Thursday, December 31, 2009

And Now For Something Completely Different...

And Happy New Year's Eve!

Just a quick wrap-up of book news this week...

Lea asks, what’s your hook? The Writing Jungle

Helen gives us the most influential books of the decade - Straight From Hel

Sia wants to know - what’s your brand? Sia McKye’s Thoughts Over Coffee

Marvin gives tips on dangling modifiers! The Old Silly

* Movie Review *

Sherlock Holmes
It was fun and the chemistry between Robert & Jude is perfect. A little quirky, but it IS a Guy Ritchie film.
My rating - B

Another quirky film, although lush with visuals. Interesting premise, although executed oddly.
Couldn't miss a film about books, now could I?
My rating - B

* Photo of the Day *

My your 2010 bring the glow of hope...

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My 2009...

In a nutshell, the highs, the lows…


Approximately 45 paid speaking engagements this year.

Several health events, including one outside of DC where I was to be the wrap-up speaker before Michelle Obama. (Sadly, the First Lady had to cancel - but I still have a copy of the program as a memento.)

Numerous virtual tours (thanks again to all of my hosts) encompassing several books.

Bookstore & library appearances - not as profitable or enjoyable as in the past.

Many interviews and book festivals.

My goals for this coming year are to expand my speaking opportunities, send Book V of my YA series out with a huge virtual tour, promote in venues outside of the bookstore, visit more schools, and craft another book…

On a personal level…

I did not get a lot of time off for fun stuff this year. (Concerts and movies should not be one's high points.) That will change in 2010!

My goals - I am looking forward to a real vacation with my husband in February - Myrtle Beach and Alice in Chains in concert, here we come! Another trip to Oregon this summer. Visit an amusement park, something I failed to do this past year. I go into withdrawls if I don't ride several roller coasters each year.

I will also be streamlining my online presence. I don't want to feel the Internet is holding my life hostage...
That's my 2009. Not a great year, but I survived.

2010 is the swan song.
Last opportunity to hit the mark.
And a sad farewell...
Lord, let Book V connect...
How was YOUR 2009? What are your goals for 2010?
Remember, without goals, you have no control...

*Movie update!
Avatar's total for World Wide Grosses just appeared this morning - $637,129,323.00 in just eleven days. It will break $1 billion!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2009 Wrap-up - Music

For the last week of 2009, I am posting a series of 'Best of 2009'

Today is the best in music and concerts!

For those who dislike rock music, you might want to gracefully slink away right now. Sorry, but rock is my favorite genre. (I also like new age music.) You really don't want me reviewing a country music album, as it will only sound like opposums mating to me! And I am sure you could say the same of mine - LOL!

So this list is definitely biased - but you might find a gem here!


Guilt Machine - On This Perfect Day
Arjen Lucassen is the genius behind Ayreon and several other bands. He helped launch Stream of Passion to showcase Ayreon's singer Marcela Bovio.
Guilt Machine is another of his projects, and this time rather than an ensemble of artists, he formed an actual band.
The more I listened, the more I fell in love with this melodic prog-rock album, and it's journey through the human emotion of guilt.
Arjen's bands and albums all highlight the human condition and focus on percise & intricate music.
This album grows fresher every time I hear it!

Trans Siberian Orchestra - Night Castle
The LONG awaited new album from TSO!
This is only the second one that ventures from the Christmas theme, but it doesn't abandon  the Christian roots of the band.
A double CD, this album features a variety of hard rock classical style and sweet melodies. Carmina Burana is the song they have sung for the past few years in concert, taunting us, and it's a delight to finally hear that song on the album.
Other noteables are The Mountain, a take on In the Hall of the Mountain King, and Toccata-Carpimus Noctem, the playing of which should ignite the guitarist's and violinist's instruments!

