Thursday, December 27, 2012

We're All In This Together

This morning, the driving was pretty sketchy. Here in Central NY, we got a good foot or more of snow, and while the plows were doing their best to keep up, the roads were messy enough to warrant some careful maneuvering. Everything went fine until I arrived at work, where I got stuck in the bottom of the driveway. I went into the building to look for help, and while I was waiting, a couple of guys in a plow stopped to ask if I needed a hand. When I responded that I could use a push, they drove their plow in (via another entrance). Not only did they give me that push, but they shoveled and plowed me a clear path. I called my thanks out the window, but I had to drive around the building, rather than risk stopping and getting stuck again. My two good Samaritans were gone before I could get a name, or find out how to mail them a thank-you.

This is just one of the many examples that restores my faith in people, each time it happens. I believe mankind is basically good at heart, with a willingness to help when we see a need and are able to do so. It seems we still realize, when it comes down to nuts and bolts, that people need each other.

So this is a public thank-you to the two young men who helped me out this morning, without asking anything in return. I may not be able to thank them personally, but maybe I can pay that kindness forward. ‘Cause we’re all in this together.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Tree 2012 - The Narnia Tree

I am a rather rabid fan of all things Narnia. This year, that was the theme for our Christmas tree, and all the ornaments on it have some relation to the seven books C.S. Lewis wrote in the "Chronicles of Narnia" series. Some of the ornaments were promotional toys released by McDonald's when the 2005 film "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" came out. Others, I found at a craft store that sold the Safari, Ltd. collection of toys. Among them, I found a minotaur, a griffin, a phoenix, and some kings and queens that would stand in for Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy from the books. I also came across a dragon released by Schleich, and I had a unicorn and a white stag already among my Christmas ornaments. I also purchased the Lenox set that came out when LWW was released, as well as an adorable Hallmark ornament of Lucy stepping into the wardrobe. Interspersed with these are some foliage and decorations representing all four seasons, which we see in LWW, and a set of silver bells (In one of the books, a child rings a forbidden bell, which starts the trouble with the White Witch in the first place.). I'm quite sure I could expand what's on the tree, and that may be a project for later years! I know I'm missing some good ornament possibilities....

The top of the tree is the best part: a gutted outdoor lamppost, which the hubby and I re-wired with an electric flicker flame bulb. The lantern sets right on top of the tree, with a switch to turn it on. This is the most fun I've had yet with a Christmas tree.

I'm sure that if I had an enormous house, I would be one of those people who couldn't resist putting a tree in every room, each with its own theme. It's just such fun! Hope you had a Merry Christmas if you celebrated, and if not, I hope that you at least enjoy looking at the tree. Cheers!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Being Grateful

I've been doing a lot of thinking about those terrible shootings in Sandy Hook this week. My son is a kindergartener, so it hit very close to home for me. All I did for an hour Friday night, when I got home, was sit on the floor in the kitchen and hug my son.

Every day with your family is a gift. Everyone says it, to the point of triteness ... but at times like these, it's blazing clear. My heart hurts for those people and their families. Things will never be the same for them. Please, try to put aside those little squabbles every family has, and be grateful that they're still with you. I wish you all a safe holiday season. Hugs to you all. - Nicki

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Movie Review: "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"

I made sure to give this a full day to sink in before reviewing it, because I tend to be a bit biased toward "The Lord of the Rings" (i.e. OMG-squee-this-is-so-cool-I'm-just-gonna-die!). Let's face it, (Sir) Peter Jackson has redefined the epic cinematic adventure as we know it.

He does so once again in "The Hobbit," (titled "An Unexpected Journey," though marketed as "The Hobbit"). We have all come to know and appreciate Jackson's cinematic eye, especially with the sweeping vistas of Middle Earth to which he treated us in all three LOTR installments. He does so again, and even when we see places we've been before (Rivendell and Weathertop come to mind), we see a new aspect of these familiar places, rather than the same old scenery rehashed.

On that note, we enjoy a visit with a number of characters we know from the LOTR films ... but again, it's not as if Jackson trots them out for us to view just because we already know, and have bonded, with them. They are all there for a reason - to further the story.

Anyone who's read "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" knows that Tolkien was inordinately fond of history, and there is A LOT of it in Middle Earth. While I had my doubts about why Jackson broke "The Hobbit" into three films - this being the first installment - I understand, seeing it, that it was not only possible, but necessary. And it isn't a dry dissertation, either. While there is one notable scene where several characters simply sit around talking, it's not dull - because the expo is paired with subtext, and things going on that AREN'T being talked about. At no point was I bored enough to say "Get on with it!"

While I really (really, really) missed Aragorn at the outset of the story, I was more than engaged with the story of Bilbo, and especially this film's displaced leader, Thorin Oakenshield (played very admirably by Richard Armitage). And the song "Misty Mountains" gave me goosebumps.

Make no mistake: this isn't "The Lord of the Rings" redux. It is a lighter tale, with more comedy, and even a few shades of slapstick. (Not to mention a number of unlikely escapes.) But is still a good old-fashioned adventure, complete with its complement of honor, sacrifice, and hobbitish courage. Go see it, expecting some beautiful CGI, set design, storytelling, and just plain fun.

