Good-bye PizzaBoxDrawcember

ImageNew Year’s Resolution #1 – Quit asking pizza workers to draw pictures of gorillas throwing dice.

New Year’s Resolution #2 – Quit eating pizza for at least three months.

I need the next three months to work off the amount of pizza I’ve eaten in December alone. Getting that first picture under the pizza box lid was like being on crack (not that I’ve ever been on crack), but I needed more, more, more!

The second time we ordered pizza and requested a drawing, Rich used a Pizza Hut app to order. The request was ignored. The pizza didn’t taste quite as good as one with a gorilla drawing in it.

The third time, he asked for a drawing over the phone, and there must have been an artist on staff at this pizza shop, because we got a killer gorilla with dice! Eat your heart out over this gorilla, David Harding!

(Cue heavenly music as you view the drawing.)ImageImageThree days before Christmas, I drove up north to meet our son and do a little Christmas shopping with him. We stopped at a pizza shop next door to his apartment building to place an order for delivery before heading back to his apartment. There was a young girl behind the register. I told her I wanted double cheese, pepperoni, and jalapenos. She asked, “Those are green peppers, right?” I told her they were green, but not “green peppers.” No green peppers for me! I wanted hot jalapeno peppers. Once she had our order in the system, I asked her to have someone draw a gorilla throwing dice under the lid. After I repeated the request a few times, and she fully understood what I was asking, she smiled and said, “Ok.” Our son gave her $5.00 and said half was for the delivery guy and to give the other half to whoever draws the gorilla. As we were walking out the door, I heard her ask, “Jim, what’s half of $5.00?”

It’s no wonder this is what was in our pizza box:Image ImageIf you look closely, you’ll see yellow banana peppers and not jalapenos. We still thought it tasted awesome, but what a freaky little dinosaur with tiny little hands that couldn’t even hold the dice if he tried. Hahahahaha!

Here is our last pizza of the year. This was when we knew we had a problem and needed to stop. Don’t feel sorry for us. We learned our lesson. We won’t let David Harding lead us down the primrose pizza path again. Image ImageWhat about you? Did you get pulled in by the seductive lure of PizzaBoxDrawcember? Will you next year?

Overture, Curtains, Lights!

ImageThis is it, the night of nights
No more rehearsing and nursing a part
We know every part by heart
Overture, curtains, lights
This is it, you’ll hit the heights
And oh what heights we’ll hit
On with the show this is it

It’s that time again. Time to acknowledge some really great bloggers who have passed out awards, and time to pass out some awards from here as well.

I’ve come to appreciate the awards. I’m honored when someone has thought enough of me and/or my silly blog to send an award my way, and I like how the awards give us an opportunity to point others in the direction of bloggers we enjoy and think others would, too.

We may run over time with today’s awards, so I’m going to list the award winners first. They are more important than any babbling I may do, so here we go …

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Click the award for the rules for this award.

On September 13, recently published author Tessa Sheppard honored me with the Reader Appreciation Award. I am passing this award on to three good men who you might appreciate reading:
vinnylanni – Live the Dream. He’s a dreamer, he still watches cartoons, and I like his outlook.
Simplicity Lane – Steven writes some beautiful pieces and poetry. I like his “building blocks.”
tincantheory – I love Jerron Tables. He writes things that I can’t make heads or tails of, and then he writes something that has me tapping my toes. I find him hugely entertaining (even though he can be quite serious at times), and he has the best tags out there.

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Click the award for the rules for this award.

On September 28, Zen of Zen Scribbles awarded to me the Super Sweet Blog Award. I choose these super sweet women to accept this award. They have wonderful blogs, and I think of each of them as friends:
Dianne Gray author
Michelle Proulx Official
retiredruth Life in the 50’s and beyond
stuff i tell my sister
Maggie Myklebust

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Click the award for the rules for this award

The One Lovely Blog Award came to me from Chelsea Brown of The Jenny Mac Book Blog on September 14. I nominate these lovely ladies – and two lovely critters – for this award:
Valerie Clarizio – I’m reading her lovely book right now. It’s really good!
Tales of a Charm City Chick – La La is lovely and fun. I enjoy her sense of humor.
Scatterbrain – I enjoy reading about Jae’s lovely life and family.
Seriously Seeking Grannies – Mary is a favorite blogger of mine. She has a lovely spirit, and I enjoy reading her musings.
Teaching David to Cook – Rita Kay is as lovely as they come. She is sweet, full of life, and I always enjoy a visit with her.
Deep in the Heart of Textiles – Textile Ranger has wonderful, lovely photos of textiles treasures. I always enjoy a visit to her blog.
Spineless Wonders – Cyrus and Willy. A snail and a worm. They are lovely together. You just have to go see.

