Dare to Be Different: The Beauty of a Girl

boaw-logo-2015-originalThis post is part of the Beauty of a Woman Blogfest 2015.

Deirdre.

I still remember her name. Not because we were friends. She was a senior while I was a freshman in high school. Sure, we were both in the flute section of band, but she was first chair and I was way back in the second row hoping to make my way up to the front row someday. My dad knew her dad, but that didn’t make us cohorts. No, I remember Deirdre for one thing in particular: being different.

Different in appearance.

I don’t mean she bucked the trendy stuff and went all rebel—she wasn’t emo when everyone else was hipster. She didn’t conform to a different standard or subculture. She didn’t even seem to make a point of standing out, but she did.

Why? Because she was essentially her own trend.

Her hairstyle wasn’t the fad of the day. Her fashion was fun and quirky (and really nothing I saw on the racks, so I wondered sometimes how she did that). Her demeanor was confident, without being “hey, look at me!”

And I think about her sometimes. Because if I had to do high school over again, I’d be like Deirdre.*

I wouldn’t copy her fashion. Rather, I’d own my own version of beauty. I’d wear what I wanted, choose a hairstyle I liked, walk with a lot more confidence. I’d dare to be different. I’d be me.

Girl with interesting hairdo with flowers on it + blog post title

I’d choose a look that made me feel good about myself—whether it matched or clashed with current expectations.

Instead of worrying what designers said was “in,” I’d consider my body shape and dress to show it off. Instead of wasting hours with home perms, curling irons, and Aqua Net hairspray (the thing at the time), I’d let my straight hair be straight. Instead of comparing myself with a taller girl, a curvier girl, or just a prettier girl, I’d look in the mirror and take stock of my own assets. Instead of wallowing in self-doubt and body-image issues, I’d lift up my chin and walk with confidence.

I’d own my beauty.

Knowing it was unique to me.

I don’t have high school to do over again. Instead, I have these days to dress how I want, choose the look I want, walk with the self-confidence I now possess.

And I can encourage young girls to do and be better.

Young ladies, when I see you all in the school parking lot with the same hairstyle, I wonder who had to wrestle and wrangle with hair products, tools, and self-criticism to get that look…and if you ever want to do something different.

When I see a fashion trend catch hold, and school hallways filled with the latest thing, I wonder if you all love it for what it is…or if you ever want to wear something different.

When I hear you criticize your appearance and complain about your hair, makeup, body shape, or style, I wonder if you believe that down deep…or if you ever want to believe something different.

Believe in your beauty. It’s there—inside and out.

And go ahead. Dare to be different. Dare to be you.

When you’re my age (yes, a long time from now), you’ll be glad you did.

~ ♀ ~

Have You Experienced Post-Novel Depression?

In recent years, we’ve heard a lot about postpartum depression — as well we should, since it affects quite a few moms. Even those without full-blown depression can experience a form of “baby blues.” Just when you think you should be infused with unending stores of joy — finally having given birth to the child you anticipated for so long — you’re feeling blah times two, or ten.

I’m starting to wonder if the same thing can happen with writing a book.

A couple of weeks ago, I finished The Book — that is, the book I’d been working on in some way or other for three years. But now, it’s done. Drafted, rewritten, critiqued, edited, polished. As good as I can make it. I did a little happy dance and then opened up a new project, jumping with excitement about tackling a new novel.

And then the blahs hit.

Instead of working, I really wanted to watch TV and take naps and chat on Facebook and clean my closet. Which, admittedly, needs cleaning.

But still… What happened to my enthusiasm? Wasn’t this what I’d been excited about since forever? I’d been thrilled to finish the book, and now, suddenly, I felt mehMeh about writing. Meh about editing. Meh about blogging too.

Sad woman looking out windowPerhaps this is something like a post-novel depression. Not a true, full-blown depression. (Don’t send me “happy pills” or a psychiatrist. I promise, I’m fine.) More like Finished Book Blues. Just a sense of letdown, because I’d been aiming at this Big Massive Goal for so long, and once I crossed the finish line . . . well, what now?

Yes, I should be writing. I should be editing. And I still should be cleaning out my closet.

But I haven’t yet.

Maybe you’ve been through a similar circumstance.

WebMD suggests 10 natural treatments to fight depression, and I think they might apply with Finished Book Blues as well. Here are each of the 10 — with my own take on what that means for writers.

