Thursday, November 15, 2018

Shop Til you Drop: Fun Stuff for Readers and Writers

Readers and writers on your list? Take the stress out of holiday shopping with my ideas for fun stuff.

Personalized Stuff

How about personalized luggage tags with a book cover instead of a picture? Two-sided luggage tags come in two sizes. Use two covers or a book cover on one side and a business card or address on the other. $5

Every Christmas gift list includes a dull, boring mug with some stupid inspirational saying. Instead, choose a handmade mug with room for a short log line from a book. $25

Imagine wearing your book cover or blurb.
Personalized scarves for are more fun when you use a book cover and blurb. $37 

Why stop at a just a t-shirt? Check out the rest of the Bags of Love site and choose from among beanies, caps, sarongs, socks, sunglasses, belts, bandanas, ties, aprons and more. Prices range from $34 to $56. 

Housewares and Home Decor Stuff

Add a book cover to a wall mural or the tag line from your favorite book mounted on the wall. Prices start at under $20 for something small and go up from there.

Can’t put down that book even if you’re gross and smelly? Use the bathtub book holder in the tub. $35.99 

Ever dream of having your own bookstore? Now you can build one. The bookstore kit comes complete with book, shelves, ladder, paintings, even electric lights. $39.95

Need some inspiration for your next fantasy novel? Cozy up to your laptop in a crocheted mermaid tail blanket. In small and large sizes, choose from a multitude of colors. $13.85

Books look cooler propped up between katana sword bookends$39.99



Who knew book shelves could bring a smile.  Check out the wondershelves  and bookends by Artori Design, most under $50

Eat your vegetables and learn your grammar. Grammarstuff plates are $12.50 each.

The composition notebook bottle will keep beverages hot or cold. $59.99


For the true book fan - a true
book fan. The folds are made from vintage books. $14.95

Do the best ideas come just as you drift off to sleep? Jot down a few notes on the doodle pillowcase. It comes with machine washable fabric markers. $19.95

Have a book cover printed on the surface of a light switch for $12.95.

Yeah we’ve all been there. Check out the writer's clock$26.95

The book rest lamp holds your place and gives off a soothing light. $60

This book light give off a gentle light and looks cool with any decor. $50

Even if you love the people around you, sometimes they just need to go away so you can get your work done. Hang this cheeky Do Not Disturb sign to make the point. $12.99

puzzle book box will hold secret treasures, once the recipient figures out the trick to opening it. Recommended for people you don't like, but owe a gift. $54.99

Use literary soap to wash the naughty bits with some of your favorite authors. $3.95

Extra Stuff

What obsessive writer doesn't need quotation mark earrings$28.80

book handbag for the fashionable bibliophiles on your list. $99


Yeah, I got nothing to say about this except perfume that smells like a paperback is just plain weird. Prices range from $4 to $40.

When inspiration strikes in the shower use Aqua Notes$10.81

Can a grammar book be fun to read? Yes, if it’s Eats, Shoots& Leaves by Lynne Truss. A delightful book with cheeky wit and grammar how-to’s.  By the last page you’ll be declaring your undying love for the semicolon. It’s available in ebook, paperback, hard cover, and audiobook. Prices range from $6 to $42 depending on format.

Know a writer who is odd? Boy, is that a loaded question. How about one who likes to figure out plot points while strolling down the street? Get the poor dear a PORTOCAM to talk into so people don’t stare. It records and even takes pictures. $67.88

Why just sign your books when you can emboss them, too? Prices for this personalized embosser run from about $50 to $150.

And Finally…Butt Stuff

Writers and readers tend to spend time on their butts. An under the desk elliptical machine for $249 is just the ticket to keep in shape and you don’t even have to stop writing or reading.