Side note: my husband and I being the movie geeks we are, we recognized several of the names in the credits, which WEREN'T the actors. I was pleased to see Shane Rangi's name among them (he of the motion-capture and costume acting for likewise-New-Zealand-filmed "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe"). We were also thrilled to see that Alan Lee, who is famous for his illustrations for "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings," was listed as a design consultant. So not only is this a terrific movie, it picked from the best available talent. Nice job, Jackson. Looking forward to the next one ... just don't make us wait too long! *grin*

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Movie Review: "Breaking Dawn pt. 2"

There's been an aura of fangirl wish fulfillment hanging around the Twilight books and movies since day one. I admit freely to enjoying the first book, in spite of some stilted writing/editing, because it reminded me of the painful awkwardness of being a teenager with a hardcore crush on that ungettable get. I have read all of the books in the Twilight series, and seen all the films (I can't bring myself to call it a "saga," which brings to mind Gone With The Wind - which deserves the moniker).

That said, I went to see "Breaking Dawn pt. 2" with a friend last night, and there were some places in which I was very pleasantly surprised indeed. BD is my least favorite book of the series, because of its too-slow pacing and its fizzle at the climactic moment of the story. Without giving too much away, I'll say that they definitely changed a couple of things that had left me underwhelmed when I read the book.

BD2, the film, starts out slow, as the book did, and I found myself preparing for disappointment. It's never easy to carry the "middle" of a story, but BD was noticeable in its slow pacing. I did not, and still don't, understand why they decided to break it into two films. True, there's a lot of story that needs to be crammed in - a lot happens in this book - but the real meat of the story is spread out over pages of introspection that I felt wandered too much from the necessary plot points in the book.

Another flaw of this film is that its CGI is noticeable in its clunkiness. It's hard to translate sensory detail onto film. After all, they haven't invented a way to see-how-she-sees, hear-how-she-hears, and smell-how-she-smells (but I keep hoping). But the action is clearly CGI, too smooth, too perfect, and too smudged. When a viewer finds herself looking for the bad mechanics of artistry in a movie, trust me, it's bad for the story. Edward and Bella's baby is clearly CGI, a completely unnecessary use of the medium. It's the difference between watching something with bad 80's special effects, and watching Avatar ... where you could see pores in skin. The character spends such a short time being an infant that I wonder why it was worth the bother to CGI her. Not only that, but virtually every non-human in this film is over-CGI'd. I felt like I was watching a cartoon, rather than what should (and could, given its budget) have been a photo-real film. Part of the reason we enjoy watching films is to relate to the characters on a human level. That means they shouldn't look/act flawless, even when they are. I can name half a dozen movies where the CGI was so good, it's nearly invisible. This is NOT one of them. The CGI is so visible, it should have had its own acting credit. Story first. The flashy stuff should support it, not outshout it.

Pacing took a back seat, as well (not unexpected). There are too many pauses where the movie lingers on the young, happy, and in-love couple and all the awesome things they can now do. This, to the detriment of Bella's character growth as part of the family in her new role, and Edward's in coming to terms with her change. It's all too easy for them. Granted, I'm from the Joss Whedon school of storytelling, where no one gets to be happy for long ... 'cause what fun is that? We read books and watch movies to see the characters overcome adversity, not to sit there and watch them be happy, as if we're mashing our noses to a storefront window with a sparkly, perfect life inside.

The end of this film may well have been its saving grace. It's another of those awesome examples of revision done right. It got a "Wooooow" out of me, no question. Had the rest of the film been this cunningly written, it might have gotten a 4 or above, but given all its flaws, I can only give this film a 3 of 5. Farewell, Twilight. Let's see what books Hollywood picks next.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Happy Holidays from Nicki Greenwood

With Thanksgiving over, the holiday season is officially upon us. I'm just taking some time out today to wish you and yours a wonderful, safe, and happy holiday season, and a beautiful New Year. Best wishes to you all!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Just a quick post to wish all you Americans a safe, happy, and cozy Thanksgiving day. It hardly feels like the chilly season is coming on here in Central NY, with a 60-degree day on our hands. (Shh, I think it's supposed to S-N-O-W this weekend!) Be safe, especially if you're traveling. Cheers!

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Ding-Dong, Your Evolution Is Calling

I've writing for a while, now, and I've started to notice how and when my writing evolves. When I first began to write, the simple act of writing was evolution. I learned about the process just by putting words on the page, and toying with what I had once I had it. I got better.

Then I plateau'ed out. I had reached the limit of what I felt I could learn on my own. It was time for another evolutionary kick in the pants.

When my husband and I bought our first house, I discovered that the CNY Romance Writers held monthly meetings nearby. I joined, and learned a ton (and also met some lifelong friends - a huge bonus). I got better.

After a while, I felt there was more to do, and more I needed to know. When CNYRW held a Deep Editing workshop given by Margie Lawson, I went. I learned a ton. I couldn't write fast enough. Huge leap. I got better.

Lately, I've been feeling like that "kick" hasn't been happening, no matter how many articles or books or blogs on writing I have read. Until last night, when I downloaded the e-Book of Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder.

