Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tartiversary of Sorts

[Note: not a writing blog. More of a sentimental journey.]

Twenty-one years ago today I was a new college graduate, working at my first real job (for all of five weeks at this point, since I’d spent the summer doing an internship). I lived in a room of a big house in Portland, Oregon—a big city compared to where I grew up, or even where I went to college, and I was living the high life on $14,000 a year working as an Advertising Account Coordinator (the Holy Grail among jobs for UO ad-grads).

It may shock some of you, but at that job I found myself with a couple wild women friends—the Fun Hogs (Jilly Mac, wish I knew where you were), and in my spare time I was dating, off and on, three different guys (two pursuing me and me mostly running, one more a friends with benefits arrangement—probably because he wasn’t chasing). You see, I was less than six months off a rather overly-consuming thing, and not in a frame of mind to commit.

Among my coworkers was a Greek man (second generation) named Mike, henceforth to be referred to as Fat Mike, the etiology of which you should understand soon. Portland has a Greek Festival at the Greek Orthadox Church that falls late September, early October, and Fat Mike invited all his coworkers, plus a few friends. So the Fun Hogs and I… not to miss a party… went to Greek Festival.

When we were there I realized one of Fat Mike’s friends was there with a sorority sister of mine—a girl a couple years older who barely recognized me, but it was fun to chat with her, and left me sitting among Fat Mike’s friends. When she and her date left, probably for a Retsina refill, I turned to see the man sitting next to me. He had sort of a sheepish grin, but his eyes were ALL bad boy. We started talking and his voice had a deep, resonant mesmer to it. I felt a little whoozy. I probably would have followed him into the bushes there and then, except he was a friend of Fat Mike, my immediate supervisor. I was also aware that my Fun Hog sisters were watching and something in me said ‘play this cool—no tartish escapades for the brand new coworkers’, of which I was the youngest by several years.

The man, I’ll call him Bob, called me the next week for a date. It was a nice date—fancy restaurant (well, fancy by Portland standards—Jake’s—there is no place in Portland that you can’t wear jeans to, but it is higher end). We had nothing in common but attraction, though we enjoyed some similar things—music, beer gardens... The big selling point though, was that neither of us was really looking for a serious long-term thing, and we figured we could enjoy each other in the meantime.

Darn it all though, if I didn’t get attached to him. Two years later, after attending the same Greek Festival, we decided to get married. And that is how he became Mr. Tart. [Back to the Fat Mike story… this group of men seems to just give each other a bad time all the time and THAT is what they call Mike. Mike isn’t fat, though the Fred Flintstone costume he often chooses at Halloween isn’t too hard a sell, but for 21 years now, Mike has been Fat Mike, and so that is what he remains.]

To this day I don’t know how it might have played out differently if I hadn’t had my cautious ‘coworkers are watching’ face on. Some men get scared off or put a stigma ON when a woman is too forward, but Mr. Tart has remarkably few hang-ups about MANY such things. He is even fine with me keeping a handful of exes as friends (three attended our wedding). In fact that was probably key in my attachment to him. I am a Cancer, and we Cancers never let go—the college boyfriend tried to force the issue—jealous around every turn, and it made me want to give him something to be jealous about, if youknowwhatImean. Trusting is the only thing that could have made me trustworthy.

So Happy Anniversary of our meeting, Sweet Baboo! (I can say that, because I know he’s not reading *snort*). It hasn’t been easy, but for the most part, I think it’s been pretty darned worth it. We are more complimentary than alike, but considering each of our failings are rather monumental, that was sort of the way it needed to be. We have fabulous kids, and a pretty good life, grouchy grumblings notwithstanding.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Doubt Devil

"What was I thinking Why did this seem so interesting? I can't believe I was all manic over this. Maybe CONFLUENCE is crap too."

My writing pace has slowed on LEGACY and I think I have some inkling why...

My Childings and Grouchy Significant Other

He hates it when I call him that--his tolerance for political correctness is low. It's one of the many things we disagree on. I happen to think it's nobody's business that we're married, really. Nobody's business what his gender is. And if I want to pretend to be a man dressed as a woman, that's nobody's business either. Private life and public life... ne'er the two shall meet... well, other than the fact that I blog about it and occasionally grumble about men, but I never claimed consistency was my strong suit. In THEORY it shouldn't matter.

Except it does.

Were I single (and still middle aged and able to support myself with no roommate, or at least only a courteous, non-dependent roommate that liked me for the most part... Okay, no, strike that... I've had roommates and somehow they negate my ability to do anything in my downtime besides have fun... back to living alone...) There would be no sporting events to watch... now this is a seasonal distraction--December will be sport-free, as might March and April. But then December I will be Christmas shopping. My S.O. is the shopper, cook, and primary nurturer at our house (see, no gender stereotypes!), but there are tasks and times of year when he is every bit oblivious male. Christmas is one of them. He thinks it's stupid I bother to bake, doesn't grasp that a stocking is for the 'little things' and has no clue about the appeal of variability in gifts (possibly because he never likes anything--I kid you not. In 21 years the only gift he's ever liked is the recliner he got for father's day four years ago--hard to get Scrooge to understand Christmas without killing him first).

So since school started the after school/evening parenting responsibilities have been mounting. Curriculum nights, sporting events, homework help, projects. Last week about wiped me out... that is when the writing slowed down. Don't get me wrong, I am still managing 1000-1500 words a day (except Friday--concert day), but the madness of a chapter a day may be gone for good. Last night I had to stop and think 'where next' three or four times, and it was only when the chapter was almost at an end that my path really became clear--thinking at the moment I will just have to keep going on THAT, as I also typed last night, more in one sitting than I had in ages (I do my writing long-hand in the tub), and I am now thinking I should grasp onto any substance I can get my hands on! [admittedly, I am typing filler--in my initial madness I jumped a few chapters in and then had to go back and fill in later... might have filled in wrong... might need to just dump the idea of filler and start with the good stuff]. Hmmm... not sure if that realization made me feel better or not. I suppose it is all process...

The Day Job

Then on top of my home responsibilities, [note: I keep leaving one of the 'i's out of responsibilities... wonder if 'i' doesn't like them. *snort*] there is my day job. I spent 10 hours yesterday, sadly Facebook free, Twitter free (not that I get Twitter, but I AM following JK Rowling now! jk_rowling---really her! *fangirl squeal*), blog free *sniff* (other than reading about the fall of the United States of America anyway--that I couldn't have missed.) I hate grants. They are the bane of my existence. I like most things about my job (other than the management things--those I could do without)--I am a statistical nerd and love analysis. I like scientific writing, but the minutia of grants SUCKS! Back to it today, though hopefully not for as long, as we'd THOUGHT we had to be done by 1:00 today, when in reality, it can be Thursday if necessary, but we worked our butts off yesterday thinking we were to the wire.

Speaking of butts... (do I have to?)

Yes. It's time I admitted it... This upcoming acupressure, eating transformation can come none-too-soon. The size of my back side seems to be expanding exponentially. Why not start NOW you say? I've never had any luck with that sudden thing... need to get my mind in the proper place. But I know for a FACT, my last round of doing well was undermined with grant writing and work conferences and all of that madness sits still in front of me at the moment. I have October deadlines--once they are mostly in hand, I will be in a better place to think about taking care of myself. In the meantime, if anyone sees a tent sale, give me a shout.

yES... I have seen the face of doubt and it looks like responsibility.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

New Obsession

So yesterday I grumbled and today I once again have faith. It is periodically worth it to go out of my comfort zone physically (and not just cerebrally or in my writing) and I can come away from the experience with unexpected treats.

Cargo Clutch

This venue, in Pontiac, Michigan, is a PERFECT venue for a parent to take a young teen and some friends to a concert. It used to be a church, so there is a large open atrium with a stage at the front, and then a balcony in horse shoe form, from which said parent can see child and band. The child does not have style cramped by parental hovering, or the embarrassment that said parent is dancing (you heard me). The parent has full supervision ability, a better distance from the music for old ears, and a very clear view of the band without all the jostling. (Okay, I man have jostled one or two).

