Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas 2.0, Zombies, and Unicorns: A Perfect Marriage

Merry Christmas Everyone!  Hope you have a wonderful holiday weekend.  I may or may not be back next week (I know you're just dying to see what I have to drone on blog about).  Little Monster will be off to grandmothers' house(s) for the whole week so I plan to use my spare time revising!  I very boldly told Colene I was going to shut the internet off for the whole week (but seriously...knowing myself, I just won't be able brain does not compute a day without really- I get all dazed and confused if I don't get a chance to view the interwebs).

Ooh, and I got my copy of Zombies Vs. Unicorns in at the library, so I plan on reading that over the holidays.  I'll let you all know who wins: Team Zombie, or Team Unicorn

Reading about zombies and unicorns, revising my ms, resting, visiting family and holiday stuffing-my-face-and-gaining-five-pounds sounds like a great plan to me.

So I'll most likely "see" you all next year, when we're all rested, refreshed and chipper, ready to blast off full force with blogging again!

And now I leave you with the story of Christmas google-style.

The Digital Story of the Nativity:

Hope you have a nice holiday!  See you all next week!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Be Jolly By Golly!

Jen and Melissa put together this Blogfest and it looks to be a good one!  Thank you guys for giving me something to write about today! I'm taking a little break after today's post.  I'll be online on and off during the week, but I probably won't post anything (I have to find out what happens with Erica and Christy's 25 Days of Christmas countdown!!). 

Okay, so on to the blogfest!  They asked us to post pics of our decorations, how we celebrate the holidays, and also post a favorite recipe.

Hubsies and I try to incorporate different winter holidays into our Christmas celebration.  I've always had a great deal of respect for different religions, and since I don't follow one particular religion, I like to pull a little from each of the major ones.

The first tradition we celebrated was Hanukkah on Dec. 1.  I read a little story about it to Little Monster, and then she got some cute boots and chocolate gold Hanukkah coins as a gift.  We also set the Menorah up.

I had actually decorated my house for the holidays before Thanksgiving (I was a little excited...).  So we had gotten our lights up outside and everything out and ready by the time the fam came for Thanksgiving dinner. 

Yes, those are totally moose glasses from Christmas Vacation-
 thanks to my awesome Brother-in-law and his fiance`!

And then we finally put the tree up.  It's always a fiasco with us and the lights- we always have dead strands by the time we get them out for Christmas again. So I'm always having to run out and buy new ones as we are putting our tree up.  Luckily this year, I had bought some BEFORE we tried putting the tree up.

Little Monster decided to make us all name tags for our stockings so Santa would know whose was whose:

We also have garland up over our doorway, which symbolizes the Solstice for me. 

The idea of putting evergreen pine up actually originated with early celebrations of the Solstice.  Putting those items in the house symbolizes looking forward to the life that the sun and longer days bring.  It gives all hope that the sun will come back and bring warmth and life into their lives. 

The Solstice is tomorrow and we will give Little Monster her Christmas/Solstice present from "us".  I'll also usually read a little prayer to the sun, and a book to Little Monster about the Solstice and other winter celebrations. 

And then finally, Christmas Eve arrives.  Usually we do a traditional Polish Catholic dinner of perogies, potato soup, fish and greens.  It's actually supposed to be a big complicated 7, 9 or 11 course meal, complete with hay under the tablecloth and an extra spot for the "Unexpected Guest" (i.e. Jesus).  We are also supposed to leave a little bit of food on our plates for the animals, because they helped keep the baby Jesus warm in the stable.  Through the years my family condensed the tradition a bit.  I was raised Catholic (my great grandparents immigrated from Poland), so we like to hang on to the traditions that were important to our family.  It was always followed by Pasterka, or Midnight Mass.

My grandmother always made shortbread cookies and what we call chewie brownies.  I've included the recipe for those brownies- I don't have a picture but they look like chocolate chip cookie bars.  They are SO good.  You will love them, and it's easy to make!

