Thursday, May 31, 2007

Youtube - the new time sink

Over the years we've all gotten links forwarded to us by friends to funny videos or homemade music videos and such. I always enjoyed these things when sent to me, but to be totally honest, I never much paid attention to the hosting site of Youtube...that is until recently...

About a month ago, some friends online, also infected by my very first obsession EVER, Supernatural, sent a link to a music video up on Youtube. Awesome work in integrating scenes of the show to angsty music. I enjoyed it so much, that for once, I actually looked at what else was on the page. And guess what! There were listings to the side of other videos on the same subject. So I clicked one. Ooooo! Another gorgeous video on the boys! And another! And another! There were hundreds of the things, on just this one show! I forced myself to close the browser. (Checked again today, search brings up 21,100 approximate matches. Eek.)

On another day, I went back to Youtube. I figured, how much stuff could they really have out here? How off the wall could the content be? So I decided to test that by doing a search on an old love from my teenage years - Kagaku Ninjatai Gatchaman - a 1970's Japanese anime (cartoon) that had been brought to the states in several incarnations, mainly Battle of the Planets, G-Force, and Eagle Riders. (You can't keep a good cartoon down?) So I put the name on the search feature and with little expectation hit enter... I got a whole page of stuff. Heck I got more than one whole page of stuff. WOW. I randomly clicked on a concert where the theme song was played by a Japanese group. I bopped, I grooved. As soon as it was done I quickly shut the browser down. *Danger, Danger, Will Robinson!" (Did a search today and got 300 hits on Gatchaman related videos - eek!!!!)

Holy smokes! I don't have time for anything now, let alone for watching videos. Going to this Youtube place could definitely be hazardous to my health if not sanity! I discussed this with my hubby, and to my surprise came to find out he's a frequent viewer of Youtube, and had been using the search features for a while himself, putting in random artists, viewing the videos out there on them or their songs. Eek!

Now writers have gotten into the act as well, creating book promo videos with pictures, text, voice, and music to use them as a way to get readers interested in their books.

Heck the place even lets you rate the videos and leave comments!

You could spend a lifetime at that place!!!! And they say TV is dangerous! I better just keep my browser closed... :P

Gloria Oliver
Unveiling the Fantastic

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Book Reviewing Course at The Long Short Story Schoo of Writing

One of my writer buds, Mayra Calvari, will be teaching a course on book reviewing at the Long Story Short School of Writing.

The course begins in September. Below is a description of the course taken from the site:

Course Introduction
Are you passionate about books? Do you have a talent for easily capturing the essence of a book after having read it? Do you often feel the desire to share your thoughts about a book with readers? If you’ve answered "Yes" to these questions, then book reviewing can be one of the most satisfying, rewarding activities you’ll ever undertake. In fact, book reviewing can become addictive.

In this course you will learn how to write a well-written, honest, objective and professional book review, the different types of reviews, how to rate books, the signs of an amateur, what to do with terrible books, the legalities and ethics of reviews, how to publish your reviews and even make money while you’re at it. In sum, everything you’ll need to know about book reviewing, including hundreds of sites and publications where you’ll be able to publish your reviews.

Depending on the genre of your choice, you’ll get to choose a title, write a review and receive detailed feedback. There will be other exercises as well, such as recognizing what is wrong or amateurish about a specific review.

So why not check it out and see if it's for you?

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

To Outline or Not to Outline

This is a question that seems to come up all the time at panels and in general writing discussions. There are people on both sides of the camp and never a lot of agreement as to what to do.

To me though, Writing, like art, is one of those things were you can take lessons, read books, practice techniques, but in the end, you have to find the way to do it that feels the most comfortable to YOU. No one formula will work for everyone, no matter how much you try to force it. And sadly a lot of the classes out there try to fit the square peg into a round hole, even though it's not necessary.

Asking whether you should outline or not is like asking if you should write in the mornings or in the afternoons. Do whichever one feels right for you. If you have no idea, try each of them out and see which one gives you the best results.

If you're the type of person who likes to have a road map before beginning on a journey, outline. If you are more of a drive by the seat of your pants type of person, no outline.

Now for me, as with a lot of things having to do with writing, it all depends on the project! I've written stories and books with and without outlines. To me outlining is a tool. So if I need it I use it, if I don't I don't.

