Friday, February 26, 2010
After the tirade of yesterday, I thought something fun was in order for today.
Delilah Devlin (check out her link to the left) nominated me for a prolific blogger award. Now it's my turn to nominate seven more. I'll be posting those lucky seven on Monday.
My friend, Bria, is having a Romance Yard Sale. She and her yard sale partner, MG, have some great stuff. T-shirts, mouse pads, coffee mugs, tote bags, etc. All with catchy phrases that will really resonate with writers (or editors). Phrases like – "I'm not crazy, I'm just plotting" or "what came first? The writing or the drinking?" Very cute stuff. Here's a link to her blog post. At the bottom of the post is a link to the goodies. Check it out. Buy something. http://romanceyardsale.wordpress.com/
Sarah, from my Outreach RWA chapter posted this link to the loop. I thought it was fun so I'm putting it here for all of you too. It's inspired by an article in The New York Times Magazine, it uses a simplified algorithm to predict the gender of an author. I don't know about you, but whenever I hear the word 'algorithm', I always think of Charlie on Numb3rs. Check it out. See if it predicts your gender. It got mine by a lot. http://bookblog.net/gender/genie.php
One of the Romance Divas posted a link earlier this week about How to Suck at Facebook. I checked it out and thought it was hilarious. This guy is really funny and you can spend hours at his sight reading all his comics. Here's How Twilight Works. So funny. Check it out. http://theoatmeal.com/story/twilight
That's it for today. Let me know if you check out any of this links and what you think about them. Have a great weekend, everyone!
Thursday, February 25, 2010
When I woke this morning, I had no idea what I would blog about today. Everyone seems to come up with such great and interesting topics. Then I checked my email from my iPod Touch. I've learned a time-consuming but valuable lesson. Never check an email link unless I'm on my computer.
I got this email saying I had a direct message through Twitter from one of the Romance Divas with a link asking if this was me. So I clicked it. Big mistake.
When I got to my computer, I clicked it again because I couldn't see why I had gotten the message in the first place and thought a bigger screen would help. Boy, did it. Lucky for me, hubby is one of those computer guru types that take computer security to the extreme. Secretly, I'd always thought it was a little overkill, but it made him happy so I followed along. Anyway, this message popped up on the screen telling me that this site was a reported web forgery designed to trick people into revealing personal information. This warning popped up because of the security preferences I had on my computer.
I believe this is called phishing. Lucky for me, I don't have any sensitive data on my iPod, other than my email password (which I changed) and my iTunes password (which I changed). I think. I spent an hour or more changing passwords. An hour I could have been working on Blood Diamond. I'm fortunate that this happened to me on a day I didn't have to work the part time job. I'm hoping that the small window of time between when I first clicked that link and when I realized what I'd done, coupled with the time difference (hoping they are in the US) will be enough that they didn't get any of my information.
I'm now afraid to plug my iPod into my computer. I'll have to, eventually, because that's how to recharge it but I think I'll talk to hubby before I do that.
These people make me so angry I could spit. Phishers, spoofers, spammers, virus launchers. If they spent the energy in pursuing a legitimate career as they do trying to screw over the little people that work hard to make a living, they'd be wildly successful. Why do they think the world owes them something? That they don't have to go out and earn it like everyone else? They think that because they sit behind a computer screen and rob people instead of holding a gun to their head while they growl, "Give me all your money" that it isn't real. It's like a computer game or something. I'm here to say, there are people on the other end of these scams. People that work hard to pay their bills and have a life. It's not a victimless crime.
Okay, time for me to get off my soapbox. Have you all clicked something you shouldn't have? What happened?
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
When I woke up this morning, a snippet of a dream hung around in my head for a while. Two reasons why I mention this. One, I rarely remember ANY dreams so the fact that I did this morning makes this something for me to ponder. Two, in the dream was a friend that I haven't seen in probably fifteen years.
