Friday, May 22, 2015

Instagram Love Fest

My most recent post on Instagram: Crema in Minneapolis.
My latest favorite social media is Instagram. Yeah, I know it's not new, but my iPhone is and hot dang, does that beast take some fan-freaking-tastic pix. What I love most about Instagram is that it makes me feel artsy. I suppose I could get that same effect by whipping out some Crayolas and banging away with them on a large sheet of paper, but this seems just a tic more sophisticated than that.

Another reason I love this site is because it draws readers to your books. No, really. And without even having to whap them over the head with a huge BUY MY BOOK stick. People see your photos, get a feel for who you are, and eventually toodle their way over to your website. Then let the whapping begin.

Love number three is that I get a peek into the lives of some of my favorite authors just by following them. Example? I've learned that Laura Frantz cooks some amazing southern dishes.

I also love the creative ways that people use Instagram. Bibliophile Jakub Pavlovský uses his account simply to encourage the love of reading. He posts pix of himself reading a book in a variety of places such as a bank vault, a subway station, in the rubble of a building, on pallets of cement mix, and more.

There's a lot to love about Instagram so try it out yourself. And feel free to check out my account HERE.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Summer Reads

Want to know what Bill Gates is tossing into his beach bag this summer?

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
The Magic of Reality by Richard Dawkins
What If? by Randall Monroe
On Immunity by Eula Biss
How to Live with Statistics by Darrell Huff
Should We Eat Meat? by Vaclav Smil

Huh. There are a few funny things about his list. First off, there's no Brentwood's Ward on it. And secondly, not one of those titles is on my summer reading list. Here's what I've got in my stacks . . .


Price of Privilege by Jessica Dotta
     Having finally discovered the truth of her birthright, Julia Elliston is determined to outwit Chance Macy at his own game. Holding a secret he’d kill to keep, however, is proving more difficult than she imagined.
     Just when Julia thinks she’s managed to untangle herself from Macy’s clutches, he changes tactics with a risky ploy. As the scandal of the century breaks loose, drawing rooms all over London whisper what so far newspapers have not dared to print: Macy’s lost bride is none other than Lord Pierson’s daughter―and one of the most controversial cases of marital law ever seen comes before Victorian courts.
     Though Julia knows Macy’s version of events is another masterful manipulation, public opinion is swaying in his favor. Caught in a web of deceit and lies, armed only with a fledgling faith, Julia must face her fiercest trial yet.

Wonder by Travis Thrasher
     As the town of Appleton is rocked by the death of a teenager, the high school year begins under a dark shadow. Brandon continues to pursue Marvel while trying to discover what she believes will happen to her. It’s easy to fall more in love with her. It’s easy to forget she thinks God told her she will have to sacrifice herself to save others. But Brandon can’t forget about the shapeless evil that seems to watch him around corners and seep through the streets of his town. Strange things start to occur to Brandon. He starts looking for clues about the dead student, thinking this might be related to whatever evil Marvel is talking about. He also continues to battle against the guys picking on a nerdy senior named Seth Belcher. Marvel falls in love with Brandon, and he truly accepts her faith even though he doesn’t understand what to make of it. Something is growing in the darkness. Something is coming. Will Brandon be able to stand up against the malice that draws ever closer? Will he be able to save Marvel from the horrors to come?

A Stranger's Secret by Laurie Alice Eakes  
     As a grieving young widow, Morwenna only wants a quiet life for herself and her son. Until a man washes ashore, entangling her in a web of mystery that could threaten all she holds dear.

The Blooding by James McGee
     Matthew Hawkwood, soldier turned spy, is stranded behind enemy lines, in America, a country at war with Britain. Heading for the safety of the Canadian border, Hawkwood's route takes him to Albany where the chance sighting of a former comrade-in-arms - Major Douglas Lawrence - within a consignment of British prisoners puts paid to his plans. For as the two men make their escape they uncover an American plot to invade Canada. If it is successful, the entire continent will be lost. The British authorities must be warned. Pursued by a relentless enemy, Hawkwood and Lawrence set off across the snow-bound Adirondack Mountains; the land the Iroquois call 'The Hunting Grounds'. But they are not alone. Buried deep in Hawkwood's past is an old alliance - one that could save both their lives and help turn the tide of war...


Save the Cat by Blake Snyder
     This ultimate insider's guide reveals the secrets that none dare admit, told by a show biz veteran who's proven that you can sell your script if you can save the cat!

That's what's on my list. What's on yours?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

Do you ever have a particular emotion, a certain kind of feeling, but can't find a word to describe it? Like think about when you first walk into a bookstore. There's nothing like that feeling . . . but what the heck do you call it? Never fear, have I found the site to solve that little dilemma.

The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows is a site self-described as "a compendium of invented words" with the express purpose of giving a name to emotions we all experience, those that up to this point in time, have not been identified. Here are some examples . . .

A kind of melancholic trance in which you become completely absorbed in vivid sensory details—raindrops skittering down a window, tall trees leaning in the wind, clouds of cream swirling in your coffee

The sense that time keeps going faster.

