Dec 30, 2015

New Year, New Plans!


Writing:
Like with the last two years, I don’t plan on setting a specific word count goal (I don’t plan on pushing myself to write 1 million words in 12 months ever again). I’m just hoping to be better than last year. If I do that, awesome! If health issues arise that make it so I can’t…. I guess I won’t get there.

Publishing:
I have 8 books* planned for release this year. I might do more… I might do less. I guess it all depends. I’m on track for the first and third planned publications… but am a little behind on the second. So it’s going to be getting a lot more attention this first week of the year than other projects are.
* “Books” is the general term I use to encompass Novels, Novellas, Novelettes, and short stories/collections. At the moment, the break down is 3 novels and 5 novellas. I haven’t planned for any short stories—though I have one or two that might make an appearance depending on my editing time.

Reading:
I’m going back in for—hopefully—another “100 books read” year. I’ve got a MASSIVE to-read pile (it’s getting dangerous. And I want to experience the stories that I’ve been toying with reading but haven’t made time for yet.
As I’ve said before, I read EVERYTHING. Seriously, go look at my GoodReads list if you don’t believe me. But I tend to get into genre binges. I’m hoping to make sure this year’s 100 books bounce around in the different genres.

Editing:
Have I mentioned I’m still digging my way out of that million words from 2013? That pile is nowhere near as high as my TBR pile, but I definitely need to make time to clear up those books and consider what I’m going to do with them all.

Blogging:
I’m really happy with where I’ve been blogging wise for the second half of this year, and my hope is to keep it up. We’ll see if I manage it. After all, it’s the lowest priority most days, but I figure if I can keep ahead and get posts sorted out when I have spare moments, I’ll be good. Fingers crossed.

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Dec 23, 2015

Let’s talk about my favorite books read in 2015

I’m going with what I’ve marked as 5-stars on GoodReads. Largely because with my memory issues after the two seizures this summer/fall, I’m not sure I can trust my memory well enough to say otherwise. And I plan to read one more in the last week of this year, but no promises (though I have been assured I’m going to love it, it’s one of my mom’s absolute favorites from recent years.)

5-star | 8 books
4-star | 21 books
3-star | 8 books
2-star | 6 books
1-star | 3 books
0-star | 10 books *

As you’ll see with these five, I’m not lying when I say I read EVERYTHING, there’s paranormal, SciFi, a YA Thriller, a graphic novel, steampunk and contemporary romance in here.

Patricia BriggsNight Broken (Book 8, Mercy Thompson)
I’m going to admit. I really dislike when you have x number ofo books in one format and then suddenly start releasing them in a different format (in this case, mass market paperback and then hard cover). With this book, it just meant that I had to wait a year to read it, and I know that’s on the Publisher, not on the book, or Ms. Briggs.

Gail CarrigerPrudence (Book 1, the Custard Protocol) & Manners & Mutiny (Book 4, Finishing School)
Books by Gail almost seem like cheats. I adore the whimsy of her writing style, so I’m willing to overlook some things that might ruin another book for me. But that’s what’s great about the subjectivity of reading and reviews, also a testament to the fact that little things build up, and when there’s nothing wonderful to cover them, they can ruin a book.
I rearranged travel plans in March since I was going to be in Portland briefly anyway so I could attend her signing at Powells for Prudence, and it was wonderful, although I may have had some panicky moments there as well. And it’s great to have gotten the start of one series, in the same year as the end of one that’s been so absurdly fun.

Jason HoughZero World
I was lucky enough to snatch up an ARC of this one (and give one away as well) at PHX ComiCon this summer, and It was awesome. It might be the only SF title in this list, but it definitely makes up for the lack of others of its genre. This book is big, in your face, and takes you on a non-stop thrill ride. And Jason’s a pretty alright guy too.

Courtney MilanTrade Me (Book 1, Cyclone)
Having been introduced to Ms. Milan’s writing through her historical romance, I was excited, but hesitant to pick this book up. I should have been the former, but not the latter. She doesn’t disappoint. It’s a fast read that I’ve revisited this year while in waiting rooms and I’m waiting patiently for the rest of the series.

Cherie PriestI am Princess X
Cherie was another of the authors at ComiCon who left a strong and wonderful impression. I’d read some of her books before meeting her, but between talking about random things, and especially her dog, and having a five minute conversation with Jason Hough about how awesome this book was, I wound up grabbing it the next time I was in Changing Hands. It was not over sold (and with the way Jason pitched it, I was worried that it might have been). A mix of YA Sleuth novel and Fantasy Graphic novel, this book is just utterly amazing.

Katee RobertFalling for His Best Friend (Book 2, Out of Uniform)
I’ve been waiting for this book for a while (get your stuff together Katee! Kidding). And it didn’t disappoint – not that I was expecting it to. I don’t review the romance novels I read on this site because I don’t necessarily feel like it would be helpful to the audience I’m currently working with. If you want that to change, let me know.

Brian K Vaughn & Fiona StaplesSaga Vol 5
At this point in the series, it’s getting hard to actually review these. Usually, I’m good for about one line. It’s the sort of thing where, the continuing story is amazing, but distilled into its individual parts, it’s sort of difficult to keep track of why it’s so awesome.