1. Get in a routine. Sit down at a regular time each day and write something, anything. Don’t get up until the timer has sounded or the word count has been met.

2. Set goals. Old goal has been met? Set new ones — with a deadline. That sense of urgency with the almost-finished book doesn’t exist with the new project, so you have to create that motivation.

3. Exercise. Yep, your brain works better when the blood flows well throughout your body. And you’ll get a burst of energy from a good workout.

4. Eat healthy. Too many carbs and sugar come with a after-eating malaise, so make better food choices that feed your brain cells as well as your body.

5. Get enough sleep. Getting enough, but not lying around all day, is the trick here. It’s about balance — figuring out how much sleep you need to function well. (Which, by the way, is typically more than you’re getting. Most people are sleep-deprived.)

6. Take on responsibilities. Get involved in a writers’ group, offer to beta read or critique for someone, join a writing accountability group. Don’t wallow; get busy.

7. Challenge negative thoughts. Maybe you’re thinking that you wrote one great book, but you’re not sure you have another one in you. Or perhaps you fear that this next project will be as grueling, or more grueling, than the last. Answer all that self-doubt with affirmations about your writing ability and zeal. You. Can. Do. This. (Again.)

8. Check with your doctor before using supplements. Don’t grab the 5-hour energy bottle, or whatever, just yet. Artificial boosts aren’t likely to suddenly morph you into J.K. Rowling or John Green. If you are sinking into true depression, though, see a doctor.

9. Do something new. Do some writing exercises. Write a short story. Try writing a scene in a different genre. Take a current scene and rewrite from the viewpoint of an alternate character. Read a writing craft book. Take an online writing course or attend a conference. Re-awaken your excitement for storytelling.

10. Try to have fun. Writing and editing are work, but this is also a truly fun job. Writers get to create characters, weave worlds, and saturate ourselves in beautiful language. We get to craft a story that enables a shared experience with readers. We get to make things up, play pretend, lie on the page. What fun!

I’d probably add one more to their list: Drink plenty of water. According to PsychCentral, “even mild dehydration can influence mood, energy levels and the ability to think clearly.” Sometimes I get a mid-afternoon dip in energy and realize I haven’t been drinking enough, so I grab the bottled water and swig a bunch of ounces. And I feel better.

Have you ever experienced “post-novel depression,” or Finished Book Blues? What’s your advice for snapping out of it?

Sources: 10 Natural Depression Treatments – WebMDDehydration Influences Mood, Cognition – PsychCentral

Overwhelmed by Social Media Choices

My Twitter feed is whining a lot lately. Some days it sits there, neglected and lonely, glaring at me as if I’ve locked it in the closet and forgotten to feed it all day. Which, some days, I have.

Feeling even more guilt for my indefensible level of negligence, I finally closed down my LinkedIn account last year. I’d like to say I wept a tear of regret, but honestly I did it with a sigh of relief. I do feel bad when I get requests from people wanting to add me to their network on LinkedIn, but would it really be fair to say I’m connecting there when you’re more likely to find me in the party aisle of Wal-Mart at 5:00 a.m.?

I have Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat accounts — which will greet me like a long-lost cousin at the family reunion the next time I show up. “Where you have you been? We haven’t seen you in forever!”

I never bit the bullet and joined Google +. I was afraid I’d distort the circles, what with my tendency to step outside the lines too often. (Plus, it seemed to be arranged with visual people in mind, which I am decidedly not.)

And now there’s tsū, a free social platform that believes in “quality content, real ownership, and the value of one’s own network.” Translation: They’re trying to compete with Facebook, especially in the wake of FB users disgruntled with constant changes to policies and accounts. Word on the street is you should join.

As you can see, I’m overwhelmed by social media choices. This short list doesn’t even include sites like Goodreads, Wattpad, Tumbler, Pinterest, and more. And if you write for teens, as I do, potential readers can migrate from one social media platform to another, as one site becomes less trendy and another becomes The Place to Be.

So where does this leave me? Besides huddled up on the corner of my closet eating through the rest of the Christmas candy and re-reading my wrinkled copy of A Wrinkle in Time.

Well, I’m hoping for social media clarity in 2015. Actually, praying for it. I’d even be willing to do a hokey rain dance complete with chanting, if that would help.

