Category Archives: writing

A Little Christmas Cheer

Here are a couple of short Christmas tales:

mtnsAfter Christmas Blues

Even with a full day to deliver presents, Santa doesn’t finish on time. He gets home late on Christmas Day, and he’s so exhausted he’s in bed for a week.

“It’s outrageous,” Donner snorts when Mrs Claus asks for help. “We need a new plan.”

“Oh, it’s not so bad,” Rudolph murmurs. “After all, it’s only once a year.” His nose flashes a couple of times.

Donner tosses his antlers. “Just wait until you’re my age. That sleigh gets heavier every year, and when I get back I’m too stiff to fly for at least a month.”

“Well, what do you suggest?” Vixen pipes up. “We’re already limiting our deliveries to good children between five and ten who celebrate Christmas.” She tosses her antlers and smiles.

“Yes,” Blixen adds, “and we’ve got a stack of complaints from the parents of the under-fives.”

“There’s that new North Pole Federal Express office,” Prancer offers, shifting from hoof to hoof. “We could offload the excess, just leave enough so Santa doesn’t feel useless.”

The reindeer all nod.

And that, boys and girls, is why most Christmas gifts come in the mail.

 A Case of the Flue

“Santa has a fever. Mrs. Claus put him to bed.”  Rudolph pawed the snowy ground. “Who will drive the sleigh?”

“No one,” Blixen said. “We’ll send everything by Federal Express.”

“Belief in Santa is at an all-time low. If we send everything by mail, no one will believe.” Rudolph tossed his antlers, almost skewering Blixen.

“And Santa will feel useless and become depressed.” Blixen led the way into the barn.

“Ready to get hitched?” one of the elves asked. Without waiting for an answer, he began harnessing the reindeer.

Blixen  said, “Rudolph is in the lead. He could grab the gifts by the ribbons and drop them down the chimneys.”

“But what if the children spot the Santa-less sleigh? Then no one will ever believe again.”

“We should go. It’s our best chance to save Christmas.” Blixen stamped his hoof and turned to the elf. “Freddie, go tell Mrs. Claus to tell Santa not to worry, we’re on top of the delivery crisis.”

“Better hope everyone’s cleaned their chimney,” Blixen muttered as they rose into the air.

The rest of the reindeer snickered.

And so, boys and girls, don’t feel too bad if you got a lump or two of coal this year.
And now for a couple of poems …

Round
The sphere
is the perfect
shape

for conserving heat,
providing the least
surface area
per unit
of volume,

thus explaining
why Santa

lives at
the North Pole.

What Happens Christmas Night

I’ve noticed that Saint Nick’s a bit
too big around for him to fit
inside our chimney, Christmas night
the struggle must be quite a sight.

Perhaps he oils his nice red suit
all over so that he can shoot
right down the chimney. Then you’ll see
he’ll cut his hand and sprain his knee.

I guess that all those aches and pains
will hurt so much that he’ll complain
that getting down was such a chore
he’s going to leave us by the door!

 

 

 

 

For Oct 22: A Book by Any Other Title

RoundRobinBlogTour

One of the first things any reader knows about a book is the title — and the author and the cover image, but for now let’s stick to the title. We all want a catchy title for our books, one that will stop a potential reader in their tracks and make them open it up (or click on it) to discover what it’s really about. And we all want a title that’s going to pop up when readers are searching on Amazon for books in our genre.

So, when I go to my local library or bookstore and search for something to read, I start by browsing through the shelf of new books, checking out the titles and, if it looks interesting, plucking it off the shelf, opening it up, and reading the blurb. Then maybe I’ll check out the first couple of pages.

I’m staring at my latest collection of library books, one of which is “Little Beach Street Bakery,” a book I chose in just such a manner. It sounds satisfying — not disturbing, not likely to give me nightmares, which is what I was in the mood for at the time.

So, hmm — what attracts me to a title depends on my mood, and therefore what I want in a book at the time: romance, mystery, adventure, horror, or whatever.

