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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Fire in the Tub: Throwback Thursday Edition!

Happy Thursday and Day After Christmas!  I hope everyone has had a very merry holiday season including celebrations free of worry, stress, or loved ones slapped with a ham from across the dinner table--even if they really did deserve it.



The Lowery-Combs bunch had a great Christmas...despite our squirrel infestation--thanks to all of you who have sent in tips on dealing with that rascally bunch, btw--the loss of our beloved house cat Strawberry (I think the squirrels may have done it), and the hubs hospitalization until 2 p.m. Christmas Eve.  We are a look-on-the-bright-side crew if nothing else!  This year the bright side just happened to be that Momma got an iPad for Christmas!  The perfect gadget for drowning out electrifying squirrel, a six-year-old's pleas for a new kitten, and a full grown man's swearing to have a heart attack--for real his time!--unless I rub his back, let him hold the television remote control, cook a pot roast without celery, hang his t-shirts from inside and not by stretching out the collar, etc, etc, etc.

In honor of the ebook and app Spending Spree Extravaganza I've undertaken today in celebration of my new toy...and hubby's not dropping dead just yet, I'm rerunning a post from last Christmas about my very 1st e-reader, the KindleFire HD:  a devise I still highly recommend even though I'm now the owner of an iPad or what my friend Danny Self calls  "a Kindle Killer".

This particular post wasn't one of my most viewed this past year, but I think it's some of my best work.  Maybe visions of all that is me in my bathtub are too much for some people?  Come to think of it, maybe this is what made the cat run away.

Enjoy!



Through the Wormhole: Confessions of a Bookworm: Fire in the Tub!: I believe the Book to be a sacred object—the heft of one held tightly in my hands or lying open in my lap is a tangible reminder of how a p...

Friday, December 20, 2013

Attack of the Christmas Squirrel!

Sweet baby Jesus, there are squirrels in my attic!  I’m not speaking figuratively--this isn’t a confession about my sketchy mental health.  You can count on one of those shortly, though, if someone isn’t able to get a herd of scampering, scurrying rodents out of my house toot-sweet.  It's all that I want for Christmas!


These squirrels are making me nuts!  I hear them in the ceiling, fascia and eaves of my new home morning and evening, tumbling about and seeming to multiply like a pack of wet gremlins with a bucket of KFC after midnight!  So far we’ve tried live trap cages, repellents, and clearing them out and repairing the holes they’ve gnawed in the house’s apparently scrumptious cedar siding.  Within days, however, new holes appear and the nightmares-of-electrical-fire-inducing vermin are back!


{photo copyright:  Cafepress.com}


We’ve decided that the majestic oak trees in the yard will have to go.  I’ll miss the shade next summer.  In the meantime, I’ve been humming this little ditty and it’s helping to ease my regret.

On the first day of Christmas, my attic squirrels gave to me:
A nest in my Xmas tree.

On the second day of Christmas, my attic squirrels gave to me:
2 half-eaten acorns and a nest in my Xmas tree!

On the third day of Christmas, my attic squirrels gave to me:
3 empty traps, 2 half-eaten acorns, and a nest in my Xmas
tree!

On the fourth day of Christmas, my attic squirrels gave to me:
4 shredded insulators, 3 empty traps, 2 half-eaten acorns, and a nest in my Xmas tree!

On the fifth day of Christmas, my attic squirrels gave to me:
5 babies born!  4 shredded insulators, 3 empty traps, 2 half-eaten acorns, and a nest in my Xmas tree!

On the sixth day of Christmas, my attic squirrels gave to me:
6 live relocations, 5 babies born, 4 shredded insulators, 3 empty traps, 2 half-eaten acorns, and a nest in my Xmas tree!

On the seventh day of Christmas, my attic squirrels gave to me:
7 packs of repellant, 6 live relocations, 5 babies born, 4 shredded insulators, 3 empty traps, 2 half-eaten acorns, and a nest in my Xmas tree!

On the eighth day of Christmas, my attic squirrels gave to me:
8 frightened party guests, 7 packs of repellant, 6 live relocations, 5 babies born, 4 shredded insulators, 3 empty traps, 2 half-eaten acorns, and a nest in my Xmas tree!

On the ninth day of Christmas, my attic squirrels gave to me:
9 nightmares of house fires, 8 frightened party guests, 7 packs of repellant, 6 live relocations, 5 babies born, 4 shredded insulators, 3 empty traps, 2 half-eaten acorns, and a nest in my Xmas tree!

On the tenth day of Christmas, my attic squirrels gave to me:
10 cedar siding holes!  9 nightmares of house fires, 8 frightened party guests, 7 packs of repellant, 6 live relocations, 5 babies born, 4 shredded insulators, 3 empty traps, 2 half-eaten acorns, and a nest in my Xmas tree!

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my attic squirrels gave to me:
11 yards of mesh wire, 10 cedar siding holes, 9 nightmares of house fires, 8 frightened party guests, 7 packs of repellant, 6 live relocations, 5 babies born, 4 shredded insulators, 3 empty traps, 2 half-eaten acorns, and a nest in my Xmas tree!

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my attic squirrels gave to me:

12 tree branches trimmed, 11 yards of mesh wire, 10 cedar siding holes, 9 nightmares of house fires, 8 frightened party guests, 7 packs of repellant, 6 live relocations, 5 babies born, 4 shredded insulators, 3 empty traps, 2 half-eaten acorns, and a nest in my Xmas tree!


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Principals vs Buttcracks

When you have five kids there are a few things you can bet your last prescription of birth control are going to happen at some point in their childhoods:

1.            There will be at least a couple of months that you spend more money on pediatrician appointment and ER visit copays than you spend on your mortgage.

2.            You will ruin several loads of clothes that get washed then dried with pens, markers, playdoh, silly putty, gum or all of the above simultaneously.

3.            You will be turned in, at least once, for suspected child abuse while trying to shop with three or more of them at Wal-Mart.

