Call for “Heartless” Beta Readers!

Hello, lovelies!

Things have been quiet around here again, but I’m going to blame that on my deep involvement in edit-land, because I emerge from the silence on the search for those who might like to volunteer their time to helping me make my book even better. The Slayer Saga: Heartless is ready for beta readers. I’m looking for anyone willing to give it a look, to offer anything from broad, sweeping generalizations to the most minute line edits imaginable. The document is about 110 pages in 12 pt Courier, just about 400 words shy of 50,000. Have you read The Slayer Saga: Soulless? Excellent! You can help me know how well it continues the saga. You haven’t read The Slayer Saga: Soulless? Hey, that’s awesome, too! You can give me a perspective from someone who might not know what the hell is really going on.

Generally, I would love, love, love to have edits and responses and thoughts back by the start of July, so that I can implement changes or brush things up for publication in August. Even if you can’t get it completely finished by then, any help is good help.

Please let me know, either in the comments or via email, if you’re interested in giving it a go. I’d also like to offer anyone who beta reads Heartless a free paperback copy once it’s out and into the world.

Thanks, everyone! Cheers!

More, More, More!

The other night, I received the excellent news that my story, “Laura and Ollie,” was accepted for publication in the next issue of The First Line, a really cool journal where all the stories published all start with the same line. I’m incredibly excited to have been chosen and to see what other twists on the first line other authors gave it, and it doesn’t hurt that they’re a paying market, too. So I finally got accepted into my first paying journal, and it feels good. Really good. Really, really good. So good that I feel the great desire to scribble down a million more stories and send them off to a million more journals in the hope of being published again. This publishing thing is so addicting.

There’s just one major issue with this, and that’s the fact that I have a damn book I’m supposed to be publishing first. Granted, I finally got my shit together and edits on Heartless are going fairly smooth, but I can’t let myself be distracted by the lure of other projects, small as they may be. I still have a good handful of stories floating around in “in-progress” land, so I just need to slow my roll and focus on the task at hand.

And then once Heartless is off to beta readers, then I’ll submit to every journal and contest in my reach, mwa ha ha.

Self-publishing and releasing my own books has been an incredible experience, but there’s a certain special feeling when you send something out and someone else likes it enough to publish it. Two short stories in two journals so far this year is even more exciting to me than the two books I know I’ll release myself this year. The great thing is that all of it is getting my name out there, all of it is setting me up for further success, and it’s so, so rewarding (and encouraging!) to have some of my work finally pay off (figuratively as well as literally).

Keep an eye out for the next issue of The First Line (though you know I’ll be pimping that shit out once it’s released.

Review: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson.

“These poor bastards didn’t know mescaline from macaroni.”


Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey into the Heart of the American Dream by Hunter S. Thompson.

For my complete and utter lack of exposure to drugs, I find myself certainly fascinated by drug culture, especially in literature. Perhaps it’s merely my fascination with the rambling stream-of-consciousness it tends to produce and a curiosity of how much of it is genuine brilliance or utter rambling bullshit, but I really enjoy the glimpse into the addled mind and the incredible things it can produce. There’s an urgency to the writing, a franticness that gets me wired up almost as much as I had taken the drugs myself (and I’m always left wondering just how the experience would leave me if I was all hopped up on something). Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is one of the quintessential hallucinogenic journeys into the psyche, “the best book of the dope decade,” as The New York Times Book Review states on the back cover. It’s one of those books people rave about that I finally managed to get around to reading, even if only to just say that I’ve actually read it.

Whether or not I enjoyed it is something I’m still a little on the fence about. The writing was knee-jerk and fantastic, with a voice that I enjoyed, but I’m always left feeling a little out of the loop with a book like this, since I can’t relate to it personally. It’s an objective work for me, distant and appreciated from the view of an outsider. There’s also no real strong “point” to the book (which may just as well be the point), something I like to call “Coen Brothers Syndrome,” which I don’t really mind, but it reminds me of my boyfriend always feeling so blase about the Coen Brothers movies that I love because “there’s just no point. No one learns anything. Nothing really happens.” And it’s true, nothing much really happens besides a lot of drugs and running around in the pursuit of the next high, but it’s still a fascinating glimpse into a small slice of a weekend, with a very particular character doing things that he does.

