Unlock the Muse – July 30, 2019

Camp NaNoWriMo ends tomorrow. Ready or not, Camp is closing for the season. Time to clean out your bunks and pack up to go home. Back to real life.

It also means that deadline has gone beyond looming, and is now breathing impatiently down the back of your neck. If you’re here with me, up against this deadline, don’t give up. Keep going until the end. I believe in NaNo miracles!

Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Write for 10 minutes today. Tomorrow add five more minutes, the next day five more, etc., until you complete one writing goal.

Whatever that next goal is, put in the time to make it happen. And don’t forget to reward yourself when you reach that goal! Me? I’m going to finally binge watch Stranger Things once this is over!

As it’s the fifth Tuesday of July, this is sort of a bonus week. As such, I’ll share briefly about the down side of deadlines. I know, I’ve been raving all month about how great deadlines are at motivating you toward that goal. But let’s get honest for just a bit, shall we?

Deadlines aren’t always fun. Or helpful. Sometimes they are down right stressful. Unless it’s your livelihood at stake, sometimes it’s even okay to reevaluate that goal and that deadline.

I am something of an over-achiever, and this year, I set myself up with more than is good for me. Between my reading and writing challenges, I’m not keeping up very well, and it has begun to wear me out. I’m battling burn-out and discouragement.

This is another thing I love about Camp NaNoWriMo. It’s flexible, and allows you to set goals for yourself that are both challenging and reasonable. It will also allow you to change those goals when they are no longer reasonable. And this is exactly what I did. I was no longer having fun with my writing project. It had become a slog I had to get through and a massive guilt monkey hanging around my neck. No one needs that, and so I lowered my word count goal to a more reasonable, more reachable, number. It will still be a push to finish this thing on time, but I can breathe again. And enjoy my story again.

So, deadlines are great. Until they’re not. Don’t be afraid to rethink your goals. Push back the deadline. Break the larger goal into smaller, more manageable ones. It’s okay. It’s not cheating. It’s not giving up. It’s about stepping back and remembering why you started this project in the first place.

Happy writing!

Artemis Fowl, by Eoin Colfer: A Review

The 2019 Popsugar Reading Challenge prompt #1 is to read a book becoming a movie in 2019. When I began investigating books for the challenge, and this prompt in particular, the only book that really grabbed my attention was Artemis Fowl, by Eoin Colfer. At the time, the movie adaptation was scheduled for release in August 2019. I have since learned that the release date has been bumped back to May 2020, so technically, this book no longer meets the prompt. I will take it anyway.

Artemis Fowl is a 12-year old boy genius. In truth, he’s a criminal mastermind. The story opens with Artemis is seeking to acquire a particular item, a book. This is the rule book by which all fairy folk live. Artemis contrives to acquire the book by deception and trickery. Ultimately Artemis is after a greater prize. Once he has the book and kidnapped an elf by the name of Holly Short, his true plan is finally set fully in motion.

The story that ensues is full of action and magic. It is fast paced and doesn’t let up. Along the way we meet the agents of LEPRecon, to which Holly Short belongs. We encounter trolls, elves, dwarves and goblins. There is fairy magic, of course, but even more than that, there is fairy technology. The book is engaging and moves quickly. My one complaint would be that the chapters feel too long.

I think this is a book my 9-yr old son would enjoy if I could talk him into reading it. I know I had a lot of fun reading this book. I will definitely check out more of the series when I get the chance. And I’m looking forward to the movie!

Red Mist, by Patricia Cornwell: A Review

Popsugar’s 2019 Reading Challenge prompt #14, a book you see someone reading on TV or in a movie, proved challenging for me. Most of the time if I’m watching TV, it will be something I’m binge watching on Netflix. When I did see someone reading, either I could not determine the title of the book, or it held no interest for me. I finally found a couple of possibilities on the show Criminal Minds. Ultimately, I decided to read Red Mist, by Patricia Cornwell. This book is featured on Season 7, Episode 11 titles “True Genius.” Cornwell herself appears on the show at a book signing where members of the BAU are presenting.

I felt pretty sure before I picked up this book, that I’ve read at least one other of Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta novels, and I hoped it wouldn’t matter too much that I haven’t read all of them. As it turned out, there’s a good chance I would have enjoyed this book more if I hadn’t skipped most of the series that came before this one.

For those who may be unfamiliar with the series, Cornwell writes gritty murder mysteries featuring Dr. Kay Scarpetta, Chief Medical Examiner in Virginia (at the beginning of the series). Red Mist is the nineteenth book in this series, and Dr. Scarpetta and all the characters surrounding her have gone through many experiences and life changes. In fact, the plot of Red Mist relies heavily on Scarpetta’s past experiences.

Red Mist opens with Dr. Scarpetta on her way to visit an inmate at the Georgia Prison for Women. She was invited there by the inmate in question, and as the narrative unfolds, you get the distinct feeling that this is a very strange thing for Scarpetta to do. It is clear as well, that she is going against the advice of her husband and all those who care about her. Dr. Scarpetta is quickly drawn into a convoluted plot that is far more than it appears on the surface.

Written in the first person perspective of Dr. Scarpetta, we see the novel’s events through her eyes. We are privy to her thoughts, emotions and memories. And it is her memories that she frequently devolves into that drive the plot forward. This book has a very personal feel to it. Events from Scarpetta’s past have come back to threaten her again.

I would like to say I enjoyed this book, but I didn’t. I haven’t read all the Kay Scarpetta novels, so I didn’t have the background necessary to really appreciate what was happening in this one. Scarpetta fans will no doubt enjoy this book. If you enjoy hard-hitting thrillers, you’ll probably like this one as well. But I definitely recommend reading them in order.

