Monday, December 30, 2013

Spelling Humor (Yet Again)

Folks, one of the easiest ways to make yourself look stupid is not learning the basics of spelling and vocabulary.  This is especially true on the internet.  It's rather like passing out or falling asleep at a party; everyone assumes you're fair game for public humiliation if you don't proofread in cyberspace.
Today I found this little gem on Pinterest:

It's a great photo.  But the caption read thusly:

The Quechua girl and the Lama - Peru, via Flickr.

No, no, no.   There is no Tibetan priest in the picture.  In fact, I'm not sure that rural Peru even has many Tibetan priests.  That, my friend, is a llama standing next to the girl.  Peru has lots of them.  And they don't look anything like Tibetan priests, or lamas.

Hey, What's Happening?

I didn't really plan on taking a blog holiday over winter break, but it seems to have happened.  Really, there just hasn't been much about which for me to post.
I've been typing away at a good rate on the first draft of The Chocolate Smuggler's Notebook, cleaning the house, grading a bit, spending time with family, exercising, getting enough sleep for a change, finding ways to promote Becoming Brigid, trying to make some big decisions about life after  30 years of teaching (coming up all too soon, folks!), and helping another author with a still-super-secret chunk of research.  (I think it's OK to tell you that this involves an American author who is creating an American character who moves to Edinburgh, Scotland.  Since I'm an American who once lived in Scotland, the author is seeking my input.  It's been really fun so far.)
And that's really about it.
This is why I haven't blogged; I didn't want to put you all to sleep.  :)
Coming soon, however, is my annual list of what I read this year.  This always amuses at least a few of you.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Books!

Still in a Christmas mood?  Got a little gift money or a gift card to spend?  Let me recommend to you some of my favorite Christmas books.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.
If you have never actually read the book, you're missing out.  I'm not even really a big Dickens' fan, but I think this novella -- for it's not really a full book, but it is rather long for a short story -- is superb.  The characterization, the setting description, the sarcasm all get lost in movie versions.  You really need to read the original.  (This Dover edition is only 95¢ on Amazon.  It's hard to beat that.)

Another classic must-read: The Father Christmas Letters by JRR Tolkien.
If you like Tolkien, particularly if you like the books as opposed to what has happened in the movies, if you like The Hobbit the way Tolkien wrote it, as opposed to the completely different story it has become on screen, then you should read these letters.  Tolkien began by answering his son's letters to Father Christmas, but the story that developed over the years is clearly the background for the entire LOTR series.  Elves vs. goblins.  A good, wizard-like man.  Polar bears (think Beorn).  Underground caverns.  All of that is there.  This is marvelous stuff.

Alan Bradley's Flavia De Luce series is fabulous!  If you read mysteries, don't miss out on it.  (I'm counting days until the next installment is released in January.)  I Am Half Sick of Shadows (yes, it's a line from Tennyson's "The Lady of Shallot") is set at Christmas -- with murder and mayhem as folks are snowed it.

Naughty by Steve Hockensmith is a collection of short mystery stories set at Christmas.  Most of them are hilarious.  I believe this one is e-book only, but don't miss out on it!

Paige Shelton is my hands-down favorite cozy writer, and this one -- Merry Market Murder-- is her brand spankin' new mystery set in a farmers' market.  I gobbled it up.  If you want a Christmas cozy, this is the one to get.

And why waste a good opportunity for self-promotion?  Clockwork Christmas is four steampunk humor Christmas stories for 99¢ on Kindle.  It's a great way to spend an hour after the Christmas rush.
You can also enter to win a copy right here.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Yup. Made the Lasagna Again.

For the third year, I have convinced Mom to let ME do the Christmas cooking.  The Christmas lasagna is now a tradition.
The recipe post is also one of the most popular on this blog -- year 'round.
Click here to find my recipe.  (I think it would easily feed 8-10 people.)

Another Proofreading Faux Pas

Got this in a tweet today:

While You Are Sleeping on Kindle. A tale full of chaos, humour & a smattering of elves

While you were sleeping on a Kindle ---
1) you drooled and ruined it.
2) you accidentally hit the "buy with one click" button for $800.00's worth of tacky romances.
3) you missed all the proofreading in the book.

Yes, it was only a tweet.  But it made no sense.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Pick Your Prize Giveaway!

Let's have a giveaway to fill up those new Christmas Kindles!
Between now and New Year's Day, you can enter over and over again to win one of my e-books.  That's right; if you win, I'll contact you, and you can choose which book you want!  Fun, right?
Here are your three options:

Becoming Brigid.  Click on the link to read about it.

Confessions of an Average Half-Vampire.  Click on the link to read about it.

A Clockwork Christmas.  Click on the link to read about it.

You can tweet every day and pin every day (it needs to be a new pin onto a different board each time, though.  I WILL check.).

UPDATE 12/23/13:  I've already had to delete a cheater!  Look, people, I freakin' TEACH JUNIOR HIGH.  Do you honestly think I'm NOT going to check your entries?  Seriously?  Think again.
Play fair.  Enter honestly.  Or I will delete your entry.  Period.

Ready to enter?  Here you go:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Becoming Brigid Book Reviews

I just thought I'd share what a few readers are saying about Becoming Brigid.

 From a girl named Hannah, who won my goodreads giveaway:

This book was very funny and unique. This book had a lot of flavor. I was literally laughing out loud so much while reading this. I really got into the story and had trouble putting the book down. I didn't find all of the characters very likable, but I liked the character development in the main character. I didn't feel like any of the other characters developed a lot, though. I can't wait to read the other books that this author has written.

She also posted this comment when she was only just starting the book:
""Constellations of freckles" I just love that. I'm already so into this book."

And Mary had this to say about it:

The first few pages of this story sound like it might be a ghost story, but it isn't. Pepper is a normal teenage girl, with a dash of spice. While she tries to ignore the incident with the "ghost", she goes to school, dreams about romance, and hangs out with her friends. One of her good friends is a 14 year old boy, and it's partly because of that friendship that she finds herself on a cliff by the sea, alone, hanging to a chain while she climbs. And that's where she begins to find answers to her "ghost" sightings.

