Monday, February 27, 2017

Dead dolls, Bookish Meets Boy, and some bird pictures...

Creepy doll head. Viera Wetlands. Feb 2017

You know how when people find dead bodies and at first they think what they're seeing isn't real, because what are the odds, right? And then they realize it's real and they freak out. Well, when I saw that doll head, of course my first thought was that it couldn't be real. Seriously. Just a head? And a baby's head?! And, like, we're the first ones to come across it right there just off the road in the Viera Wetlands? I don't think so.

And then...yeah, then nothing. It was totally a doll's head. Somebody's playing games. That's what I think. Ah, ha. Ha. Good one.

February is over! Remember last year when I wrote about February and the vomitorium? That was so cool. Anyway, I got flowers for Valentine's Day; what did you get? And I bought a bunch of Girl Scout Cookies, because where I live, that's what you do in February. You have to make a point of going to Walmart on the weekends or you miss out. Can't let that happen!

I've been trying to blog at least once a week and I didn't have anything really interesting happen to me this past week so I'm going to post the review I got for Bookish Meets Boy. I think you're supposed to do that when you're a writer. You about yourself and your books. So, whatever. Here goes. Oh, and at the end, I'll post some pictures I got over the weekend at the Viera Wetlands.

I've been entering books, etc. into the Royal Palm Literary Awards for a few years now. So far, I've always won something. This past year, all the entrants were sent a survey about the competition and one of the questions was, "Why do you enter?" The two options I remember were 1. To win an award or 2. to get feedback. I got the idea they were hoping that most people were going to go with "feedback." And sure enough, according to the Florida Writers Association 54% of respondents said "feedback" was "very important."

Well...not for me.

I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I just don't care what anyone thinks about what I write. I write it the way I want it and if other people like it, that's great. If someone doesn't like it, then they don't like it. And as far as mechanics go, well, I've been writing since I was in fifth grade, at least. I think I've got it well enough to suit me and, like I said, I'm the one doing it so I'm the one that counts.

I enter competitions to win awards.

That being said, if you want feedback, the Royal Palm Literary Awards is the way to go. The rubric you get for each entry is comprehensive and informative. I just don't look at it anymore.

So, I enter a lot of contests. It's fun, I guess. And sometimes you win stuff. The biggest competition for self-publishers is the Writer's Digest Self-Published Book Awards. By big, I mean, huge numbers of people enter it. You're doing great if you get an Honorable Mention in that one.

And what do you know? I got one for Always Magnolia.

I did not get one for Camelia or Bookish Meets Boy. But the feedback I got, which in this contest is a review, for both books was fantastic. Perfect scores! A perfect score doesn't mean a win, though. Oh, well.

Here's the "review" I got for Bookish Meets Boy:

Structure, Organization, and Pacing: 5
Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar: 5 
Production Quality and Cover Design: 5 
Plot and Story Appeal: 5 
Character Appeal and Development: 5 
Voice and Writing Style: 5
Judge’s Commentary*:

BOOKISH MEETS BOY by Dianna Dann is a fun, thoroughly modern romance novel that will especially appeal to writers, cat lovers, and avid readers who love and understand the romance genre. As for readers who’ve been dumped (and haven’t most of us been at one time or another?) they’ll especially love this fun romp!
This has to be one of the most original titles I’ve seen for a romance novel, and it works! The cover is well done and with its colors and whimsical illustrations, including cute cats, and lets the reader know right away what type of story the book entails. (ha ha!) The back cover is well done, though I might have chosen to include a color photo of the author rather than black and white. I do like the spirit of the photo, though, because it's in line with the book. The writing is lively and engaging. I am rooting for these characters.
I like the notation that this is A DOWNTOWN DIVAS ROMANCE, because that tells me this author has big plans for a series. That's exciting and wonderful news for this authors' readers – and reviewers! No doubt Dann’s following will continue to grow with each subsequent book. following...sigh. That's not to say I don't have a fan. I'm pretty sure there is one out there. Anyway, so yes, five is the highest score you can get in each category.

So, that's what you get with Writer's Digest. You can try to take out praise-y snippets to post on your book's Amazon page. I haven't done that yet. I'm not so good with the "selling" part of being an author-preneur. But if I did, I'd use this bit: "The writing is lively and engaging. I am rooting for these characters." That's a back cover blurb if I ever read one. But when it comes to quoting, you don't have a name to put on it. You have to say that Judge #10 in the WDSPB Awards said that. I don't know...sounds fishy, doesn't it?

Okay, enough about me, here are some photos to inspire you.

