Saturday, February 26, 2011

Cold Places, Warm Spaces

You may want to huddle up in a blanket with hot cocoa before reading this entry so you don't get virtual frostbite just reading about this icy topic! I was having a discussion with Tami Jackson about cold temperatures. We were comparing Temperatures in Anchorage, Alaska to temperatures where I live in Brandon, Manitoba. Tami told me that she did not think that temperatures got to be -50 degrees Celsius in Anchorage so Manitoba was colder. This got me to thinking about cold temperatures. According to Tami the record for coldest recorded temperature in Anchorage is −38 °F (−38.9 °C) on February 3, 1947. Now I cannot find the record for Brandon, MB but I know in the past two years the temperature has gotten as low as -40 (which is the same in both Celsius and Fahrenheit). So maybe Brandon does get colder, but I was interested in the coldest temperatures in both Canada and the United States as well. First, I knew that Winnipeg, Manitoba which is a 2 and a half hour drive from Brandon is known to be one of the coldest cities in Canada. It has a record of −47.8 °C (−54.0 °F). However, it does not hold Canada's record breaking cold temperature. It doesn't even have the province of Manitoba's record temperature. That goes to Norway House. A temperature of -52.8°C (-63° F) was recorded there in 1899. The coldest temperature recorded in the USA is -79.8°F observed at Prospect Creek Camp in the Endicott Mountains of northern Alaska on Jan. 23, 1971. Canada can beat that! The coldest recorded temperature in Canada is -63 degrees Celsius (-81 degrees Fahrenheit). It was recorded at Snag in the Yukon territory on February 3rd, 1947.

Now for the world record... Scientists recorded the world's lowest temperature, -128.6 °F (-89.2 °C), at Vostok Station in Antarctica. I do not know the year but it replaced the existing record of -126.9 °F which was also recorded in Vostok on August 25, 1960! Now that's cold!

Although Brandon, MB was -34 degrees Celsius yesterday I feel some relief that it is not as cold as any of these temperatures! I am perfectly happy to snuggle up with some tea or hot cocoa and dream of spring!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Results for the Vampire Short Story Contest

Yes! It is the 19th! The day is finally here! And one of fourteen talented and daring contestants will be chosen to receive a free copy of Tami Jackson's new e-book Ravena & the Resurrected! It was a difficult decision requiring narrowing down the contestants many times. I went from 14 to 12 in the first revision. (They were just that good.) The second time through I narrowed it down to 7. After that I went down to 5, and finally down to 3. At this point I must say again that every single entry I received was great. What separated many of you from winning was mostly spelling and grammatical things, or awkwardness of wording. The more times you made it through my scrutiny, the more nit-picky these mistakes were. If you want to know what grouping you fell into before being eliminated please email at the same address where I received the submissions. (And yes contestants, I am stalling somewhat for suspense purposes but I truly mean everything I say.) Please keep writing everyone, and please come back and enter in some of my future contests. Due to the success of this one I may have a similar contest in July or August!

The last thing I want to say before moving back to talking about my top 3 contestants is that I was impressed with the depth and breadth of the interpretations of what makes a vampire. One entry in particular had vampiric person/creature that is similar to a mythological creature we have in Canada called the Wendigo. Out of interest if you do not know what a Wendigo is here is a brief description:
"... among the Algonquin [tribe] it is the spirit of a lost hunter who now preys upon humans in a cannibalistic manner." - John & Caitlin Matthews The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures

Thank you to the writer who submitted the story that reminded me of the Wendigo; I am sure you know who you are.

Alright back to the top 3! With my top three contestants, I could no fault at all with their spelling and grammar. It came down to who had the most imagery, simply because that had been one of the points I was looking for in my rules. Even looking at the imagery it was very close, and for that reason I encourage my contestants to check the comments section, where I will list my two runners up. I think they deserve to know that their stories really were polished and nearly won this contest!

The Winner is ... (drumroll) ... Anastasia Fermin, with her story "Monster." She will be contacted in the next couple days, by Tami Jackson or myself, with the details of her prize! Congratulations Anastasia! Without further adieu, here is the winning story:


Eyes like twin navy pools pierced into mine, I couldn’t move or breathe as his breath whispered to my skin. His cold hands were vise gripping my shoulders. Hot searing pain shot through my veins and I screamed. He was killing me. The calm pools had turned into turbulent, stormy waters. Images of death and blood and insanity flashed before my eyes. I heard the wails and shrieks of faceless people, who clawed at me, begged me and fell at my feet and I crossed over them, a dark god. His warm sticky kiss made the sounds blot out and the images fade till there was only darkness.

