Monday, December 29, 2008


This is quite possibly one of the coolest things I've ever been involved in.

A while back, Orchid Games contacted a friend of mine about beta-testing their romance-reader targeting solitaire game. She had a Mac, so she couldn't do it, but gave some other names. Mine was one, so I got to test the game, called Heartwild Solitaire, and help them work out the bugs and revise their scoring system and stuff.

And now the game is available for everyone! And I'm in the credits! LOL

First off, the game is gorgeous. Every board is richly elaborate art, and the music matches. I like playing stuff like this at the end of the day (which is good, because sometimes I end up playing for four hours and only stop because it's 2:00 a.m.!), and the imagery and sound suit that.

Secondly, the game is FUN. It's a simple matching game, but there are 7 boards for each of 12 levels, plus a bonus level in the middle, and I've played hundreds of times without ever getting bored. There are many different ways to score, so it's challenging.

And finally, it's unique. You may have played games before where each accomplishment uncovers part of a story. This is different because it's a romance! The story unfolds in chapters accompanied by tarot that adds depth to the arc. Very compelling.

Right now you can get a demo of the game for FREE, then decide if you want to purchase the whole game. Sandlot Games will also be offering a "modified for television" type version that lowers the sensuality a little, if that's something you prefer. You can get all the dope at the Heartwild site.

Check it out, and have fun!

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Day After

Merry Christmas to everyone I didn't manage to greet in some way yesterday. I hope you all had lovely holidays, assuming you weren't puking or dealing with puking or recovering from puking. My condolences to those who were.

And Happy Hanukkah where applicable. I don't know anyone who actually celebrates Kwanzaa, but I think that starts today, so have a good seven days!

We had a nice, quiet holiday, just the four of us. Did presents, played Wii, went to a movie (Bedtime Stories, very funny, though Adam Sandler is always better when he doesn't go all the way to total idiocy), had stir fry for dinner. Yep, stir fry. That's what they wanted!

So now we're on Transition Weekend.

As I've mentioned, December is a difficult work month. Everything seems to back up as we concentrate on the holidays and associated activities. Between now and the end of next week, focus shifts. This weekend I don't actually do anything. It's the last week of regular-season football, and tomorrow we're doing Christmas at my inlaws. Today I'm running errands, including using a gift card that will make one of my Christmas presents (an espresso machine) complete. And Sunday, we'll probably take down the tree and stuff, instead of waiting until New Year's Day. Not sure, I might get outvoted on that one. :)

So for the next few days, I'll be slowly making lists of everything I have to deal with after the first:

  • Losing weight Getting healthy. I lost 15 pounds in 2007 and kept off every pound this year...until this week. I don't know why. I haven't changed my eating habits at all, just substituted Christmas cookies for other junk food. But I jumped up four pounds. Plus, after my exercise plan fell apart in May, I completely dropped it this fall. And the kids start soccer again soon. So we're going to be increasing our activity levels next week, and I'll go back to the club the week after, when they go back to school.

  • Writing. My agent hasn't exactly been sitting by her computer waiting for my revisions, but now I have no excuses. I need to get back to them. Luckily, I have a plan for that, too.

  • Taxes.

  • Spreadsheets. I have to set up my organization schedule for next year, reconfigure my to-do list to accommodate some regular obligations, get the old pages out of my day planner, etc. Luckily, my office/desk are clean because I had company. The one bright side to that. The cleaning, not the company.

  • So let the transition begin! (And let the Patriots lead us into 2009 on a positive note. Go, Jets! *gag*)

    This is a day late, but hilarious enough to share all year round. Slightly NSFW.

    Tuesday, December 23, 2008

    Birthday Greeting from Mary

    Because what good is it if you don't share it? :)

    Thanks, Mary!!!

    Quiet Perfection

    In an effort not to repeat myself, I just looked back over my old birthday posts. 2007 describes my birthday in historical (mine) terms, and 2006 describes my crappiest birthday ever.

    Shit. Hold on, I think the dog just barfed.

    Phew. I got her outside. That would have rivaled 2006. Well, okay, not really, but having to clean up dog barf on your birthday is pretty crappy. And justifies the use of the word "shit," though I apologize because I try not to curse so publicly. Kids might be listening.

