Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Keep the Christ in Christmas

I was behind a car in traffic today, dark green SUV with a white sticker depicting a nativity scene. Mary and Joseph bowed over baby Jesus in the manger and they were shielded by the barn. They were just like the ones my mother used to put up every year when I was a child. I loved putting the little white shapes up on the windows. Stars and snowflakes and manger scenes with little animals all over the windows of the house. Our big bay window held the nativity, flanked on either side by plastic snow. She even took the screens out of the windows so anyone pulling in could see the scene. We'd spend an entire Saturday decorating.
Scrawled across this particular manger scene in large black letters was "Keep the Christ in Christmas". It gave me pause.

Keep the Christ in Christmas. That's so exclusive. Christ in Christmas. Even just saying it sounds like a club name, something we made up in grade school. Other kids couldn't play with us before they passed some silly ritual or liked exactly the same thing as us. The kids who didn't get in would sit by themselves off to the side and mope. They would come up with their own clubs sometimes and not let any of the rest of the kids in, but none of the kids in the first club wanted to join anyway. They had the original club. The Christ in Christmas club.

Sorry, Jewish kid, you're just not cool enough. What's that? You don't celebrate holidays because of your religion? Oh. Well, you're out, too, then. Can't have that. Your parents make you pray in the afternoons to some other god? Oh. No. No no no. No. Ew. Get away from us. Go do whatever it is your people do. We're the Christ in Christmas club. You can't belong.
What's sad is this excludes so many people from the positive message of Christmas. We're to love one another. We're to practice fellowship and good will amongst man (humankind, in my humble opinion). We give gifts to one another, something thoughtful for that other person. We decorate our houses and have spiffy drinks and awesome food and hang out together.

What... exactly about that has anything to do with Christ? I mean, I know the Bible says things like "love thy neighbor" and "thou shalt not kill", but one only has to look as far as the Westboro Baptist Church to see that the teachings of Christ have become corrupted somewhere along the line. The way people act toward one another and the clerks in the stores and restaurants they frequent during this time of the year is the exact opposite of Brotherly Love and the Divine Love of Christ everyone seems to think we should show. This whole "keep Christ in Christmas" thing sounds about the opposite of the love Jesus wanted humanity to have for one another from all of it I've seen in practice.

If this is about wishing someone a Happy Holidays, it's a catch-all way to wish anyone of any denomination the joy of the season at hand. Anyone who isn't Christian doesn't celebrate Christmas. But here's the thing. Why can't we have something that espouses the joy of the season that ISN'T Christmas? We can't I wish you a Happy Holidays? I'm not Christian, but I still wish you all the wonderful things about this season we as Americans are so wrapped up in. I am not Jewish, but I want them to be happy in remembering the miracle of the oil. I don't know the first thing about Kwanza, but I want them to be happy in remembering their heritage. I want pagans celebrating Yule to remember the plight of the two Kings. I want Heathens to remember the peace of the mistletoe.

I want all of fucking HUMANITY to remember that we are ALL HUMAN and we all deserve love and acceptance and basic human fucking contact.  I want us all to stop fucking shooting each other. I want us all to start being a little kinder to one another. I want us to stop lying and cheating and stealing from one another. I want people to donate food and clothes to people who just don't fucking have it. I want them to stop caring WHY they don't have it and just give to someone else who needs it, regardless of their circumstance. I want people to stop being assholes. I want people to stop freaking the hell out over their stupid "Happy Birthday Jesus" cake and just be happy they can have cake at all. I want them to stop yelling at the poor girl serving them their dinner and just simply send the undercooked steak back to have it cooked a little longer. I want people to stop threatening toy store clerks over the hot new toy that will die out next year. (Furby anyone?) I want people to stop and take a moment to appreciate the things they have in life. THAT is what "Holidays" is. It's a wish from one simple, insignificant thinking mammal to all the other simple, insignificant thinking mammals of the world.

All these things "Christmas" is supposed to be? It's not just for Christians. It's for humanity. Simple common sense rules of loving each other. If that makes me a bad Christian, good. But it makes me a good human and I'm all right with that.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

