‘Cause in This World of Trouble, my Music Pulls me Through

Just got to your desk, got your coffee but still need an extra boost? Here’s my “Feel Good and Get Rocking at Your Desk” playlist for today. You may take the rocking literally :D

For those of you who want to try something new, sign up for the 60-day Google Music trial. It’s totally worth it; I’ve tried most of the paid music services (still loving Pandora, never been a big fan of Spotify), but Google Music is definitely my favorite.

Happy Friday!

Feel Good and Get Rocking at Your Deskmusic

  • The Heat is On, Glenn Frey
  • Beat It, Michael Jackson
  • Jump, Van Halen
  • Come on Eileen, Dexys Midnight Runners (of course this has to be included!)
  • In The Heat of The Night, Sandra
  • We Built This City, Starship
  • Music, John Miles
  • Flashdance (What a Feeling), Irene Cara
  • Rebirth (Original Short Mix), Mark ‘oh Vs. John Davies
  • Brave, Sara Bareilles
  • Young Girls, Bruno Mars
  • Dancing in the Dark, Bruce Springsteen
  • Vacation, The Go-Go’s
  • We Belong, Pat Benatar
  • Waiting for a Star to Fall, Boy Meets Girl
  • Take on me, a-ha
  • China in Your Hand, T’Pau
  • Livin’ on a Prayer, Bon Jovi
  • Cruel Summer, Bananarama
  • Walking on Sunshine, Katrina and the Waves
  • Heaven is a Place on Earth, Belinda Carlisle

2 thoughts on “‘Cause in This World of Trouble, my Music Pulls me Through

  1. You forgot I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) by The Proclaimers!

  2. cyndera says:

    I’m pretty sure I forgot a lot of songs :P I’ll make sure to add that to the next playlist.

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So … You Want to be Funny?

So do I. Really. I’m just … not. Not when I want to be, anyway. Every now and then I end up in situations where my friends almost choke because they thought I was so hilarious. Those situations usually involve some joke I didn’t understand and thus provoked a ridiculous reaction. I could tell you the tea bag story (I really just wanted some hot tea), but … never mind. The point is that it’s American humor, and I’ve only lived in this country for close to eight years now, so sometimes I still don’t get it. Give me a break!

But seriously, I wish I could  be funny and come up with stuff  that you find in books by Bill Bryson or John Scalzi. I can’t remember how often I’ve read I’m a Stranger Here Myself (“Why Everyone is Worried” is my absolute favorite) or Old Man’s War (I would marry John Perry if I could … really) and couldn’t stop laughing, even in public places. No, it does not count as being funny when other people laugh at you just because you act like an idiot in public :P.

Of course, it does not always have to be so elaborate. I would be perfectly happy if I were able to come up with stuff you see in the catalogs that appear in your mailbox every year around Christmas time (What on Earth and Signals.com being two of my favorites). I mean, how hard can it be to come up with lines such as these:

itired

tense

 

 

 

 

Who came up with that? Certainly not the catalog people? I have no idea, and that’s not really the point. The point is that they made me laugh regardless, and that’s always a good thing on a cold Sunday morning. But it got me thinking: How hard can it really  be to be funny? Because, when you think of it, I doubt that even masters like Bill Bryson, Dave Barry and others walk over to their desks, sit down, merrily scribble something on paper and toss the pen into a corner after maybe twenty minutes, get up to do something else? I really doubt it works that way (and if it does, please don’t tell me and destroy my hope that even these writers actually have to work on their stories to perfect them). So I think at the end of the day it’s really damn hard to be funny.

Despite my admiration for the above mentioned writers, I would never try to copy their style, or even attempt to. Mainly because I could not, even if I quit my job and locked myself up for the rest of my life and read nothing but their books. It just would not happen. More importantly though I think I am okay with my own style (or what it is shaping up to be). I just would like to make people giggle every now and then. After all, humor is one of the three things that provoke reactions in people, at least according to Eve Mayer, and that’s what writers strive for (okay, the reactions should be positive, too, but that’s beside the point).

So, the next time you read something that I’ve written, and it elicits a smile or maybe even a giggle, let me know. It will make my day, I promise!

2 thoughts on “So … You Want to be Funny?

