Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Warm Holiday Wishes and Quotes of the Season

With Christmas a mere day away, the final countdown has begun. Soon our preparations will become celebrations. Family and friends will gather. Perhaps reindeer hooves will tramp over the roof, but most importantly, we’ll recall the birth of a baby boy in a manger.



I would like wish my blogging friends a very Merry Christmas by sharing more quotes about the holiday.

1. Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful. ~Norman Vincent Peale
2. Christmas gift suggestions: To your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a friend, your heart. To a customer, service. To all, charity. To every child, a good example. And to yourself, respect.~ Oren Arnold
3. Christmas - that magic blanket that wraps itself about us, that something so intangible that it is like a fragrance. It may weave a spell of nostalgia. Christmas may be a day of feasting, or of prayer, but always it will be a day of remembrance -- a day in which we think of everything we have ever loved. ~Augusta E. Rundel
4. There's nothing sadder in this world than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child.~Erma Bombeck
5. Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.~ Calvin Coolidge
6. He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree. ~Roy L. Smith
7. And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What, he thought, if Christmas doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more. ~Dr. Seuss
8. Christmas, children, is not a date. It is a state of mind. ~Mary Ellen Chase
9. Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time. ~Laura Ingalls Wilder
10. Every time we love, every time we give, it's Christmas.~Dale Evans
11. Once again we find ourselves enmeshed in the Holiday Season, that very special time of year when we join with our loved ones in sharing centuries-old traditions such as trying to find a parking space at the mall. We traditionally do this in my family by driving around the parking lot until we see a shopper emerge from the mall, then we follow her, in very much the same spirit as the Three Wise Men, who 2,000 years ago followed a star, week after week, until it led them to a parking space. ~Dave Barry
12. It is Christmas in the heart that puts Christmas in the air. ~W.T. Ellis
13. A lovely thing about Christmas is that it's compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together. ~Garrison Keillor



Thank you, my friends. I’m aware that some of you may not share this holiday. I appreciate your tolerance and I wish you all the best this season.



“Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!” ~Clement Clarke Moore

Sources
http://www.quotegarden.com/christmas.html
http://www.wisdomquotes.com/cat_christmas.html
http://www.allthingschristmas.com/quotes.html
http://www.carols.org.uk/twas_the_night_before_christmas.htm

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Cookie Traditions


This year marks the 18th year we've been baking Gingerbread Cookie with my childhood best friend and her family. You'd think baking cookies with 7 kids decorating might be a little crazy and I can assure you - it's a LOT crazy.


But over the years my friend and I have developed a great system and the kids have evolved. When the kids were very little we had cookies that were barely decorated, as they grew - along with their imaginations - the cookies become more and more elaborate.


As you can imagine, with a group of 5 boys and 2 girls we've seen our share of beautiful creations that are almost too pretty to eat to the mutants covered with red-hots that burst in the oven. The boys now range from 22 down to 11 and you can bet we've had years with cookie trays full of anatomically correct gingerbread men!


But no matter what they look like in the end, it doesn't matter. We've got a holiday tradition that will last forever in my kids memories. A wholesome day of cookie rolling, cutting and decorating and then eating! And what else would you expect from a waitress at the otherworld diner?


Debora's Gingerbread Men


1 Cup Butter

1 Cup Sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1 egg

1 Cup dark molasses

2 Tbs vinegar

5 Cups flour

1 1/2 tsp. Baking Soda

1 tsp allspice

1 tsp ginger

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground cloves


Cream butter, salt and sugar. Add egg, molasses and vinegar. Stir in flour, Baking soda and spices. Chill a few hours before rolling out. Roll out to your desired thickness, bake in a 350 degree oven approximately 7 minutes. Let cool on wire rack. Enjoy!


Monday, December 21, 2009

The Christmas Elf

Every family has their share of Christmas traditions. This year, a new one has been added to our household. My children, thanks to *very reliable* information from their friends at school, have discovered the sport of elf trapping. Yes, evidently if you create a small bed in your room and bait it with a glass of water, crushed crackers (don’t ask) and candy, an elf will come to visit you. With any luck, he’ll eat the treats, fall asleep in the elf bed and you can catch him before he wakes. So far, my children have had no luck snagging the little fella. But he’s made it known that he’s around. He’s left Pez dispensers on the elf beds, tubs of snowman cotton candy, a basement full of green balloons, “Elvis Was Here” written in foil confetti on the kitchen table (yes, our elf’s name is Elvis), and last but not least, he’s barricaded the children in their rooms using tacky purple and orange garlands like crime scene tape across their doors. What will the sneaky little guy in green think of next? Who knows? But the kids sure are enjoying his nocturnal visits, even though it means mom is not getting much sleep these days. Thankfully, Elvis goes back to the North Pole on Christmas Eve, not to return again until next year.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Otherworldly Christmas visitors

One of the most interesting aspects of the winter holidays are the ideas of intervention in the lives of mortals by otherworldly visitors at Christmas. Whether those visitors are ghosts, angels or Santa Claus himself, magical characters abound at Christmas.

Some of my favorite otherworldly characters are Marley's ghost and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future from Dickens' A Christmas Carol. The best Marley's ghost I've ever seen in movie form was Sir Alec Guinness in the movie musical of Scrooge. He was creepy and funny all at the same time. When Scrooge cowered away from Marley's ghost it was easy to see why.

The ghosts of Christmas Present and Future tend to look the same. Christmas Present is a jolly, huge fellow and Christmas future wears a black shroud. Moviemakers have taken some license with the Ghost of Christmas Past though. CP has been played as a whipcord thin young man, a pure young woman, an older woman in fancy dress and a number of other ways. I think it's because Dickens himself is very vague. He describes a figure both young and old with long white hair but the bloom of youth in its face. A thing with one arm then many arms, ever changing.

I really love Dickens' imagination and his ability to create these incredibly memorable characters that have so captured human spirit and memory that Christmas isn't really Christmas without them. I can't imagine a Christmas without watching the musical Scrooge starring Albert Finney or the classic Alastair Sim version of A Christmas Carol.

Another holiday favorite otherworldly character for me didn't originate in a book, but in a movie. Who can forget Clarence Oddbody, Angel Second Class from It's a Wonderful Life?

When George Bailey thinks the world would be a better place without him and he'd be more valuable to his family dead, Clarence steps in to save George. And he not only saves him by fishing him out of the cold river into which George jumped, but Clarence saves George's very soul. He shows George how the world would have been different had George never been born. The world without George Bailey is a cold, unhappy place.

As Clarence tells George "Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?" George learns an important lesson as a result of his otherworldly Christmas visitor and so does the audience.

And let's not forget the grandest otherworldly visitor of them all: Kris Kringle. Santa Claus. Jolly Old St. Nick. He's made an appearance in Elf, Santa Clause and any number of other films, but the grandaddy of Santa stories is the Miracle on 34th Street. Miracle is both a book and a movie, but I remember the movie best. There have been several versions. I adore the original with Edmund Gwenn but I also liked the for TV version featuring Sebastian Cabot as Kris Kringle.


Whichever version you love best, the message is that even when things are hard, you should have faith and believe because when you believe, good things happen.

That is the common theme in these stories of otherworldly visitors at Christmas. That somehow goodness can triumph. That goodwill toward men can be carried with us throughout the year if we just believe. Kindness and mercy can change even the hardest sinner amongst us into a good person. It's why when I watch these movies or read the books that I get misty eyed and my throat closes. Hope shines through even the murkiest nighttime of the soul and can light the future for us all.

So, as Tiny Tim said, "God bless us, every one."

Friday, December 18, 2009

What's In Your Basement?

I’m currently enrolled in Bob Mayer’s WARRIOR WRITERS. I highly recommend this course, but I warn you, there is a LOT of thinking involved. The parts of WARRIOR WRITERS that spoke most directly to me were those about fear and courage. One of the things he says is, “Your blind spot is wrapped around your deepest fears. A successful individual doesn’t ignore fear, but rather faces it, plans for it, and factors it into their life with courage.” Much different than the way I’ve always lived my life. I’ve mostly ignored fear, hoping it would go away. Until last spring.

