I write like
Jack London

I Write Like. Analyze your writing!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Best Version of Twelve Days

I finally get back on track with blogging everyday, only to be felled by some weird virus. Heck, if Cthulu produces as much mucus as I have in the last four days, I can understand why he's in a dark mood.

Here's a cool version of The Twelve Days of an Urban Fantasy Heroine's Christmas by the ever-talented Jaye Wells.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Golden Rules of Judging

One of the reasons I love talking to Nancy (current friend, former critique partner) is the myriad topics we can cover in a long lunch.

One of the things we did discuss was constructive criticism. We've both had experiences with folks who . . . Well, let's just say they didn't follow the Golden Rule.

Since I'm entering judging season (there are two contests I volunteer for every year around this time), I'm going to list my Golden Rules of Judging Writing Contests.

1) Treat the contest entrant with respect at all times.

2) Don't judge a genre you are unfamiliar with or your refuse to read recreationally. You're not doing the entrant any favors.

3) Find something the writer has done really well and praise it.

4) If the manuscript is not close to professional readiness, limit criticisms to the three major things that need improvement.

5) If the entrant seems to have used a word or concept improperly, LOOK IT UP before making a comment. You may be wrong.

6) Don't count off for the one typo found in the manuscript.

7) Flag that one typo and suggest the entrant fixes it before she starts submitting to agents or editors.

8) Never, EVER, make personal comments about the entrant. Only focus on the writing.

9) Suggest, don't command.

10) Give the entrant feedback on what affected you as a reader. That's part of why the entrant shelled out her hard-earned cash to enter the contest.

To all writers I'm about to judge, I salute you.

Monday, December 14, 2009

When Good Critique Partners Go Bad

A couple of weeks ago I had lunch with my friend and former critique partner, Nancy.

Yep, that's right. Former critique partner. And still a friend.

I hear so many stories about folks whose critique groups implode, either through mismatch of personalities, callous behavior or downright nastiness. In most cases, folks stop talking altogether.

Here's a clue - it takes adult behavior to make a critique group work. It takes even more adult behavior to recognize when a critique situation isn't working and handling everyone's feelings with finesse.

In our case, Nancy and I had such opposite writing styles and genres--hers is light, innocent young adult and mine is snarky, violent urban fantasy--that we weren't really helping each other. And we knew it.

This doesn't mean we don't encourage each other, commiserate with the rejections and cheer on the baby steps toward publishing. It just means we can't give the hardcore feedback the other person really needs to grow as a writer.

So we take pleasure in each other's company occasionally while dissecting the latet bestseller over lunch.

Okay, we also drool over Taylor Lautner's abs.

Don't tell our husbands.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Stuck in the Mud

Sometimes the words don't flow. Sometimes they come out in a muddy trickle and are absolutely crap. Sometimes they hiccup and gurgle and refuse to some out at all.

Why?

Maybe it's because the well's going dry. It's been overused. Or maybe proper maintenance hasn't been performed on the plumbing. Maybe there's a break in the water line.

In my case, I think it's a little of all of the above. If you want to make it in this business, you have to take care of the writing equipment. I don't mean your computer or writing chair or dictionary. I mean your body. Your health. Your soul.

A lot of my normal care slid to the wayside in the wake of some personal things hitting the fan. And I forgot what's really important.

Until a friend's situation reminded me. She has a family member facing a pretty awful surgery out of state, and her regular pet sitter was unavailable. I volunteered to watch her darling pups, but I told her she's actually doing me a favor. I'll have her house to myself.

On my day off.

And I know a little rest, relaxation and ball playing will restart my stuck pump.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

My Heroines Have Always Been Tomboys

My heroines are not girly, and my crit partners are never sure how to handle that fact.

Take Bebe for example. She's a doctor born to wealth and privilege but has a tendency to self-medicate after a stint with Doctors Without Borders in Africa. Her drug of choice - Jack Daniels.

Samantha can name all thirty-two starting NFL quarterbacks and still cheers for her beloved Rams despite their move to St. Louis.

An Amazon-trained warrior, Phillippa bakes a mean apple pie and decorates her kitchen in blue-check gingham.

I've had to fit into the male-dominated farming, computer and legal professions all my life. I learned to speak sports and cars at an early age. In the late '80's, I roomed with a female cousin, a cop in D.C. when the city was the murder capital of the U.S. My first martial arts instructor was a female fifth-degree black belt.

Think my past leaks into my writing? Makes me wonder what my crit partners really think of me.

If Friday Is Black, Does That Make Saturday Gray?

