Wednesday, December 19, 2012

HELP THE ELF: I Found Santa’s Missing Nice List!

Hi everyone! As you may remember, a few weeks ago PETE the Elf had a touch too much Eggnog at the Holiday Christmas Party and as he stumbled home, he lost Santa's NICE LIST.

The North Wind scattered the papers to all four corners of the world, and The Bookshelf Muse put out a call to help find them in order to SAVE CHRISTMAS.

Ever since I read about it, I've been on the lookout. And then today, EUREKA!

Yes that's right...I found part of Santa's missing NICE LIST. At first I thought it was one of those advertisement people tuck under everyone's windshield wipers, but, as luck would have it, I actually glanced at the words before throwing it in the recycling bin. Imagine my surprise when I saw a familiar name on this scrap of paper.

Here it is below:

NAME: Ali Cross

LOCATION: ali cross



OBSERVATIONS: Though I've never met Ali in person, she has been a wonderful role model. Her awesome blog posts never fail to bring fresh determination to my heart and a smile to my face. She welcomes and supports new writers with her warm, often kooky, personality. She could do more book signings in Salt Lake City.

RECOMMENDATION:     a) Coal                   b) Card

~ ~ * ~ ~

Because poor Pete is dashing all over the place trying to hunt down the rest of Santa's missing Nice List, I decided to take care of this one myself. Merry Christmas!

Photo assorted gold baubles ( / CC BY 3.0

How about you, Readers? Is there someone you'd like to say Happy Holidays to, or tell them how much they mean to you? JOIN US! There's plenty of days left until Christmas, and sometimes a kind word can lift people up in a way that they really need. It's as easy as sending a free ecard or email note, posting on a Facebook wall or sending out a tweet. So go ahead and spread some kindness and cheer!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Computer Gremlins and The Hobbit

You know that time tested excuse, "Gremlins Ate My Homework" that your teacher always gave you funny looks for? Turns out it wasn't just your overactive imagination coming up with an awesome reason for not turning stuff in on time. I'm afraid those pesky computer gremlins got the midnight munchies and ate all of the things on my sidebar. (Note the dark blue nothingness that once contained all that identified me. Sad, really.) I have yet to find out where exactly all the about me, badges, and links went. Ah, well, I shall try to keep up with blogging despite the sudden emptiness in my cyber identity. 

On to bigger and better things. Last Thursday, my husband and I thought it would be fun to go to the midnight premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey with a bunch of friends.

                                                                    (Love this!)

My impressions of the movie are very mixed. I thought the actors were all phenomenal. I love Martin Freeman (Bilbo), Richard Armitage (Thorin), and, of course, Ian McKellen (Gandalf). They all did a great job with their characters, especially Martin Freeman. I loved the return to the stunning setting of Middle Earth, and being able to reconnect with familiar characters from The Lord of the Rings trilogy. 

However, if you are expecting more of the same from Peter Jackson's film adaptations of the trilogy, you will be a bit disappointed. The tone of The Hobbit is much lighter and humorous. There are still awesome battle scenes, and some epic moments of beautiful cinematography, but overall you will find yourself moved more to laugh than any other deep emotional connection. That was my reaction. Even parts that I'm sure were meant to be serious struck me as amusing. Scenes that didn't need to be drawn out, were. Scenes that made little sense were forced in, and scenes that were obviously added just to create some sort of conflict in the plot were thrust awkwardly into the midst of everything. I feel Tolkien's story has enough plot and character growth to not need much tweaking, but apparently Jackson disagrees. The result is a somewhat long, dragged out storyline that has scenes that don't quite fit. 

Overall, I really did enjoy the movie. Just go into without expecting it to be The Hobbit you've read.

Book of the Week:
This week I'm featuring the first in a stunning trilogy by bestselling author, Brandon Sanderson. I could not put this book down. The magic system is complex, the world vivid, and the plot fresh and gripping.

Mistborn: The Final Empire
 Back Cover:
 Brandon Sanderson, fantasy's newest master tale spinner, author of the acclaimed debut Elantris, dares to turn a genre on its head by asking a simple question: What if the hero of prophecy fails? What kind of world results when the Dark Lord is in charge? The answer will be found in the Mistborn Trilogy, a saga of surprises and magical martial-arts action that begins in Mistborn.

For a thousand years the ash fell and no flowers bloomed. For a thousand years the Skaa slaved in misery and lived in fear. For a thousand years the Lord Ruler, the "Sliver of Infinity," reigned with absolute power and ultimate terror, divinely invincible. Then, when hope was so long lost that not even its memory remained, a terribly scarred, heart-broken half-Skaa rediscovered it in the depths of the Lord Ruler's most hellish prison. Kelsier "snapped" and found in himself the powers of a Mistborn. A brilliant thief and natural leader, he turned his talents to the ultimate caper, with the Lord Ruler himself as the mark.

