Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Guest Blogging: as philosophy

So this is the first Tuesday in a VERY long time that I haven't had a guest blogger. I thought maybe it was a good time to impart to you my infinite wisdom from five months hosting... a little perspective of what you should KNOW as a host, and what might be helpful to keep in mind as a guest. So how's THAT?

A Host Should Know

Her SCHEDULE!!!! I hear you laughing. I've had a few SNAFUs on my schedule... sometimes my fault, sometimes my guest's fault, sometimes a near miss communication thing. My side bar helps... I can see who is coming, but here's a secret. YOU HAVE TO LOOK. It is my same problem with schedules all around. Take my word for it, though. If you are going to have guests regularly, it is best to know when yo are expecting them.

Her Guests: I've had guests I know pretty darned well and guests that were only here because of my involvement with the Virtual Blog Tour that began with Authors Promoting Authors and transferred to BK Marketing. Now I believe in what BK Marketing it DOING—completely--they are helping authors find appropriate blogs to guest at. I have definitely noticed though, that sometimes you guys connect, and sometimes you don't... the AUTHOR has to CONNECT because I don't know them well enough to make the connection.

The authors I KNOW on the other hand, I can introduce well. If I've read the book I can tell you a little about it. By far, my two most successful guests have been Elizabeth Spann Craig and Harry Dolan—in Elizabeth's case, she is part of this circuit, had GREAT information, and I had a really easy time introducing her and being sincerely enthusiastic. In Harry's case, he is a best seller, and I was over the moon about his book.

But even without having read the book, if I KNOW YOU, I can talk about your blog, about you, about your magic or personality... It is far easier for me to convince my readers that there is a reason to keep going.

What a GUEST Should Know

WHERE YOU'RE GOING!!! If you are going to be a guest somewhere, you should visit the blog at least a few times, but IDEALLY often enough that you get a feel for the readership.

I may be a Naked Tart to those who know and love me, but I can go someplace classier—I can talk about writing, blogging, heck... I can even talk about shoes! *cough* But in order to be appropriate, I have to know the (un)dress code! There are times to hide my nakedness behind a palm tree.

WHO IS READING: Not only do you need to know whether it is formal or casual (un)dress, you need to know who is LOOKING. Now I talk a lot about being naked, yes? It's sort of how I roll. Well if people didn't come in here and see how I interact with all of YOU, they might think it was about SEX, when really it is about comfort and a little tartish sass. Taking over the world is a full time thing, and sex just only takes up... maybe a third of any given day! *shifty* (okay, and was only that one lost summer in college)

Seriously though—is it other writers? Are there young people? What's the mix of men to women? Do they prefer a certain genre? What kind of humor do they like, or are they a serious set? And the VERY most important piece: What are they interested in?

A Guest Should ALSO have a PLAN (I think you know my enthusiasm for plans), at least if it is part of a tour. A book tour requires you always introduce yourself and your book in BRIEF, but the main blog content should CHANGE from blog to blog. I would suggest writing up a list of what you want to cover and where you are going and then matching content to blog, but to do such a thing, you'd need to fly FAR LESS by the seat of your pantslessness than I do....

So there you have it... Guesting and Hosting... I definitely recommend it, but with intent...

Monday, August 30, 2010

Free Time

Since my children flew across the country last Wednesday, I've decided the topic of free time needed to be explored and I've discovered some facts you MAY not know. I say MAY, because it is conceivable you've been keeping these misconceptions to yourselves in an evil plot to ridicule those of us who didn't know... it is plausible, even, that you are foul temptresses, taunting me with something that doesn't exist, in which case I mostly forgive you. But if you DIDN'T know 'free time' was only a myth, then in spite of MY OWN foul temptress leanings, I am here to set you straight.

Obligations Rise to Meet Availability

So my kids left Wednesday. You know what I had to do Wednesday night? GO TO A MEETING. I think I've been clear on my feelings about meetings.

Oh yes, you might argue the meeting would have still existed had the children still been present, but you see, had the children been PRESENT, then the meeting would have been an ESCAPE. Instead, with no children present, the meeting was TORTURE.

I think you can follow me on the math here... it's fuzzy math—the variety used by economists, but there is no flaw in my calculations. Something that is one thing in one circumstance, is another thing altogether in another. It has to do with opportunity costs, uncomfortable chairs and silly hats.

Pernicious Pestilence

And by pestilence I mean... erm... cleaning the bathroom. Doing the laundry. All those little projects I HATE. So much of my time is eaten by these little annoying things... Why can't they invent a self-cleaning bathroom... a self-cleaning litter box... self folding laundry... Any of you out there with an entrepreneurial spirit and a skill for inventing, those things would make you very very rich, and make ME very very happy... so happy, in fact, that you would be guaranteed a chair as a minor deity once the Naked World Domination Tour has completed it's takeover.

The Project Monster

So when the childings are gone and you are left alone with Mr. Tart, rather than the normally romantic leanings a proper man ought to have, this particular one looks around and says, “Maybe we could get some stuff done.”

Say what? Why?

Let's chop down the trees!

*Tart's internal Ent growls*

To be fair, it was actually my NEIGHBOR'S suggestion. The trees were between her garage and our fence... And while I LOVE the trees, they DO intertwine inappropriately with several varieties of wires... they were in fact SLUTTY trees, all tangled up all over the place, indiscriminate about who they wrapped their arms around...

And to be REALLY REALLY FAIR, my neighbor, as she recruited my husband for the tree murder project, she said, “and Tam, you can sit by the pool and write!” WOOHOO! (Did I tell you my neighbor is my hero?) So Saturday had me first editing, then typing, then even a little READING, which hubby climbed in the roof of neighbor's garage and cut branches, then they felled these trees as close to 'between wires' as they could manage, though there were admittedly some wires were loath to let go of their leaferly lovers...

Still, it was the best free time I GOT this weekend. And it wasn't FREE. It was a GIFT.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Something Borrowed (The Tart Takes Requests)

So I've been trying to put together my 'Random' blog (Wednesday) over at Burrowers, Books and Balderdash, and... as a statistician... RANDOM has a very specific meaning to me (any individual option is equally likely to all others for selection)... I am applying it there, but differently (I defined my own set of alternatives)... HERE however, I thought... since y'all know me... it might be good for my writing discipline to take ALL SUGGESTIONS, put them in a database and RANDOMLY choose a topic now and again. That allows you to put topics to me and see how I can twist them in my warped mind... so that is an added bonus.

I will add all topics suggested to my database, and I will use a random number selector to determine what I HAVE to blog on. I will do it once a week, though reserve the right to hop days (probably will do it when I am stumped, or Sunday if I don't GET stumped... some weeks are better than others)... And I also reserve the right to commandeer a topic and post on it on an additional day if it is particularly brilliant.

I request you NOT choose something that I know nothing about, unless you want it to post on Thursday and have me just make stuff up (Misattributing IS my superpower, after all)... then again, there is some fun in that... So anything goes! What do you want me to post about?!  And if the topic isn't chosen immediately... it STILL stays in the database... so ask away!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

What's Missing?

Besides my motivation I mean (for the fitness plan). That has been LONG gone. I'm not even sure I would recognize it anymore. I bet it's grown a beard and is wearing rhinestone glasses and has even shaved its head. If I were better at Photo Shop, I would create several pictures for you so you could send it back my way. I am hoping with the deadline of SCHOOL STARTING (the Tuesday after labor day) he just has the decency to show up, because I really need to get back to it... I DO have a plan though... the PLAN isn't missing.

I suppose ALSO missing are my organization skills, much of the free time I normally have (grant season at work, plus two manuscripts under revision), and my time manager for the editing thing...

But there is a GOOD MISSING!!!

I just spotted it today, and it is AMAZING!

I am reading The Girl Who Played With Fire. I am half way in. And like The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, it is under-edited... more detail than probably should have been left in... but with a dead author, I forgive them...

