Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Summer Reading Update

I've been making really good on my promise to myself to read a lot for pleasure this summer - to read whatever I wanted as long as I was relaxing and enjoying myself and I certainly did. I've torn through several books in the past few weeks and before I rack up too many to keep track of, I wanted to share the books I've liked the best.

I'm still completely obsessed with Orange is the New Black and I can't wait to see the show on Netflix when I get back to Florida.

Loved Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery by Robert Kolker. I enjoy a good, true crime, mystery story every now and then and this one I liked because rather than focus on the killer, this book focuses on the victims, usually referred to as nameless prostitutes. Kolker gives them back the humanity their lives and deaths took from them and I really appreciated that when I read this. One warning, if you are like me you will be frustrated that the mystery isn't solved and you will be coming up with all kinds of theories.

After such a dark read I wanted something light and funny and maybe a little spiritual so I really had a good time with Brian Leaf's  Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi: My Humble Quest to Heal My Colitis, Calm My ADD, and Find the Key to Happiness. This guy is easily as funny as the big comedic memoirists. David Sedaris, Jen Lancaster, etc. Brian Leaf is freaking hilarious and more than a little bit enlightened. I love how he can write honestly and spiritually while also being totally up front about poop related issues. He's a master of quirky, pop culture references and reading this book put me in a great mood, except when it ended because I wanted more, but unfortunately the only other things this guy has written are some kind of test prep books or something. Oh, and it's about yoga, but you don't have to be a yogi to go along for the ride and enjoy the story. Buy this book. Now.

I heard an interview with Susan Choi on NPR last week and was intrigued so I came home an bought her new book  My Education. This is a literary book that takes itself very seriously, as do all the characters in it, and not everyone is going to like this book. Admittedly, I stuck with it because of the promise of hot sex scenes. Lesbian sex scenes no less and I was a little disappointed. They weren't really that hot to me. There were several drenched pubises, and the word pubis creeps me out, especially when drenched, so yeah, much literary sex. I think next winter when they give the worst literary sex scene awards out that My Education will probably sweep all categories. However, I am recommending this book because I think it had a surprising and good ending. So stick with it, even when the narrator names her child Lion, for God's sakes. It gets better and ends well.

I just started and am almost finished with  Coming Clean: A Memoir by Kimberly Rae Miller. It's really an amazing memoir of a girl who was raised in utterly, unbelievably squalid conditions because her parents were hoarders. The book is surprisingly not angry and very positive, though heart breaking, and I like how Miller presents the complexities of her parents' lives, giving some clues as to what drew them together and what made them the way they were. This is one of those books that I just CAN NOT PUT DOWN. In fact, I want to go finish it right now. It's fantastic, interesting, horrifying, entertaining and compassionate. Really well done. I'm jealous. Not because I wanted to grow up with fleas and rats in my house, but because I wish I could write as well as Miller and that I was half as pretty. Buy this one right now too. I'm serious. I'll wait for you.

Ok, you bought it? Good. Now I'm going to bed to go read.

Oh yeah, and don't forget my book! 
Amateur Night at the Bubblegum Kittikat

Thanks to all my readers and welcome, new blog readers who've arrived here after reading Amateur Night. It's great to have you!

Now, what are y'all reading? I need to know what to buy next. I keep hearing about Dad is Fat. Thoughts on that one?
Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Nasty-Assed Recipes, State Fair Edition

Yesterday we went to the state fair and had a grand time seeing all of the farm animals and agricultural exhibitions and there were several free giveaways. Little Lawns must have grabbed 25 coloring books. Well, they had recipe cards and I found a treasure of unexpected nasty-assery, so I took a bunch and I'm presenting you with the absolute worst of the worst. It's bad, people. I'm warning you. Don't look at this recipe if you have a weak stomach.
Tuesday, July 23, 2013

What I Learned From Self-Publishing

I am so happy with how my book has been received and I cannot thank those of who you bought my book, sent me feedback, reviewed it, shared it and recommended it enough.

I'm still a little stung by the person who read part of the free sample and decided to make a nasty comment on Amazon, saying that I was "forced to self publish" because I am, I guess, not a real writer, or not professional or whatever. I wasn't "forced" to self publish. I wanted to and honestly, maybe my first book wasn't quite ready to go the traditional route, although several people have told me that it certainly was. I wanted to self publish it this time around. Writing this book and self publishing it was a huge learning experience for me, both in terms of the writing and publishing process. I'd never written anything that long before and long manuscripts have unique challenges that I didn't realize until I'd written one. The publishing process was completely new to me and I had a good time figuring it all out. I'd like to share all the things I learned with you guys and anyone out there who is trying to do the same thing.