Behind said horse shoe, is a quiet bar area where I met a lovely 'big sister' kindly escorting her younger sister and a friend, so I didn't feel so old and out of it (after all, said 23 year old sat down even more than I did).

The Concert

There were five bands: Meet me at Six, The Secret Handshake, [insert band I forgot here], The Assembly Is..., and Mayday Parade. Each band played for forty-five minutes, then there was fifteen minutes to move around equipment. It started at six, and because of hell traffic, we missed the first half hour of band #1. We heard enough to know they weren't bad, but they were first band for a reason—local and not quite developed.

(I got EXCELLENT descriptions for badly dressed characters!)

My first Treat

The Secret Handshake went on next and they were delightful! The lead singer was adorable and bounced straight up and down through most of the set. (You know how I love bouncing!) And the drummer was every hot stereotype this old Tart has of what a rocker should look like... very nice. My daughter was surprised I liked it because they do more techno stuff than I am into, and as I seek an example this morning I realize I probably liked them better in person for that reason—only a little voice distortion. Anyway, I enjoyed them.

Tickle me Pink!

I have a new obsession... The Assembly Is... (their ellipse, not mine)--fabulous music with a lead vocalist even an old lady can fantasize about. The pic to the left if clearly a little older--haircuts all different, and I really swear the lead looks AT LEAST 22 now... Picture Leonardo DiCaprio, only taller and lankier, with a little more naughtiness to his facial expressions and black hair instead of brown... And could he MOVE... It was the leaping about thing, not the gymnastics of a David Lee Roth (the most impressive band I saw at my daughter's age being Van Halen), but also not that staged sissy crap—just the kind of moving that let you know the man might have some other skills. (Did I really say that about a man who is probably half my age?) He also had a tart-worthy androgeny—I've always preferred someone with more fluid movements and just a little elegance.

But I made a list of things I loved about them because I KNEW you'd want to know:

* The ellipse. Not many bands could pull it off... it is a heavy weight to bear as part of a name I think, but they proved themselves worthy.
* The crowd calisthenics. They had the crowd, en masse, hop three or four times one way, then three or four the other—wild to watch from above. And they had crown surfing with three big burly guys at the front to catch people as they reached the front.
* But probably it was the naked drummer (here in blue). He may not have ACTUALLY been completely naked, but the drums certainly hid any clothes he wore.

Yup... they're my new favorite band.

Mayday Parade

Though this wasn't my favorite music of the night (it was obviously the crowds), it WAS my favorite part. After the concert, several band members hung out outside Cargo Clutch and graciously, kindly, and encouragingly signed autographs, posed for pictures with fans, and were generally fabulous. I had bought my daughter a CD and the lead singer signed the actual disc. Four of five band members posed with the girls for pictures (need to get those from my daughter's friend, then will share). I think to a fourteen-year-old, THAT is the real highlight of this kind of night. And I was very glad I had conceded to 'hang out' for a little while afterward.

Lesson Learned

Sometimes inertia puts me in a rut and ANYTHING that throws off my routine sounds painful before I step out and do it, but often those things hold unexpected surprises, so I need to keep a little open to those treats.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Wonky Priorities

Just to get it out there, nobody is going to beat Jenny Gardiner’s blog today, so you really need to go over there first. Then, when you get back in your chair, you can read my much-less-interesting musings…

There was a time that if someone had said, “want to spend the evening at a bar listening to alternative bands?” I would have said “Duh! Obviously!” Well tonight I have the opportunity to go to a place called Cargo Clutch (apparently a renovated church turned bar—like that spin) and listen to four bands and I feel like whining and getting in the tub and writing. So what’s changed?

Am I Old?

There is some truth to this. I’m not going to go so far as to claim I’m a grown up, but wildness for the sake of wildness doesn’t have nearly the draw that it used to. Oh, sure… I parade around here as a wild child—and given the right friends and situation, I usually AM leading the trouble. But tonight I am escorting my fourteen-year-old and two of her friends. Being a mother of a teen can make anybody feel old. The concert is an hour from home, so me caring for kids and then driving means no drink with the music, something that, were I there with friends, I would undoubtedly do.

Am I Out of Touch?

I like music. In fact my genre of choice would be ALTERNATIVE music. But once we started having babies, I really quit paying all that much attention. For about a decade I listened almost exclusively to CDs or NPR and so missed everything new on the music front. Then, when my daughter started paying attention, initially it was all those annoying artists…Britney Spears (thankfully very brief), Jonas Brothers… It wasn’t until she hit middle school that her tastes improved and I started paying attention again (and stealing the songs she bought for her iPod). I like a lot of what she listens to. I can thank her for my Chad Kroeger obsession. But I’ve never heard any of the three bands tonight.

My daughter’s insistence on going is grounded in a band called Mayday Parade. There is also a band called The Secret Handshake. Both bands appear young, but at least not overly wholesome (that would just be annoying). I have a feeling though, that the audience will leave me feeling, yes… old and out of touch.

But my REAL issue…

I’d just rather be a writing maniac than out on a Friday night. How geeky is that? The book is coming along well. I’m writing Chapter 20—my last few nights of super-busy have slowed me (and tonight no writing at all) but on Sunday when I hit the 4 week mark from when I really got going, I think I will have written 20 full chapters in just 4 weeks (200 pages). That is an INSANE writing pace, considering I wrote CONFLUENCE at 2 chapters a month and considered that good progress.

As to CONFLUENCE… still need to get that Query revamped and the synopsis polished before I am up to trying yet another round… still not touching it until my LEGACY mojo slows down…

Anyway… I am off to my son’s first cross country meet in less than an hour… marathon night, and then FINALLY some sleep so I can get back to the writing!!!

Leaves me wondering what exactly has happened to my priorities…

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Nudist Movement

Since I’ve been forbidden from starting Naked Thursday in the common room, I’ve taken my movement abroad… AND IT’S SUCCEEDING! (and there was much rejoicing)

The first evidence came about last March…
Naked Hiking in the Alps (brrrrrr)

And then just yesterday somebody alerted me to

Nude Hiking in Germany (warning, naked people)

And so with my small achievements in Continental Europe, I’ve decides to rile up the nudist movement in the US, and what better time than fall?! The climate is perfect! Not so hot that you get sweaty and your skin chaffs. Not so cold you wish you had *gasp* clothes on.


Call your congress people! Write them letters! Tell them we want nude hiking in the National Forests! Imagine Old Faithful admired by masses of naked people! It’s glorious!

Oh, I know… now all my friends from Idaho are going to write and say, ‘what’s this about? It’s no big deal. We’ve been hiking naked since the 60’s.’ And that’s all well and good to you rural folks, running around in the buff where nobody will SEE, but isn’t this an activity you think everyone ought to be entitled to? Hiking into a little lake outside of Elk River is lovely, but wouldn’t it be nice to do the Grand Canyon? I’m just sayin’…

*giggles madly*

Monster Math

World Domination Plans aside… I’m not ACTUALLY a power hungry bitch… the whole world domination thing is really about making everyone be NICE to each other (something naked people are inclined to do).

[artwork from deviant art artist Autumn16Solstice]

But somehow… every time I try to help somebody with MATH they think I am trying to squash them like little bugs. My husband lectured me last night on not being more patient with my daughter (all I did was go away when she told me to). The PROBLEM, is that she and I speak a different language when it comes to math. The hubby says ‘you can’t skip steps’ but I don’t even know I’m MAKING steps… my brain just does it. My son got my brain, my daughter got his, so it’s not surprising he thinks I’m being tricksey. The problem is, since he doesn’t get it either, he can’t be the helper. I just hope she will follow through with her teacher’s free hour and get help from someone who knows how to teach math.


I have made a call for nominations to the facebook group, but if you, or anyone you know, wants to nominate an agent or publisher for a lapdance, (explained HERE) then please email me!

And Happy Delusional Thursday to all!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Musical Manuscripts

I have never been accused of musical prowess, in fact my daughter, when she was two, used to cover my mouth when I sang, so my skill is limited. Even my knowledge is limited. I have a friend Leanne who is a violist and bibliophile, and occasionally delights in a book she’s found with musical references or clues—me? They would fly completely over my head, wasted on my ignorance of classical music.

