Irish Inspiration

For those who didn’t know, since I’ve been so absent in the blogosphere lately, I recently took a trip to Ireland with my sister.

Before you ask, no, I’m not made of money. She and I found a great deal on Groupon and couldn’t pass up the opportunity. It was an interesting trip. I had a lot of fun, but so many things went wrong, it bordered on hilarity and insanity. Heh.

So I thought I’d share a few photos that have my imagination whirling and helped fuel some writing while abroad.

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This is Malahide Castle, just north of Dublin. It’s about 1,000 years old and was begun just after the Vikings invaded Ireland.

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Inside of Malahide Castle. I just adore old architecture.

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That orange paint was specifically designed for the ancient family who lived here–the Tablots. Also, as point of reference, Margaret Thatcher sat in one of those chairs when she was PM.

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Glendalough, in County Wicklow.

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Upper Lake in Glendalough. Braveheart was filmed in and around these hills.

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The ruins of an ancient cathedral in a monastic city in Glendalough. Ancient buildings inspire so much in my imagination.

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Smithwick’s. They make whiskey. Basically, they’re the equivalent of Jameson’s in the city of Kilkenny, another super old city in Ireland.

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The Cliffs of Moher on Ireland’s western coast. That’s the Atlantic Ocean right there. Anybody remember that cave? Hmm?? It made an appearance in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

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More of the Cliffs. I could easily have used up all 9,000 shots in my camera at this locale.

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The Cliffs of Insanity!!!! Princess Bride was shot here, as well, if anyone remembers those scenes.

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Can you tell I love architecture yet? Especially old churches. This one isn’t that old, actually, but beautiful, nonetheless.

 

None of these photos have filters of any kind, I promise. I took about 700 pictures on this trip. Some are much better than these, others are much worse, but I find myself drawn to these and a few others.

Have you ever been to Ireland? Where/when did you go? What was your favorite area? Do you like these pictures and find them as inspiring as I do?

Happy writing!

 

“The tune was sad, as the best of Ireland was, melancholy and lovely as a lover’s tears.”
― Nora RobertsBorn in Fire

“It is an ancient land, honoured in the archives of civilisation. Every great European race has sent its stream to the river of the Irish mind.”
― Thomas Davis ‘Literary and Historical Essays’

Reading Challenge 2016

I’ve already started the New Year by lagging sadly behind on my blogging. However, my writing and reading have been happily productive, so I don’t feel too bad.

This year I’m taking part in a reading challenge hosted by John Guillen over at Johnny Reads. I follow him regularly and if you don’t follow him, you should. He’s not afraid to share his views and frequently posts book and writing news I don’t see in any of my other frequently visited sites.

I haven’t done a reading challenge before because, let’s be honest, I’m a voracious reader and it doesn’t take me long to paw through books. But his list is fun and doable and will stretch me out of my reading comfort zone in a few areas.

Check out the challenge here and maybe join us on our reading ride!

I do need some advice, though.

Two of the challenge requirements are reading a crime novel and a book by James Patterson. I am not well versed in either, so I’m hoping some of you can recommend a few good choices.

I usually don’t take reading recommendations from people because I like to find my own books and many peoples’ recommendations have ended up being DNFs for me.

So if there are any gateway-books into the crime and Patterson lists, I’m happy to hear your suggestions.

Thoughts, anyone?

Happy reading!

 

“My eyes hunger to read more books then time allows me to devour.”
― Jazz Feylynn

“You read too much.” Daemon exhaled slowly. […]
“There’s no such thing as that.”
― Jennifer L. ArmentroutObsidian

Top Books of 2015

This insanely busy, exciting, dramatic year has finally drawn to a close.

It brought with it a new job where I can travel the country to my heart’s content.

New book ideas that have filled my hard drive with endless stories and dialogue.

Amazing new friends I’ve met online and in person.

My first year participating in NaNo.

