Archive for September, 2009



Author Nerd Alert: writerly software I love
by Sharon Ashwood on September 30th, 2009

I’m going to join the ranks of those talking about software programs …

Like everything else, writing has fads. Books come out telling us about archetypes, or conflict boxes (when I was a kid, that was called the back seat of the car) or how to Save the Cat. We have stampedes of Alphasmarts, marketing cure-alls, and how to write a book in an afternoon. I’m not knocking these ideas: most of this stuff is useful to many people. The only problem is that none of these books or products actually does the work for me. I mean, what kind of a sales promise is that? I want a full-service gizmo that will take care of business while I go for a walk on the beach. However, if I have to figure out said product, I’m too apathetic to do it.

willows_beach_01_640

I’m happy to say that one of my critique partners answered my prayers. No, she didn’t write my book for me. If only. Instead, she shared her discovery of a fabulous piece of freeware called yWriter. It doesn’t quite write the book, but it comes darned close. Plus, if you’re like me and tend to write in bits and snatches, this is the cat’s meow for keeping track of your work in progress. Perfect for people writing around their family’s schedules, a day job, or an erratic muse. It’s also dynamite for checking pacing.

snipywriter

Nifty things it does:
- You can write directly into the program or cut and paste
- It keeps track of the word count of each scene
- It tracks characters and locations and you can upload pictures if desired.
- It tracks points of view, time and date, and duration of scene
- It tracks elements such as action, romantic tension, or whatever else you like
- It tells you what draft you’re on for each scene
- It makes printable index cards of your scenes if you want to work on your book that way
- It makes other graphs and flow charts
- You can shuffle the scenes with a click and drag

There’s other stuff, too, but you get the picture. I’m sure there are other products that will do similar tasks and probably look a lot better while doing it, but this is simple, straightforward, and the price is right. I’ve only just started using it, but it’s already saved me tons of time. My plots tend to sprawl like a squid dropped from an airliner. Most of my efforts are spent making something logical out of the morass. Anything that will help me do that quickly has my stamp of approval.

Check out this site. There’s also a product on the site I like called yTimer that’s good for marking free-writing sessions. Or baking cookies out of that big old bucket of dough in the fridge, if that’s what fuels your muse!

Anyone else have some good freeware sites?

Server chat malfunction
by Sharon Ashwood on September 29th, 2009

We’re very sad to say that the chat scheduled for September 29 has been postponed to a later date. The Coffee Time Romance site is down for maintenance. We’re not sure why, but we hope they get well soon!

We’re very sorry that we can’t chat with you today! We’ll let you know when we reschedule.

saddoggy

Keeping It All Together
by Annette McCleave on September 29th, 2009

This topic stumped me for a while; I freely admit it. I don’t have any real writing toys. That totally cool writing software that Jessa uses? Don’t have it. My software toolbox is limited to a word processor, a spreadsheet, and a couple of graphics applications.

For fun and inspiration, I do visit the Seventh Sanctum from time to time. Very handy when you need to describe an unusual sword, or name a pirate ship, or give characteristics to an evil character in your story. If you haven’t been, I highly recommend it, if only for a chuckle. Readers will be just as amused as writers, I assure you. Okay, maybe not. We get crazy amounts of glee from details like this (from the Fantasy Crossbreed Generator): The uneducated male half-Troll illusionist. His body is one half human - one half taking after his non-human ancestor.

I’ve never actually used a description from Seventh Sanctum to build a character or object for my books, but nothing spurs creativity like imagining an uneducated half-Troll illusionist or a tolerant female half-Goblin spy.

So, do I have a writing toy? Not exactly. It’s more like an office toy. And toy is a real stretch. Are you ready for it?

Here it is:

stapler

Yes, it’s a STAPLER.

I know, you’re blown away. Wait. It gets better: this is no ordinary stapler. It’s adjustable. It can staple in the middle of a 11×17 page, which means I can make booklets of all sizes. All those school projects where the teacher rewards students for great presentation? My kid gets extra points. Yup, I’m the mom who rocks.

Come on. Admit it. You’re jealous.

I think this writing toy pretty much makes me a shoe-in for Queen of the Geeks. What do you think? Can you top my super-duper stapler for geek points? If you can, lay it on the table. Let’s see what you’ve got. :wink:

Writing isn’t all hard work
by Jessa Slade on September 28th, 2009

Currently working on: Kicking Book 1 out of the nest. Fly, little Book 1, fly!
Mood: Hopeful

That headline, by the way, is a total lie!  Writing is insanely hard work that involves sitting around and staring into space.

