Wednesday Wanderings: TNG Christmas Carol, Pricey Gingerbread House, Laphroaig Carols, and Interviewing the Dragon

There may be a few holiday themed links for the next few weeks, because, well, it is the holiday season!

This gets around every year, and you’ve probably all seen it, but it is worth watching again. At least, I usually end up watching it more than once!:

ST:TNG Carol

For those of you with a bit of spare cash, how about a REALLY nice version of a holiday tradition?:

Gingerbread House

And a few more familiar holiday melodies, with some not so familiar words:

Laphroaig Carols

Last, while not holiday related, it is a big, bad dragon and Stephen Colbert:

Smaug Interview

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Six of One

Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy by M.A. Kropp is a set of short fantasy stories. Meet wizards, imps, gangster angels, and frogs in this group of varied tales of magic and mischief. Escape from the everyday into worlds of fantasy with Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy.

Download a free sample or purchase in your favorite ebook format at:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/354855

Also available at:

Amazon: (Now also in paperback)

http://amzn.to/1brIXLN

 Apple iTunes Bookstore

 Barnes and Noble:

http://bit.ly/17DmCXz

Kobo:

http://bit.ly/16ZWZXf

Monday Musings: O Chistmas Tree, Deck the Hall, and All That Seasonal Jazz

We went out on Saturday and got our tree. We had an artificial one for years, but in all honesty, it wasn’t all that much better than a real tree. I think the darned plastic thing shed more “needles” than any real tree we’ve had. And then, there is the annual Fight-To-Get-The-Thing-Out-Of-The-Attic fun. And the reverse, of coures, after the holidays. There is also the smell of a real tree. Mmmmmm. So, last year, we decided to go back to a live tree. I am glad we did.

We got our tree from Lawndale Farm in Tyngsborough, MA. This is the same place we got our CSA share from this past summer. Really nice family-owned place. They had a lot of really nice trees this past weekend, so if you are in the area and still need a tree, check them out!

It is sitting in the living room now, lights on, and nothing else. I plan on working on the garland and ornaments today. So far, the dog has not really bothered it. He sniffed at it a few times while it was out in the middle of the room, but that’s it. We’ll see what happens when the ornaments go on. No cats climbing it, either, so far this year. Had one or two underneath it, but that’s all. Either they are finally learning, or they are waiting until I let my guard down.

I also got the burned out lights on the deck replaced. Turned out, the one set I thought I could save was half out, also, so the all came down. I replaced them with white LED lights, hoping they will last a while. I have enough sets left that I should be able to do the front railings. The porch tree is already out there, and the candles in the windows, of course.

As for the rest of the decorations, I suppose I ought to start putting them up, also, huh? I guess I know my project for the week, don’t I?

It looks like we will actually be having Christmas dinner on Christmas Day this year. We weren’t sure about schedules, but it seems everyone will be available. That’s nice. I mean, we had a great Thanksgiving celebration after the official day, but it’s nice to have everyone together on the day itself, also.

It wouldn’t be a Monday Musings without one little rant, so here’s mine for this holiday season: I don’t care what you greet me with, and I don’t care what you think of what I greet you with. Merry Christmas, Happy Holiday, Seasons Greetings, whatever, it is all good with me. Because, to me, asking everyone in the world to respect and conform to your idea of the holidays, whether they agree with you or not, seems, at the least, rather selfish to me, and certainly not in the spirit of the season. So, get over it, and accept a real, heartfelt wish in whatever form it takes.

Last, as we all run up to the holiday, I know things start to get hectic. Shopping, decorating, writing and mailing cards, meal planning, travel- it seems to just get busier all the time. Don’t forget yourself in all the rush. If you are religious, take a moment to reflect and remember. If you are not, or if your religious beliefs run in a different vein, then just take those few moments to sit back and breathe. Without stressing over what you could be doing. Without guilt. Without anything. Just a couple minutes to unwind. Then dive right back into the whirlwind. You’ll be better for it.