And a whole slew of new authors I read because of different posts and tweets and comments from all my online buddies.

Here are some of my top picks of the books I’ve read this year. I’m including new reads only, since we all know I’m a huge advocate of re-reading.

These are in no particular order.

  1. The Lunar Chronicles – A Cinderella cyborg surrounded by her equally enchanting and bedeviled fairy tale partners? Umm… yes, please! The first book, Cinder, is actually my least favorite of the four, and I’m currently reading Winter, the last book. But these books are amazing. Once I got into the 2nd book, I devoured the rest of them. So good!
  2. The Throne of Glass series – I adore this series. Partly for the plot, which is insanely in-depth with twists and turns at every corner, but probably more because of her writing style. Sarah J. Maas is brilliant with words. And I mean an absolutely insane master of language. I sometimes have to stop after a sentence or paragraph and say – “Man, that’s good.”
  3. The Invention of Hugo Cabret – This one I snagged from a little free library when I was in Washington state and was totally enamored of this book. I couldn’t get enough of it, and it opened me up into the world of mixed media books. Which I bravely ventured into more after reading Hugo. A great read.
  4. The Grisha Trilogy – Leigh Bardugo’s first book in this series was utter perfection. And I truly mean that. I read it I think in one day. Or possibly two, because I was on a train trip. But I was hooked from chapter one and couldn’t put it down. It’s dark, fantastical, edgy, and she, also, is a master of words.
  5. Jackaby – The tagline, Sherlock Holmes meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer, is spot-on. This first book in the series combines two things I adore: Sherlock Holmes, and fantasy.
  6. The Penderwicks – While my first love is YA and MG fantasy, The Penderwicks was a refreshing read about four sisters and their adventures on summer vacation with a young boy they meet. Also a read-in-one-sitting book. Highly recommended.
  7. Demon’s Heart – Of the more than 200 books I read this year, this book deserves more than other to be on my favorite’s list. Emily H. Bates is one of my writing buddies, and her blog is one of my favorites. I’m privileged to be a critique partner with her and am obsessed with pretty much everything she writes. Demon’s Heart is the first in a fantasy series and I adore it. You can ask her. I finished her second book in four hours. Four. Hours.

 

So there it is! My list of my favorite books this past year. I lost sleep on each and every one of them. Literally.

I can’t wait to see what 2016 holds for new authors and opportunities to write and read.

What books were your favorites this year?

Happy New Year!!

 

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.”
― T.S. EliotFour Quartets

“Tomorrow, is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one.”
― Brad Paisley

“We spend January 1st walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives…not looking for flaws, but for potential.”
― Ellen Goodman

Ebook vs. Hardcover

Many of you know I care for neither eBooks nor hardcovers, but I’ve come to the realization that I have to pick one.

There are a couple of series I’m reading right now and the next book is out in hardcover, but they only came out a couple months ago, so the paperback is far, far away.

They are both amazing series, and part of me wants to wait until the paperback is released, since that is my reading medium of choice. But I honestly don’t think I’ll make it.

So I have to pick.

Ebook (since I have a Kindle I barely use), or hardcover (which I hate holding and think too bulky).

What shall it be? What shall it be?

It is…

Ebook.

I know. Shocking, right?

My reasons are 1. They’re cheaper. 2. I can’t stand holding hardcover books.

3…

Well, that’s about it.

Hardcovers look nice on a shelf, but I can’t stand how it feels to hold them. Plus, they’re heavier and take up more space in my car when I travel.

So, if I can’t have a paperback in my hands, I’ll suffer with an eBook. And hey! I might even learn to love it.

Which do you prefer?

Happy writing and reading!

 

“The judge said he was going to throw the book at me. I hoped it was an ebook in the cloud, and not a heavy dictionary.”
― Jarod Kintz99 Cents For Some Nonsense

 

You’d Never Know I Was A Writer…

By the way I talk.

