Wednesday, December 28, 2011

SO WAT'CHA, WAT'CHA, WAT'CHA WANT?

Twenty-twelve is right around the corner and, as ever when we reach the cusp of a new year, that means it's time to talk about successes and failures, resolutions and goals. I say we don't dwell so much on the failures, or the resolutions - what are those, after all, but snippets of dreams committed to paper?

My five goals, in no particular order, for twenty-twelve:*

  • Master the art of eating hot foods without losing control of my mucous membranes
  • Finally watch all of Jacob's Ladder without covering my eyes during the seizure-gimp scenes
  • Write that 120,000-word buddy comedy novel mash-up of Twilight and Throw Momma from the Train
  • Grow another inch
  • Finish two novels
What are your goals, dear readers? What one or three or five things do you hope to accomplish in twenty-twelve? (Yes, I do like seeing it written out, why do you ask?)



*Subject to change without notice, available only in states and territories where permitted, in Spanish where available, may cause narcolepsy, robotism or bleeding of the eyes.

Friday, December 23, 2011

GIVEAWAY WINNER, TOFFEE AND CHRISTMAS EVE EVE

First things first. The winner of my part of the Mistletoe Madness giveaway is Meghan. Congrats, Meghan Page. Please email me to let me know if you'd prefer you advance copy of Don't Bite the Messenger in PDF or e-Pub form. And thanks to all who participated. This was fun for me, both hearing people's winter memories and getting to discover so many new-to-me authors.

Second, I am on my third attempt to make a batch of toffee I've made annually for four years. The variable this year? A new cooking range that apparently freaking hates toffee. There has been much swearing in Casa Jacques tonight.

And, third, 'tis the Eve of Christmas Eve. We've got family in town from the right coast, closets and drawers and trunks full of presents, and enough wine to best a chronically-inebriate olyphant.

Uhhhh...I meant elephant.

It's going to be glorious.

So, happy holidays to all, and to all a good night!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

MISTLETOE MADNESS BLOG HOP

**the giveaway is now closed**

In keeping with the holiday spirit, I'm running around like a six-legged thoroughbred with a bur under her saddle and something to prove. I'm not actually sure which holiday that image relates to, but it seems appropriate this year.

What I wouldn't give for an hour to kick back and lose myself in a good book. Alas... Since I'm too busy, I'm giving you the opportunity to win such a reprieve. The book, that is. I haven't yet mastered the ability to bestow time on others. Welcome, dear readers, to the Mistletoe Madness Blog Hop!


I'm giving away an early digital copy of my novella, Don't Bite the Messenger, coming to the rest of the world 1.16.12.
Cover Art: © 2012 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited.
Don't Bite the Messenger 

Anchorage, Alaska

The vampire population may have created an economic boom in Alaska, but their altered energy field fries most technology. They rely on hard-living—and short-lived—couriers to get business done…couriers like Sydney Kildare.

Sydney has survived to the ripe old age of twenty-six by being careful. She’s careful when navigating her tempestuous clients, outrunning hijackers and avoiding anyone who might distract her from her plan of retiring young to a tropical, vampire-free island.

Her attitude—and immunity to vampires’ allure—have made her the target of a faction of vampires trying to reclaim their territory. Her only ally is Malcolm Kelly, a secretive charmer with the uncanny habit of showing up whenever she’s in trouble. Caught in the middle of a vampire turf war, Sydney has to count on Malcolm to help her survive, or the only place she’ll retire is her grave…

32,000 words

In order to enter, simply leave a comment on this post with your favorite winter memory between December 16th and December 23rd. The winner will be drawn by random.org on or around the 23rd.

The other participants of the blog hop, listed below, have other fantastic prizes, and the grand prize (LINK TO ENTER HERE) is a brand new Nook pre-loaded with books from sponsoring authors!

Happy Holidays!







Wednesday, December 14, 2011

3 THINGS MAKE A POST

One

I don't have any photos of the hot wax and wire sculpture of the rib cage that I made in high school. It was awesome, one of those things where you finish, stand back and say, "I cannot freaking believe I made that. Also, why don't I have any fingerprints left".  I don't even have the sculpture, since my dad found it in the garage and was like, "wax ribcage; useless" and tossed it. So, thank you for the inquiries, but I just can't share it with you.

Two

As you may have noticed, since I've been babbling about it constantly, I have a book coming out. A novella under a pen name (please see Books page for details). I'm going to be busy with that, and trying to whip the sequel into shape, for the next couple months. My posts here will be fewer, but I will be back. If you want to track me in the meantime, please follow the blog o me pen name for the interim. "She" would be happy to have you.

