Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Twleve Nights

Well, it’s over. Christmas has come and gone for another year.
But has it?
Today is Boxing Day, a traditional United Kingdom holiday.  The usual lore is that masters gave Christmas presets or “Christmas Boxes” to their staff the day after Christmas. This usually included the day off so that servants could visit their own families to exchange gifts. Boxing Day is a less formal holiday, with people dropping by for a snack or a drink.
The British also let their eccentricities out on Boxing Day. Like our Polar Swim Clubs, there are swims and dips in the icy waters around Britain—often in fancy dress—rubber ducky races and beagling—a sort of mock fox hunt on foot.
It’s also a day for giving alms and remembering the poor, a day when churches traditionally opened their alms boxes and distributed the money to the needy.
Shopping has become a Boxing Day passion recently.  Although it’s a national holiday, with public offices closed, shops and malls are open with lots of after-Christmas sales.
Remember the Twelve Days of Christmas?  Well, Boxing Day is the first day, the day of a partridge in a pear tree.
Despite popular belief, the Twelve Days of Christmas begin Dec. 26 and run until January 6, Twelfth Night or Epiphany. This is historically when the Magi arrived to give gifts to Jesus and is one of the oldest Christian feast days.
What this means to people like me—people who know that Christmas is ALWAYS on December 25, but never finish preparations in time—is that I still have twelve days to get cards written and mailed, some gifts bought and sent, some friends visited, some phone calls made. 
I’ve been celebrating Twelfth night for several years, once I figured out this means I can keep my tree up and decorated until January 6.  Twelve more nights of the wonderful glow in my living room, twelve more days of the piney smell in the house and twelve more days before I have to face taking down and packing up all the decoration until next December.
Ah, the Twelve Days of Christmas.  Bring ‘em on!

Michele Drier’s works include the paranormal romance series, The Kandesky Vampire Chronicles.  The first two books, SNAP: The World Unfolds, and SNAP: New Talent, received 4 stars from PRG.  The third and fourth books, Plague: A Love Story, and Danube: A Tale of Murder were given 5 stars. The first four books are now available in a boxed set at Amazon and Kobo. Book Five, SNAP: Love for Blood, published December 15, has already received 5-star ratings on Amazon and Goodreads.  She’s writing SNAP: Happily Ever After? for release in summer 2013 and a seventh book in late fall 2013.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Remembering Sandy Hook's Shooting Victims

Picture Source-http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/15/sandy-hook-shooting-victims-names_n_2307354.html

Last Friday something terrible, something that should have never happened, did. Twenty children and seven adults died in Newtown. Most were at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Like everyone who has heard of this tragedy, I’m heartsick. I can’t do my usual Thursday Thirteen post. Instead, I’d like to remember those we've lost.

·         Charlotte Bacon, 2/22/06, female. Her brother, John Hagen, described her saying, "She was going to go some places in this world. This little girl could light up the room for anyone."
·         Daniel Barden, 9/25/05, male. His family said, “He was fearless in the pursuit of happiness in life.”
·         Rachel Davino, 7/17/83, female. Rachel was a behavioral therapist whose passion was working with children within the autism spectrum. 
·         Olivia Engel, 7/18/06, female. Her uncle, John Engel told reporters, “She was a child who lit up a room and the people around her."
·         Josephine Gay, 12/11/05, female. Josephine liked purple, riding her bike and selling lemonade.
·         Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 04/04/06, female. Ana liked to sing and, rumor has it, there’s an internet video of her performing, “Come, Thou Almighty King,"if you’d like to see her.
·         Dylan Hockley, 3/8/06, male. His grandmother, Theresa Moretti, said he liked eating garlic bread, playing video games and watching movies.
·         Dawn Hochsprung, 06/28/65, female. Dawn was Sandy Hook’s principal. People say she was smiling more often than not and she had a way of letting children know she cared about them.
·         Madeleine F. Hsu, 7/10/06, female. Madeleine loved reading, dancing and running.
·         Catherine V. Hubbard, 6/08/06, female. Catherine had bright red hair and an infectious smile. She loved animals.
·         Chase Kowalski, 10/31/05, male. His neighbor Kevin Grimes, spoke of Chase saying, “You couldn't think of a better child."
·         Nancy Lanza, 52, Nancy was the gunman's mother and his first victim.
·         Jesse Lewis, 6/30/06, male. Barbara McSperrin, a family friend describes, Jesse as "a typical 6-year-old little boy, full of life."
·         James Mattioli , 3/22/06, male. His family called him “J”. They said he liked to eat and to sing.
·         Grace McDonnell, 12/04/05, female. Her family called her "the love and light" of their family.
·         Anne Marie Murphy, 07/25/60, female. Anne Marie died shielding others.
·         Emilie Parker, 5/12/06, female. People said Emilie liked to make cards, draw pictures and bring cheer to others. 
·         Jack Pinto, 5/06/06, male. Jack was a New York Giants fan.
·         Noah Pozner, 11/20/06, male. His uncle, Alexis Haller, described Noah as "smart as a whip." Noah liked to read and figure out how things worked.
·         Caroline Previdi, 9/07/06, female. Caroline had brown hair and a huge smile that will be missed.
·         Jessica Rekos, 5/10/06, female. Jessica loved horses. She was hoping to get one when she became ten.
·         Avielle Richman, 10/17/06, female. Avielle was happiest when she was on horseback.
·         Lauren Rousseau, 6/1982, female. Lauren just landed the job as a teacher and her family said this year was the best year of her life.
·         Mary Sherlach, 2/11/56, female. She worked at Sandy Hook as the school psychologist. When she heard the shots she ran to help.
·         Victoria Soto, 11/04/85, female. Victoria was a teacher who gave her life trying to save others. Her mom said she’d wanted to be a teacher since she was three. People said she had a gift for making students feel special.
·         Benjamin Wheeler, 9/12/06, male. Ben loved soccer and swimming.
·         Allison N. Wyatt, 7/03/06, female. Allison was a kind-hearted girl who liked drawing and wanted to be an artist.

