Wednesday, November 30, 2011

5 Easy Questions with Michelle Ule!

Every Wednesday, I ask a writer the same five easy questions. In an effort to support and promote fellow wordsmiths, I feature authors who write a variety of genres, from sweet inspirational to mainstream thrillers. The writers themselves may be aspiring, published, or best-selling--all have made an impact on my life.

Thank you for joining me in welcoming… Michelle Ule!!

I met Michelle through Books & Such Literary Agency where we are both clients (Michelle also works there!). Michelle is such an intelligent, encouraging writer—I’m honored to have her here today and can’t wait for the day I get to meet her in person. Her novella, The Dogtrot Christmas, is featured in the New York Times Bestselling Christmas collection, A Log Cabin Christmas! Details to follow. Trust me, this book makes an excellent Christmas gift!

Let’s get to it!


1. Beverage of choice?

I actually really like water. With ice in the summer, without in the winter. The best water was from our well when we lived in Washington State.  :-)  Otherwise, mocha--but Starbuck's drink is a little too sweet.

2. Any pets?

I have a 10 year-old blind Gordon Setter dog, Suzie, whom I've written about on my blog "Life with a blind dog: How come she's always hungry?" and "Life with a blind dog: Watch Out." We have a miserable Hawaiian calico stray who has never gotten over leaving Hawai'i 14 years ago. Her name is Kali.  

3. Dream vacation?

St. Petersburg, Russia where I'd love to get lost for a day or two in the Hermitage art museum and wander the city with an excellent English-speaking guide who can take me to all the Romanov sites.

4. What are you listening to right now?

Civil War music to get in the mood for the novel I'm working on. If it's closer to Christmas, probably Nat King Cole's Christmas album.  :-)

5. What's for dinner?

Salmon or possibly quiche; depending on what's on sale at the grocery store later this morning!  :-)

***

Michelle, I drink a lot of water too, but soda and coffee are my faves! Your sweet dog Suzie is a very special member of the family—has she caught up with Murphy lately?—and I’m sure Kali is too. Cats are so independent and funny, aren’t they? I’m officially inviting myself along to Russia with you. A few years ago, I became obsessed with the story of the Romanovs. I read several conflicting books about the fates of the Grand Duchesses and enjoyed the rich history accompanying them. It would be a dream trip to traipse around St. Petersburg!

Oh, and I love Allison Krauss. One of her songs was featured on the Cold Mountain soundtrack, and it always reminds me of the Civil War. So haunting… Thanks so much for being my guest today, Michelle!

***

Nine novellas make up a collection of romantic Christmas tales from the 19th century. Spanning the country, we see how love blossomed in the rough walled cabins of winter. Learn about the Mexican posada tradition and how it meshed with the Scottish frontier Christmas; experience the anguish of a Civil War battlefield where stars provide hope; join a young teacher and students snowed into the classroom on the eve of Jesus' birth, and more!

Plenty of short stories perfect for curling up with a cup of cocoa and wood on the fire; this makes a lovely Christmas gift in a gorgeous book.

***
Michelle Ule fell in love with history, particularly US history, as a child and has read avidly on the subject ever since. Researching and then writing her massive family history, Pioneer Stock, put family names to extraordinary events in North American since the family's earliest arrival in 1628.
When the opportunity arose to write a romance set in a log cabin, she immediately reached into her family's past for pertinent stories. Panthers in the woods, Native Americans reaching between the unchinked gaps in the log cabin to touch the baby, a horrifying moment at the water hole-- all these stories and more happened to her Texas pioneer kinfolk.
Her degree may be in English Literature from UCLA, her training may be as a newspaper reporter and her life may be rich with travel and family, but Michelle Ule always comes back to the most dynamic parts of her life: reading and loving God. To learn more about Michelle, check out her blog and like her on Facebook. Michelle is also blogging this week at the Books & Such Blog.

Have you decorated for the holidays yet?