Kelsier recruited the underworld's elite, the smartest and most trustworthy allomancers, each of whom shares one of his many powers, and all of whom relish a high-stakes challenge. Only then does he reveal his ultimate dream, not just the greatest heist in history, but the downfall of the divine despot.

But even with the best criminal crew ever assembled, Kel's plan looks more like the ultimate long shot, until luck brings a ragged girl named Vin into his life. Like him, she's a half-Skaa orphan, but she's lived a much harsher life. Vin has learned to expect betrayal from everyone she meets, and gotten it. She will have to learn to trust, if Kel is to help her master powers of which she never dreamed.

Readers of Elantris thought they'd discovered someone special in Brandon Sanderson. Mistborn proves they were right.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

IWSG-To Blog or Not to Blog

            To blog, Twitter, Facebook, or not, that is the dilemma of this month. It is a constant balancing act of how much is too much. Do people really want to read about my mundane thoughts and struggles as I write, and live? Especially as a yet to be published writer, I wonder if I have anything to add to the amazing writing community out there.
           Do I blog once a week, once a month, once in a blue moon? How do I get people excited about my posts? How do I bring in followers and readers in the first place? What should I tweet, and share on Facebook? Millions of questions like this face first time bloggers, such as myself, and new writers trying to get there name out there.
         It is easy to get distracted with all the fun blogs that exist already. Most days it is more enjoyable to read other writers' witticisms then come up with my own. Plus, there are lots of giveaways, blog tours, and such to support. After all, if I want them to help me when I get a book out shouldn't I return the favor?
         I found the best way of dealing with some of these distractions, though fun, and worthwhile, is to have a schedule. Set aside a certain time a couple days a week when you will blog, check your multiple emails, check the list of blogs you follow,  tweet, and share things to your Facebook page. If you let yourself keep those things up all day, you often won't get any writing, or business done. (Not that I've had any experience with that. *cough, cough*)
         As for building your own online presence that is worth people's time, I'm still trying to figure that one out. Any advice from you veteran bloggers of awesomeness? 

As always, happy writing!

Book of the Week:

The second epic installment of Brandon Mull's #1 New York Times bestselling fantasy series! After the cliffhanger ending of A World Without Heroes, Jason is back in the world he's always known—yet for all his efforts to get home, he finds himself itching to return to Lyrian. Jason knows that the shocking truth he learned from Maldor is precious information that all of his friends in Lyrian, including Rachel, need if they have any hope of surviving and defeating the evil emperor.
Meanwhile, Rachel and the others have discovered new enemies—as well as new abilities that could turn the tide of the entire quest. And as soon as Jason succeeds in crossing over to Lyrian, he's in more danger than ever. Once the group reunites, they strive to convince their most-needed ally to join the war and form a rebellion strong enough to triumph over Maldor. At the center of it all, Jason and Rachel realize what roles they're meant to play—and the answers are as surprising as they are gripping.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Finding the Baby Jesus Blog Tour

Tour Schedule

Finding the Baby Jesus by Kimball Fisher

After being forced to wear lederhosen for the annual holiday card picture, twelve-year-old Chris thinks that the least his parents can do is get him the Tony Hawk skateboard he wants for Christmas. But when he recovers the hand-carved Baby Jesus that everyone thought had been destroyed in a fire the year his Grandma died, Chris realizes that some gifts are even more important than skateboards.

When the author had to discontinue a cherished tradition of reading Christmas stories out loud with his family and holiday guests each week in December, he wrote Finding the Baby Jesus. He had been unable to locate enough meaningful stories that could be read in a single sitting with wiggly children.

Praise for Finding the Baby Jesus:

“Tender and true, this warm Christmas tale brought tears to my eyes.”
–Heather Vogel Frederick, author of the much-beloved Mother-Daughter Book Club series and Oregon Book Award winner for The Voyage of Patience Goodspeed

“A touching story that speaks to the importance of family, giving, and the true spirit of Christmas.”
–Matthew Kirby, author of Icefall, winner of the Edgar Allen Poe and the Pen Center USA Literary Awards for Children’s Literature

“Deeply moving. Poignant.”
–Deborah Halverson, former editor at Harcourt Children’s Books and author of Honk If You Hate Me, a Gayle McCandliss Literary Award Winner

