Monday, April 30, 2012

The Zeppo

Whereby Zander Zaps the Zombies singlehandedly...

This is one of my favorite episodes of Buffy, and I will give you a little background, but MOSTLY, I think it is just instructive as to what makes a really great tale.

The Zeppo Plot Summary:

See... Zander (yes, I know officially this starts with X, since it is part of Alexander, but for Z day, let's go with it...) is the character who is NEVER something special. Buffy is the Slayer. Willow is a powerful witch. Oz is a werewolf... everybody is something special, but... and Cordelia says it best (if most cruelly)

"'Cool.' Look it up. It's something that a subliterate that's repeated 12th grade three times has and you don't. There was no part of that that wasn't fun."

Or worse: “It must be really hard when all your friends have like, superpowers: slayers, werewolves, witches, vampires, and you're like this little nothing. You must feel like Jimmy Olsen.” (for non-Superman aficionados, this is a Superman reference to an ordinary guy who is often a liability)

Zander is trying to prove himself 'cool'--he borrows his uncles cool old car, but Buffy and the gang STILL send him off 'for his own safety' while they head to fight a big nasty. Zander earns the notice of a pack of tough guys who proceed to rob a hardware store (for... uh oh... a lot of explosives...) ... who... it turns out... are also dead.

The gang really DOES have a big nasty to fight... there is a monster at the school... But everybody is CLUELESS as to the Zombie plan that Zander has to singlehandedly undermine...

The Beauty of this Episode

Zander, with his no-particular-talent, has to find something in himself that he can do BETTER than the supernatural... better than the powerful... Just... BETTER. And he DOES. And the ripple effects are big. People notice. His very person is changed due to this thing he does that nobody knows about.

This episode earned an emmy nomination because I think it really speaks to people. We don't MIND having great friends, but it can be tiring to ALWAYS take backseat. Wouldn't it be FABULOUS to dig into what is inside of us and SUCCEED in squishing whatever evil we come across.

And heck... the aura change is palpable... Zander even gets laid for it...

How We APPLY It...

I don't think it is as simple as starting ordinary and doing great things. You have to earn reader love in more normal ways... you have to be a good supporting actor before you earn center stage. At least Zander did... and I think this particular case of 'ordinary boy makes good' is more powerful than it often is.

In this case the BATTLE is thought to be ELSEWHERE. The HERO has discounted him. Buffy has said they are all better off is ZANDER is safely elsewhere. But there is a battle on an unknown playing field that the big fish don't even know about...

HECK—we ALL think this could be us, don't we? And isn't THAT the level at which things go viral?

How do you like Zeppo tales?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Yuk Yuk Yuk

Happy Caturday my friends!

Hope I gave you some yuk yuks for the weekend! (What cartoon is it that laughs that way, anyway? I can hear it in my head but it's not clear)


Probably my favorite show EVER, I LOVED X-Files.

But you know... it wasn't the alien piece (other than that whole fiasco where Scully discovered her eggs had been harvested *shivers*)... It was two things... The paranormalish stuff, and the conspiracy stuff... From government conspiracy and cover up to businesses modifying stuff, to plain old cover-ups of really strange things...

So I thought I'd share a couple of my very favorites.

(The Field Where I Died)
Or as I've remembered it, the Past-Lives Drink the Kool-ade episode

This episode was the first time I had ever even considered the idea of souls bound across lifetimes, yet Melissa is convinced she and Mulder are husband and wife in several of their lives. Through some fluke, she remembers it all—all her lives. She says to Mulder something like “We were brought together in this life only to pass in crossing, but sometimes I miss you so much.”

I love that idea—that there are souls who travel together across time. The description has people crossing roles, changing relationships. She describes Scully as Mulder's mother, brother, friend. But all of them, always together. There is something really comforting and spooky about that. And there have been a lot of times I've been very convinced it's true.

El Mundo Gira
Chupacabra, in Spanish, means goat sucker. But even so, it is meant to MEAN soul sucker, though is most often depicted as a really mutated wild dog form. Illegal immigrants are contracting a … SOMETHING that turns out to be a fast growing fungus, but because they don't know what it is, they attribute it to el Chupacabra. I love the intersection of nature gone awry and superstition. I ALSO love that X-files so often leaves it a little ambiguous how things really happened.