Pepper is strong and smart. She is confident, yet insecure, intelligent but not nerdy, empowered, but not bratty. She dreams about romance, but is mostly realistic. And she can take care of herself: she gets caught using a cell phone in class but doesn't get in trouble, fends off the unwanted affections of a strange man, and stands up to a boy in her class, the self-proclaimed morality defender, Zane.

I especially love the connections to Ireland and Scotland. I can picture the cliffs by the sea, the stone pillars, and the caves. I can almost hear the strange dialects of the people, and I am delighted to learn of the hidden connections between modern life and literature, and their ancient traditions.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is 15 or older. Girls will identify with Pepper, but I think boys would enjoy the spooky adventure, the mysterious man, and Pepper's friend / neighbor who lives in a mortuary. In fact, I'm going to recommend it to my husband. He will be pleasantly surprised that the story is wholesome, fun, and not predictable.

Also, Heidi said this:

I stayed up way too late last night because I had to finish this book. I found myself amused and entertained throughout the entire story. 

I found myself amused at Pepper's plan for her future life at the beginning of the story. Perfect husband, perfect children who never throw temper tantrums in public (or at all), perfect mommy blogger. Watching her be annoyed by real children (my kids will NEVER do that) was funny. Unfortunately, it didn't take long for reality to set in and her view of the world, and her future, changed.

Most of the characters were easy to love or hate as appropriate. Pepper was fun to follow through the story and DC is just plain cute. Zane instantly set my nerves on edge. How many "holier than thou" types do we know in life? Dougal I spent the entire book trying to decide if I liked him or not and never quite decided. I'd feel bad except that Pepper felt the same way. :)

I liked how Pepper handled herself in the rough situations. When she was placed in a romantic situation she made it clear where she stood on that and didn't back down. When she was placed in situations where she was being demeaned or victimized she took care of things.

This is a fun book appropriate for a YA audience. I highly recommend it.

Have they convinced you to read it?  You can find the book right here. :D

Friday, December 20, 2013

Gay Marriage And Polygamy Now Legal In Utah. Why The Former Doesn't Bother Me And The Latter Does

Sixteen days ago, a Federal Judge declared Utah's anti-polygamy laws unconstitutional.  Today -- just now, in fact -- the icky gay marriage ban, forced through in 2004, was also declared unconstitutional.
Right now, I really, really wish I could hear the rants of the Eagle Forum (Utah's version of the John Birch Society, which has waaaaay too much influence on our local governments).  *smirks*
However, the polygamy legality I don't find funny at all.
I realize my opinion will not be popular, but I intend to state it anyway.  Here are my reasons why gay marriage doesn't bother me but polygamy does:

1) Sexism.
Two women marry.  Two men marry.  One man and one woman marry.  These are partnerships.  Granted, there might still be inequalities, but it's not built into the system.  The marriage contract between two adults is set up to be equal.
Polygamy in Utah doesn't usually mean some type of hippie commune with multiple guys and gals celebrating free love.  I think that some people believe that polygamy is like free love or partner swappers or swingers, so they assume that those of us against polygamy are uptight.  For the record, I really don't care who sleeps with whom, as long as it's not rape, coercion, or about hurting or lying to someone.  (And as long as I don't have to see it. :) )
Polygamy in Utah almost always equals one guy + multiple wives.  This is inherently sexist, no matter how loving the relationships are.  It means it takes 2 or 3 or more women to equal the one man -- that the women are somehow worth less than he is.
It also sets the stage for jealousy and favoritism and simmering hurt and hatred.  He gets to sleep with multiple partners; the women are expected to share him and not seek out other partners.  This accepts that a man may desire and deserve sexual variety but not that a woman might.

2) Problems with schools and burden to taxpayers.
It is extremely unlikely that gay partners will produce accidental and/or unwanted pregnancies.  Most gay couples raising children either have them from previous heterosexual relationships, have adopted, or have used sperm donors/surrogate mothers.  It is not highly likely that gay partnerships will produce far more children than the parents can afford to raise and educate, thereby sucking dry the welfare system, increasing crowding in our schools, and burdening taxpayers.
Most polygamists in Utah, however, are polygynists who feel it is their God-given duty to do all of the above.  It is not unthinkable for a polygamist patriarch to sire 3 dozen children.

Let us imagine a polygamist family in Utah: John Smith and his wives Sally, Sandra, Sue, Shelly, and Cindy.  Let's say that each wife produces a "modest" five kids; this family now becomes one of 31 people.  This will require either one very large house or several smaller ones.  Let us say that Cindy opts to become the stay-at-home sister wife and that John and the 4 other wives all work full time and equally (ha, ha, ha) share the domestic duties.  That is still only 5 working adults for a family of 31.  Each employed adult must support her/himself and 5.2 other people.  If we assume that each working adult makes the Utah average of $40,000 per year, then s/he will have to support 6.2 people on that much every year.  But what will really happen is taxpayers will end up supporting these people.
Sorry, but I find this sickening and wrong.
People talk all the time about how they find gay relationships to be immoral or unethical.  I, on the other hand, find polygyny with its sexism, gross amount of offspring, and burden on other people to be the thing that is immoral and unethical.

Let me add some arguments by Kristyn Decker, former polygamist wife, given in an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune:

The problem, Decker said, is that polygamy fosters abuse, particularly against women and children. Decker said she saw the abuse first-hand during her years in the AUB and now continues to talk to scores of women who are too afraid to go public with their experiences. People who see polygamy as a matter of choice between consenting adults — and who equate the issue with gay marriage — miss that point.
"It’s not about choice," she argued. "It’s about coercion."
Decker said women in polygamous communities are coerced by being told that their salvation depends on defending "the principle," a fundamentalist term for plural marriage. Dissenters face retaliation, as well as expulsion from their families and social circles, Decker said.
Polygamy also strains children, who are forced to assume significant responsibility.
"Families are so large they’re not getting the things they need," she said. "You’ve got children raising children."
And despite a willingness to look on the bright side, Decker was skeptical that Waddoups’ ruling would do much to curb those problems. She said most polygamists have not feared arrest or prosecution in recent years and decriminalizing the practice edges closer to condoning abuse.
"I don’t think there’s any good polygamy," she added.