Have a wonderful Wednesday!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Why Our Characters Must Fail

I recently read a novel but struggled to get into the story. Each time I put it down, I had no desire to pick it back up. Tempted to stop reading, I decided to forge ahead and figure out why it wasn't grabbing me. I made a list of its strengths and weaknesses.


OLYMPICS BOBSLED
Photo by kylemacdonald

Strengths:

- Excellent writing. The author balances dialogue, thoughts, action, and narrative with ease.
- Modern, relatable characters. The hero and heroine (it's a contemporary romance) are realistic and have believable conflicts and goals. Plus, I liked both of them.
- Logical progression of plot. The story arc made sense and proceeded in a way I would expect.

Weaknesses:

- Too many characters introduced in first chapters. This book is the second or third in a series, so extra characters should be involved, but too many too soon only confuses the reader.
- Sunday drive pacing. While the plot progresses logically, it does not progress quickly. There doesn't seem to be any urgency.
- The hero and heroine do not share enough scenes in the first half. They are in scenes together, but they rarely interact. How are they supposed to fall in love if they don't talk to each other?

Not every book is perfect, and the strengths in this one more than offset the weaknesses. However, I pinpointed one major area that needed work.

Each scene had a point, but the stakes were never high enough for me to want to read the next scene. 

Jack M. Bickham discusses what an effective scene accomplishes in his excellent book, Scene & Structure. I'm paraphrasing here, but basically each scene should be told from one character's viewpoint, and the character must have a clear goal, which is obvious from the beginning of the scene. The character will then experience conflict in reaching that goal until the scene ends with the character failing to meet the goal.

Summary of Scene Essentials:
1. Introduction of the viewpoint character's scene goal.
2. Conflict threatening the character's ability to reach goal.
3. Failure of character to meet goal.

But...the character has to win sometimes, right? Yes. This is why it's important to be clear about the character's scene goal. If the book requires your heroine to convince her coworker to attend a wedding with her, you might choose to split the section into two scenes. The first scene will be told from her viewpoint. She gets the courage to ask him, he puts up a fight, and the scene ends with him refusing.

1. She asks coworker to be her date for wedding. (Goal)
2. He gives lame excuses. (Conflict)
3. He refuses. (Failure)

But...he has to agree. It's a vital plot point. Okay, no problem. The next scene will be in his point of view, and his scene goal will be to get out of the wedding invitation. But the heroine is very convincing, and he finds himself saying yes when he wants to say no.

1. He must not agree to this wedding invitation. (Goal)
2. She has lawyer-like convincing skills. (Conflict)
3. He accepts. (Failure)
If we ignore the scene essential of the character failing, we waste an opportunity to keep the reader on edge. We could have written the previous scene in the heroine's point of view and had her ask the hero to the wedding. He could still put up a fight, but in the end he agrees. The problem with this is that the heroine wins.

As readers, we like to watch our heroes and heroines suffer. We love that gnawing feeling in our gut when things go wrong. We need the hero and heroine to fail repeatedly for us to keep turning the pages. If they only win, what's the point of reading more? Our goal as writers should be to provide a sense of urgency--regardless what genre we write--and have the reader constantly ask, what comes next? How is the main character going to handle this? I've got to find out more!


Let's talk about this. Anything to add? Any questions? 

Have a terrific day!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Hold On To Your Zippers!

I've been drooling about it for days. Thanksgiving dinner!

Thanksgiving Dinner Turkey Drumstick Leg On Paper Plate free creative commons
Photo by pinksherbet

This year, I got smart and came up with the perfect holiday outfit. Leggings and a long sweater. No worrying about the strain on my zipper. No wondering how long I have to wait until I can put on my pajamas. Just stretchy, stylish comfort for a day of pigging out.

Have a happy Thanksgiving, all my American friends, and for everyone else, happy Thursday!

Who is braving the lines on Black Friday? (I'm passing this year.)

I'll be offline until Monday, so have a wonderful, wonderful holiday!

