Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Drive-by Oneings

A site which shall go unnamed, and which has zero moderation, allows registered users to leave rankings on books, whether they've actually read them or not, and without leaving a review or anything even closely resembling constructive criticism. The most heinous crime that results in such unrestrained freedom is one that makes authors shudder at the very name. Drive-by Oneings. That's right folks. It's happening right here in our safe little world.

In case you've been living under a rock and have no idea what this horrible epidemic is all about, I'll clue you in. But beware...this is not for the faint of heart. In fact, I hereby state that I will not be responsible for the consequences of you reading the rest of this post. Here's how it's done. Bear in mind I braved torture to obtain this information...

You register on the site, usually under a name no one recognizes. The site even allows you to make your profile private so no one can obtain clues to your true identity. Then you stalk your victims. No one knows for sure how or why victims are chosen. Some believe it's excessive use of certain words in their books, or the color of the clothing worn by the models on the cover art. But one thing is certain...once an author has been the victim of a Drive-by Oneing, they're never safe again.

The perpetrator selects all the books of their intended victim and ranks them with ONE STAR. One lonely little star that sends the author's overall ranking plummeting to the basement, and is on the site forever and ever, for the entire world to see. And, as if this weren't bad enough, the perp doesn't leave a comment. Not even one. The victim has no idea what she did to deserve the Oneing, if the perp actually read her books and just hated them, or if she was chosen for another reason. This is a random, senseless crime which often leaves its victims bewildered and depressed for years, unable to finish another manuscript, and questioning everything they write from that point forward.

Each year dozens of writers are affected by this crime, yet often it goes unrecognized. If the author speaks out publicly, she's told to "suck it up" or "that's just how it goes." We're in desperate need of a national support group for this silent yet deadly crime. At the very least I think we should try to raise awareness by way of infomercials, or perhaps a spot on a national talk show. How about Jerry or Maury? Surely they would understand this depravity and welcome the chance to bring it to the homes of millions of viewers.

Have you been the recent victim of a Drive-by Oneing? I urge you to seek professional help. At the very least you should let a trusted friend know you've been a victim. Write your Congressperson. Or better yet, contact Rosie O'Donnell. I hear Oprah's given her a show again on the new Oprah network.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

I don't know what to do

Two weeks ago, I posted an apology for my absence lately. It seems the world was not done kicking my butt, because my husband of 49 passed away very unexpectedly and suddenly this past Monday. The funeral was yesterday and I am so lost and numb and angry (a long story about his ex-wife) I don't know what to do anymore. I came here because at least I knew I had an appointment, as such, to pass on information or encouragement or laughter to those of you who read here. I'm sorry to say I will fail miserably tonight.

Please know I will pick myself up and do better in the future, although I don't know how long this will take, but know in my heart I am still a writer, as I trust you are. I just may not be a practicing writer for a bit because there are too many pieces to pick up.

I'm so sorry to bring you down, but wanted to share this news with people I've come to know and love.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Apple Facts that Might Surprise You

Summer’s over and one thing I’ve been waiting for has happened. Newly picked apples are appearing in roadside stands and in the produce section of the grocery store. I had my choice of tart granny smiths, handsome golden delicious and crisp galas last time I shopped.

In celebration of the apple, which Henry David Thoreau called the noblest of fruits, I’d like to share these thirteen facts.

1. Pomology is the study of apples.
2. Apples are originally from an area between the Caspian and the Black Sea in Asia. The crabapple is the only apple that is actually native to North America.
3. About 2,500 different varieties of apples are grown in the United States.
4. All fifty states in the U. S. grow apples, but the states that grow the most apples are: Washington, New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, California and Virginia.
5. It takes four or five years before an apple tree produces fruit.
6. According to the University of Illinois Extension’s Apple Facts, “It takes the energy of 50 leaves to produce one apple.”
7. What apple variety is grown the most in the United States? Red Delicious. In 2005 farmers harvested 62 million bushels.
8. An average apple is about 80 calories.
9. The U. S. Apple Association reports that, “In 2008, the average U.S. consumer ate an estimated 16.4 pounds of fresh-market apples and 33.3 pounds of processed apples, for a total of 49.8 pounds of fresh apples and processed apple products.”
10. An average apple has five grams of fiber pectin.
11. Fiber pectin can help lower LDL or bad cholesterol.
12. Apples really are good for you and they might even help you lose weight. Researchers at the University of Rio de Janeiro found that women who eat three apples or pears a day lost more weight than women who didn’t.
13. In addition to helping you lower your cholesterol and weight, scientists at Cornell University theorize that apples may inhibit the growth of colon, breast and liver cancer cells.
An apple a day really might keep the doctor away and all this blogging about apples has fired up my craving for the fruit. I’m going to grab one of the galas. I like them the best. Do like apples? What’s your favorite variety?