Just for your information, let me state that I am the descendant of a relatively famous Utah polygamist, one who had 5 wives (although Wikipedia claims it was 6) and 32 documented children.  (There could be more, folks.)  He was wealthy enough that each wife had her own house, and, by all surviving accounts, he did his best to be a kind husband and father.  But still, he could not possibly have had enough time nor enough emotional strength to give proper love and attention to each wife and child.  His whole, huge family must have suffered from it.
I did not know this man, but I knew his granddaughter, who was my grandmother.  She was always horribly ashamed of her grandfather for what he had done.
Grandma was ahead of her time.  She'd be sickened by the legalization of polygamy today, too.
As for gay marriage, I doubt it ever crossed her mind.  For me, though, I would be honored if any of my gay friends asked me to help them celebrate their marriages.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

My Tweet Made The Tribune

So, last night came the news that Utah's polygamy ban is unconstitutional, and polygamy is now decriminalized.  I am not pleased.
I've been thinking for months now that I ought to do a post on why gay marriage doesn't bother me but polygamy does, and now I know I'm going to have to do that.  But last night I merely posted my thoughts in 140-character spurts on Twitter.
For good or for ill, a couple of Salt Lake Tribune reporters, who were clearly trying to make this news into some kind of marriage victory instead of a huge slap in the face for women's rights that it is -- not to mention the kinds of problems it will create for taxpayers and the school system -- picked up on one of my tweets and used it in their slide show article for the online Tribune.  I could not help but notice that they carefully chose a tweet that didn't show any real negativity at all.
At any rate, here's my 15 minutes of Twitter/Tribune fame for the morning:

I guess I'd feel better about it if it were ever truly polygamy (where gals have multiple husbands as well), rather than just polygyny.

Friday, December 13, 2013

And December's Winner is...

She won a gift bag filled with goodies to go with her copy of Becoming Brigid:

"Tre" entered twice: once for letting me use her photo for publicity and once for this review on Amazon:

Of the three books written by Lisa Shafer, this is my favorite. The novel consists of a time-traveling plot line with interesting twists and turns, strong female characters, suspense, and comic relief. This is not a long book, barely 200 pages, and it is a fun read.

Want to win a prize in January?  No problem!
Buy and read Becoming Brigid, then review it on Amazon and/or Goodreads and/or a public blog and/or send me a jpg of you holding the book (with the cover showing).  I plan to have giveaways in January and February, so you still have time to read and review the book! :)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Purple Argyle Sweater Day: A Story Problem

So, what are the chances that three teachers in the same school actually own V-neck argyle sweaters with a pattern in some shade of purple?
And how likely is it that all three of them will be English teachers?
And what, exactly, is the probability that all three of them will accidentally wear their purple argyle sweaters on the same day?

Round your answer to the nearest tenth.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Mystery Of The Doorstep Gifts

About 6 weeks ago, when the fall weather was still very nice (Note: we had 6" of fresh powder on the driveway this morning.), I arrived home to find a couple of sprigs of lavender desert sage flowers tied with two bits of ribbon and placed on the doormat.  There was no note accompanying the tiny bouquet.
I tried to think of who might have done this in a kind way, but I failed.  I have one neighbor who's likely to do spontaneous nice things, but her garden does not contain this type of plant, and she's not really the crafty sort.  (This morning she and her son shoveled a fair chunk of my part of the sidewalk before I got out to clean up the snow; that's the sort of nice thing she does.)  I have two other friends who live nearby, but one's going through a really tough time, and the other's more inclined to leave books than flowers.
As a junior high teacher, I am naturally suspicious.  I wondered if the flowers had been dusted with a chemical or sprayed with cat urine or -- who knows?  Thus, I left them on the doorstep for a couple of days until they dried, then I took a shovel and disposed of them into the trash.
No one has ever mentioned them to me, so I still have no idea whether they came from friend or foe -- or from someone who got the wrong house altogether.
I'd forgotten about them until I went to get the mail yesterday -- and found a box of soup mix.  Yup.  Chicken enchilada soup mix.  It was commercially packaged but a brand I've never heard of before.  There was no note attached, nor was there any advertising flyer announcing this as a free sample.  In fact, there wasn't even any mail in the mail box.  Nothing.  Just a box of soup mix.
There is, of course, no way in heaven or heck I'd eat something so suspicious, so the recyclable parts will be recycled, and the rest will be trashed.  (I hope it's not poisoned, but, just to be safe, I won't put it into the compost bin, but into the trash.)
Still, the mystery remains.  Are these two odd "gifts" somehow connected?  If yes, how?  If not, why I am the recipient of two such odd things?  And, either way, why soup mix, of all things?  And why has no one left notes or ads?
I feel a bit like I'm living in a cozy mystery novel right now.
The plot thickens.....

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

This Made Me Laugh

Someone tweeted this to me the other day.  Apparently, this was supposed to be a serious warning.

Yeah, this describes about 75% of all junior high school students.  And, no, one doesn't feel shamed and absorbed the blame; one tells them to sit down, shut their mouths, and get to work.

Now, granted, it IS harder when adults behave this way, but I had to laugh at this tweet anyway.  I love how this description connects the average adolescent to the term "psychopath."  Funny.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Writing Lessons From An English Teacher #1: Lay vs. Lie

From a yahoo! news article about today's tragic train accident in NYC, we get this line:

Aerial photos taken above the scene showed several train cars laying on their sides, and one near the water along a bank of the Bronx River.

Unfortunately, the grammar here is also tragic.  Yes.  Reporting serious stuff should require care and good form, not carelessness and bad grammar.  Grammar mistakes can be cringeworthy in light-hearted writing, but in serious reporting such as this, they can be downright disrespectful.

