Sunday, December 30, 2012

Coming Soon: No Kiss Blogfest and My Favorite Martian Bloghop


To kick off the New Year with some fun posts, I recently signed up to participate in two blogger events:


Who: Frankie Diane Mallis (the host)


When: Wednesday, January 2

How: Copied straight from Frankie's page-The No Kiss Blogfest! This is when you get to write a scene or post one from of your favorite books, movies, or TV shows that show the almost kiss-- the rising, crushing, excruciating, longing, tension that comes  when two characters get oh-so-close to kissing that you can just feel it, want it, NEED it....and then...they don't
  
Who: Maurice Mitchell at The Geek Twins (the host)


When: Monday, January 14  Update: the organizer rescheduled this to January 21

How: Write a post about your favorite alien.

Friday, December 21, 2012

When Your Perfect Snowflake Becomes a Puffy Hand


Image from  stock.xchng

I have a thing for snowflakes- they're one of those rarities that are so delicate and symmetrically perfect, and if the saying is true, no two snowflakes look exactly alike. Snowflakes are nature's testament to the value of nonconformity and individualism.

Sugar snowflake cookies were one of the items on my household's holiday baking program this year. A couple of nights ago, my daughter worked on her fine motor skills by pushing her little fingers down on a snowflake cookie cutter to slice the dough. Her reward was seeing the pretty snowflakes she created. Once the cookies were baked, I'd planned  to work with her to brush each flake with a pale blue icing and then use a white glitter gel to pipe out some fancy lines.

Maybe I ticked off the baking gods by using supermarket cookie dough over making this from scratch. About five minutes after the snowflakes began baking in the preheated oven, the  cookies began to swell. At seven minutes, some of the shapes got so bloated that the straight smooth edges rounded out, and then these puffy mounds of dough began attaching themselves to each other like a cluster of chunky bonded molecules. When I took the baked cookies out of the oven, they looked nothing like the dainty little snowflakes I put in.

Years ago, on a trip, I got a bunch of super nasty bug bites all over both hands.  When I rolled my swollen red hands into fists, I couldn't even see my knuckles because my skin was so puffed up. It was totally whack. Most of my so-called snowflake cookies turned out looking like those puffy hands. My daughter didn't mind the misshapen cookies as she happily sprinkled them with colored sugars but I'd really wanted my snowflakes to be perfect.

Striving for perfect snowflakes only to end up with puffy hands could be a metaphor for so many things, including road blocks I've encountered in my journey as a writer. Sometimes a plot, once conceived with a bright light bulb popping up over my head, becomes a puffy hand. Sometimes a character I'd nurtured and rooted for becomes a puffy hand. Sometimes the whole MS becomes a giant puffy hand. Sometimes you meet an industry professional thinking you're presenting a snowflake, but they respond as if you'd just flashed those puffy hands.

When I get worked up over a "puffy hand" I am dealt, I try to figure out what I'm  really stewing over- whether it is the ideal of something I wanted that didn't come through, or that I didn't get the by-product I would've gotten from attaining the ideal, or both.  

For example, my occasional frustrations with the writing and publishing process come from my desire to get published. And why do I want to be published? I have something to say, and I want people to hear it. With baking cookies, I'd just wanted to do a fun activity with my daughter (and that, I did). Digging a little deeper, I also wanted the perfect snowflake cookies because I have a baking ego I must  feed.
 
Sometimes people have idealized notions of things they want without  considering what they are really seeking. When I can admit to myself why I want the things I want, it helps me understand the source of my disappointment when things don't go the way I'd hoped.

Have you ever had idealized notions of how something would turn out only to end up with "puffy hands?" How did you handle this? 

For all you bakers, what are you making for the holidays?

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Déjà Vu Blogfest 2012: Chicken Soup for the Author Getting a Negative Review

A big thank you and a handful of peppermint candy canes to DL Hammons for hosting the Déjà Vu Blogfest 2012 where we bloggers can repost something we'd written in 2012. The post, DL Hammons suggests, could be one that didn't get the exposure it should have the first time around. Today I am reposting something I'd written back in February. I wrote this post to comfort authors who have received mean-spirited book reviews. I actually spent a lot of time on this post, not just the for the writing part, but for the book cover selections too. Before choosing which book covers got shown in my post, I conducted my research on  Goodreads for well over an hour. You'll understand what that's all about once you read my post.