In the Service of Samurai was done without an outline. Vassal of El has certain scenes I knew I wanted, but pretty much was also done outline free. Cross-eyed Dragon Troubles, however, which came partially from the wellspring that is my hubby, was almost totally mapped out in outline form before I ever started. Willing Sacrifice, no outline - though in a way, since it was one sided when first written, then Dal's side added in afterward, there might be some argument there. Jewel of the Gods, my current Work-in-progress, started out outline free, but I found myself getting mired in details and loosing my way, so out came the paper and so far a partial outline has been jotted down so I know what I need to do and explain where so I can keep on course.

Outlines can also be useful when you're stuck. You can get so involved in trying to get that right feeling, or description, or turn of phrase that you can't think clearly about what needs to come next. Best thing to do then is to take a step back and outline. Because it is brief and you don't have to worry about grammar, syntax, etc, it's just the bare bones after all, your brain is then free to focus and think about only the plot instead!

So if you want a map, outline right off the bat. If you feel you have it all upstairs or just want to meander through it, go for it! The important part is to be productive and write! So do whatever works for you. Just don't forget if things go a little off kilter or slow, you can always use an outline as something to get your juices flowing in the right direction again.

Gloria Oliver
Unveiling the Fantastic

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

First Class

In many many many things I am a self acknowledged n00b (newbie - greenhorn - clueless! Online speak). And there are also many things in life I've yet to experience. Well, I can strike one of those off the list - going First Class on an airplane.

Honestly though, I avoided doing it for years, only because I had a horrible feeling I would like it and flying would never be the same again. And I wasn't wrong! (Those of you who've had the opportunity to fly first class know what I'm talking about. Booyah!)

By now, those of you who've never flown first class, are asking yourselves - "okay yeah, bigger seats, more space. So what?" So what?! Let me tell you! There is so much more to it than just those things! More than I thought there would be, that's for sure...

1) You board first. (Okay yeah, this might not be that big a perk, some might say, but if the plane boards past the first class area, you get more... see #2)

2) Pre-flight drinks! Yeppers, while everyone else is fighting the line, shoving their luggage in the overhead bins, and getting situated, you are asked about drink preferences and served. And no plastic cup for you either - an actual GLASS glass!!!!

3) Free headphones! You heard right--those pesky $2+ headphones come to you free of charge. 12 channels of music and more! And you get to keep them!

4) TV! With those free headphones, you can opt to watch the flight entertainment. (Years ago you got this regardless of class, but...that was in the time of the dinos! We're living in the here and now, baby!) Whether it be news or a semi-current movie.

5) Hot towel - you read right - you get a hot towel to clean your hands with! This is actually a Japanese tradition and I was surprised as heck to see it used on a plane! Quite lovely really.

6) The food comes in actual DISHES with actual SILVERWARE! You even get a fancy glass for wine! And a cloth napkin! Who knew! And refills on the drinks!!!! (Tray tables are tricky though, since they fold into the armrest.)

7) The food itself was yummy (definitely better than what you used to be able to get in coach, before it all went to premade box lunches you have to pay for...)

8) After lunch was served and taken away - we got - a - HOT - chocolate chip cookie and MILK!!!!! I couldn't have been more surprised and pleased!!!! (Yes, I am EASY.):P

It was an awesome experience. I almost felt like I was at a four star restaurant (or back on the ship!), everyone was so eager to see to our every need. It also helped that I had no idea what those tickets cost us either, otherwise I might have had to demand some champagne. lol.

Yet there is one issue with flying, which even First Class did not fix - I still had to bug the person next to me to get out of their seat so I could make a kidney run as my seat was the one by the window. :P

Gloria Oliver

Unveiling the Fantastic

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Sunday, May 13, 2007

His Majesty's Dragon
by Naomi Novik

Premise: Will Laurence is a Captain in His Majesty's Navy. When he and his crew take over a French frigate, they find an unexpected prize - an unhatched dragon egg. Unfortunately, it looks like it is about to hatch, and so must be bound to a partner immediately. This spells doom for one of the officers of the crew, a lot effort Laurence includes himself in. And despite his not having drawn the lot, he still ends up being the one the dragon chooses. Life as he's known it is no more.