That is NOT to say I don’t like or enjoy music—I love it. It just isn’t something that is easily filed in my brain. HOWEVER, I think for writing books there are some fabulous uses of musical references.


In A Field of Darkness, which I reviewed a couple weeks ago, there is a dive bar with a juke box which is used really nicely to contrast the world views of Madeline, the heroine, and Kenny, the dive bar owner who is a friend, though of a different generation (an ex-military man). They bicker about what he has on it, and without ever having to give huge amounts of background, we can easily see deep differences in these people that give us clues who they are.

I think musical preferences can relay very quickly some important information about who a character is, how and where they were raised, what they value… Classical music junkies are likely to be either elite or classically educated. Country music listeners can be believed to hold certain wholesome (if slightly red-necked) beliefs, or else come from a town (or state) where everybody knows everybody’s business. Pop music. Rap. Heavy metal. Punk rock. All of it says something about the listener.


The mood of a jazz bar is definitively different from the mood of a hard rock club or a country bar—the kind of trouble a person might find is very different, too. A reference to what is playing in the background shortens the description you need to include by pages.


Pop cultural music can set your story in an era, without having to identify a date. There is a danger to this if you want your book to be less time bound—choosing bands with better longevity might help, but with LEGACY, I am setting the story in the early 80s in Portland, and my cues are musical (Quarterflash, Portland’s one-hit wonder, was big at the time), and that Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard is still called Union Avenue. I needed that timing because I wanted it before the Iron Curtain fell, but I chose the clues I did, so as not to be heavy handed.


I think my favorite use of music in literature (and movies) is Pavlovian. Creepy scene, accompanied by a certain music… repeat… and by time three, the music alone is enough to make us shiver. Think of The Shining. There reaches a point where Jack hears the music coming from the bar and we all KNOW it is not the empty bar he will find. The music is calling him to his madness.

I’d love to hear how others have included music in their work, or about works you’ve read where it really added (or detracted) from the story.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Being Easy

I had an experience with my son last night that illuminated much of my life philosophy. It probably was compounded by something my daughter had just told me (a friend of hers who’d made a REALLY stupid decision, that thankfully my daughter also recognized as stupid). The gist of my illumination? Why do people seem to need to do things the hard way? Let me e’splain…


The middle schools in Ann Arbor use a record keeping system called Powerschool. Parents can log on and see how their kids are doing, what assignments they are missing, how their test grades have been… in short, they can micromanage their kids’ education (did you see me scoff at micromanaging? Because I did). The first time I logged on to Powerschool my daughter was in 7th grade. We knew there was math trouble, as we’d just gotten an interim report card. She had Ds in both German and math. My heart pounded. How could that happen? How could she LET that happen?

The culprit? Oh sure, there were some bad tests, but in every case over the next year and a half she could have ALWAYS had a high C or better, usually a whole letter grade better if she’d just turned in her homework. The TRULY baffling thing was half the time she DID it and just didn’t turn it in. I never even knew that was an OPTION in school! Did people do this in the early 80s? (so learn to micromanage I did, hating every minute)

Last night I logged on with my son for the first time. English 100 A+, Math 100 A+, Science 95 A, Social Studies 99 A. I clicked on Science, as it was obviously the only place he’d done ANYTHING wrong. From next to me he gives an outraged , “A C?” How’d I get a C?” (mind you on all the OTHER assignments, he was only missing 2 points TOTAL). I told him which assignment it was (the metric conversion the husband ‘helped’ him with—that won’t happen again, though the word is mum if you see him).

My point is that my son had what seemed a NORMAL reaction to me. Doing poorly isn’t an option, and you do what you need to, to do well. My daughter acts like grades descend upon her and have nothing to do with anything she DOES (though she did brag about having an A in science, so maybe she is finally getting it, now that she’s in high school). A person just needs to do what they are supposed to do…

Tart Advocating Rules? Surely Not?

Have I told you my favorite family tale? I don’t think I have. If I follow my paternal branch all the way back to the war of 1812, there was a Naval ship (his majesty’s navy, that is) from which a certain Welsh sailor liberated himself in Nova Scotia. (In fact there were two—I don’t know to this day if the one who spawned my family line was actually a Roper or an Alcott… the point is, he decided to be a Hart and raised his family in Caribou, Maine.) So my rebel roots run deep.

But it isn’t actually about the rules. It is about the STUPID rules (indentured servitude, that sort of thing). I won’t stand for hypocrisy, absurdity, or asininity in rules. I tend to ignore them when it’s easy, and fight for smarter rules where they are causing problems (cough*sexualcontentHPANA*cough). I have no problem being the loud mouth and raising a ruckus to bring sanity to the rules.

But some rules (do your homework) are actually HELPFUL. They keep us on track to learn what we need, so we can master the content. Just like most traffic rules makes sense—I follow those too. Things meant to protect ourselves or others, and things meant to improve ourselves are things I can abide by.

Does any of this have anything to do with writing?

I’m not going to get into writing rules per se, except to say that I agree with the philosophy that it is best to know them so you can break them mindfully.

What I was actually thinking, was more rules TO WRITING… what I mean is… just like doing your homework… you have to go through the steps. To have a finished book, you need to have put in the time. A book is of course more like a master’s thesis than a term paper—the feedback comes if you ask early, but that is informal—you really don’t get evaluated until the end. But in the meantime, you have to plug away and get the thing done.

My college roommate (the coolest woman in the WORLD, I might add) had an opposite study pattern from me. I would do some reading and homework every single day. She didn’t really do much—always saving everything to the end. Now she and I got nearly identical grades that year (much to my astonishment) but I could never have pulled off what she did. I HAVE to pace myself. You may be like Lisa, and succeed in mad rushing chunks, or you may be like me and need to step step step… but you need to KNOW, and you need to DO what you need to DO to get it DONE. Your book will not magically descend upon you, or if it does, it will likely get a D. So make yourself some rules and follow them, THEN you will be easy too!

[Publishing is of course a whole ‘nother matter…]

Monday, September 21, 2009

Well of Creativity

I had one of those dreams early Sunday morning that leaves me with a book idea and pulls me out of bed to get my thoughts into a notebook before they are lost to me forever (a murder mystery of sorts). It has got me pondering the source of creativity. Is there some deep underground (subconscious) sea of it that just needs something like deep relaxation to allow it to burble up to the surface? Or is there an external source?

I read blogs from successful writers like Elizabeth who is always attending the world around her, noting characters and situations and thinking how they would fit into a book. I have to confess though… I don’t normally pay that much attention. I’ve usually got some mad parade in my head that excludes much of that around me.

But is it perhaps genre specific? She writes mystery, a genre that is by necessity about details. My books sometimes HAVE a mystery, but they are not mystery by genre. The current WiP is probably thriller—CONFLUENCE is less easy to pin down.

Therapy Time

I’m going to parse out the source of a few of my ideas here and see if there’s a pattern…

CONFLUENCE: the original seed was the Eberwhite Woods. When I first moved to Ann Arbor we lived in an apartment, and on my walk to work I passed these wonderful woods, daydreaming about living in one of the houses that butted up against the woods. My daughter was then five. I’d heard from a realtor that though they were nice woods, there still was occasionally ‘an incident’ (I think a rape, many years ago now) so not to go in there at night. Still nice to live by them? In my wanderings—day time of course, I once saw a sleeping bag tucked in the trees… Woods with a life going on, unseen from the privileged streets.

So that was a real life detail I noticed. Admittedly not until probably the 100th pass… oh, I saw the WOODS before that, but it was well into my daydream of living there that the child/homeless man friendship occurred to me.

The second concrete idea for CONFLUENCE was election signs—4 years later. I know. I’m poky. Realize though, that at that point I thought of ‘author’ as about as possible as ‘empress’ in my listing of jobs I’d like to have. I periodically wrote down ideas, but I hadn’t written anything substantial in more than a decade. But it got me thinking about a community divided by politics, not that Ann Arbor is divided. So far as I can tell, they don’t let Republicans live here. But I could see the POTENTIAL for a divided community.