4.            You will be called by their elementary/high school principals with reports of infractions that range from inappropriate comments to attempted self electrocution, sometimes with dizzying regularity.

It’s #4 that I’m dedicating the rest of today’s post to, however, having just moments ago taken a call from my 11 year-old son’s elementary school principal, reporting that my youngest boy was, in fact, being disciplined for writing a confiscated note to another student that read, and I quote, “You suck, Joey, buttcracks!”  *Joey* is my son Jackson’s best friend, a detail that emerged when Jackson was “interviewed” about the “incident”.  From the principal’s report, it seems that Joey had asked Jackson to draw a picture of a motorcycle.  Jackson complied, but instead of signing the piece, like a true artiste, he’d opted for a personalization that included his new favorite word at the moment: buttcrack.


(photo credit: cagle.com)
-not Joey, also not a motorcycle



The buildup to the principal’s reading the note over the phone to me was intense.  I even broke a sweat trying to imagine what kind of hateful vitriol the most sensitive of my children could have been spewing to land him in the principal’s office.  When the fateful sentence was finally uttered, with complete seriousness and severity, the only thing I could think to say was, “You’ve never read any of my stuff, have you?”  And so I was silent until I was able to swallow those words and my inappropriate laughter and come up with something more No Nonsense Parent like.  It took a minute, y’all.

I assured the principal that while we were a colorful and expressive family, we didn’t encourage wantonly hurting someone’s feelings for sport and that I would be speaking to Jackson about his language at school.  I hung up virtually quivering with delight that he hadn’t put pen to paper to record for his buddy some of the exchanges between himself and his fourteen and eighteen year-old brothers while playing xbox or assembling a ten foot basketball goal with thirty parts and no accompanying instructions, or any quotes from Tosh.o.

Parenting a small army is tough, especially when the capacity of your soldiers for foolishment seems limitless, but hang in there troops!  Things could be worse in the trenches and vasectomies could be a whole lot more expensive.


*name changed to protect the innocent*

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Gig is Up: A 9th Century A**hole is Ruining My Life!

My kids’ math homework is killing me!  Like seriously.  I thought the worst parts of having five children were behind me when I got to stop paying for Huggies and daycare.  What a laugh!  I’d gladly pay $125.00 for a case of diapers and a few hours of daycare every week for the rest of my life if it meant I’d NEVER, EVER have to factor another damned quadratic equation!

I loathe math, and not just with your everyday burning hatred.  I’m talking fantasizing-about-time-travel-for-the-sole-purpose-of-visiting-820 A.D. Persia-and-poisoning-the-asshole-who-started-this-whole-mess levels of hatred.  He was mathematician Al Khwarizmi, for those of you who don’t know, and I’m pretty sure he was in league with the devil.  What else can explain how he’s managed to torture millions of children and their parents for thousands of years after his earthly demise?

I was thrown into the fiery pits of hell…ur, algebra in junior high school.  From eighth grade on, my school nights were plagued with nightmares about scientific notation and additive inverse properties.  I failed two math courses in high school.  Me—a student in the honors program who’d made only two C’s her entire academic career up to that point!  Me—who made a 33 out of 36 on the English portion of her ACT!  That demon Khwarizmi, with his evil exponent and variable trickery, reduced me to a failure and landed me in summer school for credit recovery the summer before my senior year.  I’ve never forgiven him for it.  I’m also still pissed that he cost me actual cash money, and a lot of it, for two more algebra classes in college!



Now, ol’ Khwarizmi has gotten his hooks into my sweet babies!  All of them:  from the 18 year-old senior to the 6 year-old first-grader!  This has led to great wailing and gnashing of teeth in the Lowery-Combs’ household because every one of these chirren have inherited their Momma’s right-brain dominance.  None of us is able to decipher the goobly-gark these poor kids are being forced to muddle through every night.  For hours!  There was a time when my angels were convinced their Momma knew everything there was to know in the entire universe, but the gig is up!

So far, my 1st and 5th graders haven’t brought home a worksheet we haven’t been able to eventually conquer, but they’ve seen me and their brothers and sister (and heard our rather loudly elevated voices) at the dining room table as we struggle over their math homework, and they’ve all decided that if I can’t correctly apply the dastardly order of operations 100% of the time, then surely I am also wrong about any evidence that points to the fact that they haven’t brushed their teeth in two days.  There is dissension spreading through the ranks, people!


ALGEBRA HOMEWORK





I’d like to line up each of my kids’ math teachers , and mine while I’m at it, and karate chop them in the throat.  (My faithful readers know how I love a good karate chop to the throat!)  I’m no better at helping my kids learn algebra and calculus than my own parents were, and I can’t help but feel that some of our deficit, at least that part of it not inherent in our right-brain natures, is due to inadequate instruction.




Maybe it's a good thing that younger and younger students are learning algebraic concepts.  Maybe by the time my first-grader is in high school, she’ll be able to tutor the rest of her family of idiots?  Whatever the case, I can tell you this:  the day she graduates I will never, and I mean NEVER, worry myself with another binomial coefficient or explicit function again! I am positive that I will be a kinder, gentler, smarter Momma for it, and probably live a whole lot longer.




Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Gay Penguins: Ain't Nobody Got Time For That!




“Nothing corrodes young minds quite so much as reading.”  -Alexander Nazaryan, The Banned Books of Alabama, The Atlantic Wire

            If you’ve been to your local library or logged onto any social networking site this week, you may have heard that it’s Banned Books Week, an event observed the last week of every September when readers are encouraged to celebrate the freedom to read.  Ever the rebel, I had to revisit the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom’s 2013 List of Banned Books released in April to see if I’d missed out on anything I should not only be corrupting my own mind with but those of my children as well.

