Tuesday, May 29, 2012

How To Be A Guest

I used to be a good guest
My mother taught me to always ask the host or hostess if I could help in any way.
I always kept the bathroom I was using absolutely clean.  I always arrived with something—a bottle of wine, some oranges from my tree, a homemade dessert, a new book.
I always stripped the sheets from the bed I’d been using and put those and any towels I’d used into the wash.
This was all before I decided to write books, when I lived a normal life.
Now, well, not so much.
For Memorial Day, I drove a couple hundred miles to visit friends.  These aren’t casual acquaintances, these are people I’ve known for years.  I went to high school with him, she’s my closest friend.  I’ve spent enough time at their house over the years that I know where they keep extra towels and toilet paper.
Because I’m in the middle of writing two novellas for my Kandesky vampire series, I put off getting ready until Saturday morning.  That meant I crammed watering the yard and plants, finishing laundry, finding the cat and putting him outside with enough food for two days, asking the neighbors if they’d pick my the newspapers and throw them on the porch, cleaning up the kitchen and packing into too few hours.  Complicated by two phone calls from critique group members, I was w-a-a-a-y behind schedule so I just grabbed clothes—enough clothes to spend a month.
When I knocked on their door, I was an hour-and-a-half later than I’d said.  Thankfully, they know me and hadn’t held lunch.
Because we all write and read a lot (she’s the executive editor for a group of papers, he’s a lawyer and mediator), conversations always revolve around what we’re currently reading, what we just finished reading, what we’re planning to reading next, and I tried, I honestly tried, to engage in the discussion without constantly talking about my own books. I also tried to stay engaged in the conversation.  This was hard as I’m working through some plot problems and I don’t know how to leave them behind.
I managed, until we went out to shopping and lunch, a 45-minute drive.  They were chatting in the front seat when one of them turned to me and asked a question.  I said, “Huh?”
They looked at each other, turned to me and said, “What are you doing?”  I must have had a blank stare while idly watching traffic go by.
“Writing,” I said.
I did help with dinner, I did strip my bed, I did tidy the bathroom.
But if you ask a writer to spend time with you, be aware that she’s only partly there.  Her characters may be more engrossing than your company.

Drier is working on Plague: A Love Story, the third book in the Kandesky Vampire Chronicles.  Books one and two, SNAP: The World Unfolds and SNAP: New Talent are available at Amazon in Kindle format.

A History of Pie

One of the things we love here at the Diner is pie. My personal favorites are pecan, pumpkin, mincemeat and key lime.

A pie is a baked dish made of a pastry dough lining and sometimes a pastry or dough cover, that contains a filling of sweet or savoury ingredients. There are as many variations of this tasty treat as you'd like.

Pies are sometimes defined by their crusts. A filled pie is also called a single-crust or bottom-crust. It has pastry lining the baking dish, and the filling is placed on top of the pastry but left open. A top-crust pie, or cobbler, is made by placing the filling in the bottom of the dish. The filling is then covered with a pastry or other covering before baking. A two-crust pie has the filling completely enclosed in the pastry shell. Many things can be used for pie crust, including flaky pastry, baking powder biscuits, mashed potatoes, and crumbs.

As much as we think of pie as a modern invention, the first pies appeared around 9500 BC. These early pies were in the form of galettes wrapping honey as a treat inside a cover of ground oats, wheat, rye or barley. Galettes developed into a form of early sweet pastry or desserts. Evidence of this can be found on the tomb walls of the Pharaoh Ramesses II. Sometime before 2000 BC, a recipe for chicken pie was found written on a tablet in Sumer.

Historians believe that the Greeks originated what we know as pie pastry. At that time, pastry was a flour and water paste. If you add fat to it, it becomes pastry. This pastry was wrapped around meat, and served to cook the meat, seal in the juices, and provide a lightweight sealed holder for long sea journeys.

The Romans were far more adept at using salt and spices to preserve and flavor their meat, but a first century Roman cookbook makes mention of various recipes involving a pie case. By 160 BC, Roman statesman Marcus Porcius Cato notes the recipe for the most popular pie or cake of the day, placenta or libum. This treat was more like the cheesecake we're familiar with, only instead of a graham cracker base it was cooked on a pastry base. It was also often used as an offering to the gods.

With the development of the Roman Empire and their extensive roads, pie cooking spread throughout Europe. Pies remained among the core staples of diet or traveling for working peoples in the northern European countries. Regional variations were based on locally grown ingredients and cereal crop, as well as available meats.

During medieval times, cooking forms were often restricted due to costs of construction and the need for abundant fuel supplies. But since pies could be easily cooked over an open fire,  partnering with a baker allowed for cooking the filling inside the pie casing. The earliest pie-like recipes refer to coffyns. This word means a basket or box.  The recipes called for straight sealed sides and a top. During this time, open top pies were called traps. Early recipes also focused on the filling over the surrounding case, which led to the use of reusable earthenware pie cases. This helped reduce the use of expensive flour.