There were definitely times when Fear and Loathing got under my skin, and I suppose that right there is the point. It gets injected into your veins and lingers about like a drug might. It was a nice ride while I was on it, but, thankfully, it didn’t get me enough to leave me addicted. I was born well after the era and I’ve never been a part of the scene, but I can still appreciate the small taste of it. I just think I’ll leave the drug-fueled ramblings to those that know it much better than me.

Books read: 008/100.

Gonna Brush the Dust off my Soul.

If I recall correctly, I was making a post rather similar to this more than a month ago, but here I am, back from another strange, unintended break. The crux of the problem this time was the roommate with the cable bill moving out and canceling it, needing to get a new service, and just a really weird, general ennui about the whole Intrawebz thing. Really, I am my own worst enemy: I wasn’t able to keep up my goals for Heartless, and so I just kept spiraling down, down, down and had absolutely no motivation for anything. But yesterday, I finally broke through the funk, finished transcribing the draft, and now I plan to forge ahead and edit the crap out of it before I seek out some beta readers for June.

There’s definitely plenty to do ahead, too, so at least I won’t have a lack of things to post about. I’m waaaay behind on my reviews (including one for Lauralynn Elliott‘s latest Fire Wizard), I’ve got a few more recipes to share, and a boatload of other stuff intended. I think my biggest downfall has been my process; I’ve realized that if I don’t get my blog post up first thing, then it usually doesn’t get done at all. So blog post first, then I’ll focus on all my lovely writing and editing, and hopefully that leads to a more productive blog again.

Somehow, May sneaked up on me pretty effectively, so I hope to have a new Featured Story from World Unknown Review up soon (so check out Shan Jeniah Burton‘s “A Splash of Red” before it’s gone!), and it’s also time to promote my books to get in my goal of ONE SALE per month. Of course, it’s only ONE SALE, so if anyone hasn’t jumped into a Bowlful of Bunnies yet or want to dive into The Slayer Saga before Book II comes out in August, help me out and do so now! The digital books are only 99 cents and the paperbacks are pretty reasonable, too.

On a separate note entirely, it looks like I’ve accumulated 555 follows, and I have a thing with neat numbers like that, so that’s pretty cool.

How’s everyone else been doing while I’ve been out in la-la land?

Review: Horizon by Lois McMaster Bujold.

“Barr smiled sunnily. Most young men did, when first exposed to Sumac. Most all men did, actually. The tears came later.”


The Sharing Knife Volume Four: Horizon” by Lois McMaster Bujold.

I have a love-hate relationship with the review text on the back of a book more often than not. Either I feel that it’s lead me completely astray (I’m looking at you, Breed) or it manages to say what I want to say about a book in one concise little line that makes it difficult to review a book, but also works well to start the review of a book. Such is the case with Anniston Star‘s neat little back-cover text on my copy of Lois McMaster Bujold’s The Sharing Knife Volume Four: Horizon: “An engrossing, satisfying read and a fitting conclusion to the series.” I mean, really, you can’t say it much better than that.

The Sharing Knife series entered my world about a year ago, when my boyfriend got me the whole set as a gift because of how much I had been praising Bujold’s fantasy work (seriously, this woman’s Chalion books are the fantasy books I want to write!), and, while this series is a bit different from what I have read so far, I still really greatly enjoyed it. I liked to think of it as “domestic fantasy.” While some fantasy deals with great sweeping epics and wars and prophesies, The Sharing Knife seems a little milder, following star-crossed lovers Dag and Fawn as they try to take their two vastly different world and merge them together for the better of the whole world. In Horizon, we start to see the work that they’ve accomplished so far showing results, with a strong glimmer of hope for the future. It’s a mild, muted sort of fantasy, one that embraces the fact that change can’t happen in a day, while wrapping you up in a rich, vibrant world, spending time with characters that make you feel comfortable and at home.

