Friday, April 28, 2017

The Cepalopod Coffeehouse - The Bone Clocks


http://armchairsquid.blogspot.com/2017/04/the-cephalopod-coffeehouse-april-2017.html

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 month I'm going to tell you about The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell.

 From Amazon: Following a terrible fight with her mother over her boyfriend, fifteen-year-old Holly Sykes slams the door on her family and her old life. But Holly is no typical teenage runaway: A sensitive child once contacted by voices she knew only as “the radio people,” Holly is a lightning rod for psychic phenomena. Now, as she wanders deeper into the English countryside, visions and coincidences reorder her reality until they assume the aura of a nightmare brought to life.

For Holly has caught the attention of a cabal of dangerous mystics—and their enemies. But her lost weekend is merely the prelude to a shocking disappearance that leaves her family irrevocably scarred. This unsolved mystery will echo through every decade of Holly’s life, affecting all the people Holly loves—even the ones who are not yet born.

A Cambridge scholarship boy grooming himself for wealth and influence, a conflicted father who feels alive only while reporting on the war in Iraq, a middle-aged writer mourning his exile from the bestseller list—all have a part to play in this surreal, invisible war on the margins of our world. From the medieval Swiss Alps to the nineteenth-century Australian bush, from a hotel in Shanghai to a Manhattan townhouse in the near future, their stories come together in moments of everyday grace and extraordinary wonder.



This book was a New York Times Bestseller, Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, Named one of the top ten fiction books of the year, Winner of the World Fantasy Award and Named to more than 29 year-end best of lists.

I, however, am going to buck the trend, and disagree with them all for my usual reason: characters I didn't care about. It's a good thing this book started with Holly Sykes because I might not have finished it otherwise. I loved Holly. I didn't much care for Brubeck the reporter, I definitely didn't like Hugo Lamb who was seemingly only out for the buck, and Crispin Hershey, the writer, was a jerk. If there had been more of Holly and the 'radio people' I think I would've liked this book a lot better but I didn't give a hoot about what happened to those other characters. They just weren't likeable enough for me to care.

I would love to hear what anyone else thought of this book if they've read it.

And for those of you participating in A-Z...you're almost to the finish line : )

Friday, March 31, 2017

Cephalopod Coffeehouse - The Girl from Everywhere

http://armchairsquid.blogspot.com/2017/01/the-cephalopod-coffeehouse-february.html

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 month I'm going to tell you about The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig



From Amazon: Nix's life began in Honolulu in 1868. Since then she has traveled to mythic Scandinavia, a land from the tales of One Thousand and One Nights, modern-day New York City, and many more places both real and imagined. As long as he has a map, Nix's father can sail his ship, The Temptation, to any place, any time. But now he's uncovered the one map he's always sought—1868 Honolulu, before Nix's mother died in childbirth. Nix's life—her entire existence—is at stake. No one knows what will happen if her father changes the past. It could erase Nix's future, her dreams, her adventures . . . her connection with the charming Persian thief, Kash, who's been part of their crew for two years. If Nix helps her father reunite with the love of his life, it could cost her her own.

As someone who loves maps and can be transported by just looking at them, the idea that a map of a particular place at a particular time could take you there is about as cool as it gets. I really enjoyed this story, especially Nix and Kash the charmer, and the bits of Hawaiian history thrown in. I also wasn't sure how exactly things would resolve at the end which is always a bonus. I won't spoil it for you but it was a good ending.

If you like maps of strange and far away places, journeys by ship, a little family drama, some history, myth, and an interesting adventure, you would like this book.

In other news, there's a virtual Sale Pending sign on my house so with a move in my near future I will probably be mostly absent until the dust settles. But...

I'll be back






Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Time & Circumstance - Theresa Milstein

Today I am happy to have Theresa Milstein here to talk about her new book, Time & Circumstance.


How and when did you come to writing?
I'd always dreamed of being a writer. Even though I inhaled books and always earned A grades in English, certain people told me my dream wasn't a practical way to make a living. I didn't pursue it. But the dream didn't completely die. I took a creative writing class in high school and college. After graduation, I'd find myself creating a story in my head. I'd begin typing. Then I'd remind myself that I wasn't a writer and close the file. 

About ten years ago, I was working in a fifth grade class, and the author, Melissa Glenn Haber, came to visit our school. She talked about notebooks filled with stories that she'd hide in drawers. That sounded like me. One day Melissa's husband said she should try to write seriously because she seemed happier when she was writing. I admitted to myself, I was happier when I wrote too. 

