Sunday, January 30, 2011

What's in Your Library?

I cycle through some books from my personal library, sharing them with friends and family and donating to my local library for their fundraisers, but some books are treasured and will never leave my shelves. These books would leave the house first in a house fire before my own person, in fact, I would forgo putting on shoes or grabbing my wallet to take my books with me, I love them that much!

Over the years, I've collected a bunch of books that remain in my permanent collection. My shelves are organized according to my weird writer's logic. I have a horror/sci-fi/fantasy section, broken up into author groupings and then a special section for short story collections.

There's the Native American section, the arts, gardening and cooking sections, and my world religion section, which includes everything from The Tao of Pooh to a copy of The Holy Qu'ran.

I also have a poetry and English major section, which runs the gamut from The Complete Stories by Flannery O'Connor to James Joyce's Ulysses and Frank O'Hara's poetry. (Toni Morrison holds a special place in that section).

And then there's my research section, which consists of books like Weird Wisconsin and Fabulous Creatures and Other Magical Beings, a bestiary of mythological creatures, Joseph Campbell's books, The Golden Bough, and lots more.

My husband has started the tradition of buying me collectors books for my library for my birthday and other special days. The very first book he bought me was a signed first edition hardcover of Clive Barker's The Great and Secret Show. For the holidays this year I got a first edition signed Tick Tock by Dean Koontz. For my last wedding anniversary I got a signed copy of Postscripts # 10 with great signatures like Stephen King,  Ramsey Campbell, Graham Joyce, Lucius Shepard, and more! And a few years ago, my kind husband relinquished his already purchased and signed hardcover copy of Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine to my brother-in-law for our annual gift exhange. (However, I still give my lovely husband credit for that one!) There are others in my collection, but those are my favorites.

I hope to acquire more throughout the years. Next to my family, my cats, and my pizza, I love my books the
best. I missed out on an early copy of The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe last year. As Kim Harrison's character Madison Avery would say, "Son of a puppy!"

That concludes my Show and Tell today, folks.

Offtopic side note: My husband brought this balloon home to celebrate my Godzilla/Hello Kitty love story I previously blogged about. Notice the drawn on mouth which correlates to my story, now up on the Critters forum in first draft for critique, if anyone is interested. I've been getting some good feedback and am currently working on flushing out Hello Kitty's character. Thanks to everyone who has critiqued this week!

Also, Kim Harrison has a sneak preview of her new Hollows novel, Pale Demon up on her site, for anyone who follows that series.

As always, happy writing and happy reading!

Friday, January 28, 2011

See No Writing Evil, Hear No Writing Evil, Speak No Writing Evil

This is my writing take on the Asian maxim of the three wise monkeys. These principles apply to the writing world and are lessons I have learned with time and personal experience.

See no writing evil.

At some point in your writing career, you are going to receive a rejection letter. Part of the writing business is learning to take a few knocks on the chin gracefully. Editors are not evil. It's simply their job to find the best writing for their readers. Rejection letters and criticism are not a personal attack against your character, so please don't take them that way. If the editor offers you some criticism, embrace the opportunity to strengthen your piece before you resubmit somewhere else. Editors are very busy and often do not have time to offer comments and suggestions with a rejection; consider yourself lucky if you receive a personal rejection letter. It's a gift from the writing gods!

Hear no writing evil.

Sometimes you just have to believe in yourself and trudge on, even though the acceptance pile is slim and the rejection pile is overflowing. There's plenty of opportunity out there and the trick is to find the right market to submit your work. Maybe, you won't be taking home Stephen King's salary next year, but you can take pride in knowing that you sold a few stories for some cash and are working towards your dream.

Having a dream in working progress is more than a lot of people accomplish. Be proud of yourself! Don't let yourself get overwhelmed with those horrible phrases, "I can't" and "I'll never". You can't and won't, if you never try. There will always be people you encounter in life who tell you that your dream of writing professionally is a slim chance and that you're "not good enough to make it". Don't listen to the people who aren't cheering you on. Surround yourself with your own personal cheerleaders and write. Now granted, not everyone is going to be the next great Clive Barker or Kelly Link, but that doesn't mean you should surrender your keyboard in shame. A lot of the writing journey is simply that -- the journey of getting to where you want to be.

