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Writer Wednesday Welcomes Margaret Duarte!!!

This month, I will be featuring other writers just like you and I, writers who are gearing up for 2011, setting goals, claiming their dreams and just putting on their game-face. DO you have your game-face on? Well, what are you waiting for?
Today, my new writer pal, and overall lovely friend, Margaret Duarte is here guest posting and sharing her goals for 2011. I LOVE  LOVE LOVE IT because she’s thinking BIG!

Big Ambitions for 2011

I have big ambitions for 2011.
I need fresh ideas for my blog–posts that both share my journey as a writer and also inform.
I’ve been blogging for over six months.  I should be a pro by now. Ha.

Where to begin?

Here comes the “big ambitions” part.

To keep the creative juices flowing, I plan to make use of:

  • The 4 A.M. Breakthrough approach. In his book, subtitled Unconventional Writing Exercises That Transform Your Fiction, Brian Kiteley writes, “Writers should trust that they have trained their instincts well and not think at all. Practice makes for better instincts.” His book aims at “demystifying the process of writing” and his exercises are meant to help make the writer realize “it is possible–and even fun–to write fiction.” Exercise 1: Write a fragment of narrative in paratactic style.
  • The Daily Writer, by Fred White, subtitled 366 meditations to cultivate a productive and meaningful writing life. Regardless of genre, he says, with writing “you are wielding that most powerful, mind- and spirit-enhancing tool that civilization has ever invented, the tool of language, and you are doing so in ways that illuminate people’s lives, sometimes improving their lives in practical ways, while at the same time aesthetically delighting them.” Exercise for January 1: Compose an allegory, keeping in mind that each of your characters represents an abstract trait.
  • Writing Down Your Soul, by Janet Conner. According to Janet, “There is a voice inside you. There is a Voice inside everyone. Whether you hear it or not, the Voice is there. Whether you acknowledge it or not, the Voice is there. Whether you ask it for help or ignore its guidance, the Voice is still there. Waiting. It is waiting for you to stop, if just for a moment, and listen. The Voice is always there, guiding you, encouraging you, loving you.” This book is about connecting with that Voice. Step one: Show up.
  • John Truby’s The Anatomy of Story, 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller. In Truby’s own words, he will: “Show that a great story is organic–not a machine but a living body that develops; Treat storytelling as an exacting craft with precise techniques that will help you be successful, regardless of the medium or genre you choose; Work through a writing process that is also organic, meaning that we will develop characters and plot that grow naturally out of your original story idea.” Starting point: Developing your premise.
  • Romancing The Ordinary, A Year of Simple Splendor, by Sarah Ban Breathnach. I’ve already gone through this book twice in previous years. I’ve found that her daily passages offer ideas that grab me and get me writing. January 1, Truth or Dare. “Can I challenge you to a dare?” Sarah asks. “Today, stop praying for anything other than the life you have! Join me as we tear up that list of resolutions. You don’t need them anymore. All you have is all you need. But more than that, all you have is all you could possibly want. If you don’t believe it, stick close by me this year and I’ll prove it.”

I have my Mead Composition books ready. I’ve purchased a box of my favorite pens (Precise Needlepoint Rolling Ball V5). All await.

Oh, and did I mention that I also plan to revise at least two of my novels, start an exercise routine, and spend more time working on my yard and with family?

Wish me luck.

You can read more of Margaret’s work, goals, thoughts and wit over at her blog Enter the Between

Welcome Guest Blogger Jackie Buxton!!!

I’m having so much fun this month inviting other writers to blog here. I’m learning about how different we all are and how despite any differences, we are united by this massive-overwhelming-insanity-producing need to write! I love that connection with other writers and I’m still smiling at how both of those (differences/binding ties)  hold true with my newest writer-gal-pal Jackie. I’m thrilled she’s here and I’m stoked to be sharing her post with you…Confessions of a Christmas Writer. Enjoy!


Confessions of a Christmas Writer

Not everybody likes Christmas starting in November.  I respect such frustration, understand the logic but don’t count myself among these protestors.  The anticipation, the decoration, the spendification just can’t start early enough for me.  I’m the dreadful mother who allows her children to play the Christmas CD in the car in September, actively encourages letter writing to Father Christmas and Mother Wrapalot in October and remembers she should have made the Christmas cake in November.  (I write Christmas cards two days before Christmas but that’s another story.)

It’s best when the children break up from school a week early so we can wrap presents together in front of Wife Swap USA, make another batch of mince pies as soon as the next pack of pre-rolled pastry has defrosted and play Winter Wonderland on the piano pretending not to notice the unintentional rhythmical alterations.