*I don’t rate my own books on GoodReads

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Dec 21, 2015

7 Things You Can Get Your Author For Christmas


Have an author in your life you want to get something for? This is a list of things you can get before time runs out:

Review their book –
Word of mouth sells books. If you’ve already got their book and are willing to spare 5 minutes of your time, reviewing it could be the way to make their day! It’s a free gesture that can mean the world to us.

Buy their book (and then review it) –
If you don’t have their book, consider buying it. You like them, don’t you? If you want to show them that, grab a copy of their book, read it, and talk to them about it. I love this more than I’d ever appreciate a box of chocolates (and I LOVE chocolate).

Buy them books as distractions –
Most of the authors I know are in this business because they LOVE books. They read as constantly as they write. And this is a good thing. Believe me, anyone who loves books always wants more books, no matter how many they have stacked in a to-be-read pile.
Don’t know what to get them? Buy a gift card to their local indie bookstore!

Fancy Pens –
Pens are super helpful. Typing up a book is all well and good, but I go through pens like nobody’s business. Pens are helpful in plotting out your book, they’re great for making an itemized list of how you’re going to get that book finished. Bright and colorful ones help when editing that book and tearing a first (or fifth) draft to shreds. The world may be full of technological advances, but handwritten notes are still one of the best ways to get your thoughts out of your head and organized!

Coffee/Tea–
I go through more tea in a month than is probably healthy.  I’ve yet to meet an author who doesn’t spend most mornings and some afternoons chugging down a caffeinated beverage to get through their day/word count. Another instance where you can buy them gift cards if you’re clueless about what they drink. If you don’t want to take too much time and you know they’re a coffee drinker, grab them a card from starbucks, if they drink tea, consider adagio.com. But! If you’re getting them something new and fun, make sure you know what they’re allergic to/can’t drink. (I think bergamot tastes like soap)

Food –
It’s a pretty common occurrence that I’ll be working on something that has so enveloped my attention that I forget to pay attention to silly things like my grumbling tummy. I’m not sure I’ve eaten 3 full meals on a Saturday or Sunday  in the last 3 months. Even besides that though, food is awesome. Especially tasty things like cookies and pies. Seriously, bring on the pies. I’ll run off the calories later. The way to an author’s heart is through their stomach (and through book reviews). But seriously, anyone bearing gifts that are meant to go straight to my stomach then thighs is awesome in my book.  I mean, I’ll be disappointed in the whole thigh-thing later, but you’ll probably be gone by then.

A Therapist –
Okay, so you probably shouldn’t actually do this. It’s a bit presumptive. But I think that, if your author is anything like me. It’s sometimes nice to have someone to talk to who can help sort out what’s real and what’s not. It’s always nice to know that even though you’ve methodically planned out the perfect murder… that you haven’t actually followed through. Not that I’m saying I’ve ever been worried about that [insert uncomfortable laugh here]. Even outside spending a majority of our time with people who don’t exist, the publishing industry is a harsh and fickle mistress. Stress and self-doubt are pretty much guaranteed.  So while maybe the header of this isn’t accurate. Keep in mind that we’re dealing with more than just one life at a time and if we are forgetful or lost in thought… give us a break.


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Dec 16, 2015

Opinion: Why Jessica Jones Is My Favorite Thing Marvel Has Done To-Date

I watched Jessica Jones the week it came out on Netflix. My husband and I binged it in two days. This is your “fair warning” for the spoilers that are about to come your way.

I don’t really know what I was expecting when we sat down for the show, but marvel’s been doing amazingly with their different offshoots (let’s all pretend F4 is a bad dream). And with Krystin Ritter, David Tennant, Carrie-Anne Moss and Rachael Taylor among the top-billed cast, I knew the likelihood of amazing acting was bound to come my way. I was not wrong.

Jessica’s character is the kind of “gifted” individual I have always thought made more sense. The world is not a kind place to people who are different, and just because you have some super strength and the ability to sort-of fly, doesn’t mean that you’ll be okay with the mental and verbal abuse that’s likely to go hand in hand with coming clean about who and what you are. Time does not heal all wounds. She’s been traumatized by the bad there is in this world. With what Killgrave put her through, it’s no wonder she pulled back into her shell and tried to hide from the world. It’s probably what I would do.

Killgrave is possibly one of the most terrifying villains I’ve encountered. Being killed has to be a better option than having your will taken from you. A person who can make you do horrible things, who can make you think it’s what you want to do is utterly horrific.

The noir feel of the series probably helped push it to the top of the long list of Marvel movies and shows that have come up in the last ten years. I love the old school PI style of everything from the plots of each episode to the set dressings of the building, to the crooked lawyer who’s technically on Jessica’s side. It’s dark, it’s gritty, and it doesn’t shy away from the ugliness of the situations Jessica is thrown into. Let’s be honest, real life is not clean.

It’s also nice to see a “super hero” who doesn’t have a fancy apartment, an awesome job and kick ass car.

