Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sweet Words: What is the point of an opinion?

LK Hunsaker December 2010

"Let us celebrate the occasion with wine and sweet words."

Sweet words are always lovely to hear, such as when an author receives a glowing review for her latest work. We all want to hear what we’re doing right. Child-rearing experts will tell to to be sure to let your kids know when they’re doing good things, along with whatever corrections you need to give them. They do need both, however. What happens to children who are never corrected? Scary thought, isn’t it? We’ve all seen the results of that.

There has been a discussion among some authors recently about book reviews, with many of them saying reviews should always be positive, that criticism is “mean” and doesn’t belong in reviews.

I was left scratching my head over that thought. Has our culture seriously become so “politically correct” that contradicting opinions are not okay? That things we don’t like should be swept under the carpet instead of pointed out in fear of hurting someone’s feelings? That’s as scary as uncorrected/undisciplined children, of which there are way too many these days. It leads only to worse and worse behavior. In the same vein, authors who never get the bad along with the good will never improve; they will keep sliding. Even the top authors tend to slide after a while. Why? It’s too easy to get complacent without enough criticism.

I pay little attention to book reviews these days, unless they include both good and bad. If a reviewer finds no constructive criticism to offer, I figure he’s not well-versed enough in the craft to know the things I’ll find that could have been done better, and so it doesn’t mean much. Am I too critical? Maybe. But I am with myself, as well. I want to know what isn’t quite right in my work, what bugs readers as they enjoy my stories, so I can try not to do it again. I do know full well my books are not perfect. I don’t imagine they’ll ever be. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to keep trying.

I’m not sure I have ever done a book review without pointing out something that wasn’t quite right or didn’t hit me well. Maybe I have. I think Marilynne Robinson’s and Mark Twain’s books fall in the “no criticism” category for me. They are the only ones I can think of at the moment. Of course, other people would find plenty to criticize in each. We all have our preferences.

It’s human to have an opinion. Only in recent years have we been told it’s not okay to have an opinion that may disagree with what we “should” think. Who says we should? Who gets to choose which thing is okay to think and which isn’t? Why? When we stay quiet about our opinions, whatever they may be, we stop growing. We stop learning from each other. We stop understanding.

Isn’t that completely opposite what we’re trying to do?

I am pro life-sanctity. I am against using abortion as birth control. I have every right in the world to say so. You have every right in the world to disagree. Who knows which is “right”? No one, actually. It’s opinion. I’m also against people having 6-7 kids when population is already such an issue and I have every right to say that, as well, especially since I realize that overpopulation leads to disease growth, hunger, crime… and those things affect me and those I love even when we’re not the ones contributing to it. Why shouldn’t we stand up and say so?

The novels that do stand up and say such things are the ones that last through the ages. Something to consider.

As my last post for 2010, I’m standing up and saying that controversy and criticism is okay. In fact, it’s good. It opens communication instead of shutting it down behind sweet words and wine. There is a place for that. That place isn’t everywhere. 

(There is indeed a difference between criticism and meanness, however. That’s the line we should watch.)

Thumper’s mom did him, and a whole generation (or more) of people, a disservice when she said, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Thumper was right, after all. Bambi was wobbly. Better would have been, “It’s okay that he’s wobbly since he has to start somewhere, and he’ll do fine as he practices.” That would have taught kids both acceptance and the idea that we all need time to grow.

I don’t believe the purpose of reviews is to help sell books. I believe the purpose of reviews is to guide readers and keep them from wasting time reading something they won’t enjoy. If authors are savvy enough, they’ll take full advantage of bad reviews, or of good reviews with a touch of criticism, and use them to grow. Who among us thinks we don’t need to grow?

Here’s wishing you both good and bad reviews of whatever kind you need throughout the coming new year, as well as the ability to grasp both in your hands and make good use of them.

Have a beautiful, creative, productive 2011!
Best Wishes,
LK Hunsaker

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Prompt Writing: December 21 2010

Have you noticed the writing prompts above? I love prompts, although I have novel ideas coming out my ears and not enough time to write them all, I still love to grab a prompt now and then and write a quick story for it. A wonderful exercise, it stirs the creative pathways and puffs out the dust and adds new dimensions, things you may not ever have written otherwise.

Today I decided to issue a flash fiction challenge on one of my writing lists. And then I got stuck as to what I wanted to write. So I came to my blog and grabbed the prompt from the rotating list provided by (Love that app!) The prompt said:

The car swerved to avoid the deer and plunged over the cliff.

Oh, that stirred my imagination! Actually, it pulled up a couple of characters in standby waiting for their chance for me to get to their story. So here's a quick first-draft glimpse of Tori and Neil (names could change):

“The car swerved to avoid the deer and plunged over the cliff.” Tori shrugged. “At least that’s the way they decided to call it. As good an excuse as any, I suppose.”

Neil studied the girl’s demeanor. There was oh, so much more to the story. He could tell there was. Tori wasn’t much for sharing, though. He knew if he was going to get the rest of it, he’d have to be vague and carefully work up to the revelation. It was becoming quite the adventure for him, figuring out how to talk to this girl without insulting or repelling her. Quite the feat.

“Anyway, so if you want me to cook anything special for your Christmas dinner, you’d best let me know quick. I’ll be out for a couple of hours that day, but not till later...”

“We’ll be at my parents’ for Christmas.”

She threw him a quick glance and nodded. “Figured, but don’t you take anything with you?”
“I take a couple of bottles of their favorite wine.”

“That’s it? I’m good at dessert. I do an incredible peppermint cheesecake if you’d want that.”

“Peppermint cheesecake? Haven’t heard of that.”

“No.” She put the last dish away she’d just washed and dried and turned to prop herself against the counter. “I created it. So I don’t imagine you have. Not that no one else has done one, but I bet it doesn’t beat mine.”

He couldn’t help a grin.

Tori tilted her head, her eyes penetrating nearly to his core. “You should do that more.”

“Do what?”

“Smile. Looks good on you. And what do you know? Your face didn’t crack.”

“Funny. Very cute.”

“You are, you know.”

Neil waited, wondering if she’d tell him just what he was and whether or not he wanted her to tell him. He already had a vastly good concept about just what she thought of him: arrogant, rude, vain, among other less choice words she wouldn’t likely let herself say, at least not directly to him.

She didn’t elaborate and his curiosity made him stupid enough to ask. “I am what?”

“Very cute. So again, why don’t you have a girlfriend? I’ve been working here ... what? five months now? and you don’t even date. Why not? You look decent enough. Are you as rude to all girls as you are to me and figure none of ‘em will take it from you long enough to bother?”

He’d expected much worse. Maybe she was warming to him a touch. “I’m never rude to my dates, and I do date.”

“Do you? Guess they’re late nights, huh? After I’m already out at my real job?”

He cringed at the term. Her real job. The job that made him cringe and come off as ruder than he meant to be. It wasn’t her; it was her job.

“Sorry, forgot I shouldn’t mention it around you. So, are you gonna answer about dessert? Want one or not?”

“Peppermint cheesecake sounds good, actually, although cheesecake isn’t one of my favorites. Mom should love it.”

“Great, I’ll have it ready early that morning for whenever you’re leaving.” She shoved herself away from the counter. “Guess I better shower and get ready to go.”

“Tori.” He caught her arm, only for a second until her eyes threw a warning. “If you were going to come up with an excuse better than a deer, what would you come up with?”

Her eyes remained on him, with that look. The one that said he better be careful. She wasn’t about to have any wool pulled over her. Then she shrugged again. “Wouldn’t bother with a story. I’d use the truth. It’s a lot easier in the long run.” She started away and looked back at him. “Although, I guess some would be a lot more comfortable hearing a good story. Maybe that’s something I should learn to do.”

“Bet you’d come up with some doozies. More worth hearing than the deer.”

“Probably right. If I had the energy. I don’t. And I’ve gotta get ready for work. Casserole will be done in twenty minutes, about when Jack should be home. Tell him not to bother to come by tonight. I’m not staying late.”

Neil sighed and lowered into a chair. Not staying late. He knew what that meant.

