What are you grateful for from 2009? I decided instead of making a bunch of overly optimistic resolutions, I'd review my blessings from 2009.
1. Good friends who grow closer each year.
2. Discovering FB as a fun way to keep in touch with distant friends and family members.
3. Crazed cats that make me laugh and laugh.
4. A loving and supportive family.
5. Working my dream job.
6. Losing weight and getting into better shape than I've seen in years.
Bad things happened to me in 2009 as well--few people go through a year without some kind of upheaval, major or minor. But the things I list above helped in the bad times, in a big way, trust me.
I do have a couple of resolutions (can't help those bubbling to the surface).
1. To better organize my time (streamline things a bit).
2. To stay in even better touch with people who matter most to me.
3. To read many, many more books! (I think that one will be fun *g*)
Feel free to post your gratitude or your resolutions! What do you look forward to? Or fondly back on?
(image from http://graphicleftovers.com/blog/free-2010-new-year-images/)
Thursday, December 31, 2009
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Friday, December 25, 2009
from Emily Bryan ...
For most of my adult life, I've lived farther away from my parents than a 12 hour drive. As a result, we've spent plenty of Christmases in airports or driving all night on icy highways. Somehow, we always managed to make the trip and Christmas didn't start till we got there.
Today, my DH and I boarded a plane at 6 AM, headed for the Missouri Ozarks. It's a beautiful part of the country--rolling hills, thick forests and infrequent snows (though flurries are expected for today!)--but more importantly, one of our daughters, my parents, two of my sisters and their families will be there. When I see those well-loved faces around the table, I won't need any presents to open, though I'm sure there will be some.
Later on, my dad will read the Christmas story from the second chapter of Luke. He does it every year. I can't read that passage from the Bible without hearing his voice in my head. We'll play board games and cards and Guitar Hero. We'll go to the movies and exchange gifts that don't fit and eat more than we should.
And after a few days, we'll make the trip back to our regular homes. But we'll still be together, still with each other in the home of our hearts.
I hope you're home for Christmas, too.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
and a Fantastic New Year!!
Cindy Holby/Colby Hodge
Posted by Jennifer Ashley/ Allyson James / Ashley Gardner at 8:04 AM
Sunday, December 20, 2009
This is my first Christmas in nine years without a deadline hanging over my head so I have decided to embrace the season and enjoy it. I don't think I ever realized before how many things have become tradition with our family.
The weekend before Thanksgiving we start decorating. We have to in order to have everything done by the first Sunday in December. This is the day I have my annual ornament swap with my girlfriends. I started it in 1997 because I wanted us to do something without our kids since our lives seemed to revolve around their functions. Now our kids are mostly grown and moved on yet we still get together this first Sunday in Dec and catch up and have a blast. For some of us, this is the only time we see each other all year. Still we come together, I hope we're still doing it when we're all old and gray. We've even brought in the next generation with daughters and daughter-in-laws.
When I get to the point in December when my work is done, the shopping and wrapping under control and I feel like I can draw a breath, I sit down and watch White Christmas. This is one of my all time favorite movies and I can pretty much recite it line by line since I've probably seen it over 50 times in my life. When I was little I wanted to be Vera Ellen. Actually I still want to be her. Have you seen her waist? And her legs? My guys sure do like to talk about her. They also like to rewrite the songs. Their tradition is to sing the Sisters song and insert the line, Sharing, Caring, Even the underwear that we are wearing. Yeah, got to love the traditions.
We open our presents on Christmas Morning after breakfast. We attend our church's Love Feast on Christmas Eve. All the men in my family cook a huge country breakfast the morning after Christmas when we have our family get together. We open presents from the youngest to the oldest and take turns so everyone can see what you got. And every year, our kitty climbs the Christmas tree. I'm sure these traditions will change as my son's get married and have children. We'll figure something out. But one thing for sure, I will still watch White Christmas every year.
I'd love to hear your Christmas traditions. And here's wishing each and every one of you a very Merry Christmas.
Posted by Cindy Holby at 4:51 PM
Saturday, December 19, 2009
I'm thrilled that Gina Robinson has come to blog with us today at the Chatelaines to celebrate her new release, Spy Games, and to share some advice for surviving holiday stress as a writer. Gina will be giving away a mass market copy of the first book in her Fnatasy Spy Camps series, Spy Candy, to one lucky commenter--so enter and get yourself a fun Christmas present!
