January 31, 2011

Teachers, I Need Your Help!

Are you, or have you ever been, a teacher of grades 3 – 6? Then I need your help.  I’m putting together a teacher’s guide for my novel The Weaver. One problem, I’ve never been a teacher.  Would you mind taking a few short moments to dash off an email to me about one thing (or two if you’d like) you’ve most loved in a past guide you’ve used with your students?  I don’t need tons of details, but I’d love to hear what WORKS for you in the classroom.

Please pass this message on if you know someone who might be interested in giving their input. My email is kaistrand (at) yahoo (dot) com. Of course it needs to be formatted correctly, but I’m hoping to avoid those spam bots as much as possible.

Thanks so much for your help!

Recents

I admit, there are times I feel like maybe I'm just in a really good mood and that's why I really like the books I read during that time period.  But I'm pretty sure the authors are actually the ones responsible for the praise, not my moods.
Recent Reads

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkinshumble rating: Golf Clap+ – There really wasn’t anything original about this story, so why did I like it so much?  Maybe it is the spunky main character. I loved her voice. Ending was kinda frustrating, but I’ll get over it.









Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clarehumble rating: Motivational Speaker – This book is chock full of mystery and suspense and anticipation. I was left wanting in a delicious though frustrating way. Guess I’ll have to read The Mortal Instruments Series now.









Entice by Carrie Jones - humble rating: (for this book) Motivational Speaker – Major fan girl gush going on here. I’m pretty upset with Carrie Jones for making me care so much about her strange world of pixies and wereanimals. (Total jealousy thing. I want people to feel this way about my characters and their lives). This is one of those books that I missed when I couldn’t be reading it.  I’m gobsmacked by the improvement in the story through the series.  So much so that I am going to do a CRAZY thing and award Carrie Jones a Rock Concert rating for the series development. There is so much I would like to say to her about how much I love Zara and Astley and Issie and Betty, but really, I’m feeling kinda embarrassed, so now I will stop. 

My own humble rating system: Please feel free to ask for clarification or to dispute my opinion.  I only ask that we ALWAYS remain respectful to the author.

Chirping Cricket – At the end all you hear is the chirp of the cricket.  I doubt I’ll ever use this because I can’t publicly embarrass someone knowingly.  However, I must have a ‘beginning’ rating in order for the rest to make sense. 

Golf Clap - The polite ovation that follows a well-placed shot.

Motivational Speaker –You are left fired up and eager to get to work making the world a better place.  You can’t wait to tell your friends all the insights and inspiration you took away from it. 

Rock Concert – Hooting and hollering, cheering, singing and clapping throughout the performance.  Swaying and lit lighters accompany ballads.  Riots break out if there is no encore.

January 29, 2011

How Charlie Sheen Could Destroy This Country

I’m straying far from the topic of writing for this post.  But who am I to not use this skill that I’m working so hard to develop to call attention this issue. So, this is a “Call to Action” if you will for my fellow countrymen.

I have figured out the core problem in this country and Yahoo – with all their investigative talents – were the ones to reveal it.  Our problem is Charlie Sheen.  Sure, you will argue that Charlie has his own problems, why would I want to dump the country’s on him as well.  I’m not really trying to point a finger and say, “He did it!” Let me back up a ways.

Back in the 50’s we had Ozzie and Harriet and Father Knows Best.  Women vacuumed in heels and pearls and men wore hats they could tip in a friendly greeting to a passing stranger.

In the 60’s we graduated to My Three Sons. Very liberated, a single father raising his sons with only help of the crusty ole male housekeeper.  But the boys wore button down shirts with slacks and said things like, “Gee.”

Those days our culture wasn’t perfect, but our country was growing and innovating. We were proud to be Americans because of what we were achieving and because of our leadership within the world culture.

Now we love shows like Family Guy. I’m not even sure if women vacuum at all anymore (or perhaps that’s just me). Many men don’t own a dress shirt, let alone a suit and our young men are forced to walk like they suffer from a major hernia just to keep their pants from slipping beyond their hips.