What has STRUCK ME though, is that once the crime has been committed... the VOICE of Lisbeth Salander is MISSING! She had some sections in the early book... we knew what she was up to and how she was doing (pretty decently, all things considered)... and then the CRIME... a crime SHE is suddenly suspected of (one we KNOW she was on scene nearly at the exact time of...) ... and I haven't seen hide nor hair of her in 100 pages..AND I'M FRANTIC! I can hardly put the book down because I HAVE TO KNOW where the heck she IS!!!

It had never before occurred to me how powerful something NOT THERE could be to page turnability.

So now I know...

Sorry so short, but that felt INCREDIBLY insightful to me... and I am trying REALLY HARD to make progress on my typing and editing this weekend, PLUS, I am ALSO revealing Drabble winner results over at Burrowers, Books & Balderdash today... so I will leave it at that...

I hope everyone has a fabulous weekend!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Harry Dolan Interview!!!

I win!!! And by I win, I mean, I managed to convince Harry Dolan, NATIONAL BEST SELLING AUTHOR of Bad Things Happen, to answer some interview questions... though honestly, he was awfully nice and agreeable. All I REALLY had to do was agree to not ask him about his love of Broadway Tunes... so I won't... *shifty*

I wanted to START though, with a brief synopsis and review.

Bad Things Happen

The book begins with a somewhat reclusive man named David Loogan who has moved to Ann Arbor (where I live—SQUEEEEEE!) and is doing some work as an editor for a literary journal. The narrative is intentionally a little distant... this man is hard to know. But he gets along with the editor (and the editor's wife... which causes a little trouble)... and then, not too far in... the editor calls David and asks him for some help... to bury a body... The book at this point begins it's string of mysteries... An apparent suicide brings in a police woman, and the investigations begin... but they are never what they seem. There is the early set-up and continuing homage paid to 'the third option'. When you think it is one thing, or the other... it is usually the third option... the one you hadn't thought of. The one you CAN'T think of... And this third option is BRILLIANTLY executed. The surprises come out of nowhere (but can be delightfully spotted in retrospect).

This book is a writer's orgy. The suspects and witnesses are all writers. They all have their theories as to what happened. Some of their own STORIES have been mimicked by the killer... but whose? And why?

I have been reading mysteries almost exclusively since March. This is the best one I've read. I am TOTALLY serious. (and I've read some great ones)  You need to read it. You need to make sure your friends read it. It is dark and twisted, but not unduly gory (I mean a little, but not graphically so)... but mostly, it is just masterful storytelling.

Harry Dolan is a fellow Ann Arborite and Firehorse, but I had not met him (still haven't) and the book hadn't made the top of my pile of TBR until my boss told me about 'this book by a guy from Ann Arbor' and my slow brain put together that it was the SAME guy who wrote Bad Things Happen that my Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award friends had been raving about... Second route of connection pushed me to get ahold of it.  And then I realized Harry was in fact accessible...

So today I welcome my biggest coup yet... Harry Dolan, for an interview!

[code: regular: my questions. Bold: Harry's answers.]


So the first time I heard about you and your fabulous book, Bad Things Happen, was through the friends I met participating in this year's Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. I assumed that Bad Things Happen had been a novel in the contest in past years. Did I make that up? (I do that) Or did you participate with a different novel to meet these nuts? If it was Bad Things Happen, what year did you enter with it, and how different is the final novel from the entry at the time?

First of all, thank you, and I’m glad you liked Bad Things Happen. You’re right about the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award: I entered Bad Things Happen in the first ABNA contest, in 2008. Before that, I spent more than a year sending out queries, trying to get an agent interested in the manuscript. I probably sent out at least fifty queries and got a handful of requests for the full manuscript, but no offers of representation. I figured I’d have to rewrite it or try something else. In fact, I rewrote the opening chapter -- which was a good thing, because the original first sentence read something like this: “At nine thirty on a night in October, the man who called himself David Loogan drove into the vast lot of a vast department store that sold groceries and gardening supplies” -- which almost put me to sleep just now as I typed it. The opening line of the final version -- “The shovel has to meet certain requirements” -- was a result of that rewrite.

I wound up finishing in the top three of the ABNA contest, and the resulting exposure got me an agent and eventually a publisher (Amy Einhorn, who has her own imprint at Putnam). After the book was accepted for publication, it underwent fairly extensive editing. For one thing, the manuscript was too long, and I wound up cutting about 45 pages out of 400. Most of the cuts were done line-by-line, paragraph-by-paragraph, trimming away anything that wasn’t essential. No major scenes were cut from the book, although in one or two cases I replaced dialogue-heavy scenes with a few paragraphs of narrative.

Apart from the cuts, my editor asked me to flesh out a couple of characters, and to rework some things that she thought were implausible. I remember that one of those involved the possibility of tracing cellphone calls. At one point David Loogan is on the run from the police, but he talks on a cellphone several times with the detective who’s trying to find him. My editor said, Why doesn’t the detective just track him through his phone? And I thought, Yeah, why doesn’t she? So I had to do some research on how to triangulate someone’s location from his cellphone signal, and then rework those scenes to make it plausible that they wouldn’t be able to track him. So that gives you an idea of some of the changes I had to make before the book got published.

These ABNA friends are a fabulous support system, if you want to take advantage of it, and have become part of mine. Are you part of a Critique group? (local, online?) Do you have a partner for editing? What kind of support system have you had for writing and editing and has it changed as you've become successful?

The truth is I’ve never been part of any writing group. If I had people critiquing a novel chapter by chapter as I was writing it, I think I would want to go off in a corner somewhere and hide. It’s hard enough just to listen to the voice of my own internal critic. I think the only person who read any part of Bad Things Happen before it was finished was my girlfriend. And things have really changed very little since I’ve been published. In the case of my new book -- the one I’ve just finished writing -- I gave the first hundred pages to my girlfriend and my agent, just to be sure I was on the right track. And no one else saw any of it until it was finished.

I've sometimes said I don't entirely trust author blurbs about other peoples' books, with the one exception of Stephen King (I swear I've said this--I could find it if you want)—he always seems to shoot straight and never compliments unless he means it. How the heck did you get Stephen King to SWEAR in his book blurb for you? (That is like the Holy Grail of book reviews!)--was that a publisher coup, an agent coup, or are you magic?

It was part agent and part magic, I think.

The way blurbs normally work is this: Months before publication, your agent or your publisher sends the manuscript to an author with a cover letter asking if they’ll read it and consider writing a blurb. I’m lucky to have an excellent publisher and an excellent agent, and they were able to get jacket blurbs from some big names: Nelson DeMille, Douglas Preston, James Patterson, and Karin Slaughter.

But that’s not how we got Stephen King.

As far as I know (and I could be wrong about this), Stephen King discovered Bad Things Happen on his own. The book was published in July 2009, and I didn’t hear from him until November. I found out he was reading the book because my agent knows everybody, and she happens to be a friend of Stephen King’s publisher. The story I heard was this: King’s publisher paid him a visit during his book tour for Under the Dome. She dropped in on him in his hotel room and he said something like, “Wait right here, I’ve got to read you something” -- and then he went and got his copy of Bad Things Happen and read her a passage from it. (I don’t know which passage it was; I wish I knew.) His publisher passed this anecdote along to my agent, and my agent (who wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity) said that we’d love to have a blurb if he was willing. About a week later I got an email from the man himself, which began with “Great f---ing book, man” and went on from there.

We used the quote on the paperback edition, and my one regret is that we didn’t put it on the front cover. I’ve actually got a cover design the publisher sent me with the King quote in big red type on the front, but eventually the marketing department decided that some bookstores would be scandalized by the bad language, and they moved it to the back cover.

I have a huge interest in how deeply your book spoke to me as a WRITER. Much of it is set at a literary journal (or among its board and authors), and the authors serve as suspects and investigators. You're clearly an author, but do you have a history with literary journals (publishing stories or editing for one)? And where did the idea come from to have a list of authors as suspects? (It was a bit of brilliance, if you must know, as it allowed you to “write within the writing.”)

