Friday, December 28, 2012

End Of The Year e-Giveaway!

Okay, I tried this over the Black Friday weekend, and no one cared.
Let's try again.
It's that between-the-holidays letdown time.  How about a gift for yourself now?  Or how about a gift for a kid?  A gift that doesn't require any shopping on your part or any battling snow and slush for a parking spot?  Then I have a contest for you!  Both Half-Vampire e-books and a song.  (Remember, if you win this to gift to a kid, said teenager does not have to have an e-reader; there are free kindle apps for phones.  Most of my students like to read on their itty-bitty phone screens.)

Here's what the winner will get:

3) An MP3 download of Eric's (that's the protagonist of both books, if you didn't already know that) favorite Scott Joplin song, "Maple Leaf Rag."  (The song's very important in H-V Family.)
You must have an Amazon account and you must be willing to give me the e-mail address associated with that account if you want your prizes.  I will delete all your personal information after I send the prizes.  (If you're under 13, you must have your parent enter for you.  If you are 13-18, please have your parents' permission before you enter.  I am not responsible for computer or website glitches.)

Okay, that's the business end of it.  Are you ready to enter?  Go for it!

UPDATE ON 12/29/12:  People, I am a school teacher.  I LOATHE CHEATERS!!!  I've already checked rafflecopter and removed FIVE people's entries because they CHEATED.  Look, folks, I can check pinterest and twitter and goodreads and my blog to see if you're actually following.  And if you enter the contest saying you follow but you're lying, I DELETE you.  (And I'm seriously tempted to publish names.  Honestly, this disgusts me.  How hard is it to click a follow button?)
Enter honestly.  If you don't, you won't win.  Period.  I will delete all lying entries.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas Lasagna: The Recipe

I've had at least one person arrive at my blog every day for the last 2 weeks after searching for "Christmas Lasagna."  I had no idea last year that this post would be so popular.  I've even had a couple of e-mail requests for recipes.
Thus, without further ado, here's my recipe for Christmas Lasagna.  (Do keep in mind that I'm not one of those people who measures everything exactly -- unless I'm making something finicky.  Lasagna is not finicky.)  (Also, this is not true lasagna, as I find working with true lasagna noodles to be irritating.  This is fake lasagna or lasagna casserole.  It's much easier.)

Pre-assembly (can be done the day before):
1) Cook about 16 oz. of your favorite macaroni and drain.
2) Mix 1 to 1 1/2 lbs. of freshly ground turkey breast with 1 to 2 teaspoons of Penzey's breakfast sausage seasoning.  Then cook, chopping up the meat into bite-sized chunks, and drain.
3) Thaw and squeeze until nearly dry about 16 oz. of frozen spinach.
4) Mix 16 oz. of low-fat ricotta cheese with about 12 oz. of non-fat cottage cheese.  Season with garlic, Penzey's pizza seasoning, and Penzey's black and red.  (Add extra dried red peppers if you like it hot.)

To assemble:
1) Take a hefty 9"x 13" baking pan (the one I prefer is about 3" deep) and spray with non-stick cooking spray.
2) Then cover the bottom with cooked macaroni -- no more than 1/2 an inch deep or the rest of the ingredients won't fit.
3) Layer the cooked turkey sausage over the macaroni.
4) Distribute blobs of the ricotta mixture evenly over the meat and macaroni. (You don't need to smooth it out; it will expand and melt as it cooks.)
5) Distribute the spinach over the top of the ricotta mixture.
6) Carefully pour 16 oz. of your favorite spaghetti sauce over the top of all, smoothing carefully with a spoon to cover the entire casserole.
7) Cut thin slices of sharp cheddar cheese and place on top of the sauce.
8) Refrigerate (covered) until ready to cook.

To cook:
I have an older oven, but I find that baking this at 325 F. for 45 minutes to an hour is about right.  If you have a newer, hotter oven -- especially if it's a convection oven -- cooking times may vary.  Just keep checking on it.  It's done when the top cheese is melty and when everything is gooey in the center.

Serve with a veggie tray and dips or a tossed salad.

Note: This can be made vegetarian (not vegan).  Simply either delete the turkey altogether or use cooked, seasoned TVP for a meat flavor.  (Don't use tofu.)

Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays

May this season find you with your chin up, your back to the weather, and your nose aglow for new horizons.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

My Before-The-New-Year Goals

Ideally, I'm going to clean the house, grade 3 classes' worth of tests, finish a second draft of The (Dis)Appearance of Nerissa MacKay, and get another revision done for another proof copy of Becoming Brigid so I can get it out to a copy editor (English teacher or other well-trained, English-doused friend) in January.  We'll see how it goes.
But I have finished 2 chapters of Brigid editing in 2 days so far.  And I fixed the vacuum.  That's a good start.

In other news, Sam at Falling Books is planning to post a review of All in the Half-Vampire Family and host a giveaway in the new year.  And Brigid Kemmerer has offered to do an interview with me as well.  :)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Best Limerick Of The Year

So, I usually teach poetry in November and December.  And to help my advanced 9th graders get a better grip on meter, I have them spend about half an hour writing limericks one day.  This lesson never fails to be a big hit.  Really -- silly, insulting poems with an annoying beat -- what more could they want?
Of course, I have to tell them that for school purposes, there limericks must be no worse than a PG13 rating.  This usually draws groans from the class.  And every year, I follow up those groans with the same joke: "This means, of course, that you may NOT write the famously unfinished limerick, 'There once was a girl from Nantucket.'"  Inevitably, there is about a 3 second pause while they all work through the possible rhymes for Nantucket, and then the laugh really loud and spring into action, determined to write a poem that cuts as close to the edge as possible without actually breaking the rules.
It's awesome.

But this year had an added twist, for one girl (an exceptionally bright one, I might add, as you can guess from the words of her limerick) handed me this delightful little bit of limerickery:

There once was a girl from Nantucket
Who told all the men they could chuck it.
The men, yes, those men,
Those embarrassing men --
Fools, next to the girl from Nantucket.

Supreme win on this one, I think.
I put a gold star on her forehead (the ultimate honor of humor in my classroom).

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Rules And Punishments For Wet, Crowded Parking Lots In December

I had to go to both the post office and the grocery store today, and, after fighting a wide variety of neanderthals and peasants, I have developed this list.

Rule #1: No one who doesn't actually need a handicapped spot shall be allowed to use said handicapped spot, even if the car in question has a handicapped sticker or license plate.  Offenders shall be chained to a wheelchair or a walker for a week to see how it feels.

Rule #2: Anyone who stands in an empty parking spot, yakking away to a friend, while forcing cars to idle waiting to get into a spot and then shouts cusswords at the drivers who dare to beep a horn at them shall be rolled in slush until soaked then left outside without a key for a period of not more than 2 hours.

Rule #3: Absurdly large SUVs and pickup trucks that fill up parking spaces clear to the yellow lines shall not be allowed at this time of year.  Violators shall have their vehicles redecorated by toddlers who have been provided with Disney-themed stickers.

