Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Is My Friend Dead? (A Useful Guide)

If you are a character in a young adult novel, movie, or television show, you may find the thin line between life and death confusing.  Here's a useful guide to deciding just how upset you should be.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I'm As Free As A Bird!

Yes, The Soulkeepers is free, free, free on Amazon US, Smashwords, iBookstore, Sony, and Diesel.  If you haven't read it yet, now is your chance.  Think of it as an early holiday gift from me.  Thanks to everyone who has helped spread the word today! I would love to introduce more readers to the series.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Post for Women Only

Here's a little secret.  I love to eat.  I've never met a meal I didn't like. When I was younger, I could eat pretty much anything and not gain weight.  But age, cookies, and sitting at a computer terminal all day have finally caught up to me. I've decided for the sake of my health and a tiny bit of vanity, I'm going to lose weight and get in shape. (Plus Cathy at Life on the Muskoka River just lost 50 pounds! Inspire much?)

I've started taking a class called Zumba.  It's like aerobics but to better music. I am convinced that my Zumba instructor is a Red Bull fueled cyborg who eats energizer bunnies for breakfast.  I have no idea where she gets the energy.  Anyway, if you've ever taken a Zumba class, you know that the dance moves are like one continuos double dog dare.  How far are you willing to go in front of an audience to the tune of I'm sexy and I know it?

As I was bent over with my hiney in the air tonight,  I was completely irritated by the injustice of men's vs. women's athletic garb.

If this guy ever shows up to
Zumba, I am NOT staying.

Men's athletic clothing consists of roomy and comfortable T-shirts and shorts.

Women's athletic wear consists of form fitting stretchy fabric, specially created to hug every curve and roll. And the tops conveniently have triangles of lining in them that shift in the wash.  Forget to straighten those puppies out and not only do you look like you stuff your bra but that you use the tissue box to do it. Sure, you can get pants in different lengths and shirts with sleeves but women's athletic clothing is cut curvy not boxy.  So no matter what size or style, all of your design flaws are painfully on display.

Maybe this is why the Indian woman next to me was doing Zumba in her jeans and a T-shirt.  I think she's got the right idea. Next time I might opt for one of my husband's boxy T-shirts.  That or stick to the back row.

Here's your visual. This is not my class but same dance.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Where Are You Thankful For?

I've traveled to some fabulous locations over the last couple of years.  Here are the five I'm most thankful for.

1. L'auberge de Sedona, Arizona- Nestled among the red rocks of Sedona is a romantic hideaway bordering Oak Creek.  Here the weather is cooler than most of Arizona and the landscape truly transcends the ordinary.  I woke up to morning yoga, coffee and fresh baked scones, and spent my days hiking the magnificent red landscape. This place is not for kids, so save it for that special getaway with your one and only.

2. Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada - I visit Vegas every year and have stayed at most of the places on the strip. (I refuse to stay at Circus Circus because I'm afraid of clowns *shiver*) Hands down my favorite place to stay is Caesars. Aside from the luxurious accommodations, the service in the casino is excellent. Although Caesars is conveniently located near the center of the strip, you will never want to leave. The pool area, called Garden of the Gods is a great way to spend an afternoon. The food is fabulous and the shows are some of the best in the world.  Don't miss Absinthe  but if you do wander, take in O at the Bellagio. There is something in Vegas for everyone...accept kids.  Don't bring your kids. Save this trip for an exciting vaca with your best pals.

3. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Orlando, Florida- The best family vacation we've ever taken was to Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida.  This is one of those rare places where everyone, young and old, comes away happy. We spent four full days in the two parks but the highlight of the trip was the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  The place is nothing less than magical.  Don't miss Olivanders. (I recommend getting in line for this first) or Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride.  Lunch at the Three Broomsticks is worth waiting for.  Your kids will love the butterbeer and pumpkin juice.  The rest of Universal is lots of fun, too, when you've had enough of Hogwarts.

4. Turtle Bay Resort, North Shore Hawaii- My favorite place to stay when visiting my husbands birthplace of Oahu, Hawaii is the Turtle Bay resort.  It was featured in the film Forgetting Sarah Marshall and let me tell you, you could forget a lot watching the waves wash toward this island paradise. When you've had enough of sand and sun, go snorkeling, surfing or horseback riding or try the restaurant on the beach.  You'll never forget a stay at Turtle Bay and of course, if you visit North Shore, don't forget to have a shave ice at Matsumotos.

5. Washington D.C - For something completely different, visit Washington D.C with your family. We took the train from Union Station, Chicago on a seventeen hour ride to the capitol. Stay on Dupont Circle and you are walking distance from most attractions.  We visited the Washington Monument, toured the White House and the House of Representatives, visited the Library of Congress, and spent whole days wandering through Smithsonian museums for free.  I don't consider myself a history buff but the multi-cultural population and political intrigue that surrounds the place is beyond interesting.  It's an affordable place to take the whole family and it will change the way you think about the United States.

