Sunday, December 28, 2014

$25 Amazon Giftcard #Giveaway and Book Review


I recently had the fine pleasure of reading Savage's Tracks in the Smoke. Here's what I thought:


I love a good mystery story and this detective novel fits the bill! The story features detective Nick Dante. He is a private-eye who is not exactly a people person, yet charming nonetheless. He “enjoys reading, doing the crossword, and sitting in a pub having a drink--or six”. His ex-military background makes him well-equipped to do his job--as inconsistent and unstable as his job might be.

Enter Felix, a sassy 22-year-old woman who looks like she should be the lead singer of a rock band. When she signs up to be his assistant, we get a great look at all her own potential to be a PI someday and her knack for keeping Dante in line. Though not a romance (thank god), I love the Nick-Felix dynamic and found their scenes to be my favorite. :)
So if you like British detective novels, irascible PIs with a dark past, and sassy sidekicks, this one is a quick, fun read for you!

As a debut author, I think Tom put out a quality first novel. You'd be lucky to win a free copy of the book by entering the giveaway below--but even better!--Tom is offering up a $25 giftcard to one lucky winner.

Good luck everyone! :)


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Not Another Danger Boy: Happy Book Release to @DangerBoyOne

Releasing a sequel isn't easy. I should know! But author Dan Combs did just that here, with his newest title Not Another Danger Boy: The Sequel. A collection of autobiographical short stories centered on life-changing events might be exactly the kind of read you're looking for this holiday season. Better yet, he's a local Lansing author like myself! :)

To celebrate his release, here is a fun Q&A:





Q.        How would you describe this work to someone who’s never heard of it?
A.        A collection of autobiographical short stories centered on life-changing events: first skydiving lesson, first white water rafting expedition, first Olympics. You know, the fun stuff!

Q.        Who were your inspirations for this story?
A.        I don’t know if I was inspired as much as goaded. By a bunch of people. The ones who, after hearing me talk about some of the wilder happenings in my life would say, “You should write a book!”

Q.        Did you find the sequel harder or easier to write than the first installment?
A.        Much easier. By the time I sat down to write volume two, I’d gotten enough practice. My style was set, I’d had plenty of time to think about what stories would fit, that kind of thing.

Q.        Have you always been interested in writing this story or did you find this story accidentally?
A.        I can’t recall ever wanting to write memoirs. So I guess you could say they found me.

Q.        What about your story makes it unique?
A.        The fact that I’ve done so many different kinds of things. There aren’t many folks I know who jump out of planes for fun, compose music, write screenplays, and ride a unicycle.

Q.        Can we expect a sequel to the sequel or is this it for Danger Boy?
A.        I’m in the process of finishing volume three as we speak. That one ends with a reference to the title of the opening story in volume one, so I’m almost hoping the series cycles around and stops there. Although, if it becomes popular, I might have to do another one. And I haven’t quit being semi-crazy yet, so there’s more material being created all the time.

Q.        What can we expect to see from you soon?
A.        I do have an entirely different type of project in the pipeline. A creative non-fiction book based on my parents’ lives during the Second World War. They met while my dad was playing trumpet in my mom’s father’s bar in Jackson, Michigan. He was immediately drafted and they wrote letters back and forth for the duration. She had to finish high school, he went on to fight in both North Africa and at Normandy, was badly wounded and almost didn’t get home. Good stuff.

Q.        What is your favorite word?
A.        Obstreperous. I actually stole that as a favorite from a roommate back in the day.

Q.        What is your least favorite word?
A.        Prejudice. I grew up during a time when diversity was just beginning to be recognized as an asset. Sadly, there hasn’t been as much progress in that area as I would have hoped.

Q.        Who is your favorite author?
A.        William Gibson. I found Neuromancer shortly after it was first published. Knocked my teeth out.

Q.        If you could have any (but only one) super power, what would it be?
A.        Teleportation. I go through a lot of shoes!

Q.        If you could pick the brain of any writer/poet/artist from anywhere across space and time, who would it be and why?
A.        Thomas Pynchon. I consider myself and much of our current version of Western civilization a product of World War II. His take on that particular conflict in Gravity’s Rainbow has always fascinated me. I’d love to sit down and compare notes.

Q.        What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?
A.        Conductor for a world-class orchestra. I got a taste of it in high school. I was elected Student Conductor for the spring concert a couple of times, and when our band director was out with a hernia for a few weeks, he assigned some of us to take over, running the band through songs we’d already learned. Then he sent in a new piece - one that we ended up playing at the annual state-wide band competition that year - and gave me the task of conducting it.

Q.        What profession would you not like to do?
A.        Anything retail. Customer service is not my thing.

Q.        If Dante’s Nine Circles of Hell existed, which circle would you be trapped in and why?

A.        If there’s a level where all you do is yard work, I’d be there. Hate it and avoid it at all costs. So, for the sin of feigning a bad back to get out of doing it, well…you get the picture.


Well there you have it folks! And show a little love, would you? He can be followed on Twitter, liked on Facebook, or stalked on Goodreads.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

What the *&^% is on your face? #beauty #health #wellness

One of my friends from college just recently took up a great cause. Not that I'm surprised. This amazing lady, that's Mick Teti-Beaudin to you ladies and gents, often champions heart-warming causes.

So I'd like to give a shout-out to her latest cause, Beautycounter with Mick. (Though how she has time for this endeavor in between rescuing all the animals and knitting adorable baby garments, I have no idea).

Beautycounter's mission? "Decades of studies indicate that serious health issues (including, but not limited to asthma, learning disabilities, cancer and infertility) are on the rise, and due in some part to our ongoing exposure to toxic chemicals—whether it's in the shower, on our commute, while we eat lunch at a local restaurant, or when we clean our kitchens at home. There are more than 80,000 chemicals on the market today. Many don't have any safety data. This is particularly true of those used in the skin care and beauty industry...The European Union has spent the past two decades banning or restricting more than 1,300 ingredients, the US has only banned 11 to date.


