Friday, April 20, 2012

Face Your Fear Friday - Episode 3

Welcome back to Face Your Fear Friday. This week's entry will be short and sweet as real life offline is getting cramped for time. 

Every Friday, as we slide into the weekend, I issue a challenge that even the more frazzled writers can at least identify with, if not execute.
This week's challenge is simple. Again, I repeat for your multitasking parents/writers, 

S-I-M-P-L-E...

Just answer the following two questions-


1. What's one aspect of the writer's craft that you've yet to master, and are working towards this year?
For me, it's being able to rediscover the joy of writing, without the pain of drafting and rewrites make me a neurotic pessimist, which I'm really not at my core, though lately I have to hit rock bottom to realize that.


2. Name one book that normally is not your thing, yet read it anyway, but liked?(NOTE: What you were FORCED to read in school doesn't count, that's a unique pressure few of us want to relive)


For me, it's "The Thirteenth Tale" by Diane Setterfield. Well, I actually listened to the audiobook, but it's a top notch production in its own right, and for writers who know me well, this was the ONLY way I'd experience this book the first go round, and  I want to experience again, this time on the page, but like my writer friend Kelly told me recently on her blog, "Books are books, no matter what the medium."


I agree with this, if only in part to ease my own guilt, but as craft books and experienced writers will tell you often, there are times when reading on the page, opposed to listening to the audiobook or even the e-book isn't the same.


Writers say all the time they notice things in print they don't on computer screens when they edit books, so doesn't the same apply to reading books, too? But truth be told, if not for audiobooks, I'd have enjoyed few stories in the last three years.


I personally need to combat this problem, because for me it is a problem, not all the books I want to read are available in audio form, and I do have a restrictive feel when I read books on the page, because trying to mime craft from it is not a particularly helpful, never mind joyous experience. A feeling that wasn't always there.


 Craft books aside, I read for escape and solace, and I don't find picking authors apart all that entertaining, and that mindset has ruined the reading experience for me, at least at this point and time. I'm trying not to be so absolute in my thinking, since some struggles do improve and lessen with time.


If you grapple with this literary tug of war as I do, please share in the comments below, if you're the only one among your posse of writer friends who has this problem, I URGE you to comment below, because I'm there with  you, I really get it because I'm there myself, know you're not alone.


You have until April 27th, 2012 before comments are closed. Thanks to all who commented in last week's challenge, and I hope comments increase this week.



UPDATE (4/27/12): Commenting Closed.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Animal Fantasy Awareness (T.A.A.'s going Back to Basics!)

Some time ago, my writer friend and "Comrade in Revisions", Kelly Hashway, posted on her blog something she shared with me in private 


She's unabashedly a YA writer


Those who read my Critter Chat with Kelly in January know she began her writing career in different realm form where she's heading now. Between various sales of her work in magazines, her first major release was a picture book, "May the Best Dog Win" inspired by her daughter (pre-K at the time of this post) who asked her to write one, and the rest is history--for that book, anyway. She later went on to collaborate with her illustrative sister, Heather, on her self-published effort, The Perfect Puppy, and more recently, Santa Bunny. Heather also did the cover art for "The Imaginary Friend" her two part short story now available for free* at Amazon.com (Price of Free may be subject to change).


Kelly's work has appeared in various magazines and anthologies, and we each have a story in the anthology "Trunk Stories." 


But as I said at the outset, Kelly's found her new home in the world of YA with the first two books in her trilogy, TOUCH OF DEATH AND TOUCH OF, currently slated for publication in January 2013 and July 2013 respectively (Pub Dates are subject to change so please follow Kelly Hashway's blog for any date changes).


I'm happy for you, Kelly, there's nothing like the feeling of finding where you belong and are most happiest. True for anything in life, but especially for writers who have to endure decades of apprenticing to start their careers.
Be it a magazine piece, memoir, nonfiction, novel or poetry/story collection.


Those who follow my blog know I struggle with writing my own stories for the YA audience, a skill that I know will serve Kelly well, but what you may not know is she landed her agent with a middle grade novel, which is my specialty, but the current market for debut middle grade fiction is struggling, even more-so for folks like me who are more at home with animal fantasy, than anything with a dystopian or edgy and dark bent. 


Aside from wishing I could write YA, I also longed for finding my own tribe of readers, not just writers of animal fantasy, and not just paranormal.


As many of you T.A.A. faithful may have noticed, I haven't written much on genre-specific issues nearly all writers of animal fantasy face.


