Friday, December 30, 2011

Ted's Birthday

Happy Birthday, Dad! Thank you for your help this year by reviewing books on my blog. I apologize for not getting these out sooner.
In honor of Dad's birthday I'd like to post the reviews he sent me in November.

"Well, another month has come and gone, almost another year as well. So something a little different this month. I'm sure most of you know of and have probably seen "The Bucket List". Well, as I was getting ready to retire, I bought a book called "1,000 Places to see in Your Life". I read through it and marked all of the ones I've already seen. Of the 1,000 I had seen an amazing 78 of them. Doing a little math, I calculated that at the current rate (78 in 69 years) I was going to have to hurry up or live another 800+ years. I have concluded neither would I live that long nor would I see all 1000! I've even slowed down, only adding two in the last three years.
The other day, I received a booklet that had a list of 15 celebrates (actors, news reporters, politicians, etc.) and each had selected six books that they'd read that they considered the best books ever written. That made 110 ---some listed 7 books. Oh boy, I thought, let me see how many of these I have read. I check them off. There were 43 that I had read. I won't list them all, but on the list were Winston Churchill's War Memories, Homer's Illiad and Odyssey, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, War and Peace, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Moby Dick, House of Seven Gables, The Poems of Elizabeth Barret Browning, The Poems of Emily Dickenson, The Poems of Robert Frost, The Plays of William Shakespeare, The Grapes of Wrath, Gone with the Wind, Quo Vadis, The Short Stories of Edgar Allen Poe-------you get the idea.
Missing were some that to me should have been obvious: The Bible ( Maybe none of them have read the whole thing), Don Quixote, Doctor Zhavago, 10 Days That Shook the World, Fathers and Sons, none of modern American Fiction ( Stephen King, Louis Lamour,again a list too long to write in a blog.)
I'll be reading some from their list in the near future....How about you? What books have you read that you would put on the list of greatest books ever written?
Make a New Year's resolution to read at least 1 book a month. Try to read a wide variety, it will help you grow as a person. Happy Holidays, Ted

Monday, December 19, 2011


Well, where the heck have I been? Did I take December off? I didn't mean to, and yet it appears I did. Dad has sent two great reviews and I haven't even posted them. What?! Why?
I am seriously off my game the last few months. Even with help, I can't seem to keep up. Have you ever had a time like that?

I think the thing to do is what the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy says, "Do Not Panic."

These things happen. Wait- not to me they don't... um, yes, yes, they do. They happen to everyone. "The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men..."

But, but we're all supposed to have goals and work toward them unfailingly and accomplish stuff and stuff...

Oh, my dear, dear perfectionists, take a look around. How many of God's creatures work and scurry every day to accomplish goals? They are no less a rabbit or deer or dog or hawk or even an eagle if they stop and take a nap in the sun, or if they are unsuccessful in their hunt for the day. It doesn't mean there won't be something better on another day.

Take the time to stop and enjoy the lights of the season, the love of family and friends. In a few short days it will be 2012. We can worry over blogs and books and such then. In fact we'll make a plan for it. In the meantime, I promise to post Dad's fun reviews.

Happy Holidays~ be safe and tell me what your favorite thing about this time of year is... Cheers~

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Last Day of November

I love penguins and used to enjoy watching Chilly Willy cartoons. I thought it appropriate to bring in Chilly on the first Day of December. For those of you doing NaNoWriMo, how many pages did you get done? Or is it what was your word count? The real question is what are you going to do with the story you wrote in November. Are you going to edit it? Are you going to send it out somewhere? Is it sold? Or will you simply be brave enough to let someone else read those words you slaved over? No? That's okay~ Contrary to popular belief, I believe that everyone has their own journey to make when writing. When and if you're ready you will edit, you will let others read it. You will edit again and you will send it out. That doesn't have to be today or tomorrow or in the next year. No words are wasted. Writing is a craft best practiced every day. Life is too short to fit your pace into someone else's life- whether that is writing fast or writing slow. It's a journey not a competition.
As for Chilly Willy, look how happy he is simply to be warm. My goal for December is to find what makes me that happy and to live it. My wish for you is that you do the same.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Books to give for Christmas or Not!

When doing your Christmas shopping- remember a book is a wonderful gift to give.

Here are a few fun things my Dad (Ted) has to say about buying books as gifts for Christmas:

Books to give for Christmas or NOT!

For those of you who read my book reviews here on Nancy's Blog, you already know I read...A LOT ! I also buy books...A LOT.....When we moved, I donated about 150 to the local library for their book sale, sold ( gave away) another 200 in an auction to not have to move them 900 miles from Kansas to Michigan. When we moved to Kansas, I donated 40+ books on Russian History ( my other passion ) to Butler County Community College in El Dorado.
Last week, I got a real prize........a catalogue from a book wholesaler..........imagine 75 pages of books--20 per page average---at bargain prices---better than any book club!!!
Wow, I was in hog heaven!!!
I began to go through it and I checked some books that I was interested in and began a list or two. Books I'd like and (with apologies to their authors) books that probably should not have been published!
The CIA Lockpicking Manual - Listed under Self-Help books
What to do When the S--t Hits the Fan- Another Self-Help
Get Out of Your Own Way: Overcoming Self-defeating Behavior - Self-Help
Lies The Government Told You: Myth, Power and Deception in American History-Listed under Politics
Don't Vote-It Just Encourages the B------S - Politics
Napoleon's Hemorrhoids - History
Bedlam: London and Its Mad - History
Myths,Lies, and Downright Stupidity:Get Out the Shovel--Why everything You Know Is Wrong - American History
Idiot American: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free - American History
How Do You Light a Fart? And 150 Other Essential Things Every Guy Should Know About Science. -Science--where else
As I reviewed the selections I had listed and then shortened it, because by now you must have got the idea, I realized, I could have just as easily called this:

