Saturday, December 1, 2012

Christmas and Book Giving


Happy December! What are your Christmas (or other winter holiday) plans? What gifts are you giving? Books I hope!

U.S.A. Today (on 11/25) listed the top 150 books (based on sales). Here are the top five.

1 Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Third Wheel, Jeff Kinney (Amulet Books) , $13.95
2 Notorious Nineteen, Janet Evanovich (Bantam) , $13.99
3 The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition, Carol V. Aebersold, Chanda B. Bell (CCA and B) , $29.95
4The Forgotten, David Baldacci (Grand Central Publishing) , $14.99
5The Racketeer, John Grisham (Doubleday) , $28.95

Are people buying these as gifts? For themselves? And what about the lesser known titles? Just because a book isn't on the top 150, doesn't mean it's not worthy.

Here are some sources for books you might not have heard of.




Your own local independently owned bookstore. Yes, some of them still exist.

Or click on the links of my followers. Many of them write fine books which they post about on their blogs!

 

 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Post About Not Doing a Post and Thanksgiving Homework

Thanksgiving Card circa 1900

Oops, I haven't updated in a while. We had some things to deal with in our family, but thank the Lord it looks like things are smoothing out. :)

Because of things to deal with and Thanksgiving (Thursday--for those not living in the U.S.) our homeschooling NaNo Jr. group is skipping two weeks. So, we're doing what homeschoolers do best. We're improvising! We'll take the group into the first part of December. It's not an official NaNoWriMo thing, but it works for us.

I gave the kids Thanksgiving homework and now I'm giving some to you. Write and memorize a quick pitch for your WIP*. Make it brief, something you can say in 30 seconds or less. Then, say it to at least one person on Thanksgiving.

Here's an example of the conversation you'll have.

You: (feeling proud) Guess what Grandma, I'm writing a novel!

Grandma: What? You're working in a brothel? Let me tell you about my days working in a brothel.

You: (cringing) No, Grandma. A novel. I'm writing a novel!

Grandma: Oh. What's it about? Not one of those vampire romance thing.

You: No. (takes a deep breath) It's about an orphan who learns she's really a famous wizard and has to kill---

Grandma: (cutting you off) Didn't they already make that movie? What's it called, "Sunny Potter"?

Grandpa: (yelling into Grandma's ear) That was "Twilight."

Grandma: No. It was "Sunny Potter." 

You: It's Harry Potter and my story's different. The main character is a girl.

Of course your novel is unique and not Harry Potterish in the least. But somebody at the table will tell you it reminds them of something they've read or seen. And somebody else will tell you how they could never write a novel. And ever after this day, they will all ask how that novel is coming along, and you'll kind of wish I never gave you this assignment. But it's good practice, so do it!


* WIP = Work in Progress (I add this footnote because years ago when I started, I could not figure out what the heck a WIP was but was too shy to ask. And that makes for awkward internet moments.)

CoolWriter42: Hey, how's your WIP going?
(starts to type...hesitates...types)
Newbie1100039: Good. :)
(Googles -"what is a wip?")

 

Friday, November 9, 2012

NaNoWriMo Homeschooling Workshop and Cures for Writer's Block


The NaNoWriMo homeschooling group is going well. We get together, eat snacks, I give a short talk, giving ideas they can take or leave, make plot bunnies, write, and laugh a lot!

My suggestion this week was this to write what your primary theme is, then interview your main character regarding it. How does he/she feel about it? Just free write in first person as if you were typing out his/her exact words. This gets you to connect with your character and your main theme.

Plot bunnies!  Some of us made these at a NaNo café gathering a while back. Each person writes some little detail or plot device that might help somebody with writer's block get unstuck. And you fold it into an origami rabbit. Toss them all in a basket and each person takes one. They aren't to open it unless they're really stuck. Here's a link to simple origami rabbit instructions.
 
If you don't have a NaNo group, you use the random writers' block plot cures post I wrote last year. I've actually used it myself a couple of times. Quite useful.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Next Big Thing


 
I was tagged by LK Hunsaker. After you check out my next big thing, go check out her Next Big Thing!
The rules of the blog hop are simple: Answer ten questions about your WIP (Work in Progress) and tag five more writers/bloggers to do the same.

What is the working title of your book?

The Last Guy on Earth Who isn't a Zombie
 
Where did the idea come from for your book?
From the dark recesses of my brain.  Mmm, brains...

