Monday, December 30, 2013

Vintage Monday: Two Kids in Matching Jackets


Flea market find. I picked this photo from a cardboard box full of old photos, simply because the kids' expression and their matching outfits grabbed my attention. There's something both enduring and sad of discarded old photographs. The kids have grown old and died, and there's nobody left to even remember who they were, yet the picture stubbornly remains. A long gone moment trapped in silver.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Thursday (because I lost track of time) Word: Crepuscular & Crepuscule

crepuscular |krəˈpəskyələr|adjectiveof, resembling, or relating to twilight.• Zoology (of an animal) appearing or active in twilight.ORIGIN mid 17th cent.: from Latin crepusculum‘twilight’ -ar .

crepuscule |kriˈpəsˌkyoōl|nounthe period of partial darkness at the beginning or end of the day; twilight.

I acquired this word watching a nature documentary about deer on PBS. Apparently, deer are crepuscular. I also learned that the "deer in the headlight" phenomena has nothing to do with fear. Instead, their brains get so overloaded with information, they simply can't decide what to do.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Wednesday Word: Serendipity

serendipity |ˌserənˈdipitē|nounthe occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way a fortunate stroke of serendipity a series of small serendipities.DERIVATIVESserendipitous |-ˈdipitəs| adjectiveserendipitously adverbORIGIN 1754: coined by Horace Walpole, suggested by The Three Princes of Serendip, the title of a fairy tale in which the heroes “were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of.”


One of the hardest part of doing cover designs using stock photos is to match what's in your and the author's head with what is actually available.

In Josephine Myles' Stuff on of the protagonists is the owner of a vintage clothing store. When designing the cover for it I looked at a bunch of things I could use in the background without making it look too busy and settled on those dress forms. (They're in the book too.) The new cover for the re-release of Tailor Made--also by Jo--was already on my to-do list, but there was no hurry. Then, looking through tons of photos of men, I cam across of the one on the right. Both the body type and the pose made me think of those tailor's dummies and at that moment the idea to superimpose it with tailoring patterns popped into my head. The result is a perfect fit for the book, but I'm not sure I would've came up with it if it wasn't for those dummies.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Vintage Monday: Krampus / Krampusz



In the old country Krampus (Krampusz in Hungary) is St. Nicholas' evil sidekick. The two come around in early December and while St. Nick gives presents to the nice kids, Krampus beats the naughty ones with a switch.


And if they've been very naughty, he stuffs them into his basket and takes them away.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Wednesday Word: Saurian

saurian |ˈsôrēən|adjectiveof or like a lizard.nounany large reptile, esp. a dinosaur or other extinct form.ORIGIN early 19th cent.: from modern Latin Sauria(see Sauria ) + -an .

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Playing with the Tropes


Tropes, archetypes, and other narrative conventions exist for a reason—they give us readers and viewers a familiar framework. I have nothing against them, but when a story follows them to the dot, it becomes stale and predictable. As a writer I love bending the formula. It's fun.

Take Jem from Secrets and Ink for example—he has a touch of TSTL (Too Stupid To Live).  He does things that land him in tight spots, and he really doesn't have to because trouble has a way of finding him without help. At one point of the story Jem's romantic interest, Detective Nick Davies takes Jem to his (Nick's) home for safekeeping. Before leaving for work Nick tells Jem not to open the door for anyone.

Of course, later on someone knocks on said door. Jem peaks through the window and sees a man in blue of some sorts. Maybe the cable guy, or someone from the utility company. In nine stories out of ten Jem would open the door and bad things would happen. But he doesn't because he'd seen the slasher movies and knows opening the door when you'd been told not to, will lead to unpleasantness. Jem's not that TSTL.

***

Secrets and Ink is now live and available in ebook stores near you.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Wednesday Word: Splendiferous

splendiferous |splenˈdifərəs|adjective informal humoroussplendid a splendiferous Sunday dinner.DERIVATIVESsplendiferously adverbsplendiferousness nounORIGIN mid 19th cent.: formed irregularly fromsplendor .

