Monday, December 30, 2013

Resolute...for 2014

Once again it's the time of year to make the Dreaded Resolutions. Lose weight, go somewhere, unplug, you know the drill. Most people use the start of a new year to make a list of things they wish they could do but won't.

Of course, I am too. But these aren't resolutions. These are goals. I give you my list of goals for 2014

1. Be healthy.
I don't mean just lose weight. I mean really strive to eat better, to move, to make it to the gym or if not to walk the dog on a regular basis. I've slipped since the summer, and this year my job has me going crazy so it's not been easy. Most of the people in my building say the same, so it's not just me.

Last year I finished Grad School, and then I sat around in January, basking in the glow of the fact I didn't have any papers to write. No projects to turn in. I think I thought I had all this time. And so I filled it up with stuff. I half-heartedly did NANO but didn't get far. So this year I need to re-focus and get back to business. Especially since this year will be SO VERY BUSY. So 500 words per day it will be. I have two books to finish!

3. De-clutter.
And I don't just mean my house, though that's a never-ending battle. I mean my life. Like I said, I filled it up with stuff when I didn't have Grad School anymore, and now there's Just Too Much. I need to find priorities and pay attention to them. My Etsy store has been doing kind of well, especially the last few months, so I'm keeping that. The money allows me to do extra things for book promotion. But there are other things that will need to go. I will need to start staying NO to some things and YES to other things.

5. Be an author, not just a writer.
Meaning do more on my blog, and this blog, and the other blog I write for. Focus on what will bring readers to my site, my blogs, and ultimately my work. This is a big one, because I've kind of been blowing it off. Needs to become a priority. Soon.

6. Read more books.
My job is with young children, so I don't find myself as ingrained with YA and tween lit as I should be. I need to read more books this year, get back into the groove of 'what's in'. 

Have a happy New Year, and I hope 2014 will be a great one for you!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Book Thief

I have a confession:

I never finished reading THE BOOK THIEF.


I couldn't get pass death being the narrator. It felt a little too impersonal.

Then I heard tons of positive reviews on the movie and decided I'd check it out.


OMG, it's amazing.

Sure, at the beginning, death narrates about his 'job' and how he's not like the 'stereotypical' version but rather average looking. He's fascinated with mortals and introduces us to a young girl named Liesel. She's on a train with her mother and brother, who ends up dying. After her brother is buried, the grave digger 'drops' a book. Liesel quickly takes it and holds tight to it as it reminds her of her brother.

We're in Germany during WW2 and later meet Liesel's foster parents. We find that Liesel can't read and is teased at her new school. Her foster father helps her to learn. **The dictionary he makes for Liesel in their basement is awesome. We see the night of broken glass and the bonfire where all books were burned. At this point, Liesel longs to read and even rushes out after most are gone, to grab one of the books.

The emotions, situations pulled me right into Liesel's story.

Here's a little clip of the movie:

One warning: If you do decide to see, take some tissues. At the near end, I sobbed.

Emotional, heart-wrenching tale of courage in face of evil.

One great thing about a movie like this? Now I want to revisit the book and read it.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas is Coming! And to Help Get us in the Mood - Why, Simon's Cat Of course!

Christmas is almost upon us.
And as we all furiously try to get ready for it or reign in our our bristling eagerness for what's under that tree, there's no better way to relax than to watch some fun Simon's Cat antics. Oh yeah!

Christmas Presence Part 2 - that poor Santa doll will never be the same. Heh heh.

Now we just need to convince Simon to do an episode of his cat in the Manger. Hee hee!

I adore his videos. Do you?

Hoping you and yours have a fabulous holiday!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Fictional Holidays


Back when I was a kid, reading voraciously and taking a stab at writing my own stories, I was always enamored with books that featured a chapter or adventure or even just a scene built around Christmas. Little Women has a Christmas chapter. So does The Four Story Mistake by Elizabeth Enright, one of my all-time favorite children's writers. And if I want to go back to when I was an even younger reader, even Mary Poppins included a magical story about Christmas shopping with the Banks children.

