Friday, March 27, 2015

The Cephalopod Coffeehouse - The Paper Magician


http://armchairsquid.blogspot.com/2015/02/the-cephalopod-coffeehouse-march-2015.html

Today I bring you another edition of the Cephalopod Coffeehouse. The idea is simple: on the last Friday of each month, post about the best book you've finished over the past month while visiting other bloggers doing the same.  In this way, we'll all have the opportunity to share our thoughts with other enthusiastic readers. 

This month I read The Paper Magician, which I really wanted to like - a lot! It has a gorgeous cover (it reminded me of the The Night Circus) and the blurb sounded exactly like something I would love:

Ceony Twill arrives at the cottage of Magician Emery Thane with a broken heart. Having graduated at the top of her class from the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, Ceony is assigned an apprenticeship in paper magic despite her dreams of bespelling metal. And once she’s bonded to paper, that will be her only magic…forever.

Yet the spells Ceony learns under the strange yet kind Thane turn out to be more marvelous than she could have ever imagined—animating paper creatures, bringing stories to life via ghostly images, even reading fortunes. But as she discovers these wonders, Ceony also learns of the extraordinary dangers of forbidden magic.

An Excisioner—a practitioner of dark, flesh magic—invades the cottage and rips Thane’s heart from his chest. To save her teacher’s life, Ceony must face the evil magician and embark on an unbelievable adventure that will take her into the chambers of Thane’s still-beating heart—and reveal the very soul of the man.

From the imaginative mind of debut author Charlie N. Holmberg, The Paper Magician is an extraordinary adventure both dark and whimsical that will delight readers of all ages.

Short-Listed for the 2015 ALA Fantasy Reading List 
***


I wish I had liked this more. I admit I was hoping for something akin to The Night Circus, which I adored. Unfortunately, The Paper Magician didn't quite measure up. But before I tell you why, let me tell what I did like. I loved the magic aspect of the story. The idea that one can bond to a particular thing and imbue magic into it was both unique and fascinating. The descriptions of birds and dogs and even a skeleton made of paper and brought to life were lovely and magical. Ceony thinks paper magic isn't very important when she first arrives, but she soon discovers the amazing things a magician can do with paper - like making snow flakes that sparkle and float and even feel cold, just like real snowflakes.

The problem for me was the characters. There was a lot of back story for the main characters, Ceony (and someone, please tell me how to pronounce her name) and Thane, which, had I known, might have made me connect with them more. I knew there was something dark in their pasts, but because I didn't find out until late in the story, I had a hard time caring much for either one of them. This made it hard for me to believe that Ceony would risk everything for her teacher/master, Magician Thane. I know a lot of back story is a no-no, but I would have liked more of it. I think I would've liked this book a lot better.

Anyway. I feel sad I didn't love this book. *sigh*

Monday, March 23, 2015

The well is dry/I got zip

So. You may have noticed I haven't been around much. There's a reason for that. I'm just not sure what it is. Maybe I just don't have anything I consider interesting enough to say any more. Maybe it's because I still haven't adjusted to my new schedule of working six days a week. Or maybe it's because right now I need to pour all my creative energy into what I'm working on now. Honestly, I'm not sure. I used to be able to blog AND write. I thought I'd never run out of things to say. But right now the only thing I'm finding compelling is my as yet untitled wip (I'm calling it by it's first chapter's name for now).

This doesn't mean I won't be posting. In fact, I actually read another book for the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, and Dianne and I have two First Impressions for April with room for one more. I also plan to celebrate a special anniversary at some point, maybe after A-Z is over, and I will certainly continue to visit all of you. So I'm not leaving. I just won't be here as much, at least for now.

In the meantime, I've added the first chapter of my WIP to my pages so you can see what I've been working on, and I'll leave you with a happy pic of some place I'll be visiting soon - for TWO WEEKS!!!


That might be another reason my creative energy is at an all time low; I need a vacation!



Tuesday, March 10, 2015

What I need...