I waited on line, making sure I was last. When it was my turn, I shared with Melissa my deepest secret: I'd always wanted to write. She received that information like it was the most normal thing in the world. She said something like, "You should do it." Melissa gave me her business card and told me the name of her agent. 

That led to me a six-week writing frenzy, which led to a middle grade rip off of Harry Potter with every cliche imaginable, which led me to join SCBWI, which led me to many workshops, conferences, retreats, how-to books, and critique groups that have taught me how to actually write. 

I think a lot of my early work was a rip off of somebody, too, lol. How did you get from there to Time & Circumstance?
A couple of years later, Vine Leaves Literary Magazine was looking for an assistant to the editor, which meant reading and voting on poetry shortlists. I applied and got the job. I eventually became a poetry editor. Reading hundreds of submissions for each issue helped me improve my own poetry writing. While I concentrated on my middle grade and YA manuscripts, I wrote vignettes for myself and sometimes shared them on my blog. 

The editor, Jessica Bell, asked for a few of my poems for some project she was working on. I sent them and promptly forgot about it. The literary journal expanded into Vine Leaves Press. Sometime later, I asked Jessica about the poems I'd sent. She said the project didn't work out, but she liked them. If I had enough pieces, I should put a collection together and submit to Vine Leaves Press. 

This terrified me.

Months later, I finally found the courage to take my vignettes and stick them in a document. I moved them around, looking for cohesion. Something began to take shape. I finally hit send. A few more months later, Vine Leaves Press accepted my collection. 

How did you choose what would go into Time & Circumstance?
Every vignette I'd ever written went into one document. From there, I searched for patterns. I decided the pieces should be ordered chronologically by the age of the different protagonists, with the exception of two poems I thought should start the collection. The unrelenting passage of time jumped out as a theme for me, so I came up with title from my favorite quote by James Baldwin. Then I read everything through. A few pieces, especially from my early attempts at poetry, stood out as bad, so I took them out. When Vine Leaves accepted the collection and sent me the first developmental edits, the first poem, a couple of other poems, and a prose piece all hit the chopping block. The editor suggested I divide the collection between poetry and prose. I had to reimagine how each piece worked together again. At that point, a prose piece I'd forgotten about was added. In the end, arranging the poems and prose required the most consideration. 

Explain a vignette, and how you ultimately chose to arrange both prose and poetry around one another.
Vine Leaves Press named itself after the vignette--which originally meant "something written on a vine leaf." I found a more thorough and lyrical explanation on The Review Review: http://www.thereviewreview.net/interviews/reviving-vignette "a literary form that absorbs readers in a setting, a mood, a character and allows the atmosphere to ripen through textual exploration." Instead of writing a story with a beginning middle and end, it’s a refreshing way to write.

Since vignettes can be both poetry and prose, I wanted to include both. I believe I first set up everything chronologically. During the developmental edit stage, the editor suggested dividing the two. So now the first part is prose and the second is poetry. Each section has its own chronological order.

What was hardest about the publishing process? Easiest?
 The hardest part about the publishing process is putting my work, myself out there. I’m quick to promote others, but asking for people to support me by hosting or reviewing or buying my book—that’s out of my comfort zone. I’m trying to connect with the local poetry community, and it feels less penetrable than the kid lit world. I attended my first poetry reading. We sat around a round table. Everyone was friendly and supportive. But when my turn came, I had to clear my throat and I stumbled. My hands shook like crazy. The next time it was my turn, I managed to speak a little more coherently and my hands stayed steady. When I finished, I looked at my chest shocked that my pounding heart didn’t make my shirt move.

What are you working on now?
I’m about 24k into a YA rough draft that’s going very slowly. My critique group looks at chapters, and I keep going back to fix what I’ve done instead of forging ahead.


And finally, just for fun (because those of us who have them love to talk about our pets…), Cats or dogs or Cats and Dogs living together? Who are your furry friends?
I’m a cat person, and I think this is because I’m much more like a cat in real life. My 12-year-old tuxedo cat and I understand each other. Each morning, we walk down the stairs together. She often sleeps on my bed and snuggles on my lap, but sometimes she’s got her own things to do. I respect that.

About 5 years ago, I broke down and let my family get a dog. He’s a Beagle. He’s fine. Friendly and all. But the cat and I are suspicious of him. He seems desperate for attention.