No. Not tonight. She could be mad if she wanted, but not tonight.

He made his way up to her room and tapped on the door. It was open and she didn’t answer, so he went in, slowly. She was sitting on the bed, her head in her hands, elbows on her knees.


She yanked her head up, then stood and pulled back into her attitude. “What? I told you, I have to get ready for work.”

“What are you doing for Christmas?”

She stopped and frowned. “What?”

“Christmas. You know, December twenty-fifth. It comes every year.”

“Don’t be a jerk tonight. I’m not in the mood.”

“Okay, you said you had plans for a couple of hours. What about the rest of the day?”

“Don’t worry about it.”

He shuffled closer, waiting for another rebuff. “How about bringing your peppermint cheesecake with you when you come?”

She shook her head. “No.”

“We’d love to have you.”

“No, you wouldn’t. Don’t try to be nice just because of the season, all right? I don’t like that fake ‘be nice today and go back to nasty tomorrow’ garbage. Really, I’m fine. I’ll give myself the day off as a treat and that’s good enough.”

Neil couldn’t help himself. He moved closer. “What does the deer stand for, Tori? Tell me.”

“Doesn’t matter.” She pulled back.

“It was intentional?”

Her eyes touched his. Wounded eyes. Shielded. “Might as well have been. Wasn’t too unintentional. And it doesn’t matter.” She stepped backward. “I have to go to work...”

“Stay home.”

She shook her head.

He moved closer, touched her shoulder, amazed when she didn’t draw back. “Stay home tonight, Tori.”

“I can’t. Too much money lost. Boss is already mad at me...”

“What if I want you to try out your cheesecake on me? Tonight? I’ll even pay overtime since your shift is over, technically. Will that cover what you’ll lose?”

“Not if he fires me.”

“You know he won’t. You’ve said as much.”

“Don’t do this.”

Neil knew he was pushing his luck. And yet, he couldn’t stop himself. “Jack’s out late tonight. Practice, then dinner with Joselyn. I don’t want to eat alone. Come eat with me and then try out your dessert recipe...”

“I don’t have what I need. I’d have to...”

“Then we’ll run to the store.”

“Together?” She eyed him. “You’re going to be seen in public with me? Alone?”

Letting out a quick breath, he shook his head and dropped his eyes. “Have I been that much of a jerk?”


He raised them again, to hers.

“But it’s understandable. No harm done.”

His stomach tightened. “I think I might have to disagree. And I’m sorry. Please, don’t go to work tonight.”

“I have to. I can’t lose this job.”

Something told him she might honestly rather stay with him than go. “Okay, tell you what. Go for a short time as you planned then let me pick you up and take you to dinner. The casserole will wait until tomorrow.”

“You don’t...”

He touched her face. Her eyes peered into his, wary, warning, but maybe a bit hopeful, as well. “Please.”

That's all I have for now. But hey, it's a start on their story, even if this whole thing changes. ;-)

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Nano Wind-down

nano_10_winner_120x240-4Thank you again to all of my Nano guests this year! They all hit their 50K goals through all of the struggles and external trials and schedules: an incredible triumph.

Writers don’t live in enclosed little writing shacks where everything gets done by others and all we have on our minds is our story. Many of us like to dream of such a thing, but the truth is, we almost always have to work it around so many other things that come first. Sometimes they come so “first” that it’s nearly impossible to write. Those who succeed work around the impossible. That’s what Nanowrimo is about: giving ourselves permission to put writing first for a change.

I ended up the month with just over 95,000 words, but word count wasn’t my main goal. I wanted a complete first draft that I could jump back into at the beginning of the thing later on, after I let it sit through the holidays. Most of the last week, I was becoming convinced that wouldn’t happen. The story filled itself in more than I expected; the characters had more to say than I’d planned to allow them.

I kept pushing toward that goal, anyway, and at 11:00 pm on November 30th, I came to the end of the story.

My fingers were cramping. My wrists are tender, even in their braced assistance. My back, which decided to bother me this month more than it has in 21 years, spent a week and a half fussing at me to get up and go lie flat on the floor. I did that often in between propping a pillow behind it in my supportive chair, along with stretching gently and so on. Part of that time was given to my ‘day job’ which is also on the computer. And yet, I wrote The End on the 30th as I hoped. (I also managed 2,000-some words for Rehearsal one day when a scene jumped into my head.)

So much for a quick, light write that I thought I’d only put out only as an Ebook to help fill in Fred Dawson’s background for Off The Moon fans, and specifically Daws fans. Because it filled out so well, I imagine this one will go to print, also.

And I’m breaking the rules. Instead of letting it sit for at least a month, I’ve started edits. It won’t let me go.

That’s okay. Soon Christmas activities will take over and I’ll have to let it sit. I suppose I should do some shopping and decorating.

If you haven’t yet, please scroll down and read my guests’ experiences. They’d love a comment, as well!

Nanowrimo isn’t only for or about writers, by the way. It’s about taking time for your dreams. I urge everyone to do so.


Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Nano Guest: Nicole Zoltack

nano_10_winner_120x90-2Nicole Zoltack is the author of Woman of Glory and Knight of Honor. We met through CRR since we both write classic (non-erotic) romance. Welcome Nicole!

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NaNo. How I love NaNoWriMo, much to my hubby’s chagrin. He always groans and mutters under his breath every year when November comes along.

My first time doing Nano was in 2004. I was in college, and my one sister had mentioned it to me. I signed up on November 6th and managed to reach 50k before the end of the month. I was thrilled! Walking on air! The creative juices were flowing!

I have yet to finish that novel. I opened the file recently. It’s crap. Complete crap. Full of telling, lots of unnecessary scenes, so many grammatical errors. The basic plot is sound, but it needs so much work that I might as well rewrite the story, if I ever decide it’s worth it. That story was chick lit, my first time trying that genre.

The next year, I wrote a fantasy story. Reached 50k which is about half the story. Fantasy stories are normally around 100k so that fine. But I haven’t touched that story since I hit 50k.

2006, I wrote a story about an assassin. Reached 50k. This story I have since finished and shined it up. I’m ready to query agents with this one. It’s called Hidden in Shadows and it’s an urban fantasy with romantic elements.

2007 I wrote a story about a young girl who wanted to become a knight. I won again this year. I finished this novel and it’s published with Desert Breeze Publishing. It’s called Woman of Honor, and it’s a high fantasy romance.

2008 I didn’t even try to write 50k in November. With a one month old, I figured it wasn’t worth the stress. Sleep was just too important.

2009 I was a Nano rebel. I rewrite a previously finished novel (fantasy YA). Wrote 80k that month. I’ve since revised this story several more times and after this latest revision, I’ll start querying agents.

Now Nano isn’t for everyone. But it works for me. There’s this rush of adrenaline that seizes me. Something about writing so many words in the month, knowing that so many other people are trying to reach that same goal along with me. It pushes me. I push myself harder in November than any other month.

Yes I’ve reached 50k every time I’ve tried. Yes, I haven’t finished all of the novels. Some need a lot of work. But I have discovered, to my happiness, that my latest Nano novels are actually rather clean. I’ve learned so much about being a writer and the writing process that my novels are cleaner and tighter, despite the frantic pace of Nano. And for me, that’s a success. Nano has helped me to grow, to write faster, cleaner.

Now if only I could write at this crazy, frantic pace in months other than November…

Find Nicole’s current and future books on her Website

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Notice the image change above? All of my Guest Bloggers throughout November met the 50K challenge and conquered it! CONGRATS to ALL! Please scroll down and read their adventures, as well. Smile
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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Nano Guest: Stephanie Burkhart

Nano-part2010Welcome to Stephanie Burkhart! Steph’s here to talk both about Nanowrimo and her Christmas release.

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I'd like to thank Loraine for having me on her blog today. Loraine's artistic spirit inspires and motivates me and I'm delighted to visit.

Just a little about me: I was born and raised in Manchester, NH. When I was 18, this New England Patriot fan joined the US Army for a great adventure and spent 7 years overseas in Germany. I met a fair-haired California boy and we were married in Denmark in 1991. fulda89-5Little odd fact: I went to Berlin in 1988, before the fall of the wall. Now, the adventure over, I work for LAPD as a 911 Operator.