Monday, September 19, 2011

The ‘IT’ Factor – Debut Author Jean Murray

Soul Reborn
Crescent Moon Press
April 2011

Book Blurb:
Asar, the Egyptian God of the Underworld, has been tortured and left soulless by a malevolent goddess, relegating him to consume the very thing he was commissioned to protect. Human souls. Now an empty shell of hatred, Asar vows to kill the goddess and anyone involved in her release, but fate crosses his path with a beautiful blonde huntress who has a soul too sweet to ignore.

Lilly, fearless commander of the Nehebkau huntresses, is the only thing standing in the way of the goddess' undead army unleashing hell on earth. But Lilly has a secret—one she is willing to sell her soul to keep. If the Underworld god discovers her role in the dig that released the goddess, she will lose everything, including his heart.

For this week’s blog, I downloaded samples of four debut books. SOUL REBORN was the first one I read and it grabbed me from the get go. But to be fair, I read the other three too before making my selection. The second one was pretty good but after a little sleuthing I discovered it was written by an established author’s third alter ego. I really hate when they label a book as debut when an author assumes a new pen name. Anyway, the other two didn’t hold my interest so I went back to the first one.

The Opening Chapters:
The author starts off with the hunt (or chase, if you prefer) of the hero after the heroine before he knows who or what she is. It was dark, action-packed and laced with sexual tension. It was a real page-turner and I couldn't wait to read more.

The Mythos:
I loved how the author combined zombies, warrior demi-goddesses and Egyptian mythology for her playground in this series. I’m not familiar with all the mythology behind it and it was interesting to see the power plays going on between them. I’m sure the powers that be at the big NY publishing houses all turned this down because it treaded into ‘unmarketable’ territory. Their loss. That’s one of the things that made this book a refreshing change from the same old, same old.

The Romance:
Here’s where the author lost me. This is a pet peeve of mine, but I can’t stand it when the characters profess their undying love for one another after they’ve only known each other for a few days. Hot and horny and ready to jump each other’s bones, yes. Commitment for all eternity together (and eternity with an immortal god is a verrrry long time), um no. I love the chase. The pursuit. The hunt. And after reading the opening chapters, I was hoping to have a lot more of this. But Lilly, for all the kickass heroine that she is, turned into a submissive marshmallow during their first encounter. She toughens up again later, but it was too late and ruined her character for me.

Grammar and Editing:
I don’t claim to be a grammar queen in any way, shape or form. That’s why I’ve hired an independent editor to go over my manuscripts before I indie publish them. No book is ever perfect, however I felt this one needed another run-through by the editing department. Every few pages there were either missing words and/or misplaced commas, which unfortunately jerked me out of the story every time I ran across one. If this is something that bothers you, consider yourself warned.

The ‘IT’ Factor:
The first quarter of this book is fast paced, action-packed, and filled with sexual tension. This is what probably grabbed the editor’s attention. Throw in the interesting mix of Egyptian gods and zombies, and the author had something unique on her hands. If the romance hadn’t been rushed and the editing had been a bit better, this could have been a stellar book for me. Hopefully Murray will hone her skills on the next books in the series.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Ghost Hunting

One need only flip through the TV channels to find dozens of shows featuring paranormal investigators, or shows that claim to have actual footage from witnessed paranormal activity. Ghost hunting is nothing new among humans. Even the Bible mentions ghosts. But are they real? Can people really come back from the dead to move our furniture around, speak to us, or even - as a few believe - possess us from beyond the grave? Do we actually leave this plane at all when we die?

