Category Archives: Top 5

Monday’s Top 5

Stephen Watkins has a great post this week where he addresses the various types of ambitions a writer may possess. In many cases, when asked why they write, writers tend to wax poetic about the way they “have to write or they’ll die” and other such over-dramatic statements. While I understand the sentiment, the reality is that we probably have more concrete ambitions with our writing than mere survival. Stephen looks at three types of Writer’s Ambitions, what they mean, and which are most important to him.

Regardless of where our ambitions lie, however, there our times when we have to choose between spending our time writing and spending our time with our families. Tess Hardwick captures that conflict, and the fact that it really isn’t, beautifully in her post It Is Only Now…

Stephanie of Momma Be Thy Name freely admits that she has often been accused of being “overly altruistic, naive, and trusting”. She blames this over-optimistic attitude on Growing Up Sesame and struggles with the questions all parents face:

So what do I teach my children? To be skeptical? To be paranoid? To be distant? To skip down Lollipop Lane oblivious to society’s shortcomings? To steal off to a cabin in the woods and never return?

We’d all like to protect children from the negativity of the world, but how do we do that when we live in a world where language that was once taboo is common place. Heather from Prawn and Quartered touches on this issue in her post Strong Women Are Not (Necessarily) B*tches.

My main objection to the increasingly coarse standards of culture is the desensitization process. If kids see this kind of thing plastered across magazines and TV shows their parents watch, they will think it is acceptable too.

And finally this week, I bring you a great story of fear and redemption. If you have ever visited Bridget at Twinisms, you’d know that she has an aversion to crafts that borders on the phobic. Her take on craft is best summed up by her comment when discussing New Year’s Resolutions: “Take up crafting — Yuck. Don’t be gross.” But despite her distaste, this week finds her not only participating in, but apparently even enjoying, a craft project. How did that happen? Well, let’s just say she was Craftnapped!

I’m not here. My morning and my blog have been hijacked by my so-called-friends. At our Thursday morning coffee they made me do…a craft. It was the worst morning of my life. I can’t talk about it. My “friend” Brooke now has a hot glue gun to my head and her crafty fingers on my MacBook typing out a play-by-play of the awful events.

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Monday’s Top 5 (Better Late than Never)

Yes, I’m a day late. But in all fairness, it’s still Monday somewhere. Probably.

To start us off today, I’d like to once again mention Dan of Making it Up As I Go… He has a very well written and considered article this week about why he is Choosing to Self-Publish. As I’ve mentioned before, I intend to pursue traditional publishing for myself. However, I’m all for self-publishing when it’s done for valid reasons (as opposed to the old “traditional publishers are just trying to rip us off, man!” or “gatekeepers are evil!”). Dan’s post is full of great reasons that he’s taking the self-publishing route, but more importantly (in my opinion) he addresses a question that too many writers completely ignore: Why do you want to be published?

The Surfing Pizza this week brings us a great story about listening to music on vinyl, Living in the Analog World, and finding a rare gem in an unlikely place.

Before even walking in, you can tell this is the perfect kind of bookstore, the kind roughly the size of a closet. At least a master bedroom closet. Old light bulbs with metal filaments give off an apricot glow. Musty wooden shelves press to the ceiling and loom over—or perhaps more accurately, hunch over, like old giants. And if you are quiet, and if you listen carefully, you’ll swear you hear those shelves breathing, the sounds of giants harrumphing over us mere mortals below.

Are you sick of reading New Year’s Resolutions posts yet? I have to admit that I’m not. I love reading about the goals people have for their life and their year. And amongst the resolution-overload, there are always some shiny gems waiting to be discovered. This post from Mommy Rotten (“I’m the mom who makes you feel better about your own mothering. By comparison.”) isn’t really about resolutions, but her Guilty Pleasures make for great January reading. In her own words:

Everybody has them.  Every January I kind of take stock of my guilty pleasures to see if I should or would give any of them up in the interests of making myself a better person.  I usually don’t.  But I thought it might be fun to take you all on this futile journey of self un-improvement with me.

As I’ve mentioned before, I spent my entire school life being bullied. I promised myself back then that I wouldn’t let the same thing happen to my own children. As my eldest son gets ready to start school (two weeks to go!), the subject of bullying and how to empower my children to deal with it, is often on my mind. There are many strategies to ensuring your child doesn’t have a “victim” mentality, including fostering a healthy self-esteem, but what to do when that isn’t enough? Enter the wisdom of Wendy Thomas.  Her post this week details the conversation she had with her daughters about what to do if they are bullied.