Boom. Everything he says in this book resonates with me. As I'm reading, I'm hearing bells. That "Oh, yes!" is ringing in my head, because what he says makes such perfect sense in a concrete and achievable way. Note that he doesn't tell you how to write, so much as how to make what you've written pop. That said, it's the best shorthand guide to getting your work noticed that I've ever picked up. I suspect that after I finish this book, I'm not going to be able to stop writing.

Sadly, Snyder passed away unexpectedly in 2009, and I feel that the writing (and screenwriting) world has lost an amazing teacher. But he left us an incredibly simple how-to on making a good story sound great to buyers, and for that, I'll be forever grateful.

Moral of the story? Learn to recognize that "Oh, yes!" moment in your own writing education. Stick to it, and find more of them. Those are the road signs pointing you in the direction of your best possible work. Carry on, writers!

Monday, November 05, 2012

Let The Holidays Begin!

It's November! This month, we kick off the holiday season, and it's my favorite time of year. All that cold and snowy weather outside can't compete with the warmth of friends and family around me during the festive season. This year, I have a lot to be thankful for, from a new book contract, to a new baby in the family, to a warm and cozy place to spend the holidays.

As much as I have, I try not to forget that there are many folks out there without such wonderful things. My thoughts and prayers especially go out to those still lacking power and housing in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. If you can, join the relief effort by donating to the Red Cross, either by sending a few dollars, or giving blood at your local Red Cross location. Both are desperately needed.

Be safe this Thanksgiving, and spread the warmth. (Oh, yes, and don't forget to vote tomorrow!) Cheers!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Halloween is fast approaching, so for all you furry, fangy, and freakishly fun ghouls out there, I send out a wish for a safe and happy one! If you're going out, be sure to go in a group, and if you'll be outside, wear something reflective so that cars can spot you. Take the little ones to one of the many fire stations doing free candy checks. (Or, if you're a mom like me, take some of that candy loot to a dentist who's offering candy buybacks!) There's lots of fun to be had out there if you celebrate this spookiest of nights, so take advantage, and have a great time. Boo!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Ain’t Technology Grand?

Skimming through my Twitter feed last night, I discovered a snippet posted by actor Ian Somerhalder (of “Vampire Diaries” fame), saying he would be streaming live from his living room.

What?!?

As it turns out, Ian was watching last night’s presidential debate, live, with some 10,000 of us and counting, and tweeting ongoing discussion-prompters regarding both parties’ statements. Very cool. Ian is very environmentally active, and his concerns included their views on clean energy and where we’re getting our energy from. He’s passionate about protecting our planet (see the Ian Somerhalder Foundation), and it was great to see him using his popularity to get people involved in the election process, regardless of their own political leanings. (There were the expected “I love you Ian” posts, but some of the folks commenting had interesting things to say about the environment, jobs, and healthcare.)

I’ll be honest, and say that I hadn’t been planning to watch the debate ... but watching it online, live, with 10,000 people certainly put an interesting spin on what the candidates had to say, and how people reacted to the discussion. I couldn’t stay on for the whole thing, but what I heard, from the candidates and listeners alike, sure got me thinking.

The Internet is full of fluff, it can’t be denied. But things like this make it cool again. I, for one, am going to start watching more of the election process online.

And this can’t be denied, either: it sure didn’t hurt that I was watching it with Ian Somerhalder. :D

Thursday, October 04, 2012

How To Make A Smile

My husband made some kids very happy this morning at my son's before- and after-school program ... and he wasn't even there.

The kids at this program are given a choice of things to do during their stay, ranging from crayons and books to games. Many mornings, I find them gathered around an old wooden chessboard, playing chess. The board is missing a few of its pieces, so the kids had been making do with checker pieces and Legos as stand-ins for the missing chess pieces.

My husband, who loves chess, thought this was a shame, so off he went to a gaming store to buy an inexpensive, full set of chess pieces. When my son and I brought them in this morning, the teachers at the program were thrilled, and so were the kids. They left off every other thing they were doing to play chess. Lots of smiles and thank-yous all around. For under ten bucks, he made someone's day by being a little kinder. If only everyone would do something like that every once in a while, imagine how much nicer a world it would be!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Cover Art for THE SERPENT IN THE STONE!

Just a picture to whet your appetites today. This is Book One in the Gifted Series, THE SERPENT IN THE STONE, coming soon from The Wild Rose Press!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Juuuust Right!

Fate gets a bad rap sometimes, from folks who don't believe in it, and sometimes even from myself. For example, I recently had a two-week streak of rotten luck that left me wishing for the following Sunday. However, this past week, I'd have to say my luck turned around. I got a new car (a Honda Civic, which I adore), and my family got a new dog.

We had been talking about a second dog here and there, and one day we came across one that we loved. Unfortunately for us (but fortunately for the dog), he got adopted just before we arrived to adopt him. Then we saw a dog at a local shelter that we wanted, but she, too, was adopted. Rotten luck, like I said.