Review: While I had some issues with her heavy use of semi colons in the very beginning, once the egg shows up, I was caught and never looked back. Novik totally catches the wonderful flavor of the era she is covering and beautifully integrates the concept of dragons into the woven tapestry of the world. Prized by the government and at the same time shunned by society, Laurence gets immersed into the life of an aviator and learns why they are as they are first hand. It is fun watching Temerair's and Laurence's relationship blossom and grow, and seeing the hardships war and necessity thrusts upon them. The world as Laurence has envisioned it, will never be the same. Get ready for dragons, warfare, air and sea battles, politics and more. ***3/4!!!

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Cat in a Red Hot Rage
by Carole Nelson Douglas

Premise: This the 19th book in the Midnight Louie Mystery series. This volume brings into play the Red Hat Sisterhood - an organization for women over 50 that encourages freedom, fun, and that life is not lost once that benchmark is reached. For PR wiz Temple Barr, this gig should have been a piece of cake - that is until murder enters the scene and Electra Lark, Temple's fun loving landlady becomes the prime suspect.

Review: For those of you still screaming from the cliff hanger in book 18, you will still be screaming. Aside from some very subtle hints, we still don't know what exactly has happened to Max after the piece of sabotage at the Neon Nightmare club. But there is still plenty going on to keep our minds occupied and away from the happenings with Mr. Max Kinsela. Things continue to heat up between Temple and Matt. Lines have been drawn and crossed! We get info on Electra Lark's past and even get to meet her ex (or is he?). Louie has his own problems, as now that Electra has been fingered for possible murder, it wrecks his plans to get the crew of stray cats (and his Mom) taken in and fed by the neighbors. His daughter (though never proven and he will never admit it), Midnight Louise, harps on him about needing to find out what has happened to Max Kinsela and is not happy Louie's attentions are being split to the Red Hat Murders at hand. And let's not forget Lieutenant Molina, who makes a late but definite flashy entrance as she too continues on her own Max hunt and gets bit as she once more crosses the line of the law. Carole Nelson Douglas once more takes us on a fun ride of all that is Las Vegas and sets us up nicely for what else is soon to come. *** 3/4!!

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Book Review - Hannibal Rising

Hannibal Rising
by Thomas Harris

Premise: Taking you back to World War 2, we meet Hannibal Lecter as an eight year old and walk with him through the paths of memory to a childhood destroyed by war, as so many were in that time. Losing partial memory due to the trauma of one specific event, Hannibal is eventually found by his uncle and taken in. But though the war is over, tragedy still strikes his life, and the horrid pall of those moments not remembered still haunt him, wanting resolution.

Review: Though this book is about Hannibal Lecter, the terror and horrors portrayed within are different from those covered in the others books - so if you are looking for the same as the previous ones, you might be disappointed. But keeping that in mind, it is well worth reading! Most of the atrocities are not perpetrated by Hannibal, which only makes them even more gruesome because things like this truly happened during the war. The book is imbued throughout with the wonderful flavors of Europe, and for an even greater treat, we get an oriental touch brought in through with Lady Murasaki. That Hannibal was not a normal child is evident from the first. That he walked a fine line which he crosses back and forth always aimed toward its predetermined conclusion is never in question. But it was fun watching him do it. We see his first love, his first enemies both on the side of the law and outside it. Even a rival for the woman who has his affections. Whether you agree with Harris's view on how his creation came to be, this book offers a colorful look into a chaotic, volatile time in history and the things being faced by those who lived in it. Just for that, it was definitely worth the read. All the rest was a wonderful bonus. ***3/4

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Madten’s Mother’s Day Contest – Still time to win!

I am giving you all an extra chance since info posted around had bad dates. Here's my excerpt for the week. Just answer the questions at the bottom of my entry at MADTEN. Feel free to look at the excerpts from the others for a chance to win their books as well!

Vassal of El
by Gloria Oliver

Now they would whisk her away. Her days of toil and trouble were over. Homespun clothes would be replaced forever with fine robes. If she continued tripping over everything in sight, there would always be those there to catch her before she hit the floor. Her every need would be attended to. The girl he’d traveled with this while would soon be nothing more than a memory.