I mean my blog's named, "Talking Animal Addicts" and yet I've kind of deviated from the core message of my blog, and there are really two key reasons why-


I Didn't "OWN" my love of the Genre
There are many posts I wrote to tackle this subject that I never posted or completed because I had doubts of the impact my passion could have.


Envy Delayed My Progress
That pretty much speaks for itself.


But no more. Like Kelly, and many writers before me, I need to embrace my niche, rather than feel shame from it, that's vital for all the writing I do, and those of your who also blog know full well what I mean.


So, consider this statement a follow-up to my intro post when I began Talking Animal Addicts in December 2010-


I started this blog to protest the myth that only preschoolers like animal fantasy, and unite other like-minded writers who know all too well as I do that stigma attached to these stories, especially as an unproven brand name author, but the stigma also comes from educators and parents, other writers (Even those we love and respect), even some publishing insiders who argue that kids are demanding more books with more contemporary, or reality-based plot lines.


Maybe there aren't millions of us, but there are more than the average person might think, especially among the non-parents or writers who aren't easily in tune with their "Inner Child" and/or interact with children on a regular basis. and I think part of this is the fear we have of divulging our passion for animal fantasy, since the first thing people will say is "That's a hard sell, especially for non-famous author." 


Whether this is true of every case or not isn't the issue here, the real issue is for those of us who proudly write the books we love to band together, and shout to the world, "We're not crazy for reading or writing books about or featuring talking animals!"


Okay, maybe not shout it at work, or outside your kid's high school (Or anywhere people who know you will hear...) but it's important to remind yourself why you do what you do. It keeps you honest, if not always sane.


I felt strongly there needed to be an outlet for these writers, a sanctuary even, where their passion would not get made fun of, but meet like-minded writers, that span the ages and stages of writers worldwide.




I want T.A.A. to become that safe haven, and will get back to more animal fantasy related posts in the coming weeks. If you have any ideas, feel free to share in the comments below. I urge all you writers of animal fantasy out there to let it rip in the comments below.


Tell your writer friends to find T.A.A. on Facebook and Google+.
Eventually T.A.A will have its own Twitter Feed, but for now you can follow my separate Twitter Feed here.


Remember, "We're not just for preschoolers anymore" We're for readers and writers who love what we do, and eventually people will see that reflected in our stories, instead of thinking "We're just trying to ride the copycat wave of Charlotte's Web, Redwall, and Watership Down." 


Some people do that. No question. 


I'm not one of those people. 


Anyone whose read my work, even people who normally don't read or particularly like animal fantasy, have told me this, a writer can't ask for a better endorsement than that (Well, a paycheck would be nice, really, but that's a topic for another time).


Until Tomorrow, 
May the Fantastic Fauna Be With You

Friday, April 13, 2012

Face Your Fear Friday - Episode 2

Face Your Friday is back, after a long (unplanned) hiatus. 


Just like with "Take A Chance Tuesday", I want to make this weekly feature more accessible to those you juggling far more than I can or do, but at the same time remember, facing one's fear's take TIME. 


All Face Your Fear Friday's about is taking the 
FIRST BABY STEPS to facing the writer fear of the week.


For example, if the theme was "Reading what Scares You" or "Name 5 writers you respect, even if their books are just not your thing, and why" all you have to do is admit and share a little from your personal experience. There are no right or wrong answers here.


Writers are all different, even if our goals overlap in the the general sense (Those of us who are struggling for their first SALE, be it book-length story or magazine piece, poem, etc. Already published writers trying to advance their career, etc) how we get there is varied, and some wait longer than others, but unless your naturally pragmatic in your thinking, you can feel alone in your frustration sometimes, especially if most of the writers you know are strong in areas your weak, and it's those weak areas that might be holding your writing back. 


Sometimes simply admitting to a fear, however off the wall it may be, is the first step to getting better at facing that fear and pushing past it to achieve your writer dreams and goals. You have to acknowledge your fear is REAL, no matter what anyone tells you, many writers I know don't feel the same level of frustration about writing YA level fiction, and don't have problems writing nonfiction, but these are barriers for ME, in the same way some of those pragmatical writers don't feel as in tune with their imagination as I do,


While that makes critiquing each other's work hard, we can appreciate what the other does better than us, and its imperative that support goes both ways.


With that said, let's get into this week's challenge.


All you have to do is answer the following question-


"If you could name ONE writer skill you could magically enhance, what would it be and why?"


My answer: Better Query Letters, Better Query Letters, Better Query Letters!


Why? Because these letters are becoming all the more vital, but I HATE writing them regardless, because it's easy to feel like the most hapless writer on Earth because they have to be so professional without being soulless, and anyone who takes this lightly will be sorry, that's as much speaking from my personal experience as it is a friendly warning.


