Saturday, December 31, 2011

Auld Lang Syne: The Song That Everybody Sings But Hardly Anyone Seems To Understand

Thanks to Guy Lombardo -- and, yes, I'm old enough to remember watching his last few New Year's Eve broadcasts -- this song became associated with New Year's Eve.  But that's not what "Auld Lang Syne" is about.
When I was doing my research for my dissertation (called a thesis in the US) at the University of Edinburgh, I had to teach myself Scots -- at least to read it and to understand it, anyway.  I bought dictionaries, grammar books, drills, CDs with recorded accents -- and I studied them all so I could understand both the language itself and the basic concepts behind the use of it even when English has been force-taught in Scottish schools for four centuries.  (All this had to do with my dissertation, if you're wondering.)
One of the results is that I can read Robert Burns' poetry now without needing a translation.  (Another is that I don't have to read the subtitles on youtube videos of Susan Boyle interviews.)
In Scotland, "Auld Lang Syne" isn't just for New Year's Eve; it's used for formal occasions to bid farewell.  (And if you're with the right group of people, it can get a bit violent.  It's usually sung with everyone in a circle, hands crossed and holding onto those of the person next to you.  Some groups I've been in like to drag participants in and out of the circle on the chorus, trying to see who can remain standing.  It's rather fun.)
However, the song lyrics aren't actually about saying goodbye; they're about seeing an old friend one recalls from childhood after many years have passed -- and about having a few drinks to celebrate the occasion.  (They ARE Scots, you know.  Binge drinking is a Scottish national pastime.)
So, let's ring in 2012 with a little ditty from 1788 in the original Scots:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, 
And never brought to mind? 
Should auld acquaintance be forgot, 
And auld lang syne! 

Chorus.-For auld lang syne, my dear, 
For auld lang syne. 
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet, 
For auld lang syne. 

And surely ye'll be your pint stowp! 
And surely I'll be mine! 
And we'll tak a cup o'kindness yet, 
For auld lang syne. 
For auld, &c. 

We twa hae run about the braes, 
And pou'd the gowans fine; 
But we've wander'd mony a weary fit, 
Sin' auld lang syne. 
For auld, &c. 

We twa hae paidl'd in the burn, 
Frae morning sun till dine; 
But seas between us braid hae roar'd 
Sin' auld lang syne. 
For auld, &c. 

And there's a hand, my trusty fere! 
And gie's a hand o' thine! 
And we'll tak a right gude-willie waught, 
For auld lang syne. 
For auld, &c.

Here's an out-of-sync video of one of my favorite versions: Boney M. (Note: they mispronounce the word "gies" in it, though.)  I love how they preserve the upbeat nature of the song.
I also like this Pink Martini version of the song.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Cover Work

Today Dad and I worked on the covers for two of my upcoming releases.  I think we made some definite progress, even given the limited photo software I own.  (I've got to get the pixelmator app.)

Here's the temp cover of All in the Half-Vampire Family:

And here's how it looks now:

Since I already know what the back needs to look like, it shouldn't take Max long to get this one into form for me.  And then, seriously, I'm maybe one more revision away from getting this thing into a proof copy at Create Space.

Here's the old cover of Becoming Brigid (with lettering I never really liked):

And here's how we fixed it up today:

Much improved, don't you think?

Now, if I can just figure out how to get the back cover for Brigid to look like I want it to, then Max can set it up for the 6"x9" for me, and I'll just about be ready to start making proof copies on Create Space.

In other fantastic news, the 5th proof copy of Half-Vampire -- the replacement one for #4 where they left off 95 pages -- arrived today.  This means that over the weekend, I've got to grade papers, have academic team practice, clean the house, copy edit Half-Vampire ONE MORE TIME, revise Brigid, edit/revise HV Family, and read a galley copy of a book sent to me by an author who needs a review.  Hey, no sweat.  (NOT.)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

An Independent Bookstore Has Agreed To Carry My Indie Book!!

Frost's Books -- I've shopped there since I used to go in holding Mommy's hand and look at the pop-up books.
It's still a family business, and the current owner is Richard Frost, who's long been high up on my list of favorite people with whom to gab about books.  Over the years, I've recommended many, many books to him.
Today I was in to buy 2012 calendars for my home and classroom.  (Frost's always has a HUGE selection of inexpensive calendars. I always buy my calendars there.)  And I decided to test the waters about my book.  To my great delight, Richard immediately said, "We'll support you!" and agreed to try selling a couple of copies of Confessions of an Average Half-Vampire, as soon as I can get the POD out.
I am not at all surprised, for Richard told me years ago he'd sell my books if I could ever get them published.  But I am still very pleased.
Happy thoughts for today: I'll have my book for sale in at least one brick and mortar store!