“No one has the right to say or do anything that makes you or anyone else feel bad. In the future, if someone says something to you in order to bully you, or if you hear someone say something to someone else specifically to make them feel bad, I want you to let that bully know that his behavior makes you angry. Very angry. I want you to look that person right in the eye and at the top of your lungs I want you to shout – continue reading

And to finish on a lighter note this week, I’d like to draw your attention to Peas and Cougars, where Rae shares her “love” for Captcha verification. Check out her cartoon: Captcha Bitch.

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Monday’s Top 5

My first link this week isn’t a new post. It’s been around for a while. (Since last June, actually.) I first came across it about a month ago, and have seen links to it in various places since then. But that doesn’t mean that (a) everyone’s seen it, and (b) I shouldn’t share it.

Right?

So, to all the writers out there: Ever wanted to find a way to write faster, while simultaneously increasing the quality of your writing? Then Rachel Aaron has the best info around. She shares the method that helped her go from Writing 2,000 Words a Day to 10,000 Words a Day. Note: This is not really about writing a set number of words per day. It’s more about how to use some self-knowledge and research to dramatically increase the quality and quantity of your writing.

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Anthony Lee Collins posted a very interesting article on writing, re-reading, and the importance of having both something important to say and the capacity to say it well. Check out his post about Ellery Queen’s novel The Door Between, Writing in Balance.

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Ever heard of the idea of having a Totem Animal? As Howlin’ Mad Heather explains,  “for those who believe in such things, the totem(s) can serve as a companion through life, a symbol for one’s personality, a reflective spirit for time of trouble.” If I was going to choose a totem animal for myself, it would possibly be a tiger. Or a raven. Or… actually, that may require some more thought. Nevertheless, Heather has a great post on Prawn and Quartered talking about her totem animals and her Life as a Honey Badger.

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It’s not long ago that I discovered Jennifer of Kvetch Mom, and she made my Top 5 lists almost immediately. She continues to amazes me every week (sometimes every day) with her insightful and beautifully written prose. This week alone, she had three posts that could have made it into my list of favourites. But in choosing one, I couldn’t go past this sweet, tear-inducing story about her son. Here’s a brief excerpt from Everything Possible:

I asked if he still played with any of the boys he used to mention on occasion. He said, Not really. I’m different from them. Twisting my thumb gently, he buried his head against my shoulder. That’s okay, I said. I pretend like I’m friends with the boys so they won’t notice, he said softy. And then, Sometimes I like girly things. His breath warmed my chest as he waited for my response.

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Finally, I’d like to welcome Bridget of Twinisms to my Top 5 list. (Seriously — if you’re not following her blog yet, you’ve got absolutely no excuse.) As you may be aware, her husband deployed to Afghanistan a couple of months ago. She’s now counting down the days until he returns, with only her two sets of twins, her battle buddies, and a house full of boxed wine for company. When her Army-wife friend asked for her advice for a spouse dealing with their partner’s first deployment, Bridget whipped up a little something titled Deployment Advice.  This is not just great reading for Army wives — it should be essential reading for everyone. She’s got advice on Communication, Helping your Kids, Keeping your Sanity, and more.

Remember Murphy’s Law of Deployment. As soon as your soldier leaves, everything will break. The car, the dryer, the toilet. It happens to all of us. It’s not just you. The Gods aren’t  plotting against you, I promise.

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And I realise that’s my 5 already done, but I’d also like to leave you with this great clip. It’s so inspiring I could watch it over and over and over again.

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Monday’s Top 5

Welcome to the first Top 5 of a brand new year. This week has obviously been a time for introspection and reflection for many people. I had so many great blog posts to read, that choosing my top 5 was quite difficult. I hope you enjoy the ones I finally decided upon.

In the writing blogosphere this week, most people were either (a) silent, or (b) looking at their goals for the upcoming year. (I’ll be doing that myself tomorrow!) But a post from one writer stood out from the crowd when he talked about the importance of having unique holidays in Sci Fi and Fantasy books. Dan Thompson blogs at Making It Up As I Go, and regularly has insightful and interesting posts related to spec fic genres. Martian Holidays really made me stop and think about my own writing, and how I could improve the authenticity of the worlds I create. In his words:

In SF and fantasy, we often talk about that sense of not here and not now. It both takes us to another realm as well as provides fuel for our willing suspension of disbelief. After all, anything is possible on St. Carter’s Day, right? But these holidays have to be more than Christmas in disguise, where sarcastic St. Mick brings broken toys to all the bratty kids on his gazelle-powered flying stagecoach. Otherwise, they’re, well… lame. Like a silver aluminum tree with too much tinsel and not enough candy canes.

