Scary hobby projects you can find online

Sharon Ashwood
October 12, 2008  •  No Comments

Sometimes when you go a-surfing for interesting tidbits, you find things better left unfound. I stumbled across a short article from last March that relates an incident covered by both London’s Evening Standard and Daily Telegraph.
An older gentleman was living alone in his nice house in Australia. His relatives wanted that nice house and pressured him to move into a seniors’ home. So, he found the plans for a suicide contraption on the Internet that involved power tools and a .22 semi-automatic pistol. He set it up in the driveway, and he killed himself.
Yikes.  The account is very bare-bones, but it seems to me that if this 81 year-old was with it enough to log on, find the plans for this thing, and assemble it, he wasn’t exactly on his last legs. Let’s just say the relatives (going by what the article says) don’t come off well at all.
I’m sure some people will leap up and say “instructions for suicide machines shouldn’t be on the Internet!”, but that is missing the point.  The point is, we can rarely fix families (oh, if only there were handy-dandy diagrams for that!), but it would have been nice if there was enough of a community wherever this guy was to turn to for support.
I guess it’s a reminder to go be nice to our neighbors. After all, I’m told there are plans for thermo-nuclear devices on the Web, too.

Proof of what, exactly?

Sharon Ashwood
September 30, 2008  •  No Comments

It’s hard to describe my emotions when the FedEx man shows up with …. Page proofs!  This is the manuscript with its hair done and its makeup on, all the copyedits included and the type set as it will appear in the book.  It’s the author’s last chance for proofreading, very minor edits, and any afterthoughts before the critter is printed.

What I feel is a kind of mix of “cool!” and “ugh, you again” with a bit of “egad, what have they done this time?”  The biggest challenge is reading through the thing and paying attention to what’s printed on the page. After editing the book so many times, I’m not sure my brain isn’t supplying what it thinks it should see rather than what’s really there. I try and give it to someone who hasn’t seen it before to double check my work.

On the up side, I had a moment of, “hey, this is darned good stuff!” as I ploughed through the pages. In book form, the pacing is more obvious. I’m witty! I’m action-filled! I have great romance scenes! I have good monsters!

Unfortunately, I also have a fair number of typos. Yep, there’re still a few loose ends sticking out, but not for long.


I wear dead people

Sharon Ashwood
September 25, 2008  •  1 Comment

Now here’s something I never thought of doing:  squishing my dearly departed into diamonds.  Apparently, it’s not only a reality but financially quite reasonable.  Companies are setting up shop world-wide and are becoming increasingly popular. 

Some make diamonds from the departed’s ashes, others from hair (which means making a gem from the living or someone who has been buried is also possible).  The US-based Lifegem offers their services for pets as well as humans. Basically, if there’s carbon, there’s diamond potential.

This keen-o technology means the funeral service can enter into an entirely new decorative phase, bypassing the entire embalming process in favour of cutting, polishing, and mounting the sparkly deceased into wearable art.  It also has the advantage of saving valuable land—no need for burial plot when dear old mum can be mounted in a cufflink.

Author alert: The possibilities for murder mystery plots abound. One could hide the corpse anywhere— as the crystal of a chandelier, the button of the doorbell, an earring (but then you’d need a matched set!).

To make this all just one bit stranger, the technology for creating synthetic diamonds is good enough they can now be graded. No more nonsense about death being the ultimate leveller!  Figure out which relations really were gems of the first water.

You never know—that old saying about someone being worth more dead than alive might be true.

Maxwell Smart lives on

Sharon Ashwood
September 18, 2008  •  No Comments

I laughed so hard when I read this one.

A would-be intruder tried to enter the Knoxville Museum of Art via the air conditioning duct.  When police and firefighters responded to his 911 call, they found a top and cable on the roof and the caller stuck about 45 feet into the ductwork.

When rescued, he told the arresting officers that he was a “special agent” who had rappelled in from a helicopter.  The mission was to defuse a Soviet nuclear warhead placed in a blue plastic cow sculpture in the basement of the museum.

Oh, those darned Russian art critics.

Wasn’t there an episode of Buffy something like this?

Sharon Ashwood
September 15, 2008  •  1 Comment

Wendy Brown, a 33-year-old Wisconsin woman, stole her daughter’s ID, enrolled in high school, and joined the cheerleading squad. Her daughter, meanwhile, lived with her grandmother in another state. Apparently the ruse worked up to a point. Although Brown only made it to the first day of classes, she did attend a number of cheerleading activities. The cat left the proverbial bag when a cheque for the uniform bounced.

The motivation for all this was, apparently, that Brown “wanted to get her high school degree and become a cheerleader because she didn’t have a childhood and wanted to regain a part of her life that she’d missed.” She apparently had a history of identity theft.

Perhaps I’m biased because I never wanted to be a cheerleader, but that’s just weird. And sad.

This event does speak to a weird cultural phenomenon—the myth that high school is a peak experience of some kind.  Of what?  It had a few peaks, but it had its share of valleys, too, just like everything else.

