Friday, May 29, 2009

Another day, another distraction

Today's distraction: Field Day!

It seems like every time I turn around there's another something keeping me from writing (and blogging). Life seems to rear it's pushy head and take precedence. One of these days I might actually make progress on my writing, but, as for today, it ain't happening. I get to sit out in the muggy NC air and watch my sweet littlest one compete in Field Day. All day. Actually it will be very cute, and I will take lots of pictures, but... No writing will get done. Sigh.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Wednesday=Book Review Time--YA fairies

Up for today: WINGS by Aprilynne Pike

Wings by Aprilynne Pike by harperteenbooks

Why I bought it? I picked it up because of the cover. It is so cool. I love the wings made out of flower petals. The colors are so pretty, etc., etc. Nice job cover crew. The book hook inside the front cover was interesting, so I passed it to my daughter to see if she was interested. She was too, so cha-ching. Purchase.

Synopsis: Laurel has been homeschooled her whole life and begins her first year of public school. She has a problem though and it's not your everyday kind of thing. Her back starts sprouting something that looks strangely like wings. She has to discover who she really is and what she has to do to fulfill her destiny.

What I thought? I enjoyed the uniqueness of the story quite a bit. It unfolds with romance and mystery. There were some slow spots where I started drifting away, but for the most part it was a fun read. The writing could have been a little more crafted, but most teens won't fault it for that. The book is engaging and fresh with an interesting twist on the fantasy world.

My daughter's rating: ****1/2 out of 5 stars. 

My rating: **** out of 5.

Cleanness Score: 3 out of 10, There was some kissing and several references to sex. Nothing explicit though. Only a couple swear words. Mild violence.

Friday, May 22, 2009

And the winner is!

You guys are going to love this. There was a bit of a snafu with the drawing. I'm sure I'm the only one who can't draw a name out of a hat without complications. I ended up with two. Don't ask! But. Hey. It works in your favor. So. The winners are...

Alexa AND Yunaleska

So Yuna and Alexa email me at lacmoss@gmail.com and we will make our arrangements for you to get your prizes. 

Congratulations to the winners!

And thanks to all the participants. We will have to do this again.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wednesday=Book Review Time--Ghost Stories

Don't miss Monday's contest if you're just checking in today. Go to Monday's post and follow the rules to be sure you get in the drawing. The deadline is Thursday night at midnight--eastern time.

Up for today: THE SUMMONING by Kelley Armstrong

Product Details

Why I bought it? Actually this time it was not me who picked out the book. My daughter did while we were running errands at Target. We ended up with about 7 books on that trip. She said I should read it.

Synopsis: Chloe sees dead people and can hear them and talk with them. She gets sent to a group home for kids who have "issues" and is diagnosed with schizophrenia. She wonders what is up with the other kids there. Things get interesting as she learns what the other kids problems are.

What I thought? I enjoyed it pretty well. The story is engaging, and I was entertained. Some parts put you right on the edge of your seat. I didn't love it though. There were some really slow spots, too. It is the first in a series, and the second one is out already. The ending does not wrap anything up. I was disappointed with that. You're left completely hanging. I liked it enough to want to read the 2nd. My daughter will want it, I'm sure. She said the first was slow in a few spots but still really good.

My daughter's rating: ****1/2

My rating: ***1/2 

Cleanness Score: 4: It has some gruesome ghost descriptions, but no language or sexual situations.

Monday, May 18, 2009

100 Posts Old!

Woohoo! Here's my 100th post. I've made it this far. I've stuck to it. I've been consistent with my measly 3 days a week, and now I'm celebrating the big 1-0-0. I feel like the tortoise. Slow and steady really can get you there.

I think it's time for a contest! I haven't done any of those. How about a $20 gift card from the Barnes & Noble? That's the ticket! Maybe I can get everyone celebrating with me. 

The rules: In the comments today just tell me your favorite picture I've posted or your favorite post that I've done. I'd like to know what is working for you out there in blogland. The contest will go until Thursday night (the 21st) at Midnight (Eastern Time) and then I will put all the names in a hat and draw the winner. To win you have to be a follower. I'll announce who won on Friday.

