Archive for December, 2009

Before the holidays began, I had lots of ideas for new blog posts. Now I wonder if I have ideophobia. That’s the fear of ideas, or in my case, the lack of ideas. I’m afraid they aren’t any good, so perhaps it’s just atelophobia, the fear of imperfection. Or maybe I have phronemophobia, the fear of thinking. Yes, I think I’m afraid of thinking.

Some fears I do not have are chrematophobia, the fear of touching money; dendrophobia, the fear of trees; and cathisophobia, the fear of sitting down.

I may or may not have arachibutyrophobia. That’s the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of my mouth. I think that could be a serious problem but it doesn’t stop me from eating peanut butter, so it isn’t a true phobia. Phobias are irrational fears of things that don’t really pose a threat.

Phobias are fascinating to read about, but not much fun for the people who suffer from them. They are anxiety disorders, and cause mental and physical distress. According to Medline Plus, people try to avoid things they are afraid of, and when they can’t, they may react with physical symptoms such as trembling and rapid heartbeats. There are so many phobias a person might have that I can’t list them all here.

Flawed characters can make a story more believable and interesting, and a phobia or two might help give them distinguishable personality traits. If you want to browse lists of phobias that might make your characters more human, take a look at: http://didyouknow.org/phobias.htm  or http://psychology.about.com/od/phobias/a/phobialist.htm 

There’s a helpful article at http://www.medicinenet.com/phobias/article.htm describing why people have phobias, as well as symptoms and some possible treatments.

What are you afraid of? What’s the most unusual fear you’ve known someone to have, or read about?

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In honor of the holidays, I created a short dance video on the Jibjab/Office Max elf site. It expires on January 15, 2010, so if you need a chuckle between now and then, take a look: http://elfyourself.jibjab.com/view/WMZB8GNM14QHUWq0hrHd

 You may want to create a free video of your own, or for $4.99 you can download the videos you make and keep them forever.  If you make one, please leave a link in the comments section so I can watch it.

Happy Holidays!



EDIT:  Elf Yourself videos are no longer available. The site has other ecards to choose from, and they’re lots of fun to make. Some are free, with themes that include dancing, sports, movies, and more. Check back next year for another chance to see the “Elf Yourself” video.

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Like many other people, I’m taking a break from blogging until after Christmas. My kids are home from college for 3 weeks, and our days will be hectic as we celebrate the holidays with family and friends. I’ll be checking in every day or so to respond to any comments, but I won’t have time to write new posts for at least a week.

I hope all of you have a wonderful holiday season, too.


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There’s an essay contest on the Editor Unleashed forum that you might be interested in entering. Entries of 750 words or less on the topic of “Why I Write” will be accepted until December 31, 2009. Members of the forum will be voting on them from January 4, 2010 through January 29, 2010. Winners will be announced on February 1, 2010. The 50 best will be included in an ebook anthology published by Smashwords, and editor Maria Schneider will select one essay as the Grand Prize Winner. The Grand Prize is $500.

There is no entry fee but you must register with the forum (for free) in order to enter or to vote. There are some excellent entries already posted, so the competition will be tough. I’m enjoying reading them, and debating on whether to enter the contest myself. The Editor Unleased forum is one of my favorites, so even if you aren’t interested in submitting an essay, you might enjoy visiting the site.

Here’s the link to the contest rules:


Good luck to all who enter!

Edit December 23, 2009:   

There has been a problem with the Editor Unleashed Forum software the last few days preventing anyone from reading or posting there. I’ve heard that someone is working on it, and will let you know when the forum is accessible again.

December 30, 2009: The forum is back. The Why I Write contest deadline has been extended; entries will be accepted until January 31, 2010.

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Holiday Schedules

The holiday season can be hectic and stressful as we juggle work schedules, shopping, family get-togethers, parties, and other things at this time of year. Finding time to write can be a challenge.

We know it’s important to write regularly, and most of us have works in progress that we’re eager to finish and send out into the world. However, keeping a realistic goal for our writing and other responsibilities in December will help us relax and enjoy the really important things in life. Taking a break or cutting back on our daily word count for a couple of weeks won’t really make a difference in our careers (unless you have a deadline looming).

Try not to stress over the amount of writing you do or don’t do in the next few weeks. Enjoy the true spirit of the holidays, and in January you’ll feel refreshed and ready to attack your project with new energy.


Do you spend less time writing during the holidays? Do you feel stressed out by the extra activities the season generally brings, or do you know the secret to relaxing and enjoying it all?

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In an earlier post I talked about commercial fiction and literary fiction.  When agents and editors talk about “upmarket” fiction, they are referring to books that appeal to both audiences. They are books that have excellent writing along with a story line that appeals to a mainstream market.  

While many genre books are well-written, and might be thought of as commercial, they aren’t generally considered upmarket. However, you’ll see agents asking for upmarket thrillers, upmarket women’s fiction, upmarket crime, as well as other classifications that might be considered genre books. One agent’s submission guidelines asked for fiction that straddles the line between literary and commercial. I think that’s a good explanation of what upmarket really means.

Miss Snark’s blog has a helpful post distinguishing between genre, literary, and commercial writing, along with some excellent advice:  “Just write something fabulous and it will all work out.”

What books can you think of that might be called upmarket fiction?

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I know I’m probably decreasing my own chance of winning by pointing out the contest for a Sony Reader Pocket Edition that Agent Rachelle Gardner has going on this week, but I’m feeling the Spirit of Christmas in a big way. I’d love to have a Sony Reader, but I’m sure many of you would, too.  

