Saturday, 27 February 2016

15 Inventions That Prove It's A Great Time To Be Alive

1. 'Hoverboard' Skooter

Marty McFly was on to something, people...

A pair of electric gyroscopes (one under each pad) to balance automatically, allow the rider to speed forward, backward and around by slightly shifting their body weight. The result is all kinds of fun, ranging from hallway races to motorized dance routines. And while this doesn't actually hover *darn* the smooth effortless ride is addictive and maybe the future of city travel.

2. Colour In Wallpaper

Holy macaroni! Hours of free therapy await you and your kids. Get it here.

3. Underground Park in New York

The Lowline, an abandoned subway terminal beneath New York City, has been given a new life. Architects and engineers have developed a sophisticated sunlight delivery system by using a remote skylight dish that captures sunlight from surrounding rooftops and funnels it underground via fiber-optic cable; once there, it’s beamed out via reflective dome, enabling plants to grow. Awaiting further approval and finances, the park at its completion would be an acre of greenery in an otherwise forgotten landscape. 

4. Doppler Earbuds
Unlike conventional hearing aids that amplify all noise, users of the Doppler Earbuds, with a smartphone app, can customize which sounds get filtered or amplified. This means you can easily carry on a conversation in a loud bar or drown out the sound of a crying baby on an air plane.

5. Microsoft Hololens
Virtual reality headsets allow you to experience a swim with dolphins or ride a roller coaster, however, the Hololens takes this a step further and gives you the experience to overlap the fantasy within your own environment. So instead of fighting zombies in a post apocalyptic setting, you can battle in your own home or take it outside for a dragon race in your neighborhood!

6. Jet Puffed Stackable Marshmallows

For perfect smores in minutes!

7. Donut Ice Cream Cones
A Prague café called Good Food Coffee and Bakery is gaining worldwide attention for its trdelniks: cinnamon-flavored, deep-fried dough spirals that make sumptuous vessels for ice cream, apples, whipped cream, berries and Nutella. It's only a matter of time before our own version of trdelníks hit North Amercia. These 'pastries with a purpose' may be the best thing on this list. The future is bright, my friends. Lick it up.

8. A Frying Pan that Teaches You How to Cook

Pantelligent frying pan...never burn supper again!

Just type in the recipe to your smart phone. The electronics in the pan talk to the app, the app monitors the temperature. It tells you when to flip, add ingredients, when to stir and when to adjust the stove temperature. 

9. Pizza Vending Machine

No explanation necessary.

10. Parking Lot With Lights To Show Empty Spots

This is so brilliant, I can't even...

11. Skittles Vending Machine

Customize your own package of 'taste the rainbow'. Finally!

12. Backpack With A Hood

13. Rotating Benches

With a simple turn of the handle you'll always have a dry seat.

14. Personalized Flip Flops.

Get yours here.

Mine would say, Turn Back. Danger.

15. Zipped! Ear buds that will NEVER tangle.
What are some of your favourite inventions?

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Common Writer Mistakes That Ruin The First Chapter

The opening pages are the most important in your story. It determines whether the reader is going to stay with your characters on this journey, or put your book back on the shelf and keep looking. 

Here are a few common mistakes to avoid.

#1. Generic Opening  

Avoid the 'day-in-the-life intro': Your character wakes up, looks at themselves in the mirror, describes what they look like, talks about what they'll wear that day...

Who cares?

A good opening shows three things: who the main character is, why the reader should care for them, and what their conflict is about. There should also be a question early on that hooks the reader.

#2. Too Much Backstory

This should be held back until we have a solid idea of the main character and their conflict. The backstory should be meaningful and propel the plot forward. Plus, don't give up all the answers at once, keep the mystery going for the reader.

#3. Inner Monologue That Goes Nowhere

Don't allow your characters to talk uninterrupted for more than a few paragraphs. The reader usually ends up feeling preached to and the story loses all sense of setting. And most importantly, it stops the action...dead! 