In lieu of comments, please take a moment to pray for Newtown and the families who will never be the same. Thank you.


None of this information is first hand. The fabulous reporting of the sources listed above allowed me to collect a fact or two about each victim. Thanks.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Blazing Hot Keyboard: 50,000-Word Novel in a Month

            This November, I participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), a rigorous challenge where writers from all over the world come together with the goal of completing a 50,000-word novel in a month.
            That's right, it's no typo: 50,000 words -- a total of 200 typed pages in slightly more than four weeks.
            I’m proud to tell you, I completed the challenge.
            Woot! Huzzah! And Hooray. I’m a NaNoWriMo "winner," which basically means each day in November I strung together almost 1,700 words or 7 pages of double-spaced copy to add to a Rough Draft --  the bare bones of a fictional story, which, I tell myself, holds the promise of becoming something awesome, perhaps even a best-seller given a bit of rewriting, editing and polish.
            Which brings up the question: Could my novel or any of the NaNoWriMo novels actually get published?
            The answer is YES, absolutely. Here are 13 participants who have tasted that success:
                    1. Amelia Atwater-RhodesPersistence of Memory (Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2008). Contact: randomhouse.com/features/atwaterrhodes
            2. Jill BaguchinskySpookygirl (Dutton Juvenile, 2012). Contact: mintconspiracy.blogspot.com
            3.  B.A. BinnsPull (WestSide Books, 2010). Contact: babinns.com
            4.  Kathy Cano-MurilloLove Shine (Grand Central Publishing, 2007) Contact: CraftyChica.com
            5  Lisa DailyThe Dreamgirl Academy (Plume/Penguin Putnam, 2008). Contact: stopgettingdumped.com
            6. Delphine DrydenSnow Job (Ellora’s Cave, 2008), When in Rio (Ellora’s Cave, 2008), How to Tell a Lie (Ellora’s Cave, 2009). Contact: delphinedryden.com
            7. Terie GerrisonSpringFire and SummerDanse (Llewellyn Worldwide). Contact: teriegarrison.com
            8.  Sara GruenFlying Changes (HarperCollins, 2005), Water for Elephants (Algonquin, 2007) and Ape House (Spiegel & Grau, 2010). Contact: saragruen.com                  
          9.  Kimberly LlewellynCashmere Boulevard (Berkley Books, 2007). Contact: kimberlyllewellyn.com
            10.  Erin MorgensternThe Night Circus (Doubleday Books 2011). Contact: erinmorgenstern.com
            11.  Lani Diane RichTime Off for Good Behavior (Warner Books, 2004), Maybe Baby (Warner Books, 2005), and Wish You Were Here (Warner Books, 2008). Contact: lanidianerich.com

            12.  Vanitha SankaranWatermark: A Novel of the Middle Ages (Avon A, 2010). Contact: vanithasankaran.com
            13.  Anna SheehanA Long, Long Sleep (Candlewick Press, 2011). Contact: annasheehan.com
            I’m only listing 13, but you can find more at: http://www.nanowrimo.org/en/publishedwrimos.
      And if you participated in National Novel Writing Month, I’d like to congratulate you! Fifty thousand words in just four weeks is a lot and making a daily commitment to writing pages isn’t easy. Kudos for stretching, for trying something brave and adding something new to your daily routine.
      I’m with you and I wish you much success.
            Did you pick up the Nanowrimo gauntlet? Did you take up another challenge? I’d love to hear from you. Please share.                

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Which Came First, The Fork Or The Chopsticks?

By Eilis Flynn

Once more, it was eating out with the Hub that led to a conversation that I had to tell you about. Usually, it was when we went out to our favorite diner, but this time, we had decided to go to our favorite Indian restaurant. As always, it was a thoughtful comment by the Hub—this time, as he was examining his fork as he was about to tuck into his dahl—wondering why it is that some cultures use forks and spoons, while others (notably, in Asia) use chopsticks.

I was an anthropology major, so I could hazard a guess about some of this—but only some, because I was a linguistical anthropology major (language was my forte, not sociocultural norms), and the most I would easily be able to hazard a guess about would be the terms used in utensils. But that wasn’t the question, was it? Anyway, I felt a need to do a little research.