For Writers: The Hero's Journey

In talking with one of the members of my crit group (who is awesome, by the by), she passed along this link. I have found it helpful and I will, in fact, be using it. So I don't lose it, I am going to keep it here on my blog. Multiple copies can't hurt, right?
the hero's journey : summary of the steps
This page summarizes the brief explanations from every step of the Hero's Journey.
  1. Departure
    1. The Call to Adventure
      The call to adventure is the point in a person's life when they are first given notice that everything is going to change, whether they know it or not.
    2. Refusal of the Call
      Often when the call is given, the future hero refuses to heed it. This may be from a sense of duty or obligation, fear, insecurity, a sense of inadequacy, or any of a range of reasons that work to hold the person in his or her current circumstances.
    3. Supernatural Aid
      Once the hero has committed to the quest, consciously or unconsciously, his or her guide and magical helper appears, or becomes known.
    4. The Crossing of the First Threshold
      This is the point where the person actually crosses into the field of adventure, leaving the known limits of his or her world and venturing into an unknown and dangerous realm where the rules and limits are not known.
    5. The Belly of the Whale
      The belly of the whale represents the final separation from the hero's known world and self. It is sometimes described as the person's lowest point, but it is actually the point when the person is between or transitioning between worlds and selves. The separation has been made, or is being made, or being fully recognized between the old world and old self and the potential for a new world/self. The experiences that will shape the new world and self will begin shortly, or may be beginning with this experience which is often symbolized by something dark, unknown and frightening. By entering this stage, the person shows their willingness to undergo a metamorphosis, to die to him or herself.
  2. Inititation
    1. The Road of Trials
      The road of trials is a series of tests, tasks, or ordeals that the person must undergo to begin the transformation. Often the person fails one or more of these tests, which often occur in threes.
    2. The Meeting with the Goddess
      The meeting with the goddess represents the point in the adventure when the person experiences a love that has the power and significance of the all-powerful, all encompassing, unconditional love that a fortunate infant may experience with his or her mother. It is also known as the "hieros gamos", or sacred marriage, the union of opposites, and may take place entirely within the person. In other words, the person begins to see him or herself in a non-dualistic way. This is a very important step in the process and is often represented by the person finding the other person that he or she loves most completely. Although Campbell symbolizes this step as a meeting with a goddess, unconditional love and /or self unification does not have to be represented by a woman.
    3. Woman as the Temptress
      At one level, this step is about those temptations that may lead the hero to abandon or stray from his or her quest, which as with the Meeting with the Goddess does not necessarily have to be represented by a woman. For Campbell, however, this step is about the revulsion that the usually male hero may feel about his own fleshy/earthy nature, and the subsequent attachment or projection of that revulsion to women. Woman is a metaphor for the physical or material temptations of life, since the hero-knight was often tempted by lust from his spiritual journey.
    4. Atonement with the Father
      In this step the person must confront and be initiated by whatever holds the ultimate power in his or her life. In many myths and stories this is the father, or a father figure who has life and death power. This is the center point of the journey. All the previous steps have been moving in to this place, all that follow will move out from it. Although this step is most frequently symbolized by an encounter with a male entity, it does not have to be a male; just someone or thing with incredible power. For the transformation to take place, the person as he or she has been must be "killed" so that the new self can come into being. Sometime this killing is literal, and the earthly journey for that character is either over or moves into a different realm.
    5. Apotheosis
      To apotheosize is to deify. When someone dies a physical death, or dies to the self to live in spirit, he or she moves beyond the pairs of opposites to a state of divine knowledge, love, compassion and bliss. This is a god-like state; the person is in heaven and beyond all strife. A more mundane way of looking at this step is that it is a period of rest, peace and fulfillment before the hero begins the return.
    6. The Ultimate Boon
      The ultimate boon is the achievement of the goal of the quest. It is what the person went on the journey to get. All the previous steps serve to prepare and purify the person for this step, since in many myths the boon is something transcendent like the elixir of life itself, or a plant that supplies immortality, or the holy grail.
  3. Return
    1. Refusal of the Return
      So why, when all has been achieved, the ambrosia has been drunk, and we have conversed with the gods, why come back to normal life with all its cares and woes?
    2. The Magic Flight
      Sometimes the hero must escape with the boon, if it is something that the gods have been jealously guarding. It can be just as adventurous and dangerous returning from the journey as it was to go on it.
    3. Rescue from Without
      Just as the hero may need guides and assistants to set out on the quest, often times he or she must have powerful guides and rescuers to bring them back to everyday life, especially if the person has been wounded or weakened by the experience. Or perhaps the person doesn't realize that it is time to return, that they can return, or that others need their boon.
    4. The Crossing of the Return Threshold
      The trick in returning is to retain the wisdom gained on the quest, to integrate that wisdom into a human life, and then maybe figure out how to share the wisdom with the rest of the world. This is usually extremely difficult.
    5. Master of the Two Worlds
      In myth, this step is usually represented by a transcendental hero like Jesus or Buddha. For a human hero, it may mean achieving a balance between the material and spiritual. The person has become comfortable and competent in both the inner and outer worlds.
    6. Freedom to Live
      Mastery leads to freedom from the fear of death, which in turn is the freedom to live. This is sometimes referred to as living in the moment, neither anticipating the future nor regretting the past.
the ' net connection at MCLI is Alan Levine
comments about the site to : alan.levine@domail.maricopa.edu
questions about the content to : liz.warren@smcmail.maricopa.edu
last modified: 11/19/1999 15:06:34
URL: http://www.mcli.dist.maricopa.edu/smc/journey/ref/summary.html

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

For Writers: Professional Bio

I am absolutely horrible when it comes to writing any sort of bio for anything. I hate talking about myself, I hate talking about myself in the third person and I either give too much information or too little. Just when I think I've got a winner, something comes along and changes it in three months and I have to update. I never know how to truncate my bio for something like twitter where I have only a few characters to tell you all about me.
The writers at The Undercover Recruiter suggest having three different bios to fit different size limits.

The smallest of your bios should be able to fit in your twitter bio, so fewer than 160 characters. It should be one or two sentences telling everyone how you're unique. If someone's twitter bio doesn't reach out and grab me, I'm hard pressed to go in and look at their tweets to see if they're someone I want to follow. In the business world, this brief statement about yourself is called a "brand statement". It should have a mixture of shock and delight, according to the Undercover Recruiter, and be simple enough an eight year old can understand it and tell you your value.

To pick what should be included, sit down and write out your key attributes on a paper. Pick those that make you unique and write it out telling people what value you provide, how you do it uniquely and who you do it for.

