Being a voracious reader can really suck

Reflections on my week.

In one word: “Crazy.” My grandson was born and we are busy welcoming him. When the baby powder settles my life may get back to normal, but I’m in no hurry. It’s a special time for all of us.

Scandal …rocks the KOD Chapter (Kiss of Death/Romantic Suspense chapter of the RWA). The former treasurer resigns admitting to plagiarism. Sad news for all.

Word Count: doesn’t count this week. I’m editing, so I keep cutting words, and my numbers are shrinking.

Social Media: I can’t keep up with my e-mails let alone figure out how to manage Facebook or Goodreads. Twitter and Triberr accounts are going well. I can’t believe anyone can do it all.

Being a voracious reader can really suck… .  I work hard at crafting words and then at the end of the day I open a book and  WAMO I get blown away with the beauty of the prose inside.  Good authors make it all look easy.

Currently I’m reading Jeff Abbott’s, Black Jack Point, a suspense thriller. He hooked me in the first paragraph:

“In shimmering heat, Jimmy Bird smoked a cigarette and paced off a rectangle of dirt. About the size of a grave, a little wider, a little longer. Jimmy wasn’t good at math – that algebra in high school where they mixed letters and numbers together had been his undoing- but he could eye a piece of ground and calculate how long it took to clear and dig to a certain depth. Ditches. Garden beds. Graves. The earth on Black Jack Point fed salt grass and waist-high bluestems and Jimmy pictured a hole six feet across, six feet down. He figured it would take him and his partners three hours of steady digging, being a little slower in the dark. Then an  hour or so to sort through the loot, load the valuables on the truck, and good-bye poverty. In a few days he’d be poolside in the Caribbean, chatting up coffee-colored girls in bikinis, fishing in water bluer than blue, buying a boat and lazing on its warm deck and watching the world not go by.” (Onyx Press, p. 3)

It’s so well written it makes my eyes pop and rattle around inside my brain. “…watching the world not go by.” Where did  he get such a brilliant line? How can he condense so much character and setting into one paragraph about digging a hole? Amazing.

And it leaves me feeling…very, very green.

Yup…being a voracious reader can really suck sometimes, but the alternative is worse:)

Do you have favourite first paragraphs?

And then…there’s the B.C. teacher strike scheduled for Monday . Cheryl Angst states the teacher’s position well on her blog. The line that rang most true for me is: “I didn’t teach last year. I performed triage.” That is what teaching in a BC classroom feels like these days, and though I’m now retired and won’t be walking the picket line, my heart is with the teachers and the students of this province. Our education system is falling apart. We need fair bargaining, more support for students and a vision of how to make things work in our changing world.

We all know that there is a limit to the pieces of straw you can add to the donkey’s back before it breaks. There is also a limit to how many students can be squeezed into a classroom lacking in resources before the education system becomes so weakened that learning is only a hopoeful byproduct.

What are your thoughts?

Mimi Barbour Delivers a Story to Warm Your Heart

Today I am trying my hand at a book review. Let me know what you think.

Together for Christmas is multi-published author, Mimi Barbour’s, fifth book in her Vicarage Bench Series. It is a delightful story of two people falling in love, inside one body. Yes, you heard me right – one body.

After a fall, Abbie Taylor’s  spirit leaves her body and takes up residence in Marcus Chapman, a handsome, independent  man. Trapped in the closest and most intimate of spaces, they get to know each other and themselves. The dialogue is witty and the plot is fun. You find yourself cheering them on, as they fall hopelessly in love.

Barbour spins a difficult to tell story with ease. Her prose is smooth. Her characters rich and her plot fast paced. She delivers the well deserved happily ever after ending perfectly. I recommend it for anyone who enjoys sweet romance with imagination.

When Your Baby has a Baby

When your baby has a baby

The sun shines brighter,

the air smells sweeter,

and the hum of civilization fades.

When your baby has a baby,

love’s grip on the universe open up and swallows you whole,

the earth tilts on its axis,

and your heart bursts with joy.