Situational Irony: Christianity In Bethlehem This Week

Okay, so Christmas is one of the biggest holidays of the year for the Christian world -- even though most of how we celebrate Christmas is actually pagan (Dec. 25, trees, greenery, lights, gifts -- all pagan.  Gotta love that irony, too.).  And Bethlehem is where it all began.....
So, I found this pic on yahoo today: Greek and Armenian priests, cleaning up a Bethlehem church they share with Catholics, broke into an all-out broom war this week over who was cleaning whose part of the church.
The whole thing had to be broken up by Palestinian police, who are, presumably, Muslim.
The layers of irony here are just too much.  It'd be hilarious if it weren't so petty and childish -- and sad.
(And this image just makes me think of Harry Potter.  Maybe it was really students fighting at Hogwarts and Dumbledore had to break it up.....)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tales of Vampires and Goddesses

So, after several days of e-mails back and forth to CreateSpace -- and their taking 2 days off for the holiday -- I just received word that the techy folks there have located and (supposedly) fixed the problem that caused only the first 108 pages of my book to be printed for proof #4 and have shipped off (free) by Priority proof #5.
I am SO glad I didn't just approve the last set up without seeing the proof!!  I really wanted to, as I am sick of fixing things in this book, but my good sense won out, and I was spared tons of headache.  As it was, I only had to deal with a bad proof.  I hate to think what a mess I'd have had if we'd ordered books like that for school!  ugh.
So, Confessions of an Average Half-Vampire will not be our school's January book of the month.  (groan) But I certainly hope to have it up and running for February's book of the month.
In the meantime, however, I've started working up back covers for both Half-Vampire Family and Becoming Brigid, plus I finished a MAJOR revision of HV Family last night.
The way things are going Family might be ready to roll almost as soon as the POD of Half-Vampire is out. That might be fun.

In the meantime, I really would love your input here about the cover blurb for HV Family.  Please??

Monday, December 26, 2011

Your Opinions Requested, Please

Bound into inactivity on Half-Vampire by CreateSpace's shutting over the holidays, I've turned to chipping away a little at fixing up the sequel, All In The Half-Vampire Family.
Until last night, I had never attempted a hook/book blurb for this volume, but now I present it to you, my readers.

Think you’ve got a weird family?

Eric’s mother is clearly in love with his own first-cousin-once-removed, Patrick, who just happens to be a vampire.  Eric thinks Patrick would be the world’s coolest step-dad, but Mom’s in no mood for matrimony.  Worse than that, her side of the family hasn’t spoken with her in Eric’s entire lifetime -- at least until Eric and his waaaaay too attractive cousin Ari both win a piano competition that takes them to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.  And into the path of Eric’s biological father, a vampire who’s recently taken to attacking the locals at night.  Worse still, Ari finds him eeriely charming.
Can an accidental family reunion get any stranger than this?  Eric doesn’t think so.  And neither does the self-proclaimed vampire hunter staying right next door to him in the dorm.

It’s going to be one heck of a summer vacation.

What do you think?  Would this catch your interest on the back of a book or on an Amazon page?  Does it make you want to open the book to find out more?
Suggestions, please.  :)

UPDATE:  12/27/11
Let's touch this up a bit and try again:

Think you’ve got a weird family?

Eric’s mother is clearly in love with Patrick, who just happens to be Eric's first cousin once removed.  And a vampire.  Eric thinks Patrick would be the world’s coolest step-dad, but Mom’s in no mood for matrimony.  Worse than that, her side of the family hasn’t spoken with her in Eric’s entire lifetime -- at least not until Eric and his way-too-attractive cousin Ari both win a piano competition that takes them to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.  And into the path of Eric’s biological father, a vampire who’s recently taken to attacking the locals at night.  Eric's creepy dad finds Ari attractive.  Not to mention tasty.
Can an accidental family reunion get any stranger than this?  Eric doesn’t think so.  And neither does the self-proclaimed vampire hunter staying right next door to him in the dorm.

It’s going to be one heck of a summer vacation.

What do you think now?

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Lasagna

Every year, Mom worries herself nearly sick over the food parts of the holidays.  She's really too old now to cook a traditional turkey dinner without help or wearing herself out.  And she refuses to admit that I'm over 15 and a good cook capable of cooking a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner in her stead.
The Thanksgiving problem this year was averted, as my brother kindly invited Mom and Dad to his place (out of state) for dinner, and my sister-in-law is an awesome cook.  Mom didn't have to do any of it.
But then we have Christmas.
Mom has agonized for weeks over whether or not we should go out for Christmas Eve dinner or if she should attempt a scaled-down meal.  She would not hear of my cooking a turkey.
But Dad apparently complained about going out, not wanting to face the crowds on Christmas weekend, and I had bought a whole lot of possible stuff to "just happen to cook up" for Christmas.
Finally, late on the night of Dec. 23, I convinced Mom to let me cook lasagna.
Now, quite frankly, my lasagna does take awhile to cook (cook the noodles, cook the turkey sausage, mix all the cheeses, season, thaw and squeeze the spinach all before baking -- and that's when I just use canned sauce), but the clean up is a lot less than that of a turkey dinner.
So, Christmas Eve dinner this year was lasagna.  And Mom even liked it.  :)

UPDATE:  The recipe for this can now be found here.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

I Am NOT A Happy Camper Today

Piles and piles of grading.
Have to miss a family party.
Proof #4 of Half-Vamp just arrived AND IT'S MISSING OVER 100 PAGES!!!  There's nothing wrong with the PDF, and the createspace folks are unlikely to want to help or even answer my e-mail today -- or possibly until January.
It's a beautiful day outside and I'd like to be out doing something, but it's not going to happen.