1. I need someone who knows about contagious diseases, like the flu.

2. I need someone who works for a power company.

3. And the phone company, any phone company.

4. I need someone in the military, preferably the National Guard.


Can you guess what sort of novel I'm writing? If you said Apocalyptic you guessed right. Currently I'm on Chapter 17, which is after the Flood that occurs right off. That part was pretty fun to write, especially after reading that book about the Johnstown flood. But now I'm at a part where it would be really helpful to have the expertise of the aforementioned. I suppose I could just call my local phone and power company and see if someone would talk to me, let me ask a bunch 'what if' questions - briefly of course. And I do have someone in the military I can contact... which leaves a doctor. Wait! Why didn't I think of it?! My mom is a nurse! I can ask her all these hypothetical questions. She'll be horrified and probably say something like, "why on earth would you want to write about such morbid things?" but I'll bet she can answer all those pesky questions about contagion protocol and drugs and life saving measures...


I guess that means I don't need anything...except maybe for a little of this to come sooner...


Wow. I can't believe all that green. My world is still white. But it's melting... :)


How are your writing adventures going? Is the weather improving? Getting worse (I hope not)? Know anything about martial law?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

In which I tell you why crows are so awesome

https://www.etsy.com/listing/129850292/original-crow-on-a-branch-drawing-raven?ref=market

So. I've always liked crows, knew they were clever, and liked to collect sparkly shiny things. But. I had no idea they were as clever as this...

Apparently there's this little girl named Gabi, who lives in Seattle, who has an especially interesting relationship with the crows in her neighborhood. It began in 2011, when Gabi was four and prone to dropping food. "She'd get out of the car, and a chicken nugget would tumble off her lap. A crow would rush in to recover it. Soon, the crows were watching for her, hoping for another bite. As she got older, she rewarded their attention by sharing her packed lunch on the way to the bus stop. Her brother joined in. Soon, crows were lining up in the afternoon to greet Gabi's bus, hoping for another feeding session."

What's even cooler is that Gabi's mom didn't mind that the crows often got Gabi's lunches and in fact, took an interest them, "offering food as a daily ritual, rather than dropping scraps from time to time." It was after this that the crows began to leave gifts (you can see her whole collection and read the article in its entirety here and I urge you do so; it's a great article!). Now Gabi has a whole storage container full of presents the crows have left her, among them a pearl coloured heart , which she counts among her most prized possessions.

But the most interesting part about this story is what happened with Gabi's mom, Lisa, who "regularly photographs the crows and charts their behavior and interactions." While photographing a bald eagle in the neighborhood, she lost a lens cap in an alley. It turned up on the birdbath at home, and when she checked their bird cam on her computer, she saw a crow bring it into the yard, walk it to the bird bath, and then spend time rinsing the lens!!!

Lisa's comment? "They watch us all the time. I'm sure they knew I dropped it. I'm sure they decided they wanted to return it."

And that's why crows are so bloody awesome.

ps that crow pic is for sale on Etsy; click to see more...I want it.

Monday, March 2, 2015

First Impressions - The B.I.M. - Basic Intelligence Model.


Wow, it's finally March. We still have a ton of snow but the temperatures do seem to be inching ever so slowly upwards. Thank goodness! And welcome to another edition of First Impressions, where author Dianne Salerni and I each critique someone's first page. Today we have the first page of Tonja's MG Sci-fi, THE B.I.M. - BASIC INTELLIGENCE MODEL  2.