Here it goes:

Maybe it's just a coincidence, but lately, I've been noticing some posts in the kidlit blogopshere discussing negative book reviews. I have a lot of thoughts on the world of book reviews, from those who write them to those who read them to the glowingly positive reviews to the hypercritical negative reviews  to the authors' morale on the receiving end of all this. For today's post, I'm going to focus my thoughts on    negative book reviews of the creepier variety. I think we've all seen them- they usually run along the thread of After finishing this sorry excuse for a  novel, I wanted to put the book in a paper shredder. The author is going to hell because he writes about teens having sex. Anyone who likes this junk needs to get a life.


I've sat in on enough workshops and lectures hosted by published authors to know that a negative book review can torment even the most talented of writers. After all, they probably had to sweat it out through endless butt-in-chair late night writing sessions, endure revision after revision, receive a number of rejections from agents and editors, endure more revisions, have a meltdown here and there, all before  ever holding the advanced review copy of their book in their hand. Then, after all this, for someone to brush off their hard work in a blog or on Amazon with the swiping of the keyboard...that must hurt. 


For any author whose cheeks are burning from a mean and nasty  book review, I have some comforting words to share:

Nasty book reviews reflect on the reviewer, not the book. I usually glance at reviews only after finishing a book. On the random occasions when I read reviews before starting a book, I find that positive and negative reviews don't influence me much. When I come across a review  written in a particularly abrasive voice, the reviewer might strike me as  jealous or insecure, and therefore not someone whose opinion I could trust. 

Negative book reviews can still help sell books. Sometime last year, I read a few news stories spotlighting a self-published author's negative book reviews on Amazon. This author wrote an adult book about a fictional town based on  observations of her own town. The book would not have achieved the notoriety that it did had the residents of the author's town not gone online to blast the author and her writing. I'm not usually aware of what's going on in self-publishing, but after skimming this book's online reviews, especially the negative ones, I actually found myself curious to see what the fuss was all about.


Even well-liked books get negative reviews. I've noticed a book that is sitting on a bestseller list or having a movie made from it or  is the  recipient of a big award sometimes gathers quite a number of negative reviews alongside its positive reviews. A book getting big-time exposure will attract more fans and inevitably, critics. I'm not a bandwagon fan, I'm an individual!

A negative response to a book is still a response. Many fiction writers liken themselves to artists, with their book as their art. So imagine that you hung a painting you  had labored over for years at a museum. Two groups visit the museum. The members of the first group glance briefly at your painting and without a second glance, they move on to the next piece. The members of the second group gasp at your painting, then stick around to point out its perceived flaws, and then they stomp their feet bemoaning how your work is exhibited in a museum instead of theirs. Do you prefer your readers to address your art with bored apathy or passionate criticism? Even if someone didn't like your book, the fact they invested time to write about it shows  your writing still affected them in some way.

To the author still bothered by nasty or negative reviews of your book, I leave you with a bunch of book covers pasted to this post of some very well-written books, many of  which are classics. Each book here currently has over 1,000 one-star ratings on Goodreads. 



Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Would You Date a Fan?

In "Momma Mia," the first episode of Frasier's seventh season, Frasier picks up and later dates a children's book author. When they meet, Frasier asks her out to lunch and quotes a line from one of her books, "Well, as a wise woman once wrote, 'No cookie jar is up too high for a panda who will try and try.'" To that, the author, played by Rita Wilson, says, "Now you're scaring me." (Frasier is the last person to realize that this children's book author looks exactly like his late mother.)

I found the episode online- you can watch it here. Zip to 2:55 to see the part where Frasier uses that awkward pick-up line.



If you were single, how would you react if one of your fans approached you out in public and asked you out? Would it make a difference if the fan was extremely attractive or intelligent? What is the oddest pick-up line you've ever heard?

