Thursday, June 30, 2011

Follow Friday: Favorite Book Character

Q. ACK! Your favorite book/movie character (example Hermione Granger played by the Emma chick) just walked into the room! Who is it and what would be your first reaction? You get extra points if you include visual stimulation.

A. Jamie! My favorite character would have to be Jamie Fraser from Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. My first reaction would probably be to look around and make sure the British weren’t chasing him. Oh, who am I kidding? I’d likely lock the door and reenact page 205!

Art by captivated2 at livejournal

Thursday 13: 13 Magickal Moons

13 Magickal Moons in Occoquan, VA is a metaphysical store owned by my best friend, Samantha Harvey. It's a very welcoming place, offering customers classes, open rituals, and a weekly event for locals to get together. So it's not terribly surprising that people feel comfortable there, and they will often tell her personal stories and ask advice. Most of the time, the customers are great. It's the odd few who necessitated the need for a list of store rules.

The list - perhaps a capital L suits it better - The List started off ordinarily enough with the standard "you break it, you buy it" and warnings that shoplifters will be prosecuted. But as time went on, the rules needed to be amended. Usually a new rule is written because of a single eccentric (I'm being kind!) customer. Sam jotted them down on The List, which just kept growing. It's tradition now to continue hand-writing The List, so additional pieces of paper have been taped up to accommodate new rules. 

Customers love to stand and read The List because it's kind of funny. They always ask for the story behind them too. So here's a list of my favorite 13 rules from Sam's store. Leave me a comment about the one that intrigues you and next week I will tell you the story behind the top pick!
  1. Yes, the store is owned by a master herbalist, but you don’t have to show her your ailment.
  2. You cannot take pictures of the store, altar, etc.
  3. No, you cannot bring your demon here.
  4. We will not give you a list of wholesalers/suppliers.
  5. We will not do spells, remove curses, exorcisms, etc. We will not come to your house to perform the above.
  6. A tattoo does not make you an HP (high priest/priestess).
  7. TV shows and movies such as Buffy, Angel, Practical Magic, The Craft, Charmed, True Blood, and Vampire Diaries do not reflect the reality of Witchcraft.
  8. Being a hereditary witch does not make you better or more powerful than any other witch.
  9. If you are sick, STAY AWAY!!
  10. No, the cats are not for sale.
  11. This is NOT a whore house!
  12. No, you can’t have a discount. No, we do not bargain or barter. This is not a flea market.
  13. No we do not sell salvia or “spice” (herbs and incenses used as drugs).

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Review - The Princess Bride by S. Morgenstern, edited by William Goldman

Usually I read the book before I see the movie. Among the few exceptions are Jaws, Dexter, and The Princess Bride. I read TPB for the first time in high school. I had just seen and fell in love with the movie, and in my experience the book is always better. In this case, I’m not sure that’s the case.

Don’t get me wrong - I love this book. The movie was so fantastic, however, it’s hard to compete with it! But there are always little things in a book that don’t show up in the movie, and that is the case here. In my recent reread of TPB, I noticed how much satire Goldman infuses throughout it. Much of that couldn’t be conveyed in the movie.

Also, a good portion of the story is told in the introduction in supposedly autobiographical detail of the struggle Goldman had in editing Morgenstern’s work. It’s quite an interesting story, but not at all real! I didn’t get it when I read this as a teenager. I thought if it was an introduction by the author, it was all true. Nope, it was part of the story. See, there is no S. Morgenstern. And the difficulties Goldman described with Morgenstern’s estate (not to mention personal trials with his family) simply didn’t exist. He even goes so far as to add Stephen King into the tale, saying that the Morgenstern family had hired him to edit the sequel, Buttercup’s Baby. As you’ve probably guessed, there is no sequel – at least not until Goldman writes it, and it seems he has a bit of writer’s block when it comes to The Princess Bride. I probably would too. What can you write to follow such a popular novel that would satisfy the fans? I still hold out hope he will eventually finish it, because I’d love to read Buttercup’s Baby!