I worked on a literary magazine in college (at Colgate University), as both a writer and an editor. The magazine published science fiction and fantasy, and the stories I wrote for it were odd hybrids: they were plotted like mysteries, but set against a sort of swords-and-sorcery background. (It would be hard to find those stories now, and I don’t intend to make it any easier.)

That experience definitely influenced Bad Things Happen, which revolves around a mystery magazine called Gray Streets. That choice of setting led directly to the idea of having mystery writers as suspects, and it opened up a lot of possibilities for playing around with the conventions and clichés of the genre. There’s a whole subgenre of “cat detective” books, for example: stories in which a cat plays a prominent role in solving the mystery, and as a nod to that, I have a character who writes books about a woman who solves mysteries with the help of her golden retriever. I also threw in just about every mystery motif I could think of, from murders staged to look like suicides, to the character who finds himself a suspect in a murder and has to solve it on his own in order to clear his name.

I’ve also supported myself for most of my adult life by working as an editor, so it’s no coincidence that the central character in Bad Things Happen is an editor, and that the book has some things to say about editing, both good and bad. Tom Kristoll, the publisher of Gray Streets, tells David Loogan, “No one sets out to be an editor. It’s something that happens to you, like jaundice or falling down a well.” Another character remarks that “bad editing is a weak motive for murder . . . though in the heat of the moment it can often seem otherwise.”

Like you, I live in Ann Arbor (you may have seen me walking around reading—in fact I walk through David Loogan's neighborhood daily). I loved the familiar setting, and the slow response of the police rang true (unfortunately). Were there any challenges to using a real setting? Did you need permissions for any place names, or have to alter details to avoid offending? Did you worry at all about dating your book by using landmarks or institutions that may not be permanent (the sad demise of the Ann Arbor News, for instance)? Did you spend any time with Ann Arbor police or newspapermen/women?

I took a course several years ago that was offered by the Ann Arbor Police Department. It’s called the Civilian Police Academy, and it met once a week for about fourteen weeks. It taught me some things about how a police department works in a city the size of Ann Arbor. There’s no “crime scene unit,” for instance. Detectives themselves are responsible for collecting fingerprints and other evidence, and for photographing crime scenes. I also learned that the police department had a “tactical crime analyst” who kept a database with details of all the crimes committed in the city, and that led me to create one of the minor characters in Bad Things Happen: Alice Marrowicz.

As for the setting, I used a number of real locations in Ann Arbor, including the Arboretum, Angell Hall on the University of Michigan campus, and a jazz bar called the Firefly Club (which has since closed). But in some cases I modified settings, or altered the details to suit the story, or just made things up. I couldn’t tell you exactly where David Loogan’s rented house is, for example, although I know it’s on the Old West Side of Ann Arbor. I set a couple of crucial scenes in Marshall Park, but I only went there once, years ago, and my recollection of the place is vague. And as for the building that houses Gray Streets, I do have a particular building in mind, but I’ve never actually been inside it, and I’m sure my description of the layout is way off. I’m not sure you could throw a body out of a sixth-floor window in that building -- because I’m not sure if the windows open. But I’m not about to let minor details like that get in the way of a good story.

A similar principle applies for the Ann Arbor News, which went out of business last year. In my novels, it still exists: I know I mentioned it at least once in the book I just finished writing. It’s a useful thing to have around when the police want to publish a sketch of a suspect in the paper. I suppose I could explain that the News was replaced by a website called AnnArbor.com, which publishes a print edition twice a week. But it’s much easier to refer to the Ann Arbor News. Most readers won’t be from Ann Arbor anyway, so they won’t know it’s gone.

I've been writing a cozy mystery, so have spent a great deal of time this spring and summer reading mysteries to master the rules, and yours was my favorite one, I think because every time I would think I had a good guess, some other piece would layer itself in and totally throw me again. Would you mind sharing a little about your plotting process? Do you outline tightly? Do the underlying sub-plots occur to you as part of the overall plot, or were they layered in later to add to the tension?

When I wrote Bad Things Happen, I had the major plot twists worked out in advance -- especially the series of twists that come toward the end of the book. If I hadn’t known how the book would end, I wouldn’t have known how to begin writing it. But that outline was very broad and general, and the details got filled in day by day. And a lot of the characters took on larger roles as the book went on. The detective in the story, Elizabeth Waishkey, was always meant to be an important character, but her role expanded as the writing went on, and her relationship with David Loogan became a centerpiece of the book. I also gave her a daughter, Sarah, who turned out to be an important character as well. That wasn’t planned from the beginning.

In the case of the new book that I’ve just finished, I didn’t know the ending when I started. What I had were several more or less developed characters and a back story having to do with an old crime -- a bank robbery that occurred several years before the story opens. I had an idea for an opening sequence, and some general ideas about where the story might go, and about what sort of twists might occur. But I started writing the novel without an overall outline, and I found that to be a scary way to proceed. I found that I could only go so far without working out some kind of roadmap, so I developed an outline as I went along, always planning a few chapters ahead. It seem to work out all right, and I’m happy with the outcome.

And finally, this was amazing for ANY book, but phenomenal for a debut novel. Was it really your first, or just your first to sell? And do you have some others lined up that you are preparing to publish (or in process with)? Care to share your hook so we can keep our eyes peeled?

Bad Things Happen is my first published novel, but it’s actually the second novel I wrote. The first one grew out of a story I wrote in college, in a creative writing course I took with the novelist Frederick Busch, who taught in the English department at Colgate. He liked what I’d done and encouraged me to keep writing, but I got sidetracked for a long time. After college and grad school, I spent about eight years editing an academic journal. I left my full-time job in 1999 and decided to finally try my hand at a novel.

That first one took me almost three years to write. It ended up being over 800 pages long. It was hard to categorize: part crime novel, part romance, part coming-of-age story. It was set in a fictionalized version of the town where I grew up, and the central character was a philosophy student. (My major in college was philosophy, and that should tell you something about the novel.)

When I tried to find an agent for that book, I had a number of near misses. Several agents praised the writing but told me the book was simply too long and that it tried to be too many things. So it’s still unpublished. But it makes a cameo appearance in Bad Things Happen, where part of the plot hinges on a character who has written a big, unruly manuscript called Liars, Thieves, and Innocent Men -- a book that everyone tells him is too long to be published. In Bad Things Happen, I give a summary of the plot of that manuscript, and it’s a fairly accurate summary of my first novel.

As for what I’m working on now, I’ve mentioned the new novel that I’ve just completed. It’s called Very Bad Men, and it features David Loogan and Elizabeth Waishkey from Bad Things Happen. It differs from Bad Things Happen in that the reader knows the identity of the killer from the outset: he’s a troubled man named Anthony Lark, who’s obsessed with a political candidate named Callie Spencer. He’s drawn up a list of men who, in his mind, represent a threat to her, and one by one he’s killing the men on that list. Conveniently, two of them live in Ann Arbor, and David and Elizabeth get tangled up in the investigation. The mystery has more to do with why Lark is doing what he’s doing, although there are other significant mysteries in the book as well. But that’s about all I should say. If you want to know more, you’ll have to wait for the book to be published, which should happen in the summer of 2011.

I adore that you paid homage to your unpublished novel in Bad Things Happen!  And knowing how the book is referred to, I also appreciate that it is very tongue in cheek of you (a bonus)  I wish you a ton of luck with Very Bad Men!  Thank you so much for being willing to be interviewed! I appreciate it and my readers appreciate it!

Thank you!

And there we have it, my friends... the Tart's first 'Celebrity Interview' (he's fabulous, isn't he?)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Team Meetings

And what I love about them.

Warning: the sarcasm will ooze, drip and seethe off the path. Be careful not to let it stain your skin.

Early Team Meetings

When I was wee, and by wee, I mean... maybe only five feet tall and prior to braces straightening my teeth, I was on a couple teams... these would be sports teams, other than that brief stint in sixth grade where I was one of Charlie's Angels... erm... where I was actually 11, not 12, but Paint can be unforgiving...  These teams (the sports ones) never met. There was a coach who told us when to be at practice. When to be at games. Who would cover what base. There wasn't very much thinking involved, and that is how it should be. My mom paid the Parks & Rec fee, some business donated shirts with their logo and the team name, which they deducted as 'advertising' and life was good.