Absolutely no writing had been accomplished the last three days, except for a lo-o-ong letter to a close friend.

Thursday was spent playing various board games. (For once, I actually kicked butt in Monopoly. If you've ever played with DH, you'll understand what an accomplishment this is!)

Friday I avoided going anywhere until I had to go to the day job. Again, I spent quality time with the family and eating pie. Then soaked my aching muscles once I got home from work.

Saturday? Would someone please explain the necessity of extended malls hours on the second day after Thanksgiving? My closing partner and I twiddled our thumbs for the last two hours of the evening. I could have gotten four-six pages written in that time. Time for another soak. Thank Sekhmet for a garden tub and sandalwood and lime essential oils.

*sigh* I'll be so glad to be back on a regular writing schedule come January.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving

It's been a rough year on a number of fronts, but today I'm thankful I'm not celebrating in a hospital room. Fourteen years ago, I sat by DH's bedside after his second surgery relating to his colon cancer. The surgery itself was a sucess, the path reports were clean, but there had been complcations, so DH was reduced to eating green Jell-o for his dinner.

After spending our first and second Thanksgivings dealng with cancer, neither of us can really view turkey dinner in a positive light. I'll make it any oher time of the year, just not today.

The one exception was last year. GK begged and begged "to eat what other families eat on Thanksgiving." So we relented and I bought a turkey. And guess where GK ended up? Yep, the emergency room with a broken arm.

So today we're all thankful for the roof over our head, the Cincinnati chili slow cooking in a crock pot, and that no one's in the hospital.

***

And on that note, please say a prayer for writer Jay Lake and his family. Jay underwent his own cancer surgery yesterday.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

NaNo - Day 25 - Why Writers Write

NaNo Progress - 17,100 words

I know I'm not going to make the 50K mark at midnight on the 30th. I had a good cry about not reaching my goal, DH fed me Haagen Daaz Chocolate Peanut Butter ice cream, and we had a long talk about my writing and chances at getting published. The great thing about DH is he believes in me. That belief means everything when I'm self-flogging about bad ideas, sucky characterization and pathetic plots.

Normally, I'm not the self-pitying type. If a concept isn't working, I lay it aside and move on to the next. We talked about recent publishing brouhahas and the waiting to hear about fulls sitting on agent desks. Then DH asked the significant question, "So what do you want out of this writing thing?"

Thirteen years ago, we'd just moved to Houston, 1200 miles from family and friends. I was attending law school full time and felt woefully behind compared to the other first years. (I was considered a first year because South Texas College of Law had a slightly different curriculum than the University of Toldeo, and I still had a bunch of basic courses to take.) And to top everything off, DH had a work assignment in Kuwait that lasted a month.

While in the grocery store feeling lonely, I spotted Harlequin's new Love & Laughter line. The book that attracted me was Stephanie Bond's IRRESISTABLE? I tossed it in the cart, my reward for getting my tort case studies done.

And later that evening, I never laughed so hard in my life. When I saw it was Stephanie's first published novel, I sent her a letter telling her how much I loved her book. It was the first time I ever sent a fan letter to a writer, and I was surprised to get a reply from her a few weeks later. We've kept in touch over the years.

And that's what I want to give to some other reader I told DH, a couple of hours of pleasure and fun when she's having a crappy day and needs an escape.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Harlequin Did What?!?

The first hint I got of the brewing trouble was a e-mail on an RWA chapter loop yesterday. My first thought when I read Harlequin was starting its own vanity publishing division was "typo." Followed by "WTF?" Followed by "why the hell would the Torstar board dilute the brand of the one freaking section of the corporation that's made money for the last two quarters?"

RWA has a policy of only promoting non-vanity, non-subsidy publishers to its membership. So in response to Harlequin's Tuesday announcement, the RWA Board released a statement today that Harlequin is no longer an RWA-eligible publisher. To the hundreds of RWA member published by Harlequin, it means they are now not eligible for the Rita award.

Didn't the folks at Harlequin learn anything from all the companies that have crashed and burned since 2001? Contrary to Gordon Gecko's statement, greed is NOT good.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

NaNo - Day 11 - Why Am I Doing This Again?

Word Count as of this post - 13,102

I'm behind. I'm way f***ing behind. *sigh* I should be hitting 20K about now.

I think the difference is 1) my total commute is now 40 minutes instead of the 10 it was last year at this time thanks to a transfer and 2) I'm homeschooling GK. Both put a huge crimp in my day. Last year, I'd put GK on the bus, write for four hours straight, do some errands and meet the bus before heading for work.

