Friday, December 31, 2010

2011 - Both Feet Into the New Year

The quiet lull I was enjoying only hours ago is heading into the celebration of the end of one year and the beginning of another.   New Year's Eve.  A new year, is it the beginning of new things or the continuation of things as they were?

Today I have a beautiful poster of writing goals.  I think we all need that, not writing goals necessarily but a reminder of where we are going.  I knew that before I was e-mailed the poster but I never realized the impact of having things so creatively worded.  Set for hanging, right in front of me where I can be reminded very day that I promised before the second week of January ends I will have the latest story ready for critique.  I'm already squirming at that - surely the third week of January or maybe the end - not!  And the poster reminds me that no that's not good enough - get with it.

There's reminders everywhere but I'll mention one - a blogger who reminded me to shoot for the starts.  Bob over at Satisfying Retirement surely has.  Check out his blog post where he's laid it on the line.

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

And Oh over at This Writing Life...  I'm late in checking in but make mine a cup of peppermint tea - sounds lovely and I've never tried it - a new year, what better time.

Me, I'm going to settle in to a toast to the new year, a beautiful supper with friends and stay in out of the cold which has dived to uncomfortable lows even for my hardy prairie taste.

Happy New Year all!  How are you planning to make your mark in 2011?  One goal at a time or with gusto?


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Resolutions or Goals - Same Old Muse

The lull between Christmas and New Years is one of my favourite times of the year.  The excessive hype of Christmas preparations is over and there's time to sit back and relax.  It's the one time of the year when the decadence of chocolate and a good book can be enjoyed without guilt that the afternoon has slipped by and the dishes are still in the sink.

It's this quiet time when the passion that began a story comes back.  When again I find myself awake at six a.m. without the bleat of the alarm clock.  Unlike the alarm clock, it's a softer awakening as the story is calling to me, announcing what now appears to be an obvious fix. 

It is in these last few days of the old year when my good friend aka my critique partner and I make 2011 writing resolutions.  Goals really, completion dates if you will.  And it felt good.

"If you aim at nothing, you'll hit it every time."  Milton Berle

So today as the new year slides closer, I celebrate one year older.  Fortunately, the goals for half the year are already made.  And my gift to self - I'm letting the muse do the writing. 

Structure and goals are important but when it comes right down to it - it's the muse that has all the fun!
"What is The Subconscious to every other man, in its creative aspect becomes, 
for writers, The Muse."    Ray Bradbury

So in the waning days of the year I may just carry on and let the muse have full rein.  Let's see how long she lasts.

And you - are you rushing or sliding into the new year?


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

There's Tinsel On My Keyboard!

The crazy days of pre-Christmas planning are finally winding down.   The presents are bought, mostly.  And the tree made it up just four days ago.  It's a small tree and because of that you wouldn't think it could cause much grief but it did.  The three strands of lights that tangle with each other every year and would be a puzzle addicts dream, takes an hour to unravel.  But the lights are up, and glowing in true Charlie Brown glory.

No, I'm not the Grinch but it is true that I once used a Dieffenbachia as a Christmas tree.  I've upgraded since then but lets be truthful here, decorating, except for Halloween, really isn't my thing.  Besides, I'm pretty sure no one would appreciate my macabre collection at this time of year.  

All that aside, I  am the queen of creative wrap having wrapped gifts using anything from shells and stones for decorations to material from well-loved but obsolete garments.  So while hubbie makes this year's rum balls I'm wrapping and wrapping and...

And the writing, well I still need to get a word count but I've learned to be slightly more flexible.  The pre-Christmas whirl means that over this last week no morning's work is complete without a phone call for one reason or another.   It means getting up a tad earlier, in order to get out the door before the shopping crowds.  It means sneaking to the freezer at ten o'clock for just one more frozen treat. And it means that I've almost broken my neck twice over that missing pair of scissors that just happened to be lurking on the office floor.  Yep, I'm being much more creative in trying to get that word count over the last week. 

