"No matter how terrified you may be, own your fear and take that leap anyway because whether you land on your feet or on your butt, the journey is well worth it."
-- Laurie Laliberte
"If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough."
-- Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."
-- Anais Nin

Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Truly Epic Interview

Have you ever wondered what your favorite authors would discuss if you put them in a room together? I used to.But now, since I'm living the writing/editing life myself, I imagine that their topics of conversation would be pretty much the same as mine with my local writerly friends... Just like any other professionals who work in a common field, our conversations tend to veer toward work.

Sure, we have friends and families, good times and bad, problems and advice we all discuss, but the common bond that brings us together is literature. The writing of it, the reading of it, the breakdown, structure, grammar, passion, heartache, and joy of allowing it to consume us...

But if you want a more in-depth look at a discussion between two writers, you should take a look at this five-part epic interview. My dear friends Tony Healey and Bernard Schaffer sat down for a Q&A recently. Granted, it's more a one-sided interview than it is a friendly conversation, but Tony is a master interviewer, and Bernard is an excellent interview-ee.

It's well worth sitting down with a warm beverage and your electronic device of choice to get some insight into the mind of a writer. Huh. Maybe with enough views on the sight, we can convince the boys to start a regular vlog or hangout. Then everyone could pick their brains.

Until then, check out the interview and then stop by Amazon to check out their latest collaboration.

Happy Reading!


Monday, October 13, 2014

Top Ten Writing Mistakes

I have been neglecting you all again, my faithful friends, and for that I apologize. It will all be worth it when You see what I've been up to. Some of it is still top secret, so I prefer to remain quiet on the whole bundle until I can speak freely.

I was fortunate enough; however (thanks to my pal Alex Maisey), to come across a fabulous blog post by a teacher of creative writing. So please follow this link and I'll be back next week.



Happy Writing!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Granola Helps Me Do My Job

I know it's a stretch, but hear me out. If not for granola, many (more) of my days would be wasted procrastinating by playing online and whatnot. We all have days when we simply can't focus. There's too much running through our minds; we're disorganized; we can't decide which job to tackle first. You know the drill. Heck, I'm procrastinating right now, just by writing this post. (Yes, it needs to get done, but I sh/could have waited until my editing work was finished for the day.)

Anyhow, most of the time, just by writing a to do list, I get a handle on my priorities and am able to rein in my overactive mind. But there are some days when "overwhelmed" doesn't even begin to describe it. Those are the days when I tell myself, "It's time to make granola."

It's not always granola. Sometimes it's whatever crock pot concotion I come up with when I realize the day is getting away from me, or I have too much to do in a short amount of time. You see, the crock pot becomes my timer, my count-down clock. It's a race to the finish. I know what I want to accomplish and I have an alarm that will go off when my day is done. No overtime; no excuses; no goofing off.

But granola is my secret weapon. When there's a batch of oats and nuts roasting in the slow cooker, I am forced to take breaks at certain intervals. I'm also forced to work in the living/dining room instead of at my desk. Why? Because the batch has to be stirred every thirty minutes, give or take, or it will burn. Just the change of scenery makes me more productive.

To make it easier, I work close to the kitchen. I get up when the alarm goes off, stretch my legs, stir the pot, reset the timer, then go back to work. I have yet to burn a batch. This gives me a quick stretch break, and gives my brain a rest for a minute or two. My recovery time is minimal because this practice does not afford me the opportunity to get caught up in a vacuum of social media.

Sure, an easy remedy would be to disconnect from the web altogether when I'm working, but I need access to online resources such as style guides, dictionaries, and various other searchable tools that allow me to verify grammar rules and research facts.

The granola timer also helps on days when there are household chores to do in addition to work. Yesterday, I edited about seventy pages, washed dishes (twice), dished out dinner for three (msg-free lo mein), prepped today's lunch, made three quarts of chicken stock, AND cooked up a big batch of Almond Joy-type granola (just enough chocolate chips to add some sweet, almonds, and a ton of coconut). Will you hate me if I mention I went to bed with a clean kitchen and did not work a minute past 6:00 p.m.?

Of course, now it's getting late and I think I'm going to have to throw some ingredients into the slow cooker just so I can feel I've accomplished more than a blog post today.


Happy Crock Potting!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Pinterest Has Me Cooking Again!

Okay, truth be told, I never stopped. I just didn't have the time for posting about it. Some months, it's difficult enough for me to maintain my weekly schedule, let alone trying to post semi-weekly. Anyhow, I chose to take over Sunday's post for Pinterest recipes this week because the two I made this week were yummilicious and I had to share.

I'm going to begin with dessert since I make this one first, and well, dessert . . .



I really hope the blogger doesn't mind me borrowing her picture because this one didn't last long enough to take one. (I think that's a theme around here.) It was outstanding, and my roommates absolutely loved it. I, however, think it needed more oats, so I'll probably double the oats the next time I make it. Still, simple, delish, and by putting it together before dinner, I could throw it into the oven to bake while we ate. Perfect timing never tasted so good.


This is another with no picture. Sorry gang, but yesterday morning, when I made it for dinner, I couldn't predict I'd be out of the house when the hordes descended upon the slow cooker.