It’s no secret that I had a sort of breakdown. Depression and anxiety took over until all I wanted to do was sit in front of the television and vegetate. Not like me. Not like me at all. What happened was that all the fear I’d collected from a childhood of abuse refused to stay in the box I’d shoved it in. Like the proverbial Pandora’s Box, it opened and all the stuff I seriously didn’t want to face flew out. I had to face my past.

It was, and is, hard. On the other hand, I’m a much stronger, happier, less haunted person because of it. Facing fear, even planning for it, not a bad way to live life. And maybe why I write paranormal. I can defeat the fictional monsters.

The creatures aren’t all bad, though. I’m currently working on a manuscript with a mythical creature who is anything but bad. It’s much lighter than my usual work too. (I’d appreciate any crossed fingers, toes, paws, claws, etc., as I finish it up and start looking for a publisher.)

Not that I’ll never write dark again. I love to play on the dark side — as long as there are the funny places to balance it all out.

Honestly, I think balance is the secret to a good life. Now if I could just find that balance…

So search the shadows and face the monsters lurking there. I promise, they’re more ethereal than corporeal; more bark than bite, to use a cliché.

Hope you and yours have/are having a wonderful holiday season!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Beating a Dead Book

So you've written a book. Let's assume it's a book one of the staffers here might write, a genre romance with paranormal or suspense elements -- or both! Let's also assume you've got a good grasp of the market and the English language and you send the manuscript to the right places, so to speak. You start with appropriate agents and move on to appropriate mainstream editors. You aren't sending your paranormal romance to nonfiction publishers and your manuscript isn't riddled with obvious mechanical errors. Your query letter has even been approved by people other than your critique parters.

This probably describes a lot of us. We write it, we know pretty much what we're doing, and we send it out, where we also know pretty much what we're doing.

The problem comes when your manuscript gets rejected everywhere and becomes, in essence, dead in the water.

What do you do with a story nobody wants to publish? In particular, and borrowing RWA's definition here, what does the career-focused romance author do with a book she can't get published by a standard advance paying publisher or even that her agent can't help her get published?

Clearly one thing you do if you're career-focused is start your next book, but you still have this manuscript that could be working harder for you.

A) Do you assume it flopped because it sucks and shelve it? I mean, really. We can't judge our own work. Why would everyone reject it if it had any redeeming qualities?

B) Do you revise it (assuming you have come up with or received worthy revision ideas) and send it back to NY? Granted, this is a gimme if anyone asked to see revisions, but if they didn't, the situation becomes trickier. Especially if revisions mean you postpone your new book.

C) Do you consider non-standard opportunities for romance fiction like small publishers that don't pay advances (carefully researched, of course) or the many varieties of self publishing cropping up here and there (even more carefully researched)? Keeping in mind that the smaller or more self-like the publisher, the more of the marketing, promotional, financial and other non-writerly burdens you'll have to shoulder.

It's up to every career-focused romance author to decide for herself or himself how much to beat a dead book -- or if the book's even dead yet. Does it sink like a stone when you throw it in the pond or is that as much a myth as all books that strike out in NY do it because they suck?

What do you do with manuscripts that seem dead in the water?

Jody W.
www.jodywallace.com * www.meankitty.com

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

New market listing

From Obsessed Writers Newsletter.

Spinetingler Magazine

http://www.spinetin glermag.com/ node/4

Focus: Fictional stories

Needs: Mystery, thriller, suspense, supernatural, ghost story, love, fantasy or science fictions stories from 1500-600 words

Pays: $25 USD

Email submissions to: spinetinglermag@ mysterybookspot. com

Friday, December 11, 2009

For the Cannibal Who Needs A Boost

Advertising rules the world, or at least serves as a well recognized figurehead in capitalistic cultures like that of the United States. Sometimes a good product is cursed with a poor marketing campaign. Sometimes a horrible product is blessed with an advertising team that could sell sand in Saudi Arabia. Then there are the times when an absurd product is matched with an advertising campaign that can only be the result of an overwrought marketing intern laden with too many Heinekens and not enough sleep.

As an example of that final category, I submit the following:


This is not a bag of blood. No, no. This is the newest energy drink designed specifically to cater to those caught up in the vampire craze.

Marketed as “the world’s first synthetic blood beverage,” this limited edition drink is intentionally designed to mimic the color, look, consistency, and nutritional composition of actual human blood. If that’s not enough to satisfy the fanged enthusiast lurking within you, the drink, sold as a Blood Energy Potion by Urban Collector, is packaged in a re-sealable transfusion style blood bag.

So, what do you think? Has marketing gone too far in delivering a drink that all but tastes like actual human blood? Or is Urban Collector and its marketing team merely responding to a need in the market? (I'm really hoping someone tries to argue that there is colossal void in the energy drink landscape that can only be filled by bagged faux-blood. If someone can convincingly make that case, I'll order a bag of Blood Energy Potion myself!)

-Lily

Monday, December 7, 2009

Supernatural Love Triangles

I’m sure I’m not the only person to notice the trend that’s been going on in paranormal romance for the past decade or more. It’s the interspecies love triangle. Specifically the vampire, the werewolf, and the human female. Most recently we’ve all seen it in Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series with the fanged Edward, fury Jacob and conflicted human Bella. But the situation has been around for awhile. Take Laurel K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series that started out with Anita the (then) human, Jean-Claude the vampire and Richard the werewolf. Then there’s the series I’m reading right now, Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series. Sookie is torn between a vampire and a shapeshifter. Actually, Sookie is caught in a love pentagon. She’s got two weres sniffing at her skirts (Sam and Alcide) and two vamps wanting to exchange two fanged hickies (Bill and Eric). What’s a girl to do?

So what’s up with this? While all the players involved are human at some point, we’re definitely talking apples and oranges. Or more like wolves, coyotes and toy poodles. Sure, they’re all in the canine family but you don’t find them interbreeding. Don’t get me wrong. I love a good vampire/human romance and there’s a certain animal magnetism to the werewolf/human romance, but I’m not sure where the idea came to intermingle all three. But if we’re going to do it, why not have a Gozdilla/King Kong/human triangle? Oh, wait. I think the Japanese already did that one. How about the Creature from the Black Lagoon/The Loch Ness Monster/human triangle? What? That doesn’t do it for you? Hmmm. Maybe the fanged and the fury is as far as it goes.

Or maybe not. If you could create your own supernatural love triangle, who (or what) would the lovers be?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

On Dasher, On Dancer, Onward to Christmas! 13 Quotes to Enliven Your Preparations





Now that Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, National Novel Writing Month and the start of December have come and gone, I’m thinking about the most anticipated holiday of the year -- Christmas. . .

And I’m actually perspiring.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas, but there’s such a multitude of preparations: gifts to purchase, packages to wrap, cards to send, trees to decorate, cookies to bake, dinners to create, parties to plan, people to visit. It can be overwhelming and I’d like to help you with that, if only in a small way.

Just as radio stations play Christmas carols to put you in a festive mood, I’d like to share some Christmas quotes to ready you for the festivities ahead.

Header by Samulli


1. Christmas is not as much about opening our presents as opening our hearts. ~Janice Maeditere
2. I do like Christmas on the whole. ... In its clumsy way, it does approach Peace and Goodwill. But it is clumsier every year. ~E.M. Forster
3. Let us remember that the Christmas heart is a giving heart, a wide-open heart that thinks of others first. The birth of the baby Jesus stands as the most significant event in all of history because it has meant the pouring of healing into a sick world -- a healing medicine of love which has transformed all manner of hearts for 2,000 years. Underneath all the bulging bundles is this beating Christmas heart. ~George M. Adams
4. Santa Claus has the right idea. Visit people once a year. ~Victor Borge
5. Christmas, children, is not a date. It is a state of mind. ~Mary Ellen Chase
6. Peace on Earth will come to stay when we live Christmas every day.~Helen Steiner Rice
7. Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree. In the eyes of children, they are all 30 feet tall. ~Larry Wilde, The Merry Book of Christmas
8. There are three stages of man: he believes in Santa Claus; he does not believe in Santa Claus; he is Santa Claus. ~Bob Phillips
9. There has been only one Christmas -- the rest are anniversaries. ~W.J. Cameron
10. I wish we could put some of the Christmas spirit in jars and open a jar of it every month. ~Harlan Miller
11. Christmas reminds us we are not alone. We are not unrelated atoms, bouncing and ricocheting amid aliens, but are a part of something, which holds and sustains us. As we struggle with shopping lists and invitations, compounded by December's bad weather, it is good to be reminded that there are people in our lives who are worth this aggravation, and people to whom we are worth the same. Christmas shows us the ties that bind us together, threads of love and caring, woven in the simplest and strongest way within the family. ~Donald E. Westlake
12. The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.~Burton Hillis
13. Keep your Christmas-heart open all the year round. ~Jessica Archmint

What are your thoughts about Christmas as it quickly approaches? Are you excited? Apprehensive? Do you have many dozens of tasks to complete? What helps you wade through them?