Saturday, October 27, 2018

You Don't Know Jack (About Jack O'Lanterns, Stingy Jack, and Spring-heeled Jack)

Halloween is right around the corner, so what better time to explore the legend of the jack o’lantern. Good old Jack has had a long history and you may be surprise to learn originally the term didn’t refer to a vegetable at all. Jack was an all-purpose term, like “bub” or “fella”, use to denote a man. A night watchman who carried a torch or lantern at night was called a Jack o’lantern or “the guy with the lantern”. In the days before electricity, lights at night were creepy especially when they mysteriously appeared over bogs, swamps, or marshes—places where no living being in their right mind wandered at night. Caused by ignited gases from decomposing plant matter, these ghost lights had a variety of names; hinkypunks, corpse candles, fairy lights, will-o'-the-wisps, fool's fire, and good old jack o’lantern. Lacking a scientific explanation, people told stories to explain their appearance. In Ireland, they often revolved Stingy Jack.

Stingy Jack lived up to his name. The legend goes he invited the Devil to a local pub for a few rounds and wheedled the Devil to turn into a coin so neither would have to pay. Jack put the Devil into his pocket next to a silver cross so he couldn’t change back into his demonic form. He freed the Devil only after a promise that when Jack died he wouldn’t claim his soul.

When Jack finally kicked the bucket, God refused entry into heaven for such an unsavory character. Frankly, I don’t get God’s reasoning in this. It seems to me The Almighty should have gotten a big kick out of how Jack tricked the Devil, but there’s no arguing with the divine. The Devil had already promised not to claim Jack’s soul so the poor guy was dumped back on Earth, a wandering spirit with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack put the coal into a carved-out turnip and has been roaming ever since. Thus Jack of the Lantern or Jack O’Lantern was born.

On All Soul’s Eve, wandering spirits such as Jack were supposed to be particularly frisky, playing tricks and causing mischief. Making vegetable lanterns was a tradition of the British Isles, and carved-out turnips, beets, and potatoes were stuffed with coal, wood embers, or candles as impromptu lanterns to celebrate the fall harvest. Children would sometimes wander off the road with a glowing vegetable to trick people into thinking Stingy Jack or another lost soul was watching. People began carving scary faces into turnips or potatoes and placing them into windows or near doors to frighten Jack and his cohorts away.

Stingy Jack wasn’t the only Jack to cause trouble though. A wraith called Spring-Heeled Jack first started to appear in 1837. Residents of London began to report bizarre harassment from a ghost, imp or devil apparition in the shape of a large white bull. The strange figure would ring a doorbell and then ravage the clothes of the person who answered. Sometimes he simply ambushed people out walking. He was an athletic fellow, capable of scaling walls and jumping across rooftops. Thus, the spring heels. He often appeared in different guises such as a ghost, a bear, or devil or wearing red shoes or armor. The idea of costumes began to be linked to an apparition named Jack who like to play tricks on unsuspecting souls.

Immigrants from the British Isles brought the legend of Stingy Jack and Spring-heeled Jack with them, along with the custom of carving marrows and tuber and lighting them with candles. Pumpkins were plentiful in the fall and made even better jack o’-lanterns with large surfaces perfect for carving. The two Jack merged and brought the pumpkin with them and combined with local harvest festival traditions. Soon All Hallows Eve became the day to carve crude faces into pumpkins to frighten wandering spirits away. It was only a hop, skip, and a boo from there to our modern custom of exacting tribute from perfect strangers to keep the Jack and his ghostly companions from our doors.


Monday, September 24, 2018

Book Spotlight: The Boss (Fire's Edge #1) by Abigail Owen



The Boss

(Fire’s Edge #1)
By Abigail Owen

The hotter the fire, the deeper the burn…

Finn Conleth leads his team of enforcer dragon shifters with an iron fist and a cold heart. Every dragon seeks his destined mate, but the process to turn the woman he once thought was his killed her and devastated him. He will never risk his heart again. His team is his family now. When his body eventually gives out, he’ll leave, living his last days alone.
Delaney Hamilton moved across the country to escape the freak fires that plague her. But when another suspicious fire erupts and rapidly escalates around her, her hopes for a new life go up in smoke. She has no choice but to turn to the mysterious men who come to her aid.
Finn knows the fire is dragon-caused, which puts Delaney’s problems directly in his jurisdiction. No matter how her wounded grey eyes call to every part of him, he refuses to risk her life in the mating process.
Until another dragon threatens to claim Delaney for his own, and Finn has to sacrifice everything to keep her alive…

Buy Links:


Book Info:
Publisher: Entangled Publishing, Amara
Author: Abigail Owen
Cover Art: KAM Designs
Page Count: 350
Word Count: 90k
Release Date: 9/24/2018
Steam Rating: Hot

Free Prequel Short Story
Get an early start on the series with a prequel short story to the Fire’s Edge series. The Mate will be available for FREE via all retailers 9/17.

