Friday, December 31, 2010

Let's Ring In The New Year!

My husband and I are ready for a brand new year, for sure. We've lost a dear one, had backs go out, missed work, lay-offs, and the list was very long and we're just ready for a brand new start, if it takes a new year/calendar to do it, I'll drink to that!

Of course there were a few good things to feel blessed about too. We live in northern Illinois and somehow the bad weather that each coast has experienced has missed us--so far! We didn't spend Christmas eve and Christmas day in a motel because of a power outage.

My new book was one huge one. It took me a year to find a publisher who would take on this book (without trying to change it into something it wasn't), take a chance that it might do well. Copperhill Media is certainly trying to give it a go.

My blog was another thing that I worked on extensively because I knew I would need the base by which to launch a vampire novel. For the longest time, Heather seemed to be my only reader. We both came from Author Nation, I followed her to her blog, a few years ago, tried to settle into blogspot. Didn't know what the hell I was doing, but I learned. Eventually, of course, my blog became a vampire blog, but not exclusively, and my readers/followers, and viewers grew from maybe one to 30, and my hits have gone over 3,000 (of course it's been counting me, I think) and the country count is now up to 36--which is cool. I see Russia, Germany, Canada, England, and places like Lithuania, Romania are constantly checking my blog out. So, I'd have to say, this has been a successful year for the blog.

And not least are the many friends I have made here at blogspot--you, my writing friends out there are wonderful. I used to ache for feedback from other writers for years. It is a lonely world for us writers. I mean, unless you find a writing group in your area, you're pretty much alone. And I really can't find the time to go to one. Just not enough time in the day. So, my cup is full, I drink to all of you who have come and made comments and kept me encouraged, and being out there, posting your knowledge as well. Thank you!

Speaking of followers, and friends who support me, I want to thank Michele Hauf at VamChix for actually answering my prayer that she would follow through with featuring me/my book "if and when it gets published". We had a spammer, but I think between the two of us, we got rid of her. And Michele has invited me to be on VampChix again, and I'll be taking her up on that as soon as the next one is out.

And TODAY another fellow writer, Tammy McKee has so graciously agreed to hosting me/my book as an interview. So, I hope you'll stop by in your busy day to make a short comment, show your continued support as we all begin our new years.

Thank you!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

WORDSMITHING 101 - Part Six - Don't Give Your Protagonist The Easy Road

Just like there's rules of the road when you drive your car, when you write you need to have several rules of the writing road in mind as you write.

Conflict is one. This is pretty much king. If you don't want your characters to come out flat, if you don't want your readers to become bored because two characters agree too much with one another--because this just doesn't happen in real life, either--you need conflict to stir things up a bit. Even if they are friends. Every character has their own motives, their own secrets, their own destiny, and sometimes their destiny may cause conflict with another. And keep in mind, they may refuse to do something on the grounds that it's distasteful, or they fear something. That's why you need to know everyone of your characters intimately when you begin your story. If one person is afraid of heights, then put them in a predicament where they have to conquer their fear because it's a life and death situation.

Another rule that is also just as important is DON'T LET YOUR CHARACTER HAVE IT TOO EASY!

As I've been working along in my next two books, the things that my protagonist most wants in life is to love someone and be loved back. I'm not a romance writer, but there is romance in my books. In Vampire Ascending I don't want you to know who Sabrina will finally be with at the end, until we're more than half-way through the book. And in my second book, the very reason they were allowed to be together is pulled, yanked, because of--you guessed it--all the conflicting reasons behind who/what they are. Life is never fair and conflict is king. Emotions must play a part in some of the reasons your characters act and react the way they do, but you need to set it all up, carefully. Which is where I'm at with the second book.

But other than love, there are other things, the smaller things. The scenes that take place throughout. Whatever Sabrina's objective, even when she thinks she's got the whole thing figured out, something wild and new happens. It's usually something she has to deal with, and it's usually something she really doesn't want to do, but has to because of the fact she has no other options, and she has new responsibilities.

When you get into a scene with your characters the #1 question you have to ask yourself is What is the worst thing that could happen here, or to my character?

When Sabrina is babysitting her nieces in the second book, Vampire's Trill and her shift changing partner, Dante, is slowly trying to shift up into human form--which takes days--I had Sabrina stretched out on the couch watching TV with Dante in the form of a dog, her nieces up in bed, and soon her brother and his wife will come home. Suddenly the dog shifts into a black jaguar. And then, if this isn't scary enough, he shifts back into human form--buck naked.

At this point, again, I asked myself, how much worse could this get? Well, you guessed it. Her brother and his wife come home.

I must admit I like to throw a little humor into my books and this is just one example. Dante does make it out of the house, wrapped up in a blanket, but the crazy moments makes for both a humorous moment, and giving a break from some of the heavier things that happen throughout the story, and especially all the emotional things that happen after this moment between the two.

We, as writers, know almost instinctively what the worst things that might happen to our characters, and we have to at least give way to those ideas. You may wind up with an intriguing read if your reader simply doesn't know what will happen next.

Hey! This is the last Wordsmithing post of the year. I'll be back with a new one next week, hopefully, and hope to see you all there with me again!

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

How's Your Status?

How many of you out there check your stats for your blog on a weekly, or even daily basis?

How many of you know what it is or where to find the stats? I didn't know for about the first year I was here, I'm embarrassed to say.

When you first go to your blog everyday, you'll start from your Dashboard. You'll see the blue underlined words such as Edit Posts -Comments-Settings-Design – Monetize – Stats. If you click on Stats a new window will come in and your stats will be shown for the week. You can choose a Now, Day, Month, and an All Time button.

