Music to art by

November 20, 2013

We are just beyond the halfway point for NaNoWriMo and listening to music is a large part of my writing experience.  This is especially true when writing in public places where I need to drown out the noise. Music can also reinforce the emotions that I am writing into my story.

If I had the time, energy and a decent computer I would come up with playlists like some authors do. Alas, I do not, so I use Pandora or whatever I have on my computer to do the job.

I listen to sound tracks to movies, usually Lord of the Rings, as these do not typically have lyrics and put me in “the zone.”   I also enjoy newer Radiohead and have done so since I was writing papers in college. My husband enjoys listening to Celtic music while he writes.

I LOVE to sing along to music and I find that it can be quite distracting to myself and those around me, so I try to avoid this during writing.  I end up focusing on the lyrics and not the page (and create quite a racket).

What do other writers listen to?  What about those who do other kinds of art?

NaNoWriMo update

November 6, 2013

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Good evening!

I hope that everyone participating in National Novel Writing month is having a good time of it!  I am keeping ahead of the daily word goal for the moment.  I am trying to front load my word count in case I have to work overtime or I am out of commission for more than a day of so for my ankle surgery next week.

If you are participating and are behind, do not lose hope!  This is really only the beginning of the month and you have plenty of time to catch up.  Try to aim for the 1667 word goal each day and add a bit on, perhaps raising your goal to 2000 words per day.  Once you get to 1667 you will likely find that you are ready to write more anyway.

Need inspiration to keep writing?  When you quit writing at the end of a session try to stop someplace exciting in your story.  That way you will want to get to the next part the following day! 

Come up with some sort of motivation or reward for when you achieve your goal.  I really want a laptop to edit my stories on. I hate my netbook (too small!), so I decided that a new computer will be my reward.

Do you freeze up when you sit down to write?  It is not too late to outline.   I wrote a very basic outline of about 8 scenes on the second day of Nano and plopped it into my story.  This not only counts towards your word goal, it is also right there in your document so you can follow along as you go.

Writing out some information about your characters will help you to know them better.  It is hard to know how your characters will react if they are strangers to you.  What do they look like?  What goals do they have for their lives?  What is stopping them from achieving their goals?

Don’t throw your words away! If you decide that you hate something that you just wrote do not delete it.  Those words came out of your brain through your fingers so they count! Strike them through or change their color.  If I change a word or two I will usually not do this and will simply delete them instead (though I know some people who keep everything) but if it is an entire sentence or paragraph I’m keeping it!

I also write notes to myself for future research or just to note that I know something doesn’t work. Tonight I wrote: “Good question—might want to work that in somehow” and turned that text red. 

I have no time! I understand that people are busy, but if you decide that you want to do something then you can make time.  Get up early!  Stay up late! If you are doing Nano then you need to carve out time now.

If you simply cannot find the time perhaps this is not the right time to pursue this endeavor.  Writing should be enjoyable, though perhaps not always fun. If you have the desire to write you will have to carve out time to do so. You will never get better if you do not practice.  

Perhaps you should go to a write in with your regional Nano group.  There are a bunch of these in my area (5 per week!).  I do not go to all of them (though you could) but I do go to a few.  Warning: these can be a bit distracting because people have a tendency to talk a bit.   If that bothers you it may be a good idea for you to skip these or go only to the ones designated as silent (perhaps they are in the library like the silent ones in my region)

I hope that everyone participating in Nano is enjoying the challenge.  It is not always sunshine and rainbows, but it is well worth the experience and when you win at the end of this month you will feel AWESOME!!!

Despite the coffee that I ingested during tonight’s writing session I am sleepy, so I must bid you all good night!  Happy writing!

NaNoWriMo prep

October 27, 2013

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? It starts in just 5 short days!  Have you plotted everything out yet?  Have you figured out a schedule so that you can get in your word count every day? Are you stocked up on your caffeinated beverage of choice? 

You haven’t?  What is wrong with you?  Panic!