Meanwhile, Julie of Freckles and Fickle Take Over the World was thinking about a completely different type of book. Starting with the sentence:

Around my junior year in college, I officially got my own “place” (read: crappy apartment), and my grandmother gave me my very first Betty Crocker Cookbook. 

Julie takes us on a beautiful journey of Wilma & Betty. Her grandmother, Wilma, may have been no Betty (” It wasn’t at all uncommon to look in her cupboards and see a can of pears right next to the teacups, or to check for toothpaste in a bathroom drawer and find an arbitrary supply of batteries.”), but she sounds like exactly the type of grandmother anyone would be lucky to have.

Speaking of beautiful journeys, the Worrywart takes us on a journey of another type. When she and her husband went for a walk through a ritzy neighbourhood to get some dinner, she didn’t expect to end up looking like a homeless, delusional lady sitting on a bench outside a fancy restaurant. So while her post may have been titled Is This Any Way to House A Soul, it’s really a series of ruminations of the importance of not wanting for the sake of wanting. After all,

The only home that matters is the one we are walking around in, the one that houses our soul, this shell we call our body. In that sense, I am wanting. Not for beauty or perfection (or even anything remotely close to perfection – not even unjiggliness – I can live with jiggly – I’d be perfectly happy with the ideal weight of a six foot tall big-boned woman . . . or man), but just a decent place for my soul to live. Something healthy, strong, that can get up when it falls down – preferably something that doesn’t fall down (and I’d also like this body housing my soul to live in Paris for awhile).

This post from Critters and Crayons isn’t new. It was written and posted in September. However, I wasn’t following this amazing blog back then, and so when it was chosen by the author as her best post of 2011, I went back and read it. And wow. Just wow. The Best Ballet Recital Ever is not just a story of a child’s love for ballet transformed from excitement to disdain and back to joy — it is all of that, but it’s also so much more. This is the story of every man, woman and child who has ever taken a wrong turn in life, and been brave enough to admit defeat and change course; of every person who has rediscovered a simple joy they thought was gone forever.

And finally, a post that’s aimed squarely at the ladies in the audience. Stephanie from Momma Be Thy Name Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man. If you feel the same about the man in your life, you may possibly recognise some of this behaviour:

Predictive Discussion:  Conversations based solely on the one word I said that he heard. Me: Are you going to rearrange the baby seats in the van today? Him: Yes, I know she’s up. I’ll go get her!

Selective Narcolepsy: Only takes effect while watching anything I like, when I’m driving, or at other people’s houses.

It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint: Because every domestic activity requires an hour of rest in between, right?

 

 

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Monday’s Top 5

I have to admit, I don’t play many computer/console games. But I do love a good story. Storytelling in games has advanced rapidly over the last decade. Instead of the action-packed, will he/won’t he narrative of an intrepid frog crossing a busy highway and crocodile-infested river to get home, we now have sandbox-style games with strong characterisation, back-story, twists and turns, and a final reveal/confrontation. And, like with all forms of storytelling, there’s a lot writers can learn from computer games.

You may remember Patrick O’Duffy from last week’s Top 5. He spent the last two weeks playing Batman: Arkham City, and then wrote a fabulous post about it. It’s not a review (although he does talk about what he does and doesn’t like) but rather a look at the lessons on storytelling and narrative structure that can be taken from the game. In his own words:

But as of yesterday I have finished the game (both the core plotline and the host of side missions) and having done so I think there’s a lot to consider from a writing POV about the way the game handles its stories and characters. Arkham City does some things right and some things wrong – more the latter than the former, to be honest – and a lot of that is pretty directly applicable to writing fiction. So let’s step away from the fact that the game is a lot of fun and features my favourite character and see what else we can learn from it.

Check out Patrick O’Duffy’s Arkham City — the writing dos and don’ts. (Warning: Spoilers abound, so bookmark and read it later if you’re still playing the game.)

For those of us who live work exist in peruse the writing blogosphere, there was a massive furor when Farhad Manjoo published an article on Slate titled “Don’t Support Your Local Bookstore”. Type that phrase into google, and I’m sure you’ll find at least seven bajillion angry responses. If Manjoo’s intention was to cause a stir, he certainly succeeded. Of those seven bajillion responses, I’d like to share with you two.

Literary agent Sarah LaPolla responded with Jocks vs. Nerds. She suggests that Manjoo is trying to create a divide between the I-Hate-Amazon and the Amazon-is-King camps (a’la nerds and jocks), and puts forward the idea that there is a huge swathe of middle ground that he’s forgetting:

Manjoo fails to see that you can sip your soy latte and be a member of the NRA and shop at Whole Foods and vote Republican. Not everyone needs to be one thing, and not everyone has to want only one thing from their bookstore. Manjoo isn’t just telling us to respect Amazon for what it is. He’s saying it’s the only way to shop, and that even if you’re able to support local businesses, you shouldn’t because if you do you’re nothing but an out-of-touch, overly romantic hippie who doesn’t get how business works. 