In junior high things were about the same... only it was a coach. I don't think we had to buy anything—the suits and such belonged to the school and were checked out.  They were in varying degrees of disrepair—you had to pay if you wrecked it or lost it, but otherwise, it was all part of the public school budget. You did what the coach said, or you didn't get to be on the team anymore. Pretty simple.

In high school, I SWEAR I don't remember it being any different, though the only teams I was on were gymnastics (an individual sport--all 4 years) and two years of JV tennis, in which I was only a burden to Deb, my most frequent doubles partner (poor Deb—she was seriously more coordinated than me—thankfully she still likes me). But as to TEAMS? I suppose Varsity tennis might have had a captain—if JV did, this memory eludes me. Gymnastics never did.

(I think this pic was my junior year, so I was 16...erm... with late 70s hair, as it was Idaho and 5 years behind... I still HAVE those leg warmers and have been asked as recently as last winter where I bought them *shifty*)

So I escaped childhood virtually FREE of team meetings. I participated in events that had REHEARSALS... I was Moscow's Junior Miss (a fact relatively shocking in retrospect) so planning the next year's 'pageant' was SORT OF a team event, but REALLY there were adults doing most of the coordinating... I was asked for input on a number of things... but TEAM? MEETING? If it happened, I have blocked it entirely.

The Early Middle Meetings

In college my dorm we had a few meetings... I think two official ones where be planned a ski trip and got to know each other... then the 'meetings' that can be more accurately defines as parties... the Everclear Punch meeting, for instance... Or the Road Trip to Idaho Meeting that involved Crisco Twister *cough*

My sophomore year I joined a sorority... and then BOY DID I LEARN MEETINGS!? Pledge meetings. Rush meetings.... the meetings I can't tell you about without killing you after... Most of these involved a little input and a lot of pretending to pay attention. I think the most eventful one was the planning of the pledge class walk-out (we went to Rockaway Beach, as one of my pledge sisters had a mom who ran a motel there).

But are these team meetings? Not so sure...

The Later Middle Meetings

Of note...
only one of these Ad Men lacks a penis -->

So after college I got a job—over developed sense of responsibility shining through (I heard that. Stop laughing.). I worked for an advertising agency in Portland and I was on the McDonald's Team. Let me explain team meetings for you. The Tart (shiny and fresh from college) plans the meeting, takes notes at the meeting and does all the work for the meeting and after the meeting. The other team members make unreasonable demands... late in this job, there was a portion of the meeting in which we all compared penis sizes. I didn't fare well. My penis is very very small.

Meetings though, DID involve good food... sometimes involved exotic locations (the Maui Hilton, for instance, or the Camelback in Scotsdale). I got to pretend I was an important advertising executive (when really I was unimportant—first an account coordinator then an ASSISTANT account executive... with no penis)

I eventually decided advertising wasn't for me. (did I mention I don't have a penis?)

So I went to graduate school, where the meetings all involved beer. They typically occurred at the Cheerful Tortoise ($2 micros during happy hour—oh sure... it was 1993) or Hot Lips Pizza. These were the BEST TEAM MEETINGS YET! Intellectual conversation, critiquing each other's papers (the Tart learns peer review!)... with good BEER! (And only ONE of us had a penis, and he seemed THRILLED to hang out with a bunch of people who didn't! Go figure. 

Coinciding with the Master's program was the PUB JOB. These meetings ALSO involved beer, unless you were on the night shift (which because I was going to school during the day, I typically was) but it was AT LEAST good company. And sometimes Eli and I would get in trouble because we couldn't look at each other without breaking into laughter for no reason (well, lots of reasons, but never one in particular--on this planet, this is the person with whom I had the greatest mind-meld, and I've had some pretty darned good mind melds) and people always thought we were making fun of them, which—because we never WERE made it even funnier--many tears (of laughter) were shed... that was a definite bonus.

The Current Team Meetings

So then I went and had some childings, right? And things have CHANGED since I was a childing... Oh, sure... there were the years of Rec & Ed sports (each parent signs up for a snack day... volunteers asked to help coach (you still have to PAY for your child to participate if you coach--WTF?)... hubby's being head coach... Tart's required to master scoring—(you laugh—I see you... yes the double entendre is apt... and telling you it is baseball only makes you snicker harder). These sports teams have varied widely in the degree of pain and pleasure they offer... seems to differ by sport.

I STILL miss the girls softball family... my daughter played with the same girls for several years, and while she only liked some subset of the girls, I REALLY liked almost all of the families. This is our 3rd year away from them and it was a great part of summer.

Rec & Ed is also partly responsible for my harsh critique of the families of my SON'S peers. In my daughter's cohort, there were always volunteers, always people involved (occasionally annoying people, sure, but mostly good people, and plenty of them). In my SON'S cohort, if the kid my son's age is the oldest... RARELY involved. You have to threaten root canal's to get them to do ANYTHING and when they volunteer, follow-through was POOR. (there are exceptions--the photographer dude is GREAT-- but as a rule). Drives my husband, the would-be-dictator crazy. When he coached he wanted SO BADLY to not let kids play if they missed practice or were late to the game. HELLO FREAKING PARENTS... WE ARE ALL COUNTING ON YOU! (if there is a phone call, fine... conflicts happen, but no communication... just not THERE, until... hello, third inning?)

Still... no meetings...

Middle school sports? No meetings.


Yeah... the high school sports? They have meetings... team meetings. Parent meetings. FREAKING SPORTS BANQUETS. Sheesh! I don't want to know ANY of these people this well!

Okay, that's only a little true. My daughter played three sports last year, and honestly, the swim families are pretty nice. For families who swim, it really is more like religion. Chlorine seeps from their pores. I volunteered to do concessions a few times and my husband timed for most of the home meets—they were organized, welcoming... really WONDERFUL... other than the six hour meeting at the beginning of the season where we dropped over $300. (that particular meeting was last night, and the thing that inspired this post).

The Synchronized swim families were a mixed bag... some real nice, some less socially adept... It was smaller though, and not quite as externally organized... I'm not even sure we WENT to that meeting... just got emails from the coach.

Water Polo? What a MESS! Water Polo is an aggressive sport inspiring aggressive parents with chips on their shoulders, or so it seemed. My husband tried to learn scoring but nobody would tell him (like they'd pissed a circle around the scoring table—seriously) and it was organized like a bug circus. Nobody knew what the hell was going on because these parental pissing matches impeded communication... My daughter loves the sport, but MAN, I hope some of those parents graduated *shifty*

<-- (one of captains) And NOW... My Favorite Things About Team Meetings

*My husband pointing out all the evidence he could do it better.
*The fact that 'Michigan time' (aka: half hour late) is so universally understood.
*The thirty minute speeches by each of four captains about how great swimming is.
*Writing checks when there is no money in my account.
*Learning they've discontinued the warm-ups we paid $150 for last year.
*Spending $85 on a swim suit.
*People who seem to actually LIKE these features.
*Evidence none of these OTHER moms have to work.
*My husband refusing to let me read between important points.
*My husband telling me to sign up then lecturing me I did it wrong.
*Volunteering 47 hours of my time IN THE FUTURE.

At least though... this is the batch I can get along with... Good girls. Good parents. It matters (even if it is still time-consuming and expensive)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Mo-o-om (3 Syllables)

So my kids fly to Idaho (or Spokane, Washington, actually) this morning... I thought I would allow you to be a fly on the wall from when I got home from work at five last night.

“Mo-o-om, where's dad's camera case?” (I heard this as camera and case)

Response: find camera next to my laptop, put in case, hand off to daughter.

“No-o-o; I don't nee-ee-ed the caaaa-mer-a.”

“Mo-o-om, where are my skinny jeans?” (from son in basement)

Response: remove camera from case, hand daughter case, noting boyfriend (hers, not mine) lurking quietly in corner; I exit, shout from top of stairs, “I need to do some laundry!”