Enter power walk and the brainchild of Jessie… a teenager living in this split community—her parents protected because adults have the ability to isolate themselves among like-others, but a high school kid? Not so much…

So I suppose for my first completed novel there were a number of observed elements, pulled together through adrenaline.

LEGACY: On the other hand, the first inspiration for the trilogy I am currently working on was a vivid dream that I was sitting at a desk writing (big surprise) and could ‘feel’ that I was being watched… there were children living in my walls… you know dreams… they are wacky… and executed it isn’t as strange as it sounds.

The second inspiration was a blog… drat, I wish I could remember whose (Galen? I think it was)—about finding love letters? Is this your book? But in my warped mind this turned into a runaway teenager seeking human contact at far less risk than the awful real life people she had been encountering. She first steals mail to take to the library as proof of residence so she can get a library card (homeless kids still need to read!) but one of the letters is too tempting not to open… she reads the first love letter of what becomes a life line for her—reading the letters coming in and going out between a high school girl and her Army boyfriend. This was going to be a separate story until connections began to occur to me—the power walks again…

Most of the ideas in my notebook began in dreams—other than the more memoirish things that will have to wait until later in my career to flush out (my own life is more fodder for women’s lit than thriller), but it is looking more and more like I need some real world stimulation to really dive into the plot very heavily…

I’ve talked about my ‘simmering time’ and I think this may be why. An observant person can notice life details with more ease than somebody as disconnected from reality as I usually am.

HOWEVER… I’d love to hear from authors of a variety of genres—especially people who’ve written several books, maybe even in multiple genres—does inspiration come from reliable places? Is it the same across genres? Have you ever resorted to something different because the one you counted on was failing you?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Good Ship Tart

Ahoy mateys! Welcome aboard. The tart's ship be one of frivolity and cheer, pirate or ne, and ye'll not be wishin' to return to land any time soon!

In-Jokes that Take Over the World

There are so many details about 'Talk Like a Pirate Day' that I love that I am sure I will forget some of them. The idea began in OREGON (note that would be a favorite detail), Albany to be specific, but we can hardly hold that against them, a little fantasy is necessary to forget the stink of the paper mill. Two guys playing squash start throwing pirate insults at each other and decide it should be a national holiday. HING! That's an EXCELLENT idea (maybe we are overshooting trying to get a day every week, though we seem to be having great success with DELUSIONAL THURSDAY. But what I'd really like, is for the NAKED WORLD DOMINATION TOUR to take off. Then we'd be in business.

But when I read this article yesterday and saw how they chose the day... Cap'n Slappy had just divorced... his ex-wife had a birthday (as most do) and the day was stuck in his head, no longer paired with a relevant reason to be there. That is possibly the single most effective coping mechanism I've ever heard!

I think my favorite detail though, is that it is so silly, yet everyone has seen enough movies to give it a go—no special skill required, no knowledge of arcane history, no belief in a certain deity or public figure. And it is like Halloween (you can dress up and take on a new persona) only you get to seek rum instead of candy!

A Lesson

(Are you serious?) Am. This holiday, much like the beloved Hurray Hurray the Eighth of May (National Outdoor Intercourse Day) was spreading ever so slowly until they found an advocate with a following. Dave Barry made this day a phenomenon. Famous guy. Newspaper column with readers. Voilá!

I think all of us hoping for book success knows what a powerful, already famous advocate could do for our chances, if only giving us the weight for somebody to actually read the whole freaking book. I got two more rejections this Friday. I've decided the hard copy rejections are drafted with more care. The take the time to say something a little nice... give a little more reason. One blamed the current market which meant a grand influx of queries, so a need to be pickier because she couldn't manage as high a proportion as previously. Another at least bothered to say my submission was interesting. It's hard, but I will go on. The longer I'm at this, and the closer I get to finishing LEGACY, (which I have a PERFECT agent picked for, if she'll have me) the more I think maybe CONFLUENCE needs to be sold AFTER the trilogy... such is life.

But if anyone famous wants to advocate... give a shout!

For today however, it is Talking Like a Pirate and a little later, seeking out some rum! Wouldn't want to be forced to walk any planks! Ahoy!

[author's note: somehow seems fitting this is my 69th post... Captain Jack—call me!]

Friday, September 18, 2009

Bondage Cures Sensitivity!

Since Misattribution is my Super Power, I thought I’d relay my morning to you for your own enlightenment.

My Morning Bondage

“Open. Wider,” he says, not understanding that this is as wide as it gets

“Do you need some suction?” My eyes dart, the rest of me trapped, as I notice a woman I’ve never seen before has come in.

“Ow!” I protest.

“Are you sensitive?” (to me) “Hand my some topical.” (to her)

You see… I have some places my gums have receded a little, and the sensitive part of the tooth is showing. My dentist says they are inclined to cavities, which has been proven by one of the little suckers having one, but more important to me is this sensitivity to cold and pressure… The dentist said a couple bonds over the places would resolve the problem. So far, the bondage truly does seem to have helped my sensitivity, but I will have a better gage on the matter when I’m no longer numb from the violation.

Nudist Movement Spreads!

So after the dentist, I was walking to work (I do this every day—it’s about 2 ½ miles and I really enjoy it). I was walking up Liberty, one of Ann Arbor’s major cross streets, if you can call a single lane each direction major. As I approached campus, what do I see, but PANTS in a garbage can! Another person has lightened their clothing load and is running amok in Ann Arbor! I encourage all of you to do the same before it gets too cold!

No Dirty Laundry for me!

Since nudists don’t generate laundry, you all already know it all, but LEGACY has reached chapter 15. The writing is still pretty easy, but has slowed from the manic ‘must write’ compulsion… still ought to get out 3 or 4 chapters a week though, which means I should be able to hand Mari a draft when she visits in mid-October (hear that Mari? Digressionista or not, I expect you to hold me to that.)

Agent front still as fruitless, but still 8 out there… I am debating using one of the blogs that tear apart Queries… the problem with CONFLUENCE is it is a complicated tale, difficult to nail down in a perky 300 words, but I know it is necessary for the sale… I may retackle it though this weekend… I’m thinking I took the guy too seriously who said SHORT (the 3 sentence guy) and that I need more space and it won’t be held against me provided it is all necessary to get my point across…

I hope all of you have an excellent weekend!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Delusional Book Tour

Oh, I know… most people wait for an agent, a publishing contract, and a book release date before they plan their book tour, but I am primed to send my “sure, I’d love you to be my agent!” and sign my 4.5 million dollar advance contract—though I suppose I may not get THAT until the trilogy is done… still, one can’t plan too far ahead for success, so here I go.


Authors come in all shapes and sizes, I’m sure, but I happen to know that MY current shape and size is not the one I like. Beginning the Ides of October, I am beginning a PLAN. (A plan? You gasp! I heard you.) Yes, a plan. You see—there is a certain amount of psyching myself up required—a simmering… just like I need with a new book idea, so I can’t start right away. But if I wait until November or December, I am asking myself for holiday sabotage… the Ides it is… An Ides almost opposite from March, so it shouldn’t even kill me.

What is this plan? I have a friend from college, Kara Sorensen who does acupuncture, but also acupressure for FOOD CRAVINGS—and she can teach people by phone or Skype to do it FOR THEMSLEVES. How cool is that? Learn a skill and it is yours forever. I’ve had great success with Weight Watchers in the past, but the last few starts have been abruptly halted by conferences or grants for work… I somehow no longer seem able to accommodate stress and change and stay on plan (damn 40s)… So I am giving the plan this booster shot, and my hopes are high.

I will look HOT by my round-the-world book tour (and maybe I will even fit my winter pants—something not looking so good right now).


