Reading: Best Gift Ever

McGuffeyReader-300x199Tomorrow is my mom’s birthday, and that got me thinking about the best thing she ever gave me: words.

She taught me to read on those old fashioned McGuffey readers long before I hit kindergarten. The covers were just paper and soon frayed, and the books started out as a chore… What does Jill do? What did Jill say? I remember thinking, as a child, that Jill was very boring.

Then the words started taking on depth. Red meant the color, but it also meant anger, passion, love… the individual letters knit themselves into words that wove together to create a tapestry of life that was only limited to how fast my eyes and mind could absorb its nuance.

The Writer SuicideSquad58p16I decided I wanted to be a writer when I read about The Writer, a villain created in the mind of Grant Morrison. The Writer convinced me that words have power, and if I could learn to control them I could be a super hero or villain, depending on my mood.

During my entire childhood my mom surrounded me with books. Our basement was crammed with books on shelves my dad made, and no book was taboo.  I got in trouble in third grade for reading a book in class that mentioned breasts, and from Mrs. Whitmore’s reaction I decided breasts must be a real problem. Later I realized that it was Mrs. Whitmore that had a problem, and words were amoral, neither good nor evil, and only took on the characteristics of the minds that wield them.

The ability to read and write has gotten me in and out of trouble, kept my family fed, guided me across the world, saved my life and found me love. My syntax can be lax and I don’t have the best grammar, spelling and vocabulary, but the sheer adoration of written language, be it caught in ink, blood or pixel, has been enough to carry me through.

But Words WillThe written word is silent, but kingdoms crumble, hearts break and chains are broken because of it. Words are keys to open doors, lifesavers that have kept me tethered through dark times and currency to be traded… and I may never have fallen in love with them were it not for my mom, years ago, forcing those McGuffey readers down my throat.

Mom: On this birthday of yours, I say thank you for the gift of literacy you gave me. Many of us are successfully birthed, but whether that life is a gift or a curse is often contested. Teaching me to read has been the difference between being alive, and living.

Thank you.

Posted in On A Personal Note, Writing Life | Leave a comment

Best Days Don’t Come Easy

200_charminTough week for many people I care about… and myself. To stay afloat, I constantly have to remind myself that good days don’t come easy. Life throws constant curve balls and all we can do is hit back what we can and laugh about what we can’t. And keep playing.

When things get tough, I pick out music that will help remind me not to let the outside turmoil inside me so I can try to keep smiling, even if there’s a hurricane blowing. I make that song my ringtone and listen to it every chance I get to bolster my spirits. This week I’m listening to American Author’s Best Day of My Life.

Life isn’t “what we make of it,” as the saying goes. I think that insinuates that we sit by passively, forcing a smile and some bland positive message while our inside world withers. I think life is what we make it.

When darkness encroaches, drive it back. Post your inner Gandalf at the bridge into your soul and have him stand vigilant, staff in hand, refusing passage to negativity. Crap happens, and always will happen. Just remember to keep the stink on the outside where you can wash it off, never inside where it festers.

And with that… I’ll share my favorite song of the week…

Posted in On A Personal Note | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Free Monsters!

Monsters Are Everywhere

Monsters Are Everywhere

Just a quick peek in to let you know that Monsters Are Everywhere is officially published and free today… Don’t Worry, Star is free for a few more hours.

Monsters is absolutely beautiful and Mary-Anne Leslie‘s illustrations are amazing. Get your free copy today and leave us a review to tell us how we did :)

And now… I’m back to work!

 

Posted in Writing Life | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Working on ‘Monsters’

Monsters Are Everywhere coverToday I’m busy finishing up the next book in the queue – Monsters Are Everywhere. Don’t let the title frighten you.

This beautifully illustrated (by Mary-Anne Leslie) book is here to assure kids of all ages that we can’t spend our lives being afraid of what might be around the corner.

In the meantime, I just came across my Amazon author’s page and Wow! When did they start making our profile pages so gorgeous? See for yourself!

Visit Amazon’s Angela Yuriko Smith page.

