Monday, October 31, 2011

Dojo Haunted House - part II

For details on what the Dojo Haunted House is all about, please see the post from 10/24:
Dojo Haunted House Part I
As promised, here are the pictures from construction and the actual party, which was a success once again!

Construction of the Haunted House - lots of boxes and tape

You never know what (or who) will jump out at you once you're inside. You have to bravely crawl (yes, crawl!) through the maze and hope nothing gets you. And you you have to be especially brave if you hear screams of those who go in before you.  
The Dojo Haunted House is fun for all, kids and adults, little ones and their parents (and yes, parents have been known to get scared in there, too!) Are you brave enough to enter the dark tunnels of the Dojo Haunted House?

Tarp goes over the whole structure

Entrance of the haunted house

A creepy talking head to greet those who dare enter

Chains at the entrance of the haunted house...darkness beyond


Don't get lost inside the Haunted Manor!
Unfortunately, I couldn't take any pictures inside the haunted house
because it's just too dark in there for my camera to take.
But this gives you a little idea. 

Kids get into the spirit of things

The parents were extremely impressed with how great the haunted house came out. A special thank you to all of the JSKA parents, students and staff who volunteered to help with the construction, as well as running the party! You guys are awesome!

Friday, October 28, 2011

International Urban Fantasy Month

What can be cooler than Urban Fantasy Month? Why, an Urban Fantasy Month Contest, of course! The props for this awesome idea go to Jaye Wells and you can find her original post on it right here! I’m just sorry I didn’t see it earlier.

The rules of the contest are writing a love letter to urban fantasy and posting it on your own blog (linking it back to the original Jaye Wells post) or writing it the comments of the original post if you don’t have a blog. In this love letter you can talk about your why you love the genre, your favorite Urban Fantasy books and characters, or even trying your hand at a haiku (which I’m not brave enough to do).

So here’s my little love letter to Urban Fantasy:

I love dark gritty Urban Fantasy with strong kick-ass flawed heroes, both male and female, who bite, shift, do magic or just kick ass extra superbly. Urban Fantasy lets me escape the mundane and transports me into the worlds where anything is possible, where major obstacles are only the beginning of adventure and where the girls getting the guy is as important as the other way around. I love Urban Fantasy that doesn’t shy away from hard issues, violence or, of course, sex. Martial Arts are a definite bonus for me personally. I have been reading urban fantasy for years and will happily continue to inhale it in the years to come. Urban Fantasy was also what gave me the courage to start writing myself and remains my writing focus still. So Urban Fantasy, thank you and I love you!

Don’t forget to enter and show your love! And check out a few of my favorite urban fantasy writers:

Jeniene Frost
Keri Arthur

Patricia Briggs

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Favorite Writing Craft Websites

I find myself searching through various writing websites almost every day. There are many wonderful helpful sites out there and browsing through them has a dual purpose for me

1)      it’s another way to learn more about the craft of writing and to keep up to date on what’s happening in the writing world ; and
2)       it provides constant inspiration

I’d like to share just a few of my favorite writing craft websites here.

Writer’s Digest – lots of articles on the craft for and by writers. Many articles are free, subscribing gives access to even more content. Also, when you subscribe to their free weekly email newsletter, you will receive a list of “101 Best Websites for Writers” as a gift – lots of articles, various writing contests, writing tools and much more. Free to join – how-to articles, advice for writers at any stage of their career, and great forums on everything from writing tips, querying and publishing discussions and just pure venting sessions

Pitch University – the leader in helping authors learn how to pitch and to overcome their pitching fears, free classes, forums and great case studies!

I also love to check out author websites. Besides finding out fun facts about the writers and getting full lists of their books, there are often articles by these authors with advice on the writing craft.

And of course, I cannot forget to mention another great resource – blogs. As a matter of fact, blogs are probably the most inspirational and useful resource of all. The content is always fresh and often presented in a fun form that is easy and interesting to follow.

Watch for a post next week listing my favorite writer/writing blogs.

What are your favorite writing websites to visit? Which ones do you find most useful?  Please share.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Teaser Tuesday

Here are the rules:

1. Post 2 sentences from the current book you're reading. You can either

a) open the book and share 2 sentences from anywhere on that page or
b) share your favorite 2 senetnces from the book (they have to be in a row)

2. List the page #


3. List the name of the book and the author

My teaser of the week:

"He padded up to me and touched his muzzle behind my ear. I didn't have to sink submissively to be lower than he, but I hunched down anyway."

P. 81

Moon Called by Patricia Briggs

Share your teasers in the comments.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Dojo Haunted House

Every year, my husband Tommy Casale (the owner and Chief Instructor for our karate school, as well as the President of an International karate organization for the Pan-American region) constructs a haunted house for the kids in the neighborhood.  And let me tell you, he really gets into it! Parents at the school and all of the adult students and staff gladly volunteer to help.

The haunted house is built out of large cardboard boxes and lots of tape and decorations inside. A large black tarp is placed on top of the finished product to make the haunted maze inside extra dark. The construction takes almost two and a half days and though everyone is exhausted at the end of it, there’s also much fun to be had.