When I opened my eyes, I became aware of a sharp stabbing pain in the pit of my stomach. Grimacing, I clutched my mid section as a fiery spasm shot through me. I gasped and looked around wildly. The last rays of sunlight filtered through a small dirty window, casting a dull yellow glow. And I saw a staircase to my right leading upwards. I jumped to my feet and dived blindly for the stairs, stumbling up the wooden steps. Hot tears trickled down my face and I was filled with unexplainable fear. With trembling hands I reached for the rusty doorknob, turned it, shook it, pleaded with it, but it wouldn’t budge, I was locked in this dark dungeon, and he would return soon to finish me off. I sat, crouched against the door, sobbing.
I must have drifted to sleep again. The door must’ve opened, spilling me out onto cold concrete, and the night air on my face revived me. I looked up, dazed, at the violet sky. Strong hands embraced me and set me on my feet. His face was porcelain smooth, his raven hair fell softly to just below his ears. The fear welled up inside me again and I backed away from him, breathing heavily, I ran. “Wait!” he yelled after me. The wind whipped through my hair. He remained at the door, watching.
I bumped into something warm. “Watch it lady!” came a disgruntled voice, I looked down and saw a young girl, getting to her feet dusting her jeans. Something stirred within me and I grabbed her. She screamed. I felt my gums rip apart. Before I knew it I was sinking my fangs into her neck. Fangs? I thought. Sweet, salty elixir rushed into my mouth, gushing like a geyser out of her, an explosion of red. Suddenly, there was sunshine and kite flying. The sound of laughter and the feel of an ice cube on my face in the summer heat, a first kiss and a dip in the pool. An orgasmic thrill ignited every fiber of my being. Slowly, the girl stopped struggling, the flickering images disappeared and she slumped limply against me. And I realized as she fell to the ground with a soft thud, that she was dead because I drank her blood.
I touched my mouth and felt sharp pointy teeth, my hands were bloody in the moonlight and the pain in my stomach had vanished. He was at my side, every bit a monster as I was. My mind was ablaze with questions. “We have to go, before someone comes down this way,” he said. I nodded, my heart raced and I let his fingers envelop mine as we ran, faster than the blinking eye into the night.

By: Anastasia Fermin

Friday, February 18, 2011

Blithering Bats, Tami Jackson is Here!

Tami Jackson writes from south of Seattle, WA (USA). She is author of "Ravena & The Resurrected,", $9.99 in all e-formats

Michelle: It is wonderful to have the opportunity to work with you on this interview, Tami.
Tami: I feel very honored to be your guest, Michelle. Thank you, for hosting today. It's fun being your friend on Facebook and I feel like I've always known you, I've been following your blog for so long.

Michelle: Authors have many ways to approach the initial stages of outlining and writing their first drafts. How did you put your ideas to the page?

Tami: As a former news correspondent, I never outlined a breaking news event before knowing how the story was going to play out. I might have an idea of what the general topic would be, but I'd have to drive to location and observe whatever was happening, do the research behind the scenes, and take copious notes, before I could ever think about creating an outline. My book was written very much in that same manner. Perhaps my writing style is similar to how a wood carver begins whittling on a log by shear instinct. The more she carves, the more a unique shape begins to evolve and pretty soon the whittler feels like he's merely freeing the statue from its excess wood and bark. What gives my writing its more coherent and logical format is a very rigorous editing process. Regarding your reference to writers using pen and pad to record their thoughts, I have a Smart Phone, iPad, and computer for doing that.

Michelle: You took a different route to publication than most writers. Do you want to explain?

Tami: The entire publishing industry is racing so rapidly toward more change, I feel as though the wind is always in my hair and maybe I should keep my lips shut about it or risk catching bugs in my teeth. There doesn't seem to be a common route to publication anymore. Change is not simply in the air, Michelle. Ever since technology introduced eReaders, the electronic book market has just exploded. The old way of publishing only exists as shrapnel nowadays. Even that shrapnel is struggling to survive in the present world economy.

Michelle: How did this affect the finished product and the book's editing?

Tami: When I worked as a news correspondent, for local papers, I'd have as many as 5 editors reviewing my reports before publication, and still the paper printed errors in the story; errors that weren't in the original copy. A common saying on that job was "even editors need editors" because having editors simply means more people are tweaking the manuscript. I honestly believe that having too many editors throwing their ingredients into the pot can really spoil the stew. While I had plenty of proofreaders reviewing R&R, and I took counsel from qualified editors, I was able to maintain the book's authenticity by having the final say on the finished product.