Friday, December 7, 2012

Fess Up Friday: I'm Behind on Technology for Writers

Having completed the requirements for NaNoWriMo, I received an email this week from a NaNo coordinator about "winner prizes."  When I click on a link in the email, I go to a page where the sponsors offer some freebies and/or discounts for a handful of products.  Most of these products appear to be software packages or technological devices for writers.

NaNoWriMo winners this year can have access to the following:
-A complimentary 1 year BiblioCrunch membership
-5 free books from CreateSpace
-50% off Scrivener writing software
-...and discounts from Dragon NaturallySpeaking, Aeon Timeline, Tinderbox, and copyediting services from Outskirts Press

Going through the "winner prizes," I think---Free stuff, yeah!  Discounted stuff, yeah!

On the other hand, I also think--I'm really behind on the latest technology for writers. I haven't heard of most of these mentioned brands before. 

It's me, not them.

I actually don't use a whole lot of fancy technology or software for my writing, if you don't count the occasional Google search for researching a topic. Being the back to basics kinduva writer that I am, I still do my work on an old school version of Microsoft Word.

I've heard of writers using Scrivener, and so I'm curious about whether this software program would make a difference in productivity and efficiency. 

What program(s) do you write in?  Do any of you use Scrivener? If so, how do you like it? Are you familiar with any of the other brands I listed above? 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

IWSG: How I Got Through NaNoWriMo


It's IWSG day....thanks to Alex Cavanaugh for hosting this once-a-month blog hop where writers can blog about their writerly insecurities. Since NaNoWriMo just passed, I thought it would be fair to share in further detail about how things were going for me last month.  Although I had technically "won" NaNoWriMo, churning out 50,000 words in one month didn't come without challenges and reasons for me to feel insecure. 

For anyone who wants to do NaNoWriMo in the future, here are some general tips on how I got past the road blocks: 
 
Don't quit. NaNoWriMo got off to a rocky start for me because I didn't begin writing at 12 a.m. on November 1st, as many NaNoWriMo enthusiasts do.  I was still busy plotting and organizing and outlining after I came home from taking my kids out trick-or-treating. I'd thought skipping one night wasn't going to be a huge deal, but the delay in beginning my novel really set me back for the rest of the month. For roughly 50% of November, I was behind on the word count requirement to complete my novel by November 30. There were even days when the stats panel showed me, at the rate I was going, I wasn't going to finish my novel until December 3rd. For a couple of days here and there, I was super behind. But I kept working it like the Energizer Bunny wound up really really tight and then released into the wild to do its THUMP THUMP THUMP on the keyboard drums until I caught up.
 
Avoid re-reading what you'd written. Sometimes I'd cringe when I look back on something I'd written the day before. My spidey sense tells me I'm not going to win the Pulitzer Prize for the first draft of my WIP. Though I'm big on going back to edit things, eventually, I created a self-imposed policy of allowing myself to go back to edit content only if I intend to beef things up with further details for the sake of  boosting word count.  

Take breaks. I'm all about BIC writing sessions. At the same time, the world is bigger than my goal to write 50,000 words in 30 days and I need to keep reminding myself that. I don't subscribe to the notion that I need to block everyone out during NaNoWriMo. During my down time (and yes, it's okay to have down time during NaNoWriMo), I did other stuff. I watched TV with my husband. I responded to friends' emails. I went out. Earlier this week when I was about 10,000 words away from my goal,  I still made it a point to meet up with a friend for tea.

Be flexible. Writing, like life, won't always go according to the way you'd expect. I rolled with it when my plot and characters took on a life of their own. I rolled with it when I needed to write about a topic I hadn't researched thoroughly yet. And I rolled with it when, being at 25,000 words, I could see I was not yet close to the half-way mark I had planned for my novel. So I knew that even if I got to 50,000 words by the end of November, I'd still need to continue writing into part of December to get to the end of my novel....and this takes me to my last point...

...Consider life after NaNoWriMo. When I had writers' block or a dipping word count and I was mentally whipping myself to GET MOVING AND WRITE WRITE WRITE JUST DO IT DO IT DO IT, I would comfort myself with the notion that the month of November won't be breathing down my back forever. At the end of the month, I'd either reach my goal, or I won't. Either way, I'll move on.  

What challenges have you encountered while writing under pressure and how did you work through them?