Rule #4: Anyone who parks at an angle in order to prevent other cars from parking in spots next to them, thus taking three parking spaces for themselves, shall have photos of their license plates posted on Facebook and their home addresses given to 8th graders who have been provided with eggs.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Steampunk Stuff

I love steampunk, but I've had kind of a hard time finding steampunk books I really, really love.
I love Gail Carriger's Soulless series, but there's an awful lot of paranormal distracting the steampunk.  And, of course, it's not suitable for junior high school readers, so I can't put it in school.
I read Kenneth Oppel's Airborn and really liked it, but it's really more action/adventure than steampunk.  Still, it's good, and I've got it on my reading lists.  And the man writes very well.
And then there's his This Dark Endeavor and Such Wicked Intent, supposedly steampunk.  But, although I enjoyed both books very much, I found them more about alchemy than steam.  Besides, they're prequels to Frankenstein, which was written in 1816 in Switzerland, not really Victorian London-y at all.
And I was so excited for Tiffany Trent's The Unnaturalists, but it was almost ALL about magic and romance, and I felt the book had been mislabeled by those who held it up as steampunk.  It was really more of a fantasy book set in a museum in Victorian London.
I was underwhelmed by Kady Cross's The Girl in the Steel Corset, which had some fun steampunk elements in it but never once made me care about the characters.
Of course, there is the masterful writer Philip Reeve and his Fever Crumb series.  Definitely steampunk.  So very well done.  But everything I've ever read by this guy is so dark and depressing.
So, Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan series is great.  I love it.  It's good for guys and girls.  It promotes feminism, it has action and adventure, it's set at the right time period, and it's all steampunk/alternate history and no magic.  Phew.  That's one really safe option for the junior high.
I also fell in love with Lev AC Rosen's All Men Of Genius.  It's totally steampunk.  It's a Shakespeare parody.  It's feminist.  It's action/adventure + romance.  AND it has Oscar the swearing rabbit.  But it's definitely high school material.  Sex is referred to waaaay too often for this to be in a junior high.
And then there was The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron.  It was sort of steampunk.  It had, you  know, clocks and things.  But to me it felt like a story for young children, like a Santa Claus-in-his-village story.

But then we come to this:

The Friday Society by Adrienne Kress.
This was awesome.
It has feminism in which the women are not only independent, but in which they realize that being independent doesn't necessarily mean sleeping with every possible guy.  It also has women working together to solve problems instead of working against each other to get a guy or else undermine each other.  The only downside is that they're all pretty, which is depressing.  I felt that instead of having them all be Charlie's Angels, at least one of them should have been ordinary-looking.
It is steampunk.  No magic, no paranormal.  Just Victorian London, inventions, explosions, and really cool weapons.
It's funny.  Okay, sometimes it's a bit cartoony.  And the secondary villain was really obvious from the start.  But it was still funny.
It's action/adventure.  Murder, explosions, Jack the Ripper spin-offs, Jeckyll and Hyde philosophy, underground tunnels, Burke and Hare references, and a parrot that's almost as much fun as Rosen's Oscar the rabbit.  (But not quite.)
And it's clean.  I can put it on my school lists.
Yeah, I think I'm in love.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Review of Thirds, part of Bonded, by Michelle Davidson Argyle

Having read Michelle's self-published version of Cinders when it first came out, and having heard her read part of Scales at a reading at The King's English, I opted to read Thirds as the first one of this new trilogy.
I must say that I had never even heard of the Grimm Brothers' original tale, "One Eye, Two Eyes, Three Eyes," before, so I liked that Michelle had selected something so relatively unknown.
Her writing is beautiful; it flows like music.  She creates a world of forests and freezing rains, of gardens and magic, of elves and humans so well that it all seems logical here.  Really, if one enjoys fairy tales, Thirds should be read solely for the beauty of it.
Traditionally, fairy tales, however, reward the good characters and punish the bad, which is both predictable and satisfying.  Michelle departs abruptly from this, which I find both refreshing and disturbing at the same time.
At the end of Thirds, Issina's (the protagonist) horrifically abusive mother and sisters are forgiven of their torture of her.  She finds she needs their power to access her own, and she is assured that they love her in spite of all they have done to her.
As a plot twist, this is unexpected and fun.  But as a philosophy, it's harmful.  (Her family beats her, starves her, and heaps emotional harm upon her for 16 years; this is NOT love.)  Thus, I was both intrigued and repelled by the end of the tale.  (Note: Issina has a lot of victim mentality after a lifetime of abuse, so it might not have been in keeping with her character for her to extract revenge on her tormentors, but she might have just left them to start a fresh new life and heal herself.  In the Grimms' version of this tale, for example, Two-Eyes, the abused protagonist, does not harm her family, but she is able to leave them behind and go off with a handsome, rich knight who marries her.  Years later, her nasty sisters have been punished by fate and are reduced to being beggars.  Since they've learned their lesson, Two-Eyes treats them kindly, but she now has power over them and they cannot hurt her anymore.)  At any rate, it is interesting and unusual, although I certainly wouldn't recommend the tale to anyone who would internalize the sentiment without thinking deeply about it.
However, to anyone who can analyze this idea as part of writing instead of taking it to heart as words to live by, I would suggest this book, for, as I mentioned above, it is beautifully written.  Thus, simply put: This book is a big YES for critical thinkers who love beautiful writing and fairy tales.  It's a big NO for anyone who seriously believed that Edward Cullen would have made a good boyfriend.

As soon as I can finish my TBR pile from the library and read a couple of other books needed for school, I'll read more of this trilogy of novellas.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

In Which My Four-Year-Old Neighbor "Helps" Me Decorate The Tree

I was still in a bathrobe this morning and pulling out Christmas decorations when there was a pounding on my front door.  Recognizing the vigor and height of the sound as belonging to the efforts of my most frequent visitor, 4-year-old O. from next door, I opened the door in spite of my attire.  O. was there with his mom J., who had run over to ask me the first name of a neighbor so she could address a gift properly.  O., of course, came right into the house and went straight for the Christmas decorations.
"Who are those stockings for? What are these?  What's this?  A gingerbread man!  I want a gingerbread man! Can I hang this one?  Where's the star?  What do you put on top of your tree?  We put a star.  Where's your star?  Why is it Harry Potter?  We have a STAR.  Can I hang up Harry Potter?  Why not?  Can I hang this one?  What's this?  Can I hang this one?  I wanna hang THAT one!"
Actually, it was not at all unlike working with a roomful of 7th graders; the stream of questions isn't all that much different.
And now the decorations are placed on the tree -- all of them on the branches that hang at eye level to a 4-year-old  (except for Harry Potter on his broom and reaching for the snitch, which is in its proper place at the top).
O. got the gingerbread man he coveted (as I had put it in the pile to give away anyway), and, in a few minutes, I'm going to go and move most of the decorations onto the upper limbs.  O. will never notice.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Random Thoughts For A Friday Night

1) Last night I had a very vivid dream wherein I was renovating a really amazing old lighthouse to be my new living quarters ...... in Utah.
Yeah, it made sense in the dream.