I tend to have a tear at the school’s Nativity, even when I can only hear every second word and my own children have long since graduated.  There’s something just so appealing about a three foot Mary.  And I even like the slightly over zealous Vicar pleading with us to stop and think.

I like snowy walks with my family, meeting friends in the pub en route.  I like my presents, scant in number certainly, perhaps not of the highest quality but chosen so very much with me in mind.  I’m wearing those pink USB heated slippers now, for example, reluctant as I am to put on the heating when it’s only me in the house.

I even ‘get’ turkey; fifth day turkey, curried turkey. I read that 86% of people eat turkey only because they feel they ought. I read a tweet about eating duck instead.  I eat duck but I’m not so keen on it curried.  I like, no I love, people coming to stay, leaving late morning after two jugs of coffee and more chat after the chat and wine and food and chocolates of the night before, the children all playing dutifully on the Wii, still in their pyjamas.

Then it’s back to normality.  They all go back – back to work, back to school and I go back to my desk, to starting writing again at 11pm, to going to bed late and waking four hours later with a sense of foggy satisfaction about the volume of words written when the house was quiet.

I miss them all on their first day back: hubbie with his cold, eldest with her hormones, youngest with her scruffy old pinafore when I can’t coax her into one of the skirts which hangs pristine in her wardrobe.

But I have to admit to a small smile as I wave goodbye to the last to leave at 8.45.

And so I run.  I stuff the remaining breakfast items in the dishwasher, yank some sopping clothes from the washer and toss them over the drier, flick on the kettle, write a cheque for the milk, trip over the forgotten PE kit and make my way upstairs to my desk.  I switch on the computer – an unusual phenomenon caught as it is in a perpetual energy loop over the holidays.  I remove plastic heart shaped key rings, miniature playing cards, screwdrivers and whoopee cushions from my desk and replace them with 344 pages of A4 manuscript.

Then I start.  Without interruption.  And slowly but surely, I input all the amendments I’d made on the hard copy of my novel.   I’m changing it around you see.  An agent made some fantastic suggestions after reading the full manuscript and I get the chance to see what I can do with it and send it back to her.  It’s a terrific opportunity and one I mustn’t squander.

After an hour or two I make tea.  I take a few pages of the manuscript with me to read through as the kettle boils and luxuriate in the lack of a call to find the recycled batteries, the guinea pigs’ spare water bottle, the Christmas cake.  After forgetting to eat lunch I set the alarm on my desk to 3.20 to remind me to return to this world before my children get home.

When they’re all back, I smother them with ridiculously large bear hugs.  I’ve missed them, you see, I really have – almost as much as I’d missed my writing over the past couple of weeks.

Happy 2011 everyone!  May it be packed with happy times and chunks of everything you like.

About Jackie:

“One day I woke up and realised that fairies weren’t ever going to pluck my first novel, Misguidance, from my pc, and edit, proof and submit it to agents on my behalf (whilst sprinkling a good dose of influence over my covering letter).  So I took a residential Arvon Course in Novel Writing in May 2006.  Nobody was more surprised than I was to find me writing the beginning and end of my second novel, Glass Houses during the week, spurred on by the course leader, Kathryn Heyman and my peers.

I went home, spoke nicely to my husband, handed in my notice and got properly stuck into Glass Houses.

Kathy Page (Alphabet, The Story of My Face) mentored me through the initial writing stages.  I exchange critiques with Jane Rusbridge (The Devil’s Music) and benefit from the huge friendship and guidance of the writers I met in my time at Authonomy and latterly at Litopia.

My short story, Time to Push, was published in, ‘They Lied!’ by Viva Voce Press, Canada, in March 2004 and Glass Houses was the winner of the Writers’ Billboard First Chapter competition in July.  I’ve won a couple of blogging competitions (honest!) and Glass Houses reached the final 30 of the Brits Unpublished Awards last summer.

After an overload of copywriting work (my bread and butter) and a period of intense editing, I’ve recently re-started submitting Glass Houses to agents.  I’m playing the frustrating, and terrifying, waiting game as one agent is reading the full manuscript and another has given me some great feedback, promising to re-read my offerings once I’ve worked on them.  When I’m not tinkering with Glass Houses, you can frequently find me sobbing at my desk as I delete characters in my massive re-write of Misguidance.

When I’m not writing, I’m running, cycling , singing or sneaking in a few minutes on the piano.  When I’m not doing any of those, I’m doing anything other than cleaning.  I also read, generally in the small hours in a hot, bubbly bath while the rest of my family sleeps.  It’s the ultimate escapism but the books do sometimes fall in.”

You can find Jackie tweeting @jaxbees and read more o f her writing at her blog Jackie Buxton Blogspot .Get to know Jackie, you’ll be so glad you did!