I have to admit, I took a few liberties with this one. First, it desperately needed pepper, so I added some at the end. Cooking pepper makes the flavor expand and you run the risk of making a dish too spicy, especially in the crock pot. Second, I used homemade chicken stock that I had in the freezer. It was left over from another Pinterest recipe that I will probably share my thoughts on at a later date.

But here's the kicker: By the time I got home, it was GONE! I walked into the kitchen around 2:00 a.m. to find nothing left of my chicken and dumplings but the broth. So I ladeled some into a mug and had an early morning snack. It was excellent.

Later, I found out the one of my roomies was wise enough to fill a dish and tuck it away so I could taste the fruits of my labor. It was even better when I had it for lunch this afternoon. And the rest of the leftover broth? We've been taking turns heating it up in mugs to stave off this unseasonably chilly weather.

So there you go, two tested Pinterest recipes that are definitely worth a try.

Happy Cooking!

Monday, September 1, 2014

I'm Polish, of Course I Like Cabbage!

Every time I see cabbage on sale at the grocery store, I fondly remember my grandmother who slaved over a hot stove every day to feed a horde of family members. Since that side of my family was Polish, and descended from farmers, the food was simple.

Babcie's cooking rarely utilized complex seasoning and layers of flavor. It was plain, peasant food prepared with few ingredients. Often fruits and vegetables had been picked from my grandfather's garden earlier that day and that freshness made all the difference. When produce is that fresh, it doesn't need layers. This is the best time of year to raid your own garden, or head to the local farm stand. You won't regret it.

This was a staple in my grandmother's kitchen, but is not exclusively Eastern European. If you're Irish, you've probably had a similar dish.


Just Cabbage

1 stick of butter (real butter, not that processed oil crap)
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large onion, chopped into chunks
4 ounces of fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 medium to large head of cabbage, chopped into chunks (discard harder parts of the core)
salt and pepper

Melt butter over medium heat in a pot large enough to hold all of the ingredients
Add garlic and onions and heat until the onions begin to get translucent
Add cabbage and mushrooms and heat, uncovered, stirring about every 10 minutes
Allow to cook over medium heat until the mushrooms and cabbage have cooked down and the cabbage is al dente
Taste and season throughout cooking time, but go easy on the pepper as it expands the longer you heat it

Notes:
The prep time of this dish is only about 15 minutes, but it takes about an hour to cook.
Babcie would sometimes slice kielbasa (Polish sausage) and throw it in to cook with the cabbage

Admittedly, this dish isn't for everyone, but I made it for friends a couple of weeks ago and there weren't any leftovers to take pictures of. 

Happy Cooking!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

He's at It Again!

As my most prolific client (and very dear friend) Tony Healey releases the latest installment of his Far From Home series, he is also working on the next step in his newer series The Fallen Crown, among other things. Therefore, I've invited him back to talk a bit about writing in installments and his current projects.

He's also got a giveaway brewing, so read down for information on that.

I've had phenomenal success with my sci-fi adventure series, Far From Home. I always envisioned it spanning three series, told through a mixture of serial-style episodes and short novels. And thrilling as it was to start plotting the third series out, I realised I would now have time (and energy!) to write the fantasy series I'd daydreamed about for over ten years.

My first attempt at the opening chapter fell flat and I deleted it. I started again. And again. And again. It took many attempts to get the voice right, to find my rhythm. But once it was there, boy was the book a blast to write. I took my time, enjoyed the process, and by all accounts had a real hoot writing The Bloody North. I truly believed it was my best work, and I sent it off to Laurie with my fingers crossed. Was I just deluding myself? Would the manuscript come back to me criss-crossed with furious red pen?

No.

Laurie loved it and proclaimed it the best thing I'd ever written. I have some other projects to do before I can get on to the second book, The Rising Fire. But the story is right there, at the back of my mind, bugging me. I can't wait until I can sit down and continue the story I've started, widen our view of the world in which The Fallen Crown series takes place. Introduce and explore more and more characters.

From the get-go I didn't want to be writing massive tomes, dealing with multiple characters. I wanted to tell the story in shorter chunks of 200-250 pages, each one dealing with either one main character or perhaps two to three at the same time. What I've wanted to write about for over a decade cannot be told in a simple trilogy. It will take many books, spanning many years in our characters' lives, before there's anything close to an ending. Eventually, I will be finished writing the final fifteen installments of Far From Home. The Fallen Crown will then get my full, undivided attention, and I foresee readers getting a new book every two months. But until then, I really want The Bloody North to reach as wide an audience as possible, which is why I'm asking for your assistance. In return, you could win signed goodies. All you have to do is visit my site, www.tonyhealey.com – everything you need to know is right there.

Don't get me wrong, The Bloody North is doing REALLY well, both in terms of sales and reviews. 90% of feedback is extremely positive. The Rising Fire will come out at the end of this year, and readers who have enjoyed The Bloody North will be thrilled with what's in store. Of course it will feature the same gritty action as Book 1 (that goes without saying!) and tease more of what is to come whilst, at the same time, being its own self-contained story.

I'm hijacking Laurie's blog today, to get you interested in The Bloody North because I truly believe in it. It really is my very best work so far, and I want you to read it. I want you to get a chance at owning a sexy signed paperback edition (and a chapbook of a free short story, "A Man With Purpose," that acts as a prequel). I think it's rocky ground for a writer to shout from the rooftops about his own work.

But, damn it, this one deserves the added attention.