Chevelle - Black Clouds & Silver Linings
I've been a big fan of Chevelle for years and this album does not disappoint.
One of the brothers departed, but his absence has not made an impact of the quality of the music.
This album does not contain as many highlights as albums of the past, but it is more even-keeled overall.

Alice in Chains - Black Gives Way to Blue
Yes, they sound just like Alice in Chains - imagine that!
If you were a fan of this 90's grunge rock band, you will be pleased with their new album.
Sean Kinney's vocals are not only perfect, I think he's even better than Lane.
Of course, it is the genius of Jerry Cantrell that pulls it all together.
Overall, a very solid album.

Dream Theater - Black Clouds & Silver Linings
One of the biggest, most successful prog rock bands ever, and with good reason.
This album gets a big nod due to one of the best songs ever written, The Count of Tuscany.
This band has never compromised. They do not care about top 40 hits. They don't care about radio airplay. At this point in their career, they don't need to! So they just continue to do what they do best - evolve as a band, trying new things and crafting even better, tighter, more elaborate musical offerings.


Trans Siberian Orchestra wins every year, hands down. No other show can compare. And this year, with the release of Night Castle, it was explosive!

Dream Theater places second. It is amazing that such intricate, detailed compositions can be played live and with such precision. A very magical performance.

My picks for 2009 - what were yours???

Monday, December 28, 2009

2009 Wrap-up - Movies

During the final week of 2009, I'll be wrapping up some of the year's best offerings.

Today's post is the best in movies.

These are just my opinion. I have not seen everything that came out this year. But the following were highlights of the movie industry for me!


Yes, you probably saw that one coming!
Incredible film. Exceeded expectations. Can't wait to go see it again this Thursday!
Sets the standard for movies to follow...

Funniest movie of the year!
Woody Harrelson in prime form. And the best rules and guidelines for surving a zombie apocalypse.
Always remember to double tap!

The Blind Side
Sweetest film of the year.
Just a good, solid, moving story without the overly sappy syrup that can accompany such flicks.
Hope Sandra Bullock gets an Oscar nod for her role.

Star Trek
Best reboot. Ever.
As a die-hard fan of the original, I was curious how they would bring this serving to the next generation.
The result is a refreshing new take and an exciting movie.

Inglorious Basterds
I'm a fan of Quentin Tarantino's work. He's all about the characters.
This movie is also incredibly funny and over the top.
And gosh if that ending isn't just uber-satisfying!!


District 9
Very original and well-done, although depressing.

Night at the Museum 2
Yes, a silly pick - but loved the sweet innocence.

Fast & Furious
As good as the first one. And Vin Diesel rocks.


Terminator Salvation
I don't even want to discuss it!!!!

That's right. I was disappointed! The movie was depressing...


Who cares your opinion or mine? These were the five biggest money-makers of 2009. (Excluding Avatar, who's release is too new.) All totals in millions of dollars...

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince  $925,956,980
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs  $886,973,705
2012  $731,774,000
Up  $702,579,556
New Moon  $658,520,062

So, what were your favorite movies of 2009?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sunday Sillies - Happy New Year!

It's almost 2010! So what are you gonna do - cry? No! Laugh with the Sunday Sillies instead!

funny pictures of cats with captions

funny pictures

humorous pictures

Oh! Who will go with me to this kitty's party????

funny pictures of cats with captions

Happy New Year to all my Bloggy Friends!!!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Only one more sleep to Christmas

A special little something to get you in the Christmas spirit!

After all, there's only one more sleep until Christmas Day....

And if that didn't put a smile on your face, maybe this will do it!

funny pictures of cats with captions

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas to my Friends!

Christmas blessings to all of my bloggy friends!

It's been a wonderful year and looking forward to 2010.