Warm-Writer-Welcome to Heather Webb-Petersen!!!

Well, this post has been a long time coming! My new writer-gal-pal, Heather, has been completely awesome to me, *see me curtsy* and her post is so overdue! Heather helped me out big time when I was in crunching need of betas for a ms I wanted to get out to e- publishers. In the process, we got to be besties, and you know how I like to share my favorite besties, right? So, while I’m bragging up on how much I thoroughly enjoy her, I want to add that she’s a smoking hot beta on top of a blogger, writer, reader extraordinaire.  I shall now make haste and give the floor to the most fabulous of gals: Heather!!!! (Also loving the title of her post and cracking up!)

My Writing is the Shiznit

Self-esteem makes for sucky grammar.  As I type that, spell check is underlining away. That’s right folks, there are BUILT-IN tools for checking spelling and grammar. They’re certainly not infallible, but helpful and correct at least seventy-five percent of the time.  High school students seem completely unaware of these tools. How is that possible in an era of information overload?!  Why are kids confusing subject pronouns with verbs and why, for the love of God, are they handing in assignments riddled with the worst conglomeration of sentences you’ve ever read? …And then they EXPECT an “A”.  The expectation chip on their shoulders is inconceivable. The sense of entitlement they’re kicking around is infuriating.

Creative writing has taken on a whole new look in the form of JOURNAL writing with a capital “J”. Brittney, the Valley Girl, spews her profound inner feelings, complete with Johnny’s slutty prom date, OMGs, and smiley faces; a real work of art.  But it’s uber important for her development that we encourage her to share her feelings for a grade, right?!  I’m not the only teacher who found themselves saying, “Great job, Brittney! You put a period at the end of your sentence. You’re a good person and will go far in life.”  That doesn’t mean it didn’t make me want to vomit.

The heart of my ranting comes from a decade of reading and grading high school students’ creative writing.  It’s not that they aren’t capable of putting together fluid sentences with correct parts of speech.  And make no mistake- this is not necessarily the fault of the teachers involved in the learning process.  Language teachers have hovered over assignments with a dark red pen, groaning while reteaching the basics that should have been taught all along.  They have gagged while “leading kids to discover” grammar structures through “mod” techniques and in their reading, which, ironically, kids aren’t doing. Not unless they’re threatened by grounding, anyway.  So if it’s not the fault of the teachers, and the kids are capable of well-styled writing, then who’s to blame?

I chalk it up to the gray funk of the “self-esteem” movement that has beaten the life out of structure; structure which happens to lead to UNDERSTANDING and beautifully crafted PARAGRAPHS (another concept beyond their reach).  Unfortunately, this nasty little social movement invaded parenting on a wide scale as well.  Lecturing kids without consequences only goes so far, buying a new toy when someone takes theirs doesn’t teach children to stand up for themselves, and allowing unlimited “screen time” doesn’t model how to develop real relationships with people.  The self-esteem movement was designed to encourage us to learn creatively so that we may be individuals.  What it has actually accomplished is letting O.J., ahem…I mean, little Brittney, get away with murder.  Not to mention it’s wreaking havoc on language learning and writing skills across the universe.

On an optimistic note, I’m hopeful that we’ll fight back by rewriting curriculum to include syntax and grammar, we’ll inflict curfews even if they’re “so totally unfair”,  and we’ll work at teaching others to be responsible for their actions! So dear, self-esteem movement, make like Michael Jackson and BEAT IT.

Author Bio:

As a former high school French and Spanish teacher, I’m plenty educated, but find myself jumping into a writing career for which I’ve had little training, save the writing I’ve done since I was a kid.  When I’m not chasing my darling little gremlins, you’ll find me ogling kitchen gadgets, sampling wine, growing the stack of books threatening to take over my house, or on an airplane to my next destination. Like most writers, I read everything I can get my hands on.  My New Year’s resolution is to crank out the last few chapters of my WIP in historical fiction so I may begin seeking representation!  Check out my blog for writing tips, recipes, and pop culture-related rants at http://www.heatherwebb.net/blog or follow me on Twitter @msheatherwebb

Personal note from Julie at the Slush – Follow her. She rocks.

Time To Do the Blog Hop & Follow Friday !!!

It’s time for the Blog Hop & Follow Friday again! I love this part of the week because  I’m meeting so many awesome bloggers, writers, readers *sigh*. So to all of you hopping with me I’m smiling widely like a doofus and waving frantically as always!!

Blog Hop is hosted over at Crazy-for-Books and Follow Friday is hosted at Parajunkee. These memes were created to help make the web smaller, and introduce us bloggers to one another. We can find sites and meet people and follow those we love! We increase our followers and we get some fun new sites to add to our dashboards too. Its a big win-win and I am thrilled to be taking part again this week.

