Thursday, March 28, 2013

That Illuminating Big Word...

Illustration by: thanunkorn/
Does anybody remember when they actually learned to read...? That pivotal moment when  the world of books opened up to the magical realms of endless pages?

Maybe I'm lucky, but I remember that exact moment. It changed my young life.

I was in grade one, and I had a fantastic teacher named Miss Nora MacNeil. She was a dedicated woman, so loving and encouraging--a stellar example of professionalism and sweetness. I loved her dearly and still wonder to this day how she is.

I did really well in her class, especially in phonics. The fundamentals came naturally to me, and she never failed to gently push my limits.

We started with Mr. Mugs, remember him? The cute cartoon sheepdog? He was right up there with 'See Spot Run', and I went through that series quickly. So she challenged me.

She gave me a new series...something to do with a girl and her horse. (My publisher's company is named after a horse. Sign of things to come?) I don't remember the name of the girl, the horse or any of the books.

I remember THE WORD.

My mother sat with me, night after night, coaxing me to sound out the vowels and syllables. Most of them were reasonably easy. I just sounded them out.

Then came a word I'd never seen before. It was the longest one I'd ever tried to read. I was intimidated, but determined. After all, I liked reading, and I wanted to be good at it. Not just for me, but for my family and Miss MacNeil.

"Use your phonics," my mother said. "You can do it." There were two syllables, but three phonetic compounds to concentrate on. The first two I didn't have much trouble with--I knew what they meant and what they sounded like. The third one...trickier, but I knew it was supposed to say it almost  like 'Yite' when I read it...


My mother's reaction was explosive. "Way to gooooo!" She squeezed me hard and gave me a smacking kiss on the top of my head. She was incredulous. "That's a big word for a five year old!"

I giggled, but my eyes were transfixed. All the words ceased to be a bunch of vowel sounds and syllables. I understood them ALL. They were real! And I could really READ! I couldn't wait to tell Miss MacNeil!

The good news is, at the end of the year, I got an award and a gift for reading more books than the rest of the class. I got a homemade card from my beautiful teacher and a record/book called "The Tawny Scrawny Lion."  It would signal when to turn the page by the lion saying "Rrrrowr!"

The bad news is, I took to reading the ingredient lists on my morning cereal to become a better reader. My mistake. My proud mother decided that if I couldn't pronounce it, my sister and I shouldn't be eating it. Goodbye Frosted Flakes, hello Puffed Wheat. Oh, well...

Does anyone else have a story like this? I can't be the only one. If so I'd love to see it in the comments below!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Just 100 words...

Ever get that awful feeling? That you just don't WANT to write? There, I said it, and it was a hard thing to admit. I think it happens to us all at least once, no matter what your occupation. Some days you just don't want to work. Yeah...that.

Winter doesn't agree with me. It makes me want to hide and avoid everyone and everything I love...including my work.

So here's where I tell you about June Faver. She's a writer from Texas. A BUSY writer. She's got a few novels out there now, and do you know why? Because she has a 100 word a day rule. In fact, if you view her Facebook page, she's on day 1293. That means writing 100 words  day...whether you feel like it or not.

I don't remember who said it, but someone quipped that "You can always fix a bad page, but not a blank one." So true.

So I've been adopting that practice.

It doesn't feel like a writer's block. I know what I need to say, but I need to get out of bed, wash walls, do laundry and dishes, market both 'Thoeba' and the upcoming 'Aphrodite's War', answer my e-mail, feed my cats and troll, create new bookmarks, make time for friends and family. Don't forget my role as a paranormal investigator and client care consultant ,  yada, yada. Sometimes it just feels like I don't have the time and I can't seem to get started.

This isn't the last time I heard the 100 word rule, and I'm sure it won't be the last. Because it works.

Imagine your tired, non-enthusiastic self sitting at your computer. Just sitting there. Don't stress out! It's only 100 can always fix it later. Just let go, and do it. Start a sentence. Then another one. Do you know what happens? Sometimes you only write one or two hundred words. Sometimes you find your way back.

Isn't it true that everyone has a bad day in their career? Isn't it true that we all get the occasional 'blahs'? We are in a unique position as writers. WE can change things up. WE are the boss.

I wrote 800 words yesterday, and I'm on my way back. How are you doing?

Photo by: Stuart Miles

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Aphrodite's War Excerpt

So this is the new cover for my next novel, Aphrodite's War. It's already been leaked, but that's okay, we've pretty much decided that this is definitely it, so I may as well share it with everyone. I've realized that the book comes out in about four months anyway, so maybe I should get cracking and generate interest now. So I thought an excerpt is in order. So without further it is. A small bite of Aphrodite's War. Enjoy! 

