Saturday, December 15, 2007

Interesting Facts About December 15th

1. It signifies the first day you can start counting down to Christmas on both hands!

2. The Bill of Rights was ratified on this date when Virginia gave its approval, in 1791.

3. It's the day before Ludwig von Beethoven (1770) and Jane Austen (1775) were born.

4. Exactly 10 years ago today, the San Francisco 49ers retired Joe Montana's number, #16.

5. On this date in 1973, the American Psychiatric Association declared homosexuality was not a mental illness.

6. "Gone With the Wind" premiered in Atlanta on this date in 1939.

7. It's the 349th day of the year (350th, in leap years).

8. It was the day that band leader Glenn Miller disappeared over the English Channel, in 1944.

9. It falls in the zodiac sign of Sagittarius. (Sagittarians, by the way, are "friendly, sociable, and outgoing. They have a reputation for being blunt speakers who don't worry how their opinions will be received. Like their male counterparts, Sagittarian women love to travel and are curious about other cultures. Like other fire-sign females, they are not afraid to take risks").

and finally,

10. Yours Truly was born...though the number of years ago shall remain confidential...

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Big Storm

Well, we got it yesterday: the first big snowstorm of the season. It snowed for most of the day, a good twelve hours, and we ended up with about 9 inches. Here are the before and after pictures (actually, not a true "after" picture, as it kept snowing for about 4 hours after I took it...but it was dark then):

9:00 am 12/13/07

3:00 pm 12/13/07

And hey, here's the Friday Feast!

Appetizer Make up a word and give us its definition. One of my students came up with this one (unintentionally) "ostrichsize" ( instead of ostracize)...shoving oneself off to the side (instead of someone else) and sticking one's head in the sand as a result.

Soup What is currently your favorite song? I can only pick one? OK, I'm still liking "Everything" by Michael Buble. It's just so happy!

Salad What’s at the top of your Christmas wish list this year? Stress-free, non-work time spent with the people I love. I'm not really into material things. I have everything important I could need.

Main Course Name a scent that reminds you of someone special in your life. Dial hubby has always used it :)

Dessert Who is someone on television that you feel probably shouldn’t be, and why? I can only pick one? OK, then Paris Hilton - honestly, people, she has done nothing except had the luxury of being born into a rich, privileged family. She has no talent and not a whole lot of brains. Yet she has a TV show, a recording contract, and actual fans...see why I'm so sad about the world sometimes?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Books and More Books

No school today 'cause of the impending snow/ice storm ~ yippee! I think teachers enjoy days off just as much as students do!

You know, this December book give-away has been such a great way for people to stop in and visit my blog, I think I might do it every month! What do you think?

And speaking of getting free books, I'll put in a plug here for The Long and the Short of It ~ they desperately need more reviewers. If any of you new visitors are interested, go on over and let Marianne know. She's looking for anyone who'd be willing to read 2 books a month (or short stories - hey, there's a lot of those too!) and share your opinion. You get free reads, and even better, they just started an incentive program where you can earn points for every review you write...and the points can be traded in for Amazon gift certificates or cool items from CafePress, among other things. Just let her know I sent you!

Of course, one of the things you'll find as as reviewer is a wide range of stories and writing abilities...and editing polish, apparently. I'm reading a novella right now that is chock-full of spelling and grammar errors. Not cool. It really takes away from my enjoyment of the story. Sigh.

P.S. Received another wonderful email regarding Lost in Paradise, from a cyber-writing friend of mine:

"I have just finished reading your book. Just fantastic. One of the most enjoyable reads I've had for a while. Loved the characters and the situation they find themselves in-you kept the momentum going right till the end."

Thanks, Rosalie!!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Writers' Wednesday: An Interview with Tricia Ballad

Welcome to another Writers' Wednesday! Today I'm chatting with Wild Rose Press author Tricia Ballad. Her short story "The Perfect Candidate" just released last month, and today it's received a 5 Book review over at The Long and the Short of It!

Hi Tricia, and thanks for joining us today! Can you tell us a little about your background?

I took the scenic route getting here. I wrote constantly in high school, but when I started considering career options and college majors, a certain well-meaning advisor strongly suggested that I focus on a career path that would give me a fighting chance at supporting myself. As I'm rather fond of having food on the table and a roof over my head - and the occasional bout of retail therapy - I majored in Computer Science. Five years later, I graduated and landed a job as a web applications developer. A few years and a few babies later, I realized my heart wasn't in the world of software development. I was good at it, but I was bored.