While you're cruising through Twitter to update, make sure you link your personal sites, have a good profile pic and your location data is in your profile so people can find you. If you live near someone, they're more likely to follow you.

Once you're done with the short and sweet version, you've already done some of the setup for your longer, one page bio. This is a nice little story about you that tells everyone who you are and what you do in a way they'll want to read it. It's generally done in the third person so it's like someone else is writing about what a great author you are and what kind of fun things you do.

Included in this one page babble about yourself, you should include:
  1. Your name in the first sentence (so people know 'who' if they jump from Google.)
  2. Where you've been published or featured (link to it if possible)
  3. Any awards or acknowledgements for writing
  4. Education or credentials, and not just for writing
  5. Hobbies or interests
  6. Contact details
Be sure you have someone read over your bio to make sure you haven't forgotten anything important and you haven't forgotten a word or punctuation. Editing isn't just for novels. They also suggest cruising through your biography monthly just to make sure nothing has changed. You don't want to forget a recent publication or public appearance and have someone skip your page thinking they've found the wrong person.

Any biography posted with a picture gets more views. Make sure pictures you use for promotion are of professional quality, aren't reminiscent of a My Space photo you took at the bar and wouldn't make your mother blush to see it on the back cover of your novel (unless that's the image you're going for).

Get out there and wow them! (And give me a link to check it out if this blurb helped you.)


Friday, October 5, 2012

For Writers: Personal Brand

As stated in my last post, a lot of publishing companies are requiring writers to market for themselves. Rather this is to keep costs down so publishers don't have to charge as much for books or if it's to keep small and indie presses flowing smoothly, it's something we all are going to need going into the future. How do we market ourselves? In the research I've done, it seems like a pretty simple thing. All we have to do is what the business world calls a "Personal Brand".

A personal brand is simply the face we put forward into our professional scope. To create a personal brand, you really only have to do the things you're already doing.
  • Blogging
How many of us don't have a blog nowadays? Most everyone has a blog, including inkslinging monkeys banging their face against a keyboard and leaving it for the world like some primate Picasso. I have this blog  for writing and storytelling. I have another for cooking recipes and yet another for my gaming woes. When you're working with your personal brand, you need to add regular content. When your readers can rely on a post, they'll come back for more. By the time you start talking about your next novel coming out, the established reader base you already have is going to be there waiting. 
This means, however, that you're going to need a reader base. There are a few simple things you can do to draw people in. Go to other blogs and Twitter feeds. Read their stuff and comment. Open a dialogue between other readers and writers like yourself. Post reviews of the books you've read on Goodreads. You can do guest posts for other people's blogs. It's like a vicious cycle that isn't vicious. You learn things, they learn things and people follow people. Easy, right? (Just don't be "that guy" and go everywhere spamming that you're a writer and you have a great book everyone needs to read. We're all pretty sick of hearing that already.)
On that topic:
  • Be active in social media
Twitter is like an addiction for me. Since I use Tweetcaster paired with Readability, I can cruise through my Twitter feed, read all about people's lives, save interesting articles to read later and keep up on what's coming and going in the world of writing. I can comment directly in Readability and others who use the site can see what I've written. I retweet like a fiend when I've found an interesting bit of online knowledge. Most of what I post on Twitter posts automatically to my Facebook page. I can keep several options open. 
Don't do like I did and join all the things. Stick with the social media sites you'll actually use. My twitter feed posts to Facebook, but I actually have to check in on Facebook to see if anyone is replying to what I've written and do it sooner rather than later. There's nothing worse than feeling connected to an author for some reason or another, leaving them a little post and never hearing from them. You get lost in the floe of posts coming to those popular people and carried away. It could be what makes or breaks a connection with someone else.
I post not only a lot of retweets (which I do too much sometimes) but also content of my own, what's going on in my life, pictures of my animals, my new haircut... You get the idea. I take what I enjoy reading about other people and I do the same thing. I'm active there and when I publish, I might actually have a few people who are genuinely interested in hearing what I have to say. I've posted once about what annoys me on Twitter and another on what I want to see in writer blogs, but it bears repeating: Don't be "that guy". We want to know some things about you personally just as much as we want to know what you've written.
  • Do a meetup
Many people I've talked to have spoken on attending writer's groups for people to bounce story ideas off of, get information and research, cover angles you haven't thought of and to get good, honest critique before you ship your babies off to be cowboys or, in the case of bad writing, hamburger. Do a quick Google search of writers groups in the area. 
My favorite meetup is NaNoWriMo. For those of you who may not have heard of it before, it's a month of crazy writers drinking too much coffee and writing a terrible 50,000 word novel in 30 days. It's all self-paced and nominated. There are no judges, no one who picks whose novel is best or worst. A bunch of us crazy people get together in coffeehouses, restaurants, bookstores, libraries and even grocery stores and write throughout the month of November. I love it enough I work as a municipal liaison for Columbus. Previously I worked as ML in Findlay. I have met some wonderful, incredible, horribly knowledgeable people who have given me the best advice and invited me to so many fun things. It really is an experience you should try at least once. If nothing else, it teaches you to sit down and write a little every day.
The most important thing in developing your personal brand seems to be just getting out there and having a good time with other people. Do guest blog posts. Record a video blog. Do some blogging of your own. Come stalk me on twitter. Read the articles I've saved to read on Readability. Check out my reviews on Goodreads. Talk to me about your books. I'll even do reviews for you. Without sounding too desperate, I LIKE hearing from people and I LOVE making new friends. Let's improve our brand (and our chances at getting published) together.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

For Writers: Email Presence

When I started searching for publishers a few years ago, there weren't many of them who mentioned having an online presence. I was always under the impression your publisher would help you with your professional presence and promotion when you were signed for publication. In the last few months of reading and research, more companies are requiring writers to have their own marketing plans and online presence; many requesting an established online presence.