Those train cars aren't laying anything; they're lying on their sides.
This is 7th grade grammar, people.  If you're a writer of any kind, you need to learn this.

Lay = to place or to put.  It's a transitive verb, and it takes an object.  You have to lay something; you cannot just lay in the present tense or in the participle form.

A hen lays eggs.  I can lay the new carpet.  Henry was laying the silverware out on the table.

The past tense is laid; it is NOT "layed," as there is no such word.

The hen laid eggs.  I laid the new carpet.  Henry laid the silverware out on the table.

The past participle (the one that requires a helping verb) is also laid.

The hen has laid many eggs.  I have laid the new carpet already.  Henry has always laid the silverware out on the table.

Lie, when it doesn't mean telling a falsehood, means to rest or to recline.  It is an intransitive verb, which means (for those of you who never listened in your English or foreign language classes) that it has no object (like eggs, carpet, or silverware in the above examples).

The dog lies in the sun.  The train cars are lying on their sides.  I want to lie down and rest.

Where it gets complicated is the past tense, which is "lay."  You have to think about this one to keep from confusing it with the lay which means "to put."

The dog lay in the sun yesterday.  The train cars lay on their sides after the wreck.  I lay down to rest after working all day.

The past participle is also irregular: lain.

The dog has lain in the sun all morning.  The train cars have lain on their sides ever since the wreck.  I have often lain down to rest after working hard.

There you go, folks.  Yes, these two verbs can be confusing.  Stop whining and learn them.  When you misuse these verbs, you automatically announce your ignorance to the world, and people wonder why you're writing when you clearly don't know grammar rules.

No one is perfect; typos will happen.  But very often it's not a typo with lay and lie; most folks haven't ever bothered to learn the difference.
I see these verbs misused so frequently by writers that I thought it was time I gave a lesson.  Maybe someone will read it and learn.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Announcing December's Book Swag Contest!

Yesterday I announced that Liz had won the Becoming Brigid tote bag giveaway for November, so today begins the Christmas book swag giveaway.

The prize this time will be a goodie bag to match the book.

The bag itself is purple and rather sparkly.  It's cotton and makes an excellent socks-and-undies bag for traveling.  Inside the bag is a matching eye mask filled with rice and dried lavender flowers (just heat in the microwave for 2-3 minutes to have soothing warmth and to release the scent), a travel-sized bottle of Bath and Body Works "Dark Kiss" lotion (because it's purple and because -- c'mon, how appropriate is a "dark kiss" for Dougal???  Definitely!), a purple, shimmery lip gloss, and a book of 100 Best-Loved Poems, which includes several from which Dougal quotes in Becoming Brigid.

So, how do you enter to win this fun little pack of girly goodies?
There are four ways:
1) Read the book and post a review of it on Amazon.
2) Read the book and post a review of it on Goodreads.
3) Read the book and post a review of it on a public blog, facebook page, or similar.
4) Take a selfie of you with the holding the book or your e-reader (with the book cover showing in either case) and send me the jpg to use for publicity.  (You must be 18+ for this one or else have your parent pictured with you in the photo.)
You can post a comment with your e-mail address (comment won't be published), pin the pic on Pinterest and leave me the link, or send me the pic via twitter (@lisamshafer)

That's it.  You can have up to four entries.
The winner will be announced on December 13 to allow me time to ship this to you by Christmas.

For a list of entrants, click here.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Announcing The November Winner Of Book Swag

Chosen by totally unscientific yet completely random methods (I put names on pieces of paper and drew one out of a bowl), the winner of my November book swag giveaway for this lovely tote bag



Liz entered three times, once by reviewing Becoming Brigid on Amazon, once for reviewing it on her blog, and once by sending me her photo to use to promote the book.
Liz, you've got my e-mail.  Just send me your postal address, if you would, please, and you'll have a new library book/grocery tote bag in time for Christmas!

For those of you who entered but didn't win, have no fear; a new contest begins tomorrow with more book swag!  Liz's entries will be deleted, but the rest of you are still in the running for the next prize.
What?  You haven't entered yet but you want to?  No problem.  I'll have all the details for you tomorrow. :D

Friday, November 29, 2013

My Super Power Of Choice

I just read another paranormal book last night, and, like most paranormal books, the protagonist (and her friends, in this one) had a super-power.  She was like a magnet around metal.  Oh, and she could create fire.  One of her friends could shape-shift into a crow.  And the third could mix spiffy potions.
Of these three, it seems to me that only the third would be useful in real life. Seriously, being a magnet would be more dangerous than not, and what good, really, is being a crow, other than for having fun flying around?
I like to think my own paranormal creations have more practical super-powers.  Eric, in the Half-Vampire novels, can see really well in the dark.  That could be really handy -- even in a world without vampires.   Going anywhere at night would be a lot easier.  The possessor of such a gift would be much safer, too.
Brigid, in Becoming Brigid, is pretty much immortal -- as long as she can heal herself.  She also gets to be eternally young.  Not a bad deal, really.
The appeal of magic powers is pretty simple, when it comes right down to it.  We all want control -- and preferably MORE control than John Doe.  We don't want to be the ones who are hurt, tricked, killed, or having to live in fear.
Of course, since the actual world doesn't have vampires, evil wizards, mischievous fairies, etc., many of the magical abilities in books would be pretty useless, like the aforementioned ability to turn into a crow.
(And suddenly I'm thinking of writing a book wherein multiple characters have useless paranormal abilities: the ability to command sloths, the ability to predict the price of boxed cereal in any store on any given day, the ability to sing cats to sleep.)
If I got to have a paranormal ability for living in the real world, I think I'd like the ability to repel selected living creatures at will.
Just think of the possibilities!  No one would ever block me on the freeway again; they'd have an irrepressible urge to pull over and let me pass.  All dogs living within 500 feet of my home would run away to find new owners -- and I would never again have to listen to hours and hours of barking.  All people walking their dogs to let them poop on my lawn would hurry past instead.  I would never have to kill another spider inside my house or worry about termites again!  The obnoxious parents at parent-teacher conference would not get close to my line, thus leaving me with only reasonable people to deal with.  Neighbors I don't like would move away, allowing decent folks to move in.  I would be free to walk about in less-safe areas when I travel, as all suspicious people would feel the need to avoid me.  The construction workers blocking our driveway right now would feel compelled to leave immediately.  I would never have to use insect repellant again.  I wouldn't have to wait in long lines for anything, as those in front of me would feel the need to leave until I finished.
Yes, I think this would be a highly useful super-power.
What super-power would you choose?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Clockwork Christmas Is Now Available! (And I'm Giving Away Two E-Copies This Week!)

