Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Fringe - Take Deux

I used to be a huge Fringe fan; watched the show every Thursday and knew every nuance. Things got a bit odd in season three or four, and I missed a few episodes. Since it's a drama and continues to build on previous action, it was difficult to get back into the flow.

Enter Netflix, streaming past seasons of the show, to the rescue. Did I mention I never saw the pilot and first few episodes? Thanks to Netflix, now I have.

First of all: holy great premise. J.J. Abrams set up a plausible way to investigate fringe science, and do it with a fringe scientist, Walter Bishop - one of my favorite characters on television. He's so intelligent and childish at the same time; one minute he's redesigning thermonuclear physics, and the next he's trying to eat expired Devil Dogs. 

HIs relationship with Peter Bishop, his continually exasperated son, is spot on. And when Olivia Dunham enters the mix, along with assistant Astrid and Homeland Security chief Philip Broyles, the ensemble is taut and frenetically energetic. 
Walter Bishop, probably cooking up some LSD.

Yes, the comparison to The X-Files is obvious, although the working cast on X-Files was smaller and, therefore, the older show seemed to depend more on "What weird, creepy stuff can we come up with this week?"

There's still a lot of weird, creepy stuff, but the character of Walter and his history of strange experiments overrides it and makes the series very cohesive. 

Altered States, that trippy movie from the early 80's, is an obvious influence in the show. Blair Brown, who played William Hurt's wife in the movie, also appears in Fringe. Later on in the series, Leonard Nimoy shows up - swoon!

So, I'll be catching up on the past seasons, thanks to the rerun option. And what's next? Maybe I can finally figure out what really happened on Lost?

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Awakening: Movie Review

This weekend I watched The Awakening, a movie that seemed to appear out of nowhere. It's a good, old-fashioned ghost story set after WWI, a time period close enough to my own beloved Edwardian era to suck me right in.

There were several reasons for liking this film:
One of Florence's "ghost catcher" objects

1. Steampunk objects - The main character, Florence Cathcart, has made it her lifework to expose hauntings and mediums as hoaxes, and to do this she has a huge array of machinery and devices that fulfilled my steampunk soul. She arrives at a boarding school, after being summoned there by a teacher, Robert Malory, and sets up her trip cameras, ghost catchers, bells, and other cool stuff. I loved the scene where Florence, who smokes and wears trousers, screws together her inventions in order to expose the "ghost" as a charlatan.

2. Florence herself - She's played by Rebecca Hall, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite actresses (she was also in The Town with Ben Affleck.) Although she appears to be a strong, emancipated woman at first, it becomes apparent that she has issues of her own.

3. Robert Mallory - The teacher, played by Dominic West, who asks Florence to come to the school is a veteran of the trenches from WWI. Their tortured relationship is really well-done, and he is a perfect choice for the role. 

4. The hauntings - Holy spooky! What Florence sees in the dolls house is pretty trippy. Also, much of the action takes place in the day and thus doesn't rely on the tired "creeping around at midnight in an old house" formula. There are some shocks that made me jump, and the ghost itself is perfect. Plus, rabbit doll, anyone? Shudder!

5. The photography - Just jumpy enough to be modern but not enough to make me puke. 

6. Imelda Staunton - I'll watch anything with Ms Staunton in it, and she doesn't disappoint as the Matron of the boys' school under investigation.

Always fantastic.

What's not to like:

The ending. It's unbelievable enough as it is, and the action is rushed to hurry through a certain plot point that I just couldn't believe.

Despite that, I would recommend the film for anyone who likes a bit of a scare without full-blown gore. I'm a ghost story fiend - always have been - and this one satisfied my craving for haunts.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Review : Wool, by Hugh Howey

Hugh Howey originally released Wool as a series of installments, and I can see why the book soared to the top of the charts on Amazon. As well as having what I call “the elusive compulsion factor,” it is written with a gritty realism that mirrors the subject perfectly.

It’s the story of a post-apocalyptic world, where poisonous winds scour the landscape aboveground on Earth; people live an underground silo that extends down for over one hundred stories. 

