Monday, April 21, 2014

Book Review: Saving Raine and #atozchallenge

“If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time 
(or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” 
― Stephen King


Hello A-to-Z'ers! It's R day and what perfect timing because today's my day to share with you my friend Fred Lee Brooke's latest book: SAVING RAINE. I thought it interesting that my day for the review was the R day... and the book is called Saving Raine.  Coincidence? Totally.


There's another R, a Rafflecopter Giveaway below!

To get started, let's talk about the R word that every writer needs.

Reading.
1. the action or skill of reading written or printed matter silently or aloud

If you're writing, you have to read... plain and simple. And let me tell you, sometimes you pick up a book and it grabs you and you're off and running... this book was just like that.  I read it in no time.




SAVING RAINE is Brooke's 4th book. The first three were part of the fabulously fun Annie Ogden Mystery series, which I've enjoyed and reviewed (with poetry!) in the past.

This book is totally different.

You ever read a dystopian story where the world as we know it has fallen apart and mayhem and anarchy rule? Well, this book is like reading about the falling apart as-it-happens. It takes place in 2021, not too far into the future and it feels like watching civilization when it's just about to reach the absolute brink.

The country is in chaos. There are drones everywhere. Privacy is a thing of the past. There are government drones and personal drones. And there's nothing at all right about what's on the news. Human life seems to have no value, plots are being hatched by every faction imaginable, nobody can be trusted. And Matt Carney is stuck right in the middle of it all.

Fun fact #1: A terrific pair of ex-cons from Doing Max Vinyl named Ike and Tranny appear in this book and take part in possibly one of the *grossest* scenes I have ever visualized.

Fun fact #2: There is a character named Corinne in this book. She is kind and wonderful and nurturing and has short brown hair. #yay!

From the blurb: 
"Matt, Raine went to California because her parents thought it was safe. It’s not. You’ve got to get her out as soon as possible. She could die, Matt."

When 19-year-old Matt Carney gets a cryptic message from his father telling him to go to California and save his girlfriend, Raine, he doesn't hesitate—he grabs his AK-47, revs up his blue pickup, and gets ready to make the 2,300-mile road trip.

But cross-country travel in 2021 isn't easy—or, sometimes, even possible. The U.S. has become a near-military state: 17,000 checkpoints severely restrict interstate movement, Predator drones target innocent civilians without cause, and explosions rock cities daily. Matt and his stepbrother, Benjy, face deadly attacks from a corrupt government, ruthless local law enforcement, and bloodthirsty terrorist groups as they embark on their trek. They're about to find out that their trip is much more than a private journey, and their success could change the face of the country—forever.

Can Matt and Benjy outrun the drone missiles raining down on their heads? Can they avoid assassination by government officials hell-bent on taking over what little is left of the country? Can they outsmart the deadly schemes set in motion against them?

Break the rules.  Save the girl.  He only gets one chance before she's gone forever.


About the Author:

Frederick Lee Brooke launched the Annie Ogden Mystery Series in 2011 with Doing Max Vinyl and following with Zombie Candy in 2012, a book that is neither about zombies nor sweets. The third mystery in the series, Collateral Damage, appeared in 2013.

Saving Raine, the first book in Fred’s entirely new series, The Drone Wars, appeared in December, 2013.

A resident of Switzerland, Fred has worked as a teacher, language school manager and school owner. He has three boys and two cats and recently had to learn how to operate both washing machine and dryer. He makes frequent trips back to his native Chicago.

When not writing or doing the washing, Fred can be found walking along the banks of the Rhine River, sitting in a local cafe, or visiting all the local pubs in search of his lost umbrella.

Find Frederick Lee Brooke on his website, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

26 Words Every Writer Needs: Q #atozchallenge

Quiescence
noun
1. the quality of being quiet or still or inactive

http://www.desktopwallpaperhd.net/screensaver-galaxy-220215.html

Have you ever tried to sit totally still? I mean, like totally still with your eyes closed and only your heart and lungs moving? Have you ever done that for long periods of time?  I sat in on a session at the SCBWI conference in LA where Clare Vanderpool, author of the fabulous Moon Over Manifest, spoke about her process. She shared how she sits for periods with a notebook and pen and just lets her mind shut down and open up.