I wish I could say that I have a wonderful method for choosing titles for my books, but I don’t. Sometimes they just come to me, and sometimes I have to work at it.

The title of  Relocated,   just came to me. It’s about a teenage boy who ends up on an alien planet when his father is sent there to help root out some terrorists.  The title of Geek Games   and Broken Bonds took more work, as did my latest novel, Rob’s Rebellion. Its working title was “Rob’s Book,” after the main character, Colonel Robert Walker, a colonel in the Terran Federation Guard who is posted to the alien planet Aleyne with orders to arrest the current, very popular, commander of the military base there on charges of treason. I eventually ended up soliciting suggestions from my reading group.

What attracts you to a particular title? Leave a comment and let us know, and do check out the thoughts of my fellow posters:

“Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
A.J. Maguire  http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Victoria Chatham http://victoriachatham.blogspot.ca
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com
Heather Haven http://heatherhavenstories.com/blog/
Dr. Bob Rich  http://wp.me/p3Xihq-MI
Connie Vines http://connievines.blogspot.com/
Margaret Fieland https://margaretfieland.wordpress.com
Rachael Kosinski http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com/
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

September Round Robin: Strange writing practices

rndrbnlogo

This month’s theme ism what writing practices do you have that you think are eccentric or at least never mentioned but you find helpful?

Of course, I firmly believe that all my writing practices are entirely normal, natural, and average {grin}.

Hmmm

Well, maybe there are one or two things.

I never listen to music when I write, which I gather is somewhat unusual. I’m a fairly serious amateur musician — I play the flute and the piccolo — and in addition,  I’m very auditory. When I turn on the music, I listen to it to the exclusion of anything else. I do, however, find myself whistling (no particular song) when I’m concentrating. I also talk to myself. This morning my spouse asked me if I found my responses enlightening. I answered yes.

I’m a native New Yorker, born and raised in Manhattan. My mother was very fond of classical music. She and her friends had subscriptions to the New York Philharmonic, and when one of the group couldn’t make it, she would sometimes take me.  I would try to pick out the voices of the individual instruments from the sound of the orchestra as I listened to the music. I got pretty good at it, too. But it did leave me unable to ignore most music when it’s playing.

Another habit of mine that may be unusual is that I put *** FIXME **  with a comment into the text of whatever I’m working on whenever there’s something that I need to come back to. This makes it easy to search for whatever it was that I wanted to deal with later.

** NERD ALERT ** I earn my living as a computer software engineer, and I picked up this particular habit from some open source software that I was porting to a proprietary operating system. The debugging information involved a then-new scheme, and the code (not all of which would work with our software in any case) was peppered with the original coder’s comments, prefaced with — you guessed it — FIXME.

The other thing I’d like to mention is something *everyone* should be doing: backing up your work. I keep copies  of my work in a cloud — I use Google drive — which not only backs it up, but also makes it accessible on any computer. This has saved my ass more than once, most especially the time where my now happily former computer suffered a head crash. The computer wouldn’t boot up, and I was forced to restore the original copy of the OS, minus all the software I’d installed and, most importantly, any documents I’d saved on my computer.

 

Check out the posts of my fellow bloggers:
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
A.J. Maguire  http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Dr. Bob Rich https://bobrich18.wordpress.com/2016/09/24/is-my-writing-right-for-you
Rachael Kosinski http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com/
Anne Stenhouse  http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
Connie Vines http://connievines.blogspot.com/
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com
Victoria Chatham http://victoriachatham.blogspot.ca
Margaret Fieland https://margaretfieland.wordpress.com
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

 

Writers To Do list for the new year

rndrbnlogo This month’s topic is what one (or two) projects do you hope to accomplish, and what will stand in your way?

Gosh, a confession — I have more than two things I want to accomplish, and thereby hangs a good deal of my problem: too much to do and too little time to do it.

I have a day job, so I do my writing in the evening and on weekends, but you’d never know it from my project list.