The awareness of how little of the world you'll experience in your lifetime.

The desire to care less about things—to loosen your grip on your life.

The fear that everything has already been done.

And last, but not least, my personal favorite:

The strange wistfulness of used bookstores, which are somehow infused with the passage of time—filled with thousands of old books you’ll never have time to read, each of which is itself locked in its own era, bound and dated and papered over like an old room the author abandoned years ago, a hidden annex littered with thoughts left just as they were on the day they were captured.

Pop on over to The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows and check out some new words for yourself.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Why Are Book Covers So Important?

Oh, stop shouting. I hear you. "Duh, Michelle! Everyone knows the purpose of a book cover is to sell the dang thing. That's why it's so important. Now take your ball and go home because no one wants to play with an idiot."

To which I reply, "Hold up there, Hoss. Sure, the sales aspect is valid, but there are other reasons a book cover is important. So pipe down and listen up. You just might learn a thing or five."

5 Reasons Why Book Covers Are Important

No, not as in you can whap someone over the head with it. A book cover's most functional job is to protect the brilliant writing within. It holds together and protects the pages.

Status Symbol
You are what you read . . . or at least that's what other people think when they see you toting a book. Other's perceptions of you will be very different depending upon if you walk around with a copy of War and Peace under your arm or if it's a Harlequin romance.

Even if Martha Stewart isn't your middle name (and if it is . . . wow, stinks to be you), books are part of a living room's decor, or family room, or wherever it is that you keep your books. A coffee table wouldn't be complete without a gorgeous book sitting on it.

I'm never one to arrive late to a movie because I love to see the movie trailers. A book cover is like that, giving you a bit of a teaser for the story inside.

A cozy mystery cover is distinctly different from a bodice ripper, and a cover gives you that information at a glance.

Book covers do have a pretty full agenda besides simply being a marketing tool, which honestly makes me glad I'm not a designer. Way too much pressure.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Death Knell of Trying Too Hard

Last night the other mammals of my pack and I loaded into the family truckster and toodled off to a drive-in movie. Yep. They still exist. First up on the screen was an animated flick called Home. My review: el stinko.

Not that the animation wasn't great. It was. In fact, this movie had all the ingredients of what makes a memorable family-friendly classic . . . a young girl on a quest to find her mother. An underdog hero who turns into a champion. Humor sprinkled throughout the whole end-of-the-world type of plot. So why the stink bomb rating?

It was trying too hard.

Even though all the elements for a great story were there, it still fell flat because they were just that. Elements. Like the writer simply ticked off the boxes on a writerly checklist. There was no risk. No freshness. No soul. The writer was clearly striving for perfection instead of simply reveling in telling a story.

What's the fix for this? While you're writing your first draft, forget about the audience and delight in the storyworld.

"It's better to write for yourself and have no public,
than to write for the public and have no self."

Readers can tell when you're trying too hard. Perfection is not the end goal. Authenticity is. Be yourself in your writing, because there's no one else who can say it like you.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Night Vision

I’ve always wanted a pair of night vision glasses.
It would be pretty sweet to see in the dark,
to not bump into a wall,
or trip over a shoe,
or be able to see the creepy killer monster and run the other way.
But what if there were a spiritual version available?
Night vision goggles that worked in daylight as well,
letting you see the demons, the angels,
Jesus at work.
Would I be bold enough to put them on,
or would I rather remain in the ignorant safety of the blind?
And yet,
every time I read more of God’s word, dwell on its meaning,
my eyes see a little sharper,
distinguish things more clearly.
Maybe night vision isn’t an outward pair of glasses
but an inward cleaning of the lens of the soul.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Forgotten Art of Handwritten Letters

Guess what I got in the mail this week. No, not another credit card application or an invitation from AARP. Not even a twofer pizza dealio or yet another bank statement that I'll just ignore. I got a letter. A for-real, bonafide, not-a-crappy-piece-of-junk-mail handwritten letter. And it was a dang glorious feeling as I slit open the envelope and pulled out a swirly-twirly cursive greeting just for me. Why would someone take the trouble or why should you put the effort into sending just such a note to someone else?

5 Reasons Why You Should Send a Handwritten Note

1. It shows that you care.
It takes like two seconds to pop off a text or shoot an email to someone. Making the effort to lug out a notecard, address and stamp an envelope, and jot down your sentiments longhand shows the recipient that you really do care about them.

2. A letter is timeless.
Handwritten cards don't disappear when a computer crashes or the electricity goes kaputz. Think about all the letters preserving history in museums.

3. It makes you, the writer, feel good.
Besides the satisfaction of knowing you're going to make someone very happy, science links note writing to happiness.

4. It requires you to unplug, even if only for a little while.
Your eyeballs will thank you, and so will your brain as you focus without popping over to Facebook or Twitter.

5. It develops patience.
In the age of instant everything, writing a letter forces you to slow down.

So, go ahead. Grab some stationery and make someone's day. Need some ideas? 
Post off a note to:
- a parent
- a sibling
- a friend you haven't seen in ages
- a former co-worker or an old boss
- a neighbor you moved away from years ago

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