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Monday, October 29, 2012

Day of the Dead: A Ghost Story

The Day of the Dead is a Meso-American holiday, but Greg and I have always celebrated it by remembering those who have touched our lives and passed on. Today, I'd like to share a few of my experiences with a ghost I never met.

I'm one of those people who can see ghosts. It's not something I advertise, and for a long time I never discussed it because I didn't want people thinking me weird. But it is what it is, and I'm too old to care what people think anymore.

I was glad when I got married because it gave me a little peace from all the ghosts that lived in the apartment building where I grew up. The ghost traffic was so heavy, it was like living in a subway station.

But I finally got my break when Greg and I married and moved to Texas. Our first home was an apartment in a new building. No ghosts. Whew!

It didn't take long before we bought our first home--complete with its resident ghost. It was an old sea captain's house built in 1903.

At first I didn't notice it, partly because we were so busy fixing up the place. But then Greg started working longer hours and I was alone more often. 

Strange things started happening. Groceries were put away before I was ready to move them. If I was getting ready to cook, a can opener or large spoon would appear on the counter.

If it happened today, I would've chalked it up to my faulty memory, but I had no such lapses back then. 

And then one day, I walked into the kitchen and a light bulb sparked and fell down. Well, not fall exactly. It FLOATED to the floor. I watched it land softly, my mouth hanging open for several seconds after the fact.

Greg teases me that I must've been so mesmerized that it felt like slow motion, but I know what I saw. The bulb didn't shatter. It's as if someone caught it and placed it on the floor.

The next freaky event was one day when I was coming down the stairs. The stairs in that old house were very steep and I had a bad habit of bolting up and down the steps like a wolverine on a rabbit. One day I slipped. 

Instead of crashing to the bottom, someone lifted me under my arms and righted me before I stumbled further.

It wasn't until years later that I learned the lady of the house died in her bed of old age. It was definitely a woman's presence I felt. I felt her strongest in the kitchen and the small bedroom where she died.

I think she liked having young people in her house. And she liked me. I only wish I could have talked to her. She was a very kind spirit.

So on this upcoming Day of the Dead, I'd like to remember that sweet nameless ghost who kept an eye on me all those years ago.

Although I didn't care for all the spirit activity growing up in Chicago, I was very fond of my resident ghost in Texas. I hope she knew how much I appreciated her even if we were separated by decades.

Would you mind a benevolent ghost in your house?



Thursday, October 25, 2012

Chat Facts: Writing Sizzling Sex Scenes

Coyote Con is almost here!
 
Some things you should know before the fun begins.

• Do register ahead of time. There were some snafus signing in with GTalk and Facebook earlier. Poor, tireless Joely Burkhart got all pittbull with her chat host and straightened them out. Still, Murphy's Law being what it is, sign in early and avoid the rush.

Coyote Con is absolutely free. You can't beat that with a stick.

• The con starts Friday evening, October 26. 

• My workshop on Writing Sizzling Sex Scenes is on Saturday, October 27 from 7:30pm to 8:30pm. This is EASTERN (New York) time, so set your world watches accordingly.

• Stop what you're doing and sign up! It's FREE! KS Augustin and I have put together one heck of a program. We worked hard so you don't have to. :grin:

• Prizes! All attendees to our workshop are automatically put into a drawing for free books. 

• It's quite possible Iko will make an appearance on the chat. I'll have to check with his publicist first.

There are lots of other workshops, but of course, ours is the naughtiest. I hope you'll stop by. It's only an hour.


Next week: 
Review of Torchwood I forgot it was Halloween week, so instead we'll have a ghost story.
State of the Homestead And I also have a guest pre-scheduled 11-1-12 so it looks like next week's program will go up the following week.

***

Casual Questions: I've been thinking of doing a newsletter for a while, but I don't want it to be strictly about my books. I'd like it to be more about me, the homestead and frugal living. (and the occasional book mention when I have something releasing.)

If I created such a newsletter would you subscribe? Be honest. It's okay if you don't, but let me know why. It'll give me a better grasp of what I'm up against.

Would you mind if I only blogged once a week (on both blogs) and put my other news in the newsletter once a month?



Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Double-Tap: Angela Brown & Gwen Gardner

My scorpion stories seem to have a cascade effect because now they're spawning zombies--and they're attacking my friends!

Fortunately, they attacked the wrong house because Angela and Gwen were ready with a little help from the characters they created for their latest novels.