Loraine asked me to tie in my topic to NaNoWriMo. A challenge to say the least, since I wanted to talk about my Christmas story in the Victory Tales Press, Stimulating anthology. Talk about creativity.

Let's start here: What do Loraine and I have in common? We're both doing NaNoWriMo, we were both in the Germany in the late 1980's and early 1990's, and we are both self-published.

I met Loraine through our self-publishing endeavors on She was so organized back then and I was just finding my way. Writing is a passion for us which leads me to… (drum roll please)


This is my second year doing NaNoWriMo. (National Novel Writing Month) The goal? Write 50,000 word novel in a month. An ambitious goal indeed.

For me, I must prepare. In October, I put together my maps, charts, pictures of my setting and characters, draft character bios and do a rough outline. For this year's project I researched the myths of werewolves, witches, flowers, herbs, and roots. If I don't do the prep work, I'm not ready to write on day one.

I usually write 1700 words a day. However, I'm at work so I have to handwrite it. By the time I get to the computer, I have 5-8K to type up! As I write this, I am 28K into my NaNoWriMo project. The official website says at this rate, I'll make my goal on 25 NOV. J

This year's project is kinda' new and kinda' not. It's a rewrite of an earlier paranormal story, "The Wolf's Torment." I intended to take away some of the horror elements and add more romantic ones. I made several changes to the story. The biggest: Sonia was no longer a maid, but Mihai's half-sister. Mihai is a witch, a concept I did not develop earlier, but am exploring this time around. Just about everything I've written so far is new material. The story is taking new, exciting twists and turns. It's set in Romania and Romania is in Europe so I'm using this to transition into talking about my Christmas story, "Christmas in Bayeux," which is in a Christmas Collection, Stimulating, published through Victory Tales Press.

christmascollection"Christmas in Bayeux" takes place in France, which is in Europe. Ingenious, aren't I?

My hero is Aiden Seward. Aiden was in the Army serving in Iraq when he learns his parents have died. His parents only son, the Army releases him from active duty. Aiden seeks out the World War II beaches of Normandy hoping to heal his aching heart and finds Noel, a woman he knew 9 years ago when she was a foreign exchange student in his home. Can they find love?

Here's an excerpt:

Aiden smiled as she approached. Since he'd last seen her nine years ago, she had gotten taller. Her brown hair peeked out from her cap, flecked with copper highlights. Her cobalt eyes pierced his defenses now, just as they had before. He took a long breath. Despite the winter clothes, she was stunning.

Her eyes swept over him and then sparked with recognition. "Aiden!"

"Bonjour, Noel!"

She wrapped her arms around him and gave him a quick hug. "Bonjour!"

Her warm glow infused him with hope, cracking his battlements even further. Her genuine embrace was what he needed, but he wasn't here for her. He needed to set his heart and his mind straight and she would be a big part of that. Taking a step back, Aiden feathered his eyes over her. "It's good to see you again, Noel. You've changed…"

"Oh, I was just a girl when I was an exchange student in your house."

"You were sixteen."

Her cheeks reddened. "Oui – now I am a woman. How are your parents?"

"They passed away while I was in Iraq."

"Oh, I am sorry to hear it. They had such kind hearts. I adored them."

"That's part of the reason I'm here."

Her eyes softened. "I was surprised to get your call. Bayeux is such a small town. I knew there must have been a reason. Come inside and talk to me." Her voice was low, silvery, full of concern.

Noel took his hand and led him into the church. It was as cold as it was outside, but he could feel Noel's refreshing heat through her gloves. It lit a vague, sensual spark inside him.

Check out the Story Teaser on You Tube:

Buy Links:

Amazon: (print)

Ebook, Smashwords:

Create Space, Print book:

Victory Tales Press:

Goodie Time: Leave me a post and I'll pick out two winners to receive an autographed postcard of the cover. Tell me your favorite Christmas story and I'll pick a winner to receive a print copy of the Anthology. I'll come back on 01 DEC to pick the winners.

Find me on the web at:

Monday, November 29, 2010

Nano Guest: Ami Hawkins

Nano-part2010Welcome to Ami Hawkins, my youngest Nanowrimo guest this year! Ami is also the writer and performer of the beautiful acoustic guitar music in my Rehearsal trailer.


NaNoWriMo = Total Craziness

The two things people ask me when I tell them that I’m trying to write a novel are ‘What is NaNoWriMo?’ and ‘Are you freaking crazy?’. Crazy? Maybe a little. I thought I was crazy the first time I tried it in 2005, but people don’t understand it until they try it. I mean, trying to write fifty thousand words in thirty days is enough to warrant the ‘crazy’ comment, but when you finally reach that ‘unreachable’ goal it makes everything worth it.

The first time I tried to write a ‘novel’, if that is even what you’d call it, I typed maybe 15,000 words and only barely finished six badly written chapters. The next year I vowed I would do better. Looking back at that attempt now, it makes me both cringe and laugh. What else could you do but laugh when you realize that in order to get the 15,000 words, you spaced out compound words to make them into two separate words, and tossed a couple of essays you had written in English class that semester into the story pretending that it was the main character that had written them herself. Sad. Just sad.

I have been a participant in NaNoWriMo since then, each year getting closer and closer to that seemingly unreachable goal, and each year bettering myself as a writer. Now, I don’t write to sell books or to get famous or anything like that. I write for my own enjoyment, because I feel like I have a story to tell. I don’t want to be one of these people that writes a half thought out book just to try to make a name for myself. I want to make sure that what I write is reader-worthy, which is why I keep editing the novel I’m working on now. Although mostly it’s because I’m afraid my characters will climb out of my head at night and strangle me if I don’t continue working to make a good storyline…

To those who call us NaNo-er’s crazy, I say give it a chance. You’d be surprised at how quickly you become bitten by the bug. I was. Now I can’t imagine going a year without the caffeine headaches and late nights scrambling at the last minute trying to finish my goal. This is the third time I’ve reached that unreachable goal, this time ahead of schedule, and I think that this is the best thing I’ve written yet. I still revisit those old characters with their choppy sentences and wrecked plot lines from time to time. It pushes me forward, not to mention gives me a good laugh now and then.

Thank you, Ami! (She's out working today but will be back later to come find your comments.)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Nano Guest: Andra Marquardt

Nano-part2010Welcome to A.L. Marquardt, author of A Reason For Hope, as my next guest blogger, here to talk about her experiences with Nanowrimo!


A few weeks ago Loraine kindly asked me to write a guest post on her blog about Nanowrimo. Honestly, I've been so busy writing and thinking about my novel I've been having a difficult time coming up with something to write about Nanowrimo that was somewhat interesting.

But here goes anyway. Using the same technique I use for writing novels, I'm gonna wing it and see what happens.

2005 was the first year I tackled Nanowrimo, and to my utter surprise I not only won, but ended up with the start of a novel I like to this day. In fact after a few more rounds of editing, I plan on submitting it to some literary agents.

I tried again in 2006, this time giving fantasy a try (my first was science fiction). Although I won again, I ended up hating the story. However, I did end up with some really good characters, so it wasn't a total loss. I plan on giving that one another go eventually by keeping the same characters but changing the setting and some of the secondary plot lines.

2007 was the year I was seven months pregnant with my son. Suffering from what a friend calls "prego-brain," I managed a mere 12k words before I realized I didn't have the mental power to continue. Again, not a total loss, because I managed 12k more words than I would have had.

I skipped 2008 & 2009 because taking care of a little boy takes a lot of time and energy.

With my son close to three and not needing as much constant attention, I decided to give it one more go. I also tackled it a bit differently. I planned ahead with my storyline, and decided I would not write more than 2000 words a day. I also scheduled my writing time from 9:30 - 11pm every day. If I had more time say during the day during weekends, I still didn't write even though my novel was calling me.

