Wednesday, December 16, 2009

New Simon's Cat!

I admit it. Like most pet owners, I get a kick out of media that show the true natures of our furry companions. One of my favorites is Simon's Cat. For anyone who has at least one little furball running around their apartment/house, you'll know from the first few seconds how oh so apropos these shorts are.

You can watch the newest one here, but I would also recommend checking out the Simon's Cat channel on YouTube to see all of the shorts. They do not disappoint!

Saturday, December 12, 2009


I wrote this as an experimental short story. I guess it reads like a collection of prose poems more than anything else, based on some good feedback I got when I submitted someplace for publication. I plan on rewriting it to be more of short story, but thought I'd share in its earliest form while I deal with reality for a while. Enjoy!


The Barracks

Yellow. Not piss yellow or canary yellow, but a pallid perversion of a color that would in other surroundings emote tranquility. I swear they put the yellow right in the plaster; the walls don’t serve just as the palate for the paint, but as a sponge, so that no matter how many posters you hang, pictures you hammer, certificates or plaques you fasten, the mocking hue saturates everything around. To complement the decaying glow of the walls is brown: I-haven’t-shit-for-days-brown, layered upon layer, covered with gloss to make it seem more important than it really is: a farce only slightly higher on the color bar than black because it is not completely devoid of color, forgetting that what is presented to the world is representative of that which is repugnant and putrid in life. Every room is the same. Okinawa. Stuttgart. Cape Town. The best time spent here is when you try to fall asleep.

The Ex

    Tangled in orange Egyptian cotton sheets, she said, “What did you expect?” Honor. Loyalty. I expected her to wait in those sheets for me to walk through the bedroom door, not for the gas attendant that fills up my tank every week to come back from washing off her residue and relieving himself of the five beers he’d drunk earlier that day. I didn’t think that was too much. Four years, three continents came together in endless yards of fabric stitched by Asian 6-year-olds that she bought with my Macy’s card. She used to walk out of the room swaying her hips, just to get me hard and sweaty. The furtive smile she would shoot back stabbed a pain in my chest. That day, she threw a grenade instead. At 30, you’d think I’d be smarter than to catch it.

Busy, Busy, Busy's been a while since my last post. This always happens toward the end of the semester. All sorts of work pours in, and I struggle to keep from drowning in all of the papers that flood my inbox. Even now I'm making notes on research papers for three classes tonight after having finished one class earlier today. And I've got one more class to work on tomorrow.

Anyhow, I'm taking 5 to clear my head a bit. A student in one of my classes asked the other day where he could find more of my writing. I'd given his class 2 of the poems I'd written in grad school as a way to introduce our unit on poetry. It's my dirty little trick to get the students reading and postulating about the poems before revealing their prof is the evil genius behind the pen (as if!).

Friday, November 20, 2009


Ugh! I have been defeated by my own addiction to work. With a little more than a week left, I know I will not finish my book this month.

I had expected to have some downtime to work on my manuscript during my trip to Florida over the weekend, but no such luck. Then as soon as I got back -- SLAM!
  • Two new -- and immediate -- freelance projects
  • Author review and major cuts to my 600-page Complete Idiot's Guide (which is only supposed to be 400 pages)
  • Five classes worth of essays I have to read and comment on
  • Grading and meetings with students
  • An extracurricular MLA workshop I'm holding tomorrow to help my students better understand this English language bugaboo
  • And another freelance project that has to be done on-site and will take almost a day to complete

And they all have to be completed by Tuesday or sooner.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Chapter 1 - Part 2

Derry sipped the rich black coffee that burned comfortingly through the cup in his hands. If he had to be living among mortals, he was grateful that there were some comforts that would make the experience more bearable. Giovanni’s fresh-brewed coffee was one of them.

He told himself that this was the reason he stirred from his bed with only a few hours sleep in him morning after morning. He said it adamantly every time he settled down on the corner of Dorchester Avenue, directly across the street from Bryn Mercer’s apartment.

It was just a quiet place to enjoy the effects of the caffeine. It had nothing to do with his ongoing fascination with the woman who’d been coming into his pub, Mallory’s, since its opening a few months ago. Nothing at all to do with those mesmerizing green eyes that sparkled even in the dim light of the bar nearly every night.