Preorder:

OR… Join Abigail’s newsletter to get a copy now. http://eepurl.com/Lw2XH

Praise for The Boss:
✭✭✭✭✭ Abigail Owen is a rising star in paranormal romance!  Her dragons are sexy, suspenseful, and smoking hot--an electrifying new series. ~NY Times Bestselling Author Alyssa Day

✭✭✭✭✭ Paranormal romance doesn't get much better than The Boss. A sexy shifter hero, a spunky, no-nonsense heroine, heart-clenching emotion, and worldbuilding at its best. This story nearly set my Kindle on fire. Bring on the next book cause I can't wait! ~USA Today & National Bestselling Author Anna J. Stewart

✭✭✭✭✭ It is an excellent start to the new Fire's Edge series.  Abigail Owen has a best-seller series on her hands with this one. ~Moonshine’s Corner


Excerpt

Plumes of smoke seeped out of the door she’d left open, but the flames were still hiding inside.
Oh God, I have to fix this.
Delaney had thought she’d be safe here. She’d thought the fires that plagued her in Vermont wouldn’t follow her across the country.
She’d been horribly wrong.
She ran to the water faucet that stuck out of the ground about twenty feet from the barn. A long hose already attached lay coiled beside it. With a twist, she turned the water on full force and dragged the hose toward the barn.
I can’t let Sera’s wine burn.
That reason, more than her own safety, drove her actions.
Carefully, she moved closer to the building. Her aching eyes and fuzzy vision didn’t help, but she kept going. She inched inside until she glimpsed flame, then she aimed her hose at the spot and sprayed, using her thumb to focus the water. The fire appeared to laugh at her pitiful effort like a crazed, caged animal. Flames receded in fizzling, smoldering protest before lunging for her with renewed vigor.
I’m not even making a dent.
Delaney stepped forward, not giving up, dousing more of the blaze.
A snap of sound was the only warning she had before the beams above her crumbled. With a scream, Delaney jumped, feet scrambling as she tripped and fell backwards. Luckily the beam didn’t land on her, but it lay so close, heat singed her skin. Grabbing the hose, she crawled back to her feet and turned the spray on the beam.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” a deep male voice thundered in her ear a second before a strong arm banded around her waist.
Delaney found herself hoisted over a shoulder, the air punching from her lungs with a whoosh as her middle connected with a broad shoulder, as she was bodily carried from the burning structure.
She didn’t struggle.
She also didn’t think to let go of the hose.
Her rescuer stumbled over the line and jerked to a halt.
“Damn,” the same deep voice swore and he yanked the hose from her hands.
Realization sank in that she’d been dousing the firefighter who’d “rescued” her, and a completely inappropriate giggle escaped her.
He took off again, not letting her go, jostling her none too gently as he ran across the gravel drive to plonk her on a boulder beside the main winery building. Delaney lifted her gaze up, way up, over his green flame-resistant pants, yellow long-sleeved shirt, and white helmet. A firefighter, but not any kind she’d dealt with before, not based on the clothing. He pinned her to the rock she sat on with the bluest eyes she’d ever seen.
Delaney blinked.
Anger and frustration pulled his brows down in an intimidating glower. “Are you hurt?” he asked. Yelled more like, his voice a harsh growl.
Delaney blinked at him again, shock taking over and slowing her brain way down—like molasses in the winter.
When she didn’t answer, his severe expression softened. “Are you hurt?” he repeated, no less urgent, but gentler.
Pull yourself together. Delaney shook her head.
“Is anyone else in there?”
“No.”
“Any animals?”
“No.” At least, she assumed the cat she’d saved was the only creature in there. “It’s for wine. State of the art with temperature control.” No way should fires be happening in the building.
He nodded. “I’ve got this now. Don’t go back in there. Wait here for the paramedics.” He straightened and anything soft about him disappeared behind granite determination.
This guy had it.
Relief surged through her followed by immediate the prick of tears that had nothing to do with the smoke.
Why does this keep happening to me?