In my early twenties, I hung out with this guy and two others. Almost every day. We had such fun, going to concerts, talking about books, playing four square (yes, the childhood playground game), just hanging out. Then things changed, as they tend to do. This friend got a girlfriend and we didn't see him as often. I moved to another state for a job and wrote for a while but that soon petered out. Eventually we all just lost touch. I think about them every now and then, curious as to what they're up to, what they're doing, how life's treating them. I haven't thought of them in quite a while, though so the fact that I dreamt of one makes me wonder. Why now? Does it mean something? Should I try and look him up? I have no clue if he stayed in Ohio or moved away.
We all have them, I'm sure. People who were once good friends, but drift away for whatever reason. Then we have those that stay with us through every aspect of life. I believe that each person that touches our lives has something to teach us. It's up to us to accept that lesson.
Is there someone you lost track of over the years? Ever tried to find them?
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
I'm going to talk about goals a little bit and share another of mine. Craft books. I love them. I have shelves of them. Some I haven't read yet, some I have and they weren't so great, and some were worth more than I paid for them. I think that probably goes for anyone's TBR (To Be Read) pile, whether it's craft books, romance, mystery, nonfiction, etc. So as I pondered my LTGs (Long Term Goals) earlier this year and all that I wanted to accomplish, reading at least one craft book per month was on that list. This month, the book was Story Structure Demystified by Larry Brooks.
Some of you may have never heard of Larry Brooks. He has several thrillers out and a few books on the craft of writing. He also blogs fairly regularly about writing. I urge you to check him out. You can find him in my blog roll to the left under Larry Brooks – Story Fix.
So I read Story Structure Demystified this month. This was one of those books worth more than the cover price. His writing is easy to read and fun, he uses examples from The Davinci Code (you don't have to have read the book to understand though) and he makes what could easily have been a dry subject, not.
He talks about the structure of a story (imagine that, right?) for both screenwriting and novels. There are four parts of the story – the set up, the response, the attack and the resolution. Within this structure, you have milestones. These are the plot points and pinch points that make up the backbone of your story. He suggests by using this structure, putting the milestones in certain parts of your novel, that your story will flow more easily and you'll know where to go next.
I think he makes sense and his ideas can be useful for plotters and pantsters alike. To start, I can determine my first plot point, first pinch point, mid-point, second pinch point, second plot point and the final resolution. At this point, the pantster can take off, writing furiously, organically and hopefully not get caught going down the wrong path. It will save time and work. The plotter can expand on these points. Outline scene ideas that lead from to the other. In either case, you are either working toward a milestone or away from one.
Of course, he goes into more detail and gives examples, but his method resonates with me. I find myself thinking about my current WIP, Blood Diamond, and identifying the milestones and wondering if I have them in the right spot. I know that I can, and will, keep this structure in mind as I go through revisions once the first draft is done. Overall, worth the money. I'm even thinking of making his newest book, The Three Dimensions of Character, my March craft book of choice.
Have you read this book? What did you think? Do you visit Larry's blog? What are some of your favorite craft books?
Monday, February 22, 2010
Okay, first order of business – last week's goals. I posted that I would finish chapters four and five of Blood Diamond and post every day through Friday. I'm proud to report that I did finish both chapters and I did the blog posts. I sure didn't want to have to tell you all that I'd failed. Great motivation.
This week, I plan to finish chapters six and seven and blog today through Friday. Now on to our regularly scheduled post.
The movie theater on post showed Dear John this weekend, so Saturday night, I met up with a couple of girlfriends and went. I hadn't read the book. In fact, I don't recall reading anything by Nicholas Sparks, but I generally like the movies made from his books. I have to say, though, that I did not like Dear John.
I liked Channing Tatum's character, John Tyree. I mean, besides the bare chest shots. I thought they could have done a little more development with him, though. They alluded to his past and I didn't feel like they'd resolved that enough. I sympathized and connected with his character though. Not so much with Amanda Seyfried's Savannah Curtis. I wasn't connected enough to her and found her character shallow and annoying. The ending was less than satisfactory, though I won't ruin it if you haven't seen it yet. My friend, who had read the book, mentioned the ending in the book was different and judging from her description, I think I would have liked it even less.
Again, I didn't read the book and I may have enjoyed the movie more and felt more connected the characters if I had. I have no desire to, though. My leisure time is limited and reading a book for pleasure is usually one of the first things to go when the schedule gets busy, so knowing that I won't like how the book ends kills any thought of checking it out.