            Number 1 on the list, perceived by idiots somewhere, supposedly in great numbers, to be the most dangerous book for undermining adult authority amongst young children: The Captain Underpants books by Dav Pilkey.  The books have been praised because they’ve encouraged middle-grade boys to read when fewer and fewer titles lately have done so.  “Not so fast!” cry some parents and educators, pointing to the bathroom humor and irreverent attitude of the title character.  A boy with a superhero persona that runs around in his tighty whiteys pitted against a villainous middle school principal is a threat and must be silenced!  Nevermind the lesson that authority should sometimes be questioned or the cautionary tale that all adults in powerful positions aren't always honorable.



Numbers 2 and 3 on the list, Sherman Alexie’s prize-winning The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why find themselves on the list for “racism/sexually explicit” and “drugs/sex/suicide” respectively.  Heaven forbid we have young people reading subject matter that may actually be relevant to them.  This will never do!  We can’t have our youth turning to books in order to feel that they aren’t alone in facing the struggles of adolescence.  Shouldn’t they be on Twitter or Instagram for that?!





No surprise was E. L. James’ multimillion selling erotic trilogy Fifty Shades, ranked at No. 4.  This is one I hope the kiddos will wait a good long while before delving into.  Last summer, we saw a sex toy shop billboard emblazoned with the words “Butt Plugs”, I kid you not, in three-foot lettering, on the way to Jacksonville, Florida to board a cruise for the Bahamas, and I spent a goodly amount of the drive squashing debates amongst the chirren about what, why, wherefore and how such a devise would ever be called for and utilized.  It wasn’t pretty and quite frankly, neither is Fifty Shades of DooDoo as I’ve taken to calling it—and not just for its own butt plug references.  (I found James’ writing to be poor and her rip-off of Twilight unimaginative, but that is a post for another day.)

Numbers 5 and 6, And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, can thank their audacity at trying to incorporate the reality of homosexuality into their narratives for landing on the list.  These books are unfit for common consumption according to objectors.  Damn gay penguins!  Ain’t nobody got time for that!  Society can’t have our youth learning tolerance and compassion.  Look where that got us in the 1960’s!





Looking for Alaska by John Green ranks at Number 7 for offensive language and being sexually explicit/unsuited for age group.  Bet some of these same parents don’t have a problem letting their kids watch Dance Moms and Toddlers & Tiaras, both of which are real threats to human decency.

Number 8, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Swartz, gave me pause.  My mother and I regularly gather all the children in our family around large bon fires in the fall and try to scare the begeezus out of them—or at least make them wet their pants a trickle—with Swartz’s books and others like it.  Their friends beg for invitations to these readings, and now I can’t help but be a tad worried one of the little beastie’s parents might turn me in to child protective services when Junior decides he won’t be bathing or sleeping alone until college.  Hmmmmm.

Number 9, The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls, is a 2005 memoir recounting Walls’ and her siblings’ unconventional, poverty-stricken upbringing at the hands of their deeply dysfunctional parents.  This book should be every parent’s go-to reading assignment for the kid that complains that they don’t have enough Hollister or Abercrombie & Fitch.  In a showdown a couple of weeks ago, one of my own teenage sons suggested that I was a bad parent because he didn’t have any clean t-shirts.  He hurled another insult about reheated green beans or some such crap.  This weekend he’ll have lots of free time to read The Glass Castle.

Rounding out 2013’s top ten most threatening collection of words is Toni Morrison’s Beloved.  The main reasons given for objections to the work:  sexually explicit/religious viewpoint/violence.  There’s nothing that gets a book banners panties in a wad quite like stories that question long-held religious standards and beliefs.  And violence is almost always unsuitable to these self-appointed guardians of good taste and morality—no matter how historically accurate.  Beloved is a beautiful work that had a powerful impact on me and made me a fan of Toni Morrison forever.  Before this book, I’d never fully appreciated the horrors of slavery, the lengths a mother might go to in order to protect her children from it, or what a haunted lifetime of regret could do to someone.




 
            Every year, dozens of books are challenged and requested to be removed from school reading lists and public library shelves by “concerned” parents and citizens objecting to the opinions and/or the subject matter they contain.  These challenges attempt to restrict or remove the access of others based on an individual or group’s point of view alone.  Successful challenges result in a banning or removal of those materials.  The American Library Association calls this “a threat to freedom of speech and choice.”  I agree.
           

            Now, hurry on out to your local library or book store and pick up one of these titles to corrupt the minds of a young person you love.  They’ll emerge from their reading experience a richer and more enlightened person, though I can’t promise that they won’t also feel the urge to strip down to their undies and don a cape.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

When One Isn't Enough: Writing Series Fiction

I realize that it’s been a little while since I’ve posted any new material to the blog.  I hope you’ll forgive me; you see I’m very much otherwise engaged in the business of writing the second installment of the Genie Chronicles series—and, dear Lord, is it dominating every second of my free time!  Just ask my kids, who’ll tell you all about what life is like living out of laundry baskets strategically scattered among precariously leaning towers of cardboard boxes at our new house.

Yes, it’s been three weeks and we’re still not unpacked, but I have a novel to write—an apparently much anticipated novel that I’m receiving emails and messages about daily— and there are pathways cleared to the showers, refrigerator, washer and dryer.  (Remember that before any of you turn me into child protective services!)

For your reading pleasure, I’m hosting Through the Wormhole:  Confessions of a Bookworm’s first EVER guest blogger, Amalia Dillin, author of the Fate of the Gods series from World Weaver Press.  Amalia is certainly a far more professional writer than I, and her approach to writing series fiction is an enlightening one.

Please, make her welcome!





Fate of the Gods: Identity Crisis

Writing a series is an adventure. I was lucky, to an extent, in that I had already written all three books in my Fate of the Gods trilogy plus the Tempting Fate novella before World Weaver Press contracted me. In fact, I wrote Fate of the Gods all in one go. I went from book one directly into book two into book three without stopping, and I didn't finalize where one book ended and the other began until after I was done with the first two.