Now it's your turn! Share you answers to this week's challenge in the comments below.


Please keep your answer PG-13 and below, and please stay on topic (No "I don't have time to comment" type comments) comment when you do have time, or try again for next Friday's challenge.


I moderate the comments on T.A.A. and will not approve posts that don't follow the guidelines.


Your answers must be posted by Friday, April 20th, 2012, Noon EST, think of it as a mild time challenge, since for some of us, admitting to fear or weakness is a BIG DEAL, and sharing it among our fellow writers can help take the fear away, or at least bring it down to less traumatic levels, and we may even find a precious gem of advice, insight or a comrade-in-revisions (Comrades in Arms for writers, get it?) that will serve us well for the future.


Anyway, see you here next Friday.


UPDATE (4/20/12): Commenting Closed.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Musical Musings #2.5 (Special Edition)

For those of you interested in the Japanese Jazz Combo, Our Love To Stay, here's a music video for your view pleasure, of their song, "Sweetie" (Note: This song's not available in the Telepatia album which I reviewed yesterday)





video

Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Ciao for Now,
Taurean

Take A Chance Tuesday - 3rd Edition

Before going into this week's challenge, I've got to come clean. I was a bit discouraged about continuing this feature since many found the first two impossible to commit to.


Outside the week leading up to Easter (Or Passover), which I know many folks would be too busy on average to do a challenge, no one found earlier challenges well before either holiday in their reach given the comments of the first being all in the vein of "Sorry, no time this week" and the second having no takers at all. (My family's not into togetherness, to put it gently) so my ability to perceive that in more connected families is not all that great.


I started to feel like no one found my first couple challenges achievable or relevant.


So, until I get enough reader mail to prove the contrary, I'm keeping my challenges really simple, and whenever possible, don't require the reader to leave the blog to complete them. Though, I thought people could do the last challenge easy (All you had to do was recommend 5 books, that's all there was to it!)


I strongly suspect the majority of my readership are women, and often mothers, so ladies, and lads too, help me out here. This week's challenge is the first every "Take Requests Tuesday." 


What are some writer challenges that you can fit around family, day jobs, and seemingly endless responsibilities. I don't have these specific barriers, so maybe my challenges ask too much of the majority of  the writers who drop by, and I only wanted to motivate, NOT overwhelm. 


Just tell me in the comments below, what kind of challenges you'd like to see featured on future editions of Take A Chance Tuesday. They must be something that aren't too genre specific, and that can be accomplished within a week from the start of the challenge.


Come on, everyone, T.A.A. can only be so interactive unless you help me out a bit, so come on, show some grit and gumption. Most of us are living Spring, the time of renewal and growth, T.A.A. can't grow if I'm in this alone.


So again, in the comments below, ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS SHARE SUGGESTIONS FOR FUTURE EDITIONS OF TAKE A CHANCE TUESDAY, THAT ARE SIMPLE, NOT TIED TO ANY ONE GENRE, AND PEOPLE CAN ACCOMPLISH WITHIN A WEEK, AND DOESN'T ASK FOR ANY SPECIAL RESEARCH OR LENGTHY TIME COMMITMENT.


PLEASE, help me. help you better.


Call for submissions ends Tuesday, April 17th, 2012, at Noon EST.


Monday, April 9, 2012

Musical Musings #2 Southern Fried Retrospective with Rising Sun Swing? (Double Feature Edition)

Since Musical Musings was M.I.A. for a couple weeks, this week is a double feature, usually I review a couple albums of music each week, but this time, you're getting an in-depth look on four albums that are a mainstay in my listening library. 

First, I'm spotlighting another album by the rebels of Folk Rock, The Carpenters, Lovelines.



(Click the Album Pic Above to find on Amazon)

Those who remember my debut Musical Musings review know I'm a fan of the folks who knew how to sing about love without being derogatory and tasteless, yet still honest and avoid unrealistic saccharine censoring.

While some of their signature love songs made it into their Singles compilation, it's here in Lovelines where Karen's vocals show all the facets and forms love can take.

Not just the "At first sight Puppy Love" or "Being out of love after betrayal and loss" but 

More so than than their "Love Songs" compilation, I feel Lovelines best shows all the ranges and ways love can bring people together, pull them apart, and the gray and shady drama and trauma in-between.