A chicken flapped past the window. Then another. Daniel shoved the kitchen chair aside and pushed his nose against the dirty glass pane.
      Talk about a feathered frenzy! Outside, chickens flapped everywhere. Up and down, left and right, feathers thick as clouds. Dead in the center of it all, waving his arms like a bird brain himself, was Uncle Bob. (I get a great visual in my head - chicken chaos!)   
      "Dag nab it, chickens! Get back into that coop!" The old man's voice thundered in the squawking storm.
      Daniel pulled back from the window before the old man saw him. Any other day, he'd go out there and help, but today wasn't just any other day. In less than an hour, all the boys in the sixth grade...well, soon to be seventh...would meet at the swimming hole for the biggest event of the year--the crowning of the Cannonball King.(Is this a public event or a private one...?) For the first time, Daniel had a real shot at getting the title. No way was he going to let a bunch of chickens ruin his chances this time!
      Ignoring the little voice in the back of his head, which told him to get his sorry backside out to his uncle, Daniel snatched a towel from the hook between the stained work coats and pushed open the back screen door. As it creaked open, a menacing snarl growled in his belly.  
      Darn it. No cannonball king could rule on an empty stomach.
      Luckily, the chickens still clucked and cackled away outside. Uncle Bob wasn't done with those birds yet, which gave Daniel plenty of time to snatch breakfast, one fit for a king. He spun back around and rushed to the refrigerator. The rusted door hinges squeaked as it swung open. But instead of a royal buffet, emptiness stared back at him. Two slices of bread and a carton of milk--barely enough to qualify as food let alone a meal. Daniel snatched a slice of bread, jammed it into his mouth and grabbed the milk. 
“It walks! It talks! Well, I’ll be dipped. I think it’s alive!” The screen door slammed shut sending a vibrating rattle through the kitchen. Pieces of straw fluttered down from Uncle Bob’s wild mane of white hair. The old man looked a lot like Santa Claus, not the clean ho-ho-hoey kind, but one that had rolled in the reindeer's straw while fixing an oil leak underneath the sleigh.
 ***

My thoughts: My first thought is that this seems like a pretty clean first page. There's great description, good voice, and we learn what Daniel wants, to be crowned the Cannonball King. We also get a glimpse into his life with his odd uncle, empty refrigerator, and a bunch of chickens. My only question is, why is being crowned Cannonball King so important to Daniel? And if it is so important, why didn't he think about preparing (eating breakfast) before? Aside from those questions, which might well be resolved on page two, I liked this first page and I think kids would like it, too. Daniel is very likeable and I'm curious to learn more about him and his eccentric uncle and strange life.

Tonja, thanks a million for submitting your first page. I hope I've been helpful! Readers, what did you think of this first page? Any comments or suggestions for Tonja? Want to know more about Tonja? You can find her here:

 


Don't forget to go see what Dianne thought of this first page, especially as she's more of an MG expert than I am. You can find her here :)

18 days 'til spring...





Friday, February 27, 2015

The Cephalopod Coffee House - The Martian

Hello and welcome to another edition of the Cephalopod Coffeehouse! The idea is simple: on the last Friday of each month, post about the best book you've finished over the past month while visiting other bloggers doing the same.  In this way, we'll all have the opportunity to share our thoughts with other enthusiastic readers.

This time, I actually have a book to tell you about:



The book starts with this ominous sentence:

"I'm pretty much fucked."

Ordinarily, I wouldn't advise starting your book with an F-bomb, but in this case it works and works beautifully, because Mark Watney, our intrepid narrator, is that kind of guy. A wise-ass to the core, incredibly geeky smart (he's a botonist AND an engineer), and he's just been left for dead on Mars. He's going to need his sense of humor.

Honestly? I give this five stars, which I almost never do. I ripped through this book in a matter of days,  completely engrossed in Mark Watney's effort to survive and his hilarious commentary on his plight:

"Remember those old math questions you had in Algebra class? Where water is entering a container at a certain rate and leaving at a different rate and you need to figure out when it'll be empty? Well, that concept is critical to the 'Mark Watney doesn't die' project I'm working on."

So far this is my favorite book of the year. Now we'll see if anything else can top it...
***

This review was brought to you thanks to the Cephalopod Coffee House. Click the pic to see who else participated!

http://armchairsquid.blogspot.com/2015/01/the-cephalopod-coffeehouse-february.html

Monday, February 16, 2015

Good news, bad news, and a winner!

The Good news is that the big snow never materialized here. Apparently the storm never pulled it together to dump the predicted 18-24 inches expected. Instead, we got maybe 4 inches. The bad news it did get even colder and we have frozen pipes - no water at all in the kitchen and only hot in the bathroom. Should make for a fun shower...plus another bail session.