And it definitely had nothing to do with the sidhe charm she wore around her neck.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Chapter 1 - Part 1/NaNoWriMo Update

Had kind of a rough week, but I'm up to about 5,260 words as I close this week out -- which is a lot more than I've written in months. Yeah NaNoWriMo!  Here's a tease for Chapter 1:

Chapter 1

Bryn Mercer woke with a start, the way she always did after the dream that had plagued her since childhood came. One of the few constants in her life was the surety the same feelings of violence would pervade her sleep every night. Though nothing more than a vague recollection would follow her into the daylight, however, yet the dream always haunted her, and she didn’t know why.

Shaking her head to clear what few images she could remember from her mind, she slid out of bed and padded to the shower. Today was supposed to be a good day; Adrian Marx would finally be going home.
As she stepped into the rush of hot water, she thought how rare it is for a nine-year-old to be adopted and by good people – really good people, not just the kind that put on a show for the social workers and then turn around and beat their kids.

Bryn had spent twenty-six years in the Massachusetts child protective services system. She was initiated the day the Boston police found her in an abandoned car on Mercer Street when she was an infant. She knew all too well the kind of people who took in foster children, and exactly what many of them were after.
In fact, she knew the moment she met every foster family she’d ever been placed with whether or not they were really interested in providing her a good home or if they were just in it for the money – or worse.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


As promised, here is the prologue to my novel, Lost Sidhe. This scene takes place in the past and has not been edited in the slightest, so if there are errors, please take this for the first draft that it is. Any feedback is always appreciated!


The inside of the car was so hot that an uncharacteristic flush swept over Áine DeDanann’s fair cheeks. She looked down affectionately at the baby sleeping in her arms, gently tucking the child’s fine brown hair behind one ear so she could see all of her daughter’s face.

Áine sat still on the back bench seat as a curtain of sadness fell over her eyes of crystal violet, just like the flowers would look if viewed through water. Her loose auburn curls framed a face that smiled gently, as if assuring herself of something.

“It will be alright, my love,” she whispered to the child, who opened her eyes at the sound of her mother’s voice. The woman stroked the baby’s cheek in a gesture of comfort, feeling the smooth pale skin so like her own. “I promise you, I will keep you safe. He will not take you. That is the only gift I have to give you now. I am so sorry.”

Tears fell on the pink blanket that swaddled the infant, who blinked brilliant aquamarine eyes at her mother as if she understood what she’d said and all that was happening around her. A tiny hand grasped the Áine’s finger and held it tight. She smiled at her daughter’s gesture and kissed her on the forehead.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Good Intentions, Novel Intro

Just like New Year's resolutions, some of my NaNoWriMo resolutions have already bit the dust. :( I came down with a sinus infection that has inhibited my ability to concentrate, so I only got about 300 words done yesterday and about 1,000 done so far today. But, I am not being too hard on myself and am determined to plow through tonight and get up to 3,000 words at least.

One pledge I will come through on right now is some information about my novel. I like to think of myself as a Celt. My heritage is Irish, German, and Eastern European, with a little Italian mixed in for good measure. Though the Celts are known mostly for their history in Ireland and Scotland, they were also very prevalent throughout the Germanic and Eastern European countries.

So, when I went looking for inspiration for a story premise, I turned to Celtic mythology. There, I discovered the sidhe (pronounced sh-ee), a race of faeries who had power over nature and were the complete opposite of what most people think of when they hear "faery." No little wings or faery dust, sidhe are the size and shape of humans. They have powerful control over nature and a long history of waging battle throughout Irish mythology. Faeries that kick butt -- sounds cool to me.

Based on this concept, I developed a paranormal/suspense/urban fantasy-type story that involves a cast of supernatural characters, including:
  • A sidhe queen who gives up her life to ensure a future for her daughter
  • Her halfling daughter who is raised as a human in a gravely flawed foster care system
  • A sidhe warrior who was forced to flee his homeland into the mortal world after the queen's fall
  • A collector demon (collects the powers of other magical beings upon the moment of their death) who is obsessed with the queen, her daughter, and fulfilling a prophecy that is yet to be determined
  • A sleeper villain who acts as a puppeteer among these characters to gain his revenge for a wrong that was done to him
This may sound simplistic, but I don't want to give away too much of the plot. I will post the prologue later in the week to give a taste of this little universe I've created.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Halloween Cutie and NaNoWriMo Resolutions

One of the best reasons to love this time of year is the costumes that turn cute little kids in to adorable ones. I know I'm biased since she's mine, but Little Red Jordan Hood is going to be super cute this Halloween, and I just had to share.

