Halloween Decorating: 2013

This is the first year in a long while that I’ve had a house to decorate for Halloween, and I did it hardcore this year. Notice the cat prop by the grave, the hanging severed limbs. I also have a vulture on my roof, peering off. 
Click the jump to see my gallery of photos:

Telemarketers always enjoy a call to my house

UPDATE! 3rd call added! - Nov 6 2013!

Somehow, people love it when I’m a jerk to telemarketers. I posted a few of my recent interactions with a few calls, and people on facebook gave me more “likes” than I’ve ever gotten before. Somehow, when a telemarketer calls me, I always go into a character of an old grandma who doesn’t understand half of what is said and asks ridiculous questions. With that in mind, I thought I’d post a few transcripts of these phone interactions on here. These are real, written as soon as I hung up the phone (so they’re fairly word-for-word). Remember, these people called ME! It’s not like I was seeking them out!!

Call 1 (happened on Sep 20th):

Telemarketer: “Hello, I would like to talk to you about a low-interest offer on a credit card.”

Me: “Yes-sa I want a credit for my cat to for her.”

Telemarketer: “You what?”

Me: “I want my cat to have credit card and I spend all money and then I kill cat.”

Telemarketer: “What?”

Me: “You know, kitty meow-meow?”

Telemarketer: “You spent all your money on a cat and then you killed your cat?”

Me: “No, no, no, no. I want to put credit card under my cat’s name and spend all the money and then kill the cat.”

Telemarketer: “You want to put a credit card under your cat’s name and then kill your cat?”

Me: “Yes-sa, that.”

Telemarketer: “What is your cat’s name?”

I started laughing too hard at this point. Maybe she was joking, but she said it like she was actually going to put a credit card under my cat’s name. I hung up.

Call 2 (happened on Sep 26th):

Telemarketer: "Hi, my name is Brandi Martin. I have a special offer on hotel stays in Branson, Missouri!"

Me: "You are Dolly?"

Telemarketer: "No, Brandi Martin."

Me: "Dolly Parton?"

Telemarketer: "We do have a Dolly Parton show here in Branson. [goes on to explain show] Tell me, when was the last time you were in Branson?"

Me: "Yesterday."

Telemarketer: "Oh really, where did you stay?"

Me: "With Yakov Smirnoff."

Telemarketer: "You saw Yakov?"

Me: "No, I stay at his apartment."

Telemarketer: "Oh..."

Me: "In his bed."

She suppresses a laugh. "Ohhh, okay... Well let me tell you about the other shows we have in Branson. Ever go see the Chinese Acrobats perform?"

Me: "How many Chinese Acrobats..."

Telemarketer: "Well, I think there's like 40--"

Me: "...does it take to screw in a light bulb?"

Telemarketer: "Uhh..."

Me: "In Soviet Russia, light bulb screw Chinese Acrobat."

Telemarketer: "Do you have kids? We have great children's shows."

Me: "Yes. Little Yakov, Yakov JR., Baby Yakov, and Smirnoffy"

She laughs. "You have children with Yakov Smirnoff? How old are they?"

Me: "Two and Two and Two and Two."

Telemarketer: "Well, you have a great day."

Me: "Say hello."

Telemarketer: "What?"

Me: "Hello, Dolly. Hello, Dolly."

She hangs up. 

*NEW* Call 3 - (happened on November 6th)


Me – Agent! (this is a secret code word programed into most robocallers to send you directly to a live person)

*Piano music as I’m transferred to a telemarketer*

Telemarketer – Hello, this is Keesha with ______ Senior Monitoring Systems. Can I ask what name I can call you today?

Me - *in my really crinkly old lady voice* Just call me Grandma, that’s what all my grandkids do.

Telemarketer – Oh—uhh—Okay, Grandma. Because you have contacted an agent today, you have been randomly selected to receive a Senior Monitoring System and 3,000 dollars worth of groceries for free.

Me – Is that to Schnucks or Shop and Save?

Telemarketer – What?

Me – Tell me, Keesha, do you like cookies? Oatmeal raisin or chocolate chip?

Telemarketer – Uhh—chocolate chip. If you get our System, you can get grocery money to buy cookies as our gift to you.

Me – Just send me the money. I won it. It’s mine. BINGO!

