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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Enjoy your extra day

Have you ever wished you had more time? It occurred to me this morning that since this is the day that makes leap year, well leap, anything we do today is extra. So, if you have been feeling stressed, take a deep breath in your nose and breathe out your mouth. Because the planners of our calender have given you an extra day today to get things done. We have not had this day for the past three years. So time today is special. I know I don't have the power to make this a holiday but it seems like we ought to mark Leap Day in some way so that in four years, we can look back and say, "Remember when we did..." Or if you enjoy making traditions for your family, today might be a good time to do a new one. At that leap year rate, a child born a couple of years into the cycle would only have about four or five of them with their family of origin before moving out and taking the celebration with them.

I'm not sure exactly how I am going to accomplish this. I believe I am going to finish my edits on a short story that I have been putting off since I have all this extra time this year. Will I feel more productive at the end of the year with the extra time I've had today? Probably not, because as humans we tend to look at what we didn't get done instead of what we did. I wonder if a study were done, are leap years slightly more productive years? Or do people just want to go take a nap? I would love to hear if anyone has anything that they are planning to do special. Make it big, after all, you don't have to duplicate it for another four years. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Catch Fire Blog Party


Today is the Catch Fire Blog Party, celebrating the release of CassaFire by Alex J. Cavanaugh! The goal is to help CassaFire “catch fire” on the best seller charts and achieve the success of the first book, CassaStar. There’s also a special package of prizes being given away at the author’s blog (copies of CassaFire, CassaStar, tote bag, mug, and bookmarks) as well as book giveaways during his two-week blog tour. See Alex’s site for details: http://alexjcavanaugh.blogspot.com/

CassaFire
by Alex J. Cavanaugh

CassaStar was just the beginning…

The Vindicarn War is a distant memory and Byron’s days of piloting Cosbolt fighters are over. He has kept the promise he made to his fallen mentor and friend - to probe space on an exploration vessel. Shuttle work is dull, but it’s a free and solitary existence. The senior officer is content with his life aboard the Rennather.

The detection of alien ruins sends the exploration ship to the distant planet of Tgren. If their scientists can decipher the language, they can unlock the secrets of this device. Is it a key to the Tgren’s civilization or a weapon of unimaginable power? Tensions mount as their new allies are suspicious of the Cassan’s technology and strange mental abilities. 

To complicate matters, the Tgrens are showing signs of mental powers themselves; the strongest of which belongs to a pilot named Athee, a woman whose skills rival Byron’s unique abilities. Forced to train her mind and further develop her flying aptitude, he finds his patience strained. Add a reluctant friendship with a young scientist, and he feels invaded on every level. All Byron wanted was his privacy…

Available today!
Science fiction - space opera/adventure
Print ISBN 978-0-9827139-4-5, $15.95, 6x9 Trade paperback, 240 pages
EBook ISBN 978-0-9827139-6-9, $4.99, available in all formats

CassaFire is the sequel to Cavanaugh’s first book, CassaStar, an Amazon Top Ten Best Seller:
“…calls to mind the youthful focus of Robert Heinlein’s early military sf, as well as the excitement of space opera epitomized by the many Star Wars novels. Fast-paced military action and a youthful protagonist make this a good choice for both young adult and adult fans of space wars.” - Library Journal

You can visit the author’s site at http://alexjcavanaugh.blogspot.com/







Monday, February 27, 2012

Is it an award if you don't know about it?

Critters Writers Workshop is a great place to get feedback about your stories from strangers for the cost of critiquing other people's stuff. I have only been on the Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror portion so can't speak to the rest but the SF, F,H one is great. The feedback I've gotten off there for the most part has been solid.

They also send out a Woo Hoo's list weekly which tells which crittered stories were published and where. So, it is also a good source for potential publication sites. But it does take up some time. So, I signed up in 2007, critiqued and submitted some stories and then took a break. While on there, one critiquer sent me multiple emails about how much he liked my stuff and that he was kicking around an idea about how to get new writers more exposure. I said that would be fine and didn't think much more about it.

In the last couple of months, I signed up for a second time at Critters Writers Workshop to get feedback on the first speculative fiction piece I've done in a few years. However, since I can't seem to get to (read last phrase as procrastination) the revisions suggested by my writer's group, I have been only on the giving end of critiques. I almost quit last month.