How about you? Did you read the book? See the movie? What's your opinion?
Friday, February 19, 2010
Today's blog entry is a request. Rachel wanted to hear more about Germany and suggested a German recipe. So today we're going to talk about Rouladen (pronounced rue-lah-den). It is my second favorite German dish (I couldn't find the recipe for my favorite but I'll ask my neighbor and post it soon).
This dish is a treat, usually reserved for birthdays and holidays but it is so good. I'm sure the side dishes vary from area to area here. My neighbors, for example, serve it with potato dumplings the size of baseballs. When I had it at a Christmas party a couple of months ago, it was served with spaetzle (German noodles). I'm not a huge fan of the dumplings so I prefer the spaetzle. Here's the recipe for both rouladen and spaetzle.
- 6 slices of top round – have the butcher cut it into thin slices about 3/8 inch thick and at least 6 inches by 4 inches. Pound it until it is about 1/8 – 1/4 inch thick, careful not to put holes in it.
- 3 slices of bacon
- 1 onion, sliced
- 3 garlic dill pickles, sliced
- 2 tbsp. butter
- Mustard, salt, pepper, cornstarch
- 1-2 cups water
- Season beef slices with salt and pepper. Thinly spread mustard on top of each slice.
- Divide bacon, pickle and onion slices on one end of each slice.
- Roll up slices, tucking the ends in and securing with skewers, wooden cocktail picks, or thread.
- Heat butter in a skillet. Brown rouladen well on all sides. Do not crowd them in the skillet or they won't brown nicely. Add extra butter as needed. Remove rouladen.
- Once all rouladen are browned, add 1-2 cups of hot water, gently stirring up browned bits. Return all rouladen and any accumulated juices to the skillet. Bring to a simmer and cover, allowing to simmer for about 1 1/2 hours.
- Remove rouladen. To thicken gravy, combine about 1-2 tbsp. corn starch in a little cold water and stir gently into cooking liquid until slightly thickened.
- Season gravy to taste with salt and pepper. You can add sour cream if you wish.
- Remove skewers (or picks or thread) and serve rouladen with its gravy.
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 eggs
- About 1/2 cup water
- Mix flour and salt in a bowl.
- Add eggs and mix well.
- Gradually add just enough water to make a smooth, light, and firm dough.
- Let dough stand for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil.
- Push dough through the largest holes of a grater or metal colander directly into the boiling water.
- Noodles will float when they are done. Remove with a slotted spoon.
You can eat them with gravy or buttered.
Have you either of these dishes? How did you like it? What's your favorite German dish?
Thursday, February 18, 2010
I'm currently working on a romantic suspense set in the Congo featuring a blue diamond for Wild Rose Press' Jewels of the Night call. The deadline is March 31. I'm in the middle of chapter four of a possible eight or nine chapters. About half done. I've also got a paranormal novel that I've been working on for a while. I'm in chapter thirteen of twenty and approximately half done via word count. I know I have a lot of revisions to do on that one. There is a point behind this, but of course you knew that, didn't you?
Last night as I was drifting off to sleep, my paranormal novel started haunting me again. Last summer I found out that a published author, one in my RWA chapter, no less, had a new series coming out. The name of her series? The same name I'd planned to use for my series that I'd been working on for over a year. To say that I was bummed or disappointed is an understatement. Of course, because she's published and I'm not, if I continued to use the name, others would think that I copied her. I literally felt sick to my stomach. I stopped writing for several months. This is all backstory. The long and short of it is that I stopped working on it at about the halfway point.
I've been struggling with chapter 4 of my current work in progress (WIP) for about a week. I know what I want to happen, how I want the chapter to end, but I'm having trouble getting the words down on paper (or computer screen, as the case may be). Again, at about the halfway point. When I realized this, it made me think, always a dangerous pastime.
Before, I attributed my lack of ability to finish a project as ADD, but I think it's more serious than that. I think that I am subconsciously trying to protect myself from failure. When I get to the halfway mark, I get distracted by another shiny plot idea and run off to work on that, leaving me several half finished projects. By not finishing, I can't submit and therefore can't be turned down. But by protecting myself from failure, I'm assuring myself of it. If I don't finish, I can't submit. Sure, it can't be turned down but it can't be accepted either.