Telemarketer – Oh, Grandma, you will have to sign up for a month of our SMSystem program to get the gift. Do you know about the “Help I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” commercials?

Me – Oh yeah.

Telemarketer – Well, if you have any issues, you can use the necklace buzzer to get a call from one of our technicians.

Me – So, if I run out of cookie dough? You’ll come to my house and bring me some more?

Telemarketer – Um, well. No, if you buzz, one of our team will call and assess the situation and—

Me – and then I can get some more dough for my Stroopwafels?

Telemarketer – Um, well. Grandma, we might call one of your family to assess the situation if—

Me – Then you’ll come eat my 3,000 cookies with me? You’re the only granddaughter I have left, Keesha, and I love you very much.

Telemarketer – I live in New York, so that would be hard.

Me – Let me write down your address so I can send you some nice Jaffa Cakes

Telemarketer – Well, maybe at the end of this conversation… Anyway… it’s 3,000 dollars worth of coupons at your local grocery store

Me – Coupons?

Telemarketer – Yes, coupons.

Me – I love the coupons from Bingo Magazine.

Telemarketer – *ignores my last statement* If you go into this program, know that you can cancel anytime and still keep our gift package for—

Me – Package? I haven’t gotten a package since Grandpa passed on.

Telemarketer – *Gives a moment of silence to honor Grandpa’s passing* …Our gift package is a nice way to—

Me – Grandma loves a nice package!

Telemarketer – A package filled with—

Me – Cookies for Grandma and Keesha to eat together

Telemarketer – and our cancel anytime policy can save you—

Me - Dough

Telemarketer – Yes, money

Me – No, cookie dough

Telemarketer - What address can I send our SMSystem and gift package to?

Me - Just write, "Grandma's House" on the package.

She was a trooper. She continued to explain why that wouldn't work in the postal system, and I laughed a few times, told her that Grandma loves her very much, and then hung up.


I've been answering the phone more often lately, because I've been waiting for job calls... the poor people. How is it that they never see this coming? I hope they enjoy the weirdness, anyway. I’m sure calling a million people must get tiring. I used to post a ton of these things. I wish there was a way to dig them all up. Maybe I’ll post more on here if I can find my old ones. Anyway, I hope this was funny for you. 

Thanks for stopping by my blog!

How Do We Get Students to Read Rather than Simply Use Spark Notes?

I recently filled out an application for a job asking me what I wish I could improve upon as a teacher. I wrote that I wished I knew how to get students to actually read, rather than just look up book/story summaries on Wikipedia or SparkNotes.

I feel like, with cell phones, the Internet, etc… kids today are all about the immediate. They need to know things now. They want everything to be short and sweet. Even YouTube videos are too long for kids today; they all use Vine, which is a video platform for shorts that can be a maximum of 6 seconds in length. SIX SECONDS! That’s the attention span of kids today.

As a teacher, when I ask my students to read an entire novel, I feel like I only have six short seconds to make them enjoy it before they get bored and quit. How can I ask them to sit down and spend time reading, when almost every work of literature has a summary posted somewhere on the Internet? It only takes about six seconds to look up a summary; it takes hours and hours to read a novel.

I had a very special teacher in high school that saved me from living a life without reading. It was my senior year, my final semester. I hated English class, but I needed one more “literature” credit to graduate. I took one that looked easy, “Appreciation of Literature.” I figured I could SparkNotes all the novels, since I had already been doing that in my other classes. However, at the time, SparkNotes was still new, and it didn’t have the first book that my teacher gave me. It was called 1984, and I had never known that books could be so sickly amazing.

Up until that point, my teachers had given me nothing fun to read. I had spent my entire childhood with works like, The Scarlett Letter, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Frankenstein, Tom Sawyer, and To Kill A Mockingbird. As an adult, I can appreciate these books (although I still think that To Kill A Mockingbird is quite frankly a boring read, regardless of the good message). However, these books are hard to digest as a kid. They are wordy and have dull starts with little action.

I’m not here to hate, but to explain that I understand why, giving those sorts of books, a child might be put off from reading. But, when I first started on 1984, it set me off on an adventure through all sorts of books like that. That teacher got me reading, because she knew what kind of book would turn me into a reader.

