Monday, December 26, 2011

Maybe I should become regular?

And before you think I'm being TMI, rest assured that I mean posting on my blog, and not, you know, the other thing.

I need to come up with a game plan of topics to write about...52 of them, in fact, since I should - *should* - post once a week, on a set day. Even if nobody else is reading, it's a good exercise in meeting deadlines and forming dedicated writing habits.
The key, I believe, is to follow that famous rule: K.I.S.S. In my case, it'd be Keep It Short, Stupid. Or maybe it's Keep It Short & Sarcastic. That works too.

I think the only thing that doesn't work is the Feast or Famine method. I'm also not a fan of the Inundate the Reader method (which is where a post goes on for waaay too long and has no photos). I will try not to do either of those to you.

Do you have any goals for your blog for the coming year?

Have a fun New Year's if you're doing anything, and may 2012 be a fulfilling year for you!

"There is no such thing in anyone's life as an unimportant day." – Alexander Woolcott

Monday, December 19, 2011

NaNo Fail...again

Yes, I admit it. It was a bad idea after all.

Last year, my mother died at the end of October, so we had to fly to Vancouver where I helped my sister and dad deal with all the funeral arrangements and that pretty much messed up the rest of November.

No, doing NaNoWriMo wasn't the bad idea, although November tends to be one of the more busy months of the year in general. The bad idea was "bringing several aspects of my writing life together." That totally blew up in my face.

On the other hand, maybe the problem was really the bending the fabric of space-time. Maybe I rended the fabric instead. Besides, any SF aficionado knows that bad things always happen when you mess with space-time - whether bending, rending, or even ironing.

Whatever the cause, the outcome was editor-spit ugly.

The moral of the story is, at least for me: don't mix together several areas of my writing life. It's like cooking: unless you're Iron Chef Morimoto, you shouldn't try to create a dish with bear meat, agar-agar, and durian. When I say "you", I mean "me." I'd never dream of telling you what to do!

The other moral is: try Camp NaNo in June or August instead of the regular NaNo in November. Unless it's a bumper strawberry year for us, and I have to make enough jam for a small country, June is a pretty quiet month.

Did you do NaNoWriMo last month? Did you win? Will you do Camp NaNo?

"There is no such thing in anyone's life as an unimportant day." – Alexander Woolcott

Monday, December 5, 2011

GoodReads Giveaway: Dark Inspiration

It's your lucky day! Yup.

Russell James is giving away two copies of his terrific debut novel, Dark Inspiration on GoodReads! This is the novel that I couldn't put down, which hasn't  happened in a while.

Because I bought the ebook, I actually worked out on the treadmill carrying my MacBook since I was reading it via the Kindle App. I don't recommend exercising while holding your (expensive) computer, but it was so worth it!

Russell's giving hard copies of the book so you won't have to do what I did. Get to GoodReads and enter to win one of those copies!


"There is no such thing in anyone's life as an unimportant day." – Alexander Woolcott

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Want to have an Enchanted Conversation?

Once upon a time, Kate Wolford started a delightful online magazine called Enchanted Conversation for all of us fairytale lovers who had grown up but can't let go of our addiction (as proof, with some of my first money earned as an adult, I bought volumes by Hans Christian Anderson, the Brothers Grimm, and Andrew Lang...one of my personal favorites...and they grace my shelves as they had for the past 30 years).

Alas, Enchanted Conversation is closing its doors, but I have been incredibly lucky to be chosen to do a guest blog post. It's up right now! Go on, you know you wanna read it. It has food, childhood memories, fire hazards, brave hero gone nut-soid, his beautiful wife, and a couple of magical moon bunnies. Almost as exciting as The Princess Bride! Ok, not really, but it's a cute story if you like multicultural myths.  :)

I know many of us will miss Enchanted Conversation and the twists on fairy tales that it offered, but I wish Kate the best in her new venture, Nostalgia. Edited. and invite you to join her there where she has lots of fun things planned!

"There is no such thing in anyone's life as an unimportant day." – Alexander Woolcott

Saturday, November 19, 2011

How to inspire Teresa

...which is me, in case you hadn't noticed where you are on the internet.

