"If we ever forget that we're one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under." - Ronald Reagan

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: Stardust

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read.
  • Open to a random page.
  • Share a few "teaser" sentences from somewhere on that page.
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (Make sure that what you share doesn't give away too much. You don't want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teaser!
I didn't even know that Stardust was a book before it was a movie! How pathetic is that? Also, I seem to be on a Neil Gaiman kick. Currently, there are three of his books on the top of my To Be Read pile. And I really loved this movie (and Robert Deniro's character).

Tristan Thorn isn't exactly a stud with the ladies, so when the beautiful Victoria promises her hand in marriage if he will find her a fallen star, the poor shop boy sets off on a journey that will take him across the Wall and into the mythical land of Faerie, where feuding royalty and greedy witches complicate Tristan's quest.

Here's the Teaser:
"He looked back and fancied that he could see the lights of Wall behind him, wavering and glimmering as if in a heat-haze, but still inviting.And he knew that if he turned around and went back, no one would think any less of him for it--not his father, nor his mother; and even Victoria Forester would likely as not merely smile at him the next time she saw him, call him "shop-boy," and add that stars, once fallen often proved difficult in finding." 
- pg. 72, Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Monday, November 28, 2011

Interview with James Hutchings and a Giveaway!

Since I'm currently writing away like a madwoman (see my flagging word count??? ARRGGGG!!!), I've been talking to different authors and experiences writers, picking their brains about the writing process. My latest victim subject is James Hutchings, author of The New Death and others.

Me: What does your favorite writing spot look like? Completely bare desk or one cluttered with inspiration objects? Comfy couch with your laptop? On a beach with only a bottle of sunscreen and your notepad?

J.H.: I'm pretty indifferent to my surroundings when I write. I carry a notebook around with me when I leave the house, but I do most of my writing on the computer using Notepad.


Me: Are you one of the lucky few who focuses on writing as your full-time job or do you have a mild-mannered alter-ego and a day job?
J.H.: I make some extra money from acting, using the stage name 'Brad Pitt'.

Me: I once pulled an interesting storyline from an encounter in a fast food 
drive-thru. Where's the oddest place or moment where inspiration hit you?

J.H.: A while ago I found three injured birds in the space of a few weeks. I took all of them to the local vet. As I was carrying one of them, I thought that the woman at reception might wonder where I was finding all these injured birds, and that was the inspiration for my story 'Lost, Feral or Stray'.

Me: With a serious case of writer's block, I've been baking cookies all 
evening and I think I finally have an idea that will work out. What do you do to overcome a blank page?

J.H.: I usually have several things that I'm working on at the same time. This helps with running out of ideas, because I can leave what I'm working on and do something else instead. The danger with this is that starting something can be more fun than finishing it, and so you run the risk of having lots of half-written pieces that you never finish.

I also make a point of writing every day, even when I don't feel like it. This helps get through temporary slumps. I think if you wait for inspiration to strike it never will. Often I start with the attitude that "I'm really tired and I can't think of anything. I'll just write a token amount so I can say I did something today," and actually end up having a good idea and getting a lot done.


Me: After reading The New Death and others with all the different stories and poems, I certainly have my favorites. Which one(s) are your favorite?

J.H.: I like 'The God of the Poor'. I also like one particular part from 'Under the Pyramids':

Down in the dark, down in the dark
down through the rock and slime
away from light and human sight
and sanity and time.

Me: Have you begun your next project? Can you give us any hints?



J.H.: I'm working on a verse version of 'A Princess of Mars'. This is a science fiction adventure story, now in the public domain, written by Edgar Rice Burroughs, who's more famous for Tarzan. Disney is also doing a movie of it, called 'John Carter', but that's not why I chose it. I generally work on several things at the same time, so I'm also in the middle of a few short stories and poems. I've been encouraged to write a novel set in the fantasy city of Telelee, which is the setting of a few of the stories in 'The New Death and others'. I have a lot of background for this world, because I blog every day and most of it is setting detail. I also have a half-finished novel called 'All-American Detectives', which is a combination of a detective story and a story about superheroes, which I'll probably come back to in the future.