UPDATE: 12/24/11 at 2:00 PM
I've continued to correspond with the createspace folks.  I've told them that I can certainly upload my PDF again, but what I need from them is to figure out what happened so that it does not happen again (cutting off everything from page 108 onward in the book, actually a total of 95 pages-- I exaggerated a bit yesterday.  sorry) and that I think I should not be charged for proof #5, as the messed-up proof #4 was their fault and not mine.  Yes, it only amounts to $6.88, but it's still their fault and not my fault.
I hadn't heard from them today, so I sent another e-mail asking if I should just expect it to be dealt with next week, and I got this reply, with at least some constructive directions in it:

Hello Lisa,

Thank you for contacting us concerning the missing pages from your last proof. 

We are still investigating this issue, and you have not been forgotten.To help us be able to complete a proper investigation, please do not upload or resubmit any files. We need to look at what happened in the process with the current files.You should receive a response to your original inquiry soon, and I sincerely appreciate your continued patience.

If you have any other questions or concerns please feel free to contact us again.

Best Regards,

Member Services Associate

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Maybe That Wasn't Such A Good Idea

I'm actually half-ill from the horrendous amount of stress of this past week.  I brought home an entire tote bag full of stuff to grade, and I've had very little sleep.  (Seriously, I went to bed at 10:30 Tuesday night, woke up at 2:30, gave up and got up at 3:20, and worked non-stop at school from 6:12 AM to 5:40 PM.)
I had to go grocery shopping today, so, to try to help myself cheer up a little, I bought a little treat that I thought would be non-fattening: a chocolate-scented candle.
I put it on the candle warmer, and now my whole house smells like chocolate brownies are baking in the oven.
Oh my.  This is so not good.
Now all I want is chocolate brownies.
I should've stuck with pine-scented.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Trying Not To Scream

Self-publishing is HARD!!!
I wrote the book and designed the cover.  I've formatted, and re-formatted, and re-formatted until I've figured out how to configure everything for both Kindle and Create Space.  I've edited and copy edited over and over and over again.  Traditionally published folks get to have other people do this for them -- I could, too, if I wanted to pay horrendous fees.
I always thought of writing as a hobby, but it's like having a second job!  I've spent hours and hours, re-reading Half-Vampire some 13 times since last June.  I have STACKS of essays and tests and projects that lie ungraded right now because I'm so behind -- because I've had to spend so much time on the book!  (The librarian really wants paperbacks available by next week so that he can buy a bunch to use as a book of the month for January.)
At times over the last few months, I've been so sick of this book that I've wanted to throw it someplace and not look at it again for a year.
I just submitted another ePub file to Kindle and another PDF to Create Space.  I hope to heaven that THIS time I've finally fixed everything and that I can really start promoting the book -- especially since the librarian wants t-shirts and bookmarks, etc.
And maybe then I can start working on my other manuscripts that have been so neglected.
Oh yeah.  And grade some papers.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Photo Mysteries: A Writers' Game #5

All this week I've been posting  photos for readers to use for the shortest flash fiction.  Just think up a title and one line of a story to go with the photo.
You can look back at the other photos this week here for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

And here's today's photo:

My title: Rising Heat
My single line of the story: The key!  Shelley reached for it as the machine digits raced toward 360 degrees.

Your turn!  Post your title and your single line in the comments section.  :)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Photo Mysteries: A Writers' Game #4

This week I've been having fun setting up a game with photo captions and single line stories.  Not too many of you have tried participating yet, but I'm still hoping you'll join in.
Here are the ones from Monday, and from Tuesday, and from yesterday.
And here's today's:

Title: An Afternoon In The Woods
Single Line:  Robert stared longingly at the old cabin.  Something about the KEEP OUT sign just beckoned to him.

Your turn:  Create a title and a single line to hint at a story for this photo and share it with us in the comments.  (Please?)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


I just attempted to upgrade my Kindle version of Half-Vampire after making NUMEROUS corrections to it and getting it looking sharp on Pages.  I was a bit nervous because every single time I'd done this with Word, I'd had problem after problem after problem.  The first time Max and I tried to upload it, it took us hours to get it looking half-decent.
But Pages is made by Macintosh.  I should've known not to worry.
Pages to ePub: 2 clicks.
ePub to Kindle: 30 seconds to upload.  (Compared to five minutes with Word.  I kid you not.)
Every page I previewed: perfect.  (Okay, granted, I didn't look at the whole thing.  But the paragraph indentations were actually correct this time!)
The new version will be up for sale within 48 hours.

And that's good -- because I just might be in the Salt Lake Tribune within a few days.
Yeah, you read that right.
The two 8th-grade English teachers at our school really like NaNoWriMo for kids, so they have the whole eighth grade participate.  One of the teachers gets really into it, and he's also the guy who did some copy editing for me over the summer.  I've given him tons of pointers on how to get the kids formatting correctly so they don't have to go through what I did to get their books up on kindle.  I've also worked with him on cover stuff and basically taught him how to teach the kids to self-publish.  In return, he's been having his media productions students make a book trailer for me.
Then, after school today, he told me the Tribune is coming out to our school tomorrow to interview him about getting his students to write books, and he wants me to be there, as the example teacher who's written a book for the kids.
If the reporters use it, I might get a free line of local advertising in the newspaper.  How cool is that?
I'm excited.  :)

Photo Mysteries: A Writers' Game #3

Continuing this week's little game, I'm posting a third photo for your inspiration and amusement.
Here's how it works: you look at the photo and create a mini story to match it.  In the comments section, post the title and a single line of the story.  This is the flashiest of flash fiction ever, since it's incredibly short.
Here's Monday's photo.  And Tuesday's.  If you'd like to try those.

