Tuesday, October 31, 2017

History of Halloween

Halloween is celebrated in Canada on October 31. It is a day to mark the single night in the year when, according to old Celtic beliefs, spirits and the dead can cross over into the world of the living. Some people hold parties and children may trick-or-treat in their neighborhood.
Halloween has Celtic origins. In pre-Christian times, many people believed that spirits from the underworld and ghosts of dead people could visit the world of the living on the night of October 31. These spirits could harm the living or take them back to the underworld. To avoid this, people started dressing up as ghosts and spirits if they left their homes on October 31. They hoped that this would confuse the ghosts and spirits.

Halloween was also a time, when spirits might give messages to people. In some areas, it was traditional for unmarried girls to poor molten lead into water. The shape that the lead took when it hardened was seen as a clue to the professions of their future husbands. Halloween traditions were brought to Canada by Irish and Scottish immigrants.

Some people put a lot of effort into decorating their homes, yards and drives. They may even construct life-size replica graveyards or dungeons and invite people from the neighborhood to view their creations or hold a themed party. Other people may organize fancy dress parties for adults or children. Popular activities at parties include watching horror films and trying to make fellow guests jump in fright.

Many children go out to play trick-or-treat. They dress up as ghosts, witches, skeletons or other characters and visit homes in their neighborhood. They ring doorbells and, when someone answers, they call out "trick-or-treat". This means that they hope to receive a gift of candy or other snacks and that they are threatening to play a trick if they do not get anything. Usually, they receive a treat and tricks are rarely carried out.

There are special types of food associated with Halloween. These included candies in packets decorated with symbols of Halloween, toffee apples made by coating real apples with a boiled sugar solution, roasted corn, popcorn and pumpkin pie or bread. After several incidences of dangerous objects in apples and other food, now the treats are usually something purchases and packaged. Halloween beer, which is made by adding pumpkin and spices to the mash before fermenting it, is also available in specialist stores.

Children also take part in a long-standing Canadian tradition of "Trick-or-Treat for Unicef". Pumpkin-carving contests, pumpkin art tours, a reading marathon, and symbolic Walks for Water are just a few examples of the educational and fundraising activities schools and children develop to help provide thousands of children developing countries with basic quality education.

 Do you have any special Halloween traditions? Do you decorate your house?

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Michael D Smith Talks Pets in Writing

This week we’re going to find out a little about author Michael D. Smith. October’s theme is ‘Pets in Writing’ so Michael will be talking about pets. He’ll also tell us a little about himself and his writing, and answer some fun questions.

Michael D. Smith was raised in the Northeast and the Chicago area, before moving to Texas to attend Rice University, where he began developing as a writer and visual artist.  In addition to exhibiting and selling paintings and drawings, he’s completed fifteen novels.
Smith’s writing in both mainstream and science fiction genres uses humor to investigate psychological themes.  On his blog, he explores art and writing processes, and his web site contains further examples of his writing and art. He is currently Technology Librarian for McKinney Public Library in McKinney, Texas.
CommWealth is his first novel published by Class Act Books.