Couples must wait for someone’s death for a ticket to try for a child; every few years there is a Cleaning, when someone leaves the Silo to go outside and clean the windows, either voluntarily or under punishment. They never return.

Wool begins with a cleaning, as Holston volunteers to go outside a year after his wife made the same request. This sets into action a series of events that end up affecting every story of the Silo and beyond.

The first section is called Holston, and it is all about his experience. The following parts are named after actions and concepts in knitting: Proper Gauge, Casting Off, Unraveling, and feature other characters. 

First up is Jahns, the Mayor of the silo, and it concentrates on her relationship with Marnes, a police officer, as they go to find a replacement for Holston. Their journey to the bottom of the silo introduces other factions in a nice, geographic outline. I felt as I read Proper Gauge I was descending with Jahns and Marnes to the lower section of the silo, meeting IT and Mechanical along the way.

IT holds Bernard, who is unlikeable from the start. Mechanical is the setting for Juliette, or Jules, and she is extremely likeable. In fact, she’s one of the most original characters I’ve met in science fiction.

All the characters interact in a very original, organic way. As an author, I marveled at Howey’s prowess at herding people from one section to another – this can be a very onerous, exhausting task at times. He manages it without any deus ex machina; as the book progressed, I really felt I was living in the Silo.

The book reminded me of the best of Verne and Wells. The gears and engines are described so perfectly, it’s no surprise to learn that Howey worked as a mechanic on ship, servicing engines that were almost as large as the ones Jules works on in Mechanical.

Meanwhile, there is the rise of Bernard, who acquires more and more power and determines to keep Jules from the upper floors of the Silo. Jules herself is perfect – she’s strong and still feminine, but most of all she is incredibly intelligent. I love the way she negotiates her adventures and challenges in the Silo and out of it.

I read a lot of comments on Goodreads and Amazon that the book shouldn’t have been called Wool. I think there is a definite reason for the title beyond the chapter headings which I won’t mention since it is a major spoiler, but feel free to message me and we can chat about it, if you have read the book.

Finally, Wool appealed to me as a grown-up, neater version of Hunger Games or Divergent. The writing is very simple – and it is in the past tense and third person, hurray! There are no instances of “I go to the mirror and look at my too-big eyes…” – a major turn-off for this reader. 

Not only that, but the plot structure is also very simple – much like the spiral staircase that supports the Silo – simple, but very clever. From that structure, a believable, exciting world blooms and evolves under the ground.


This review is also running on the Best in Fantasy review site. Go and check out Connie's reviews - if you need more fantasy in your life, this is the perfect spot to start!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Beautiful Paintings

I always loved going to an art museum. I love the hushed atmosphere, the knots of people murmuring (or not) and the guards in the doorways - and presiding over it all is the art - some beautiful, some ugly, some beautifully ugly. 

Here are some of my favorite pieces:

Paul Klee, Twittering Machine

I love Klee's work, especially the subtle colors and concept of this one.

Walter Sickert, an English artist, produced darker impressionist pieces. Interestingly, this one has two titles, How Shall We Do For the Rent? and The Camden Town Murder:
The light over their bodies is amazing.
Brueghel is so earthly, so fleshy - his subjects have fat calves and homely occupations. His painting of the fall of Icarus is satisfying because the actual event occurs in a back corner of the canvas, while farming and life goes on. Only a slight splash shows what just happened.

I'm not a huge Andrew Wyeth fan, but I do love Christina's World - his portrait of the woman who had to pull herself along on the ground to get from place to place.


To my mind, there is no better program to introduce or deepen one's understanding than the Sister Wendy series. Sister Wendy herself, with her huge buck teeth and her lovely voice, sees into paintings beyond the paint and canvas, finding hidden layers of meaning that always take me by surprise; plus, it's always funny to hear a nun talk about bottoms and breasts, which Sister Wendy does without any embarrassment whatsoever. 

Look at how cool she is:
I love her.