Author Bio
Award-winning contemporary romance author, Abigail Owen, grew up consuming books and exploring the world through her writing. She attempted to find a practical career related to her favorite pastime by earning a degree in English Rhetoric (Technical Writing). However, she swiftly discovered that writing without imagination is not nearly as fun as writing with it.
No matter the genre, she loves to write witty, feisty heroines, sexy heroes who deserve them, and a cast of lovable characters to surround them (and maybe get their own stories). She currently resides in Austin, Texas, with her own personal hero, her husband, and their two children, who are growing up way too fast.


Monday, August 27, 2018

The Lowdown on Copyrights, Trademarks and Patents



In light of the recent brouhaha over “cockygate” it’s time for a little rundown on the differences between copyrights, trademarks, and patents, and how they pertain to writers.

What’s a copyright?
Copyright is legal protection for works of authorship. For the written word it covers such things as fiction and nonfiction in all lengths, magazine and newspaper articles, even computer software, manuals, catalogs, brochures, and compiled information like databases. It can also cover dramatic works, motion pictures, audiovisual and sound recordings. Copyright law doesn’t protect ideas, facts, inventions, processes, systems of operations, words, names, symbols or proprietary information, although it may protect the way these things are expressed. A book title can’t be copyrighted. A single word can only be copyrighted in context. You can’t copyright the word “amazon”, but you can form a company called Amazon and copyright the word in a particular font to use for the logo. Doing this forms a trademark.

How do you get a copyright?

Write stuff. Copyright protection is automatic
the moment your work has tangible form. Whether you write longhand, use a computer, or dictate your work into a recorder, you have copyright protection. Only original works can be copyrighted, so, sorry, that fifteen century treatise on milk pox by an anonymous friar can’t be offered up on Amazon under your own name. This doesn’t mean your idea has to be original. There are plenty of updated versions of Frankenstein floating around that use the basic premise of the tale: mad scientist creates a monster that eventually runs amok and destroys him. Even if Mary Shelley wanted to complain, she couldn’t.

Only works published before March 1, 1989 need a formal copyright application. Nowadays, nothing is necessary, but a self-published author can place something like Copyright©2018 by L. A. Kelley in the front matter. It functions as a subtle reminder to others that this is mine, write your own stuff.

What’s the difference between that and a trademark?
Most people get trademark and copyright confused. Trademarks are words, names and symbols used to identify goods and services. A trademark is designed to protect a brand so consumers don’t confuse one similar product with another. You don’t trademark a book series title unless you can prove that the title is part of your specific brand. In the case of “cockygate” the author registered for and received a trademark on the word “cocky” written in an open-access font. Soon evidence appeared the trademark should never have been granted as the Patent and Trademark Office didn’t have the full details of the application. After months of outrage from the writing community and numerous lawsuits the author was told to stick her trademark where the sun don’t shine. She and her bottom-feeding lawyers withdrew the application.

One area of confusion is that trademarks can be words. It’s important to note that the words must be associated with a brand, but the brand does not have to be commercial. Law enforcement agencies can have an image and brand to protect, too. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police control licensing over their image and have been cracking down on trademark infringement for over twenty years. Merchandise with the RCMP name and logo are available in commercial outlets, but vendors pay a ten percent licensing fee to the Mounties.