Speak no writing evil.

Social sites, forums, and blogs are wonderful tools for marketing your writing career, but remember, you never know who is out there reading what you write. Be professional. If you get a rejection letter from an editor that you think is horrible and are really mad about, don't post about it on your blog or Facebook page. If you get a critique from someone on a writing forum and you disagree and think the person is a *bleeping* idiot, don't post about it. Negative publicity and a bad attitude are things that will get you nowhere in the writing industry with editors, agents, possible writing contributors, etc. Be a professional and people will treat you like one.

Those are my three writing rules to live by. Respect editors and learn from their decisions, believe in your writing and tune out the naysayers, and don't speak ill in public of anyone because you never know who might be listening/reading.

As always, happy writing and happy reading to all!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

What Are You Reading Between the Covers? - #5

FYI: Before I get to the heart of my topic, just have to gush that David Wellington got back to me and liked my post about him! Thanks, Dave!

Now to business...

I have become a not-sleeping, well-oiled, book-reading machine in the last week. Toshio and I have poured over hundreds of pages with many a cup of good tea into the wee hours of the morning. (Well, I have the tea and he has a feather toy to chew on, but a cat has his priorities too, you know!)

Years after starting Dean Koontz's Frankenstein trilogy and getting distracted by other books along the way, I finally finished the last book in the series, Dead and Alive. 

Here's a short synopsis of the trilogy: Victor Frankenstein, now known as Victor Helios, has survived over two hundred years and is still trying to perfect his master race of engineered creatures in New Orleans, Louisiana with his vast acquired fortune while Deucalion, Victor's first creation, has sought revenge against his maker and the abominations trying to make the human race extinct.

In the third book, Deucalion, along with the help of a wily dog named The Duke of Orleans and two detectives also featured in the first two books, is rushing to destroy Victor Helios's work. The engineered race is planning mass annihilation of the human race in just a few days. It was a quick, amusing read, with good commentary on genetic engineering and the responsibility of science for it's advances, etc. However, I was kind of disappointed in the ending. After all that happened, I wanted to savor the torture at the end of the book a little more. I won't give it away, in case anyone plans on reading it, though. I hate book spoilers!

As far as being a modern take on Mary Shelley's classic work, I think Koontz achieved his goal with prowess. Setting it in New Orleans, was the perfect creepy cherry on top of a bloody sundae! I would recommend it as a good, light read.

I then sunk my teeth into Wendy Webb's author debut from 2010, the modern gothic tale, The Tale of Halcyon Crane. This was a haunting, beautifully written tale about a young woman who inherits the estate of a mother she did not know existed and the unsolved murder of a young girl from her past. The book is set on the fictional island of Grand Manitou on Lake Superior, modeled after the real Mackinac Island, an excellent choice for a dark, gothic rendezvous! Having grown up playing on the shores of Lake Michigan, I couldn't resist such a lovely story set on a Great Lake. In fact, I loved it so much I read early into the morning until I was too tired to keep my eyes open and then picked it back up as soon as I awoke.

There was a bonus at the end of the book -- an interview with the author discussing her novel and her inspiration for the story, etc. as well. That was a nice touch. I highly recommend this one.

And now back to the writing and reading grind...

As always, happy writing and happy reading to all!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What Are You Reading Between the Covers? - #4

Another sleepless night led to a quick read of Kim Harrison's second young adult book in the Madison Avery series, Early to Death, Early to Rise. I have long been a fan of her adult Hollows series. (In fact, I wish I could be Rachel Morgan minus the black demon smut, but alas, I'm just an author). *chuckles* Anyway, Kim Harrison's young adult novel did not disappoint. I was skeptical after running from the ongoing teenage angst of the popular Twilight series by Stephenie Meyers, which isn't a bad series, just not my cup of tea, but Kim Harrison delivered. For an adult reader, her book was entertaining; the teen characters were not annoying and I could see why the story would appeal to young adults as well.

In the series, the main character, Madison Avery, is a reaper who is trying to change the way the angels deal with the collection and protection of people's souls, but the angels of the dark and light aren't on board with her new policies. Madison describes herself as, "not death on roller skates," a snarky image I have not been able to get of my head.