Beverley: Are you a pet person?
Michael: Yes. My wife and I have seven cats.
Beverley: Do you think pets (dogs/cats/birds/ horses/ etc.) belong in books? Why?
Michael: Of course! They’re part of life and their function as spirit guides can definitely be a major force in a novel.
Beverley: Should they be the main characters? Why?
Michael: If that’s the focus of the novel, yes. For myself, animals or pets work best as secondary characters interacting with and amplifying the main human characters. You can tell a lot about a human character by how he or she deals with animals.
Beverley: Should animals in books talk?
Michael:: Probably not! Maybe if they’re talking to each other in an allegory like Animal Farm, but not to people in a semi-realistic novel. Then again, science fiction could certainly produce actual talking animals! Two of my characters in different novels are cats who communicate telepathically, although scientists help one of them make superspace phone calls with a Telepathic Translator that produces speech.
Beverley: Do you include pets in your books? 
Michael: I have several novels in which animals are characters, though not in CommWealth, which didn’t demand pets or animals. I would prefer not to include an actual pet of mine, though; I’d feel more comfortable making up a new one.
Beverley: Any other thoughts on pets, and pets in books?
Michael: There’s a danger of getting cute, especially if you try to put your own pet in the novel.
Beverley: Which genre or genres do you write or prefer to write?
Michael: I write both literary novels and literary science fiction, which I hope is a step up from space opera, although space opera is a fun term for some great experiments out there. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between my literary and science fiction novels; the dystopian aspect of CommWealth is an amalgamation of the two.
Beverley: What prompted you to write in the genre/s you do?
Michael: Science fiction films and print science fiction, absorbed since childhood, prompted my science fiction writing, but also influenced the bizarre aspects that are part of almost all my work, including CommWealth, which after all has no spaceships or teleportation systems, just an outrageously crazed social order and hysterical, over-the-top characters. Probably the Twilight Zone TV show, which produced many terrified, sleepless childhood nights, was a major factor here as well. Asking the question “What if…?” could prompt a science faction or a literary fiction plot depending on what follows the “if.”
Beverley: What genres do you enjoy reading?
Michael: Mainstream fiction, science fiction, literary fiction, and occasional classics to remind myself how well human beings can write. I read nonfiction and biographies and I’m in awe of excellent nonfiction writers who’ve truly mastered their subject. I'm not sure I’d be capable of that depth of research myself. But writing nonfiction doesn’t seem to be my function, though I enjoy reading it and making use of it.
Beverley: I’d love to hear what you think of the present genres, how they’ve been affected by self-publishing and where you think they might be headed.
Michael: Obviously more writers now have access to seeing their novels published as eBook or via print on demand. Without the pressure of being certified by the literati or by attempting to pass the narrow aperture of traditional publishing houses, writers are probably feeling freer to experiment with existing genres or to mash them into new ones. We also now have more time to crank out new novels, and long series of novels, as opposed to spending years sending out futile query letters for the first novel or two we wrote. Of course, at the same time we also may lament the glut of indie novels and self-published works posing obstacles to discovery of our own books, perhaps not understanding that we too are contributing to that glut! But if indie writers are functioning like players on baseball farm teams, true talent may eventually rise to starting positions in the majors. While we have some tools at our disposal for marketing our work, our only real control over our writing fate comes from the quality of our writing; we have to constantly work to make it our best, and to keep pushing to new discoveries, new awareness.
Beverley: How long have you been writing?
Michael: Since I was seven. I began taking it seriously when I was fifteen.
Beverley: Who influenced you the most in deciding to become a writer?
Michael: The earliest writing from the seven-year-old was heavily influenced by Grade B 1950’s science fiction movies. Later inspiration came from Franz Kafka, Robert Heinlein, Stanley Kubrick, my best friend Sabin whom I’ve known since I was five, and three high school writing teachers.
Beverley: What obstacles did you have to overcome to begin creating your work?
Michael: No initial obstacles. The earliest stories started flowing out on their own. A later obstacle as a pre-teen was the thought that some of my writing was dull or imitative, but I always had enough successes to not take that negative thought too seriously. At one point as a teen I wrote horribly dire stories that required constant delving into Roget’s Thesaurus in order to get the most strained wording possible, and it took me several years to accept that my natural sense of humor has a place in my writing.
Beverley: What gets your creative juices flowing?
Michael: A good “what if?” question, for instance, “What if all private property were abolished? How would people live?” Or a detailed dream with a plot that also lends itself to that “What if?” question. Or looking at a flawed older manuscript and realizing I know exactly how to fix it and bring it up to date. Or coming up with an imagined character or plot line that seems to intuitively sum up the past x months or years of my life.
Beverley: What will stop your creative muse the quickest?
Michael: Actually, amid the demands of my day job I’ve more or less trained myself to seize whatever free time is available for writing, and my muse knows this and won’t clam up just because my schedule is odd or hurried that day. If some daily day crisis develops which needs my attention, my muse can accept the postponement, sometimes with a little grumbling, but basically she knows a new writing session will shortly unfold. So she’s never really stymied.
Beverley: What do you have for breakfast?
Michael: Yogurt, protein powder, grapes.
Beverley: What do you wear when you are writing?
Michael: Whatever happens to be on me at the time. No special uniform is required!
Beverley: Where do you do most of your writing?
Michael:  At my desk in my study on my laptop. However, when necessary I can write almost anywhere.
Beverley: Do you have a favorite cartoon character? Why?
Michael: Hmm. This requires some thought. The Siamese cats in Lady and the Tramp?
Beverley: Who would you love most to meet 'in person' and why?
Michael: I never really feel a desire to talk with famous people, or famous dead people. The idea of sitting down to dinner with Gandhi, Lincoln, and 
Michelangelo has never particularly appealed to me; I think I’d be shy and just let the other three chat while I ate in silence. Having said that, as I ponder the question in the course of this interview, what leaps to mind is that of course I’d like to spend a few days chatting with science fiction author Robert Heinlein. Not just a dinner; he would have had to invite me to his house for several days of inspiring writer talk!  (Sometime before 1987, of course.)
Beverley: If you had an unexpected free day what would you do with it?
Michael: Get some extra sleep. Talk at length to my wife. Have an extended writing session without a mandated end time.
Beverley: What are you working on now?
Michael: In order to clear my writing karma of older energies so that I can get some entirely new stuff going, I'm working on finishing three older novels that have been clamoring for rewrites and decisions about eventual publication:
1) Jump Grenade is about a psychopathic but supernaturally gifted fourteen-year-old basketball player who casually wreaks immense terroristic destruction. I did a fast and enjoyable second draft of this novel in May, and while I really love it, I haven’t made a final determination on whether it’s publishable.
2) Akard Drearstone chronicles the rise and fall of a rock group living in a commune north of Austin in the seventies. In the current Draft 12 (I’ve been at work on this for a long time) I’ve left this “historical novel” in the 1975 past so I don’t have to worry about things like smartphones with GPS, which can definitely play havoc with a murder/kidnapping plot.
3) Sortmind is the story of a start-up company’s invention of an app providing all known information telepathically, and the urban riots which ensue in response. Somehow the book also manages to include two sets of aliens with opposing ideas about dealing with this malfunctioning human race, and it also serves as a Bildungsroman for the teen characters who echo my overly-serious teen writer self. Long ago I named my website for this novel. I’m glad that its current Draft 8 has finally ironed out its problems and I can feel confident about seeking its publication.