So, Saturday is the last day of October, which means National Novel Writing Month officially kicks off on Sunday. Already I've gotten e-mails reminding me about the date and a list of activities for the North Jersey virtual team. This includes weekly "write-ins" at several Panera and Borders locations. There have also been tips about getting ready to write, such as outlining chapters, completing character sketches, etc.

One perspective on this monumental task that I can really appreciate came from Lynn Viehl in an e-mail I read late last night. She says that she's been so caught up in deadlines for the bread-and-butter writing she does, that she really hasn't had any time to write what she really wants to for herself. And she's going to use NaNoWriMo to have some fun with writing about some ideas she's had for a while.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Food Drives for Fluffy and Fido

Halloween is almost here, which means the holiday season isn't too far behind. Already there are Christmas tree displays at Target and BJ's, not to mention the whole seasonal section at the grocery store has one shelf dedicated to Halloween candy while all the rest of the space for Christmas and Hanukkah items. It drives my husband nuts, which is enough of a reason to love this seasonal shift. :)

I've also noted several collection boxes for food and clothing items on the campuses where I teach. With the current state of the economy, the food banks here in NJ have been overwhelmed with clients, as I'm sure is the case all around the country. Students all over are trying to help out with various food drives leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday.

When we were talking about it the other night, my sister, a veterinary technician at Red Bank Veterinary Hospital, brought up an interesting point I've never thought of. She contacted a local food bank and asked if they'd had any inquiries about pet food, since she wanted to donate some bags of kibble in addition to regular food items.

It seems like an obvious connection to make; if people are having trouble feeding their families, of course they'd be having issues feeding their pets. I don't know why I hadn't thought of it before. We routinely donate supplies to the local animal shelters, but those only benefit the animals in that specific shelter. Providing pet food to a food pantry helps prevent those who are struggling financially from having to give up their pet because they can't afford to feed them anymore.

She also told me that an animal hospital in our area serves as a pet food bank. People can drop off food for cats, dogs, and other household pets that is distributed by the local Meals on Wheels program. How cool is that?

The next time you're thinking about what to donate to the local food drive, consider adding a bag of kibble or a case of canned food to your list. Save Our Pets Food Bank provides a listing of pet food banks nationwide. If your area isn't included, check with your local food pantry about donating some pet food. They may think you're crazy at first, but if you explain why you want to donate the food, they're likely to understand.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Children’s Lit Project

A friend and colleague of mine, Steven Withrow, told me today about a very interesting project. He’s working with award-winning author, journalist, and filmmaker Edward J. Delaney to film a documentary about children’s literature, entitled The Library of the Early Mind. They are travelling the country interviewing prominent children’s authors about their work and genre. Just a sampling includes Padma Venkatraman, Lois Lowry, Brian Selznick, Mary Ann Hoberman, Carolyn Coman, and Natalie Babbitt.

So far, Steven says his experiences with these authors have been “amazing.” I can see how it could be since this is such a wonderful idea. There is a general lack of recognition for children’s literature among mainstream America, and a film like this – especially if showcased at film festivals – will go a long way toward raising people’s consciousness about this genre.

Both of my girls love books and reading, and I firmly believe that this is because I have read to them since they were babies. Children’s and young adult books are such a pervasive part of our culture and an important component in educating growing generations. I’m really looking forward to seeing what these authors have to say and how these two very talented individuals tell their stories.

If you’d like to check out this project or see some clips of the interviews, visit The Children’s Lit Project.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Merricks and Red Caps and Shades, Oh My!

This time of year, everyone is posting lists of their favorite vampires, weres, and other creatures that go bump in the night. Over the last few years, though, I’ve noticed a trend of bigger, badder monsters popping up in mainstream fiction. So, I thought I’d mix things up with a list of interesting monsters you’re probably missing out on this Samhain.

Monster: The Many-Mouthed Thing
Author: Karen Marie Moning
Book: Darkfever
Lowdown: This series involves the Fae, which are broken down into two divisions: Seelie and Unseelie. Though neither can be considered the “good” side, the Unseelie are the more overt monsters. The Many-Mouthed Thing is an Unseelie with “myriad leechlike mouths, dozens of eyes, and overdeveloped sex organs.”

