Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A White Christmas for North Texas!

I hope everyone had a very nice Christmas and at the very least got to talk to someone they love, eat some favorite food, or in my case, experience the first snow of the season! It very rarely snows here in Texas on Christmas Day, so it was a real treat to watch the huge flakes floating down from the sky as we ate some excellent home-made chicken fried steak at Drew's grandmother's house.

There are still a number of friends and family I still need to see, and I'll be "making the rounds" probably through half of January because as many of you know, my day job work schedule picks up when you go on vacation, making me a busy girl.

But now that Christmas is technically over, I am looking forward to my favorite holiday, (second only to Halloween), and that is New Year's Eve. I use it as a day to celebrate and reflect on accomplishments of the past year, including what goals I may have met. I also think on mistakes I may have made, and what I have learned from the experiences. And I set goals for the next year. So expect a post soon on that.

In the meantime, enjoy the rest of your break if you get one! And oh! If you got a new Kindle or Nook e-reader, please take a look at my offerings in the sidebar to the right or in the "My Books" tab at the top of this blog. I write what's called "speculative fiction," which is a blanket term for Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and Horror stories. Everything I have out right now ranges from about $2.99 to $5.99, so it's a good bargain.

Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Experiencing 'The Hobbit'

Today I went to see The Hobbit. I was more than a little excited because one of the people who watched it with me (in addition to my sweet husband and cool dad) was my brother Clark. Now, for those of you not familiar with this brother/sister tradition, Clark and I went to see The Fellowship of the Ring together when it first came out more than 10 years ago. We also saw The Two Towers and Return of the King together at the midnight showings. So naturally, we had to see The Hobbit together for old time's sake.

(Note: Misty, if you're reading this, I wish you could have also been there. We missed you!)

Here we are again, bro & sis, a decade after seeing Fellowship together.

I remember right after watching The Fellowship of the Ring those 11 or so years ago, the high-school versions of Clark and myself had to walk home from the mall because my Buick wouldn't start. All the way home in the cold and rain, we played make-believe like we were kids in order to entertain ourselves. He was Gandalf, and I was Frodo.

"Gandalf!" I'd say with chattering teeth as my feet went numb from the miles of walking. (Literally miles--we didn't have cell phones then to call anyone to come get us because not everyone carried them at that time.) "Are we ever going to make it back to The Shire? My toes ache!"

"Stop your belly-aching, you fool," he'd reply in a perfect Ian McKellen voice. "Just follow me and keep up. Don't dawdle now!"

Thus began the spark of creativity we'd use to make our parodies...

I eventually acquired the soundtrack to Fellowship, and one night, he and I were listening to it, and he started reciting lines from the movie. I got the idea to grab the tape recorder because his impressions were good. He continued doing all the voices, but in a sort of Saturday Night Live spoof version of the scenes, to all the tracks on the CD, and I recorded him, trying and failing to hold back my laughter. I still have the cassette tapes, though what shape they're in I'm not sure... Those parodies were funny as heck!!

Anyway, so fast-forwarding back to 2012. Today, we have gone from being high school students living with our dad, to being "grown-ups" with kids (in his case) and a husband and dog (in my case) and having our own separate homes and jobs and lives. My how time flies. But experiencing the movie was still just as fun...

So what did I think of the movie, you're probably wondering?

Well, I found myself wanting to play make-believe at the end of the film just as much as ever. It was an amazing adaptation, more than I could have dreamed. The world was so perfectly created, a visual feast. I enjoyed seeing familiar characters as well as new, and the same went for the music: some familiar melodies mixed in with lovely new themes. Bilbo was charming (I really want to live in his house and have some of his cheese and wine). I loved the Dwarves--if there are any people I'd love to party with, it's those guys! It was great seeing Gandalf again, almost like he was an old friend. The story is basically Fantasy at its finest. No predictability. No hokey romance to help it sell. Just a pure, honest adventure and beautifully done.

