Monday, November 30, 2009

Blog Chain: Balancing Your Life

Benjamin Franklin once said, "Either write something worth reading, or do something worth writing."

We all strive to do something meaninful with our lives--to live to the fullest--but how do we live our dreams and still find time to do the dishes?

Amanda picked the topic for this round of the Blog Chain:

How do you prioritize? How do you balance paying attention to your writing, critiquing for friends, spending time with your family and earning a living?

This is a topic that I've been struggling with over the past couple of months, so this seems like perfect timing :). Maintaining balance is such a problem sometimes, and figuring out where writing lies on our priorities can be nothing short of frustrating.

First, I found I had to lay out what my priorities are. After all, how can I decide what's most important if I'm not even sure what all my priorities are?

My priorities include (in no particular order):

* Spending time with my husband
* Writing
* Cleaning up the house once in a while
* Spending time w/ my family
* Spending time w/ my friends
* Critiquing/beta reading for writer pals
* Working a full time job
* Exercising
* Watching TV (hehe. Well, it's true)

I was finding myself getting more and more stressed out as I tried to juggle all of these things, and finally realized I'd left something important off my priority list. Taking care of myself!

As a Christian, I know I struggle with feeling selfish if I'm thinking of myself or doing something "only for me." However, the truth is, we can't give to others all the time if we're burnt out. It just doesn't work that way! In order to do our best work and give joyfully to our friends, families, and spouses, we have to take care of ourselves first. Once we're recharged, we'll have more to give, and we'll be happier while we do it.

I'm still trying to work out how to fit everything into a day, but I've started doing things like meditating, taking bubble baths, and exercising more often to make sure I relieve stress and stay healthy. It's definitely made a difference, and I feel like I have more to give to my writing, as well as to those I love.

We also have to realize that it's okay if we're not superheroes. If the carpet doesn't get vacuumed for a couple of weeks, no one will call the police. It's gonna be alright! We can't do everything.

Everyone has different priorities, and that is both normal and healthy. If you can't see family one weekend because you need to take care of yourself, go for it. If you need to take a weekend off from writing to spend time with your friends, go for it! Do what's best for you to keep yourself in balance.

I'm still getting there day by day :).

What do you guys do to achieve balance in your own lives? Is it difficult for you? Easy?

Please check out Michelle's answer before me, too! I'm the last link in the chain, so please go to Amanda's post (linked above) to read everyone's contribution :).

I hope everyone had a great holiday!!

Thursday, November 26, 2009


You all have been such a blessing to me this year :). Thank you for all of your support and general awesomeness on this blog!

I hope you're all having a great holiday and are at this very moment napping in front of the television with your pants unbuttoned ;).

HAPPY THANKSGIVING, and I'll see you Monday!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Top 10 Things I'm Thankful For

*picture courtesy of CakeWrecks.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING to all of my American friends!

In honor of Thanksgiving, I wanted to keep with tradition and mention things that I'm thankful for. Without further ado, I present to you:

Top 10 Things I'm Thankful For:

10) Sweet, sweet books. This year I realized that I can read a book or two a week, and that I'm okay w/ spending money to feed my habit. I *may* have gotten smarter, too, but the jury's still out. Still, what a wonderful year for reading new books!

9) Agent and Editor blogs! Without wonderful blogs from people like Moonrat, Rachelle Gardner, Kristin Nelson, and many others in my sidebar, I would still be wandering around without a clue. Love and thanks!

8) Writers forums like! Seriously. I can't recommend this site enough if you're looking for help with your query, or just the support and comaraderie of a group of seriously cool writers.

7) Addictive and hilarious blogs like The Rejectionist who makes the slings and arrows of the publishing industry funny again, while still warning us not to Anger the Assistant.

6) Control + F. I love you, Ctrl + F. You saved me so many times while I was revising and editing my manuscript :). You helped me change a character's name without going crazy, as well as replacing words I use way, way too much. You've got my back, Ctrl + F, and for that I am eternally grateful.