But for the really good news we have a winner! Alex J. Cavanaugh! Congrats, Alex, Dianne will be in contact with you regarding your book :)

Everyone, have a super Monday and if you got buried by this last storm, you have my sympathies. I think this has been one of the longest, snowiest, coldest winters in quite some time. Let's think happy springy thoughts, shall we?


Friday, February 13, 2015

How I really feel about this winter

So. I wasn't going to post anything until Monday but then I heard something amusing (ha ha ha) on my way in to work this morning. It was a little before ten and the temperature at the bank said 8 degrees and the guy on the radio was talking about the big snow we're supposed to get this weekend (in addition to the big snows we've already gotten that have dumped three feet of snow on us already, mind you), and how after that it's supposed to turn bitter cold.

I almost laughed. It's frickin' 8 degrees out!!! Doesn't that qualify for bitter?!

Meanwhile, aside from the snow, my winter had been pretty shitty. My bathroom drain is frozen (I have skirting around my house rather than an actual basement), which means if I want to have a shower (and I do), I also get to bail the shower afterwards. Luckily the toilet is close by but I have to tell you, it's getting old. As is all the snow. And then to top it all off my driver's side window decided to come off its track - no doubt due to the BITTER COLD WE'RE HAVING - and settled into the all-the-way-down position. So tomorrow, in addition to my bail session, I get to drive to work with my window wide open, and somehow find time to get some plastic and gorilla tape before the snow hits tomorrow afternoon. Yay.


Oh, and did I mention it's really cold?


Sigh.

This is why I don't like winter.

On a happier note, I still love my job, I finished a book, and my main characters have finally made it somewhere safe. Now I get to make it unsafe ;)

Have a lovely weekend and if you're getting some of this snow, stay safe!


Monday, February 9, 2015

Guest Post - Author Dianne K. Salerni

Today I have a special treat, a guest post by author Dianne K. Salerni, whose fourth book - The Inquisitor's Mark: Book 2 in The Eighth Day Series - just released. Dianne is also graciously offering a paperback version of TED, a hardback version of TIM (US & Canada only for both of those), or an ebook version of ANY of her books (internationally). Winner's choice. All you have to do is comment.



Strange Research

I’ve often heard writers talk about the bizarre things they research for their stories. They laugh (a little nervously), and say that if the government were monitoring their Google searches, Homeland Security would probably be on their doorstep within minutes. Speaking for myself, I know that my personal library contains a few suspect reference books, and I might have accidentally left a book on poisons on the coffee table while hosting a family barbecue. (No, really, I forgot it was there. I wasn’t trying to scare off my in-laws.)

Travel research can also be really bizarre. Cool – and tax deductible – but also twisted in a way only authors can appreciate. I’ve twice been to a creepy cemetery in the boondocks of Pennsylvania, researching for The Caged Graves.


I climbed a pyramid in Mexico to plan out the climax of my urban fantasy, The Eighth Day, and took some of the usual, tourist-y pictures.


But I also scoped out the one spot where my hero Jax and his guardian Riley could hunker down and be shielded from bullets if the bad guy were shooting at them from the top of the pyramid. As far as I know, no other tourists at the Pyramid of the Sun were calculating line of sight for guns that day unless they happened to be a) terrorists or b) other writers.


For my most recent release, The Inquisitor’s Mark, the second book in the Eighth Day series, I visited the Central Park Zoo for the specific purpose of breaking into the snow leopard enclosure. Uh, fictionally breaking into it, that is.

You see, in the second book, Jax and two of his friends are being chased through the zoo by bad guys, and my original plan was for them to climb the plexiglass wall overlooking the polar bear exhibit, hang from the opposite side, and then drop into the enclosure. I didn’t even visit the zoo to plan the scene – just looked at pictures online and wrote it all out.


But one of my editors (a frequent zoo visitor) pointed out that the beloved Central Park polar bear, Gus, had recently died and that the fate of this exhibit was uncertain. It might get turned into a penguin exhibit. Hiding with penguins didn’t have the same impact as hiding with polar bears. But the only other carnivores at the Central Park Zoo are the snow leopards, and that enclosure is completed fenced in, including the top of it. How would Jax and his friends get in?

