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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Descriptive Writing Activity

If you are a writer looking to develop your description-writing skills, I just contributed a guest blog to Indie Author Culture Corner. It's a fun and easy activity that anyone can do. Click -->here<-- if you're interested!


Saturday, December 29, 2012

Three Thoughts on Exiting 2012

Picture taken at Trinity University
The end of 2012 is upon us, and inevitably, just like the end of every year, I find myself deep in thought. It's that annual time to go deep inside of myself and come to some conclusions about life. I've decided to share three main thoughts of mine upon exiting 2012:

#1) A charming personality is not the same thing as good character. The older I get, the less I care to have relationships with alluring but fickle people who have no depth, and the more I want to get to know those quiet souls who may seem reserved on the outside but who hold a great wealth of wisdom and integrity inside of them.

#2) I don't want to write anything but what I love to write. I've toyed around with a number of different genres over the past couple of years, and one of my goals for 2012 was to figure out which one I wanted to stick with. Turns out, it's the very thing I started writing back in high school: speculative fiction (sci-fi, fantasy, and horror) and every now and then, pen some creative non-fiction. I enjoy stories that are different, stories that are a bit fantastical, stories that may be a little dark. So that's what I need to write. And if that doesn't sell a million copies because it's not popular pulp fiction, so be it. I'm just not cut out to write just for the money, and it's good knowing that.

#3) A good diet is something I want to incorporate for the rest of my life. The benefits of eating well are astounding when they come to overall health. During 2012, I challenged myself to eat more fish and less red meat, consume more dark chocolate and less pastries, drink more green tea and coconut water and less alcohol, etc. Not only have these changes kept me at a weight which I like, I also haven't gotten sick but maybe twice the entire year--and the episodes were very short-lived. I want to continue my "healthy eating habits," as Mom calls it, and save myself from bouts of indigestion every other day.


Now, let me ask you: what thoughts do you have of 2012 as we enter into a new year? Comments always welcome.

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!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Best 2012 Christmas Present *Given*

I don't know about you, but I enjoy finding the "perfect" surprise present for people almost as much as receiving such a gift. Every year, for Christmas or birthday, I usually manage to come across something that I know one of my friends or family will really enjoy, no doubts about it. Sometimes I even let my creativity soar and "make" the gift, whether it's writing someone a story or putting together a themed "survival kit"

This year, the Best Present Given went to my step-dad Stephen. Back in October, I found him this Pink Floyd jigsaw puzzle at a record store in Austin. Not only is Pink Floyd his favorite band ever, he also really digs jigsaw puzzles.


And he's usually a total Scrooge! 



Other highlights from Christmas with my family include letting my adopted sis Natalie help with the chicken spaghetti...






...and also laughing at my mother when she didn't watch the scary Joker parts on The Dark Knight:




Sometimes I wonder, having such a sweet little mother, where in the world did I get my sometimes dark and twisted imagination?



Merry Christmas, everybody!




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?

**SIGH**

Oh, who cares about the downside.

I'm ready to go see it again.

*****

Add C.J. Sullivan's books to your library. -->Shop here!<--

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

You Shouldn't Own a Dog If...

Hey, you all know about my little guy, Kaiser, right?




He's the first dog that I've owned outside of having a family dog. That's right. Before I got married, it was just Kaiser and I. As a present for graduating from college and moving into my very own little rent house, my mother let me pick him out of her mini-dachshund's litter. I chose Kasier. He was freakishly big compared to the others, but he was also the one who was the biggest wimp. I felt sorry for him. He was so awkward but so cute.

Anyway, after owning Kaiser for 5 years (and during that time, working for a vet and later for a pet resort,) I have come to the conclusion that many dog owners shouldn't own dogs. A reminder of this hit me this morning when I was out taking Kaiser for a walk and saw our neighbor's dog tethered to a tree. Oh, and by the way, the owners were nowhere in sight. UGH! Irresponsible much? Not only could that dog strangle itself and die, it could also break free and hurt someone, including itself. It was annoyingly trying to attack us but couldn't reach, and we still had to go to the other side of the street to get away from it. 

So that brings me to the title of my blog. Let me know if you agree with these. 


You Shouldn't Own a Dog If...


#1) You tether your dog to a tree, pole, or anything other than YOURSELF (and that should only be during a walk).


#2) You don't bother to get your dogs vaccinated with the basic shots, such as the parvo preventative and rabies preventative. (Speaking from experience, treating puppies who get parvo doesn't always work, and administering all the fluids with that giant needle through the belly is especially traumatic on the little baby dogs. But the illness can be avoided so easily.)


#3) You don't use flea and tick prevention on your dog. (Umm...yuck.)


#4) You don't give your dog a heartworm preventative. (When your dog gets heartworm via a mosquito bite, the no-guarantee treatment is super expensive. Plus, how would you like your heart to be eaten through with worms?)


#5) You underfeed or way overfeed your dog. (You don't want your dog to starve. On the flip side, dog obesity puts your pet at risk for the same diseases as obese people, for instance, diabetes.)