The first reference to pyes as food items appeared in England during the 12th century. "Four and twenty blackbirds backed in a pie" aren't just the words to a nursery rhyme. Song birds were a fine delicacy during medieval times, but were protected by royal law. At King Henry VI's coronation in 1429, partryche and pecock enhackyll pie was served. This consisted of cooked peacock mounted in its skin on a peacock filled pie. Cooked birds were frequently placed by European royal cooks on top of a large pie to identify its contents. It is believed this led to the later adapation in pre-Victorian times of using porcelain birds as an ornament to release steam and identify a good pie.

Early settlers brought their pie recipes with them to the New World, adapting the ingredients and techniques available to them. The first pies on this side of the Atlantic were filled with berries and fruits. Pies allowed colonial cooks to stretch scarce ingredients. Round shallow pans were used to literally cut corners, and thus create a regional variation of a shallow pie.

In the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, meat pies with fillings such as steak, cheese, steak and kidney, minced beef, or chicken and mushroom are popular. They are also served with chips as an alternative to fish and chips at British chip shops.

Pot pies with a flaky crust and bottom are also a popular American dish. These are typically filled with meat, particularly beef, chicken or turkey, gravy, and mixed vegetables, especially potatoes, carrots and peas. Frozen pot pies are often sold in individual serving size.

Fruit pies may be served with a scoop of ice cream, a style known in North America as pie à la mode. Apple pie a la mode is thought to have been popularized in the mid-1890s in the United States.

What are your favorites? Any recipes you'd care to share?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Memorial Day Thank You

Happy Memorial Day -- a few days early. Most of us know someone who has served or is now serving in the military.

We can't say enough about how much we appreciate their efforts and sacrifice.

To add to our thanks for America's veterans past and present, we'll share quotes -- 13 of them (surprise!) -- about servicemen and bravery.

Photo provided courtesy of the National Archives

1. "Only those are fit to live who are not afraid of dying." -- General Douglas MacArthur

2. "Although a soldier by profession, I have never felt any fondness for war, and I have never advocated it, except as a means of peace." -- Ulysses S. Grant

3. "The most important qualification of a soldier is fortitude under fatigue and privation. Courage is only second. Hardship, poverty and want are the best school for a soldier."-- Napoleon Bonaparte

4. "If anyone, then, asks me the meaning of our flag, I say to him, it means just what Concord and Lexington meant; what Bunker Hill meant . In short, the rising up of a valiant young people against an old tyranny to establish the most momentous doctrine the world has ever known -- the right of men to their own selves and to their liberties." --Henry Ward Beecher

5. "I regard myself as a soldier, though a soldier of peace." -- Gandhi

6. "Go forward without fear. " -- Abraham Lincoln

7. "I would not fear a pack of lions led by a sheep, but I would always fear a flock of sheep led by a lion." -- Alexander the Great

8. "We take the stars from heaven, the red from our mother country, separating it by white stripes, thus showing that we have separated from her, and the white stripes shall go down to posterity representing our liberty." -- George Washington

9. "Nobody ever drowned in sweat." -- U.S. Marine saying

10. "In war, there are no unwounded soldiers. " -- José Narosky

11. "I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its stupidity." -- General Eisenhower

12. "You don’t get very far in life without having to be brave an awful lot. Because we all have our frightening moments and difficult trials and we don’t have much of a choice but to get through ‘em ... It takes a lot of bravery to do that. The most important thing about bravery is this: It’s not about not being scared – it’s about being scared and doing it anyway – that’s bravery." -- singer Ysabella Brave

13. '"For without belittling the courage with which men have died, we should not forget those acts of courage with which men have lived." --John F. Kennedy

I hope this Memorial Day that we’ll all take the time to remember soldiers, sailors and airmen, present and past, who have gifted us with freedom.

Do you know a serviceman you’d like to thank? Tell us about him or her. Or share an inspiring quote. I'd love to hear from you.







Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Confucius Cat Says... Is now an ebook

For a number of years, my "cat" has been an active blogger- www.confuciuscat.blogspot.com- and twitter personality -@confuciuscat. Now he's a literary giant with the release of a new ebook. 

Translated from the original Catspeak, Confucius Cat says, is a hilarious and profound collection of the advice and observations of the wise and wonderful feline philosopher. 


Praise for Confucius Cat Says...

"A purrrrfect book for anyone who loves to laugh."
- Ravenous Readers

"Hilariously funny and wise. A must-read book..."
-Wanda Wienen Kruse
Book Reviewer

Confucius Cat knows all and has generously agreed to impart his wisdom to the world in this compendium of his best advice and observations.

More Praise

 "If you're a cat lover, buy this book."

Book Reviewer

"Fun, quirky cute book for cat lovers everywhere."
Busy Happy Mom
Book Reviewer

I hope you'll check it out. It's only 99 Cents. Plus, all author proceeds for May, June and July will be donated to the American Humane Society. After that it's my intent to choose another animal charity. Both Confucius and I are strongly committed to animal rights and hope we can donate a huge amount to charities close to our hearts. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Indie Author Spotlight: Oops!