Monday, November 30, 2009

I'm a NaNoWriMo Winner!

You'll have to forgive me for posting my normal Monday blog late in the day, but I was under the gun. Now I'm sitting back and celebrating with a glass of red wine and patting myself on the back. I am proud to say that at exactly 5:03 PM EST today I passed the 50,000 word mark for NaNoWriMo (50,025 to be exact - hey, I was on a role!) This was my first ever attempt at NaNo and knowing that I'm the slowest writer alive, I wasn't sure I could do it. But I did and it is such a sense of accomplishment.

So, what did I learn from NaNo?

1) That I can sit my butt in a chair and write, write, write. Is it all golden? Heck no. I'm sure I'll be adding another 50K or so, and editing the heck out of this thing. But since I pantzed most of it (I'm usually a die hard plotter), it was quite freeing and I ended up with some nice surprises along the way.

2) I also learned thanks to Dr. Wicked's Write or Die program that I can spew out 1,000 words in under 40 minutes. Imagine if I did that 8 hours a day. Okay, so that would probably make my head explode. It practically killed me doing the last 5,100 words I needed to finish today.

3) And finally, I learned that when I finally do get published (and I will) I will not be intimidated by the thought of deadlines because now I know I have it in me to write fast and furious.

Okay. I'm done. My brain is now officially fried. I'm going to sit back and not write another word for the rest of the night. Instead, I'm just going to bask in the glow of going after a major goal and achieving it.

Friday, November 27, 2009

THE PIE INSPECTOR GOES SOULLESS


By Annie Solomon

If you're looking for something fun to take you out of the holiday stress, have I got a book for you! It's a little bit Jane Austen, a little bit Twilight, and a little bit Harry Potter. What can possibly combine all these divergent trends?


Soulless by Gail Carriger.


Now I'm no longer much of a reader. Maybe it's hormones (or lack thereof) or maybe it's too much writing (I tend to see the hidden structure and story-telling techniques too easily), but I have a hard time concentrating on books. So when I began investigating steam punk I ran up against a hard obstacle: I don't read.

But someone mentioned Gail to me and I was desperate enough to figure this whole steam punk thing out that I actually went to the bookstore and bought the book.

And it has given me hours of fun.

Set in Victorian England, the book is (I guess) what you'd call an "alternate reality." Like HP, magical beings inhabit the realm. Unlike the unknowing muggles, though, everyone knows about the supernaturals of Soulless . They are "out" so to speak and are kept in line by the Bureau of Unnatural Registry (BUR), a division of Her Majesty's Civil Service. The hero of the book is the head of the BUR, the large, handsome and estimable Lord Macon, Earl of Woolsey, who also happens to be a werewolf.


The heroine, Alexia Tarabotti, is a combination of Elizabeth Bennett and Mary Poppins. She has the wit and forthrightness of the former and the no-nonsense attitude of the latter. Her Italian heritage gives her a tawny complexion that is most undesirable, as well as a genetic inheritance that makes her unique: she has no soul. As such, she can bring down the most blood-hungry vampire or the most vicious werewolf with the touch of her hands. She is also, alas, a spinster, having reached the ripe old age of 26 with no marriage prospects in sight.

Alexia and Lord Macon meet cute in the infamous "hedgehog incident" which happens off camera (and is the funnier for it) but which is referred to often in the book. He is both annoyed and intrigued by her intelligence and self-possession; she is resigned to his annoyance and secretly attracted to his, well...his manly virtues (and who wouldn't be, I ask you?)

The story revolves around the mystery of disappearing rogue werewolves and the sudden appearance of rogue vampires--all of which happen without the knowledge or consent of the BUR.

As a so-called "steam punk" book, Soulless has the requisite science background. Characters wear odd spectacles called "glassicals" that are adorned with practical doo-dads. Carriger makes use of emerging 19th century technology, such as electricity and chloroform. There are plenty of steam-powered machines and gadgets and at least one robotic creature. And the scientific search for the soul that is necessary to transform humans into supernaturals forms the plot's backbone.

But what truly makes the book enjoyable are the characters. Alexia Tarabotti is a wonderful companion and I loved watching her annoy her werewolf. Lord Macon is a fine example of the bamboozled male--strong, confident, and completely undone by his dawning affection for Alexia.

Soulless is described on the book's cover as "a novel of vampires, werewolves, and parasols." It is the first in what I hope will continue to be a wonderfully imagined series. Kudos to Carriger for thinking it up.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Got Turkey?

Since a large portion of our customers are off doing some massive home cooking or preparing to do some massive home cooking -- or at the very least preparing to do some massive home eating -- Thanksgiving (US) at the Otherworld Diner we tend to close our doors and enjoy our families. On Black Friday we're open, serving up tasty desserts to soothe the stress of harried shoppers, but not on US Turkey Eatin' Day.

Now, not everyone who celebrates Thanksgiving has turkey for dinner. Vegetarians, turkey haters, people watching their income and outgo, folks just plain bored with gobbler -- they might mix it up on this fourth Thursday in November. I've heard of people trying everything from salmon to rattlesnake (ew!) on Thanksgiving instead of turkey. For more information about the traditional US Thanksgiving dinner you can visit our own Brenda's post from last week here:

http://otherworlddiner.blogspot.com/2009/11/thanksgiving-feasts-facts-you-may-want.html'

A lot of us do stick with the big bird for our big eating. Here are some more non-traditional turkey recipes and recipes for turkey leftovers you might like to try:

Whole turkeys:

http://www.cooksrecipes.com/poultry-recipes/whole_turkey_recipes.html
http://cecisartandothermagicaladventures.blogspot.com/2008/11/best-non-traditional-turkey-recipe.html
http://www.eatturkey.com/consumer/cookinfo/twist.html
http://www.bbq-fyi.com/turkey-dry-rub.html
http://www.food2.com/blog/2009/11/12/thanksgiving-beer-can-turkey-aka-turkey-on-a-tall-boy

Turkey leftovers:
http://southernfood.about.com/od/turkeycasserole/r/bl40330e.htm
http://southernfood.about.com/od/turkeyrecipes/r/r81130h.htm
http://www.pottstownmercury.com/articles/2009/11/25/life/srv0000006914899.txt
http://members.cox.net/mmcnalley/Archives/turkey.htm
http://www.eatturkey.com/consumer/thanksleft.html

***

Jody W.
http://www.jodywallace.com * www.meankitty.com

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Keeping it Short...

Hi all,
I've been in the throes of wrestling with a short story I need to finish...um...like...yesterday. I don't have an official deadline, but since I'm writing as part of a group of writers (and the concept was my bright idea) it would be nice if I actually got my story completed. I'm finding this a huge challenge and I have great respect for those of you out there who can write short.

The first thing I ever wrote (for publication) was a 18K short story. Alpha v Alpha pretty much wrote itself. Boy how I wish my current project would just write itself. I'm over 10k words and yet I struggle. Part of my problem is indeed my own fault. I have trouble forcing myself to write when nothing seems inclined to sprout from the end of my fingers (in terms of typing on my laptop). If the story isn't flowing, I have trouble forcing myself to keep going. BUT...that's what I need to do right now. I guess the willingness to write crap just to get something written (that you can edit when you're done) separates the men from the boys...or women from the girls, in my case. I've always had issues with the "sit down and write even if it's crap" attitude. I hate writing crap.