If you enjoy the movie, I think you’d like the book as well. You always get more detail in the book, and The Princess Bride is no exception. Do you want to know what’s so special about those four white horses Fezzik finds at the end of the movie? Do you want to know what led Rugen and Humperdinck to create the Pit of Despair? Do you want to learn how Inigo became the best fencer in the world? Pick up the book and let me know what you think!

And now, for your viewing pleasure, here is a reenactment of the Miracle Max scene with cats:

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Novel Playlists - What Do You Listen to When You Write?

When I sit down in front of my computer to write, my usual writing soundtrack is background TV noise, the first-person shooter game my husband is playing on the X-Box, or various purrs and meows of my cats asking for attention. Occasionally, however, I will listen to music playlists as I write.

This was especially important when writing Magick Charm. One of my main characters, Rachel, was the lead singer in a band called Cajun Fried Steak. I listened to a sample CFS playlist as I wrote the scenes at Voodoo Pete’s, the bar where the band played. It helped me to visualize the scene in my mind more clearly, and hopefully make it all that much more tangible to the reader.

Here’s a playlist of all of the songs from Magick Charm: Magick Charm playlist

What do you listen to when you write?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Follow Friday: Summer Solstice and the Fae

Q. In light of the Summer Solstice. Also known as Midsummer...let's talk about fairies. What is your favorite fairy tale or story that revolves around the fae?

A. When the subject of the fae comes up, the first thing that comes to mind is the Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris. But maybe that’s because True Blood season 4 premiers on Sunday! I don’t want to give away any spoilers for those of you who haven’t read or watched it, so that’s about all I can say about the subject. Except I can’t wait until Sunday night!

I hope everyone had a fantastic solstice holiday this week!

Check out what other bloggers had to say about today's blog hop question:

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Editing - Show and Tell (and big scary sharks!)

Remember show and tell in kindergarten?

The students talk about an object they brought from home for a few minutes before the others get a chance to examine the object up close. They have the chance to see it and touch it. Depending on the item, all of the senses come into play, and they might be able to smell, taste, or listen to it as well. Then the teacher keeps the class moving quickly and asks the next student to take his turn.

Children can have short attention spans, though, so why does show and tell work?

Let me illustrate the answer with my own personal show and tell. I considered becoming a marine biologist when I was younger because I am fascinated by sea life. One of the most fantastic creatures to live in the ocean was the Megalodon. This enormous shark became extinct about 1.5 million years ago. It could reach lengths of 40 - 50 feet - larger than a city bus - and its teeth are the size of an adult’s hand. Cool stats, right? But I’ll bet you checked out the photos before reading this entire paragraph.

When writing and editing, it’s recommended that you show not tell. Use the words to paint a picture and include as many of the senses as you can.

Here’s an example of a scene I cut from Magick Charm:

            “Most stalkers are loser ex-boyfriends or someone the stalkee already knows.”
            “That can’t be right,” I said. “If that was true, it would be easy for police to catch the guy doing the stalking, right?”
            “As if. That’s where it starts to really suck. Because lots of places don’t even have laws against being a clingy, scary asshole.”
             “What are you talking about?” I asked. Sometimes Rachel spoke her own language, and nobody else understood what she was talking about, least of all me.
            “No stalker laws,” she said, frustrated I didn’t understand her random banter. “Stalker laws are fairly new, and lots of places have to get with the program. Other places blow them off. And lots of assholes still believe the woman who gets stalked deserves it. You saw Officer Roberts the other night. How much help is a tool like him going to give us?”
            “None,” I agreed. “But others like Officer Beaty will help us.”
            “Yeah,” she admitted. “She’s cool.”
            “Back to the stats.” I brought Rachel’s focus back to the central question. “Do you honestly think it’s someone we know who’s causing this trouble? And why?”
             “Nah, our friends are cool. But I did live with Ted for a while. Maybe I suck at judging character.”