It's like Greg always tells me, a double-tap a day keeps the zombies away.

Enjoy.

PS  Don't forget to leave a comment to get in on the giveaway. Tell me, would you run or shoot if a zombie was ten feet from you?
 

Keep Stomping Until It’s Dead

Hey All!
 
If you’re like me, you enjoy reading Maria’s “State of the Homestead” posts.  The parts that cause me to *shudder* the most are the ones where she shares an update on the strategic and constant invasion by those pesky scorpions.  I swear, I think Maria’s been inked on a Wanted poster in some scorpion badlands and bounty scorpions are trying to collect.

That got me to thinking.  I wonder if Partners in ParanormYA has a bounty on it?

“Why?” you ask.

I’m glad you did.  Because we had something – interesting  - happen at PIP HQ.

A late night visitor came a-calling recently.  He broke our front door down and yelled “Brains!” through half a decaying face.  With a stumble-shuffle-lurch, he came inside.  Startled our resident ghost, Franny, into a fit of fading in and out repeatedly, interspersed with “Eeps!”  Indigo, our wonderful ghost whisperer in Givin’ Up the Ghost, raced through the house in her floppy-eared fuzzy slippers to search for her favorite weighted flashlight.  Gwen and I both grabbed our metal baseball bats and took a swing.  We knocked him down, but we could tell by his grunts that he wasn’t out.  Abby smoothed her hands along the tattoos on the outside of her thighs and called forward her nine millimeter pistols.  One shot.  Two shots.  To the head.  Our unwelcomed gentleman finally called it quits.

“Double-tap,” Abby huffed, wiping sweat from her brow with the back of her hand.  “The only way.”

Abby had a lot of practice calling up her tattooed weapons in Neverlove.  She’d never had to do it in her Hello Kitty nightshirt before.  Plus, watching Zombieland ten times in one week actually paid off.  

Thankfully, we haven’t had another walking dead come by, but I couldn’t help thinking about what would happen if some other paranormal creature shows up.  We’ve got wooden chair legs to turn into stakes if Edward Cullen glitters by.  I’ve suggested sprinkling salt around the perimeter of our home to keep out demons.  Gwen agreed to it although she’s not sure if it’ll do little more than send any unwitting slugs to oblivion.  If a Harvestor shows up, Abby can take care of them with her tattooed weapons and her powers over holy water and fire.  If a shadowed monster appears, Indigo is quick on her feet with the light to disperse it.

In the end, I suppose the “double-tap” method is best, plus, always keep stomping until it’s dead, just as Maria does to those dastardly scorpions.

So what about you?  Any other “creature-attack-remedies” you know of?  We’re certainly open to suggestions.


Purchase
Gwen Gardner’s Givin’ Up The Ghost at Amazon US and Amazon UK.

And there are two giveaways! Visit
Partners in ParanormYA for the Big Swag Giveaway and for the Week Three Giveaway

Leaving a comment is the first way to be entered, but there are MORE! Click on the links below for more chances to win.



BIOS:

Gwen Gardner
Running, writing and reading are my favorite things. I am also a dreamer.

Have you ever told yourself that "someday" I'm going to travel or write or whatever it is that you are passionate about but can't do right now for whatever reason? You can go for years and years and keep telling yourself that "someday" you'll do it. Too often "someday" never comes. But mine did. I am a former Administrative Manager and Vice President of a successful swimming pool plastering company - until I woke up one day and realized that my "someday" had arrived. I quit my job, moved to the mountains and began to write. Crazy, I know. But even crazier? Is when you get to the end of your life and realize that your "someday" is too late. Life is much too short for that! So the adventure has begun.

Angela Brown
Born and raised in Little Rock, AR, Angela now calls Central Texas home. She's a lover of Wild Cherry Pepsi and chocolate/chocolate covered delicious-ness. Steampunk, fantasy and paranormal to contemporary - mostly young adult - fill her growing library of books. Mother to a rambunctious darling girl aptly nicknamed Chipmunk, life stays busy. Her favorite quote keeps her moving: "You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing there will be no result." ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Monday, October 22, 2012

Coyote Con: Writing Sex Scenes

Another whirlwind week ahead with a first for me to boot. This Saturday, I've agreed to co-lead a workshop (with KS Augustin) on writing (romantic) sex scenes at Coyote Con, an entirely online workshop.

