Sunday, December 31, 2006

Guess Where I'm From

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: North Central

"North Central" is what professional linguists call the Minnesota accent. If you saw "Fargo" you probably didn't think the characters sounded very out of the ordinary. Outsiders probably mistake you for a Canadian a lot.

The Inland North
The Midland
The Northeast
The West
The South
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Considering I spent my first 14 years in South Dakota, the next four in Wisconsin, back to South Dakota for 2 years, then Minnesota for three, Wisconsin for 1, Minnesota for 6 more months, then Wisconsin for the last four, I'd say that this pegged me somewhat accurately. My Wisconsin friends say I have a Minnesota accent, but my South Dakota relatives say that I sound like someone from Wisconsin.

Have a happy New Year!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Sleep Tight by Anne Frasier

Title: Sleep Tight

Author: Anne Frasier

Genre: Thriller

Summary: FBI agent Mary Cantrell is sent to Minneapolis, Minnesota, to complete the profile for a serial killer who may be her best friend's murderer.

The Take-Away: The beginning was a little rough as the story switched from Mary to her sister Gillian. I didn't have a firm grasp of who was which and was confused during the first switch. Of course, since I read it during NaNo the confusion could be directly related to my sleep deprivation.

The writing is intriquing, with the story twists and plot lines tangling together. I especially enjoyed the relationship between the sisters, and Mary and her mother. That, more than the discovering who the killer was, kept me going in the story.

The amount of research and level of detail, both for the Minneapolis area and the work of an FBI agent was great. I felt like I knew the protocol that should be followed, along with the insider details. Since I'm not an FBI agent, I haven't a clue as to whether or not Fraiser did get it right, but I believed it.

Recommendation: Read it with the lights on.

November Titles

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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Thursday Thirteen

It's really a meme thing that lots of bloggers do, partly as promotion, partly as a way to get the wheels turning in a different fashion. Page Smith wants some useful writer things.

So I poked around in the hidden recesses of my computer and came up with "Thirteen Ways to Deal with Writer's Block."

In a previous life, I was a teacher. I was the mean teacher that would make you write. I didn't care if you wrote "I have nothing to say" millions of times because I truly believe that at some point your brain will rebel and give you something interesting to say.

Plus, waiting for a muse doesn't really work if you are writing 50,000 words in one month (aka Yes, I did it. Three times. But I'm not nearly amazing as a woman I met from Green Bay. Her word count was over three times the required amount.

So, without much further ado, Thirteen Ways to Deal with Writer's Block!

  1. Have an outline before hand. Use the outline time to think of all the the wild "What if" scenarios, instead of trying to work it out during the story.
  2. Stop in the middle of a sentence. It's really easy to pick up and keep going.
  3. Stop when you know what it coming next. Again, if you know what to write next, it's easy to keep going afterwards.
  4. Do the unexpected. "Suddenly, a penquin appeared in the room..." is a great way to shake things up, remind yourself that this is supposed to be fun and get more words out of your characters' mouths. You can always fix what doesn't work with editing.
  5. Keep your butt in the chair and write anyway. Painfully, one word at a time, until blood is streaming down your face from the exertion. Or, until it is easier.
  6. Open a new document. List all of the reasons you can't write. When the page is full, you're characters will look pretty damn enticing to write about again.
  7. Invite your character to lunch and ask what should happen next. Yes, I have conversations with people I've created. Both the real ones and the imaginary ones.
  8. Muses don't exist. Writers write. Waiting for a muse is like waiting for the boy (or girl) you had a crush on in 6th grade to notice you. Unless someone gives one of you a kick, nothing is going to happen. Writing is the kick.
  9. Allow yourself the freedom to make mistakes. If necessary, turn your font to white so it matches the background. If you can't see it, you can't edit it.
  10. Figure out what motivates you. I love seeing my word count meter go higher and higher and higher. I'm motivated by the numbers.
  11. Make it a habit to open your manuscript first and email last. If you always answer email first, you'll always check it while you write. If you have to wait, you'll zoom through your word count quota.
  12. What? You're still stuck? Then tell the story from a different character's point of view. No, I don't care that it is currently first person. Just do it and see what some else thinks of whichever event that's already happened. Who knows what you'll come up with until you do it.
  13. It doesn't exist. Most people who experience writer's block have other issues. One thing that NaNo really opened my eyes to was the maxim, "When you have time, write." I have a full time job, two small kids (6 and 3) plus a household to run. You train yourself to write regardless of how you feel. Even if it's crap, it's crap that gets you back in the grove. Plus, if you use the tricks above, you don't get stuck. It may or may not be crap. Take care of that during editting.