Where are you thankful for?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

What Are You Thankful for?

Continuing with my November theme of giving thanks, here are some gadgets that have changed my life this year.

1.  iPhone:  How is it possible that I survived into adulthood without this?  Besides giving you 24/7 access to email, twitter, and Facebook, it can give you directions, tell you if you need an umbrella, and  notify you when you're late for your kid's soccer game.  Then, it can take pictures and video of that soccer game when you forget your camera in the rush.

My only complaint about iPhone is my jealousy toward Siri who my husband talks to almost as much as me.  I heard him ask her to marry him the other day.  Lucky for me, she wasn't interested.

2.  Kindle:  As I writer, I'm thankful for all eReaders but as a reader, I own a kindle.  Kindle has enabled my book addiction.  No longer am I limited to a certain amount of shelf space.  I can buy as many books as I can read and it goes anywhere.  I especially love that it stays open and is easy to operate on the treadmill.  Anyone who's ever tried to read while running with a paper book knows this is a major plus. And, let's not forget there are some amazing deals out there on kindle ebooks.

3. Macbook Air: Keeping with my Apple obsession, I am thankful for the Macbook Air my husband gave me for my birthday.  It's small and light enough to fit in my purse, plus powerful enough to support all of my computing needs.  I take this thing everywhere and have officially written a book on it over the last month.

4.Ooma:  Are you still paying for phone service?  If you have wifi in your house, you don't need to.  Pick up this baby and send your calls over the internet for free.  Love it. I'm frequently surprised how few people are taking advantage of this technology. It's a great deal if you still have a land line.

5. Roku: I'm a busy person.  You know besides the writing gig, I'm also working as the goddess of hearth and home.  So, I rarely watch TV.  But I have this nifty device called a Roku that allows me to stream a bunch of stuff when I want to watch it.  It's better than a DVR because the shows don't have commercials and I don't have to remember to record them.  I recently watched the first two seasons of Vampire Diaries on my Roku.  In my opinion, this technology is just taking off and I wouldn't be surprised if everything is streaming in the not so distant future.

So what technology are you thankful for this year?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thank You Veterans!

Today is the perfect opportunity to say thank you to all the men and women who serve or have served in the military.  In this world where we are constantly surrounded by reports of self serving and morally bankrupt behavior, veterans remind us that there are still brave people wiling to act selflessly for the greater good.  It goes beyond that though.  Veterans remind us that there is a greater good.  They remind us that we are worth fighting for.  And they challenge us to not take their sacrifice for granted but instead to work to solve the problems we face as a country and to act honorably in its leadership.

So, as you read your two hundredth story about occupy wall street, partisan politics, and/or some elaborate fraud to pillage taxpayer dollars, remember, at least for today, that there were and are people that understood that even though the US system isn't perfect, it's pretty darn good.

Thank you veterans!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Guest Post: Alex Bianchi Talks Alien Gift Giving

Alex Bianchi, main character of How To Date an Alien by Magan Vernon, is here today to talk about holiday gift giving.

The Holidays are coming up and you are probably all wondering, “What the heck am I going to get my boyfriend or girlfriend or domestic life partner or whatever?”

Okay, first off, you really shouldn’t complain because at least your boyfriend isn’t of a different species and you aren’t even sure if that species celebrates Christmas and if they do what you would get them.

Sorry, rant over.

Actually no it’s not. Do you know what it’s like shopping for an alien boyfriend? It may be hard trying to figure out what stupid action movie to get your human boyfriend or whatever people in normal relationships do, but it’s even harder when your boyfriend isn’t even from the same planet.

Alright this time I’m done. For real.

So you’re at the mall and  you’re thinking that you need to get something for this other person or alien or whatever you are dating. You want something that says, “Hey I really like you and thank you for saving me from dying.”  But then you don’t want it to be too mushy  because you haven’t been dating for that long, but they did save you from several alien attacks, so you probably should get them something nice. Does Hallmark have a card for this sort of thing? They really should.

You could always just go with the generic gift and get some Blu-Ray of a movie that you saw on your first date or an ITunes gift card, which is probably what you should do if you’re in a normal relationship.

If you are NOT in a normal relationship, well then you’re stuck in the same situation as me aren’t you? I guess you could always go out and buy a book. Books are always good gifts. Even if your boyfriend doesn’t read, he will at least look smarter with a book in his hand, and you might have something to talk about if you are reading the same book.

Hmmm…maybe I should just go and buy Ace a book. Okay, this post is over I’m scooting over to Amazon now. Bye!


Magan Vernon is a geek-to-glam poster child and author of How to Date an Alien, coming from Darkside Publishing Fall 2011.

