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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Here Comes the Christmas Season....

Where I am, in Australia, it’s just a few short hours till the Boyd family Christmas season officially starts. Well, it will be December 1st very soon. Citizens of the US will have another day to wait. (Sorry peeps). I love December - it’s the month I officially have an excuse to sing Christmas songs louder than usual (I’m not a good singer), put up our Christmas tree and decorations, and plan out our Christmas feast.

The choice is always whether to have a hot or cold Christmas - hot or cold as in the temperature of the food. The weather, when you live here on the far side of the world, is usually hot, rarely cool enough to need even a cardi. Quite often we swelter.

My mother is quite the fan of the baked Christmas feast. Yes, it’s torture – but the yummy kind I like. Roast Pork, Turkey, and Ham. Baked Vege’s of enough varieties to bury her special crockery. Fine glasses and silver that only sees fresh air on special occasions. For mum, Christmas is an elegant and a very filling affair. Then there is the most important part of my parent’s Christmas – the desserts! Trifle is mum's specialty – and none of us dare try to replicate the port-laced wonder. It’s sad, but the trifle bowl has been fought over more than once.

Christmas with my family, despite the fine china, grows to a rowdy affair – us girls are grossly outnumbered. My constant supply of water guns to my four nephews, two sons, and one niece I may be responsible – but I’m not taking all the blame. Grandma’s serves far too many sweet things – we’re all on sugar highs. LOL.

Yet what I love most about Christmas is the slowness of the day, the heated debates over who gets the last of the trifle bowl and the happy smiles of my family as they return home.

Christmas singing is interesting feat when you live without snow. There are so many songs from my childhood that I sang along to that clearly lost me on the deeper meaning. The Christmas Song (Chestnuts roasting on an open fire) – the total fire ban makes that a little difficult to manage. I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas – now wouldn’t we wonder if the ice age was upon us then! We sang them all quite blindly, but thanks to some very silly people, we have an alternative:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OnJ8jsw4BSo&NR=1 
(Just in case you're confused - thongs are footware not underwear)

So where ever you might be I hope your December 1st is as much fun as mine. But what are your Christmas Traditions?

Heather Boyd
~Lady Wicked

Monday, November 29, 2010

NOW am I allowed to talk about Christmas??

Those who know me know that Christmas starts really early in my house...at least the music does. Around the beginning of October, when the temperature starts to drop, it's the only music I want to listen to. It just makes me feel all warm and cozy inside, and I can't seem to wipe the goofy smile off my face. But I get a lot of flack for my propensity to jump the gun (especially from fellow blogger Amy de Trempe!!) However, now that Thanksgiving is over, I'm pretty sure I'm free to talk about Christmas as much as I want :)

So let's talk music today. I'm always on the lookout for new Christmas albums to add to my already extensive library of classics. This year I've added songs (because I rarely like the whole album) from Naturally 7, Straight No Chaser and the Puppini Sisters.

Until last night, I'd never even heard of Naturally 7. But my amazing hubby swept me off to Madison Square Garden for a birthday surprise. Our tickets were for Michael Buble (who didn't sing a single Christmas tune :( ). He was phenomenal, but I have to admit, I've never been as in awe of a performance as I was of Naturally 7, Buble's opening act. Seven guys from the NY area who not only sing acappella, but they do something called "vocal play." This is where you literally mimic instruments. I think the drummer might be the most impressive, but I also couldn't pick my jaw up from the floor as I watched one guy impersonate a cello, another an electric guitar, bass guitar, harmonica, trombone...seriously, these guys will blow your mind! And they have a really great Christmas album with their R&B takes on classics - Pachelbel's Canon is especially impressive!

As I looked up Naturally 7 on iTunes, Straight No Chaser was suggested as something I might like as well. It's another acappella group and they are phenomenal. They apparently formed more than 12 years ago as students at Indiana, and now they are taking the accappella world by storm. Definitely a great Christmas album to check out. My personal favorites are Christmas Wish and Auld Lang Syne. I also bought Africa, even though it's not Christmas, but who doesn't love a little accappella Toto??

The Puppini Sisters I discovered a few weeks ago. These three girls are the Andrews Sisters reincarnated, and honestly, they give them a run for their money. If I heard them playing in a store, I probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference. They've even affected the recordings to make them sound old! I recommend Mele Kalikilama, Here Comes Santa Clause and Step Into Christmas.

So those are my top picks for Christmas music this year. Who do you love to listen to at the holidays? Do you have any new favorites this year?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

In Theatres This Week...

Here at Lady Scribes, we are all about good stories, whether they be books, television, or film. So, we are spending a little time on Sundays discussing the latest releases and finding out what you saw, what you like, and what you’re looking forward to.

Last weekend’s Top 5 films:

1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I

2. Megamind

3. Unstoppable

4. Due Date

5. The Next Three Days

Opening this week…

Tangled (PG)
Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi
Disney spins a new take on the classic Rapunzel story. She's been grounded...Like Forever.

Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway
Based on Jamie Reidy's memoir Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman. A pharmaceutical sales man finds the ultimate drug - Love.
Burlesque (PG-13)
Cher, Christina Aguilera
A small town girl follows her dreams of dancing all the way to Los Angeles.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Whopper and Fries For Thanksgiving?!?!?!?

By the Jodie 1/2 of Lydia Dare

I’ll never forget Thanksgiving dinner 1983. Never.

No, we weren’t at my grandparents’ cozy house enjoying turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. No, those holiday dinners all tend to blend together, don’t they? And this particular dinner still stands out in my mind. Why, you ask? Because Thanksgiving 1983 we dined at a Burger King in the middle of nowhere, Indiana.

That’s right. Thanksgiving dinner at Burger King. And, no, they didn’t offer turkey, mashed potatoes, or pumpkin pie. Who even knew they were open on Thanksgiving, right? But it was a good thing they were.

