31.7.11

Happy Birthday, Harry!


Today is Lisa Galek's Happy Birthday, Harry blogfest in honor of Harry Potter's birthday.  My contribution is an excerpt from my fanfiction Professor Burbage and the Potions Master. This scene occurs in Harry's 5th year.  I thought it would be fun to give the professors a little love.

Excerpt
"A New Year"
Charity returned to her second year as a Hogwarts professor after spending a good portion of her summer holidays in America. While there, she and her parents had visited Salem, Massachusetts, site of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. Quite hilarious really, seeing that as far as anyone knew, witches and wizards hadn't appeared in America until the late 1800s.

Charity declared that the first staff meeting of each new school year was like a birthday for Hogwarts, and so she returned from her travels with gifts for each of the Hogwarts teachers. She gave them out as they gathered in the moldy staff lounge.

“For you, Professor Sinistra," she said as she handed the Astronomy professor a zodiac wall hanging.

"Why, those Muggles have almost got it right!" Sinistra commented with surprise as she studied the woven map of the stars.

"Magical Beans for you, Professor Sprout—they're supposed to grow bean stalks to three times their normal size."

Sprout shook the package.  "I'll bet I can get them up to ten!"

Charity gave a mug with the words “Stop by for a Spell” to Professor Flitwick, an East Coast Witches T-shirt to Madam Hooch, and a stuffed black cat to Professor McGonagall.

For Hagrid, she'd purchased a pewter Pocket Dragon with crystals embedded in the eyes.  Muggles said it brought good luck. Unfortunately, Hagrid was not to be found, and Professor Grubbley-Plank was taking over Care of Magical Creatures lessons for an unspecified amount of time. Charity pocketed the dragon and would make a point of getting it to Hagrid one way or another.

She turned to Sibyll Trelawney, professor of Divination and all things clairvoyant.  "I'll bet you already know what this is."

"Of course, my dear, and it's just exactly what I knew you would choose." 

Trelawney opened her box to find a fortune-telling tea cup, complete with instructions painted right on the saucer. Her eyebrows furrowed in confusion while McGonagall sniggered in the corner.

"Don't worry, I haven't forgotten you," Charity said to Snape, who stood with his arms folded tightly and a scowl on his face, apparently impatient with the whole production. She handed him a small box, which he opened to reveal a silver and glass ring. Inside the glass was a thick liquid.

"It's a mood ring," Charity explained. "You wear it, and it changes color depending on what kind of mood you're in. I thought it might be useful for us to know when it would be a good time to approach you and when it would be a good time to, eh, not."

Her comment drew general chuckles in the room, and Charity caught and held Snape's eye for the briefest moment. This was the year she was going to come through on her promise to make him like her.

The final gift was for Dumbledore. It was a liquid-filled ball point pen with a little witch on a broom that glided when he tilted it. His eyes sparkled and he chuckled as he watched the little witch fly to and fro.

"Thank you, Professor Burbage, for this delightful start to the school year. Now, down to business," the headmaster commanded.

Thanks for hosting the party, Lisa!

Hey, last night I saw the movie for the first time---and lourved it! (although I could've done w/ a bit more celebration after Voldy bit it, you know?)---and thought I'd share a photo of me w/ my Potter Posse, better known as The Harry Potter Finer Things Club.  One key member couldn't be there :( but I wore my London b-day gift from her to represent.  

29.7.11

Fictional Felicity

I've got my second post up in my new monthly series at Thoroughly Smitten.  "Fictional Felicity" is all about the couples we love to love---and those we don't.  This month Rhett Butler & Scarlett O'Hara are on the examination table.

If you're looking for in-depth character analysis and unemotional wisdom...eh...you should definitely go elsewhere.  But if you're up for a little Friday fun and want a chance to vote in a meaningless poll, come on over!

25.7.11

Life, Liberty, and Some other stuff

My daughter's friend Rachel, who also happens to be my friend's daughter, read Life, Liberty, and Pursuit by fellow Omnific author Susan Kaye Quinn, and loved it so much that as soon as she finished---she dove right back in again!

Since LLP is a Young Adult book, and Rachel is a young adult (age 15) I asked her to take a break from her summer reading and reckless cake-baking escapades to write up a review for my blog.  As a thank you, I'm giving her a copy of the Summer Breeze Anthology to benefit Save the Ta-Tas (the anthology just so happens to feature a very sweet short story by Quinn that's a mini-sequel to her novel).

Take it away, my Nirvana-loving friend:

Anyone looking for a good read need not look any further than Life, Liberty and Pursuit by Susan Kaye Quinn. Life, Liberty and Pursuit is the perfect book for anyone who loves a good romance novel. Filled with detail and exceptionally well written, it’s cute without being overly cheesy and unrealistic, and Quinn makes you feel like you know the characters personally. For this, I loved every single page of it.