Does anyone have any tips for forcing yourself to keeeeeeeep going? Do you offer yourself rewards? What? Help me? I'm melting... melting... Oh my beautiful world... Ooops sorry - that something else. Anyway, I'm sure you get the idea. Suggestions anyone?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Thanksgiving Feasts: Facts you may want to gobble up!




What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Thanksgiving? For me, it’s food. Oh, sure, I also ponder family and things I’m grateful for but soon my mouth starts to water and I’m back to contemplating the food.
If you’re like me, even though the holiday is weeks away, you’re already anticipating the traditional turkey dinner featuring cranberries, sweet potatoes, green- bean casserole, rolls, gravy and corn, topped off with pumpkin pie or maybe cherry or apple.

Thanksgiving has always meant a feast – typically a super-sized one.

Even before the Pilgrims and Native Americans celebrated the first Thanksgiving in the fall of 1621, people gathered to share food and to express gratitude for their blessings. I don’t know when turkey became the traditional main course. Perhaps it happened around the time President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving an official holiday in 1863. He established a date for the holiday -- the last Thursday in November. Or perhaps turkey became the holiday’s unofficial meat when President Franklin Roosevelt formalized Thanksgiving on the FOURTH Thursday in November.
Ever wonder how much food goes into that feast and where – besides your garden -- the ingredients for this delicious meal probably originate?

I’ve found some interesting statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau.





1. In 2007, American farmers raised 272 million turkeys, many expressly for the purpose of Thanksgiving dining.
2. Again according to the 2007 census data, Minnesota raises the most turkeys, followed by North Carolina, Arkansas, Virginia, Missouri and California.
3. Surprisingly enough, those millions of turkeys didn’t meet America’s demands. Americans spent $9.5 million on importing live turkeys. The majority of those turkeys came from Canada.
4. In 2007, in cranberry states such as Wisconsin, agricultural workers harvested an estimated 690 million pounds of cranberries.
5. Other states such as North Carolina, California, Mississippi and Louisiana contributed 1.6 billion pounds of sweet potatoes.
6. The breads, rolls, pie crusts and Thanksgiving delights were created from the 1.8 billion bushels of wheat produced by states such as Kansas and North Dakota.
7. If you’re making or devouring the traditional green-bean casserole, it might interest you to know that about 841,280 tons of green beans are produced yearly by states including Wisconsin.
8. What about the pumpkin pie? Where do all those pumpkins come from? The 1 billion pounds of pumpkins were grown in patches mainly in Illinois, California, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
9. The 294 million pounds of tart pie-making cherries originate in such states as Michigan.
10. In 2005 the average American ate 13.1 pounds of turkeys. Whether it was all at the Thanksgiving meal wasn’t specified, but we certainly hope not. But then, if they were referring to my nephew Drew, I can tell you he ate at least a third of the 13.1 pounds. That guy l-o-v-e-s his turkey slices.
11. Americans consumed an average of 4.5 pounds of sweet potato every year. Again, back to Drew. He didn’t make this average -- at least at Thanksgiving probably because of all those helpings of turkey.
12. There are 114. 4 million households in the United States. God willing, we’ll all find a place to gather together for the holiday.



Happy Thanksgiving.


Source
http://www.census.gov/PressRelease/www/releases/archives/facts_for_features_special_editions/010763.html

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Words of Thanks


No, this week is not Thanksgiving, so please don't think you're a week behind!

BUT, since this is my Tuesday of the month to post and Thanksgiving is next week I thought I might make use of it.

At the risk of not being politically correct, I'd like to offer up some thanks for the year that's past and hope for the year ahead.

While we sit down to our tables laden with goodies (and calories) it's a good time to reflect on what we've done and we hope to do in the future. So in honor of the day and the spirit in which the original pilgrims gave thanks for their plentyful harvest, I offer up a few things I'm thankful for this year.

Health. Something heathly people take for granted, but when illness strikes a family, it touches everyone. As the Mom of an autistic 18 yr. old son, I can tell you any illness - physical, emotional or mental - takes a toll on a family and their everyday life.

Family. Sometimes this isn't obvious and I think we all tend to take those around us for granted. I'm guilty to paying more attention to my writing life than my personal life too much of the time. I focus on plots and characters, sometimes missing the characters running through my real life and for those people I need to stop and take a deep breath, give thanks and show how much they mean to me.

Friends. Similar to above. How many people haven't I called back while on a deadline? How many dinners or lunches or shopping trips have I postponed? I'm the first one to chant to my kids "to have a friend, you have to be a friend" - this year I'm not only giving thanks for the friends I have, but adding a promise to spend more time reconnecting with them!

Writing. Over the last few years I've devoted more and more time to my writing. I love it. I'd been a closet writer for years and can't remember a day I didn't have characters and storylines running through my head. Finally getting them on paper has been an experience I give thanks for everyday. It's my sanity in an insane world. I create happy endings - could anyone ask for a more satisifying job than that? (Now only if I could actually start paying a bill or two with this "job" my husband would be thrilled!)

And last but not least, I want to thank the paranormal community at large. Readers, writers and believers who enjoy that little bit of magic we call fun paranormal romance!

This is just a small list of what I'm thankful for this year. I know not everyone will be sitting down to a table as full as in the past or maybe loved ones have lost jobs or face an uphill road battling an illness. I hope everyone has a glimmer of light somewhere on that table, someone's hand to hold and a smile to share.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 16, 2009

NaNo Progress

This post is going to be short and sweet. I'm writing it on borrowed time, working on two manuscripts at once. I was doing pretty good with my NaNo ms. Got a late start because the kids were out of school for two days, but thanks to some write-ins, I was on my way to catching up. Then life got in the way -- but in a good way. I just received a request for the full of my last manuscript from a query I'd sent out in July (go figure). The problem is, between then and now I had been revising the behemoth in order to get the word count down to a saleable level. Then in October, I started researching for the NaNo book and put the other manuscript aside leaving it in a big, tangled mess. Now I'm trying to clean it up so I can send it out AND keep up with my NaNo word count. Guess this is what it's going to feel like when I have a new book due and revisions for the one before it land on my desk at the same time. Ugh, time management, not my strong suit.

NaNo book: 16,000 words as of 10:45 this morning

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Nap Conundrum

I came across a rough draft of a post tonight that I think I never shared. My life has changed since I wrote the post in that my at-home child is in the process of GIVING UP her naps. That's an article in and of itself, but it's not the one I'm sharing today.

Today this is dedicated to caretakers of young persons or former caretakers of young persons who have ever stayed home with said young person. And even caretakers who only stay home with their young person sometimes. I am sure you at some point received the piece of assvice, I mean, advice, that you should complete this or that task while your young persons are napping.

This is, of course, compounded if you have more than one young person, since small children are incapable of napping simultaneously. I think it's one of Einstein's lesser known laws. Either way, let's list all the things you've probably heard you should complete while the young persons are napping:

1) If you are so ambitious as to have a second career and conduct any business while in the home, it has probably been advised that you do this work while the child is napping. Since you would like to keep this second career afloat, this seems wise.

2) If you are responsible for household tasks that involve chemicals, hot stoves, high places, scissors or other aspects that are not child-friendly, it has probably been advised you tackle these while the child is napping. Since you would like your home to not be condemned and you would like food on the table (aside from the oatmeal crusted in the cracks), this seems wise.

3) If you have important telephone calls to make and you would like to do them with nobody screaming in the background, it has probably been advised that you wait to dial until the child is napping. Since you would like to be able to hear the customer service rep putting you on hold, this seems wise.

4) If exhaustion or illness affects you during the day and you would like to reduce your degree of physical discomfort, it has probably been advised that you nap while the child is napping, particularly when said child is an infant and you are running on two hours of sleep. Since you can't take care of anyone if you're a puking zombie with a migraine, this seems wise.

5) If you want to add exercise to your regimen of exhaustion and illness and you find that wakeful small ones are not conducive to a work-out, it has probably been advised that you aerobicize while the child is napping. Since you don't want to have a dangerous toddler/treadmill/tae-bo accident, this seems wise.

6) If there are any aspects of your personal hygiene that might distract you from monitoring your inquisitive small person, it has probably been advised that you shower/shave/etc. while the child is napping. Since you would like to do SOME things in private and in safety, this seems wise.