Because I will have my hot new body, and my hot large advance, I will be packing a lot of BLING. (you didn’t think a nudist would go clothes shopping, did you?) I LOVE big earrings… I like sparkly things… sorta keen on strappy sandals, though they are usually lacking in arch support… and I will need to pack lots of presents for my friends who have been supporting me since all I wrote was Harry Potter fan fiction…

The Start

Every good book tour starts in New York City, right? So I will rent the penthouse of a fancy schmancy hotel and invite my eastern seaboard buddies to join, then we will do readings and signings at all those big book stores. Then we will travel down the east coast, where I will be booked on the Diane Rehm show, because she is the ultimate sign of author success in my mind, then continue around the US.


The foreign release will occur just before Christmas, so we will fly to Barcelona, where we will begin a cruise around the Mediterranean and each day we’ll stop at a new city for a reading and signing, then get back on the ship for fiesta…In Greece we will take an extra three weeks on a private island to relax, since we’ve been going non stop for months, then we’ll continue. In Egypt they will crown me queen, then in Morocco a… what’s the word for a male harem? Anyway, one of those… will choreograph a full show, just dedicated to me, and it will go on tour selling MILLIONS of copies of my book. Then we’ll cruise up the west coast of Europe, sail up the English Channel and go up the EAST coast of Britain (waving at Azkaban as we pass) where we will arrive at Edinburgh because JK Rowling wants to have us all over for dinner and to talk about writing. After dinner with Jo, we will fly to India, where my chief promotions manager Natasha has arranged for them to rename a city after me (it’s always rather surprised my what a strong following I have in India) and then we will catch our cruise ship again and head to New Zealand and Australia (because the Chinese and Russian translation services are taking too long to just go straight there).

Wind Up

When we get back to North America, I find Chad Kroeger has read (and loved) the book, and so has written a song to me, which he wants to perform personally.

THEN, I will be able to get back to writing again…

Okay, fine, so only the preparation part will really go this way (I intend to actually get on track, and I LOVE calling it my book tour plan)… but it has sure been a fun twenty minute fantasy, ne?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Sleep Deprivation

I haven’t been sleeping well, so the irony wasn’t lost on me when I got to my morning research meeting and the topic was the distinction between sleep and anesthesia. Nor, I’m sure, was the irony lost on the presenter that a member of his audience could barely stay awake (and he’s a great presenter; I feel terrible!)

But my purpose here is to shamelessly use all of you as therapists, not to point out all the ways in which my life is ironic.

So why am I losing sleep?

The bad side of good? I have my suspicions that writing a book at warp speed isn’t so good on the brain rest front. I haven’t been dreaming about WRITING, but I have found myself sorting through things I typically have already sorted before bed. I am reading far less, and have much less veg time, so I think when I get in bed my noggin still has some processing to get done. I’m very curious whether other writers have experienced concordant inspiration and insomnia or whether I am grasping at straws…

The old ball and chain. I am married to a smoker. He tricked me, you see. He didn’t smoke in front of me until our third date when I already knew I liked him. He doesn’t smoke on me or our kids (or in our house)… just the garage. So though I hate the smell, I’ve kept the complaints limited for 20 years now… but when a person has smoked 25 years, he coughs… used to just be when he got up so he could make it most of the way to the garage before it got too obnoxious, but now, more often than not, he has stretches in the middle of the night where he coughs on and off for an hour or more. If you smoke, quit now, before you drive your spouse to homicide.

My achin' back. My back has been hurting. I'm pretty sure it's because I've gained some weight and I am poorly compensating... need to do something about this, but like everything else with me... the idea needs to simmer, or the chances of success are slim...

I’ve gotten my first two rejections this week for snail mailed queries… I still have eight out there, but can no longer maintain my illusion that the email was the culprit. For anybody wondering… it hurts just as much. I’m not ready to get back to querying at this point because I’m pretty sure it will ruin the writing mojo, and the writing mojo needs to stay, ideally until I finish the trilogy around Christmas *snort*. Seriously though—I think I can keep it up through book one with just a few stumbling blocks in that final action sequence, and if I kept it up at the current pace, it would be done in maybe three weeks. Nuts.

So that’s it in a nutshell… I wish it was slow enough I could just lay my head on my desk, but there is stuff to do….

Monday, September 14, 2009

Manic Monday

Manic Monday-The Bangels

Too much on your ‘to do’ list? Life getting away from you? Drowning in things you’d rather not think about? Join the club. You’ll get no easy answers from me. (and it could be worse... I could be linking you to the Boomtown Rats... their Monday is DISASTROUS)

This is my first Monday back at the ‘day job’ since mid June and I find myself needing to clean house. It’s as if nobody has been minding the ship for eons, possibly because when I only work 4-day weeks, I have to do what I have to do, but I DON’T have to do any non-urgent tasks because there just isn’t time. Just the FILING could take hours—urgh!

But the job isn’t even the only domain…

Work in Progress Progress…

Most of you know about 2 weeks ago I really got going on a book that had been but a smoldering idea up to that point. I’m currently calling it LEGACY, the first in the CONSPIRACY Trilogy that was formerly a single ‘spy novel’. The trilogy is about three families, interconnected through an international art smuggling ring… to put it in the broadest possible terms, but the first book is just about the KIDS of two of those families… and the legacy they’ve been stuck with because of their parents’ choices.

Anyway, I am now in the middle of Chapter 13—possibly the half-way point, or there abouts…

My son asked me last night about the book and then he asked how long it would be and I said I thought there would be 3 books that were about 250 pages each, and he said, “well that sounds better, instead of 1000 pages for one.” Keep in mind he’s ten. Oi! I love his humor, and the fact that clearly he’s paying attention, though in my defense CONFLUENCE was only 759 pages at its peak—so this broad story is about the same, it just splits nicely into three.

The Plan…

Keep going as long as this hurricane flows! I actually intend to write all three before coming back to edit. I love trilogies, but I’ve read enough and written enough to know sometimes you want to change something that happened early on—even just between writing and typing there’ve been a few things… so I feel like I don’t want to do any real editing until the whole story is down. That way I also can, when trying to sell the first, say it is the first of a trilogy for which the others are written and being edited.

The Problem…

I can actually SEE the layers of grime accumulating in my house. The beds need changing, the bathroom needs scouring, the basement needs bulldozing… I am in writing mode and writing and cleaning are apparently mutually exclusive. I’m wondering where I might find me a house boy…

On the Agent Search

I heard from one Friday… the one I really wanted… “Sorry, but no thanks.” I’m sad, but I still have 9 out there and we hit 5 weeks tomorrow… My fingers are crossed. As I go gangbusters on this next book though, it starts to get more appealing to think CONFLUENCE might be easier to sell after other success… I maybe could even go back to the long version I loved so much—sure it would need editing and cleaning, but editing and cleaning to make it perfect, not to make is shorter… I’d like that much better…

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sunday Book Review

This is a little non-conventional, as book reviews go. It is more a guide for reading with your KIDS than yourself. I somehow know a lot of people with kids just behind mine in school, so I thought maybe it would be helpful. I've got a 14 and a 10 year old and have read with both since One Fish Two Fish in utero. I've read to them every night, though my daughter refused about 3 months into 6th grade, and I get the feeling my son may do the same, but we've been through a LOT of books together. Some are parent friendly, some, not so much... I'm only reviewing series, as I could hardly begin to address individual books, but this will give a good guide as to what parent and child might (and might not) like TOGETHER.

Artemis Fowl (Eoin Colfer):
Boy genius and criminal mastermind—these are smart and it is a nice twist of an evil boy genius growing a conscience in an unlikely manner. I loved the first couple, but the glimmer is wearing off, not because the later books are worse, I don't think, but because while they count on you having read the earlier to some degree, they are largely separate stories with more of the same, rather than one long story (regular readers will know that wears on me). Conclusion: read one or two together and let your 11+ child decide if they want to keep going.

(Erin Hunter):
This is a series about tribal cats, kept relatively realistic to the extent one CAN when giving cats humanized thoughts. Four tribes battle over territory, hunting grounds, leadership... The series was entertaining...the first time. The problem is the author (who is actually two people) seems to have decided if one set of 7 is good, 42 sets is better... Conclusion: I would read the first set and pretend that is all there is. The later iterations are not nearly as interesting and I quickly grew annoyed.