Thankfully before this all came about, I jumped the gun and started with my web presence while I'm still penning my book and well before I even started editing. I figured that would be the easy thing to keep up on while I was writing and somehow someone would stumble upon it and think I was interesting enough to follow. I mean, how hard could it possibly be to create an online presence? That's easy! Put it out there and you're gold! Write a bunch of stuff in a blog, post on Twitter and you're set. Easy Peasy. That was before I started actually reading up on a decent web presence and the work it takes to actually keep it going.

A few of the recent articles I've found helpful are from the Undercover Recruiter page. While a lot of this is geared toward job searching, much of it also applies to writing. Since there's a lot of information, I'll probably do a series this week about everything I've gathered. I'm super excited! We talk about email signatures, photo tips, what kind of biography you should have (you should have three), your twitter profile updates and quite a bit about your personal brand.

I'd never thought about the importance of email signatures. As a matter of fact, I figured just my personal email would work just fine. According to the Undercover Recruiter, businesses require a strong email signature not only for those working, but those seeking employment. What are writers if not constantly seeking employment? Submitting manuscripts and queries is a job search. It also serves a double duty in case you forget to put something in your email.

In the article I read, the first thing they stress is a professional email. We get away with a little more since we're artists and not applying to be an executive at Macy's, but it does make sense not to have an email like deadlinemisser at yahoo when you're emailing a potential employer. Plus it would be hard to keep your business and personal email straight. For business, they recommend using your first and last name. Keep the silly names for personal use. They also mention making sure your first and last name are what the email is sent from in your email settings. Clarity seems to be best. I use my first and last name with "writes" after it since, for some reason, my first and last name were already taken. Strange but true.
For the signature proper, they suggest
  • Repeating your first and last name. If your query is long, repeating your  name isn't a bad idea, especially since repetition aids memory. The more times we see something, the more likely it is to stick in our brain candy.
  • Include your email and phone number. This would be okay as long as you weren't using that email to handle fan email as well. Fans can be crazy sometimes, even when you're not well known yet.
  • Website and Blog links. If you're showing a prospective agent or publisher you already have an established web presence, you're already on the way to piquing their interest. Those of us they can clearly see have a foot in the door are more likely given a shot.
  • LinkedIn and Twitter hyperlinked icons- Twitter I definitely agree with. LinkedIn, not so much, but that's a personal complaint with the site. I never use it, so I don't see a point in linking to it. If you do update it, go for it.
They recommend giving it a visual appeal with indents, fonts and other fancy word processing feats of strength. Just don't go too crazy. If your editor's eyes are burned out of the sockets by horrible fonts and colors, they can't very well read your manuscript.They also mention creating a tag line or a catch phrase of some sort. This seems cheesy to me, but in reading further into their tips about your personal brand, I think your personal brand statement might just be the ticket for this if you decide to throw it in there. It's like the little one line blub you put on a business card. Some quirky, quick phrase that sticks in people's mind.

When in doubt, it's best to follow my daddy's K.I.S.S. rule. Keep It Simple, Sweetheart.


Monday, September 10, 2012

For Writers: What's in a Prologue?

Now that I'm back from moving hell and actually at the point of just putting things away instead of clearing space to actually live in, I thought I would sit down and start writing again. Where I left off in that writing course was at a prologue. The original "first chapter" of my story should be a prologue. It includes too much information that should be given as flashbacks or remembrance or the like.

I started editing the prologue before the move. I did a rewrite from what I left in the cuts I did. Now I'm considering rewriting again and doing it from another character's prospective. The more I thought about it, the more I questioned it. Throwing up my finger in triumph I cried, "TO GOOGLE", startling my poor neighbor who was walking past my window.

I pulled up a result from Kirt Hickman in his blog and the advice there seems to fit what I'm trying to do.
An opening scene begins the story that you’re telling.  A prologue conveys something that the reader needs to know, but is distinctly separate from the story.  More specifically, one or both of the following should be true of your prologue:
  • The prologue should take place at a distinctly different point in time (usually before) the story, or
  • The prologue should be written from the point of view of a character whose viewpoint is not used again in the book.
The prologue I'm writing does, in fact, happen before the story and if I write it from this girl's viewpoint, she won't be used again as a viewpoint character later on. She'll be minorly involved in the story, but she won't be a viewpoint character. Writing from Rose's viewpoint will make the prologue more exciting and it will allow me to actually convey the pieces of story I want to tell without having to write through the MC's alien viewpoint at that point in the story. Right now it's just too vague because he doesn't think like we do. I'M bored and it's my story!

I'll post both prologues once I have them written and ask for your opinions.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

For Writers: Beginning, Middle and End

I'm still working my way through the self-study course and I needed to make some notes. This is part of the problem I've been having. I'm forcing too much story into one book, I think, and couldn't figure out where I was going wrong. I think I had too many plot points I wanted to include. There were too many things weaving around one another for it to be a linear storyline that made sense. Therefore, I've taken a few notes for posterity.


