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Monthly Archives: December 2010

What I Learned from … A New Series

When I put up my post announcing that I won’t be an exclusive book blogger anymore, I said that future book reviews would probably have more of a writerly slant, with what I learned from the book. A number of you wrote to say how much you liked the idea. Well, those comments inspired a series! Announcing the:

What I learned from …

series!

These posts won’t be book reviews in the ordinary sense. They will be a writerly analysis of the book. For that reason, I will probably be writing about books I’ve reviewed before, especially if they stand out in mind as being the bookonificaiton (my lame attempt at a play on personification) of the skill I have in mind.

I will tag these posts with “Things Learned”. Unless I come up with a better tag.

And the first book I will write about in this series–wish I had time to write the post now–is HARRY POTTER!

What can a writer learn from Harry Potter? Many things. And from Ms. Rowling I learned a very crucial skill, and I still don’t do it as well as she does. What can that skill be? Stay tuned …

Merry Christmas!

For me, today is going to be a big, chaotic day filled with family, too much food, and oodles of gifts for all the kids. I hope I don’t need an emergency gift this year, because I … uh … don’t have one.

Please be safe out there today and have a great day!

Because Brownies Ought to be …

… a traditional Christmas dessert, here are the low saturated fat brownies I’ll be making this afternoon for our huge family Christmas Dinner Bash.

My daughter named these Cotton Brownies because they turn out so light and fluffy. She devours them.

Please note: I am a butter snob. You can reduce the fat content if you use a vegetable spread instead of butter, but I have not tried it yet. Make sure the spread you use contains no trans fats.

  • 1 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened (37.8 g. saturated fat)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 whole large egg (1.6 g saturated fat—use Eggland’s Best for lower satfats)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

Heat oven to 350. Grease bottom and sides of pan with shortening.

Mix sugar and cocoa powder and set aside. Don’t skip this step! The cocoa is easier to mix when blended with sugar.

Melt butter. Blend with applesauce, egg whites, egg and vanilla. Beat in cocoa until just blended. Spread in pan.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. Cut into 20 squares. 39.4 g saturated fat for the entire batch. About 2g saturated fat per brownie.

The recipe is now on LiveStrong!

My Year as a Debut Author

I just wrote a post for my eHarlequin blog that might interest you – My Year as a Debut Author.

You have to be a member to comment, but you can always comment here, instead. I’ll find you :).

Also, I hope to send out another issue of my newsletter soon, so be sure to sign up on the inner sidebar of the blog if you want to receive it. Look for the MailChimp.

As always, thanks for coming by!

My Fainting Fit: One Writer’s Experience in Losing Consciousness

A few weeks ago, I fainted.

Truly.

I have this weird problem with my esophagus where occasionally—once every 5 years or so—something gets out of sync when I swallow cold liquid and my esophagus spasms. Painfully. On the pain scale, this is way up there. I’m just sitting there, unable to do anything, waiting for the pain to pass. And sometimes, I faint. Don’t worry–I went to the hospital the first time it happened, and they diagnosed it as “near syncope”. Which means a partial loss of consciousness. It’s harmless unless I hit my head on the way down.

What I’m going to do for you today is write a Deep Third account of my fainting fit, in present tense. I am also going to have occasional authorial intrusion, because this is not a work of fiction, and therefore, I’m allowed to be me. I wrote this the day after it happened, when it was all fresh in my mind.

~*~

So there I am, with this horrible pain making its way down my esophagus. The water has already hit my stomach, but the spasm is taking own sweet time to get there. I lean against the bed and wonder if I’m going to faint this time. I groan.

The next thing I’m aware of is movement as I realize I am sliding down the bed. I’m not aware of anything else. I’m not aware of any vision. This is not the same as not being able to see. The body can’t miss what it isn’t aware of.

To illustrate, I have a sound test for you. Pop over to this site and take the hearing tests until you reach the frequency where you can no longer hear:

http://www.noiseaddicts.com/2009/03/can-you-hear-this-hearing-test/

It’s kinda weird to play a sound that you know is there, but you can’t hear it, isn’t it? You have no perception of it. As far as you’re concerned, it isn’t there.

Well at that point, my vision wasn’t there.

I’m not aware of any sound, either. And I’m not aware of any pain in my esophagus, but I’m also not aware that anything should be wrong. I have no memory of why I am sliding down the bed, nor am I aware of any loss of memory. I am really only in the now. My legs aren’t involved. I scrabble with my arms to keep on the bed, but it ain’t working. My knees hit the floor.

And then I feel some mild alarm. It’s like I thought (but I didn’t, really), Wow. (Note the lack of exclamation point.) I’m on the floor. Why?

I’m not aware of the fact that my husband has entered the room, but I say, “I don’t know what happened.”

At this point, my hands are on the floor, too. I have no memory of how they got there. My eyes are working again, and apparently, my ears as well. I reach up to the bed and lean against it with my forehead on the mattress.