The only solution to this plot dilemma was a trip to NYC and Central Park Zoo to see the enclosure for myself. Suffice it to say, I did figure out a way to get inside. While I was documenting this with pictures, one of the snow leopards sauntered into view, delighting the zoo-goers, who snapped dozens of pictures.  If I had been one of them, I’d be showing you a photo of a snow leopard now. Unfortunately, all I’ve got for you are eye-bolts. I missed the leopard.


And to top-off my weirdo visit to the zoo, I posted some pictures on Facebook and declared triumphantly that I’d found a “flaw” in the snow leopard enclosure.

OMG, one of my FB friends posted, I hope you reported it!!!!!

Sigh. Another Homeland Security moment.

 ***
Thanks a bunch for coming by, Dianne, and readers, I will announce the winner of the giveaway next Monday. Have a great week! 




Friday, February 6, 2015

First Impressions - Summer's almost over


Woohoo! First Impressions is back with a new first page! Don't know about First Impressions? It's easy and it's fun. All you have to do is send your first page to either of us along with genre, age group intended for, and a pic - either of you or something related to your tale - and we'll critique that first page on both our blogs. Check out my side-bar for more info.


http://lizisaacson.blogspot.com/
Today we have the first page of  SUMMER'S ALMOST OVER, an adult romance from Liz. As always, you can find out what Dianne K.Salerni thought about this first page at her place.




 SUMMER'S ALMOST OVER


Sophie pasted on a fake smile as she leaned out the window of her taco stand—The Sandy Tortilla—and handed an order of carne asada quesadillas (should this be italicized?) to a woman who was obviously one half of a newlywed couple.
She’d been working the stand for enough summers to recognize the glow of the newly hitched, even without the enormous diamonds . (does Sophie know they're real diamonds? Can she tell or does she guess?) The way they looked at each other with moons in their eyes; how the men couldn’t stand more than two inches away from their wives; the women in their honeymoon swimming suits.
Yes, Sophie she'd had seen enough newlyweds to overdose on sweetness without even getting a taste of sugar. Her stomach lurched (lol!)as she returned to the orders hanging above her grill. She focused on tossing the chicken onto the flattop, slathering the cilantro spread on the tortilla, and crisping up the chips. Love this paragraph.
With her utmost concentration on her cooking, she didn’t have room to obsess over Mark. Aha!
“Chicken verde,” she called out the window, and a teenage girl stepped forward. At least she wasn’t in her mid-twenties with a huge rock on her finger.
Sophie glanced down at her left hand, where, until recently, she had worn a gold band with a single diamond on it. With a little imagination, she could see a tan line where the ring had sat for nine months.
Mark didn’t want to set a date, something that frustrated Sophie. She liked deadlines, and making lists, and meeting goals. Without a date for the wedding, she couldn’t plan the event.
Which is just fine now, she told herself as she dropped an order of taquitos into the fryer.
“We’ll need more chips,” Jenna said over her shoulder as she put up yet another order.
“On it.”
Jenna had one year of high school left, and Sophie knew she needed money for college. Sophie was more than happy to help her—she was tan and blonde, which attracted customers. Even better, Jenna was never late.

 ***

My thoughts: Aside from what I noted, I really liked this first page. My only suggestion might be to move  the third paragraph to the second position so we get to see who Sophie is sooner. I really like the way this is set up, too, with Sophie cooking and thinking about what's going on but without telling us everything, which makes us want to read more. I sure want to know why Sophie isn't wearing that ring anymore!

Nice first page, Liz! And thanks for sharing :)






Monday, February 2, 2015

RedPoll

First off, my apologies. I told you Friday Dianne Salerni would be here today with a guest post but, silly me, I got my dates wrong and Dianne won't be here until NEXT Monday. There will also be a giveaway so do come back. Meanwhile, my son got a few pics of a Red Poll (pronounced 'pole') who came to visit.