Why say splendid when you can say splendiferous? Right? What a grand, magnificent, sumptuous word! And I could go on with the synonyms.

On a totally unrelated note: less then a week left until the release of Secrets and Ink, and there are a couple of giveaway running to win a free copy. A very bored Mayhem is hosting one at Stumbling over Chaos. The other one at Mrs. Condit Reads Books comes with a review.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Wednesday Word: Sibilant

sibilant |ˈsibələnt|adjective Phonetics(of a speech sound) sounded with a hissing effect, for example s, sh.• making or characterized by a hissing sound hissibilant whisper.noun Phoneticsa sibilant speech sound.DERIVATIVESsibilance nounORIGIN mid 17th cent.: from Latin sibilant-‘hissing,’ from the verb sibilare.

The most fitting illustration of this word I can think of is the scene from the Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets when he talks to the snake.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Vintage Monday: Gobble-gobble



In honor of the upcoming Turkey Day, I decided to share this vintage postcard of mine. These types of cards are among my favorites. They were printed on soft, textured cotton paper. The image is based on a black and white photograph which was then hand-colored. Not every card individually, of course, but the template. It's not my area of expertise but I suspect they used a different printing plate for every color--I count at least eight different colors. The final result is an image that's somewhere between a photograph and a watercolor painting. I like it.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Wednesday Word: Scrumpy


scrumpy |ˈskrʌmpɪ|
noun
(Miscellaneous Technologies / Brewing) a rough dry cider, brewed esp in the West Country
[from scrump, variant of scrimp (in obsolete sense: withered), referring to the apples used]

Sorry, Brits, I love you and your quaint vernacular, but this is just wrong. You're misusing and abusing an absolutely delicious sounding word. I refuse to accept. So here is MY definition of scrumpy:

scrumpy |ˈskrʌmpɪ|
adjective informal
(of food, person, body parts) so firm and delicious you want to sink your teeth in them: Oi, check out the arse of that lad. Ain't it scrumpy?

DERIVATIVES
scrumpily adverb
scrumpiness noun
ORIGIN mid 21th cent.: Lou Harper.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Vintage Monday: Because Your Walls Need Fun


Flea markets are a great source to find the weirdest ephemera. Like this postcard. I mean, is there anyone alive who remembers DecorWall? For a strange reason it didn't take off. I suspect it wasn't nearly as much fun as advertised. The guy in the photo seems more constipated than anything.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Cranky Pants Updates


I'm cranky. I'll admit, this is not an unusual state for me, but lately I've been feeling more crotchety than usual. Partly it's the season—the holidays are coming up and pretty soon I won't be able to buy a pint of milk without being assaulted by cheesy music. Yes, I'm a Grinch. Bite me.

Then there is NaNoWriMo. I know I should be cheering on the brave souls participating in this madness, but when someone posts about the gajillion words they just finished, on one single day, I start seething with petty jealousy. Because I write painfully slow. It's embarrassing. Worst is when someone posts they wrote "only" X number of words, and it's a number twice my daily goal. It's like the skinny chick in the office complaining how fat she is. I'm sure Miss Manners would not approve.

The problem is, I need something to be pumped up about or I sink into a funk—like sharks need to keep swimming to breathe. I'm an excitement shark. Unfortunately, right now I'm in a dead zone. My last release was seems like forever ago and there's still a month till the next one. Okay, a little less than a month.

I'm working on a book and that should make me happy, right? Ha! In an interview with Josh Lanyon Astrid Amara gave this reply when asked what she loved about writing:

"I love the finished product, two months later, when I have a chance to re-read my work and go, ok, that’s what I wanted to read. Before that I hate the whole thing. I hate sitting down and writing. I hate difficult plotting problems. I hate middles. Deadlines stress me and without them I do nothing. And when I’m working on a project every page I read is the worst drivel I’ve ever come across."