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Click the award for the rules for the award.

The Liebster Blog Award came twice. Once from Malinka of Malinka’s Studio on October 9, and one from Jackie at Change Is Good…..Right??? This award comes with questions to be answered, and I choose these two authors for this award:
Keri Peardon
That Girl Who Reads Books

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Click the award for the rules for the award.

Three Very Inspiring Blogger Award(s) came my way from Chelsea Brown (11/16), Marie at good morning, joe (12/4), and from Claire at LilyPetal (12/16).  This nice mix of bloggers will inspire you in their own unique way.
Brother Jon
Daniel Koeker
Bo Lumpkin at Gatorhead Comics
Rachelle at A Rich, Full Life in Spite of It
Kris at vikingessa

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Click the award for the rules for the award.

I was very honored to receive five stars for the Blog of the Year 2012 Award. They came from Maggie, Chelsea, Mary, Carolyn, and Paula. I think these bloggers deserve Blog of the Year 2012 awards:
Tessa Sheppard – One of the hardest working writers I know.
The Cheeky Diva – Julie! Cheeky and fun!
Pam Tanzey, Artist – Her artwork is fantastic, and she even does it for Trader Joe’s.
Before I Forget – Katykins! Kate! Creator of Cyrus and Willy. You never know what you’ll get here, and it’s always fun!
Michelle at Play – Probably one of the nicest people I’ve run across in the blogosphere. She makes great lists, and she has wonderful bits of wisdom to share.
Kat at Travel Garden Eat – Kat is inviting, and her blog is a visual delight in addition to giving us wonderful words to read.

 

The music is playing. They’re telling me to hurry up.

 

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Click the award for the rules for the award.

The final award is humbly and graciously accepted. I was amongst a fine group of people chosen to receive the first ever Cheeky Diva Award on October 7. She is so cheeky, she made her own award. What do you have to do to accept the award? In her own words, “Not a damn thing.” I think these fine folks would love a Cheeky Diva Award, too:
Kate at Let’s Get Milkshakes! – If nothing else, read about her fabulous vacation to Fiji.
Marcus at Voices in His Head – You get fabulous humor here.
The Famous David Harding – He’s just fabulous. Period.
Jackie at Change Is Good…..Right??? – She posts fabulous recipes, her fabulous comments are witty, and her writing is fabulous.
john the aussie – There’s always a laugh at his blog, and his Murphy’s Road Rules posts are fabulous!

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I simply cannot make this post any longer. I will do a separate post with answers to questions and some fascinating to me, boring to you, tidbits about me to go along with these awards.

Please do check out some of these fine blogs. There is something for everyone here, and it took a couple of hours to assemble all of the links, so please click some or all!

Finally, I wish I had my own award to give. I’m not quite as cheeky as Julie, but if I did have my own award, I would give one to everyone who follows me, and one to everyone I follow. I’ve only been blogging for seven months, and it has been a great experience. It’s been wonderful getting to know so many nice people.

If you stop by and see your award, please let me know. I’m afraid it will take days for me to notify everyone.  If you haven’t clicked on the award for your rules, click here for all of the award rules.

There’s A Bloody Mary at the End of the Mayan Calendar

ImageMy new book is published! I’m celebrating with a Bloody Mary that has been spiced up with jalapeno dust.

This is the book I wrote in November for National Novel Writing Month. Start to finish, November 3 to December 21, and I squeaked in under the end-of-the-world deadline. I hit the publish button at Smashwords at 8:00 p.m. and at Amazon at 9:27 p.m.

Windy City Hunter is live at Smashwords, and will go live at Amazon, hopefully, by morning. It will be at Barnes & Noble and other outlets as Smashwords distributes and retailers update their inventory.