Thanks to each and every one of you who comment on my blog. Or read my books. Or follow me elsewhere on the web! Wouldn't be any fun doing this by myself. Actually, it would be downright WEIRD!

funny pictures of cats with captions

Quick reminder to those who are authors, writers, book bloggers, etc. - please check my Feature Policy for opportunities for your voice to be heard here!
I also feature a fellow author every month in my newsletter - drop me an email if interested.
wolferock AT

Have a wonderful Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Photo Tuesday - Christmas Tips

Today Rocko & Spunky would like to share with you some tips for enjoying the Christmas holidays...

Don't get tied up with decorations...

Make sure you've gotten every piece of candy out of the box...

Christmas morning, just dive right in!

Don't let anyone steal your gifts...

Don't let Santa box your ears!

And when it's all over, take a nap!

Merry Christmas from Rocko & Spunky!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Movie Review - Avatar!

Go see Avatar. Go see it in 3D. Go see it now!!!!

For those who've NOT heard about the movie (and I hope you venture out of the closet now and then) here's the Synopsis from IMDB:

When his brother is killed, paraplegic Marine Jake Sully decides to take his place in a mission on the distant world of Pandora. There he learns of greedy corporate figurehead Parker Selfridge's intentions of driving off the native humanoid "Na'vi" in order to mine for the precious material scattered throughout their rich woodland. In exchange for the spinal surgery that will fix his legs, Jake gathers intel for the cooperating military unit spearheaded by gung-ho Colonel Quaritch, while simultaneously attempting to infiltrate the Na'vi people with the use of an "avatar" identity. While Jake begins to bond with the native tribe and quickly falls in love with the beautiful alien Neytiri, the restless Colonel moves forward with his ruthless extermination tactics, forcing the soldier to take a stand - and fight back in an epic battle for the fate of Pandora. Written by The Massie Twins

This is the movie for which I've waited all year - and I was not disappointed!

The critic's only complaint has been a thin storyline, but I found this to be untrue. It's not an original storyline - big evil group wants to supress & drive off smaller innocent group - but it's how the story is told! It's moving. It's full of action. And yes, it's a love story. All of Cameron's movies are love stories at heart. And it's all the elements of this story working together that draw one into the movie. Some of it is predictable, but that's okay. And the aliens on Pandora reminded me of Native American Indians in their culture and beliefs. Pandora also holds a secret in regards to all the living creatures on its surface...

The special effects and 3D effects? BEYOND AMAZING!!!! Just - WOW! Totally immersive. You forget you are watching a movie - it feels as if you are there on Pandora. Cameron has taken 3D to a whole new level and film making will never be the same. Indeed, he created so many of cameras that were used to film this movie. Some theatres aren't offering it in 3D - skip those! You MUST see it in 3D!
The movie starts slow - and then it builds - and builds - and BUILDS! The battle at the end will leave you breathless. I walked out of this movie in total and complete AWE of what I'd witnessed.

My rating - A+

Yes, it's THAT good. And yes, I will be seeing it again really soon!

Now, what are waiting for? Go to the movie theatre, now!!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009

And Now For Something Completely Different!

Mr Mousebender: And I thought to myself, "A little fermented curd will do the trick," so, I curtailed my Walpoling activities, sallied forth, and infiltrated your place of purveyance to negotiate the vending of some cheesy comestibles.
Henry Wenslydale: Come again?
Mr Mousebender: I want to buy some cheese!


Crystal helps us out with prepositions! Crystal Clear Proofing

Teens Read Too’s new blog has a huge list of authors scheduled to visit in 2010 - Teens Read Too Book Club

Twilight - LOL Cats style! Microsuede

Helen pointed out this article comparing E-Book Readers - PCMag

Church Bloopers from Books We Love Daily

How to use Skype as an author - Writers in the Sky Podcast

Elizabeth Spann Craig had a guest post about publishing at A Good Blog is Hard to Find

Carolyn at Sharing with Writers had two good posts - & Utilize Your Associations

And Tony talks about Can-Spam - Marketing Tips For Authors

Plus I received a surprise email from a reporter this week:

Hi Diane,
Saw your post from last month re the impending Waldenbooks closings when I was researching this article Huffington Post and enjoyed reading through some of your blog. Thought you'd like to know about the campaign that some employees have helped organize to ensure unsold books don't get trashed when the liquidation sales are over.
Take care,
Erik Ose, Chapel Hill

See, you never know who might be reading your blog!