First is a limpkin. I'm beginning to think the limpkin...this one right my favorite bird. Just look at the way he's standing there in the road waiting for us! As we approached, he was making these cute, pitiful squeaks at us. I got it on video! I'll post it later. Anyway, we figured that what we thought was cute might be his way of feeling threatened, so we walked on. But according to wikipedia, they don't fear humans. Maybe I was right to think he liked us!

Limpkin. Viera Wetlands. Feb 2017
Here's a sweet little alligator taking a snooze on a log.

Florida Alligator. Viera Wetlands. Feb 2017

And here's a juvenile anhinga, I think. He has some cool eyes, doesn't he?

Anhinga. Viera Wetlands. Feb 2017
Okay, it's time for me to get back to work. 

Monday, February 20, 2017

Goosebumps, books, and birds: our weekend on Amelia Island

Sea birds on Fernandina Beach

Yep. We spent the weekend on Amelia Island! Our primary purpose in being there was (meaning, we wouldn't have been there if not for) the Amelia Island Book Festival. I take part in the Author Expo every year. A room filled with authors and their books. It's fantastic.

This year, our table was mere feet away from the Book Signing table. Here is a picture of me:


It looks like I'm standing at the book signing table addressing my many fans. When hubs dared me to weasel may way in front of Jacques Pepin (who was actually sitting at the table) and turn toward the people waiting for his autograph, he didn't think I would do it. But I showed him!

R.L. Stein spoke in the auditorium at 2:30 and before he was finished, the line started forming in front of our table. By the time he arrived, the line extended down the entire aisle and began to wrap backward toward us again. They had to enact a one-book rule! Mr. Stein didn't break the rule when he signed this kid's dummy and his book, because that's still only one book, right?

R.L. Stein signs Slappy
Amelia Island Book Festival 2017

Our best seller this year was [Surprise!] Bookish Meets Boy. We had it with us last year and only sold one or two. This year, I nearly sold out of stock. You just never can tell with these things. And a little birdie told me that while Bookish Meets Boy did not win the new Book Island Literary Award, it did score very highly. It's always nice to hear kind words.

I'll take this moment to also brag that Bookish Meets Boy received a perfect score in the Writer's Digest Self-Published Book Awards. That, unfortunately, did not translate into a win but a great score and a wonderful review are nothing to sneeze at. (Maybe I'll post the review and score here later this week just to show off.)

While we were there, we enjoyed some of Amelia Island's natural (and not so natural) beauty. Here are some pictures!

The first four were taken on the beach accessed through Ft. Clinch State Park. The fifth is a view of the beach through one of the slit openings in the fort. The last was taken on the shore in Big Talbot Island State Park. It looks to be debris from Hurricane Matthew.

We were a bit disappointed in the lack of birds on our trip. But I did catch some pics of a few that I needed.

We're pretty sure these are black skimmers. But the white stripe separating the black on the head from the black on the back and wings is a bit odd.

Black Skimmers on Fernandina Beach

If you ask me, below is a female Gadwall. But of course, it also looks a bit like a female Northern Shoveler. Either way, it's a duck.

In a pond in Amelia Island State Park

I caught this fabulous Osprey standing in the shallows off shore in Big Talbot Island State Park.

Osprey in the shallows

And I finally got a woodpecker! There was one hanging out in my neighborhood, but he's been elusive so I was glad to find this one.

In Big Talbot Island State Park

This is almost certainly the Red-bellied Woodpecker. And naturally, once I got home, I was finally able to capture some great pictures of that one, too, plus a short video. I'll post them later.

We had a great weekend and can't wait to do it again next year!

Monday, February 13, 2017

I'm just a sucker with no self esteem...

You really shouldn't leave the house, you know that?
photo by Andrew Butitta via Flickr

I just got back from Publix and on the way home there was this song on the radio and I was, like, this song is so me. The lyrics went like this:

Oh ay ohhhhhh ayo ayo eh Yeaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh YehhhAH ahhhahhh Ahhhhhh, OOHHHHHHH Ohhhhhohohaoh Yeahhhhhhhhhh Yeahhhhhhhh ahhhahhhahhh Oooohhhhhhhhhh ohhhhhohohoah.

Seriously. Those are some of the lyrics, paraphrased of course. But, you must know the song. I'll find it for you before I leave. Anyway, truer lyrics have never been sung, I'm sure. So, now I'm sitting here at my desk (not the writing desk but the other desk) getting ready to--oh, hey, wait a sec--okay now definitely binge eating those tiny chocolate muffins from Publix. It's been a hard day, trust me.