And for today, I give you this one:

My title for this piece is: The Case Of The Halloween Flamingo Terrorist
And my single line is: But the flamingo didn't move, and neither could she now.  Trapped!  They were all trapped on the floor!

Please, add yours in the comments section!  I'd be thrilled to see what you all come up with on this one.  ;)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Photo Mysteries: A Writers' Game #2

Yesterday I posted a photo and a writers' game wherein we take a photo and create just the title and one line of the story: very much a mini-flash fiction game.
Out of 209 visitors to the blog, I got two (count them: 2) comments on the game.
I could, of course, give up and assume that means that no one is interested.  But, no, I'm having too much fun picking photos for this, so we're going to do it all week!!!  Yea!
My hope is that perhaps with a little more choice, more of you will get into the spirit of things and try this.
So, here's yesterday's if you want to create a line for that photo.

And here's today's pic:

My title to the mini-story is: In The Graveyard.
My single line from the story is: He froze and looked again.  Was that actually a tear running down the statue's stone cheek, or was it a trick of the light?

Your turn.  In the comments section, please add your title and your single line of the story that goes with it.
(Maybe today we can get THREE entries!!!  Yeehaw!)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Photo Mysteries: A Writers' Game

Remember The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, the Chris Van Allsburg book with one illustration, a title, and one line of a story?  It was haunting, fabulous, intriguing -- and it inspired hundreds of readers to create their own stories.
I have the sudden urge to try something like that -- but I can't draw.
Fine, so I'm going to use photographs.

Here's how we'll play this little writers' game:
I'm going to give you a photo, a title, and a line.  Then, if you care to play the game, you'll add your title and your single line from your own story that might go with the photo (in the comments section).  If even five or six of my regular readers will try this, we could have a fun little list of the shortest flash fiction ever!
Wanna try?

Okay, here's the photo:

Title: "The Accidental Time-Tourist"
"If Great-Grandfather Alonzo could just translate the letter, Max knew he'd be able to put it into binary code, tap it out on the telegraph, and program the steam engine to take him home....."

Okay, your turn.  If you want to play along, create a title and one line for YOUR story for this photo.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

What Kind Of Reader Are You?

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm
You're probably in the final stages of a Ph.D. or otherwise finding a way to make your living out of reading. You are one of the literati. Other people's grammatical mistakes make you insane.
Dedicated Reader
Literate Good Citizen
Book Snob
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

I saw this quiz on muchedlovedbook and couldn't resist taking it.  :)
Yeah, that about sums things up, I think.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Exciting Life Of An English Teacher

Between academic team and grading papers, I've been short on sleep -- as usual -- this week.  But this afternoon I got caught up on all the "quick" grading at school (grammar assignments and vocab tests that don't require much effort to grade, as opposed to essays and projects, which do), and I'd promised myself a few hours to type up the changes to Half-Vampire so I could submit the PDF for the third proof (sigh).
But by chapter nine, my eyes were stinging and I couldn't think straight to make difficult decisions on cuts anymore.  I knew it was very late and I'd better get to bed.  I checked the time: 7:19.
Oh yeah.
Another wild and crazy Friday night for me.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Day That Will Live In Infamy

Monday my ninth graders were copying down their latest vocabulary list, and one of the words was "infamous."  One boy, as he copied, recited FDR's famous declaration about December 7 -- and, yes, the boy knew what the day was.
Seventy years ago this week, my mother sat in her high school class and heard their principal announce over the PA system that the US was going to war against Japan.  She can't recall what she was doing 20 years later when JFK was shot, but the moment of that announcement about what we now call World War II is burned forever in her mind.  By the time she graduated from high  school, only two boys were left to walk with the class; the others had been snatched up as soon as they turned 18 and shipped off to basic training, not even being allowed to finish high school.  Two of her classmates lied about their ages, dropped out of high school, and joined the army at 16.  Both were killed at Iwo Jima before the day they would have graduated if there had been no war.
Dad has no strong memory of Pearl Harbor Day.  But he was already in basic training within some 6 months of the event.  As he told me Monday evening, the main reason he survived fighting the Japanese in Bouganville and in Manilla (Dad was part of the group that liberated the prisoners in the last Japanese stronghold at the University.) was because he was a farm boy.  He shot second best out of 3000 new recruits and -- thanks to hours shoveling manure -- he could dig a foxhole mighty fast.
And thanks to Dad and lots of his buddies, that ninth-grade boy in my class is free to learn about infamy and many other things -- even Japanese,  if he chooses -- in freedom.
My parents' generation truly was "the greatest generation."
Dad plans to put on his WWII vet baseball cap and walk down the street today -- because he still can.
Know a WWII Allied vet?  Give him a hug today.  The world's a better place because of what he risked.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Typo Gremlins Have Been At Work Again