The All time button window will give you a good over all graphic of your pageviews. You'll also notice over to the side a column for Pageviews: today, yesterday, last month, and all time history. This is a good thing to look at from time to time. And if you run your arrow over this blue graphic, it gives you the date of these peeks, and pageview counts at each peek. This is a nice feature at blogspot. I don't think anyone else has an easier way of checking your stats in such a detailed way.

Up above the window again printed in blue, you'll see the words Posts, Traffic Sources, Audience.

Audience is where you will be able to check your status on how many people come to your blog on a daily, or weekly, etc. basis,

Posts you will have a different graphic of each of your most popular posts, it shows you the “Pageviews” and its corresponding number, showing you which of your posts have been most popular.

Under Audience you will now have a map of the world, and countries that have come to your post will be shaded in light or dark green. There will be another graphic below this telling you exactly how many people in each listed country who have visited your blog within the time frame you are searching. To the right are Pageviews by Browsers, and also one for Operating Systems. With this do-dad, you know how many people are using Windows, Macintosh or other. Is that cool or what?

Now if you pop over to Traffic Sources you will get a graphic and read out on Referring URL's, and Referring Sites—where people are finding your blog can also be important as well as interesting. One of the sites I've checked out is totally in Russian. Most might be from facebook, google, and blogger. If you belong to another writing community, there will be those among them too. Knowing this helps you when you visit these other sites and help you pull even more readership your way.

Way at the bottom it will show which Search Keywords were used to hit your blog, or post.

Now if you'll notice up above all this, and just under your blog's title are a bunch of tabs with black lettering. By hitting Comments you will get a page of any comments that were ever made.

The great thing about this feature is you can check comments from this page without ever going to your blog at all. If something is there that needs to be deleted, it's better to quickly eliminate it there. Doing all these tasks at the dashboard doesn't add to your own visit totals.

You can use this great blogspot tool to your advantage by learning which posts on your blog have been most popular, and which ones haven't been really too popular helps you ascertain what sort of things to feature at your blog. If something isn't working at all, you know that it's a waste of your time to work on it. If time is in short supply, then this would be a valuable thing for you to keep up on.

I didn't even know this feature was here until three months ago. But it's been helping me, and I can see what has worked for me. For instance, I noticed that as soon as I made the choice of honing my blog toward one or two subjects has greatly helped, and making a decision on Muse's main theme—vampires—has brought in viewers in greater numbers. I saw a huge jump from just a few per month to hundreds per month coming to my blog once I began posting with vampires in mind, whether it was about books, movies, TV, or news having to do with vampires, Dracula, etc, it had worked. My post about a taxi driver being attacked by a “vampire” is still being viewed today, even though I posted it way back in March. My number one all time post has been when I first welcomed Sumiko to my blog. The next most popular ones have been interviews. My interview with Justin Romine, the director of the vampire movie, was right after Welcome Sumiko for popularity. Other interviews followed along with my other posting bud, John of John's Corner of Horror.

Checking your stats at least on a weekly basis, and checking the All time stats helps you determine how well your blog is doing as far as traffic, and post popularity. You don't need to pay a service to do this. You can check how well you're doing all from a mouse click and for free. You'll see exactly what countries are stopping in, and how many from that country. My NeoCounter isn't catching many countries that do stop at my blog. It took months before Japan was added to it. But I'm happy to boast that 35 countries (plus maybe a dozen others), stop by to check something out. And I like watching the flags and names of each country click by on the NeoCounter on my blog.

I hope this has been helpful to you. If this is something that you've never thought of, and are curious, go and check this out. I spend about 5-10 minutes each day checking things at the main one, and once a week I check all of my blogs to see which ones have helped pull people over to Muse from the other four I keep, because I "share" my posts from Muse to the other ones.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Interview

Once you have a book published, and you need to get the word out locally, your local papers are the best resource you have to getting the word out about your book, and any book signings you may have coming up, and have the news spread far and wide.

Today I've arranged for an interview with a local paper, The MidWeek, and my interviewer is the same person as with my first book. I remember arranging this interview the last time at the bookstore where I would have my up-coming book signing, and arranged it to come out in the week of the book signing. It worked out great, and since this is a one-day-a-week paper, timing is crucial.

I'm not sure if I'm a "good" interview. I've had two papers interview me. One was live, the other was both over the phone and via email. The live interview is nerve wracking to say the least. Like anyone I get nervous and know I'll need some notes to help me think of things to say. You'd think I'd know what to talk about, but nerves do a number on me. I hated speaking in front of a crowd--hated speech in school, and had to suffer through that in high school and college.

There are some authors who seem to be unaffected by being in front of a crowd and speaking. I'm not one of them.

So, the interview is with someone I've had before, but I'm still taking notes, because the guy was quite willing to have me go on and on about my book and even I was bored. Also, a good thing to bring is a sheet you've printed out with details on the book, where to buy it and so forth. This can be the back cover information about the book, just a blurb for them to place in the article.

Another thing you might not think of is to give out your blog, any other places the book can be seen at.

Oh, and you'll need your book. It makes a nice photo op. People who know you may see it and want to stop by the book signing. You'd be surprised who will buy your book merely because they know you. They might not ever read it, but they'll want a copy with your autograph in it--maybe thinking you'll become a big hit down the road and they can either brag about it, or sell it on eBay.

So, tomorrow at ten o'clock I'm meeting my interview at Borders. I'm already nervous.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

My Many Blessings, Dean Koontz, Etc.

I love Dean Koontz. There, I've said it.

I get his "Useless News" in the mail every quarter, and fall in love with the guy over and over because he is brilliant, witty, humble, cunning with words, and very imaginative, and I get to know a little bit more about him every time he sends one of these gems out.