I’m too aware of the saying “jack of all trades, master of none” to try to take on everything. Indeed, I defend my decision to shut myself out of LinkedIn (where, believe me, teens are not) to dedicate myself to being an actual presence on those sites that I enjoy the most and that will allow me to connect best. (Just as soon as I’m positive which ones those are…)

So that’s the $64,000 question, isn’t it? Where should we invest our social media time?

And the answer will be different for different individuals, depending on goals. For myself, I’m well-connected to the writer community on Facebook, where I plan to remain — at least for the time being. I’d like to revive my Twitter account (so stop whining, feed!). And I want to make a more concerted effort to engage on Goodreads, Instagram, and YouTube.

My list could change, but I think it’s advisable to choose a few social media platforms and engage consistently there. That’s my plan for this year.

At least, until someone fiiinally perfects the cloning process. Anyone? Anyone?

On which networks do you engage? Do you have favorites or neglected accounts? How do you feel about the plethora of social media choices?

A Round of Words in 80 Days: Honestly, I’m still trying to decide whether to participate in ROW80 this time. I just haven’t figured out the order of my goals, so I may be waiting for a bit and joining up mid-round or Round 2.

Wrapping Up ROW80 & Looking Ahead to 2015

I hope your Hanukkah, Christmas, or other holidays were peaceful and enjoyable. For those who struggled with the holidays this year due to hardships in their lives, my heart goes out to you. I pray that everyone faces a hopeful year in 2015.

But here at year’s end, I’m doing a little wrapping up and looking ahead for me, my writing, and my blog.

ROW80LogocopyFinal ROW80 Check-in

It’s been years now that I’ve been involved in A Round of Words in 80 Days. I’m aware of other writing challenges, but I like this one particularly because it’s flexible to the participant and the season. Writers set their own goals for a round that last 80 days, and then report their progress and receive encouragement from others.

I haven’t been quite as on top of ROW80 this time as I like to be. But I did participate once again, and here’s my final report.

1. Edit, polish, and release two more short stories in my Paranormal Playground series. I edited both, but I need more feedback from critique partners before polishing and publishing. Thus, these releases will happen after the first of the year.

2. Read 12 books. I read 10 books. And I’m still trying to get through Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. Honestly, if this one hadn’t tripped me up, I’d have made my goal. I feel bad about my slow progress, but Mansfield Park is often named as Austen’s least engaging novel and it involves a lot of telling and dialogue — more than I recall in her other works. Yes, yes, that’s all rationalizing, but I have sworn to myself that I will finish this book and I plan to make it through before the end of this year.

3. Attend Immersion Master Class and follow-up. I completed Immersion, made necessary edits based on what I learned there, and have only a couple of scenes to fix to be completely done. In addition, at the encouragement of Immersion mates and others, I entered my manuscript in the Golden Heart contest.

2015Looking Ahead to 2015

It’s good to take a look back and where you’ve been and what you can improve, but I don’t believe in dwelling there. Take stock, sure, but then look ahead to what’s next.

So here’s my overall list of writing goals for the New Year:

1. Revamp my website. Yes, I’ve done this before, but I’ve never been supremely happy with how it’s all going here. In fact, I wrote not that long ago on Blogging: What’s the Point? I’ve had some ideas stirring around in my head for months, but I haven’t had time to get to them. I’m planning to change that in 2015 and reboot the blog.

2. Publish three paranormal short stories. I have three more short stories to put out for my Paranormal Playground series. I’ll be releasing those, hopefully in the first half of 2015.

3. Publish “Color Me Happy.” This young adult contemporary short story was published in an anthology, but I’d like to publish it as a single as well. I’m aiming for perhaps a summer release.

4. Query Sharing Hunter. This contemporary young adult novel has been my heart’s work in 2014, and I believe it’s ready to go out to agents and publishers. It’s already been sent out a few times, but it’s in better shape now and I’m eager to query my manuscript.

5. Edit The Year of Firsts (working title). I wrote this middle grade novel a couple of years ago, then let the draft sit. I like the story and the characters, but after much thought, I’ve decided to edit it into a young adult novel. Of course, that means more like rewrite than edit, but I think this will be a great follow-up project. (And yeah, I no longer like that title, so I’ll be trying out new ones.)

6. Serve as RWA chapter officer. Next year, I am the vice president of special events for my RWA chapter. Some moments, I think I was crazy to agree to add another item to my already full plate, and other moments, I’m really excited to get to do this job. Wish me luck!