Why did I remove this scene? Because all it did was tell. It’s boring because nothing happens here. It’s more of an information dump than a well-rounded scene. Wouldn’t it be better for me to convey this information through the characters’ actions? Can’t I show how the police’s hands are tied in the ways they respond to the sisters’ calls for help? And there are so many ways to illustrate how much stalkers suck through his (or her!) actions.

I try to think of writing like show and tell. Keep the action moving so nobody gets bored. Paint the picture with words – show – more than overwhelming the reader with an information dump. Tell only in small doses.

Still need convincing? Then ask yourself - the next time you’re at the beach are you going to remember my statistics about a big extinct shark, or will you remember the artist’s drawing of the Megalodon? I thought so.

While you’re sunbathing on that beach, convinced never to swim in the ocean again, you might want to check out the Meg series by Steve Alten. It makes a great summer beach read!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Follow Friday - What's Your Favorite Genre?

Q. Genre Wars! What’s your favorite genre and which book in that genre made it your favorite?

A. This one is a tough question! I read just about any genre that falls into my hands, but I’ve had the most enduring relationship with romances. Some of my favorite romance titles have been on my shelves for 20 years or more. Among romance novels, I love the ones with paranormal, time travel, or historical elements the most. Diana Gabaldon’s Dragonfly in Amber was the book that sealed the deal.

Why not Outlander? After all, it’s the first book in the series, while Dragonfly is the second. I saw Dragonfly in Amber on the shelf of my local library when it was first released, read the back, and quickly checked it out, not knowing that it was part of a series. I figured that out pretty quickly after I started reading, but I was already into the story and had to know what happened. Only after I finished this book did I get my hands on Outlander and all of the subsequent releases in this series. 

What are your favorites? Leave me a comment below and don't forget to follow my blog by clicking one of those nifty follow buttons on the right!

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Editing - Everything Happens for a Reason

When people ask me about writing, I tell them that you need only a few things: a great story idea, stubbornness, and editing skills. The first one is self-explanatory. The stubbornness... well, let's just say that the Muses are often fickle, so finishing a project is often a huge challenge. And when it comes to publishing your book, the process of finding a publisher is even more of a hurdle. While we're on that subject, I better add thick skin to my so-you-wanna-be-a-writer list! 

The last requirement, editing skills, is often underestimated in its importance. You need to edit your book into the best thing you can create before you try to find a publisher. Once you find a publisher, an editor points you in the right direction to help you polish it further. (She also manages your ego and tries to keep you from feeling overwhelmed!) But the entire editing process is where a book can go from a good story to something you can really be proud of.

Working with an editor for the first time, I learned so much, and I tried to keep a list of dos and don'ts to help me out with my next book. Here's one of the most helpful things I learned: Everything happens for a reason. No, I'm not talking about a life philosophy (although I do actually believe this). I'm talking about how this applies to a work of fiction.

Have you ever read a book or watched a movie and found a scene that seems to have no point? It might be entertaining, but what does it have to do with the storyline as a whole? Every scene has to have a purpose. It must either propel the storyline or reveal something about your characters. 

Here's an example of something I cut from Magick Charm:

            Of course no sane woman would want the attention of the drunken frat boys dangling beads from the iron balconies above the street, but it still stung when they leered, ogled, and shouted at my sister. “Hey new age girl,” they called. Nope, definitely not me. I told myself I didn’t care.
            “Hey boys.” She gave them a flirty finger wave.
            “Show us something!” They offered handfuls of dime-store plastic beads as payment for the peep show.
            I usually avoided the French Quarter for this reason. Perpetual spring break reigned here. I had never partied on spring break when I was a student, and I wasn’t about to start chugging beers or hooking up with strangers now that I had left the university. Let’s put it this way: I was more likely to stick pins in a voodoo doll than to flash strangers for Mardi Gras beads. And the voodoo thing was only going to happen when hell froze over.
            Rachel, however, did not appreciate the appeal of adulthood. She yanked her top down enough to expose her artificially augmented breasts, then reached greedy hands up to catch the plastic bounty the Phi Delts flung to her. Laughing, she adorned her neck with about a dozen sets of multi-colored beads.
            I rolled my eyes, lamenting the fact she and I were identical. Well, identical besides what five thousand dollars worth of plastic surgery could do for a girl.
            “We have a lot of packing to do before Ted gets home,” I reminded her. I couldn’t wait to put some distance between the two of us and the Greeks.
            “I know, I know.” She pouted and shuffled after me.