Of course this love is unrequited. But I do have his autograph, and a short note to me which I should have hanging in glass, a bronzed portrait of him next to it. I've placed it in a protective sheet of plastic. The house burns it's gone forever.

Gentle readers, I would never take from the fact that I love my husband, who has stood with me through thick and thin, in health, sickness poverty, etc.; who has told me never give up, talked me into not quitting my writing on many occasions, encouraged me to keep writing simply because I love to write, who cooks, does laundry and other things around the house so that I might toil in my labor of love—writing—and spent an hour pushing furniture around so that I might sleep in my office during the 21 days off. Who calls me his “pot of gold” not because I will rake in millions, but because, he says, that when he met me, I was his pot of gold for having endured so much heart-ache before he met me (same here, buy the way), and I could never have gotten as far as I have with out his having bought me this computer--he HATES computers, and all technological gadgets and if he became king he would get rid of all things like cell phones and such things for ever. Be happy that we don't have kings any more.

My idol, Dean Koontz, lives in sunny California. He has a loving wife, Gerta, who I'm sure tends to his every needs, and his beloved golden retriever, this one and the one which had died--are shared in his news letter. I've gotten to know this writer merely through these 10-or-so-page newsletters, and look forward to reading anything by him. His new release What The Night Knows is to be released on the 28th of this month.

For those of you who have never read anything by Dean Koontz, you really need to pick up something by him. The man writes scintillating works of suspense, and he's been writing for as more years than I've been an adult trying to be traditionally published. I wrote to him once, probably ten or so years ago asking for advise. His note to me was kind and his sense of humor always in tact because I made a bit of fun at his hair style back in the 70's (he'd said “what was I thinking?”).

His advice to me was to get an agent. Well, Dean was well meaning. And believe me, I tried to get an agent, but agents want people like Dean Koontz who bring in huge sales, these days. Apparently because of my being completely unknown—and I know no one in the business—I've failed in this task. Thus a POD is the only way any of my novels have seen light of day, or met with reader's eyes.

Since I could think of nothing more to post today, I thought a post admission of my idolization of Dean Koontz was in order. And Dean, if your Google Warning should bring you to my blog, just between you and me, you are the king, not only of suspense, but of writing in all aspects, and I hope to meet you some day, either in this life or the next. Salute.

Friday, December 24, 2010

My Thoughts On Christmas Eve

It's snowing out, right now. It's almost as if I choreographed this, but I didn't. Fluffy flakes slowly falling down. What a difference a year makes. Last year my husband and I had no power. There was a wide spread outage in our area because of an ice storm. We didn't know how bad it was, and the message from the electric company kept on giving bogus times when the power would be restored. So, we stayed the night in a cold house. To add to our misery, a raccoon tried to bust into the basement window. We live on a country road. We had no idea that a pole had cracked in half and was laying down on the ground. We found out when we finally left and got breakfast in a truck stop--the only place open on Christmas Day.

So, I'm trying to remember this bad moment, and look at how much better it is this Christmas Eve. The loss of a head member of our family was a blow. But Barb's picture stands under my mini Christmas Tree in memory. I do believe in angels, and if anyone became an angel right away, it would have been Barb A. Bell. So, I think she was communicating to me last night. Noises kept waking me up. One was a tack that--I don't know how it fell, or where it fell from--fell against the waste basket. (I'm spending the nights in my office, remember.) So this had me up with lights on, thinking about animals trying to get into the house--a mouse maybe. But it was just a tack. I went back to bed.

This morning I was thinking about how things had been when I was a child. Our family had begun allowing "Santa" to leave presents on our front porch on Christmas Eve, and we'd hear him do so and rush to open up the door to see all the presents there. My brother is 4 years younger than myself, and we were what they call "a second family". We came years after my next older brother; there were 6 of us all together.

In my youth I would stare at the Christmas tree; all the decorations, lights, the tinsel and I would day dream.(Yesterday when we went to the antique store, the old decorations got me reminiscing--that's why Dennis and I love to go to antique stores so much--and I saw old led-based tinsel.) I was always a big day dreamer. I only realized well into my 40's that I was dyslexic and have ADD, so my ability to phase everything out and think about my books is why my creativity is so high. I can't cut this off easily, unless I'm doing something else with my brain. It was why factory jobs were jobs I went with, because I didn't have to think about what I was doing.

We're baking a ham and making scalloped potatoes and having Hawaiian rolls--the closest thing we've had that tastes like his mother's Swedish rolls. Later, we're watching A Wonderful Life tonight. You've gotta watch this movie, if you have never seen it before. The message is great.

The snow flakes have become bigger. My husband came in and invited me to look out the picture window. I told him about the noises last night. I told him it was his mother communicating to me. I can almost hear her voice, I knew her so well, and I know what she was saying: "Hey! I'm watching over you two, you silly girl. Quit worrying and get back to work (writing)."

So, with all these things whirling around in my head today, I want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas. I think this is the time of year to reflect and tell each other how much we love and appreciate one another, that we're glad we have what we have, even if there isn't any presents under a tree. That isn't really the message, when you really think about it, is it?

My husband wants to go outside. Says he needs a sled to take the garbage out. Yes. One of those old Red Fliers they don't sell any more because they were deemed too dangerous with the runners on them. Bah humbug!

Snowflakes still falling. I think it will be a Wonderful Christmas.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

My Little Gift To My Readers

Lorelei's Fluffy Chocolate Chip Cookies

When I was younger I always noticed that the Toll House cookies always came out fine, but after a day or so, they became hard. After figuring out that it was sugar that made them harden, I decided to figure out how to reduce the sugars and yet come up with a cookie that was perfect. It's great for someone who is trying to hold down the calories too.

