Sunday, July 27, 2014

Review: Handling the Undead

Handling the Undead
Handling the Undead by John Ajvide Lindqvist

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I was disappointed by Handling the Undead.

Unlike the author's other book Let the Right One In, I didn't feel any investment in the main characters. I didn't feel their suffering like I did Oskar's.

The author's twist on the zombie story also lacked horror.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Your new car smells BAD

Yay for science again! Andy Brunning, a chemistry teacher in the UK blogs about chemistry on Compound Interest.  He wrote a recent blog about new car smell -  and Andy has also written some other interesting blogs about the smell of books and the effects of catnip on cats.

As part of my life style to avoid migraine triggers, I avoid 'new car smell'. 

Studies have isolated some of the most common VOCs found in the interiors of new cars. Many of these are aromatic compounds – that is, compounds containing a benzene ring, a structure based on six carbons bonded together cyclically. These include toluene, xylenes, styrene, and trimethylbenzenes. Additionally, simpler carbon-based compounds are also found – these include alkanes, which are composed simply of long chains of carbon atoms, bonded to hydrogen atoms.

For my house, I realize I also need to be careful about paint, but that won't be an issue till there's walls.  

Monday, April 28, 2014

Let’s go to the Hop! Blog Hop …

Why did Liz invite me to this?  I met Liz through the New Providence Writers Group.

Her first book, Trinity Stones, came out April 22.

I've read and heard sections in multiple meetings and I'm looking forward to reading Trinity Stones in its entirety.

I was supposed to Blog Hop back and answer these questions:

1)      What am I working on?
I’m mostly working on editing Neferseshotep to prepare it for submission.  Traditional publishing may not be right for that work either so I am prepared to self-publish again if I need to.
I also have more Vanna written for a sequel to The End of the World Sucks.

2)      How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I typically mix things in. For my first book, I started with what happens with vampires when there’s a zombie outbreak?  But the protagonist is simply a regular person who can’t fight zombies and who doesn’t like the vampire much.  So it’s not matching the formula of a zombie book, or a vampire book, and at the time I was shopping it around, I was told to make the protagonist a teenager in high school because Young Adult sells.

Neferseshotep is a mythological heavy, contemporary fantasy with multiple characters.  But I’ve learned something because one of them was a teenager in high school before a life-changing incident.

3)      Why do I write what I do?
I’m not into simplicity.  I expect miscommunication, liars, and just generally not-nice characters to be part of the big picture.

4)      How does the writing process work?
My writing process is not typical.  I used to write more when I just wrote fan fiction, but there was no editing cycle.

Now, I spew a lot of words in November for National Novel Writing Month.  The rest of the year is turning that quantity into quality.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Insurance is a downer

I've been trying to keep things light-hearted by suggesting the best part about my house fire was the fire.

I have house insurance, and when I switched to this company when they were doing a recruitment drive at a corporation I used to work at, I kept the deductible low even though they warned me it would be a higher annual premium.

Since I've never had a house insurance claim, I'm not understanding how only having a deductible of $250 helps me because it seems my possible financial burden after insurance has completed what they will pay for will be substantially more than $250.

The insurance company has not concluded their assessment yet - even though I now have passed the 8 month anniversary of my fire.  And my hands are tied because of this statement in their initial letter 'Should you choose to proceed with the work before our review is complete, we may decline your request for additional payment.'

Their initial payment was itemized so I can see everything the insurance company doesn't think they should be responsible for.  Here's a minor example that they claim my lack of construction expertise makes me unqualified to judge: there was a dead-bolted door that the firemen went through to gain access to the basement - that's where the fire was.  What remains is a chunk of wood attached to hinges.

 The insurance company has walked through the house multiple times, and then came back in at the six-month mark to inspect again because they wanted to close my claim if I had begun making repairs, based on the statement above about 'proceeding with the work'.  Based on their expertise, what this door requires for restoration is 'prime & paint door slab only - exterior (per side)', and they sent me $10.26 to cover that.

In my pages of detailed response, I listed a request for a new door with deadbolt and other hardware like a knob.   So we're at a impasse for months because all I seem to be able to get is warnings about insurance fraud and statements that insurance is to repair and replace not to improve my house.  Improve?  In this very narrow example, the day of the fire began with a whole door there.