Among the things with the plot that I really appreciated was the final show-down between Jessica and Killgrave. I appreciated that it wasn’t so much about her strength, but about her observations. The fact that she knew to use his hubris against him and from that knowledge, she was able to get him close enough to do what she needed to do. It was a clean break. And while I know that Killgrave technically monologued (seriously villains, when are you going to realize that’s an asinine thing to do?) it didn’t feel like one as much as others have. Perhaps because it wasn’t used as time for Jessica to break free of her bindings. Perhaps it was because David Tennant delivered it marvelously. Either way, it was a beautiful stab to the story’s gut.

I’m still mad Killgrave didn’t actually turn purple.

I’ve seen a few dissections of the show that are disappointed in the lack of connection between this show and Daredevil. But as someone who’s had it “on the list to watch” for so long, I’m pretty sure I’m not going to watch it, it was nice to not feel like I was missing something. Sure, there’s a character from the other show in this one, but it’s not something that bashes you over the head while demanding to know why you haven’t watched Netflix’s other Marvel property. I don’t think you should have to watch one to watch the other.

But honestly, one of the main reasons I love this show is that it’s a female lead.

What the hell, Marvel? It’s been 12 years since this whole MCU started (yes I do count the Eric Bana Hulk) and you still haven’t put out a Movie with a female superhero as the lead/title role? Why do we have to wait until 2017? Why hasn’t Black Widow gotten her own movie, and yet we’ve somehow wound up with Ant-Man? Have you looked at the demographic of your fan base lately?

Not that they care what I think. But seriously, Jessica Jones is awesome. We need more Superheroines, and we need them now.


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Dec 4, 2015

How Epilepsy Has Effected My Writing

Feeling like crap is a major factor in my ability to write. Having severe memory issues as well as suffering the effects of temporal seizures has meant that this year’s writing has been pretty sucky.

One of the things that keep me motivated with writing is my love of spreadsheets and my own self competitive nature.

I set goals (sometimes unrealistic) and I keep track of all sorts of writing metrics. The most simple of these two things relate to word count.

If you’ve been around for a while, you’ll know that in 2013, I set out to write 1 million words between January 1 and November 30 (I’m rubbish at writing in December – there’s too much else going on!). I met that goal and am still sorting through the pile of edits it left me with.

But since 2013, I’ve been keeping detailed accounts of my daily writing. 2013 is also the year when I started having my partial seizures (or at least when I noticed them).

Now, as far as I know… the partial seizures don’t affect my writing too much. In some cases, they’ve provided some interesting writing tangents. But when I look at the period of time from when I had my first grand mal… to when I received my diagnosis and wound up on ALL THE MEDICATION IN THE WORLD, it’s a pretty depressing bar graph.

 


So, yes. Epilepsy has effected my writing. If nothing else, it’s effected my productivity.

But I’m lucky. It’s something that is treatable. And since getting medicated, I’ve gotten back to a seemingly normal output.  Let’s just hope there aren’t any setbacks.

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Nov 30, 2015

7 Searches you'll have to explain


First off, Mom, these baby-name sites are for naming my CHARACTERS! You're not going to be a grandma within the next 9 months. I'm sure we've all been there. Stumped for a name, we meander over to a baby-name site and most of the time, no one's the wiser. But when someone sees it... then you have to start fielding questions. Luckily, you should only have to do this once per person.

Hypnosis techniques for brainwashing isn't actually something you want to put into practice. I'm not saying it wouldn't have useful applications in the real world, I'm just saying I personally will only use my powers for good.... or in situations that are morally ambiguous.

Dear FBI, this ordered list of how to keep a torture victim alive as long as possible is not what you think it is. If you're writing the next best-selling thriller, this may be something that puts you on a watch list. But let's be honest... being on that list isn't a bad thing. You'll gain some serious street cred... or you would, if anyone knew with any certainty that you were.

She's not a porn star, she's a contortionist... but I guess I could see how - at a glance - there could be some confusion. That position is quite... odd. If you're writing a murder mystery set in the 20s that revolves around a circus, or a modern day cirque du solelei romance... this search isn't going to seem at all odd to you, but others may get concerned about your extracurricular activities.

Whether or not someone can live without their eyelids is an idle curiosity, I swear. Okay, I'll admit, sometimes, when you're a writer, you explore some very odd... trials for your characters. I often think "what's the worst thing I can do to this character and let them live/not be so emotionally or physically damaged that they can continue on?" Often times, I have to work backward until I hit reality again. But seriously... can you live without your eyelids? how long? and how many bottles of eyedrops would you need to buy per day?

We're not really trying to bury a body in the ravine behind our house. I grew up with a ravine behind my house (it separated us from the hospital) and my step-dad was a cop. I watched way too much Law & Order SVU and then CSI. That ravine seemed like a great place to dispose of unwanted things.... So if I'm writing a murderer with a body to ditch, I might start scouring google maps for places like that ravine in the area around the crime.

These conspiracy forums I'm on are... well, I don't really think the president's brain is taken over by a parasitic alien after he's sworn in, and even if I did, I wouldn't think it's been happening since Andrew Jackson's inauguration. This one is probably going to get someone in an official looking suit with sunglasses and a scowl stopping by your house. Congratulations! You don't get a big check, but you probably won't need a cavity search either. Just hope you didn't type any search queries in that sound like threats!