“They're not the-ere!”

“They're there.”

“No, I looked. They're not there!”

“They are. I saw them.”

“Theyyyyyyyy're no-o-ot there!”

“Mo-o-om!” (daughter, upstairs again, though I am now in basement noting the hubby is well trained... all laundry is going.  Consider favors to bestow on him. Jerk self back to reality.)

Response: “What?!” (shouted through floor)

“Come he-ere!”

Response: Climb stairs, from living room shout, “What?”

“I forgot my cap and goggles at practice.”

“Call D**** and ask her to get them for you.”

“No-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o, I have to have them! I can't swim when I'm in Idaho.”

Response: fetch own personal goggles from room and bring to daughter.

“No these are crap!” (note the short crisp words of rejection--crap is not a word one needs to drag out)

Response: Deep breathe in effort to not strangle daughter. Return goggles to my room.

“Then I'm not swimming!”

Response: Ingore ingrate.

“Mo-o-om!” (from basement) “Where are my skinny jeans?”

“In the laundry!” (considers hail Mary, though has never been Catholic)

Hubby the saint: “I put everything in the laundry because Sam wanted those jeans.” (remember I was considering considerable favors)



“We have...”

“No, no, no; it'sCRAP!”

“It's fine. We've got three of the Secrets.”


*heavy sigh *

“I'll tell you what. You can just give me my money you owe me, and we will go.”

*deep breathing* "We will go after dinner. I will get you guys some snacks, too.”

(Son has arrived upstairs, begins hopping) “Snacks? Snacks? What kind of snacks?” (still bouncing: son likes snacks)

“Mostly healthy. It's breakfast time. But maybe a pack of Pop Tarts or something.”



I'd like to say it ended there, but in actuality, it continues as you read. Fortunately, I pass them off at 7am, and they are somebody ELSE'S problem for a week. Not that I won't hear about anything they do that indicates bad parenting, but I DO know they behave better away from me, at least for a couple days.

But for NOW... I have a week off... at least during my down time. I plan to FINALLY finish typing my Cozy, and hopefully make SIGNIFICANT progress on the editing.

So Happy HING Day!!!!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Guest Author Douglas Corleone

Today's guest has something ALL of us need... a truly committed spouse (and I don't mean the kind of committed I sometimes think MY spouse needs *cough*. Seriously though, Douglas's lovely wife Jill was the contact seeking places to guest blog. I think we ALL need somebody that fabulous helping us out. So if any of you want to be my devoted spouse, I am willing to consider bigamy.

That said, Douglas's book is an award winner (very promising).  It came out in April, so you can go get it in your hot little hands!  He is talking to us today about development of a series character—something I think a lot of us can use. So WELCOME Douglas Corleone!


Author Bio: Douglas Corleone's debut novel ONE MAN'S PARADISE is the winner of the 2009 Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award. A former New York City criminal defense attorney, Corleone now resides in the Hawaiian Islands where he is at work on his next Kevin Corvelli novel. Visit the author online at douglascorleone.com.

Till Death Do Us Part: Thoughts on Creating a Series Character

In the process of writing a novel? Careful when creating that main character. He or she just might be with you for life.

When I set out to write my debut novel One Man’s Paradise, I concentrated heavily on developing the protagonist, hotshot Honolulu criminal defense lawyer Kevin Corvelli. As a fan of hard-boiled mysteries, my aim was to create a lead character with the potential to be as tough yet touching as Dennis Lehane’s Patrick Kenzie and Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe. I was also intent on giving my lawyer the smarts and savvy of Steve Martini’s Paul Madriani and the wit and cunning of William Lashner’s Victor Carl and David Rosenfelt’s Andy Carpenter.

In a way, Kevin Corvelli is a Frankenstein of my favorite lead characters, a hodgepodge of literary powerhouses spiced with a unique voice and enough flaws to make Charlie Sheen cringe. And I confess to having a man-crush on him. Which is a good thing, because (thanks to my agent and editor) it looks as though Kevin Corvelli is going to be with me for some time.

Of course, many first-time novelists don’t set out to create a series. But the reality is, if you are fortunate enough to get that first book published, fortunate enough to have it read and adored, your publisher - and more importantly, your readers - may very well want to see more.

So when crafting your first novel, be sure your protagonist is not just someone who your readers will want to spend time with, but someone you might consider spending your life with. Which character traits do you find most endearing when you’re reading a novel? Do you enjoy edgy humor? If so, make certain your main character doesn’t take himself (or herself) too seriously. Imagine a straight-laced New York City homicide detective who not once cracks a smile in Books 1 and 2, but suddenly becomes a regular Jerry Seinfeld in Book 3. Taking a risk like that could lose you some readers, and by extension, your next book contract.

My personal pet-peeve in crime fiction is a hero who unfailingly does the right thing, a by-the-book bozo who is too self-righteous to take a drink (with the exception of reforming alcoholics, of course), to throw a punch when a punch is called for, or to hop into someone else’s bed when the timing’s right. Had I created Kevin Corvelli in that vein simply to please a particular agent or editor, I’d be pulling my hair out right now. Because Book 2 would have been an impossibility for me.

Instead I get to spend at least the next couple years of my life with my pal Kevin Corvelli - who I would trust with my life, if not my wife. And that’s a relief. Because as much as we writers want to get that first novel published, let’s face it - what we want is not a single book but a career. And quite often, a series is the best way to achieve that objective.

Link is http://www.amazon.com/One-Mans-Paradise-Douglas-Corleone/dp/0312611587/ref=tmm_hrd_title_0
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Minotaur Books; 1 edition (April 27, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0312611587
ISBN-13: 978-0312611583

Monday, August 23, 2010

Group Projects

So there is something that never occurred to me, once upon a time, as a nice writing skill... But you know what? I think there is a reason to develop this... I wouldn't have known it until I participated, but since you are HERE, you can learn from my experience.

Let me E'splain...

The Burrow Goes Public

In 2008 my writing group decided we had a better shot at drawing public attention collectively than individually. I was more private in my Nakedness then and my first book was not done. Not that that would have made this group effort less valuable. But we were just thinking... it would be good to have a record of our work... of what we could do... we wanted to begin our legacy.

We considered a couple projects, with varying degrees of progress, but finally, Tara found an art gallery in Cardiff, Castle Gallery, and she convinced them, using her substantial charms, to do a project with us... they do a 'show' releasing their winter art in December, and agreed to let us write 'drabbles' to be displayed with their various art works.

This nice little 'project' really opened my eyes.

[This is where I confess that though I've done a number of these projects, there needs to be a coordinator, and I deeply LACK coordination... never take on a group project without somebody who is GOOD at this kind of thing... cat herding would be a fine resume marker, but lacking that... at least being the liaison for prior group projects].

But we pulled it off, and have been doing group projects since.  http://www.the-burrow.org/ This site holds a pretty good record of them... most recently, our Pay it Forward project.

So Why do YOU need some group projects?


While writing seems a solitary experience, and in many ways, it is, PUBLISHING is a group project. You need to communicate and cooperate. We need to be willing to fight for ourselves sometimes and give in sometimes, and it is honestly GOOD FOR YOU to know where you are willing to yield and where you aren't. This is GOOD PRACTICE! (I swear!)


When work is put out under a group project, we need to be willing to seriously consider the perspectives of our co-presenters. Their names can be affected by what WE choose to present, so, for instance, if you are a shameless NUDIST, you maybe want to be careful how you might affect your beloved co-conspirators.


In our vacuums, it is easy to think we are FABULOUS or LOUSY (typically these two alternate for writers). Working on a group project we have a little reality check, because we all are mutually obliged to give each other a reality check, both in the positive and the negative.

As for FINDING Groups... that is a little trickier. I found my peeps over a long period of time where we interacted and made some judgments on compatibility, but if I have ever seen a better ground than the blogosphere for getting to know people you don't KNOW, I can't think of it.

So I strongly recommend it... it doesn't matter what it is. I think a group project will help to prepare you for the publishing adventure.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Baby Book Review

What do a string of teenage overdoses, a dominatrix, and biblical threats have to do with muffins?