Likewise, I used to have ceilings and walls that they removed as smoke damaged, but now do not want to replace.  And with my lack of construction experience I erroneously think things like this look unsafe:

ceiling light without ceiling and bulb no longer seated in fixture

light switch lying on floor after wall removed

Monday, April 14, 2014

Creating the WRITE Reality (by LG O'Connor)

Posted: 13 Apr 2014 08:58 PM PDT
Last week, when my She Writes Press writer pal, Cindy Eastman, asked me to participate in this blog hop, I was thrilled. Meet Cindy…
Author, Cindy EastmanFlip-Flops After 50
I met Cindy Eastman through my publisher, She Writes Press. Knowing her has been a breath of fresh air during this crazy road to publication. She is a writer and an educator raised in Louisville, Kentucky. She attended undergraduate schools in Austin, Texas and graduate school in Springfield, Massachusetts and holds a Master’s degree in Education. She has taught students from ages 5 to 85 in subjects like poetry, English writing and computer skills. Cindy’s writing is informed by her ability to be an observer as well as a participant in her life. With her dry sense of humor, she is able to address a variety of topical subjects and deliver an insightful analysis that’s both provocative and amusing.

Cindy’s first book, a collection of essays entitled, Flip-Flops After 50: And Other Thoughts On Aging I Remembered To Write Down was published by She Writes Press on April 7, 2014. You can find her online at or follow her on Twitter @CLEastman

Thanks, Cindy for asking me to hop with you! Good luck with all your appearances this month in CT! Cindy is spearing next on Wednesday night, the 16th, at Barnes and Noble in Waterbury, Connecticut at a Local Authors Night.

As for me, my book, Trinity Stones (The Angelorum Twelve Chronicles #1), launches on April 22nd, and you can catch my Book Event at Barnes & Noble in Livingston, NJ on Saturday, May 3rd from 4 – 6pm. Come see me!

…And the now onto the Blog Hop questions:

 1)    What am I working on?
Besides the obvious crush of my launch date on top of me, I’m in the middle of editing the second novel in The Angelorum Twelve Chronicles, and writing the prequel novella. Fingers crossed, I plan to launch them both before the end of the year.

And then there is the new contemporary romance ‘package’. On a wild hare, I entered National Novel Writing Month, and wrote a new book in a new genre between October and November of last year. It’s a May-December romance between an older woman and a younger man. As a teaser, here’s my log line:
Two Hearts. One soul-shattering decision. 40s romance writer plagued by loss comes to rescue of troubled 20s male cover model.

That book is undergoing some final editing before I submit it an agent who requested the full manuscript during a conference in March. I’m also in the process of writing the two accompanying novelettes that follow the book, and baking a sequel with one of the secondary characters.

I guess you could say I have my hands full :-)

2)    How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Although The Angelorum Twelve Chronicles is billed as an urban fantasy / paranormal romance, it’s really more of a ‘mainstream romantic paranormal’. It’s kind of a mash-up of Angelopolis (Mainstream Paranormal Fiction) meets Fallen (YA Paranormal Romance) meets the Black Dagger Brotherhood (adult Paranormal Romance).

I tried to balance angel lore, science, religion, fantasy, and romance in a plausible story taking place in contemporary New York City. Since this is the first installment in a four-part story, there is a lot of time invested in world-building. That will appeal to some, but not others.

I’ve found that the early readers who have enjoyed the book the most are new readers to the genre without expectations of a specific formula.

As for my contemporary romance, it’s a May-December romance. I’m a big fan of New Adult, so I chose to write in that ‘raw and immediate’ style by using dual first person point of view. My protagonist is an older woman, and clearly not a NA character, but her male love interest fits snugly into that genre. That said, I’m taking a bit of a chance, but I LOVE this story. My trusty beta team has given the book rave reviews. Still, this will be considered an adult, rather than new adult, book.

 3)    Why do I write what I do?
 I’ve been an avid reader my whole life, and I write what I want to read. My writing gives me pleasure and drives to me to a place where I am compelled to write. My characters are my children, and I love them all.