Coyote Con is absolutely free, but you must register. The con starts Friday evening, October 26. My workshop on Writing Sizzling Sex Scenes is on Saturday, October 27 from 7:30pm to 8:30pm. This is EASTERN (New York) time, so set your world watches accordingly. 

For me, that will be 6:30pm, and I'll be on pins and needles the whole time because I'm terrified my internet will fail on me. My provider emailed me last week to say they'll be upgrading towers for the next couple of weeks and may result in downtime. I'm hoping they'll leave Saturday alone.

Anyway, go and sign up! It's FREE! And Kaz and I will provide you with stimulating entertainment on one of my favorite topics. Who knows? We may even give you some food for thought.

And everyone who attends our workshop is in a drawing for free books from our back lists. Win-Win!

I'll be sure to remind you again before the con.

***

This Thursday, I'm hosting Angela Brown and Gwen Gardener on their Partners in Paranorm YA blog tour. They wrote an extra special blog post for you.

So lots to see this week. I hope you'll plan to see us, both here and at Coyote Con.

***

Have you attended Coyote Con before? Will you be able to stop in and participate at our "Writing Sizzling Sex Scenes" chat? This is my very first chat and I could use the moral support.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Yellow Jacket Attack

I'm taking a powder today, guys. Yesterday, I got stung by yellow jackets. The pain isn't as intense as yesterday, but I still feel bad.

Since I'd never been stung by yellow jackets before, I thought I'd share some of the information I learned.

Yellow jackets look very similar to honey bees. But they are far more vicious. I've spent many days gardening, surrounded by honey bees and have never been attacked.

Yellow jackets are territorial and will attack without provocation. Unlike bees, they do not lose their stinger and can sting you several times. 

I was dragging brush to a burn pile when I walked near their nest inside a bunch of old logs. I thought at first ants had nailed me, but the pain kept growing---and spreading.

The whole time I walked very fast, back to the house that was several hundred yards away. (No running, since the terrain was too rugged.) Before I reached the back yard, I had torn off my t-shirt and found a yellow jacket tangled inside. As my final act of retribution, I smashed him. 

I'm pretty sure he gave me the finger anyway.

Treatment: I've been stung by both black bumblebees and wasps but the pain and swelling subsided the same day. Not so with yellow jackets.

Yellow jackets and most wasps have alkaline venom requiring something acidic to cut the pain. Vinegar, lemons or limes will do the trick.

Bees have acidic venom which requires a base. Make a mud of baking soda and water and plaster the affected area. 

Several sites I checked mixed the two up, so I stuck to the information from clinical sites that broke down each insect's biochemistry. Dry data, but this site is the most readable.

I took Benedryl but other than make me sleepy, did not help with the pain or swelling. I imagine I just have to live with it until it wears off.

It probably wouldn't have been so bad if there weren't three stings. I'm okay. Just in a bit of pain.

I could use some company in my misery. Anyone ever get stung by wasps or other insidious creature?

Monday, October 15, 2012

How to Grow an Audience

For the last few months, I've been standing back and watching how other people 'push' their books. I think there are basically two camps.

Camp 1 authors have a large loyal audience who will buy whatever they put out. They use social networking for...well, to be sociable. There's not a lot of pimping going on. They'll do interviews and occasionally write articles, but talking up their book is kept to a minimum.

Camp 2 are relative unknowns. They're on Twitter, FB, Linked In, Pinterest, Tumblr and any forum that will let them talk about their book. They spam the air waves, mad to get their name out. They usually have only one or two books. And who can blame them? There's no time to write when you have to sell.

Camp 1 authors have longevity on their side. They've been writing longer and have had the time to forge a back list of good books. Word of mouth is their best form of advertisement.

Camp 2 authors must rely on social networks to get the word out--a tricky business because social networking is still morphing and we're trying to sort our boundaries on what is and is not acceptable.

Shouldn't social networks remain social? Does spamming sell work? More importantly, has spam ever worked on you?

The other elephant in the room is that we're not only advertising to friends, but to other authors. The trick is to ESCAPE the sea of familiar faces and make ourselves available to people who have never heard of us.

Ah, but there's the rub. How do we reach new readers?

We used to get a nice bump in sales if our books were sold through a good-sized publisher. They have the clout to get your book in front of big name reviewers. But even that muscle is diminished because of all the competition.

The mediocre is shelved with the fabulous, forcing the consumer to wade through the choices.

...or is he? 