Christmas was always my favorite holiday, and not for the obvious reason. Of course I loved presents! What kid doesn't? But I loved the season in its entirety, from the ever-present carols to the smell of the Christmas tree. From my mother's special once-a-year cookies, to the gift-laden, gold-brocade feel of honest-to-God goodwill in the air.

Much more cynical as a grown-up, and I'm sorry that I am, I look back on that wide-eyed joy with a bit of wistfulness. Christmas spirit didn't become more elusive because I learned that Santa Claus isn't real (I was one of those kids that was never brought up to believe in him in the first place, actually). No, for me the Christmas spirit started waning during grown-up life, when holidays worked around family-shattering issues or the recent loss of a loved one became more labor than labor-of-love. In the face of some of our experiences, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come didn't just knock on our door, he blew it open and made himself at home.

As a writer, I included a Christmas chapter in one of my first novels, written during my high school years. As an adult writing a series, I recently ended one book shortly before Thanksgiving and have found that my next book picks up well into the New Year, leaving Christmas out of the mix entirely. And I'm beginning to rethink that.

This year for Christmas, I have a new granddaughter, which brings our grand-kid count up to three. Yes, our family had a big loss last spring and that means this year's Christmas will be held somewhere new and in a new way. But our grandchildren will be just as gleeful over the presents they receive, and the food, using all those treasured recipes, should be just as delicious.

Maybe it's time to show Christmas Yet to Come the way out and welcome Tiny Tim back into our home. I've missed the blessed little tyke.

Merry Christmas to all of us and a Happy New Year!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Finding Books

Where do you find out about upcoming and newly released books? According to a survey done by RJ Scott (found here), the top method by readers responding was to sign up to an author's newletter. Second was following an author on Facebook and continuing down through several levels, most of which can be summed up as "following either a particular author or publisher".

Now, yes, I follow several authors on Facebook and their blogs and I do find out about their upcoming books from them. But those aren't the only places I use to check out about new books. Because, after all, my favorite authors can only write so fast and there are other authors out there to be discovered. And I do read very fast.

I guess I'm old-fashioned (and a former librarian). I'm used to finding out about new books via journals like Locus. I gave up on Analog and Asimov's because, while they have book review sections, somehow the reviewers either never reviewed books I was interested in or, if they did, it was always long after the book was out and I had already purchased it. Newsletters from bookstores I frequent, like the independent bookstore in my town (The Book Shelf) or Uncle Hugo’s in Minneapolis are also useful. Locus and Uncle Hugo’s paper newsletter always arrive about the same time each month, so that’s a good time for me to look for interesting titles to order.

Ebooks are usually more convoluted to find out about. Yes, I still use my previously mentioned sources and decide whether I want to order the paper version or go to Amazon and order the ebook version for my Kindle. But as an author who still has one book only available in paper at Amazon (complicated story: Talking to Trees is available electronically, and has been since 2006, but Amazon still hasn't listed the Kindle version, so I have to have a link on my webpage sending people to my publisher’s website for the mobi version for Kindle users. Nook users have no problem.), I’m aware that there might be some glitches here and there. Also, as a member of EPIC, an organization of electronically published authors, I know several authors who only have their books available in electronic format, which are often ignored by the usual methods of book announcements. Fortunately, I can get news of new releases through EPIC’s newsgroups, but I do wonder how others find out about new releases.

I will occasionally go to the Amazon Kindle store and look up favorite authors that I know only publish electronically, but that's only when I remember to or when I notice my Kindle is low on new things to read. I miss Fictionwise and the alerts I had set up there.

I do attend several conventions as an author and get to meet new authors. And there are several bookdealers I can count on to carry titles that will interest me (and they will carry my books on consignment at the convention, so it's win-win for both of us).

So, where do you find out about upcoming and newly released books?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


I thought this was such an interesting article I decided to share it with you.