I'm trying to count my blessings. I have a job. GK can name every rocket used in the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. I have fulls sitting on the desks of agents, dammit!

But this story just begs to be told and the words are not getting their chance to appear on paper! (Well, actually a screen.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Nano - Day 9 - Things That Make Me Laugh

Word Count as of this Post - 11,041

If you're a Star Trek fan and you haven't checked this out yet, go to Wil Wheaton's Memories of the Futurecast. Listen to his podcasts, then buy his book. It's worth it just for the K'lap joke.

(I know. I'm so f***ing juvenile.)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

NaNo - Day 7 - You Know You've Been Doing NaNo Too Long When. . .

Word Count as of this Post - 8,422 words

I had a very strange dream last night--strange in its relative normalcy. Ususally, I'm Capt. Piccard guiding the Enterprise-D, or I'm saving the remains of humanity after an apocalypse, or I'm being chased by vampires down the dark Houston downtown streets.

In this dream though, I was at a writer's conference where Neil Gaiman was the keynote speaker. After the speech, Mr. Gaiman complained about he was oh-so-tired of restaurant food, and I invited him to my house for a home-cooked meal.

The house we arrived at wasn't my current home, but the house where my husband and I lived back in Ohio when we were first married. Mr. Gaiman then said he really wished he didn't have to go back to the hotel at all. I apologized for not having a guest room, but he was welcome to the living room couch. He graciously accepted and hugged me because he REALLY did not want to spend another night in a horrid hotel room.

Unfortunately, that's also when DH arrived home from work. Mr. Gaiman quickly steps away and defends my honor, to which DH replies that I only like men 6'5" or taller anyway. Mr. Gaiman, slightly offended, says that if it weren't for the terrible humidity, his hair would poof properly, therefore he would be taller than DH. With a quizzical look, DH asks why Mr. Gaiman doesn't find poofy hair annoying. The two men quickly launch into a discussion of the inherent quirks and pitfalls of poofy hair.

When my son arrives home from a visit to the neighbor boy's house, he's not terribly enthused about another of my writer friends attending dinner until I explained that this is the gentleman that wrote 'The Graveyard Book.' Mr. Gaiman's level of coolness rises in his estimation. He then proceeds to sell Mr. Gaiman on the excellent quality of my pumpkin pie. Mr. Gaiman replies, 'Your mum's pumpkin pie sounds lovely.' So now I have to rush to Kroger's since I have no pumpkin in the cupboard.

We have lovely meal of roast beef, homemade noodles, and green beans during which Mr. Gaiman and I discuss the respective merits and problems of our current wips. Once GK's in bed--after Mr. Gaiman has shown the proper respect for his Star Wars Legos collection--Mr. Gaiman and DH launch into a technological discussion of the problems with Vista and why you need ant traps in the house to prevent the them from nesting in your brand new modem.

A little bored with the men's technobabble, I resume working on my NaNo wip.

Is this boring? Well, maybe. But the dream version of Mr. Gaiman gave me some wonderful tips on my current project. For that, I thank him profusely.

Now, as long as Neil's next journal post doesn't begin with "I had the oddest dream where a fan invited me to her home after my speech at a writer's conference and she made the most marvelous pumpkin pie. . ."

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

NaNo - Day 4 - The Bitter Wannabes

NaNo Word Count As Of This Post - 5,964 words

I love reading the blogs of industry pros and other writers. It's great to get tips and tricks from others in the same boat as me.

What's sad is the amazing amount of bitterness, recriminations and down-right nastiness I'm seeing in the blog comments lately. It's been bad. Really bad. To the point where blog administrators are approving comments before posting, turning off anonymous posts, or disallowing comments altogether.

*sigh* I don't know about anyone else but I try to purge that kind of negativity out of my life. It's just not freaking productive. This business is hard enough without self-defeating attitudes.

Now, back to the writing. . .

Monday, November 2, 2009

NaNo - Day 2 - Why I Don't Have to Be Michael Jordan to Enjoy Basketball

I was highly disappointed reading yesterday's blog post from a published author I repsect. She shared the sentiment of several other published folks that NaNo encourages the uninitiated, the uninformed and the just plain untalented to try to write a novel in one month. That the novice writer doesn't understand the pain and sacrifice that a REAL writer goes through to produce a novel.

On one hand, I can see her point. NaNo is a major commitment. Hell, writing itself is a major commitment. The creative process of a lot of experienced writers, both published and unpublished can't handle this type of pressure cooker environment.

