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.