Present the setting, time and immediate context at the beginning of the story. Establish the tone the reader will rely upon. Compel the reader to move to the middle. Introduce the opposition. This should be done with a subtle notice in the beginning and move on from there. You should introduce your first door of no return here.

Readers are introduced to the hero's world. A disturbance interrupts this hero's world. The hero may ignore the call. The hero crosses into a dark world. If the hero could quite easily walk away from the conflict and go back to his normal way of life, you haven't crossed the first threshold into the second Act. Some big thing has to happen to push them through so they can't return. This should happen in the first quarter of the novel.


This is a series of battles between the hero and opposition. Subplots bloom here as well as the deeper meanings of the book. Deepen character relationships. Keep the reader interested. Set up the final battle that will wrap up the end. Toward the end of this phase is the second door of no return. The meat and potatoes of the novel happens here. This is where the hero makes his or her discoveries that will lead him toward the end and the final conflict. A mentor appears to teach the hero. Various encounters occur. The hero has a dark moment within himself he must overcome in order to continue. A talisman aids in battle. Door of no Return #2 should happen with a quarter of the novel left to go, toward the end of the middle. The hero has no choice but to go through to the knockout ending.


Tie up all loose ends. Give a feeling of something beyond the pages. What does it all mean?

The final battle is fought. The hero returns to his life or what's left of it.

Since I don't want to make a mess in my booklet so I can use this again later, I'll put my responses here. I picked up a writing self-study course and I am working my way through to try and take the huge plot arc and break it down by character into books. I thought perhaps someone might want to read my work as I go along.


My lead is a half demon, half human. His internal conflict is providing for himself, realizing he is a good person despite the hand he's been dealt and coming to terms with being a demon. His external conflict comes from the police tracking him not only for being a prostitute but for a string of murders in his neighborhood. A set of demon hunters come into the area searching for the demon causing the murders. How the internal and external conflicts work together or illuminate one another is he feels responsible to protect the girls he works with but can't seem to do so without triggering the demon. The demon kills and that draws unwanted attention. ((This may very well be where I need the most work because I'm pulling teeth trying to come up with something that makes sense here.)) His objective is to get into a ritzy brothel instead of working on the street and protect the girls he cares about. His confrontation comes when the demon hunters corner him and he can't get away. It is either kill or be killed and he can't seem to kill the guy he's fallen for. The tone of the book should be gritty yet upbeat apocalyptic. The ending will be a knockout when the demon hunters realize Baby is the demon and they have to kill him so he doesn't kill others.


Now for one to two paragraphs describing how my novel fits the LOCK system. Lead, Objective, Conflict, Knock-out.

I really think the middle of the novel is where I'm having my trouble. Hopefully this course will help me write things out. Baby is a character that has been with me for such a long time. He sort of slunk out of the shadows one afternoon and sat quietly watching everyone and taking them all in before he emerged as a first form character. I had no idea who he was or what he wanted or even anything about him. At the point Baby was born, I was originally writing Maki with another character named Ferdinand and before him, I'd written him with Saint Clair, a character I've almost entirely written out of the Chronicles. Ferdinand ended up leaving Maki for one of his students and the pair of them ran off to New Orleans to rebuild, leaving Maki to piece together a broken heart and go back to what he does best: studying and hunting.

I've always had trouble, as far as this story goes, in breaking it down into bite-sized chunks. I'm trying to tell THE WHOLE THING all at once instead of breaking it up onto books. If I tried to write the entire chronicles as one book, they'd never be able to bind it and people wouldn't read it. I'd be publishing a gay War and Peace. No one would make it through save the resolute because it would be too much, too dense and freaking BORING.

I think for this book, the main conflicts are going to be Baby against himself dealing with his past and his mother and all the crap that happened with her. I think the external conflicts are going to be the police and the demon hunting crew that comes in. He always has to avoid cops being a hooker, but adding the stress of a demon hunter he ends up falling for is going to be the kick in the pants. Baby doesn't WANT to be committed. He honestly ENJOYS being a hooker. SO it's going to be a big mess he has to sort out and it's not going to sort itself into one neat book. I want things like that to carry over into future books, but his main conflict in this book should probably be just coming to grips with the fact that he is a demon and it is NOT separate from himself. He's also got to come to grips with the fact he is in love with Maki and Maki IS right for him. Hell, there might even be conflicts with an age difference depending on what happens. Baby originally met  Maki when he was fifteen. Maki would NOT WOULD NOT do anything  sexual  with anyone considered a minor because he wouldn't want to risk legal action. So... problems.

And there I go again, trying to make things more complicated than they have to be. I think I need to move a little further into the study course.

For Writers: The Dreaded Outline

I am not an outliner. I never have been. I most likely never WILL be. I enjoy the ways the story takes me, the art of crafting it and the surprise of writing it was my characters take me along their story. This, however, is not how you sell books, by all accounts. Unless you're naturally good at your characters sticking to what's important, you have to have some idea where the story is supposed to go.

Several years ago, someone sent me an email telling me he could make me a writer, all I had to do was sign up for his classes and he'd take me from a wannabe writer into someone published and profitable and beloved by all. I could have been J.K. Rowling or Stephanie Meyers before they were them by his accounts. He'd helped hundreds of writers become kings of writing by his program.

