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10 More Christmas Gifts for Writers

10 More Christmas Gifts for WritersI have fun doing this every year — coming up with gift ideas for us writers. Because in some ways, we’re easy for shop for. After all, writing and office supplies can make us nearly giddy. One of my favorite gifts last year was a ream of printer paper from a friend. On the other hand, we’re creative types who also enjoy the extra effort at times when we receive something particularly fun for a writer.

I’ve had several posts in the past with gift ideas, but let me add 10 more ideas for the 2015 holiday season. (Click on links or photos below for specific product information.)

 

1. Literary Paper Dolls. I remember making paper dolls as a young girl, but I don’t remember getting to make Edgar Allen Poe. How sweet is that!

2. Chapter One/The End Earrings. I love literary-themed jewelry, and these earrings caught my eye. And you can find about a million other earrings for book lovers all over Etsy.

Book Lover Earrings 12mm Chapter One The End Antique Copper Dangle Earrings - Reader Literary Earrings - Librarian Gift Teacher Writer Gift

3. Novel Teas. Not every writer drinks coffee exclusively; many of us enjoy a cup of tea. Novel Teas have a literary quote with each tea bag. You can also find many book-themed teas in the fandom section of Adagio Teas, like these Banned Books Blends.

Novel Teas contains 25 teabags individually tagged with literary quotes from the world over, made with the finest English Breakfast tea.

4. Aqua Notes. I often come up with great ideas for my book when I’m in the shower. Which is frustrating. But hey, if I had these Aqua Notes, I could simply jot it down right there in the moment — never losing another brilliant idea to soap and spray.

5. Book-themed coasters. Out of Print Clothing is a fun place to shop, with lots of book-themed stuff, including drink coasters. Here’s one of my favorite options, for the sci-fi writer or reader.

Sci Fi Coasters

6. Writing Course Gift Certificate. You’d likely have to make the certificate yourself, but offer to pay for an online class. There are some great, inexpensive courses for writers through various sites, like Romance Writers of America­­® Chapters, Holly Lisle, and Lawson Writer’s Academy — where I’ll be teaching a young adult course next spring.

birthday gift certificate template

7. Bookmark. But not your average bookmark. Etsy has some marvelous options, like mermaid-shaped bookmarks to keep your place. (I think of fellow writer Diana Beebe every time I see this.)

Metal Mermaid Bookmark with Charms

8. Shakespearean Insult Bandages. Someone bought me these a few years ago, and I adore them. No one knew how to deliver a proper scathing insult quite like The Bard. (Check out the other products too at this great website, Gone Reading.)

William Shakespeare Insult Bandages

9. Ebook Stand. This is on my Christmas list. I don’t have one of those cases that becomes its own stand, but I like reading at the table while I’m eating or whatever. You can get a stand that works for mobile devices:

Rolodex™, Adjustable Mobile Device Mesh Stand, Black, Each (1866297)

Or one that can be used for print books as well:

Bookgem Book Holder - iPad Stand, Kindle, Tablet, & eBook Holder

10. Extra laptop supplies. I take my laptop everywhere, and having packed and repacked my laptop case a number of times, I can honestly say it’s far more convenient to have extra supplies stashed in your case so you don’t have to carry them back and forth. Grab a mini-mouse, an extra mouse pad, or a power cord specific to your writer’s laptop to make packing up and working elsewhere more convenient.

Logitech - Mini Wireless Optical Mouse - Black - Larger Front

Poppin Mouse Pad

And here are my previous years’ posts with gift ideas:

10 Holiday Gifts for Readers and Writers

Gifts for the Grammar Geek

Gifts for the Word Lover

Gifts for the Book Reader

Gifts for the Writer

10 Gifts for the Bookish and Writerly

Happy holiday shopping! Hope you can find the perfect gift for the writer in your life — even if that writer is you!

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What’s a Writer’s Job Description?

Writer Job DescriptionI’ve always found it fascinating what people do for a living. There are so many jobs and tasks out there, you can hardly imagine all the possibilities. But I also find it fascinating how people describe their jobs. How do they perceive their own work?