What genre does your book fall under?

YA Fantasy because it's not scary enough to be called Horror.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Ones who, once they've read the script, wished they'd gone into a profession other than acting.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Just short of high school graduation, Alice finds herself trapped in her attic by a hoard of zombies, and who should come to her rescue, but the infamously tough guy from school who once punched a teacher.

(My synopsis needs much work.)

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

It will most likely permanently reside in my computer in a folder marked "Abandoned Novel Projects."

How long did it take to write the first draft of your book?

I'll let you know when the first draft is finished. I've restarted it about seven times already and thinking of going for eight.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Dick and Jane and Zombies (I'm kidding of course. Not only is that not YA, but it hasn't been written yet. However, there is a Dick and Jane and Vampires.)

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I wrote a flash fiction piece based on a writing prompt about sound and silence. By unseen forces, I was driven to expand that story.

What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

It will be just the right thickness to level that tippy table you've been thinking of donating to Goodwill.
 
 
Now I tag:
http://dlcruisingaltitude.blogspot.com/
http://bethandwriting.blogspot.com/

 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Ghost Words on Grammar Girl

Grammar Girl discussed "ghost words" on her podcast yesterday. Ghost words are words that don't exist, but made it into the dictionary anyway. Here's a link to Grammar Girl . Listen to her podcast and read the transcript, which has bonus ghost words that aren't in the podcasted show.

For school kids, homeschoolers, or for anybody ghost words are a fun topic to cover on Halloween, even if they don't really have to do with ghosts.

 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

NaNoWriMo for Kids


NaNoWriMo is coming. That's "National Novel Writing Month" if you didn't know. During November people challenge themselves to write a novel in one month. Go to the NaNoWriMo website to learn more.

Today I want to talk about NaNoWriMo's young writers program for kids under seventeen. While the adult NaNoers have a goal of 50,000 words, young NaNoers can choose their own goals. Go to the NaNoWriMo YoungWriters Program website for  info and goodies.

This year my adult niece and I are running a NaNo workshop for 6 homeschoolers, including her little brother and my twins. NaNo has workbooks which you can download in PDF or order for ten bucks, which is reasonable (and simpler than printing out over 100 pages). We received ours and they're beautiful.
 
 
 
Half of our students are using the elementary school workbook and half are using the middle school one. A high school version is also available.

I'd encourage teachers and homeschooling parents to consider running a NaNo workshop for their students. It will get them writing and that's a good thing!
 
I'll post on this again and provide ideas for running a young NaNo workshop. So stay tuned!

 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Egyptian Stuff


Has it been so long since I blogged!?!?  We've been busy.
 
Our family went to the Egyptian museum in San Jose as a homeschooling fieldtrip for our 6th grade twins. And they each wrote a research paper complete with bibliography. They aren't at the in-text citation stage yet. We'll try that next.

Egyptians drank a lot of beer. On the tour of the simulated tomb, the docent asked us to identify the painting of some sort of beverage. When one of my kids answered, "beer" more than one person giggled. But she was right!

Enjoy some of the photos we took! I hope you too get a chance to visit. :)
Beer strainer and other Egyptian objects
Cat Mummy
Nefertiti
 
Egyptian coffin
Egyptian beer cup
All images were taken by me or else one of the kids. Feel free to use them under the following license guidlines:
 
 
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


My youngest daughters, twins- Daphne and Fiona (age 11) each created blogs to display the photos they take of cats, creations, and toy set-ups.

I invite you to take a look!

Daphne's blog "100Bunnies."

Fiona's blog, "100 Donuts."
 
Fiona and Daphne in front of their Hello Kitty and pom-pom collections displayed at a local museum.
 

 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Yippee! Short Story Published!


My story, "Graffitied Door" is up at The Wordsmith Journal Magazine. Here's the link. Scroll down to the short story section and you'll see mine there.
 
Graffiti Artist
 
The Wordsmith Journal is an awesome site. In addition to short stories, they have columns/blogs, author interviews, and book reviews. They like to feature books and stories with a moral message.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Author Interview, Declan Finn


I had the pleasure of interviewing Declan Finn, author of It Was Only On Stun! Here's the blurb for his novel:

When Sean A.P. Ryan is hired to protect an actress for a three-day science fiction convention, he figures he's in for a quiet time. But he didn't count on factions from her home country to sent hired killers.  This doesn't even count "Middle Earth's Most Wanted Elven Assassin;" he thinks that the actress is really an Elven princess, and will do anything to prove it to her, including murder.