Technically, trademarks can’t be used without the owner’s permission. This means if you insert one in a novel, the owner can demand removal. The list of trademarked single words is long and surprising. Gerber owns the trademark to “onesie”. “Shabby chic” belongs to designer Rachel Ashwell. The National Association of Realtors owns the term “Realtor”. Marvel comics trademarked “Super Hero” in 1967, but the word “superhero” is okay to use by anyone. Even sounds can be trademarked. The three note NBC chime and the MGM lion’s roar is trademarked, but Harley Davison was unable to get one for its engine sound. My favorite
famous non-trademarked sound is The Wilhelm Scream. It’s a sound effect that cropped up in 1951 and has been used in over 200 films. Since the originator never applied for a trademark and his name is lost in the annals of history, it’s free for filmmakers to use. You’ve heard it dozens of times, but never knew what it was. Now you do. If you’re curious, check out this compilation of The Wilhelm Scream. I bet you recognize it.


A writer can avoid trouble by using generic terms; trash bin for Dumpster, tissue for Kleenex, sports car for Corvette. Frankly, most companies aren’t going to come after a writer for using a trademarked term. The only ones I know who are frothing-at-the-mouth possessive about their property rights, and employ a cadre of lawyers to defend them, are Disney and Marvel (now a Disney company.) I recommend staying away from any mention of their products.

So what the heck is a patent?
Patents are used for inventions and processes. As with a copyright, you can’t patent an idea. In short, patents can be issued for a process (steps to produce a result), a machine, manufacturing (combining materials in a new way), or composition (a novel drug or genetically modified seed.) The only instance for a writer to consider a patent might be in the development of a software program, for example, a different type of grammar check. Even then, the benefits of a patent is debatable. It depends on how the software is used together with the hardware, and what should be protected from a competitor. The software innovation may lie in an apparatus, system, algorithm, method, network, data processing or the software itself. It’s important to remember the patent process is expensive, time-consuming, and a patent needs to be filed in every country where you want protection.





Friday, July 27, 2018

Ng Mui: A Real Warrior Woman

When westerners think of Chinese martial arts, the term kung fu generally comes to mind. The word kung fu is a compound of (gōng) meaning work and (fū) merit, and refers to any skill that is acquired through learning or practice. Kung fu is often misunderstood by outsiders to be a single fighting style. In reality, it is made of several hundred styles or schools, and legend has it one of them was founded by a woman.

Ng Mui was born in a noble household in China in the seventeenth century and her life is a mixture of fact and legend. In some stories she is the daughter of a general in the Ming imperial court, in others a princess, but because of wealth and family influence, she had access to an extensive education and the best kung fu teachers of the time. In her younger years, Ng Mui mastered several Shaolin martial arts and even developed a new training regimen on upturned logs to develop balance and leg strength, a practice she later incorporated into her own fighting style.

Her transformation into a warrior woman began in a bloody coup. The Manchus defeated the Ming dynasty and took over the rule of China. Ng Mui parents, fervent supporters of the Ming, were killed. Fortunately, she was away from home when the purge started. She escaped to Kwangsi Province and took refuge in the White Crane Temple. Due to the Shaolin’s support for the Ming, the monks and nuns faced great danger, so had to remain on alert for attacks.

Ng Mui became a Buddhist nun. Although highly proficient in the existing styles of kung fu, she felt it was possible to devise a more effective fighting method which didn’t rely on brute strength or require years to master. Her story has several versions, but the one I like says one day, she watched a fight between a stork and a snake. The stork used its wings and legs to deflect and counter-attack at the same time. Inspiration struck Ng Mui. She adapted the technique to create a unique new martial art that emphasized a delicate but natural self-defense style and transcended size, weight and gender. The movements required little force to block and could strike effectively and efficiently.

At first, her new technique had no name. Then Ng Mui met a beautiful young girl named Yim Wing Chun. Her fiancé was away fighting with a rebel force and a bandit warlord tried to force her into marriage. She refused and he threatened her and her family. Yim Wing Chun feared she’d have to yield to his desires, but Ng Mui convinced the girl to give her six months for training. By the end of six months she mastered the new the art of self-defense and then challenged the warlord to combat. She defeated him. Her fiancé returned and was impressed with her new skill. She bested him, too, and he begged her to teach him the fighting style. He named it Wing Chun in her honor. It translates as “everlasting springtime” which sounds pretty soft for one tough cookie.