This poor child is so creepy
Eve (in all her iterations)
What I love about Eve so much is she is a lesson in 'be careful what you wish for' which is my FAVORITE story moral. Eve was genetically modified to maximize intelligence and strength and then CLONED. She is evil and VERY hard to stop... never mind that at one point there were like 42 of her...

Honorable mention to the episode I found the creepiest:

This backwoods incest story is so thoroughly disturbing that it really stuck with me. *shivers *

I have noticed that for ME anyway, the standout episodes seem to mostly come from season 4... not sure why that is... just an observation.  And any episode could set off the set-up for a full book, separate of the involvement of Mulder and Scully.  Really FABULOUS writing.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Prematurely posted by a few hours... I get excited sometimes... so be it...

The funny thing is... until about a year ago, this would have been literal... my entire social life was on the world wide web... all my friends lived in my computer (or almost all of them)... I mean I have my family, but the non-obligatory stuff... the FUN stuff.

Oh, I know. Some of you like your families. Actually mine is pretty good, too, but I KNOW you know what I mean... the socializing was all online.

Last summer though, the end of the summer, a couple neighbors and I started something... and my social life has really blossomed.

We have a place like this but it's too swampy this spring

This is how it began. A couple of us... Jackie, Jean and I... decided we wanted some exercise, so maybe we'd try to do the Couch to 5K program... which after about 10 weeks must have sort of been abandoned, but we CONTINUED WALKING.

Oh, sure, once a month or so it is punctuated by a bottle or three of WINE (but that is a W word, too, so it's all good)

logo and a map of Michigan, cool, eh?

And then my only real local writing buddy (I mean I CALL Harry Dolan a writing buddy, but I am really more a gaga fangirl where he is concerned)--Liz, opened a BREWERY!!! (I know, right?) They make a delicious selection and (catch this) They are WALKING distance from my HOUSE!!! I don't even have to practice moderation if I don't want to!!!

(I'm going there Sunday for a birthday!--for Kevin, who named our couch to keg team, even--okay, so it was a misattribution, but a WINNING misattribution!)

And then... and then... and then...

ALSO in walking distance, and discovered around Christmas time...

See?  You could even pretend shopping just took a while!

I'm not kidding. We went in on one of our walks... I think it was a Thursday night.... and the middle of the store is FULL UP with socializing grown-ups, all drinking wine or local beer. They are priced nicely, as their GOAL is to get you to then buy a bottle and take it HOME. They also have tasters of cheeses...

Tuesday night, to wine my whine, the Couch to Keg team went and had a couple drinks and the lovely Spanish Cheese Trio. HWMNBMOTI had to call and track us down as we'd decided about 40 feet into our walk that we ought to walk TO WHOLE FOODS and drink instead of JUST walking...

So see, now I have this great social life and it is all centered around the letter W (and my Couch to Keg team)

Venting: Vicious Vermin

Whereby I have a wee tantrum about my Publisher's Weekly Review...
ROUS (rodents of unusual size)

See, when I entered the contest this year, I didn't realize Publisher's Weekly had hired ROUS to judge the semi-final round. But BOY, do I feel like that's what I just wrestled! MAN, it was scathing. Somehow I'd thought I was going to scrape through this writing thing without a lot of nastiness... I'd thought my writing had passed that phase where somebody would just be mean and rotten to me. Apparently not.