You see, my family was in the process of moving from the Rocky Mountains to the Midwest. So there we were - four children and our parents in an ugly brown van with splashes of wild color on the sides (it was the 80s and at the time we thought it looked cool) driving across the country.

But I digress.

We were in a strange state we’d never been to before. We had no family (other than ourselves) and no friends to invite us over. No, we were on our own for Thanksgiving, and the prospects weren’t exactly promising. Oh, there were some nice restaurants open, but none that my father would stop at. I recall hearing repeatedly from the driver’s seat, “I’m not paying $20 a head for food.”

Never mind it wasn’t just food, it was Thanksgiving!! (And it was the 80s so $20 a head for food was a lot in those days. Especially if four of those heads were ten years old or younger.)

So we kept driving (and those who know me well will tell you I got my overly frugal ways from my father). And we kept driving. And it started getting dark, and off in the distance down the twisty, turny road we traveled – we saw a sign for Burger King.

It was like a beacon.

Not that we wanted to feast on whoppers or cheeseburgers for Thanksgiving, but it was food that wasn’t going to cost my father $20 a head. And by this time, we were really hungry. So we inhaled the burger and fries my parents put before us (and the cup of water, because no one was going to pay good money for a soda).

And in the back of my mind, I told myself that it wasn’t Thanksgiving. That it was just another night along the road and there was nothing special about it.

But that wasn’t really true.

Oh, it was most certainly a non-traditional holiday dinner, but we all had each other which is what Thanksgiving is really all about. And in the months that came after that night, we needed each other like we never had before. Leaving everyone you’ve ever known to embark on a life in a strange town, in a strange state, with people who aren’t remotely like you is a very difficult thing. Especially at that age. But we always did have each other, whether it was for Thanksgiving dinner at Burger King or at any other bump along the road.

Have you ever had a holiday dinner that was less than traditional? And is that why it sticks out in your mind?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

What are You Thankful For?

Today, in America, it is Thanksgiving, so I thought it only fitting to share a few things I'm thankful for.

I'm thankful for quiet moments where I'm able to hear myself think. All those times lately where it has been anything but have made it all the more clear to me that I should treasure the ones I get.

I'm thankful that my grandmother is beginning to learn her limitations. If she knows what she is capable of, and more importantly, what she is not capable of, then I have to spend less time worrying about her.

I'm thankful that the temperatures are starting to get a little cooler in Texas. Not only does it mean I'm not sweating constantly, but it means lower electric bills.

I'm thankful that the sweetest little three-year-old in the world is my nephew. I'm also thankful that his parents live two blocks away. That means I get to see him as often as I want--and when I've had all I can handle, I can quickly and easily send him home.

I'm thankful that I didn't spend any time in the hospital this year. Last year was enough to hold me over for a while.

I'm thankful that even when it feels like the world might be crumbling in on me, I can always sit down and write. No matter what, I can make it worse on my characters than I have it at the moment. *cue sadistic, maniacal laughter here*

I'm thankful that there are plenty of places around town these days that I can take my laptop that have free wi-fi. Sometimes, I just need a change of scenery.

I'm thankful that I have family and friends all close by, and so there is always someone to laugh with, cry with, gripe about, sneak off to see Harry Potter with, or kidnap for breakfast at dinner time.

What are you thankful for?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Game On

Last week I was looking at board games at one of super stores. It was my daughter’s birthday, and she loves games. Two things surprised me. The prices are outrageous these days, and they are still making the game Mouse Trap. That game stunk 35 years ago. How can it still be on the market? I was one disappointed little kid when that fancy-smancy mousetrap contraption didn’t work.

But disappointment is one thing, anxiety is quite another. I blame The Operation Game for us becoming a Prozac Nation. Seriously, who wasn’t a basket case after trying to remove Sam’s—Did you know that was his name?—spare rib or that tiny pencil giving him writer’s cramp? I hated when one of my friends wanted to play it. I used to get heart palpitations and break out in a cold sweat because I was afraid I was going to be shocked, even though it had never happened. There's always a first time.

Another game that made me nervous was Perfection, but at least I learned to like it, thanks to the coolest teenage guy baby sitter ever. He made up this game where the Perfection box was a bomb. He hid it and my brothers and I had to find and diffuse it before it blew up. Sadly, when it was my youngest brother’s turn, he freaked out, threw it against the wall, and broke the timer. I was devastated over the loss. We couldn’t play the bomb game anymore.

Many of my memories involve games. I remember my childhood best friend teaching me to play Monopoly and saying she had to hand out two properties at the beginning. I caught on to her tricks when I figured out her properties, Boardwalk and Park Place, were worth much more than mine, Mediterranean Avenue and Baltic Avenue. (She also tried to do a roller skating trick once where she skated over me, lost her balance, and sat on my face. But on the positive side, she tied my shoes for me at recess until fourth grade and campaigned for me to go on vacation to Florida with her family. That’s another wonderful story I’ll save for another day.)

My parents used to have groups of friends over to play rousing games of Aggravation while all the kids jumped on the bed in my room or played hide-and-seek and swinging statue outside. Sometimes our parents would play card games like Nertz or Spades, and when we became teens, we played our own game of cards.

My best girlfriends from elementary on used to have sleepovers and play Charades. Our all-time favorite songs to slip into the bowl were "I was looking back to see if you were looking back to see if I was looking back to see if you were looking back at me" and "I have tears in my ears from lying on my back while I’m crying over you." I hadn’t played Charades in years, but last Christmas we played with family. And what a blast!

These great memories came back to me all because I cruised the game aisle. I realized I’ve missed creating fun new memories with family and friends over the past couple of years. Life has a tendency to get away from us. Our connections to friends weaken. Our family time becomes an endless list of places to be or things to do. Our lives turn into a grind. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

The coming holidays provide a wonderful opportunity to drag out the board games, have some fun, and make memories that will bring us smiles in the years to come. In fact, my New Year’s resolution is to host more game nights in 2011 where I will force family and friends to act like fools and laugh themselves silly. I know they’ll thank me for it later.