Today is the day I normally post a review of an indie book. Unfortunately, I don't have anything for you this week. May has been a very busy month for me and today's date snuck up on me before I knew it. I did start one book this week with the intention of reviewing it, but it had formatting issues out the wazoo that really bothered me.

Indie authors, please preview your books in every format before you hit the publish button. The desktop apps are free and it only takes a few minutes to flip through the book to see if something appears out of place. Yes, the story is important, and the occasional formatting issue does happen even to the best of them, but having a multitude of wacky indents on every other page is not acceptable.

And even if I had been able to overlook the formatting problems, the author kept jerking me out of the story with jumpy transitions from time and place. One minute the heroine is standing on a deck, the next she's at the bottom of the stairs talking to a friend. How and when did she get there? Did she walk? Slide down the railing? Teleport? And the relationship between the hero and heroine went from 0 to 60 in the span of a few paragraphs, which I had a hard time buying seeing as she thought he might be a killer and all. Plus there was a blatant disregard for proper police procedure in the obvious effort to involve the heroine in the story where she normally wouldn't be. All this was  in the first few chapters of the book. I didn't read any further to see if it got better. Quite frankly, I just don't have the time to waste. Now don't get me wrong. I actually liked the author's voice. I saw a lot of potential reading between the lines. Unfortunately, I think this book was a case of the author needed a good editor to help her take it from okay to stellar.

When I first started reviewing indie books, I made a promise that I would only review ones I could highly recommend. I knew several chapters into this book that this wasn't going to be one of them. I did start another book that seems to have promise so far, but I haven't finished reading it, so no review on that one until next time.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Haunted Indianapolis...

It's been a while since we've had a paranormal post on here, so I thought in honor of my soon-to-be-new city, I'd let you know that, according to several sources, including Unsolved Mysteries, Indianapolis is the most haunted city in Indiana.

Here are some of the specifics:

Cathedral High School (Former sight of Ladywood High School) - Cathedral High School campus was once the campus of Ladywood, a private boarding school in Indianapolis. In Loretto Hall, the former main building of Ladywood, classes were held on the first floor, physical education in the basement, with student dorms on the second floor, and nun dorms in the attic. It has been reported many times that at night, after what would be "lights out" for the girls you can hear and sometimes see a sister walking down the halls in the second floor and candles burning in the attic.

Decatur Central High School -In the 1970's, a girl named Angie and her friends were recklessly riding around the school parking lot. They crashed and Angie was thrown from the car and decapitated. Strangely enough, the school's electricity would not work for several weeks after and the entire school smelled like burnt rubber. Every year, around the time of Angie's death, the electricity still goes out and burnt rubber is smelled. Some people have even reported seeing a young female ghost walking up and down the stairs crying.

Downtown -St. Joseph's Old Abandoned Catholic Church - Reports of seeing blood on the hands of over 92 witnesses, hearing a loud bang in the middle of the sanctuary, and loud footsteps.

Edgewood River - Sounds reported of a drowning boy splashing and screaming for help.

Hanna House - it was built by Alexander Moore Hanna as part of the Underground Railroad. One night one of the oil lamps fell in the basement and the house caught fire and many slaves died. The house was restored almost immediately, but it's said there are cold spots, doors open and close with no by themselves, and one of the upstairs rooms smells of death. Strange noises, smells and apparitions are observed here.

House of Blue Lights - This mansion on Meridian Street in Indianapolis is haunted by the young wife of the first owner. When you go by the house at night you can see blue lights flickering on and off on the grounds and in the tower window. According to legend the man couldn't stand the thought of burying his lovely young wife so had a special glass coffin built and placed in the tower. He would go visit his wife every night. The tower was lit by soft blue lights, her favorite color.

Indiana Repertory Theatre - In life, the first artistic director of the theatre used to jog around the upstairs mezzanine area when the weather was cold or rainy. He reached his untimely death when his nephew accidentally hit him with a car while jogging outside on a foggy day. To this day, when it rains outside, you can hear floor boards in the upper mezzanine creaking and groaning just as they would if someone were running.

Indianapolis Athletic Club- The spirit of a young fireman has been reported. He tries to wake up guests in the middle of the night. There was a fatal fire at the hotel in the early 90s, in which a young firefighter died.

Indianapolis City County Building - During the first years of construction on this building, a special elevator was erected to move court witnesses to different floors of the building. In the 1960's, a witness was being escorted to court in a Mafia case. He was shot in the elevator by one of the police escorts, who was really a hit man in disguise. After this happened, access to the elevator was blocked and the power cut off. Many people have reported hearing this mysterious elevator going through the floors, muffled by screams heard in the elevator shaft. Some have even claimed to see the actual ghost of the shooting victim wandering the halls of the building.