The Bloody North is also available on Amazon

I second that. Thank you, Tony.

Happy Reading!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

A Blast from the Past, Dreams of the Future

Three years ago this week, Bernard Schaffer and I came together to begin the Kindle All Stars. Hand in hand, we produced an anthology (Resistance Front) with the intent of paving the way for new, independent authors to find a place to showcase their work. Some have continued to write and enjoy much success; others have chosen to take different paths.

Many of us who continue to work in publishing, be it as writers, editors, or small scale publishers, also continue to keep in touch via social media. One of those writers, possibly the most impressive, is Natasha Whearity.

When I read Natasha's submission to the Resistance Front* project, I demanded that Bernard find a way to use her short story. She was a seventeen-year-old high school student from the UK whose talent, in my opinion, surpassed every other writer whose work I'd seen. There were other brilliant, creative minds who also became part of the group and have thrived, but Natasha stood out as the youngest.

So how could I not invite her to talk to you about Amazon and its affect on her as a young writer as well as her own anthology compiled for charity? This is how the Kindle All-Stars pay it forward.

We Are Such Stuff . . . is available on Amazon

You hear a lot of negative things about independent publishing platforms such as Amazon. A lot of people believe that it is ruining the publishing industry because anyone can publish anything they want to. But for me, Kindle Direct Publishing is a fantastic platform for writers, especially emerging ones, such as myself. What is great about Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing is that it gives aspiring writers and editors the opportunity to say that they have been published.

I’m not saying that publishing houses aren’t fantastic at what they do, because they are brilliant. But there is nothing wrong with Amazon allowing writers the freedom to publish their own work themselves – which is something they might not be able to do through a publishing house if their work is tossed onto a pile of no’s.

If it weren't for Amazon, I would never have had my first short story, "Endgame" published in the Kindle All Stars anthology: Resistance Front, which raised money for a charity supporting missing and exploited children. If it weren't for Amazon and that opportunity, I would never have been able to publish We Are Such Stuff As Dreams Are Made On, which is the anthology of work I have just published.

Through publishing We Are Such Stuff, I have had the opportunity of not only raising money for a charity extremely close to my heart (all the proceeds made from the anthology are going to the charity Epilepsy Action UK) but I have been able to use Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing as a platform for my writing, editing, formatting and publishing skills.

If it weren't for Amazon and the opportunity I was given by Bernard, Laurie, and the Kindle All-Stars, I would never have been able to publish work, not only by myself, but by some really fantastic and innovative writers. I have learned so much from publishing this anthology, not just about how important it is to support emerging writers, but how much I love creating and making books. I hope that this project is the first of many.

You can buy a copy of We Are Such Stuff As Dreams Are Made On for only £1.53 (or $2.57) and all of the proceeds go to Epilepsy Action. Not only will you support an amazing charity, but the work of some brilliant and blossoming writers.

*Resistance Front and its successor, Carnival of Cryptids, are both still available on Amazon. All proceeds benefit the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Happy Reading!



Sunday, August 3, 2014

Catfight and Hell Kitten . . . Really? Really!

Hey y'all! I'm beginning to think there may be a lot of writers in my life (and I will confess that sometimes it seems as though there are too many, but I love them all). I'm fortunate enough to call many of them my friends. I'm also fortunate that when I don't have time to put together a quality blog post for you all to read, they seem to have projects they want to talk about.

So, cutting to the chase, Joshua Unruh has an amazing new project in the works that I will be editing, but he's asking for help from readers of all ages, shapes, sizes, and any other distinction you can imagine. I'll let him tell you the rest while I go work on that project that's been back burnered for far too long.

Oh, and while you're here, check out the artwork he sent me to show off a couple of new characters. Also, stay tuned to the end of this post for last-minute info Josh gave me regarding a contest!

Meet Catfight.
So here’s the deal: I love superheroes and have for most of my life. I will not apologize for this. I know that some of you are wondering why I’d have to apologize. If that’s you wondering, it’s probably because you are very young.

I mean, sure, these days superheroes are making bajillions of dollars on screens across America every summer. But back in the day, I got ridiculed when I had them folded in half and stuffed in my back pocket.

Right now you don’t believe me. And you shouldn’t because that statement was a lie.

Because I would NEVER fold a comic and put it in my back pocket! You keep those damn things in Mylar bags with cardboard backs so they don’t get wrinkled and tell yourself they’re going to finance your college education one day.

Anyway, I love superheroes. But they haven’t stayed as lovable as I’d like. I once read a quote on the internet that went something like, “comics used to be for above average kids, but now they’re for below average adults.”

That statement isn’t entirely true, but it hits close enough to sting. It’s not that there’s too much sex, it’s that there’s too much sexism. And it’s not that there’s too much violence, it’s that the tearing off of arms is celebrated. And it isn’t that all the characters are white…well, actually, it is that all the characters are white. Or all the ones you can name, anyway.

So I’ve decided to do something about it. Now, I can’t draw for crap, but I can write my ass off. So my plan is to serialize prose superhero stories, one a month just like comic books. These stories will star heroes who are women and maybe even (gasp) not white. The stories will be appropriate for all-ages, which is totally different than “for kids.” And if you can’t tell the difference, then you’re the one with the problem.

Most of all these stories will be about heroes.

