Friday, February 26, 2010

A Writer's Best Friend

As I pulled out The Synonym Finder for the umpteenth time yesterday, I thought about an article I wrote a while back for EzineArticles called A Book Reviewer's Best Friend - The Synonym Finder.

I wrote - "Whether you're writing a novel, a non-fiction article or a book review you want to make your point and keep the reader's interest. Using the same hackneyed expressions is one sure way to lose them. Unfortunately, that happens a lot in book reviews. The same words keep turning up time after time.

Grab a copy of J.I. Rodale's The Synonym Finder. Look up the word intriguing and you'll find: interesting, absorbing, appealing, fascinating, stimulating, arousing, stirring, exciting, beguiling, diverting, charming, captivating, seductive, engaging, inviting and winning."

At the time, I was thinking mostly about book reviews but I find I'm using The Synonym Finder more than ever. If you write, you know how agonizing it can be to find the right word, the one that delivers the exact meaning you want to convey.

"If you do any kind of writing, this book, or a thesaurus, is absolutely vital, indispensible, essential, compulsory and a necessity."

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Great Expectations

How do you deal with friends and relatives when your books are released? Do you give them free copies? If so, do you expect reviews? Do you get them?

When I started writing, I had three short stories published in the
CUP OF COMFORT anthologies. Needless to say I was excited and thrilled to be a paid writer. In addition, the publisher provided one free copy and the option to buy more at a discount in the event I wanted to sell them myself. I bought more copies but I didn't sell them. I gave them to family and friends because I was newly published, looking for exposure and hoping for a few favorable reviews on Amazon.

Everyone loved the stories - at least that's what they told me. Every day I checked Amazon and every day there were no reviews. Finally, I resorted to asking for reviews, then begging, cajoling and finally demanding. My husband, kids and a few friends finally posted their comments - uniformly good, and hopefully honest.

But what was the problem? I gave them a free book. Did I expect too much just because I provided a copy? If they really liked the story, why were they hesitant to review it? Are people just too busy these days to think about giving a friend a review? Or do they think writers get umpteen free copies to distribute?

What do you think?

Monday, February 22, 2010

...just another Manic Monday

It's wonderful to wake up on a Monday morning and not be miserable. To start the week in a good frame of mind and ready to tackle whatever may come.

It wasn't always like this. A year ago I hated Mondays. I know I'm not the only one. Facebook even has a group called "I Hate Mondays." It has 13,567 members.

But I hated Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays as well. Even Sunday was miserable because I knew I had to go to work the next day. The only day I really liked was Saturday. Did I mention I hated my job? Twenty-six years of government bureaucracy and red tape takes its toll. And I was bored - ready to bust out of cubicle hell. I did the happy dance when I retired - in fact I'm still doing it.

BTW, I came up with a working title for the new book and had a productive weekend so I updated my progress meter.

It's wonderful to do something you love. It's Monday and I can't wait to get started.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Getting Serious About Setting Goals

I've been thinking a lot about setting goals - maybe too much thinking and not enough doing. A little less contemplating, a little more writing, and maybe I'll achieve some of them.

I'm good at making lists. As each task is accomplished I check it off and I manage to get quite a bit done. But I'm not hitting the mark with my writing and I couldn't figure out why. Everyone says that setting goals works and I know exactly how many words I want for my new book. When I started National Novel Writing Month in November 2009, I had no problem making my goal of 50,000 words. Ah, then it hit me. When I did NaNoWriMo I put my progress out there for everyone to see and it kept me motivated. Plus, I had a measurable, time-targeted objective. Sure, I know I want 60,000 words, but I never did set a time for completion.

So here it is. I already have 18,234 words and a pretty good idea of where the story is going. I think I can wrap it up by March 31, 2010. Now that I have my target time, I've added a word tracker to my blog to motivate me. The nifty little widget in my sidebar is compliments of Writertopia. As of today, my book is untitled, so I'm calling this little gadget BOOK TWO - MY PROGRESS. If you see it's not moving please feel free to beat up on me.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

You Get Under My Skin

In 2005 when The Franklin Institute hosted the original Body Worlds exhibit, I missed it. Now it's back in Philadelphia and today I got my chance to see it. All I can say is wow! It's awesome.

