Monday, January 31, 2011

Writer, Interrupted

I didn't know until I got to the last chapter of Girl, Interrupted, the book, that it was named for a Vermeer painting. [Girl Interrupted at her Music] I don't know many painters because... it's not that I DON'T appreciate art, but I enjoy my aesthetics in a less cerebral way... I want to just.... enjoy them. Not think about or analyze... so it's a rare artist who has made himself known by name... Van Gogh is my favorite. His style is so distinctive. But Vermeer is part of the rare batch who has caught my attention BY NAME. It's because I find what he does with LIGHT really amazing. He brightens things he wants you to notice, but not so much that it doesn't still LOOK real, even though it isn't how it would really LOOK.

In other words, he is doing with a scene, what WE (writers) should be doing with a scene. The other stuff should be realistic, or it's distracting, but it shouldn't be EMPHASIZED. What should be emphasized are the things we want our reader to notice, and especially the main character and the things that matter to THEM.

This painting in particular is special, as the main character is looking out at US—she is engaging us. That's unusual in classic art—even unusual for Vermeer, other than his head shots, which tell us very little about the subject. Most of his paintings have music or art as their side themes, or so it appears from a quick glance, and often, the instrument outshines the musician. Here though, while the teacher and the music are brighter than the background, there is also brightness from the window... yet the girl is attending to US.

Yes, indeed. Very find example for a writer,

Girl, Interrupted, the BOOK

So I finished this on the way home from work Friday. I don't normally read non-fiction, but this was very skillfully done. Susannah Kaysen is articulate, observant and funny (considering how unfunny the situation really is). I was particularly impressed with her ability to walk the reader through delusional moments... weave us into how much sense they made to her at the time, while still letting us know she is not disconnected like that anymore.

It was a very poignant book, in that it contrasts her position both with the outside world, which she feels ill-equipped for, and the REAL crazies (a visit to Alice, who'd been with them briefly, then goes to the maximum security portion of the hospital, but even within her own ward, she acknowledges she and Georgina, her room mate, are 'least crazy')

Her descriptions of Borderline Personality Disorder, too, interested me. I am pretty sure I've known a few. But that aside, most of the time, this sounded very much like a diagnosis that is

Adolescence + Writeritis = Borderline personality disorder.

There were times she crossed lines... had delusions... but mostly she was plagued with a lack of interest in anything but writing or boys, an inability to make decisions, lack of engagement with others, unwillingness to follow the expectations of society...

Girl, Interrupted, the MOVIE

I can both see why they changed it, AND why Susanna Kaysen wasn't happy with it. It wasn't her story anymore in the movie—things added. Things subtracted. I know why they do it and usually I take issue—it's not necessary to alter details. But THIS book was a series of clips—not in order, in many ways separate from each other. It wasn't a single coherent story, but a series of short stories and a lot of thought. Unaltered, it wouldn't work on the screen—as a documentary, sure, but not as a feature.

The acting was good—heck, Angelina Jolie got an Academy Award for it. I think the whole cast did pretty well. But some of the issues in the movie were NOT Kaysen's issues. And a HUGE amount of it was exaggerated for the sake of a bigger story.

I am glad all this came up last week... that I asked all of your advice and you sent me this direction. I feel connected to this writer, mental illness or not. I think it's important articulate, writing representatives from all sorts of places, but I think madness is one of the hardest to truly understand, so I appreciate what she has done. I recommend the lot of them.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Spinning Tires

No, you're not hallucinating... I posted Friday's post Thursday and am not really blogging weekends but HAD one, so I thought I'd post it Friday night. I will get back to mornings on Monday...

It's a little funny to get to the point where you KNOW the project needs to be set aside, isn't it?

I've been on overdrive since October—mostly editing, a month of writing in there... and I've reached a spot where I am allowed to fall into a more comfortable pace, but tapping the breaks is not slowing me down. I don't WANT to slam on them—I really need to be able to fire up again in about 3 weeks—not at this pace, but making reasonable progress, as it is nearing time for my second Cozy... but in the meantime...

*Huge Sigh*

So I am trying to consider what I want to accomplish between now and then that I might actually accomplish. I think I CAN definitely get LEGACY cleaned up. I got FABULOUS feedback from Leigh (though I have a decision to make about YA or not... SAY.... maybe you's can help me!!!)

LEGACY: YA vs. NOT: the Pros and Cons

Main plot:  A teenage girl has to run away because her addict mom is not keeping her safe. She meets a trio of kids whose dad has just been murdered and mother has disappeared. They agree to help each other and it leads them into a ring of art thieves with whom BOTH of their families are entangled.


-characters are all kids and teens (well the good ones)
-I think the development of the villains doesn't need to be quite so credible
-I keep thinking ALL my stuff might be best as YA—I have a strong teen voice.


-My MAIN PoV is a 13 YO and my #2 is 9. There is a rule the MC should be OLDER by a year or two for YA and these are NOT middle grade books (in fact I would have to edit to get them off a Rated R)
-The art theft motif and family based conspiracy seems a little mature.
-The drug addicted mom start is pretty graphic. Sex. The F word. I am debating what it loses by changing this.

I guess though, what I'd like to know from YOU is AS ADULTS do stories about kids and teens interest you? Can you handle it if stories about YOUNG teens and kids include sex, gun shots, kidnapping (the KIDS don't have sex—although in the second book in the series, the 15 YO boy gets seduced) but they are in some pretty precarious situations... How strict do you think that 'year or two older' rule IS? My MCs are 13 and 9-- is a 16 year-old going to be WILLING? (I think adults may—think of the girl in the Book Thief—though now that I say that, that was in the YA section, even though it is widely popular with adults...) The story just would NOT work if my MC were older--she needs the vulnerability of being as young as she is.

So as you can see, I have some big thinking. At the MOMENT, I am addressing hard edits directly and HIGHLIGHTING things that will need to change if I decide to go YA with it.

So LEGACY is what I am doing at my computer at the mo...


Why do I love plotting so?