We order pizza, lots of junk food (hey, that always helps!) and have lots of laughs. In the end, the biggest reward is to see how much fun our dojo kids, as well as all of the kids in the community have during the haunted house hours. This event has become famous through the years (and is known for being pretty scary, even for some adults).

I would like to command my hubby on doing such a wonderful job the kids in the community.
I will post pictures from this year’s Dojo Haunted House next week.

With my wonderful hubby Tommy

Check out our dojo website here

Friday, October 21, 2011

Friday Art and History Feature - Kiev (my birthplace)

Center of Kiev
I haven’t been back to the city of my birth in twenty years and from everything I have read and heard about it, it has changed quiet a lot. However, what’s constant is that Kiev, where I lived for the first 13 years of my life, is one of the oldest and most beautiful cities in the world.

Kiev has been the capital of Ukraine since 1934, but it’s history goes back to 480 AD. The legend of the creation of the city tells of two brothers, Schek and Khoriv and their sister Lybid (translated as “swan”). What is known for a fact is that Slavs have inhabited the area of and around kiev since 6th century.

Monument to brothers Schek, Khoriv and their sister Lybid - legendary founders of Kiev
Kiev became the capital of the “old Russia” or the “Kievan Rus’” in the 9th century and remained so until at least the 12th century. It was destroyed by the invading Mongols in 1240 and had to be completely rebuilt. Throughout the next centuries, Kiev was controlled at various times by Tatars, Lithuanians and others. In the 19th century, Ukraine was losing its autonomy and eventually went through a Russification, leading to its eventual inclusion into the Soviet Union in 1917, with Kiev becoming its capital in 1934.

Andreevkiy spusk in Kiev
Today, Kiev is a mix of old and new, more than ever. When I left in 1999 to come to America, it was right after the Soviet Union broke apart and Ukraine was seeking independence. When looking at the pictures of Kiev today, you can see a McDonalds and ad for an Ipad next to a stunning ancient church, and old cobblestone streets run parallel to busy new highways.

There are so many churches in the city, you can encounter one no matter which way you turn. Some of those have survived through the centuries, others have been rebuilt in the past years because so many were destroyed after the Soviet revolution on 1917. Kiev is also still one of the greenest most beautiful cities in Europe (and in the world) today.

Kiev in bloom
 In the spring, it is covered with lilac bushes and the chestnut trees in bloom. In fact, the bloom of a chestnut tree became the unofficial symbol of the city.

I would love to visit Kiev sometime soon and see how it changed. I would also love to show my husband where I grew up. Kiev has a beauty and spirit about it that appeals strongly to me as a writer.

Chestnuts blooming

Monday, October 17, 2011


In an effort to get on a schedule for the blog, I'm announcing Teaser Tuesdays (because I love reading them!)

Here are the rules:

1. Post 2 sentences from the current book you're reading. You can either

a) open the book and share 2 sentences from anywhere on that page or
b) share your favorite 2 senetnces from the book (they have to be in a row)

2. List the page #


3. List the name of the book and the author

Here's my teaser for the day:
"I dumped my coffee on the desk, then put on some gloves before opening the drawer and retrieving the Rolodex. Alana's address was indeed listed under T for Trollops."

p. 26 (on Nook version)

The Darkest Kiss by Keri Arthur

Looking forward to reading your teasers!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Announcing new scheduled Friday feauture and 1st - Luis Royo

I’m starting a new scheduled feature on this blog. Every Friday I will alternate between posts on my favorite artists (old and new) and posts on a historical site or event.
Art and history have always been my two other passions, besides writing, for as long as I could remember having conscious thought. And in all honesty, I think that my love of art and writing go hand in hand with each other. A writer paints with words. An artist tells a story with pencil and paint. It’s as simple to me as that. A great writer, like a great painter, will evoke certain emotions and will make you experience a whole different world with their work.
Who knows, perhaps these will inspire some of you as well.
For the first post in the series, I am excited to present one of my absolutely favorite fantasy artists – Luis Royo.
Luis Royo

Luis Royo, born in Spain in 1954, has achieved the mastery of technical drawing, as well as spectacular realistic fantasy painting that few in his genre have. The worlds of his work are dark and sensual. His etherial lights and mysterious dark contrasts are absolutly materful.

The theme of beauty and the beast is prominent in much of his work – the study of beautiful strong women and terrible monsters. The scenes range from violent to sensual to the interweaving of both.

His women never seem like damsels in distress. They take control, their power apparent in their posture and their eyes.

My own attraction to Royo’s work mirrors my interest in dark urban fantasy and paranormal romance as a writer. Interestingly enough, Luis Royo has in fact painted illustrations for some books in the genre, most notably the Anita Blake series by Laurell K. Hamilton.