5) White wine and bubble baths, because they are the perfect solution to a hectic day. After a bubble bath with a glass of white wine and a favorite book, I feel recharged and ready to write. So much awesomeness.

4) The Biggest Loser for being a reality TV show that tries to help people instead of just being a trainwreck, and for making me want to get in shape. The Biggest Loser coerced me into getting onto my exercise bike last night, and for that, I am grateful. Plus, Jillian Michaels scares me straight. Holy crap, lady...

3) My AMAZING blog followers and friends! You guys have made my year amazing by sticking with me as I blogged this year and commenting along. Your comments and the conversations we have make this blog at least three times as cool as it would be without you. You guys rock! :)

2) My critique buddies and beta readers! Without you guys and your dedication, my book would suck :). Blessings to everyone who's helped me get LEGACY OF THE EMPRESS polished and shiny. You are amazing people, and I value your criticism more than chocolate!

1) Finally... the last thing I'm thankful for ..... is that no one gave me that Coiled Poo Turkey Cake today (pictured above.) For those of you who don't know what CakeWrecks is, go check out the link at the top of this post and laugh until it hurts. It's the best.

Happy holidays, and have a great weekend!

What are you thankful for this year?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

To Buy or Not To Buy: HEAT WAVE by Richard Castle

I've been a fangirl of ABC's show CASTLE since last season :). For those of you who haven't seen it, it's a witty/fun show about a mystery writer working with (and getting in the way of) the NYPD as "research" for his next best seller.

And now, the most interesting part (besides Nathan Fillion), is that the show actually produced a book from the fictitious Richard Castle, based on the one he "wrote" last season!

It even comes complete with famous author blurbs jealously exclaiming Castle's brilliance in his latest novel. They really went for it... and it's hilarious.

My question for you is: Would you ever buy a book based on a TV show?

I've never bought any kind of adaptation novel, but think I may have to shell out for this bit of entertainment :).

What are your thoughts?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Online Plaforms: Why They Work!

Today, I'd like to share a real-life story of how an online presence/platform can lead to book sales!

On Friday, I wandered into Borders on my lunchbreak, not intending to buy anything, but just hanging out in the warmth with my husband, killing some time (we work together, which rocks.)

He stops at the bathroom, and Lo and Behold I'm near the Romance section. I have read the occasional Paranormal Romance, so I'm tooling around when I think "Wait a minute. Don't I know someone whose book came out recently? Lisa Dale? Doesn't she write romance?"

I scan the shelves and sure enough! There she is, sandwiched between Claudia Dain and Jacquie DAlassandro: IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, by Lisa Dale.

I peer in closer and think "Hey, I think I saw the book trailer for this, and it looked pretty good." I pick it up and begin to thumb through it.

Phrases like "An author to keep an eye on" and "A haunting debut" pop out from her book blurbs. At this point, I'm totally excited. I feel like I know this person from my interactions with her online--I follow her blog and Twitter account, and am emotionally invested in her being successful.

She seems very cool, so I am overwhelmed with the sudden
need to pay it forward and support her. My credit card pops out of my wallet like a pop tart from a toaster!

My husband is back by my side rolling his eyes, because I swore I wasn't going to buy anything, and here I am clutching a book and grinning. Oh, well!

I sat in the tub that night, reading through a contemporary romance (something I never thought I'd buy), and LOVING IT. I'm not done yet, but so far the book is very emotionally real, the characters full of depth, and the tension is high. I've already put Lisa's first book, SIMPLE WISHES, on my Christmas list for Santa. It's made of awesome.

My point? I swear, there is one :)!

After finally putting the book down, I went to find out how I'd first heard of Lisa and why the heck I knew about this book in the first place. It turns out, she'd started following my Twitter account (@twoheadknight), and I'd followed her back (@LisaDaleBooks.) She send me a really nice message at first, we tweeted a tiny bit, and then I followed a link to her blog. Her blog is awesome, so I stuck around, saw the book trailer, and the rest is history!