But all NaNo does is encourage people to put their creative pens to paper and TRY. NaNo will not turn anyone into Hemingway or Nabokov or heck, even King, nor does it claim to. But NaNo may get a nascent Harper Lee to see the potential in herself.

There's a big difference between me shooting hoops with my son and being arrogant or ignorant enough to think I've got a shot on a NBA team when I have no training or experience.

But playing at such an amateur level also doesn't mean I can't enjoy the game. And who knows what will be sparked in my son's imagination if he's willing to work.

Michael Jordan put in a minimum of twelve hours of practice when he played for the Chicago Bulls. If I'm willing to put in that kind of time and practice to become a professional writer. . .

Well, that's the difference, isn't it?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

NaNo - Day 1 - The Pet Dilemma

I'd planned on my blog posts being the warm-up exercise for starting NaNo each day. As you can tell by the time of this post, I probably won't get the full 1,667 words typed before midnight.

After pulling a full day at the day job, I came home to a serious family discussion. Our pound puppy, Haley, hasn't been doing very well lately. It started with accidents in the house. She hasn't had an accident in nearly fourteen years.

She's been stiff and arthritic for the last couple of years, but the pronounced difficulty in walking meant no more jaunts to the park two blocks from our house. The last three times we went, DH had to carry her home.

The bizarre behavior came next. She would get lost in the house she'd lived in for the last thirteen and a half years. Or she'd obsessively walk in circles in the middle of the living room.

The inability to keep food down followed. We switched to soft food, which seemed to help for a couple of weeks, but she's still not eating enough to stop from losing weight at an alarming rate.

Then the sweetest little dog in the world bit me twice in the last two weeks. When she brushed against GK's legs, he reached down to pet her, an automatic reaction, and she snapped at him. Thank goodness she didn't make contact. As for DH, well, we were blessed he didn't need stitches.

So tomorrow we take her to the vet and we have to face the fact we may not be bringing her home.

Happy Halloween/Samhain/New Year!

In honor of the holiday, check out the bestest theme song of the bestest Halloween movie EVAH!

Feel free to sing along.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me!

The significance of October 30th has a double implication. Yes, it's my birthday, but it's also New Year's Eve on the Celtic calendar. So I have a tendency to get a little more introspective than usual.

In reviewing my writing accomplishments this year:

- I've completed the first draft on one manuscript. Another first draft is 10K away from completion.
- I scrapped the ms for a story I finished four years ago and rewrote it from scratch.
- I sent out eleven queries. (Not great, but not bad since I only started in August.)
- The full of a completed and revised ms sits on the desk of two agents. (Yippee!)
- My NaNo project is planned and waiting patiently for November 1st.
- I'm brainstorming another ms after I had to scrap the original outline thanks to Steven Spielberg, but I think I'm close to a new plot.

All in all, a fairly productive year for me.

The goal for next year? Actually be in bed when the clock turns 12:01AM on the 30th instead of waiting for my pumpkin pies to bake.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Dreaded Deadline (Or How I'm Trying Not to Start Another Riot)

Normally I'm well ahead of deadlines. I was the weird geek who turned in all eight book reports required in a junior reading class in the first month of the school year. I've got a deadline on Nov. 2, and even though I started my research well ahead of time due to my birthday, Halloween and NaNo beginning on successive days and started the actual writing over a month ago, this time I'm having trouble.

I write a legal column for a law enforcement magazine. I can write dry, technical bs without putting myself to sleep. But this month's subject is a little more passionate than my usual wont. This month deals with the Henry Louis "Skip" Gates case. When I hit the Wall, aka writer's block, I know something's wrong. I may not always know what the problem is, but I know there's a problem.

In this case, I do know. I don't want to be another journalist blowing an issue into something it's not. Contrary to the rest of the nation, I don't believe Gates' arrest had anything to do with race. It had everything to deal with two guys trying to prove whose d*** is bigger.

And that's just totally sexist of me. Three wrongs still don't make it right.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Reality Bites

It's been one of THOSE weekends. I'm doing good to get some of the little things done. That's in addition to the major things like soccer games, working the day job, and meeting a non-fiction deadline.

This week's objective? Get as much crap done as possible so I can enjoy the double delight of this weekend-my birthday and Samhain-before the reality of NaNo sinks in on Sunday.

Keep your fingers crossed that my sanity stays intact.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Letting the Idiots Dictate the Terms. . .

Pretty much erveryone's heard of the Serenity Prayer (and I don't mean George Constanza's dad screaming "Serenity now!")