With the exception of one little plot point at the end that I felt seemed fairly absurd and wishing that the epilogue took place a little bit further into the future for a better glimpse at the world Dag and Fawn helped to shape, this was an incredibly satisfying conclusion to a really lovely series. I’m going to miss being in this world, that’s for sure, but, at the same time, everything I wanted to happen did, and I’m content with knowing that life will go on well for them. The action of the big final battle with a challenge none of them would have ever expected was intense and well-written, and I like how we got to see Dag and Fawn separated and standing on their own feet after having leaned on each other for so long. There were a few parts that seemed to drag a little too long, but there were some fantastic new characters brought in without feeling like too much was being thrown in with the inability to conclude in a satisfactory way.

Overall, I’d really recommend this series, especially to readers who like a cozy, rich world to escape to for a little while. It’s a great example of world-building without hitting the reader on the head with it, but rather surrounding them and transporting them completely. It’s a little romance with a fantasy leaning, with a slightly meandering pace. If you’re looking for something edge-of-your-seat, you won’t get a lot of that there, but if you just want to unwind for a bit into something mellow and sweet, I think you could do very well with this series.

Books read: 007/100.

Wakey Wakey!

Why, hello there, lovelies. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Remember that whole grand plan to make three posts a week no matter what and really buckle this blog thin down? Yes, well, I’m kicking it out the window. It worked for a spat of time, but, really, I should know better by now than to think that I can wrangle some sense of order to my life. So I took a break to consider my next reinvention of the bloggerly wheel. After all, today is my 31st birthday; what better time for a renewal and a refocus and a blah blah blah?

Ultimately, I was still writing at least a page a day, and that is what matters in the long run. Not how many posts I make, or how many blogs I read, or even how many Facebook likes or retweets I distribute, but the writing itself. That will once again be my main focus, because how could it not? Even when I try to let other things be important, too, the writing always takes over. So things may be quiet here, but I assure you, there's the sound of a pen scratching on paper filling that silence elsewhere.

It's back to just posting when I feel inspired and when I have time; I'm hoping to continue with reviews and recipes and the occasional promotional post as well, but it'll just be a little more spontaneous. Most of my energy has been channeled into my writing. Lots of new stories floating around in my head right now that I've got to wrangle onto paper, not to mention finishing up with Heartless, the draft of which is nearly finished. (HOORAY!!)

So, I just wanted to break the silence, inform everyone that I’m still alive and kicking, and that the recharge has done me a lot of good and I’m ready to pursue another year, hopefully filled with a lot of great writing and some great reading and whatever great things might be out there.

Recipe: Sweet Potato Brussels Sprout Bake.

Happy Monday, everyone! I hope you had a good weekend; mine was a little odd, but we had some beautiful weather that I managed to enjoy with a nearly five mile walk on Saturday before work, so that was pretty cool. Meanwhile, I’ve been working on this recipe that I’m pretty stoked about. The boyfriend and I cannot get enough Brussels sprouts lately, and when I came across a recipe for a Brussels sprouts and sweet potato “hash,” naturally I had to take it on and do my own twist on it. It’s fairly easy to prepare and has fewer than 200 calories in a serving (if you break it down into 4 servings).

No pictures again. I keep forgetting to take them. SIIIIGH..

Sweet Potato Brussels Sprouts Bake

Ingredients
1 medium-large sweet potato (~300 grams), cubed
2 cups Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halves
1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 cup baby spinach
5 mushrooms, chopped
3 oz broccoli florets, chopped
1/4 cup onion, diced
1 clove garlic, diced
1/4 cup vegetable broth
1 tsp salt
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp parsley
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
Ketchup to taste

Method

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prep an 8×8 casserole dish by lining it with cooking spray.
2. In a small pot, boil potato cubes about 2 minutes to soften.
3. Heat olive oil in a large skillet, saute onions and garlic for about a minute.
4. Add in sprouts, mushrooms, and broccoli, letting each cook a little before adding them. Drain potatoes and add them, too.
5. Season the mixture with herbs and spices, mix well.
6. Add spinach to allow it to wilt slightly, cooking for about one more minute.
7. Transfer mixture into 8×8 dish, spreading evenly. Pour vegetable broth over mixture evenly.
8. Bake 12-15 minutes.
9. Broil an extra 2 minutes.
10. Garnish with ketchup to amount of your choosing.