Then, my husband discovered a few pups on Petfinder, of the same breed as the first dog we'd seen. Turns out, she's exactly what our family needed. Macey is smart, obedient, housetrained, and a great companion for us, as well as our Beagle, who now has a companion while we're away at work. She's an Australian Cattle Dog, and while we had some reservations about keeping this high-energy breed stimulated during our long hours away from the house, it seems Macey is perfectly happy just with twice-a-day walks, runs at the dog park, and learning (fast!) whatever tricks we want to teach her. She's such a sweet girl that I've been entertaining ideas of training her as a therapy dog. So, it seems Macey was fated to be a part of our family after all!

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Books 4 Less Closing


Sad news today: my favorite bookstore, Books 4 Less, is closing. Owners Margie and Dave have decided to close their doors, and are now selling off their fixtures and inventory at huge discounts.

Margie and Dave were kind enough to display my books on their shelves for in-store purchase, and have been a big support to me with sales and book signings. It's a huge deal for an author to have cheerleaders like that, who will champion her work and introduce customers to her writing. Margie and Dave were part of what has made my books a success, and I will always be grateful for that. While I'm sad to see the bookstore go, I'd like to say congratulations to Margie and Dave on deciding to retire and enjoy themselves. They've earned it! :)

Friday, August 31, 2012

Winner of the 2012 "Hot Fun In The Summertime" Contest!


Congratulations to Donna M., who has won the 2012 "Hot Fun In The Summertime" contest! Donna has won her choice of one print copy of either of my currently released books, EARTH or WATER.



Thank you to everyone who entered the contest. Some of you shared with me your own interesting family histories, and it was really cool to get to know you. Keep checking this blog for announcements of future prizes and upcoming book signings. Congratulations again to Donna M., and Happy Reading!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Autumn Is Coming: Clean House!

We've had wave after wave of hot weather this summer, and I find myself looking forward to autumn, when the temperatures will be more tolerable, and Mother Nature puts on some of her prettiest colors. I'll also be a lot happier about sitting in my non-A/C, upstairs office to write!

Autumn is a season of tangible change, and it's a good time to take stock of what you have, and what is unused. A good rule of thumb is, if you haven't used it in a year, it should go. Kids outgrow their clothes, and everyone has something at the back of their closet that they don't (and won't) wear. These things can go to a charitable organization. Most will supply you with a donation sheet, which you can itemize for tax purposes, so it's a win-win!

"Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” ~ William Morris


Got more than just clothes? No problem. Organizations like Freecycle.org are dedicated to keeping reuseable items out of landfills. Why just throw that perfectly good widget away, when someone in your town might want one? You can also post your wanted items, in case someone may have an item you're looking for.

Cleaning unused items out of your house can be a very satisfying task, if your unwanted stuff goes to a person in need. It's refreshing not to be "weighted down" with extra things you'll never use. Start small, one room at a time. You may find yourself zooming through the house, gathering up unwanted items that will become another man's treasure. Then you have a clean slate, and who doesn't love that?

Friday, August 17, 2012

If You Build It, They Will Come (v. 2.0)

Today's the day my persistence (and environmentally-concerned determination) paid off. Close to a year and a half after building my butterfly garden, I got what I've been waiting for.

I was outside today, thinking, "Gee, I really ought to trim back some of the leggier stuff in my garden. It's been so hot, I haven't done much, and everything's gone haywire." No sooner did I start trimming back the leggy stuff and unwanted volunteer seedings, than I hit the brakes. There, tucked in the back on a milkweed seedling, I found a Monarch Butterfly caterpillar!



Needless to say, I'm elated. This is what I built the garden for: to help along the Monarch species, which has been in a devastating decline due to habitat loss and pesticide use. And now, proof positive that my garden lives up to the purpose for which I built it!

Well, I ran right out and bought some mulch and began laying it ever-so-gently in between plants, where bare soil still existed (never did any mulching except a "green mulch" this year with a thick mat of Alyssum "Carpet-of-Snow" plants to keep the soil in place and somewhat moist). This will also help the various insects find places to hide.

Well, there I am with a bag of mulch on my shoulder, and as I approach the garden, I see a Giant Swallowtail on my butterfly bush:



Double yay! I am now considering registering my little side garden with Monarch Watch, an organization dedicated to helping this butterfly species survive. Of course, other species of butterfly and insect are always welcome. My property is wildlife-friendly, and I'm proud of that.

I don't even mind when the Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds fly by and holler at me to refill their feeder ... again. :)

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Back to the Grind!



I have just finished up a week's vacation, and I am so refreshed! I forgot how nice it was to relax for several days, without an agenda! My family and I packed a whole lot of vacation into just seven days, going from the beach to the Strong Museum of Play, and everywhere in between. I even carved out some time to rewire a lamp (for an upcoming project) and finish my son's quilt! You can see lots of those photos on my Facebook page.

Now, it's back to work, and back to writing in earnest. My editor says she's nearly ready to start working with me on my next book (the first in the Gifted Series), THE SERPENT IN THE STONE. I'm also continuing on the third book in the Elemental Series, AIR. Oh, yes, and my day job. *grin* Lots to do. Have a good day, everyone!

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

2012 "Hot Fun In The Summertime" Contest!

