Thursday, March 31, 2011

Quarterly Report Card

Before the new year I set some goals and I think this is a good time to review how I've done...

Writing (goals in red, progress in black, reassessment in blue)

BEFORE 2011 Hits:
*  Press 'send' for Garden Cozy  Done but I still have some editor requested changes to address by the end of April
*  Finish this round of LEGACY and send to a couple readers  Done
Read enough of my 3 WriMos to CHOOSE January's project (this is fuzzier than it was a couple days ago as I think my most recent might actually be the cleanest, in spite of my love for the Kahlotus story—I just really need to evaluate what I can accomplish in a month)  Done. Kahlotus chosen... more

Edit and Polish one of my WriMos. Done
Write and test pitch for ABNA: revise test repeat until ready. Done
Enter Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest Done


Polish Legacy Done will need one more round
Present option to agent: if she passes, send a dozen queries Delayed this for next round
Begin writing next Garden Cozy Done

Finish Garden Cozy Erm... not so much. I have had a lot of trouble getting really going. I am about 30K in of 75K. At this pace, it will take all of April, too.
More queries if appropriate  No, because of delay
Read Confluence and take notes No, because of slower Garden

Overall assessment on writing:  B+.  The writing pace seems beyond my control. I have had some trouble with schedule, as my daughter has a class that is screwing up 2 nights a week, but that ALSO is not my fault.  I am making a serious effort and made all goals PRIOR to this.


Back to my exercise (power walking regularly)  No, yeah, no (in other words, I keep trying... has not yet stuck (see class of my daughter)
Back to eating on a Weight Watchers plan  Yeah, no, yeah... I tried, the blew it, now I am trying again--more confidence this time, as daughter has asked to do it, so I am supporting HER. 
Alternate days with core/hand weights (15 minutes of one or the other daily) Um... no.
Stretch before bed every night (I already stretch in the shower in the a.m.) This neither.

A moratorium on alcohol and Diet Coke until all this settles in, and then, only on points.*eyes Diet coke*  Fail...

Fitness D-.  In fact I've gained a pound since new year... serious suckage. But hopefully joining my daughter in her quest will help the eating, and spring and this class ending will help the exercise...


We have serious financial problems. I have found a short term fix, but the long-term plan requires a couple things... NONE of them SEEM to be in my control, but the one that most closely is is my writing stuff... This is behind the FRANTIC polishing... I want to have 3 books READY by mid year (two earlier: one for ABNA, one to query) and I plan to GO GO GO until I sell one. I ALSO am concentrating on WRITING stuff I am pretty sure is salable—I want to get my name established so this stuff all gets easier.

Two should still be good to go by mid year. The delay on 3 is necessary, but I have made round 2 of ABNA, so that is something--I bet each of the two needs a month, but I think I can manage...
B+  (only thing not done is because the PAYING gig budged 3rd work back)


I finally made peace with my mom (mostly) at Christmas... but newly fixed things are fragile, and I am neglectful in the best of times. I need to keep working at it... I also need to work at the one with the hubby and the childings...
Doing okay here... I am trying, anyway... more cognizant... an intention to call weekly means every other week, but for me this is better...

And I should be more cognizant of my other friendships, too... I LOVE my friends, but I can be downright SCATTERED about attention...
This is at least no worse... I don't think... in my defense, my old friends aren't any better (and are possibly worse) about this than I am.

And so we move onto Blogging A to Z... I will make my best attempt to get to my regular blogs regularly, but if you are NOT A to Zing... I may be a little scarce through April...  See you on the other side, my friends!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hogwarts Reminiscing

So I think most of you know that the close runner up behind Naked World Domination for my heart is Harry Potter. My writing roots began here, in fan fiction, and several DOZEN lifetime friendships as well... I know, because here it is nearly 6 years after I first dived into discussions, and almost 4 years after the last book came out, yet those friendships have endured. My writing group, the Burrow, was born here, and I have, in addition, a fairly large bunch of writing friends who are also coming along for this journey.

So I am THRILLED to join Potter themed Blogfests, and Michael has kindly obliged me a couple times (the last one, a Christmas story). Today's theme is about my BFFs at Hogwarts...

Who would have been in Trio a la Tart...

I think y'all know I'm older than Harry. He was born in 1980. But I'm younger than the Marauders who were born in 1960... I fall somewhere in the middle... maybe not THIS middle, but I'm going with it... there is some canon behind my decision. Namely,

Tonks by Kiwi Fairy
OoP, C 9 (on being prefect): “My Head of House said I lacked certain necessary qualities.”
“Like what?” said Ginny...
“Like the ability to behave myself,” said Tonks.

You'll forgive Tonks for dressing like it was the 80s, because... you know... it was... Oh, yes... Tonks would have been my BFF, able to keep up with me around every turn.. It was handy that she could disguise herself so well. Binns thought she really was Madam Sprout pulling me out of History of Magic half the time.

It took us a couple years to realize there was someone interested in a different sort of mischief (not half bad looking, either, though I was actually crushing on his older brother Bill.) Charlie snuck off into the Foridden Forest every chance he could... followed Hagrid around like he was his assistant... would have bugged Kettleburn, too, but the man was suspicious of Charlie's fascination with Dragons.

Charlie Weasley by The Starhorse
It's thanks to Charlie, actually, that I ever gained any competence with a broom (Tonks, too—Tonks could barely WALK, nobody ever thought she'd fly well), but Charlie spent that first year trying to get away from us... it was master flying or miss out.

We took to following Charlie into the forest whenever we could, and after we helped him get away from Bane (the ANGRY Centaur) the three of us ended up friends.

Man, we had fun... mostly sneaking off where we shouldn't be... And Tonks and I used to taunt Charlie something wicked... silly Gryffindors...

"Let Slytherin seek glory
And Ravenclaw aim high
Let Gryffindor chase danger
They’re not afraid to die

The mighty they will finally fall
The brain will hence give way
The body it will fail us all
So danger seekers pay

But Hufflepuff knows toil and work
And Hufflepuff knows friends
And Hufflepuff will party on
When you’ve all met your ends!”