Posted in Writing Life | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Pillsbury Melts: Sweet Rewards

IMG_3513My boys have been doing so well in school, I decided to bring a sweet treat home with me from the grocery store today. It was a tough decision but I eventually decided on the new Pillsbury Melts in the refrigerated aisle. They come in two flavors, Molten Fudge Cake and S’more Sensation – So I decided to get both.

When I got home, I quickly busied myself with my online duties while my boys rifled through the bags of groceries like looters.

“Mom, are you going to make these cookies?” I could hear called from the kitchen.

“Yep, just give me a second to finish up some things.”

My boys aren’t chefs by any means and cooking their own food is almost taboo by their standards – but the Pillsbury Melts were so easy to bake, (They’re already pre-cut and ready to put on a baking dish) I came out of my room to find they had already made both batches! (I guess I took longer than a second)

We took turns sampling both kinds of cookies to pick our favorite. Among the votes – 3 for the S’mores Sensations and I was the one loner who really enjoyed the Molten Fudge Cake. (Even the name sounds delicious!)

The cookies were absolutely delish and filled with an ooey-gooey filling, something I haven’t found in any other kind of pre-made cookie. To top it off, they’re drizzled in chocolate as if it could get even better.

These were definitely a hit in my family and now I know exactly what to make my son’s teachers for Christmas. Maybe Pillsbury might even come out with a Gingerbread Flavor by then.

Find more deliciousness at the links below!

http://www.pillsbury.com/products/cookies/ready-to-bake-cookies/melts-molten-fudge-filled-cookies

http://www.pillsbury.com/products/cookies/ready-to-bake-cookies/melts-smore-sensation-filled-cookies

http://www.pillsbury.com/products/cookies/ready-to-bake-cookies/

https://www.facebook.com/Pillsbury 

“Disclosure: The information and prize pack have been provided by General Mills through Platefull Co-Op.”

Posted in My Consumerverse | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Halloween Hat Trick

Hat for HalloweenAnd now for something completely different…

Halloween Hat 2I popped into Second Life to design up a Halloween hat for a friend and a gift hunt she is getting ready to have. I was thinking Mad Hatter, heavy on the mad, with a touch of dark whimsy. That’s what I was going for anyways. Not sure if that’s what I achieved, but I did enjoy it.

Sometimes it’s good to do something creative outside of the normal, worn groove.

Posted in On A Personal Note, Writing Life | 1 Comment

Digital Book Readings?

iPad 5How does an author do book readings if they don’t want paper books?

I’ve been toying with the idea of going eBook only for awhile. Pros: eBooks are outselling paperbacks and with much less production cost. They are simpler to produce and faster, enabling authors to control their own production stream. eBooks save space, are available instantly and with the widespread availability of eReaders, nearly everyone has access whether it’s via phone, tablet or good old fashioned computer. Most libraries now offer digital books for check iPad 2out, allowing them to have larger selections without bigger costs.

The pros of going wholly paper are fewer. Some people just like paper, so a few readers will never come over. I can’t think of many other detractions except that doing book signings and readings would have to be rethought.

iPad 1I’m not quite ready to completely go digital only yet, but I am very close. To solve the problem of readings I just purchased an easel meant to allow children to safely interact with iPads. My plan is to try doing a reading using this and see how the kids react. As far as fulfilling the need for something signed, I think I will offer small, signed posters, suitable for framing, if they order the book during the reading.

iPad solutionNo books to lug around or store… I think the day soon approaches where we will look back upon the scene of a librarian or author reading a book aloud to a group of kids as a quaint scene of yesteryear.

Explore further about the rise of eBook sales on Slate.

What do you think? Can you live without paper books?

Posted in Writing Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lord Mac, King of the Apples

DSCF8321A friend of mine recently gave me a her lightly used Mac computer. Sitting at this amazing machine with music and a screen so big I actually have to swivel my neck to see from one side of the screen to the other has been heavenly. I named this machine of magic “Lord Mac,” and wrote her this poem to say thank you.

The poem doesn’t have anything to do with computers, and I actually wrote it how I do most of my writing these days… at the kitchen table as I try not to burn dinner on the iPad and sometimes scribbly pieces of scratch paper.