I made the mistake of picking up the second novel thinking it was a standalone story, but it was easy enough to follow the plot. So now I am going back to the library to pick up the first novel, Once Dead, Twice Shy.

I'm also currently plowing through the third book in Dean Koontz's Frankenstein series, Dead and Alive. I'll be blogging about that later in the week.

And I just returned from the library this morning with about eleven hold requests and three new books checked out, so more to come soon. If only my wallet would allow me to buy as many books as I read. I need a magical wallet! If anyone knows where to find one, please send it to me.

As always, happy writing and happy reading to all!

Monday, January 24, 2011

David Wellington Came for Christmas - 2007

I racked my brain for a few good titles for this post.  I came up with the following:

1) The Best Damn Christmas Gift Ever (but this one didn't have Dave's name mentioned)

2) My David Wellington Christmas Gift (which just sounded lame and did NOT really tell the full story)

3) the one that I actually used -- Dave Wellington Came for Christmas 2007

I waited to blog about this until I got Dave's permission, which he kindly gave. For those of you who are not familiar with Dave Wellington's books he is the author of the popular Monster Island zombie trilogy, the Laura Caxton vampire series, and now, his new werewolf series, Frostbite. You can visit him at his site here:

I haven't read Frostbite, yet, but when I do, I'll let you know what I think.

You're probably wondering how I managed to get Dave Wellington to my house for Christmas. He was there in spirit, not in person. Here's the story.

I have a wonderfully, sneaky, conniving husband, with only the best intentions who decided in 2007 to log onto my computer to get my unpublished, unedited stories so they could be sent to an author for review. He wrote to several authors asking them for permission to send my work. Kim Harrison kindly responded in a very nice handwritten card that he needed to run my stories through her agent. Other authors declined as well. However, Dave has a kind heart and took pity on my husband.

Dave read through six of my unpublished/unfinished stories, which I learned on Christmas Eve when I opened one of the best gifts. My husband had taken my stories and put together a book to show me what my name would look like in print and motivate me to get back into the publishing industry, which I had been out of since the late 90s.

Here's the book he designed. I found out he spent waaaay too much time researching how to put together a book from scratch, which if you know my husband, is a sign of true love because he doesn't even read the same books as I do, let alone know anything about the publishing industry.

I was puzzled when I opened my present from him and saw my name on the cover of a book with a shark. I flipped through it, wondering when he had stolen my unfinished work and I was going to get a little upset, until I saw this on the back cover:

*blink, blink* I couldn't believe what I was reading! "Was this for real?" I asked my husband.  He told me it was. Dave Wellington gave him this quote with permission to use it however he wanted.

Now imagine you're me -- haven't tried to publish seriously since the late 90s, have a lot of work in progress, but nothing finished, with no goals to publish any time soon, in a writing funk. You see this and flip!  Hell yeah, baby! An author whose books I can actually find in my LIBRARY likes my work. Of course, then utter humiliation ensued as I thought of all the typos that could be rearing their ugly heads in my unfinished work that he looked at, but apparently, Dave was kind enough to look past that and focus on the storytelling.

My book was never really for sale anywhere and now sits on my bookshelf at home, but when I have a really bad writing day and want to give up, I just look at that quote and smile.

Thanks, Dave Wellington! You went out of your way for my husband and I know you heard all this already from us, but this was really a nice, wonderful gift you helped out with.

And thank you to my loving husband, who motivated me to get back to the keyboard!

Since Dave Wellington looked at my work, I've actually published some of the unfinished stories he read and had a few news one published as well.  If any of you want to check out my work, go here:

And that's my Dave Wellington story ...

As always, happy writing and happy reading to all!

