Dressing up again for the Alamo City Comic Con

For the third year in a row, we attended the Alamo City Comic Con yesterday.

This event gets bigger and bigger each year and brings in more and more stars. This year’s cast of special guest included Charlie Cox (from Netflix’s Daredevil), Ralph Macchio (Karate Kid), Summer Glau (Firefly, Terminator, Arrow), a host of actors from Doctor Who and Gotham, Jeremy Bulloch (Star Wars) and Billy Dee Williams (Star Wars) and a lot of others….really too many to list.

And as we did the last two years, we went ahead and got into the spirit by wearing costumes.

img_2070

This year’s cast of characters….

Batman – My husband has been working on this costume for quite a long time. He actually wore an early version of it last year for Halloween (after going to Comic Con as Han Solo). He wasn’t happy with the armor from last year’s costume and has spent many nights and weekends perfecting the costume and even added a light-up Bat symbol.

Deadshot – Jase decided to be the DC comic book character Deadshot. Last year, Jase went as a Star Wars Clone Trooper at Comic Con but was Nightwing for Halloween – wearing an awesome costume my husband made. They don’t make Deadshot costumes for kids so once again my husband made Jase’s costume. It was based on character in the Suicide Squad movie that came out in August.

Wonder Woman – Continuing our theme of DC characters, Lexie decided to be Wonder Woman. We bought her costume online, but my husband did change out the lasso – opting to make her one that lights up. (Lexie was a Pink Power Ranger last year.)

Harley Quinn – Look, it is another DC comic book character! Harley is the Joker’s girlfriend, so definitely not a good guy. I actually had been considering being Harley, and then I saw the Suicide Squad trailer in April. From that moment on I decided I would go as Suicide Squad’s Harley Quinn. After researching her costume online, I decided to do something I have never done before. I decide to make my costume. My husband and I did all of it (gun, holster, shirt, wig, bat, belt, bracelets and necklace) except the shorts and boots which I purchased. (I will post next week more on making the costume.) Everyone knew who I was, and I got stopped quite often to have my picture taken.

It was a great event, and I know we will be going back next year. I may go back to my Poison Ivy costume from last year, or maybe I’ll stick with Suicide Squad Harley Quinn. She was just too much fun!

Advertisements

Today’s Featured Author – Vasant Davé

Today, I would like to welcome author Vasant Davé to my blog. Please enjoy this excerpt from his historical novel Trade Winds to Meluhha. 

Excerpt – Chapter 7

Swells higher than a man’s height rocked Captain Paravar’s ship. His sailors sniggered as Sam sat at the base of the mast, gripping it like a child hugging its mother. Although he was used to the howling desert winds, he had never heard such ominous rumbling every time the lightning stabbed the darkness. The waves slapped the vessel whose woodwork screeched eerily, making Sam wish he could shut his ears just like his eyes.

Had fate saved him from execution only to drown him at sea?

Shouts accompanied by a fluttering sound told Sam that several sailors were busy taking down the sail. From the Captain’s bellows, Sam guessed that he was fighting hard along with his sailors to drain out the deluge of water from the vessel.

Perhaps the situation was not as grim as he feared. Shouldn’t he too perform his duty? “The foal would have been scared to death by now,” was his first thought.

He got up like a child learning to walk, and tottered to the animal. One look at it threw the storm out of his mind. It lay sprawled on the deck, soaked to the skin and staring at the sky.

Sam’s arms slipped around the foal’s neck, and he broke down.

He was not aware when the storm showed signs of abetting, and the sailors started gathering around him. A hand gripped his shoulder. He knew it was the Captain, but was unable to look up and meet his eye.

Then he heard the Captain’s soothing voice. “We could save it from man, but not from nature. Perhaps it was its destiny to be buried at sea.”

As the Captain’s footsteps retreated, Sam thought that his palm sensed a throb. He sat up and perceived a weak pulse. Spinning around, he shouted. A couple of sailors ran to bring warm water and dry cloth as he bade. Another hurried to fetch an earthen pot containing smouldering coal to start a fire.