Irvington, IN - There is a church in this town that was once a house. The church is on a circle surrounded by other houses, and used to house slave owner, his slaves and maids. If you walk by the church/house in the setting sun you can see a figure of a man either on the roof or somewhere on the church grounds. If you spend the night in Irvington you may experience several things. Some people, when they are sleeping, have reported waking up and feeling that someone else is in the room. Sometimes you will even see a young man. Also strange smells and sounds have been heard and feelings that you are not alone.

James A Allison Mansion - A part of Marian College campus, the Allison Mansion is a mansion built between 1909-1911, it was James & Sarah Allison’s summer house. After Marian College acquired it from the Allison estates it became part of the campus buildings. The attic was the Sisters' dorm, the students lived in the old garage, and classes took place in the rest of the building or the greenhouses. From the time the mansion was used as a school to the present (it's now used as a conference building) strange occurrences have taken place. Keys missing, objects moved, the library room completely rearranged - furniture not just books. The basement has an indoor pool, where a baby crying has been heard. Legend says that the Allisons had a child and the baby drowned in the pool.

MagicMoments Restaurant - The top floor of 1 Pennsylvania street, where MagicMoments now stands is said to be haunted. Table settings move by themselves during the night and glasses are taken from tables and set on the floor right side up. Cold spots are everywhere and the office is said to have a bad vibe. It's reported that illegal boxing mathces were arranged on the top floor and some fighters died.

Marian College Stokely Mansion - An apparition of a man walking a dog has been seen. An apparition of a brunette woman running out the side porch door and jumping into an waiting carriage has also been seen. People have been gently pushed off the dog walk. Gondolas run without water under them. People having tea in the Japanese Tea House in the middle of the night.

Paul Ruster Park Cemetery - Many years ago, a little boy was killed near the train tracks. He is now buried in the foundation of his old house. Many people say that if you walk the long path through the woods to his grave, you can hear the boy playing his harmonica. Others have reported seeing a ghostly young boy walking down the road.

Post Road - When you turn onto the street your car will cut off and won't start back up. It's reported a group of kids ran into a tree and died on that street.

Tuckaway House - George and Nellie Meier are said to haunt the house that was their home.

Waterbury Neighborhood - A condominium in which an elderly lady died. One of the current residents, the son of the family, reports voices, objects moving, screams, bumps, knocks, footsteps, growls, shadows, electronics not working, candles going out, hot and cold spots, strange feelings, animals sensing something there, strange dreams, the bed shaking, doors opening and closing, an orb once caught on digital photo, strange lights, and the strong smell of lilacs. These have been reported around the house, but an overwhelming amount of the experiences have taken place in the son's former room. This room, strangely enough, is not the room she died in.

Are they true? I'll let you know...

Monday, May 14, 2012

Get Your Writing to Heel

Writing a novel is a bit like walking multiple unruly dogs. If you don’t watch out plot threads get out of control, tangled up and even completely off center much the way dogs can circle your legs with their leashes and bowl you over.
Recently I’ve experienced this very thing. I’m a dog owner, the proud mama of four dogs to be precise: two miniature dachshunds, one standard dachshund, and one grandma cocker spaniel. The minis and granny love to walk, my standard – which is also the newest addition to the family pack and a mere one year of age, to boot – not so much. However, the fact that Cocoa Puff (the newbie) has boundless energy makes it essential to take her out for a good, long walk. I’m no professional dog walker. Three dogs are my limit, at least until Cocoa Puff settles down, and so the two minis go with Cocoa on our walks.
Like the experts suggested, I tethered my best walker, Queen Spooky, to my most troublesome walker, Cocoa, with a tandem leash while Roxie walked on my left. The experts agree that the good walker will correct the poor walker’s bad habits by example. They also agree that you must train each dog individually to sit, stay, and heel. Uh-huh. Long story short, everything that a dog walker doesn’t want to happen, happened. I was wound up in leashes too many times to count, which made it ever more shocking that I didn’t topple over. Oh, and Spooky and Cocoa even spread the love by wrapping themselves around a random male walker. Thankfully, he was a good sport and laughed it off. After three or four tries, we got him free of the leads and on his way. On the other hand, I was shaken up, embarrassed for my rowdy girls and myself. As a writer, I naturally began seeing parallels between this experience and my writing life.

Step one to successful dog walking is to do your homework. Teach the dogs to sit, stay, heel. Take each dog for a one-on-one walk and teach him to walk by your side. Successful writing requires the same discipline. As a writer, we must take the time to research. There’s nothing worse than a story filled with inaccuracies and myths. Invest creativity in building your world. Be it a language or three, an alien world or culture, to achieve believability you must do the work.

