30 May 2012

Goals Met

Sorry about not posting earlier this week. I had several goals for myself this week. The contest I am in charge of ends on Friday so there will be a lot of entries coming in that I have to process. I also had a goal to finish editing my novel. My deadline for the edits isn’t until June but I hate waiting until the last moment to get things sent in, especially since I never know when something is going to happen. I spent the majority of this weekend working on my novel. And I am happy to say I emailed it to my editor last night. I am hopping with this they will be able to give me a publication date.

There is just something satisfying about meeting a goal early. It just makes me feel like I’ve been able to manage my time well. Now, as a present to myself, I am going to make myself a new blouse. Once the contest is over that is. I think Moose is glad I won’t be sitting at the computer almost every night until 10. It’s like working two jobs. At least at this point I like what I do.

27 May 2012

Trying to Keep Deadlines from Whooshing

Lots of deadlines this week as well as places I need to be. I won’t be posting Sunday or Monday to give myself a little breathing room. Sorry about that but I should have things under control by Wednesday so expect a post then. Have a happy and safe Memorial Day. And thanks to all of those out there who have protected our freedom and our lives with their own. God be with you.

25 May 2012

The Third

by Abel Keogh

I had no idea what to expect from THE THIRD when I started reading it. All I knew was what I read from the back cover which isn't much. The cover itself actually drew me in. It took me three days to finish and that is only because I have to go to an office every day for eight hours. Abel Keogh presents a situation in such a way that it made me wonder what I would do if I were in the character's shoes.

The story is set in 2065 where births are regulated by the government. From the very beginning it is quite clear that there are significant problems with this society. The two main characters are husband and wife Ransom and Teya Lawe. They have two young boys (which is the limit) but Teya learns she is pregnant with a third child. People are allowed to have three children if they purchase a credit from someone else. This is to keep the population from growing. It is quite obvious, however, that the problem isn't with the number of people but with the attitudes of the people.

There were a couple of the times in the book when I was frustrated with a character. It wasn't because they were poorly written or inconsistent, but that I was angry that they didn't chose or think the way I wanted them too. Abel Keogh does a fantastic job in creating emotion from the first sequence of Ransom on the tram listening to a crying child, to the end. And while I am satisfied with the ending, I would not be depressed if another book came out involving these same characters. I am excited to see what else he does.

23 May 2012

Pulling Faces

Moose and I like to make faces at little kids in church. Normally this means us sticking out tongues out at them and then looking innocent when the child’s parents turn around. On Sunday there was a little boy sitting two pews in front of us. Moose stuck out his tongue and the little boy responded likewise. When Moose did it again the boy took it a step further. He blew a raspberry. And then he did it again. Moose and I tried to look innocent but couldn’t help but laugh. Luckily this happened during a song so I don’t think as many people noticed what the boy had done. The boy was reprimanded by his mother and sulked the rest of the meeting. I tried to make it up to him by giving him an origami horse I’d made.

21 May 2012

Page Layout

I have no desire to ever self-publish. That is because I need an editor. For those of you out there who are able to self-publish, then more power to you. As someone who self-publishes you have to wear a lot of different hats. (Unless you want to pay someone to do it for you, which is a valid choice.) Though I may not know much about setting up the various accounts to sell the novel, I do know something about document design. I’ve done page layouts for a lot of different types of books. Some of these only pertain to printed books while others are for both eBooks and paper books.

Font Size: Don’t go too small. You may think you are being clever and keeping your page count down by having small font. With eReaders people can increase the font size but if you are only concerned about eBooks than page count doesn’t matter. And as someone who prefers to read printed books, I hate trying to focus on small print and I don’t even need glasses to read.

Font Spacing: Give the words room. It doesn’t have to be double space but don’t go down below single space. If you have the lines too close together it makes it difficult to read. White space is good for documents.

Font Choice: Don’t go fancy. People don’t want to spend hours reading a fancy font. They want to read the story. Don’t let the font get in the way of the story.

Page Numbers: Two things. All books need them. Don’t move them around. If you have them in the upper outside corners, leave them there. You don’t have to have them on the first chapter pages, but don’t leave them out.

Headers: These aren’t as necessary as page numbers but a header is a nice way of putting your title and your name on the pages.

Margins: For printed books margins are important. You don’t want inside margins to be so small that the words are slipping into the spine, but it is nice to be able to hold the book open with my thumbs and not cover half a dozen different words.

These are just a few basic guidelines for doing page layout. The main idea is don’t let the text get in the way of the words. If you make your readers work at reading then they won’t enjoy the book as much.