Monday, November 21, 2011

What Your Vacuum Cord Says About You

Have I performed secret psychological studies explaining the mysteries of life according to the state of your vacuum cord?

Vacuum Cleaner Specimen
Photo by thekirbster

No, but I did just spend seven minutes (yeah, seven! Why? Why??) thinking about my vacuum cord and wanted to write a post about it. Obviously, vacuum cleaners aren't very exciting, and their cords are positively dull. I had to find some way to wake up this yawn-a-rific topic. 

My vacuum is ten years old. It's a Hoover WindTunnel. I've loved this vacuum even as it slowly deteriorated and continues to do so. The cord in particular has problems. Sections of it are wrapped in electrical tape. Chunks of the rubber coating are missing. A few spots are coming dangerously close to exposing the wires. 

It also permanently bends in the same spots because of the way we wrap it. Its sharp, hard curves remind me of an arthritic hand, and sometimes I feel sorry for it. Of course, I still crank down the plastic holder and whip the cord out like a lasso whenever it's time to shimmy the vacuum around the house. I mean, come on, I don't feel that sorry for it.

I know my vacuum needs to be replaced--it's spitting things out, much like a cat coughs up a hairball--but I resist. I know I can make it work a little longer. :)

So here is my impressions of what your vacuum says about you:

- Shiny, new, perfect cord? You value performance and have high expectations of the tools you use. If your vacuum is not new but the cord still looks new, you must either never use it or you take extremely good care of your appliances. I'm in awe  of you. You have a level of patience I don't possess when it comes to cleaning!

- Slightly beat-up cord? You don't let much in your daily life bother you. Sure, you have days where coffee spills down your shirt and you're stuck in traffic, but you get through it with ease. And it isn't a big deal to you if your appliances don't work exactly as they should. They work and that's good enough for you. You rock!

- Somewhat dangerous, cobbled together cord? Welcome to my world. You're probably a tad stubborn. You'd rather spend money on something fun like a three-foot long box of chocolates from Russell Stover rather than replace a vacuum. However, you do actually clean the house, and you'll replace that bad boy when the vacuum motor dies. (Am I the only one in this category? Please, tell me I'm not!)

What does your vacuum cord say about you?

Happy Monday!

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Fantasy and Reality of a Christmas Parade

We're marching and singing in a Christmas parade this weekend. I've never participated before, so the images in my head are very idealistic. I have this lovely fantasy scenario playing out, but I think we all know the reality will be quite different.

Beckley WV Christmas Parade 2009
Photo by lostinmiami

Let's look at my fantasy verses reality, shall we?

Fantasy:
- My kids beam with happiness, "We get to sing in a parade??" They're so thrilled about our family outing, they want to join hands with me as we spread joy down the street. Kumbaya time.

Reality:
- My kids haven't been toddlers in a long, long time. Not only are they not jumping up in excitement, they're already moaning about it. And holding hands? Laughing so hard I just choked on a piece of apple!

Fantasy:
- The weather is clear and warm. You know how in the movies or on commercials, you see people with snow falling around them? They're usually wearing an unzipped jacket and cute shoes? That's me. Unzipped jacket, cute shoes, feeling good.

Reality:
- Um, I live in Michigan. If it isn't snowing, it's probably raining, and if it isn't raining, we can expect biting cold winds. Not only will my jacket be zipped, I'll be wearing a turtleneck and two sweaters. Don't forget the ugly snow boots. I can't even fathom not wearing a hat, scarf, and gloves. Let me tell you, all these layers add bulk. It won't be pretty.

Fantasy:
- Our voices will mingle in harmony as we sing Christmas carols. I'm talking concert choir level singing.

Reality:
- I sing loudly and off-key. And in every group--correct me if I'm wrong--there's at least one mumbler and one person who sings a fraction too fast. Let's not forget the lyric master; you know, the guy who sings the wrong words but doesn't realize it? Oh, yeah!

Fantasy:
- Our spirits bulge with the wonder of sharing holiday cheer.

