30 September 2009

Finding peace in the midst of chaos

In addition to being a freelance writer, I have a husband, three cats, and a six-week old baby boy at home.  My husband works outside the home, and we're very close to his parents, with whom we spend a lot of time.  So my schedule is a little crazy sometimes.  And I'm the type of person that can handle that craziness, but if I don't get at least a little time now and then of quiet, I start to get frustrated.

My challenge lately has been to find peace in the midst of the chaos of my life.  When everything is in upheaval, what can I do to have a peaceful heart?

Of course, the first place I turn is to prayer.  Prayer has always been a comfort to me, and I'm sure it always will be.   Sometimes, all I need is to whisper a short prayer to center myself, and I feel much better.

Sometimes, though, I feel like I need a little more than a whispered prayer to help me find peace.  And at those times, I often need to walk away from whatever I'm doing for a few minutes and find a quiet moment to myself.  It can be something as simple as walking to the mailbox and back or going to unload the dishwasher while everyone else is in the other room.

Once I pull myself away from the situation that's frustrating me for just a moment, I'm able to regain my perspective and jump back into it with a much better attitude, and I can keep that feeling of peace through the chaos.

What do you do to find peace in chaos?

29 September 2009

Prayer Request

Friends of ours had a baby around the same time Hubby and I had Bean.  Lately, they've been asking for prayers through Facebook.  I don't know what's going on, but I would ask that you pray for them, as well.

I wish I could give more information (mostly because I wish I knew what was going on), but the Lord knows their needs.  Please, please pray with me for this family.  They are amazing people, and deserve every happiness.

Thank you so much!

Dana Sez, "You're Crazy! Do It Anyway."

You're contemplating doing NaNo.  You're actually thinking you'll subject yourself to 30 days of frantic writing and feverish word counts, the sleep-deprivation and the wild swings between ecstasy and despair.

Are you nuts?


Do it anyway.

As a three-time survivor of NaNo (although only once officially), I can tell you there's nothing like it for motivation.  Even if what you write that month is 50,000 words of unpublishable drivel, you've still gotten something of worth out of the process.  You'll have found ways to carve out writing time you never suspected existed.  You've met a deadline.  You've survived the blood, toil, sweat and tears to squeeze out that 50,000th word, which means you can do it again, and again, and again, until a big fat novel is whole and complete in your hands.  You've proved something to yourself.  You've been a writer, damn it.

And it feels good.

You may wonder, if NaNo's all that and a box of chocolates, why I always swear "Never again!"  It's because it's a damned lot of insanely hard work and I like being dramatic about it.  Besides, this year, I'm not wanting to tear attention away from ye olde current project, and ye olde current project does not fit NaNo's criteria.  My current project and I are going to take it nice and easy while the rest of you sweat.

I say that now.  But for the last two years, I've ended up shadowing NaNo, writing 50,000 words whether they fit the criteria or no, so don't be surprised if you see me running alongside the NaNoThonners.  If you don't want to become an official participant, there's always that option, you know.

Go.  Do NaNo.  Do it for yourself and your craft and your bragging rights.  Do it to give yourself that desperately-needed shot in the arm. 

And afterward, yes, I'll have the tequila shots lined up.  Or other shots, if tequila's not your friend.  We shall drink to 50,000 words in 30 days.

It's crazy.  But it'll be worth it.

10 on Tuesday: reasons to participate in NaNoWriMo

National Novel Writing Month is nearly here again, and it's time to start planning!  You can register on the site beginning on October 1st, and on November 1st, the sound of thousands of writers scribbling will be heard across the globe!

If you're on the fence about whether or not to participate in NaNoWriMo, here are some reasons you should.  And after you read this list and decide to join in the craziness with me, don't listen to Dana.  She'll tell you you're crazy.  Just ignore her.  She'll have tequila shots lined up for us on December first.  That's when we can listen to her again.
  1. It makes "someday" today.  How many times have you said, "I'll write a novel...someday"?  And there's always been a reason not to do it.  Well, NaNoWriMo is just the motivation you need to actually do it.
  2. A little healthy competition is good for people sometimes!  In addition to battling the clock to hit that magical number, you can use the website to check your progress against other writers or check your region against other regions.
  3. What else do you have to do?  Sure, your life is busy, but you can spare a couple of hours a day, can't you?  That may be all you need to crank out 2,000 words.  So you miss a couple of episodes of Snapped.  They'll be on again, I'm sure.
  4. It can be a good excuse.  If you're looking for a way to duck out of lunch with an annoying coworker, or you'd like to slip away from the family on Thanksgiving, you can use your WriMo status as a reason to be alone.
  5. Coffee!  Even the most casual coffee drinkers turn into jittery java junkies (like the alliteration?) during November.  So if you love coffee, what better excuse to load up than staying up late to write?
  6. It brings people together.  If you've participated in NaNo, and you see someone on the street wearing a NaNo shirt, or you see the logo on someone's blog, you feel a connection with that person.  You know what they went through in November.  And you feel their pain.
  7. You'll never know if you can do it until you try it.  Can you write 50,000 words in a month?  Can you finish your novel?  November gives you the chance to find out!
  8. What will you do in March if you don't write in November?
  9. It can be a great refresher for your normal writing life.  If you can find time to write a novel in November, why can't you make time for your other projects?  Maybe NaNoWriMo is just what you need to remind yourself that, yes, you can be a writer no matter what else is going on in your life.
  10. Who else is going to tell your story?

p.s. This is my 500th post.  Coolio.

*NP blushes*

Jen over at Divinest Sense (and one of my guest bloggers this month) has bestowed me with an award!  She's a doll!

Well, as Uncle Ben said, "With great power comes great responsibility," so now I have the monumental task of passing on this prestigious award on to seven bloggers, then list seven of my favorite fiction authors.  So here we go (alphabetically, of course)!

Adventures in Home Cooking is a great little blog by Angie, a very dear friend of mine.  I'm not a big foodie myself, but I have dreams of spending more time in the kitchen, and I love hearing about her life in Chicago with her hubby through her dinner menu each week.

Beautiful Chaos is the personal blog of Lerin, who is an amazing photographer and homeschooling mom of four tiny treasures.  Her blog chronicles her life as a Catholic wife and mother, and she is a great encouragement and inspiration to me.  If you want to read about a super-heroine, definitely drop by Lerin's blog!

The Big Stick is Mike's conservative voice from Kentucky, focusing on "the intersection of urban and rural life."  I love reading his blog because it slows me down a bit.  So much of life is fast-paced, and by reading Mike's blog, I'm able to put a little bit of myself into the rural life for a little while.