My husband says something. I don’t recall what.

Blip!

And then I say, “Yes, I do.”

~*~

That little blip? It was all my awareness flipping back on, along with my memory. I realize that my esophagus no longer hurts, and that I must have lost a second or two while the pain ebbed. During those seconds, my legs stopped working and I started sliding down the mattress. I have no idea if I went fully unconscious—I’m not sure what the requirements are for that—but I do know that as far as I was concerned, one moment there was this awful pain, and the next moment, I was sliding down the mattress with the pain gone.

Here are some important distinctions between some assumptions fiction writers (including me!) often make about fainting, and my experience of the actual thing. I”m not saying this is THE WAY IT IS, I’m just comparing my misconceptions to my own experience.

“She fought to remain conscious.”

There wasn’t any fight to it. Once my brain decided I needed to lose consciousness, it did so without any regard whatsoever to my will. I wasn’t even aware that I was going to lose consciousness until it already happened. This has happened to me twice so far, and it was the same both times.

Not only did I not know I was going to faint until I had already come to, but half of my senses shut down during the experience, and my arms and legs were noodles. I have no idea if this is something you get better at with experience. So far, no.

“Everything got hazy.”

Nope, no haze. One moment I was standing there, the next moment I was sliding down the bed. If I had not leaned against the bed, I would have fallen. I was lucky–the night table was right next to me.

I wouldn’t even describe the lack of vision as haze. It simply wasn’t there. Not only was my body not using my eyes, but I didn’t even miss it. I didn’t know my vision wasn’t working until it came back.

“She felt faint.”

I suppose this means lightheaded. I’ve felt lightheaded many times without losing consciousness, so I can’t really address this. Experiences, anyone?

One key difference between the two fainting episodes: the first time I had a buzzing sensation in my head when I came to and was kind of queezy the rest of the day. This time, I felt fine. Also, the first time, I was sitting down the whole time, and remained safe in my chair. The only thing that happened was my head fell back, and when I came to, my neck hurt. I wonder if the buzzing sensation was due to my head falling back, rather than to the faint itself.

Excuse me, the near syncope.

Have you ever lost consciousness? Share in the comments for the elucidation of all!

A Change of Subject

If you’re looking at this post through a feed, you may want to click through. I’ll wait.

Now that you’re here, you probably noticed that I’ve rebranded. I am officially retiring Debuts & Reviews and am converting this to a personal blog.

Why the change? Well, simply because I cannot keep up. From day one, running this blog has always been at the cost of my writing. Raven, Katie and Deborah helped with reviews, and Mulluane helped out with debut research while I was at Fantasy Debut, for which I was deeply grateful. But even so, it was a lot more work than you might expect. Publishers don’t always make their debut novels obvious. There isn’t a handy “debut” checkbox I can look for in publisher listings. I could ask for help and I’m sure you would provide it, but to be honest, I need a subject change.

Therefore, this is no longer the blog of a reviewer. This is the blog of a fledgling author. Very fledgling.

What will I do here?

Well … review books, for one. But there will be a lot of differences. I won’t concentrate on debuts anymore, although you probably saw that coming. I’ll review nonfiction as well as fiction. I won’t accept review copies and I’ll alert those publishers that still send me books (I already started this, in fact).  I won’t review every book I read. I will probably review come classics that I love, just because I want to talk about them. My reviews will have more of a writerly slant (e.g. what I learned from the book). My review posts will be less frequent, more casual, and will cover more than one book at a time. And I will do video reviews.

(Yes, video reviews. I’ve always wanted to try this. I’m not a narcissist, and I’m not very photogenic, and my voice isn’t great, but when I talk about books and gadgets and music, I want to … well … talk. So I will. I’ll be starting up a YouTube channel for that.)

DnRSquareSmIn order to not confuse people who come here looking for Debuts & Reviews, I’ll keep the D&R logo on the site, along with “former home of” label. Besides, I like it.

What else will I do? Writerly posts, research posts, road trip posts, low sat-fat recipes (we’re following a cholesterol-lowering diet), additional installments of my You Tube Tour of Classical Music, video game posts–and whatever sounds fun.

I will continue to have guests–and I have a bunch scheduled, about one a week.

This is difficult change for me, because I love doing this. However, I’m not saying goodbye, I’m only changing the subject, and that makes this post easier to write.

I do hope you keep coming ‘round!

Guest Post – Kevin Breaux, author of SOUL BORN

Keven Breaux is a short fiction author and an artist who recently released his first novel, Soul Born, through a small press called Dark Quest Books. Now you guys know I’m picky about small presses, but these guys have published novels by Andy Remic, Jack McDevitt and David B. Coe. Kevin has a site for his book at www.soulborn.net and his twitter account is @kevinbreaux. Here are links for Soul Born through the publisher, and through Amazon.

