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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

Author Kristan Hoffman celebrated her 26th birthday this week. I’m not sure what she did out in the Real World, but here in the blogosphere she wrote a Letter to Herself. It’s a great read for everyone, culminating in these words of wisdom:

Don’t try to predict what will happen, or put your life on a schedule. Just work hard, have fun, and be kind. If you do that, everything will follow in its own way and its own time.

Today Call Me Lucky, says Julie of byanyothername. But after reading this post, I’d have to say that I’m the lucky one — for getting to bask in her beautiful, inspiring writing. Although I read nigh on one hundred Thanksgiving posts, this is the one that really stood out.

Have you been to Taryn’s blog, Mama’s Got Wanderlust? She’s a brave woman, travelling the globe with a toddler in tow. After living and working in Moscow for a while, she and her darling daughter have moved to Beijing. Unfortunately, her amazing husband has had to stay in Moscow for a while to complete his work contract. But no matter how exciting it is to be living in China, and how settled they get, there’s still something missing. Her House is Not a Home.

Stephanie from Momma Be Thy Name has a great post this week that struck a chord — and, I’ve no doubt, a nerve — in a lot of people. She mourns the Devolving Friendships and Other Consequences of Having a Family. This is certainly something I’ve noticed, especially since the birth of my second son. Having children changes your outlook, your interests (by force if not by choice), and your vocabulary (Suddenly talking about breasts isn’t X-Rated, and half your conversation revolves around bodily functions.) Although it’s natural to want to hang out with people who have the same interests and speak the same language, it’s sad to experience the end of an era.

My last pick this week is brought to you by Emma of Mayfair Mum. She’s written a fabulous post titled Tribute to the Choir: Military Wives – May Their Courage Never Cease. She talks about her reaction to BBC’s The Choir, and the bravery shown by the wives of deployed soldiers.

…has taught those of us complacently sitting at home that even while we live in peace with our neighbours and without the threat of imminent nuclear war, there are brave English forces and their families who trained to be the best, do their best, and give the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

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Monday’s Top 5

K. Marie Criddle is back this week with an awesome drawg about an early piece of epic experimental writing from her youth: “Blah blah blah,” drawgged moi.

Speaking of awesomely funny cartoons, check out Rae from Peas and Cougars with her post Hugs Bite.

Speaker7 is once again hilariously amazing this week. I actually had trouble choosing which of her posts to include in my Top 5. (I swear she gets funnier and funnier just to make my life difficult!) In the end, I had to go with The Sexiest Blog Alive!

On more serious topics, the famous (infamous?) Kim Pugliano from The G is Silent blogged about her reaction to witnessing her son being bullied. In her post, Mother Bear or Over-Stepping?, she ponders whether her actions were helpful, harmful or none of the above.

And rounding out an all-female Top 5 this week, I bring you an emotionally-charged post from Bridget at Twinisms. My heart goes out to her and her family as they prepare for her husband’s year-long deployment in a few weeks. If you’ve wondered what it feels like to be the brave woman waving goodbye to her soldier and hoping he comes back with his shield (and not on it), please click through and read about how Bridget is Running Out Of Time.

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Monday’s Top 5

I was fortunate to have my sister visiting for a few days this week, which was an absolute blast. Much food and beer was consumed, and very little sleep was had. The only downside to her visit was that when I logged on to the internet this morning for the first time in five days, I had 179 unread items in Google Reader.

Yes, 179.

The smart thing to do would have been to mark them all as read. But if I’d done that, how could I have provided my wonderful readers with this week’s Top 5 list? Ah, the sacrifices we make…

The majority of writing-related posts this week were about NaNoWriMo in one way or another (either “I Quit”, “I’m behind”, or “I love this, I’m so far ahead, I’m so awesome!”). I really wanted to find something a bit different, though. Those people doing NaNo are probably too busy to be reading extra blogs, and those who aren’t are probably sick of reading about it.

So the first writing post this week is one by Jami Gold titled What Makes a Story Feel Unrealistic, where she explores some of the potential pitfalls in helping your readers suspend their disbelief.

Ever feel like Writer’s Block is hovering just around the corner, just waiting for you? Then check out this hilarious post on Peas and Cougars.

