BJ Novak and Us: A Story of Sharks

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So my writing group The Illiterati were invited to a VIP Reception for writer/actor/producer BJ Novak. He’s a headliner at the Vegas Valley Book Festival, and since Mason and I are in the Lost and Found in Las Vegas anthology that just came out, we scored tickets. Yay!

It’s awesome. BJ was friendly and funny and everything you’d expect. We told him to check out the beautiful woodwork in Main Street Station and to check out the shark tank/swimming pool at the Golden Nugget.

Yes. There’s a tube slide through the shark tank. IT. IS. AWESOME.

Then BJ went on to speak to his adoring crowd while Mason, Matt Czarnowski and I fled the wine and hors d’oeuvres table in favor for some Five Guys Burgers. Because that’s how we roll.

IMG_0010I love my writer’s group. They’re so wonderful. It’s good to be with friends. This weekend we’re doing a panel at the festival, hopefully meeting Aimee Bender, who is one of my favorite writers, and then spending Saturday night at my house. Plans? Cooking chicken noodle soup from scratch, writing, playing video games, and recording a song. This is just what we do. ❤

The Las Vegas Book Valley Festival Is This Weekend!

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Please come, if you can. I’ll be on a panel with my partner-in-crime Mason Bundschuh. There will be books to buy, panels to participate in, and each year they have free hotdogs. I am ALL ABOUT the free hotdogs! BJ Novak will be there, along with one of my very favorite writers, Aimee Bender. I have this fantasy where I talk to her without passing out. Let’s see if it happens.

Join us at the Vegas Valley Book Festival. 😀

The Vegas Valley Book Festival is Tomorrow!

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Did you know Las Vegas has a book festival? It certainly does. And I’m taking part tomorrow.

Fellow Las Vegas writer Rena Mason and I will be signing books at a table sponsored by the Horror Writer’s Association.

And fellow Interdimensional Wombat and partner in crime Mason Bundschuh will be there as well, reading his second-place piece from the Flash Fiction contest. Way to go, Mason!

Way to beat me. Is what I’m really saying. Dagnabbit.

Anyway, come down. There will be hotdogs. Which is always a reason to show up. And books! And music! And my friends! And me! And more books! And the weather is gorgeous. Crisp and almost fall-like.

Swing by! We’ll be at the Historic Fifth Street School. Check out the Festival’s site, and I hope to see you tomorrow.

Recording the BEAUTIFUL SORROWS Audiobook, Part 1

In September of 2012, Shock Totem released my short story collection, Beautiful Sorrows. We released it at Killercon here in Las Vegas. Woo! Vegas!

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The gorgeous cover was created by Yannick Bouchard

Just recently we decided to do an Audiobook of Beautiful Sorrows and decided to invite you along. Because this is a new venture for all of us, and it’s fun. Exciting. And just downright awesome!

The first step was to beg my rock star friend Mason Bundschuch for help. It’s useful to have a rock star friend, because he had all of the recording equipment that we needed. I hear that you can record your own audio books on Audacity if you so desire, but it’s really nice to have some professional equipment. He has a computer program, a great mic, and a puff guard to minimize the sounds of my breath.

Our first session took place in Mason’s upstairs studio in their new house. First he recorded some of the room’s “quiet.” Apparently every room has a different sound of quiet, due to the sound of the lights, etc. I find this to be an intriguing concept. He’ll use this recording of quiet if he needs to fill in some gaps later. I held my book nervously, feeling sort of like an idiot. Mason wore headphones and cued me in. I took a deep breath and began to read the first story.

“Broken” is two sentences long, which was pretty easy. I read it twice for good measure. Because. Editing. Because I’m from a small town and occasionally I relapse into a rural drawl. I’ve lost my diction since I quit theater. This drives Mason crazy.

I start reading the second story, “Black Mary.” A motorcycle drives down the street not far from us. Mason cues me to stop. We wait until it’s quiet. Back up about half a paragraph, give the tape a few seconds of silence, and start again.

The air conditioner turns on. Which is nice, because it’s sweltering. But it’s also loud and we stop recording again. Go sit on the stairs and listen to the kids play downstairs. As soon as the air condition turns off, Mason’s wife shushes the kidlets and we run back into the studio.

I read too quickly. I force myself to slow down. I realize that there are words in my work that I’m afraid I’m mispronouncing, especially the names of different flowers. If I mess up, I wait a few seconds and repeat the phrase again. We can fix that in editing.

It takes two hours to go through three stories. The kids are unruly downstairs. The air conditioner decides that it’ll buzz forever. We discover that Mason lives on Moped Alley.

He’ll listen to the recording and see how it sounds. If the room works, or if we need to set the equipment up in the closet next time, which is probably what will happen. Oh, the glamor!  He’ll listen to my diction, to see if I’m reading clearly enough. He’ll probably ask me to re-record it. He’ll point out certain phrases that I need to work on. Really, he’s sort of a harpy in the very best of ways.

These are a few things that I learned from this first session:

1. Good equipment is essential.

2. Always have a glass of water handy.

3. Print can get hard to read after a while, especially in a book. You can print it out in a larger font, but then you have to worry about rustling the pages. Every little sound gets picked up. You’ll realize that you’re a jittery thing that sounds like you’re talking with marbles in your mouth.

4. It’s extremely fulfilling to read your own work. You know what you want to say, and the way that you want to present it. This has always been a dream of mine. It’s fantastic to actually start doing it.

I’ll fill you guys in as the project commences, and get some more technical information from Mason. The last piece in this series will be an easy how-to so you can record your own audiobook, if you so choose!

