Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Kids and Reading--Part 1

It's an epidemic!

Well, maybe not an epidemic, but I see it happening quite a bit--kids who do not like to read.  Several of my son's friends flat-out tell me they don't like it.  In fact they would rather do almost anything else.  Several of my mom-friends say the same thing--they cannot get their kids to read.  They've tried the library, Barnes and Noble, kid's magazines, but the kids have a definite aversion, and they cannot get passed it.

I am not anti-school at all, but I think maybe school may have something to do with this.  Our kids are told to read about endless battles in history (and remember the dates), the number of protons, electrons and neutrons in an atom, how our government functions, and endless other important facts and situations. They are then told to write about what they read so they will never forget what they learned.  This is followed by reading books like Great Expectations, The Diary of Anne Frank, and The Red Badge of Courage.  Wonderful books, but heavy stuff.

Are there any books out there that are fascinating to children, yet worthy to be on a school's reading list?  Is it worth it to have them exclusively exposed to only masterpieces at the expense of their love of reading?  I would love to see some books added to the reading list that all the kids can the thrilled about, that they cannot wait to read and talk about in school.  Harry Potter has been bashed by everyone from the Catholic church to local school systems, but kids were reading.  

I hope we can be more open-minded and add a larger variety of books to our kid's reading lists.  Because if we want our kids to like to read, we need to give them something they might enjoy.

Here are a few books I think are terrific and should be read for school:

*  Anything by Roald Dahl
*  The Harry Potter Series by J.K.Rowling
*  Stephen King's books for the upper grades in high school
*  Thomas the Tank Engine books for little ones
*  Shel Silverstein books

Please tell me if there are any books you think would be great for kids to read, I would love to do a series of posts featuring the books you suggest.  Thanks!!

I am in no way comparing myself to any of the above-mentioned authors, just adding a shamless plug for my own kid's book ----------------->

Heather Adkins added a great comment below that does not show so I am adding it here because they are such great suggestions--thanks Heather!! 

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume(Actually, ANYthing by Judy Blume)

The Ramona Quimby books by Beverly Cleary

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
Absolutely Normal Chaos by Sharon Creech

The Goosebumps Series by R.L. Stine
The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
The Babysitters Club by Ann M. Martin

That's all I can think of off the top of my head :) All favorites from my childhood,   Heather.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Fairy Tale

This is Day 23 from my novella 100 Unfortunate Days. ----->

Day 23

Once there was a little girl. She went into her grandmother’s special cabinet and took out all the scarves. Some were bright pink with gold coins sewn to them, some were square and some were rectangular, one had the bright eyes of many foxes, but all were silk. She knew the scarves were magic, and she brought them outside with a basket of clothes pins. She hung the scarves on the weeping willow tree in the back yard…all around the low-hanging outside branches, and formed a beautiful house with windows and a big door that opened and closed. As she clipped the last pin to the last scarf the house filled with gold furniture, and the fox jumped off the scarf and became her pet. She could hear music in her head and could light fire with her fingertips. She looked up into the night sky and she knew how old the stars were. Her eyes were the clear green of the ocean and she did not have to blink. She knew all the languages of the world and as she lay on the ground the earth swallowed her. It held her as she slept and in the morning she left her scarf house with the fox and went in to the woods. She took her pocket knife and carved her name in a tree that grew the wood that would someday form her coffin. She cut her hand on the knife and her blood dropped on the ground. A crow flew down from the sky and landed at her feet near the blood. “Go home.” it said and flew away. She followed a trail of poisonous mushrooms deeper into the woods and fell to her knees at the sight of the moon in the distance. She closed her eyes and went home to her silk house. Her parents missed her very much and her grandmother was not even mad anymore that she played with her scarves without asking. But she did not know this, and she did not miss them. She cut the lemon tart that was her breakfast and picked raspberries from the bush next to the weeping willow tree. One day she missed her parents and she went home, but they did not know her…she was not a little girl any more.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Perfect Timing and a Surprise Review

As I was looking through older listings of 100 Unfortunate Days on Google to find if I had written an interesting blurb about the book somewhere, I noticed that it had been reviewed in Pandora's Pen as Pandora's Pick of the Week. 