Now, the ketchup bit is completely optional, and the bake tastes good without it, but, let me tell you, that ketchup with these flavors is my favorite part. So gourmet, I know, but at least I use fancy organic ketchup more often than not? Anyway, this is going to be my lunch today at work, and, if last week was any indication, this makes an even better meal on the second day.

Happy eating!

Promotion Friday…ACTUALLY on Friday!

Though my sort-of boss has warned me that the week after next might get a little crazy for me again, things at the part-time job have actually stabilized slightly (I still picked up an extra shift yesterday, putting me pretty well past the 25 hours minimum they want for part-timers, but oh well, the extra money is really needed right now!), which means I’ve got my shit kind of together this week. So that means Promotion Friday is actually going up on Friday! Whoo! All my posts have been pretty on-target this week, and I really think that shows how an opening (5;30am) shift is way different from the late morning (10am) shifts I’ve been getting instead. Even 8am shifts give me that little slice of time to get the blog stuff prepared before heading into work.

Anyway, who cares about that boring old stuff? Let’s get to promoting stuff! Last week, Lauralynn Elliott shared her book Hearts of Evil, adding to my ever-increasing Lauralynn Elliot-specific TBR piles (because I needed more TBR piles), and I shared Pocket Princesses, a Disney Princess inspired weekly comic on my list of things that make Fridays awesome

Also on that list of why Fridays are awesome is this week’s promotion, Horror Tree. If you write in the area of “speculative fiction,” meaning fantasy, science fiction, paranormal…not just horror…and you aren’t already on their mailing list, do yourself a favor and get on that shit! Every Friday, they send out a newsletter that contains the occasional interview or article, but what I find invaluable are the wonderful calls for submissions included. I’ve had nothing but good experiences with the journals and contests promoted in their emails, as well as quite a few that have inspired some work despite me missing the deadline. They’ve helped me fill my notebook with potential markets, and I really look forward to seeing what comes in every Friday. One day, one of these places might even accept my work, too.

Even if you aren’t actively submitting work, it still serves as a good glimpse into what’s going on in the publishing world, filled with ideas and interesting concepts that you might have otherwise missed. I’m a huge fan of Horror Tree so far, so, naturally, I had to share.

How about you? What have you been working on lately? What would you like to bring to the table today?

Review: “The Middle Stories” by Sheila Heti.

“They all ordered the same thing, except for the ugly boy who was a vegan, and he ordered nothing but black coffee and orange juice, and the girl thought drearily in her head, ‘Oh God, I slept with a vegan.'”


The Middle Stories by Shelia Heti

For some reason, probably because its slim volume and quick readability, The Middle Stories by Sheila Heti always makes it on to my reading list every year, and, as with every read, I have mixed feelings about it. I was introduced to this collection of short stories in college; not only does Heti’s sparse and prosaic style reflect the style of my professor at the time, but she was also going to be doing a reading on campus. Some of the stories have stuck with me, especially with multiple rereadings, while others sort of fade into the background, the languid tone of her words failing to leave much of a mark.

The Middle Stories is a highly emotional collection, I think, and that it works a bit like a mood ring. How you’re feeling at the moment will effect how you perceive the stories. When things are a bit difficult, they sing to you, shooting straight to your soul like a shot of heroin. When things aren’t so bad, though, they seem limp and insubstantial and pointless. My life has changed quite a bit since my last reading, changes for the better, and so the magic of The Middle Stories has disappeared substantially. Or perhaps I’m just older and more mature, so the half-formed thoughts and pretty lines put together with disjointed vagueness just don’t seem as impressive to me as they once were.