Me: Finally, what advice do you have for new writers? Did anyone ever give you completely awesome (or spectacularly awful) advice? 



J.H.: Nowdays anyone can self-publish. If you can make a Word document, you can have an ebook on Smashwords or Amazon. However that means that if your work is no good, no one's going to stop you. I'd recommend that people get onto Critique Circle and/or Scribophile, put their work up, and listen to what people tell you. Don't 'defend' your work against people's 'attacks'. They aren't attacks, they're helping you. I've found that the people who defend their work have a strong tendency to have the worst writing, I suppose because they're not making the changes they need to make.

My next point doesn't matter if you're going to self-publish, but it is important if you want to be published by a regular publisher, or if you want to submit stories to magazines. Most places won't publish work that's already been published. And most places count putting a story on the internet as publishing it. In my opinion that's silly, but that's what they do. Scribophile and Critique Circle are exceptions, because google doesn't index them and you can't see any stories without logging on. However there are writing group websites out there where, if you put a story on the site, that counts as the story being published. That seems like a really terrible way to set things up, but they're out there.

I'd also say that getting a book out isn't the final step. It's just the start of the work of self-promotion. This is true even if you're not  self-publishing: I'm told that authors are expected to pretty much arrange their own book signings and so on (if you just want to have a book out to show family and friends then this doesn't matter, of course).

There are a lot of sharks out there, who make their money from authors and not from readers. They will make all sorts of promises about how they're going to promote you and help you, but these are lies. Authors do not pay publishers, ever, and if they're asking you to pay then it's a scam. Of course if you're self-publishing you might end up paying someone to design a cover for you, or you might pay for internet advertising, but those are different things. You might also pay a printer to print your books if you want to get physical books rather than ebooks - but in this age of the kindle and print-on-demand I don't know why you'd want to. Preditors and Editors is a good website to look at, and you can get good advice at the forums of Critique Circle.

Finally, I'd suggest learning to touch-type if you can't already. You're going to be doing a lot of typing, and every hour you spend getting faster at typing will save you ten in the long run.

Me: Also, if you have a preferred playlist, I'd love to include a few of the songs and artists. 



J.H.: My favourite bands are probably The Smiths and The Cure. Of bands that are roughly around now I like The Dresden Dolls and The Killers.
________________


Thanks to James Hutchings for the excellent advice and tips! Now for the fun part: enter to win a free copy of The New Death and others!


This book is available through Smashwords, so you won't be receiving a printed book, but access to an ebook. These can be read on your Kindle, Nook, or on your computer. 

To enter, leave a comment about your preferred writing space (or if you don't write, then your favorite reading spot).

For additional entries:

  • Follow DuckDuckCow.
  • Post about this contest on Facebook.
  • Post about this interview and contest on your blog, including a link back here.

Please leave me one comment per entry. Contest closes at Sunday, Dec. 4th at midnight MDT.



Good luck!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Wait…When Was Halloween?

Ummm…so…I kinda sorta didn't remember to not forget about posting Halloween pictures on this here blog thingy.

Sorry.

Just pretend that it's a month ago, okay?

Boo wanted to be a witch. She was sorely disappointed that most of the witch costumes had short skirts (yeah, that makes two of us!) because it gets cold here and most costumes are designed to fit a parka underneath. We finally found one she liked and that I was willing to pay for:


And just because I'm awesome (not because I was feeling guilty over not making her a costume from scratch…), I made her broom. I started with a dowel, painted it black, then used packages of black feathers glued together in little clusters to fill in the rest.

Then, because Boo was a witch, Baby decided/was told she would be a black cat. Hey, at least this one was homemade. For Boo when she was two. And Baby was way better about wearing the ears.


The Boy was still deciding between costumes two days before Halloween, when I actually started putting his together. I was so excited about making him a Lego that I didn't care about the effort involved. And boy howdy, did it take a lot of effort…


Here are the instructions if you're thinking of trying this next year. And read the comments after the instructions! There are some helpful hints in there.