I'll tell you what... But you would have MUCH more fun reading it.  I just finished a book that my friend BrioNI sent to me... she lives in Australia, and was trying to figure out if they have cozy mysteries there... This particular book has the quirky characters, sassy voice and hobby angle (the MC is a baker and there is a lot of talk of technique, plus recipes in the back) of cozies, but the victims aren't so dislikable, exactly--they are addicts, yes, but sympathetic.  And the violence and sex are more graphic than cozies typically have.

The book also had more than one mystery involved... there was a missing girl and the threats.  The MC wears a size 20, and still has some very sexy adventures... It really is a fabulous read, and I strongly recommend it.

In other news:

I am having the AMAZING HaRRY Dolan as a guest soon... keep your eyes peeled.

And I was the person who got to pick this weeks Drabble Dare Image at Burrowers, Books & Balderdash, so of course IT'S NAKED!  That means it is time for YOU to give your hand the drabble test!  Go give it a try!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

I Love Weekends

A post in which I mostly just ramble...

Sleeping In

My favorite feature is the sleeping in part. I sometimes wonder if I would be adept at life if I had no day job. I certainly would get more sleep, which I don't have time for. I do love those two days though, when I get to lay in bed until ten, not least because my husband gets up around eight and I can SPRAWL.

I don't like GOING to sleep in a sprawl. I don't go to sleep well when he's gone. That's what twenty years (when we first moved in together) will do to you, I suppose. And there is an association with fighting—maybe if one of us traveled a lot it wouldn't be that way, but as it is, even if we AREN'T fighting, if he isn't there, it seems like we are.

The Down Side of the Weekend

Laundry: Weekends are my laundry days. I don't really have feelings about washing and drying clothes one way or the other, except better me than them. My husband is inclined to wash three things at a time *rolls eyes* and my daughter mixes her things together irregardless of color (and dries her bras—something one cannot do and expect them to hold form--then she begs for new ones).

Folding laundry on the other hand, is the punishment from the third ring of hell... endless days of looking for the damn matching sock. It is a little better if I can convince the kids to scram, as I can put in a movie I want to watch while I do it (only one of our TVs has a DVD player, and they monopolize it if they are here.

Shopping: I hate to shop. I know... some of you girly-princess types ADORE it, but I'm a womanly-EMPRESS type and I'M NAKED. What on earth would a naked empress need to shop for? You got it... her SPAWN. Her spawnlings LIKE to take her shopping so that she can spend money she doesn't have on things they claim they need.

The daughter claims to need a second pair of Happy Bottom pants... no, that's not right... Hard Tails... These are pretty much high end yoga pants, and I remember being her age and hating jeans because I was bigger than my friends and felt like they looked lousy. Jeans give the painful reminder every time you grow a little... fail to exercise... and I didn't see that as a benefit until I was in my twenties and knew I NEEDED a reality check now and then or I would just misbehave... So I can see the appeal, but I have a VERY hard time not insisting she should just wear the Target brand (though she is right that they get holes pretty quickly--we will see if these last better)

Son wants expensive shoes for his ever-growing feet. They are a size thirteen... Age 11 and he has the biggest feet in my house. He seems to have had a growth spurt this summer too. I think he is five-eight—certainly as tall as my daughter (who is possibly done growing). My husband is about 6'2” if he stands up straight (which he rarely does) so the son will one day be tallest, too... Very strange, that...

Speaking of misbehaving...

I didn't even TRY this week on the diet. Not one stitch. And the scale has taken its revenge. I need to get back on track BADLY and am having a heck of time getting back on track. I know myself well enough to know it won't work to 'just do it'--I need a marker of sorts, so school starting is it. I am going to try not to be too BAD until then... try not to gain any more of it back... but acting in the positive... THAT is hard. Best to do it at a time that we are 'beginning' things anyway... so the Tuesday after Labor day.

Editing: Slow going. I am TYPING Chapter 17 (of 21, but 21 is very short). I am short on words—extrapolating, almost 15,000 short, though I have a list of things to get in there.... some of them ongoing plot points... I think though, one of the things I REALLY need to weave in better is Roanoke and the Gardening.

So a PLEA: Any of you garden avidly and lovingly in a zone 7? I need your help!  Just to chat a little about the things you love... get a feel for what you like to grow... email me!

And finally... it is my mother's 63rd birthday. She and I are still having a rough time, though we aren't 'not speaking' anymore. Her reality just still never touches real reality and it drives me crazy. But my KIDS are going out to see their nana and papa this week, so that will be good. Strange to put your children on a plane and send them across country without you, but they should be able to handle it—they flew one direction alone two years ago (though were young enough then for the airline escort between gates). My daughter is 15 and has flown quite a bit and my son is 11 and logical. I am VERY glad airports are closed to non-passengers, and am glad the airports they change planes in are Minneapolis and Salt Lake, as those are both clean, easily laid out and full of people happy to help if you just ask. It will be good for all of them to spend some time together though. 

So there we have it... my rambling life at a glance...

Friday, August 20, 2010

Goods on The Contract

I waited on this until today, because I wasn't clear on a couple things. The BIGGIE is language that says I can't use my pseudonym in any OTHER promotional advertising, etc. which sent me into a panicked spiral as to whether I could use it for website, blog, etc. (as those--one in existence, the other only conceptual as of yet--are INTENDED to work for ALL my work).  I worried briefly that I'd have to take the pen name off my blog, facebook, etc. But I contacted Ellen (my agent) with my questions, and my primary concern—HELLO... all this promotional effort as HART—won't that help with book sales for ALYSE? (see how clever I was?  Always disguise your own self interest as the questionee's self interest... it is part of my Naked World Domination plans.)  So now I can get naked... and wet...

I officially have permission from Berkeley to include Alyse on my HART blog and HART website (did you see my wipe my brow there?  I was seriously worried... it happens when you get naked before you know if nudists are allowed). I just can't use it to push other works (except in communication with agents/publishers to prove my track record).

So THERE! Now I can talk about it.

First, A Confession

My only college 'C' was business law. Yes... to some of you this makes me a hopeless geek and to some of you, you are BAFFLED that I didn't get straight As, but there you have it... I was an A/B student with an aversion for law.

I suppose that's not so surprising, given who I am, and how averse I am to rules in all OTHER forms. Why should I keep stuff in my head I never intend to honor?  And what the heck does that mean to me where a contract is concerned, besides the fact I will have a heck of a time understanding it because I DON'T LIKE RULES!

Contrarian Me

But when it comes to something I SIGN... see, now THAT is different. If I give my WORD then I am going to honor it, even if that is a form of rule-following. Signing, even if I am signing onto RULES makes it personal and I am obligated.

Which of course means I HAVE to understand the darned thing.

That is why with this contract I wanted to really understand what I was signing on for before signing my name... and ONE of those details was whether Alyse had to go underground or not. Fortunately, she doesn't.  You know what THAT means?  I get to SHARE with you!!!!

Some Stats


Books: 3 for now... if any more, ALL to be renegociated.
Words per book: 75K
Dates: Dec 31, 2010, Sept 30, 2011, June 30, 2012

Rates: So this is secret so it's in secret code—you remember how this works, right? If you want to break the rules and look at the dollars, HIGHLIGHT.

Advance: $5,000 per book, split over CONTRACT, Book to Publisher, and Book Published.
Royalty rates (based on cover price):

Hard Copy: 10% for 1st 5,000; 12.5% next 5K; 15% thereafter. (10% exports)
Mass Market: 8% first 150K, 10% after (5% export)
Hard Copy Book Club (sold at 60% or more discount from cover): 5% received by publisher

NOTE: I am never buying at Sam's Club or Target... man, I had no CLUE how much less the author got. Repeat after me: discount at bookstore, fine. Non-bookstore BAD. Just say NO to Wallmart!

Back to the rates:
Trade Paperback (what most of these will be, by the way): 7.5% (unless at 52% discount, then 5%)
Publisher e-Books: 25%
E-books sold to others 30% (but 30% of what publisher gets which is less)
Movie rights-depends how much is 'book specific' versus broad concept.