Friday Review: Grave Beginnings (The Grave Report #1) by R.R. Virdi

Grave Beginnings (The Grave Report, Book 1)Grave Beginnings by R.R. Virdi

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A nicely plotted first book in a new series, Grave Beginnings by R.R. Virdi is the story of VIncent Graves. Or, at least, that is what he is called now. Vincent is dead, and has no memory of who or what he was before he died. His soul is reincarnated in the bodies of those who have died by supernatural means, and Vincent is tasked with solving the murders, and bringing the supernatural entity responsible to justice. When Grave Beginnings opens, Vincent awakens in a coffin. He breaks out and begins the search to find the killer of his current body, a museum curator named Norman. Along the way, he meets federal agent Camilla Ortiz, and together they fight their way through fire-breathing salamanders, Elementals, and statues come to life to get to the real bad guy.

The premise of the book is intriguing: that a soul can come back to inhabit another’s body in order to avenge a murder committed by a supernatural being. This first story is well-concieved, with some nice twists and surprises. Vincent is fun to read. He’s a bit of a smart ass, with a sardonic sense of humor that lends itself to the style of the story. Ortiz is a bit stereotypical, in that she is the skeptic who thinks Norman/Vincent is simply crazy until she is faced with some very real, very otherworldly threats. She does serve her purpose well and when she is in danger, you worry for her- always the sign of a good character. Vincent’s contact from the afterlife, known only as Church since he appears to Vincent in churches, is somewhat archetypal, but is enough of an enigma that he left me wanting to know more about him.

The story is fast-paced for the most part, and the action moves along at sometimes break neck speed. The style is reminiscent of hard-boiled detective stories’ with a gritty, dark feel. There is enough mystery and action to keep the pages turning.

So, with all that, why three stars? Because the book fails where many independently published book do: the errors. There are mechanical errors, like missing commas and other punctuation mistakes. There are several instances of a noun being used as a verb. The run-on sentences, which often don’t do much more than restate the same thought in different words, often interrupt the quick, sharp flow of the style. And there is one physically impossible scene that popped me out of the story near the end. It’s not a long book as it stands, but could do with some judicious editing to improve pacing and avoid reptition.

I don’t want to say don’t read this, because I truly did enjoy the story, and the premise intrigues me. It is a first in a series, so I do hope the problems can be improved as it goes on. I am looking forward to reading more about Vincent Graves and his next assignment.

View all my reviews

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Six of One

Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy by M.A. Kropp is a set of short fantasy stories. Meet wizards, imps, gangster angels, and frogs in this group of varied tales of magic and mischief. Escape from the everyday into worlds of fantasy with Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy.

Download a free sample or purchase in your favorite ebook format at:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/354855

Also available at:

Amazon: (Now also in paperback)

http://amzn.to/1brIXLN

 Apple iTunes Bookstore

 Barnes and Noble:

http://bit.ly/17DmCXz

Kobo:

http://bit.ly/16ZWZXf

Wednesday Wanderings: Fairy Doors, 20 Vintage Things, Invisibility, and More Gift Ideas for Writers

Something really cool can be seen around Ann Arbor, MI:

Tiny Doors

Twenty things today’s kids will probably never see:

Vintage Things

Bending light to make things invisible:

Now You See It

Following last week’s gift ideas, if the writer you are buying for is a bit on the weird side, here are some more:

Writer Gifts

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Six of One

Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy by M.A. Kropp is a set of short fantasy stories. Meet wizards, imps, gangster angels, and frogs in this group of varied tales of magic and mischief. Escape from the everyday into worlds of fantasy with Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy.

Download a free sample or purchase in your favorite ebook format at:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/354855

Also available at:

Amazon: (Now also in paperback)

http://amzn.to/1brIXLN

 Apple iTunes Bookstore

 Barnes and Noble:

http://bit.ly/17DmCXz

Kobo:

http://bit.ly/16ZWZXf

Monday Musings: Puppy Update, You Can All Decorate for Christmas Now, and Writing Progress

I think it’s time for a puppy update. :) We took him with us when we went to our daughter’s in MA last weekend. We had our big Thanksgiving dinner on Sunday, as that was the best day for everyone’s schedule. It gets harder every year to work around those things! The BaldMan’s family came from NY, so there were a number of new people there, as well as two dogs. He’s played with Nikki (Chihuahua/Toy Fox Terrier) and Molly (Great Pyrenees) before, but it was a few months ago.