So you know what I'm talking about:

ABNA Publishers Weekly Reviewer
A teen girl escapes her mother’s risky lifestyle and joins forces with three children living in hiding in this absurdly plotted story. In 1988 Portland, Ore., 13-year-old Athena Garnett runs away from home after her heroin-addict mother tries to sell her daughter’s virginity for another hit. With nowhere to go, she lives on the street, sleeping in a park and scrounging food from the McDonald’s dumpster. Meanwhile, in the suburbs, the three Popescue siblings -- Kade, Tasha, and Peter -- are also lying low, but for a different reason. The children of a Romanian professor and a possible spy, they watched their father get gunned down in their house and hid in the secret passageways their father had built. A chance meeting downtown between the trio and Athena brings the kids together and soon they’re all hiding out in the Popescue family home, taking turns keeping watch for men responsible for Mr. Popescue’s death, who also turns out to be linked to Athena’s own past. The deeper they dig, the more links they discover between the four, including evidence of a potential art thievery ring, with a dangerous man named Balto at the center: someone with direct ties to the Popescue murder and Athena’s heretofore unknown past. While the sections detailing Athena’s life as a homeless youth are intriguing and could easily be a stand-alone story, the connections to the Romanian quasi-orphans are ludicrous at best.

So... Ouch, huh? Absurdly plotted? See, last year I felt my review was spot on, but I can't just buy this absurdly plotted thing. I think this reviewer had a large stack and was impatient with a complex plot... maybe even MISSED stuff. I mean the plot description sounds accurate, but I'm JUST not seeing what the trouble is except that the reviewer didn't like it... There is no hint.

Guesses? They aren't buying the coincidence? But there are hints that show WHY these secretive kids TRUST this girl (hints related to them really being connected).

I just think it was the complexity.

If it is something OTHER than that, they've given me NO CLUE.

It had me feeling VERY VULNERABLE there for a while... I mean I really LIKE the story... But maybe I don't have a CLUE what makes a good story? THAT kind of vulnerable... I just really feel like the reviewer could have done a far better job saying WHAT was ludicrous... How to a give it a ludicrousectomy? So I am sticking with my original assessment. I was reviewed by a vicious vermin... or maybe a viper... To cope, I had to go drink Vino and eat queso with the couch to keg team. Have I SAID how much I love the wine bar at Whole Foods? Maybe I will tell you more tomorrow...

So for a book plot, what is your tolerance for complexity? Do you LIKE some twists and turns? Or do you prefer it fairly straight forward? I'd REALLY love some feedback from my friends who've read it? Does this look right to you? Jenny? Stacy? Leigh? Leanne? Chary? I mean I can totally take it from someone I BELIEVE gave it appropriate attention, but at the moment I'm doubting this reviewer did.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


So you know how I use PANTS as a swearword... well if you don't want your KIDS to pick up such filthy, horrible language, then there is an alternative... it's like this... See... if PANTS works as an equivalent of, say... the S word... No, that is too late in the story...
Swearing up a storm, PG style. Seriously.

You know how in Spanish there is the word caca that is what you use with little kids... and then there is mierda that is NASTY...

So if
 PANTS = Mierda = the S word...


You heard me...

in the swearing translation I advocate that where PANTS is a nasty disgusting word, UNDERPANTS is the version you can use with your children.

Use it wisely.
And you think BRIEFS were bad...

And fellas... UNDERPANTS can cause problems for your swimmers... NEVER wear them! (boxers, if you can't commit to commando)


In OTHER news... I am slight on blog today as I am totally distracted. ABNA results come in around noon my time. I will post when they are up so you know whether I am UP in the sky or UNDER the table...

Drat!  And I'm out at ABNA.... strangely, while I like being IN better, being in has more mixed feelings.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Tomorrow's Tartish Tears

Know what? I'm a cry baby.

But see, the thing is, I cry whether I am HAPPY or SAD. So tomorrow I KNOW I will cry. I just don't know why yet. Tomorrow is the date they post the semi-finalists for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. So there will be either tears of joy, or tears of sad... Speaking of tears... I had a moment of being touched this weekend. On Friday I had my first ever review from somebody I didn't know at all. I shared it on facebook, and one of my high school friends posted a link to The Azalea Assault with the suggestion my whole high school class read my book as a summer read! I really was truly moved.