Off topic Note: My Godzilla/Hello Kitty story I blogged about is up on the Critters writing forum for critique this week, if anyone wants to check a work in progress. It's entitled: It's About Damn Time!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

What Are You Reading Between the Covers? - #3

Last night I pulled an all-nighter to finish reading The Coyote Road: Trickster Tales. This collection is part of editor Ellen Datlow's and editor Terri Windling's ongoing series celebrating myth and contemporary fantasy around the world. Both women's professional credits are enough to ensue writer envy. They are very successful and savvy women with good taste in writing, which is why I know when I pick up one of their collections, it will deliver a beautiful journey. Also, most of the authors featured in the collections edited by Ms. Datlow and Ms. Windling support The Endicott Studio, "dedicated to myth and its expression through literary, visual, and performance arts," as the site reads. (If you are a fan of world myth, digital art, or good writing, you should really check out the links in these posts). The sites are beautiful and informative.

I always read the introductions to these collections because unlike some, they are actually entertaining. Right away, I was drawn into the book. Pat Murphy, the first author in the collection, wrote a killer story featuring Coyote as a woman, which is not unheard of, but pretty rare to read. Usually, Coyote is featured as a man.  One Odd Shoe left me with a good smirk on my face.

The next tale that stuck with me was written by Delia Sherman. The Fiddler of Bayou Teche tells the haunting story of a beautiful woman outcast in her bayou community because of her looks. She may be an outcast, but she will dance you straight out of town and then some!

There were four other stories that I enjoyed too. The first was Friday Night at St. Cecelia's, by Ellen Klages , which took an interesting modern approach to Queen Mab, the fairy, and also incorporated one of my favorite pastimes -- board games. The second was by Katherine Vaz, The Chamber Music of Animals.  Now this story caught my attention because it dealt with a beloved childhood stuffed animal, something I could relate to and have written about myself, and a son dying of leukemia. Her Portugese-American background gives her work an exotic, flavor of myth I cannot get enough of and I highly recommend any of her writing. The third story reminded me of living in Albuquerque, New Mexico and the hikes I would take with my family out in the desert. It's The Senorita and the Cactus Thorn, written by Kim Antieau; the tale of a woman who is trying to impress her future mother-in-law with a twist. And the fourth and last tale was The Dreaming Wind by Jeffrey Ford; a delightful, whimsical story of a town caught in the spell of a dreaming wind.

If you like what you read in these collections, Ms. Datlow and Ms. Windling have thoughtfully included a list of fiction, non-fiction, and trickster studies for further reading -- another reason why I love their contemporary fantasy collections because I can always get my hands on lots of good new reading to keep me up at night!

I hope you pick up this book and find it as much of a treasure as I do.

As always, happy writing and happy reading to all!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Godzilla Falls in Love with Hello Kitty

In my demented writer's mind this actually happened last year! I haven't published the short story yet, but am putting it up on Critter's, the online writing forum, for peer review very soon. I saw this Beanie Baby today and just had to get it to keep Godzilla company in my writing toy collection.

The short story is currently titled:  Godzilla Falls in Love, but I am thinking about changing it. The new title is:  It's About Damn Time! To find out what it's time for, you will have to come visit me on the Critters writing forum. I promise it will all make sense, or you can choose to wait until it's been accepted by a publication. However, if you are at all curious about a work in progress and following a story to completion, you might be interested in jumping on Critters and viewing the critiquing process.

The premise of the story is that Godzilla and Hello Kitty meet at a support group for movie stars with phobias, one of the featured characters being King Kong who suffers from acrophobia, the fear of heights.  The support group meets at The Schlitz Audubon Nature Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  This is a real center connected to a wonderful nature preserve near where I used to live.  The nature preserve is 185 acres of undeveloped land with hiking trails through the woods, down to Lake Michigan's beach, through a native Wisconsin prairie, and even a pond with turtles and other wildlife. I've seen wild turkeys, deer, coyotes, and more on my hikes there. It was the perfect setting for my short story.

While I was photographing Godzilla and Hello Kitty for their world debut here online, Derrick, one of my bearded dragons, got quite upset. He decided to fight Godzilla to defend Hello Kitty's honor.

Then he asked Ms. Kitty if she would pose for a picture with him. I had no idea that Derrick had such a crush.

Ms. Kitty was flattered by Derrick's amorous advances, but assured him that she and Godzilla will be together for a long time.

I wonder what their babies would look like, if they had any.  If you're interested, you can email your artwork on the subject and I will post it on my blog.

As always, happy writing and happy reading to all!