I really thought I'd have the Half-Vampire POD ready for sale this week.  Our librarian is pressuring me to release it, as he wants to buy a bunch for contests at school.  And I have several people who want to buy them as Christmas presents.  Not to mention the fact that my seventh-graders are actually whining about how long it's taking me to get it for sale.
But I keep finding more and more typos.  I swear they weren't there before!  I think the typo cybergremlins are sneaking in and messing things up for me, not at all unlike the gremlins who attacked aircraft in WWII.
And so I am reading my own book for what must be the tenth time since last June.  I'm heartily sick of it by now, so I hope I'm not overlooking things still, or else I'll have to do this yet again and have not just a 3rd proof copy but also a 4th.  (Perish the thought!)  By sneaking in a little reading time in between grading tons and tons of tests this weekend, I managed to reach chapter 10.  I hope to have it finished and to order a proof #3 by next weekend.
Fingers crossed.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Sophie Tucker Just Made A New Fan

If she hadn't died decades before normal folks had ever heard of the internet, I'd be bookmarking her blog right now.  Sophie Tucker, I've just discovered, was quite a gal.
Brain-fried on grading essays (mid-terms are due Monday.  Bleck.) and too tired to make a decision as to whether or not I can live with the remaining small irritations in Half-Vampire, I was working on a scene for my WIP, The (Dis)Appearance of Nerissa MacKay, which needs some 1920s music.  I had a ton of Eddie Cantor and a few Josephine Baker and Fanny Brice hits on my iTunes, but not much else from that decade, so I did a yahoo search for popular singers of the 1920s.  Sophie Tucker's name appeared, and, not knowing anything about her, I began searching through amazon's mp3 download page.
Oh my goodness.  What hits.  What a delightful, refreshing person!
She seemed to have a really good grasp of a woman's reality in this world, as is evidenced by the following quote (and by the song lyrics below), "From birth to age eighteen, a girl needs good parents. From eighteen to thirty-five she needs good looks. From thirty-five to fifty-five, she needs a good personality. From fifty-five on, she needs good cash."

Songs I'll be buying soon include:
"Middle Age Mambo"
"Hello, My Baby"
"Red Hot Mama"
"You Can't Deep Freeze A Red Hot Mama"
"Sophie Tucker School For Red Hot Mamas"
"I'm Living Alone And I Like It"
And this hilariously true little ditty "Nobody Loves A Fat Girl"

Nobody loves a fat girl
But oh how a fat girl can love
Nobody seems to want me
I'm just a truck upon the highway of love

I'm all alone inside of my form
When ev'ry ounce of me is dyin' to keep somebody warm
Nobody loves a fat girl
But oh how a fat girl can love
[ Lyrics from: ]
Nobody loves a fat girl
But oh how a fat girl can love
Nobody seems to want me
I'm just a truck upon the highway of love
The only game I can get the boys to play
Is to have them sit around and try to guess how much I weigh
Nobody loves a fat girl
But oh how a fat girl can love, pretty mama
Oh how a fat girl can love

I am SO going to be a fan forever now.  What a discovery!
Does anyone else have singers/groups from the early days of recording on their iPods?

UPDATE 12/4: I bought the songs and have been happily listening to them while I grade papers.  :)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Proof Number Two Came Today

So I now have my second proof copy of Confession of an Average Half-Vampire.  If I can EVER get all the essays graded and mid-terms done this week (I am SWAMPED!!!), I'll proofread this one.  If it's workable, I can approve it on create space and then the physical book will FINALLY be for sale.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

And... The Second Proof Copy Is Now Ordered

After two weeks of scraping little bits of time to hunt out all the little spacing errors left over from formatting issues in the book, I finally submitted a new PDF of Confessions of an Average Half-Vampire to create space.  They approved it this morning, with this odd little note that the type face on the spine was too large.  I find this odd indeed, as I didn't do anything to the cover PDF and didn't even resubmit it.  If the cover was okay last time and the number of pages in the book has not changed, why is the spine size different this time???  Weird.
At any rate, I have now ordered a second proof copy, which I hope will be error-free so that I can soon actually have the POD up for sale.
What's my next step?  As soon as I get a minute this week, I'll be off to my favorite silk screen printing company to talk to them about t-shirts and bookmarks and buttons (oh my!).  At that point, we can start a few contests, both at school and here on the blog.  (Oh, and goodreads, too.  I can give away a copy on goodreads.  That seems to be a pretty popular way to get word out about books.)

Friday, November 25, 2011

What's Been Your Weirdest Writing Inspiration?

I finally found a few moments tonight to have a look at my Nerissa MacKay WIP after two months without even touching it, and I realized I need to make it longer than I originally intended.  I had scribbled a note to myself about adding in two more conflicts, and tonight I decided to flesh those out into at least longer notes.  My inspirations ended up coming from the Monster High Ghoulia Yelps doll

and a playlist that includes songs by The Beatles, ABBA, Justin Bieber, Bj√∂rk, Nellie McKay, Olivia Newton-John, The Supremes, Survivor, and Sting.  (Yeah, I have eclectic music tastes.)  In fact, the doll photo suggested an entire new character, and the arrangement of the playlist suggested the rough outline of a scene or maybe even a chapter.
And yet I'm laughing at the absurdity of this combination even as I type.  But, of course, the entire plot of Half-Vampire was originally suggested by a golf glove and reflexive pronouns, so I guess this isn't too bizarre.  Still.....
Have any of you used writing inspirations weirder than these?

Goals For Black Friday

1. Finish making the edits on Half-Vampire (I found several mistakes in the proof copy and used this as a chance for ONE MORE edit of the book) and submit the new PDF.
2. Grade at least 6 tests for each class.
3. Clean the bathroom and living room.
4. Take down Thanksgiving decorations and put up Christmas decorations.