I want to share some fun things with you about the book:

– One of my favorite bloggers is a genuinely nice guy with a great sense of humor – Christopher De Voss. His blog posts, and his one-liners in blog comments, tickle my funny bone. Chris is a Imagepoker player and a zombie expert, and he recently had a story published in Undead Uncensored, an anthology from the Zombie Survival Crew.

I asked him for permission to use his name for a cameo appearance in my book under the name of Chris/Christopher De Floss. He was a peach to say yes, and he promised not to sue me. After the initial scene with Chris in chapter three, he’s mentioned six more times throughout the book, and that includes prominence in the ending. It’s pretty cool, and if you don’t think you want to wade through all of the Susan Hunter books, read this one. It stands alone just fine, and I think it will even entertain the guys.

ImageGlenno at Erehwon, a.k.a Arnold the Armadillo, enjoys photography. I took a fancy to one of his photos, and he sent the original to me. Rich printed it, framed it, and it now hangs above my desk. I described this photo and one other (b/w with red door) as paintings in the book. They are now hanging in a fictitious art gallery on Rush Street in Chicago.

Image– At the last minute (truly, just a couple of hours ago), I made two small changes in the book as shout-outs to David Harding. I won’t say what they are at this time, but will wait for him to read and see if he finds them. Don’t shake your head like that. He will read the book.

I want to thank all of you, my blogging friends, who have been helpful, encouraging, and supportive while I was writing this year. It’s truly appreciated. I still can’t believe I started writing and actually published these books; it’s quite surreal. I say it all the time, because it is true: my books aren’t perfect, but they are entertaining.

Also, I do apologize for not visiting your blogs this past week. Editing has been a priority for quite a while now. I promise to be by soon to catch up with all of you. I know I missed some great posts as I watched them scroll by in my reader.

It will likely be a while before I write the next Susan Hunter book, so I want to do a little babbling about the books in general.

I like the way they have progressed. Susan manages a weight loss center by day and works and plays at a racquetball club in the evenings and on weekends. I tried to mix up the locations, characters, and stories between the books.

New_Sunshine_Hunter_386Sunshine Hunter – The story starts in a racquetball club in Carbide City, Ohio. The book basically starts out as chick-lit. Susan and her best friend, Darby, go to Florida, and this is where the mystery starts. There is a bit of romance, humor, and some action. The ending is back home in Carbide City at the racquetball club.

 

Final_Big_Apple_Hunter1Big Apple Hunter – The pace is slower in this book. It starts as chick-lit with the setting in the weight loss center this time. There are some flashbacks in this story. I didn’t know you shouldn’t do that, but I’m a rookie author, and I’m sticking with it. Susan accompanies Darby to New York City for a weekend, and this is where the mystery starts. It is then brought back home to Carbide City and the weight loss center for the climax. Once again, there is a bit of humor, some romance, and action.

 

ImageSin City Hunter – This book moves faster, and I finally had clarity on the use of “which” vs “that” in writing. 🙂 Susan is in Las Vegas for a week of work at the corporate offices of the weight loss company. She flies out a few days early for some fun and relaxation. Her parents join her, and there is a new character introduced. Once again, we have chick-lit, a (murder) mystery, some romance, action, and I think the humor worked well in this book.

 

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Big Easy Hunter – The book starts on a racquetball court in Carbide City, and two mysteries are quickly introduced. A character only mentioned before has a main role in this book. Susan, Darby, and the new character go to New Orleans for a wedding, where there is yet another mystery. The book ends back in Carbide City with a big climax. Chick-lit, romance, humor, action – and dogs! I love this book.

 

ImageWindy City Hunter – This is the first book that has no racquetball playing in it, and there aren’t any scenes at the weight loss center. It takes place entirely in Chicago. The tone of this book is different. It’s more “pure mystery” than the others. There is a flicker of romance (hard to have romance when Mick is in England), and some humor. A new character joins the fray near the end.

I don’t know what’s next for Susan. I have an idea for one more book, but even though I feel quite certain number six will be the end, I’m learning to never say never. I also know that I may not have the final say in the matter. I’ve been to Los Angeles, and Susan just might want to go there, too.