Life, Liberty and Pursuit keeps the reader hooked from page one, and gives the reader just what they want- a charming love story. As a summer fling turns into a devoted relationship, follow Eliza and David as they embark on a heart-warming journey of finding yourself and following your heart. Life, Liberty and Pursuit is a truly captivating novel that will leave readers with a warm, fuzzy, all around happy feeling by the time it’s over.
-Rachel

Thanks, Rachel!  I'm honored to have you call me "mommer" ;)


Other Stuff

Remember when I told you I'd remind you about voting for my book trailer over at You Gotta Read Videos?  Well, ehe, I neglected to arrange for someone to remind me!  But that's okay, because voting is still going on through 12:01 July 27 CST.  So if you're reading this before then and you like my lil' video (created by the amazing Barb Hallworth & featuring music by Intervox) please do stop by to vote.  You can find Three Daves in the #9 slot.


There's also still time to:

1) Leave a comment at my guest post at Lisa Sanchez's blog and be entered to win a copy of Three Daves.  Cookies go out to: Judy, Michael Di Gesu, Jennifer Lane, Liz Fichera, L. Dian Wolfe, M. Pax, and Theresa Milstein, who've already stopped by. :)      

2) Enter Lisa Galek's Happy Birthday Harry Potter Blogfest to take place this coming Sunday, July 31.  

Lastly, it's Meet an Author Monday!

Your chance to mix & mingle with other authors.
Hop on and hop along.

21.7.11

Book Signing 101


Hey, kiddos!  Today you can find me over at Lisa Sanchez's Sizzling Author Extravaganza!  I've attempted to impart a bit of book-signing wisdom, and I'm giving away more than cookies this time---if you leave a comment at Lisa's site, you'll be entered to win a signed copy of Three Daves & a One Hit Wonders of the 80s CD.

18.7.11

It never ends, and it's never enough

You're a senior in high school.

Where are you going to college?

You go to college, get a degree.  In the middle of a recession.

Where are you interviewing?

You land a job paying peanuts.  To compensate you take the company up on its offer to reimburse tuition and begin a masters program.

When are you getting married?

You get married.

When are you going to graduate?

You receive your M.B.A. 

When are you getting a better job? 

You get a better job.

When are you buying a house?

You buy a house.

When are you having a baby?

You have a kid.

When are you having another?

Fine. You have another and quit your job to stay home with your babies.

Is he walking yet? Is she potty trained? Where will they go to pre-school?  Can they ride a bike? Can they read?  Which soccer camp will you send them to? 

Seriously?

When are you getting a bigger house?  

You get a bigger house.  Your youngest enters first grade.

Now what are you going to do with all your free time?  

*inhale*  You decorate the hell out of your new house, get a variety of part-time jobs, become a "professional" volunteer at the school, and oh yeah, write a bunch of stories and get a novel freaking published.

When's your next book coming out?

*exhale* "I just had a short story released."

No.  I mean a real book. 

You struggle to keep from uttering the following words aloud:  Well, maybe if you hadn't invited yourself over and usurped my entire evening, I'd be working on that right now.

So when does it end?  Will it ever be enough?  Even if you veered from my course at any point above, I'm sure it only led you to a different track of questions.  As my very wise friend explained, it's just the way people show an interest in what's going on in others' lives.  I get that, and it's very nice.  But why do the questions always push forth into the future? Why are people always looking for more, more, more?  Is it not okay to take a moment to just be satisfied?  Ever?

All that being said, this past week I've started working in earnest on my next original manuscript.  :)   I got tired of answering with "I will ... Soon ... It's all up here in my head ... Blah, blah, blah" and I'm delighted to be back at it.  So maybe I'm the kind of person who needs that gentle pressure or I'd never accomplish anything.  How about you?  How do you respond to incessant question of "What's next?"



Here's what's next for  young adult author Carol Oates---her newest novel, Ember, will be released tomorrow!  Congratulations, Carol.

Carol is being interviewed at the brand new Omnific Publishing blog, where you can win a copy of the Summer Lovin' Anthologies---signed by all the authors---just by becoming a follower.  

13.7.11

Deathly Hallows II Movie Scoop!

I'll not be joining the masses at the movie theater this weekend---I prefer a less chaotic experience---buuuut, that doesn't mean I'm not getting psyched for the big release!  Now that I've finally been able to sit down w/ my Chicago Tribune A+E section, I'd like to share w/ other Harryphytes something totally cool!