The great thing about keeping myself reigned in is not only have I managed my time better, but I'm not so far ahead I'm tempted to skip a day or two. I know me, if I allowed myself to skip once, I will easily find other excuses to skip more, whether I was ahead or behind in my word count.

So far it's worked. Even during the few days when I absolutely couldn't continue, I continued anyway. Ironically, during those tough days, I ended up writing more than I originally intended. I've heard said that it takes about twenty minutes for a writer to really get into a groove of writing. I found that number to be fairly accurate.

Once Nanowrimo ends on November 30, I plan to continue to write until the novel is done. It's close to a true habit now. I will then let it sit for a few months. I already know it needs a lot of work.

Another benefit to Nanowrimo is it forces me to ignore my internal editor. Oh, she screams at me constantly, but she's no more annoying than a fly buzzing around the room. It's too bad no one has invented an "internal editor fly swatter."

On December 1st, I will again listen to my editor and rewrite my first Nano-novel I mentioned above.

If you haven't tried Nanowrimo, yet desire to write a full-length novel (or even a series of short stories), I suggest you give it a try. You aren't competing with anyone (unless you want to), but with a calendar. There really isn't such a thing as failure or success, because by giving it a try and writing maybe 2000 words that month, it's 2000 more words than you would have had.

If you want to know more about my own books and writing journey, be sure to check out my website at

Thank you for reading, and to Loraine for letting me steal her blog for a day.

I hope you all had a grand Thanksgiving and that you didn't eat yourself into too deep a stupor

Thank you, Andra! Interesting method, and so glad it works well for you. Smile

Monday, November 22, 2010

Nano Guest: Ann Arbaugh

Nano-part2010Welcome to Ann Arbaugh, my third guest here to talk about her Nanowrimo experience! Ann is a first year Wrimo.

Welcome Ann!
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Several years ago, a friend told me about NaNoWriMo. I wasn’t ready for the challenge. I almost joined last year. There was a story that kept resurfacing in my consciousness. Again, I didn’t feel I was ready to work on a novel. Never mind that I already had a full-time job.

I’m new to novels, but not to writing. I’ve worked with one state writers group for years and I’m serving as a Board member on two groups this year. Most of my writing is poetry at the University, business writing, or features writing for a local community organization.

A friend told me about an online novel course she was teaching this past February. I decided to take it and see what would happen with the novel. By mid-April, I’d written 9,500 words of the story. I averaged 250-500 words a day, writing in 15-30 minute sessions during lunch. Although it wasn’t much, I was happy that I’d started on the project.

The next week, a close friend had a health scare and the wind went out of my sails. I couldn’t write. The next month, while traveling in Western Maryland, another idea came to me. I sat down and filled four regular sheets of paper in a very short time. The muse was not a steady worker.

Then everything changed. In July, I had a heart attack. At 48 years old. Once home, I was off for two months before I returned to work. I had all this time but the creative spark wasn’t there. I sat at the computer and tried to write. There was nothing. Yet, I could write emails to friends and family to share updates about my recuperation. In one night, through several messages, I wrote 3500 words to one person. Why? I was upset about something.

It was ironic. I couldn’t create, but I could write my story. I posted this on the Classic Romance Revival loop. I asked my e-friends to explain this to me. I said it was like trying to ride and rein in a wild horse. They all agreed that I should write whatever wanted to come out.

In mid-October, I was walking in the neighborhood and my muse whispered a “what if” about a car that drove by. I was thrilled. My spark was starting to flicker. I noticed a couple sparks in the days to follow. My writer friends on Facebook started asking each other if they were doing NaNo this year. This time, I went to the website and checked it out. After an hour of reading, I made my decision. Why not?

Why not try NaNo? I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. I signed up on October 23 and waited. The muse decided to start early. Two days early. I woke up with a story in my head. By 9:15 that morning, I’d written 1,800 words on a new story. I was ecstatic. I decided that nobody would fault me for the early start.

I found that I have “writer’s A.D.D.”, at least that’s what I’m calling it. The muse is sending me ideas faster than I can get them written. I decided not to worry about working on a single story. It was more important to keep writing. On November 15, the halfway point, I’d hit the halfway mark – 25,000 words before I’d retired for the night. I was amazed.

Last week, I needed to concentrate on a personal project and didn’t spend much time writing. I was playing catch-up this weekend. As I write this, my total word count has reached 30,470. My total for the day – 4,464. It’s all because my muse and I are taking this ride together. Thanks to her cooperation, I have eleven stories and one non-fiction piece. The non-fiction piece is a Heart journal, addressing all the problems and changes the heart attack brought to my life. The fact that I’ve written this much, and have daily totals like this, is astounding to me. It’s a personal best.

What am I writing? Most of it is Romance. Some are Christian, some are dramatic. I was writing on Sunday and got caught up in one of the stories. Our heroine rescues a young girl and a handsome man from a car wreck caused by a drive-by shooting on a highway. They’ve been taken to the hospital. While there, the heroine finds out that the cop that’s questioning her isn’t a real cop. She has to protect herself and the child. If I told you the rest of the story, I’d have to shoot you.

How has this helped me? Aside from realizing that I can produce, I’ve learned to squeeze time for writing into my day. I bring my laptop to work, arriving early enough to write and using my lunch break to add more words. I take breaks from writing, not coffee breaks. I’ve taken a 90-minute hike at a local park, a two hour horseback trail ride, and attended a day-long writer’s conference. I’ll celebrate the holiday and watch a friend get married. After NaNo, I’ll set up a monthly word count that’s a little easier to manage.

I’m on vacation all this week and I’ll catch up to the daily cumulative count. I will finish with 50,000 words before November 30. Why? Why Not!

My NaNo page:

I’ll be setting up a blog by the end of the year.

~~~ ~~~ ~~~

Thank you, Ann! Best of luck with the rest of November and your future ventures!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Nano Guest: Kara Hartz

Nano-part2010Please welcome Kara Hartz, today’s featured Nanowrimo participant!

Kara is one of the newer Nano writers who hasn't always been so enamored of the task. This goes out to those of you who wonder why...

Welcome, Kara!
~~ ~~ ~~
I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo every year since 2007, and every year I’m never really sure why I’m doing it. I tell myself that I’m a short story writer, not a novelist. In 2009, I didn’t even sign up as an official participant because I had failed so miserably the two prior years. I decided that instead of writing a single novel, I’d just try to write 50,000 words of. . .whatever instead: short stories, blogs, anything really. Even with that less strict standard set for myself, I only logged about 25,000 words for the month. Yet year after failing year, I kept coming back.

While I adore writing in general, novel writing intimidates me. I took up writing as a serious hobby again when I turned thirty and I focused on short stories. The shorter the better. Flash fiction was my favorite, around 300 to 500 words long. When I got critiques of my work, I got a lot of comments that told me they liked the story, but they wanted to know what happened next, that they wanted more. I’d look at my story and think, “What more is there?”

If there is one thing NaNoWriMo is good for, it’s for focusing on writing – MORE. That may be all it’s really about. It isn’t about writing better, that’s very clearly stated all over the NaNoWriMo website. No, it’s just about writing more. And I guess that’s really why I keep coming back. Every year so far, I’ve failed NaNo. Yet every time I signed up, I’ve written much more than I would have without it. In fact there were some hectic years when it’s possible that I wrote more in November than I did in the rest of the year all put together.

Even better, there are all these other people out there telling me it’s okay to spend time writing. It’s okay to take some precious time and spend it on something I love, even if the dishes sit unwashed overnight. NaNoWriMo has helped me learn the difference between taking the time follow a dream, and making the time.

I’m proud to say that so far this year, I’ve already written more than I have in any other of my NaNo attempts. I’m behind the suggested word count, but I’m closing the gap every night. This may be my year to cross the finish line. It’s been both much harder and much easier than I’d imagined. I won’t try to explain why. Those who have done it will understand, and those who haven’t will learn best by doing. I encourage everyone to give it a try. I’ve failed for three years, and am better for it. So there’s nothing to lose.

~~~ ~~~ ~~~
Find Kara on her Nanowrimo page, and
on her Blog!