WE DESERVE BETTER, AND WE'RE DOING 
SOMETHING ABOUT IT."
Read their full mission statement here.

I spent a great deal perusing their site and can vouch that they have an extensive line of bath and body products, as well as cosmetics.

As that fru fru hippie chick who already reads the ingredients on the back of all her shampoos and makes her own face moisturizer, I can totally get behind this. And I know that many of friends are also super concerned about what they put on their bodies. So if this is something that you are into, please hit up my friend Mick. She's a fab lady who will take good care of you.

Here is the link to Mick's beautycounter again: BAM!


Also, be sure to give her a like on Facebook while you're at it!

Monday, December 15, 2014

#Mondayblogs: I wrote 100+ posts this year! Now what? #amwriting

My very first attempt at blogging was back in 2012. I had a food blog (that didn't last long because it turned out I was more interested in eating than telling you guys about what I was eating).

I wrote about 5 posts on this blog in 2012. And only 13 posts in 2013. So when Jan 2014 rolled around, one of my resolutions was to write 100 posts this year! I thought that was an ambitious goal (especially considering how often I'd managed to blog before that) and I am happy to say that somehow I've reached that goal--with almost a month to spare!

My 100th post rolled in on December 5. Woo!

Anyway, so I took some time to review this year's stats and see what people liked most from the blog.

Here are the top three performing blog posts from the year:

Your Brain on Learning

How To Get Writing Done Despite the Hellishly Busy Holiday Season

Congrats @AngelaRoquet: Read the newest Lana Harvey Book


It seems as a whole you guys like inspiring, introspective stuff. You also enjoy giveaways and author spotlights.

But what am I missing?

Thinking ahead to 2015 and my new goals for the blog next year, what kind of posts would you like to see? I'd love to improve my content, with the hopes of getting better and better each year. So tell me what you like to read about. What inspires you? What helps you along? Or simply, what do you enjoy?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Ho Ho Ho: 80+ Books & Prizes #Giveaway #IndieBooksBeSeen

I was invited to join this super fun indie book giveaway just in time for Xmas.

Click here to enter giveaway.

As you can see, it's already generated great deal of interest and I'm thrilled to offer up signed copies of both Dying for a Living and Dying by the Hour as two of the 80+prizes!

So if you support indie writers or if you simply want the chance to win a bunch of cool stuff, then you should enter while their is still time. :)

Happy Holidays everyone! :)

Kory

Friday, December 5, 2014

My 100th post! There are #feelings and then there are #FEELINGS #knowthyself

As an INFJ (sometimes I'm an INTJ--depends upon the quiz), I make a good deal of my decisions based on my feelings. But I've come to realize that there is a difference between a feeling and a FEELING.

Let me clarify:


A feeling is an emotion. A reactive response to some sort of external stimuli. Someone did or said something and you felt <insert emotion here>. Emotions can be wild and unpredictable and are best tempered with intellect and observation. Instead of letting your "feelings" or emotions rule you, try to look at the situation from a distance in order to limit reactivity and to keep emotions in check.


These feelings are different than FEELINGS. A FEELING is a "instinctive or intuitive feeling as distinguished from reasoning or knowledge." It's an instinct or gut-feeling. Nothing really happened. Nothing was really said or done. But you just have a FEELING about a person or situation. Usually there is no logic or evidence to support your FEELING (not at the time anyway). But it is a FEELING nonetheless.

My problem comes in where I confuse feelings with FEELINGS. For me, feelings cannot be trusted. They are reactive, prideful, and usually deeply connected to my ego. They are usually wrong. And not "wrong" in a judgmental sense. I am willing to honor and accept my emotions. I just think jumping at their every whim is a bad idea. Being reactive is a bad idea.

FEELINGS however are almost the opposite. I am usually hesitant to trust my FEELINGS even though they are almost always right. They are by far more reliable than my emotions/lower case 'feelings', and yet I question them and scrutinize them far more than I do my emotions.

Why is that?


I don't have a clear answer . But I certainly hope that with time and enough self-awareness, I will change this. I hope eventually my feelings/emotions will receive the majority of my scrutiny and my FEELINGS will be set free to steer me in the right direction--as they've always done.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Where is the lesson in that? #perseverance #cuteowls #writerproblems



Maybe it is just how my mind works, but when I see movies or videos or hear stories, I usually look for the "message" inside it. I try to find the meaning or how it is applicable to my life.

And that is how I felt when I saw this video of the owl above. If the internet buzz is to be believed, this owl was forced out of the sky by two falcons and it fell into the lake, where it proceeded to make it to shore for a bit of a rest before flying away.

Here is another cute video of the owl resting on the beach.

I think these two videos say a lot.

1) That everyone is going to get "knocked from the sky" at some time or another.
2) When you do get knocked down, don't panic and drown. Use the skills (wings) you already have to get yourself to a better place. Even if you have no faith that you are capable of doing so (maybe this owl had no idea (s)he could swim!) You may surprise yourself.
3) Don't be afraid to give yourself a rest from your ordeal before getting back out there. (Because apparently bird rescue was called, but the owl flew away before they arrived).

Seeing events like this occur in nature remind me how "natural" this whole process of "get knocked down. Recover. Get up again" really is.

So let's not be too hard on ourselves shall we?

Kory

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Choosing Evil #Book Blast & #giveaway #amreading

Congrats to Kristina Rienzi on her latest release, Choosing Evil!



Serafina Murano is no stranger to the paranormal. All of her life she’s lived harmoniously alongside demons. Damon Serpe is a conflicted demon on a mission. Unexpectedly, they collide into each other’s lives and are inexorably drawn to one another.

Dark deadly secrets, gut wrenching betrayal, and elusive questions haunt her and have her entire life. Instinctively, Serafina realizes Damon holds the key to her understanding. If she trusts him, can he help decipher her recurring nightmares and unravel the mysteries surrounding her?