It's a good one to know. Even if you aren't Christian, you can adapt the prayer to your own faith and twist it into a gentle reminder. Regardless, it's still good advice about knowing and accepting what you cannot control in this universe. My version:

Lord Djehuti, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

It makes sense to ask the Neteru of Time, Space, and Knowledge for such a gift. And I'm a mom so I find myself reciting it quite a lot.

The corollary to the Serenity Prayer is that the one thing you can control is yourself.

I forgot that particular advice today. I let an idiot drag an emotional response from me. In fact, it's the second time this week I've let an alleged adult acting worse than GK during his terrible twos goad me into losing my temper. I don't like it. Not one little bit.

Why the hell doesn't everyone grow up?

*deep breath*

Lord Djehuti, grant me the serenity. . .

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

It's NaNo Time!

For those of you not familiar with Chris Baty's National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo for short or NaNo for even shorter), I strongly suggest taking the NaNo Challenge to jumpstart your manuscript. NaNo is basically a writer's marathon--50K words in thirty days starting on November 1st. The concept is to have a first draft at the end of the month.

It's easy if you're single with no kids or social life and have a marvelous pizza delivery service nearby. A little more challenging if you have to juggle a few things, like a day job plus all of the above. It helps if your household supports your writing career as well. Hey, DH can fry a mean hot dog and whip together the perfect salad, which was what the family subsisted on during the 2008 NaNo Challenge.

In the end, if your endurance holds, you'll have a brand-spanking new manuscript. And like real freshly-birthed babies, it's still red and gooey and needs to be cleaned, but you're exhausted and happy and proud all at the same time.

P.S. There's no epidural for NaNo.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Inhumane Treatment

Can you imagine NOT being with a loved one as he/she lies in a hospital dying?

When I read what happened to Lisa Pond and her family, fury doesn't begin to describe my feelings. Lisa and her partner, Janice Langbehn, followed all possible legal steps to execute their Living Wills and Advanced Directives. Then tragedy struck as the family was out of town on vacation. Yet, both the hospital that treated Lisa for a brain aneurysm and the judge that heard the case brought by Janice and their children ignored the VALID LEGAL DOCUMENTS in favor or their own perverse biogtry!

I can't even begin to verbalize to anguish I feel for for Janice and the children--to be denied access to their wife and mother as she lay dying alone in a strange hospital in a strange city--because this could have easily been me fifteen years ago.

My husband and I were living together at the time, not yet married when he fell ill over the weekend. What started as an assumed stomach bug turned out to be cancer. Stage 3 cancer.

At the time, I had no legal right to make decisions for DH, much less be with him, but his surgeon had this thing called compassion. I was allowed back in the emergency room after I drove DH to the hospital. For all intents and purposes, Dr. Polder and the staff at Blanchard Valley Hospital in Findlay, Ohio, treated me as DH's wife. I was kept abreast of all tests, diagnosis and developments.

I could have easily been left in the waiting room like Janice and the children.

When we start denying one person's rights, where does it stop? Do the people that espouse this type of hatred really think that they're safe from their own deity's judgment?

As for social worker Garnet Frederick and doctors Alois Zauner and Carlos Alberto Cruz at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Florida, and U.S. District Judge Adalberto Jordan, I have one thing to say:

Whether it's called the Golden Rule, the Three-Fold Law, or Karma, you'll receive the justice you deserve in the end.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

No Magic Beans

I think some people really believe if they trade their cows for magic beans, a magical beanstalk will take them to a giant's castle where every greedy wish will be fulfilled.

First of all, Jack was a freakin' thief. Sorry, but it's the former lawyer in me. The giant clearly owned the golden goose. Furthermore, the giant died during the course of the robbery which means Jack's looking at a felony murder charge too, at least here in Texas.

But I digress.

It's hard work taking care of cows. Feeding them. Mucking out stalls. Rising at the crack of dawn to hook them up to the milking machine. Then you have to make sure the milk stays at the proper temperature to take it to market. Out of that milk though, you get some wonderful products like cheese.

And if you want, say, Swiss cheese, you have more hard work. Mix in the proper ingredients. Cook it. Dip off the whey. Press the curds. Rub with salt. Press curds some more. Repeat the rub and press a few more times. Soak in brine. Dry off the cheese. Turn and rub with salt every day for 10 days. Change the temperature and. . .

Needless to say, the instruction list for Swiss cheese goes on and on. It can take six months to a year to make Swiss cheese.

Writing is very similar. It's a lot of hard work. Just replace 'cow' with 'writer' and 'cheese' with 'manuscript.'

No much difference, is there?