But!  Sometimes I have to step away from the insanely hard work of staring into space and go play with writing toys instead.  Because writing is insanely hard work, clever people (clever enough to not be writers) have sold me come up with many ways to make it feel as if writing is fun.

One new toy I’m playing with for Book 3 is a writing program called Liquid Story Binder. 

For years, I’ve wanted some story creation/writing software.  A friend suggested Liquid Story Binder (and it was half off) I decided to just do it.  And with screenshots like this — words! pictures! windows! more words! – what writer wouldn’t be suckered sucked in?

I’ve just started playing with it, but I already see the potential for enormous procrastination.  And power.  Isn’t that cool?  Now even my writing toys have a heroic flaw.

Another writing toy (and by toy, I mean toy-ture, as in thumbscrews and fingernail-pulling torture, except that a writer must keep her hands in tip-typing shape) is Dr. Wicked’s Write Or Die. 

writeordie1

Putting the prod in productivity, the site informs you.  In its strictest mode, this writing prompt will erase your words if you stop typing.  Just the thought is enough to terrify me into keeping my hands on the keyboard.

My newest toy, though, is for post-writing fun:

Using a terrible mishmash of softwares cobbled together from dubious online sources, I made a personality quiz for the Marked Souls to help you discover the nature of your inner demon.  This is the first quiz I’ve ever made, and I learned a lot about html, ftp, php and other random computer shorthand.  Which is the best kind of toy, don’t you think, one you learn from?

Leave a comment with the name of your demon any time this week and you’ll be entered for a chance to win a signed copy of SEDUCED BY SHADOWS.  Post the link to the quiz elsewhere (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc.) and you’ll be double entered to win.

Coffeetime Romance chat Tuesday!
by Jessa Slade on September 27th, 2009

Lest we Silk And Shadows authors sit around and chat with each other (which’d be fine, except they get tired of hearing me giggle maniacally about my new book) we hope you’ll find a few minutes to come say hi and maybe win one of our giveaways, including — naturally! — our books.

The chat is Tuesday, Sept. 29, starting at 9 pm EST/8 pm CST/6 pm PST at:
http://www.coffeetimeromance.com/ctr_chat.htm
You’ll need to get signed in, so stop by a bit early if you aren’t a Coffeetime regular.  Hope to see you there!

– Jessa

To Veg
by KimLenox on September 27th, 2009

Status: Cleaning up from three days of out-of-state company
Mood: In love with Sundays

I have loved looking at everyone’s guilty pleasures this week. I think we writers are truly birds of a feather. And I’m with Sharon — I love love love hotel writing. Don’t do it too often due to the expense, but yes! Hotel solitude somehow unlocks Happy Writer Brain.

Life is busy, busy, busy. I didn’t set out to make myself so busy, I just am! There’s so much I want/need to do every day, and only about 15 hours to get it all in. And the cursed day job knocks out a good portion of MY time.

So I have to say my guilty pleasure, above all, is being able to “veg”. To be still, have free time and not be thinking about something.

Veg time rarely ever happens, but it’s a big thrill for me to be able to lay on the sofa with my cat and watch the History Channel or an old movie I never got to see at the theater. I also like to go down to our pier and throw bread out to the fish, or lay on the bench and just look up at the clouds moving overhead.

I know! It’s not very exciting, but it’s exciting to me!

What about you? Look forward to relaxing, or do you have more down time than you know what to do with?

Also, all of us at Silk & Shadows hope you’ll come visit with us real time at Coffeetime Romance on Tuesday night starting at 6:00 pm Pacific time, 9:00 pm eastern. We’ll be giving away prizes!

The G.P. score: Sharon’s top ten
by Sharon Ashwood on September 24th, 2009

To me, guilty pleasures are indulgences—definitely things my idealized higher self deplores, because she’s the type with money in the back, the ideal physique, a clean kitchen, and a better working career. But that version of myself is a bore and I switch her off as often as possible. I’m at peace with my baser instincts.

What gives me that sparkly feeling of getting away with something I perhaps should not? What cost too much? What’s a taste sensation I should skip but can’t? Where do I fail in my responsibilities and love it? Stay tuned, because I made a list.

How to be guilty? Oh, let me count the ways - or ten of them, at least.

10. My red boots. Yes, they were expensive imports. Yes, the heels are high. Whatever. It’s my feet.

9. Suffed grape leaves from that little Greek place in Sidney that makes the best darned lemon sauce. Nom nom nom!

grape-leaves-ck-1097025-l

8. Buying my Christmas holiday read hardcover and not waiting for the paperback.

7. Hotel room writing sprees. Mini-bar, laptop, room service: go! Of course, I paid a substantial sum of money for that conference I more or less ignored, but whatever …

6. Fashion magazines. Utterly useless. Love ‘em.

5. Horror flicks. Cliché counting is a great drinking game.

livingdead

4. The BIG bag of red licorice at the movie theatre. Red vinyl! Yum!

3. Going on computer/email/phone strike for 24 hours. Ah, peace.

2. The Friday meltdown: lying on the couch with a book and a glass of wine and ignoring the million chores waiting for me. (Bonus points for refusing to move because it would disturb the cat.)