2) My favorite misspelled word of the day comes from a 7th grader's poetry test.  While trying to identify some personification in a poem by Tennyson, a girl wrote, "Ring out, wild berries, and let him die!"
(In case you're not an English major, the poem is called "Ring Out, Wild Bells.")

3) My favorite bit of language cleverness for today comes from one of my ESL (English as a second language) students.  We've been working on words having to do with climate, seasons, and weather.  She was supposed to be describing a cartoon picture of a snowstorm, and, not quite recalling how to say, "It is snowing," she came up with "It is raining snow."  I liked it.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Technical Difficulties -- Solved!

I've been thinking/talking about getting an iPad Mini for awhile now.  I don't really need one, as I need a real keyboard to write novels and blog and such.  But I want one.  (Yeah, I know: first-world problems.  Definitely.)
Well, apparently my MacBook laptop (yes, the one that had both the hard drive AND the external hard drive crash at the same time in late August of 2011) got jealous about this possible newcomer.  So last night the laptop went into a coma.  Seriously, I put it to sleep and it wouldn't wake up.  Period.
Fearing it had passed away peacefully in its sleep, I packed it up -- along with my new external hard drive -- and (after school today) took it to my favorite Simply Mac store (formerly MacDocs) on State Street.
And they were amazing.  Again.
The tech guy fixed it in about an hour, didn't charge me, AND gave me a free upgrade on some computer innards (I actually can't figure out what they are-- more memory?  They're labeled in GBs, so that's memory, isn't it???) that had been pulled out of a new computer when a customer upgraded.  Wow.
So OF COURSE I did my iPad shopping right then and there.  The tech guy was sales, too, and he actually LISTENED to what I wanted to do with an iPad instead of just pushing me to buy the most expensive model.  (As it is, I'm going with the middle version on everything.)  Then I picked out a case, a cord to connect my camera, and some apple-scented Apple cleaning spray (gotta love that).
The exact model I wanted wasn't available in white, so it's on order, and I don't pay for it until it comes in.  But tonight I'm happily typing on my blessedly functional laptop (which I really didn't want to replace) and pleased to know that I'm using some leftover birthday money to buy my Christmas present -- early.
Stay tuned.  Next week I'll no doubt be raving about my iPad.  :)

Monday, December 3, 2012

What Do You Think Of This Method Of Promoting Books?

Recently our school had an assembly that was promoted by the PTA.  It turned out to be highly controversial among both students and teachers, so I'd like to know what you think.
Here's what happened:
A local author -- fairly well-known and prolific -- apparently decided that a good way to promote his new YA book was to hire a spokesman from a well-known, wealthy family and to pay this spokesman to give assemblies to Utah schools with target-audience aged kids.  The schools were not to be charged.  The assembly was to be advertised with the author's name and book name, not indicating that the author himself would not be present.  The assemblies were to include a small set-up (not at all expensive, just the sorts of plastic buzzers offered for school games) quiz-show game with questions from several books by different authors and using promotional materials from the featured author's books as prizes.  But the main part of the one-hour assembly, done both before and after the game, was the promotion of the author and the new book by the spokesman of the famous family name.

The staff members and students who were in favor of this assembly had the following positive points to mention:
1) It was FREE.
2) It promoted reading.
3) The author and book promoted were squeaky clean.
4) It was FREE.
5) The game involved about 10 kids from the audience, giving them a chance to shine.
6.) It was FREE!!!!
7) The author is fantastic, local, and has wonderful books.
8) The questions for the game show game from two other popular books besides the promoted author's book.
9) Large numbers of kids visited the school library that day, and the promoted author's books were very popular among the kids who checked books out.
10) IT WAS FREE!!!!

The staff members and students who were not pleased by this assembly had the following negative comments to mention:
1) There was much twisted use of advertising going on (such as the facts that kids were led to believe the author would be there and then he wasn't, and that statistics and stories used to promote the book and the author either were like comparing oranges to Oldsmobiles or else had crucial parts of the info omitted).
2) Many of the kids had trouble processing the difference between stories about the author and stories of the successes of the famously-named spokesman.
3) The spokesman repeatedly mentioned connections between himself, the author, and a highly controversial political figure.
4)  The books and the author aren't all that great.
5) The book being promoted and other promotional materials (posters, pens) were offered for SALE afterwards, and the entire assembly resembled a long commercial rather than a get-to-know-the-author affair.
6) No parts of the book were actually read to the kids during the promotion parts of the assembly; the questions during the game were for those who'd already read the books, not geared toward making kids want to read more.

So, let's remove the political issues and pretend that the spokesman didn't use twisted statistics.  Let's just say it's any author of YA fiction who chooses to use a famously-named local person to promote her/his books in assemblies in local schools.  So, instead of showing up herself/himself and talking to a group of school-selected kids who have already expressed interest in the author/book (which is how most school visits are done by authors), someone else does the talking, the writing process is not mentioned at all, and the whole school goes to the assembly, whether or not the kids have an interest in this particular book or author, but the author or publisher pays for the whole thing and the schools are not charged.
What do you think?

Teachers and librarians, is this a good thing for your schools?  Is this an easy way to promote reading, or does it become a commercial?  If more kids read afterwards, does it matter if it was a commercial?  Does it matter if it's good book or just an okay book?  What about making the whole school see it?  Using a spokesperson who is not an author or affiliated with writing or publishing?

Writers, would you want to promote your book this way?  Branding is the in thing.  Would it help or hurt you to hire a famous name not associated with writing to promote your YA books?  But if it's only local schools, would you want to be there in person?  What if it's schools out of your area?  Would that make a difference?  What message does this send out about you as a YA writer: that you're so into your work that you need to hire others to do the advertising or that you don't care about your readers other than that they buy your book?

Readers, what do you think about it?  Would you want to go to a free event that had a member of a locally famous family promoting a book?  Hey, it's free, after all.  Or do you think the whole thing is strange and that if the author is local anyway s/he should show up to her/his own events?

Friday, November 30, 2012

Happy St. Andrew's Day!