The fact we have two thousand years of stories claiming everything from hauntings to possessions should be evidence enough of a life beyond our mere physical beings. So why then do we not all believe in ghosts?

The loss of a loved one produces terrible grief. It's only natural to want to speak to that person after they die, and there are plenty of psychics and mediums out there who will take your money in exchange for promises of sessions where we can communicate with our dearly departed. But is it real, or are these people merely preying on the raw emotions of a grieving spouse, parent or daughter?

And what about shows like Ghost Hunters, the product of TAPS - The Atlantic Paranormal Society - whose investigators use the most scientific methods available, and who actually try to debunk the claims of shadows, strange lights, and sounds that go bump in the night? Certainly, reading their website one finds they err on the side of caution first. Unlike other shows, where every floating piece of dust caught in the beam of an infrared camera is labeled a "ghost," and where the narration sounds more like a melodrama than a serious investigative show, GH does lend an air of authority and scientific methodology to their investigations. And unless one completely dismisses their EVPs and video evidence as "fake," they have caught some truly bizarre things over the seasons.

So what's going on? It is all a trick? Are Satan and his imps having a bit of sport with us mere mortals? Can dead people really communicate with us? And why some but not all? How do they do it? Can they see and hear us, or are the sights and sounds caught with equipment merely residual energy?

There are as many theories as there are depictions of ghosts or spirits in our books and other media. We even have friendly ghosts - Casper - for example. My personal favorites are the ghosts in Dickens' A Christmas Carol

One theory suggests ghosts are merely the earthbound spirits of the departed dead. Some people are more sensitive to their presence than others, and animals and small children are especially sensitive. Another suggests they are merely trapped energy, and so play out a scene from their lives over and over, like a rewound tape. A third theory is that spirits are created out of magnetic or electrical energy.

One interesting theory holds that ghosts aren't dead, but rather actual live beings living in a parallel dimension. Still another holds that ghosts are nothing more than products of our fertile imaginations.

What do you think? What's your theory, or are you a non-believer? Do you have any stories you'd like to share? 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Life as I know it

I've been MIA lately from my Sunday posts, and I wanted to share with you why. Recently, a girl who has been like my own daughter was swept into the Missouri River and disappeared. It took them ten days to find her body, and the funeral was yesterday.

This past few weeks has been very hard for me and I have not been able to write or do just about anything else. The funeral, however, gave me closure of a sort, although the sadness still lingers. It is not right for a parent to outlive their children, and this wrongness has dampened my spirit for quite some time.

I share this because I know all of us who write do so to share with others what we have in our minds and hearts. I have watched and read the sharing going on here and in other blogs and am so proud to be a part of it. I hope to be able to write again soon.

So please, don't give up - on yourself or others. Just write - because that's what we are... writers.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Want Write Like the Wind? Catch the Rush's Tips--Lynn Rush, that is!

Want to write fast? My guest Lynn Rush is here to tell you how. A former speed skater, a current mountain biker and runner, she’s used to moving fast and she’s willing to share her tips to help you get your fingers flying across the keyboard.

When Brenda asked me to write about how I wrote 20 plus novels in just over three years, I nearly panicked. I'd never really even thought about it. I did it. Just did. But as I sat down to write this post, a few things came to mind.

1. I wrote daily:No matter what! I think that’s the biggest thing for me to getting novels written quickly. Write through the slow parts, write through the blocks, just keep going. If you don’t know the name of something or not sure if something will work, leave it in, put it in bold, you can come back to it.