Hey, readers! It's August, and that means it's time for the "Hot Fun In The Summertime" contest! All month long, you can enter to win one print copy of your choice of either of my currently released books, EARTH or WATER! Enter for a chance to win by clicking the link here and filling out the form:

http://nickigreenwood.wufoo.com/forms/hot-fun-in-the-summertime-contest-entry-form/

Contest ends at 5:00 PM EST on August 31st. The winner will be announced that evening on my blog. Good luck, and Happy Summer!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Switching Gears

I've had some creative frustration lately, where writing is concerned, so I did what any self-respecting person with a creative penchant would do: I switched gears! My sewing experience is pretty limited: I can sew a straight-ish line, and I can read. So I read a couple of books, watched a video, and checked out some techniques on YouTube (Very useful for those who learn better by seeing others do it, and lack the cash for video instruction!).

I found it satisfying to explore a new skill, and it helped the ol' neurons fire differently than they do when I write. It was also rather cathartic to refocus my creative energy for a day. So, while this is only the quilt's top, and I have some work to do yet (as well as some fine-tuning of my new skill, as I ran into a few errors), I am pleased with the result: a nice new quilt for my son's bed:

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Series Review - "Once Upon A Time"

I tend to be a bit of a skeptic ... but I do love fairytales. I watched the pilot episode of "Once Upon A Time" when it aired last fall. I hadn't watched it since, until the last week. Through the magic of Amazon Unbox, I did my catching up on Season One of this show. It may have been less than a week's worth of viewing. Even my husband got in on it.

The major premise of the series is that the Wicked Witch has trapped all fairytale characters - most especially Snow White and her Prince Charming - in the real world, in a town called Storybrooke. None of them remember their fairytale lives, and instead are living contemporary ones, each somehow stripped of its happy ending. None of them is allowed to leave town. None realize that they're cursed ... except a boy with a book of fairytales.

The intriguing thing about this series, so far, has been its talent for taking the fairytales we all know, and turning them on their ears. Added to that is the fact that the network, ABC, is owned by Disney, so we get a Disney-eye-view of the fairytales. The characters are all interesting, most particularly Rumplestiltskin. I enjoyed watching how their contemporary lives mirror those in their fairytale world.

On the downside, some of the dialogue has been clunky. It is a family show, so it needs to appeal to a wide range of ages (your tween will enjoy it, but there is some violence), but I've seen family shows with zippier dialogue. I also got tired of being unable to watch an episode where Charming didn't have a tear sliding down his cheek. (Buck up, Charming. Crying isn't going to vanquish the Wicked Witch.) One or two shows of heartbreak worked. Episode after episode of it tended to sap some of the heroism out of him ... but still. Nice eye candy. (For the guys, there's Red. You're gonna love her.)

All in all, I look forward to Season Two. There'll be some new characters to love, and ones you'll love to hate, and hopefully they'll keep the up momentum. This is a case where Disney's penchant for recycling fairytales works.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Happy Birthday, America!

Wishing you all a safe, happy, and festive Fourth of July today (and passing along a big "Thank You" to our soldiers and vets, who have made it possible for us to enjoy our freedom!). It's going to be a hot one in my neck of the woods. Be safe wherever you are, and try to get out there and enjoy some fireworks!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Sad News About CNYRW Founder Jane O'Connor


I got the news this afternoon that CNY Romance Writers founder Jane O'Connor (pictured in the center of the above photo) passed away. Given that if Jane hadn't had the foresight to found CNYRW in 1988 and gather such dedicated writers together, I wouldn't be published today, this is sad news indeed. Jane is largely responsible for the 55 members and 20+ years of good memories and great books that CNYRW comprises today. She will be missed, and remembered fondly for all her hard work and support, and the gift she gave the CNY Romance Writers. You can read more about Jane O'Connor's Memorial at the CNYRW website.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Happy Summer!

Today is the official first day of summer, and appropriately enough, it's gonna be boiling in my neck of the woods. I hope this isn't a preview of the summer to come! Stay cool, wear light clothes, and drink lots and lots of water today. Be mindful of pets, children, and the elderly, as they're more susceptible to this kind of heat. Good day to hang out at the mall or pool (with sunscreen in the latter case, of course)!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day to you Dads out there. Today, Papa Greenwood rolled out of bed and went fishing (Heaven, for him) and then the family spent some time at the park flying a kite. Hope you and your family had a great Father's Day!

Lots of Visitors Today!

Many visitors at Greenwood House today! Images are not my own. In order of appearance, they are: Downy Woodpecker, courtesy of stock.xchng; Question Mark Butterfly, courtesy of djringer.com; Clouded Sulphur Butterfly, courtesy of Ecobirder. I really need to get a better camera, because all these critters are right in my backyard, and I don't have a decent camera anymore to snap a shot of them!






The Downy Woodpecker visited my suet feeders this morning. The Question Mark Butterfly was hanging out by my garden's compost heap, and the Clouded Sulphur Butterfly was flitting across the lawn. We also discovered that our Colorado Blue Spruce tree sports a nest of baby birds! I hope we didn't disturb them too much. Once we realized they were there - and alive - we kept our distance. I think they may be Purple Finch babies. I'll have to watch to see if Mom and Dad show up to feed them!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

More Glimpses From The Garden

My gardens are flourishing this spring, with a profusion of clematis blooms on the butterfly garden's trellis, and a fluttery visitor or two as well. All this with almost no effort on my part.