There’s an oft-told parable about three stone masons, or bricklayers, working on the building of a great cathedral. A traveler arrived in town, toured the exterior, and witnessed the construction.

Seeing a stone mason, he stopped and asked, “What are you doing?” This first mason answered simply, “I’m laying bricks.”

Turning a corner, the traveler saw a second stone mason and asked the same question: “What are you doing?” This second mason answered, “I’m erecting a wall.”

Moving on, the traveler spotted a third stone mason and asked again, “What are you doing?” This time, the third mason straightened his spine, beamed with pride, and responded, “What am I doing, sir? I am building a cathedral.”

I suspect the third stone mason experienced far more job satisfaction. He believed himself to be contributing to something big, beautiful, and lasting.

When writers get asked about their job, the easiest answer is simply “I write books.” It’s straightforward, understandable, accurate. However, many writers see it more deeply. Ask them what they do for a living, and you might get answers like:

  • I make up lies for a living, and people love me for it.
  • I weave imaginary worlds and invite others to join me there.
  • I create fictional characters, then make readers care about what happens to them.
  • I use to stories to inspire people to believe in love, justice, and goodness.

When I’m asked what I do, I usually answer, “I write teen novels.” That’s the crux of it. But…I have a different version in my head. Because what I see myself as doing is more like building a cathedral — contributing to something bigger, more beautiful, and lasting.

I tell stories that encourage teens to recognize they’re stronger than they think they are, that humor can get you through a lot in life, and that doing the right thing — however difficult — is the best thing for your heart and for your soul. I write books, but I hope they mean something to my readers.

Even if it’s just a fun story that gives them an escape for a weekend, that’s a goal worth pursuing as well. I think very highly of those authors who have brought me genuine smiles and made me laugh.

I hope teens also view what they do in life now, and in the future, as big, beautiful, and lasting. Because I know it truly can be. But a lot depends on your perspective.

How do you define what you do? Are you laying bricks or building a cathedral? What does that look like for you?

What Fall TV Premiere Are You Looking Forward To?

I’ve been perusing the TV schedule for this fall, with all the series and season premieres. Gone are some of the shows I watched regularly, like Hart of Dixie and Revenge. And new ones have taken their place.

While I might find a gem among the lot of new offerings this fall, what I look forward to more is the return of shows I’ve grown attached to — ones that happily continue, at least one more season. What am I look forward to?

TBBTIt started with this one on Monday night — the 9th season premiere of The Big Bang Theory. It’s tough to keep a series going that long and keep the magic. But I think this series has done well because the characters have grown as the series has continued, yet they still have their quirks and challenges. Also, TBBT hasn’t fallen into the temptation of tangents, like a police procedural that gets lost in the weeds of a romantic relationship, or a medical drama that wanders off into politics, or — let’s face it — most J.J. Abrams shows. TBBT has a clear identity, while mixing it up enough to keep fans watching.

***

CastleThen there’s Castle. I fully admit this is my catnip. A writer turned crime solver? A fabulous ensemble cast? Nathan Fillion? More, please. This show also demonstrates that the chemistry and interest need not die after the hero and heroine finally get together. In real life, there are still challenges involved in being a couple, especially if that couple works together in high-pressure situations as these two do. I do have a couple of suggestions for the show writers, though. We writers out here loved the references to real authors and especially the poker game, which has included such big-name authors as James Patterson, Steven J Cannell, and Dennis Lehane. Also, you might want to show Castle actually writing from time to time, so our families don’t think you just turn out novels in between family laser tag and book signings. Still, eager for another season!

***

GrimmTwo fairy-tale based shows came out in the same year: Once Upon a Time and Grimm. Hubby and I watched the pilots of both, chose Grimm, and never looked back. This series has had a few bumps, in my opinion, but the ensemble feel of this show has grown. And we’re now attached to the story of not only the main character, but great supporting characters like Monroe, Hank, Rosalee, and Sergeant Wu. Also, I still recognize fairy tale plot lines from time to time, and I still have moments when I turn to the hubster and say, “Wow, didn’t see that coming.” For all those reasons, I’m ready to dive back into another season of Grimm.

