Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Steampunk Wonderland

Flash Fiction Fridays contributor Jason G. Anderson has released a new novel, Gears of Wonderland, which puts a far different spin on the famous Lewis Carroll tale.





Here's the description.

James Riggs lives a normal life with a mind-numbing job, an overbearing boss, and a demanding fiancée. Then he witnesses the murder of his best friend. Saved from the murderer by a strange man in a white suit, James is cast down a hole and into a world he always believed was a kid’s story. Wonderland.

But things have changed since Alice’s visit. The Knave of Hearts has seized the Heart throne, conquered all of Wonderland with his steam-powered technological marvels, and rules the land with an iron fist.

Aided by the Mad Hatter's daughter, James journeys to discover why he has been brought to Wonderland and how the tattoo on his arm could be the key to Wonderland’s salvation—or its destruction.

It has been edited by Lynn O'Dell (Red Adept Reviews).

Sounds interesting, doesn't it? I love the cover.

Gears of Wonderland is available at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Miscellany

Mondays following long weekends are the worst, aren't they? After Thanksgiving and putting up the Christmas decorations (which look lovely, if I do say so myself), we have a few things to discuss today, nothing too taxing as we drag our sorry behinds back to work. Besides, it's Cyber Monday, and I know you want to get to your online shopping.




First, I know I am probably a total dork, but I am pretty excited to announce I have my own hashtag. That's right, Twitter lovers, A Whisper to a Scream (The Bibliophiles: Book One) has its own moniker, #Bibliophiles1. The really cool thing is that I can add a new one each time one of the Bibliophiles novels is released. For example, Catherine's book will be #Bibliophiles2 when it comes out in the spring of 2012. 




Second, I am conceptualizing the schedule for next year's Flash Fiction Fridays. Do you think we should stay with the monthly themes or go open prompt for most of the year? I do enjoy the February romance and October horror months, so I think those will stay. I also like the increased word count and would like to keep it at 1,000 words or less. What do you think?




Third, amazon has added a "pick your delivery date" mode for gifting e-books. Isn't that great news? What a wonderful holiday surprise an e-book would make! Actually, paperbacks are lovely presents as well, not that I am biased or anything. I buy books for everyone, even for those who hate to read.

Please let me know your opinion on Flash Fiction Fridays.

Let's get shopping.


Friday, November 25, 2011

Flash Fiction Fridays: Musings

Sometimes things just work out, don't they? This month, the pieces I received for open prompt all deal with the inner workings of the mind — its wishes, doubts, fits and reflections. Enjoy.



Car Parts
By Jay Marvin

The old pickup rattled and squeaked like a prison sentence. Frank felt down. He
wanted right the woman to share his bed.

Sixty miles from Twenty Nine Palms, Frank saw the engine was boiling. Frank sprung from the cab. He smelled a noxious odor clawing the desert air. The thermostat was dead. He didn't have one to fix it.

Sitting, his knees drawn up and back against the truck, he buried his head in his hands. Big rigs blasted by in swirls of dust and sand. He needed help. However, he had no one to call.

It was his fault.

He kept things to himself. He knew many people, but he'd shared little.

Then, without warning, in the still of the night, a bolt of white, hot, luminous explosion hit the desert floor. A young woman locked her eyes on his. Frank's limbs shook. She reached in her dress, produced a brand new choke.

"What in the world?" he said talking to himself.

"Quiet, Frank," she purred. “Fix the truck and take me home."



After thirty-five years in radio behind the microphone, a vicious disease made Jay Marvin retire. Now he has turned to writing. His first novel, Punk Blood, was published by FC2. He also has three books of poetry out. You can follow the life of "Frank" at http://www.leadbullet.wordpress.com .

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Holiday Season Begins

After learning about what really happened on and after the first Thanksgiving, I must confess the holiday is tainted. Thank goodness, my family was not among the crazy Puritans or even in the United States throughout the years of slaughter, when millions of Native Americans died in the name of expansion.

However, the idea of a national day of thanks is an excellent one, so I choose to celebrate that spirit.

It is a tenuous world we inhabit. Economies collapsing. Natural disasters. Political fighting the likes of which I have not seen in my lifetime. Many are struggling. The costs of living grows greater each month.

It is overwhelming.

In these kinds of times, we all need some hope.

My wish as we begin this holiday season is for small, random acts of kindness to spread across the globe reaffirming that amid the chaos, the human capacity for good still exists.