The way these things go, I still don’t have a definite answer about why one was adopted over the other, considering both the chopsticks and the fork are of prehistoric origins, although the entire topic was an intriguing one. And I can’t help but think that it may be like the chicken and the egg: did one set of cultures adopt the chopsticks because the foodstuffs available there were easier to manipulate with one over the other? In that case, if it’s true that Marco Polo brought pasta back to Italy from his adventures in China, why didn’t the Italians promptly adopt chopsticks, because the hashi (as the Japanese call chopsticks) work so much better on noodles? For that matter, did Marco Polo really do that? I gotta check that out, too. Back in a bit. (Well, I’m back. Apparently the tale about Marco bringing back pasta from China originated from the trade periodical The Macaroni Journal, which, come to think of it, I remember hearing about from watching the TV show Good Eats. Is that true? This may take a while longer, and I’ve got a deadline.)

Anyway, chopsticks were being used in China as early as about 3,200 years ago. But the earliest chopsticks weren’t for individual use, for eating, according to Wikipedia. They were most likely used for cooking, and eventually, of course, chopsticks became the main choice of utensil in East Asia (with subtle differences among different cultures for their proper use), although forks are in plenty evidence these days. (As an aside, I present a series of workshops online and at conferences with my copresenter Jacquie Rogers called “Myths and Legends Along the Silk Road,” looking at how various mythological figures appear and change between Western and Eastern cultures. One thing that I found interesting is that vampire myths don’t appear a whole lot in the Far East, with the exception of the legend of the hopping vampire in China. I posit a theory here: most of the vampires there have been killed off, having been stabbed into oblivion by wooden chopsticks! Anyway.)

And speaking of the fork — which we were before I teetered off into another topic — it apparently had some history on its own, with evidence that it was around as early as Mesopotamia, ancient Greece, and the Roman Empire. The Byzantine Empire is about when the fork for you and me came about, finally becoming in common use starting from the 18th century. Of course, it didn’t come into broad use without some complaints (“Fancy high-tech!” probably being somebody’s sniffed comment), of course, including some church folk who apparently pointed out that fingers were mankind’s proper utensil and the fork was an affront to the Deity (and even though the fork is referred to in the Bible, and not in a negative way).

Back to the original topic — which came first, the fork or the chopstick? After looking at the references I could find off-hand (without enrolling in graduate school somewhere to study the topic for several years before defending a thesis for what possible use I cannot imagine), I have to conclude that they probably came about in the same period, maybe in the same area, maybe distant from each other — hard to say. The fork would have been more useful for stabbing and handling larger hunks of food, while the chopsticks would have been better for stabbing vampires (just kidding!) and tackling smaller items. Like so many other things in mankind’s development, things change and even (dare I say it?) evolve, depending on how it’s most useful to the situation at hand.

What all this means, of course, is that we can take advantage of all of our choices. So what’s this mean for you? It means you’re free to use whatever utensil you want. And if that involves using your fingers to eat soup, well, wait until it cools off a little, because otherwise it’s going to be not only messy but painful.

Eilis Flynn likes Indian food, which is why we got into this topic in the first place. She can be found to argue with at Facebook, Twitter, or at her website at www.eilisflynn.com.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

What is love?

"What is love?" was my DH's question after he'd told me on our first date that he "just about loved me" - and then took it back. Talk about back peddling. It actually sounded more like, "Oh come on, what is love anyway."

Eventually he figured it out because here we are many years later, but I look back at that now that I'm a writer and when I'm reading another writer's story and ask myself, what are we looking for? As writers and readers, how is true love expressed in your favorite stories, movies?

What is the love readers want to see portrayed in fiction? Is it the HEA (For anyone who's never heard that term, it's "happily ever after".) Is it some more "realistic" depiction of love with all its challenges no matter how it ends? Or is it somewhere in between?

When I read or write or dream the love between two committed individuals this is what I think of it as:

A "You're it for me" and "All I want is you" desire whether hot and passionate or burning slowly and deeply that can keep the attraction alive through the years, a desire for the other person's body but even more for their stellar humor or intelligence or kindness.

Acceptance of each other for who they are, appreciation for how the other's differences can challenge and complement the relationship, and at least respect for how they are different.

Consideration and kindness and care for each other's well being.

An "I'm-on-your-side" mentality when everyone else isn't.

Trust and a lack of competition.

Someone who shares the same vision of life, the same priorities.

My favorite contemporary depictions of love are Jamie and Claire in Gabaldon's Outlander series, Roarke and Eve in Robb's In Death books and most recently the Windhams in Grace Burrowes' books, especially Lady Maggie's Secret Scandal.

How about you? Who are your favorite lovers portrayed in recent movies or books?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Losing My Hero

Some of you may have noticed I’ve been MIA for a while now. There’s a reason for that. Every little girl views her father as the first hero in her life. On August 31st, I lost mine. He was 75 years old and taken from us suddenly and without warning. Since then, I haven’t not had the will to read or write romance. It’s nearly impossible to think about love and happily-ever-afters when your heart is broken.