Charlie Sheen and his co-star, the teenager, Angus Jones, are the highest paid sitcom actors on television today.  Their characters are as broken as they come.  Sarcastic, disrespectful, and rude.  And, Charlie Sheen, himself has checked into rehab again, while they put the show on hiatus so that he can try to deal with his issues.  I respect that he is again attempting to fix what is wrong in his life, but I don’t respect that the people who live in this country value his skills of being able to act like a jerk (which doesn’t seem like much of an act if the tabloid news has so much to say about him) above all others.

I feel our country is a shadow of its former self.  Now we are proud to be Americans because we aren’t doing worse than those other countries. We used to be able to do things like the space program that our President eluded to in the State of the Union address the other night. We used to morn the loss of large corporations by letting them come to their natural and final end instead of trying to stitch back on an amputated limb and wondering why it doesn’t function. We would recognize the great losses our country was experiencing by creating large national projects, like “Employ tons of Americans by making all cities in excess of a million people wireless by 2014.”  Would it cost the country money?  Yes. But would it create actual jobs in many levels of the industry in order to accomplish a project that will help our country be better in the long run. Well, I think so.

Do I blame our current administration? No, not really.  I blame us. I blame you and me and my mail person and my bank teller and the guy who answered my Google Ads inquiry.  I blame anyone who has laughed at the caustic jokes on shows like Two and a Half Men, Family Guy, The Simpsons, Rosanne, All In The Family.  I blame those of us who start to let the caustic invade our values. Those of us who give in to defeat or fatigue in an argument over right and wrong instead of sucking it up a little longer and finding it in us to make the right choice and not compromise our values.  I blame fast food and debit cards and cell phones and email. And I kinda blame Charlie Sheen. At least what he represents. He represents the weakness within us and how we have allowed it to permeate our actions each and every day. Sorry Charlie.

My “Call to Action” from this post: tip your hat. Wear button down shirts and tuck them in. Shovel your neighbor’s driveway. Identify a more worthy hero. Define their heroism. Let those traits invade your day-to-day decisions. Be the example for Charlie Sheen, our current and future administrations and most importantly each other. Take your country back through thorough and consistent good will.

I’m Proud to Be American, because you know what? Yes, We REALLY Can! After all, we’ve done it before.

January 22, 2011

What's Your Interpretation?

Interpretation
-noun
  1. the act of interpreting; elucidation; explication: This writer's work demands interpretation.
  2. the rendering of a dramatic part, music, etc., so as to bring out the meaning, or to indicate one's particular conception of it.
  3. oral translation.

Like so many other English words, this word has many varied definitions. What I like about this particular word is that even the definitions require a bit of interpretation.

Elucidation – make clear, explain
Rendering – an act of interpretation (love when the definitions point back to each other)
Oral – spoken

Interpretation – to speak a clear explanation.

We know that isn’t an accurate summation of the meaning of the word interpretation. However, it is a valid demonstration of how our intended message in our writing doesn’t always get interpreted correctly.

When you seek input from critique partners and they give you something like, “what do you mean here: ‘to speak a clear explanation’?” and another partner says, “beautiful elucidation here” and the third says, “why does it have to be spoken aloud?”  You have to figure out if they are each getting the kernel of the idea. The interpretation.  All three of them are dancing around the meaning, so you’re probably at least close. Is it an important enough section of the work it needs further refining?

My daughter plays the clarinet.  One of her strengths is her interpretation of the music. She draws out the sections that have deep feeling and skips and bops through sections that are meant to be light and joyful.  A boy she used to compete against frequently had the technical skill.  He played the notes Exactly. As. They. Were. Written.  The funny thing was that there were judges who preferred his style to hers and vice versa.  So from competition to competition the top spot volleyed back and forth between the two of them depending on the judge’s own interpretation of the piece.

No matter how many times we change our word choices and futz with the punctuation, in the end our readers will have the final say in interpreting our work.  What we can do before it gets out there into the world, is make sure that the basic message and mood is delivered. We have to build into our work the tools the readers need to piece the puzzle together. Then, like raising independent children, we have to let go and hope we’ve done our job well.

January 19, 2011

Watch Out for the Splatter!

I visited with Susan Kaye Quinn over on her blog Ink Spells. Please visit. Feel free to heckle, in a good-natured way.  Topics that leave themselves wide open for it are; the Midwest accent I worked so hard to get rid of that comes back when I’m speaking in front of a room of people or when I’m talking to my big sister, my snobby attitude and how well THAT worked for me or maybe my lack of focus in my writing based on my subs and WIPs.