I am going to try it. I hope you will as well.

There are so many things the average citizen really has no control over, but this is something well within our grasp. It doesn’t have to be anything huge. Hold a door open for a young mother struggling with a stroller. Check on an elderly neighbor. Buy some extra items for a local food pantry.

Little things can mean so much.

I bet many of you already do this. I can sense your generosity of spirit through the various comments you leave here. Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Looks Like Alien Love

Flash Fiction Fridays contributor LC Evans has released her latest romantic comedy novel, My Planet or Yours?

Here's a quick description.

Nora Bryant is a single Earth woman out to ban men from her life after a recent breakup. Triskam is a strikingly handsome extraterrestrial who crash lands near her remote Arizona home. Add to this mix, a couple of misguided thugs looking for a gold rush, an overly friendly, not-so-guard dog, and a communications device that thinks it's a nanny, and you have My Planet or Yours?, a delightful new romantic comedy by LC Evans, author of the Kindle bestseller, We Interrupt This Date.





When all of the good men on earth are taken, what's a girl to do, right?

My Planet or Yours? is available at amazon.com or BN.com .

Friday, November 18, 2011

Flash Fiction Friday: Maddening Musings

Sometimes things just work out, don't they? This month, the pieces I received for open prompt all deal with the inner workings of the mind — its wishes, doubts, fits and reflections. Enjoy.


Blank
By Paul Venderley

A blank page.

Many a writer has spent hours in front of such a monster, its thin, faded blue lines slicing across an empty canvas rather than serving as perches for words. That is not the nightmare that plagues me now, decades into my life.

I have distilled the halcyon days of my impetuous youth onto college-ruled collections of parchment. Drafted into the Korean War, I used that as impetus to travel the world, from Europe to Africa to Washington, D.C., documenting all I’d seen.

I've written to change things, addressing problems brought on by political folly, by societal fears, by monsters both perceived and real. Each piece, each article, each journal, each letter to the editor I have saved and stored in scores of filing cabinets and boxes throughout my home.

The words of an oral argument can fall on deaf ears. A debate can be rendered moot by the actions of the debater the very next day. No verbal discourse can match up to the solidity of a well-reasoned argument set to paper, sent to those who would view the fullness of the world in black and white.

I have devoted my life to creating this legacy of words.

Yet, I hold in my hand a blank page. Not a canvas for a new piece, but the parchment of an old treatise. Piled haphazardly around me are musty cardboard boxes filled with my work, dated and labeled with the precision of a library's archivist. Yet the contents of each container are as empty as the page I hold. I dig into the box before me and struggle to remember the words I had placed on the pages within.

I seek out a pen, calling to mind the title of an article based upon the indentations of the paper, trying to write out key points that I had once recorded there. The paper soaks up the ink before the words take hold, my message disappearing even as I write.

I try writing new words. Stories I told my boys as they grew up. A description of my wife when I had first met her. A random list of the items I have remaining in my home.

Nothing is retained.

Shakespeare once wrote that life is "a tale told by an idiot, filled with sound and fury, signifying nothing.” But not mine! I am no stage-bound fool! My words showcased the consequences of our actions! My words held a mirror up to society! My words, I must find my words.

Somewhere within these mounds of paper must be some of my words that prove my efforts have meant something. I turn over boxes, pull open file cabinets, push aside reams of paper in search for something that bears proof of my thoughts. A half-completed application. A limerick hastily written on a cocktail napkin. Anything.

Blank. All blank.

My pages fall around me like large sheets of snow, not one of them different from the other.



Paul Venderley may have caught the urge to write from his father, taking to scribbling notes on pieces of paper that should have contained homework. His published works have been limited to newspaper contests. The remainder lie in wait on legal pads, in between his day job's meeting notes.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Editing for Grammarphobes: Cutting the Fat

Redundancies. They clog our writing, weighing it down in unnecessary muck, much like what triple cheeseburgers with bacon and mayonnaise do to our arteries.

Here is a great list from that fantastic book I told you about a few weeks ago, The Bugaboo Review, by Sue Sommer.

Watch out for the following duplicate phrases.

advance planning
and also
burn up
close down
down below
8:00 p.m. at night
fall down
free gift
funeral service
Jewish rabbi
lie down
lift up
my own personal opinion
owns his own home
raise up
refer back
staple together
use it all up

I especially like "Jewish rabbi." What other kind is there?