2 cans sweetened condensed milk
1 (12 oz) package chocolate chips
1 (13 1/2 oz) package of graham cracker crumbs
1 tsp vanilla

Mix all ingredients.  Grease 15x9 inch pan.  Bake in 325 oven for 25 minutes. 

They should be gooey in the center.  Yummy!

Christmas Day has turned into a relaxing day for Hubs, Little Monster, and I.  Since he works retail, we can't travel to see the rest of the family for Christmas.  We celebrate over New Years weekend now, so Christmas is just the three of us.  We love watching A Christmas Story all day, and just hang out together.  Hubs' brother and sister live near us so sometimes they stop by to see what Little Monster got.

That's our holiday traditions in a nutshell!  Can't wait to see how everyone else celebrates!  Have a great Christmas everyone! 

Friday, December 17, 2010

We All Need a Little TLC

People fascinate me.  I love to people watch and create stories for them.  I imagine many other writers do the same, which is why we're able to create these incredible worlds and characters.  They're so vivid in our imaginations and bursting to get out, that if we don't write it down they'll get lost in the crowd never to be seen again. 

The Duggars:
One of their cousins totally worked at the library with me...
he never really talked to them
 The perfect compliment to people watching is the TLC channel on satellite/cable.  Seriously- it's full of interesting people to study to our hearts content.  There's little people, families with 20 kids, abnormally tall families, political people who erm..kill elk in Alaska, women who don't know they're pregnant, and of course polygamists.  It's all there- take your pick.  From series shows to specials, usually there is something on that will catch your eye and make you go "what the..."  But then it's like a train wreck and you can't stop watching.  I'm not saying those shows are bad, or what the people are doing or what the believe is's just...even if I'm annoyed by it, I have to watch this totally nerdy dude marry his fourth wife. 

Sister Wives: yeah...he's totally creepy

I think something like that in a novel makes it interesting, or would make a reader nod her head and go "Oh...okay" but in a good way.  It keeps the reader wanting to know more, and wanting to find out every little thing about this character or thing that's a little...weird.  Just like I want to find out just how many hours a day the Duggars as a whole spend in the bathroom, or now that Nerdy Dude has a 4th wife- how will his sleeping schedule adjust?  And seriously, what kind of fungus is probably growing in the Roloff twins' room?

The Roloffs:
Little People: Messed up Family
Do you have anything odd, or some kind of unconventional or interesting tidbit in your writing that breaks the mold?  Something that will make the reader do a double take, or read it over again just to make sure they read it right?  And I have to ask: do you have a favorite TLC show?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Aspiring Author Interview with Jen Daiker

Okay guys, seriously...does she really need an introduction?  We all know who Jen Daiker is- she's one of blogger's royalty soaring to 1000 followers in just one year.  She's gotta be doing something right, right?  Not only does she write YA and adult novels, but she also has TWO blogs, a hubs, and a 40-hour a week day job (um, can you say crazy?).  When she's not writing as Jen Daiker at Unedited, she's writing as Jules Ausborn at Jules and the Stars.  If you like celebrity gossip (and stalking) you'll love Jules.  Oh, and did I mention she gets over 300 emails a week?  Yeah, so I'm pretty lucky to call this blogger queen a friend and interview her (plus she was one of my first followers!).  So, without further ado, here's the lovely and talented Jen Daiker:

1. When did you realize you wanted to be an author?

I started writing in January of this year and haven't been able to stop. When people ask me this question I always want to tell them -since I was a little girl- but I can't, because when I was little all I wanted to be was an architect. Throughout high school I realized I had a ton of ambition and wanted to do EVERYTHING, then one day I realized I can do it all, I can write, and since then I've written three novels.

2. What genre do you like to write?

I adore writing young adult novels. Something about reaching out teens is really powerful. I've also tried my hand at thrillers, one in particular my husband is dying for me to finish, titled The Collector, it's about a serial killer (told first person) who paints portraits of his victims before killing them, only to hang the portraits on trees where he'll eventually bury the bodies... yeah that came to me in a dream... pretty messed up.