Somewhere along the line, it became cool to be cynical. Like cynicism is the most reality based way to see the world. Like how you’re na├»ve or simple or childish if you see the good in people.

Well screw that. Cynicism is the easy way out. Looking for the good in people? Seeing the hopeful possibilities for the future? That is HARD. Damned hard. And we need more examples of it, even fictional ones. So I’m going to write some. And every kid who needs reminded of how worthwhile selflessness and optimism are should see somebody who looks like them making it so.

Say hi to Hell Kitten.
So that’s my grandiose plan. But I’m a working writer. I have to eat. So to make this plan work, I’m using Patreon. Patreon is like an ongoing Kickstarter. You pledge a certain amount of money, and you get dinged for it whenever I publish a story. You can set a limit, though, if I start getting too prolific.

And then, you know the best part? I release that story into the wild for anyone to read for free whether they were a patron or not. Why? Two reasons. First, because I’ve already been paid. Second, because I want people who need to see heroes that look like they do to read my stories. Giving the stories away seems a good way to make that happen.

If you think that sounds worthwhile, then please visit me at www.patreon.com/pulpdictionpress. There are goals to add new things into every story, which are like rewards for my readers. And there are rewards for those who patronize as well.

Superheroes are ordinary people who use their gifts to do the extraordinary. You can be that for me with a click of the pledge button. The cape and tights are optional.

Here's that last-minute contest information I promised you: Josh has a few copies of his already released teen female superhero book, TEEN Agents in the Plundered Parent Protocol, that he has pledged to sign. So here's what you do . . .

If you choose to pledge to Josh's Patreon project, simply return here and leave a comment saying you did so. Your name will be entered into a drawing to win a paperback of the TEEN AGENTS book in addition to receiving the new comics as they are released. He doesn't have a ton to go around for this blog tour, so your chances of winning are obviously based on how many participants there are.

Thank you, Josh, and Happy Reading everyone!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Writers Go Marching Two by Two

I have just finished editing a book that I hope to be a huge seller. I mean, I always hope they do well, but this one in particular hooked me. It wasn't so much the story, which is terrific, unpredictable, and sometimes a bit depressing; it was more the writing team with whom I worked. You see, Nathan and Derek Howe are two of the most endearing writers I've met.

They have gained my utmost respect for a few reasons. I won't go into the hows and the whys now; I'll save that for a future post. Just know that they, and their new novel, Aiden, have wheedled their way into my heart. And I've invited Nathan to join us today to tell us about his experience writing with his brother. He'll tell you . . . after you check out this cool cover:

Buy Aiden for Kindle on Amazon.com


Writing is generally a solitary art, and for me this is mostly true. I sit at home with headphones on, listening to music, blocking the world out. However, I don’t write alone; I co-write with my brother Derek. We’ve both tried to write stories on our own but never made it past a few chapters (in my brother's case, never made it past the first page). We both love to read and always wanted to write a book, but neither of us actually thought we'd finish one. 

About a year and a half ago, my brother came up with an idea that I really liked. He comes up with ideas for books all the time, some good, some bad, and some just weird. The idea he came up with stuck with me this time. As soon as he said it, I could see a story form in my head. I knew what I wanted to do with it. So as soon as I could, I wrote the first chapter. I sent it to him to see if he liked it. He made some edits, added some lines, and sent it back to me. Later we talked about the book and where I was planning to go with it. It wasn’t long before we were both knee deep in the book writing. 

A lot of people seem to have trouble writing with others; one seems to do all the work or they just fight over how they want the story to go. We’ve never had that problem, well maybe a little fight here and there, but nothing too serious. 

The reason co-writing works so well with us is we can play off of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Derek is good at coming up with ideas and outlining. I’m good taking those ideas and outlines and putting them to paper. Because I know Derek is going to go over what I write and add what he thinks needs to be added, I gained a freedom I didn’t have before. I don’t have to worry about missing parts, or forgetting certain details, because I know Derek will find them and make it work. And if he can’t, well, we can talk about it and figure it out together. 

Before, if I got stuck on something, I would give up. With my brother, I know he is there to help me. We both push each other to become better writers. In the past year we have improved a lot and plan to continue the process. That is one of the best parts: we can challenge each other to become better. 

I could talk on and on about why co-writing works so well for us, but I won’t. I will give you the most important reason: we have fun. It is that simple. We love to see what the other one has added to the story and see what the other can do. If we didn’t have fun, we would have never finished Aiden. 

I've talked a lot about what works for us. All the advantages we gain from working together. But not all is perfect. I mentioned it can lead to some disagreements about where, or how, parts of the story should go. But that has been rare for us. Another problem we run into is that I write a lot. At such a pace that my brother can't always keep up. At times that can be frustrating for me, and for him as well. But it can be a good thing for us, too. It allows Derek to pick my best work, my best stories, to work on. 

I would like to thank Laurie for her great work on Aiden, and letting me guest blog. She put a lot into Aiden, making it a book that we are proud of, and I hope that you, the reader, will enjoy.

Happy Reading!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A New Way for Kids to Eat Their Vegetables

This one is specifically aimed at the parents out there who have a difficult time convincing their littles to consume anything green. A friend of mine made this recipe for me last night and I scolded her for not making more. It's ridiculously easy and I can almost guarantee it will get your kids (and my BFF) to eat their green beans.