"BOOKS TO BUY FOR CHRISTMAS!!" Support you starving author...............Have a great holiday.

So, do you know any strange book titles? Feel free to share. Happy Thanksgiving!!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Gluten-free Thursday- pie

Like many other people, I've been forced to be gluten-free for medical reasons. One of my hobbies is baking and it's tough to bake gluten-free. Many friends have asked for some recipes. I hope to have at least one GF recipe a month posted here. (No worries, I use mixes so you don't have to weigh your own flours, etc.)
Today is
Gluten-free Sour Cream, Chocolate Chip, Pecan Pie.


I use Gluten Free Pantry perfect pie crust mix. I find it at Walmart, Whole Foods, and Jewel/Osco.
You can follow the recipe on the back and freeze three of the four crusts. Or do the following:

Use 1 cup all purpose flour of your choice. (I used 1 cup of the mix above.)
1/8 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp sugar
mix. Cut in 5 tbsp butter and 5 tbps shortening (I use all butter) until pea size.
Then add 1 beaten egg, 1 tbsp COLD water, 1 and 1/2 tsp cider vinegar.
Mix until makes a ball-do not over mix. refrigerate for 1 hour.

Roll out to two 8" pie crusts or one deep dish crust.

4 eggs
2/3 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup sour cream
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp GF vanilla
dash of salt
Beat with whisk until well combined.

Add 2 cups chopped pecans and 1 cup chocolate chips.
Pour into pie crust - careful not to overfill.
Bake in 350 degree over for 40-45 minutes. Cool completely on wire rack.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Busy, busy, busy

This writer's life has been busy and it's not even the holidays yet. The question becomes how do you find the time to keep writing even when you are so busy your to-do lists have to-do lists?
The answer is simple. One word at a time. One sentence at a time. A bad first draft is better than the most magnificent story never written. There are people who will argue that you are wasting time and energy writing a bad first draft. I say balderdash! Writing is a craft that must be practiced every day. That does not mean you "must" write twenty pages a day to be a writer. Or even a single page a day. What it means is that you sit down, open a file and write a few words. If you are too busy to warm up the computer- keep a notebook with you and write a sentence before bed, or in the car line waiting to pick your kids up from school, or while waiting in line at the grocery store. If you have a smart phone write a sentence or two instead of that tweet telling everyone what you had for lunch.
If you are still having trouble finding the time or the energy to write-and you are not on deadline- then perhaps giving yourself permission to take a break and wait is a good idea. Even the best writers need vacations...or a good night's sleep.
Take care of yourselves my friends and most importantly take a moment to breathe in and out. Nothing is so important that you should ruin your health over it. Cheers~

Thursday, November 10, 2011

November Book Review by Ted

Well, it's that time again. Another review is due. I must be slipping, but I've read a few good books in a row lately! If I say " The Silent Girl" does that ring a bell for you? How about "Ice Cold" or "The Sinner" ? Or what if I say "Tess Gerritsen"? Doesn't mean anything to you? Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm! Didn't mean anything to me either. "The Chicago Tribune" says she makes Edgar Allan Poe and H. P. Lovecraft "seem like goody-two-shoes." Still never heard of her? What if I say " Rizzoli & Isles" ? Ring a bell?
Yes, Tess is the creator of the pair who TNT turned into a summer hit in 2010, returned this summer and are now scheduled to begin a " new season " in a couple weeks.

This month's book is called "The Silent Girl" and is placed in Boston's Chinatown and involves Detective Jane Rizzoli and M.E. Maura Isles. True to the transfer from book to movie, theatre or TV, the characters are a little different, but the "the name is the same".
The story begins with a tour in China town.
The tour goes down an alley and finds a neatly severed female hand on the ground in the middle of the alley. Throw in a dead detective who, though retired, had been investigating a 19 year old case of missing young girls, a group of people who receive letters on the anniversary of a massacre in a chinese restaurant and...oh, I forgot Ninjas and the legendary Monkey King!
You are Rizzoli and chasing a killer down an alley in the dark--suddenly the killer disappears and reappears silently behind you, knocks you down....a gun is pointed at your head...but then there is a whisper of wind and a thump, followed by a louder thump. You reach out and touch a pool of warm liquid, getting up, you feel a body and a head but they're not attached!
"What you must do," said Monkey, "is lure the monster from his hiding place, but be certain it is a fight you can survive." from "The Monkey King : Journey to the West." by Wu Cheng'en c. 1500-1582.
Oh, yes, my apologies to friends in Boston, but there is also the Boston gang boss and his flunkies. What other elements do you need to blend together for a novel you won't be able to put down? How well do you sleep at night after reading good, scary mysteries? Good luck if you dream about what you read...This would even make Alfred Hitchcock proud.
I'm off to find more copies of her other 13 books.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Nov. 1 NANO