But my REAL blog efforts today are at Burrowers, Books and Balderdash where I am sharing a ton of fabulous books that had their beginnings as ABNA contestants.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Sixteen Going On Seventeen

My sweet Squink turns seventeen next week. I really can't believe it. I'm not sure why seventeen seems so much older than sixteen—maybe it is that it is one short year away from legal adulthood. Whatever the reason, it feels really different. She is my BABY and she is almost a GROWN UP. She is amazing, really. Talented, smart, beautiful. She looks like me in some ways, but better--brighter, more charismatic. And she is so much stronger in her sureness of who she is than I was at that age, especially about boys.  Probably having an active dad and a brother help her understand what I didn't know until my mid-20s--Men are people. It's sort of amazing to realize your role in the creation of a human being. I'm proud of this one. Love you, Squink. Have a wonderful birthday!
First snowfall, Portland, 1997

The next spring with the nicest dog EVER--Henry
YES, she is grunge sheik in her bad boots, leggings, skirt and Old Navy sweater... That was the first pair of shoes she would EVER wear (at 2+) and she would only wear them because I had matching boots.

Not current, but most recent I have

Friday, April 20, 2012

Rockin' Red-Heads

You know... I am half red-head on my mother's side... I resisted this very much growing up..I liked being the family blonde (my dad was brunette). But as I got older, I came to love all the lore that was associated with red hair... the fiery temper (which I don't have, by the way), the passion (I'm possibly too analytical here)... the REAL thing? The uniqueness... Everybody notices a red-head.

Now as a child I was always tall, and I didn't WANT to stand out any more than I already did. But by about age 16, standing out for anything positive was something to be desired. Unfortunately, that is about the time my hair settled into the UNcolor (that cross-section of blonde, brown and red with no actual commitment to any of them)

It took a little time to see MEN could also be very attractive with red hair... I think the red hair and blue eyes is sort of boyish, but MAN, I've known a couple brown-eyed red-haired men who were drop dead gorgeous. And since then, I've seen some with blue or green...

What I DID NOT know until recently, though, is that red heads have different PAIN RECEPTORS than the rest of us... now I don't know enough genetics to know if this is an absolute 100% correlation or not, but it is significant. Redheads don't feel pain as strongly. Their BRAINS are actually DIFFERENT. That is not to say you can't hurt them, just that the receptacle doo-dads are different and so they tend to have greater tolerance.

But mostly, since it's Friday, I just wanted to share some of the red-heads I've admired over the years.

The original!

I loved her humor. You could tell she loved to laugh.

I wanted to be Daphne so bad... never mind that Thelma was the smart one.

The origin of the 'too precious' misconception

Oh, Scully... beauty AND brains...

I think Nicole actually has the un-color hair I have naturally.

My Buffy honeys... Alyson and Seth (he is actually a redhead, too)

I hadn't heard of him, but when I searched redheads and saw him, I got palpitations...

My favorite redhead family, less two...

Then there is macho stud Charlie...

And bill... the hot Weasley...

So there is a little redhead love for you...


The Crazy Cozy Blogfest sign up is going—it is June 5th and the tab in my top right 'I'm Doing WHAT?' box is a link to info... if you might want to have fun and help out at the same time, we'd totally appreciate it!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Quirky Quagmire

I think most people have strong opinions about quirky... quirky characters, quirky settings, quirky plots... even quirky language. Now you don't have to have the same opinion for all these things... many people can take their quirky in doses, but not swim in it.

The height of quirk
But there are some people with fastidious intolerance where the quirk comes in... some of these happen to be literary agents.

It isn't always the first thing you screen for when you query... are we a match on the quirk? But I've seen some full-on intolerance.

This confuses me.

What the heck is wrong with quirky? It gives flavor, humor... what's not to like?

But I think the PROBLEM is people have used the TERM quirky as a synonym for say... irritating... or weird (and yes, this may indeed BE a synonym in some uptight, fussy person's head). But I think people ALSO use the term if a character is inconsistent (which is a no no, and NOT quirky, but unrealistic--so this is a penalty for other people misusing the term, if you will...). Quirky sometimes means over the top, which can work—I will give a couple examples momentarily, but over the top HAS to be done humorously—serious can't carry over-the-top. (and honestly, not everybody has a sense of humor, sad as this may be. If you doubt this, read Twilight—not a humorous thing in the whole book. No laugh, no joke, no incongruence where the author intends a giggle. I suspect poor Meyer has no humor. And I pity her. It's true. People who take life so seriously have no fun. If she spent some time naked now and again, she'd write better. *cough*)

So you've been warned. When you make your agent short list, look up their views on quirky. Find matches or you are banging your head against a wall.

