Wednesday, April 4, 2018

April Fools (#IWSG April)


Life sucks right now. Just setback after setback. I'll spare you the specific details, and try to find solace in a few positive writing-related events that are happening.

So not only is Tick Tock: A Stitch in Crime less than a month from release (pre-order it right here!), I just signed the contract for another anthology that will be released in a couple of months. That's pretty exciting, and I'll have the full news of the release as soon as I'm allowed to share it.

Other big news? Remember the #IWSGPit Twitter Pitch party back in January? Not only did someone request sample chapters for my book, but they just followed up and asked for the complete manuscript. Obviously that doesn't mean anything yet, but just the fact that someone enjoyed it enough to request the full manuscript is pretty amazing, and gives me hope that I'm not completely wasting my time.

I'll be honest, I've been too busy and tired to really appreciate it, but someone requested the complete manuscript.

Holy shit.

It's weird. As crummy and difficult life has been lately, there are odd little glimmers of light in writing.

Don't Forget to check out the Tick Tock: A Stitch in Crime blog!

And make to sure like the Tick Tock Facebook page to get all the latest updates!


April 4 Question
When your writing life is a bit cloudy or filled with rain, what do you do to dig down and keep on writing?

This is a tough question, because I haven't done any writing in quite awhile. Life has just been too hard and there hasn't been time. In the past, I've sometimes forced myself to go on because writing fulfills a part of brain that just makes me feel terrible if I don't exercise it. Lately I've been thinking I need to write something, anything, even if it's just a paragraph here and there, in order to keep my sanity.



The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Writers post their thoughts on their blogs, talking about their doubts and the fears they have conquered. It's a chance for writers to commiserate and offer a word of encouragement to each other. Check out the group at http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

BOOK RELEASE: Death by Adverb by Rebecca Douglass

Today is the official release for the latest entry in the Pismawallops Mystery series, "DEATH BY ADVERB" by Rebecca M. Douglass. I love the title, and the book looks fabulous. In honour of this momentous occasion, I turn my blog over to Rebecca to give you all the details of this latest thrilling caper, so that you can do yourself a favour and grab your very own copy of DEATH BY ADVERB. Take it away, Rebecca!
THE BOOK!
Title: Death By Adverb (Pismawallops PTA Mysteries #3)
Author: Rebecca M. Douglass
Genre: Cozy mystery
Ebook: 85,000 words
Paperback:   approx. 285 pages
Death By Adverb (Pismawallops PTA #3)


JJ MacGregor’s having a rotten summer. Her arm’s in a cast, her jeans are too tight, and her son is spending his vacation with his dad. To make matters worse, her relationship with Police Chief Ron Karlson is up in the air and they haven’t spoken since June. Maybe the only good thing is that she’s got a writing job at last. Wilmont Charleston-Rutherford want her to help him with his memoirs, and JJ doesn’t care if he’s making it all up. All she has to do to make some much-needed money is keep her mouth shut and fix some of the worst prose she’s ever seen.

Of course, keeping her mouth shut isn’t JJ’s strong point. When she loses her temper so does her boss, and she’s back to job-hunting. That’s bad enough, but when Wilmont Charleston-Rutherford turns up dead, everyone remembers JJ fought with him. About the time the police are wondering if JJ might have tried to avenge the English language, her sewer backs up, and the dead man’s missing daughter shows up on her doorstep—only to disappear again before morning. JJ has her work cut out for to find the girl, the killer, and a new septic tank before anyone else dies—but at least the murder has her talking to Ron again.


THE AUTHOR!

Rebecca Douglass was raised on an Island in Puget Sound only a little bigger than Pismawallops, and remembers well the special aspects of island life.  She now lives and writes in the San Francisco Bay Area, and can be found on-line at www.ninjalibrarian.com and on Facebook as The Ninja Librarian.  In addition to the Pismawallops PTA Mysteries (Death By Ice Cream and Death By Trombone), her books include three Ninja Librarian book, tall tales for all ages, and the humorous middle-grade fantasy Halitor the Hero.  Rebecca is a long-time volunteer and servant of her local schools, now due to retire (and seek now opportunities to serve).  She spends her free time bicycling, gardening, reading, and supporting her grown sons. For a vacation she likes nothing better than hiking, camping and backpacking.

THE LINKS!

THE EXCERPT!
  
“What the—hey, watch that thing!” I yelled as the man in white brought his saw toward my immobilized arm.

