Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Unique Gifts for Writing Dads

Father's Day is coming up in a few weeks and I've been brainstorming ideas. Maybe, you're a writing dad yourself, have one in the family, or know one at work. Here are some great gift ideas for writing dads everywhere.

1) The most obvious choice is a special edition of his favorite book or even one signed by his favorite author. You can find both of these for reasonable prices if you shop around online or at stores like Half Price Books.

2) If you're crafty, you could personalize a writing journal for your dad. I've done these as gifts. They're inexpensive, but thoughtful and easy to make. Just buy a notebook or a blank journal and decoupage the cover or cover it with a nice piece of decorative wrapping paper, instead, if you're not as artsy. You can even paint your own book designs to paste on or work with rubber stamps, practically anything you can find in your local craft store in the scrap booking section will work. Even  stickers from The Dollar Store.

3) If you have the time, one of my favorite gifts to give is a book of letters from me, since I live across country. I usually give myself at least a month, so I have time to write about thirty letters, if I'm diligent, before gift time comes around. I buy a nice journal and I write letters to the person it's for, reflecting on my favorite memories or thanking them for things they've done for me that meant a lot.

4) A writing dad can always use a digital voice recorder, if they don't have one. They're handier than a notebook when sleep interrupts you and cheaper than they used to be.

5) If you have a more traditional writing dad, perhaps, a nice pen engraved with their initials is the perfect gift. Places in the mall that sell engraved gifts generally have pens starting at around $35-$40 plus engraving costs. I've gotten two pens as gifts. I cherish both.

6) Perhaps, your dad is like me and enjoys more than a desk toy or two in their writing space. If so, get them a brainteaser, a stress reliever toy, or something silly to make them laugh.

7) Another crafty idea is to make your own pen holder or decorate office organizers for his. Just pick a theme he likes and go hunting at your craft store for decorating supplies and organizers.

8) Perhaps, your dad likes to listen to music while he writes. Why not make him a mixed CD of songs to inspire his writing or buy him an instrumental collection. (I suggest instrumental because many people find words distracting in the background when they write.)

9) Does dad need a new office chair? I bought my father one for his painting room one year and he loved it!

10) If you have a lot of dough, you can go the route of an eReader or a new computer, but these aren't as personal. I'm a fan of more thoughtful and personal gifts.

11) Maybe, your dad doesn't have a designated writing space. If you have permission from mom, you can create one for him. You don't even need a full room. You can get or make a room divider or choose not to use one. All you really need is a quiet place with a desk and a chair.

12) Dragon Speak is a great voice activated program is a very thoughtful gift for people with arthritis or people who are not computer friendly, but still creatively inclined. Now they can write too! (This is a pricier gift, though.)

13) If your dad is a fan of letter writing, you could order or make your own personalized stationary with stamps from the craft store. You can also order photo cards online pretty cheap at places like Winkflash.

14) I like to drink hot tea while I write, but it often gets cold on my desk while I write. My mom got a great gift one year for the office, a mug warmer. This is perfect for a nice cup of coffee or any hot beverage and doesn't take up a lot of room on your desk.

15) Is dad missing that perfect family album and there's no space on his desk for anything bulky? Well, get him a digital photo frame and load it up with his favorite family pics. These frames can be hung on the wall or propped up on a desk or bookshelf, without taking up too much room.

16) Maybe, all of his office walls are blank. Why not paint a picture and have it framed? Brighten up his office and give him a little color or a touch of horror. (Whichever suits hims.)

17) I'm also a fan of plants over flowers because they last forever and brighten up your home. If dad has a green thumb and great window lighting in his office, you might try a nice houseplant, instead of a bouquet this year.

18)And last, but not least, bookplates and book embossers personalize any book lover's library with a touch of class. There are many places to order these items online as well.

Hope I've offered you some affordable and fun ideas for Father's Day, if you haven't already done your shopping. Happy gifting, my demon hunters!

And as always, happy writing and happy reading to all!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Does Your Home Art Reflect Your Writing?

I've blogged before about my carnaval mask collection, so you're familiar with it by now. This is my newest addition to the family; my husband named him "Pablo." Pablo is a reproduction mask made in Mexico. We stumbled upon him at an antique gallery in Denton, Texas last weekend. My husband and I swore we weren't going to buy anything, just window shop, but as always, that's when we find something we just HAVE to have. Pablo is now hanging above the fireplace with his other friends and is quite happy, as you can see.