My steampunk Christmas short story collection is now available on Amazon for 99¢.  Just click here.

It's Christmas, 1874, like you've never experienced it before.  Like it never was, actually.

In "The Cephalopod Who Saved Christmas," lighthouse keeper Zeke Longstalks is troubled by his son Timmy's request for a Christmas tree when there's no way to cross the dangerous shoals of the River Victorianna -- the largest in all Pacifica -- in order to find one.  In "The Steampirates of St. Andrews," merchant sailman (and sometime smuggler) London Sunday is over the North Sea aboard the airship La Virgen del Aire, hoping for a way to distance himself from the noisy, smelly animals below deck.  In "The Wise Men and the Angel," apprentices Bertie Haven and Oliver Laird are worried that the secrets of their employer's son might become public with the arrival of the theocratic leader of the Independent State of Deseret.  And in "The Reason," Derrik Andrews sits in a boardinghouse in New York City, longing for a future which has been stolen from him -- by his own mistake.

These four short stories form a stand-alone collection, but they also serve as a teaser forThe Chocolate Smuggler's Notebook, an upcoming steampunk adventure by Lisa Shafer.

To celebrate the official release, I'm giving away two e-copies this week.  Here's the rafflecopter entry form:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The winners will be announced on Thanksgiving Day.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Columnist Robert Kirby On The Ordain Women Movement = Quote Of The Day

I love Robert Kirby, columnist for The Salt Lake Tribune.  He has that great gift of wit found in the writings of Erma Bombeck and Mark Twain; he can say succinctly with humor little bits of profound wisdom.
Last week he commented on the uproar caused this autumn by women (and some men!) who feel that it's time that women in the LDS Church should stop being forced to take figurative seats at the back of the bus and be allowed equal church rights alongside men.  I absolutely loved how he summed up the whole argument:

"Those opposed to women being ordained are probably more worried about their own ability to cope with change rather than doctrinal appropriateness."

Monday, November 18, 2013

Announcing Clockwork Christmas! (And Requesting Reviewers.)

It's Christmas, 1874, like you've never experienced it before.  Like it never was, actually.

In "The Cephalopod Who Saved Christmas," lighthouse keeper Zeke Longstalks is troubled by his son Timmy's request for a Christmas tree when there's no way to cross the dangerous shoals of the River Victorianna -- the largest in all Pacifica -- in order to find one.  In "The Steampirates of St. Andrews," merchant sailman (and sometime smuggler) London Sunday is over the North Sea aboard the airship La Virgen del Aire, hoping for a way to distance himself from the noisy, smelly animals below deck.  In "The Wise Men and the Angel," apprentices Bertie Haven and Oliver Laird are worried that the secrets of their employer's son might become public with the arrival of the theocratic leader of the Independent State of Deseret.  And in "The Reason," Derrik Andrews sits in a boardinghouse in New York City, longing for a future which has been stolen from him -- by his own mistake.

These four short stories form a stand-alone collection, but they also serve as a teaser for The Chocolate Smuggler's Notebook, an upcoming steampunk adventure by Lisa Shafer.

And so, I finished this over the weekend.  It's 33 pages, a collection of four steampunk Christmas short stories.  I plan to release it on November 25 and sell it -- e-book only -- for 99¢ on Amazon.
However, I hate to see it languishing unreviewed, as is the fate of most of my books for weeks after publication.  But this needs to be out for Christmas sales; it can't wait weeks for reviews.
Thus, if anyone would like to have a free PDF copy of it THIS week, ahead of publication, and with the promise you'll post a review of it on Amazon -- and I hope on Goodreads as well -- as soon as the book is available (i.e. on November 25), please leave your e-mail address in a comment (I won't publish the comment if it has an address in it.) below or else tweet or DM me your e-mail address. @lisamshafer
The book is short, about a half-hour's read.  And the review can be short; a paragraph would be just dandy.
The stories are rather funny -- at least, I think so.
Do I have any takers?  C'mon, it's a FREE BOOK.  Can you resist that?  (I hope not.)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

My Thoughts On Bat Kid San Francisco

Last week, the Make-A-Wish folks in San Francisco went all out for a little kid with leukemia, Miles Scott.  San Francisco was turned into Gotham for a day.  People loaned Lambourginis to be used as Batmobiles.  The Chief of Police issued videotaped calls out to Bat Kid to save the day.  Actors dressed up as a damsel in distress to be saved, the Riddler, and a kidnapped team mascot needing a rescue.  Photos and tweets of the proceedings went viral.  Hundreds of adults had way more fun than the kid doing all this in a chance to act out their own Batman fantasies.  Even President Obama sent out his first-ever Vine message -- and it was to Miles.
Check out all the details here.