En Tequila Es Verdad is Dana's no-holds-barred, smack-o-matic wielding political blog.  She takes the pulse of the political circle and says exactly what she's thinking about what's going on.  She doesn't care what you think.  This blog is about what she thinks.  Or drinks.  Or something like that.

Harried Mom of Four is another great mom blog for those women who love coffee and don't mind a little clutter in their home.  It's great for those who might need a little dose of "It's okay. I didn't get to that this week, either."

Hollywood Back Roads is a blog for someone just like me.  In it, fellow freelance writer Abi gives her insights into the not-so-touristy spots in L.A. County.  As she says in her introductory post, "LA stereotypes aside, not all 20-somethings here are zeroed in on 'LA's hottest' this and 'Hollywood's hippest' that.  And not all travelers find celebrity hand prints cool enough to merit the cost of the flight out here.  So bring me your maps, folks.  I'll highlight the back roads."

Nathan Bransford - Literary Agent follows the career of (you guessed it) Nathan Bransford.  If you have any questions about the publishing industry, his is the blog to read.  Not only will your questions be answered, but they'll be answered in a tone that makes you feel like you actually can become a published author.  And as if that isn't enough, you can get weekly doses of the pulse of the publishing industry--what are people talking about? what's new? who's hot?


And as far as authors go (still alphabetically, of course):

A. S. Byatt (1936- ) is an English novelist and poet.  I've read Possession, which was recommended to me by one of my English professors.  I really loved it, so I've started to branch out a bit in the world of Byatt.  I've also read The Little Black Book of Stories and The Matisse Stories.  In The Matisse Stories, a Matisse painting is found somewhere in each of the stories, whether as an important part or as a simple wall decoration.

Jasper Fforde (1961- ) is my very favorite author.  He currently has two series--Thursday Next and Nursery Crime--with the first book in his third series due out in the U.S. in December 2009.  I've seen his books shelved as fantasy, mystery/crime, and mainstream.  They're...kind of...all of it.

Frank McCourt (1930-2009) is another amazing author.  He wrote three volumes of memoir, Angela's Ashes, 'Tis, and Teacher Man, beginning with his impoverished Irish Catholic childhood in Limerick, Ireland, and ending with his teaching career in New York City's public school system.  He's an amazing storyteller, and an amazing writer.  Frank passed away in August of this year.

Malachy McCourt (1931- ) is, indeed, Frank's brother.  He's the author of his own memoirs, A Monk Swimming and Singing my Him Song, which focus more on his adulthood than the childhood-focused memoirs by his brother.  Malachy is just as compelling a storyteller as Frank, and has published six books in addition to his memoirs.

Ian McEwan (1948- ) is the author of many novels.  The one I've read is Atonement, which was made into a movie.  Some of his other books are on my reading list, and if they're anywhere near as good as Atonement, I'll be a happy coffee-stained reader!

Audrey Niffenegger (1963- ) is the author of The Time Traveler's Wife.  This book was on my reading list for quite some time, and when I found out about the movie, I bumped it to the top of my list.  The novel is a very good read.  I highly recommend it.  Her newest book, Her Fearful Symmetry, became available today.

Diane Setterfield (1964- ) is the author of The Thirteenth Tale.  For a description of the book from the publisher, go here.  This book is probably one of my very favorites.  I found it haunting.

28 September 2009

This Week's Task List

My work load is pretty light at the moment, so I'm going to spend this week playing catch-up on some administrative and paperwork-y stuff.

  • Update client files (including updating contact information and project invoices)
  • Update research files (purge old information, reorganize current and new information)
  • Update CSW financial ledger
  • Work on coffee house book
  • Work on prep for NaNoWriMo

27 September 2009

It's Still There

Since this is to be a musing upon writing, and since my dear heart sister told me to utilize my guest-blogger privileges while she's (mostly) on maternity leave, I'm afraid you'll be suffering my early-morning musings. I have a head cold. If the following makes little sense, blame it on the cold medicine.

First, I have to admit a fear. You see, I'm a speculative fiction writer with a pronounced lean toward fantasy who discovered last year she's an atheist. That's a bit discombobulating. Then I discovered a deep-rooted joy in unvarnished reality, warts, uncertainty and all. That's really disconcerting for a person who wants to tell stories about mythical creatures for a living. For a bit there, I thought about giving up on the fantasy side of things altogether. But my characters don't seem amenable to being recast in a science fiction mileau, and while I love reading and writing about science, I'm not scientist enough to really feel it's my calling. But things have changed, and the story shall have to change with it. We'll get to that over the winter.

At least I didn't have to question whether it's possible for an atheist to write fantasy. Neil Gaiman writes stories hugely influenced by myth, and he's an atheist. Terry Pratchett's even got dwarves, elves, witches, trolls and all manner of other fantastic beings on a flat world swimming through space on the backs of four elephants standing on a turtle, and he's an atheist, too. So one can obviously be an atheist and write wonderful fantasy. No worries on that front.

My real fear, silly as it sounds, was that I wouldn't love Lord of the Rings anymore.

A great many fantasy writers have been inspired by Tolkien. I'm no different. Just because you won't find any elves or dwarves running about in my books doesn't mean I haven't been deeply, profoundly influenced by Tolkien's work. I have shelves full of his writings, other writers' writings about his writings, and stories inspired by his writings. The walls of my bedroom are hung with Tolkien artifacts, including a Two Towers promotional photograph signed by many of the actors. Various Tolkien paraphernalia is carefully arranged atop one of the shelves. And I wear the One Ring around my neck every day, without fail, because I made a promise. But here I was, coming off nearly a year binging on science and atheist literature, facing the fact that in order to be a fiction author I'd have to get back to writing the bloody stuff, and knowing where a good part of my inspiration lies. Did it still?

Or was I going to pop that first DVD in the player and discover the magic was gone?

I'm happy to report it's not. I've been enthralled for two films now. Everything's just the way I remember it. I'm as moved as ever by those characters and that world. And I'm starting to realize it never was about magic. It was about friendship, and fear, and fidelity, and failings. It may have elves and dwarves and hobbits and wizards, but it's still a very human story. It has quite a lot to suggest about how to live a meaningful life. And that's what stories do. They distill things. They make a model of the world. They teach without preaching. They enlighten as they entertain.

This is why Neil Gaiman says we owe it to each other to tell stories. One of the reasons, anyway. There are others, some of them hugely meaningful and some of them not as much, but all of them important.

And it's just what humans do. We walk upright, we build things, and we like stories.