Nurse Chu patted my shoulder comfortingly, but she didn’t loosen her grip on the casted limb she held against the table.

“Don’t worry, Ms. MacGregor,” she said, “The doctor hardly ever slips and cuts off anyone’s arm.”

I swallowed hard, reminding myself that these were medical professionals. Despite appearances, they weren’t planning to torture me, cut off my arm, or damage me in any way. I was in the Pismawallops Clinic getting the cast off my broken arm at last, a happy event.

I cringed anyway as the saw started to cut the plaster. “Easy there,” I said, trying to sound like I was joking. “My insurance runs out in a couple of months, and I need to be healthy when that happens!” In fact, I was doing plenty of worrying about insurance. Once my coverage under my ex-husband’s policy ran out, I was going to be scrambling to make payments on even the cheapest insurance. It was worth it, to be free of the man I thought of as pond scum, but I still worried. I fixed my gaze on the educational poster on the wall in front of me, and resolutely ignored the whining saw.

Dr. Salisbury finished cutting the cast loose and peeled the remains away. I stopped staring at the poster enjoining me to wash my hands and avoid the flu, and looked at the thing lying on the table.

The exposed arm looked white and dead, and I wasn’t sure it was attached to me.

THE SALE!

For those of you who need to catch up on the Pismawallops Mystery series, the first two books are on sale at Amazon for JUST 99 CENTS! Seriously, you cannot let a deal like this pass you buy, so go check it out.

Have I mentioned that I love this cover? Because I love this cover.



The sale is on until the end of April. DON'T MISS IT!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Ups and Downs (#IWSG March 2018)



March IWSG Question 
How do you celebrate when you achieve a writing goal/ finish a story?

This is going to sound super dumb, but I celebrate by starting the next one.

I have so many ideas for stories in my head and I just want to get to all of them. After I've been working on something for a long time my mind starts to wander to the next project, and the revising and editing on the current WIP just becomes a drag. So finally finishing a project (as finished as it can ever be) and moving onto something new and fresh is very exciting and invigorating. Starting a new story is my favourite part of writing - everything is so full of promise and possibility, a long way off from the miserable pile of dreck it's going to become.

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So I haven't done much writing or blogging so far in 2018, which I knew was going to happen. I make a point of hammering out the IWSG posts though, just so I don't lose my cherry spot on the sign-up list (currently at #93!).

I do however have a couple of bits of writing-related news. First the good - remember that story I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, that I found out was short-listed in a new anthology back in December? Well, they officially accepted it earlier this week! That will be my second acceptance this year, so I'm on a bit of a roll.

Since I don't have time to write any new stories, my roll will probably end right there, but hey, 2 for 2 ain't bad.

I'll have more details when I get them, and when I know I'm allowed to share.

As for the second bit of news...

From the highest high to the lowest low...

I was asked to submit one of those author interviews to a review blog as we all have done from time to time, only for them to reject it when they realized that I tend to write stories with vulgar language and mature content. I was mildly annoyed because I had stayed up late and rushed to get the interview in on time (as I mentioned, my writing time is nil), but mostly I just have to laugh. For those keeping score, this is the second time the content of my writing has gotten me kicked out of something. Remember last year when I was the first book eliminated from the Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off because of a crass joke? I guess I'm developing a bit of a reputation. If only I could harness it for publicity.

I think I'm probably travelling in the wrong circles. I know my audience is out there somewhere, I just need to find it find the time to find it.

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The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Writers post their thoughts on their blogs, talking about their doubts and the fears they have conquered. It's a chance for writers to commiserate and offer a word of encouragement to each other. Check out the group at http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

January/February Audiobook Reviews

Between my messed up work schedule and new job, I haven't had nearly as much time to listen to audiobooks lately. I have racked up a few over the last two months or so, so I thought I'd share my thoughts now.

Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome, read by Hugh Laurie

This book came out nearly 130 years ago, and the jokes still work. It's incredible. Sure it's a certain style of British humour that may not be to everyone's taste, but it fits mine precisely. This was obviously an influence on P.G. Wodehouse, and on later modern British authors like Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams (see below). Originally intended as a serious travel book, the story of three young gentlemen (to say nothing of the dog) getting away from the city for a few days quickly devolves into pure comedy. Some of the passages, like the three men trying to open a tin of pineapples without an opener, or the recommendation of cheese as a travelling companion, had me in stitches. You can still see the origins of the book, though, and there are some beautiful, poetic passages about the English countryside as well as accurate descriptions of places the group visits during their holiday. Many of the locations you can still visit - in fact all of the inns and pubs mentioned in the book are still open today. England loves their old drinking holes, it would seem.