While other writers may have muses, I have only my foggy brain and killer wit to inspire me. And probably not the latter either. I'm a writer; I make things up and think I'm funny.

So, this foggy brain o' mine is not exactly good at coming up with great ideas at a moment's notice. But thanks to my Spec-Fic critique group's slave-driving dedicated leader, Russell, I'm expected to produce a story for the group to critique once every seven weeks. Where the heck am I supposed to come up with that many stories a year?  Sure, I could edit some stories and re-submit to the group, but since I'm not writing novels, seeing the same short story more than three times in a year can get pretty boring.

What to do? What to do? While perusing my over-stuffed bookcases, I found this little gem:

So I flip through it, having no memory of buying it, and a lightbulb goes on! Heeey, I write Speculative Fiction; I should write a short story on every topic in that book. Perhaps in alphabetical order? 

It beats standing on street corners and panhandling for ideas, or trying to win the idea lottery.

I think I'm going to do it. I love giving myself challenges that make me pull my hair out. I know how to have fun!

What about you? If you write, how do you come up with ideas one after another?

"There is no such thing in anyone's life as an unimportant day." – Alexander Woolcott

Monday, November 7, 2011

Refreshing, rejuvenating, remarkable retreat

The only "re..." word that I can't use is "relaxing."

I just spent the weekend at a writers retreat offered by the Indiana chapter of SCBWI and my head is a-swimming. Kristi Valiant and Alina Klein did an incredible job organizing this event. I hadn't been to an SCBWI event in probably 6 or 7 years; I think I've been missing out.

There were roundtable discussions on doing revisions, marketing, and networking. There were also extremely helpful critique sessions - the critique group I was assigned to was nothing short of amazing and comprised of Alina, Julia Karr, and Christi Atherton.

While the work I turned in for this retreat was less than stellar, the group helped me re-think the story, and helped me split it into three different potential book ideas! Three for the price of one: how's that for getting my money's worth?

I settled on one of the potential ideas and have begun to work on it. These lovely and talented ladies promised me they'd critique a couple of chapters for me when I have those done, even though they're no longer bound to help me. I am one lucky gal, and I look forward to many, many years of friendship with them.

But now, it's back to *real* writing.

If you're a writer and haven't gone to a retreat or conference, I heartily recommend saving the money to attend one!

p.s. yes, I am totally lame and didn't take a single photo even though we were staying at a pretty state park.


"There is no such thing in anyone's life as an unimportant day." – Alexander Woolcott

Sunday, October 30, 2011

It can't be NaNoWriMo time already?!

As a couple of Facebook friends said, "it isn't possibly November yet." Where did the year go? Last year at this time, we were in Vancouver busy with my mother's funeral. I wrote a total of a few hundred words for NaNoWriMo before giving up and giving in to grief and stress.

I've been doing NaNo since 2007, and have never planned a story for it (in the spirit of the original NaNo...read founder Chris Baty's No Plot? No Problem! book to know what I mean), but this year I am going to bend the fabric of space-time and bring several aspects of my writing life together and work on a story I have already partially planned out.  Being a purist never was very useful unless the only thing you want to accomplish is feeling smug. And being smug never paid the bills.

If you feel like you have a novel in you, join me in NaNo! I'm "writer64" there if you want to be my buddy. Don't forget to stock up on the caffeine of your choice!


"There is no such thing in anyone's life as an unimportant day." – Alexander Woolcott

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Post 26 ~ In which Teresa changes her mind yet again

Yes, I have a special fondness for A.A. Milne's lovely Winnie the Pooh books.

I see it's been an entire month since I said something on this blog. It's not my fault; it was the Woozles' fault. No, wait; it is my fault. Isn't there a blame fairy who can wave a wand and absolve me?

Although I'm not so deluded as to think that there's anyone actually waiting for me to post something (I had 6+ years to build up a following in my other blog and nobody's there waiting for me to post anything either), if anyone is really dying to read something from me, s/he can always hop over to my regular blog http://homesteadnotes.blogspot.com/ that I actually update more than once a month. It has nothing to do writing or art, although it does have a lot to do with the other equally important things in my life, such as what to name our tractor.

But what is my change of mind? Well, I've thought about it for a while now (nearly three freakin' months), and decided that you don't need, and probably don't want, to hear my opinions on different writers and agents' blogs. I'll bring up ones I come across and love as I come across them. If I don't love them, I won't bring them up. Simple!