Gerri: Welcome! Glad to have you wtih us.
Gina: Glad to be here. Thanks for having me.
Gerri: Can you share with us your advice for de-stressing. I could use some of that about now.
Gina: Less than a week until Christmas! Has the holiday stress hit you yet? Have you finished your shopping? Done your baking? Mailed your Christmas cards? Put up the tree and the outdoor lights? And, oh, yeah, have you written anything lately?
Whoa! You can stress yourself silly worrying about balancing life, the holidays, and your writing. Here’s how I deal with the added holiday pressure: First, I’ve accepted that December simply isn’t as productive a month for me as the other eleven, page count-wise, at least. I no longer beat myself up over it. Instead, I embrace it. Knowing I’ll struggle to make my normal daily outputs, I lower my December page count goals and figure them into my yearly writing plan. Be realistic and set reasonable December goals. If you don’t, the guilt will creep back in. And who needs that?
Second, I realize writing can be done anywhere, including in my head. So while I’m not at my computer as much as usual, I’m thinking, plotting, and daydreaming as my mom calls it. From time to time I’ll jot down an idea I don’t want to forget. When January rolls around and I hit the writing full force again, the story should flow right out of my head through my fingers and onto the page. That’s the plan, anyway.
Third, I use holiday activities to hone my skills and recharge. I love the Christmas season. To me, it has a special magic and meaning. The short hours of daylight where I live, the pleasant slant of the low set sun when it shines, and the joy of the season fill me again with childlike hope and wonder. I try to forget reality and let myself dream, really dream big about all the things I’d like to happen with my writing and my life. Just like I used to when I was a kid dreaming about what Santa would bring. This dreaming nourishes my positivity and can-do spirit, which will be so necessary as the new year and reality sets in. So use the magic of the season to recharge yourself, which will help your artistic self thrive.
I love attending holiday parties and gatherings where I connect with family, friends, colleagues—many of whom I don’t see on a regular basis or as often as I’d like. I meet interesting new people I wouldn’t get to know under ordinary circumstances. Hearing about others’ experiences, listening to the way they speak, and observing their mannerisms sharpens my characterization skills. What is it that makes this person so likeable? How has this person managed to survive all that life’s thrown at them this past year? What is it about the way this guy tells a story that makes him the life of the party? So you see, attending parties and social events is writing, too, in a December way.
Fourth, I express my artistic nature in other ways. I love to bake, but most of the year I’m pressed for time. Plus I have a sweet tooth and can’t afford to eat the fruit of my labors like I used to. But this time of year, I indulge in my love of baking. Working in a different medium feeds all parts of the creative spirit.
Finally, I watch all my favorite Christmas movies and there are a ton of them. Every year I think about what makes these stories classics, at least for me. How did the authors of these stories move me? What about these stories makes me want to watch them year after year? Again, I’m honing my craft while enjoying myself.
This season, enjoy yourself rather than beat yourself up. Refill your well for the new year ahead.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!
Gerri: Great advice, Gina! We all need to relax a little whether we are writing stories or holiday cards. Now that we are all feeling a little more relaxed, enjoy this description and brief excerpt from Spy Games.
Reilly Peterson's been many things in her thirty-two years: an athlete, a model, a sportswear executive. Her ex-boyfriend, however, has done a good job of making Reilly something she's never been--scared. Now Reilly's ready to protect herself with more than her sharp tongue. Fantasy Spy Camp's Seattle-based Urban Ops division will train her to survive using everything from her bare hands to a submachine gun. But when she gets an eyeful of fellow camper Van Keller, all Reilly wants is to chill out, partner up, and go deep undercover...
Excerpt from Spy Games:
“You have any dinner plans?” Van asked.
Suddenly, I was one part pleased and nine parts panic. Flirting with Van under the innocent guise of playing basketball was one thing. But going on a date with him, alone, with Ket out there, was suicide. Or murder, depending on who Ket would kill, Van or me. Or both. I looked around at the group. “I don’t know. Have we made any plans?”