Listening to her talk, I felt so connected to her experience. Not the quiet sitting... no way! But like me, she has four kids. And like me, she took a long time to write her first book. So when I got home I thought, perhaps I should try to sit and let the stillness be my guide. It was very distracting at first.  It's *hard* to sit totally still.  But after a few tries, I found it was possible to do it. I wish I could share that I got a deluge of amazing ideas. I didn't. But I have come away with images of scenes, story solutions, and a few little gems.

Sometimes I find free writing is the key, sometimes a walk, and sometimes I just need to sit still and think.


As an aside, she shared something interesting that might speak to those of you out there who (like me) feel impatient and have this sense of urgency about getting your work published. She said, and I paraphrase... that had she finished the book in a year, it wouldn't have been the same book as it is today. That's something I think about all the time.

Bonus Q words for writers: quietude, quip, quaff < --when things get bad.

Friday, April 18, 2014

26 Words Every Writer Needs: P #atozchallenge

Hello again!  We're ramping through the downhill side of the A-to-Z Challenge and today I'd like to talk about something every writer *truly* needs.  If I was going to compile a list of things a writer needs in order of importance, this would be in the top three. Maybe top one.

Partners
noun
1. a person who takes part in an undertaking with another or others.

Taken at Big Sur in Rockies Writer's Workshop

I don't know where I would be without my writing partners. Every time I get back shared work and I'm given guidance about what's working and what isn't, that feedback is an amazing gift. As much as we all would like to think we have the ability to do so, it is not possible to be objective and clear about our own writing. It just isn't.

Sure, the more experience you have writing, the more solid your stuff becomes, but until you've shared it with a reader other than yourself, you have no idea if they were being brought along on the journey as you intended them to be.

Sometimes, after sharing my work with others, I ask them questions about the story and what they think is going on. This way I can see if they are following my lead in the story as intended or have somehow taken a different path. And the more partners you can find to read and respond, the more sure you can be that your story is having the desired effect.

Finding critique partners is like dating. You need to keep trying other writers on to see how they fit. You need openness, and you need to make sure they have it too. If you're lucky, you'll find people who have strengths in the areas where you struggle, and vice-versa, so you can help each other out.

Bonus P words for writers:  patience, persistence, positivity

Do you have critique partners?

26 Words Every Writer Needs: O #atozchallenge

Welcome back to the A-to-Z!  Today we're going to talk about something that I think serves us all in our every day lives, and it applies to writers, too.

http://www.wikipaintings.org/en/konstantin-somov/open-door-on-a-garden

Openness
noun
1. the free expression of one's true feelings
2. receptiveness

As a writer, I've found that openness is a virtue. As far as creativity goes, the more open you are, the better. So often I find that as I am outlining ideas for whatever I'm working on, the more open I let my mind become, the more I let go of the ideas I'm trying to work with and let them morph and expand into the things they are trying to be, the better my writing becomes.

Also, as a creative person, and especially as a writer, it is important for all of us to remain open to feedback. That's not to say you heed every bit of advice you hear. You must employ your own good judgment when it comes to that. But I do think you need to be open to receiving all the feedback you can get.

You also have to be open to trust yourself. Sometimes, when I get feedback that doesn't feel right to me, but I see that just about all of my critique partners have stopped to note *something* caught their eye at a specific point... I sit for a while. I percolate over that passage, or plot point, or word... and let my mind be open to something new.  It almost always works.

How do you find openness helps you in your writing?

Bonus O Words for Writers:  onomatopoeia, optomism, originality, OM

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

26 Words Every Writer Needs: N #atozchallenge

How's your week treating you? I swear, I feel like time is blowing by me this month. Anyone else feel that way? I am pleased to report that this week has been rather productive in the writerly sense, and that is because of this little sign right here:




No Excuses
mantra
1. the state of mind where one refuses to give in or let a cause be lost.

The greatest enemy to a writer is the excuse. It's a lot of work to write, and deep down, your subconscious knows this. It wants you to loll around and eat bon bons between napping and vacation days. I am afraid to try and list all the things that get done around here when I should be writing.