Perhaps I’ll get even more done in 2015. But I’m keeping my list right there for now.

What have you accomplished this past year? What are you looking forward to doing in the New Year?

Are You a Christmas Person? (Reblog)

While I enjoy certain aspects of Christmas — like caroling and A Charlie Brown Christmas — I approach other parts of the yuletide with this expression:

In my opinion, there are a lot of to-do’s, traffic, travel, and testiness involved with the holidays. However, I want to get into the spirit, so here’s a 10-question, multiple-choice quiz to decide how you measure up on the Xmas spirit-o-meter.

1. When it comes to holiday specials on television, I:

a. Curse at the TV when my regular programming gets preempted and send hate mail to the networks. The silly Christmas saps should be the ones to hunt down their shows, not me.

b. Turn on the TV, discover a special, and happily settle in to watch. Who doesn’t like Santa Claus is Coming to Town?

c. Track when the best specials will air and post a schedule on the refrigerator. I can’t stand the thought of missing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer or The Year Without Santa Claus!

d. Own an extensive Christmas library of classics and watch one each day in anticipation of the big day. Heck, I know every word of Frosty the Snowman and You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.

2. For holiday decorating, our family:

a. Puts up a tabletop tree and a few stockings. That’s quite enough, thank you. My house isn’t a store display window.

b. Erects a nice Christmas tree with ornaments and a few household decorations about two weeks before. Then we can count down those 12 days of Christmas as presents start to pile under and around the tree.

c. Had a couple of trees, household decor, and outside lights up the day after Thanksgiving. I love this time of the year, and having a festive house is one way to amp up the holiday spirit and have a welcoming environment for our annual Christmas party.

d. Decorate several trees around the house, each with its own theme, and receive complaints from the neighbors about our extensive light show. But the families who come by in cars and slow down to look seem to like it a lot!

3. When it comes to cooking, my idea of holiday baking is:

a. Picking up rumballs at the local bakery for the office party. Those babies are good any time of year.

b. Baking and decorating Christmas cookies with my kids in the shapes of trees, wreaths, and Santa Claus. They especially enjoy sprinkles.

c. Hosting a party or two with fresh-baked goodies and handing out homemade bread and candy as gifts to family and friends.

d. Turning my kitchen into a Paula Deen playground for a couple of weeks beforehand. This is the best time to make breads, pies, fruitcake, and cookies. I have several holiday cookbooks that I put to good use during the Christmas season.

4. My favorite holiday movie is:

a. Die Hard – Terrorists interrupting a Christmas Eve party and Bruce Willis getting revenge? What could possibly compete?

b. A Christmas Story – Getting the toy you want for Christmas? Who can’t relate to this classic theme and its humor?

c. It’s a Wonderful Life – I love that part when Bedford Falls gathers at the house and Clarence gets his wings.

d. Miracle on 34th Street – Santa Claus is REAL. And if you don’t believe, you don’t receive.

5. Some people like to dress Christmas-y this time of year, and I:

a. Mock their dorky Christmas sweaters and Santa Claus hats, in person, on Facebook, and on Twitter. What are those fools thinking?

b. Have one nice Christmas sweater that I bring out to wear to the office or church party.

c. Own Christmas shirts, some holiday jewelry, and a set of red-and-green plaid pajamas to help me get into the seasonal swing.

d. Wear something festive every day in December, put Rudolph antlers on the dog, and have everyone pose in their brand-new Christmas pajamas for our annual family Christmas photo.

6. Santa Claus is:

a. The delusional character we invented to scare kids into behaving the rest of the year.

b. A jolly fictional character represented by seasonal workers in the mall who welcome little children onto their laps to rattle off their wish lists.

c. A fairytale figure who inspires us to be more generous toward others, especially toward little children.

d. The man who lives at the North Pole, has a workshop of elves, and visits every single child on Christmas night with his magical sleigh and flying reindeer.

7. On Black Friday, you could find me:

a. Snoozing in until 12:00 noon, then holing up at my house with a remote control and football on television. Let the idiots shop ’til they drop while I drink beer, eat leftover turkey, and yell at stupid referees.

b. Checking the flyers and websites for good deals, then concluding I don’t have the appropriate body armor for the trip. Maybe one day I’ll brace myself and venture out on that crazy shopping day.

c. Out for a couple of hours with friends or family to catch a few deals. I bought the latest electronic for 60% off (which the rest of you will only get for 50% off later).

d. Camped outside the store since midnight the night before, filing my fingernails into claw shape, and drawing a diagram strategy for me and my team to rush in and grab the best deals first.