As for me…well, I once again got a little obsessed with an idea. I saw it online and just HAD to make one. Of course, it's designed for a child so I had to adapt the materials.


And I thought being a jellyfish was a pretty original idea! There were two others at the kids' school. Also? Because I am a mega dork, whenever anyone wasn't sure what I was, I would sway slowly from side to side to let the tentacles move, to see if they could figure it out from that.

As for the Man, well…he was a stick in the mud. Or a nudist on strike. Whichever.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thankful for Tuesdays

Sorry, no Teaser Tuesday this week…I'm not reading books right now as I frantically try to write one. Instead, I'm going to share the results of our annual tradition for the FHE the week of Thanksgiving: Alphabet Blessings.

As a family, we go through the alphabet, one person at a time, and say something that we are grateful for. We start with the oldest and end with the youngest. (And the youngest usually needs some help…) I love it because although some things are the same from year to year, there's always new blessings that show how the kids are growing. This year it was slightly different in that my nephew was here to participate.

Apple pie (mmmm…)
Boo and books
Chocolate (mmmm…again)
Dogs
Eggs (as in the ones that made the birds angry)
Flowers
G. family (they're all pretty awesome)
House
Intelligence
Jump roping
Karate (the Boy just started taking lessons and is mildly obsessed)
Lollipops (Baby didn't need any help picking this one)
Mom (awww, shucks…)
Nachos
Ostriches
Playing
Quentin
Ruby and Max (I hate that show…)
Son
Tilly (our rent-to-own dog; she'll be getting her own post soon enough)
Underwear
Villains (when I asked Boo why she picked this, she said it was because bad guys make the story more interesting)
Water to drink right after karate (see? obsessed!)
Xylophones (because they make music)
You
Zumba!

What are you thankful for today?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Is It Time To Panic Yet?


Currently, I am only halfway to where I need to be at this point in the month. I don't even want to know what my word count is going to be by the end of today...

Friday, November 18, 2011

Missing the Middle…and the Point

The Man travels for business quite a bit. While I am not terribly high maintenance, always calling and texting and posting cutesy messages on his Facebook wall, I do insist on one thing: he needs to bring me back a souvenier. It's how I've gotten chocolates from many states and countries.

Every now and then, the Man comes across something particularly unique and brings it home. Once, he brought me soap. But not just any soap, "environmentally conscience" soap. Here, have a look for yourself.


The explanation for their "hole"-ier than thou soap was simple enough: it's always that last little wedge of soap from the middle that gets thrown away because it's too small, so they just took out the middle. Hey, I'm all for conservation and going green. Since hippies aren't actually known for their soap usage, I guess maybe they didn't quite get it. But really? Taking a chunk out of the center is going to fix that wasted soap sliver problem, is it?

Not likely.

The way I see it, the gutted bar is still going to shrink, growing more and more brittle until it finally breaks up - into four smallish slivers of soap. All of which will probably be left in the soapdish to melt away.

And really, how hard is it to just do this:


What do you do with your soap slivers?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Autumn Awesomeness

If you've read my blog for any amount of time, then you've probably seen a post or two about swaps. What can I say? I am pretty addicted! And Mamarazzi put together another fun one; this one with an autumn theme.


Photobucket


It's my favorite time of year! And with my favorite swap hostess. I think Mamarazzi has a crystal ball, chicken bones, or some other sort of divination in order to make such great matches. She hooked me with with becca from Everyday Life. And becca took everything I said in our conversation and managed to turn words into an awesome package.


See, what I love most about this season is the cooler weather. It's too cold to go anywhere so I just curl up with a mug of hot chocolate and a good book. And when I'm not reading, I'm baking. Or eating chocolate. So here is what she sent:

  • Drinking Chocolate - Thicker, richer than your average hot chocolate
  • Holly by Jude Deveraux - Oooo…this one looks good!
  • Pumpkin Bread Kit - This is my favorite snack when the leaves turn colors.
  • Hot Pads - For when the bread is done baking!
  • Autumn dishtowel - Already hanging on the oven handle.
  • Chocolates - Need I say more?
  • Mug - It's too girly for any of the guys to use so it's perfect for me. (Sorry…I left it out of the picture!)