And you can find her book on 1000 Masterpieces at any library, or on Amazon. I highly recommend that, as well as her television series.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Alien Perfumes

Image courtesy of thesoslab.com
I've been thinking a lot about the sense of smell for the past few months. It's important to the plot in The South Sea Bubble, as the main character discovers a new dimension through scent and smell.

Perfumes can be very evocative. When I go to the candle aisle in Bed, Bath and Beyond I sniff the Birthday Cake, the Fresh Linens, the Pomegranate and Sage pillars, and I wish there were others available. 

How about Artist's Studio? There's a certain combination of cigarette smoke, patchouli, coffee, and paint that sends me right back to college days, when I used to visit my friend downtown at her apartment near PCA.

Or Irish Chemist - how about that? I'm talking about those old-fashioned chemists (aka pharmacies in the US) that always smelled of iodine and tube makeup, as well as very strong peppermint toothpaste. The huge Boots just doesn't have that smell; I'm afraid it's dying out. There's also Spanish Farmacia, which is spicier and evokes the image of the chemist tying up the tooth floss I went in to buy on our last trip. No silly little plastic bag for him - he packaged my floss in brown paper and strings, just like a most precious gift.
from crowbooks.com

And then there's Used Book Shop, which smells like old leather, wrinkled pages, and one large black cat lazing in the bow window. I'd love to have a candle to make my house smell like that.

I haven't even begun on kitchen smells: Gaga's Sunday Lunch, comprised of roast chicken and gravy, fresh peas, new spuds with butter, and Queen of Puddings. And tea, always a pot of tea.

And Arizona Desert - a combo of brush, hummingbird nectar, and cottonwood trees.

Smell is an important sense, although also a neglected one - perhaps because there are so many stinks out there that make us curl up our noses just remembering them (I'm looking at you, Elizabeth, NJ.) The very word smell is hardly poetic, and yet someone wrote a song about it - Oo oo, that smell... No, it's not poetic at all; it's a funny word. Smelly - NOT a description to put in a sonnet.

Yet I love when writers describe smells so I can fall into their worlds. It's hard enough to make a reader see or hear something - but scent is so fleeting, so immediate, that it's more subtle, harder to grasp and pin down with words.

My one final thought on the sense of smell: I've been longing for a natural perfume for a while, one that is made from organic oils and not petroleum products. A Facebook reference turned me onto Black Phoenix Alchemy Labs, a company that produces hundreds of natural scents. There are entire lines of products for steampunk lovers, for Lovecraft readers (I'm dying to try Cthulhu) and even for Neil Gaiman's Coraline. 

If you're interested, check out the site at this link and click on the graphic. It's a fun place to go.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Reading Colette

The title should be "Re-Reading Colette." I bought a collection of her novellas back in the 1980's and still own the same book; the store where I purchased the thick volume is long gone. I probably wore Big Hair and Cavarichis into the store to get it. We can only hope I didn't have the fingerless lace gloves on that day.

Colette is pure mashed potatoes for me. Her subjects are uncomfortable - my favorite story, Julie de Carneilhan, describes a beautiful woman who is always on the edge of bankruptcy. And when she does get a little cash, does she stash some in the bank? Not at all. She's off to get a new "tailor-made."

But the atmosphere of Paris at the turn of the century is so soothing. There's the food, for one thing, cassoulet and licorice pastilles, with champagne and wild raspberries packed in a cabbage leaf. There are long days spent in a flat with the sounds of the city outside and cats, always cats, in the window. 

She's known for Gigi, of course, and it is a fun story to read. The descriptions of Gigi herself are so unexpected, and the girl blooms to life - lovely, impatient, a bit of a tomboy, and so incredibly young. Leslie Caron portrays her beautifully in the film of the musical, but the writer herself saw Audrey Hepburn crossing a hotel lobby and said, "There's my Gigi." She's credited with discovering Hepburn, who starred in the stage version.

