Saturday, December 22, 2012

FREE Kindle book!

Bookworms Anonymous is available FREE through Christmas Eve!  Click here to get your copy now.

Part memoir, part cookbook, and part informational guide, Bookworms Anonymous is a laudatory examination of reading as a hobby, diversion, obsession, even sport. The book features a Bookworm's eye view of eight meetings as well as menu plans, recipes, and instructions for establishing your own chapter of the fresh, frugal, fun book club known as Bookworms Anonymous.

The book includes lists of the club's favorite reads, Book Handling Commandments, book shuffling and other literary athletic pursuits, strategies for finding reading time every day, anecdotes about life in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and many book reviews (mostly positive).

A light, fun read, it makes a great gift for any reader in your life.

This is your chance to get a last minute Christmas gift for the readers on your list...especially the tech-savvy readers who enjoy reading on their Kindle devices or apps.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Birthday Celebrations

My birthday falls three days after Christmas. Most people, when learning this, assume my 'special day' is often overlooked and that I was cheated, present-wise, as a child. They respond with a sympathetic comment not regarding my age, but regarding the date on which I acknowledge my age. I've always liked my birthday, even as a child, mainly because if I didn't receive my entire wish list of gifts on Christmas I merely had to wait three days to open another mountain of presents.

My parents weren't rich but they always made sure I had a separate celebration for my birthday. Three days after Christmas (it's also 3 days before New Year's Eve) is actually the perfect day to celebrate, creating a festival atmosphere on the last week of the year.

As I contemplate my upcoming birthday, a milestone only if one is concerned with prime numbers (I'll be 43), I realize most of the birthday celebrations in one's life are for other people. The first birthday usually passes with the gift recipient unaware, drooling on chocolate cake and toddling about to entertain the guests. By the second birthday, the child is able to enjoy opening the gifts but still has no idea why they are receiving them. Birthdays 3-25 are generally anticipated and celebrated by the birthday kid, her friends and family, co-workers and significant other(s). After 25 though, at least for me, the birthday reverts to yet another event requiring observance, if only to avoid appearing gauche for ignoring it. 

The Bookworms ladies still call me kid.  I'm the second youngest Bookworm, the eldest being 74, and the next eldest ringing in at 71 or so.  Although they are loathe to use the 'seventy' word, so they tell people they are sixty-fourteen and sixty-eleven, respectively.  They're both aging in grand fashion, retaining their curiosity and joy in small pleasures, so maybe they're on to something. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

FREE Books Giveaway is over

I hope everyone entered the contest to win a FREE copy of Superior Sacrifices on!  If not, I'm sorry you missed the opportunity for a free book.

The contest ended last night and I'm shipping out the winning 15 copies today!

To see the book on Goodreads, click HERE.

To see it on Amazon, click HERE.

Friday, November 30, 2012

De Tour Village: A Village Christmas

Join us on December 1, 2012 for A Village Christmas!
It's a Village-wide event, featuring various artisans and crafters from the Eastern Upper Peninsula.  The Village merchants join in the fun too, offering sales and great deals during this festive day.
See the official Facebook Event page for more information, and plan a trip to De Tour Village!  If you haven't been here yet, it's time you came to see what all the excitement is about.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Magazine Flower Bouquet, Magnets

Writing is my preferred creative outlet, but every now and then I need to relax and disengage my mind a bit, and create something...else.  Of course I love paper, and words, and words on paper, so my creations usually incorporate these elements somehow.

It all started with Pinterest.  Somehow Connie Stewart's Upcycled Magazine Flowers drew my eye, and I started punching out all magazine pages with interesting colors.  I didn't have any gifts to wrap or cards to  make (Connie used hers to embellish gifts and cards), so I quickly devised a way to add a sturdy support (beer bottle cap) and stem (large paper clip).  Once I started making these little lovelies, all I wanted to do was stay sequestered in my craft room hunched over my pile of used bottle caps, hot glue gun in hand.

Start with Connie Stewart's blog and make the flowers--she has an excellent step-by-step tutorial on there, which I won't try to duplicate here. 