  1. I’m going to have to hear this teabag story…I need new material myself :)

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A Writer’s Thanks

With everything that is going on in this world and in our lives, it’s sometimes easy to forget that there are plenty of things we can and should be thankful for. Like First-World problems. Yes, we consider those problems, but think about it: Would you rather deal with famine or the fact that you have run out of chocolate at eleven at night? Would you rather deal with Ebola or with a semi-annoying cold? Would you rather live in a war zone or suffer through that three-hour meeting with your boss and his new annoying right-hand man? Would you rather scramble to put food on your table and feed your family or go through the annoying “We want ham vs turkey” argument with your loved ones? Would you rather deal with writing a national speech on how we plan to fight the IS or with writer’s block?

I am not saying that these problems are not relevant to us, or even seem like the proverbial mountain that you’ll never be able to climb. What I am saying -or trying to, anyway- is that most of our problems are small compared to what millions of other people have to suffer through every single day. We are very privileged, and it’s easy to forget that sometime, but I think it’s something we always need to keep in mind. It puts our struggles into perspective.

With that being said, here are a few things that I am really thankful for this year: thanksgiving-229287_640

  • My family and friends: Without them, my brief period of unemployment would have been much harder. I could say a lot more about these guys, but we’ve all had our hours of doubts,
    so we all know what it feels like when somebody has your back, no matter what
  • Being unemployed in the summer: Yes, sounds odd, but it could have happened in the winter … but instead, I was able to start running, go to the pool, get out of the house to apply for jobs and get the first draft of Rivers of The Mind (working title) on paper.
  • My health: I was fortunate to be able to make lifestyle changes that got me on a path to a much better health (and lots of weight loss, too)
  • My new job: I am thankful that I found a new job relatively quickly (after being unemployed for three months). I am thankful that I had a lot of interviews, and I am thankful that I persevered and, in the end, not only found a new job but also a place that makes me feel welcome and useful
  • And lastly, to tie this somehow back into writing, I am thankful for friends that are willing to read over my drafts and take the time to give feedback. Special thanks for draft #4 go to (in no particular order): Monica, Charles, Carolyn, Anna, and Cindy. Above all though, I am thankful for their encouragement and believing in me. Means so much, guys!

What are you thankful for this year?

Wishing you all a safe, tasty, and healthy Thanksgiving!

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Holy Sh**, That’s [Insert Name of Character Here]!

That exact thought flashed through my mind the other day when I was waiting for the metro in D.C. to go home after a night out with some of my girlfriends. I look to the left, and there’s this guy, and he looked EXACTLY like I picture Nathaniel, one of the main characters in my novel. It was uncanny, but very cool at the same time. Of course, it does not happen very often that you see a personification of a character that you have been writing next to you on the subway platform. I could still kick myself for not saying hello to the guy … but what was I gonna say? “Hey, I am writing a book, and you look EXACTLY like one of my main characters?” Even through it’s true, it sounds like THE worst pick-up line EVER! So of course I didn’t say anything … I really hope I will run into him again, but I am not sure I would be better prepared next time.

After this admittance of having no courage to approach people I think are cute, I am getting to my actual topic: Although you don’t usually see your characters walking/standing around in flesh and blood, you can use bits and pieces of the people around you to shape your characters, to give them personality, background, and authenticity. You can draw a lot of inspiration from strangers and friends/acquaintances alike. Maybe there’s this really tall guy walking by, and just the way he carries his briefcase reminds you of your villain (my apologies to all tall men with briefcases out there … I am sure you are not all that bad :P). Maybe one of your friends has a character trait that works perfectly for one of your characters. For example, a good friend of mine is one of the sweetest, kindest and most honest people you will ever meet, and those particular attributes perfectly describe Cameron, one of the good guys in my novel. Cameron tries hard to be a friend to Kyra, whom he loves -which -of course- is good for the story as it creates tension, and not just between him and Kyra.

It also works the other way ’round: Say you have a character (or need a character) but are not quite sure yet how you can give him/her more personality and depth; next time that happens, focus on what’s going on around you, whether you are on the subway, in the grocery store or just walking around. There’s so much inspiration out there that’s just waiting to be found, and suddenly you come up with all kinds of great ideas on how to develop your character and also plot.

So the next time you walk around, or ride the metro, or are just sipping your cup of coffee, have a look around and just observe. You’d be surprised how many little things will stand out.

