Tuesday, November 17, 2020

American-made Holidays

Holiday shopping can be incredibly difficult. I add to the challenge by forcing myself to buy American. Years ago, an ABC News report said that if each of us spent just $64 on American made goods during our holiday shopping, the result would be 200,000 new jobs. I think that's a challenge worth taking and this is my seventh year of doing my part.

I think Christmas is only for those who believe in Santa. As my friends kids get older, I've relaxed this rule a bit. As far as I know, they're still believers.

When I'm looking for US made kids clothes, I usually go straight to etsy.com.

For kids who are constantly outgrowing their wardrobes, you can afford several outfits of likenew brand name items at ThredUp.com.

I've always had good luck with the American made section of FatBrainToys, which has reasonably priced, educational toys and games.

I always ask for readers to send me their suggestions and finally got this guide to US made toys & games that allows you to search the list by age range.

For several years now, my family has decided to donate to charity in lieu of gifts to each other. We have given to UnicefHeiferCharityWater, and OxFam to name a few. Before selecting a charity, I always check them out at Charitynavigator.org to find out how much of donations go to services and how much they pay the CEO. (I can't stand charity CEOs who make millions.) I recommend checking out your charity here before donating. You can even look at their list of top-rated charities if you need ideas.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Book Review: All Threats Within

I was excited to receive an early copy of All Threats Within, a sequel to Sam Boush's cyber thriller All Systems Down, in which a cyber attack cripples America, and a group of strangers comes together to fight back.

I was worried I might have forgotten some important details since reading the first over a year ago, but Boush does a good job refreshing my memory just enough without too much rehashing. There is no time for that.The pacing is perfect, the dialogue is spot on, the writing itself is beautiful.

The cast of ethnically diverse, interesting characters is back. The story is told in alternating first-person narratives and the reader gets to know and care for each of these original characters deeply. What this story says about human nature is sort of heart-breaking: we're our own worst enemies. When the nation is under attack, the lawlessness of fellow citizens becomes one of the greatest threats. This time, the group gets pulled into a new danger involving traitors working in the US military.

Again, I found myself worrying about whether I have stored enough emergency water. This is a cautionary tale that seems so plausible, it will haunt you.

I enjoyed every moment of this fast-paced read and look forward to the next novel.

Here's my interview with Sam Boush for Today'sAuthor.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Rules are Dumb, as a Rule

I read a lot of blogs about writing. Something I’ve grown really tired of is the “how to be a writer” blog - as if this is something that can be conveyed in a few paragraphs. It isn’t that I don’t think there are aspects of writing that can be taught. I’ve taken writing classes and found them beneficial. But a one-size-fits-all list of dos and don’ts that you stumble across on the internet is something to be skeptical of.

If there are rules, they apply to everyone differently, depending on your audience and your specific writing goals. How many times have you been warned not to use adverbs? Tell that to JK Rowling. Or better: don’t. Adverbs have their place as does every other bit of language. A better suggestion would be to use all your words consciously, to understand where the rule came from and break it with that knowledge.

But even that makes me uncomfortable. It ignores the fact that there are writers with natural talent who don’t need to know the why of it. 

The reason I love hearing writers speak about their particular writing process is that they all have something different to say. Some of them plot it out on color coded note cards before they type a word while others have no idea where the story is going and swear their characters battle them for control. Some have MFAs and others no formal training. Some write several titles a year; others leave one perfect book as their life’s work.

There are many different ways to be a writer. If you’re seeking commercial success, there are certain formulas for certain genres. There are rules for spelling and grammar, but even some of the rules about commas are flexible. Tense and point of view should probably be consistent. (Real anti-rulers are calling me a hypocrite for adding that.) But learning to “drop these seven words” won’t make you a writer. It’s just not that easy. 

If you think I’ve just written a blog on “how to be a writer”, you may have a point. That’s the problem with giving advice to ignore advice. But maybe that’s not what I’m saying. Don’t ignore it; just don’t take it as gospel. Don’t let it subvert your own writer’s instinct. I think you should be very critical of the writing advice you take, including mine.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Mary Vensel White

I've been lucky enough to workshop with Mary Vensel White and I've been able to read a lot of her work. I've liked it all so it says a lot that this is my favorite. Bellflower comes out today and you should check it out. Here's my review:
Mary Vensel White is an expert at creating original, believable characters you can root for in a paragraph or less-a skill that comes in handy when writing a novel that is a series of vignettes. These are the defining moments of these characters' lives: the cancer scare, the mid-life crisis affair, the paternity test results that seem like the end of the world. Bellflower tells these stories about the human condition and reminds us that, in the end, we're all connected. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Anniversary Sale!

It has been a year since I launched Blood & Water and it will be on sale for 99 cents this week to celebrate. Last November, I was busy with the launch and this year I'm struggling through NaNoWriMo with my current work in progress. I hope to have an update for you on that soon.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

NaNoWriMo 2018

Last year, I skipped NaNo because I was focused on launching my novel, Blood & Water. This year, I'm hoping to expand on my current work in progress. I've had the first chapter written for nearly a year.

Like the other times I've participated, I'll be a "nanorebel". I'm less focused on meeting the 50,000 word goal and more on setting aside writing time every day.

Looking back over previous blogs, I found these helpful tips for time management:
  • Skipping the news: I'm kind of obsessive about this, so it is going to free up a lot of my time, but it's also going to be really hard. I'm alerting all those close to me that I'm going to need an email or phone call if some huge news event happens. I already don't have cable so I got all my news off the internet.
  • Pajamas all day: Okay, not every day, but some days. I'm kicking off day one in my yoga pants... that I slept in.
  • Easy dinners: I don't pretend to be a fancy cook, but this month I'm going even more bare bones. No cutting meat or chopping veggies. If the recipe requires more than 20 minutes of prep, I'll save it for December. 
  • No more reading: I finished a book yesterday that I may blog about, but that's it. 
That's a good list to start. I just reactivated my account at nanowrimo.org and may have to limit the time I spend there. They have forums and twitter links and pep talks and notices for local events. It's like Facebook for writing nerds. You can connect with me there- I'm Katie78.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Book Review: The Baggage Carousel

Sometimes when you re-read a favorite novel from years ago, it doesn't hold up. That was not the case with David Olner's The Baggage Carousel, a novel I first read on a writing site before it was published. I believe the gist of my critique was: "Get this published!" I'm glad he decided to take my stellar advice. ;)

In this novel, the super-flawed main character falls in love on a back-packing trip to Africa. When the object of his affection makes promises and then proceeds to ignore his emails, Dan's heartbreak turns obsessive. In alternating narrative, the reader also gets to know Amber, who is on the edge of vapid, but still manages to be sympathetic. The two narrate different timelines so that the story unfolds as a puzzle and the missing piece isn't delivered until the very end.

Throughout, the quality of the writing stands out. Dan is darkly witty, his tangents from the main plot not only illuminate his character, but are fun to read. The way it's organized is especially clever and the ending comes together like a lightning bolt. Of course, you think as if you saw the twist coming, though you didn't. The ending is terribly satisfying, with just enough pain and the requisite growth from each character.

I highly recommend this book.