I've organized the pantry, re-arranged the dishes and glasses in the kitchen cabinets, cleaned the freaking toilets, by god. I even went to IKEA, and I *really* dislike shopping. #truestory

If there is one thing that I have learned, it's that you have to nip that devil in the bud.  Just cut it off at the root and soak the rest in weed killer. Because in order to achieve your writerly goals, guess what?  ... You have to write.

No excuses. None.

Sure, everyone has other things like, you know, kids, and errands, and maybe a job... but I'm talking about keeping your writing time sacred. Holding yourself accountable to the promise you've made to yourself.  This is a new thing for me... really sticking with a schedule. I've tried in the past and failed miserably. But I now know: You have to respect your writing time, or nobody else will. 

Do you find life getting in the way of your writerly goals?

Bonus words for writers: Nurture, Nature, Notebooks

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

26 Words Every Writer Needs: M #atozchallenge

Mmmmmmmmm.



We're at the halfway mark in the A-to-Z and boy... it's nice to be here. It sounds so easy when you're in the cold of winter and the A-to-Z chatter begins and you're all yeah... I could TOTALLY get on that. The idea of blogging every single day is wonderful. I've never been able to do it otherwise and each year I join the A-to-Z with the hope that it will kick me in the pants and catapult my blogging habit into a more regular thing.

I'm at peace now with the fact that I this is an unlikely goal for me at this point in my life, and I only hope that when I am able to get on here and share something that you'll be entertained, or moved to share, or perhaps you'll learn something new or pick up a new book that I reviewed and liked.

Today I want to talk about

Manifestation
noun
1. a materialization of an idea into reality

http://stretchandbloom.com/manifesting-memento-poster/


Manifestation is HUGE. I follow this group called TUT.com and get daily emails from the Universe that help me stay mindful of their motto: Thoughts become things... so choose the good ones!

I think this is especially helpful for people who spend their time on creative endeavors. Writers create. Whether you're writing poetry, short stories, screenplays, lyrics, or books, you usually need some kernel of an idea before you begin. Where is this going? What am I trying to say? Why am I feeling compelled to write this?

Sometimes I find that when my mind goes all muddy, it's time to step back and think a while on the original kernel. It's good to think back on why you started. To delve in your mind and revisit that initial moment when passion struck and you got going on the project in question.

Are you aware of your power to manifest? 

Bonus M words for Writers: Mojo, Meaning, Motivation, Meditation.


26 Words Every Writer Needs: L #atozchallenge

Ah... the L day. This is one of my favorite things and I find, truly mind-changing. Sorry for missing my cue yesterday. But while I should have been blogging I was watching this cool video, which I am now sharing with you!

Laughter
noun
1. do you really need me to give you the definition? ;)

We've already established that writing is hard, and writing is slow, and writing can get you bogged down. It's a tough gig, yo!

http://www.ted.com/talks/shawn_achor_the_happy_secret_to_better_work
I saw this Ted talk yesterday that talked about Happiness and how we've all got it backward. It is truly exceptional and worth your minutes... check it out. In it, the gent talks about how setting goals and setting the happiness to be available only after that goal tricks the brain because the next goal is set and we never get there to that elusive place called Happiness. He also talks about a Baby Unicorn. So, there's that.

I think being happy is absolutely a choice. We're all dragged through the mud and we all need to take some time to live in the doldrums and experience the supreme pity party.  But then the time comes for happy again, and there's no better path to getting in that proper frame of mind than laughter.

Laughter relaxes the body. Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter releases endorphins. Laughter supports the heart. And those are just some of the physical benefits. It also eases anxiety, relieves stress, promotes teamwork, makes us more attractive to others. So... laugh it up, people. You'll be better off for it.

Bonus L Words For Writers: Long-view, Learning, Luck, Libations

Saturday, April 12, 2014

26 Words Every Writer Needs: K #atozchallenge

Knowledge
noun
1. acquaintance with facts, truths, or principles, as from study or investigation.
2. familiarity with a particular subject or branch of learning.

source: google images

Something interesting that happens with writers is the obscure and sometimes cringe-worthy things that must be researched in order to make sure the things being written are authentic. Ask a writer what bizarre factoid they've learned this week while researching, and I bet every one will have an answer. That, or they are now on the security watch list because they have been Googling poisons and methods of getting rid of a body. For weeks. Whatever you're writing, knowledge is the key to authenticity.