But it's so worth the work in the end.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Steven Spielberg Stole My Plot

No, he didn't really. Sometimes great minds follow the same story down the rabbit trail.

Since I've started writing with the aim of fiction publication, twice I've had a brilliant, absolutely brilliant, ideas show up in public. In both cases, I don't know the person personally, they don't know me, and there's no way in hell we could have any cross-pollination of concepts.

In the manuscript currently making the agent rounds, crit partners, beta readers and even contest judges LOVE the hero's best friend, Alex. He needs his own story, they said. Hey, I'm not one to disappoint the fans, and honestly I thought he needed his own story too.

Coming up with a plot was the problem. I'd been racking, slapping and pummeling my brain until I came up with what I thought was a unique and fun story. I wrote the ouline in preparation for the 2008 NaNoWriMo.

And then I went with DH and the Genius Kid to the movies one afternoon last summer. The picture? Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

When we came out, I wanted to cry. Not because it was a bad movie. Let's just say the only major difference between my outline and Indiana Jones 4 was I included the heroine's estranged dad instead of the couple's illegitimate son.

*Sigh*

Instead, I grabbed another outline I had in the idea bank for the 2008 NaNoWriMo, and now have a completed novel awaiting the editing process.

But 2009's NaNoWriMo is twenty days away, and I still don't have a clue for Alex's story. Hey, Mr. Spielberg? You owe me one.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Manic Movie Monday - Zombieland

When planning the blog, I toyed with the idea of posting movie reviews.

"But you're a novelist!" Or an unpublished one at the moment.

Yes, but I've learned a lot about story structure from movies. Former and current crit partners will tell you my first drafts look like screenplays. (Yes, I'm one of those weird ass writers who has to add words, not cut them.)

So, in honor of the greatest holiday of my birth month and the heroine of my current wip, I bring you-

Zombieland
Rated 'R'
Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin & Special Cameo
Directed by Rueben Fleischer

I resisted the urge to blog about this movie for 11 FREAKIN' DAYS because I don't believe in spoiling the experience for others. Which is also why I won't name the person making the special cameo appearance.

The DH got tickets to a special screening, and I dragged some writer buddies, the fabulous Colleen Thompson and the amazing Jody Payne, to the theater.

Let me start off with the 'R' is thoroughly deserved for zombie gore. Few people could eat a traditional Italian pizza through the opening scenes, but Colleen and I are special that way.

Zombieland is a road film set in a post-apocalyptic USA. Columbus (Eisenberg) is just trying to get home from college, hoping beyond hope his parents may still be alive back in Ohio. He teams up with Tallahasee (Harrelson), a fellow survivor heading east. They run into Wichita (Stone) and Little Rock (Breslin), sisters running in the opposite direction on the rumor of a zombie-free zone in California.

This is one of the funniest movies I've seen since. . .

Okay, it's been a while since I've watched an adult comedy, one of the drawbacks of having a child below puberty.

But most of the audience was laughing in the same spots, so I'm pretty sure I wasn't that deprived of a grown-up sense of humor. Or is that depraved?

The first half of the movie consists of running gags regarding Columbus's Rules of Survival. Most of them sound like standard Mom advice: buckle your seatbelts, check the backseat of your car, beware of public restrooms, etc. Standard that is until combined with zombie mayhem for some truly black humor.

Luckily, the director realized the Rules can't carry an entire movie. The second half deals with the four characters overcoming their respective losses and trust issues. The best scene is when Tallahassee finally admits his allegedly zombie-eaten puppy was not his puppy. Harrelson is one of the few actors who can make me cry and laugh at the same time.

Even though the Zombie Kill of the Week tag was featured prominently in the trailers, it was only used twice to good effect.

If you love zombies and gut-busting dark humor, go watch Zombieland.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Hitting the Wall

Sometimes a writer finds it hard to write. Call it writer's block. Call it burnout. Call it the subconscious telling the conscious mind, "WTF? You can't let the heroine do that!" It happens to all writers at some point in their lives.

Usually if I get stuck, the reason is #3. (Actually, it has always been #3.)

My subconscious is pretty smart. She knows when something's going off track, and she fights like the dickens to yank the steering wheel to keep the story on the asphalt. But my conscious will battle for control of the story. She hates backseat drivers, even when she has no freakin' clue of what she's doing. When they're not working like the well-oiled machine they are, it's not a question of when the story hits the wall, but how hard.

A glancing blow with a tire or bumper that leaves streaks but story's still cruising along?

Or a head-on that shatters the story, leaving plot and character development strewn along the path?