It's also a great dish to make when you're busy in the kitchen, maybe preparing chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes. Let's face it, you can only tend to so many pans at once. This one doesn't need tending. In fact, the less attention it gets, the better. If you stir it too often, your beans will fall apart completely and you'll end up with very tasty mush. The only reason you stir it is to get it to caramelize somewhat evenly.

This concoction is very much a southern dish. It's fried in a skillet and utilizes bacon grease, so it may not be an every week staple as is. My brain is already hacking at this recipe to make it more healthy and keeping it kid friendly, so I bet I'll have an alternative that you can serve guilt-free on a regular basis.

Meanwhile, however much you think you need when you make it . . . double that. We had five cans of beans collecting dust in the pantry, but didn't want to use them all up at once. Normally, three cans should be enough for six people, but we all wanted seconds and there was none to be had.

For now, however, I will stick to the recipe as it was given to me. Sorry, y'all! The beans didn't last long enough to take pictures.


Skillet Green Beans

4 slices (about 1/4 lb.) bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 to 1/2 medium-sized onion, chopped
3 (14.5 oz) cans cut green beans, drained
4 T butter
up to 1/4 c sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Brown bacon and onions in a large, nonstick skillet over medium heat then remove
Remove all but 1 Tbsp of the grease if you find it excessive (or leave it in, it's up to you)
Add beans
Drop butter on top and allow it to melt on its own
Stir occasionally, and gently, with a wooden spoon, while you tend to other things
When you're almost ready to take it off the stove, return bacon and onions to the pan, then add sugar, salt, and pepper, and stir to combine
Give it another few minutes to let the sugar caramelize

Do not panic if the edges of your beans or onions get dark; they should. However, if at any time, you fear they're getting away from you, or cooking too fast, reduce the heat. It's ready when everything else is. Just remove it from the stove, and serve.

This recipe is also budget friendly because canned green beans are often on sale. My local mom and pop grocery store has at least one brand on sale every week. That's probably why they ended up in my pantry. (I've never been a big fan of canned veggies.)

If onions are a deal breaker for your kids, then leave them out or use onion powder instead. That will give you that sweet, oniony flavor and the kids won't see it.

Rest assured, I will be playing with this in the near future and figuring out a way to make it a bit more healthy without skimping on the flavor. We could probably start by switching out the sugar for honey or agave nectar. In fact, I bet honey would taste even better than the yumminess I tasted last night.

Happy Cooking!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

I See You! (free crochet pattern)

Yeah, yeah, yeah...I know it's been a while since I've treated you to a new, free pattern, but I plan to make up for it. The prototypes for the book are basically made. The rough drafts of all the patterns are written. All that's left is a bit of spit and polish, and a whole lot of high quality picture taking. Until then, you get to reap the benefits of a newly finished project:


The Blog Collection
Eyeglasses Case

Supplies:
small amount of Color A
small amount of Color B
size G (5.0 mm) crochet hook
smaller hook or yarn needle for weaving in ends

Note: All instructions are in American terms. This pattern is worked in the round which may make your beginning stitch travel (as when working amigurumi). Instructions are given at the best places to correct stitch position so that color changes are obscured. There is no need to join and ch1 at the end/beginning of each round.

ch 15 w/Color A

Round 1: sc in second ch from hook and each ch across, turn, sc in unused loop of each ch across (28 sts here and throughout)

Round 2: sc in each st around

Rounds 3-10: repeat Round 2

Lay your project flat. If your last stitch is not at the side of the pouch, add or remove stitches until it is. Change to Color B.

Round 11: sc in each st around

Round 12: sc in BLO of each st around

Round 13: rep Round 12

Round 14: [sc in BLO of next st, dc in BLO of next st] rep around

Round 15: [dc in BLO of next st, sc in BLO of next st] rep around

Note: Yes, at the end of Round 14/beginning of Round 15, you will work two dc side by side.

Round 16: [sc in BLO of next st, dc in BLO of next st] rep around

Note: Yes, at the end of Round 15/beginning of Round 16, you will work two sc side by side.

Round 17: rep Round 15

Round 18: rep Round 16

Round 19: sc in BLO of each st around

Rounds 20-21: rep Round 19

Lay your project flat. If your last stitch is not at the side of the pouch, add or remove stitches until it is. Change to Color A.

Round 22: sc in each st around

Rounds 23-24: sc in each st around

Stop here and slide your glasses into the pouch. You should have about ½" of space from the top of the glasses to the end of the case so your glasses don't easily slip out on their own. If not, continue to add rounds of sc until you do.

Lay your project flat. If your last stitch is not at the side of the pouch, add or remove stitches until it is.

Optional Hanging Loop: join w/sl st in next st, ch 10, join w/ sl st in same st, sl st in each ch back to first ch

Optional Button Closure: Find the middle front of your project and mark it for attaching your button. Find the corresponding stitch on the back of the project and mark it for the button loop.

sc in each st stopping at marked st on back of project, ch12, attach in same st w/sl st, sl st in each ch around loop, sc in next st and each st around

finish off, weave in ends

This pattern has been tested only by me. If you find a mistake, please leave it in the comments below and I will make the necessary corrections. If you need help, feel free to post any questions in the comments and I will get to them asap.

Any pattern I design and post here is my property. Please do not duplicate my patterns for any reason especially to sell. Instead, please link to my blog or to the pattern page when referencing one of my patterns.