If you're writing thrillers, you might need to become an expert in ktenology (the science of putting people to death). Epic Fantasy writers might find the kylin (a Chinese mythical animal) useful. Dystopian writers might craft a world where the people are ruled by a kritarchy (a government by judges). Steampunk authors might be able to make use of a kinescope (a cathode ray tube for a television). And horror writers might devise a scenario where people are devoured by a bacteria that causes kraurosis (shriveling of the skin).

Kylin statue
The possibilities are truly endless when it comes to the worlds a writer might create, and the crazy things that inhabit them. And while actual experience with such things is not required, some knowledge, usually via research, is.

Bonus K words a writer needs: Kindness, Kinship, K.I.S.S. (keep it simple, stupid)

What's the weirdest thing you've ever had to research?

I've spent a lot of time researching witchcraft and magic. For my books, of course. ;)

Friday, April 11, 2014

26 Words Every Writer Needs: J #atozchallenge

“Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.” 
-Rita Mae Brown, Alma Mater

Judgment
noun
1. the ability to make a decision, or form an opinion objectively, authoritatively, and wisely, especially in matters affecting action; good sense.

Judgment from the Enchanted Tarot

When it comes to writing, there is usually a time when you will share your work with other people, writers and non, who will return their feedback to you. And if there is one thing that is hard to manage, it's feedback that feels at odds with your own view of your work. This is where judgment comes in.

Judgment from the Rider Waite Tarot

As the creator of your work, it is up to you to take or leave any critique or advice that comes your way. It isn't an easy call to make, because depending on the source of such feedback, you might give it a certain amount of weight that it may or may not deserve. How to know how many grains of salt you should apply to people's feedback is something I think that you learn as you go. The more confident you are in your work, (i.e. what your intention was writing something the way you chose to write it) the more readily you can make that decision.

Judgment from the Amanda F. Palmer Tarot

I hope you liked the peeks at a few of the Judgment cards from my tarot deck collection. Interestingly, the tarot card #20, Judgement, as it pertains to work and career, represents the resolution of inner and outer conflicts, marking the end of suffering and the start of improved conditions or consciousness through spiritual evolvement or self development, bringing new purpose, meaning, or motivation to your work.

Sounds like we could all use some of that!  It seems only fitting to close with a quote from Mr. Amanda Palmer himself:

“Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.”

-Neil Gaiman

What say you about the ability of a writer to have sound judgment? In critique as well as creation... 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

26 Words Every Writer Needs: I #atozchallenge

It's day 9 of the A to Z and that means... I!

This is one of my favorite things...


Intuition
noun
1. direct perception of truth, fact, etc., independent of any reasoning process. the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning.
2. keen, quick insight

Some people scoff at the notion that we are all intuitive. I believe that everyone is. How many times have you had a "gut feeling" about something, positive or negative that turned out to be right? When it comes to writing, I believe this comes into play quite often as you develop your story or as you allow your story to develop itself.

So many times I have worked on a scene in my novels and built a story around some aspect of the character's experiences, only to realize later that there was something much bigger going on. Perhaps it is symbolic, sometimes it is a greater truth that was scraping the surface. It's a marvelous thing to go back on your own work and discover something else taking place.

But when you've hit something just right, and you know it's the truth... those are the parts of writing that resonate because they're real. Those are the Universals. And sometimes you can't force that to come about. Sometimes those gems are the result of a quiet and reflective mind. I think it behooves a writer to sit and meditate on their work. The longer you let things bounce around in your head, the easier it is for your intuition to come out and play.

Bonus I words for writers: Ideas! Imagination, Inventiveness, Intestinal fortitude

Have you experiences Intuition at work in your writing and in your life?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

26 Words Every Writer Needs: H #atozchallenge

We're deep in week two of the A-to-Z Challenge and it's H time. People, stand back... today we have...a THREE-FER!!!  