20 May 2012

*Use Once

Intro: The office where I work uses a variety of stamps. My stamps have some influence and some power, but nothing compared to what the stamps in this story can do.

The thudding noise of the stamp against the paper made Vivian wince. She’d woken up with a headache and the mountain of paperwork that covered her desk had done nothing to alleviate the pressure. She slammed the rubber seal on the next page and held it for a count of three. When she lifted the stamp, the blue ink was perfect. She moved the paper aside and fished for the next one. The “One Time Use Only” stamp she left in the blue inkwell to saturate.

The next set of papers had a note from Grand Master Milton “To be used once on the next full moon.”

Vivan groaned as she flipped through the papers. There were fifteen pages. The stamp had to sit in the ink at least 10 minutes and she would have to keep the pressure for a full 60 seconds for the parchment to absorb enough of the ink. And it she should smudge one of the lines — she always kept her resume up to date.

She pulled the orange ink out and got to work. When she was between full moon stamps she work on the other documents. With the coming of spring a lot of the magicians were receiving more spell requests. The pile dwindled as she worked through her lunch break and into the late afternoon. Her inkwells were crammed full of stamps. Each magician preferred something different. Milton like fancy symbols. Greggory liked everything spelled out clearly. Marissa preferred a Latin word. Most of the time Vivian could recall which stamp with which ink color meant what.

Vivian lifted the last stamp and breathed a sigh. She dropped Milton’s stamp back in the orange ink out of habit. She would clean all of the stamps once the papers were organized and delivered. This was because of a previous experience with a few unwanted ink drops from cleaning.

First she made piles of each magician’s spell sheets. As she turned to grab a handful of envelopes the door opened. The three magicians’ apprenticed walked in.

“Are the deliveries ready?” Milton’s apprentice asked.

“You’re early. Deliveries don’t go out until 4. It’s only 3.”

The young man who was Marissa’s apprentice leaned against the desk. “We have plans tonight.”

“Please don’t lean,” Vivian said. She picked up one of the spells and wrote the delivery information on the envelope then slid it in.

“Yeah, don’t lean.”

The apprentices started roughhousing. Vivian reached out to steady her desk. One of the boys slammed into the desk. The inkwells toppled onto the neat stacks of papers.

“Sorry. We didn’t mean to.”

Vivian picked up the three stamps from the blue ink. She walked over to the apprentices. They backed away but she was between them and the door. Three quick jabs. From experience she knew skin absorbed at a faster rate.

She dropped the stamps back on her desk and left. The apprentices were still scrubbing at their foreheads.

18 May 2012

Heir Apparent

by Vivian Van Velde

I read HEIR APPARENT by Vivian Van Velde on a recommendation from a friend and I am so glad she told me to read it. I thought I knew what was going to happen but what really makes this book so enjoyable is the main character herself. I have read this book half a dozen times and every time I chuckle at some of the antics that goes on.

HEIR APPARENT follows Gianninie and her adventures in virtual reality. Her father, truthfully his secretary, gives her a gift certificate for one of largest VR gaming shops in town. There are protests going on by parent who don’t want children playing the games. Giannine gets in and hooked up to a game but when the protestors storm the building they damage some of the equipment and Giannine is now stuck. The world she is in is a medieval fantasy world that is centered around politics of who is going to be the next king, the only way she will get out of the machine alive is if she can beat the game.

As I mentioned earlier, HEIR APPARENT’s story line is somewhat common. I’ve read half a dozen books about people getting stuck in virtual reality and it is a race against the clock to see if they will actually beat the game in time and they have to do it without dying. Granted Gianninie is told it is best if she doesn’t die, but I love the fact that she gets into the worst situations and even when she gets another try to do it over her solutions always present more problems. This book is funny and appropriate for all ages.

16 May 2012

Mothers’ Day

I gave my mother the perfect Mothers’ Day gift: Snow White and the seven dwarfs as Pez dispensers. I am a thoughtful daughter, am I not? It elicited the reaction I was expecting, and hoping for. She laughed. And laughed. She told quite a few people at church and even took the present with her when we went and visited my grandparents. They laughed as well. Now for the rest of the story.

When my mom was young, but old enough to know better, she and her siblings gathered their resources and purchased a group gift for Mothers’ Day. They bought my grandmother Snow White and the seven dwarfs candles. Teenagers giving a gift to their mother could be considered sweet, even if the gift is odd. My grandmother did not see this as endearing. My grandmother doesn’t like speculative fiction, including fairy tales. She did not find the gift amusing.