As the lazy gardener that I am, I purposely chose plants that require little to no care or watering. Native plants are best for this - plants which are at home in your planting zone and native to your corner of the world. Once they take root, they need very little attention, as long as they are situated in the right spot for sun exposure, drainage, and eventual plant size.


I checked, double checked, and re-checked everything before planting, so everything has come in beautifully, and I only have to pay my gardens the occasional visit for weeding, pruning, or watering. Nature does the rest, just as she should. Any other attention I give my plants is just from the pleasure of looking at them.


No monarchs in sight yet, but my Lamium did receive a visit from a male cabbage white butterfly, who let me get as close as six inches from him to take my photographs. What a shame my normal camera died. I had to take this with my iPod, and I'm sorry to say it came out a little grainy. All the same, a lovely shot, and I'm glad to see my plantings getting some good use by the local wildlife!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

In Praise of Rain

Most kids remember singing "Rain, rain, go away, come again some other day," me included. Rain used to mean staying indoors when all you wanted was to go outside and play ball, chase your friends, or ride a bike. As I got older, I found a whole new appreciation for rain.

One of the major reasons for this is that I have developed seasonal allergies. Grass, I think, because for a few weeks out of the year, I'm miserable, with a head like a cinder block. Spring is beautiful. Still my favorite season, when the flowers and bees and butterflies and birds all return to my yard. But it brings with it my allergies, which seem to be worsening each year. Yyyyyuck.

Rain is now my seasonal best friend. It washes the pollen out of the air, and I don't have a splitting headache on those days. It also helps water my gardens, which, yay. Yesterday, when it was 90-plus degrees and sunny, my allergies were at the worst they've ever been. Today, Mother Nature took pity, because I woke to a nice steady rain. I can only hope it lasts all day. Yay, rain. :)

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Movie Review: Snow White and the Huntsman

So, apparently, the world needs more fairytales in its life (or perhaps more Chris Hemsworth, in which case, who can blame them?). "Snow White and the Huntsman" was the top box-office pick this past weekend, and grossed more in its first weekend than the similarly Snow-White-themed "Mirror, Mirror." (Granted, "Huntsman" had twice the budget.) Incidentally, Chris Hemsworth is also in "The Avengers," which is still at Number Three after five weeks' running (behind MIB 3). Maybe it is Chris Hemsworth.

There are some clunky moments in this film. I think I might have benefited from subtitles during the dwarves' speech, and there are some moments of dialogue/action with a forced feel. Kristen Stewart does a fine job as Snow, but I found her more believable as the sweet-but-wronged princess than the army-leading badass. Perhaps we're missing a scene or two where we see this growth and change. However, this was a return to the good old-fashioned fantasy films of my youth ("Legend," "Ladyhawke," "The Dark Crystal," "Willow," etc.). The special effects, scenery, and costuming are terrific. Fun, fun, fun!

The queen (-slash-wicked-witch) is interesting in that they went to pains to keep her from being two-dimensional. There's a reason she's wicked, instead of just "I wanna be." Charlize Theron does a nice job with this, although there are some tantrummy moments where she paces in her castle, shouting. These lines are clearly the writer's, and not Theron's. The lines ought to have been delivered in a whisper, where they would be much more sinister.

The real heart in this film is Hemsworth. He's believable as the broken-hearted widower who hides in a bottle, but can't resist helping a woman in need. There is a third wheel, in the form of Snow's childhood friend William. Both are likeable men, and both have good reason to be with her. I found myself wondering which she would choose, but I won't spoil it for you. *grin*

I give it a 3.8 of 5, for great visuals and a fun way to spend an afternoon. I might not spend the full evening price to see it, but it was certainly worth a matinee and popcorn.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

A Goose of a Different Color

Visited my mother today, and found she had a surprise on the pond behind her house: a white Canada Goose! We were unsure if it was, in fact, a Canada Goose at first, but it was the same size and shape (and likewise, still not fully fledged) as the goslings in the family of geese with whom it was eating. None of the others either chased it away or treated it any differently. Its bill and legs were orange, and from what I could tell, it was dark-eyed. In fact, it looked virtually the same as the gosling shown in this picture, taken by Flickr poster aerial2.

This is a condition called leucism, where the pigment in an animal's skin fails to develop properly. It's not to be confused with albinism, where the animal's eyes would be red or pink.

I hope the little guy grows up to be a strong, healthy bird. I can't wait to see him fully fledged. What an interesting anomaly. I'll have to keep track of him and see if progress through life is different for the "odd bird out" than for his siblings. So far, he seems to love life on Mom's pond. :)

Saturday, June 02, 2012

THE SERPENT IN THE STONE, or, Here We Are Again At Warp Speed

It happens every time: as soon as I get a book contract, my life goes from Zero to Lunatic in point-three seconds. Everything speeds up tenfold, and I agonize over details I've ironed out six times already. The finished product is always a gorgeous book, thanks to my publisher and wonderful editor. But the Getting There gives me power-headaches. *grin*

THE SERPENT IN THE STONE, Book One of The Gifted Series, is under contract and undergoing the first steps toward publication. This is "THE Book" - the one that started this whole snowball rolling. Its first incarnation is some twenty-two years old and counting. A labor of mistake, love, and revision. A paranormal romance written before paranormal romance was cool (or heard of, for that matter).

