Monthly Archives: September 2013

Monday Time Management Tips: Write first

PlayViolinMy tip for this week is targeted to those of us who do something artistic: do your writing, painting, violin practice before you do your marketing or get on with the rest of your day. I know that’s not what people usually tell you to do. Most people think that you should do the stuff you have to do first, before you get onto the stuff you really want to do.

But I’ve put the writing first, because if I don’t do it first, it tends not to get done.

My point is that you should do what you’re passionate about first, before you get on with the stuff you have to do, so that you don’t get resentful. As always, put the timer on for 1 or 2 or 3 hours, and stop when it beeps. Get up, stretch, do yoga, grab a snack. WritingNibPenThen sit down and get on with the marketing, or whatever it is that you really have to do that day. Having spent some time doing something you really care about, you will find that you’re ready to focus.

Have a fabulous week!

CynthiaSignature

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Friday Poems: Excerpt from Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

For this Friday, I wanted to share one of my favorite quatrains by the Persian poet Omar Khayyam (1048-1131), because it describes writing, and how hard it is to un-write something, once you’ve written it:

Omar_Khayyam

The Moving Finger writes; and having writ,

Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit

Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,

Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.

 

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A DANCE WITH DRAGONS by George R. R. Martin

I’d like to start my review by mentioning all the positive things about this series, which keeps me reading. GRRM has created compelling characters in Sansa, Arya, Jon Snow, Jaime Lannister, Tyrion Lannister and Daenerys Targaryen, and I’m dying to know what happens to them, and how they come out of this novel. So every time I’m reading something about them I’m happy.

I’m not so happy with this novel as a piece of writing. The problem is that the structure of the story has become slack, and we have a situation with multiple characters and multiple plot-lines, which necessitates long waits between each point of view character to find out what happens next. For example, poor Sansa Stark finally left the Eyrie with her uncle-by-marriage Petyr Baelish at the end of A FEAST FOR CROWS, but no-where is she to be seen in A DANCE WITH DanceWithDragonsDRAGONS. So I’m still wondering what happened to her. Instead, the plot has become bogged down in too many minor characters and their dealings, and so the momentum of the story has crawled to a halt.

What made J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series so successful, was that each book was structured around a year at Hogwarts. Unfortunately, A DANCE WITH DRAGONS, like A FEAST FOR CROWS has lost its structure, so one reads and reads with no real sense of where this story is going to end up. And so the arc of tension is either sagging, or absent.

I hope that GRRM will do a couple of things with the last two books in the series:

  • Ditch the prologues. I have no idea why ADWD started with Varamyr as it seemed to have little bearing on what followed. The opening would have been much stronger if we had been plunged into the scene where Tyrion is on a boat escaping Westeros, just after killing his father at the end of Book Three.
  • Edit out the minor characters, and make the book lean and mean by just focusing on the lives of the main characters that we have grown to know and love.

I would love a scene in which Tyrion meets Daenerys, especially as their encounter in ADWD was such a cop-out. I want to see Tyrion confront his sister and brother. I want to see who ends up on the Iron Throne. And I want to find out what happens to Bran, Arya and Sansa. Do they ever see each other again? As far as I’m concerned, I would be happy NOT having to wade through stuff about another unscrupulous sellsword, or about Theon Greyjoy and his family, or about the Dornes. Frankly, I’m no longer interested. Three stars.

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Monday Time Management Tips: Turn off distractions

ElectronicDistractionsMy tip for this week is to turn off your email and other distractions. Quit Safari, quit firefox, quit your web-browser, stop Facebooking, Twittering, Pinning, or Stumbling, and while you’re at it turn off your iPhone, and any other device that might interrupt you with beeps or chimes.

If you’re waiting for an important message, buy a good kitchen timer and set it for 30 minutes, 45 minutes, an hour and let yourself focus on your work. (I know you could use your iPhone, but the object of the exercise it to give it – and you – some downtime).

At the end of that time, get up from your seat, stretch and glance at your email. For 5 minutes. Repeat this process. You will find that you get much more work done, and are not so frazzled.

Have a fabulous week!

CynthiaSignature

 

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Friday poems: Epigram by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

As someone who is studying for an MFA in Creative Writing at Lesley University in Cambridge MA, I find myself reading a lot of poetry these days. I thought I would include this short pithy one below, as it gives a perfect definition of an epigram. The photo is of Samuel Taylor Coleridge:

SamuelTaylorColeridge

What is an Epigram? A dwarfish whole;

Its body brevity, and wit its soul.

–Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)

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A FEAST FOR CROWS: A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE: BOOK FOUR by George R. R. Martin

AFeastForCrowsI can see why people have problems with this volume of A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE, titled A FEAST FOR CROWS. We spend a great deal of time in the company of Brienne, Maid of Tarth as she wanders through Westeros looking for Sansa Stark, only to be told she was on the wrong trail. At the end of the book, she comes to a sad, unsurprisingly grisly end, and it all seems so pointless.