You are more than welcome to offer finished items made from my patterns for sale. I see no reason why you should not profit from your hard work. However, I'd really appreciate it if you gave me credit for the design; please reference my blog or the pattern page.

If you do make any of my patterns, I'd love to see your finished items; please feel free to email pictures to me.

BigGirlJewelry@yahoo.com

Happy Crocheting!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Bloody North

Well, we've done it again. Tony Healey wrote it; I edited it, and now it's available for your reading pleasure. The first title in Tony's The Fallen Crown series, The Bloody North, is now live on Amazon. It's also only 99 cents for the e-book right now, so grab it! Anyhow, Tony has a bit more to say on the subject, so I'll let him do the rest:

ON WRITING 'THE BLOODY NORTH'

My first exposure to fantasy was The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis. I saw the old BBC adaptation of it (which I still think stands head and shoulders above both the animated movie and the more recent Disney motion picture) and then found a copy of it in paperback at a car boot sale. I was about nine at the time. I spent months afterward trying to track down copies of all the others. I succeeded, never paying more than about fifty pence for each one. Eventually I had all seven Narnia books lined up on my shelf, each one from a different edition.

A year or so later, I found a box set containing all seven, with cover art to match their respective BBC adaptations. I used that as my excuse for reading them all again from scratch. I still have that same box set now.

In my teens, my uncle loaned me a copy of Spellsinger by Alan Dean Foster, and I proceeded to bug him for the other five, tearing through them at a rate of knots. A few years back, I had the honour of having a short story of mine published alongside Mr. Foster. In that anthology (see: Resistance Front by Bernard Schaffer, Alan Dean Foster, Harlan Ellison, et al.) I dedicated my story to Alan, thanking him for Spellsinger.

If the work of C. S. Lewis had introduced me to fantasy as a genre (at the age I was when I read it, I honestly didn't pick up on all of the religious notes – it was just a good story), then Spellsinger showed me you could take traditional fantasy and inject it with facets of modern life.

From a very early age, we'd had three films on VHS I'd constantly watch, over and over again. The first was The Goonies – recorded off of the TV with commercials included. The other two were Watership Down and The Lord of the Rings.

After reading Spellsinger, my mind turned to those two cartoons I'd watched as a small child. So I read my way through Watership Down, and then tackled The Lord of the Rings at about the same time as The Fellowship of the Ring came out at the cinema. With Watership Down, I got to see world building on par with Narnia, but done in an entirely different way. Set in the world of rabbits, with their own language, their own beliefs, their own mythology. I found it completely fascinating.

The Lord of the Rings was a slog most of the time, but I have happy memories of the experience. It was a long work to tackle in my teens, but I managed it, just about. A recent attempt at a reread failed miserably. I simply lost interest. A lot of that comes from the books I am used to reading now as an adult. They're faster, more concise. To my mind, Tolkien's opus is a must-read for anyone. But I don't think many will delve back in for a second go. It's a huge undertaking. The Lord of the Rings is a classic work of fantasy that truly established a gold standard for the genre at the time. And there have been many attempts by other writers at recreating Middle-Earth in their own work, to varying degrees of success.

Coming out of my teens, The Dark Tower series and J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter were hugely influential to me. What Stephen King accomplishes with The Dark Tower is something he has tried often and succeeded at rarely. That is, telling a long story and holding the reader's attention from start to finish. Some – novels like The Stand and IT – have worked brilliantly. Others . . . ugh. But for whatever reason, The Dark Tower grips you from the first tantalizing sentence ("The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed . . .") and never lets go. It's a little crazy, it's a bit of a mash-up of multiple genres and sources, but that's okay. You take it in your stride. The Dark Tower is King's greatest work. A rich, hugely entertaining epic.

The very same can be said for Rowling's Potter series. I read them one after the other (luckily the last, The Deathly Hallows, was just coming out as I finished The Half-Blood Prince). My habit with those was to sit on the kitchen floor at night, cup of tea by my side and read into the early hours. I lived in a house with six other siblings at the time, so really the kitchen at night was about the most peaceful place for reading.

She did a fantastic job of world-building, of plotting each book out so that it was its own self-contained story, yet progressed the overall plot piece by piece. Readers were literally spellbound (forgive the pun) by the interactions between the characters and the relationships that developed along the way. By the progression of a plot that grew steadily darker and darker – and by what had happened in the past, before the books take place. Certainly the greatest, well-rounded character of the series is not Harry Potter himself, but Severus Snape. Dumbledore's machinations become somewhat omnipresent by the end, whereas Snape comes into his own in what is a truly heartbreaking series of revelations.

Recently, I found myself browsing the kindle store for something new to read when I came across The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie. I got the sample, devoured it in one sitting, and bought the rest of the book.

The next day, I found myself in town buying the whole trilogy in paperback and proceeded to read them one after the other. Abercrombie takes the conventions of the genre and turns them on their head. First of all, he does away with the stilted writing of the past and brings his contemporary voice to Fantasy – complete with swearing, sex, and some of the most complicated characters I've ever come across. Each and every one of them broken in some way.