I took part in a writers forum this morning and I showed up thinking it was going to be a panel discussion with questions from a moderator and the audience. As it turned out, each writer on the panel was going to speak for about fifteen minutes and then take questions.*

Right. Yeah. That's going to work out just fine for me. At least I got to go last. Then again, unfortunately, I had to go last. Naturally, what I said--my completely unplanned, unrehearsed speech--would be informed by what all the others had said before me. So, I will paraphrase for you, as well as I can, my ramblings this morning.

I'm yadda yadda. I write in a bunch of genres under all these pen names. I write downer fiction and romantic comedy, because the downer fiction is so depressing, I need some laughs after it. [This led me to get all moody and so I began...] I started writing very young as a way of trying to make sense of my world. I was raised by a woman with narcissistic personality disorder and a...well, I guess my father had a shrug disorder. His life has been just one long shrug. [Pretty sure I got some laughs there, maybe because of the body comedy that went along with it.] I remember writing a short story in fifth grade [may have said something about that story, but it's all a blur now.] and my father found it and read it and said it was really good. [At this point I think I tried to explain how that made me feel as a child. I don't think it went well.] The next Christmas my parents gave me an electric typewriter. The next memory I have of that typewriter [Did I say that? Very strange. It seems this speech has suddenly become about a typewriter.] was when I was a young adult. My father had left us [audible "aw"from the audience] and I was living with my mother. I wanted to go to a writers group but I was afraid to go alone so my mother went with me. At the end of the meeting, we all took pieces of paper from a bowl with phrases on them and we could write about them and bring them back next time. I got "red umbrella." So, I was at home later typing away, writing about the red umbrella when my mother came into my room and said, "Now, Dana. Don't you write anything that would upset those people."
I stopped writing the story, put away the typewriter, and never went back to that writers group again.

Hey, great story! Then I think I went on to talk about becoming a drunk and thinking that I was writing such great stuff only to come back to it sober to find out it was utter crap. Good times. Whoever said "write drunk, edit sober" was full of crap.**

Anyway, it wasn't all that bad of a speech. But at the end, I did talk about what an independent snot I am and about how I do it all myself. After all the other writers talked about how important it is to have an editor and a cover artist, etc. I stand up and say, "Forget that! I don't care what anyone thinks." Somebody called out, "Beta readers?" Like, seriously? You don't even use beta readers? And I'm like, no. Not me.

It's true, though. I just don't want any help from anybody. And where does that come from, do you think? It starts really young, I'll tell you that.

I remember once, as an adult, sending my father a short story I had written. I just sent it to him. I liked it. It was a pretty good story, and it was set in Asheville, where he grew up. I might have asked him what he thought of it. Well, he called me and wanted to come visit me. He showed up with my story, red-lined, sat me down, and proceeded to go through my story line by line telling me what was wrong with it and how I could fix it.

Another time, I gave my mother a book I'd been writing. This time, I did ask for some critical comments. Two weeks later, I went to her house to get my book back. She hadn't read it.

So, thanks Mom and Dad. It took me until I was an adult to realize that things work out a lot better if I just do them myself.

Anyway, this nice lady came up to me at the end of the meeting and she said, "Your father didn't leave you; he left her." And I said, well, he left the country, so what's the difference? Paraphrasing, of course. Then I think I said, "He's back now." As if that means anything. Still, it was kind of her to say. And she said a lot of other very kind things which made me feel like my speech maybe did something, good or bad. It was a speech.

So, note to self: when giving a speech in the future, go for the sad stuff. People will feel sorry for you and maybe buy a book.

*Now, this was totally my fault. It had been suggested by the organizer of the event that I go to a few of the other events to get a feel for the format. But I rarely leave the house, so it serves me quite right.

**We all seem to think that Ernest Hemingway said, "Write drunk, edit sober." But apparently he did not.

Still, I found this article about "science!" saying that there might actually be something to the idea. Rubbish! Rubbish I say. (I haven't read the article. If they're saying to write with abandon and then edit with a more logical mindset, then absolutely! But drunk? Not for me.)

Okay, here's the song.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

My Tom Brady, Patriots conundrum...

I thought you said football season was over...
photo by Ivva via Flickr

Bill Maher recently went off on the Patriots. He would normally not care for football, from what I gathered in watching the clip. But Trump has caused him to hate the Patriots and root for the Falcons tomorrow in Super Bowl LI.

Me? I don't know.

The only team in the NFL that I actively dislike is the Seahawks. I find them and their fans arrogant and prone to bouts of childishness. I mean, seriously...the 12th man? The crowd in their ridiculously loud stadium makes as much noise as it can while the other team is trying to call plays and then makes nice and quiet when the Seahawks are up. They're basically stomping their feet and claiming their team wouldn't be able to win without their ability to handicap other teams. I can't express the happiness I felt when the Seahawks lost Superbowl XLIX. And who did they lose to? The Patriots. I was so, so, so happy.