Instead, I sent in the only horror piece I've ever done just to see what I'd get. I don't love the piece and probably won't submit it anywhere but had it gotten rave reviews I might have. Some came in hot, some cold, most lukewarm so I probably won't spend my time on that one. However, one of the first critiques came from Carl Slaughter, that critiquer I mentioned above from my first stint, and he asked at the end of his critique whatever happened to my story "The Blair Special."

I have to admit, the idea that someone would remember my story for five years put me on quite a high. Then, in emails, he told me about this Showcase for New Writers Award. He started this award and seems to do most of his reading on the online Writer's Workshop Critters. Although there may be other sources since, as my research showed, he did do a call for submissions for it back in 2010. You may wonder why I would research this. Well, it seems, I won it.

I didn’t realize this until I was scanning this winners site and saw my name (slightly misspelled) and my story title listed. So yes, my short story "The Blair Special" won the Science Fiction Showcase Award for new writers at http://critters.org/showcase_award/ in 2007. Do the math, that was five years ago. I don't know that the course of my life would have been altered by this information but I still would have liked to have it. I'm not sure how much it means other than someone who reads a lot of short stories in Science Fiction and Fantasy really, really, liked mine. I know it doesn't mean any money, nor does it mean publication, but it still was enough for me to go brag to my husband at dinner and to post here.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ah, the second child

Last week at my son's school Valentine's party, the local minor league baseball team mascot joined us. Since Louie, the mascot, is in a huge costume he is a bit lumbering and has a handler to move him around. For the group picture, my son squeezed in just behind Louie's left arm and ended up getting clocked in the nose when Louie turned to go.

After many tears, assessing the damage, and finding no blood, I pronounced him fine. Then, a couple of days ago, he grimaced while eating. I looked closer. His left front tooth had crossed behind his right one giving him a rather bucktooth appearance.

"Sweetie, did you get hit in the face?" I asked him, pulling him into my lap.

"When Louie hit my nose, it also hit my front teeth," he said.

"Have you already lost those teeth?" I asked him while gently probing. Both of the front teeth were very loose.

"Yes," he says. I start wondering what happens when permanent teeth get knocked crooked. It had been almost a week since it happened.

He went to move them around and I yelled, "Don't touch them."

Feeling much shame, I called the dentist to set up an emergency appointment. Making the appointment I had to admit, "Yes, it was last week. Yes, they are his permanent teeth."

So we go today. I'm sitting anxiously in the corner when the dentist walks in. Is my son going to have to have braces now? Or will they put those silver caps right on his front? My son opens his mouth. The dentist takes one look and says,"Those are his baby teeth."

My response, "Are you sure?"

The dentist shoots me a look, feeling the sting of my question and then says, "Yes, I am sure but we'll take x-rays just in case." He, no doubt, is wanting to march me in his office and show me his diploma. After the x-ray confirmation, he says, "I can pull them but you might as well just let them come out on their own. I can't even see any root left."

"Well, I'm relieved and embarrassed," I say to him. "I do apologize."

"Just be relieved," he says and we leave.

But instead of feeling like less of a negligent mom it occurred to me, how could I not know he hadn't yet lost his front teeth? With my oldest it was like a federal holiday. Although, I am quite relieved that he does not have to have any major work, still feel a bit bad. When questioned about saying he'd already lost the teeth, he said he was talking about the tooth beside it, which he has lost. At least, I knew he had lost some teeth in the front. Right?  I'm guessing he is going to make good from the tooth fairy when those loose, wiggly teeth do come out.

Monday, February 20, 2012

New Plan

Before I get into anything else, I need to know if my blog makes you do word verification to post? Whether it does or not, does anyone know how to turn this off? A friend of mine asked the question and I just stared blankly. I am sure I must have seen that setting at some point in setting up this blog but have no idea where to look now. What I have gleaned from reading the blogs of others is that it is greatly annoying and some people won't even comment on your blog if you have it enabled.

Okay, on to my planned blog. As I mentioned last week, I am trying to figure out a system for revisions and this is the new plan. A novelist friend and I have agreed to hold each other to task in a different way than a beta reader. We are going to pass our chapters back and forth until they are ready to go out. What that means is even if I don't have a system, an outside monitor is forcing me to actually revise. I did find some great suggestions for revision at Melissa Sugar's blog here .

My friend and I tried to figure out what consequence there would be if we didn't turn in our pages on time. Not that either of us doesn't want to write but we all know how easy it is to let other things crowd in. The best thing we could come up with is that if we don't, whoever doesn't has to come up with the consequence. What a way to avoid, huh?

So, still seeking any suggestions on a revision system that doesn't make you tear out your hair. I appreciate those I've gotten so far. Also any ideas on consequences, not that I'm planning to not do my stuff but just in case. I'd read somewhere about two writers (maybe Anne Lamont) who had to donate to the other's favorite charity if they didn't get their work done.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Writer's group

It is that time of the month. No, not that time, writer's group. I drove my hour and a half last night to get to the group. Since moving here, I have often thought I needed to find a group closer to me but I'm not willing to let this one go. Beyond the food and wine, which are usually pretty impressive, I value these people's opinions and  advice. There was a bit of a snafu with the food which comes when being hosted by a brilliant trauma surgeon who when she gets called in for surgery can't always make the time to cook. Imagine that. If you want to know her take on dinner was last night you can find it here . If  she hasn't posted yet, you'll still get something funny.

We hit on a lot of topics including man-scaping, erotica, anthologies,and valentine's day. The last being the topic of our writing exercise. We also talked about our current WIP and I posed the question. Is there an editing book that takes you step by step through the editing and revision process?

I have read The First Five Pages, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, and multiple treatise on plot and structure but still haven't really found a method that works for me. One suggestion was a book called Getting The Words Right which I plan to purchase, but anyone else have any suggestions? I find when I am looking at revising a novel, I get bogged down by all there is to do. In general, my plots are pretty strong but I need a framework in which to polish. Something that says step one-do this, step two-do this, and don't get distracted by step five while in process of doing step one or you will never get the first step done. Because, as you may have guessed, the latter is what normally happens. Then I get frustrated and eventually put it down in favor of writing something new. Which would be fine if I ever came back to it but that has not been my tendency. So, any book suggestions? Or are there any other ADD challenged writers out there that have found a system that works for them? Do you print it and put it in a binder? Do you do it all on computer? Do tell folks.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Service and a smile

While I can't exactly characterize this blog, I can say this has not ever been a food blog. So, of course, today I am going to talk about food and then relate it to writing. Since yesterday was the big eat out day of the year, or one of them since I think Mother's Day takes the top slot, we felt we should do the obligatory thing. Also, we just came back from out of town and neither of us wanted to go to the grocery store. Unable to procure a baby-sitter, we had the seven and ten-year-old in tow. Our first two restaurant choices were already full and I began to have nightmareish visions of McDonalds on Valentines. Then, I spied a possibility, right across from our local theatre where my son is taking a class.

The restaurant sits right on the street with a red awning and has Christmas type lights all around the top. It is called Marco's Italian Bistro . When we entered and asked if they had a table the host smiled, looked through his book and said, "I can find you a spot." I don't know whether they were booked or had tons of tables, either way, he started out by making us feel special. Then, due to valentine's day, he handed me a long-stemmed red rose that smelled wonderful. I was already liking the place.

We got a high top table and I ordered the house Malbec. I know nothing about wine other than I like some kinds and not others but have yet to really educate myself on why. In this case, they did a great job of choosing their house wine because it was smooth and very tasty. My husband and son both got the lemonade which they liked and my daughter, ever the epicurean, got her usual water.

Our two main entrees came off the chef's list for the day and since it was Valentine's, they came with a glass of champagne and chocolate covered strawberries. Jeff had chicken breast with three cheeses. I usually find most chicken breast that is not breaded rather bland but that was not the case here. It had that perfect marriage between taste and texture. I think maybe I might order that when we go back. I say maybe, because my order of pan fried tilapia on a bed of wild rice was fantastic too. I am wondering what else this chef can do. They served us mango italian ice between our bread and our main course as a palate cleanser. At no point was anyone's glass left empty. Our server lingered and conversed just enough to make us feel heard but not intruded upon. When asked, he had suggestions and tips. All in all, a wonderful experience. How does this relate to writing?

To begin, we had the outside presentation. I know a cover won't make me buy a book but it certainly has kept me from picking some up to even peruse. Then, we have the first impression, in this case, a smile and a rose, in a book, the first paragraph, how does it engage my senses?  Next, does it deliver what it promises with some palate cleansers in the middle to wake me up? The meal last night was a well crafted story in a book I will certainly want to read again. I hope to be able to give my reader that experience without the calories.
 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Public Library not for general public anymore

I think I posted last year how shocked I was when we moved here and went to the public library and saw there was a charge for new releases. Coming from a relatively healthy library system, ( I am sipping hot chocolate now from the mug I won in the summer adult reading program), it saddened me that access to all books was no longer equal.

It wasn't that I couldn't plunk down the five dollars or whatever it was for that new release, it was the idea that someone might not be able to. I imagined that struggling family walking into the library hoping to find the latest release from their favorite author and finding instead that they would have to wait until it moved out of new releases. They also charged for movie rentals which didn't really bother me but the book thing did. It seems this was only a precursor to what I could expect.

This year, the local branch of our library has been sold to the city of Collegedale. Since I am a mile beyond the boundaries of this city and do not pay their taxes, my family is now required to purchase the rights to the library for $85 or individually for $60. I went to a different branch still owned by the city of Chattanooga and discovered that since I live in the county, I also would have to pay $60 there.

This is my delimma. I can buy a lot of books using $60 at used books stores and for my e-reader but I hate that libraries must be struggling so much in order to have to do this. So I wonder if, as an author, I ought to buy that membership even though I won't use it that much AND will have to pay overdue fees because I am always late.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Memory Lapse

I wrote a story many years ago called MemoryMax (well I started it anyway, never actually finished it). Anyhow, the premise (not based on anything remotely scientific) was that if you could clear your brain of some unneeded stuff like old song lyrics, last week's grocery list, that kind of thing, you'd be a faster learner and sharper thinking. Of course, in the story, something gets downloaded from a soldier that shouldn't which leads to many chases and lots of violence but I digress. Today, that story popped into my mind when my daughter walked into the kitchen and said, "Mom, why is the car running in the garage?"

Excellent question that my girl had. It seems in my rush to load my arms with backpacks, my purse, papers, carryout containers, and making sure the children got into the house to start their homework, I forgot to turn off my car. It hadn't been running that long but even so, I felt more than a little ditzy at that moment. I have an enormous calender on my wall, all my appointments and my family's are programmed into my phone, and I have a written list of to-dos. It seems I forgot to add, Turn OFF  the car to the list. But I didn't feel quite so bad when I shared this with a friend of mine who said she came out of the bank on one occasion, searching frantically for her keys in her purse, only to discover she'd left the car running the whole time she'd been inside. So I'm revisiting my memory max idea, at least let me get rid of those Wham lyrics.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Stupid Pineapple-A cautionary tale

Today's post is on the topic of Stupid Pineapple, a blogfest, details at the link. You can still enter as long as you have an entry by midnight tonight.

Fifteen years ago, I was 25, in graduate school, and recovering from a painful breaking-off of a three year relationship. We had irreconcilable beliefs. I believed in monogamy and, despite statements to the contrary, he did not. There really was no meeting in the middle. Spring Break loomed with no real plans. I certainly didn't want to go home.

When three friends invited me on a cruise it seemed like a great idea. We were fit, wore bikinis, and liked to sit around the pools. So we had plenty of company, primarily a group of about seven guys from Boston who were obsessed with the movie Goodfellas. They were quite taken with my name, as the girlfriend of the main character in that movie is also named Nancy, so would call it out with great glee whenever I walked into a room, or onto the dance floor in a Cheers like manner.

I resisted most advances until Cozymel. I don't know how many of you have been to Cozymel, Mexico but it is beautiful and has been molded for tourists. My three friends and I spent most of our day there, baking on the beach, scrumptious strawberry daiquiris served in hollowed out pineapples with an umbrella and a straw stuck in the top, delivered by a cabana boy. They were, to date, the best daiquiris I have ever had, cold, sweet and tart, almost tingling on your tongue. Given my diminutive size at the time (5'2" about 110), drinking four to seven of them (not really sure of the count) may not have been my best choice.

My memory of catching some kind of a horse drawn conveyance back to the cruise ship is hazy. I am certain that those Boston boys joined us before we got there though. While details would be salacious, I will not go into them here. What I will say is I got a couple of things out of that night. The first being the herpes simplex I that showed up on my lip right after the cruise. The second, a hangover that kept me off the booze for about six months.

So each time one of those beauties pops up on my face. Or my husband's, since I inadvertently shared my gift with him in our first year of marriage, I remember those daiquiris and that sweet, tart taste. They tempted and seduced me with the power of that yellow fruit. So, I say to you all, "Beware the Stupid Pineapple."

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Party foul

Short blog today, but it has come to my attention that at least one blog I thought I was following, I don't seem to be. My apologies to Thinking the Lions . Of course, it has just occured to me that maybe you can un-follow a follower like unfriending on fb? If so, suck it Briane :). Kidding, he always has funny comments so I hate I've not been getting the updates on his blog. Which leads me to ask if there is anyone else who is following this blog who has not been followed in turn? If so, it is a grievious error on my part that I would like to rectify. If you would rather not comment here, my email is nancygraveswahler@gmail.com and I will immediately raise the number of followers you have by 1. Okay, so it won't exactly make or break you but still I'd like to know when you have new stuff up.

Tomorrow, I will write on stupid pinapples or just a singular stupid pineapple, I haven't decided. In fact, I have no idea what I am going to write. It is a blogfest coming straight from the mind of Thinking the Lions. The scoring's a bit complicated but basically write about that topic and I think you are covered. If you too would like to jump aboard, and maybe win a prize get the details here. You may have noticed I have finally figured out how to do the link thing. Thank you to all who instructed this technologically dimwitted individual. Anyhow, until tomorrow I leave you with a thought- Stupid Pineapple.   

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Feb 1st-IWSG- Soul Surfer or Soul Sucker

  Insecure Writers Support Group conceived and birthed by Alex J Cavanaugh- More about it or sign up here.

Most of us have probably read a short story or novel at some time and after we've finished thought, 'well that's an hour (or two or day) that I'm not going to get back.' I don't know how many of you have seen Soul Surfer (yea, the one about the girl where the shark bites off her arm). We watched it for our family movie the other night. I think I always pay a bit more attention when I know something is based on a true story. Which is ironic since I write fiction. But it does make you wonder which parts are true and which things are embellished or just left out. We all will have our different opinions that may change with age. For instance, my son who is 7 had a hard time believing she really gave her surf boards away to a couple of kids asking for autographs.

As for me, my skepticism came with the presentation that she didn't lash out at anyone. We're talking a teenager here who loses her arm. They show a couple of scenes where she is sad, have a story line where she almost gives up but no anger, at least no Captain Dan on the ship screaming with God moment. What she does have is passion for her sport. The story left me feeling, as it was intended to, inspired, awed, and wanting to feel like I could do the same thing. Except that I've never stood on a surf board in my life so figuratively, people, figuratively.

Anyhow, as so many things do, it left me thinking about my writing. Mostly, when I'm writing, I'm just thinking about entertaining. I want to be able to sweep someone into a story and have them want to stay until they find out how the story ends. I don't think much about inspiring people. Perhaps this has something to do with being a pantser, in that I don't really know where the story is going until it is over. But rarely, when I read back through, do I think 'Yes, someone reading this will come away a better person for it.' So does that reduce me to a hack horror film writer who only wants a reaction? No offense intended for those writers since they are not the ones writing about insecurity on their blogs. Unless, of course, I've not visited that one yet.

So I am sitting with myself and wondering, what am I trying to do with these hours I spend writing, editing, and submitting? I hope some of the things I've written make people think. I read a book about creating short stories and one of the pieces of advice it gave was to write down on index cards issues that you are passionate about. It suggested that all of your stories should contain one of those issues in some way. So, am I selling myself or readers short if I write a fluff piece? I guess in the end, my questions are, what if I just want to give someone a bit of escapism? Does that make me shallow? I already know my writing is not such as to become a literary great so am I being lazy to not push for that or is it good to know your limits?