Blurb for The CommWealth:

The CommWealth system, has created a society in which there is no legal claim to any kind of private property. Any object from your house to the clothes you’re wearing can be demanded by anyone, to be enjoyed for thirty days before someone else can request it. As actors in the Forensic Squad theatrical troupe attempt to adapt to this chaos, their breaking of the Four Rules sustaining the system, as several members navigate betrayals, double agents, and murder to find themselves leading a suicidal revolution.

Buy Links:
Publisher’s website: http://www.classactbooks.com/index.php/component/virtuemart/dystopian/commwealth-6022015-08-14-23-29-50-detail?Itemid=0

You can find Michael at:
Website:  www.sortmind.com,
Blog: www. http://blog.sortmind.com/wordpress/

Don’t forget to check back next week for another author interview and discussion of pets in books. 

Goodreads Tips

I’m late posting. I was trying to find something that might be helpful to you.
Hopefully you can use some of the information.

Set Up an author Page
-  use an appealing photo
- have an interesting bio
- have a link to your website
- Have a link to your blog
- Add interesting bits of information, upcoming activities, favorite authors, etc.

List your books on Listopia  http://www.goodreads.com/list.
- Add more n books than just your and vote for them

Lead a Discussion Group About Your Book
If you can afford it use the Goggle ads. The ads can cost as little as $0.15 per click. (I haven’t tried this yet, but I’m looking at it)

For more information check out http://www.authormedia.com/how-to-promote-books-goodreads/

Do you have any tips to share?

Friday, October 20, 2017

Past, Present or Future Which Are You?