    Anyway. I started this blog in July 2005 and apparently felt uncomfortably announcing my birthday that year, so I didn't post that day. I did find this post, though, which amused me because I've been having similar thoughts about the whole holiday thing. I guess I probably do every year. Just stop with the annoyance, people, will you? For sheesh.

    Hm. OK Cupid just sent me birthday greetings. Even said happy 38th birthday. I don't know how they know that. I must have told them, but even so, Borders isn't so rude as to call out my age when they send me a 25% off coupon.

    Anyway. Again. Today is very low-key. Even though I get to sleep in for the next 12 days (kids off school), J insisted I not get up this morning. It didn't amount to sleeping in, but it did mean no animal feeding or litter box cleaning, no breakfast making or dishwasher filling, no bus stop in 14-degree cold.

    I spent a couple of hours reading with a warm, soft cat on my lap. Now I'm doing this, and I think I'm going to go to the post office and pick up Neato Burrito for lunch. Dinner is, I think, at Red Lobster, though I tried to decline. And I suspect I have a dark peppermint ice cream cake from Cold Stone Creamery in the freezer.

    No presents from J and the Numbers this year, but you know what? That's beyond okay, because remember what my present is? SALUTE TO SUPERNATURAL in March!!!!!

    I did get some gift cards from my dad and brother, some already spent for real, some spent in my head. I might watch some TV (I have last night's Prison Break recorded, but I think that's about it) and do some more reading.

    Might write, too. I had a new idea this morning, had some scenes writing themselves in my head, and then my brain was trying to turn them into a book while I was in the shower, which always sucks because there's no way to get the ideas down, but it's inevitably where they pop up. I won't work on that new idea, of course, I have way too much pending before I can get to a new book. But thinking about this new idea had me thinking about my already-done books, and how much I love them, despite the work they need before they can sell, and how my purpose in writing the paranormals/urban fantasies I write is to ground the stories so fully in the real world that the reader has very little need to suspend disbelief, and feels like they could really go outside and bump into my characters at the supermarket. You know, between crises. :) And how can anyone not think that was really cool?

    So I'm obviously feeling pretty optimistic and yeah, that's a good way to feel on your birthday.

    I probably won't post again until later in the week, so Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah (why does every spell check give me a different spelling for that word?) to everyone!

    Monday, December 22, 2008

    Did You Remember...

    (Today's post is from The Gab Wagon)

    Well, here we are, on the home stretch. I'm "done" with everything but wrapping, but I'll go out on Wednesday for some stocking stuffers and maybe one final thing for my husband. One gift hasn't arrived yet, but it's in the local distribution center and will get here tomorrow (gotta love online tracking!). And see, all you mood-killers who had everything bought and wrapped, baked and frozen before Thanksgiving? It's perfectly possible not to start until December 15 and get done in pllleeennnnttyyy of time. :)

    But maybe you're not a moodkiller or a middle-grounder. Maybe you are totally about the last-minute shopping. Well, that's okay, too! I have some recommendations for you!

    Books Galore!

    I've been in B&N twice and Borders once in the last three weeks, and every time they were packed. Today we had a humongous line and the staff (shout out to Camp Hill Borders!) was tremendous. It moved like a glacier-fed stream in the spring.

    Anyway. Books (or bookstore gift cards) are always a great choice, and will have the added bonus of supporting both retailers and publishers, helping keep Mac, Monica, Cathy, and me working. (See handy links right there in the sidebar! Hint hint!)

    Whether you buy hardcover, paperback, or e-books; online or in a bookstore or grocery store; children's or adult books...remember to go to this blog. Take a minute to list your book in the comments, and visit often to add to the list or just watch the tally rise. Last week it was jumping about a hundred books a day! Isn't that awesome?


    iTunes is a pretty immediate and universal gift source, too. It doesn't cost anyone anything to download the software or set up an account, and most people have some way of listening to the music or audiobooks they buy or watching the TV shows and movies. iTunes gift cards are ubiquitous, available in grocery, department, and electronics stores as well as in the iTunes store itself. There's also lots of free stuff, so surf around it a little, check it out!