#4. No Conflict or Mystery

Instead of getting stuck in describing the everyday activity of your main character to establish their normal world before the inciting incident, you need to set up a situation that shows how they would normally tackle a problem. This will create reader sympathy and show the everyday world of your main character without boring the reader.

#5. Stilted Dialogue

Unless your character is Henry Higgins, your dialogue shouldn't be too formal.

"I cannot think of a better time to enjoy a walk out doors with you, Deidre."

Most people don't speak perfect English in regular conversations. For the reader it will come off as unnatural. Besides, dialogue is a great opportunity to show specific characteristics as well.

And beware of the fillers that take up valuable space on the page as simple, generic conversation that add nothing to the story.

"Good bye."
"So long."

"Thanks so much."
"You're welcome."

#6. Unclear POV

Otherwise known as head hopping. Stay in one person's point of view for a scene, especially for the first chapter when you need to convince the reader to invest in your main character. The less time they spend with them, the less likely they'll find them interesting or sympathetic. And if the reader doesn't care what happens to the main character then your plot doesn't really matter.

#7. Too Many Characters Introduced

The first chapter is not the place to bring out the whole cast. Think of a play or your favourite movie. Introduce each character in a way that makes them memorable to the reader. It's also handy to remember that you don't need EVERY character in EVERY scene.

What are some other pitfalls for the first chapter?

If you found this useful, check out these other posts for writers.

Ten Commandments For Writers

How To Make Your Readers Believe Anything

Tips To Secretly Work On Your Novel While At Your Day Job

How To Write A Nail Biting Climax

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Official Cover Reveal for NIGHT SHIFT

I did it. I finally did it.

The idea came to me almost twenty years ago when I got lost inside Harrods. I remember wandering around the sumptuous confectionery wishing I had the whole store to myself.

And now, after eight years of writing, revising, querying, two agents, and countless submissions, I've made the decision to make this dream come true on my own.

I'm self publishing NIGHT SHIFT!!!!!!

Having published three books the traditional route, (with a fourth out this July, DIADEM OF DEATH) and the wonderful support from Wattpad readers, I knew this was the best time for me to take the plunge into self publishing.

The first thing I did was contact the editor who had worked on my other books—lucky for me she was available. Next, I hired the artist who had done the cover for ASP OF ASCENSION. Emma Dolan was able to give NIGHT SHIFT a slick new look.

Here's a little bit about the book:

At Willard's department store, none of the night security guards survive for long, and eighteen-year-old Daniel Gale is about to discover why.

Tired of endless hotels and living out of his backpack, he ignores the clerk's gossip about the old building being haunted and takes the job as the newest night guard. On his first shift, Daniel narrowly escapes a fatal drop down the elevator shaft, and is rescued by Mary, a bossy and intriguing girl who is far too beautiful for after hours inventory.

Anticipating every night shift as a chance to be with her, Daniel thinks his traveling days are over hoping that New York City is the place to call home. But as his life becomes more entwined with Willard's, Daniel senses unnatural changes and bizarre coincidences, both with Mary and the store itself. Soon he suspects Willard's is hiding something more sinister than gossip about ghosts—something that could make him the next casualty of the NIGHT SHIFT.

Okay, enough words. Scroll down for the official cover of NIGHT SHIFT.

Emma Dolan was able to come up with this design simply from the query letter. She has no idea how intuitive she is! I love the colour scheme and of course the one tiny light on at the top.

Order now!

Check out NIGHT SHIFT's inspiration board on Pinterest here. 
Add it on Goodreads here.