Laura Stanfill shares some interesting and clever tidbits about the Oregon Zoo’s penguins and their #OccupyPolarBears demands.

In a change of pace, Tricia from Critters and Crayons guest posts on Twinisms with What My Kids Taught Me About Leading. This is an absolutely amazing post, full of honesty and compassion. Tricia discusses the Decision Matrix she used to make the decision to move from being a woman in the military to a working mother, and then a Stay At Home Mum, and reflects on the things she’s learned about leadership since her children were born.

Finally, Chris White has a beautiful post celebrating his second wedding anniversary, where he leads the reader through the journey of him meeting his wife, and why he’s now A Changed Man. Happy Anniversary, Chris and Heidi.

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Monday’s Top 5

Is it just me, or has it been a bit quiet in the blogosphere this week? Maybe it’s because people are still recovering from Halloween, or getting ready for Thanksgiving, or (if you’re like me) enjoying the beautiful spring weather and spending time outdoors. Maybe it’s because half the internet seems to be either taking part in NaNoWriMo or explaining why they’re not. Or maybe it’s just that Bridget of Twinisms has gone off on her Honeymoon, and while she’s sub-let her blog to a stream of talented and funny ladies, she’s not keeping up with her obvious first priority in life — entertaining the masses.

Nevertheless, there are some great blog posts around this week that you really must read.

In the only NaNo-themed post I’m sharing, Patrick O’Duffy talks about how to Disarm the NaNoWriMo trap. What’s the trap, you ask? In Patrick’s words:

The trap is thinking that NNWM is enough; that it’s the end of a process, rather than the beginning. That’s the spiked-pit-filled-with-piranha that leads people to spend the first of December slapping a crudely Photoshopped cover onto their just-finished manuscript, uploading the file to the Kindle Store and then wondering why no-one downloads it.

Stephen Watkins had a great post this week about Writing Prose as Poetry, where he recasts some of the openings of his short stories into lines of poetry by playing with line breaks. Not only is this a fascinating idea, some of his new “poems” are just fantastic. (I played with my openings, and wasn’t nearly as successful.)

Two of my favourite writers teamed up this week when Dalya Moon guest blogged on Alexis’s Bunny Ears and Bat Wings. For anyone interested in self-publishing, Dalya’s post about How to Get Book Bloggers to Review Your Book is essential reading.

Moving on to things non-writing related (other than the fact this is written on a blog), I give you Kim Pugliano’s philosophical statement: I’m a Mom, Therefore I Worry.

And finally, please go and read Abigail’s post Today a Telemarketer Made Me Cry on Oh My Words! I promise — if you cry, it will only be because you’re laughing so much.

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Monday’s Top 5

Happy Halloween to all those celebrating today. (I won’t be, for reasons I stated here.) But keeping to the spirit of history and tradition that surrounds the holiday, I would like to direct you to a great post from Alan Baxter about the history of Halloween: More than Candy.

Brian D. Buckley impressed again this week with his list of essential behaviours if you’re going to be a struggling artist full of self-loathing. Hating Yourself: A Guide is full of great advice if you want to dramatically and permanently decrease your self-esteem.

Speaking of advice, Vivacia shares the Top 10 Things I Learned Writing a First Draft on A Wannabe Writer’s Blog. (Note: This advice is both serious and helpful.)

Connor Rickett of Cities of the Mind shares his experience when he takes a break from writing to watch the sun rise from the top of a nearby hill. While there, he witness something that inspires him to write:

I just don’t get this obsession with half-experiencing things. Not just missing them because they’re inconvenient, which is somewhat forgivable, but inconveniencing yourself in order to miss them, like this guy. It’s like paying extra to fly coach.

This blog is such a regular in my Top 5 lists, speaker7 should need no introduction. On Ramblings and Rumblings this week, she blogs about an invention that will change the world as we know it. Click through and read all about being Forever Immobolized in Fleece. Here’s a little sample of what to expect:

I feel that this invention is up there with the printing press, lightbulb and Paris Hilton in terms of how it will revolutionize life as we know it. We are now this close (put your thumb and index finger about a tenth of an inch away) to being the humans in Wall-E.

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