Seriously, I think I have some sort of disorder. Most of you have never met me in person and have only this blog for reference.

I suppose that’s a good thing because then you hopefully think I’m a lot smarter and more eloquent than I actually am.

Thank God I’m a writer and not a TV personality. I trip over my words all the time and stick my foot in mouth so much, it’s amazing I don’t produce cotton out of my throat.

Does anyone else have this problem?

As long as I have a medium to write, I’ll sound much better.

Happy writing!

 

“If writers wrote as carelessly as some people talk, then adhasdh asdglaseuyt[bn[ pasdlgkhasdfasdf.”
― Lemony SnicketHorseradish

“I’m not good at talking. Can’t I just nod my way through a conversation? It’s better than nodding off.”
― Jarod KintzAt even one penny, this book would be overpriced. In fact, free is too expensive, because you’d still waste time by reading it.

Word by Word Editing

When we edit our manuscripts, it’s important to take a step back. Once ‘The End’ is typed, shove it to the side for a while, at least a few weeks, then bring it back out and begin the editing.

One thing I’ve learned is most crucial to my own editing process, and might work for yours, as well, is to break it down into pages.

Take it page by page, paragraph my paragraph, line by line, word by word.

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It can be a time consuming process, but is always rewarding in the extreme. Depending on your genre and style, the type of vocabulary, syntax, formatting, and structure will vary. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be improved.

We should look at each word, each sentence, and say to ourselves, “How can I make this sharper? Deeper? More intuitive?”

This process will not, and should not, happen in a first draft. We may have sparks of wickedly good insight and dialogue, but first drafts just get the ideas down on paper. Editing is where the real work begins, and where our genius should rightfully shine.

Say you have a paragraph that looks like this:

Sara walked home from school, lifting her foot higher every so often to avoid tripping on uneven cement. In her backpack was her report card, and she was nervous to show it to her parents. She’d never gotten a C before and wasn’t sure how her dad would react. So she slowed her steps and took the long way home to put off the uncomfortable confrontation as long as possible.

Now, is this paragraph terrible? Is the grammar and sentence structure atrocious?

No.

But it’s not exactly gripping, either. Do I really care what happens to Sara?

Not particularly. Nothing about that paragraph has me intrigued. So she’s afraid to show her report card. That’s something a lot of kids can relate to, so why don’t I care?

Because the paragraph is boring. With a capital B.

How about a revision? And maybe even swapping sentence order to make it more intriguing?

Instead of walking, why doesn’t Sara slunk? Instead of lifting her foot, why doesn’t she sidestep or vault? Instead of being nervous, why isn’t Sara petrified? Why would her dad react poorly to the news? And why didn’t she take the scenic route instead of the long way home?

Tell me if you think this new paragraph works better.

The report card burned a hole in Sara’s backpack, making it weigh a thousand pounds. She slunk home at a snail’s pace, prolonging the inevitable blow-up she’d encounter once there. Wincing at the thought of her dad’s murderous expression over the C she’d received in Calculus, Sara sidestepped a broken slab of sidewalk and veered to the right. She’d take the path through the park, instead. Hopefully she’d brainstorm a way to avoid her father’s wrath and the backhand across her face that would inevitably follow. She slowed her pace and steeled her nerves as the steeply angled pitch of her house came into view over the tops of the trees.

Whoo!!! This is a much more powerful and potent paragraph, don’t you think? It uses more verbs, calls on our emotions, and reveals a secret about Sara’s dad we never would have guessed from the initial paragraph.

Which one would you rather read? Which would you rather write?

Editing should never be done too quickly and without sufficient thought. Take your time, go line by line, word by word, and always remember you should be writing the book you want to read.

Happy writing!

 

“Merely because you have got something to say that may be of interest to others does not free you from making all due effort to express that something in the best possible medium and form.”