Well, not really.  I haven’t yet prepared for NaNo yet either! Ok, so I started a little.  I have an idea in mind and have fleshed out the characters a bit, but that was because it was the story I was going to do last year. (I switched stories at the last minute)  It might be a good time to sit down and at least get an idea for your story.  Maybe think a little about your characters and a little about the plot so you have someplace to go when you sit at your keyboard on November 1st.  You don’t want to sit down and freeze– drool is not very attractive!

One suggestion I have is write a little bit in your character’s voice so you are not just meeting them for the first time when you sit down to write.  This does not count towards your word goal, but it sure will make it easier to get into your character’s head when you are writing about them come November.

Another suggestion is to come up with a plot and some major plot points.  Having an idea for a world or some characters in difficult situations is all well and good, but that is not the same as having a plot.  I discovered this 2 years ago when doing NaNo.  I had a vague idea of some characters and the word they lived in, but so what?  I didn’t know what these characters were going to do with themselves or what the point of my story was.  If I were a discovery writer that would be all well and good, but alas, I am not.  Not knowing where I am going makes me freeze up.  Doing a writing exercise without a main plot in mind to start with is all well in good, but for me 50,000 words without a plan is a daunting task!

Here is a quick rundown of a few of the places that I go to for writing information (with a few duplications from my earlier NaNo post)

Writing excuses podcasts: http://www.writingexcuses.com/

These are just 15 minutes long and include various topics (you can hear all of the archived podcasts) by published authors.

 *You can listen to these, get great advice, and get all excited to write!!

 

Jim Butcher’s Livejournal: http://jimbutcher.livejournal.com/

It has been a while since he has posted, but the advice that he gives on plotting is great. I also think that Jim Butcher is my favorite author, so if I could write anything close to as well as him I would be so happy!

 

Michael Stackpole’s 21 days to a novel (ebook): http://www.amazon.com/Novel-Secrets-Writing-Guides-ebook/dp/B0029O0ANM

This ebook leads you through character development and plotting before you start your novel.  It may be a little late for this now, but this is what I am using to get ready.  You could do this in fast forward if you have time, or maybe take the main points.

 

Terribleminds by Chuck Wendig: http://terribleminds.com/

Author Chuck Wendig blogs about writing and writers.  Warning, he is also very good at swearing, often in creative, but entertaining, ways.

 

David Farland writing tips: http://www.davidfarland.net/writing_tips/

Author David Farland (Dave Wolverton) gives writing tips that can be delivered to your inbox daily.

Get yourself into a writing state of mind.  Work on your writing every day of the week until Nano starts and then write every day for a month!  I need to take my own advice, so this evening I will sit down in my local cafe and work more on my story and characters.

I intend to make this more than just a mental exercise.  I want to make NaNoWriMo productive!  The wonderful thing about it is you can make it whatever you want it to be!  Write fanfic! Write a memoir!  Retell fairy tales! Write that novel you have been jonesing to put down on paper!

Just write!

Buying books vs. borrowing from the library

October 10, 2013

I posted before about ebooks vs. print books but now I want to focus on buying books vs. borrowing from the library.  I am a librarian, so I obviously want to encourage people to use the library (it is good for my future employment) but I feel as though I can write on this subject based on my patterns as a reader.

Cost: The library itself cost money and is funded through taxpayer dollars, so you do not have to pay for the books (yay free!)  If you want to look at it another way, you have already paid for the books so you might as well take advantage of what you have paid for. Of course, if you get the book used or get a good deal on an ebook it might be worth it to grab it while you can so that you can add it to your collection.

Availability: Unlike the bookstore or an ebook provider, the selection at libraries can vary greatly depending on the library system (though the bookstores have less variety these days). I have lived places with great libraries and some places with not-great libraries.  If you live in a place with a great library, like where I live now, the books you want will be available for borrowing within a day or two.  If you live where I used to live the library may not have everything you are looking for or they may take a long time to deliver a book that you ordered.  Also, if a book is new it might take quite a while to get your hands on it for one of two reasons: everyone else is trying to get it or the library has not ordered it or processed it yet.