Well, that's pretty much how I feel. At least I'm not the only one. I'm surprised and relieved every time I manage to finish a book.

Oh yeah, and I changed my internet to Uverse and now keep loosing connection. Farking AT&T.

A'ight, I'm done kvetching. Back to editing.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Wednesday Word: Funicular

funicular |fyoŏˈnikyələr|adjective(of a railroad, esp. one on a mountainside) operating by cable with ascending and descending carscounterbalanced.of or relating to a rope or its tension.nouna railroad operating in such a way.ORIGIN mid 17th cent. (in the sense [of or like a cord or thread] ): from Latin funiculus (diminutive of funis‘rope’ ) + -ar 1.
It's probably one of those words many people know but rarely have and occasion to use. I simply love this word because of the way it sounds.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Wednesday Word: Plangent

plangent |ˈplanjənt|adjective chiefly poetic/literary(of a sound) loud, reverberating, and often melancholy.DERIVATIVESplangency nounplangently adverbORIGIN early 19th cent.from Latin plangent-‘lamenting,’ from the verb plangere.

I wonder, is a bullfrog's mating call melancholy enough to be called plangent?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Vintage Monday: Topiary


You find the strangest postcards at flea markets. This shrub is supposed to be a teddy bear, but to me it seems more like a rabbit surrendering after holding up a liquor store.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Vintage Monday: Dapper Gentleman with Hot Wheels


I'm down with a cold and can't for the life of me come up with anything witty to say. So just enjoy the eye candy.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Wednesday Word: Conk


conk 1 |kä ng k; kô ng k|verb [ intrans. ( conk out) informal(of a machinebreak down my car conked out.• (of a personfaint or go to sleep Clare London conked out on the bed after a long day at GRL.

I know, I should give a detailed account of the events of Atlanta, but I just don't have the energy. Or, as the Brits would say, I can't be arsed. I'm sure out of the 400 attendees someone can do it a better justice I could.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Power of Letting Go


Do you remember that feeling from school when you raised your hand and waved it madly because you knew the answer but the teacher picked someone else? I don't. I spent most of grade school sitting on my hands and trying to be invisible. But that's another story.

I had an urge to wave my hand and shout Pick me! during one of the panels at the recent GRNW panels. The question was: Do you read review and do they influence your writing? All the authors on the panels basically said they didn't.

I read reviews. Sure occasionally a bad one stings, but I get over it. Some even make me laugh. I went to art school and having my work ripped apart is not a new experience.

Overall, reviews help me gage if I was successful or not getting across what I wanted. And there's something else too. No two people take away the exact same thing from a book. Readers bring with them their own past experiences and their personalities, and those influence how they interpret the story. Reviews give me a glimpse at those different points of view, and it's fascinating.

Occasionally a reader sees something in my story I didn't realize was there. It doesn't make them wrong. I believe the audience is an active participant of the creative process. It's true to all art forms, but especially story telling. Authors would save themselves some headache by giving into this fact. I suspect many author meltdowns have to do with the person not being able to let go of that exact image of their stories they have in their heads. Well, okay, every once in a while a reviewer is so far out there that you start to wonder about their planet of origin, but c'est la vie, right?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Wednesday Word: Plangent

plangent |ˈplanjənt|adjective chiefly poetic/literary(of a sound) loud, reverberating, and often melancholy.DERIVATIVESplangency nounplangently adverbORIGIN early 19th cent.from Latin plangent-‘lamenting,’ from the verb plangere.

Hm. The plangent mating call of the male bullfrog, perhaps?