Friday, January 21, 2011

The History of Pens and Writing With Quills

It's not as easy as it looks to write with a traditional quill. In fact, it's harder than I ever imagined! I had the opportunity to try one out last summer when my stepson got one as a gift. The concept is the same as the modern day pen, but writing with a quill is more difficult. Not only do you have to master the correct angle at which to hold your quill over the paper, but then you have to be able to use just the right amount of pressure or end up with a lot of ink blots and a big mess. And the ink is pretty watery and unforgiving.

After a half hour's work, I had successfully signed my name on parchment, although my signature was a little shaky. I had a newfound respect for all those monks who created such beautiful illuminations!

I Googled quill pens on the net today and came up with more than a few interesting links. One interesting fact I learned is that a quill's structure is created by letting it stand in hot sand, which allows the barrel of the feather to become less brittle and more flexible to write with. Then the nib can be shaped more easily. 
Medieval Writing was quite helpful in learning the steps for creating your own quills. Not that I'm going to be in the great outdoors scavenging giant bird feathers any time soon, but you never know. It might come in handy some day!

In my quest for information on the quill I also came across The History of Writing Implements, which tracks man's writing instruments over 6,000 years. If nothing else, you'll gain a few interesting odd facts to share with your writer friends! And learn about this nifty pen, which supposedly reduces fatigue while writing by allowing you not to have to grip your pen with three fingers. (I haven't tried one of these, but am now really curious).

If you're adventurous and up for a challenge, there are several sites where you can purchase quills. Most quills appear to range from the traditional, without a metal nib, at around $20 to the fancier quills with calligraphy nibs at around $60. Of course, neither will be making an appearance in my house, since my cat, Toshio would steal them all, anyway.

As always, happy writing and happy reading to all! And watch out for those quills! Don't poke your eye out!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Own Your Writing!

If you don't introduce yourself as a writer, who's going to do it for you, if you're not Kim Harrison or Anne Rice?  No one!  I came to this realization while stranded at the Atlanta airport in December during a bad snowstorm.  I was hungry, frustrated after the whole T.S.A. experience, and sore from lugging around my appropriately named "luggage".  I went in search of sustenance hoping for a food genie, but instead, I got stuck in a long line of disgruntled travelers all waiting for a table at the only restaurant with seating. 

Fortunately, the lady in line in front of me did not have a fear of strangers and was kind enough to let me share her table.  After we ordered, we found ourselves making the proverbial chitchat and that question reared its ugly head -- the question I always dreaded answering:  What do you do?  Now, I've always hated this question because the reality is that I am a small press author in a big press world trying to get my next break and an agent, but at the same time I am also a housewife/crazy pet zookeeper.  While aspiring to be the next female Stephen King, my dilemma is which option to share with strangers I will probably never see again, unless, I meet them at a future book signing.

That fateful day I chose option one.  I decided there was no time like the present -- being stranded in an airport with a complete stranger, to take charge of my dream job and own it!  So I did!  I told her I was a writer.  I could tell she was skeptical, until I started giving her all the gory details of my submissions in progress, my publications, my web site address, and all that jazz.  By the end of the conversation she seemed curious to verify my tale, and I was hoping she'd look me up on the net and there'd be another sale in it for me.  If not, at least I wasn't hungry any more.

My point in sharing this story with you, is that you have to own your writing.  Nobody is going to think of you as a writer, if you don't think of yourself as one first.  So the next time you are at a party and someone asks you what you do for a living, take the opportunity to do a little free advertising for your budding career.  You never know where it may take you.  Fat little angel dudes may not start serenading you accordingly while everyone rushes to offer you the last cheese pastry, but at least you will have gained a sense of pride.  And that's worth it all right there!

As always, happy writing and happy reading to all!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Less Stress, Equals Success!

In the past couple of weeks it's been hard for me to focus on my writing, which doesn't happen that often to me.  Years ago I kicked that nasty writer's block in the butt and just said I was going to write no matter how I felt about what I was writing, but sometimes, life gets in the way of you being able to focus.

We all need a little downtime when we get stressed.  That's why it's important to have hobbies to keep you -- the writer, sane!  I have four hobbies that are guaranteed to de-stress me.

