Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Book Review: Hearts of Courage by John Tippetts

I don't watch a lot of TV, but when I do it's usually shows on the Discovery Channel like Man vs. Wild and Survivorman. So when I was approached to review of a copy of Hearts of Courage I thought I'd probably enjoy it.

While Hearts of Courage doesn't have a British ex-special forces guy sky diving and making flotation devices out of his pants, it does have a plane and lots of survival.

About the Book
On January 5, 1943, an airplane with six on board went missing in remote Southeast Alaska. The winter weather was extreme and searchers found no signs of the aircraft, so all were presumed lost. One of those passengers was Joseph Tippets, age 29, of Anchorage, Alaska, an employee of the Civil Aeronautics Administration, and the first branch president of the small Latter-day Saint Anchorage congregation. For the long twenty-nine days until his unbelievable rescue, Joseph’s wife, Alta, left alone with her two-year-old son in Anchorage, did not give up hope and became a source of strength and encouragement to others.

Hearts of Courage is the story of Joseph Tippets’ experiences over those twenty-nine days and his subsequent efforts to help rescue the two injured passengers still stranded in their wilderness camp. The story is told largely in Joseph’s own words, with many pictures to flesh out the tale. I enjoyed Joseph's story, but sometimes the narrative jumped from Joseph's words to historical information, then back to Joseph's story again, which detracted from the power of the whole story. And as someone not familiar with Alaska, once in a while I felt a little lost with all the names of different locations. The author provides maps to help readers, however, as long as readers aren't too lazy (like me) to go back and look at them to get grounded in the setting.

It is obvious that compiling this information and telling his mother and father's story was a labor of love for author John Tippetts, and I commend him on the work he put into it. Overall, I recommend Hearts of Courage as an inspiring survival story, full of courage, determination, faith, and answered prayers.

You can find out more about John Tippetts (along with contact information for speaking engagements) and Hearts of Courage at www.johntippets.com.

*Mandatory notification: I did receive a copy of the book from the author for review.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Word of the Week #86 - lacuna

lacuna - [luh-KYOO-nuh] - noun

Definition:
1. A blank space; a missing part; a gap.
2. (Biology) A small opening, depression, or cavity in an anatomical structure.

Usage:
I know my oldest child has been into my personal library when I go for a book and find a lacuna where it used to be.

*You may notice that the Word of the Week did not happen on Monday like normal. It will now be moving to Tuesdays on the Bookmom Musings blog. Or maybe Thursdays. But for now it's Tuesday until I change my mind. :)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Blocking


I'm not sure if that's the official name, but I first read about it on Problogger. (I think. I can't for the life of me find the post where I thought I read it, so I'm not totally sure.)

Task blocking is a time management and task management technique. It's where you group similar tasks in blocks, or chunks, rather than bouncing all over doing this and that. It makes you more productive with the time that you have.

Let's say, for example, that in a typical week you have a list of tasks you want to get done. You want to write, read blogs, write your own blog, answer email, do social networking, work on marketing, etc. If you're like me then you get on the computer and maybe you start writing but it's moving slowly so you bounce over to Twitter. You get sucked into the Twitter-verse for 20 minutes, then you turn back to your writing and work on that for a while, and then you check email, but there are ones that have to be answered so that takes another 30 minutes, you start in on writing again and realize that you forgot to check Facebook to update your status and wish those having birthdays a Happy Birthday. Then you check email again. And maybe Twitter. Then the phone rings and you talk for a while. Then you check email again. You get back to writing when someone is at the door. Then you realize you forgot to write a blog post for the day... and so on. Then your time is gone and you look back trying to figure out how to fit it all in. Does that sound familiar?

If you block your tasks, then you would have a certain time you've set aside for email, maybe the first thing or the last thing of the day or maybe during your lunch break. You would have a certain day set aside for writing blog posts for the week. You would have a certain time each day when you write--and that's all you do. From what I've heard this makes you more efficient, because then you aren't splitting your attention, focus, and time.

Elana doesn't call it task blocking, but she has the technique down, as you can see by this post of hers.