Series of Unfortunate Events
(Lemony Snicket):
These are a GIANT chuckle if you are at all into word play. As a story it is over the top and might make you roll your eyes as an adult, but Lemony Snicket is a writing junkie's writer... grammar jokes, word jokes, even writing technique jokes. My son got some, I had to explain others, but he was always entertained with the story and I was always entertained with the telling, which makes for good reading time. Conclusion: Read them! Probably an eight or nine year old is the idea audience for the STORY and you are the ideal audience for the TELLIN.

Pendragon (D.H. MacHale):
We just finished the last of these. I liked them, but didn't LOVE them. I think had I had a recommendation, I would wish someone had said, 'let your son read them' because they are GOOD, but it is a long series and I grew bored with it eventually—it doesn't quite have the humor or complexity to keep an adult engaged. Conclusion: Let your 10-13 year old read them.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians
(Rick Riordan):
These are EXCELLENT—HIGH recommendation. A tween boy learns his ADHD diagnosis is really part of the normal profile for a demi-god, or child of one of the Greek Gods (in his case, Poseidon)... Olympus has sort of... moved with the techtonic plates... or something, and is now centered atop the Empire State Building, and the kids of the Olympians are being called to help in a battle against the Titans. It is a brilliant meshing of adolescent jokes and mythology—many mythological creatures are given literal or endearing forms that make them very funny, and the adventure is just right in terms of adrenaline without too much gore. Conclusion: BUY them. You may want to reread, and certainly every family member will need to read them!

Tomorrow When the War Began (John Marsden):
This is my daughter's favorite series ever, and it is MAJORLY intense. It begins with a group of teens who 'go bush' to camp for a week when school gets out (southern hemisphere means this is December). While gone, Australia is invaded and they come home to find their families have been taken prisoners, their animals are dead or dying, and hostile forces are everywhere. They initially hide, but eventually decide they need to do what they can for their country and become guerilla soldiers. It is FABULOUS in the non-judgmental, but vivid presentation of the choice to kill, when it might or might not be justified, and the consequences to the people involved in either case. It is extremely realistic, and very graphic, but I felt like it was an incredibly valuable experience to have read this together, and they were page-turning thrillers, every last one. My daughter and I read them when she was a 5th grader, and at that age I'd say—only a kid who's been talked to honestly about some of the world's horrors is ready for it. Probably middle school is better together, and I wouldn't suggest them until high school alone, but Conclusion: they are MUST READs for a daughter at least (my son won't warm up to the female narrator).

Harry Potter (J.K. Rowling):
Best books EVER. These were the first 'novels' for both of my kids and made them real readers. The basic story works for a child as young as 6 or 7 (and at least in our case I think they didn't really attend to things that were disturbing), then as a teen they get the romantic undertones, the friendship stuff, etc... and then you and your PhD can debate symbolism, mythology, literary techniques—JK Rowling is my hero. Conclusion: OWN them.

Other Series my kids have read on their own and loved:

Cirque de Freak (Darren Shan)(my son's FAVORITE ever—urban teenage vampires)
Alex Rider ((teen spy)
The Uglies (more girl oriented—thought provoking series on what appearances really mean)
Twilight (mind-melting MUSH but your teen daughters will surely insist)--read at least one yourself so you can counter the idea that obsession is love and argue how badly written they are from a knowledgeable standpoint.

Happy Reading!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Fountain of Youth

Occasionally a person will see evidence that I have been influencing events.  This sign is posted at Moosejaw in downtown Ann Arbor... proof positive that people are seeing the light.

On other fronts...

Fountain of Youth

I no longer have any children in elementary school. My younger started middle school this year, as evidenced by my attendance at curriculum night last night, complete with adults rustling in the halls trying to find the way through the maze of the basement to the art room. I have no worries about it—he is my orderly child who’s always diligently done his homework and practiced his instrument (challenges we’ve had to ride my daughter on constantly). But things like… a girl calling my ten year old to find out his home room in August remind me it isn’t just school—he is making strides in all areas of his life.

Likewise, my creative, social daughter has entered high school, complete with a sports team with a rather brutal workout schedule and the struggle between independence and wanting to be doted on that comes with the switch.

I’m getting older, too. It hasn’t escaped me that in jobs I’ve gone from the young one to the middle one to the older one—or that my social circles over the years have found me moving from the mean to the older range, and there are times it seems maybe it is time for me to grow up.

Enter the writing circle…

I’ve noticed a LOVELY detail that makes me feel MUCH better! Writers aren’t a barely post-teen batch of people! In networking I see a handful of twenty-somethings (mostly writing paranormal, it seems)—late 20’s and early 30’s write some Romance… but writers by and large are a more seasoned bunch.

I like it, but it’s caused me to contemplate WHY? My theories?

Takes some living to write about life. Younger people just have fewer experiences from which to draw and experiences with fewer kinds of people to really be able to objectively look at human interactions and the human condition. For domains like fantasy this isn’t a draw-back, but for realistic genres, I believe it is.

Writing takes practice. Even people who don’t start trying to write novels until they are older, have for the most part done jobs where writing was required, sometimes journalism, but ANY writing is intended to communicate, and it makes us better at communicating our tale. At the very least, they’ve written on their own.

Time gives events a context. I think my early writing fit in the single small contexts in which they were written, but without a broader view, I think it is hard to make a wide variety of others really understand and it is hard to notice some of the details we take for granted that make scenes fit so well to the story.

So I guess I am glad to have discovered I can play with kids my own age, and still have fun doing it. Not that I don’t LOVE all the younger ones I play with, but it’s nice not to always be the tallest kid in the room… if you know what I mean…

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Wake-up Call

I'm used to getting up gawd-awful-early on Tuesdays and Thursdays (4:50 normally)—those are the weekdays that round off my “4 intense days” of exercise (I also walk to and from work on weekdays, but that is at a pace that allows me to read and walk, not to mention helping me avoid the desk-sweat syndrome) so I am used to early. My daughter though, is on the high school swim team this year--she's a freshman. All season she will practice after school, but for this two week period (referred to as 'Hill Week' because the coach so conveniently has a last name approximating Hell) they also have mornings (in the pool by 5 a.m.)

I asked my daughter Monday (the day before her first day of school), as I knew her group had the Tuesday/Thursday early slot, if she had it Tuesday morning. I quote: “no, mom. We're doing it Wednesday.” Me: “I thought the varsity had Monday/Wednesday/Friday?” Her: *heavy eye roll* "You don't know anything."

I proceeded to wake her yesterday at 4:45 wondering why she wasn't up. “Geez, mom. It's tomorrow.” So YESTERDAY I woke up early unnecessarily, due to misinformation. And then last night, after a conversation about it being HER job to get ME up, since all I had to do was throw on a t-shirt, shorts and my glasses to drive her (it's close, but at that hour we feel like a ride is safer), where she actually had to pull her things together, I proceeded to wake up every hour or so to see if she'd missed it. It's probably not a wonder I am thinking about waking up today.

BUT... there are some wake-ups in this whole writing/publishing cycle that I thought might be relevant, and not too uninteresting to ponder, and I am sleep deprived, so I thought I'd run with that...

The Writer Awakening

Most writers always know they like to write, but there is a time at which it occurs to them that they might like to WRITE. KnowwhatImean? Like... books... maybe even for a living... because writing is what they love and it would be nice to do what one loved for a living, ne? For me this pipe dream fell into a category with 'movie star' and 'model' (and the early appearing 'tightrope walker' and 'princess')--other careers in my life I would have loved to have, but were not possible for a 'real person'--so I thought of writing.

Most of you have heard me sing praises of Harry Potter as my wake-up here. The world of fan fiction writing allowed me to get my writer's feet wet and learn other people liked my writing, and not just my antics (though of course I'm very popular among the nudist Harry Potter fan set). I learned a great deal of the writing craft that way, because it allows you to work on individual aspects a few at a time, then get instant feedback (and also encouragement, which I think a lot of people need to keep going on something long...) so there we have it... the writer wake-up call.