On the eve of her thirtieth birthday, she must select her path and make a difficult choice. One which will change her, and perhaps the world, forever.

Will Serafina embrace the truth and face her evil?

Would you?

Available on Amazon, Midnight Frost Books, B&N, Kobo, Scrib'd, Omnilit and Bookstrand!

And be sure to enter her giveaway for a $25 Amazon Giftcard and free book here!


**And don't forget to check out her cool  playlist**


Kristina Rienzi was born and raised at the Jersey Shore where she still lives today.  Her debut paranormal suspense novel, CHOOSING EVIL, is being published by Frost Books on November 25, 2014.

Professionally, Kristina has been active in the writing community as a member of the Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime-Central Jersey, Romance Writers of America and New Jersey Romance Writers, serving as Chair of the Literary Book Fair in 2013. Kristina has her Masters Degree in Psychological Counseling and her Senior Professional in Human Resources Certificate, working in both fields throughout her business career.

Personally, Kristina is married and a doggie mommy to Pekingese and Shih Tzu pups. Although a lover of New Jersey, she dreams of one day moving to Hawaii and living the “Aloha” way. When she’s not writing, she spends her time reading, watching paranormal investigations, rooting for her West Virginia Mountaineers or relaxing with her loved ones, wine in hand.

Kristina is currently working on BREAKING EVIL, the sequel to CHOOSING EVIL, as well as another paranormal suspense novel,UNLEASH THE WICKED, about an unsuspecting witch at the Jersey Shore.

Connect with Kristina! 

Friday, November 28, 2014

#BlackFriday Deals for #Booklovers #FreebieFriday

Happy Black Friday! If you are a book lover or know a booklover, then prepare thyself. Both Books 1 and 2 of the Jesse Sullivan death replacement agent series will be on sale this weekend, in honor of Black Friday.

For this weekend only, get them both for 0.99$ each.



On the morning before her 67th death, it is business as usual for Jesse Sullivan: meet with the mortician, counsel soon-to-be-dead clients, and have coffee while reading the latest regeneration theory. Jesse dies for a living, literally. As a Necronite, she is one of the population’s rare 2% who can serve as a death replacement agent, dying so others don’t have to. Although each death is different, the result is the same: a life is saved, and Jesse resurrects days later with sore muscles, new scars, and another hole in her memory. But when Jesse is murdered and becomes the sole suspect in a federal investigation, more than her freedom and sanity are at stake. She must catch the killer herself—or die trying.


Available on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iBooks, Audible and more!

80 5-star reviews on Amazon.  Also available in the UK.

Price $0.99

Also, there are two an audiobook giveaways for this title, here and here!





After 83 deaths, Jesse Sullivan knows how to die. As a Necronite, she is one of the population’s rare 2% who can serve as a death replacement agent, dying so others don’t have to. But using her NRD to save lives is why she’s being hunted.

For Ally Gallagher, death is permanent. If she fails to protect Jesse again, there will be no third attempt. After a quiet year the signs of serious danger have returned. People connected to Jesse are disappearing. Her home is vandalized and threatening messages are turning up in the safest of places. 
Then Jesse is taken and Ally has only hours to get her back. But no salvation comes without its price.

The latest Jesse Sullivan Novel with 20+ 5-star reviews.

Price: $0.99

Available on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Google Play, and more

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving! I Am Thankful For...

Don't be surprised, yo. What did you think I was going to post on Thanksgiving? A rant about how I HATE ALL THE THINGS?

Nah.  So here is my rant for how I LOVE all the things. And as a white, cisgendered American, I have an awful lot to be thankful for. To make this less painful, I am simply going to write a list. I won't elaborate on each gratitude. But if you have questions about something I'm thankful for, hit me up in the comments.

I am thankful for (in no particular order. Don't read too much into it, OK?):

My loving partner
My super fat pug and her sweet companionship
All the animals that loved me past and present
The family I've made along the way.
All of my good, good friends
my health
All the opportunities I've been given, which have been many.
All the opportunities that I was denied, which forced me to be clever and resourceful.
My home (that I have one that is peaceful, loving, and full of comforts)
My comfortable couch and bed in particular (places I can lay a tired body).
The whirlpool bathtub
That I am financially stable enough to be picky about what I eat (organic food).
Chocolate
Coffee
That I can afford to buy natural cleaning products, bath/beauty products and whatever else I like
My thick hair
My strong hands that allow me to do what I love.
My able body that carries me everywhere I need to go.
Cars and the ability to transport myself not via my feet.
My feet and my ability to walk. (No this doesn't contradict my last statement!)
Text messaging and email--which allows this introvert to avoid phone calls.
Blackboard/D2L--which allows me to teach without looking at students #introvert problems
Writers who labor over the good books I read
Books.
Books.
BOOOOOOKs.
My ability to vote
To go where I like
To wear what I like
To speak to whomever I wish to speak
Martial arts and all the beautiful lessons Aikido and Uechi Ryu have taught me about patience and          balance and dedication and peace
My education--that I had the chance to get an education
My drum
My spirituality
Meditation
Yoga
Dreams
Internet--and the abundance of information that is available, whether it be BBC news or begging cats.
warm, soft socks.
A wood burning fireplace.
That each season has its own lovely unique thing(s)
         fall: the beautiful trees, pumpkins and boots, scarves, etc.
         winter: fireplaces and coziness, and snow and hot drinks
         spring: melancholy rain, and flowers
         summer: sun, the beach/water, an invitation to enjoy nature more.
Nice clothes and warm coats
Movies
good television
bad television
animals
Mother Earth
people who work hard to conserve our resources
people fighting for progress and change
people who make the world a better place with their own time and talent
Music
Art
Every chance to travel
All the love I've been given
Every kiss
Every sign of affection
Every show of trust
Every kindness I've ever received
forgiveness
my freedom
my kind, compassionate heart
That I have enough money to buy frivolous things
That I have enough money to give it away
That my cares and worries are usually so small.
That I have gifts and talents
That I know what those gifts and talents are
That I have the space and time to honor/foster those gifts and talents
My strength
My good, clear mind
My life--and all of its beautiful possibility
You, and the time you spent reading this.
....and so much more.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Writing Prompts #writerproblems

Sometimes we just get stuck. No matter what happens, no ideas come. No magic is flying from the fingertips. Or worse, we are up to our armpits in our current WIP, but are bored as hell...what do all of these scenerios have in common?