Reality:
- Our spirits bulge with the wonder of sharing holiday cheer...and we still whine about the freezing weather, skirmish over who stands where, test to see if the hat is absolutely necessary (yes), and wish, out loud and often, we had a hot cocoa in hand.

Ahh, the charms of a Christmas parade. I'll take reality over fantasy every day. It's more fun!

What are you doing this weekend? Getting into the Christmas spirit yet?

Have a marvelous weekend!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

5 Easy Questions with Lynda Lee Schab!

Every Wednesday, I ask a writer the same five easy questions. In an effort to support and promote fellow wordsmiths, I feature authors who write a variety of genres, from sweet inspirational to mainstream thrillers. The writers themselves may be aspiring, published, or best-selling--all have made an impact on my life.

Thank you for joining me in welcoming… Lynda Lee Schab!!



Lynda and I met through the Great Lakes chapter of ACFW. She’s a warm, friendly, funny writer, and I’m so happy to host her here today. Her debut novel, Mind Over Madi, an inspirational women’s fiction, released yesterday--more details below. 

Let’s get to it!



1. Beverage of choice?

Definitely coffee and Diet Coke. Caffeinated, please.

2. Any pets?

Only the dust bunnies under my bed.

3. Dream vacation?

Honestly, my creativity has been on vacation for a while now, so my dream vacation would be an entire week by myself with nothing to think about rediscovering my muse. A whole week working on my novel with no housework, no running the kids around, no distractions, sounds heavenly.

4. What are you listening to right now?

At this moment, the only sound I hear is the gentle hum of my laptop and my fingers hitting the keyboard.

5. What's for dinner?

For me? Probably a Weight Watchers frozen entree. For my daughter, who just had four baby teeth pulled yesterday, probably soup. My son will likely come home with McDonalds or put chicken fries in the oven, and I'm not sure what my husband will want. With our schedules, I cook once or twice a week (and we try to sit down together on those days to reconnect) but the other days it's pretty much "fend for yourselves."

***

Lynda, I need my coffee and caffeine too! If you’re crying over your lack of pets, we have an aged guinea pig who would make a terrific addition to your family. No, really, we love the little guy. His bedding on the other hand... :) Also, your dream vacation sounds like a slice of heaven. No cooking? No cleaning? No mom-shuttling? Just a week-long date with a WIP? Love it!

I’m sorry your daughter had to have teeth pulled. Ouch. Hope she recovers quickly. Thank you so much for being my guest today!

***

Madi McCall admits her husband lacks a little in the romance department, but all in all, he’s been a good husband, a good father. Now, though, she suspects Rich is having an affair with Fawn Witchburn, the mother of one of his fourth-grade students. To say Fawn shows off her “assets” more than should be legally allowed in public is an understatement, and Madi’s insecurities kick into high gear. When, in a heated moment, she asks Rich to leave and he complies, Madi is forced to deal with her issues. Issues of love and trust she’s tried so hard to avoid. Issues that trail all the way back to her childhood and make her act like a total moron.



LYNDA LEE SCHAB got her writing start in greeting cards  (Blue Mountain Arts, Dayspring)  and from there  went on to write  articles and short stories (Mature Living, Christian Home &  School)  and in many places online (including http://www.examiner.com/ and  http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/), but  her passion has always been fiction. 

Mind Over Madi, her debut novel, is near and dear to her heart.  Lynda admits  she has a lot in common with  the character of Madi. Not only are they both addicted to ice cream, chocolate, and computer games, they struggle with the same types of insecurities and continually require a hefty dose of God’s grace.

Lynda works behind the scenes at FaithWriters.com and is a member of ACFW. She is a regular book reviewer for FaithfulReader.com and is the Grand Rapids Christian Fiction Examiner and the National Writing Examiner for Examiner.com.  Mind Over Madi  received Runner-up in the 2007 FaithWriters Page Turner contest, was a finalist in the 2007 RWA Get your Stiletto in the Door contest, and won second place in the 2008 ACFW Genesis contest, Chick Lit category. Lynda lives with her husband, Rob, and two teenagers in Michigan.