My mother recently came to stay with me and help out, since I've been recovering from two hospital visits and dealing with some pretty serious medical issues in the past six months. (I'm going to be having another surgery soon, but it's not scheduled, yet.) We moved at the end of April due to my health issues and it's been a slow process of unpacking, since the move wasn't planned, we hired a company to pack and move us, and my husband works long hours. I'm still living out of boxes as I type. My mother helped with some asked me one night while she was here, "How come you have so many decorations that are different mythical creatures and gods and goddesses?"

I hadn't really thought about my house being a multicultural/mythical endeavor before, until she mentioned it. Good question, mom!

The answer: Because I like pieces that speak to me. Every piece of art I display in my home reminds me of a story I read or a conversation about a story I'm going to write that I've had with my husband in the wee hours of the morning when we should both be sleeping. I believe art tells a story and my photos do as well. That's why I fell in love with photography, because photos hold emotion and tell a story I can escape into through the lens. So naturally, as a storyteller, I'd want to surround myself with stories in art. Wouldn't you?

Ask yourself the same question: Does your home art reflect your writing? If not, you might want to immerse yourself in your local art museum and see what pieces speak to you. You might be surprised about the stories they have to share and the writing journey your friends may take you on. And if you're suffering from writer's block, a trip to your local library or a bookstore for a collection of paintings or photos might just be the inspiration you need. Or perhaps, you already have your muse hanging on your wall right in front of you and you don't know it! If not, you should find one and put it up. My first royalty sale ever was generated from a piece of art hanging up in my house. It's been a good luck charm for me ever since. Find yours and use it. And good luck!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

In Response to Horror Writers against Happy Endings

Stant Litore, a blogger and indie horror author, started the group, Horror Writers against Happy Endings. He's asking horror writers if they feel a horror story should have a happy ending. In his opinion, they shouldn't. I participated in the discussion, but found this question so intriguing, I'm asking what you, my precious demon hunters think.

My nickel, as Stant asked for it: I have to be true to the story. I never know where a tale will take me. Each one is a new journey and I'm not one to plot ahead of time, so I'm as surprised as you are by what pops up on my keyboard the first time around. If a story calls for a happy ending, then one will be provided, but if it doesn't, I won't cave just to satisfy my readers. I write the stories I want to read. If I can't entertain myself, then it's not worthy of being read by you. Sometimes my characters deserve happy endings. Sometimes they don't.

What about you demon hunters? Do you think a horror story should NEVER have a happy ending? Feel free to post a response here and then hop on by Stant Litore's  Zombie Bible to see what others have to say.

As always, happy writing and happy reading to all!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Backyard Beasts & Blooms - A Photo Essay

Between my recent health issues and the move, I haven't written much lately, but I've been taking stock of my surroundings, unpacking my writing office/library and doing a bit of reading and photography. My doctors would like me to be on bed rest more than I have, but I'm getting a little antsy. LOL

Anyway, here are a few picks of blooms and beasties to inspire your own tales or help you escape your own nightmares for a bit. I've found my camera very comforting since my recent brush with death.

Enjoy! (How fitting that as I finished typing this, a tiny spider crawled across my arm in my writing office.)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

You Might Be A Self-Confessed Bibliophile ...

You might be a self-confessed bibliophile like me if you:

1) Judge the purchase of a new purse based on whether or not you can fit a paperback in it.

2) Take a book with you, when you know you're going to be away from home for more than two hours.

3) Find yourself regretting a very bad movie or television program and say, "And I could have been reading a good book right now."

4) Have judged all your past dates, including your current husband, on how well read they were.

5) Have made discussing books a current date topic, even though you know the other person hasn't read the same books as you.

6) Find your family wandering disgusted through Half Price Books as you are happily meandering in the aisles for waaaaay longer than they thought they'd be there, while your cell phone rings in your purse, neglected as you try to balance an armful of books you can't even see over. (Should have gotten a basket. LOL)

7) Can never think of anything you need or want when someone asks you what to get you for your birthday. Your automatic response is a gift card to buy books.

8) You can remember where you purchased every book on your shelves at home and who gave you what as a gift.

9) Your spouse complains he needs to get you a book light so he can sleep at night.

10) Your stepson thinks you're the smartest person he knows because you're always reading.

11) You weigh library options when deciding to move again.

12) You own library cards to more than one library system.

13) You inevitably check out more books at the library than you can possibly read in three weeks.

14) You know that most libraries give you three weeks to return a book.

