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December 2014

Give the Gift of a Book!

I’m the last of the BadGirlz blogging about the Holiday Season. We offered practical presents, a cute craft, encouragement, and even what NOT to get a writer. Everything I want is seemingly impractical or doesn’t even exist. Like Hermione Granger’s time-turner or a cloning machine or a microchip so I can find my way home after I go wandering, sleep-deprived and mumbling about conflict and dangling participles. Finding a personal chef or housekeeper or assistant under the tree would be awesome too.

Let me say up front, I am quite possibly the world’s worst gift giver. I struggle with birthdays, Christmas, anniversaries. I ask my husband what he wants and he tells me I should have been paying attention to all the hints he’s been dropping (like a woman). I stare at him blankly (like a man). He shakes his head and says with a fair amount of dismay, “You are a romance writer?!”

If it were up to me, I would give books to everyone (In the ultimate irony, my husband doesn’t read, by the way). So, instead of offering suggestions on what a writer wants, I’m going to throw out some suggestions on books you can gift. I’ve read and can personally vouch for all of these picks. Perhaps, you’ll even find a book to gift to yourself this holiday season!

  1. For the preschoolers and toddlers in your life: If your kids/grandkids/nephews/nieces haven’t PtCdiscovered PETE THE CAT by Eric Litwin and James Dean, then be their hero and introduce them to the coolest cat on the planet who teaches kids that “no matter what you step in, just keep walking along and singing your song.” That’s a lesson even adults can benefit from.
  2. Lower Elementary Age Kids: I SURVIVED series by Lauren Tarshis. Each book in this series takes place during an epic historical event. The latest was The Destruction of Pompeii. She also writes about Pearl Harbor and Gettysburg among other events. The books teach history in an engaging, exciting way.
  3. Upper Elementary Age Kids: WONDER by RJ Palacio. A beautiful story that teaches kids about acceptance. My son’s 5th grade class read this, and he loved it so much he insisted I read it as well. It was awesome.Wonder2
  4. High School: RUNNING DREAM by Wendelin Van Draanen. An inspiring tale about a high school track star who loses a leg in a school bus accident.
  5. Sweet Romance: ATTACHMENTS by Rainbow Rowell. I haven’t read Eleanor and Park yet, but it’s on my list. This book is set around Y2K and a techhead who is tasked with flagging inappropriate emails at a newspaper. It’s cute and different.
  6. Sexy Romance: MOTORCYCLE MAN by Kristen Ashley. Someone tweeted aboutAshley_MotorcycleMan_MM this book, and I was intrigued enough to check it out. Loved it. Very hot with two great main characters set around a motorcycle club.
  7. Super-sexy Romance: OBSESSION by Liliana Lee. A trilogy of serial novellas set in historical China. Fast-paced and entertaining.
  8. Heart-Rending Romance: ME BEFORE YOU by Jojo Moyes. I’m not a crier normally, but man, this book got me good. It made for a great book club book. Lots of controversial topics for discussion.
  9. Dog Lovers: THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN by Garth Stein. The life of an aspiring race car driverArt of Racing told from the point of view of his beloved dog. I read this book in one sitting.
  10. Serious Literature Lovers: CUTTING FOR STONE by Abraham Verghese. I opened this book ready to trudge through it. (It was a book club pick). I could not put it down…loved it!! Forget everything you know about Ethiopia. I pictured a desert wasteland with starving children (Thanks Bob Geldof and Do They Know It’s Christmas?). This book shattered all my preconceptions.
  11. Unexplored History Lovers: THE ORPHAN TRAIN by Christina Baker Kline. I could not believe this book was based on real events in the early 1900s America. Blew my mind. While thirteenth-cover-usathere were a couple of plot points that had me scratching my head, overall the fascinating history made up for it.
  12. Mystery Lovers: THE THIRTEENTH TALE by Diana Setterfield. This is a twisty, dark gothic. If you like to be surprised at an ending, check it out.

 

What are some books you’ve read this year that are worth gifting?