I did my Christmas shopping last week.  In my pajamas.  Online.  There were no parking hassles.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Bard And Medicine

I am a HUGE Shakespeare fan; I've read so many biographies and studies of his works and taken so many university classes on him that it's hard to remember all of them.  Hence, this yahoo news article today amused and pleased me a good deal:

Doctors should read up on Shakespeare, according to an unusual medical study that says the Bard was exceptionally skilled at spotting psychosomatic symptoms.
Kenneth Heaton, a doctor at the University of Bristol in western England, trawled through all 42 of Shakespeare's major works and 46 genre-matched works by contemporaries.
He found Shakespeare stood out for his ability to link physical symptoms and mental distress.
Vertigo, giddiness or dizziness is expressed by five male characters in the throes of emotional disturbance, in "The Taming of the Shrew", "Romeo and Juliet", "Henry VI Part 1", "Cymbeline", and "Troilus and Cressida".
Eleven instances of breathlessness linked to extreme emotions are found in "Two Gentlemen of Verona", "The Rape of Lucrece", "Venus and Adonis" and "Troilus and Cressida".
Grief or distress is conveyed through symptoms of fatigue in "Hamlet", "The Merchant of Venice", "As You Like It", "Richard II" and "Henry IV Part 2".
Disturbed hearing at a time of mental crisis crops up in "King Lear", "Richard II" and "King John".
Meanwhile, coldness and faintness, emblematic of deep shock, occur in "Romeo and Juliet", "Julius Caesar", "Richard III" and elsewhere.
"Shakespeare's perception that numbness and enhanced sensation can have a psychological origin seems not to have been shared by his contemporaries, none of whom included such phenomena in the works examined," Heaton observes.
Shakespeare can help doctors today who face patients whose physical state masks underlying emotional problems, he suggests.
"Many doctors are reluctant to attribute physical symptoms to emotional disturbance, and this results in delayed diagnosis, overinvestigation, and inappropriate treatment," Heaton points out.
"They could learn to be better doctors by studying Shakespeare. This is important because the so-called functional symptoms are the leading cause of general practitioner visits and of referrals to specialists."
The study appears on Wednesday in a British publication, the Journal of Medical Humanities.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Six Countries Today

This is still a very new blog, so it doesn't get more than 50 hits a day just yet.  But today we set a new record for this blog: visitors from 6 different countries: the US, Japan, Russia (I get views from Russia every single day on this blog.  Hi there to whoever you Russians are!  Thanks for dropping by.  Leave a comment sometime.), Canada, Germany, and the UK.
Not a bad round up for such a new little blog.  :)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Nostalgic For A Time When Guys Dressed Neatly (Or The Hardy Boys And The Case Of The Disappearing Personal Neatness Standards)

Once upon a time I had a personal blog that combined my writing, my travel, and everything else.  It got anywhere from 200 to 750 hits a day and had a few really popular posts.
Tonight I glanced over some old posts from this now-defunct and offline blog and found one that I recall well. I'd like to re-post it here, as I think it's worth leaving for the public (and it had had hundreds of hits before the blog went offline).
Before I begin, please note that I did not take any of the photos in this post.  They are either pulled from yahoo images or else pics of pics from my old yearbooks.
So, from October of 2010, I give you this post:

I can't even recall now why I did it, but about 10 days ago, I requested from the local library the DVDs of the first season of the Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew shows from the 1970s.  I've made it through about 3 episodes of the Hardy Boys now (while I exercise), and I keep thinking how nice every man in the whole thing looks -- in spite of the stupid six-inch collars.  Every single time I've watched part of an episode this week, I've thought the same thing.  So I asked myself, "Is this just because you once had a major crush on Shaun Cassidy?"  So, in the most surreal event of my week, I found Shaun Cassidy clips on youtube and watched a few.  (Bizarre beyond words to watch something where the songs don't even exist yet in digitized format but are on youtube.  Really, these clips were made before any ordinary person even had a VCR.)  But that was more than 3 decades ago, and now I keep thinking how nice ALL the men in the shows look.  It had to be something else.
Finally it occurred to me that it was how the men dressed: neatly, with pants that fit them, shirts tucked in, and colors, patterns, and textures that matched each other.

Young men don't dress that way now, and they haven't for years.
Just look at this: all of them are wearing pants that fit and clothes that match!  Amazing!

They look nice.  Yet if I were to show this to boys I teach, they would automatically announce the guys looked gay -- because apparently, today, only gay young men are allowed to dress nicely.
It wasn't always this way.  I went to high school in the early 80s when you were either prep, punk, or urban surfer.  Most kids were prep.  And prep was neat and tidy.

Okay, so this is a picture of a picture.  I couldn't find any decent, REAL 80s pics of teens on the web, so I pulled out old yearbooks.  Notice how these kids are all wearing pants that fit them?
But it wasn't just when kids dressed up for photo day.  No, ordinary candids reveal that it was normal to have nice, tidy clothing on -- even for the boys.

These are guys waiting to register for classes at the beginning of the year.  (Yes, that's a shadow of grass.  I had to take my yearbook outside to get enough light to snap these.  Deal with it.)
Here's the winter carnival -- a bunch of ordinary guys out messing around in the snow.  But their pants fit them and their shirts are tucked in.  Look!  Their shoes are even tied!!  (Okay, I had to put this picture in because I had the crush of all crushes on that Latino boy on the far right.  Oh, be still, my beating heart!  He was a sweetie. )
And here's one where they're all dressed up and still looking nice, not wild.