Saturday was a bit rough, what with new people and dogs and a new house and yard to deal with. I kept him on leash all weekend, just so I could keep him under control. He was a bit excited on Saturday, and tried to play with Molly every time she came into the room. He was also a bit on the rude side with the people- some jumping and just excited behavior. Still, he’d listen to me, and I could get him to settle somewhat next to me. By Sunday, he was a bit better, and would settle much more quickly, although the dogs still excited him a bit. I took him for walks, and I had brought his long line so he could run in the yard a bit. I don’t 100% trust his recall yet, so I didn’t want to just let him loose since the yard is not fenced. By Sunday night and Monday morning, he was pretty calm and acting very much like he does here at home. He even ignored Molly most of Monday morning. Yes, he spent a lot of time in his crate, but he doesn’t really mind that. He settles very well in there. He also got lots of praise, treats, and reinforcing of good behavior.

All in all, this is what he needs: to get out with more people and dogs, and other stimuli, so he learns to stay calm and focused no matter what is going on. I’m glad we brought him. It was a good experience for both of us. I was a bit apprehensive, I admit. I had visions of trying to control a wildly jumping, lurching, pulling wildman all weekend, and that didn’t happen.

The other progress we’ve made is that the other day, he let me trim the nails on all four paws with very little resistance. He got much praise, petting, fussing, and good treats for that! I do have to keep up with them every couple days for a bit, now. It was a struggle for a while as we tried to condition him to allowing us to handle his feet, so his nails are still a bit longer than they should be. But trimming a bit every few days will cause the bloodline to recede, and we’ll get them to a better length. Plus, it will give us more practice for regular trimming.

It is December, so you have my permission to put up your Christmas decorations now. I am one of those cranky folk who do not like seeing Christmas before Thanksgiving, and don’t even mention before Halloween!! I will wait until December first, but I’ll grudgingly allow right after Thanksgiving, if you must. Our outside lights go on December first. I put the wreaths up today, and the window candles, although I do need more batteries to finish those. The tree went out on the front porch, as well. I discovered I need to change all the lights on the back deck railing. One set is out and I have all white out there now, but in the whole storage container of light sets, there are no more solid white. And putting one multicolored one with the white- just no. So I’ll have to go out and pull all the staples and redo the railing lights. Oh, and no, my lights do not come down after Christmas. They stay out there all year. I am not pulling the staples and redoing them every year. They come on December first and go out after Twelfth Night, but they stay out there all year.

On the writing front, I am back to the novel I finished drafting in October. Revising is not my favorite part of the process, but it is, of course, necessary. I have some good feedback from alpha readers for the first part of it, so I can work with that and with luck, it will be ready to go in the first part of the year. I’ve gone through the first two chapters so far, and tightened it up a bit, and fixed a few things. I’m also working on some short stories for another project, and I have one to write for an anthology later in the year. That all should keep me busy into the new year, I think.

That’s my world at the moment. Cold, snowy, and busy!

Friday Review: Castle Kidnapped by John DeChancie

Castle Kidnapped (Castle Perilous, #3)Castle Kidnapped by John DeChancie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I discovered DeChancie’s Castle Perilous books many years ago. I read a couple and enjoyed them, but they are a bit older and can be hard to find. I finally managed to snag copies of all of them, and have been catching up on the ones I haven’t read.

The stories are set in Castle Perilous, the linchpin universe, if you will, that all others branch off of. Inside the castle are 144,000 aspects, or doorways to alternate worlds, one of which is Earth. There are permanent residents of the castle, including the King, Lord Incarnadine, and several humans and aliens. When you enter the castle, you discover that you have a latent magic talent that the castle enhances. Each story takes you to one or more of the different aspects, as well as the goings on inside Perilous itself.