I have many, many people to thank for this book - friends and family who helped shape and grow the concept over the years, with their feedback and support - and I could never name you all. Just know I'm eternally grateful that you pointed me in the direction of notebook and pen, and kept on asking, "Did you write more?"

Love you guys. :)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Happy Memorial Day!

Happy Memorial Day (Monday, technically) to all our brave soldiers and vets who have served, and are serving, our great country. We have our troubles and flaws, but please set aside this weekend to remember that there is a reason we are free to live our lives the way we do. Thank you to our military for keeping us safe!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Supermoth!

We had a visitor at work today - and not the two-legged kind.

My coworker came in from her break with a picture of a striking - and very big, she said - critter that looked, at first glance, like a butterfly. Since it was out in broad daylight, and sitting with its wings straight up, I assumed it was a butterfly.



Turns out, it is Hyalophora cecropia, North America's largest moth. I went out to get a better look at it, and it sports the fuzzy body and feathered antennae common to all moths. But unlike other moths (and most butterflies) I have seen, this fellow was huge. He was about 5-1/2 to 6 inches in wingspan, by my guess. And very striking for a moth, too. My only question is, why was he out in the daytime?

Maybe he was telling us to go home and get a nap.

Movie Review: The Woman in Black

So, this is Daniel Radcliffe's first film role since Harry Potter, or so I've read. Certainly the first thing I've seen him in since Harry Potter. Which, of course, is why I rented it. I had heard he has the acting chops to come out from under the shadow of his role as Harry ... and I have to agree.

The thing that made you care about Daniel as Harry - that emotional sweetness of character - is the same thing that helps him succeed as struggling lawyer and father Arthur Kipps. Arthur is about to lose his job due to lack of focus - an understandable situation, as his wife died in childbirth. Now, with a young son to support, Arthur is recruited to tackle the clearly undesirable task of managing the creepy, derelict estate of a deceased woman. Once he arrives, both mystery and mayhem ensue.

This is classic Gothic storytelling, employing all the hallmarks therein. Beautiful old estate fallen into ruin and cut off from the rest of the world, check. Tragic hero who can't resist going upstairs to investigate that curious noise, check. Fearful townsfolk, check. Underlying mystery, check. Constant state of tension-slash-foreboding-slash-fear ... check, check, check.

Movies like this scare me more than gory horror films, mostly because the bulk of the danger is in your head, rather than smeared all over the screen. Because Radcliffe clinches that emotional attachment so well, you follow him into this dangerous situation, biting your fingernails as you go. And while several of the moments of the film are clearly Gothic cliche, I can't say I was ever bored with it. The movie is a solid four out of five, lacking that last star for a few loose ends and unexplained plot points. (Where did the dog go, guys?) Most of the praise I give this film is due to the terrific set design and costuming, and of course Daniel Radcliffe's handy talent for saying a lot with just his body language. Nice job! I look forward to more of his post-Harry work.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Little Light Reading for Pleasure and Profit

I have recently been doing lots of reading, in genres ranging from romance, to fantasy, to historical fiction, to religious nonfiction. (Now that's variety.)

The nice thing about reading for pleasure, for a writer, is the opportunity to switch mental gears. We are now on the other end of storytelling, as a reader. The switch is no longer complete; as a reading writer, I find myself noticing editing errors or plot transitions more than I used to. But it's still a nice change to dive into someone else's world for a while (or in the case of nonfiction, expand my horizons).

Reading does writers some good for their own work - especially fiction, if you're a fiction writer. (I imagine reading nonfiction does the same sort of thing for writers of nonfiction.) I tend to notice good characterization and dialogue much more, as a reading writer. The things I admire in others' work are often the ones I'd like to strengthen in my own. It helps to see how other storytellers approach these challenges. Reading also has the nice side effect of being a mini-vacation - so I'm refreshed and ready to work again once I get back to my own stories.

So that's why teachers of writing tell you to read, read, read. Good for your mind, good for your soul, and just plain good fun.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Happy Mother's Day!

This weekend, we set aside a special day to honor our moms, and the things that make them so special. (Mine is still the best cook EVER.) Take some time on Sunday to give your mom a hug and kiss, and show her thanks for all those boo-boo kisses you got when you fell off your bike as a kid. Happy Mother's Day to all you moms out there!

Saturday, May 05, 2012

...And Sometimes It's Just Dumb Luck

Today, while hubby was out in the yard working on our new deck, I noticed several Red Admiral butterflies, who had decided to stay over in our yard following this past week's huge migration of them.

They invariably lit on the dandelions in the sunny parts of our not-yet-mowed yard, and after following them around for a half hour with a camera, I managed to sneak up behind one and snap this spectacular shot:


When I say "sneak," I mean it. After losing out by approaching each of the previous prospects from the front or side, when they fluttered away, I decided to approach from behind. Success! This one was too busy getting nectar to be bothered with me. It rested for a while, ate, and then opened its wings for the perfect shot. My first butterfly photo! Woot!