However, I think any good blog/website needs to "give" something to readers, whether it be killer content - Nathan Bransford's blog is a fine example of this - or in-depth and specific useful content, such as Jim Kelly's website where he analyzes his writing for would-be writers.

I just don't know yet what I can give the readers that is unique and desirable. I've decided, of course, that it wasn't blog/website reviews. So, what now?  Maybe you can tell me? What would you like to see here?

Just to remind myself that life is not all about wringing my hands and writing-fails, I want to mention that I won another haiku contest from WildBird Magazine on Twitter:
It's a terrific addition to our huge collection of bird guides.  Go follow editor Amy if you're on Twitter and like birds or fun writing contests.  :)


"There is no such thing in anyone's life as an unimportant day." – Alexander Woolcott

Friday, September 23, 2011

Hooray for my critique group!

Because I'm pathetic (and swamped...homeschooling does take up time), I still haven't gotten around to writing my first blog review.

But, I think it's much more exciting to talk about my Spec-Fic critique group's success!  Paul has a beautiful short story up at Yesteryear Fiction - hurry to read it; it's only up for a couple more days.  And Russell's horror novel, Dark Inspiration, is available for pre-order at Amazon.


"There is no such thing in anyone's life as an unimportant day." – Alexander Woolcott

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Ceci n'est pas une "post"

Just wanted to sneak in that I won a little haiku contest on Twitter offered by the good folks at Wild Bird Magazine.  :)  Got me a nifty book called "Cooking With Birds"!


"There is no such thing in anyone's life as an unimportant day." – Alexander Woolcott

Thursday, September 1, 2011

How the heck did I get so busy?

It's a good busy though, mostly: I'm doing a lot of writing and editing/critiquing! I'll be going to the IN-SCBWI's November retreat, and need to get a synopsis done and some pages written (and written reasonably well). This, of course, on top of the regular stuff for my two critique groups.

While we homeschool year-round, we do start up certain things come September. I'm freaking out a little at the thought of running high school chemistry labs with my older son. Plus, nobody told me I had to play counselor in addition to facilitator. Ack!

If you're looking for something a bit more interesting to read than my panicked paragraphs above, you can head over to my regular blog (I say that as though this blog doesn't get enough fiber, or fibre as the Canadian part of me want to write) and read about pasta-making!

Oh, who am I kidding? The three two people who read this blog already read my other blog...so never mind. Carry on until I can finally get to some decent content, like blog-reviews. :)

"There is no such thing in anyone's life as an unimportant day." – Alexander Woolcott

Friday, August 19, 2011

Life gets in the way

...and doesn't even bother signaling. 

The plan was to post a blog review, or at least another blog post, before this much time had elapsed.  However, a relative - one of hubby's uncles who was always very good to us - passed away, so we tidied up affairs at home in a hurry and drove out to the east coast for the visitation service.  While we were out that way, we also stopped in to see one of our other favorite relatives, an aunt and uncle who live in the lovely town of Frostburg in western Maryland.  

As my sister joked, the only time one gets to catch up with the distant cousins and other not-so-close relatives is at funerals and weddings.  It's a sad truism, I'm afraid, with families being scattered all over the country and globe these days.

So, the blog review has to wait because I've also missed out on the amazing WriteOnCon and I want to go catch up on the events from the past week.  :}

In the meantime, there's an interesting article from Writer's Digest on whether you should post your novel online for free.  My SF critique group has discussed this before. It's always interesting to read more perspectives on it. 

"There is no such thing in anyone's life as an unimportant day." – Alexander Woolcott

Monday, August 8, 2011

NPR's Vote for Top 100 Sci-Fi and Fantasy Titles

My plans for procuring a MacBook Air has been thwarted for now, but I've downloaded the Kindle to the Netbook in the meantime, and have been loving it!  I've started reading Michaela Roessner's Walkabout Woman on it, and am looking forward to other e-books (that I'll talk about as the time comes).

But, hey! Did you hear about NPR's Vote for Top 100 Science Fiction, Fantasy Titles piece?  I've voted for my favorites (hello, Asimov and Willis!), and urge you to give a nod to your favorite authors and books.  :)

I'd love to know who your favorite authors are!

