Conversation with a reader, part 2: Seriously Shifted

I recently interviewed Evelyn about “Seriously Shifted“, the sequel to “Seriously Wicked” by my friend Tina Connolly. You can see the first installment here. (Spoilers below!)

S: Okay, so, usually I find that when there is a series I always like the first book in the series the best, probably just because they’re explaining the world and how the magic works and stuff. But you told me before we started that the second — you like the second book better than the first book. Why is that?

E: I like the second book better because I think that there’s more elements and, well, I really like it because the whole idea is that it’s a game and I think that’s a really interesting idea.

S: I agree that, you know, it seemed like there was a lot more going on in this book, like a lot more plotlines and stuff, that Cam was running around from person to person to person. Would you agree with that?

E: Mmm hmm. I think that…it may have been harder to follow along, but personally I liked it better.

S: Yeah, you were able to follow, it was okay even though there were a lot of characters —

E: Yeah, like there are some books that it’s like, ‘And then this happened and this happened and this happened’ but this one, it wasn’t that fast — I mean it was fast paced, but it wasn’t THAT fast paced.

S: So, in the first book, a lot of the book is about Cam and her mom and she doesn’t want to admit that her mom is really her mom and stuff, but in this book they kind of have a better relationship I think?

E: Yeah

S: Just because Cam is actually trying to do witch stuff, which her mom kind of likes. Do think that they have a better relationship, or…you know, do you think Cam’s mom is happier with Cam in this book?

E: Yeah, I think so. Um, I’m not sure…I’m sure that her mom is happier, I can’t tell if Cam is happier now or before, because before, even though she didn’t like living with the witch, she at least could pretend that she wasn’t her real mom. But I don’t know if she’s happier. She gets more happy as the story goes along.

S: I think she’s happier because she can help people. You know, she likes to help people.

E: Yeah.

S: So, one of the things that Cam struggles with is that she wants to be an ethical witch, she wants to be a good witch, and she makes a list of things…what do you think about her, her efforts to do that?

E: I think that, even though she has a good idea, like about not using animal parts in spells and stuff, like, I would compare it to being a vegetarian because you want to not harm animals? But sometimes there are good sides too. Like, it’s good for you because meat has protein, or like with the spells she can help more people because she won’t have to go all over trying to find substitutes for the things she can’t use. So maybe she could just use it sometimes, when it won’t harm as much?

S: So, you think that there are some worthwhile parts of her struggle, but also you’re kind of saying that maybe she takes it too far?

E: Uh huh, because it might be….if she doesn’t want to…oh, that might be the next book.

S: No spoilers! I haven’t read the next book yet.

E: <Laughing>

S: So, one thing that we talked about in the last book, you had mentioned that maybe it would be for older kids because there were….there was–

E: Stuff…

S: Smooching. So in this book, I think there is no getting around that there’s more boy…stuff. There’s love potions and there’s multiple boys and stuff. So what did you think this time? I mean, you’re older, also.

E: True. I think this one…I find this one more appropriate. Um, I don’t think that the love potion added too much of another element…I should stop saying that because elementals are like something in the book? Well, anyway.

S: But, so, do you think it’s that you got older, and so–

E: I’m not sure.

S: Because there’s more smooching, for sure.

E: Okay. I don’t remember the book as well, I should reread it.

S: <laughing>

S: Witches are always shown to be very tricky, and even when they’re helping, they’re still kind of doing their own thing. For example, Malkin…seems like she’s doing this contest but really she doesn’t care about the contest, she really just wants to find a shifter. And Cam’s mom, Sarmine, she…even though she’s helping Cam through the whole book, she’s kind of not helping her because she has her own plans. It just makes me think it would…it’s hard for me to imagine a witch as a mom. You know, even though Cam and Sarmine get along better in this book, they still don’t seem like they’re…really getting along well, you know?.

E: Uh huh, well, I think it’s better than getting tied up by a pumpkin plant. <Laughing>

S: <Laughing> That’s true, that’s true.

E: Uh huh, so…

S: But do you think that she and her mom will ever come to have a good relationship? And do you think that it would be required for her to turn into a full witch in order for that to happen?

E: I think that, I think that she can just stay the same. Because, I feel like, more than changes in Cam, we’ve also seen some changes in Sarmine’s character. Like, respecting her more and stopping trying to make her do stuff–

S: She still tries, she still wants her to use ingredients–

E: But she doesn’t push her as hard or like, punish her as much–

S: That’s true. She’s definitely more on Cam’s side, for sure.

E: Yeah. I think that they need to do something together, like a girl’s night out or something.

S: <Laughing> Okay. But it would probably turn into like a witchy disaster.

E: Probably.