Hi, my writer friends, are you fast and furiously at work on your nanowrimo project? It's November once again and writers ban together to encourage each other to attempt to write a book in a month. As for me I've been thinking through some serious thoughts about my on-line marketing. I fear I have gone terribly wrong somewhere. I went to - a website that rates your on-line influence. Riiight- four years of blogging, facebook, twitter, linkedin and google-plus have gotten a score of 25 out of 100-
Wait! What?!
How is that possible I spend nearly 3 hours a day on internet talking and joining in, etc. to make matters worse, it listed all my dear friends - some who just started last year with this crazy marketing thing- as all having larger Klout scores than me. It's a little embarrassing really as I've taken several classes on internet marketing, read countless tomes, kept up on my marketing network to learn the latest and greatest trends. In fact that is part of what I get paid to do at work.
So what am I doing wrong? Well, number one I only today joined Klout. Hmmm- did you know your Klout score goes up as you chat more and link more on Klout? Sounds like a scam to me- and yet there are actual people who check Klout scores to determine your viability as an author. What?! Yes, I read that today in a writing association newsletter, which is why I went to find out my Klout score.
Now, let's talk working smart- working smart is not not writing my novel because I'm scrambling to add people to my Klout page. Smart is sighing at yet another way for people to judge me without ever reading my book. Smart is ending this blog and getting to writing my latest mystery. So forgive my low Klout score and check out one of my books. Then you can tell me which you'd rather I spent my time on. Cheers~

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

October Book Review by Ted

Well, I missed my deadline this month. First time I think...I did do one the day it was due........plenty of excuses, but editors don't accept them do they??

This month is a different book. Name one of your favorite TV actors, find an unexpected book written by him, and then read it to see what it is. Now let's dissect this; one of my favorite actors: ICE-T of " Law & Order SVU". I was surprised to find it is his 4th book. Book titled " Kings of Vice", we have a master of Hip-Hop, a good actor with a co-writer ( Mal Radcliff ), and we have a master story-teller. It is a novel that has a good plot- after 20 years in prison, a former gang leader is out for revenge against his former lieutenant who tried to kill him and took over the gang when he went to prison. While in prison, he was befriended by an older man who taught him patience, strategy ( SP?), he comes back to avenge his wounding and reclaim his gang empire.
Add beautiful women, a scheming Parole officer, old friends, more firearms, car chases, flying bullets------I will be surprised if this is not made into a movie. It fits into today's genre of gangster and shoot-em-up movies.
Read it and enjoy with this caution: The use of Black- Street Language is very heavy! If this were written by a non-Black, it might be offensive to some. If you do not find this offensive, you can find it a well-written story. Honestly I hope to see another book in the near future by this writing pair.

As before, I want you to notice this is another case of a co-writer, ghost-writer, or whatever name is being used these days. It is an opportunity for writers to make a living while gaining a reputation as a writer. More surprises next month.......Ted

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Movie review

I haven't done a movie review in a long time, so here goes. I went to see the "Guy Flick," Real Steel with Hugh Jackman and Evangeline Lilly. Both actors are gorgeous to watch on screen. I went into this movie thinking "oh, man, Rocky meets Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots." but surprisingly the movie hits all the right emotional cues. It suckered me in even though I knew, I knew, how the story went. I mean it's a tired plot line, right? Um, I had such a good time I wanted to stand up and cheer. I wanted to cry. I want to go see it again. It's the classic story about a down-on-his-luck boxer who has a lot to learn and has to make amends along the way to find his true potential. The story has heart and I have to say I'm not a fan of boxing, but I really enjoyed the robots smashing each other in the ring. Maybe there really is an audience for the sport of robot boxing. I think I'd go see a match or two.
My advice- go see this movie. If you have boys- take them to see it. It's a lot of fun.
If you've seen it, I'd love to hear what you think. Cheers~

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Best Advice

I suppose you have heard the old saying, "Learn the rules, then and only then, can you break them." I don't know if this is true or not. I think it depends on the writer. Telling people you are writing a book is a bit like telling people you're pregnant. (Sorry guys but the moms will understand.) The moment you tell people you're pregnant the horror stories come out. I was in labor for 10 days! They had to have five men stick their hands up there and yank the baby out. I nearly died. My ankles and face swelled so much I looked like the blueberry girl from Willie Wonky. Or my personal favorite, "Once you get pregnant, you'll never be slender again." (This said while drinking two colas and eating three snack cakes.)
When you tell people you're writing a book, the horror stories start. No one under forty gets published, you might as well wait. You have to know someone or you'll never get published. You need an MFA/PhD to get published. No one will take you without an agent. Agents won't rep you unless you're published. Outline? No, it's too contrived. No outline? You'll have to rewrite the entire book~no one ever writes a good book without an outline. Then people ask what you're writing and when you tell them, they get to tell you how no one is buying that. Or how that will never sell.
Next come the questions that mirror: when are you due? Haven't you had that kid yet? Are you still pregnant? They're: when's your book come out? Have you sold it yet? Are you done writing it yet?
Finally- no matter what you decide to do just like hospital or home birth- you will do it "wrong." Sign a contract with the big six? Wrong. There will be people standing in line to tell you why your choice was bad. Decide to Self publish? Wrong. There will be just as many standing in line to tell you how bad that is. Decide on a small press? OMG! How could you do that?
If you've read this far you either know exactly what I mean, or you suspect you'll understand someday.
My best advice to writers of all stages is this: Relax, be open to learning, be open to changing as much as you comfortably can and understand that everyone's journey is different. Which means that everyone and no one is right when they give you advice. It's your journey. Have fun with it. If it's not fun, it's not worth it. Cheers~