G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
This was a NetFlix rental and going into it I knew to maintain low expectations - and I'm glad I did! It's not really bad - okay, some of the dialogue will make you chuckle - just forgetable. Special effects kinda cool. Watching the Eiffel Tower go down was wild. As a party rental, it's fun. (We had some friends over for pizza that night, which helped!) Otherwise, not really deep or memorable.
Rating - C

I will be seeing Avatar this afternoon, so look for a review of the James Cameron film REALLY soon!


Hey, who is that in the reflection...?

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Thursday Excerpt

Today's exceprt comes from author Kathy Erskine!

I had the pleasure of meeting Kathy last year at the Book 'Em Festival in Virginia and she's always full of smiles! Her excerpt is from her upcoming release, MOCKINGBIRD.

Synopsis of MOCKINGBIRD (Penguin / Philomel April 2010):

In Caitlin’s world, everything is black or white. Things are good or bad. Anything in between is confusing. That’s the stuff Caitlin’s older brother, Devon, has always explained. But now Devon’s dead, and her father cries a lot. Caitlin wants to get over it, but as an eleven-year-old girl with Asperger’s, she doesn’t know how. When she reads the definition of “closure” in the dictionary, she realizes that is what she and her father need. In her search for Closure, Caitlin discovers that not everything is black and white--the world is full of colors--messy and beautiful, and it is through this discovery that she embarks on a road which leads her to find both healing and Closure.

Excerpt from MOCKINGBIRD:
At home I go to my hidey-hole in Devon’s room. I take his piece of notebook paper with me. The one that says EAGLE SCOUT PROJECT. The one with the list of supplies for his chest. The one that says he’s going to teach me. I stare at the list trying to find Closure. I keep hoping that somehow the Devon-ness of the list will give me the answer but it doesn’t.

I look up at Devon’s carving of SCOUT and wonder if I can still be Scout if the person who called me Scout is now gone. I still want to be Scout for him. Devon said, If you want to be a Scout you have to Work At It. I know he was talking about Boy Scouts and Eagle Scouts but he also said that about anything I had to do. You have to Work At It Scout. I KNOW, I told him because he said it a lot lot lot and sometimes I don’t want to hear the same thing over and over and over. Especially if it’s hard. And Work At It is VERY hard. I Work At It ALL the time. My whole day is Work At It. Sometimes I don’t want to Work At It any more. Like when I FINALLY get my own friend and then Mrs. Brook TAKES HIM AWAY FROM ME! It’s just—too—HARD! It’s—NOT—FAIR!

I hear Dad calling my name but I don’t want to come out of my hidey-hole. I’m busy stuffed-animaling the carving of SCOUT. It’s warm and soft and quiet and safe in here. And I don’t have to Work At It. I’m thinking about staying here. Living here. Forever.

Finally when Dad says, Answer me please Caitlin! I answer because he asked nicely.

The door opens. Caitlin? His voice sounds funny. Are you in here?

I’m under the dresser.

What are you doing in here?


Thinking about what?

Thinking I’m going to stay here and make this my room now.

Oh? Why?

It was always supposed to be mine. I asked Devon if I could have it.

He’s quiet for a minute. Then he takes a deep breath. When Devon was gone to college.

He IS gone.

I hear the squishy breathy sound of Devon’s mattress squishing. But . . . he’s not just gone to college. He’s gone . . . forever.

I don’t tell Dad that I didn’t ask Devon if I could have his room when he was gone. I asked him a different way.

And Devon said it was a weird way and I shouldn’t say it like that and I asked why.

He said people would get upset.

I don’t want Dad to get upset.