A need for writing prompts!

Writing prompts can be a great way to get your creative juices flowing. Not all writing prompts will speak to everyone, but usually a "good" prompt (for you), is that one that gets your brain juice pumping, brings a smile to your lips, and has you laughing about the "what-if" outcomes you're dreaming up.

So today I wanted to give you five fun websites for great writing prompts:

Writing Prompts that Don't Suck -641 writing prompts to choose from. Surely there is something for everyone?

Writer's digest prompts--hundreds of prompts "perfect for beginning a new novel or short story, or simply giving your writing muscle a workout" 

25 more prompts--my favorite: "The nation is controlled by..." My answer would be pugs. The nation is controlled by pugs...

Prompts not just for the fiction folk, but for nonfiction writers and poets too

Lastly, I love #8.  "Google is a real person that you must talk to in order to search the internet" (Kory adds: and you don't like this person). heh.




Kory Adds Ten Off the Top of Her Head

1) A part of your body just fell off. (Don't think about it! Name the first part that came to mind). What will you do now?

2) A talking animal just showed up to give you a dire warning. What did it say? Why? And of course, what is the animal?

3) Write a story from the POV of your smart phone or laptop.

4) You woke up in the body of your ex. What will you do?

5) You are in the shower and the bathroom door flies open. It is <insert favorite literary character here>. What happens? (Feel free to turn this into erotica ;)

6) You come home and find your house is gone. Actually...this whole neighborhood looks a little different....

7) A talking gourd, a space alien, and a Jehovah Witness walk into a bar...

8) You wake up with hands that are not hands. How do you go about your day? (This will be funniest if you act like the --whatever you have instead of hands--is normal.

9) You realize you've switched places with your favorite literary character at a crucial moment in the plot. What will you do differently?

10) I turn to you and say: "How are we going to explain the ____________?" You say: ___________.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Benefits of Ritual (Sacrifice) #writerprobs

DISCLAIMER:  If you only came to this post with the hopes of reading about virgin sacrifice or something, I hate to disappoint--but I'm actually going to talk about something else.

You see, one of my current resolutions/goals is to self-criticize a little less and to be more "pro-Kory", self-love, acceptance and all that *&#^.

So, one way I've noticed that I am very critical is in the fact that I must do many (and I mean many) things before I sit down and write. I give myself a hard time about this because I recognize that it is part procrastination and also part avoidance. It is easier to scrub my toilet than to write a best-seller.

For example, today I had a good FOUR hours between the time when I got out of bed and when I needed to be at work. Any good and desperate writer would have marched right to her desk and gotten a helluva writing session done. According to my inner critic, that is what I should have done.

Instead, I cleaned the house, organized my to-do list, answered emails, put dinner in the crockpot, forced the dog to (begrudgingly) go out and pee in the rain, showered, got dressed for work, had breakfast, and put new music on my iPhone and I'm journaling this post--and this is very typical for me. I feel happiest when my life is in order. After all, it is hard to feel like life is out of control when your hair is fixed and you've got a chive-biscuit-topped pot pie going!

So I asked myself, what is so bad about doing all these things first? Am I really destroying my opportunity to write? Or am I actually doing a great deal of good? After all, when I write after cleaning and all of my work is done, I'm usually calmer. I'm usually in a more pleasing environment. Also, I'm usually more focused for that writing session. I've no pressing/nagging task distracting me from my writing. Also, when I do these tasks that do not require tons of thought, I am actually prepping for a good writing session. When I'm wiping down the counters or vacuuming my office or cutting up vegetables, I'm thinking about scenes that I want to tackle that day. I'm having conversations with my imaginary friends and making connections between big moments and themes and all those lovely things that make the writing good.

So maybe the key to success is actually allowing myself the time and space to get all the work done first and then settle down to writing with a clear, comfortable, focused and prepared mind.

Can my "ritual" be improved? Sure.

On days when I know time is an issue, I should probably get up a little earlier and start the cleaning/cooking so that I know I still have plenty of time to write. I could also time my ritual and figure out exactly how much "prep" work I need to do in the mornings and account for that too.

So what the hell is my point?

My point is that instead of beating myself up about cleaning and shoveling deliciousness into my mouth when I should be writing, I should make it a priority to see the good in it. Accept myself and my "process" and maybe I'll get more work done and be less mentally exhausted. After all, I'll certainly have more mental energy for writing if I haven't just spent 4 hours bashing myself!

It's hard to feel pumped and excited after such beatings!

And what about you? In what ways could your writing (or life) benefit from acceptance rather than self-criticism?

Monday, November 24, 2014

#Mondayblogs: Your Brain on Learning #amwriting #persevere







So sometimes when the writing is super hard, it is easy to think I suck at life. Then I like to pull myself together by watching encouraging videos like the one above. (If you don't know about Khan Academy, it is pretty awesome and you should!)  I think when learning anything, it is important to remember that we will get better--eventually.

And we stand a better chance of seeing real improvements, if in addition to practice, we apply focus--as explained in this article. So sometimes it isn't in your best interest to say "I am going to sit at this computer and stare at this story for 2 hours--at least!"

You might not actually help your brain or skills at all with this.

Instead, it might serve you more to do writing sprints, or to make a word count deadline instead. Whatever helps you to achieve that "concentrated effort". (This is also probably why I shouldn't watch TV on the treadmill, but thank goodness this is a post about writing, not fitness!)