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

How to Tell if You are a "True" Writer or Not

This week I was blogging over at Sia McKye's Thoughts Over Coffee blog. The idea of what makes you a "true" writer came up. A lovely follower noted that they must not be a "true" writer because... (insert reason here.)
Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we look for the definition of a "true" writer?
I hate this question. I hate that some people say you have to be published by one of the big six to be a "real" writer. I hate that others say you aren't real until you make $X. So what in my opinion makes a "true" writer?
A writer writes.
That's it. It's that simple. Ask yourself, do I write? If the answer is yes, then you are a writer. It doesn't matter if you have to clean the house before you write or if you have to write when everyone else is in bed. It doesn't matter if the grammar is bad or the story-line doesn't hold up. It doesn't matter if your dialog is off key.
We all have our different ways of doing things and we all have the ability to learn. So what makes a writer? Someone who writes. Some writers are list makers. Some writers are poets. Some writers are slogan writers. Some writers are journalists. Some write for money. Some write research. Some write short stories. Others write novels or songs. All in all if you write, then you are a true writer.
Now that that is decided, the next thing to ask yourself is what are your personal goals as a writer? Do you want to write a short story? Do you want to write a song? A poem? A jingle for a product? Do you want to write fan fic? Do you want to write a novel?
How do your goals as a writer fit into your lifestyle? Having trouble finding the time to write? Ask yourself why- are you afraid of failure or success? Are you afraid to give yourself permission to take time to meet a seemingly frivolous goal? Or are your writing goals too big for your current life?
Whatever it is~ you have the power to change it. Fear of failure? Tell yourself you're only writing for fun and don't show it to anyone. Not until you want to or are comfortable. There is no rule that you have to have your work read to be a writer. Fear of success? Take the writing day by day Today I will write a page. I won't worry about hitting the NY Times list or doing appearances. Fear of taking time for yourself? Tell yourself that "Everyone" will be happier when you are happier and writing makes you happy. Adjust your goals to match your life-don't let yourself be pushed into something that doesn't work for you.
So here is my question: are you a writer? Did you write today? Did you want to? Do your goals need to be adjusted?
If you are a writer- even a writer of lists. Give yourself permission to play with it, to have fun with it. Life is too short to not be who you are or to try to live up to other people's expectations or definitions of who you are. Now go and write~ even if it's only to comment on my thoughts. Cheers~

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Character action/reaction

When reading contest entries and critiquing new writers' work, I've learned that one of the most difficult things for a writer to perfect in a story is the character's action/reaction. Often the character may react before something happens. Or not react to a situation the way the reader expected.
How does a reader get an expectation of reaction? Motivation. As writers we put characters in situations and give them motivation. Even villains must be motivated to act badly. The hero/heroine/protagonist must react in a manner consistent with their motivation. The reader will fling a book faster than you can say, "...but she acted that way because of something I haven't told you yet." A reader creates your story in their mind based on the character's motivations, goals and conflicts. The ones you put on the page--not the ones that you have in your head. Having a character react out of, well, character, is like listening to someone sing off-key. It is a sure sign that the writer needs to work on their craft.
How can you prevent your writing from sounding off-key? Get out of your head and into your character's. Imagine you are your hero-with all his goals, motivations and conflicts- and you walk into a situation just like the one you are writing. What would you do? How would you react?
As a writer I love this part. I have time to think of snappy come backs or cool actions. In real life there is no do-over. In real life, I usually think of something I should have said or done hours or even days later. But as a writer I can ensure my characters give the best reactions to good and bad situations. I have the time to think of some action or witty dialog that will make the reader fall in love with my character. Yes, this takes time. There is no personality chart, no horoscope or middle child/oldest child chart. There is only you acting out your character as written-not as you want to be written. Would they really say this? Would they really do this? If they must, then you have to go back and motivate it.
Take the time to play pretend. Get into your character's head and before you know it your actions and reactions will ring true.
What tips do you know that will help create "real" actions and reactions?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Sept Book Review by Ted