"O, Flower of Scotland, when will we see your like again?"
(the Corries)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Vampires Still A Threat In Serbia

I'm not sure if I find this funny or refreshing, but a handful of Serbian villagers are sticking to their 19th Century beliefs as firmly as anyone in a small town in Utah.  It's just that these Serbs are terrified of vampires (whereas in a Utah town it would be Democrats).
Check out this article from Good Morning America by Dragana Jovanovic (from 11/28/12)

For the people in a tiny Serbian village there is nothing sexy or romantic about a vampire. In fact, they are terrified that one of the most feared vampires of the area has been roused back to life.
Rather than 'Twilight's' Edward, the people of Zorazje fear that Sava Savanovic is lurking in their forested mountains of western Serbia.
They believe that he is on the move because the home he occupied for so long, a former water mill, recently collapsed. Savanovic is believed to be looking for a new home.
"People are very worried. Everybody knows the legend of this vampire and the thought that he is now homeless and looking for somewhere else and possibly other victims is terrifying people," Miodrag Vujetic, local municipal assembly member, told ABC News. "We are all frightened."
Vujetic said villagers "are all taking precautions by having holy crosses and icons placed above the entrance to the house, rubbing our hands with garlic, and having a hawthorn stake or thorn."
"I understand that people who live elsewhere in Serbia are laughing at our fears, but here most people have no doubt that vampires exist," he says.
According to legend, Savanovic would kill and drink the blood of the peasants who came to grind their grain at his watermill on the Rogacica River. Tour groups from around the Balkans would come to see the mill. But even tourism had its limits.
"We were welcoming tourists, but only during the day. Nobody ever overnighted there," said Slobodan Jagodic, whose family owned the mill for over 60 years.
"We were too scared to repair it, not to disturb Sava Savanovic," says Jagodic. "It's even worse now that it collapsed due to lack of repair."
Traditions die slowly in this part of the world. "In the dark forested mountains of Serbia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Croatia, many people still believe in vampires and take them quite seriously," says Dr. James Lyon, Ph.D, a noted Balkan historian who has done extensive research on the folklore behind vampires.
"In local folklore, vampires are not potential boyfriends. Rather, they are hideous, blood thirsty creatures with red eyes and iron teeth that bloat when they feed, and are able to shift their shape," says Lyon, author of "Kiss of the Butterfly," a historical thriller about vampires in the Serbia.
Savanovic has maintained his notoriety in modern Serbia. He was featured in a 19th century book "Ninety Years Later" written by Milovan Glisic, whose book inspired a 1972 horror film "Leptirica" (Butterfly), widely watched throughout all of former Yugoslavia. More recently, Savanovic appeared in an award winning book "Fear and Its Servant" written by Mirjana Novakovic.
The Balkans have long established itself as Ground Zero for vampires when it comes to fanged folklore, and Serbia is a leader in this, according to Lyon.
"Vampires originated in Serbia, not Romania," says Lyon. "The word vampire entered western languages from Serbia in the late 1720s."
Austrian forces returning from conquests in Ottoman Serbia in the early 1700s brought back vampire stories, which circulated throughout Europe, later inspiring Byron, Keats and Coleridge, he claims.
"In 1730-31 the Austrian Army sent a military surgeon into Serbia to conduct autopsies on suspected vampires. He and other Austrian Army officers wrote of their experiences, and these records still exist today," Lyons said.
Documented reports of vampire-related activity continue to this day throughout the Balkans, the most recent having occurred in 2011 in Serbia.
Back in Zarozje, villagers will have to be on their guard for at least seven more months, because local legend holds that vampires are most active between Christmas and the Feast of the Ascension on June 7.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

On The Instantaneous Creation Of Great American Folk Songs

As I wrote about in a not-too-long-ago post, I spent a fair-sized chunk of my life traveling to different countries for dance festivals.  This, of course, gave me a good deal of exposure to folk music, and I learned a good deal about how other people view America's folk culture.
One thing I learned was that the song most closely associated with the USA is not "The Star-Spangled Banner" or "America, The Beautiful."  Nope.  It's "Oh, Susannah."
In any parade in any country, when our bluegrass band struck up that tune, people would smile, clap along, and start to sing.  Well, at least they'd sing the words, "Oh, Susannah."  Most of them didn't know much else.  (And let's face it; phrases like "a buckwheat cake was in her mouth" are not what folks learn in their English classes.)
I've heard that song sung by Poles and played on a leaf.  I've also heard it sung in Mandarin Chinese.  Odd.  (I wonder how they translated "buckwheat.")
But, truth be told, the song "Oh, Susannah" isn't a folk song in the sense that it's been sung for so many years that no one knows where it came from.  No, "Oh, Susannah" is a folk song in the same way that Peter, Paul, and Mary's "If I Had A Hammer" is a folk song.  "Oh, Susannah" was a popular song written in 1848 by Steven Foster (who gave us other great tunes like "Old Kentucky Home"), but it had a folksy feel to it, and it became an "instant" folk song.
Still, for our dance group, sometimes "Oh, Susannah" wasn't enough.
Most of us could sing as well as dance, and several members of the group had been in various community and church choirs, so it was no hardship for us to sing.  Besides "Oh, Susannah" in parades (and in one pioneer round dance number), we frequently sang "She'll Be Comin' 'Round The Mountain" (to which our director, George, would add extra verses in countries where English was not commonly spoken -- I've had to sing such lyrics as "Oh, we'll lock her in the basement when she comes" or "Oh, we'll make her clean the attic when she comes."), and, in performances, it was sometimes "Amazing Grace."  (We had one bizarre instance when we were informed the night before a long day of performing that we were expected to sing in Mass in a tiny town in central Italy.  As "Oh, Susannah" was hardly acceptable, we decided on "Amazing Grace."  It was beautiful as we sang it, but it was still America's most popular Protestant hymn -- sung in a Catholic church by a bunch of Mormons, former Mormons, and one Russian Orthodox member.  Oh, and it was accompanied by guitar, fiddle, string bass -- and washboard.)
And then there was "The Hokey Pokey."
This was mostly my fault, really.  It was 1996, and the festival in Birmingham, England began something they called The Ball of the Nations.  The idea was that all the festival dancers would have an evening together --without an audience -- wherein they taught each other simple dances.  It was a fantastic idea, but our group stressed over whether or not we could teach our easiest recreational dances in our allotted time.  Also, some of our favorites were either too reliant on singing ("Charlie Is A Miller Boy") or possibly offensive in a community that understood all the words ("Cotton-Eyed Joe").  I was the one who suggested that we teach "The Hokey Pokey."  And I was the one who got stuck teaching it.  In England.  Later in Austria and Hungary.  In Spain.  And, finally, in China.  (Yeah, I just admitted that: I taught "The Hokey Pokey" in China.)
But the instant folk song that really stays in my mind was one we created in Sweden.
It was a beautiful summer evening in June, and our group had been treated to a night out in a lodge used by the Swedish dance group hosting us.  They'd fed us all herring-packed food (ever had scrambled eggs with herring?  salad with herring?  potato casserole with herring?  I have.  It's not all that great.), and it was time to go.
It was getting dark, and as we stood outside, waiting to board our bus to go back to the city and the dorms where we were staying, the Swedish group lined up along the walkway and sang a lovely folk song.
A smile plastered rather too tightly on his face, George, our director (who could speak fluent Swedish), whispered to those of us next to him, "It's a farewell song.  They'll expect us to sing back.  What can we sing?!"
My mind raced.  I didn't know a single farewell folk song other than "Aloha Oe," which hardly seemed appropriate.  Plus, it had to be something that our whole group knew.
Fortunately for us, this was 1991, and I was the youngest member of the troupe because, in those few very awkward seconds of silence that followed our polite applause of the Swedes, came the sound of Bart, one of the best dancers in the group and a member of the Salt Lake Men's Choir.  He was singing a farewell song that ALL of us knew:

Yep.  Lawrence Welk to the rescue.  Presto: instant folk song.
YouTube didn't exist in those far-off days, and the Swedes hadn't had much experience with American TV variety shows of the 1970s.  They had no idea that what we sang was only a TV theme song; it sounded like a folk song, and it fit the occasion.
But it was all we could do not to burst out laughing afterwards when George muttered under his breath, "Thank you, Bobby and Cissy."