I still LIKE The Middle Stories; there are still some incredible lines and stories within Heti’s quirkily drab drabbles. “Mermaid in a Jar” and “Eleanor” still strike me as incredible, and “The Girl who Painted Flowers” still resonates and enchants me as much as it did when I first heard it being read by the quiet and demure Heti in the reception room at the Park Library, but there’s a certain depressive, cynical tone to everything that put me off this time around. Am I right in thinking the end of “The Giant” is a hopeful one? Considering the other side of the coin makes it far less enjoyable, and that’s the thing with most of the stories. The vagueness makes me question my interpretations, and they start to feel less like “just stories” and more like art for art’s sake, lines chosen just because they sound good, characters that remain nameless not to make a statement but to be faceless people in the crowd that could be anyone.

But “My Favorite Monkey” is beautiful and gets me every time, and sometimes I love the meter of how a line is put together, and then I remember how much these stories inspired some of my own work, especially “Lilacs,” which remains one of my favorite things I’ve ever written, and I can’t help but love it for all those bright little gems in the mire of sometimes painfully literary fiction. I know I’ll read it again, feel the same, set it back on the shelf, and wait for it to surface again, asking to be devoured once more.

Books read: 006/100.

Recipe: Ultimate Veggie Chili.

I’ve been a little reluctant to post this particular recipe, though it’s probably one I make once every week. The flavor is fantastic, it’s filling, and there’s usually a lot of leftovers. But some people have very particular…views about chili. I’ve had some people claim that vegetarian chili is an impossibility, because a chili “has to have meat.” Some people insist a chili should be tomato-y, others thing that’s blasphemy. There’s so many different ways of making what various people call chili, and this…this is mine. And it’s awesome. It’s also my go-to for holiday functions where I know there’s not going to be a lot of vegan options, what with us being a midwestern dairy farming kind of family, but everyone loves it so far, except that one cousin who refuses to eat it based solely on the fact that it’s vegan-friendly.

Sigh.

Ingredients
(Note: you can really use any kinds of beans you like, but these are just my favorites. Black beans and a can of jalepeno peppers is a good substitute for Cuban beans, too!)
1 can of chili beans
1 can of Cuban-style black beans, drained
1 can of pinto beans, drained
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 an onion, diced
1 clove garlic, diced
2 carrots, chopped
6 small to medium baby bella mushrooms, chopped
2 cups broccoli florets, chopped
1 cup cauliflower, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 large radish, choppped
1/4 cup frozen sweet corn
1/2 teaspoon salsa
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
(If you like a tomato-y chili, add 1/2 a small can of tomato paste. Anything more will make it really, really, really tomato-y, though!)
Seasonings to taste: salt, pepper, cumin, tumeric, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, cayenne, and chili powder. Lots and lots of chili powder.

Method:

1. Heat olive oil in large sauce or soup pot. Slowly add vegetables, about a minute in between, building flavor much like in the Veggie Soup recipe. Start with garlic and onions together, then add carrots, cauliflower, mushrooms, radish, broccoli, celery, and corn, stirring often.
2. Stir in seasonings. This can be altered to taste, but the above list is what I use, and I’m not kidding when I say I like a lot of chili powder! That stuff is delicious and really brings the chili flavors to the table.
3. Hit the vegetables with a shot of apple cider vinegar to “deglaze” the pot, stir and simmer for about a minute or two.
4. Add Cuban black beans (or black beans and jalepenos), stir well.
5. Add chili beans, stir well
6. Add pinto beans, stir well.
7. Add salsa. I should note that I add a very small amount, because I use homemade salsa from my boyfriend’s mother, and she does not mess around with the heat! I like it hot, but one touch of this stuff makes your mouth spontaneous combust. If I’m using a milder salsa (I really like Herdez Salsa Casera), I’ll use a whole can.
8. Stir well. Season to taste. Enjoy right away or set to low heat and allow to simmer (covered, but stirring often!) to develop more complex flavors.

My stomach was definitely grumbling as I typed this up. It’s a good thing I have some in the fridge right now! It’s also great with a little bit of Daiya cheddar mixed in, and we like to crumble saltine crackers as well. I also like to use it as a dip for Frito-style corn chips. So it’s delicious, easy, and pretty versatile.

Happy eating!

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