3. What authors inspire you?

Susan Elizabeth Phillips is the person who first inspired me to write. I know, it's strange considering she writes chick lit novels but I adore reading her novels. Next I'd have to say JK Rowling, her world building skills are phenomenal, and last but not least, all the bloggers I've met who've fought the world of writing/agenting/publishing and have their novels on the shelves, everyone of them inspires me.

4. How often do you write?

At least a little something every day. I'm not disciplined like I'd like to be, but my schedule gets nutty and with the full time job in the way the evenings is my only free time, which lately has been taken over by blogger. I'm slowly getting back on track.

5. Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Umm this is tough. I'm going to say both. I'm a plotter in my head, I plan for weeks, the ideas, the characters, everything plays like a movie in my head, when I feel like it's marinated long enough that's where the pantsing comes in. I open up a word document and write my heart out. I'm fast... my life revolves around nothing except finishing that novel, luckily that is normally no longer than two weeks.

6. Where do you write best, and do you listen to music while you write?

Right now I'd say I work best on the couch with my laptop on a side table. Though ideally I'd like my own writing nook (less than a month away). As far as the music it depends on what I'm working on, for some stories I have a playlist, others I was never able to find the perfect music so I go with what I think I'd hear during that time. Mostly I watch television, bring on Bravo.

7. What is on your TBR pile?

Too many to list... however Fairytale of New York & Welcome to My World by Miranda Dickinson are at the top of my list. Also the white cover Twilight books (never read them), and several ARCs for 2011 that my lovely library sent me (that covers about 12 more)

8. If Stephanie Meyer and JK Rowling got in a cat fight, who would win?

Now for the record I never see this happening. But if I did, in my mind Stephanie Meyer would be a Vampire and JK Rowling would be a witch, therefore JK Rowling would win because she can always fight of Stephanie Meyer with her wicked abilities.

9. What is your "day" job?

I'm a data analyst, I keep track of well over 100,000 items in my companies inventory. Means I have to have mad typing skills and with my 100+ wpm and 98% accuracy rate they love me.

10. What can you not leave home without? (cell phones are off limits- NO ONE can leave home without one of those).

This is tough... it's a battle between chapstick and my mini notebook.

11. Mac or PC?

PC, Mac won't come until I've sold my first book.

12. Favorite Dessert?

Ooo, tough. A tie between chocolate chip cookies and apple crisp (then again pumpkin pie has been on the brain lately, but that's purely for the holidays)

13. Favorite desert?

Ummm... Sahara? Only because it's the only one I know... or at least think of when I think desert (that and I'm too lazy to google)

14. Where is your dream vacation?

I'm such a cheater, it would be a fight between anywhere warm near a beach with cocktails, and back home, among the open fields, the perfect place to write a book.

15. Finally, link us to your website,  blog, fb, twitter, and anything else you might like to shamelessly plug for yourself.

Blog: (Unedited)

Monday, December 13, 2010

What Do You Like in a Blog?

I've got a winner for my contest, so if you don't feel like reading my drivel post, feel free to skip to the end.

Rachelle Gardner posted a blog the other day about what she dislikes about writers' blogs.  Here is a little bit of what she said in case you don't want to click the link (don't worry, I'm lazy about clicking links too sometimes):

→ A humor writer whose blog doesn't seem funny to me.
→ A memoir writer whose blog consists of reflections on life (something I enjoy) but they're just boring.
→ A writer who rants and complains about the publishing business in general or agents in particular . (And I recognize the difference between ranting and simply processing inevitable disappointments.)
→ A writer whose blog has irregular and infrequent posts.
→ A blog that is really unfocused and doesn't know what it's about.

Read some of the comments from fellow bloggers if you have time- you'll get an idea of what they're looking for too.

