Friday, December 17, 2010

Kissing 2010 goodbye

Wednesday's answer and winner: It was the Hope Diamond. It's at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. I wish the lighting were better. I've seen pictures where you can really see the color. Alas, this is not one of them. I blame museum lighting and a thick sheet of glass. The first to get it right was Alyssa. Way to go! I'm sure she's been looking at a lot of diamonds recently since she gets married tomorrow. Here's wishing you the best in nuptial bliss, Alyssa. I'm so excited for you.

2010:  It's been a great year. Pivotal for me. I feel more like an actual writer. I attended my first writer's conference. I had some serious agent interest in my WIP until I pulled it back in for more edits. (It really needed them.) I've realized I don't need to be racing to the finish line. (Major realization!) I'll finish when I finish. It's one of the luxuries you have as a beginning writer. I just need to make the story right. I had a major plot epiphany (at the afore-mentioned conference) and have been working on it ever since--slowly, I'll grant you, but I'm insisting that family and personal commitments come first.


Farewell, 2010. Kisses! You've been a good friend.

Happy Holidays to all of you out in the blogosphere. I'll see you in January.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What in the world?

How would you like something like this for Christmas?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Monday=Book Review Time--My top 10 for 2010

This is for the NEW reads this year. It wouldn't be fair to include the rereads. Since this is my last week blogging for the year I thought I'd go ahead and do this even though the book I'm reading (Orson Scott Card's Pathfinder) is pretty good and could end up in the top 10, but seeing as how I'm not finished, the jury is still out. I'm going to cheat a little and put series books together.

Leviathan and Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld
Across the Universe by Beth Revis
Howl's Moving Castle, Castle in the Air, and House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
This Time Together (on CD) by Carol Burnett
Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok
Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride
Stealing Heaven by Elizabeth Scott
Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
Only the Good Spy Young by Ally Carter

There are so many close runners up. I had several I initially put in that I ended up replacing. The list went back and forth for a while, but these are the ones that completely swept me away. 4 of them are even debut novels. Go newbies! The biggest surprise to me was Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride. It was not one I had been eagerly awaiting. It showed up on my doorstep one day from the publisher. (I think I may have won it in a contest.) I'm going to do a review of it early next year. So clever and funny.

There you have it. If you haven't read these, you should at least check them out and read a sample to see if they can entertain you as much as they did me.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Friday's Photolife--Life is Fleeting

Wednesday's answer and winner: Yes! It was a wrestling tournament. Congrats to Samantha Vérant! She was very quick on the draw (nice cliché). The actual venue was the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, NC. It was a special tournament where only the top 2 or 3 in each weight class from each state were invited. One of those was my amazing nephew.

My kids and I were coming home one evening about a month ago and the sky was an astounding, eerie kind of cool. This was during some powerful storms that were passing through. I was kicking myself that I didn't have my camera with me. I knew my cell phone wouldn't be able to do it justice, so I just hurried home thinking I'd get what I could when I got there. 

I rushed into the house grabbed my camera and dashed immediately into the front yard. At 6:04:12 I got this photo:

At 6:05:37 It has dissipated to this.

At 6:05:55 to this:

After that it was completely gone. If I'd stopped to change lenses or think I'd have gotten nothing. As it was I'd already missed the most amazing stuff (not being prepared with a camera in my car--shame on me--but that's another discussion), but at least I got something. 

In photography, as with most things in life, you must (cliché alert) strike while the iron is hot.  

Application to writing? Snap up opportunities when they come your way. Talk to that agent at a conference. He may not be there next time you walk by. Sign up for critiques when they are offered (if you need critiques). If you delay, the time may have passed or things may be filled up before you (cliché alert again) pull the trigger. Learn to act quickly or your chances may pass you by.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Where in the world?

I'm not looking for the specific venue just what kind of event.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Monday=Book Review Time--I'll take mine gripping with a twist

Business: I'm back from my Thanksgiving blog break (yeah I know it was only supposed to be one week) for a couple weeks before I take another break for Christmas. I'm also back to blogger's commenting system. Ugh! While there were positives to Intense Debate and Disqus, they ultimately didn't do it for me--too many downsides. Anybody out there want to get up a petition with me for blogger to improve their system?

