Monday, December 31, 2012

The Front Side of Fifty

This may be a dangerous day for folks in my neighborhood.  I doubt they even suspect.  And things unexpected are always the most perilous.

The fire department should be warned and the hospital alerted.

Someone might be playing with fire.

It's quite possible that my wife may bake a cake for me today.  She may decide to plunge waxed wicks into chocolate and ignite their tips.  People sometimes do that on birthdays.  But mine is a fire hazard.

The cake, you see, must be huge to hold all those candles.  Add to that bulk the weight of frosting and wax and serving dish and it's a disaster in the making.  A hernia waiting to happen.  A horror writer's delight.

With fire extinguisher in hand and buckets of water by my feet, I'll wait.  Just in case...

And thus begins the last year I'll live on the front side of fifty.  This time next year, God willing, I'll be half a century old. :::shudders:::

And because it's my birthday, I'll ask you to grant me one wish.  It's one that each and every one of you can grant.

My birthday wish is simply this:

Celebrate the coming New Year to your fullest, but please, do so responsibly and safely.  You are loved too much by too many to do otherwise.

The continued presence of those we love is the greatest birthday present we can have.  Make sure you're around to be that present.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Top Blog Posts of 2012 (I Love Countdowns)

You guys know by now that I'm a geek and that I love geeky things like statistics and countdowns.  When I was young, I would spend every New Year's Eve listening to the Top 100 songs for the year.  Although I don't do that so much these days, I do still love lists and rankings and the like.

So I thought it was only fitting that I provide a few lists pertaining to my blog for the year.  I chose to list the Top 10 blog posts by page views and by comment count, and also include a Top 10 of my favorite (self-written) posts and why they were my favorites.

Now, without the excessive rambling that I'm so prone to do, here's my recap of 2012's popular blog posts.

My Top 10 Posts By Page Views:
  1. August is Awesome Because of Angela Ackerman
  2. The Authors of Spells: Ten Tales of Magic 
  3. Catherine E. McLean: The 9 Kinds of Writers 
  4. Nine Ways to Shorten a Long Story by Rayne Hall 
  5. August is Awesome Because of Peggy Eddleman 
  6. August is Awesome Because of David Powers King 
  7. A Bit of Beach Fun (And Zombie Turtles) 
  8. The Stages of a Geek's Manuscript 
  9. August is Awesome Because of Angela Cothran 
  10. Mark Steve Reviews Julius Caesar by Shakespeare 

My Top 10 Posts By Comment Count: (including my replies)
  1. AlexFest
  2. August is Awesome Because of Alex Cavanaugh
  3. (Tie) - August is Awesome Because of Peggy Eddleman
  4. (Tie) - Preserving My Dignity (Baby Face Bloghop)
  5. August is Awesome Because of Angela Cothran
  6. 28 Is a Tough Number
  7. August is Awesome Because of Sara Bowers
  8. August is Awesome Because of David Powers King
  9. How a Review Inspired a Sequel by Cherie Reich
  10. (Tie) Spectacular September
  11. (Tie) Page Views Mean (Almost) Nothing

My Favorite 10 (Self-Written) Posts:
  1. 08/02 - August is Awesome Because of My Wife Myra (Because it's about Myra)
  2. 09/17 - A Bit of Beach Fun (And Zombie Turtles) (Because it was fun!)
  3. 04/03 - My Muse Tried to Kill Me Today (Because it is so true)
  4. 09/07 - My Life as an Adverb (Because Schoolhouse Rock Rocks)
  5. 03/02 - Is It the Soap? (Because it was my first post linked by inkPageant)
  6. 04/15 - And the Birdie Says (About my introduction to Twitter)
  7. 07/03 - Too Woo and Shoo (Because of the excellent debate and feedback)
  8. 03/25 - Personal Muse Hotline (My first attempt at writing anything humorous)
  9. 03/23 - You Can Run (My first Meme tag)
  10. 09/03 - Muse For Hire (Because it's about my muse) 
What about you guys? Which of your posts are your favorites? Do you have a list of favorite sites or posts on other sites? Favorite communities?  Links are welcome. (I'll be sure to check the SPAM folder and release any Blogger catches by mistake.)

Friday, December 28, 2012

2012 In My Rear View Mirror

Ending a year on a positive note is, in my opinion, at least as important as starting a year on a positive note.

I took a little time recently to look in my rear view mirror and examine the positive things that have happened this year.  I decided to list many of those accomplishments that apply in some form to blogging or writing.

Having begun diligently working on my first book a little over a year ago and started blogging back in February, I've:
  • Published over 200 posts
  • Finished drafting--and revising--The Bonding, my first book in the Strands of Pattern series
  • Welcomed more than 30 writers, bloggers and authors as guests on my blog
  • Received more compliments, congratulations and well-wishes than I can count
  • Watched my confidence as a writer (and even blogger) grow beyond my expectations
  • Joined over four hundred blogs and frequent a hundred more
  • Created a Facebook page, Google+ and Goodreads accounts, and started Tweeting
  • Found some top-of-the-line critique partners
  • Had dozens of my posts linked from inkPageant and other places 
  • Attended my first writer's workshop (Thank you, Uncle Orson Scott Card!)
  • Had a short story published
  • Critiqued or reviewed a half-dozen full length novels in addition to scores of chapters and short stories
  • Met a slew of awesome people and embarked upon some treasured friendships.

As such, I am forced to conclude that 2012 has been a most excellent year.  And I wanted you to know that if you're reading this post then chances are good that you helped make it so.

And to you I say, thanks!

May we endeavor to accomplish great things in 2013 and find the courage and determination to succeed.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

28 is a Tough Number

One of the things I love most about Christmas is giving gifts. I enjoy it so much that even I (a typical man who despises shopping) gladly spend hours rummaging through shelves and displays to find toys and games for the grandkids.

It's so easy!

So what is it about twenty-eight, you ask?  Twenty-eight is an important number.  It's the number of years that I've been happily married to the most wonderful woman alive.

And that's the problem.  It's tough!  Think about it for a moment from a husband's perspective.
  • 28 birthdays
  • 28 Christmases
  • 28 Valentine's Days
  • 28 anniversaries
  • More than 28 Just because I love you days
  • And an unspecified number of "I'm sorry" gifts added to the mix.

The problem stems from my need to give my wife something different each time.  I yearn to be original, but originality has become elusive.  Like a writer groping in vain for the truly unique story, this husband gropes in vain for yet another unique Christmas gift for his wife.

And it must be the right gift.  Something she wants or needs.  Something she'll love or treasure.  Something that says "Merry Christmas, honey, I love you" and nothing more.  Trust me, ladies.  Our gifts say nothing else.  Honestly.

We guys simply do not possess the mental capacity to meticulously evaluate every implied nuance of every gift we choose.  It's just not in the DNA.  We're not attempting to project any subliminal messages via the gift; we're just trying to make you happy.

We can't be trained.  Educating us in the finer aspects of gift-giving is futile. Our memories will never retain your dress size and we know better than to ask.  We have no idea what kind of shoes you want or what your favorite fragrance is this month.  And please don't ask us to stand at the cosmetic counter.  The cashiers and assistants only laugh at us.  The jewelry department clerk can't equate our estimation of "about this big" with a ring size.

We've learned that crock pots and vacuum cleaners and steam-press irons are unacceptable, whether you need them or not.  We dare not purchase anything that must fit.  (We have no clue what's in style right now anyway.)

Telling us we should know what you want and like is as helpful to us as assembly instructions written in Swahili.  And spending more time with you, while enjoyable, won't fill our brains with your unspoken desires.  Osmosis doesn't work.  I know.  I've tried.

We guys are more than happy to draft a list of suggestions from which you can choose ours.  We really don't understand why it can't work the other way too.  Please, make it easy on us, ladies.  If we still haven't figured out why you cried or laughed or gave us the silent treatment last month, then what chance do we have with this?

But alas, I shall do as I've done before, as I shall do yet again.  I'll burn three tanks of gas on my quest.  I'll search through endless aisles and malls, eliciting scowls from shoppers, frowns from clerks, and pity from those who share my plight.  I'll ponder and fret until my stomach twists itself into a pretzel.  For love demands nothing less.

And to think, Valentine's Day is less than two months away.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Writer's Letter to Santa (At Julie's)

I wrote a letter to Santa requesting critique partners. Julie Luek assured me she could make sure it reached him in time for Christmas.  I'm trusting her.  I mean, who could refuse Julie, right?

So stop over at A Thought Grows and give Julie and me a big howdy and a merry Christmas!  Be sure to add your Christmas wish list in the comments and Julie will make sure they reach Santa too!

Monday, December 10, 2012


What does Alex look like?
No corporeal description applies to Alex. He's the disembodied spirit of aid and support.

Who could play Alex in a documentary?
Cross Leonard Nimoy and Sean Connery for a start.

Who does Alex remind you of?
Speedy Gonzales with the stamina of the Energizer Bunny.

For my Flash:
Captain Vickers laughed at the yeoman. "Who ever heard tell of a ninja playing a guitar while flying a Cosbolt? That's some imagination you got there, Jones."

The petty officer kept his voice level. "I have, sir."

"You have, have you? Who?"

"Captain Cavanaugh, sir."

"Cavanaugh's a myth, boy. Ain't a soul ever seen him."

"That's why they call him the Ninja, sir."

Captain Vickers chuckled. "What the devil they been feeding you in the galley? You lookin' for a section 8, boy?"

Yeoman Jones lifted his chin. "He leads the IWSG."

Vickers' chuckle became a glare. "What do you know about IWSG?"

"Everybody knows about the Interstellar Wing's Stealth Guard, sir."

"Talk like that will land you in the brig. Best you attend your duties. And turn your mouth off when your imagination's on.  Got that?"

Yeoman Jones snapped to attention.  "Aye sir."  Jones went about his business, but turned and added, "Sir, I hear he's married.  His wife should know how much we appreciate everything he does."

"Dismissed, yeoman."

Jones nodded.  He knew Cavanaugh was real and out there protecting us.  Somewhere.

Hosted by Mark Koopmans, Morgan Shamy, David Powers King and Stephen Tremp, the BlogFest runs from December 10 - 12.

Join me in thanking Alex for being abundantly more supportive than anyone could have asked. It's our pleasure--and duty--to make sure those invisible cheeks redden... at least a little.

The Linky is here and will be open until Dec. 12, 2012.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

How a Review Inspired Cherie Reich's Nightmare Ever After

How a Review Inspired Nightmare Ever After

Thank you so much for hosting me today, Jeff!

Reviews can be a great joy and the bane of an author’s existence. We all love it when someone enjoys our work, but many authors soon find out what happens when someone doesn’t love our work as much as we do. A lot of authors will stop reading reviews even to keep from reading bad ones.

I read my reviews, and I’m glad I did for Once Upon a December Nightmare in particular. If I hadn’t, then I would never have written the sequel Nightmare Ever After.

At the time, Once Upon a December Nightmare was published with Wild Child Publishing and fellow Wild Child author David Huffstetler read my novelette and wrote a review. In the review, he said, “She left me asking for more, and that is one of the signs of a good story.” The review produced warm fuzzies, but then he also emailed me, throwing out ideas for a sequel with a possible FBI agent and maybe even a touch of romance.

At the time, I told him I planned for Once Upon a December Nightmare to be the only one, but I would consider a sequel. And I did. For months, his words and review swirled in my head. Then I decided to go for it and write Nightmare Ever After. Without him, there would be no sequel and no The Nightmare Collection.

It’s great when a reader can inspire so much more from an author.

Book Description:

A legend is hungry tonight.

A child monster will get its first taste of blood in Nightmare at the Freak Show. Four friend will enter the forest on December night, but only one can survive in Once Upon a December Nightmare. Almost ten years after Cassie's December nightmare, the monster awakens to hunt again in Nightmare Ever After.

Publication Date: November 17, 2012

Add to Goodreads

Cover art by Nicemonkey at
Cover design by Aubrie Dionne.
Bookworm logo for Surrounded by Books Publishing created by Cherie Reich.

Purchase Links for the ebook:
Amazon US, UK, DE, FR, ES, IT, JP
Nook UK

Purchase Links for the print book:
Amazon US, UK, DE, FR, ES, IT

Author Bio:

A self-proclaimed bookworm, Cherie Reich is a writer, freelance editor, book blogger, and library assistant living in Virginia. Her short stories have appeared in magazines and anthologies. Her e-books include the horror series Nightmare, a short story collection with authors Aubrie Dionne and Lisa Rusczyk titled The Best of Raven and the Writing Desk, the futuristic space fantasy novelette trilogy Gravity, and The Foxwick Chronicles, a series of fantasy stories. She is a member of Valley Writers and the Virginia Writers Club.

Author Links:

Rafflecopter Giveaway:
I am giving away prizes to two lucky people. The prize packages are open internationally and include: a signed copy of The Nightmare Collection, a signed copy of Gravity: The Complete Trilogy, and a $10 Amazon Gift Card.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

My Next Big Thing

The awesome Mike Swift tagged me in this post on his ML Swift, Chasing Windmills blog.  He apparently believes I've got...

The Next BIG Thing!

As with all things in bloggyland, there are rules.  The Next Big Thing is no exception.  And this hop's rules state that I am to answer ten questions about my current WIP (story, manuscript, blog post, etc.) and then pass the honor to others (writers or bloggers) so we can discover what their Next Big Thing is.

Ten Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing:

1. What is the working title of your book?
The Bonding (Book One of Strands of Pattern)

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
That's a very good question. I wanted to write a hero's journey on an epic scale set in a world of magic.  I'm a discovery writer at heart, stopping occasionally to plot and make sure I've not wandered too far off course.  I know where I'm starting and where I'm wanting to end up, but the unexpected course changes make the trip fun.

3. What genre does your book fall under?
Adult Epic Fantasy

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Not a clue.  I avoid allowing actors into my imagination when I'm developing characters.  If I envision an actor as a character, the roles the actor has played would bleed into the way I write them.  (Besides, I'd be a horrible casting director.)

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Cop-out alert! I personally think generating single-sentence summaries is far easier for stories highly focused on a single protagonist.  Character starts here, needs to get there, but must undergo this and endure that to do it.  My tale is not truly centered around a single protagonist (or a single antagonist for that matter.) But in reality, I probably find this so difficult because I can't see the forest for all the trees.

Now THAT's a Big Thing

6. If you plan to publish, will your book be self-published or published traditionally?

I definitely plan to publish, but I'm not fully sold on either method as yet. My dream was always to have a publisher (that I won't name here) run with the entire series.  There are two additional publishers that would tickle my fancy too.  However, there is also something to be said for taking hold of the reins and charting one's own destiny.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I worked on the first book off and on for several years starting back in the late 90s, but put it aside until I began writing in earnest late in 2011. I salvaged portions of a dozen or so chapters worth of plot and completed the first draft in May 2012.  I figure it comes to about a year's worth of serious, productive writing.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
My critique partners and beta readers enjoyed comparing sections of it to J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series.  I'd be lying if I denied their influence.  I've purposely put off reading some popular ones (including A Song of Ice and Fire) to keep from borrowing from them.

9. Who or What inspired you to write this book?
I credit J. R. R. Tolkien with igniting my imagination and love of fantasy.  My desire to write this type of tale came (mostly) from Robert Jordan.  But it was my college English professor who gave me the confidence and nudge I needed to actually write the book.  So in truth, it is she who deserves the most credit.

10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
It has dragons.  It has maps.  It has not one, but three strong females as major characters, with another introduced in book two.  It has not one, but three flavors of magic; one exclusive to a single race, the other two determined by gender.  The tale pits destiny against chance, prophecy against choice, despair against hope, and righteous purpose against righteous purpose.

Might as well include my working blurb, yes?
Not all gifts are free, and some gifts kill.

Supernaturally tethered beneath the mountain of fire, Arinur awaits the mortal that will set him free. Arinur's high priest, the Aridhai master, leads a theocracy toward that end. They're close. The secret to loosing Arinur lies within the Steward Stones and he'll ravage entire nations to discover it.

Millennia past, an immortal named Cretahn uttered terrible prophecies and then died. Now, the first of those prophecies is fulfilled when the dragon Rendowin claims that Cretahn's Bane now lives and possesses a Steward Stone. Some believe it's Daaron Olrey. And Daaron's afraid they may be right. His magic's quickening came unnaturally late. Were it not for the Steward Stone he'd been given, it might not have come at all. 

The gift became a curse, for it bonded itself to Daaron and parting with it will kill him. All he wants besides a life free from curses and prophecies is Abby, but he must become one with the mysterious Elanna to survive. Elanna, hundreds of years old, yet still young, now shares his thoughts--and more. She leads him into the heart of Aridhum on a quest that will surely cost his life.

What can a simple man do to thwart a nation of zealots intent on war? And even if Daaron can stop the Aridhai master, can he stop what the master set into motion?

Show us YOUR Next Big Thing
Now comes the moment where I sprinkle the bones with blood and cast them down to be read.  And although I am male, I can glimpse the ken and discern the future that the bones foretell.  (I'm the author so I can do this.)

And the bone reading tells me that these people have got The Next Big Thing!  So be on the lookout to discover what it is.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Preserving My Dignity (Baby Face Bloghop)

Believe it or not, this post is my attempt at preserving my dignity.

My mother recently gave me the old family photo album.  The problem, you see, was she did so in the presence of my daughter.  My daughter was beyond elated.  Contained within those stiff, aged pages were photographs of her father, several of which were perfect ammunition for blackmail.

"Oh, these are going online," she said, and followed it with a frighteningly nefarious giggle.  Where would they end up?  Facebook?  Google+?  Twitter?  All of the above and then some?  She's a crafty little thing and may even be capable of hacking my blog and humiliating me in my own little corner of cyberspace.

So I did what any self-respecting man my age would do.  I grabbed the least damaging photograph of my younger self that I could find, scanned it into the computer and at the last minute, signed up for the Baby Face Bloghop that Trisha from Word + Stuff was hosting.

When you're cool, you just know it.

So here it is.  This photograph of my hip little self was taken around 1965 while living in Hawaii. Mom had a thing for hats and bow-ties.  And I mean she had it bad.  I strutted through my entire preadolescence like this.  I still carry the emotional scars.  Mom still thinks it's cute.  Those scars run deep.

But at least now I shouldn't have to worry about my daughter posting those really embarrassing baby pictures of mine anywhere.  At least, that's the hope.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sunday Surfing

Adapting Story Structure for Any Project

Why You Should Break the Writing Rules

Linked to by the previous post, I'd love to hear your thoughts on Fat Books Are Dead. Long Live Skinny.

How to Know It's Time to Shelve Your Novel

I'd like to see some of these: Blog Tour Ideas: The Scavenger Hunt by Fel Wetzig

Dragonfairy Press is accepting submissions for novels through the end of December.

Perfecting the Query Letter. Part 1 and Part 2

Found this gem via this post on Leisel's Musings on Fantasia blog. From Author To Entrepreneur: How to turn your knowledge into multimedia products

You should adopt the habit of checking out Martin Willoughby's weekly Friday Fun posts.

Character Movement and Fight Scenes

A Janet Reid post with a 24-karat gold nugget of truth to it.

I know, each week I reveal more and more nerdiness, but I just can't help myself.  Spoiler alert! Star Trek Into Darkness Facts

If you're querying agents, you'd better read (the awesome!) Peggy Eddleman's post.

A whopper congratulations to all the NaNoWriMo participants! To those who reached (or exceeded) their 50,000 word goal.  And to those who reached (or exceeded) their own self-determined goals.  As writers, we all know that word count is crucial, but it's not the only measure of success.

A question
I'm hoping one of my Blogger buddies can answer me this: How do I locate the blogs of those who have joined my blog, but whose blogs don't appear when I click their photo in the GFC widget? I've noticed that if the person comments, that hyperlink displays their profile and blog(s).  But without a comment, I'm often unable--Google notwithstanding--to reciprocate the follow.