I like watching football and I do root for a few teams. Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, because I'm from Florida and I'm supposed to root for them. Jacksonville Jaguars, sure, but even though their mascot is a cat, the Dolphins and the Bucs come first. Of course, those two teams suck. Really bad. But I root for them anyway.

Outside my state, I like the Broncos, the Packers, the Eagles, the Vikings, the Ravens, the 49ers, the Steelers (except when they wear the bumble bee uniforms), the Bengals, and the Jets, And the Patriots and the Falcons. If I had to put them in order (behind the Dolphins and the Bucs), the Patriots would be right up there near the top, maybe first.

I like the other teams well enough, except for the Seahawks. I just don't root for them when they're playing one of the teams I like more. And when two teams I like play against each other, sometimes I pick one to root for and sometimes I root for both of them.

I did not buy into Deflategate. I thought it was much ado over nothing, and I thought Tom Brady was maligned. I agree with a lot of football fans, and Dan Wetzel, that the whole thing was a "bizarre and shoddy investigation into the air pressure of footballs."

And worse, in Wetzel's words:
Goodell and his office are blamed for a rush to judgment on deflate-gate, for conducting a lengthy investigation that was about proving a conclusion, not seeking the truth, for leaking prejudicial and inaccurate information to frame the Pats in the arena of public opinion and even completely misrepresenting Brady’s under oath testimony, essentially punishing him for saying the exact opposite of what he actually said.

So, what I'm saying is that I still like the Patriots.

And I hate Donald Trump with an icy hot passion unrivaled by anything I've ever felt before.

Maher's reasons for suddenly deciding to root for the Falcons this year is that the Patriots' owner, coach, and quarterback all support(ed) Donald Trump. But I can't find it in me to hate the Patriots just because some of the people involved with the team are idiots. Seriously, though. Such. Fucking. Idiots.

Yeah, I'm really disappointed in Tom Brady. But he's always seemed a bit stuck up, hasn't he? He's a privileged, cocky, rich, white guy without much of a clue or a care about anybody's suffering. And he's clearly not very smart.

But I just can't turn against an entire team of players because their owner, coach, and quarterback are dumber than rocks. I can still root for the Patriots tomorrow. And I might. I think they're going to win. But since I like both teams, I'll probably just root for both of them.

Oh, I'd unfriend Brady, Belichick, and Kraft on Facebook in a heartbeat. If they were my friends and went all gushy over the Orange Blowhard. (So don't even send me a friend request, guys. Not even.)

I guess there wasn't a conundrum after all... Oh, well. Maybe there will be some controversy over the commercials.

Enjoy the Big Game!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

My Florida backyard...

I think it was the painted bunting that did it.

There we were, in our car (because it was freezing!) driving around the Viera Wetlands, when we saw a volunteer with an enormous lens, photographing something on the ground. As we drove by, he pointed, excitedly.

We stopped the car, I rolled down my window and asked, "What is it?"
"Painted bunting," he said. "A rare treat."

And sure enough, there in the grass, playful and pretty as you please, was a painted bunting. But, alas, my husband's camera, the good one, had run out of battery. Stupid camera. Stupid battery. All we had was my little Nikon CoolPix S70, the one Ashton Kutcher sent me years ago. (Well, that's what the gift card read. I'm pretty sure it was from my hubs.)

So, I took some pictures as best I could. Here's the painted bunting:

Can you see it? Try this one:

Better? No? How about now?

It's there. Trust me. That red spot in the middle. That's a painted bunting!

So, a few days later, a box arrived for me. Inside was a Canon PowerShot SX530 HS and an array of accoutrements. A funky little tripod, batteries, cards, lens cleaner, a bag, etc. etc. I charged that baby up and took some pictures. Look what I got!

At one of our bird feeders:

We think it's the American goldfinch, because the bill doesn't look dark enough for the lesser goldfinch.

And I got the best shots I've ever had of the red-shouldered hawk that sits atop the pine out front of the house every morning and calls out to his friends. I can even hear them answer.

He saw me!

I'm pretty sure he's the red-shouldered variety, because of his call. It's like "A yee, A yee, A yee."

Here's some other cool pics with my new camera, around the yard.

Orchid tree blossom

Bark of the elm tree (?)
[Drake elm]

Florida gray squirrel in the oak tree

Rusted decor

bark of an unidentified tree
[That's got to be the Drake elm, too]

Bark of a pine tree of sorts. (Look, I don't know my trees, okay?)
[Hubs says it's a cedar]

New growth on one of those weird pine trees.
[Norfolk Island pine]

Okay, I'll figure out what kind of trees those are and update this post later.

That's all for now! Happy Groundhog day.