Here's a sneak peek. Enjoy!

he gray-haired security guard narrowed his eyes, taking in Daniel’s faded pea coat over the hoodie, and his worn out backpack. Months of travelling had left its mark; his clothes were dingy, he hadn’t shaved in a few days, and even his skin was pale and tired-looking.
Daniel caught his reflection in one of the video monitors that lined the opposite wall, tracking all the movements inside Willard’s department store. No one from school would recognize the zombie he’d become.
The man’s wrinkled fingers drummed on the antique wooden desk beside Daniel’s pathetic, half-page resume. “You left the education section blank,” he said curtly.
“I’m a few credits short of graduating from high school.” A few plus some more, Daniel thought to himself. Then he added quickly, “I’m hoping to finish by correspondence in the next few months.” A lie. A diploma was the last thing on his “to do” list.
“You dropped out?”
“No.” Daniel’s cheeks grew warm. He faked a cough, hoping to disguise the blush. He hadn’t anticipated having to explain his circumstances. “I just didn’t finish the last semester.”
“Any trouble with the law?”
“No, sir.”
“You can call me Mr. Oliver,” he instructed. His eyes barely stayed on Daniel before his attention returned to the paper.
“Okay…” There was an uncomfortable pause, then he added, “Mr. Oliver.”
“Daniel Gale,” he read, his finger going over the resume as if reading it by brail. “Not a very common name.”
Daniel stayed quiet, unsure how to respond. He didn’t think his name was all that special.
The questions started again. “You’re a long way from home. Why?”
“I’m eighteen,” Daniel answered, slightly put out by the insinuation he was a helpless kid. “I’ve been travelling.”
“But not anymore?” One white eyebrow arched, but Mr. Oliver didn’t look up.
Daniel was struck by a heavy gloom. He needed this job; it was his last hope.
The thought of getting on another plane made him sick. Long ago, he’d made a game of trying to guess which of his fellow passengers had someone waiting for them. A woman with an infant would more than likely be embraced by anxious grandparents, waving a new teddy bear. The middle-aged man wearing a baseball cap was always picked up by his brother or sister. And the girl who checked her makeup just before the plane landed was meeting a boyfriend.
But there was never anyone waiting for Daniel.
Before he could put a spin on his situation, Mr. Oliver spoke again. “Next of kin is your lawyer.” It wasn’t a question, but he paused, waiting for an explanation.
“My parents are, um…gone.” Daniel looked down at his scuffed loafers, taken from his father’s closet the day he left home. 
“Ever work in a department store?” Mr. Oliver asked. Clearly, the fact that Daniel was on his own didn’t concern or interest him. Daniel guessed if he’d been purposely going for the sympathy angle, it wouldn’t have worked on this tough crank.
“No,” he answered.
“Any experience with security?”
“How long have you lived in the city?” he asked suspiciously, as if trying to catch Daniel in a lie.
“Just arrived.” Daniel felt like he was in his school’s state hockey championship all over again, but this time, every slap shot was missing the net. His fingers slipped inside his jacket pocket and found the small round object. He managed a half smile—feeling the Magic 8 Ball keychain always made him relax.
“I see,” Mr. Oliver said, studying him. He smoothed out his royal blue tie, letting his fingers pause at the golden W on the clip.
Daniel squirmed, making the wooden chair squeak. 
“Do you believe in ghosts?” 
He cocked his head to one side, unsure if he’d heard correctly. “Um, ghosts?” Daniel didn’t dare crack a joke; in fact, the old guy was creeping him out. Why was it important for a night security guard to believe in ghosts? He shifted his weight in the chair again, trying to buy time to think. He was totally unprepared for this interview. The silence grew painfully long; he had to say something. Daniel took a deep breath. He knew all about the finality of death. “No,” he said. “I don’t believe in ghosts.”
“Good. Willard’s has a bit of a reputation—unfortunately. The store goes through a lot of night guards.”
“Oh,” Daniel said. His gaze flicked around the room, wondering if there was a hidden camera on him. Maybe this was some psychological component of the interview? “Excuse me, but by ‘go through,’ what do you mean?”
“They quit.”
“Oh,” Daniel said again.
Mr. Oliver folded his hands on the green blotter and stared back. “Why do you want to work here?”
Daniel’s fist squeezed the keychain inside his pocket. He met Mr. Oliver’s gaze and told him the truth. “Because it’s just what I need.”
Mr. Oliver let out a long breath, and then added Daniel’s thin resume to a pile of more substantial hopefuls, making the outcome of this disastrous interview obvious. Daniel’s last bit of hope faded, and the disappointment weighed on him like a wet blanket.
“Thank you for your interest in Willard’s,” Mr. Oliver said, nodding toward the door. “Come to the office tomorrow, half an hour before the store closes. We’ll get you fitted for a uniform.”
Daniel almost fell out of the chair. “I got the job?”
“Don’t be late,” he said, then paused, and his voice dropped a few notes. “Daniel Gale.” 
“I won’t. Thank you!” Daniel was stunned for a moment, unable to move. Mr. Oliver frowned at him, and then motioned impatiently to the door again.
Daniel left the security office, shouldering his backpack, suddenly giddy with his change in luck. He leaned against a long glass counter and grinned. He was finally getting closer to finding an answer.