Space savings: My husband and I used to buy all of the books we wanted and rarely went to the library, which is a shame because we were poor college students. (We also should have known better because we were in library school students) This has lead to our current status of owning way too many books. If we had utilized the library more then perhaps we would have less (but that is not a guarantee)

Limited Risk: I mainly use the library to get books from authors I have never read or am unsure of (I do not want to buy a book if I am not sure that I will like it). This may seem as though we are not supporting the authors but the book was purchased by the library and if it is popular then the likelihood of the library purchasing the future books by that author will probably increase. If I find an author that I really like where I have read their books from the library I usually purchasing a book from them.

If there are books that we know we are going to want we just go ahead and buy them. Books by Jim Butcher or George R.R. Martin are bought automatically on their release date.   Lately, if we see that we can get the ebooks on special we buy those as well.

My husband and I utilize both the bookstore and the library to feed our addiction.  What about you?

NaNoWriMo or bust!

September 27, 2013

It is nearly October, which is almost November, which is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short.  What is NaNoWriMo and why should you care?

NaNoWriMo is the opportunity to challenge yourself to write 50,000 words in 30 days.  50,000 of whatever words you want.  They don’t have to be good words or even coherent words, just words down on paper (or the word document).

Now, for the sake of it being a bit more fun than just writing down random words you should probably strive to write a story.  The important thing about this exercise is that you shut off your inner editor.  That’s right.  You are going to write and write and not worry about whether what you just spent 2 hours working on was crap or not.  Just keep moving along.

Why should you do this?  I did it because I wanted to see if I could.  I write best under pressure, or at least with goals and deadlines.  I had attempted to do this for the past 3 years but last year was the only year I accomplished my goal.  I am not sure why.  I wasn’t even going to do it last year. I was getting ready for a long distance move. It was the holidays. I was lazy. But none of that mattered once I got going. I worked my butt off and even finished my word count early. I would go on an add 30,000 more words to complete my first draft during the months after NaNo.

So, what did I do differently this past year rather than other years?  I had a plan.  I did not go in with a blank slate.  I don’t work well that way. I have a tendency to freeze up, so I wrote an outline.  I developed my characters.  I used Michael Stackpole’s 21 Days to a novel. I took his writing workshops at Dragon Co and found it helpful then bought the ebook. You can find it on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Novel-Secrets-Writing-Guides-ebook/dp/B0029O0ANM. Remember that even if you have a plan you do not need to follow it.  An outline is not there to restrict you, it is there to give you a logical structure to follow and to help develop your ideas so they don’t flounder.

Perhaps you are a seat-of-your pants type of person. Doing NaNoWriMo (or attempting to do it) has taught me that I am not that type of person.  I suspect that if you are you might want to at least consider writing down a few thought ahead of time. . Reading Stephen King’s On Writing may inspire you because that is the type of writer he is.  Even if you are an outliner you should read it.  I found it fascinating.

Another way to prepare may be to read some books on writing or listen to writing podcasts.  I love Writing Excuses (http://www.writingexcuses.com/).  They actually talk a little bit about NaNoWriMo in some of the podcasts and have done some of the pep talks that are sent out throughout November.

Why should you join on the website and participate rather than doing this on your own?  For one, it puts you in contact with other people who like to write. You can be inspired by others in the group and perhaps you can inspire others.  You can meet people in your area that are participants (this part is optional– some people I have talked to did not like this aspect but I did). It will give you goals and deadlines (to stay on track you need to write an average of 1667 words per day).  You get pep talks from authors throughout the event.

If you like to write think about participating. It’s free and fun and you can make it into whatever you want it to be.  If you decide to participate feel free to add me as a writing buddy.  My username is krinaldo.

It is time for the flavors of Fall even though it is still 95 outside…

September 12, 2013

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Fall is my favorite season.  I love the cooler weather and the changing leaves.  It is not quite fall yet (it was 95 out today- yuck!) but the Fall flavors are starting to become available.  My husband and I have been partaking of some of them.