Isn't it amazing how such a small thing like following someone on Twitter can lead to a book sale? And a book sale to someone who doesn't normally even read in her genre?

I can honestly say, too, that I felt emotionally invested when I saw her book there because she'd made such a cool impression online. I cheered when I saw the book and snapped some pictures, either to send to her as a "yay, I bought your book" or to post here. Hooray! It feels great to support authors, and even better to get a good read out of it.

So, brush off your blogs and your Twitter accounts, people!

It definitely pays off to put yourself out there :).

My question to you:

Have you bought a book based on something you've heard online or because of an author's blog/tweet?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Publishing Debate: Harlequin Horizons

Or as I like to call it, Poo Storm 2009!

There's been a lot of drama in the publishing world this week surrounding Harlequin's announcement that they are opening their own vanity press, called Harlequin Horizons, and offering it to rejectees from their slush pile.

There was helpful info posted on the Writer Beware blog summing up the announcement and potential controversy, then the agents began posting fervently, keeping us in the loop!

Agent Kristen Nelson first asked if this was "Exploitation or Empowerment", then clued us in yesterday that the RWA had laid down some smack, letting everyone know that Harlequin was no longer recognized as a real publishing house because of this recent move. Yesterday, she filled us in on a letter from Donna Hayes, the Harlequin CEO, announcing that they were removing the Harlequin name from the vanity press due to all the hoopla from their authors (no kidding,) and that they thought the RWA were being jerks.

Janet Reid, the Query Shark herself, was also in the middle of the action, announcing the first signs of the approaching poo storm, revealing how pissed off she is that Harlequin seems to be preying on newbie authors, and then further endearing herself to authors everywhere by telling Donna Hayes to stop blowing smoke and basically either fix it or go take a long walk off a short pier.

Rachelle Gardner chimed in today with a rant on the quality of literature (which I totally agree with), and asking her readers their thoughts on vanity publishing as the wave of the future.

Even sci fi author John Scalzi threw his hat in the ring, discussing RWA, the MWA and SFWA all stepping in to chastise Harlequin.

Needless to say, this whole thing has made me feel like I'm taking crazy pills. I mean, seriously, Harlequin? I don't even want to know what their poor authors must be thinking.

So, my question for you is: What do you think of all this?

Exploitative or smart business move?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Giving Books for Christmas!

You'll never guess what I got you :D.

Okay, guess! You'll never get it.

It's... A SWEATER!

Okay, just kidding. It's a book.

How'd you know??


Mysterious editor Moonrat is on a mission! She's on a mission to get everyone to buy books as Christmas gifts, and save the publishing industry. I'm all for it!

She has helpful book-buying lists on her blog to help you with your shopping endeavors.

My questions for you are threefold:

1) Are you going to jump on the bandwagon and buy books for the family?

2) What kind of book do you get a non-reading family member? Palin's memoir ;)? *rim shot*

3) What recommendations do you have for various age groups/genres? What books do you LOVE and think would make great gifts?

And since I'm asking you, I might as well start things off with a list of good books:

For Kids:

--Bruce Coville's JEREMY THATCHER, DRAGON HATCHER, THE MONSTER'S RING, and GOBLINS IN THE CASTLE. These are some of my all time favorite books, and I'll still pick them up from time to time and read them :). You can't go wrong w/ Bruce Coville!

For Young Adults:

--Cindy Pon's SILVER PHOENIX (My Review Here), Kristin Cashore's GRACELING (one of my new all-time favorite books!)

For Adult Fantasy readers:

--Barry Hughart's BRIDGE OF BIRDS (a tale of ancient China that never was), Raymond E. Feist's MAGICIAN (awesome sword & sorcery), and Susanna Clarke's JONATHAN STRANGE & MR. NORRELL (one of the oddest, most delightful things I've ever read.)