The downside to this approach was that it meant any revisions to book one and two would have ripple effects through the rest of the already-written series. But the benefit was that it kept me close to my characters, and tonally, it kept things on track. There wasn't a huge amount of growth in my style between books, and it all stayed pretty cohesive without a lot of work on my part.

Because that’s the trick with writing a series – keeping it cohesive and keeping the continuity of the events from book to book. But that only applied to the first three books. And Fate of the Gods provided another challenge: my TEMPTING FATE novella was wildly different.

I wrote TEMPTING FATE more than a year after finishing the others, and because it was told from Mia’s perspective instead of Eve’s, it was almost a different genre altogether – the main three novels are all solidly Adult Fantasy (subcategorized as mythological fantasy with a splash of alternate history), but TEMPTING FATE was completely contemporary, almost more of a paranormal romance, and not nearly so adult.

 At my editor’s suggestion, I added a second point of view, in order to align the novella a little bit closer to the three original books in style. But Mia was always going to be Mia, with a much younger voice and a much more narrow view of the world. Mia’s scope is smaller, more concerned with escaping her family and breaking free of her sister’s influence – and those are themes, which combined with her age, are much more New Adultish in focus than the rest of the series.

I did my best to bridge the genres – bringing Adam’s perspective into the novella to balance Mia’s voice – and I can only hope that it will be enough to appeal to both audiences. Hopefully the readers on both sides will let me know!


Tempting Fate is an e-novella that takes place during the events of Forged by Fate, the first book in the Fate of the Gods trilogy. Learn more about the series by following the links, or check out www.amaliadillin.com!

                                                                  Amalia Dillin

Amalia Dillin began as a biology major at the University of North Dakota before taking Latin and falling in love with old heroes and older gods. After that, she couldn’t stop writing about them, with the occasional break for more contemporary subjects. She lives in upstate New York with her husband, and dreams of the day when she will own goats — to pull her chariot through the sky, of course.
You can find her online at amaliadillin.com, follow her on Twitter @AmaliaTd, or find her on Facebook.




Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Hobbit Meets Heavy Metal...Who Among You Can Resist That?

In honor of the publication of their first novel, Cycle of Ages Saga:  Finders Keepers, I’m happy to welcome Jeremy Hicks and Barry Hayes back to Confessions of a Bookworm to talk about inspiration, fantasy adventure at its finest and the novel Barry Hayes describes as “heavy metal meets The Hobbit”. The guys also flirt with other topics—including, firsts for the blog: The Kama Sutra and 50 Shades of Grey.  Corset up and hold on to your battle axes, ladies!


Jeremy Hicks


Barry Hayes



COBW: What inspired you to become a writer?

BH: I always loved reading, and at an early age I had a very active and wild imagination. My family was amazed at some of the stories I could come up with, and they always told me that I should write them down. So my inspiration came primarily from my family who encouraged me to spin my worlds into novels. I got into role playing games and that is when I got urged on by fellow gamers to put the games I ran into novel format. I think the combination of my overactive imagination and my introduction to RPGs were both contributors.

JH: For as long as I can remember, I too have had a natural love of stories. Whether it was watching them, reading them, telling them, or writing them. I embraced my love of writing as a child but grew to believe that it’d never be a realistic pursuit, mainly because of what naysayers told me. But after finding myself without a viable career due to the terrible economy, I had to make a change. And I chose to follow another dream, so I went from archaeology to writing. I’d rather fail at a dream than succeed in a nightmarish scenario where I am not happy with what I’m doing, who I’m doing it for, or where I’m doing it.  You could say that I’m writing my own destiny, one story at a time.

COBW: Can you tell us a little about both the advantages and challenges of completing a novel as co-authors?

BH: Writing with another author, especially one as talented as Jeremy, made assembling the story easy. His background as an archaeologist helped to enhance the cultures and various races and societies of Faltyr. We helped one another become better writers by offering brutally honest critiques of each other’s work. Knowing him for over a decade helped ease my pain. The biggest challenges were agreeing on how certain scenes should work, how a character should look, what we should and shouldn’t put in or where we should put it, etc. We usually resolved this by presenting to one another the better defense for why something should be a certain way. We worked well as a team, and I am looking forward to working with him on more projects as our writing career progresses.

JH: Ideally, as a team, you have more resources, more manpower, and more ideas to pull from to create stories. However, it’s a major challenge to utilize those effectively and efficiently. It’s tough realizing that you cannot manage someone else’s time for them and must trust them to deliver on their end of the writing partnership. And with writing you have the added challenge of meshing ideas, styles of writing, and even approaches to characters and situations. If you treat it like a learning experience, then you have the advantage of educating each other based on the successes and failures of your team and crafting a better product together than you would have on your own.



COBW: Do you write as you go or do you have the book all planned out from page 1?

BH: I do both. It really depends on what I am writing. I sometimes put a lot of thought into a subject, will write an outline of the story, and construct characters, settings and history. Then there are times I turn on the creative faucet and attempt to catch the ideas as they spill out.

JH: With Cycle of Ages Saga: Finders Keepers, we planned pretty heavily. We created a world, characters, and an outline, and then wrote a screenplay version. We planned the novelization out later and then developed it rather rigidly from there. We went so far with it to have a novel subsection and chapter breakdown to manage our chapters, word counts, and character POVs.



COBW: What drew you to this genre?

BH: A friend gave me a copy of The Hobbit. I read it and was drawn to the realms of fantasy instantly. He told me it would give me a feel for the role playing game we were involved in at that moment.

JH: It started as a child. I had a genuine love of fantasy fiction like Alice in Wonderland and The Hobbit and horror fiction by anyone from Poe to Lovecraft to King. But my love of all things speculative fiction blossomed as I moved into playing RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons and realized that I could not just create my own stories but my own world as a setting for them.



COBW: Who is your favorite character in Finders Keepers? Why?

BH: Kaladimus Dor, the young wizard from Moor’Dru who, at the most inopportune of moments or when stressed, gets disastrous results with the magic he is weaving. He is as smart as he is na├»ve. He is as cowardly as he is brave. He is innocent as he is dangerous. I am anxious to watch him grow in character as the series progresses.