People have tweeted and commented all over cyberspace about how wonderful all this was.  I had two main thoughts, one of which I mentioned above: that the adults were having more fun than Miles.
The other thought was sadness.
Not for Miles and his disease, but for all the other little kids who want with all their hearts to be Batman or Wonder Woman for a day but will never have the chance.  Oh sure, it's easy enough for an adult to understand that this happened out of survivors' guilt and as an excuse for the adults to have fun in the name of helping a kid.  But how many children can grasp that?  Very few.  And I wonder how many of them who saw this are secretly wishing for leukemia so that they can have a day like this.
Yes, I'm glad for Miles and for all the folks who had fun doing all this.  But I feel bad for every other child who saw it and wondered, "Why him?  Why not me?" and then felt guilty for wondering.
Was the price of making one little guy have the perfect day worth the price of making so many others feel bad?  I wonder.
None of this, of course, is Miles' fault.  Naturally, I'd love to see us beat cancer -- and give Miles a chance to grow up healthy.  But I'd rather give my money to research to help many people instead of a tiny percentage.
My opinion here will be unpopular, I'm sure.  But I still feel for all the kids who DIDN'T get to be Bat Kid this week, some of whom could've used the ego boost every bit as much as Miles.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Pumpkin Pie, Cocoa, And A Good Book

Isn't this cozy?

Here's wishing you time to spend doing this over this weekend.  :)

P.S.  She's also entered in my winter giveaways.  Click here to see how you can enter.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Liz Reads On Her Laptop

My cyberbuddy Liz sent me this photo of herself ready to read Becoming Brigid.

This gives her one entry into my winter giveaways, meaning she stays entered until she wins or until I run out of prizes, whichever comes first.
Here's November's book swag prize:

a Becoming Brigid totebag.

If you'd like to enter, click here for all the details.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Help Me Decide On A Title -- Please?

Oh, for heaven's sakes!
So, I've put together a boxed set of my two Half-Vampire novels for e-book release for Christmas.  Everything's all ready to roll except the cover.
Tonight I chose the background pic variation and went to put the type on it.
And I can't decide on a title.

So, if book one is Confessions of an Average Half-Vampire,

and book two is All in the Half-Vampire Family,

and the background pic for the cover is a variation on that same blood splatter and will use the same font, what do I call the boxed set?

Here are my ideas so far:
1) Half-Vampire: the boxed set
2) The Half-Vampire Boxed Set
3) It's In The Blood: the Half-Vampire boxed set
4) It's a Half-Vampire Thing: boxed set
5) some other less lame title ?????

Please, please, please tell me what you think!  I can't even make the cover until I have a title that doesn't suck.  (Uh, poor choice of words there.  Unless I can use THAT for a title: Life Sucks: the Half-Vampire boxed set.)

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Too Busy Reading

She's too busy reading Becoming Brigid to perform.  ;)

(OK, well, we staged it that way.  Thanks to Max for taking the photo.)

Sending me a photo of yourself reading Becoming Brigid counts as an entry into my November contest.  Check out the details here.

P.S. The costumes are Russian; the location was the Jordan Peace Park in Salt Lake City.  No, I'm not in the picture.
Click on the picture to enlarge it.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

My First Teenage Fan Gushing Over A "Hot" Character I've Created

This afternoon I raced (literally) across the valley to get from the school where I teach to a high school across town to meet with their creative writing club, mentored by a friend of mine who used to teach at my school.  It was a ton of fun (meeting with the club, not the racing across town).
Since I'm a teacher, I had none of the jitters about which I've heard many authors complain.  I don't fear public speaking, for one thing.  And I certainly have no fear of teenagers.  (Geez, these kids were older and better behaved than what I normally face anyway.  They were highly amused that my first words to them were, "Thank you for not being 7th graders.")
I began with a bit of background on how/when I started writing, then talked to them a bit about why I self-publish -- and HOW.  They wanted the HOW part.  And that was fine.  I thought they would.  We talked about formatting and making covers and advertising.  I let them know the harsh realities of how self-published authors don't really make much money, that one does this because one likes it.
They also got a BIG talking-to on revision, on how a first draft is NOT a final product.  I told them that NaNoWriMO is fine, but that they should put that finished first draft away for a month -- at least -- afterwards and let it "ripen" while they write something else.  I told them that first draft will look a LOT less perfect when they see it with fresh eyes.
They ate this up.  And that's a good thing.
We talked about POV and intended audience.
They wanted to know where I got my ideas for each book.  They were enthralled as I talked about authors I'd met; Neil Gaiman, of course, was an impressive name to drop.
One of the girls had borrowed the teacher's copy of Becoming Brigid and read it.  She was an avid reader; she told me she'd read over 200 books this year.  (No one contradicted her; apparently, she is well-known for constant reading.)  She went on for 2 or 3 minutes about how she loved the multiple plots and parallel times going on in Brigid.  She said it was the best she'd ever read like that.  (I basked in my warm, fuzzy moment while she talked.)
And, at the end of the meeting, as 4 or 5 kids hung around to tell me shyly what they were writing and/or ask more questions, she began gushing over Dougal.
"I LOVE Dougal!" she half-shouted.  Then she went on and on to 2 other girls who hadn't read the book yet, telling them how intriguing he was.  I was SO pleased.
Yes, I now have a teenage girl in love with my fictional character.  Once again, I have passed another milestone as an author. :D
I didn't sell any books (but maybe some of them will buy the e-book -- I hope), but I did rally them up to convince their school librarian to buy a copy.  I told them about my current contest, and one girl got very excited about writing a book review (so I hope she really will read the book and review it).
I gave away a Half-Vampire tee shirt and lots of bookmarks.  And I got about 15 volunteers to beta read The (Dis)Appearance of Nerissa MacKay.  In fact, there was much disappointment that I only had 3 copies -- until I pointed out that it's only a novella and they could pass  it around to more people at their next writers' club meeting in 2 weeks.
So, overall, I'd say it was a huge success.
Plus, I get to come back and do a workshop with them in a month or so.  :)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Becoming Brigid Book Swag Giveaway #1!

Tomorrow I get to do a school visit to talk to a creative writing club (Note: not the school where I teach -- wow!), so in honor of that, let's have my first swag giveaway!

Here's what I'll give away to a lucky winner on December 1:

It's a tote bag with the Becoming Brigid book cover on it.
The bag is medium-sized, and it makes a great library bag (that's how I'm using mine).  It would also be great for groceries, hobby stuff, etc.  It's pretty sturdy, and the handles fit nicely over the shoulder.