I plundered this word--along with a few others--from Carl Hiaasen's Stormy Weather.  The story grabbed me and I stayed up till 3 a.m. to finish it. Yet, I don't feel the urge to rush out and buy more of Hiaasen's books. Why is that?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Vintage Monday: Glorious Beard


Because I have thing for facial hair. I think he's wearing a bow tie. It's hard to tell.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Wednesday Word: Woot!


woot

Syllabification: (woot)
Pronunciation: /wo͞ot/

exclamation

informal
  • (especially in electronic communication) used to express elation, enthusiasm, or triumph: I definitely get Fridays off, woot!

Origin:

1990s: origin uncertain


Language is a living, breathing, constantly evolving thing. Dictionaries, on the other hand, are sluggish to catch up. Oxford had added woot to its stable, but others are lagging behind. I doubt you can play it in Scrabble, and it's a word I used all the time, especially in writing.


On a related note: Spirit Sanguine made finalist in the 2013 Rainbow Awards. :) I'm not gonna make a Facebook post about it, because there are a lot of finalists, and FB is already exploding with the announcements.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Swag


GRNW is around the corner and m/m authors around the country are madly ordering personalized bookmarks, pens, lens cleaners, etc. to give away. Lately I've been pondering their practicality. The most useful swag I ever picked up was one of those rubber jar opener thingies—I use it all the time. However, I couldn't tell you at gunpoint the name of the author it was from.

I became convinced that the best giveaway for an author is a story. From now on the only swag I'll do printed booklets of short stories and sample chapters. I mean, they are only good for two things: reading and starting fires. They'll have at least a fifty percent chance to be read, probably more thanks to the prevalence of central heating.

Price wise they are at par with pens and pins. The cost depends on length but I know for fact that I can get a 5,000 word short done well under two bucks, shipping and handling included.

For anyone interested, I get my booklets printed at The Book Patch. Setting up a book there is similar to CreateSpace but simpler. Also, you don't have to put your book up for sales anywhere. Their templates are easy to use. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Wednesday Word: Debridement

debridement |diˈbrēdmənt|noun Medicinethe removal of damaged tissue or foreign objects from a wound.ORIGIN mid 19th cent.: from French, from débrider, literally ‘unbridle,’ based on bride ‘bridle’ (ofGermanic origin).

I learned this word from the back of a hydrogen peroxide bottle. It's another one that doesn't mean what it should. My imagination is conjuring up the disengagement of suitable ladies from hapless young man--something that would happen in a P.G. Wodehouse novel.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wednesday Word: Aslant

aslant |əˈslant|adverbat an angle or in a sloping direction some of the paintings hung aslant.prepositionacross at an angle or in a sloping direction rays of light fell aslant a door.

Such a simple, straightforward word, yet I can't say I've ever used it. This oversight must be remedied.

Monday, September 16, 2013

A Joyful Giveaway


Another chance to win a copy of Dead in the Desert--this time at Joyful Jay's place. There's also a lovely review there. :)


Manic Monday




I spent the (long) weekend in Seattle, at GRNW. Tracy (ttg) did a superb job organizing the event. She has my admiration.

It was a strange and exciting experience to meet people I'd only known online before. I have slightly anxious the whole time, especially before and during my panel appearance, but I managed not make a huge ass of myself, and that's good.

By the time I got home on Sunday night I was exhausted and still recovering. No rest for me though—I have a crap ton of stuff to do.

At the time it sounded like a good idea to time the release of Dead in the Desert with GRNW, but it meant that I was mostly off-line during the release day crazies and now I'm still catching up.

It was great to see glowing review of the book at Reviews by Jessewave and Mrs. Condit & Friends Read Books.  They certainly put my mind at ease. The romance in Dead in the Desert is low-key, and I've wondered/worried if I was slipping out of the genre too much for the readers. All seems well, however.





Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Sinfully Sexy Giveaway


There is a chance to win a copy of Dead in the Desert at Sinfully Sexy Book Reviews.

I was tickled pink to read Monique's review of the book. It was like butter to my soul.