From the humble beginnings of not even being able to figure out how to include a picture for the life of me (here's the first one I ever got up--my niece and me from photobooth)
 
to now being able to photoshop the life out it (or into it) before I put it up... 

From not being able to figure out what to say... I've come a long way. 

I appreciate all of you who've joined me in the journey. You are what make it all worthwhile. Here's looking forward to the next 100 posts!

*Additional note for those of you outside the US who may not have access to Barnes and Noble: I will send you the novel of your choice in the same price range, if you win the contest.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Authenticity

Write what you know. We hear it a lot. Is it good advice or not? It sure gets vilified sometimes. It's true that we can't always write what we know. There are certain things we just can't know. Sometimes we have to write what we imagine. It's impossible to "know" some things, and in a multitude of situations that's totally fine. But... (You knew there was a "but" coming, didn't you?)

It has struck me lately that we have to know what we are writing about. We must write with authenticity. I'm not saying that we have to write what we've experienced or even write about where we've lived or that kind of thing. I'm saying that we have to be able to render whatever we put on paper in such a way that it is completely authentic. 

I've been reading a friend's MS this week and have been struck by the authenticity of it. It's set in the south and even though she's not from the south and has not lived in the south, it sounds completely authentic. (I'm from the south and can spot fake southern in a heartbeat.) She has a southern connection and she's done her research--reading journals, etc. That kind of thing makes a huge difference.

There is nothing that will pull me out of a story faster than reading something that I know is wrong. It's sloppy writing, and the author loses a bit of credibility with each mistake. I can overlook small things if there aren't too many, but if there's a flagrant mistake that even I recognize, I have been known to quit reading altogether and not buy things by that author again. It tells me that I can't trust anything they say.

Here's a quick example of something small. I was reading a book that had a supposed linguistic genius speaking in French, and I recognized that the French was not quite right. It was the sort of thing that made me not believe that the genius was as good as everyone made her out to be. (And that was not the author's intent at all.) I'll grant you that everyone out there doesn't have a Master's degree in French, but there are those who do, not to mention native speakers. This was a small distraction, but it did detract from the book. I didn't stop reading it because of this, and I actually enjoyed the book for the most part in spite of the flaws. I'm just saying we have to be careful

When we don't have the expertise to know something for sure, we have to do our research. We have to call on experts. In my example above, the solution would have been simple: Have a native French speaker check over the French in the book. If you don't know one personally, check in with a French department at any university. Most people are really happy to help. They love sharing what they know. Plus, they could even get a "thank you" in your book.

I have some British people in my WIP. Now, I'm not British, and I've never lived in the UK, but I have done a fair amount of research, and I have a very kind British friend who is going to critique for me when I've finished rewriting to help me make sure that the Brits ring true--even to a Brit. 

What do you think? What kinds of things do you do to help make your work authentic?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wednesday=Book Review Time--Jane, Oh, Jane

Up for today:  BECOMING JANE AUSTEN by Jon Spence

Becoming Jane Austen by Jon Spence: Book Cover

Why I bought it? It should be no surprise to you by now that I love Jane Austen. My husband and I stopped by the BN to pick up a couple books for him. I was being strong and was not going to get anything for myself. I have a stack of books at home that I need to read and some friends' stories to critique, but when I walked by the display of Jane Austen books I was sucked in, and this one caught my eye because of the movie. I wanted the "real" story behind it. So much for my determination to leave the store with no book for myself.

Synopsis: This is the biography that inspired the movie Becoming Jane and the author was a consultant for the film. It focuses a lot on the impact her sister Cassandra, her brother Henry and his relationship with their cousin Eliza, and her possible romance with Tom Lafroy had on her stories. There is a lot of time spent on family history and Jane's interaction with different family members.