I am plotting my next Gardening Cozy, and I have an idea I'm very pleased with... Lots of quirky character potential... Subplots lining up nicely... Love one... Nother one... Family one... *cackles* Did I mention I love plotting? Though I DO want to find all my notes. *Looks around *


Here it is, in writing. It is TIME for me to get back to it. You heard me. I've totally blown off my fitness plan—in fact for 2 weeks I've not DONE my power stuff. I still walk to work, but I need more. So I will start the fitness this weekend and the eating on Feb 1. I was using ABNA and my high power EDITING as an excuse... no more.

I hope you all have a fabulous weekend!!!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Late, But Still HOT

 So after my FAIL on following my calendar...  I had really great news... Well... if by GREAT, I mean NOT ALONE IN MY DISORGANIZATION.  Erica, one of the OWNERS of the blog hosting, ALSO thought it was Friday. *HUGS ERICA*

Okay...  so being me... a true believer of MORE IS MORE *cough* I've got not just my mug shot, but a SERIES!!!
 THIS... is the mug I typically use at home... placed strategically by my happy computer...

And also next to the COMPARISON as evidence WHY this is my mug of choice. Hubby doesn't seem to MIND refilling often. I prefer a nice satisfactory dosing when I take my caffeine.
 At WORK, I take that to the next level, because our supplies are actually in an office down the hall (I work in a satellite building from the hospital, but there are actually THREE offices belonging to our department.  Did I mention the temperature regulation in my building SUCKS? It is connected to the nursing school, and I think they don't teach nursing students how to shut doors... or something. The hallway is often FREEZING this time of year.)

Anyway... it is Michigan Radio for coffee in the am and UROP (Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program--a cup earned for 'speaking' at something) for tea in the afternoon.
 But I also have some sentimental mugs (at work)  [Note:  HWMNBMOTI doesn't like anything 'non-matching' so anything I love that is UNIQUE has made its way to work so it doesn't get chucked for offending his sense of order)

The Tami cup is from my grandparents and glazed with ASH from Mt. St. Helens. The OTHER one I got from Portland State when I turned in my thesis.
THIS one, I got from Tara when I went to the UK... because I'm such a pussycat...
Erm... or something like that *shifty*

(then again we brought her a whip, handcuffs and her choice of confectionery penises)

So those are my mug shots! HA!

And I'm posting TONIGHT so I am technically on the right day, but will leave it through Friday...

I hope you all have a great weekend!

Mish Mash

DOH!!!! And I have a fail here!  I am supposed to be doing the HOT blogfest and thought it was TOMORROW, so my pics are on my camera AT HOME... Come back by TOMORROW and see my MUGS!

So I am over at Burrowers, Books and Balderdash  today advocating for the word SNUCK.

Me Being Helpful! (What? I can be helpful)

Elizabeth Spann Craig worked with a software engineer to come up with this SEARCH ENGINE FOR WRITERS!!!!  You know how you Google something like 'synopsis' and about 80% of the hits have nothing to do with what you want? This reverses that, so ALL are related to writing and some much higher percentage are exactly what you're looking for!

Editing FAIL

So in Kahlotus Disposal Site I have a PRIMARY character (Helen, my ghost) and two secondaries... Serena (the invisible girl) and Allan (one of the teachers at the reform school). In round one I must have ALTERNATED Allan and Allen. I did find/replace Allen... I SHOULD have done find/replace (space)Allen(space). I am finding chAllange and fAllan in my novel *rolls eyes*


I finished this round of EDIT last night and just have a final polish of my EXCERPT left before I am going to just call my entry GOOD. Well maybe not GOOD, but DONE. I've also had a fabulous friend agree to READ it (who will go nameless, as I know she's busy but MAN I appreciate it, as she is one of the few writers I know who takes a DARK REALISTIC YA angle, so I know her perspective will be insightful.

When I am totally done I plan to:
Clean the cat box
Clean the bathroom
Watch Girl, Interrupted with my daughter (I've been reading the book, too)
Write a fan fiction update for each of my ongoing stories
Polish LEGACY (thank you Leigh for feedback to help here!)

And... It's THURSDAY! You know what that means!!!

Have a great time anticipating your weekend!!!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


I was talking to a couple friends from high school last night... guys... divorced... thrown in the dating pool again... They were both very discouraged... meeting mostly nuts... Which is possibly understandable... a mid-40s single person who has NEVER been married may not really know how to be a partner, so even if they are fully actualized and fabulous, they may not quite know how to play well with others...

But MOST singles in their 40s are actually divorced... They've had some LOUSY love experience...

I thought maybe we'd explore that a little (and at the risk of being dismal, maybe add in some other stuff)  The KEYS to attraction... revealed here...

Young Love

Close your eyes and picture your first crush. It is SO EASY for me—we are actually... you know... Facebook friends... and he's a really nice guy with a nice family (and handsome sons I keep thinking maybe should meet my daughter—kidding... sort of). At 12 though... he was... Taller than me (rare) blond, blue-eyed... nice feathered hair... and had a bit of a swagger... oh yeah... he was comfortable in his own skin (GAWD I craved being comfortable in my own skin back then!--so FLIPPING elusive!) And by the time we finished Jr. High, I had had maybe 2 SHORT conversations with him. This crush... this deep abiding, all-consuming FEELING was about him being really cute. If he'd also thought I was really cute, he might have asked me out... (where it would have fallen apart—I didn't really have the confidence for... you know... conversations and stuff for many years)

Conclusion: all looks

Warning:  Do not judge yourself by this. Others don't know the real you.

Almost as Young Love

Cute still was pretty darned important in High School... but so was geography... and what I mean by geography is common activity... this can include classes or bus rides, shared friends... but only the most confident teen talks to somebody when there is no EXCUSE. My high school 'loves' also tended to border on obsession, except the few cases when I was pursued... then I thought I was interested briefly followed by panic and flight...

Conclusion: Looks+common activity

Caution:  Do not judge yourself here. The people who actually end up being cool adults are mostly AWKWARD in high school.

Co-ed Frolics

By college it was possible to... you know... have a conversation with boys... the physical thing still mattered A LOT. In fact in the very short term it could quite trump everything, but FINALLY I was ready to DATE which meant spending some TIME, having conversations, seeing how well lifestyles fit together

Conclusion: Looks + True Common Ground

Caution: You may think you find it here... it is probably NOT the it you think (though in the midwest and south, I think some nuts really do their coupling here)

Post College

This is the notorious partner pick for the thinking person (which I never claimed to be)... any relationship at this point risks being THE relationship... So not only does CHEMISTRY matter, but so does POTENTIAL... Job? Ambition? Genes? Lifestyle?