Now onto more serious matters. Exploding heads.  That would be mine. Let me preface this by saying, I’m thrilled to have this problem, but that’s not going to stop me from complaining about it.

In the short time since The Weaver hit the presses, my life has changed so much! 

1.      I feel like I have pregnancy brain. (I know, it’s birthed already, weird—huh?) I am experiencing a distinct lack of focus and can’t seem to follow a thought thread to its end.
2.      I feel like I have two jobs.  My day job, which most unfortunately is feeling the strain of #1 and my responsibility of promoting the book.  When I’m home, I’m looking for ways to promote, but #1 seems to waylay the success of those efforts.
3.      I feel like I’m spinning my wheels. I’d ask why someone hasn’t written a manual for this, but I’ve read a few and I’m still looking up in the air for that thought bubble to answer my questions.
4.      I feel like my crit buddy, Bev, is going to gently scold me for using “I feel” so much. Since…um…I think that might be her most common input on my manuscripts. Sorry, Bev!
5.      I’m not sleeping well.  Which is a TOTALLY weird thing for me. I’ve always been the one who falls asleep minutes after laying down and wakes chipper and happy the next morning.  Now I lay in bed thinking when I go to bed and any ole noise will wake me at 0-dark-thirty and my mind instantly whirs into actions.  Now all my bags are packed and sitting in the shadows. Yep, the ones under my eyes.  Attractive.

And you know what? This is the best, absolute most awesome way to be stressing!  Man, I hope I can do this again soon.

January 17, 2011

My Apology, Fellow Authors

Dear fellow authors,

This is a formal apology for what I am only now discovering is my intense ignorance.  I thought I was doing good things to help promote you and your fabulous works, but now I’m discovering there is more that can be done.  Simple, easy steps I can take that will make a difference to an author sitting in front of his or her laptop obsessing over their online presence or their Amazon numbers.  As I discover the small things that can make a big impact, I feel so bad that I didn’t know and I wonder how many other things I still haven’t discovered.

Amazon and Barnes & Noble reviews.  I had someone mention mine to me, “Oh, you even have a five star review.” I was like, “Wow, you saw that already?”  When I went to the local library, they said, “And we’ll go online to see what people are saying about it.” I thought, “Oh crap! What if there’s nothing there?” I’ve only posted a few reviews in the past, because reviews just aren’t my forte. I’ll be changing that, now that I know the impact they have for potential readers and purchasers. I’ll post reviews for books I give a Motivational Speaker or Rock Concert rating to, and I’ll get to as many of the Golf Claps as I can.

Goodreads Adds.  I’ve recently gotten better at adding the books I intend to read to my “to read” shelf on Goodreads, but I’ve seen book adds go viral!  In the future I won’t hesitate to add a book that has piqued my interest, even if I don’t expect to read it anytime in the near future. Now I know that little extra exposure can go a long way.

Tweet and Facebook congratulations over book launches or favorable reviews.  Share event information.  All those things take seconds, but a nod from a fellow author can often carry more weight if someone is on the fence over whether or not to buy the book or attend an event.

Titles in blog posts can be so important too.  If you are hosting an interview or posting a book review, make sure to include the name of the book and the author in the title so that it will show up in search engines.  Anytime you can include the title of a book or the name of an author, DO.

Mention, mention, mention.  Everywhere and as often as possible.  I’m not suggesting you sacrifice your writing time and take up promoting fellow authors. But I now realize there are more effective ways to use my online time. And these steps don’t really take too long, especially once it becomes a part of your modus operandi.

I didn’t know! I’m so sorry, fellow authors.  Will you forgive me? There is so much more I could have been doing to help.  Now I do know and I’ll do my level best to take those few extra moments to help shine a spotlight on your babies.

Sincerely,

Newly promoting author

January 13, 2011

Sad News

Wow.  On my last Recents post. I wrote this:

The Mermaid’s Mirror by L.K. Madigan– humble rating: Motivational Speaker – I have come to the conclusion that I really like L.K. Madigan’s writing!  This was so very different from Flash Burnout, yet I enjoyed it just as much. Talent abounds.