Two years ago, at a family reunion, there was a white elephant game. Moose ended up getting the candles. It was at that point we learned about the Mothers’ Day fiasco. This January, when Moose and I were shopping and saw the Pez dispensers . . . my mother doesn’t like Pez . . . I couldn’t resist.

14 May 2012

Starving Artist

I have dreamed of being an author for years. At this pint I’ve written hundreds of short stories and quite a few novels. It seems that my hard work is paying off with this book deal but there is something I want to point out. I have worked a lot on my writing, but I’ve also worked hard at my professional career, which isn’t creative writing. I don’t believe that starving for your art will make it better; it just makes you more desperate. When I decided I didn’t want to be an elementary school teacher I looked at a variety of majors. I knew I wanted to be an author but I knew that I wouldn’t be able to make the paycheck by majoring in creative writing. I majored in technical writing not because it was writing but because I like document design and there are pretty much always jobs open for technical writers. Be practical. Get a degree that can pay the bills. Think of whatever you major in as an educational opportunity to increase your knowledgebase for your novels.

13 May 2012


Intro: I watch a lot of police stories and there is a common theme of spouses who get tired of lonely nights.

"Just let me call my wife to let her know I'll be home late tonight." Aaron slung his pack over his shoulder and picked up his phone. Speed dial one. Five rings.

"Hello, my love," Kristy said. "It's five o'clock. You're either calling to tell me you love me, or letting me know you're going to be late."

"I love you," Aaron said. "Am I'm going to be late."

"Will you be home at all tonight?"

"I'll be home after the search. I'm sorry. I'll make it up to you." Aaron couldn't keep his voice even as he said, "I won't make it to the restaurant. But don't cancel the sitter you can go with your father."

His partner, Seth, stood in the door and motioned.

"I have to go. Your present is hidden in the glove compartment of your car. Happy Birthday."

She made a coughing noise but then said, "Be careful."

A night spent looking for signs of a body was not how Aaron pictured celebrating his wife's birthday. He didn't work late every night but whenever it came up it was gruesome for one reason or another.

"Did you see that?" Aaron asked. He reached for the gun at his side.

"No one's here," Seth said but Aaron heard the sound of a gun being drawn. "Cover me."

"No, wait." Aaron watched his partner scuttle forward. He followed. The adrenaline made every sound or moving leaf seem like a threat.

His partner swore.

Aaron stopped moving and stared at the dark shapes in front of him. His partner's gun was aimed at a figure kneeling on the ground. Aaron circled closer. The kneeling man was covered in blood. A young woman, eviscerated, lay in a shallow grave.

"Put your hands on your head and move away from the girl." Seth's face twisted in a grimace. "We didn't realize you'd be here. We have a roadblock on every road out of town and you fall into our hands."

Aaron continued sneaking through the trees until he had an angle view of the man's back. The culprit raised his hands from the leaves on the ground. Aaron caught sight of a gun muzzle.

"Drop it! Drop the gun."

The man snapped the gun up. Aaron fired. All his bullets hit home and the man stoppled forward half in the grave.

"Are you alright?" Aaron asked.

Seth nodded even as he stared at the matte black gun.

"I'll call it in." Aaron kicked the gun away and reach for his radio. Search party turned arresting officers. His workload doubled, but at least the local campus would receive good news for their co-eds.

At three o'clock he parked the car in the drive way. The garage door woke up the kids. Kristy's car keys were missing. He ran to garage. The car was gone. The three bedrooms were empty. He dropped his cell phone as he pulled it out and turned it on. One text message. 2:15: Won't be home.

Aaron sank down on the couch and let the phone slip from his fingers. He sat on the couch and watched the shadows fade. The garage door rumbled and Kristy walked in. Paul, their eighteen-month-old, was cradled in her arms. Penny, a rambunctious four-year-old, dragged her feet.

"Aaron? What happened? You look awful."

"You're back?" Aaron scrubbed a hand across his face. Penny climbed up on his lap and drifted off to sleep.

"I told you I'd be back." She handed Paul to him and scooped his phone off the ground. She flipped it open and then thwacked it with her palm. It lit up. "The battery must have come lose."

She handed the phone back and trundled the children to their rooms. Aaron flipped through the text messages.

3:11: Paul has whooping cough. 3:28: Might have to stay for observations. 4:00: Maybe you could come and get Penny. 4:45: Please say you're safe. 5:00: If you don't answer you'll have to buy me a new car. 5:01: Banana yellow. 5:01: Don't be dead.