Conclusion: Looks but only if FUTURE POTENTIAL

Caution: Men here are looking for a woman who 'will never change'.  Women ALL change and grow from this age. WOMEN here are looking for a man 'with potential'--men at this point WILL NOT mold to fit your ideals.

Late 20s/early 30s

We all reach a time, and some of you might have reached it before me... where we finally ARE who we ARE... Up to this point we are more at a 'coming to be' stage... and I would argue in reality, up until this point YOU HAVE NO BUSINESS CHOOSING A PERMANENT PARTNER (in spite of the fact that most of us chose them in our last phase). It takes a couple years after our LAST DEGREE to really be the person we are going to be in the long run...

Here, we are FINALLY comfortable choosing a deeply and truly compatible partner... erm... except we are typically already strapped with a partner chosen at an earlier phase, but never mind... Younguns... choose your partner after age 27. That's my advice.

Conclusion:  TRUE compatibility

Caution: This can be a hard age to meet people, depending on your field.


After this point you enter the period where PREVIOUSLY partnered folks enter the mix with NEVER PARTNERED and it is a MINE FIELD. This isn't because there aren't great people, but even great people typically go through a 'hurt' or 'distrusting' time. All I can say here is there are GREAT people... but SCREEN CAREFULLY!!!

(Please no offense to anyone who falls here) And there ARE good ones, but I think there is a reason people this age tend to choose partners of very DIFFERENT ages.  Just go SLOW.

Geriatric Love

And then life gets easy again... you don't have to worry about ANYTHING but how much you enjoy each other...

Oh! Story time... My Grandma was widowed in her early 70s (very sadly) but about a year later, her neighbor behind her (also widowed, but male) began to invite her to do somethings.... at 75, my grandma got married... and she got to TRAVEL (saw 3 other continents with Ray)... when they got married, Ray was Catholic and they got married in a Catholic church...the priest said something to the effect of not having to worry as much with older couples and my grandma said to him, “Well you know, if we have any children, I promise to raise them Catholic: *snort* But she had some great years with Ray. He wasn't my grandpa, but I loved that she got to be really happy and have fun again... You know who writes great geriatric couples? Maeve Binchy...

Conclusion:  FUN!

Okay,... so if you are writing love and attraction... WATCH OUT for these means of attractions and pitfalls! And if you are looking for love and are FEMALE, I have some nice men I can point you at. (mid-late 40s)

Top two pics from Morguefile, bottom is a stockphoto.
Content from Hart Johnson at Confessions of a Watery Tart

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


And writing communities generally...

Last week I saw a Tweet from Debbie Ohi,
[fabulous Deb Ohi comic ----- > ]
superstar Twitterer (and personally responsible any time I've gotten anywhere with a Tweet). Her post? There is not just #amwriting, but also

Say what?

For those of you uninitiated on Twitter (and it is with great irony I say that, as I am a Twittering TWIT), hash tags [the # mark followed by your favorite topic, eg: #nakedworlddominationtour] gives people who want to find out MORE on a topic a way to find all the conversation on that particular topic. You can create your own... last year when we did my writer's group sponsored WriMo I created #BuNoWriMo and had a handful of conversants—oh sure, I was about 2/3 of the entries... but still...

Anyway, I learned early that if I wanted to reach WRITERS and not limit myself to followers, that I should include #amwriting on what I had to say...

So this WEBSITE for the #amwriting types was pretty darned cool!

I Signed Up And...

There are a BUNCH of writers there... and there is a system whereby anyone can be a MEMBER but if you have a book number and stuff you can register as an AUTHOR (with a bio and such) and if you START as a member but publish, you can update...

There are bios, and communities and help... it is set up very well, I think.

But as with ALL these things, I think it is as useful as who participates. I signed up for 5 groups (the genres I write, plus a social networking one and... maybe it was two social networking ones...).

There are forums for conversation...

I guess what I think is... wouldn't this be FABULOUS if all my FRIENDS were here?! If, say... all of YOU signed up... because then, instead of a day by day blog (which is fabulous, but VERY temporary) there could be conversations by TOPIC that go back and forth and remain there to browse later...

What say you? Sounds cool, eh?

Do you all know of other forums like this? Are they friendly, or filled with annoying people (I have been to others, but have found them full of sycophants. I hope that doesn't offend anyone... I'm sure there are a bizillion I've never found... but say... the site run by hot former agent guy...)

Any you recommend? Or should we take over? And by take over, I mean respectfully join (but also add some life to)


On a more personal front...

I am officially ABNA entered... that is not to say I am READY, but I learned yesterday that I can REload up until they close, so better to load, then update as I have them, instead of being budged out because I am too late. Once they are closed, I am stuck with the version I have, but that is better than not being IN there...

FYI I thought you may be curious about before (which you've seen), and AFTER on my pitch)


In the high desert of Eastern Washington, miles from anything other than a few farms, grain silos and a small cluster of modest houses, sits the Eastern Washington Hospital for the Mentally Retarded and Insane. The doors to the hospital have been officially closed since 1953 when the suicide of a resident spurred an investigation and found serious abuses in care.

Helen has been alone since then, in the abandoned institution that caused her such pain, but thankfully, her death ended the seizures and the death of the hospital ended the screams. There is other sadness, but she believes the worst is over.

When the noticed is nailed to the heavy front door Helen is shocked to realize she's been dead sixty years. When trucks and workmen show up several days later; however, she realizes her death is going to change drastically. The damaged young people assigned to the Kahlotus Project have not entirely bought into the idea of a reform school. They bring with them tragic pasts, mental illness, and a vast deficiency in coping skills. They posture for dominance, manipulate each other, and, when official backs are turned, cause each other, and themselves, harm. Helen can't work out what to make of these people, but is drawn to them like a circus show.

Only a handful of the new residents can see Helen, and in the case of a schizophrenic girl, she is taken as evidence of psychosis. But the girl who really touches her is the one who seems just as surprised as Helen to be seen. Serena has spent her life alternately trying to be invisible and be seen, always visible to those who would hurt her, unseen by the rest, unbelieved by those who should help. Perhaps this unlikely friendship can heal more hearts than just their own.