I was hesitant to remove this scene. It made me laugh and I’m big on comic relief! But what does this scene do for my storyline? Not a thing. It reveals a few things about my characters, but nothing that isn’t shown somewhere else in the book.

This scene illustrates a typical beads-for-boobs transaction that happens every night in the French Quarter. You could argue that it depicts something about the city and adds local color and a sense of setting. Ultimately, I painted the setting in other ways, and this little snippet was somewhat redundant.

As an aside, on my recent trip to New Orleans, I did, of course, see this kind of scene played out several times. I was a little surprised, though, by a few women I saw on Bourbon Street who did away with shirts altogether and wore only body paint! Those are some very self-confident, bold women!

I digress… In a novel, a little digression here or there is okay too. But with every scene, take a critical look at it and decide if it truly helps the story. Is there a reason for the scene? If not, keep your finger on the delete button!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Thursday 13: New Orleans Cocktail Recipes

Hey y’all, it’s Rachel here, taking over the blog today. After my writer’s recent trip to my hometown, I had the undeniable urge to get out of her head and stretch my legs a bit. It feels good!

Well, now that I’m sprung from my mental purgatory, what am I planning to do with my newfound freedom? Have a drink! Yes, you heard me. Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve had a margarita? I don’t have words to tell you how tragically sober I am right now.

At least here in the French Quarter, I’ll have no problems finding a good cocktail – if I bothered to look outside of Voodoo Pete’s, that is! Sadly, for those not fortunate enough to live in the Big Easy, you may have to take bartending into your own hands. Here are a few classic New Orleans recipes as well as some of my favorites to help you turn your living room into your favorite French Quarter bar.

  1. Margarita – My favorite! You gotta have salt and a wedge of lime, but forget about those mixes. Frozen is optional, so long as you have one of those Magic Bullet blenders.
    • 1 oz tequila
    • 1 oz triple sec
    • 1 oz lime juice

  2. Hurricane – “Hurricane, feel no pain,” as they say! This is one of the most popular drinks on Bourbon Street.
    • 1 oz dark rum
    • 4 oz pineapple juice
    • 2 oz orange juice
    • ¼ oz grenadine