So I made a huge change, quit my job, and sat down to become a professional writer. Over the past three years, I've become fairly successful in writing non-fiction - mostly technical works drawing on my web development background. Earlier this year, I realized that I've been doing everything BUT what I've always dreamed of doing: writing stories. Once that realization hit, I knew it was time to focus on fiction with the intensity and commitment that got me this far in non-fiction. I wrote two short stories, to test the waters. One was rejected by a weekly print publication and the other is currently available from Wild Rose Press

Congrats on your publication! Tell us a little more about it.

"The Perfect Candidate" is the story of Caroline, a young woman who takes a big step forward in her career - only to find out that she may end up sacrificing her relationship with the man she loves. She senses changes afoot in their relationship and fears that by the time her work life settles down, her romance with Joshua may be nothing more than a lifelong regret. Caroline hopes to heal the cracks she sees forming in their relationship, before it's too late - but Joshua has other plans.

OK, now what advice would you give to new writers just starting out?

Research markets and submit your work! I've known so many beginning writers who agonize over every word in their manuscripts until they are simply too terrified to actually send anything out. Accept that nothing you write will ever be 100% perfect, and that 90% of the time, you're the only one who will see the imperfections. Ok, having said that, the opposite is also true. No matter how brilliant your work is, expect it to be edited. You will get the manuscript back full of comments and suggestions from your editor - and that's a good thing. If you aren't comfortable with having your work edited, the cold hard truth is, you're not going to make it professionally. Keep a journal, write a blog, have fun - but unless you can accept constructive criticism and suggestions, you won't make it as a professional writer.

Writers have a lot of luxuries - we get to work curled up on the couch in our PJs if we want to - but that can also make it harder to take our work or our commitments as seriously as we would if we put on a suit every morning and drove into the office.

What it really comes down to is finding a balance between professionalism and artistry. That's the secret of most successful authors.

That's truly great advice, Tricia. So what do you find most difficult about writing? What do you find most exciting or rewarding?

The most difficult part of writing fiction has been my own mental block - It's taken me a long time to get to the point where I can sit down and dream up characters and storylines and honestly call it working. I've been stuck in the mindset that working meant writing non-fiction because quite frankly stories are just too much fun to write! Nothing that energizing and fun could be work, right? Once I got past that, I was finally able to set aside the hours I needed to get this story written, edited, and published.

Do you ever suffer from writer's block? If so, what do you do about it?

I brute force my way through it, or go back and do some more brainstorming and outlining. For me, writer's block comes from one of two sources. Either I'm not prepared to write, so I need to go back and do more research, brainstorming, and outlining, or I'm just distracted by the fifteen other things that are constantly competing for my attention. In that case, I either rearrange my schedule so I can write after my husband comes home from work and give the kids the attention they need at that moment, or if it's something like the perpetual sink full of dirty dishes, I just flat out ignore it. Militantly sometimes! I refuse to allow dirty dishes to interfere with my career - after all, if I were working a corporate job, my boss wouldn't let me take the afternoon off to clean my house. My writing career is just as much a commitment and a priority as a corporate job.

That's a terrific attitude! Now let us in...describe your writing space.

I write all over the place. I got a laptop so I could work wherever the kids are playing. That way, I'm on hand to mediate disputes and I'm there with them while they play. I even took it with me to pick up my son from school this afternoon so I could work on this interview while I was waiting for him! I've had a dedicated home office in the past, but in our current home there really isn't the extra space, so when I have kid-free work time I write at my desk in the bedroom or curled up on the bed under a quilt - depending on what I'm working on and the mood I'm in!

The one thing I simply must have in order to work - aside from my laptop of course - is a cup of good coffee. It's a psychological thing, I guess. Without my cup of coffee, I can't seem to focus on the task at hand.

Ah, coffee...the life blood of many an author (and working mother) out there! Thanks, Tricia, and good luck with your future writing, non-fiction and fiction both!

If you'd like to know more about this author, visit her website at And she'll be stopping in today periodically to read your comments and answer your questions, so have at it!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Update on the Book-Blog Giveaway!

If you've been paying attention this month, you know I'm giving away Scenes from a Holiday to one lucky person at the end of this month. The more times you comment on my blog in December, the more times your name is put into the randon drawing! Anyway, I just finished reading it, and I thought I'd share my review:

"These three chick lit novellas are an entertaining holiday trilogy that’s perfect for this time of year! The authors capture the spirit of the season – or, more accurately, the frustration of the season, for a single girl – in light, easy reads.

