Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Blah! Gah! Wards!

I have recently been gifted with two lovely awards from two lovely blog friends that I have been late to pass on to other worthy souls.

Here is the first, "The Lindsay."

Your blog went to rehab multiple times and it did it no good.
And the second, the coveted "One Decadent Blogger."

This was not an accident. Why'dja buy a cream-colored carpet anyway when you have pals like me, numbnuts?
I decided, rather than spread these horrors about the InterWebs, I would instead shelve them and re-gift two others that are prettier and more fragrant than a Care Bear's dongle dipped in drawn butter.

From the lovely and talented Anita at A Still and Quiet Madness, an award (below) that helped me realize that my blog was not the spotty, barnacle-encrusted wasteland I had always assumed it to be. Thank you, dear Anita! I shall pass this award on to the deserving Jennifer of Serendipity's Library, for her blog is durned purty and also features a CREEPY DOLL named Charlotte. I adore creepy dolls. I will also send this award the way of J. Lea Lopez of Jello World, whose humorous literary dissections of songs are lovely indeed. I don't know where she will fit this flower-bedecked award on her blog bookshelf, but never mind that!

And from the equally lovely and talented Angela at The Starving Novelist, an award (below) that made me clutch my breast (both, at once) and faint dead away with the honor of it. It is with humility and beatitude that I accept the award below. I shall pass this award on to Lisa at Kicked, Cornered, Bitten and Chased, for there is nothing more lovely than the snout of a monkey or the rubbery lips of a llama. I shall also pass it to one of my special favoritos, Michelle of Greenwoman, for her nature photographs are stunning and make one want to eat mushrooms and wander in the woods speaking to the little people.

Enjoy, you deserving creatures! Pass these awards on as you wish; rules are for the birds. Have a Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Book Giveaway and Launch Party: Catherine Stine's FIRESEED ONE!

Fellow blogger extraordinaire, Catherine Stine, has just released her new YA thriller, Fireseed One. In celebration of her launch, I am hosting a book giveaway here. Visit Catherine's blog today for more launch party festivities, including giveaways, interviews, and excerpts.

This book is very good indeed. The well-drawn and likable characters, suspenseful plot, and superb world-building make for a compelling page-turner. I particularly enjoyed the author's speculations about food sources and how these could morph in fantastic ways in the face of drastic climate change—this provides the platform for a life or death struggle that blends romance with eco-terrorism and thrilling adventure. Peppered with humor and action, the story's futuristic references, including the clever jargon and pop culture of the time, are delivered with a natural and deft hand. Catherine Stine's research and meticulous attention to detail transform her strange and wildly imaginative world into one we can readily picture becoming our own. Fireseed One is a compulsively readable—and alarmingly plausible—vision of our future.

Catherine is giving away three eBook versions and one paperback version to the lucky winners. You want to get your hands on a copy! If you should be so lucky as to win, please add your review to Amazon, Goodreads, your blog, and so on. This contest will close in approximately one week.

To enter, simply leave a comment below with a way to contact you should you win. If you tweet about the book (tag me @feralpony so I see it), like it on Facebook, or write a blog post about it, you will get extra-special bonus points and your name will go into the kitty innumerable times!

Here are more details about the exciting setting and plot of Fireseed One:

What if the only person who could help you save the world was your very worst enemy?

Fireseed One, a YA thriller, is set in a near-future world with soaring heat, toxic waters, tricked-out amphibious vehicles, ice-themed dance clubs, and fish that grow up on vines. Temperate climate has replaced Arctic ice, and much of what is now the United States is a lethal Hotzone, cut off by an insurmountable border from its northern, luckier neighbors, Ocean and Land Dominion. It is rumored that roving Hotzone nomads will kill for a water pellet or a slice of insect loaf, and that the ZWC, a dangerous Hotzone activist group, has infiltrated the border to the northern Dominions.
Varik Teitur inherits a vast sea farm after the mysterious death of his marine biologist father. When Marisa Baron, a beautiful and shrewd terrorist who knows way too much about Varik's father's work, tries to steal seed disks from the world's food bank, Varik is forced to put his dreams of becoming a doctor on hold and venture with her, into a hot zone teeming with treacherous nomads and a cult who worships his dead father, in order to search for a magical hybrid plant that may not even exist. 
*With nine illustrations by the author.