Colette's life shocked the demi-monde at the time. She flaunted her affairs with both men and women, including a fellow dancer and actress (their onstage kiss caused a riot) as well as her stepson, who was perhaps the model for the Cheri novels. She was patriotic, as well, and she was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor for converting her husband's estate into a hospital for the wounded during World War I.

The pictures of the young writer and actress are charming, with a clearcut profile and a head of dark hair. She told her last husband that she had a wonderful life, and I love catching the echoes of it in her books (and there are nearly a hundred of them!)

Here are some of my favorite Colette quotes:

“Put down everything that comes into your head and then you're a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff's worth, without pity, and destroy most of it."

“Time spent with a cat is never wasted.” 

“What a wonderful life I’ve had! I only wish I’d realized it sooner.” 

“When she raises her eyelids, it's as if she were taking off all her clothes.” 

“...beautiful December grapes, blue as plums, every grape a little skinful of sweet, tasteless water...” 

"It's so curious: one can resist tears and 'behave' very well in the hardest hours of grief. But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window, or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly blossomed, or a letter slips from a drawer... and everything collapses."

Friday, April 19, 2013

Amazon Gift Card

Who wants books to read on the beach? Enter our Amazon gift card giveaway on the raffle to the right on the blog, and you can win one hundred bucks for spending on books. Or sunscreeen, or Hutzler 571 banana slicers, whatever. My point is - it's easy to enter. 

While you fill out the form, let's think about the many words for "Dollars," since you can win ONE HUNDRED  of them:

Duckettes (I never heard of this one before)
Folding Green
Big Ones
Dead Presidents

Thursday, April 18, 2013

How to Create Covers for Wattpad

If you're writing for Wattpad or similar online sites. you know the importance of good covers. A professional, bright cover with a provocative image and the title can draw in readers immediately.

Wattpad uses a blurred image of your avi if you don't put up a cover. It's not bad at all, but I still think that a cover adds a certain layer of mystery to your work, the one you've slaved over for so long. After all, it's the first impression readers will get of your writing.

My own book covers are created by Lisa Daly (and just wait until you see what she's cooking up for The South Sea Bubble!) It's important to have a professional artist design a cover for Amazon, Nook, Smashwords, or Lulu, since as books move to print the covers must fit the specs with spine width and allow for image bleeds....

I'm already getting a headache. Lisa is incredibly good at all of that, and I happily hand her the rights to produce all my print covers in the future.

However, if I'm putting up a different story every few weeks on Wattpad, I need to have the ability to quickly post simple, attractive and covers with text for story and poetry collections, as well as books. In order to avoid the generic Wattpad blurred-out image, here's what I did:

1. I found cheap images to use on canstockphoto.com. They are great quality and cost, for the most part, two dollars for an image that's sized to fit Wattpad (small jpg size.) I usually buy the larger image in case I do want to use it for a print cover later, but that's just me. The standard license covers Wattpad, since readers aren't downloading anything and I'm not selling the image. 

If that's out of your budget, you can do a search for free images on Google. Just be certain that Free means available for use in digital publishing, and do look for good quality images that are at least 256 x 400 dpi (a Google image search should tell you what the size is.)

2. Once you have your image, download it to your desktop. Please don't do this illegally: that's not cool.

Now you can begin to work with the image. I discovered picmonkey.com - it's a fantastic site for working with jpg's, especially if you're CLUELESS, like me. Drag your jpg to the edit photo box and it will pop up in a screen with a bunch of basic edit options. You can crop, resize (useful to get the pic down to 256x400) etc.

3. Add your text. Click on the P on the left side of the screen. An Add Text menu will pop up. 

Select your font and click add text. A box will appear on your image; type in your title and move the box to where you want it on the photo.

As you move it, you'll see color and size options for the text. Play with them until you have a nice title that is legible and stands out for your cover.

I found all of that really intuitive, and as I said - I am CLUELESS when it comes to Photoshop and InDesign.

One important thing - leave a healthy margin on either side of the text or it will get cut off when you put up your new cover on Wattpad.

Repeat the above for your name and drag it to where you want it on the image. 

