Monday, July 31, 2006

Like Dilbert, Only Better

Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, started blogging earlier this year. Often funny, always thought provoking, I've been reading it from the start.

His post entitled Pleasure Unit Theory tickled me.

My theory explains all the following:
1. Why poor people are fatter than rich people.
2. Why people with crappy lives do drugs that are sure to be destructive in the long run.
3. Why you are reading this blog instead of working.

The trick, of course, is going to the post so one can discuss intelligently.

Friday, July 28, 2006

What a Whiner!

Hear, hear, I second the nomination and all that good stuff.

I tried, folks. I really tried to feel sorry for the twenty-something assistant to the evil boss in "The Devil Wears Prada." After all, I am the queen of the lousy job. I’ve worked more low-paying jobs than I can count for my Dead-End Job mystery series.

In "The Devil Wears Prada," poor Andrea Sachs has the boss from hell at "Runway" magazine. The novel details the cruelties she endured. Andrea was forced to drive her boss’s $84,000 Porsche convertible, and she couldn’t handle a stick shift. She had to wear loaner designer clothes and shoes and not wreck them. Andrea had makeup and hair stylists to keep her looking good. And this took place in Manhattan. Oh, and her boss was crazy-mean.

I wanted to bleed for poor Andrea, but all I could think was: what a whiner.

The Lipstick Chronicles: The Devil Wears Aerosoles

Yanno, just suck it up and move on. At least you had parents to fall back on and got a book deal out of it. Oh, was fiction.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Do you have Regrets?

I decided when I was 18 or 19 to live my life so I would have no regrets. For the most part, I don't. Okay, I have two, but considering that I'm approaching 30, I'm doing pretty good. Both of my regrets tie directly back to a single personality trait, so I'm working on that "flaw" instead.

But Collision Detection recently posted about a study done by the researchers at Columbia University that states: the long run, people tend to regret having missed out on opportunities for pleasure -- and they wish they hadn't been so diligent about working. What's more, our attitudes reverse over time. In the short run, we're proud of our ability to work hard and delay gratification. But years later, we regret that choice.

The researchers focused on working goals versus partying. Clive's entry is pretty interesting and worth a look through.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Kill by Allison Brennan

Title: The Kill

Author: Allison Brennan

Genre: Mystery

Summary: Olivia helped convict her sister's killer when she was only five years old. As she approaches 40, the man is released because his DNA doesn't match what was found at the crime scene 35 years ago.

The Take-Away: I really appreciated two things about Olivia's character. She tries to right what she sees as a wrong. She holds her five year old self accountable for placing the wrong many behind bars. But she also doesn't trust her gut instinct. Ever. She always needs the trace evident processed to make a decision.

Brennan pairs her with a local cop who trusts his gut and teaches her to do the same. The road is painful and Olivia underwent the most growth of the trilogy's characters.

Recommendation: Get it. But if you start here, you won't spoil any storylines in the previous two. Other than the romantic interest. But if you couldn't figure those out, you need to read more books with romance in them.

Bonus Review: Three Part Interview by Writer Unboxed

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Monday, July 24, 2006

Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon

Title: Dragonfly in Amber

Author: Diana Gabaldon

Genre: Fantasy, Historical

Summary: Claire, a WWII field nurse, and her husband Jamie, a Scottish outlaw, take it upon themselves to stop the Jacobite rising in Paris.

The Take-Away: Less of a romance than the first. Jamie and Claire are still in love and the scenes between them are hot. But they have more important things to do, like keeping the Bonnie Prince Charlie from successfully funding his campaign.

Once in Paris, Jamie hires a young boy to be his pick pocket. The young boy quickly becomes a surrogate child to the couple. His appearance rounds out the story nicely, while providing insight as to the seedier side of life that Claire wouldn't know about.

This title starts in the present time, with Claire and her grown daughter returning to Scotland. The jump in timelines both threw and intrigued me, just as the line at the ending of the novel did.

Recommendation: Read it, but start with the first one.

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Friday, July 21, 2006

How to Finish a Book, Guaranteed!

Great advice in every bit of the article, but this is my favorite quote:

What you need to do is learn to pace yourself. Work at a speed that is comfortable to you – and doable. Set small goals, such as one hour a day, or one page a day. A small goal is less daunting and easier to accomplish than a large, broad goal, like 50 pages for the week.

Take small steps. Think of it this way: There are roughly 365 days in a year. If you wrote just one page a day, you’ve written a book at the end of the year at 365 pages. Factor in more “Dedication” into the equation and resolve to write 2 pages day. That’s two books in a year!