1)  I love to create art.  I do watercolor, decoupage, and crochet, but mostly I like photography.  I recently picked up scrapbooking at the urging of a close friend.  In the past two years I've learned how calming cutting paper can be.  This past week with a death in the family was hairy for me, so I broke out the scrapbooking supplies and created these cards for friends and family throughout this year.

2)  My second hobby and first love, is really reading.  When I read I can escape to wherever I want to without breaking my budget or having to pay for a pet sitter!  And I can stay in my pajamas and slipper socks!  Who can beat that?

3) My third hobby, of course, is the zoo I have at home.  I currently have 3 hermit crabs in a 20 gallon tank, two bearded dragons, one in a custom 6 foot long tank and one in a 40 gallon tank, three cats, a 3-toed box turtle that is native to Texas and in a 40 gallon tank, and a Cuban Anole in a 20 gallon tank.  Here's the collective zoo photo.  From left to right starting at the top, you have Houdini, Derrick the Beardie, Toshio, Tiggyr, Fizzy the Cuban Anole, Mike the Beardie, Brad the Turtle, and Spot, the largest of the three hermit crabs.  They keep me busy every day!

4) My last hobby, guaranteed to get you de-stressed and out of a writing funk, is to just walk or participate in some other form of exercise.  Not only is it good for your physical health, but it is excellent for your mental health as well.

I hope you found these tips helpful. 

As always, happy writing and happy reading!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I hear Wendy Wench screaming something about plot development.  And it's time for lunch.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What Are You Reading Between the Covers? - #2

I finished the last book I blogged about and sunk my teeth hungrily into a collection of short stories by Ron Rash called Burning Bright. 

This collection is close to my heart because of the service work I did repairing homes for the needy in the Appalachian Mountains in high school and college.  It opened my eyes to a brand new culture, steeped in rich traditions.

Ron Rash's stories took me back to that area of the country as soon as I read the first story.  The stories span a period of time from the Civil War, The Great Depression, all the way to present day Appalachia.  There is a theme throughout the book of hardship, loss, perseverance, pride, and a sense of family and community.  These are all lessons I learned while working in the mountains of Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia myself.

I have three favorites from the collection.  The first story is Dead Confederates, which is about two men who decide to dig up Confederate graves in a cemetery for profit.  The second is The Corpse Bird, which addresses the folklore of the owl being a harbinger of death in Appalachia.  This instantly brought to mind the folk song I Wish My Baby Was Born performed by Tim Eriksen, Riley Baugus, and Tim O'Brien on the Cold Mountain soundtrack -- a chilling accompaniment to this tale, and the third and final favorite of mine from this collection was Lincolnites which featured the Union supporters living down south during the Civil War. 

If you're interested in picking up a copy for your personal library, here is the link:

Otherwise, you might pay a visit to your local library as I did.

As always, happy reading and happy writing to all!

FYI:  This is now an ongoing series where I will discuss the books I devour like candy.  Check back for more entries such as these, if you like what you read.  They will always be titled as above, so there will be no confusion.

Monday, January 10, 2011

My Room With a View

I had to borrow liberally from Virginia Woolf for this title -- one of my favorite authors.  People have asked me where I write and it's not very glamorous, really.  A writing office is on my wish list in the next few years.  Currently, I work downstairs in my open concept townhome, which is nice, but sometimes distracting when others are watching T.V., etc.  Thankfully, I own an iPod which helps filter out noise and am not easily distracted.  I write at my dining room table -- the black hole for mail, books, and ongoing art/crafting projects in the house.  If there isn't clutter there, it doesn't feel like home. 

This is my view outside as I write:

It looks kind of barren now, but its winter.  What can I do?  I wish I had a lush, green pic to share with you, but when I moved in it was winter as well and shortly thereafter my tree was struck by lightning.  The tree promised to be amazing in spring when we moved in on New Year's Eve 2007.  It had a gorgeous structure and towered over the three story building in front of my townhouse.  Its limbs covered the entire balcony from view until calamity hit about two months later.  It was struck by lightning in the middle of a tornado!  I hadn't even been in Dallas but a few months when this giant tree limb fell on top of my car.  Gone was the promise of a shady, regal tree and left was the smaller version you now see in the previous picture above.