4. You can also play with the image itself, using the other buttons above and below the P. You might want to do a few test covers, to find what settings you like. There are options to add spider webs, fire, and sparkles, among other things. Feel free to add them, although I would caution you not to get too crazy with it. 

5. Once you're happy with your cover, click the Combine Layers icon above the image. It's the one that looks like two floating sheets of paper with an arrow, next to the little gear. The text will "attach" to the image, as well as any alterations you made to the picture.

Click Save, and the picture will be downloaded to your desktop.

6. Now you just need to go to the My Works section on Wattpad, click the edit button under the story of choice, and upload your gorgeous new cover. If it doesn't upload right away, it's probably too large. Go back to picmonkey and resize it from the Basic Edits button (the top one, which looks like a molecule.)

Another place to resize images is this one: www.shrinkpictures.com - it's very basic and the results are great.

These online tools can be used for blog images and banners as well. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Four a.m. Dream

Kiss of the Muse
This morning, I woke up at the ungodly hour of four. It really shouldn't be a time at all; anything between one and five should be blacked out on the clock. And I sat through three months of 2 am feeding - trust me, I know.

I was woken by a vivid dream. The characters from the book I'm writing got into my head so far that they emerged in the dream, joined by characters I hadn't thought up yet. There was dream technology spinning in the background and an encounter, as well as a insidious vice that made my heart race enough to wake me.

The day was going to be busy. We spend the day on yard work yesterday, so I'm catching up on dishes, laundry, mopping, toilets... all the fun and glamour of a writer who is also a SAHM. With that in mind, I tried to get back to sleep, but my overactive brain would have none of it. 

I had to get up, stump down the stairs, make myself a cup of tea and plunk myself in front of my laptop to write it out. The dream dust that some benevolent fairy had sprinkled over my head gave me a common thread for my manuscript, so I could be able to tie all the parts and chapters together, as well as the characters who lived inside. 

So, thanks a lot for waking me up at 4 am; I'll be drooping after dinner. I just hope I don't cook my sneakers or something equally silly. 

And, thanks a lot for waking me at 4 am! The dream was disturbing and a pain in the ass, really, but it was a gift.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Miska Papers

I am an incredibly lucky blogger: I met Jo Hogarth on Goodreads, and she agreed to stop by my blog and run an excerpt of her new YA book, The Miska Papers.


If you're reading these pages, than it means you have crossed into dangerous territory. That furtive movement, that tingle that starts in the base of your spine, something you can't quite put your finger on. We tell ourselves, it was nothing. But in a tiny little corner not in our minds but in a spot where logic doesn't reside; we know it is something, something real, something dangerous. There is no visible line, no brick wall, no gates separating us; and once you've accepted the possibility of something not quite normal the common currency changes to blood and matter and things we don't completely understand. Not because we can't, but because it's easier not to. In the darkness the cost can be high.

Can you smell it? You're near one of the birth places of evil and my suggestion to you would be to run very quickly in the opposite direction, because once you know, there's really no turning back. Leave now, while you still can. Later, escape won't be possible. Once it gets into your blood, there is no escape.

If you see these words, you have of course ignored my good intentioned warning. When you're thigh deep in regrets, trying to convince yourself you might be crazy, don't say I didn't try. They say curiosity killed the cat, but in your case it is genetics that put you on the path, it will be something else entirely that kills you, should that regrettably happen. I once thought I was mostly invincible too. That's one of the beautiful qualities of youth, but then you've seen the persistent shadow of death already, haven't you?

You think you know how the world works — you don't. The answers are not on CNN or Discovery or even the History Channel, you'd probably be closer to the truth watching a combination of MTV and Animal Planet.

There are a few who do know, but we're not talking, we tend to be a quiet bunch and we're too busy trying to keep you all alive. The amount of secrets I know could fill a deep dark lake and then still provide enough runoff to meander into nearby rivers. This isn't an accident or chance or even bad luck; you were supposed to find these papers, but I won't get into that now. I'll just say enough that you'll begin to believe me; I know you've wondered if this is it, shouldn't life mean something more? I also know that your blood isn't quite right, and I know why, the cure to your sickness unfortunately lives in my veins and truth be told you're not really sick. You're just different. It is a long and sordid story.