*dun Dun DUNNNNNNN*

First, break out your chiffon and dance along to the song from Bonnie about something that every Writer (of stories) needs:



I have a multi-post today because I've focused so much on the writerly person so far, and wanted to keep doing so. But, we couldn't let H day go by without mentioning the big one:

Hero
noun
1. the principal character of a story, play, film, etc.
2. the bread or roll used in making a hero sandwich

If you're writing stories, you need a hero, folks. Plain and simple. Any while we all need definition #2, it is #1 that we're here to illuminate. Whether you're writing fiction or non-fiction, a play or a musical, we need to care about someone in order to want to stay tuned.

The other thing that every writer needs, IMHO is something I think holds true for humanity as well:

source: google images

Humility
noun
1. the quality or condition of being humble; modest opinion or estimate of one's own importance, rank, etc.

Nobody likes a braggardy boasty pants. Just don't do it. Think of our dear Albert...

source: google images

IMPORTANT - We interrupt this program to bring you a special report 
about something NOBODY NEEDS!

And now... dear people of the internet... we find ourselves in a sad state. In case you have not been watching the news, there is something happening that IMPACTS US ALL.  So, do yourself a favor, educate yourself on the OpenSSL Heartbleed bug, find out of your sites are fixed, and then change ALL of your passwords. Turns out the https: with the little locked padlock might not have actually been secret at all.

Not only was it discovered that this flaw is two years old, they also have NO IDEA if anyone exploited it.  So... take a minute and think about that. And then change all your passwords.




HACK
noun
1. omg no

This is not a joke. And just because your online stuff and your banking accounts haven't been compromised at this time doesn't mean some robot didn't snoop and save your login credentials in a database. So, please be safe. If you have verified it is safe, change your passwords.  Shout out to my friend K for the site-checker.


Bonus words every writer needs: Hugs, Help, Honesty, and Humor


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

26 Words Every Writer Needs: G #atozchallenge

“Generosity is giving more than you can, and pride is taking less than you need. ” 
Kahlil Gibran

It's already G day?  It's G day! G'day!


source: google

Generosity
noun
1. the quality of being kind and generous--showing a readiness to give more of something, as money or time, than is strictly necessary or expected.

This is a big one in my book. It's true in general but especially true for writers. From beta readers, to critique partners, to cheerleaders, to writing craft helpers, to someone who has had success  in some way, we all get by with a little help from our friends.

I can't count how many blogs and websites are there that are worth visiting over and again because the blog author is sharing insights. Writer's Digest Magazine awards the 101 Best annually. And I'm not just talking about industry professionals. There are many regular writerly people out there who share--not as an expert per se--but as someone with particular experience who felt there might be some use in sharing with those who will follow on their same path.

I've been on the receiving end so often in my writing life, which I continue to find invaluable to my work. I've also been on the giving end. You never know how your generosity (of time, spirit, advice, etc) will help someone else on their journey. I have found individuals who are so giving of their experience, and wisdom, successes, and failures...it never ceases to amaze me how very generous the writing community is. And I think it's a quality that everyone (writers and muggles) should have. 

Bonus G Words for Writers: Grit, Goodreads.com, Gumption

“You have not lived today until you have done something 
for someone who can never repay you.” 
John Bunyan


Have you given or received writerly generosity? 

Monday, April 7, 2014

26 Words Every Writer Needs: F #atozchallenge

“Whatever it takes to finish things, finish. You will learn more from a glorious failure than you ever will from something you never finished.” 
― Neil Gaiman

source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Everest

Today we're here to about something many writers struggle with.

Follow-through
noun
1. the ability to carry out fully, see something to completion.

There's definitely something to be said about finishing things. In fact, there's a lot of stuff that's already been said about it. Especially as it pertains to writing. Just google "finishing quotes" and you'll see what I mean. Incidentally, if you accidentally google "Finnish quotes" you might be equally enlightened:

Niin makaa, kuin petaa.

Translation: One sleeps like one makes his bed. Or, you reap what you sow.