Time to edit. Have a good day.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Let’s Help Jump-Start the Economy

If you have read A Whisper to a Scream, you might have noticed how much time Annie and Sarah spend in coffeehouses. No surprise, I am exceedingly fond of hot beverages, especially chai tea lattes, Annie’s favorite drink, followed closely by Sarah’s preference, peppermint mocha. Yum.

Anyhow, one of my favorite places, Starbucks, has started a wonderful program called “Let’s Create Jobs,” an attempt to get badly needed money and loans to small business owners and underserved communities through the Opportunity Finance Network.




If you purchase a $5 wrist band, all of the proceeds will go toward getting small businesses the money they need to keep afloat and/or expand, which will help the create jobs our country so desperately needs.

All it takes is five extra dollars when you go in and grab your morning coffee. Just think, for a little more than the cost of an extra grande, all of us can do a small part to help our local, family-owned businesses.

Will you join me?

Visit http://www.createjobsforusa.org/ for more information.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Flash Fiction Fridays: More Musings

Sometimes things just work out, don't they? This month, the pieces I received for open prompt all deal with the inner workings of the mind — its wishes, doubts, fits and reflections. Enjoy.



Looking For Love in the Hall of Mirrors
by Nick Kirincic

I don’t like her as much on Friday nights. She dresses fancier, and puts on too much makeup, and laughs too hard at things I know she doesn’t think are funny. Her hair is puffier, and her voice is tuned up an octave, as if she were reading the news or selling something on a shopping network. She dances to songs I know she thinks are terrible, slinking her body around to imply a sexuality I know she doesn’t possess, walking a constant plank in shoes I know she’s not comfortable in. She’s nice to people I know she doesn’t like and ignores people that I know she likes and performs for an audience that I know she abhors.

I like her more on nights like last Monday. We sat in the corner booth at Mac’s, the half dozen other patrons lined up at the bar, necks craned, hypnotized by the game. Her hair was pulled back into a simple ponytail, no doubt tied shortly before leaving to meet me with the absent-minded swiftness all women had, a simple act that always seemed to catch my eye, their fingers working like a guitarist during a solo. She wore a gray hooded sweatshirt, the sleeves bunched up at her elbows, and apologized in the event that she smelled (she hadn’t showered after the gym).

We filled glasses from a scuffed plastic pitcher of Natural Light and she played Billy Joel on the jukebox. The cracks that had begun to spread prematurely under her eyes weren’t caulked with makeup, and her lashes were like pencil lines, void of the goop that made them look like spider legs. She made self-deprecating jokes, but not the ones she makes on Fridays, the put-on kind that made her sound cool in a backhanded way, and somewhere during her third beer, she started talking about exes, but not in the weary, jaded way she does on Fridays. Her stories and recollections informed a little on how the pigtailed third grader with braces had come to be in front of me, no less bewildered and afraid. On Fridays, she acts as if she were born into the world as a 24-year old, seen-it-all sexpot beyond the silliness of love, gin and tonic in hand.

When I went to the bathroom she had written me a note on my drink napkin, capping it off with a crude cartoon heart, an act that her Friday counterpart would react to with an eye roll and a fabricated gag, a finger pointed in her mouth.

“OK,” she had said towards the tail end of our second pitcher, clasping my wrist, trying for the second time to recompose herself from the type of laughter that induces voluntary face twitches. “You can’t tell anyone…so growing up, Melanie’s dad had this camcorder, one of those, like, heavy, clunky ones. And we used to decorate her basement with all of these gold streamers and strip lighting we’d found, and then we’d record ourselves lip syncing to ABBA songs.”

“That’s awesome!”

“No, it’s not,” she said, her voice muffled by the cotton sleeve she’d buried her face in. She sat there motionless for a moment before breaking back out into fits of laughter. When she raised her head she was sniffling and had to wipe her eyes with her sleeves. “We couldn’t sing, and we’d put on her mom’s makeup … we bought one of those, like, rhinestone applicator things and just covered a bunch of t-shirts. It was an unfinished basement … there was choreography … I need to go home and burn those tapes.” She laughed again, but this time more in control, putting a hand to her chin and shaking her head. It looked as if she was figuring something out about herself.

On our way back to her place, we locked arms, skipping and high kicking in near-unison down the street, oblivious to passersby as we belted out Scandinavian pop songs with all we could muster.

“WATERLOO! COULDN’T ESCAPE IF I WANTED TO! WATERLOO!”