Isn't she pretty?

Friday, January 30, 2015

The Cephalopod Coffeehouse presents:

I am sad to report that for the first month ever I have yet to finish any of the three books I have going:
Moby Dick












Great North Road












The Wolf's Hour












My only excuse is that I've also been doing some reading on the 1917/18 Influenza epidemic (which has yet to yield the information I'm seeking, I might add), and...I found a Scrabble app. This past week I did finally attend a little more to reading and focused on a single book (Great North Road, if you're interested) but I am still only 30% done. Not very impressive.

C'est la guerre.

Meanwhile, do check out the other folks who probably did actually read a book here:

http://armchairsquid.blogspot.com/2014/12/the-cephalopod-coffeehouse-january-2015.html

And come back on Monday when I have a very special guest post from one of my favorite authors, Dianne K. Salerni.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Ball Security

So. Unless you've been living under a hedge in the wilds you've heard all about ball security and how the Patriots may have been playing with deflated balls in their crushing defeat of the Colts (45-7). As it stands the investigation is still on-going with a final ruling not expected until after the Superbowl. But it's been the talk of the town. There's been stuff about how to talk to your kids about 'deflate-gate,' a segment on NPR about it, and last Friday Sesame Street's word of the day was 'inflate.'

Really? Ball security is that important?

More important than making a big deal out of Ray Rice knocking his fiance unconscious? (2 game suspension)

More important than Adrian Peterson using a switch on his 4-year old that caused "visible swelling, marks and cuts"? (suspended without pay for final 6 games)

More important than Michael Vick's conviction for orchestrating a dog fighting ring? (served 2 years in prison, currently with the Jets, poor thing)

Personally, I think the above issues far outweigh an improperly inflated football but if ball security is truly that important then I have a suggestion - two actually. I think the NFL needs to put someone in charge of ball security. One person whose sole responsibility is to make sure the balls in play are inflated to the proper psi. Either that or start filling the damn things with nitrogen so they won't be affected by a change in temperature.

Don't get me wrong. If the Patriots screwed around with the balls they should be punished - fairly - but Good God!  Do we really need to keep harping on this? Is this really the most important thing that's ever happened in the world of sports? Can't we talk about something else - like who's going to win the Superbowl and how?!


Anyway. My son makes me listen to The Big Jab (sports talk radio, fascinating stuff) in the morning and I had to weigh in. Meanwhile, we're waiting for the snow to start falling in expectation of this massive blizzard that's supposed to dump 1-2 feet of snow on us. I just hope I don't lose power...


Thoughts on 'deflate-gate?' Hate the Pats? Got snow?

Friday, January 23, 2015

Not for the faint of heart

The other day my son was perusing Netflix and came across this... amusing film. Being a good son and knowing I'd get a kick out of it, he shared.




But even better was this brilliant review by some unknown soul:

"The chicken has declared jihad on us all!" As with all of the everything - plus - the - kitchen sink Troma yukfests, this is not for every taste. Of course, you have the obligatory Troma trademarks of lesbianism and breast jiggling, but this is for that discerning viewer who truly enjoys projectile vomiting, phallo -and anal-centric invasions and diarrhea explosions. (Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe Lloyd's use of a zombie-finger as a buttplug is the first in zombie movie history.) I'm going out on a limb here, but this just may be the best horror sexploitation - zombie - chicken gross - out nihilistic musical extravaganza ever made. And I'm not just saying that because I know him personally and he might be reading this. Really. I'm not."

It had me in stitches. I just had to share.


Monday, January 12, 2015

Inspiration



This picture inspired me. Made me think about disasters, something my number one brother and I share a love for - on screen that is! And while the flooding wasn't quite so bad in my WIP, I have a few more disasters up my sleeve to torment my characters with. Like this:









My characters are about to leave this place in search of answers.

It's been slow going. I've been working on this since November and am just now closing in on 20K. But. I think my chapters are more coherent and that there will be less to revise later, less major stuff. We'll see...

So. What's inspiring you?