So with that worry gone, I'll be crafting some hugely meaningful (I hope) speculative fiction inspired by Tolkien and all manner of science, by myth and legend but also by messy reality. I'll be building worlds, and telling stories that aren't factually true but (I hope) say something true about what it is to be human, and perhaps a little about what should be, as all good stories do. I'll be writing knowing dear Professor Tolkien's magic is still there as my guide.

After I've finished Return of the King, that is.

What about you? What inspires you no matter how much you change?

Prayer Requests

This week please pray with me that:

  • my cousin Joey's chemotherapy and radiation treatments go well.
  • cousin Joey's family finds the support they need in order to be a good support to Joey.
  • Frazzoo has a fun, safe time in L.A., and has a safe, easy trip home.
  • an anonymous, unspoken prayer request gets resolved quickly and safely.
If you have any prayer requests you'd like added, please feel free to comment on this post, or email your request to me.  Anonymous and/or unspoken prayer requests are welcome.

25 September 2009

Fiction Friday: Are you in?

Beginning on November 1st, thousands of writers all over the world open word documents (or journals or notebooks) and begin to scribble.  They scribble with abandon, throwing conventional writing processes out in an attempt to reach that magic goal: 50,000 words.

It happens every year.  And in about a week, you can go to the NaNoWriMo website and enter for 2009.

I know it seems early, but it's definitely time to start thinking about November if you're planning to participate.  Even if you're just considering it, you should start thinking about it in October.  Give yourself time to think about what you're going to write, perhaps do some research, or even come up with an outline to use.  (Some writers like to be prepared like that.)

So to help you prepare for the adventure that is National Novel Writing Month, October's editions of Fiction Friday will be spent offering advice about preparation.  Outlining, character biographies, how to make time to hit word counts, etc.  And by November 1st, you'll be ready!

So the only question is...

Are you in?

23 September 2009

Something Worth Writing

The most valuable lesson I have ever learned about writing is this:

In order to write well, you have to live fully.

This little discovery of mine started out as an excuse. I spent my young young adult years in total resistence of the notion of writing as a career path, largely because I was afraid my life would come to a screeching halt if I tried to make a living from writing. Yes, writing fills my soul and teaches me about myself and enables me to reach strangers on the other side of the country, blah, blah, blah. But I always had this image that if I wrote, I (who am already inclined toward excessive solitude) would end rotting away in a dank corner of some dark apartment, breaking myself away from my computer screen only long enough to make conversation with my own thoughts. Was that the life I wanted?

No, it wasn't. I wasn't going to be a writer. I was going to be a pastor. No, wait. A teacher of the Deaf. No, no, I'm sorry. An actor. Yes. An actor.

I was going to see the world, experience new things, spend my time around other human beings.

And so it happened that I spent several years chasing anything but the written word, only to find myself mysteriously back at the keyboard, in the corner of my apartment, my soul filling with each carefully chosen word.

Well, I suppose you can't get away from the things you love. So I decided at the beginning of this year to give freelance writing a shot. I was going to write for a living. I made the proper announcements, hit up Amazon for all the "so you wanna be a freelance writer" type publications, and started applying for jobs. But all the while I reminded myself that there would be no darkness, no excessive isolation, and absolutely no rotting away.

This is how my blog, Hollywood Back Roads, was born. I set a goal to visit a lesser-known area of Southern California every weekend and blog about it the following week. It was practical. I could get out and explore all in the name of gathering expertise in a specfic area. After all, a beginning writer cannot support herself on fiction alone, and if I was going to be an expert on something, it might as well be something that got me out of the house.

That was a good call, since getting out of the house changes everything.

Each new venture is a new discovery about myself, about my surroundings, about the people who occasionally come along for my outings. Since the beginning of Hollywood Back Roads, I have felt the odd sensation of being at home in a "foreign land" while my brother and I watched Malibu children leap into a swimming hole all Missouri-style. I've seen the faces of uprooted American Indians twisted in anguish on a wall mural painted by their descendants. I have felt the ocean waves pulse around my feet as I stood on the shore and watched a seal dive and drift only twenty feet away.

Yes, I now know what time the Getty Center closes and how to get to the Venice Canals. But more importantly, I have a new vocabulary. Words like "banjo" and "crest" and "fern" are suddenly brand new. History and Nature reintroduce themselves as old characters in a new light. This exploration is very likely one of the best things I have ever done for my fiction.

I see now that there is little need to guard myself against the hermity writer's lifestyle. A writer has to explore and experience. There is no choice. I cannot write about the world if I am not an active part of it.

When our own dear Coffee Stained Writer invited me to guest blog while she was on maternity leave, I wondered briefly if she was at all irritated by the writing time she'd lose to her son. (Obviously, I am not a mother.) Immediately after, I laughed at such a silly notion. A son is not an interruption to her career. Quite the opposite! While Nicole is bonding with her child, she will be developing a whole new vocabulary of her own, with new meanings for words like "love" and "family" and "diaper rash." Every day her mind will collect new ideas for characters and relationships, conflicts and themes. And while I suspect she has chosen to reproduce for personal reasons like love and family, the fact of the matter is, this whole motherhood thing is a brilliant career move.

It is as Ben Franklin once advised: "Either write something worth reading, or do something worth writing." I now keep this quote taped to the wall above my desk, lest I should forget to get out and be a human being for a little while before I lose my vision to reams and reams of otherwise meaningless paper.

So what about you? How do you keep your ideas fresh and your mind alive? How do you balance your life as a writer (or as any other professional, for that matter) with your life as a human being?


Abi Wurdeman is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles, California with her brother Phil and her mice, LaVerne and Shirley. In addition to partnering with her brother on screenplays, Abi also writes short fiction and is currently working on her first novel. In an effort to make sure she does as much exploring as she does writing, Abi also maintains a blog, Hollywood Back Roads, exposing the lesser-known wonders of Southern California.

Just in case you're considering a freelance career...


Story Structure

As many of us are gearing up for NaNoWriMo, we're thinking a lot about story arcs and structure (as well as outlines).

Even if you're not, you may be concerned with story structure (or should be), so I urge you to read this post over at Write for Your Life.

22 September 2009

10 on Tuesday: Items of Clothing I Feel Good In

  1. an old pair of Levi blue jeans that I've had since college
  2. a black dress with a false wrap front
  3. green organic cotton t-shirt that says "My favorite color is green" on it
  4. this shirt
  5. this shirt
  6. mustard yellow short-sleeved cardigan sweater (pictured here)
  7. this shirt
  8. over-sized blue patterned pajama pants
  9. navy blue pajama shirt (that matches the patterned pants)
  10. black and white polka dot cocktail dress

21 September 2009

Need a laugh?