#6) You feed your dog a dangerous amount of table scraps that are toxic for canines. (If you're curious about what food is dangerous to give your dog, click -->here<--.)


#7) You have no extra time in your day to give to your dog and end up depriving it of any attention. (They get lonely just like people do.)


#8) You physically abuse your dog. (That one's a major "Duh.")


#9) You don't fix your fence, and your dog repeatedly gets out of the yard and runs wild. (We see a lot of this in our neighborhood, unfortunately.)



Those are the things that come directly to mind. What do you think? Have any to add to the list?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Dad's Hall Closet (Before and After)

Check out this decluttering masterpiece...


BEFORE:


It stored everything from old vinyl records to obsolete camcorders.



(3 hours of sorting things, moving things, reorganizing things, and taking multiple trips to the dumpster to trash things later...)

AFTER:


It went from Catch-All Closet to Cleaning Supplies closet. Very Nice!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Creating Compelling Characters

Mystery author Joyce Strand was kind enough to host me as a guest-blogger over at her blog this weekend. I'm offering a little of my advice to other writers on how to make their characters more compelling. If you're interested, please click to be transported to her site -->here<--.

Hope everyone's having a good weekend!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Trying Too Hard


This year has been a tough year.

I have chosen to let go of some bad habits (certain relationships, obsessive modes of thinking, etc.) that were only serving to bring me down.

I have also had to admit to myself that it's time to let go of certain unmet goals I've held onto for too long.

All of this soul-cleansing, as good for me as it may be, has left me feeling weightless, wandering through a void I have found increasingly more difficult to ignore.

With all this space opening up, I've been really worried I won't do the "right" thing next...follow the "right" path...write the "right" next book...develop the "right" new goals...find the "right" new hobbies...meet the "right" new friends...strengthen the "right" existing relationships, and so on.

Today I nearly had to breathe into a paper bag I got so anxious about it.

And then, just when I felt on the verge of an emotional collapse, I had an epiphany. It was like a light-bulb came on over my head.

I realized that at just about every turning point in my life I can recall, I reached a moment where I...

#1) let go of the things that were no longer serving me, including the very thought of them

and

#2) I just stopped trying so hard to choose a direction.

And almost every time I did this, a perfect new phase of my life blossomed right around the corner. I was provided with new opportunities to live and learn and grow, many opportunities that literally came to me; I didn't have to madly pursue them. All I had to do was live each day as its own, in the present moment, and follow my intuition.

A silly but apt example of this is a time when I was in the 10th grade: I had to write a poem for an English assignment, and I didn't really want to do it, but I did it anyway, barely giving it 30 minutes of my time. I turned it in, and the teacher of my class submitted these poems to a contest. A few months later, I got word that I'd won first place out of all the high schools in the state. First Place! And I had barely even tried! I just wrote it, just spontaneously created what came to me in the moment.

When I was in college, I was taking a news writing class for my English major, and one day the professor approached me to ask if I wanted to be editor-in-chief of the college newspaper. I hadn't even known there was an opening. I didn't even know what the job entailed. But I was in the class, and the professor saw something in me he thought worth cultivating, so voila. I took the job, and it was one of the most fun and enlightening jobs I've had to date.

After breaking up with the guy I thought I was going to marry, I threw myself into the dating world. I stopped focusing on finding lasting love and instead chose to take each day and date as they came and simply get out there and meet guys and have fun. It wasn't too long after that I started dating someone I was so very comfortable with, someone who wanted to commit even before I did, and who eventually married me.

So I think I'm going to let go of the need to figure out my next step, and I'm going to let my next step come to me.


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 Amazon.com 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!

*****

Add C.J. Sullivan's books to your library. -->Shop here!<--

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...

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Little Christmas Post

I'm not as big on decorating for Christmas as a lot of people I know. (Halloween is my favorite holiday.) But I still put up a few decorations because, hey, why not? Christmas fans like it, and it's tradition.


So for you Holly Jolly people who really get into it, here's my little tree and some stockings:




I would get a larger tree, except for two things:

1) My weenie dog chews on anything that's within his reach.

2) The little tree is too convenient. I just pull it out of the box, all decorated, and voila! Two minutes of effort vs two hours. ;)


Here are some close-ups of a few of the decorations on my little tree:


Weenie dog ornament


Frog ornament


Glass flower


Ninja Turtle


You know, there's this part of me that really wishes Christmas could be more about making memories with family and friends than having to buy everyone a present--particularly buying presents for people you don't even see or talk to outside of the holidays. It's also hard having to wrack my brain for something that I want these days! I feel like have everything I want and need, as I'm just not that materialistic of a person. In fact, I've been downsizing my "stuff" to make life simpler. Just give me your time, and I appreciate that much more than a physical present.

But I don't want to seem like a Scrooge, so I will say that Christmas is generally a cozy holiday, a day of hugs and warmth during a cold time of year (although it's currently in the 80s here in Texas right now, which is blowing a lot of people's minds.) And I do like the artistic/personal side of decorating your own tree.

What about you?

What about Christmas do you like?

What do you not like?

Is there anything you do that is a unique sort of tradition, not related to the usual tree and lights and presents? Comments welcome.