8. When I see mistletoe, I:

a. Yank it down. I’m allergic, and what do a bunch of leaves have to do with whether I get lucky anyway.

b. Smile at the sweet notion that someone might get kissed underneath. For myself, it’s never worked any wonders, though.

c. Find my honey and plant a big smooch on  him. Why not use mistletoe as an excuse to get some lip-locking?

d. Drag everyone in my family underneath and give them a big kiss. Then hang some at my workplace to kiss that handsome coworker three cubicles down from me and the delicious Corrigan water guy. That’s what mistletoe is for, baby!

9. My favorite Christmas carol is:

a. Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer. That song cracks me up.

b. Santa Claus is Coming to Town. That’s what this season is about.

c. O Holy Night. It’s a classic.

d. A toss-up between The Twelve Days of Christmas and Handel’s Messiah. The first helps me count down those precious days until Christmas arrives, while the second must be heard in its entirety to revel in the Christmas spirit.

10. My feelings about this quiz can be summed up as:

a. Can I have my 10 minutes back? This was a total waste of my time.

b. Cute, but I could have used the time for online holiday shopping.

c. Fun to take this quiz and start thinking about the Christmas spirit.

d. Are you kidding? I love EVERYTHING Christmas – even quizzes!

SCORING: Count up your a’s, b’s, c’s, and d’s. Which letter got the most answers?

from A Christmas Carol (2009)

Mostly a’sSCROOGE. On Christmas Eve, be prepared to be visited by three scary ghosts who need to jolt you into a little show of humanity and Christmas spirit. Drop the “Bah hum bug” attitude and find your inner elf.

from Yes, Virginia (2009)

Mostly b’sVIRGINIA. You have some doubts about this season, but you know deep down that “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” Still, you might want to take a Christmas lights tour or visit a Nativity scene to get yourself more excited about the holidays.

from How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Mostly c’sMAX. You understand that Christmas isn’t perfect, but you are determined to get into the spirit and have a great season no matter what. Put on that smile and pull the sleigh. It will all work out in the end!

From http://www.dragoart.com

Mostly d’sELF. You belong at the North Pole year-round just getting ready for Christmas — the best day of the year. Santa Claus is accepting applications for toybuilders, and I will happily write you a recommendation letter.

 

 

So are you a Christmas person? Hanukkah person? Perhaps something else?

Merry Christmas!

Post first published December 2011.

5 Questions to Ask before Querying

WRITERS IN THE STORM
WRITERS IN THE STORM

Today, I’m over at the fabulous Writers in the Storm blog with Are You Ready to Query?

I’ve come to enjoy pitching my story to agents. Not because I’ve landed a seven-book, multi-million-dollar deal, but because I relish the opportunity to talk about my book and learn how to better present my story. The feedback I’ve received has helped me hone the answer to “Am I ready to query?” Here are five questions you should ask before sending out a query. Read More.

ROW80 Update

1. Edit, polish, and release two more short stories in my Paranormal Playground series. I edited both, and I’m waiting on a critique partner’s comments on one. Realistically, these releases will happen after the first of the year.

2. Read 12 books. Read The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater, which puts me at 10 books. And I’m really trying to read Mansfield Park, one of the few Jane Austen novels I haven’t read, but I am dragging through it. I’ve even thought about skipping the book and watching whatever BBC series there is on the story. Is that lame?

3. Attend Immersion Master Class and follow-up. I completed Immersion, and I’m still plugging through edits on Sharing Hunter. Make really good progress! Oh, and I entered the Golden Heart contest, which opened up on December 2.

Now how’s your week been? What have you been up to?

The Beauty of a Book Cover

Yes, it’s the story inside the book cover that matters. But we book lovers also know how a beautiful cover can beckon a potential reader to give a novel a shot.

That’s one reason why I hired a professional cover designer to create my short story covers, like this one:

My Sister's Demon book cover

And here are some of my favorite book covers for books I’ve read in 2014:

Favorite Book Covers 2014

Aren’t they pretty?!