So failing=learning+practice=improvement (or something like this).

So get out there and fail! You're probably succeeding every time you do. :)

Friday, November 21, 2014

Harry Potter, Twilight, Hunger Games & 50 Shades of Epic #amwriting

When learning how to write (better), one of the books I turned to was Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Mass. In this book, early on, the would-be-breakout-novel-writer is asked to think of all of their favorite books (Top 5) and then examine what makes them so special. When trying to push the boundaries of your own work, I definitely encourage you to do the same. But let's start with mine:

Kory's Top 5 and Why It Is So Awesome

Harry Potter (all of it) by J.K. Rowling

There are many reasons why Rowling's series is so awesome. But just for the sake of brevity (I've got aikido in the morning!) I'll name the top two: everything builds to a grand finality--an epic moment where all must be either won or lost. Great sacrifice was made, hearts broken, and lives changed forever--basically, it was some epic shit.  Secondly, it was a world that every child wanted to be real. The world building was phenomenal, but more than that, it was a world we wanted to be part of.

Dune by Frank Herbert





Herbert also get's an A++ for world building, but in addition to that, some serious cred for being eco-conscious and delving into the ever interesting political intrigue. The intricate web of politics, religion, environmental issues and so on are so incredibly well-done here. If for some ungodly reason you are into SFF and you haven't read Dune--your life is incomplete, my friend.










A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki






The character Nao. She is fantastic. She is one of the most amazingly well-done characters that I have read in---forever. And her story is heartbreaking and real. And this story is also layered and intricate, pulling together some amazing themes in a totally unique way. You can read my full review of it here.









Empress by Shan Sa


This is a historical fiction novel about Empress Wu. An amazing woman who came to rule all of China in a time when women were basically cattle. And if that alone does make the story awesome, the good writing, beautiful language, and gorgeous imagery definitely do it for me.









Spin by Robert Charles Wilson






Another great science fiction reads--and one of the rare kinds of books that I stop my entire life to finish. I think it is so interesting not only for the good story, but because of its attention to character and the awesome pacing (it unfolds really well which made it impossible to put down!)









So if I were to oversimplify this, I would say amazing stories have unique characters, fantastic world-building, excellent pace, beautiful language/imagery and comes to a *&^$## epic conclusion that makes the ride seem worth it. And these are the things I think about when I try to push my own writing further and farther each time.

What books have inspired you to take your own writing further and farther?

And that do you think makes a great story?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

How to Get Writing Done Despite the Hellishly Busy Holiday Season #amwriting

Nathaniel Hawthorne once complained (according to my crazy-haired unkempt professor in college that is), that he could never write in summer. He could only sit down and get the work done once winter rolled around and he was cold, sad, and trapped in his house for months on end.


And I must admit, as winter rolls into Michigan early, I really can feel the calming affects of the landscape.






So don't be afraid to curl up with your laptop under some blankets, hot drink in hand, and get the work done. The real danger of course is the holidays, right? All the shopping must be done and ALL the family gets together to eat excessively like the Old Country Buffet on 32x fast forward--good times! (?)  


And with all that going on it can be hard to carve out that time for yourself to get your writing done. (Don't lie. NANOWRIMO ends in 10 days and then you won't write again until Jan 1, when you make a resolution to "write more" purely out of guilt. I should know!)

Instead, maybe try to be consistent instead. Stephen King says he writes 2000 words a day everyday. Even on his birthday. But unfortunately, many loved ones simply don't understand your compulsion to write. So here are some ideas for carving out time to write this holiday season:

1) Go to the bathroom--for a really long time. We eat some weird &^$% during the holiday. It will seem totally normal if you go to the bathroom and lock the door for hours. And it might be the only way to get family members and children to get off your back.

2) Get sick.
'Tis the season to get sick. Why not lie and say you are so that you have an excuse to stay in bed all day--with your computer of course! And when someone comes to check on you just 1) pretend to be asleep 2) start coughing uncontrollably 3) get all pathetic and weepy or 4) all of the above.

3) Ride the tryptophan wave.
If sometimes you confuse your loved ones with walking garbage disposals, use that to your advantage! After all, it goes in cycles--eat ALL THE THINGS--naps all around--EAT ALL THE THINGS--etc. So your goal should simply be to get on a slightly different schedule. Pick at your food and pretend to have an upset stomach if you must (see Tip #1)...and once everyone falls asleep write like mad! And when they wake up, eat like crazy and nap yourself. Anyone with infants should understand this kind of timing.

Anyway, I'm wishing everyone a super productive holiday season. Also, if you haven't entered my audiobook giveaway yet, there is still time! Get the goods here!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

“My fault, my failure, is not in the passions I have, but in my lack of control of them.” #Addiction

“My fault, my failure, is not in the passions I have, but in my lack of control of them.”

--Jack Kerouac

I am a very passionate person, so when I care about things, I tend to care about them intensely. Consequently, when I want something, I want it just as intensely. An addictive personality can be described as "a particular set of personality traits that make an individual predisposed to addictions. Addictive behaviors are defined by the "excessive, repetitive use of pleasurable activities to cope with unmanageable internal conflict, pressure, and stress" (Wikipedia).

Both of my parents and numerous family members have addiction problems, so I feel l need little evidence beyond this to know that I inherited this trait. Furthermore, it is believed that while not all those with the predisposition for addiction will develop such an addiction, those with "severe childhood distress" are significantly more likely to become addicts themselves.


So here is the thing: I have conquered every addiction I've ever had with one exception.


I am currently the healthiest I've ever been. I have stability and peace which I dreamed of and prayed for during my "severe childhood distress"--something that will pull me out of the darkness and despair that I'm prone too.

