is NaNoWriMo? Look here. Basically it is a world-wide word count challenge to write 50,000 words in the month of November.

I have yet to ever write 50,000 words in one month. I haven’t even come close. The most I’ve ever done is 15,000 words and I was pretty proud of that! I saw a post on Twitter with the hashtag #turtlewriters. I really relate to that. I am one who loves to think too much, which makes me slow.

Another reason I never get 50k words written is the lack of time. I work full time as a teacher. I have a husband and one six-year-old who deserve my time. I have a house to clean. (I do a poor job of that.) I’m also in grad school, studying to be a school librarian. Insanity, right? Finding time to write is difficult, but it is the same as finding time to read in a crazy busy world.

So what is one to do if they can’t do 50k words? Can you still participate in NaNoWriMo? YES! I must confess: Competitiveness is not one of my strengths. The only person I enjoy competing against is myself.

Here are some things you can do regardless of your expected word count:

Continue reading

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Revision and Editing a Story Series: Initial Revision Pass #1

Wooohoo! You just finished writing a short story or novel! Congrats!

After you celebrate that huge victory, what do you do next?
Edit the thing.
Well yes, but HOW?

Back in April, I finished the really rough draft of my almost 100,000-word manuscript. I celebrated. I printed the monster out on paper. I didn’t care that it used almost a whole ink cartridge and most of a whole ream of paper. I was so happy to have finished my first manuscript.

I knew it should rest for a bit before starting to edit. Frankly, I’m happy for that. But now months later, I look at it, knowing I need to edit it, and I shake my head. No. It was too big a task. Truthfully, I am well aware that the story is a HOT MESS. I have whole plot threads that dangle and snarled knots that you wouldn’t believe! (And that is okay! First drafts are supposed to be that way.)

Not only is the manuscript a huge mess, but revisions require you to think about so much. How was I ever going to tackle all that?

I came up with a plan: I’ll do a few short stories and hone my editing skills on something smaller, more manageable.

Which comes first: Revisions or Edits?

This is what I teach my students. I didn’t make it up, so the brilliance is not mine. I would cite my source but it is all over the internet. I don’t know the original inventor. I claim Fair Use due to common knowledge.

Revisions are the ARMS.

  • Add- Add information that was missing–Information that is important to the story.
  • Remove- Take out unnecessary information
  • Move- Move sentences or even scenes around for better effect.
  • Substitute- rewrite scenes that need it for whatever reason.

Edits are the CUPS

  • Capitalization
  • Usage
  • Punctuation
  • Spelling

I don’t see the sense in looking at CUPS before I do revisions. I am highly likely to forget to capitalize stuff, forget commas, and mess up grammar when I am rearranging and rewriting scenes. So it makes sense to me to do revisions first. (I’ve seen other sites recommend edits first, but that doesn’t work for me.)

Step 1: Plan if you do that kind of thing. (I do.)
Step 2: Write Rough Draft (Ha! If only it were so simple as that!)

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Pixaby Photo

Step 3: Let it rest a proportional amount of time relative to how long it took to write. If you wrote it in a day. (You are amazing!) Let it rest for a day or 2. If you wrote it in a week. Let it rest for 3-7 days. If it took a month or more– like me– let it rest for a week or two or a month. You get the idea.

(My current rough draft is going to sit for two years as I finish Grad School. I can’t focus on revising a massive novel while in grad school. My head would explode! After two years I will see if I go back to it or move on to other things.)

Revision Passes

Step 4: Big Glaring Problems. Reread the story as a reader would. Try to be objective. That is why we let it rest for a bit, to get some distance. I look for plot holes, things I forgot to explain, and basically any big glaring problems I need to fix.

Some people keep track of this AS they write their rough draft so they don’t forget to later fix problems. By writing them down, it frees them to move on with the rough draft. (I, however, am not yet this organized. I’m working on it though.)

Character Development.