Certainly not worth going to to jail over, not even for the pompoms.

What kind of loot do you like?

Sharon Ashwood
September 11, 2008  •  No Comments

Okay, I have a dilemma …

I have a number of contest give-aways to come up with.  I don’t have the money to give away iPods or laptops and constantly giving away copies of my current book is not as good as convincing people to buy it. (I can see, say, giving away the first book in a series if you’re on book two, but I’m not there yet).

Soooo, here are the ideas I have so far:

  • Nice chocolate (has the opportunity for seasonal themes like Santas or ghosts)
  • DVD sets of current horror classics (the nicer ones, with cute vampires)
  • Unique things made by local artists such as:
  • Chain mail jewelry
  • More traditional jewelry, custom designed
  • Glow in the dark mummy figurines (these are sooooo cute!)
  • Zombie snowmen figurines c/w chainsaw (cute but disturbing)
  • Gift certificate for a small job with a talented graphic artist/web designer
  • Gift from,my favorite on-line goth emporium
  • Starbucks gift card (I assume they’re still everywhere in the universe)
  • Basket of organic bath goodies
  • Gift card from someplace like Amazon
  • Fancy stationery item

What are your top three picks? Remember, you might have a chance to win one! Is there something you’d like to see on the list, but don’t?

Help! my character stole my keyboard

Sharon Ashwood
September 4, 2008  •  No Comments

I’m having one of those episodes where I start to write what should be a throwaway scene (as in, now we get from situations A to B with as little mucking around as possible) and suddenly my shred of transitional prose is morphing into a key chapter. This is by no means a bad thing—this chapter is obviously needed—but I didn’t see it coming. It never ceases to amaze me how characters can grab the initiative and start telling their own story. I was fretting about how to get my hero and heroine together and wondering what exactly they had in common. Plus, Mac (hero) wasn’t coming across just right. I was trying to be flip and ended up making him shallow.

Then he grabbed the controls. Nicely, but there was no arguing. It was like he took out his notebook, tore out a page, and made a list of the points I had to make. This inner dialogue started at breakfast, and by the time I got to work the material was all there.

I wish Mac could use my computer. Then I could just take off and watch TV tonight while he fixed my pages.

Small things make me happy

Sharon Ashwood
August 26, 2008  •  1 Comment

Okay, so this may seem utterly geeky, but I nearly squealed and jumped off the couch when I found (on-line) a boxed set of Kindred: the Embraced on DVD. Of course I ordered it. It was one of those good-bad shows that part of your brain criticizes while the other part leaps right in. I’m going to be watching the mail box like a vulture waiting for it to arrive.

Yeah, it was a slow week.

Ghostly tourism

Sharon Ashwood
August 18, 2008  •  No Comments

Oh, I love this site!

Plan your ghost vacation, hook up with paranormal conventions, get your ghost-busting gear. It’s all here!

I bet my ghost-busting heroine, Holly, would have had it in her favorites list. Heck, she’d probably be submitting content.

I’ve seen other ‘ghost holiday’ type of advertisements—such as the small local ghost tours or even the Dracula-centric treks around Transylvania. It’s interesting to me how the paranormal is becoming a mainstay of the tourism industry. Some would say it’s all an opportunity for con artists to part vacationers from their cash.  True, in some cases. However, I think the phenomenon as a whole is good because that means people are curious about what’s out there.  Curiosity is healthy. It means people are more than the mental equivalent of sponge puddings.

However, the moment the commercial world figures out just how much cash might be made, it could get interesting. What if Disney got involved? What about the descendents of the dead wanting a piece of the action?  Heck, what if the ghosts themselves started seeking agents? My people could be calling your people on a ouija board.


Sharon Ashwood
August 7, 2008  •  1 Comment

There’s no place like home. Dirty dishes. Piles o’ laundry. Naughty cats. Bills. Emails. Yup, I’m not on holidays anymore, but I’m glad to be sleeping in my own bed. After two days at home, I’m still tired—I have that close-the-eyes-and-tilt-sideways thing going on. Was going to the Romance Writers of America National Conference worth it?  Absolutely.

Good news: The romance book industry is healthy. Publishers are buying pretty much all genres.

Bad news: It’s not getting any easier for new authors to get a foothold. Competition is fierce. The market is crowded. It’s up to the author to do what they can for themselves, contact the right people, do extra publicity and so on. Not really anything I didn’t know, but it’s nice to realize my perceptions were on the mark.

Ugly news:  Sadly, no one has discovered the magic bullet that will a) create a bestselling formula or b) get your name in front of the requisite number of eager readers so that your book fulfills its potential.  Theories abound, however, many with price tags attached.

Overall:  The only thing people agreed on as a critical ingredient for success was persistence. The stubborn will survive.

Exciting stuff:  Paranormal romance and urban fantasy are booming and OMG are there some talented writers coming out in the next six months!  Definitely check out Jessica Andersen’s Final Prophecy series. I got a free copy of book one (Nightkeepers) and started reading it when I got home. I’m hooked.