So the question this week at Crazy for Books is: What book has influenced or changed your life?How did it influence/change you?

Well, I hate to say it but this time around, it was Twilight. I know, I know *hangs head*. Please hear me out. I’ve written about this before. I was up at 3am with baby number three and a nearly 5 yr old asleep along side my two year old when I came across the movie on Pay Per View. I was teary eyed and bleary eyed and nursing had me absolutely exhausted. Then, I saw these two teens all googley eyed and blushy and I was captivated. by the end of the movie, I’d already ordered the book from Amazon. Once it arrived, I read it while nursing the baby all night and I didn’t mind being awake for the 4th time in 7 hours. I LOVED it. I was dying to know what could happen to these impossible lovers. My heart ached for a love that could never be fulfilled. Anyway – it was the beginning of my renewed love of words, books and writing. Those things had been long puit aside in pursuit of diaper changes and playdates. For me, reading Twilight was the beginning of something new. I now feel like Julie Anne Lindsey, not Noah’s mom. I love writing, and reading and have made a niche for being me in my life. Thank you Stephenie Meyers.

Parajunkee’s question was: What books have you discovered lately from someone’s book blog?

Well, to tell you the truth, I’ve recently writtern a pararom, but don’t read romance. SO – I found a crazy-fun book blog extensively covering paranormal romance, plus every other kind, I think, but the lady running the show is snarky and feisty and so much fun that I’m stopping by everyday now. I also discovered she has a Wednesday theme called “Hump Day Hotties” where she features a new fella weekly for inspiration LOL. You should stop ASAP. Ha! It’s called Musings From A Chaotic Mind and it’s hosted by someone I like to follow on twitter @NikiBrandyberry

Thanks everyone for stopping by! Leave a comment and tell me if you follow! I always follow back!!!

Slow Heat by Jill Shalvis

Please welcome back new gal-pal and avid-reader-extraordinaire Danielle Hester! Danielle is the super-smart-funny @lush26 if you are a twitterer like myself ;) I met Danielle on twitter and have enjoyed her spunky wit for some time now and then….she offered to guest post for me, Woot! Before I even stopped my dancing, she sent a SECOND review! A followup to last week’s Double Play by Jill Shalvis. I am in blogger heaven and already opening another window to find these on Amazon. Enjoy!

Batter up!!

This is the second book in the series and I loved the first book, Double Play, and I was very happy to discover this one is not only just as good, but better.

Samantha McNead is a PR rep who works for a Major League Baseball team, the Santa Barbara Heat. Not only was Sam born into baseball, but she loves her job and is good at it. Wade O’Riley is the team’s catcher. He’s got a bit of a reputation as a playboy, and there’s been a scandal involving a woman with a false claim that she’s pregnant with his child. The Heat decide Wade needs some good PR for once and Sam is just the woman for the job. She is to pose as his girlfriend for a month. What many people don’t know that one drunken night they slept together. Now with all the pretending, will the two end up involved?

I loved this story!! I fell for Wade from the first book. You could see their was a spark but both were so willing to leave it alone. Wade is a easy-going,  down-to-earth, and giving man despite his fame. Sam, however, was his opposite. She tended to be a little bit on uptight side of things. All in all she loved her job and cared about all the players. I agreed on her reasons to try to fight the relationship with Wade, but Wade would not give up and I loved him more for that. *squee* I enjoyed Sam and Wade’s interaction together. They had a lot of sexual tension, humor and the emotions they experienced. Of course again, Jill Shalvis can bring the laugh out loud humor.

There were a few surprises that were thrown into the book and I loved that. It never had a dull moment. The only thing I felt surprises never really got wrapped up. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to assume everyone lived happily ever after (but I did that anyway). I also was interested in some of the other players and wondering if they will also have a book.

I loved this book more than the first only because I love Wade. I mean who wouldn’t want a sexy former player that turns into a one woman man. Not only that but the way he was with her was sweet. I also found myself saying “awwww” through story. I love stories with happy endings and Jill Shalvis can deliver them.

Slow Heat was a fun, sexy and kept me turning the pages, I can’t recommend this enough.  I really enjoyed it to the very last page. *sigh* Jill Shalvis is always on my to read list.

Thanks Danielle! Awesome review! I know I’m ready to pick this one up and I’ve already popped over to Jill’s site to check her out.  As for Danielle, if you ask, she’ll tell you she loves to read, watch her Yankees play, and then read some more. LOL :) The best thing about all her reading is the site full of her other reviews on books we love and books we need to read! Leave a comment. Stop by her website Lush Book Reviews’s Blog,  and don’t forget to follow on Twitter too!

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