JH: Hmmm…now that’s a good question. There are so many good candidates. I’d have to say it is Yax’Kaqix (pronounced Yahsh-kah-keesh) as he was based on a character that I used to play ages ago fused with my love of magic and Mesoamerican culture. He’s an ancient elf war-mage full of angst, complexity, and a moral nebulousness that is found in a lot of people. His entire life is a gray area, other than his adherence to a rather rigid code of conduct when it comes to loyalty and the taking and breaking of oaths.



COBW: What’s been your most rewarding experience since being published?

BH: Being presented the chance to start a career doing something I really enjoy, writing.

JH: Honestly, having the thing done, so we can move onto the next project. Until the book was published, everything wasn’t really real, if that makes sense. The people around us were supportive for the most part, but I don’t think anyone really expected to see actual results from us until the book manifested itself before their very eyes. Now, we’re legitimate. Now we can write, pitch, or publish any project in our imagination and we’re seen as professionals, instead of daydreamers fronting as pros. At an average of 40 years of age, we’re finally real writers in the eyes of our families, friends, loved ones, and community, even though we’ve both considered ourselves writers since childhood.



COBW: What’s one piece of advice you would give aspiring authors?

BH: Edit. Edit. Edit. My mistake, you asked for one piece of advice. Edit.

JH: Go to school, get a good technical degree in a solid career field, and pay your bills on time. Spend your nights writing, editing, and then try to get published. Trying to get published is difficult enough. Trying to get published while fighting poverty and trying to keep the light bill paid in Roosterpoot, Alabama is damn difficult.



COBW: If you could jump into a book and live in that world, which would it be?

BH: Anything by H.P. Lovecraft. I love his world!

JH: The Kama Sutra…albeit a modern version with hot showers and flush toilets.



COBW: What’s the one book you wish you’d written?

BH: That would be Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.

JH: 50 Shades of Grey…with 95 million dollars, we could produce our own film version of The Cycle of Ages Saga:  Finders Keepers. Although if we did, sex-starved housewives might expect Channing Tatum to play a wizard called Magic Wand so they could read about him in badly written, badly edited scenes of badly disguised Twilight fanfiction.



Many thanks to Barry and Jeremy for stopping by Through the Wormhole:  Confessions of a Bookworm! Following is the COAS:  Finders Keepers cover image and copy.




Kaladimus Dor, both dopey and dangerous, finds himself racing home across the sea aboard the mighty caravel, Nightsfall. He must return with the secretive contents of the chest in his possession to his home on the island of Moor’Dru. Unfortunately, his disastrous nature shipwrecks him and the survivors on an island full of ravenous inhabitants, both living and undead. Dor allies himself with members of the Finders Keepers mercenary guild and others to search for the Hallowed Vessel, their only means of escape from the nightmare.



You can find more on the duo of Hicks and Hayes, including ways to purchase their debut novel, at their website http://www.cycleofagessaga.com Their publisher, Dark Oak Press & Media, can be found at http://www.darkoakpress.com

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Real Life Lessons

My fourteen-year-old daughter had been the owner of an iPhone 4s for a mere two months when the device tumbled from her jeans pocket and onto the concrete driveway where she’d been playing basketball. Stunned, she’d cradled the phone, its once sleek screen now fractured into hundreds of tiny shards of glass. “Mom,” she’d exclaimed, more than a little maniacally, “I can’t believe this is real life!”


Today, I understand the sentiment. I cannot believe this is real life! Surely I’m dreaming that Heir to the Lamp, an adventure story I strung together for the entertainment of my family, can now be read, and hopefully enjoyed, by the masses. How can it be that I am finally the published author I imagined myself to be as a second-grader writing fanfiction for the Muppets?

“Yes,” I’d assured my grieving teenage daughter that fateful day last winter. “This is real life. This is the sort of thing that can happen when you play BASKETBALL WITH A PHONE MADE ALMOST ENTIRELY OF GLASS!”

Over the past few weeks I’ve spent a good deal of time reassuring myself. This is real life! Remember those years of writing, revising, submitting and resubmitting? Remember the critique group meetings and writers’ conferences attended in hopes of improving your craft? Remember the market research? Remember the contest awards? This is the sort of thing that can happen when you pursue a dream with intense effort. Especially when that effort is behind a story you love and believe in.

The Princess’s iPhone was repaired, and she paid for the repairs herself. She learned an expensive but valuable lesson about better protecting one’s most prized possession.

Heir to the Lamp has been published today by World Weaver Press, and with the publication I can say that I have learned valuable lessons as well: lessons about perfecting one’s most valuable possession until it’s ready to be shared with the world, lessons about never giving up on a dream no matter how long it takes for that dream to come to fruition, lessons about believing in one’s self and the possibilities of real life.

I hope you enjoy Heir to the Lamp!



Heir to the Lamp Press Release

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Heir to the Lamp Signed Copy Giveaway

In honor of today's cover art reveal, I'm hosting another Goodreads giveaway--this time for a signed copy of Heir to the Lamp. Just register here with the Goodreads widget. Good luck!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Heir to the Lamp by Michelle Lowery Combs

Heir to the Lamp

by Michelle Lowery Combs

Giveaway ends July 12, 2013.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Monday, June 24, 2013

Spanx You. Spanx You Very Much!

Mention the word “Spanx” to a woman of a certain age and you’re likely to be answered with a “Thank you, Jesus!” Atlanta-based designer Sara Blakely’s creation, a kind of footless pantyhose and magical blend of nylon and Lycra, could be the best invention in the history of womanhood save L’Oreal’s Revitalift!


At age 42, according to the May 2013 issue of Forbes Magazine, Blakely is the world’s youngest woman to make $1 billion on her own. She’s filthy stinkin’ rich for good reason. I became the owner of my very 1st pair of Spanx, contributing $38.00 to Blakely’s fortune, this past week. I chose a mid-thigh number that I can wear under summer dresses and Capri pants.