Highlights from this album-

"Lovelines"
It'd be sad if the title song in the album didn't rock, but this one does, and I think it's no less relevant now, and unlike some of their more well known songs, this doesn't sound "dated" though personally, I embrace the dated when it's for the good of  the music and done right, but this song is a happy medium for the modern day cool kids as they were for the teenyboppers of yesteryear.

It's like "The Beach Boys" but Carpenters-style, yet less high school surf n' turf and more classy and mature, but still with the fun hooks and bridges.

"If We Try"
I dare you to listen to this and not feel the need to call an old flame, if you have one, I don't, but it makes me want to write about one. Again, mature and tasteful, with slow tempo with mild hook and slide.

"You're The One"
A song for those us who found or (Like me) will find the one long after high school, it's different, but still special.

"Honolulu City Lights"
I love the rhythm and hooks in this song, and unlike a lot of songs with a nod to Hawaii, it's not stereotypical, and you don't feel the "Tacky Steel Drum Effect" as much as I love steel drums in general, but you know what I mean, right?

Slow Dance
Think Modern Sadie Hawkins or senior Prom, and by modern I do mean 21st Century, as long as your music is not mandated to have rapping or direct inclinations to S.E.X.

Sometimes, imagining is better than exact imaging, at least a prude romantic like me thinks so.

On a scale of 1 to 10, Lovelines by The Carpenters gets my highest score of 10! Need a good love song for date night or just because, you can't go wrong with the songs in this album.


Next, we're heading to the trippy side of the south for the compilation from The Indigo Girls, Retrospective.

(Click the Album Picture to Find it on Amazon)

Somehow, this dynamo due of offbeat yet relevant tunes manage to tread the lines between personal and universal, something that struggling writers like myself find more an esoteric fortune cookie-esque snipped of babble that's near impossible to strive toward as a tangible goal, but at least far as how this albums sounds for this newcomer in music reviewing, they've achieved this mythic balance with the songs put together in this collection.

Favorites of mine include-

"Power of Two"
This feels like an effortless jam session between two performers who are at home with their sound, in that rare kind of chemistry that's hard to find between musicians themselves, and even harder to convey to the listeners on the other end, and for me, is a favorite in this collection, I don't often go a month, if not a week, playing this song.

"Galileo"
Makes me want to rekindle my lost love for the history behind the artist most famous for this name.

"Go"
A classic, yet modern take on the song of rebellion, whether teen or not, one of the few rebel songs that I feel can speak to teens and adults the same, but in different ways.

"Get Out The Map"
Road Trip Rock at it's finest.

This is the "Country" album is for folks who think they don't like country. It's less raw jug band and more southern acoustic R&B, yet not as morbid as some classic rhythm and blues songs are known for.

On a scale of 1 to 10, The Indigo Girls Compilation, Retrospective gets a solid 8.

For fans of the more raw Country fare, a solid contender is Carolyn Wonderland's Album, Miss Understood.

(Click the Album Picture to Find it on Amazon)

"Long Way To Go"
Peppy beat, light pith to the lyrics, and Carolyn's signature attitude makes the song work, without coming off too brutish, hard to do in this style of music that in many ways demand raw and rough, but as proven here, polish doesn't have to tarnish passion, harder perhaps, but not impossible.

"I Found The Lions"
Feisty and Fierce, just don't watch "The Lion King" right after listening to this, it might be a bit off putting, to say the least.

"Walk On"
A bit short, but fun and peppy, good for a road trip, even if that's just to the mall and back.


"I Don't Want to Fall For You"
If you need a "Down in the Dumps" slow love ballad, without the word "Dog" in it, Carolyn's playing your song here.

"Trouble in the City"
Solid Narrative Blues Ballad with a light jazz tinge.

"Feed me to The Lions"
Nice, but again, don't listen to this before watching "The Lion King." It just feels...wrong somehow. Good song, though.

On a scale of 1 to 10, Carolyn Wonderland's Miss Understood gets a sultry 7.

Last, but far from least, is the (So far...as of the original posting of this review) the ONLY album available in the U.S. by a new favorite group of mine, the now sadly disbanded, Our Love to Stay: Telepatia.

(Click Album Pic to find on the U.S. iTunes store, as of the original posting of this review, this can only be bought in the U.S. via iTunes)


For those who enjoyed my video Musical Musings some time ago, this is a group I love and listen to on a regular basis.

If names like Armstrong, Gershwin, Mancini, or Sinatra mean anything to you, or even if you've no idea who I'm talking about, but are a novice Jazz fan, this is an album you need to own, even if you're literal understanding of Japanese is limited at best.

