Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Is this One of the 50 Great Ideas for Blogs?

Over the past few months, I have found some wonderful articles to read via my Twitter friends and my regular blogs. I thought I would share some different ones that I have found recently.

Blogging:
50 Great Ideas for Blog Content
43 Helpful and Terrific Blogs for Writers
How to decide how much to reveal about yourself

Writing:
3 Tips for Joining an Online Writing Group
Jenny Cruise essays
Who Says You Have To Like a Character?
What They Don't Know Won't Hurt Them
Michael Crichton's Top 5 Writing Lessons

Zombies:
Might of the Living Dead
Did 9/11 Cause Publishing's Zombie Frenzy?

Looking for fun blogs or Twitter friends? Check out the The Tens: A Metablog, which is inspired by the radio show and podcast TBTL. (Yours truly is even listed on there)

Natasha

Friday, July 24, 2009

Comics in the Buffyverse

My hubby Joey and I are attending San Diego Comic Con and visiting our friend Sue. We will retu rn August 1st. I will try to do a post or two to update, but no promises! I thought I would leave with some of my favorite comics I have discovered over the past year.

Joss is the reason why I started readin g comic books. Seriously. It is a bit sad (really?), but I only had enough money for books and DVDs. Now my husband and I have pretty mu ch given up our DVD habit and put up invisible bookshelves to display our growing comic book habit. I totally recommend checking these comic books out if you are a Whedonite like myself.
Check out Buffy Omnibus 1-7 for the comics released during the season. Season 8 takes place after the series finale. Angel After the Fall takes place after the Angel series. Fray takes place in the future after Buffy. Serenity adds more tales in the Firefly universe. Astonishing X-Men is something you should read. Period.
Don't Stop the Signal. Read!

Here's some great links to check out about comics and other things:

Joss Whedon's Top 10 Writing Tips
Buffy at Dark Horse Comics
The Comic Book Guide to Buffy the Vampire Slayer
tFaw Joss Whedon's Angel After the Fall
IDW Angel
Serenity at Dark Horse
Interview with Joss Whedon about Astonishing X-Men

If you haven't watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Angel, or Dollhouse, you really should. Joss Whedon didn't just write those great shows, but he wrote for Roseanne and Toy Story. Don't believe me? Check out his imdb page. (And do I need to say the words Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog?)

Natasha

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Origin Story

I was sitting at work thinking about what kind of post I can write to fill in the gap while I am gone. Then it came to me: my origin story about attending conventions. Funny enough, I found an article written by one of my favorite geeks, Seth Green, about why he loves conventions.

Some people have no idea what a sci fi and fantasy convention, comic book conventions, or "cons" is or what people do. There is an exhibit hall, or dealer room, where you can find all types of merchandise and services (like costuming). There can be an artist's alley where tons of artists show off their talents. At smaller conve
ntions, artists and writers can be guests of honor. Other conventions can have a ton of celebrities (including writers and artists) who do panels that show off their talents or talk about their career, and do autograph sessions. There can be movie showings, exclusive content, themed party rooms, gaming rooms, and don't forget the swag! It is a great way for people to meet and talk about what they enjoy.

The first time I had ever heard of a convention (and I didn't even know it was called that) was when my friend Sue went to Star Wars Celebration I in 1999 at Denver, CO. I remember her stories of rain, fans, and shopping for Star Wars toys. I knew then, even though I was a junior in high school at the time, that I would someday go to the next one. Then, in 2002 and in college, I did go. I just started dating my now husband and he was extremely jealous that I was going (he was still in high school). Celebration II was held in Indianapolis and it was brilliant! Just the feeling of being around other fans was the best feeling in the world. Also, it was my first plane ride and trip away from home all by myself, and it
was the first time I met Sue. We dressed up in our Jedi and Corellian costumes, and there is no bigger confidence booster in a city celebrating something that you feel so strongly about. It was just jaw-dropping seeing different people in panels and all the entertainment (Star Wars in 30 minutes) that was provided. I loved it. It was the beginning of something that I want to keep doing.

I went to our local convention at the time, Valleycon, and had a blast meeting two of my favorite Star Wars writers. Joey dressed up in my Jedi costume and I wore my Corellian costume. We met people we still talk to and see at conventions today (hi Dawn!). It was the beginning that would someday form the Fargo
convention we help run, Core Con.