Anita Blake

His collections include
Prohibited Book I, II and III
Conceptions I, II and III
Wild Sketches
Dead Moon   
Dead Moon, in fact, is a collaborative work with Romulo Royo and is a story in words, as well as in art.  It is a tragic tale of love with an apocalyptic ending.
I cannot put many of my favorite paintings and sketches by Luis Royo here because of the adult nature of them (lots of nudity) but if this piqued your interest, I would definitely advise checking his work out. For more information go here.
But I have to put a disclaimer here - *much of Luis Royo's work is very explicit and graphic. You have been warned! :)

Now...any advice on what I should call my new Friday feauture? Any thoughts would be appreciated.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fake It 'Till You Make It

During the karate classes at my dojo (karate school), some of the adult classes are a mix of beginners and more advanced ranks. Sometimes groups are separated by ranks and instructors work with them on what’s appropriate for their level. Other times, lower ranks are encouraged to try to follow the more advanced ranks. During those times, you would often hear my husband (our chief sensei, or instructor) say to them “fake it ‘till you make it”. As our school has a very friendly atmosphere and everyone helps each other, sometimes it’s a lot of fun for the beginner students to do something that is more advanced, even if they haven’t been “officially” taught it yet. They also get a preview of what’s to come.

Personally, I love this phrase and have used it many times in my life to psychologically pump myself up. And it usually works like a charm. What exactly does the concept mean? It means to imitate confidence even when not feeling confident about an endeavor. The more you imitate that confidence, the more you feel like you can do it and the more success you gain in achieving the goal. As that happens, real confidence follows. In other words, act as if you’re already successful and you will be. It is also similar to the concept of smiling even if you feel sad and gloomy, and the more you force yourself to smile, the better your mood actually gets.

How can we apply the concept of “fake it ‘till you make it” to the life of a writer (or an aspiring writer)? Here are a few ways:
1)      Set up and follow a writing schedule as if you already have a contract with an agent or a publishing company. Act as if it’s your job (even if it’s your second job), set goals and deadlines. When your agent or editor is waiting for you to finish writing or editing a novel, you feel the pressure to sit down and write. If you get into the habit of consistent writing even before you get a contract, it will be easier to continue doing once you land one. It will also make you feel more like a true writer psychologically.

2)      Prioritize and make sure that your family and friends understand what that involves. Learn to say “no” if something is going to take you away from reaching your writing goals.

3)      On the opposite end of that, do not forget to set time aside to spend with your family or just rest and do other things that you love. If you don’t have a good work life balance, you will burn out fast and that will delay achieving your success.

4)      Start building your platform as an author even before you get published. Once you’re published, the basis of the platform, at least, should already be set and should be able to propel you more easily into the eye of your public/audience. Building a platform today means making connections with other writers, setting up and using your Twitter and Facebook author accounts, and maybe writing a blog.

5)      Always be kind and gracious to everyone you meet. Encourage others to pursue their goals and dreams, pay it forward. And don’t forget to be grateful.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Description In Writing - The Beauty and the Beast (Or The Benefits and The pitfalls)

A well written novel will contain both beautiful, vivid description and strong relevant dialogue. Ideally, both will move the story forward rather than slow it down. It is not uncommon for a writer to have more strength in one aspect over the other, maybe even a preference. A well-rounded writer will strive to make both facets solid or the novel will be found lacking by the reader.

In this post, I’d like to concentrate on description. I have to admit, I have a love for it, and enjoy writing it. But don't be ensnared into utilizing it for the wrong reasons. Remember that it can’t be gratuitous, there for the sake of just existing, or as filler between dialogues. Description should have a point. It should be evocative not just of physical places, events or characters but also of feelings and moods. As a reader, I want to be transported into the character’s world, not just have a basic mental understanding of it. I want to experience the feel of a dark moonless night in the forest, cold snow crunching under my feet as I’m trying to hide from a predator stalking me (because a good description will make me believe it’s me for a moment, rather than the character) . And that is a very different feeling than being in the middle of a large city where hundreds of lights are so bright, the night can never appear completely dark.

Everyone who has aspired to be a writer heard of a very important adage that has gained an almost rule-like importance in the industry – “Show, don’t tell”. That is often much harder to do in practice than in theory. Here are a few tips. You can do this by remembering to include all five senses to make your reader feel like they are in the story. Use the sense of touch, smell, sound, taste and, of course, sight. When appealing to the sense of touch, describe the texture, for example. When appealing to the sense of smell, don’t just say the cookies smelled of cinnamon. Say that the cookies smelled the way grandma’s hands always used to smell when [character] was little. By doing so, you’re not just involving the reader who may have had the same (or similar) experience, but also “showing” something of your character’s personality – maybe it’s that she misses her grandmother because she was close to her (which maybe important to the story), maybe it’s that she’s sentimental (which maybe important to the understanding of the character’s motivations).

You can show a spoiled child by having her whine or throw tantrums. You can show a gorgeous woman by the appreciative stares she gets from both men and women as she walks down the street. You can show a character’s fear by describing her sense of isolation, by the creepy sounds she hears, by her feeling her heart beating in her throat. Well, you get the point.

But never forget that you have to intertwine good description with strong dialogue and action, because that is what primarily drives the writing forward. Description is there to help create the world in which the action takes place (and I can't lie, it's extremely fun to write). However, it should never take the place of it.
Look out for a post on dialogue coming soon.
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