I think a lot of dogs are, lol. Theresa, thanks so much for coming and answering all my question, and I wish you the best of luck with Time & Circumstance!


“If you could relive any moment in time, what would it be?”

Leave a comment and you’re eligible to win a prize during Theresa’s blog tour!

1 $25 Amazon gift card
1 signed paperback copy
1 ebook

Extra entries if you share on Facebook or Twitter and link it to me.
@TheresaMilstein on Twitter.
@Theresa Milstein on Facebook
#ReliveMoment or #TimeandCircumstance

Winners will be announced on April 5, 2017

$3.99 AUD (eBook)
Kindle AUS
Kindle US
Kindle UK
Kindle CA
iBooks | Kobo | Nook

$12.99 AUD (paperback)
Amazon US
Amazon UK
​Amazon CA
Barnes & Noble
Book Depository
Chapters Indigo


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Snow and a Double Review: Star Trek Beyond and Arrival

Yup. We got hammered again. I drove home in white out conditions, wishing I'd accepted my boss's offer of a ride. He has a big giant Dodge Ram. I have a '97 Volvo wagon. Guess who's better in the snow? Guess who didn't get in her driveway without shoveling, and then just enough so the plows won't wack the rear end off. There was no way I was getting all the way in. It was way too deep. In the words of my son, good times. But let's talk about Star Trek Beyond cuz it's March and there's only 5 days left til spring and this snow is not going to be able to stick around long.



My thoughts: Disappointed. I was really hoping for something a lot better. There were so many ways this third movie could've gone but some idiot decided to blow up the Enterprise again and offer up what could at best be called a weak story-line. I also thought that the actors felt a little tired, as if they, too, wanted to roll their eyes. This movie is not a keeper in my opinion.

Arrival, on the other hand...




...is the sort of movie you'll watch again because you know you'll pick up on something you missed the first, second, or third time you watch it. Movies like Inception, Memento, or The Usual Suspects come to mind. Anyway. Arrival begins with the arrival of aliens, which prompts the government to call in linguist professor Louise Banks, played by Amy Adams (she was awesome, really, everyone was, but she was perfect, imo). The question, of course, is what do they want? But as Louis demonstrates, asking, "what do you want?" means there has to be a basic understanding of what is meant by 'you.' Is you Joe Blow alien or is you all of them? Is a weapon a tool or a tool a weapon? Or both? Language is tricky, and I love how Louis Banks shows just how tricksy it can be. This movie is a keeper. And as soon as I get it back from my son I'm going to watch it again for everything I know I missed.







Monday, March 6, 2017

Today is art day

Yesterday I went to my sister's for art day. Art day is a day when you hang out with a friend or two and create art. I've been doing this with my friend Lori off an on for the past few months and I thought I'd share the major piece I was working on as well as a few others.

My major project has been Red (Riding Hood), who I think I spent more time on than any other piece of art ever. Here's an early incarnation, which prompted the full blown Red...


 

I think I spent over 15 hours on her. Of course, she'd look better if I could take a proper pic but art work is hard to photograph well unless it's small.

This was a quickie, which I did in an hour or so


I want to do a more a more elaborate/detailed version of this (Sleeping Beauty, of course). I seem to like her for some reason...




But I don't always draw fairy tale characters. Sometimes I do trees...


This one isn't quite finished yet but I think he'll be pretty when he's done.


And this is a card I'll send to someone. I've done this design on bookmarks and other cards as well. I call it Island in the Sun.

And now I'll add another goal to my list: learn to take better pics of my art!

Hope you all have a a fabulous week :)

ps 14 days til spring...even though its been miserably cold these last few days.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Cats vs Dogs



Change

Cats hate change. For example, you bring cat A to the vet and when you get home cat B suddenly hates cat A. This is because 1: you took cat A away and while you were gone cat B looked everywhere for cat A to no avail. The thing is, cat B knows every single place cat A hides. Every single one. And if B can’t find A then A has disappeared and that it not normal and cat B does not like not normal at all. He’s a cat. Not a human. Oh, and nevermind the fact that B saw A in the awful cat carrier. B might remember what happens when you get in the cat carrier, or, he might not. But it probably won’t occur to him to make the connection because again, he’s a cat, not a human. And then there’s problem #2: you bring cat A home and he does NOT smell like cat A. He smells like cats B has never met and that is NOT good. By this point cat B is highly suspicious of what’s going on. Sure, it looks like cat A but it doesn’t smell like cat A, plus cat A was gone and who is to say this is the same cat A? It could easily be a replica. All of which results in cat B deciding to hate cat A who is not cat A as far as B is concerned.