Cajoling the foal, Sam cleaned and rubbed its limbs. Little by little he poured warm broth into its mouth. He saw its hide shiver, and then its chest heave. Then it neighed as if under unbearable pain. He patted and cheered it. “Captain,” he yelled, “your little one has got over the worst.”

Sam heard the Captain hollering ‘thanks’, and then asking his deputy to set free one of the two rock doves in the cage. They watched the bird taking off towards the stern and fluttering away. “Turn her around,” ordered the Captain.

As the crew started the exercise, Sam went to the head sailor and said, “Why did you release the pigeon? Wasn’t it meant for the Captain’s dinner?”

“No,” said the head sailor. “Those birds are our best friends. When we lose our way at sea, we release a dove. It always flies away in the direction of land.”

Sam saw the Captain studying the mast which whipped at the top. There was concern on his face. Summoning two sailors, he instructed them. They tied a piece of rope around their waists and scaled the mast. Suspended high above the deck, they commenced a long struggle to fix a supporting strut to the mast.

The foal had slipped into a nap and Sam watched the Captain with interest as he gave periodic instructions with one eye on the sky. At one point he said, “There, the Vata-miin is now visible. Get me the kamal.”

Following his gaze, Sam recognised the Pole Star Thuban shining in the northern sky. The head sailor came, carrying a wooden card with a hole in its centre through which passed a string. The Captain held the string between his teeth and moved the card to and fro at the Thuban. Then he marked a position on the string with a knot.

He walked towards his cabin, measuring the length from the knot to the card with his fingers. The head sailor ran ahead of him, lighted a couple of lamps and flung open an ebony chest. Selecting a tome of barks from several stored inside, the Captain studied it for quite some time. “We’re somewhere near Sutantoru1-on-Sea,” he announced at last, and strode to the rudder to take charge.

Around midnight, an excited cry woke up everybody. The Captain strained to see in the direction pointed by the sailor. “Yes,” he agreed, “we were closer to the port than I reckoned.”

Sam discerned a weak flicker of light far away. “That’s one of your regular ports of call, isn’t it?” he asked.

“No, it’s one port that prefers foreign ships to our own.”

“Any ship, whether local or foreign, pays the port for the facilities, doesn’t it?”

“Sutantoru has its reasons,” said the Captain. “One, the monsoons don’t affect its route to Suméru as they do in Alatinam and Port Lothal. This port is accessible to Sumérian ships all the year round.”

Sam waited for him to continue, but there was silence. He turned to see the Captain’s face in the dark. “What is another?”

“Sutantoru is notorious for some sort of slavery, which would never be permitted at other ports.”

“Slavery? With Sumér?”

With a sigh, the Captain started walking towards his cabin. Sam considered it best to resolve an issue that was on his mind. Catching up, he said: “The foal is too weak to continue the voyage, Captain. Shall we leave it in Sutantoru?”

“I can’t abandon it, Samorist.”

Sam thought that since he did not know where Hiwa Haqra lived, he might as well start his search from Sutantoru-on-Sea rather than from Port Lothal. “I’ll go along with the baby if its buyer provides me shelter and food,” he said.

The Captain shook his head. “Who will buy a sick animal?”

“It’s not just any animal,” said Sam, and he immediately realized that he had given away annoyance in his voice. He quickly added, “As I told you, Captain, it’s going to grow up into a lovely mare.”

“To the people who have never seen a horse, Samorist, it’s no more than an exotic breed of donkey.”

Sam considered it practical to postpone his search for Hiwa Haqra till the foal had grown up. A mare could be an invaluable help in Meluhha, the land of long distances.

“Suppose nobody takes it away, Captain,” he said quietly. “I’ll stay back in Sutantoru to look after it.”

Book Blurb

trade windsSamasin, an orphaned stable boy, rushes to help a foreigner sprawled with a slashed neck in a deserted tavern. Gasping for the last breath, the stranger presses a fish-hook in his hand and pleads, ‘Give to Siwa Saqra.’ Just then, a crowd rushes in and accuses the bewildered youngster of the Meluhhan’s murder. In order to clear his name from the stigma of manslaughter, Sam must hunt down the killer.