I generally don't like it when movies stray from the books, unless there's a really, really good reason, and this time I think production designer Stuart Craig has an utterly awesome reason for changing the location of a certain death in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows---Part 2.  Here, I'll let him tell you:

(per "Wizard of Destruction" by Rebecca Keegan):
"In the book (the character) dies in the Shrieking Shack.  I specifically asked J.K Rowling if she would mind if we transposed that to a boathouse.  I felt it would make a very interesting, very theatrical set.  There was a lot of glass in the design for the boathouse.  Through the glass, you're aware of Hogwarts in flames and the water inside the boathouse reflects the flames.  You get a great sense of the height and the drama." 
-Stuart Craig, production designer

Light. It. Up!  I'm now more excited than I ever thought I could be for a scene that ripped my heart out when I read it in the book.  Well done, Stuart.

So, which night will you be seeing the movie?

Also, Lisa Galek is hosting two contests, including a very fun blogfest on Harry Potter's Birthday, July 31.  C'mon, you know you're going to want you some more Harry after the movie's done. ;)

 

11.7.11

Sway in the Summer Breeze

Last Tuesday, Omnific Publishing released two Summer Lovin' Anthologies---one sweet as a Summer Breeze and one hot & steamy as a Heat Wave---to benefit breast cancer research through the Save the Ta-tas Foundation.  For the project, thirteen authors, nine editors, and two graphic designers volunteered their time and talents to help a great cause in the funnest of ways. Our cover designer, Stephanie Swartz, is a two time breast cancer survivor. 

Each anthology contains a collection of summer-themed short stories.  My story "Sway" is in Summer Breeze.   Here's a snippet about the story as well as the song it shares a title with. (I may have listened to it over and over and over again while writing...and then once more.  So that's my question for you---what songs have seeped into your writing?)

Sway
by Nicki Elson

Summer evenings get interesting for three octogenarian sisters when a dreamy crooner shows up outside one of their bedroom windows.





To learn more about the anthologies and meet all the authors, 
visit Summer Lovin' Books.

Enter to win signed copies of the Anthologies simply by following the BRAND NEW Omnific Publishing Blog!

The Summer Breeze collection of sweet summer romances brings together seven of Omnific Publishing’s authors for some “breezy” romantic reading. In just one book, you can find Carol Oates’ Irish mythical storytelling, Jennifer Lane’s sassy swimmer, and Hannah Downing’s second chance at first love. While Nicki Elson spins a beautiful tale of remembered love, Killian McRae employs a modern twist with her technology-based romance, and Sarah Glover tells the story of best friends’ summer discovery. Rounded out with Susan Kaye Quinn’s glimpse into the next chapter of her Life, Liberty and Pursuit gang, this anthology offers something for everyone to get lost in this summer.


In the Heat Wave anthology, you'll find six steamy romance stories by some of your favorite authors for some “heated” reading. Fans of paranormal romance will enjoy Robin DeJarnett’s vampire lovers and Lisa Sanchez’s unexpectedly compatible lovers. While Debra Anastasia transports you to a long ago time for some steamy romance, Jessica McQuinn brings you back to the hot protectors of modern day. BJ Thornton and Kasi Alexander dip into the exotic with their touch of super sexy. There’s something in this collection to get every reader’s temperature rising!  


Meet an Author Monday is now hosted by Lisa Sanchez at her Romance Author blog where she's hosting a Sizzling Summer Author Extravaganza all month long!

Please hop on and hop along to mix & mingle w/ other authors.

4.7.11

Light Up Those Skies, America!

This is my cheesy tribute
 to the country I was born in

and that I love

and that I learn to appreciate more and more each day. 


Our path hasn't been perfect.  We've made mistakes along the way. 

But we stand strong.

United in our vision, even when our methods diverge.

A baby in the grand scheme of things,

I'd say we've done pretty dang well.



A nation that is truly under God can never fail.  

(Look, I know "well" and "fail" don't rhyme.  It just sort of happened.)

Enjoy those weenies, everyone!

1.7.11

How to Get the Best Edit Evah!

I've got a guest post today over at the Savvy Authors website in which I dish out ten quick tips for giving your manuscript a final polish before it goes into editing.  Just thought I'd pass on some things I've noted through my editing role that've helped me with my own writing.

Arg! I just noticed a problem w/ my post over there.  The strikeouts for my example were eliminated, so it's a little confusing.  I've notified my contact, but until it gets straightened out, this version of points 6-10 will be easier to follow:

 For the points below, I’ll use the following excerpt (in which it will become abundantly clear I spent way too many hours reading Archie comics at my grandma’s).  There’s nothing wrong with the excerpt grammatically, but I’m sure you’ll agree it can be improved.  We’ll refine it in stages.