What do you all think about that?  Do you generally agree with those statements or are you okay with a blogger "breaking" some of those etiquette-type rules?

For me, when I started reading blogs, I really just wanted to get to know the author better.  Whether he/she is an aspiring or published author, an agent, or editor.  I love getting sneak peaks into their lives, finding out about their writing process, or learning a little piece of wisdom.  But I'm not sure my opinion of blogs is as strict as Rachelle's.  I just really want it to feel genuine to me, no matter what the content.  I really don't mind if it's a post about someone's day, their families, their writing or something majorly profound.  I don't mind if their blog is all over the place- I think it makes it more interesting.  Honestly, as long as I'm entertained (which is really not hard to do for me- I'm pretty easy to please)...I don't really care what it's about.  Plus, if someone doesn't have a regular post schedule, I don't really notice that either- to me, family, writing, and other personal related stuff are more important than getting a blog out, so it's not a big deal if someone doesn't write a blog for a week.  I'll still be there when they come back.

I guess my only pet peeve is SUPER long blog posts.  Like, novel-length posts (which frankly, this one seems to be almost there so feel free to stop reading at any time) that take me a million years to read.  Of course, everyone has their own opinion as to what constitutes as a long post, so I won't get into that. 
I really want to know what you all think about the "etiquette" of blogs.  What stands out to you in a blog, whether it's good or bad?  What do you like reading about, and does it always have to be gleaming pearls of wisdom?  Are there any "rules" that you think a blogger should absolutely follow?

And now for the winner (completely chosen at random from this site- everyone got a range of numbers for the amount of entries they had) of The Sorcerers Companion!

Jennie Bailey!!  Woohoo Jennie!  Congrats!  Email me your address and I'll get that out to you asap!!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Contest Ends Today!

OMG, you guys, I totally forgot today is the 10th and it's the last day of my CONTEST!  I'll be closing it up at midnight tonight (okay, well...probably not till tomorrow when I wake up, so if you're up at 3am and want to enter...totally fine by me).

I'll do some magic hat type thingy with everyone's entries and announce the winner on Monday!  So get those entries in so you can win The Sorcerers Companion and find out everything you wanted to know about the magic of Harry Potter (or a gift card if you absolutely hate HP ;p)  Good luck, and thanks for all the entries!

And now for a little Harry Potter Puppet fun:

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Interview With Aspiring Author Anne Kenny

It's time for another Interview with an Aspiring Author!  Today's is with the wonderful Anne Kenny from Writers Quandary.  She's an awesome mother, writer, wife, and still has time to blog!  She also does some writing about video games, which is very interesting to me because my Hubsies sells them!  Plus she has a story published in the Christmas Fear Anthology!  How awesome is that??

So here's her fun interview, and I especially love her answer to #8.

1.      When did you realize you wanted to be an author?

I always loved creative writing but I knew completing a cohesive book would be a huge undertaking. When I finally decided to put my thoughts on paper a little over a year ago it transformed into much more than a hobby. It became my new way of life.

2.      What genre do you like to write?

I love to write YA fantasy but I've been known to switch things up. My short story in the Christmas Fear anthology is about an old dude who collects junk and then makes a new wife out of it.

 3.      What authors inspire you?

When I was growing up I loved all of Ray Bradbury’s science fiction but now I’m all over the map. Suzanne Collins was able to pull me into a series unlike any other author ever had. And John Green seems like he could be the coolest guy ever.

4.      How often do you write?

I try to write daily but with two young kids it doesn’t always happen.

 5.      Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I was a pantser for my first novel but as I progress I find myself becoming much more organized.

6.      Where do you write best, and do you listen to music while you write?

It always seems like I write my best stuff when I should be hurrying to get ready or running out the door. I’ll start off by simply jotting a few ideas down in a notebook before I forget but it always turns into full blown scenes that I can’t abandon.

I do listen to music when I write. I love sites like Pandora or because I can change it up so easily to accommodate my scenes and/or mood.