7) If you have, for some insane reason, volunteered for something you can do in the home but the presence of small children hinders your ability to fulfill this promise, it has probably been advised that you keep your promise while the child is napping. Since you don't want to be a total shirker and get a bad reputation, this seems wise.

8) At the bottom of the list, if you have any hobbies that are complicated by wakeful small persons (beading, woodworking, meditation, internet trolling, I don't know--it's your hobby), it has probably been advised that you indulge while the child is napping. Since you would like to have some personal pleasure in your life, this seems wise.

9) In that vein, if you partake of media (TV, movies, music, broadcast news, porn) that is inappropriate for small persons but you'd like to stay up to date what's going on in your chosen entertainment venue, it has probably been advised that you partake while the child is napping. Since you don't want to warp your young persons too soon but you're unwilling to give up your demon hunting brothers, this seems wise.

Note: All these recommendations have to take into consideration the fact that if your task is crucial or otherwise time-delimited, the child will be much more prone to wake up in the middle of it, so whatever it is, you'd better be able to put it down without ruining everything.

These same recommendations apply to any minutes you squeeze out of your day before the kids get up and after they go to bed, with added conflicts like spending quality time with a spouse or older child so they don't feel neglected and you don't forget what they look like.

I agree it's wise to do these things while the child is napping. It's safer, easier, smarter and more efficient. However, the child only naps so much, and yet there's so much you need to accomplish. How do you choose? Me, I pretty much always choose "career"--I'm an author, and trying to cram writing, marketing, promotion and paperwork into 5 naps a week, when I'm lucky, is a struggle, but it's the only way I can come close to making it work. Hobbies and housecleaning all have to take a back seat right now--if they can find room in the back seat the exercise equipment and personal hygiene! I have hopes the tide will turn once both children are in school, so if you have all your kids in school and you know better, please don't burst my bubble.

Which brings us to:

10) If you have been working on a solution to the whole 24 hours a day thing and you're nearing a breakthrough, it has probably been advised you experiment with your tricky mathematical theorum about the space-time continuum while the child is napping. Since you would like to have enough time in the day to do everything you need to do during the precious minutes your child is safely asleep, this seems wise.

Jody W.
So much cyberspace, so little time!
www.jodywallace.com / www.meankitty.com

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Brainstorming

Today, I went on a road trip with another writer who was having a problem with their current novel in progress. We drove down to the Lake of the Ozarks, and on the way, we talked about the issues involved. A character who started out as a one-time appearance had become bigger and more interesting, and we had to create a mythology for this paranormal story.

The character, for all intents and purposes, after 45 minutes of brainstorming, has become an integral part of not only the second book in the series, but will now also appear in the rest of the series as well... not just this character, but his "job" will affect the main character in what he is doing and trying to accomplish.

Brainstorming is a great way to get your story moving, surprise the reader and create characters that keep readers coming back for more. So where do you find someone to brainstorm with? I suggest going to your local writer's groups, conferences, online Yahoo groups like this one, or asking a writer friend. It will help you recharge and get motivated to get back to your writing - and you know who you are :) Some of us need a little push here and there - I know I do.

If you need help finding a brainstorming buddy, start looking around or just email at mdntvoices@yahoo.com and I'll see if I can help you find the right place to connect with a group or person who's right for you.

Happy writing!

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Hype of Twilight

Fortunately or not, depending upon your point of view, Twilight has become a bona fide cultural phenomenon, thrusting vampires into the limelight like nothing else in recent years. Now, I love vampires as much as the next gal, but I'm not sure I understand the complete madness that surrounds this particular set of vampires. Excuse me, this particular set of *sparkly* vampires. It seems that just the sight of Rpatz (that’s Robert Pattinson for those of us gratefully beyond our teenage years), with his tasseled, unwashed hair and suspiciously dilated eyes, can send tweens into a state of hysteria unseen since Beatlemania.

To be honest, I read Twilight. I enjoyed it too, at the time. It’s somewhat hard to remember that innocent enjoyment now, what with my allergy to over-hype. But it seems we’ve finally reached a point in all the Twilight-mania where my enjoyment can return. That point, my friends and patrons, is the backlash.

Oh, how I love snark.

On November 4, The Harvard Lampoon released the Twilight parody, Nightlight. The first chapter is available online through Entertainment Weekly, and proves to be mildly entertaining. For those familiar with both Stephenie Meyer’s infamous series, and the movies it’s spawned, Nightlight may prove to be a breath of fresh air in a fandom that's getting rather stuffy with fanaticism.




My favorite part of this parody? Waiting to see the outraged response from the Super Fans. Now THAT will be amusing.

~Lily

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Sick of Being Sick? 13 Suggestions to Get You Better, Quick!


Header by Samulli


I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of being sick. Weeks ago I caught a doozy of a cold. I shared it with my family and we passed the virus around until I caught it again. After feeling sorry for myself, I decided to use my computer to find ways I could speed my recovery. I found these suggested remedies and ways to stay healthy.
I figured you’d want to know. …

1. Wash your hands. WebMD states, “Amazingly, about 80% of contagious diseases are transmitted by touch.”
2. If you sneeze, don’t cover your nose or mouth with your hands. You can spread germs that way. Use a tissue instead or the crook of your arm.
3. Get fresh air. Inside air may be re-circulated and may actually expose you to even more viruses.
4. Drink water. It’ll help you flush out the virus and keep you hydrated.
5. Don’t touch your face. You don’t want to spread the germs from your hands.
6. Exercise. Being active bolsters your immune system.
7. Get rest. Getting enough sleep is another way to boost your immune system.
8. Eat vegetables. Especially the dark green leafy ones. They contain phytochemicals which build up your body’s immunity.
9. Don’t smoke. You already know that smoking’s hard on your lungs, but did you know smoking dries out your nasal cavities and prevents those little cleaning hairs in your lungs from filtering out viruses?
10. Drink less alcohol. Alcohol dehydrates, which makes it harder for your body to rid itself of the virus.
11. Take cod-liver-oil tablets. They’re loaded with Vitamins A and D, which help the immune system.
12. Take Vitamin C within the first 24 hours that symptoms appear. Again, the idea is to rev up your immune system.
13. Consider herbal remedies such as garlic, ginger, oregano, lemon or even horseradish. For generations people have applied these home cures and many still claim they work.

I’m determined to get over my cold as fast as possible. Do you have any suggestions? What has worked for you?

Sources
http://www.preventtheflu.com/ http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/cold-guide/12-tips-prevent-cold-flu http://nutrition.about.com/od/foodfun/a/flu_foods.htm

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Meet Gretchen Stull

This past couple of weeks, we've added 2 employees to the Diner Staff. Last week we met Annie Solomon and this week we're meeting Gretchen Stull, who's our special Graveyard Shift waitress. Gretchen doesn't work full time -- we only open for the late shift on special nights -- but her first post will be this coming Friday.

***

1) Briefly, who are you as an author and what do you write?

As an author, I am dark and mysterious. Wait no, no that's not me, that's someone else entirely.

I'm pretty much the same, as an author and just as myself. I like to venture into dark territory at times, but only if there's humor to be found in it. I'm more of a cynic than an optimist, but I fully believe in happy endings. I prefer anti-heroes to heroes, and alpha males to any other kind, but I still like characters who are intrinsically good and who'll do the right thing when presented with a choice.

That's what I like about paranormal romance, which is what I write. It can be dark, it can be gritty, it can be emotional, but it can be funny and reaffirming at the same time.

2) What do you do (voluntarily) when you're not writing?

I like to sleep. I'm a big fan of sleep!

When not writing, slaving away at my day job, or sleeping, I like to sew and make clothing, watch movies, read for fun, attend concerts, and travel.

3) What's your favorite deadline snack?

As much as I hate to admit it, when I'm on a deadline I head straight for the junkfood. Deadline snacks have to be fast and easy because I don't want the act of cooking or going to a nicer restaurant to waste any potential writing time. So that means hitting up a fast food establishment for meals (McDonalds fries and iced coffee often became the meal of choice during thesis-writing hell), and as for actual snacking, I like the snacks that mix salty and sweet. Kettle Corn has often kept my laptop and I company on those long, lonely deadline nights.