On to the Book Review: 

Up for today: Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Why I bought it? I didn't although I do have it pre-ordered through Amazon and still plan to get that one when it comes out, because I want the hardback. I think I entered every contest there was to win the ARC, and eventually Penguin sent me one. Woohoo! Persistence pays off sometimes.

Synopsis/Setup: Amy is cryogenically frozen with her parents for a 300 year journey across the universe. She is awakened and almost killed 50 years before the arrival date. When one of the other frozens ends up unplugged and dead, Amy and Elder, the cute, rebellious leader in training on the spaceship, work to uncover the truth before anyone else is killed.

What I thought? The sample first chapter that Beth Revis provides here hooked me so much that I did my best to get an ARC. I "couldn't" wait for the January release. 1-11-11. I was not disappointed. The rest of the book delivers what chapter one promises. It was a gripping ride. Gripping, I tell you! I was completely swept along with Amy and Elder's tale. It was seriously one of the hardest to put down books I've read in a long time. Plus, there is a lot of depth and richness to these characters. No cardboard cutouts here. And the twists and turns of the plot! I was prepared for them but totally didn't see them coming, and that was incredibly refreshing.  

My Rating: *****, Yep that's right folks. 5 stars. I haven't given one of those in a while, but this book had me so entertained I can't give it less.

Cleanness Score: 6 out of 10, There is a little bit of mild language and violence (as you would expect in a murder mystery), but this score is mostly for some sexual situations that take place on the ship around Amy and Elder in one part of the story. They are integral to the plot and described in a more clinical way, but some parents may object. If you are a very conservative parent, you may want to read it first. I definitely wouldn't give it to my 10 year old. This is more of a PG-13 read.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday's Photolife--Pick your distance

Wednesday's Answer and Winner:  It was the Pompidou Center in Paris or as Domey Malasarn said the Centre Pompidou. Kudos to Elaine for giving the theory behind it with her comment: "Design is uniquely flared when they create it with the inside on the out!"

Business: Next week with all the holiday doings and goings on I'm going to unplug. I hope you all have a terrific Thanksgiving (US) or week (everywhere else). In further business, I'm going to give Intense Debate a little more time. I'm still not sold on it, but I like being able to link to specific comments. Remember to click "links to this post" to comment (such a bad downside).

On to the Photolife:

We're going to put the traditional side by side with the modern (or is that post-modern?) for this so you can have whichever view of Paris you prefer. When documenting something like the Pompidou Center or Notre Dame, it's good to remember to get close-ups,

middle range shots,

and shots of the whole (or as much of the whole as you can get).

Application to writing? I'm going to come at this from a little bit different take today because I read a very interesting post yesterday that has me thinking. Scary. I know. It was about an experiment into kids reactions to various books by Shelley Moore Thomas. Go read it. Think about your reactions to the Pompidou Center and Notre Dame. Which do you like more? Are these two buildings both valid forms of artistic expression? Pleasing everyone is impossible. Not even chocolate can do it. Write what appeals to you. If you like it, then chances are there is someone else who will like it, too. Just make sure it's written well.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What in the world?

Today we have a "What in the World" and a "Where in the World" all wrapped up in one picture. Be as precise as you can.

Hint: Some love it. Some hate it.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Monday=Book Review Time--Howl

Business: I'm moving on to the Intense Debate commenting system today. It will get about a week like Disqus. I was completely disgusted with Disqus in the end. Friday I couldn't get it to let me comment at all. So sorry about not commenting. FYI: Now that I'm switching systems, I've lost all the comments that were made on Disqus. UPDATE: You'll need to click on the "links to this post" to comment. I'll see if I can't fix that. *rolls eyes*

Up for today: Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones--requested by Mary Kay.

Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones: Book Cover

Why I bought it? I bought this a few years ago for my daughter from the recommendations of several nieces who loved it and thought she would. They said I should read it. I didn't at the time. Silly me.

