Tuesday, November 10, 2009

We have moved!

Cynical Woman has moved! This will be the last post to this blog. Our new blog and website are now at www.cynicalwoman.com. You'll be able to find everything there including The Adventures Of Cynical Woman webcomic, Move It Mama Monday, announcements about my latest books and writing projects, and all the other usual insanity. So be sure to visit www.cynicalwoman.com from now on! Thanks!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Episode 41 - Halloween!

Oy, I hurt. I had this brilliant idea that I could do the text for the cartoon in Adobe, which would look much better than my own hand lettering. But then I got the cartoon scanned in and I thought, "Hey, if I can do the lettering in Photoshop, why not do the screen tones too? I know I've got a tutorial on that somewhere!" Several hours later…

I'm kicking myself because I should have just done the lettering and let it go at that, but nooooooo! I had to do the screen tones. And then I made the mistake of resizing the image down and then I saved it over the larger version of the file!! That hurts because now if I ever want to edit this particular episode again, I'll have to start all over from the beginning, scanning in the line work and then adding the text and then adding the screen tones…


So anyway, I have a question. Right now, I'm resizing the cartoon to 1200×410 pixels. This is the size you see after you click on the thumbnail. I've got a giant flat screen monitor, so I have no idea really if this is too small or too large for anyone else viewing the cartoon. Let me know if you'd like to see the cartoon a little larger, or smaller, because the size I shrink things down to affects how the screen tones work (and yes, I'm just stupid enough to try that technique again, because in spite of the time I wasted this evening, I really like how this turned out).

Enjoy your Halloween!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sunday Contentments - Creative Endeavors

It's Sunday afternoon. I'm on the couch with a cup of joe and my netbook. I've got four kids screeching and howling like a pack of wild monkeys in my living room. Oy vey!

In spite of the noise and the squabbling, I'm having a good day. Here's my list of what gives me that warm fuzzy feeling at the moment. It's mostly a list of creative endeavors that have paid off recently.

New website - okay, so only the blog is up, and it's nowhere near it's final configuration, but still, it looks nice, and I think if I keep working on it, in another week or so I will have finally set myself up to have all my disparate blogs rolled into one. That will be quite an accomplishment.

Pumpkin carving - we went to a pumpkin party last night. In theory, the kids were supposed to help scrape out the pumpkin guts. You know that didn't happen. While the kids ran amok, a dozen adults got down on the kitchen floor (Oy, my knees!) and scraped out pumpkins. Then we consulted with the kids on what to carve on the pumpkins, and because no sane adult there was keen on handing anyone under the age of 30 a knife, we sent the kids away and carved the designs. I drew the designs on the girls' pumpkins free form, after looking at a couple of stencils, and I have to say they came out pretty good. They're sitting on the porch right now (and Princess' is currently infested with ants. Oy!).

Cooking - I'm going to indulge in some cooking today, making a pumpkin souffle. I only make souffle in October, after I'm done scraping pumpkin guts out. It's going to be a messy job, since I still haven't sorted and washed everything (I just sort of threw the bag of guts in the fridge when we got home last night). But the souffle will taste wonderful, and it will be well worth the effort.

T-shirts - Target had some cool Halloween t-shirts on sale this week, so I picked up a couple to add to my collection (yes, I collect t-shirts). Very spooky, retro themed graphics on bold colors. Very freaky-chic looking. My kinda clothing, you know? I love my t-shirts.

Ugh. The girls in the living room are all arguing, necessitating the need for me to get off the couch and referee. But that's okay. In fifteen minutes, they're all going to someone else's house, and I am content with that.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Freaky Friday - Homemade Halloween!

Well, this is being posted late, but it can't be helped. I've been tinkering with the new blog over at www.cynicalwoman.com and hopefully this post makes it over there tonight. Also, I was a little busy this afternoon finishing up a special project, namely some homemade Halloween decorations. You see, it is my goal to have a Halloween display just as cool and impressive as the one my neighbors set up in their yard. In case you missed the previous Freaky Friday post, their Halloween decorations look like this...

And at night, it looks like this...

And like this...

And like this...

Not to be outdone, the girls and I sat down and worked up a few decorations of our own. They look like this...

And this...

Ummmmm... Okay, so maybe we have a few years to go before we catch up with the neighbors. But you have to admit, the mummy looks pretty neat! Anyway, I hope you have a Freaky Friday (what's left of it anyway)!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Episode 40 - Occupational Hazzards

Yes, this really is a problem around this household. Finding time for... well, let's just say finding time for what's important.

It's hard for me to find time alone with the Hubster. In addition to the kids, we both put in a lot of hours at work, and since I'm usually up two hours before Hubster is, I'm usually out cold two hours before he is. We really do have to schedule sex if it's going to happen. Oh, and buy a nice bottle of wine so I can relax, because between work and chasing after the kids, I'm wound tighter than a cuckoo clock by the end of the day.

Anyway, speaking of work, I have four new stories for sale with Logical Lust. These stories originally ran on the Heat Flash Erotica Podcast, they are scorching hot, and I think you will enjoy them. Check them out here!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Move It Mama Monday! What Wii game should I get next?

Well, I've had a week with Wii Fit Plus, and I do enjoy it, but I have to admit to some disappointment. For starters, I was expecting to be able to access all the different exercises and games in the "Make My Own Routine" section. No such luck. For some reason, Wii Fit Plus only lets you build personal routines using the yoga and strength exercises it seems, in spite of the fact that the mini routines already built into the game include the original cardio games and the new Wii Fit Plus games. I was also hoping for more cardio activities in the new Wii Fit Plus, but there seems to be a real lack of those. The closest I've found to new cardio games is the bicycle game (which lets you race all over the island searching for flags to tag before racing to the finish line) and the rhythm kung fu, which really isn't all that cardio intensive. There is a variation on the running in the My Wii Fit games, which offers new routes to run and then quizzes you on what you saw while you were running. That's nice, but would it have killed Nintendo to include new boxing and step routines? Aside from the Island Lap in the run, the boxing is the most cardio intensive game they've got, and I do it so frequently I can pretty much do it with my eyes close now. And the step routines never, NEVER change. These two things both need a serious update.

Having said that, I'm thinking of picking up yet another Wii fitness related game, and I'm trying to decide which one to get. There are four I have my eye on, including:

ES Sports Active: More Workouts - True, the original game did kill my knees, but EASA definitely has more upper body strength building exercises in it, and I like the sports drills. It's a bit expensive ($36.99 on Amazon.com), but I hear the new version includes stretching exercises, which would be a serious bonus. The game is only available for pre-order right now. It comes out 17 November.

My Fitness Coach - I've seen this online before, and wondered about it. Apparently, if you've got a step, a balance ball, a heart rate monitor, and hand weights, you can get a real workout with this game. I have all these items, so this would seem like a good choice. The game doesn't make much use of the Wii balance board according to reviews I've read, and it's an awful lot like a gym workout, but those people who like it swear by it. It also includes stretching exercises, again something I would like to see show up in exercise programs. The cost on this one is much lower, $19.49 on Amazon.com.

Gold's Gym Cardio Workout - the companion game to My Fitness Coach. This one does use the balance board, and looks to have lots of boxing games in it, along with some other exercises. The emphasis does seem mainly on boxing, from the reviews I've read, but as I mentioned above, the boxing in Wii Fit is one of the most intense cardio workouts available in that game, and I get a decent workout from that, so I'm not adverse to trying more boxing games. This one also gets pretty high ratings, and the price is $19.49 on Amazon.com.

Yoga - a fitness game that looks to include as much game as fitness. From what I've read online, you can choose to play the game whereby you explore the yoga temple and unlock new yoga challenges as you seek to gain the level of yoga master. There are a variety of settings to work out in, and the game definitely uses the balance board to check your balance and steadiness in each pose. The pluses on this one? I like yoga. I think it's a great strength and stretching workout, and this game looks to offer many more poses than the ones that show up in Wii Fit. I really like the idea of having an exotic environment to explore as well as a game goal to achieve while I work out. The cons? I hate the look of the stick-thin supermodel who's the spokesperson for this game. Honestly, I'm a generous size 12. I work out and I eat healthy and I have been a size 12 since my early teens, and all I can think when I see a model that thin is, "Someone's been starving themselves!" Thus I despise having emaciated runway models tell me how to be fit and healthy. It smacks of hypocrisy to me. If she shows up a lot in the game, it's going to be a real turn-off to me. Like EASA More Workouts, this game isn't out until 17 November, and it's the same price($36.99 on Amazon.com).

After looking through all this, I think what I'll end up doing is order My Fitness Coach and Gold's Gym Cardio Workout at the beginning of next month. The fact that I can get both these games for only a few dollars more than one of the other two games, and the fact that My Fitness Coach and Gold's Gym Cardio are already available make them the obvious choice. I'll try them out, see if I get the kind of workout I want with this combo, and then reconsider how badly I might want the other two games.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sunday Contentments - Chilly weather

The weather outside isn't quite frightful, yet, but man is there a nip in the air! I'm snuggled up on the couch in one of my favorite sweaters, contemplating throwing one of my mom's crocheted blankets over top of me for additional warmth. The tip of my nose is cold and my fingers are a little clumsy. Methinks it may be time to tell Hubster to turn up the heat. I wonder if he will interpret that message to mean, "Sit the kids down in front of a movie and carry me up to the bedroom, you steamy hunk of stud-love!" One can only hope. In the meantime, here's this Sunday's contentments:

Healthy children - Pixie came down with strep throat earlier this week, and boy was that ever fun. Not. Her temperature got as high as 104 degrees at one point, and she had more than a few crying jags and melt downs because she didn't feel good. She stayed home from preschool two days, spending her time in a bean bag chair in front of the TV. Both evenings, she crashed on the couch, a sure sign she didn't feel well. That kid doesn't nap for anything! But now she's up and running around, keeping pace with Princess, and in general driving me nuts.