It was sad when we finally all picked different directions... Charlie and his creature NEWT, Tonks with all that Auror nonsense, and me with Ancient Runes and Arithmancy, headed to Peru to study Cursebreaking with the Incan experts. I still am plagued by guilt that if I'd stuck closer to home, Tonks would have survived that Wizard War... I should have been there.

So there we have it...

The Art is from Deviant Art (links included) and the Hufflepuff fight song is one I wrote as part of a fan fiction I wrote in 2007.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What Do You Want With Me?!

Maybe I should calm down a little and explain that...

Yesterday at Holly's blog, where she called Lee evil... okay, maybe it was the A to Z blogfest that had finally tempted her into its lair... peer pressure run amok... (which made me giggle, Holly isn't normally inclined to name calling and grand theatrics) she said she'd changed her author bio to... (catch this, it is much more with the program than I ever am) MAKE IT EASY FOR NEW VISITOR TO SEE IF HERS WAS A BLOG FOR THEM.

You see how clever that is? Blogging A to Z next month has a bizillion participants (that might actually be closer to 700, but HOLY COW!). HOW, in all that, is anyone going to STICK, if they barely get a chance to GET to all the blogs, let alone get BACK to them...

So she reworded her bio for her genres and interests... Very nice... And I'm going to do that... I know a smart thing when I see it (even if I can't think of them all on my own). But I thought I would ALSO put a little in the heading of why YOU all come here... So today's blog is all about YOU (erm... and what you think of me...)

Blogger Poll:

1)  What is your favorite thing about this blog?
2)  What would you like to see MORE of?
3)  What would you like to see LESS of?
4)  In 3 adjectives and an adverb (okay... any word type... but a couple descriptors) how would you describe this blog to a virgin reader (not that I plan on sticking anything in anybody's eyes)

Then it will be like it's OUR blog! Isn't that fun?

And since that was so short, some viewing pleasure... a little for everybody, I hope:

For the Sports Enthusiast....

For the Science Fiction and Joss Whedon enthusiast...

For the vodka enthusiast...


But seriously... I'm not a one trick pony around here... it is just homage to last year's A to Z... erm... maybe...

But I AM willing to offer a little up to some others...

For the nature enthusiasts and the voyeurs...


A side note.

TOMORROW is Michael's Blogfest as to who your HP BFFS would be.

So there! 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Incongruent Paths

In life sometimes we have to make choices, and some choices work to the exclusion of others. I think as writers, we feel this acutely. Margaret Atwood did a presentation recently that hysterically pointed out our options as writers. We can:

-Have a day job and write when we can find time.
-Inherit a lot of money (this was the one she recommended).
-Marry someone who will work and let us write.
-Move to a country with fabulous government assistance.
-Seek a grant for support.
-Manage to sell enough of your work to make a living.

Sadly, that last... is less than 10% of writers, and the one before it tends to be MFAs who've won some sort of award. And the 3rd from the end... I think leaves Scotland... though I may be misatttibuting (Mark, don't they pay you to not work?)... Work full time, inherit, or marry...

Add family.

And suddenly you have a full time job in addition to your other stuff and the writing...

So those of us who didn't MANAGE to inherit... who didn't marry money (or at least a good job) and then decide to have a family... THIS would be an inconguent path... Working full time, writing full time and family full time is more than a person can manage. Something has to give.

Now in my OWN life... I tried my first hand at a novel when I was 26, before the family. But then career took over and kids came, and it was more than 10 years before I got back to it.

That is to say... not taking a path doesn't mean you can't find it again... it just can take more patience and... perhaps a delusional sense of dreamery... to come back when it might work again...

Up the Ante

Imagine, then, how much harder it would be if your passion wasn't writing, but MUSIC (any performance art, really)--I mean sure, you could sneak the time to practice and write songs, but that part where writers are sending out stuff for feedback... you would need to be OUT THERE, performing... and there are only so many daytime gigs, and only so many options in your home town... this is a nighttime, traveling profession to pursue...

Now I don't have experience as a performer, but I have worked in the restaurant industry. My daughter was born when I was doing that, and night work and kids are NOT compatible. The hours are only the half of it. There is also a lot of drinking and a fair amount of drug use—and if it happens in restaurants, you KNOW how much more that is part of music.

My Point?

Our blogging friend Jessica  has just created a book trailer for her book that hits on exactly these themes (the book AND the trailer)... the decision to mother, when what one really feels passionate about is a career in music... the trailer is a song performed (beautifully) by Jessica, the original song written by her mother, and the lyrics changed some to fit the book. It is a haunting, beautifully performed song. Give it a listen then go get more details from Jessica's blog..


And on an unrelated note, if anyone is interested in reading my full excerpt from the ABNA contest, they are posted. Kahlotus Disposal Site  I would LOVE reviews that help me improve the work. At this level, I understand these don't do anything that helps us advance in the contest, so don't feel pressured, but if you have time... (the helpful part doesn't come until final round, and at THAT point, I'd prefer glowing reviews *shifty*)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Complimentary Astrology

So I am also over at Burrowers, Books & Balderdash today, and I am ALSO talking Astrology there, but THERE, I am applying it to ME. (post goes up at noon GMT) But HERE, I am applying it to WRITING.

I did this once before, but I think I had about 40 followers back then, and my use has changed. I am going to START with a pet peeve of mine...

[And yes, I'm aware of the tilty shifty thing and thirteenth probable sign. My thinking is THIS though. Over many centuries, trait clusters have been observed... those still exists. Maybe not related to the zodiac animal we thought, but they are there, so I like it as a tool ANYWAY].

Characters with the WRONG Birthday!!!

I GET that not all people BUY Astrology, but that doesn't stop it from bugging the HECK out of me if an author bothers to give a character a birthday and they give one COMPLETELY incompatible with their personality.

There are a lot of signs with wiggle room in a lot of domains, but... a shy and retiring fire sign? Aren't gunna find one. A super emotional or sensitive should be water, but they HAVE to fall within a feminine sign (water or earth).