Well, here it is. This is a half batch, so you can double this recipe easily if you need more than two dozen cookies. This half batch is easy to make in a quick time, and is perfect for either something to take for a gift, or for two people—yes, you will be tempted to eat them all in one day, but hey, that's your problem!

Half-batch fluffy chocolate chip cookies

1 ¼ c. flour

½ t. baking soda } combine

¼ t. salt

* * *

½ c. butter—softened

¼ c. brown sugar

¼ c. sugar

1 egg

½ t. vanilla

combine the above ingredients and add the flour mixture; add and mix in 6 oz (or about 2/3 c.) semi-sweet morsels. Chill dough for 10-15 min.

Oven 375° Bake spoon-sized cookies for 8-10 min. turning about half way. Watch, as your oven may bake either hotter or cooler, so be sure to check them at 8 min. Take out when they're nicely browned.

Let cool one minute before placing on cooling racks.

These chocolate chip cookies will come out crispy on the outside but light and fluffy on inside. You can use the Splenda half and half mix if you prefer for the white sugar.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sumko's Reads ~ Broken Kingdoms

I just finished Broken Kingdoms by NK Jemisin.  I came across this book via a review. I recently signed up for their newsletter and that is how it came to me.  

Here's how this goes:  I skimmed the review and it intrigued me.  They reviewed the second book in a trilogy and I went to Amazon and ordered what I thought was the first book.  But alas - it is not.  I actually ordered the very book they reviewed and I have to say that despite being the middle book of a trilogy where I have not yet read the first book - I enjoyed it very much.  The protagonist is a young woman, Oree,  who is an artist, although blind.  However, she lives in a world where "godlings" walk among mortal folks and unlike most people the one thing she can see is the divine magic that they work.  The city she lives in is on a giant world tree.  I don't think that the entire world is on this tree because she travelled there from somewhere else.  The book begins with the the murder of one of the godlings and with Oree taking in a foundling.  I really enjoyed the world, Oree and her investigation of the events which lead to revelations about herself and her family.  

NK Jemisin's website:

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Day Two

Yesterday my husband moved the couch into my office. It was suggested that I could sleep in here, get up and work when I wished. Work as late as I want. This took about an hour of moving furniture around in two rooms, but the office is now a bit cozier.

I woke at my usual time (when I normally get up to get ready to go to work), @4a.m. and I've been on-line doing things, hopefully to promote the book. About to have coffee, watch some news.

My book Vampire Ascending has it's own facebook page, if anyone wants to go there and like it,

Sunday, December 19, 2010

21 Days of Writing

Three Mondays, Three Fridays, and all the days in between, I have off. No going into work—except in my office!

Yes. It's that time of year when NIU is shut down. All the students are gone—most of them, anyway. And there will be no bus service until January 10th. It's not kind on the checkbook, but hey I'm going in to apply for unemployment.

These past weeks inspiration has been nipping at my heals. So many mornings I've woke up with ideas to fill the third book, as well as the re-writes of this next one of the Sabrina Strong series. I write when I get home, I write when I wake, and while I'm frigging driving the bus—the words are there in my head. I can't wait to get home, get notes down and waiting for these days off has been excruciating.

Any of you who work outside of your home to make money while you write must understand this plight. We all want to just stay home and write. I remember being at a writing workshop and someone asking me what I do for a living. I said it wasn't important what I do to make money. What I am is a writer. You gotta walk the walk and talk the talk, baby.

So, when freed from the job that requires, by the way, my husband and I to get up at 4 a.m. to get ready to drive a transit bus for a college, for 7 hours a day (break service was 6 hrs.). Getting Home today knowing I don't have to get up in the morning at FOUR O'CLOCK IN THE FRIGGING MORNING—I was elated to say the least.

Of course, if I want to get up to write at four a.m., that's totally a different thing all together. Doing what you enjoy, what you love, you would probably work an 18 hour day. Take cat naps, and get up when something wonderful hits you. That's the life of a writer—and most of us can only dream of having that situation for all ways.

And, these 21 days will not all consist of writing every waking moment, of course. There will be down times when I need to do other things, have distractions, like go to the bookstore. Plus the book signing, and I'll arrange an interview with a local paper in between all this, and I now have time to take care of such things.

21 days. It has begun.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Big Event

For each and every writer/published author hopeful, the Big Event is, of course, the book signing.

I've had three official book signings. Nothing compares to the first one. You can never repeat that first one.

But you can get the momentum going again. The excitement will be there with another local book signing for the new book.

I spoke to Julie Morsh of my local Borders and she called me back because she had a meeting to go to, and so we could chat a bit. She was excited that I had a new book out, and asked right away if it was a series. I told her it was. She said that the series "back in the day" was not a big deal. Now it's "hot". A series will hook your readers into your characters, if you build them with intensity enough to make people like them--or hate a few--enough to want to see some sort of thing building between the good and bad ones. And if you're real smart, you'll keep on adding new ones to love or hate for whatever reason.

So, because I'm going through this again, for the second time, it isn't the same, and yet it is. I'm excited, but it's controlled excitement. I know that I'll be contacting the paper again and know I don't want to babble on and on about my book like before. I'll have something prepared, and hope I don't sweat like a b.b. player on the court with M.J.