Beer

We like beer.  Our household tends to favor darker beer that will put hair on your chest (luckily that hasn’t happened to me!) and seasonal beers.  As soon as the fall beer flavors started to appear we started tasting them.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Southern Tier Pumpking: I had this on tap at a restaurant that has an ever-changing beer selection.  I usually have it in a bottle and I think having the draught version made all the difference in me falling in love with it again.  6 or 7 years ago I had this beer and LOVED it, also in draught form.  It was so pumpkiny and flavorful, but whenever we got it in a bottle it seemed to fall short of the yum factor.  I was glad that when we had it again this year it was almost as tasty as the first time. (I will not trust that my memory of the first taste is 100% accurate- perhaps it was the new experience that first time and it will always be the best flavor)

Blue Moon Harvest Pumpkin Ale:  I thought that this was very flavorful and worth a try if you are looking for a widely available fall beer. We plan on getting a bit more of this before the season is up.

Sierra Nevada Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale:  Not pumpkin, I know, but not everything about fall has to be pumpkin (I suppose, anyway). This beer was rich and tasty and well worth getting if you see it in the store. I think that we are going to add this to the beer hoard before it goes away for the season.

I really want to try Newcastle Werewolf, which is an Irish Red Ale. I like Irish Red Ales and I like the concept of werewolves associated with my beer.  I will not, however, drink wine named Werewolf.  I did that in college once and it was nasty!  Our fault from buying from the discount rack at the liquor store.

Non-beer

Apparently my experience of fall is currently only in relation to beer.  The only other fall tastes I’ve had is at Starbucks in the form of the Pumpkin Spice Latte. I have tried this 2 different ways: hot with soy milk and cold with regular milk.  My preference is the hot with soy milk.  Make sure you still get whipped cream, though, because the beginning of the drink will taste like pumpkin pie.

I look forward to all of the rest of the fall tastes I will get to enjoy as we transition into a new season. What kind of foods and drinks have you found to be good so far?  What are you looking forward to?

Become a Book Reviewer for Book Hub Inc. and receive a FREE eBOOK!

September 11, 2013

Become a Book Reviewer for Book Hub Inc. and receive a FREE eBOOK!.

Nature Box tasty snack review!

September 1, 2013

Last month I caved to marketing pressure (thank-you Facebook) and decided to try Nature Box. The concept is that each month a box of delicious goodies will be delivered to your door and you will love them because they are tasty but also natural (no high fructose corn syrup, nutritionist approved, etc.) Find out more here: http://naturebox.com/

You might be wondering if my experience lived up to the claims. Were they tasty?  Were they worth it? Should I give it a try myself?  Well, let’s all settle down for a moment and I will tell you all about it.

To start with I got my first box $10 off.  I know that this is still possible if you refer a friend (I can refer you if you want) but I just saw an ad on Facebook and with the input of a person or 2 that has tried this already I took the plunge.

After I put in the order it took a little while to get to my door.  It was coming all the way from California and it is not like they were sending it super express, but I was excited so I was waiting with bated breath.

Once it arrived the box was smaller that I had envisioned (I apparently thought that it would be the size of a box that a laptop might come in, it was more like the actual size of my netbook) but inside there were 6 bags of goodies.  I believe that you normally get five bags but with the first order there is a welcome gift included.

The box I received was in the theme of “Summer Celebration.”  Well, how festive!  I believe each month there is a theme to the box.  I like themes because being seasonally appropriate is exciting to me.  You should see the window in my office.  Is decorated with seasonally appropriate gel clings (I already picked up the fall ones!)

Ahem… anyway, this is what was in my box: 2 bags of South Pacific Plantain chips (1 was the welcome gift), Mango Almond bites, Tart & Tangy fruit medley, Cherry Crumble granola, and Tuscan summer mix.  Also included is a card with the name of each item that also has some serving suggestions.

Overall the snacks were enjoyable. For the most part my husband and I ate them along with the fruit that we normally have for our morning break.  We portioned everything out as we went and figured out the Weight Watchers points plus for them.  Sometimes we did partial servings since dried fruit and nuts tend to be high in points.  They were a nice accent to our snack.