[Letter to Max E. Feckler, Oct. 26, 1914]”
― Jack London

 

“There is a saying: Genius is perseverance. While genius does not consist entirely of editing, without editing it’s pretty useless.”
― Susan BellThe Artful Edit: On the Practice of Editing Yourself

Goodreads Goal

Although I joined Goodreads almost two years ago, I didn’t actually begin using it much until May of this year.

I decided I needed a goal to shoot for with reading since I never used to keep track of how many books I read.

I’ve always known it was over a hundred, easily. And the nice thing about Goodreads is that you can’t count a re-read book on your goal for the year.

As many of you know, I’m a huge advocate of re-reading, but the last few years, I rarely stepped out of my comfortable books and was re-reading almost exclusively. Though my bookcase is massive and even re-reading, I still wouldn’t re-read all the books I’ve read in a year.

So, a few weeks back, I hit my goal of 100 non-re-read books this year.

I still re-read a bit, though, so the total number of books I’ve read is almost 200.

I’ll do another goal next year, and I still have three weeks to read as many books as I can this year.

It’s been refreshing, as the new books have recharged my creative juices and I’m so much better at analyzing and critiquing authors’ books. I’ve definitely learned a lot and am excited to continue my learning streak.

Anybody else use Goodreads’ book challenge? Has it helped? Not made a difference?

Happy writing! (And reading!)

 

“We don’t want to feel less when we have finished a book; we want to feel that new possibilities of being have been opened to us. We don’t want to close a book with a sense that life is totally unfair and that there is no light in the darkness; we want to feel that we have been given illumination.”
― Madeleine L’EngleWalking on Water

“Literature is my Utopia. Here I am not disenfranchised. No barrier of the senses shuts me out from the sweet, gracious discourses of my book friends. They talk to me without embarrassment or awkwardness.”
― Helen KellerThe Story of My Life

#PitMad Novice

Yesterday I participated in my first #PitMad, which is basically a pitch party on Twitter for your book. You pitch it in the 140 characters or less with that hashtag and pray that some agent trolling the feed will favorite your pitch or contact you about submitting a query letter and sample pages.

I was not one of those few yesterday. But it was a great learning experience.

I learned that crafting decent pitches it stinkin’ hard! Maybe even harder than query letters!

I had the amazing advice of one of my writing buddies, who is always so helpful, but I still felt like the pitches lacked punch.

Something that gave me hope, however, is an agent who said that not all books are pitchable in under 140 characters.

Emily, my writing buddy, would have to vouch for this, but I think that my book/series is one such case. It’s a massive undertaking with the basic good vs. evil type deal, but so complex in its intricacies and history that it was hard to narrow down what was really important.

I’ll keep trying to pitch in the future, but I think querying might be the way to go for me. Though I ABHOR querying, I’m able to spend about two paragraphs pitching my book instead of two sentences.

Anyone else tried pitching on Twitter? What was your experience?

Happy writing!

 

“As a book author, it’s your responsibility to cast a vision for your book about the length and appearance before you pitch the idea to a publisher.”
― W. Terry WhalinBook Proposals That Sell: 21 Secrets to Speed Your Success

 

“Publishing is a business and writing is an art. The two have to be crammed together despite the clearly different motivations behind them.”
― Michelle M. Pillow

The Twitter Secret

Hint…there is none!

A couple months ago, I hopped on the overloaded Twitter bandwagon, and barely put any effort into it.

I’d only done it because all the publishing books I’d read said I had to have a strong social media presence to be published and successful.

So I bitterly took their advice.

I was barely on the first month. Only followed a couple people, and was utterly offended when people didn’t just follow me right away because I’m just awesome sauce.

Pfft. So naive.

But in the past week and a half, I’ve doubled my Twitter followers. DOUBLED! In less than two weeks.

You want to know how?

POSTING!

Just like WP, the only real secrets to being successful on Twitter are to post, and to post often.