Lying in bed that night, the beer-soaked breeze from her nostrils rustling my chest hair, I felt like I knew her, and we slipped our fingers together, and when I kissed her forehead it didn’t taste like makeup. On Fridays, I find myself licking my lips trying to get the chalky taste out of my mouth, and I’m not so sure.

On Fridays, amongst the crowd, she swats my hand away when I try to hold hers.




Nick Kirincic graduated from Miami University (the one in Ohio) and currently resides in Chicago. His work has appeared in The Cleveland Plain Dealer and McSweeney's. He thinks Nicolas Cage is simultaneously the best and worst actor of his generation. To learn more about Nick, visit his blog.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Read Along with The Bibliophiles

I have added something to my website that I would like to share with you.

Since the whole concept of The Bibliophiles series revolves around a book club, I thought it might be fun to create book club ideas based upon the literature The Bibliophiles will read throughout each book of my series.

You could incorporate these into your established book clubs, or start a brand new one of your own.

First up is A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce, at the beginning of A Whisper to a Scream. The Bibliophiles also study As You Like It by William Shakespeare.

Since food and beverages are half of book club fun, I have developed some suggestions that are thematically linked to the literature. For example, James Joyce was Irish, so what about serving mini-ruben sandwiches and Guinness? Or maybe even bangers and mash, a pub favorite?

I also wrote up three discussion questions for each piece to help facilitate your conversation, including some for A Whisper to a Scream, if you choose it for the first meeting.

The entire plan is posted on the “Start a Book Club” page of my website at  www.karenberner.com .

Happy Reading!

Monday, November 7, 2011

I Have a Dream

November is "Adopt an Indie" month. I don't know if you remember my post on it a few weeks ago, but Donna Brown over at bookbagsandcatnaps.com has organized this event to bring authors, readers and book bloggers together to dispel the myth that the only good books come from traditional publishing companies. There are plenty of great indie novels out there. It is not just the Big Six anymore.




My guest blog appears here, in which I discuss what I have learned about indie authors during my two years of officially being out on my own.

"Adopt an Indie" month also includes live chats with authors, lots of great guest blogs and prizes.

Please stop by or better yet, support indie authors today by either trying out one of their books or leaving a review if you liked their work.

I have a dream that someday it will not matter who published the book, but what is inside.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Flash Fiction Fridays: Musings

Sometimes things just work out, don't they? This month, the pieces I received for open prompt all deal with the inner workings of the mind — its wishes, doubts, fits and reflections. To start off November, here's a story with which many of you are probably quite familiar.



A Slave to her Muse
By Leanne Dyck


Debbie Newton slept, but not peacefully. One minute she lay on her stomach, the next she flipped like a pancake on to her back. She kicked at the blankets, mashed her head into the pillow. Longing for a soothing island oasis, she found a violent storm. The wind raged, tossing her like a kite. A rope. Yes, that's what I need. In her hands, a thick rock climber's rope appeared. She looped it around a tree and then around herself. There, she thought, confident she'd won. Red-handled scissors materialized. One cut and she sailed into the air.

"No fair!" she screamed, pounding her mattress.

Soaring over rooftops, she looked down and saw in bold black lettering against a green metal roof, W-R-I-T-E. 

She woke, turned on her bedside lamp and grabbed a pen.




Leanne Dyck’s work has been published in several periodicals, including Island Writer literary journal and Kaleidoscope. She is the author of a collection of short stories, two chapbooks, an audio-book, a learn-to-knit pattern book, and a cozy mystery, Maynely A Mystery. In January 2011, Decadent Publishing released her thriller, The Sweater Curse. She is a member of the Crime Writers of Canada and the Mayne Island Writers' Group. To learn more about Leanne, visit her blog.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Who Couldn't Use a Little More Love?

Friend of the blog and previous Flash Fiction Fridays contributor Stephanie Haddad has released a new book, a contemporary romance entitled Love Unlisted.


Grace Shields is not your typical control freak. She’s much more organized. But a career that’s getting away from her and a sudden brotherly home invasion have her just a teeny bit more stressed than usual. Enter Colin Kilbourne, a free-spirited musician with a knack for ruffling Grace’s pristine feathers...and spilling coffee on all her work clothes. Grace has to find a way to become impervious to his mischievous charm and good looks, or else she just might lose control over everything after all.

Love Unlisted is available on amazon.com and Smashwords.