Look at each character in your story. Did they turn out the way you hoped? Or did they take on a life of their own and go in a different direction? Is that working for you?

  • Have you fleshed out the characters well? Do they all have goals of their own? Sometimes those goals are contradictory to the main plot which makes for some interesting plot twists and character dynamics.
  • Are there any Mary Sues? (Mary Sue= characters without flaws)
  • Check Dialogue? Is it realistic or stilted and fake?

Pacing

Are there slow parts? You might need to move some scenes around to control the pacing. (Round 1 Beta readers are really good at helping you see this!) Cuts also come into play here. Four pages of straight description will bring your pacing to a grinding halt. I’ve heard different author give different numbers but most go through and try to cut between 10-20% of their word count to tighten their writing. Apparently, we all fall prey to overindulgence in some area. Most SFF writers indulge in too much world building or flowery description and have to carefully control it.

Voice

Does the narrator’s voice remain consistent throughout? Does each character have their own voice or do all your characters sound the same?

Trim the fat.

Look at each scene, each sentence even. Can it be cut? What purpose is it serving? If you are writing a short story, then you have to be ruthless. The writing must be tight. Longer works will allow a little more indulging, but not an endless supply.

Sometimes even characters must be cut. Think about what purpose they serve. Are they there to toss out a joke here and there? Or are they acting as a foil for your protagonist? If it is just for the jokes, you can maybe give the jokes to another character and cut this one, or cut this one and find other ways to cut the tension when needed. Sometimes two characters can be combined as one.

 

There are plenty more to look at, but I’m realizing this a lot for one post. To be totally honest, I’m still perfecting this whole revision process. (But really, who isn’t still perfecting it?)

This is merely skimming the surface of each topic. Each one could be a post on their own. More to come later…

 

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The Arms of Death– Book Review

I am over the moon excited because my friend, Maggie Foster, has released her first book! Maggie is in my social writing group. I have had the pleasure to participate as a sounding board, assisted with brainstorming, served as one of many beta readers. I was delighted to read it again in the published form. I have watched Maggie put her heart a soul into this book. I saw her face radiate pure joy when she showed me the proof copy! She has created a seriously amazing story and deserves all the success in the world!

The Arms of Death

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by Maggie Foster

Ginny Forbes is an ICU nurse. When one of her patients dies unexpectedly, it sends Ginny on a journey to discover the cause. Her curiosity gets her into a heap of trouble. She has underestimated the repercussions of this investigation. Yet stubbornly, this propelled her deeper into the thick of things.

Ginny delves into her Scottish community and uncovers some clan secrets.

The Writing

Maggie writes in the straightforward fashion that I love, not overly florid.   Her characters are fun and interesting. The plot of the story is clever and full of delightful surprises. The peek into Scottish culture is absolutely fascinating. Maggie is Scottish and I love hearing stories of her culture.

Only a real book nerd will understand this part: this book is beautiful! Continue reading

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The Girl Who Drank the Moon- Book Review

Doesn’t the title sound intriguing? That is initially what grabbed my attention. The cover is beautiful too. The story did not disappoint either. This was the 2017 Newbery Medal Winner, and it was well deserved! There is just something about the tone of this book that I adore.

Continue reading

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Writing Community Series: Benefits of a Writing Group

 

Why Join a Writing Group?

There are so many benefits to being in a writing group!

I am an extremely shy introvert. So, joining not one, but two, writing groups was perhaps the most difficult, terrifying thing I’ve ever done. My goal is to be a good writer though. I don’t want to embarrass myself by publishing something that is terrible, so I must get feedback from other people.

I found my first writing group through Meetup. (I’ll talk more about how to find a writing group later in this series.)

I went to the coffee shop and saw a bunch of people together with laptops. I figured that was the group, but I was too scared. I sat at another table with my coffee and spent the next 20 minutes working up the courage to go over and ask if they were the group. Then I was brought into the fold.