I declined his offer and told him thanks but no thanks. Being maybe 25, I was probably a smartass about it. He took it upon himself to instant message me and ask me about my writing and my writing habits. Being 25 and know there was no way I was going to make writing a full-time gig, I answered off the cuff. I wasn't interested in his program, I wasn't going to pay him to tell me how to write and I honestly wasn't sure why he was still talking to me. The thing I remember  most out of his comments and questions was when he asked me how often I wrote. I answered honestly, "I just write when inspiration strikes". I did. And had inspiration strike me all the time. It wasn't like  I considered myself anywhere near publishable work and I honestly wasn't ready.

His next comment not only pissed me off, but it turned me off writing for a good long while. Every single time I see someone make a comment about how they were "talking to a girl who said they only write when inspired", hackles instantly raise. He told me that unless I took my writing seriously and buckled down and started treating it like a job, I would never once be published. He continued with some scathing remarks about how I shouldn't call myself a writer when all I did was dabble and gave me a tongue in cheek wish for good luck with my dribbling in the future. I know I've seen this person write for various functions and I know he's done a pep talk for NaNoWriMo. I deleted it the minute I read his "talked with a young woman" line.

Since then I have deliberately shied away from any kind of structure to my writing because he basically told me I HAD TO. I shied away from deadlines and writing goals because if I was having a good day, I could crank out 5k. If I wasn't I managed a couple of hundred. In the long run, I felt good if I'd written 10k in a week because my life wasn't structured, I wasn't grasping for time and I had the energy and creativity necessary to actually write. While his system was probably good for him, it would have crushed my creativity and spirit, much like his assumption that inspired writing wasn't real writing or whatever it was he believed.

With this beast of a plot I've been nursing for the last ten years or better, I need outlines. I need a vague direction and something outlining the major plot points that need to happen. I need to know all the major events and I need to keep a timeline so when I get to book 6 or 123 or what have you, I'm not leaving plot inconsistencies. I need to have some kind of a wire frame that I can start to mold clay around. I refuse to force my characters into a cookie cutter, but at the same time, I have to have points to drive my car to, otherwise I'm just wasting gas.

Therefore, this next section has been helpful to me and I'm going to share a few things that I think will help and rebut a point he makes for those of us who are perfectionists.

Through National Novel Writer's month, I have learned the beauty of daily writing quotas. Setting a goal for yourself is a plus. Setting an attainable goal is a double plus. For me, however, I will wrack myself with guilt if I don't get those words done. When I fall behind on them, I have this rolling rock that smashes my flowers and tramples my grass and then as it gets bigger and bigger, I just give up writing altogether. I give up on the project and walk away.

This is why I didn't finish my first NaNo.

I've learned the beauty of goals, but I have had to really teach myself that falling behind on my goals is okay. If there's no pressure, I will still get it done, but I don't have this insurmountable mountain building over my head. Write every day, fine. Yay. But I do it in my time, on my schedule and NOT first thing in the morning. Oh my GOD I am a ZOMBIE when I wake up for the first hour or two of my day. That includes while I'm at work. My brain doesn't come online until the evening and the best time for me to write is after work before I cook dinner. That's my sweet spot. That's when I write. If I make 1600 words, YAY! If not, oh well. If I don't write at all, it's because that day has been crap. I pick back up the next day like nothing ever happened. I'm okay with this. No one is dogging me.

The second bit of advice comes in re-reading what you've written the day before. Yes, and no. I'm definitely one of those people who reads the last bit of what I wrote if I had to end in the middle of a scene, but if I go back and start reading everything I've written from the day before, I end up editing and making small changes and tweaks and wanting to re-write things and then, before I know it, I've wasted all the time I have for writing by being obsessive over having things right. That's another thing I have to work on, not being ridiculous about perfection until editing, but I really think it can hamper my progress, especially if I'm on a deadline. On the other hand, it would stop me from having my main character take off his shoes twice in a scene.

The last bit of advice he gives is you should record your plot journey with dates and times and plot points so you can keep track of the linear flow. If you're plotting a monstrosity like I am, you'll need this to keep your story straight. He actually suggests a huge piece of butcher paper and sticky notes that roll up into a poster roll. I am in LOVE with this idea. Postits aren't permanent, I can use my erasable pens and highlighters and super sticky sticky notes, tape it to the wall to work and then roll it up and put it away when not using it. BRILLIANT! I can divide the entire butcher paper in the three acts in the structure, have different colored notes for all the main characters and what their points will be in the scenes and make sure I've got my Opening, Beginning Disturbance, 1st Door, 2nd Door and Ending... everything else is just gravy!

But, since I'm not a complete planner, there is a lot that I can see that will need work, especially given the middle of Baby's story is what I really want to tell and what I have the least amount of information for. For those of us who are hybrids, he recommends beginning with the LOCK system and writing the back cover copy for your book. From there, you can generate more ideas as they story develops. He recommends asking yourself these questions before progressing forward:
  • What is my character's emotional state and the end of the scene?
  • How will he react in the next scene?
  • What is the next action my character needs to take?
  • What strong scene up ahead needs transitional scenes before it?
  • Do I need to add any new characters?
  • Has a character in the scene I've just written suggest other plot developments?
I'm not sure how many of those questions I would be using, but it at least gives me hope that I don't have to plan everything and I can just set the framework and let my imagination soar when inspiration strikes.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Gamer Rage: Vial of the Sands