Harry Potter (because it's been too long)

JK Rowling did a pretty darned good job with birthdays. Not all of it was apparent up front (though some of it was). Harry (her brainchild) shares her birthday (July 31), which was probably brilliance for keeping consistency. He is a Leo... but not the 'show stopper' Leo... say that Ginny is. Hermione the Virgo (Sep 19).. DUH—every answer in a book---MAD in Half Blood Prince that Harry gets better Potions results by following ALTERNATE rules... total Virgo (says the woman married to a Virgo). Even Ron as Pisces (Mar 1)... Pisces is the LAST of the Zodiac signs and so can be a bit reckless... ideas hopping lines between light and dark... (life and death)--look at this in light of his doubt in Deathly Hallows. The only DIFFICULTY with her placement is Harry (the Leo) and Hermione (the Virgo) should have more trouble getting along—those two signs are notoriously incompatible. But then Hermione is REALLY on the cusp of Libra, so perhaps her sense of balance makes the difference.

Even her sub-characters... Draco as a Gemini? Yes. James as an Ares (ABSOLUTELY—had to be a fire sign... so did Sirius). Remus as Pisces.

My only quibble with her placement is Luna. She pegged Luna as a Leo, and Luna is an Aquarius if ever I saw one... completely set and comfortable being 'out there' with her ideas.

Some Dominant Traits by Sign

Aries: this is the sign of ME ME ME. Lots of charisma, often leaders... but can be vacuums.
Taurus: playful, leisure (and beauty) loving, stubborn.
Gemini: smart, flexible, fickle
Cancer: Persistent, supportive, needy
Leo: Generous, charisma of a more generous sort than Aries (think cult leader), hot headed
Virgo: Smart, organized, picky
Libra: Fair, even-keeled, indecisive.
Scorpio: playful, loyal, secretive.
Sagittarius: Lucky, fun, the only sign with no negative trait which is annoying.
Capricorn: Hard working, genuine (less inclined to games than other signs), paranoid (in a security oriented way)
Aquarius: unique, free spirited, detached.
Pisces: Intuitive, open, reckless

Broadly, the feminine signs (red) seek some form of security and the masculine (blue) seek some form of recognition.

So how do I use this in MY writing?

I typically write my character FIRST (a few scenes to see how they act—a profile of what I know they NEED) and then I assign them a compatible birthday. If I CAN, I like it to have a personal meaning... the birthday of a friend or family member... but then I use what I KNOW of that sign to drive responses that weren't part of that original profile but come up... for instance a girl's crush is talking to another girl... does she CARE? Is she JEALOUS? Does she walk up and join? Is the motivation for that reminding him she's there, or is she that comfortable? (or oblivious to the potential?)[I use this example because romance is never my primary plot... if I DID write romance, I'd probably choose a sign with this in mind... feminine signs are more possessive and inclined to jealousy, other than that chest-pounding property kind... really AIR is the only one sort of oblivious (re: secure enough they don't really feel threatened)--the rest of us get jealous in some form or other unless we have life lessons that train us differently—or in my case, a collection need and recognition I can hardly get jealous when I expect him not to]

Do any of you consider Astrology when you write?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Naughty Goldfish

Okay, so maybe it is a goldfish story and some naughty accessories, but you know... half a dozen of one... *shifty*

First up...

Second Crusader Challenge from Rach Writes

The Challenge:

Write a flash fiction story (in any format) in 100 words or less, excluding the title. Begin the story with the words, “The goldfish bowl teetered” These four words will be included in the word count.

Pretend Frank has a goldfish on his head
The goldfish bowl teetered on the stick of the man balancing on his unicycle, but Jasper wasn't afraid. Oh, it wasn't the skill of the acrobat—he was a hack, but Jasper had successfully guided some dozen acrobats to modest fame. Every one of them was famous after the month with Jasper. And every one had traded a year of his own life for the skill. What they didn't realize was that a human year is nearly eighty in goldfish years. Jasper was slated for a very long and happy future.

If only he could get back to his human form.

So there.

And THEN, Marian sent me the following... I think they're fabulous... just what a tart like me might need to give in and join the misery that is shopping...


Also... theoretically, at some point today, i will find out if I made the list at Brenda Drake's blog (see Sunday blog)

And finally, it's THURSDAY!  you know what that means!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Quarter Quotients

So anyone who stopped by yesterday afternoon and scanned comments knows the MAIN point... In the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest this year, I have passed to the stage of QUARTER FINALIST. You see that? This is the first level with a TITLE (other than her Tartly Majesty, anyway), so that's WAY cool. I love that piece. The SUPER big thing I love though, is all Quarter Finalists get a Publisher's Weekly review. We can use it in marketing, provided the book doesn't change much, but what I hope it does, is point to where the book SHOULD change so I can improve it.

And I got my first taste of that yesterday afternoon... (more on that, in a minute)


I noticed the list was up first with an announcement on the Amazon chat threads... I went to look... opened Young Adult first... and scanned. My stomach knotted... there was my name.

Unlike last time though, I scanned for my friends names... so many made the pitch round... and on that young adult list, I didn't see ONE. Nobody else made it. Still making my eyes sting. How is that possible? I mean I GET that the lists had to each be narrowed from 1000 to 250 and that is a lot of people, but I just expected... company...

I know. That's silly. And there is crap-shoot to this—particularly for genre fiction writers, as most people have a couple genres they just won't read, and given 4 reviewers in two rounds, odds of hitting ONE that doesn't read what you write (especially for sci fi, romance, adult fantasy... I just think those are genres people like or don't). Last time I was a little sad because... you know... only half my friends made it through... this time, I had to go to the adult list before I recognized names.

My buddy Lisa is in. And I know she can really write because she was in a contest last Spring she got second place in, and part of that was reader voting, so I read some of that particular work. She writes even darker stuff than I do... horror mostly. And Marjorie (the other Marjorie—I have a close friend Marjorie some of you might know, too, but she wasn't in the contest.) Now I may have missed in my quick scans... so if I didn't say your name, don't think I DON'T think of you as friend... it just means your name doesn't fall near the names I remembered to look for and you weren't announcing yourself one way or the other before writing this...