     “Enough, both of you,” he said, his voice roaring like a lion. “You need to cease this constant nattering at each other.” Zeus ran his hand down his rich chestnut beard, stroking the curls.
     Aphrodite gauged his temperament. Zeus’ anger simmered. True, she and Ares had been at each other’s throats for a few decades, but the confidence she once admired had become smarmy arrogance. She considered it her duty to remind him of his inadequacies. Otherwise Ares would be insufferable.
     Zeus pinched the bridge of his nose. “A noble idea, Aphrodite,” he said. “But it is unpleasant to listen to. Everyone here…” He motioned behind him with a heavily muscled arm. “…is sick to the teeth of the noise.”
     Several murmurs of agreement filled the room, rustling the trellised ivy.
     “She started it,” Ares said. He blushed, seeming to realize how childish he sounded. His gaze dropped to the floor. “She goads me to occupy her time.”
     Aphrodite opened her mouth to protest. Closed it again. She must admit, the endless tedium of her existence caused her moodiness. And Ares provided a convenient target for her frustration. She came to this dimension because of him, and for that he should suffer.
     Zeus’ stormy blue eyes flashed. Lightning blinked over the throng and thunder shook the ground. The smell of ozone wafted to Aphrodite’s nose. “It must stop.”
     His shoulders rose then fell with the weight of decision. “One of you will leave Olympus.”
     “What?” Ares said.
     “Are you mad?” Aphrodite asked. “This is my home.”
     Ares sneered at her. “Mine as well.”
     “Nevertheless, one of you has to go. Our sanctuary must have quiet,” Zeus stepped away from the quarrel to face the assembly. “Ideas, anyone?”
     Voices rose in pitch as the other gods, nymphs and pet mortals weighed in. One opinion rang out over the din of the mob.
     “A contest!” The voice belonged to Artemis. Aphrodite’s heart sank. Leave it to the huntress to suggest such a concept. “Winner stays on Olympus, loser departs.”
     A wicked grin spread over Ares face. He liked to compete. Aphrodite used to find that desirable. Now it was to her disadvantage.
      “But what kind of contest?” Zeus asked.
      “I believe that one is obvious,” The slurred statement came from Dionysus as he made his crooked way forward. Judging from the alcohol and vomit stench of his last belch, Dionysus and his worshippers started devotionals early.
     “She is the goddess of love,” The god of wine and ecstasy spilled dribbles on his violet robes, the floor, and his entourage as he gestured. “Let her do what she does best. She always goes on about how love is the strongest force on Earth.”
     “And he always tells her love leads to hate,” Artemis said, her silver eyes dull with apathy. “That it is easier for humans to fight than to choose friendship, affection or goodwill.” 
     Several gods and goddesses nodded and applauded. They all remembered the fights between Ares and Aphrodite over the years. The topic remained the same.
     Zeus pursed his lips. Aphrodite noted by the way he fingered the twists in his facial hair that he liked the idea. As did she. Aphrodite never doubted herself, not with love. Ares could do whatever he wanted. She never failed. She could almost taste the sweet victory like honey on her tongue.
     “I accept the challenge,” she said. Ares eyebrows lifted high, lending him a comical vulnerability. “I anticipate having something new to do for a change.”
     And she would defeat him. She pictured herself roaming the lush gardens of Olympus, dancing between the vine-covered marble monoliths…without the lewd and brash presence of the war god tainting its loveliness.
     She studied the sharp angles of his handsome visage before staring Ares in his dark raven eyes. She wanted to remember this precise moment. Soon he would be gone. She may never have to see him again. “You can do your worst.”
     Ares’ grin spread like a scourge across his face. “I will. I also accept.”
     “Then it is settled.” Zeus rubbed his hands together. A static charge of blue light shimmered between his fingers. “We need to establish ground rules,” he said. “Everyone, be seated.”
     Ares went back to his throne, and Aphrodite reluctantly sat in hers. She appreciated the splendor of the mother-of-pearl and sea shell inlays on her chair, but it was placed next to him. That meant enduring a whiff of his rank musk whenever breezes blew north.
     Sure enough, once settled, Ares exuded the odor of sweat and alcohol. Aphrodite stopped stroking the scallop shells of her armrests and brought her hand to her mouth and nose.
     First thing I shall do when he leaves is scour all traces of him from that spot.
     Ares put both hands behind his head and smirked. Aphrodite refused to react to the overwhelming smell. Why encourage him?
     “We need a location.” Zeus waved a hand, and a map of Earth appeared in the center of the room hanging like a translucent tapestry. “The duel will take place in the New World.”
     The visual focused on the landscape of North America, with lush fields of wheat, corn and canola.  Flat plains gave way to craggy mountains. Occasionally a city or village interrupted the open spaces.
     The New World? That sparse wasteland of technology and materialism? Aphrodite uttered an unfeminine oath. The Mediterranean, or even Europe would have been preferable. There the humans revered her in art and books. Many still lived by the old ways.
     But it was not the Middle-East or Asia where constant war and revolution made Ares strong. For that she was grateful.
     The New World had no use for either her or Ares. They were too busy chasing wealth and power to either fall in love or fight.
     Understanding dawned.
     “A wise choice, mighty Zeus,” she said.
     “No advantages,” Ares said. “I concur.” A small wonder they had finally agreed on something, Aphrodite thought.
     “I give you all of North America to choose,” Zeus said. “Aphrodite, you select first.”
     She felt her lips widening. She knew just the girl. Aphrodite recalled her lineage and her love of cultures new and old.
     “Her,” Aphrodite said. She waved away the map and placed in its stead a visual of her chosen champion. “I choose this human.”
     Before them hovered the image of a young woman in her twenties. She wore her glossy black hair long but bluntly sheared. Streaks of pink and blue burst through her bangs. Her twinkling brown eyes were lined with kohl. Her skin shone a light shade of olive, healthy from within and etched with ink. Mythological creatures merged with tiger lilies, hibiscus, and roses. Silver jewelry decorated her ears and throat. A single diamond perched on her cheek like a teardrop.
     “She is a strange beauty.” Zeus stared at the depiction, doubt crinkling his brow. “Hardly the epitome of femininity. Are you certain?”
     “Your vanity is greater than your will to win.” Ares chuckled, a sickly imitation of merriment. “This mortal wears Aphrodite’s likeness across her back. Not to mention ‘Aphrodite’ is her second name.”
     Aphrodite scoffed. “Those are not the sole reasons.” She faced Zeus. “This one has a Greek father. Her parents teach classic literature. They have a deep love of all legends of our time as well as each other. Good breeding and intelligence are more attractive then appearances.”
     Ares guffawed. Aphrodite ignored him. “More importantly, she is newly single.”
     She folded her arms and tilted her chin at Ares. “Your turn. Sarcasm oozed from her lips. ”Lover.”