Given how helpful a quality cover can be in bringing in a reader, I wanted to share with you the annual contest my local Romance Writers of America (RWA) chapter hosts. Here’s the information provided to me with permission to post:

Since 2005, Houston Bay Area RWA has been proving that you CAN Judge A Book By Its Cover. JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER CONTEST 2014 is open for entries.

Your covers will be judged by booksellers around the world, and the winning cover in each category will be featured in a full-page color ad on the inside front cover of the April 2015 Romance Writers Report.

Again this year, we will also feature the Reader’s Choice Winners from each category on our website. Hundreds of thousands of votes were cast for the JABBIC 2013 covers during the Reader’s Choice voting!

IF YOUR BOOK IS SELF-PUBLISHED, YOU WILL BE ABLE TO GIVE CREDIT WHERE CREDIT’S DUE (YOUR COVER ARTIST OR YOURSELF).

Entry Deadline: Entries must be received by January 15, 2015

Entry Fee: $15

Eligibility: Published in 2014

Enter: The cover of your book or novella published by a traditional house, self-published, ePublisher, or POD during 2014

Entry Format: Electronic files (JPG or GIF) only

Categories: Contemporary Series, Single Title/Mainstream, Historical, Romantic Suspense, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Paranormal, Sexiest Cover, Young Adult and Inspirational

Judges: Booksellers in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia

Top Prize: Winners will be featured in a full-page color ad on the inside front cover of the April 2015 Romance Writers Report

FMI, entry form and rules, visit our contest website.

Even if you don’t have something to offer, make sure you participate in the Reader’s Choice awards. I’ll make sure to plug that here when voting opens.

Now what are your favorite covers for books you’ve read in 2014? If you’re a published author, what cover of your own is a favorite? And how was your week?

♦   ♦   ♦

ROW80 Update

1. Edit, polish, and release two more short stories in my Paranormal Playground series. I have edited two stories, and one is in the capable hands of a critique partner.

2. Read 12 books. Read another nonfiction title, plus The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. That takes me up to nine.

3. Attend Immersion Master Class and follow-up. I completed Immersion and (yay!) made edits this past week on Sharing Hunter.

If Dickens Tweeted

Sometime ago, I started a category of posts called If ___ Tweeted, in which I share what people would have tweeted. For instance, what would Winston Churchill, Leonardo Da Vinci, or Alfred Hitchcock say if they’d had access to Twitter? I can guess, by gathering quotations of 120 characters or less.

Now being a bit of a Scrooge myself until about two weeks before Christmas, I’ve been thinking I might need to re-read, or re-watch, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. And since his name comes up so often around the holiday season, I wondered what Dickens would say . . . if he tweeted. (And as it turns out, several are perfect for the holiday season!)

Dickens Fake Tweet

 

  1. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. #BlackFriday
  2. There are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts.
  3. The pain of parting is nothing to the joy of meeting again.
  4. A multitude of people, and yet a solitude! #introvertatthemall
  5. But charity begins at home, and justice begins next door.
  6. No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of it to anyone else.
  7. I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.
  8. In a utilitarian age, of all other times, it is a matter of grave importance that fairy tales should be respected.
  9. There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good-humour.
  10. It’s a mad world. Mad as Bedlam, boy! #standingintheSantaline
  11. A day wasted on others is not wasted on one’s self.
  12. No one who can read, ever looks at a book, even unopened on a shelf, like one who cannot.
  13. He would make a lovely corpse. #elfonshelfcreepsmeout
  14. Take nothing on its looks; take everything on evidence. There’s no better rule.
  15. What greater gift than the love of a cat?
  16. Every traveller has a home of his own, and he learns to appreciate it the more from his wandering. #holidaytrip
  17. I hope that real love and truth are stronger in the end than any evil or misfortune in the world.
  18. Ask no questions, and you’ll be told no lies. #nopeekingbeforeChristmas
  19. For it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child Himself.
  20. God bless us, every one!

Sources: BrainyQuote; Wikiquote; Mental Floss; Victorian Web; Quote Investigator; Charles Dickens Info; Goodreads

Which quote is your favorite? And what other quotes from Charles Dickens do you enjoy?

10 Gifts for the Bookish and the Writerly

Christmas is creeping up on us! Here in the United States, many begin browsing or purchasing holiday gifts soon after they devour the Thanksgiving turkey and pies. As for myself, I stay home on “Black Friday,” happy to avoid the crowds and the madness. In fact, I do much of my holiday shopping online.