Once you have several flowers made, gather some bottle caps, paper clips and a piercer.  And a hot glue gun, with lots of glue!

photo.JPGPierce each bottle cap in the center, and bend the end of a paper clip to insert it in the bottle cap and glue it in.  You'll have to hold the paper clip in place for a minute until the glue hardens as it tends to move around a bit.

Once the paper clip is secured, pull the trigger on that glue gun until the bottle cap is about half full of glue.  Insert the flower, pressing carefully in the center.  The bottle cap will heat up quickly!  The tricky part here is to avoid burning your fingertips off.  I haven't lost any fingerprints yet, but I can't guarantee you won't suffer a minor burn during this step of the process.
After the glue is hardened, adjust/trim the paper clip stem as necessary to create different heights for the bouquet, and place them all in a small vase. 

Voila!  Flowers that will never rot or die. 

I also made some into magnets by gluing the flowers into bottle caps, then gluing a magnet on the back (instead of installing a paper clip stem).  There must be other possibilities out there...see what you can come up with! 

Meanwhile, I must get back to my book.  No more procrastinating.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Superior Sacrifices: It's Here!

has hit the shelves of several fine stores in Northern Michigan, and! 

A tale of betrayal, redemption and the consequences of silence by the author of Bookworms Anonymous and The Word That You Heard. This is the story of Mitch and Marcia: twins, best friends and local celebrities in the small town of Iron Falls, Michigan. Mitch’s superhuman dedication to his detective job and Marcia’s near-obsessive focus on her family and bookstore business appear ordinary until the secret they’ve shared for three and a half decades threatens to surface.
Also available on Kindle.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Writing Weather

It's a grand day for writing. The wind is whipping the trees around (no power outages at our house yet, but there's still hope) and the rain comes and goes so it's impossible to plan any outdoor activities. The clouds are cruising west to east so fast they look like the time release camera shots on reality TV shows, the sun only winking at us now and then. It's sweatshirt weather, and it's about time! We've had a long, hot summer but it's been so nice for so long, I'm ready for a stormy day.

The muse likes days like this. It's easy to motivate oneself to write, to work on the latest story or novel, when the air is calm and comfortable inside and I can draw energy from the invigorating weather outside the window. And it's a three day weekend! Maybe we'll have three days of crazy weather and I'll finish my entire project...

The only other activity that's mildly entertaining on such a day is cooking, but of course that comes after writing, then reading, and it's a pretty distant third option. Maybe I could start a large pot of soup and let it simmer so I can say I cooked all day, when I'm really engrossed in words and agonizing over syntax and comma placement (not realistic, if you know me at all).  I'll daub some flour on my face for effect.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Extreme Writing

As mentioned in Bookworms Anonymous, extreme reading is a little recognized sport performed by reading outside.  I doubt we'll ever see it in the Olympics, or witness a district extreme reading tournament. It's not really a spectator sport; the reader/performer is the team, the audience and the coach. 

Extreme reading exercises the brain and can improve coordination when re-filling lemonade glasses require frequent trips into the house  (setting the book down isn't allowed;  the extreme reader can walk and read at the same time, navigating stairs and thresholds with ease).  After cocktail hour begins and vodka is added to the lemonade, the challenge of extreme reading increases.  Barked shins and bruised books serve as evidence of extreme reading while under the influence. 

This summer, with its sweltering, sweaty heat (yes, even here in the UP, we're stewing daily in 85+ degree weather), has forced me outside to work on my book.  The laptop runs hot, so I set up the extreme nerd outdoor office, consisting of a TV tray table and a shelf with my reference materials stationed at my elbow.  We don't have central air conditioning because we would only use it about once every five years, so we seek shade and air movement outside to survive the threat of heat stroke.  We dream of blizzards and icicles, hoping the mental images will trick our brains into cooling us off.  So far, it isn't working, but at least I'm getting some writing done. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The roar of the keys

Some days my writing is on fire. I can barely hear my thoughts over the roar of the keys. My focus is completely internal as I listen to my inner voice and close my eyes to shut out all visual distractions, determined to capture every salient phrase bursting from my brain. These miraculous times only last five to thirty minutes, but the resulting paragraphs and disconnected concepts are so rich I can build on them for hours. Word count doesn't matter; subject doesn't matter; personal comfort doesn't matter (I'll cross my legs for an hour if necessary to avoid halting the flow of ideas).

