July Reading List

free photo booksYou’d think that having a broken foot would mean that I read a ton in June instead of getting sucked into “Border Security” marathons, but, no, I didn’t read any more than normal. I saved it all for July as a reward for finishing my next novel. Here are some of my new and recommended books and authors.

PLAYING FOR KEEPS (A Neighbor from Hell Novel) by R.L. Mathewson. This author kept popping onto my radar but the hero sounded like such an ass that I kept skipping the recommendations. Then the first book went on sale and I said, “Fine! I’ll try it!” I was right – he was a complete jerk. But then he grew on me. And the love story made me laugh.  It’s a great contemporary book with relatable characters. So I bought the rest of the series.

CRAVING CONSTELLATIONS (Aces MC) by Nicole Jacqueline. Stop me if you’ve heard this before.  This author kept popping onto my radar but the hero sounded like such an ass that I kept skipping the recommendations. Then the first book went on sale and I said, “Fine! I’ll try it!” I was right – he was a complete jerk. But then he grew on me. And the love story made me cry. This is a motorcycle club (MC) book, and runs a little darker than I usually read, but not so dark that I had to stop reading. Also, the first 4 books are a fantastic deal if you buy the boxed set. So I bought the rest of the series.

ZOO by James Patterson and James Ledwidge. I began watching the summer TV series based on this book, so I got the hardcover out of the library. I’ve only read about 3 JP books, and they were in his various series. This is the first I’ve read which is a standalone. I’m only a few chapters in, but I’ve already decided it’s a book to be read during bright, daylight hours only. Also, I’m glad I don’t have pets.

STEP by Roxie Rivera. Roxie writes the best Russian Mafia stories I’ve found. Step is the first of a related series, with a bad-boy rocker falling for a good-girl hotel maid. It’s a short story but it’s fun to see how outsiders view the characters from Roxie’s main series.

I don’t list all the books I’ve read here, mainly because I have a list of favourite authors and I try to bring new-to-me writers to your attention here. But if you want to keep up with all my books – and even talk about them – feel free to follow and talk to me on Goodreads.

Tips for making apple jelly

1. Don’t worry if your “apple juice” (strained water and juice from cut apples) is cloudy. It will clear up a lot as it boils off. Be sure to skim the foam – that helps too.

2. Take the juice and sugar up to a hard boil, not a simmer, or you will be boiling it for an hour.

3. Do not leave the stove when it is at a hard boil because if it boils over you are going to have hardened/burned apple jelly on your ceramic stove top and it is horrible to clean. Really, really stinking horrible.

4. Prep your jars and lids first because when it’s time to go, you don’t have a second to waste.

 

Beans!

beans 1Beans are my favourite fresh from the garden vegetable. They are delicious and easy to cook. In fact, I even blanched and froze some green beans last year, and it was like having fresh beans all winter.

This year, because of my broken foot, I didn’t get my garden in until July 2. Realistically, that is too late for anything. But beans grow and mature so quickly, I had time to get them in. So I did. I planted an entire garden plot full of nothing but green beans.

In nursery school, beans are what the kids plant to learn about how things grow. Mostly, because beans are very quick to sprout. Give it 1-2 weeks, and they are up. And you can watch them see too, they do it so quickly.  The above picture is was taken about noon on Tuesday.  The picture below was taken at 9am on Wednesday.  Honestly, it’s pretty cool to watch.

beans 2There is one problem with planting an entire box of seeds at the same time, and not staggering them by three weeks like I intended. They are all going to ripen at the same time. So, in about 5 weeks, if you are in my end of town and want some fresh beans, stop by. Even with all the blanching I’m going to do, I’m going to have lots left over.  Lots.

Why Sharknado is awesome

Sharknado 1

July is an awesome month for sharks. I’m not talking about the horrific, real-life shark attacks that have been in the news lately. I’m talking about Hollywood sharks. Jaws’ descendents. Mother-f*cking sharks in a mother-f*cking tornado.

There is an art to making a good bad shark movie. The basic premise must be something so outrageous that your suspension of disbelief is thoroughly activated. In the case of Sharknado, don’t tell that it actually could happen and quote me documented incidents of fish and frogs being picked up in storms. First of all, you’re ruining my suspension of disbelief buzz. Second, you can’t compare a half-pound frog that lives on land to a half-ton shark that lives in water. And third, it’s not supposed to make sense. It’s a Sharknado.

Obviously, the most important thing is the shark-monster. If it was a hybrid designed by humans, the creator must be completely mad and have horrible operational security so it can easily escape into the ocean (no tanks for shark-monsters.) Also, it should be designed to be either completely indestructible; a small soft spot about a couple of square inches big so the hero can destroy it is acceptable.

Hybrid or not, the shark should be bigger, badder and have more teeth than a normal shark. It must also be able to survive for long periods out of water. (I know sharks don’t live long out of water but this is for a movie shark.)

Sharknado 2The next trick has to do with the characters. If you are thinking over the top, you aren’t thinking big enough by half. Nothing is too insane for bad shark movie hero or heroine. The situation is already beyond what normal people can handle. Only the wackiest solutions will do at this point.  And they will work too, because the good guys thought of them. Crazy plans suggested by evil people or those in authority who aren’t the hero and heroine will fail badly, causing massive property damage and loss of life. For instance:

SPOILER ALERT – in the first Sharknado, our hero, Fin (get it? Fin vs shark) dives into a falling shark’s mouth with a running chainsaw. Then he carves his way from the inside out to make his escape. AND, at the same time, he pulls out the girl the shark swallowed. THAT is a real hero, folks.

Not to mention, a proper bad shark movie should be set someplace warm, so all the characters are required to wear bikinis and swim trunks. Equal opportunity ogling is important.