I was looking for a blurb because 100 Unfortunate Days will be available in paperback in a few weeks on Amazon, and it will be a tangible book with a back cover.  And back covers need blurbs.

I was a having a devil of a time trying to write a blurb--and the paperback version is on hold until I can come up with something interesting and back-cover worthy.

I was thrilled to see my book chosen for Pandora's Pick--she really liked the book!  She said it was different and dark and scary.  She said "it grips you through the sheer mania of the writing,' but she was not thrilled with the last 'day'.  But maybe everything really does happen for a reason.  Because of the surprise review, I can make the last page of my premier book more vibrant before it is published, and now, for whatever reason, more easily write a proper blurb for the back cover.  (Thanks for the review!)

Please see the review of 100 Unfortunate Days at Pandora's Pen below and tell me if you think the last page needs a bit more oomph if you have read it.  Thanks!  :)

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Bloody Good Writer

I am happy to welcome Arshad Ahsanuddin to As the Crowe Flies.  Please read about his books, his background, and his affinity for blood.

Link to his book Sunset----------------->

When did you start writing?
October 2009 was the first time I started to write as a serious project.  Out of that came the manuscript that I later adapted into my first two novels, Sunset and Sunrise.

How has your background affected your writing?
I like both fantasy and science fiction, so I have introduced elements of both in my work, creating a futuristic society of new age vampires.

What are you working on now?
I’m trying to get the fourth novel in the series edited for a March release date, but in the meantime, I’ve been working on another novella that is set within story continuity.

Where do you get your ideas?
They explode out of my fevered brain, and I am just trying to write them down before they fade.
You write about vampires and you are a doctor—of blood?
I honestly didn’t make the connection when I first started writing.  One of my readers pointed it out, and the irony appealed to me.

Has anyone influenced you?
I like Neil Gaiman’s work most of all in the mystical fiction genre, and Guy Gavriel Kay’s in high fantasy.  For inspirational fantasy, I turn to Paulo Coelho.

What are some books you recommend and why.
Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, a sardonic and erudite romp through the Apocalypse, blending Pratchett’s deft satire with Gaiman’s world-building and grasp of mythology.
The Fionavar Tapestry, by Guy Gavriel Kay, the finest high fantasy trilogy I have ever read, and my favorite in the genre.  Everything had meaning and contributed to the plot and characters, it was so well-crafted.
The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho, and inspirational fable about following your dreams, even when they seem insane in the light of day.

What do you like to read, and what would you never read?
I like science fiction and fantasy when I’m in the mood for a serious read, and romance novels for light entertainment.  I don’t often read mysteries or non-fiction, because they just don’t excite me.

Do you feel an affinity to any of the characters in your books?
Nick, the main character of the first book, is my favorite character, and the one I most identify with, for his hero’s journey and character development over the course of the series.  He starts out as a rather shallow person, with great power but avoiding commitment and responsibility, and learns to face his challenges head-on as he gains experience.

Can you talk about vampires?
They’re an old archetype, which has evolved into many different interpretations, from evil villain to tortured hero, from sexual predator seeking the destruction of innocence and virtue to reluctant lover searching for redemption.  I wrote a little bit on this subject in a guest blog post earlier in the year.  The full text can be found here:

Thanks for hosting me.  I appreciate the opportunity.
Arshad Ahsanuddin
Author bio below:

Author Bio:
Arshad Ahsanuddin is a practicing hematopathologist, a physician who specializes in using biopsies and laboratory data to diagnose diseases of blood, bone marrow, and lymph nodes, such as leukemia and lymphoma. Yes, a blood doctor writing about vampires. The irony is not lost on him.  It certainly amuses his colleagues.
For more information about Arshad, or for more information about the series, check out his website at and leave him some feedback.