In Castle Kidnapped, things seem to be falling apart in Perilous. There are earthquakes that cause parts of the castle to degenerate, and portals to close off without warning. Gene, a human, gets stranded in one such aspect, and has to deal with a world with intelligent, but unpopulated cities, plus the native inhabitants, as he struggles to find his way back. Snowclaw, from a frozen tundra world originally, is stranded on Earth, not the best place for a huge, white-furred, somewhat bear-like fellow with horns and fangs. Meanwhile, Jeremy, a computer hacker, is transported to Perilous when an aspect opens allowing him to escape the authorities. Incarnadine is trying to figure out what is going on, and how to stop it. As usual, things get worse before they get better, and everyone has to use their castle-given magic as well as their wits to solve the puzzle before Perilous is destroyed, taking all of reality with it.

These are light-hearted stories, with a lot of stretch your believability in them. There is an abundance of fun, a good dash of action, a sprinkling of mystery, and not a small amount of mayhem. Yes, they are a bit dated now, but a good story is a good story, and if you can put the fact that this was written in the late ’90’s aside, it is still enjoyable.

Castle Perilous is the star of the series, in many ways, despite its role as setting. Other characters are enjoyable and believable, if a little archetypal. Light, fun reading that doesn’t have a hidden message or deep meaning, the Castle Perilous books are perfect for a quick, easy read for anyone who likes their fantasy laced with humor.

View all my reviews

Wednesday Wanderings: Dogs Ruin Thanksgiving, Creepy App for T-shirts, Writer Gifts, and Bad Gaiman

There was a break in blog posts for a bit while I finished up NaNoWriMo (yes, I made it to 50K!) and had a very lovely Thanksgiving weekend with family. Now, back to business. Here are today’s web wanderings:

Speaking of Thanksgiving, here are 15 dogs who were a bit less than well-behaved for the holiday:

http://barkpost.com/15-dogs-who-ruined-thanksgiving/

These are kind of creepy, but kind of fascinating at the same time:

Got a writer and/or reader on your gift list this year? Here are some unusual and clever gift ideas:

http://www.buzzfeed.com/kangaru/affordable-and-clever-gifts-for-your-writer-and-bi-bmbj

And, finally, the winners of the Bad Gaiman writing contest, where writers were asked to pen really bad stories in the style of Neil Gaiman. The best part? These are being read by Neil Gaiman himself, which actually makes these really bad stories almost sound good:

Wednesday Wanderings: Muppets and the Stray Cats, Unhappy Mothers, Thanksgiving Pick Up Lines, and What Cats are Really Saying

You know you have been waiting for someone to  do a mash-up of the Muppet Show Theme and the Stray Cat Strut, don’t you? Well, here it is, and is just as weirdly amazing as it sounds:

Muppets and Stray Cats

These have got to be the unhappiest mommies ever painted. The captions are hysterical:

Unhappy Mothers

Pickup lines you can only use on Thanksgiving (but please don’t):

Pickup Lines

This is what your cats are really saying:

Cat Talk

Monday Musings: Author Interview: Casia Shreyer

NothingEverythingNothing

This week, I am posting an interview with Casia Shreyer, a Canadian author whose book, Nothing Everything Nothing, has just come out. The book deals with the sensitive subject of teen suicide.
I’ll put links and other information after the interview.

Here’s the book’s blurb:

No one in Molly’s life expected her to pose for topless photos. During spring break, Molly meets a charismatic older boy and suddenly no one but Lance matters – not Molly’s family, and not Brandon, her life-long friend. Anyone who voices concern about the changes in Molly’s attitude and habits is driven away.
When Molly refuses to let Lance sweet talk her out of her virginity, pictures that were supposed to be private go viral. Molly’s reputation is in shambles. Lance wants nothing to do with her, insults her, and refuses to take the photos down. She is ridiculed and harassed and no one can stop it.
Molly is faced with a painful choice – face the humiliation alone, or end her life and never have to feel the sting of rejection again.

And a link to a review on Goodreads.

The interview:

1) Why don’t you introduce yourself and tell us a little about you?
Well, my name is Casia Schreyer and I live in South Eastern Manitoba, a few miles off of the center of Canada with my husband and my two kids. I’m an avid reader in many genres and I’ve been spending a lot of time reading self-published authors and writing reviews lately. I also like knitting, crocheting, and cooking. I know it sounds old-fashioned but I knit with big, chunky, brightly coloured yarns and I do too much experimenting in the kitchen. Not all of it works out.