I have known contacts too. Julie Morsh, bookstore manager, didn't know me and I didn't know her back in 2008, but now, after having me in her store a few times, she knows who I am and I got to adjust my time for when I wanted it--in the afternoon so that I can go home at a reasonable hour and crash. She was very accommodating, and she was happy to hear I would have my own photographer, John Zingale, again--I call him my paparazzi--because when John Zingale showed up at the first book signing, and was snapping away, I couldn't understand why someone was taking so many pictures! I didn't know he was going to do that and it was like I had some paparazzi there at my book signing. John, being a good friend and co-worker, said he'd be there again, and I'll be emailing him about this soon.

January 8th, at the DeKalb Borders, should anyone who reads this be able to attend.

Julie will order the books in the morning, happy to know it was through Ingram. She said she wouldn't put them out until the week of the signing--afraid she might run out of them maybe?

And with my 3 weeks off coming up soon, I'll have plenty of time to get things ready, get the word out the best I can and hope most of the people I know can attend. The first one was fabulous. I sold 17 books out of the 25. That's considered very good. Julie hugged me after the book signing, that night. They had the carolers in a section behind me, so that people had to go past me. When I got there, I was asked to sign two books and one woman came up to me and said "I just have to have this book!" and I didn't even have my coat off.

That will probably never happen again, but I hope for good things with this book, and the next ones to follow. It's fun, but it's work to get the book out there. I hope to do a better job of getting the word out about Vampire Ascending.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Dear Anonymous:

There's nothing I hate more than someone who butts in line, or takes advantage of something because they can. I hate rude people. I don't like when someone pushes me out of the way and then proceeds to run all over me. I'm older, wiser than I was 10 or 20 years ago. Ain't going to happen without me making a protest. So here goes.

First I want to say I have spent two years working at my blog, trying to make friends, getting to know some of you the best I can with the limited time I have--especially with my slow connection. I've gone to your blogs and made comments and at no time did I try and muscle in on someone else's featured book, or interview by telling them all about my book.

I felt honored, ecstatic, that Michele Hauf gave me the chance to feature my book, Vampire Ascending at VampChix just this week. I was invited, I didn't push myself onto this site. I waited until my book was published and available, and asked, and was granted the space and time on VampChix.

But something happened that really irked me, and rightly so, if you'll just indulge me a moment more to explain. Someone left a comment that pretty much ran over my parade. It took away my joy of being featured, and I think it's really rude even despicable that someone should feel they have to sneak into someone else's post in order to get recognition because they don't know enough people out here, or have no other way of getting attention other than stealing it.

Those of you who know I was featured at VampChix on Wednesday I'm sure went and viewed it, and a few commented. Which was fine because you commented on my book.

But one person who chose to be an "anonymous" commenter went and entered all the information on another person's book, the name of the author, where to buy it and how much, yada, yada--and I have a suspicion the author, herself, did this--and that's down right rude to do this! (No, I'm not going to reveal it here. Not going to get another freebie.)

Think of it this way; you've worked hard at writing your book, finally it's published, you're so very proud and now you're working to get it noticed by going to your blogging friends, and getting their permission to have an interview or what have you.

Then, someone comes along and slips in an ad for their book in the comment section. Would you take that laying down? Wouldn't it just tick you off? Personally, I've had my share of people who have always pushed me around. Years ago I began to push back.

May I also warn all of you to be on the look out for this sort of thing to happen to your posts in the comment section. It's quite possible this person (or others who think this is a pretty cool idea), may be hunting for the opportunity to do this again. May I strongly advise you to delete it as soon as you see something like this.

I have emailed Michele about this, but I have not heard from her as yet. I may have to try her again, since they've had some bad weather up that way, so I don't know. I had some really terrible weather ourselves, so maybe the email didn't go through.

I hope if any of you got to this post and see it, leave a comment on how you feel this person really has the nerve of doing something so rude.

Thanks to all of you who have supported me, come and joined my blog. YOu know this takes work to get to know other writers in this way.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sumiko's Reads ~HP#7 Review and Naomi Novik's Victory of Eagles

My quick HP7 review:

I saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 (HP7.1) on the Sunday of its opening weekend and really enjoyed it. I thought that the movie managed to give us a sense of how interminable the camping section was without actually making it seem interminable. (This is a fault with the book that is corrected, I thought, in the movie.) I was also lucky enough not to have any unfortunate incidents of people laughing where they weren't meant to - I hear this has happened at showings some of my online friends have been to. I enjoyed it and felt righteously upset when it ended with the cliffhanger that it had to end on.

I haven't read the book in ages so I cannot give you a good account on how true to the book it is - that will have to be for somebody else.

A book I just read: Naomi Novik's Victory of Eagles. I opened it up late last night and did not go to sleep until I was done. I loved the
first of the Temeraire books and then felt a little less enthusiastic for some of the most recent ones. (This is a general feeling - it has been quite a while since I read the others - so I cannot be more specific.) It just hit the spot last night. If you do not know what these books are - they are a series set in an alternative universe in which the British military has units of dragon borne fighters. The time is the early Nineteenth Century during the Napoleonic Wars and follows the adventures of Temeraire - a unique Chinese dragon and William Laurence the naval officer who adopts him. I think that my favorite part of the book was the part that dealt with Temeraire away from Laurence. The dragon culture/society was very entertaining and I don't recall the other books having nearly so much of it. I have raced to Amazon and see that I am coming to this book so late that the next book is already out. Excellent. I am extremely happy that I don't need to wait. I am so much looking forward to the Antepodean adventures of Temeraire and Laurence.

I just saw on Amazon that Patrick Rothfuss' second book is scheduled to come out in March!

My apologies, I wanted to get this posted earlier, but with Internet trouble, and the fact I was gone last weekend, I was unable to.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Interview with Jamie Wasserman ~ Blood and Sunlight

So, how long have you been writing?

I've been writing pretty steadily since third grade.

