Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Traditions of New Year’s

This is a great time of year for reflection and contemplation – reflection on the year in closing, and thoughtful anticipation of the New Year. It's a time for counting your blessings, and making plans for a brighter tomorrow. A time steeped in tradition.

What are some of those traditions? It is tradition for many to spend New Year's Eve in celebration. In New England, revelers partake in First Night Fests that include parades, music, and cultural activities. Everyone knows of the ball drop in New York City. In the Houston suburbs, celebrants bring in the New Year with booming fireworks displays.

For others, the tradition falls mainly on New Year's Day itself. Superstitions abound, and many folks, self-included, feel New Year's Day sets the stage for the incoming year (see my post from last year here). There are traditional foods shared both New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, some believed to bring about good luck or good fortune.

Probably the most well known tradition is that of making New Year's resolutions. Almost everyone has made resolutions at some point or another. The desire to make the incoming year better than the one ending is powerful, and people resolve to change many things. To eat better, lose weight, exercise more, spend less, save more, etc. Typically, the resolve is strong in the beginning, but tends to wane over time. That is why you will see a surge of activity at the health club come January, but it fairly quickly dies down.

One way to make your resolve passionate and help you to keep that resolution is to write it down and post it prominently. Not just where you can see it every day, but where the rest of your family can as well, maybe even friends.

In keeping with tradition, I have made a few writerly resolutions that I would like to post here and share. I give everyone full permission to frequently remind me of these resolutions, check in and ask how I'm doing, and otherwise keep me honest and working towards them. I also invite you to share your resolutions, and feel free to add your thoughts in the comments.

Sheryl's 2009 Resolutions and Goals

  • Rewrite and edit my NaNoWriMo novel into a finished manuscript.
  • Once finished with the novel, query agents.
  • Participate in NaNoWriMo again next November.
  • Post a minimum of one short story each quarter on my blog.

Signing off for 2008, I wish everyone a very happy and prosperous New Year!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Book Review - First Three of the Twilight Series

Twilight (The Twilight Saga, Book 1) Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was an enjoyable read and I look forward to seeing the movie adaptation.

New Moon (The Twilight Saga, Book 2) New Moon by Stephenie Meyer

rating: 2 of 5 stars
New Moon left me feeling a bit cheated, like the story wasn't really finished, it was truly a let-down. Still an easy, quick read like Twilight, but too much more of the same... Bella's insatiable love of the vampire Edward and how perfect Edward is.

Eclipse (The Twilight Saga, Book 3) Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer

rating: 3 of 5 stars
Eclipse was another enjoyable read, although none in the series has captured my attention as much as the original Twilight. In Eclipse, Edward becomes even more perfect (if that's possible) and Bella remains head-over-heels in love with him. The werewolf Jacob adds more interest to the story, but overall I still feel like it's more of the same... a teenage girl swooning over her perfect guy.

View all my reviews.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Split is Positively Rejected!

Happy holidays to all! 2008 has been an exciting year, and one of my highlights was having Split published. It provided a vast array of learning experience and even more exciting…

Split is Positively Rejected!

Recently, Humble Fiction Café entered our book, Split, into the 16th annual Writer’s Digest International Self-Published Book Awards. We did not win. I am happy to report however, that we received some fantastic scoring and commentary.

On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being excellent, Split received outstanding marks as follows:

Plot – 5
Grammar – 5
Character Development – 4
Cover Design – 5

Wow – I’m still excited by those impressive marks. The judge went on to comment that he liked the overall theme of the book, as well as the variety of voices and writers. He mentioned a few stories by name where he particularly liked the ending, and said all the stories were good reads! Additionally, he found value in the end of story explanations. The judge complimented Humble Fiction Café saying that through our writing he felt we liked one another and he sensed good will.

Equally beneficial, the judge also mentioned areas that could improve the book, such as stronger character development, and less focus on plot twists that occasionally resulted in sudden, sometimes violent endings. The judge felt there were too many stories with the character Beatrice, but also said they were all good so he wouldn’t know which stories to cut.

Overall, I think the commentary and our scores were outstanding. As writers, we value this kind of feedback because it helps us know what we did well, and how we can do better in the future.

If you haven’t yet read Split, I invite you to do so. If you’ve read Split, I would love to hear from you. What did you like best about the book? How do you think the book could be improved?

Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

I took a fun quiz that matches your personality with a Fantasy/SciFi character. I matched with Gandalf...


Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

You can take the quiz also at Be sure to post in the comments which Fantasy/SciFi character you matched.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Free Family Fun for Christmas

Anyone looking for free family Christmas fun in the Houston area, check out the live nativity at Woodforest Presbyterian church. They have live animals, a manger scene, and costumes to dress in. It's a great way to get into the Christmas spirit.

Monday, December 8, 2008

National Novel Writing Month is Over – so Now What?

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is officially over. I'm pretty sure that just about anyone that knows me or reads my blog is aware that I participated and won at this event by completing a 50,000-word novel. How exciting is that? Congratulations to everyone else that participated in the event. Regardless of word count, you've accomplished an amazing feat.

A friend recently asked me if I would do it again, and without hesitation, I answered a resounding "yes." The lessons learned through the month long event were invaluable, requiring discipline and the support of my family. The fact that I now have a drafted novel is incredible to me. I wouldn't want to trade the experience …but now what?

I've got a plan that I will share with you here, and you can respond in the comments to tell me if you think it will work. My plan is simple, I think. During December, without reading my NaNoWriMo novel at all, I am working on character biographies and plotting. These are details I didn't have time for before or during NaNoWriMo, so I'm taking the time now. I want to nail down the personalities that make each character unique in my story, and then work on tightening and strengthening the plot and sub-plots.

There is much in my NaNoWriMo novel that will need to come out, but many places where I will need to embellish. My goal is to take a fresh look in January, with stronger characters and plot points, and begin a rewrite.

Whether you consider yourself a WriMo or a NaNo'er (I've seen them both touted), what are your plans now that the month is over? Are you going straight into a rewrite? Are you sitting your manuscript aside for a time to gracefully age? Who's in it with me for next year?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Book Review - Writing for the Soul by Jerry B. Jenkins

Writing for the Soul: Instruction And Advice from an Extraordinary Writing Life Writing for the Soul: Instruction And Advice from an Extraordinary Writing Life by Jerry B. Jenkins

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars

Chapter 1 is appropriately entitled Early Breaks. As I read about the author’s writing success, even at an early age, I immediately began to doubt the value in the following pages. This author obviously experienced a great deal of beginners luck. He clearly didn’t face the obstacles and numerous rejections early on in his career that are so characteristic of this field. How could he provide instruction and advice to someone like me, someone finally beginning to take their writing career seriously, mid-life? I certainly have not received any early breaks!

But the book was easy to read and entertaining, so I pursued. And I am very happy that I did. This very well written book is loaded with useful information.

By far the most valuable chapter to me was Chapter 12, Thickening the Stew. It is here that the author gets into practical ways to make your writing tighter and less cluttered. He describes beginner writer errors, talks about setting the scene, and explains when and how to use foreshadowing, flashbacks, and transitions. And while his intended audience is the inspirational writer, the lessons learned can be applied to any writer.

Extremely successful, yes, and obviously a good and well-seasoned author. While I haven’t read any of his other works, you can bet they will be on my to-read list now.

View all my reviews.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Puzzle Fun

This is a picture of my family taken at Thanksgiving. If you click on the arrow in the bottom left corner of the picture, it becomes a fun puzzle! I heard about this from the Stay At Home Mom blog, and you can create your own puzzle at