1. Friends’ nights out with appropriate world domination discussion.

That last one isn’t really a guilty pleasure, but I value it so much it should be. There’s no substitute for conviviality and nachos. We need that face time to catch up, to plot and plan, and relieve the stresses of unplanned adulthood. Diets are blown, restraint programs sunk, but it’s still cheaper than psychotherapy!

I think that’s the point of guilty pleasures–they’re small transgressions, but have a high payoff in enjoyment. Blowing off a little bit of steam is healthy.

Question of the day: When standing in the junk food aisle and faced with enough money for one treat, what would you pick?

Guest: Chloe Neill
by Sharon Ashwood on September 23rd, 2009

Sometimes the best books are are impulse buys. That’s how I came across Chloe Neill’s Chicagoland vampire series … and I wasn’t halfway through the first book before I asked her to guest blog. The adventures of Merit and her friends are hugely entertaining, and the next instalment is right around the corner.

We’re very lucky that she’s willing to take time out from deadline season to drop by. Plus, she’ll give away a signed copy of FRIDAY NIGHT BITES to one commenter; USA & Canada shipment. Deadline for commenting is 8:00 a.m. CST on Monday, September 28.

***

Hello, everyone, and thanks!

First off, for those of you who don’t know me, let me take a sec to introduce myself. My name is Chloe Neill (okay, that might be obvs by now), and I’m the author of a new urban fantasy/paranormal romance series (Chicagoland Vampires) and a forthcoming young adult/paranormal series (Novels of the Dark Elite). The second book in my Chicagoland Vampires series, FRIDAY NIGHT BITES, will be released on October 6, 2009. I’m also giving away a signed copy of the book…just keep reading for details!

The S&S staff asked me to think about guilty pleasures…which wasn’t a terrible difficulty. I have a lot of them, things that are ridiculously enjoyable to me, but that other folks probably think are odd. These range from my deep and abiding love of fountain Diet Coke, to my love of Kit-Kats, to the fact that sometimes the most satisfying dinner I can have is a bean burrito in the car, while I sit in the parking lot of a Taco Bell and watch the traffic go by.

I know…it’s a little odd, isn’t it?

The heroines of my series, Lily and Merit, have their own guilty pleasures. Merit, a former English Lit grad student who’s inducted into the world of Chicago’s very strategic vampires, has a wicked lust for chocolate. She also loves books, fancy pens, Puma tennis shoes and smoked meats of any variety.

fnb

I’m actually a vegetarian; maybe I experience All Things Bacon vicariously through her?

Lily, a sixteen-year-old who’s sent to boarding school in Chicago, isn’t nearly as food-crazy as Merit. But she has a lust for thrift shop-shopping sprees, black licorice, and the Smashing Pumpkins.

firespell

Two characters; two guilty pleasures.

As a fan of urban fantasy, romance and paranormal romance, I tried to give some thought to the guilty pleasures of other characters. Anita Blake has a collection of penguins, although I’m not sure that’s a “guilty” pleasure (book title notwithstanding). Betsy (of Mary Janice Davison’s series) love shoes. Harry Potter loves candy. Eve Dallas (J.D. Robb) loves candy bars–and has her own secret stash.

What is it about the guilty pleasure that makes it attractive to authors as a literary device? A couple of things, I think.

First, the guilty pleasure is telling. It signals something to the reader about the character–who she is, what she loves, what drives her.

Second, the guilty pleasure is humanizing. We all have guilty pleasures–things we enjoy, occasionally with abandon, but are a little insecure about (see my burrito-in-the-car story above). Literary characters who have them seem, at least to me, that much more real. Would Eve Dallas be the infuriatingly complicated woman that she is without that crazy love of chocolate (which, admittedly, keeps disappearing from her office.) We know how it feels to crave something that we worry we shouldn’t crave. It’s nice to have a heroine, I think, who shares that very human emotion.

Alrighty…all that said, time for the contest. Simply leave a comment and tell us about another book character’s guilty pleasure, or tell us about one of your own. One random commenter will win a SIGNED copy of FRIDAY NIGHT BITES.

Thanks to Silk & Shadows for hosting me today, and good luck!