4) What is it about paranormal romance? How do you feel paranormal elements enhance the romance and vice versa?

Paranormal romance captures my imagination like no other stories out there. I think paranormal elements enhance all relationships and interactions within paranormal stories, not just the romantic relationships. No matter how mundane an action or interaction may be, when it's skewed by a paranormal element (be it a paranormal being or setting), the stakes are upped. Paranormal stories usually contain closely guarded secrets and life or death stakes. A wrong move doesn't just ruin a relationship, it can jeopardize a life or even the safety of an entire group of beings. I think those kind of stakes make characters more cautious of entering into romantic relationships and render the final decision to make that plunge into a monogamous romantic relationship an act of bravery all its own.

5) Authors also tend to be devoted readers. What authors do you read for inspiration and/or enjoyment?

I love JR Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series. To be completely honest, her Dark Lover was the first true paranormal romance book I ever read. It's what got me hooked! I think Neil Gaiman is nothing short of brilliant, I read Stardust as a teenager and it's been my favorite book ever since. Max Brooks' World War Z is a book I recommend to everyone, it just works on so many levels. Those are really at the top of my list, though I also greatly enjoy the works of Charlaine Harris, JK Rowling, Lauren Willig, and Janet Evanovich as well.

6) What is your biggest "collection" (besides books)?

DVDs. I have an embarrassing amount of DVDs lying around. I've always loved movies and I used to freelance as a film critic for a small newspaper in Alabama. I also studied film in college and grad school so, yeah, I have more than my fair share of movies.

7) What were your favorite childhood (as in pre-teen, even) books or movies? Can you spy the seeds of paranormal romance budding even then?

Oh, the seeds of paranormal romance were sown early, even if I didn't realize it at the time. When I was 9, NBC decided to revive the old soap opera, Dark Shadows. It was an abysmal failure that lasted only 13 episodes, but the damage was done. I was hooked. Ive been a vampire addict ever since.

After Dark Shadows, I became obsessed with the X-Men cartoon that showed on Fox in the mid 1990s. During my freshman year of college, it was Dark Angel, followed soon after by Smallville, Special Unit 2, and Firefly. Futuristic, paranormal, and science fiction shows, laced with romantic tension, have always been my favorite. Im eagerly awaiting True Blood, season 3.

8) What paranormal book or movie would you like to be dropped into the middle of, to experience the world if not the entire plot?

Honestly, if I could only choose one, I would choose the Harry Potter world. Even though that probably sounds a little juvenile, the world Rowling created in those books is so multilayered and fascinating. I would love to experience that world as a witch, I doubt it would be as much fun as a muggle.

9) If you had to have a lifesize standee of a character in a paranormal tv series, movie or book in your bedroom at all times, who would it be and how would other residents of your household probably feel about it?

If I had to have one, which is the only way I would, it would likely be a lifesize standee of Vampire Eric Northman from True Blood, and likely it would be a present from my friend Kristen who tends to turn up with odd things like that.

As for the other residents of my home? My boyfriend would probably notice it once, roll his eyes at me, and then promptly begin using it as a clothes hanger. Brady the dog would be terrified of it, because he is terrified of everything. And Simon the cat would use it to sharpen his nonexistent claws while glowering menacingly at the dog.

10) What is some of the most unusual research you've done for your fiction?

For my nonfiction writing I've gone to some lengths, including becoming a regular at a Georgia strip club, but my fiction research has been far tamer. A lot of reading up on mythology from around the globe and using Google Earth, nothing too exciting or bizarre.

11) If you were deprived of your computer for a year and had no looming deadline, would you write your next book in longhand anyway or keep notes and wait until you had a computer again to finish it?

I tend to write a lot of my stories and ideas longhand now, so I'd definitely write longhand. I find it slows me down enough that I can really flesh out my characters as I'm writing. Now, when I'm really on a roll I prefer typing it out, but if I'm experiencing writer's block, writing longhand is one of the ways I get through it.

12) If you could have a little-known superpower, what one would you pick and why? What one would your friends and loved ones pick FOR you?

If I could have any little-known superpower, I'd choose Super Insomnia. I would be able to exist without ever sleeping (unless I chose to sleep) and would have no ill effects like sleep deprivation to cloud my judgment. Do you have any idea how much I could accomplish in a day if I didn't have to sleep? It would be wonderful. I'd call myself Productivity Gal.

When I asked my boyfriend this question, he said he'd choose flight. We like to travel, and if I could fly we'd get places more quickly. Of course, continuous motion tends to put me to sleep (which should further explain my desire for Super Insomnia), so he put in a stay awake while flying addendum to the power of flight.

13) Anything else you'd like to share with visitors to the Diner?

Hmm, I think the patrons are just going to have to stop by to know me better :)

***

Jody W.
www.jodywallace.com * www.meankitty.com

Monday, November 2, 2009

On Your Mark. Get Set. Go!

Yesterday, at 12:01 am, NaNoWriMo officially began. For those of you not in the know, that’s National Novel Writing Month. Registered writers have until midnight Nov. 30th to write a 175 page, 50,000 word novel. That’s technically more like a novella, but the folks at http://www.nanowrimo.org/ wanted to make it a doable goal for people. The majority of writers could never churn out a true 100,000 word novel in a month (Sherrilyn Kenyon, Gena Showalter and other author goddesses are the exception – they are paranormal creatures themselves, requiring little, if any, sleep to live).

This is my first ever attempt at this undertaking. Yes, I’m a NaNo virgin. Please be gentle with me. In order to meet the 50K goal in a month, authors need to average 1,667 words per day to stay on track. For me, I know my weekends are often iffy for writing productivity, so I have to try to get more like 2400 words a day, 5 days a week to keep up. I don’t think I’ve ever written that much on a daily basis in my life, but I’m gonna try. Afterall, the writing is not expected to be perfect. It's not called the shitty first draft for nothing.

So how did I do my first day? Not so well. I blame it on a rainy, miserable day with both my husband and two bored children trapped in the house with me. I only got 393 words done yesterday. But I just have to remember that I’m aiming to hit my writing goals during the weekdays while the kids are in school and anything done on the weekend is bonus material. Yesterday was Sunday, so technically NaNo in my household starts today and I’m already 393 words ahead. Yippee! Now let’s just see if I can do my 2400 words today and keep it up for the rest of the week. I’ll let you know how it goes.

So, have we got any other NaNos at the diner?

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween - gothic romance style

Happy Halloween to one and all!

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I'm not sure why exactly. When I was little I loved dressing up and going from house to house to collect candy. Even in my teens I liked the dressing up part, though I didn't do the candy collection thing.

Maybe it's something about putting on a costume and being someone other than who you really are. On Halloween you can be anyone...or anything. The possibilities are endless for someone with a vivid imagination. Since I joined the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) in the 1990s I usually go with being a "medieval lady" for Halloween. It's a quick and easy costume. But I still love the "be whoever you want to be" aspect of the holiday.

I also enjoy being scared and Halloween provides a safe outlet for feeling and expressing fear. My first brush with feeling safely scared (outside of trick or treating) was reading gothic romance. Those great books where the heroine fell in love with a dark, brooding and compellingly dangerous man.

As a reader you were pretty sure he was the hero and wouldn't kill her, but the heroine wasn't nearly so sure. She was attracted to him but she was frightened by him too. I avidly read Victoria Holt when I was in my teens and she was a master at creating an eerie story where the heroine was in danger and didn't know who to trust.

I loved Jane Eyre for this same reason. There was a mysterious and intense connection between Jane and Rochester. But...there was a nameless evil lurking in the house. A danger that stalked Jane. I loved the fact that Jane was so intrepid. She saved herself and then went back to face her fears.

I think it was gothic romance that fed my love of paranormal romance. Because even more dangerous than a dark brooding lord of the manor is a dark, brooding lord of the manor with fangs. There was something strangely compelling about Dracula - even as over-the-top as Bela Lugosi played him. Dracula seemed to be someone who controlled others yet loved deeply.