I went to Celebration III and IV in Indy and Los Angeles to have more amazing times with Sue and company. We also attended convention up in Canada, including Central Canada Comic Con (C4).

And now we are going to one of the biggest and the one of the best: San Diego Comic Con. Sue will have a table there, and we thought it was our turn to go see her this year. We will attend the convention, and then stay with her for the week. It is going to be an amazing time. I can list all the
things we hope to do, but it is better to save what we did.

People might think that conventions are for creepy people, but really, they are fun-loving and imaginative people. Well-run conventions can be an amazing good time, and that is why I keep going to them.

Natasha
Photo: Joey and I at Valleycon with Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta in 2002.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Where I'm At: Part VI

"Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened."
- Dr. Seuss

This week kept me too busy for my own good. My hubby Joey's birthday was Saturday so we did some celebrating with friends and family. We went to Harry Potter and LOVED it! That pretty much took up all of one of our nights, and we started to prepare for our upcoming vacation to San Diego Comic Con this week.

Needless to say, I didn't finish the novel. I barely dented it. So, we shall pick this up when I return and see where it will go.

Natasha
Word Count: 77,036

Monday, July 13, 2009

Where I'm At: Part V

"Face your life
Its pain, its pleasure,
Leave no path untaken"
-Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book
(I thought it appropriate to use more NG since he had his big Newbery speech last night)

While writing this book, this is what I have come to face. The pleasure of its mysteries as it unwinds in front of me. Then there is the pain of it staying silent, an unwilling and cruel blank canvas. As you can tell, I haven't finished it. This time, I am sure, I am close. I just need to find the ever fleeting time.

The next few weeks seem cramped with things to do, including our vacation to San Diego for Comic Con and visiting our friend Sue. There will be so much to talk about when I come back, but those adventures you will see in future posts. For now, I must focus on finding little periods of time here and there to possibly finish this novel.

We will see what happens in the next week. Last night I had such a fun time writing. Something just seemed to click, all the words flowed heavy as honey and just as sweet.

I am going to keep down this path, and I won't just toss this story aside. It is there and I will keep listening. I will continue on no matter how hard it pushes and bites back. I will record my progress as it develops, to push forward with hope and spark. That is the only way.

Natasha
Word Count: 76206

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Upcoming Books Part II

Here's the other two books that I am dying to read this year (so far!). I recommend reading the notes underneath each book to learn about how I came across these authors and what I really love about them.

Fire by Kristin Cashore
Publication Date: October 6th, 2009

Fire, Graceling's prequel-ish companion book, takes place across the mountains to the east of the seven kingdoms, in a rocky, war-torn land called the Dells. Beautiful creatures called monsters live in the Dells. Monsters have the shape of normal animals: mountain lions, dragonflies, horses, fish. But the hair or scales or feathers of monsters are gorgeously colored-- fuchsia, turquoise, sparkly bronze, iridescent green-- and their minds have the power to control the minds of humans. Seventeen-year-old Fire is the last remaining human-shaped monster in the Dells. Gorgeously monstrous in body and mind but with a human appreciation of right and wrong, she is hated and mistrusted by just about everyone, and this book is her story. Wondering what makes it a companion book/prequel? Fire takes place 30-some years before Graceling and has one cross-over character with Graceling, a small boy with strange two-colored eyes who comes from no-one-knows-where, and who has a peculiar ability that Graceling readers will find familiar and disturbing... (Goodreads)

Note: I found Kristin Cashore's first book Graceling online by accident and it is one of my birthday presents. I love finding new authors, especially those in fantasy. This is one author to watch and I can't wait to grab this off the shelf. Here's an article about publishing of the book.

Heart's Blood by Juliet Marillier
Publication Date: November 3rd, 2009

This is a stunning gothic love story based on the legends of Beauty and the Beast. Whistling Tor is a place of secrets, a mysterious, wooded hill housing the crumbling fortress of a chieftain whose name is spoken throughout the district in tones of revulsion and bitterness. A curse lies over Anluan's family and his people; those woods hold a perilous force whose every whisper threatens doom. For young scribe Caitrin it is a safe haven. This place where nobody else is prepared to go seems exactly what she needs, for Caitrin is fleeing her own demons. As Caitrin comes to know Anluan and his home in more depth she realizes that it is only through her love and determination that the curse can be broken and Anluan and his people set free. (Goodreads)

Note: Juliet Marillier's first book Daughter of the Forest caught my eye in a local bookstore in 2001 or 2002.. I sometimes go by covers for authors, and John Jude Palencar's cover on her first book caught my eye. Ever since, I have bought every book. I usually don't buy hardcover books, but she is the exception to my rule. I truly say that she is my favorite author.

