Monday, January 28, 2013

Guest Post

Today, Misha of "My First Book" invited me to guest post. I've known Misha since we both started blogging a while back, so I was really glad to be able to write a post for her site. Here's a link. I posted on "Reading and Writing: Finding a Balance."

Friday, January 25, 2013

January Blues

Normally, I love January. It's a new year full of possibility and promise.

But this year, it stumbled in like a zombie. Full of decay and sickness.

I decided we (or at least, I) needed some end of January cheer and celebration. But there wasn't really anything to celebrate. Except the end of January. But short of burning a calendar, which I'm sure my boys would've enjoyed, there didn't seem to be anything positive to do.

Then, yesterday I discovered a new Turkish market. A small hole-in-the-wall jumble. And I found rose-infused Turkish Delight and Turkish coffee (coffee with cardamom). In case you've never made Turkish coffee before, it's really fun. You boil the water and sugar. Then you add the coffee. Wait until it foams. Remove it from the heat. Put it back on the heat until it foams again. Then, you pour it into demitasse cups from a height so it will foam in the cup. After the grounds (more like powder) settle to the bottom of the cup, you drink it. Coffee bliss. Apparently, an old tradition is to use the grounds to tell fortunes. So Matt told everyone's fortune. According to Matt, I am going to become a witch who lives in a gingerbread house and eats the children who come to my door...I think he's seen too many ads for Hansel and Gretel, Witch Hunters.

In any case, I think we have a new tradition, Goodbye, January!

Here are some photos.

Matt and I drinking Turkish coffee.
Turkish coffee (sadly, the foam has dissipated) and Turkish Delight. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

What Happens When You Write a First Draft in Three Months

At the end of October I began writing book three in the Screwing Up Time series. By the end of this month or early February, I should finish the first draft. For me this is an amazing pace. But there are costs. Here’s what happens when your write a first draft in a little over three months.

1. Weeds take over your previously manicured flower gardens. You also curse the mild winter, which should’ve killed off all the fall weeds but didn’t.

2. You forget to reply to emails. So not a good thing.

3. You don’t check your email a hundred times a day, wondering if the agent who has your literary fiction manuscript has made a decision. Okay, you still check your email a lot. But you obsess over it less. Sort of.

4. You forget to clip the dog’s toenails. The dog is thrilled. Your wood floors aren’t.

5. Your youngest child plays way too many computer games. His siblings murmur, gnash their teeth and say, “You made us set a timer and only let us play for 40 minutes a day.” On the other hand, the youngest child thinks you’re a really, really great mom.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Scuba Diving Without Water

Photo by J. J. Smith, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

My son Luke is in his final semester of college. When he signed up for classes, he was one unit short of “full-time.” So he decided to take a PE class. And the only one that fit into his schedule was scuba diving. (Just so you know, we are all really jealous. Jake has announced that when he’s a senior, he’s taking scuba too.)

After Luke’ first day of class, we all crowded around. We asked him if he got to go into the pool.

Luke: No.

Me: Oh, you probably had a water safety lecture, right?

Luke: Yeah, sort of.

Me: So are you getting into the pool on your next class?

Luke: Not exactly.

Me: Not exactly? What does that mean?

Luke: The pool at the ARC (Aquatic Recreation Center) is shut down.

Me: For the day, or the week?

Luke: For the foreseeable future. It’s structurally unsound.

Me, perplexed: It’s brand new.

Jake: I bet the engineers forgot to take into account the weight of the water.

Me: You can’t be serious.

Jake: It happens all the time. (Apparently, Jake hears horror stories in his engineering classes.)

Me: So, Luke, are you going to be using the university’s other pool?

Luke: That’s closed too. It’s being retrofitted with sprinklers in case the pool catches fire.

We all blinked.

Me: So what are you doing in scuba class?

Luke: Listening to lectures. The sprinkler pool should be open in February.

Right. Maybe scuba doesn’t sound so fun after all.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Raindrops Keep Falling on the Computer

On Sunday, a huge band of storms moved into the area where we live. By Monday morning, a huge puddle had formed in our library (sounds fancy, but it’s just an oddly shaped room where we have a lot of bookcases). The puddle engulfed a computer.

Thankfully, the computer didn’t short-circuit (and none of the books were ruined—they were on the other side of the room). So we moved the furniture. We mopped floors and wiped walls and ceilings. Of course, the storm kept storming. We put basins, bowls, and towels everywhere.

Cal bought tar and went on the roof. Our roof was entirely replaced five years ago, but the warranty has expired. Of course. In order to give you a visual picture I have to describe Cal. He was wearing jeans with cut-off sweat pants over top to stay warm and a sweatshirt. But it was raining heavily, but he didn’t want to get his raincoat wet. So we got a contractor’s plastic bag and cut out head and arm holes. Then he put on a wide brimmed hat—I wish I’d taken a picture.