Monday, January 5, 2015

Thank you 2014

I was feeling a little blah about 2014, thinking it was a crappy year overall, until I remembered. 2014 was the year I got a job I actually love - at a pawn shop of all things. I've never had a job a looked forward to going to (well...except for that summer I was painting and there was this really cute guy on the crew...) and all I can say is it's pretty cool getting up without the dread of having my soul sucked out of me for eight hours. So thank you 2014 for my awesome job! In addition to my exceedingly cool job at the pawn shop, I also read a few books in 2014 - 34!!! Not as many as last year but hey, I bet it's more than the average joe so I'll take it!

Books read in 2014


1. The Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett
2. Ice Dogs by Terry Lynn Johnson
3. The Boy Who Loved Fire by Julie Musil
4. Allegiant by Veronica Roth
5. Screwing up Time by C.M. Keller
6. Greybeard by Brian Aldiss
7. The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
8.  Among Others by Jo Walton
9. The Mad Scientists Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clark
10. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black
11. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Forde
12. The Eighth Day by Dianne K. Salerni
13. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
14. The Lady in White by Wilkie Collins
15. Open Minds by Susan Quinn
16. I am Livia by Phyllis T. Smith
17. Reality Boy by A.S. King
18. The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey
19. Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin
20. As Red As Blood by Salla Simukka (didn’t finish)
21. The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson
22. Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
23. Hollow City by Ransom Riggs
24. Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry
25. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (for the umpteenth time)
26. The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
27. Red Glove by Holly Black
28. Origin by Jessica Khoury
29. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
30. Before I go to Sleep by S.J. Watson
31. The Heist by Daniel Silva
32. The Goldfinch by Donna Tart
33. The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough
34. Stealing History by William D. Andrews


Short Stories:

The Skull by Phillip K. Dick
Samsa in Love by Haruki Murakami (LOVED this – it was in The New Yorker, Oct. 2013)
The Scavenger by Sean McLachlan
Out of Magic by CD Coffelt

What I’m reading now:

1. Moby Deck by Herman Melville - I’m at the part where Ishmael and Queequeeg are on board the Pequod and have just begun to get glimpses of Captain Ahab…

2. The Great Influenza by John M. Barry (the second book on my WIP research list - the first was The Johnstown Flood - can you tell bad things are going to happen? Mwahahaha...) 



Monday, December 29, 2014

The weird stuff

Before Christmas I told you a little about the pawn shop where I work. Janie wanted to know about the weird stuff so...Janie Junebug, this one's for you:



This item came in to the shop not long after I started. It's made of brass and has felt on the bottom, maybe so it wouldn't slide (on a ship?). We think it's a light of some sort, and everyone who's seen it seems to agree.

As you can see, it's also adjustable, and the top part comes right off. Inside there was paper stuffed down in the tube, but no evidence of fuel, no wick, no reservoir. Here's another view from the side:


So. That's the weird. Because although we think it's a light, we're not sure, and if it is, then how did it work?



Dianne also wanted to know how stuff goes out of the shop. For the most part people come in and buy it. Lots of folks bought wooden lobster buoys last summer and interesting signs. Jewelry sells. And we even had an art dealer from DC come in  buy a few pieces, which says something for the quality of our merchandise! We also sell on ebay, usually 7-day auctions, and usually stuff that needs a wider audience like an old Raggedy Anne doll (doll stuff tends to sell well), books, vintage games, and 'marked' items, ie anything that has the maker's mark, preferably a famous one! We recently sold some George Jensen silver cuff links for a pretty penny. I've even started my own ebay account and currently have a total of ONE item available for sale: a limited edition copy of The Velveteen Rabbit with a real velveteen cover. I'm also thinking of selling my Magic cards...

Now. Tell me about you. Got anything fun going on in your life? Writing anything that's got you hooked? Reading an awesome book? Do tell!