He flees Babylon under the darkness of night, and shivering violently, swims to a ship setting sail for Meluhha. Unknowingly, he has embarked on pursuit of an evil trade wrecking the lives of many a young Mesopotamian. A severe monsoon storm, besides ravaging their little vessel, blows it off its course. During his journey in exotic Meluhha, Sam survives several situations which would have cost him his life. However, it never occurs to the naïve stable boy that a powerful foe does not want him to see Siwa.

Sam encounters Siwa’s haughty daughter who takes an instant dislike for the grinning young man seemingly because he hails from Mesopotamia. Her slim dark form and long swinging hair steal his heart. With an eye on her as she hovers in the background, he sees Siwa staring blankly at the fish-hook and his jaw drops. Who else did the dead man actually intend to convey the ‘message’?

Inspired by Thor Heyerdahl’s voyage in a reed ship across Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea, TRADE WINDS TO MELUHHA is an adventure unfolding between two ancient lands of Mesopotamia and Indus Valley Civilization.

About the Author 

vAuthorAs a retired engineer walked through the ruins of Lothal in Western India, his mind went back to his childhood in the Kenyan port of Mombasa where, as school boy, he used to be awed by wooden dhows sailing out to the open sea. The tourist guide was showing a gigantic rectangle made from bricks on the ground level. It was almost filled to the brim with soil, “to preserve it from erosion”, he said. “It’s the world’s oldest excavated port,” he added, “which was used by Indus Valley ships trading with Mesopotamia.”

Maritime trade across 3,000 Km of sea when iron was not yet discovered, and the magnetic compass was unkown? That query set Vasant Davé on a search for more information about both the Bronze Age civilizations, which ultimately resulted in the writing of the historical novel ‘Trade winds to Meluhha’.

During his professional career, Vasant had provided Industrial Market Research services to corporate clients in Australia, China, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Singapore, the UK and the USA. His articles/anecdotes were published in Readers’ Digest, Economic Times, Business India, Dawn, Telematics India, Studio Systems and Shankar’s Weekly.

You can connect with Vasant on Facebook, Twitter or his website.

You can purchase Trade Winds to Meluhha on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo Store and Smashwords.

 

Writing a Holiday Story

Halloween is almost here and soon Thanksgiving and Christmas. The holidays can make a great setting for a novel.

holidayromanceYou can write a spooky or horror filled novel for Halloween or a sweet romance for the Christmas season. I even know an author that set her story at Thanksgiving. Of course, you are not limited to these holidays. You could set your romance or satire on Valentine’s Day. However, the appeal of a Fourth of July tale will just not have the same pull as a Christmas Holiday tale.

Christmas, by far, is the most popular holiday to write about. A quick search of books on Amazon brings up over 25,000 titles, and this doesn’t include Children’s books.

Tips to writing a Christmas Novel

  • Keep it short – You can write a novella or even a short story.
  • Invoke the senses – Think of snowy scenes, the aroma of hot chocolate or a baking pie
  • Think happy ending – While I know there are serious stories out there that take place during Christmas, your best bet is to leave the reader at least satisfied and for a romance that would mean ending with a Happily Ever After.
  • Publish it in time – Aim to publish your holiday novel in November or at the very latest the first week of December.
  • Promote it – Promote it not just the year it comes out but every holiday season and reap the benefits of those holiday readers.

If you write a series, perhaps you can take some of your characters and write them their own holiday story. And even if they don’t celebrate “Christmas” you can still write a story that takes place at a winter holiday. (Think Gift of the Night Fury from the How to Train Your Dragon TV series.)

It may be too late this year to get out a Holiday book, but if you invest the time now, you can have a book that will sell well each holiday season.

The fun of owning a 3D Printer

I was looking for topics to write about for October. I asked Jase to give me a topic. His suggestion was 3D printers. Of course, he probably came up with that one as we were sitting in the computer room watching the 3D printer at work.

img_2020

Our 3D printer

Yes, we have a 3D printer. My husband bought it in July 2014 off of Amazon for about $600. He always likes to stay up on the latest technology so it came as no surprise that he wanted one. I of course didn’t see the need for one, but that is another story.

