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Friday Favorites and Turning 40

Before I get to my mash-up of awesome links for the week, I have something to show you. I recently had a birthday and I guess it was supposed to be a big one (see the title). I’ve said it before, I’m not much for celebrating for myself, but my best friend and I got together for dinner last night (which is why this post is so late). Right after I parked my car, she caught me in the parking lot and hefted a huge basket into the back of my van. My birthday present. When I got home I spent a good 15 minutes unwrapping and laughing over 40 individual gifts. She bought me 40 things I like. Here’s a bad photo, and although you can’t see everything, you get the idea:

With all the chocolate, junk food, and alcohol, you'd never guess that she's not a writer.

I think it was the best birthday gift I’ve ever gotten. It’s not the items themselves, of course, but it’s having someone who knows you that well. I hope you all have a friend like her :)

On to lots of links. I’m too lazy to separate these into categories this week, since I’m  running so late and I’ll have to head out soon to pick up the kids. Trust me when I say, they’re all worth a read.

Emma Burcart describes the best relationship she ever had – back in the third grade. What I love about this post is that when we’re that young, we know what we want and what we expect, but somewhere over the years, we tend to lose some of that. Here’s to remembering our nine-year-old selves.

Linda Adams talks about the commercialization of Star Wars. Although I see her point, and maybe it has gotten out of hand, I still wouldn’t want them to stop making the toys. Everyone in my house has spent countless hours playing with Star Wars action figures.

Debra Kristi has a great post about chocolate. I love it when someone validates that chocolate is good for us. :)

August McLaughlin uses her father’s retirement to explore how writers should approach their dreams.

Merry Farmer continues her series on how she writes. This week, she talks about using music to set the mood and maybe offer inspiration. I’ve mention before that I created a playlist for the first time for my WIP. I’m still revising book 2 for my contract, so I haven’t gone back to my WIP in a while, but I have to admit, I wish I had a soundtrack for book 2. I miss not having specific songs to ground me in that world with those characters.

Tonya Kappes writes about how it’s important to review your goals to see how far you’ve come.

Shelli Johnson does a post about offering words of encouragement to yourself because it’s always easier to believe the bad stuff. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve taken a few classes with Lani Diane Rich and one thing she requires from her students at the end of each class is for them to announce (in all caps and tons of exclamation points) “I am a great writer!” The post reminded me of the importance of that.

Trish Loye Elliott over on Wordbitches has a post on inspiration and optimism. The part I love most is the Wordplayer’s manifesto that she took from K.M. Weiland.

Finally, Annette Gendler has a photo essay showing some great shots of Millennium Park and Crown Fountain in Chicago. I love these pictures and I had to include this because I have a scene in my book that takes place at Millennium Park.

What was the best birthday gift you ever received?

The Acceptability of Bad Grammar

taken from Google images

I used to be an English teacher. I’ve edited for a couple of small e-publishers. I currently work as an editor for an education company. I love writers and the English language. All that being said, I’ve never considered myself a grammar Nazi or a grammar diva. I know the rules, but I can’t always explain them or quote them from the rule book.

I make grammar mistakes.

Not often mind you, and most of the time, I’m aware of it and don’t correct the errors. Why? Because in everyday language, some things just sound better. That’s the way I write my books. I find that if something is grammatically perfect, it sounds too formal and it pulls me out of the story. It starts to feel more like a textbook than a novel.

But there are some offenses that I can’t ignore. Paul McCartney & Wings sang a song called “Live and Let Die.” It’s a great song and I love it, but one line kills me– “But if this ever changing world in which we live in…” There is no reason for the extra “in.” Well, the song needs it for cadence and rhythm, but it’s not a rhyme or anything. Couldn’t he have found a different syllable somewhere else to get the flow he needed?

My biggest pet peeve is the constant use of ‘you and I’ regardless of case. It’s like people hold on to this one grammar notion and apply it all the time. I see it on TV often and it makes me nuts.

Without going into a long grammar lesson, the position of the pronoun determines which one you use. You would never say, “Give I the ball.” The pronoun is in the objective case and you should then use the objective pronoun me. I find the mistake most often happen with the phrase “between you and I.”

Rascal Flatts does it in their song, “Life is a Highway.” The line reads, “There was a distance between you and I” and every time I hear it, I cringe. I know it was necessary in order to make the rhyme work, but it still bugs me.

Here’s a girl who felt the need to make a video about the poor grammar in songs:

Do you have any grammar triggers? Do you skim over errors as if they’re not there, or do they pull you out of a story or song?