When your baby has a baby,

you glimpse the beauty of eternity,

the mysteries of life,

and know the world will never be the same.

____________________________________________

*Dedicated to baby Minimac, born this weekend. He’s perfect.

*Yes, I  know I am an Oma, not a poet, but sometimes only poetry will do.

Any comments on how you feel when a new baby is born into your family?

Are You a Work in Progress?

I am. Are you?…a work in progress?

“Being a ‘work in progress’ is a great state to be in. – Stop berating yourself for being a work in progress.  Start embracing it!  Because being a work in progress doesn’t mean you’re not good enough today; it means you want a better tomorrow, and you wish to love yourself completely, so you can live your life fully.  It means you’re determined to heal your heart, expand your mind and cultivate the gifts you know you’re meant to share.  May we all be works in progress forever, and celebrate the fact that we are!”(Marc and Angel Hack Life …Practical Tips for Productive Living)

Sometimes, well to be honest most of the time, I feel like I should be “more”. You know, “more”  as in more mature, more successful, more skinny, more funny, more…just plane more.  I admit it I’m a work in progress, but I like what Marc and Angel say about embracing it as a dynamic “state of being.” I’m going to give it a try.

Reflections on my week:

Accomplished: Hmmm…not much. I’ve been twittering, triberring and blogging on the road with my smart phone. It’s what I call an all thumbs week. I got little done on my manuscript, but it’s perking in some part of my brain.

Social Media: continues to fascinate me. According to Triberr I now have a reach of 70,700. It boggles my mind.

My goal is to connect with readers and tell stories. I need to keep my goal clear and focused. Tech formats and platforms are side concerns. This epiphany hit me between the eyes as I read the article, “Do You Know What Business You’re In? What the Publishing Industry Can Learn From Kodak.”

Romance = Underground Writing???

“Romance fiction is widely reckoned to be a very low form of literature. Maybe the lowest, if we’re not counting the writing at Groupon, or on Splenda packets. Romance fiction: probably the worst! An addictive, absurd, unintellectual literature, literature for nonreaders, literature for stupid people—literature for women! Books Just For Her!

Low or not, romance is by far the most popular and lucrative genre in American publishing, with over $1.35 billion in revenues estimated in 2010. That is a little less than twice the size of the mystery genre, almost exactly twice that of science fiction/fantasy, and nearly three times the size of the market for classic/literary fiction…. people are devoted to something.” (Maria Bustillos, Romance Novels, The Last Great Bastion of Underground Writing)

Bustillos argues that Romance novels are feminists documents  written almost exclusively by women, for women and about women. The underlying belief in the novels is that love conquers all and this solution she feels is ‘feminine’ (I don’t agree with her on that point. )

She explains her title:

Romance literature is underground writing, almost never reviewed or discussed in newspapers or literary rags, or at a dinner party. One is supposed to be embarrassed to have a taste for it. [It is] …a literature without pretense.

I say… let  literary snobs call our stories trivial. Let the critics denounce them as lurid, bodice ripping adventures, or worse, soft core porn. They are missing the point. The modern romance is about women finding strength within themselves to live full lives. I believe the essence of the romance story  is: LIFE IS ALL ABOUT LOVE.

Who in their right mind would fault that?

Any comments?

What is Appropriate?

How far can we go?

My reflections on  life this week:

Valentine’s Luncheon with the Ladies: Our local RWA chapter held their annual Valentine’s luncheon last weekend and it was a blast. It’s a warm, supportive group of writers who share everything (even their rejections).

Reality Bites: Ugggh. I pulled out a manuscript I was letting rest. The tone is so inconsistent it makes the plot non-nonsensical. It slides from humour one moment to gritty tension the next like Janet Evanovich meets Hitchcock. My heroine bobs like a cork on a sea of emotions. Oh well, I’m learning and that’s my main goal. Bad writing doesn’t improve with age like wine,  it improves with work.  I’m pushing up my sleeves and settling in, dreaming of a day when I can read this manuscript and say, “Yeah, yeah, that’s the story I wanted.”