"Is that blood from anyone I know?" Kristy asked.

Aaron looked up from the phone. "What?"

She pointed to his shirt. Faint speck of red were visible in the light.

'No. This isn't anyone you know."

She curled up next to him on the couch.

"Did you like your present?" Aaron asked.

Kristy laughed. "I didn't open it."

"I'm sorry I was late. I really am."

"My birthday's today. Not yesterday."

Aaron couldn't keep from crying even as he laughed.

11 May 2012

The Johnny Maxwell Trilogy

by Terry Pratchett

THE JOHNNY MAXWELL TRILOGY is a YA series by Terry Pratchett. They are urban fantasy and are just fun reads. The three books are ONLY YOU CAN SAVE MANKIND, JOHNNY AND THE DEAD, and JOHNNY AND THE BOMB. These books follow a group of friends Bigmac, Yo-less, Wobbler, and Kirsty and some of their adventures in the town of Blackbury, England. They are the kids that don’t fit in at school and have formed their own group.

In ONLY YOU CAN SAVE MANKIND, Johnny is playing a video game about aliens, only the aliens surrender. He accepts their surrender and suddenly there are no more aliens. It isn’t just in his copy of the game but every copy of the game is missing the aliens. He starts having odd dreams about the aliens and he realizes he has to do something about it, only he doesn’t know what to do. This book reminds me a lot of the movie LAST STARFIGHTER.

JOHNNY AND THE DEAD involves the same group of kids, only this one is more about the town. Johnny not only has the strange ability to talk to aliens in video games, but he can see ghosts as well. The city council is planning on building over the cemetery and the ghosts ask Johnny and his friends to help make their voices heard. I like this one because it shows how his friends are willing to trust him even though they can’t see and hear everything he does.

JOHNNY AND THE BOMB is my favorite of the three. I felt like this kids showed more development than in the other ones. There is a bag lady that walks around town. The kids find a newspaper that had been wrapped around some fish and chips only it is from their grandparents’ time. They soon learn how to time travel. In this one Johnny learns about his grandfather and I think it is a really cute story about what makes a hero.

These books are a little harder to find but they are well worth it. They are a great coming of age story with a little of the snarky-ness that is true Pratchett style. They are science fiction and fantasy but they aren’t as heavy in the science fiction/fantasy as even the nome books are. The characters are likeable and relateable. The storytelling is engaging and it is a fun read for the whole family.

09 May 2012

Fortune Teller

I don’t think I’ve told this story before. When I was younger I had a difficult time controlling my temper. My older siblings knew this and loved to push my buttons. I was always trying to be better than they were at something. There came a point when I would go into the library and just pull books off the shelf that had interesting covers. I wanted something that they hadn’t read before. I found an interesting book and delved right in. I was almost done with it a few days later when my older sister saw me.

“I know how that one ends.”
“No you don’t.”
“Yes I do. You just didn’t see me read it. The bad guy floods the world and everyone dies.”
“Go away.”

When I finished the book later that night I approached my sister.

“I finished the book.”
“And how did it end?”
“The world was flooded.”
“You should know by now not to doubt the awesomeness of your older sister.”

This happened back when I was in Jr. High. A few years ago I went to the World Fantasy Convention. I met the author of the book. I gathered up my courage and went to talk to him. When finished explaining the situation he paused.

“You were reading X book?”

I nodded.

He laughed.

07 May 2012

Current Cultural References

When writing a contemporary piece (including some urban fantasies) having cultural references is a fine line to walk. You have to keep in mind that references will date the story. I'm not talking about classics but current trends.

This can be done well. NORTHANGER ALIBI is a retelling of Jane Austen's NORTHANGER ABBEY. In NORTHANGER ABBEY the heroine is obsessed with popular Gothic romance novels. In NORTHANGER ALIBI the heroine is obsessed with the TWILIGHT SAGA. Even years from now those who reads the books will understand what is going on even if they haven't heard of or read the romance novels being referenced.

Not all references leave such an important impact. If you don't have to mention particulars it is best not to. Ask yourself if it is important that the character is listening to a specific band or if you can just say they are listening to rock music. While added specifics can make the book feel like it is more grounded in reality it will become outdated fast. Books normally take a year to complete the publication process. The other important thing to consider is the fact that there can be some sticky legal situations if you don't know what you are doing.

06 May 2012

*Capital Restitution

Intro: Moose and I have seen several shows that has the idea of one life for another.