In keeping with the 10th anniversary of 9/11, I am reviewing "The Eleventh Day" by Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan.
It is very hard for me to try to be objective with this book, because my subjective side keeps turning up. I ask your forgiveness, but you see as I approach my 72nd birthday, I find that I have not lived a day when there was not a war, police action, revolution or military _______________ ( you put in the word (incursion, action, undertaking etc.) I was born about 3 weeks after Germany invaded Poland in 1939, and I won't bore you with the list, but I doubt that there will not be something in Somalia, Lybia, Iraq, or Afganastan going on on December 30th.
This book deals with the heroes of Flight 93. In some ways they were neglected in the massive news coverage of 9/11 both on the day it happened and the 10th anniversary. Yet they were the only ones who consciously were able to do something about this attack on America.
This is a well-written account of the high-jacking and the action of the people on this flight that saved our capitol and foiled the success of the mission of terror. The beauty of the account is that it deals with the individuals ( 14 ) who managed to call their loved one and give them a verbal report of what was going on and what they were doing to stop it. Somehow the 3000+ casualties of the Twin Towers and the Pentagon are for most of us a group of nameless/faceless individauls. We do not know what they thought, or said, or much else. These 3 dozen passangers and crew come to life more easily as we can almost hear them on the cell phones that they used to contact their families. Individuals who are quoted and explain what is happening and what they are trying to do.
If you can stand to take the time to put a face on 9/11 and want to know more about this group, I can not think of a better piece of work than this book.
It is interesting, intriguing, and will hold you attention.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I'm at Bouchercon

This week I will be in St. Louis at Bouchercon. Here is the link: I'm a first timer at this conference but I've been told it is a lot of laid back fun. I'm looking forward to meeting readers and writers. I will tweet about the experience. Follow me at or @nancyjparra.
A full report will be on this blog next Tuesday. Have a safe and fun week. Cheers~

Monday, September 5, 2011

Thoughts on the Zombie Apocalypse


(in voodoo)
the body of a dead person given the semblance of life,but mute and will-less, by a supernatural force, usuallyfor some evil purpose.
the supernatural force itself.

For the last year or so there has been a strong trend toward zombie stories in books, articles, movies, jokes and conventions. There is even a Facebook status game of who will help you or hurt you when the zombie apocalypse comes. Why?
I was never quite sure why until I was doing research on serial killers for a thriller idea I have. There in the book the author spoke about serial killers who kill the poor, homeless, and/or prostitutes. These killers are less interesting to the general public because--as long as we aren't poor, homeless, drug abusers or prostitutes--we feel safe. But serial killers who go after pretty college coeds or suburban housewives are far less accepted and the public will stay on the police until they are caught. Why? Because, the author said, the poor, the homeless, drug abusers, prostitutes, immigrants are all considered the other--the living dead.
That thought made me stop. In these hard economic times with the unemployed competing with the under-employed creating a true jobless rate of close to 16 percent, the numbers of poor and homeless are the highest we've seen since the great depression. Which means subconsciously we know that while we go about our lives more and more people are joining the ranks of the undead. We can feel it in the number of unsold empty homes in our neighborhoods. In fact our next door neighbors just abandoned their big, beautiful, four bedroom, four-story home with granite counter tops. These are two working upper-middle-class people who live right next door to me. We don't know where they went. Are they living in a hotel now? With family? In their car?Whatever happened they may have now fallen into the ranks of the social undead. Kind of a creepy thought, isn't it?
I'm not saying things won't turn around economically. I'm not getting into politics. I like to study human nature and found it interesting that trends in story telling mirror current social happenings. That Middle America fears it will fall into the ranks of the living dead- and those fears translate into fiction.
So, what will be the next trend? Ideas?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Care and Feeding of a Writer

One of my favorite artists is Native American Sculptor Roxanne Swentzell. You can see some of her work here. It's simply amazing. When I was at the national Romance Writer's of America Conference in Denver some years back, I took time out to visit the Denver Art Museum and there I saw her sculpture entitled "The Things I have to do to Maintain Myself." I've posted the picture of this work on the left. This little guy has a broken horn and is threading a needle to repair himself. This particular sculpture spoke to me deeply as a woman and a writer.
No offense guys, but women tend to put family, friends and work before their own care much more so then men. We think, "I have a gift to write and I'm going to even put that in front of my own care." Or we think, "I don't have time to mend myself." Overweight? I'll eat better when I have time. Exercise--but that takes away an hour I could be writing or doing laundry. Ladies, we put laundry before our own health. How messed up is that?
But as a creative artist and writer your work will suffer if you don't take time out daily to maintain yourself. Your work suffers, your family suffers and your life suffers. But, but, but...
I know all the excuses. I live them daily. I've found that as we age and continue to abuse ourselves with lack of proper rest, nutrition, and exercise, things begin to break down. Your work will suffer and spending more time in front of the computer won't cure it.
So how to do you break the cycle? When I was in the military I worked as an electronics technician and we had daily duties called PMI's (preventative measure initiatives.) We had a list of daily things that needed to be done to prevent breakdowns and malfunctions. I recommend you make a simple list of PMI's and then implement them one at a time. Commit to them for thirty days and they will become lifestyle habits. I'm not talking diets here, my friends. I'm talking about self-love and self-care. Care that will make your writing better, along with your family and your relationships.