While she wrote this: Hard News

Even standing eye to eye with agony and heartbreak, her words are eloquent.  I’m so sorry she will have the indignity of more cancer treatment. I’m so sorry her family will experience the helplessness of loving someone who is so very sick. And I’m sorry for us. Those of us who have just discovered or have yet to discover Lisa’s ingrained talent.

Though I really can’t imagine what she is going through, I would imagine that it would help in some small way to know that my writing has made an impact.  Lisa, please know that I’ve loved your books and I’ve aspired to write at your level. Regardless of what the future holds, you’ve already made a respectable mark on young adult fiction. 

But I’m just so sorry. God bless you and your family.

January 12, 2011

Recents

I was hanging out on Donna McDine's blog today, Write What Inspires You. Please click over when you have a chance.
Recent Reads

Dead Beautiful by Yvonne Woon– humble rating: Golf Clap – I can’t quite figure out how I felt about this book. What I do know: the characters are still with me, especially Dante = good, the book felt like it went on forever = bad. Tough one.









The Mermaid’s Mirror by L.K. Madigan– humble rating: Motivational Speaker – I have come to the conclusion that I really like L.K. Madigan’s writing!  This was so very different from Flash Burnout, yet I enjoyed it just as much. Talent abounds.









Bunnicula by Deborah & James Howe - humble rating: Golf Clap – Cute middle grade mystery with boy appeal. Made even cuter, because we just got a bunny over the weekend.









Don’t Die Dragonfly by Linda Joy Singleton - humble rating: Golf Clap –I admit, I read this because it was a free download on Kindle. The book had a lot of errors, but I don’t blame the author for that.  I do like Linda’s storytelling. Enjoyed her Dead Girl Series and despite the errors this story was enjoyable and I will read on in the series.

My own humble rating system: Please feel free to ask for clarification or to dispute my opinion.  I only ask that we ALWAYS remain respectful to the author.

Chirping Cricket – At the end all you hear is the chirp of the cricket.  I doubt I’ll ever use this because I can’t publicly embarrass someone knowingly.  However, I must have a ‘beginning’ rating in order for the rest to make sense. 

Golf Clap - The polite ovation that follows a well-placed shot.

Motivational Speaker –You are left fired up and eager to get to work making the world a better place.  You can’t wait to tell your friends all the insights and inspiration you took away from it. 

Rock Concert – Hooting and hollering, cheering, singing and clapping throughout the performance.  Swaying and lit lighters accompany ballads.  Riots break out if there is no encore.

January 10, 2011

Linkage

I am visiting with Beverly Stowe McClure over at The Story of a Writer. Please stop by and say hi.

GAP Family Blog announced great news for The Weaver and many other GAP books at Amazon today.

I have a date for my local book signing event!  Yippee!! If you are anywhere near Central Oregon February 10th, I’d love for you to come by.

Blogview with Susan Kaye Quinn and Life, Liberty and Pursuit

Today blogview is happy to present middle grade and young adult novelist, Susan Kaye Quinn.  Make some noise on those keyboards and welcome Susan!

Susan, I must say, you seem so approachable and kind.  If I were doing this interview in person (which, btw, I really wish I were!) would I offer you coffee or tea?  Flavored? Cream or Milk? Sugar?

Susan: Straight black tea, none of that sissy stuff in it. I need caffeine!

Describe the location you are answering these questions from.  Is this your usual writing location?

Susan: I’m parked at my workstation with a mini-pot of (straight black) tea, under the watchful eye of Writer Mouse. I write either here or on my couch with my netbook, but more often on my desktop computer, using my shiny new Scrivener-for-Windows software.

What genre do you love to read that you don’t feel you can write?

Susan: Ooh, interesting question. I tend to write what I read (read what I write?), but I do love me some historical novels on occasion, and I don’t think I could sustain interest in a historical time long enough to research it properly. Also, I have a hard time remembering before last Tuesday. It’s so much easier to write about the future, where I just make up the world as I wish it to be.

Share with us a happy childhood memory?

Susan: Hopping on my bicycle to pedal down to the tiny bookstore tucked next to the Sav-On. I’d scan the science fiction shelves for any new releases from my favorite authors or new ones. Most of the time I would leave empty handed, which was just as well, because my allowance didn’t stretch that far.