Want it?  Good.  :)
Here's how you can enter:
1) Buy a copy of Becoming Brigid and read it.  Or else convince your local library to purchase a copy and then read it.
Afterwards, post a review of the book on Amazon, Goodreads, or your blog (or all of the above for multiple entries).
Tweet or DM me a link (@lisamshafer) to the review, or post a comment on this post or on my Current Contests page with a link to the review.
I'll list your name on the Current Contests page, and you'll be entered.
2) You may also enter (instead of or in addition to the reviews) by photographing yourself reading/holding a copy of Becoming Brigid (the cover must be showing).

Then instagram the jpg to me OR pin the jpg to an appropriate board (books, Celts, mythology, self-publishing, etc.) and post the link in the comment section here or tweet/DM it to me (@lisamshafer) OR post a comment her or on my Current Contests page with your e-mail address (and I'll contact you to get the jpg).  The photo will be used for publicity; thus, if you are not yet 18 years old, you MUST be photographed WITH YOUR PARENT to prove you have permission to do this.

Your name will then be added to the list of entrants on the Current Contests page.

On December 1, the winner will be announced, and I will contact the winner for a mailing address.
This contest is open in the US and Canada.  You must be 13 or older to enter. You may enter multiple times.   I am not responsible for loss or damage of prizes during shipping.  I promise not to share your contact info with anyone.  Your entries WILL be made public.
For a list of entrants, go to the Current Contests page.  Click here.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

So, What's Happening Now?

1) My goodreads contest ended on Halloween.  There were 389 entries (significantly fewer than for any Half-Vampire goodreads contest I've done), and 180 people added Becoming Brigid to their TBR list.  A girl named Hannah won, and I mailed off the book Friday.  (I hope she likes it and gives it a positive review somewhere.)
2) This Thursday I'm scheduled to meet with the creative writing club of a high school across town from where I teach.  This should be fun, as they're older kids and I don't know any of them -- for a change. :)
3) Yes, I'm aware that NaNoWriMo is starting.  I don't do NaNoWriMo.  I believe that writing is a craft which takes time.  I suspect that it is extremely unlikely that anyone could write a whole novel from outline to finished first draft in thirty days and have anything that wasn't 90% crap.  (And I read LOTS of self-published fiction which came from NaNoWriMos past and backs up my suspicions here.)
4) I am working on several things right now.
4a) One of them is a 2-book set of Confessions of an Average Half-Vampire and All in the Half-Vampire Family.
(Max in stereo with both HV books.)
I've finished putting them together -- and putting BACK all the italics which inconveniently disappear when I copy and paste.  But I've got to decide on and put in the "extras" at the back of the book and fix up a new cover.  I've been tinkering with variations on that original blood splatter, but nothing is jumping out at me as a good choice just yet.  (Yeah, I have about 15 photo aps on my iPad.)  At any rate, I hope to have this e-book only set ready to roll for Christmas sales.  :)
(A teaching colleague with both HV books.)
4b) I've had The (Dis)Appearance of Nerissa MacKay on hold for months now, as I've been so busy with finalizing Becoming Brigid and working on the first draft of The Chocolate Smuggler's Notebook.  But I hope to have some of these high school creative writing kids beta read if for me.  (I'm also still struggling with the cover of this one.)
4c) I've been pecking away at Chocolate Smuggler's Notebook, but I got stagnated and disappointed for a few days.  I then went back to my idea from last year of writing some short story prequels to introduce the world of the book, and I got another idea.  I decided I'd write a set of short stories as prequels to the prequels -- but Christmas stories!

I have 4 mapped out, and one and 3/4 of them written.  And tonight, I had Dad look over the covers I'd created.  He picked out the one he thinks is best, praised my color choice (usually very good), font choice, and letter placement (often where I have trouble).  Thus, the cover is set.  (Uh, I might add here that Dad spent his entire career as a commercial artist, the forerunner to today's graphic artists, so he knows what he's talking about.)
I hope to have a 99¢ story collection ready by Cyber Monday (e-book only).
5) I do have more contests planned and prizes sitting on my craft desk, ready to be sent out to winners.  I just keep hoping to get some more book reviews for Becoming Brigid, but they're not coming in very fast.  Perhaps I need to start the contest and see if that generates some interest????

6) I've certainly learned that posting photos on this blog (and on Pinterest and Twitter) REALLY increases my blog traffic.  I don't know that it's really increased book sales, but it certainly brings folks to the blog!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween! The Last Set of Cemetery Photos For Your Writing Inspiration!

I've been posting these all week, folks.  I hope you've enjoyed them.  Here's the last set:

Pretty ghostly, eh?  I thought so -- even before I turned it into a fake tintype.

This one's from the same cemetery as above, but it's on a rather tall post.  I think it's the angel Gabriel, waiting to blow his horn and awaken the dead -- which is very Halloweenish.

This is the very tomb I put into Confessions of an Average Half-Vampire.  It's a little, roofless house which faces away from any areas where security guards might wander in the Cannongate Kirkyard on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, Scotland.  The tomb is, therefore, littered with drug items and other unsavory stuff.  Definitely scary in the unsupernatural sense.

The scariest thing in this photo is the heat haze and smog covering the Salt Lake Valley so much that the Oquirrh Mountains have completely disappeared from view.  Yuck!
This little cemetery holds the remains of those buried in what was likely the first non-tribal burial ground in Salt Lake.  It was originally in downtown SLC and was discovered by construction workers in the mid-1980s.  The remains that could be identified were given to descendants, but the rest of these early pioneers were re-buried on the mountainside above the valley they came to colonize.  The cemetery is part of Old Deseret Village, a living history museum that re-creates life before the railroad came in 1869.  None of the headstones have names, but their size indicates whether a child or an adult lies beneath.

That's all, folks.
Happy Halloween/Dia de los Muertos/All Souls' Eve/Samhuinn to all!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

I Got Another 5-Star Review!

OK, the reviews are coming in slooooowly.  (And two people who claim they like Becoming Brigid more than my other books still gave me only 4 stars.  What's up with that?)
Still, I'll take all the five-star reviews I can get, people.
(Remember, I've got book swag giveaways coming up, and those who review my books on Amazon, goodreads, or who send me a photo of themselves with the book are entered.)