S: Are there any final thoughts you want to say on this book? I know that you already read the third book…

E: Yes, there is something I want to say. I think that it is AMAZING how, um, Jenna and Henny and…who was the…? Oh yeah. How they were bouncing back, and it was pretty amazing how, even after all these bad things happened to them they were like, were still going to try to be happy. It reminds me, I think there was one time in the book where one of the witches was like, “I’ve played this game before and I was, like, throwing worms and turnips on this guy and he was just shouting, ‘It’s great to be alive! It’s great to be alive!'” <Laughing>

S: Yeah. That’s one thing I definitely liked, was just all the…all of Cam’s friends, how they all got involved. Even Sparkle–

E: “Yeah, Sparkle, her change in behavior. She absolutely detested her in the last book, and I think that they’re going to become friends.

An Interview with Yours Truely

The blogging platform Glipho recently interviewed me as part of their “Meet a Glipher” project. Therein, I discuss my secret blogger origin story, divulge embarrassing pictures of myself, and discuss advice about blogging and parenting.

I’m cross-posting the interview here for posterity, but you can also see the original post here.

#meetaglipher… Shane Halbach (@shanehalbach)

A hundred or more thanks to Shane Halbach for being our Meet a Glipher this week! Chances are you’ll probably know Shane for his sense of humour in his posts and which are often about his brilliant kids (or co-bloggers). He’s also recently sold a short story to a superhero anthology published by Crossed Genres, so congratulations to him!

1. Why did you start blogging? Why do you continue to do it?

Before “social network” was even a word, before Twitter and Facebook (before even MySpace for god’s sake), a good friend of mine kept trying to get me to join LiveJournal; not for the blogging really, but for the sense of community she found there. Despite constant nagging on her part, I never quite got around to making an account.

My friend later committed suicide.

The year after she died, I spent a lot of time thinking about her, and one day I went and opened a LiveJournal account in her honor. I didn’t really know what I was going to do with it, but having it made me feel closer to her. Once I started using it, I could very quickly see what she had been trying to tell me all that time. In my experience, bloggers are generally nice, encouraging people, and there really is a sense of community. It’s very interesting to me that, all of these years later, Glipho is building its own community of bloggers. So it’s really come full circle for me.

My blog has gone through three major periods. In the beginning, I mostly used it like a diary. I never expected anybody to read it. (Those embarrassing posts are all still there…*please please* don’t go back and read them!) Eventually, it just wasn’t really interesting enough for me to continue, and I gave up for about a year. When I started blogging again in August of 2005, I changed my focus. I started using it more as a place to keep interesting links I found on the Internet, and turned it more into something that was interesting to me and that I enjoyed, rather than something I felt like I had to do.

I’ve seen so many blogs come and go, and I think that the absolutely essential element for anybody who wants to sustain a blog is that you have to enjoy it. It doesn’t matter what you talk about, but it has to be you, and you have to enjoy it for its own sake. Otherwise it becomes work. If you’re doing it to “get readers” just quit now and save yourself the trouble.

The third iteration of my blog began in January of 2009, when I challenged myself to blog 7 days a week. I didn’t really have a plan or a goal of how far I’d take it, but I just thought it would be interesting. Though I eventually scaled it back to 5 days a week, I certainly never thought I’d still be keeping that schedule four years later.

This was a big difference though, because it really flipped a switch on blogging for me. The constant need to come up with content really kindled a spark in my creative side. I had never really used my “writer brain” for blogging, it had always been a separate thing. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to come up with so many posts without making them dull or uninteresting, but instead the opposite happened: I started looking at the world in a new light, and finding inspiration for posts everywhere. I always figured I would stop blogging when I stopped enjoying it, but I think I’m enjoying it now more than ever.

2. You blog a lot about your kids, Evie and Ollie, who are adorable, intelligent, and hilarious. Do they ever read your blog posts? Will they read them in future? And how will you feel if one day you are the topic of THEIR blogs?

They do not read my blog, but they are aware that it exists. Particularly when they make me laugh, they’ll say, “Put that in your e-blog!” or “Is that a quote daddy?” Since Quote Monday is essentially just me transcribing the things they say, I guess you could consider them my co-bloggers. There are currently 198 “From the Mouths of Babes” posts, and that’s not even counting the posts I wrote *about* them. I know a lot of bloggers who never published 198 posts.

The Internet is forever, so I know they will read the posts someday, and when they do, no jury on Earth will convict them when they kill me. Unfortunately for them, my entire life is basically online, and I don’t think there is anything they could write that would be more embarrassing than anything I’ve already put out there myself.

I would love for them to be bloggers though. I wish everybody blogged everything all the time. For some reason, people seem to not want to put their lives on display to be dissected by Internet trolls. Weird.

3. Have you had any particular experiences as a result of your blog?

My all-time personal favorite was when I wrote a blog post about a childhood hero, Commander Mark Kistler, and he actually stopped by and commented on the post. I still get warm and glowy when I think about it.