The Depressing I Can't Write Awakening

This is the phase at which we've spent a year of our life on something and look at it an wonder what the hell we're doing. Hopefully for most of us it is brief. I think for MORE of us, there is a fear of this that keeps us not sharing our work, even if our work might be GREAT because somehow validation from somebody ELSE that we can't write would make it real. This is one of those times you should probably just push snooze.

The “I need to rewrite this” Awakening

Post snooze you might find... it isn't HORRIBLE, in fact... it might even be good... there are just things that need to change... a few elements don't work... something needs to be done over. This is okay. Acceptance of this seems a necessary step for everyone--first works are unlikely to be just right when they are fresh out of the box. I tell my grad students on their first run at writing a manuscript for a scientific journal '25 drafts'. Why should fiction be so different?

The Publishing World Awakening

This one is like the loud, rude party downstairs, that you don't want to deal with, but you know if you don't shut them up, you will be fired the next day, but then when you go down there, they seem to be having such fun, so you want to join, but they don't WANT you to join them, but they won't be quiet either... You often wonder why you have such obnoxious neighbors, but they are so GLAMOROUS and if only you could be one of them, you wouldn't have to WORRY about your day job, so you keep trying to be clever and noticed, even though you really just need some sleep, hoping one day they'll invite you to their party.

I think at the moment, that is all I can muster... What I really need is a nap.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Word from the Drama Queen

I decided to interview Jessie today. She is my fifteen-year-old heroine from CONFLUENCE, and I’ve kept her stashed away for too long. Jessie was the last brainchild to join the CONFLUENCE cast, but she was the one who took it from a vague idea about a family with a five-year-old who makes friends with a homeless man, to a concrete, writable story. From the first Jessie scenes I wrote, I knew I could really write the book. The plot came together, with her always having the strongest voice. I tried to upload images as to what I imagine Jessie to be. Amber Tamblyn (from her Emily Quartermaine days) is a favorite as a teen that is alternately tough, vulnerable, or pissed off. The image loader though, keeps failing…

So Jessie, tell me about yourself.

What is this, therapy?

Not at all. My readers would just like to get to know you a little better.

*snort* Right.

Okay, maybe I should try a different approach. What brought you to Clear Springs?

The forces of evil? Seriously, my dad, who I haven’t lived with since I was five, got this job offer, professor or something. See, he was gone for five years, went to Los Angeles to get his PhD, so when he said he was leaving, my mom said no way, but then there was this job for HER, in flipping Hong Kong, and she wants to take it for a few years, so she made me go with my dad. Totally sucks.

So you don’t like Clear Springs?

What’s to like? It’s a stupid little college town with nothing to do.

Have you made any friends?

Yeah, Brian’s cool. He’s part of a band, so I guess I know all of them, though Reg is a real prick. But Dave is nice, and Axe is funny. He’s stoned a lot, but mellow stoned, so that’s okay.

You don’t do any of that do you?

Get stoned? Naw. I saw a girl a couple years ago get really messed up and pull some stupid shit. I don’t need that. Anyway, so friends… I’ve also met a girl named Coqui who’s cool. I like her and her friends. So I guess on friends it’s okay here. There’s just nothing to do.

And what do you like to do?

I like acting. I was in a performing arts school in Seattle, but Clear Springs doesn’t have anything like that. Stupid high school did South Pacific last spring—so cliché!

I like South Pacific.

*snort* You would. You’re making my point.

And what about your family?

What, my dad that’s never home because of his stupid job? Trish is okay. I give her a bad time though, mostly because she’s there and dad’s not.

She’s your step-mom?

Yeah. And then there’s my sister and brother.

How old are they?

Hannah’s five, and she’s pretty adorable.

Not hard to live with siblings after all this time?

No—they’re actually the good part. I love that little Squirt. And Snotmeister is pretty cute too, though he’s just a baby.

So all in all, it doesn’t sound so bad.

Says you!

This interview was completed before the real action of CONFLUENCE starts, when Jessie is first getting acclimated, but hopefully it will give you a little bit of an idea about her personality. She is in many ways a typical teen, but somehow more grounded, and definitely an Aquarius—meaning very comfortable being her own person, rather than following.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Tart's Plate

I've somehow have ended up over-filling my plate, as usual, so I thought I'd share...
CONFLUENCE: this is the completed work I am shopping around. I am STILL waiting on ten responses—four weeks tomorrow. Some agents say two to four weeks, some say four to six... guess it's time to see which are which and send kind questions on status, though I will give a few extra days to account for this being the end of summer and a typical vacation time.
I have a new PLAN for CONFLUENCE though... if I haven't found an agent by the end of November (one more round of tennish, methinks), I intend to get it REALLY under 150K (instead of exaggerated to only 150K) and enter the Amazon contest next winter. Why? Because this query process sucks the life out of me and I feel like three months is about what I can give to it without moving on. CONFLUENCE may just be a work I need to shop around after another success because of its length.

TEEN SERIES: This was a bizarre brain child about a geeky group of middle school girls who, in an attempt to cope, begin to refer to the various cliques and their behaviors in monster terms, and to develop a (purely imaginary) set of super-powers to cope with them. In each of five books however, the kids (all girls at first, but a boy joins them in book 2) have to use said superpowers (or the real life strength that inspired them) to cope with real world issues.
I have done a lot of character development and written four chapters centered on the first three girls becoming friends, but it is indefinitely on hold while I work on the OTHER two (keep reading).

MURDER MYSTERY: this was a back-up project—something I felt able to write even in absence of jolts of inspiration, and is coming along (on chapter 8 of maybe 24), though not with as much passion or enthusiasm as my other works. I suspect it is time for its simmering, fermenting period, because I like the idea, but am sort of at a loss on execution.  I don't want it to feel too forced.
It is about a young woman who comes to spend 'her last summer of freedom' before starting a post-doctoral fellowship intended to lead to a professor-track position. She is to stay with her childhood friend 'in the lap of luxery', as her friend is from a very wealthy family. She arrives, only to find her friend has been brutally killed in a random act of violence. The family asks her to stay to help them cope, and Nikki begins to suspect the violence wasn't so random after all...

SPY TRILOGY: Meet my current passion. This (like CONFLUENCE, oddly) was a great idea, eventually joined by what I thought was a separate great idea (two, two, two books in one!). But in this case, I think I really have three solid stories, separate enough to stand alone, but tied together by this 'spy thing'.
I've written seven chapters of the first novel (five in the last week)--I'm calling it LEGACY at the moment, and have finally worked out a semi-detailed outline for the rest of it (that old hammering out of villains thing). The first novel is from the PoV of eight-year-old Peter (who witnesses his father's murder in chapter one and goes into hiding with his brother and sister), and thirteen-year-old Athena, whose mother tries to prostitute her in exchange for drugs in chapter two, so she runs away from home. The action is in Portland, Oregon, the only city I probably know well enough to 'live on the streets', so to speak, and I am THRILLED to be there. It is probably why all these Athena chapters have practically spilled onto the page.
I figure if I neglect all my other pieces, job and family, I can be done by Thanksgiving.

The next two are working under the titles COINCIDENCE, and CONSPIRACY for now.  I love one word titles... COINCIDENCE has one chapter written, but the broad conspiracy underlying all three is coming together at last!
So I'm curious if I'm insane to have so many balls in the air, or if this is normal for writers. I'm also curious if any of these in progress sound interesting enough to 'buy' so to speak, though I know I would in reality need more solid hooks written to really test that... Anyway... that's my progress report...