In 1953 teen resident Helen Bixby's suicide spurred an investigation that closed down the Eastern Washington Hospital for the Mentally Retarded and Insane. Helen has been alone since then, in the abandoned institution that caused her such pain. Thankfully, her death ended the seizures and the hospital closure ended the screams. She thought the worst was over.

When a notice is nailed to the heavy front doors Helen is shocked to realize she's been dead sixty years. Work on the building brings fear of what will come, but the building is meant to be a opened as a school. Unfortunately, the damaged young people assigned to the Kahlotus Project have not entirely bought into the idea of reform school. They bring with them tragic pasts, mental illness, and a vast deficiency in coping skills. They posture for dominance, manipulate each other, and, when official backs are turned, harm each other and themselves.

Helen can barely cope, but that isn't the worst of it. Neglect and new abuses by the adults in charge trigger painful memories of life at the hospital in her own time. She decides she must do whatever she can to change its course.

Only a handful of the new residents can see Helen, and for those, admitting it is taken as evidence of psychosis, only making matters worse. But the girl who really touches her seems almost as invisible as Helen. When it seems Serena is going to fall victim to the abuses of those in charge, Helen forms a partnership with Allan, teacher and counselor, to protect the students, so the horrors that so adversely affected her life, don't destroy the lives of another generation.

Kahlotus Disposal Site, at 65,000 words, is a Young Adult novel along the lines of The Lovely Bones meets Girl, Interrupted.

So there.

All Content Watery Tart Generated (Hart Johnson) and seen first at Confessions of a Watery Tart.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Top 10 Songs

This blogfest is a fun one. Alex Cavanaugh  has asked us what our favorite songs of ALL time are and why... So here we go... you will note SOME of these I love truly and deeply for sentimental reason, so for lyrics, and SOME because they just are so fabulous...

Dream On  by Aerosmith I have a soft spot for a ballad that totally rocks. And I have a soft spot for Aerosmith ANYWAY. I adore Steven Tyler (any man who can scream like that, really), too, but this is definitely my favorite of theirs.

Beautiful  by Carol King I grew up with Carol King—one of the few from my mom's collection that stuck. I love this as a mantra for attitude and believe it wholeheartedly. “You got to get up every morning, with a smile on your face and show the world, all the love in your heart. And people gunna treat you better, you're gunna find, yes you will, you're as beautiful, as you feel!”

Love Hurts  by Nazareth This was one I never heard until Junior High dances, not having an older, hip sibling, but from the first, I loved it, and it fit SO WELL with the angst of that age.

Bohemian Rhapsody  by Queen Can there be ANY question how much this song rocks? I mean seriously? It is classic, fun, drama, and rock all rolled into one.

Sex, I'm a...  by Berlin I loved Berlin already when I left for college, but hadn't heard this older song until a dorm neighbor exposed me. It struck a chord with my rebel self.

Kiss Off  by Violent Femmes This is another freshmen year college discovery and the whole album reminds me of my favorite year ever. This particularly one though, I adore for THIS:

I take one one one cause you left me and
two two two for my family and
3 3 3 for my heartache and
4 4 4 for my headaches and
5 5 5 for my loneliness and
6 6 6 for my sorrow and
7 7 for no tomorrow and
8 8 I forget what 8 was for and
9 9 9 for a lost god and
10 10 10 10 for everything everything everything everything

Don't Forget About Me  by Simple Minds This Breakfast Club theme holds a place, I think, for a whole generation. I love Simple Minds anyway, but I think this speaks to how we all want to be memorable—to make a difference to the lives we touch.

Self Esteem  by the Offspring This one I first heard AFTER I was past this part of my life (thankfully) and having survived it, I just have such incredible fondness for that... erm... promiscuity because you think it's all you've got? (was that a TMI moment?) Whatever the case—I love these guys all-around... the playful scream-song is something I dig, but the lyrics on this one touch me.

You Learn  by Alanis Morrisette And here we have my life philosophy. Never sit on the sidelines, no matter how painful. Buck up. Live life. Because the lessons from the pain are really what it's all about.

Unwritten  by Natasha Bedingfield I love this song for its philosophy and as a writer. It really is the newest one that really moves me.\

And just so you know... if you asked me tomorrow, about half this list would change...

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Special Guest Denise Verrico

It's been a while since I've had a guest, eh? Holidays got us carried away and my organization skills, even holiday-free, leave something to be desired. Denise has been my guest before, when she released her first book, and I'm thrilled to have her back... Three words... KINKY. VAMPIRE BOOKS. Can't you just BREATHE IN how much more fabulous that is than chaste vampire books with boring heroines?
And personally, I identify so much with trying to explain to my CHILDREN what it is I write
(my daughter's boyfriend actually reads my blog *dies*) So this is SO MUCH fun!

Welcome Denise Verrico!!!

OMG! My Mom Writes Kinky Vampire Books

I’m thrilled to be back as Hart’s guest. I often say that I never met a tart I didn’t like. This is the one place where I know my rather skewered sense of humor can run free. (and the Tart Rejoices)

One of the women with whom I work says that I lead an interesting life. Obviously, she doesn’t know that most of my waking hours are spent at home, crouching on my sofa over a computer, looking a bit crazed like L in the manga, Deathnote. When searching for a topic for my guest blog, it did strike me that my life is a bit unorthodox compared to most women I know personally. Other women my age do crafts and volunteer at their church, while I write about vampire threesomes and watch The Venture Brothers.

I’m a major geek. I’ve seen all three Lord of the Rings films about thirty times each. I even have pet cockatiels named Pippin and Galadriel. We have arguments at our house about which superhero has the best power or whether or not there can be a black Vulcan when they’re supposed to be green. I spend a lot of weekends at sci fi cons. So, I’m asking myself here and now, is this any kind of life for a forty-nine year old woman?