That being said, I really like to fantasize about stodgy old editors, labouring feverishly over my work with a can of furniture polish and a dusting rag. Having a big publisher print your book is no guarantee the book will be carefully edited. It's not even a guarantee that the book will ever sell, or that the right audience will even get to see sample chapters. It is individuals (and not brick-and-mortar buildings) who strive to release a high quality and professional product, or not.

Michelle: You chose to publish in e-book form. What do you want to say to people who are reluctant to read your book because they prefer to read from hard-copy?
Tami: First? "Get with the times." (I say that with tongue in cheek because I'm the only member in my extended family with an iPad.) Meanwhile, eReader sales are soaring and they have been for a while now. Here's proof:

• From "The New York Times:" Amazon's third generation Kindle has become the best selling product in Amazon's history. (

• From "MSN:" Apple released the iPad in April 2010 and sold 3 million devices in 80 days. (

• From a reputable technology blog: Barnes and Noble stated record breaking post-holiday sales for Nooks, NOOKcolor, and digital books. (

Second? I have to ask, why would someone NOT want an eReader? They eliminate magazine and book clutter. You don't need more real estate to accommodate more bookshelves for future book purchases. You can take your library with you, everywhere you go (unless you're going swimming or sitting in the bathtub). When you buy an eBook, the download is instantaneous. There's no more waiting for the delivery truck to show up, weeks later, when maybe you're no longer in the mood for reading that particular book.

Third: People don't need an eReader to enjoy an eBook. They can peruse such from their laptop or home computer as readily as they spend hours playing Vampire Wars or World of Warcraft from there. The hot item in technology right now enables television viewers to surf the Internet on T.V. so pretty sure some people will be reading their eBooks on the big screen!

Finally, it's the twenty-first century. Educated people are aware of the environmental impact that all of our purchases make. Hardcopy books require the cutting down of trees, printing with ink creates more pollution, and shipping hard copies burns fossil fuels. (No matter how you look at it, eBooks prove much more environmentally friendly).

While I personally love the smell of a new paper book, I fully appreciate my iPad with all its capabilities. When I get tired of reading - I can shop eBay or update my Facebook page quite simply. Doug (my spouse) also loves my eReader because its back lit. That means, I don't need the night lamp on to read at night interrupting his sleep.

Michelle: This might be a rather obvious question, but why vampires?
Tami Jackson: Just thinking about vampires causes my imagination to rise above any sense of common mediocrity. Vampires represent power, victory over death, and a wonderful sense of mystery. Vampires are the antithesis of human frailty. (What's not to like?)

Michelle: Vampire fiction is very popular in the media today ...

Tami Jackson: Is vampire fiction really more popular than, say, 30 years ago? Or has the means for marketing books, movies and electronic games merely changed? Being a woman of a certain age, I grew up watching The Adams Family and The Munsters on T.V. Count Chocula cereal was all the sugary rage. Then, there was also a most compelling vampire soap opera called "Dark Shadows." "The Dark Stalker" came out in 1973. Finally, have you ever watch "Fright Night?" That teeth-chattering presentation came out in the 1980s.

Here's a link, provided by Washington State University, listing the most popular vampires featured in books and in movies since the 1920s:

Michelle: Do you feel as though your book stands a chance against the Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series? Do you feel you have published “in the shadow of" her media sensation?
Tami: This question made me laugh. Instead of deliberating about whether or not Ravena & The Resurrected "stands a chance" in the boxing ring against big gloves (with all the marketing dollars and publicity stunts poured into the Twilight Series) I've got to ask: when did authors suddenly begin to compete with one another for fame?

R&R was a labor of love for me. I feel in my heart the book will be very successful because something about it sticks with the reader. Hardcore vampire fans will certainly identify with the story, and feel entertained by the twisting, turning plot. Certain aspects of Ravena Doomlah's story will also feel very deeply real - as though the story might not be fantasy after all.

The Twilight Series, with its vegetarian-sparkling vampires, was not everybody's cup of tea. My "Resurrected Series," will continue to feature more sophisticated characters, realistic relationships, and vampires that would prefer to kill a cruel imbecile than drink from an unsuspecting poodle (like vegetarian vampires do).

Michelle: Does the book draw on some of your own experiences in Seattle?

Tami Jackson: Yes. I was born in Seattle. I grew up around here. I know the city intimately. Even still, I did quite a bit of historical research before writing the scenes for Ravena & The Resurrected. The book also includes nonfiction aspects from this great city's past.

Michelle: Is there some special message you want readers to take from your book?