New Writing Prompt!

"Put yourself in an elevator with your favorite literary character and write the scene."

If you decide to write the scene, share it!  You can put it on your own blog and give me the link, or send it to me and I'd be happy to share it here at the cafe!

I'll be sharing my scene on Saturday.

Happy scribbling!

This Week's Task List

I've been getting back into the office lately, and recently started a brand new gig, so my weekly task list is starting to look more like it did before Bean was born.  I'm glad, too.  I was feeling some withdrawal from writing; it's nice to get back to some sort of routine.

  • Contact client about Halloween pieces
  • Write this week's articles for Examiner.com
  • Contact client about upcoming projects
  • Work on character biographies for NaNoWriMo
  • Update CSW files
  • Work on the coffee house book

20 September 2009

Prayer Requests

This week please pray with me that:

  • my cousin Joey's chemotherapy goes well, and that he has emotional and physical strength as he goes through it.
  • Auntie Sue and Uncle Dan, who are trying to be supportive as Joey goes through chemotherapy, but are having trouble since they feel so helpless.
  • my friend, Christy, who had emergency back surgery over the weekend.
  • the staff of the hospital where my mom works, since budget concerns are leading to lay offs.
  • my parents-in-law have a safe trip this weekend.
  • Frazzoo has a safe trip this weekend.
If you have a prayer request you'd like added, please feel free to comment on this post.  You can also email it to me, and I'll add it to the post.  You're welcome to include anonymous and/or unspoken prayer requests, as well.

18 September 2009

Purse Contents Writing Prompt by NP

[NOTE: The items from my purse are in bold within the scene.]

Hannah pushed her sunglasses up on her head as she passed over the threshold into the store, a wall of icy air cooling the sheen of sweat on her nose and forehead.  She had her list and an ink pen in one hand, her wallet and car keys in the other.  She was determined to get in and out of the store without any superfluous purchases.

"You don't need any hand sanitizer," she scolded herself quietly, passing a display that proclaimed a sale trying to take advantage of parents' fear of back-to-school germs.  Hannah consulted her list and headed to the deli, trying to keep her eyes off the diapers and baby wipes as she walked up the aisle.  She didn't even have a baby, but she knew she'd be tempted to grab a tube of Desitin or a burp cloth if she saw them sitting on a shelf in front of it.

She'd been going to her current counselor for almost three months, but she didn't know if she was getting any better.  He'd been giving her tips to avoid buying nearly everything she saw, and they seemed to be working.  A written list was one tip he'd offered.

"You're only allowed to buy what's on the list," he'd told her.  "Nothing else."

She figured she'd made some progress since, when she began taking lists to the store, she'd add items to the list as she saw and wanted them.  Now she was much better at keeping her purchases limited to what she'd written ahead of time.

As Hannah stood in line at the deli, she tried to concentrate on the people rather than the products.  There was a man in front of her wearing cut-off jeans and an undershirt, his cart loaded with beer.

"You don't drink beer," she reminded herself.

Approaching her was a young mother, toddler in tow.  The mother's hand basket contained milk, bread, and eggs, the staples of a kitchen.  Hannah looked at her list, clicked her pen, and scribbled the items on the paper.

The deli worker looked at her.  "Next, please."

Fiction Friday: Do You Need a Degree to Write Successfully?

I have a Bachelor's degree in English (writing concentration) from a small, private liberal arts college. It was a small program, but a good one, and I really enjoyed my time in Rutledge basement for those three years.

I've had lots of people ask me if I think it's necessary to have a degree in writing in order to be successful at the career. They see the time and money involved and, sometimes, their eyes get a little wide at the prospect. So my honest answer is usually "No, but..."

Yes, there are plenty of people who are incredibly successful in writing without official writing degrees. They've used their natural writing talents and practice to improve their careers, and probably some reading and research along the way. Maybe they've taken classes here and there, or participated in workshops and seminars and things, but they don't have that piece of paper that denotes four (or more) years of dedicated time to writing.

BUT...a college degree can be incredibly helpful, too. Not only will a college program help hone your writing skills, but the non-major courses you take can supplement your writing, too. At my college, for example, I earned a minor in Liberal Studies. The history, religion, and philosophy aspects of those classes expanded my understanding of my literature courses, which in turn strengthened my writing.

Looking at a college degree to benefit you long-term makes sense, too. If you take creative writing courses, chances are your professors will have connections that can expand your network in the industry. Maybe your advisor is friends with a publisher. Maybe your fiction writing professor knows about a great workshop coming up and can get you into it. Maybe your TA's agent is looking for new clients.

And from a different perspective, even the act of taking classes can be "for your craft." The professors and other students you see and talk to during the school year can be great inspiration for characters, dialogue, and plots. College campuses have great atmospheres, which can be fodder for writing, or just a great place to sit and write!

Here's my take: if you have the time and financial resources to get a degree, I think it's worth the time and effort. However, if you don't have a degree or can't get one, your writing career most likely won't suffer as a result.

What do you look for in a church home?

I don't usually post too much about my personal life here (I have a separate personal blog), but since this falls within the realm of faith, I decided to add it here.

My husband and I have been looking for a new church home lately.  We'd been attending our local parish, but were unhappy with some of the decisions being made, as well as the atmosphere of the parish.

I'm happy to say we've found a church!  It's one we'd attended a few times, and we always enjoyed going, but usually attended another church closer to home with Hubby's parents.  Well, we decided we needed to go somewhere that challenged us spiritually, and would be a good place for Bean to grow up.  (Incidentally, Hubby's parents have started attending the same church because they've become unhappy with the local parish, as well.)  So we submitted our registration form, and it's the church in which we're going to have Bean baptized.

It seems to be a good church for community outreach and fellowship, as well.  There are lots of groups and activities at the church, and I'm looking forward to getting involved.

17 September 2009

Prayer Request

My cousin Joey had a brain tumor removed three years ago.  Unfortuately, it came back.  And after his recent surgery, he's facing chemotherapy.

Joey has a pretty good attitude about it, which will help, but the doctor's have still been emphasizing the seriousness of it.  Uncle Dan and Auntie Sue are having a more difficult time dealing with it because they feel so helpless.

Please keep the family in your thoughts and prayers, as well as everyone going through similar experiences (whether it be them or a family member).

16 September 2009

Writing in November: Advice from a NaNo Alumna

November is right around the corner as I'm sure you are all aware and that means it's time to get ready for NaNoWriMo. That's National Novel Writing Month for those of you who are new to the concept.

