Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Why I Love Me Some Google

Allow me to introduce you to my brand new favorite technological doohickey: Google Calendar.

Before you say anything, yes, yes, I know--I'm the last kid on the block to take advantage of this small-time wonder. Let me have my fun. It's neat, okay?

For those of you who are like me and have dwelt in ignorance for far too long, let me explain. Google Calendar essentially does what most of us did on our own, but makes it look much cooler. Meaning, it takes the "Monthly" page from those old-fashioned planners you find at Office Max (which are so last millennium, by the way), and allows you to customize it to fit your needs. You can add events that can occur once, twice or even weekly or daily--all at the touch of a button. No more handwriting those monthly office meeting dates over and over again, kiddos! With Google Calendar, you just enter in the information one time, and it's all done for you.

And here's my absolute favoritest favorite part: You can have multiple calendars side-by-side and color-coordinate all of them to tell them apart! Eeeek! Back in my perfectionist high-school days, I used to color-coordinate everything in my planner just like this, except I used highlighters and multicolored pens. Oh, but this is so much better! Sheer awesomeness.

While I still use my regular planner for my day-to-day scheduling, Google Calendar is great for helping me establish and maintain certain routines (i.e., taking daily walks with the hubby or setting aside regular writing time), which is exactly why I find it so ingenious. I'm a tad embarrassed to say it, but I'm actually looking for things to schedule into the calendar now just because it looks so darn cute. We'll see if I still feel this way a month from now. Perhaps it won't help me become more organized at all. For the time being, however, I plan to revel in the novelty of yet another web application.

Time to share now, boys and girls. How do you keep your crazy schedules straight? Any technology involved? Or, are you still searching to find a method to the madness?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

And Now, For Your Viewing Pleasure...

Hey there, all! Well, as I said in the last post, I've been working hard all week. I'm quite sleepy, so I'm turning in early tonight. Here are some clips of writing advice for you to check out, spoken by some of the greatest writers of our time. Enjoy!

First, the legendary Ray Bradbury:

Next, whether you love him or hate him Stephenie Meyer fans, you gotta admit Stephen King knows a thing or two. And don't you just love the tie-dye shirt?

Lastly, critically acclaimed author Joyce Carol Oates talks about creating characters:

Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Brief Hiatus/POV Concerns

Gracious! Has it already been a week since my last post? Wow. I've been working on several newspaper articles lately, and I have one more piece to finish before the end of the week. Between the research, interviewing and the writing itself, I'm keeping quite busy. Not that I'm complaining. Quite the contrary. These days, I'm grateful for whatever work I can get.

Anyway, today I thought I'd pose a question to you all about my current WIP. As I've mentioned before, it's a YA sci-fi novel tentatively titled, The Shifter Files, and I'm totally and completely psyched about it. As much as superhero stories have been done to death, I'm hoping to tell the same ol' yarn in a fresh, exciting way. Most of the characters are still pretty sketchy, but they have the potential to be really dynamic. I just need to flesh them out...a lot.

Therein lies the problem. See, the other day I came across this post by YA author Dawn Metcalf (via Super Agent Janet Reid's blog). Metcalf doesn't mince words when it comes to her dislike of first-person narrative, despite the fact that it's practically the standard point-of-view in YA fiction. And yet, she goes on to sing the praises of Avery Cates, the narrator and protagonist in Jeff Somers' The Electric Church. Here's an interesting snippet from her comments:

"...there is no question in my mind that Avery Cates is not “redeemable” – he will continue to kill people, he will still make bad choices, and he will continue to do horrific things in order to keep himself alive and I’ll still want to read what happens to him...I can empathize with Avery Cates (even though I’d never want to meet an Avery Cates!) but it’s not because I can sympathize with him; it’s because in the pages of Somers’ book, I am Avery Cates."

That got me thinking--well, perhaps I should say worried--about how I'm handling TSF. I adore my heroine. She's tough, she resourceful and she doesn't think twice about shooting her mouth off at shapeshifting terrorists. She's a heck of a lot cooler than I am. So when the idea for TSF first popped into my head, my first instinct was to tell the story from her perspective. And it worked well...in the beginning.

Problem is, the further I get into the story, the more I find myself wanting to pull out of her head and take a bird's-eye view of everything. I feel like I'm losing my heroine's voice. Like Avery Cates, she's an assassin, and sometimes I wonder if the impartial, observatory tone of third-person would be a better fit for the story. On the other hand, I'm nowhere near finished developing her yet. It could be that the reason I'm struggling with her voice is because I simply don't know her well enough yet.

I'm halfway through the story right now, so I feel the need to choose one way or the other. I'd hate to discover that I was using the wrong point-of-view the entire time and have to completely rewrite it.

What do you ladies and gents think? Any thoughts? Suggestions? How do you determine which point-of-view to use in your stories?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Know What Publication By Omission Is? Join The Debate!