Next up, I hope: my first blog review...


"There is no such thing in anyone's life as an unimportant day." – Alexander Woolcott

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Blogger hiccup

In the process of changing my background, somehow it seems that all the comments made on my posts have been deleted.  Wacky.

"There is no such thing in anyone's life as an unimportant day." – Alexander Woolcott

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Planning ahead

I confess that planning is not my forte. My mom never gave me the organization gene; I got my dad's flakiness instead.  If I didn't have an external deadline to light a fire under my butt, I'd probably never accomplish anything.

However, it's never too late to teach this old dog new strategies, so I hope to train myself to plan ahead to do more interesting posts on this blog. For example, I hope to share and review blogs and websites that might be useful to writers and artists.

And now that I've worn my plan on my sleeve (please don't hate me for making jokes of metaphors...my favorite one is from a fellow ESLer who liked to say "get my sh*t in a row"...you know I mean you, JF), I'll have the 3 people who read my blog to shame me if I don't do as I say.

Anyhoos, here's something for the crafters - no reviews yet; my brain is not back from vacation - I don't sell on Etsy (anymore), but this is a terrific article for all those who want to be the next huge Etsy discovery:
6 Etsy Tips for Beginners
Hmmm, maybe I should try and sell these babies now that I'm done putting on the earring hooks (photo take pre-hooks)...
Do you make crafts? Do you sell your creations or do you just craft so that you keep your hands from strangling people instead? Oh, am I projecting? Share your link if you have a shop so I can check it out!

"There is no such thing in anyone's life as an unimportant day." – Alexander Woolcott

Sunday, June 26, 2011

What does summer mean?

Summer means that your portion of the Earth's hemisphere is tilted toward the sun.

Summer means saying good-bye to a long time friend who has been with my husband's department since before we had our first child.  I made her a necklace to remember us, and southern Indiana, by.  The geode was found on our property.  We'll miss Elaine very much.
Summer means lots of good reading.  The list from Nancy Pearl on NPR looks fun!

And Summer means taking a break, so I'm going to enjoy a glorious blogging and Facebook break...in honor of summer, of course, and not because I'm lazy!  (OK, I am kind of lazy.)

What does Summer mean to you and are you enjoying it?

“There is no such thing in anyone’s life as an unimportant day.”Alexander Woolcott

Sunday, June 19, 2011

I want to be funny!

Funny funny, not strange funny...although that's not such a bad thing either. I want to write humor like this:
Could go well with my speculative fiction bent, don't you think?  Maybe I want to be the next Terry Pratchett when I grow up.  It's too late to become the next hot supermodel (hot supermodels don't usually carry AARP memberships) so I'll have to rely on my wits instead.

Oh, I am so doomed.

But, hey, I finally submitted a story! I've only submitted one other story in the past 7 years - and that got a lovely rejection letter.  And I have another story almost ready to submit.  Yay me! Maybe I can finally erase the big S (for Slacker) off my forehead. 

Totally unrelated, because that's just the kind of ADD person I am, sometimes, I have a hankering for Roxy Music, and then I crave me some More Than This.  That song brings me back and always has such a lovely, magical feel. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Other people's good news

Just wanted to give a shout-out to some very talented folks:

Firstly, the amazing Paula Yoo has her novel, Good Enough, out in paperback today!  I've started reading it and have been alternating between giggling my head off and nodding in agreement to some of the things she says about being the Perfect Korean Daughter (a lot of what she says applies to being a first gen Chinese immigrant too).

Secondly, the captain of my spec-fic critique group, Russell, has a horror novel in the works - it's been bought by a publisher and has a killer cover art!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Distracted much?

I've self-diagnosed as ADD.  No, I'm not a psychiatrist, but I bet I could play one on TV!

Been busy trying to put the finishing touches on a story to be submitted to Nightfall, but have been distracted by too many other things: email replies to friends (long overdue emails), reconciling the checkbook, working on the homeschooling and the charitable donations budgets, doing labs with my younger son, planning for homeschooling in new school year (we homeschool year-round, so it's not a huge deal, but having a road-map of where we want to go and how we want to get there is still a good idea), etc, etc.