1. Outline your book. A lot of writers do this, a lot don't. I never did before and I didn't for Kittikat, but dammit, I'm outlining the next book and I'm keeping detailed notes as I go. This time around I ended up having to make an outline AFTER the book was finished in order to edit and keep track of it all and it was a royal pain in the ass, let me tell you. Also, I'd write something and then be like, oh shit this other thing happened before that and I forgot to add that part in and now I need to go back and insert it and that too is a big aggravation. I think creating detailed outlines before you start writing might help to avoid that.

2.  Change all the names of actual people BEFORE you write about them. My stupid ass wrote the first drafts with the real names and then I thought I'd go back and change them all later. Oh my God, was that a very big mistake. Next book, I'm making a detailed list of all the real names and fake names and I'm writing with the fake names from the first draft.

3. The Search and Replace feature in Word IS NOT your friend. It will trick you into thinking it is, but it's an insidious son of a bitch. AVOID.

4. Don't write when you are pissed off about anything or your writing will come off as sounding mean.

5. In the same vein as number four, don't write for revenge.

6. I do not know how to use a freaking comma. The end. I thought I did, but I don't. Commas will be the death of me.

7. Hire a professional editor. They are expensive, but worth it. Next time around, I'm investing the money I made on this book on an editor to clean up the next book.

8. Hire a professional to design your cover. I did this and was extremely pleased with the result.

9. It's important that your book's cover look as good or better as a thumbnail than actual size because that's how most people are going to see it first and first impressions are big.

10. Self promotion sucks but you have to figure out as many non-tacky ways of getting it done when you self-publish. This is one of the perks of traditional publishing, except now the industry has changed so much that they want you to self promote too. In fact, they pretty much won't sign you unless you have a "platform" which translates to that you are already famous and that means you already did a bunch of self promotion. Ugh.

11. Don't make your book too expensive and don't make it too cheap.

12. Don't make your book free because it will get lost in the zillions of free downloads out there and people won't even read it even if they do download it. I think it's a waste of time to do the free ebook thing.

13. Make sure your book is formatted nicely. I took a published memoir that I love and used it as a style guide for indents, font sizes, how the chapters were laid out, etc. This worked pretty well for me. When in doubt, copy what has worked for someone else and then put your own spin on it.

14. Interact with your readers a lot. I love this. It's my favorite part.

15. Interact with your favorite authors as much as you can too without seeming like a lunatic stalker or a self promoting cheeseball.

16. If you need help with anything along the line in writing, publishing, formatting, editing, promoting your book then don't be afraid to ask people who have experience or who can help you.

17. Make your book available as an ebook AND in print. You want to give readers as many chances as possible to get your book in whichever format they prefer.

That's pretty much it. If you have any questions about the process, please leave them in the comments and I'll be happy to answer them for you.

And now it's self promotion time.

CHECK OUT MY BOOK, DAMMIT! Amateur Night at the Bubblegum Kittikat. Here on Nook. Also on iBooks.
Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Nasty Assed Recipes - Pop Tart Edition

People are doing terrible things to Pop Tarts these days. I was just perusing Pinterest, looking for some new stuff to cook, and I came across a shocking new trend. As if Pinterest recipes couldn't get any grosser, now people are using Pop Tarts as ingredients. A Pop Tart is not an ingredient! It is a stand alone, fully formed, food-like substance!! They are making cookie bars out of them. They are baking them into brownies. Dear God, what next? A casserole?

Wait, never mind. Of COURSE there's a Pop Tart casserole, and it even involves saltines, which for the love of me, I do not understand. Who in the hell would want to eat something made out of Pop Tarts and saltines? Jesus Christ, people. Just stop. Go eat a bowl of cherries or something. Call a doctor, because if you think that even remotely sounds edible then you surely have serious health problems. And then I scroll down and find that the recipe was posted by a best-selling author!!

Please, please. Leave Pop Tarts alone. Don't put them in brownies, casseroles, milk shakes, cupcakes, snack bars or salads (because I'm sure that's coming next). Just look at what they did with snicker bars.