It’s Beginning to Feel a Lot Like …
by Annette McCleave on September 22nd, 2009

I have one or two things that fall into the guilty pleasure category, one of which I indulged just the other day: never getting out of my pajamas.

Most days, even weekends, are crammed full of chores and/or socializing, so the frequency of a day spent entirely at home is low. Which is probably a good thing, considering never getting out of your pajamas includes not having a shower. But for comfort value, nothing really beats remaining in the loose, cozy attire that is sleepwear.

Another indulgence is a trip to Starbucks for a Caramel Macchiato, Caramel Frappaccino, or at this time of year, Pumpkin Spice Latte. I usually prefer to drink my coffee at home–and when you consider the hour I’m usually drinking my coffee that makes sense–but the coffees I mentioned above rise above the simple beverage I normally consume and dwell on another plane entirely. They almost reach the dessert plane. Yum.

And then there’s my other guilty pleasure–glomming. I consider glomming to be the reading/watching of multiple books/TV episodes in a short period of time. I don’t glom very often, but when I do, it’s a marathon session. I got Season 1 of Dexter for Christmas one year and watched the entire season in two days. Yup. Two days. That’s pretty much ‘Play All’ for forty-eight hours.

While my glomming episodes tend to fall between deadlines and around awesome DVD releases, it occasionally happens on just a random weekend when it comes to books. I pick up one of the many volumes in my TBR and start reading. I get to the end, sigh happily, and pick up another. Glomming does allow for trips to the bathroom and cooking meals (snacking the pyramid and glomming are a deadly mix). And my dog needs to be walked several times every day (even on never-get-out-of-my-pajamas days).

Sadly, I don’t partake of my guilty pleasures nearly as often as I’d like. For some reason, real life and guilty pleasures don’t mesh well. That’s okay–there’s always Christmas and the next Season of Dexter to look forward to. ;-)

Any other Dexter fans out there?

***

This is the last stop on my “Cross into Darkness” blog tour celebrating the release of my debut novel, Drawn into Darkness. For details about the contest and a description of the grand prize please visit my website.

Here’s the tenth and final clue: A lovely glen that contains Loch Lyon and the River Lyon (hint: read my excerpt).

Thanks so much for following me on my tour and good luck!

Guilty pleasures
by Jessa Slade on September 21st, 2009

Currently working on: Book 3!
Mood: Time traveling ahead

Maybe it’s because I’m a Type A personality, from a Puritan work ethic country, raised Catholic, who writes about temptation and damnation, but the concept of guilty pleasures intrigues me.  Pleasure: Something that feels good.  Guilty pleasure: Feeling bad about something that feels good.  How we humans love to complicate even simple things!

When I told my XY that the topic this week is guilty pleasures, he immediately said, “You’re going to write about your bucket o’ cookie dough again?”  And I said, “No, silly.  I don’t feel guilty about that.”

Guilty pleasures feature importantly in romance fiction.  Powerful guilt about pleasure creates sexily somber, asthete heroes who desperately need their heroines to bring light and laughter back to their lives.  No guilt about anything leads to delicious villainy.  (Not that I think my guilt-free cookie dough consumption will lead inevitably to world domination, although it is delicious.)  While the guilt might keep hero and heroine apart for awhile, the irresistible pleasure always brings them together by The End.  Besides, everyone knows that the naughty thrill is part of what makes a guilty pleasure so pleasurable!

I used to have lots of guilty pleasures: Wasting a whole day curled up on the couch with a book; surfing the net for hours on end; reading trashy magazines with more ads than articles; watching trashy TV.

I say “used to” not because I don’t do those things anymore, but because I don’t feel guilty about it anymore.  Not only do I use guilty pleasure in my writing, I use my writing to excuse my guilty pleasures.  My secret to guilt-free pleasures — Word choice.  Watch how a few deft turns of phrase turn guilt into work even a Purolic (that’s a melding of Puritan and Catholic) can endorse:

  • Wasting a whole day curled up on the couch with a book = Market research.
  • Surfing the net for hours on end = Book research.  Oh, I’m on Facebook?  That = Networking.
  • Reading trashy magazines with more ads than articles = Finger on pulse of popular culture.
  • Watching trashy TV = Finger on pulse of popular culture (and finding it deader than vampires).

Hey, I’m a writer after all; word choice is what we do.  And think about how many women admit that they consider reading romance one of their guilty pleasures; if anyone should advocate for turning guilty pleasure into open, honest, no-holds-barred, in-your-face, and-I’ll-take-two-of-him pleasure, shouldn’t it be a romance writer?

Do you have any good euphemisms for your guilty pleasures?  If you need help coming up with one, confess and we’ll brainstorm something for you.