Book Reviews and Writing Tips

Book Reviews and Writing Tips

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Always Writing

Free Clipart

These days I am always at my computer, either working on my WIP, or writing up blog posts. Sometimes this is a challenge when life is going on too. My husband can hear through walls, even with the TV on. My typing is too loud, hmmm..........

I am working like mad to get revisions for my book done, and to get my blog posts written up for the A to Z challenge, plus attempting to keep up with the ones I’ll be doing between now and April. Right now, with so much on my plate, I want them all done before April even gets here. If I can accomplish a few more before the end of February, I will actually sign up for the thing this year. I hope the rest of you are moving along well on yours.

My book is coming along too, about half finished now on rewrites. I have some ideas for the cover, but I haven’t started that project yet.

It is just nice to see the longer days, some sunshine, and warming temperatures.

Happy writing everyone.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Creating a Picture through Writing

Free Clipart

My husband is out taking pictures today, so this subject came to mind. He is quite good with the camera and takes some great shots, although he is a perfectionist and thinks they are never good enough.

This got me to thinking about how important it is to paint a picture in the reader’s mind through my writing. I learned this in a writing class that I took years ago, yet it surprises me how much I let his slip my mind, at times.

My instructor, a retired college English teacher, told the class to use good description and details, not leaving out any of the five senses. Of course, this makes sense. When I wrote my first book, I probably used this advice to the extreme. As I look at it today, my writing is a lot more flowery than I use now. This is okay, but in places I probably over described scenery and things. There is really a fine line as to how much detail to give, although I think I am grasping this concept better than I used to.

I know it is best to leave some things to the reader’s imagination, but I personally like to know what things look like. This includes people and places. Now, I try to use dialogue more effectively when describing things, instead of using too much narrative. I do think this makes for a more exciting read, but like everyone else, I am still learning. I am grateful for the feedback I get, and I try to use it to make my writing better.

Have a wonderful writing week everyone.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Plugging Away on my Book

Free Clipart

I’m still working on my mystery book, trying it get it all right. This is turning into quite the challenge with writing it in first person and something that I’m not sure I’ll do again. At this stage, I can say that third person is much easier. I am learning a lot and stretching my boundaries, so that is one good thing about this situation.

Of course, along with this, I am trying to keep up with my blog posts, as well as write up some posts for the A to Z challenge in April. I have not signed up for this yet, although I probably will give it a go in the end. Now, I am not even at the halfway point on my letters. The problem here is that I have to get all this done before we take our trip to Central America. I probably won’t get a lot of writing time while I’m there, although I am taking the laptop with me. However, I have to share it with my husband, so we can do email while we’re gone.

No date is set yet, although we are shooting for next month sometime, still trying to work that out. Meanwhile, with all this on my plate, I am trying to read as many of your posts and to leave comments as I have time. Unfortunately, life does go on at the same time and sometimes all this writing business has to take a temporary back seat.

I have the first chapter of my mystery book posted, if anyone wants to read it and leave me feedback. Here is the link.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

ABNA 2013 Update

Well the “pitch round” is over and 2000 entries have moved on to step two of the contest. The pitch is a subjective round, so it is usually a matter of luck, at this stage of the contest. Now we get to the point in this next phase, where the contestants who have advanced will actually get the first 3,000 to 5,000 words of their manuscript read. This section is more important because it is an opportunity to have some of your work critiqued by the judges.

Naturally, we all hope to make it to this cycle, hoping someone who likes our genre will get to read our pitch. However, this is not how things always work out. Sadly, I am not moving on to this important stage this year, but I will still enter every year, as I always do, and not let this discourage me. I will still support the ones who have advanced by reading as much of their work as I can.

Over the years, I have built a great camaraderie with some of the writers and we stay in touch, as often as we can throughout the year. It is nice to participate and be supportive to others. Most important, I learn something every year and it forces me to get better and keep writing. There is nothing wrong with this picture.