Thanks Robin, for Lord Mac. May he reign long and produce much in his kingdom (unlike the poor schmuck in the poem).

Lord Mac, King of the Apples

Lord Mac, King of the Apples
sat wondering what to do.
Lord Mac loved to eat the apples
but he loved to look at them too.

“Oh, why am I cursed!” he cried out, his lips pursed,
and he balled both his fists in his eyes.
“I can never have both, and this fact I do loathe
for I want a feast for my palate and eyes!”

The poor king then sat leaking tears in his hat
when a man with a camera came near.
He saw the king’s plight and sought to set it all right
so he swiftly started setting up gear.

With a clickety-snap, and up the king sat
to see the strange man at his feet.
Up he did jump with a “How rude!” and “Harrrrumph…!”
and an embarrassed trail he started to beat.

“Hey now!” said the man with a card in his hand.
“Look here, and see what I’ve got - 
apples forever, whatever the weather
that won’t attract worms, flies or rot.”

Lord Mac quite cavorted when he heard this reported
and he frolicked back to see for himself.
There on a page was a photograph made
laid out like a prize on black felt.

“Now the first one is free,” said the man zealously.
“But you’ll want to see what can be made:
there’s T-shirts and cases, coozys and shoe laces
and I take cash, check, credit or trade.”

Now Lord Mac just sits on a throne made of pits
from all the apples he ate up with no thought.
He’s got a souvenir mug, back pack, banner and rug
but he traded his trees for the stuff that he bought.

Now children be wise and here find a prize
of wisdom you can use as you please.
Apples may grow fast but by themselves they don’t last 
so never, never trade off your trees.

- Angela Yuriko Smith

DSCF8337

Posted in On A Personal Note, Writing Life | Leave a comment

Evil Returns – What Fun!

K&DII MedOne of my favorite authors, A.F. Stewart, has finished the follow up to Killers and Demons, a delightful smorgasbord of darkness, with a continuation of the feast. Her newest book, Killers and Demons II: They Return, is a collection of thirteen tales, blending short stories and flash fiction, tales where the blood lingers on your tongue or spurts quickly from the swift cut.

If you like a little terror artfully woven into the tapestry of your literary wanderings, you will enjoy this work by an author talented at both poetry and prose. Her words will have you on edge – just meet some of the characters will you will find wandering the pages:

  • Wade, every parent’s nightmare
  • Hannah and Mr. Greeley. Who is the victim and who is the villain?
  • Simon and Zoe, a married couple who are dying to be single again.
  • Norman and his “cookie” of a wife, Mabel.
  • Millicent and Jane, a delightful duo you shouldn’t invite to your Regency tea party
  • Amanda, who literally has a skeleton in her closet
  • Balthazar, the demon bounty hunter on the hunt once more.
  • Sarah, a young woman going through some changes and craving new tastes
  • Emmeline, burned as a witch, now back from the dead for revenge
  • Gabrielle, a woman haunted by shadows
  • The Dollmaker, she showers death, and an umbrella won’t help
  • Nightmare Demons, bent on driving a town insane
  • And then there’s Alice, a little girl locked in the basement by her Daddy…

You can find A.F. Stewart’s new book, Killers and Demons II: They Return by following the links…

Excerpt From Killers and Demons II:  They Return

The Skeleton

I’m Amanda Miller. I’m seventeen and my family keeps a secret in the upstairs closet. A secret we’ve been guarding since the year 1812, the year my ancestor, Joshua Miller, killed his sister, Annie.

Poor Joshua wasn’t a murderer, no. He killed her in self-defence, but under rather unusual circumstances—she being possessed at the time. Regrettably, her death was not entirely effective, seeing that Annie died but not the thing inside of her.

Which brings everything back to the closet.

That’s where Annie’s kept, you see, in our upstairs closet. Her black skeleton wrapped in a faded quilt, tucked away in a trunk, stored behind the Christmas ornaments. It sounds crazy, I know, but it’s true. That’s the family secret.

Trouble is the secret doesn’t want to stay hidden anymore.