Comment! I’m giving away five copies of Windy City Hunter and will draw the winners from the comments section! 🙂

I’ll leave you with this. I didn’t pony up the money to be able to post this little video wherever I want, but clicking the picture will take you to YouTube where you can see a little promo I put together for Windy City Hunter.

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Editing Your Own Work

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When in the midst of writing a book, I like to go back and read what I’ve already written. I usually do this at the beginning of each writing session. I read the previous chapter or two to set the stage again in my mind, and it allows me to do some early proofreading.

Here are my next steps:

1. Read the book on my computer from chapter one to the end. This is my first full pass, and I’ll usually catch typos and missing words/commas/quotation marks. Sentences are sometimes reworked. Details might be wrong from one part of the book to the next, and I try to fix all of this on the first pass.

2. Wait a day or two and read it again. I still read the book on my computer, but I read out loud this time. I read as if I’m reading for the audio book version. Laugh if you must, but I pay closer attention when I read as if someone is listening. Reading out loud is a good way to find all of the things that sound “clunky” or don’t portray normal speech patterns.

3. Notebook time. I make a list of unnecessary/overused words and the number of times I used them. Here are a few that are troublesome for me in my current project: that (343), just (78), very (101); the list is long. Other words are: fact, quite, truly, try to, shocked, surprised, a lot, really, pretty, put, place, suddenly, took, looked, time, walked, and there are more.

This is the step that takes the longest. I look at every use of each word. Most of the usage is fine in its context, but if I can eliminate or trade out the word, I do. I write with simple words, and if I change a word, it is usually to another simple word. It is during this step that I am most likely to rewrite a sentence.

4. Print a hard copy. When I go back to editing in a few minutes, this is where I am in my current project. The book is printed, and I will now read it as if I had purchased it and am reading for my own enjoyment. Errors, poor sentence structure, and lack of commas seem to jump off the page at this stage.

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Sneak peek of my new cover!

When I reach the end of the book, this is when I’m usually surprised and think, “If someone else had written this, and I had bought it, I would have really liked it.” And I think that’s important! I’ve read that we should write to please ourselves, and our work is more likely then to be pleasing to others.

5. Two more copies are printed – this time for my beta readers. Both copies come back fairly quickly with changes, but there usually aren’t too many. I try to leave the book alone while they read, and then I make their corrections on my master – or do some rewriting based on their suggestions.

6.  Time to print one last copy and read the book backwards one page at a time. This way, I don’t get caught up in the story, and I tend to read individual sentences and paragraphs with an eye for anything we may have missed.

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It’s almost as good as “maroon.”

When I’m satisfied we’ve done the best we could, and the words aren’t macaronic, my book is ready to publish.

Do you do your own editing? Is your process similar? Am I missing any important steps?

macaronic: muddled or mixed up
A challenge from Zen.

Edited to add reader tips from comments below:

From Book Writing Tips: “If it is possible and you can, after your 1st step which is to read the book in your computer from chapter one to the end, why not leave it for a much longer time like 15 days or a month perhaps? In this way, you get a clear head and you get to read the book as if you’re not the one who wrote it.”

From Dianne Gray: “When you read it on your computer can I suggest you change the font. Enlarge it and change it to something you’re not used to looking at – I find I pick up a lot of mistakes this way.”

Pro Writing Aid

Grammarly

SmartEdit

 

No More Cranky Interviewer

ImageZen at Zen Scribbles has reviewed my first book, Sunshine Hunter, and graciously interviewed me as well. It’s my first interview by a genuinely nice person.

Hop on over and take a look. There’s chocolate cake, and we’re giving away free books!

http://zenscribbles.wordpress.com/2012/12/10/a-review-a-giveaway-and-a-chat-with-maddie-cochere-on-everything-from-writing-to-cake/

Sunday Night Pizza Bender

ImageIn case you haven’t heard, something is afoot this month.

PizzaBoxDrawcember is an age-old celebration created by David Harding last week in which participants order pizza online and ask the pizza shop to draw something awesome inside the box.”

I lifted most of those words from Chris Morphew who is also celebrating PizzaBoxDrawcember.

I’ve actually never heard of a pizza bender before, but La La of Tales of a Charm City Chick fame recently blogged about a pizza bender with her commitment to participate in PizzaBoxDrawcember.