I guess my point is, it feels a little desolate... like I'm headed off on a journey without benefit of a guide whose been there before... So that is weird.


I thought though, the main thing I wanted to share with you was the two vine reviews on my excerpt. You may or may not have seen these before... but being me, I can't leave well enough alone, so I am also going to address what they say section by section (in purple)

ABNA Expert Reviewer 1
What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?

The opening as it gradually reveals Helen, who she is, how she died and what is going on around her is quite gripping. It will catch and hold the reader's attention, keeping them turning pages to find out just a bit more. Particularly with a young audience it is important to grab their attention early and hold long enough to draw them into the story. This opening does an excellent job of achieving those goals.

Thank you! I guess I don't know what else to say to that...

What aspect needs the most work?

This might be more effective if it were a bit shorter, not much maybe just 5% or so. At times things were included that didn't really need to be gone into in such detail such as Helen's attempts to contact the woman construction worker. It didn't add to the story to go into so much detail but did slow the narrative down.

This is totally valid. The excerpt has been cleaned twice, once on my own, once after feedback, but I know this is a weakness of mine, so surely my need to include too much isn't completely exorcised until about the 7th draft.

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?

I really liked this excerpt even though when I first began reading I felt like I had wandered into 'Lovely Bones'. That feeling quickly faded as I continued to read. I particularly liked the scenes concerning setting up the juvenile detention facility. There is potential here for a good novel but it needs work.

Ha! Lovely Bones! There goes my own comparison almost biting me in the butt... glad it segued into fresh soon enough! And 'needs work' would be exactly my assessment... not overhaul, not rewrite, but certainly cleaning...

ABNA Expert Reviewer 2

What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?

I applaud the idea of being introduced to a new rehabilitation center for troubled youth by a long dead teenage epileptic who killed herself when the building was an asylum for the retarded and insane. Helen's back story is well described and I love that she even has a living niece who takes an interest in her tale and I hope they make contact. I think the author knows something about troubled teens and the present and past treatment of them and can use it well to tell this story.

Helen's niece does, indeed, have an ongoing role, and... does HAVING a teen qualify me? *shifty* though honestly, I think my degrees in psych (BA and MS) indeed give me a fair amount of insight to mental disorders, as does my job, and I do have a lot of teen experience (did I mention a lifetime as a nut magnet? I mean nut in the most loving way, but seriously... I might as well collect crackers), so hopefully I nailed this. Mostly though, this comment makes me hope I come across as worthy when the whole book is out there.

What aspect needs the most work?

The newly introduced character Serena is not very clear and I hope the author does not leave her so ambiguous. I feel like a poorly developed Serena could ruin the story. This sounds picky but I wish the author had picked something that is easy to pronounce than Kahlotus for the name of the town, center and title.

I can promise this. Serena doesn't get short shrift. She is probably my most compelling character--I recognize this... more compelling than a ghost, I swear, but the book is more about Helen responding to and trying to help her, so I was wary of putting her too front heavy (the excerpt only had maybe 3 pages of her (out of I think 24--it was 4,000 words, but in 4 chapters). In reality, she is about a quarter of the PoV and probably HALF of the topic). 

As for Kahlotus... it's a real place, which was why I fell in love with it (the hospital on the other hand, is all fiction), but the sign that reads 'Kahlotus Disposal Site' that signals drivers outside Pasco where to turn to head to the middle of nowhere (read: Spokane shortcut) has that written on it. It inspired me as to where to set this book that was only an idea in broad terms (ghost in a reform school). I'm attached to Kahlotus...

ku* LOH*tus --(that help?)

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?

I liked the excerpt a lot and feel it would also be very appealing to the targeted teen audience if the quality continues through the rest of the book.

Again, the... if it continues... if only... I have predicted from the start my next round is my drop--I felt the idea of it could carry the excerpt, even if it wasn't quite polished... I'm not confident it can carry the whole book. (though I confess when I saw who got cut today, I was wiping my brow--some great pieces didn't make it)--but the concept is HIGH... the whole book needs a bit of polishing ...

So there we go... first ever 'official' feedback... I feel okay about it. I feel it was fair and helps... at this point, pointing out what I know, but that's okay too. It helps me trust myself a bit.  I saw a few responses that didn't seem so balanced. Understandably, with 2000 entries, not all reviewers will be of the same standard (where the luck bit comes in), but i feel I was treated absolutely fair, and am perfectly content.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Thoroughly Funked

It's official. I'm in a thorough funk. I think there are several reasons, some of them that I have no control over whatsoever, some of which I know will pass in time... a BIG one, that will pass today, and then a couple I just need to power through.

Let's Start with Todayness, Folks.

Today is the official announcement of round 2 cuts for ABNA. If I PASS, I will officially be a Quarter-finalist. If I DON'T, I will be out. Now the folks over there are talking very bravely at the moment... it's been a great experience regardless (it has) having a finished book and entering is already a win (it's true), as long as we keep writing and keep improving, we will make it one day (this, ALSO is true). But we all are sitting there today with our jugulars exposed for the vine reviewers to give us an in or an out.

I am of two minds (which is really quite few for me)... I know my book (including the excerpt) need some work. I think it's PRETTY good, but it is not great. And besides THAT, if I am OUT, I can stop contemplating Whatifishness... but DAMMIT I want to keep going!

*sighs *

The DayJob Doldrums....

I have half a dozen deadlines right on top of each other at work... and it's made me come to terms with the fact I probably take too many breaks to check blogs, normally... Granted, I've cut out lunch, and such... but I probably get half my blog reading done on those work breaks—the five minutes to adjust between tasks... blog reading... but with deadlines, you CAN'T. Every minute is filled.

Compound that with a couple blogfests where I feel obliged to visit THOSE participants (hell, one of them was MY blogfest) and I haven't done my NORMAL rounds in over a week. I am committing to get back to it today. I still have busy work, but I also know fewer people post on Tuesday, so if I work from the top, I should hit all the days posts in my blog roll at some point, then tomorrow I can get to those I missed today because of schedule...