Instead, I’m finding consolation in reading books like Heaven Is For Real, The Shack, and Many Lives, Many Masters. I’m falling back on my faith, seeking comfort in the knowledge that I will see him again. I’ve also opened myself up to messages from the other side. I’ve found that things that on the surface may seem odd, strange, or coincidental take on a new meaning when I pay attention and connect the dots. I truly believe my dad has sent signs of comfort, letting me know he’s okay and still around. I’m keeping a log of these incidences and may blog about them at some point. But right now they’re a little too personal to share.

Thanksgiving was tough, as I’m sure many firsts without him will be from now on. Still, I did have things to be thankful for. I gave thanks that we were able to celebrate my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary two years ago with my brother and sister and all the grandkids at Emerald Isle. I am thankful that last summer we spent a week RVing with my parents through Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. I’m thankful that 3 weeks before he passed, we were able to spend a week at Garden City Beach with dad, where he played in the sand surrounded by all 4 of his grandchildren. Those are memories my children will always cherish of their grandfather. But most important of all is I’m so very thankful that as we hugged our goodbyes at the end of that beach vacation, the last words my father and I said to each other were “I love you.”

I’m slowly working through my grief and will eventually get back to writing. Some days are better than others, while at other times it’s very hard for this daddy’s girl to make it through the day. After all, daddies aren’t suppose to die, and little girls shouldn’t lose their heroes.

I love you daddy.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Turning Point

Something seems to have happened to cars lately. Maybe they’re being made by aliens...or maybe a time warp has slammed me back about seventy years.

What ever it is, cars now don’t have any turn signals.

I’ve gotten used to it on the freeways—I live in California—and now it’s seeping down to local streets.

For five years, I commuted daily to the San Francisco Bay Area; one way from my house to my office was 89 miles. This was always an adventure in driving, none more so than the morning I was hit.

I was driving about 75 in the fast lane when a car flashed into my peripheral vision, hit my right front door and bumper and sped off.  I was slammed into the guardrail, hit the brakes and was smashed from behind by a large SUV.   

No one was hurt, the CHP took a report and we all drove off to file insurance claims.  Of course, the sideswiping driver was never found, but I’m sure he didn’t have turn signals because he believed he was the only one on the road, Interstate 80.

After that, I got a little paranoid. I don’t trust most other drivers anyway, and this one made me watch not their absent turn signals, but their tires. Among other things.

I watch their tires, looking for any signs that they’re drifting, or speeding, into my lane.  Lord knows they’d never use turn signals to change lanes, the road is there for their driving pleasure. I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve been cut off by folks just pulling into my lane.

Now, that lack of turn signals in cars has reached epidemic proportions on the city streets as well. The other day I followed a car into my neighborhood.  From the freeway to my street, there were eight turns.  There was never a signal.

I can only assume that the late-model car wasn’t equipped with a turn signal indicator.

Please aliens, when you make cars for us, install turn signal indicators!

Now, let’s talk about the two 18-wheelers I passed the other day whose drivers were texting.  That’s right, driving an 18-wheeler down a freeway at 65 miles an hour, texting.  


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Thanks

This Thanksgiving we want to thank you, our readers.

We wish you:
  1. turkey,

  2. gravy,

  3. stuffing,

  4. sweet potatoes,

  5. cornbread,

  6. green bean casserole,

  7. cranberry sauce,

  8. pumpkin pie,

  9. or maybe pecan pie,

  10. whipped cream,

  11. family,

  12. good friends,

  13. and well, all the best.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Author Interview: JL Hilton

Today we have a special interview with author JL Hilton (www.JLHilton.com) who has published two science fiction romances with Carina Press. She also has a free short story available at http://jlhilton.com/wren-and-wood/  called "Wren and Wood" and likes to make Steampunk jewelry (her artwork is featured in that book). All her giveaways for her blog tour right now are at: http://jlhilton.com/giveaways/

1) If you were captured and tortured by evil space pirates, what would be your authorial equivalent to name, rank and serial number? (IE What is the most general description of your writing focus?)

J.L. Hilton, speculative fiction. Under threat of torture, I might admit to science fiction, cyberpunk, fantasy and steampunk.

What if the space pirates were sexy and chaotic neutral instead of evil?

Can they be Cardassians? I love a man with dry wit and neck ridges.

Why are you drawn to include speculative and cyberpunk elements in your fiction? How do you think it enhances the plots or characters?

I enjoy writing speculative fiction because I love imagination and creativity. I grew up with sci-fi and fairy tales. They are mind candy. Twilight Zone was my favorite TV show as a kid. At the age of 4, I liked H.R. Pufnstuf ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H.R._Pufnstuf ) and had a huge crush on Jimmy.