First: I’m part way through revising another science fiction novel, one that would be a prequel to my Novels of Aleyne science fiction series — the fourth novel in the series, “Rob’s Rebellion,” came out at the end of December. I keep getting side tracked (read on for at least some of the reasons why). But I’d really like to get this novel revised and submitted this year.

I also have a fantasy novel I set aside about a year ago that has about a quarter of the first draft written. This would be my first fantasy novel, and I’m excited about it. However, it keeps falling to the bottom of my to-do list.

I’m one of six authors of a poetry anthology that is out of print because we didn’t renew our contract with the publisher. We want to republish the print version and then put out an ebook. I’m on the line to do the formatting. I started, but I’m not done. Oh, yes, and a couple of us are contemplating putting together another anthology.

Why? Well, I also work as an editor for a small print house, and I’m editor for a wonderful Young Adult novel. This, at the moment, is at the top of my list. I owe my author the next round of edits (mostly typos, with a few questions — the manuscript is really in great shape), but if I find an error in a chapter, then I have to go back over it again until I read it without finding any errors. I’ve discovered that this is the only way for me to find all (or most) of the errors.

So this weekend I’ll be working on the edit (I’m up to chapter 27), trying to promote my latest sci fi novel, and work on the formatting of the poetry book.

Anyone want to sign my petition in favor of 36-hour days?

Check out the posts of my fellow bloggers:
Victoria Chatham http://victoriachatham.blogspot.ca
Margaret Fieland http://www.margaretfieland.com/blog1/
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Connie Vines http://connievines.blogspot.com/
Bob Rich  http://wp.me/p3Xihq-Bm
Rachael Kosinski http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com/
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Kay Sisk http://kaysisk.blogspot.com
Anne Stenhouse  http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
Hollie Glover http://www.hollieglover.co.uk
Helena Fairfax  http://helenafairfax.com/
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com/

Meet P J MacLayne

pjmaclayneTell us something about your yourself? I’m a computer geek by day and a writer by night. I never expected to write a shifter book, let alone a series, but here I am. I guess it’s okay to listen to the voices in my head.

Tell us something about your new book? I fell in love with my main character, Tasha Roeper, as I was writing this book. She’s a strong woman, and willing to set aside her needs and desires to help others. She’s devoted to her friends and loyal to her packmates. I was so glad I was able to write her a happy ending.

You have a new book out, the second in The Free Wolve’s series. How did you come to write the series? I didn’t plan for it to be a series. I thought the first book, Wolves’ Pawn, would be a stand-alone. But one of the characters from that book, Tasha, kept bugging me to tell her story and Wolves’ Knight is the result. I’ve already got ideas for a novelette and a third book as soon as I have time to write them!

Shape shifters appear to be very popular right now. What makes yours different from everyone else’s? The Fairwood pack, a pack of wolf shifters, runs a software company, based out of a business office in the middle of a privately owned Victorian-era village. And the Free Wolves, a loose collective of a variety of shifters, despite the name, are run more like a commune. Yet somehow they manage to get along with each other.

What is your writing process? I usually have a beginning of a story and the end. Everything that happens in between I discover along the way. My characters frequently surprise me as I tell their stories.

What do you find most difficult as a writer? Finding my mistakes when I’m editing. It’s so hard to see what I’ve messed up since I’m so close to the story. Thank heavens for good beta readers who identify plot holes inconsistencies.

How would you describe your writing style? I say I write action with a touch of romance, rather than pure romance. My books are story-driven vs character driven. Although the characters are telling me their stories, sometimes it feels as if they are just along for the ride.

What and who are your greatest influences as a writer? Since I started writing, I’ve run into so many talented authors I almost hate to call any of them out. But I would like to mention Jesse V. Coffey. Before I made the switch from poetry to novels, I read some old stories of hers on-line, and it sparked a creative bug in me that hasn’t gone away yet.