Any books that you are looking forward to this year? Anything you found by accident not published this year? I know I probably will. Keep any eye out for future posts or let me know your thoughts.

Natasha

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Upcoming Books

I noticed that a lot of my favorite authors have books coming out later in the year. Some appear in a series so it will give you time to check the others out of the library or buy them if you are interested. I hope you do. If anything, you can see how much I adore these authors and I always look forward to the titles they release. It is going to be hard not to rush through them to pick up the next thing on the list!

I have four books that I really want to read, but I will post the first two now and the other two next Tuesday.

Forest Born by Shannon Hale (The Books of Bayern #4)
Publication date: September 15th, 2009

Rin is sure that something is wrong with her... something really bad. Something that is keeping her from feeling at home in the Forest homestead where she's lived all her life. Something that is keeping her from trusting herself with anyone at all. When her brother Razo returns from the city for a visit, she accompanies him to the palace, hoping that she can find peace away from home. But bloodshed has come to Bayern again, and Rin is compelled to join the queen and her closest allies-- magical girls Rin thinks of as the Fire Sisters-- as they venture into the Forest toward Kel, the land where someone seems to want them all dead. Many beloved Bayern characters reappear in this story, but it is Rin's own journey of discovering how to balance the good and the bad in herself that will pull readers into this fantastical adventure. Once again, Newberry Honor-winning author Shannon Hale brings readers to a world where great friendships, unexpected plot twists, and a little dose of magic make for incredible storytelling. (From Goodreads)

Note: I started reading Shannon Hale's books last year, and I have enjoyed every single one of them. She has written mostly YA, but has two adults and a YA graphic novel she co-wrote with her husband. I really enjoy the series. The book involves the same cast of characters, but I don't see it requirement to read the others to pick this one up. However, I do have a feeling if you do, you will end up going back to pick up the others!

An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon (Outlander #7)
Publication date September 22nd, 2009

Readers have been waiting with bated breath for the seventh volume in bestselling author Diana Gabaldon’s epic Outlander saga — a masterpiece of historical fiction featuring Jamie and Claire, from one of the genre’s most popular and beloved authors.
Jamie Fraser, erstwhile Jacobite and reluctant rebel, knows three things about the American rebellion: the Americans will win, unlikely as that seems in 1778; being on the winning side is no guarantee of survival; and he’d rather die than face his illegitimate son — a young lieutenant in the British Army — across the barrel of a gun. Fraser’s time-travelling wife, Claire, also knows a couple of things: that the Americans will win, but that the ultimate price of victory is a mystery. What she does believe is that the price won’t include Jamie’s life or happiness — not if she has anything to say.
Claire’s grown daughter Brianna, and her husband, Roger, watch the unfolding of Brianna’s parents’ history — a past that may be sneaking up behind their own family. (From Amazon)

Note: I have read Diana Gabaldon longer than any other author on this list. I picked up her books from my local library back in the mid-90s. The books are thick, but I find them entertaining all the way through. They are a mixture of everything with time travel, history, romance, and so much more! I look forward to each addition to the series to find out what happens. One way I love how the author described her series is not as a romance, but as a marriage. That really stuck with me, as you can tell.

Now can you see why I am super excited? Wonder what else could be on the list? Stay tuned!

Natasha

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Where I'm At: Part IV

"Always remember, your focus determines your reality."
- George Lucas

I did my best to focus again this week on sitting down and just writing. I will continue to keep moving forward with the novel until this story just stops talking. I think that if I keep going at this pace, I will finish it in the next two weeks or so. Ha! I thought that two months ago. I am now 20,000 words over of my original projection of 50,000 words. I have now reached 71,000 words. I surpassed my first novel by 5,000 words so far. How did this happen?

I had a very enjoyable holiday weekend. My husband and I had Friday off so I took time to go over to the local bookstore to do some writing for a few hours. I remember how I used to go over there to do homework in college, with no interruptions, and it felt good to do that again. I found a perfect corner where no one would disturb me and I grabbed a few books to thumb through when I needed a little mini-break.