To learn more about Lynda, head to her blog, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

Does November seem extra busy to you? Or is it like any other month?

Have an amazing Wednesday!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Inspired or Terrified? Why I Avoid Fear-Based Journalism

Journalism, whether through newspapers, magazines, television, radio, or the Internet, has power. Power to inspire, to motivate, to change people's lives, and to inform. But sadly, the very stories meant to inspire often leave me uninspired, or worse, terrified.



For instance, I recently borrowed O's Big Book of Happiness from our library. The book, published in 2008, is a compilation of magazine articles originally published in the Oprah Magazine. It's divided into different sections for various areas in our lives. I read the diet/fitness section and loved the articles. They were funny, smart, and full of interesting research. My mood? Happy.

I then read the next several articles and found my happiness plummeting. One article was about a victim who'd been sexually assaulted and warned her town that the man was still at large. Another discussed two women with AIDS who are still alive (but with compromised immune systems) more than twenty-five years after their diagnosis. A woman recounted how as a ten-year-old she avoided being kidnapped by a serial killer. Then another article involving sexual assault, except this time the woman accused the wrong man and sent him to jail for twenty years. From there, the articles headed into bi-polar issues, cancer, more cancer, before settling into the story of a woman who went for a walk one morning and returned home to find all four of her children dead--they'd been killed by her ex-husband.

Don't get me wrong--these articles described women overcoming devastating life events. They were well-written, expertly researched, and meant to be inspirational.

But I didn't find them inspirational. 

Maybe it's my overactive imagination or my sensitivity, but a layer of anxiety settled on me after reading them. I started worrying about my safety, my family's safety, cancer, AIDS, serial killers--you name it. Anything I'd read became very real and very possible in my brain. 

I didn't sleep well, and I decided I've had enough "happiness" from Oprah's book. I'm returning it to the library.

Maybe my idea of happiness is off, but none of those stories made me feel happy. Many years ago, I stopped watching the nightly news for the same reason. I had trouble sleeping, and I worried about tragedies befalling our family.

We're all wired differently. You  might have read the articles and found them not only inspiring, but empowering as well. Not me. Still, my faith keeps me strong. I've never been a Christian who believes bad things only happen to other people. I know God would get our family through any tragedy that could befall us, but I'd prefer to not have the tragedy to begin with.

Does fear-based journalism inspire you? Or are you like me and get unduly terrified after reading about tragedies?

Have a fantastic Monday!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Taking Back My Day: An Update

A few weeks ago I posted about my disappearing day. I've been trying different techniques to accomplish more in less time. While I haven't yet found my best division of time, I am happy with the progress I've made so far.

Success in Marsatac by Pirlouiiiit 25092010
Photo by pirlouiiiit

Successes:

1. I moved back into my office.

Since we don't allow our dog upstairs--and she is 100% a lapdog--I was working in our living room. No more. Each morning I close the doors to the bedrooms and set aside the baby gate so Sophie can hang out with me in my office. Maybe it's a mental thing, but I feel more professional working in a dedicated space.

2. Each Monday I take fifteen minutes to map out my writing week.

My calendar shows any outside obligations, like appointments, volunteer commitments, or hiccups in the school schedule. After reviewing my calendar, I set writing goals and remind myself of upcoming tasks such as setting aside time for a critique and writing blog posts. Setting weekly goals keeps me realistic on what I can accomplish.

3. Making progress on my current WIP is always my top priority, so I rescheduled my mornings to start with a "win." 


I used to have no trouble starting my day by checking e-mails, my blog, Facebook, Twitter, and my writing loops, but my platform has grown, and with that, the amount of sites I check. I can lose two hours just checking in! That doesn't include reading blogs! I still like to check e-mails and my blog first thing, so I set my limit to ONE hour. Then, I immediately devote my next hour to my WIP. Knowing I've made legitimate progress on my book before lunch makes me a happy camper.