Sometimes it pays to let go of the ego and listen to that backseat driver.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Book Banning Week

Yep, it's that time of the year again when the American Library Association sponsors our freedom to read whatever the hell we want. It's become cause celeb for some. The scourge of everything that's wrong with our country for others.

Here's my issue. Make as many books available as the damn library can afford. Don't tell me what I can and cannot read or what I can or cannot let my kid read. And I won't do the same to you. Period.

For a much longer, well-reasoned and civil response, check out Jamie LaRue's response to a book challenge.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Reading, Writing and Homeschooling

While this subject may seem off the usual writing topic, there's a reason for it.

Genius Kid ("GK") has been seriously struggling in the public school system since kindergarten. He went from reading and drawing rudimentary stories before he started school to refusing to read at all by the end of kindergarten. And don't get me started on writing. It's been a battle since then to keep him on track with what I know he's capable of.

I felt like a failure. Why hadn't I conveyed my love of the written word to my child? I'd been reading to him since his birth. I had Green Eggs and Ham memorized for cryin' out loud!

Don't worry. I also blamed a Certain Unnamed Teacher who called GK stupid because he had problems sounding out unfamiliar words. That insensitive comment along with GK's penchant for perfectionism led to a downward behavioral spiral, resulting in eighteen months of hell dealing with the school administration.

After much soul searching, the DH and I withdrew GK from public school. We're homeschooling for this year and possibly next year. I expected a lot of crap from those outside our immediate family.

And it didn't happen. Homeschooling doesn't hold the social stigma it once did. In fact, the only person who gave me a hard time was my mother. As a public school teacher for over thirty years, she took our decision as a personal slap in the face.

But my concern, first and foremost, is GK. Now, he reads when he thinks DH and I aren't looking, his vocabulary has improved, and he's found the joy in making up his own little stories again.

I may not be pumping out a couple of thousand words a day on my own wip. But it's worth GK's giggles as he reads the adventures of Nate Twitchell raising his triceratops in Freedom, NH--all by himself.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Best Show That You're Not Watching on TV

Yes, I'm shamelessly stealing from TVGuide. Remember the old days when the folks at the magazine would promote a critically acclaimed, but low rated, show and managed to turn the show's fortune around?

Felicia Day and her crew at The Guild certainly don't need my help in turning their show around. Viewership has steadily increased since it first premiered. But it's definitely the best show not on TV.

Why? Because The Guild is an internet program. It's not on cable, satellite or broadcast TV. Its premise is the misadventures of a group of MMO players, both online and in real life.

We're now four episodes into the third season, and it's still as gut-busting funny as the first episode. Wil Wheaton's guest shot as the kilt-wearing leader of the Axis of Anarchy guild is so Emmy-worthy. And I can't wait to see what happens next...

Huh? Moment

You know the universe is full of strange coincidences when you discover the marketing line for your blog (and potentially your books) is already:

- the title of a newspaper in Zimbabwe

- a gay catamaran boat trip

- a children's reading hour at a public library

- a list of adjectives used to describe actress Kristen Chenoweth on TMZ.com

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Entitlement?

As I read other blogs, I'm amazed at the vitriolic spewing of some of my fellow unpubs regarding the query process. I consider writing novels a career change (it'll be my third), and I'm looking at the query process as my job search.

But seriously? If you're trying to get a job at AT&T, would you send a nasty e-mail to the HR Director, telling him/her how much their hiring process sucks, their company sucks, etc., ad nauseum?

I can understand the frustration of the process, but it's no different than any other job search I've been on. The rejections aren't personal. Well, okay, I've had a couple a contest judges make comments that were pretty damn personal, but they're the exception rather than the rule. In those cases, the judges are right up there with the IT Director who spent the entire interview staring at my boobs. Boorish behavior for sure, and not someone I'd want to work with. But does it have a damn thing to do with my job performance? Heck, no!

But face reality--this crap is just part of the game. Why get frustrated to point that Mike Tyson looks like a well-behaved Catholic schoolboy compared to some writers? If a writer can't handle the game, leave the stadium.

(Please leave the stadium! Better yet, get yourself ejected for personal fouling. I want off the bench.)

You think I'm some kind of suck-up? I've been on the other end of the spectrum. I've had people want free computer or legal advice, especially the latter. Coming up to a total stranger and making demands is incredibly offputting and isn't likely to get you what you want. So I understand why agents, editors and published authors are leery of unpubs and their demands. I haven't reached the level of public rants like screenwriter Josh Olson on his Why I will not read your f***ing script. But I've thought it. Oh Goddess, have I thought it.