"The perfect little book to tuck away with your Christmas things and bring out year after year to read with family. As mother to three boys, I can't imagine a better protagonist than Chris. His typical teenage attitude followed by the softening of his heart towards a friend teaches a poignant and very relatable lesson on the true meaning of Christmas."
–Amazon review

"After I read this short story I felt like I had read a novel--every sentence is packed with action and imagery. I was emotionally connected to the characters, and the story is touching. I didn't see the plot twist at the end coming! A great story to read every Christmas."
–Amazon review


Author Kimball Fisher

Kimball Fisher writes novels for young readers. He is also a best-selling business author, professional speaker, and management consultant. Some of his past jobs include: sailboat builder, ghost writer (not as scary as it sounds), illustrator, and factory manager (more scary than it sounds). For fun he builds furniture, stained-glass windows, and writing pens.

He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Humanities (with minors in English, Asian Studies, and Japanese), and a Master of Organizational Behavior degree from Brigham Young University. He and his amazing wife Reenie live in Portland, Oregon, where they have seen pheasants, coyotes, and a bobcat in their own backyard.


Book Blast

Tour Giveaway:
$25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash
Ends 12/26/12

Open to anyone who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent's permission. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule

NaNoWriMo Survivor

December has arrived. This means that those of us who participated in NaNoWriMo this year are doing some much needed celebrating and recuperating. Those that are full of awesomeness may already be working on edits and rewrites. (I, sadly, don't feel that dedicated.)
So I survived NaNoWriMo, but only just.

I am...drum roll, please...a WINNER! Yipee! Somehow I scraped enough words together to achieve my goals. Congratulations to all my fellow participants who reached the 50K words, and even to those who worked hard and met their individual goals. You are awesome!

Now the sad truth of the matter, I really struggled with my project. It was excruciating and painful and not at all satisfying. Before you all stop reading let me explain myself. I loved the idea of writing for a month with pure abandon. I loved the amazing network of fellow writers I met and shared my journey with. I loved the idea of my book and characters. The empty feeling at the end came from the realization that I had lost my voice.
All of you may, or may not, be aware of the vast amounts of information and advice there is for writers. In my attempts to improve myself, I dived in head first. (Word of caution: Always look before you leap. Turns out it is true in every aspect of life. Who knew?)

 I soon found myself drowning in the ocean of advice, tips, and information on how to write well, what to do to be successful, what not to do, what to write to sell books, blah, blah, blah.
As I wrote my project for this past month, I found myself constantly telling my characters and story no. No, you can't do that. No, you can't say that. No, you have to keep the word count down. No, no, no. As a result, my characters all went on strike. They carried around little signs blaring words such as "No to no," and "Let us have our voice."

(I'm so not kidding. Little signs and yelling voices in your head doesn't make for a creative environment. Unless you happen to be writing about a strike which I wasn't.)
My plot was stinted, my characters were upset, and as a writer I felt like a failure. As soon as I pounded out those last few excruciating words to reach my goal, I set the whole thing aside. I asked myself some tough questions. The conclusion, I had lost my "chocolate cheesecake." (Words from the amazing Jessica Day George.)

I had lost sight of my goals and dreams as a writer, and as a reader. I became so lost in my own inner thoughts of what made me a failure based on all the advice and tips, that I lost focus on what my original intent even was.
To rediscover my chocolate cheesecake, I went back to my childhood when I read fairy tales. Not the cute Disneyfied tales, but those that involved bloody slippers, haunted castles, eyes gouged out, snakes falling from people's lips, and a hero overcoming all odds to defeat evil. As a teen, I advanced to devouring the works of David Edding, J.R.R. Tolkien, Jules Verne, and Shakespeare. In college I gravitated to the study of Arthurian Literature. (Are you seeing a pattern yet?) I loved the tales of knights defeating dragons, ogres, maidens with the bodies of snakes, spells woven by evil sorcerers, and even their own failings. Such tales as those of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight captured my imagination and set it soaring.

These are the tales that inspired me to dream, and first fueled my love of fantasy and science fiction. I may never write a best-seller, but I can weave my own epic tales of adventure, danger, and magic. They may not be perfect, but I can make them shine in my own way.
There will be many people willing to offer advice and tips along the path of becoming a writer. Some will make you better, but some may not be for you. Take what you need to improve yourself and leave the rest behind. Find your niche as a writer and an audience will follow. Don't try to write a book that will please everyone. It won't work. (Even J.K. Rowling and J.R.R. Tolkien have their critics.) Embrace your chocolate cheesecake, and enjoy every last bite of it!

Happy Writing!

What is your chocolate cheesecake? What book, or author inspires you to be a writer, or even a reader?