Yesterday, the fabulous Moonrat over at Editorial Ass posed some questions that desperately needed asking about racism in the publishing industry. Here's the link: Editorial Ass: Publishing by Omission (or, Fighting Racism from Your Very Own Nightstand!) She explains it far more eloquently than I can, but the crux of her argument is that racism in publishing--as it is in most other industries today--occurs not with blatant attacks, but by the more insidious, subtle act of omission. In other words, projects from writers of color are systematically rejected in favor of more "marketable" work from white writers.

Here's my favorite quote from the post:

Writers of color aren't disadvantaged, per se; it's just that white authors are very, very advantaged. You know. No one's trying to be mean. (Or, at least, most people aren't.)

Personally, I think Moonrat's logic is spot-on, and she would know--she works in the industry, folks! But, as the guy from Reading Rainbow says, "You don't have to take my word for it!" Read the post and decide for yourself. Once you're done, don't be afraid to give feedback in the comments section. If Moonrat is right, what the heck are we all supposed to do about this?

I've been following the discussion since the post was first published, and I'm amazed at how insightful and (remarkably) respectful it has been. I'm learning a great deal from other writers' comments--even ones I strongly disagree with--and that's what makes these type of discussions so fascinating to me. I'm thrilled that we can still have a candid conversation about a difficult topic like racism without us biting each other's heads off.

Believe it or not, I'm convinced this is something every writer needs to think about, regardless of your race. The landscape of this country is changing. The election of President Obama was just the beginning. Experts say that by the year 2050, minorities will be the majority race in the U.S. Our world is more interconnected than ever before. As writers, we need to figure out how we're going to deal with these changes and whether or not they should affect our work. We can't afford to write 20th century stories in a 21st century world.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

25 Reasons Why You're Stuck In The Slush Pile

Between blogging, novel writing and freelance projects, I don't have much time for reading online magazines, much less submitting to them. However, after reading Douglas A. Van Belle's essay via Colleen Lindsay on Twitter (who got the link from spec writer Brandon Bell), I just might have to subscribe to Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine.

It is, without a doubt, one of the greatest essays on the craft of writing I've ever read. Seriously. It's freakin' brilliant. Every writer should have a copy of it bookmarked under their favorite websites and refer to it at least once a month. I'm quite certain that at least 90 percent of the writing population suffers from at least five or six (or ten) of the 25 ailments listed, if not all of them. I know for a fact that I'm totally guilty of Problems #1, 2, 10, 11, 12...um, let's just say I have a lot of work to do.

Anyway. Read it. Think about it. Did Van Belle hit the mark, miss it completely or something in between? Why do YOU think most writers never leave the slush pile? We'll go ahead and eliminate not following directions, since I've already written a post about that. Let the discussion begin!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Need To Save Money? Use Salt!

Okay, I know this post has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with writing, but I couldn't resist. I love to share fun stuff I come across on the Web, whether it be news briefs, cool videos or the occasional bloggy rant. I think it breaks up the monotony, keeps things fresh. Don't you agree?

Anyway, since everyone's broke right now (I know I am!), we're all on the lookout for interesting, inventive ways to save money, especially if it means using things we already have at home. A great example of that is this article I found on the website Planet Green. It gives some great suggestions for ways to use salt around your house. Check it out.

Table salt?! Can you believe it? Who knew salt could do more than just increase your blood pressure? What I love most about this article is that everyone has it. It's not like energy-efficient appliances, where you have to spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars upfront in order to save more in the long run. Nope, this is all about my new favorite word: FREE.

And who doesn't like the word free these days?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Proof That There Is Truth In Jest

If this doesn't cheer you up, there's something wrong with you. I had tears in my eyes from laughing so hard, even after seeing it multiple times.

The next time you want to complain about the economy, just think to yourself, "At least I don't have a rotary phone."

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Time For Some Spring Cleaning!

Yay! Spring officially begins this month, although in most parts of the country, the weather doesn't seem to have gotten the memo:

Still, you know what they say: "March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb." Let's hope it happens that way this year!

In honor of the changing seasons, I'm doing a bit of spring cleaning--starting with this blog! Those of you who have been with me for a while will notice that I've given it quite a face lift. While I always liked the old design, this one feels a bit more like me--colorful, quirky and a little whimsical. So what do you think? Is it a keeper? Let me know your thoughts!

I think you'll be happy to know that the blog's outward appearance is only one of the changes I have planned for this month. I'd like to add more features that will make it more interactive, more informative, and hopefully, more fun for you to visit! But to do that, I need your feedback.

So over the course of the next week or so, I'll be asking a lot of questions to get a feel for what you like about this blog and what you think should be done differently. You guys and gals are the lifesblood of this place; you're what makes it a great spot to hang out, and your comments and suggestions are what will take it to the next level.

I've had a few new followers over the last couple of days, so if you're new to the party--welcome! I'm glad to have you and I hope to make this the kind of blog you look forward to reading every day.