Do you have game nights with family or friends? What games do you like or remember from childhood?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

5 Tips for Mailing in Your Golden Heart® Entry

Only one week remains until the final deadline for the Golden Heart, Romance Writers of America’s® biggest annual writing contest for unpublished authors. Entries must be in the RWA office in Houston by 5 pm central time on Thursday, December 2nd.

The mailing process should be simple, but nerves can bungle the project. I made so many mistakes printing out my submission; I thought I would share a few tips for saving time and paper while preparing your Golden Heart entry for mailing.

  • Use the checklist before you print. Nothing is more frustrating than discovering you’ve made a basic formatting mistake right as your printer cartridge runs out of ink. RWA provides a checklist here. It will help you avoid the most obvious errors. Make sure all three parts of your entry are double spaced and have both the title and page numbers in the headers.
  • Print only one copy at first: Read it over thoroughly at least once, making note any typos, extra spaces, or other formatting errors. Chances are you’ll catch things you never noticed on the computer screen. It’s much easier to fix these errors before you print your six partials.
  • Paper or Plastic? Decide whether you want to send the full on a CD or printed out on paper. Believe it or not, this is a controversial topic. Those who are tech-savvy and/or green are going to want to use the CD. Not only will it save paper, but it will cut postage costs too. Old-schoolers will want to go the print route. They tell horror stories of CDs getting lost and entries disqualified. They say the weight of the package is their proof they sent the full. Either method is perfectly acceptable. If you do use a CD make sure it is clearly, permanently labeled with you title and name.
  • Packaging: I have always sent mine in a box. I copy and print out the RWA address from the confirmation email, so my bad handwriting won’t cause any problems. I like to track my package, but it isn’t necessary. Once RWA has received your entry, it will appear on the “my contests” page of your online member account profile.

Let it go: This is perhaps the hardest step of entering the Golden Heart. There comes a time when all revision can only make things worse. Don’t believe me? Last year, one of my entries-the one that did not final- contained three random pages in italics. How could this happen when I spent countless hours combing over that manuscript? I have to believe that in “fixing” one missing italics error, I inadvertently italicized everything around it. Fatigue leads to failure.

You’ve been perfecting this manuscript for months, maybe years.

Send it and forget it.

I would love to hear your GH prep stories. Have you ever had an entry lost or disqualified? Or discovered that fatal error only after it was too late to fix it? Are you an early entrant or an overnight delivery candidate? What tips have you learned to smooth the process?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Shall I get a Dragon?

As a child I wanted a dragon. I didn't recognize the danger of literary dragons and just thought they were really cool because they could fly and breathe fire. Then there was H.R. PufnStuf, who was a very friendly and helpful dragon. Does anyone even remember that show? I was very young and am surprised I do.

However, that isn't the type of dragon I am thinking about.

Dragon Speaking software has been around for a while. I tried it a long time ago, but it was fairly new and the difficulty I had with the program outweighed the benefits. However, as I said, that was years ago and I am sure a lot of things have changed since then, and maybe I should give it another try.

I had actually forgotten about this product until the other night when I watched an advertisement. It showed people dictating a Facebook status, Blog, and reports. I would love to sit back in my chair and dictate my story as it came to me. I can always fix it later. The first draft always involves a ton of edits anyway so why not save my fingers in the process. So, off to the website I went to check it out further. There is more than one choice: Dragon Home, Dragon Premium, Dragon Professional, Dragon Legal, Dragon Software Bundles, and Dragon for the Mac. If I do end up purchasing this product, I think the Dragon Home would be all I need.
But, in order to be fair, I did a search for Voice Activated Software. Surely Dragon isn’t the only product available. In fact, there are two. If there are others, I would love to hear about them so that I can be fully advised when making my decision.

One is called Talk It Type It 2 i,n Standard, Deluxe and Ultra, utilizing Microsoft 6.1 speech software. First, I don’t know what version of speech software Microsoft is on right now so that meant little to me. What I did notice is that the purchase price is much lower than Dragon Home, which made me want to check it out further. There may be a newer version and I just didn’t find it, but the one I did read about works with Windows 98/Me/XP – not Vista. As I have Windows 7, I am not sure it is going to work for me either. If anyone is using this software, please let me know if there is a version for Windows 7.

The most surprising was I already have a Speech Recognition program. Talk about a “duh” moment. Maybe I should explore everything that my computer does have to offer someday. Anyway, Windows Speech Recognition comes with Windows Vista and Windows 7 standard on most computers. Thrilled at the idea of dictating my WIP and not spending anything had me scurrying to find this program. I also had to borrow my son’s headset with microphone, promising to return it when I am done.

With the headset plugged in I read and talked my way through the tutorial and when finished, I was pretty confident that I could do this. The next step, I opened the chapter I am currently working on and began dictating. There were a few bumps in that it didn’t recognize some of the things I said. I am willing to admit that much of this could be user error and perhaps a gentle reminder that I need to enunciate a bit better. Still, I am pretty sure I will get the hang of it and need to correct less and less words.

What did bother me is that it types the text into a small window and when you like what it says, you command the program to insert. On more than one occasion I dictated too much and not all of my dictation was transferred. I am not sure I am going to like dictating a sentence or two and then command “insert” and continue on with the next sentence. It really interrupted my flow and I probably could have typed my dictation much quicker.

So, now I am back to wondering if I should get a Dragon. In the commercial it looks like what you dictate is typed directly into the document and not a window that needed the command of insert to continue. And, it looks great in the television advertisement (but doesn’t everything). I would hate to spend the money to find out it is no better than the program that came free with my computer.

Have you or do you use voice recognition software? If so, which product and how has it worked out? I am anxious to hear everyone’s opinion as I decide if I am going to buy myself an early Christmas present.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

In Theatres This Week...

Here at Lady Scribes, we are all about good stories, whether they be books, television, or film. So, we are spending a little time on Sundays discussing the latest releases and finding out what you saw, what you like, and what you’re looking forward to.