The Hobbit was one of the first real novels I ever remember reading as a child. It's probably the first that I ever got "sucked into" like a magical, mental vortex. Clark told me tonight that he remembers listening to me read the book to him when we were kids, though I can't recall doing that. I might have done it though. Funny the different things our individual memories hang onto.

But back to the movie: the good thing about a movie like this is it truly does transport me to another world and makes me feel like an excited kid again. It ignites my creativity in a way that makes me itch to write. It makes me want to go play in a forest and pretend I'm a Hobbit or a Dwarf or an Elf and have an adventure of my own. It brings back good memories with my brother, whom I don't get to see very much these days because our lives have taken us in separate directions.

The downside of a movie like this is that it has to end... I have to return to mundane, disappointing, frustrating "real life." And as much as it inspires my creativity, it also throws me into despair because I start to wonder what is the point of writing anything when it'd be impossible to even come close to creating a masterpiece like that?


Oh, who cares about the downside.

I'm ready to go see it again.


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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

It's Never Too Late to Take a Compliment!

I've been in the process of gathering some of my stories that have been published by small or digital presses over the years to display on this spiffy blog here. I just found one of them, a short story called "The Chevalier Sisters: A Tale of Voodoo." I wrote it under C.J. Sully instead of Sullivan. It's a historical horror tale set in New Orleans. Anyway, after locating it on Amazon, I was happy to discover there is now a Kindle version for only $2.99 (the original paperback is about $15).

So I scrolled down and saw that there were two reviews of the anthology, and I browsed through them to see what these readers thought of the collection and also to see if my story might be mentioned. Umm...yes, it was, and Holy Compliments, Batman! Look at what Shroud Magazine's Book Reviews said about it:

"The pinnacle of the collection has to be C. J. Sully's "The Chevalier Sisters: A Tale of Voodoo" which weaves a southern gothic narrative about Thena Chevalier, and her constant struggle in life with her physical disabilities, the emotionally heavy loss of her mother, and the antagonistic torments of her sister, Dusa. With a revelatory ending reminiscent of Poe, Sully's story is sure to capture the attention of any horror fans."

Though the review was written a year and a half ago, it was still quite an honor to randomly come across it on a quiet Tuesday evening while I sipped on some hot chocolate.

Horror fans, you can purchase your copy of the anthology -->here<-- if you like.

G'night, and remember, it's never too late to take a compliment!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

About E-books and E-readers (for those of you who are curious but too afraid to ask)

It's come to my attention that there are still many of you folks out there who don't know how e-books! The word "kindle" means nothing to you, and just the idea of reading a novel on a screen instead of paper makes your skin crawl because it's so unusual. Not to worry, though. I'm devoting this blog post to the basics of e-books/e-readers to help answer some of your questions that you might be too afraid to ask.

1) What is an e-reader?

An e-reader is an electronic device primarily used to read digital books. (Think "E" for "electronic.") Kindle and Nook are the two most popular e-readers today. Here's a commercial for a Kindle:

There's not really much difference between a digital book and a paper book, other than the fact that it's not paper. You still get the same story and cover art, etc. loaded onto your e-reader.

2) How much does an e-reader cost?

E-readers vary in price, and they are getting more affordable every year. A regular Kindle that primarily holds only books costs about $70 right now. But just like there are various types of computers and TV's, there are also a variety of e-readers, some of which have more functions. Some e-readers like the Nook HD are a lot more fancy. They can do more than show books, so they're more expensive. Here's a commercial for the Nook:

3) Where can you get e-readers?

You can buy Kindles from and Nooks from Barnes & Noble (online and in phyiscal stores). Other less popular e-readers like Sony e-readers (which is what I have) can be bought online, as well as in some electronics stores.

4) Can you read e-books without an e-reader device?

Yes, you can! If you have a computer (or a smart phone or an ipad) you can download free programs from Amazon (here) and Barnes and Noble (here). You don't have to spend a penny on the programs ("apps" they call them), and once you have them, you can start buying e-books and reading them on your computer, phone, etc. I have the Kindle app downloaded to my laptop, and I read books that I buy from Amazon on there.