Now, if you have dogs, dog B will exuberantly greet dog A like its been gone forever, and the two will resume their normal relationship as soon as the excitement wears off.

In other news...20 days til spring :)


Friday, February 24, 2017

The Cephalopod Coffeehouse _ Pretty Girls

http://armchairsquid.blogspot.com/2017/01/the-cephalopod-coffeehouse-february.html

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 month I'm going to tell you about Pretty Girls by Karen Slaughter

More than twenty years ago, Claire and Lydia’s teenaged sister Julia vanished without a trace. The two women have not spoken since, and now their lives could not be more different. Claire is the glamorous trophy wife of an Atlanta millionaire. Lydia, a single mother, dates an ex-con and struggles to make ends meet. But neither has recovered from the horror and heartbreak of their shared loss—a devastating wound that's cruelly ripped open when Claire's husband is killed.

The disappearance of a teenage girl and the murder of a middle-aged man, almost a quarter-century apart: what could connect them? Forming a wary truce, the surviving sisters look to the past to find the truth, unearthing the secrets that destroyed their family all those years ago . . . and uncovering the possibility of redemption, and revenge, where they least expect it.



I read this in a single sitting for two reasons: I was sick, and it was really good, even though I don't read a lot of books like this, ie thrillers with women in peril. But I grew to like both these sisters quite quickly, especially Lydia, whose sarcastic wit among the soccer moms totally cracked me up, and helped her stay strong later. If you do like thrillers, I highly recommend it. If you can't read about torture (it isn't gratuitous; the author tells you enough to horrify but doesn't drown you in all the details) then you might not enjoy this book.

In other news, 23 days til spring...

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A Little Romance

http://widopublishing.com/west-of-paradise-by-marcy-hatch/

Katherine Kennedy has it all; she’s beautiful, she’s wealthy, and she’s engaged to the perfect man: Antonio D'Salvatore. There’s just one problem. She can’t marry him. Worse yet, she has no idea why. All she knows is there is suddenly nothing she wants, not Antonio, or any of the other hundred thousand things money can buy.

Jack McCabe comes home from the war with a pretty medal and a lot of ugly pictures in his head. He has little in the way of possessions, less in the way of wealth, nowhere to go and no one to go anywhere with. All he has is a vague sense of discontent, a restlessness that will not abate.

Separately, they are drawn to Paradise Tours on the privately owned Cristobel Island. There they meet Louis Cade, a man who offers them the unimaginable, something neither can quite believe until they actually find themselves over 125 years in the past, 1881 to be exact.

For Jack McCabe it’s the adventure he always dreamed of – until he meets a beautiful but deadly train robber. Katherine can't believe an ignorant bounty hunter has mistaken her for a criminal – until she sees the picture, which looks exactly like her.

Neither of them can imagine how the past has a way of catching up with the present.
 
 
Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 13, 2017

35 days and a Cedar Waxwing oh my!

I'm a bit late posting today thanks to 8 tons of snow currently getting dumped on my state (Maine). Everyone has been advised to stay home unless it's an emergency. They even grounded the plow trucks here for a bit! I think I've shoveled five times since I got up this morning.





That's the end of my driveway down there somewhere...

In other news, there's only 35 days til spring - which seems laughable to even speak of in light of today's weather - and I have two more bird pics to share, much thanks to my son for sharing.

Cedar Waxwing - tell me he isn't beautiful
Mr. Cardinal - don't you love his crest?

Last but not least, I've sent my manuscript, currently titled BELL, BLACK, & BRIAR off to be read and we shall see what comes of that, so there's one goal met. Go me!

Now, how are you doing? Got weather?

Monday, February 6, 2017

A few Black History facts you may not know...

As most of you probably know, February is Black History Month but I'll bet there's a few people associated with Black History that you don't know.


Claudette Colvin was 15 years old in 1955 and 9 months before Rosa Parks made a name for herself Claudette refused to give up her seat on the bus when asked. However, the NAACP felt that Rosa Parks, a respectable middle class adult, would better represent the movement and so became the face of resistance. Imagine being 15 years old and black in Montgomery Alabama in 1955 and having the courage to say no.