Anthony Lee Collins isn’t so much responding to Manjoo’s article as responding to the extreme anger that arose in its aftermath. He is a writer and an avid reader, but (as he puts it):

I love words. I love stories. But I don’t love books. I like books – they’ve been the main way I’ve received words and stories until recently – but I’m not attached to them as items.

I think this love of books vs love of stories is one of the core differences between the people who fanatically support indie bookstores and the people who fanatically support Amazon — and a concept that seems to have been forgotten in the argument up to this point. So thank you Anthony for sharing that you are (Mostly) Not sentimental about books.

If people get their knickers in a knot talking about which form of book shopping is their favourite, you can bet that the question of which child is your favourite is an even tougher one. Come on, you know you’ve asked your Mum if you’re her favourite. As Aussie comedian Fiona O’Loughlin says: If your mother tells you she doesn’t have a favourite, she’s lying. It’s just not you.

Jennifer of Kvetch Mom has three children, and has had to come up with her own answer to this question. In her case it’s, “You are all my favorites! (Cough, cough, bullshit, cough, cough.)” Her post, You Are My Favorite, is funny, touching, and considers an aspect of parenting that we’re supposed to pretend doesn’t exist:

The thing about parenthood is, you don’t know who you’re going to click with when you have kids. You will love each child fiercely, but your interpersonal dynamics may be challenging with some. No one really talks about this, but for me it is true. I think it’s a lot easier to parent a kid who doesn’t jangle your nerves. Or remind you of your crazy uncle.

Finally, did I mention that I’ve got a post featured in Momma’s Twelve Days of Christmas? Right. I did. Well, I’m not the only one. Karyn Gallagher also has a guest post as part of the Christmas Celebrations. But, unlike mine, Karyn’s story is heartfelt and touching — a true Christmas miracle. I warn you: I cried for a solid ten minutes during/after reading this story. Tears of compassion and understanding and joy. Her story is that beautiful. Please go and read about The Gift. And have a tissue handy.

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Monday’s Top 5 (Tis the Season for Blogging Awards)

I’m going to assume that December is the month for sharing the Blogging Goodwill through awards. I have to do that or my ego will explode. This week I’ve been awarded another 3 awards. So before we start, let me say a big thank you to the following bloggers:

Jim Franklin of Zombie Chimp awarded me the Kreativ Blogger award. Jim has a great blog that is equal parts writing and computer/console gaming. While I’m not into gaming myself, I know a lot of people who are (my husband included), and I find that reading his non-writing posts is like having my own gaming crib sheet.

Emma of Mayfair Mum awarded me the Versatile Blogger award. Mayfair Mum is a great blog, focused mainly on parenting and the life of a down-to-earth Mum living in the UK. In Mayfair, I assume. Emma is also a writer, and brings her own unique voice and style to her blogging. 

Kay Hudson also awarded me the Versatile Blogger award. Kay is… one of those people who truly are one in a million. I am profoundly grateful to have run across her in the blogosphere. She largely blogs about the books she’s reading, the ones she’s writing, and her experiences with the RWA. In times past, she was an archaeologist, and I can’t help but imagine her as some kind of well-read, immaculately groomed, romance-writing, female Indiana Jones.

Thanks again to all three of you. I highly recommend everyone else click through to check out their blogs (if you don’t follow them already).

Once again, I’m going to ignore the part of the award that says I should tell you about myself. First, this is my blog: that’s all I ever do. Second, I’ve done it before. But I am going to award the bloggers on my Top 5 list the:

Kreativ Versatility Squared Award

Jim Franklin of Zombie Chimp shares his Ten Tips of NaNo Novel Writing. After participating in (and winning) his first NaNoWriMo in November, Jim has some fantastic tips to share. Not the all-too-common “I just copied and pasted song lyrics to make my word count ha ha ha” NaNo advice. This is really good stuff. And although these are all things Jim learned during NaNo, the advice is good all year round. My personal favourite?

The plot is your bitch not your pimp, it works for you and not the other way around.