These are the things that keep me going. I don't remember when I last had writer's block.

Procrastination block. Well, that's a whole 'nother post.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Romance, Onion Style

How Did I End Up On The Cover Of This Romance Novel?

The Onion

How Did I End Up On The Cover Of This Romance Novel?

Last week at the supermarket, while shopping for my weekly supply of three dozen eggs and 12 pounds of mutton, I spotted a rack near the checkout...

Not only is the article worthly of any bodice ripping historical romance*, The Onion provided the code to do the very cool blurb you see above.

*I lived for bodice ripping historical romances as a teenagers. Especially if they had pirates. Publishers need to start filling this demand for us again.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Free Books Increase Sales

Or so claims Cory Doctorow in the Forbes article Giving It Away

I've been giving away my books ever since my first novel came out, and boy has it ever made me a bunch of money.

When my first novel, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, was published by Tor Books in January 2003, I also put the entire electronic text of the novel on the Internet under a Creative Commons License that encouraged my readers to copy it far and wide. Within a day, there were 30,000 downloads from my site (and those downloaders were in turn free to make more copies). Three years and six printings later, more than 700,000 copies of the book have been downloaded from my site. The book's been translated into more languages than I can keep track of, key concepts from it have been adopted for software projects and there are two competing fan audio adaptations online.

He's not the only one doing it. Peter Watts is giving away Blindsight. JA Konrath is giving away some of his novels too. He explains why in his post Ebooks! while referencing some other free book sites like Project Gutenberg.

Do free books help? I know I downloaded a few. I haven't read them yet because I don't like e-books too much. I don't have a reader, and sit in front of a computer screen all day at work too. But I think this is a great thing for published authors to do for their readers -- existing and potential.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

A Red State of Mind

Title: A Red State of Mind

Author: Nancy French

Genre: Non-Fiction

Summary: A Rebublican and good-standing member of the church takes a stab at explaining what it is like to live with people who are her political and spiritual opposites.

The Take-Away: Nancy tells a great story. As you read, her Southern drawl comes through the menanderings of the story. She sticks to the point, but uses highlights to illustrate the big point she makes.

One of my favorite parts of the books is when she discusses politics with a friend. All along Nancy sees it as an open discussion, two adults debating the merits of each others beliefs. Until Nancy realizes that her friend is trying to get her to see the light and convert. Except that it wasn't religion, but Republican versus Democrat. Watching Nancy handle the debate and the continued friendship was fantastic.

Recommendation: Get it and see for yourself what it's like to live among your polar opposites.

November Titles

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

What Kind of Reader Are You?

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Literate Good Citizen

You read to inform or entertain yourself, but you're not nerdy about it. You've read most major classics (in school) and you have a favorite genre or two.

Dedicated Reader
Book Snob
Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Dead Until Dark by Charlene Harris

Title: Dead Until Dark

Author: Charlene Harris

Genre: Fantasy

Summary: Vampires may have obtained legal status in the USA, but not everyone is as open minded as Sookie Stackhouse when Bill the Vampire moves into his family home.

The Take-Away: This is the first in a series. I learned of them from The Lipstick Chronicles, when they featured the most recent release as part of their online book club.

The story was sweet, but the writing was still rough. I'm interested in reading more about Sookie and her growing yet tentative relationship with Bill. The storyline, with the dead bodies typically found in vampire literature, was twisted with two points that I really liked.

First, Sookie isn't your normal small town waitress. She can read minds. She doesn't want to, but when the police start questioning her brother as a suspect in the murders of two women, she uses her ability to assist. To no avail, frequently, but she does try.