Favorite Quirks

Characters: Luna and Tonks (Harry Potter), Foxface and Beetee (Hunger Games trilogy), Bilbo Baggins. The Cyclops half brother of Percy Jackson.

Quirky settings: Life of Pi (a small boat with a tiger:  perhaps missing the humor to quite pull this off, but it might have been my frame of mind reading), Through the Looking Glass.

Quirky plots: Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, The Graveyard Book. Tom Robbins and Neil Gaiman are MASTERS at quirk.

Quirky tellings: The Book Thief (strangely humorous for a Holocaust book), A Series of Unfortunate Events

Quirky language use: The Color Purple (here, not humorous, but poignant), The Golden Compass

The BOOK, not the movie (never seen the movie)
Now books like Harry Potter had several quirks... all the details of the courses, spells, games... the historical figures... but it was set up in a fantasy setting, so it took more... but STILL some of the quirks were particularly quirky.

I think probably the quirk winning writer favorite of mine, though, is Tom Robbins. He twists and turns and bends and it is a wild good time... and not everybody gets him. I had a phase where I judged my compatibility with people by whether they got Tom Robbins or not.

I should probably mention that I won't probably be working with anybody intolerant of quirky, even if most of my stuff doesn't push too many boundaries... My BFF of my MC in my cozy series, though, definitely qualifies.

AND of note!  RaShelle Workman has given a fabulous boost for Elizabeth and I and our book release today, so THANK YOU, RaShelle!  (And anyone interested in the Crazy Cozy Blogfest June 5th, please click the icon in my top right 'I'm Doing What?' box!)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Post-Partum Procrastination

Announcement! I have not actually been pregnant in more than 13 years. I am speaking IN METAPHOR *cough*

But I DID just finish with TWO simultaneous ginormous deadlines, one professional and one personal (which is to say, writing)

And for Pete's SAKE, I can't make myself do ANYTHING!

Professional Purgatory

AKA: Grant Writing. I hate this activity. It is weeks and weeks of meticulous, painful work and 99 times out of 100 results in NOTHING. You work your butt off to hit a deadline and then POOF. All that time just vanishes and no money follows.

Part of my problem is grant writing is a little like herding penguins. You chase somebody down, ask for something nicely, and they slide off the iceberg into the ocean and splash around for several days before you can track them down again. You need letters, biosketches, feedback, pieces of the puzzle...

Once upon a time I wanted my PhD, but helping others chase grant money cured me of that in about 5 years. I don't WANT to be the one responsible for that. (Besides, I'd rather write fiction—a PhD works 100 hours a week—they really can only write stuff related to their progression in their profession).

Personal Progress

I finally finished editing Chrysanthemum Campaign... This is the third in my Cozy mystery series and is due to my editor at the end of June (easy peasy, right?) But I KNOW myself and need not ONE but TWO rounds of beta reads before I send it to my AGENT who I am hoping I can get it to June 1... because June 1 is the start of BuNoWriMo and my chance to finally write this book that has been hounding me since last summer... as yet, unnamed... my first adult suspense in quite a while (I actually hope it ends up a thriller, honestly, but I'm not worrying about that yet)

The means, thus far this year I did an edit of Legacy (mostly just a tightening) for ABNA, a major overhaul of Begonia Bribe (at my editor's request—this book will be the death of me), and now the three layer edit of Chrysanthemum Campaign.

Before June, I now need to edit Kahlotus Disposal Site (per my agreement with Amy that feedback from publishers has been luke-warm and it needs an infusion) and then ANOTHER revision of Chysanthemum Campaign... Five serious rounds of editing before I get to start writing this year. HMPH!

I mean I know I've made good progress, but having just finished a round... switching projects... not just projects, but away from the series that the last two books are in... my head is just a little out of the game. I think I know the HOW, but I just feel like I can't quite start.