However, I probably would have tried to Spark Notes it if I could have. I’m not sure how I’d even get a kid to open a book up today and try it. I guess personal excitement is a start. My energy will feed theirs. I think, also, personalizing the availability of books they actually want could help. Wouldn’t it be nice if the students could actually select what they’re interested in?

I don’t know, this post is only a beginning to that conversation. If you’re a teacher, leave a comment and share your success stories of how you got your students to read. If you’re a student, tell me what would actually get you reading.

Thanks for stopping by my blog!

How I Knew I Was Ready to Have Someone Other Than My Mother Read My Writing

A book cover I made for my first attempt at writing a novel
AKA: The moment I decided to start submitting to actual publishers.

I’ve always made art publicly, but I had never tried submitting a short story or poem for profitable publication before this past few months. It had never been my immediate goal (but always my future one!). August marked the first time I submitted work to a magazine. It was quite the rush, really. Whether they accept, purchase, and publish it is a different story, but at least I finally had cooked up the nerve to do it. I just wanted to write a post about what brought me to this point, which is the point where I decided I could show other people my work.

Back in high school was when I first realized that I was a writer. My group of friends decided that we were going to start a local band, and everyone picked an instrument (none of us knew how to play anything) and promised to learn said instrument within the year. Out of the five of us who made this pact, I was the only one who followed through. I learned guitar, and I started a band with a very different group of guys who actually knew how to play. In the first few meetings of this band, I remember debating who would be the singer. Naturally, I, who had never sung publicly before at that point, backed away from the idea of me doing it. However, the guy who wanted to be the singer was flaky, and we ended up kicking him out of the band. So, the job fell on me, as the drummer was too busy drumming like a wild animal to sing and we didn’t have a bassist replacement yet.

As a singer of a band, it falls on you to write songs, and so I did. I wrote beautiful high school ballads of angst and hormones (they were not really beautiful, haha). But, I did write. I learned how to compose and put words together. My favorite band, Incubus, inspired me to actually sit down and pen out meaningful lyrics (rather than clichés in rhyme), which were all poems to start. I spent hours and hours doing a single line in a song, but the work paid off. I learned a great deal about writing doing that. Near the end of high school is when the idea for The Unraveler sparked in my mind, but I made more visual art and poetry than anything else at that point.

During college, I went from writing lyrics to writing stories, plays, and even attempting to write a few novels. I did all of that before I even decided to become an English major (actually, I started as a music major and then went to computer science before switching to English!). Most of what I wrote during that time was garbage, but I’m happy I wrote it because I was continuing to learn how to write. My freshmen year of college was my first official attempt at writing The Unraveler as a full-length novel, and also my second, third, fourth, fifth, etc, etc. I probably have about fifty different documents where I tried to write the novel. In some attempts, I even got to chapter 3 before deciding that it was terrible. At one point, I stopped that and started something different. I wrote a 60k-word memoir about my high school band days. It was called, Join Our Cult (I still like that title). I never finished it because I realized that it wasn’t, strictly speaking, worth reading. Also, for creative nonfiction, I had taken too many embellishments and exaggerations. It just didn’t feel right. So, I shelved it.

I probably penned a few more one-chapter trials of The Unraveler throughout the rest of my college years. None of them really worked, but the ideas built and the story started to come together. I just didn’t have the skills at that point to make it happen, but the effort kept me learning.

I almost always make my own temporary covers for my book-length projects
During my final semester at my university, I wrote a 40k-word novel called Eyes On The Grid, but I didn’t finish that either. I knew it was closer to what a professional writer might put out, but not quite there. I think during the process of writing that, I gained about 30 levels in grammatical sorcery. I started winning writing contests (I even paid for my first apartment’s rent using writing contest winnings!). I wrote new songs, which my old band friends recorded with me.

I felt an awareness to writing that was different. I could look at other writing and identify why writing was good or bad (not just if). It was like a writing nirvana to me. When I hit that point, I began a new draft of The Unraveler that would actually get finished, and it was actually good. It was a story worth telling, and it was written with the skills I had been building for so many years with so much sweat.

I haven’t submitted The Unraveler to any agents yet, since I’m still trying to comb through and get feedback on it. However, I did submit a few short stories I’ve been writing when I’ve needed a break from doing my editing, and I did this beginning with last month (no responses on any of them yet). It was my first time, and it was a cool marker in my writing career.

Anyway, I guess with all this, the simple message I’m trying to put together is this: write. The only way to get good at something is to do it over and over.