Tami: I just want readers to have fun and enjoy the experience of reading. My job as a fiction author is to thoroughly entertain my audience. If there is a message, in Ravena & The Resurrected, I hope it's to encourage people to think for themselves and not just follow along with the status quo, blindly.

Michelle: Do you have any more books in the making? Are you planning to release a sequel to Ravena & The Resurrected?
Tami: I am currently working on book two in The Resurrected Series. It's barely started (since I just released R&R). Since you've read my debut novel, Michelle, you know how the werewolves yearn to be released from their curse, so they can return home to their human families, fully restored. Book two begins with one such werewolf's abandoned wife and two children. (I'm not sure, yet, if this will become a book that's appropriate for a younger audience, or not. That's all I can say about that for now.)

Michelle: Last question: What advice do you have for budding authors regarding the writing process and about getting published?

Tami Jackson: Just start. A great cliché for new writers to quote as their mantra is "Rome wasn't built in a day." Begin your project and do something daily to move closer toward publication. My dad (deceased) also continues to inspire me with a quote he constantly repeated while I grew up: "The difference between winners and losers is that losers quit." If the pyramid of book writing looks too steep to climb, just take the first step. Focus on what you will accomplish today. Tomorrow you take another step and, before you know it, you've traveled a million miles all by your own power.

Thank you, Michelle, for a wonderful interview and for being a wonderful host.

Michelle: Thank you for joining me in this exclusive interview, Tami. I am excited to see this series take off for you!

~ Tami Jackson
Author, Ravena & The Resurrected
Publisher: SunTiger MOJO (
email: SunTigerMOJO [at] gmail {dot} com
Follow the author to other blogs during this book tour:

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Creatures of the Night, Unite!

Good evening everyone! I am pleased to say my revisions for the Short Story Contest are nearly completed. I have narrowed the list down to 5 submissions. It will be more tricky from here since all of these entries are very good! In fact, all the entries I received were well written but many of them had spelling and grammar mistakes, or awkward wording in some parts. Spell-Check does not catch everything, so you should always get a second opinion from a friend, relative, or colleague! I was thrilled with all the styles and the different interpretations of what makes a vampire. I encourage each and every participant to continue writing. Don't be discouraged if you do not win this contest. If this was a Creative Writing class I would have given every single one of you A's and B's.

I am very excited about my interview with Tami Jackson tomorrow and I hope everyone will stop back to read it! So in honour of Tami Jackson's visit and the wonderful submissions I received for the Short Story Contest I am going to post my own Short Story. I am writing it here on the spot, as Vampires have become my muse.

The First Vampire

Ailya heard a strange high-pitched hum. She plugged her ears but it did not go away. She felt her body shudder as it dematerialized. This might have come as a shock last year but nothing really surprised her anymore. 9 months ago she had met her Aunt Heather, who turned out to be a vampire. In fact, there were very few members of her extended family who were not vampires living in the Vlad Estate in Romania. Ailya currently lived in Romania as well after her relatives had decided it was unhealthy for her to live with her neglectful parents. It might have had something to do with them being vampire hunters as well.

Ailya breathed a sigh of relief as she felt her body rematerializing. She wiggled her toes, glad all her pieces were intact. She then realized she was in some sort of ancient structure. In her mind she heard a whisper. Come here child.

She stepped forward, only to realize where she was. She had heard of this place. It was Mohenjo Daro, City of the Dead. This is where the first immortals had been made. In front of her was a tomb of sorts. She recognized the inscriptions from books in the library back at the Estate. This was the tomb of Shastra Nahi Upata, or Lord Sha, the first of the vampires. Of course, he was immortal and therefore simply in a deep slumber called the Unrest. She knew at once he had summoned her to wake him.

Slightly fearful, she started the ritual. She pulled red tea-lights from her pockets and lit them around the tomb. She chanted the words that came to her. They were an ancient tongue. Then she dripped a few drops of her blood over the tomb. She was frightened, because she was both mortal and human. There were stories of Lord Sha before he had been sent to the Unrest. He had murdered many of the scientists and greedy investors who had made the Experiment possible. They had realized that despite being so close to creating a perfect immortal, it was too dangerous to continue.

As Ailya stepped back Lord Sha rose before her. His eyes glowed red in the dim light. She trembled, but he darted past her. She turned as quickly as she could to see where he was going, but her dull mortal speed was ridiculous in comparison to his. She saw clasped in his arms a young boy. The boy must have stumbled into the ruins by some mistake, and a deadly mistake at that. Sha had nearly torn him to pieces. Blood ran down his body and coated the floor beneath him. Ailya stood paralyzed watching him, but as he finished she heard his voice in her mind again. Do not be afraid. I will not hurt you. I know that in the time I have slumbered the ways of my brothers and sisters have changed. Immortals no longer kill mortals, as we once did. This was my last monstrous act. Now tell me, where do I find the others?