7.      What is on your TBR pile?

The last time I was at the library I grabbed MISTWOOD by Leah Cypress from a kiosk devoted to NaNoWriMo. All the books featured were the author’s debuts. (High fives to the MFPL for that one.) I also love to buy bargain books. I am a complete sucker for any book under 1$. So with that said, my TBR pile is actually gargantuan.

8.      If Stephanie Meyer and JK Rowling got in a cat fight, who would win?

Robert Pattinson.

9.      What is your “day” job?

Full time mommy! I am also a Girl Scout leader and I’ve been known to dabble in video game journalism.

10.  What can you not leave home without? (cell phones are off limits- NO ONE can leave home without one of those)

Don’t laugh. Coupons. I am such a coupon maniac.

11.  Mac or PC?

PC. But I’m using the Scrivener beta as my word processor right now. I love being able to swap chapters around and create “style sheets” for my characters all in one clean folder.

12.  Favorite dessert?

I’m going to cheat and say caramel frappachino from Starbucks. It has enough calories to be considered dessert, right?

13.  Favorite desert?

I’ve never been. So I’ll go with Corel Desert. (+10 nerd points to anyone who knows where it’s from.)

14.  Where is your dream vacation?

Someplace warm with little shops to discover during the day, and quaint pubs to relax in at night. Does this place exist? Let me know!

15.  Finally, link us to your website, blog, fb, twitter and anything else you might like to shamelessly plug for yourself J

My blog:

My Twitter:!/AnneNKenny

My Facebook:

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Agony and the Ecstasy of Editing

First draft done: check.  Suggestions and edits from Crit Partners: check.  New office chair: check.  New keyboard and mouse to make editing easier: check.  Having no idea what I'm supposed to do now: check.

Like how I jerry-rigged the mouse area because keyboard tray doesn't have a place for the mouse? Perfect for writing I'm sure...

So I finished my first draft, yeah yeah, cool and all that jazz.  As I stare at the two copies of my manuscript- one marked up by one crit partner, and the other marked up by the other crit partner, I can't help but feel a little overwhelmed.  Now what? 

Colene's edits on the left, Andy's on the right (obscured by my "title page")

Where do I begin?  This is my first time editing a 94,000 word novel that I've written.  I have no idea how to start.  Do I go over the two copies of my novel from each crit partner and compare notes?  Do I print out a completely fresh copy (oy, the paper) and do my own edits?  Do I open my word documents and make edits on the computer with the bubbles and stuff, while I have the marked up manuscripts next to me?  Or do I just do that when I'm ready with my crit partner's changes?

Editing can be a cruel mistress that leads you on and gives you false hope.  On the one hand, you are ecstatic to have finally finished your manuscript, but on the other the actual process is agonizing.  You have been through so much with your characters: laughed with them, cried with them, loved them, hated them, screamed at them and pleaded with them.  You know your world inside and out, and now you have to chisel away at it, like chiseling away at your own heart.  But it has to be done.  You have to break that mistress down bit by bit until she's perfect and you can make her into your wife.  (okay, that was a bit much on the analogy part, but seriously...I had to go there)  It's a constant pull of emotions- highs and lows that bring you on this roller coaster we call Editing, only to end up right at the beginning to start a bigger and higher roller coaster we call Querying.

So here I am, ready to go uphill with this thing and I don't know where to start.  How do you start your first round of edits?  What do you do to help get you organized and ready to tackle that mistress and tame her?  (okay, that was really bad...)  I'm going to stop with the bad analogies and let you do the talking.  Maybe you can come up with a couple awesomely bad analogies yourselves, and more importantly, tell me how you edit.