 

The other figure who casts a long shadow over this novel is the beautiful but cruel Cersei. As she is not a sympathetic character, and she gets increasingly paranoid throughout this book, and there is no resolution to her situation, I can see why people would get impatient.

 

It is true, that I found myself wondering, two-thirds of the way through, when this novel was going to come to some kind of resolution. And it didn’t, which was disappointing. But strangely enough, I did manage to read most every word, which is unusual for me as I am the most impatient person on the planet. So what kept me going?

 

I think the people who really kept me going throughout this volume were the Stark sisters, which is strange as we don’t hear much from them. But whenever they appeared, the volume came to life. That might explain why I stuck with Brienne through thick and thin, as she was looking for Sansa Stark, and I kept expecting them to meet up.

 

Otherwise, I have to agree with others who have said this needed a stronger editorial hand. In particular, I found the prologue to this piece as well as the prologue to A DANCE WITH DRAGONS (which I have just read) really unhelpful, and actually a turn-off to the book I’m about to read. In my opinion they give you hooks that are not really hooks, as they don’t seem to have much to do with the main characters.  I hope that in his next volume THE WINDS OF WINTER, GRRM will do something about that. Three and a Half stars.

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Monday Time Management Tips: Use Evernote

ScreenClutterHave you ever found yourself in the situation where you look at the screen of your computer and it’s just covered in files of stuff that you copied from the internet?

I found myself in that situation recently and that’s how I discovered Evernote.

It is a  clipping service, a convenient way of storing all those things-you-mean-to-read-but-don’t-have-time-right-now. Just clip what you want, and store in a folder. It’s FREE, and you can download your copy here. http://evernote.com/

If you find that the current version of Evernote is crashing, I recommend that you create folders of things you typically collect off the internet, such as Recipes, or New York Times or Receipts (for all that shopping you do:) and then copy and paste into software like TextEdit, or WordNotes, (NOT Word, Word Perfect or Pages or the formatting will drive you crazy). I’ve been having problems with Evernote myself recently, so I’m waiting for the update, when I’m assuming that those bugs will be fixed.

Have a fabulous week!

CynthiaSignature

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Friday Pictures: Unusual hairstyle posted on Pinterest

For this Friday, I thought I’d share a picture of an unusual hairstyle I saw on Pinterest, which reminded me of the kind of hairstyling done in the Middle Ages, when women all had long hair. Their maids would dress their hair, first by doing some kind of plaiting, then they would fashion the plaits into elaborate updos. This is a modern take on that custom:

UnusualHairstyle

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A STORM OF SWORDS: A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE: BOOK THREE by George R. R. Martin

AStormOfSwordsIn A STORM OF SWORDS George Martin shows how ruthless a truly great author has to be, for in this volume we come across the infamous Red Wedding. Those of you who have seen the HBO series or read the book, know what I mean. For the rest of you, I will say no more so as not to spoil the experience.

 

The saga continues, with King Robb battling to save the North, with Jon Snow returning from his stint of spying amongst the Wildings with his heart torn, with KIng Stannis in the grip of an evil sorceress, with Queen Daenerys learning her craft of Queenship as this 14-year-old begins to show the makings of a truly great monarch, and with cruel King Joffrey growing even crueler, so that even his Lannister relatives (apart from his doting mother) become uneasy.

 

There are many wonderful moments as new characters are introduced. How I loved Lord Tywin Lannister, the cold patriarch of the family. He is so typical of a high-born medieval lord. How I loved meeting Lady Margaery and her family, especially her lively grandmother. These ladies seem so sweet, but they are cunning and ruthless in their ways too. My favorite part of the novel is the way in which Lady Margaery’s grandmother, Lady Olenna, outwits Cersei and saves the day…for her grand-daughter at least.

 

But you will have to read this volume to see what I mean. Five stars.

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Monday Time Management Tips: Get Organized!

OfficeClutterDo you have that overwhelmed feeling, because you have too much information coming at you and you can’t find anything? Set aside a day, and organize your files. These days this means physical files for all those bits of paper, files on your computer’s hard drive and also files for your browser’s bookmarks. Here is a list of my files:

Agents & Editors

Conferences

Ebook Services

Finding Audience

Google Alerts

Local

Info on Publishing

Indie Presses

POD Services

Reviews & Blog Tour

Sites for Interacting

To Dos-Later

To Dos-Now

I recommend that you replicate these files across your bookmarks, computer files, and actual physical files. If you don’t like actual physical files (and I don’t) get a 3-ring binder, and a 3-hole punch, and organize your files that way, with tabbed cards to show where everything is.

Have a fabulous week!

CynthiaSignature

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