Step two to successful dog walking is to assign walking positions of each dog. You don’t want to pair two nervous dogs on a leash – too much drama. Best to put your steadiest, most experienced walker with the novice. Same thing with your plotting. You don’t want one Scene to follow another. Sequel is essential to keeping your reader involved, plus it gives the reader time to digest the action and drama that occurred in the preceding Scene. On our next walk, I’m pairing Roxie with Cocoa Puff. Roxie is my steadiest walker. She never leaves my side and rarely makes a misstep.

Step three to successful dog walking is to walk assertively. Once you have the pack walking in the forward direction, just keep walking. It is suggested that you plan for a rest stop, but be prepared that this will knock your dogs off track as you will have to start over, reorganize the dogs, and struggle to regain your momentum. How many times have I gotten frustrated with my work in progress and put it down for a “break”? And how hard was it for me to get back my momentum? As a writer, you should beware the pit stop. Bestselling author Lori Foster says that she tries to write her first draft as quickly as possible so she can get to the part she most enjoys: editing. Editing is no favorite of mine, but I know that if you have momentum then it’s best to keep moving forward.
Dog walking can be fun for the walker and the dogs. It can also be frustrating, and trying – the same as writing. How do you keep your writing on track? What homework do you do to make your manuscripts complete? What works for you?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Have you visited Brenda Novak's Auction?

I've been sadly remiss in my Sunday postings, but wanted to remind those of you who haven't been yet to pop over to Brenda Novak's Auction for The Cure for Juvenile Diabetes at http://brendanovak.auctionanything.com/Home.taf There's something for everyone ... readers, and especially writers. You can bid on critiques from agents, editors and best-selling authors, a chance to meet the author of your dreams, and several lifetime opportunities, like a trip to Paris or Ireland. Yours truly is offering two critiques of first three chapters and query letter, and I'd love to see you guys over there, bidding for a good cause. This might be your chance to get your manuscript in front of YOUR perfect editor. The auction ends May 31, so get in gear! If anyone has questions, I'm always checking in, so just ask... talk to you soon, and happy writing! Jeannie

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Thirteen Facts About Whales -- Many of Them Surprising

Thought much lately about whales? Didn't think so. You'll want to read on.

Whales are both majestic and mysterious. There’s a lot about them the average person, like me, doesn’t know. Today's guest, urban-fantasy author and self-proclaimed whale addict, Kendall Grey, has studied them intensively. She'll share 13 facts about these exquisite creatures.

1. Scientists believe whales evolved 55 million years ago. One of the earliest whale ancestors was Pakicetus, a wolf-like creature with hooves. Whales are remarkable in that their forebears left the ocean, evolv on land, then went back to the sea -- probably to avoid competition with land animals. Whales saw an open niche with plenty of food and took advantage of it.

2. Whales are mammals. This seems like a no-brainer, but many people think whales are fish. Despite the similarities in appearance, whales are genetically closer to humans than they are to fish. They're warm-blooded, have hair (not much, but some), give live birth, nurse their young, and breathe air with lungs.

3. They're ... big. Blue whales are the largest animals ever to live on this planet. Yes, bigger than any known dinosaurs. Blues can grow to over 100 feet in length. "Mid-sized" whales like humpbacks are about the size of a school bus (around 45 feet), and their babies are the size of a pick-up truck (12 to14 feet).

4. The really big ones eat really small stuff. Baleen whales like blues, humpbacks and fin whales generally are bigger than their toothy cousins, orcas, sperm, and pilot whales. Toothed whales hunt in "packs" (pods) and often go after larger animals (seals, giant squids or even other whales). Baleen whales eat small, schooling fish or krill. Keratin plates that hang from the upper jaw strain-and-trap-food when the whale opens wide for a big gulp.

5. Whales are intelligent. They have some of the same "brainy" parts of humans and advanced apes. They also use tools like "bubble nets" to catch fish.

6. Whales communicate. Toothed whales like dolphins, orcas, and sperm whales use echo-location to help them navigate and find prey. They also employ "clicks" to coordinate activities. Humpback males sing complex "songs" that repeat a pattern of sounds. All males in a single area sing the same song, and it evolves over the season. In other words, they improvise and "build" language, much as we do.

7. They're endangered. In 1986, the International Whaling Commission put an end to commercial whaling. Many populations had been hunted to the brink of extinction. While the ban helped, many whales still struggle. The North Atlantic right whale remains critically endangered. Their total population is estimated at just 400.

8. Man is a major predator. Despite the ban on commercial whaling, Japan, Iceland, Norway and a few aboriginal groups still hunt whales for food. Aside from humans, the only other predatory threats to most whales are sharks and orca whales.

9. Human-based activities threaten whales. Fishing gear entanglements, strikes by ships, pollution, ocean-noise (it confuses toothed-whales' sonar, leading to navigation problems that sometimes cause them to accidentally beach), and global-warming (sunburns,and depleted food sources) are contributors to whale deaths.

10. Whales are fast. Orcas can kick up to speeds of 30 miles per hour for short bursts. That's high speed in water. Fin whales, or finbacks, which grow up to 75 feet long, can go 25 miles an hour or more.