Another interesting person is a man called Onesimus (sorry no pic), who was likely born in Africa in the late 17th Century and arrived in Boston as a gift to Puritan Minister Cotton Mather from his congregation. At some point, Onesimus told Mather about an old tradition of extracting material from an infected person and then scratching it onto the skin of a healthy person in order to make them immune. During the smallpox epidemic of 1721 Mather convinced Dr. Zabdiel Boylston to try Onesimus' method and of those who contracted smallpox, only 2% of the inoculated people died vs 15% of the non-inoculated.


Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950) was an author, journalist and the founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, and The Journal of Negro History.  In February of 1926 he launched the celebration of "Negro History Week" which was the precurser to Black History Month. Woodson believed that education and increasing social and professional contacts among blacks and whites could reduce racism and he promoted the organized study of African-American history partly for that purpose.

How many of these people did you know? I'll admit, I knew none until I looked up Black History. I purposely chose the ones I didn't know. I thought it was interesting that Onesimus knew all about inoculation from tradition. It was common knowledge among his people. I should also mention that Cotton Mather did eventually free him, though not without conditions.


In other news, I'm making one last pass through my manuscript before sending it off to readers, and there are now 42 days left til spring...

Monday, January 30, 2017

Birds

As some of you may recall, my son is a birder. That means he likes to go out and search for birds, especially birds he hasn't seen or birds not commonly seen. He'll drive hours to go see a rare bird that's stumbled into Maine or be perfectly happy going down to the mills and watching the ducks and geese. Recently he bought himself a nice camera to take pictures of the birds he sees, something he'd been wanting for quite some time. Today, I'm going to share some of those pictures...

The first pic he sent me was of a Mockingbird, from the Mimidae family, who are best known for the habit of some species mimicking the songs of other birds and the sounds of insects and amphibians, often loudly and in rapid succession. They're here in Maine, but not commonly seen, like goldfinches or chickadees.



Second pic is a Red-tailed hawk, which belongs to the Accipitridae family (no idea how to pronounce that) and is a bird of prey which is colloquially known in the US as the "chickenhawk," though apparently it rarely preys on standard sized chickens. The majority of hawks captured for falconry in the United States are red-tails.



Seagulls belong to the Laridae family and are generalist feeders, equally adept at swimming, flying, and walking. In the air, they are able to hover and they are also able to take off quickly with little space. Some people think they're a nuisance but I like them, even if they can be NOISY!



And finally an extra pretty House finch (Finch family), which I occasionally see at the feeders at my work. Originally only a resident of Mexico and the Southwestern US, they were introduced illegally in NYC and sold as "Hollywood Finches". To avoid prosecution, vendors and owners released the birds which have since become naturalized. The girls aren't nearly as pretty, poor things.

 
And that my friends is your lesson on birds for the week :)

Do you like birds?

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Cephalopod Coffeehouse - We Were Liars

http://armchairsquid.blogspot.com/2016/12/the-cephalopod-coffeehouse-january-2017.html


Welcome to another edition of the Cephalopod Coffeehouse whose idea is this: 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. Click on the pic/link to see who else is doing this and consider joining to share a book you've read.

This month I'm going to tell you about We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, which was not my favorite book of January but I'm going to tell you about it anyway.



The Premise (stolen from Amazon): Each summer the wealthy, seemingly perfect, members of the Sinclair family gather on their private island. We Were Liars is the story of those annual reunions; in particular what happened during a summer that protagonist Cadence is unable to remember. Prejudice, greed, and shifting patriarchal favoritism among the three adult sisters contrasts with the camaraderie and worldview of the teenage cousins and their dear friend Gat. Lazy days of sticky lemonades on the roof and marathon Scrabble games give way to twisty suspense, true love, and good intentions gone horribly wrong.

A lot of people have reviewed this book on Amazon, and over 75% gave it four stars or better. I don't know how many stars I'd give it. I didn't love it, but mainly because I didn't love any of the characters. In order for me to give a book four or five stars I really need to care about someone and for whatever reason I just didn't feel that for Cadence, or any of the other characters.

On the other hand, I absolutely did not see what was coming, even when a pretty good clue was thrust right in my face, and then when I thought it wasn't going to get worse it did. Cadence has good reason to want to forget what happened and I was determined to find out, even if I didn't love her, or her dysfunctional family.

Hence my hesitation in giving the book a rating. Because even though I didn't love the characters I really wanted to know what happened and I think I read it straight through one evening when I was sick.

Has anyone else read this book? If so, I'd love to know what your thoughts were. If not, tell me what you're reading and whether you're liking it...