***

iZombieBut the show I’m most eager to follow again is iZombie, a comic-based show co-developed with Rob Thomas (Veronica Mars, anyone?) which premiered last year. It’s a great twist on the zombie story, with protagonist Liv Moore eating brains, experiencing her meal’s memories, and then using that information to help solve their murders. There are so many fun little references thrown in, the supporting characters are perfectly cast, and the script has great dialogue. This almost makes up for Veronica Mars having such a short run. Actually, I take that back — nothing makes up for that. Anyway, I’m still ready for some more iZombie. Coming in October…

***

Miss FisherI would be remiss if I didn’t mention the series I’m currently catching up on, courtesy of Netflix. I discovered this Australian delight earlier this year and binge-watched two seasons. I nearly squealed with glee when I saw that the third season was now available. (Can’t get the show here in the States while it’s airing in Australia.) It’s Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, a fabulous show set in the 1920s and featuring larger-than-life Miss Fisher as a private detective. I confess to not having read the books by Kerry Greenwood, but this author clearly created an engaging character worth several seasons of a TV series. I hope it continues, but I’m savoring every episode of season three right now.

Your turn! What fall TV premiere are you anticipating with eagerness? What shows do you think you’ll give a trial showing? Anyone gems we might have missed that we should binge-watch on Netflix?

Sharing Hunter Has a Book Trailer!

Sharing Hunter is my young adult contemporary novel which finaled in the RWA­® Golden Heart® competition. It will be out on submission to publishing houses soon, but even before its release…I have a book trailer. Which is awesome!

The owner of BookVidz, Kim Handysides, approached me about making a trailer. She’d read some of the novel and thought it was a good match for her company. I was absolutely thrilled with this idea! Bookvidz took my premise and presented it so well in a professionally packaged video. So of course, I want to share it here:

Isn’t that cool?!

If you’re an author looking for a quality video company, I highly recommend BookVidz. Check out their services and more videos at Bookvidz.com and be sure to like their Facebook page.

The Golden Heart Speech I Wrote, But Didn’t Give

The RWA Awards Ceremony Program
The RWA Awards Ceremony Program

When you’re nominated for an RWA Golden Heart award, they tell you to write a speech. Even if you have absolutely no belief that you could possibly win, they repeat the need to have coherent words on a page to read just in case your name is called and you have to make your way to stage and say something into the waiting microphone.

Last Saturday night, when 2000+ writers and their guests convened for the annual RWA RITA and Golden Heart Awards Ceremony, the name announced for the Golden Heart, Young Adult category was Stephanie Winkelhake, a four-time finalist. My other fellow finalists — T.L. Summer, Diana Munoz-Stewart, and Mary Sullivan — and I applauded her well-deserved win. And I look forward to seeing all of our books on shelves in the coming years (so watch for them!).

But I still have this speech I wrote, and it seems a shame to waste it. So here goes nothing:

Who would you thank in a speech for an award you received? Have you ever delivered a victory circle speech?

Why Do Teens Prefer Print to Ebook?

Why Do Teens Prefer Print to EbookThat question — Why do teens prefer print to ebook? — has been in the topic of many conversations I’ve had with authors and parents over the last year. It’s a fact that has intrigued me, given how tech driven this young generation is. Why are they on their devices almost 24/7, but when it comes to books, they want to turn physical pages? Could anything feel more old-fashioned?

I’ve decided there are several good reasons why teens are more likely to read a print book than load up an ereader.

1. Teens view their device as a way to interact with others. Watch a teen pull out their cell phone and what are they likely doing? Texting a friend. Looking something up online. Watching a YouTube video. Playing a multiplayer video game. Snapchatting, Facebooking, Instagramming, Tumblring, etc. Devices are a way to connect to the world.

A book, however, takes you into a different world. Youth want to get lost in that book world, and it’s pretty hard to do that when you’re flipping pages on the screen and notification beeps keep interrupting. The real world, with all its connections, intrudes. The better way to shut off that stream of busyness and get lost in a story is to set aside the device and pick up a print book.

This might be changing with the generation who are toddlers and preschoolers now, because they’ve had more experience reading books on iPads and ereaders. But we’ll see…

2. Teens don’t have credit card accounts to purchase ebooks. And this is a biggie. Because you can’t buy stuff online without a credit or gift card number. My sons have often given me cash for items they want online, which I then buy with my yes-I’m-a-credit-worthy-adult VISA number.