BODY WORLDS 2 & The Brain is an exhibition of real human bodies that has traveled all over the world; this particular exhibit focuses on the latest findings on brain development and function. The bodies are posed in lifelike, dramatic scenes. There are healthy and unhealthy organs, body slices, a dissection of the nervous system and much more.

The specimens are all preserved through a remarkable process called Plastination. Gunther von Hagens invented the technique in the 1970's at the University of Heidelberg. Body Worlds, and Von Hagens himself, were featured in the 2006 film Casino Royale. One of the exhibits was a Poker Playing Trio (not in this exhibit).

At first, the purpose of Plastination was purely scientific to educate medical students but there was so much interest from laypeople that he was inspired to create public exhibitions, but with a heightened sense of aesthetics to capture the imagination. People have donated their bodies, allowing us to be educated about health and anatomy. It's a great way to gain a better understanding of the human body.
The video below is not of the exhibit I saw today, but it's close enough to get a good idea of what you would see.

Monday, February 15, 2010

So many books, so little time...

Today I'm thinking about time and lack of it.

I've always been an avid reader and I've been writing book reviews for several years now, both for RT Book Reviews and on my other blog
Notes from Camp Swampy.

BTW, if you visit
Camp Swampy today you can find out about C.J. West's book tour. He has a book release next month - Gretchen Greene, the third book in the Randy Black series. I reviewed Sin & Vengeance last year. Loved it!

Anyway, I started off this morning thinking about books and reviews and how little time there is for reading these days. I have a To Be Read stack that you would not believe. And I usually read 2 or 3 books at a time. And I go to bed no earlier than 1am.

So how do you find time to read?

"A house without books is like a room without windows."
— Horace Mann

Friday, February 12, 2010

Getting Kozy with KompoZer

Now I've gone and done it - thrown my back out of whack, that is. Yesterday I lifted one shovel full too many and felt something go pop. Using my shovel as a cane, I hobbled back into the house and faced the fact that I'm not as young as I used to be.

There is an upside to all this - I'm stuck in the house. Some people might not consider that good news but I'm taking advantage of it. Besides writing, reading and critiques I decided to start working on the new website.

Many years back when I created a website for the day job I used an html editor called Homesite. I upgraded it every year, at my own expense, and spent hours trying to get the look I wanted with html or Hyper Text Markup Language.

Things got easier along the way. I created my own
website on Verizon. They provided me with Site Builder, a WYSIWYG tool - What You See Is What You Get. Now that I have my own domain, it's time to create a new website. Yahoo provides a WYSIWYG editor and templates. Quick and easy, but I couldn't get the look I wanted. I dug out my old Homesite disks and installed the program. Still works great but I've been spoiled and I wanted some WYSIWYG capability.

I did a search on Yahoo for html editors and checked out several. The one I chose is KompoZer. This is from their website:

"KompoZer is a complete web authoring system that combines web file management and easy-to-use WYSIWYG web page editing.
KompoZer is designed to be extremely easy to use, making it ideal for non-technical computer users who want to create an attractive, professional-looking web site without needing to know HTML or web coding."

It has CSS capabilities and it's easy to switch between WYSIWYG editing mode and HTML by using the tabs.
It can be used with desktop Linux, Microsoft Windows and Apple Macintosh.
Best of all there's no need to worry about a trial version that's missing vital features or a program that will die on you after 30 days.

KompoZer is FREE!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Getting lost in cyberSpace

I happened to turn Dr. Phil on one day and heard him scold a mother for spending too much time playing Farmville on Facebook and neglecting her young children. While it is easy to get so involved that hours pass like minutes I find it hard to believe that someone might neglect their family in favor of computer games.

I guess it's possible and lately I hear a lot of people bashing Facebook and other social networking sites. Sure there are dangers, neglecting your family being one. And let's not forget viruses, data theft and online predators. But danger exists in the outside world too. It's best to be cautious wherever you go to meet new people. Personally, I think the benefits of cyberspace far outweigh the risks, especially on days like this when we're experiencing another nor'easter here in Philly.

I may be snowed in but I still feel connected to the outside world. Communication with family and friends means not only a conversation but also a sharing of photos and games to enjoy together. And although I live in the US I can talk with people all over the world, and learn something at the same time. And of course there's the benefit of being able to interact with the people who have the same interests as you. I can still talk to other writers, send in my critiques and take a class online.

