Monday, January 27, 2014

Adventures in Bartending: A BEVY OF BOOZEY DELIGHTS!!

With all that fiction writing nonsense in my last blog post, I bet you thought I'd forgotten how to drink, huh? Well allow me to lay your fears to rest with THIS post.

Today ladies and gents, I'm gonna show you some shots. What do they have in common? They all came from THE BIG BAD-ASS BOOK OF SHOTS, which my awesome boyfriend Brandon gave me for Christmas and which is the boozer's Bible. *Crosses self* Amen!

I went to the liquor store and bought a bunch of various boozes just so that I would have more on hand in case the mood struck me to make one of the many hilariously named shots from that book. I brought home white creme de cacao, irish cream, blue curacao, spiced rum, bourbon, and amaretto. And I broke the bottle of blue curacao the moment I returned home. So no, there won't be any pretty blue shots on display today. Sorry.

But there's plenty of booze left, so enjoy my selections!


Disclaimer! With this shot I cheated a little. The original recipe, shown below, calls for Frangelico. Now, Frangelico is a hazelnut liqueur that comes in an adorable monk-shaped bottle. It retails for $20-$40 bucks. Amaretto is also a hazelnut liqueur, but it comes in an ordinary bottle and retails for $6.50. I bought Amaretto. So there.

1 part Frangelico
1 part white creme de cacao
Pour ingredients into a glass neat (do not chill).

This shot was warm and creamy and chocolatey, much like its namesake. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Alabama Slammer I

This is one of many versions of this famous shooter. It's one of three found in the BIG BAD-ASS BOOK OF SHOTS alone. Again, I had to modify the original recipe just a tad. I had no pineapple juice on hand, so none found its way into my shot glass.

1 part Southern Comfort
1 part amaretto
Splash of OJ
Splash of pineapple juice
Shake with ice and strain into a shot glass.

This shot was sweet and fruity and just delightful. Girly, but men should like it as well.

Chocolate Jizz

Who do YOU think I chose to try this shot? Probably because it combines liqueurs that combine two of my favorite flavors: chocolate and coffee. What were you thinking? Get your mind out of the gutter!

1 part white creme de cacao
1 part coffee liqueur
Shake with ice and strain into a shot glass.

This shot was just...okay. I really wanted to like it, but there just wasn't much pizazz. There really didn't seem to be a reason for the coffee liqueur to be included. The white creme de cacao I get. That provided the chocolate flavor referred to in the name. So that made the coffee liqueur the what? The jizz? Umm, no? Coffee liqueur is thin, not creamy or sticky or viscous. Not to mention it tastes like coffee. 

Maybe what this shot needs is a new name. How about Mocha Shot? 

Chocolate Sundae

Mmmm...look at it.

1 part Irish Cream
1 part white creme de cacao
1 part coffee liqueur
Layer in a shot glass. Top with whipped cream.

I enjoyed this shot. Look at it: it even looks like its namesake. How cute! But as it is supposed to be a layered shot I can't call mine a success, even if it was yummy and attractive. I make layered shots all the time, but for whatever reason I have a hard time when the drink includes Irish cream. It just doesn't want to play along! Damned IRA!

I'm gonna try this one again, though. Just watch me!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Adventures in Fiction Writing! Part One: Characters

Afternoon Darlings!

If you follow me on twitter (and you should! Click here to join my adoring following) you probably already know that last year I wrote the first draft of a YA (that's Young Adult for you non-literary readers) novel called Road to Nowhere. I wrote the first words of the story on June 7th, and the last passage on Christmas Day. Romantic, huh?

The novel grew out of a writing prompt that my boyfriend Brandon picked out for me from a book that's literally FULL of them. He gave me the prompt: Newspaper headline ROAD TO NOWHERE SET FOR REPAVING and I sat down to write on it for 30 minutes. I reported on my initial efforts here. (Check it out!)

I've taken the month of January off from the WIP (that's Work-In_Progress for you non-literary readers. What a vocabulary lesson this is becoming for you!) to clear my head so I can dive into the dreaded Suicidal Second Draft with what I hope will be fresh eyes and a clear perspective. I've also decided, because I love you all so much and because misery loves company (mostly because misery loves company), that I will make the revise/rewrite/edit process a public one, here on my blog. So come along, friends! This should be an interesting ride!! 

My Adventures in Fiction Writing series kicks off with a post about CHARACTERS. What about  characters? We love characters, we hate characters. We write characters, we kill characters. Characters whisper scenes in our heads and yell at us when we write their voices wrong and sometimes change appearances halfway through a story.