My journey has always been unconventional. I’ve come to writing in a roundabout way. At eighteen, I went to college to study theater and spent four years being told I wasn’t five seven and blonde (as if I couldn’t figure that out myself). Back in those days, half-Italian was considered ethnic and all-American was in. I wasn’t much of an actress then, but I did get better later on, once I got over the burning desire to play the ingénue and realized the best roles were the character parts. I did learn a lot about text analysis, dramatic action and character development through acting. For fun, I’d write parodies of the local critics’ reviews of plays. At a party, one of my theater professors told me I should be a writer. I gave the idea a quick thought, passed out, and went on with my life upon the wicked stage.

I worked a lot backstage as a designer, playwright and director. Eventually, I stage-managed a play with a cast of twenty-one men. I figured the odds were good for me. They were. I met a wonderful young man with beautiful blue eyes and an incurably optimistic disposition. Twenty some years with me cured him. But we’re still together, suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. We went to New York together to do theater, and then Orlando Florida, where we worked for the entertainment department of Universal Studios.
My husband often tells a story of those early days at Universal Florida. He was giving a tour of the pretend back lot in the driving rain. I say pretend because they pretended that movies were made there when it was actually a theme park. At the end of the tour, he asked some women if they’d enjoyed it. One of them complained about the rain. He answered something to the effect that he couldn’t do anything about the weather. One of the women said, with a perfectly straight face, “It never rains at Disney.” Doesn’t that just say it all?

After that experiment in corporate show business, my husband decided to go to grad school in Ohio and get his master’s in directing. By this time, we had a nine-month old son. My life was like a single parent’s, working and coming home to an empty apartment with my infant. I missed performing, I missed my husband, and I was going nuts. When my son turned two and got to be a little more independent, I started writing a vampire novel. I thought, “Hah, piece of cake! In your face, Anne Rice!” Wasn’t I in for an education?
There was no Twilight then, only Rice and a few others. Who knew vampires would become the cute and cuddly teen idols of the century? Eek. Well, I learned what I could and pooped around with my first book for about thirteen years until my husband convinced me to start sending the thing around. Well, I did and after sending out four queries, L&L Dreamspell offered me a contract. So, here I am.

Heigh-ho the glamorous life…

In the real world, I work in a second-grade classroom as an instructional aide to a child with special needs. I love my job and my student. I work with a wonderful teacher. But I write stuff that is dark and disturbing in parts and this makes explaining things to people at work interesting. When they hear that I write vampires novels, the first thing they want to know is if they’re like Twilight. I want to say, “Sure, if Edward, Jacob and Bella all got into bed together, disemboweled people once in a while, and made wisecracks as they did. Of course, I refrain. Instead, I tell them that my work is more like Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Rome and The Tudors with a dash of sci fi. Not a lot of sparkling going on.

My mother likes to tell people that I write dirty gay books. First off, let me say that the sex in my books doesn’t begin to approach the amount in a lot of vampire novels and it isn’t graphic, but yes, my vamps swing both ways. I have scads of historical research to assure me that this was more commonly accepted in the ancient world when my vamps got their start. The sex in my series is political mostly. It’s all about the intrigue for me. I’m a big fan of historical novels by authors like Mary Renault and Robert Graves.

Remember these words: male vampire courtesan. You heard them here first. This leads me to the favorite anecdote of my writing career. In my upcoming third book, My Fearful Symmetry, I have a rather irreverent POV character, Cedric MacKinnon. He’s a nineteen-year-old Scot who finds himself chosen as an adept of the ancient arts, a devotee of a tantric cult of Kali, at the court of the chief elder of the Immortyls. He’s essentially an entertainer and courtesan employed in political maneuvers. Now, I belong to two different critique groups and couldn’t do without them. New members drift in and out. I’d missed a month’s worth of meetings this past summer and submitted a chapter online. A new member came to the next meeting and told me that he thought that a gay man had written my piece. I took that as high praise. I felt like Tennessee Williams for a moment…a very brief moment. The funniest part was when I called my friend Daniel in New York to tell him and he said, “Well…almost.”

Contrary to popular belief, I’m a middle-aged heterosexual woman. Okay, I do post pictures of pretty twenty-something men on my Facebook fan page. I’ve been running a tribute to Brit actor Nicholas Hoult lately that has my eighteen-year-old son cringing. Hey, I happen to think young Mr. Hoult would make a great Cedric. It’s the lips. Okay, the rest ain’t bad either.

So is this insane existence any life for a woman of a certain age? Damned tootin! I love what I do. It’s fun. I meet interesting people. It keeps me from feeling old, and I get to talk to fun folk like you. But the very best perk of being a speculative fiction writer is that I have an excuse to go to science fiction conventions, talk about vampire lore and buy all the Firefly and Dr.Who merchandise I crave. Even better, they let me in free!

Denise Verrico is the author of the Immortyl Revolution novels, Cara Mia and Twilight of the Gods, published by L&L Dreamspell. My Fearful Symmetry, Book Three will be released later this year. She is a proud member of Broad Universe. Her books are available in print and multi-format e-book through major online outlets, including Amazon, Borders, B&N, Fictionwise, Omni-Lit, and All Romance books or may be ordered through bookstores. Signed copies may be purchased at her website You can also find free reads there. Follow her at these sites:

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Sleep Lab

I remembered! HA!


And what I mean by that, is I remembered what I thought I might be doing today... but I'm not... See, there is a Significant Other Blogfest and  SINCE that time, HWMNBMOI has forbidden me from ever mentioning him on the internet, so i CAN'T participate... but that doesn't mean you shouldn't go check it out... (several of our buddies are participating)

Okay, back to the blog...

This thing my daughter is doing...

If you are impoverished in a University town, you might know this. There is money to be made as a research subject, and not all of it involves testing strange drugs (though I did that once)... For my job, I walk through the hospital now and again, because my boss has an office over there, and not for any other reason if I can avoid it, but about 5 years ago, we were feeling the CRUNCH. I'd recently changed jobs because the 'soft money' that paid me had run out, and though I'd been offered ALL THREE jobs I interviewed for, every one of them was a significant pay cut...

So at the hospital I saw this sign... sleep study, children 8-15... I had a 10 year old... It was time she started earning her keep! I took the tab and called... and we got hooked in with the sleep lab.