This was especially true when I saw the 1979 version of Dracula starring Frank Langella. I was sixteen but even though the movie was rated R, I got in because I looked old enough to go. Frank Langella was nummy and I was ready to open a vein if he asked. Trevor Eve, who played Jonathon Harker, was good looking but really whiney - NOT hero material. Langella rocked the screen.

I was deeply affected by this film because it was one of the first times I remembered Dracula portrayed as a flawed individual who was dangerous but not necessarily inherently evil. He was seductive and strong. He could have had any woman but he was committed to Lucy and protective of her. It made him very appealing.

Another Dracula that made an impression was Gary Oldman's portrayal. He did the creepy aspect of Dracula very well. Licking Keanu Reeves blood off the razor blade while wearing the weird hair, or wig or whatever, was definitely repulsive. But even in that form, he was intriguing. When he traveled to England and began to romance Mina...wow. He was suddenly human. A man in love with a woman instead of a vamp in search of his next meal.

I loved the ending of this movie too. To find out what had turned him into a vampire in the first place was both romantic and heartbreaking. This was a great movie.

So do you have favorite gothic or paranormal romances in book or movie form? What do you like best about a gothic or paranormal hero or heroine? What appeals to you about Halloween?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Gretchen Stull, Waitress (Graveyard Shift)

A professional night owl, Gretchen just couldn’t resist the “Help Wanted – Graveyard Shift” sign hanging in the Otherworld Diner window. After chatting up the regulars (and a bit of begging), she was hired. Now she happily serves up delicious food with a side of witty repartee, keeping a mental record of all her encounters for use as future story fodder.

Usually off in a fantasy world of her own creation, Gretchen prefers tales of the paranormal, especially when those tales involve vampires and zombies. She’s not opposed to a healthy dose of romance or dark humor either. Her stories of paranormal romance follow a general recipe of one part alpha male, one part feisty heroine, and one part supernatural setting, blended together on high with a dollop of sarcasm and fresh suspense to taste. Best served hot!

Why Not SciFi?

I was poking around the Diner in preparation for my first inspection when I ran across this little item buried in a corner: “‘Dollhouse’ swept off the air for sweeps month.”

Dollhouse, of course, is the Joss Whedon TV show about an underground organization that provides its high paying clients with any fantasy they want—in the person of men or women whose brains are repeatedly wiped of all memory and then loaded with whatever personality the client requires. This allows the star, Eliza Dushku, to take on a different character every show.

Which, is a cool idea.

Or would be if someone else was playing the part. But Dushku just doesn’t have the depth or smarts to carry it off. I know she’s a Whedon favorite and that she’s supposedly sexy as all get out, but to me she comes across as “playing” a part rather than inhabiting it. A valley girl out of her depth.

So maybe that explains, in part, why the show has been touted in the media as a “cult-favorite” (translation: beloved by a fanatic few), and characterized as “struggling” for viewers. And why Fox decided to replace the show during November sweeps with reruns of Bones and House.

Or maybe it’s just that this kind of show, which, despite its flaws, is still imminently watchable, can’t find an audience. I have two sisters and a brother and I couldn’t pay either of them to watch Dollhouse or Firefly or Moonlight or any scifi/paranormal series.

Remember Jericho or Invasion? I loved those shows. They were well-written and spectacularly performed and directed, and yet they still bit the dust before their time.

So, I thought this would be an appropriate way to start my stint at the Diner:

What’s the deal?

Why do so many people hate scifi?

If there’s a vampire involved, man you can’t keep them away. Ditto with the kids and wizardry. But take a grown up and put him in a strange, alien world, well, that’s just silly.

Which is why I’m extremely interested to see how the alien-invasion show “V” does next week.

And why I’ll wait with resignation for Dollhouse’s November hiatus to end and the rest of the show to air in December. Fox has decided to broadcast it in 2-hour blocks. Does that sound like a lot of hurry up and finish to you?

Another one bites the dust.

***

Annie Solomon
http://www.anniesolomon.com/

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Lesson in Writing from....The Beatles

I love The Beatles. I am old enough to remember playing a board game based on the Fab Four (I was Ringo but always wanted to be Paul) and my very first musical purchase was the single, "The Long and Winding Road." I was young...and it cost me 79 cents. Yup, that was a whole lot of money back in those days.

Anyhow, my excitement at the remastered version of "A Hard Day's Night" scared people. I walked into my local Blockbuster...heard the music and saw the four guys from Liverpool. They were so beautiful-- all crisp and clear.The sound blew me away.

I wept. I wept right there next to their Rockband setup.

It was a beautiful thing.

Of course I purchased it. Watched it and salivated over every extra feature on the disc. I squealed over every tidbit of information about the boys that I had never known. ( I was pretty young back in those days.)

Between jumping up and down screaming, "I love Paul" and hugging my old vinyl albums, I stopped.
George Martin, famed Beatle producer, was saying something...something that thwapped my writer's brain with a Bart Simpson-like "D'oh!"

The original recording of the song, "Can't Buy Me Love" isn't what you know, love and listen to today. The original song started with:

"I'll buy you a diamond ring, my friend...."

Martin liked the song. It was...nice. Good beat, cute lyrics and a catchy melody. But something was missing and he told the boys so. The song just didn't grab grab him right off the bat. He wanted more. So Martin asked them to change it.

Start it off with a a bang....

Start it off with the chorus.

Yup. Think about it.

"Can't buy me love..."

Bammo! You're in the song. Lyrically you want to know the why and how that can't buy me love. Musically, you're up on your feet and dancing before you've even reach the dance floor.

Genius. Total genius.

Now, apply that genius to your manuscript. Does your manuscript start too early? Begin with the "nice" or "meh?" Listen to George Martin. Start it off with a bang! Suck in those readers so that they'll be on chapter two before they realize that they're still standing in the bookstore.

If John, Paul, George and Ringo can do it, so can you.

And the rest, as they say, is history.



Happy Writings,
Talia






Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Meet Annie Solomon

Here at the Diner, staff comes and goes. We miss the ones who move on to bigger and better things but we're always happy to see shiny new faces. Starting this Friday, we'll be welcoming author Annie Solomon (http://www.anniesolomon.com/) to our fold. She'll be posting about once a month with reviews of various paranormal television programs and movies that our visitors might like to check out.

So let's learn a little more about Annie!

1) Briefly, who are you as an author and what do you write?

Interesting phraseology. Who am I as an author? That, I have no idea. The latter is easier to answer: I write romantic suspense. Which, to those uninitiated folks, means I write thriller/mystery/suspense type books with a love story. I think of myself as edgy, grittier than most in my genre. Not that my books are set in the alleyways of the Big City and my characters are all drug addicts. But they tend to be kind of on the dark side with a lot of heavy baggage. I’d be curious to know whether readers find me as gritty and dark as I think I am.

2) What do you do (voluntarily) when you're not writing?

I knit, play Sudoku and other games on the computer, meet the gals for mah jongg, watch the ABC soap lineup, and try to clear my brain out by not doing too much of anything.

3) What's your favorite deadline snack?

This may sound a little goody-goody of me, but I try not to do too much snacking while writing because I don’t do a lot of exercising. But if the world was coming to an end (or maybe just Frito-Lay) and I HAD to choose one snack over all the others, it would probably be a fat bag of potato chips.

4) What is it about romantic suspense? How do you feel suspense elements enhance the romance and vice versa?

The reason I think suspense works so well with romance is that it automatically raises the stakes for all parties involved. We’re not just talking about hearts breaking, but lives ending. The choice to fall in love or the reasons not to are greatly intensified.

5) Authors also tend to be devoted readers. What authors do you read for inspiration and/or enjoyment?

Welll—my face is turning red because the truth is, I don’t read a lot anymore. I used to be a voracious reader but that was before I started writing full time. Back then, some of my faves included Diana Gabaldon, Anne Stuart, Mary Stewart, Anya Seton, Laura Kinsale, and Patricia Gaffney.

6) What is your biggest "collection" (besides books)?

Clothes. I love fashion and dressing up. All the women in my family do, and the trend has been passed on to the next generation. My nieces all like to dress, even when everyone else is in jeans.

7) You've signed up to be the Diner's pie inspector and tv/movie reviewer. What are some of your favorite paranormal themed tv series and movies? Do you see any common theme in your favorites beyond their genre?

