"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." - Walt Disney

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Free Comic Books, E-books and Audio books

Gizmo's Freeware has published a directory and reviews of free download sites. Gizmo claims all listed sites are legitimate and display NO pirated content.

This directory includes sites for downloading free E-books, Audio books and even comic books.

The first site I visited displays the first issue of Action Comics, dated June 1938. This is the issue that introduced Superman to the world. A year later, Superman got his own series. According to Gizmo, a copy of this issue recently sold for $1.5 million, but now you can view it online for free.
Gizmo lists include books from most genre’s and time periods. I found titles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allan Poe, Debbie Macomber, Martin Luther King, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. and Zane Grey. I have only viewed a small portion of these so far, but the type and graphics (in the case of the comic book I mentioned) have been good quality.
Thanks to free resources like these, it’s easy for us to reread classics as well as enjoy new and entertaining publications. Happy reading!

Monday, March 28, 2011

More Cast Your Vote

Yesterday, I asked for your vote to decide on the topics I will post for the “A to Z” challenge. I listed the first five letters of the alphabet with possible topics. I’ve already received several comments and emails with your choices for those as well as suggestions for other letters.
Here are some of the choices for the next seven letters. Remember, you can cast your vote either by leaving a comment or emailing writinginwonderland@gmail.com. You may also go back and cast votes for the first five letters as well.
Please keep it reading, writing, and publishing related. Topics may pertain to authors and film as well. I know some of you are hoping to sell screenplays or have your books made into movies.
I’m looking forward to hearing more from you all. Happy Writing!

F – Fairy Tales, False Claimant, Fantasy, Fears, Feedback, Femme fatale, Fiction, Flash fiction, Flash forward, Flashback, Flaws, Focus, Foreshadowing, Formula.
G – Gender concerns, Ghosts, Ghostwriting, Gifts in writing, Grammar, Growth in storytelling.
H – Half-scene, Happy Endings, Herald, Hero/Heroine and the journey, Homme fatale, Horror, Hubris, Human Qualities, Humor.
I – Ideas, Illusions, Images, Intellectual plot, Interactive stories, Internal conflict, Interviewing, Introduction.
J – Journey, Jung Theory.
K – K in Humor, Kubler-Ross Theory.
L – Language, Lessons, Letters as magical symbols, Linear stories, Listening, Literary Process, Loglines, Love scenes, Lyrical writing.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Cast Your Vote and Awards

First, thank you Deirdra Eden - Coppel for the “Powerful Woman Writer” award and Jenni Merritt for the “One Lovely Blog” award. Both of these talented young women have wonderful stories and tips of their own to share and I encourage you to check out their blogs by clicking on their name.
The “Lovely Blog” award rules state I should pay it forward to other newly discovered bloggers. In all honesty, I have discovered so many great blogs in the last few months it would be impossible for me to name only a few. Instead, if you are a new blogger, I encourage you to accept this award by leaving a comment and a link below.
Now, I would like to ask for your vote. I am participating in the “A to Z” blogging challenge in April. Many fellow bloggers have already prepared their posts for the first few letters. Some have even completed more than half of the alphabet.
I thought I would let you vote on the topics I will cover. Below is a list of options for the first few letters. I would like you to review them and vote for the posts you want to see.
You can cast your votes either by leaving a comment below or emailing writinginwonderland@gmail.com to tell me which topics you want. You may even suggest other topics if you don’t see one you like. The only rule (for my blog) is the topic must be reading, writing or publishing related.
I look forward to your choices. Happy Writing!
A – Action writing, Adjectives or Adverbs and their correct use (omitting unnecessary words), Agents, Anecdotes, Apostrophes and their correct use, Archetypes,  Assessing your writing, Atmosphere.
B – Backstory, Balance in your writing, Beginning a new story, Bios – writing your own or for someone else, Blog your book.
C – Catalyst, Catharsis, Chapterbooks, Characterization, Cliches, Climax, Comedy, Compression, Computer influence on the writer/reader, Conflict, Creativity tips, Crisis.
D – Dark Mentors, Demographics, Decision Points, Description, Details, Dialogue, Dreams.
E – Elevator Pitch, Enemies, Elixir, Emotions, Endings, Epilogues, Essays, Expectations, Exposition.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

MFA for $6

A few months ago I shared five things to keep in mind when deciding whether or not you wanted to pursue an MFA. I recently ordered The Portable MFA in Creative Writing – hardcover – from Writer’s Digest for six dollars.
Too many people complete their MFA without the tools they need. Others never get the opportunity to even begin an MFA. Whether you have your MFA, are currently taking classes to do so or are only considering it, I recommend this book. The introduction alone is worth the cost.

Writers can obtain the core knowledge of a prestigious $50,000 MFA program without paying tuition. With real-world instruction and career advice, this book includes sections on fiction personal essay and memoir, magazine writing, poetry, and playwriting.