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Nov 20, 2015

Insta-love: I Got No Problem With That


Confession time: I have no real problem with insta-love.

And now the clarification…

I’ve read a lot of reviews that come from people who straight up HATE insta-love as a romantic plot device and I can get that. It does seem irrational and can be frustrating. However, I’ve seen it in real life. I’ve felt it. So it’s difficult for me to back the idea that it’s unrealistic.

Love is an emotional and chemical response that defies logic. It doen’t make sense half the time and on occasion, it crashes into you like that proverbial bull into his ill-fated china shop. Sometimes, love grows from like or from what you thought was hate, and sometimes, you wake up one morning and realize that you’re irrevocably in love with the person you’ve spent your life thinking of as your best friend.

Love is weird.

So I can never look at a love story and say it’s unrealistic.* There are some love stories I wish weren’t glorified in the way they were, but those are things I can find ways to avoid.

But those are the reasons I don’t have a problem with insta-love, or friend love or any other portrayal of love, really.
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*please note, there are love stories that are wrong and that have very little in the way of actual love, but those exist in real life too… so again, I can’t call them unrealistic.

Nov 6, 2015

7 Friends You'll want to have


The Pen-Is-Mightier-Than-The-Sword Swallower – This is usually another writer and they know exactly how you feel when you want to tear the book you’re working on to bits. They talk you off that ledge and remind you that first drafts get to suck because editing exists.
The Booze Magician – we all know that person. The one who has something alcoholic on them at all times or at least knows where to find it. They’ll pull bottles from random hiding spots. These are the best people to have around when you’re in THAT stage of writing a novel. You know the one.
The Inspiration Dealer – Find someone who pulls ideas out of you on accident. When you have ten projects on standby and you accidentally pitch them a story you didn’t know you were writing, that’s not the best thing ever, but when you need to talk through a plot problem… they’re you’re go-to.
The Review Tightrope Walker – When you just can’t with a review (because you can’t stop yourself from reading them) this is the person who walks out into thin air to get you, to hand you that umbrella for balance and send you back to the safety of the platform.
The Editorial Trapeze Artist – Throwing themselves into the dark, knowing that they’ll have something to catch themselves with, these are the friends who know what they’re doing when it comes to beta-ing your book.
The First-Draft-Brain Tamer – Like a lion, first-draft-brain can be a dangerous thing to tackle on your own, these friends know to exchange their chair and a whip for tea, fuzzy socks and a movie marathon that has nothing to do with your book’s plot. (or whatever else is going to get you out of that bad place.)
And A Ring Master – This is that one person you know who could fill all of the aforementioned roles if need be, and keeps you sane at the same time. Tough love can be the method they choose to employ, but you need to hear it.

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Oct 30, 2015

7 Things Writers Should Do on Halloween



Hand out Books instead of Candy – There are a lot of allergies out there anymore so navigating the peanut infested candy bowls of Halloween can be downright scary for some kids and their parents. Make it easy for everyone, hand out books instead!

Dress up like your favorite character – Emphasis on YOUR character. Make sure it’s someone you’ve created, that way, when anyone asks who you are, you get to tell them about your book. Bonus points if you dress up as your book. Put your crafting skills to use with cardboard, duct tape and high resolution print outs from your local office supply store!

Eat so much candy you get a massive sugar high (not so much you go into a coma) and write your magnum opus in one night – I can’t guarantee that you won’t wake up to a notebook full of indecipherable scribbles in the morning, but it’s worth a try!

Bathe in the blood of your enemies – or just add food coloring to your bath… I mean, there’s nothing wrong with being pink for the next few days or a week. I mean, it’s right after Halloween. Everyone will understand.

Create a sound file of your spookiest story read with scary sounds in the background – Or buy a cd of Halloween sounds, pop it in a boom box and read from your book on the street corner as candy seeking kids and their parents trundle past.

Binge on scary movies and take notes – create the next Saw on Haunted Bayou seventeen! It’ll sell to SyFy for millions… probably with fewer zeroes, actually.

Lock yourself inside, turn off all the lights and let the brightness of your computer monitor sear your retinas while you make screeching noises anytime someone dares to knock on your door – oh wait? That’s a normal Tuesday night?

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Oct 23, 2015

7 Ways You'll Exercise As A Writer


Typing marathons. Prep for these with word sprints and a healthy diet. You don’t want to get to mile 15 and be ready to fall out of your chair to writhe on the ground with finger cramps!

Coffee refill relay. Or tea, or whatever beverage keeps your creative juices flowing. That constant jog/shuffle back and forth from desk to kitchen is going to tick up the numbers on  your pedometer a lot more than that chase scene you just wrote!

Exploring other perspectives. Much like a butterfly press, this one requires some upper body strength. Mostly because the lazy alternative is going to seem like a good plan. DON’T GIVE UP ON YOUR DREAMS, GYMRAT!

With Run-on Sentences. You don’t even need a good pair of running shoes! Slippers or bare feet work just fine. And, since you don’t have to leave your house, you don’t even have to put on pants! And let’s face it, this is less annoying than the rhythmic jush of a treadmill.