Interaction with other Tweeters also helps, and it’s amazing what I’ve learned in the past few weeks since following literary agents, publishing houses, other writers, and random schmoes who are just interesting and hilarious.

So I’ve done a 180 and went from hating the idea of Twitter to loving it. Much more than Facebook, though Facebook has been on a downswing in my life for the last couple of years. The only reason I use it now is to update people on my travels because they’ve requested it.

So here I am, a seasoned two- or three-month old hat at Twitter.

And in two days, I’ll be taking part in my first #pitmad pitch war.

Yes, I’ve finally mastered the hashtag. Almost. 🙂

There’s the secret! Follow me if you’d like, my Twitter feed is on the sidebar, but if you don’t, I’m not worried about it.

Any Twitter advice from you all?

Happy writing!

 

“Thou shalt not use the 140 characters limit as an excuse for bad grammar and/or incorrect spelling.”
― Mokokoma Mokhonoana

“Thought for the day: Twitter…140 character limit…must be a great tool for fortune cookie writers…”
― E.A. Bucchianeri

 

NaNo Convert

There is a very solid reason for my absence over the last few weeks/month.

I was entrenched in the yearly event of National Novel Writing Month.

Now, up until I actually participated in it this year, I was firmly anti-NaNo. I thought, what the heck do people need this for? Don’t they have enough motivation to write every other month? What’s the big deal?

Welp, here’s my story.

Usually the fall is the most productive writing time for me, but I hit a block. Not writer’s block. I knew exactly what I wanted and needed to write. But I was in the middle of my second book in the MG fantasy series I’m writing and the immensity and scope of it was getting to me. Plus the fact that my hopeless perfectionism kept slapping me in the head. I have a hard time with writing anything less than amazing.

Which is ridiculous.

Which explains my block.

So, at the very last minute possible (the afternoon of October 31), I signed up for NaNo. And decided to completely chuck my second book to the side for the time being.

Instead, I focused on a dream I’d had a week or two previous. I’d written down a lot about it, because I knew it’d be a good story, and thought it would help if I got a lot more down while it was still semi-fresh in my head.

And you know what? It worked!

Ignoring my problem child helped me channel my writing into a cohesive draft. While it isn’t completed, my NaNo book is coming along swimmingly. And is some of the darkest stuff I have ever, or maybe will ever write. I mean, seriously, where did all this stuff come from?

And thanks to the website, I could see where all my friends were in their progress. I have a SLIGHT competitive streak, and seeing their little bars go higher and higher made me push myself to write more than them.

Shameless, probably, but whatever.

Now, I know some people are still very much anti-NaNo, but I’ve been converted. People think it’s the wimpy way out. That we should be motivated and strong enough on our own.

But I’m okay with being thought of as wimpy and weak. Honestly. It got me writing again. Against many barriers.

I finished five days early. And during November I moved back to Michigan from Washington state, started a new job, got sick, began a new exercise regime, lived in a hotel for three weeks, moved to a new apartment, furnished said apartment, prepped for Thanksgiving, and visited many of the people I hadn’t seen in months.

So I don’t believe NaNo ran my life at all. If I can do it with all that crap going on, I know I can do it any other time. And even better? While I was NaNoing, the creative juices began to churn again for my second book I’d set aside, and I even got some writing done there! Yay!

Is my NaNo book perfect? Far from it. Will it ever get published? Who knows? Do I care? Only a little bit. My goal was to just write, even if it sucked, to get over my perfectionist tendencies.

I don’t think I’m cured yet, but well on my way.

How did everybody else’s November go?

Happy Writing!

 

“There’s an old folk saying that goes: whenever you delete a sentence from your NaNoWriMo novel, a NaNoWriMo angel loses its wings and plummets, screaming, to the ground. Where it will likely require medical attention.”
― Chris Baty

“Don’t be offended if you encounter some good-natured ribbing; the idea of
writing a novel in a month deserves to be laughed at.”
― Chris BatyNo Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days