You don't need to be fluent in the language to hear the heart and synergy of this album, and for those of you whose only knowledge of 
Japanese music and musicians are traditional Enka ballads (Think Japanese-Style Opera, but often sad like the old Chicago Blues) or J-Pop from anime or that one Studio Ghibli movie you know and love (Some of which is quite stellar) this is a good primer for seeing how non-Americans portray Swing Jazz in the spirit of the artists mentioned above.

While this is classified as "J-Pop" on iTunes, think Jazz here.

Favorite songs for me include-

"Telepatia"
Once again, the title song delivers and is worthy of being the lead off track.

"Give You all of My Love"
If Sinatra or Ella Fitzgerald could sing and song-write in Japanese, this is what it might sound like.

"Anatawo Aishite Yokatta"
Hip-Hip meets lounge swing in classic "Our Love to Stay" fashion.

While it's sad this stellar combo have parted ways, what's even sadder is that their albums prior to and post this one are not yet available in the U.S. So, if you grow to love this swing revival band as much as I do, give the iTunes store further incentive to rectifying this by buying this album and sending feedback to Apple (Amazon too!) that you want the entirety of this band's work available to download in the U.S. and Canada, or wherever you live outside Japan, since at the time of this review, importing's the only sure way, and while I'd be willing to do that myself at some point, the shipping makes it cost prohibitive as far as impulse, hassle-free buying's concerned.

That said, on a scale of 1 to 10, Telepatia by Our Love to Stay is gets my second 10 this week.

This concludes this special double feature edition of Musical Musings.

Until Next Time,
Rock on, Swing Low, and Cruise the long proverbial road to your own playlist.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Sunshine Award and Blog Update Status!



I'm a bit behind with this being Easter weekend and all, but I do have something to tide you over for the time being.

Today, I was awarded the Sunshine award by my friend and fellow writer, Katrina "Cat" DeLallo.

Here the answers to the questions-

1. Favorite color?
Red, especially Crimson and Burgundy shades.

2. Favorite animal?
Real: Dogs, but Foxes, rats, Wolves and weasels are in my top five.

Imaginary: Dragons, with Griffins and Minotaurs close behind.

3. Favorite number?
8 (Eight) , and it's many lingual variations-

Acht (German)
Bah ( ) - (Chinese)
Hachi (八) (Japanese)
Huit (French)
Ocho (Spanish)
Otto (Italian)



4. Favorite drink?
Depends on the season-
Spring and Summer: Lemonade, Natural fruit punch, and iced tea

Fall and Winter: Hot cocoa and coffee, black, no cream, with sugar, Milk Tea, Apple Cider

Year Round: Milk, Orange Juice, Grape juice, and Apple Juice.

5. Facebook or Twitter?
Facebook, though I have to admit I'm starting to like Twitter a lot more than I ever thought possible, despite the strict word cap.


6. My passion(s)?
Aside from the obvious if you've followed the blog, Cooking and Music.

7. Getting or giving?

Both, but I do prefer give when I can.

8. Favorite pattern?
Checkerboard pattern in general, not just red and black squares on a checkers board.

On clothes, however, I'm partial to vertical pinstripes.

9. Favorite day of the week?
Sunday, because it's not as manic as the rest of the week can be, for me, anyway.

10. Favorite flower?
That's tough, but I'd have to say pink roses, because they represent Friendship and Happiness in flower language.

Here are the bloggers I'd like to share this honor with-



Adrienne Kress
Allyn Stotz
Sheri
Gueh Yanting


Janice Hardy

I couldn't think of 10 for this one, as I don't want to mention the same number of folks, and I only pick people whose blogs I've read, and whose writing I've read before.



Insightful endorsement is part of my personal writer's code of ethics.


Until next time,
Ciao for now.


Monday, April 2, 2012

The Daily Squeak (Week of 4/2/12)

Hi All,

A new week, and a new look for T.A.A. Please let me know in the comments what you think of the new design, if something hard to read or access.


Also, welcome to "The Daily Squeak." Since my posting's been erratic as life offline and non-blog writing is getting hard to balance, I'll use The Daily Squeak to update you on new posts and features on T.A.A. I will still try to meet my original schedule deadlines, but if not, The Daily Squeak will keep you from missing new posts and future contests and giveaways, which is another reason to follow T.A.A. on Facebook (Twitter Coming Soon!), and follow me at my Google+ page.

I updated the Future Headlines section.
There's a new "Letter from The Editor, which I'll do regularly once a month, versus separatism as I'd done before, since they take a bit of time. Hope you like this month's one.


Musical Musings may be a bit late, but it will be a review this time, as per our usual format.


Ciao for now.