Have a wicked fun weekend :)




Monday, January 23, 2017

Goals? What goals?



So. I’m nearing the end of Season Three of Buffy and approaching The Ascension. God, I love the Mayor. He’s so cheerfully evil. He’s my favorite kind of evil. You want him gone, but damn he’s entertaining! Sort of like Crowley in Supernatural. Not like Geoffrey in GOT. He couldn’t die soon enough, imo.

Meanwhile (huge sigh), it’s still winter, even though I wish it wasn’t. But...(and by the time spring gets here you’ll be sick of hearing me say this)…only 57 days til spring! I know it's just a date but it means the end of winter is in sight.



That’s what I wish it looked like out on my porch. Alas, it’s more like this:

(ok, so maybe I'm exaggerating a little, but I think I've illustrated my point)

But I digress. Let's talk about goals. I thought I'd keep myself honest by mentioning them once in a while. As far as books go I've done well so far, having read three whole books, all of which I enjoyed. I'm currently reading The Bone Clocks. I am also making progress with my revisions, and I've sent out a few queries on my scifi,  NO REST. So that's good. As far as exercise and food...well, not so good. I have been walking every morning and soon it will be light enough to walk at night when I get home, which will help. But. I found these awful Boston Creme Muffins with a chocolate glaze that are just soooo good...I really need to stop buying them.



But nevermind me, how are things with you? Enjoying any shows? Getting outside? Eating anything awful?

Monday, January 16, 2017

Martin Luther King Jr.



"Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think."


"An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity."  

"Nothing in this world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity."

"I refuse to accept the view that man is so tragically bound tot he starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality...I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word." 
Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/m/martin_luther_king_jr_4.html

Monday, January 9, 2017

Felled


So. Buffy. And for those who don’t watch feel free to skip this part. Anyway. I’m at the end of Season 2, and things are getting good. Spike and Buffy are about to have a chat about Angel. I love when good and evil come together—briefly—to ally against a greater evil, and Spike is so good at being bad. He’s like Billy Idol if he ever became a vampire. The other great thing about watching Buffy is there isn’t that urgency to binge watch like there is with something new, which gives me a break from writing, but not an excuse to stay away.

As for revisions, I am now up to Chapter 31, which is more than the half way point. I would probably be a bit further along if I hadn’t been felled by a horrible head cold that basically stole 2 days away from me. I don’t know about you but head colds ruin my creativity. I did however finish reading The Girl from Everywhere (which I will review for the Cephalopod Coffeehouse at the end of the month), read Pretty Girls over the course of Saturday and We Were Liars Saturday night.

Lastly, I did get to see Rogue One over the holidays but I didn’t like it as much as I hoped. I would however go see it again to make sure. Loved the Imperial droid and seeing a few familiar faces. Couldn’t help but think of Carrie Fisher.

Now, tell me how things are going with you. Anything new or notable?

Monday, January 2, 2017

Bring it on 2017



Well. I can’t say I’m too sorry to see 2016 go. It was not the worst year (any year between 1346-1353 would better qualify) but we lost a lot of great people—Alan Rickman, David Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen, and Carrie Fisher, to name a few. I saw a nice tweet on FB from Prince William, I think, that said, ‘Condolences from the House of Windsor to House Organa.’ That’s how much she was loved. Then of course there was the awful election, and no matter how you voted you can’t tell me it wasn’t awful. Not to mention my own personal woes (*sigh* still waiting for my house to sell).

The good news is I’m not going to talk about any of that stuff. Instead I’m going to tell you something good. I completed my WIP, BELL, BLACK & BRIAR (a paranormal murder mystery…) and am now revising. This means in the future I may also talk to you about how much fun it isn’t moving scenes about and then revising because you moved some scenes about. I might also tell you how important it is to keep track of all your clues and leads and discoveries when you’re writing a mystery (trust me, it's really important). Or, I might deviate and tell you about Buffy (yes, I am re-watching for the third time, don’t judge), and am I the only one who thinks that Angel is a bit of a wuss and Spike is awesome?

Lastly I am going to publicly state a few goals, which shouldn’t be too hard for me to reach:
  1. Finish revisions on BB&B, send out to readers, and have it ready to go on submission by summer
  2. Read more books – I was a crappy reader last year; I need to do better this year - currently reading The Girl from Everywhere
  3. Make better health choices (less sugar, more vegetables and fruits, more walking, blah blah blah) cuz I ain't no spring chicken anymore!


Bring it on 2017!