  3. Sazerac – A bartender recently told my writer that this drink was essentially a prettied up shot of bourbon. He was right, but it’s still tasty and an old New Orleans classic!
    • 2 oz bourbon
    • ¼ teaspoon Pernod
    • 3 dashes bitters
    • 1 teaspoon simple syrup
    • Serve over ice with a lemon twist
  4. Rum Punch – One of my writer’s husband’s favorites!
    • 1 oz dark rum
    • ½ oz Orgeat
    • 2 oz orange juice
    • 1 oz pineapple juice
  5. Mint Julep
    • 10 mint leaves
    • 2 tsp simple syrup
    • 2 oz bourbon
    • Muddle the mint and syrup together before adding ice and bourbon.
  6. Mojito
    • 10 mint leaves
    • ½ oz fresh lime juice
    • 2 tbsp simple syrup
    • 1 ½ oz light rum
    • 4 oz club soda
    • Muddle the mint, lime juice, and syrup together before adding the rest of the ingredients.
  7. Zombie – A wicked voodoo recipe!
    • 1 oz dark rum
    • 2 oz light rum
    • ½ oz 151 rum
    • 1 oz triple sec
    • 1 oz lemon juice
    • 1 oz orange juice
    • ½ oz grenadine
    • ¼ tsp dash Pernod
  8. Key Lime Martini – Soooo good! It tastes just like a key lime pie if you rim the glass with crushed graham cracker!
    • 1 ½ oz Liquor 43
    • ½ oz vanilla rum
    • 1 oz lime juice
    • 1 oz cream
  9. Triple Goddess Shot – Here’s a super yummy shot, thanks to Lyre! Layer Kahlua, Irish Cream, and Godiva chocolate liqueur in equal parts if you’re sober, or mix it all together if you’ve already had a couple.
  10. Adios Motherfucker – Call this one AMF if you’re in polite company! Guaranteed to knock you on your ass.
    • ½ oz vodka
    • ½ oz rum
    • ½ oz tequila
    • ½ oz gin
    • ½ oz blue curacao
    • 2 oz sour mix
    • 2 oz 7up (Shake the rest of the ingredients together before adding this one on top!)
  11. Shirley Temple’s Evil Twin – Of course I like any twin-named drink!
    • 1 ½ oz cherry brandy
    • 1 tsp grenadine
    • 4 oz 7up
  12. Hemingway Daiquiri – My writer’s new favorite drink.
    • 1 ½ oz light rum
    • ¼ oz white grapefruit juice
    • ½ oz lime juice
    • ¼ oz simple syrup
    • ¼ oz maraschino liqueur
  13. Mai Tai – If a bartender ever gives you a red Mai Tai, send it back! This drink isn’t girly, fruity, wimpy, or made with grenadine! Here’s a simplified version of the original 1944 recipe by Trader Vic.
    • 2 oz rum (I like a golden rum like Appleton)
    • ½ oz triple sec
    • ½ oz Orgeat (This is an almond syrup. Very yummy! You can get it online or in some specialty stores.)
    • 1 oz fresh-squeezed lime juice
    • Serve over crushed ice and garnish with the lime rind and fresh mint.
I begged Voodoo Pete to give me the recipe for his Love Potion #9 concoction, but sadly, he refused. I guess you'll just have to take your own vacation to Nola to experience it for yourself!

Thanks for coming by to chat with me today! And remember... it's always 5 o'clock somewhere!


Saturday, June 4, 2011

CMP Blog Hop Winners

My blog hop question: What type of pendant does Janie use as her magick charm?
Answer: A butterscotch amber pendant carved in the shape of a rose.

Thank you to everyone who entered the contest! Jean Patton is the winner of my prize package:
  • A signed paperback copy of Magick Charm
  • A love candle from 13 Magickal Moons
  • Love spell oil made with rose and jasmine oils and herbs
  • Gemstones for love – rose quartz, clear quartz, and amethyst
  • A replica of Janie’s pendant handmade with clay by Dragonfly Design Jewelry
Stop by Crescent Moon Press to see who won the grand prize of a Kindle or a Nook with a dozen CMP ebooks!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Thursday 13: Novels Set in New Orleans

I'm currently in New Orleans on vacation and looking for inspiration for the sequel to Magick Charm. It got me thinking about other books set here. So here's a list of a few of the ones I've read as well as others on my TBR list.

  1. The Vampire Chronicles series by Anne Rice
  2. The Lives of the Mayfair Witches series by Anne Rice (I could do this whole list with Anne Rice books alone, but I’ll stop with these two.)
  3. Voodoo Dreams series by Jewell Parker Rhodes
  4. The Pelican Brief by John Grisham
  5. Runaway Jury by John Grisham
  6. Definitely Dead by Charlaine Harris
  7. Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg (The movie, Angel Heart, was based on this book.)
  8. Fat Tuesday by Sandra Brown
  9. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
  10. Dark Hunter Series by Sherrilyn Kenyon
  11. Benjamin January Mysteries by Barbara Hambly
  12. Ghost Walk by Heather Graham
  13. Frankenstein series by Dean Koontz

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Time With My Kindle

Reading on the Kindle in the garden. We're loving the house in the Marigny Triangle of New Orleans that we rented for the week!

What am I reading? The Princess Bride! What should I download next??