Monday, October 18, 2010

Have you heard?

To pilot the fleet’s finest ship…

Few options remain for Byron. A talented but stubborn young man with a troubled past and rebellious attitude, his cockpit skills are his only hope. Slated to train as a Cosbolt fighter pilot, Byron is determined to prove his worth and begin a new life as he sets off for the moon base of Guaard.

Much to Byron’s chagrin, the toughest instructor in the fleet takes notice of the young pilot. Haunted by a past tragedy, Bassa eventually sees through Byron's tough exterior and insolence. When a secret talent is revealed during training, Bassa feels compelled to help Byron achieve his full potential.

As war brews on the edge of space, time is running short. Byron requires a navigator of exceptional quality to survive, and Bassa must make a decision that could well decide the fate of both men. Will their skills be enough as they embark on a mission that may stretch their abilities to the limit?

Intriguing, isn't it? Alex J. Cavanaugh's debut CassaStar releases today!!! Congratulations, Alex!

“…calls to mind the youthful focus of Robert Heinlein’s early military sf, as well as the excitement of space opera epitomized by the many Star Wars novels. Fast-paced military action and a youthful protagonist make this a good choice for both young adult and adult fans of space wars.” - Library Journal

Alex J. Cavanaugh [of The Great Blogging Experiment fame] has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design and graphics. He’s experienced in technical editing and worked with an adult literacy program for several years. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Currently he lives in the Carolinas with his wife.

CassaStar by Alex J. Cavanaugh
October 19, 2010 Science fiction/adventure/space opera
ISBN 9780981621067 Dancing Lemur Press LLC

Also available in eBook format for Kindle, iPad, Nook, and others

Friday, October 15, 2010

Writerly surprises

Remember Justine Dell's amazing contest? I won! I never win stuff like this (but I can't say that anymore, can I?). I got to choose my prize, and I opted for The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman. I am so excited. Thank you, Justine! And congratulations to the other seven lucky winners!

Big Boots; photo from Cowboys and Indians Magazine
We're currently wrapping up a few days in San Antontio, Texas and head to Austin today. And I just discovered that the Texas Book Festival is in Austin this weekend. I am SO excited!!  We plan to ditch a family barbeque to go. No, not really, but we have found a fabulous set of children's book sessions that we plan to attend, so the kids should be just as happy as I am. :-D

What does life have planned for you this weekend?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Time savers and security blankets

There are so many terrific writing blogs out there, it makes my head spin. Really. There's just so much to take in, sometimes. But every now and then I come across a tip or trick that has really made my life easier. Here are the three that I use on a daily basis.

Document map. If you are writing something lengthy (like, say, a novel, or an in-depth non-fiction book), and you write using Word, document map is your friend. I learned about this from Casey McCormick's blog, Literary Rambles.

Highlight the item you want to map, right click and select paragraph. In the upper right corner, change Outline Level from Body Text to Level 1. Voila! If you don't see the document map (table of contents to the left of your document), go to View > Document Map. Saves an untold amount of time in not searching for that thing you wrote... you know... back in that scene... the one that was, like... three scenes ago? Yep. I've probably saved hours with this one.

Dropbox. How often do you back up your files? How do you do it? Save to the computer, plus a memory stick or external hard drive? Burn to a CD that you carry with you everywhere you go? I do some of those, but I no longer have to worry about having my backups in the same place because I also use Dropbox.

Dropbox stores your documents (in a secure format) on a cloud (computer cloud, not the fluffy white kind). You can set up Dropbox on any number of computers, so that you can access your work from anywhere. And the kicker? It automatically syncs what's on the cloud with what's on your computer when you boot up. It also saves older versions in case you need to back-track. So you always have the version you need, wherever you might be. If you are interested in Dropbox, send me an email (anpstevens [at] gmail). If I 'refer' you, we both get extra storage space.*

Unison. Unison is free software that synchronizes your files between two drives (e.g., your hard drive and a memory stick, external hard drive, or remote site). It checks the files on both sources and compares them. This is really helpful if you're inconsistent about where you save your work, in which case you don't want to copy everything from one drive to the other and risk losing recent work.

When Unison is ready to sync, you can see exactly which files have changed, and the arrows make it clear which file is the newer version. You have complete control over whether or not Unison changes anything (you can skip a file or revert to the older version during a synchronization event) before you allow it to proceed, and it syncs in both directions. You can download Unison here.

* This is not a paid endorsement for any of these things, nor am I telling you about Dropbox because I want more storage space. I just think it's an incredibly handy way to back things up and have them accessible from anywhere.

What are your favorite writing tricks?

Friday, October 8, 2010

I'm sorry...

I have no idea what time zone I'm in at the moment. I switched seven of them yesterday, and I think I left my brain somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic. My kids? One seems to be on Icelandic time, the other closer to Bermuda.

Which brings me to my apology... I'm not going to be able to post much over the next few weeks. Or comment. :(

As I'm sure you all know, family that one last visited two years ago doesn't really like it when one sneaks off to spend time with blog buddies rather than time with the fam. Even if one tells the world about the last visit.