Excerpt

            Joe wanted to go to the pool. “Hey, Alex, do you want to go to the pool?” he asked as he pointed his thumb in the direction of the local swimming pool.
            Alex wasn’t sure whether he wanted to go.  He scratched his head and said, “I don’t know, Joe.  Why do you want to go to the pool?”
            Joe answered.  “Because it’s hot at the pool, Alex.”
            Alex turned his head and looked at the thermostat. He was confused. “It’s only seventy degrees, Joe.  That’s not hot.”
            Joe rolled his eyes.  He reached out and put both hands on either side of Alex’s face.  He turned his friend’s head away from the thermostat. He turned it toward the pool.  Two scantily clad girls were paying their pool admission. 
            “Like I said, Alex—it’s hot at the pool,” Joe said.   
            Alex smiled. Now he wanted to go to the pool. “Let’s go to the pool, Joe.”
              

6. Eliminate unnecessary physical movements

As writers, we picture everything as it happens and we want to convey our vision to readers so we tend to over-describe physical movements.  But spelling out every little detail will not only bore readers, it’ll break the flow.  If the action can be assumed or it doesn’t add any new information to the passage, carve it out.   

Excerpt refined (step 6):

            Joe wanted to go to the pool. “Hey, Alex, do you want to go to the pool?” he asked as he pointed his thumb in the direction of the local swimming pool.
            Alex wasn’t sure whether he wanted to go.  He scratched his head and said, “I don’t know, Joe.  Why do you want to go to the pool?”
            Joe answered.  “Because it’s hot at the pool, Alex.”
            Alex turned his head and looked at the thermostat. He was confused. “It’s only seventy degrees, Joe.  That’s not hot.”
            Joe rolled his eyes.  He reached out and put both hands on either side of Alex’s face.  He turned his friend’s head away from the thermostat. He turned it toward the pool.  Two scantily clad girls were paying their pool admission. 
            “Like I said, Alex—it’s hot at the pool,” Joe said.   
            Alex smiled.  Now he wanted to go to the pool. “Let’s go to the pool, Joe.”

7. Eliminate redundant narrative that’s covered in the dialogue or elsewhere.


Excerpt refined (step 7):

            Joe wanted to go to the pool. “Hey, Alex, do you want to go to the pool?” Joe he asked.
            Alex wasn’t sure whether he wanted to go.  Alex He scratched his head and said, “I don’t know, Joe.  Why do you want to go to the pool?”
            Joe answered.  “Because it’s hot at the pool, Alex.”
            Alex looked at the thermostat. He was confused.  “It’s only seventy degrees, Joe.  That’s not hot.”
            Joe rolled his eyes.  He turned his friend’s head away from the thermostat. He turned it toward the pool.  Two scantily clad girls were paying their pool admission. 
            “Like I said, Alex—it’s hot at the pool,” Joe said.   
            Alex smiled.  Now he wanted to go to the pool.  “Let’s go to the pool, Joe.”


8. Eliminate unnecessary dialogue tags

If it’s obvious who’s saying it, you don’t need a dialogue tag.


9. Cut back on names in dialogue

Using names in dialogue is another natural tendency in writing that doesn’t work so well for readers. 

Excerpt refined (steps 8 & 9):

             “Hey, Alex, do you want to go to the pool?” Joe asked.
            Alex scratched his head and said, “I don’t know, Joe.  Why do you want to go to the pool?”
            Joe answered.  “Because it’s hot at the pool, Alex.”
            Alex looked at the thermostat. “It’s only seventy degrees, Joe.  That’s not hot.”
            Joe rolled his eyes.  He turned his friend’s head away from the thermostat. He turned it toward the pool.  Two scantily clad girls were paying their pool admission. 
            “Like I said, Alex—it’s hot at the pool,” Joe said.   
            Alex smiled.  “Let’s go to the pool, Joe.”


10. Vary sentence structure

Not every sentence can begin with a participial phrase; neither should they all be short and direct nor predominately long and winding. Our excerpt has a lot of medium-sized, simple sentences that make it somewhat dull, so I’ve changed things up and added variety.  


Final excerpt:

            “Hey, Alex, do you want to go swimming?” Joe asked.
            Alex scratched his head. “I don’t know.  Why?”
            “Because it’s hot at the pool.”
            Alex looked at the thermostat. “Since when is seventy degrees hot?”
            Joe rolled his eyes.  He turned his friend’s head away from the thermostat and toward the pool where two scantily clad girls paid their admission. 
            “Like I said—it’s hot at the pool.”
            Alex smiled.  “Let’s go swimming, Joe.”

This final excerpt is a lean and mean  74 words versus 156 in the beginning excerpt—that’s half!  And has it lost any substance at all?