    Up-and-Coming Musicians

    Well, not the musicians themselves, but their music. I'm talking about people like Jo Braithwaite, Jason Manns, Life of Riley, people who aren't filling stadiums on their tours but cute little pubs (or ugly dives, we don't judge!) with their devout but small fanbases. This kind of gift is cool because it's personal, potentially gives the recipient something they'll enjoy over and over, and helps the struggling (or semi-struggling) musician.


    Of course, by now, you've been buried in solicitations for money. Charities of all sizes are probably feeling the pinch, and they always hit us up at this time of year, anyway.

    But sometimes grassroots-level programs are the most rewarding. The money usually goes directly to those in need--no wondering how much of your contribution is really supporting a six- or eight-figure CEO salary and how much is helping people. Check out these awesome enterprises for some real feel-good cheer this holiday season:

    Fandom Rocks (ongoing events ranging from auctions to simple donations, targeting a wide variety of needs such as domestic abuse shelters, the Humane Society, etc.)

    Operation: Winchester (sending goodies to the troops overseas)

    Office of Letters and Light (sponsor of NaNoWriMo, Young Writers NaNoWriMo, Script Frenzy, and, in the past, filling libraries in Vietnam)

    Add your favorite suggestions in the comments!

    Tuesday, December 16, 2008

    I Want to Be a Prison Break Writer

    Prison Break is a show that requires a huge suspension of disbelief. From the first season, they've created alliances and progressions of events that could never happen, not to mention conspiracies of unmanageable proportions.

    But there's one thing they do extremely well, and it's the reason the show has survived even though seasons 2 and 4 actually didn't have anyone in prison for more than an episode.

    There's an old piece of writing advice (I don't know who originally said it, sorry) that goes something like "If your story stalls, run your characters up a tree and throw rocks at them." In other words, make things really, really bad, and then make them worse. I've never seen a TV show or movie or read a book that did that better than Prison Break.

    You'd think that would get exhausting, and it does. This should be the show's last season. These guys (and Sarah) deserve a break, for cripe's sake. But that's a big-picture level. On an episodic level, the writers have managed an amazing balance between success and failure that keeps us totally hooked.

    For example, when they stole Scylla (reportedly a list of every bad guy in every important position in the world), it looked like they were getting caught, but it was part of the plan to get the missing piece. Then they were betrayed and lost Scylla, but Michael had kept part of it, so the double-crossing Agent Self didn't get to complete his plan. When Michael, Sucre, Sarah, and Lincoln successfully get Scylla back, Michael's tumor acts up and flattens him, so Self grabs Scylla again and finds the missing piece. When Michael dies on the operating table during the tumor reduction, he realizes Scylla isn't what they thought it was, that it's much, much bigger.

    There's no relaxing during this entertainment. The level of suspense is neverending, with very short, exciting reprieves and moments of hope. It can't be sustained forever, but day-um, I want to write like that!

    So excuse me while I go throw rocks at my characters.

    Monday, December 15, 2008

    Names and Stuff

    I haven't found myself with much to say lately. Been busy, of course, as we all are at this time of year. Most of what came to mind was of the "why I love December" variety, but geez, how many years in a row do you want to hear that?


    I bought Necco wafers today. I can't stop eating them. I bought one assorted and one chocolate and they're both half gone. I suppose that's not too bad, considering I bought them 8 hours ago.

    Today Megan Hart posted about her name, and asked "Do you like your name?" Because I tend to be long-winded, and because I had no recent posts, I decided to answer here instead of there.

    So. Again.

    Do I like my name?

    Mostly yes.

    I was born Natalie Jeanne Jacobus. Let's break that down, 'kay?

    I never disliked Natalie that I can recall. I've always tried to go against the crowd (without going all the way to outright rebellion), and I liked having a name no one else had. There was one other Natalie in my entire school district (as far as I could tell), and we never crossed paths. I may have had a short-lived dislike of the unusualness of it, maybe around first or second grade, but it wasn't very intense, and I came to appreciate not being Jennifer.