Monday, November 15, 2010

Nano Guest: Cheri Nordstrom

Nano-part2010This month I’ll be hosting several Nanowrimo participants as they chat about their experiences, struggles, elations, and stories.

Today’s guest is Cheri Nordstrom, an ML (municipal liaison) in Illinois. MLs help organize writing events and do what they can to motivate others to push for their goals.

Welcome Cheri!

How Not To Melt

In 2003 I learned about a crazy little contest called NaNoWriMo. A good writer friend of mine signed up and tried very hard to goad me into it too. I just didn't have the time, I explained to her. I was working seventy hours a week, homeschooling our daughter who was in a million different activities and I had two important business trips with my husband that November. We actually had to hire our daughter's former babysitter as a part-time nanny.

Truthfully, when 2004 rolled around, I was just as busy. I was still working more than full time, still homeschooling our busy teenage daughter, still traveling, and still working on revisions from a book I'd been working on for years.

My writer friend signed up for a second NaNoWriMo. Between her nagging and my muses--who wouldn't even let me sleep at night--I decided on October 30, 2004 to throw down the gauntlet too. I was never going to become less busy, and 2004 was just as good of a year as any to jump into National Novel Writing Month.

November was rife with technical, time and health issues. By the time Thanksgiving rolled around, I was several days behind to make the 50,000 word challenge by month's end. My story was going well though. I started the month with no outline, but solid character sketches and a very good idea of where I wanted to go and how I wanted my book to end. I didn't want to give up. My muses wouldn't let me give up.

With only about four days left and fifteen thousand words left to go, I dug in my heels and wrote. And wrote and wrote and wrote. Suddenly, the entire story was pulling itself together, and the brilliant ending I had in mind flew out the window, because an even better ending presented itself. I was becoming increasingly excited about my novel, and I knew I was going to make 50,000 words before midnight on November 30th.

I think I rode Cloud #9 for months. I put the novel away until late January 2005. When I pulled it out, I expected it to be really horrible. To my utter shock and amazement, it was much cleaner than the novel I spent four and a half years writing. I think it was at the moment I realized I had much less revision work from my NaNoWriMo novel, that I became hooked.

Every year brings different challenges and issues. I'm on my seventh NaNoWriMo novel and I have completed every one of them--even pitched a couple to agents, so I have some experience with the highs and lows of writing novels kamikaze style. This year, I'm struggling to keep my interest and focus on my novel. It isn't my main characters' fault. They're great, actually, and a lot of fun to write.

Sapphire is a superheroine who emits electricity through her fingertips and toes to fight off the bad guys who are abusing or hurting the children she counsels. An ambitious newspaper reporter is telling us her story, and he's an interesting guy on his own. The story isn't the problem. Sapphire is a school counselor by day, and Electric Blue by night. The monsters she zaps deserve to sizzle. The fight scenes are even fun to write. (She blows out a lot of really cute boots before she learns to control the electricity coming from her feet.) So why am I struggling this year?

I'm melting. Or having a melt-down. I'm not sure which. I'm not the only one in my region this year who is struggling with burn out, melt-downs and lack of focus though. We've talked about it quite a lot during our write-ins. So, I devised a list of helpful ways to avoid melting during NaNoWriMo:

1.    Don’t let little girls named Dorothy throw water on you.
2.    Eat a lot of chocolate or <insert snack of choice>.
3.    Drink a lot of coffee or <insert beverage of choice>.
4.    Take some time out to think about all the things that are going RIGHT in your novel instead of focusing on the negatives. Maybe your main characters have done something surprising, an awesome plot twist appeared like magic, secondary characters are stepping up to the plate to help push your story to its conclusion, your characters are actually interacting with each other, etc.
5.    Celebrate your successes, even if they seem small. Any progress is GOOD progress.
6.    Do something nice for yourself and your muse(s) that doesn’t involve writing. Take them on a field trip to see a movie or a concert, do something else creative, take a bubble bath, buy a NaNoWriMo t-shirt or hoodie. The muses have been working hard for you this month…it’s time to show them a little appreciation!
7.    Take a day or two off from writing if you need to. A good writing session on the weekend should make up for lost time. No NaNo police will come knocking on your door if you haven’t updated your word count, and sometimes the intensity of what you’re writing warrants a mental break away from your characters and storyline.
8.    When intensity is not the factor, but you’ve stalled somehow, keep writing-- even on the days you’re “not feeling it” like you’d like to be. It’s always fascinating to me to see how a bunch of senseless babbling can lead to some powerful dialogue between characters, or a pivotal point that changes everything for the good in your story. Sure, you’re likely to cut a lot of the babbling out in the revision phase, but there will always be a diamond or two in the rough, and it could be the key to get your story flowing again.
9.    Write in different locations. If you usually write in your office or at your dining room table, take your laptop out to your car and write in your driveway! Drive somewhere scenic for inspiration. Take advantage of the nice days and write outside. Find a local write-in, and share the kamikaze spirit with others. Shake it up a little!

Most of all, have fun with your novel. First drafts are all about the creative process and allowing your muses to play. Write on, fair ladies and gentlemen of the pen, write on!

Thanks so much, Cheri! Best of luck with the rest of November and with your submissions!

You can find Cheri and watch her progress on her
Nanowrimo page.

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Nano Soul-delving

Remember Our Heroes ©LKHunsakerLast November, I started my Nano novel with only a bare idea of what I would write. I wanted to do a home front novel, old-fashioned, sweet, simple. A couple of days before Nanowrimo was to start, I came up with two characters, Abraham and Maura, and thought about them a bit as I went through my daily activities. I decided Abraham would volunteer for war duty and I’d start the story as he was leaving. He would be quiet, hard-working, responsible, and able. He would also be an artist of some kind, since the arts feature in all of my books.

Maura was harder to pin down. In fact, I wasn’t sure who she was going to be when I started writing on the 1st. I did know she would stay home and would have to take care of things, mainly on her own.

That was how I started last year’s quest to write a new novel in one month. Never before had I actually finished a first draft during November. I tend to write long. But I was determined to do that, to make it a quick story, first draft complete during November, and then go back to rewrite and edit in March when I join in a related challenge, to either do another 50K words of writing, or to choose how much of a project you want to rewrite. I rewrote the whole thing that month. All that was left was edits. Funny, several of my readers have said that quick novel is their favorite so far. It’s called Protect The Heart.

This year’s novel I’ve been planning for a while. I’ve had a lot of comments about the main supporting character in Off The Moon (which released during Nanowrimo last year and included every other day guest blogging in support at the same time I was writing the new one). Daws is a no-nonsense, highly intelligent, very capable, burly bodyguard for Ryan, my pop star hero. He nearly stole the story at times, so I decided he should have his own book, another quick write, mostly for my fans who wanted more of him. Thirty days to bring out his background and show how he met the love of his life? No problem. I’ve done a couple of Off The Moon related short stories about Daws and Deanna and figured I’d grab the scenes from those and then tie them up into a full novella. An easy Nano project I could do at the same time I keep working on the third book of the Rehearsal series.

It isn’t working out that way.

There’s something amazing that happens when you write a novel and simply let it go where it wants to go. You find so many things hidden deep within yourself that are just bursting to come out.

The story of Daws and Deanna is far from a quick, simple write. It’s becoming emotionally purging. I knew part way through Off The Moon that Daws was ex military, although Ryan doesn’t know he is or that he has a connection with Ryan’s father. I didn’t know until planning this year’s Nano novel that he’s also a Desert Storm vet with a history of being on his own and fending for himself while looking out for those around him. I knew Deanna was a feisty, independent NYC girl who had a lot of misadventures with men she’d trusted. I didn’t know she would end up finding out what it’s like to be the main emotional support for a soldier and have to figure out how to survive in that world.

This is much harder to write than I expected. So many experiences of my past as an Army spouse are making their way into this book. Last year’s quick tribute to the military and those who stay home to take care of everything else didn’t go deep enough to purge all of those events and struggles. This one is diving too far down. It’s becoming rough water.

I do think, if I can keep wading through it, it could become one of my most worthy writes, though, even if it’s only as personal therapy.