Here's my list:
Drink 8 glasses of water a day.
Walk the dog twenty minutes five days a week.
Do a simple yoga stretch routine right before bed.
Incorporate five fruits and vegetables in my food choices every day.
Never sit at the computer longer than an hour-use this five minute break to go downstairs and get a glass of water.
Look myself in the mirror and tell myself that I love me and that I'm here for me. Take this time to check in and ensure I don't have any pains, illness or tooth aches. If I do, then make an appointment to get it checked out or fixed.

Take care of yourself. Think of it as the instructions for oxygen masks in an airplane-put your mask on first- then you will be better equipped to help others.

What do you do to maintain yourself?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Grammar Rulz or I am a lazy writer

I am a story teller. I am not a grammar person. You know the kind who has all the rules memorized and actually knows the names of things like participle and gerund. (I bow to your knowledge and skill.)
You see, I'm more of a write-by-how-it-sounds kind of person, which means when everyone else was memorizing grammar rules I got away with just "knowing them." This means that I can easily write excellent dialog, but it also means I struggle through copy editing. On my desk are the following: "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers," Browne and King; "The AP Stylebook;" "The Chicago Manual of Style" and the "MLA Handbook." On my book shelf are at least three other books on grammar and style. I love to research and so I'd rather have the books at the ready than depend on my memorization skills. That said, I do keep an eye out for what I like to think of as "unusual" rules.
For today's blog I thought I'd share with you a cool rule that most writers intuit but don't know why. The rules for the official order of adjectives.
I know, I didn't realize there were rules. In fact one of my MFA module instructors- a multi-published author- talked about the order of adjectives based on how it sounds. He didn't know there was an official rule either. Why? Because "the large blue dinosaur just sounds more familiar, more correct, than the blue large dinosaur. So we put size before color when describing something: the gigantic green frog, the large black briefcase.
We can put together long strings of adjectives without any punctuation, as long as we follow the official order of adjectives: the valuable old green Mercedes sedan.
The order is first a, the, or a possessive such as my or Tom's. Then we put evaluation or opinion, followed by the physical description-size, shape, age, color, texture-followed by where it came from, the material it is made of, and finally it's purpose or main use. Oh, and we might have one last item before the noun: another noun that helps identify it."-note, this is taken directly from the source, but unfortunately I, thinking I would only use it for myself, did not write that source down. If you know this source, please clue me in and I'll post. Yes, I am a lazy researcher as well.
When I did an internet search looking for my source-see I did try- I discovered that there is in fact a Royal Order of adjectives. Here's a great link for more information: Unless you teach English or are a lover of grammar rules, you may want to bookmark this.

Also for fun here's the link to the School House Rock video on adjectives:
So, are you a story person or a word person?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

August Book Review by Ted

This month I left the frontier and cowboys and once again visit the world of Country Music. It is a strange place where people come from diverse backgrounds and because of a talent find themselves thrust into the spotlight, situations, and a world of broken dreams, broken marriages, broken families, drugs, and in many cases broken talent.
The Three of Us is the story of a woman who was born into the family of The King and Queen
of country music. George Jones and Tammy Wynette were the epitome of success and talent.......a couple who loved each other, but could not turn that love into a successful marriage. The ups and downs of show business careers mixed with too much alcohol and drugs along with the pressures of trying to raise a family just could not be handled by the two super stars.
Georgette Jones with the help of Patsi Bale Cox has crafted a story that is filled with joy, pain, and tragedy. Written in an easy to read style, this book - for the Country Music fan - is a must read. Coming from lives of poverty, propelled by talent the artists ride to the top and then the stress of success and the strain of continually preforming to maintain the top leads them through situations that they are not equipped to handle....False friends, bad managers, and users abound and the artists are lost to their fans, their friends, and their families.
Unable to cope, they drift from marriage to marriage and their children are left in confusing situations.
The book will lead you through situations of happiness (far too few) into the dark recesses of depression as Georgette attempts to cope with parents who are riding the roller coaster of fame and fortune and divorce and despair. Her life mimics much the same things that the parents experienced. Finally at the age of 40 she seems to be emerging and becoming a happy person able to face life and possibly claim her inheritance as the daughter of the King and Queen of Country Music.
If you choose to read this book, I would suggest you have a supply of your favorite tissues and a handy waste basket. It will, I think, cause you to look at your life and be thankful you were never in many of the situations Georgette faced and still does.
A word about her co-author. If you read these reviews, you'll remember on I wrote about Tanya Tucker several months ago. I want to repeat what I wrote then. There is a good field for the author who can develop a relationship with people of fame and fortune and " help" them write their story. Books about celebrities usually sell well, and give authors the opportunity to show their skills and open more doors to them in their career fields. Ms Cox has authored a book about "The Garth Factor" in country music and collaborated with Loretta Lynn, Tanya Tucker, Wynonna Judd, Ralph Emery, and Pat Benatar. That to me is the mark of a successful career covering the careers of the cream of Country Music.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Thoughts on being fabulously wealthy