In order to make the Vial of the Sands, I'm going to start backward with what you need to do first. If you are a miner, go mine yourself up:
  • 12 volatile earth
  • 24 elementium ore
Smelt your elementium ore into 12 elementium bars. With your volatile earth and elementium bars, any alchemist can make 36 pyrium bars. These are essential to make the 12 Truegold you will need later.
Once you have the pyrium, you will need to get yourself:
  • 120 volatile air
  • 120 volatile fire
  • 120 volatile water
These volatiles combined with the pyrium bars will make 12 Truegold.
Keep in mind, each Truegold the alchemist makes has a 24 hour cooldown. This means they can make ONE Truegold each day. Period. Make good on your tips for each one they deliver you. I recommend at LEAST 25 gold a pop if you're cheap. I pay mine 100 each if they're not in my guild. (We have a very strict "no buying/selling to guildies" policy) Your Truegold is going to take 12 days to make if you use one alchemist. My recommendation is to find someone willing to sell their Truegold cooldown to you and use several alchemists if you're impatient. As long as you're not cheap, I'd say to be sure you have 600-1200 gold just for tipping. Make friends with the alchemists.
Think you're done? Hardly. Now that you have your truegold, you're going to need three different potions to add to it: Deepstone Oil, Flask of Titanic Strength, and Flask of the Winds.
You will need eight of each of the potions. To make these, you will need to obtain:
  • 32 volatile life
  • 16 Azshara's Veil
  • 32 Whiptail
  • 16 Cinderbloom
  • 8 Albino Catfish
An alchemist can make these for you pretty quickly and with no cooldowns. I'd suggest 25-50 gold tip for each, so bring along 100-200 gold as a tip for the job. Like I said, make friends with your alchemists. Good tippers don't have much trouble finding someone to do work for them.
Now for the costly part.
The Sands of Time and the vial are purchased from Yasmin, the Innkeeper in Uldum. She is located at 26, 7 Northwest of The Temple and the Obelisk. The Sands of time are 3k each. For eight of them, you need 24,000 gold. Add in the vial, you'll need 5,000 gold, making your total a whopping 29,000 gold. Ouch.
By the time you find someone who has the recipe for the vial, you should have
  • 1 Pyrium-laced crystalline vial
  • 8 Sands of Time
  • 8 Deepstone Oil
  • 8 Flask of Titanic Strength
  • 8 Flask of the Winds
  • 12 Truegold
Now that I've confused the hell out of you, here is a finished shopping list:
  • 30,500 gold
  • 1 Pyrium-laced crystalline vial
  • 8 Sands of Time
  • 32 volatile life
  • 16 Azshara's Veil
  • 32 Whiptail
  • 16 Cinderbloom
  • 8 Albino Catfish
  • 120 volatile air
  • 120 volatile fire
  • 120 volatile water
  • 12 volatile earth
  • 24 elementium ore

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Book Review: Bloom

Bloom (Seeds of Love, #1)Bloom by Julie Anne Lindsey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bloom is an adorable love story about two people who haven't quite learned to love. When Cynthia goes home to visit her potentially crazy grandmother, she rides back into her old life filled not only with the people she knew and loved but with her flawed past and a new man in town, Mitchell Fallon. What she doesn't count on is falling head over heels with the sullen newcomer. When her job is outsourced, Cynthia plans to open a business starring her grandmother's prize cooking. After Mitchell's former flame comes back to profess her love and a few miscommunications, Cynthia heads back to New York to try and find her way. Will Prince Charming come to the rescue?

This has to be the cutest story I've read in a long time. It's just sweet without all the hardcore open-door sexy scenes. Excellent read.

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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Recipes: Simple Summer Spaghetti

Prep: 20 min
Cook: 20 min
Yield: 4 servings
12 oz package dry spaghetti
¼ cup olive oil
5 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
Pinch crushed red pepper
2 cups cut up zucchini
1 cup cut up summer squash
1 cup cut up red bell pepper
2 cups quartered cherry tomatoes
¼ torn fresh basil
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  1. Bring a large pot of slated water to boil. Cook until just tender. Drain.
  2. In extra large skillet, combine olive oil, garlic and crushed red pepper. Cook over medium heat about three minutes until garli begins to soften. Do not let garlic brown. Stir in zucchini, squash, red bell pepper, tomatoes and torn basil. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Reduce heat to low. Heat thoroughly.
  4. Serve spaghetti noodles topped with vegetable mixture and top with a sprinkle of each cheese.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Recipes: Veggie Quesadillas

Ready In: 30 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
juice of 1 lime (around 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2-1 teaspoon chipotle powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
1 clove garlic, peeled and pressed through a garlic press
1 medium zucchini, trimmed, and thinly sliced (1/4 inch) lengthwise
1 red bell pepper, ends sliced off, cored and seeded, and cut into wide strips
1 red onion, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
12 corn tortillas or 8 flour tortillas
1/2 pound grated cheddar or Monterrey jack cheese
a handful of cilantro leaves, washed and dried
sour cream and salsa for serving
  1. Preheat your grill on high.
  2. Whisk together the lime juice, olive oil, chipotle or paprika, salt, and garlic. Arrange the vegetables in a single layer on a large, rimmed baking sheet, and pour half the dressing over them, turning them to coat the slices evenly.
  3. Turn the grill down to medium-low and roast the veggies, turning them and adjusting the heat as necessary, until they are completely tender, 10-12 minutes. Remove them to a plate, dress with the remainder of the lime juice mixture, and set aside.
  4. Heat a large griddle (or a heavy frying pan) over medium-high heat, and lay half of the tortillas into it (if you're using a pan, you'll need to do this in batches). Divide the cheese over them, top with the remaining tortillas, and cook until the bottoms are golden and crisp. Flip them, and cook until the tortillas are crisp and the cheese is melted.
  5. Open the quesadillas and divide the cilantro and grilled veggies among them, cutting the vegetables as necessary to fit, then quarter the quesadillas and serve with sour cream and salsa.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Recipes: Quick Chicken and Dumplings

