Creator of Circumstance

  • In: Writing
  • Comments Off on Change those bookmarks!

I’m moving over to a hosted WordPress offering rather than Please change your bookmarks to:

Hope you have had a great start to 2009!

Has it really been since August since I posted here last? Wow.  I mean, sometimes I have a little lapse in blogging but wow, that’s a long one for me.

It’s that polymath in me…my interests lying in so many areas that I tend to become distracted by the latest obsession in one of those fields. It may be literature, it might be writing, art, it could be social media, it may be a long foray into video games or cooking (reading food memoirs and cookbooks included), etc. Last fall it was politics. I was locked into the news, to the Twitter politics feeds, to anything that would help me feel better about the future of this world (whew, I feel better!).  I become so deeply involved in that subject area that sometimes other things, like this blog, end up being neglected.

2009 - An Open BookI need to spend more time here in 2009 though, because if I am, it means I’m writing and reading and creating. That’s really the crux of pretty much all my renaissance man tendencies and if I have to boil it all down, its the one thing that helps bolster all other areas of my life. When I am writing, my world is a bit more complete. Tricky though, getting into the writing part of that creativity cycle.  And it is a cycle…when you are creating, you feel more creative. When you are not creating, it’s sometimes hard to start creating. It’s a dirty little trick of the mind, isn’t it?

That said, 2009 will have me jumping to create. I want to get my first draft of Cena Apicius done this year, and will be submitting a sample for reading to Grub Street’s Muse & the Marketplace coming up later this year. And lo! It appears Jonathan Franzen will be keynoting this year. Great synchronicity since I am currently reading The Corrections. More synchronicity…Anita Shreve is also on the list and I have the Pilot’s Wife waiting in the wings to read. But wow, submissions are due April1, I better get crackin’!

Also on the list for February is a class I’m teaching a 2 class continuing education workshop (evenings of Feb 17 and 24) at Mass Art on New Media Marketing for Artists (register here). I’ve taught this course in other forms, but being able to work with artists will be fun. The best thing for me about marketing is that there is an incredible level of creativity involved and I’m excited to see what ideas the class will have. If any of you know of great ways that artists are using social media and the Web to promote themselves, please drop me a line…I’m building up my repertoire of examples.

Plus I have a long list of books to read and I’m always up for a good literary discussion!

In the event you haven’t stumbled on any of these yet, I thought I’d share a few of the cool new bookish/literary sites that I’ve run across.

  1. LIbraryThing
    I’m on there as Crystallyn if anyone wants to friend me. The best site (in my opinion) for cataloging books, reviews and talking with other book lovers.  The book recommendation engine doesn’t seem to be as well-refined as Shelfari
  2. Shelfari
    Shelfari is new to me so I’m still digging in (again, my username is Crystallyn so friend me up!). It gives you a better graphical representation of your bookshelf than LibraryThing does but it’s not quite as feature rich.
  3. GoodReads
    Again, I’m there as Crystallyn. Similar to LibraryThing, GoodReads has a bit more of the social aspect to it, recommending friends and helping you connect with other readers.
  4. WeRead
    I imagine that many people know this site through the Facebook application, iRead. It’s similar to LibraryThing, Shelfari and GoodReads. I found that in order to use the Web site that I needed to create a new account, so I’ll stick with iRead in Facebook, which allows me to catalog books and “chuck” books at friends.
  5. TitlePage TV
    Television for book lovers! Author interviews, forums and more. If you want to find new books and find out more about the authors, this is your place.
  6. Bookcrossing
    Feel bad about all the books piling up? Not sure you want to donate them to a library where they may get tossed anyway? Give them away for free, randomly, around the world. That’s right, leave a book in a subway seat, tagged with special info. Then head to and track your book. See where it ends up!
  7. Kindle Social Network
    A newer site, the Kindle Social Network aims to hook up Kindle lovers in a forum to talk about the device, where to get great books and to discuss the books they are currently reading.
  8. Listal
    Again, on there as Crystallyn. LIstal is a social network not just for book lovers, but for lovers of media and entertainment. Besides books you can also catalog DVDs, music, television and video games. Find friends, get recommends and discuss!
  9. LibraryElf
    Ever have fines on library books? Now you can get alerts before books are due, track multiple library cards and get text alerts for holds.  Some libraries are already doing this through their own Web sites but if not, this looks to be a great, free service.
  • In: Books
  • Comments Off on Ridonkulously Expensive Books

A lot of the Roman history books that I want to use for my book are extremely costly. Many of them are textbooks so they are often upwards of $75 or more.  Drives me crazy.

I was really hoping that being able to download some of them to my Kindle would save me some $$, and while yes, it’s true, it may save me some money, even the eBooks are absolutely outrageous.

Like one of the few translations of the entire Pliny the Elder’s Natural History. The Kindle version is $27.50 cheaper but it will still cost you $110!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WTF?