Sounding board

Writing groups are an excellent way to throw out crazy ideas and see what resonates. Your group gets to know your characters. They get to know you and how your brain works. When I ask my non-writer friends about an idea, they quite often just agree with me. They are far too nice. Because my writing group friends know me so well, they are not afraid to tell me when an idea is too far out there. Plus their knowledge of writing allows them to explain why an idea may or may not work for readers.

Collective Knowledge

My writing group has a diverse group of people with many different backgrounds. (medical, historical, technical, teachers, and more) They are an invaluable resource for when you have questions and need educated opinions. Together we help each other solve countless problems and plotholes in our stories.

Feedback

The feedback from my writing group is the most valuable. Many readers will read something and tell you if they like it or not. They can’t always accurately tell you why the writing works or what is broken. A good writing group will have the knowledge to tell you why something is working or not. I have learned so much from their feedback, and I believe I’m a better writer because of them.

Accountability

My critique group is particularly good at this. I feel the need to have something to present to them. I could go and just listen to others read, but I prefer to have something to share. My social group doesn’t put on any pressure but will ask what I’ve been working on lately. It is more fun if I do have a current project to talk about with others.

It is Fun and Energizing

Speaking of fun… The most important reason for being in a writing group is because it is fun. I write because I enjoy doing it, um, most of the time. It is not as fun when I paint myself into a corner. When I get in that situation, I’m tempted to toss the whole project. My group not only helps me fix it but gives me the encouragement I need. I have a major case of I’m-not-good-enough. They help me keep everything in perspective.

For my social writing group, we quite often sit around and talk about our characters, or talk about life in general. We laugh together. We vent. We cry together. We worry. We compare notes. We celebrate. All of this is energizing and often provide snippets of inspiration so that when I get home I feel like staying up all night writing.

 

 

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Forest of Memory

The title and cover art grabbed my attention for this book. This picture doesn’t do the cover justice. It is rich and beautiful. Also I happen to know Mary Robinette Kowal is an excellent writer.

Forest of Memory

by Mary Robinette Kowal
Publisher: Tor
Cover Art: Victo Ngai
(Isn’t it amazing?)
96 pages

This story is set in the future when everyone wears a device in their ear that connects them to a network. There is an optical display which allows them to see information above their head about a person as that person approaches.

How cool is that?! Continue reading

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Secrets to Finding Time to Read in a Crazy Busy World

I would love to have a day to do nothing but sit and read and maybe drink a cup of hot tea. The reality is that it is not likely to happen for years to come. I have a six-year-old adorable little boy at home that demands my attention every few hours…or every 3 minutes.  smile

You may have children of your own. You might be a teen or preteen with an annoying brother or sister that interrupts your reading time. You might just be a really busy person. Whatever it is, you likely don’t have time to read. Do you know how many times I hear that from kids AND adults? We are just plain busy, but if it is important, you’ll find the time. I’m here to help you with that by offering some suggestions.

In the Morning: Get up ten minutes early. Get ready fast. Sit and read while everyone rushes around. Or flip that. Get up early and read first. That is what I have to do.

Before Bed: This is probably the most obvious and the most common. This is a dangerous one though. With no one to drag you by your hand away from your book, you could get lost in your book for hours on end. I have on occasion been known to stay up until one am to finish reading my book. Though those days are fewer than it used to be. More often than not, I wake up at midnight after having fallen asleep while reading.  Continue reading

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Character Sheet–a Freebie!

I always get bored with character sheets. It is critical that you know your main characters well though, so they are a necessary evil. As a Fantasy writer, many of the existing character sheets have so many aspects that don’t apply to epic fantasy characters. Other character sheets go on and on forever. I have yet to find one I like.

The solution: make my own. I kept it to one page and tried to stick with only the most critical elements of a character. Something else I included was an area for a character arc. This will help me remember that if the character is important enough that I have a character sheet on them, then they need an arc, even a minor one.

Continue reading

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