Ng Mui became one of the Five Elders of the Shaolin Temple, the most respected marital artists of the 1700s. Because of the Shaolins’ support of the previous Ming dynasty, the Manchu eventually attacked and destroyed the temple. The elders escaped and scattered in different directions. Ng Mui and her followers supposedly went into hiding in the Himalayan foothills where she became part of a rebel force and continued to teach kung fu.

Wing Chun was reintroduced in the twentieth century by Grandmaster Ip Man, regarded as the greatest and most insightful teacher of Wing Chun. He moved to Hong Kong in 1948 and became the first master to teach the fighting style to the general public and spread the popularity of Wing Chun around the world today.




Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Medieval Fair: The Amazon of the Dark Ages

People tend to think of the Middle Ages as a time of contention; city states and petty kingdoms constantly at war as rulers jockeyed for power. Despite fluctuating borders, people still need stuff and commerce was alive and well. At the medieval fair, buying and selling took place on a grand scale. The fair at Champagne was famous early on, but Britain, Germany, and other countries were equally well-attended.

Most fairs had origins as religious festivals. Crowds of pilgrims naturally gathered to pay homage to a particular saint and understandably might want a little nosh afterwards. Astute merchants and vendors saw a golden opportunity and jumped right in. The first rule of marketing: get your product out in front of buyers, and it helps if you have God spread the word. The Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris secured a fragment of the true cross in 1109 and became the center of a yearly June pilgrimage. It didn’t take long for booths to be set up between the areas of Montmartre and St. Denis. The fair became known as Lendit from the French word l’endit or assembly. The bishops had no objection as it brought more of the faithful to the cathedral.

Fairs weren’t only established around cathedrals; other buildings did nicely. Some were even founded by religious orders. One of the largest was established in 1036 by the Abbey of St. Vaast at Arras in Germany.  Clerics discovered not only the advantages of having goods and services for sale close at hand, but also the joy of taxes. Pheasants, meanwhile, discovered the joy of discovering loopholes in revenue laws. They staggered into Arras weighed down by bundles of goods on their backs because merchandise arriving on foot wasn’t taxed. Can’t carry all those pigs to market in a sack? Make sure to use a cart with an unshod horse. Shod horses were taxed at two deniers apiece.

As years pas and the popularity of fairs spread, temporary structures and itinerant merchants were replaced by fixed stalls and benches. The spread of commerce brought more money into circulation and merchants began to construct small shops, often with storerooms behind and living quarters above. It wasn’t uncommon for similar merchants to concentrate in a particular area; one street would be devoted to butchers, another to spice merchants, others to trades such as cloth, leather goods, or metalworking.

So what could you buy at one of these fairs? Everything your little medieval life needed. Fishmongers sold sturgeon, salmon, and salted herring, but if you lived at the coast you might wander down to your favorite stall and see if they had any fresh whale meat today. Food preservation was generally restricted to brining, salting, smoking, or drying so the fruits and vegetables were sold by the growing seasons. Cattle and pigs tended to be butchered in the fall after summer fattening, but chickens and eggs might be available year round. Honey, salt, oil, cheeses and a variety of wine and beer were also common purchases. Need to cook your foods? Visit the smithy who can hammer out some pots and pans. Planning to get married? Some stands carried specialty items such as delicate lace or fine embroidery. There was no such thing as off the rack shoes, everything was to order so pick out your cowhide from the cobbler and have him rustle up a nice pair of boots or use that new embroidered cloth for a fancy pair of slippers.

As the Middle Ages progressed, trade became increasing professional. Early merchants were from the lower class and used commerce to rise above the status of downtrodden peasant. Markets and trade expanded and so did the middle class. They grew not only in size, but also in economic power and began to demand more rights. Royalty wasn’t happy, but they were also dependent on trade and the taxes it brought to support their regimes. Eventually, the power of the monarchies slipped. And you thought civil war was necessary to bring about democracy. Nope, it only required shopping.