 4)    How does your writing process work?
Hmm. Great question. Three main things:
i.        My muses mostly drive a ‘pantsing’ kind of creative process supported by a loose outline. Since I started this adventure by writing an epic paranormal (what was I thinking?), I developed an overall story arc which guides me as far as the beginning and end of each book. It’s the sub-plots and story threads that turn out to be surprises. I let the characters guide me when they are in the mood. Why? Because I need to be surprised as I write to hold my own interest, and more often than not, my characters know more than I do and make it a better story.

ii.        Marinating time. For complex plot lines and threads, I need time to think on things rather than rush through them.

iii.        Then there is the story of my contemporary romance that dropped into my lap by way of the universe. The idea struck me one morning in early October on a long drive to Pennsylvania. It was based on an experience I had in August after leaving a sick family friend in the hospital and spotting a landscaper who looked like one of the male characters in my A12 series. That became the seed for my opening scene. Three days later I had an outline. What the…? An outline from a pantser? Six weeks later I had a completed 80K word novel, and I’d won National Novel Writing Month with 52K words during November. Huh? Go figure.

Regardless, it always takes my twice as long to edit a novel as it does to write it.

That’s it for me! So, let me introduce you to three of my lovely writer friends below who will be the stops on this tour next Monday, April 21st:

Sharon Trembley
sharon trembley The End of the World Sucks
Sharon Trembley and I have been a part of the same critique group for over two years. She is a novelist and native New Jerseyan who has worked in the IT field for years.  She’s been behind the scenes for large mainframe installations, including one that was on the 10 fastest supercomputers list for a few years, and has physically worked in the Bell Labs facility in Murray Hill during her career. 

Nowadays, she assists clients with the complexity of software licensing, and has no problem making massive spreadsheets of hardware environments, applying unfathomable contract language, and enjoys examining software vendor audit findings.

Sharon also performs animal rescue volunteer work, fostering kittens and cats. Some people are creeped out that she prefers to foster black cats because they are the least likely to be adopted, but her dogs love meeting new cats, especially bottle baby kittens.

After her career hit a speed bump years ago, she began writing and discovered National Novel Writing Month in 2011.  Sharon can pound out the words for NaNoWriMo but needs extra editing time to mix in cross-genre elements such as horror, non-traditional romance, and a dash of mystery into her contemporary fantasies.  Her first novel, The End of the World Sucks, is a non-formulaic tale that considers what would be most likely to kill the unskilled protagonist, Vanna – zombies, a vampire, or her fellow man?   A sequel is planned, but a house fire in 2013 has slowed Sharon down. You can find Sharon here

Kelly Kittel

Author Kelly Kittel Breathe

My fellow She Writes Press author, Kelly Kittel, has spent most of her working life as a fish biologist who writes but has been undergoing metamorphosis to a writer who was formerly a fish biologist. She is married with five living children, her best work beyond compare. She currently lives with her family in Rhode Island but prefers to write in their yurt on the coast of Oregon. She has been published in several magazines and anthologies and her first book, Breathe, will be published on May 14, 2014. Find her at:

Rossandra White
Author Rossandra White LoveYouBye

Another of my She Writes Press author friends, Rossandra White, will also be participating. A fourth generation South African, Rossandra White is a blogger and author of two YA novels, Monkey’s Wedding and Mine Dances, which are set in Zimbabwe and Zambia. A recipient of many writing awards, White has been published in Writer’s Digest and Interstice, among others. From computer operator to letter carrier, executive secretary to ceramic artist, White has found her passion living in Laguna Beach with her two Staffordshire Bull Terriers, Fergie and Jake, where she writes and blogs about the wild old days of her childhood in Africa as well as the wild new days of her life here in the states. When she’s not writing, she enjoys yoga, Jazzercise, and hiking the hills behind her home in Laguna canyon. You can find her here:

Friday, March 28, 2014

Writing Wise

I thought I should do a writing post prior to a downer of a  'remember I had a fire?' post.

I participated in National Novel Writing Month in November after the initial delay because I was given 18 hours to move and then went to sleep.  Then I woke up moody that my life has many things outside of my control, and then wrote a lot to 'show them'.  I don't think 'them' care, but hey I write more words when I think someone says I can't do it.

That was more Vanna (End of the World Sucks series).  I did bring a couple sections to my regular writing group for critique, but then switched back to Neferseshotep because I find that more escapist than zombies and a vampire. 