Not a Tartlet
(Note:  this is not my daughter -- >)

My daughter has to wear an 'actograph' for a week (which measures light and activity), keep an exact sleep schedule (she gets to set it, but it is the same weekends as week days, and THIS week, there was also MLKJ day, so she had 3 days she had to go to bed and get up as if it were a school day)... and then at the end (starting Wednesday night), we go into the sleep lab and they put little probes ALL OVER HER HEAD and watch her brain while she sleeps (which I think is very cool).

Because she is a minor, I have to go with her, but I don't mind. As a health system employee, last time I could log into their computers and do my Harry Potter geek thing I was doing when she was 10... I'm much more mature now *shifty* Seriously, though—There IS internet access (WiFi for my laptop) and I have plenty to EDIT... I am polishing, but am going to include a couple of the tricks ELIZABETH mentioned Tuesday in that polish... And I just finished Rock Walker, Jan's novel (it was fabulous!) and I'm reading Michael's ABNA excerpt, so I have plenty to keep me busy (even if I have to pout about the inappropriateness of nudity)...

feather comforter=YAYness
Besides THAT, the beds are super comfy... feather comforters three feet thick, feather pillows, comfy mattresses (on the soft side, which I prefer)

So what ABOUT Sleep?

I have a lot of friends with sleep issues—true insomniacs. And I know that goes with all SORTS of problems... the body needs sleep the heal, rejuvenate... PROCESS. I don't know how often I've gone to sleep with a problem floating around and woken up with at least a good shot at my answer... And how many book pieces come from weird dreams? I'd be a MESS with no sleep... at the very least, I'd be a raging biotch.

I've always slept pretty well—not too much trouble falling asleep, either the first time or consecutive... though I do sleep lightly and never sleep through the night (need a loo visit and a drink of water). As a kid I walked in my sleep now and again. My kids were both thrash-around sleepers when little, my daughter so much so that she used to fall out of bed a lot (something I also did, come to think of it). But my son is the really freaky one... or was... he used to sometimes call SCREAMING because he'd walked somewhere, woken up and didn't know where he was—he once fell into the toilet, even... totally asleep. I would try to talk to him and it was CLEAR he still wasn't awake, but he was SO UPSET. I think the last time he was five or six... and I think I did that once or twice with my sleepwalking too but without the upset thing because I didn't wake up (my mom would tell me of my strange behavior the next day), so maybe that is all me.

HWMNBMOI doesn't have any of THOSE things... he sometimes snores, but if I pretend to cuddle so exuberantly that I can get him to roll onto his side it will stop. He doesn't fall back to sleep well though, so DON'T wake him or you have an ogre on your hands for a week or so (yes, for one waking).

I can recite this
Sleep in Books...

I will just start with saying The SLEEP BOOK is the best book EVER... Okay, maybe not... but it is my second favorite Seuss and that is saying something.

But have you read books that focus on sleep issues? You'd think with as many weird life things it causes, you'd see more sleep issues in books. Of course my favorite horror movies focus on sleep... Nightmare on Elm Street—the original of that, at least is a GREAT premise.

Other than a couple MCs with insomnia though, I don't remember many books with heavy sleep focus... I wonder if we just don't perceive it as exciting enough...

Blog port written by her Tartness, Hart Johnson for her BLOG Confessions of a Watery Tart

Sleeping Guy
Sleep Book *huggles*

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Comparable Books


So I have heard tell agents like you, in your query, to say something along the lines of:

“Readers of   [successful but not wildly popular because we know you aren't that good book] will love this, as will people who loved ['nother-- somewhat dissimilar but still like yours] and [movie here to be different].

And I've always ignored that part.

You see... if my books were like OTHER books, I wouldn't have needed to WRITE them!!! I thought this was an agent insecurity... or maybe I just figured I had NO HOPE so why stress about it. This is not a deal breaker. Agents SAY they like it but don't say no for not having it...

But it is ALSO something they'd like in the ABNA pitches... and there I am more hesitant to just... you know... blow off that part...


Helen comes from a world very like One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest. No problem.

But my delinquency associations are The Outsiders (where the bad guys are good and the rich guys are bad), the movie The Warriors (which just doesn't really fit)...


One of my characters is reminiscent of 'Cut' but I need HELP finding appropriate books to bring to the REFORM SCHOOL table! The list has things like Holes (which I LOVE, but which my book is NOT like...)  and the EROTICA, which my book ALSO is not...

So two things from you, Blogger friends...

Do you know of any reform school books or movies where MOST of the residents are actually pretty bad rather than sympathetic?


How do you approach this part? Do you have appropriate comparisons in mind all along, or do you madly scramble finding something?

Okay, so short, as I am writing from the Sleep Lab (about which I will tell you TOMORROW!)

All content by Hart Johnson except the two book covers, which should be obvious... and published at Confessions of a Watery Tart

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Point of View

I have a strong preference for third person close... so strong, that I'd never tried another until November when I wrote a YA mystery in first person for NaNoWriMo, but the book I am currently editing had initial INTENTIONS to use first person for the ghost. I had written a prologue that was then set aside and I couldn't find it when BuNoWriMo (The Burrow held a WriMo last June) started, so I just wrote... it came out in 3rd person. I found that prologue, though, when I started editing and realized first person really was a lot stronger for this particular story.

Very soon after I started the change I found this great blog post from VR Barkowski about a conversion SHE had been doing. This post from Sarah Ahiers also talked about point of view... and I thought maybe it was time I dived in with some of the things I think I'm learning.

(really Kahlotus-->)

For starters, I'm not sure I would have even NOTICED most of this had I not done this CONVERSION. When I wrote my YA Mystery in November it was just sort of natural... modern teenage girl... just a year older than my own daughter... I didn't feel like I had to think that hard (I say from a pre-looking again PoV)

Converting a PoV though, that was originally written in 3rd person... and a far more UNUSUAL 3rd person... has taught me several things...

First, Who IS SHE?

Helen, my ghost, died in 1952. She committed suicide at age 15 to escape the horrors of the mental institution where she has been placed because her widowed father wasn't sure how to deal with her epilepsy... So she has come out of a scene like One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest...

And finds herself among modern delinquent teens...

More than 'She to I'

(<--Also just outside Kahlotus)

As a 3rd person narrator, I have some adult words that I used to describe the action. Helen would not talk that way. There is also a formality to 1952 that no longer exists... and a respect for elders modern teens seem to have forgotten.