Q: It Was Only On Stun! is a murder mystery set at a science fiction convention. There's a lot of comedy in it, and a lot of gunfire. What made you come up with this scenario?

DF: Well, it was a few things. I'm a science fiction fan, plain and simple. I've been to conventions in New York, with the old Creation, and Atlanta's Dragoncon, and New York Comic con .... I've been to a few. And, like any good writer, I've trained myself to walk into any location or event, and ask, "If I were going to blow this place up in a book, how would I do it?"

Q: I know you've written articles on self-defense, and you have such vivid and exciting action scenes in It Was Only on Stun. What's the background there? Like your main character Sean Ryan, are you a former stuntman?

DF: [Laughs vaguely maniacally] No, I’m not a former stuntman. It Was Only On Stun! was first written before much of my self-defense training – somewhere around ten years ago.  I had learned much of my choreography from movies, which is why I wanted Sean to be a stuntman in the first place, to give him a reason for the outlandish stunts he pulled.  Later on, I had gone through four years of Krav Maga, the self-defense system of the Israeli military.  After that, it necessitated a massive rewrite of most of the fight scenes. 

The short answer to your question (too late, I know), is that I’m a nerd who studies fighting and self-defense.

Q: You're self-publishing this book through Createspace, an Amazon affiliate.  Couldn't you get this book through other avenues?

DF: To be honest, I didn't try.  I put my eggs into one basket, and one book, for a while. Years, actually. Patience is a virtue. Prudence is also a virtue, and it told me that patience was going to do me in. Is this the quick way? Sure.  But you can't say that it's the easy way.  You have to arrange for your own copy editing, your own book covers, your own PR, marketing, press releases, everything.

Q: What other books do you have in the works?

DF: Oh Lord. Where do I start? At last count, there were fifteen novels.  There's another Sean Ryan book that takes place at the Vatican. I have a hostage novel in a bookstore, I have several thrillers, I've got several science-fiction novels, set in two different universes.  I hope to get the science-fiction published sooner or later, but unless I get to hear back from someone soon, I'll be going for the next Sean Ryan, which is a little more serious than this one.  It’s called A Pius Man, a thriller centered around Pope Pius XII … I call it the opposite of the Da Vinci Code, because it’s both factually accurate (the first draft had footnotes) and entertaining.

Q: Do you have any advice to readers who are thinking about writing their own novels?

DF: Step one: FINISH THE BLOODY BOOK.  I can't stress this enough.  I can't scream at people enough.  Every time someone whines that “I have a book in me, I just can't get it published.”  My first thought is, “If there's a book in there, get it surgically removed.”  What I say out loud is, “How much of it have you written?”  Their answer, more often than not, is that they haven't even put pen to paper, or even warmed up the computer.  They can write dozens of tweets a day, but actually writing this book they supposedly really, really want published?

(Read the rest of the interview on my other site: "Catholic Once Again.")

It Was Only On Stun! will be available for free on Kindle at Amazon for five days of Labor Day Week (Sunday to Thursday). You can also buy it at Create Space.

Check out his cool book trailer:



AUTHOR BIO:  Declan Finn lives in a part of New York City unreachable by bus or subway.  Who's Who has no record of him, his family, or his education.  He has been trained in hand to hand combat and weapons at the most elite schools in Long Island, and figured out nine ways to kill with a pen when he was only fifteen.  He escaped a free man from Fordham University's PhD program, and has been on the run ever since.  There was a brief incident where he was branded a terrorist, but only a court order can unseal those records, and realloy, why would you want to know? It Was Only On Stun! is his first novel.

You can visit him at his website: declanfinn.webs.com





Sunday, August 5, 2012

Plot and Conflict: How to Structure Your Story

With so many ways of deconstructing--or, because we're writers, constructing--stories (novels, short stories, or movies), which one should you choose as your blueprint? I'll explain a few and you can decide which to use.

***

In school you may have learned about the three conflict archetypes: Man vs. Man, Man vs. Nature, and Man vs. Himself. Within any story you'll see one or more of these at play.