Last year was my first time participating and I learned a lot in the process. I wanted to share some of my experience so that the mistakes I made will not be repeated.

Never ever write a novel that is part of a series you are currently working on. Last November, I was working on the prequel for my current series. Since NaNoWriMo is all about word count, this was a very bad idea. Now that I'm going through and editing the novel, I'm finding a lot of mistakes I made while just trying to make the word count. Don't work on something that goes with another series. You'll kick yourself later.

Do your research before November. I was writing the novel and researching it at the same time. Granted, this was the first time I had to do such in-depth research for a novel so I didn't know better. I had so many notebooks laying around that I didn't know what was where. It took away from the experience for me.

Remember, it's about proving to yourself that you can do this. Making sure that you are writing enough is hard. Some days, I still don't feel like getting my three pages minimum completed. Some days I'm so blocked I can't get it done. But NaNoWriMo is there to encourage you. As you go through November, just remind yourself that you can finish it. It's all about fifty thousand words, not the next award-winning novel.

My goal this year is to write over fifty-three thousand words. We'll see what happens in November, won't we?

Kell is the author of the blog Welcome to Earth. She is currently working on editing her third vampire novel. Her first, Prophecy, is available online. She lives in Rock Island, Illinois, with her husband and dog, and writes full time from home. You can learn more about Kell by visiting her website here.

Carnival heads up!

Be sure to check out this fun writing opportunity.

15 September 2009

10 on Tuesday: Things to Accomplish Before 2010

1. Finish the first draft of the coffee house book.
2. Make sure Bean's scrapbook is up-to-date.
3. Move into a new place.
4. Participate in NaNoWriMo (November).
5. Finish my honeymoon scrapbook.
6. Start a scrapbook for my life with Hubby.
7. Write the 2010 business plan for CSW.
8. Set writing and personal goals for 2010.
9. Take a family trip to visit Nana.
10. Buy a new journal to use for 2010.

14 September 2009

New Writing Prompt!

As you can see above, there's a new writing prompt.

If you decide to try it, feel free to send me the result (or your link to the result), and I'd be happy to share it!  I'll be sharing my attempt on Saturday of this week.

Happy scribbling!

This Week's Task List

Ladies and gentlemen, I'm back in the office!  Hooray!

I know that I intended to take maternity leave until the end of September, but Bean was born in early August instead of mid- to late August as was expected, so I've had about a month off already (longer, really).  Besides that, I miss working.  So I'm trying to work toward getting back to some sort of regular schedule beginning this week.

I do have guest posts set up for the next couple of weeks, which will still run, of course.  I'm very thankful for my readers who stepped up to help me out, and they certainly didn't disappoint with content!  (Be sure to visit their home blogs to let them know how much you appreciate their writings, okay?  Tell them NP sent you.  And I'm a mama now, so you have to listen to me!)

Getting back into the office doesn't mean just jumping back into writing, unfortunately.  I have quite a bit of organization to do first.  I have to get my calendar back in order, update my files, and contact my clients to let them know I'm back.  Then I can start writing.  So this week will be a typical returning-from-vacation week.  Fun, fun.

  • Clean office space
  • Go through active client files and update information
  • Contact clients to let them know I'm available again
  • Update work calendar
  • Read Writing to Change the World by Mary Pipher for a "review" article

13 September 2009

Your office space

Your office space

Posted using ShareThis

Prayer Requests

This week, please pray with me that:
  • Hubby and I will find a new church home that helps strengthen our faith.
  • an unnamed loved one will find emotional peace.
  • my mom's cousin Joey will heal quickly and receive good news.
  • my sister-in-law will have a great senior year of college.
  • my sister will get good news about the house she's likes.
  • my step-sister's youth rally this weekend goes well, and all involved have a great, faith-filled weekend!
  • my new writing gig goes well.
  • an unspoken prayer request will be taken care of, according to the Lord's plan for my life.
If you'd like your own prayer request(s) added, please feel free to comment on this post, or email me and I'll add it.  You're invited to add anonymous and/or unspoken requests, as well.

11 September 2009

P.S. from Nathan

On the heels of this week's Fiction Friday post about publishing trends, literary agent and awesome guy Nathan Bransford pointed readers to this article (which points readers to this article) about the up and coming trend: Amish romances, or "bonnet books."

I'm curious what it is that draws people to these books.  I'm also curious if this new subgenre will improve sales for other Christian romance writers, such as Janette Oke.

Fiction Friday: Riding Publishing Waves

[NOTE: Fiction Thursday is now Fiction Friday! This post is going up today, but dated for tomorrow. Future fiction posts will go up on Fridays.]

I don't know if you've noticed, but media seems to be swamped with vampires lately. From the Twilight series to True Blood on TV, it seems that everywhere I turn I see pale-skinned blood suckers.
Obviously it's the current trend.  Someone decided vampires are cool again, picked up a bunch of vampire lit. (and screenplays), and convinced the general public that vampires are cool again.  So not only do we have lots of new vampire stuff, but probably lots of reruns of Buffy and Angel, too.

Of course, all this raises a question for writers.  Of course, this question can be applied to any trend, so don't think it's not applicable if you don't write about (or have no interest in writing about) creatures of the night.  I use vampire literature in this post because it's an obvious, current example.

Can I sell vampire lit. to publishers in the current climate?

Many would say no.  We're on the crest (or perhaps the downward slope) of this trend, so publishers probably aren't jumping to buy new vampire pieces.  The public has already been inundated with the stuff, so readers may not be too keen to pick up another book that will remind them of the other ten they just finished. Publishers are looking for the next great thing, not the current great thing.

On the other hand, many trends emerge as a swelling of a desire readers already have.  Yes, there are tons of people reading vampire literature right now, but when the trend has passed, there will still be people who will want to read about vampires.  Just because it's not a trend doesn't mean there's not a niche for it.  So some publishers may still be looking for new and exciting vampire lit. to fill the shelves.  After all, to some, vampires will always be cool!

Here's my thought: if you're looking for a niche to write in the hopes that it's a trend and you'll be more likely to be picked up, don't pick something that's "hot right now."  (Personally, I don't think you should try to fit into any trend just to sell your pieces, but that's a post for another day.)  If there's something that's on the upward slope, sure, maybe you could get in on it.  But if you already see it everywhere you turn, I don't know how well you'd do trying to sell it to publishers.

My advice is to write what you want, then find the perfect home for it.

Happy scribbling!