Four, by Veronica Roth: A Review

Several years back I read the Divergent series by Veronica Roth. I absolutely loved the first book. I enjoyed the others as well, though not quite as much as the first. But one thing in particular I did enjoy about the last book, is that it included passages from the point of view of Four. And so, when I decided to focus first on books I already own when choosing books for the 2019 Reading Challenge, I found I could use Four, by Veronica Roth for prompt #22 on the ATY challenge, a book with a number in the title or on the cover.

Four is a collection of five short stories told from the perspective of Tobias Eaton, introduced in Divergent by the name Four. The stories included in this collection are “Free Four: Tobias Tells the Divergent Knife-Throwing Scene,” “The Transfer,” “The Initiate,” “The Son,” and “The Traitor.” In these stories, we get to see how Tobias came to be a part of the Dauntless faction and his meeting Tris for the first time.

After having read the Divergent trilogy, I really enjoyed this look into Four’s life. This is a short book, so it reads quick. It is a lot of fun to read. It’s been awhile since I read the original series, and reading this book made me want to revisit it.

Four is a great companion book to the original series. If you have read and enjoyed the other books, I would definitely recommend this one as well. I would say though, if you haven’t read the whole series yet, I’d read that first. This collection of stories will definitely spoil parts of the main series if you read it first.

Unlock the Muse – July 23, 2019

The final week of Camp NaNoWriMo is here. Ready or not, the deadline is within sight. If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to set aside extraneous distractions. Turn off Netflix and Twitter. Put aside your recreational reading. That puzzle in the front room? Finish it immediately and move on! Whatever it is that’s holding you back, put it away for now and look ahead only toward your goal. Plan for yourself a reward once the goal is achieved.

Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

We dare you! Imagine your perfect writing job (other than freelancing). An editor at Simon & Schuster? Staff writer for Sports Illustrated? Write down four reasons why you would be perfect for the job. Then send the letter to the company’s editor or human resources department. The worst they can do is ignore it.

Dare to dream big! Whether or not you actually send the letter, it’s never a bad idea to examine what your goals really are, and why you are pursuing them.

It’s play week, and even with that looming deadline, there’s always room for a little creative play time. Here’s a roll of the Rory’s Story Cubes to inspire some fun in your work-in-progress.


Happy writing!

Unlock the Muse – July 16, 2019

How can July be half over already? The Camp NaNoWriMo deadline looms ever closer, spurring me forward toward my goal. I’m still lagging behind, but doggedly pressing on.

In light of this looming deadline, I thought I’d take a look at what others have to say about deadlines. This article by Jeremy Miller talks about the power of deadlines. He describes a deadline as an incredible tool for harnessing energy and achieving results.

Another article by Andreea Clair lists a few reasons deadlines are a good thing. Reasons such as better prioritization, improved productivity and increased efficiency.

Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Write a letter to yourself when you were 10. Tell this young you what you wish you had known or understood them.

Life doesn’t really give us do-overs, but if it did, wouldn’t it be nice to be armed ahead of time with the information that help us reach our goals without hitting so many roadblocks? Oh, and you’ve got a week. Go!

1. The latest time or date by which something should be completed.
2. Historical: A line drawn around a prison beyond which prisoners were liable to be shot.

The word deadline comes from around 1920, the American English newspaper jargon meaning “time limit.” It is perhaps influenced by an earlier use of the word (1864) to mean the “do-not-cross” line in Civil War prisons, which figured in the trial of Henry Wirz, commander of the notorious Confederate prison at Andersonville, Georgia.

For more on the story of Henry Wirz and the history of the word deadline, check out this interesting article by Paul Anthony Jones.

Happy writing!

Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh: A Review

I chose to read Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh for Popsugar’s 2019 Reading Challenge prompt #28, a book recommended by a celebrity I admire. At first, I was put off by this prompt. I’m not one who gets overly excited by fame and celebrity. There are famous people I like well enough, certainly some historical figures I could say that I admire. No one really came to mind, however, as someone I wanted to find out their book recommendations.

Then I thought about authors I admire, and I decided they qualified as celebrities. I decided on Kate DiCamillo, an author of children’s books who seems to always have something positive to share. On Kate’s recommended reading list I found the book Harriet the Spy, and was instantly sold on this book about a girl who wants to become a writer.

In this book, Harriet, a self-proclaimed spy, carries around a notebook everywhere she goes. She writes in this notebook her various observations and opinions of all the people around her. Besides her classmates and her family, she actively follows some neighborhood people and writes about them as well. She goes so far as to sneak into a dumb waiter to spy on one such neighbor.

Her observations get her into trouble when one of her classmates gets a hold of her notebook and reads aloud all the unkind things she’s had to say about everyone, including her two best friends. Harriet ends up restricted from her notebook, and is ostracized by everyone around her. After many misadventures, Harriet ultimately learns to apologize to those she’s hurt and to temper her unkind words.

I enjoyed this book a great deal. It was funny and Harriet has an admirable adventurous spirit. I was disappointed a bit, however, when Harriet is given a chance to be the editor of the sixth grade news page, she only continues more of her unkind thoughts, writing now about the neighborhood folks rather than her peers, as if this makes it somehow okay. I would have liked to see her change a bit more in this respect after her unhappy lessons learned from her peers.

Overall, a great read. One I’d recommend for anyone who’s ever been too curious for their own good, or those who wish they’d been just a little more adventurous.