2) What’s the story behind your latest book?
I started Nothing Everything Nothing over the summer when I found out that my cousin was in the hospital after attempting to overdose on her medication. She’s fourteen and I’m her godmother. I didn’t know what to do; all I knew was that I couldn’t really help her. She needed a professional. So I wrote the first draft of the novel with one main goal – to write a character similar to my cousin and give her the happiest ending I could manage. I gave that draft to a friend who read it and said “Why are you giving me an outline? 30k is way too short for this project”. About that time Robin Williams killed himself and everyone started talking about depression and suicide. I read a lot of blogs and I knew that this story had suddenly become MORE than I had intended. So I expanded it with the purpose of making it believable and honest while treating the issue with compassion and respect. After the major revision, which included 2 dozen new scenes, 1 dozen complete scene rewrites, and hundreds of smaller tweaks and revisions, it underwent 2 smaller revisions and two fine-tooth-comb edits.

3) Do you remember the first story you read, and the impact it had on you? If not, tell us one that did have an impact.
I come from a family that had books in every room of the house, including the bathroom. I have been read to since infancy so I doubt I can remember the first. I have some of the kids books my parents read to us though. I think the first stories that really impacted me are: The Hobbit, The Raven (by Poe), and one of the stories from The Jungle Book titled Riki Tiki Tavi. These were read aloud to me, the first two by my father, the third by my godfather who are both wonderful story tellers. Someday I hope to write a story that a story teller will want to read to his nieces and nephews (biological and honourary) around the campfire as my godfather often read to us.

4) When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
Oops, I answered this above. Aside from my other hobbies I have a lot of chores and yard work to keep up. One of my kids is still home full time, and she’s a handful. I spend a lot of time marketing this book, too! Or at least that’s my excuse for spending too much time on the internet.

5) What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
My favourite part of writing is world building. But after moving out of the fantasy genre for a while and completing this novel, I think the greatest joy is the characters and weaving their stories. I love watching the characters become real as little details of their lives are revealed. For example, I have Molly’s mom scold her for swearing, because that’s what mom’s do. When Molly’s stepdad is reminiscing about the day he met Molly’s mom, he mentions that she was swearing like a sailor. That wasn’t planned, just a little detail that was revealed to me along the way as the characters gained lives of their own.

Book Launch Info: Book launch will be held November 27 at the Transcona Library at 111 Victoria Ave E in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Time: 5-8pm. Admission is free and $2 from every paperback sold will go to Kids Help Phone.

Ebook links:

Smashwords

Amazon (Paperback is now linked through to all Amazon International sites)

$1 from the purchase of every ebook before the end of November will go to support Kids Help Phone as well.

Contact info for Casia Shreyer:
Twitter: @CasiaShryer
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/schreyerauthor
Blog: http://www.casiaschreyer.wordpress.com

Friday Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the LaneThe Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love Neil Gaiman’s writing. He is one of the authors that just strikes a chord with me. I have thoroughly enjoyed everything I have read by him, and this story is no exception.

The unnamed narrator of the story is back in his hometown in rural Sussex for a funeral. With time to kill, he decides to take a ride and ends up at the home of a childhood friend, her mother, and grandmother. When he was seven, he met the Hempstocks and befriended Lettie, the daughter. They drew the boy into their surpernatural world and take him on an adventure he only recalls now that he is back.

As is common with Mr. Gaiman’s tales, he draws heavily on mythology here. The three aspects of the goddess, the water of life myths, and a healthy dose of evil just bordering our world are all gathered here. The story is told with style and grace, and nothing feels cliched. It is a bit whimsical at times, and at others frightening. Gaiman has a very defined voice in his writing, and it comes through clearly here. I found myself hearing his voice as the narrator in my head as I read it.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is Gaiman’s first adult novel since Anansi Boys, and it was well worth the wait. I recommend it highly.

View all my reviews

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