What do you feel is different about kids of today who are the same age from your memory?  What do you feel is the same?

Susan: There was much more freedom when I was a kid – my world was much larger, and yet smaller at the same time. I roamed my suburban town on my bike, never worrying about snatchers or traffic. But my town was the limits of my universe – nothing existed beyond the three mile radius my legs could carry me. Today, kids aren’t allowed to wander around unsupervised, sequestered at home or activities or sports. But their worlds are infinitely bigger, with everything and anything coming into their houses through the internet. My kids are much more aware of the larger world around them than I ever was.

And yet, they still love Star Wars. It’s eternal.

About Life, Liberty, and Pursuit:

Life, Liberty, and Pursuit is a young adult love story about a college-bound girl who falls in a pool, the navy recruit who saves her, and their struggle to choose between following their dreams and daring to love. It’s a story about love at first sight, long distance relationships, and difficult choices. Life, Liberty, and Pursuit is a good, clean love story with empowering messages for girls about making choices in life and love.

What inspired this story?

Susan: I wrote this novel for my niece, never really intending to publish. She lives a thousand miles away, and we had bonded over the Twilight craze. I wanted to write something that showed her epic love can happen, even without supernatural creatures. Along the way, I fell in love again with my childhood passion for writing.

Why Navy?  Why a cruise?  Any personal experiences lead to story related decisions such as where Eliza goes to school?

Susan: My dad worked for the Navy for thirty years, as a civilian, so that was a natural choice. I’ve only been on one cruise, but the setting was perfect for throwing young lovers together for an intense period of time and then ripping them apart. Princeton didn’t have any personal significance, but the choice of writing about a Polish/Irish mixed family rang close to home. My grandfather was Polish and came over on the boat when he was six. There’s a lot of Irish on my mom’s side. We don’t speak Polish in my family (I fortunately had a crit partner to help with that), but we joke about how everyone in my family has to be stubborn because they got a double dose of the stubborn gene.

I love themed gifts.  If someone were to give a gift to a teen that included Life, Liberty and Pursuit, what else should they give with it?

Susan: If I was extravagant, maybe the lifesaver charm featured in the story? Or possibly a copy of Jane Eyre, Eliza’s reading material of choice? Or a sailor hat. Who doesn’t look good in a sailor hat?

Where can we get our hands on Life, Liberty, and Pursuit?

Susan: It’s available at the publisher’s website, Amazon.com, and BarnesandNoble.com. I’m hoping to do a Valentine’s themed event at my local coffee shop –the last book signing there was a hit, and the young-love theme goes well with the Day of Love.

What is the most unexpected thing about being a published author?

Susan: That people get excited when they find out I’ve published a book. I mean, I think it’s cool and tremendous fun, but I’m surprised how much people enjoy connecting with an author. I shouldn’t be, because on the flip side, I LOVE hearing from readers and what they think of the book. That kind of feedback is really what drives me to write. My favorite quote these days is that the writing experience isn’t complete until someone reads the work. That resonates with me, as does every single time a reader says they enjoyed reading my story.

What are you working on now?

Susan: I’m querying a middle grade science fiction novel, and I’m working on the last draft (or two, maybe three) of a young adult paranormal novel (no undead creatures of any kind, sorry). I’m hoping to have that one ready to query soon, because I have a shiny new idea for another middle grade novel that I’d like to start in the first half of 2011.

Where can we learn more about you and your writing?

Susan: I just added an About Me and My Books tab to my blog, but you can also find me at my website.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Susan: I have tremendous fun on my blog Ink Spells, talking about reading and writing books for middle grade kids (ages 8-12) and young teens (ages 12-14). Sometimes it’s hard for parents to find good books appropriate for advanced readers, so I have book lists and resources to help parents ferret out those great stories and get them in front of their kids. Getting great books in the hands of young readers, to keep them reading, is a passion of mine. Also cats, but they’re much more trouble.

Thank you for joining blogview on Strands of Thought!  It has been a pleasure hosting you, though I’d much rather have done it from Starbucks, or at my dining room table.