All I want to do is write~ write and be fabulously wealthy and beloved because of my writing. It's how it happens, right? Isn't that what happened to JK Rowling? Or Amanda Hocking? Or Stephanie Meyers?
They had story ideas. They wrote them down and became fabulously wealthy and famous over night. Fairy tales can come true-it can happen to you if you're young at heart.
People who don't write believe this can happen. They can name names. Writers starting out believe this can happen. They can name names.
It's fun and exciting.
But, no one tells you about the hard part. The work that goes into it. The hours at the computer. The hours of research needed for setting and background. The swollen hands, the hurt wrists, the aching back, the broadening seat, the crooked neck. They don't tell you about the hours spent searching out over used words. Digging out repetitive sentences. Making excel spread sheets for names and character descriptions. The work behind plotting and weaving subplots. The hook at the beginning and end of every chapter, every scene. The work behind crafting dialogue and transitions. The need for worsening conflict. The black moment that ruins it all and then somehow magically repairs everything for a happy ending.
They don't tell you that once you get through all that there is the research into agents and publishers. The query letter writing to get an agent or editor. The marketing work-where my book fits. Who wants to read it? How can I stand out? The website that is needed. The blogs to write- whether one of your own or ones you visit. The twitter/facebook/myspace/yahoogroups/google+ work that goes into getting people-agents, editors, readers to even know you are a person with a completed work and it's good!
Then there is the figuring out who your audience is and how to find them and how to market to them. We try giveaways and contests and reviewers. There are interviews and workshops and on-line classes to develop and give all in the name of getting noticed.
The coming of the digital age means there are a lot more books out. A lot more choices for readers and even more competition. Those who indie publish have the added work of editing, cover design, up loading, up keeping (checking for errors in all formats) and watching the numbers daily to see if they should adjust a price or make a list.
So many talented people with loyal fan bases never become fabulously wealthy. In the end we laugh at how we were so certain we would be the next big thing. Instead of writing in hopes of winning, we now write out sheer joy and the knowledge that our stories do change lives. Maybe not as many as JK Rowling, but that doesn't make us any less fabulous. What it makes us is a little more frugal and a lot more in touch with our readers who struggle everyday just as we do. We are in this life together, and if I can write something that makes your day in some little way, then that makes me happy and happy beats wealthy every time. Cheers

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

On Character Naming

The assigned reading for the last semester of my Master's program was "Changes" by Jim Butcher. This was, I believe, book 12 in the Harry Dresden Series.
One of the things the students said they hated were the number of characters with a name that started with the same letter. For example M~ and how difficult it was to keep the characters apart. This probably isn't as obvious in the earlier books, but by the time we get to book 12, and many reoccurring characters show up, we start to see patterns in the author's mind.
I didn't really think about this until it was brought up in class. Now I am very conscious about how I pick character names.
I recently sold the first three books in a gluten-free bakery series. I'm currently working on a second completely different series and discovered in my first draft that I tended to use the same first names for secondary characters that I used in the GF series. I know I've done this before in different single title books. But now I'm conscious of the pattern to my brain's naming process. Having a pattern is not good. The last thing an author wants is the same character names in two separate series set in two very different places. So I got out my baby naming books and my copy of "The Writer's Digest Character Naming Sourcebook." I had invested money in these books early on in my career, but over time got lazy and simply picked what I thought were random names out of the air. Come to find out those names were not so random. (Sort of like when you think you are naming your children new and different names only to discover you named them the same as everyone else that year. For example, I was always one of at least three Nancy's in school. So I picked what I thought was a weird name-Ashley- for my daughter. Only to discover that she was always one of three Ashley's in school. Who knew?)
So how do you pick character names? Sometimes I will go through my resources and pick names that contain certain meanings-like little man, or wolf, or mythic hero name. Then I'll find a section based on ethic names and use the name will help me to build a character. Or I'll do a search of most popular baby names the year my character was born and choose one of those. Or I'll use the names of family or friends. I do this for all my main characters. Where I was falling down on the job were the side characters. It was the side characters with names that all started with the same letter that bothered the readers in Book 12 of the Dresden Files. I would be so lucky to have a book 12 in any series, so I figure it doesn't hurt to be prepared.
Now I have work to do- I am compiling a list of all character names I've used in my published books. Yep, there are patterns my friends. Next I will check the list and disregard any names that start with the same letter as a previous character in the same series. Then add the new name to my growing list for characters and side characters. It seems like a lot of work, but really if you do a few names with every book, you'll begin to see your own patterns and should you get to a 12th book in a series with reoccurring characters, your readers will be able to tell them apart- even if they start with book 12.
When you're reading, do you notice a pattern to the character names? Does it bother you? If you're a writer, please share the secrets to your character names.
Inquiring minds would love to know. Cheers~