But there feels like something is missing. Like any addict I feel that desire and need for the extreme and excessive indulgence, even knowing it is bad for me. Even knowing that I am risking everything I've worked so hard for, just because I'm desperate to scratch this itch that I've carried my whole life. And I've found myself tempted by old destructive habits that I thought were long in the past. 


So this brings me to my question. Is "passion" by nature unhealthy? Is it--because it is by nature 'excessive'--naturally unbalanced? Is it better to walk "the middle way" as the good 'ol Buddha says, or should one always indulge their passion because life is short, etc.

This idea is what I currently struggle with. I want to be stable and happy and have more peace and contentment in my life than either of my parents experienced. But I am also naturally inclined to the excessive, the unbalanced, the reckless, and extreme. 


So knowing this about myself, what is a girl to do?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The #Zen Art of #Writing #NaNoWriMo

I come across a lot of zen Buddhism stuff when I do my random Google searches (you know those ones that started with a simple question like "what kind of gun would my protagonist have" and ends with two hours on YouTube watching the Hunger Games trailer or a few episodes of Bad Lip Reading (Twilight FTW!).  I'm not complaining--after all that is probably how you ended up here!

I'm just saying that one of the concepts that I came across in some  random Buddhist readings is the idea of sitting with your pain or your uncertainty. That instead of trying to get away from it, you push more deeply into it.

Kind of like when you have an itch that you can't scatch. If you only think 'oh my god! Scratch it! Scratch it!" It itches more and drives you crazy. But if you really focus on it without trying to scratch, the impulse kind of goes away. And supposedly, from a similar random Buddhist reading when you sit with this discomfort, that is when you start to heal. Because it is inherent in us anyway.

So I'm connecting this idea to my writing--and my life. I feel like I do a great deal of healing when I write. My stories though told about another fictitious person are my stories. And that by pushing further into the pain (because let's be honest: writing can be hard and frustrating and tiresome!) I can find what I am really looking for.

So instead of giving up on the writing or letting myself get blocked and frustrated, I should push deeper into that discomfort--and see where that takes me.

Monday, November 17, 2014

This #Mondayblogs: A Day in the Life of a #Writer #amwriting

So this will be my first journal entry that is actually quite like a journal entry. Prepare yourself for the feels.

No one likes Mondays and I am no exception. Also, I've been eating an abundance of cheese lately (it's a comfort food--so shoot me), and so I've had a perpetual runny nose and stuffy head today. I woke up early because I did not get as much grading done as I needed to, so I literally laid in bed until 1:15PM, grading essays and recording those grades in my gradebook (for those of you who don't know, we do that electronically now--so there was also a laptop involved, in case you were picturing me under a mound of blankets and papers only).

Then I was trying to hide the fact that I had not showered, washed my face or in anyway had made myself presentable for work (I had 20 minutes to get out of the door between grading and my class that started at 2:10)--so I pulled half my hair up in a bun and flat-ironed the bottom half...this gave the very misleading impression that I had spent more than the 2 minutes on my hair that I did.

I also spruced up my outfit which was really nothing more than jeans and a sweater by wearing a REALLY nice scarf and earrings--is this what the magazines mean by accessorizing? "Oh hey, you are really dirty! No worries girl--big sunglasses and nice gloves for you gurrrrl). 

Class was good and quick--the best kind. And I got home early. But instead of getting into bed, I turned into a switch board operator. No sooner did I end one unexpected phone call and answer another, did a third call come in. A friend was having an equally bad day and needed a hug so I told her to come on over. Then I put her on the phone with the other friend (switchboard operator, remember?) and made hot cocoa for us both and built a fire in our wood-burning fireplace.

What is better than a fire and hot cocoa on a cold snowy evening pray tell? Maybe only spaghetti made with cheesy, vodka sauce maybe. (yes, more cheese, I know. And yes, my nose is still running like crazy). I ate the kale salad out of guilt. Then I checked my online courses to make sure those students were doing OK too.

Then here I am, journaling for the day so that I may keep up with my November challenge, while my lovely partner is in the kitchen cleaning up after dinner. (You da best, babe! Oh and speaking of which, have you guys read her latest blog post? It's so good!) 

And what will happen after this? Well I still need to make my word count for the evening and practice French before my lesson tomorrow. Also, I need to take the morbidly obese pug for a walk in the chilly, snowy night before coming back to my lovely fire. 

Is that too much to ask? ;)

Kory

Friday, November 14, 2014

#Audible #Giveaway: Showin' the Love

Week 2 complete of my November, journalling/blogging challenging! :)


I am so happy that I've completed my second week of blog posts that I thought we should celebrate! So today's post is a giveaway!  Yay prizes! Yay funs!

Many of you know already that Hollie Jackson and I are working on completing the recording of Dying by the Hour, the sequel to Dying for a Living. So in honor of that I want to give away more audiobooks, in order to show my love, but also get you as pumped as I am about the sequel's release.

So please enter the giveaway below and win ALL THE THINGS.

Also, I just want to thank everyone who have been reading and commenting for the last two weeks. You guys rock! I've felt so encouraged in this little challenge of mine and you guys are totally making this fun on a bun.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Don't Think That!

So recently it came to my awareness that I manifested something that I had thought about. Not exactly, "wished" for, but considered in great deal and lo and behold, a couple of years later, voila! 

This realization got me thinking about thoughts in general and how our thoughts create the world we live in--very new-agey-*&^% here but bear with me.

The following statements are true about perception: (perception (n.): "a way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something; a mental impression."

1) Perception is subjective.  (A good day for the fox is a bad day for the rabbit and vice versa.)

2) People act/behave within their environments based on their perception.
       (I believe I can have this job; I applied for it. I believe I can't have this job; I did not apply for it.)


3) Perception can be changed.
       
(Who hasn't heard "Be positive" and tried it to varying degrees of success?).