I need to task block way better than I do. But that means that I need to have a realistic idea of how much time different tasks take up. For the next week I've decided to write down how much time I spend on what. Then I can set up my PLAN.

And for fun I thought I'd report the stats next week, because who doesn't love stats?

What about you? Are the blocking type, or the zing around from thing to thing like a ping pong ball type?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Jaime's Reader Rants

DO. NOT. name every single character of your book with a weird name *and* a strange nickname. If I have to wade through Jeremiah "Nostril" Fluffenbuffer having a conversation with "Pork Chop" Hepzibah Snogglebastermeier as they chase after Zelda "Twinkle Toes" Latishanda Grogglesnow and her best friend, Matilda "Princess" Eliana Schoenblad (See? You have a headache already just wading through that sentence don't you?), then I will throw your book across the room and say things my children shouldn't hear and it will all be your fault.

And I just might rant about it on my blog.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Self-discipline: The triumph of goals over "What I Feel Like"

We've made our resolutions for the year. We've set our goals and (hopefully) figured out a plan on how to achieve them. We've maybe even put them in a prominent place so we can look at them often. Now comes the tricky part: doing it.

And that's going to involve the "D" word.

DISCIPLINE

The boring, dictionary.com, definition of self-discipline is pretty self-explanatory: discipline or training of oneself, usually for improvement.

My definition, though, is: the triumph of goals over "What I Feel Like."

Just stop for a minute and let that sink in.

Self-discipline is getting up early in the morning to work out when what you feel like is staying put in the warm, soft, inviting bed. It's biting your tongue when what you feel like is letting loose when your child does something that makes your blood boil. It's calling the insurance company about that charge when what you feel like is not bothering. It's slogging your way through your train wreck rough draft when what you feel like is throwing it out the window and working on the new, shiny, so-much-better idea you had the other day. It's not checking email 15 times a day when you feel like procrastinating. It's turning off the internet for your writing time. It's writing instead of watching TV or whatever other activities you are giving up for your dream.

Self-discipline is giving up what you feel like doing now for a future worthwhile goal.

To quote Gary Ryan Blair: Self-discipline is an act of cultivation. It requires you to connect today's actions to tomorrow's results. There's a season for sowing a season for reaping. Self-discipline helps you know which is which.

It's often hard, but once you discipline yourself, you can do almost anything.

And if you're the affirmation type, here is a blog with a list of self-discipline affirmations.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Links, links, and more links

I realize it's been a while since I shared links to good stuff others have pointed me to or I've found around the internet while avoiding writing researching the writing craft.

So, without further ado:

A Series of Blog Posts on The Strength of the Harry Potter Series

The Top 10 Peeves from Booksellers and Readers about Author Websites.

Elizabeth Spann Craig talks about not settling for your first idea on Improving on an Idea.

And, if you must, How to Write a Good Prologue.

Author Saundra Mitchell's excellent post on marketing (with links) and how You're Not Gonna Spend a Lot Marketing This Book.

Agent Janet Reid's 2009 rejection stats.

This post from Steve Laube might perhaps change your perspective on rejection in the publishing industry.

A fun read about misplaced modifiers.

"Writing can be learned. Syntax can be taught. Determination is yours and yours alone."< From this Query Shark post.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Word of the Week #85 - asseverate

asseverate - [uh-SEV-uh-rayt] - transitive verb

Definition:

To affirm or declare positively or earnestly.

Usage:

"I will make this NaNo book better!" the author asseverated as she pulled on her hair.

*Any connection to real-world events and/or characters in this post is purely coincidental--or maybe not...

Friday, January 15, 2010

Re:vision

The last month I've been neglectful of all the great blogs I usually read (sorry, guys! You still rock and I still love you--really), but not just because December is super-crazy-I-have-to-do-a -zillion-things-a-day-and-sleep-too-*hysterical laughter* yeah, right-and-throw-in-a-couple-big-holidays-and-kids-out-of-school-and-house-guests-on-top-of-it-all. You see, I've been a neglectful blog-reader because I started a 5 month online writing workshop. It's beyond awesome but it's also a lot of work.