I wasn't born here, but I became who I am near the gates of the old castle remains, you can see just beyond the hill. I left these pages hidden under the stones because it is the place I always return to and it's part of my history. In fact in many cases these pages are all that remains of people, entire villages or kind gestures, now entombed in paragraphs. Written references of things that glimmered very quickly before the darkness snuffed them out. I did this for you and others who might join our struggle; I've tried to show exactly how things came to be, hoping that they'll evolve into what we should be.

Each year I come back here and add to these pages, the jagged history of my life. In the beginning my writing is harder to read, we didn't have pens then, just feathers and ink, and I was new to words, school wasn't really an option for a gypsy girl. Now I can click my Bic to tell you, but in the beginning everything was a bit of a struggle. It's still seems odd that more than half of the existence of the world is hidden to most, a silent orchestra that plays a tune that we all unknowingly dance to. But I digress, this is not the time or the place for difficult explanations.

Did you hear that? It might be something coming closer. They've been waiting for you. We all have, but some are less well intentioned, so watch your back, your front and your side, and even the skies. You have to make a decision, either leave the pages and get on with your life, pretend you never saw them, and let the thing you thought you saw move in your minds eye disappear to that place in your head which you put all things that don't feel safe. It's probably the wise thing to do. Or you can take them, read them, learn and wait for what happens next. Whatever you do, don't read them here, not near these soiled grounds, it's not safe enough even with electric lights nearby. Not everything sleeps at night, so take care.

I had to try one last time to save you from yourself, and them and perhaps even me. In case you have any doubts; even in your world of Ipads and shiny bright lights; evil lurks. Bad, good, naughty, nice, if only it were that simple, but it's part of the infinite balancing act of existence. With all light comes shadow; there would be no shining moon without the glare of the sun.

If you choose to read on, then it is likely our paths will cross, you and I are a team divided by time, but not for long. This letter could mean the end of you, not to be dramatic but it's very possible and if I can I will try to save you if the time comes, if not I'll try to retrieve my writings in the hopes of one day creating a world where no one has to be scared of the dark.

Dated this day of July 7th 2012. — Miska


The 1st Book in the 'Blood Sisters' Series:
Blood sisters, bound by fate and a prophecy that is thousands of years old.
Dagny is a modern girl, cursed by an incurable blood disorder. Stuck on a boring forced 'work holiday' with her geneticist mother, she discovers an old diary of a gypsy girl just outside the castle of Vlad the Impaler. Between the dusty pages, Dagny discovers her true sister; Miska, the first Blood Sister born of Vlad the Impaler.
Miska's diary spins a tale of terror and vampire legends. Her family has been torn apart by the evil of her father and a family battle that has been raging for centuries. Together - through time, they will try to save the world, fight an on-coming plague and discover who they really are, and maybe even meet a boy or two along the way. 
The first in the Blood Sister Series -  A smart book that blends vampirism,  the battle between dark and light, genetic disorders, and self discovery paired with action and adventure all in the face of an impending global disaster. 
You can buy The Miska Papers on Kobo and Smashwords.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Hunger Games: movie review

Since I am one a member of the CMWL (Clueless Moms Without Lives) club, I only just got to see this film. It was my favorite book of the series, so I was interested to see what the director, Gary Ross, did with it.

I liked the camera work - the screen panned in frenetic fashion, often showing several faces or reactions  at once - a device that fit in well with the dystopian story and the nerves that those Tributes had to feel when their names were called. The contrasting worlds of the Districts and the Capitol were nicely done, and many of the minor parts: Prim, Rue, Crane, Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks is wonderfully brittle in this role.)

They were eclipsed, however, by Woody Harrelson, who was in his element as Haymitch, the lazy, self-indulgent, drunk mentor to Katniss and Peeta, the Tributes from District 12.
Just didn't do it for me.