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Half-Vampire Fans, Young And Old

I got some new photos for my readers' gallery tonight, and, although I didn't realize it while I was taking the photos, I got shots of a pretty wide range of ages in readers.

Okay, my youngest fan here is probably not a reader -- yet.

We'll get there, though.
He's one of my grandstudents.  (Both his parents are my former students, so he's my grandstudent.)
Here's a bit more of the family (the parents HAVE read the book):

And we have a few more soon-to-be fans (+ one more devoted fan and former student):

Actually, the older boy in this photo is very excited to read Confessions of an Average Half-Vampire and will probably start soon. (Uh, that extra leg there belongs to the little guy photographed above.  He decided to play peek-a-boo just as I clicked the digital shutter.)

And, on the other end of the age scale, we have some retirees having fun with the books as well:

See?  Half-Vampires are for everyone!

Would you like to have your photo in my readers' gallery?  I'd love to post it!  You can go to the Contact Me tab at the top of the blog or just click here for details.  (Anyone under the age of 18 must be pictured with a parent so that I can avoid legal issues.)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

This Weekend's Contest Is Cancelled

...due to lack of interest shown in the first 24 hours.
Obviously, everyone is out shopping and my timing was bad.  We'll try again another time.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Half-Vampire Thanksgiving Recipe

In All in the Half-Vampire Family, Eric discovers a new food he likes very much: black pudding.  (You can see it in the above photo; it looks like round beef jerky.) Of course, the reason he likes black pudding so much is that it's made with blood, sheep's blood, to be specific.  (In case you're wondering, yes, I've eaten the stuff before.  Several times actually.  It's okay, but I'll take haggis over black pudding anytime.)
So, in keeping with the Thanksgiving tradition of eat-all-you-can, I tried to find a recipe to share with you -- off a website presumably catering to *ahem* vampires, as it begins with this odd line, "Ever had that awkward moment trying to explain why you want two or three cups of blood from a butcher?"  (Okaaaay, then. Moving right along....)   However, this site only catered to Irish vampires (perhaps Patrick would like it) and insisted on using pig's blood.  So I found this recipe to share instead:

Scottish Black Pudding

1 pound suet, finely chopped
1 pound oatmeal
2 onions
fresh sheep's blood (may be watered down)
salt and pepper to taste

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl with fresh sheep's blood. Stuff
mixture into casing, tie well. Place in large pan, cover with
boiling water, boil gently for 3 hours. Remove black puddings,
allow to cool. Cut into slices as required, fry in hot fat.

NOTES : Called 'Marag' (Blood Pudding) in Gaelic (it also means a
fat, shapeless person!), this is one of the famous blood dishes
that Scottish people love. It usually accompanies other fried
dishes, such as bacon and eggs. While it might seem shocking to
eat blood, don't forget that all meat dish contain blood and it's
the basis, with fat, of gravy. Blood dishes are popular all over
Europe, especially in Transylvania. If serving to children,
experience shows that the ingredients are best left undiscussed at
the table. Black puddings and mealie puddings are usually stuffed
in larger sausage casings of the size used for garlic and other
specialty sausages. 

Happy Thanksgiving -- vampire style!d that awkward moment of trying to explain why you are asking for a few cups of blood from a butcher?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

More Pics For My Readers' Gallery

People are busy.  Too busy to remember to write book reviews and/or send me photos.
But they're not too busy to read my books!
Today I took matters -- or at least my trusty Cannon Powershot -- into my own hands and made some of my favorite readers pose with my books for my readers' gallery.

My writing is just so amazing that you can see it on their faces.  ;)

And here's someone who's purchased a fair number of my books:

Next week I will hunt down even MORE of my readers and post their photos!  Ah, ha!  My readers' gallery will soon be filling up.

Of course, if you'd like to contribute a photo, you can follow the directions on my CONTACT ME page.  (If you're under 18, I can't post your photo unless it's with your parent, which will prove the parent gave permission.)

Monday, November 19, 2012

On The Demise Of The Twinkie

Okay, I haven't actually eaten a Twinkie in quite some time, long enough that I can't recall.  But I do regret the demise of Hostess, mostly for the loss of many jobs to many people, but also because I always sort of liked their cupcakes and snowballs -- although, again, I can't even remember when I last ate one.
Still, there have been a few really good tributes out there this week.  First, Max gave us this:
And then someone on the CakeWrecks website gave this delightful comment about the demise of Twinkies:

"And the prophet said, 'Cast ye your countenance toward the Walmart, and follow thy heart to the junk food aisle, for there the snack cakes are distributed in a manner that is wonderful to see.  For the munchies are upon you, and the hunger is deep.  Look with wonder upon the gifts you have been given.  Of the puffed cheese and popped corn, you may eat, but not the HoHo.  Of the jerky and the Nutella and Doritos you may have your fill, but not the Twinkie.  Of the potato chip, plain or barbeque, ranch or sugar-coated, you may eat, but not the Donette.  Of the oil-based snack of dubious origin you may eat, but not the Ding Dong.  Though your craving be deep, think not of the little chocolate cupcake with the white squiggle thereupon.  For the punishment is upon us, and Hostess is no more.'  And the people wept.  Lamentations 8:11-20."


Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Safe Use Of Mugs

Yesterday, I received as a thank-you gift a mug from the Unemployed Philosophers' Guild.

Since it's a Shakespearean insult mug, it was obviously well-chosen for me.  But I especially enjoyed the "help" that went with it.
On the bottom of the mug is a note that reads, "For best results, use other side."  How very helpful.  :)

And then there was a paper tucked into the mug that offered a URL for this instructional video on mug use.