Here's what the reviewer has to say:

I find Lisa Shafer’s way with characterization so appealing. She has the ability to write characters who seem fully dimensional only a short way into the story. It’s a real talent. It didn’t take long for me to “know” Pepper and want to cheer her along as she faced the obstacles that were put in her path of surprising self-discovery. And the obstacles were amazing and interesting and seemed valid and real – adventures and legends that took her to different places and different times, and introduced her to unusual people – again, more well-written characters. It couldn’t have been easy to stitch all the parts of the story together, but Ms. Shafer did it seamlessly. BECOMING BRIGID is truly a fun and enjoyable story for readers of all ages.

No, it wasn't easy to "stitch all the parts together."  It took me ten freakin' years to write this book!

I'd love it if you dropped over to Amazon and hit the "yes" button on this review.  Please?  Just click here.

I'd also love it if you'd buy a copy of the book, read it, and write me another 5-star review.  Go on now.  I'll wait.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

More Halloween Writing Inspirational Photos: Cemetery Pics

Sunday I posted these.  And Monday these.

Here are today's creepy cemetery pics to help you with spooky writing.

First off, the ever-popular creepy girl as a monument:

I love that blue sky behind her, though.  (No, it's not color-enhanced; that's how it really was.)

And, from across the pond, we get this one:

This is a vintage Victorian Era Celtic cross marker on a gravesite at the Rock of Cashel, Ireland.  This was indeed your windswept graveyard.

From a completely different environment, we get this extremely lonely little cemetery.

This is the burial ground of the ghost town of Sego, Utah.  A few graves of Italian miners and their wives' babies are there, with just rattlesnakes and coyotes for company much of the time.  It doesn't get much more desolate than this.

That's it for today.  I have some more coming your way tomorrow, too.

Monday, October 28, 2013

More Creepy Cemetery Photos For Your Halloween Writing Inspiration!

Yesterday I posted a set of photos to inspire writers (and maybe photographers) for Halloween.  Here's today's set.

Isn't this just the perfect combo of spooky gravestones with the sea crashing against the edge of the cemetery?  OK, it'd be spookier if I'd photographed it by moonlight, but I did have a lot of ground to cover that day, so it's morning sunlight you get. :)
This was taken in the tiny hamlet of Orphir, on the mainland of Orkney.

Here's one that can either be creepy or else laughable; you take your pick.

In this image (which I had to climb on top of a bench and hold my camera above my head to take), a highly-distressed angel writhes in pain and some artistically inspired bird has managed to poop exactly in a spot to give the statue a "tear."  It is a both uncomfortable and hilarious image.
Here's the weirdest thing of all, though.  This exceptionally popular statue in the Salt Lake City Cemetery marks an empty grave of a completely fictional character, yet gullible people place toys, coins, and letters on the statue in memory of the little girl who never existed.  *eye roll*
Yeah, well, in Verona, Italy, you can PAY to see "Juliet's tomb," an empty stone casket from the 1300s (the right time period for Shakespeare's version) which once held someone -- but that someone wasn't Juliet, as she was a complete work of fiction (not even Shakespeare's invention, as the oldest version of the tale dates back to ancient Greece).  At least foolish people don't have to pay to see this wincing angel, with or without its bird poop tears.
Personally, I find the idea of a tortured angel to be really creepy and Halloween-worthy.

(Yes, I paid to see Juliet's tomb.  But it was roastingly hot that day, and the crypt was cool and pleasant.  Plus we got our moneys' worth in great photos.)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Creepy Cemetery Photos To Inspire Your Halloween Writing

I take a lot of photos, not as many as Max does, but a LOT.  I also travel a lot.  And, for some reason, I take pictures of cemeteries.  A lot.
I have photos of band members on our dance tours climbing into unused graves in Italy, pictures of them lying supine on gravemarkers at Whitby Abbey (the famous graveyard mentioned in Dracula), shots of lonely, neglected headstones in the ghost town of Sego, Utah, shots of skulls in a neolithic tomb in the Orkney Islands, and some really odd graves in the Salt Lake City Cemetery.  I don't even remember when I started photographing stuff in graveyards; I've just done it for over 2 decades.
So, this week is Halloween, and I know there are other writers (and photographers) who read this blog. So I thought I'd share a few of my spooky photos with you this week.  (Maybe one of them will even inspire someone who plans to do NANWRIMO.)

To start off, here's this lovely faux-vintage number:

Spooky looking, isn't it?
It's actually a shot of an angel in the Mt. Olivet Cemetery near East High School in Salt Lake City.  I just used picmonkey to turn it into a pseudo-daguerreotype.

Here's another for your writing inspiration:

This is a shot of the interior of the ruins of Timoleague Abbey in Ireland.  The ruins are interesting enough, but the fact that I was greeted at the entrance with a large warning sign about the dangers of unlicensed gravedigging really blew my mind.  All around and about the abbey and the ground are centuries' worth of graves, modern ones on top of older ones.  And, apparently, there must be a significant problem with people digging graves by hand and just burying their loved ones without permits.  Freaky.

These 19th and early 20th century markers in the Heber City Cemetery in Utah remind me of giant chess pieces, waiting for -- possibly -- the Hand of God to move them.  Eerie.

And this grave in the Salt Lake City Cemetery is part of an urban legend.  Supposedly, if you visit this grave at midnight and walk backward around it three times, the face of the man buried there will appear in the little opening of the door.  Every high school kid knows someone who knows someone who has a neighbor/cousin/friend who swears s/he knows someone who did this and it worked.  (Personally, I've never tried it, but I bet that a visit to this tomb on Halloween would be very frightening -- if only because of the drunk/stoned people there trying to scare themselves into wetting their pants.)  But it's still rather creepy to see a grave that's supposedly haunted.

This concludes today's set of Halloween writing inspiration photos.  Check back again tomorrow for more spookiness!