Rich and I chose tonight for a double whammy – to have a pizza bender and celebrate ImagePizzaBoxDrawcember.

My telephone call to the pizza shop went like this:

Me: I’d like to order a large pizza with the works for delivery. Oh, and light sauce.

Pizza Shop Owner: You got it!

Me: And I have a request.

Pizza Shop Owner: Ok.

Me: Under the lid, could you draw a picture of a gorilla playing dice? It’s not for me! It’s for a guy in Australia.

Pizza Shop Owner: You got it! Coming right up!

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UPDATE! Monday, December 10: Paula (whom we all love) told her sister, Renae, about PizzaBoxDrawcember, and her family ordered pizza tonight and asked for a Christmas tree with dice under the tree. Her comment about ordering the pizza is below. Here is the picture the nice people at the pizza shop drew for them. Thanks for sharing, Renae!

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Renae’s pizza box picture. Click for a closer look!

What are your favorite pizza toppings? If you are in the United States, do you put shrimp on your pizza? What about walnuts and pears? Will you be participating in PizzaBoxDrawcember? Go on, try it! Call your favorite pizza shop and ask for a drawing!

Susan Hunter Gangnam Style

All Susan Hunter needs is for someone in one country, like India, to fall in love with her, spread the love around, Imageand before you know it, she will be the next big thing (like PSY’s Gangnam Style), and the entire country will be buying the books and making fabulous Bollywood movies about Susan and Darby and their adventures.

Hey! A girl can dream, can’t she?

In October, Paula Acton tagged me for The Next Big Thing, but I didn’t realize at the time it had an expiration date. You can see Paula’s answers to her next big thing here: Voices Across The Void, A Collection of Ghostly Tales

Recently, Valerie Clarizio wanted to tag me for this, but as I was still writing for NaNo, I declined. You can read about her next big thing here: Cookies for Santa

When Chelsea Brown tagged me last Wednesday for The Next Big Thing, I thought it must be time to answer the questions. You can read about Chelsea’s next big thing here: Jenny Mac and the Man of Secrets

There are ten questions to answer. I’m sorry if I’ve been babbling for so long about this book that you already know the answers, but here we go …

1. What is the working title of your book?

Windy City Hunter

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

Susan has been to Florida, New York, Las Vegas, and New Orleans. It was simply time to go to Chicago. My husband helped me with plot ideas in July.

3. What genre does your book fall under?

My books are all noted as mystery, but this is the first book in the series that is a true mystery throughout.

4. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I enjoy mystery books with an element of fun and even silliness. Gemma Halliday comes to mind, Laura Levine, and dare I say, Janet Evanovich.

5. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I have an image of Susan and Darby in my mind, so it’s hard to think of someone playing them. I will leave that to the casting director, but here are a couple of looks (not necessarily the right people) which are close:

Image6. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? 

Susan and Darby bite off more than they can chew when they go to Chicago for a cooking competition and become embroiled in a murder. (Nicely cliched, eh?)

7. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Self-published – before Christmas I hope!

8. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Twenty-four days. This is my National Novel Writing Month book. I started on November 3 and finished on November 26.

9. Who or What inspired you to write this book?

I had the storyline in mind, and it was simply time for the next book in the series. NaNo lit the fire under me to start writing.

10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

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The book is typical Susan Hunter. She has a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Hopefully, readers will laugh with her, and if they don’t cry with her, they will
 certainly feel sorry for her at times. There are pink shoelaces on one man, a gorilla head on another, and a wise-guy investigator involved with both.

All of my books stand alone with individual story content, but the books are chronological with respect to Susan’s relationship:

#1 – Sunshine Hunter
#2 – Big Apple Hunter
#3 – Sin City Hunter
#4 – Big Easy Hunter
#5 – Windy City Hunter – due out this month!

Just in case Susan is not The Next Big Thing, here are a couple of authors whose books just might be. I tag these two fine Michaels to answer the same questions next Wednesday:

Michael (Mike) Akin – author of The Distorted Trail
12/12/2012 – Edited to add a link to Mike’s answers to The Next Big Thing.

Michael Fedison – author of young adult sci-fi/fantasy, The Eye Dancers
12/12/2012 – Edited to add a link to Michael’s answers to The Next Big Thing.