09 September 2009

Being a Writer

If, years ago, you'd asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have told you without hesitation that I wanted to be a writer. There had been other ideas, other thoughts for the future, but somehow seeing my name on a book cover (or even a movie screen!) was the highest dream I knew.

And then, reality showed up. Turns out I never considered the minor detail of actually making a living until I scored that million-dollar book deal and rose to literary stardom.

College came and went, with radio and television production my sensible major of choice, and shortly after I found my place at a local radio station. I joke that I'll grow up and get a real job someday, but in a way, my path never led me too far from my first dream. Good radio is all about telling stories well, and I came to live in those stories daily. The urge to write never really went away.

In November 2008, something shifted. I challenged myself to the NaNoWriMo way of writing a 50,000 word novel in a month. It came in spurts and drips, but with one final push on the last night of the month, I crossed the goal and typed "The End" on my first completed manuscript. It was messy. It was riddled with plot-holes and bad dialogue. It was awful and beautiful. And I was addicted.

I realized that I had become a Writer when I wasn't paying attention. Or...maybe I had always been one!

I have a hard time thinking of myself as a real-life, Capital W "Writer" most of the time. When I was drowning in the deep end of marathon novel-writing, a friend, noticing the constant word-count angst of my Facebook updates commented, "Oh! I didn't know you were a writer!" I wanted to say, "Yes, I am!" but it was hard. Was I a writer? I'd never finished anything but fragments that nobody was allowed to read. But since then, I've felt the title settling around me. It's taken many words, some more useful than others, to get there, but I'm finally okay with being a writer.

After years of struggling and scratching, thinking and reading about writing (as opposed to actually...y'know...writing), I learned that it's not something you do, but something you are. Writers are people with heads full of stories and ink in their blood. Chances are, if you've found your way to this blog, you are a writer whether you know it or not. Maybe you're published, or maybe you can just barely squeeze a few lines in a journal around family and a day job and life. But all you need is a spark, a desire, and something to mark on. Even if no one else reads it, you are a writer. That's the truth that can escape us when we say "I'll write the novel when I'm good enough," or, "I've never been published, so I'm not a real writer."

I don't believe publishing credit and profit is the reason to write. Our task is simple, but kind of scary: writers are here to help make sense of the world. Madeleine L'Engle said it best in Walking on Water: "the artist is someone who is full of questions, who cries them out in great angst, who discovers rainbow answers in the darkness and then rushes to canvas or paper." Imagine that! Your words could change the world, even by making sense of a small part of it, by bringing a moment of joy or wonder or sadness or reflection.

So pick up your pen. Find ways to share your gifts in everyday life. Sharpen your craft. Connect with others who share your passion, love them and learn from them.

And don't stop looking for those rainbow answers! The world needs people like you to help find them. What will you write today?

Jen Rose is a writer, but she's just now figuring that out. By day, she's a production assistant at Z88.3 FM in Orlando, Florida (though she really likes the title "audio ninja"). By night, weekends, and the occasional lunch break, she writes stuff. She's currently working on her first novel, and she reviews music for JesusFreakHideout.com and blogs at Divinest Sense. She also likes Twitter followers who are not spam, bots, or marketing gurus. Follow her.

08 September 2009

New Blog Feature

Beginning this week, I am posting writing prompts on my blog (see right).

Each Monday I'll update the blog with a new writing prompt. On Saturday of every week I'll post my result from the writing prompt on the blog.

If you decide to use the prompt, I'd be happy to share your writing as well! You can either email me with the text and any additional information you'd like to include, or send me a link to your blog so I can direct readers to the text on your blog.

Happy scribbling!

10 on Tuesday: Characters I Liked Reading

(In no particular order)

1. Thursday Next from Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series

2. The Cheshire Cat from Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series

3. Esther Greenwood from Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar

4. Ma (the narrator) from Dai Sijie's Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

5. Frank from Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes, 'Tis, and Teacher Man

6. Malachy from Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes and Malachy McCourt's A Monk Swimming and Singing my Him Song

7. Clare from Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife

8. Vida Winter from Diane Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale

9. Catherine from David Auburn's Proof

10. Deborah Blau from Joanne Greenberg's I Never Promised You a Rose Garden

07 September 2009

Outline: Complete!

I'm already getting excited about NaNoWriMo this year. I think it's because the web badges got released early, and when things start happening on the website, I usually start gearing up for the event myself.

So I started developing the idea given to me by Hubby earlier this year. His suggestion was to write about participating in NaNo for the first time with a little one at home (because it really does change everything, in case anyone was wondering!).

So over the past couple of weeks, I've been letting that idea follow me around and grow. A few days ago, I started working on my outline for the novel.

And I just finished it.

I know some people shudder at the mere thought of creating an outline, but not only do they help me organize my thoughts, but creating an outline is a way I can start working on my NaNoWriMo novel before November first.

I'm happy with the outline, and the way the story idea has developed. (Sorry, but you'll have to wait a while before I reveal my story idea to you. I need to make sure it's finished developing, after all.)

If you're thinking of participating in NaNoWriMo this year, you may want to wander over to their website and check things out. You can get the rules, find your local support group on the forums, and order your NaNo gear (although the t-shirts for 2009 aren't available quite yet). Looking at all that's already available to support you just may inspire you to work on your own NaNoWriMo outline. November will be here soon!

Happy scribbling!

How Does Your Walk Talk?

When I was younger, I had a Sunday school teacher who was fond of saying, "Your walk talks louder than your talk talks."

She essentially meant that the way you live your life makes more of an impact than what you say. It was used to remind us that it was one thing to say "I'm a Christian," and something completely different to show our faith by how we acted. (We had to be good, Christian girls, after all, so we could attract good, Christian men to make us good, Christian wives and mothers.)

The point is a good one, though, and can go beyond Christianity.

You don't have to speak to make an impression on someone (good or bad). The decisions you make and the way you act and react give people an idea of the kind of person you are.

I'm not one of those people who raises an eyebrow at people with mohawks or piercings and tattoos or anything like that, but I do know that if you say you believe something, then live your life to the contrary, I certainly will raise an eyebrow. If you, for example, claim to live green and want to protect the earth, but won't recycle, what should I think?

I'm not bringing this up to lecture you, but to make you aware of the image you're giving to others with every aspect of yourself. Even what you say on your blog, for example, reveals who you are to anyone who reads it.

So just remember: your walk talks louder than your talk talks!