11. Whales can be identified. Researchers photograph humpbacks' unique fluke patterns and keep track of sightings in massive databases (the North Atlantic humpback database contains about 6,000 individual animals). Orcas are identified by their "saddle patches" (patterns behind those big dorsal fins). Right whales are differentiated by the callous-like patterns on their heads.

12. Many whales migrate. Baleen whales tend to move toward the poles in summer (for food-supply reasons) and toward the equator in winter where warmer water is conducive to breeding and birthing. While making their 3,000-plus mile migration, humpbacks go months without eating.

13. Whales may be some of the longest-lived animals on the planet. Scientists once discovered a bowhead whale with a 100-plus year-old harpoon embedded under its blubber. They believe the animal was more than 200 years old. Hundred year-old fin whales also have been found.


Kendall and I hope you enjoyed learning about whales. They're a passion for her and she truly is a writer with heart. All of the profits from her JUST BREATHE trilogy will be donated to whale education.

Here’s the cover wording of the first book in the series, INHALE. "Strangers in reality, inseparable in dreams…"

And here's the plot line:

"After years of suffocating under her boss’s scrutiny, whale biologist Zoe Morgan finally lands a job as director of a tagging project in Hervey Bay, Australia. Success Down Under all but guarantees her the promotion of a lifetime, and Zoe won’t let anything—or anyone — stand in her way. Not the whale voices she suddenly hears in her head, not the ex- who won’t take ”no" for an answer, and especially not the gorgeous figment of her imagination who keeps saving her from the fiery hell of her dreams."

The male protagonist, Gavin Cassidy, hasn’t been called to help a human Wyldling in over a year, which is fine by him. Still blaming himself for the death of his partner, he keeps the guilt at bay by indulging in every excess his rock-star persona affords. That is, until he’s summoned to protect Zoe from hungry Fyre Elementals and learns his new charge is the key to restoring order in the dying Dreaming. He never expects to fall for the feisty Dr. Morgan … nor does he realize he may have to sacrifice the woman he loves to save an entire country.

My opinion: If you’re looking for an Urban Fantasy with heart, INHALE, is for you. The story’s a page-turner -- full of vivid scenes, evocative action, character struggle, sizzling sexuality and other-worldly imaginings.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Jobs and personality

When someone recently mentioned jobs we've had as a reflection of our personalities and the jobs our characters have had, I was at a loss, not because I haven’t had jobs (because I have), but because I have had mostly jobs that, really, people start to snooze when I talk about them. Or resent me, which is even worse, even before I’ve managed to offend them in person (or in print or email. Anyway). You see, my jobs have a touch of glamour to them if you don’t know anything about them.

Here are some examples. I’ve worked as a copy editor (see? I can sense the resentment among those who have been copy edited) at book publishers and magazines (ooh, glamour! Not), worked on Wall Street (and already I can sense the snoozing start), worked in comic books (well, this was interesting) as a proofreader (both resentment AND snoozing). Really, there is no glamour to any of these -- a job’s a job. The only job I’ve had that I found to be glamorous was the stint at the wire service, sort of like the Associated Press (the AP), but not. (Among the beats: “freight futures.” You know those big containers you see at seaports, the ones being moved from the ships to the dock or vice versa with those really big cranes? Articles about those were my favorite! Well, sort of.)

Because of this, all my job excitement has to come from my writing or my reading. It also has to describe and define the character in some way. In THE SLEEPER AWAKES, my heroine, Cat Deveney, is a librarian and the Sleeper, a “foretold one,” who awakens in another place, another time. Hey, that sounds exciting! And it has to be really neat to be a librarian! You get to deal with books and information all day! The hero, Strian of Kurit, is the grand prince. Eh, not so exciting. But he was a warrior priest! He’s a fighter! He has to fight a sentient weather phenomenon! Well, that sounds exciting, but dangerous. Being a librarian defines and describes Cat because she’s got knowledge at her command – none of which is useful to her when she finds herself in a place not her own. And Strian’s at odds with himself. He joined the order of Kama, a contemplative order, but when his country is at war, he’s got to help defend it, whether it means fighting that sentient weather phenomenon or protecting his heart from the confused Sleeper.

Then in FESTIVAL OF STARS, Kristin Olafsson, my heroine, is an emergency room physician – that’s sort of exciting (I think this is one of those jobs that sounds exciting, if it’s not yours). The man she meets in the ER, Dare Borodin, has the most exciting job I can think of -- he’s a multilingual translator. But he’s a specialist -- he translates information about cattle (he’s a scientific translator). Okay, less than exciting, but hey, intriguing, right?

And in INTRODUCING SONIKA, Sonya Penn is a physical therapist. This character had to have a job that helped people, because when the story begins, she’s turned away from what should have been her birthright, becoming a superheroine and fighting alongside her parents. That was a plan that tragically went awry when her parents were killed in a confrontation with their arch-enemy. If she couldn’t help people that way, she had to help people any way she could. But you know that feeling when you think you’re letting your folks down? Sonya feels that way. But when she meets John Arlen, she knows she’s got to protect him, the way her parents would have wanted her to.