Really, though, I need to concentrate on the story first. One day, soon, I hope to have something to crow about on the writing front again so I can compete with our stupid rooster...crowing, that is, not writing.
In the meantime, here are some interesting articles I came across. Did you know that over a third of students entering college need remedial help? That's just sad. Hubby already knew it, I'm sure, since he teaches at a university, but it spurs me to work hard to make sure our kids are well-prepared for higher ed (plus know their gardening and survival skills so that they're not purely studious).

And related to my trying to budget, The Simple Dollar has a terrific article. Most of his articles are really good, of course, but some are more poignant and relevant to me than others.

Ok, back to writing...

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Varied interests - too many

I love that in an email from Amazon, the books that were recommended to me ranged from Principles of Electrodynamics to The Complete Photo Guide to Crochet to Soldering Made Simple.  But, sometimes, more and more often as I age, I feel like that little Neanderthal kid in a Far Side cartoon who raised his hand in the classroom of modern humans and asked to be excused because his brain was full.  Ouch.

Speaking of too many things, I've simplified my life somewhat, giving up all my soaping paraphernalia to my sister (as I mentioned in my other blog).  My sis is very happy to try her hand at a new biz.  Her husband is happy that she's doing something she's enthused about and isn't stuck in her old miserable job anymore.  My husband is happy that I've gotten rid of one hobby and all the equipment that went with it.  And I'm happy that I now only have 14 instead of 15 things I split my time doing.

Really, I just want to focus on my writing right now.  With two terrific critique groups to guide me and cheer me on, I would be remiss if I didn't re-start my writing career.  I hope to be as prolific as our asparagus plants!
 Still, I can't focus on just one thing (because I'm ADD, I swear), so I hope to continue sketching, and I need to get a thumbnail sketch to my dear friend Michelle for a piece of art I promised to do for her! 

In case anyone else wants to do art too, here's a fun project: Drawing Day!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A wonderful new blog!

My speculative fiction critique buddy, Kelly, recently started a new blog, and I don't think I'm being biased when I say that it is one terrific blog.  She has lots of wonderful ideas planned for it, and I am looking forward to them all!  Check it out at Welcome to KapeHorn!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Picture books, here I come!

So Paula tells me that I don't have to write 7 stories; I only need to try writing 7 stories.  ;)  And she put in so many smiley faces that I was convinced.  So, I will give it a go.  I do need something for my next SCBWI critique group meeting, after all.

If you have ever had a hankering to write a picture book story, or seven, I would say do it, do it, do it!  Keep me company!  Go to http://paulayoo.com/ and sign up so you'll have a chance to win fun prizes.  Don't forget to  follow Paula ( http://twitter.com/paulayoo ) and her cute cat Oreo ( http://twitter.com/oreothecatyoo ) on Twitter like I do!

Friday, April 29, 2011

NaPiBoWriWee?!

The funny and talented Paula Yoo has been running the National Picture Book Writing Week since 2009, in the spirit of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).  The goal, in her own words, is
"To write 7 picture books in 7 days."

I've been wanting to try this for a couple of years now, but it didn't work out last year and I'm not sure it will this year either as my favorite sister (it's ok; she's my only sister so nobody gets jealous) will be here for a visit, arriving in the middle of the week.

But you never know. My insanity could take over and I might do it just to prove that I can.  Besides, Paula has generously offered some tempting prizes! 

I would also totally do it if someone dared me to.  ;)

Friday, April 15, 2011

My neglected hobby

I haven't had much time to make soaps lately, but this was my attempt over the holidays to make a "Candy Cane" soap. The smell was amazing...like a real candy cane, but better!
I need to make some time to make more soaps...maybe when my sister is visiting. Can't wait!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A good book is not hard to find

...unlike the hypothetical "good man". Here are some of my recommendations on how-to write books .