To purchase the book via Amazon, click here.  
To buy Fireseed One on iBook for your iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch, click here.
For Nook users, Catherine is offering a special launch party discount! The Fireseed eBook is officially $2.99, but during this party, you can buy it for only $1.50, directly from Catherine! Email her at and she'll send you a link to Paypal, and then the eBook. 
To find Catherine on the web:

And, my interview with the author!

1. The book is rich in futuristic detail about a world drastically altered by climate change. Do you have a scientific background that helped inform your imagination? What inspired the theme of the book?
I’m fascinated by hybrids, including how many future applications there are for algae—agar. I did tons of research in prep for writing Fireseed One, and the more I read about transgenics (plants genetically modified with foreign elements), the more fascinated I became. Did you know researchers have already combined proteins in human saliva and breast milk with rice RNA to create infant resistance to diarrhea in the Third World? I simply asked, “What next?” In the story, there’s a hybrid of grapes and fish, so that fish can grow up on vines and avoid toxic water. Expect even stranger hybrids in the novel too. Spinning out possible “Frankenstein Scenarios” is wicked fun.

2. How many Fireseed books do you have planned? Have you already mapped out the next one?
Yes! The next is called Children of Fireseed, where I invent very weird transgenic scenarios, and inspiring variations too. Hint: what advantages would you have if you could get your nutrition from the sun? The Fireseed cult will reappear, as will Armonk, Nevada and the little girl with three missing fingers. (You’ll understand when you read). Oh, and another hot romance. The Fireseed novels will probably expand to a trilogy.

3. The plot is very well constructed for maximum suspense. Do you outline your plot in advance, or do you write more from the hip?
I love building tension! I write a longish synopsis, an outline, and I free-write around the themes and characters—who wants what and why, how characters will clash, where I take the romantic relationships—all of that. I also do research. I’ve learned from experience that planning will keep me from writing a five-headed monstrosity that reels off into outer space! A writer can always alter storyline as he or she goes. I think people fear that once they outline they aren’t allowed to change it. So not true.

Flyfish Vines. Art by Catherine Stine.

4. One of the unique features of Fireseed One is the inclusion of your own illustrations. Which came first for you, writing or drawing? Or were they simultaneous talents that you nurtured?
I wrote a lot in high school. Then I attended an art college and got a BFA in painting. I was published as an illustrator first. There were a bunch of artists in my family, so it was expected. But I was always, always writing. To fuse the two, I assumed that I would write a picture book. But my first published novel was middle-grade. Go figure. I am beyond thrilled to now combine story and picture. It’s great that there’s a YA trend toward illustrations. I’ll also be illustrating Children of Fireseed.

I, for one, have never thought of a hybrid between fish and grapes. She did. Creative genius! Thank you, Catherine, for the giveaway and the interview. We'll be rooting for the success of the book and await the positive reviews.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Eldest Son Unleashes the F-Bomb (and the Kraken!)

Eldest Son (age 8) is enrolled in a special creative writing workshop at his school, which meets on Fridays. When I arrived home tonight he told me he had completed his short story for the week, and would I like to read it? Then he leaned over and whispered in my ear: "It's sort of inappropriate."

I was expecting a panoply of farts and poo talk, so I took the paper he handed me and started to read it out loud. The story was titled "How The Kraken Learned to Hate Bad Words." It starred a sailor named "Sdrowdab" ("Bad Words" spelled backwards) who gets into some hijinks on the high seas with the infamous Kraken. The Kraken and Sdrowdab get into a tussle, at which point ol' Sdrowdab unleashes some language that would make a sailor blush:

'"Fuck Fuck Fucky Fuck!" yelled Sdrowdab. "You're one slimy ass Kraken! Oh, Fuckity Fuck Fuck!"'

"Profanity offends my finer sensibilities," said Geoffrey Q. Kraken. "I'll take a double espresso, sir."
I did a double take, stopped reading, and gaped. Eldest Son smiled meaningfully.

"Ah, yes, what you said about inappropriate? Um, well..." And then I searched for a delicate way to put it. "Your teacher might be a bit...surprised. Shocked, even."

He burst into tears and snatched the paper from my hands.

"I knew it!" he screamed. "I'm gonna recycle this!"

Middle Son got very excited and managed to get his hands on the paper. He has just learned to read and is very proud of his skills. So he sounded out the word: "Fuck-tee? Fuck-tee? Fuck-tee!" He looked to me for approval.