Monday, December 5, 2016

First Impressions - Curiosity Kills


Welcome to another edition of First Impressions whereby one brave writer submits their first page for a critique by three authors: me,  Dianne Salerni, and Krystalyn Drown. This month we have a first page from a young writer named Jasmine. Here is the first page of her scifi story, CURIOSITY KILLS.

 


The air was light and crisp, the wind lightly flowing through the trees, gently shaking the leaves, which slowly moved (moved is a weak verb, how about fluttered?) their way down to the soft dirt ground. The mood (what mood? Do you mean clouds perhaps?) slowly departed to let the sun take over the sky. Purples, pinks, oranges and reds all painted the sky like a brand new canvas waiting to be framed. Axel sat patiently on his smooth wooden windowsill seat. He waited for the perfect time for the sky to set in its place.
“Bingo.” With his notebook in hand, he very gently and gracefully colored a picture of the sky in all its beauty. He grabbed all different kinds of colors form the new pencil set he bought from the store. He had finally saved up enough to buy the best pencils in town. Many of the townspeople (who? Many implies that a lot of the townspeople know him. Is he that well known in town? I think this would be more effective if it was more specific) would tell him that it was a waste to buy pencils when he could spend his money on something more useful and important. (such as?) He was very talented, though many people (again, not very specific. And why don’t they approve?) did not approve. He didn’t listen, though. He made quite a good profit by selling all of his artwork, (if he’s making money with his art, why would people be against him making art?) proving to people that it wasn’t a waste. Despite always being busy helping his mother around the house, he usually found time to relax and draw. (if he’s always busy, then he wouldn’t have the time. Maybe delete the word ‘always’)
After a while, Axel finished his drawing, satisfied with his work. He sat at his windowsill for a little while longer, watching the sun climb up the sky and the white, puffy clouds roll in. He then stood up, put his notebook on the seat, and walked over to his mirror. He was quite the handsome boy, just like his father. His raven black hair was slicked back and curling a bit on the ends. Crystal blue eyes, like his mother’s, shone like large diamonds on his white pale face. He had broad shoulders and a strong voice. A strong voice he faked 80 percent of the time only to impress the girls his age in the town. (lol. This is good. It shows rather than tells that he cares about making an impression with the girls)
Axel ran his bony fingers through his hair, making it messier than it already was. Even though he went to bed pretty early the previous night, he was still exhausted. (why?)The clanking of pots and pans, and the sound of running water could be heard coming from their large marble-based kitchen. The delicious smell of pancakes and bacon came wafting up the stairs and into his bedroom. (mmm, I can smell them, too)

My thoughts: The first thing I noticed was the number of adverbs (words that end in –ly): gently, lightly, slowly, patiently, gracefully. Adverbs are fine in small numbers but too many can overwhelm. So, for example: “The air was light and crisp, wind flowing through the trees, gently shaking the leaves, which slowly moved their way down to the soft dirt ground.” This way light is only used once and there’s only one adverb here instead of two. I should also say that I tend to use too many adverbs in my first drafts and often have to go back and rewrite.
The second thing is Axel going to the mirror. This is a common way to show what our characters look like but it’s a little too common. A better way might be to open with Axel watching the sky and describe him there. That way it seems like the narrator is showing the reader rather than Axel thinking he’s handsome and has his mother’s eyes, etc. I’d definitely keep the voice thing. Love that!
Third, this is supposed to be science fiction and I’d like to get a sense of that somewhere on this first page. It doesn’t have to be a lot, a hint will do, but even a suggestion could make this first page pop. I’d love to know why so many people don’t think he should make art when he’s obviously successful at it. Is it all the people, or just some of the people? And if some, which ones? That might be an interesting idea to explore.
Finally, I realize this first page is from a young writer, not someone who has been at it for a while. It usually takes many rewrites to get everything right on the first page (not to mention the succeeding ones). I would definitely recommend a class in creative writing if available, maybe through the local adult ed? It’s amazing how much we can all learn from each other no matter how old we are.
Jasmine, I hope you keep writing and practicing. You’ve got a great start here! Oh, love the tile, too :)

Readers, I’d love to hear your thoughts, and I’m sure Jasmine would, too.


Last but not least, due to family illness, I probably won't be back 'til after the new year. Be well and enjoy the holidays.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Me - Featured!