Just goes to show you: if you want something, keep trying. Fifty percent of it is work. The other half is just dumb luck. :)

Monday, April 30, 2012

Winner of the Earth Day Giveaway!

Congratulations to Val M., who has won the 2012 "Earth Day Giveaway" contest! Val chose to receive a signed copy of EARTH!



Thank you to everyone who entered the contest. I enjoyed hearing what you have been doing for the environment in your own corner of the world. I hope that you'll keep up those terrific efforts, and encourage family and friends to help take care of our planet's health. Together, we can make a difference!

Keep an eye on this blog for announcements of future prizes and upcoming book signings. I'll list them all here as they come up. Congratulations again to Val M., and Happy Reading!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Workshop Recap: Canastota Public Library

I had a wonderful time yesterday at the Canastota Public Library, giving my workshop titled "Kissing the Frog: A Crash Course in Editing." Special thanks to their PR/Young Adult librarian, Beth Totten, for making it such a warm and welcoming experience. At the end of my presentation, we had a Q&A session on editing and the industry, and the men and women in attendance had some terrific questions for me.

I hope everyone who came got some helpful feedback, and please don't hesitate to drop me a line if you want to know more about anything we covered. It was a great workshop, and I look forward to visiting the Canastota Public Library again!

Happy Earth Day!

Today's the day we set aside to pay special attention to the health of our global home. Take some time (even if it's raining, like it is here) to appreciate the beautiful planet we live on today, and enjoy!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Coffee and Cover Art

Well, it is refreshing to have lost sleep on my own terms, rather than because of worry about my sick kitty. Yesterday, I was tinkering with the mockup cover of THE SERPENT IN THE STONE for my publisher. I do this for each book, to give them an idea what I'm looking for on the cover. My cover designer, Kim Mendoza, has been awesome. I'm hoping I can get her for the covers in The Gifted Series, as she has done such a great job on the first two books in The Elemental Series.

Publishers can't always get you the exact image you're looking for on your book cover, but in my experience, The Wild Rose Press is particularly accommodating with cover art feedback. What they choose in the end is still the final say (which is as it should be, because they do it professionally, and they know how to package a book to its best advantage), but they provide you a form with your contract that lets you tell them all about the people, places, and things in your novel. I'm artistically inclined, so I find it easier to "show" them what I'm looking for, as far as subject, layout and tone. And Kim one-ups me every time. (Kim, you are awesome. I will say it again and again.)

So I am happy with my mockup, but I know I'll be happier still when I see what The Wild Rose Press cooks up for my next cover. But all this searching for images and knocking together the cover mockup really just means I need a good cup of coffee. :)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Workshop: "Kissing the Frog: A Crash Course in Editing"

This Saturday, April 21st at 10:30 AM, spend the morning with me at the Canastota Public Library, where I will host a beginner's workshop on manuscript editing, starting from the nuts and bolts of manuscript mechanics, and including elements of writing style.

Learn how to polish your manuscipt before sending it in to an agent or publisher! Space is limited, so please contact the Canastota Public Library for details on how to register for this workshop. I look forward to seeing you there!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

THE SERPENT IN THE STONE Under Contract!

I sent off my contract this morning to the publisher for "The Serpent in the Stone," Book One in The Gifted Series! Off all the books I've written, this one is my baby, and I'm absurdly proud that it's getting published. Here's a little teaser for you:

Sara Markham is a driven archaeologist with paranormal gifts, and the desperate need to keep them secret. But when she meets Ian Waverly, a wildlife biologist sworn to hate the gifted due to a tragic past, sparks fly. Can she and Ian keep their heads - and hearts - when a deadly ancient ritual forces them together?

Read more about "The Serpent in the Stone" by clicking here! Details and publication date to follow. Have a great day - I know I will!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Titanic Remembered

Today and tomorrow mark the 100th anniversary of the maiden voyage and sinking of the RMS Titanic. In 1912, this was widely held as the largest and grandest ship in the world - a floating luxury hotel, including everything from a swimming ("bathing") pool to a posh French cafe.

Titanic has fired my imagination ever since I read A Night to Remember by Walter Lord in high school. It was one of those stories of catastrophic irony, where everything aligned just so, and concluded in one of the worst maritime disasters in history. It brought out the worst and best in people faced with tragedy.

And that is why I think I am so captivated by this ship. Faced with a tragedy, people can do incredible, noble things that renew my faith in humanity. Consider Mrs. Isidor Straus, who refused to escape Titanic into a lifeboat, and thereby abandon her husband of some 42 years. That's love, people.

Also consider the wealthy American businessman Benjamin Guggenheim who, realizing Titanic was sinking, was overheard to say,

"We've dressed up in our best and are prepared to go down like gentlemen. Tell my wife, if it should happen that my secretary and I both go down, tell her I played the game out straight to the end. No woman shall be left aboard this ship because Ben Guggenheim was a coward."

That's guts I can only aspire to have. Tonight, I'll be remembering those stories of courage, and the millions of others that happen every day to make me believe in the human race again. 'Cause people can be amazing.