Glokta, broken in body but not in spirit. Logen Ninefingers, broken inside as he tries (in vain) to turn away from the man he used to be. These two characters begin the story broken and end up whole by the end (though not necessarily better people as a result) whilst the character of Luthar begins whole and is steadily broken first in body, then in spirit. Abercrombie writes a kind of fantasy that critics and readers alike have come to coin "Grimdark." I guess it had its beginnings in the work of Robert E. Howard way back when, and I reckon there were the seeds of it in the dark deeds that went (mostly) unseen, in the background, throughout The Lord of The Rings. If Aragorn and company spent the majority of those books fighting nameless, faceless hordes of Orcs with little repercussions for their deeds, Abercrombie makes every kill resonate.

Men fight men, with all the horrific slaughter and detail involved. And when the fight is over, when most of them have died, the survivors are left with their guilt and their shame and their hurt. Left to deal with it all on their own.

It's no wonder, in Abercrombie's fictional setting, that Logen turned out the way he did.

But what some reviewers of The Blade Itself have criticized it, and its sequels, for is its lack of hope, and I have to disagree there. I found plenty of hope in The First Law trilogy. It's there, trust me. What Abercrombie does is to counter-balance these moments, these flashes of characters achieving the positive, with the darkness. If a character is winning in one chapter, the next time we meet them, their luck has taken a turn for the worst.

Is that fair? Probably not. But is it realistic to what we experience in real life?

Yeah.

I took a similar approach in The Bloody North, by having a character consumed with grief to the point where he'd almost stopped living. He just existed – until, that is, his company is slaughtered in front of him and he's left on his own. What ensues is a bloody path of vengeance as Rowan comes to terms with all that he's lost and his quest to destroy the man who took it all away from him. Along the way we get to know some of the world in which The Fallen Crown series takes place.

This just the first small chapter in a truly epic story. If you think The Bloody North sets the stage, well . . . wait till you read Book 2. Boy, oh boy, is it going to blow your socks off.

Next level doesn't cut it.

Thank you, Tony.
Happy Reading!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

To Beta or Not to Beta. . .



That's my question.

I'm not a big user of beta readers when I write. My editor is the toughest critic of my work, next to me, so when I'm soliciting feedback, the most important opinion is his.

That said, if I send out a beta copy of my own work, I'm not usually looking for editing advice; I'm simply asking for a review.

But most of the writers for whom I edit are quite different from me. One doesn't use betas at all. He puts out a "call to arms" on twitter if he needs reviews, so he doesn't always get the same readers. One uses betas solely for review purposes and generally ignores any other suggestions. But one. . .sigh. . .seems to be afraid to make any sort of move without approval from a few excellent beta readers with whom she's worked for several years.

It works for her. She is by far the most successful author I've edited. But at what cost?

The others are so free, creatively. However, she worries herself sick over some of the tiniest little details.

I do that as well sometimes, but that's my job. If a book sucks, many readers these days blame the editor.

Perhaps I'm overthinking as my latest editing project sits in the hands of beta readers.

Writers: I'd love your opinion on this one.

Happy Reading!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Local Flavor or Culture Shock?


Oh my gosh! I'm writing about editing for a second week in a row. I can't explain it. I suppose I just felt the need. Anyhow...

I talk to my clients quite a bit about "vernacular." Basically, what that means is the way locals speak in their day-to-day lives. It's the less formal, regional speech.

As writers and/or editors, we need to be careful of how much local flavor we inject into our stories or we risk alienating readers. Let's face it; if a reader doesn't "get" what a writer is saying, all may be lost.

If you read last week's post, you already know that a writer with whom I work once (okay, maybe more than once) received a review that demanded I be fired for the numerous spelling errors in his book. You also know that the same book was written in the Queen's English, not American English, because the writer is British. Situations like this, I can not, and will not, change. I believe if an author is a Brit, then he should write like a Brit. Besides, the writer in question is fairly successful and becoming more popular. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right?

However, there are times when too much is simply too much. Especially (but not exclusively) with American writers. You see, this nation is so large that regional dialect can be as difficult to understand as when one moves between nations in Europe. Our ears must become accustomed to dialect, and even varying expressions, before we can fully understand our neighbors.

For an over-the-top example of local dialect, try reading Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence. Lawrence, in my opinion as both a reader and an editor, seriously overused the less educated accent in Oliver Mellors speech. I found the dialogue quite difficult to read. So much so that twenty years later, I still hold it out as a bad example. (I'll save Lawrence's misogynistic views for another time.)

We need to be aware that not everyone will understand our own vernacular and that we should inject it into our stories with some restraint. If your story takes place where you've lived your entire life, you will fully understand all of it, right? But think about the visitor to your home.

I'll give you some examples:

  • In New England we call a particular dish "Chinese Pie," but most of the rest of the world calls it "Shepherd's Pie."
  • "Goulash" or "Macaroni and Beef," in most of the country, is "American Chop Suey" where I come from.
  • Order a "Sub/Submarine Sandwich," or a "Hoagie," or a "Grinder," and you'll get the same thing in various parts of the country.
  • Do you know the difference between a "Shake" and a "Frappe"? There is none, except location.
  • And let's go across the pond for a cup of "Rosie Lee," then return to the States for a cup of tea.

Although food choices are the easiest to spot, they do not hold an exclusive, for instance:

  • In Oklahoma City, "Putting your boots on in the street" means you're rushing out of the house or on your way to your destination. In Boston, it means you're homeless.
  • In Pittsburgh, something that "needs fixed" is broken and needs to be fixed.
  • Most of the American South is "fixing to" do something, but the rest of the country is just getting ready to do it.