Wednesday Word: Patois

patois |ˈpaˌtwä; ˈpä-|
noun ( pl. same )
the dialect of the common people of a region, differing in various respects from the standard language of the rest of the country the nurse talked to me in a patois that even Italians would have had difficulty in understanding.• the jargon or informal speech used by a particular social group the raunchy patois of inner-city kids.
ORIGIN mid 17th cent.French, literally ‘rough speech,’ perhaps from Old French patoier ‘treat roughly,’ from patte ‘paw.’


"By the way, would you convey my compliments to the purist who reads your proofs and tell him or her that I write in a sort of broken-down patois which is something like the way a Swiss waiter talks, and that when I split an infinitive, God damn it, I split it so it will remain split, and when I interrupt the velvety smoothness of my more or less literate syntax with a few sudden words of barroom vernacular, this is done with the eyes wide open and the mind relaxed and attentive. The method may not be perfect, but it is all I have."

                     - Raymond Chandler

Monday, September 9, 2013

Friday, September 6, 2013

You Don't Have to Shout




The other night I watched Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy on TV for the umpteenth time. I'd seen it on the big screen too, but every time it comes up on the small one I can't resist.

I suspect some people might find this film too sedate, especially for a spy thriller. It's definitely no James Bond—no car chases, explosions, and very little nudity.  I, however, love the subtlety—layers upon delicate layers of backstory and drama. Outwardly the film is about finding the mole at the top of the British secret Service (the "Circus"). But it's really about men who live secret lives and sacrifice everything for the job.


In best British tradition, emotions are suppressed, but they are there, in abundance, churning under the surface. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is full of troubled relationships. The main character George Smiley (played by Gary Oldman) has marriage troubles, his wife, Anne, has left him, again. If you take only his words in consideration you'd think he's unaffected by it, but the depth of his feelings are expressed in nonverbal means. The most telling is probably at the end of the film—she has returned and we see only her back and legs through the kitchen door. Smiley notices her just as we do, and he stops dead for a second and reaches for the balustrade. Interestingly, we never once see her face in the whole movie.


There are other dramas as well. Another agent, Peter Guillam, (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a gay man who has to give up his lover for the job. He watches wordlessly as the other man packs, ask for explanation, then breaks down crying when finally alone. It happens quick and the camera stays in neutral distance. If you blink you might miss it.

And there is the charming and callous Bill Haydon (Colin Firth) and Jim Prideaux, (Mark Strong) the man carrying the torch for him.

Most other movies would shout these things at you, but Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy whispers. And that's why I love it so much.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Wednesday Word: Twaddle

twaddle |ˈtwädl| informalnountrivial or foolish speech or writing; nonsense he dismissed the novel as self-indulgent twaddle.verb [ intrans. archaictalk or write in a trivial or foolish way what is that old fellow twaddling about?DERIVATIVEStwaddler |ˈtwädlər; ˈtwädl-ər| nounORIGIN late 18th cent.: alteration of earlier twattle, of unknown origin.

A lovely, old-fashione word, with plenty of present day potential. I won't rest till I use it in a conversation.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Vintage Monday: Laborers


I think it's fitting post a picture of working men on Labor Day. This photo was a rare find--photography at that time was mainly the province of the middle class. I also find fascinating that someone hated the man standing on the right enough to scratch his eyes out of the photo.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Wednesday Word: Junk


junk 1 |jə ng k|nouninformal old or discarded articles that are considereduseless or of little value.• worthless writing, talk, or ideas I can't write this kind of junk.• Finance junk bonds.informal heroin.the lump of oily fibrous tissue in a sperm whale's head, containing spermaceti.verb [ trans. informaldiscard or abandon unceremoniously sort out what couldbe sold off and junk the rest.ORIGIN late Middle English (denoting an old orinferior rope): of unknown originSense 1 dates fromthe mid 19th cent.junk 2nouna flat-bottomed sailing vessel typical in China and the East Indies, with a prominent stem, a high stern, and lugsails.
ORIGIN mid 16th cent.: from obsolete French juncque orPortuguese junco, from Malayjong, reinforced by Dutch jonk
One little word, so many meanings. And the dictionary doesn't even mention the slang use of this word--you know, like men's junk. One of the protagonists of Junk has a lot junk. Not in the trunk. In his house. He's a hoarder. Although, honestly, can you really have too many books. I guess you can if they are threatening to crush you to death. Someone get the man an ereader, stat!