And for all you writers out there and even non-writers, here's a contest from Gotham Writers' Workshop.  It caught my eye right away as there's an iPad and Amazon kindle up for grabs, as well as a whole collection of other prizes.  Here's the link:  The Writers' Wishlist Sweepstakes. 

Happy Holidays!

Or are you looking forward to the boxing day wind down?


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Reviews - I'd Rather Be in Jericho

What's on the boombox?  Yep, it's a big old yellow boom box that I used to think was so state of the art, that plays the tunes in my basement office. This morning I listen to the classics as I work on the latest story but last evening it was the Zombies as I updated a mailing list.

But all that isn't what today's post is all about.  Today I was griping about book reviews, bad reviews, not mine but another author's whose work I love.  

Now there's lots of good reviews on this author's books and how couldn't there be considering they've spiked best seller lists again and again.  But it's the bad reviews that intrigued me.  What had I missed in a story that I thought was told better than any story I had read in quite a while?  Why for that matter, after I'd purchased the book, did I care about the reviews?  Well, if I weren't a writer I wouldn't have this penchant for looking up reviews post read but I do.  There's much to be learned from reviews and there's much to be discounted as well.

I've never agreed with those writers that say they don't read their reviews, especially the bad ones.  I want to shout, please read the reviews, especially the bad ones.  There's been authors I've followed for a number of books and suddenly the stories slump.  Readers only have so much staying power.  I know I'll stick to a favourite author through a couple of stories that have fallen flat.  After that - well for most, I'll turn to other authors.

But the stories that missed the mark - what's going on?  Could the truth be hidden in an ignored bad review or two?  I know good reviews are every bit as biased as bad reviews.  Maybe it's the whole picture that really matters.  After all how else do you improve if you don't balance the bad against the good - the nay-sayers against the cheerleaders.

As a reader, I'll tell you a quirk of mine, if I discover a well-reviewed book I'm immediately suspicious.  It's that one bad review that puts my suspicions to rest that this is a solid book and not a book whose sales are held up by good will and hype.  I've read one to many well reviewed books that were disappointments.  Of course too many bad reviews and the reviews need a closer look. Is the book controversial and has the masses screaming as a result or is just plain bad?  Either way, those bad reviews have me paying more attention to that author and their book than a bevvy of good reviews ever could.
And for those of you, that like me are hankering to travel, here's a view on a foggy day
of Jerusalem on the left and Jericho on the right all taken from the shores of
Jordan - courtesy of a friend who is currently on the road..

Good reviews, bad reviews, reader, writer - there's something to be learned from them all.

Reviews - read them, write them, ignore them?


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Dance in Rangoon - Dance Anywhere

You know the days, when it's one thing after another.  As you're juggling one ball, three more come at you.  Or the days when the bad news seems to have received no expiration date.  It just keeps flying in and you think the universe has either narrowed its sights on one mortal - what are the odds with six billion or so to choose from - either that or life just has a warped kind of humour.

Annual School Parade, Rangoon, Myanmar/Burma
When life gives you lemons make lemonade.  You know, I'm thinking, put a little gin in that lemonade then call it good.

Today was one of those days, minus the gin.  And that is the reason for this post and the question - What else are you going to do other than juggle those balls and keep on going?  Well, there is one other thing.  Dance.

That's right, dance.  Wildly, out of control and preferably alone.  Why, because at the end of a not so great day, because you can, because it just makes you feel good.  Alone?  Why subject anyone else to what is obviously not going to be a performance of Dancing with the Stars.  Shake your head at me, call me crazy.  Give it a shot.

Meantime, I'm back at it, the next chapter not in my life but in the lives of my characters, those fictional people I like to persecute from time to time.  Yep and that new chapter - I'm thinking I might want to re-read before getting at things tomorrow.  Who knows what I may have written but hopefully it wasn't in a fit of pique.

Until tomorrow.  Dance.


Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Courage to Dream - Across the Globe to Jordan

Courage doesn't always roar.  Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end 
of the day that says I'll try again tomorrow.  ~Mary Anne Radmacher

Amman, Jordan
Today a friend is heading off to Amman, Jordan.   It's a long way to go but it's part of a dream she's had for many years.  A dream and a passion to conserve the past, the history of buildings.  It's a lot more than that but the gist of this story is that she took a calculated risk to attend a conference half way around the world as another step in the fulfillment of a dream.  For most of us flying that far by ourselves would be challenging enough but to arrive prepared to present at a conference populated by some of the world's best in their field, well that's another story entirely.  