Oh, I will sneak off now and then, but not at my regularly scheduled Mon-Wed-Fri times. And I will stop by your wonderful blogs, but not as often as I'd like. I hope you'll forgive me and I hope you'll still remember me when I'm back. :)

In the meantime, have a fabulous weekend.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I sat down to write the other day and...

Rachael Harrie at Rach Writes... started the Writers Platform-Building Crusade, which comes complete with challenges! Woohoo! And the first one is to write something, anything, starting with I sat down to write the other day and...

But first, if you're not part of the crusade, you should check it out. It's fun. I've met lots of interesting people, and the more who participate, the more fun it will be. Now, without further ado...

I sat down to write the other day and was just hitting my groove when the phone rang. I was tempted to ignore it, but since it could have been the school calling, I answered.

"Guten Tag. Mein Name ist..... und ich rufe Ihnen an weil..." My brain, still stuck in the story, heard something more like this, "Καλωσόρισες το όνομά μου είναι... ζητώ σήμερα διότι..."*

"Wie bitte?" I responded, trying to buy time while my brain switched langauges (this usually takes around 2-3 minutes, sometimes as long as five).

The caller repeated his spiel (used here as an English word, rather than German). This time through, I managed to pick out some of the important words, but I still missed the general point of the call.

I asked him to speak more slowly, to which he replied in an exasperated voice. "ICH... RUFE... IHNEN... AN..." Yeah, I'm neither deaf nor stupid, just needed time.

Done with the phone, I sat down at the computer and tried to remember what my characters had been doing. Riding an elephant? No, but something to do with an animal...

Trying to get the story back in my head, I glanced out the window to see the neighbor boys playing. One looks remarkably like ten-year-old Harry Potter**, and I briefly imagined him jumping on a Nimbus Two-Thousand and playing quidditch instead of soccer. That, at least, would explain the ball that kept flying past my window.

Focus, focus, I thought, and I finally got back into my story. The animal was a bird (elephant? what was I thinking?), and the characters took it from there. I enjoyed a good writing session (look! to the right! The WIP is now a first draft!), and then it was time to pick up the kids.

As I walked to the bus stop, I thought about my newest picture book idea. Explorers. Maybe it could be about two kids exploring Mars. Not non-fiction, but the fictional story could be the backdrop to the factual back matter. Or maybe not.

*I do not speak Greek, and if the translation above is not the Greek equivalent of "Hello, my name is... I'm calling you because..." I apologize. Please direct your complaints to
** The neighbor really does look like Harry Potter, I did not make this up just because of some silly challenge rules (although it was a great way to meet the challenge). :)

What are your greatest writing distractions?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Fifty Followers and an Award!

Well if this isn't a moment to celebrate... I just hit 50 followers! And I was given my first blog award!!

I am honored, humbled, and grateful that so many of you come here and comment on my posts because, really, that's what makes all of this worthwhile for me.

Many, many thanks to Donna Hole and Quinn for passing the award on to me. (Donna gave it to me the day of my Snarwal creative writing exercise which also lost me a  follower, so thank you Donna!!)  Please stop by their blogs, which are very different but equally terrific to follow.

The rules for this award are simply to acknowledge the giver and to pass it on to 15 blogs that you enjoy reading/have recently discovered.

And now I pass it on to (listed in no particular order)...
  1. Jessica Stanford at Girl, Unpublished
  2. Jen K Blom
  3. Astrid Paramita
  4. Christie Wright Wild at Write Wild
  5. Julie Hedlund at Write Up My Life
  6. Serena at I see you see
  7. Dawn Embers at Its in the Book
  8. Catherine Johnson at Kangaroobee's Blog
  9. Marieke at Marieke's Musings
  10. Madeleine at Scribble and Edit
  11. Lola Sharp at Sharp Pen/Dull Sword
  12. Patricia A. Timms at Simplicity in Volumes
  13. Adina West at Stairways and Landings
  14. Megan K. Bickel at The Write at Home Mom
  15. JEFritz at Still Writing...
This award seems to be making the rounds, so some of you may be getting it for the second time. But it's still well-deserved. :)

Friday, October 1, 2010


Serena at I see you see is hosting the Location, Location, Location blogfest today...

Looking for cool shade in summer, brilliant folliage in fall, pines blanketed with snow in winter, and bubbling brooks in spring? Woodsville provides all of these and more. Lose yourself among the fir trees, gather hazelnuts and chestnuts, and discover clearings blooming with wildflowers of every color. Each season Woodsville bursts with life in its various forms. Come reconnect with nature!

* * *

Autumn weather started really early here this year, back at the start of August. We've had cool temperatures, lots of rain, and very little sunshine (but today is an exception--the glare of sunlight on my computer monitor makes it doubly hard to force myself to stay inside and work).

But there's an upside.

The color of the fall foliage this year is the most intense I have ever seen (or can remember seeing, at any rate). I've been carrying a camera with me everywhere for the past week, wanting to capture the bold reds, oranges, yellows, even pinks (yes, pink leaves!). And since they make me happy, I thought I'd share them with you.

What's your favorite season? Why?