Ailya managed to find her voice, “I do not know where the Immortal Council is convened, but you will find brethren vampires in Romania.”

“Then that is where we shall go.” Rumbled the ancient vampire, and he grabbed her wrist, pulling her body through space once again.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Video About Love

Here's an interesting video for Valentine's day:

Reviewing Submissions

Thank you for all the wonderful submissions I received for the Vampire Short Story Contest. As you know the deadline was last night at midnight, so I am now reviewing the submissions. The winner will be announced on February 19th. While you are sitting waiting impatiently at home don't forget to check out my interview with Tami Jackson on the 18th or check out some of the other events featuring Tami Jackson!

Oh and Happy Valentine's Day, although I think Happy Vampire Day would be way more awesome!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Why we shouldn't hate.

I have been thinking lately that the reason that people hurt each other is because they are actually self-destructive. We are attracted to people in which we see a part of ourselves. The people we dislike are those with traits that we dislike in ourselves. Those we love, have traits we hold in esteem. Think about that next time someone hurts you, or the next time you are about to hurt someone. When you think you want to hurt someone, you are really hurting yourself.


Don't forget to submit your Short Stories for my contest! The deadline is Sunday at midnight!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Giving You Hope

Just a little song by one of my favorite musicians, Eightsense.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Microwave Banana Brownies

Here's a little treat that is really the devil in disguise!


1 banana, mashed (I used two)
3/4 cup sugar (I subbed 3/4 cup honey)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
nonstick spray
semi-sweet chocolate chips, to taste
pecans, chopped (optional)

Mix all ingredients (except pecans) in a microwaveable dish. I used a Corningware serving sized dish. Top with pecans if desired. Microwave for 4-5 minutes depending on the power of your microwave. Best served with a tall glass of milk or a mug of tea! Dangerously delightful!

Here's the music to go with them:

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Out With The Old, In With The New!

I suppose I have had some exciting changes in my life since I last updated, so I should catch you up with what is going on and why I have been gone so long! First of all I just moved into a new apartment and I am still unpacking. I am so excited for this new place and my new roommate, because we have been good friends for about a year and a half already. My internet situation is a bit rocky still. My router is being difficult and I have misplaced the box with the instructions. I am hooked up to the signal of a friend who lives in an apartment 2 floors down. I hope to post pictures of my new place shortly. (Just as soon as I finish unpacking.)

Another big change right now is that I just received acceptance to go to Thailand for a student teaching placement in May. I will be teaching at a private school in Bangkok for two months! Of course I am hurrying to get my paperwork in order and to get the appropriate vaccinations, etc. There should be a meeting in the next week or two so that our group can cement the details. More news about that soon, I am sure!

Tonight I am working on a couple projects for the Education program. The first one is a critical review of an excerpt from Ross Greene's Lost at School: Why our Kids with Behavioural Challenges are Falling Through the Cracks and How We Can Help Them. This is for my Child Development class, and while I love to write reviews I learned from my last submission that my prof is not really looking for my opinion on the piece despite the assignment description saying so. Not wanting to lower my A+ average from last term I will tread lightly this time around. Luckily, I am finding this particular excerpt more agreeable anyways. It is entitled "Kids Do Well if They Can."

My other project is to create an Illustrator Study for my English Language Arts class. I chose Canadian Illustrator Michael Martchenko. He is most famous for illustrating books by Robert Munsch and also Allen Morgan. I was fascinated to learn that Michael Martchenko has written 2 books of his own. I loved his book Ma, I'm a Farmer, although I think it would have been a more effective story if he had left out the last line.

Here is an interview with Michael Martchenko about his work with Robert Munsch:

In my spare time I am instructing workshops for youth every Saturday, creating a website for my grade 5 class, and preparing for a 45 minute workshop on Engaging Modern Readers (with Technology) that I will be presenting at WestCast student-teaching conference at the end of the month. Oh yes, and Saturday is my nephew's birthday! I think he will love the Thomas the Tank toy I found for him. (Luckily he is turning 2 and as of yet cannot read this.)

I have been thinking about some interesting ideas lately and will share them with everyone very soon. As for today, I feel my entry is almost too long to hold everyone's attention much longer! But before I go just a reminder to enter my Short Story Contest if you haven't already. I have received a few entries already but I would love to see more. (Check out the details below!) Also, don't forget to stop by on February 18th when I will post my interview with Author Tami Jackson as part of her virtual book tour! Peace everyone!