Who are some of your favorite authors in your genre? Melissa Snark is doing some great writing in the shifter genre. And I’m a big fan of L.J. Charles with her “Touch ” series and of Jenna Bennett and her Savannah Martin mystery series.

What do you want readers to take away from your book? There’s always hope. No matter how bad a situation seems, don’t give up and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Even when things are going badly, there are people who are willing to work to make it better.

What are you working on now? I’m working on the third book in another series, The Oak Grove Mysteries. My main character, Harmony Duprie, can’t seem to stay out of trouble. I have fun getting her out of the situations she gets herself into. There are no shifters in those books, although I write subtle references to the shifter books in them. (Unnoticed by most readers, I suspect.)

Any last words? Thanks for hosting me today. I appreciate the opportunity to introduce myself to your readers.

Book Blurb for Wolves’ KnightCover_Wolves_knight

Tasha Roeper knows what it means to protect your own. So when her friend, Dot Lapahie, CEO of Lapahie Enterprises, suspects that the Free Wolves are under attack, Tasha immediately signs on to lead the investigation and guard Dot.

But Tasha’s not convinced it’s the Free Wolves that are the target. She fears that her own pack—the Fairwood Pack—are the actual quarry and Dot is only a decoy.

The deeper Tasha digs, the more puzzles she uncovers.

Torn between tradition and a changing world, will Tasha risk everything to save a friend—including her own life—when old enemies arise?

Excerpt

She lay on the ground, wiggled her belly a few times to work away the pebbles under it, and put her nose between her forepaws. Even close up, with her eyes open only a crack, an unwary observer might think she slept. From the distance, she might look like a large rock.

It was a technique she’d learned to snag game. Find a spot along a trail, settle in and slow her breathing, wait, pounce when an unsuspecting animal happened by. She could stay in the same position for hours if need be. But the game she hunted tonight wasn’t meant to end up as her supper, and she didn’t have hours to wait.

The wind picked up and a gust almost covered the sound. Tasha’s ears pricked forward at the shuffle of footsteps. A figure inched along the side of the building, stopping at a window. Tasha tightened her muscles, but didn’t move.

Then he went on. Tasha was positive it was a male although the wind blew the wrong direction for her to catch his scent. Not even her tail twitched as he stopped at another window. Her ears caught the sound of him tapping on the glass. He moved again.

The third window sat in a pool of darkness. But Tasha’s eyes watched as he raised the window. He grasped the window frame and started to lift himself inside.

And Tasha exploded into a snarling mass of muscle and fangs.

Buy links

http://www.amazon.com/Wolves-Knight-Free-Book-ebook/dp/B0199BC6YI/

https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/wolves-knight

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/wolves-knight-pj-maclayne/1123127673

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1066865102

Angels, Devils, and Spirits

rndrbnlogoDo you believe in angels, spirits, ghosts, demons or other ethereal beings or locations? What do you think when they appear in stories? Have you used them in your own stories.

I believe in spirits, and I’m open-minded about ghosts, angels, demons, and any other spirit-like being you might care to name. I’ve used spirits in my science fiction series, Novels of Aleyne, in that the characters pray to them and refer to them and state their beliefs. However, the spirits — as opposed to the characters and their belief in same — don’t appear.

I’m not big on having the actual spirits appear in the novel. I find it off-putting. Part of this may be my own religious background; my family of origin was Jewish. Neither angels nor devils were a part of my religious up-bringing. I’ve enjoyed stories with shape-shifters, but I’m generally less thrilled with vampires, and this in spite of enjoying Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Brown novels and Laurell K. Hamilton’s books.

I  read and enjoyed Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series (the first one), but I don’t recall a lot of page time devoted to the Gods themselves.

Here is an excerpt from “Broken Bonds,” which illustrates my point about the beliefs as opposed to the actual spirits appearing in my work. Brad, my main character, went to pray to the spirits for guidance and has gone to a friend, Noki, for help interpreting the dream they sent him.

Brad glanced up to find Noki’s gaze trained on him.