I love swapping! Not just for the fun of receiving presents in the mail but also because I get to meet really great people. Thanks, becca and Mamarazzi!

What's your favorite part of Autumn?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: The New Death

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read.
  • Open to a random page.
  • Share a few "teaser" sentences from somewhere on that page.
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (Make sure that what you share doesn't give away too much. You don't want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teaser!
I started reading another ebook that's only online, so when it look like I'm just staring at my computer, stalking people on Facebook, I'm actually reading a book.

The New Death and others is an interesting collection of short stories and poems, some satirical and other straight from James Hutchings' imagination. I'm about half-way through it and so far, it's pretty interesting! Some of the stories seem too short, leaving me wanting more, which is probably a good thing. And luckily, several of the characters reappear in other vignettes. I've never been a big fan of poetry (other than Shel Silverstein) but I gotta say, there are some rather good ones in here, especially one about how Love's phone calls are now being answered by Commerce, who suggests that would-be romantics need more beauty products or a fancier car to find true love. And then there's the short story that details how goddess of Fame talked with the Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse, named Lawyers, and created reality television. The teaser I chose is from a short story about a thoroughly modern love affair.


Also, I'll be interviewing the author, James Hutchings, on his writing process. Just trying to help out my fellow NaNo-ers in their continuing efforts for manuscript perfection. (And he'll be offering one reader his online ebook for free so be sure to check back!)


Here's the Teaser:

" Finally Simon's friend showed him his new phone.
"They have an app for everything. There's probably one for love," the friend said.  
Simon did some investigation, and found that there was indeed an app for love. It was called iYearn. He bought the phone, and downloaded the app. "
- pg 64, "When Love Calls" excerpted from The New Death and others by James Hutchings.

What are you reading? 

Friday, November 11, 2011

11-11-11

Have you met Erin? She's one of those gorgeous, multi-talented people that I would totally hate if she weren't so darn sweet. The only thing I've got on her is that my NaNoWriMo word count is higher than hers. And since copying is a form of flattery, I'm going to copy Erin's idea for today's unusual date.

11 Things I'm Grateful For:

  1. Hot Chocolate on cold days. Warms the body and the soul.
  2. Chubby-armed hugs and sloppy kisses. Nothing can turn my mood around faster.
  3. Being able to be here to send the kids off to school and when they get home. A lot of my friends don't have this opportunity and I admit that some days, I take it for granted.
  4. Friends that are equally as a dorky as I am. It's much more fun to let my freak flag fly when I'm in good company. (And when they get all my Doctor Who references…)
  5. Zumba. I don't like exercise but this is more like getting in touch with my inner sexy Latina dancer. Sure, I look like a drunken monkey but I don't care! It's fun!
  6. The Nephew. I'll have to write a post introducing him but he's only been here a short while and already has made himself indispensable.
  7. Naptime. It's a nice break when the kids are sleeping (and I can eat my chocolate without having to share) but even better when I get to lay down, too. My pillow has it's own irresistible siren song.
  8. Parents, including in-laws. They're such great examples and help me whenever I ask. Sometimes my big, huge problems can easily be brought down to perspective with just one phone conversation.
  9. The Kiddos. There was a time when I was told I'd never be a mother. Each one of my three little ones is a miracle. And not just because they're here, but because they seem to actually like me and laugh at my jokes.
  10. The Man. Not only is he basically my perfect match, but he supports me every November when I get the urge to abandon home and family in order to write a book, even when I refuse to let him read it.
  11. Jesus Christ, my Savior. Too often I let it go unsaid, but I am so very grateful for His example and sacrifice.

