Monthly Archives: May 2011

Blog Log


For me, blogs have become customized newspapers and magazines. There is a wealth of knowledge and entertainment online and it is easily delivered to my email every day.

While Twitter gives me headlines, their links have turned me on to some fabulous writers, thinkers and people who are simply interesting.

Here are a few I enjoy:

“Book A Day” Staff Picks | This daily book review is written by multiple staff members of the Wake County Public Library system. Their range is from one end of the literary spectrum the other, crossing styles, genre and time. It’s just as likely to include a well-known classic as it is a new emerging author. The only requirement is that the book is well written and fun to read. I’ve read several of their recommendations by authors I otherwise never would have known. If your local library doesn’t have a similar blog, you can borrow mine;)

Women of Mystery | A DOOR AJAR | The Women of Mystery share the trek, travail and tangles of writing and publishing, along with the magic of language and story. Don’t just peek around the jamb, come on in and join the conversation!

We especially invite you to join us on Tuesdays, when we do Two Sentence Tuesday posts. The “rules” are simple: post two sentences you read, along with two you wrote. Put them in our comments, or just tell us where to find them. We’ll update the Tuesday post periodically during the day with links to everyone’s sentences.

The Women of Mystery are: Elaine Will Sparber, Gial Stockton, Terrie Farley Moran, Anita Page, Nan Higginson, Cathi Stoler, Loi Karlin, Kathleen A. Ryan, Clare2e, Leigh Neely, Laura K. Curtis.

 This Write Life  | Mary Jo Gibson: At the end of every research week I have an assortment of interesting bits I find on the web, but have nowhere to share them. Creating this small post gives me a depository for extra information that I can share with my readers. For International Museum Day, I would like to highlight some of the museums I have used and found.

ARCA | “ARCA (Association for Research into Crimes against Art) is an interdisciplinary think tank/research group on contemporary issues in art crime. This international non-profit organization studies issues in art crime and cultural property protection, runs educational programs, and consults on art protection and recovery issues brought to them by police, governments, museums, places of worship, and other public institutions.”

Their informative posts range from profiles of their students to the portrayal of art crime in the media and how international art theft affects the world. If you’re thinking The Thomas Crown Affair, think again. Real criminals often aren’t that clever or handsome, but they are interesting.

Indie Book Collective | If you spend any amount of time on Twitter, you can’t miss the Indie Book Collective. They have founded numerous programs to promote indie authors and drive name recognition and sales. Their blog is a collection of timely information on the indie publishing business and advice on how to succeed as an indie author written from the indie trenches. If you have a question and you don’t find the answer here, you can try the Indie Book Collective website where they host a catalog of how to articles ranging from formatting your ebook to finding reviewers.

Self-Published Author’s Lounge | Stephanie Beman, Ruth Ann Nordin, Joleene Naylor share their publishing experience no holds barred. I’ve discovered new photo sources for book covers, as well as tips on formatting, marketing and surviving the Indie Book life.

Primo Reads | Over at Ning, I’ve discovered a great book review blog that covers a wide range of genres with intelligent commentary.  You won’t find any duds with these recommendations.

I can’t forget to mention Leo Laport and Leoville. He is The Tech Guy and while he is an occasional blogger, he is a prolific podcaster. Download his show free from iTunes to learn how to do cool things with your iPhone, fix your PC, debug software, trick out your home entertainment, and just about everything tech. Did I mention he’s writer/journalist and gives great advice on publishing software, services and marketing ideas? Plus he’s a nice guy.

There are more, but these are the blogs I find myself returning to again and again.  Share your favorite blogs and writing links.


Popcorn & The Space Time Continuum


I love when story ideas pop out of nowhere. It’s like a half-popped kernel of popcorn. Some of the good stuff is protruding, while the real meat of the kernel remains buried under the husk.

Let me back up a bit. Last night I hopped up my brain on television. I needed my sci-fi fix and quenched it with an old episode of Star Trek NG and the season finale of Fringe (thank you DVR). Maybe it was the tacos or perhaps trying to explain the space-time continuum to my 5-yr old, but around 11pm something began to form.

This is part of my creation process. The idea is half-formed, I can’t even relay it in a complete sentence, it’s more of a feeling that something is there if I just look deep enough. It nagged at me all night, even as I dreamed my house was full of monkeys in tuxedos. (Must be the tacos.)