Even if you have no plan to become an author or even tell anyone you write anything, give noveling a shot just once. You’ll be amazed at what you find out about yourself.

On this Veteran’s Day, I’d like to thank all service members past, present, and future. I will keep up the fight to support you during your service and after.
God Bless and Hooah!

My Nanowrimo page is HERE if you’re there, also, and would like to become a buddy, or if you want to track my progress. (I haven’t updated every day.) There’s also a counter on the sidebar of my blog that shows my current word count.

My current Nano novel is available in its first draft form, separated into each day’s work
HERE.  (Never mind typos and such. Editing isn’t allowed during November!)

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

You Can Nano, Too!

“Maybe you should skip Nano this year.”

That was some advice from a friend last month, and probably very good advice, considering I have 4 novels deeply in progress and finding time for them is already an issue.

However, I’m  a Nano addict. I confess.

Nano, being Nanowrimo – National Novel Writing Month – is the quest to write 50,000 words of a brand new novel during the 30 days of November. That adds up to 1,667 words a day. Of course you can binge and purge on words and do 3,200 one day and skip the next day and so forth, as long as you end up with 50,000 words, previously unwritten, by midnight US Eastern time November 30th. The name is a bit of a misnomer, since it is no longer national, but international. People everywhere are doing it!

I guess the question would be why are they doing it?

Because they can. And because it’s a great nudge to get that spark of a story idea out of the back corner of your mind and in print (or pixels). And because it pushes you to release your nasty, overly critical inner editor and helps you focus on simply getting it down. Editing can come later if you so choose (and if you plan to do anything with it more than see if you can, then that does need to come later, as first drafts are never publishable other than for your friends and family).

This is year number seven for me. If I had known about it when it began in 2002, it would be year number nine. Yes, I’m that addicted. And another admission: the first year I tried, I didn’t make it to 50.

I could blame my 30 hour per week job and my then-young and more demanding kids, but the truth is, if felt overwhelming. So it was. The next year, I went in thinking I darn well could, and would. So I did. It is a large part state of mind.

Of course, we all have our trials going on that do have to be dealt with, and for some of us, reaching 20,000 is the same as others reaching 50. The point isn’t the winning; it’s the trying.

Other Nanowrimists will be visiting my blog this month to talk about their experiences and share a bit about their stories. And I’ll be back now and then to share more of mine.

Everyone has a book inside. Choose one November (maybe even this one – it’s not too late!) and join us in the craziness. You never know what you’ll discover about yourself.

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Monday, November 01, 2010

Starts Today!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Protect The Heart (Paperback) by LK Hunsaker

Protect The Heart

by LK Hunsaker

Giveaway ends November 30, 2010.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Sunday, October 31, 2010

10/10/10 Reviews #10: Pumpkinnapper

Book Review 10: Pumpkinnapper by Linda Banche

How could I not review this one on Halloween? I’ve known Linda for some time and I tend to forget she’s actually from the US. Why? She writes Regency romance and she does it well enough I forget she’s not British.

Pumpkinnapper is the tale of Emily, a young widow who has one of the few full pumpkin patches in a time of a pumpkin drought. Her pet goose, a fiesty thing with a penchant for biting in awkward places, does his best to keep her pumpkins from being stolen. In the midst of the pumpkin thievery quandary, Henry, the love of Emily’s younger years who happens to share a name with the goose, comes back to town.

This 75 page novella is charming, funny, romantic, lightly sensual, slightly suspenseful, and a very enjoyable read. Perfect for a Halloween afternoon/evening while handing out treats to the goblins, or geese. Smile

By the way: Pumpkinnapper was just awarded as a Finalist in EPIC’s 2011 book awards! Congrats Linda, and best of luck at finals!

Find it at the Wild Rose Press
~~~ ~~~ ~~~ 

Music Review: Anthology, Duncan Faure

I’ve been following Duncan Faure since 1978 when he joined the Bay City Rollers as their lead singer. I was twelve at the time, but even then I knew quality music when I heard it, and quality musicians. (That happens when you grow up with musicians and music lovers.) When the Rollers broke up, I lost track of where any of them went from there, until 1999 when I got hooked up to the internet and did a search. 

Duncan’s newest album in a string of albums, with bands (including South Africa’s Rabbitt) and solo, Anthology documents his very long musical path, starting in 1972 with Orange Cash Boat. It includes 2 songs from his first band, back before he was even a teenager, as well as a few from those ‘lost’ years when he had joined up with fellow Roller Stuart Wood to form Karu. Roller fans will notice there are no BCR songs on the Anthology – a shame, as some of his best work was on those 4 albums (you can still find them, however; at least you can find 3 of them, in remade CD versions).

I was glad to see Seen The Way You Look At Me on the Anthology, since the first time I heard the song was live and it grabbed me and yanked me in. It’s a shame everyone can’t see this one live, as he shows off intricate keyboard skills along with the full vocal emotion of the song that only partly come through on CD.

I’m also glad a few of the instrumentals from his 2005 home studio release Letter From Britain was included. Every song on that CD was written and performed by Faure, not only vocals but each instrument, as well. The guitar work, too often underplayed during his career, is as amazing as his keyboards and vocals. (Of course, I’m a bit partial to Britain since I designed all of the cover and CD artwork for it.)

Overall, this album is what is should be: a nice retrospective covering a large span of years, and it comes with an acoustic demo of a new song in the works.

(A note to Rehearsal fans: yes, I did borrow names! but only as a tribute, no similarities to real musicians intended.)
~~~ ~~~ ~~~

 Movie Review: The Ultimate Gift (2006)

Jason is the twenty-something spoiled youngest heir to a wealthy businessman’s throne. At the reading of the will, he gets a shock instead of an inheritance. If he wants it, he’ll have to earn it, a concept lost on him. He must perform a series of tasks created to teach him about responsibility, real life, and honest love, three concepts he also doesn’t grasp. His greatest help with his task comes in the form of a young girl who faces an intense struggle with optimism, hope, and concern for her mother.

Although the theme of the movie is somewhat cliché, it’s still charming and heart-warming. I never quite bought that actor Drew Fuller (Jason) fit the self-centered spoiled role, but he does come out nicely as the reformed Jason. Abigail Breslin (also of Nim’s Island) does a beautiful job as Jason’s young friend. This is a nice family comedy-drama with some serious tones to it.
~~~ ~~~ ~~~

Legal Note: no review was compensated or requested

Saturday, October 30, 2010

10/10/10 Review #9: The Gravedigger’s Daughter

Book Review 9: The Gravedigger’s Daughter by Joyce Carol Oates

I’m in complete awe of Joyce Carol Oates. She’s incredibly prolific with  35 novels to her name (as of 2007), and they aren’t quick, short novels. They are, from what I know so far, deep, thorough, and vast. And the actual writing is to be admired and aspired to.

The Gravedigger’s Daughter follows Rebecca, a Jewish German immigrant during Hitler’s reign, where she is barely born in America and through having a family of her own. Her father, a very intelligent man who had to leave his valued career, takes the job he can find when he arrives – a grave digger. Because of it, Rebecca grows up with an angry disillusioned father, a mother who doesn’t speak English and becomes a hermit, and the stigma of living in a cemetery. Rebecca is a fighter, though, and makes her own path. She deals with betrayal, single motherhood, and an exhausting factory job. And then she must move to save her own life and that of her child, repeating history to an extent.

Although long and winding, this story keeps moving and holds everything together so the reader stays right with it all the way to the end. Each character is distinct and has his or her own pattern of speech and flaws and aspirations. We are given a true glimpse into another world and while there is much to ponder and recognize, and many realities, there are no “right” answers or preachy passages. There are thoughts to consider and paths that might have been changed. Overall, a very insightful, intelligent, worthy read.
~~~ ~~~ ~~~

Music Review: Heartland Highway, Sister Hazel (2010)

A friend introduced me to Sister Hazel a few years ago. Since then, I’ve been collecting their work, past and present. I remembered hearing one of their songs on the radio some years ago that I really enjoyed but I didn’t remember who sang it until being “formally” introduced to them.