Can you imagine life without the World Wide Web?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Every snow cloud has a silver lining

We just shoveled our way out of two feet of snow and the weatherman is predicting more on Wednesday. Even OCMD got hit. I checked the Beach and Boardwalk Web Cams and egad! - It looks like they plowed the boardwalk.

It's getting tougher and tougher to beat the winter doldrums. I keep telling myself that all this shoveling is going to burn off the pounds but then I come inside and eat everything in sight because I worked up such a hearty appetite.

So I decided to keep my spirits up by focusing on how much writing I'm getting done. I use
WriteWay Professional v1.8 and it's telling me I'm 8,240 words into the new book. I need to keep the momentum going and take advantage of time spent indoors. So I'm setting myself a goal. A very realistic goal - a MINIMUM of 500 words a day. I'll be posting updates here and hopefully that will keep me from slacking off.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

18" and Counting ~ My Winter Wonderland

I'm not a big fan of snow. Yes, it's pretty for awhile. As long as I can appreciate all that pristine whiteness from my window, with a hot cup of coffee in my hand, I'm loving it. But sooner or later I'll have to go outside and shovel two feet of heavy snowfall. When the governor of Pennsylvania declares a state of emergency, you know it's bad. These are the days I regret buying a house that sits on a corner with way too much sidewalk to be cleared.

When I was a kid, back in the ice age, I actually liked the stuff. The possibility of a day off from school made it all good. Then came all those working years when I had to worry about getting to the office - or waste my vacation time. Sometimes I drove. Once I was trapped behind a car that got stuck and I couldn't go anywhere for hours. Thank god, I had a strong bladder back then. Other times I stood in the cold and waited for public transportation - always a treat, even in good weather. Ah, those were the years...

When I retired from the day job, I thought I was home free. I could enjoy the snow again because I didn't have to go outside. It would be so nice to sit at the computer and enjoy the sight of everyone else trying to get their cars out of their driveways. The joy was short-lived. Where are all the young, strong kids who want to earn a few bucks shoveling? They're all busy on their cell phones and iPODs. What was I thinking? No, I don't have to worry about driving but I see a sore back in my immediate future.

Time to get the boots on. And where the heck am I going to put all this stuff. Did I mention how much I hate the snow. Grrrrr!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Meet My Muses

Buffy and Spike did the happy dance when I retired from the day job. I've gotten pretty fluent in cat speak and I heard them whispering - "she'll be at our beck and call all day." It didn't quite work out that way.

I spend long hours at the computer. Most of the time I'm in a world of my own. When Spike drops his mouse at my feet for a game of fetch, sometimes I don't even notice. Today he was really pissed. I had to nudge him off the keyboard several times while I tried to sprint. I couldn't really blame him.

All morning he let me bounce ideas off him, only speaking up when I had a really dumb idea. Buffy is the quiet one but she did her part. She's one hell of a paperweight. Sitting on my desk, like a little gargoyle, she let nothing slip to the floor. And when I didn't make my goal they let me put the blame on them. What could I do? I stopped everything and gave them the adulation they deserved. Then I opened a big can of Fancy Feast.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Domain Decisions

Up till now, I was content to roll with my free web space on Verizon and my free blog on blogger. But then I got the good news that Siren will be publishing my debut paranormal erotic romance in June. Whoo Hoo!!! Doing the happy dance again. Then the big debate started.

Should I get my own domain name? I did some research and there are definite plusses.
1. It looks professional and builds credibility
2. It's your own unique identity
3. It's easy to remember
4. It's permanent
5. It gives you more control

Still I held off. No one likes to change a site that's been around for awhile. Even if you point your domain name to your old site, glitchy things can happen. But just for the hell of it I plugged my name in to see if it was available. I knew it would be. Boy was I shocked to see it wasn't. Add a number 6 to the list. Grab your name before somebody else does. When I saw my name was still available with a .net address, I grabbed it. Eventually I will set up my new website. (You will be the first to know) because really which of these addresses is easier to remember?

I've decided to keep my blogs, blogspot addresses and all, because I don't want to risk losing links and page rankings. After all, Camp Swampy has been around awhile. When the new website is up and running I'll provide links to my blogs. So I'm pretty happy to have my domain name.

Oh, and I have a cool new email address:

Keep in touch.