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Interview with Dellani Oakes!

Dellani Oakes

The beauty of social media is the meeting of like-minded people you might NEVER have a chance to meet in your lifetime travels. Facebook brought me to Dellani Oakes. This woman has more novels in her head than a lot of us writers can ever hope to realize. Here's an interview about  just one of them. Don't'll be able to read them all...once she finds the time between being a photographer, blogger, radio host and mother to get them on paper. And she'll do it! She offers a lifetime of reading entertainment. Thanks Dellani for taking the time out of your overwhelming schedule to answer my questions! <3

1. You’ve got a pretty impressive list of titles under your belt, the most recent being “The Ninja Tattoo”. What can you tell us about it?
"The Ninja Tattoo" was inspired by something that really happened to me. The first pages of the book where Teague meets up with the bikers on the road, was a real life incident that sparked this novel. I wrote the story for my NaNoWriMo National Novel Writing Month) project that year.

2. Tell us about your favorite character.

My favorite character is Teague McMurtry, the hero. He's an all around great guy. He stands up for what he believes and he does what he has to protect himself and the woman he loves. I've had more readers tell me that they fell in love with him. I think I did a little bit too.

3. How long did it take you to get published?
My first novel, "Indian Summer" - historical romance - took nearly five years to get published. Like so many new authors, I thought it would happen right away, but no one loved my story as much as I did. Finally, I was fortunate to meet Mike Simpson and he asked for my novel. It was published a few months later through Second Wind Publishing.

4. When did you start writing?

I've been telling stories since I was three years old. Once I learned how to write, I started to put them down on paper. I began with poems and song parodies and progressed to short stories when I was in the sixth grade. One of our assignments was to write a myth. I chose "How We Got Hair". I don't remember anything about it but the title. In high school, I began with humorous essays. By college, I was writing plays. I had to set it aside when I married and had children, since I was still in college. I wasn't able to take it up again until we moved to Florida and I wasn't working full time. I didn't begin writing as a full time career until my youngest son started school in 2001.

5. I understand you write Historical Romance, Futuristic Romance, Contemporary Romance, and short stories. What is your favorite to write?

I love all of them, but I find historical most difficult. Not only does that require a lot more research, the flow of dialogue is quite different in an historical novel. Choosing clothing and pass times, researching words, dances and customs -- it's all interesting, but it can get tedious.

For sheer fun, futuristic is the one. I can make up everything from strange aliens to new planets. As long as I set rules for myself and don't violate them, it's anything goes! It takes the least amount of research and I can really let myself play when I write in the future.

6. What do you do when you’re NOT writing?

When I'm not writing, I market myself. I'm not very good at it, but I try. I have two Blot Talk Radio shows a month where I chat with other writers. We have a great deal of fun, laugh a lot and occasionally talk about our work.

I attend two writing groups, one that I started with a friend that meets twice a month, and another that meets every Wednesday. It's important to have a relationship with other authors. No one else thinks the way we do or views the world in the same way. It's good to know we aren't really insane, just different.

I also do all the "Mom" things like running errands, fixing dinner and taking my son all over town. I wish I could tell you it's exciting, but it's pretty tame.

7. Where can fans reach you? (Please include all current blogs.)

Look for me on Facebook:

Dellani Oakes Wordpress site

Writer's Sanctuary

Dellani's Choice Book Reviews

The Ninja Tattoo

Indian Summer

Lone Wolf

Again Dellani, THANKS! We all look forward to hearing more from you.