I was hoping I might find it as a free ebook because well, it’s long been in the public domain (yes, I realize the translation may not be), but alas, no such luck. I suppose I could cut and paste the text from Perseus and create my own Word doc and mail it to my Kindle, but what a pain! And it wouldn’t have the necessary table of contents that I would need with a volume so large.

I really want a volume that I can cart around with me when I don’t have offline access, but I have such a hard time spending that kind of $ on a book.  The $80 on the Apicius volume was high enough–I did fork it over because really it is crucial to my novel being that it is about the man who inspired the cookbook. But Pliny? Guess I’m stuck with the online version and taking good notes…

  • In: Writing
  • Comments Off on One Visual Representation of Cena Apicius

This, my friends, is a visual representation of the main words in my book, courtesy of Wordle. If you click through you should be able to see a larger version. It’s good for me to see how often some words appear…like how I use “little” too much. As well as “looked,” “seemed,” and “back.”

I also use Liquid Story Binder to write my novel (I HIGHLY recommend this program) which has some very cool tricks for writers, like checking for overused words, but there is just something different about being able to see it illustrated visually.

At the beginning of the year I joined up with one of my fellow classmates in the novel-in-progress class that I took last summer, deciding that we would meet up every other week to crit and talk about our books. We added two more lovely women in the last few months and now we have a wonderfully well-rounded group of four, all with very different novels in various stages. It’s one of the best things I could have done for my writing. When I come home from one of those meetings I want nothing more than to sit my ass in the chair and write. The motivation is unparalleled.

There is an article in the February Writer’s Digest (I only remember this because its still in the bathroom magazine rack) about starting your own writer’s group. The author advocates keeping the group at 6-7 members but I think that four is really a perfect number. MAYBE five but I think that if you want to keep your meetings around 2-3 hours of time that more people make it difficult. We have started to break it up so that we only cover 2 people’s novels at each session with exceptions for crucial query letters and synopsis rewrites.

The article also makes the point about dedicated participants. One of the women who recently joined up with our little group is part of another writer’s group which sort of meets here and there but there is no structure, no definite meeting dates, etc. One of the draws for her was that in our group we make a point of meeting every two weeks. It may not always be on say, a Monday, but it will still be within that two week mark. We always make a point of reading the material on that week’s docket.  We share our latest news, our frustrations, our breakthroughs but it all comes back to the core material of the words on the page and if they are working or not working. That consistency and dedication are what make everything work.

Two of our writers are on the prowl for an agent, with one of them very close to representation (she had several agents vying for exclusive reading rights of the manuscript when we last spoke). It’s exciting to be part of that process, to be watching and helping with letters and advice. We’re all so excited for each other and to me, that’s the best part.

This week I acquired a shiny new toy!!! I scored an award from my company so FINALLY I could satiate my lust. My joy started with the box, pictured here. I’m such a sucker for gorgeous packaging and this was one of the best presentations I’ve seen thus far. The box was like a book itself, and as you can see below, it opens up to the Kindle on one side and the manuals (which I still haven’t opened since they are actually ON the Kindle) on the other. The manuals are wrapped in a slick onion-skin sheath. Overall the package is so beautiful that I’m loathe to discard it, but it’s not really made in such a way that it makes sense to re-use.

I have to wonder too, how much extra $$ is tacked onto the cost of the Kindle as a result of this over the top packaging. It’s odd for an item that isn’t on the shelves in a brick and mortar store. People aren’t swayed by seeing these beautiful boxes lined up on store shelf. They are sold on the device itself, so going to this kind of lengths to showcase the Kindle after purchase seems so strange to me.

But oh, the Kindle itself is pretty damn wonderful. It worked the second I plugged it in. Charging it took very little time but while I was doing so I was already able to access books I had purchased. Browsing the store was simple and navigating through my selections is quick and easy. You can change font size to super small or very large. And yes, it reads just like the print in a book. There isn’t a back light for it, which may seem strange, but that’s what gives it the flat, book-like print feel. You can read it in direct sunlight, which you can’t really do with a PDA or a laptop.

I bought a red leather cover for it, which is much better than the cover that it comes with, so if you are considering a Kindle, I do suggest that. The device is lighter than a paperback and just slightly larger.

Reading books is a breeze. I actually think I read faster than I normally do (which is pretty damn fast) because I’m not turning pages, just a quick click. That might seem odd, but when you read as quickly as I do, that page turn is a slow down–one that I never realized until I was able to thumb my way to the next words.

First books I snagged for my Kindle include:

The device will hold up to 200 books, magazines and blogs (I recommend you stick to books for the most part, but I do think the Amazon daily newspaper is interesting) and you can add even more if you use an SD card. I think that I’ll primarily use the Kindle for things like the fantasy fiction books I tend to like, marketing/work-related books and essentially, volumes that I don’t care if I have in hardback or not.

Overall, very very happy with my new little friend.

I’m Writing, Really!

Cena Apicius
Zokutou word meterZokutou word meterZokutou word meter
50,120 / 100,000

Delivering Divinity
Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
54,744 / 110,000