Vintage Holiday Gift Ideas

Guaranteed to bring back warm memories of The Exorcist film



The gift that keeps on giving (you nightmares from the commercial)



How many kids actually drank this stuff and what did it do to you if you did?



And lastly, would you like to rob a bank but not do the time for having a real gun? Get a Tommy Burst Detective Set and your fortune is made!

RTW--Best Book(s) of November

Road Trip Wednesday is a "Blog Carnival," where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on our own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week's topic is: What's the best book you read in November?

Okay, I added the s to the "book" for my blog post, because I read/listened to 3 books that went really well together. Of course, if you read them back to back, you might end up with a slightly twisted mindset like I exhibited in my previous post. BTW, I showed those figurines to my hubby and he didn't think they were interesting or amusing AT ALL, just grotesque. He liked the Humanimals, so I thought he'd go for them. No accounting for tastes.

Anyway, the first book up was The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan on audio. For a book with zombies, the writing was very lyrical in spots. The focus was on the love triangle between Mary and two brothers from her village, and the Unconsecrated (zombies) were almost another aspect of the scenery. Except when they're attacking of course. Without being spoilery, one scene was truly heartbreaking, almost unbearably so for me.

I read the companion book, The Dead-Tossed Waves, on my Kindle in just a few days. Again, atmosphere and mood as an aspect of setting was so well done. A love triangle figures in this one also, and it felt so similar to the setup in the first book that I was almost annoyed, but the author pulls it off. This book was also more layered than the first one, and it seems like she'll need to do another book to pick up some dropped storylines. But still a good read, even with less focus.

The last book was The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman on audio. It's actually Neil Gaiman on the audio, and he does a stellar job. It doesn't hurt that I'm a sucker for British accents ;) This is a more quiet book, sort of a series of adventures that eventually tie into a greater story arc. A great winter CD, it's perfect to listen to on gloomy days. Don't worry, he story itself is not overly gloomy--in fact it ends on a really hopeful note.

My Brain Hurts



Doesn't that look just like a lovely rosy cabbage? I should preface the following link with warnings that:

1. I have been spending much of my free time on revisions of my novel, which means I've been hanging out in the spirit world, and with ghosties .

2. In between, I've been reading/and or listening to The Forest of Hands and Teeth, The Dead-Tossed Waves, and the Graveyard Book.

So that will hopefully explain why I haven't been blogging lately, and why I found these so very amusing.

Secret of Kells

Saw a lovely little animated film the other day, Secret of Kells. It's beautifully made and well worth seeing.

But what made it particularly interesting is that we were just discussing The Hero's Journey in our crit group. There is a book called The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler, and he uses Joseph Campbell's ideas of the hero's journey as a way to plot a story.

Secret of Kells hit on all those points, so it was timely to have them reinforced. Vogler's model has since been used for many films, especially Disney films, and another good example is The Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.

Trailer for Secret of Kells below, and here's a link to the poem Pangur Ban

Was it worth it?

So I have emerged from days of query hell with the following blurb:

As a child, Olivia Herald encountered a malevolent spirit that was beyond any that she had perceived before—one that was so strong that it could take physical form and harm the living. The traumatic experience led her to turn her back on her powers to communicate with the dead, fearing that any contact with the spirits would eventually expose her to the same kind of peril.

Now, years later, Olivia has inadvertently created the same kind of sinister spirits—an entire ship's worth. Her actions leading up to their deaths were justified in her mind; after all, the crew had just raped, tortured, and murdered her companions, and meant to do the same to her. Her only option was escape, and she couldn't have known that the fire she started as a diversion would doom the Empyreal and its crew.

But the ghostly crew feels differently about her role—and unfortunately so do the authorities—and now Olivia will have to face up to the consequences of her actions. That will mean a trial, with a hanging if she's convicted, and taking up her powers once again for the final reckoning with the vengeful Empyreal's crew.


I think this one is a winner--but then each of the stinkers before this one also had a point where I thought they would do the job. Comments welcome!

Surfacing


Surfacing from the depths of query despair to let everyone know that I posted some of my digital paintings on my other blog, Fat Kitty City Nitty Gritty. Nice change from wrassling uncooperative summaries, yes?

Query Hellions

Over at the Absolute Write forums, the place to post your queries for feedback is known as Query Hell. That about sums up most people's feelings about the process of crafting your query and then holding your breath while you wait to hear back on it.

But if Query Hell doesn't quite cover it for you, Amanda Hannah has posted a contest, where you can write a haiku, limerick, song lyric, or poem--whatever best captures the query process for you.