Jarren helped attach the cables to the table. “Are you sure you want to test this out on a human? We could always try on something else, you know, a pig or something.”

“If it fails then we are no worse off than before,” Dr. Hansen said even as he ran through the checklist on his clipboard.

“Don’t let anyone hear you say that or they might try and get out on cruel and unusual punishment.”

The doctor frowned and made an adjustment to one of the valves.

“Don’t worry, our patient has no intention of backing out. Which is why I chose him.”

Jarren finished his task and stepped back. It looked like a torture device with all of the needles, fluids, and straps. But Dr. Hansen was the leading expert in his field of exo-life-transmittal. He was the only scientist involved in this study. Jarren had been lucky to be chosen as his intern, which he now knew meant pack mule.

“You won’t be able to be in this room during the procedure. I expect you to be monitoring in the other room.”

“But I don’t know how this works,” Jarren said.

“You don’t have to. If something looks like it is going wrong unplug everything.”

The door opened and Jarren was escorted to the adjoining room. He’d helped set up the cables in this room as well. A similar table stood in the middle of the room but he didn’t have a control panel, just gauges. He took out book and sat in the corner while he waited.

An hour later a young girl was brought in on a gurney. The nurse helped Jarren move her to the table and strap her down. She didn’t move and except for the heart monitor she was plugged into Jarren would have thought her dead. Dr. Hansen came in a minute later and directed Jarren where to insert the needles.

“Don’t forget, if something goes wrong, just pull everything. Destroy the equipment if you have to.”

Jarren, the nurse, and two guards watched the proceedings. Prisoner #9201837 was escorted into the room in chains. The guards only removed the restraints after Dr. Hansen secured him to the table.

“Any last words?”

The prisoner turned to Dr. Hansen. “Tell her I love her. Tell her I always loved her.”

“Of course.”

Jarren moved to stand by the girl and took her hand. He gave it a squeeze. The nurse came up but Jarren waved him away.

“Stay back until the process is over,” he said even as he let go and took up position to watch the gauges.

When Dr. Hansen started the machine Jarren looked away. The girl let out a whimper.

“Stay back,” Jarren said even as the nurse took a step forward. The whimper turned to a groan. She let out a shriek and Jarren grabbed the cables. With one last cry the girl’s back arched and she fell still.

The only sound was the heart monitor, beeping.

Jarren looked back at the screen which showed the prisoner being zipped up in a body bag.

“Daddy, I want my daddy.” It was hoarse but clear and Jarren turned to the girl she was struggling against the straps. Even the guard helped released the buckles as Jarren removed the needles.

Dr. Hansen who stood in the door and talked with the warden.

“I’ll get the paperwork started to get the machines in the other penitentiaries.”

Dr. Hansen wiped his cheek and turned away. “I’ll release the blueprints for production.”

“Where’s my daddy?”

Jarren wrapped her in a blanket and handed her to the nurse. “He loves you. Don’t ever forget.”

04 May 2012

The Bromeliad Trilogy

by Terry Pratchett

I really like Terry Pratchett, but I can understand that the Discworld series is not for everyone. The BROMELIAD trilogy is another story. The books are called TRUCKERS, DIGGERS, and WINGS though you can buy them all in an omnibus. My mother read these books to me when I was young and there are still scenes that stick with me. These books are suitable for all ages and though children may not understand all of the humor it isn't inappropriate. The books are just as funny for adults.

The books are about two groups of nomes. And yes, I did spell that correctly. There are the outside nomes, and the store nomes. The nomes from outside come to the store looking for safety and aren't expecting to find others of their kind, only not all of the store nomes believe that there is an outside. News comes that the store is going to be demolished and the nomes don't know what to do. Even as one problem is solved another is presented and you will probably be surprised at everything that happens.

The characters make this story entertaining but some of the ideas are just hilarious. The books are fairly short and are good for kids to read by themselves as well. They are great ones to read aloud as well, though some of the creative spelling will be lost. (Interestingly enough, in the second book there is a piece of equipment that changes names depending on the version.) And if you find that you like this series you should also take a look at Terry Pratchett's other YA trilogy called JOHNNY MAXWELL, which I will be reviewing later.

02 May 2012

Opera at Work

I learned today that one of my coworkers is an opera singer. He was singing up and down the hall today. When I was asking my boss about it she mentioned that he sings when he is stressed. I told her that I think singing is a much better way of relieving stress than some of the other ways my coworkers do it. My only hope is that he sings when he is in a good mood as well. I don't deal with stress very well but I like the idea of singing to try and get through it.