Second, Sookie's brother isn't your normal sidekick brother. He's the scummy guy that you'd warn your best friend against. I liked that good-hearted Sookie had this sort of skeleton wandering around town, instead of hanging around in her closet.

Recommendation: I'm checking out the second in the series. This title only gets a so-so recommendation. It's not bad, but neither is it fab. I'll let you know if you can start with the second one or if it is imperative to start at the very beginning.

November Titles

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Monday, December 18, 2006

The High House by James Stoddard

Title: The High House

Author: James Stoddard

Genre: Fantasy

Summary: The new Master of the High House has an enormous task in front of him -- restore the balance between Chaos and Order while preventing the Anarchists from taking over the House.

The Take-Away: Superb. I really enjoyed the witty language, the well-developed universe that exists within the High House, and the Anarchists. The whole book, nay, the House, serves as a metaphor for the world that the reader inhabits. Every room, stairwell and passage way reveals a part of nature in a new way.

The one downfall is that the narrator is often limited to the new Steward. Because he often doesn't know what is truly going on, the reader is attempting figure it out as well and pieces of it aren't explained as well. To help with this the Steward has the help of the Butler, the Windkeeper and the Lamp-Lighter. All three of these characters amused me to no end and I was thrilled during every one of their scenes.

Recommendation: Look high and low for this one, because it's out of print. It will be worth the hunt.

November Titles

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Friday, December 15, 2006

Valley of Silence by Nora Roberts

Title: Valley of Silence

Author: Nora Roberts

Genre: Fantasy

Summary: The Circle of Six stands ready with its army to face Lilith in the final battle.


The Take-Away: It moved slowly. I don't attribute it the fact that it was the third in the series, and the obvious conclusions of "Happily Ever After," but rather the relationship between the final pairing of lovers -- the Queen and the Vampire.

While it was obvious that they were attracted to one another, it felt forced at times, even superficial in the conflicts. I sort of felt like they wouldn't have fallen in love, if Lilith hadn't been hovering over them. They would have walked away, if they had not been the last of the Circle and drawn together in battle.

However, I worried about this going in. I'd be interested in knowing the thoughts of others, either in this trilogy or others.

Recommendation: Read it in order to find out what really happens, and report back to see if you had the same reaction to the final couple.

November Titles

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maas

Title: Writing the Breakout Novel

Author: Donald Maas

Genre: Non-Fiction

Summary: NYC agent Donald Maas relays his strategies for nurturing his authors from the mid-list to the breakout list

The Take-Away: Some really great advice for authors of all levels. My personal favorite maxim is "Conflict on every page." I have the worst time with conflict in my novels. But after reading about the various things Maas has told his authors or the examples he picked, I have ideas how to do it in my own manuscript.

The one downside to the book is the publication date -- 2000. It's just a little too old, given the current political stage and events that occurred just after it was published. It shows in the writing, and I would be interested in an updated edition. A few places were jarring even, and should be corrected.

Recommendation: If you're wondering what your novel is missing, get it. It makes for a great read and a good reference book.

Bonus Review: Magical Musings

November Titles

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Editing Lessons

My Chocolate Cake Club goal this month is editing 30 pages, start dividing the book into chapters, and ensure that conflict exists on every page.

I've really struggled with this editing business. Daily or weekly word count goals are easy. I can turn them into metrics that show what I've accomplished. The distances I've leapt. But this editing thing is difficult. How much is enough? How can I make it tangible? How do I know when I'm done?

Crap. I need to get started. It is afterall, the 12th day of December. (ed: I wrote this last night.)

Last night I decided to stop procrastinating. And, once I thought about it, two pages a day would see me to the end of the month, with a few pages to spare. How long can two pages take?

I don't know, because I never made it to the second page. One page took me 35 minutes.

That might be directly related to Pickle Boy's hindrance help. He decided that he would watch Mommy work.

He talks. A lot. All of the time, in fact.

We talked about the music that we were listening to on my iPod (we were sharing the new ear buds I got -- Skullcandy, totally fab.) We talked about the blue post-it notes and how they were for Mommy to use. We talked about the yellow paper Pickle Boy could use. We talked about why Mommy doesn't have to share her purple pen since she is color-coding some of the edits and purple is very important right now to Mommy, not red.