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Field of Darkness- Book Review

Cornelia Read is definitely a tart, and I think you know when I say that, it is a very good thing. My Book Choice My friend Mari ran across a blog a while back called Naked Authors, which a tart like me can hardly ignore. I've been following them and reading (shockingly, nobody streaks or flashes; they are a classy bunch). I was so enamored of the group name that I looked into the authors and their books. Several looked intriguing, but the pair by Cornelia Read caught my eye most strongly. Being the orderly person than I am *shoots evil eye at laughing section*, I started with the first. The Author I don't know Ms. Read in person, though she has graciously friended me on Facebook, but I've read a fair bit, particularly details that Madeline Dare is relatively autobiographical. I would definitely like to sit down for a couple boilermakers with either woman. What strikes me most strongly though, is how two people from such opposite backgrounds (she and I) might have struck such similar symptom profiles. Since Madeline is the book's main character, I will leave my comments to her, not knowing where the 'mostly autobiographical' and 'not this detail' lines cross. Madeline is from 'money so old it is gone', complete with the delusionally snobbish trappings of relatives who have never done anything to merit their privilege (killing entire lakes for profit notwithstanding), yet hold onto all of the pomp and hauteur. Madeline however, sees them for what they are, and is critical, while simultaneously somehow yearning to not be the poor relation. Madeline was 'abandoned' by her father in youth, and Cornelia pulls a writing coup by letting us believe first person Madeline really sees it that way, but giving us enough information to realize it is a failure of the man and marriage, not an actual abandonment of the child. Madeline's life after though, seems to be a mix of 'proving herself worthy' and moderately self destructive 'I couldn't possibly be worthy' behaviors (this is where the symptom similarities to the tart came in). The Book That brings us to the present story and action... Madeline lives, much to her disgust, in Syracuse, New York, with her often gone welder/inventor husband (who I ADORE—it was a nice trick to have him so wonderful but gone so he couldn't be counted on much). She works for the local newspaper, writing fluff pieces. One day at lunch at her in-laws, her creepy brother-in-law tells her about a long-ago murder case and shows her a set of dog tags he found at the field, tags he never turned in to the police, and that happen to belong to a second cousin of Madeline's. The cousin is not just her favorite relative, but as the story goes on, proves to be her only relative who isn't bottom of the barrel horrible. Madeline struggles with herself. She wants to solve the case for the sake of the two girls killed, and an internal ethic never mentioned, but obvious, but there is also a deeply seeded need to clear her cousin. From there it is a wild ride, a few more dead bodies, twists and turns---a wonderfully written solving of an old mystery with new consequences. My Favorite Things This is, above all things, a smart book. Details are well researched, from photography and lighting, to roses, to heirloom firearms. Every necessary detail had a reason Madeline knew what she was talking about, and all of it was given in a subtle, well-ahead-of-time way so that I never argued with the narrator (something I often do if something feels contrived). Madeline's wit, too, in her observations about her family, her coworkers, her city, and herself, are laugh-out-loud funny, even while often invoking pity. It was a brilliant way to balance the very dark events—a knife wielding M.O. of a murderer hung up on old German Fairy tales *shivers*. And finally, Cornelia's skill at juxtaposition is amazing. There is a Nazi man-servant of Madeline's uncle (who her mother lives with), who isn't softened in his views, but is still somehow sympathetic, especially compared to the actual family he serves. Contrasting the failings of old 'society' and the nobility of some of the 'lower class' is done with a soft touch, and no set of people is exempt from having terrible people with dark motives. Summary I think this was one of the best written books I've read in a long time, and I strongly recommend it. My only complaint is that Read only has one more book out there at the moment—so GET WRITING!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Of Teens and Trolls

[Note: Not a writing blog... you've been warned] Stark evidence arrived in my home yesterday that a new form of Changeling-Troll hybrid is at work in the Great Lakes area. I suspect that at some point during the last week, possibly on one of the 9 sleepovers (yes, 9 in one week—don't ask), clearly it had to be the last week of August—just look how much she liked me on August 24! But I digress... sometime in the last week these beasts found this sparkly-eyed beauty of a daughter and decided that was the form they wanted ever after. As school encroaches and our schedules get busy, the demands on said child's time have brought out this monster of demanding-ness and ingratitude (it is just not possible I raised such a creature!). She has a string of nasty catch phrases that fall from her mouth at any refusal at said demands (lazy, self-absorbed—MOI?) and even agreements are met with snotty criticisms in process... The Source My husband has to use a program for his Biology class called Blackboard. He is uncomfortable on a computer and I was helping him (for the better part of two hours when, to be honest, I had 47 other things I would have preferred to be doing, but... I try to help). Suggestions on my part were met with scorn, disbelief, and reprimands for communicating so poorly. It didn't help that none of my ideas worked (his professor has given him the wrong access information—not my fault-- seems I shouldn't have to say that but I do... again and again). I still believe the professor emailed the RIGHT instructions, but when I pointed out the possibility (after MUCH time) he refused to check whether the pending email had better info. We'd gotten the corrected information from the school anyway any he probably has a point about my inability to not say 'see!' but it seemed so much effort, and I was EXHAUSTED from the arguing and insults, when all I was trying to do was help. My issue: No human adult would have so little foresight as to what exactly his partner is going to answer NEXT TIME he asked for help. (*cough*CHANGELING*cough*) Warning and Plea for Help I fear the problem will only spread. If one appears in your household, I believe the only solution is a full quarantine—indefintiely—especially from yourself. In Changeling form they are stronger than their human form, but fortunately have lost their size advantage of a regular troll. At the very least you should be able to hand cuff them to the bed frame while they sleep. Oh, it won't stop the swearing and attitude, but at least then you can leave their company. If you'd like, you probably have time to rescue any smaller children before the trolls change them too, though I suspect they mark the young by about age 8. What you really need though, is a long break—a vacation, a walk, a prison sentence—-anywhere you can just be AWAY. If you HAVE such an extra hideout, please give a shout. [Note: first football game of the season today. We park cars in our yard for a little extra cash, which is good, but suggests I will be no less exhausted by today's day end than yesterday's]

Friday, September 4, 2009

Friday Hodge Podge

Typing Tart We are back in computers at my house. This is a good news/bad news thing. Both of them are up and running, which is definitely good, neither seems to have any of the former problems, so YAY! But both have brand new operating system, neither with any of the normal software I’m used to. I am now using Office Open, which I have hopes will be like Microsoft Office, without the monopoly issues or quirks, but I am now learning a new system. My first venture in this morning… starting to type the first chapter of this book I’m going gangbusters on, and it seems to work about the same as Word or Works, but the settings are wonky… I suppose it will just take some getting used to, being free of the corporate puppet strings… The only real problem, is I’ve forgotten how to connect my laptop to my DSL system and will have to call and have them walk me through it—not the end of the world. Just a hassle. Weekly Word Oh, I know… this is only the second time I’m teaching you a word, and last time I wrote a whole blog about it, but I thought… every tradition has to start somewhere… I’m going to make an attempt to edjumakate you all on some of the Burrow vocabulary (edjumakate is a freebie—Aussie in origin… means what it looks like—educate, to the uneducated, but used as a joke). But today’s word is FRUNK. Frunk: (adj) What happens when a person gets online after one too many drinks and tries to type that they are DRUNK… inevitably the D misses. Etiology: natural… I don’t mean to imply that I hang out with a bunch of drunks, but you spend enough time online… it comes up… again and again and again… funny how that is the only typo the word seems to see, but it is seen with some regularity. Naked News Curious as to the outcome of my querying process? Probably not, which is good, because there is NOTHING new to say. Nada, Zilch, Zippo… Still 10 queries out there. I suppose the people taking a last break before summer ends have been gone and will get back to it starting Tuesday, so this silence may very well be just vacation silence… but I keep hoping… Last Lounge All summer I’ve been taking Mondays off. I had vacation time accumulated (more than 10 weeks) and I EARN two days a month, so taking 3-day weekends all summer only cost me 2 days a month of that accumulation… it’s been nice, though oddly, it has almost made the work week harder—a work week should be symmetrical, I think… I am now advocating for the three-day work week… even if I am stuck returning to a five… I’m saving that extra vacation time for emergency editing and a book tour [/possibly delusional optimism] Contest Call Most of you have heard me sing the praises of my friend Joris, who graciously helps me every time I need help with something graphic. He has entered a work in a contest for ‘ad creation’ and his entry is gorgeous. He and I would both really appreciate it if you’d take a look and vote in the contest! Create Ad Contest-Joris' entry I hope all of you have a really fabulous weekend—a long one in the US and Canada—so enjoy the last of summer!