 

 

 

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Giver Beware: Cautionary Tales For Picking Presents For Writers

This month, the Bad Girlz have been preparing for the holidays by talking gifts. Literal gifts, as in things we want, and more figurative ones, like hopes for writerly success. Just to be contrary, I’m here to offer up some suggestions for things not to get your writer friends this season—unless you know them very, very well.

The Wrong Writer Reference Book. Shortly after I made my interest in writing known, a dear, wonderful, encouraging person in my life got me some writer’s reference books.

About writing magazine articles.

The books were so well-intentioned, but they not only had nothing I could really use to help me in my path as a novelist, they were actively discouraging. Here I was, reaching for the stars, and here was someone dear to me giving me information about how to settle for something nice and practical and sort of tangentially related.

If you know your friend and what she writes, by all means, stuff her stocking with craft books and reference materials. But if you’re not really sure what she does, don’t make the mistake of assuming that all careers in writing follow the same path.

The Wrong Notebook. My brother is a writer, and two years in a row (back before I was writing myself), I got him really nice journals for Christmas. I’d seen him squirrelling away notes on crumpled pieces of paper, and thought it would be really great if he could get his ideas down on beautiful, leather-bound pages.

Nope.

I feel even more ridiculous about this assumption now that I’m a writer. Personally, I vastly prefer getting my ideas down on loose scraps. If I wrote them in a gorgeous journal, how terrible would I feel tearing them out to add to my story file later? Or worse, crossing them out?

Beyond that, writers are often weirdly superstitious about their craft. There aren’t a lot of materials involved in what we do, and so we tend to be very particular about the items we choose to use. Personally, if I do keep a notebook, I prefer for it to be spiral-bound (so I can tuck a pen into the binding), unlined (so I can write really small and all over the page and sometimes sideways), and purse-sized (so I’m never without a piece of paper). A notebook that doesn’t meet these specifications will still be a much-appreciated gift, but honestly? It’s unlikely to be a terrible well-used one.

Fortunately, my brother told me that second year that he still hadn’t used up the first notebook. There was something about the way he said it that gave me a clue. Picking a notebook is personal. I never tried to do it for him again.

More Desk Detritus. There are so many cute little literary-themed knick-knacks out there these days. Shakespeare bobbleheads and framed prints of kittens next to inspirational sayings. Ceramic tiles with witticisms about coffee and wine glasses covered in quotations. They’re awesome. They’re adorable.

But seriously. I can’t find anything on my desk. One more bit of clutter and it might turn into a black hole.

Many writers live in similar environments. There’s an exception to every rule, but in general, our minds are brimming with ideas, and our lives and our desks are brimming with stuff we swear we’re going to find a place for, no, really, I promise, just as soon as I finish this book.

If your writer friend has a clutter problem, please think twice before making it worse.

So what should you get for your writer friends? Hard to say. Gift cards to book stores are almost always appreciated (though if you’re going the digital route, be sure to keep your recipient’s e-book reader of choice in mind so you get something compatible). I particularly love being given a book the giver has read and loved – there’s nothing like a personal recommendation when it comes to finding new things to read.

Or maybe—going back to the literal vs. figurative gifts discussion, consider giving the writer in your life the one thing every writer needs: time. Homemade coupons for things like childcare or a quiet afternoon alone in the house, or arranging for a cleaner to come by would all be amazing ways to show your support to your favorite writer.

Because really, one gift I know we all would love is simply the chance to do what we love. Write.

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My Florida Christmas Wish List

It’s been almost eleven years since I first moved to North Carolina. I’ve put down roots, have a home and a wonderful little family, and life here is good. But at heart, I’ll always be a Florida girl. Most of my family is there, as are lots of my friends–or maybe it’s just the “sunshine, sea and plenty of weirdos” vibe that suits me best. Our holiday traditions have evolved into a duplicate affair: we do a simple early celebration here: small gifts and a special meal with just Hubby, Sunshine Boy, Leonidas, and me…and then, there’s Florida Christmas. It’s the best of both worlds, and I look forward to it every year.