We talked about how he makes lovely spirals (and yes, I do love them.) We talked about how Mommy's work is important and how I'd be done just a little sooner if he would be quiet.

And when I was done, and put everything away (because that's what big boys do when they are done playing,) we talked some more.

He told me about school and the kids at daycare. As I listened to him ramble on, with little prompting, I felt my frustration dissolve. I interrupted him and said, "Pickle Boy, you talk a lot. Do you talk a lot at school too?" His prompt reply, "No." But he had that look that moms learn to recognize as "I'm going to get in trouble if I tell the truth."

I reminded him that he wouldn't get it trouble, I just wanted to know. He confessed. "Yeah, I talk a lot at school. Ms Tammy asks me to be quiet." I laugh, and he laughs. "I make them laugh at school," he says.

Great, I've spawned the class clown. I'll just introduce myself to the principal now, thank you very much.

"You're silly, Goofy Ball McGee." That's our other nickname for Pickle Boy.

"No, you're silly, Momma Cucoo." That's his nickname for me.

"Nope. I learned it from you."

"I learn from you."

Yep, you probably did, Pickle Boy.

It may have only been one page of edits, but it was a great page.

Six Weird Things About Stacie

Here are the rules - Each player of this game starts with the "6 Weird Things about You." People who get tagged need to write a blog entry of their own 6 weird things as well as state this rule clearly. In the end, you need to choose 6 people to be tagged and list their names. Don't forget to leave a comment that says 'you are tagged' in their comments and tell them to read your blog!

This is way harder than it should be. I can't think of anything weird about myself. I'm feeling quite mainstream today.

  1. I am fanatic about the order of my books. I can tell with a glance if one is out of order. Since I have kids who like my books (not that they can read them, but it's cool to play with my books instead of their books) this happens frequently.
  2. I collect Mini-Coopers. Not the full sized ones, but the Matchbox/Hot Wheels ones. I steal them from my boys. I currently have six of them: yellow, blue, blue on a platform, red, red with a British flag on the roof, and green.
  3. I have last year's calendar hanging on my wall at work because I like the pictures. And to see if anyone notices.
  4. I have a poster of the front page of the Mason City, Iowa, newspaper hanging on the wall next to my bed. It's the headline from the Buddy Holly crash.
  5. My clipboard at work is purple.
  6. I know way too much about UPS billing systems. Thankfully, someone pays me to have that knowledge.

I'm tagging Page Smith, Kelli, Kelly, T Cannon, Prime Looper and Jaimie. I'm skipping Word Nerd 'cos I got her last time.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Brain Test

How smart is your right foot?

This is so funny that it will boggle your mind. And, you will keep trying it. At least 50 more times to see if you can outsmart your foot.

But you can't!

While sitting at your desk, lift your right foot off the floor and make clockwise circles with it.

Now, while doing this, draw the number "6" in the air with your right hand.

Your foot will change direction!

And there is nothing you can do about it.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Christmas Money

Netflix will pay you for $1M idea.

We’re quite curious, really. To the tune of one million dollars.

Netflix is all about connecting people to the movies they love. To help customers find those movies, we’ve developed our world-class movie recommendation system: CinematchSM. Its job is to predict whether someone will enjoy a movie based on how much they liked or disliked other movies. We use those predictions to make personal movie recommendations based on each customer’s unique tastes. And while Cinematch is doing pretty well, it can always be made better.

Now there are a lot of interesting alternative approaches to how Cinematch works that we haven’t tried. Some are described in the literature, some aren’t. We’re curious whether any of these can beat Cinematch by making better predictions. Because, frankly, if there is a much better approach it could make a big difference to our customers and our business.

So, we thought we’d make a contest out of finding the answer. It’s "easy" really. We provide you with a lot of anonymous rating data, and a prediction accuracy bar that is 10% better than what Cinematch can do on the same training data set. (Accuracy is a measurement of how closely predicted ratings of movies match subsequent actual ratings.) If you develop a system that we judge most beats that bar on the qualifying test set we provide, you get serious money and the bragging rights. But (and you knew there would be a catch, right?) only if you share your method with us and describe to the world how you did it and why it works.