Social Media:
Facebook Page:
Goodreads Profile:
Twitter Handle:  @pactarcanum

Book links:    
Smashwords edition (multiple formats):

Book Blurb:
Los Angeles, 2040. The terrorist Medusa and her followers threaten to destroy the metropolis with a nuclear bomb. One individual, the vampire Nicholas Jameson, comes forward to oppose them. As Nick takes on the terrorists, the fragile peace between the races hangs perilously in the balance as the supernatural peoples are exposed.  Can Nick lead the four races into peaceful coexistence, or will the final war destroy them all?
With millennia-old magic, emerging romance, and ever-shifting allegiances, this inventive new series unveils a scintillating, homoerotic world of Nightwalkers, Daywalkers, Sentinels, and Humans, who battle for world dominance in the not-too-distant future.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

An Interview with David Rowinski

I am thrilled to present an interview with author David Rowinski, a talented writer I have known since high school.  I am happy to say I am currently working on the illustrations for a children's book he penned many years ago called The Open Pillow.  (two of the pictures from the book----->

Please read about David.

When did you start writing?
 I think it was 3rd grade. I had a relative who was a few years older who wrote
 science-fiction stories. I began by ripping off Planet of the Apes and wrote Planet of the Dog-men. Thank god that has been lost.

Has your background affected your writing at all?
My wife mentioned that I should write about the things I have done, places I have been, but I am not particularly interested in memoir. I did compose an essay about growing up in Clark, N.J. and the events that brought me to East Africa but I did so to explore issues of race and identity. Elements of experiences have, of course, found their way into the fiction I write but interpreted and reinvented to advance a story.

What are you working on now?
 I was working on a novel that collapsed under the weight of over-writing so I removed what was to have been the third chapter and am turning it into a short story. It is about an individual receiving a call to become a shaman. 

Where do you get your ideas?
 There is no one place. I recall someone comparing American to British comedy. The former begins with the notion “Isn’t it funny that?” The latter starts “Wouldn’t it be funny if?” If combined, however, the latter idea creates a premise but the former allows it to be told in an acceptable manner. It took weeks of failed story attempts before I realized this. This insight meant scrapping something I was well into but allowed for the writing of Music Box. Yet the elements of the failure may find their way into something completely different. Even Music Box began with the notion of how one gets their things back from an ex’s home after you have been thrown out. The original idea was to come upon an ex’s radio that received broadcasts  normal radios do not which would cause the protagonist to re-examine the person with whom he was involved. Fortunately, that idea failed. When the radio became a music box, it was the relationship that became the story’s core.

I know you have an artistic past also, what happened to drawing?
 I always preferred writing.  

Has anyone influenced you?
 The most important influence has been my wife Sali. I watched and listened as she took a guitar riff and turned it into a song. She gave me the most important piece of advice-Finish Something. For years I would work on an idea then, second guessing its merit, I would begin something new with the same results meaning off to a third or fourth piece. Then, having distanced myself from the first and thinking better of it, I would take it up again, only to abandon it once more in favor of one of the other storylines. Nothing was ever brought to fruition. Seeing Sali complete one work by focusing upon it allowed me to do the same.

What are some books you recommend and why. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Garcia Marquez is so essential that I do not mind stating the obvious. I just finished a bio of Che Guevara because I realized I knew the icon and not the history. The one thing that stayed with me from the book was a friend of Che’s describing the difference between them. Che looked down the scope of a rifle and saw 30.000 children with better lives if a soldier were killed where he saw the soldier with a wife and children of his own.  The 14th century historical novel
 Romance of Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzong was a tome but told like the serial films of the 1930’s. Chapters ended with questions to be answered followed by the simple phrase “Read on” that caused a number of sleepless nights. Kelly Link’s Magic for Beginners introduced me to what has been labeled speculative fiction. She and her husband began Small Beer Press whose office is located a few towns away from where I live. I wrote my story Music Box for their magazine Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet and dropped it off personally. It was my first professional sale.