Dodging the comments section. Like those red rubber balls in middleschool gym class, comments can sting when they connect. Dodge them like a pro. It’ll help with cardio and agility!

Office Chair Shuffle. Tone your leg muscles by pushing yourself around on the wheels of your chair, reach and stretch for that one reference material you need from the top shelf. Push yourself back to your desk. Three sets of five reps.

Hefting books. Because let’s face it, half the fun of being a writer is reading the things other people have created. When you come home with your latest haul from the local bookstore, you can do arm curls. Seriously, that bag has to weigh twenty pounds!



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Oct 12, 2015

Feminism Is Important To Me

A while back another female author chose to use “Oh right, you’re one of those feminist types” as an insult/reasoning behind my opinion that a certain work had shallow exploration of a main character and that the story fell into the all too familiar habit of portraying women as cold, bitchy and means-to-an-end.

That and a few other things got me thinking:

Why do so many women seem to think feminism is a bad word?
Why do so many people think feminism is a grab bag of castration (metaphorical or not) and a refusal to shave your legs?
How does equality for women equate to oppression for men?
 
Feminism is: The advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.

When did things get twisted to the point that some women would rather pretend to be “one of the guys” and accept that the patriarchy does not see them as equals as long as they can be “one of the good women”?

I am a feminist because I believe that my gender does not determine whether or not I’m somehow better or worse than someone else. Generic physiological differences don’t determine whether a person is going to be stronger or a better parent. It doesn't determine if you’ll be a better worker or a more creative artist. If I wanted to dedicate my life to body building, I could. If I wanted to build a business from the ground up, I could. The only thing that stands in my way is outdated prejudices that keep the world from advancing.

I am a feminist because I don’t think a man should make more money than I do simply because he is a man. When determining a person's ability to do a thing, actual skill should not come second to gender. We don’t live in a world where men are the main provider of a household anymore. We don’t live in a world where women work until they have kids and then are relegated to the home. We don’t do these things because they are wrong and thinking of them as normative is wrong. If I want to have a child and I want to stay at home and can figure that out, I will do that. If my husband wants to do that, we’d figure it out. Sexist thoughts on lifestyle only hold our society back.

How do we fix a world as broken as ours? We start by understanding what feminism is. We start by holding people accountable when they fall back into the lazy sexist ideas of our past. If we decide to get married, we marry men and women who are also feminist. If we decide to have children/adopt, we raise them in a way that creates a world of people who are aware of what feminism actually is. We challenge stereotypes every day and we don’t allow people to get away with callng us “one of the guys” or “one of the good women”.

If you think calling me a feminist is an insult, I’ve got some bad news for you: I’m a feminist and proud of it.

I am a feminist for the same reason I support gay marriage; for the same reason I support the Black Lives Matter movement; for the same reason I support the trans community. No human is inherently better than another simply because of the condition in which they were born.

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Oct 9, 2015

7 Things You'll Eat As A Writer


 
Your weight in comfort food. Seriously, pass me the doughnuts. Pick your poison and expect to pop open that box/bucket/wrapper/whatever because there will be days you hit an awful spot in a draft, a revision, or a review, and you’ll want to have your stash handy (or your delivery boy’s number on speed dial). Other days, you’ll crack open your go-to snack because you’re burning through a ms and you CANNOT STOP FOR ANYTHING! SOMEONE BRING THIS MAN A STADIUM PAL!

The ends of Pens. I don’t make the rules.

Tear soaked… anything. Don't worry if you're mid-draft brain has you sucking the moisture out of a tear stained sock to rehydrate yourself (unless it's a dirty sock, then be afraid; if it's not your sock at all… well, I guess it's good there's no one around to judge you.)

Your words. They won’t sustain you, but you can bet you’ll eat those black lines and curves you plop down on the page from time to time. You’re going to make commitments that are just out of your ability (1million words in a year? Heck yeah! 1million words next week? Laughs uncontrollably and dies of frantic attempts to breathe)  


Your pride. You're going to make mistakes (raises hand) and you're going to kick yourself about them afterward (raises hand higher). Sometimes, you're going to dwell on them so long it's unhealthy (punches ceiling with fist, fan blade cuts wrist, dies in agony).

Preconceived notions of the world – Let’s face it: we’re all raised to believe certain things are true and some of them will be. But we don’t know everything. Our parent’s don’t know everything and they certainly didn’t know it all while they were raising us. We’re raised with prejudices (I hate tomatoes) and as a writer you have to work around those things in order to expand your view of the world. (Most of my characters like tomatoes). QUESTION EVERYTHING.

SPIDERS!!! Okay, let's face it, there's some ridiculous statistic that I can't be bothered to look up right now, but it says you're going to be eating spiders in your sleep. Who knows, maybe spiders are the key ingredient that makes chocolate taste good? One way or another, you're eating those eight legged creepy crawlies, so get over it now. In fact, if you can take those arachnid aperitifs and turn them into a book, more power to you (unless you plan to regurgitate their corpses and sew them together in some sort of arachna-necronomicon. Don’t do that.)

 

Also, remember hydrate.

 

 
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Oct 7, 2015

IWSG: Support

This post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, the brainchild of Alex J Cavanaugh. Posts go out the first Wednesday of every month. Join up to post with almost 300 other blogs.