For Adult Sci-Fi readers:

--Orson Scott Card's ENDERS GAME (one of my favorite books ever), Dan Simmons' HYPERION (gorgeous writing/fascinating plot), and Joan Slonczewski's A DOOR INTO OCEAN (My Review Here).

For Adult Paranormal Romance readers:

--Kerry A. Jones' CAST IN STONE (My Review Here), and Lori Handeland's BLUE MOON (it's got sexy Native Americans and werewolves!)

Now it's your turn: I'd love to hear what you'd recommend :)!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tell the Truth Tuesday!

It's that time again, folks! Time to Tell the Truth Lisa & Laura style, and 'fess up.

My weekly confession:

1) I do lunges in the bathroom at work. And sometimes countertop pushups. And sometimes dance a little. Too embarrassed to squeeze a little exercise in at my desk, I will try to bust something out in between washing my hands and leaving.

2) Bruno from Dancing With the Stars terrifies me. He's like the show's pervy uncle, only he's not just showing up drunk and handsy at Christmas time, he's there all season, making every celebrity uncomfortable in turns. When Len says a dance was "delicious" I say "awww" because it does it in an adorable old man way. When Bruno says it, I shudder automatically. It's all in the delivery.

3) I read trashy romance novels on my iPhone because no one can tell what they are :). If someone asks I might just lie and say Proust. Mwahahahahaha!

4) I love surprises to a ridiculous degree. My husband knows this and will tell me to close my eyes before showing me a) cool TV shows he's recorded, b) yummy snacks, c) funny stuff he found on the Internet. It makes me squee with joy every time, because surprises are the best!

5) I look forward to "Lunch Weekly" all week long. If you don't get Publishers Lunch yet (the free industry newsletter you can subscribe to here), go sign up immediately! You'll get publishing news all week, and once a week (like today), they send an update showing new book deals for the week, including debut authors :). GO DEBS!

So, what about you? Anything to confess this week? ;)

Monday, November 16, 2009

What's Wrong With Naked?

Today, I embarked on an adventure. I let a stranger touch my naked body. WHAT?! you say? Okay, it's nothing seedy. I got my first massage!

Now, I mention this because I'm a shy person. I don't get "naked." I get nervous in a bathing suit, people. But today, I said "What the hell" and stripped down in the name of relaxation.

It was awesome.

As I was lying there, getting more and more comfortable in a situation that terrified me not long ago, I started thinking about our writing lives.

Aren't we daring to get naked when we put our work out there? Doesn't it feel like putting it all out there and waiting nervously to see if anyone will laugh? Or point? Or ooh and ahh ;)?

It's a leap of faith that leaves us at our most exposed. After all, once the book is out there, there's no getting it back. It's out there for good. Hangin' in the wind.

As I was lying under the sheet tonight, I realized I was strangely comfortable, and glad I took the leap of faith. The massage was a great experience--and would have been VERY different if I'd chickened out and kept my pants on.

So, what do you guys think? Are you ready to get naked? Book-wise, I mean? ;)

Are you ready to take that leap of faith and leave yourself exposed?

Friday, November 13, 2009

What I've Learned This Week

As a couple of you know, I've been at home from work healing up from an illness for the past week, and have been taking some to relax (Feeling much better now, btw!)

Over the course of this relaxation, I learned a few things:

1) Netflix is the best invention ever. Sanitation? Not that important. The wheel? PAH! Let's see "the wheel" get me instantly streaming dating reality tv shows. Yeah, that's what I thought. I love you, Netflix.

2) Taking an icy beverage with you into the shower is fun! Seriously, try it. It feels so wrong, yet so right. Pure home alone awesomeness.

3) GRACELING, by Kristin Gashore, is one of my new favorite novels! It's fresh traditional fantasy, if that makes any sense, and I LOVED this book. It's been awhile since a novel made me as happy as Hunger Games, and this one did it :). If you love Fantasy, I highly recommend it.

4) My internet friends are the best. I mean, okay, I already pretty much knew this. But I love you guys! I got a couple of emails from my writing buddies just checking in, and it completely made my week.