I feel a little LOST when I don't get to all your blogs regularly... and I haven't done as well following back or getting people into blogrolls. I really try to get people who stop by regularly onto my blogroll, and I KNOW I am behind, so if you could help me, I would TOTALLY appreciate it. If you stop my pretty regularly (weekly or so) and you are NOT in my blogroll, POKE ME. (you need to comment, or I don't KNOW you stop by, but I confess to being negligent on top of that... if you read me, I want to read you)

Writing Funk

I've been managing some 750 words about 5 days a week... it's not NOTHING, but it also isn't flowing linearly. The rewrite is going to be a HUGE undertaking. And even though I am writing, it is still painful... every word is hard to get out. I am hoping when the above two mental drains recede, I will get back to it. I have no choice but to keep plugging away...

So I thought maybe you'd join me in a little Red Hot Chile Peppers Prayer. This is from near the end of Sir Psycho Sexy:

“Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the funk won't make me freak
If I should die before I waked
Allow me Lord to rock out Naked.”

Let's hope that works...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Show Your Voice Blogfest

I don't normally post on Sunday, but this seemed especially worthy. Brenda Drake is holding a blogfest with the cooperation of Natalie Fischer, Literary Agent. The prizes are AGENT critiques—20 pages, 10 pages... query... good stuff... And you can post today or tomorrow, so there is still time if you want to play (though it is only for finished manuscripts). Anyway, here is my entry... (finalists will be posted at Brenda's blog Thursday if I have my facts straight...) So this will serve Sunday and Monday, if you don't mind...

Name: Hart Johnson
Title: Kahlotus Disposal Site
Genre: Young Adult General Fiction

I was shocked to realize I'd been dead so long. The notice nailed on the door was dated 2012. Sixty years. I'd been a fifteen year-old for sixty years now. I had been so convinced the world would end in 1984, like that book said. Time had ceased to be relevant until that sign went up. That was at the new moon. It was waning again before anything else unusual happened.

I can move through things, and things can move through me, but it's not like I don't notice. I'm insubstantial enough that I can fill the blank spaces. But if all your blank spaces were filled, you'd notice, too. So when the building started to rumble and a two by four that had been propped in a corner for several decades fell through me, I suddenly paid attention to the new noises.

There were men and machines knocking things around and churning up dust. Nobody had been in the building besides daring kids and teens since about six months after I died. The pranksters at Halloween, or on a dare in summertime, sort of broke the monotony, but I hadn't come out for anyone since the séance where they had bothered to find out my name. “Helen Bixby!” they called. Still, I never minded the visitors much. So I thought maybe it was time to see what the world was up to all these years later, even if these adults were more intimidating than the earlier visitors who were closer to my age.

Friday, March 18, 2011


Feels weird to get back to it, but it's about time, I think...

So my buddy Leigh posted last week about knowing where you fit: Knowing your Niche.

And don't tell anyone I am telling on her, but she confessed to *whispers* genre hopping!

And honestly, I'm not monogenred myself, though I do have a TYPE... I thought maybe we could talk a little about WHY we write what we do, how much flexibility there is in there, and whether the genres are connected or not... I'll go first, how's that?

READING Interests

BROAD (but not unlimited)

I love dark twisted stuff is what it boils down to.

That covers most thrillers (unless they are too technically detailed—think Tom Clancy—he loses me in the mechanics, or require previous understanding of fairly complex governmental inter-relationships—I find it all interesting, but that level needs to be easy to understand to a neophyte).

It covers most suspense (in fact this is probably my favorite, as it has more character depth than thrillers, and if I am diving into danger, I'd rather do it with someone I care about)

It covers MUCH mystery, but here too, I like the sub-genres where I get to know people and feel for them, so I am VERY picky on professional sleuths. I've read a ton I love, and I've put a ton aside unfinished because the person leading the story is one I just don't find compelling.

I love dystopian stuff provided there is that character connect (some, like Orwell's stuff, is way too detached.)

I love horror, done well... I want the kind with less gore and more ooky, freaky stuff... My favorite is Peter Straub. Mr. X is my favorite of his books.

I love family sagas—you know, where there is some dark secret that is tearing a family apart... or some grand event that makes them learn what is important...

I love historic fiction IFF the story and characters are compelling... I really prefer this to teach me history without it feeling like it's teaching me... I just finished The Pericles Commission and it is a SUBLIME example of and excellently done historic (in this case, murder mystery, so a double win)

I love fantasy DONE WELL. There needs to be a solid plausibility built in. Yeah, I know the CRITTERS and PEOPLES are often fantasy... I know there is MAGIC, but the rules need to be limited in a consistent way that amps the story. And honestly... these are often published without adequate editing... but when they are great, they are great.

What I sometimes Enjoy

Sci-Fi I am picky about but HAVE liked. I love... for instance... Ender's Game. I also love a medical sci fi. I think this is a genre I am limited for the same reason as some thrillers. I don't CARE about machines and technical crap, but the MEDICAL technical crap, because of my field, I can assimilate without feeling like it is that... The stuff though about relationships that happens to be set futuristically... that stuff is pretty cool.

Chick Lit... This is sort of a mood thing... I LOVED my first Jennifer Werner book and the second felt like an identical book and had no appeal. I really like a journey of self-discovery... I've LOVED a couple Anna Quindlan books and I think they fall here, though I guess I'm not sure... they seem to be family journeys more interesting to women though.

Literary Fiction:  I really love it if it isn't too pretentious, but it takes a lot more brain power on my end, so it is a more rare read.

What I Really Don't Read

Romance (and I don't mean to pick on this one—haven't read it... just was the first google image under romance novel): I'll tell you why. I don't buy it. There is not a premise in romance I can get behind. Happily Ever After bugs me, but my REAL problem is with the idea that ONE person can solve the problems of ANOTHER person. My fine friends... if you have problems, getting in a RELATIONSHIP is NOT the answer. If you meet a hot ASSHOLE, making him love you will NOT make him not an asshole. He will just be an asshole who loves you and so becomes YOUR problem because he is specifically an asshole to YOU. If YOU are insecure or confused or petty, a MAN will only make matters worse.

Non-fiction:  My life already has more reality than I care for...