In the beginning, he printed tons of things what we had no use for – spheres, little figures, and other things to just test out the coolness of the printer. But over time, he has printed more useful things. Here are some photos of items he has printed. You can decide for yourself which is useful and which isn’t.

img_2010

3D printed sign painted with nail polish

img_2011

A 3D -printed cosplay gun for my Harley Quinn outfit

img_2012

A hook he printed to hang a towel on the back of the closet door

img_2013

A 3D printed stand for his Apple Watch. The circle is the charger.

img_2014

A dragon symbol for the closet door.

img_2015

Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy – one of his first tests prints

img_2019

A skull head to go on a staff for a cosplay outfit for a friend.

img_2024

A 3D printed Minecraft pickax for a craft at my daughters birthday party. The kids colored them with markers and then we added a string to make it a necklace.

IMG_4272

Decorations for Lexies Minecraft party – 3D printed Minecraft Diamond Ore blocks – that actually lit up.

He has printed items for other people (such as the skull above) as well as creating an Eagle for the silent auction at the kids’ school. It sold for $30.

img_4279

Eagle printed for Silent Auction

2015-02-24-19-02-21

Filament cartridge

A 3D printer uses filament, a type of thin plastic, that it melts to produce the 3D object. Ours can only use one color at a time. He typically uses an off white but sometimes also prints in black. So as you look through some of these photos, you will notice that even though it prints in only one color, almost nothing I have shown is one color. We typically paint the items. On the sign above I used nail polish, but acrylic paint, modeling paint or spray paint has been used on the others.

2015-02-24-19-37-13

3D printer in action

Most of these designs are printed from files found on the Internet. Someone else has created the costume pieces, tools or storage containers. But you can use the software to create your own designs. Jase has designed a rough castle for his sister. We have also used the software to create our own designs including a Happy Birthday sign using Minecraft lettering for Lexie’s birthday cake or to add something to an existing file such as a connector for the skull to the staff in the photo above.

When Jase was in third grade, we actually printed penguins for a project he was working on. We even made a video of how the machine works to show his class. A few months later, the school got their own 3D printer that students and kids can use.

I will say there is the cool factor of being able to print a 3D object. And even I will admit that it has come in handy at times.

Today’s Featured Author – Candy Korman

Today, I welcome author Candy Korman to my blog.

Guest Post – Location, Location, Location…

I live in real estate obsessed New York City, but this post is about a special kind of real estate—locations in fiction. The place in a story can be everything from a simple backdrop to a fleshed out “character.”

As a reader, I often travel via fiction. I’ve visited Donna Leon’s Venice so many times, that I half expected to run into Commissario Brunetti every time I entered a quiet piazza on my last actual visit to that beautiful city. Last night, I couldn’t sleep so I spent a few hours in Carl Hiaasen’s Key West. The sense of place that some authors achieve is seductive.

Real places help establish credibility for the incredible. Placing a wild adventure with improbable twists and turns in a setting that feels familiar draws the reader inside the drama (or comedy). This can be a typical suburb or a clichéd small town, but I think it works better when it’s a REAL, real place—a specific location that many, if not all, readers know on some level. Set a chase scene on the Capitol Mall and even people who have never traveled to Washington, DC will recognize the landmarks.

I just want to caution authors who know a popular place only from movies and TV to be very, very careful about how they use the location.  Real places are tricky if you don’t know your territory. I’ve read all too many novels set in NYC that were written by people who seem to use old Woody Allen movies and Law & Order episodes as their primary source of location details. It’s upsetting when a subway goes to the wrong place or people use the wrong regional expression, i.e. sack versus bag. When I’ve set a story in place I love, but do not know intimately, I check maps, and verify as many details as possible.

When you know the terrain well, you can plunk a fictional restaurant, warehouse, office tower, horse farm etc. into the landscape and get away with it because it’s similar—or even based upon—a real place in a real area. This allows you the freedom to create the right location for your fiction. Just don’t give it an address that puts it in the East River!