What was that? You’re too busy? You can’t find time to write? Not even a page?

Let me ask you this. What’s playing tonight? What happened on the last episode of American Idol? Did you see the last Grey’s Anatomy? Who do you think will be next to go in Desperate Housewives or Lost?

Magical Musings Guest Blogger: Mai Thao

It's the single bit of advice that has worked for every writer I know or have read about.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Hunt by Allison Brennan

Title: The Hunt

Author: Allison Brennan

Genre: Mystery

Summary: A killer has been on the loose in Bozeman, Montana, since Miranda was in college. After failing to be admitted to the FBI academy, she has devoted her career to the Search and Rescue team that continues to find the Bozeman Butcher's victims.

The Take-Away: Miranda was my favorite herione, even after reading the third novel. She refused to give-up when the Butcher had her, she refused to give-up when a college girl was missing. She refused to give-up and let the hunter win.

The title's strength is more evident in this novel. Every chapter reminded me that the killer was in charge, that he was hunting. I didn't get that sense from The Prey.

I really appreciated the setting for this title as well. Not many settings are so far off the beaten path. I don't recall ever reading one set in Montana, or any of the states that surround it.

Recommendation: Get it. Brennan's skill improved and the characters have more depth.

Bonus Review: Three Part Interview by Writer Unboxed

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

How Powerful is the Internet?

Can it get Anne Frasier's Pale Immortal on the USA Today Best Seller list? She's been there before but the publishing industry has all sorts of tricky hurdles that need to be jumped for her to get there again. Anne has it nicely detailed on her blog, static.

But YOU can help.




I need your help.

Yes, I want to sell books within that all-important time frame, but this is also an opportunity to see if a writer has any power. And just how powerful is the internet? How powerful are blogs and the blogging community?

I reviewed Pale Immortal in May. I loved the book and am thrilled to help this project work. I'm all about making the internet work for you. Or someone whose books I like.

You can help too. Go to Anne's site, read the details and see how you can get your information to her.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Dark Tort

Title: Dark Tort

Author: Diane Mott Davidson

Genre: Mystery

Summary: Goldie's young female neighbor is found dead inside the law firm that employed both of them. Goldie promises the victim's mother to find out what really happened.

The Take-Away: Perhaps it is because I read, rather than listened to this title, but the writing wasn't as good. It felt as thought I was being told a story quite a bit. Quite a few bits seemed like they should have been dialogue, but weren't. If I had been reading them, I would have thought that they were.

The recipes were, as always, fantastic. The characters remain true to themselves, but little personal growth is seen. I believe that this title, the 12th in the series, is merely a slump title, rather than a failure.

Recommendation: Read it, but realize that others in the series are better.

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Monday, July 17, 2006

One Plus One Equals Seven

I'm bad at math, but not that bad.

In March, Ollie received a gift card for Petco. It isn't the weird birthday gift you might think it to be, since it's on his list. He likes fish; they don't wrap up well.

Anyway, he decided against fish and in favor of a pair of male gerbils. They were a great price (free) since they had an allergy to wood. Don't ask. I didn't either. We purchased a cosy condo, food and non-wood chew toys and failed to ask the all important question -- are they male or female?

Statistics and probability was against us. One male, named Luke Skywalker; one female, formerly named Bo Duke; progeny, currently unnamed.

Gerbils, anyone? They're really cute. One solid black, one tan with a white blotch, three that are brown with streaks of black. Yours for the taking, in another three weeks.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Email Quizzes

I've gathered a few more email quizzes that are great for developing Characters. I've also learned about off-site storage and a few other fun things, so I'm posting links to all of them. They are either MS Word documents with the ".doc" extention or a ".pdf" format, if you don't have MS Word.

MS Word


I've used this method several times to develope characters and have had good results. Besides, who hasn't filled one of these out before?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Title: Outlander

Author: Diana Gabaldon

Genre: Fantasy, Historical

Summary: A WWII English nurse recently discharged from field duty is carried to Scotland during the uprising of the Bonnie Prince Charlie.

The Take-Away: Claire is a wonderful first person narrator. Her first encounters with the past also included a notorious ancestor of her husband's, whose appearance is incredibly similar while their personalities are complete opposites.

Because she is English, Claire is suspected to be a spy by her eventual Scottish rescuers. In truth, she knows just enough as a healer to earn her keep.