I gave the Spanx a test run under a shortish Moroccan print dress I was considering wearing for my uber awesome book launch party next month. I couldn’t help marveling at how well the garment was smoothing and holding in place All that is me without a single jiggle. I looked like I’d lost a good 12 pounds overnight!

For the life of me I couldn’t understand why some women complain about wearing the magic undergarment during hot Southern summer months. I was feeling fine. No swampy Spanx for me!

I worked at my desk (happily and productively, in case Little Sister and Boss Lady Stacey Hardy is reading this post), went to a dental appointment and shopped for groceries at my favorite Winn-Dixie in perfect comfort for over 10 hours in my Spanx with nary a complaint. In fact, was that a refreshing breeze I felt every now and again as my dress swished a few inches above my knees?

When I was home with the groceries I realized that the Super Spanx must have also been exuding some of its powers on my bladder—I hadn’t had to go to the bathroom since getting dressed that morning. I made a mental note to insist that Little Sister wear a pair of the dandy Spanx the next time we travel together—it would be nice to make a 6 hour trip in under 9 hours, after all—and decided I’d better go on and try to “go”.

This is when I discovered my mistake. Seems the style of Spanx I’d selected for myself is crotch-less. Sure, I’d read the part of the packaging that insisted the garment was so sleek that it wouldn’t allow for visible panty lines under any outfit, but I hadn’t wanted to take any chances. I hadn’t worn any underwear.



Immediately my mind began to enumerate the masses that may have gotten an unintended glance at my naughty bits. There were my coworkers, but most of us are female and related. If they’d seen me expose myself they would have said so after they posted a video of the debauchery on Instagram and YouTube. There was my hygienist and dentist. Oh, God! I’d wriggled awkwardly out of the side of the elevated dental chair to grab my cell phone while my hygienist Pam looked on. Was this the reason Dr. Young hadn’t made eye contact with me? Hadn’t he garbled his customary “Good job on your teeth, see you in six months” before rushing from the room? Then there was the produce boy at Winn-Dixie. Dear Lord. How graceful had I been when I’d wrestled that 20 pound watermelon off the floor of the produce department and into my buggy?

What is the world coming to with Paula Deen using the “n-word” and your next favorite YA author (wink, wink) running around flashing her hoo-ha in the public open air as if she were Brittney Spears or Lindsay Lohan?

I’m writing to Ms. Sara Blakely of the Spanx Empire in ATL. I’ll be asking her on behalf of dentists, hygienists, stock boys, and young readers everywhere to more prominently inform buyers of her magic undergarments crotch-less design. Perhaps some bug-eyed or unconscious figures at the feet of the little cartoon lady smiling from ear-to-ear on the pink packaging?



My sincere apologies if you happen to be among any of my victims between the hours of 7 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. last Thursday. I promise it won’t happen again!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Time to DTR?



          Every now and then I'm asked not only by someone new that I happen to meet but even by some acquaintences I've known for years to DTR (define the relationship) I share with the many young people in my life.  While I consider the six children I've shared my home, checking account and my whole heart with nothing less than my very own,  I'm happy to oblige the curious--"my oldest" turned twenty-five in February after all, and I don't exactly want anyone walking away thinking I was Alabama's youngest tween mom.

         My latest request to DTR came from my publicist at World Weaver Press.  Seems she and my editor were curious about whether the "giant posse" in my novel Heir to the Lamp came from my real life.  My author bio is vague:  "too many children to count".  I was trying to be mysterious and not give the impression that I walk around dragging a wornout uterus behind me.  I've seen people look over my shoulder for just such a thing as soon as I've told them how many children I have at home eating every thing in sight with all the appliances and lights in our house on as if electricity is a new invention.

          Here's the low down:

          I became a mother for the first time in July 1998 when Michael Lowery and I welcomed our daughter Shelby Tate into the world.  In 2002,  Shelby got two brothers:  one 6 lb 7 oz bundle of joy Michael and I named Jackson and one 145 lb fourteen-year-old cousin named Shane who came to live with us after some difficulties with his parents.  I was happy to be the mother of a sweet baby to snuggle, a toddler that made me laugh, and a teenager that kept me on my toes.

          Fastforward a few short years to my second marriage.  Chris Combs and I had been a long-time couple as teens but went on to marry others.  In 2005, after our respective 1st marriages had ended, Chris moved from Georgia to Alabama with his two young sons--Christopher, 9 and Elijah, 6--and we combined our families.  I was now a woman with five children under one roof--a roof, in all honesty, that could have stood to be a whole lot bigger.  It was a challenge, sharing a mere 1,500 square feet with so many, but one that made me happy--this dispite Chris's and my never-ending battle to keep milk in the refrigerator and the washer and dryer running 24/7.

          I was content.  Shane was a senior in high school and Jackson was in Pre-K.  There was light at the end of the long, dark tunnel that is preschool tuition, and I'd have a few years repreive before the next round of driver's licenses, proms and college applications.

          Then I learned that I was expecting...again!  Danann was born in 2007.  I promptly begged Chris to run not walk to the nearest urologist for a vasectomy.  It is a testament to his love for me that he did not hesitate.  While under serious anasthesia, he even offered to let me do the job--this tickled his doctor to no end but, like a true professional, the man didn't send for me out in the waiting room.

          And there you have it:  the story of how I became a mother to five--er, six.  Sometimes I lose count myself.

          All of the children in the Lawson family in Heir to the Lamp are based on my real-life children.

         My little monsters really did starve to death the first pet I ever let them have.

         My younger daughter Danann aka Dahlilah collectively calls the older boys in our family "The Brothers" the same way that Ginn refers to her younger brothers as "The Terrible Twosome" in HTL.


(Danann with her BFF Gabby)

          Jackson, like Jasper, talked with a lisp when he was six.  He also cussed like a tiny sailor from the ages of four to seven, but I figured that tidbit to be inappropriate for children's literature.