Teens want freedom (understandably), so having to schlep to Mom and Dad every time they want a book on their device and get a credit card number kind of stinks. It’s more freeing to simply check out a book at the library or purchase one at the bookstore.

Parents and grandparents could impact this by having their teens establish book wish lists online and regularly purchasing and sending selections to a teen’s ereader. Also, public libraries have electronic book loans (like Overdrive) which make ebooks more available to teens.

3. Print books make a statement of self-expression. Tell me about your favorite books, and I’ll tell you something about who you are. Carrying a print book can be like a statement of style — conveying to the world around you how you view yourself. No one sees what’s on your ereader, but if you’re carrying around an anime book? A teen angst contemporary? A vampire novel?

Self-expression is a big deal as a teenager, because you’re honing in on who you are, what you like, what you’re about. Showing off what you’re reading can be part of that, and print books do it better.

4. Print books allow teens to identify fellow readers and connect. While carrying around that print book, it’s easy to start conversations with fellow readers. “Oh, I read that!” “Did you like it?” “If you like that one, you should read ___.” We book nerds adore these moments of finding others who love the books we love. We also collect reading recommendations from like-minded readers. Friendships have sparked through noticing what someone else reads and commenting on it. Around the books we read, we build community.

This is especially true for trend books, like Harry PotterHunger Games, and The Fault in Our Stars. If you easily see the book cover in someone’s hands, it’s a conversation starter. However, ebooks are not visible to others, so you lose that opportunity.

5. Parents are more willing to buy print books for their teens. Parents supply quite a few books their teens read. And we know they’re actually reading the book when it’s a print copy in their hands. If a teen is on his/her ereader, who knows what they’re doing? It could be the book; it could be video games; heck, it could be something illegal…

Parents still lean toward putting a print book in their hands of their children, and that means teens are still reading print books.

Do I think the print book > ebook for teens trend is changing? Yes, I do. My teenagers didn’t grow up with iPads in their hands, but this upcoming generation did. Schools are also moving toward using devices for education, including making textbooks available on ereaders, so teens are getting used to reading on screens. Moreover, I believe the book industry will (eventually) find creative ways for young people to buy books without needing credit cards.

BUT I think there will always be room for print books. At least I hope so. Although I use an ereader plenty, I still love the feel of a book in my hands, the smell of freshly printed book paper, the crisp flipping sound as I turn pages. I like seeing the spines of my favorite books on my shelves.

Do you prefer print or ebook, and why? Why do you think teenagers still lean toward print books?

Sources: Young adult readers ‘prefer printed to ebooks’ – The GuardianDon’t Judge a Book by Its Cover: Tech-Savvy Teeens Remain Fans of Print Books – Nielson.com

Summertime Madness Book Lovers: My Picks

I’ve been immersed in YA reading this year, which is my favorite genre, of course. My TBR (to be read) pile looks like a crooked skyscraper. I completely relate to the “so many books, so little time” feeling.

So when humor author, and delightful conference roomie, Jess Witkins posted her recent book picks as part of the Summertime Madness Tag, I knew I wanted to play along.

Here are my choices for the questions included in Summertime Madness for Book Lovers!

1. Show a book with a summery cover.

Boys Like You by Juliana Stone. I’ve been reading through the young adult nominees for the RWA® RITA® awards, and this is the last one on my list, which I need to read pronto before the awards ceremony this Saturday, July 25.

Boys Like You

2. Pick one fictional place that would be the perfect destination for your summer vacation.

Narnia, please. I can’t wait to turn in my essay on What I Did for Vacation titled “The Real Lion King and Me.”

Magicians Nephew

3. You’re about to go on a flight to your Summer Vacation. But you want to read a book that lasts for the whole flight, so what novella do you choose?

Before there was Hunger Games or Divergent, there were dystopian stories like A Clockwork Orange, published in 1962 and featuring a teenage protagonist. Since I’ve never read this classic novella, I think it’s about time.