4. I've chopped my day into segments.


Instead of one marathon multi-hour writing or revising session, I've broken my day into hour segments. I still spend the same amount of time on my work in progress, but I'm less drained and it's less daunting. As mentioned earlier, I start with a one hour AM social media session. Then I move on to my book. I take 5-10 minute breaks between sessions to stretch my legs, take the dog out, and grab a cup of hot tea or a snack. Physically and mentally, it's a better fit for me.

Not Successes:


1. I would like to have 30 minutes of free time by myself each afternoon.


To meet the goals I've set, I simply do not have that 30 minutes. I would either have to lower my goals or devote even less time to social media. I'll be brainstorming this dilemma in the upcoming weeks.

2. I still lose a lot of time to slow computers. 


My laptop and our PC are old, slow, and lock up frequently. We plan on replacing my laptop next year, but in the meantime, I'm trying a duel computer gig where I sign on to one site with my laptop and, while it's loading, I check e-mails and what-not with the PC. So far this method has saved me at least 20 minutes per session, but the problem persists.

3. I want one free day (a weekday) per month to fill my creative well.


Again, see number one on Not Successes. I really struggle to allow myself time for me. I know I'm a nicer person and more creative when I watch old DVD's, read a novel in one sitting, or tour a museum. Yet, I haven't planned a free day in over a year. Ouch.

If you've been struggling with time management, how are you combating it? Any secrets you'd like to share?

Have a terrific weekend!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

5 Easy Questions with Jessica Bell!


Every Wednesday, I ask a writer the same five easy questions. In an effort to support and promote fellow wordsmiths, I feature authors who write a variety of genres, from sweet inspirational to mainstream thrillers. The writers themselves may be aspiring, published, or  best-selling--all have made an impact on my life.

Thank you for joining me in welcoming… Jessica Bell!!

I met Jessica through blogging and was immediately charmed. She's lived an artistic life on a different continent than me (check out her bio below!), and she expresses herself through a variety of mediums--as a musician, poet, and writer. In fact, her novel, String Bridge, just released through Lucky Press, and Jessica released a soundtrack, Melody Hill: On the Other Side,  to accompany it. You can find more about String Bridge after the interview.

Let's get to it!

1. Beverage of choice?

There are quite a few. Some healthy, some not so, but I have to say my most favorite is a strawberry smoothie. I'm picky though. It's got to be made with frozen strawberries, Greek yogurt, full fat milk, and a generous amount of honey. No sugars, sweeteners, ice cubes or skim milk thank you ...

2. Any pets?

Yes! My adorable dalmatian, Holly Bolly Wollywood :o) That's what I call her when I'm cuddling her face close to mine and scratching under her chin. Otherwise, it's just Holly.
(Attached picture if you want to use it!)


3. Dream vacation?

Travelling around Australia in a Ute with my partner and my dog, with ALL the time in the world to explore every single nook and cranny. I have to add, with the least amount of belongings possible. We've gotta go it rough. ... um ... but can I sneak my laptop along? LOL

4. What are you listening to right now?

Holly banging the window for me to let her in. But I'm not giving in. She's too spoiled!

5. What's for dinner?

I hardly ever plan dinner, or even cook ... properly. I slap something together a the last minute that's quick and easy like salad, pasta, or soup. But funnily enough, today I have planned, and it's already prepared and in the fridge, ready to pop into the oven. Fresh grilled sardines is on the menu today, with some steamed green veggies, feta cheese and olives.

***

Jessica, I made strawberry smoothies this morning with Greek yogurt and fresh berries. I did add a banana, though, and a scoop of protein powder! Oh, and you have a dalmation. Aren't they sweet? We have one in our neighborhood, who, I'm ashamed to say, our mini-dachshund yaps at, but she's a lovely dog. What a fun name!

I would love to sneak my laptop along for a tour of Australia. It's been on my fantasy vacay list for as long as I can remember. And Hugh Jackman has nothing to do with it. Nothing at all. :) Enjoy your delicious and healthy dinner, and thanks for being my guest today!