Knowing the Inspiration

Today’s post will be short since I’m a bit swamped with still trying to revise a book and plan my son’s birthday party. I’m way behind on my TV watching, but plan to catch up this weekend. A ton of stuff has happened since last week, from the death of Whitney Houston to the Grammys and the little bit of TV I have caught has been pretty darn good. Did you catch Revenge last night? I didn’t see that coming.

In a brief moment of TV talk show time this morning, though, I was watching the hosts talk about Adele, who is a fabulous singer and who won a crapton of Grammys last weekend. Everyone wants to know who she wrote “Rolling in the Deep” about. This morning I heard she wrote about her ex-boyfriend, some guy named Slinky, who is a musician in England.

I giggled a little at his name, but other than that, I don’t much care. I’m not a tabloid reader and I don’t thrive on celebrity gossip. I never thought about her inspiration for the song, I just love her voice.

The hosts of the show then pointed out that any man who is dating a singer at this point must be forewarned not to do anything stupid, or he’ll end up in a song. It’s not just Adele doing it; Taylor Swift and Katy Perry both have as well.

Again, I don’t get into the personal lives of celebrities, but as a writer, I use what I see and know in my writing all the time. I’ve never based a character on someone I know, but I will use specific traits. However, I have heard of other authors creating characters of people they don’t like just so they can kill them off.

I don’t know that knowing the inspiration behind a song or story changes my enjoyment of it.

How about you? Do you like to know the inspiration or backstory for a song or book? As a writer have you ever included someone in your writing so you could exact revenge?

And for any of you who have somehow missed out, here’s Adele singing “Rolling in the Deep” (Sorry about the commercial):

Friday Favorites – Life Stuff and Writing

Life stuff–

Parenting is a big part of my day with 3 kids, so I am very familiar with Marianne Hansen’s day of questioning why we chose to have this life. On a particularly tough day, she chooses to blast Melissa Etheridge. Check out her post on The Zen of Melissa Etheridge. For me, it was always “Me and Bobby McGee” by Janis Joplin. If you have any doubts about the sing-along possibilities:

With us all still getting into the swing of a new year (how many times have you caught yourself still writing 2011?), things can get a little overwhelming. Debra Kristi writes about information overload. I think most of us can relate to this because we juggle a regular job, family, and writing, along with everything that goes with each of those things. It is all about priorities and setting realistic expectations for yourself. For me, I realistically expect that my house will never be clean for more than an hour or so (while the kids are out of the house) and I can live with that.

Ingrid Schaffenburg takes it a step further than just prioritizing. She talks about fulfilling our dreams by creating the right kind of actions. It is a beautifully written post. And in reading it, I realized that she supports my notion of not having a clean house. Will having a clean house make me a better writer or a better mother? I doubt it. Can stressing about getting the cleaning done make me do worse at both of those jobs? You betcha :)

Merry Farmer wrote a fabulous post on the baggage we carry. She debated with a friend about whether the past is over and done or if you carry the scars forever. I’m a little in both camps. I had a sucky childhood. Anger ruled a good portion of my teen years. As I entered adulthood, I made the choice to let go of the anger and resentment. I carry the scars. I sometimes have to check my reactions to things to see if they’re realistic or if they’re being clouded by those scars.

Emma Burcart wrote about the lengths we go to in order to fit in. Unlike Emma, I love my jeans. Jeans, t-shirt, and gym shoes all the way. I own very few pieces of jewelry and I rarely put them on. I was never very good at fitting in, so I learned at an early age not to try. I was okay being a loner. But as it turned out, even loners find people to connect with.

Writing Advice–

As a romance writer, there are some things that come up often. One is writing sex scenes and the other is writing believable guys.

Emma Burcart did a post on writing sex scenes. I’m not the kind of person who discusses sex often. I will give my kids straight informative answers to questions, but I’ve never been one to dish to friends. When writing, I have no problem writing sex scenes. I’m not totally comfortable reading them aloud though …

Jenny Hansen has a post up on “Man-Speak.” Yes, it is a real thing. As writers, we need to pay attention to how characters think and speak. Guys talk differently than women do. If you don’t pay attention to that, all of your characters will end up sounding the same.

The last advice piece I have comes from Arghink (Jenny Crusie’s blog). This week, Jenny Crusie and Lucy March posted a long discussion about romantic comedy: what works, what doesn’t, and why. It’s a little on the long side, but totally worth the time. My favorite quote from the entire post:

Lucy: You know six degrees of separation? I’m two degrees of smart.