Not to say that stories about everyday people in the everyday world are boring. They're not. They're exciting, tragic, uplifting, amazing, and frightening. When I was a newspaper reporter, I wrote true stories about good deeds and bad deeds, and people from all walks of life – war vets, criminals, soldiers, farmers, students, politicians, police, firefighters, athletes, business owners, mothers, fathers, kids with cancer, grandpas with heart transplants. But I think, in some ways, the more imaginative the story, the closer it can get to truth. Writing about space aliens, magical wizards or undead minions is a way of exploring what it means to be human. It's also a way of defining who we are and what we believe in the real world, by creating a personal mythology.

Second part, cyberpunk. I think the Stellarnet Series is more accurately described as post-cyberpunk ( http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/PostCyberPunk ), though I wasn't trying to write a post-cyberpunk series. My familiarity with cyberpunk as a genre goes about as far as Blade Runner and the Matrix movies. I was trying to write a story about the near future, with recognizable technology, politics and society, and where technology is a good thing.

In Star Trek, they've conquered silly things such as sexism, racism, imperialism and greed – which is noble and inspiring, but not realistic. In Babylon 5, they're still reading newspapers printed on paper, for goodness sake, in the year 2258. And then there's Firefly, which regresses into Wild West and Victoriana. Not that I dislike any of these shows. I love them. But I wanted to envision what a human race armed with an Internet, MMORPG's, social media and smart phone apps might do when it starts settling space and discovering aliens.

If some famous director were going to cast you in the movie version of a speculative or paranormal romance novel (and you had the acting chops to carry it off), which book would it be and what character would you play? (Note: doesn't have to be the hero or heroine. If preferred, you can list your role in the new version of a similar movie, since all movies seem to be getting new versions these days.)

I'd love to be Ogra in The Dark Crystal. Or Eunice St. Clair in Troll. I've always wanted to be that crazy old lady with crystal balls, vials, and cool stuff, who helps the hero along his or her journey. Or maybe Sophie in Howl's Moving Castle. Sorry, do those count as “romance”? No? Um... if I were younger, I'd like to be Stormy Gail from the steampunk time travel books by Christine Bell. ( http://www.christine-bell.com/ ) Or maybe Isabeau d'Anjou in Ladyhawke (as I am now, I could only play Father Imperius, but that would be cool, too).

Do you have any writing rituals, quirks or requirements, like background music, flavored coffee, meditation--medication!--or what have you?

I can't write to music, I prefer silence, but I do listen to music sometimes while I'm plotting out a scene in my mind. For example, I used “Wake Me Up Inside” by Evanescence ( http://youtu.be/3YxaaGgTQYM ) while staging a fight between J'ni, Duin and some thugs in Asteria Colony. Or I listened to “Hope Vol. 2” by Apocalyptica ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lw2ZKHWh_Zg ) while staging a love scene in chapter 21 of Stellarnet Rebel. Something about those songs just makes me feel all of the emotions in those scenes, and it helps inform my writing.

I drink a lot of water anyway, but water has a special significance to the Glin race, so I often have a cup of water with me while writing the Stellarnet Series. Other than that, I must do something to “reset” my mind, when I'm changing gears from homeschooling my kids all day to being in the Stellarnet world at night, so I play Facebook games. For awhile it was Sims Social, then Candy Crush and Solitaire Blitz. At first, there were many arguments along the lines of “Leave me alone, I'm working” and “No, you're not, you're playing games!” But I need that mental transition when I first sit down at the laptop, or I find it difficult to concentrate on writing.

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

Oh, heck, yeah. I've mentioned Twilight Zone, Dark Crystal and Ladyhawke already. I also grew up with Star Wars, Star Trek, Buck Rogers, (the original) Battlestar Gallactica, Alien, and some of my favorite movies were Somewhere in Time, Time After Time, The Time Machine (1960 version rerun on TV), Labyrinth, and Hawk the Slayer. I read Michael Moorcock, Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, Narnia Chronicles, Dragonlance and the Twilight: Where Darkness Begins series from the '80s. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twilight:_Where_Darkness_Begins ) In college, I discovered Diana Gabaldon. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diana_Gabaldon )

Do your characters "take over"?

My characters do come to life, as happens with many authors. I might want to have something happen in a particular way, such as when I wrote Stellarnet Rebel. I had a scene where I wanted Belloc to demonstrate his knowledge of various human dances to J'ni – La Volta, Galliard, Tango, Waltz. But they had other ideas, no matter how many times I tried. I finally gave up and wrote what they wanted to do, which was all full of sexual tension and much more interesting. lol

If I'm really deep into writing a novel, characters will sometimes linger in my head and give me a running commentary on other areas of my life. “Really, humans find this sort of thing exciting? They don't even eat the football when the game is over.” Shut up, Duin. “That politician is an ezzub. He should be whipped with a wurak.” Shut up, Duin. “This lemonade is too sweet. Why do humans like everything so sweet?” Shut up, Duin.

I probably shouldn't admit that.

What about this tarot reading stuff? Do you read the cards for your characters to try to decide where the plot should go next?

I started reading tarot cards in 6th grade. That was almost thirty years ago. I don't use them as writing tools, but I've incorporated them into my writing. In Stellarnet Prince, there's a sim character, a kind of holographic projection with AI, (I won't reveal who the sim is, because it's a bit of a spoiler) but she uses tarot cards as a search engine interfaced with the Net.