“She pondered the idea” becomes “I wondered if maybe”
“She'd despaired on” becomes “I dreaded”
“Helen smiled” becomes “I loved this, one of my few joys”
“perhaps” becomes “maybe”

Because see... Helen is YOUNGER than me, and also lacks my confidence. So her language is simpler and holds more hesitancy.


As narrator I can make attributions about other characters that Helen CAN'T—there is no way she would KNOW...

For instance, I had an observation of 'Lily, the least pregnant of the pregnant girls'--but Helen doesn't know that. None of the pregnant girls can see her, so she hasn't talked to them. Lily becomes, “The pregnant girl whose belly is smallest”

I also have to give some uncertainty to what she thinks the actions of others mean.

Character's world and Affect on Word Choice

One of Sarah's points had to do with her (male) character and a critique she'd gotten about (questionably) female words, but that triggered my TIMING issue...

As narrator, I could say “Helen had never seen a computer before”. As HELEN I have to talk about the strange briefcase with the TV in it. There are a lot of modern things that Helen has no framework for and I had to carefully watch for those and make sure I put them in terms SHE might have to think of them in.

This has actually been a really fun exercise in character development. It is harder to maintain the voice for me with “I” than in 3rd person, because in 3rd person I am me telling a story. In first person, I have to be my character. But this means I've had to think about more aspects of her.

Side Note:

My daughter is participating in a sleep study for the next three nights. I still plan to BLOG, but it's possible it won't get done before I leave for the lab, so they may be posted later on Thursday and Friday...

Content generated by Hart Johnson
First Image official Kahlotus City Data, second, 'Geocache for Devil's Cataract'
All posted first at Confessions of a Watery Tart

Happy HING day!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award

So I am over at Burrowers, Books & Balderdash today giving the skinny on DATES, what is REQUIRED, who JUDGES, how many PROCEED, and PRIZES, but I thought HERE we might spend a little time talking about what a person might do during those long WAITS between rounds...

My experience is (possibly because I am self-centered) that MOSTLY you only pay attention as long as you are still IN... I mean sure, there is the back-patting thing for your friends who make various rounds, but during the month I was IN last year, it was highly stressful and my need to talk about it consumed a lot of my time and energy... I didn't have it in me to keep up with it at that level once I was knocked out... here is how I spent it...

During the Month of JANUARY

Write, edit, polish as much as humanly possible.
Take advantage of trading for help in ABNA threads, Facebook groups, or by email.
Bore all your uninterested friends with ad nauseum info on the topic.

Once you have Pressed SUBMIT

Go to ABNA forums and try to figure out who is interesting and clever.
Make comments on said fora in an effort at looking witty.
Tentatively talk to people who seem impressive in hopes of making friends.
Look up people on Facebook and add them to 'friends'.
Consider querying but not your confidence is entirely too low.
Consider writing but note you are obsessed with your already entered story.
Write a chapter for each of your ongoing fan fiction stories (maybe this is just me).
Eat badly.
Pull eating back in check and realize you don't need your concentration to power walk.
Pull out one of your other books and read it.
Curse self for not submitting THIS ONE instead.
Read blogs about first chapters.
Curse self for not having more gripping first chapter.
Blog about your anxiety.
Blog about blogging.
Blog about online friends.
Panic again.
Realize you've been neglecting pretty much everything.
Go back to ABNA fora. You are not alone.

If you make Second Round (Pure speculation. I have not DONE this). (1000 do 10%)

Squee a lot.
Swear, but in a good way.
Try desperately which friends you can celebrate with and who is in mourning at being out.
Reread your excerpt and decide it will never make it.
Cruise the ABNA boards trying to make NEW friends as the last batch has dwindled.
Realize you have a non-ABNA related deadline you can't ignore and try writing.
Give in to lousy first drafts.
Duck head and commit to getting on with it.
Check ABNA boards and Facebook from work just to... make sure...
Blog about anticipation.
Blog about lack of concentration.
Blog about crossing appendages.

If you make Quarter-Finals (again... speculation.... 500 make it 5%)

Freak out.
Tell the World.
Babble incoherently.
Call your mother.
Bring up that you WRITE with people you've never talked to about it before.
Go back and forth between TELLING PEOPLE and HIDING that your excerpt is not ONLINE.
Look for feedback.
Try feebly to finish book for deadline.
Panic at feedback.
Lose heart.
Peek again.
Cling to anything non-negative.
Blog about ambiguity.
Blog about insanity.
Blog about purple things.
Consider superstitious rituals.

If you make Semi-Finals (total speculation: 100 make it 1%)

Commit to freakout.
Give April and May up as a bad job.

If you make FINALS (wildest fantasy: 6 make it)

Beg every person ever met to read and vote on book.
Work the social marketing to best of ability.
Curse not polishing deadline book earlier.
Email every NYC friend and beg to see them when there.

Oh, if only...

Content generated by Hart Johnson
Pictures from
First appearing together at Confessions of a Watery Tart

Monday, January 17, 2011

Editing Madness

So you know how if you go for days without sleep you start hallucinating? How your imagination plays tricks and you behave irrationally?

I am beginning to thing the same thing happens when you are at the late end of an editing marathon.

To give you a little perspective...

In October I did a READ AND NOTES toward editing Legacy.

But then I did NaNoWriMo so that doesn't count *cough *

In December I then IMPLEMENTED my November notes on Legacy for 2 weeks

THEN I got agent feedback and had to jump back to an Edit of the Garden Cozy (one week) (and sent it to a couple readers)

THEN I got back to editing Legacy and FINISHED (then sent it to a couple readers)

Just in time to get MORE feedback and do ANOTHER edit to the Garden Cozy...

Then in January I dived into Kahlotus Disposal Site (first read and notes, then edit)

… If I succeed... I will have done 6 rounds of edits on 3 books in 2 months + a bit of October...

Then, I am stubbornly determined to incorporate reader responses and do a polish so by mid February LEGACY is ready to Query... (with my fingers crossed deeply that my agent likes it so the querying isn't necessary) So yeah... That is a lot of editing before I get back to writing 'normally' again (end of Feb I will start my next Garden Mystery).