Next is the body count. Your movie had better have one that reaches double digits or your audience will be very disappointed. They must include: the person in authority who denies there is a shark-monster, a randy couple doing the nasty in the water (or on the shore or on the dock), and a surfer, waterskier, or swimmer. Of course, you can do multiples of these victims. Bonus points for non-traditional shark attack victims. Do not attack kids. You can attack a pet (usually a dog) but that is iffy and may piss people off.

Sharknado 3Finally, there is the technical aspect of such special-effects masterpiece. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Or that piddly little matter of continuity. Make the action scenes as exciting as possible, and then do what you have to in order to get to the next one. For example:

SPOILER ALERT In the first one, the sharknado drops a deluge of water (and sharks) which sweeps down the side of a hill until it gets to the house. The water fills the living room and main floor, including a shark or two. The hero and his family battle the sharks as they swim for the front door. In the next shoot, they open the door and step out onto the front steps. They aren’t pushed out in a gush of water, they just walk. That is perfectly fine storytelling, people. Realism is highly overrated. (Also, again, you are watching a movie called Sharknado. How real do you expect it to be with your suspension of disbelief working overtime?)

Anyway, with this primer, I invite you to spend the next three Wednesdays with me as I live-tweet Sharknado (tonight, July 8th), Sharknado 2 (July 15) and the world debut of Sharknado 3 (July 22). I’ll be watching on SPACE Channel, but I believe Americans can get it on Sy-Fy.

Did I miss any bad shark movie rules?

Crutches

I’m not talking about walking crutches – I’ve had enough of those kinds of crutches over the last six weeks.

I’m talking about writing crutches. Bad habits. Lazy writing.

Some of the worst writing advice I’ve seen is to write dialogue as people actually talk. Have you ever listened to people talk? We use bad grammar, sentence fragments, and UM and AH and OH constantly. Reading that would send me over the edge. Then there are real words we slip in all the time which but don’t add anything meaning the page. It’s not a good thing.

I’ve started a list of these crutch words, so I can take them out of my stories when they aren’t necessary (sometimes they are). My personal top 15 are:

That, Up, All, Then, Now, Even, Just, Only, Anyway, Already, Still, Besides, Definitely,

You might notice that is only 13 words. I also have a terrible habit of starting dialogue with “And” or “So”. I often start sentences with “And” or “So” when I talk, but it doesn’t add any meaning to what I say. Not to mention, it looks bad on the page.

I don’t know if readers notice when I delete all my crutch words.  I hope it makes for a better reading experience for them. I know I like it better.

Three for Two Sale at KOBO

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Hey, my Canadian readers (and readers when Amazon is not your go-to e-book store), KOBO Canada is having a Get 3 for the Price of 2 sale on romance books this week.   I gently remind you that we are heading into the long weekend AND summer vacation next week. Stock up now before the kids get out of school and you are stuck at the lake without wifi!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The worst things about being on crutches

5. Yard Work.  To be honest, I don’t miss mowing the lawn. I’ve hired a service for that. A freaking costly service – do you remember mowing the lawn for five bucks? Those days are long gone, my friends. So, it cost me an arm and a leg (in addition to my broken foot) but the guys show up once a week and they do a good job. Unfortunately, my gardens are still untouched. The weeds will be taller than the flowers by the time I get out there. I’ve given up on a veggie garden this year. I might still be able to get my herbs box garden done.

4. Making the bed. My bedroom isn’t huge. It takes a lot of work to scoot around the bed and pull all the blankets and comforters down and tuck stuff in. Forget about changing the sheets. Fitted sheets are hard enough to deal with when you have two hands and two feet. On crutches and one foot, they are impossible to handle.

3. Laundry. This isn’t a problem if you have laundry on your main floor. Mine, however, is in the basement. Down is fine. Here is the most efficient process I’ve found: Kick basked of dirty laundry to the staircase, one step at a time. Throw  dirty clothes and the basket down the stairs (thank you, gravity). Slide crutches down the flight of stairs. Inch down, one step at a time on my bum. Assemble clothes into basket, find crutches, kick basket one step at a time into laundry room. Load washer standing on one foot. Back up stairs on my butt, backwards. Up and down stairs again to switch load to the drier. Back down on my butt to empty drier. Dump clothes in basket. Kick it one step at a time to the bottom of the stair case.  Toss crutches up the stairs. Pray they make it to the landing and don’t fall back down and crack me in the head. Put the laundry basket in my lap. Bump my butt up one stair. Haul the basket up one stair. Repeat for the entire flight of stairs. Kick laundry basket down hall to bedroom, one step and a time. Collapse from exhaustion.

That’s one load. Raise your hand if you only have one load of laundry. Exactly.

2. Grocery shopping. You can’t use a cart or a basket because then you can’t use your crutches. Your options are to impose on a friend or family member, give them a list, and write them a cheque when they return with a load of groceries (cheque, not cash, because getting to the bank is another feat) or to do it yourself. I’ve found the best way is to wear a backpack and load it up, then empty it at the checkout and refill it there. It works relatively well but you can only buy about five things. One thing, if you get a 4L of milk. Milk jugs are heavy and throw off your balance.

1. Stairs. Anything under five standard steps is okay. Long, wide stairs, like going into a public building, are pretty easy to navigate. Skinny stairs are the devil. The crutches fit but the boot is twice as wide as the step itself. It’s been 3.5 weeks and I still haven’t attempted to do a flight of regular stairs on my crutches. That’s like hopping on one foot for 14 steps in a row. I’m sure I’d end up with something else in a cast.

2 more weeks until freedom. Hopefully.