Add How To Date An Alien to your TBR pile here.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Who Are You Thankful For?

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it's the season to be thankful.  This November, I'm going to list some of the things I'm super thankful for, starting with some amazing groups of people.

1. Book Bloggers and Reviewers. These amazing folks read your book and write clever things about it.  Then they tell other people. Can you say best thing since sliced bread! There is something magical about reading a well written review of your work.  Reviewers like Fiktshun, That Bookish Girl, Word Spelunking, Abnormally Paranormal Reviews, YA Book Haven, Lady Reader Bookstuff,  The Bookish Babes, Two Chicks on Books, I Devour Books, and Me, My Shelf, and I, as well as others, have meant the WORLD to me as a debut author.

2. Readers and Parents of Readers.  It's a beautiful thing to have someone read your book.  It's a supernova of joy to be contacted by a reader who just wants to tell you that your book changed them.  Or to be contacted by a parent to say your book is their child's favorite and they love it, too.  I've had the privilege of some great moments with readers this year and I'm so thankful for you.

3.  Fellow Authors.  I can't begin to tell you how my relationship with DarkSide Publishing authors Megg Jensen, Karly Kirkpatrick, Angela Carlie, and Magan Vernon have changed my life.  But I'm also thankful for the many authors I've known across the twitterverse who have openly shared their knowledge, experiences, and encouragement.  The FridayFlash community has been especially supportive and more recently, so have the group of authors whose covers are in the right margin. (They're called the Indelibles and you'll be hearing more about them soon.)

4. Librarians and Teachers.  How cool is it to find out libraries have ordered your books?  How much cooler is it to know your book is frequently checked out? I deeply appreciate those librarians and teachers who have ordered my books for their classrooms and libraries and told me about their success. And to the people who coordinate author fairs, you are amazing!

5. Writing and Critique Groups.  I've been so fortunate to be part of two amazing writer's groups in town, the Central Illinois chapter of SCBWI and Heart and Scroll, a local RWA chapter.  The members of these groups are a godsend, brimming with helpful information and experiences as well as writerly camaraderie.

So, who are you thankful for this holiday season? 

Next week, what I'm thankful for in technology!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Guest Post: Tony Graff on Juniper Crescent

Tony Graff's new novel Juniper Crescent comes out this week.  As a nurse I'm intrigued by the concept  of curing MD. As a writer, I'm interested in how the storyline strays from popular shapeshifter fiction but maintains its fantastical elements.  Here Tony talks about the idea behind Juniper Crescent.
Juniper Crescent is about a girl who finds a cure for a genetic disorder through an operation that replaces defective genes with those of a cheetah. While she relearns how to live a life free of Muscular Dystrophy, everyone else is making the choice between whether she has sold her humanity to be cured, or if she has received a gift people have dreamed of for centuries.

I fell in love with this idea while I was watching an animal show. The show would spotlight a skill, like jumping or speed, then proportionately show what a human could do if they had the skills of the animals they showcased. The whole idea seemed odd that a human could jump over buildings or run at highway speeds seemed unbalanced. It all connected when I found a study that said that habits and instincts are genetically based. I went back to the TV show and listed out the benefits that people wanted, but also the mental habits they would have to deal with. That combination of ideas had me in its jaws.

I started outlining this story with the intent to draw it into a graphic novel. I had everything together until it came to the facial sketches of the main character, Oksanya. I spent five hours trying to draw her the way I saw her, and couldn't succeed. In frustration, I wrote out everything I had done online. So many friends came and wanted more of the story. They expressed the same intrigue that I had felt, and they encouraged me to write it as a novel, rather than a comic medium.

Oksanya became a hero to me as the story was unfolded. While Juniper Crescent was being written, the news was filled with tragedies that had resulted from bullying. I felt I had to pay my tribute to the people who dealt with bullies and prejudice. Many people have to deal with this on a daily basis and I wanted to offer some kind of hope. The people who have this operation became a perfect palatte for me to bring up the issue. Some people have very personal reasons why they like a particular animal, and getting this operation forces them to wear it on their sleeve. But no matter the animal they chose, it makes them unique but also a target.

But, despite some of the serious themes, writing Juniper Crescent was a lot of fun. I got to learn so much about animals, and what started as a comic idea has become bigger than I could ever have imagined. Every time someone told me about their favorite animal, it excited me to see what the Isis operation could do. There are so many stories in this world just waiting to be told.


Tony Graff was born in Junction City, Kansas to the life of an army brat. Before settling in Colorado, he lived in Tennessee, Schweinfurt, Germany, Arizona, and Frankfurt, Germany. From a young age, he had a love of storytelling, expressed in drawings, poetry, short stories, weblogs, and a passion for reading. Along with writing, he enjoys travelling- this time he gets to choose where he goes.

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