(Jackson, the face of an angel and the mouth of a dirty sailor)

          Like Virginia, my older daughter Shelby is an athlete who bites her nails to the quick.  She's also a Homecoming princess and has a great sense of humor.



(Shelby with product placement for Dr. Pepper.  Where's my check?)

          My Elijah, like HTL's Eli, is crazy smart and mischivous.  He really did electrocute himself at school in the 5th grade when he cut a laptop cord with a pair of scissors.  Did I mention he's crazy smart?


(Danann, Christopher & Elijah)

         Christopher, aka CJ in HTL, is forever in trouble, but has a generous spirit and is my only child to thank me EVERY single night of his life for dinner.

          Like Sean, Shane is the consumate big brother, willing to help any of my other children out whenever they should need an accomplice.  He's dedicated, hardworking and fun.


(Shelby & Shane, Homecoming 2012)

          I drew on the real life adventures of my large family when writing my 1st novel.  Everything from the way my children came to me in unique ways to their highly indiviudalized personalities.  I'm thankful for all they've given me to work with as a writer.  Now, if only they'd learn to properly sort the laundry and leave me at least one Little Debbie cake in the pantry every once in a while.







         

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Revenge Appalachian Style

     It's been a while since I've posted anything about what I've been reading.  The world isn't all genies and fairy tales and some of you might be surprised by the grown-up books I actually read in my free time.  Here's the low down on one I finished over Memorial Day weekend.


I’m a huge fan of books set in Appalachia.  While Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain is an obvious example, I’ve also written previously about Amy Greene’s book Bloodroot, about three generations of domestic strife in the form of the sometimes dangerous bonds between mothers and their children.  Silas House’s Clay’s Quilt, A Parchment of Leaves and Coal Tattoo are others I’ve enjoyed.  House’s stories also encompass three generations of a family in a place called Free Creek and have been called “a long love poem to the hills of Kentucky.”  My Old True Love by Sheila Kay Adams is a novel inspired by the ballads of the English, Scottish and Irish that settled Appalachia in the 1700’s.  Adams’s book is largely about a family whose men serve in the Union Army while their wives and children endure hardship and harassment from Confederate Home Guard during the Civil War in Marshall, North Carolina.  The narrative is rich with song and I loved the audiobook version for how it showcased these long-sung tunes in a unique way.  It was with these other much-loved Appalachian Mountain-based reading experiences under my belt that I turned to Ann Robbins-Phillips’s Revenge.



Based on an actual feud in the North Carolina mountains that culminated in the midst of the Civil War, Ann Robbins Phillips has used material from her own family’s past to tell a story of revenge sought by a man who witnesses the murder and brutalization of members of his family as a nine year-old boy.
Hate rose like bile into my mouth and burned my nose and eyes.  Senseless deaths.  These were my family.  They weren’t necessarily Jackson County’s most honorable citizens, but neither did they deserve to die the way they had.  Right or wrong, to the last drop of my blood………..I’m ready to serve revenge where none has been dished out.
--Nathe Watson Milsaps, Revenge

So begins Nathe Watson’s quest for vengeance against his family enemy the Hoopers.  While searching in secret for the men who murdered his family, Nathe takes refuge with a young widow named Addie Fisher and her two small children.  Ever fearful that he’ll be discovered by the Hoopers, Nathe and Addie endure the mountain hardships of sickness, fire and death as they work to resurrect her neglected farm.  Someone does know why Nathe has returned to Rich Mountain after ten years, and it could ruin everything, especially when it seems Nathe’s desire to reestablish a family of his own may be just as strong as his need for revenge.  There’s something he doesn’t know about the woman he’s come to care for, however—something that could make all the difference.
I enjoyed portions of Revenge greatly.  The first chapter, for which Robbins-Phillips won a national fiction contest, is gripping and later scenes describing the tragic death of a small child and beloved character made me cry; they were emotionally riveting.  I very much liked all the characters in Revenge, and having a reader care for and thus become invested in a character is no easy task for a writer to accomplish so well.
Despite the feud I knew the book to be about from the get-go, I hoped to read about creeks and streams, valleys and cottages built into the sides of rugged mountains that look down into “hollers” far below.  Setting is such an important part of Appalachian stories, after all, but Revenge is heavily dialogue driven.  There is so much talking going on that I found myself craving more description of the mountains and farmland Nathe and Addie work to revive.  Told in Nathe’s first person point-of-view, there are plenty of opportunities for the reader to see Rich Mountain through Nathe’s eyes, but Robbins-Phillips doesn’t always capitalize on those opportunities and that disappointed me a bit.  While the dialogue does propel the action of the story ever forward, there were times I found conversations between the characters to be a little stiff and formal.  Dialect is as important as setting in Appalachian novels and serves as a constant reminder of place and time.  When it feels wrong, it can pull a reader from the story and there were a few times this happened for me.  This was also the case with errors and typos that can mark the self-published title as such, despite a beautiful cover and impeccable layout.
I gave the book 3 ½ stars on Goodreads.  If you’re a fan of Appalachia—the place, the people and their stories—then I think you’d enjoy Revenge.  If you appreciate the Hatfield & McCoy legendary feud, Revenge is also a book for you.  In fact, readers of Hatfield & McCoy books have been recommended Revenge on Amazon.com.
Robbins-Phillips second novel Bad Blood is the sequel to Revenge and further explores the mistrust and betrayals of the Hooper and Watson families.  While it’s entirely common for these kinds of stories to explore the emotions and difficulties of mountain life, in the case of the Revenge series, these musings don’t just come from the imagination of the author, but from the imperfections of real people in her family history.
For more on Ann Robbins-Phillips, Revenge and Bad Blood, please visit Ann’s website at http://annrobbinsphillips.weebly.com
Author Ann Robbins Phillips

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Careful or You'll End Up in My Novel


(photo credit:  kellieelmore.com)