The first few are for those who want to pen children's lit:This is a general book that I remember being very good (it's been a number of years since I read it):
Ah, and grammar books - I have, and love, Strunk & White, of course, but these are my current favorites:
This next book I got from the library but I intend to buy a copy because any book that talks about how "anxious" is different from "eager" gets an enthusiastic thumbs-up from me!
Sherrie in my SCBWI critique group recommended this; while not as funny as the above two, it looks to be an excellent book:
The last couple are for the science fiction writers and fans. Feeling Very Strange is not really instructional although the intro is enlightening as it tries to define slipstream, and the stories are terrific reads:
This one is put forth by the editors of Asimov's Science Fiction magazine; I don't think I need to say more. :)
Do you have favorite writing books? Please share!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Critique groups - like your second family

I'm a lucky, lucky gal.

For years, I worked alone in my writing. Occasionally, I would let hubby read my manuscripts before I sent them off to a publisher, but mostly, I proof-read my own work and then it was all between me and the editor (and all those wonderful, hard-working interns and first readers in between, of course). It worked well enough for the short, sweet poetry I wrote for children.

But, times change, things change, and I guess I, too, change. I now belong to, not one, but two (count 'em) critique groups! Neither is my doing, of course. Left to my own devices, I'd still be writing alone...or not writing at all, as had been the case the past few years. As Dora Goss mentioned in her author's reading at ICFA, writing is one thing that nobody will ever make you do, and too often, I let other things in my life take over when I should be writing.

The first critique group I got involved with is one with fellow SCBWI members - two truly lovely ladies, Sherry and Jo. If it weren't for the persistence of Sherry in persuading me to join them, I'd not be inspired to give writing for children another go after a 6 or 7 year hiatus. Our backgrounds are different, but we get along great, as though we've been long time friends. I hope our group will continue for many, many years.

The second group I'm involved with came about with the efforts of a classmate of mine from both the SFI and SFII class from Gotham Writers' Workshop. Russell helms the group as the fearless Skipper and we're the hopeful writer-castaways on the island of Creating/Editing...or something like that. I also hope that this group will last a long time - as long as Gilligan and his compatriots were on the island.

Now that I'm with these two groups, I can't imagine how I once worked alone. I've not submitted anything to be looked over in the SCBWI group yet, but I have been critiqued by the SF crew in one or both of my classes and they are one skilled bunch of writers who provide exceptional feedback.

And also now that I'm with these groups, I can heartily recommend joining a critique group to other writers. They'll provide you with the tough love and some gentle hand-holding that good friends or family would. I wish you as much success in finding one that you click with as I have had!

Friday, March 25, 2011

ICFA, baby!

Thanks to the urging of my amazing teacher, Michaela Roessner, from the Gotham Writers' Workshop SFII class, and the fortuitous timing of hubby's Spring Break week, I attended my first ever ICFA!

To say it was an incredible experience would be like saying that da Vinci was pretty good at drawing. I hadn't had this much fun since Europe '86, plus, bonus, I didn't have to watch for Chernobyl produce. This conference, on the awesome scale (and I do mean awe-inspiring, not the recent bastardization of the word), beats out even the SCBWI one when I met Jane Yolen or the other SCBWI one when I won a door prize.

At the ICFA, some of the ├╝ber talented - and friendly - authors I got to meet include Connie Willis, Terry Bisson, James Patrick Kelly, John Kessel, Ted Chiang, F. Brett Cox, Jeanne Beckwith, Theodora Goss, and the two lovely people who took me under their wings and showed me around, Andy Duncan and his wife, Sydney Duncan.

Other writers I had the pleasure to see briefly were David Lunde, Jay Lake, Rachel Swirsky, Peter Straub, Ellen Klages, Eileen Gunn, Nalo Hopkinson, Kathleen Goonan, Owl Goingback, Lisa Rowe Fraustino, and Mike Allen.

One of the highlights was attending the Guest of Honor panel: from left to right - Andy Duncan, Andrea Hairston, Connie Willis, and Terry Bisson (not shown: a certain harmonica-playing raccoon)
The camera's flash appeared not to have remembered to turn itself on, so I apologize for the darkness of the photo.

While I still want to go to one of the Cons one day, I'm really glad that this was the first SF conference I attended since it combines SF with academia, a setting I'm more familiar with through hubby.

But just so you don't think I'm all about SF and writing, here's a gratuitous shot of one of my favorite things: food (because, really, I'm all about food)! These are the famous UBC cheese scones; I made them yesterday for lunch, and they are perfect with the jalapeno jelly that my friend Robin gave us.