What I love about Jo's stories is that they are so terribly British. Well, the fact that they are always wonderful, character-driven romances, certainly helps.

There's is this belief circulating in the m/m world that for a book to be successful it has to be set in the US because US readers are too close-minded to read anything set outside of their own world. I find this idea not only insulting to readers, but also plain wrong. The whole point of reading is to step outside of your own world and visit others. Am I right?

Monday, August 26, 2013

Vintage Monday: The Book



I have a few of these types of photos in my collection—man and women, dressed formally, sitting in the garden with a book, looking serious. People in those days tended to present a solemn expression for the camera and all pictures were deliberate and posed, yet these still have a certain candid quality that make them more attractive to me than studio shots.

On a book related note, I spent the whole weekend formatting Dead in the Desert for ebook and print, and the process left me tired and irritable. Despite all my previous experience I made several mistakes that I had to go back and correct.

Formatting for print was the biggest headache. Fortunately, Createspace now accepts .doc and .docx documents for uploads, not just PDF. On Macs when you save a word doc with section breaks into PDF it creates separated files for each section. Bloody annoying. You have to find some software to stitch the parts back together. Alternately, you can replace the section breaks with page breaks, but that messes with the headers and footers—the main benefit of section that you can have different header and footer in each. So you can have page numbers start on page one of chapter one, instead of the title.

Not having to make PDF, simplifies things a little, but Word, being the Spawn of Satan, is still a pain in the ass to work with. For example, your layout will be flipped. Print books start on a right page but a Word document always start on the left. So when setting document margins inside is the outside and vice versa. The same principle applies if you're doing something fancy like putting page numbers, your name, and title at the edge instead of the middle of the page. You most likely to want them to align with the outer edges, and that means that in your word doc they need to look like they are inside.

Anyway, I uploaded the whole damn thing to CreateSpace and they wrote back that my cover is less than 200 dpi resolution, and might look blurry in print. No, it's frakking not. It is 300 dpi. But of course, they said the same damn thing about Dead in L.A.'s cover and it look fine.

Minding your p's and q's has a whole new meaning when it comes to digital publishing.


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Weekend Update



I haven't done any writing the past week, spent it all with editing, housekeeping, promo preparations and getting ready for GRNW. It's still weeks away, but I started packing. I'm the paranoid type of traveler wants to be ready for every eventuality, over packs, and ends up accidentally leaving behind something essential, like a toothbrush.




I bought me a new backpack from IKEA. It's big, but small enough to be a carry-on. I also got colorful plastic bottles for shampoo and stuff.

That should do it, right? On second thought, what'll the weather likely to be in Seattle in early September? Should I pack an umbrella? A raincoat? Wait, I don't own a raincoat.

On other notes, I've received Dead in the Desert Back from proof read and copy edit, and will spend the weekend formatting it. It'll be ready to sent out for reviews on Monday.


I went to the movies yesterday to see The End of the World. The fire alarm went off, a minute after I stepped inside. Having once worked for a company big on fire drills, I just turned around and walked out. Not so much the other patrons, but eventually they were all herded out.

People don't like unexpected stuff, even the threat of fiery death to mess with their routines and expectations. I vaguely recall an article about a London subway fire where people ignored barricades and walked straight into their deaths. The fire chief got into trouble saying that they died because of their own stupidity.

I obey the fire alarm, because whether there's a fire or not the big red trucks will show up and you'll be kicked off the premises anyway. Am I right?