Last weekend’s Top 5 films:

1. Megamind

2. Unstoppable

3. Due Date

4. Skyline

5. Morning Glory

Opening this week…

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I (PG-13)
Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson

If you've read the book, you already know what this film is about. If you haven't - and you only watch the movies - I won't ruin it for you by giving you a snippet of the plot. Just go see it this weekend like everyone else in the country. :)

Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks

A couple's life is nearly destroyed when the wife is convicted of a murder and the husband decides to risk everything to break her out of jail.

Heartless (Unrated)
Jim Sturgess

A man with a large, heart-shaped birthmark, realized there are demons on the streets of London.

Made in Dagenham (R)
Sally Hawkins, Jamie Winstone

This film is based on a 1968 strike at the Ford Dagenham car plant. Protesting against sexual discrimination, female workers walked off the job.

White Material (Unrated)
Isabelle Huppert, Isaach De Bankole

A French family attempts to save its coffee plantation amidst the tumultuous backdrop of civil and racial unrest in Africa.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Guest blogger: Lydia Dare

Today’s guest, and our sister blogger, Lydia Dare, writes historical romances with a wild streak. She is the paranormal historical writing team of Tammy Falkner and Jodie Pearson, two very funny and hardworking ladies. Both Tammy and Jodie are active members of the Heart of Carolina Romance Writers and live near Raleigh, North Carolina. Lydia Dare’s latest release from Sourcebooks, The Taming of the Wolf, was released November 2nd, 2010.

Regency England has gone to the wolves!

Welcome Lydia. Tell us a little about The Taming of the Wolf, your fourth book from Sourcebooks.

Lydia/Jodie – The Taming of the Wolf picks up the same night the previous book – The Wolf Next Door – comes to an end. Werewolf Dashiel Thorpe, the Earl of Brimsworth, under the power of the full moon shares a heated kiss with a Scottish lass and bites her, “claiming” her as his mate. Unfortunately, the Scottish lass in question is a powerful witch who isn’t too keen on having been “claimed”.

Lydia/Tammy: Dashiel Thorpe has been raised to believe that he’s a monster, an anomaly, an abomination. He can’t help that his real father was a Lycan, that he never met him, or that his mother cuckolded the the Marquess of Eynsford, the man Dash has always considered to be his father. It’s not until he meets the Westfields that he realizes there are others of his kind. Unfortunately, Caitrin Macleod lands directly in his path and he claims her without even knowing it. Now he’s left with two options, to go and get training as a Lycan, or go after Caitrin who is Scotland-bound. Perhaps he can do both.

We are always fascinated by an authors writing process, and since there are two of you it must take some juggling. How does a typical writing week go for you two ladies?

Lydia/Jodie – There is no typical. It depends on the book and what else is going on. What revisions are due, what copy edits, that kind of thing. We like to get about 1500 words written a day and exchange the book back and forth for edits.

Lydia/Tammy – Our first three books each took two months to write. We find that it’s more difficult to keep that schedule up now, but we still aim for about five pages a day. When I get the pages from Jodie, I read what she wrote, make any edits I think are necessary, then write my five pages. Then it’s off to Jodie again!

What is your favorite form of procrastination, apart from getting lost in research?

Lydia/Jodie – For me, I’d have to say the internet or television. I’m a little addicted to Vampire Diaries.

Lydia/Tammy – Work is a terrible distraction! I also get bogged down in internet searches should I need to look something up. Even if it’s just looking up the spelling of a word, it gets me off track.

We know The Taming of the Wolf is about to be unleashed, but what are you working on now, and what was the last scene you wrote on the story?

Lydia/Jodie – What we just finished working on was book seven in this series, Never Been Bit. So the last scene was the epilogue, which is always one of my favorite scenes to write. I love seeing what has happened months or even years later to the couple in question and realizing that they still love each other as much as they did at the end of the final chapter.

Here’s our question for you – Have you ever had to tame anything? An unruly child? A pet? Your grandmother who likes to yell obscenities out the car window? Anything at all? If so, we’d love to hear about it. A copy of THE TAMING OF THE WOLF will be sent to one lucky commenter. Please include email addresses along with your comments so the winner can be contacted. **Available for only US and Canada residents.

The Lady Scribes would like to thank Lydia for allowing us to pimp her next fantastic romance novel today. Stop by her website at http://www.lydiadare.com/.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Top Three Reasons to be Grateful for a Writer's Life

Thanksgiving is coming up and we’re all getting busy for the holiday season. And unless you’re participating in nanowrimo this year your writing may have taken a back seat for the holidays.

It’s so easy to think about all the reasons of why it’s so hard to write. There are deadlines to meet, finding and promoting your brand, word count goals, and the list can go on and on. Add on top of that the many family obligations, real life stuff, work, and children. Life gets crazy around November. So my question to the person who made Nanowrimo in November is: What were you on?

I cannot fathom doing Nano and gearing up for Christmas. On top of all of that I have not one but two children with birthday’s this month so my time is stretched so thin I’m surprised it hasn’t broken yet. And quite often my writing gets set aside more than I like, although I do struggle every day to get my word count down. The words always seem to flow better in every month for me except November. Regardless, the words will pick right back up in January and hold steady right up until next... you know it... November.

So in honor of a writer’s hectic life, I thought I would write down my list of the top three reasons to be grateful for being a writer.

3. Thank goodness for early mornings when I wake at the crack of dawn, pour salt in my coffee, get the kids to work and the husband to school, and sit down to write at seven am. Turning on my pc, knocking over my coffee, cursing and scrambling to clean it up before it gets to my laptop, and then realizing I have to wait on the updates to finish loading before I even get to my desktop. *sigh* Why did I get up so early to write again?

And then I glance outside to see the barest hint of color line the horizon as the sun starts its ascent in the sky. I set down my now-empty coffee cup to stare at the picturesque scene and think about the many ways I can describe the peace that settles over my soul in that one single moment.

