Monday, April 30, 2012

Short Story vs. Novel

In recent weeks, I have been asked by a few folks about writing. I suppose this is because my first novel, Journey of Shadows, came out in March through Smashwords. My co-workers have especially been curious, and a few of them have asked some really good questions. The most reoccurring question though has been this: "Why did you decide to write a novel instead of a short story?" The usual comment that follows is something along the lines of "A short story is so much easier, right?"

My answer? Well, yes and no. A short story is less words... a whole lot less in fact. But in my opinion, it is much more difficult to write. Why? For many, many reasons.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Hey there! Yes, You...

Sorry for being absent this week. Our Internet hasn't been the most reliable thanks to some scattered storms and utility "repairs" down the street. I gave up after they flipped our electric off for the 4th time in an hour and decided not to attempt to blog until they were finished. That was on Monday. They aren't there today so I'm crossing my fingers that they completed their project, and not just gone for the weekend. Just in case, I'm working on some blogs for this coming week and will be scheduling them throughout the week.

Coming this week:
Monday- Short Story vs. Novel
Tuesday- Tuesday Treat: Favorite Snacks of the Great Scribblers
Wednesday- A View From the Margins
Thursday- Thursday Thought: Tradition
Friday- Friday Five: 5 Questions with a Reading Teacher

Stay tuned!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Friday Five: 5 Questions with Rene part 2

Continuing my 5 Questions series with Rene, we switched gears to talk about her political activism through Political Commentary. Rene is very intelligent woman and knows her stuff when it comes to politics. She keeps herself informed and abreast of current events. She is also very tolerant of different views/opinions, which I have rarely found in others in the realm of political activism. Even when others do not give her the same courtesy. I respect her so much for that, which is why I decided to interview her on this subject.

Q: You keep a blog about current events. Why did you decide to blog about politics?

A: In any endeavor, if you feel passionate about something, you have to give voice to it. Some stories or issues, it's either write or explode. [I wouldn't have a clue what you mean by that. :P]

Q: What issues are the closest to your heart?

A: Because of my background, I have a real issue with bullies and abuse. Thus, I tend to care most about groups that are abused or disenfranchised like women, minorities, the working poor, etc.

Q: Do you get your political news from any particular sources other than mainstream media?
A: In the morning I start with Google News which gives a spread on everything. I then check the International News sites such as BBC, le Monde and Al Jazeera. Then I check sites like Huffington Post and finally I check news blogs. If I'm looking for news on a specific bill, I'll check, or the Congressional Record. If it's a specific speech, I check YouTube and C-Span. In this way, you get the overview from several angles. [I tried to include the links to these particular places, but forgive me if the links are wrong.]

Q: Do you claim a political party?

A: As my hero, Will Rogers once said, "I belong to no organized political party, I am a Democrat." I go one step further, I am a Progressive Democrat.

Q: How do you feel about political satirist like Jon Daley and Do they hurt or help people understand the current political climate?

A: Humor has always been used to teach and shine a light on politics. I was weaned on Will Rogers and Molly Ivens and love Colbert, the Daily Show, etc.

Have any questions or comments? Post them below!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Thursday Thought: Live Life...

There are some amazing quotes about life. I have had such things on my mind for a couple reasons. One, a woman I went to high school with many years ago lost her younger brother last week in a car wreck. He was 25. And the second is that the school district where my little sisters attend have had 2 student deaths this school year, one due to a wreck and one a suicide. Life is precious. Goodreads has a great collection of quotes. Following are a few of my favorite.

"You gotta dance like there's nobody is watching, love like you'll never be hurt, sing like there's nobody listening, and live like it's Heaven on Earth." William W. Purkey

"In three words I can sum up everything I have learned about life: it goes on." Robert Frost

"Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself." George Bernard Shaw

"Get busy living, or get busy dying." Stephen King, Shawshank Redemption

"I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life's a bitch. You got to go out and kick ass." Maya Angelou

"There's nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be." John Lennon

Go out there and live life to the fullest. Remember we aren't promised tomorrow so live like today is your last and you'll be okay.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tuesday Treat: Marinades

It is getting to that time of year... grilling season! I'm so excited. I love a good steak, especially after it has been marinated for a while. I found this awesome list of Cheap, Healthy Marinades from 2008. I hope all the links work. I haven't made my way through all of them yet. Check out the list to see if any tickle your fancy.

Marinades can be used to tenderize meat and to flavor it in the process. It can also be used to flavor vegetables too if you are feeling creative. All recipes are different but I'll tell you what I have been told about marinades. Keep in mind that I'm no expert, this is just what I have learned over the years.

First of all, you need to let whatever you are marinading age a bit before you use it. Fresh cuts are not always the best... but makes sure they aren't spoiled too. There is a fine line between aged and spoiled. You can use your normal tenderizing methods. The hammer and tenderizing salt are a go-to in my house. Take your frustrations out on a steak for a couple minutes. It is very liberating! After that, toss your cuts into a lined pan, completely covered with the marinade, wrap it up, and refrigerate it for anywhere from 4 hours to 48 hours. The longer it sits, the more time the marinade has to break down the tissue of the cut. Dispose of any used marinade once you drain it off of your cut (used raw meat sauce = bad).

The best steak I have ever had (seriously) was back in 2003 at a wedding in Alabama. My neighbor got a 5 gallon bucket, dropped a large amount of top sirloin cuts in, and covered it to the top with cheap, off-brand beer. That is literally all he did. He stuck the lid on it and put it in his cellar for the two days before the wedding and then fired the grill up right after his niece said "I do" to a goofy looking guy in a Hawaiian shirt. The food was incredible.

Do you have a favorite marinade? My mom is a fan of bbq sauce type marinades. I like Dale's myself. Or a crap ton of Soy Sauce. Lots of salt but yum.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Friday Five: 5 Questions with Rene Thompson

...about Fan Fiction!

In the 3rd installment of 5 Questions, I interviewed Rene, Steven's wife, about her foray into writing. Rene writes Star Trek fan fiction. I've read tons of fan fiction so I'm somewhat familiar with the lingo (such as the term "ship") but Star Trek was before my generation so I'm not that familiar with it.

As a reminder, my questions are in bold font, the answer is prefaced with A:, and my comments are in [red brackets] to try to make things a little more organized and easier to read.

Q: What kind of fan fiction do you write and why?

Star Trek and occasionally James Bond but the vast majority is Star Trek. I wanted to deal with questions and situation that weren't covered by the writers of the show. What was happening after this scene, how did they react after the conclusion, why were they the way they were, how did they react with other characters in the show that they didn't normally deal with. And, of course, shipping. [A definition of shipping can be found here.]

Q: When did you get into fan fiction?

A: When I was about 13 or 14.

Q: What are some good resources for writers interested in fan fiction?

A: For Star Trek there are some magnificent sites, Memory Alpha and Vulcan Language Dictionary come to mind. If the show has a wiki with detailed background, that will definitely help.

And good grammar book and spell checker.

Also, read a lot of fan fiction of your subject so you can see the problems before you write them yourself. Mary Sue's/Marty Stu's (writing in a perfect character for one of the regulars to fall for) can be well done or it can be total tripe. If you create a "super perfect" person, you don't even have to ask, it's tripe. If you have your regular character doing or saying things that are totally out of character, then it's tripe. [If you can't tell if you have written a Mary Sue or Marty Stu, go here and take the test.]

Q: Are there any rules of etiquette concerning fan fiction that a writer of regular fiction might not know?

A: You MUST acknowledge that this is based on other's work and that the rights to the show are held by someone. You also need to, if your work is more adult, acknowledge that below the title and acknowledgments and credits. In that way, the reader has been warned. Some people, if there is any shipping in the story give the code for the shipping. For Kirk and Uhura it would be K/U, for Spock and Chapel it's S/Ch, you get the idea.

Q: In your opinion, what is the most popular subject of fan fiction?

A: Star Trek, then maybe Harry Potter and Star Wars. [I have read some pretty crazy Harry Potter fan fics! ;)]

Do you have any questions or comments for Rene? Post them in the comments below and I'll pass them along!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Thursday Thought: Patience

Patience is something my family falls short on sometimes. With so many people and animals in the house, we are constantly in the way of someone else. Until last week, we shared 1 bathroom between 4 adults and 2 little girls. That was a nightmare. My dad has become very accustomed to peeing outside, even in bad weather. My grandmother moved into her own place now that she is able to get around and so the holdup at the bathroom is a little better. But the kids still want food the second they realize they are hungry (same for the critters), my dad wants the puppies to be potty trained 6 months ago, and Mom wants to be able to snap her fingers and have a clean house.

I am a patient person. At least I try to be. My job requires an inordinate amount of patience. My family requires it as well. lol Here is a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson about patience to keep in mind: Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience. How appropriate is that?! That really resonated with me this morning.

And now I am off to work and am going to try to patiently await the weekend. Which is when I will patiently sleep for about 12 hours at a time between naps. :D

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tuesday Treat: Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

I love peanut butter cups. Even the cheap off-brand ones. I like to freeze them and eat them real cold with milk. Maybe that is weird. Anyways, I made these for this past weekend events (yes, I got my deviled eggs... delish!). They were oh so yummy.

Here is the link.

Pretty easy to make. Flour, salt, baking soda, butter, white sugar, brown sugar, peanut butter, eggs, vanilla extract, milk, and mini chocolate chips mix to make one of my favorite desserts. Give them a try!

Friday, April 06, 2012

Friday Five: 5 Questions with Steven part 2

...about blogging.

It is Friday, Friday, Friday. Gotta get dow-... Okay, I'll stop, that was pretty lame, I know. But, Friday is a wonderful day, rain or shine. Today's Friday Five continues my 5 Questions series with the second installment of questions with editor and blogger Steven Thompson. Steven runs 12 very popular comic/pop culture blogs and writes a regular column on a 13th. He has been recognized around the world due to his blogs. Check out Booksteve's Library here and find the links to his multiple blogs!

Q: When did you start blogging?

A: I had enjoyed reading blogs for a few years. Kate Worley, a comics writer who had befriended my wife an I back in 1990, died in 2004. I was searching for information on her passing and found a blog by Reed Waller, her ex-partner both in life and in comics. Although they had long since broken up, Waller wrote eloquently of his friend and I thought, "I wish I had a forum like this." Then I realized how easy it was to get just such a thing.

Q: Why do you blog?

A: All I've ever really wanted to be was a writer. My wife has always said that, with all my arcane knowledge of trivia and minutiae, I should be a teacher. I decided that blogging was the best way I could write and at the same time teach people about some of the weird things I've enjoyed over the years.

Q: Why do you have so many different blogs instead of putting it all together in a single location?

A: Well, my first try at a blog didn't take. It was aimless and abandoned after only 3-4 posts. Eventually I deleted it entirely and figured I was through with blogging.Then I came up with the idea for a new blog centered on sharing books, movies, etc from my own personal library. It slowly became quite successful and was my only blog for the first three years. Then I found myself a victim of the economy, depressed and with time on my hands. So I started a second blog specifically aimed at a different audience. In time, some ideas hit me that just wouldn't fit in on my regular, all-purpose blog--my high school journal for example--so I gave them each their own blogs! I currently have 12 (and write a more-or-less daily column for another) but there have also been four more that I created, abandoned and eventually deleted along the way.

Also, it doesn't hurt that more blogs, appealing to somewhat different readers, tends to elicit more ad-clicks and thus more money for me.

Q: Do you have a few favorite blogs of your own or others you'd like to share?

A: Oh, I have scores of them. Other than yours [You are so freaking sweet!] , a few of my favorites:

Q: What advice do you have for a newbie blogger or someone that is thinking about starting a blog?

A: It's the simplest thing in the world nowadays, even more so than when I started blogging six years back. Everyone has a voice and blogging is a unique and simple way to get yours heard. Blog about politics, family, life, death, books, movies, dental work, Lindsay Lohan, Justin Bieber [please no], the history of the telephone, how to bake lasagna. There is quiet literally no limit to the subjects you can choose. Maybe only two people will read your posts but on the other hand, there could be thousands. But you aren't writing for them anyway. You're writing for yourself. Now, go. BLOG! [Yes sir!]

Have any other questions for Steven about blogging? Post them in the comments section and I will forward them to him. Or, since he is over here pretty often, maybe he'll answer them himself! It is always nice to hear it straight from the source rather than a 3rd party don't you think?

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Thursday Thought: Humor

This week saw the passing of another April Fool's Day. With that in mind, today's Thursday Thought is about humor.

Laughter is the best medicine. It really is.

Laughter has many benefits. Here is an article from WebMD that list some of the benefits of laughter:

  • Increased blood flow throughout the body.
  • Boosted immune system.
  • Lowering/regulating blood sugar levels.
  • Helps relax the body and increases the likelihood of a more peaceful sleep.

I don't know about you but the last one is a huge benefit to me. I don't sleep enough as it is and I certainly never feel like I can relax. The article suggests watching a comedy of some kind for 30 minutes a day will provide incredible laughter related benefits. So as much as I hate to say it (because I hate television), maybe try watching a 30 minute sitcom. Or kick back and check out a comedy movie or some late night stand-up. Read a funny memoir or a kid's joke book. Go to a comedy club or find local shows in your area for amateur nights. Try to find humor in your day however you can. A little silliness is apparently good for you! I'm off to go catch up on Season 3 of Glee since I haven't been able to watch all season long. Hey, it is a sitcom... at least it is to me. ;)

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Tuesday Treat: Bacon Cheddar Deviled Eggs

Easter is coming up and I hate holiday get-togethers. Drama, messes, and a house full of people. My anxiety levels go up just thinking about it. But what I do enjoy is the food. Well, some of it anyways.

One of my favorite family dinner staples is deviled eggs. I can't make them worth a damn (I fail at peeling the hard-cooked eggs) but my mom and my grandma can make deviled eggs that are out of this world. I found a recipe for bacon cheddar ones that I'm going to beg someone to make this year.

Monday, April 02, 2012

International Children's Book Day

Today is International Children's Book Day and it is celebrated world wide.

A little background on ICBD: Started in 1967 by the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY), ICBD is celebrated on or around Hans Christian Anderson's birthday, April 2nd. You may remember Anderson as the writer of stories like The Little Mermaid, The Emperor's New Clothes, and The Princess and the Pea. ICBD celebrates the love of reading and its purpose is to call attention to children's literature.

My favorite children's book is Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel, an ABC book featuring Bad Kitty, a mischievous black and white kitty that has all kinds of adventures. The series has continued with Bad Kitty Gets a Bath, Happy Birthday Bad Kitty, Bad Kitty vs. Uncle Murray: The Uproar at the Front Door, Bad Kitty for President, Poor Puppy, and Bad Kitty Meets the Baby. From the ABC's and counting, civics lessons, cat facts, and more, this series has never disappointed me. I have continued to be impressed with the compelling stories, the humor, the fun illustrations, the information, and the growth of the stories. Bad Kitty and Poor Puppy are picture books with very little text and a LOT of pictures. The others go up and up in reading skill until you find Bad Kitty Gets a Bath as a chapter book. What a way to bridge reading skills!

So I shared my pick. It is now your turn! What is your favorite children's book and why?