Writing can feel like a very solitary activity.

You sit at your computer/notebook and you create worlds. You tap out 100,000 words…. And no one’s there to help you or give you encouragement beyond the general “way to go.”

One thing that is important about writing is support. This isn’t a completion, it’s a community. I want you to succeed. Your success is not something that will hinder mine. I’m not sure if everyone realizes that.

I love other authors. And I love giving them help in any way I can. To me, support is a thousand different things.


Support is retweeting about a book release or a Kickstarter.
Support is reviewing a book good or bad (I still believe that bad reviews can be helpful for readers to find your book.)
Support is offering to be the one who reads three pages and tells them what’s wrong.
Support is buying a book.
Support is showing up at a signing or a reading.
Support is simply letting another writer know their work has been seen, that it matters.
Support is offering up guest blogging space.


Supporting other authors is one of the many ways we can build up our writing community when so many other things threaten to tear it down.

So if I can support you, please, just let me know. Start up a dialog and help me find ways to help you.


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Oct 2, 2015

Flash Fiction: First/Last Date


Wandering the Phoenix Art Museum one evening, I saw a couple seated in front of an art installation. I didn’t know their names, I didn’t know what had brought them to the museum that night. But together with the fixture in front of them, an idea came to life.

It was a Schrodinger’s cat situation, the people in my head (who clearly don’t exist in real life) could have been on their first date, they could have been on their last. I didn’t know, and while they sat – completely oblivious to me – a story began to form in my mind.

Today, I’ve decided to share that story with you:

 


First/Last Date
 
 
They were such good friends, she’d balked at the idea of change.
Dinner had been fine. It had been normal -- like two old friends sharing a meal. But she’d seen that spark in his eye, the one that told her he felt something more. He wanted something more. As his friend, she wanted to give him that, even if she didn’t know what it was.
He’d led her through the art museum, a place she thought of as his domain. He spoke of the artists as though they, too, were his friends. Voice full of hope and the excitement of sharing, he sounded more like a history major than a graphic designer.
When they stepped into the Katz Wing, the contemporary pieces stole her attention. He trailed patiently behind and she momentarily forgot he was there.
Through her wanderings, she found an alcove tucked into the furthest room. An untitled acrylic circle hung on the wall. Carefully arranged lamps cast shadows of abstract brilliance. She sank to the bench in front of it in silent awe.
He sat beside her as she was immersed in a private bubble of quiet. He placed his hand on hers and for a few minutes they were completely alone.
“What do you see?” he asked, leaning toward her.
His voice was so low, she barely heard him. “I’m not really sure.”
Her answer elicited a familiar response. His casual, low laughter sent an oddly comforting shiver through her.
She sat up straighter to avoid being pulled in by the gravity of his normalcy. “It makes me think of sound, and of electronic snow and of the depressed robot from Hitchiker’s.” Pausing, she looked at the opaque acrylic. “And it makes me wonder how much they’re paying their janitorial staff. I can’t even imagine how dusty this gets.”
This time, his laugher echoed off the white walls surrounding them. They shared a knowing glance as a stern-faced guard walked past.
 
They’d been such good friends. He couldn’t explain why it hadn’t worked.
They walked through the halls of the art museum together in silence, pausing at whatever painting caught her eye, until they found the piece again.
He wished he could suggest they start over. But he knew they couldn’t.
They’d taken a meandering path to reach this spot. With each painting his hopes had sunk lower. With each sculpture he’d known there was no stopping the inevitable. When they reached this installation -- their reason for coming -- he clung to the hope there was some small part of their relationship they could salvage.
He sat on the bench and waited for her to join him. It took longer than he’d expected.
When she did, he took her hand out of habit and felt her tense at his touch. They sat in silence; the installation in front of them was still. The same as the night of their first date.
It was a stability he envied and wished he could compare to their relationship -- instead of the slow degradation of what it had become.
She pulled her hand from his and placed it in her lap, her face turned away as she silently observed the piece.
“I thought coming back would help,” he said.
She glanced at him before turning away again. “If nothing else, it provides a nice sort of symmetry.”
He still needed to know if she wanted to try… still wanted to hear the last two years hadn’t been in vain. It was a selfish need and he should have let it go.
“It’s not working is it?” he asked.
“Why would it?”
Pursing her lips, she stared at the acrylic circle in front of them and said, “It’s just a lampshade the wrong way round.”