A realistic setting makes the vampire, werewolf, ghost or other paranormal, supernatural or magical creature seem possible—even probable. I like “ground” such stories in places I know very well, taking a walk on the streets where the character lives—or hunts, haunts, hovers and hides.

There’s something to be said for the pure invention of places in fantasy and science fiction. I admire the ability of these authors to “map” a universe in its entirety, while I’m more excited by writing about a werewolf on Wall Street or the Devil dropping in to visit my favorite coffee bar. In fiction and in life, it’s location, location location…

Book Blurb

mary-shelley-game‘The Mary Shelley Game’ is a contemporary literary thriller inspired by the horror classic — Frankenstein. A group of friends gather in a country house to share gourmet food, excellent wine and their own stories based on Frankenstein, but in the woods surrounding the house, a real monster lurks, plotting a bloody and violent end to the party.

‘The Mary Shelley Game’ is the first of ‘The Monsters,’ a series of new stories with roots in familiar tales of terror by Candy Korman.

About the Author 

candyCandy Korman (AKA Candida) lives, writes, and dances Argentine Tango in New York City. Visitors to the Candy’s Monsters blog site will find twice weekly Monster Meditations on writing & all things monstrous; free short stories on the Timeless Tales page; links to books available on Amazon; and periodic Monster-themed contests.

You can find out more about Candy on her website.

You can check out all of her books on Amazon.

Six tips for selecting a book excerpt

books uid 1269725Authors are often asked for an excerpt of their book, whether it is for a feature on a blog, to be run in a magazine or even just for their own website. And many authors have trouble selecting a passage of their book to feature.

An excerpt is designed to give the reader a sample of your writing style and a bit of the story to entice them to want to keep reading your book. It is certainly worth putting a little thought into choosing the right sample. Here are six tips to help you make your decision.

1.) Do not give away what the reader can already get for free. Don’t show them the prologue or first chapter that they can easily be found on Amazon, Smashwords or Barnes & Noble. Give them something else, something exclusive.

As with any rule there is an exception. I find that with short stories, there sometimes are fewer choices of scenes. With my own fantasy short story, The Search, I only have the opening scene as a sample because there is not another scene that could stand alone without confusing the reader.

2.) Choose a passage that represents the book. Don’t choose the only funny scene if the book is not meant to be humorous. Don’t show a quiet moment if you have written an action-adventure novel. You want something that is interesting and will draw the reader in. Make sure not to pick a page-long description but rather something with dialogue and action or conflict. And it should end with a cliffhanger or a dramatic moment that makes the reader want to read more.

3.) Don’t give away big secrets. Some authors worry too much about giving anything away but it is okay to give away little twists in your story, Just make sure you don’t give away any big spoilers.

4.) Keep the selection short. You want to give them just enough to hook them, but you do not have to let the whole scene play out just as you don’t have to start at the beginning of a scene either. When selecting an excerpt, keep it short – a few pages at most.

5.) Choose a scene that doesn’t require context. You need to select a scene that the reader can understand without having read anything before it. If necessary, you can alter the scene slightly to make it more understandable to the reader. This can be especially useful if your story takes place on another planet or where you might be dealing with non-human characters.

6.) Offer a way to purchase the book. This is probably the most important part of your excerpt. You need to be sure to include the purchase information – preferably a direct link to several online stores so the interested reader can select their preferred electronic format.

So definitely take some time to pick an excerpt that highlights your writing AND will entice the reader to want more and buy your book. It will be well worth it.

And in case you want to check out an excerpt of my stories….

Excerpt of The Search (Opening Scene for my short story.)

Excerpt of Summoned: Book One of The Elemental (Prison scene – two-thirds of the way through the book – this scene is kind of long, but I have used a shorter version of it on other websites.)

Excerpt of Quietus: Book Two of The Elemental (Destruction of the Land – from the beginning of the book and probably an example of too much description and not enough action.)

Excerpt of Destiny: Book Three of The Elemental (Selda’s trap – This scene happens over halfway through the book and I had to include a quick note before the excerpt that two of the characters were dragons who were speaking telepathically.)

Excerpt of The Heir to Alexandria (Cabin escape – Again this happens over halfway into the novel. It shows a good amount of action and suspense.)