I think I’ll leave all that to my posts. Don’t want to shoot myself in the foot before I even get started.

8) What paranormal book or movie would you like to be dropped into the middle of, to experience the world if not the entire plot?

The TV show Farscape. No contest. Not even a second of hesitation.

9) If you had to have a lifesize standee of a character in a paranormal tv series, movie or book in your bedroom at all times, who would it be and how would other residents of your household probably feel about it?

It would probably be a lifesize Aeryn and John, the couple from Farscape, and my husband and family would probably mine endless comedy material from it. Before I became ‘scaped, I was a big Highlander fan. Once for my birthday they made me a cardboard sword covered in tin foil…

10) What is some of the most unusual research you've done for your fiction?

The most unusual was talking to the Car Talk guys, Click and Clack the Tappit brothers. That was for my upcoming romantic suspense (October 2010). The most far flung was a weekend in DC where I scouted locations for my RITA-winning book, Blackout. (Sorry about the endless self promotion, but if you got it, flaunt it...)

11) If you were deprived of your computer for a year and had no looming deadline, would you write your next book in longhand anyway or keep notes and wait until you had a computer again to finish it?

Depends on whether or not I had a contract! I’m pretty lazy, so I could definitely see myself slacking off for a year if I could. But then the guilt would probably eat me alive, so I guess I’d have to resort to longhand. How’s that for fence sitting?

12) If you could have a little-known superpower, what one would you pick and why? What one would your friends and loved ones pick FOR you?

For myself, I think I’d be Metabolic Girl. I could eat anything I wanted (including that fat bag of potato chips) and my lightning fast metabolism would always keep me slender and trim. My family and friends would probably want to turn me into Best Case Scenario Woman because I’m a catastrophic thinker and I always go immediately to disaster. I could have a costume with a wide-mouth smile on the front and instead of teeth there’d be BCS. Oh, if only I could draw!

13) Anything else you'd like to share with visitors to the Diner?

Just that I’m looking forward to all my inspections and to letting you know what I’ve found. And to discussing it all with the patrons.

****

Jody W.
http://www.jodywallace.com/ * http://www.meankitty.com/

Monday, October 26, 2009

Well, I'm supposed to post on Sundays, and yesterday was one of those days where I couldn't keep my mind on what it was supposed to be doing, so you may have two posts today!

I just wanted to let you know there's an RWA contest out there that's very low on entries in every category - especially paranormal - and maybe you should think about entering. It's a great chance to get feedback on your stuff before you submit it to an editor. They've got some great judges. The information follows, reprinted:

There's still time to get your submission packet in to the Ohio Valley RWA's
Enchanted Words Contest! All entries will receive detailed feedback from
experienced and trained first-round judges. Finalists will be read by BOTH
an editor AND an agent who are actively looking for work in the subgenres
they're judging. But hurry, the contest deadline is Nov. 1st! For complete
contest rules, details, score sheet and entry form, see
http://www.ovrwa. com/enchanted_ words.

Enter: Query letter, Synopsis of up to 7 pages, first 5 pages of manuscript.

Eligibility: RWA members in good standing, who have not contracted or
published in book-length romantic fiction by an RWA-eligible publisher in
the last three years.

Categories and final judges:
Contemporary (includes category length books)
- Editor judge: Tracy Bernstein, NAL
- Agent judge: Kevan Lyon, Marsal Lyon Literary Agency

Historical
- Editor judge: Leis Pedersen, Berkley
- Agent judge: Emmanuelle Alspaugh, Judith Erlich Literary Agency

Paranormal/Fantasy/ Sci-fi/Time Travel
- Editor judge: Margo Lipschultz, HQN/Luna
- Agent judge: Alexandra Machinist, Linda Chester and Associates Literary
Agency

Let me know if you'd like to hear about other contests and opportunities, as well as market info. I'll also have another great recipe next Sunday!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Annie Solomon, Pie Inspector

As a native New Yorker, Annie was raised with strong views, which is what makes her the perfect pie inspector. Whether sniffing out delicate spices or uncovering an overworked crust, she’s always got an opinion about the ingredients that go into the best pastries.

Although her field tends to be dead things—as in her romantic suspense novels (http://anniesolomon.com/excerpts.html) she has long enjoyed the fare of other worlds, particularly when portrayed on screens large and small. And being the opinionated sort, she shows up at the diner from time to time (mostly last Fridays of the month) to taste and test and, of course, document the worth of these otherworldly creations.

Her website: http://www.anniesolomon.com/
Her blog: www.anniesolomon.com/blog

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

How to Catch a Cold: 13 Proven Suggestions



From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia



Good thing we’re meeting via blogs, not face-to-face. I’ve got one of those sloppy colds that has me clinging to my box of tissues and complaining to everybody. What could I have possibly done to deserve this snotty fate?
In fact, how do people catch a cold? I’ve come up with some scenarios – and it didn’t take a lot of effort. Here’s a sampling:



Header by Samulli


1. Volunteer at a daycare and find yourself looking after a sick toddler or two.
2. Run your hands over door knobs and elevator buttons at a local hospital and neglect to wash afterward.
3. Routinely stay up late and get up early. Eventually, it may catch up with you.
4. Decide this is the month you’ll change everything. Quit your job, switch cities, get married, have a child, get divorced, bury a loved one or audition for American Idol. High stress can work wonders!
5. Eat French fries at a restaurant, not knowing that a worker has sneezed on them.
6. Pick up a used tissue littering a mall sidewalk and, as a good citizen, dispose of it.
7. Sit next to a sniffling, coughing passenger on an airplane, train, subway or bus.
8. Share a plastic bottle of Propel or Gatorade with the cross-country team.
9. Politely kiss an ailing friend.
10. Be outdoors as much as possible in a state like Wisconsin where the weather can change by the hour so that you simulate the experience of alternately standing in a walk-in freezer and a sauna.
11. Take the school bus and great your favorite fellow passengers with a handshake or maybe even a hug. And then, of course, forget to wash your hands.
12. Eat only Twinkies, potato chips and chocolate-covered bacon.
13. Borrow a sick cousin’s laptop.



That’s it. My cold has gone to my brain. I’m out of possibilities. Can you help me think of other easy ways to catch a cold?




Author’s note: Obliviously I’m not suggesting you try any of these suggestions. They’re much too potent for us common folk. As you realize, I’m sure, it’s so very easy to get a cold naturally. No need to go out of your way to accomplish it.

Sick of Being Sick? 13 Suggestions to Get You Better, Quick!



Header by Samulli

I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of being sick. Weeks ago I caught a doozy of a cold. I shared it with my family and we passed the virus around until I caught it again. After feeling sorry for myself, I decided to use my computer to find ways I could speed my recovery. I found these suggested remedies and ways to stay healthy.
I figured you’d want to know. …


1. Wash your hands. WebMD states, “Amazingly, about 80% of contagious diseases are transmitted by touch.”
2. If you sneeze, don’t cover your nose or mouth with your hands. You can spread germs that way. Use a tissue instead or the crook of your arm.
3. Get fresh air. Inside air may be re-circulated and may actually expose you to even more viruses.
4. Drink water. It’ll help you flush out the virus and keep you hydrated.
5. Don’t touch your face. You don’t want to spread the germs from your hands.
6. Exercise. Being active bolsters your immune system.
7. Get rest. Getting enough sleep is another way to boost your immune system.
8. Eat vegetables. Especially the dark green leafy ones. They contain phytochemicals which build up your body’s immunity.
9. Don’t smoke. You already know that smoking’s hard on your lungs, but did you know smoking dries out your nasal cavities and prevents those little cleaning hairs in your lungs from filtering out viruses?
10. Drink less alcohol. Alcohol dehydrates, which makes it harder for your body to rid itself of the virus.
11. Take cod-liver-oil tablets. They’re loaded with Vitamins A and D, which help the immune system.
12. Take Vitamin C within the first 24 hours that symptoms appear. Again, the idea is to rev up your immune system.
13. Consider herbal remedies such as garlic, ginger, oregano, lemon or even horseradish. For generations people have applied these home cures and many still claim they work.



I’m determined to get over my cold as fast as possible. Do you have any suggestions? What has worked for you?


 
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