The book was quite hefty, weighing in at 850 pages. While I've labeled it a fantasy, it's only fantastic in regards to the time travel elements. It's a wonderful historical.

My favorite scenes were the ones between Claire and her new husband, a Scottish Outlaw named Jamie. The intertwining of modern and historic sexual experiences provided a great amount of entertainment.

His blind trust in her explanation of her arrival is moving.

Recommendation: Great for the romance, great for the history.

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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler

Title: The Jane Austen Book Club

Author: Karen Joy Fowler

Genre: Fiction


The Take-Away: Dissappointing. I kept waiting for something to happen. Much of the story was told through flashback or internal dialogue.

The one intriguing point was the identity of the first person narrator that introduced each character and the change in point of view. Finding out was a let-down.

I received this book through Bookcrossing. Most of the other members in the book ring had similar feelings. The link to their comments is in the bonus section.

Recommendation: Even as a Jane Austen fan, I can't think of anyone to recommend it to. Which is quite side because the blurbs on the book itself are quite lovely.

Bonus Review: Bookcrossing Listing

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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Can you see the hidden image?

To be effective, you do need to view the original here.

If it's painfully obvious that there's another image there, then you're probably colorblind to some degree in the red part of the spectrum. Can't see it? Try looking at the white space at either side of the image, you might be able to see the object by using your contrast-sensitive rods (which are concentrated more heavily in your peripheral vision). Don't give up if you can't see it, that's the whole point -- this is an *anti* colorblind test.

I can see the image and have always been able to see the ones at the doctor's office to some degree. My understanding is that colorblindness is more common in men than women because of the XY versus the XX. Two X's are supposed to cancel it.

Hmmm...a thought just occurred to me. Will my son be colorblind? Something to keep in mind at his next check-up.

Via collision detection

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Prey by Allison Brennan

Title: The Prey

Author: Allison Brennan

Genre: Mystery

Summary: An ex-FBI agent turned writer thought she sealed her past and protected her future. A serial killer uses the plots of her novels to create the details of his crime scenes. Except one of them isn't from the novels but her past.

The Take-Away: Totally intriqued. Even before I read the book, I kept hearing, seeing, reading about Allison Brennan and how fantastic her new trilogy was. Except the last book hadn't been published when I first heard about her.

After I got it, I understood why. While Rowan's life should be picture perfect -- Hollywood's making a movie of her book, she staying in a beautiful house with a fantastic view -- it shatters with one well-tossed stone.

Because she doesn't know which scene will be next, Rowan is frozen. Someone is watching her and she knows it. She realizes that she is the killers prey.

I was able to guess the identity of the bad guy rather easily. I can't always, not because I'm bad at figuring it out, I don't think to do so, outside of where the characters own discoveries lead me. I had to wonder what book two would be like.

Recommendation: Get it. Devour it. And hope that the next one is in your TBR stack when you close this one.

Bonus Review: Three Part Interview by Writer Unboxed

Everything else in June

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Friday, July 07, 2006

Writing It Right

Holly Lisle has a great new feature to her e-store. She has started a series called Writing It Right, the first book is Horses for Writers.

Horses for Writers also opens up a new series (and a new way of doing things) for Shop.HollyLisle.Com. I’m actively pursuing writers who also have significant experience in another line of work or in a subject that writers frequently screw up when writing, to write short, concise Writing It Right Manual e-books for the store. These will run between 20,000 and 40,000 words, and though they’re solicited and will be packaged as part of a series, you’ll own all rights, and all clauses of the shop agreement will still apply. (Meaning if you get an offer from a major publisher to sell the book, I’ll pull it the day you request it.)

Sounds like a great opportunity for a journalist or a librarian to share their expertise. Holly already has recruited U.S. Military for Writers, and Photography for Writers and states she'd love EMTs for Writers, Cops for Writers, Lawyers for Writers, Doctors for Writers, Nurses for Writers, Artists for Writers … and so on.

Any takers?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

I should have paid more attention in Math Class

More fantastic information about publishing, from Anna Lousie (editor at Tor). It doesn't scare me, but it should.

P&Ls and how books make (or don't) money: part the first: the mass market original complete failure

In which I explain how we figure out how much money to pay authors for their advance, and also in which I explain how sometimes books make money and sometimes they don't:

P&Ls and how books make (or don't) money: part the first: the mass market original complete failure

A P&L is done a couple of different times. The first time is when we are estimating what we think we will spend on a book versus what we think we will make. If we buy the book, P&Ls are done throughout the book's life.