Here’s what’s on my Florida Christmas Wish List:

The obvious things, of course: my parents, brother and sister in law, niece and nephew, and all the other wonderful family I don’t get to see nearly enough. The best part about Florida Christmas is that I’ll be sharing all of these things on my list with them!

1. Seeing more green than brown when I look outside my window. My view outside my house looks a lot like this:

winter yard

while my view outside my parents house looks more like this:

florida backyard

Don’t get me wrong, I like the change in seasons, crisp air, getting out my boots and shopping for coats, but winter can get a little bit…. long. Seeing lush greenery feeds my soul.

2. Oyster Roasts! There is nothing finer than fresh oysters steamed over an open flame. Sides? Hot sauce and butter–and beer and rowdy relatives, of course!

oyster roast

3. Oranges, grapefruits, and Meyer lemons, fresh off my mom’s trees. Did I mention my awesome cousin makes her own limoncello?

meyer lemons

4. Now, I won’t actually be getting in the water–I’m not a crazy person! But this is where I’ll be walking off all those Christmas cookies:

nsb boardwalk

5.Flip flops and a pedicure date. I only wish mine looked like these.

pedicure flip flops

Wherever and however you celebrate your holidays, I wish you all the fun of my Florida Christmas!

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The Ghost of Christmas Past

If you’ve been following the blog this month, you’ll have read McGovy’s fabulously funny Christmas list, been amazed by Elizabeth Michel’s creative book wreath, and humbled by Lori’s heartfelt Christmas wish.

So how’s a girl on a tight and rapidly approaching deadline with little energy, no patience, and next to nil time to follow such awesomeness?

Naturally, by embarrassing herself. Because we all know laughter is a wonderful de-stresser and during the often harried and crazy holiday season, de-stressing goes a looonng way.

So, despite my earlier rant declaring I have no time, I seem to have  just enough time to dig through old pictures with my kids and laugh at my younger self.

Speaking of which, my kids especially loved the golden velour chair yours truly is chilling on for my first ever Christmas in good old 1979. Personally, I’m digging the silver tinsel strings on the tree and the over-the-top pudgy cheeks. Gah, I’m a sucker for baby cheeks.Fran Christmas 1979

Two years later, the cheeks have receded somewhat, but the questionably sour expression remains. I mean, really mom, are you sure that bath gel is good? It doesn’t look all that impressive. Ah, the refined tastes of 2 year olds.Fran Chrismas 1981

Apparently 1984 was THE year of presents. At least that’s what I think. The He-Man action figures beside me are a sure indication the year was the schniznit. Well, them (which were my brothers, I swear) , and the happy face I cheesed up for the camera. I mean, it had to have been an awesome Christmas. Too bad I don’t remember any of it.

Fran Christmas 1984

 

My polaroid shot is not nearly as cool as T Swizzle’s. It isn’t even from 1989 but 1991, the apex of my awkward gangling middle school years. Complete with creepy dolls and Barbie accessories. (Just to clarify, the doll was mine. The Barbies were not. And who remembers Quints, the dolls lying on the floor in front of me? Those were my sis’s too.)

Fran Christmas 1991

 

And last, but certainly not least, who could forget the first Christmas they spent as a newly-wed? I was 19. He was 19. And WE were poor college students with no money for gifts under the tree. But who needs gifts when you have your true love?  Fran Christmas 1998

Ok. I’m done embarrassing myself…for now.

May you and yours have a truly wonderful holiday season filled with love, and LOTS of laughter!

 

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A Writer’s Wish List To Santa

In the spirit of the season, we’re doing a series we call A Bad Girlz Wish List. At first, I ran down my basic writer must haves: A great laptop, good editing software, reference books, etc., etc. But when I sat down to type, my heart led me in a different direction.

My true wish list this Christmas goes like this:

I wish that every writer reading this blog will, at some point in their careers, hit the best sellers list—many times over, even.

I wish for all writers to achieve every goal they’ve ever dreamed of as they put their lovely words on paper, hoping that one day the world will read and love them.