I will keep working on my book and when I’m ready, I will publish it, hopefully sometime this summer. I am growing in my writing everyday. I do give thanks for the fellow writers who are taking their time to help me achieve the best book I can.

After all, it is all about writing and growing in my craft. If I’m lucky one day, I will be a great writer through my diligence and tenacity.

The next cut is in March, so I’ll post another update then. In the meantime, keep writing and never get up. It is never too late to follow your dreams.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

How Messy is Your Desk?

I read an article about this a couple of years ago in Forbes magazine. It was very funny and when I look at my desk, I think of that article at times. Of course, I am guilty on all counts because my desk is never CLEAN and always looks like a hurricane hit it. As I look around at all my papers and sticky notes, I think it might be a good time to post things I remember from this article.

Of course, this article had to do with how your co-workers would view you, if you kept a messy work area, so probably most of us aren’t in this situation where too many people can see “our mess.” Supposedly, a messy work area is a real downer and can affect productivity, yours, and your co-workers. This is because this situation can be an overwhelming picture.

The article gave tips to keep things organized, which mainly included putting things away in files, not using your email as a “to do” list and going through your junk drawer every month to weed out things that have accumulated that you don’t need. Of course, added to this list is to hang up any outerwear, etc and not to leave things lying around on the chairs because any visitors would have to sit on them, etc.

You’re also not supposed to have anything on your desk that you’re not working on. What? My desk is loaded with stuff all the time. Remarkably, I can find what I’m looking for, usually, because I know which stack it’s in and how far down to look.

Here are some of the things from that list:

Create a daily filing system. Well, I do have one of these, but it needs cleaning out. I’m sure I don’t use it as intended.

Set a limit as to how much stuff you’ll tolerate in the beginning. Okay, here is another problem because I can’t resist books. Tell me please, who can limit themselves to one bookshelf? No, I am not a kindle user, so don’t even go there.

Go through your junk drawer every six weeks. Put a note on the calendar, if necessary, so you keep this appointment with yourself. Okay, who really has time to do this? And I know we all have a junk drawer where you can throw things when you’re cleaning up in a hurry.

Don’t use email as your “To Do” list – most of us are probably drowning in email, this can be as bad as physical clutter. GUILTY, GUILTY, GUILTY. This is definitely me.

Keep your monitor clear of sticky notes and reminders. This I can’t do. I will never remember all the stuff I have to do otherwise, even with excessively emailing myself. I must note that many of the emails I send myself are things I want to read later, but don’t have the time to do now. So it's not all things I have to do.

Keep personal stuff picked up so any visitors won’t have to sit on them, such as your coat. When you work from home, or are retired, this is not a problem. Who is going to need to come in and sit down? In my office, you’d have to move a cat anyway, probably.

Know your habits when it comes to storage such as magazines and newspapers – get rid of them as new ones arrive. Okay, I can do this except for the newspaper articles I want to keep. I am not a big magazine collector. I don’t have the time to read them. This is probably the only thing on this list that I can halfway do.

Clean your office regularly to get rid of junk, dust, food, fingerprints, cups, etc. Hmmm... Well this gets done semi-regularly in my space.

Keep only what you need at arms length. This suggests extra pens, stacks of papers, old coffee cups need to go. Everything else needs to be in the “zones” you have created for them. Who has an office this big?

Divide your workspace into zones. This means have a place for your computer, a library place for research, a place for filing, a place for storage and archives. Seriously, does anyone do this? Same as above, who has an office this big?

I will end this by saying that I am one of the worst offenders of sending email to myself, so it takes me forever to clean out my inbox. In fact, I usually never get this task completed. I’m an organized person, but you would never know it by looking at my sticky notes adorning my monitor and walls and other surfaces as well. I swear that I must keep the 3M people in business.