Ready In: 60 minutes
Yield: 8 servings
4 cups milk
2 bags frozen peas and carrots
4 cups cooked, cubed chicken
4 10.34 ounce cans cream of chicken soup
4 cups Bisquick
1 1/3 cup milk
  1. Heat 4 cups milk, peas and carrots, chicken and soup to boiling, stirring often.
  2. Stir Bisquick and remaining milk together until soft dough forms.
  3. Drop by spoonfuls onto chicken mixture.
  4. Reduce heat to low.
  5. Cook uncovered over low heat 20 minutes. Cover and cook 20 minutes more.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Book Review: Letters from Greece

Letters from GreeceLetters from Greece by Lori Green
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I first read Mariposa by C.L. McCullough and then delved into The Stone Crow by Lori Green, so, naturally, I had to pick up Letters from Greece written by the two of them. I do not regret my decision. This story is a compelling read from start to finish.

Kate and Min meet online amidst the passing of Kate's mother and Min's isolation. The two become online friends and the story begins with a letter from Min telling Kate about her husband losing his mind and hurting her. Then contact stops. Kate, worried about her friend, goes to find her.

(view spoiler)

The pair pick up a life in Greece with Kate running a taverna and Min keeping the house and learning to raise livestock. Not speaking a lick of Greek, they start to make an old house into a home.

Of course, since she sent a letter back home, Min's husband Patton finds her. (view spoiler)

In the end, the women find their peace, pull together a small slice of paradise and somehow manage to have their cake and eat it, too. The characters don't feel forced and the story flows naturally. Although I drew a lot of comparisons between Patton and Kate and Patton and Min's new love interest Nik, Min becomes her own person through the story. Kate, despite being the "strong" character, shows her weakness. You never really find out just what the Greek characters are saying outside of guessing from the character's point of view. Translations are kept to a minimum and you feel immersed in the character's world.

If you want a not-so-simple love story with two crazy ladies on an adventure, this is definitely the book for you.

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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Recipes: Pomegranate-glazed Skirt Steak with Roasted Green Beans

1/8 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 Tablespoon light brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ pounds skirt steak
¼ c honey
½ c pomegranate juice
2 T balsamic vinegar
1 lb green beans, trimmed
2 T olive oil
fresh ground black pepper
¼ c slivered almonds
½ c pomegranate seeds
  1. Preheat the oven to 425.
  2. In a small bowl, combine chili powder, cumin, brown sugar and salt. Rub the spice mixture into the skirt steak and set aside 25-35 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk together the honey, pomegranate juice and balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Simmer until reduced by half and thickened, 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat. The glaze will continue to thicken as it cools.
  4. Spread green beans in an even layer on a large baking sheet, drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Roast until crisp-tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and toss with the almonds and pomegranate seeds.
  5. Heat a grill pan or cast iron skillet over high heat. Cook steak 3 minutes on each side for medium rare. Let rest 5 minutes, then cut against the train into ½ slices. Drizzle with pomegranate glaze and serve alongside green beans.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Recipes: “Better than Sex” Chocolate Nutella Cupcakes with Nutella Buttercream frosting

Adapted from Cupcake Project and Chockylit
Ready in: 2+ hours
Yield: 15-16 cupcakes
1/2 C butter, room temperature
1 cup Nutella
1 1/4 C sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 C flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1/2 C unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 C milk
1 t vanilla
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. In a mixing bowl, beat butter until softened and smooth. Add sugar and beat for a few minutes, until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each until well combined. Mix in Nutella.
3. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder. In a separate small bowl, combine milk and vanilla.
4. Add about 1/3 of dry ingredients to butter and sugar and mix until combined. Add about 1/2 of wet ingredients to mixture and mix until combined. Continue alternating dry and wet, mixing in between (finish with the remaining dry ingredients).
5. Fill cupcake tins about 1/2 full (don’t overfill – you only need 1/2) and bake for around 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. They will come out flat.
Nutella Buttercream
1/2 C butter, room temperature
1 small jar Nutella
1 C powdered sugar, sifted
1-2 T milk
1. Beat butter until smooth.
2. Add Nutella and beat together until thoroughly combined.
3. Slowly add powdered sugar, mixing until combined.
4. Add 1 tablespoon of milk. Add additional milk or powdered sugar as needed to reach desired consistency.
You can also mix up a few tablespoons of Nutella with an equal amount of cool-whip, cut the center out of the cupcake, fill it with the cool-whip mixture, replace the cupcake plug (after you've eaten the small bit where the filling went) and frost. You'll thank me.

Never really gets easier

Story time since it's on my mind and I wanted to share and ask a little extra patience.  May 20th. Mary and I are at a local garden shop...