Tell us why you chose the town and area that you used for Blood and Sunlight. I love the names of some of these places, like Hell House. Is it real?

Blood and Sunlight takes place in my hometown of Ellicott City. Hell House, the old ruins of a Gothic looking seminary, where some of the action takes place is real. As are most of the locations in the book. Ellicott City is a wonderful former mill town, the seat of one of the most important railroad lines in early America, and filled with surviving buildings, shacks, and Gothic architecture left over from its hey-day. And on top of that, it's surrounded by woods, and monstrous rock edifices, and the river. It was the perfect place to set a horror story. The novel is as much about my love affair with vampires as it is with the town.

You've got a couple of characters who are really flawed in this. Was that something you worked on, or did it just happen?

I realized about halfway through my second book that I am incapable of telling a story without flawed characters and Blood and Sunlight is no exception. The main protagonist Melanie is bored, self-destructive, unappreciative and terribly lonely. But she's also a bit of a romantic and still desperately wants the world to bend to her ideals. She believes in love over all else though she rarely knows where to look for it. Even the hero of the story is not without his faults. I think it makes for a more realistic story.

Okay, so why a vampire story?

It felt like a natural fit for the setting. Ellicott City is this sheltered, ancient community filled with secrets. Its Gothic atmosphere seemed to lend itself well to a vampire re-telling.

Tell us how long before you realized you enjoyed writing and that's what you wanted to pursue?

I've always enjoyed writing. Though until recently it was mostly poetry. I was writing poems in third grade.

When did your very first story—or anything—get published, and what was that?
My first publication was with a local literary arts newspaper called Lite. I eventually joined their editorial staff and learned a tremendous amount.

What is it that you enjoy writing about the vampire genre?

The vampire myth is one of the most malleable—it's different in the hands of every writer. I like the freedom of working with that creature. He's also an odd combination of monster and object of desire. It makes for a complex, personal figure. Plus, let's face it-- they're just plain cool.

I couldn't agree more.Have you any favorite authors, books, movies you'd like to mention which helped you either create your vampires or inspired you?

Gosh, too many to name. I really immersed myself in vampire literature and film while writing. Poppy Z. Brite's Lost Souls, Spektor's Light the End, Let the Right One In, Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse series and True Blood, Twilight, Salem's Lot, but also classics like Dracula, Camille, Varney, the old Christopher Lee Hammer films. The genre is as rich and varied as anything.

Writing from a woman's p.o.v.--was that difficult? Did you have to have your wife read scenes and you get feedback from her?

Writing from a women's point of view actually felt more natural for me. I tend to enjoy books written by female authors more and Melanie felt like the strongest character--she almost dictated that it be her story. Now with that said, once my wife got a hold of some of the early drafts, she was quick to point out areas where I was clearly a man trying to write as a woman (and not doing it well). She played a major part in the writing of this book and I doubt it would have seen publication without her.

How long did it take for Blood and Sunlight to take shape and get to a final draft, start to finish?

I started back in March, 2009 and finished in April 2010. It then went through another month of hardcore edits once Penumbra Publishing got a hold of it. Patricia Morrison should be working at a major publishing house. She's just that good.

What are you working on now? Will we see a sequel?

I really wish I could do nothing but write full-time. There's so much I want to do and just not enough time. Currently, I'm about 2/3 through my second novel. It's a Young Adult, vampire romance called 'Holding Back the Day'. Although, it's kinder and gentler than Blood and Sunlight, there's definitely a dark edge. I can't seem to tell a story any other way. I'm also writing a serialized story for Amazon's Kindleboards about a vampire guppy named Fin-Land Aquarius III. The first installment is actually going to be published on Amazon and a few other sites for free download by Penumbra as well. They're wonderfully tolerant of me. Next up will be a sequel to Blood and Sunlight.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Book is Featured At VampChix Today

Michele Hauf graciously has invited me to VampChix today. I complied most heartily, of course. I've been looking forward to this since this summer when I first mentioned it to Michele in an email, after winning a contest there.

My husband has been home sick and has been reading the book--well, between naps. He recalls my asking him to read a draft, and had told me I had given too much away. That was probably a year ago, now. And his mother read the first chapter as well. I dedicated the book to her, of course. She was my mentor, the only other person on this planet that I could talk face-to-face, or over the phone about writing, because she also was a writer. I sure hope her novel will one day see the light of day, even if she will never see that happen herself.

Cold has gripped us, as predicted. You tend to see temps in the single digits during January, not the beginning of December. Driving buses for NIU, this semester is nearly wrapped up, and the students have been taking their finals. Tomorrow should be less people going in, and Friday should be next to nothing. Then a week or so of just driving the city bus for 6 mindless hours, come home and hope to get a few hours in of work.

After this, three weeks off in which some serious writing will be happening in this office. I've been making notes for this third book. The second one needs some reading through and edits, then that will be ready to present to publisher by January at some point.

Later this week I will have an interview up with Jamie Wasserman, author of Blood and Sunrise. I think it's fun to see how another author works on their book, and why they choose the vampire as a subject. It's like asking why an artist likes to do florals, or landscapes as apposed to something else. Should be interesting. Stop in, check it out, and do stop by VampChix today!

Monday, December 6, 2010

I'm Baaaaack!

What a great time we had. The cabin was rustic, the fireplace kept us warm--too warm!

The show--Scrooge!--was crazy. But we had to get our seating arrangement re-adjusted. We were placed practically on the stage. My husband complained that it was already 6:30 and we weren't yet being told to go line up for the buffet. So, we got that resolved pretty quickly, had they got us a table out in the main dining room, and we were well-catered to, plus to make us overly happy, offered us a champagne basket sent to our cabin. (Holding on to the champagne), it had 2 expensive chocolates and two wine glasses and a candle--usually reserved for the honey moon suite--but since we'd said this was our 22nd anni, I think it caught their attention.

So, Dennis didn't have to pay for anything (just a generous tip), that night--not the drinks, which would have been extra charge. We didn't get back to #6 cabin until 9:35. Dead tired, we went to bed.

The next morning they had a lavish breakfast buffet, and again we had that paid for in our Scrooge deal. So, again we left a tip.

The snow was pretty on the cabins and trees and they kept a walkway cleared. The people that work there are very nice. Always happy to try and please you.

There was a little journal in the cabin, which was fun to read through what other people had written. We learned that leaving pennies hidden somewhere was some sort of thing people did. So I hid two, finding only one in a drawer. I guess it was the "Lincoln Log" thing, I guess. But I left a 3-page journal entry. Of course I had to write something fictitious for about a page, about vampires and me saving everyone in the lodge. Then I went ahead and wrote about our stay, and left my blog site, too. A little shameless self-promotion goes a long way. You never know who will pick up the journal next and want to get their hands on my book.

Speaking of which, because the hostess really went to great trouble to make us comfortable during the theater/dinner, I gave her one of my other books, signed, of course.

I knew when we got this little get away set up that we would need it. It was relaxing, and other than walking to and from the restaurant, or the gift shop, we didn't go anywhere. They were selling Christmas trees and had horse-drawn wagon rides--free. But we've done this so much before elsewhere, plus it was so dang cold! Today we woke up to single digits, last night was really cold too!

So, while I took a nap Dennis had his football on--ear plugs were required, but he was really quiet while I slept.

This morning, we got up later than normal, even though the bed was not that comfortable, and since we had to wait until 8 before they served breakfast, we made ourselves some coffee and had a muffin, thanks to my planning ahead for this. After breakfast we packed up. I was sad. Our Little Cabin In the Big Woods adventure was at an end.

Now that I am back, I had told you that I had a little surprise. I'm going to be featured on VampChix this week--Wednesday, in fact. I've just sent off my piece to her, and hope that she got that okay.

I'm also getting a few more interviews set up all around the blog sphere, and will announce when and where these will take place, soon.

And. . . my copy of the book came today! Wow. It looks great! Dennis wants to read it, so I guess I'll let him lol. Looks really good. I'm going to try for the 8th of January. With the next few weeks our schedules will be really weird, one of us driving while the other one isn't--won't be able to do anything that week before Christmas, and then you have the week of Christmas, and then New Years. I'd rather wait until all the hoopla is over, and I'm not working to arranged for interviews and the book signing.

Friday, December 3, 2010

It's Official -- Vampire Ascending Is Now Published!

I just thought it was a moment of celebration, and decided to not paste the book's cover up here--because there's such a thing as overkill--so placed an ice-cold butterbeer sorbet, or whatever that is.

Anyway. I was notified yesterday, actually, that my book was published, and the first print copy is being sent to me. So, I'll be holding it in my hand, all 320 pages. My husband said this first one is his to read. So, I guess I'll have to buy my own!

I've added the publisher's web site to the picture of book on the right hand side of my blog, here, but just in case, I'll post it here, should any of you really need to get your hands on one of my books!

At the moment, tonight is our official anniversary kick-off, so I'm just posting this quickly. I'll be gone rest of the weekend, but will be back next week with Sumiko's Reads, an interview with Jamie Wasserman, plus a little surprise that I hope you'll all enjoy.

Have a great weekend. See you all when I get back!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

John's Corner of Horror: The "Immortal" Bela Lugosi

Around 1931, the financially struggling film studio Universal was looking for a way to bolster its sagging empire and decided on making a film of the stage-play Dracula by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston which was mildly based on the actual novel by Bram Stoker. For obvious reasons the entire novel was fairly well scrapped in favor of Deane and Balderston’s re-working of the story. Despite this fact the play was a staggering success which toured for years. When it made a trip across the Atlantic was the moment “the spirit of Bram Stoker” (say that with tongue firmly planted in cheek huh?) kicked in and my favorite actor in the role of Dracula took over: Bela Lugosi.

Mr. Lugosi was a Hungarian stage trained actor who had done numerous plays, including a portrayal of Jesus Christ, and had a few films under his belt when he won the role of the mysterious Count Dracula. I cannot confirm this but it is said that before the play he underwent hypnosis to become this immortal Transylvanian monarch who had lived for five centuries off the blood of others. Needless to say Bela was a hit in the role and even rode the success to the United States.

Now back to Universal. Carl Laemmle, head of Universal, envisioned the movie to be on a lavish scale of the Phantom of the Opera and The Hunchback of Notre Dame silent films starring his favorite actor Lon Chaney (Sr). Unfortunately Mr. Chaney had already succumbed to throat cancer by the time production was underway. The search for the actor to replace Chaney was a chaotic and fruitless one. Laemmle wasn’t interested in Bela Lugosi for whatever insane reason. Most likely he felt Mr. Lugosi “too ethnic” and assumed the “audience” wouldn’t be able to understand him despite the clear fact that Bela was very easy to understand. Gee . . . imagine Hollywood underestimating its audience. Finally, after some very staunch lobbying from Bela himself, Laemmle acquiesced and gave Bela the role at 500 dollars a week which was a pittance compared to what the other cast members made.

The director was Tod Browning with a very talented Karl Freund using some very effective moving camera scenes, notably in Dracula’s Transylvanian crypt and Seward’s Sanatorium scene, otherwise the camera held quite still for most of the movie. It’s said that Tod Browning, being a silent film director, wasn’t comfortable with the sound movie process and not happy that Lon Chaney wasn’t around to make this movie with. He kept the movie on schedule which wasn’t easy as they simultaneously shot a Spanish version at night, and an extra silent version for theaters who hadn’t quite caught up to “talkie movies” yet.