This is especially hilarious to those of us old enough to remember science films from decades past.  :)
If you have a moment, do watch the video; you'll be much more careful in your future use of mugs, be they Shakespearean or not.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A New Addition To My Readers' Gallery

I get lots of folks promising me photos, but not too many have followed through yet.
Here's one who has:

Cozy, isn't it?
Who would've thought that Half-Vampire Family could look so comfy?  My thanks to Mary for the pic.  :)

PS.  If you'd like to send me a photo of yourself reading one of my books, just click the contact me tab at the top of the blog and send me a jpeg.  I'd love to put you in my gallery.   (If you're under 18, you have to be pictured with a parent to prove they gave you permission.)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Utah Sport Of Tree-Beating

Yesterday we had snow.
It never stopped.
I shoveled Friday night when I arrived home from school.  I shoveled twice Saturday and  shook down the trees as much as possible.  Today I've shoveled twice already and shaken down the trees again.
Judging from the height of the snow in my backyard where I waded out to my trees, I have just about 21 inches in my backyard.  (I measured against my leg and then measured that space with a yardstick once I came indoors.)  That's 21 inches since Friday night, which is sizable, even in Utah.
For those of you who've never lived in a snowy place before, let me explain the joys of shaking down trees.  The problem is that some trees don't lose their leaves until December.  Basically, there are only a few trees in the neighborhood that DO lose their leaves early -- and, blessedly, they are the trees that are nearest the roof of our house.
However, our street is lined with horrid things that don't lose their leaves until about January and then smell absolutely awful in the spring when they burst into leaf.  These are some nasty trees.  And trees still full of dead leaves + heavy snow = BIG problems.
I watched a branch come down onto a neighbors' yard Friday night.  And, on the second round of shoveling today, I spoke to the teenage daughter who was out shoveling that driveway.  She stopped to text someone, and just as she did, a 10-foot long branch came crashing down, landing inches away from her.
Yesterday, there were crews removing large tree limbs -- like 10 to 15 feet long -- using a digger and a dump truck, for nearly two hours.  Today, there are tree limbs lining the street again, and one completely blocking a section of the sidewalk.  (So far, however, only one car has been damaged and no homes have been.)
Thus, beating tree branches is a regular activity in our neighborhood, engaged in by most of the families (except that one guy who never does any work.  But doesn't every neighborhood have that one guy?).  There are various forms: the guy directly across prefers throwing a broom like a javelin, the guy next door prefers pounding a shovel at the overly-laden branches, and I prefer hooking a rake into smaller branches, then heaving away like a monk ringing a prayer call -- only with snow plummeting down onto me.  (I wear a hoodie; this helps.)  Today, however, I also tried a gutter cleaner with a long neck and a hooked end.  This allowed me to get hold of larger branches and pull.  It worked pretty well.
Really, I am now to a point where I'm seriously considering investing in new boots, as pulling the old ones on and off hurts my back more than shoveling does, and sturdy shoes don't help all that much in 21 inches of snow.  (But the boots I like are priced at an absurd $99, so I'll be dealing with snowy shoes until the after-Christmas sales, thank you very much.)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Got Snow?

We do.  Nearly a foot at my house -- all in 24 hours.  Bet the ski resorts are filled with happy people.
I dislike shoveling snow, and I loathe driving in it (because of the other drivers, all of whom seem to forget from year to year how to drive in the stuff), but it is beautiful.  And, of course, enough of this stuff in the mountains will prevent us from a drought year.  That would be good.
Due to the school play this week, I hadn't been home in daylight since last weekend (when it was all nice and dry and warm).  Thus, this morning, after hooking a rake to large tree branches in my backyard and shaking off frozen snow that was forcing large limbs to the ground, and after shoveling my driveway, my sidewalks, and helping two neighbors with their own trees, I got to turn off my sprinkling system.
Let me just say that 10 inches of snow (we've had more since) makes for less than ideal conditions in which to perform a job that requires lying on one's belly with a long sprinkler key in one hand and a flashlight in the other.
Oh well.  It's done now.
After that, it was housework!  Such excitement.
And now it's time to grade papers.  More excitement.
I know you're all jealous of the thrilling life I lead.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Between The Elections And The School Play,

I haven't had more than 5 hours of sleep any night this week.  Last night, I got right around 4 hours.
Today I worked a 13-hour day (yesterday it was 15 hours), then had to come home and shovel six inches of heavy, wet snow off the driveway.
I'm so exhausted.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Local Author, Indie Bookstore: Michelle Davidson Argyle Reads From Bonded At The King's English

Here's where I was tonight:

Michelle Davidson Argyle read from her latest book, a 3-pack of novellas called Bonded.

The book contains her previously self-published novella Cinders (notice the cover model is the same woman as the one who appears with Michelle in the top photo),

which is a sequel to Cinderella.  Also included are Thirds, a retelling of One-Eye, Two-Eyes, Three-Eyes, and Scales, which is a prequel to the Disney version of Sleeping Beauty (wherein Malificent the fairy turns into a dragon).
Michelle has stated that she extensively revised Cinders, so I am anxious to compare the two versions.

Tonight I bought Bonded at The King's English in Salt Lake, and Michelle signed my copy.  It was fun to meet her after only knowing her as a cyber entity for several years.

(Sorry this is a choppy and unlyrical post tonight; I'm very short on sleep, and it's the school play this week, so my hours for the next two nights will be long.)

Monday, November 5, 2012


It's hard to get excited about a Presidential election in Utah, as we've been the reddest state in the Union for decades.  (Seriously, our electoral college people would vote Republican even if no one showed up at the polls.)  Most of the time, the best we can do here is to hope and pray that people in the swing states have a good deal of common sense.
But I vote anyway.  I even voted in the 2004 election -- when I was living in Scotland, had to request an absentee vote, and then found out later that they blew all those off anyway, so my voted mattered even less than usual that time.
I haven't always bothered to vote.  Most candidates didn't interest me, and the lines were long.

My grandfather (whom my mother describes as "the original Archie Bunker") had hated my grandmother to vote.  He complained that her vote would just cancel out his.  He badgered her to tell him for whom she'd voted, but she never would, insisting that was her own private business.  Voting was so important to Grandma that she even voted while she was in labor with my mother.
One year all this finally meshed in my mind.  My grandmother cherished her right to vote because she could remember well a time when no woman had that right.  She was an adult by the time the 19th Amendment passed. (Click through and watch that video; it's awesome.) And, come hell or high water -- or a new baby -- NO ONE was going to stop her from voting.  No one.

I don't care if you did get hit by hurricane Sandy; get to the polls.
And if you're nowhere near in that much of a mess, you're a wuss if you don't vote -- especially if you're a woman.
Don't make my grandmother ashamed of you.  Read up on the issues, choose wisely (don't just vote a straight party ticket, people; that shows you don't care enough to think about anything), and get your hindquarters to the nearest polling area tomorrow.
Grandma's been gone for years.  But let's do her proud anyway.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Goodreads Winner!

Last Wednesday, my goodreads giveaway for All in the Half-Vampire Family ended after 648 entries were collected and 303 people added it to their TBR list.  The winner was Anne M., and the book (autographed and with matching bookmark) was shipped off yesterday.
Congratulations to Anne M.!  I hope you enjoy it.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

People, The Whole "Three More Star Wars Movies" Kerfluffle Is NOT New!