A man against man conflict would be any story in which the protagonist has a human (or something equal to human within the story's universe) antagonist. Some examples are as follows: Harry Potter versus Voldemort, Luke versus Darth Vader, Iron Man verses Jeff Bridges (I can't recall his character's name).

Man against nature might be survival stories, such as "Swiss Family Robinson," or even alien or zombie stories, such as The Omega Man (the novel)/"I Am Legend" (the film adaptation).

Man against himself is often found as a co-conflict alongside "man vs. man" or "man vs. nature." "Finding Nemo," in which Marlin must find the hero within himself, is a good example of "man (or fish, in this case) vs. himself" as well as "man/fish vs. nature."

***

Orson Scott Card's MICE quotient is another way of viewing a story. I've written on this before, so I'll be brief.

M- Milieu stories focus mainly on exploring the setting.

I- Idea stories are about answering a question, solving a mystery, or learning some piece of information.

C- Character stories focus on character growth and change.

E- Event stories are about how characters deal with a catastrophe. (Man vs. Nature stories would probably fit in here.)

Most stories will have more than one of these conflict types.

***

Dan Wells' video series on The Seven Point Plot Structure (see the first video here) is, another way to look at/write about stories. This is the one I'm using as a framework for my WIP. I didn't start writing with this structure in mind, but it helped enormously when I started putting the loose idea and disjointed scenes into a coherent structure. I'll give you a brief rundown of the seven point structure, but see the videos to get a complete explanation.

1-Start with a hook, or starting state of the protagonist. (Harry Potter, in The Sorcerer's Stone, is an orphan living under the stairs. This is the opposite from his state at the end of the book.)

2- Plot turn #1- Introduce conflict, the world changes, and the hero is called to adventure. (Harry learns he's a wizard and starts learning magic.)

3- Pinch #1- Hero must solve a big problem. (In Harry Potter, this is the troll attack.)

4- Midpoint- Shift from reaction to action. (Harry vows to protect the sorcerer's stone.)

5- Pinch #2 - Hero faces a bigger problem than in pinch 1. (Harry loses Ron and Hermione's help in the dungeon.)

6- Plot turn #2 - Hero obtains the last thing or information needed to get to the resolution. (Harry discovers the stone in his pocket because of his pure motive.)

7- Resolution- This is the climax. Harry faces Voldemort and defeats him... at least until the following book/film. (Man, that guy was hard to kill!)


 ***

The last way to view story structure that I'll mention is the Hollywood Formula, as explained by Lou Anders. I'll let you check out the Writing Excusespodcast to learn about it. I don't think I can do it justice here. The nuances of the antagonist are fascinating.




Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Helpful and Fun Writing Test and Space Food Sticks

A Facebook friend shared a Helen Sword's (she has a cool name) site, The Writer's Diet.

No, it has nothing to do with eating fewer carbs while crafting mysteries, consuming dark chocolate while writing romance, nor chewing on Space Food Sticks while writing science fiction. Does anybody besides me remember Space Food Sticks?



The site deals with slimming down or tightening up your writing.

I used the Writer's Diet test to find out if various scenes in my WIP are fit or flabby. I got mixed results. Some scenes were fitter than others.

Among other things, test counts your "to be" verbs and how many times you used it, this, that and there. It rates each category and highlights words you may want to think about.

By all means, you shouldn't blindly delete any words, but consider rewording sentences. I found it helpful, and I revised a bit based on my results. However, I could not revise much in the scene that scored rather badly. To change much of the wording would alter the nuances in the dialogue and narration.

So, overall, the Writer's Diet test is helpful, and I'll bet the author's book by the same name, would be valuable for any writer.

By the way, this post's overall rating was "needs toning."

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Short Story Collection Review: The New Death and Others


Today I'm here to tell you about James Hutchings' e-book, The New Death and Others. This is a huge collection of short stories and poems. If you like bizarre, witty, dark humor, check it out. Did you know the Ninth Deadly Sin is saying 'lol' out loud?  And the McDonald's in hell constantly has eight separate toddlers' birthday parties happening at once?

Short story collections are great to have in your e-reader, waiting for you when you have a few moments on your coffee break, lunchtime, or anytime. These ones will make you laugh and make you think. Some of them will absolutely surprise you!

Hutchings is full of imagination and wit. At only 99¢, his e-book is a bargain! Get these twisted tales today!