P&L usually stands for Profitability & Liability or Profit & Loss.

In order to buy a book at Tor, we have to fill out a P&L to make sure that the book will be profitable.

Anna Lousie goes on to explain with numbers and math how it all comes together (or doesn't)

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Thinking about Critique Groups

If you’re in a group and you’re at a standstill, step back and look at the big picture. Are you focusing too much on the so-called writing rules? Are you reading nearly exclusively in the same genre? Have you broadened your horizons and tried something new? Is the group as a whole pushing themselves to be better? Have you had that defining moment when you realized your group is holding you back?

Originally posted at Writeminded by Jan Kenny

Jan's post made me think. Is OAWC helping or hindering me? Is RWA helping or hindering me?

Is OAWC helping or hindering me? Helping, definitely. I write more because I know that when I'm ready, I have people I can trust to share it with. I might not always agree with the answer I'm given. Either it doesn't fit with what I know is right for me, the piece or the genre. Just as often, I'm given an answer that blows me out of the water because it is so damn right.

At the same time, I'm not sure that we are as tough as we should be. Too often I am distracted by grammatical corrections, changes that change the author's voice, or people that dominate discussion. I know I'm guilty of each and everyone of those things (that's how I know that they are problems.) Sometimes, though, I wish the critique was tougher. That the person knew my genre better. That we had more time to talk about publishers, agents, and the state of the market.

Part of the reason that we don't is because none of us write for the same market. It's a mixed bag of blessings. I like it because when defending something that is "common in the genre," I really have to defend it. It doesn't just slide by. I need to be an expert in my field.

But it also means I get to play devil's advocate when someone isn't writing in my genre, but includes elements of it. My favorite question is "What does your sex scene do, besides titillate and entertain?" I can feel my cheeks burn as I ask it, but it needs to be asked, if it isn't clear.

Having the group makes me accountable. We have an off-shoot now, called the Chocolate Cake club. Members meeting a designated goal have the option of meeting for cake. I love cake.

I've learned from these people, who read my pieces, lending their time and knowledge to point out weaknesses and present potential solutions. I can only hope my comments do the same.

Our strength, I believe, lies in acknowledging of our differences. Making my living by my writing is my ultimate goal. I'd love to leave my day job and be a mid-list author. The big dream is having the breakout novel that puts my name in everyone's mouth. But I respect those who want to leave their memories behind, whether they are prose or poetry. When I offer advice, I try to keep their goal in mind, not mine. Their genre concerns, not mine.

I admire the Writeminded group, who posed the original question. Five women decided that they wanted to take their writing to the next level. To earn contracts. To be published. The road has been bumpy, but they've stuck together.

Our group is always open. Not everyone stays. But the regulars, and those that will become regulars, are becoming the kind of group that Writeminded started as. It gives me great hope that we are headed in the right direction.

I must confess that the jury is still out on RWA. I had some really high expectations going into the national organization, based on what I had found with OAWC. Maybe I set myself up. Maybe I live in a fringe area, rather than in the heart of a group. But I find myself passing up RWA related events in favor of OAWC.

Within the national organization, I have connected with some fantastic individuals. They keep me going, answer my questions and offer their experiences to the organization as a whole. I admire what RWA has accomplished for the romance genre and all of its sub genres. I need to find the individuals to connect with that will make it the experience I was expecting from the get-go.

Thanks, ladies, for helping find it.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Bookworm Report, June 2006

I must confess, for a while I thought Word Nerd was going to read more books than me this month. But I'm sure I beat her on the page count. That counts for something, right? One of my email loops clued me into a great, new to me author that appears twice, but accounts for almost 1,600 of my pages. Diana Gabaldon has a wonderful series set in the Highlands of Scotland. But more on that later.

The one that was the most frequently read was Allison Brennan. I kept seeing her name everywhere. It seemed like every time I turned around I was running across an interview, a blog post about her or written by her. It's no wonder when I realized that she released three fantastic thrillers in an extremely short period of time. More on those later too.

Bookworm Review
Year Pages Books
2001 3,375 7
2002 1,975 5
2003 2,560 7
20042,608 6
2005 4,435 13
2006 3,386 7

For the year, I've read 62 books, or 21,394 pages, which averages to 10 books a month, or 3,566 pages per month, and an average book length of 345 pages.

I'm still working on some non-fiction titles, along with continuing two of the series I started this year. In all, my reading has been more varied than in the past. And I know that I'm not the only one.