All three councilors stood up. “So, tell us, Aen,” Valerian prompted. “How is it you’ve been returned to us?” The eyes in the chiseled, handsome face stared into her own as he towered over her.

“Sir,” she said meekly. “It was my friend’s doing. He knew what the markings on my back meant and knew where I needed to go.”

“Friend?” Valerian stared questioningly at Rux. Then his gaze registered Torren’s presence in the background for the first time. “A grub?”

“What? Where?” The oldest of the councilors stared about in confusion until he followed Valerian’s gaze. The stooped councilor took a shaky step back. “Dom Rux, what is the meaning of this?”

Torren looked out over them, not at all surprised by their reaction.

“Please, gentlemen, calm down,” Rux pleaded. “He’s the one who brought the Vassal to us. Without him she wouldn’t be here. And it was on Aen’s request he was to remain until the council’s acceptance of her identity.” The ambassador’s wings quivered with agitation. “Surely this makes his presence here acceptable.”

The two older councilors slowly conceded the point, though they wouldn’t make direct eye contact with Torren. He wondered if they’d ever even seen a Lander up close before.

“And what exactly would make a Lander give the Chosen such uncharacteristic charity?” Valerian’s question was aimed directly at him. “Could it be you’re expecting monetary compensation, knowing the high worth we place on the Vassal?” His sarcasm was heavy.

“Valerian!” Rux stared from the councilor to his unusual guest and back again.

Torren felt his jaw tighten, his gaze not leaving the councilor’s face.

“Speak up,” Valerian taunted. “Have you nothing to say, Lander? Is the truth too obvious to be said?”

“Stop it!”

All eyes turned in amazement to stare at Larana as she interposed herself between the two men. “You, you shouldn’t do this. He’s not one of them. He’s one of you!”

Rux turned to meet Torren’s eyes, but Torren lowered his to the floor, his heart pounding. Was she guessing, or did she actually believe? Though he’d not said anything about it to her, he coldly realized the evidence had been there for her to make her own conclusions about the truth. He hadn’t counted on this.

“My dear,” Valerian said, stepping forward to sweep Larana into his arm and pull her away from Torren as if she were a silly child. “It’s true he has our coloring, but he has no wings. Only the Vassal grows no wings amongst the Chosen.” His hard gaze returned to Torren. “At most, he might be a half breed, begat by foul means. And as such, and having been raised amongst them, he is one of them.”

Larana seemed to almost wilt beside the councilor as he held her clutched in his arm, half covered by a wing, as if he were claiming her for his own. With a shiver, she forcibly pulled away, shaking her head. “You don’t understand,” she insisted looking at the others. “He is one of you.” She turned to face her friend. “Torren, tell them. Make them understand.”

He shook his head slowly. Let them think whatever they wanted. It was time for him to leave.

“Torren?” Rux was staring at him with sudden intensity. “As in the son of Lar?”

Question 1 - Larana is being referenced by the councilors by another name - what is it?

Question 2 - What do the councilors assume Torren is?


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Sunday, May 06, 2007

Book Review - The Prodigal Troll

The Prodigal Troll
by Charles Coleman Finlay

Premise: This is the story of Maggot, a human child raised by Trolls, and his journey to understand his past, where he came from, and where he should go for his future.

Review: Think Tarzan of the Apes, except replace it as Maggot of the Trolls. Told from different points of view, the reader gets a full sense of where Maggot came from, even if he doesn't know the details himself. The world Mr. Finlay grabs your interest and it is fascinating to see how the different cultures and races are affecting each other, Maggot caught somewhere in between. And amidst lies, deceit, and concepts Maggot has never encountered, he tries his best figure out how he can fit into the world of man - especially after he has found the woman that both excites and tortures his spirit. ***1/2!

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Saturday, May 05, 2007

Mother's Day Contest at the Madten Blog


In honor of Mother's Day, The Ten Mad Authors Blog is giving away
free autographed copies of the authors' most recently published books.

Simply visit the blog at:

The contest will run from May 7th until May 13th with winners
announced on Mother's Day.

Books range in genre from mystery to fantasy to alternate reality
to young adult-fantasy. Titles include: Arturo el Rey, by Joan Upton
, Lady of the Lake, by J.C. Hall, Death Game, by Cheryl Swanson,
and Vassal of El, by Gloria Oliver.