For fun, I created tarot cards of several of my characters. They appeared on Christine Bell's blog for Halloween ( http://chrisbwritin.blogspot.com/ ) and on my Facebook page in October. ( https://www.facebook.com/J.L.Hilton.author )

Do you like my hat?

It's very dapper, but it needs a bow.

Insert website and promotional info here!

Author site: http://www.jlhilton.com
Book website: www.StellarnetPrince.com
Giveaways: http://jlhilton.com/giveaways/
Publisher website: www.CarinaPress.com
Buy link: http://www.StellarnetSeries.com/shop/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/J.L.Hilton.author  
Twitter: https://twitter.com/authorJLHilton
deviantART: http://jlhilton.deviantart.com/
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5344538.J_L_Hilton

Stellarnet Prince official cover blurb:

An otherworldly love. Human blogger Genny O'Riordan shares two alien lovers: Duin, a leader of the Uprising, and Belloc, the only surviving member of the reviled Glin royal family. Their relationship has inspired millions of followers--and incited vicious anti-alien attacks.

A planet at risk. A Stellarnet obsessed with all things alien brings kidnappers, sex traffickers and environmental exploitation to Glin. Without weapons or communications technology, the planet cannot be defended. Glin will be ravaged and raided until nothing remains.

A struggle for truth. On Earth, Duin discovers a secret that could spur another rebellion, while on Glin, Belloc's true identity could endanger their family and everything they've fought for. Have the Glin found true allies in humanity, or an even more deadly foe?

94,000 words

*** Right now, JL is touring all over the interwebs giving away books and other loot. Be sure to check her website for the updated schedule of appearances!


Jody W.
Author, Cat Person, Amigurumist
http://www.jodywallace.com  * http://www.meankitty.com  

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Hitting the Brick Wall (in the National Novel Writing Month) 13 Suggestions to Break Through Writer’s Block


 If you’re like me, the excitement of a new story or beginning a challenge is waning. Now that you’re into the second week, maybe you're wondering where your next 2,000 words will come from.
            Never fear, I have some suggestions. Thirteen, as a matter of fact.

  1. Have one of your main characters start a journal. What are her innermost thoughts/fears about her current plight?
  2. Write a back-story. Give yourself permission to compose a history for your heroes, villains and/or setting. Indulge in all those world-building details and trivia that might bore a reader, but as the creator you feel compelled to  know. Getting them down on paper/electronically will enrich your story. A word of caution, though: Use these details  sparingly in the final draft.
  3. Go through what you’ve written, but don’t edit. Envision the scene you're looking at,  then add another layer. Insert Smells, Sights, Sounds and Tastes -- impressions and associations your character would encounter during his or her experience.
  4. Look at a previous scene and play the "What-If?" game. What would have happened if Character X hadn’t found the gun? Or what if Character X somehow had survived a fall into the volcano?
  5. Write a scene again from the antagonist’s point of view.
  6. Add a new character.
  7. Kill off someone in the story.
  8. Consider handing out super powers.
  9. Look at one of the scenes and consider changing its setting. What if Character X broke up with the villain while both (were swimming in shark infested waters), (attending another character’s funeral), (relaxing aboard the Titanic), (locked in the trunk of a car), (bored to tears at a family reunion), (facing the camera in a reality TV special), (immersed in a fire fight), (climbing to the top of Mount Everest), (being held by airport security).  You get the idea. ...
  10. Make a list of each of your main characters’ dirty secrets. Then another list of the worst possible moments those secrets could be exposed.  If inspiration hits, write that scene.
  11. Look at the things that have happened to your hero. Say he has unlimited text minutes. Compose his explanations of those events in texts to his (boss, mother, girlfriend, child, priest, parole officer).
  12. Remember you’re writing for fun. Not perfection. Keep telling yourself, “This is a Rough Draft. I can always change things later.”
  13. Treat yourself to a reward for words written.

            Finally and possibly the best suggestion in my list, remember to ask friends and family for help. Phone someone or connect on twitter. Also, check out the forums on the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) website:  http://www.nanowrimo.org, or visit another writer’s blog.  
            One of the things I love most about NaNoWriMo and blogging is sharing the writing adventure with others. Please consider leaving a suggestion for defeating writer’s block or a comment. Thanks.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

About John Carter, And Not The Character From "ER"

By Eilis Flynn

From the time Disney announced the title of one of their movies, it was pretty clear they wanted nothing to do with it, and did everything they could to kill it. Why, I never could figure out, but it was obvious something had happened, and Disney (symbol DIS, if you’re curious enough to watch the stock go up and down online) decided it was easier for them to make sure they washed their hands of it than recoup their losses. And they made sure there were losses.

I speak, of course, of the movie JOHN CARTER, which came out earlier this year and died almost immediately. The critics lambasted it, and the word spread about how terrible it was, and how it was basically an embarrassment, it was the end of the careers of all concerned, so forth and so on. Perhaps you might not remember that it came out at all; if that’s the case, that’s not a surprise, either. Based on an Edgar Rice Burroughs series of books, the title itself was guaranteed to confuse anyone familiar with the books, and it was guaranteed to confuse anyone who might recognize the name from, say, a character from a long-running TV series on NBC. (The series was ER. No one on the show, as far as I could tell, ever mentioned the books, or the hero’s name; I can only assume that it was creator Michael Crichton’s little private joke.)