So once again, I have combed the Internet looking for gift ideas for the bookish and the writerly on your present list. If you’re wondering what to buy for someone who fits that bill, or if you’re putting together your own wish list for family and friends, check out some of these fabulous and fun gifts!

Book Dishware. When you love books, you just can’t get enough of them — or even the reminder of them. So why not eat off book-shaped plates and platters? Gone Reading offers a variety of crisp white dinnerware for the book lover in your life.

Book shaped dinnerware

My favorite? The cup and saucer. Perfect for a lazy afternoon of reading and sipping tea.

Tea Cup & Saucer

BabyLit Books. Despite their title, I believe these books are for ages 0 to 99. BabyLit board books teach early learning concepts such as counting, language, and opposites through the use of classic literature references.

Baby Lit Books

 

For instance, Alice in Wonderland teaches colors like this:

Baby Lit Inside

 ~ ♥ ♥ ♥ ~

Book Mark Pads. Is it just me, or do others constantly lose their bookmarks? I’m forever hunting around for a bookmark, even though I know I must have several around here somewhere. How about a whole pad of bookmarks? With 25 sheets to a pad, it’s okay to lose one; just get another.

Book Mark Pads

Phone Skin. After using Android cell phones for years, I finally got an iPhone this past fall. And soon after, I started shopping for covers. Decal Girl had many choices, such as these:

iPhone cases

Or you could grab a book cover case from Out of Print Clothing:

Book Cover phone cases

Themed Jewelry. Your book lover or writer might want to wear their passion, in the form of jewelry. I suggest heading to Etsy.com and running a search for handmade jewelry that fits your recipient’s interest and taste. But here’s a lovely necklace I found from ALikelyStory, for the writer in your life:

Wordsmith necklace with pen pendant

Mouse Pad. Zazzle.com has a veritable plethora of book-themed mouse pads, with everything from quotes to reading scenes to add-your-own-book-cover. Here’s a sample:

Mouse Pads

If you’d rather go personalized, check out the options at LillianVernon.com.

Mouse Pads

Crime Scene Tape Leggings. If you read or write mystery or crime novels, you might adore the crime scene tape leggings from PrettyGuide.com. Of course, whether you have the figure to pull off that look is entirely up to you.

Leggings

Steering Wheel Laptop Desk. If only that writer could get some words down while waiting in the parking lot for her kid’s activity to finish or while sitting in the car during lunch break . . .  How about a laptop desk for your car? Zone Tech makes just such a thing.

Laptop desk for car

Office Supply Gift Card. Not surprisingly, the bookish and writerly tend to adore office supplies. We can spend hours perusing office organization products, computer accessories, and desk trimmings. Being let loose with a gift card in an office supply store sounds awesome to many of us.

Gift cards to Office Max, Office Depot, and Staples

Writer-on-Deadline Gift Basket. Yep, you have to put this together yourself, but trust me, this would be wonderful for writers who are under the time crunch of NaNoWriMo, contract deadlines, or self-publishing goals. Here’s one I put together and a list of items you could include:

Writer's Deadline Gift Basket

  • Tea bags – mix up the caffeinated and decaffeinated, for the writer to use as needed
  • Writer encouragement mug – a glimpse at the cup might reinvigorate the writing
  • Snacks – to keep up energy and strength
  • Coffee, soda, or energy drinks – for that extra push
  • Multivitamins or immunity booster (like Airborne) – to keep the immune system strong
  • Composition book – for jotting down scenes, character issues, edits
  • Do Not Disturb sign – to remind the writer’s household not to interrupt the magic (you can find the one I used here)
  • Post-it notes – for marking up the manuscript in the editing stage
  • Highlighters – same as the post-its
  • Pizza delivery gift card – for those times when supper preparation needs to give way to word count
  • Back massager/relaxer – hunching over the computer can give a writer backaches
  • Champagne/wine & glasses – to celebrate when the deadline is met!

For previous years’ gift lists, check out the following posts:

Gifts for the Grammar Geek
Gifts for the Word Lover
Gifts for the Book Reader
Gifts for the Writer
10 Holiday Gifts for Readers and Writers

ROW80 Update

This may be my worst ROW80 yet! I’ve been MIA on my blog for a couple of weeks and involved in a side project that has taken me away from my goals. Still, here’s where I am:

1. Edit, polish, and release two more short stories in my Paranormal Playground series. I actually edited a story and sent another one to a critique partner for feedback.