There... so I've said it.

That SAID, I adore romance as the secondary plot to ANY of the above genres. It ROCKS as a secondary plot. You know why? It allows a romance to happen in a more realistic way if it isn't genre romance, and I LIKE LOVE. (note that chick lit romance usually involved personal growth—makes it much better, in my opinion.)

So how does that affect what I WRITE?

I'd love to write all the stuff I like, but I have some limitations...

I don't have the KNOWLEDGE (erm... or drive to learn) what is needed for historical, sci fi, or the thrillers that get into political stuff. Also on the more technical variety of mystery, though HERE, I can see myself progressing some. As I learn from the amateur sleuths I already write, I may decide to venture into slightly more knowledgeable sleuths. Probably I will never be a cop.

I don't have the IMAGINATION to write fantasy. This may be because I came to the genre late—I thought I was 'too mature' at much too young an age. I think I can say the same for horror... I just have a lot of trouble coming up with new, interesting awful stuff.

I have a couple ideas that are chick lit... I have a family sage (sort of mine) I KNOW I will write some day... but these are all sort of 'eventually' things.

For MORE thrillers... it is a skill issue, but also a character commitment... probably I won't get there.

What I end up with is the suspense, mystery, and the dark end of YA.

So how is the overlap of what you read and write, and what limits you (or does anything) for the writing end?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Naked Limerick

So Happy Saint Patrick's Day fine Bloggie friends! Normally I sort of protest the day... I may be a bit Irish, but the day originated in persecution of people who refused to abandoned the old religions and convert to Christianity, so it's NOT St. Pat I sympathize with (I hate all persecution, no matter the sincerity of the intentions... just so I'm clear)

BUT, this is also a holiday of Stout Beer (WIN), Irish (WIN again!) and corned beef (so you can't win them all). And this Saint Patrick's Day Blogfest, hosted by Colene and Alexia's looked like a BLAST, so I decided to put my Tarty spin on it...

HA!  And I totally (late) just realized it was supposed to have 200ish words, so I counted... 196!)

To Wear Green

On a day when not wearing of green would seem rude
on a person for whom clothing does spoil the mood
What does one wear
when she'd rather go bare?
How can I still play, while I stay in the nude?

I could wear a crown adorning my head
Insist everyone always do what I said
Order everyone OUT
if they won't bring me STOUT
Though I hate to see all my friends quaking in dread.

I could polish my nails, on finger and toe
And make strange kitten growls to let everyone know
They should take off their pants
and then they should DANCE
Because what is a party without a good show?

Or I could wear bad-ass green shoes on my feeties
And carry a green whip for those who need beating
because they won't play
in spite of the day
There is beer to be drunk and stew to be eating!

But I think I will go with baubles for my ears
They pinch my erogenous zone, or that's what I hear
They make me feel happy
And perhaps a bit slappy
And if you get goosed, well it's just cuz you're near...

*giggles* So now you know how to wear green without getting sucked into those nasty clothes! This public service announcement has been brought to you by

(so now go check out the other entries!)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

YOU all are the BEST!

There! Had to be said!

Oh, MAN, I had fun reading all your entries... and I DID read all of them that were up at the time I got to the blog, but I get that some people post at night, so I will cruise a little today to see if I missed any... some 8-10 didn't have the blog posted, and I wasn't sure if it was forgotten or just would be a later posting.

There were some extremely creative entries, ranging from newspaper obits to fictional stories. I'd post awards in categories, but my memory STINKS and I don't want to disadvantage anyone for when I read their post, but I DO want to point to Michael, who plotted MY DEATH... I cackled and fell off my chair... it is SO FUNNY... there were several more that were funny, but oddly, that one spoke to me *snort*

There WAS a detail though, that surprised me... only ONE of you noted that the President of the United States of America was none other than Frances Bean Cobain, daughter of the late Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love. It seemed like a beautiful piece of change to our future to me... (though possibly not nearly so shocking that in her 70s, she'd be flashing an audience)

My life is SWAMPED at the moment. I did finish my work deadline yesterday, but have two more looming near and a HUGE one looming far... it is that time of year. It means I've been remiss on blog reading... managing only maybe 10 a day, when normally I shoot for about 40-50. I apologize for that absence... I feel terrible. But I will really try to get back to it next week when the work load should allow me to pace myself.

In ADDITION, my homelife is in disarray... my daughter is taking Lifeguard Training this spring and it is a lot of hours... and they aren't right next door... so my normal writing schedule is messed with (and blogging schedule) (and catch up time). Hopefully this means she will be able to get a lifeguard job at a pool this summer—I've been trying to encourage this, as it's a full time summer job that is good money, so hopefully she won't feel she needs to work during the school year and can continue her sports and such. But it goes until mid-April, so I may be insane until then.

TOMORROW, is Colene and Alexia's Saint Patrick's Day Blogfest so I hope you will all come out to play for that! There is still time to enter! I'm sure there is Stout Beer involved... (at least here)

In other big news... Cruella has made a very difficult decision to leave Japan, and I think her blog yesterday is thoughtful, moving, and... pretty much amazing. I would sure love it if she decided on a career in journalism.

Thank you again to everyone who made yesterday such a success! My cheeks hurt from all the grinning I did all afternoon, which really does mean YOU ALL ROCK!!!

So there you have it... short for me... Happy Hing Day!!!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Delusional Blogfest of Doom!!!

Hello people!!! Are you ready to die!? (or not) *cough*

I should first say that I am ALSO at Burrowers, Books and Balderdash today being considerably more serious than I am here (I'm talking about Japan) so if you want fun FIRST (posts at noon GMT), then serious, read here, then go astray... if you (like me) prefer to think and then free yourself from such constraints, go there FIRST and then come back!

The Ides of March

Is there a more famous death day? I think not. We have William Shakespeare to thank for that. I am convinced without the play Julius Caesar, most would not know the fateful Ides of March by day... but how good is a story with a soothsayer, an oracle and a political murder?! Especially a murder carried out by a mislead best friend?! Anyway... I LOVE the soothsayer bit... BEWARE THE IDES OF MARCH!!! (who can resist?) and so here we are...