I loved the costumes - again, there was a great contrast between the District 12 clothes and the fire dress that Katniss wears. The story moves along well, and the hallucinatory Tracker Jacker section is great. 

However, I have to say that I thought the two main roles were severely miscast. Jennifer Lawrence has a lot of talent and is very pretty: her smile makes her stand out as an actress. However, she is playing a huntress who considers squirrel a luxurious meal and who undergoes starvation. I just have to say this: Lawrence simply doesn't look like a girl who is starving. 

Josh Hutcherson, who plays Peeta, is even worse! As I read the book, I pictured a big, strapping dude with blonde hair and a sense of inner calm and strength. Unfortunately, the actor looks like a middle school kid who is thinking about his Nintendo 3. 

However, I must add that both actors, Lawrence and Hutcherson, did make me believe in the characters they played during the film. Peeta, as he glances at Katniss in the tree while he walks past her with his new alliance, reveals a message of love and warning. Katniss herself is determined and brutally honest, and the scenes with Rue are touching - and as an aside, I love the way the Mockingjays sound.
Woody being Woody, but it's perfect for the part.

The chemistry between them was, in my opinion, completely absent. Say what you want about Twilight, but the main leads developed a fantastic romance on the screen. Poor Peeta, with his little squished-up face, just didn't do it for me.

I'm certain that there are plenty of people who will disagree, but as far as the romance went, the film was unsuccessful.

Will I watch the next movie in the series? Yes, indeed - I want to see more of Haymitch and of Gale, who gets shunted aside because of the plot (too bad, I thought he was perfect,) and I loved the way the Dome was manipulated during the games. Those special effects deserve a second look.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Sproing! - Random Thoughts of the Season

Spring Pigs
At last, I see signs of encroaching spring outside. After a winter that followed us to England where it snowed on us for three days straight, I'm actually ready for budding trees, lily of the valley, and hummingbird feeders.

When I say "actually ready," I have to admit Winter is my favorite season. I enjoy the fireside, howling winds, driving rain, and heaps of snow - they're all great excuses to stay in and write, you do see. However, when you have to go outside in that wind and snow, so bitter and extreme that it's driven sideways into your face, it does get a bit old. Plus, those three days in England were an exercise in bad hair.
A much cuter version of what I looked like in the UK - courtesy of sodahead.com

I'm ready for salads and the spring fruits: berries, new peaches, grapes, and melons. I see I have two winter melons in the fruit bowl over there, sulking at me and spoiling away. I know I should cut them up and save what I can, but is it really worth it for tasteless, pulpy flesh? Bring on the honeydews that burst forth with flavor and melt at the first bite. 

It's time for dragging out the barbecue again, too. Nothing like the smell of burgers n dogs, but we also like to roast fish and pizzas on the grill. (Fresh pizza dough on a stone, turn down the heat all the way. Add topping and cook a bit more - serve up with more salad and frosty beverages.)

Did I mention Lily of the Valley? They are my favorite flowers, and I'm completely smug that I managed to get them to grow in my side flower beds. I always think of Cicely Mary Barker when I see them. 

Time to wheel the fig out and pray that it survived another winter in the garage. Last year the figs were as tasteless as those sulky melons, so I'm hoping for great stuff this year. 

My friend sent me Brown Eyed Susan seeds. I'll plant them back by the woods, where the deer can crop them, probably, just as they snacked on my blueberry and raspberry canes in the woods. How pleasant of me, to give them such a convenient snack. 

Throughout all of this I will continue writing. Edits on The South Sea Bubble continue apace, and I foresee a cover reveal soon. I can't wait to show you what my cover artist Lisa Daly (the same friend who sent me the Brown Eyed Susans) did - it's something new that fits in with the ongoing Crown Phoenix theme. 

As well, I've been writing on Wattpad. A short story somehow morphed into an ongoing book, so if you like horror and fantasy you can read Voices in the Wall for free here.

The Gramophone Society is being painfully rewritten as well, for the THIRD time. I can see now the many mistakes I made in rounds one and two, and I've started from scratch to erase them. I can't wait to get back to it, once my South Sea edits are complete.

If you want to try my pizza dough, here is the very easy recipe. It makes enough for two pizzas, and you can freeze one for later.

Easy Pizza Dough

2 cups warm water (test on your wrist)
1 packet yeast
2 Tbls sugar

Mix and let stand five minutes. Add:

6 cups flour
2 tsps olive oil
2 tsps salt
Any other flavorings you like : cheese, fresh basil, etc.

Let stand 45 minutes in warm place. Punch down and roll out.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Sin and Wattpad

Available here
The amazing Shaun Allan is visiting today with a guest blog about his experiences on Wattpad. Have a cup of tea and a biscuit, Shaun, and tell us what you have done on the site:


Hmmm...  I have to profess that, until not too long ago, I’d not really heard of Wattpad – or at least realised its significance.  I’d seen reference to the site in a blog somewhere and decided to set up an account and post a couple of stories.  Then I did nothing.  There are sooo many author/social sites to keep up with, you can make yourself dizzy – and I was.  As such, Wattpad became a casualty of my life.  Little time to write and less time to meet, market and network.

Plus, it 
was just another site, wasn’t it?
Well, actually, it’s not.  Not just another site.  Wattpad has been described as the Youtube of books, and I can see why.  There are oodles of members (14 million unique monthly visitors) and countless stories, books and poems.  It’s so easy to find something – anything – to read on there, you’ll never be at a loss for a good story.  When I discovered this, I thought I should take Wattpad a little more seriously.  As such, I posted some stories, poems, and snippets from Sin and his blog.

On Amazon here
I had a few reads, some great comments (especially on The Hunger), and even some votes.
I was delighted, therefore, when they asked if I’d like Sin to be a Featured Book.  Surprised, too.  I mean, Sin?  It’s just a little story I wrote.  I didn’t expect it to be noticed like this.
Part of being a Featured Book meant that I’d have to put Sin on Wattpad in its entirety.  Now that was a scary idea.  I want people to buy my book, don’t I?  I want them to throw their money at me and scamper away with my novel clutched in their sweaty palms.
No, I didn’t.  Well, I did, of course, but that wasn’t the reason I wrote Sin, nor Dark Places, nor anything else.  I wrote it because the words would dribble out of my ears if I didn’t.  I wrote it because the characters had voices that needed to be heard.  I wanted people to read it.  And enjoy it.
The number of people who have sent messages to say how much they’re enjoying Sin has astounded me.  Not because I don’t think Sin has merit or is any good, I hope it IS.  But readers, and Sin has had hundreds of thousands thanks to Wattpad’s promotion (and, I hope, the fact that it’s quite good), are taking the time to say that the book is ‘a masterpiece’ and ‘unique’.  Not much can beat that particular warm fuzzy feeling right there.  I appreciate (and reply to) every single one.  If that person goes on to buy the book, fantastic, if they don’t, that’s up to them.
They’ve still reached out and touched me.  I like that.

Buy it here
Apart from anything else, I have other works on Wattpad too.  I have a couple of stories and poems from my Dark Places collection.  There’s some from Zits’n’Bits and Rudolph Saves Christmas (my children’s books).  I’ve also added some stories that are not published anywhere else.  The Hunger, Creature and Sin – Prelude, a sort of prequel story to the novel itself.  Being a Featured Book has, hopefully, opened up all my work to the eyes of readers who might, otherwise, not happen by.  I welcome them all.
So.  Wattpad.  It can be viewed online and they have an app.  It’s a truly portable library, in various ways like kindle, but it gives you many avenues to interact with readers and authors and the books themselves.
Thank you Wattpad, Maria and Pamela in particular, for the opportunity to showcase my book.  And thank you to everyone who has read it, whether you’ve commented, voted or not.  Sin, and all my books, are for you.

You can find Shaun Allan on Wattpad here.