Synopsis/Set up: In Ingary, the Witch of the Waste turns Sophie Hatter into an old woman. Sophie sets off to make her fortune and ends up working for the mysterious Wizard Howl in his moving castle. She makes a deal with the fire demon, Calcifer, that he will break the spell on her if she gets Howl to free him.

What I thought? This book is so charming and clever and witty. I loved it and couldn't put it down. All of the characters are 3 dimensional. Sophie is wonderful. I adore her. A friend described Howl as being like the Scarlet Pimpernel (but actually vain). I love that description. There's more depth to him than you see at first which is lovely to discover as you read.  The book reminded me of Harry Potter at times (but this one came before HP). It's incredibly creative.

My Rating: ****1/2 out of 5. I think I may have given this 5 stars on Goodreads. It was very close for me.

My Daughter's Rating: **** out of 5, She said she saw the movie first and kept expecting to book to be as light hearted as the movie and there were a lot more serious moments. She loves the movie and has seen it over and over. I still haven't watched it, and she is giving me a hard time about it. Yeah. Yeah. Eventually.

Cleanness Score: 2 out of 10, You're pretty safe with this one, but there was a little mild language and a couple sort of adult things like drinking that I'm not sure little kids would get. That said. I wouldn't have a problem with my 10 year old reading it.

There are two companion books/sequels Castle in the Air and House of Many Ways. I read both and enjoyed them immensely.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Friday's Photolife--One of the Crowd

Here's me in the Hall of Mirrors.
Don't you love the funhouse quality of the mirrors?
Wednesday's answer and winner:  It was the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. Who knew this would be way easier than kudzu? A lot of you guessed Versailles. The first to say the Hall of Mirrors was Natalie Whipple. If you haven't checked out her blog, you should.

Business: Intense Debate is finished with its update for blogger, so starting Monday I'm going to try that commenting system and you can see what you think.

On to the Photolife:

In a popular tourist destination like Versailles, you're always having to deal with the crowds. When taking pictures, sometimes it's good to embrace them. Hey, you stood in that line for hours. Why not show all those people?
Show them even in your individual shots. They're hard to avoid so why fight it? (I used to fight it really hard.) It's all part of the experience.
The garden was teeming with other tourists.

Don't let it stop you from recording your journey and capturing the day. Why avoid them?

It makes for a lonely picture.

Here's the gate for Versailles with all the people coming and going. Who cares that I didn't know any of them. It's all part of the experience.

Application to writing? When writing a scene in a crowded place, "show" the crowd and be sure to include how it impacts the characters. I love it when someone from an anonymous crowd becomes important later or is someone I recognize. In Sarah Dessen's books, she includes cameos of characters from former books. It's like a nod to those who've read previous novels.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Where in the world?

We've done a lot of What in the Worlds lately. How about a "Where" this time? Where was I? Be as specific as you can.

Hint:  People were waiting in line to see this place.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Monday=Book Review Time--These is My Words

Up for today: These is My Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 Arizona Territories by Nancy E. Turner (Review requested by Mary Kay.)

These Is My Words by Nancy Turner: Book Cover

Why I bought it? We read it back in the Spring in my book club. I ordered it through Amazon.

Synopsis: As the subtitle suggests the book is told in journal entries. It was inspired by the author's great grandmother but departs from the real life story significantly. Sarah Agnes Prine is 17 at the start and learning to read and write (Her writing improves as the story progresses.) and wants to tell who she is so if anyone finds her bones they'll know a little something about her. Her writing project grows into a family saga of settling the Arizona Territory. Sarah is larger than life--full of vibrancy, spit, and fire. She shoots better than most men. Her life is at times harrowing and at other times hilarious. Sarah takes it all in stride with pluck. There's romance eventually for her and that is well done. (I don't want to give any spoilers because I enjoyed having it unfold for me without knowing any details ahead.) So I'll stop there.

What I thought? I enjoyed the book quite a lot. More than I thought I would. It is incredibly vivid and well researched. I felt like I was right there along with Sarah settling the new territory. It feels very authentic. In the "facts check" portion after the novel Ms. Turner tells what is and isn't based in history. I felt like I learned a lot about the era.