And so, I write. I write until my fingers are numb and I can no longer focus on anything beyond the computer screen. Sometimes I find myself wondering what is that object on the shelf across the room? Oh, its a clock. But it's stopped, so it must not matter what time it is right now. I purposely keep the clock there, in my direct line of sight, perpetually reading 6:00 and assuring me there's time to write, time to create, time to compose. A dead clock is very calming for my type A mind--there's nothing to race and I'm free to write slowly or quickly until the page is full or the chapter is finished.

Write on.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

No time to read? Horrors!

"I don't have time to read,"  mused my friend.  I'll call her Dora.  Dora Boring.

I considered her statement, glancing around her immaculate house and yard.  She doesn't work more than 25 hours per week (I work 50 outside the home, not counting my writing);  she has two kids and a husband and never seems to play catch-up with her laundry or run out of vital household supplies such as toilet paper or beer.  She drinks gin and tonics on her front porch (without a book).

"Did you  hear me?"  Dora says.  "I want to read, I just don't have time.  I'm too busy!"

I contemplate this.  I'm usually too busy to read on the four days I work my full-time job each week, and I'm usually exhausted at the end of each business day.  This means I read while brushing my teeth and getting dressed, a skill I've perfected over the years, holding the book out while balancing on one foot, strategically jutting out one hip or the other so my jeans don't fall off when they're halfway on.  If I ever lose an arm, I'll still be able to dress myself.  I also listen to audiobooks in the truck, rarely driving longer than ten minutes without enjoying a story or a book about writing.

Back to Dora.  She watches the news, like a good citizen.  I don't watch the news because it would cut into my reading time, and I'm constantly pretending to know what people are talking about while I scramble to catch up.  "I just caught the tail end of the story,"  I usually say, "can you fill me in?"

Dora also volunteers for every committee, fundraiser, and community event, and gives her time and resources selflessly.  She misuses words and installs an apostrophe at the end of every plural word, but the only things she writes are checks and Christmas cards.  She decorates her house, passes the local homeless man gourmet sandwiches wrapped in waxed paper and attends every school-sponsored event.  If there is a gathering of more than six people in our town, Dora's there.  She's involved.  Connected.  Vital.

I, on the other hand, am reading.  Instead of decorating, I wipe the dust off the walls (one handed, of course; the other hand is clutching a book) every three years or so, to discover the true hue.  I greet the homeless man, but never feed him.  I don't even fix myself gourmet sandwiches, as it's nearly impossible to spread anything on bread with one hand.  I eat only for maintenance, not for enjoyment.  I carry at least one book with me everywhere; right now I have one in my purse, one in my nerd bag, and an audio book ready to play on my iPhone. I also have two books I'm working on writing:  one in the end stages of editing and one in the beginning stages of note-taking. 

Dora's watching my face as I'm mulling over her statement;  mere seconds have passed, but my head is full of weighty justifications for her not reading and (slight) doubts about the habit I allow to rule my life to the exclusion of nearly all else.

"I understand,"  I tell Dora, vowing to watch the news tomorrow.  "You really are too busy!"

I probably won't watch the news tomorrow.  I'll have to find out what happens next in my book.  What would happen if everyone were like me, hiding in their houses reading books?  Society would probably collapse.  I guess I'll let Dora continue to volunteer and watch the news;  I'll regret not being more involved, and she'll regret not reading.  Society will survive.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Ten Favorite Words

I've been listening to Anne Lamott's audiobook Word By Word.  Anne narrates it herself, presenting a portion of her inspiring Bird By Bird, about writing and living as a writer and incorporating writing into our daily lives.  At first I consumed the audiobook in great gulps, listening at double speed, before I realized I'd better slow down to properly absorb the wisdom. 