My point is that local flavor is a beautiful thing, but too much of a good thing will give your readers a belly ache.

Happy Writing!



Sunday, June 15, 2014

I Fired a Client Today


Three times in my career, I have told authors to remove my name from their books. Actually, for those of you who may not "get" that statement, let me back up for a minute...

When an author publishes a book, he or she generally gives a nod to the editor with a short sentence on the copyright page or in the acknowledgments. Some writers will even list the editor on their Amazon page, so they share the byline in a search. For an example of that, click here.

The advantage for me is that good writers read. A lot. The hope is that they will read a book I've edited and seek out my services. The advantage for the writers with whom I work is that some readers actually care about the quality of what they read. A lot. The hope is that those readers will search my name on Amazon and find other writers with whom I've worked. Maybe the members of this small network can help each other.

THAT, my friends, is my motivation for maintaining high standards. I have a reputation for being a tough as nails editor with a singular focus: churning out the highest quality product of which the writer with whom I'm working is capable. My reputation is everything to me. I will not forgive poor quality or laziness.

If a writer hires me, it's generally because they know they will be pushed and challenged to do their best. However, I let them have a very long creative leash.

I will always forgive poor grammar if it means a passage reads better. I encourage using local vernacular in dialogue, but never in narration unless it's a first person POV. Even then, I keep that vernacular to a minimum. Too much flavor is simply too much.

So when a writer refuses to make changes, what do I do? That depends on the project and the writer.

Most changes I suggest are simply that: suggestions. Things like, "that seems a bit out of character for this guy," or, "this is worded awkwardly, can we try..." are really up to the author. I'm simply a practiced eye for what may or may not work.

Grammar, spelling, and punctuation are generally non-negotiable. If ever I'm unsure about a grammatical error in a manuscript, I look it up. I do not stick to one specific style guide, although I do rely heavily on The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White (yes, THAT E.B. White). There's some wiggle room in those areas, but not enough to throw out the book. I'd rather have a good read than one with perfect grammar. An avid reader will call a writer out on poor grammar and spelling errors, but will generally forgive a few "mistakes" if the prose reads well.

(I once had a reviewer insist I be fired because of the plethora of spelling errors in the book he had just read. What the reviewer did not realize is that the author, and the language used in the book, was British.)

I don't normally butt heads with writers over these minor issues. I simply ask that if we are going to use toward, rather than towards, that we are consistent throughout the book, or the series. The strength of my insistence is based on my relationship, my history, with that particular writer.

I have worked extensively with certain authors like Bernard Schaffer and Tony Healey. Their edits these days are pretty much one quick pass that pulls out a few grammatical errors. They are more like proofreads than professional edits because both men have so richly developed their personal styles as writers, and I've watched it happen. I can spot any mistake either of them makes at a thousand yards. That's not to say we don't ever debate over content, but it doesn't happen as much as it does when I'm working with an author who is still green.

My job is to challenge the writer, to help him or her produce the best work possible. I am tough on all of them. And I will not "settle."

So, back to my original statement: Three times in my career, I have told authors to remove my name from their books.

The first was an author who hired me and refused to make any changes at all. The story was crap, underdeveloped, unrealistic, poorly written, and just plain bad. I called for what amounted to about a 90% rewrite. When I sent back the changes, she asked me when I was going to do the editing. Her publisher (a friend of mine who had referred her to me) and I tried to explain that I HAD done the editing.

No amount of back-and-forth could convince her that that was what editing was all about. I thought she expected me to make all of the changes. Turned out she was completely clueless and thought all I would do is proofread. (A freaking computer program can proofread, not as accurately as a human, but still...) I told her to make sure my name was nowhere near her book.

The second was a piece that was very good, but not quite ready. The author rushed to publish and put out what I considered to be sub-standard work. I knew he (we) could do better, but he didn't send the manuscript back to me. On the day I expected to find it in my mailbox, I saw his tweet announcing the release of the project. I sent him an email demanding my name be removed.

We worked it out and he made some additional changes. All is now well between us and he has agreed not to rush through projects just to publish. We now work with a set deadline for each project and if it's done early, great!

The third took place this past week. This author and I passed his manuscript back and forth for three months. During that time, he made minimal changes, and ignored numerous suggestions I made to improve his story. Because I told him his formatting was a mess, he made it plain that he expected me to fix it.

I spent hours researching for him, which is not my job. He had obviously done zero research into his subject matter. I even gave up a few hours of personal time to try to teach him how to edit in Word because he didn't know how.

When he sent me his final document, I emailed him back with (paraphrasing), "If you think this is your final draft, then please remove my name from your manuscript. I refuse to take the blame for its shortcomings."

So why am I airing my dirty laundry here on the blog?

I'm doing it because I feel it's important for newer editors to know that some things can't be fixed and it's okay to walk away from a job when you are feeling taken advantage of, or when it's putting you in a bad position. I'm also doing it so any writers might see the other side of the editing process.

That's not to say we, as editors, should strong arm our clients into doing our bidding, but sometimes there comes a point in any type of relationship when it's time for both parties to go their separate ways.

What are your thoughts on the editing process? Shout them out below.

Happy Editing!