Littlest Son said "Fuck-tee! Fuck-tee!" and laughed with great gusto.

"That's kind of a...bad word," I said.

Eldest Son burst into tears again and displayed his uvula.

"Wait, wait!" I said. "It's not like you have to scrap this story. How about you change the 'F' word to 'Fart'?"

"You know that will ruin it!" he wailed.

Well, he was right. Sometimes the F bomb just can't be replaced with a tame little replacement like "Fartity Pants" or "Farty Fart." Would Go the F to Sleep have become a bestseller? I don't think so. "Aw, sugar!" a coworker said recently. I cringed. Let's call a shit a shit, after all.

I asked him, "Where did you hear this word?" (Had he been reading mother's blog?) He shrugged his shoulders.

"You know, Eldest Son," I said. "It's just a word. Words can't hurt us. We shouldn't be afraid of words. Did you know that some people have banned books because they have bad words or thoughts in them that people don't like? I think you ought to bring that story in. Just be prepared. Your teacher's eyebrows will go up."

Why was I saying this? I don't know. I didn't want him to feel censored.

It was no use. He tore the story into little bits and ran off crying, saying things like "I wrote a banned story. I wrote a story that's gonna get banned." I gathered the bits and saved them. The pencil marks had faded from his grubby, angsty clutch. I could barely read the end, where the Kraken, deeply offended by the slew of bad language from the potty-mouthed sailor Sdrowdab, sinks beneath the waves "never ever to be seen again."

Fuckity fuck fuck, it was a pretty good story! But he made me promise not to tell a soul about it.

I lied very sweetly.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

It Ain't Bad to Get Mad!

My kids have a doll called "The Elf on the Shelf," which was a gift from last year's holiday season. It sits on a shelf or perches on top of the fridge or dangles from a light fixture during the day, staring with baleful eye at the children's antics. During the night, it flies on swift wings and narks to Santa about their misdeeds. Then it returns and sits in a different spot.

My children named their elf "Harry Spotts," and registered it with the Elf on the Shelf web site.

What it says or does makes no difference, for is Santa really going to deliver coal to my children? All the threats are in vain, for if they get one less plastic rinkamadink for Christmas they will not even notice, and will continue to carry on with their "mouth farts" and other atrocities at the dinner table.

"The elf is watching!" we may exhort, and they pause. But then they continue with the "mouth farts" and other bad things, and we know, in our hearts, that they have won.

I said to my husband the other day that I need my own Elf on the Shelf. My elf will have one clear purpose: To prevent me from sending angry emails. I am an Angry Email Sender. Ever since the advent of email, I have been sending angry ones. To wit:

• The three-pager I sent my wine-sodden, fat roommate back in Stuyvesant Town to tell her she was a fat, wine-sodden bitch

• The four-pager I sent my other roommate back in Brooklyn, to explain to her that she was a nutbag whose cats urinated excessively and she needed a swift kick in the brain

• The email(s) I sent to the beloved husband some years ago, to tell him that he had offended me in various regards and I wished to explain my rightness in all things, and his wrongness

• The email I sent to certain management personnel at a particular establishment not terribly long ago, in which I used the phrase "soul crushing" to rather devastating effect, such that it is now (soon to be) a trending hashtag on Twitter

If I could have written an email to my three boys expressing my foaming furor over the continuing #mouthfart trend, I would have done so! I find email to be a very handy tool for expressing rage.

Apparently, I need an elf to stop me from hitting "send," and to kindly direct me to put my missives in the freezer for a while to cool off. My elf will be called "Mr. Jinks" or maybe "Dave."

But do I? Isn't it okay, sometimes, to say exactly what we think? Is it okay to remain silent while a coworker sits next to one at a business dinner, chewing his or her salad with a dreadful "monghgh monghgh mongrrg" sound? It is acceptable to stand by while good people get reamed, and naughty ones get rewarded? Shall we be meek and quiet while someone tells an offensive joke, or lets her cats poo on one's comforter for sport, or drinks the last dregs of the wine box? Shall we make merry with the evil poo-head who piddled on our petunias?

That's when I realized. It ain't bad to get mad. It's GOOD to get mad. It's not like Santa's going to bring me coal because I hit "send" on that email that included the words "reptilian" and "fuck-headed douche muppet" in the same sentence. And do you know how I know that? Why, Sesame Street taught me:

Happy holidays, goats! Get maaaad! But only when you're dealing with some real assholes, of course.