***
Here is the book trailer--and yes, that is Miss Jessica singing!--for String Bridge. Ooo, it gave me shivers it's so good!




String Bridge ~ 

Greek cuisine, smog and domestic drudgery was not the life Australian musician, Melody, was expecting when she married a Greek music promoter and settled in Athens, Greece. Keen to play in her new shoes, though, Melody trades her guitar for a 'proper' career and her music for motherhood. That is, until she can bear it no longer and plots a return to the stage--and the person she used to be. However, the obstacles she faces along the way are nothing compared to the tragedy that awaits ...


String Bridge and Melody Hill are available through Amazon (both are linked) now!


Jessica Bell is a literary women's fiction author, poet and singer/songwriter who grew up in Melbourne, Australia, to two gothic rock musicians who had successful independent careers during the '80s and early '90s.

She spent much of her childhood travelling to and from Australia to Europe, experiencing two entirely different worlds, yet feeling equally at home in both environments. She currently lives in Athens, Greece and works as a freelance writer/editor for English Language Teaching publishers worldwide, such as HarperCollins, Pearson Education and Macmillan Education.

In addition to String Bridge, Jessica has published a book of poetry called Twisted Velvet Chains. A full list of poems and short stories published in various anthologies and literary magazines can be found under Published Works & Awards, on her website.

From September 2012 Jessica will be hosting the Homeric Writers' Retreat & Workshop on the Greek island of Ithaca, home of Odysseus. For more information about Jessica, head to her website, her blog, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.


What's the weather like today in your neck of the woods?


Have a wonderful Wednesday!



Monday, November 7, 2011

Dippin' Dots Demise?

Dippin' Dots--little beads of ice cream sold in a cup for 3-6 bucks. For years, my kids have been begging me for the tiny globes of goodness. In a variety of flavors, Dippin' Dots has enchanted children (and adults) from the get go.

61/365
Photo by rockinfree

I never got very excited about them, myself. I prefer my ice cream rich, thick, and scoopable. I also prefer my ice cream inexpensive, and it seemed ridiculous to pay such an exorbitant amount for what looked like popsicles run through a food processor.

Apparently, I'm not alone. Dippin' Dots recently filed for bankruptcy according the the Wall Street Journal. You can read all about it in Katy Stetch's article, "Dippin' Dots Tries To Avoid a Meltdown," which is linked.

It got me to thinking about other ice cream phenomenons I rarely see anymore. Take TCBY frozen yogurt. Twenty years ago a franchise opened near us, and for months the line snaked out the door. The soft serve treat was good, but it, too, was expensive.

We used to see Baskin Robbins and Dairy Queens everywhere, but I have to drive to a major city to find one anymore.

One ice cream franchise I see everywhere, or at least it seems like it, is Cold Stone Creamery. We tried it once, and it was yummy, but four tiny bowls cost more than a fast food meal. I simply can't justify making Cold Stone Creamery a habit at those prices.

Most of our ice cream is purchased on sale and consumed at home. My favorite brand is Edy's, and I'm a huge fan of their low fat selections. Occasionally, we'll indulge in a McFlurry, or, if it's summertime, we'll stop at one of our local, seasonal ice cream joints. We also like to make our own shakes and smoothies.

Still, my children will mourn the loss of Dippin' Dots. As for me, I'll smile inside knowing I won't have to listen to, "Ooo, look, Dippin' Dots..." when we head to the zoo, an amusement park, or the mall.

Have you ever tried Dippin' Dots? Are you sad they may no longer be available?

Have a lovely Monday!

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Yin and Yang of Genres

Something strange happened this summer. Something unexpected. Something that has grown stronger with the cooler weather.

I've become a fan of scary television shows.


San Diego Comic-Con 2011 - Walking Dead truck ad
What's odd about this? Well, for one, I write sweet romances for the inspirational market. My books never feature zombies, I couldn't write a gruesome horror scene without vomiting, and there's always a happily-ever-after at the end of my stories. So why am I willing to turn off Sunday Night Football to catch the latest installment of The Walking Dead

I don't have a scientific answer, but I have a few theories. 