What do you like to read, and what would you never read?
 To answer the second part of your question, I was working from until at the desk of an Athens youth hostel twenty years ago. To pass the time I read anything I could find. One night, the only thing available was a Jackie Collins novel. I think I made it to the second page before deciding that staring at the walls was preferable. That said, it was Jackie Collin’s works that one of my college professors railed against but pointed out that those novels were not necessarily easy to write.  As for preference, I move back and forth between fiction and non-fiction. My friend Gabrielle owns an independent bookstore and he has given me stacks of galleys. For a time I decided to read every one. Though there were some unexpected gems most of the books were awful. But having gotten through them I realized that the experience of reading them was invaluable. If you read good fiction you run the risk of emulating it. After reading junk you can write against it. It also allows me to realize when something is not working in my own writing.
The main character in your upcoming story has a ‘gift’—do you know anyone like this?
No. I began this as a reaction against some things I read. I am hesitant to use the word gift. He is receiving a calling but lives in a culture where it is not understood and cannot be answered.

Can you talk about your upcoming children’s book, The Open Pillow?
 The Open Pillow was made up on the spur of the moment to put a child to sleep. It was after that I sat down and put the work on paper. There were elements that fell into place without my consciously planning them like the size of the pillow actually corresponding to the animals rejecting it. I realized that because I was playing around with a piece of graph paper. The original draft had the animals speaking.  In rewriting, I realized that I could set Adam apart by having only him speak. It was also important for me make the point that growth alone is not sufficient. One needs to be in the right place at the right time which allows for a person to see your inherent value. The story sat in a drawer for years because several people expressed interest in doing the illustrations but none did the work. Though I was pleased that you also offered, it meant little until you began producing completed illustrations that corresponded beautifully to the text.
I am over the moon about being part of this book, I love it. 
Thanks again David!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Is Nano a Useless Process? Maybe Not...The Psychology of Writing

Nano can be a grueling, exhausting, and exhiliarating experience--and I hate it.  Sometimes.

I signed up last minute and regretted it almost immediately.  I do not like to NOT finish something.  But, I don't think I will finish Nano.

I had a million internal reasons to not finish:  it is a terrible month to start Nano--why not summer?  Who chose November?  It is a waste of time--the writing is forced.  To busy, too tired, too whatever.

So I looked up authors who write everyday.  Seems Roald Dahl did it, Stephen King does it, and many others feel it is the thing to do. 

Why does it suddenly feel very hard to write for two hours?

I see people who have already written 30, 35, 40,000 words--and I am happy for them, but uninspired.  And aggravated. 

But I am still in it and my competative nature is rearing its ugly head so I had better get writing.  Wish me luck...

Read an article on the psychology of writing from Psychology Today below.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Day 93 from 100 Unfortunate Days for Sample Sunday

Day 93
I was born in Venice on the 4th of July—which means nothing to anyone in Venice.  I was born with jet-black hair and very light blue eyes.  Then all my hair fell out and grew in very light blonde.  My eyes have remained light blue.  I was left on a ferry boat when I was 3 months old—I don’t know if it was on purpose or not—but I was raised covertly by the Queen of England until I was 5, then she could not keep me under wraps anymore because I moved around too much and she felt I should be going to school.  I was sent to stay with the Queen’s illegitimate sister who lived in France.  She taught me how to play the guitar and wear makeup.  I stayed there until I was 8 and then I worked in a coffee shop and slept there at night next to the picture window that had a toile cushion beneath it because no one minded.  I ate small sugary biscuits with tea or coffee every day for breakfast and wrote sad love songs until I kissed a boy.   I got a tattoo of his initial on the underside of my middle finger and never told him.  I left the lyrics to a song on a table outside the coffee shop one afternoon and could not find them later that afternoon.  I heard a song on the radio a year later that used my lyrics.  I never told anyone.  I took a train to Germany and died my hair jet-black again.  I had 5 children in 5 years and gave them all away to charity.  I worked in a guitar shop and met Jimmy Page and we spent the night together.  I got a tattoo of his initials on the underside of my middle finger of my other hand and swore my love to him eternally.  He said he would love me forever too.  I stayed awake once for 3 days because I was sad.  I moved to Spain because I needed to be warm and painted my front door a different color every day.  My skin loved the sun and the black faded from my hair.   I wore jewelry with diamonds and flowers in my hair.  When I looked at the sky at night I could see the face of my true love who I knew I would never meet.  Sometimes I see children with light blue eyes and jet-black or light blonde hair and I know they are mine.  I never say anything.
100 Unfortunate Days-------------> 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Are We What We Write?