Gah. I've turned into one of those annoying writers who talks about characters not only as if they're alive, but as if they're sentient and control me. ...
*Sounds of a scuffle*

This is Cobalt, star of ROAD TO NOWHERE. You will ignore everything Shana wrote about characters above.
poijojnlnljnibweASSDfzsfgfdbfdm   sd;fnsdlkfnsdljfnsfSd...../////
*Thud* *THUMP*

AHEM! This is me again. Cobalt's back where he belongs. Now where was I? Oh yeah: CHARACTERS.

Look, this isn't going to be a writing lesson. I'm not your fucking teacher. I don't have an MFA in creative writing. (That's Masters of Fine Arts. Pay attention please.) I am an educated woman, but everything I know about writing I've learned the hard way, and all of it is probably only true for me.

My truth is my truth and your truth is yours. But MY truth becomes clear when you share YOUR truth with me, and vice versa. That's equally true in fiction as in life. Entiende?

Here's a character chart I drew up when I was about halfway through my novel's first draft.

Notice how sparse it is. See how in the box for Mayor Orange there's only one descriptive term: FAT. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Mayor Orange is fat. Below him , in the box I intended to fill with adjectives that describe Cobalt (introduced above), is one phrase: TOO-LONG BANGS. So, Mayor Orange (first name Princeton) is fat and Cobalt has bangs that fall into his eyes.

What's the deal with this? The thing is, I'm not a visual reader. Therefore, I'm not a visual writer. When I read your characters I don't tend to pay much attention to your description of their appearances, because I almost never remember it, anyway. I'm way more interested in how your characters speak and what they say and especially how they behave.

Of course, there are exceptions. If your character's appearance is an integral part of his/her, well, character, and if you repeat descriptions of it enough times I will remember it. Or if there's an aspect of your character's physical appearance that is an integral part of his/her personhood I'll remember that. For example, Rose the Hat's jaunty top hat in King's Doctor Sleep. Nearly every single time he mentioned Rose he described her hat, perched saucily atop her head at a gravity-defying angle. But you know what? The description never felt overdone. Moreover, it served to describe Rose herself, perched as she was at the top of the True Knot's society, which in turn perched saucily on top of our own society, at a gravity-defying angle.

Pretty deep, huh?

What else did Mr. King say about Rose? She was hot. Was she blonde? Don't think so. What color were her eyes? Don't remember. Don't care. But I'll always remember the hat.

And really I'm that flaky with my own characters, as well. I remember who the badasses are, and the villains. I can tell you which characters start out meek and discover their own strength during the journey. But who's the redhead? Which of the boys has freckles? Are you seriously asking me? I'm supposed to remember? So I made a chart.

I try to give each of my characters some physical trait that describes who they are in the story. I don't know that I'll get around to everyone, but so far I think I've touched each of the main characters.

Mayor (Princeton) Orange is fat, because he represents comfort and plenty. I mean this in both a nice, homey way as well as a selfish way.

Mayor Blue is skeletal and has the parched skin of a mummy because he is Want, and the death of hope.

Fern Viridian has brilliant green eyes and spiky red hair because she is all go, go, go! She has so much curiosity and energy that no one can stop her.

Midnight wears a John Cena tee shirt because she, too, will never give up. She wears a sparkly beaded headband to bring some light into Nowhere. During the story, she is scarred in a very meaningful way.

Navy's head was once shaved. Now his hair is growing back in patches. He wears a hoodie that's way too big for him. His shoes maybe fit two years ago. He cut the toes of the shoes open so his own toes would have some more room. Clearly, this is a neglected young man.

Amarillo Saffron has big, bouncy blonde curls, yellow-green eyes, and a winning smile. She also has spent much of her life trying to please others at the expense of herself. She thinks of herself as a pretty, delicate figurine to be perched someplace: pleasing to the eye but without any inherent strength. She discovers her strength during the story.

Cerulean Saffron has waist-length two-toned hair that she wears in her trademark blonde-and-blue braid that typically hangs over her shoulder. Why the two-toned hair? Duality. She is both of Somewhere and Nowhere. Like her older sister Amarillo, Cerulean is pretty, but in a sturdier, more matronly way.

Azure has blue eyes and strawberry blonde curls and a tiny body. She's 14, but looks more like 11. And that's all I have for her right now. Actually, I don't think this physical description really matches her character. Hmmm...I think I have some work to do with this one.

Denim is large and muscular. DEFINITELY need to work on this guy's physical appearance.

Mr. Scarlet is a main character without much in the way of physical description in the WIP. He doesn't even appear on my character chart. WTF is up with that?