06 September 2009

Another Small Shop Says Goodbye

Anyone remember the movie You've Got Mail with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan? It was sort of a modernized Sleepless in Seattle, in which Ryan's character owns a little children's book shop that's being threatened by the recent opening of a large discount book store owned by the family of Hanks's character. It was that literature element that drew me into the movie (and the adorable golden retriever!).

It made me sad that Ryan's book shop was closing. I love little hole in the wall book shops with loyal customers, comfy couches, and the distinct smell of old paper, ink, and furniture polish. And as much as I was saddened by the story of the shop closing, I thought it was just something that happened in movies and stories to get people like me all riled up.

Unfortunately, in this case, art imitates life.

04 September 2009

Making Time to Write

Kell of The Fang Marked Writer put up a post today about needing to readjust her writing schedule to fit around her day gig.

I have the incredible luxury of being able to work full-time from home right now, although I have worked full-time outside of the home, so I understand needing to make time to scribble. When I was working, I wrote during my lunch break and after work (usually before bed). Whenever I had a free moment, I was scribbling.

The key is to find your rhythm. If you prefer to start your day scribbling, get up a few hours before the rest of your family does and get some writing done. If you're a night owl, stay up after everyone else has gone to sleep. Maybe you have a nice break in the middle of your day. Make sure you have a pad of paper and a pen in your bag, and you'll be set.

Of course, you don't have to limit yourself to blocks of time, either. As I mentioned, I wrote during lunch. But when I was an admissions counselor and traveling to schools to recruit students, I also scribbled while I was waiting for students to arrive, or while I was eating dinner at restaurants (alone) while on the road. Keeping a little journal in my briefcase was a very, very smart idea for me!

The problem comes when people who have busy schedules use it as an excuse to not write. They claim they can't write because they have work to do, or because they have a family to care for, or because dinner needs to be cooked. Everyone has obligations outside of the craft, but everyone has the same twenty-four hours in a day. If writing is your passion, you won't wait to find time to write. You'll make time to write.

Kell says:
It's harder to write when you have other demands on your time. But if you want it bad enough, or if your characters won't leave you alone, you'll find a way.

Really, that's what it comes down to in the end. If you're a writer, you make time to write. Many, many writers have full-time jobs and write on the side to share their stories. And it works.

So make it work for you.

03 September 2009


A couple of people have mentioned the inability to comment on my blog today, so I made a change that (hopefully) fixed the problem. If not, I'll try something else.

Comment away!

The End is Near and Other Stories

Alas, my web browser has decided that the "post a comment" link is surplus to requirements. I'm trying to avoid going to bed, I'm sick of politics at the moment, and I feel moved to respond to NP's previous post. Guest blogging powers, activate!

NP asks, "So how do you know when you can let go of a piece and start working on something else?" For me, it is a three-part process:
1. Picking the bloody thing up for yet another revision makes me physically ill.
2. Ooo, shiny object! Otherwise known as getting distracted by another project.
3. My poor Wise Readers repeat for the 9,842nd time, "There's nothing wrong with it, Dana. Really. There's not." They are Wise, and so I feel compelled to believe them - at least, after I've asked them "Are you sure?" for the 9,841st time.
That said, nothing ever feels finished. And I know that when I finally see my crap in print, I'll be mortified. So it goes.

And that's all I have to say about that. Until the inevitable revision, o' course.

Tangential to endings, I suppose that's one of the reasons I like political blogging - there's no revision. It's hard-and-fast current events sort o' stuff with no chance for 9,841st thoughts and fretful tinkering. You post the post and move on to the next. I wouldn't be able to write fiction like that, but it's a relief to scribble things that don't require endless fuss and bother, which people end up liking just fine despite the lack of polish.

There's also no reason to spend five hours deciding upon a suitably elegant transition. And I shall engage in that behavior now by leaping from the previous topic to the next without ceremony. Chris Rhetts has it right when he says you need to leave elbow room for the imagination. That's especially true for writers of wonder and horror. Our imaginations may be good, but our readers' are often better. Take full advantage of that, we must.

What he says touches on "show, don't tell" as well as "engage the reader." Look at it this way: do you get more emotional when someone gives you a list of reasons why you should feel, oh, say, grief, or when you see someone collapse to the floor screaming with loss? Yup. And while it's harder to show than tell, in most cases the extra effort's worth it, especially for the important bits.

Young writers I dealt with in college (and in writer's forums later) always seemed agonized by the idea that if they showed rather than told, the reader may not react properly. I, too, used to keep myself awake nights worrying about this. In me wise old age (ha), I've come to say, "So what?" So what if they don't "get it"? Not everyone will, even when you tell them with awful precision just what their reaction should be. I play the percentage game now. If, oh, say, 75% of the audience "gets it," I am content. And while it's satisfying when your readers "get it," it's even more satisfying when they come to the conclusion you wanted by following breadcrumbs the birds have been at rather than a four-lane interstate highway posted with signs every ten feet.

Apropos of nothing, allow me to share the following: I've just had one of those "I am a writer" moments. I've been doubtful, lately. I've spent the last week quivering in terror, because I haven't felt the call. Haven't wanted to read fiction, nor write fiction, nor sacrifice the pathetic remnants of my social life because between blogging, full-time work, and inconvenient necessities like eating, sleeping, and re-excavating a safe path through the house, there's precious little else that can be trimmed in order to make room for fiction writing. I shall not bore you with the details, but I'm sure you've all been there and can fill in the blanks. You've stared down the barrel of the question, "Am I really a writer?"

Years ago, my best friend in North Carolina answered this question by swearing off writing for life, then going to the grocery store. As he passed the stationery aisle, he swerved down it with this thought: "Oh, hey, I wonder if they've got my favorite pens? D'OH!"

I've just answered it by feeling an old, familiar thrill of excitement simply reading two excellent blog posts on writing.

Buh-bye, social life. Hello, fiction! Well, as soon as summer's officially over, anyway...

If you've stories to tell on the theme of "I knew I was a writer when..." and the comments section is still on strike, feel free to email them to elitistbastardscarnival@gmail.com, and I shall be pleased to post them for ye.

Fiction Thursday: "The End"

I had a professor in college who never gave 100% on papers. She told her students this on the first day of class, and explained that the reason is because she believes there is always room for improvement, and a score of 100% means the assignment is the best it can be.

I understand her logic (not sure yet if I agree with it). And this is something that plagues many writers: when, if ever, is something its best? When are you done writing it? And I don't mean "done" as in "the story arc is complete". I mean "done" as in "there is nothing else that can be done to this story to improve it".

There have been many times I've written something, edited it, and been happy with the result. And when I go back to read the "finished" product, I find myself scrambling for a pen to make more changes.