Are you listening Santa?

As writers, we dream. A LOT!!! We see things in our imaginations that aren’t there. Not only characters and make-believe lands, but we envision our futures and the accomplishments we hope to one day achieve. We dream that our careers will be so huge, we’ll need multiple assistants, and we’ll have millions of twitter followers. We dream of being so successful that everyone in the business will know our names. Sighs with optimistic anticipation!

It’s so easy in this industry to get discouraged because we’re always looking ahead, dreaming ahead, and we forget about the right now. What we’ve accomplished . . . right now.

Let me explain. If you’re like me, you probably find yourself in the company of other writers quite often. We’re with them at conferences, chapter meetings, retreats, or connecting with them through social media.  They’re the published multi-book authors, the just-signed-a-contract authors, the beginner authors that are still in the process of writing their first book—all levels of writer loveliness. We don’t like to admit this, but we are always comparing ourselves to them. We’re forever trying to achieve that next goal, and we should. We can’t sit around and wish for it; we have to work for it. However, this constant comparison can take its toll.

So I have one more wish I’d like to add to my list. I wish that each writer in our Bad Girlz realm would take just a moment and step away from all the other writers and look at their own “right now.” Take a minute and recognize what you’ve accomplished so far in your career. You. Just you. No one else.

You have written books  . . . Or a book . . . Or you’ve started writing a book. This is huge. Sure. In a room full of writers it’s normal, but to the rest of the universe, it’s a big deal. Please don’t ever forget this.

You should be proud of yourself. Don’t go into the New Year thinking of the things you didn’t get accomplished this year. Go in, ecstatic over the things you did.

Merry Christmas my sweet writers of the world! May Santa grant your every wish, including my wish for you!

See you on the best-sellers list.

Remember to Dream Big!

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Let’s Make a Book Wreath

You know what this series on writer holiday wish lists needs? Ripped up books! That’s right, today, I’m going to show you how to tear your favorite book to shreds, and turn it into a lovely holiday wreath.

IMG_3244

A book wreath makes a great gift for the writer, reader, or in my case, industry professional in your life. It’s a simple crafting project that requires a short list of supplies.

  • IMG_3241 Book
  • Clear tape
  • Stapler
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • Compass
  • Cardboard or Foam Board
  • Embellishments for center
  • Ribbon
  • Lots of Patience LOL

Step 1: Pick out your book of choice and separate the pages from the binding. I’ve decided to rip apart my books to send to my agent and my editor because nothing says love like shredding a project they worked on and mailing it back to them for the holidays. *winks* Try to remove the pages as close to the spine as possible.IMG_3252

Step 2: Roll each page into a cone with the corner of the page pointing out to make a flower-like shape, and tape the cone together near the bottom. It takes approximately 100 cones to make a wreath, so start twirling that paper while watching your favorite television program or movie. It took me just under 2 hours to roll enough cones for a wreath.IMG_3218

Step 3: Staple each cone flat about one inch in from the bottom of the cone.IMG_3228

Step 4: Using your compass that you haven’t used since geometry class 25 years ago, draw a 4 inch diameter circle and an 8 inch diameter circle on your cardboard from the same center point. Then mark north, south, east and west with small ticks of your pen. Trim off the cardboard outside 14 inches. Hint: I used cardboard made for cake decorating so I wouldn’t have to cut anything.IMG_3227

Step 5: Glue the cones to the circle using your glue gun. Begin with the marks you made at each direction and fill in from there. Overlap the cones slightly so the cardboard isn’t visible. Start with the outer circle then move to the inner circle. Continue to the center point, tapering the cones to the middle of the wreath.IMG_3248IMG_3250

Step 6: Add any adornment of your choosing to the center of the wreath and a ribbon to the back so you can hang it, and admire your handy work.IMG_3246

Curl up with a good book, and when you’re done, turn it into something beautiful. Thank you to Rebecca Robeson and Jenna DeAngeles for this great idea.  What are you getting the book lover on your holiday shopping list?

Happy Holidays, Bad Girlz!

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