5) Agents are hilarious. I tentatively got back online today and almost fainted when I saw how behind I am on reading blogs, but came across a few gems as I was surfing. This post from Janet Reid (the Query Shark) made me laugh out loud. I missed this stuff, man.

6) The odds of getting published are awesome if you are an awesome writer! Yes, if you don't totally suck, the odds go from 1/100,000 to something much more manageable. Just take Lisa & Laura (ooh, and go enter their Kindle contest before it's too late!) and Christine Fonseca who got publishing contracts (YAAAY!), and Elana Johnson, who just got an agent! WOOT!

Just like the picture of the afro duck above, this week has been a very pleasant surprise.

How are you guys doing? Anything you've learned? ;)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Work In Progress Wednesday!

This past week I actually took some time off both from blogging and writing to recharge my batteries :).

It felt great, and now I feel like I'm ready to really nail my edits and finish Legacy of the Empress once and for all.

At this point, it's a lot of minor word adjustments, killing the last bits of passive voice, and fixing places where I repeat words. So, wish me luck this week, and good luck to you!

How have your week's been so far? Any progress?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Blog Chain: Dramarama!

Okay, so this blog chain is actually a wee bit FUBAR because of me this time around. Heh. Oops! I apologize that this chain is a little loopified.

This time around, Christine chose the topic:

How do you create a wonderfully dramatic story? Are there any questions you ask yourself, or specific things you keep in mind to ensure that you have the level of tension necessary to propell the story forward?

Fantastic topic!

One question that never fails me is "What is the worst thing that could possibly happen?" Usually we ask this to reassure ourselves that we're okay, but when I ask it, my characters cringe inside my head. They know I'm gunning for them.

The question is really "What's the worst thing that could possibly happen to my characters right now?" followed by "and will it work?"

Sometimes you can't do the worst thing. You can't kill everyone off in the first chapter, for example, because then your story would be very short. And boring. And sort of pointless. However, you can put the characters into an impossible situation where they might be killed at any moment! The conflict in your story rises automatically.

Show no mercy. Life isn't merciful after all. But I also can't forget that I'm trying to tell a good story which means it has to be satisfying. "Satisfying" can mean different things to different people, but nothing can be senseless or without purpose in your story. Every bad or crazy thing must happen for a reason. Even unpleasant or cliffhanger endings were purposefully crafted.

So, in summary I suppose I ask myself three things while writing:

1) What's the worst thing that could happen?
2) Does it work?
3) Is it satisfying or purposeful?

Also, if you're in a jam, I've heard people swear that all you need to do when you're stuck is shoot a character. It doesn't work for me, but it might for you! :) Let the bodies hit the floor, and have fun.

So, what say you? How do you create drama in your stories?

Please check out Amanda before me, and Sandra tomorrow!

Monday, November 9, 2009

I'm baaaaack!

Mwahahahahaahah *cough* mwah ha... uh, yeah.

Hi :).

I'm back from my week of being unplugged, feeling refreshed, and ready to do some writing.

Sometimes there is nothing like a little distance to remind you that, yes, there is a world outside of The Internet (It's not just a rumor! I've seen it with my own eyes!) Daylight is actually kind of nice. If you haven't been out in a while, you should check it out.

Of course, I couldn't stay away for long ;).

Now, I feel so behind the times. I mean, several of you are probably thousands of words into your NaNo projects, others are querying, and others are much further along on their WIPs. How are you guys doing? Anything exciting happen while I was gone?

It's good to be back in the action :).

Monday, November 2, 2009

Writer In Progress: Unplugged!

No, I'm not going to play accoustic guitar for you, so don't panic ;).

I am unplugging from my blog this week to take some personal time, regroup, recharge, and relax. Best of luck on all of your works in progress, and good luck to you NaNo Particpators! Go kick some serious butt this week to the tune of 10,000 words!

Please feel free to talk amongst yourselves in the comments, and have a great week! :)

I'll be back before you know it.