"Mama! I'm sick!"

Mommy moments - one night, while Pixie was sick, I woke up at 3AM to hear her crying in her bed. I got up, took her temperature (this was when it hit 104), gave her a little Children's Motrin and brought her into bed with her father and I. She could never quite settle down, but didn't want to go back to her own bed. At one point, she turned to me in the dark and asked, "So how was your day, Mama?" "My day was just fine, sweet heart," I replied. "That's good," she said, and then she finally decided she wanted to sleep back in her own bed.

Reading to my kids - I found my copy of "Where the Wild Things Are" this week and read it to Princess. She was fascinated with the artwork, and had all sorts of questions about the monsters and Max., then wanted to know if she could write a book of her own. She's already written a couple of books, collections of drawings with some words scribbled in them. We staple them together, but I think the next time she does one, I'm going to scan it into the computer and make it a PDF to send out to family and friends. The Princess can claim she's "self-published!"

Speaking of being published... Yes, work accomplishments are qualify as contentments in my opinion, and I'm very contented to note that this week I had four stories published with Logical Lust. What makes this especially sweet is that these are some of my best work ever, but two of the stories were usually rejected by anthology editors because the tone of the stories is rather tragic. Apparently not many publishers like to take a chance on tragedy, even when it's well written. However, Logical Lust was more than happy to work with me, so these stories and two others (those two are comedies) are now available for sale. I hope they do well!

Local festivals - we missed the Greek Festival this weekend, due to the fact I wasn't feeling so well yesterday morning, but we did get out to the local Egyptian Fest. It was much smaller than the Greek Fest (which is huge), and we got there pretty late, but we managed to pick up some food to take home to eat. Actually, what we did was go through their cafe line and wipe the whole thing out! The food was good, and exactly what I needed that evening. We had a friend over, and spent the evening eating falafels and kashta and stuffed grape leaves while watching the Virginia Tech game (VT lost, but oh well). A wonderful evening, if I do say so myself.

There's lots of other things to be content about, like the art projects the kids and I have been working on, and the costumes we'll be sewing later this afternoon, but I think I'll stop here for today. I want to curl up with a hot cup of tea now and just enjoy a few moments of quiet.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Saturday Art - Summoned and Bound

There's something very naughty and very pretty over at my erotica blog today. It's a bit of artwork I did yesterday, a male nude. You can find it here. Enjoy!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Freaky Friday - I'm not the only freak in the neighborhood!

I love my neighbors. Love, love, love them. From the nice lady who lives across the street and gives my girls books and dolls to the couple next door who's kids have babysat for us since Princess was a tiny tot to the woman down the street who runs Pixie's preschool, I love them all. I live in a great neighborhood, and I'm very grateful for the good neighbors I have who never once complain about my freakish ways.

During the month of October, however, I am especially grateful for the family who lives next door to us, because they put up one killer Halloween display.

They start decorating their yard at the beginning of the month, but honestly, preparations start long before then. All through August and September, whenever I'd walk by their house and see the garage door open, I'd catch glimpses of stuff being built - tombstones, graveyard fences, an animatronic witch. My neighbors do buy some of their Halloween stuff, but a lot of it is home made, and the stuff they buy they tend to modify to make it even better.

All through October, their yard just gets creepier and creepier. Every afternoon when the girls get home from school, they ask if they can go next door and see the neighbors' yard (there is always something new). I've told my neighbors they need to sell tickets to people for tours of their display, and my girls would be first in line to get season passes. We really can't stay away from their yard!

They also decorate inside the house, which has given me a heart attack on more than one occasion. Every year, without fail, I look next door and see someone dark and disturbing lurking in their sunroom. I get all panicked, thinking either a burglar or a serial killer has broken into their house. Then just as I'm about to dial 911, I realize it's October and the strange man in the dark trench coat and black hat is just one of their animatronic figures they've put up inside the house.

The decorations in the yard are usually done to a certain point by the last week of Halloween. Then the day of Halloween, my neighbors pull out all the stops and set up all their animatronic, life-size figures in the driveway, or else they convert their garage into a haunted house that visitors can walk through. One year, they set up their entire house as a tourist attraction. It was nuts!

This year, my neighbors have outdone themselves. The graveyard in the front has a large "stone" entry way, decorated with skeleton bones and body parts, topped by a vulture. They've got an evil zombie scarecrow in one corner of the graveyard, and lots of new tombstones and skeletons and ghosts set up. I'm still waiting to see the animatronic witch. From what my neighbors tell me, she's going to be spectacular!

Here are a few pics of my neighbors' freaky yard ;)

You see how huge this is? I want a front yard just like this someday!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Latest releases - Mundania e-books are now on sale!

Last month, I podcasted four unusual stories for the Heat Flash Erotica Podcast. These were the Mundania stories, the only stories ever to appear on Heat Flash that were not science fiction, fantasy, or horror. Yes, I actually wrote four, count them, FOUR contemporary erotica stories, and they were just released for sale today in e-book format from Logical Lust Publications.

You can buy the stories here at Logical Lust, either individually for $1.99 or the entire set of four for $4.99. Not sure if you want to buy these lovely, lusty, scorching tales? Then listen to them here first on the Heat Flash Erotica Podcast! The stories are:

A Man in a Kilt - Jimmy's a rough and tumble Scotsman who thinks he can handle any woman. Then he meets Nan, a friendly domme who teaches him otherwise... (Fem domme; BDSM)

Rapacious Mrs. Horner - Diane Horner is a forty-something divorcee with a serious addiction to gay porn and painful broken heart. When her son's best friend comes onto her, what will she turn him away or eat him alive? (F/m; older woman/younger man)

Diablo - Spoiled rich kid Randall wants one thing and one thing only - Pony Boy, the hired hand at Polk's Stables, down on his knees and ready to please. When Pony Boy refuses to be tamed, will Randall break him instead? (M/m; warning - scorching hot m/m erotica but also controversial)

A Room with a View - With the economy in the toilet, Darcy Daniels has lost her job, her car, her apartment, and now her pride as she's forced to move back in with her parents. Then she discovers her old bedroom window looks right into the window of the boy next door. Is he watching her at night? Is she going to watch him? And if their fathers hate each other, do they even have a chance at getting together? (Older woman/younger man; voyeurism; sex toys; even a touch of romance in this one!)

A note about these stories: if you're looking for humor, definitely check out A Man in a Kilt and A Room with a View. If you like your erotica edgy and dangers, then go for broke with Rapacious Mrs. Horner and Diablo. And remember, you can also get all four books together in one collection, and listen to them on the Heat Flash Erotica Podcast before you buy!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Writing Wednesday - Pimping one's self

Over the summer, I spent some time trying to do a bit of promo for my work. If there's one area where I really fall down as a writer, it's promotion. Yeah, I blog and I twitter and I podcast and I do the web comic, but there are facets of promo that I don't do often enough, like participate in Yahoo groups or hold contests or send out for reviews.

So I've been thinking lately of ways I can improve my promotion plan. Yes, I have a plan, or rather, I should have a plan. I sort of have a plan, but I need to sit down and redo it and make it better - easier to execute, defined goals, etc. The problem is finding time to do all this planning of promotion and executing of promotion and still get my writing done. So I'm looking into simple tasks that I can do that won't tax my time or my brain. My initial ideas so far are...

Send out one of my books for review every Friday. I have a list of review websites, and if I just took 30 minutes each Friday, I could send these books out and maybe get a slew of reviews. It takes time to get a review done; most places take 8-12 weeks to get a review done. But if I start sending out now, I could have a ton of reviews coming my way in a couple months. That can't be bad.

Continue to blog. Right now, I'm doing at least 3 regular posts a week here and my weekly post on Oh Get A Grip. I'd like to add one more regular post to this, and then I think my blogging efforts would be complete. A good blog would (hopefully) keep people coming back for more, but a good blog has to be maintained with regular content. I want to be certain I provide that content.

Continue to cartoon. Since the start of school, I've set aside one day a week to work on the web comic, and so far I've been able to keep a regular schedule. Hopefully, with regular drawing, I'll get faster and better at producing the comic, so I won't have to spend an entire work day on it, but for now, I'm willing to spend a day to get this thing done!

Revamp the website. I've talked about this before, but now have finally started to take action on it. On Friday, I set in motion a transfer of all my domain names to GoDaddy.com, because I know GoDaddy plays nice with WordPress (it better play nice!), and because I can host multiple domain names on one hosting package. Once the domain name transfer is complete, the actual website revamp begins. I've got the domain name www.cynicalwoman.com, which I've used for years for a flash website I did way back when. I love the work I did on that, but updating a flash website is a bitch and a half for me, especially since I no longer understand the latest version of Action Script (a situation I'll need to correct very soon, it seems). I want an html website with a WordPress blog, and I want the website to combine most of my current websites - www.helenehmadden.com, www.cynicalwoman.blogspot.com, www.theadventuresofcynicalwoman.blogspot.com - into one place. I've pretty much stopped posting anything over at www.helenehmadden.com because it's too much effort to maintain a separate writing website from my personal blog. And besides, I've pretty much effectively branded myself as Cynical Woman, stay-at-home mom and erotica writer, so why not go with that?

Once the website revamp is done, I'll add to my list of promo goals. But for now, I think this is enough. Hopefully, I can get a working website up and running by Halloween. Let's see what I can do.

Now, I want all of YOU guys to tell me something. If you're a writer, what kind of promo do you do that works well for you? What promo have you done that turned out to be a huge waste of time? And readers, what kind of promo would you like to see me do? Give me some ideas of things you would enjoy, because one thing I don't want to do is annoy the crap out of readers with bad promo. (Please, please, please leave comments on this one, because I really do want to know!)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Episode 39 - Who's Yo Mama?!

One day, this is going to happen to me. It just has to. In addition to reading my stories aloud to catch mistakes, I also record most of them for the Heat Flash Erotica Podcast (which is a free weekly audio show I do that you can download to your MP3 player or listen to on your computer, and if you're not listening you should be!). Most days I only write or record when the kids are in school or in bed. When they're home and awake, I'm so busy taking care of them, I don't have time to do anything else. But mark my words, one of these days they're gonna walk in on me while I'm working...

You may have noticed that this cartoon is done "old style," which is to say I did it on the computer using Manga Studio 4. I still love MS4, and much prefer the way the cartoons look when I do them on the computer, but the fact is, it takes too long to do the cartoons this way. This particular cartoon was penciled back in April, and then inked yesterday morning. Had I done this by hand, it would have taken me an hour at most to do the inking and then the cartoon would be finished. In Manga Studio 4, the inking takes longer, plus there are extra steps I do to add the tones and text balloons, which is part of what makes the digital cartoons so pretty. What to do? Continue drawing by hand, but draw better! It'll come with practice. Meanwhile, I'll just use Manga Studio for other projects, since I'd really like to do some Manga style artwork, and this is the best program I've got for inking.

Anyway, here is this week's cartoon, and I hope you enjoyed it ;)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Move it Mama Monday! Wii Fit Plus

So I was sick two weeks, and not getting much moving around done, certainly not getting any serious exercise done. This is to be expected when one is sick. The general idea is to rest rather than run one's self into the ground. But resting for two weeks left me feeling like a big squishy slug. Not a feeling I enjoy.

Still, I couldn't seem to throw off the lethargy from being sick. Then Wii Fit Plus showed up in my mailbox, and suddenly I had the urge to get up and move.

I've been waiting for Wii Fit Plus ever since I found out about it earlier this summer. I pre-ordered my copy at the beginning of the month, eager to try it out, and then waited and waited and stayed in bed sick. I just happened to be in a slow recovery phase when the game arrived, so I decided to try just a few minutes, because you know I've been sick and I don't want to overdo it. 45 minutes later, I was sweating and woozy and addicted to Wii Fit Plus.

Obviously, I enjoy the new game. After having worked with the original Wii Fit since last February, I was getting bored, which is never good for a fitness routine. The preview shots and videos of Wii Fit Plus intrigued me and made me curious to see if Nintendo had done a massive overhaul of the game. There were certain deficiencies in Wii Fit that I desperately wanted to see corrected. Did Nintendo fix these things?

Eh, yes and no. The two biggest changes in Wii Fit Plus are the new Training Plus games and the My Wii Fit Plus category in the training options menu (that's the menu you go to after you select Training at the main calendar, you know, the one with the piggy bank waiting for you to choose what to work on that session). The Training Plus games are a combination of balance, coordination and brain games with a bit of aerobic workout thrown into some of them. These games are in a separate category from the original Balance games that came with the original Wii Fit (lest you worry, all the original games and exercises are still included in Wii Fit Plus). Among other things, the Training Plus games include Rhythm Kung Fu, juggling, the chicken flying game, a marching parade game, a bicycle game that allows you to determine where you go on the Wii Fit island (I like this one just for the fact that I can finally explore the island on my own!), a snow ball fight, and several others. A few of these games have caused me to sweat a bit, namely the Kung Fu and the bicycle game. Most test the brain, balance and coordination.

As for the yoga and strength categories, those are still the same but with 3 new exercises each. Personally, I would have rather seen at least 5 new exercises in each, but 3 isn't bad. Nothing has changed in the aerobics category that I can tell.

Then we come to the My Wii Fit Plus category. Selecting this option takes you to a "locker room" where you're given a variety of menu buttons to choose from, including Wii Fit Plus Routines, My Routines, and Favorites. The Wii Fit Plus Routines are preprogrammed routines that focus on particular areas for you to work on - balance, arms and shoulders, etc. You have to poke around a bit to see what each one really does, since some of the titles don't really tell you much (there's an over-indulgence routine that I discovered is supposed to focus on calorie burning, and a Shape routine that looks like it's supposed to focus on the waist line). None of these routines is more than three exercises/games long, and none lasts longer than 8 minutes. The advantage of these preprogrammed routines is that they do let you get through the exercises faster. Without the routines, you do spend a little extra time selecting individual exercises and going through menu options before actually getting to an exercise. With the routines, you zip from one exercise to the next. That's a bonus in my opinion because it means a 45 minute workout could actually only take 50 minutes to do as opposed to an hour (those of you who have used the original Wii Fit will know what I'm talking about). Also, the routines allow you to mix things up, going from yoga to games to aerobics and back without having to do a lot of switching around in the menu. Again, this speeds a workout along greatly!

One thing about these routines is that they all seem to select exercises or games at the beginner's level, as opposed to the advanced level. I haven't set up any of my own routines yet (something I'm going to try this week) to see if I have the option of using the advanced levels of things like the running, cardio boxing, etc. I'm hoping so.

Other things that have changed in the Wii Fit Plus. Wii Fit Plus now tells you how many calories you burn while working out. I have to admit, they show me burning far fewer calories than I would like. Also, Wii Fit Plus gives you the option of setting a calorie burning goal for each day. Unfortunately, any activities you do outside Wii Fit Plus aren't counted toward that calorie goal, although when you list them in the Fit Credits menu, they are tallied up there and added to whatever you've done in Wii Fit. But during the actual workout, they don't show up.

One more interesting option, you can now change players while working out. In the yoga, strength, cardio and balance games menus, at the very bottom right corner is an option to switch players. Doesn't look like you can do this in the My Wii Fit Plus, but if you want to work out with someone, you now have the option of switching back and forth on every exercise. I don't know yet if this means you can finally have another person's Mii race with you on the 2-person race. That would be nice, especially since my girls like to race me when I'm working out. But it does mean if I want to spend an evening doing a workout and the kids want to play along, I can let them (though that option has its own hazards).

The whole game has a slightly revamped look. The colors are bolder, the appearances of the personal trainers are a bit different, though both are still rather mannequin like. My biggest question is whether or not the Wii Fit Plus is still as snarky as the original Wii Fit. That's something I'm sure I won't find out for a few weeks. When I first started using the Wii Fit, I recall it being very supportive with all its little comments, but then one day when I suddenly put on a few pounds (it was water weight, can't do a damned thing about it at my age), Wii Fit got all persnickety and demanded I explain why I had suddenly turned into the Fat Lady at the circus. It did not help that the stupid thing didn't even give me the option of listing "water weight" or "hormones" as one of the reasons why I had packed on 4 lbs over night. I haven't used Wii Fit Plus long enough to see this come up yet, but if it does, I'm going to be sadly disappointed. No one, and I mean no one, likes to be sniped at for things they can't control. (BTW, I have noted the Wii Fit Plus does seem to feel the need to get a little snippy if you miss a day for your fit test. That bit of snark has apparently not changed a bit.)

Over all, I like it. I would have liked to have seen more exercises added in the yoga and strength section, especially exercises that targeted the upper body. I also would have liked to have seen new cardio activities added. But the routines are a great idea and I'm looking forward to setting up my own. And I have to admit it, I really like the new games. If I'm not feeling well, I can at least get up and do the games, and while they may not give me a heart pounding workout, they will at least get me moving and that goes a long way toward making me feel better when I've been sick a while.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sunday Contentment - Halloween fun with my kids

I love the month of October. Being sick the two weeks, I haven't really been able to appreciate it as much as I would have liked, but then I realize I would rather have been ill in October when the weather is cool and pleasant and conducive to relaxing than be ill in July when the weather is so damn humid around here you can practically swim through air. The later would have made me really miserable.

But right now, I'm feeling better, maybe on the mend finally after battling a weird illness that has left me fatigued, nauseous. I'm sitting at the dining room table. Princess and Pixie are giggling over sandwiches and singing nonsense songs to each other. One song in particular sounds like a very warped version of Aerosmith's "Dude Looks Like A Lady," and I can't stop chuckling as they howl that song at the top of their lungs. Obviously, I'm in the contentment zone, so let's get started with what's making me feel all warm and fuzzy this week.

Halloween decorations - my next-door neighbors are BIG into Halloween, to the point that they build this giant display every year. It's a mix of hand made and store bought items, sometimes the store bought stuff having been customized in my neighbor's workshop. Right now, they've got a huge graveyard in their front yard, complete with a fake stone entryway and wrought iron fence running around the entire thing. There's ghosts and skeletons galore inside this thing, and I know there's still more stuff in the garage waiting to be added. I plan to post pictures of what they've done on Friday as a Freaky Friday post.

Halloween decorations, part 2 - I found at Michael's for mummies made from plaster wrap and Styrofoam, so this afternoon the entire family is going to set up on the back deck and put together some mummies for our yard. Our decorations can in no way compete with the neighbors' but I don't care. They've had years to build their display, and we'll take years to build our own. Princess, who is obsessed with Egypt, is particularly looking forward to this afternoon.

Jogging - After my third knee injury, I never thought I'd jog again. It was just too painful. But Wii Fit included a jog-in-place activity that I could do, and somehow, I've eventually worked my way back to jogging around the neighborhood. I'm not very fast, and my endurance could use some building up, but I'm amazed that I can actually do this. October, with it's lovely crisp fall weather, is the perfect time for jogging too.

Princess and Pixie - there's nothing like listening to your kids laugh while they're goofing around. I'm constantly amazed at the things these two girls do. Last night, Pixie (who is three) lectured us on how Columbus discovered the West Indies, and then launched into a spiel about the solar system that had me in stitches. She looked so serious with her hands on her hips, going on and on about planets and suns and moons and Mother Earth. I have to remember to thank her pre-school teacher for that. Meanwhile, Princess has developed an interest in drawing anime style characters, although she doesn't realize they're anime yet. I've got plenty of how to draw books, including manga and anime, and will be cracking those open later this week to do some drawing with her. She's gotten pretty good!

Grilled cheese sandwiches - Hubster just handed me one fresh out of the pan. It's GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD!

Fall clothing - I hate wearing shorts, and all summer long I pine for my jeans. While I love my t-shirts, I miss my long-sleeve tees. Today, I've got on a proper fall outfit and I love it.

Good books - I've read a couple of amazing books recently. I can't recall the authors off the top of my head, and I'm too lazy to look them up at the moment on Amazon, but I highly recommend the following titles - Soulless (by Gail Carriger, who's name I can actually remember), Of Bees and Mist, and Drood (a sort of fictionalized horror story about the last five years of Charles Dickens' life and how he came to write The Mystery of Edwin Drood).

And that's about it for this week. Have a nice day this Sunday, and enjoy your contentment.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Writing Wednesday - Where do you get your ideas from?

It's supposedly the question every author dreads - "Where do you get your ideas from?" And I suppose some authors dread it because it can be hard to explain the process behind brainstorming and writing and rewriting and so on. But guess what? It's not a question this writer dreads. In fact, I'd be more than happy to explain where my ideas come from.

Where do ideas come from? Everywhere and anywhere, obviously. I get my ideas from magazine articles, TV shows, other writer's books, day dreams, nightmares, and random words. I've got a million ideas flitting through my head at any given time. The problem for me is not where do the ideas come from, but how quickly can I catch them and pin them down? And then what amount of work will I have to do to bring an idea into fruition as a story.

I go through story ideas like nobody's business. At the start of each month, I have to come up with between 4-6 ideas for the Heat Flash Erotica Podcast, and I have to come up with them fast. I hate working in a void when I write, so each month I pick a theme for the upcoming month's stories. For October, I always go with some sort of horror theme, which means I just spent the entire month of September writing five horror stories, and each had to be different from the last. To make things easier, I refined my theme idea to "Lustcraft" and worked on homage stories based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft. I made a list of all the Lovecraft I enjoyed, and when a few Edgar Allen Poe story ideas snuck into the mix, I went ahead and included them too. It seemed fitting to me, since Poe was a source of inspiration for Lovecraft. Once I had a viable list of stories I could play with, I took the originals apart and had fun putting my own spin on everything from the Dunwich Horror to The Tell-Tale Heart.

But that was last month, and this is this month, which means I'm now working on November's stories. Since Thanksgiving falls within November, I decided to write about gatherings, because Thanksgiving is always when people come together (to eat turkey, if nothing else). Then I pulled out my handy-dandy notebook and came up with a list of all the kinds of gatherings I could think of - weddings, funerals, parties, spring break, migrations, spawning grounds, etc. No idea was too stupid, too vague or too boring to include. At some point, a couple of these ideas spawned more specific images, and I wrote notes about those. Over the course of the last few days, I've continued to make my list, play with ideas, and make notes until I've come up with a total of 5 story ideas for the month. Now, at this point, I'm ready to move deeper, spending a day developing each individual idea in my notebook and then when I have a slew of notes and lines of dialog and description, I'll move to the computer and start banging out a story.

I have a week, sometimes less, to write each story. I've found that if I do the prep work in my notebook, developing my idea and writing up all those notes, then when it comes time to sit down and actually write, the process is almost painless. I've managed to write entire stories in just an hour, if I do that prep work. If I don't, and the idea is still rather vague, then I may spend all week agonizing at the keyboard until I finally get the story fleshed out and onto the screen. The stories that I'm prepared to write are usually shorter and more concise, ideal for the podcast. The stories that aren't prepped tend to be longer and harder to write, though I've turned out some amazing pieces by starting with only the vaguest of ideas.

I admit, I am much better at coming up with ideas for stories than I am at coming up with ideas for art. I can write a story at the drop of a hat, but I've had a lot of times where I've sat down with my drawing pad and pencils, looked at that blank page and gone, "Duuuuuuh... what do I draw?" I've finally started keeping a little notebook to jot ideas in, using the same process I use for the podcast stories. I'll be interested in seeing how this works out over the next few months. Who knows, I may turn out more art!

If you're having trouble coming up with that initial idea, consider starting with something general first (like the monthly theme I use for Heat Flash), and then narrow it down from there. Don't reject ideas out of hand because they seem stupid or unworkable. Sometimes your brain will combine the stupid with the unworkable and come up with the masterpiece. And maybe get yourself a notebook you can scribble in, something that doesn't have to be pristine and hold only the best ideas, but can take every single crappy line your brain tosses out. All that crap is fertilizer for story ideas, and you never know what will grow out of it.

And that's where my ideas come from.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Move It Mama Monday! Still feeling ill

I don't know what I caught, but I've been out of it most of the past week. I managed to get to the pool on Monday and had a great swim, then I was flat on my back Tuesday and Wednesday. I did a light workout on Thursday and felt exhausted afterward, so that's been pretty much it for exercise since then. I've slept so late some mornings it isn't even funny, and I've been doing most of my work from bed. Every time I think I'm getting better, I end up feeling crummy again. So who knows. I'm going to continue to take it easy on the exercise front for a while.

In other news, I ordered the new Wii Fit Plus, which became available today. I'm looking forward to seeing what the new game is like, and will give a report here as soon as I've had a chance to hop on the balance board and play with it. Then I'm going to have to figure out how to work it into my regular workout schedule.

That's probably the big thing on my mind, fitness-wise, these days, aside from being sick. I've settled into a new work schedule since the kids started back to school, but I'm still figuring out the exercise schedule. I want to hit the pool at least twice a week, the dojo three times a week, and that leaves two days a week for Wii Fit or running. I'd throw in a few extra workouts, but I also need time to clean the house. Ugh. I despise house cleaning, but it's got to get done, so I'm trading the time I had hoped to set aside for fun little mini-workouts to do the cleaning instead. We'll see how that works. I figure if I do three house cleaning sessions a week, I might be able to steal back one morning for a Wii Fit mini-workout, but we'll have to see.

And that's all that's going on right now. Going to rest a bit more today, and see about doing a light workout tomorrow. Have fun!

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Sunday Contentments - The Hubster

Once again, it's Sunday morning, but today I'm far afield, about one hour from home and enjoying a light repast at a Panera's. I'm on my own this morning. Hubster, good Catholic that he is, took the girls to church, and me, good Zen Buddhist that I am, said, "Good luck with that!"

I've not had the funnest of weeks this past week. Some sort of weird bug hit me, and I spent a lot of mornings in bed thinking maybe I was dying. No fever, congestion, or vomiting, but I was completely wiped out and had a headache that wouldn't quit. It's wasn't a really bad headache, just one persistent SOB that would not leave me alone. So I spend quite a lot of time in bed this week, while the Hubster picked up after my sorry ass. I have to say, I love that man of mine. So this morning's contentments are dedicated to him, the man who puts up with moi! And we're starting with...

Hubster's cooking - he made seared tuna steaks last night with Sechuan green beans. The girls both turned their noses up at it while I devoured everything on my plate and then some. The man can cook. In fact, up until the past couple of years, he did all the cooking as well as all the grocery shopping. What a guy!

Hubster's way with kids - I have to admit, I'm a nervous Nellie when it comes to letting the girls run amok in the neighborhood. I can just imagine all sorts of things going wrong. Hubster lets them venture farther afield than I do. They enjoy the freedom, they learn a little responsibility, and I learn not to be so much of a tight-ass when it comes to letting kids do what kids do. Yesterday, Princess happily spent the day outside on her own, riding up and down the street on her bike. Up until some snot-nose little boys decided to start picking on her, she was happy as a lark and doing pretty good on her bike. I'm going to have to let her and Pixie run loose more often (oh, and I explained to Princess that little boys are scum-eating, stinky, smelly, fetid, rotten, puss-drooling little creeps which made her laugh; welcome to the Battle of the Sexes, kiddo!).

Hubster's way with kids, part 2 - when Princess came home crying telling us one of the aforementioned little cretins threw rocks at her, I sent Hubster out to handle the situation, because I just knew I was gonna kill me some little boys. Cool, logical engineer guy that he is, he confronted the boy in question, and when he got a "he-said she-said" story, he let the little boy know that if he ever saw any rocks being thrown at anyone, he was going to handle it by talking to the parents of everyone involved. Me, I would have just rained down blood and hell fire and obliterated the entire neighborhood. But I'm hormonal and not feeling well this week, which is why I sent out the Hubster instead :)

Hubster's manly home improvement skills - the man is a genius in more ways than one. He pinches every penny until it screams, always getting more than his dollar's worth, and one of the ways he does this is by doing the home repairs himself. He researches every project and then confidently goes down to the hardware store, gets what he needs, and sets about fixing whatever needs fixing. I don't think I can recall a single home improvement project he's done that has not gone well. Some have gone on longer than expected, like the rennovation of our downstairs bathroom and the retiling of our kitchen floor, but that's only because the man works mad hours at his J-O-B.

Hubster's mad computer skillz - the man builds computers as a hobby. He builds really good computers, too. Occasionally, we have the odd error or the need to fix a problem caused by the operating system, but he understands computers inside and out. When he doesn't outright build a computer, he researches thoroughly before he buys. As the lucky recipient of his computer skills, I now own 3, count them, 3 computers, including the little netbook I'm using right now to blog. I'm a computer addict, and I could not survive without my genius husband.

Hubster's giant brain - did I mention he's incredibly, stupendously smart? Like he really is a rocket scientist smart? My dad always said it's just as easy to fall in love with a rich man as it is a poor man. I told Dad it was better to fall in love with a smart man than a rich man, because the rich man might get stupid with his money, but the smart man never would. I have not yet been proven wrong on this.

Hubster's never-ending patience - the man very rarely blows up, and he's put up with a lot of shit from me over the last... good lord, has it been 19 years? (That would be 3 years of dating and engagement plus 16 years of marriage.) Why he's still around, I don't know, but he's been here through thick and thin, and has supported me in every half-assed endevour I've gotten involved in. A lesser man would have either killed me or himself long since, I'm telling you.

And I could go on and on. The fact is, you don't stay married to a man for 16 years if he's not special, and Hubster is. He's got the kids this morning, and has pretty much given me the entire week off to recuperate from my mysterious illness. He's making London broil tonight, and I'm pretty certain we'll be enjoying a quiet afternoon watching the game today, cuddled up on the sofa while the kids run amok around us. Is there anything more I could want? Seriously, I don't think so.

Have a good Sunday everyone, and I hope you enjoy the day with the ones you love.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Writing Wednesday - Writing while sick?

I was going to write about something else for this week's Writing Wednesday, but after spending a day sick in bed I thought I'd write about writing while sick. Do you write while sick, or not? I tried to get up at 5AM and write, but felt so lousy that I was back in bed after only 500 words, and didn't get up again until after 10AM. Yeah, I felt really lousy. However, I was still able to pull my laptop in bed with me after I got up the second time and I did get some work done. It was mostly things like answering e-mail and writing blog posts, but not the heavy duty stuff like fiction writing.

I suppose I could have worked on a story. After all, I felt better after I'd had some sleep. But I also had other work that I knew wouldn't tax my brain quite as much, so I focussed on that instead.

I can write while sick, and will write while sick if I've got a deadline coming up. Among other things, I have a weekly deadline with the podcast, and I can't afford to miss that. Plus, while it may tax my brain to write, it doesn't tax my body that much. If I can sit upright with a laptop and not have to worry about heaving my lunch all over my keyboard, then I can certainly write. It's just a question of whether or not I want to.

Today (which is Tuesday for me, since I tend to write blog posts in advance), my weekly deadline wasn't so pressing, and I had other, lighter work I could do. So I gave myself an easy day, and why not? Most days I'm on the go from 5AM until 10PM. Some days I could use a day in bed.

What do you think? Do you write, create, or work, while you're sick? Or do you take a break?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Episode 37 - Something smells funny around here.

True story. Honest to god, Pixie came up to me one day and said exactly this. And it does not surprise me to hear this news, given the amount of stinky accidents we've had in the last couple months.

First, there was the poopie incident at the pizzeria in Chicago. Then we had an accident last week while she was home sick from preschool. Then yesterday, I hear a bunch of yelling coming from the upstairs bathroom. It wasn't clear what was going on until I got halfway up the stairs and smelled that smell. Sure enough, there was a turd the size of a dinosaur egg sitting in the bathroom floor. Less than a foot away from the toilet. And there was a tiny little shoe print in it. With matching little brown shoe prints all over the bathroom.

According to Pixie, she did not reach the potty in time because it was dark in there. Yes, dark, as in the light was off. Of course, this happened in the middle of the day, which means the upstairs bathroom was dim, at most. Sigh. I just keep reminding myself that she will not be pooping her pants when she walks down the aisle on her wedding day.

I hope.

So how's things with you all?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Move It Mama Monday - Hai Karate!!

Damn, I own a lot of weapons. That picture you see above is all my gear for kobudo class. Kobudo is a form of martial arts weapons training, closely related to Okinawan karate. Last Saturday, Hubster and I tested for our 2nd degree black belts in kobudo, and I'm happy to say we passed.

The Hubster and I have been taking martial arts classes for about eight years now. In addition to our shiny new 2nd degree black belts in kobudo, we also have 2nd degree black belts in karate. We study both karate and kobudo under the same instructor, and Princess trains at the dojo as well. Pixie is chomping at the bit to get started. I think she may begin classes this January. So we're obviously a karate family.

When we started karate classes eight years back, Hubster and I were still pre-children, so we had the luxury of being able to go to six classes a week together. Hey, we were young, we were excited, and we were all fired up about having the chance to beat the snot out of each other in a fun, friendly environment. I trained all through my pregnancy with Princess and had a blast in the process. Then after my first child was born, Hubster and I kind of slowed down on classes. We switched to each of us going to four classes a week, with one of us in class each evening and one of us at home with the baby (there were two classes on Saturday, so we both took a class that day and just handed off Princess at the door).

After Pixie came, things slowed down even further. Let's face it, taking care of kids takes a lot of time, and can make it difficult to keep to a regular schedule of exercise. These days, I try to make it to 3-4 classes a week, but many times it's only two. Between doctor's appointments, sick kids, and work deadlines, it can be hard to make it to class. Thankfully, our current dojo offers day time classes, which is good for me because I pretty much shut down physically and mentally after 5PM each day.

I also have trouble these days finding the motivation I need to practice. But this past week, I discovered once again the truth of one of my rules for doing exercise when I feel like crud. Just go out there and do it. I don't have to do it for long. If I go out with the plan of doing just five minutes, then that's great. Usually, if I get out and do five minutes of any activity, that five minutes will likely turn into twenty, thirty, or even forty minutes, and before I know it, I'll have done a whole workout. And on those days where I do five minutes and I still feel like crud, then I'm obviously not feeling well and I can call it a day. But I have to do five minutes first. This works for classes too. If I can just get to the class and do five minutes, I'm usually good for the rest of the hour. In fact, I don't think I've ever left class once I've gotten there. I just turn off the brain and do what my instructor tells me to do until class is over and then hey, look at that! I worked out for a whole hour.

Anyway, I followed the five minute/go to class rule all last week, and got in enough practice to do well on my kobudo test this Saturday. And now that I've got my shiny new 2nd degree black belt, I've suddenly got a little more motivation to practice and go to class on a regular basis. So if you happen to see me walking around, carrying any of the instruments of destruction shown in the above picture, you know what I'm up to.

Hai, karate!!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sunday Contentments - Recovering

Once again, it's Sunday. Hubster and the kids are off at church, while I, heathen and Zen Buddhist that I am, laze about at home. I had a killer week last week, and I feel the need to just become one with the couch. That makes it the perfect time to contemplate the zen that is contentment. Today's list includes:

Missions accomplished - among other tasks last week, I finished recording and producing the longest episode of the Heat Flash Erotica Podcast. The story in question, A Room With A View, was 12000 words long. That meant a lot of recording and editing time. However, in addition to getting that out the door, I also finished up the cover art for the same story, along with three other stories I produced for the show last month, and all four will be coming out as e-books later this month. So I have that contented feeling of satisfaction at a big job well done and out of my hair.

More missions accomplished - yesterday was a busy day. Princess had her karate test at 9AM. Hubster and I tested for our 2nd degree black belts in kobudo (karate weapons). Then at 3, Pixie and I had to hotfoot it to another town an hour away for a birthday party. Needless to say, I was drop dead tired by the end of the day. I'd been dreading yesterday all week, and I am soooooo glad that I finally got through it and can now breathe a sigh of relief.

Surprises for the girls - Princess and Pixie don't know it yet, but we're going to Disney on Ice this afternoon. Hubster found out he could get tickets last night, so we made the quick decision to go see the show. We're not even going to tell them where we're going; we're just going to climb into the car and head out. I can't wait to see the looks on their faces when they see their very first ice skating princess!

Coffee and soft boiled eggs on toast - it's the breakfast of champions, seriously. Combined with the Sunday paper, it's a great way to just kick back and enjoy the morning. Add some hot sauce to really make things good (but add that sauce to the eggs, not the paper, otherwise you've got a mess).

A rainy morning - I love rainy days. I use them as an excuse to curl up with a cup of tea in my papasan chair or on my couch and do some reading. Think I will try to squeeze in another chapter of Drood today ;)

Mood music - it's Fall, my favorite season of the year, and every Fall I pull out the same albums to enjoy: Enya, Loreena McKennit, Great Big Sea, Young Dubliners, Warren Zevon. An odd mix, I know, but those are the CDs that really bring out the nip in the air and make me want to curl up by the fire, again with a hot cup of tea.

I think that's it for today. Hubster and kids are still out, and I've got some laundry to do. Going to clear the clean clothes that need folding out of my papasan chair so I can curl up with Drood for a bit. See ya later, and enjoy your Sunday ;)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Freaky Friday! Why I write about sex

Don't you just love this pic? I do. I wonder what was going through the male mantis' head right before the female bit it off. "Hey baby, see? You ain't such an uptight bitch after a---!"

Welcome to Freaky Friday, the day where I explain a little bit about the weirdness that is me. I know, I know. I was doing Fiction Friday, right? But ya know, much as I love to read and write, writing about other people's books just hurts my brain for some reason. I spend so much time and effort into my own fiction writing that dissecting other people's fiction isn't really that much fun for me. There are some things that I just want to sit back and enjoy without any fuss.

So I won't be doing any fiction reviews for a while. Stop crying. I know those are crocodile tears. What I will do instead is talk about what it's like to be a freak mama in the great land of Suburbia.

I think in some sense, we're all freak mamas. We all have our little idiosyncrasies that make us different from the so-called "norm." But some of us stray further afield than others, especially yours truly. I know I am not the only stay-at-home mom and erotica writer, but I am probably the only stay-at-home mom and erotica writer within a 100 mile radius of where I'm standing, so I do feel... shall we say, a little unique? At times, anyway.

Why do I write about sex? When I started writing, I wanted to write science fiction and fantasy, my two favorite genres, and I spent a lot of time struggling to write stories about goddesses, robots, aliens, dragons, etc. But nothing ever really clicked, except one 20K word novella that I was never able to sell to anyone because even though editors liked it, digital publishing just hadn't taken off yet and so there was very little market for 20K word novellas. Maybe I could get it published now. In fact, I might try sending it out in the next month.

But anyway, back on topic. I wasn't able to write very well in my chosen genres of fantasy and sci-fi. Then one day, a girl friend and I went on a rampage through town. This was years before I had kids, and I still had the J-O-B working for the Man. I was really crazy back then (and yes, I know I'm really crazy now, but this was a different kind of crazy, okay? This was 'young twenty-something with too much money who hates her J-O-B but doesn't really know what she wants to do with her life' kind of crazy. See? Totally different!). So my girl friend and I left our husbands at home and took an entire day to plunder and pillage the local shopping malls. We ate lunch out, hit the fabric store, the craft store, the cafe, the book store... It was while we were at the bookstore that I picked up a copy of PlayGirl. Hey, I was crazy, twenty-something, and sans the Hubster, so why not? Turns out the magazine was pretty much crap. The models were all plasticky looking and scuzzy, the photo shoots all had this horn dog vibe. Disgusted with the pictures, I decided to read the articles (yes, I actually read the articles). They were just as bad. Then I got to the readers' fantasy forum, which was just down right awful. I read through every story, and when I got to the end, I thought, "Jeeze Louise! I could write better than that!" Then I noticed a little note at the bottom of the page that said, "Can you write better than this? We pay $100 for the story of the month!" And I said, "Hell yeah, I can write better than that!" And so I sat down to write my first pornographic story.

I was very proud of my first effort, and I sent it in, hoping I'd get story of the month. I didn't. I didn't even get into that lousy crap ass magazine! But after I finished fuming over my form rejection letter, I sat down, re-read my story, and said, "What the hell was I thinking? This is crap! I can write better that this too!" And so I sat down and wrote my second pornographic story. And I slaved over that damn thing, and I did research on it, and I spell checked it and grammar checked it to within an inch of my life, and then I slaved and sweated and swore over the damn cover letter too! And then I sent the thing and I waited. And waited. And waited.

Two weeks later, I got a letter from PlayGirl that said, "Congratulations! Your story has been selected for Story Of The Month!" And suddenly I was walking on air! I signed the contract, got my $100 check (they do not pay nearly that amount anymore, from what I understand), and waited for my story to come out. A couple months later, I marched into the bookstore and bought a copy of PlayGirl with MY story in it. And I opened it up right there in the store and....

Started swearing up a blue streak, because instead of putting my name on the story, they gave the byline to my main character, Cindy. Man I was pissed. My first publication, and I didn't have a byline to show for it. How the hell was anyone supposed to know that I was the person who wrote it?! It was then that I swore that ALL my stories would be published under my REAL name, so that nobody would ever have any doubts about who wrote that amazing piece of porn! (I kid you not, I currently have around 150 stories out there, between print publishing, e-publishing, and podcasting, that bear my name, Helen E. H. Madden.)

After seeing the results of my first success, I immediately ran home to write another story for PlayGirl (yes, I knew I wouldn't get a byline for that either, but hey, $100?!). I wrote up a hum-dinger, based on my then J-O-B, which I hated so much, and decided really needed to be the setting for a pornographic story. It worked very well. I wrote this wonderful tale about a conference room and a public speaking engagement... Anyway, I wrote the story and sent it out to PlayGirl. And waited. And waited. And waited. Two months later, they still hadn't gotten back to me, so I started looking for other markets. There was one place, an online multi-media magazine called Cherrybomb.com, that was doing audio recordings of stories that people could listen to online, and they gave bylines to their authors. I sent the story in, and they bought it! About three months after it was published there, PlayGirl contacted me saying they'd like to publish the story too, but they were too late, so nyah! (PlayGirl didn't take previously published stories for their readers' forum, so I couldn't have sold it to them as a reprint. Whatever.)

I sold another story after that to a website that I cannot now remember. The money was only $25, but it was a sale. And after that... nothing. I stopped writing porn for a while. I was bored, to be honest. Those first three stories were fine, but they were pretty much typical erotica stories - girl meets boy, girl wants boy, girl and boy get naked and have sex in the bedroom, the public library, the conference room, whatever. I did sell a story to Marcy Sheiner for an anthology called Ripe Fruit. That was my first older woman/younger man story. I'm very proud of that tale. Marcy wrote to me to say 'thank you for not sending in a story about some poor bereaved widow who needs to get laid, because I'm overwhelmed with those kind of stories right now, and by the way, you're in the anthology because you were original.' That was my first clue that I really needed to do something different.

Well, somewhere in the midst of all that, I got pregnant. Toward the end of my pregnancy, I wasn't doing much of anything except be pregnant, so I thought maybe I should start writing again. I had this perverse idea to write a fantasy story about a tribe of Amazons were the women had multiple husbands to serve and entertain them. It involved m/m sex, the first time I'd ever ventured into that arena, and another of my favorite themes, older dominant woman/younger submissive male. I knew nobody, I mean NOBODY, was buying this sort of thing. I didn't care. I sat down to write the first few chapters, which I let a friend read. She told me my male characters needed a good spanking for being so wicked. I think that was a complement. I was about three or four chapters in, and then it was time for my C-section so I went to the hospital one day and had a baby.

I don't know what happened, exactly, but not only did I come home with a new baby; I also suddenly had the burning need to WRITE. Maybe it was post-partum hormones. Maybe it was the thought that I was going to spend the rest of my life changing diapers and breast feeding, and if I died, my tombstone would read, "She breast fed her baby a lot!" But nobody would remember me for anything else. So I decided I had to do something, make something of myself. I remembered the trashy porno story I'd been working on before I had the baby. I set up a table beside my nursing chair, set a notebook and a pen on it, and every time I sat down to nurse, I picked up the pen and started writing. I wrote every day, five and six times a day, for over a year. At the end of the year, I had several hundred pages of chicken scratch. The story was complete trash. But I also had a) a well-fed baby, and b) the discipline I'd been lacking before to write every single day.

Some time after that, I joined the Erotica Readers and Writers Association. I wrote four short stories that first year. The second year, I wrote a couple more. The third year, the year I was pregnant with my second child, I wrote my first real erotica novel, Demon By Day. I recall the day I mailed it out for submission, I walked out of the post office with Princess and said to her, "Well, now that THAT is in the mail, I can have the baby anytime now." My water broke a few hours later, and I had child number two at 2:34AM the next day. Woof!

And I've been writing pretty steadily ever since. Yes, it's all been erotica. It's what I write. I figured out how to write stories that didn't bore me, and I figured out how to sit my ass in the chair every day to make that writing happen. I have a weekly podcast now, for which I must write a story every week. I write other stories beyond that, and I'm hoping to get back to work on another novel within the next few weeks.

So, I'm the stay-at-home mom and erotica writer. And that's your freaky fact about me for this first Freaky Friday. Huzzah.


BTW, if this blog post wasn't long enough, or freaky enough, for you, I'm over at Oh Get A Grip today, writing about "self-love."

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Recipe: Bacon Muffins and Black Bean Soup

I made these recipes on Sunday and got a lot of requests to post them here. They come from my two favorite cookbooks, BH&G 5-Ingredient Slow Cooker Recipes and Muffins by Francesca DiPaolo. This makes a great meal, and both recipes make enough servings to last a while, though the muffins last longer than the soup.


Bacon Muffins

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Prepare muffin pan with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, blend well:

  • 4 large eggs

  • 2 cups sour cream

  • 1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled


  • 1 pound lean bacon (cooked, drained, and crumbled)

  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh chives (I used small green onions from my garden)

In a large bowl, sift together:

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 2 tablespoons baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper (optional)

Combine the two mixtures just enough to blend. Spoon the batter into a prepared pan (makes either 10 really large muffins or 24 regular-sized muffins). Bake for 17-20 minutes. Remove the muffins from the pan, and cool on a wire rack. Serve warm.

Black Bean and Kielbasa Soup


  • 2 19 oz cans ready-to-serve black bean soup

  • 1 14 1/2 oz can diced tomatoes with garlic and onion, undrained

  • 1 pound cooked, smoked Polish sausage, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/2 inch slices

  • 1 cup frozen whole kernel corn

In a 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 quart slow cooker, stir together the soup, undrained tomatoes, sausage and corn.

Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 6 to 8 hours or on high-heat for 3 to 4 hours.


My recommendation, start the soup early in the morning, then bake the muffins later in the afternoon. Serve for an early dinner. If you like to watch football on the weekends, this makes a nice easy meal to enjoy during the game. I can't stand football, but I do like lazy afternoons, so I have Hubster and the kids watch the game while I collapse on the couch with my muffin and soup and a good book or craft project. Enjoy!

Writing Wednesday - Time management for writers

A week or so ago, I mentioned on Twitter that I was working out my daily and weekly schedule, using a spreadsheet. The responses I got back on this ranged from, "Holy cow, are you anal retentive organized!" to "Hey, I do the exact same crazy thing!" to "Please don't post an example of that spread sheet. I really don't want to see how you obsess over handle your work schedule!" In light of such glowing responses, I felt I had no choice but to share. So here's a quick screen grab of my daily/weekly schedule, with an explanation of what the hell is going on.

Okay, here's a small screen shot of the spread sheet. I keep my schedule in Google Docs, so I can access it from anywhere I can get wireless. This is handy in my house because I typically float between three computers all day long. That's right. I'm so crazy I have to have three computers to get my work done. One computer is a large, super powerful desktop where I do most of my writing and computer graphics as well as all my podcasting and audio recording. That's in the room above our garage and it has it's own separate flight of steps from the rest of the house. Then there's the laptop I often work on in our bedroom, in a sort of mini-office I set up years ago so I could work while breastfeeding my youngest daughter (yes, again, I am crazy). That's up the other flight of steps. Between the two computers, I've got the netbook, set up in the kitchen. This is where I do a lot of my tweeting and web browsing during the day, so if you see me on Twitter, it's a good bet I'm goofing off in the kitchen. In any event, it doesn't matter where I am in the house or what computer I'm on, I've got access to my schedule.

Now take a look at the schedule. Across the top are the days of the week. Down the side I've listed blocks of time in half hour chunks. I rarely do anything that takes less than half an hour of time, and I've learned the hard way not to schedule my time in blocks any smaller than that. Whatever I'm doing, I don't care what it is, it's going to take at least half an hour of my time.

Also note what time my day starts - 4:45 AM. This is the only time on the calendar that is not listed by the half hour, because it usually only takes 15 minutes for me to actually wake up and roll out of bed, then stumble to the shower. Unless I fall back asleep and then this whole schedule thing is just crap for the rest of the day.

At the very top of the schedule, I've made some notes about each day, a sort of quick guideline to let me know what my priorities are for that day. What kind of exercise am I doing that day? Is there any special tasks to accomplish that day? What blog entry is due that day? I'm anal, and very busy, so I like to keep this check list handy at the very top of the schedule.

You may have noticed, the page is color coded. My special notes and goals at the top are in blue. Regularly scheduled items are in green. Those items in black are the ones subject to change on a regular basis. For example, under "Podcast - writing" is a block labeled "Lustcraft theme stories." That's the name of the story theme for next month's podcast. I'm writing the stories this month, so I just put in what them I'm working on, or occasionally what specific story title I'm writing that day.

Here's another shot, further down on the schedule:

Pretty much the same thing going on here, except later in the day. I include everything I know I will be doing on a regular basis in my schedule, so in addition to what time I want to wake up and go to sleep, I also include my workout schedule, my karate class schedule, when to take the girls to the bus stop and when to pick them up, when to do my physical therapy, when to get the laundry in the washing machine and when to fold it, etc. Anything I need to do on a regular basis, weekly or daily, goes into my schedule, thus the need for the spread sheet. You'll also notice at the bottom that this page with the actual schedule on it is not the only page in the spread sheet. I've also got pages for weekly goals, routines (because sometimes it's just easier to list a routine in the schedule and then go to that routine on a separate page), my blog schedule, shopping lists, etc. I have a lot going on, and I like to keep track of things, so I use the additional pages to help me do that.

Feeling overwhelmed yet by all this scheduling? It's okay. Let me say up front that there is no one way to do a personal schedule, and don't worry if you don't want to do your schedule how I do it. YOU DON'T HAVE TO! This is really just a peek into how my crazy brain works.

So where did I get this crazy method of making schedules? From my days in the Army Reserves. I used to be a training officer for a very large unit, and was responsible for schedule all the training events for everyone in the unit. I had to decide who was doing what, when, where, why, and how. The schedules I created for each drill weekend look rather similar to my personal schedule today, only I don't have to list anybody as the trainer for a specific event, nor do I have to quote which regulation and training manual to reference.

How do I come up with this schedule? This, I think, is the important part, and the part I really want to share with people:

I start by making a list of all the things I'd like to do in a day/week.


I start plugging items from my list into my schedule. The important things get the biggest blocks of time, and are usually scheduled early in the day. Did you notice what was the first thing on my schedule after waking up, showering, and starting the laundry? Yeah, the podcast, either writing for it or recording and editing the audio for it. The podcast is a weekly deadline. It has to get done every week, and so it gets done first!

I only schedule things in half-hour blocks. I refuse to break down my day into 15 minute segments, or 10 minute segments, or what have you. I know I could list 10-15 minutes of house cleaning a day, to ensure that my house cleaning gets done. But you know what? It never works for me. I've learned the hard way that when I start nickel and diming my day away like that, I lose sight of the important work, the work that actually requires me to focus for half an hour. So I don't bother putting things on there like house cleaning that would only take 15 minutes, because house cleaning isn't a priority (getting a shower and folding laundry are, however! At least to me).

I try the schedule out for a few days. I usually end up realizing I forgot to add something in, or I need to take something out. Sometimes I realize that a particular task would be more likely to get done if I scheduled it for a different time during the day. For example. I prefer to workout first thing in the morning after I get the kids to school, but recently I realized that I was getting the workout done, but not the other stuff I had planned in the morning. So I flipped things around. Now I work in the morning on my major projects - the web comic, writing a book, redesigning the website - and then take off around lunch time to swim, attend karate class or go for a run. I was surprised at how well that worked out. I actually got a lot more done, and I still got my workouts in.

I realize that past a certain point in the day, things are not going to get done. That point in the day is 3:30PM, when the girls come home from school. At that point, my time becomes their time. So I make sure to fit in things like my physical therapy before they come home, and I don't plan to do anything serious after they get here.

If the schedule does not seem to be working, I start a new schedule, or I copy the old one and make any changes as I see fit. My schedules are not written in stone. Things happen, plans change. Schedules need to change too.

So that's my schedule in a not-so-small nutshell. It's detailed. It's anal. It works for me.

It usually takes me a day or two to write the basic schedule out, and then another week or so to tweak it until I've got everything I want on it. Then I'll be able to work with that schedule for a few months, up to six if I'm lucky, before needing to change it for some reason. If you're having trouble getting stuff done during the day, my suggestion is to pull out a spreadsheet, or even just a pen and a piece of paper, and start making a list of things you want to get done, and figure out when to get them done. You don't have to be as anal detailed as I am, but a simple schedule could help you go a long way toward accomplishing your goals.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Episode 36 - What I didn't do on my summer vacation

So, how was your summer?

Honest to god, I thought I would get so much more done this summer, but I feel like I barely managed to limp to the finish line. I was sooooooooo happy when school started and I finally had all day to myself. That was two weeks ago, and I am only now catching up on everything I didn't get done while I was busy chasing after two kids.

I'm finally settling into a regular schedule, and I hope to be a little more productive with this cartoon. I also hope to start work on building a new website, combining all my various sites and blogs into one easy to find spot where you can get all the cartoons and blog posts and other goodies at once. There will be the usual Cynical Woman madness, plus maybe some new stuff (i.e. some ADULT stuff). So stay tuned. I'll get that done. One of these days ;)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Move It Mama Monday! When the kids are sick.

Yes, I'm getting this post out late today. My apologies. I had planned to get it written yesterday and then schedule it to run first thing this morning, but I got hit with a ton of deadlines. I have four e-chapbooks (smaller than an e-book, bigger than a breadbox), coming out in the next week or so, and I had to get a lot of stuff done to make sure that happens.

So today's post is late, but that's okay because the whole day was sort of thrown out of whack when Pixie woke up this morning sounding like she'd swallowed the granddaddy of all bullfrogs. My poor little pooter has a mild fever, a runny nose, and a nagging cough. None of this is slowing her down, mind you, but it is enough to keep her out of preschool for today and tomorrow. Can't be too careful with the H1N1 virus running around, I suppose.

So I unexpectedly have a child home today, a sick child whom I cannot take to the Y nursery anymore than I could send to preschool, and that puts all my carefully laid out plans for the day into the trashcan. Or does it?

I actually look forward to the days the kids are home sick. It somehow lifts the burden off of me to meet any other responsibilities beyond bringing my baby warm ginger ale to sip and watching Disney movies on the couch with her. I call these days "Blow Off Days," because I have the perfect excuse to blow off work, exercise, what have you. Depending on the severity of illness and my desire to take a break from the usual routine, I may blow off everything or just a few select items on my daily to-do list.

Since Pixie's really not all that ill and since I'm gung-ho to catch up on a lot of stuff I've been putting off all summer, I opted to only skip a few things today. Rather than hit the Y this afternoon for a lengthy karate practice, I pulled out EA Sports Active (yes, my one month moratorium on that game is up) and did a short 20 minute workout. Then I popped a Disney movie in the DVD player for Pixie and hit the office. While she played downstairs and watched her movie, I worked on finances, e-mail, and other odds and ends. I took a break every now and then to check on my little poot, but she was doing fine, so I let her be.

At lunch, I decided to pop Pixie in the jog stroller and I took her for a nice walk around the neighborhood. Nothing too fast, just a chance to get outside for some fresh air. We stopped at the local playground for a bit and played there, then returned home. Pixie is in bed now with some of her Barbies while I finish up more work in the office.

I did not get the hard-charging workout I had planned for today, but that's okay. I had other options, and I think that's what's important. It's hard to keep up with kids, work, AND exercise if you don't give yourself options. And while I might miss the sweat inducing activity I had planned, let's face it. If my kid is sick, I may be sick too soon. Taking a bit of a break right now instead of running myself into the ground might not be a bad idea.

Pixie will be home again tomorrow; she has to be fever-free for 24 hours before she can go back to school (again, can't be too careful). But that's okay. She'll be well enough that I can take her to the dojo with me tomorrow for kobudo class. I have a kobudo test coming up this Saturday, so I need the class. But I won't be staying for the class of open-hand karate following afterward.

After all, I got a sick kid, and we could use the break.


I believe on October 4th, Nintendo releases the new Wii Fit Plus. I'm chomping at the bit for this one. I love Wii Fit, but I've done it almost to death at this point. I need something new. EA Sports is also releasing an update to EA Sports Active, which includes new exercises and workouts. I had thought about pre-ordering this, but decided I'd rather look into some other Wii fitness games instead, like My Fitness Coach. This game actually looks like it might include some stretching exercises, something that both Wii Fit and EASA have so far ignored. Although, maybe the new Wii Fit will surprise me in that aspect. One can hope.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sunday Contentments - Running!

I have had a very long busy week, made even busier by the sudden realization at the last minute that I had a story that needed major proof-reading and correction yesterday, in time for a deadline today. Between that rewrite and producing next week's episode of the Heat Flash Erotica Podcast, I ended up spending most of the day in the office, working. I didn't get to bed until around midnight, then woke up half-dead this morning. I was so foggy headed, I actually put the coffee grounds in the coffee maker before I put the filter in. Yeah, it was that kind of morning.

However, I did manage to get things turned around after that, and I'm now enjoying a nice Sunday afternoon. I've still got work to do, but it's at a level I can handle and still get some time on the couch knitting and reading later today. With that in mind, here's this Sunday's contentments:

Running - I was a cadet in ROTC during college, and had to run at least 3 times a week in formation for four years straight. I hated it. I never ran before college, and I spent a lot of time in college yakking up my guts after going miles with my fellow cadets. It wasn't until after college, when I was out on my own, that I discovered the joys of running. When I could run at my own pace, choose my own route, and not have to listen to someone scream at me to "Pick it up, cadet!!" I used to do a lot of running, prior to having the girls. Then after the third knee injury, I stopped. Running just hurt too much. Recently though, I've been getting back to it. Maybe it's because I've been keeping up with my glucosamine supplements and physical therapy, but my knees no longer ache after going a couple of miles around the neighborhood. This morning, after my disaster with the coffee maker, I threw on my sweats and sneakers and headed out the door. The sky was a perfect Autumn blue, the weather was cool with a light breeze, and a few of the neighbors were out gardening. Perfect running conditions. I love it.

Reading - I've had the opportunity to sit down with my netbook most nights the past few weeks and do some serious reading. I know I'm staying up waaaaay to late, devouring horror stories and such, but I'm enjoying the hell out of myself. Drood by Dan Simmons is excellent, as was The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens. Once I get past this month, I'll put up a list of recommended reads for October.

Time to myself - both girls are in school, and I've got most days to myself now. Yeah, I miss having the munchkins run around the house, screaming and giggling and generally tearing the place apart. But I've got plenty of ways to fill those hours. I've been catching up on e-mail and work, and can actually now look forward to starting work on some new projects, maybe even this week. It's so amazing what I get done in the few hours I have to myself each day!

Swimming - this one goes right up there with running. I never did a lot of swimming until I realized it hurt too much to run. Then I really got into it. I didn't go swimming this summer, not laps at the Y anyway, because I had my hands full with the girls. I went back to the pool for the first time on Friday. Since I didn't have to drag anyone with me, I wasn't restricted to the hours that the Y nursery is open. That meant at noon, when they've got the most swim lanes open for lap swim, I had a lane all to myself. Heck, I almost had the whole pool to myself! It was nice.

Getting published - sometime in the next week or so, I'll have four short stories out from Logical Lust. These are the stories that I've been running this past month on the Heat Flash Erotica Podcast, and they include some of the best pieces I've ever written. I'm hoping more published work will mean more sales. Help a mother out and buy my books!

I think I'm going to leave it at that today. Princess is playing with the Wii right now, and Pixie is out shopping with the Hubster. I've got some artwork to finish - the cover art for my upcoming releases. I'm going to go play with my graphics programs now, and enjoy the rest of the afternoon. You have fun today, too!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Writing Wednesday - Are E-books Any Good?

I had a couple of folks express an interest in my idea of doing a semi-regular writing post, and since both writing and Wednesday start with W...

Anyway, I wanted to start with a general topic today, e-books. I've had the opportunity to read a lot of e-books lately. I love my netbook, and I love reading e-books on it. I've enjoyed a lot more books since getting the netbook than I have in a while. E-books don't take up a ton of space in my house, and they're very transportable, and hot diggity-dog! Barnes and Noble has made it every easy for me to get e-books from them online!

Of course, Barnes and Noble, and that mega-giant of e-books Amazon.com, are not the only places to get e-books. There's also Fictionwise.com, which offers some pretty nice deals, and carries a lot of small e-press published books. And just about every e-publisher sells their own books on their website. My publishers do, I know that. So there are lots of places to go buy e-books.

Still, in spite of the availability and the ease of buying, there seems to be this perception that e-books aren't as good as "real" books. I can say from experience that reading a book on my netbook is just as easy as reading one in print. So I don't think the problem is the digital format per se, but the perception that e-books are not as well written. I'm not talking about the books that are e-published as well as print published by the big New York publishers, but the e-books that are put out by all those small e-publishers, the books that usually don't come out in print.

Is the reputation of poor quality one that's been earned by these small e-publishers? Maybe yes, maybe no. We've all seen the major New York publishers put out books that suck rocks, and I've personally seen small e-publishers put out books that kept me up reading all night long. But I've also seen the reverse, more times than I care to admit.

The fact is, there are some publishers out there who don't edit books as well as they should. Granted, most e-publishers don't have the near the staff that the New York publishers have, so frequently you'll find one editor doing the work of three. In that case, editing mistakes are bound to happen - the occasional misplaced comma or dropped word - and I understand that. But what about the books I read that I can't believe got published? You know the ones I'm talking about. They're riddled with bad grammar, punctuation and spelling errors. The plot isn't so much a plot as it is an excuse to string together sex scenes, or horror scenes, or action scenes, depending on the genre. The characters might as well be cut out of cardboard, they're so two-dimension. In fact, the entire story reads like really bad fan fiction (nothing against good fan fiction; I LIKE good fan fiction, and frequently the good fan fic writers go on to become good original authors). When I run across bad books like this, I wince, because I know these books are the reason many people perceive the e-publishing industry to sub-standard and filled with crap. And there are far more of these kinds of e-books out there than there should be. Certain publishers are intent on churning out as many e-books as they can, and I get the feeling they will sign anyone who can string more than a few words together. Quantity over quality is never a good deal. Thus I'm always wary of buying books from a small e-publisher I've never bought from before. Will I get a treasure, or a dud? Even reading reviews doesn't help, if I don't know the reviewer. Many is the time I've seen an e-book with great reviews, only to discover that there are some reviewers out there who like everything and anything they read, while I, a rather picky reader, can not get past the first chapter of this book with the glowing reviews. For some reason, I always figure this out after I get the book and start reading. I hate that, because then I've wasted money and time, two things I really hate to waste.

So here's my thought. I like to read e-books, good e-books, and I think there are plenty of good e-books out there put out by small e-publishers. But there's also a lot of dreck out there too. If you're a reader, I do recommend you search out some e-books and give them a try. Get books from the big publishers and the small, and be willing to do a little research to find books you'll like. There really are some gems out there, if you take the time to look. If you're a writer, do your readers a favor and write the best book you can. Don't just knock out a quick draft and boot it out the door, thinking your editor will catch all your mistakes and fix them for you. You need to do that before you submit, not after. And please, for love of Pete, don't treat plot and characterization like afterthoughts, something to be added in after you write all the hot sex scenes (erotic romance writers, I'm looking at YOU!). Finally, if you're an e-publisher, do EVERYONE a favor. Demand quality books; publish quality books. Publisher fewer books if you need to, to make that happen. But make sure the books are good.

I'm not the best writer in the world, but I am a reader, a reader with a wallet, and I know how I want to spend my money - on quality stories. The publishers and writers who produce those stories are the ones who are going to get my hard-earned bucks.