Thanks for stopping by my blog!

Blog redesign! -a blog update for September-

Ahh..... It's time to sip some pumpkin coffee and enjoy my hard work.

I just finished redesigning this blog to look... more like the imagery from my novel. I am a crazy visual person, and I feel like the creatures and characters in my novel are really what will sell it. Before, my blog was a colored-pencil sketch of an endlessly long whale, but that only emphasized a short scene from my novel. This, however, encompasses the feel of my world better. I have a huge Halloween-feel to my book, so jack-o'-lanterns, crows, and the skeletal rat bring the spirit of that season out. The kudanite, or that bluish-purple monster in the lower left corner, is a seahorse-inspired sentient being. I have my little clockwork robots marching across the top. The woman in the orange-pink is Rosalyn the Squid Lady. She's a poet, pirate, and the leader of a troupe of clowns. I spent like six hours coloring her in. I also made a new header logo!

All of the art on my site was hand-drawn by me, unless I've noted otherwise. Most of it is digitally enhanced or colored, but some of it is shaded with pencils. The words in the background are from an actual passage from The Unraveler.

Anyway, I mentioned pumpkin coffee. I need a refill. Haha! Let me tell you about Duncan Donuts Pumpkin Spiced coffee. It's a seasonal thing, and you can get it now until the winter. It's absolutely delicious. I suggest blending it with marshmallows and a good helping of milk.

So, writing this month has been really about expanding my online credentials. I have submitted short stories and poetry to five publications (and it was my first time submitting stuff!). I'll probably know by the end of this month if any of it has been selected. I've been working on a bunch of short stories and flash fiction, just to sharpen my skills. I've written everything from pure horror, to a western, to an Irish folklore tale this past month, and I hope to do more. Of course, all of this while still editing my novel. It's close to as edited as I can make it, but I have a few friends reading it. Maybe I'll get some feedback, since another of my friends have started a writing circle group. My friend Matt S. sent me insanely useful feedback that changed my book in major ways a while back. I'm still thankful for it.

My routine lately has been reading whatever Daily Science Fiction sends me and then visiting the author-of-the-day's website. I'm trying to research what other authors are doing to promote themselves, and how what they add to their websites to make them have that extra-uuph that puts it above the rest. That's why I've added new pages like "Extras" and "Reading suggestions" to my own site. I want people to come to my website and see how hard I'm working on all of this, how dedicated I am. I'm doing all of this while trying to figure out what I'm going to do next with myself (but that topic is for a different blog).

Anyway, tell me what you think of the redesign. If you see anything that looks out of place, let me know! And get some pumpkin coffee!

Thanks for stopping by my blog!

Unraveler Extras

I wanted to start a page full of stuff inspired by The Unraveler that you can download for free! Using these are a great way to show support for the novel. All of this was created by me unless otherwise noted. Please only use these for non-commercial purposes. Have fun!
Artwork - Here's some higher-res images from my website. Download these and use them in creative ways!

Blue Kudanite => Click here to download!

Jack-o'-lantern => Click here to download!

Crows at flight! => Click here to download!

Banners - Do what you will with these! The backgrounds are transparent!

Click here to download the white banner!

Click here to download the black banner!

Small Banner - forum signature sized!

Icons - Use these on your website or as your avatar !

Logos - You can add these to documents, so only those in the know will understand the secret.
Click here to download the plain eye logo!


Click here to download the realistic eye logo!

Music - These are music tracks I created that share a connection to The Unraveler!

Click here to download "Knockdown Sandcastle"
This song was written, recorded, and performed by Harrison Aye. This was during the same time as The Unraveler, and it was inspired by the seaside setting in the novel.

Click here to download "On and On"
This song was written and performed by Harrison Aye, with recording and percussion by Brian Wood. The lyrics and music were inspired by the same dream Harrison had one night that sparked the idea for the entire novel. I wrote a blog about that dream here!

Click here to download "Flytrap"
This song was written and performed by Harrison Aye, with Scott Weber performing drums and Brian Wood recording and performing guitar. This song was inspired by a concept I was creating for this novel. I imagined a giant flytrap of forgetfulness, and if it devoured you, you'd be forever forgotten. This giant flytrap is named Gome, and he still sits at the bottom of a very deep pit within my book.