Clockwork Orange

4. You have a case of Summertime Sadness. What happy book do you pick up to shine a smile on your face?

I keep meaning to re-read A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck. It’s a middle grade book of short stories chronicling two kids’ summer visits to grandma in the country, and I recall laughing out loud as I read.

A_Long_Way_from_Chicago

5. You’re sitting at a beach all alone, which fictional character would be your beach babe?

Let me be clear: My real-life character would be my husband, who beats any book crush I’ve ever had.

But…if I must choose…Thorne Carswell from The Lunar Chronicles. He’s introduced in Marissa Meyer’s Cinder, but he’s a main character in Cress. He’s got that sassy swagger with a heart of gold. *swoon*

Cress

6. To match your ice cream you want an icy cool sidekick, which fictional sidekick do you pick?

Right now, I’m all over hanging out with a character in my current work-in-progress (working title: Daring Charlotte): Kat would be an awesome BF to have on a summer vacation. But if I’m going with a published choice, how about Hermoine? She’s smart, brave, fun, and socially conscious (SPEW, anyone?). Plus, I love cats, so Crookshanks would be welcome.

Harry Potter Philosopher's Stone

What do you think of my choices? And given these questions, what books would be on your list? Share your favorite answers!

Not a Pantser. Not a Plotter. I’m a Puzzler.

What’s your writing process?

It’s such a common question for authors, and one most writers I know give a great deal of thought. Because we don’t simply hatch one day fully grown as authors who know exactly the best way to write books.

The best writers learn story structure, prose techniques, characterization, emotional depth, and all the good “craft” stuff that makes our writing shine. Good writing can be studied and learned, and we all want that destination of a story well told. But HOW we get from Point A to Point B differs from writer to writer. It can take a while to figure out your own best practices.

When I began writing, I was pretty much a pantser — that is, someone who free writes, by the “seat of my pants.” The story just came out on the page, and I went wherever it took me.

After a while, I decided I was a recovering pantser, though still not a plotter — someone who plans storyline and characters and plot points and scenes in advance. Still, I dove more into outlines and timelines and character sheets.

Then I did something really weird: I drafted two novels out of order. That is, I came up with a general outline, then wrote a scene here, a scene there, another scene here. I didn’t write the story chronologically, but plugged in scenes as they came to me. When finished, I had to work out transitions and flow. But all in all, it sort of worked for me.

One of my writer friends, Jenny Hansen, calls it “story quilting.” Which is a great metaphor. I’m not the least bit crafty, though, so “quilting” was a bit hard for me to connect with.

Not a Pantser. Not a Plotter. I'm a Puzzler. via Julie Glover
I’m a Puzzler.

But I love puzzles. Whether it’s jigsaw puzzles or crossword puzzles or brain teasers or mysteries, I love a good puzzle. I like working on a section at a time, then moving to another, and then another, until it all comes together.

The other day I realized my current writing process is like working a puzzle — a piece here and a piece there, until I have all the pieces fitting together just so and a complete image forms. I start with a solid outline and major characters, like building the corners of a jigsaw puzzle first, but then I let myself write scenes in whatever order I want. Slowly but surely, I build the novel and see the full picture getting clearer and clearer.

Is this a typical way to write? No, it’s not. Which is probably why it’s taken me so long to fess up to this process working for me. But somehow, it does.

My takeaway is that writers should master their craft, but experiment with their process. When someone suggests “the way” to write, it might work great for that someone, but not so much for you. Be willing to try different things, and see which approach brings out your best story.

Maybe you’re a pantser. Maybe you’re a plotter. And maybe a few of you out there are puzzlers, like me.

What Are Female Superheroes Wearing? (And Who Fights Crime in That?!)

I still remember my now-teenage son, back when he was a little kid, asking me about superheroes. He was fascinated with them and loved a great superhero story. However, he looked at one of his action figures, turned up his sweet young face to me, and asked, “Why is Wonder Woman wearing her underwear?”

Good question, kid, I thought. Instead of answering, “Because she was drawn by a man who wanted his superhero to turn him on,” I scanned my brain for an answer that would ring true yet retain his innocence. My answer? “That’s her swimsuit. She was raised on an island surrounded by water, so she went swimming a lot.”