I admire any of you who can complete half this list, and stick to it. I’d rather be writing.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

A Word About Internet Browsers

Free clipart

Supposedly, there is a big problem with Internet Explorer right now, so if any of you are using it, you may want to download Firefox or Google Chrome and use those until the problems are resolved. These are free and you can have more than one browser on your computer at a time. So far, there are supposedly 57 patches that Microsoft is working o. These are going to be in place by next Tues for Internet Explorer. You can read more here:
Protect yourself from serious security flaws this weekend - Tips, Reviews and Advice on All Things Digital - The Kim Komando R

This is a very good website for all things digital, so you may want to bookmark it for future reference.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The History Lesson

Free Clip Art

Well, you people I forgot to post yesterday. You have absolutely no idea what my life has been like for the last month. I now know every square inch of the southern US real estate market, area weather, amenities, taxes, etc. It was definitely a new type of history lesson for me.

As some of you know, I am in the process of moving – or at least searching out places where this may be. There is so much to take in, besides the weather, which is a big factor. My husband and I have decided we can’t do weather extremes anymore, or would prefer not to. I have been all over the south US states as well as Panama, Costa Rica and Puerto Rico, not to mention the Dominican Republic the last month. I have spent my days and nights researching all on this stuff that there is possible to research in these new locations to call home. This has worn me out and my mind is mush, too many things bombarding me about all this stuff. This includes the good, the bad, and the ugly, as well as the magnificent.

Don’t we all have a fear of the unknown? I sure do and am quite leery about moving to a foreign country sight unseen. I think we will be going on a week trip to explore, but a week is hardly enough time to make a life decision.

I’m starting to feel ten year older than I am, but at the same time, I’m trying to put on a happy face about all of this and decide what I can part with. This is a hard thing to do after 40 years of collecting things that you think are “just right.” I wish I could afford two houses and then the decision would be easy. I could store what I want to keep here in the states, what I can’t move abroad right now because of costs. That is where you people with kids would have it easy – just give your belongings to the kids temporarily.

Wherever we go, I can’t see myself ever thinking of it as home and I’m sure I’ll be back in the US eventually (at least I hope, unless I am priced out of the market). And if I have some stuff stored I won’t have to start completely over at 80 or so, which would be overwhelming. This is my husband’s dream and he has itchy feet, as always, and is never satisfied with where he is, so if I outlive him, I intend to come back stateside, if I have any family left to come back to.

Maybe I am being a sissy about all this, but if I was in my twenties, I am sure I would feel differently about things.

How would you take to moving offshore in your 60’s? Is this smart or foolish? I really welcome all your feedback.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Have Your Manuscript Read Aloud!

Screenshot from my Computer

As writers, we know how valuable it is for us to hear our manuscripts read aloud. I recently learned something that I think might be valuable to all the writers out there.

If you write your manuscript in MS Word, you will need to save the document as a PDF file. (Simply go to file, then select print on the list, and then select the PDF printer you have installed on your computer.)

Open your PDF document and click on “View” on the tool bar at the top. You will see a selection that says, “Read Out Loud,” or something similar. After you click this, there will be an option to read the current page, or to read the whole document. There are also options to slow down or speed up the speech. At the bottom of the list will be a pause or stop option. You may need to go back to “View” and scroll down to “Read Out Loud” again to change your choices.

Make sure you have your speaker volume up and click on the choice you want; either read the page you are on, or read to the end of the manuscript.

It will also be a good idea to open your manuscript in MS Word and reduce both the PDF page and your MS Word page, so both fit on the screen. At least give yourself the option so that you can alternate between the two by minimizing the PDF file and stopping the speech. This will enable you to edit your document in MS Word as you hear it read. Remember to stop or pause the aloud reading, you will need to go to the View in the PDF file, scroll down to Read Out Loud, and you will see a “Pause” or “Stop” choice.

Of course, the voice on my PDF program is somewhat robotic sounding. I intend to replace it with a more natural sounding voice. There are some available if you Google around the internet for them. Some of them cost, but some of them are free and there is a variety of voices depending on your preference.

I am amazed to find this and although I haven’t really tried it to any extent yet, I wanted to share it with you. I think this will be a useful tool, if you can find a natural sounding voice to read your manuscript. I can’t post any links for this yet because I’m still researching this phase.