The book is authored by several teachers of the New York Writers Workshop. (Some of these professors also co-host a webzine at www.ducts.org and run a monthly reading series.) This teacher-founded, teacher-run writing collective in New York City offers courses to writers of all levels on short stories, novels, non-fiction and other disciplines. This book is a compilation of information from some of their most popular classes including:
  • Inspiration and tips on revision, stamina, and productivity
  • Clear instruction on the craft behind the art
  • Detailed reading lists to expand your literary horizons
  • Exercises to improve your writing endeavors
I have not yet finished reading this book. I’ve focused my attention on the fiction chapter which is divided into essential elements of fiction and becoming a better writer. While I am by no means suggesting everyone who buys this book will be an accomplished writer at the end of reading it, I do believe you will have learned many of the elements they teach you in college for a fraction of the time and cost. It’s up to you to practice what you’ve learned and chase success.

Good luck and Happy Writing!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Recipe Contests

Country Woman is seeking submissions in three recipe contests:

Delicious Holiday Desserts"Delicious Holiday Desserts" Recipe Contest

You could win $500 for whipping up your most dazzling Yuletide dessert.
Get contest details»
Entry deadline: April 1, 2011

New! "Beat the Clock Entrées" Recipe Contest

You could win $500 Share no-fuss main dishes that zoom from kitchen to dinner table in 30 minutes or less.
Get contest details»
Entry deadline: June 1, 2011

New! New! "Best Breakfast and Brunch" Recipe Contest

You could win $500 Wake up drowsy taste buds to a delicious day with good morning food.
Get contest details»
Entry deadline: August 1, 2011

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Are You Ready for the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge?

I know some of you are participating because I’ve seen the badge on your blog. Some of you may still be debating whether you are willing to commit that much to a blogfest – “a one day challenge is fine, but an entire month?” Others are wondering "What's a Blogging From A to Z Challenge anyway?"

How does the Challenge work?

The premise of the “Blogging From A to Z April Challenge” is to post something on your blog every day in April except for Sundays.  In doing this you will have 26 blog posts--one for each letter of the alphabet. Each day you will theme your post according to a letter of the alphabet.

You are limited only by your own imagination in this challenge. You can post essays, short pieces of fiction, poetry, recipes, photos, artwork, or anything else you would like to share.  You don't have to be a writer to do this.

How can this Challenge help you?

This is the second year this contest is being offered. I did not participate last year as I was not yet a part of the blogging community.

Some of the benefits mentioned by the host and a few of last year’s 100 participants were: improvement as a blogger and a writer, greater self-discipline, finding new blog friends, and increasing followers.

To sign up or learn more about this blogfest, please click on the graphic in the sidebar. This year the three Challenge hosts were hoping to see an increase to 300 bloggers participating. I am registered as participant number 550. What number will you be?

Saul Bellow Quote

"A writer is a reader moved to emulation." - Saul Bellow

I will soon post information concerning a blogfest, until then... Happy Writing!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patrick's Day Winners

Happy St. Patrick’s Day and congratulations winners!

The Hundred Dresses – Crystal
Critique –        Brigitte
                        J.L. Campbell
                        Melody Jackson
                        Aimee Bea

Congratulations again. Please email your address or work to be critiqued to writinginwonderland@gmail.com  and I will get those to you as soon as possible.
Thank you again for your continued interest and support. I  really enjoy sharing, writing, and getting to know you all. I never thought I would enjoy blogging so much! I look forward to reading more from your blogs as well. I hope you all have a wonderful day. Happy Writing!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Followers, Prizes and Contacts

Last week and this one signal Spring Break for different family and friends so I’m enjoying as much time as possible with them as they come into town from work and school. A near constant flow of people in and out of the house makes it difficult to find much writing time, but I’m having a blast and I’ll get back into a rhythm next week.
Consequently, I just noticed I’m up to 99 followers! I am truly flattered whenever anyone chooses to follow my blog, so I wanted to do something extra for you. I’m already offering the critique contest (see previous post). On Thursday when I announce those winners, if I have 100 followers, I will also give away one copy of The Hundred Dresses a children’s book by Eleanor Estes.
If you are interested in winning the book, all you have to do is add yourself as a follower if you are not already and leave a comment below.
I will also be posting interviews on my blog. If you are interested in appearing in one of those interviews or if you have a question you want answered or a topic you want to see covered, you can contact me on facebook, twitter or email me at writinginwonderland@gmail.com.
I hope you all enjoy a wonderful start to spring. Happy writing!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

New Critique Contest

It’s been a few months since I offered a critique contest and I’ve had many requests for a new one.  Since I love my followers, here you go!
I will critique (free of charge) any 1000 words of choice for four lucky winners. The rules are simple:
1.       You must add yourself as a follower of this blog if you are not already.
2.      Leave a comment telling me you want to be entered.
3.      Earn extra entries by posting an announcement/link to this contest on your own website, blog, twitter, facebook etc. and leave me a link in the comments below = one entry for EACH announcement/link.
4.      Check back on March 17 to see if you’ve won.
Isn’t that easy? Thank you for your support and I look forward to reading your work. Good luck and Happy Writing!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Versatile Blogger Award

Thank you Kari Marie for sharing this very cool "Versatile Blogger" award.