The only one we did not do this with was the granola.  For this we got some vanilla yogurt and put a half serving on.  This was quite tasty!

After the first month I feel that I can recommend this to people who are looking for less processed food.  If you are used to eating potato chips and Oreos these are probably not going to taste very good to you, but perhaps it might be a step in the right direction.

It is also important to portion these out.  If you do not you will likely eat the entire bag in one sitting and also a ton of fat and calories.  After the first month you are able to customize your box, either adding on more bags for an additional cost or changing out some of the items. For now I am leaving mine as-is.

The thing I like about this is that I get to try different snacks that I might not have picked out on my own, but I believe it is generally cheaper than such snacks would have cost if I purchased them in a store.

I wait with bated breath for my September box.  I know that it has already shipped and I have been tracking it as it journeys across the country.  I will keep you all up to date as to what next month’s comes with.  I am sure that you are just as excited as I am.

The traditional book vs. the e-reader

August 29, 2013

I know that this has all been covered before, but I thought that I would share a few of my thoughts regarding paper books versus e-readers. Just for reference I have lots of paper books (many, many of them), I am on my 2nd Nook (I have had the 1st gen. and now have the Simple Touch) and I just got a Kindle (the basic one that is e-ink).

Why e-readers are better

#1 Space saving

My biggest reason for using an e-reader is that the books do not take up any space other than memory.  The husband and I already have a ton of books so most new books are purchased in ebook format rather than add to our already substantial library.  Also, as we find really good deals on ebook versions of books that we already own we are usually getting rid of the paper copy (there are some exceptions).

 

#2 Decay of books

We have a lot of books where the paper has become acidic and potentially fragile.  I know that any computer file is not going to last forever, but I figure that the computer gods will come up with a way to convert old formats if they move away from epub or mobi.  If not, I will hoard old e-readers so that I can always access my books.

 

#3 Portability

When my husband and I would go on vacation we would bring “the library,” which is a small-ish rolling suitcase entire full of books. My husband and I feel the same way about books:  you never know what you are going to feel like reading at any one time so you need options.  With my e-reader I can bring 300+ books with me and I could always buy another book if the mood strikes.

Even when not on vacation it is easier to lug around my e-reader than the book I am reading at the time.   George R.R. Martin writes some thick books but they are all the same size on my Nook and fit easily in my purse.

 

#4 Font size

I feel like an old lady to admit it, but I simply love that I can easily change font size to as big as I want.  I have been known to get large print books out of the library too, but now all of my books can be large print!

 

#5 Easier to handle while reading

It may not sound like a big deal, but if you read while you eat, or pet the dog, or drink a beer, it is easier to hold and turn the pages of an e-reader.

 

#6 Privacy

Sometimes I don’t mind if people see what I am reading, but most of the time I don’t want people to know, if only for the fact that I don’t want to discuss it.  I am reading.  Let me read.  Can’t you see I am reading?

 

#7 Instant delivery

I do not usually push for instant gratification, but in the case of books I find this to be a plus.  As long as I have wireless connectivity I can get any book that is available at a discount at any time. 

 

Why books are better

#1 Library books are free

I try to get most of the books that I am reading from the library, especially if it is an author that I have not read before or it is something that I think that I will read once and not want to read again.   I know that you can borrow e-books from most libraries, but the one time I tried it was very complicated and required me to download a program to my computer.  It took me over an hour to figure all of this out.  Then, once the books is expired, the cover remains on your device.  Perhaps there is a way to delete it, but I have yet to figure it out (I will admit that I haven’t tried all that hard)

 

#2 Discounts rarely apply to e-books

Yes, there are e-books that you can get highly discounted, but if you have a coupon for Barnes and Noble you cannot ever use it on an ebook.  That being said there are some pretty good deals on ebooks. My husband subscribes to Bookbub and we also both follow authors and publishers on Twitter and we hear about deals that way.

 

#3 You cannot give an ebook away

Sure, you can use the “Lend me” option on certain books, but that requires your friend to have the same device as you and you don’t really want to do that with a stranger (at least I don’t. Stranger danger!). You also can’t mail e-books to a friend.  Suffice to say, I have never loaned an ebook.