I am glad the tree was salvaged, though.  I like to watch the birds and squirrels while I write.

I have various writing toys that hopefully, will find their way to my dream writing office, when I move and have room for one.  My two favorites to bring out are the 1985 Godzilla action figure and the Creature from the Black Lagoon that I acquired used at a comic book shop in New Mexico.  You can see them looming tall in the background.

The following picture shows what I have to contend with on a daily basis while writing. 

This is my breditor, Toshio.  Now I realize this nickname warrants some explaining, so here goes:  I got Toshio, my adopted Bombay, from this wonderful no-kill cat shelter, Texas Cares.  He was already eight months old and responded to his name, so I thought it would be confusing to rename him, but if I had, it would have been Bradbury after Ray Bradbury, one of my all-time favorite authors, who has also owned a black cat.  Toshio quickly took an interest in my writing, as you can see from the pic above.  He seems to think my laptop case is his office.  One day my husband and I were joking around about Toshio being my editor -- thus, the nickname "Breditor", a combination of Bradbury and editor.  So really, I don't have an editor at the moment, but a "Breditor".

This is a more regal photo of the laptop bandit:

So there you have it -- my crazy room with a view!  Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some more writing to do.

As always, happy writing and happy reading to all!  (And if you happen to enjoy what you're reading, feel free to become a follower below).

Saturday, January 8, 2011

What Are You Reading Between the Covers?

There's a large stack of books piling up on my nightstand at the moment because I've been a little preoccupied with my newest pet, a 3-toed box turtle.  I named him Bradbury after Ray Bradbury, one of my favorite authors.

It's hard for me to resist his tiny wrinkled old man face and I've been spending more time watching him than reading lately.

A lot of friends and relatives are always asking me for book suggestions.  I read about 60+ books a year and am happy to share my good findings with you.  I read a variety of genres, but mostly historical fiction, fantasy, horror, and science fiction, though sometimes I delve into cyberpunk here and there and other genres.  (Actually, as a writer I find it hard to use blanket terms like "fantasy" and "horror", etc. because there are so many sub-categories out there and I enjoy them all!  But I'll save that for another blog, perhaps).  I also read mainstream fiction, though not as much as the genres I like to write in.

I like short stories at bedtime because I can finish a tale in one sitting and go to bed completely satisfied.  If I'm reading a good novel, I tend to lose track of time and more sleep than I should!  Last night I finished reading Death's Excellent Vacation, edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner.  It's a wonderful, humorous short story collection about what happens to paranormals on their vacations.  This collection was amusing and a fast read like the other collections they've edited together, which I also highly recommend.  It was so good, it actually inspired me to write my own gargoyle story, which I am currently working on.  If you like succubus, vampires, demons, and more, then this collection is for you. 

Here's the link to this book:

Currently, I am reading a historical novel by Isabel Allende, Island Beneath the Sea.  It's set in Saint-Domingue in the late 1700s and tells the tale of a young slave girl's journey into womanhood and her search for her own identity.  I'm about 1/5 through the book.  In fact, I stayed up later than I had planned reading because I couldn't wait to find out what happened next.

Here's the link to this book:

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a book to get back to.

As always, happy writing and happy reading to all!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Support Your Local Library! I Do!

This sign never ceases to cheer me up!  As soon as I could sign my name in cursive, I was begging my mom to take me to get my own library card.  Weekly trips to the library were a fond tradition in my mother's house and I have continued that tradition in my mine.  In fact, sometimes I go twice in one week, if I am bored at home.

Yes, electronic media is here to stay and eBooks are wonderful trip companions that take up less room than a conventional book, but your local library offers more than just books.  They offer a safe place for kids to hang out after school, free internet, an air conditioned space for low-income seniors and others in the summertime, educational classes like literacy programs, etc., enrichment programs for preschoolers and younger children, and a sense of community through numerous community events.

So, support your local library!

I wanted to share some pics of one my favorite library in Dallas.  Timberglen Library has been named a "Green Building" by the city of Dallas, which means that it's a really cool, environmentally friendly building. 