Near the end of the audio presentation,  Anne announces she's going to give us writing assignments to do later.  The first assignment is to make a list of my ten favorite words.  I immediately pause the audio presentation, eager to attack this assignment while my mind is sharp and elastic and itchy. 

Ten favorite words...sounds simple, but how shall I determine they're my favorites?  On what basis am I supposed to judge these words?  I could use words I often use (doesn't this indicate a favoritism of sorts?): fabulous, cinch, scandalous. 

I hate questions like this because I'm hardwired to provide the correct answer and when there is no correct answer, I try to read the mind of the person asking the question to discern which answer they're expecting me to give, which is probably an incorrect answer because it won't reflect my style, but theirs.  If someone asks me what my favorite color is, for example, this is what happens:

Okay, I think to myself Mike just asked me what my favorite color is.  I don't have a favorite color, but that sounds lame. Everyone has a favorite color!  Scanning his clothing and mine, I notice our shirts both have red accents.  I grasp at this one similarity and nearly shout with relief, "Red! Yes, red.  What's yours?"  I'm already thinking if I like red so much, how come I don't have a red car?  Red socks?  Red shoes?  He's going to think I'm lying and I am!  I'm a fraud!  "I don't really have a favorite color," Mike says.  Somehow it doesn't sound lame when he says it. 

Back to the list of ten favorite words.  I'm flummoxed.  Ooh!  Flummoxed should go on the list!  Let's see, it is fun to say, it sounds like what it means, I don't overuse it but I'm comfortable using it, and most people know what it means so it doesn't require translation.  Here's my full list:

1.  Flummoxed (see reasons above)
2.  Neologism (I heard it on TV recently, and I'm trying to work it into conversation without sounding pretentious)
3.  Bamboozle (is this too close in meaning to flummox?  Does my listing two words meaning 'mental chaos or confusion' point to a mental illness I'm unaware I have?)
4.  Solstice (I like the meaning; I like the balance and beauty of the word; it's fun to say, and it's scientific!)
5.  Malapropism (I like the meaning, and I like to collect malapropisms.  Maybe my next list will be the ten funniest malapropisms I've heard)
6.  Synergy/Synergistic (great meaning, fun to say, not too popular)
7.  Phooey (a nod to my grandma, and the only curse word worthy of a favorite word list)
8.  Integrity (an important word; a weighty word; the word by which I choose my friends and those I respect and admire)
9.  Caliginous (shades of the Wizard of Oz; who doesn't watch and wait for opportunities to inject this word into everyday conversation?)
10.  Sagacious  (more scholarly than 'wise', something I aspire to in my dotterage)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

To Blog or Not To Blog

That's the real question.  How much time should I dedicate to writing and editing a blog, when I don't know who (if anyone) is reading it? I could easily write book reviews, snippets about my days and observations on everything from the weather to my Pinterest obsession. But shouldn't I be using the time and energy for writing my new book?

I'm working on an as-yet-untitled book about fraternal twins growing up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.  The book opens with a startling, violent scene and ends about thirty-five years later.  My first draft is finished, and it's been through the first round of editing.  It's now back in my lap awaiting my revisions, additions and further research about a career in architecture and adopting a baby in 1975.

The writing articles, books and blogs I read have one thing in common:  they all maintain the only way to write is to actually sit down and write.  Sounds simple, but the act of forced creativity is rather unsavory to contemplate, let alone sit down and do.  But Anne Lamott says I should, and Stephen King says I should, and Natalie Goldberg and Caroline See and the guy who wrote the Art of War for Writers.  They all say it.

And so I'll go and I'll sit and I'll write.  I'll revise and edit and curse and brainstorm a title for this greatest piece I've manufactured to date, so I can get it out there in the world.  Right after I have another cup of coffee and go for a walk.  It's a known fact walking can increase creative energy and provide answers to...oh, who am I kidding.  I'm procrastinating again.  (deep breath)  Okay, I'm plunging in.  Hang on tight--this story is going to keep you turning pages!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

No time to write

I've been writing since I learned to read, and yet, I have no time to write.  I could be writing right now (blogging doesn't really count, does it?) but I am basking in the afterglow of vigorous housecleaning, surveying my tidy domain and contemplating tackling the craft closet, which is in dire need of reorganizing.  I have a full-time job (roughly 45 hours/week) but an empty nest, which should be conducive to writing.