Given that the movie was based on the first book of the series, the confusion mounted. The book was titled A PRINCESS OF MARS, and I’m sure that in the wisdom of the entertainment industry, anything with the word “princess” would scare off boys and men who would refuse to shell out to watch it, so Disney decided that the title had to change for the movie. But change it to JOHN CARTER? The title could have been WARLORD OF MARS, because that’s what the character, an ex-Civil War soldier, became, but perhaps the logic was that a title like that would scare off another group. The title they decided on clearly was someone’s punishment, and it pretty much worked, because it sucked. Mind you, this is all speculation. But it was a crappy title, because it didn’t say anything about the story.

(According to IMDB, there were conflicting reports about why the change in title – from A PRINCESS OF MARS to JOHN CARTER OF MARS, and then to JOHN CARTER – occurred, ranging from the marketing department or the director wanted to appeal to a broader audience, or the studio wanted to create a film series with “John Carter” in the title. Hm. And apparently the industry also believed that movies with “Mars” in the title underperform financially, and in the case of Disney, its MARS NEEDS MOMS, which was not a success, to put it mildly. Apparently producing a good product wasn’t in the cards.)

And everyone who knew the story would have been confused. And those who knew there was a movie based on the Burroughs books on the way would have been confused. Yes, pretty much screwed one way or another. “Flop” was the term used. “Flop of legendary proportions,” to be precise, was the term.

Was the punishment aimed at the director? He apparently had control of the marketing, and considering how much money the company put into the marketing, I had to think that they threw bad money after good, truly a money pit. And that pit kept getting deeper and deeper. Was the studio head on someone’s shit list? Sure seemed like it.

So what, you ask?

So there was a twist to the end of the story. The critics savaged it, and the general audience stayed away. But those familiar with the books? They liked it. And they told their friends, and even commented about it in social media. So when the movie became available on DVD and Blu-Ray, they even bought it. In fact, it made money overseas, so it did recoup some of the loss. By early April, the movie had made back its production costs of $254.5 million worldwide. As of August 2012, the gross was up to $283 million worldwide. (And of course, this is the company that also enjoyed the billion-dollar success of THE AVENGERS the same year, so it’s not hurting.)

But the Disney studio chief had to step down, and the movie still holds a reputation as being a stinker. So whatever happened in the background, someone cheered with a sneer and someone groaned with whatever rhymes with “groaned.” And who got screwed? We did.

What’s the moral of the story, you ask? Oh, I have no idea. I wanted to complain how badly this movie was treated, and you, dear readers, were convenient. What’s the moral? Uh, don’t piss off studio heads? Don’t get involved in a land war in Asia? Don’t screw with a classic, not when the title is important? Yeah, that’s it. Titles are important.

Titles are important. You can’t deny that, can you? Nobody can.

So go out and buy the JOHN CARTER DVD and enjoy it, because it’s a pretty good movie. The end.

Eilis Flynn saw JOHN CARTER and liked it, screw the critics. She can be found to argue with at Facebook, Twitter, or at her website at www.eilisflynn.com.

Disclaimer: I own Disney stock. So what?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Today’s the day when all the spooky things we’ve ever feared get hauled out of closets and garages and put on display.
Spider Webs.
Grinning skulls (some pumpkin, some not).
Halloween is one of the oldest celebrations in European history.  It was originally celebrated as Samhain, a Celtic end-of-harvest time that also marked the beginning of winter.
The Celts believed at this time of year the ghosts of the dead were able to mingle with the living, because Samhain was when the souls of those who had died during the year traveled into the otherworld.
When Christianity grew throughout Europe, the new religion stamped out pagan beliefs the easiest way they knew—they co-opted the traditional days of celebration.  Christmas took the place of Saturnalia, the Roman mid-winter festival that marked the winter Solstice.  Easter was a spring festival celebrating the rebirth of the land.  And Samhain, once the most important Celtic holiday, became All Saint’s Day, November 1.
And in preparation for All Hallows (or Saint’s) Day, the evening leading up to it was the busiest time of the year for the spirits of those who’d died.  Treats were made, families feasted and remembered their dead.  Some of the Spanish cultures, including Mexico, still celebrate with Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead.
From a way to say good-bye to the dead, Halloween has morphed into an evening when we embrace our fears and try to outdo one another with macabre costumes, decorations and foods.
How many of you will be eating eyeballs or veins or bones or brains tonight? (And later, how many of you wil be ransacking you kid’s trick or treat bags for the best candy?)
Most of the scary symbols of Halloween come from our recognition and fear of death and these traveling spirits have become our witches, warlocks, vampires and zombies, all characters in our own psyches.
There is one symbol that most kids know however, who was real.  Not a goblin or a ghoul or a skeleton or a ghost. It’s the bogeyman.
The bogeyman is a faceless fear that has kept kids behaving for about two hundred years. Ever wonder why there’s no bogeyman costume?
It’s because the bogey man was Napoleon Bonaparte, the French emperor who almost invaded England.  When invasion was close before the Battle of Trafalgar, mothers on the south coast if England threatened their misbehaving children with “Bonaparte will get you if you don’t watch out.”
Today, though, not many kids would be frightened by someone dressed up as a French general!
Some things just aren’t what they used to be.