Three

Joss Whedon, what have you done? Is The Cabin in the Woods a slasher film with a complicated sci fi twist? Why yes, I believe it is.

Monday, December 12, 2011

WINTER THROWS DOWN THE GAUNTLET

We lost Internet connectivity at our house this weekend, for about 18 hours, and it was terrible! We didn't lose power, which a lot of people did. Nor did we get stranded miles from home in blizzard conditions, which was solely a matter of luck since we collectively drove several hundred miles over the weekend.

Now we've got eight inches of heavy, wet snow on top of a melted and refrozen road system that resembles a particularly sadistic washboard. Very hard to drive on, let me tell you, though I confess the challenge was fun. Although, I couldn't figure out why nobody was using their turn indicators until three coworkers separately told me they were too scared to take their hands off the steering wheel.



So much for the cold, dry winter we'd been told to expect.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

SPREADSHEETS!

Spent the morning cleaning and trying to figure out what to do with several large items which all need to be in the same place, including one treadmill and one Christmas tree. Have given up for the moment and retreated with tea to my underground lair*.

I'm graphing this afternoon, building a spreadsheet to break down my chapter lengths, plot escalation and character involvement in the story. I know I have a deficiency, but I want to see exactly how big it is. And, while I write with an eye toward balancing active scenes (whether they are fights/chases, a lot of movement, or intimate) with periods of reflection and/or exposition, some scenes come out scrawny and others bloated. Lines and dots and numbers help me to analyze what I can't see when I'm in the middle of all the words.

If anyone's interested, I'll try to figure out how to import graphs to show you how my WIP - currently titled Messenger II - looks.



*Also known as the first-floor spare bedroom I have claimed in the name of Spain**.

**And, by "Spain", I mean for my writing office.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

COVER ART. COOKING BLOG. ANIMAL POO?

After much breathless anticipation, I received the cover for Don't Bite the Messenger from Carina Press (via CrocoDesigns).


And, with that stunning image, wheels are suddenly in motion. The book is available for pre-order at Amazon and B&N. My website is under quick development, and I'm learning and setting up social media as quick as I can. 



Carina Press will feature Don't Bite the Messenger on Net Galley starting, I believe, in the middle of December. If you'd like a copy to review, please keep it in mind or let me know and I'll see if I can get it to you earlier.

I'll be setting up interviews and a trans-galactic blog tour shortly, so if you'd be interesting in hosting little old me, please email me: writerjakes at gmail dot com. I can talk about the story, the Alaskan setting, getting an agent, the road to publication, or how every time I go to a beautiful slash regal historical site in France, something poops on me. You alone know which of these your audience will like best.

Also, separately, I became a contributor at the awesome Pots n Pens blog, along with some other fantastic writers. Cooking, reading and writing: what's not to like? My first post there will go live on December 5th, I believe, so please pop on by and say hi.

That's it for now. Is a lot, yes?

Cover Art: Copyright © 2012 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited

Sunday, November 27, 2011

CARROT OR STICK?

There are so many high profile debates waging right now in the world of writers. Panster or plotter? Harry or Bella or Katniss? Self-pub or traditional? Amazon as evil or Amazon as savior?

But lately I've noticed another trend, mostly on twitter. Maybe it's due to the number of people actively writing during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), or maybe it's because in the dark and cold days of winter we're all looking for that a little help with our motivation. I'm talking about the Carrot or Stick debate.

Can you be encouraged by the promise of a reward, or do you have to be threatened with punishment in order to act? For example:

Carrots - Rewards

  • A cookie for a hundred words
  • Fifteen minutes on twitter for a thousand
  • A look at Allison Pang's Midnight Man Candy for a chapter. 

And no, that's not why all my chapters are now forty-two words long. Sheesh, what do you take me for?

Sticks - Punishments

  • No lunch until you finish the chapter
  • No tumblr until you revise ten pages
  • No showering until you finish this draft (this is really punishment for the people around you, so I suggest you avoid it unless you 1. hate the people around you or 2. need to convince them unequivocally to stop distracting you)

I tend toward a hybrid system like I do with my plotting (I'm a culottser - it's like pants but smaller), mostly because I have impulse control issues. I'll decide on my reward (say, a cookie), then sit and stare at the screen, maybe run a spell check and spin in my chair. I'll eat the cookie. Then I'll have guilt, and complete whatever task I had originally set for myself, except the reward is already long gone. It's like crossing a finish line to find the crowd's packed up and gone home.