And finally, this is not a piece of advice at all, but a call for submissions of short pieces. 6 editors from Entangled Publishing will be visiting Jami Gold’s blog to check out your pitches. Guidelines and info in the post. I don’t write that short (10 – 60K) but if I did, I would submit.

It was a crazy busy week in the blogosphere this week. There were so many great posts, I had a hard time narrowing it down to these few. What was the best thing you read this week?

Friday Favorites – Resolutions, Writing, and Inspiration

Resolutions–

Since this is the first week of the new year, most bloggers have talked about resolutions. I’ve said lots of times that I’m not a resolution kind of person. I’m a goal setter, which is something I do throughout the year. So, in looking at the posts out there this week, I chose the ones that are the most realistic (I think):

Kristen Lamb writes about planning for success in the new year. These are resolutions I can get behind. I agree with the entire list, but of the items, #3 is the most difficult for me. I am a member of an RWA chapter and I attend meetings regularly. We are a critique chapter, so there is so much to learn, even when it’s not my stuff being critiqued. The hard part is finding critique partners who fit with you: you write at about the same pace and are at about the same place in the journey toward publication. I know people who are already published and are dealing with issues related to that and people who are somewhere behind me, like just finishing their first manuscript. Finding the right fit is hard.

Ginger Calem, who is a fitness trainer in addition to being a writer, is issuing a challenge to writers to become more fit. WritersButt will appear on her blog weekly with a plan to increase your exercise. I found this post late because I was behind (no pun intended) in reading this week, so I haven’t started, but plan to. For the first week, Ginger wants us to drink 100 oz of water a day and do 10 squats every time we go to the bathroom. That sounds easy enough. It’s not taking lots of time away from other stuff, so I might actually follow through.

Writing Advice–

E.J. Wesley talks about the 5 things we can do to become better writers in 2012. Not really resolutions, but things we should be doing anyway (like reading). For me, I think I’ve got these covered. I read a book per week on average, I’ve finished writing 5 1/2 books in the last 4 1/2 years (not all revised, but they’re written), I take at least 1-2 craft classes a year, and I haven’t given up despite the rejections I’ve received. The one I skipped over was to quit being hard on myself. I don’t walk around thinking that I suck as a writer (or I probably would’ve given up long ago), but I am hard on myself. It’s how I push myself to do all the other things on the list.

Jenny Crusie and her friend Krissie (Anne Stuart) have started a new blog called Re-inventing Fabulous. They both have some major life changes they’d like to make and are journaling on the blog for both accountability and support. Now, if you read Jenny Crusie’s books or her author blog, you know that she is a phenomenal writer. She could write her grocery list and I’d pay money to read it (she’s that good). Not only is she funny and great with words, but she’s so damn smart and educated that I always learn from her. This particular post is about not being able to write, as in being stuck, and how pushing harder isn’t necessarily the answer. She ends with:

image taken from Re-inventingfabulous.com

Something that a lot of writers do before they begin the first draft of a manuscript is create a playlist of songs that go with the book. I did it for the first time for my current WIP and I love it. Whenever I’ve been away from my book, I can play the songs and get right back into my characters. The problem for me is finding appropriate music. Although I love music and listen to it all the time, I don’t seek out new stuff. I’m the kind of person that can put on one radio station and never change it — like for years. When creating a playlist for a book, you don’t want to choose songs that have a personal connection for you (or you’ll be bringing up your own memories instead of focusing on the book) and you don’t want something that’s going to be overplayed when you’re not focusing on your book. Angela Peart did a great post on music that inspires her. I had a lot of fun listening to the different bands and songs. It gives me a place to start looking for new music when I need another playlist.

As writers, words are everything. We all have what is known as our “echo” words. Words that we overuse because they’re just part of our everyday vocabulary. (one of mine is just). Julie Glover did a fun post on words that should be banished because of overuse or misuse. Most of these are words or phrases that become popular and then become embedded in everything we read and see. It’s an interesting list. I don’t think I’m too guilty of those.

Just for Fun–

I wanted to include this link because the artwork is amazing (one of Julie’s overused words). I’m not an artist and I love seeing what some people can do with something that seems so simple – chalk. Myndi Shafer posted this on her blog and the art will take your breath away because it looks so real. It reminded me of the scene in Mary Poppins when Mary, Burt, and the children jump into the sidewalk painting.