There are many reasons why a writer might never finish their work. We rationalize procrastination, analyze everything, and make excuses and say that we need to give it one more revision, or just fix that one final thing. I know that I am still struggling with this on many levels. Not the completion so much anymore as the "calling it done". And that's all related to another F word, and a four-letter one at that: fear.  Admitting the problem is the first step, right? *ahh*

But truly, finishing your writing projects is so very important. The most important thing in writing, perhaps. Because unless you finish your work how will you ever be able to share it with the world? And the world is waiting for your story.

How do you get your work done? Is it a struggle to finish or are you like me and could spend an eternity in a forever-cycle of editing? It's an uphill battle because the work can *always* be improved... but calling it done. Seeing it through to the finish... that's something worth celebrating.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

26 Words Every Writer Needs: E #atozchallenge

Dear friends,

I find it is of utmost priority when interacting with your fellow writerly folks, nay!--the world, that you must comport yourself with the best of manners. While this might feel silly and overly "pc" as they say these days, it is still to your benefit to act in a way that shows you are aware of other people and proper writerly...

Etiquette
noun
1. conventional requirements as to social behavior.

source: http://dailyinfographic.com

We've already established that writing is a lonely business requiring Assiduity, Backbone, Community, and Drive. But, when you find yourself locked in your writing cave for weeks at a time with only the time stamp on your tweets to tell you if the sun is out or not, it can be easy to forget how to talk to people and connect with your writing community.

There are so many "what-not-to-do" blog posts out there, so I won't waste your precious reading time going over the rules... but suffice it to say that there are some people in the world who are oblivious, even to the most egregious errors.

People want to engage, so engage. Be nice. Share. Be generous. Don't overdo it. Don't be "on send" all the time where you forget to listen. Meet the members of your community and most of all... just like momma said, be yourself.

Lest you be accused of a different alphabet of distasteful items like: Asshattery, Boorishness, Churlishness, Dirty Dealing, or worse yet, Egomania. *gasp*

And so, in closing, lettuce remember our lesson from Dickens and practice some common sense as we strive to be model citizens on the interweb and beyond. Moderation in all things... unlike our Mr. Turvydrop here.


What's your internet etiquette peeve?  I find relentless self-promotion to be up there on the list. And I was once at a writers conference chatting with an agent when this writer guy in a mini-sombrero barged right between us, shoved his business card in the agent's hand, and told her to do herself a favor and check the first pages of his novel on his website. O_O That totally happened. I thought things like that were urban myth, like Bigfoot.

Happy Saturday!

Friday, April 4, 2014

26 Words Every Writer Needs: D #atozchallenge

TGIF! 

Today is day four of the A-to-Z and for this we spin the decoder and find ourselves on the letter D. I find it interesting that today at my house was spent reading, playing Pandemic 2.5 and 2048 head-to-head with one of my sons, napping, and working on a crochet blanket I've been meaning to finish. I did not spend even a moment working on my book.  *gasp*

What? How...? OMG does this mean.... 

Nah. Today was a scheduled vacay from the workish things. Which, I find, is sometimes needed in order to maintain your...

Drive
noun
24. an inner urge that stimulates activity or inhibition; a basic need
28. energy and initiative

A little gosling for you... a guy with drive who could drive! I liked!
Definitions 1-23, 25-27, 29-39 unrelated to today's discussion. 

Yesterday, we talked about how lonely writing can be. And some of you added some *very* important bonus words that were left off the list. Thank you!  

Writing can also be exhausting, trying, and, say it with me... s..l..o..w..  Someone once said that writing is revision. Editing is as important to writing as the actual writing, unless you're that one human who has been blessed with lovely and articulate first drafts loaded with perfect prose and concise ideas. (riiiiiiight)

So, what is one to do when one find oneself reading and working through the same pages for the umpteenth time wishing your eyes would fall out of your head so you wouldn't have to do it anymore? Tap into your drive. 

You can do it! You must! You totally got this! The world is waiting for your story. 

Got drive?

How do you maintain it your drive? For me, I find that days off here and there are valuable for the recharging of the intellectual batteries, and reading. Always reading. Wishing I was a speed reader. 

Bonus D words that every writer needs: Direction, Determination, Darlings (to kill), Draughts, and Dog-eared copies of your favorite books.