Monster: Tattoo Demons
Author: Marjorie M. Liu
Book: The Iron Hunt, Darkness Calls
Lowdown: The series follows Maxine Kiss, a demon hunter who is protected by five demons who live in her flesh during the day. When the sun goes down, they peel away from her and regain their true forms and fight the forces of darkness by her side. Zee, Aaz, and Raw have “skin the color of soot smeared with silver and mercury, lean and warm…with spindly arms and bristling spines of razor scales…claws instead of fingers and toes. Their feet are vaguely human, as are their rakish faces angular to the point of pain.” Dek and Mal have “long, serpentine bodies … no legs and only two arms – vestigial limbs good for little more than grasping my ears. Heads shaped like hyenas, with smiles to match. Best little bodyguards on earth.” Favorite snacks: Teddy bears, Snickers bars (wrapper and all), and whatever’s handy in the nearest toolbox.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Don't they Know it's Fall?

October is my favorite month and fall my favorite season. No, it's not because my birthday's on the 23rd, but it's more about the cool crisp air and earthy atmosphere. Something about the smell of dried leaves and pumpkin picking just soothes my overworked soul.

So why is it that today, in Northern New Jersey where the leaves are just starting to change for the season, there was nothing but snow and slush falling from the sky! Now I don't live in the mountains -- like my sister who rents a condo at a ski resort about a half hour north from my house. I would expect this kind of weather by her or even up the mountain from my house (I live in the foothills). But throughout Bergen county, which is in sight distance of NYC? All day? Come on!

When I got home, there were even some cars that had accumulation on them! It was only a few days ago that the temperature got low enough to need a jacket. It's too soon for snow!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

National Novel Writing Month - Cough, Cough

For those of you who don't know, I've been sick over the last month and have finally gotten a somewhat accurate diagnosis: pneumonia. At first, I (and my doctor) thought I was having a bad reaction to allergens in the air, which set of the worst case of asthma I've ever had.

Well, now I'm on my second round of prednisone and first round of strong antibiotics and have my fingers crossed that I'll be able to get out of bed soon, take a full breath, and get back to class (my most sincere apologies to my Thursday and Friday students for canceling class this week).

In the meantime, there's not much to do, except catch up on my grading, watch horrible daytime/weekend TV, and fiddle with my laptop. Since completing the two idiot's guides I've been working on since April has sucked up a lot of my time (not to mention a few more bouts of respiratory illness over the summer), I thought it was time to get back on track with my paranormal suspense novel.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Big Project Done!

Yeah, hurray! My second big book project for the year is done (until author review) -- and I soooo need a rest!

I just got an e-mail from the marketing department at my publisher about the launch of the Pocket Idiot's Guide to the ASVAB, which will hit shelves the first week in December. This book marked my first foray into mass-market nonfiction publishing. In the end, it clocked in at 208 pages and was a bear to put together with my writing partner and editors between April and June.

But for the whole summer and into this semester, we've also been putting together a Complete Idiot's Guide to the ASVAB, which is slated to be double the length. It was a monstrous task that I have to send my most sincere thanks to Laura Stradley (my co-author), Kara LaFrance (my SIL and most awesome illustrator in the world) for moving heaven and Earth to get this done. It took a lot of long nights, arguments, blood, sweat, and tears, but it is finally all squared away and off to the editors.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Shadowlight by Lynn Viehl

Earlier this year, Lynn Viehl released the latest (and sadly the last) volume in her wildly original Darkyn series, Stay the Night. True to Viehl’s creative style, she planted the seeds of a spin-off series by the end of this book and gave a sample chapter from the inaugural story of her new Kyndred series, Shadowlight – just to pique the senses. 

The idea of a spin-off book series intrigued me, especially since I couldn’t help but feel I was left hanging a little after reading Stay the Night. Her new take on the vampire mythos through the Darkyn series (check out my Stay the Night review for a recap ) was awesome and wonderfully complex.

In fact, the whole series showcases Viehl’s skill with the pen and story structure, which in turn set my expectations high for Shadowlight and prompted me to contact Viehl directly for a galley to read. She graciously acquiesced and off I went to discover this new, yet familiar world she created.