Thursday, December 25, 2014

My Christmas thoughts

“Peace does not mean an absence of conflicts; differences will always be there. Peace means solving these differences through peaceful means; through dialogue, education, knowledge; and through humane ways.” Dalai Lama XIV

“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”
~ Nelson Mandela - See more at: http://peacealliance.org/tools-education/peace-inspirational-quotes/#sthash.RtpR974Y.dpuf
Nelson Mandela


“Dad, how do soldiers killing each other solve the world's problems?”
Bill Waterson Calvin and Hobbs

“When I say it's you I like, I'm talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see or hear or touch. That deep part of you that allows you to stand for those things without which humankind cannot survive. Love that conquers hate, peace that rises triumphant over war, and justice that proves more powerful than greed.”
Fred Rogers



“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”
~ Nelson Mandela - See more at: http://peacealliance.org/tools-education/peace-inspirational-quotes/#sthash.RtpR974Y.dpuf
“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”
~ Nelson Mandela - See more at: http://peacealliance.org/tools-education/peace-inspirational-quotes/#sthash.RtpR974Y.dpuf
“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”
~ Nelson Mandela - See more at: http://peacealliance.org/tools-education/peace-inspirational-quotes/#sthash.RtpR974Y.dpuf

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Underwear Dilemma

Underwear, lingerie, intimates, or small clothes, call them what you will, but most of us wear underwear. Today I'm here asking for your help.

Here's the problem. I used to buy all my underwear from Victoria Secret. They had cute patterns, and they fit great. Unfortunately, VS decided to change its 100% cotton panties to a cotton mix and while the patterns are as cute as ever, they absolutely do not fit like they used to. The problem is they ride up, and there's nothing worse than picking your underwear out of your butt. Am I right?

Now, I'm sure I could find some old lady underwear that would stay put but I'm not that old yet and there has to be someone who makes cute cotton panties (preferably bikini style!) that stay put.So, ladies, tell me, what's your favorite brand of underwear? Or am I the only one who can't find a bloody pair of panties?

Gentlemen, this is for you:)


or maybe you prefer him...





 I know I do ;)


Happy Christmas to everyone who celebrates, and I'll be back next week with more from the pawn shop, including the weird stuff - as requested (Janie I'm lookin' at you!).

Monday, December 15, 2014

Pawn Stars 2

As you might recall, I mentioned a while back I'd taken a job at a pawn shop. I'm still there, and fortunately it's turned into a full-time gig. I also LOVE it. Not only do we get the coolest most interesting things in, but it's never a dull moment. It's the most fun I've ever had at work.

When I first started, I had no idea how pawning worked, and a lot of people come into the shop wondering the same thing. So I thought I might explain. Here's how it works: Let's say your taxes come due and you're short $250 dollars which you don't have and can't borrow. What you do have is some collateral you can bring to the pawn shop which will then loan you money on that item. The pawn shop keeps the item in a safe place and you generally have 31 days to come redeem said item for the amount of the original loan ($250) plus the interest (25% or $62.50). If you don't return to pay, your item goes out on the floor to be sold to cover your debt. This is why you never get full retail value for a pawned item. The pawn shop has to be able to make money on it on the chance you don't come back.

At our shop, people can come back at the end of the month, just pay the interest, and carry over another month. In fact, they can do that for as many months as they need. It isn't smart, because if they do it too much, they'll end up paying us far more than the item was ever worth. But shite happens and people get into jams. I will also say that at our shop we never pull an item out of pawn if the person doesn't come back right off; we always give them more time. A lot of pawn shops don't.

The other side of our business is the outright buying of items from people who have stuff to sell. They might be cleaning out a relative's house or be moving or downsizing or maybe they're a picker. We have a few people who scour yard sales and flea markets for finds and then bring those items to us in the hopes of making a profit. Regardless, we love these people, because this is where the bulk of our items come from. We get furniture, gaming systems, movies, bows (composite and cross), china, art (we just sold a painting on ebay for over 2K!!!), and a ton of jewelry. And we get new stuff every day, not to mention the weird stuff, which can sometimes be worth more than you'd think!

Anyway...that's a little about the pawn shop where I work. Oh, and if you're ever in the market for old wooden lobster buoys, we have a couple hundred. My boss got all the fishermen in the county to bring theirs in and he bought them all!