How do you rate success?

Howdy all!  Ever have those days when you wished that life had a skip ahead button like your favorite MP3 player?  Yeah, I'm having one of those.  Sadly, there isn't anything specifically bad.  Just a BLAH! kind of day, if you follow me.

To be honest, I've not really been feeling the best about my writing goals and such as of late, and I think that has something to do with it.  I've been 'working' at this writing stuff for awhile--not forever, but long enough to know that I've attempted something.  And lately, I'm not really feeling any closer to what I set out to accomplish a few years ago.

As a goal oriented person I don't mind telling you that kind of freaking drives me crazy.

I have family and friends that know this is what I dream of doing, and that it's what I squirrel away hours of my life working at.  I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel at least a little pressure from that.  That's part of the reason I made it known in the first place.  To create pressure.  To create urgency.  After all, we've all known those people who write and no one even knows it, and they never work at it because they don't REALLY have anything at stake.  Right?  Still, it's a little deflating when they ask me when I'll have something in print that they can read.

I take that as code for: What exactly have you been doing with your time?

Anywho, I'm not writing this as a boohoo, or a "I'm giving up".  I've got perspective.  This isn't a race, it's a marathon. etc., etc., etc.  :0)  I've got tough skin.  I'll read something inspiring in the form of an old favorite book, or perhaps one of your blog posts *wink* *nudge*, and I'll be right back on the crazy train of writerly aspirations.  However, it has got me to thinking about my vision of success.  Maybe that's what is out of whack.

Maybe I'm so focused on what I THINK writing success means to me that it has taken some of the joy out of it all.

So I ask you, readers great and small, what are your terms for writerly success?  Does it ever run away from you?  If so, how do you reign it in?  How do you get your mind off of the big picture and back on the page?


Join me for Vanity Monday! OV Greatest Hits Addition

Hello all!  Hope everyone had a safe, restful, and fun holiday.  I spent the week cooking, eating, and hanging out with friends as we weren't able to get back home to be with family.  The military does that from time-to-time.  Overall, it was a great week.

Unfortunately, due to the long layoff (and certainly the pounds of turkey and various carbohydrates I've consumed have contributed as well), I'm finding it hard getting back into the swing of things.  Consequently, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on the past.  Specifically, I decided today would be a good day to post a few of my own favorite blog posts.

Is it the height of vanity?  Sure.  However, I also thought it would be a good thing because I've gotten several new followers over the last couple of months who may or may-not have had the chance to read these gems.  (Seriously, if I pat myself on the back any harder I may leave a mark ...)  ALSO, I wanted to extend this opportunity to the followers of this blog to share THEIR favorite blog posts.

I'm not sure if you all know each other, but now would be as good a time as any to get acquainted.  So please feel free to provide links to your own favorite blog posts in the comments section.  If nothing else, this should be a good exercise in nostalgia (or hubris).  Can't wait to read what y'all come up with!

Here are my 3 OV (Open Vein) favorites:

3. "George Washington 'Werewolf Poacher'" 

Every now and then I drag out the soapbox, and on this occasion I was scrutinizing the bastardization of classic literature and history courtesy of the book, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

2.  The Future of Publishing 

As most of you know, I'm fairly opinionated when it comes to electronic publishing.  This is the OV post that started it all!  It's totally a spoof by the way ...

1. Battle of the Sexes: Can't We Just Hug-it-Out?

I don't play the dude card very often, but this was the one time I felt obliged.  Re-reading it all these months later, I still stand by every word.  Please don't trip on the soapbox on your way out ...

Again, what are your own favorite blog posts?  Pick a few and stick the links in the comments, or if you're really awesome, do a blog post about it. (But be sure to come share the link with the rest of us!)  After all, if you can't brag on yourself, who can?  :)


Friday Favorites

Hello all!  Hope you're doing well on this fine Friday.  Here on the Open Vein I occasionally like to share some of the tons of great writing advice, news, etc. that I read on a daily basis with my followers, just in case (like me) you get slammed and can't keep up with it on your own.