How is the first week of the new year treating you? Are you following your goals/resolutions?

Holiday Traditions – Music

Last week I said that I didn’t grow up with too many holiday traditions, but music was always a part of Christmas. A local radio station starts playing only Christmas music right after Thanksgiving. Usually by the first week of December, I’ve tuned in and listen a lot.

Half of our cookie baking day is spent with Christmas music playing. It usually only lasts about half a day. There’s only so many times you can listen to Frosty the Snowman, regardless of who is singing. My favorite Christmas song of all time is Bruce Springsteen’s version of Santa Claus is Coming to Town:

The first time I remember that version standing out for me, I was a freshman in high school. We were all brought into the auditorium for what we were told was a multi-cultural assembly. We were prepared to be bored out of our minds. When the lights went on, though, my English teacher, Mrs. Bellert, was on stage, dressed like Bruce Springsteen. She lip-synced that song. It was hilarious. Her act was followed by many other teachers doing equally silly things. To this day, it was the best assembly I ever attended.

Now that I’ve gotten sidetracked…this is supposed to be about tradition. For me, Christmas isn’t Christmas unless Johnny Mathis is singing.  My mom loved Johnny Mathis. She owned all of his albums and tapes (and I’m referring to the 8-track kind). Every Christmas morning, we listened to Johnny Mathis as we opened our presents and helped mom make breakfast for the whole family that would come to our house.

After growing up and moving out, I bought my own Johnny Mathis Christmas tapes (cassettes this time) because his music makes it feel like home. I’m not necessarily a Johnny Mathis fan, since the only time I listen to him is at the holidays, but I’d know his voice anywhere. You’ve probably heard him, even if you weren’t aware. Here he is singing Little Drummer Boy, which is another favorite of mine:

Are you a fan of holiday music? What’s your favorite singer or song?

Friday Favorites – Mash-up of Fun

I’ve had a busy couple of weeks, especially with the holiday in there, but I did manage to find some awesome gems to read in my downtime. I hope you enjoy.

Since I didn’t do any kind of mash-up last week, I know I missed out on a bunch of Thanksgiving-related blogs.

Thankfully, Angela Peart did a Thanksgiving mash-up that offered me much to read.

Writing advice for the week –

Catie Rhodes talks about how to build characters through small traits. Great ideas. I think it’s the small things that make characters interesting and memorable.

Tawna Fenske describes how music lends itself to a writer’s process. I recently took a class with Lani Diane Rich that focused on the Discovery part of writing. The beginning stuff, where we get to know our characters. One of the assignments was to create a soundtrack for our WIPs. It wasn’t easy to create, but it definitely helps get me focused while writing. When listening to music does it influence how you writer?

Merry Farmer offers the only writing advice you’ll ever need. Mostly common sense, but we all need to hear it when we’re bombarded with conflicting advice daily.

Food and Drink–

With the holidays upon us, lots of food and alcoholic concoctions are consumed. Personally, I’m a baker. I cook for my family out of necessity, but I bake out of love.

Myndi Shafer offers her family’s cream cheese cookie recipe that I think I’m going to try.

To go along with those cookies, Jillian Dodd gives us the recipe for holiday-themed cocktails.

Just for Fun–

Over on the Bettyverse, Nan writes about the importance of childhood dreams and how they can have a lasting impact on our lives.

Tiffany White does a weekly roundup of good TV on her Worth a Watch Wednesday. As a fellow TV lover, I read her post every week. This week she talks about Unforgettable, yet another new show I tune into. Check out her previous weeks’ posts for recommendations and critiques.

Jenny Hansen has a great post on creative swearing. When my children were smaller, I tried not to swear, but I’ve pretty much abandoned that attempt. By child number 3, my thought is that I can do what I want because I’m an adult. Of course, that means that she can swear better than anyone.

Here’s a little blurb that shows the power of social networking and Twitter. Artists gather to record a song to raise money for charity.

And finally, a friend of mine had a book release this week. Marilyn Brant’s book A Summer in Europe is now on sale. To celebrate, she’s taking readers on a virtual European tour. Check her web site to follow her blogs on the journey.

Thanks for checking out my blog. Have fun visiting the sites I’ve linked to. With all the great advice I’ve listed, it’s hard to choose a favorite, but I think Jenny Hansen wins with her creative swearing. Between the list she gives and reading the comments, I had a heck of a laugh. How about you? How do you curb your potty mouth?

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