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What is your favorite #writing craft book–and why?

Friday, December 5, 2014

I’m gearing up for 2015 to be a year of getting back into the swing of not only blogging regularly but of several new craft-of-writing series. But it’s been a while since I’ve updated my writing-craft bookshelf so . . .
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What is your favorite writing-craft book–and why?

What Are You Reading? (December 2014)

Monday, December 1, 2014

Happy First Monday of December, everyone.
(Bet you thought I was going to forget again, huh?)
It’s Reading Report time!

Open Book by Dave Dugdale

Open Book by Dave Dugdale

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Tell us what you’ve finished over the last month, what you’re currently reading, and what’s on your To Be Read stack/list. And if you’ve reviewed the books you’ve read somewhere, please include links!

To format your text, click here for an HTML cheat-sheet. If you want to embed link your test (like my “click here” links) instead of just pasting the link into your comment, click here.
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  • What book(s) did you finish reading (or listening to) since the last update?

  • What are you currently reading and/or listening to?

  • What’s the next book on your To Be Read stack/list?

10 Years Later, ‘North & South’ Remains the Greatest Period-Drama Miniseries of All Time

Friday, November 14, 2014
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Kaye Dacus:

It’s hard to believe that NORTH & SOUTH came out ten years ago. Great retrospective/review over at Flavorwire. I think this will be a great weekend to rewatch this classic!

Originally posted on Flavorwire:

Ten years ago tonight, the BBC premiered a four-part miniseries, North & South (not to be confused with the Patrick Swayze-starring civil war drama of the same name), adapted from Elizabeth Gaskell’s 19th-century novel of cross-class romance in the industrial North of England. The BBC didn’t harbor huge expectations for the series, coming as it did in the midst of a glorious decade of nonstop adaptations of major works by Austen, Brontë, and Dickens. But then, a few weeks later, the fourth installment of North & South ended with a tender, long-awaited kiss (now known to viewers as “The Kiss”). Immediately, so many people flooded the BBC’s online message boards that they crashed and shut down. It’s been enshrined in fangirl lore as “the infamous night that period drama fans broke (a small part of) the BBC (dot com).”

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A 2014 Reading Challenge Check-In

Thursday, November 13, 2014

With just seven weeks left in 2014, I thought now would be a good time to review my reading challenge and see if I’m going to meet both goals I set for myself.

Goal #1—Read at least 50 books in 2014
I will meet this goal, no problem. I currently have books #47, 48, and 49 in progress.

Goal #2—Read books in 25 specific pre-determined categories
I’m missing 5 from the specified categories (#21-25 below). Here’s everything I’ve read so far (and am currently reading) in 2014:

2014 Reading Challenge Categories

# Category Actually Read Date Finished Star Rating
1. Annual Austen Persuasion by Jane Austen 11/8/2014 5
2. Book written by a fellow SHU-WPF Alumnus Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder 3/20/2014 4
3. Classic American Literature Washington Square by Henry James 10/6/2014 2.5
4. Classic British Literature The Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson Burnett 2/24/2014 3.5
5. Fantasy The Hero’s Lot (The Staff and the Sword, #2) by Patrick W. Carr 7/14/2014 4
6. From my Books to Sample list A Night to Surrender by Tessa Dare 2/12/2014 3
7. General Market Contemporary Romance Love Overdue by Pamela Morsi 2/18/2014 3
8. Horror/ Paranormal Better Homes and Hauntings by Molly Harper 7/15/2014 4.25
9. Inspirational Historical Romance When Calls the Heart (Canadian West #1) by Janette Oke 3/20/2014 3
10. Lifelong Favorite (re-read) Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling 2/24/2014 5
11. Mystery Dead Heat by Dick Francis 5/24/2014 4
12. New-to-Me Non-Romance Author A Deeper Darkness by J. T. Ellison 4/21/2014 4
13. New-to-Me Romance Author Secrets of a Summer Night by Lisa Kleypas 1/25/2014 2.75
14. Nonfiction: History or Biography The Adventure of English: The Biography of a Language by Melvyn Bragg 8/14/2014 5
15. Nonfiction: Literary Criticism What Matters in Jane Austen?: Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved by John Mullan 1/15/2014 4
16. Nonfiction: Memoir Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth 8/16/2014 3.75
17. Nonfiction: Writing/Professional Development The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in the Middle Ages: The British Isles, 500 to 1500 by Sherrilyn Kenyon 6/21/2014 3
18. Science Fiction The Empress of Mars by Kage Baker 10/13/2014 3
19. Time Travel Lightning by Dean Koontz 3/5/2014 4.5
20. Young Adult Divergent (Divergent, #1) by Veronica Roth 1/13/2014 3
21. Classic “Other” Literature Literature considered “classic” written somewhere other than Great Britain or America
22. General Fiction (non-romance)
23. Historical Fiction (non-romance)
24. Inspirational Contemporary Romance
25. Romantic Suspense (Inspy or General Market)
26. Other (Books I Wrote) Ransome’s Quest (The Ransome Trilogy #3) by Kaye Dacus 4/25/2014 5
27. Other (Books I Wrote) Ransome’s Crossing (The Ransome Trilogy, #2) by Kaye Dacus 4/15/2014 5
28. Other (Books I Wrote) An Honest Heart (The Great Exhibition #2) by Kaye Dacus 10/21/2014 4.5
29. Other (Classic American Literature) The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving 9/22/2014 3.5
30. Other (GM Contemporary Romance) Stand-In Groom by Suzanne Brockmann 10/29/2014 2.75
31. Other (GM Contemporary Romance) The House on Main Street (Apple Valley, #1) by Shirlee McCoy 10/6/2014 4
32. Other (GM Contemporary Romance, Media Tie-In) The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet: A Novel by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick 7/6/2014 5
33. Other (Historical Mystery) Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn 7/30/2014 2.5
34. Other (Historical Romance) The Countess Conspiracy (Brothers Sinister, #3) by Courtney Milan 4/16/2014 4
35. Other (Historical Romance) The Captain’s Kidnapped Beauty by Mary Nichols 9/20/2014 1
36. Other (Historical Romance) Return of the Border Warrior by Blythe Gifford 5/10/2014 1
37. Other (Historical Romance) Just Like Heaven by Julia Quinn 5/12/2014 4
38. Other (Historical Romance) The Escape (The Survivors’ Club #3) by Mary Balogh 9/4/2014 4
39. Other (Historical Romance) It’s in His Kiss (Bridgertons #7) by Julia Quinn 3/1/2014 4
40. Other (Historical Romance) Loving a Lost Lord (Lost Lords #1) by Mary Jo Putney 3/13/2014 3.5
41. Other (Historical Romance) The Heiress Effect (Brothers Sinister, #2) by Courtney Milan 3/24/2014 4
42. Other (Historical Romance) On the Way to the Wedding (Bridgertons, #8) by Julia Quinn 4/2/2014 4
43. Other (Historical Romance) His Bonnie Bride by Hannah Howell 7/1/2014 2
44. Other (Historical Romance) The Husband Trap (The Trap Trilogy, #1) by Tracy Anne Warren 8/20/2014 4
45. Other (Historical Romance) Highland Surrender by Tracy Brogan 9/19/2014 3.5
46. Other (Historical Romance) Darling Beast (Maiden Lane, #7) by Elizabeth Hoyt 11/3/2014 2.25
47. Other (Historical Romance) The Captain and the Wallflower by Lyn Stone 5/21/2014 3.5
48. Other (Historical Romance) The Ranger (Highland Guard, #3) by Monica McCarty 6/16/2014 1
49. Other (Historical Romance) Almost a Scandal (The Reckless Brides, #1) by Elizabeth Essex In Progress
50. Other (Nonfiction: History or Biography) Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Women Undercover in the Civil War by Karen Abbott In Progress
51. Other (Science Fiction, Media Tie-In) Tarkin: A Star Wars Novel by James Luceno In Progress
52. Other (Young Adult, Fantasy) Across the Great Barrier (Frontier Magic, #2) by Patricia C. Wrede 9/18/2014 4
53. Other (Young Adult, Fantasy) Thirteenth Child (Frontier Magic, #1) by Patricia C. Wrede 8/14/2014 4
54. Other (Young Adult, Lifelong Favorite) Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling 10/6/2014 5

#NaNo Tips: “Stealing” Writing Time

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Awhile back, I was at a church where the pastor’s sermon topic was on tools to becoming a more godly parent. (Needless to say, as a single, childless person, if I’d known ahead of time this is what the topic was going to be, I probably would have found a way to keep from being obligated to go.) So I spent the twenty-five minutes of the sermon time brainstorming the next couple of scenes of the story I was working on at the time, while still listening to why parents shouldn’t let their boys take lessons from Ray Rice on how to treat women, nor allow their girls to take behavior and fashion lessons from Miley Cyrus.

This made me think about all of the places and events where I’ve “stolen” writing time.

Almost a decade ago, just before the 2005 Nashville ACFW conference, I took Rachel Hauck and Susan May Warren to the Bluebird Cafe for writers’ night. Rachel was researching her Nashville-set chick lit novels, and Susie and I were along for the fun. While we were sitting there enjoying the music as performed by the people who originally penned it (not the people who recorded it), I dug down into my purse for a pen and grabbed the stack of napkins (yes, paper napkins!) from the middle of the table and started writing. As Vice President of ACFW, I’d been so extremely busy for weeks preparing for the conference that I hadn’t had a chance to get any writing done . . . and I had a full revision of my thesis novel due in about five weeks and needed to rewrite the first several chapters. I enjoyed the music, had a good time with Rachel and Susie, and got about five napkins covered with the new opening scene of my thesis novel (Stand-In Groom), which was probably the only writing I got done in about a two-week span of time.