Jobs say as much as the person as personality itself. Now look at your own job. What’s it say about you? Eilis Flynn has had a series of jobs that sound fascinating. She lives in Seattle with a cranky husband and the ghosts of cats.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Indie Publishing: Book Signings

Right now, I am still slowly recovering from a 3 day writer’s conference in Virginia Beach. It was fun, exhausting, exciting, and even frustrating at times. It was one of those conferences that if it could go wrong, it did. Maybe it happens all the time and I only noticed it because I was the registrar and therefore privy to the multitude of behind the scenes panic attacks. Still, it turned out to be a wonderful conference. How can it not be when every room in the hotel has an ocean view? We all felt like VIPs. *G*

But back to the aforementioned panic attacks. The major one was that the book seller didn't show. You got that right. SHE DID NOT COME. She notified the book fair coordinator on Thursday that she wasn’t coming, leaving many authors who were going to sign at the group book signing SOL. How unprofessional is that? In hindsight, we don’t think she ever ordered any of the traditionally published authors’ books, otherwise she would have moved heaven and earth to get there. Thankfully Barbara O'Neal was able to get her publisher to overnight her books. A few others had some on hand in the trunks of their cars (What author doesn’t?), but it ended up being a mostly small press/indie pub signing event for the POD authors who lugged their own books to the conference, like me. Not exactly the best experience you want to have at your first ever book signing, but troopers that we authors are, we went on with the show. So here’s what I learned from my virgin book signing (and please excuse the frizzy hair — it was day 3 of the conference and it was very humid).

I Can’t Sit Still:

Most of the other authors sat behind their tables. I just couldn’t do it, even after the long conference had plum tuckered me out. This was my first book signing. I was giddy. I was nervous. I was near brain dead. So I stood behind my table and tried to look busy. Amazing how much time you can spend making sure your bookmarks are standing up straight in their display stand. But you know what? When people approached my table, it felt comfortable to be able to look them in the eye instead of up their nostrils. Of course, I had to sit to sign the books, but then I’d pop right back up on my feet for the next person. I don’t know, putting myself face to face with them just seemed friendlier to me.

Let Your Display Do the Bragging for You:

I went to the office supply store and bought one of those stand up plexi frames. I made up a colorful letter-sized poster with a picture of my book cover surrounded by quotes from all of my 4 and 5 star reviews — just a meaningful sentence or two from each review to catch people’s eye. I also had QR codes for my book’s B&N and Amazon pages on my display so that those who had smart phones could scan it and go straight to the buy pages. No one who stopped by had a smart phone that night, but it doesn’t hurt to have it ready in case they do.

Don’t Be Afraid to Be On Sale:

Since we didn’t have a book seller there to handle the sales for us, we had to handle all sales at our tables. Bless the book fair coordinator’s heart, she sent her husband to the bank to bring back 1s, 5s, and 10s for us to make change with. My book goes for $12.95 on Amazon, but to keep the math simple, I only charged people $10 per book. I still made more of a profit than I would have if the book seller had taken her cut, so it actually worked out for me.

Provide Swag:

I, personally, have never been one to collect swag (bookmarks, magnets, matchbooks with author’s names on them, etc.). It’s just not my thing. But the book signing pros told me I needed to have some available and they were right. Several customers asked if my book was available as an e-book and when I said yes, they took a bookmark or some trading cards to help them remember to buy it later. (I’ll explain about the trading cards in my next indie post on swag.) One reader actually tried to download the book on her Kindle as we talked, but for some reason her WiFi wasn’t behaving in the hotel. Darn. Another lady took a bunch of my swag to send to her reader/reviewer friends and offered to start up a street team for me. Cool!

Be Original:

Many authors suggested I have a bowl of mints or chocolate to entice readers over to my table. Being the non-conformist person that I am, I thought I’d put a unique spin on my food bribe, so I sat out a tray of olives and grapes complete with fancy toothpicks. Why in the world would I do that, you ask? I had many people stopping by my table asking the very same question, trying to figure out what the significance was. Then I would explain that my book is set in Italy—Pompeii to be exact. Snag! I had them hooked right there. Okay, so a few commented that I was serving Greek olives instead of Italian olives. I hate olives myself, so I didn’t know the difference. Sue me. But just about every person who stopped by to eat my olives bought my book. Squee!

In the end I think I did pretty good. Would I try to set one up a book signing at a Books A Million or Barnes and Noble? Probably not. At least, not until I have more than one book to offer. But I do have another book signing coming up this weekend at a local Arts and Books Fair. Although there will be plenty of other authors there, it’ll be a totally different atmosphere, so we’ll see how it goes.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Bald Villains: Would They Be Good If They Had Hair?

by Eilis Flynn, Counter-Hugger

The hub and I were at dinner the other night when I said, “Bald villains in pop fiction. Who were they and did they resent being cast as bald villains?”