"At first, dreams seem impossible, then improbable, and eventually inevitable."   Christopher Reeve

If you're a dreamer, odds are you aren't always living in the moment.  I completely admit that often, to use an expression of my mother's,  I have my head in the clouds.  Like the other day, Rourke and I were taking our customary walk.  Rourke prancing along with an aura of pride in his stride.  Yep, he had new duds and if you don't think a dog feels pride, you haven't met Rourke. 

Rourke in his new gear
Anyway, Rourke was concentrating on the sights and smells and how good he looked.  I was concentrating on what havoc my latest antagonist was going to mete on my hero and heroine.  I think it was just about the time when I thought,  he's going to kill now with the gun in...  when I heard the crunch of a heavy foot on hard-packed snow,  swung around and was faced with a man directly behind me.  Where had he come from?  I must have had fear on my face for he was immediately apologizing.  Just a jogger, who I normally would have heard a block away.  And in my defense - Rourke jumped too.

What a pair we make.  I sure hope the jogger wasn't a blogger or Rourke and I might be featured as the scaredy-cat duo.  Seriously, I don't dream all the time but when I'm cooking up a novel the tracts between reality and fiction can get mighty thin.

Realizing a dream is a whole lot of work, a one step at a time process.  And some of those steps can be intimidating, like flying half way around the world or slightly smaller like taking a walk and dreaming up a plot.  Big steps, little steps, it doesn't matter as long as they're in the right direction.

 Ambition is a dream with a V8 engine.  Elvis Presley



Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Craft Sales - Promo Gone Loonie

I never go to craft sales.  Ever.  Okay, mostly never.  

Until this weekend.

This weekend I was at a craft sale.  Not just at a craft sale, I was a vendor!

Yes, that's me smiling.  Not such a bad time after all.
No wait, it gets worse.  I shared a very small table with the local horticultural society.  Now all that aside, the company for the weekend was great.  That is after we were done arranging our tiny space so the wilting Christmas Cactus, the Roughrider toque, the two entry boxes, books and related paraphernalia didn't explode off the small space.  But we got it arranged in time for the opening bell.  Did I mention that the wilting cactus belonged to the Horticultural Society?  It provided a laugh or two throughout the event, when we weren't waving plant flies away.

But let's back up, craft sale - I've never had an interest in craft sales.  I hear craft and think knickknack.  I didn't realize how uninformed I was until a well-meaning friend assured me that craft meant another venue for book promotion.  On second thought, maybe it wasn't a bad idea.  I mean from a book buying point of view, I'll buy a book pretty much anywhere.  I've bought books in hospitals, airports, garage sales, online, offline, from street vendors, libraries and, of course, authors - for a book lover I didn't see a craft sale as much of a stretch. So surrounded by some amazing knitting, crochet and other crafts I, the master of "how not to knit", began the latest promotional venture. 

Did you know that there's more to a craft sale than just books?  Nope, I'm serious, there is.  There's all sorts of crafts - imagine that.  Crafts created by some talented people whose output makes my two published novels with others in various stages of pre-published bliss, look like the underachiever.  I've learned that there's a lot of knitting going on during those Rider Games and in the long winter months that follow the end of football season, knitting and crochet and beading and...   And there's more things than kindling that can be done with an elderly crab apple tree in your front yard - beautifully carved pens for one.   The pens and the bookmarks, I purchased one of each - for gifts of course.  Knickknacks?  Well, I was still looking when I had to end my search and return to my table. 

All in all it was a good experience and more importantly, post sale, more people know that this author exists.  And really, that's what promotion is all about. 

And the prize for comment of the day goes to the man grumbling about the entrance fee of a loonie or one dollar.  As he put it; 
"Paid a loonie just to get my wife out of here."

On either side of the table - Any craft sales in your future?