In The Eight Dates of Hanukkah, Nicki Heller is a successful events planner for the singles scene, who on the first day of Hanukkah breaks up with her boyfriend, opts to work late, and ends up confronting a robber and getting knocked into a coma by an over-sized menorah. She spends the next eight days trapped in Menorahville, which looks a lot like New York City filled with desperate women who can’t wait to get married. Suddenly, Nicki realizes that, just maybe, she’s been too hard on the singles in her life and on the one guy, Mark, who actually wants to commit to her.

This novella was my least favorite of the three. Nicki is a fun character, but slightly neurotic and self-absorbed. I also wasn’t crazy about the over-abundance of exclamation points in every chapter. Nicki’s highly dramatic, woe-is-me attitude got a little old. Still, her discovery at the end of the story – that she has everything she needs in her life already – was a nice, “It’s a Wonderful Life” ending to this story.

Carrie Pilby’s New Year’s Resolution follows the adventures of twenty-year old Carrie, a genius who graduated Harvard early and is now trying to develop a social life and meet a man in Manhattan. I really enjoyed this story. The first-person narrator is likable in her insecurities, and she tries so hard to find a way to meet other people that the reader has to feel for her. She does meet Nolan, a smart, well-read vegetarian who seems right for her in theory, but really, she just wants to get down and dirty with Kurt, the brainless hunk she meets in a bar one night. Still, with the help of her over-the-top, best friend Kara, Carrie discovers that staying true to herself is the best way to meet someone else. The whole story is fun and sincere.

Finally, Emma Townsend Saves Christmas is a great tribute to the charm of New England small towns that drape themselves in holiday cheer from October to January. Emma is a farm girl from Vermont who escapes to New York City, becomes a high-powered lawyer, and meets rich Eric Wesson. The only problem? Each year she has to go home to the town of Bethlehem, population 226, and help her family with the annual Christmas Faire. Emma can’t stand the event, and she wears Anne Klein heels and Diesel jeans in protest. But when she discovers that her high school crush, Tim Latch, has signed on to help with the Faire this year, things change. This story was a heart-warming look at what is important during the holidays and how touching family traditions can be. Emma and Tim make a charming if unlikely couple, and the many scenes where Emma’s pretentious attitude is turned upside down are quite funny. Emma’s cousins, along with the townspeople, steal the show and remind this character that Bethlehem, Vermont, really does embody the spirit of Christmas, flannel and all.

All three novellas in this trilogy are entertaining and heart-warming, especially at this time of year. Scenes from a Holiday reminds readers what’s important all year round: family, friends, and staying true to oneself no matter the circumstances. Enjoy!"

So keep those comments coming!

P.S. Here's the latest trailer I made~

Monday, December 10, 2007

To Get in the Mood...

OK, on this sleety and cold Monday morning, here's an old classic holiday favorite from "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" - come on, you know you want to sing along!

I still can't believe Christmas is only 15 days away. I'm defintely behind on my, well, on my everything. I just got the house decorated this weekend. I ordered my Christmas cards and are hoping they'll arrive sometime before, I don't know, like the 20th. I'm about half-done with my shopping but haven't even started buying for my husband and don't have an idea what to get him this year. Haven't bought any wrapping paper or ribbon. Haven't gotten a tree. Have almost forgotten that my own birthday is coming up this weekend. on earth do you find time to do it all???


Before I forget to mention it,, The Long and the Short of It is running a "Best Romance of 2007" contest on their site. Want to enter a great romance you read this year? Email them and enter your nomination! And hey, if you feel like One Night in Boston or Lost in Paradise should be in the running, then all it takes is a single email...

Sunday, December 09, 2007

An Awesome Review

So yesterday I received a WONDERFUL email from a woman who just finished reading Lost in Paradise:

"The Senator’s daughter. The repairman. Sharing a house. Desire. Friendship. All she ever wanted to do was live her life like she wants. Not the life her parents created for her. All he wanted to do was forget the past. What started out as friendship turned into love and respect. The future is theirs to have, once all misunderstandings are out in the open. Oh man, I loved this story. There were some sad moments but I loved how they both bit the bullet and professed their love for one another. Thanks for sharing your stories."

Isn't that awesome? I always loved this story, so when other people react to it the same way, it makes every minute of agonizing over the writing, or sending it out to agents and editors, or working through the edits, or trying to brainstorm new promotion, totally worth it!