I'm finding that I'm more likely to choose an author I know than try an unknown. This makes the onus of achieving recognition even more crushing.

To grow an audience requires one thing that only the really successful authors in Camp 1 employ. Write a lot of good books. A strong back list implies reliability, readability, and readership.

We're bombarded with newsflashes of overnight successes and runaway bestsellers so often that we forget the majority of authors grow their audience one book at a time. Don't fall for the hype (like I did) that good writing is appreciated immediately.

Be patient and choose your venues wisely. I have a feeling once the ego-rush of self-publishing wears off and most of the dilettantes walk away, we'll end up with core professionals who are in it for the long haul. I want to be in their camp.

Quick survey: When was the last time you picked up a book from an author who was totally unknown to you? How did you find him? Was he good enough to buy his next book?

The last new-to-me author was recommended by a friend who knows my reading tastes. Since I didn't follow this author, I never knew she had a book out so all her time and money on pitches was for naught.



Monday, October 8, 2012

State of My Union

I often discuss what goes on at the homestead, or with the dogs, and occasionally with the writing, but I  rarely discuss myself.

But this Wednesday marks my wedding anniversary. 37 years with Greg. (I know. I can't believe we made it either.) Ha!

Over the years, we've had some good times and more than a few bad breaks. But tragedies, even the worst of them, are the bones that make or break a marriage. For us, our true strength comes out when it's been darkest. And we take turns being the rock for the other, so that neither of us bear the burden alone.

I think anyone who's been married a long time will tell you the same thing. Marriage is the ultimate partnership.

I'd like to leave you with a story that illustrates my devotion to someone who's not just my better half but my best friend.

One New Year's Eve, Greg came down with pneumonia. As strong and robust as he was, I almost lost him. He had gone downhill alarmingly fast. I'm sure I broke land speed records to get him to the emergency room, afraid he'd die on me before I could get help.

While we were waiting for a doctor to see him, he started to slip down his chair and he was fading fast. He doesn't remember this of course, because he was delirious with fever, but I grabbed him, all two hundred pounds of him and although he was nearly twice my weight, I held him in my arms and whispered in his ear, "I've got you, hon. I've got you." I kept him bolstered until an orderly showed up and helped me get him on a gurney.

I wasn't going to let him go. I never will.

Happy anniversary, hon.

***
This will be my only post this week. Aside from celebrating an anniversary, I'm hosting a party for my new neighbors, and finishing up some projects on the homestead.

But please stop in and leave a comment. Tell me how long you've been married or been with your significant other. What's the best anniversary gift you've ever received?


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Ethics and the Writer

There's been a lot of press lately about paid reviews, people who try to damage an author's career by leaving one-star reviews, and authors who use a pseudonym "similar" or the same as a famous author. 

Let me add one more--authors who hijack an existing popular title and use it in part or whole for their own work. I'm not talking about parody books, but books that are simply using the title to catch unsuspecting readers.

But here's the thing about all these gray areas of ethical behavior. It's been happening since the beginning. No one has ever cornered the market on questionable behavior. It isn't new. It's just gone digital.

And what might seem vulgar to me might look like brilliant strategy to someone else. 

The other day, I caught an ad on Craigslist from a guy begging people to give his books five-stars. Can we get any more brazen than to ask the man and woman on the street to give you five stars for a book they've never read? He didn't care if you read the books or even if you liked them. Maybe he thought this was smart marketing, but I was embarrassed for him.

But let's bring it closer to home. How many of you have left a "kind" review because that person was your friend and you didn't want to hurt his feelings? Is that any less ethical?

While I've never lied on a review, I once left off an issue that bugged me in a friend's book. No one else mentioned it, so it seems it was just a personal bugaboo. Still, if I were completely honest, I'd reveal warts and all.

On someone else's book, I found some grievous formatting errors. I opted to write the author rather than put it in my review so she could fix them. Whether she did or not, I don't know.

Manipulation of the system is a constantly shifting beast subject to interpretation.

You're welcome to disagree with me if you think maneuvering readers to try a book is a means to the end.

As a tool, manipulation is successful in the short term. But if the writing turns out to be less than stellar, it'll hurt you for a lot longer than it helped.

It' a gamble. Are you that good--or that lucky? How do you feel about the current crop of "incentives"? Would you try any of them as an experiment? 

Have you ever been unduly kind in a review to spare someone's feelings? 

And for God's sakes, please don't say you did that for me. LOL!