Available at Amazon, Smashwords and Barnes and Noble.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Donate to a worthy cause while reading a fantasy story by Karina Fabian

Enjoy some fantasy and help victims of the Colorado fires. Author Karina Fabian is putting up a story called "Coyote Fires" chapter by chapter. Here's the link to the site. On the side bar you'll find a donation button. All of the money goes to the Colorado Springs chapter of the American Red Cross.

Why not go over and donate. It's simple and painless. In fact, it's fun because you get to read a fantasy story! :) You get to feel good about helping people while sitting back, sipping a cup of tea, and reading.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Towel 42 and Bad Grammar

We have a mishmash of a post today.

TOWEL


I got this nifty towel, which I won from the Crash Plan Facebook contest. You can see all the entries here. Towel Day, which is celebrated every May 25th, commemorates the life of author Douglas Adams, of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy fame.

BAD GRAMMAR

Recently Grammar Girl posted about "Bad Grammar, Good Fiction." If you're not familiar with Grammar Girl, please go to her page, find her podcasts on iTunes, and check out one of her books, such as The Ultimate Writing Guide for Students. Her real name is Mignon Fogarty. Her post on "Bad Grammar, Good Fiction" was spot on. She points out how, "...works of fiction, can benefit from throwing the so-called rules out the door."

I find that to be true. Though I adore learning about proper grammar, I've found that most of my characters (like most people) do not always speak correctly. When I create a character who speaks correctly all the time, and uses highfalutin words--like the pink unicorn does in my WIP--it says something her, just as old-west slang says something about another character in that WIP.



Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Book Trailer and an E-Book Coupon

I'm so giddy, I'm at a loss for words. The magnificent Rhonda Kay has finished the book trailer for my urban fantasy novel SYZYGY. Rhonda's a machinima wizard. She wrote a screenplay with the scenes that capture the essence of my silly little novel, did some fancy computery work (which I'll never wrap my brain around), gathered amazing voice talent and music, and put together an exceptional animated trailer.

I'm so unworthy!

SYZYGY
When the leader of Finn's clan orders him to kidnap Bea Jones, Finn falls crazy in love. He risks his life by betraying his clan to protect her. Finn Wilde is a computer-nerd trapped in a super strong body. He's one of the Fir Na Gealaí, whose strength and speed surpass those of ordinary men. The story is told by an alternately pensive then manic patient in a mental hospital. He claims the story's true, but is it?                                 

If you're interested in the machinima movie making process (or orphaned baby birds) please visit her site, Do Little Say Much.

Take a gander at the trailer she created for SYZYGY.
(Content warning--Some images may be disturbing to little kids.)


If you'd like to read the first chapter of Syzygy, click the link on my sidebar or go to Smashwords (where you can get SYZYGY in a variety of e-reader formats or Amazon Kindle.

Until July 4th, use this Smashwords coupon code DF93K at checkout to get Syzygy for half off.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Lesson in Story Structure or A Book Review of Orson Scott Card's How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy

Orson Scott Card's How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy isn't only for science fiction and fantasy writers. It's the go-to book for learning about story structure.



You probably have heard/read about his MICE quotient. They talked about it on Writing Excuses podcast-found here.

The MICE quotient states that there are basically four story types: Milieu, Idea, Character, and Event. Most stories, especially novel length, have more than one element, but one will dominate.

mice


Milieu stories, such as Alice in Wonderland and Gulliver's Travels, are mostly concerned about the setting.

Idea stories are about finding out information, such as in a mystery.

Character stories follow the transformation of a character.

Event stories are about a world out of order, such as a monster's appearance, as in Beowulf.

Decide which kind of story you're writing, and you'll know at what points to begin and end that story. The guidance O.S.C. gives in this area is what makes the book remarkable. Here's a brief rundown:

The milieu story begins when the character arrives in the new place and ends when he leaves or decides to make his home there.

Idea stories begin close to the point where the big question is raised and end right after it's answered.

A character story begins when the main character becomes so unhappy in his present role that he begins to change. It ends when he settles into his new role or gives up the struggle and remains in the old role.

The Event story begins when the important character (the one whose actions are most crucial to establishing the new order) gets involved in the struggle. It ends when new order is established, or less often, when the old order is restored or the world descends into chaos.