My punishment system doesn't work very well either. I'll tell myself that, if I don't finish a specific scene, I'll have to get on the treadmill. Please understand, I hate to exercise. But, I won't finish the scene. So I'll drag myself to the treadmill, intending to work through the scene in my head so that I'll be able to fly directly from the torture device to the computer and rattle it off.

Of course, in order to stay on the treadmill, I have to lose myself in daydreams so elaborate that I forget what I'm doing. Mostly they consist of the same material as my dreams: corporate espionage, cracking animal fighting rings in the mid-west, being really good at karaoke, being a nanny for Jackie Chan's kids in a world where every day is like a Jackie Chain movie (lot of axe gangs in my dreamworld).


And then, when I finish, I'll be no closer to the solution for me scene.

What works for you? How do you motivate yourself? What's the biggest carrot you've ever promised yourself?

Monday, November 21, 2011

BACK IN BLACK

I'm not shopping on Black Friday. It's not because it will likely be below zero when the crowds start lining up outside for the best deals. It's not because I don't want to pay less for decent electronics and better jewelry. It's not because I'm anti-commerce or don't have the cash this year or am occupying anything.

It's because I've worked in retail.

Sales start earlier and last longer now than when I last sold shoes and shotguns to suburbanites. I hated working those days, people tearing through racks, leaving trails of carnage in their wake. People scooping from the shelves everything they could hold even though they didn't need it. Fun fact about that kind of shopping? About half the stuff gets returned over the course of the next few weeks, and is restocked and then resold at non-sale prices. I hated it, and I would never do that to anyone.

On a positive note, I don't feel like I'm missing out. I'm not into disposable electronics or giving people presents that were half off but that they don't really like. And I don't have to.

I'll be shopping locally, at places like AK Starfish Co. and 2 Friends gallery.

I'll be shopping online at some of the most addictive sites ever to grace the face of the earth at sites like Cemetery Cat Designs (love Psynde's Raven necklace - Poe goes with everything) and Strangeling.

For everybody that I can't take care of at places like that, it'll be books and cupcake-of-the-month clubs.

This Friday I hope to wake late, drink coffee and eat leftover Raspberry Trifle (recipe compliments of the wonderful @caitpeterson), read, play with my son, eat, and probably nap.

What are your favorite places to shop where you don't actually have to worry about being trampled?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

THE QUICK DESCENT OF A SEASON

A month ago, the weather was unseasonably warm - 40s Fahrenheit - and we still had green grass. We wondered if we would have snow on the ground for Halloween, as we usually do. It didn't look likely.

Tonight I went out to watch the phenomenally multi-talented Andrew Bird (the recordings do not do him or his abilities justice - I suggest you seek him out live). It was zero degrees, but the wind chill dragged the "feel" of the air down to -22. An angry -22 at that, with claws and teeth and possibly rabies. The roads are paved in ice and the snow is several feet deep along the roads and over the lawn. The grass may still be green underneath, stunned but not yet killed by the quick descent of winter.

We had snow on Halloween, by the way.

The sun rises just after nine, but doesn't break clear of the mountains until about nine-thirty. It sets before four-thirty in the afternoon. When the clouds allow it at all. I go to work in the dark. I come home in the dark.

These conditions are perfect for mental hibernation.

Instead I find myself strangely energetic. I laid down ten thousand words on a new story last week, and am on pace for roughly the same this week. It will be slightly slower going as I have to wreck a car today or tomorrow, and I tend to write high-velocity scenes quite slowly. I think what I'm experiencing is  an absolute need to protect myself from these harsh conditions by escaping somewhere warmer, brighter, faster and more explosive. I used to achieve this by reading, curling up for hours or days with book after book. Now, while my to-be-read pile slash list is large and attractive, I can find the same refuge in my own work. And I have the added advantage of getting to exercise my brain.

This is not to say that I'm not dreaming of beaches and staring longingly at the grayscape world, pining for spring.

What is your winter like? Is it a season or a feeling? How do you escape?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

THERE'S AN APP FOR THAT

Hello. My name is Hillary, and I'm a social media addict.

*crowd murmurs without looking up from iPhones*

This blog, my twitter accounts (yes, two of them), my facebook (dusty, neglected thing that it is), my lists, forum memberships, subscriptions and emails...all of these were supposed to help me become a smarter and better writer.

Instead, like brightly-lit vampires, they have sucked my time away. As well as disrupting my-SQUIRREL!

Where was I? As well as reducing my attention span.

I'm working on a sequel to Don't Bite the Messenger (coming 1.16.12 - yay), and have four outlines that I'm actively fleshing out - may the best one win. And I found that I couldn't write for more than five lines or minutes at a time without needing to check on this thread or jump into that conversation. And when I say "need", I'm talking about a very serious, nearly physical craving. There are just so many interesting people, so much news, and so many good stories out there.