5) I'm scared of the reading experience not being the same on an e-reader as it is with a paper book. How can it be the same?

It won't be the exact same, and that's OK. You won't have pages to turn or a physical book to put on the shelf. But I've asked people who have recently given e-books a try, and they all agree that whether you read a book on paper or on a screen, you still have the same experience of suspense, fear, love, sadness, joy that reading gives. Good stories are good no matter what. If you read them in e-book format, you will remember the stories just the same afterwards and hold them in your memory just as if you'd read them on paper.

6) What are some other benefits to reading e-books as opposed to paper books?

*It saves massive amounts of trees, thus helping out the environment in a big way.

*E-readers also have a function for people to increase the font size, so for those of you who have trouble with your vision, this is a real bonus.

*E-books never get old and dusty, so for those of you allergic to old books (like myself, unfortunately), you never have to worry about having those annoying sneeze attacks.

*E-books are often much cheaper than paper books. (Example: my book Wings of the Divided is only $3.95, which is less than half the price for a regular paperback novel.)

*You have the option to read a sample online of most e-books before you buy them.

*You don't have to leave the house to buy an e-book, and once you buy it online, you can start reading it within minutes!

*(This just added from one of my readers!) You might also point out that most e-readers have built in dictionaries and all you have to do is highlight a word to define it. Also copy and paste which comes in handy when you want to email a paragraph or two of the book you are reading to your friend. And most keep track of where you are at if you are reading your books on multiple devices. Portability is probably the coolest thing about E-Readers. You have access to your entire library wherever you are!

*The new above comment also made me think of another thing: e-readers are fantastic for reading gigantic books like The Stand by Stephen King. I started reading the hardback, but it was enormous AND dusty, so I just got a copy of it for my e-reader, and it's sooo much easier to read.

Remember, just because you choose to read e-books does not mean you have to read only e-books. I read books in all formats. I have that little Sony e-reader that I told you about, and I read some books on that. I buy new paper books, as well as used paper books. And I also have a library card, which I use to borrow both paper and e-books from the local library.

Just imagine this: at one point, telephones were brand new, TV's were brand new, microwaves were brand new, and so-on. Some people resisted these inventions because they liked cooking on a stove, for instance, or preferred to listen to shows on the radio...but they also, deep down, didn't understand the technology and were a little afraid of the new devices. Please don't be afraid of this new book technology. Sometimes change can be a good thing!

If you have any more questions about e-readers or e-books, please don't hesitate to ask. Questions and comments are always welcome!


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Friday, December 7, 2012

Clutter Find

Whoa there! Take a look at this little gem! Hah!

That tiny tot you see is the very author of this blog. I'm striking a pose along with my dad and mom, back when they were still married. I guess they thought it'd be fun to play dress-up and get a photo taken back somewhere in the neighborhood of 1983-84. I'm glad they did. This is one of the first pictures I have memories of looking at as a child. Rediscovering it today at the bottom of a box of clutter was a blast from the past.

It kind of throws me for a loop to think that I'm looking at versions of my parents who were the same age then as I am now. I wonder if, like myself, they realized how much they'd grown in their 20's and were amazed at how many of life's lessons they'd learned. I also wonder if they, like myself, were excited and apprehensive about the next decade ahead--if they thought about whether it would prove to be such a rough but educational decade, or if it'd sail a bit more smoothly.

I don't think 30 is old at all (I'm one year shy of it, just fyi). I don't mind the aging process like some people do. I don't run away from it, don't freak out if I find a new line on my face, etc. I almost look forward to growing older. The person I am today is so much wiser than the person I was at 20. I can only imagine what I'm going to learn in the next 10, 20, 30 years of my life. Is it strange that I actually look forward to being that wise, silver-haired old lady, who is maybe a little nutty, but who still provides great nuggets of wisdom and witticisms to all the young-ins that come visit and eat her baked goods?

Sheesh, it's amazing where looking at a photo can take you...