 

#4 You cannot sell your ebooks

Yes, I know that there was something where you could sell ebooks, but I am not entirely sure if that is legal.  Perhaps one day this will be mainstream, but for now I can’t go into my local used book store and sell the books back. 

 

#5 You cannot buy used ebooks

Same as #4.

 

#6 Maps on endpapers

If you have the e-ink e-readers it can be very hard to see the maps in books.  There are many illustrations that show up just fine, but maps are hard to see. I believe that it might be better on a Kindle Fire or Nook HD, but I have yet to get one of these devices or try them out very much at the store.

 

#7 Just another computer screen

At my job I stare at a computer screen all day long.  Every weekday. For 7.5 hours.  This causes me to not want to look at a computer screen again on my break or when I get home.  Sure, I am writing this on a computer, but I do not want to read looking at a backlit screen after doing so all day.  Both of my e-readers use e-ink, though I fear that the technology is going to die (the manufactures of it had a huge loss this year).  I will be interested to see, when the e-ink technology leaves, if the dimming feature on some e-readers will be less like a computer screen than I imagine.

 

#8 Books are wonderful to look at

Books are great!  I love to look at them, and smell them, and browse through them at the library and the bookstore.  There is not much of a thrill scrolling through screens of e-book cover.

 

#9 If your battery dies you are SOL

With a book you do not need to make sure your device is charged, nor do you have to pause to charge in the middle of a marathon reading session.

 

#10 Come the change, you will have no books

Did you buy that survival manual on your e-reader? Too bad, come the change! When our world is plunged into darkness and there is no electricity you will not be able to access the wealth of knowledge that is stored on you electrical device.  Buy those books in print. 😉

 

I truly believe that books are not going to become extinct any time soon and that there are definite benefits to both formats.  There are still many bugs to work out (and trust issues on my end) but overall, I will buy most of my everyday reading as an e-book. Things like reference books are better used in paper copy, at least with the versions of the e-readers that I use.

Adventures with Cookies

August 27, 2013

What better way to start a blog than to talk about food.  I love food, usually too much for my own good.  While I am not a good cook I do like to bake, so today I decided to try baking vegan oatmeal raisin cookies, specifically those from the Engine 2 diet. Engine 2 is basically a vegan diet paired with eating whole foods.  I do not follow it currently but I am trying to incorporate more recipes and principles for it into my life. You can find information about Engine 2 here: http://engine2diet.com/

The recipe can be found here: http://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detail.asp?recipe=2363483  This recipe used to be available on the Engine 2 website, but it is no longer available on their website.

Following the recipe was not difficult unless, of course, you do not have all of the ingredients.  This time I did not have baking soda, one of those oh-so-important ingredients that is necessary in order for it to come out right.

After a quick mid-baking trip to the supermarket I finished up the cookies and plopped them onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.  The recipe says that it makes about 2 dozen, but with my Pampered Chef cookie scoop I made 39 cookies.

My first impression after sampling one while they were cooling (too impatient to wait) was that they were sort of bland and that the you can taste the baking soda.  After some advice from a friend that that taste may dissipate after they sit for a bit we decided not to judge them based on first impressions. After a while longer they still retained that taste. They were also generally bland.

This is not to say that the recipe was a dud.  It may have been the ingredients that I used or the way I prepared it.  The applesauce, oats and some of the spices were Kroger brand.  Maybe I got what I paid for.

But I can imagine that if you were following the Engine 2 diet and were eating all sorts of healthy food these would be tasty.  I have not been following that lifestyle of late (this weekend I ate meatloaf) so I am not much of a judge. I wonder what experiences other people have had with these.

I am, however, counting Weight Watchers points.  The points plus value if they had made 24 cookies they would have been 3, but with my 39 cookie portions they ended up being 2 points plus per cookie.

Other Engine 2 recipes that I have tried have been tasty so I am not going to give up.  Once we eat these cookies (and we will consume them.  I do not waste cookies) I may try them again in the future with better ingredients.