You might have some grasp why I am getting a little loopy... but I am also LEARNING. So maybe sharing THAT is preferable to sharing my insanity...

Tart's Early view of Editing

(I did this with Confluence 4 times... exactly this...)

Read it through in order... try for better words... fix errors... drop adverbs... 'is this necessary or not?' clean polish, rearrange...

There was NO REWRITING involved. I didn't get it. Like... I REALLY didn't get it.

My CURRENT view of Editing

Start with a big giant holistic thing... (did that the first week)

Make notes about what the big changes are, then MARK THEM (I put them into a chapter summary thing that basically has a one-line of each section, so I knew where I need to add)

NOTE: Adding a big plot point usually means adding 3 or 4 little lead up/planting RELATED mentions before you get to the actual SCENE... it is slow going.

This weekend I would guess I spent 15 hours editing... I worked my way through about 60 pages, but I also WROTE about 6000 new words—about 75% for totally new sections based on my notes. My first draft (because this was a WriMo) was 51,000 words. Now it is sitting at 63,000. I suspect it will be past 65,000 by the time I'm done (which is perfect for a YA, though I have MORE notes to implement after ABNA because I am not so illusioned so as to think one edit is adequate... when it is REALLY done, it will probably be closer to 75,000 words)

I guess my point is NOW I make myself read the thing HOLISTICALLY and think about what the story is missing, and add THOSE things to the draft, then I go through and not only clean up, but write whole new sections.

I am TRYING to apply what Jan did with her edits, which included a synopsis level before the rewrite... write the synopsis, REWRITE the synopsis as you want your story, then apply THAT, but I can't seem to find the discipline to do it.

Now I am not so sophisticated at all this as the super analyzers I've seen—I respect this a lot—breaking it down into what every little piece is doing, identifying all the functions, but think I would just give up the writing completely if I had to think about it at that level. I am not a literary writer, and I think what a suspense writer is concerned with is tension and pace (along with character and plot, but ideally the first I've handled and the second I keep improving with what I am already doing)--the third edit would address those next points...

Results of so much editing:

*  The Diet seems to have fled.
*  The exercise routine is waiting patiently (I did use the elliptical, but only one day)
*  While I bathed, it was only as an excuse to sit in the tub with my stuff...
*  There might have been chocolate consumed.
*  And rum.

That SAID, I am pleased with the progress. I totally need to rewrite the last two chapters, but I've made notes as to what goes in, so I think I can do this tonight.

So how do you all go about editing? A little at a time, or in insane marathons like this?  Any tricks to make it easier?

Verbal Content by Hart Johnson
All book covers designed by Joris Ammerlaan especially for ME! (and if you want to send him some business, you can SEE how good he is, so just shout: I hope to publish traditionally, so may not get to use these, but for anyone self publishing or small indy publishing...)
This blog originally appeared at Confessions of a Watery Tart

If you see it elsewhere, fine, but please drop on in and say hi!

Ha!  As of 1:30 last night... finished this round of editing! It needs another, but hopefully a couple changes and then a POLISH and we will call it good for now...

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Burrow Drabble Dare

If you are feeling the need for a little romantic challenge, the Burrow Drabble Dare for January includes four images that we will feature in our February Burrow feature, (including a couple participants) so why don't you pop on over and check it out!

The Kiss, Francesco Hayez -

Saturday, January 15, 2011


I may not be here but yesterday saw two new flags, bringing my total of countries represented by my FABULOUS readers to 136... this pleases me, but the two countries yesterday?  PARTY COUNTRIES... The Bahamas and The Caymen Islands...

So I thought I'd offer a little public domain adult beverage to celebrate!  The world is getting naked!

Editing coming along! Hope you all have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 13, 2011


DRAT!  Premature posting! My number lock was turned off... Oh well... this is FRIDAY's blog. Check out today's though (below)-- it is a little necessary madness...

(and some news, but first for the part you really want...)

So yesterday I went to leave a link on my friend Sketchie's wall (Hey Sketchie, when ya comin' out, you contracted romance writer, you?) and I found THIS:

Apparently AT&T's auto correct for texting has more of a sense of humor than even those nutty Google guys (though I will share THAT too)

Some of the classics?

“I broke my penis and it exploded all over my pants.” (should have been pen, not penis)

“I think I left my glasses in your orifice.” (office)

“How is your day going?” “Awful. I have a case of the manboobs.” (Mondays)

Seriously... go look.

Can you SEE why instead of doing what I was supposed to last night I was going through their archives and crying because I was laughing so hard?

Though I ALSO had some amusement from the boys at Google. Pretty much you go to Google Maps, pick 'directions' and start in Japan. I think any other country is amusing, though I am particularly fond of the instructions for getting to the United States because it goes through Hawaii...--seriously, go look at the directions.

Okay, and now for some less ridiculous stuff:

There is a REASON the word DIET starts with DIE.

I lost 5 pounds first week, but SUNDAY was bad (not sure why) then MONDAY I was watching my football game (so needed extra adult beverages) and TUESDAY hubby forbid me to set the alarm for 5am after being up until midnight... so this week has been a big ZERO. But I promise to get back to it. As soon as the eggnog is gone... *shifty *


See now HERE I am making good progress. I passed the halfway mark on the 'big edit' (which ideally would be followed by FEEDBACK and which I have now secured the fabulous Michael Di Gesu for an exchange—ideally one more... then another edit then a polish...erm... in 2 weeks. What?

As part of my ABNA prep though, I am engaged in an ABNA prep group on FB that is giving feedback and such and I've had a lot of interest in the book... not just 'sounds interesting' but 'I want to read that!' so I am excited about my book, even if I have doubts about it being quite 'done' for this contest.

That said, to MAKE IT, I am going under for the weekend... I might poke into facebook once or twice... but no blogs... I still have 100 pages to edit, including maybe 2000 words of writing for holes I've already identified, and so need to FOCUS.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Verbal Content by Hart Johnson
First two images at Third was designed by Joris Ammerlaan especially for ME! (because he is fabulous. And a grown up. (long story))
This blog originally appeared at Confessions of a Watery Tart

If you see it elsewhere, fine, but please drop on in and say hi!