So Neferseshotep is moving along, and then after dithering I got a membership to the Liberty State Writers' Conference - Create Something Magical in March, I bought one and attended.

The conference was fine.  I was unable to determine ahead of time what the lunch was so I packed one.  I worry a lot about migraine triggers and blogged about that before.  The coffee smell got heavy towards the end because that seemed to be the only drink offered after lunch during the speaker's talk.  

I did well with my appointments to pitch, but during the weekend the insurance company needed some things tout de suite (I love the way toot sweet sounds) that was going to take me hours to assemble so I owe synopses and manuscript pages still.  Which might be why I'm writing a blog post, after I completed my new tsunami of paperwork.

And I'm not totally unhelpful.  One of my dining companions at the conference mentioned what her daughter studied and was now a French pastry chef.   Imagine my lower lip thrusting out at that because the week prior to the conference, I assisted my daughter while she was home for spring break collecting moss. 

French pastry > snow-covered moss in cemeteries

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Get Back to Living Your Life (Not!)

So I'm supposed to 'get back to living your life' - as the professionals who handle all these fire, insurance and renting things say - and I'm with the pets at a furnished, wall-to-wall carpeted townhouse with a lot of stairs because I said I have pets and no one will rent to me.  Finally someone said, we will for $$$$$.  I have the insurance coverage to fork over the $$$$$, and my dogs have been outside for 50 nights, and I've said 'yes' to every house that didn't have visible repairs made with duct tape and string.  Problem solved when the insurance company said OK.

No, problem temporarily solved.  30 days later, I'm living my life at work because that's where I think I should be Monday - Friday, and I get a call from my short-term company who collects the $$$$$.  The complex where the townhouse entered my unit and found pets.  I have to go.

Even though I did have a foster cat named Keyser Soze in the past, I'm not a criminal mastermind that can disappear after walking out of a police station with my SUV full of pets and their supplies, so I had a reality check with - I told you I have pets and other people in the complex have dogs (some also have 2) and other people have cats.

Not good enough, even though she admitted I had honestly rented and fully disclosed my pet head count when renting from them.  It's not them, it's the complex - and they hadn't thought they entered units 'at will'.  Yeah, I don't like this 'at will' thing either.  They didn't even lock the door when they left.  It was closed, but not locked.

Meanwhile, I can't repair and move home because the insurance company stubbornly thinks my house was a teardown with boarded up windows before the fire, so they're saying they're not paying to 'improve' the dwelling by replacing windows.  They also denied my request to winterize the house (drain the water from the pipes) because they don't think New Jersey ever has temperatures below freezing.  And if I do any work on the house they haven't pre-authorized, my fight for windows and drywall for where I used to have walls goes up in smoke.

It seems common sense to prevent pipes from freezing in an unheated house, but there's a lot of people from Sandy that either used their own savings, credit cards or an initial settlement amount,  and they started to get some work done because their houses were being taken over by mold.  Their insurance companies - home, flood and FEMA - then said any repair to their damaged house invalidated their outstanding claims.

After the lack of action on the part of the corporate, short-term housing experts last time, I started making calls on Day 3 of the Hunt for Somewhere to Live Part Deux.  Within an hour, I was speaking to a real estate agent who emailed me photos and showed me a house that evening.  I said 'yes' again, and since he already explained my situation to the homeowner he was ready with a lease.  I signed with the caveat that I need approvals from the insurance company because common sense seems alien to them, along with anyone giving a flying rat's ass that I will have nowhere to live again.

It's now Day 7 of the Search Part Deux - legally I'm now in a mess because the insurance company didn't give a 'yes' or 'no' within that 72 hour refusal period of the contract.  I'm antsy, and didn't settle for leaving voice mail so I kept picking up the phone and dialing.   What's the hold up?  Am I moving in 3 days or not?  Clock is ticking.  I need someplace to live.  If I can't live there, I want them finding me someplace because that's their profession not mine.  I know I'm a difficult case because my pets did survive the fire and I'm a cold-hearted bitch unwilling to cooperate and put them into a shelter (they have no clue about the definition of 'No Kill').  My pets are part of my family, and since I don't look for attractive pets they'll be euthanized if I go along with the professional advice on how to 'get back to living my life'.