A few months before that, I’d gone to Baton Rouge for Memorial Day weekend to attend a family wedding. While there, my cousin and his wife were giving a concert at my grandmother’s church’s Saturday night “cowboy” church (dinner, Southern Gospel music, a short sermon).Ransome Brainstorming We were still seated at the long table, which had been covered with white butcher paper. Shortly after the music started, I once again dug for a pen in my purse (I always have four or five with me). A few weeks before, I’d written the opening chapter to an idea for a historical novel to submit for workshop critiques at school. I’d been cogitating on the ideas for the characters for a while, but I wasn’t sure exactly where the story was going. So I started brainstorming ideas right there on the tablecloth! By the end of the evening, I ended up taking home a two-foot by three-foot section of butcher paper where I clearly outlined the two directions I could take the story—either Julia could stow-away on William’s ship or she could make a business arrangement with him where they would marry so she could return to Jamaica aboard his ship. I wrote notes for both scenarios and the pros and cons of each. When I returned to Nashville, I knew exactly which decision Julia was supposed to make and moved ahead with writing Ransome’s Honor. (Yes, I was writing RH while in revisions on SIG.)

Back when I was a full-time writer/editor and was traveling quite a lot (I logged an average of 7,500 miles each of those four years for writing events/workshops, book signings, and conferences), I “stole” the travel time by writing in the car. Yes, when I was driving—by using the voice recognition software built into Windows 7 to dictate my story into text. (Revisions afterward were quite interesting, especially when I got to parts where the computer hadn’t understood what I was saying and, even reading it aloud and trying to figure out what the words the computer wrote down sounded like, I couldn’t remember what I’d been saying.)

More recently, it’s stealing time on my lunch break at work, whether it’s bringing my laptop or Surface with me and doing it deliberately or grabbing some scrap paper off the recycle pile and scribbling like mad to get an idea down before it disappears (and then carrying those pages, folded up, around in my purse for weeks until I remember I did that and need to type them into the computer at home).

While technology (cell phone with Quick Office, a Surface tablet with the full Office suite) makes writing in any situation/location easy—such as recently, as I’ve sat in the waiting room at too many different medical-type offices—sometimes I just can’t be hunched over my phone or tablet, such as in a meeting at work or at a music event/venue. Sometimes, it does mean just grabbing the nearest paper-like substance and a writing utensil and making do.

And sometimes, it’s forcing myself to spend time brainstorming and thinking through where my story is going—like when I’m on the treadmill. Usually, I’ll just plug my earbuds into my ears in without any music playing (to block auditory distractions) and then make myself think about my characters and story as I’m walking. I did this ten years ago when working on Stand-In Groom, except then I was swimming an hour or more after work every evening. In the middle of a lap, I came up from the water gasping from just having hatched the idea of George’s secret-identity plot.

As I’ve stated in another post, everywhere is a good place to brainstorm (or write). But how often do we either recognize and/or utilize the opportunity to “steal” that time and actually use it for writing?

What are some instances of time you’ve “stolen” time from another activity or event to write?

NaNoWriMo—What If You Get Stuck/Blocked?

Monday, November 10, 2014

Kaye Dacus:

I posted this during NaNo last year, and thought it might be about the right time to trot it out again.

Originally posted on KayeDacus.com:

According to the NaNo word-count matrix, yesterday, you should have hit right around 10,000 words on your Story-in-Progress (SIP). That’s a good chunk of writing—20% of your manuscript if you’re aiming for a finished length of 50k words.

But what if you didn’t hit 10k yesterday? What if you did gangbusters the first day or two and you’re sitting at about 3,300 words? What if you’ve lost interest in your story or characters? What if your motivation just disappeared?

Here are a few prompts that will get you writing again (even if the word count may not end up in your final manuscript) but also keep you focused on your manuscript.

  • Write a “travel magazine” style article about your main setting. Or an Archetectural Digest piece on your main character’s home. Don’t forget the paragraph and paragraph of minute description of everything you “see”—from the big landmarks to the knickknacks…

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What Are You Reading? (November 2014)

Monday, November 3, 2014

Happy First Monday of November, everyone.
It’s Reading Report time!

Open Book by Dave Dugdale

Open Book by Dave Dugdale

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Tell us what you’ve finished over the last month, what you’re currently reading, and what’s on your To Be Read stack/list. And if you’ve reviewed the books you’ve read somewhere, please include links!

To format your text, click here for an HTML cheat-sheet. If you want to embed link your test (like my “click here” links) instead of just pasting the link into your comment, click here.
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  • What book(s) did you finish reading (or listening to) since the last update?

  • What are you currently reading and/or listening to?

  • What’s the next book on your To Be Read stack/list?

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