Yes, I love this band. They have a very acoustic, easy sound and the lyrics are clever, smart, thoughtful, emotional at times, and always uplifting. Heartland Highway is their newest, just out this month. It’s a bit of a departure, although still along the same main road, as if feels a little heavier, a little deeper, possibly showing the many years they’ve put into the business and the independent path they forged for themselves. Lead vocalist Ken Block has been the major songwriter for the group. With this one, lead guitarist Ryan Newell has taken on more of the songwriting duties, rhythm guitarist/pianist Drew Copeland had a hand in three of the songs, and a trilogy of songs called Lessons in Love, Hope, and Faith was penned by bass guitarist/pianist Jett Beres, giving Heartland Highway a more balanced album by the band members.

Start with this one or any of the older albums (my faves are Absolutely and Chasing Daylight), but check them out!
~~~ ~~~ ~~~

Movie Review: Alexander (director’s cut) 2004 

A lot of reviewers slammed this historical by Oliver Stone and many of its actors received razzie awards for the worst performances. I guess I’m odd because I truly enjoyed it. I like artsy cinematography if it’s not carried away. I love historicals. And I like going beyond the fight scenes to get to the actual story of the historical characters. Alexander the Great’s actual story is presented here nicely. I’m a bit of a history buff but not enough to know what liberties were taken. Still, it put me in view of Alexander’s inside world and provided interesting entertainment for an evening.

Legal Note: no review was compensated or requested

Friday, October 29, 2010

10/10/10 Reviews #8: Dragonflight

Book Review 8: Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey

It’s a wonderful thing when a reader enjoys a book so much he has to recommend it to anyone who might possibly enjoy it. This is how I came to read Dragonflight, the first story of Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series.

I don’t tend to read sci fi or fantasy. This is mainly because my head settles around reality much more easily. When I have to get into an imaginary world with made-up names and places that often sound odd, I have to stop and try to think about where I am. On the other hand, I’ve watched every original Star Trek show and loved the original Star Wars movies. So with that in mind and a very high recommendation of the Pern series, I set about to find the first one to check out. Turns out my local bookstore owner is also a huge fan. She happened to have a hardcover with the first 3 stories, plus an extra. She sent them all with me.

The Dragonriders are telepathic and communicate with their dragons regularly. Their job is to prevent dangerous Threads from landing on Pern and destroying their world. However, it’s been 400 years since Threads have landed and the common people of Pern decide they no longer need them, and so stop sending support. The riders have dwindled in number, and a Thread attack is on the way.

Interesting, actually, to make the comparison to this series written in the 70s with today’s threats and disinterest in supporting those defending against them.

Either way, other than taking some time to figure out  where I was and becoming adjusted to the names and titles and such, I was drawn to Lessa right away. She’s a fighter: strong, stubborn, but also a bit naïve (much like one of my own beloved characters). When she rubs up against F’lar, a lead dragonrider determined to shape her into what she needs to be to protect the lair, and therefore Pern, sparks flair.

Dragonriders is a thoughtful but action-packed story. There were times I wished things were explained a bit better at the beginning, to avoid having to try to work it out on my own, but once it really started to roll, it didn’t quit until the end. Yes, I’ll recommend it, as well, to sci fi or fantasy fans, and to those who want to try something different for a change. Will I continue reading the series? I’m so far undecided. If so, I might have to find one that isn’t 7 pt font (or thereabout)! Or I’ll have to find it in ebook format so I can increase the font.
~~~ ~~~ ~~~

Music Review: Daughtry (self-titled)

I didn’t follow Chris Daughtry on American Idol (it’s not a show I tend to watch), but I did get a glimpse of him singing somewhere toward the end of whatever season he was on. His voice pulled me in, as did his style. Still, I heard three of Daughtry’s songs on the radio before I decided to pick up the CD. I’m glad I did. As is normal, the songs not on the radio captivate me more than those that are. They are deeper, more introspective, more ‘connecting’ than the commercial grabbers. Crashed is contagious: words, music, technique – very powerful, as is What I Want (featuring Slash).

The whole thing is what I want: good rock, nice guitar riffs, great voice, well-penned lyrics that touch the soul, and not overproduced. Yes, I’ll have to grab more of Daughtry. That’s a given.
~~~ ~~~ ~~~

Movie Review: The Merchant of Venice (2004)

I love Shakespeare. Yes, honestly. Reading it or watching it, there’s just something that pulls me in. I also enjoy Joseph Fiennes. So I expected Fiennes doing Shakespeare would be an auto win. And it was.

Bassanio (Fiennes) needs cash to woo his girl. He doesn’t have it, so he goes to a friend, who goes to a money lender and promises an actual pound of flesh if he doesn’t repay the loan. Both comedy and mayhem ensue, plus that social commentary you find in every Shakespeare play. Tables are turned, roles are reversed, comedy and tragedy mix, and while some end up happy with their outcomes, others end up with a horrid lesson and not much more.

This is a wonderful adaptation of the play that leaves you both satisfied and pondering.
~~~ ~~~ ~~~

Legal Note: no review was compensated or requested

Saturday, October 23, 2010


(The last three of ten reviews will come next week. For today, I want to get a bit more personal. Don’t worry, I never get too personal online!)

It’s hard for someone who understands something so easily to understand why others don’t understand the same thing at all.

Get that? The art of communication isn’t only in learning the language; it’s also in learning to recognize what others don’t and knowing how to relay it so they will understand. That can be very tricky. I’m often asked how I do it. Honestly? I don’t know.

I do often find myself wondering how on earth a “simple” concept is so hard to “get.” But then, I’m quite sure my sister teaching me algebra (when I couldn’t “get” it from the teacher who didn’t know how to get me to understand) felt the same. Somehow, she did get me to understand, at least well enough, and sometimes well enough is fine.

I use that experience of having something so simple to her escape my grasp of understanding whenever I catch myself wondering why someone just doesn’t get it. There’s always something we won’t get.

Why? That’s easier to answer:

1) We all have different strengths and weaknesses. Some are innate, some learned.

2) We all have different life experiences and frames of references.

This is why traveling widely broadens the mind and increases understanding: you develop a bigger frame of reference, especially if you truly look at the culture where you travel and pay attention. I’ve lived in very small towns to the point of not having a stoplight, and in very large cities to the point of taking 3 hours to drive 25 miles. I’ve lived in 6 states and visited most of the others. I’ve lived overseas and visited several countries. I was raised blue collar, married military, and have met people of very high importance career-wise from several different fields. I paid attention to all of it. I took mental notes of similarities and differences. And I listened. I still listen, well enough to truly absorb not only what they say but how they feel when they say it.

I guess it comes down to paying attention and wanting to understand. Also, putting your own thoughts aside enough to allow room for others’ thoughts and experiences is required. There are many experiences I will never have myself, but if I listen well enough, or (a-hem) read about it in the right sources, I can almost experience it. Yes, I read widely from many sources. And I talk to people from as “everywhere” as I can. I don’t shut them out when I disagree with them; I stop to consider why they feel the way they do. It doesn’t generally change my mind, but it does help me understand.

This, since I was asked again, is how I add such a wide experience base to my characters. They get to take on many of the things I’ve seen and heard and they represent those different backgrounds. They don’t only have my own thoughts and opinions; they have viewpoints I don’t agree with, as well. No one person or group can have all the answers. But maybe, if we blend all those thoughts and experiences together, we do.


"How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live."
Henry David Thoreau

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

10/10/10 Reviews: #7 - Rainwater

Book Review: Rainwater by Sandra Brown

I grabbed this book as one of many during a $1 clearance sale binge at one of my favorite bookstores. I’d never read Sandra Brown, and I don’t tend to read thrillers/suspense, but the cover and description didn’t look like either. At $1, there was no risk in giving it a try.

The acknowledgments at the beginning of the book note that this one is different than most of Brown’s work. Apparently, that’s true, if she writes thrillers. Rainwater is not a thriller. In fact, it’s very much literary/mainstream fiction.