2. Read 12 books. Since checking in, I’ve read There Goes the Groom by Rita Herron, City of Glass and City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare, and a nonfiction title. That takes me up to seven.

3. Attend Immersion Master Class and follow-up. I did Immersion, but I still need to do a lot more editing on my WIP.

What gift ideas do you have for the reader or writer in your life? What would add to my writer-on-deadline gift basket? And how was your week?

Memorable Spy Gadgets: What Would You Want?

My fabulous friends and authors Piper Bayard and Jay Holmes have just published a terrific novella called The Spy Bride, which is part of a Risky Brides collection.

In honor of their release, I got to thinking about some of the memorable spy gadgets from TV and film. Here are some of my faves:

Maxwell Smart’s Shoe Phone

Maxwell Smart holding shoe phone, from Get Smart

Sure, in the days of cell phones, transmitting messages over a shoe might seem silly. Plus, this baby would be caught in two seconds in a TSA security line. But when Get Smart aired in 1965, a portable phone was a swank idea. And hiding it in your shoe seemed pretty spy-cool. These days, I’d probably be happier if the bottom of my shoe had a different gadget, like maybe a Roomba so I could clean my floor just by walking around.

Men in Black Neuralyzer.

Men In Black, Agent J holding neuralyzer

This handy-dandy device erases memories with a flash, which can then be replaced by a different version of events. While useful for hiding the existence of aliens from the common citizenry, I think a lot of people would love to have this gadget to erase the memories of others in their lives who might not have seen their best side and could use a new perspective.

John Steed’s Umbrella.

John Steed & umbrella from The Avengers

John Steed, of the British spy series The Avengers, was known for carrying an umbrella which he used as a weapon. If needed, the umbrella contained a saber he could pull out in a pinch. Currently, my umbrella only protects me from rain, but I could come up with a few handy tools I’d love to tuck into an umbrella.

Mission Impossible Self-Destructing Tape.

Mission Impossible -- smoking tape player

Who can forget the way missions were delivered in the Mission Impossible series, and films following? An agent picks up the recorded message, listens to the instructions, and then hears, “This tape will self-destruct in five seconds. Good luck…” Yes, I know we don’t have tapes or players like this anymore, but the notion of self-destructing gadgetry is an appealing one. As a parent, some days I’d like to have a “should you not get off this video game and do your homework in the next ten seconds, your cell phone will self-destruct.” (Yeah, I’m fun like that! ;))

Chuck’s Intersect.

Intersect computer from Chuck

The Intersect from Chuck stores all the intelligence data the United States government possesses and recognizes patterns that help catch the bad guys. Unfortunately, this big pile of data gets shoved into the brain of one unsuspecting geek named Chuck. But this would be very handy for an agent, don’t you think? Or even for your daily life, to be able to shove everything you know or should know onto a drive, stick it in your brain, and access it at will? That sounds like a gadget I could use.

James Bond’s Aston Martin.

Aston Martin in Q's lab

The first car to be equipped with gadgets in a James Bond film was this beauty, the Aston Martin from Goldfinger. It had GPS, machine guns, smoke screen, tire slashers, and more — all the things I need to get around in my Houston traffic. (Kidding…just kidding!) But hey, a bunch of cool spy stuff in your car? And not just any car, but an Aston Martin? Yes, please.

So there are a few of my favorites. Hope you’ll share some of yours in the comments!

And now for a quick ROW80 Update! A Round of Words in 80 Days (ROW80) is the writing challenge that knows you have a life:

1. Edit, polish, and release two more short stories in my Paranormal Playground series. I did some editing this week and worked on blurbs as well.

2. Read 12 books. Read The Best Medicine by Tracy Brogan. That brings me up to three.

3. Attend Immersion Master Class and follow-up. Attended a couple of weeks back and just got back comments from a valuable critique partner.

Also, I recently learned that I placed 2nd in the YA category for the New Jersey Romance Writers Put Your Heart in a Book contest! Congratulations to the other winners, Jessica Ruddick and Ann LaBar.

Now what are your favorite fictional spy gadgets? And how was your week?

Risky Brides book coverEight novellas.

Great authors.

Wonderful price.

Barnes & Noble

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