My Rating: ****1/2 out of 5

Cleanness Score: 3 out of 10, This is mostly for violence and the deaths/dangers that occur. It is aimed at adults, but I wouldn't have any problem with my teens reading it.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Friday's Photolife--Tweaking to death

Wednesday's answer and winner: It was a shed being devoured by kudzu. The first to get it right was Sharon K. Mayhew. It grows around here (NC) like wildfire. Here's the story of how it first got here from Japan and what our government did to help it spread (crazy). Now we're trying to figure out how to get rid of it (you gotta love that some herbicides actually help it grow) or use it. I've heard tell of people trying to make a sort of gasoline out of it.

Update on the commenting: I'm going to give it a week. There are things I like about it. There are things I don't like about it. One of the things I really wanted was for it to email you notification specifically when I write a comment back to you and not necessarily when everyone commented. Let me know if that's working for you. I think for the pictures that's something you will have to do, but it bothers me that you have to do anything but comment, so I'm still not sold.

On to the Photolife:

It'll be quick because there was so much business this week. With all the new changes on my blog, I've been tweaking up a storm (when I'm really supposed to be cleaning--ah, NaNoCleMo, I'm trying, but I just had to completely change the look of my blog two days in. I had to. I'll catch up. I promise.)

You've seen this. It's before the latest yellow tweaking. (That for some reason barely shows up on Blogger. Great. Must tweak more. Now it mostly just looks dingy. Maybe it would be better to go back to the crispness of this one.)

How would it look on this background?

Maybe fine. Maybe it's better on the background it has now. Tweaking may be a disease with me. Tweak it till it screams, till it bleeds, till the flies are swarming and I'm swatting them away so I can tweak some more until it's a pulverized bit of dust. 

Application to writing? Sometimes we can tweak something too much. When that happens, it's better to just start over. Fresh. Too much tweaking can suck the life and spontaneity right out of our prose.

Do any of you find yourselves in my same tweaking shoes?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What in the world?

Change 1:  I've been playing around with a new look for my digs. What do you think? I haven't completely settled on things. I'm not terribly happy with the background picture (although it's beautiful), but I'd like to have the lotus blossom at the top with a bit of a color change. I may, in the end, put one of my own pictures in the background, but for now I'm going with one provided by blogger.

Change 2:  I've always liked the commenting system on LiveJournal and wished that Blogger's was more like it, so I've decided to try a different comment system that is more similar to LJ's, if I can get it working. Let's all cross our fingers. I wanted to try Intense Debate, but it's closed to blogger for a while so I'm going to use Disqus. When I uploaded it all my former comments are gone. ACK! We'll see if I can get them back. I emailed Disqus. I had understood that wouldn't happen. Hopefully this won't be a disaster.

UPDATE: I just checked, and it appears that Blogger still has the comments. They just don't show up here for some reason. Whew!

Please comment, and we'll see if it's worth it. Since I'm a bit up in arms, I'll give you something fairly easy to ID.

So what do you think this is? Hint: Southerners have an advantage.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Monday=Book Review Time--A link and a play

Good luck to all the NaNo-ers out there. I'm in the middle of edits, so I'm doing a NaNoCleMo. You got it--cleaning for 2700 minutes this month. You can keep tabs on my progress in the right column.

On to the review:

The next book request I had was for Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers. Since I already talked about that, I'll just provide the link (If you have any questions, just ask.) and gush about a play that my husband and I went to this weekend.

The play was The Foreigner by Larry Shue.

The Premise: It's a farce about a young Englishman who, in an attempt to escape his life and troubles for a few days, visits a friend in rural Georgia. The friend puts him up at a lodge (He's military, and guests aren't allowed on base.) and, hoping that everyone will leave him alone, tells the owner that he doesn't speak any English. Hilarity ensues not to mention intrigue.
I was wary when we went. I'd heard great things about this show, but the last one we'd gone to that was touted as being incredibly funny was painful. To my great delight, this one was fantastic. The writing was so well done--clever with unexpected twists. The actors did an amazing job. I couldn't recommend it more. Laughter abounded. Whew! If it comes to your town, check it out. If you're in Winston, it's here through Nov. 7th. Go see it. You won't be disappointed.