2. Thank goodness for late nights when the kids have all gone to bed and silence descends in the house as I realize I have a moment to write finally! I dash to my desk, turn on the laptop – wait once again on the updates to install – sit down in my chair, realize I didn’t pay the electric bill, the dryer dings and lets me know I now have laundry to fold, and the dog whines to go out. *sigh* Why am I staying up so late when all I want to do is go to sleep?

And I close my eyes and listen to the silence in the night and my muse peeks out behind a corner with the merest hint of a scene. I sit up to write down that first word on the page and the flood gates open.

And the number one reason to be grateful for a writer’s life is...drum roll please...

1. Thank goodness for weekends when after football games, grocery store, cleaning the house, watching a movie with the kids, and dinner with the family as I take just a moment or two to write a few words. I rush to my desk, manage to get through the blasted updates – just how many updates does Microsoft really have and just how many of them are helping – and I have the rest of the weekend to write in the current wip only to find myself staring at a blank page. Where did the words go? I swear I just had them right here! I get up, pace, check the clothes in the dryer, come back stare at the screen, curse, the damn clothes still aren’t dry and I still have no words...

And just as the weekend is nearing its end at twelve midnight, after I’ve wasted away the entire weekend looking for those missing words, I get in the shower and the scene unfolds like a movie in my head. You’ve got to be kidding me?

I rush to my laptop – no updates! Hurray! – open the wip and realize that this will end up being another late night and Monday morning is just mere hours away.

So there ya have it. The top three reasons why we should be grateful for being a writer. Isn’t the writer’s life grand?

Share with me your funny, disastrous reasons why you’re grateful for being a writer or just share with me your hilarious writer’s moments. I’d love to see just how much our lives are alike.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Fa, la, la, Blah! – Christmas on a Budget

If you’re broke or money is tight, take comfort in the fact that you are in good company. The jobless rate is astronomical and many who do have jobs got them by taking pay cuts or kept them because they were willing to take a pay cut. Christmas catalogs arrive daily, Jingle Bells is already a jangling on many radio stations and television and storefronts are hitting us with ads and windows telling us that Christmas is about what we need to buy for people to tell them we love them. I like buying Christmas gifts just as much as any other person, but if you are feeling blue because you don’t have any money, or you have very little money this holiday season, take a moment to think of all the gifts that you already have and count those blessings.

Do you have a roof over your head, your personal memories intact, or your health? Do your children have their health, food on the table, clothes to put on their bodies to keep them warm? Can you count one other person that loves you? You are blessed if you can. Don’t you forget it!

I’m not going to give you a lecture on what Christmas is TRULY about, but I bet you can guess what I think. Since Christmas is about giving and not receiving, and we all do love to give no matter if we are broke or not, I want to give you some ideas on how to give cheaply. Do not spend one silly second feeling bad about yourself because you can’t give the expensive, unnecessary commercial gifts that you think you should. Rather than wallow get creative and then you will have the true Christmas spirit within you.

Ten Frugal Christmas Ideas
1. Bake some Christmas treats. Who doesn’t love a basket of baked goods at Christmas!
2. A bottle of wine with an ornament hung around the neck to make it festive.
3. Homemade soaps. Sooo easy, and if I’m saying this, Mrs. Craft-Challenged, then you know it’s true.
4. Homemade coupons. Some suggestions: Free night of babysitting for a friend or relative. A day of helping with yard work for a parent. A backrub for your partner or a homemade dinner of their choice. You get the idea, I’m sure.
5. Kids artwork for grandparents or a collage of family pictures.
6. Gardening gloves with a plant or flower seeds.
7. Basket filled with cheeses, cracker, and sausages or whatever floats your boat.
8. Books.
9. Movie theatre tickets.
10. A new CD

** If you are a writer you could write a poem or story dedicated to someone special.

I hope I have given you a few ideas. I would love to hear some of your frugal Christmas ideas.

Have a great day!

Julie Johnstone, The Marchioness of Mayhem

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Where to buy e-books

For the beginner e-book reader, there are an astounding number of e-book sellers on the web. To help you work out where to start I’ve divided them into three categories: Publisher, Third-Party, and Free book sites.

Publisher sites:

Not all publishers sell their own author’s work on the internet, but quite a few, especially e-book first publishers, do. If you’re wavering between buying from a publisher or a third-party website consider that the author makes marginally more per book when the sale is through their own publisher's website. If you can, I’d encourage you to support the publisher – we need them to thrive. Some publisher’s that sell direct are:

Noble Romance
Samhain via their MyBookStoreandMore
Carina Press
Lyrical Press

Third-Party Sellers:

Third-party sellers take books from all sources and combine them all under one site. In most cases, signup and downloads to your computer or device is incredibly quick and simple. Here are some of the third-party sellers I’ve used:

Book Depository (has free world-wide postage for print books too)
Books on Board

Free reads:

Ah – free books. The nirvana of all rabid readers. But I am definitely not taking about pirate site here - because every author deserves to be paid fairly for their work. These book sites offer royalty free work for free download and include a wide variety of material from older eras. The oldest work I’ve downloaded is an 1801 Ladies Monthly Museum from Google books, the strangest – The Art of Angling. These sites are well worth exploring thoroughly:

Google books
Project Gutenberg

Also check author websites for free reads.

From time to time publishers and third party sites offer some fiction as free reads for limited periods. However if you reside outside the United States, be sure to check the download is still free for you before you complete the transaction.

This is by no means the definitive list. It’s very likely I’ve missed quite a few. If I have other great sites please leave the web address as a comment. Other readers will appreciate it too.

Heather Boyd
~Lady Wicked
Recently released historical romance e-book editions available through Amazon (available to Australian readers too):
Lydia Dare – The Taming of the Wolf
Diana J. Cosby – His Conquest
Mary Balogh – A Secret Affair

Monday, November 15, 2010

Thanksgiving: What does it mean to you?