2. I wrote on lunch breaks: When I had a full time job, this was really important. Every free minute counts. On my breaks I’d type in an email scenes of my story and email it to myself.
3. I slept less: Okay, not the healthiest one, I know, but it’s true. I stayed up later and got up earlier as I plowed through my stories. Now, you can’t keep that up for long, but in short bursts, it helped me. To be honest, if I hadn’t stayed up a bit later to write, I would have tossed and turned in bed anyway, thinking about the scene I needed to write.
4. I consumed tons of caffeine: Much like the less sleep tip, this isn’t the healthiest thing to do, but I’m already a Dt. Pepsi junky. I just tend to burn through a little bit more during my writing sprees.
5. I exercised often: I always make time for this. Even the weekend four-hour bike rides. You might be thinking, “But I could write during that time.” You’re right, actually, but exercise helps me wade through the ideas/scenes/plot issues rioting through my mind while I’m mid-book. I’ve been known to be on the Elliptical typing on my iPhone notes when something needs to get down right away.
6. I cooked extra meals: If I could get a few extra meals cooked ahead of time, it freed up extra hours during the week. Plus, I was messing around in the kitchen, near my hubby, while preparing them, so we got to chat and hang out (He likes cooking, too, so that helps.)
7. I set timers: Sometimes I get a little behind on my chores around the house when I’m in the middle of writing a book. So, I had to set timers. I’d do a couple of hours of writing, then thirty minutes of chores, then back to writing. I’m more relaxed and happy when my house is clean and my husband has wrinkle-free clothes to wear to work. LOL
8. I got away for write-fests: I scheduled times away from my house, my work space, my hubby and just write. I’m lucky enough to have family up north, and they often leave for extended trips. So, I’ll camp out up in Sedona, AZ and write for three days straight, pounding out nearly 40,000 words.
9. I shut off Twitter, Facebook, and email for periods of time: I’m weird about email. If there’s a little red light on my email icon on the bottom of my MacBook screen, I HAVE TO CHECK IT! Yeah, no control there. So, I have to shut my email program down. I get so much more done when I’m not checking email every time the little light goes on.
10. I sprinted with other writers: I got online with FF&P or Savvy.com and did writing sprints. Another thing that helped was meeting up with my crit partner, Kendall Grey, on a private chat line for sprints. We’d go for sixty-minutes then chime in for about two or three minutes to report how far we got, but then it was right back to writing.
11. I carried something to write with at all times: You just never know when you’re going to have fifteen minutes free time. Use it! Every second counts. So, I always carried something with me. Now, it’s mostly my iPhone and I type on the notes section or send myself an email. But before that, it was little notebooks.
12. I cleaned: I seem to write more efficiently when I have a clean work space. Weird, I know, but it’s true. So, if started struggling with my focus, characters weren’t cooperating, or the words trickled out, I’d get up and whip out the Endust and start cleaning. Ten minutes later I had a nice, lemon-smelling work area and I settled in for the duration.
13. I shut doors: I’d warn my hubby that it was going to be an all-nighter, kiss him goodnight and shut the door to my work area. It kept me focused, especially when paired up with suggestion # 9 and I’ve shut off all social medias.

Thanks for having me here, Brenda, and challenging me with the 13 things…this was fun. I have a signed copy of Wasteland to give away!!
Just leave a comment today and you’re entered! It can be about anything. Ask me a question, mention what works for you to stay focused on a task at hand, or whatever.
I’ll draw a winner tomorrow and contact you via email if you won, so be sure to leave your email addy in your comment so I can reach you if your name is drawn, okay?

Excerpt: http://www.crescentmoonpress.com/books/Wasteland.html
The people surrounding us blurred into oblivion, and the music faded into a storm of muffled pitches and tones.
I concentrated on her shining lips and took in the warmth of her body so close to mine. I wanted only the sense of touch to be awake while I reveled in the silky texture of her skin. For so long I'd touched nothing. If I was going to break my rules, I would enjoy it.
Her hands glided from my wrists down my forearms and up my biceps, sending a ripple of desire through my soul. I could resist no longer. I brushed my lips against hers and tasted melon. She heaved a sharp breath and clamped her fingers around my shoulders, holding me in place.
Scents of lilac permeated me. My heart hammered, and my demon pounded, wanting out.
Wanting her.
I turned my head, severing our connection. Too intense. Must stay in control. She let out a whimper. I pressed my mouth to her cheek and tilted her head.
I almost wished I hadn't.
She bore the mark of a Guardian, immortal protectors of the humans.
I drank Beka in for three long breaths, knowing it may be my last chance to hold her close. Because if Beka truly was guarding Jessica Hanks I would more than likely have to kill her to get my Mark.