15) You even own a designated book bag for the library.

16) Going to the library makes you giddy.

17) Every room in your house has at least one book in it.

18) You scold people who leave books lying face down because it ruins the spine.

19) You remind your stepson to wash his hands before picking up a book.

20) And finally, you'd rather be reading than doing anything else besides writing!

What makes you a bibliophile, reader?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Between the Covers - Book Review #13

This book review brought to you by the late wizard, Tatsu!

Still slogging through the backlogs of books I've read on bed rest while recovering at home and in the hospital ... Here's another installment from your friendly neighborhood demon writer.

1) Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith was waaaaay more entertaining for me than his Pride and Prejudice zombies novel. In fact, I confess on never finishing that one. This one I finished, though! I read it in two days. It was very amusing and well worth a read. A good blend of history and vamps, if ever the two should meet. Don't expect a really complicated plot, but expect to laugh.

2) From the Teeth of Angels by Jonathan Carroll. This is one of his earlier books and a lot of people reviewed it as
not "mature writing." I'm not sure what those reviewers meant. The subject matter discussed was death, a very mature topic, and having just had a brush with death myself, I found his insight poignant and downright hilarious in a rdeliciously dark way, which is just what I like. If you like reading magic realism or cross genre fantasy, then check out this interesting view on death for yourself. It's good, really good. I swear, you will find yourself wishing you'd written the darn thing yourself!

3) Black Swan, White Raven edited by Ellen Datlow. A great fairy tale collection. One of her earlier collections, but all the authors are stellar and the fairy tale twists are entertaining. If you like the other fairy tale collections she's edited, then read this one!

4) Wicca: the Complete Craft by D.J. Conway. This book covers the basics of Wicca for beginners. Like Ellen Dugan's books, it's written in a friendly tone. The material is helpful, but I didn't like think the order it was presented in was the most logical. I also thought some of the material needed to be discussed a little more in depth, though for beginners or for research material, this book is a good starting point.

As always, happy reading and happy writing to all!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Between the Covers - Book Review #12

Well, another hospital visit for continued health issues has led to more bed rest, pain meds, and me falling further behind in my blogging. I have Godzilla size stack of books to review and while my eyes are half-open tonight, I think I'll get one of these installments out for you, my constant demon hunter/reader.  These three selections are all good, so choose and enjoy!

1) Herb Magic for Beginners: Down-to-Earth-Enchantment by Ellen Dugan was not as good as her other books I've read, but still one for the witchy library. I wish the book had gone into a little more detail on a few topics, but it did broadly cover herbs for beginner magical purposes. And what I really liked -- the herbs she discussed are very common and easy to grow or find at your local health store/metaphysical shop. She uses her by now familiar humorous and conversational tone to discuss herb growing, proper tools and gathering times, and a slew of herbal spells for any practical situation. If you're looking for an in depth read, though, skip this one. But if you're looking for a non stuffy beginner primer, than this one's for you!

2) Naked City is one of Ellen Datlow's latest urban fantasy short story collections. As usual, an entertaining read with lots of my faves in the business, including Holly Black, Patricia Briggs, and Kit Reed. This collection breathes new life into the Fair Folk and I discovered some new authors. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves a good fairy story, the urban fantasy genre, or is looking for something new.

3) Hedgewitch: Spells, Crafts, & Rituals for Natural Magick by Silver Ravenwolf is written in the same style as her classic To Ride a Silver Broomstick. However, I found this one more conversational and approachable -- basically, less stuffy. The book is intended to be used as a course over two short weeks, but you can pace yourself and take as long as you need. I just read the book. I haven't actually participated, yet, but all the materials needed are easily attainable and not too expensive. This book is also in my opinion, less about ceremony and more about getting in touch with your own witchy self and the earth around you, which I liked. You could easily adapt this for a coven or a grove as well, if you are not a solitary practitioner. It also makes great research for any fantasy writer.

4) The Fairy Godmother, the first Five Hundred Kingdoms fantasy novel, by Mercedes Lackey does not disappoint. I will be reading every single book in the series. The great thing about is this series is that the books stand alone; you can read them out of order and you don't really miss integral plot points. This first one explains how all the fairy godmothers in the kingdoms are selected and trained. There's romance and intrigue and everything a great fantasy novel should have. I recommend it for a good escape. Better yet, it sets gender stereotypes on their head and gives feminine power more oomph!

As always, happy reading and happy writing!