I can hardly believe Thanksgiving is just over a week away, but I'm starting to get incredibly excited about it. Turkey Day is actually one of my favorite holidays, which might surprise a few of my friends since I start playing Christmas music in October. But Thanksgiving is kind of like Christmas minus the presents. There's verylittle pressure to make Thanksgiving a perfect day because it just doesn't have the hype that Christmas has. But because of that, it always turns out to be a wonderful day.

But there are two things that are incredibly important to me on this day of thanks: parades and food. Lots and lots of food.

The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is perhaps the most well known and important parade
ever. The giant balloons, the Broadway performances, celebrities lip syncing to their own voices - it's a spectacle that I do not want to miss. And I certainly don't want to miss any Broadway performances, since musical theater was my former life. So we watch the show on one network and DVR it on the other network, so it's a full day of parades in our household. My favorite performance of all time was definitely last year's excerpt from Ragtime, which aired on CBS. It's one of my favorite musicals, and they even filmed on location right up the street from us. Here's the link if you didn't get to catch it... Ragtime

Then there's the food..."food, glorious food," as Oliver would say. I'm a sucker for tradition, so if I'm cooking, the menu is always the same: turkey (I buy the prepared ones from the grocery store because I'm SO not getting up at 5am to cook something that I'd probably ruin anyways), mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, broccoli casserole, sweet potato casserole, corn and brown n' serve dinner rolls...just like the pilgrims used to eat :) We're going to CT to visit the hubby's family this year, but I'm pretty sure I'll be whipping up my casseroles to add to the table - I just can't have Thanksgiving without them.

And because it's that time of year and I'm in the giving spirit, I'm going to share with all of you my super special broccoli casserole recipe...

2 packages frozen chopped broccoli, thawed (my mom likes to mix in florets these days, but that's optional)
1 egg
1 cup mayo
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 cup cheddar cheese
1 package Saltines
1/4 stick butter

Set the oven to 350 and grease your casserole dish (I use Pam.) Combine egg, mayo, cheese and soup, then fold in broccoli a little at a time. Pour into casserole dish. Crush saltines and sprinkle over the top so they cover entire casserole. (I sometimes sprinkle a little extra cheese on top too.) Dab pats of butter on top of crumbled crackers. Bake for about an hour.

Do you have special Thanksgiving traditions? I'd love to hear them. And if you have any yummy Turkey Day recipes, we'd love to hear about those too!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

In Theatres This Week...

Here at Lady Scribes, we are all about good stories, whether they be books, television, or film. So, we are spending a little time on Sundays discussing the latest releases and finding out what you saw, what you like, and what you’re looking forward to.

Last weekend’s Top 5 films:

1. Megamind

2. Due Date

3. For Colored Girls

4. Red

5. Saw 3D

Opening this week…

Unstoppable (PG13)

Denzel Washington, Chris Pine

Rail workers try to prevent a freight train filled with combustible liquids and gas from destroying a city.

Morning Glory (Pg-13)

Harrison Ford, Rachel McAdams, Diane Keaton

A television producer tries to resuscitate a failing morning show with bickering anchors.

Skyline (PG-13)

Donald Faison, Eric Balfour

People swarm to LA when other wordly lights descend upon the city.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

So, You're Chugging Along with Your NaNoWriMo Project . . .

. . . and you find yourself stuck. Here it is, about 1/3 of the way through the month, and you're struggling to write your 1,667 words for the day.

Each day, you look at your handy-dandy chart of how many words you should have written (18,337 by the end of today). At the beginning, you were meeting your goal with words to spare. Then slowly, those extra words fell off, but you were still meeting the daily goal. And then sometime in the last few days, you couldn't do that any more. Now your deficit seems almost too big to overcome.

The more you think about how much you have left to write in these last 20 days of NaNoWriMo, the more insurmountable the entire thing seems.

How are you going to manage it?

First off, know that you are not alone. This is normal. Almost everyone who has ever attempted NaNoWriMo has encountered this problem--what I like to think of as the NaNoWriMo Slump. Whether you run into your Slump on Day 2, Day 12, or Day 22 isn't important. What is important is how you deal with the Slump.

If you focus on what you're not accomplishing, you'll never break out of it. I learned that the first time I attempted NaNoWriMo. I was making good progress for the first ten days or so, but then I blanked. I stared at my chart of words and how far behind I was getting. I obsessed over the fact that I wasn't getting my writing done, instead of finding ways to get the words flowing again. And what happened? I stayed stuck, and I never finished my NaNoWriMo project.

So how do you avoid that trap when you hit your slump? You've got to force yourself to keep writing. There are any number of methods you can use to do that.

If you're stuck on a certain chapter or scene, jump ahead to a part that you're excited about writing. You can always come back later and fill in what is missing or change what needs to be changed in order for it to work.

If you're just completely blocked, try your hand at free-writing. Don't try to write your novel. Don't try to force yourself to write anything in particular. Just pick up your pen and paper, or turn on your word processor, and start writing. Write without stopping for a short period of time: 5 minutes, or maybe 10. Don't fix any mistakes that you make. Just keep moving forward. Don't stop and analyze what you've already written during this time, either. If you don't know what to write, start with that. "I don't know what to write, but I have to write something, so . . ." See where that takes you. You may find during this exercise that you'll free yourself and be able to get back to your NaNoWriMo project. If so, awesome! Keep going from there. If not, don't worry about it. Count these words as part of your total anyway. Then try something else.

Another good tool to try out is Write or Die. You can set it up with a specific word count or an amount of time to write. If you start writing too slowly, or stop completely, it will dole out some consequences for your inactivity. Use it in short bursts to build up your word count for the day. Set it for 5 minutes, or 100 words. After you've accomplished that little goal, go and do something else, then come back and repeat the process. Do this until you've gotten back into your groove.

Try writing the end. Then you'll know where you're headed, and can fill in the blanks as you go.

Step away from your writing. Do the dishes, go for a walk, have dinner with a friend, or visit a museum. Try not to think about your NaNoWriMo project for a little while. Then come back to it with a fresh perspective and try again.