Happy Writing, and Happy Weekend!

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Nobody is Perfect … Or: Everybody Creates Disaster Zones

Happy After-Halloween! I hope you all handed out lots of chocolate and ate a fair amount yourself. With my current doctor-prescribed month of “avoid EVERYTHING that has soy in any way, shape, or form”, I did not participate in the snacking … yes, a very sad thing indeed *sigh*.

To distract myself from all the yumminess, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time working on the fourth draft of my novel (yes, I am going to call it that from now on … call it self-motivation). I am working chapter by chapter, and it’s a lot of fun to go over the text with a fine-to-medium tooth comb (“Comb the desert!”).

Here’s what struck me: How much of a far cry this draft is from the very first draft I put on paper. Forgive my language, but holy crap, the first draft now looks like a disaster zone, buried by an avalanche and blown to pieces by what I think may have been Pompeii’s demise. Well, as long as it does not rise as a First-Draft-Zombie and haunts me, I think I will be okay … right?

As much as it pains me to look at previous drafts, I have to say though that it reiterates a lesson that is a hard to learn and to remember (maybe the hardest one for a lot of writers, but certainly for me): No first draft is ever perfect, no matter how much you think it may be, and no matter how hard you work on making it perfect from the start. It won’t be. Trust me.

I was just talking to a friend of mine (also an aspiring author … and detective in real life, so that should be interesting) about this:
“How did you actually manage to get the whole story on paper?”
“I just wrote it all down.”
“Duh, I know THAT,” she said, “I meant how did you actually manage to not get stuck? Every time I sit down and write, I write a few sentences, maybe paragraphs, maybe even a scene or chapter, but then I go back and start to revise it, and never get any further.”

I know exactly what she meant. Each time I write something new (even this post), I have to force myself to just write down everything I want to convey first before going back and edit. Of course I go back to correct typos, replace a word here and there, but in general, I try to keep going until all the content that I want to include (or think I want to include anyway) is right there in front of me.

“For shorter things that may work,” she said, “but for a manuscript of over 100,000 words, that’s not easy!”
She’s right, it’s not. In fact, it’s hell.

So here’s what worked for me and my manuscript:

During each writing session, I wrote down as much as I wanted/could that day, and then I let it rest for a day.
Before starting a new chapter or scene (the next day or whenever I had time), I would briefly revisit what I had written during the previous session, just to make sure there were no major mess-ups in there (I would correct those if necessary), and then move on.

I used to be the type of person (well, still am I guess) that wanted her first draft to be perfect: college paper, blog post, article, editorial, does not matter … but I know it just won’t happen. The excuse “but I am a perfectionist” really does not fly here. You just have to re-train yourself and keep going, no matter how hard it may be. Take solace in the knowledge that with every draft, every revision, your story grows stronger and better, more intriguing and exciting. No matter how shocking it may be to look at the disaster zone you call your first draft, it’s a beautiful thing to see how your story has developed over time … and you -and your skills- with it!

And now please excuse me, I have to revise this blog post :)

P.S.: I actually considered posting the blog post with the revision mark-ups, but I wanted to spare you from getting a headache :)

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Thief of Hope to be Republished

Thief of Hope, Cindy Young Turner

I am very excited to share an update from my co-worker and fellow author Cindy Young Tuner!

Her book Thief of Hope is about to be republished. If you like fantasy, you should definitely check it out. It will be available as an e-Book for various readers as well!

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Writing Series: Blogging for Work, Blogging for Life

Description:

Why blog? Blogging can help you build your presence in the professional community, grow your expertise on topics of professional and personal interest, expand your career options, develop professional connections, and satisfy your creative spirit. Our three panelists will share their blogging journey and what they’ve learned along the way. Whether you’ve never written a blog post before or you’re a seasoned blogger, this program will provide insight and inspiration from three very different perspectives.

When: Wednesday, November 12, 2014, 6-8pm (6-6:30 pizza, drinks, and networking). Presentations and virtual viewing will begin at 6:30.