(Yeah, I have a looooong way to go with this WIP. That much is clear.)

There are, of course, more characters than that in ROAD TO NOWHERE. But I think you get the idea. Even better, I've learned some more about my characters during this exercise. So it's a win-win!

And this concludes part one of my ongoing series this year, Adventures in Fiction Writing! Be sure to tune in next time when I write all about the Suicidal Second Draft!


Saturday, January 11, 2014

TOO HOT FOR AMAZON!! Sasha Sparks Author Talks About Smut

Hey y'all. It's Shana. Just wanted to introduce my guest blogger, erotica author Sasha Sparks. Play nice everyone! If you play nice she will. If you don' out! Here's Sasha:

Hi there sexy!
Can I ask you a question? Do you think I look like a nice girl? You think so, right? Well apparently, Amazon doesn't agree. Amazon thinks I'm naughty. Too naughty for them, anyway!

Can you believe it?

A couple of weeks ago, Amazon took down my best-selling sexy story, Baby Learns to Beg. All I got in return was a form email telling me that the book violates their terms of service. That was that. Not even a sorry. Just banned from Amazon!

Well Amazon's loss is the Nook's gain because that's exactly where I took my too hot for Amazon book!

You can also buy my other steamy book: Me & Colette and the Epic Shower. 

Amazon still sells this story, and if you're a kindle whore reader like me ;-) you can buy it here. For some reason the Big Bosses at Amazon don't find this story to be too naughty for their site, although it starts: I'm a slut in the shower, and just gets hotter from there! 

So go on, you sexy beasts! Read and enjoy! Hope you have as much fun reading my smutty stories as I had writing them! ;-)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

My Top Ten Reads of 2013

If you couldn't tell by this blog's name, I'm a literary sort of gal. I'm a reading and writing fool. Now that I'm a grown-up and bound by such inane grown-up responsibilities as working and paying bills, I don't read as much as I used to when I was a carefree child. Back in "the day" I'd read 2 to 3 books a week regularly and had a wallet full of the library cards of all the cities I'd lived in. Now I read at breakfast (when I'm not writing my own fiction, that is) and on my lunch break and in bed at night and...sadly that's about it. I carry my kindle on me at all times, though, for stolen moments of literary pleasure. I don't devour books like I used to, that's for sure. But reading will always be one of my main pleasures.

I read a bunch of books in 2013. Some were traditionally published and some were self-published. Some were new and some were even older than me. Some were written by big names and others by authors you should know but probably don't. Most were good, some were not-so-good. A select few were AMAZING. Here are the top ten!

This Grrrl's Top Ten Reads of 2013

Number 10: Transfection by David Gaughran
Transfection is a science fiction short, available only for the kindle (click here for a copy of your own!). I don't always read science fiction, but when I do I like it to be topical, socially relevant, and to pull no punches. Transfection delivers on all fronts. It deals with the hot-button issue of genetically modified food and, well...I don't really want to say much more for fear of spoiling the shocking ending for you. Just read it. It costs 99 cents and delivers MUCH MORE than the price tag would suggest.

Number 9: The Clue of the Tapping Heels by Carolyn Keene
In 2013 I rediscovered my childhood love of Nancy Drew mysteries and began collecting them. In doing so, I discovered something that was totally new to me: at one point the series had been rewritten and "modernized." Some of the titles, though, have been reprinted in their original form. I've found a couple of these. The Clue of the Tapping Heels was the first. I reviewed it back in June of last year. (Read my review here)
It may seem silly to include such a juvenile book on my top ten list, but the original version of The Clue of the Tapping Heels allowed me to read a beloved classic like it was the first time. How many of us get such a chance? If you can do it, go for it!

Number 8: The ABACUS Protocol: Sanity Vacuum by Thea Gregory
Funny that earlier I said "I don't always read science fiction" because here's another scifi title. Ha-ha. Life is funny like that. Anyhow...
This is another book that I reviewed on its own, you can read the review here. This book was one of those I read last year that I would say are AMAZING. It's classic space opera but more subtle than most others I have encountered in this genre. And the author has a knack of creating very nuanced characters. Give it a read!

Number 7: John Dies at the End by David Wong
This book was weird. 
That almost seems like a "duh" statement, doesn't it? But it's also the truest statement I could come up with. John Dies at the End is weird. It also lies, a lot. Or changes its mind. Or whatever. For example, John doesn't die at the end. He dies about one-third of the way through. But he remains an active character throughout. So is he really dead? I don't know. I read the whole damned book, and I'm just not sure. The only thing I am sure about is that I enjoyed the book. It gives me a headache to think about it, but it's worth it!