Talk the problems out with someone. Maybe you have a friend who will listen and help you brainstorm. Hook up with another NaNo'er on the message boards, or someone from your local NaNoWriMo group, and see if they can help you out. If all else fails, talk to a pet or stuffed animal. I know from personal experience that pets will listen very attentively if you talk to them. They may not be able to offer you solutions, but a lot of times simply saying something out loud will help you to get the words flowing again.

So, are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? How is it going so far? Have you run into a slump? How do you get yourself out of the slump once it hits?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Big R: Surviving Rejection

Rejection and disappointment may be a part of life, especially the life of a writer, but it still stinks. When I hear people say you have to develop a tough skin to be a writer, I first think, “Wow. That’s a cliché.” But then I acknowledge the truth in that statement. Being an author requires stamina and a stubborn belief in yourself, even when faced with discouragement.

Your dreams may not materialize on your time line, or maybe you’ll encounter a Dream Terminator sent from the future to crush your hopes. You’ll likely receive disappointing contest scores at times, complete with snarky comments. One of my good friends received a multiple page manifest from a contest judge that said she would make it her personal mission to insure my friend never was published in the United States… or Canada. LOL. I guess the rest of the world is okay, though.

You’ll receive rejections on queries, partials and fulls, some Hemingway himself might have penned were he alive. “Not. For. Me.” (I imagine a booming voice from the skies here.) Doesn't that give you goose bumps?

Like me, you may get, Oops, I made a mistake in insinuating I wanted to represent you. Oh, you don’t want me to represent you? Well, in that case, maybe we should talk about me representing you. I’ll call you next week. Never heard from him again. Reminds me of a bad relationship I had in college.

Speaking of mistakes… Once I was notified that I had won a contest only to have it retracted in the next email I opened. That was a fleeting moment of happiness. Apparently I’m the lightening rod for bizarre mistakes. But here are some of the things that have helped me to maintain my sanity and hope over the years when that Big R has arrived in my email inbox.

1. A great group of friends. A good support system will let you wallow, completely take your side, and validate what a shortsighted moron, mean-spirited harpy or clueless goofball the rejecting person is. However, you’re only allowed 24 hours to whine. A good group of friends then kicks you in the rump, orders you back to your writing desk, and helps you weigh the value of any feedback contained in your rejection letter.

2. Laughter. Thirteen years ago I took a tap dance class with a friend. Little did we realize when signing up for the class that our teacher had a hearing deficit that made it impossible for her to hear the word no. So, there we were. The only two adults in a kid’s dance recital. And we were both pregnant.

At the rehearsal, there were these mothers lurking in the dark audience snickering. Well, apparently they critiqued our performance and gave the notes to our teacher. The only thing on the list was “Please, please, wear a bra!” (I want to go on record that I wasn’t the one going braless.) I found their comment mortifying. I wanted to drop out of the show, but my friend made a joke about their snarkiness, and we went on to perform the next night. I was scared out of my wits, but also very proud of my bravery. Turns out we were trailblazers, because the next year our teacher had ten adults in the show. They'd all signed up for classes because of us.

For several weeks after the performance, my friend would see me at work, run up and cry, “Please, for the love of God, put on a bra!” She taught me that humor can soothe the sting of criticism. Now, I have this wonderful tale of dancing on stage, braless (not really) and pregnant. Not many people can make such a claim, or would want to, but our critics’ only claim to fame is sitting in the dark and finding fault with others. What an act of cowardice to hide behind anonymity and point out the failings of others.

3. Stubbornness. Rejection and criticism are NOT good predictors of future success. Determination is. I had a very down time earlier this year where my doubts almost got the best of me. Was I fooling myself? Was I wasting my time? Maybe I needed to accept the truth that I wasn't good enough. I would never be published. But I kept going back to these authors I met in Chicago that said they had been on the brink of giving up when they received the call. So I asked myself another question, “Could this be that time in my career?” Thank goodness, I didn’t give up, because an online pitch a short time later paid off. I can’t guarantee everyone’s journey will run the same course, but I can confidently say only the ones to stay in the race will cross the finish line.

What are some of your thoughts on rejection and how to survive it?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Should You Include Your Name on Your Golden Heart Manuscript?

The deadline to register for the Golden Heart®, RWA’s® national writing contest for unpublished authors, is just 6 days away. As a 2010 Golden Heart finalist, I’m frequently asked about the contest.

Last month, I blogged about the Top 5 Things You Need to Know Before You Enter the Golden Heart, and Top 5 Signs You’re Going to Score High in the Golden Heart.

But recently, I was asked a question, I’d never seen answered on a blog:
Should you put your name on your GH entry? If you’ve previously finaled in a chapter contest, do you need to change your title to protect your anonymity?
The Golden Heart is unique among contests in that entrants are allowed to put their name on the manuscript, but it is not required.
Some entrants are strongly opposed to doing this because they believe the work should be judged strictly on its merits. They’ve heard the horror stories about jealous judges out to destroy the most successful writers. They worry about privacy issues and psycho stalker judges.
Others see this as an opportunity for promotion. After all, if the judge sees your name every time she turns the page, she’s likely to remember it. Who knows, your entry may fall into the hands of someone who can advance your career. Maybe, if the judge thinks about the person receiving the results, she’ll bump up the scores a tad.
Both sides make valid points. But if the contest judge is more interested in googling your title than reading your entry, you’ve already lost the contest.
With a winning entry, the judge doesn’t notice the header at all. Nor does she notice the punctuation, the formatting, or the occasional typo. With a winning entry, the judge is totally immersed in the story, oblivious to time and place, until she reaches that final, horrifying moment when she discovers she has run out of pages and she will never know how the story ends unless the book is published. And even then, she is so devastated that she turns the manuscript box inside out in the hope of finding one last stray, forgotten page.
When that happens, the header is the least important thing on the page. The judge is going to give the entry a perfect score no matter what the title, no matter whose name is on the manuscript. She will follow that author’s career, delight in her successes, and rush to buy the book as soon as it’s released. How do I know? Because I’ve been that judge. Several times.
As human beings, we like to understand why things happen. Writing is subjective and the Golden Heart, with its no-comment, numeric system, offers no explanations. And so writers focus on petty details, trying to rationalize why one manuscript finaled and another didn’t. After judging dozens of contests, I still don’t know exactly what makes a perfect contest entry. But I do know, it’s not your name, and it’s not your title.
Trust me.
If the writing's strong enough, nobody cares what’s in your header.