O.S.C. details these all out, of course. So, you best grab a copy of the book. On a side note, I think it's an important part of the writing process to write yourself into a story, get to know the characters and setting. But as I've heard it said many times, you'll probably want to cut your first chapter. It wasn't a waste. You needed to write it, but the reader wants to get right into the important bits. Remember, "late in-early out." In my WIP I chopped off the beginning scene of my MC doing laundry and contemplating her life. That scene was a darling of mine, but it wasn't doing enough. Information I needed to convey, I put someplace else.

O.S.C. also wrote tips on viewpoint character, hero, and main character (which may be three separate characters!) and so much more. But this post is getting long. I encourage you to read How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy even if you write some other genre. This book holds amazing advice for every fiction writer.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Bloodletting, The Death Strike, and Hello Kitty Zombies

Get over to  Tea at Trianon today to check out her post on the history of bloodletting, a practice thought to have begun in ancient Egypt. I hadn't realized it dated so far back. History is cool!

Then pop over to The Word is My Oyster and learn about the death strike. That's when you get thwacked in the chest and die. But it's not that simple, so go read about it. Maybe get some ideas for your next novel.

Am I being too icky today. Sorry! ;)

To make up for it I'll give you a link to some cute Hello Kitty things at Hello Kitty Forever!
Okay, so I directed you to the zombie post.  LOL  I love that site!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Random Quirks

Howdy. A critique partner of mine was instructed to give her character a quirk. I found for her a NPC Generator. That's a non-player character, in role playing speak. But it could be useful, or at least fun, for fiction writers.

It will provide you with names, nicknames, interests, quirks, and more. For instance, it just popped up a character for me named Fastger Konr. He's pushy, resentful, and astonishingly hairless. I think I knew a guy like that once.



Here's the link to James's NPG Generator. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Call It Steampunk!

One of my nieces posted this on my Face Book wall. Love it! Just glue some gears on it and call it steampunk!
Honestly, I like things with gears glued on. It's a fun look! But I think my husband would agree with the video. He's annoyed by steampunky things that serve no purpose or that wouldn't really work. For instance, he explained to me why a bicycle-powered airplane wouldn't work. But he designed an alternative for me which may show up in my WIP. In tribute to my awesome and clever husband, here's the little film I made of him and his friend messing around with his friend's Varna HPV (human powered vehicle). It's got old timey silent film music. Kinda nifty! :)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Don't Panic

May 25th is fast approaching, so get your towel ready! That is the day that fans of Douglas Adams (of Hitchhiker's Guild to the Galaxy fame) commemorate their favorite writer's life by carrying around towels all day.

If you don't understand the reference, you have't read the Guide, Towel Day would be the perfect day to start the trilogy (of five books) :p.  And if you get the towel reference (because you've read the books or seen the movie), and you love Adams' work, but you've never celebrated Towel Day, I hope this will be the year.

Step over to one of the Towel Day sites, such as this one- TowelDay.net and share news, Towel Day pictures, and play games, or this one and learn about events around the globe. Or come visit the facebook site May 25th Towel Day.

Me on Towel Day 2011 with my 42 Towel
You too can stick a nifty Towel Day timer on your blog. I made mine at mycountdown.org.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Nifty Eclipse

Did you see the solar eclipse on Sunday evening? It was super nifty. You know that thing about not looking at the eclipse? That's good advice. Not satisfied with my pinhole eclipse looker thingy, I dared to peak at it. Just from behind my hand with my head turned sideways. I got a glimpse of it. Spectacular--with the moon mostly covering the sun. But boy what a headache and a lot of spots I had to endure for a long time after. Probably did serious damage to my poor eyes who already don't see so well.

They always say not to look at the eclipse or you'll go blind. As a kid, I was afraid to turn my face to the sky at all during an eclipse. I'm pretty sure you're not supposed to look at the sun ever, not just during an eclipse, but I never worried about sky gazing during the day.

I heard that there's this amazing correlation between the relative sizes of the sun and moon and their relative distance from each other and earth that make them appear to be the same size in the sky and this is the reason the moon covers the sun so perfectly during a total eclipse.

I snapped some pictures near the end of it. They don't look very eclipsy. (Is that a word?) My camera isn't set up for sky gazing. But they look kind of cool. I'll post three of them.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Truth is stranger than friction

Yes, you read that right. LOL

The rocks in a woman's pocket got jostled around, rubbing against eachother, and caught her shorts on fire. Strange. Read about it here. Now, if I wrote this into a story, people would either think it was dumb and unbelievable, or if a more skilled writer took it on, it could possibly be thought of as magical realism.