“The spirits sent me a dream, also, and my vision showed you and Ardaval
swear rolor.”

Brad shook his head.

Noki continued, “Brad, he needs you.”

“He needs Imarin and Nidrani, if what you say is true.”

Noki placed a hand on Brad’s arm. “The spirits move in their own time. The
mending, I believe, is yours if you’re willing.”

“I don’t understand; but then, I suppose it’s not necessary I do.” Brad sighed
and stood. The spirits set him a task, and he’d take it on. He couldn’t put words to
the depth of his love for Ardaval. A rare, precious gift, received when he’d almost
lost hope, but doubtless Noki, at least, would appreciate it. The spirits offered him
this chance, and he’d seize it with both hands. “I’d move a moon for him if he
wanted one. I’ll walk the path set before me.”

Brad nodded to her. Mazos and Amiz and turned and walked away. Behind
him, he heard Noki’s voice:

“Even if the stones on the path cut the soles of your feet.”
* *

Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
Margaret Fieland  http://www.margaretfieland.com/blog1/
Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
Beverley Bateman  http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
A.J. Maguire  http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Heather Haven  http://www.heatherhavenstories.com
Bob Rich   http://wp.me/p3Xihq-wU
Anne Stenhouse  http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
Helena Fairfax  http://helenafairfax.com/
Hollie Glover  http://www.hollieglover.co.uk
Rachael Kosinski  http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com/
Connie Vines  http://connievines.blogspot.com/
Skye Taylor   http://www.Skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Rhobin Courtright  http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com/

September Round Robin: Current Events

AleyneDesert1This month’s topic is what current issues are important to you. How often do modern social/global issues take place in your stories no matter what era or generation you write?

I write poetry, science  fiction, and fantasy. Nevertheless, politics, political maneuvering, the law and how it plays out in real life,  discrimination in any form are all issues that are important to me and that appear in my books. My imagined future society is still plagued by the same kind of political chicanery we see today, and they appear frequently in my stories. So does discrimination and clash of values, in my case a clash between my alien society of Aleyne and the Aleynis on one hand and the Terrans and othe Terran Federation on the other.

When I wrote my first science fiction novel which I stared in November of 2009, t my middle son was in the army, stationed  in Afghanistan. Not too surprisingly, my alien planet had a desert climate, and the main character’s father was posted to the Terran Federation Guard base there at the startr of the story. Terrorism and a terrorist plot play a big part in the story, but in this case the aliens are the good guys and the Federation, in general, is cast in the role of antagonist.

When I wrote Broken Bonds I ended up making the main character’s trial for treason a centerpiece of the story, and thus legal maneuvering came theo the fore. My father was an attorney, my mother served on the Grand Jury, and I had served as a juror myself, so I was relatively familiar with trials, but I still sended up doing a lot of research into exactly how a criminal trial proceeds and various other aspects of the courts that I wanted to carry forward into my novel in a believable manner. I ended up creating an Interstellar Court, loosely modeled after the International court, as well as the court system of the Federation where the trial of my main character ends up taking place.r

Economics and exploitation of workers is another area that interests me. In Geek Games the main character, a teen age boy, ends up on a tri-p to the asteroids where he observes first-hand the plight of miners who are virtually enslaved by the Federation, which controls all economic activity, including what the miners are able to buy in the way of goods and technology.  Writing all this as sci fi allows me to play out these themes with a freedom that I wouldn’t have if I were writing a contemporary or historical novel.

Check out the posts of my fellow bloggers:

 

Skye Taylor  http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
A.J. Maguire  http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Beverley Bateman  http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Margaret Fieland  http://www.margaretfieland.com/blog1/
Marci Baun  http://marcibaun.com/blog/
Victoria Chatham  http://victoriachatham.webs.com/
Connie Vines  http://connievines.blogspot.com/
Bob Rich  http://wp.me/p3Xihq-vQ
Rachael Kosinski  http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com/
Helena Fairfax  http://helenafairfax.com/
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Rhobin Courtright  http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com/