 
 
“What do you see?” She asked.  A prickle of warmth coursed up her arm as he squeezed her fingers.
He studied it a moment. “I see a lampshade installed the wrong way around.”
“Stop it.” She swatted his arm and glanced quickly behind them.
When she turned back, he shrugged and squared himself to the sculptural element. He glared at it, as though waiting for it to spill some long lost secret.
“Okay…” he said, taking a deep breath and pointing at it. “I see mankind…. No, that’s not right. I see the individual person.”
She rolled her eyes at him. “If you’re going to make this into a joke, we can just leave.”
“I’m being serious,” he said. “Look, the actual circle is man – or woman – or what have you. It’s the individual self, and surrounding that one person is multiple shadows of that self. ” He pointed to the four shadows behind the disc. “They’re not whole truths; they’re missing that integral part, there, in the center.”
“And what’s in the center?” she asked, staring at it and forcing a smile she no longer felt.
“That little pocket of ourselves we share with as few people as possible. The dark part we keep hidden away and hope only those we can trust will ever see.” His voice trailed off with the last word, and she shivered.
Frowning, she looked from the piece to him, “Is this your way of telling me you’re a serial killer?”
He cracked a smile and cast her a sideways glance. “No. I also see a malt ball. But I could just be hungry, it has been an hour since we last ate.”
The laugh bubbled up before she could stop it. “Insightful to sugar-fiend in two-point-five seconds. Be careful, I might get whiplash.”
He joined her laughter. “Does that mean you’re not up for a slice of pie after this?”
A group of noisy teenagers walked past, and she glanced down to her hand now clasped in his. “We’ll see.”
She could understand why he’d waxed poetic about the shades of an individual – the quartet of shadows bleeding away her own self were unknown, even to her. She paused to wonder how the piece would shift in a less controlled light, how those shadows would move through the day and with the changing seasons. Glancing at him out of the corner of her eye, she wondered the same about him.
 
“Do you remember our old pie schedule?” he asked when the silence between them was unbearable.
She smiled and closed her eyes, laughing in a low tone. “Let’s see, it’s an odd date… and a Wednesday. Was it banana cream pie and chocolate chip cookies?”
“That’s evens,” he said.
“Peach pie and pixie sticks?” She snickered as she asked the question. “I don’t know how we managed to stay out of the hospital. I should have OD’d on sugar two years ago.”
“We built up your tolerance. Once you were used to it, you weren’t in any danger. I, on the other hand, have always had a natural immunity.”
They lapsed back into their silence too quickly.
With a wistful sigh, he said, “We lost this. If we just found this again, I think we could push through this rough patch.”
She shifted away from him. “We had this because we’re good as friends. We never should have tried for anything else.”
He couldn’t agree. “How do you know something won’t work until you try?”
She rolled her eyes, a gesture he should have been used to.
“I know I can’t fly,” she said. “I didn’t have to jump off a bridge to find that out.”
They’d had this argument before. He didn’t remind her that she could fly, if only she had a little help from machinery. See, he thought, I can learn.
“Is that what you think our relationship equates to, then?” He wanted her to deny it, but she didn’t.
Letting out a frustrated sigh, he asked, “If we’ve jumped off that bridge, are we about to hit water? Or will we splatter against the dry bottom of a canyon?”  Then, “Would anyone paint our tragedy?”
She deflated, slouching as she stared ahead. “If they did, it would never make it on to these walls.”  
 

At a quarter to nine, he led her back through the museum.
The warm spring air whipped around her as they walked past the others who’d ventured to the museum that night.
He looked back at the glass walls. “Sometimes I wish they had apartments inside the museum, you know? So I could live in there and be surrounded by all that art.”
“The renter’s insurance policy would make it impossible to afford.” She smiled at his fanciful idea.
He was a dreamer if she’d ever met one, and he made her think about things she’d never expected.
Her shadow split in two, then three and back to one as she passed beneath the exterior lights.
He came alongside her, and soon the sliver of light separating them was gone – swallowed by their merging shadows.
She was happy she’d insisted they drive separate cars. Space and time were needed to sort through the jumble of thoughts and emotions the evening had dredged up.
She stopped beside her car, thankful the circle of light surrounding them was from directly above. One shallow shadow each wouldn’t set her mind wandering.
He’d parked halfway down the line of cars. She turned, but he still stood between her and the museum.
“I had a really good time tonight. It was fun.” He stuffed his hands in his pockets and looked down at her with that expectant wariness in his eyes.
Pursing her lips, she glanced behind him, to the glittering lights in front of the museum. She’d never know if they didn’t try.
When the pause had lasted a moment too long, she pressed up onto her toes and kissed him. It was a quick peck on the lips, nothing lasting -- nothing so transparent.
He looked down at her with a smile quirking one side of his mouth, and rolled back on his heels like a little boy. “Does that mean I get a second date?”
Pressing the button on her key fob, she said, “We’ll see how it goes.” She got in her car and left him standing in the pool of light.
She couldn’t go back now. Only press forward.
 
 
He stared straight ahead, eyes locked on the shadows cast over the wall. There was no point in trying to go backward.
Relationships had no reverse gear.
Hushed tones of the other visitors milling around the room beyond them washed over him. She shifted beside him in uncomfortable silence. That he’d grown so accustomed to it made him sick to his stomach.
He took a deep breath and faced her, but before he could argue, she spoke first, “I don’t want to fight about it. I just want to go.”
Biting back his words, he turned to the acrylic piece in front of him. “I think that’s worse than if you wanted to scream at me until they kicked us out.”
“I’ve told you before. The thing that got in the cracks… that took hold of us and drove us apart wasn’t something you could see or change… it was just my apathy.”
They’d had this discussion before and she always claimed the fault. She never made him feel guilty. He hadn’t been strong enough to tell her she wasn’t in this alone. Maybe if she’d realized that two years ago, they wouldn’t be hanging together by a thread.
As he watched her study the piece, her mouth firmed and she stood. Her back to him, she clenched her fists and said, “I’ll have my things out of the house by the end of the week.”
Alone, surrounded by a hundred murmuring strangers, he stared too long at the lit acrylic circle.