The contest involves posting some of your favorite literary passages or a brief statement regarding books that “moved” you on a site called Words Move Me, and a comment on Rachelle Gardner’s blog.

Here’s the link to her blog post with the instructions for entering the contest:        http://cba-ramblings.blogspot.com/2009/12/words-move-me-sony-reader-giveaway.html

The deadline is  11:59 pm MST on Friday, December 11th.

Even if you’re not interested in entering the contest, you might want to take a look at the website called Words Move Me. There are lots of books mentioned that sound fascinating to read.


What are some of your favorite passages from books you’ve read? What books have made an impact on your life or touched your emotions?

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Reviewing books is a pleasure for me, but also a responsibility. I feel I owe the readers of my blog and the authors of the books I read a fair, thoughtful assessment. In an effort to provide quality reviews, I’ve examined those written by professional reviewers, and researched articles for tips on how to go about it. Here are a few of the things I think are most important to keep in mind.

1. A review isn’t supposed to be a book report. Give a brief overview of what the book is about, but concentrate on your reaction to it. How did it make you feel? Were the characters believable? Was the setting clear? Was there a theme or point made that was especially interesting?

2. Don’t give away the whole story, and don’t reveal the climax or the ending. Keep the review short but helpful.

3. Assess who the target audience is and whether you think the book is appropriate in content, style, and difficulty.

4. For nonfiction, mention whether the organization, format, and style are effective for the book’s purpose. For example, if there are maps, indexes, or other features, tell readers whether they were helpful, easy to understand, or lacking in some way.

5. Give praise where it is due, with specific examples of what you liked in order to support your opinion.

6. If you have a valid criticism of the book, tactfully mention what you disagreed with or disliked, and why.

People who read reviews want an honest opinion from someone who has read a particular book to help them determine whether it is worth investing their time and money in it. Give them the help they need, in a way you’d appreciate if you were the author. Maybe, someday, it will be your book someone is talking about.

Do you read reviews before deciding to buy a book? What do you want to know about a book before you decide to read it? Do you have a favorite site for reading book reviews?

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I enjoy adding widgets and other features to my blog almost as much as I like writing the posts. Today I discovered the “snow” feature, which can be added to any WordPress blog by going to the Appearance/Extras section of the Dashboard. It gives us falling snow until January 4th, which is about the time I’ll be looking forward to Spring. Since it looked silly with the fall scene I had on my header, I had to change it to a chilly, gray day fitting for a snow shower. If we ever get our house decorated for Christmas, I’ll put up a more festive picture, but for now–Let It Snow!

What’s the weather like where you are? Do you enjoy the snow and cold, or are you a warm-weather person? Don’t you love to sit and write while the snow falls outside and you’re toasty warm inside? (Sorry, that’s the only way I could think of to tie this in with the writing theme of my blog.  :)  )

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Children’s books are divided into several subcategories, primarily related to the age and reading level of their target audience. Make sure that the content, length, and vocabulary of your manuscript is appropriate for the type of book you’re writing. Many word processors have a readability function you may find helpful in judging your manuscript’s sentence length and reading level.

Always look at the guidelines of any agent or editor you plan to submit your manuscript to in order to make sure they handle this genre. Unless you are a professional illustrator, don’t submit pictures or drawings with your manuscript.

Here is a general breakdown of the types of books you’ll find for children:

Baby books often consist of finger play, nursery rhymes, or short lullabies. They are meant to be read aloud.

Toddler books often have short, simple stories, and may teach concepts such as shapes or colors. These may include pop-up books, board books, or include sounds or textures.

Picture books are aimed at children ages 4 to 8. They have simple plots with one main character. There are usually illustrations on every page, or every other page, to help tell the story. These books cover a wide range of topics and typically run 32 pages, or up to 1,500 words. Nonfiction picture books may be slightly longer, often about 2,000 words, or 48 pages long, and appropriate for kids up to age 10.

Easy Readers are for children who are starting to read on their own, usually ages 6 to 8. These may have chapters and color illustrations. The length varies from 32 to 64 pages, with a maximum of about 2,000 words. The story is told through action and dialogue, but with simple sentence structure.

Transition books, or early chapter books, are for ages 6 to 9. These may be longer than easy readers, with black and white illustrations and very short chapters.

Chapter books are aimed at ages 7 to 10. They have several chapters, but still use short paragraphs. The length ranges from 4,000 to 12,000 words.

Middle grade books are written with kids age 8 to 12 in mind. They have subplots and more complex themes than chapter books. Fiction covers a wide range, with contemporary, historical, and science fiction settings. Nonfiction books for this group often include biographies, history, and science subjects. The vocabulary is more advanced, but avoid using profanity.

The following sites offer helpful tips on writing for children:

http://www.fictionfactor.com/children/kidsgenres.html  Excellent breakdown of the children’s categories.

http://www.underdown.org/basics.htm  Good general info on writing for children.

http://writingfiction.suite101.com/article.cfm/chapter_book_basics  Info on writing chapter books.

http://writingfiction.suite101.com/article.cfm/middle_grade_novel_guidelines  Writing for middle grades.


What are some of your favorite children’s books? Are there any you’ve read so many times that you know them by heart? (One of my favorites is Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? My youngest child is 19 and I think I still could recite that book from memory.)

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