I'm supposed to be writing a short story for a contest I found, or working on my new novel manuscript, fresh from the editor's desk, quietly waiting for me to address her suggestions and continue research and round out the story to prepare it for submission.  But the sun in shining, the breeze whispering through the trees, and my craft supplies are in serious disarray.

Mercy Train by Rae MeadowsNo one is home right now to interrupt my thoughts;  I really ought to be writing or revising.

Did I mention the book I'm reading?  It's by Rae Meadows, a new author to me:  Mercy Train.  I was first reeled in by the cover, depicting two children running away from the camera toward a train crossing a railroad bridge spanning a river.  It looks like an old photograph, back when they started using color film.  The characters are great, the writing superb.  It's easy to lose myself in a book like this. Check out the author's website here:

Okay, that's enough procrastinating.  I'll just have one more cup of coffee while I set up my writing area.  The paper needs adjusting, the pens aren't lined up, and the chair is a bit wobbly.  Maybe if I grab a screwdriver I can fix that too...

Saturday, June 2, 2012

My word! What a cool chair.

My first adventure with Mod Podge resulted in an eclectic, wordy conversation piece I plan to use at future Bookworms Anonymous meetings. My training consisted of viewing a YouTube video of a woman applying Mod Podge to a flat surface.  The one tip I gleaned was this:  after applying the Mod Podge to the bare surface, let it dry to a tacky finish before pressing a piece of paper or fabric (I only used glossy magazine paper), then painting over the paper with a thin coat of Mod Podge.

First I amassed an impressive stack of clipped magazine articles and words or phrases I thought chair-worthy;  I trimmed everything very close, leaving no white margins, and then cut them in different shapes--some were hacked diagonally, some lengthwise, and some columns shortened at random intervals.  I left some at their original length so I could trim as needed when I reached the difficult parts.

I started working on it outside on a hot, sunny day, then let it cure (unnecessary, but I had to work long hours the following three days) before finishing it inside on a dismal, rainy day.

The seat was the most difficult due to the many subtle contours, so I tackled that part first.  

After applying two coats to the base, or background text, I added a few interesting words and one graphic image.
 Someone studying the chair might notice two small articles:  one about drinking more coffee and one about reading something with a calming theme to induce sleep.  There are also a few fun words or phrases installed along the seat edge and back.

 So exciting! The finished product will reside in the corner of my dining room until a bibliophile drops in for a cup of coffee or the Bookworms Anonymous group gathers at my house.  We'll have to hold arm wrestling competitions to determine who wins this seat of honor!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Audio Books: the Reader's New Multitaskers!

I have discovered audio books.  I'm a member of, and I've increased my book budget considerably, but it's worth it!  Now I can read while exercising, mopping the floor or driving to the grocery store (it's thirty miles away).  My floors have never been so clean! Exercising has become interesting, and I usually walk farther during a good book, faster if it's suspenseful.  I especially enjoy the books about cantankerous old codgers who are really quite personable.  When driving and listening, I tend to drive slower to ensure I will hear the end of a chapter or section.

The latest one I listened to with such a character was Major Pettigrew's Last Stand.  The Major is full of bluster and sarcastic wit, wondering at his son's modern romantic arrangement and striving to maintain appearances for the neighbors.

Another great story featuring a pedantic older gent is The Widower's Tale, a grand yarn about Percy Darling (doesn't the name alone make you want to meet him?).  Percy, too, wonders at his children, trying to reckon their lives and contemporary times with his experiences.

Adding audio books to my daily routines has greatly increased my book consumption and added to my enjoyment of the books. The books are brought to life by the verbal telling, the narrator's use of inflection and of course his or her accent (Both of the above-mentioned books are told by men with English accents; delicious!) and the background music during the introduction.  Some audio books feature an interview with the author at the end of the story too, which is always interesting and usually makes me want to read more of their books.

So, mix it up! Walk the dog and enjoy a book at the same time.