So, it's all over Twitter tonight: Disney's buying out Lucasfilms.  Okay, no real surprise, but Leia's a MUCH tougher princess than anything Disney's ever put on a screen.
But what's really gotten some knickers into twists is the fact that three more Star Wars movies have been announced.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Disney is paying $4.05 billion to buy Lucasfilm Ltd., the production company behind "Star Wars," from its chairman and founder, George Lucas. It's also making a seventh movie in the "Star Wars" series called "Episode 7," set for release in 2015, with plans to follow it with Episodes 8 and 9 and then one new movie every two or three years.

Tweets are showing people aghast.

Whaaaaat? 3 more Star Wars movies? My inner geek is freaking out right now!!

Gosh, what a shock.
People, Lucas announced that there were TWELVE parts to the Star Wars saga as early as 1979.  TWELVE parts.  In 1979.
As someone who keeps everything, I needed only 5 minutes tonight to locate my August 1979, edition of Scholastic's Dynamite magazine (Vol. 3 No. 2).  (No, I am NOT kidding.  It's right in front of me as I type this.)
In the article, "Dynamite Update: Star Wars Sequel, The Empire Strikes Back," (pp. 12-13) by Chip Lovitt, we have this little tidbit, "Originally, Empire was to be called Star Wars II, but Lucas and Kurtz decided against it.  It seems that Lucas's original outline for Star Wars was so long, it had to be divided into 12 parts.  Star Wars was actually the fourth segment of the outline.  According to Lucas's master plan, if the sequel is a success, we may be seeing other films showing some of the 10 other segments."

Yes, people, Lucas announced there were 12 parts before the release of The Empire Strikes Back.  Why is anyone surprised that there is to be a movie #7?  We've only half-finished the master plan.  If all goes according to Lucas, there are SIX more movies coming, not three.

Please Forgive The Lull In Posting This Week

It's the end of the term.  I'm swamped with grading.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

I've Started A Readers' Gallery

And here's the first photo!
This is Max-created.  As many of you know, Max is boy-wonder when it comes to a camera, and he has taken two photos of himself, playing with the light and dark shirts and the light and dark book covers, to show himself doubly engrossed in my books.  (Perhaps he will share his pic secrets in the comments section.)
At any rate, I am now accepting (requesting, even!) photos of my readers (no one under 18 unless they appear with a parent -- for legal reasons, sorry) to add to my gallery.  If you'd like to appear, get someone to take a photo of you where my book cover shows (putting the book cover on an e-reader, iPad, or laptop is fine, as long as you're showing us the cover), and send me the jpg file.  Feel free to photoshop it -- put yourself reading Confessions of an Average Half-Vampire in front of Dracula's castle or reading All in the Half-Vampire Family next to Bela Lugosi, if you like.  :D (If you already have my e-mail address, awesome.  If not, there's a "contact me" tab at the top of this blog that gives you instructions on how to contact me without putting your info up for all to see.  You may also tweet me a photo @lisamshafer if you use instagram or one of the others.)  I will then add it to my gallery.
If you just want to see the gallery, click the tab at the top of the blog.  Or you can just click here.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Monday, October 22, 2012

Reminiscing: China, 2001

Eleven years ago tonight, on Monday, October 22, 2001, I was in Hangzhou, China, on what was to be the final international dance tour of my life.  (My first international dance tour had been in 1981.)
In honor of that fact and fitting in with Carmi's photo theme for the week on his Written Inc blog, I'm actually going to do something I have NEVER done before in all my blogging history: I'm posting pictures of myself.  (Okay, they're 11 years old.  Deal with it.)
So, what, exactly was I doing 11 years ago tonight?  This:

Not a bad place to be, come to think of it.  :D
(Yeah, I'm the one on the left.  Yes, my hair is wrapped into braided loops that still hang to my waist in the photo.  Yes, my hair really is THAT long; it still hangs mid-thigh.  And, no, I didn't actually take this photo -- obviously.  Yes, these are all digital photos of photos in a scrapbook; I don't have a scanner.)
And what had I done that day?  I'd visited a man-made island in the middle of a man-made lake.  Pretty spiffy, actually.
So, that was boat travel.  Not too exotic, I guess.  But since Carmi's theme is "travel," let me share a couple of other "travel" pics from the same dance tour.
How about travel in a cart pulled by water buffalo?

The curvy line at the top of the pic is the canvas top of the cart that I was riding in just ahead of my fellow dancers seen here.
Here's where we ended up after the cart ride: on a bamboo raft, wearing life jackets and plastic booties (because the loaded raft sank about 3 inches under water).

See the movie camera dude and the newspaper photographer in the background?  Yeah, we were being filmed for a documentary in China.
In fact, I was a rather popular subject for the photographers because of my unusual hair.
A few days earlier, while we were walking around before a performance at a festival, I was mobbed by photographers and made to understand I was wanted to pose for some kind of peace flag event.  Dozens of Chinese festival attendees were in line to sew a stitch of peace in the festival flag, but I was scooted up to the front quickly (while my dark-haired, shorter friend was left behind -- probably because she didn't look as "unusual" as I did in China) and made to sew stitch after stitch in that flag while smiling stiffly at 5 or 6 photographers.  The next day, one of our interpreters gave me this:

Under the pic of me is a quote from some interview that I assure you did not happen.  No one there spoke English, and my Mandarin is limited to "hello," "thank you," and "rabbit stomach."  (Not kidding, but it's a long story.)
What type of performances were they?  This group, which disbanded after the 2001 tour, was called the Rocky Mountain Dancers.  They were in existence from the late 1970s until 2001, and the director was George Frandsen, long time vice president of the (UNESCO) International Organization of Folkart (IOV), based in Vienna, Austria. (Apparently, he holds a different position with them now, as I found out by doing a yahoo search.) We performed exhibition square dancing, pioneer round dancing and reels, and Appalachian clogging.  (I loved, loved, LOVED it.)  Here's a pic of a few of us in costume at our hotel after a show.

That's me as the standing woman on the far right, holding my skirt out with my left hand.
And, since this is a travel-themed photo post, what's a photo tour of China without the Great Wall?
I'm the one on the right.  I'm not really short; it's just that the gal standing next to me is about six feet tall.  If you look closely at this photo-of-a-photo, you'll see that we're standing on the Great Wall (just outside of Beijing).
My favorite thing in China was most definitely the terracotta warriors in Xi'an, but getting good photos there with a point-and-shoot film camera was well-nigh impossible, so I won't post any of those.  Nor do I have room to post pics of us all picking tea on a tea farm, eating duck tongue at way too many banquets, standing solemnly at Tiannenmen Square while our Chinese college-kid hosts asked us why we were so sad in a "happy place" (the official version of Chinese history doesn't include what the West knows happened there in '89), touring a cigarette factory in one town because the Chinese government had it on our schedule, or dancing in front of over 17,000 students at a translation college, or parading for more than 20,000 people elsewhere.
It was a good last tour.  I wish I could still do such things again, but, even if the group had not disbanded and then lost half the costumes to a wildfire (the costumes were stored in a cabin, which did not survive the fire), I, personally, could not do this again, as my back injury prevents anything of the kind nowadays.  (I do mourn the loss.)
But thanks for wandering through my travel memory tonight. :)
(Tempppo, I hope you especially enjoyed it.)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Soon, My Pretties, Soon There Will Be A New Cover