To find out more about Lynn’s recent release, you can check out the following sites.
Catch the Rush: http://www.lynnrush.com/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/LynnRushWrites
Twitter: www.twitter.com/LynnRush
Goodreads: http://bit.ly/k6NAZa
Amazon: http://amzn.to/pavzwE
Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/pbigOg
All Romance Ebooks: http://bit.ly/nujjjp
You Tube Trailer: http://youtu.be/k-KRE1yMiNk

Monday, September 5, 2011

Earthquakes and Hurricanes and Bears, oh my!

Updatd 9/6

Sorry I’m not going to get my ‘IT’ Factor review up today. I’m only half way through the book I intended to review and I honestly don't think I'm going to be able to finish it. After reading the amazing DEMON HUNTING IN DIXIE and two friend’s self-published books -- let me tell ya, there’s some good stuff being put out there by indie authors -- this one pales horribly in comparison. I know. I've been brutally honest in my reviews so far. Some books I've liked and others I've had major issues with. However, Karma is a bitch and since I'm about to embark on the self-publishing journey I figure some of my more critical reviews may come back to bite me in the ass. And so from now on, if I can't recommend a debut book highly, I'm going to skip it and move on to another one. Plus, life is just too short to waste it on a bad book.

Instead today I’ll regale you with my adventures in the wilderness. Actually, it sounds like we missed most of the excitement while we were out there. As any of you know who’ve ever camped in Yellowstone, there is no cable (therefore no TV), spotty cell phone service, and we were so busy seeing the beautiful sights, amazing geysers, and getting up close and personal with the wildlife that we never bought a paper at the camp store. Evidently while we were communing with nature out west, Mother Nature was having a major hissy fit in the east.

Thanks to the fact that my husband packed every Virginia Tech t-shirt he owns, he happened to be wearing one when we passed some campers on a trail. They naturally asked if we were from Virginia. Why yes, we are, we replied. They asked if we’d heard about the earthquake. Earthquake? In Virginia? Evidently we’d had a dozy by East coast standards (5.8). Friends texted us that they’d gone by and checked out our house. Since a mine shaft hadn’t opened up and swallowed our house (don’t laugh – that kind of thing can happen in our neighborhood) we breathed a small sigh of relief. Small, because at the time we happened to be surrounded by exploding geysers and bubbling hot pools of scalding steam and water reminding us that we were standing in the caldera of the biggest super volcano on earth that could blow any time now.

The day before we’re supposed to fly home, my husband gets a voice mail (once we stumbled upon a pocket of cell service) and the airline says they’ve canceled our flight from Dulles to Richmond and rescheduled it for the next night. He calls them up and asks why. The lady says, Um because of the hurricane, you idiot. OK, she didn’t say ‘you idiot’ but I’m sure she was thinking it. When we explained our lack of technology in the wilds of Yellowstone, she enlightened us on the impending natural disaster racing up the east coast. Happy joy. First an earthquake and now a hurricane. What’s next, a plague of locusts? We get to Denver fully expecting our flight to Dulles to be cancelled. Surprise, surprise. Dulles is still open and our pilot says she’s going for it. I’m not so sure if this is a good thing. My husband likes to listen on the headphones to the pilots talk to the control towers as we fly, so he relays what they’re saying as we zoom across the country. Chicago asks where we’re headed and our pilot says Dulles. They say, Dallas? And she goes, no Dulles. They laugh and wish us good luck. Evidently we were the only flight heading east while everyone else is going west AWAY FROM THE HURRICANE! Actually, the flight was very smooth until the last 3000 feet or so before landing. Then things got a little scary and I figured we’d be little more than small pieces of metal strewn across Washington DC and a headline in the morning paper. But crazy though she was, the pilot landed us safe and sound.

It wasn’t until we were back home that we heard about the bear attack while we were out in Yellowstone. Scary to think we were there when it happened. Scarier still is that we learned that the momma grizzly and cubs we saw feeding on a dead bison in the river (from a safe overlook 400 yards away) was the same one who killed the hiker in July. Definitely puts us a notch or two lower on the food chain.

So that was what we missed while we were at Yellowstone. But honestly, it was the experience of a lifetime for me and the kids and I wouldn't have missed it for the world, even for an earthquake and a hurricane.

P.S. I also came back with a great idea for a new series, and no they have nothing to do with the wild west or natural parks or bears.