There is this nifty rainwater collection reservoir onsite used to irrigate the library landscaping.  Every year about 1.6 million gallons of rain falls on the library building and surrounding property.  This gray water system allows the library to recycle rainwater in two 50,000 gallon collection containers.  How cool is that?!

I also am a sucker for wind mobiles, of which Timberglen has two giant ones that carry a great message for kids and adults alike. 


If you'll excuse me now, I have to check and see if I have any library books to renew online.

As always, happy writing and happy reading!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Where Do They Come From?

My father-in-law is always asking, “Nora, where do you get your ideas from?”  This seems to be a common question that all writers field at one point or another in their career. 

The answer is simple.  I have a tiny muse that I hold hostage and feed stale bread crumbs soaked in water.  Sometimes when Wendy Wench is nice I let her out to play, but only if she promises not to run with sharp, pointy objects like scissors and to leave my idea nest of Post-it notes, the occasional odd restaurant napkin, and old grocery receipt scribbles alone.  (I have a system, you know, however unorganized it may look to an outsider). 

To be truthful, I don't know where Wendy Wench actually came from, but she plays the Irish tin whistle in the key of C and likes to read Charles de Lint.  She also claims to have had amorous relations with at least half of the characters Charles Vess has illustrated for various authors.  Neither factoid have I been able to prove or disprove, but I am sure I will get to the bottom of the matter in due time!

Anyway, I do have a serious three-part answer to my father-in-law's question: 

1) My own twisted imagination runs wild when I am lying in bed and thinking about things that have happened to me during the day or that I've overheard while in line at the grocery store.

2) Inspiration often strikes while reading other people's writing.  (Anyone who knows me knows I exist solely on pizza, music, and plenty of visits to the library).

3) And last, but not least -- my husband.  My husband is a fountain of inspiration.  Many a story has started because he imagined a character that would be good, but he didn't know in what story, etc.  We have laughed together over many late night conversations, dreaming up a whole slew of characters for novels and short stories and putting them in amusing,compromising situations.

In closing, I would like to say that no muses were harmed or will be harmed in the creation of my stories.  And for those of you, who are concerned about Wendy Wench's welfare, don't worry.  I heard her humming The Flash Girl's A Girl Needs a Knife last night while I was trying to sleep and I think she can take care of herself.  In fact, at the moment, I am quite afraid to let her out of her desk drawer.  There’s no telling what that little hellion on wheels will come up with next!

Until next time, happy writing to all!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Bringing in the New Year

After much prompting, pleading, and repeated jabbing with sharp, pointy objects while being held hostage in a dark closet with no water or books, I have wisely decided to enter the wonderful world of blogging. 

You may be wondering about my title:  The Demon Stole My Pencil.  Well, it's simple, really.  I purchased my writing muse at a used store online and She's not very good at giving me ideas that haven't been served, reheated, and then frozen as leftovers for later consumption.  So, I found myself having to come up with something catchy that hadn't been snatched up already by the online writing gods.  This is what I came up with late at night while normal people were sleeping and I was up reading and daydreaming of an acceptance into The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror #22 this year.

In the past, I had blogged mainly about my wild zoo at home, which includes a few different lizard species, some cats, and other beasties with claws and shells, but this blog is different.  This blog is for you, the reader, to follow my journey online through the hairy, hell hound world of publishing.  You may even get inside my head and find out what makes me tick.  So grab onto my shirttails and off we go!  It's a wild and bumpy ride.  Please don't feed any animals along the way.  They might bite or offer you three wishes if you just come with them into this really, really, dark deserted alley.  That's never a good thing.

Instead, you can check back here for all the updates on my site, what I'm reading, what's going on in the life of a non-native Texan transplanted from the Midwest, and find out what's inspiring my writing at the moment or almost anything else you want to know that I can share before my keepers lock me up in my cell for the night.

Happy musings ...

And to the other writers out there, may you have a productive 2011!

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some writing to do and I think I heard my muse calling me.  I shut Her up in a dark, cramped drawer of my writing desk for stealing my wallet at lunchtime and now She claims She has something important to tell me.  We'll see how that works out.