One time I wrote a post and skillfully tied together two unrelated items (a quiz about which horrible disease you are and frozen pickle juice popsicles) with the title, “Do Pickle Pops give you Rickets?” Shortly thereafter, I received a couple of comments from the company who made the pickle pops. I just imagine the marketing guy sitting down at his computer in the morning thinking, “Ah, look! Bloggers are starting to talk about our product! We’re really going somewhere now!” and then just doing a spit-take with his coffee all over his monitor when he sees that title.

They were good sports about it though. I changed the post title even though they didn’t ask me to, and they sent me a bunch of free pickle pops. I do feel obligated to say there are no studies linking pickle pops to rickets. Unfortunately, my own study concluded that pickle pops do, in fact, taste like frozen pickle juice.

4. How involved are you with the online community? Have you attended any blogger meetups?

I have so many friends who I only know virtually, but I guess that’s not that unusual anymore. I’ve never attended any blogger meetups, but I have met people in real life who read my blog. It’s a little awkward and unbalancing when they know so much about me and I don’t know anything about them. Plus, when I try to launch into all my funniest stories they go, “Uh, yeah, I already read that on your blog.”

5. What blog(s) do you love to read? Any favourite Gliphers?

My favorite blog is John Scalzi’s Whatever. His is the blog my blog aspires to be. As far as Gliphers, I sort of pick and choose at the buffet of my feed. But some of my favorites are Frank GranatiLindsay ParnellRachel Monte, and A Few Fine Things. I think they would all be surprised to know this.

6. Do you have any “core principles” you try to abide by as a parent?

I think the main thing we try to impart is to live simply. It’s so hard to do in this day and age; it really requires an effort. I’m doing everything I can to set my kids back 100 years. Have fewer, better quality things. Understand where your food comes from and what’s in it. Enjoy the outdoors. Read a book. Downsize your house. Forget about gadgets and cell phones and computers.

What’s that? Why does daddy work as a computer programmer? Do as I say, not as I do, children.

7. What are the three main pieces of advice you’d give your kids about functioning as adults, once they’re a bit further along the grown-up end of the spectrum?

Hey, this sounds like a good future blog post!

Don’t spend more than you have. I don’t care what everybody else is doing. Most people are idiots.

Your life is not your job. It’s wonderful to enjoy your job, but if you don’t (or even if you do), you need to have other things you enjoy. If you can work less, do it. Compiling more money is not more important than the things you love. Don’t miss out on your kids when they’re little.

You are what you eat. Don’t be “high fructose corn syrup” or “pink sludge from McDonalds”. And please, please don’t be some chemical I can’t pronounce. If you must be, at least shorten it to something hip and cute, like “Hydroxy”.

8. What made you decide to start writing on Glipho and how is it working out so far?

Someone in my online writer’s group said he had invites to a new blogging platform. I thought, “Hey, I like blogging!” As simple as that.

At first I wasn’t sure if I would use it regularly or not, but I kept telling myself, “Well, just a little longer…” However, there are two factors strongly in Glipho’s favor that keep me on: 1) I feel like I am reaching a totally new audience with Glipho (hello UK!) who would not have found me otherwise, and 2) because of the community, even though I get less traffic on a Gliph than on the same post at, I am more likely to get a comment in Glipho. I can tell you, nothing puts a smile on a bloggers face faster than a comment on a post!

9. Any particular goals, blogging or otherwise, for 2013?

I think the plans for world domination don’t kick in until 2015, so 2013 is pretty open.

As far as blogging and writing go, I would probably continue on as I have been. I’ve sold some of my short fiction recently, so that continues to be a goal of mine. Making money on writing is like a soap bubble dream; it seems too crazy to actually exist, and I’m afraid if I touch it or think about it too much, it will pop.

Also, I am learning how to play the accordion! If I can continue improving at my current rate then I can…well then I would be able to…you know how beloved accordion players are, so I guess the rest goes without saying.

Follow Shane here and on Twitter.

People actually said this stuff

There was a great article listing things that people actually said during job interviews. They’re all pretty good, but I’ve listed some of my favorites:

What are your hobbies and interests?

“[He said] ‘Well, as you can see, I’m a young, virile man and I’m single — if you ladies know what I’m saying.’ Then he looked at one of the fair-haired board members and said, ‘I particularly like blondes.'”

Do you have any questions?

“If I get an offer, how long do I have before I have to take the drug test?”

Why are you leaving your current job?

“I was fired from my last job because they were forcing me to attend anger management classes.”

What are your weaknesses?

“I get angry easily and I went to jail for domestic violence. But I won’t get mad at you.”

“I am an alcoholic and do not deserve this job.”

“I’m really not a big learner. You know … some people love learning and are always picking up new things, but that’s just not me. I’d much rather work at a place where the job is pretty stagnant and doesn’t change a lot.”

Tell of a time you made a mistake and how you dealt with it

“I stole some equipment from my old job, and I had to pay for its replacement.”

Random Responses

“Wow — I’m not used to wearing dress shoes! My feet are killing me. Can I show you these bloody blisters?”

“May I have a cup of coffee? I think I may still be a little drunk from last night.”