I would love to hear your opinions on this topic. Do you think it helps or hurts to include your name or change your title for the Golden Heart?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

In Theatres This Week...

Here at Lady Scribes, we are all about good stories, whether they be books, television, or film. So, we are spending a little time on Sundays discussing the latest releases and finding out what you saw, what you like, and what you’re looking forward to.

Last weekend’s Top 5 films:

1. Saw 3D

2. Paranormal Activity 2

3. Red

4. Jackass 3-D

5. Hereafter

Opening this week…

Due Date (R)

Robert Downey Jr, Zach Galifanakis

A high-strung father-to-be is forced to take a road trip with an unlikely companion in order to make it home in time for the birth of his child.

Megamind (PG)

Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Brad Pitt

A super-villain turns super-hero to save the world.

Fair Game (PG-13)

Naomi Watts, Sean Penn

Bio-pic about the outing of former CIA agent Valerie Plame.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Guest blogger: Carolyn Brown, giveaway

Thank you so much for inviting me to stop by your site on my blog tour for the last two books in The Honky Tonk Series: My Give A Damn’s Busted and Honky Tonk Christmas. They both hit the book stands on October 1 and follow I Love This Bar (June) and Hell, Yeah (August).Working with the various owners and characters in the Honky Tonk this past six months has been a hoot!
I sincerely hope all of my readers enjoy reading about Sharlene, Daisy, Cathy and Larissa as much as I did writing their stories. And who wouldn’t love all those sexy cowboys who grace the fronts of the books?

I could talk all day about the characters in the books. We became very good friends during the time I was writing the books. But someone asked me to explain how I juggle writing so many books at one time. And the characters have gotten their name in the marquee lights many times during this tour so they can trot on over to the refreshment table and have a few of those cute little cookies while I talk about something other than their love lives.

A therapist would love to get me on his little sofa. I could probably put his eight kids through college with the first sentence: I have tunnel vision!

I’m sure it’s because I wasn’t made to eat Brussels sprouts at the right age or else I didn’t want to share my toys with my brother who came into the family when I was two years old. But there is no known cure for the disease and antibiotics will not cure it. Neither do chocolate or donuts!

Truth is that the tunnel vision serves me well when I’m writing. I started telling Daisy and Jarod’s story (I Love This Bar) when there was just a pinpoint of light at the end of the tunnel. But I kept writing every day, getting the story down on paper (ignoring the dust, laundry and knee high grass in the back yard), and the light got bigger and bigger until one day the story was told and behold I’d written THE END at the finish of 300 plus pages.

Then I turned around and there was a pinpoint of light at the other end of the tunnel. I squinted and Travis was headed for Cathy with intentions of kissing her (Hell, Yeah) and I had not even introduced them yet. So I started writing their story and the same thing happened. When I reached the end of that tunnel and their story was told, I heard a screeching noise behind me and Larissa was braking hard to keep from crashing into Hank’s pickup truck (My Give A Damn’s Busted). There was nothing to do but turn around and try to keep up.

I really thought when I walked out into the bright sunlight at the end of that book that the series was finished but it didn’t work that way. Sharlene had a really fantastic story to be told and she was having a nightmare about her time in Iraq and Holt was on his way to the Honky Tonk, so there was still one more book (Honky Tonk Christmas) left in the tunnel. And Sharlene said she’d haunt me if I didn’t give her a HEA so I was off again.

So I suppose the answer is that I don’t do much juggling as I do just plain writing.

Characters pop into my head, tell me enough about their life to interest me, and I have no choice but to write their story. While I’m writing it, I’m in that tunnel where I see very little except the next scene and the light growing ahead.

One book until it’s finished! Turn around and squint down the tunnel and there’s that beckoning light saying, “Write my story!”

So tell me, do you read more than one book at a time? Or do you get so involved with the characters in one book that you can't put it down?

A copy of Carolyn's HONKY TONK series will be sent to two lucky commenters. Please include email addresses along with your comments so the winners can be contacted. **Available for only US and Canada residents.



My Give a Damn’s Busted (Book 3)—In Stores Now!

He’s just doing his job…

If Hank Wells thinks he can dig up dirt on the new owner of the Honky Tonk beer joint for his employer, he’s got no idea what kind of trouble he’s courting…

She’s not going down without a fight…

If any dime store cowboy think’s he’s going to get the best of Larissa Morley—or her Honky Tonk—then he’s got another think coming…

As secrets emerge, and passion vies with ulterior motives, it’s winner takes all at the Honky Tonk…

Honky Tonk Christmas (Book 4)In Stores Now!

She Means business…

Sharlene Waverly is determined to have the “new and improved” Honky Tonk up and running before the holiday. For that, she’ll need Holt Jackson, the best darn carpenter in the state. But his warm, whisky-colored eyes make her insides melt, and before she knows it, she’s sharing her darkest secrets and talking about the nightmares…

He’s determined to keep things professional…

Holt Jackson needs the job at the Honky Tonk, but is completely unprepared to handle the beautiful new bar owner he’s working for.

Sharlene and Holt try like crazy to deny the sparks flying between them, but their love may just be the best Christmas present either one of them ever got.

About the Author

Carolyn Brown is an award-winning author who has published 36 historical and western romance novels for the library market, many of them bestsellers in that market. Born in Texas and raised in southern Oklahoma, Carolyn and her husband now make their home in the town of Davis, Oklahoma. For more information please visit http://www.carolynlbrown.com/

***** GIVEAWAY****