So I don’t say what I really said: Can I have your room when you’re dead?

I think maybe I understand what Devon meant. Because now I have a recess feeling in my stomach.

I slide out from my hidey-hole and crawl past Dad’s shoes to my room. I get a clean piece of paper and make a sign. It says, Devon’s Room, and I draw Devon’s eyes in the top left corner. In the top right corner I draw his mouth with his lips curled up to show he’s happy. I draw his crooked nose in the bottom left corner. His chest is in the bottom right corner. It’s still not finished. And I guess it never will be.

About the Author:

As a resident of Virginia, Kathy Erskine was devastated by the 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech. In the aftermath of this tragedy, Kathy was driven to understand how community and family--especially families with special needs children--dealt with this violent event, and how our lives might be different if we understood each other better. In writing MOCKINGBIRD and telling the story of Caitlin, a young girl with Asperger's syndrome, she walked into the fragile world herself and, like Caitlin, offers us something "good and strong and beautiful."

Kathy was a lawyer for 15 years before turning to her first love, writing. Her novel, QUAKING (Penguin / Philomel 2007), was one of YALSA's Top Ten Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers. She lives in Virginia with her husband, two children, and her dog, Maxine.

Find Kathy at her website Kathy Erskine & Blog

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Author Susan Page Davis

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing
The Sheriff’s Surrender
Barbour Books (December 1, 2009)
by Susan Page Davis


I've always loved reading, history, and horses. These things come together in several of my historical books. My young adult novel, Sarah's Long Ride, also spotlights horses and the rugged sport of endurance riding, as does the contemporary romance Trail to Justice. I took a vocational course in horseshoeing after earning a bachelor's degree in history. I don't shoe horses anymore, but the experience has come in handy in writing my books.

Another longtime hobby of mine is genealogy, which has led me down many fascinating paths. I'm proud to be a DAR member! Some of Jim's and my quirkier ancestors have inspired fictional characters

For many years I worked for the Central Maine Morning Sentinel as a freelancer, covering local government, school board meetings, business news, fires, auto accidents, and other local events, including a murder trial. I've also written many profiles and features for the newspaper and its special sections. This experience was a great help in developing fictional characters and writing realistic scenes. I also published nonfiction articles in several magazines and had several short stories appear in Woman's World, Grit, and Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine.

My husband, Jim, and I moved to his birth state, Oregon, for a while after we were married, but decided to move back to Maine and be near my family. We're so glad we did. It allowed our six children to grow up feeling close to their cousins and grandparents, and some of Jim's family have even moved to Maine!


Gert Dooley can shoot the tail feathers off a jay at a hundred yards, but she wants Ethan Chapman to see she's more than a crack shot with a firearm. When the sheriff of Fergus, Idaho, is murdered and Ethan is named his replacement, Gert decides she has to do whatever she can to help him protect the citizenry. So she starts the Ladies Shooting Club. But when one of their numbers is murdered, these ladies are called on for more than target shooting and praying. Can Gert and the ladies of Fergus find the murderer before he strikes again?

The book link is:

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Strange Tale From the Bookshelf

Today's strange tale proves that fact is nuttier than fiction!

My book Overcoming Obstacles with SPUNK! The Keys to Leadership & Goal-Setting is now available through Amazon UK. And a funny thing has occurred...

I was already aware that in the UK, 'spunk' has a juvenile slang term. (One USA bookstore refused to stock it for that very reason.)

However, a recent Google Alert tipped me off that something unusual was happening. While Amazon US only boasts a few reviews of my book, Amazon UK now has 23!

Yes, most are poking fun at the title. A couple people gave it one star, including one yahoo who was disappointed to receive a book on leadership. (Did he not read the title???)

But ironically, most are giving it five stars, and its Amazon ranking in sales is far higher than in the US.