Stop 6: Interviewed by Jesus

Some of you know him as Jesus.  Or “that cool hippie dude”.  Because, thanks to Mason Bundschuh’s crazy beard, he now looks like this:

 

Mason “Jesus” B, billie the girl, and Ryan “I’m possessed by imps” Bridger. Oh yeah, and me.

When I met El Chupacabra, he looked more like this:

 

(HA, Mason! That’s for beating me at the Las Vegas Valley Book Festival Flash Fiction contest!)

Anyway, M is one of my favorite wombats ever. You hear me speak quite a bit about my writer’s group, The Illiterati.  Mason sat me down (as well as he could) and forced me to answer some questions.  Want to hear about the Titanic? Our fantastic dance-off?  (That’s in the previous interview that he links to on the page. It’s awesome.)  If you want to see a little (but not much) skin, stop on by!  The interview can be read here.

 

Also, I’ve been out of town because my one and only sibling got hitched to his beautiful bride. Congratulations, Riley and Corina! I love you guys!

You Know Why You Want To Be My Friend?

Because I’ll let you borrow my shoes for parties.  No joke.  Ask Brad C. Hodson, Mason Bundschuh, and John Palisano.  Come and really experience the magic of Vegas, baby!

So we sold out of all 50 pre-release paperbacks of Beautiful Sorrows, and we only have 9 Limited Edition Hardcovers left.  We’re only creating 50 hardcovers and then we’re done. The hardcover is a pretty little thing with the most charming signature sheet in the world, and each one is numbered (that’s my handwriting, yo! Woo!) and signed by myself, P. Gardner Goldsmith (who wrote the most lovely foreword that I have ever read) and Yannick Bouchard, the artist who came up with the stunning cover.  There’s also a chapbook that you can only get with the hardcover, titled Star-Eaten Soul.  If you’re interested, you can pick it up here.

Oh my goodness! While writing this post, I just received word that we’re down to 8 copies.  How exciting! Thank you so much, everybody! Hurry if you’d like one!  😀

 

Is This…Happiness?

 

Oh, my darlings. My dear ones.  I have been far busier than I have ever been. Last night I laid everything out for my writing group, whose eyes grew wider and wider and I continued without taking a breath.

“And I’m almost caught up on anthologies, but of course I still have the main novel and the book launch and volunteering for Killercon and I’m behind on putting my blog tour together but I have some signings scheduled and then there’s school and Niko’s bus takes him to THE WRONG SCHOOL and tomorrow are cardiologyappointmentsandthenwehaveimmunizations…”

Do you know what my group said?

“They shouted, ‘Mercedes, you’re nuts!'” you shriek with glee. And you would be right, if they were ordinary people.  But, ah, they are quite extraordinary.

They offered to watch my kidlets.  They offered to fill out paperwork if necessary.  They are wonderful, and if it weren’t for Mason, Ryan, and billie, I would be curled up in  little ball about now.  Thank you, my dear, dear friends!

So for a quick update:

Niko’s bus will finally start taking him to the correct school next week.  It’s been crazy trying to drop two children off at separate ends of the city when their schools start 10 minutes apart, but soon it will be manageable!  The cardiology appointment, which I was dreading, was a four hour ordeal, but both Niko and Lilia have good, stable hearts.  What a relief!

The book launch for Beautiful Sorrows will be a wonderful, low-key event  at Killercon.  Not only will I be doing a reading, but I’ll be meeting several friends (and the Shock Totem staff!) face-to-face for the first time. I’m delighted!

I hope you can come.  I also invite you, if you so desire, to help me spread the word about Beautiful Sorrows.  I can’t express how excited I am!  I love the cover.  I love the illustrations.  I love the stories, and the preface made me swoon.  Shock Totem Publications put such care into this book, and it shows.  If you can tell your friends, or surprise them with copies for Christmas, or possibly share pictures of the cover (below), or put the banner above as your Facebook cover (just click on them to bring them to full size)  I would be so pleased! So many trials and tears to get to this point, and now I look around and think, “I think that I am very, very happy.”

 

 

 

How To Make Peppermint Sparkle

Need a little sparkle in your life?  Something toasty and snuggly?  Fear not, my friend. In just a few minutes, you’ll have Peppermint Sparkle.

Step 1) We all have candy canes somewhere.  If not, zip down to the store and scoop them up from the clearance aisle.  Grind them up in your blender, and don’t forget to avoid breathing in delicious candy cane dust.  It’s like black lung, only more festive!

Step 2) Stir your peppermint dust into some delicious whipped cream.  Real cream that you whip yourself is absolutely divine.  However, I’m a realist. Look! Cheap whipped cream!  Generic and soulless!  But throw in some candy cane and then it becomes a dream.  Freeze it for a few minutes until it’s solid enough to hold its shape but not so frozen that you have to chip it out with a screwdriver.  Because screwdrivers in your food are just eeeeeeeewwwww.

Step 3) Fill your mug with hot chocolate and then add a generous dollop of Peppermint Sparkle. Your world is instantly better.  You are important! You are loved!

Step 4) Add a friend or three.  My fabulous writing group The Illiterati (Aka the Interdimensional Wombats) came over to write and drink Peppermint Sparkle.  Unfortunately, I only have one mug and it’s embarrassingly gigantic.  Unless we all wanted to get cozy and drink out of it with four glass straws (oh, how charming are we!) then they had to provide their own mugs.  There is nothing more Oliver Twist than somebody arriving at your front door holding a sheaf of papers and an empty mug.  It’s impossible not to look forlorn.

There you go! The super easy, super delicious recipe for Peppermint Sparkle. I hope that you enjoy it! If you try it, drop a line and let me know. 🙂