Thank you, Rhobin, for choosing questions for our monthly group blog that are thought provoking. I’ll be interested in seeing what the other authors have to say about these questions. In what time period do you prefer to set your stories – past, present, or future? What are the problems and advantages of that choice? Would you like to change?
I set my stories in the present. The advantage of that is I am familiar with the present. I thought about historical but it would take so much research to learn and be familiar with a specific time frame; the dress, the food, mannerisms, transportation, living accommodations, speech, etc. In the present time I’m familiar with most things and if I need more details about a police activity, or vehicle, whatever, there’s usually someone I can email and talk to. In my Hawkins’ ranch series I had questions about a day in a rancher’s life and specifically about calving season. I posted on line and got about five responses. I guess a problem could be that readers are also informed about the present and can catch you if you make an error. But then a reader of historical is probably informed on that time period. For contemporary, an example was a book where the writer referred to the Empress Hotel in Vancouver, BC. The Empress is in Victoria. It threw me off and I never finished reading the book.

I’ve considered changing. I thought about Steam punk when it came out. And I have considered doing an 18th century romantic suspense but the research for a first book would be overwhelming. And I really like contemporary.
   Off to check out what other members write. Join me.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Pets in Writing with Jeremy Higley

This week we’re going to find out a little about author Jeremy Higley. October’s theme is ‘Pets in Writing’ so Jeremy will be talking about pets. He’ll also tell us a little about himself and his writing, and answer some fun questions.

Jeremy Higley was born in California but now lives in Arizona. As of 2016 he’s a graduate student working on a master’s degree in English. He’s also an instructional aide at a local elementary school, a novelist, and a contributing editor for a nonprofit student success company called LifeBound.

Beverley: Are you a pet person?
Jeremy: You got me. I’m a pet person. One of those toy humans you can carry around in a purse. My owner’s a little sparing with the treats, but still... it’s a good life. No complaints. At least she doesn’t dress me up and take pictures for her Instagram. So unnatural. :-P
Beverley: Do you think pets (dogs/cats/birds/ horses/ etc.) belong in books? Why?
Jeremy: I think anything humans can be made to care about can find a place in human books, but animals aren’t just something humans care about. Animals are an important aspect of what makes us human. We need animals. They hold an irreplaceable role in the story of how humans came to be, and they continue to inform our humanness in ways both striking and subtle. Narrative worlds that don’t include animals tend to be barren and alien, stark and unfriendly. There are certainly stories out there that don’t include animals, but they are the exception. And a very strange exception at that.
Beverley: Should they be the main characters? Why?
Jeremy: They can be, and for more reasons than you can count. Animal characters have been an important part of the storytelling mythos for much longer than literature as we know it has existed. The first cave paintings, which could very well be interpreted as having a narrative aspect, were about animals. Why do we tell stories about animals? A cynical view would hold that we first told stories about them because it allowed us to hunt them better. With stories we could wear the animals as masks, and try to think as they thought. I like to think it was never so cut and dry, however. Animals have always inspired our respect and appreciation. Even as we took advantage of their presence in the environment, we’ve learned to respect the fact that not all animals can be tamed. Not all animals can be our friends. And the stories about the foxes, wolves, spiders, and tigers of the world... those have turned out to be some of our most interesting.
Beverley: Should animals in books talk?
Jeremy: It depends on the book, of course, but I would be disappointed if there were ever a day when people stopped writing stories about talking animals. And that’s not just because I’m a hardcore fan of Brian Jacques, Beatrix Potter, and A. A. Milne. Sure, anthropomorphism is a bit like recreating the world in our own image, but that’s only one of its many uses. It can also offer voices to characters who wouldn’t normally have a voice.
Beverley: Do you include pets in your books? 
Jeremy: Duskain, the continent on which The Son of Dark is set, is just coming out of an economic and cultural dark age. As a result, most of the animals you would truly call pets, in the modern sense, only exist in the houses of the aristocracy. Most of my characters have work animals, such as Zar’s horses and Mynjar’s elephants, who have an important function to serve. They’re both more and less than pets.
Beverley: Any other thoughts on pets, and pets in books?
Jeremy: Speaking of elephants, I made a point of making them the livestock animal in the land of Duskain, because it raised interesting questions for me. The characters acknowledge that there was a time when elephants were intelligent and wild, but generations of domestication and breeding have resulted in a creature that is much more like modern cattle. Cattle, meanwhile, continue to roam free in Duskain and have never been domesticated. They’re much more intelligent than the average cow you’ll encounter now. We don’t always realize it, but the way we humans treat animals has a profound effect on them, not just now, but far into the future. I think the same can be said for the way we treat each other.
Beverley: Which genre or genres do you write or prefer to write?
Jeremy: I’ve mostly written fantasy and space opera. Someday I think it would be fun to write historical fiction, and even some non-fiction. I have this clingy dream to one day write a book called Dating for Weirdos, for those who feel a bit different and even left out when it comes to romance.
Beverley: What prompted you to write in the genre/s you do?
Jeremy: I feel speculative fiction’s popularity is well-earned. It combines the sublimity of the fairy tale with the human interest of drama, leading the novel closer and closer to what epic poetry once was for the ancient. Is that really why I write in these genres, though? No. I write them because they’re fun to read and to write.
Beverley: What genres do you enjoy reading?
Jeremy: Well, fantasy and science fiction and space opera and other such speculative fiction are among my favorites, and they inspire a great deal of my writing. That includes such classics as Ray Bradbury, Robert A. Heinlein, H. G. Wells, Orson Scott Card, T. H. White, Tolkein, J. K. Rowling, and C. S. Lewis, with plenty of Rick Riordan, Brandon Mull, Brandon Sanderson, John Flanagan, David Eddings, and Robert Asprin thrown in the mix. But I also love Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mark Twain, and Percy Bysshe Shelley. An odd mix, I know.
Beverley: I’d love to hear what you think of the present genres, how they’ve been affected by self-publishing and where you think they might be headed.
Jeremy: I’m not convinced we’ve gotten to the point where self-publishing is a threat to publishing. If anything the situation is quite the opposite. As the Information Age grows and the varieties of media proliferate, people need industry gatekeepers more than ever. But who said anything about self-publishing and publishing being at odds? If anything, I think they cater to different audience needs. I go to Netflix for shows with a strong story, but I go to YouTube for variety shows, funny videos, and educational shows. Novels are still, by and large, much easier for a publisher to distribute widely than an author.  Some authors manage to break into the industry on their own, but most do not. It’s so much work that could be devoted to writing. Webcomics and blogs, on the other hand, are almost exclusively self-published. They’re a mostly digital media, and require a very different kind of marketing from a novel.
Beverley: How long have you been writing?
Jeremy: I made my first real attempt at writing a novel when I was fourteen. The story branched out and grew until it was so monstrous and the stakes were so high and the situation was so impossible that I just couldn’t write my way out of it. I’m going to have to revisit that novel, one of these days.

Beverley: Who influenced you the most in deciding to become a writer?
Jeremy: A very determined German lady, who wouldn’t award me my Communications merit badge until I could produce college-level prose.
Beverley: What obstacles did you have to overcome to begin creating your work?
Jeremy: There weren’t any obstacles in the way of beginning. I was first starting to make up stories when I was a toddler, just like most children. Storytelling is a very natural human ability. I think that was the biggest realization I had to make before I could start writing novels seriously, though. I didn’t need to wait for some vision of my best writing self to materialize. I just had to get started. Every author, great or small, has had to start in the exact same place. With a first word.
Beverley: What gets your creative juices flowing?
Jeremy: Disney villain songs. Those are some go-getters, I tell you. Very proactive. Know what they want. We could learn more from them, at least in terms of how to get things done.
Beverley: What will stop your creative muse the quickest?
Jeremy: Tooth pain and social anxiety.
Beverley: What do you have for breakfast?
Jeremy: Cold cereal, an apple, and an episode of Good Mythical Morning.
everley: What do you wear when you are writing?
Jeremy: Pajamas! Oh, I wish. More often than not, just whatever I happen to be wearing when I get some time alone to write.
Beverley: Where do you do most of your writing?
Jeremy: Lately, I’ve been writing at the local college library. There’s lots of silent study spaces, a snack vending machine, and decent wifi.
Beverley: Do you have a favorite cartoon character? Why?
Jeremy: I think Aang, from Avatar: The Last Airbender, is one of the best-written characters in an animated show you’ll ever find. I recommend the series as a powerful example of high fantasy TV at its most accessible and engaging.
Beverley: Who would you love most to meet 'in person' and why?
Jeremy: I don’t have to admit to anything. You can’t make me! You’ve got nothing on me, officer!
Okay, okay. It’s Lindsey Stirling, because I’d like to thank her for how inspiring her music and the story behind her music has been to me and my art, and even my life.
That or Enoch. Don’t ask me why.
Beverley: If you had an unexpected free day what would you do with it?
Jeremy: I’d spend it with people I love. Or characters I love. Or both!
Beverley: What are you working on now?
Jeremy: I’m working on the sequel to my first book. This one is titled: Tales of the Darksome Thorn: Dead Forsworn, and continues the adventures of Skel and his fellow adventurers. A war is brewing. The Irontree Forest is on the move, and the armies of Duskain must be gathered to meet it. Oblivious to all this, Skel’s team has fallen into the clutches of a tribe of rogue golems called the Trin. Greedy and inhuman, the golems prove to be a force too great for even Nynsa to deal with. Each team member will have to grow and adapt if they ever hope to reach the shores of Craun and break Marga’s curse.

Blurb for The Son of Dark (Book 1, The Darksome Thorn):

A thousand years ago, the wizards of the Nynsa  failed to follow the prophecy of the Darksome Thorn, and now the greatest evil of their time has survived into the next age. 
Now, the Darksome Thorn has revealed a new prophecy, and the very evil they failed to kill is working to use that prophecy to his advantage. Forces of evil run rampant in the land of Duskain. Ancient powers are stirring. A greater darkness is imminent...
...and Skel, the foster son of an elephant herder, finds himself caught in the middle of everything. Will Skel's newly developing powers be a help or a hindrance...

Buy Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Kindle-eBooks/b?ie=UTF8&node=154606011
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Son-Dark-Darksome-Thorn-Book-ebook/dp/B01IG983XC/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=U
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/650660

You can find Jeremy at:
Website: www.darksomethorn.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jeremy.higley.3?fref=ts
LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeremy-higley-93b0b418
Google+: https://plus.google.com/100303315189666735431

YoutubeTrailer Link: https://youtu.be/svt6n7Rv2Lw

Don’t forget to check back next week for another author interview and discussion of pets in books.https://www.youtube.com/embed/svt6n7Rv2Lw

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Writing Prompts

Do you use any?

I’m not sure it’s a prompt, but they say you should write every day. I try, but don’t always make it. When I really has trouble writing I made myself write for ten minutes.  Then when that became a habit again I increased it to fifteen minutes and found that I was writing a lot more.
Other people start a new scene and write a line or two so they can pick it up from there the next day.
But there are also prompts that sound interesting. Good reads published first line/s for horror week. I’ve heard of this one. You’re given a few lines and writes a short story or a few paragraphs. I haven’t tried it yet, but the Halloween ones sound like fun.
Daily Writing Tips https://www.dailywritingtips.com/writing-prompts-101 says writing prompt is simply a topic around which you start jotting down ideas. The prompt could be a single word, a short phrase, a complete paragraph or even a picture, with the idea being to give you something to focus upon as you write. You can check their website for more info and other references.
Here are some of their writing tips.
  • He hadn’t seen her since the day they left High School.
  • The city burned, fire lighting up the night sky.
  • Silk.
  • She studied her face in the mirror.
  • The smell of freshly-cut grass.
  • They came back every year to lay flowers at the spot.
  • The streets were deserted. Where was everyone? Where had they all gone?
  • This time her boss had gone too far.
  • Red eyes.
  • Stars blazed in the night sky.
  • He woke to birdsong.
  • ‘Shh! Hear that?’ ‘I didn’t hear anything.’
  • He’d always hated speaking in public.
  • She woke, shivering, in the dark of the night.
  • The garden was overgrown now.
  • He’d never noticed a door there before.
  • She’d have to hitch a ride home.
  • ‘I told him not to come back too!’
  • His feet were already numb. He should have listened.
  • I'd love to hear if you use writing prompts. and maybe some you use.