In the meantime, I have beta reads for TWO bloggie buddies going and THAT is a good thing—excited to be doing it. And it helps me separate from my own style a little... gives me fresh eyes. So for the next little bit... until I can get going with Kahlotus (maybe Friday) I will concentrate on these treats... Because I am certainly not going to get any editing or work done for a couple days if it isn't mostly fun...

I definitely recommend beta reading as a way to shake off the double vision from looking at your own stuff too long.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

















And the near neighbor Misattribute, which doesn't SOUND like what it is, but when you read it, you tend to DO what its definition is... It's like onomatopoeia for writers and readers...

I adore these words that sound like exactly what they are. It is like super double meaning words... I wish all of the English language was so elegant. I mean don't get me wrong. I always love words.  All words.  Even silly words, like poop. But I will always adore this little trick for getting more out of a word.

Close runners up on the O-front:

Oprah: My long time fantasy about book success is for Oprah to pick me. (the other component of this is Diane Rehm--when I make it onto Diane Rehm, even if it is Susan Page interviewing me, I will know I have arrived...)

Order: And my wonky version of said word that none of you would recognize. I actually wrote a paper on this in grad school. I am THAT sure that orderly isn't the proper order.

Oblique: This is a math word that I love for other reasons (and for that reason--I admit it, I'm a geek)—sort of coming at things sideways. It's sort of how I roll, after all...


Huge thanks to Alex the fabulous for featuring me yesterday!  I have several new followers and appreciate it so much!!!

And one week to ABNA announcements for semi-finalists... keep your parts crossed for me!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Naked Nirvana

So you know how clothes are itchy and binding? And how they make people JUDGE each other on such stupid domains as 'style' and 'income'  (judgment?  heck, who needs THAT?) ? (none of which have ANY merit with me, by the way)  They really are the staples of cliques. We can't really TRULY know each other for WHO WE ARE rather than WHAT WE HAVE if we are all tangled up in what people are wearing, right?

NWDT logo designed by Joris Ammerlaan
Well this is true metaphorically, as well as literally.

Let me e'splain...

I mentioned the itchy binding thing, yeah? See... I think I was 4 when I gave up nightgowns (or any pajamas) because blankets pulled one way and pajamas another and it was just to much conflicting action in the darned bed. Far better to just deal with my skin that moved with me...

Of course I'd given up swimsuits two years earlier—have you WORN wet pants? Can you BLAME ME?

"I like a little air around my privates!"
And see... I have never been SIZED like the clothes my friends bought off the racks... I was taller... wore larger sizes which initially could be EXPLAINED by being taller, but which made me feel fat nonetheless... It was normal teen logic, but it still sucked. But fashion NEVER flattered me. It was always just an obstacle to be gotten around in the least embarrassing way possible.

But REALLY, this is more to to with really just liking some air around my privates. JK Rowling was channeling me when she wrote Archie, the character if Goblet of Fire so set against pants... Air. Water. Wind. It all FEELS GOOD on the skin! (But NOT through fabric)

As a teen I also strongly advocated that TAN fat looked better than PALE fat, so I was obliged to wear as little as possible all summer... And through college I traumatized first my dorm mates then my sorority by solidly REFUSING to sleep in anything. It's possible I considered it my duty to squash any prudishness they'd arrived at college with...

So I've been naked a long long time.

Join the group hug?
But I find this is helpful when I edged out into the writing world. I'm USED to people staring and wondering where on EARTH I got the cajones to do what I do. Blogging, in particular, I think is more gratifying if you do it naked. Be as YOU as you can possibly be, and it is far more sustainable. Nobody will EVER be horrified on finding the real you, because you've never hidden who you are. You are making friends on a real playing field and if people like you, you can trust it is YOU they like and not some strange costume you've worn because it is the style of the day.

So while I would LOVE all of you to literally get naked with me... the Naked World Domination Tour could use you. What I really think you need to get on board for is being Naked in your writing. Give up the fear. Don't hide. Let it all hang out in as YOU of a way as you can. Your audience can only find you if you stop hiding behind those pesky mumus and tent dresses.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Maniacal Morphing




Mondo Bull

or else this is a wee little man...


And it's a wrap! Have a great weekend!