Too much, it turns out. I'm not doing NaNoWriMo because I don't have time. At least, that's the excuse I made. However, I don't have time because I'm unfocused and unproductive. So when the NaNoWriMo words counts started popping up, and I realized that people were writing in a day what I was struggling to produce in a week, I stepped back. I examined my situation, the habits I'd formed, the excuses I was making. I looked at what I was able to write daily a year ago, two years ago. Granted, I write better when I write more slowly, but that wasn't my problem.

I was wasting time.

Luckily, there's an app for that. I downloaded a free trial of Freedom and took it for a test drive. And my word count climbed. And my draft was cleaner than the one before. And I can concentrate for longer periods of time.

So. I hope to see you all out there, though slightly less. And I'll actually probably be blogging more as I swing back toward productivity. So feel free to drop by. When I haven't isolated myself in a dark room with no access to them thar interwebs, I'll be happy to see you.

Monday, October 31, 2011

THIS IS HALLOWEEN

My son (three) advised that, for Halloween, he wanted to be the Dread Pirate Roberts, from The Princess Bride. Actually, what he said was that he wanted to be "the hero" from "The Bride Princess". He said I should be a pirate too, to which I replied, "as you wish".

And then I discovered that there are no pirate costumes available in the greater Anchorage area for undersized three year-olds, and no pirate costumes at all for adult women that aren't implicitly slutty. Still we made do.

Behold, the (tiny) Dread Pirate Roberts and his loyal ally, Inigo Montoya:


 First we re-enact Inigo and Westley's first meeting and acrobatic fight.


Then we become friends.


Then we pose like pirate homeys.

The End

Saturday, October 29, 2011

THE STATUS, IT IS QUO

And, in case you cared, I'm at about 65,000 on my Cyberpunk WIP. The story is misbehaving. The male MC wants it to be a romance, a male side character wants it to be a romance, and the female MC is unconvinced. It's like a love triangle with one side facing away and shouting "la la la, can't hear you motherfuckers". No idea how it's going to end.

THE GRASS IS ALWAYS WHITER

My twitter feed is full of grumbling over the cold temperatures and snow. How dare it freeze and fall, twitter laments, in October!? October is apparently still summer for some people.

I'm feeling a little left out up here. I don't remember the last time we didn't have snow before Halloween, but it remains camped up on the mountains, growing thicker and developing an attitude of permanence while we crunch across our frosted, withering lawns beneath naked tree boughs. What I'd give for a blanket of white to soften the land and reflect the streetlights, making our nights as bright as our days.

 Please do not remind me I said that come, say, February.

EDIT: We now have snow. *looks smug, then sad, then flops onto the ground*

Sunday, October 23, 2011

NO GO ON NaNo

I'm not going to participate in NaNoWriMo this year. My active and backlogged projects just aren't going to line up with the Nano timeline. And who do I have to thank for that? Why, NaNo, of course.

I completed my first novel thanks to NaNo several years ago. I was astounded, both that I could actually write an entire novel and that I wanted to do it again. And again. And again. NaNo opened the door to a supportive writing community but it also opened up something inside of me, an amalgamation of confidence and ambition, delight and resolve.

Since I first participated in NaNo, I've:

  • Finished and edited two novels, and I'm about to finish Draft One of another
  • Started and temporarily shelved one novel
  • Finished and sold one novella
  • Finished five short stories, one of which has sold, two of which are currently making submission rounds
  • Finished one flash fiction piece, which is making submission rounds
  • Engaged with five excellent beta readers
  • Partnered with a literary agent
None of this would have been possible without that first NaNo. So, no, I'm not participating in this particular campaign. But I am, year-round, using the energy and drive I learned during that first manic month. And I'll be rooting for all this year's participants. Good luck. Have fun. And don't forget to shower and stand up and move every once in awhile. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

TRICK OR TREAT (RECESSION-STYLE)

We usually have snow on Halloween. Except when it's too cold, but usually there's at least a crusty dusting on the ground when the kids march stubbornly up the drive, trying to show off as much of their costumes as they can around the puffy coats and boots. The older kids - some of them with five o'clock shadow - try to tough it out. Maybe a long-sleeved shirt under their costume, sometimes bare arms against the twenty-five degree wind. They'll burn through more calories than the collected candy contains if they're out long enough. Mother Nature's holding back this year, saving it for when she really needs it.

We seem to have a mustache shortage up here this year, as well. Not the real ones. We have plenty, too many maybe, of the real ones. But my friendly local costume shop, which supplies me year-round with fine faux mustaches, is nearly out. Just a few joke-sized black handlebars and some raggedy old muttonchops hang now on the pegs.