We have a good sized group participating and THANK YOU all of you who joined (or considered joining, but couldn't for various reasons). You guys are rock stars!

Please please please check out the other entrants in this adventure!

So join us!!!

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I will get to all of your blogs today, but I need to warn you I have a work deadline, so probably not until afternoon, possibly evening... I wish it was different, but I've been waiting for data since last week and only got it last night... need to turn it around...

As for MY Entry...

June 23, 2066

*Francis Bean Cobain, President of the United States of America, approaches podium*

“Peace out, fellow citizens. I think you know why we're here... hard to keep a secret in this day and age. But it's all good. Today, under my executive privileges... I declare a National Holiday. I think the day I've chosen speaks for itself. Today would be the 100th birthday of First Tart, Hart Johnson, had she not died last spring... Nobelaureate in Peace for what she lovingly referred to as the Naked World Domination Tour... It seems a lifetime ago that she drove the final Victorian clothes repression from our ranks. And may I just tell you how happy my boobs are for the freedom?”

*crowd chuckles indulgently*

“But seriously, who would have thought kindliness through nudity would catch on like it did?  But I think what we all loved the Tart most for was her stories. Hart's successful literary career took off in 2015, the first year she had three New York Times best sellers in the same year. She had already been successful with Kahlotus Disposal Site, which film buffs may remember was subject of a Hollywood tug-of war for nearly a decade until Hart's Daughter earned the rights to direct the film. And The Conspiracy Trilogy had a bit of a cult following, though didn't really take off until the television series that lasted for four seasons. Hart had maintained creative rights and insisted that if the kids got any older, it would become a farce.

Hart's daughter went on to a long, successful movie making career and has a footprint on Hollywood Boulevard, and her son because a well-known astronaut not least for convincing his team to allow his mother to name the first habitable planet found in space. Its pink soil and sparkly atmosphere gave rise to the name Lucius.

“Her career spanned 87 books... not a prime number, which means I suspect a couple more to be published from her files, but maybe I'm just suspicious that way... So from here on out, I hope you will take this day, the third day of summer, to spend some time naked, being nice to your neighbors, and enjoying a little literature that makes you squeal with delight.”

*President flashes crowd, bows, and leaves stage *

Monday, March 14, 2011

Watch Me Have a Three Way!!!

I'm serious... the DIVINE Deb and Barbara have invited me for a three-way at their blog today. I LOVE these women... they are kind, smart, funny, classy, and FABULOUS, so I was really excited to be invited. I hope you'll come over and check us out!

(Looks like they usually post at 8am, so SOON!)


Don't Forget Tomorrow is the Delusional Doom Blogfest, in which we all predict our own deaths! (or something equally as silly, twisted, or insane) Please don't forget to stop by!

Here is the scoop:


When: The Ides of March (March 15) tomorrow
Where: Your blog and mine

Let me e'splain...

You can do ANY (or all) of the following:

Predict your own death
Predict someone ELSES death
Write your own obituary
Write someone ELSES obituary
Plot a murder of someone sorely asking for it, step by step

I don't care whether you do it by story, plot list, news article, PROPHECY (any seers in the group?). All I ask is that SAID DEATH be either very strange, unusual, bizarre...conspiratorial... or that the reporting be entertaining.

I am okay with gore, but if you choose to include it, please be considerate of other festers and post a WARNING.  And if you really ARE a soothsayer or seer, keep that stuff to yourself. Nobody wants to know... this is FOR FUN.

So join us!!!

Cold as Heaven (link above not working)

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Friday, March 11, 2011

Suck-a-Mole Timing

So on Thursday night I pre-posted Friday's light-hearted silly blog... and then I woke to the news about earthquakes... the blog was all wrong, but there was no time to fix it and they made me WORK all day at WORK... GADS, if only there was a job that would do itself...

So I respectfully present myself to address big world news more thoughtfully than I could have if I tried to be more timely...

First View

Can I just say I LOVE FACEBOOK? My first news of this earthquake was an “I'm okay” from the person I would have most panicked about. Fellow Burrower, Cruella Collett (she is the giraffe on the right) is spending this spring working at the Norwegian Embassy in Tokyo. Cruella is one of my favorite people anywhere, and just last week when she posted about being seasick from a little earthquake, I responded 'but it was sort of cool, right?”

Disclaimer: the biggest earthquake I've ever been in was a 5.4 and I was about 40 miles from the epicenter—WHAT THE HELL DO I KNOW?

Yes, a little earthquake is a little fun. That does NOT mean a big earthquake is big fun! I almost felt like that darned earthquake was mocking me!

Okay, I am saying it again. I LOVE FACEBOOK! I have 4 friends living in Japan. Three of them are on Facebook... (one used to be but ran into a nearly stalker situation with an ex, so it is NOT without its downsides), but ALL my facebook friends in Japan I was easily able to ascertain their safety.

Only Framework I have...
Remember the Blackout?

Eastern seaboard with no power... let me reminisce for a moment. I was working at ISR (the Institute for Social Research and primary reason we chose Ann Arbor over other cities when we decided to leave Portland). They were doing some work on our floor... closing off a hallway to create a few extra offices... that afternoon I was at my desk and my computer shut down (only sign... I had a big window, so the lights were already off) and I hear 'it wasn't me' from around the corner... so I started the episode with a chuckle. It was a Friday, and who DOESN'T want an excuse to leave early on a Friday? (nobody, that's who)

I gave it about fifteen minutes to come back on... read an article I needed to be familiar with... then walked home (the norm for me)... I've never experienced such...SILENCE. Normally when outside in summer, there is a buzz of air conditioners (lawn mowers?)... radio... there were actually even fewer cars (people freaked out by lack of streetlights) and I heard someone yell to another “it's out on the whole eastern seaboard”. That wasn't so long after 9-11. I think this was 2004 (pic says 2003). And so of course my mind jumped to terrorism... No... just Americans being to greedy with their power... too much demanded in too many places, so one plant failure trickled everywhere... including my house...