Be bitter, be creative, be mopey--but have fun, it's a great way to channel your frustrations!

Here's my entry:

You launch your query bird
Into the wide blue sky
Only to see it fail and fall
A few weeks later.

You can't bear to look at it right away
But eventually you doctor it
And send it off again
Weighted with your dreams.

The worst times are when
It's left endlessly soaring,
Waiting for an an answer to it's call
That never comes.

So you craft another pair of wings
Strong enough to carry you with them
Over the walls blocking your way
To land in nurturing hands.


Just kidding! This was a completely alcohol-free event where we got together for headshots, and had a group portrait done with props from the Wacky Hat Bag. We are clockwise from left:
Nancy Ashcraft Herman (in the brown)
Rachel Allen Dillon (in the flower garland)
Thelma White (in the dark hat w/red flower)
Lori Mortensen (in the jester's cap)
Christina Mercer (in the boa)
Angelica R. Jackson (in the pirate hat)

And for the record, our mouths are open because we are saying, "Cannibalism!" An inside joke for our critique group (everybody in the photo but Lori). We meet at a local market cafe, and we've gotten some weird looks as people walk by and we're discussing such esoteric subjects as cannibalism, violence, and sex (in the context of our books).

Exit Nathan Bransford from the Agency Theater

Blogging literary agent extraordinaire Nathan Bransford announced that he is leaving agenting behind for a position at CNET.

Say it isn't so, Nathan! You've been my go-to guy for the lowdown on queries, the latest publishing news, and general publishing etiquette. I know that sometimes I didn't get to your posts everyday, and I didn't always give my comments freely, but can't you give me (us all) another chance?

You say your mind is made up? Well, I will have to comfort myself with the knowledge that you will make wonderful contributions no matter where you focus your energies.

Buena suerta!

Poke the Tarantula (That's Not a Euphemism)

I am not posting a picture of the tarantula, in deference to any arachnophobic readers. One of my garden work buckets had a lovely little boy tarantula trapped in it, so I spilled him out. He reared up--very fierce! I left him there, but came back about 10 minutes later and he was still in the middle of the walkway.

So I did the natural thing and went to get a stick to nudge him out of the way. Man those suckers are fast! He whipped around, reared up, and struck the stick several times. They must be really strong, too, because I could feel each strike transmitted up the stick. Luckily, he was not so ballsy as to run up the branch and onto my bare arm.

Let it be known that I am not a fan of overly large insects (potato bugs!!) or arachnids (camel spiders!!) but I don't feel the desire to wantonly kill them. So as long as he doesn't figure out how to use the newly-installed cat door, we should all get along just fine. And maybe he'll take care of some of those nasty centipedes while he's out there.

As for me, no more late-night trips out to the backyard for cat herding while in my bare feet or socks. Knowing that tarantulas are native to this area and seeing one that close to the house are two different things. Denial and reality, respectively.

Title Teaser Tuesday

My brain hurts! I have just finished major revisions on my novel, to the tune of adding another 2,000 words! I continued with the idea of the MC conversing with her father (even after his death) by using snippets of Shakespeare's works, like I showed in this teaser a few weeks ago. That required some new scenes and dialogue, plus I(hopefully) ironed out some of the questions and issues about Isabelle's abilities. Yep, 2,000 words to do that, though I'm sure I'll be able to do some trimming in later drafts.

So now the plan is to run this version through our critique group and maybe find a few betas that haven't seen it before. At least I know better than to think I'm finished!

The big news is that although the title that I loved, Those Lost at Sea and Drowned, survived many previous edits, it no longer applies to this very different draft. So I'm tentatively re-titling the book Spirits from the Vasty Deep. Surprise, it's from Shakespeare's King Henry IV, Part I:

GLENDOWER
I can call spirits from the vasty deep.

HOTSPUR
Why, so can I, or so can any man;
But will they come when you do call for them?

Other possible titles are A Tempestuous Noise and Damned Spirits All. Any thoughts or care to cast a vote?

It's On--But You'd Better Hurry!

Operation Awesome's November Mystery Agent Contest is open, so I hope you have your one-sentence pitch ready to go!

The mystery agent is looking for
contemporary YA and MG, especially thrillers and mysteries
paranormal, sci-fi and post-apocalyptic/dystopian
adult fiction

Good luck to everyone who enters, and if you miss it, the entries are a great source for pitch ideas.


P.S. If you like cats and animal rescue groups, you might want to check out the blog I started to highlight the adoptable cats and resident felines of a sanctuary that I volunteer at, Fat Kitty City.