Now available from Amazon Canada and Amazon US.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

13 Awesome Ways to Use Old Sweaters

Some of these projects look so fun I just might buy extra sweaters to make them (I love a good thrift store shopping spree). 

1. Make Mittens: from Homestead Survival

2. Wine Bottle Covers from CreateMyEvent

3. Felted Sweater Blanket from Recovergirl

4. Leg Warmers: from createbellacreate

5. Upcycled Sweater Slipper Boots from Drawings Under the Table

6. Cup Warmer from Less Than Perfect

7. Baby Hats made from Old Sweaters from Make It & Love It

8. An Infinity Scarf

9. Pillow Cover from Brassy Apple

10. Cozy Slippers from We Can Re-Do It!

11. Sweater Macbook Case from the Merrythought

12. Cable Knit Lampshade from Farm Fresh Therapy

13. Sweater Wrist Warmers from What Will We Do Today

Which is your favourite idea?

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Great Crossover TV Shows from the 70's and 80's

Twitter is in a frenzy, my friends. Supergirl and the Flash will be sharing an episode!!!

Who doesn't love a good crossover?

And this got me thinking about my favourite crossover shows from when I was a kid and TV was king.

Okay, it's still king, but today it goes by the name of Netflix.

Anyway, get your Orange Crush t-shirt on, turn the speed dial on your record play to LP, and open up the ketchup flavoured Humpty Dumpty potato chips because we're taking the station wagon on a trip to the 70's and 80's.

1. Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys Meet Dracula

This special two part episode was fantastically insane on so many levels. On the search for a missing friend, Joe and Frank end up in Europe. They bump into Nancy and Bess and end up at a mascaraed party in a real castle hosted by Lorne Greene. Bodies start turning up with puncture wounds on their necks. Weird? Not even close until Paul Williams shows up as some kind of rock god. Then Sean Cassidy takes to the stage (which is awesome) and we find out Lorne Greene is Dracula.

2. The Jetsons meet The Flintstones

Who else would George Jetson meet when he travels back in time?

3. The Bionic Woman and the Six Million Dollar Man

These two super human lovebirds shared several crossover episodes, I think my favourite was The Big Foot episode since it also involved aliens.

But really, Jamie Summers was absolutely at her finest while fighting the fembots.

4. Mork & Mindy meet Laverne & Shirley and Happy Days

Mork & Mindy and Laverne & Shirley were both spin-offs from Happy Days. This pilot episode brought it all three together, transporting Mork to Earth with a surprised greeting from the Fonz and a date with Laverne.

5. St. Elsewhere meets Cheers

The staff of St. Elgius stop by Boston’s most famous sitcom bar for a drink. Apparently Norm is Dr. Auschlander’s former accountant and Carla gave birth to her last child in the St. Elsewhere hospital. The interactions between Norm, Carla, and the St. Elsewhere staff are a fitting nod to the strengths of both shows and it feels like a cleaver one act play rather than a publicity, crossover gimmick.

What are some of your favourite crossover shows?

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