** If you like my blog, please buy my book, Amateur Night at the Bubblegum Kittikat, available at Amazon, on Nook, and iBooks.  **
Sunday, July 14, 2013

You Must Let Go of the Life You've Planned

You are driving one day. You have somewhere to be. You are on a schedule and you've planned your day so that you know where you will be and what you will be doing each hour until bed. You will be on time. No, you will be early, but the road you'd planned to take is under construction, or flooded, or there's been an accident and you have no choice. There is a detour. Your road is closed. You don't know the other way to get to where you're going, so you're a little frantic. You're mad. You curse. You try to drive down the closed road anyway but you end up having to turn back around and now you're late and you're really angry now, plus you're lost. You follow the detour because there's no other choice and you keep driving because there's still somewhere you know you have to be. You drive down roads you've never been on before, still following the detour signs, not really trusting them, but what other option do you have? But you're still mad. You mutter to yourself about the state always working on the roads and never getting anything fixed. You have a few choice words for reckless drivers who cause accidents that hold everyone up. You're sure that now you're hopelessly late. Then, following the road you've been rerouted down, you turn, you come down a hill and you see it. An entire field of sunflowers all in bloom. They are stunning. All those dark faces with their yellow crowns as far as you can see and what matters now is not the detour you had to take, but that it brought you here.
Saturday, July 13, 2013

Poison Everything

I'm generally freaking out. That's my usual mental state anyway, being the neurotic head case that I am, but for real. I am not used to the northern flora and fauna, being a Florida girl, and everything here, it seems, will kill you.

You may say that Floridians have to deal with hurricanes, man o wars, giant, green iguanas, banana spiders (google if you dare), but those things are nothing compared to poison ivy and Lyme disease.

I'm scared to death to set foot into anything resembling nature up here in the wilds of southern Delaware because of deer ticks and mysterious plants that cause oozing, itching, painful rashes. I don't know what poison ivy looks like and to further complicate matters there are also poison oak and poison sumac to worry about and I don't know what they look like either. Yes, I've googled pictures. They all look like plants to me. Look at the picture above. They all look the same! I have plant blindness I think, and I just can't really distinguish them very well. I'm not confident at all that I would know them if I were standing waist high in a full on thicket of all three and it would be my luck that there would be deer ticks stuck all over me at the same time, pumping me full of Lyme Disease toxins.

Lyme disease scares the living shit out of me. Recent articles in the New York Times and the New Yorker about it being a poorly understood, chronic, debilitating condition haven't helped ease my phobia one bit, because it's not like you can just get it and get some medicine and be done with it. Apparently you might have it forever and feel like you have MS. Plus, it comes from ticks. Ticks are the most horrifying creatures on earth. I'm terrified of them. Disease carrying, spidery things that attach to your skin and won't let go until they get so swollen with your blood that they fall off? No freaking thank you.

And, ugh, don't even remind me about chiggers. And scabies. And horseflies that bite and yellow jackets that sting. You northerners have some nerve squealing about our Floridian palmetto bugs, I swear. A big ole cockroach is nothing compared to some of the wildlife up here.

I think I'll just stay inside.
Monday, July 08, 2013

Only in the Country...

I truly wish I had a picture to accompany this story, but I had to share. I was driving down Main Street last night on my way to my grandmother's house for an evening visit and to deliver her some homemade pickled beets when I noticed a shirtless man in a big straw hat driving a tractor right down the middle of the road, which would have been remarkable (to me anyway) in and of itself, but what made it even more exciting is that at the same time he was driving the tractor down Main Street, another man was hitchhiking and the tractor stopped and picked up the hitchhiker. Only in rural Delaware do hitchhikers get picked up by tractors. 

More stories later.
Friday, July 05, 2013

No Sparklers!

I've been making good progress on my summer bucket list so far. I've enjoyed two BBQs with family, played cornhole, picked blueberries, eaten my DQ, listened to the birds singing and have really bonded with my cousins and siblings (whole other story coming soon). It's been a fantastic time.

Now one item on my list was that I wanted to play with sparklers, and I just so had some in my car, which I drove up from Florida, not exactly on purpose, but I had them lying around my house and decided to bring them up kind of as an afterthought.

Yesterday, we had a big pool party at my grandmother's condo pool, ate a ton of food and then headed up to Dover, Delaware, the state capitol, for the fireworks display they put on. We found the perfect spot for the entire family, set up our cooler, our blankets, folding chairs and cracked open some glow sticks for the kids to play with, thanks to my sister, Beth, who had the good sense to bring them. I asked my cousin's husband for his lighter and my aunt says, or shrieks practically, "VICTORIA!!! THOSE AREN'T SPARKLERS ARE THEY??"