~*~

Kevin Breaux’s Long and Squirrelly Road

High School, a time of your life when people ask you the same set of questions over and over and over… “How do you like your classes?” “How are your grades?” “What do you want to do with your life?”

When I went to high school the most appropriate answer to all three of those questions was a grumpy monosyllabic grunt, “Ehh.” (this was before “meh”, was invented) I hated most of my classes, got poor grades and had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.

If future Kevin traveled back in time and told past Kevin he was going to write a book some day, and it would be published.  Past Kevin would have reacted something like this.

“Really? Who will do the cover art? Wait… do I have to spell all the words correctly and get all my grammar right?”

When I was in high school some of the worst grades on my report card came from English classes. I know you’re all shocked, right? Well my bad grades were not in the ones that studied literature, I kinda liked those.  My C’s D’s and F’s appeared in the English classes that did book reports and speeches. Grammar was not a friend of mine, and mandatory summer reading assignments totally took the FUN out of reading being fundamental.

What did I want to do with my life? I wanted to be a comic book artist, yeah me, Kevin Breaux the next Jim Lee! The good old days, 1991-1993, and comics were at an all time high. Remember DEATHMATE, when Image and Valiant comics crossed over? I do, and looking back now I should have seen it as one of the seventh signs of the pen and ink apocalypse. I should have taken my comic art dream and headed for ze hills! (note to future Kevin, when you travel back in time warn me on this one okay? Thanks!)

I started off my college career in a community college and majored in graphic art. It was not long before I switched to fine art, so I could focus more on drawing and less on typography. By the time I got my associates degree the comic book industry was amidst a major decline and so was my desire to be a comic artist.

When I transferred to a full college I had to start back at the beginning, sadly I was misled that the community college and the four year college were connected, and as a result most of my classes did not transfer. This time around I studied photography and graphic design. When I graduated I took a job as a graphic artist and guess what? Within months of starting that job I began taking web design classes at night, at my former community college and slowly became more focused on web design and internet operations.

One dot com bubble burst later and I was back out of work. I supported myself as an artist for about a year doing comic book art commissions on eBay. While painting and drawing I decided to start studying IT and over the course of another year I got my A+ and MCSE certifications.

I took a job doing IT work and kept my shoulder to the wheel for over seven years. (Ok, start swirling the camera until the viewer gets dizzy and play the echoing sound effect now… seven years….seven…seven…seven….)

Huh? Where am I? What happened?

The economy shifted and I decided to move out west, so I could grow up with the country. To my surprise all the gold was mined already and I was stuck being an unemployed comic book artist wannabe, graphic designer, web designer and IT professional rolled up in one.  After a bunch of interviews, where I always seemed to come in second place, I did what came naturally and grew a beard.  No really, I finally focused on my true love, something I had discovered a long long time ago, but could never quite give the effort needed to, ice fishing! No, I’m kidding, I focused my energy on writing!

And yes, I did grow a beard.

From early childhood I always seemed to suffer with my art, never totally happy with it. Throughout art school I never could get what I saw in my head down on paper properly. I tried drawing, painting, sculpting and even photography.  I was so frustrated, and often felt like a failure. I just wanted to be able to express the beauty I was seeing, and it was during all that artistic angst that I discovered writing. I had liked to write from time to time when I was in middle school and high school. Normally I just penned short stories about my friends, putting them in tales of space travel and epic games of billiards. Nothing serious, but I clearly remembered writing being fun.

SoulBornWhen I was in my final years of college I started writing again. Maybe ten to fifteen pages a weekend, maybe less. Over the span of a few years I realized, I had a book.  Fast forward to 2007 and a few dozen drafts later and I did it; I finally fully expressed myself as an artist. What I saw in the cinema of my mind was down on paper, Soul Born was… well… born. I quickly started the sequel and a year later I had two books completed. After that I challenged myself to a new genre and a new writing pace. How fast could I write a new book? Less than nine months later I was on the third or fourth draft of an Urban Fantasy novel and could state, with a strong sense of accomplishment, that I had written three books.

By 2009 I was feeling pretty good about myself as a creative being. I had sold some short stories and was about to ink a deal with my first publisher. This was it, I finally found my calling.

So what have I learned after this very long and squirrelly road? A bunch of things!  After all those changes in my life, I can now look back and see that my constant was creating. Like most people I have heard my share of the lines, “you are not good enough” and “what makes you think you can do that?” But I did never gave up, I kept pushing forward and now I am finally seeing the realization of a dream.

Most importantly I learned that you may need to travel down many side streets in order to get yourself back on the highway.

My First Author Event!

Today, eHarlequin is having an open house, and I am part of the Carina Press post party. Here is a post that explains the event:

eHarlequin Community Open House

And here is the Carina Press Post Party:

Carina Press Post Party

Visit, post, lurk or whatever. You do have to be a member of the site in order to post, but if you’d rather just lurk and buy a bunch of our books, I’m sure no one would mind! 🙂

There will be giveaways!