Or if you like, read this story about puppies falling from the sky.

And in other news, the pro bike racer guys (the ones who do Tour de France), came through my town. The Amgen Tour of California is on now. We went out to watch and I filmed it.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Visceral Tales of Terror



I had no idea how compelling this collection would be when I sat down to read just one story. I thought I'd save the rest for later, but loved the first so much, I tore through three more. Then I couldn't wait to get back to reading as soon as possible.
Each story is vivid and has unique, unexpected twists. I was reminded of my love for Ray Bradbury's short stories.
It would be tough to choose a favorite from this collection. I would think I had discovered my favorite, only to go crazy for the next one. But I'll settle on "Scream Scream" and "The Last Line" as my top two picks. They had super surprising twists. But I assure you, not one of the stories will disappoint.

You get 19 horror stories of various lengths. Some are gruesome, some will chill your bones, and a couple will even tug at your heartstrings. In this collection, McCoy transports us to Russia, introduces a vengeful spider, and lets us experience the usefulness of rather unusual box. And you really won't forget your trip into the Kitty Kat Club.

Check it out. The collection is $12.99. That's only about 68 cents per story. And the Kindle version is only $3.99! Holy cow, what a bargain! Get Hunter's Moon today!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Dark, weird, sort of dystopian fantasy detective story: Review of Joe Golem and the Drowning City


For my birthday I got Joe Golem and the Drowning City, an illustrated novel by Mike Mignola (the Hellboy creator) and Christopher Golden, NY Times bestselling author of The Myth Hunters, The Boys are Back in Town, etc.

The setting: Lower Manhattan, submerged under more than thirty feet of water. The streets are now canals and people must live in the upper stories of buildings. It's a gritty, dangerous existence for the inhabitants.

Okay, they've got a cool concept, but what about a story? Prepare to be pleased. You've got a dark, weird, sort of dystopian fantasy detective story with emotional impact. Sounds like some strange mashup, but it really makes sense in the story. I couldn't put the book down, it was so compelling.

A fourteen-year-old girl, Molly, working for a magician/psychic medium is our heroine. When her boss/father figure, is abducted by men in gas masks and rubber suits, she is determined to rescue him. One of those helping her is a very Hellboyish character, Joe Golem, with a mysterious past. He's a hulking private detective with strong fists and a big heart who is unsure about who/what he really is. This is my kind of hero.

Don't forget, because this is a Mignola novel, you get awesome illustrations.

Maybe you're asking yourself, "What is an illustrated novel?"

Well, it's a novel--you know a fiction book with chapters--with illustrations. I didn't count up the pictures, but this book has one on almost every double page. This is Mike Mignola we're talking about, so that's quite a bit of black ink. ;)

You can get Joe Golem and the Drowning City at Amazon. Or if you want just a taste of the character, Joe Golem, check out the ebook for Kindle of the short story Joe Golem and the Copper Girl.

Oh golly, I didn't even see the short story until I looked up the novel link for you. I must order it now!!! :)



Thursday, April 12, 2012

Whimsical and Somewhat Dark: A book review of "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children"

Do you like peculiar children? How about old photographs, mysteries, and fantasy?

I just finished Miss Peregrine's Home for PeculiarChildren by Ransom Riggs, a novel that weaves vintage photographs of oddities, such as a floating girl and an invisible boy, into a fascinating story about sixteen-year-old Jacob searching for the truth about his grandfather's past. In the process, he learns much about himself.

The novel feels a bit like the Tim Burton film, "Big Fish."

Riggs notes that the pictures in the book are authentic, vintage found photographs. A few have undergone minimal postprocessing.

When my sister handed me the novel, I flipped through the pages, looking at each photo, wondering about the story behind it. As it turns out, this was a delightful approach to the book. The main character himself wonders about these photos before learning the true story behind them. (Oh gosh, I'm dying to say more, but I don't want to spoil it for you.) So, along with Jacob, the reader discovers the mystery of the old pictures.

The writing is brilliant and multilayered. The language is vivid. As my sister described it, "There's not a wasted word." I found it whimsical yet dark. Layered, because it's a fantasy time-travely story, but also a coming of age book. It comments on WWII, the challenges of being different, and about family dynamics. Some of the characters make questionable choices, but the book leaves the reader to evaluate them for him or herself. It was a compelling read and I'd recommend it to teens and adults.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

My Cast of Characters

I have something delightful to show off!  Rhonda over at DoLittleSayMuch, in spite of a painful wrist injury, has been working on my book trailer for Syzygy. Hop over to Rhonda's blog and take a look. She has more pics over there.