He stopped chewing for a moment and said, “There’s Lex Luthor and Dr. Sivana, to start with. And Mr. Freeze.” The hub and I are old-time comic folk, so comics are what come to mind first most of the time. “Lex blamed Superman for his baldness [Yes, this is the original reason given. You can look it up]. Don’t remember if there was ever a reason why Dr. Sivana was evil.” This is why I married this guy. He doesn’t think conversations like this is odd.

Not only that, he’s thoughtful. The next day, I got email from him to explore the topic further, a link to a website on TV tropes (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/BaldOfEvil), allowing me to pontificate on this ever-so-important question. Also, this topic seemed somehow appropriate for a post at Otherworld Diner. How do you describe a villain? Bald?

If I recall, “bald” meant something more than “lack of hair” at one point (“That’s a bald-faced lie!”), but it doesn’t anymore. Historical romance author Jacquie Rogers, for example, once based a villain on my husband, precisely because he has a full head of hair. Going for the other extreme, so to speak. (The villain also was tall, good-looking, and fully haired. How much more evil can you get?) But she was deliberately playing type. And confusing my poor husband, who, as you might have guessed, isn’t evil at all. (And is very handsome, but that’s another type altogether.)

And think of it. When you’re building a villain, what comes to mind? Glasses? (The evil myopic types!) Stubble? But that’s popular. I’m not a big fan of it, but it is a turn-on for a lot of others. Massive scarring? Not fair, because that isn’t a deliberate choice (and I seem to recall a Mary Balogh historical romance in which the hero is massively scarred but is a champion hero). A sneer?

Now that’s something. Sneering’s useful. For Introducing Sonika, my super-heroine romance (because I got bored with only super-heroes), Sonika’s nemeses – father and son – are champion sneerers (well, I guess the son got it from his father). Gentlemen Geoffrey is a genius and carries a deadly laser cane, has gray stringy hair, and sneers like nobody’s business. In retrospect, the stringy hair makes me wonder, because I never saw him as bald. I saw him as stringy-haired; but then, he’s spent years hiding out, presumed dead, inching his way out of a deep pit, so washing his hair was not at the top of his to-do list. Would he have been more evil if he’d been bald? His son, an idiot but an aspiring would-be villain, had a full head of hair. Would he be a more effective villain if he lost his hair? Maybe, like Lex Luthor, he would grow into an evil genius (full head of hair = friend of Superman, good; bald head = sworn enemy of Superman, bad). Maybe Sonika caused him to lose his hair. Hm. Must keep that in mind when I write the sequel.

Do bald villains resent being cast as bald villains? Or do they relish it? Dr. Sivana always seemed to relish it, but then, I think anyone would seem like a villain compared with Captain Marvel (now known, speaking of confusing, as “Shazam”), the goodiest good guy around with an alter ego of a 10-year-old boy, Billy Batson. With a full head of hair in both cases, but I think that goes without saying.

But of course, there’s that adage: Everyone is a hero in his own story. Lex Luthor is a hero in his own mind, although how blaming someone for turning him bald is a heroic act, I don’t know. During one of those interesting conversations on Facebook, I posed this question of bald villains vs. heroes, and Superman artist Jerry Ordway (yes, THE Jerry Ordway) commented that Superman without hair was Lex Luthor. So you’ve got to think about that.

Now here’s a thought: Are these bald villains so evil that they couldn’t be turned for the forces of good if they had some of the diner’s apple pie? Did they turn evil after losing their hair or having bad pie at the greasy spoon down the road?

But that’s another question for another blog post.

Next month, Bald Heroes: Would They Still Be Good If They Had Hair? I mean, inquiring minds want to know!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Your Creative Space

When I walked outside yesterday morning to " Mini sled dog wannabe" we stopped at the sound of a large whoosh and bubbling up of water about ten feet from the bayou bank. And up popped the seven foot gator DH had told me about the day before. Apparently he's been hanging around just beyond the brick steps that go down to the bayou.

Our business has been taking all of my time this year and I haven't had a chance to plant flowers around my little outside writing space. But the alligator sighting reminded me of the joy I got from my little creative space last year with the exception of the uneasy feelings when the alligators lay there and watch me write.

There are more creatures of all kinds on the bayou including mosquitoes. This has kept me from making the best use of my favorite spot most of the year. I don't know why it took me so long to thing about it but last year I bought a 10 by 10 screened in canopy which converted my problematic space because of these pests into a perfect spot on any non-rainy day between 60 and 85.

 Inside I'm safe from bugs but can enjoy the jumping fish, tall graceful herons, deer, birds - and keep an eye on the alligators, or the other way around.

We all have our favorite creative activities and the space that lends itself best to it. Where's yours? Is it a specially designed spot or the eeked out corner of the family kitchen? What do you do there? Write, scrapbook, paint?