Then as I drove to work this morning, I began to pull it together.

It was really simple. Some believe, while others do not.

Believe what? Anything—in folding space, the earth is flat, religion, time travel. With the right characters, there might be a story here. In this case, I’m beginning with characters. They must be genuine with strong beliefs and there must be a foundation for those beliefs that shape the plot. Once I land on a plot, then the writing will be easy. These people will push and pull their own way through based on how, what and why they believe what they do.

To test how an idea might become something more, I throw it on paper….and I do mean throw. There are arrows, boxes and lists, questions and anything else that comes to mind. One bit builds—or pops—off the next until I begin to see structure. Somewhere, in there is a story and a group of characters that will make the reader suspend their disbelief.

Here’s what I got:

It’s rough and poses a lot questions, but does give me an idea for four characters that will play out their belief systems, maybe change their views or push themselves further because of what they believe. Yes, it’s a basically a brainstorming piece that can translate to an outline, but it’s not what’s on the paper that makes this a good tool. It’s how the ideas are on the paper. Seeing the unrelated bits juxtaposed and then rearranged like a jigsaw puzzle helps you see new possibilities for the story and the strongest elements will begin to crackle.

I use this technique for more than writing. It is a problem solving tool as well. It helps clarify your thoughts. Your subconscious will help you toss on the paper, the information to which you need to pay attention.


App-titude


Back in the 90′s Palm Pilots and PDAs were the hot must-have gadgets. Suddenly, we had computers in our pockets soon followed by phones that did more than make calls.

I had a Dell Axim tricked out with a wi-fi card (pre-blue tooth) and a folding keyboard. Writing nirvana. I cranked out countless short stories, surfed the net, listened to music….you get the picture. It still works great, although the battery tends to die quickly, wiping out all files and downloaded programs. 

I moved my writing on the go to iPad a year ago. With the blue tooth keyboard, it’s perfect for writing anywhere. Right now, I’m at the Observation Deck at the airport enjoying lunch and chatting with you.

The only text app that comes with iPad is Notepad. You can buy the pricier Pages from Apple, but shopping around, I discovered two apps that I use daily to keep up with editing, writing blog entries, and tracking ideas for works in progress.

My Writing Spot $4.99
It’s a clean app without the fancy formatting features. In the past 10 months or so, it’s had 1 app update that added word and character count. They also fixed the landscape view, allowing you to hide the document menu and work full screen while holding the iPad in landscape position. It backs up manually to your Dropbox account and is reliable. I used it for editing Perfect Copy… twice….because one good edit deserves another:)

Plain Text $Free
This nifty app works much the same but allows for folder creation so you can nest various bits of a project under one header. I have folders for blog posts and at a glance, can see the titles/subjects to assess what I’ve covered and get quick ideas for new posts. For a novel, you could break out by chapter, or like me, create docs in the folder for quick character details so you don’t lose track of habits, personality ticks, etc. Any promo copy I write for the novel can also be added as a separate doc, keeping all of the related bits together for quick access. Plain Text backs up after each edit (minute by minute) to Google Docs. 

I like Plain Text for novel writing because of the nesting folders and also for its clean layout and the white background is easy on the eyes. 

However, I discovered a few pitfalls.

During NaNoWriMo, I used it primarily with the blue tooth keyboard for the heavy writing and saved the on-screen keyboard for lazy edits in bed, usually well after midnight. With a physical keyboard you have CMD+Z, the all wonderful undo function.  Not so with the on-screen keyboard.  

So, imagine if you will, I’m 28k into the novel, editing at 2am when I accidentally ‘select all’ and instead of clearing the selection I delete the full manuscript. My husband thought I was having a seizure.  

I ran for the laptop and logged onto Google Docs and sure enough, it was gone in the backup copy as well. Then I noticed Google Docs saved versions. With my hands shaking from the sudden adrenaline rush, I clicked a version from 30 minutes prior and all 28k+ opened up. I could have kissed the Google engineer that added that feature. It saved me two more times before November 2010 closed.

For all the drama, I still love Plain Text and type with care on my work in progress. My Writing Spot holds ideas, it’s great for typing tweets since it counts characters and it has password protection to ensure my 5 year old doesn’t write her own great American novel over mine.

I apologize for the long-windedness. Share your favorite writing apps, I love trying out new technology.


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