Writers are weird.  It’s entirely true.  Most of us will readily admit that we’d rather sit quietly alone somewhere reading or writing when the alternative is an overwhelming room of hundreds of other people.  Sure, we’re social  and can hold our own in conversations that involve books, writing or a subject we’re highly engrossed in researching for our latest project, but we largely prefer to hover at the periphery of chit-chatty conversation—we’re studying your dialogue, don’t you know?
As I type this post, I am surrounded by 200 student athletes and their parents at a banquet to celebrate a school year of sportsmanship and All-American competition, yet I am awkwardly separate and alone.  It won’t be until I awake around one or two a.m. tomorrow that my brain finally comes up with the perfect words I could have used this evening to insert myself into one of the small clusters of laughing and talking people at the tables all around me.  For now, I just look up every few seconds from my smartphone and smile like an imbecile at anyone in sight.
My good friend and fellow writer Mary Weber Furlow and I share a theory that we, and most other creative people we know, are afflicted with at least some small degree of an Asperger-like syndrome that makes us over analyze and then feel uncomfortable about our “performances” in certain social situations.  What I have come to realize recently is, while this kind of insecurity has a tendency to make me stand out like a lump at a cafeteria table clutching her Android like a floatation device, it’s also what makes me and other writers good at defining the motivation, affects, and responses  of the characters in our work.
So writers are weird.  Big deal.  I guarantee you we aren’t the strangest folks you’ll ever meet or sit across a table from lauding the achievements of teenage golfers, cheerleaders and football players.  Please, cut us a little slack and forgive our awkwardness.  And, while you’re at it, you might want to mind what you say to--or even near--us…unless, of course, you don’t mind ending up in one of our novels.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Countdown Begins!

          In sixty-nine days, my 1st novel will be available to readers!  I feel like I've been pregnant for the last three years and an induction date has finally been set.


                                                    (image credit:  photostock.com)



          Like any expectant mother, I'm alternating between feelings of excitement at bringing something new into the world and worry for what the world will do to my little one.  Will readers hold this piece of me lovingly and with appreciation?  Or will they dropkick it into a corner and run screaming from the room?

          Ya'll play nice with my baby!


           Here's the official release from my publisher/midwife:

          
           http://worldweaverpress.com/news-and-blog/

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Yes, Virginia, There is A Publisher!

I am thrilled to announce that my first novel, a YA urban fantasy titled HEIR TO THE LAMP, has found a home with World Weaver Press!  I can hardly believe those words.  My genie story, born of a desire to put some of the anecdotal stories of my favorite young people  (those I birthed and assorted others) on paper lest they ever forget accidentally starving a hamster to death or aspiring to be garbage truck drivers, is going to be published and available all over the world!

I can't stop smiling...or writing the book's Acknowledgements page in my head.  There are so many people to thank, but for now I'll start with Eileen Wiedbrauk and Elizabeth Wagner of World Weaver Press.  Thanks for giving Virginia and her wacky family a home.

I'll be passing along details about the publication and availability of HEIR TO THE LAMP as they become available.  Here's WWP's official announcement:

http://worldweaverpress.com/2013/04/11/introducing-world-weaver-presss-newest-author-michelle-lowery-combs/

Friday, January 11, 2013

Fire in the Tub!

I believe the Book to be a sacred object—the heft of one held tightly in my hands or lying open in my lap is a tangible reminder of how a person’s vision can be manifested into a physical thing, a way for the characters and places an author has imagined to inhabit our world in a real way.  My affinity for books, especially a new book, doesn’t end with the feel of it, though.  I like the way books smell.  If I’m very still at my desk at work and hold my head just right, I’m almost certain that I can detect the fresh ink and paper smells that mix so pleasingly with the scent of Joe Mugs coffee two blocks away at Books-A-Million.   It’s an intoxicating amalgamation of aromas that tempts me on a daily basis to leave Little Sister to take her own calls from solicitors and telemarketers for a couple of hours while I stumble drunk-like through the aisles of fiction at BAM.  In the new era of kindles, nooks, iPads and other e-readers, I have been hesitant to give up these favorite sensory experiences for the convenience and novelty of digital media…until Little Sister presented me with a Kindle Fire HD at Christmas, that is.
Maybe Little Sister noticed that the ample bookshelf in my bedroom is always overflowing?  Maybe she suspected I tend to spend more money than I should on books that it takes me months to get around to reading?  Maybe she was feeling a little guilty over her Staples Rewards and Ebates-hoarding ways and therefore extra-generous?  Maybe she was looking for new means to keep me chained to my desk for a full work week?  Who can say for sure?  All I do know is that I am now hopelessly in love with an ultra-light, shiny black rectangle that smells like…glass.
I’ve read or listened to FIVE unabridged titles since December 26th.  That’s more books in 16 days than I read the entire second half of 2012.   I’m like a junkie scoring a fix for as little as $2.99 every three days!  I’m not eating.  I’m not sleeping.  I walk from point A to point B clutching my new toy, snug in a protective leather case, like Charlie Brown’s Linus and his blankey!  I’m making great strides in plowing through my reading list.  Truth is I’m reading all the time:  at my desk, in the car-rider line at school, during half-time at basketball games—virtually everywhere except for my absolute favorite reading place of all:  the tub.
All of my favorite books have watermarks at the bases of their spines—I only invite a really great book into the tub with me—and here is where my new love affair with the Kindle Fire HD is being tested.  How does one justify lolling in near-boiling hot water for at least an hour with a $300 electronic gadget gifted to her by her new favorite sibling?  I risked steam-induced water damage to finish Veronica Roth’s gripping Divergent several days ago, but sitting erect and leaning over the side of the tub to hold my kindle away from my body and tub water wasn’t relaxing in the least and I won’t be trying it again.  Print media in the form of traditionally published books will always have a place in my heart…and my bathtub.
How about you?  Have you embraced e-readers?  Do you have a preferred device?   I’d love to hear about your reading experiences.