So he slapped tar all over the roof seams where one part of the roof attaches to the house. It’s a “vintage” home, code word for very old, so the roof does all kinds of weird things. After an hour, he came down. It seemed to help. Sort of.

On Tuesday, the leaking got worse. Cal bought more roof repair stuff—being that we own a “vintage” home, he’s on a first name basis with the Ace Hardware people. So he went and slopped more tar and plastic mesh on the roof seams. Halfway through, he came into the house. The bad thing was that Cal was wearing black shoes and didn’t realize that he had tar on his shoes until he’d tromped all over the house. It was especially evident on the winter white carpeting (so not my choice of colors). He called me. I took one look at the floor and said, “Oh, ‘cow poop.’” Okay, “cow poop” isn’t the word I used.

In case you don’t know, the only thing that gets lumps of footprinted tar off of carpet is turpentine.

It all seemed worth it when the leaks stopped. In spite of heavy rain, the roof stopped leaking for four hours. Then, the leaks started again. And not even lighter. Just as heavy as before, if not heavier.

So it’s time to call a roof repair company. And I’ll begin to ponder my new project—patching the walls and and ceiling, and then painting. Sigh.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Cover Reveal, The Dragon Empire

Here's the cover of Heather McCorkle's latest novel, The Dragon Empire!

The Dragon Empire by Heather McCorkle -- February 2013 / Compass Press
On Yacrana, dragons stand at the top of the evolutionary ladder instead of humans. Such an advanced species is not without its issues though.

There's trouble in the Dragon Empire, the kind that could start a war between dragons and the races of people. Hidden factions of dragons believe they should rule the lesser races, not simply stand aside and allow them to develop as they will. Having lived so long in peace, the Emperors turn a blind eye, many oblivious that such attitudes even exist.

Despite being only an architect class, emerald dragon, Grendar is willing to risk banishment and death to stop that which his rulers refuse to see. The hope of peace lies not within the scaled breast of a dragon however, but within the hands of a group of people. But if the hidden factions have their way, these people won’t live to fulfill such a destiny. With a reluctant seer at his side, Grendar must leave his precious Empire for the outside world to save those that will one day save his kind. 

Heather McCorkle
I am an author of fantasy, in all its many sub-genres. Living green, saving endangered species, helping other writers, and supporting fabulous authors are a few of my passions. I am also a volunteer for the IS Foundation which works to make the world a greener place. When I'm not volunteering, writing, or surfing my social networking sites, I can be found on the slopes, the hiking trails, or on horseback. As a native Oregonian, I enjoy the outdoors almost as much as the worlds I create on the pages. No need to travel to the Great Northwest though, you can find me here, on my blog, and Monday night's on Twitter where I co-moderate the #WritersRoad chat.

Author Links:

Friday, January 11, 2013

Shadows of the Hidden

I wanted to let you know about Shadows of the Hidden. It's new a new book written by Anne Riley and published by Compass Press. (They're the publishers who put out Winter Wonders, the anthology that included my short story, "Screwing Up Mongolia.")

Here's the cover and the blurb.

Natalie Watson doesn't believe her parents are dead, even though they disappeared five years ago. Discovering the truth about their fate is one of the only things that gets her out of bed in the morning. But after moving from her home in Georgia to her aunt's boarding school in Maine, solving the mystery of her parents' whereabouts is just one of several challenges she must face. When she's not fending off attacks from the popular kids, she puzzles over the rumors about a strange boy in her math class--one with fiery red hair who rarely speaks. Despite suspicions that he murdered his sister a year earlier, Natalie finds it impossible to stay away from Liam Abernathy--especially when he confesses to knowing something about her parents. Soon she's following him into the forest, where things happen she doesn't understand...things that shouldn't be possible. Natalie soon realizes her connection to Liam is deeper than she ever imagined, and not everyone she counts as a friend can be trusted. When she finds herself at the center of a centuries-old quest for immortality, she must work with Liam to stay alive--even if it means facing a truth about herself and her family that will not only shake her perception of herself, but of the entire world around her.

Shadows of the Hidden is available in paperback or as an e-book for Kindle or Nook

Image of Anne Riley
Anne Riley is an author of young adult fiction from Birmingham, Alabama. Her first novel, Shadows of the Hidden (previously self-published as The Clearing), was published by Compass Press in December 2012.

Anne is a high school Spanish teacher by day, a writer by afternoon, and a mom and wife all the time. Her writing career began in August 2008 when she began working on her first novel, The Clearing. By December, she had a completed manuscript, and by January 2009 she had signed with literary agent Alanna Ramirez of Trident Media Group.
When Alanna left Trident in September 2011, Anne began the search for a new agent, ultimately landing with Emma Patterson of Brandt & Hochman Literary Agents.
Visit her at her blog: Anne Riley Books

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

I Don't Care If It's a Logical Fallacy

Now that the holidays are over, I’m back to helping my youngest child, a high school junior, prepare for the SAT. Lately, we’ve been working on the SAT essay. All of my kids hated this. I hated helping them prepare. But with the fourth child, things have a hit a new low.