So, now that I've realized how I'm sabotaging myself, I'm determined to break the cycle. I'm not starting on or working on another project until I finish my romantic suspense and I will finish it in time to submit to the March 31 deadline. You know what they say – recognizing a problem is the first step to solving it.
Do you find yourself sabotaging your own success? What do you do to work past it and accomplish your goals?
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Today in Bavaria, the sun is shining. The snow glistens like diamonds where the warm rays kiss the ground. Yes, this is my favorite kind of winter day – beautiful snow and sunshine.
I used to take sunshine for granted, especially living in Texas. There was certainly no shortage of it there. In fact, sometimes you wished for some cloud cover. But here in Germany, I have a new appreciation of the sun. Most winter days are cloudy, overcast and dreary. Much like the Pacific Northwest, I'm told. I've never been there so I can't say for certain. A conversation at work yesterday and the appearance of the sun today has prompted me to think about SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder.
This disorder is a type of depression that happens the same time every year. For most people, that is usually fall through winter though some experience this depression in spring or early summer. Some of the symptoms include depression, anxiety, loss of energy, social withdrawal, and difficulty concentrating among others. I point these particular symptoms out because I realized that I've been experiencing them. I'm not saying I have SAD, but I don't think some extra sunlight would go amiss. And I'll pay more attention to what I'm feeling now that I'm aware of the symptoms. If you think you might suffer from this depression, please seek professional help.
So, I'm going to take advantage of the sun as much as possible today because it could be weeks before I see it again.
Does the lack of sunshine affect you? Care to share?
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Goals are important. Without goals, what do we work toward in life? What gives our lives meaning? Goals don't have to big and lofty, as long as they are important to you.
I think we've all heard that writing our goals down helps us focus on them more, makes them more real to us than an abstract idea. I think that's true. This year, I became a member of a wonderful group. An accountability group. What's that, you say? Well, this group knows what my long term goals are. In this case, what I want to accomplish for the year. I've broken these long term goals down into small chunks and these wonderful ladies make sure that I complete these tasks I set for myself or they have permission to kick me in the tookus to get me jump-started. Writing your goals down is all well and good, but if there's no accountability, what's to keep you on track?
My good friend, Rachel Lynne (http://rachellynneauthor.com/2010/02/15/success-is-just-around-the-corner.aspx), has determined this for herself and puts her goals out there every week on her blog. Then she holds herself accountable to her readers. And then she has the nerve to challenge us to do the same! Can you believe it? (Just kidding, Rach!) Denise Golinowski (http://gaiasong.livejournal.com/8142.html) has succumbed to Rachel's siren call and I'm bending under the peer pressure. LOL. Seriously, writers can be the biggest support for other writers and it's wonderful when they care enough to help you keep your course and realize your dreams. So I'm writing my goals for the rest of the week here, where everyone can see them, where I will be ridiculed and shamed if I don't succeed. Okay, not really, but I'm a writer. I need a little melodrama every now and again.
So – drum roll please!
This week, I vow to finish chapters four and five of Blood Diamond. I vow to post a blog entry everyday through Friday.
Whew! Okay, not as bad as I thought. Now, we'll see how it goes on Monday when I own up to how I did. ;)
So what about you? Do you have any goals you'd like to share? Would you like some help in staying accountable? Please share your experiences.
Monday, February 15, 2010
In Germany and other German-speaking countries like Austria and Switzerland, today is a very festive day, the high point of Fasching (fah-shing). Fasching, or German Karneval, is much like Mardi Gras in the States and Rosenmontag, or Rose Monday, is comparable to Fat Tuesday in New Orleans.
Celebrations usually include dressing up in costumes, dancing in the streets, parades and heavy drinking. Drinking in Germany? No way! Though not a national holiday, in many of the cities that strongly follow tradition (Cologne, Dusseldorf, Mainz), many companies and schools close the Thursday before Rosenmontag through Tuesday. Just before midnight on Tuesday, there is a solemn procession to the Rathaus (rot-house), or city hall and they usher in Ash Wednesday and Lent.