Michele Drier was born in Santa Cruz and is a fifth generation Californian.  She’s lived and worked all over the state, calling both Southern and Northern California home.  During her career in journalism — as a reporter and editor at daily newspapers – she won awards for producing investigative series.
Her mystery Edited for Death, called “Riveting and much recommended” by the Midwest Book Review and a Memorable Book for 2011 on DorothyL, is available in paperback at Amazon and B&N.
Her paranormal romance series, SNAP: The Kandesky Vampire Chronicles, is available in ebook format at Amazon.  The first book, SNAP: The World Unfolds, received a 4-star rating from the Paranormal Romance Guild.  The second book, SNAP: New Talent, also received 4 stars from PRG.  The third book of the Chronicles, Plague: A Love Story, was published in June 2012, the fourth, Danube: A Tale of Murder was published September 13, 2012 and the fifth,  SNAP: Love for Blood is scheduled to be released in December 2012.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

What Is It About Black Cats? 13 Superstitions & One Real Life Encounter

A kitten who could be adopted from the Wisconsin Humane Society.She looks like my first cat. 

            My first cat was black except for a tiny dab of white under her chin. She was petite, graceful and tolerant of me, a first-time pet owner, and my son, a toddler at the time. She taught me the ropes: what kind of food she liked, when her litter needed changing, the proper way to pet her when she wanted affection.
            But perhaps my cat loved the outside world and the hunt even more than me.  Or perhaps she considered my cat training complete because a little over a year after she and I had adopted one another, she left the house and never returned.
            Her hunting was something we could never agree about. I wanted her to adjust to living indoors. She refused to be penned inside and would lurk by the door, looking for the opportunity to escape. Abetted by my toddler, she regularly got out and, until her last expedition, she’d always come back.
            Off and on, we looked for her for months, leaving posters around the neighborhood and visiting cat shelters. Always we found ourselves describing her yellow eyes and ebony coat. People often would share their black cat experiences with us. Some said black cats were the best hunters. Others told us about their pets and still others, the more scholarly of our friends, gave us a mini history lesson, which went something like this:
            In the Middle Ages, black cats were rumored to be witches’ familiars or sometimes even evolving into the shape of the witch herself. Many people attributed a mystical and perhaps an evil nature to the felines. Even today, they’re sometimes associated with magic and eeriness. Around Halloween, black cats take their place center stage along with pumpkins, witches and other holiday decorations.
            We never found our missing cat. I like to believe she might have returned to the family that initially raised her.
            Since then, we’ve had a number of cats and all have lived out their lives with us. All have been indoor felines and no others have been black. Probably that's because we try to pick our cats by personality rather than color, but I don’t think there’s any other color in cats that inspires so many varied reactions.
            In memory of Mimi, my wandering first cat, here are 13 superstitions.

  1. In Italy, some people believe that if a black cat curls up on the bed of a sick person, that person will soon die.
  2. In other locales, people are warned not to chase a black cat from their house because doing so brings ruin on the home.
  3. Some Chinese say that black cats are harbingers of poverty and famine.
  4. There are lots of superstitions about a black cat walking. In some places, they believe that if a dark cat comes toward you, so will good fortune, but if it heads away from you, it will take your prosperity with it.
  5. It’s said, in the United States and Great Britain, that if a black cat crosses your path, you're destined to have bad luck.
  6. But black cats don’t always foretell trouble.  Some cultures believe that petting one of the ebony beauties leads to health and prosperity.
  7. In Germany, you have to pay attention to the direction in which the cat crosses your path. If it comes from the right, your luck will be BAD. But if it comes from the left, plan on GOOD FORTUNE.
  8. Rumor has it, if you’re in Latvia and you find black kittens in your silo, you can anticipate an abundant harvest.
  9. In Scottish lore, riches will come your way if a black cat sits on your porch.
  10. Some cultures believe that black cats can heal. One belief is that pressing a black cat’s tail to your eye cures conditions ranging from a simple sty to blindness.
  11. Another superstition is that if you can find and remove a white hair from an ebony cat without getting scratched, you’ll be blessed with a happy marriage.
  12. Many a fisherman’s wife kept a black cat because she believed it would ensure her husband returning safely from the sea.
  13. To be given a black cat is supposedly good luck.
            In my case, getting my first cat was good fortune indeed. She taught me how to live with a furry friend and how wonderful its pleasures and purrs could be.
            What do you think about black cats? Are they lucky for you? Or something you avoid? Please share.                                                


A Dictionary of Superstitions, Iona Archibald, Opie – Moira Tatem~Oxford University Press ~ 2005