Just want to share with you all that I'm the featured writer at Writing and Wellness. A big thanks to Colleen for this :)


Monday, November 7, 2016

First Impressions - Untitled


We have a special First Impressions today from an aspiring 7th grade writer, as yet untitled. My partners in crime - Dianne K. Salerni and Krystalyn Drown - will also be critiquing this first page on their respective blogs, so I hope everyone will pay them a visit to see what their thoughts were.





Tightly clutching a twenty dollar bill in her hand, 23 year old Maya approached the counter at an Asian takeout restaurant.
“Uhm, could I have an order of spring rolls?” she uttered. In most cases, use he said, she said.
“Is that all?” The woman at the counter inquired.
Maya nodded. 
“That will be 11 dollars.” The woman added.
Maya handed the woman the twenty dollar (make it either 11 and 20 or eleven and twenty for consistency) bill and received her change. She situated herself on one of the red leathery cushions positioned throughout the wait area. She had heard good things about this restaurant, (no comma needed here) and was hoping that it would live up to the rumors. It was strange, really. The place just appeared one day out of nowhere. (ooh, interesting…) A different employee (a man this time) tugged on a short string connected to a bell, making a shrill ring that grabbed the attention of all the customers. He then placed a grease soaked takeout bag marked ‘spring rolls’ on the mahogany countertop. Maya stood and paced (walked or went is fine. Pacing implies repetition) over to the countertop and grabbed her food. She peered up at the man at the counter when she realized he had been staring at her the entire time she was here. He winked at her then continued staring. What a creep… Maya thought to herself and hurried out of the building. She shivered. That’s definitely a drawback. This place better have amazing food. Maya weaved through the bustling crowds of people out on the terribly paved streets of Vladivostok.
 A chunk of her ash blond hair slid into her face, covering one of her bronze-colored eyes. She ducked into an alleyway, pulled her hair away from her face, and continued walking down the alleyway. Her nose caught whiffs from the white paper bag in her hand, and she could almost taste the crispy, almost sweet parcels filled with a variety of vegetables. She navigated through a labyrinth of alleyways until she got so far out she came to an entrance to a forest. Maya loved this getaway from the busy life in the town. She would come here almost everyday now for some peace and quiet. The thick treetops were comforting, as they reminded her of her childhood that was full of adventure. Pulling back some blooming branches to create an opening, she entered and began to wander around. 
Following  the sound of a trickling stream, she came upon an old, eroded wooden bridge that was surrounded by lush underbrush. She maneuvered around the shrubs and sat down on the side of the bridge. The bridge was still damp from the morning dew. Maya slipped her flats off of her feet and set them next to her, swung her feet over the side of the bridge and opened her bag. She scarfed down the spring rolls(which really were as amazing as people said they were) and went to roll up her trash in the bag. I almost forgot. She pulled out a fortune cookie encased in a transparent plastic, tore away the wrapper, and snapped the cookie open. Setting the slip of paper holding her fortune to the side, she ate the cookie. When she picked up the slip of paper and read her fortune, she suddenly felt sick to her stomach. This must be some sort of a joke.. Her mind was racing. The paper read ‘Your life's in danger. Talk to nobody about this. You must leave to a different country immediately’. (This sentence reads awkwardly; I'm not sure you can leave to a different country. Maybe, You must get out of the country immediately.) Maya quickly gathered her trash, slipped her shoes on and ran all the way back to her flat that overlooked the ocean.

My thoughts: Aside from the grammatical errors (and I can tell you my grammar was waaay worse in 7thgrade) this is an intriguing first page. Did the take-out place actually appear overnight? Does it give out fortune cookies of a similar nature to all its clients, just some, or just Maya?? And why is Maya’s life in danger?!!! I don't know about you but I'd be curious enough to turn the page to find what happens next.

Readers, please chime in and help out by offering any suggestions you might have for improving this page. Aspiring author, thanks for submitting and keep writing!

Monday, October 31, 2016

You tell me

As some of you may remember, I posted at the beginning of the summer how I was trying to sell my wicked cute little house. It is now almost November, and I've had quite a few lookers, but no takers. I'm considering the idea of renting my house out, which would allow to me to move in with my sister, but I wonder how having renters in the house might affect selling. I'm also hoping some of you are landlords and can advise me of all the things to beware of, should I decide to rent. Certainly I'll check any potential tenants out, but beyond that, what should I know before committing to the idea? Maybe it's more of a headache than I want.

What do you think?

I'll leave you with the hope for a wonderful week and a few more pumpkin pics from past years...







Happy Halloween :)