So what happened?
Well, the late 80s brought us this guy:

And suddenly every boy wanted to wear hammerpants.
They were hideous but apparently comfortable.  I hoped the style would soon pass into something else.  It did, but unfortunately, it was the gangster look.  And for more than a decade I have looked at teenage boys who dressed like this: (or tried to anyway -- we keep rope at school to make kids tie up their pants when they "don't have" belts)
Shirts untucked, pants four sizes too large and hanging with the crotch near the knees, shoes mostly untied -- the boys slop around like this.  They also wear silky basketball shorts so loose and long they look like skirts, or else plaid Bermuda shorts with striped polo shirts.  They wear plaid shirts over printed tees and huge, baggy hoodies.  It is a rare boy indeed who ever wears a sweater to school.  And the only time they tuck their shirts in is when they're wearing dress clothes for game days.  (All teams at our school have the team members dress up on game days.)
Could it get much worse?  Ah, yes.
The last two years have brought the skater look to our school.  Now only most of the boys wear pants too big; the other group wears pants too small.  Skin-tight jeans, often in bright colors, and too small to fit over the bum are what these boys favor.  The crotch of their pants is now at mid-thigh, making it hard to walk normally (heaven only knows how they skate in these things.).  It's new.  It's emo.  It's just as ugly as everything else has been for over 2 decades.
Please, oh ye gods of fashion!

I'll even take the massive collars and the flared pant bottoms.  Just give us men who dress neatly again!!

Monday, November 14, 2011

My First Book Talk

Last week I had my first "official" book group with students.  Until this point, everything had been in a classroom setting with kids asking me questions about my books, but this was fairly formal.
Our school has a Kindle club for kids who've met various requirements through the school library.  One of the books on the kids' Kindles is Confessions of an Average Half-Vampire.  Our school's English department head is in charge of getting the kids together twice a month and discussing their books with them.  And this time, they'd chosen to read Half-Vampire.  It was a last-minute switch, really.  She'd forgotten to write up some discussion questions, and it was really easier for her to offer to monitor my seventh-graders who were taking one of those weekly government-mandated standardized tests in a computer lab than to write up questions.  And, obviously, I could think up discussion questions about my own book without a whole lot of effort.  Besides-- standardized tests vs. munching treats and discussing vampires: where would you rather be?  Duh.
I learned a few things from the perspectives of these kids (good readers who weren't afraid to speak their minds).  The ninth-grade girls all thought Eric was immature.  The eighth-grade boys didn't think so at all.  (I smiled at this.)  One eighth-grade boy was so pleased that Eric was so easy to understand; it had never occurred to him that Eric speaks just like the kids at our school, since that's the kid speech wherein I am most fluent.
That same boy was dying to know where I'd gotten the idea for the telekinesis.  That was something I hadn't thought about in years, so it made me laugh to tell him the truth.  When I was just barely beginning the book -- handwritten in a Mead spiral-bound notebook -- all my ninth-graders were very into giving me suggestions.  A boy named Eric (on whom the fictional Eric's looks are indeed based) was a TA for the French teacher during my consultation period (a time for meetings, lesson prep, and grading papers).  One day during this consultation period I was sitting at my desk, grading tests, when he, wearing a TA pass, came into the room, slapped his hand down on my desk, leaned over to look me straight in the eye, and -- without any kind of lead-in, said, "I want telekinesis!"
I nodded and said, "Yeah, we can do that."
And he left the room.
That was it.
The kids listening in the library last week thought that was hilarious, but it was the truth.  To this day, I do not know what prompted that boy to demand that power for his fictional and much-altered alter-ego, but that's how it happened.
I know a fair amount of authors write on their blogs that they fear public speaking and/or school visits, and some authors don't have a clue how to talk to kids.  (There is a local author of some fame who used to make a lot of grade school visits in the valley.  My students unanimously agree that he came across as unbelievably arrogant and dislikable.)  Obviously, I have neither of these problems.  I hope sometime to be able to talk to kids who are not at my own school about my books, but that will have to wait for a future date.  :)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