Award Rules:
1. Thank the person who gave you this award.
2. Share seven things about yourself.
3. Pass the award along to 15 bloggers you’ve recently discovered.
4. Contact the bloggers you are awarding.

Seven Things About Myself:
1. I’m listening to SADE while I type this.
2. The current CD in my vehicle is Cherry Poppin Daddies.
3. I suffer migraines and allergies.
4. I enjoy watching Psyche and Burn Notice on USA.
5. I’m currently reading Sherlock Holmes mysteries.
6. I still enjoy playing Tetris.
7. I’m giving up fast food for Lent.

You can find more tidbits than you ever wanted to know about me sprinkled throughout this blog or you can check out this list.
Instead of passing this award to 15 specific bloggers (who may already have received one), I want to invite any of my followers to accept this award by leaving a comment below. You can link back to your own blog, webpage, twitter, and facebook accounts.
Happy Writing!

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Writer's Haven

A good writing retreat should offer a supportive environment that will instill a sense of creative well-being, and provide opportunities to learn and reflect. Such a haven allows our minds to unwind, our pens to flow, and affords respite from the distractions of the world and our own surroundings. 

Saturday I had the chance to attend such a retreat.  Friends and fellow authors gathered with me for a time of sharing, reflection, writing and critiques. These women are a wonderful source of inspiration. The picture above is myself, author Wendy Lanier and author Peggy Clement.

The picture to the left is author Laurie Kolp. I have the great fortune of calling these beautiful and talented women my friends.

We prepared a loose schedule before we met. There was time for sharing some of our favorite articles, books and other sources of information and inspiration. My friends and I set up a session to work on plotting and characterization, a time for formatting and submissions, and some time to flesh out queries and synopsis. We also left plenty of hours in the day for free writing (everyone came with work-in-progress or writing projects they wanted help to initiate) and critique sessions.

Everyone enjoyed themselves so much, plans for future retreats began. We hope to use a local library for single day sessions and are looking into renting hotels or cabins for extended weekend retreats. For more tips on planning your own: http://writinginwonderland.blogspot.com/2011/01/7-steps-to-preparing-writers-retreat.html

What do you look for in a retreat?

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Moon, the Stars, and Fairy Dust

Congratulations to Linda Hofke for winning the "Space Tales" writing contest. A former Pennsylvanian, Linda holds  a B.S. in Elementary Education from Kutztown University. She currently lives in Germany where she teaches English, writes poetry and stories for both adults and children, and enjoys spending time with her husband and daughter. You can visit her newest blog at: http://lind-guistics.blogspot.com/
I chose her submission because it is not a stereotypical science fiction or nonfiction piece. She thought outside of the box and shared a heartwarming memoir about her love for her daughter. I hope you enjoy her tale as much as I did.