Man, I knew I should have taken that scholarship offer to MIT instead of becoming a teacher.


Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Glasswrights' Progress by Mindy L Klasky

Title: The Glasswrights' Progress

Author: Mindy L Klasky

Genre: Fiction

Summary: Rani Trader has sworn to rebuild the Glasswrights' guild but the succession of the throne has been challenged again.

The Take-Away: Rani is older, and a better judge of character. Other characters tell the tale, as well, and circle around to the main conflict. The kingdom to the North has been building its army for years, an army of children called the Little Army.

Rani befriends a general in the Army. Between them and with the assistance of the Touched girl Mai, the war is won with minimal damage or loss of men.

One point I enjoyed the most about both novels was the world built. It was the feel of fantasy, but I don't recall any magic being performed. Instead, it could be an alternate historical setting, but I'm not quite sure which is it. Enjoyable, nonetheless.

Recommendation: Pick it up after starting with The Glasswrights' Apprentice.

October Titles

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Fantasy Lover by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Title: Fantasy Lover

Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

Genre: Fantasy

Summary: A Spartan general is released from his prison once a month, to fulfill the fantasy of the woman who released him. This time, the woman wants to free him.

The Take-Away: A very clever twist on Roman mythology. Even though the titles promises a great amount of sex, it wasn't as much as I feared.

A couple of fellow booklovers and I recently discussed sex in novels. All three of us skim them. Kenyon still had a decent plot with some cameo appearances from well-known gods even when I skimmed the sex parts.

Recommendation: If you like Roman or Greek mythology, a new twist is written into the history.

October Titles

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Life Takes an Interesting Turn

For my NaNo minions who started reading my blog, the careful readers of yesterday's post, and my long time friends, Life Has Been Stressful.

Not because I've been ramping up for the holidays, or drafting 50,000 words in one month. Not because I'm a mom and work full time. Not because I'm waiting for my grad school acceptance. No, none of the easy things in life.

Instead, I interviewed for a new job, at one of my current employer's other companies. The new position interests me, it's a great career step, it's in Minnesota.

That last one was the problem. I can't move my family because of Ollie, my stepson. The offer worked out so that I'll be able to manage a weekly commute. My husband is 120% supportive (otherwise it wouldn't have worked.) It will be tough, but accepting it made more sense that not accepting it.

So have a round on me and celebrate.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Bookworm Report, November 2006

Last week rushed by in a really stressful way that turned out quite fab. But more about that later.

I promise.

Instead, I owe you a list of books, reviews from last month and this month. Honestly, I don't think I've ever been this far behind before. At least, not on my blog.

Bookworm Review
Year Pages Books
2001 5,139 19
2002 4,076 13
2003 2,448 7
2004 2,747 8
2005 3,410 10
2006 2,168 7

For the year, I've read 118 books, or 44,306 pages, which averages to 10 books a month, or 3,692 pages per month, and an average book length of 375 pages.

I've read four books more this year, with a month left in the year. But I doubt that I'll ever top 2001, the first year I ever kept track, when I read 164 books. I was dating my now husband, teaching for one semster, and attending my final semster of college. In the fall of 2000, someone asked me how many books I read in a year. Now, I know.

Too many. You could say it's something of an addiction.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Girl's Guide to Witchcraft by Mindy L Klasky

Title: Girl's Guide to Witchcraft

Author: Mindy L Klasky

Genre: Fantasy

Summary: Jane, librarian of a private library that holds records from Colonial America, discovers that she is a witch.

The Take-Away: This title was a great set-up for the series. The future plot lines are drawn, but don't overshadow the current story.

The stakes are high when Jane is forced to accept a paycut but compensated with a cottage on the library grounds to cover the lost wages. They are raised when the scholar of her dreams accepts her dinner invitation. The ante is upped again when her mother, missing since Jane's childhood, comes back into her life.

It seems like too many plot lines to keep track of but Klasky handles it masterfully. An extremely entertaining read.

Recommendation: Check it out, and keep an eye out for future titles in the series.

October Titles

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