What is Appropriate? I read a line in a newspaper this weekend (I think it was the Vancouver Sun) that talked about the people behind Two and a Half Men liking the fact that what is deemed “appropriate” on TV has become a moving target. That got me wondering, first, what is appropriate and second, does “it” or should “it” move?

Is there no longer a line in the sand, a line no writer would want to cross, in fear of offending her audience?

For me there is. For example I stopped watching a popular TV drama (NCIS) when they showed a scene of a woman licking heroine from the open intestines of her dead brother, because she was a junky. For me, that was going too far. I blocked an individual on Google+ author’s circle last week, because she chose to put up a photo of a woman in bondage. Sorry, too far.

But…does my having a “line in the sand” mean that there exists, or needs to exist, a cultural line. After all, people like breaking taboos, and what is considered a taboo in society changes. Hmmm. Does being  PC (politically correct) mean that we have to adhere to a belief in “moral relativity”? That would mean that a subject is appropriate as long as someone in the world believes it is. Hmm

I tossed that around for awhile, and decided that I believe that there are some things which society needs to keep on the other side of the line, specifically the things which can hurt others, like child pornography … Whether someone farts in a story doesn’t matter to me, but if someone does something to hurt a part of society, that is another matter.

And…I have to say it. I hate it when writers fall back on breaking the latest taboo breakable subject to get attention. Remember when the taboo subject was gays? child sexual abuse? transmission of AIDS?  How cliche now. A good story should rely on something more than that.

UH..and I’m still learning what.

What do you think?

How to Create a Website in 3 Steps (with 10 thumbs)

If I can do it, you can do it.

Trust me, you can create a simple, good looking website that doesn’t break your bank account without having to bribe your neighbour’s nerdy, nine year old  child with video games.

Why bother? Here are my reasons:

  1. My website has the content I want on it, organized the way I want it organized.
  2. It looks exactly the way I want it to look.
  3. I can change any part of it in an instant from any computing device, including my phone.
  4. It’s cheap.

Believe me, you can do it. I have ten thumbs and I managed. Here is my “non-geek speak” advice for you if you want to build a website of your own:

Step 1  – Content (i.e., Know what you want to say to the world, and what you don’t want to say.)

Decide what you want on your site and organize it, in your mind, or on paper, into pages. For example, for me that looks like:

  • Page 1   Home Page (note: all websites have a home page that all the other pages are linked to, serving as an introduction/table of contents for your site)
  • Page 2  LovinDanger Blog
  • Page 3  Bio
  • Page 4  Contact Information
  • Page 4  Books

Step 2  – Graphics (i.e., Know what mood, feeling and branding message you want to create with pictures.)

After research and experience (details I won’t bore you with) I decided to use WordPress for my Blog (free and easy to use) and Go Daddy for my website ($129.00 for two years). Both platforms have “ka-zillions” of templates that create different mini environments for your content to live and breed  in.  Go through the template sections and look for ones that “fit” what you are writing. Yes, getting custom work done is possible, but not cheap, and the result isn’t always what you want. (been there)

Step 3 –  Bite the Bullet and hit the buy button (i.e., Jump in, the water’s warm.)

This was the hard one for me. I wanted to create the website, see what it looked like and then pay for it, kinda like trying on a prom dress, but with Go Daddy you can’t do that. I had to bite the bullet and buy the “Website Tonight Economy Package” first, and then design my site. I don’t regret it.

Once I’d paid for my package, the website fell together. I chose a template, played around with the fonts, and colours, inserted my content onto the appropriate pages and I was up and running. I got stuck trying to link my blog to a page, but it took only two quick phone calls to the tech guys and it was loaded. I now have a functioning website that’s all mine.

Soooo….If you’ve been sitting on the sidelines thinking of expanding your writing platform to a webpage, or if you’re tired of chasing your nerdy nine year old webmaster to fix up your site, consider doing it all yourself. It really is do-able.

Yes, I know my website isn’t perfect, but then that makes it a good reflection of me, and it gives me something to work on when I’m taking a break from writing. Check my baby out: www.Jo-AnnCarson.com and tell me what you think.