Undaunted by my sudden reserve, Van grabbed my hand and pulled the phone away from my ear. “I was thinking, we could make plans. You and me.” He pointed to me and then him. “Just the two of us. Eating together somewhere nice. I have the feeling you’re a local girl. You could suggest somewhere. I could pay.”
I turned to stare at him, my heart melting to mush. “Are you asking me out? Like for a date?”
“Yeah. Like for a date.”
My phone beeped. I had a text message. The dude 2 ur right wants u. Tell him ur mine. Im watching U. –K
Gerri: Sounds like a fun read. Perfect for holiday relaxing. Thanks for stopping by today, Gina. Wishing you all the best with your new release!
Please leave a comment or question for Gina in the comments to enter for a chance at winning Spy Games!
Friday, December 18, 2009
from Emily Bryan . . .
When I researched Regency Christmas customs for A CHRISTMAS BALL, I ran across lots of interesting tidbits--far more than I could incorporate into my novella. So I posted 6 bonus pages on my website. Just look for the bouncing regency Christmas ball!
There was no NFL football game to occupy Christmas revelers in 1822, when A CHRISTMAS BALL takes place. People had to make their own fun, and in the case of this picture of a game of 'blind man's bluff,' rakish young fellows might have a good deal of fun.
But Christmas was a family holiday. Source documents record the glee of boys and young men returning home for Christmas from their boarding schools. It was almost as if they were inmates suddenly freed from prison! To celebrate their return, their families enjoyed parlor games, many with unlikely names: Shoe the Wild Mare, Hot Cockles, Steal the White Loaf, Bob Apple and Snapdragon.
Spending time with loved ones, flirting with pretty girls, having a jolly time with one's family and friends -- sounds like a Regency Christmas shares much with present day celebrations.
My family plays a card game called "Hand & Foot." We don't play for blood. It doesn't matter who wins. It's just a great opportunity to visit around the table.
What sort of games does your family play at the holidays or any time?
PS. If you're in New England, you can see me on Saturday from noon to 4 pm at Well Read Books, 37 Plaistow RD, Plaistow, NH! I'll be signing copies of my books, alongside my critique partner Ashlyn Chase, just in time for all the romance readers on your list. If you're not able to make it, you can still get autographed books at THE BOOK OASIS. They'll ship anywhere! Merry Christmas!
Friday, December 11, 2009
from Emily Bryan . . .
I'm so excited to share that Dorchester is running a fantastic Stocking Stuffer Sale! For only $2.99 a piece, you can get my DISTRACTING THE DUCHESS and/or titles from Christie Craig, Angie Fox, Alissa Johnson, Tracy Madison, AJ Menden, Elisabeth Naughton, Helen Scott Taylor and Elissa Wilds. Order by December 16th for guaranteed Christmas delivery!
This week I was over at Marie-Claude Bourque's MuseTracks, sharing about my experience moderating an editor panel at RWA Nationals last year. I read several dozen beginnings of manuscripts until the editors told me to stop. Then they explained why they stopped me. The errors the authors made became repetitious after a while, so we'd all do well to take note and avoid them. Along with the 6 problems I mentioned at MuseTracks, here are a few more editorial redflags.
Unappealing protagonist--While it's true that characters should have flaws and room to grow (without them you have no story!) the hero/heroine can't be so unsympathetic that the reader doesn't want to try on their shoes. Give your reader/editor a glimmer of hope that this character can be saved right up front or the manuscript is destined to molder in the slush pile.
Slow beginning/Too long in Ordinary World--Authors used to have the luxury of introducing their characters in a leisurely fashion. Now, you'd better start with the characters' world in conflict/imbalance or readers (and editors) will put the book down.
Overwriting--Flowery prose and over-blown language. CS Lewis said it best. "Never say 'infinitely' when you mean 'very.' Otherwise you'll have no word left when you want to write about something truly infinite."
The dreaded -ly words--Too many adjectives and adverbs, not enough descriptive verbs and specific nouns is the hallmark of sloppy prose. Circle every -ly word in your manuscript and think long and hard about whether it deserves to live.
Too much Telling--Show your reader what's happening and let them draw their own conclusions. Resist the urge to tell your readers what you've just shown them. Let your reader bring something to the experience.
Too much Showing--I know this seems like a contradiction, but not everything in your story is important enough to be shown. Example: George picked up the bar of Lifeboy and lathered his hands, the pungent soapy smell filling the room as he scrubbed between each of his sinewy fingers . . .---Too much information! For Pete's sake, just say George washed his hands.
