Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A Funny New Author for Me

We have a local Goodwill bookstore not far from where I live and we made a detour there rather than drive 15 miles to Barnes & Noble. Why would I do that if I'm to support my fellow writers? I should be purchasing new books, not used ones which don't count as copies sold, right?

Well, I've decided I'm going to switch up my reading library. I'm giving up on the horror/suspense/thriller genres for now. Sorry, Stephen! This is big for me. It's a change I'd never thought would happen. I absolutely love King and Koontz and would never dream of searching for a "new" author. It's not like I'm looking to replace them altogether. As soon as one of them puts out another "gotta have it" novel, I'll be right back in there.

I wasn't in the bookstore for long before I found an interesting book cover. Some author by the name of Marian Keyes had produced a lovely pink ensemble, "Rachel's Holiday". The cover depicts a tall and thin cartoon figure of a whimsical girl celebrating with a bottle of wine. This looked fun and the following blurb had me sold:

"Hilarious...A coming-of-age journey of love and self-discovery...propelled by its unforgettable heroine." --Boston Globe
I'm only into chapter 3 and I'm hooked. Though the main character is apparently a substance abuser, the first person POV is very convincing and hilarious. I'd never experienced this sort of read before, but I think I've found a new kind of author, and I'm going to enjoy this tremendously.

If you've found yourself reading the same books over and over again, maybe it's time to take a chance on discovering a new author. Going the used bookstore route will help get you excited about it without taking a chunk out of your wallet. My book cost me $2.99 for the paperback (no shipping and handling) and now, I'll probably go online and purchase all of her other books!

Get excited about reading again. Go to your local Goodwill bookstore or book exchange outlet. Put some fun back into your reading. Take a risk on a new author or genre. I'm super excited!

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Monday, September 1, 2014

The Great Escape - Two If By Stove

Nobody works harder than my ferrets when trying to make an escape from the kitchen. Being that today is Labor Day, I'm devoting some time and space on my blog to salute two very rambunctious and determined babies, Ninja and Shogun, the newest additions to my family.

You might ask yourself how this can help you with your writing, or with any other aspect of your life. Watch the video and tell me if it doesn't inspire you to keep at it, no matter where you find yourself in life, career, or maybe even in a bad relationship that you're trying to turn around for the better. If these two critters can fight this hard, so can you. Happy Labor Day!

And by the way, shortly after this video was shot, Shogun, the lighter colored one, made his escape and I found him creeping around the corner in the hallway. Determination pays off I'd say.

We'll just get out when you're not home.

Always looking for some sort of weakness in the configuration of the new prison,...err, cage, Shogun is determined to find a way to escape from this Alcatraz of all ferret cages. Nothing but the best for my babies. Here is a photo of Shogun before he got himself stuck trying to escape when I reached in to replace a blanket.

Just before he tried his first
cage escape.

Shogun is happy to have his very own hammock. Prison life isn't so bad. He seems to be okay with hot pink.

Don't have a problem with pink, but
fuzzy? Really?

"Can we negotiate another hour of play time? No? Then can we dim the lights please? Maybe put a blanket over the cage so it doesn't seem like we're actually locked up?"

They're not high maintenance. Not at all!

You can say no to this face?

"Can you please keep the noise down? All that cooing and staring at me is creeping me out. Stalk much?"

By the way, I'm a big deal. A really big deal.

Good night!

60 to 0 in one blog post!

Now, get back to work! But first, you have to tell me what you're working on.  =) Go get coffee. I'll wait. Leave a comment.

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Battling Constructive Criticism - Ferret Style

Scholarly ferret has answers.
There are many things we'll hear from critique partners during our writing journeys. I've heard them about my stories and you'll hear them about yours, if you haven't already. These words are hurtful when you first hear them. After all, writing fiction is an art form and the creative soul cannot be judged, for art has value only to the artist. But if you want to sell your art, you are opening yourself up to scrutiny, right?

I encountered such criticisms in one of my first creative writing classes and I can tell you my reaction wasn't pretty. I'd spent almost $400.00 to take this class and I had better not hear anything but how great my writing is and how wonderful my story.

That didn't happen, unfortunately. I heard many things, and I'm about to share them with you. Trust me, I was steaming mad. The vulgar gestures I produced after having read the "constructive criticisms" of my classmates, went largely unnoticed, mainly because it was an online class and my computer shielded me from the rest of the group.

Q: Whose story is this?

A: What the hell are you talking about? It's my story, bitch!

Just kidding. When I was first asked this question, I wasn't sure what folks were talking about. I've introduced three characters already, so obviously it's about "at least" three characters, right?  ...right?