When I was looking for a picture, I found out that Larry Shue died in a plane crash the year after this play debuted. Sad. Before he died though it won 2 Obie Awards and 2 Outer Critics Circle Awards.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday's Photolife--changing up an icon

Wednesday's answer and winner: We only had one person get it right this week. Congrats, Crimey! The answer was the Empire State Building.

On to the Photolife:

Here are a few more views. I love getting different views of famous things. Lighting and angle are great ways of changing up something that is very familiar.
Put the sun behind you and it's all lit up. Include the name so people will know what it is. (For less familiar things this is nice for you as well. I've been known to take pictures of street signs and exhibit names just so that I will know where I was and what I've taken when I go back a couple years later. Now a lot of cameras have GPS and will log that info but it is still nice to have the name in some pictures.)

Put the sun in the picture and get a sunburst and a rainbow, AND with this angle from a little farther away it's much easier to identify. How would you have fared on Wednesday if I'd used this picture?

Wait for a change in ambient light, and include surrounding buildings. It's especially nice when you get a reflective surface like the building on the right to continue the sky or some other element of the photo. With this angle, I bet most of you would have known what the building was.

Application to writing? When describing a scene, think about how familiar you want things to be or how you can change up something that everyone knows. e.g. image 1: the glowing window strips ascending into the blue..., image 2: the sunburst painted a rainbow..., image 3: the window washers hung in the evening's reflection with the Empire State Building looking on...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What in the world?

Hint: A different angle would make it more obvious.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Monday=Book Review Time--sans Richard Armitage

Up for today: North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell (Today's review requested by Mary Kay. If you see anything you'd like reviewed in the Books Read in 2010 list, just let me know. I have 4 in the queue right now.)

Why I bought it? I had seen the BBC version with Richard Armitage and Daniela Denby-Ashe and adored it. If you haven't seen it yet, put it on your netflix queue. You'll thank me later. I got the Norton Critical Edition with all the footnotes and commentaries through Amazon.

Synopsis: Margaret Hale is uprooted from the idyllic life she has lived in the south of England and moves to the fictional town of Milton in the north when her minister father leaves the Church of England. The abrupt descent into relative poverty is very difficult for her as is the change of lifestyle from the agrarian south to the industrial north. She sympathizes with the workers in the cotton mills and their plight. When she meets the owner of one of the mills, Mr. Thornton, they clash over class issues. (This is different than the movie. It is much more subtle.) He falls for her, but she feels he's completely inappropriate for her. There are a lot of political and social issues along the way, but, ultimately, this is a story about love.

What I thought? I loved it. Some of the things that I didn't like in the movie were different in the book. Very nice. I love the Mr. Thornton in the book more than the one in the movie (even though I think Richard Armitage plays him brilliantly). It has a slow start and a quick finish, but despite those drawbacks, I still love it. Gaskell tells a wonderful story full of flawed, yummy characters. Even Charles Dickens liked Gaskell's work. (They were contemporaries.) Since I read it the first time (this was a reread), I've read all of Gaskell's finished novels, and all were enjoyable--some more than others.

My Rating: ***** out of 5

Cleanness Score: 3 out of 10, This is more for themes than anything else. I thought about giving it a 2, but there is some violence and a suicide (off scene) and several natural deaths. It's a book intended for an adult audience, but I wouldn't have a problem with my teens reading it.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday's Photolife--Outings

Wednesday's answer and winner: Y'all are so smart. This week Alyssa was the first to get the answer right. It is, indeed, an apple press to make cider. Or in other words a cider press. In today's photolife I've included a view of the whole thing so you can see the process.