Honestly, it was a FUN weekend. Hubby managed to buy ice before the rush, so the beer was cold and we pooled resources with neighbors to have a nice barbeque dinner... Gas stations couldn't pump gas, so people stuck around home.. because of no air conditioning, outside was (for a change) cooler than inside, so everyone was outside. It was a neighborly, social time... but I guess all that is digression...

Going back to those first thoughts... we couldn't CALL anyone. We couldn't check on family and they couldn't check on us. So there was that...

Tornado Summer

We moved from Portland, Oregon to Ann Arbor Michigan in 2000. Portland is where I experienced my tiny little earthquake... and the rivers flooded once... there was once a windstorm that I saw fell a Douglas Fir (that was a little freaky)... but Portland mostly doesn't have the big weather Michigan gets. And I ADORE Michigan thunder storms... I love sitting in our front window watching the lightning—totally dig it... but MAN, were we freaked at that first tornado siren... We were here 4 years though, before we had DAYTIME tornado warnings... two in the same spring... while school was still in session... Do you know how scary it is to watch green skies roll in and know your kids are stuck in a building with no basement? At the elementary, they lined kids in the hallway. Still makes me shiver.

So Apply that...

That's it... That's the only framework I have to put this in... those two events... NO communication... and family separated... I can't even imagine how frantic the people in Japan were as this happened. Cruella, though, yesterday, was extremely articulate. I recommend you check her out.

As for me? I am sending what healing, safety and communication karma I can summon toward Japan. This will be a very long process. I am very lucky all my loved ones were fine, but I know a lot of people are not so lucky, so I am sending love out to all of you, too.

Fly On The Wall

These are real scenes and snippets of conversation you might have seen and heard at my house last night.

On the Box

Brief history: Cat gets in box all the time... ALL the time...

Thing 1: Cali's gunna kill you.
Tart: Peeks into living room
(Thing 2 is sitting in the box)
Tart: Stay there.
Thing 2: NO! You're going to take a picture!
Tart: Don't move!
Thing 2: No way!
Tart: Why not?
Thing 2: Because you wouldn't take me to Meijer.
Tart: Come with N. and I tonight. Now get in the box.
(as you can see, he cooperated)

On Dog Walking

Thing 1: Look at dad, he looks like a dufus,
Tart and Thing 2 *come to window and look out*
HWMNBNOTI is in front with the dog, ready for a walk.
Thing 1: Look at that hat.
(hat is knitted hat with ear flaps)
*HWMNBNOTI starts walking*
Joel *sits in front yard*
*HWMNBNOTI keeps walking*
Joel keeps sitting
Thing 1: Dad's clear down the block
Joel keeps sitting
*Tart and Thing 2 lean to look down street*
(HWMNBNOTI is out of site)
(Joel has walked clear to the neighbors front yard)
Thing 1: Why does dad keep going?
Tart: He needs to put Joel on a leash.
Thing 2: He tried that. You literally have to drag him. He just sits there.
Thing 1: Dad's still going.
(Joel is still sitting in front of neighbor's house)
Thing 1: Finally. Dad turned around.
(Joel sees this and turns back toward the house)
Thing 1: No wonder Joel's fat.

On Trip to Target

Thing 1: Can I drive?
Tart: yup *grabs keys and glasses * (I'm near sighted)
Thing 1 *reaches and grabs end of glasses *
Tart frowns
Thing 1: Oh, sorry. *grabs keys *
Thing 2: Shotgun!
Tart: Uh... no.
Thing 1: Where is the... erm...
Tart *shows Thing 1 the windshield wiper options*
*Thing 1 backs out*
Thing 2: Does it bother you that I don't feel safe?
Thing 1: No. Get used to it. When I get my license, I'll be the one driving you places.
Thing 2: So mom and dad can just sit at home
Tart *rolls eyes* *savors idea of not having to run errands*
(drive a couple blocks)
Thing 2 *does something obnoxious*
Tart: *Reprimands* Never distract your sister while she's driving.
Thing 2: What if I'm 40 and I've broken my leg and I'm screaming in pain. Can I do that?
Tart: No.
Thing 1: Silver one. (slug bug, that is)

At Meijer

Thing 1: Can I have a doughnut?
Thing 2: I brought money for a doughnut.
Tart: I'll buy you each a doughnut.
(we then meet as I come out of the booze aisle)
Tart: You can each pick a 2 liter pop—no caffeine (weekend starts tomorrow and I know we're out).
(Thing 1 picks red-pop—a delicacy unheard of on the west coast. Thing 2 picks Cream Soda)
Tart: You like Cream Soda?
Thing 1: Everybody in our family likes Cream Soda. (how did I not know this?)
Thing 2: Oh, oh oh oh... Can we get like 900 bags of jelly beans?
Thing 1: Yuck! There's only like one good flavor.
(Jelly bean debate ensues until....)
Things in unison: Oh oh oh oh oh... Can we get cream eggs?
Tart: One each. Get me one too.
(at check out)
Tart: *rushes to open check out * (woman behind has cart pushed into our space)
Thing 1: Way to not leave any room!
Tart *mortified* *scolds*
Thing 1 *mortified* I meant you! I was talking to you! (lady had moved her cart) Now I feel like a jerk!
(we walk out)
Thing 1: You know he has to run like that or his pants will fall down.
Tart: It's true.
Thing 2: What was that?
Tart: *explains to son about olden days when people pulled their pants up*

At Target

There is a kerfuffle walking in as Thing 2 is trying to squeeze between Thing 1 and I, claiming if he walks behind us, he has to step on our heels
(Thing 2 has gone to get iPod headphones. I am standing in front of dressing room waiting for Thing 1)
Thing 2 *finds me and approaches with strange side-stepping thing *
Tart: You're a strange child.
Thing 2 *singing* Cuz your friends don't dance and if they don't dance then they're... no friends of mine.
Tart *snort *
(Thing 1 comes out)
Tart: Men's section?

So none of that looks as amusing as it seemed at the time.  I laughed quite a bit, but my memory stinks... I suppose if we survive a trip to Target with all three of us and I come away laughing, I can call it a win.

Anyone find odd bonding moments with your kids lately?  And HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND!