Friday, February 27, 2015

Celebrate The Small Things - 27 February #CTST

It's Friday and time to Celebrate The Small Things (or big things) that happened this week.

I've been running some free promotions, hoping to boost my visibility and get some more list subscribers. A couple of my titles have moved up the results lists for my keywords. That's something to celebrate, and I have some new list subscribers for which I am elated and very thankful. But progress is slow.

Received some positive reviews and ratings this week, always a cause for celebration.

I'm always looking for something to listen to while chopping vegetables or loading the dishwasher. (I'm easily bored.) If you like creepy radio plays, go to Youtube and search for “cbs radio mystery theater”. Hours of listening entertainment.

Keep writing and keep hoping. What are you celebrating this week?

Want to join in the fun that is Celebrate The Small Things, sign up here. Thanks to the very talented Lexa Cain for hosting this hop.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Good Books to Read

The Savage Tales of Solomon KaneRead anything notable lately? I finished a couple titles this week that might interest fantasy and ghost story readers.

The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane, by Robert E. Howard (of Conan fame), collects all the tales, poems, and fragments relating to the Puritan adventurer. If you've never encountered Solomon Kane, he's a landless wanderer who travels Europe and Africa, destroying evil wherever he finds it. His favorite weapons are a sword and a pair of pistols combined with incredible strength and quickness. He battles both human and supernatural foes.

From the Amazon page:
Collected in this volume, lavishly illustrated by award-winning artist Gary Gianni, are all of the stories and poems that make up the thrilling saga of the dour and deadly Puritan, Solomon Kane. Together they constitute a sprawling epic of weird fantasy adventure that stretches from sixteenth-century England to remote African jungles where no white man has set foot. Here are shudder-inducing tales of vengeful ghosts and bloodthirsty demons, of dark sorceries wielded by evil men and women, all opposed by a grim avenger armed with a fanatic’s faith and a warrior’s savage heart.

This edition also features exclusive story fragments, a biography of Howard by scholar Rusty Burke, and “In Memoriam,” H. P. Lovecraft’s moving tribute to his friend and fellow literary genius.
I very much enjoyed these stories. Kane is not as well developed as Conan. Whereas Conan had a clear purpose behind his actions, Kane happens on his adventures at random most of the time. He appears to believe he is carrying out God's will to stamp out evil wherever he finds it. In the last few stories, he's journeying across Africa because he feels some vague compulsion to do so. In "The Footfalls Within," for example, he comes across a dead girl from a slave caravan. Kane is opposed to slavery of any kind. He tracks down the especially cruel slavers and attacks them.

If you're familiar with the Conan cannon, you may find the Kane stories, especially the short tales, a bit slight and disappointing, but keep reading. The longer stories are the best ones and Kane improves with familiarity. My favorites are "The Moon of Skulls," in which Kane journeys deep into Africa to rescue a girl kidnapped from England, "The Blue Flame of Vengeance," in which Kane battles some pirates, "The Hills of the Dead," in which Kane fights an army of vampires, and "Wings in the Night," in which Kane confronts a flock of vicious harpies.

As with much literature from this period, there's an undercurrent of racism, especially against black Africans. Howard portrays them as less technologically developed but no less brave and worthy of fair treatment. For instance, whenever Kane comes across a city or monument in Africa, he always assumes some other race built it. However, Kane will risk his life to free a slave or avenge cruel treatment of any race.

Printer's Devil CourtPrinter's Devil Court is a short tale from Susan Hill (of The Woman in Black fame) and part of the Kindle Singles collection. Some medical students in London are attempting to capture the "spark of life" and use it to reanimate a corpse. In this case, they take the spark from an old man and introduce it into a young woman. As you might expect, the results are not quite what the students expected. The story is as much about the students as the ghost of the reanimated young woman.

From the Amazon page:
A mysterious manuscript lands on the desk of the step-son of the late Dr Hugh Meredith, a country doctor with a prosperous and peaceful practice in a small English town. From the written account he has left behind, however, we learn that Meredith was haunted by events that took place years before, during his training as a junior doctor near London’s Fleet Street, in a neighbourhood virtually unchanged since Dickens’s times.

Living then in rented digs, Meredith gets to know two other young medics, who have been carrying out audacious and terrifying research and experiments. Now they need the help of another who must be a doctor capable of total discretion and strong nerves.

‘Remember that what you know you can never un-know. If you are afraid, then...’

A gripping and suspenseful mystery by one of the masters of the genre…
Printer's Devil Court has much in common with Frankenstein but lacks the horror of that tale, nor is it as frightening as Hill's The Woman in Black or The Small Hand. Printer's Devil Court is pleasingly creepy rather than terrifying. If you like Hill's writing and story-telling style, you will likely get some warm fuzzies from Printer's Devil Court.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Celebrate The Small Things - 20 February #CTST

It's Friday and time to Celebrate The Small Things (or big things) that happened this week.

Finally have a handle on my crazy cat lady novel. I can see the whole story unfolding, at least in my head. Now I have to put it on paper (or into bytes, not sure about the corresponding digital version of that expression). Still something to celebrate.

Our washing machine died earlier this week and a new one arrived today. WooHoo! But now there are huge piles of laundry to go through.

I'm also celebrating #SpecFicChat Friday. If you feel in the mood to tweet/discuss speculative fiction, look for #SpecFicChat on twitter. This month we're debating what makes fantasy believable. Brought to you once a month by the writers at Untethered Realms.

Keep writing and keep hoping. What are you celebrating this week?

Want to join in the fun that is Celebrate The Small Things, sign up here.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Writing Tools: Hanx Writer

Does anyone else out there like to do their first drafts with pen and paper? Writing a first draft hunched over a keyboard just doesn't work for me. Leaning back in a comfy chair or lounging on the couch is much more conducive to first drafting, at least for me. That's been my writing process for years, scratching out the first draft and then keying my sometimes indecipherable handwriting for the second draft. The problem is the keying stage takes a long, long time. It's a second draft so I start editing and there's always the sentence crammed into the margin that I can no longer read. That keying stage isn't conducive to high-speed production. I also can't tell how much I've written until after the keying stage.

Then along came the iPad mini. I love it as a reading device, but would it work as an input device for first drafts, allowing me to still use my favorite writing spots and avoid the dreaded keying stage? I searched for an editor and settled on Hanx Writer.

Hanx Writer is supposed to mimic a typewriter with the look of the keyboard and the sounds of an old manual, including a ding at the end of a line. It's nostalgic and kind of romantic to imagine pounding out your first draft on a virtual typewriter. Unlike an old-fashioned typewriter, Hanx Writer has a built-in spellchecker with suggestions and you can easily move the cursor around the document to delete or add text. It also gives you a word count. To get your hard work into your favorite word processor, simply email the document to yourself as a pdf.

The app comes in three flavors: Hanx Prime Select, Hanx 707, and Hanx Golden Touch. The basic version is free. Use it to give Hanx Writer a test drive. Unfortunately, the basic version only allows for one document. If you want to work on multiple projects, you will need to upgrade to either the 707 or Golden Touch (both available as in-app purchases). So far, I've only had one bad experience. I was trying to move my cursor around but it wouldn't display anywhere. I pressed the space bar and lost a half-page of text. Fortunately, that half page was fresh in my head so I rewrote it (probably better than the text I somehow deleted). That hasn't happened again. However, I recommend emailing the document to yourself on a regular basis so that you'll have a backup in case something dire happens with the app or to your iPad.

Happy typing.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Celebrate The Small Things - 6 February #CTST

It's Friday and time to Celebrate The Small Things (or big things) that happened this week.

I'm thankful to be over the latest cold at last. I finally have some energy after a week of feeling as drained as a vampire victim. (I checked my neck and chest. No bite marks.) No big writing news this week. Still plugging away at the cat story.

I'm thankful for all the great internet friends I've found through writing and blogging. One of them nominated me for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. Thank you Katie L. Carroll. Katie is a YA novelist and editor extraordinaire. Check out Elixir Bound to sample her work.

The rules for accepting this award are as follows:
1. Thank the person who nominated you, and link to their blog.
2. Display the award logo.
3. Nominate at least 15 other blogs (more or less) and provide a link where they may be found.
4. Then, go to their blog, leave a comment to let them know they have been nominated, and where to find the information they need to accept (rules).
5. Mention three things that inspired you the most during the past few weeks.

So here are the three things that have inspired me recently:

1. One of my daughters went to another round of cleft clinic recently. It's an all day medical appointment in which a bunch of specialists check out your progress and make recommendations. She was born with a cleft lip and palette and has been through way too many surgeries for someone her age. She now has years of orthodontics in front of her. She continues to smile, as cheerful, sassy, and competitive as ever.

2. Snow. Yes, I know the weather seems really lame, but when I look across my backyard with it's foot of fresh white snow and the bright sunshine gleaming off that shimmering surface, I feel happy and energized.

3. Conan. I've been listening to Howard's Conan stories on LibriVox. There's a reason these stories have lasted and sound fresh no matter how many times I listen. Howard has created a vibrant world for his hero. Conan's character doesn't evolve much, but it can be comforting to find something consistent. Conan's indomitable spirit is inspiring in and of itself.

Here are my nominees:
1. M. Pax—mpaxauthor.com
2. Lyndon Perry—www.lyndonperrywriter.com
3. Tyrean Martinson—tyreanswritingspot.blogspot.com
4. Christine Rains—christinerains-writer.blogspot.com
5. Catherine Stine—www.catherinestine.blogspot.com

Keep writing and keep hoping. What are you celebrating this week?

Want to join in the fun that is Celebrate The Small Things, sign up here.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Celebrate The Small Things - 23 January #CTST

It's Friday and time to Celebrate The Small Things (or big things) that happened this week.

Finished the editing process for On the Altar, my thriller novella scheduled for sometime this spring with MuseItUp Publishing. I returned the text and forms several days ahead of schedule. I'm sure my editor found that shocking.

Finished another chapter on my creepy, crazy cat lady project and outlined the next two chapters. Still don't know what to call it. Received some great reviews for Give Me Your Teeth this week, and last week the story was featured on Pretty Little Pages.

Do any of you like audio books? Want to give one a try? I have promo codes from Audible that will get you a free copy of Last Request. Leave a note in the comments or use the contact form if you're interested.

Keep writing and keep hoping. What are you celebrating this week?

Want to join in the fun that is Celebrate The Small Things, sign up here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Word of the Week: Fast

“David and Emily from Charles Dickens' David Copperfield
by Frank Reynolds.
What comes to mind when you hear the word fast? Do you think of something locked firmly in place? The lock held fast on the treasure chest lid. A loyal friend? We became fast friends after enduring months of captivity in the pirate ship's hold. Someone pledging to not eat for some period? We fasted for days while aboard the pirate ship. Someone or something that moves quickly? The pirate sloop was incredibly fast when running before the wind. How can a word that describes something firmly fixed also describe something that moves quickly? Sounds like one of those contradictions that makes English so much fun but gives anyone trying to learn it fits.

Fast is used as an adjective, adverb, and verb. These three uses are also present in Old English: fæst (adjective), fæste (adverb), and fæstan (verb). All three uses had the sense of making or describing something as firm, secure, or fixed. The Old English words derive from Proto-Germanic *fastu-, *fasto, and *fasten. There are many cognates in other Germanic languages. The sense of abstaining from food is also present in Old English. The original meaning of holding firmly evolved to mean firm hold of oneself or firm control of one's appetites and urges. The verb fasten comes from the same root. Old English fæstnian—meaning to fix, make firm, or secure—derives from Proto-Germanic *fastinon. Now that all those meanings are firmly fixed and secure, how do we get to something that moves with great speed?

Sometime before 1200, fast added quickly and rapidly to it's litany of meanings. It's not certain when this addition occurred. It may have been one of the Old English meanings. One theory, citing the influence of Old Norse, attributes the new sense to associating the adverb fast (meaning firmly or vigorously) with run. He runs hard. He runs fast. Another theory, citing the influence of Old Danish, suggests that a fast runner is one who stays close to what he is chasing. The Old Danish adjective fast includes the meanings near to and almost. The Old Norse theory makes more sense to me but I like the imagery of the Old Danish one with the warrior fast on the heels of his fleeing foe.