Where: LexisNexis, 1150 18th Street NW, Washington, DC 20036 (closest metro stations: Farragut North and Farragut West) and virtually via GoToMeeting

Price:
Onsite: Retired/Student/Unemployed: $5, SLA member $10, Non-member $15
Virtual: SLA member: $5, Non-member $15

Registration: Click here. Virtual attendees must also register through GoToMeeting at: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/597015152

Moderator: Elizabeth Lieutenant, M.S.L.I.S. Candidate and Graduate Assistant, Catholic University of America

Panelists:

Marie Kaddell, M.L.S., M.S., M.B.A.
Senior Information Professional Consultant
LexisNexis

Marie has been blogging since 2000. She authored a personal blog for 8 years, sharing the funny side of life for a working mom living in suburbia. In 2006 she took her blogging skills to work and started the Government Info Pro blog as a resource for government librarians. Recently, she took her blogging skills to a whole new place – an author blog: Make Mine Paranormal. Writing under her maiden name, Marie Michelle Coleman, Marie recently released the first book in a paranormal romance/urban fantasy series – Bespoken. Her blog serves as part of her author platform. Marie will be presenting on workplace blogging and the strategic use of your blogging experience.

Aileen M. J. Marshall, MLIS, MA
Knowledge Management/Monitoring & Evaluation Specialist
The DHS Program/ICF International

Aileen has been blogging since 2010, about a year after she started Library School. Blogging about traditional librarianship at first, she branched out when she discovered her passion for non-traditional librarianship. About four months ago, she re-designed and transitioned her blog Picturesque to reflect her personal writing: She is currently working on her first Science Fiction novel and shares experiences about writing and editing a story/manuscript, among other things. She also just started a new blog called A Journey Towards Health And Beauty, which chronicles her experiences switching to cruelty-free, organic and mostly vegan personal care and other products as well as lifestyle changes. Aileen will be presenting on the challenges of finding your own voice and branding your blog.

Christian I. J. Minter, MLIS
National Library of Medicine Associate Fellow
Welch Medical Library, Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions

Christian has been blogging for six years. She is the author of two personal blogs: Silver Blades & Pink Slippers shares her experience as an adult figure skater, and Climbing the Stacks chronicles her adventures in the world of librarianship. Christian will be presenting on utilizing blogging as a student and new librarian, and finding the balance in sharing your personal and professional life online.

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Make it Meaningful, Part 1

On September 2, I’ve started my new job as Knowledge Management/Monitoring & Evaluation Specialist for The Demographic and Health Surveys Program (if you really want to know what I do, shoot me a message :P). Trying to wrap my brain around the myriad of new things that I will have to know and work with though has kept me from writing pretty anything else but stuff that needs to be written for work. The nice thing is that part of the reason I was chosen in the end was the fact that the interview team really liked my writing; I had to submit three writing samples, and while these were, obviously, professional pieces, it gave me a boost of confidence.

Now the fifth week is over and I think that I can spare a few brain cells for another blog post. Despite the fact that the writing I do at work and writing/re-writing my novel are very different, I did come across one of the characteristics that both types have in common: Don’t include stuff that really does not need to be there. In other words: Make it meaningful. It’s really bad when your readers go through your stuff and you can virtually see a bubble hovering above their heads that says something like “And why am I reading this, exactly? Why is this important for this report/story? Couldn’t this be a little shorter …? I get the idea!” necessary

Sometimes it’s easy for a writer, to identify obsolete parts of a text, and sometimes it’s even easy to cut out those parts because you don’t feel a strong connection with them. Oftentimes though, you know that a part or a scene or dialog is unnecessary but you still want to keep it because you either really like the content, or maybe it took you a long time to write, or maybe it’s just something personal that you want to include in the story. That happened to me at the very beginning of my story: It started out with my main character Kyra waiting for the metro, and then riding the metro, and then switching lines, all while she is thinking about some stuff that is going on in her life. I wrote the first scene because I am a big fan of subway systems and find them fascinating, and since Kyra is a lot like me, it felt only natural to me that she shares this particular interest of mine. Unfortunately though, the whole shebang didn’t add anything interesting or of value to my story (insert sad face here). It took me a while (and a gentle nudge from two of my beta-readers) to realize that. Believe me when I say that it was with a heavy heart that I took out this very first scene … but I have to admit that the beginning of the story is a lot more fast-paced and interesting now, so I guess that the little scene had to be sacrificed for the greater good. As for Kyra’s interest in the subway: It still made its way into the story, but in a more subtle (and shorter) way.