It's by no means a complete list of what's out there, but these are some of the things I wouldn't want the rest of you to miss.  Here we go!


Recently, Michael Hyatt posted a comprehensive how-to on using Google Reader to keep up with all of your favorite blogs and web content.  I use Google Reader, and I'd be lost without it.  I'd also never be able to explain it half as well as Michael.  There's even a swell video tutorial complete an eyeball-gouge-inducing perky narrator.  If you're not using GR, you should check it out.  Here's the link.


Following an event at a conference she'd recently attended, fellow blogger Margo Kelly posted some useful tips for interacting with agents.  Specifically, Margo was able to have dinner with an agent.  For many, this is a situation made for disaster.  However, I think her tips are perfectly doable and will have you hobnobbing like a pro.  EJ's tip?  Never order the ribs.  You just can't eat them in front of someone and not look like a wolverine munching on a carcass.  Just. Don't. Do. It. People.  Here's the link to Margo's post.


On her blog, WRITE ME, author Erin Jade discusses the ever elusive DO EVERYTHING book.  You know, the book that manages to have all the essential elements of an awesome story like great pacing, dynamic characters, voice, etc., etc.

Funny thing is, as Erin so wonderfully points out, not many stories (even the classics) truly manage to accomplish this.  Her point?  It's okay to have strengths and weaknesses as a writer.  So, if you've ever felt that your story or writing wasn't hitting on all cylinders, you should definitely check out what EJ (she's got groovy initials, right?) has to say, and quit worrying so dang much.  Here's the link.


I'm guessing I'm not the only one, right?  To help us out, super-agent Rachelle Gardner posted an awesome outline of some of the key points of a publishing contract.  Ever wonder what a Unit Break is?  Neither had I, but now we'll know!  Here's the link.


I know many of you have followed lit agent Nathan Bransford's blog over the years.  He's by all accounts one of the real nice guys in the business and a true author advocate.  He's also as sharp as two-year-old cheddar when it comes to writing tips and advice.  Sadly, Nathan announced that he is getting out of the agenting business.  He's still posting on his blog, however, and vows to keep connected.  In a farewell to Nathan, I wanted to share what might be my favorite post of his, which ironically came this week.

We all love Harry Potter here, right?  (If you don't, just nod and slowly walk away ... that's right, just keep walking.)  Nathan shared five things we, as writers, can learn from the series.  You have to check them out, even if you're not a fan.  Here's the link.

it's ... so ... SHINY!

Barnes and Noble is releasing the newest addition to its Nook eReader series in the next few weeks.  It's called the Nook Color, and it's actually a tablet computer (think iPad) with a full touch screen.  It's also about half the price of an iPad.  I have a Nook and will never be parted from it, and this one looks even more amazing as it will allow users to read full color magazines, comics, etc.  Take a look and tell me if you think this is another nail in the traditional book coffin, or just more nerd gravy.  Here's the link.


That's it for this week.   Have a great weekend, and to all of you NaNo folks out there, finish strong!


Did you rock the vote or vote to rock? AND NaNoMonth Poll

So, judging by the election results, I think it's safe to say a chunk of Americans are dissatisfied with the political atmosphere in my country.  What's new?  We change politicians like underwear (regularly ... I hope) around this place.  As always, I'll simply wish the winners the best of luck, because regardless of their agendas, political affiliation, etc. in general the math seems pretty simple:  If they fail, we all lose.  I want my President, congressperson, mayor, etc. to be the best they can be, even if I didn't vote for them.  Too much heaping on and acting as if we're not all in this together, if you ask me.   I digress ...

Being an election week, I thought it would be a good time to poll the audience.  I'm N.O.T. participating in the NaNoMonth madness this year.  I'm too bogged down in revisions (hopefully the last round, but it's best not to jinx these things) to even think about turning my attention to something new.  However, I'd love to know how many of you A.R.E. participating, and what you're working on.

Do you have a name for your NaNo project?  Genre?  Hoped-for word count other than the 50 K?

I'd really love to hear all about it.  And if you're not participating, you can tell me that too, and we can grumble about the people going crazy over it together.