You can see what a fun bunch the Germans can be!
Ever been to Mardi Gras? If so, care to share your experience?
Thursday, February 11, 2010
I mention this because (you knew there was a reason, right?) I find that when I'm writing, I write. No other craft allowed. Right before Christmas, it was flip-flopped. I worked on gifts for family and friends, sewing and crocheting my heart out, and hardly wrote a word. I get this tunnel vision and when I'm involved in one creative pursuit, it's like I'm unable to express myself in any other form of creativity.
I'm trying to combat this strange focus because 1) I like to sew, quilt and crochet and love to give homemade gifts, and 2) I'm trying to find more of a balance between writing and the rest of life. So, on the days I don't work at the part-time job, I've decided to devote a few hours in the mornings to the sewing machine - at least until I have the projects earmarked for gifts finished. And that list isn't short.
What about you? Do you have more than one creative outlet? Do you find yourself, like me, battling one-thing-at-a-time-itis? How do you keep the balance in your life?
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
My current project is a romantic suspense set in the exotic locale of the Republic of Congo in 2004. My heroine is a doctor in the Doctors without Borders program and living in a village in the rain forest. My hero is a mercenary hired to bring in her brother and the rough, uncut blue diamond he stole. Instead, he finds my heroine.
As a writer, I know that story is conflict. We are encouraged to put our characters through the wringer, and believe me, I do. I know I've got a great scene full of emotional angst when I'm crying right along with my character while I write it. But how far can a writer go before it's too much for the reader?
I'm contemplating adding some nastiness that the heroine, as a doctor, is privy to when it comes to how the villain in my story treats women. If she remembers this incident while being forced into the antagonist's control, is the reader going to stop reading if there is a graphic scene or is it needed to show the depths of this man's depravity? How much is too much?
I would love to hear your thoughts. As a writer, do you share my dilemma? As a reader, how would this type of scene affect your reading experience with this story?
Monday, February 8, 2010
I am a member of several writers' groups, most of them online, but I do get a chance to meet a lot of the people face to face at conferences. I have many things in common with these people, most importantly our love of writing and the effort we put into it to become better. We have similar interests and experiences. I feel close to these people. Are these people my friends? I think so.
So, maybe we can only handle 150 friends. I don't really know, but I'm not sure that I want to limit myself and my experiences so I'll just leave this debate as "Hmm, interesting" and continue to socialize as I've been doing - without counting how many friends I have.
What do you think about Dunbar's Number? Do you think our brains can only handle 150 friends?
Friday, February 5, 2010
As my friend, Rachel Lynne blogged yesterday (http://blog.rachellynneauthor.com/2010/02/04/the-writers-life-living-in-cyberspace.aspx), writers are solitary creatures. We spend a lot of time on the computer and internet. The friendships we make online are wonderful and no less real for being long distance. But we need to take care to balance those friendships with those that we see on a day to day basis.
So, today I'm headed out on day trip provided by Outdoor Recreation on post with my friend, C. We're touring some fabric stores here in the local area. Hopefully I will find some great embellishments for a purse I want to make. Then I'm coming home and jumping on the computer to look for my writer friends and do some sprinting.
Tomorrow will be a well-balanced day for me and I'm sure to enjoy myself with ALL my friends.
Do you ever feel as though your online world has taken over your physical one? What do you do ensure you keep a healthy balance?
Thursday, February 4, 2010
Now my visits to Facebook are infrequent, though I'm trying to remedy that. I started a fan page there. That was pretty cool. If you want to fan me, you can find me at http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Riley-Quinn/221823930058. I would love to see you there. I'll be posting updates about my writing there.
This year, I've added a Twitter account (RileyQuinn) and now this blog. I'm learning how to tweet effectively, thanks to my friend, Flicka. I'm making it one of my goals to follow through with my ventures. I hope you'll join me; it will keep me honest. ;)
Here I'll be talking about writing, life in Europe as an American, and just about anything else that piques my interest.
So what about you? Are you part of the Social Network Revolution? Which programs do you use? What do you like about them?