I have written several books in the last year, a few of them very dark.  One of the books, 100 Unfortunate Days, was called by a dear friend "a sure sign that you are a lunatic". 

I laughed this off at first because the book is certainly not about me, but the voice kept returning, and I wondered if my writing did indeed prove that I was at least partly nuts. 

After looking up articles from authors including J.K.Rowling, I not only felt better about my mental health, but about my writing in general.  It made me think we all have a story to tell, and we writers choose to tell ours in words.  There are endless ways to be ourselves, and if we have a dark side that needs to be talked about, incorporating it in a story can be a wonderful thing. 

I suddenly have more respect for people who have different passions:  mountain climbing, sky-diving, singing, cooking, or any one of the millions of ways we experience our own lives.  We're going through our #%@ in our own ways.  Good for us.  Find your thing and do soon as you can.  :)

Article on J.K.Rowling and how she began writing.

100 Unfortunate Days  -------------->

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Absorbed and Anne Boleyn

My short story Absorbed is a dark tale featuring an overbearing and abusive boyfriend and his girlfriend Violet, who finds a beautiful but mysterious gift on her doorstep.

After reading Absorbed, my friend sent an email with a link to this painting by Tansy Myer.  It was recently featured at the Compound Gallery in Portland, Oregon, and was inspired by Vercor's novel, Anne Boleyn.

Myer painted Boleyn because "she was a strong woman, a rebel with convictions--and history, (written and manipulated by men) rarely looks kindly on that combination."

The painted stunned me because of remarkable congruences with my story Absorbed.

Lovely and terrible--hopefully just like my story.

Click pic and see Tansy's site------------->

Link to Absorbed below pic of Anne Boleyn---------->

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Name the Evil

I am the happy winner of Kim Koning's Coffin Blog quest to name her psychopathic killer in her upcoming story.  I will receive several books, and the thrill of having the name I chose for her character used in her book.  The name for this maniac will be Michael Dali, after the Archangel Michael and the twisted and surreal mind of Salvatore Dali.   Please take a look at her blog below, and get a great intro to her new story.

My cousin Michelle says 'to name it is to tame it', but I don't know if that bit of wisdom is true in this evil and twisted tale...

A bit of short story ABSORBED is nearing the 10,000 mark on Amazon!  I'm thrilled--please take a look--dark and bloody--a serial killer is born.-------------->

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Everyone I Write About is at Least Partially Me

I published my first book, 100 Unfortunate Days, one month ago. 

The book was written from a dark place, the darkest corner we all find ourselves in sometimes and feel we can't get out of.  It is about a bad marriage, the sometimes awful experience of having children, and other areas that women sometimes don't discuss or admit.   It was written at a feverish pace, and though not about me exactly, much of the book contains my own experiences and feelings. Stephen King said that all of the characters he writes about are at least partially him.  We can't help it--everything we do and think and feel is from our personal perspective. 

Although the narrator of my book is unstable and more than a little crazy, I found writing in her voice to be better than years of therapy.  It made me think of the advice we so often hear in magazines or from friends when something or someone bothers us--write a letter you never plan to send.

Maybe we should write letters we DO plan on sending--not only to the person who has upset us--but to everyone else, too.  Write in your blog, or in a magazine.  We can get validation, or support, or maybe even a scolding if we deserve it--but at least the problem will no longer be only our own.  Write anonymously, or under a pen name.

Maybe if we stop trying to change ourselves we will be able to write more of the truth.



Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Coffin Hop NOOK Winner!

Congratulations to Robert T. Smales of Salem, MA, who won the NOOK Simple Touch in today's Coffin Hop Nook and Book Giveaway!  How fitting that someone from Salem won a contest in the Coffin Hop for Halloween!

Hope you enjoy the NOOK Robert!  Thanks for hopping by!  Thanks to everyone for visiting As the Crowe Flies.  It was so nice to read all of your comments and meet you, hope you enjoy the books.  And a big, warm WELCOME to all my new blog followers.  :)