As I said, the film was based off the stage-play and they filmmakers made some changes for atmospheric reasons clearly. The play was more drawing room style for financial reasons, so Browning & company added the thrilling journey of Renfield to Dracula’s castle and what occurs there. An especially prominent addition was the classic line “I never drink . . . wine.”

This line was used twice again, in the 1979 Frank Langella remake and Gary Oldman’s movie who said in an interview that he wanted to speak that line as a nod to Bela Lugosi’s classic performance.

The sets for this movie are still an incredible thing to look at. The look of Dracula’s dilapidated castle and the Cairfax Abbey are astonishing to behold. The most effective portrayal in the movie is certainly Bela Lugosi’s. His physical bearing and his psychological jumps between well mannered Count and seething, menacing creature from hell are still wonderful and overall his portrayal of the king of vampires is still considered definitive despite the excellent depictions by Christopher Lee, Jack Palance, Louis Jourdan, and Frank Langella as well as others.

Dracula was a definitive success. When the film finally premiered at the Roxy Theatre in New York on Feb. 12, 1931, newspapers reported that members of the audiences fainted in shock at the horror on screen. This publicity, shrewdly orchestrated by the film studio, helped ensure people came to see the film, if for no other reason than curiosity. Dracula was a big gamble for a major Hollywood studio to undertake. In spite of the literary credentials of the source material, it was uncertain if an American audience was prepared for a serious full length supernatural chiller. Within 48 hours of its opening at New York's Roxy Theatre, it had sold 50,000 tickets. Later in 1931, Universal would release Frankenstein to even greater acclaim. Universal in particular would become the forefront of early horror cinema, with a canon of films including, The Mummy (1932), The Invisible Man (1933), Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and The Wolf Man (1941)*.

Yet despite his wonderful interpretation of the immortal vampire, Count Bela was shamefully treated by the machine that is Hollywood. Between his addiction to painkillers from a war injury which aggravated a severe sciatica problem he was woefully typecast as a villain only actor. What is it about the money counters being allowed creative input when their only contribution to movies is to sell them? Eventually Universal dropped their horror studio abruptly after the Black Lagoon creature features and Bela was thrown to the Hollywood wolves that used his name and talent as a vehicle for some good, and quite a few movies that were not good including the infamous Ed Wood who churned out some seriously untalented films. Bela died practically in poverty. My favorite singer Frank Sinatra is said to have visited Bela during one of his hospital stays, and pay for his bills. Bela never knew Frank which made his kindness to him all the more startling. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out “Ol Blue Eyes” was a Lugosi Dracula fan! Bela died at age 72 at home while resting on a couch. The cause was a heart attack.

It is said that while attending his funeral fellow typecast Peter Lorre leaned over to Vincent Price and whispered, “Should we drive a stake through his heart, just in case?"

Despite all the good and bad, there remains Bela’s indelible performance of Dracula and his undeniable talent as an actor. Had he been given the chance it only remains to speculation as to what other roles he would have made legendary.

R.I.P. Bela Lugosi 1882 - 1956

* Direct quotes from the Wikipedia article entitled Dracula (1931 film)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Weekend Get Away

My husband and I celebrate 22 years of marriage on the 3rd of December. We've made reservations to stay in a cabin during this coming weekend--and these photos are what the cabins look like, inside and out. Nestled in the beautiful, very mature White Pines State Park, outside of Oregon, Illinois, it is a nice break away from what we are so used to around us--dormant fields, and the park next to us which we've had for 16 years. You just need a change of scenery. And White Pines Inn was perfect. It was one of the places where Dennis and I had gone on a date, and learned that we enjoyed the outdoors. We had stayed once about 17 years ago, but had never gone to the dinner/theater, and had been wanting to revisit and add the dinner/theater. We'll be enjoying the comedy "Scrooge" which has audience participation.

The cabins, as you can see, are real log cabins, built in 1929 by the C.C.C.'s. They used to have actual working fireplaces. When we visited the first time, they had closed them off. But now they have either a gas or electric fireplace. A romantic get away, for sure. Nothing like having someplace warm and cozy to enjoy on a cold December night. We have been looking forward to it since we made the reservations back in October--finding they had only 3 cabins left (I think they have 20)

Also, on the 3rd, I've been told my book, Vampire Ascending, is to have a first print copy. I'm to get this copy, I suppose, and another is to be sent to a reviewer. So, all that going on this coming weekend, I've got a lot of celebrating to do.

It's been a while since I've had a book out. Oddly enough, the first one came out in November of 2008. I had a book signing in December. With all that is going on, my work schedule and so forth (not quite knowing when my book will be available to be ordered by a bookstore), I'm thinking about all the rushing around during this time, worrying about this stuff, I think I'm going to hang back and have a book signing in January instead. I know that people get gift certificates for the bookstores for Christmas gifts, so I'm going to do it this way. That way, while I'm down (no work) for 3 weeks, I can get my interviews done, and arrangements for the book signing as well, and I won't drive myself nuts trying to organize it all before Christmas--which falls on Saturday, and thus so does New Years Eve.

So, I'm not going to be around this weekend. I'm not going to have to cook, wash dishes, and we might take a few hikes into the woods, clean out our lungs and refresh our minds with the peacefulness surrounding us.

Chickens lay eggs, and so do Turtles

For those of you who don't know my husband is park ranger and one of his main jobs is mowing. He has a large deck (72") Toro Zero T...