For those who might be curious, it's Holly Lisle's "How to Revise Your Novel Workshop" The tag line of the course is:

Create the book you want from the book you have.


*bouncing in my seat, raising my hand and waving it around* "Oh, me, me, me! I want to have the book I want rather than what I ended up with."

I'm 7 weeks in and my revision paradigm has completely shifted. Revision isn't just about tweaking here and fixing there, it's about clearing out the deadwood so that your vision can shine.

Here are some of the more specific things I've learned:

  • My NaNo book is as bad of a train wreck as I thought.
  • I have to consciously decide what I want the reader to feel for each scene and with the characters. If I read a scene and the only emotion I feel is "Ummmm" then that scene is not working.
  • The importance of first impressions and the implicit promise you make with how much attention you give to details. For example, if the real ugly statue on a pedestal isn't critically important to the main plot, don't spend half a page describing it.
  • Your setting is as much a character as your characters, and there has to be a reason your story takes place where it does. If it could happen anywhere, then you have a problem.
  • You have to know why your story matters. And it's much better to know that before you start rather than after your done and realize you went off on some rough draft tangents that really have nothing to do with the theme you want.
  • Every good scene needs a protagonist, an antagonist, some conflict, and some sort of change.
  • Look at the big, overarching problems before starting in at the line by line edits, because you might waste your time making a paragraph/scene/chapter just right, only to realize you have to cut it.
  • The rough draft that is making me cringe can only get better; it won't get any worse. *Whew!*
  • I can do this! (Which means you can, too.)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Heart Goes to Haiti

We interrupt this normally light-hearted blog to say:

My heart and prayers go out to those in Haiti and with ties to Haiti.

Tomorrow we will return to the normal musings, talk of things writing, and various humorous and silly things I want to share.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Some Writing Things I Learned in 2009

I learned so much last year in my writing that I can't even come close to listing it all. And you do have other things to do today, right? So I'll limit it to 12.

  1. The importance of Embracing the Crap.
  2. What is with the whole Twitter-thing.
  3. Some of the habits of successful writers.
  4. Sometimes you have to listen to your characters.
  5. You have to keep your eyes on the summit.
  6. I don't have to try and juggle cats.
  7. It's necessary at times to fall in love again.
  8. Gathering up all the different parts of me to make a plan is sometimes hard.
  9. I discovered the wonderful landscape of story architecture.
  10. What running up a hill in the middle of the night has to do with writing.
  11. Some great thoughts on editing.
  12. You can do personality tests for imaginary friends.
What have you learned in the last year?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Word of the Week #84 - nebbish

nebbish - [NEB-ish] - noun

Definition:
A weak-willed, timid, or ineffectual person.

Usage:
She stood firm in her resolution until the triple chocolate fudge cake reduced her to dieting nebbish.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Knowing Your Why

We only have so much time, and it's easy to fill it up, whether that's with productive activities, or activities that may waste time. With all of 2010 stretching ahead of me and my nice list of what I'd like to see happen, I've had to ask myself why I plan on spending time on certain things, like exercising and writing.

Someone who is exercising to lose weight is going to approach it differently than someone who is trying to improve in an athletic event. And each person will feel satisfaction and like they've achieved their goals at different times and with different results. But if you go into it without a clear idea of the why, then not only will you not necessarily be maximizing your time, but you might also be setting yourself up to feel like you've failed.

If you know why you're doing something--especially if it's hard and you don't see immediate results--then it's easier to stay motivated and focused, to push through those times when you're tempted to just toss the goal out the window and go watch TV. I'm trying to teach this concept to my children. For example, I've been making my two boys go to karate for several years. Sometimes it's a struggle and my kids beg to quit, but I won't let them. I know the why. They're in karate because they need to learn self-discipline, how to stick with a goal over a long period of time even when it feels monotonous (because everything you do that's worth it feels monotonous at times), and how to work on something that doesn't come easy or with instant gratification. And when they whine to me, I list the whys for them. Someday they'll thank me. (I hope.)