Then you have instances where you experience a case of  “cannot see the wood for the trees”: You are too involved with your text that you really don’t see parts that are maybe not necessary for the story to work, or at least not in the way/at the point you chose to include them. To avoid falling into that trap, always keep your readers in mind: What is it they really need to know? What can they deduce from your writing? Again this happened to me, this time in my second chapter. I had a bunch of information that I needed to convey to the reader, and the whole thing spanned about four pages in the beginning. Despite the fact that I knew the narrative was too long, the information was still something I needed my readers to know, or at least I thought that all of it was vital enough to be included in that narrative. One of my beta-readers (Cindy Young Turner, author of Thief of Hope) sat me down and gently pointed out that some of the things I dumped into these four pages can (and should) be weaved in to the story in different ways, but that some of the information is actually not necessary because the readers will be smart enough to figure it out. Discussing this with her was a great learning experience; it made me see that there are other ways to sneak in information without making it sound like a lecture and bore the readers with too much background story in one place. Some of the information now resides in dialog, some of it is sprinkled throughout the beginning of the story, and some I have yet to incorporate again somewhere else.

So, the next time you write a report or story, ask yourself: What’s really necessary and what can safely be omitted? It makes your writing so much more interesting, meaningful and, of course, beautiful.

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For The Love of Learning: The Kid Experiment

Like many people, I go through each day with the goal to learn something new: a new expression/word, a new fact, the title of a new book. These experiences and -more importantly- how we make use of them shape who we are. In other words: They shape our very own story.

As writers, I think we go a tiny step further: We think about how the things we learn, the people we meet and the experiences we have can be woven into the stories we dream up. We keep scrutinizing our surroundings for little details –a scent, a sound, a visual we can use to overcome a writer’s block or to come up with an entirely new story.

Sometimes though, you experience something for the very first time, something that opens up entirely new possibilities and provides insights and perspectives you have never been able to get before. That’s what happened to me a few weeks ago, when my friend and fellow writer Timewalkerauthor came to visit me with his two kids (six & seven years old). Although I’ve had two Babysittlings (thank my tired brain for that word) years ago, I have never had kids in my house for more than a few hours, let alone for almost five days in a row. I am not a parent myself, and I am not exactly the biggest fan of children; despite the fact that both my mom and grandmother were kindergarten teachers, I don’t think I carry that particular gene in me. Trust me, if my mom read this, she would agree. In fact, she is probably the only mother that discourages her daughter to have kids. But I digress.

Being around Emma and Ethan has given me the opportunity to experience a tiny(!) fraction of what parents deal with on a daily basis. First and foremost, there is a a lot of stuff that made me want to pull out my hair:

Kid: “I don’t want to eat the rest of my dinner.”
Me: “Then you’ll have it tomorrow for lunch.”
Kid: “I will NOT!”
Me: “Oh yes, you will, because you won’t get anything else. There are kids who would be HAPPY to have this food because they never have enough food and are always hungry!”
(I refrained from throwing the “starving kids in Africa”-card … hey, I really don’t know how much kids that age can comprehend).
Kid is either in a pouting or tantrum-stage at this point … luckily, my friend backed up my resolve, with the result that the food was indeed being eaten the next day. Suck it!

On the other hand though, I had some truly amazing moments with the kids, and it made me realize that the effort is probably (somewhere, somehow) worth it. I can already hear most parents protesting: “OF COURSE IT’S TOTALLY WORTH IT, HOW CAN YOU POSSIBLY DOUBT THAT?!”, to which I can only say “Baby steps, everybody, baby steps.” And whereas I doubt that I will be working on some parenting or a children’s book anytime soon, I am grateful that I had the opportunity to live a different life from the one I am used to, at least for a little while as it greatly expanded my horizon and will help me to see things from a different perspective.

Thanks, Emma & Ethan, for a truly sweet time (and thanks, Timewalkerauthor, for reminding me that -for right now- I enjoy my life without kids :P).

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A Tasty Surprise – Guest Post for Timewalkerauthor

Timewalkerauthor_featuredPic

This week, I wrote a short guest post for Timewalkerauthor, so hop over there and enjoy (and don’t forget to check out his stuff as well).

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