"Sure," I replied.

She then promptly informed me that sparklers are illegal in Delaware. Sparklers. Illegal. In Delaware.

Of all the foolishness, I thought, as I tossed them in the trash, because the last thing I need is to get pulled over and have the car searched and have them find SPARKLERS, for god's sakes. You know, with all the oxycontin trafficking and meth cooking going on around here, you'd think they'd have something better to worry about than some sparklers, but hey, I didn't want to take the chance. It'd be just my luck too that I'd get caught and end up in the county jail and with all the things my family members have been arrested for, convicted of and imprisoned for, of course I'd be the lame one who got charged with illegal possession of sparklers.

I can see myself now, in my orange jumpsuit. Another prisoner would ask me what I was doing time for. I'd shake my head and say "Sparkler conviction."

I'd probably be cell mates with the girl who had five cats instead of the legal limit of four and of course the guy who went crabbing on a Wednesday.

But alas, I still have a bucket list to complete, so this weekend, I'm going to Pennsylvania, where my rebel sister has procured some contraband sparklers and we are going to light that shit up.

**If you like my blog, you'll love my book. Check out Amateur Night at the Bubblegum Kittikat, by Victoria Fedden**

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Number Six - Accomplished

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

No Crabbing on Wednesdays!! I Mean it!

 Welcome to a new edition of News in Delaware vs. News in Florida, as I am now in Delaware for some summer fun.
In Florida, there is a ring of "temptresses" who are supposedly luring innocent men from bars and robbing them, although I really think the word "temptress" is questionable based on some of their mug shots. Ugh. A nine year old girl escaped an abduction attempt, several teachers have been accused of having sex with students and several bodies were found floating in several different bodies of water, which is an every day occurrence in South Florida.

The news in Delaware? Get ready, because this is a biggie.

A man was caught crabbing on a Wednesday and given a citation for illegal crabbing. Can you imagine? I don't know how I can live in a world where someone would dare to crab on a Wednesday. It's unthinkable, really. Crabbing on a Wednesday. My heart weeps.

A little background here - you can crab every single day of the week EXCEPT Wednesday. It is illegal to crab on Wednesdays and I pity the fool who tries. Lesson here is that if you want some crabs on Wednesday, you're going to have to skin it until Thursday and be satisfied with a pack of hot dogs instead. You got it? No crabbing on Wednesdays, dammit. Your chicken necks will keep until Thursday.

The other big news here, and this one I can get excited about, is that this year there are an excess of fireflies. They must have heard about the Firefly Festival last week. Everyone is talking about how many fireflies are out this year, and I have to admit, it appears to be true and I am absolutely delighted. We don't have them in Florida and I think they are one of nature's most magical, wonderful gifts of summer. They make me so happy and you should see them. It brings me such joy to drive along a country road at dusk and see the forests illuminated with blinking, dancing insects.

On the drive up here I had the pleasure of reading a really good book and I am super excited to share this one with you. Every so often I find a book at the exact right time in my life, like I NEED to read this certain book at this certain time and right now. That book was
 Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison . This memoir was AMAZING and I don't always say that. It was real, gritty, human, funny, irreverent, very reverent - just everything. The book was so well rounded well written that I really felt like I was in the story. By the first chapter, I was completely invested in the story and the people in it. The book is a memoir, by Piper Kerman, who made some mistakes in her early 20s, which caught up to her later. After pleading guilty to a decades old drug charge, Kerman is sent to a women's prison in Connecticut for a year and in prison she finds herself. Like my book, this memoir is about learning lessons in unexpected places. It's about finding humanity in a situation that seeks to take that from you and after reading this, you will never take your freedom for granted again. I really loved this book and when I finished it last night, I was actually disappointed that it was over. If you liked my book, you'll love this one even more, and if you haven't read my book then what are you waiting for??  Amateur Night at the Bubblegum Kittikat is available on Amazon, Nook and iBooks! 

Next on my list is a book called   Bootstrapper: From Broke to Badass on a Northern Michigan Farm by Mardi Jo Link. I enjoyed the sample and am going to go ahead and buy it and read the rest. I liked the author's voice so far and the topic is pretty interesting to me.

Have a great day y'all. I'm going to Walmart. I am in Milford after all. 

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