The craft of writing has fascinated me since I took up my pen in earnest in 2001 and these are things I still have to remind myself of with each new story. There may be a few natural storytellers in the world, but most of us have to slog away with rewrites until we get it right. I hope these suggestions are helpful to you if you're an aspiring writer. If you're a reader, you've just been given a peek behind the wizard's curtain and found we authors aren't "Great and Powerful" at all. Most of us have to work at it, but it's a labor of love.
If you're an aspiring writer and are looking for a few more tips, please visit my website www.emilybryan.com and check out my WRITE STUFF pages for help on getting started, self-editing, submitting and a host of other writerly topics.
And of course, I'm happy to take questions right here. If I don't know the answer, I'll make something up (I do write fiction for a living, you know!). Or better yet, defer to my Chatelaine buddies who know far more than I.
PS. If you're looking for a stocking stuffer for the romance readers on your list, The Book Oasis will send out signed copies of all my titles! At 10% off! If you're in New England, I'll be signing there on Saturday. Click here for the details!
Oh, and Happy Chanukah to all who celebrate the Feast of Lights!
Thursday, December 10, 2009
I was thrilled this week to learned that I'd finalled in Romantic Times Magazine's RT Reviewer's Choice Awards, not once, but twice!
For The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie (by Jennifer Ashley) and Mortal Temptations (by Allyson James).
Fellow Chatelaine Joy Nash finalled for Silver Silence. Way cool, Joy!!
So while everyone is picking their best books of 2009, what are yours? Don't hold back. What did you love? And why (if you want to 'splain).
Posted by Jennifer Ashley/ Allyson James / Ashley Gardner at 9:17 AM
Monday, December 7, 2009
I love writing Time Travels. Except for the fact that they give me a major headache when I'm working on the plot. Thinking of all the repercussions of going to the past to change the future is really difficult. Still I was thrilled to be invited to be a part of The Mammoth Book of Time Travel. (psst if the link doesn't work just look for it on Amazon.)
My story is about Rand Brock, a Texas Ranger investigating a mysterious death and disappearance in West Texas during the 1880's. Imagine his surpise when he's taking a bath in a stream and comes face to face with Shea, a Time Cop from the future. You must read the story to find out what happens but I will let you in on one part of the plot. Steam Punk Scorpions.
I hope you enjoy reading Time Trails as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Friday, December 4, 2009
from Emily Bryan . . .
From the mists of the pagan past, the custom of dragging in a near tree trunk to provide heat for the festivities was adapted to celebrate Christmas. I first ran into the Jul festival when I researched my Diana Groe viking stories, but Regency households kept a variation of this old Norse tradition too.
The log was selected well ahead of time and allowed to dry. It would be taken into the house on Christmas Eve and was lit with a piece from the previous year's Yul log. The log was expected to cook the dinner, heat the nog and wassail, and provide a merry flame all through Christmas Day as well. If it failed to last for the full day, it was considered an ill-omen for the coming year.
Historical writers do plenty of research and we uncover lots of fun facts we can't squeeze into our stories. For A CHRISTMAS BALL, I studied Regency holiday traditions and just had to share. I've posted 6 pages of Regency Christmas material on my website, just little tidbits of festive fun. I talk about the games, the food, the decorations for celebrating the 12 days of Christmas! I've hidden 6 Christmas balls on my site and a click on the image will take you to the bonus page.
So please join me at www.emilybryan.com for a Regency scavenger hunt! (Or if you're pressed for time, check out my site map to take you straight to the bonus pages!)
Enjoy and Happy Christmas!
PS. What Christmas tradition does your family observe?
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Check out these cool book samplers on freado.com ! I love the way you can turn the pages on the screen just like on a real book.
These two samplers were put together by my friend and fellow author Rowena Cherry - click on the links below, and once there, click "read free sample." Then you can turn the pages to read excerpt from books by over a dozen futuristic, fantasy and paranormal authors, including CL Wilson, and me!
Fantasy Futuristic Paranormal Sampler #1
Fantasy Futuristic Paranormal Romance Sampler #2
Once you read and enjoy - please hit "share" to pass it on!