Not bad, eh? Kind of my own superpower to come up with that one on the fly!

But it’s still a good question. Why on earth are female superheros dressed like they’re about to film a sexually-laced hip-hop video instead of fighting crime and pursuing justice?

I’ve long been a fan of superheroes, starting with the classic TV series Batman, in which Adam West and Burt Ward POWed and KAPLATed their way to justice. Then there was Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman, the cartoon Justice League (including the Wonder Twins—anyone remember them?), and even the not-so-well-done Shazam! and The Secrets of Isis that aired on Saturday mornings. I’ve seen numerous superhero movies from Christopher Reeve’s Superman to all but the last X-Men to Guardians of the Galaxy (a recent favorite).

As much as I love superheroes, I still don’t understand most of the fashion choices when it comes to women. So when I realized I had a superhero-themed costume party to attend this summer, a fellow attendee and I had this conversation:

Her: How come all the women superheroes have no clothes on? How can you fight crime in a thong…

Me: I’ve wondered that too. Like we’re sitting around and thinking, “Hey, I’m ready to go fight crime. But first I need to put on my strapless top so the criminals will have lots of cleavage to distract them and my breasts will jiggle properly when I’m running. And I need a thong up my butt, because nothing says ‘I’m fearless!’ like a willingness to floss your crack. And stiletto heels, please, because if a woman can’t run, jump, and kick in ridiculously high heels, how can she even bother to call herself a superhero?!”

Wonder Woman lasso
Here’s my lasso of truth! Tell me: Is this costume too revealing?

When I started actually shopping for costume options, I was shocked how many choices were preceded by the word “sexy,” as in Sexy Supergirl, Sexy Spidergirl, Sexy Wonder Woman. Really? We need to add more sexiness to that Amazon princess’s corseted look?

Stop the madness, people! This is no way to dress women in 2015! Or really any century, decade, or year.

No self-respecting crime-fighting woman would wear such get-ups. They are impractical for the physical feats expected of superheroes. They make the female class of superheroes out to be eye candy more than serious justice fighters. They don’t give the right message to young women who can be beautiful and powerful without being overly revealing. (Oh yes, you can, girl!) Moreover, they make emulating them for costume parties require a year-long gym membership and/or several pairs of Spanx.

Yes, there are some exceptions, and I applaud the creators of these more relatable female superheroes. I’d like to see more.

What do you think of the costumes for female superheroes? Who are your favorite female superheroes? How would you design a costume for superpowered crime-fighting?

Authors Are Fangirls Too!

This past weekend, I attended the RT (Romantic Times) Booklovers Convention in Dallas, Texas, where hundreds of authors, publishing industry professionals, and readers converged. It was a hodge-podge of writer workshops, industry panels, reader events, and entertaining socials.

I could report a lot of takeaways from my experience, but what hit me most was that authors are fangirls too! What do I mean?

No matter who I was with, whether a writer still seeking a contract or a multipublished bestseller, we all had someone who made our hearts flutter or our knees shake in their presence. It was that oh my gosh, did you see who’s here?! shriek. There were quite a few big name authors like Kathy Reichs, Charlaine Harris, Kiera Cass, Francine Rivers, Eloisa James, and more.

But we also had those niche authors we’d followed and read with delight. When we’d savored their books, we never imagined we’d meet them, much less chat or get an autograph or, as one multipubbed author mentioned, sit on a panel with them.

And I don’t think this ever goes away. Even if by marvelous fortune, I became a well-known, bestselling author, I am fairly certain I’d keel right over if Judy Blume or J.K. Rowling walked into the room. Be still my bookish heart!

What’s especially lovely is meeting someone whose books you adore, and finding out the author is authentic and delightful in person. For instance, I met Stephanie Perkins, author of Anna and the French KissLola and the Boy Next Door, and Isla and the Happily Ever After, and we had a great little conversation. (I feel even better now about recommending her novel to so many teens!)

Stephanie Perkins and Me
Stephanie Perkins and Julie Glover

I’m eager to return to RT Booklovers Convention again, not only to meet authors I love, but the readers we writers love too!

What author would you love to meet? Who have you met already?