The essay topic today was “Does history repeat itself?” Then, there were two quotes that were supposed to inspire him to essay greatness. He wasn’t inspired. I should’ve known this by the grumbling and gnashing of teeth I overheard. But I ignored it. I shouldn’t have.

At twenty-five minutes after I handed him the essay topic, the timer rang. He handed me a succinct paragraph explaining why the topic was illogical. He examined the fallacies involved. The false terms that obscured that truth. Etc., etc.

When my husband Calvin got home from work, I handed him the essay. Before he read it, I explained that our son would get a zero on the essay section of the SAT. I said that our son needed an attitude adjustment. That he needed to learn to work within the system. My husband nodded gravely. Then, Cal read the essay. He doubled over in laughter. Literally. When he finished laughing, he said, “You know, this is great.”

I was not amused.

Monday, January 7, 2013

A Crappy Purple Scion

I thought we were going to get through the holidays without any sickness. We were within four days of the kids going back to classes, and no one had gotten sick. Then, the plague hit. Quickly. 5 out of 6 were hit. Only Matthew stayed healthy—he actually walked around with a huge bottle of Lysol, spraying everything before he touched it. It got so bad we could all taste Lysol in the air. Ugh.

Some of us were so sick that we argued with our mother about whether we could just sleep on the floor of the bathroom. Theoretically, it was possible, but then others would have to crawl over said person.

Thankfully, the worst is over. Though some of us (me) feel as weak as a newborn puppy. When I woke up this morning my husband leaned over and said, “Do you feel like you’ve been run over by a crappy purple Scion?” I laughed. There’s nothing like a laugh to start the day right.

And if you aren’t familiar with the quote “a crappy purple Scion,” here’s the music video of “50 Ways to Say Good-bye" by Train.

Friday, January 4, 2013

5 Reasons I Hate Southern Winters

One caveat. Before I dump on Southern winters, let me say, that Southern springs are amazing. They start the end of February when my first flowers start blooming and end in May when the weather turns hellaciously hot.

But the winters. I hate them because…

1. Really cold and no snow. I mean, what’s the point of that? If I’m going to deal with 20 degrees, I want pretty, white stuff in the air and on the ground.

2. Mud. Whenever moisture does come, it’s always tropical. So it heats up to 40, makes everything a giant mud pit and then freezes again.

3. Our dog steals heat. (Okay, this isn’t so much the South’s fault. But out dog was bred here.) Our Lab Jezebel lies on the heater vents. And she’s a black Lab! She has otter fur. She’s supposed to scoff at the cold. Instead, she nudges away anyone sitting by the heat dish.

4. Weeds. None of my weeds are dying. In New England, I could trust that Old Man Winter would suck the life from the autumn weeds. Here, my weeds are merrily growing. I don’t want to weed in January!!!

5. No blizzards. Seriously. When you have a blizzard, you can ignore all the plans for the day, put a fire in the fireplace, and drink hot chocolate.

One the other hand, it’s January and in six to eight weeks my flowers will be blooming. So what’s a little mud?

What do you hate about winter where you are?

File:Helleborus Orientalis Lenten Rose.jpg
My hellebores will bloom first. Sadly, I couldn't post my own photos because my stupid computer is not cooperating. So this photo is copyright, courtesy of wikimedia commons.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Even Rusty French Has Its Uses

I don’t plan on writing a lot of posts on the preparations for our trip to Paris (for those who missed the amazing trip to Paris news, click here). But since my husband had this week off, we spent time planning our trip.

My obligation between now and when we leave is to “brush up” on French. My husband knows that when I graduated from college I was fluent in French—the university I graduated from required all English majors to be fluent in a foreign language. Fluency in French meant I had to take literature classes where the texts were all French, the lectures were in French, and we had to write our papers in French. And yes, I did that. However, I did those that twenty-five years ago. Since then, I’ve only used French to explain to my kids what RSVP stands for. (Okay, I did teach high school French twenty years ago—but that was mostly forcing passé composé into unwilling minds.)

After twenty-five years, I don’t really remember much. I can read something aloud and it sounds well enough, but I have no idea what it means. At least, that’s what I thought until Cal began researching restaurants. The other day, he pulled up a website to show to me. It had all the appropriate stars, the prices were reasonable, and the ambiance was fantastic. So I clicked on the menu and read it.

Then, I said to Cal, “Uh, when you looked at this earlier, did you use Google Translate on this page?”

He said, “No. Why?”

I answered, “I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure that this paragraph says that the specialty of the house is calf brain cooked in wine.”

We exchanged a glance and removed the restaurant from our “possibilities list.”

You know, my smattering of French may come in handy after all.

Be sure to check out the menu below. It's from 1870, and the dinner includes antelope, elephant, wolf, camel, bear, etc.  (Courtesy of  Wikimedia Commons)