Friday, December 3, 2010

My Oun Buch

"My Oun Buch"
That's the title of Little Monster's first book she wrote several weeks ago.  I'm so proud *sniff*.  Now she's cranking them out faster than me, and comes up with great ideas like "All obaut Ranbos" (she gushes about rainbows in this one- I think she saw the double rainbow orgasm guy on youtube).  Or the classic, "All Obaut Haus's" in which she channel's Lady Gaga's Haus of Gaga to write eloquently about different colored houses (plus she's all about the diversity).  And then she dabbles in horror with "Stars in the Sci" in which you think its an innocent book about stars in the sky, but then the Wicked Witch of the West comes and eats the stars. 

I'm not gonna lie.  It can be hard to come up with some good book ideas (and blogs for that matter...geesh, how do you people do it every day?).  Everyone keeps telling us, it has to be unique!  It can't be the same old stuff we see every day (but at the same time, they seem to gravitate towards what they think will be popular).  Agents want that twist that will catch their eye, and publishers want good books they can sell.  I'm always so worried my idea isn't "original" enough, or my voice isn't strong enough, or it's just missing that "something".  And don't get me started on queries!  My hands are shaking just thinking about writing one.

So here I am, on the threshold of editing my own novel, and I'm scared I just wasted a year of my life writing the dang thing.  I wish I could crank them out on a whim every other day like Little Monster.  Life would be so much easier.  I'd have a million awesome stories to choose from (like the all-popular "All obaut graps and abbles and boobares and tmatos and urnges that come off of chrees" in which succulent grapes, apples, blueberries, tomatoes and oranges fall off trees and cover the ground...I mean, c'mon- genius!)

But I do have a ton of ideas that just come to me, so I guess I'm lucky that way.  I'll just be standing around and BAM, an idea forms and I have to jot it down or else I'll lose it.  I've always been like that- making up stories, daydreaming and imagining myself in different worlds.  I think thats why I love fantasy so much.

So this brings me to that all-important question everyone has to have at the end of their blog posts that makes you (my dear readers) think:

How do you come up with your book ideas?  Do they just come to you while you are doing something completely unrelated (with me, it's always when I'm at work scanning books or entering requests- totally inconvenient!), or do you have a time where you have to sit down and think deep and hard about possible stories?  Do you gather inspiration from the world around you, or do you look within yourself to find that perfect voice?

Happy writing people, and go eat some booberes and some stars for me.  I'll just be at my desk tearing my hair out and weeping silently over my current WIP while Little Monster bangs out her millionth novel.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Last WCW and Happy Hanukkah!

Today is my final Word Count Wednesday!  I can't believe NaNo is over, and now we can resume our normal lives of writing and rewriting manuscripts, crying over said manuscripts, and tearing our hair out with worry (oh wait, didn't we just do that for a whole month?  Ah well...the life of a writer...)

Congratulations to everyone for participating in NaNo whether you "won" or not!  You've won in my eyes just for attempting it, and if you didn't do it that's still great too- because it really shouldn't be the be-all, end-all of writing.  You can still write that novel, and it doesn't have to be in one month either.  To me, NaNo is just a fun exercise to get those creative juices flowing, and not something to get too worked up over.

So, what's your final word count?  Did you "win" or did you accomplish what you set out to do?  Even if I didn't "win" and get 50k words, I still finished my WIP, which I am very proud of.  Husbies rewarded me today with a new desk chair and keyboard to hook up to my laptop.  So now I can start on edits!  yay....

I also wanted to say Happy Hanukkah!  Today the Festival of Lights starts at sundown, and we celebrated by getting a cute little Menorah and will give Little Monster some Twinkle Toes shoes she has wanted for a while. 

While we don't follow one religion over the other, we like to celebrate some of the major winter holidays: Christmas, Hanukkah and the Solstice.  We usually have a gift for Little Monster on the start of each holiday, and also read about it that night.

Hope you have a wonderful Hanukkah if you celebrate it, and I also hope you are satisfied with your accomplishments either on NaNo, your current WIP or anything in your life right now!  Let me know your final word count, or even if you are just proud of something in your life- I want to be proud with you!