On to the Photolife:

Documenting outings is often in the details. Here are a few pictures from a family get together apple picking in Virginia. (There are tons more pictures, but this just gives you an idea.) Autumn is my favorite season. The crisp air. The vibrant colors. The falling leaves.
Look at the color of that cider--caramel, golden brown with a tinge of red. We strained it then boiled it--and partook. Taste bud heaven.
When we take pictures of outings, it's good to include as many aspects as we can. The cider dripping off the press into the pan, my nephew-in-law climbing a ladder into the trees to knock the apples down,
roasting marshmallows (my daughter and two of my nieces),
another daughter who was obsessed with the tractor we used to haul the apples from the orchard to the fire pit and cider press,

my take-home-cider waiting under my chair for the ride home along with a bag of apples, my daughter's poncho (that I knitted), and my backpack.
The memories are in the details.

Application to writing? One of the things I've been thinking a lot about lately is how putting specific details into writing makes it more vivid and sucks the reader in more and more. The aroma of the cider boiling, the crispy charcoal taste of the burnt marshmallows, the red-orange glow of the apples in the sunset, the sputtering chugs of the tractor, the buzzing whine of the go-cart, the nip in the air of evening setting in, the dirt under my fingernails.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What in the world?

Guess away--three views of the same contraption...

Hint: My fall crush.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Monday=Book Review Time--Taking me back

I interrupt the regular schedule of reviewing your requests for a selection of my own.

Up for today: This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection by Carol Burnett

Why I bought it? I actually didn't buy this one. A friend recommended it highly and lent it to me on CD.

Synopsis: Carol Burnett tells humorous vignettes and memorable moments from her life starting at her childhood and continuing through her rise to fame and beyond.

What I thought? There's a reason I'm breaking my regular schedule for this. I LOVED it. I highly recommend listening to this one. Carol Burnett narrates. She tarzan yells, sings, chuckles, and you chuckle along. It's completely enchanting. It took me back to watching her show as a little kid. If you are a fan of Carol Burnett, you will love this. If you've never heard of her, you will still get a kick out of her stories. Her first experience with a mugger had me dying laughing. There are serious moments, too, and I cried a few times--then again, it's easy to make me cry.

My Rating: ***** out of 5, for the CD at least. I think it would be the same for the book.
My daughter's rating: **** (she said no one takes a kid seriously if they rate something a 5--so take her seriously--she'd never heard of most of the names Carol throws around and still really enjoyed it.)

Cleanness Score: 4 out of 10, There was a little mild swearing, and a couple places where she talks about adult topics but nothing obscene. My 16 year old listened to most of it with me.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday's Photolife--Let it be easy

Wednesday's answer and winners: Great job this week. The first to answer correctly was Carolyn V with water lily, but in my head I was thinking lotus because of things like Lotus Rising and Lotusgirl, so, since Yat-Yee was the first to give that answer, she also gets a nod.

On to the Photolife:

Recently I watched the videos that go along with my Aperture program (like Photoshop but for Mac). Now I've been using it for quite a while--trial and erroring my way through tweaking my pictures. While trying to adjust the lighting on the picture below (for a stinking long time) and not getting what I wanted, I finally decided to watch the videos. All of them together took maybe 20 minutes (probably more like 10). And voilà:
the picture the way I wanted it. I learned how to use the presets. I thought I knew how to use them before. I didn't, and I wasted tons of time trying to recreate what I could do with them in seconds. SECONDS! Seriously. Seconds.
By learning the tools I have at my disposal, I made my life a lot easier.

I can just slide my curser down the presets and choose various options.
It even shows me what the picture will look like in a thumbnail image.
Here's a look I wouldn't have thought of for this shot, but I loved it when I saw the thumbnail, so...

Application to writing? 1. Learn the tools of the trade and use them. My writing life has become so much easier since I learned how to use things like "track changes" and "Find..." in Word (one of my tools). AND 2. Listen to those who know what they're talking about and learn from them. I've been reading a book the last few days that has had some excellent advice. I wish I'd read it a year ago. There's some amazing advice online for free. Here's an excellent post from Georgia McBride for newbies.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What in the world?

After the last few hard ones, I thought I'd try something a bit easier. Obviously, it's a flower bud but what kind?

Hint: I have a warm place in my heart for these.