Maybe those changes really did need to be made. Maybe I'm too critical of my own work. Either way, there are many pieces I've written that, even after they were out of my hands, I didn't feel they were done.

Part of me thinks it's because creative writing is so subjective. It's not like mathematics in which solving for x means you're done. In creative writing, different people have different opinions, and there's always someone who has suggestions for improvement.

So how do you know when you can let go of a piece and start working on something else?

A friend of mine told me she considered herself done when she read through the piece three times without making significant changes. (I'm not sure what her definition of "significant" is, either.) Someone else I know says he's done when the piece has been submitted. (How he knows when to submit is beyond me.)

What about you? When do you feel you can be done with a piece? What criteria do you have for the transition between editing and submission?

02 September 2009

Elbow Room for the Imagination

I got my first computer about 15 years ago and immediately hooked up with AOL. For those of you who remember, the net was very different back then. For a few months I rummaged around the AOL sites until I stumbled upon an AOL sponsored chat room called "Poet's Place." The room had a moderator who would schedule poetry readings by IM from those wishing to do so. After each reading, the floor was open for comments.

Now I enjoy all kinds of literature, but poetry seemed particularly appropriate for that type of setting. I became a follower of Poet's Place for some years, and once in a while took a turn a moderator. I even got a chance to meet in person some of the people who frequented the room. They were a great bunch and I still contact some of them from time to time, even though Poet's Place is no longer active. It was all a lot of fun.

But as far as the poetry was concerned, frankly, most of it was pretty bad. However it occurred to me early on that even though the people who posted poems in the room were not very skilled at writing, still, they had something in common with the best of writers in any genre. This is the urge to reveal a unique, personal vision. I always tried to keep this in mind when rendering a comment, and therefore refrained from being too critical. Essentially, I tried to find whatever was good in each poem and cite that as a nucleus upon which a better poem could be constructed. In time, I began to recognize a near universal flaw in most of the poems.

Now it is never wise nor prescient to subject poetry, or any other art form for that matter, to immutable laws. As soon as we do that, someone like a James Joyce or a Paul Klee comes along to shatter those laws and give us a vision not only of undeniable brilliance, but also a brilliance of a kind which cannot be reduced to the standards ordinary people believe define what is art and what is not. So consider this only as advice. If it works for you, send me a percentage.

Beginning writers are told, incessantly, that the key to successful writing is to engage the reader. This seems so basic a principle that most writers sheerly assume an understanding of it. Yet saying you understand something and knowing how to put it into practice can be two very different things.

Consider a piece of creative writing as a series of stepping stones across a pond. When the stones are wide and close together, you cross over the water without any effort, hardly thinking about it. But when they are narrow and scattered haphazardly, crossing requires concentration and agility.

What I discovered in nearly all those bad poems were writers, so infatuated by their own imagination, that they completely ignored that of the reader. It was almost insulting. When they screamed, cried or laughed, they told you precisely why and in annoyingly painful detail. What they were forgetting is that reading a story is as much an act of imagination as writing it is.

If you think about it, Van Gogh's "Field of Flowers near Arles" virtually demands the viewer's participation. The genius of that painting is not what is there, but what isn't. Similarly, Eliot's "Prufrock" has inspired thousands of interpretations. That we all see something different in these disparate works of art is a measure of how the artist has managed to pull us into them. Perhaps the greatness of Van Gogh was not exactly how he saw things, but the reverence he had for how you see them. Maybe, it is this reverence which transforms ordinary fields, or life stories, into enduring works of art.

When you are finished writing, set your pen down, take a turn around the block, drink a cup of coffee or smoke a cigarette, then go back and read what you have written as if it was composed by a total stranger. And ask, has this person left enough space between the stones to exercise my legs as well as their own?

Chris Rhetts says about himself (pictured left with daughter Morgan):

I am a 59 year old, relatively normal person living in Acworth, GA (a lake community just north of Atlanta). A friend of mine from church and I maintain a blog, writing about current affairs. I fear we are in fact just a couple of garrulous old gasbags.

I got my B.A. with a major in Comparative Literature at Indiana University way back in 1973. I wanted to go on and get a Masters in education but things just didn't turn out the way I hoped and I find myself years later selling cars for a living. I've never published anything or claim to be an authority on writing. I've had occasion however to read and comment on reams of writing by amateurs like myself. As a result of that experience I think I have some useful ideas about creative writing.


I love to write all sorts of things and I think I am fairly good at it. I decided very early on, as a boy in fact, that I would write things to please myself. It was never my intention or aim to become a published writer. My first love is poetry. I also write little short stories and commentaries.

01 September 2009

Pre-Order Available!

Be sure to pre-order your copy of the newest Jasper Fforde book, Shades of Grey, due out in the U.S. in December.

From the bestselling author of Thursday Next--a brilliant new novel about a world where social order and destiny are dictated by the colors you can see.

Part social satire, part romance, part revolutionary thriller, Shades of Grey tells of a battle against overwhelming odds. In a society where the ability to see the higher end of the color spectrum denotes a better social standing, Eddie Russet belongs to the low-level House of Red and can see his own color--but no other. The sky, the grass, and everything in between are all just shades of grey, and must be colorized by artificial means.

Eddie's world wasn't always like this. There's evidence of a never-discussed disaster and now, many years later, technology is poor, news sporadic, the nation of change abhorrent, and nighttime is terrifying: no one can see in the dark. Everyone abides by a bizarre regime of rules and regulations, a system of merits and demerits, where punishment can result in permanent expulsion.

Eddie, who works for the Color Control Agency, might well have lived out his rose-tinted life without a hitch. But that changes when he becomes smitten with Jane, a Grey Nightseer from the dark, unlit side of the village. She shows Eddie that all is not well with the world he thinks is just and good. Together, they engage in dangerous revolutionary talk.

Stunningly imaginative, very funny, tightly plotted, and with sly satirical digs at our own society, this novel is for those who loved Thursday Next but want to be transported somewhere equally wild, only darker; a world where the black and white of moral standpoints have been reduced to shades of grey.

10 on Tuesday: Upcoming Events on my Calendar

1. September 7th (Labor Day)--Hubby is off work
2. September 13th--Grandparents' Day
3. September 16th--Mom's birthday
4. October 11th--Sis-in-law's birthday
5. October 29th--Hubby's birthday
6. October 31st--Halloween
7. November 26th (Thanksgiving Day)--Hubby is off work
8. November 27th--Hubby is off work
9. Early to mid-December--family vacation to Nana's house
10. December 25th (Christmas Day)--Hubby is off work