I know this is common sense for many people, but for me, I am just beginning to realize that my perception of the world, creates my world. I can already hear the realists out there groaning about the "real" world and how there is only one way. But my current, highly subjective perception is that the world is so large and strange and complex that it is actually a multitude of realities--and you can choose which reality you want to live in. If I feel grateful and positive, I live in a positive, plentiful world. If I think everyone is an asshole and we will never get our shit together--then there is a jerk at every corner, behind every steering wheel, and in every political office.

So I've been thinking about ways in which I negatively assess my world and maybe how I can make it better by changing my perception:

1) I speak very negatively to myself. I am my own worse critic. Whether it be my outfit, a bad hair day, or a poor writing session--I tend to blame myself rather than encourage/forgive/accept. I wonder how different my world would be if I changed this perception?

2) I think too often of how things "should" be. This is partially a social, construct, I know. But like many people, I live in a world of comparisons. I should be this, I should have that. At my age, I should,...lots of assessment and judgment rather than acceptance. I wonder how different my world would be if I changed my perception of what should be?

3) I worry far too much about the future rather than the present. Like many people, I tend to operate in the future or past tense. I have a hard time being right here, right now. I worry about all the things that could happen or where I would like to be in 5, 10, 20 years. But what if I changed my perception and tried not to value the future, which may never exist, but the present. How different would my world be if right now was the most important moment of my life?

And what about your perceptions? Do they help you? Hinder you? How different would your world be if you changed them?


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Doing It and Doing It and Doing It Well #Write More #NaNoWriMo

I learn a great many things from my students. By observing them I have noticed how most people detest coming to school. Regardless if they are kids or adults, it seems that most do not want to attend class unless they have a clear motivation to do so.

I understood this behavior from my own experience in high school and college. If I had a friend in the class who I wanted to see, I was more likely to attend. Looking forward to seeing someone was motivation enough for me to go to that class. In fact, I had a particularly amorous friend in high school who would only go to a class if it had a particular (or several) cute boys in it.

This concept of adding something "positive" to a task that you dread seems to also resemble the gym-buddy system that so many swear by. Apparently people are more likely to work out if they have a friend they are going to work out with--I have had only mixed results with this concept myself.

So how can I take this lesson and apply it to my writing:

1) Have special pleasures/bonuses associated with writing.
If you only get to see that friend when you come to class, or when you workout, but you really like that friend, then it stands to reason that you are more likely to engage in that task in order to seek that fulfillment.  So maybe you only get to listen to a kind of music, or eat a specific snack food, or go to your favorite coffee shop, or <insert positive affirmation here> when writing--that will certainly encourage you write more often.

2) Use the "buddy-system" for accountability. 
Like with the gym, having a writing "buddy" is a good way to keep yourself on track. It can be a writer's/critique group or simply another writer friend who you do sprints with. (Short chunks of time devoted to writing your butts off.) I also have a friend who plans to send me a check for $500 and if she doesn't make her word count by the end of the month, I get to cash the check. Is it bad that I'm rooting for her to fail? :op

3) Achievement rewards for long term projects.
Writing whole books can be really challenging. But if you break it into smaller goals and put prizes at the end of each milestone, you're more likely to get the work done. At 20,000 words= a massage. 50K words= a weekend off/away. First draft done=dinner at fav all you can drink wine bar....whatever does it for you. But make the prizes good, so that getting to the end feels like a sweet deal.


So what do you do to make sure the writing gets done?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Mind Games---Want to Play? #amwriting w/ #writerprobs

(Post 7 of my November Journal Challenge!)

I have to be in a certain head space in order to write. If I am too stressed I can't write but if I'm not writing, I feel stressed! It is a cycle that can get ugly real quick. 

But why can't I just sit down and write?



Because I am such a hot house flower when it comes to writing. I have to be comfortable, fed, and have hours stretched out before me with nothing to do. No pressing appointments. No student essays staring at me from a pile on my desk. It can't be too sunny or I want to go out and play. It can't be too rainy or I want to go back to bed. I can't be too bored or I'm understimulated. I can't have too much to do or I'm distracted.

And no, I don't waste tons of time showering and all that in order to get to my desk and get the work done.

In fact, I am usually unwashed, haphazardly dressed and generally disheveled when I show up at my desk. I would be embarassed for anyone to see me in my usual "writer's uniform."

And it isn't that I don't have goals. I tell myself that my goal is to write 2000 words a day. If I write 1000+ I'm happy.

The problem is once I sit down to write, I often don't quite know what to do with myself. I have all these visions in my head of what I should be doing and how the writing should be going.  And all these "shoulds" often shut me down entirely and the "words of wonder" well goes dry.

You would think after two published books, it would be easier. That I could just sit down and type by now. I mean it sounds easy enough. 1. go to the computer 2. Turn it on. 3. Start typing.

But it is never that easy!
But why is it so hard, Kory? You just make up shit and write it down, right?
So why am I bothering to write this post about how hard writing is? Because I feel like writers don't talk about that enough--especially the super famous ones. I want more people to tell me how hard and imperfect the art is. But more often writing is portrayed as a magical  process where all the words just come to you and the stories are perfect, amazing, and beautiful and everyone skips to the bank clutching their fat royalty checks. 

But that illusion hinders--it doesn't help. It keeps me from simply saying "Yeah, I've got 30 minutes, so I"m going to write. So what if those words suck or if I can only get 10 on the page. To hell with Hollywood standards!"


Stephen King, churning out ALL THE BOOKS

So here I am saying that while yes, some days are good and the writing is amazing and there is no better head space in the world than that--more often, writing is work. Serious work. 

But I won't let that stop me.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Kory's Favorite Fall Pancakes #Recipe #Mondayblogs

(6th post of my November journal challenge!)

I love food things that are made with flour, sugar, and butter (vegan or not). And few things say "Fall" like apples, so that is why I am calling them my favorite fall pancakes. However, in giving credit where it is due--I should say this recipe is basically the recipe in Skinny Bitch, a great vegan cookbook--great for those with delicate tummies like my own.