I was charmed by the old time setting and the ease of the language. The characters are very full and real. Ella, the ‘widowed’ boarding house owner with an autistic son, is immediately likeable and nearly feels like a friend by the time we get to the second chapter.

I did raise my eyebrows a touch at the “Rainwater/autism” bit being a constant reminder of Rain Man. I get the point of it being called that, but I couldn’t shake the similarity. That’s my only criticism of this beautiful novel. It’s political, showing the error of Eisenhower’s cow-purchasing program that was supposed to help farmers not lose their farms in a very real, personal way. It’s optimistic through the days of the depression, which can extend to any time that feels bleak. It shows human error and cruelty, but also human resilience and honor and courage.

This one is highly, highly recommended, even at regular retail price.

Maybe I’ll give one of her “normal” books a try, as well.
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Music Review: Unmistakable, Jo Dee Messina

This is the third Jo Dee Messina I’ve bought. Her first was very young-hearted, fun, and kicky. Her second was still on that level but raised a notch to show her growth as an artist. Unmistakable is much like the rest of her work: down to earth, casual, real, lightly emotional, and highlighted by her beautiful voice. “I’m Home” is my favorite of the new tracks, highlighting the comfort of being at home with someone who makes you feel relaxed and peaceful. The acoustic remakes of “Because You Love Me” and “Stand Beside Me” are also very nice.

Oh, I also appreciate that she’s in jeans and a long-sleeved tee on the cover instead of showing as much as she can and dressing like a pretentious Barbie doll. It reflects how unpretentious her music is.
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Movie Review: Casanova (2005)

Who can resist Heath Ledger? It is truly sad that we lost such a talent so early. While catching up on some of his roles I hadn’t yet seen, I threw this one in my queue. A nice choice. Don’t expect to take it seriously. Expect to chuckle at clever lines and grin at his adorable charm even while playing the part of the bad boy with a good heart. Expect wonderful scenery – who can resist Venice? – and period costumes. Expect a touch of “As You Like It” (Shakespeare). And expect a fun evening of quirky entertainment with glimpses of actual social commentary entwined.
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Legal Note: No review was requested or compensated.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

10/10/10 Reviews: #6 – A Perfect Place to Pray

Book Review 6: A Perfect Place to Pray by I.L. Goodwin

Mae Spencer is married to a revered homicide detective who has been beating her for years. Finally, an incident with their child convinces Mae to leave and hide from him.

I picked this one up as our library’s book club read a few months back. Goodwin does a nice job with atmosphere and pulling the reader in to the scene. Her characters are well drawn, engaging, and deep enough to need to figure out as you read. It’s a fast-paced novel, marked as romance but more women’s fiction.

Deborah, Mae’s best friend (or so she claims) is the most intriguing character. Mae herself came off to me as too weak: not because she was a victim of abuse but because she never took matters in her own hands. Deborah and Mae’s  husband made her decisions for her. At times, she showed possibilities of growth and taking control, but then it slipped again. I found no real character growth in her. She simply was pushed by others into better circumstances.

While there was plenty to consider within the book and enjoy about it, I felt like it needed more; it needed the heroine to take charge of her own life. Without that, it felt unfinished.

Yes, I’m a stickler about character growth/change. Otherwise, it’s not a full story, it’s only a scene out of a story.  I believe the same is true with real life.
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Music Review: Cradlesong by Rob Thomas

I’ve been a Rob Thomas fan since Matchbook 20’s first CD. I love his lyricism, his grit, and the deep meanings behind his songs, along with his gorgeous voice. I love that he writes his own music and that the art concept for the liner was his and that he credited his wife for song inspiration.

I also love the growth I see in each new album. Cradlesong shows a young man growing up, mixing personal issues with world issues, and depicting dark and light intermingled. Thomas is a moody artist, and it shows, but he’s also very deep and that shows, as well.

“Hey yeah/ welcome to the real world/
Nobody told you it was gonna be hard you said/
Hey yeah/ I can’t believe it/ I barely started/
Now I’m falling apart…”

" ‘Cause I didn’t mean to be mean/ when I said/
All the things I said to you/
But maybe the worst is the best I can do/ with you…”

This is personal and musical growth at its finest.
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Movie Review: Undiscovered (2005)

Brier is an aspiring model on the move. Luke is an aspiring musician. When Brier decides to pull strings with help of her agent and get Luke’s career moving faster, we watch their parallel rises and the results on their budding relationship.

This indie film is everything a romantic comedy should be: fun, light, charming, with bits of passion and emotional back and forth. No, it’s not a deep-thinking movie. It’s a kick your feet up at the end of a long day and be entertained kind of movie, oh, with some nice music thrown in.
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Legal Note: No review was compensated or requested.

Friday, October 15, 2010

10/10/10 Reviews: #5 – Lake News

Book Review 5: Lake News by Barbara Delinsky

Lily Blake is a nightclub singer and music teacher at a private school. When her friendship with a priest who becomes a Cardinal gets picked up by a shady reporter with a vendetta and reported as an affair, she is suddenly swamped by the press and loses both jobs. She flees from NY to her little hometown of Lake Henry, Vermont. In an ironic twist, her biggest ally comes in the form of John Kipling, a former NY reporter who has his own grudge against the man who slandered Lily.

I picked this one up recently because it seems much like what I write: a cultural story with literary elements and a very strong romantic line. Also, it reflects the same theme as my Off The Moon: media invasion and making up stories to sell papers, turning average people into ‘monsters’ in order to propel themselves, regardless of ethics and truth.

Lake News does have something to say. Along with the media issue, the story line revolves heavily on family relations and how parenting, or lack of, affects children’s lives over the long run. It doesn’t blame parents, however; it shows the vicious cycle of generation upon generation. It makes readers stop and think about how what they say or don’t say makes their children feel, how misunderstandings so easily mess up lives. 

Overall, it was a nice read, although there was too much repetition of thoughts and I couldn’t quite buy the premise. Would the media really stalk and hound some nightclub singer relentlessly for days because of a supposed affair with a Cardinal? Sexual indiscretions these days are pretty well just glossed over. Would that singer, who lives in NYC, after all, and fends for herself on a daily basis, so easily crawl back home and hide instead of just saying, “No, it’s not true. He lied and I’ll sue if he doesn’t retract the story”? Lawsuits come easily these days, as well. Would a nightclub fire their star singer when she’s bringing in more business? I can’t see it. Something didn’t sit well in the scenario Barbara Delinsky creates.

I did enjoy the character of John and would have liked to have been in his POV more often, and less in Lily’s. There are some nice supporting characters -- in particular, Lily’s sister, Poppy. It ends as a romance ends, with everything prettily bow-tied. But I think the strongest upside to the book is the family relationship perspective. I give Delinsky kudos for that.
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Music Review: Messenger, Edwin McCain

I loved the song “I’ll Be” when I first heard it on the radio some years back, but I didn’t think far beyond that. And then the radio station I listened to at the time had him on as a guest. He had nothing with him but his acoustic guitar and sang “I’ll Be” and another song or two, completely acoustic. Wow, his voice grabbed me. Some artists – and everyone knows this is true – need studio help to sound really good. McCain just sounds really good.

Messenger is very acoustic-sounding all the way through. It’s not, other than “I’ll Be” but it has that feel because his voice easily stands out above the music, which is also gorgeous. There’s no covering up or hiding behind production. It’s real. And the songs are as lyrically beautiful and musically.  “Prayer to St. Peter” is a stirring tribute to those who have died in war, again only McCain and his guitar. It doesn’t need anything else. The songs that do have fuller instrumental sound are a nice treat, as well.

Highly recommended.
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Movie Review: Lady Jane (1986)

Yes, I only watched this recently. It’s a beautiful film and wonderful story, acted well. There was much to think about as regards religion, politics, treachery, and loyalty. Of course, history has been blatantly disregarded in Lady Jane, which I tend not to like. To me, a historical fiction should at least keep the facts straight when using actual historical characters. Otherwise, create your own characters based on real characters, and make it true fiction.

That said, it was charming, captivating, and thoughtful. Well recommended.
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Legal Note: No review was requested or compensated.