So there.

That is the goods on a contract of the variety where the idea originated with the publisher, but the writing is done by the writer.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Bad Poetry and Contracts

So yesterday was Bad Poetry Day. I bet you didn't even know there WAS a bad poetry day. I know I hadn't. But my friend Sketchie (the SPAZ, you may recall) pointed it out, so I proceeded to write the following:

I hope that I shall never sit
beside an ocean full of... rotten food.
The smell that wafts upon the air
Is worse than wearing underwear.

Of course that isn't the first time I've written bad poetry. I am relatively adept at the limerick. Here is an early work from my Harry Potter days:

St. Patrick's Day Limerick (blame Tara, she got me started)

James was the Marauder who loved Lily
Sometimes it made him act silly
He gave her the eye
To let her know he's not shy
but she threatened to cut off his [rhymes with silly]

Sirius Black was the hot one
An unusual day when he got none
They've been lining up
Since he was a pup
And the consensus has been that it's awesome

Poor remus just howled at the moon
Not knowing that poor ladies swooned
His honor too much
His love life a bust
But fandom adoration is his boon

And then we have young master Pettigrew
We wrinkle our nose like he's mildew
Did he really go bad
Or was he a bit mad
But in the end at least he get's his due

Full circle, we're now back at James
Or Prongs in Marauding names
He stood up for his friends
To the darkest of ends
but his legacy's certainly no shame

So anyway, I invited my friends to write bad poetry and had this entry by our own buddy B. Miller:

O, Fickle Peep!
Why doest thou flitter hither and thither so?
Art thou mad?
Thou art simply puffy.

Thine grit is so sweet!
Make love to my tummy, O Peep!

O yes, your eyes shall be plucked,
your body burned.

(pastoral, I think... for Easter)

And Lance, (Sketchie's brother... a fact I find suspicious) wrote a series of

"Haiku For Real Men":

Driving down the street
I see a smokin' hot chick
I whistle at her

Drank too many beers
I bend over the toilet
And puke my guts out

Joris did some translating:

Chirp chirp - chirp chirp chirp
chirp chirp chirp - chirp chirp
chirp chirp chirp chirp chirp chirp
...chirp chirp chirp


(the above is a translation of the poem "De mus", by Jan Hanlo)

and wrote an original:

Yes, no, please

No, yes, yes, no
yes, no
yes, no
Oh sod it.

And then Kerry contributed this:

work was going slow last night
call for thunderstorms don't give us much fright
suddenly there was a call that was rather dire
as it turns out; the canopy was on fire!

And LeaAnne (not to be confused with Leanne) added:

Potty training is hell
The built up gas has an awful smell
If I just hold my breath
He'll be successful yet
At least that was what the doctor did tell

And then here is my final entry, followed by an EXPLAINER!

Forty-seven pages
mangled gibberish
binds us

Taking my power
swearing me to subserviance
I jump for joy
It's my contract!

You heard me... contract arrived last night. I read it and sent a set of questions to my agent, though was rather impressed that I understood at least 90% of the words and 20% of their meaning. I will get it mailed later today, after making my copies. Very exciting!

Say... it's my grandpa's birthday!  (or would be--he would be 91)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Defining Integrity

Jessica Faust got me thinking this week with this post about product placement in the e-books, and as always happens, my brain started skipping all over, taking various tangents, so I thought maybe we'd explore together what exactly author integrity was. There are easy lines and hard lines and a lot of gray area in between... ready for a trip?!

The EASY Line

No plagiarism, ne? Easy peasy line. Never take credit for anybody else's stuff. And it's always great to have your own totally original book... every thought from your own brain. Never wrong, right?

But what is your opinion on ghost writers? Is that ever okay? Do you think less of the WRITER of those, or only the person taking credit when someone else wrote it? What about when the ghost writer gets credit... a nice 'with' to go after the name of the supposed author. Then there are the collaborative efforts with a big 'James Patterson' and a little 'peon writer'. Or the gigs like I've got going, where an editor comes up with a broad brushed plan and the writer then writes the book.

And what about people who write gossip about other peoples' lives? Is that okay? Only if they get permission? If it's a public figure? If the person is REALLY obnoxious? If you do it in SECRET and you call it FICTION?

What About the Ideas?

It would be SO SO wrong to sit in a coffee shop and overhear a writer telling her BFF about her great new idea and then go write that book. Even if you felt sure the writer was LOUSY and couldn't execute it, it is STILL wrong to steal the idea.

But there are supposedly only SEVEN plots! So how the heck are we SUPPOSED to have original ideas? I saw a parallel recently (wish I could remember who... one of my blog buddies) of Star Wars and Eragon... It was BRILLIANT how parallel the two stories ran, yet I'd never noticed until it was laid out for me. They don't FEEL the same. They don't SEEM the same. I'm willing to bet it wasn't intentional on Paolini's part.

We read. We watch. We talk. And over time the stories become a part of us. It would hardly be fair to disallow anything that had some prior iterations. If Romeo and Juliet disallowed West Side Story and Grease... sad. Though we also wouldn't have Twilight, so that's something *shifty* I think that is one of the functions of the publishing industry... filtering out the 'not fresh enough' new versions of old stuff from the new enough twists.

How Do You Spell SELL-OUT?

This gets into that whole product placement discussion... it is of course widespread to include the name of a product in books. Characters drink Coca-cola, or chew Excedrin, or eat Krispy Kremes. It is what real people do. It would be an unrealistic expectation to leave all of that out. But to put them in on purpose in order to get paid by the manufacturer? How would that work? Would the manufacturer request it from certain authors? Or would authors write in products left and write hoping for an endorsement after the fact? When there is product placement on television or movies, then the manufacture often gets approval rights, or it has to be removed. Does the book industry want to enter that quagmire?

What about special requests? Do you incorporate a story twist or a character because somebody wants you to?

So Because I Can't Help Myself

My opinion on the matter is that as long as we are learning and growing, then what we write is good for us. YES, there are times to consider pen names and such, if you have 'higher aspirations'... The fan fiction I started with uses someone elses' characters... hit a couple plot points... and developed and grew. I am going to watch the product thing. It depends on how obtrusive it is... a hyperlink might be okay, not a flashy ad. My opinions aren't quite as lenient for the side USING ghost writers... I can live with it if there is credit, but I don't think I quite approve.  But from the WRITER'S end... we do what we need to to grow, and if we can find a route to get paid in the process, I'm okay with that.  I also think we should give credit where conscious decisions were made to use ideas from here or there--ESPECIALLY from any living author's work or living person's suggestion.  It's just the right thing to do.

So what are your opinions? What are the lines you won't cross? Which ones are okay?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Guest Author Mike Dolan

Today I'd like to welcome Mike Dolan. I will be honest. I had to look up pecunious, and even then wasn't sure whether the author was speaking literally or in broader terms until I looked closely, but closer inspection leads me to the broad view... he means BOTH. And I like it that way. I think wealth is nice and all, but a broader view that allows for true LIVING in addition to literal wealth just pleases me more—it has a deeper value. Anyway, I welcome Mike and invite you to see what he has to say on the matter!

A Pecunious Life - How to Have a Life Abounding in True Wealth
Genre: Self-Help
Publisher: Infinity Publishing

Mike was born in the mile-high city of Denver, Colorado 43 years ago. He has lived all around this beautiful world of ours, from Europe to Alaska, to his current home in the Middle East. His education is that of the experiences life gives and school is far from being out for him. He is a lover of life, a life adventurist. He loves to travel, meet new people, and experience new cultures. He has been given a great opportunity to see life in a different light and wishes to share this with you.