Confused ferret asks question.

It's their way of saying that they believe a story should have one main character and that character should have a story all about them and their journey. Fine and dandy! I get it. For new writers, maybe it's smart to stick to this "template" but seriously, there's more than one way to write a story folks.

Q: What is the main goal of your character?

A: Shouldn't you read more than the first chapter before you ask that question?

This is no joke. Why do you have to know the goal of my character when you start reading the story? Do you want to know the goal in the first chapter so you can then decide whether or not to buy the book? Is more than 15 minutes of reading in Barnes & Noble too much time to waste deciding whether or not the goal of my character is important enough to fork out $5.99? Read the back cover!

Angry ferret's favorite acronym RTFM

Okay, so the goal of my character is to travel to China, unlock the mystery behind the ancient Chinese secret, and rescue the world. Tada! End of story in only one chapter. Chapter Two: Does the Character Meet Her Goal?

Q: Do you expect us to believe your character actually drove off that cliff and survived?

A: It's fiction! 

The answer to this question is obvious. No, I don't expect you to believe it because it didn't happen for real. It happened in my story, and my story is fiction. If you do the same things my characters do and think you'll get away with it, then you deserve to die! Much like the Mountain Man.

Ferret wants you to chill.

Q: Couldn't you change it to read more like "blah blah blah blah blah, "blah, blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah?"

A: No, because then it would be YOUR story, not mine.

Writers are so funny when we critique other work. We all do it, but let's be honest. When we like something, we always want a crack at it to see if our version will sound better, look better, smell better, or taste better. Just like chefs, there's always a twist to make it better. Just remember, it's my food you are sampling. If you like it, get the basic recipe. You can always add your twist to it in your own kitchen, when you make your version.

Ninja ferret is not happy!

Q: Why is there so much head-hopping going on here?

A: What the hell is head-hopping?

I seriously did not understand this whole concept of head-hopping. It made me angry for so many people to tell me I was doing this when I didn't even know what it meant. In the voice of a whiny, little brat, "How does Jane know that John is feeling sad? She's not privy to his thoughts."

Can you guess ferret thoughts?

Um, I'm the author writing the story. Jane doesn't need to know that John is sad. I'm telling you he's sad! I know he's sad and because I know he's sad, Jane knows he's sad, and now so do you! Now shut up and read the rest of my story.

Do you recall any criticisms which made you feel immediately defensive about your writing? Please share!

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Do You Know Me? Crossword Puzzle

I found this fun puzzle maker online today. The answers can be found on my blog by using my simple search function. If you enjoy filling this out, create one for yourself at the puzzle site and invite your readers to learn more about you. Let's get interactive! I'm on vacation this weekend so I get to play just a little.

Relating to characters is so easy when they are doing things we enjoy. Why not crossword puzzles?

"I need another word for convince."

"How many letters?"


"What about urge?"

"That doesn't fit."

"You said four letters."

"Yeah, but the third letter is an A." After a brief moment in thought she says, "I got it. Sway."

Bret wonders why she even asks anymore.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Parsing a Feed with PHP

Maybe this isn't such a big deal for many of you out there, but to me it's something of an accomplishment. Had I known it would be this easy, I would have explored this option way before now.

Upon learning PHP, I had to dig in to find out what all I could uncover with this new language. For the past several years, I've migrated toward the web side from mainframe development. Get it? It's like Internet double speak combining website with a reference to the dark side. Still don't get it? Okay, never mind.

So anyway, if you are learning PHP and want to see your code rendered, try out XAMPP. You can run it on your PC's localhost. This will allow you to run your PHP scripts without having to upload to a server on a hosted site.

Includes: Apache 2.4.9, MySQL 5.6.16, PHP 5.5.11, phpMyAdmin 4.1.12, OpenSSL 1.0.1, XAMPP Control Panel 3.2.1, Webalizer 2.23-04, Mercury Mail Transport System 4.63, FileZilla FTP Server 0.9.41, Tomcat 7.0.42 (with mod_proxy_ajp as connector), Strawberry Perl 7.0.42 Portable.

To all of my techie readers out there, try PHP to render RSS feeds from all your "fed" sites like Youtube, BBC News, Facebook, and your Blog. Of course, I haven't figured out the blog thingy just yet. I'm starting on a new adventure.

The instructions can get a bit hairy, but don't worry. If you perform all the steps exactly as written, it will all work out for you. I promise. I just ran some PHP code to grab and embed my last three uploaded videos from Youtube. It's all rendered in HTML at the end of the script with one simple line of code "echo $html;"

Published material has never been so easy to aggregate. Now that's progress! Don't you agree?

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