Patrick O’Duffy has a short Q & A with YA author Foz Meadows. This is one of the most interesting interviews I’ve ever read. Not because I’m a fan of Foz Meadows (I admit that I’d never heard of her before), or because of the way she sells her book, but because the conversation turns to a discussion of YA as a genre (is it really a genre at all?) and the social issues surrounding YA fiction these days. For example:

I find it hard to say sincerely what attracts me to YA fiction, because as much as I’ve just been calling it a genre, it also sort of isn’t. No other genre has its conventions gauged by the status of its (supposed) intended readership, because such a factor has nothing to do with narrative structure and everything to do with backward inference. Saying ‘geek fiction’ instead of SFF, for instance, conveys information about who, in my subjective estimation, such books are written for, but nothing about what they actually say.

Stephanie from Momma Be Thy Name has put together an amazing event in the lead-up to Christmas — Momma’s 12 Days of Christmas. This involves 12 guest posts, Elf Pack giveaways (all you have to do is comment on a Christmas post), and a whole heap of fun. I’m pleased to say that I will be providing some of that fun next weekend when I reveal my Tips for Surviving a Hot Christmas.  In the meantime, I highly encourage you to check out Momma Be Thy Name for your daily dose of Christmas spirit. (Although I warn you, it’s not likely to be all sugar plums and candy canes.) Today’s guest blogger is Mommy Rotten with her post: Santa Claus: Kind of an Asshole. Enjoy.

Critters and Crayons is a blog written by an amazing freelance writer and mother of two adorable children. Two adorable children who had a Rapid Lesson in Sharing this week. This story is simply written and I could pictured every moment of it. She had me from the opening line:

This morning, we awoke to noise. The toy cash register was at the heart of a loud sharing battle between our three and four year olds.

Finally, as the mother of two boys, I am painfully aware of exactly how true this post is. Tony of Stuff Boys Do shares lesson #31 in parenting boys: they Use WAY Too Much. Of what? Of everything.

Congratulations on winning the Kreativ Versatility Squared Award. Please do with it as you will.

Also, I’d like to finish by saying a HUGE Happy Birthday to the December 12 Saggitarians in my life:

Happy Birthday to my wonderful, supportive husband who turned 38 today.

Happy Birthday to my Mum, who doesn’t read my blog but is amazing nonetheless.

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Monday’s Top 5 (All Award the Blogging Train)

This week’s Top 5 is a little different. Over the last two weeks, I’ve been fortunate enough to receive not one, not two, not even three, but FOUR blogging awards. Clearly I’m a cross between a superhero and a rock star. So I’d first like to thank the lovely, talented people who bestowed these awards on me.

Speaker7 of the hilarious Ramblings and Rumblings gave me the Liebster “ham steak” Blogging Award.

Both Emerald Barnes and Happiness After Heartache awarded me the Liebster Blog Heart Award.

Mayfair Mum passed on the Tell Me About Yourself Award.

Thank you to all four of you. (And I thoroughly recommend everyone jumping over and checking out these four blogs. They’re all awesome.

In the spirit of combining these awards with my usual Monday’s Top 5 post, I hereby officially decree that the following 5 bloggers will receive not just fame and acclaim, but also the (newly created)

Tell Me About Your Liebster Ham Steak Heart Award.

On to the winners.

 Any muses out there listening? Just one small request.
A quick couple thoughts and then you can rest.

Click over to K. Marie Criddle’s blog for the rest of A Writer’s Plea. I guarantee you’ll love it.

Thinking of being a full-time writer? Connor Rickett gives the low-down on the (not so) glamorous life of a writer in his Short Bio of a (Thus Far Unsuccessful)  Writer.

D.W. of dwwriter has decided that, in between her writing over the next twelve months, she will also be Walking to Rivendell. Go have a read, and maybe you’d like to join her on her expedition — which she plans to celebrate with an all-day Lord of the Rings marathon. (You don’t have to be a writer to participate, just someone interested in a little LotR-inspired fitness.)

Elspeth Cooper wrote a fantastic response to the New Yorker’s article Dragon’s Egg – high fantasy for young adults. While she’s quick to point out that the original article is very well written, it insinuates (quite heavily) that all fantasy is for children. Elspeth’s rebuttal is well-crafted and to the point. Click through and have a read.

And on to less serious (and more hilarious) topics: Bridget from Twinisms had me laughing for over 24 hours straight with her Speak and Spell post. If you’ve got children, or you’ve ever seen children, go and have a read. *chortle* eat yoghurt with their hands…

Congratulations to K. Marie, Connor, D.W., Elspeth, and Bridget for taking out the first ever

Tell Me About Your Liebster Ham Steak Heart Award.

The rules:

  1. Add an extra word to the blog award name.
  2. Blog about it on your own blog.
  3. Pass the new award on to as many bloggers as you think deserve it.
  4. Or don’t. It’s a free country, man. Whatever.

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