Here is Mike in his own words:

Beliefs come from our past experiences and the culmination of past generations’ experiences. Believing gives us the capacity to make our lives more organized so that we don’t have to continuously try to understand our surroundings. Not all our beliefs, however, are positive in nature. In fact, the majority of our beliefs limit our own abilities to understand more of the world around us. Any belief that is limiting that defines someone or a group of people will limit our ability to open ourselves up for more experiences that could lead to a greater cooperation, a greater understanding, a more peaceful existence, and perhaps even new budding relationships. To understand an example of this you need only look inside yourself. What belief do you have that might be limiting? I could come up with examples, but each life experience is different and therefore the beliefs we each hold are different. The challenge, then, is to examine your own beliefs and find reasons to change them into something that will lend to a better understanding of this life.

Limiting beliefs can be ingrained in other areas of our lives as well. It was thought for the longest time that we would never be able to fly, we do. It was thought for the longest time that it was impossible for the human to run a mile in under four minute, we have. The examples of our defeatist beliefs being dissolved exist all around us. Some of our beliefs limit our experiences and lend our thoughts to be more narrow minded and less capable of greater accomplishments.

“You as the master of your thoughts can change the ideas you believe in.” MLD

The book A Pecunious Life written by Author Mike Dolan has great advice for improving ones life, not only does the author write details of how to become more wealthy, but he incorporates his own experiences which are woven into lessons of life quality. Learning from the past, learning from mistakes, learning from beliefs or mis-beliefs, life-altering events, and exercises where the author asks you to sit in a quiet place and reflect on the lessons given.

The book is not really about becoming wealthy in the money sense, but wealthy in the spiritual and happiness sense. Could we be happy with less? Happiness is a state of mind-

I found this educational and easy to read and recommend it to adults in need of self-hep, spiritual guides, and for people who need a better life than they have right now.

Reviewed by Ami Blackwelder 

A Pecunious Life can be purchased on Mike's website or at Amazon:

Mike's Virtual Tour Banner:

On a recent trip to my brother’s house the whole family was sitting in the kitchen just talking as we always like to do. It was a beautiful evening so all the windows and door were opened up to cool the house. It was dark outside and we had a couple of lights on as we chatted away about nothing in particular. My brother mentions that in the morning he notices the mouse trap and the mouse down in the garbage had disappeared, then my wife mentioned that she heard a strange freakish noise that night, she thought someone was outside. I chime in that I do remember her waking me up, but that I didn’t hear anything but the wind. My brother and my sister-in-law go into this story about them hearing a fisher cat that made these ghoulish sounds that would make a grown man quiver. By this time as you can imagine everyone is starting to get a little excited. Then my sister-in-law looks at the screen over the front door as she is mentioning that she hopes that a bear doesn’t come through the front door. At that same time she notices something on the back of the door. Well, that’s when the excitement begins... She screams “Bat!” and starts running into the next room. By this time my nephew, my wife, and my sister-in-law are in a panic and screaming loud enough to wake the dead as the bat is fluttering back and forth from the living room to the door, because by this time he is in a panic too as the girl are screaming at the top of their lungs. So my brother and I, the expert bat removal specialist that we are start to drive the bat out. My brother takes his night stick of a flashlight outside with him to work his way around to the front door where the bat is trying to escape from. Mean while I’m trying to sneak up to the front door to trap the bat between the door and the screen. As I get close to the door the bat flutters off into the living room and I back off, fearing for my life of course. Then the bat makes a run for the door again. This goes on until it looks like I’m doing some new fangled dance in the middle of the hallway. By this time my brother has made it around to the front, so I decide to let him know where the bat is play by play... “He’s on the screen!, he’s off the screen!, he’s on the screen!, he’s off the screen!” all the while I’m still dancing back and forth with the bat. Finally my brother with his night stick of a flashlight tears down the screen, the bat escapes and I slam the door shut, but now as I’m looking out the window I see the light of my brother’s flashlight waving wildly around and he is running back and forth, then I see him dashing for the front door. I open it just in time for him to come rushing in. At about the same time my sister-in-law comes in carrying the pool skimmer in hope that this would be the tool to catch the intruder to free us from this torment. We all finally get reassembled back in the kitchen and my nephew blurts out “at least it wasn’t a bear!” We all start laughing. Such the optimist!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Fighting an Infection

This is a strained metaphor in poor taste, but y'all KNOW I can't help myself.

So two weeks ago, I was walking home from work, reading (as usual) and not really paying much attention. The day before in the same spot (I remembered after the fact) lighting had downed a big branch. I'd stopped to assess the two squashed cars and people standing around saying, 'this sucks!' as having your car squashed by a large branch does INDEED suck.

Now in my defense, I WAS paying enough attention not to walk into that downed branch the day before... but when everything had been cleared away... well I only have so much attention to spare... so I stepped on a stick. No big deal, right. Stick, schmick. WRONG! The stick was curved and forked and obviously EVIL. It popped up and positioned itself so that it could IMPALE my calf!

Now it hurt pretty bad, and I swore at the stick (which didn't have the decency to even apologize) and I kept walking... until I felt the trickle... I looked more closely. Apparently being impaled causes BLOOD. I got out a cloth from my bag (the emergency back up hanky) and applied pressure, then I LOOKED at the darned thing... Being impaled ALSO leaves a big freaking hole in the leg (assuming the leg is where you were impaled.) It was only a flesh wound though, so I hobbled home, cleaned it up, put on a bandage... and have proceeded to have an unattractive wound on my leg for a few weeks now.

Last week my boss, who normally works in another building and had been on vacation for a week to boot, saw this and freaked out. Had I seen a doctor? Had I used hydrogen peroxide to clean it? Did I want her to call me in a prescription for anti-biotics? No. No. and No. The hydrogen peroxide WOULD have been a yes, if we HAD any, but there was none. Soap and water had had to suffice. But a DOCTOR? Anti-biotics? For an (admittedly ugly) wound that is no worse that say... a skinned knee?

And Here We Come to Philosophy Differences

My boss, the MD, puts great stock in MEDICINE. The Tart, a nudist, naturalist, and environmentalist, sort of thinks sometimes it is best to let nature take its course. I'm not STUPID. I get my tetnus shots when they force me—which would be, I think, the only infection I couldn't handle. But I happen to think our bodies need practice fighting these MINOR things, so there are anti-bodies built up for BIGGER stuff--the stuff they don't even KNOW about yet that is mutating BECAUSE we use medicine for everything and those bugs think they have a right to exist too.

I don't get a flu shot. I would have exposed my kids to chicken pox instead of getting THAT shot except my husband had never had them, and for an adult they can be so dangerous. I don't take medicine unless it is BAD—the bottle of acetaminophen in my office EXPIRED in 2006 and is still half full... that is how rarely I resort to it.

I've noticed that every time one of my kids switches schools, we have a bad year for colds and minor inflictions... it is a NEW batch of germs and we need to learn to fight them. And we do... the next year it is better... in fact now that my kids are 15 and 11, I think we have most of the Ann Arbor germs down...

Now I may be totally cracked. In fact in other domains, I'm quite sure of it. But I think this serves me pretty well, most of the time.

And there is a WRITING Metaphor (as always, ne?)

We could do our writing and then send it on to a professional editor (the literary MD)... they could work with it and hammer it out so it's nice and lovely, yes? And we may be successful there, and it might be a PERFECT solution. But then we'd write our next book, and we only would have learned a few of the lessons of the hammering out. We only would have gotten the peripheral benefit of watching and listening. We WOULD NOT have the experience of doing it ourselves.

Yes, doing it ourselves takes longer. Yes it's more painful. Yes, there is typically whiskey involved. But the next time it comes around, the required skills are in our docket, practiced and ready to go, so it is EASIER. We may have another tier of lessons when we try a new genre, or target a new audience, or hit a new milestone, but by being primary participants, I think we are better equipped to get stronger and grow.

This is NOT necessarily a self-publish endorsement, as in some cases I think THAT is more like deciding to go to school sick and spreading your germs (not always... some people have mastered the self-healing powers and are good to go)--I just feel compelled to point out that putting on clothes and stepping out the door is not a clean bill of health.

But mostly, I think the personal effort to conquer these things is good for us, as it arms us for future fights.

I know I said not this weekend, but as it is now WRITTEN, I think this will work for the Sunday/Monday blog... so there...