To read some of these - Amazon UK

People are even blogging and tweeting about this! The Book Freak

I'm amused. I mean really, what am I going to do - cry? It's getting attention! And as my husband said, some of those readers might actually benefit from the book in the long run. (After they get over the fact it has nothing to do with sex, of course.)

What do you guys think about all this?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Research for Fiction and Nonfiction - Guest Helen Ginger!

Today I welcome the incredible Helen Ginger from Straight From Hel.

An editor, a writer, and expert in all things book related!

After reading her guest post today, please pop over to her awesome blog.

Research for Fiction and Nonfiction

Most dictionaries define “research” as the “methodical investigation into a subject.” That pretty much describes what I do. I research then write nonfiction books. So far, I’ve written three for TSTC Publishing in their TechCareers series. I’m now under contract to write a standalone. The kind of research required for nonfiction is different from research for a fiction book, although both require investigation and organization.

For each nonfiction I’ve written, I did not only a ton of online research, but also one-on-one interviewing with subjects. For each book, I start with a 3” notebook to keep things organized. By the time I finish, the notebook will be filled with research, transcribed interviews, and probably a hundred sticky tabs. Some interviews I do in person, some via email. Email is the easiest. I come up with questions; the subject sends me his/her answers. In-person means for every hour’s worth of interviewing, I’ve got probably five or seven hours of transcribing to do, but it also means I come away with more information since we can expand and delve into areas that come up during the meeting. Each book requires around 16 to 20 interviews and each one is transcribed then used to create a profile for that person.

I tend to wait until I’ve got most of the research done before I start writing. The exception is the back of the book resources, which I gather as I research. The book I’m writing now, though, will be done differently. I’m still doing upfront research and will start interviewing soon, but this book focuses not on a technical career, but on one person and how he is changing the way teachers teach. I will have to start writing before I’ve finished researching the full book.

To write these kinds of books, an author has to be organized. Each of the TechCareers books had a three-month turnaround, from assignment to due date. The one I’m working on now has a longer time period - about eight months. That’s still tight.

With nonfiction, everything has to be researched. If you’re writing fiction, don’t fall into the pit of thinking it’s all made up. If it’s not anchored in fact, it won’t be believable. If your book is set in the 1600s, you can be sure there’s no one alive from that era to contradict what you’ve written. You can also be sure there is someone alive who is an expert in that time period and will slam your book. You can still write about that time period -- find that expert or the book he wrote and get the correct information. Just like a woman can write a male protagonist and vice versa, you can write about things you’ve not experienced firsthand. You have to do your research, though.

If you set your book in a town you’re not familiar with, you’ll have to find out about that region, from weather to slang to the look of the towns to seasons to streets to music. Even if you make up a town, it still has to be believable. You can’t take your wonderful hometown in Virginia and plop it down in west Texas. It won’t ring true.

One wonderful aspect of the Internet is that you can ask for help. If you belong to online groups and you get stuck in your research, you can throw a question out to the group. I did that when I needed to know if a tour bus could go into Central Park to load. I’d exhausted my research places and turned to the Sisters in Crime listserv. I got my answer.

I had the opportunity to spend a weekend in a woman’s prison. I had no plans to write a scene in woman’s prison, but I still jumped on the chance to go (and was glad to be able to leave). I’ve toured a morgue (very interesting) and a detention center (depressing). I’ve picnicked underwater (many times) and swam with several pigs, been inside an EMS ambulance, and watched the sun rise over a volcano. Take advantage of all opportunities.

I can’t imagine any book, fiction or nonfiction, that doesn’t require some kind of research.

Visit Helen at her website Helen Ginger and blog Straight From Hel
Sign up for her newsletter
And visit TSTC Publishing

Suggest a Christmas Book!

My monthly newsletter goes out this Friday. Usually I feature another YA author, but since it is so close to Christmas, I would like to suggest some great Christmas books instead.

What is your favorite Christmas book? What new or old book would teens (and adults) enjoy reading?

Leave your suggestions here!