You may reprint this article from "The Writing World" on your blog or in your own print or electronic
newsletter. But, please include the following paragraph with a clickable link:

Article by Karen Cioffi and reprinted from The Writing World newsletter. Subscribe today at and get How to Create an Optimized Website. 3 Essential Author/Writer Website Elements and 9 Must-Have Pages, along with writing and marketing tips, plus updates on free webinars.

The writer and marketer must do lots and lots of things to keep their head above the marketing waters. And, those marketing waters are constantly moving. How do you keep up? And, what are the most effective marketing strategies to use?

Since the game is always changing, it's important to keep up with marketing trends. One useful tool for this is Technorati's 2013 Digital Influence Report.

According to their new report, which is based on "over 6,000 influencers, 1,200 consumers, and 150 top brand marketers," blogs are now heavy hitters with consumers. Blogs are regarded as trustworthy, they are popular, and they wield influence over consumer buying decision making.

So, to answer the title question, yes it is.

To further validate the importance of blogs, the report shows that blogs have more motivational buying power than Facebook. That's pretty amazing since FB is the top social network brands use to create visibility and develop relationships with consumers. In other words, brands use FB more than other social networks and they put more budget dollars into it than other social networks.

Reviewing the Technorati Report, Social Media Examiner explained that the reason blogs are so influential is because "bloggers tend to be very honest and sincere in their reviews of products and services. They talk about both negative and positive aspects of a brand, and in doing so become a trusted source of information. Trust drives action, and thus consumers look to bloggers before they buy."

The study also shows that FB cornered 91 percent of brand presence, while Twitter cornered 85 percent.

Another important finding of this study is that over 50 percent of consumers feel that smaller communities offer more influence. Even new sites were trusted over social networks.

From this study it would seem that people like connecting with other people, not crowds. They like the personal relationship, the kind of one-on-one relationship that social networks don't necessarily offer.

While the study focused on brand marketers, the results are applicable to your author or freelance writing site. Knowing that people in general trust blogs and look to them for information along with help and guidance to make purchasing decisions is powerful.

It's understandable that this information may not be interesting to most. You may not care about knowing which social network is more popular with the heavy hitters or the percentage of marketing budget dollars brands spend on social networking. But, having proof that you're not blogging in vein should put a smile on your face.

Keep blogging.


See you on the blogs.

Monday, December 2, 2013

2014 Will Be Epic

Where did it go? I feel like it was just January a few days ago. The new laptop I'm working on I got in January, and now it's almost a year old. My car accident was in January, so my new car is almost a year old too. Wow. Unbelievable. Thanksgiving is over, and the holiday season is upon us. Three weeks until Christmas *yikes!* and then a month until 2013 is over. 

I'm kind of sad to see 2013 go, because even though it didn't start off great -- Hubby having surgery, car accident, computer dying, the passing of so many people we loved -- it had some nice times too. Great vacation with the family. New car. New computer. Great conferences, time with friends, new friends, new conferences. It was pretty good, overall.

However, I am SUPER EXCITED for 2014 to start because there are so many BIG THINGS coming next year.

First of all, I have a story in a Steampunk anthology that comes out next year. The anthology is called Gaslight and Grimm and will be published by Dark Quest Books. It's all Steampunk fairy tales. I wrote a version of The Three Little Pigs, which contains no pigs whatsoever. There are some other authors whose Names You Might Know who will also have stories included. Not sure of the release date yet, but I will make a big announcement when it comes out.

I SHOULD also finish the final Library of Athena book next year. Should. It's coming along and I really like where it's going. It will be a fitting end to the series, with a couple of twists I didn't even know about until I wrote them down.

The other bit of news is a BIG HUGE SEKRIT. I cannot tell you. Or, I could, but then I'd have to kill you. Or give you kittens, or something. This is the Most Exciting piece of news of all the news that I have to share. Hopefully it will be able to be shared in the next two weeks. I am BURSTING.

I'd love to tell you. But I can't. Just know that 2014 Will. Be. Epic.