So, dear blog readers who also happen to be writers, why are you writing? What do you hope to get out of it? What's in it for you?

Face it, writing is hard and monotonous and discouraging at times. There is never instant gratification because the process itself takes a long time. But there's some reason writers stick with it. Something that keeps them at it through all the terrible plot wrecks and characters that are so much better in your mind than on the page and dialogue that makes you cringe even as you write it. Something that keeps you from tossing the rough drafts on the fire.

What's my Why?

I write fiction because I love losing myself in the magic of a good book and breaking the chains of reality where I can't fly or meet a sexy pirate or have magic or travel to Paris or solve murder mysteries. I want to give that experience to others. I want readers to lose track of time and feel different after reading my books. I'm not out to preach or save the world but every good book changes you, even if it makes you less stressed than before you started reading it or you keep thinking about the characters or you're sad to reach the end. I want my stories to be ones that cause my children's eyes to light up. I want them to laugh out loud when they read my books and rush to tell their friends all about it.

Yes, I have some monetary goals, too. But I'm not in this for fame, fortune, or to become the next Stephenie Meyer. I'm in it for that light in someone's eyes.

Take time to really know your Why. And if you know it already, I'd love for you to share. Putting it down on paper (or computer screen) will help solidify it in your own mind.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Blog Posts (of mine) I Liked from 2009

Here are some Bookmom Musing blog posts from last year that I enjoyed, either because I was blowing off steam, or had a strange idea and ran with it, or because I found something funny.

  1. Today As a Writing Exercise
  2. American Idol for Writers
  3. The French Printer Conspiracy
  4. A Letter to the Person I Cut Off in Traffic
  5. I Am a Work In Progress
  6. Thank You from the Me Monster
  7. Forget the Tooth Fairy, I Want a Dishes Fairy
  8. My 10 Reader Pet Peeves

This isn't an exclusive reminiscing party. I'd love to have any of you share some of your own blog posts from 2009 that you liked, too.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Things I Learned in 2009

I know 2009 was so last week, but I feel like I should take a post (or 3 or 4) to reminisce on the good old days of last year. And--lucky you--I'm blogging about it. :)

So, without further ado...


1. When the staff at the dentist's office keeps asking you if you're *sure* you want to do all the dental work in one visit, perhaps you should rethink.

2. You can often do more than you think you can. Just focus on one step at a time.

3. Stage 2 dehydration is not fun at all. In a completely bad, horrible, and no-good way.

4. My furnace room is possessed by an invisible something that loves to blow out the pilot light of the hot water heater on the coldest days of the month after I've worked up a good (and stinky) sweat at the gym, then keeps blowing out the light every time I relight it, but graciously steps out of the way when the plumber tries, so that he says, "It worked just fine for me. That'll be $100."

5. Do the more important things first, because days are like pancakes--stuff stacks up as you go and you might not get to the important things once you're drowning in syrup.

6. The computer ink industry is a total racket. $200+ for ink?! Here, let me hand over a limb or my first born while I'm at it.

7. If you find yourself communicating face to face in 140 character increments, then maybe it's time to step away from Twitter--for a little while.

8. Take time to dance and sing often. The acoustics in the shower are pretty good, and if you sing in the car, the people around you don't know you're off-key. Or singing along with Madonna.

9. Cultivate gratitude for all your blessings, because you never know when the rug will be yanked out from under you and you're on your knees.

10. It is possible to eat almost 3 lbs. of sugar snap peas in a day--by yourself. *cough* *cough*

What did you learn last year?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Word of the Week #83 - surreptitious

surreptitious - [suhr-uhp-TISH-uhs] - adjective

Definition:
1. Done, made, or gotten by stealth.
2. Acting with or marked by stealth.

Usage:
After a surreptitious look through one of my manuscripts I realized that I really like--and use--the word surreptitious a lot.

*It definitely qualifies as one of my repeat words.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Come Alive

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. ~ Harold Whitman


This is your year!

Happy 2010!