Moms, we're doing this to honor you, but you don't have to be a
mother (or even a father) to win. Don't miss the chance to discover a
great new author and get a free autographed copy of their latest novel.

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Jensen Ackles in Dallas! A Few Good Men at Casa Mañana

I thought it would behoove me to spread the good news. Jensen Ackles, the actor who portrays Dean Winchester in the CW's show Supernatural, will be at the Casa Mañana theater June 5th through 10th with Lou Diamond Phillips! They both will be staring in the play "A Few Good Men". Saying I am psyched is an understatement. Heh.

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Sanitize ME!


Did you miss me? After a week of taking in the sea air and sun, I am BACK! For those not yet privy to the info, hubby and I were off on a Disney Cruise for out 25th wedding anniversary. We had a blast! And fortunately, I think it also gave me a few topics to milk, errr, share with you all now that I have returned.

First things first though... If you wish to be tortured by pictures of our trip - click here! As of today, I still haven't uploaded all of them. I'm at 250+ right now at the website and adding more daily. Gotta love those Sony Disc Cameras! Booyah! (Since I took over 2 disks worth of pics, should amount to over 500 photos when I am done. Bwahahahahaha) Oh, and no, I am not in any of the pictures, except maybe one as a reflection. I know a lot of people feel they must put themselves in pictures to prove they were there, but personally, why would I want to taint the subject of the photo with my presence? I know I was there -- I took the darn things! Heh heh.

As to this week's topic... Sanitize me!

You may or may not recall when there was a big scare some time ago where a whole ship full of people on a cruise ship became violently ill from a nasty bug of some sort. This created a scare amongst travelers and the companies making their living from their vacation habits. Personally, it made sense to me that if someone was sick and you have them in an enclosed zone (such as a ship) and the sick person is milling and interacting with others that the chances of giving the sickness to someone else is highly likely. Heck, just look at any office environment, throw in a stubborn worker with a cold, who just won't go home, and watch the fun begin.

Anyway, ever since we booked our cruise a year ago, I never even thought about the scare or what it would mean to my travel experience. Well, as I found out the moment we hit Port Canaveral, Disney certainly had!

First thing we were asked upon reaching the desk to get our World Pass cards and get in line to board the Disney Magic was "Have you either of you been feeling ill or had any diarrhea in the last day?" If the answer was "yes" you were taken to see the doc and immediately isolated. (At least I believe that was the procedure, I didn't see anyone admit to it!)

Second thing was that as you went past the Mickey Mouse ears leading to the gangway, Disney personnel were on hand to pass over a sanitation wipe so you could thoroughly clean your hands before laying a finger on the ship.

Rachel, the cruise director, admonished everyone to please wash their hands frequently, using soap and warm water. And before you could enter any of the ship's restaurants, there were plenty of attendants at the entrance to give you a wipe or let you use some of that cleaning clear goo stuff. No wipe hands, no eat. :P

Each time we docked at a port of call, the dispensers and crew were there on your return to get you sanitized before you went aboard. Cleaning crews could be spotted all over the place at all hours as rails, floors, and restrooms were kept totally immaculate and wiped down. And your personal room attendant (who not only cleaned, but straightened, and came back at night to turn down the bed and leave cute little animals made of a blanket or towel for your entertainment!!!) kept the place spotless.

The wipes were such a prevalent thing that even the entertainers used the concept in their shows. The Ventriloquist made jokes about the wipes (and the jet engine toilets, but that's another matter). The juggler, who asked for volunteers from the audience, came to a complete stop as he was about to hand out his sticks to the two kids, then voila, popped out a bucket of wipes out of the back for them to use before they could get cooties on his stuff. Too darn funny really.

In no time we were used to having to do the little extra thing. By the end of the cruise, we expected it. When we left, we began to miss doing it!

I understand why it was done, but I sure never expected it. And it made for a fascinating tidbit on the trip.

The whole time though I wanted to come up with some clever line I could use on the people handing out the wipes. The only thing I could come up with was "Wipe Me" - and somehow that just didn't seem right. At the airport, however, one of our dinner companions from the ship gave me the perfect line. Wish he'd mentioned it sooner.

So...Sanitize ME!

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