What I thought? This was a very well written and researched biography. There were times though that I thought Spence was forcing his assumptions on me. I enjoyed it pretty well, but Spence went on and on over certain details and skimmed others. (I thought he spent entirely too much time on the whole Eliza and Henry story. I realize it was important in JA's life, but not for the number of pages it got in the book. That section about stopped my reading. If you find yourself getting bogged down there just skim it and move on. Things pick up after that part.) I really enjoyed the interaction of Jane and Cassandra. Some of the details that were included there really enlightened her character. The detail that one of their niece's fiancĂ© called them "the formidables" was great. I could just picture the force they had in the family. I especially was interested in the relationship that she had with her nieces and nephews and how much she cared for those around her. 

My Rating: **** out of 5

Cleanness Score: 3 out of 10. There are details about affairs and things of that nature and people dying as would be expected in a biography from that time period. But it is all pretty tame. 

Monday, May 11, 2009

Great American Clean-up


Saturday we participated in the Great American Clean-up with a large group of people from our church. Part of my assignment was to take pictures. My husband was one of the leaders, so he drove from site to site restocking water and checking on needs, while I took pictures. Our kids stayed with friends at one of the sites to pick up trash.
Some areas were street side others were parks. Bottles and cans and bits of paper were the sorts of things I expected to find, and there were plenty of those things.

I was amazed, though, at the some of the things found in the parks.

Tires, couch cushions, carpet, nets, car parts, water fountain spigot, etc., etc., etc. Completely random stuff.

Kids of all ages were helping and being grossed out at the things they found.
I'm hoping that it will help keep them mindful of taking care of their planet. We all have to do our part.

Application to writing? Uh! Clean up your prose so as not to gross out your readers. Heehee! See! Everything has an application to writing.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Celebrating!


Happy Birthday to me! I'm taking the day off. Have a great weekend and a happy Mother's Day! I'm looking forward to being really spoiled. Heehee! 

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Wednesday=Book Review Time--In a french mood

Up for today: A YEAR IN PROVENCE by Peter Mayle
a year in provence by mamichan
Why I bought it? I had heard it was really good, and Provence has a special place in my heart because of the time I lived there.

Synopsis: This is a memoir of the first year that the British Peter Mayle lived in Provence. It tells how he decided to live the dream of renouncing the stress of the world and moving to the south of France. His beautiful old house there, the vineyard, the brilliant blue skies, the wine, the incredible food. When reality sets in, he finds a different kind of stress. The Mistral, snow, renovations. Yikes. It's not exactly what he bargained for.

What I thought? This book is completely charming. Mayle tells it like it is without pulling any punches. The good and the bad. I had heard that is was funny, and it really delivered there. It reminded me of so many of my own experiences with people and things in Provence. Very authentic. I recommend this highly to anyone, especially those who have spent time in France. 

My rating: ***** out of 5

Cleanness Score:  4 out of 10. This one is actually quite clean. There are some adult situations but nothing really provocative.

Monday, May 4, 2009

No more mishmash!

Sorry about no post on Friday. I was working on edits of my first 2 chapters because a very knowledgeable published friend was going to review them that night and see what he thought. 

I had quite an epiphany as he was talking to me about what was working in my story and what wasn't. My lack of confidence in my own judgement was killing what was good about my story. Because I'm new to writing novels, I kept thinking that I needed to follow most all of the advice readers gave me to make sure that the story was working. If I did what they suggested then their approval would follow. The problem was that, as I followed advice from different sources, what I ended up with was a complete mishmash of what the story should have been. What a mess! 

Just like with this picture, the reader doesn't know where to focus. I ended up with different styles of writing and different genres all mixed together even.

Are we taking everyone's advice no matter how much experience and knowledge they have? Do we not trust ourselves? I'm starting over from the beginning. I'm going to use what works for me. Not everyone will like what I write, and that's okay. They weren't all going to like it anyway. What I have right now doesn't make sense because there are scenes and elements that just don't fit. I'm going back to the original ideas I had and make them work. 


Isn't this better? Keep the random elements at bay. Wish me luck! At least I have the tools to make it happen. The friend said that my writing style was really good. Whew! He was really relieved, and so was I.