I'm a mean one, Mr. Grinch.  :)


P.S. I always vote to ROCK!

3 Things I'd Change - Harry Potter Edition

Occasionally I get a hankering to try something new here on the old blog, and today is one of those occasions.  I've been trying to read more critically of late, hoping that some of my observation of other writers will rub off on my own writing.  Consequently, I started thinking about my favorite stories and what changes I might have made had they been mine.

For some, it's really a challenge to find anything that could make the story better, the writing tighter, etc.  In the end, this is all just fanciful jealousy aimed at having some fun.  I'm by no means seriously critiquing any  of the stories I feature.  It's just a way to stimulate some debate and thought.

So if it's for fun, why not start with the Holy Grail?  It's the story and author that I have placed on the highest pedestal in terms of YA.  For the sake of our examination, I'll be looking at the series as a whole.

3 Things I'd Change - Harry Potter (There may be spoilers, but let's face it, if you haven't read them by now I'm not sure I can care about you.)

3. Headmaster Snape?  Dumbledore was the ultimate headmaster of Hogwarts.  He was fair, even-tempered, brilliant, and beyond wise.  He was perfect.  Too perfect.

I know, I know.  He didn't always make the best decisions when it came to Harry, but his heart was always in the right place.  Furthermore, the Dumbledore we get to know in book 7 was a very flawed person.  However, that was all after the fact.  When he was alive and kicking he was a goody-goody.

Great conflict = great fiction.  Consequently, I'd have loved to see the potions prof we love to hate, Severus Snape, take over the head spot in book 3 (or so).  Here's my thinking: Why not have Dumbledore run afoul of the Ministry way earlier and leave Snape in charge?  He (Snape) is still obliged to protect/hate Harry, but has much more power.  Dumbledore was at his most badass when he was making the Ministry look like fools and operating outside the "law".  In the end, I think it would have added some depth to both characters.

2. More Ginny?  Yes, please!  Okay, I'm of the camp that kind of thought Harry and Hermione should've become an item.  There was just too much that made sense.  Yet, I do understand the sort of sibling love they had for each other, and frankly Ron and Hermione hooking up was one of the more humorous side plots in the series.  All that being said, I LOVE Ginny Weasley.  She is spunky, powerful, and all the things Ron isn't.  She also revealed (by about the 6th book) that she and Harry fit together quite nicely.  SO WHY THE HECK DIDN'T WE GET TO KNOW HER BETTER?

It took a major character biting the dust 6 books in for the bond between Harry and Ginny to fully manifest.  Sure, he saved her life way back in book 2, but I think the main squeeze of the Boy That Freaking Lived deserves a bit more spotlight.  Having her 'sit out' most of the adventures of the 7th book due to Harry's fear of her getting hurt felt a little like a copout for an underused character that suddenly found herself in the spotlight.  JK is a masterful writer, and she could have easily made the Fabulous 3 (Ron, Harry, & Hermione) a foursome from book 2 on.

1. R.I.P. Harry Potter  This is a story setup for martyrdom from the beginning.  In large part, Harry Potter is an allegory for the cycle of life.  Harry's life/destiny really begins with the death of his parents, and in the end only the sacrifice of his life can allow life for everyone else.  BUT, through the magic of words, Harry finds a way around all that.  He dies, but not really.

Not killing him off was fan/author service.  I realize that.  However, I felt it weakened the overall impact of the story.  JK did such an expert job of weaving themes into her work, and by not killing Harry, I think one of the major themes was left a little tarnished.  Harry made so many sacrifices to defeat Voldemort, but never the ultimate one.  If it were mine, I'd have killed Harry and left Dumbledore alive.    


So tell me I'm crazy!  What do you all think?  Would you have made any changes to the most popular books of our time?  We can all debate this while JK swims in her money bin ...

Let me know what you think about the 3 things.  Should I continue to nitpick timeless works or let them be?  Maybe next week I'll tackle the Bible or some other hack-job like To Kill a Mockingbird.  :)