The hubby and I also spent some time outside in the beautiful weather with family at the lake, as well in the "backyard" with our cat. It reached around eighty degrees, but the humidity didn't go up with the heat as it tends to in North Dakota. We threw a blanket down on the grass, grabbed a few pillows, and read comics and books while our cat wandered around in the grass. I think this is my new favorite summer thing until bugs and humidity might ruin it. We've had such weird weather this year with winter storms, the Fargo Flood, the loss of spring, and weeks of rain. That's my home state for you and there's nothing we can't handle.

I hope everyone had a safe and wonderful weekend. Expect another update next Sunday.

Natasha
Word Count: 71,419

Friday, July 3, 2009

Savvy by Ingrid Law

I found out about Ingrid Law's book Savvy when I saw a contest to win her book on Maw Books Blog. The contest asked the contestants to reveal our dream savvy and our real life savvy. A "savvy" in the book is a supernatural power. In the book, almost every member of the family will find out their savvy on their thirteenth birthday. It is a fun premise that will keep you, and the main character, guessing at what it all truly means when her thirteenth birthday finally arrives.

This book is such very entertaining and fun story. The vivid descriptions in the book keep you captivated. The characters all have their own distinct personalities , and some their very own savvy, that I fell in love with. I can see why this book would be a Newbery Honor Book and am looking forward to reading more by this author.

If you want to learn more about this book, I recommend Maw Books Blog for her great posts:
Natasha Maw's review of the book, including the book trailer
The Giveaway that is closed, but still fun to read people's answers
Interview with the author

Here's my answer that I had for the giveaway:
I would love to have a savvy where I could imagine a place in my mind, and then I am there (similar to the movie Jumper). I love to travel, and I always wish that I could do it more and at great distances.

My real life savvy is being able to make up random recipes and it turns out tasty. I have never had to throw out food from a mistake, and my husband cannot figure out how I do it without measuring or just by thinking about ingredients that would taste well together. We just recently turned vegetarian so this savvy has really come in handy!

Natasha

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Lentil Loaf (or Vegetarian Meatloaf)

When I was growing up, my dad made the best meatloaf with potatoes and peas (I prefer scalloped corn above all). Now that I am vegetarian, I unable to recreate this meal. So, I thought about trying to see if there is a version that we eat in our household. Lo and behold! I found Lentil Loaf. I find it completely amazing and delicious-- even better than meatloaf! I am going to experiment with the recipe, though, to see if I can have multiple versions. I would like to use this for the holiday season to go with mashed potatoes and vegetables at family meals. I prepared it the day before and kept it overnight in the fridge so it might have turned out a little dry because of that. Still, we have two or three great meals. I also keep most of the items in my household so it is something easy to cook on a whim. It did a few adjustments, but when you look at them, it didn't make the recipe spicier. I might add more next time!

Really Good Vegetarian Meatloaf (really!)
SERVES 4 -6


Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup lentils
  • 1 small onion, diced I used about a tsp. of dried onion
  • 1 cup quick cooking oats
  • 3/4 cup grated cheese (cheddar, swiss, jack or american)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 4 1/2 ounces spaghetti sauce or tomato sauce Added a cap full of lime juice and Emeril's seasoning to Ragu sauce
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley omit
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt Hot Salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon FRANK'S® REDHOT® Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce

Directions

  1. Add salt to water and boil in a saucepan.
  2. Add lentils and simmer covered 25-30 minutes, until lentils are soft and most of water is evaporated.
  3. Remove from fire.
  4. Drain and partially mash lentils.
  5. Scrape into mixing bowl and allow to cool slightly.
  6. Stir in onion, oats and cheese until mixed.
  7. Add egg, tomato sauce, garlic, basil, parsley, seasoning salt and pepper.
  8. Mix well.
  9. Spoon into loaf pan that has been generously sprayed with Pam (non-stick cooking spray) or well-greased.
  10. Smooth top with back of spoon.
  11. Bake at 350 degrees for 30- 45 minutes until top of loaf is dry, firm and golden brown.
  12. Cool in pan on rack for about 10 minutes.
  13. Run a sharp knife around edges of pan then turn out loaf onto serving platter.
I have to say, it is fun being vegetarian! The amount of things that I have learned about food over the past seven months has been an incredible journey of its own. I can't wait to discover other versions of my favorite foods and learn about some recipes I would have never dreamed of eating.

Natasha

Currently... Update Edition

It's ridiculous how long it's been since I've updated here. Life seemed to pick up and fly. I decided maybe the best way to upda...