What I'd Like To See As A REAL Book Challenge

I follow a lot of book review/author/agent blogs, and I'm finding that book challenges seem to be "in" right now.  We have challenges to read a certain number of books during the year, challenges to read dystopias, challenges to read indie books, challenges to read debut authors.
These are all fine, but they seem to be mostly (the indie books excepted here) perpetuating already over-done things.  Folks, the YA book market is GLUTTED with dystopias right now, and more than half the new books I see have strong romantic themes and are geared for girls.  It seems the message everyone is sending kids right now is that you either have to read romance or destruction.  Yes, there are some exceptions: Shelter by Harlan Corben was a good, old-fashioned boys' spy/thriller. Plain Kate by Erin Bow was fantasy without a hint of romance in it.
Here's the challenge I'd like to see: If you're an author, try writing something that's not a dystopia or a romance if you're writing for YA.  Try showing friendships instead of romance, or try showing that teen romance rarely ever works out (because it usually doesn't).  Try some unrequited love.  And how about a mystery or a historical book instead of more dystopia?  If you're a reader, how about finding and promoting good YA fiction that doesn't follow what everyone else is doing?
Sure, yeah, it's easy for me to say this.  After all, Confessions of an Average Half-Vampire is a boys' book that's not about romance or dystopia.  I'm sort of promoting my own book.
But the reader and teacher sides of me (rather than the writer portion) are getting bogged down by sameness in YA.  I'd really, really like to see more fresh stuff rather than dystopia ad infinitum and yet even more books wherein some girl tries to choose between the good-but-boring boy and the rebel-without-a-clue boy.  (Oh, look!  I just summed up the entire plot of Matched! And Enclave!)  Let's shake things up a bit.  How about a boy who has to choose among 3 girls and who lives in a utopia but can't stand the monotony of the place?  How about a historical thriller or an alternate history that does not involve dystopia?  How about a modernized version of an alien invasion? Something fresh?  Something different?
Now, I'd don't have scads of followers at the moment, and this blog still only gets 30 or fewer hits on most days.  But if you're a reader or a writer of YA fiction and you see this, will you take my challenge and either create or promote something different in 2012?  Yes, I'm going to do it myself and keep working on my WIP, The (Dis)appearance of Nerissa MacKay, making sure it does not develop into a predictable romance (girl decides between two boys), and it's most certainly not a dystopia!  And I promise to keep hunting for good YA that's not dystopia or romance.
Is anyone else up for this challenge?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Proof Copy Came Today!!!

Today I worked 12 hours: teaching, coaching academic team, then doing hair and make up for the school play.  I was exhausted.  But there waiting for me at home was the package from Create Space!!!!
I felt like doing Snoopy's suppertime dance.  After all, I've worked on this book for eight long years, and now I FINALLY get to hold a printed copy in my hands!!!  Wow.  So unbelievably cool.
My family said it was "nice."
I've gazed at its glory for 15 minutes straight, and they call it "nice."  Not quite sharing my excitement, eh?
Fine.  I can get my students psyched up about it tomorrow.  They'll think it's cool.
In the meantime, I think I'll have to put it next to the alarm clock so it'll be there for me to check that it's real when I wake up in the morning.  :)

Monday, November 7, 2011

I Just Know There's A Book Waiting To Be Written From This....

It's no secret that authors pull ideas from real life -- and often that real life is some news event.  Even Charles Brockden Brown, who I believe may very well have been America's first novelist, got his idea for Wieland from a newspaper article about a real man who, rather like Andrea Yates a decade ago, thought that God had told him to kill all his children.
Less horrific but still an awesome idea for a novel is this little article I pulled from a yahoo news article this morning:

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia's Interior Ministry says police have arrested a man who kept 29 mummified bodies at his apartment and dressed them up like dolls.
Ministry spokesman Valery Gribakin said Monday that the suspect from the Volga River city of Nizhny Novgorod dug up the bodies at several cemeteries in the region. The man, whose identity was withheld, dressed them in clothes dug up from the graves.
Gribakin said that the suspect is a historian who has authored several books. He said the arrest followed a police probe into the desecration of graves in the region, which was initially blamed on extremist groups. Nizhny Novgorod is located about 250 miles (400 kilometers) east of Moscow.
Russian media reports quoted police as saying that the man only had selected the remains of young women for his grisly collection.

Oh yeah.  This is definitely a novel in the making.  But I don't know if I'm the one who's going to write it or not.
But then again, it's sort of "A Rose For Emily," isn't it?  Maybe this is really just life imitating art.  Thoughts, anyone?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Holy Hantavirus, Batman!

Today (in the snow) I had to shut off the sprinkling system for the winter.  Unfortunately, when I took a screwdriver to pry off the lid of one of the automatic system control boxes, I found it filled the brim with acorns, peanut shells, snail shells, dead leaves, and one small rat looking up at me in a very irritated manner, since I'd just removed the roof of his house.
I know I should've stabbed the thing with the screwdriver, but I just couldn't.  I felt kind of bad for the little guy (understanding how Robert Burns once felt when he plowed over that mouse's nest -- however, Burns immortalized the mouse with a poem, and I'm just writing a blog post).  I sighed and went to get a bandana to cover my mouth, a small gardening trowel, a dust pan, and my oldest garden gloves (since I was going to throw them away after using them to dig through a rat's nest).  But when I returned, the little bugger was STILL there.  I had to poke him at with the screwdriver before he finally fled!
I then had a good 20 minutes of digging (with a miserable headache on top of everything else) to get all that stuff out of the sprinkler control box.  And afterwards, I had to spray all the tools and the box down with Lysol (which probably doesn't kill viruses anyway, but it made me feel a bit better), put out rat poison in the box and all around the bushes, and remove every single item of clothing (even my coat) and put them through the laundry in hopes of killing the virus.
And my main question here is, "If my neighbor's cat is in my yard all the time anyway, why the heck isn't he doing his job?!!!"
Unfortunately, it's probably going to be just my luck to have the rat eat the poison and then crawl back into the sprinkler box to die, instead of dying under a bush someplace where I won't have to dig him out and risk viral contamination again.
Oddly enough, though, in spite of the danger, rats just don't scare me the way spiders do.  Maybe if I had to deal with huge sewer rats it'd be different, but this thing was small, only a little bigger than a gerbil.  I've had way bigger rats than that before.  (Fortunately, none have ever gotten into the house.  Knock on wood.)