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

As the Book World Churns

We all said goodbye to Borders Book Stores this week and the book world is up in arms. Was it the bad economy? Was it the expansion of electronic readers and e-books? Or was it good old-fashioned bad business. The way people are swarming the stores looking for books at discounted prices, I think it was bad business, but that is my opinion.
Across the industry people are saying the e-book climate and self publishing is a gold mine. The gold rush is on my friends. I find it interesting. Back in 2007, when my hopes of expanding my career from sweet historicals into contemporary romantic suspense were shot by the super tight market, many of my colleagues were so against e-books that they would rather place a book they had written but not sold as a free read on their website than go with an e-publisher. E-publishers were bad. E-authors were hacks and woe to those who even thought about e-pubbing themselves. (Yes, Amazon had visited RWA nationals Pan retreat to talk about this new service they were providing where you could put up your own stuff once you were already on Amazon. They said it was a great way to feed fans more work and promote your current books.) Well, if it was a marketing ploy and you had a contract with one of the big six than it was okay to put up a story or two to promote them. But they still didn't count.
At the time I thought, instead of devaluing my work, I would publish with an e-publisher. So I queried The Wild Rose Press, who were very professional. I admit that the two years it took to get through editorial and production seemed silly at the time, but the resulting book was good. So I sent them a second. This was my way of keeping my fans reading while working on other books I hoped to sell to the big six. But let me tell you- that didn't fly among the "real" writers. Sigh. These were my "little" books. And truth be told even though I hit the WRP bestseller list five weeks in a row neither book made me much money. You see, I discovered that my readers prefer "real books."
Then came the e-book evangelists who swore that it was a gold mine and you could make millions by self-publishing. Others in the book world squawked that this was ridiculous...a sham.. a farce...not being a "real" writer. Then Amazon jumped their royalty rates to 70 % of books at least $2.99 in price. Suddenly unknowns were bringing in millions-buying houses with the cash they made from their self-pubbed books. Suddenly self-publishing backlists and stories that don't fit in the big six marketing were all the rage. Now many people who dismissed me and my "little" e-books are telling me it is legitimate for literary agencies to become publishers of their writer's works- the works that didn't sell to the big six. Really?
How interesting that everyone is doing a 360 turn around. So many people are talking about making monthly checks that pay mortgages that everyone is drawn to "trying it for themselves." Well, my friends, for me at least there is no gold mine in e-books. These are good books with solid excruciating edits, nice covers and really good reviews. I made a total of $150 on two books. Is it because I went with an e-publisher and am getting 30 percent royalty and not 70 percent after doing my own self edits, cover and publishing? Um, I don't think so. Is it because I don't do enough marketing? I'm here to tell you I spend three hours a day on marketing. The reality of my world is that my readers prefer real books. My sales on my e-books are coming from POD - not from electronic sales. The interesting news is that I'm not the only author finding this to be the case.
It's a brave new world. People who were nasty and fierce to tear down e-publishing are suddenly evangelists and talking about how they are making cash hand over fists. And yet~ the so called Kindle millionaires are making deals with the big six publishers for non-e-books. Even Amazon is trying to break into the "real" publishing world by offering advances and "real books."
In short- no one knows what the truth is... or what readers really want-even readers. I have never told anyone they aren't "real" (meaning legitimate authors.) Why? Because, my friends the book world pecking order has been destroyed. Even New York Times Bestseller doesn't mean what it meant twenty years ago in terms of prestige or income.
It's a brave new world. With new comes the potential for conflict of interest, scams, and spammers. All I can tell you is what I told you in 2007, do your research, know what you want out of your work and consider any mistakes as lesson learned. Trust yourself. Trust your readers and most of all take the time to write a good story. In the end, it is the stories that will make your career. As for me, I'm curious to see what happens next. In the meantime, I would love to know what you think about literary agencies becoming publishers, Amazon being an advance-paying publisher and the positive and negative effects the new world of publishing has had on how and what you read.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

July Book review by Ted

Well, another month and it is time to let you in on what I have read. Honestly, it's almost too hot to read. Reading is something to do on a cold winter night when the wind is howling and the snow is piling up on the sidewalks and driveway. That is when you take a basket of apples, a pillow or two, and a stack of books and get as near the roaring fire in the fireplace as is possible and comfortable and READ !
I thought we had moved far enough north that there would be many nights doing just that, but this week has seen temperatures in the 90s with heat indices over 100+. So much for fireplace and cushions, and apples in the local store are $1.98 a pound! Such are dreams!
This month we are going back farther than the cowboys of last month---If you saw and enjoyed the movie Jeremiah Johnson, this month's book is for you.
"Give Your Heart to the Hawks" by Win Blevins copyrighted in 1973 and renewed in 2005 with a new introduction. He notes in the book that he is pleased that the book has remained in publication for more than 30 years and he credits the mountain men who are portrayed in the book for its longevity. Frequently readers congratulate him on this great and interesting work of fiction, but he corrects them by saying that every story is true and about real people as truthfully told as is possible. For more than 30 years after Lewis and Clark, the mountain men explored the great American West and opened the way for the wagon trains and pioneers who created the villages, towns, and cities that we know and live in today.
The mountain men are all here: John Colter in 1808 escaped the Blackfeet Indians, naked, food- and weapon-less, who walked and ran 250 miles to Fort Lisa. Hugh Glass, left for dead by his trapper companions after a mauling by a grizzly bear, crawled 300 miles from his shallow grave to Fort Kiowa. Kit Carson, scout for John C. Fremont, ran away from home at 17 and was a legend by his 20's. Jedediah Smith who lead groups of trappers across the deserts into California and was killed by Comanches in 1831. This is just a sampling...............Well written, capable of holding your interest, this is a good history of the times, region, and the peoples of the western United States. If history books were written this way and this well, maybe we would find more people interested in learning about the history of the United States.

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