Thank YOU! I toast you from my mini-pot of tea! Wait, time for a refill …

If you've enjoyed this blogview, please visit my mirror blog on livejournal for previously posted author interviews.

January 9, 2011

Attention Avid Readers

What a difference a year makes.  At the close of 2009, I called out to all my online writer friends to suggest books for my to-be-read list for 2010. I got a LOT of great suggestions. Read many of them. 

Yet this year, I didn’t need to raise my virtual hand and ask my question. Why? Because now I belong to Goodreads.  I love Goodreads!  I don’t even use all the awesomeness that it offers, but one feature I fully appreciate is the ability to easily add to my tbr list based on the books my friends are reading, have read or plan to read. It’s really a great way to find books you wouldn’t normally be exposed to.  If you are an avid reader, I suggest joining.  You’ll find plenty of people to befriend with similar reading habits or you can just follow people’s reviews if that is all you are interested in. 

Speaking of great reading resources, I’m A Reader, Not A Writer is a fantastic book review and author interview blog.  I don’t know how the heck she keeps up the volume that she does AND do such a great job.  I’ve got an author interview and GIVEAWAY being featured on her blog. Be sure to get over there before 2/3/11 to enter the giveaway.  Then be sure to browse through the myriad of author interviews and book reviews she has on the site.

January 4, 2011

Tips for the Trade

New to online promotion?  I don’t claim to be an expert, but I’m happy to share some of the idiosyncrasies I’ve picked up along the way that don’t seem to be intuitive.

When you want to steer people to your most frequent blog post, don’t just post the general url for your blog. Post the specific url for that post. You might think that it is better for someone to have to see all of your witty posts when they are looking for a specific one, but trust me when I say, it annoys!  Recently, dealing with promotion of, The Weaver, I remembered an author had shared some wonderfully helpful advice on library promotion. I scrolled through my emails (I had to go back a few months) and found where she originally shared the link. But the link went to the most recent posts on her blog.  I scrolled and scrolled searching for that post. Obviously, I started my search around the date of her email but couldn’t find it. I scrolled backward and forward until I got frustrated and gave up.

When you are posting a link from a website or blog to a different site, always specify that link to open in a new window.  You can do it in the same pop up window you enter the url link in. Internet surfers have a strange form of A.D.D. and they are easily distracted.  You don’t want to lose their interest by sending them to another site. You only want to provide them with more data, but keep them focused on you or your book or your blog.

Whenever possible, link to your website or blog, facebook or twitter. You don’t want to overrun people with promotion, "Buy my book! Buy my book! Buy my book," but you do want them to have easy access to your information.  The worst thing is to get someone interested and then force them to ferret around for more information.  Guess what?  Usually, they don’t work too hard to find it.

Any tips you'd like to share that people tend to do or not do online?

January 2, 2011

When Death Becomes Public

Words. They can be so beautiful. So powerful.  So heartbreaking.

Just when I think I’ve wrapped my head around the reach of social media, it surprises me yet again.

Around Thanksgiving an acquaintance of mine posted her very own goodbye on her wall on Facebook.  She’d been battling cancer for a couple of years and it became obvious that her war was almost over.  The responses from her family and friends were eloquent and touching. Each word written was the most beautiful word I’d ever seen.

As the year closed its door, this beautiful woman closed her eyes.  Neither will be experienced again. Both are now only memories.

Today I was browsing through statuses in my news feed and froze.  I blinked a few times, sure I wasn’t seeing what I thought. Yet, I truly was.  I slowly guided my mouse over to the name on the screen and clicked.

There on her wall was a goodbye note from her husband.  His message was simple and true. He stated it clearly. He chose beautiful words filled with heart and meaning. He loved her and he’s going to miss her. And in that short, well thought-out post, we all get to experience the depth of his love and the magnitude of his loss.

It is like a eulogy that never ends because I can go look at it whenever I feel I need to.  And if the messages of goodbye and the posts of support for her husband mean that much to me, I can imagine what comfort they are to those who truly love them. 

It is so heart wrenching and so magnificent all at the same time.

Words. Can tear you down. Can hurt. Can destroy.

But they can also empower us to say goodbye.  They can communicate the volume of love we hold inside. They can heal.

R.I.P Monica.  You were truly, truly loved.