I've blogged before about her nifty machinima films.

Here you can see much of the cast. I'm so delighted to see my "babies" come to life!

Here I took a screen shot of the actual video to draw your attention to Bea's cup. Recognize the logo?

Yeah, it's he actual Syzygy logo my niece, Jasmine, designed.

So, you have a wild thing going on, like when they stick a comic book or acion figure of the superhero into the live acion comic book movie. They're winking at their own genre. 

Hellboy Quote: "I hate those comic books. They never get the eyes right."

But back to the trailer. It's super fun! Rhonda asks me what things look like, such as Bea's kitchen or bedroom. I describe it and send pictures of some ideas. BOOM! She sends me back cool pics which are so detailed, it's like a virtual doll's house. Every time I look, I notice somehing else.

You can see right out Finn's window!


Monday, April 2, 2012

Harry Potter and the Third Party E-Book Store on the Edge of Beta Testing Limbo

Cases of the seventh Harry Potter book wait to be sold at the Harry Potter release event, held by the Sheppard Air Force Base library

Though J.K. Rowling's Pottermore site seems to be lingering in beta testing limbo, one aspect is up and running for the general public, the ebook shop. You can now get all of the Harry Potter books for your Kindle at the Pottermore Shop. Sure, you can go to Amazon, but it will only send you to the "third party site" Pottermore. They cost $7.99 each. It will be interesting to see how well they sell.

Having the whole collection on your Kindle would be easier to travel with than packing the books. Plus, you could highlight and make notes in the Kindle version without writing in your books, and do searches for particular words so you can locate favorite passages.

Pottermore, in case you didn't know, is the website that virtually takes you through each book. You get to be sorted, make potions, and such. I gather at the moment the beta people get to experience Book One. The rest of us were meant to join in months ago, but there's been some sort of hold up. I've listened to the Mugglecast podcast, and they're not overly impressed with the Pottercast experience. Too bad. Well, perhaps it's meant for a younger audience. Maybe when it's open for the public (hint-hint) I'll let my kids try it out. So sorry if I wasn't going to get up at 2am and answer riddles in order to have the chance of getting on during the beta testing period. ;)


Antique Gizmos and Listening to Your Critique Partners

antique slot machine

One of my critique partners (every writer needs one or more of those) questioned my reference to a character comparing a particular gadget to a slot machine. I had to pause. In this wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey mixed up space/time continuum universe I've created, would this character know what a slot machine was? The short answer is "yes" but I never choose the short answer. I decided to research slot machines.

To get to slot machines, we first travel though the history of another coin operated device--the vending machine. According to this article by Mary Bellis, the word "slot machine" once was used for all automatic vending machines, not just the gambling ones.

But how far into history do you want to go? Ancient times? Around 215 B.C. a Greek engineer and mathematician invented a machine to stand outside of Egyptian temples and dispense holy water in exchange for coins, according to gumballs.com.

But jumping to modern times-- to around 1880. That does sound modern compared to the B.C. era. :) According to The Polar Stationwebsite, that's when coin-operated vending machines were introduced in London, dispensing postcards.
 Russian postcard vending machine. Sorry, couldn't find the original old London one.

Vending machines didn't arrive in the U.S. until 1888 when Tutti-Frutti gum machines were installed on New York City subway platforms.
slot machines

Now we get to slot machines, aka- the "one armed bandit." Apparently "fruit machine" is a slang term they use in England. 1895 is when the slot machine was invented by Charles Fey of San Francisco. Well, there is some dispute as to the exact year. With inventions, it can take time to work the bugs out, so I expect he was fiddling with it for a few years. In 1896 he opened the factory to produce his "Liberty Bell" slot machines, according to Casino.org's history page.

So, will I keep the slot machine reference in my novel? Much as I like it. I don't think it'll work. I've smashed modern times with 1850's. If my character had any experience with slots, it would probably be of a modern variety, not a Liberty Bell sort. So, I say, no. I'll modify the scene and thank my lucky gum balls that I have critiquers that make me stop and think.
gum ball machine
*Image sources embedded in image captions.
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