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May 22, 2015

Guest Post: How To Survive a Vampire Attack

Today we have a guest post from Ileandra Young who's new book Silk Over Razor Blades releases on Monday. It will be available on Amazon and her website

Ileandra writes Fantasy, horror, comedy and general fiction while the other half of her brain works under the pen name Raven Shadowhawk.

And now, I'll let her take it away:

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Hi, I’m Ileandra and I thought you might be interested in this very interesting excerpt from an old text published by The Clerics in 1843. Though it has been modified for the modern day order of Clerics, established in 1999, the essence of the text remains a fascinating read.
I hope you enjoy it.

When one of these dark creatures decides that you’re to be their man course, there are very few things you can do to stop them. Myths and legends aside, true vampires are vulnerable in very specific set of ways. Taking advantage of these things requires special training that most civilians don’t have. However these five tips may one day save your human life. Take heed.

One – Be Prepared
This may sound like fear mongering, but in truth its common sense. You wouldn’t walk the streets at night on your own for fear of mugging, and it’s the same with vampire attack. Though strong and powerful, vampires don’t really want to draw attention to themselves. Attacks tend to happen in quiet, secluded places where very little can be seen or heard.
Stay away from those places.
Should you feel a little prickle down your back that gives you a sense of being watched, don’t ignore it. Walk faster. Get into your home and lock the door.

Two – Keep Calm, Keep Quiet, Don’t Panic
In a worst case scenario, you’ve been caught. But you mustn’t panic. Obviously this is tricky, but you must remember that vampires respond it. Some, particularly older ones, can feed on fear as well as blood though it doesn’t sustain them like blood does. They recognise and enjoy the scent of fear and too much of it can turn a simple feed into a blood gushing mess which you are unlikely to survive. If you stay calm, a vampire will only take what they need to make tribute to their disgusting false god. This amount of blood isn’t enough to kill you; so let them take it. The better to survive and attack another day.

Three – Recognise The Truth: The Myths Aren’t Real
Sunlight? Garlic? Holy water? Crosses? None of that will save you from a vampire determined to have you. If these things were true weaknesses, do you really believe vampires would be able to remain hidden in this day and age? No. But for their choice of worship and dietary needs, vampires look, act and speak just like you or I.

Four – Don’t Make Them Angry
Vampires are feral creatures. Much of their behaviour stems from instinct and that includes their need to drink blood in offering to their false god. One of the basest responses of any living creature is to attack when goaded and a vampire will do this if you anger them. Sometimes even when you don’t. Your best bet is to keep your mouth shut, your head down and let them do what they need.

Five – Tell No One
The danger isn’t over when the vampire is gone. A cautious vampire, particularly an old one, will watch a human victim for some time afterwards just to ensure that 1) they have not become a vampire themselves and 2) they keep their mouths shut. If you’re unfortunate enough to retain your memories of the encounter, don’t tell anyone. Not only does it put you in danger, but also every single person you tell. Is it worth the risk?


And there you have it. Vampire survival tips from a bunch of half-mad fanatics to ensure you survive a vampire attack with your human life intact. Remember, they aren’t out to kill you – unless they are. ;-) They just want your blood. Give it to them and in all likeliness you’ll live to not tell another living soul about it.

Do you have any handy tips? Anything you’re willing to share to help save your human brethren? Share them in the comments below.

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Lenina Miller, ditsy and pampered bride to be, wants nothing more than to walk down the aisle in her scandalous red dress to the gasps and awed stares of friends and family. Her plans are shattered when a late night mugging not only scars her face and neck, but drops her in the centre of a frenzied police investigation to apprehend the attacker before he strikes again.

On the field of battle in 30 BC, Saar, son of Yafeu, sacrifices his life for his sovereign, Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt. Betrayed by the man he loves, forced to watch his country burn under Octavian’s hostile takeover, Saar’s agonising death appears to Lenina with all the lucid force of a true memory.

Two lives, separated by thousands of years, brought together through one night of violence.

Haunted by the memories of a man long dead, Lenina finds her body transforming, her appetites for food and flesh magnified to terrifying proportions. As the attentions of the investigating detective force her to choose between lust and love, Lenina also finds herself a target. The vampire who attacked her knows she survived and will stop at nothing to finish the job he started.




Ileandra Young is one of the pen names of Leah Osbourne, 31 year old Leicester self-published author and freelancer. Leah writes fantasy, erotica and general fiction and contributes regularly to the blogs of Leicester’s Phoenix Writers. She also writes fiction and ‘how-to’ articles for Creative Frontiers, an online forum dedicated to readers and writers of all skills and backgrounds. Her existing releases are released published through Little Vamp Press and can be found here.



Find Ileandra around the web:

Web: www.ileandraXraven.co.uk
Facebook: www.facebook.com/illyandraven
Twitter: www.twitter.com/ileandraXraven (@ileandraXraven)