This is the WIP cover for my novella, The (Dis)Appearance of Nerissa MacKay.
I love this idea, but I can't make it work on a vertical book cover.
Fixing this problem has been in the back of my mind for months now, and today, what I think/hope will be the solution dawned on me.
Max has agreed to help.
The new cover will involve iridescent royal blue taffeta.  And Flamenco shoes.  And a tiara.
Oh, and an iPod.  The iPod is extremely important.
Unfortunately, my only tiara doesn't match my iPod too well.  (And I doubt that Max has a tiara.)
Soon, my lovelies.  Soon.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Goodreads Giveaway Of All In The Half-Vampire Family

Goodreads Book Giveaway

All in the Half-Vampire Family by Lisa Shafer

All in the Half-Vampire Family

by Lisa Shafer

Giveaway ends October 31, 2012.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Feeling Famous In My Own Little Corner Of The World

So, last week, I dropped in to see Richard Frost at Frost's Book Store.  He agreed to take a couple of copies of All in the Half-Vampire Family to sell, and he was pleased with my bookmarks.  He took a stack to give away at the cash register, and he let me put a free bookmark in all his YA vampire books in the store (well, I refused to put bookmarks in Twilight books, of course).
Then, he moved Half-Vampire Family AND Confessions of an Average Half-Vampire to his current "local authors" table display.  Thus, for right now, my books are keeping company with the Junior League cook book (Salt To Honey) and Walking Salt Lake City.

And then I discovered that in our own school library, I'm a "featured author."  The librarian has framed a photo of me with my Amazon author bio.  He's put this with copies (8 of them!) of Half-Vampire Family -- and for reasons unknown to me, a black rose -- on an end table in the comfy-chair reading only section of the library.

Okay, it's not much.  But these things make me feel warm and fuzzy.  :)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Photo Mysteries: A Writers' Game #33

Okay, it's been a few weeks since we've done this, so let's review the "rules."
Carmi, at Written Inc., posts a photo theme for the week.  Here on this blog, I post a photo that goes with his theme, but then we add the shortest of flash fiction: a title and a single line of a story that goes with the photo.  Easy, right?  Here's an earlier contest so you can get an idea.
Remember:  you don't have to be a writer to play.
Carmi's theme this week is "drink up."
Here's my photo:

My story title:  The Innocent Pirates
Single line:  "THAT is NOT rum!" shouted the captain.

Your turn: look at the photo and pick any genre you like (sci-fi, action/adventure, mystery, etc.), then add your own story titles and single lines in the comments section.  (It just has to match the photo.  You DON'T have to stick with my pirates theme.)  The more, the merrier!  Comment away!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Announcing The Winner

The winner of the Bag o' Swag, with both Half-Vampire books, tee shirt, pen, bookmark, "vampire blood" soap and hand sanitizer, fangs, and  bag is Alicia E.
I've sent Alicia an e-mail to request her address.  If I don't hear back from her within 10 days, I will choose another winner.
Thanks again to everyone who entered!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Are You Smarter Than A 9th-Grader?

The numerous required standardized tests for my students often include questions involving what the writer world calls "copy editing" and what teachers call "editing."  In other words, those who want the "data" from these tests hope to see if kids can spot and correct errors in spelling, punctuation, and grammar.
My assignments on this skill are a bit stale, as I created them a good six years ago, and I wanted something new.  So, for the last couple of weeks, I've simply copied and pasted errors I've read and/or heard on the internet and used them to create new assignments.
So, are you smarter than a 9th-grader?  Can you correct any of the following errors I've gathered?  (I'm giving you a greatly-condensed list here.)

Correct The Errors

  1. "If I had of gone at 18, I wouldn’t have messed up so much between 18 and 19," Salazar quipped.   -- Donald W. Meyers, reporter for the Salt Lake Tribune. 10/7/12
  2. “ ...the drill instructor had a book .... that he found in his muffle bag.”  -- blogger. 10/6/12.
  3. “ The real question ...  is what kind of Christians they are?” Peggy Fletcher Stack, reporter for the Salt Lake Tribune.  10/7/12
  4. “Contests are earning less entries.”  -- blogger 10/8/12.
  5. “We've got to face it- blog-blitz enthusiasm has wained” -- blogger  10/8/12.
  6. “If you have a review request that is part of a series, We do ask that you provide a copy of each of it's predecessors.”  -- on a blog with well over 2000 followers. 10/9/12.
  7. “Overall though its very simple to use.” -- ditto.
  8. “It came in a nice gift-able box that features the unit itself and SodaStream logo's.” -- ditto.
  9. “The Winner will win the unit pictured below. You will also get your choice of Red, White or Black for the color of the unit as well as pick 3 regular sized flavorings of your choice.” -- ditto.
  10. “Publishers are cutting down their lists, and agents are taking on less clients.” -- blogger, 10/10/12
  11.  “After running a mile, a screw came loose in Ben’s prosthetic leg.” -- Melissa Knowles on Trending Now Yahoo!, 10/11/12
  12. “He can eat, sleep and do everything other sheeps can." -- author of a Yahoo! article about a malformed sheep, 10/11/12

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Lend A Hand To Support A Self-Published Author

Want to help me out?
Sure, you could buy one of my POD Half-Vampire books.  Or you could buy one of the e-books.  (Confessions of an Average Half-Vampire is only 99¢.  Seriously, that's less than 1/3 the price of a gallon of gas.  It's the price of a candy bar in a vending machine -- but you freakin' get a WHOLE BOOK for that price!)
But even if you don't want to spend any money, there are ways you can help me out.

Do you have an Amazon account?  If so you can help me out by clicking the "like" button on my books: here, here, here, and here.  (This would be especially important on the 2 latter links, which are for the new book and don't have many "likes" yet.)
You can also click that the five-star reviews on any of the books are "helpful."  Here are links to the 5-star reviews for Confessions of an Average Half-Vampire e-book and POD.  And here are the links to the 5-star reviews for All in the Half-Vampire Family e-book and POD.  Pick any or all of the reviews and click "yes" to say they are helpful.
Have you already read one of the books?  You can write a review and post it on Amazon.  Just go to the pages linked above and click on "write your own customer review."

Do you have a Goodreads account?  If you do, you could "friend" me on Goodreads.
You could add Confessions of an Average Half-Vampire to your TBR list or write a review.  And All in the Half-Vampire Family is looking very lonely there; you could write a review or add it to your TBR list.  (Please?)

Do you have a Facebook page?  You could link to this post and ask your friends to help me out.

Are you on Twitter?  You could tweet a link to this post to your friends and ask them to help out.  You could also follow me on Twitter, if you like.

You could go to Youtube and watch my book trailer.

And you could always enter my current giveaway, which seems to be sorely lacking  in entries right now.