1. I'm drawn to good writing.
2. I'm impressed with the pace, level of acting, and the special effects.
3. My husband controls the remote.
4. Watching scary shows accelerates my heart rate without having to exercise.
5. There is some romance in the shows I like.

Maybe the most likely cause is that when it comes to television I'm drawn to the polar opposite of my genre because I spend so much time with sweet romance every day. It's like chocolate and peanut butter. You know. Yin. Yang.

Somehow it works.

Do you have opposing tastes in books, movies, and television? Or do you like to stick with one genre?

I'm blogging over at MVRWA today about one of my song obsessions--"Dear John" by Ryan Adams featuring Norah Jones. I'd love it if you stopped by!

Have a fantastic weekend!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

5 Easy Questions with Tracy Madison!


Every Wednesday, I ask a writer the same five easy questions. In an effort to support and promote fellow wordsmiths, I feature authors who write a variety of genres, from sweet inspirational to mainstream thrillers. The writers themselves may be aspiring, published, or  best-selling--all have made an impact on my life.

Thank you for joining me in welcoming… Tracy Madison!!

Tracy and I met when I moved back to Michigan four years ago. At the time she was president of MVRWA, and she soon signed with Dorchester for her first book, A Taste of Magic. Since then, she's published three more books in the Magic series, and this month marks her first book release through Harlequin Special Edition! Miracle Under the Mistletoe is available now. Tracy has such a warm, fun voice--you're in for a treat with any of her books.

Let's get to it!

1. Beverage of choice?

Coffee. Always coffee. If for some reason, coffee isn’t available, then I’ll make do with tea.

2. Any pets?

Yes, we have two cats (Briar & Ellie), and two dogs (Sadie & Holly). Briar owns the house, even over the dogs, which cracks me up.

3. Dream vacation?

I’ve always dreamed about going to Ireland. Someday!

4. What are you listening to right now?

My dog (Holly) snoring in her sleep, and a fan I always turn on when I’m going to write. It works as white noise for me.

5. What's for dinner?

We all have colds, so the traditional homemade chicken noodle soup is on the menu.

*** 

Tracy, I love coffee in the morning and tea in the afternoons, and I really want to borrow your cats. Then Briar could rule the house in peace for a few days, right? :) Ireland sounds fabulous with all that lush, green scenery, plus, I enjoy the Irish accent.

You're the first writer here who admits to using white noise, and what a great idea to use a fan. I rarely write with music or television on, but the noise of construction sometimes bothers me. Next time it does, I'll drag a fan in here. And so sorry your household is under the weather. It's been a rough fall for illness. Hope you feel better. Thanks so much for being my guest today, and congratulations on your release!

***

Miracle Under the Mistletoe

Grady and Olivia Foster shared everything—passion, friendship and a soul-deep connection that made their marriage blissful. Then tragedy struck when a drunk driver stole the life of their young son Cody just days before Christmas. Olivia begged for space to heal. But space became estrangement, and now, as Christmas approaches again, Olivia fears it's time to call it quits.

But Grady's not giving up without a fight. He'd given her space. Now he's determined to give her what she really needs—all the desire, devotion and tireless love it takes to heal their loss and rekindle the spark that once made them the perfect couple…whether Olivia likes it or not! To save their love, he'll pull out all the stops…and pray for a Christmas miracle.




Tracy Madison is an award-winning author who lives with her husband, four kids, and too many pets. A night-owl by nature, Tracy tends to write when the rest of her household is asleep. She happily admits her addiction to coffee, reading, online shopping, and reality television (of the cooking variety). When she isn't writing, Tracy is likely to have her nose buried in a book. To learn more about Tracy, head to her website and be friends with her on Facebook.

I started writing a new book, and it's been challenging and exciting. What are you working on this week?

Have a wonderful Wednesday!