What are you grateful for today?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Takin' Care of Business

My family enjoys a good camping trip. And although we'd much prefer to camp during an unexpected blizzard (it's called making memories, people!) occasionally, we actually have fun. In fact, camping is very much a part of our summer plans. However, now that it's getting chilly, I'm packing away the gear. While cleaning out a bag, I found this list. My scrawled and shaky notes (possibly written in the car or while on a pit toilet) were supposed to become a blog post but must have gotten lost in the unpacking and showering and de-ticking and trying to get the smell of bug spray out of our cooler.

So here it is for your viewing -- and probably gagging -- enjoyment!

Why Pit Toilets Are The Worst Life Experience Ever Inflicted Upon Civilized Cultures

  1. You never want to use them unless you really gotta go. Inevitably, there will be someone in line ahead of you and that someone will take a very, very loooooooooong time.
  2. Do I really need to mention the smell? You might pretend it doesn't bother you but really, that's just keeping a brave face in front of the kids, like you do when comforting them after they've puked all over the bathroom, pretending that their vomity breath isn't making you want to hurl.
  3. You will inevitably have an audience, although it will be of the insect variety. Once, there was a frog in there with me. I couldn't pee and opted for remote bushes instead. (You're welcome.)
  4. The height on these things? Ridiculous! Are the makers prejudiced against short-legged folk? Because picnic tables are the same way…it's pretty embarrassing when your feet don't touch. But because of the height, using a germaphobe's "hover" technique is out of the question. Only option is a full-cheek press.
  5. Ain't nothing like that "cool breeze" on your nethers to really keep you focused on the task at hand.
  6. Couldn't they at least add some sound proofing? I don't need a "reassuring" echo of my business.
  7. You might want to consider bringing your own toilet paper. Sometimes, there are four rolls on the locked metal bar and sometimes, you don't even get a full sheet. Do you really want to take that gamble?
  8. Don't. Look. Down. If you're not careful, you could lose your sunglasses or camera or small child. My dad once lost a flashlight. I wonder what that next person thought of that.
  9. Maybe it's just me, but somehow, I just don't feel done without a flush. So unsatisfying.
  10. No sinks. Seriously. NO SINKS. At least now they're putting in hand sanitizer stations.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: Good Omens

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read.
  • Open to a random page.
  • Share two (2) "teaser" sentences from somewhere on that page.
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (Make sure that what you share doesn't give away too much. You don't want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teaser!
Tarnishing souls takes a certain level of craftsmanship and perhaps the demon Crowley has gotten a little too good on at it because he's been given the task of delivering the newborn Antichrist to a local hospital. Sure, being noticed by the big powers Downstairs is a cool thing but the Apocalypse? Now? Really? After six centuries of watching humanity with his angel counterpart, Aziraphale, and just when things were going so well. 

Good Omens: the Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch is written by Terry Prachett and Neil Gaiman, the same guy who wrote Stardust. I've read a couple of his books and I've gotta say, he's an entertaining writer! One of the reviews for this book is from Clive Barker, where he says "The Apocalypse has never been funnier."

Here's the Teaser:
"The time would come soon enough when sleep would be right out of the question. When those Below found out that he, personally, had lost the Antichrist, they'd probably dig up all those reports he'd done on the Spanish Inquisition and try them out on him, one at a time and then all together."
- pg. 112, Good Omens: the Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.

What are you reading?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: Every Thing On It

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read.
  • Open to a random page.
  • Share two (2) "teaser" sentences from somewhere on that page.
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (Make sure that what you share doesn't give away too much. You don't want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teaser!
Maybe because it's Halloween and I have such fond childhood memories of this time of year but I've been waxing nostalgic. Hence, this week's Teaser Tuesday: the new Shel Silverstein book. I hope that one day I will be as loved and cherished as this man so that when I die, they still crave my books and continue publishing even years after. And I can still recite most of the "Sick" poem.

Here's the Teaser:
"Good Idea
Try to get Dad
To walk on his hands,
Then clap and cheer,
"Oh, do some more!"
So there he goes proudly,
And now's your chance
To pick up the change  
That fell out on the floor." 
-pg. 75, Every Thing On It by Shel Silverstein

What are you reading?
What is your favorite Shel Silverstein poem?

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