Number 6: Chronic Fear by Scott Nicholson
This book is a follow-up to Nicholson's break-away hit Liquid Fear, which I also loved. The story deals with unethical scientists, deadly drug trials and unscrupulous politicians who aren't hesitant to dope the masses. What's not to like? The novels suck you right in and keep you turning pages 'til the end. I highly recommend them. 

Number 5: Gasher Creek by J. Birch
I downloaded my kindle copy of this book when the author had a free promotion going on. I do that a lot as a poor reader. And if you're a poor reader, too, I suggest you do the same. How else are we to be expected to feed our habits?
But after I read it I wished I hadn't. I wished I had paid the author for his efforts because Gasher Creek was just so good. I feel like I somehow cheated by getting a free copy. Last April I reviewed the book. You can read the review here. 
Do you like Westerns? Read Gasher Creek. Do you hate Westerns but love 3-dimensional characters and settings so real you forget where you are while you're reading? Read Gasher Creek. Trust me on this.

Number 4: The Long Walk by Richard Bachman
The first of you who says "Hey wasn't that really written by Stephen King?" please refer to my original review of this book (right here) and then either shut up or go away.
Thank you.
I'm a HUGE Stephen King fan. But sometimes, when I'm in certain moods, I'm an almost bigger Richard Bachman fan. Richard Bachman's books are nearly obsessed with the darker aspects of the human psyche. You can see it in The Running Man, and in Rage, but I think it's especially present in The Long Walk. They're cynical stories. And while you're reading them, you can forget sometimes that we generally expect the good guy to win in the end. Because why would he? 
The world that Richard Bachman writes about is harsh. And it's one that we recognize. You don't read Richard Bachman to escape. You read Richard Bachman to find a friend who can laugh at the darkness with you.

Number 3: I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
I am just going to have to be honest. When I read this, I had already read The Book Thief and I'd already fallen in love with Markus Zusak. So I'm more than a little biased.
No, not I'm-gonna-move-to-Australia-and-become-his-stalker love. But definitely I'm-gonna-read-everything-this-brilliant-author-ever-writes love. Without a doubt. Here, see what other fans have said about I Am the Messenger on amazon: comments! 
Because I feel like the only thing I can possibly contribute to this discussion is fangirly squealing. READ MARKUS ZUSAK! READ MARKUS ZUSAK!

Number 2: The Collection by Bentley Little
I might sort of be cheating with the number 2 and number 1 spots on my list but I don't care.
The Collection by Bentley Little is exactly that: a collection of short stories. I thought at first I should try to find just one or two stories from it to include on this list but I can't. There are just too many good ones to pick from. 
I found this book in my boyfriend Brandon's personal library. (You think I'm exaggerating? I'm not. The man owns thousands of books!) Brandon has a lot of Little's titles, but the author has written many more that he doesn't have. I had never heard of Little before, which surprised me. I like to consider myself well-read and horror is one of my favorite genres. Not sure how he escaped my notice all my life but I'm glad that's over now. The Collection made me a fan.
Stand-out shorts include:
The Sanctuary
The Washingtonians
Full  Moon on Death Row
Confessions of a Corporate Man
The Murmurous Haunt of Flies

Number 1: The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
Do you see now how I cheated with the number 2 and number 1 spots?
Number 2 was an entire collection and number 1 is a trilogy, so there are well over 10 titles on my top ten reads of 2013 list.
Oh well! If you can't cheat on your own list, whose can you cheat on?

My daughter (who is 17) read the Hunger Games trilogy years ago, as they were being published. And she loved them. My boyfriend, Brandon, read them last year in a weekend. And loved them. I've been meaning to get to them forever it seems, and just kept putting it off. As soon as I started the first book of the trilogy I couldn't believe I had waited for so long. And when I finished the third book, less than a month later (fast for me!), I sobbed like a baby.

Seriously. The last book to make me cry that hard was Push by Sapphire. 

Do I need to tell you what The Hunger Games is about? I doubt it. The books are smash hits, the movies maybe even more so. But I do want to tell you that exciting as the plot is, that wouldn't be enough to land this trilogy on the top spot of my list. What made The Hunger Games my number one read of 2013 was its brutal beauty. Katniss Everdeen, the heroine of the tale, is no Pollyanna. She's selfish. She's not even that nice to the people who love her the most. But she's so real everyone will identify with her. 

And kudos to the author, Suzanne Collins! She managed to write young adult novels that cover such adult themes as political revolution, genocide, and sex slavery with a tactful finesse that was astonishing to behold. Bravo!