So what's the gist of all this? No one owes you a job. Period. End of story. And if you really want to be published, realize writing is a job. It's an artsy job, but it's still a job.

Pay your dues. Work hard. Keep writing. It's the only way to make it in this business.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Releasing children upon an unsuspecting world...

I've spent the last few days sending out queries for my completed manuscript. And you know what? I like sending queries. For an unpubbed writer, it's the frosting on the literary accomplishment.

What's so great about queries? They force you to condense your idea into a few key sentences. Sentences that need to grab the agent and editor by the throat and say, "Damn it! Pay attention to me!"

On the other hand, synopses are a little tougher. It's a fine line between adding too much information that the synopsis bogs down and too little that the synopsis makes no freakin' sense. And that is why critique partners are so damn important! Good ones will tell you when you've crossed the line. But once it's done, I don't have to agonize over every single word the way I do with the personalized query.

But it's done. My children are out in the world, but I can't sit and stew about what will happen to them. Will they be liked? Admired? Told to put a paper bag over their heads? Nope, can't worry about them now. What's done is done.

The current wip is clamoring for attention, like a toddler demanding to be picked up and carried. And I'm already pregnant with the next idea.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Dear Mr. Dan Brown:

I'm so sorry for all the success you've had. The one million books sold in one day. The years spent on the NYT Best Seller lists. The hit movies adapted from your novels.

You see, I'm a rarity. A writer wannabe who doesn't hate you. Doesn't criticize your work. And sure as hell, doesn't envy your success.

Especially that last one. I've seen the vicious blog posts, the vapid reviews and the vindictive tweets. I admired the way you smile through such adversity, all the way to the bank.

When I worked in a bookstore a few years ago, I fielded many complaints from customers about a certain book of yours. That you'd be condemned to Hell for writing it. That anyone who read it would also meet your fate. Since I'm going to Hell anyway for my beliefs (according many of the same people who criticized you, your work and your fans), I wanted to learn more about one of the gentlemen who would be joining me in the infernal domains.

You know what? I liked The DaVinci Code. It was a fun, rollicking rollercoater of an afternoon read on a dreary winter Sunday. But my opinion doesn't matter.

The real question here is 'Are you, Dan Brown, still having fun writing?' With all the crap you recieve on a daily basis, do you still get excited as you sit down with your computer, notepad or typewriter? To paraphrase Paul Stanley, since you don't have to worry about the money anymore, are you still having a blast?

Because if we end up in Hell, you will be forced to write books like The DaVinci Code, and I will be forced to read them. Forever.

Guess what? I'm looking forward to it.

Until then, enjoy your success, Mr. Brown. You've earned it.

Friday, September 11, 2009

When It Rains, It Pours. . .

. . .and I'm not talking about Morton salt either.

I started my blog on Sunday. I had part of the holiday to write rough drafts of some ideas.

And POW! I had two requests for fulls on the ms I started submitting to agents last month. LOL Go figure. So instead of editing blog material, I did one last sweep through my ms and synopsis before sending my little children out in the world. It's kind of like making sure the kid's coat is zipped/buttoned before he heads out to play in the snow.

Then one of my crit partners finished her contracted manuscript the same day I got the agent requests. All I do is proof the darn things (she's a pretty clean writer though she claims otherwise) and point out problems like the fact that Mustangs do not have four doors.

CC: But I checked with my husband! He said they did.

Me: Steve needs to turn in his man card. Now.

So go play nicely until Monday while I read CC's book.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Happy Labor Day

What's your plans for Labor Day? Maybe a picnic? A cook-out with your friends and family? I can already smell the smokers and grills heating up for the massive amount of food to be barbequed by the neighbors in a couple of hours.

As you eat those delicious hamburgs and brisket, give a little prayer of thanks to those who made this day possible. Those carpenters, coal miners, and folks from every other industry who marched, unionized and fought for decent wages, reasonable work hours, and safety procedures. The social workers who battled to get children out of factories and into school. The folks who strove to turn a local acknowledgement of the American worker into a national holiday.

And I'll be thinking of you lucky dogs as I head off to work this afternoon. LOL

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Like a Virgin

Okay, I did it. I finally did it.

The thing all my published friends said I should do. The thing my husband has been trying to talk me into for years. The thing the experts said will make me more popular.

Yep, this is my first blog. Isn't she pretty?

What am I going to blog about? The title says it all. Where else on the internet are you going to find witch doctors (i.e. a witch who holds a medical degree), amish vampires and tabloid zombies? So, buckle up and enjoy the ride!