Perhaps the only drawback is that Hugh Laurie (of House, MD fame) is, surprisingly, not a great narrator. He talks very fast and his breathing is very distracting. He rattles off several lines of text in a heartbeat and then takes in huge gulps of air. I know that's his comedy style but it's annoying in an audiobook. He should take lessons from his old buddy, Stephen Fry (also see below).

Inferno by Dan Brown, read by Paul Michael
I have a strange relationship with Dan Brown. When The DaVinci Code hit big years ago I railed against it - how could such a poorly-written, formulaic book based on decades-old knowledge for its "shocking revelations" become such a huge success? I even wrote a play about how terrible it was (I was a weird theatre kid).

As time went on, though, I softened on Brown and The DaVinci Code significantly. The book is not that bad, it's perfectly fine and has a great pace. I can't fault an author for his success. If I wrote anything even a fraction as popular and competently written, I would milk it for all it's worth, too. It helped that I went back and read Angels & Demons, which I actually really enjoyed. But then The Lost Symbol came out, which was terrible, so I kinda forgot about Brown and the adventures of Doctor Robert Langdon.

It took me awhile to get to Inferno, and now that I have... eh, all I can say is that it's not as bad as The Lost Symbol, which is barely a compliment. It follows exactly the same formula as the other books: great, page-turning pace; ridiculous, barely-plausible technology; a trusted ally who betrays the hero; "shocking" revelations that really aren't that shocking if you've read a book in the last 30 years; a mad villain who isn't really "wrong," and I'm totally confused if we're supposed to side with him or not.

The villain in Inferno, in particular, was absolutely fucking right, and I think all the other characters realized that at the end because the big revelation of his evil plan was handled with kind of a "meh, whatever." Like, when everyone was trying to figure out how to deal with the execution of his master plan, no one really seemed to care or question what it all meant.

Part of the problem might be that this was an abridged version of the story, so maybe there was some necessary philosophical debate that was left on the cutting room floor. I know the editing also caused other issues as some characters and plotlines disappeared from the story with no explanation.

The narrator was fine. He tried to be really fancy with foreign accents, but my only comment of note is that he's terrible at female voices. He seemed unable to emote when using a female voice, so all the female characters came off bland and emotionless.

Huh, I guess finding stuff to pick apart in a book gives you lots more to write about. But beside all that, my overall review is that the book is "fine," except for one particular line which made me guffaw out loud. At one point, when discussing the female lead's backstory, she said that while in college she took a "part-time acting job to earn extra money." Coming from a theatre background, that's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. Unless the job was acting in porn, that should have been the clue to tip the hero off that she was a bold-faced liar (sorry, spoiler).

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, read by Stephen Fry
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe / Life, The Universe, and Everything read by Martin Freeman

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is one of my favourite books. Its absurd, ridiculous British humour is exactly my cup of tea. If you're not familiar with it, go read it/listen to it immediately. If you don't like it, well, then we can't be friends.

Upon listening to the first three parts (of this five-part trilogy), I've come to several conclusions:
1. Stephen Fry is a much better narrator than Hugh Laurie. I compare them because they're of course former partners in the comedy duo Fry & Laurie, but really, it's not fair to compare anyone to Stephen Fry in the narration department.
2. While Martin Freeman is not as good a narrator as Fry, he IS Arthur Dent. And I'm not just saying that because he played Arthur Dent in the film version of the book; he was obviously cast as Arthur because he embodies the hapless, naive-yet-snarky, everyman quality of Arthur perfectly (it's also why he's great in roles such as Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit and John Watson in Sherlock).
3. The audio quality of Freeman's books is not great. The gain is too low, it's distorted (because I have to turn it up so loud to hear it) and you can even hear him turning the pages of his script at times. Most of the books I've listened to have had perfect audio, I don't know why this one was so iffy.
4. I think Restaurant at the End of the Universe is my favourite book in the series. Adams really hits his stride here. I won't spoil it, and it takes a bit to set up, but the whole joke about sending all the useless people (including advertising executives, human resources managers and telephone cleaners) into space had me laughing so hard I nearly drove off the road. The best line in the series, however, comes in Life, The Universe, and Everything:

"There is an art to flying, or rather a knack. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground, and miss.” 

Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James, read by Becca Battoe

I couldn't do it. I listened for about 2 hours and nothing sexy happened. All I got was terrible, juvenile, awkward prose. I cannot waste 20 hours of my life listening to this.

Is E.L. James 13 years old? Because she writes like she's 13 years old, and the narrator reads her like she's 13 years old. It's maddening. It's like listening to a teenager on the telephone telling her friend about the cute boy she met. Maybe if I was reading it and I could just skim to the sexy parts, it wouldn't be so bad. Except now I'm going to picture the lead as a 13-year old and it will just be creepy and weird. I give up.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

It Was A Month (#IWSG February 2018)

My wife's surgery went well. Actual recovery is a long and hard process. Life is hectic. It's a struggle to balance everything, and in case it wasn't hectic enough I also took a promotion at work. I'm actually kinda torn about it because it's a lot more work and part of me feels I need to move on to something different, but the money is just too much to pass up right now.

There is not enough hours in the day for everything and I'm just waiting for something to fall apart.

Writing of course has been non-existent. The folks from the Stitch in Crime anthology have been hard at work planning promotion for the book, preparing blogs and Facebook pages and interviews and all that jazz, and I've barely had time follow the messages, let alone help out with anything. I'm really crossing my fingers that in a month or two things will settle down into a more regular routine and life can get back into some semblance of order. Of course, I've been saying that for the last six months, but eventually it has to be true, right?

While I'm thinking about it, though, you have all checked out the Stitch in Crime blog, right?

And what about the Facebook page?

And of course, while the book comes out May 1st, you know you pre-order it RIGHT NOW, right?
Available May 1st!

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February Question:
What do you love about the genre you in most often?

I think I've said this before, but I write fantasy mostly because I can just make everything up. It's not even that I don't like doing research - I quite like it, actually - but I hate writing something that someone will inevitably say "That's not how it works!" Well, if everything happens in a made-up world that I created, then PFFFT, too bad, it works exactly the way I say it does.

Of course, my story in Stitch in Crime is actually set in the real world, without any fantasy elements at all. It's a gritty noir thriller, or as gritty as I ever get, anyway. Also, unlike most of my stories, it's not set in Canada, but in the exotic and seedy urban metropolis of Mount Vernon, Washington. I actually had to do a tiny bit of research to look up some street and business names in Mount Vernon, but I'm sure someone is going to point out inaccuracies. I assume there are tens of thousands of people from Mount Vernon who read this blog.

A wretched hive of scum and villainy.

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The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Writers post their thoughts on their blogs, talking about their doubts and the fears they have conquered. It's a chance for writers to commiserate and offer a word of encouragement to each other. Check out the group at http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

2018 Starts Off On A High Note (#IWSG January 2018)

Holy crap, it's 2018.

For those paying attention, my story "Gussy Saint and the Case of the Missing Coed" was selected as a winner in the IWSG 2017 Anthology Contest! I was definitely not expecting that. The official announcement was just this morning, but I found out about two weeks ago, and along with finding out on Christmas Day that another of my stories had been shortlisted for another anthology, it was a couple of nice little surprises to end an otherwise very shitty year.


I would like to thank the IWSG Admin staff, the folks at Dancing Lemur Press and the panel of judges for choosing my story. It's a great honour, as I'm sure there were tons of other great works to pick from. I don't have a lot of details on the book yet other than it's being published in the Spring, so if you want to get all the news straight from the horse's mouth, as well as the full list of contributing authors, make sure to check out the IWSG Blog.

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On a personal note, for those wondering my wife is going in for surgery on Friday, and my father-in-law starts his chemo today. Wish us luck.

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JANUARY IWSG QUESTION: What steps have you taken or plan to take to put a schedule in place for your writing and publishing?

Currently my writing schedule is "whenever I can," which usually amounts to my lunch breaks at work, at 11:00pm after everyone else goes to bed, and sometimes at 6:00am on Saturday morning. I don't recommend it.

So far, my publishing schedule has been equally erratic (mostly because of my terrible writing schedule). I don't put out books & stories regularly, nor do I even write in consistent series or even genres. So yeah, I don't recommend that, either.

In fact, don't do anything I do. Except submit stories to the IWSG Anthology contests. That's obviously a good idea.

The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Writers post their thoughts on their blogs, talking about their doubts and the fears they have conquered. It's a chance for writers to commiserate and offer a word of encouragement to each other. Check out the group at http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/.

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