~*~

It started a month ago with whispers coming from the closet, mostly late in the evening when I was alone in my room. A soft, sweet sounding voice murmuring, pleading to me.

Let me out. Let me out.

The same words, over and over again, often for hours. I was terrified at first. Scared I was going crazy, and scared it was real. I hid under my covers, tried to ignore the voice, prayed it would stop, but it kept getting louder, more insistent. I didn’t sleep well. And I didn’t tell anyone. Not my parents, not my brother. I don’t know why, but I didn’t. Maybe I liked that someone, something, paid attention to me.

Then one night, the whispering voice called my name. Very faintly, but I heard it.

Amanda.

At first, I thought I imagined it, but it kept repeating.

Amanda, Amanda, Amanda.

I trembled. It knew my name. The thing in the closet knew me, forgettable, ignorable Amanda Miller. I stared at my bedroom door, wondering, a foot dangling off the bed.

I need you, Amanda.

That scared me, and I shoved my pillow around my ears, but the voice kept whispering.

Please, Amanda. Please let me out.

Amanda.

Where are you, Amanda?

I need you, Amanda.

Amanda, please. Amanda, please. Please let me out.

Pillow smashed against my head, face buried in my covers, I tried to ignore it to the point I couldn’t deal, until I needed to scream. Until it started to bargain.

I can help you, Amanda.

Give you what you need.

I know what you want.

You can have what you want.

Just let me out.

Then I sat up in the bed. Could it really know?

I know.

A.F. Stewart

A.F. Stewart

A. F. Stewart was born and raised in Nova Scotia, Canada, and still calls it home.  The youngest in a family of seven children, she has always had an overly creative mind and an active imagination. She is fond of good books (especially science fiction/fantasy), action movies, sword collecting, and oil painting as a hobby.

Ms. Stewart is an indie author with several published novellas and story collections in the dark fantasy or horror genres, with a few side trips into poetry and non-fiction. She has a great interest in history and mythology, often working those themes into her books and stories.

Posted in Writing Life | 2 Comments

The Good & the Sad

Abbyoyo 2001-ish-2014

Abbyoyo 2001ish-2014

It’s my daughter’s 21st birthday, I published my second children’s book, Don’t Worry, Star to commemorate it… and our beloved, old family dog, Abby, passed away. It’s a significant day a lot of joy with some sadness mixed in.

Abby was a rescue dog that came to us back in 2001 when all my kids were little and we lived in New Mexico. It was the one day I was late dropping the kids off at school and I had to park and go to the office and sign them in. There, in the office was this big dog that looked like a rottweiler that had followed some kids to school.

Recently I’d been having fears of big dogs due to an angry rottweiler that lived down the street from us. My first reaction to seeing this big dog, surrounded by innocent children, was to be appalled. She looked up at me, smiled and wagged her tail.

The school office attendant thought she knew who the owner was but couldn’t reach him immediately. She was going to have to call the animal shelter to come pick the dog up and hope he came to retrieve her. She wore a spiked collar that said she was a tough, mean dog, but her brown eyes sparkled with friendliness.

“I can bring her to my house,” I found myself saying. “He can pick her up from there.” Next thing I knew, I was driving in my car with a strange dog in the back seat of my car, thinking I was crazy.

Abby was named after the children’s book Abbyoyo by Pete Seeger. The story is about a giant named Abbyoyo that everyone assumes is vicious because he has stinky feet and slobbery teeth. Turns out, he was actually a very nice and helpful giant. An appropriate name for a large, lost dog that came to us in a spiked leather collar.

Abby lived with us the rest of her life, passing away this morning sometime before dawn. Over the years she has been the most loyal of friends, patient, never judging and dependable. I swear she saved our lives once or twice, but the joy she brought into them was the real gift.

Gone to live with my ex-husband, I haven’t seen her as much in the past few years. I visited her yesterday, and while her eyes were rheumy and her coat rough, she was the same old loyal friend who partnered up with me to keep my children protected as they grew.

How lucky I was to be running late that day so many years ago. I’ll miss her.

Posted in On A Personal Note | 1 Comment