    On the other hand, I never liked Jeanne. Still don't. When I got married, I eliminated it from my legal name.

    Jacobus was always pretty cool, too, despite the typical "Fatalie Jacopiss" and "Jacobitch" taunts. It was unique; different from Jacobs, which was more common. But I never linked my identity to my name, and while I have solid respect for everyone's right to decide how to combine their married names and a mild resentment for the expectation that the woman has to give up hers, Jacobus-Damschroder was even more cumbersome than my favorite teacher's name (Albright-Rivenburg). Plus, logistically, it seemed mean. What if my daughter, Dakota Jacobus-Damschroder, wanted to marry, say, Dean Erickson-Patton? (Just as a hypothetical, there's no boy by that name.)

    So now I'm Natalie Jacobus Damschroder and I will not give up the J. Professionally I am Natalie J. Damschroder, my signature is usually NJ Damschroder (because otherwise it's too damn long), and I even like my initials, NJD.

    But wait! There's more!


    People generally tend to shorten Natalie to Nat. Growing up, I HATED Nat. Hated everything about it. I tried really hard to keep people from using it, but that was difficult, and I realized at some point that I minded the idea of it more than the actuality. IRL, I barely noticed it when it happened. So I let it go. Many people still use it.

    Someone tried to call me Nate for a while. THAT I put a stop to right quick.

    A hearing impaired friend called me Nad. That was before that word got used much for something else, I think, or at least before we were old enough to understand the slang use.

    But my lifelong nickname has been Nuj, and of course, there's a story behind it.

    My mother's initials were TAM (for Teresa Agnes Miller, and yes, she most definitely dropped the Agnes when she got married, and did not take it back after she got divorced and reverted to Miller). She always wanted people to call her Tammy, but no one ever did. I didn't know her then, obviously, but she never struck me as much of a Tammy. (My childhood best friend was Tammy Moran. Hey, Tam, if you Google yourself, give me a holler!)

    Fast forward to my birth, where my father commented on my initials being NJJ. "NJJJJ," he said. "What can you make with that?" So Nuj was born. It led to Nujie (which my little brother used most), and Nujer-Buj, and cutesy stuff like that. I did have a longer period of acute hatred of this name, in my tweener years, but I outgrew it and by high school, I lovedlovedloved it and actively encouraged it.

    When my mother went to Washington (state) to visit the guy who'd become my stepdad, I told her the souvenir I wanted was a shirt with Nuj on it. They didn't know where to put it, so she came home with a baseball-style shirt with Nuj in script on the upper left chest, down both arms, and on the tail.

    I miss that shirt.

    So that's it. I still use Nuj. It's in my e-mail address, my LiveJournal name, and a lot of message board usernames. I even have a personalized license plate with it. If I were to have a gravestone when I die (which I won't), it would be on it.

    I often wonder if my uncommon first name and totally unique nickname have led to my preference for unusual names both in my kids and for my characters. With my kids, the names were uncommon when I picked them, but we apparently tapped into a burgeoning zeitgeist with both. Number One only has one kid with her name in her entire class, a boy, but they often wind up in class together. Number Two has kids ahead of her and behind her with her name. No one in her class so far, but plenty of variants. It really galls me to look trendy. *sigh*

    Your turn! Tell me your name story in the comments! Be as long or as short as you want. :)

    Monday, December 08, 2008

    A Rant and Some Thoughts

    Note: I wrote this a couple of weeks ago, but just got my Neo back from Number One and found it. What luck, since I didn't know what to blog about today!

    I just took a telephone survey about grocery shopping. I do surveys online periodically, too, for Homescan (we scan all our purchases for them) and Entertainment Weekly and People and stuff. And I HATE HATE HATE forced answers. You know, the kind where you have never in your life bought deli meat at Wal Mart and they force you to rate their meat quality on a scale of one to five. It's not hard to have "not applicable" as a category, and if you want honesty, you must have it. Otherwise, I'm getting pissed and giving you all ones. Of course, it was probably Giant doing the survey, and now they'll be really happy because they think everyone else sucks and they don't.

    On the same topic, FFS, people, what's up with the reduced employment categories in that qualification question? I don't have an employer. I am self-employed. Saying "employed full time" or "employed part time" is a lie, and I'm sure as hell not a homemaker.

    Stupid flawed surveys.

    begin thoughts
    When Dean confessed to Sam about what happened in hell (yes, this is thoughts on Supernatural, sorry) we were talking about what he'd had to do. One of my friends said something about at least the people in hell have a reason to be there, even if they just made a deal to do it.

    I was just reading a section in the Supernatural Magazine that listed the people who'd made deals, and I felt compelled to revisit the topic.

    The idea of selling your soul to the devil and being destined to go to hell, even for small things in return, is a concept that, of course, existed long before this show. Certainly, it's difficult not to say "they asked for it" for people like Robert Johnson or George Darrow or Sean Boyden, who wanted talent because they wanted fame or envy or accolades. At 14, though, Bela probably couldn't imagine a worse hell than the sexual abuse she was enduring, and Evan Hudson wanted to save his wife. Even Dr. Silvia Growman used her deal to save lives, which, in karmic terms, probably balanced her desire for success. So saying everyone in hell deserves to be flayed alive over and over for eternity is way overstating. Which, of course, is part of the point.

    The real issue, though, isn't about whether the people deserved it. The real issue, in terms of the show, is how much more it punished Dean to have to deliver punishment than to have to take it. Remember John? Who was in hell for 100 years? I bet Dean has thought about that a lot, and what his father endured. (Though John probably would have hopped off that rack on day one.) I'm sure Dean also wondered how many of the people he was flaying were bad people, seriously deserving of it. How many had done bad things in life that they needed to be punished for, and does it even work that way?

    Ooooooohhhh! I just had another thought, about Ruby!!!!

    We're always wondering why she's different from other demons. What if most of the demons we've met have been bad people already, their nature lending themselves to the full corruption of hell? But Ruby was a dealmaker, good at heart, someone who made a mistake, who has been turned into a demon over a hundred years (thousands, in hell time), but able to remember being human because she started out from a better place?

    We know she was a witch, like the ones in "Malleus Mallificarum," in service to the same demon those women were. And of those women, at least two were greedy and vindictive. But Elizabeth had a kinder nature. Sure, she wanted to win stuff and have a great garden or whatever, but she didn't have the avarice the others did, and she really cared about the people who'd died. What if Ruby started out like her?

    Such a thing would be akin to a good person in real life going though trauma and abuse and coming out the other side hardened and with skills learned through the horrible events. Skills of manipulation and deceit, with a stronger sense of self-preservation and vengeance. I think that describes Ruby pretty well.

    Anyway, that went flying off topic. The point was, it was traumatic to Dean to have to cause that physical and psychological harm to people, no matter what they'd done. And the possibility that the person he was flaying might not deserve it would only make it worse.

    Friday, December 05, 2008

    Catching Up and Stuff

    Okay, that's just another way to say "Random Friday." Sorry. :)


    Busy week. Actually managed to get TWO people bought for Christmas. Should have gotten more than half my list done today, but it didn't work out. Stupid day job.

    If you're all done, I don't want to hear it. I think there's something sad about being "done" for a holiday a month before it gets here. I know it's less stressful and very practical, but it takes away all the magic. Plus, people who are done tend to be all smug. :)


    I was watching the "promo" for Supernatural (which is just past clips, nothing upcoming, but well put together, I think) and I remembered a key point from the second-to-last episode before hiatus that I haven't seen talked about.

    I'd been thinking, since Castiel talked about the 66 seals, that this is going to be a season of failure, and that's kind of depressing. Because as soon as they stop Lilith from breaking a seal, it's done--she can't free Lucifer.

    For example, in "It's the Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester," the window to raise Samhain was only open every 600 years. So if that was one of the seals Lilith had to break and they stopped Samhain from rising, they'd stopped Lilith.

    But fast forward to where we meet Anna, and she tells the psychiatrist there are actually SIX HUNDRED seals, and Lilith can break any 66 of them. From an "oh, the boys!" standpoint, this is rough. The angels can't predict where she'll strike, so they are constantly playing defense. But from a narrative standpoint, it's FREAKIN' AWESOME. They can have some victories. They won't last, but they'll have them, which will break up what could be a dreary, despairing, downbeating series of events. The tension will be high, and the number gives the writers a lot of flexibility.

    On a side note, some of the upcoming episodes sound like the "Wishful Thinking" and "Monster Movie" variety, standalones that don't deal directly with the apocalypse. Which is good, a lot of people don't like too much emphasis on the season's mytharc. But it's got me thinking...maybe the endgame for this arc won't draw near until the end of season five, like with YED, who stuck around until the end of season two. That will be perfect, because the increasing ratings for this season will feed the possibility of season five (as far as the network is concerned), and keep us from getting too fatigued by the intensity of the arc, and prevent a season five that would have trouble following an averted apocalypse.

    If they could just do an episode where Sam and Dean switch bodies, I'd be in hiatus heaven.

    Okay, this thrills me beyond all reasonableness.

    I'm not sure if I knew this existed. If I did, I dismissed it because it never aired, or at least didn't get picked up. And Jared Padalecki by himself wasn't a draw for me (until he got HUGE and GOOD and I found out I was going be able to TOUCH HIM).

    But he's a draw now.

    And the original show was my all-time favorite growing-up show.

    Combine the two, and I'm just a great big puddle of giddy goo.

    This is a credit video made from bits of the pilot.

    I didn't know what it was at first. One of the TV blogs I read recently had a poll about which show should be remade next, and MacGyver won by a large margin. So I saw the start of that video, and thought, "OMG, Jared Padalecki would make a PERFECT MacGyver in a remake!" Little did I know...


    And I just cannot believe how excited I am to see this.

    Monday, December 01, 2008

    Holiday Hell Contest

    Win an amazing variety of goodies (books, gift certificates, Vera Bradley, and more), including one of TWO Kindles being given away, here.

    That link takes you to the full details of the contest. Follow links from there for the Kindle entries, and make sure to click on Home for the main blog for the most current day's contest.

    Good luck!

    Winning and Losing

    For the most part, I feel like I lost in November. I didn't write the 88k+ I was aiming for, and the half of the book I did write is the worst I've ever written in my life. I finished the month feeling like my skills are diminishing. Many years ago, I worked at a nature center, and I led nature walks during which I'd educate the classes and tourists on plants and stuff along the trail. By the end of the summer, when most things weren't blooming anymore or had changed their greenery, there seemed to be fewer and fewer things I was confident talking about. Over three months I'd forgotten much of what I'd been taught, and when I led a hike, I felt like a fraud. That's how I'm feeling now, where my characters are superficial and unemotional and their actions are rote and the plot is boring and going nowhere.

    Losing sucks.

    That's why I started with that, so I can end this post on a high note. I did write 50,309 words of fiction as well as 3755 of nonfiction (marketing text and biographies). I also revised the 20-page nonfiction report I'd written in October, proofed 116 pages of text of various sorts, critiqued 288 pages of fiction for friends, read through an 88k manuscript while taking revision notes, edited several interviews for my chapter newsletter, and spent Thanksgiving in the ER*. That's probably three times as much as I did last year, so I should feel pretty good about the month overall. I will frame and hang my NaNo winner's certificate with pride.

    *I was not the one needing treatment; the one who was is fine now, and it wasn't a life-threatening situation. I only mention it because I want the sympathy we deserve for missing out on Thanksgiving! :) No need to mention it, I'll just assume you're offering it. *g*

    Now, on into December, traditionally known as "Writing? What's That?" month.

    FYI, both my kids won NaNo, too. Number Two reached her word count goal on Saturday, I think. Number One was a little more complicated. She reached her original goal of 20,000 words halfway through the month and opened another account for another book idea, which she abandoned shortly thereafter for Another Shiny New Idea. Combined, she met her second word goal of 10,000, but felt guilty combining them, so she stayed up late last night finishing 10k (total) of the third idea, which she plans to keep going on now. I mention this partly out of pride and knowing headshaking (Shiny New Idea Syndrome! We all know about that!) and partly as inspiration and taunting for those who need such. :)