The Moon, the Stars, and Fairy Dust
by Linda Hofke

The realms of outer space are so vast we can't be certain what exists beyond earth. Yet, despite the distance we can usually see the sun and the moon, and on many occasions stars dot the sky like a hundred tiny night lights.
When my daughter was still a toddler, she'd often say, "Mama, I wuv you" and I would respond, "I love you, too. Do you know how much? I love you as much as the moon and the stars in the sky, and that's a lot!”
As she got older, I would read her a bedtime story, tuck her in, and simply say “I love you as much as the moon and the stars,” before kissing her good-night and turning off the light.
Sometimes as I walked out of the room I would hear a tiny girl voice whisper, "And that's a lot."
Usually that was sufficient enough to send her off to dreamland, but there came a brief period where she found herself unable to fall asleep or when she did, she'd have bad dreams and wake. Though she fared well during the day, I became zombie-like, with droopy, shadowed eyes and my brain seemed to be lost in space. I needed to find a solution and quickly.
That's when I started using the fairy dust. After telling her how much I loved her I sprinkled a bit of the imaginary powder over her, and it worked like a charm. After a while she started asking questions and I had to conjure up creative answers instantly.
“Where did you get the fairy dust?”
“The fairies collected the dust from their home far, far away on the other side of the moon and gave it to me.”
“What is it made of?”
 “From moonbeams and starlight.”
“Then why can't I see it?”
“Only the person who receives it from the fairies can actually see it. To all others it was invisible.”
“How does it work?”
“Magic--but it can only be used for good purposes, and it is activated by love.”
Other times my responses required less effort to answer. Once, she noticed the night sky devoid of stars and told me I couldn't say the "and that's a lot" at the end. I explained how stars and planets still exist even when our eyes can't see them, just like the sun is still out there, hiding, and that my love for her will always be, even if it is hiding in my heart.
I liked telling these answers better than the fantasy ones, but she accepted anything I told her, so innocent and trusting.
Friends and family had varying opinions on my method ranging from my being a genius to "When she finds out it's all made up, you've got a major problem." Honestly though, I couldn't see any difference between this and Santa Claus or the Easter bunny or the tooth fairy.
Luckily, things worked out well for me. Before she even realized the routine was based upon fantasy, she had learned to deal with her bedtime fears. One night as I prepared to pinch a bit of dust from my cupped hand, she told me she was a big girl now and didn't need help falling asleep anymore. That was that. I told her how proud I was of her, gave her a peck on the cheek, and flipped the light switch.
Eventually she discovered the truth about Santa and the Easter bunny. We never even had to go into the tooth fairy as she never wanted her to come (that's an interesting tale we can save for another time). Along with this knowledge also came the realization that fairy dust did not exist. She told me she felt so foolish for every believing it when it was now so obvious that one could not pick up anything from an empty palm. I just smiled, pointed out the fact that she was just a little kid then, and told her it served its purpose and that's what counts. She agreed.
She's twelve now and experiencing the crazy adventure we call puberty. Her body is changing. Her mood (and friend's moods) can change as quickly as a werewolf during full moon. Yet, she knows she can come to me to talk about whatever is bothering her, like she did last night. The problem was insecurity based, and I told her she has to change her mindset in order to achieve the goal. Things will only work if she believes it can happen.
She said, "Oh, just like the fairy dust worked because I believed it would.” She paused for a moment then asked a bit sheepishly, "Do you think we could do that again tonight for old time's sake? With the moon and stars part, too."
And that's what we did.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

5 Blogging Tips

Recently, I seem to be getting the same question again and again. “How do you come up with topics to blog about?”
I answer honestly with, “I just share whatever I’m thinking about at the time. Sometimes I’m reviewing lessons from teaching, other times I blog about research or other projects I’m working to complete.”
This answer seems to dissatisfy them. It feels like they are looking for the magic formula, but there isn’t one. A lot of them have been blogging much longer than I have and should be more qualified to answer this question. So why does it keep coming up?
We've all seen it happen: a writer gets fired up about a new blog, posts every day for a few weeks, and then ... just stops. Maybe they post once a month or every other month, but does this help? Bloggers gets busy, lose interest, burn out, or just run out of ideas and abandon the blog. Just like any other endeavor in our lives, it happens.

But it doesn't have to happen to your blog. Use these five tips to avoid burnout and maintain a steady stream of useful posts, even when things get hectic or your muse disappears.

1. Batch your blog posts - I usually work on multiple posts at a time, because once I get into the blogging mindset I can crank out several posts in one session. Then I don't have to think about blogging for several more days. I can focus on other projects. It's a useful way to manage your time, and since you're working ahead, you have a bit of a cushion when life gets in the way of blogging.

2. Set a realistic schedule - Some bloggers update daily, but I've found that my own preference is once every few days. Readers don't forget about my blog, and I don't go crazy trying to come up with a new post every day. I suspect many of you with busy lives would have trouble keeping up with daily posts anyway. Sticking to a blogging schedule is helpful. It gets you into a rhythm. However, it's also important to be realistic about posting frequency so you don't push yourself too hard and get frustrated.

3. Use peer pressure - Some people enlist the help of a blogging buddy or a small group to keep them accountable and cheer them on. They commit to a group blog where they are only responsible for posting once a week or even once a month. Another option is to join in blogfests. It creates a deadline with a specific topic to aid you in blogging and keep you motivated.

4. Create a backlog - Revisit old posts and ideas. That way if you get stuck, you can update your ideas or flesh out new examples from your old posts. Also, in addition to #1, whenever I get an idea for a blog post, I start a draft in Word, even if I don't have time to write the whole thing. That way I don't worry about forgetting the idea and have some posts waiting in the wings when things get busy or I'm feeling uninspired.

5. Keep it simple - Remember, blog posts don't have to be long or in-depth. A post could be as simple as a photo with an inspirational quote or a YouTube video embedded with a quick caption underneath. It could be a short paragraph with a link to something you've written or an article someone else wrote that you found particularly interesting. It could be a Q & A with someone you admire or a roundup of links from your blog. Or it could be a guest post from another blogger. There are many ways to post an update without spending hours at your keyboard. Vary up the length and format to see what appeals most to your readers.

Do you struggle with posting consistently? Please share how you maintain momentum on your own blog.