This is what you will need:

1 cup flour (I prefer AP or whole wheat pastry flour)
3 tbsp sugar (I've used brown, organic, or maple syrup)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda (dumped a whole tsp in once; but still good; whoops!)
cinnamon to taste (the recipe says 1 teaspoon but I add more)
1 cup almond milk (I sometimes add more if I think the batter looks too thick)
vanilla (says 1 tsp, but again, I add a little more)
2 tbsp oil (I use olive)
Earth balance for pan
apples
maple syrup
cloves and nutmeg

Once I warm my pan over medium heat, I add about 0.5-1 tbsp butter. Yes, you read that correctly. I had about 1 tbsp of earth balance for every pancake I make. You know you're going to smear this on the pancake anyway. Just think how much more delicious it is if the butter is baked in rather than smeared cold on top, eh? Trust me.

So--

1. butter pan and pour in batter. Not too much or you'll have hard time flipping your pancake.


2. Let the pancake cook until you see all these pretty bubbles on top-->
    This picture was actually taken a little too soon.Wait for the bubbles! It is a sign of deliciousness!

3. Flip the pancake.

4. Admire this golden deliciousness until the other side cooks.

5. While repeating this for your 6-8 pancakes, get your apples cookin'. Cut apples up (you need about 1 apple per adult)

6.Put your cut up apple bits in a pan with some butter.

7. Once the apples are coated in butter and have started to cook, add maple syrup, cinnamon, clove and nutmeg to taste.

8. Let them cook like this until the liquid boils down and it starts to caramelize.

9. Finish up the pancakes while the apples cook.

10. Turn off the heat on the apples and let them sit and get sticky for a minute.

11. Plate those crispy delicious pancakes, topping the pancakes with the caramelized apples.


Voila! Enjoy! :) 

Friday, November 7, 2014

"With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility" #OwnYourPower

Day 5 of my November journaling challenge! First week complete, woot!)

So for those of you who know me in real time, know that I practice shamanic drumming for meditative and personal reasons, along with reconnecting to my grandmother's heritage. One of the aspects of shamanism (I am no shaman, just a drummer) is developing an ability to listen to the messages you receive--either during meditation/drumming, in your dreams, or in real life (the animals you see, the impressions you get, and so on). 

Three of the animals I've been working with lately: panther, blue jay and heron--all have an overlapping aspect to their messages: "You have power. Use this power wisely."

Accepting this message has been really hard for me for a long time. Partly because (like many, many people), I've been made to believe I am powerless. 

I've been made to believe I am powerless in general-social ways (I am an LGBT woman from an impoverished background with uneducated parents) to really specific and personal ways (direct abuse). Any ONE of these circumstances (gender, race, sexuality, poverty, abuse, etc.) can make a person feel powerless. I'm just unfortunate enough to have several compounding incidents that gave me a long and lasting impression that I am powerless.

So for anyone who has been made to believe they are powerless (and that is most people I believe), it can be really hard to first accept that you have power. After all, society has also done a really good job of giving us a false definition of power.

When you think of power, you are probably imagining a super wealthy white guy in a "position of power" (CEO, politician, etc.). But how powerful are these people really? If they will do anything to earn more money, then they are not very powerful. They can be persuaded and "bought". And think of some of the most influential and amazing people who changed world history--do they fit the above definition? No. Now think of someone from your life--anyone--who changed it entirely. Changed the way you saw the world and changed you. Was it a rich white dude in a business suit? Probably not. Unless such a person inspired you to become a rich dude in a suit yourself. ;)

I won't say much more on this now, as I am still examining what I think is real and false power (thanks, blue jay), but I am getting a better grasp (as I heal some of the events from my past--thanks drumming!) on the fact that I do have power--which in itself is a huge step for me.

One point of confusion for me has been the difference between power and strength. I thought they were very different and I just now learning the ways in which they overlap. I learned quickly through life experiences that I am strong. And I don't mean because of what I can bench press or anything like that. I mean because I can take an immense amount of damage: emotionally, physically, mentally--and I can survive. I can get up and challenge you again. I'm incredibly adaptable and have excellent endurance when it comes to turmoil and strife. 

To me, this was different than power. The ability to play the victim really well repeatedly was not the same as power. Because victims are powerless by nature. But I do not regret the things that have happened to me. As they say “what doesn’t kill you..”

But my mind was further blown when I realized that I could not only endure or survive, but that I could also exert power and control over myself, my own life, and even other people.

Now please remember that there are true victims out there. People who are truly rendered powerless by the cruelty of others. And it is our responsibility to protect those people. Help them and make life better for them. But before I can do that, I need to accept my own power. I am no use to anyone, if I cannot do that first.

It is true that I am not the President. I am not signing laws into order. But that isn’t the kind of power I’m interested in anyway. I don’t want to be the one to decide that trashcans shall be put on the curb every Tuesday. I want to shape the way people view themselves, each other, and the world. I want something I say to change their thoughts and actions. But most importantly, I want to exert better power over myself--to be a little less reactive to my environment each day. And these are all the things I’m learning about my power.

It starts with me--using what I learned while living as a powerless victim--my ability to endure or my ability to have everything take from me (financially, emotionally, physically, what have you) and still get up are traits I can use now--as a person who recognizes her power, and tries to be a bit more gentle with it.

It’s been tough waking up and realizing that I have influence over the mental and emotional landscape of others--over my students, my loved ones, and now with my writing, over strangers--it is hard to own and also it gives me a bit of remorse. After all, I have not been careful with what I’ve said or done to people because I believed myself to be powerless--thought that nothing I said or did would matter.

But it does. It matters to someone.

So if someone has ever made you feel like you are powerless, you might want to ask yourself if that is really true. Because that is where it starts--accepting that you do have power--and learning how to be a little kinder/gentler with it.

Because I am certain that whatever I say or do is changing someone. Right now. And I can only hope I will be more responsible with that power in the future.