Not my style.

I guess it's cutbacks, the pretend facial hair industry scaling back on low-selling items like everybody else. Some day, sitting around the campfire, we'll sing songs about the days of yore, when we had snow on Halloween, and mustaches were sold on every corner.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

CUPCAKE QUEST 2011 - I

I recently had the distinct pleasure of eating a pumpkin citrus cupcake. I didn't get the recipe from the bakery, mostly because I was focused on that bakery box like Frodo on his ring toward the end of book three. The cupcake was delicious. Light but well-flavored. Satisfying without being too heavy.

I'm trying to replicate the recipe. Tonight I baked iteration #1. It wasn't close, but it was good in a different way. Closer to a pumpkin citrus muffin than a cupcake, partially because the recipe I tore apart and stuffed with pumpkin required more moisture (I've attempted to correct that in the following recipe). This version is denser, less sweet, and high in fiber and vitamin A! The toddler loved it, and it was pretty easy. Recipe to follow.

Lemon Pumpkin Muffins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Drop baking cups into cupcake sheet. Makes about two dozen.

1 1/2 C sifted all-purpose flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 1/4 t cinnamon
1/2 t ground cloves
1/2 t allspice
2 eggs
1 C granulated sugar
1 C pumpkin puree
1 t vanilla
1 T lemon juice
1 t lemon zest
1/4 C vegetable oil

Sift all the dry ingredients except sugar together. Set aside.
Stir the pumpkin, vanilla, lemon juice, lemon zest and vegetable oil together until just mixed. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs on medium until well-mixed. Beat in the sugar until creamy.
Mix in the dry and wet ingredients alternately until incorporated, scraping sides when necessary.
Spoon into paper cups, filling just over half full.
Bake. They're done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Enjoy!

And, as a bonus to LOTR lovers, below is what I believe to be the root system of a resting Ent. See how it's not really attached to the earth?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

WALKING ON BROKEN DREAMS

I spent a couple of hours yesterday standing still in dirty, dirty alleys while local denizens strolled and bicycled past. And by that I mean they stood and stared from uncomfortably close distances, saying nothing as they smoked or drank from their paper bag-wrapped bottles.

Why, you ask? Was I on some sort of pigeon flu and hepatitis investigative mission? No, or, only incidentally.

That's just what a photo session looks like when you tell the photographer you write urban fantasy and that urban fantasy tends to happen in urban environments and he decides that nothing says "urban" like busted drug vials stuck to the soles of your flip-flops.

It's all very glamorous.

So, we've got dozens of photos to sort through. The general theme is that I tend to look either suspicious or angry most of the time, which of course is just what people want to see staring back at them from the back of a book they've just finished.

We'll see if we can't sort something out, maybe photoshop me a smile or something. And then it will be time to build a website on which to paste said altered photo. So much to do, so many things I'd rather be doing.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

SATURDAY

Saturday wasn't as Caturday as I would have liked.


Caught a flight at 12: 20 a.m.. Landed in Minneapolis, MN at 12:20 p.m. Proceeded to drive north, hunting coffee and foliage. Barely found either, but did have a lovely time at Gooseberry Falls.


 Lower Falls - the only area not overrun with peoples.



Pond below the falls. The leaves are a little behind in changing this year, but they're going to be spectacular when they go.


If I lived in Minnesota, I'd hang out here with my kids for days. Lovely spot.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

BUT WHY?

Following is my three year-old son's story of his life:

First I was a baby in momma's tummy.

Then I was a little boy.

Now I am a big boy.

Then I'll be a grown up...

...and then I'll be a duck!

I don't think that way. Most people, even the most creative people I know, don't think that way. We have certain constants, such as: human children don't grow up to be ducks.

But what if they did?

I will admit to coming to him when I've written myself into a corner, explaining the story so far - with no simplification - and then asking his opinion on where it should go. Sometimes he just asks questions about a few things that stuck in his mind. Other times he'll continue telling the story, usually with an expanded cast, and swords. And ducks. Sometimes he'll do that thing that all parents know and dread.

Tabitha rode her motorcycle to the end of the road, looking for Hester. She wasn't there so Tabitha burned the shack to the ground. 

Why?

Because she was so angry at her sister, and her sister loved that house and had put years into rebuilding and filling it with things she loved.

Why?

Because when they were growing up, they were moved from one distant relative's house to another, living jointly out of a suitcase full of clothes they were quickly outgrowing. So she wanted to have a place full of her things, and walls that were always the same.

Why?

Well, their mother passed away when they were born and their father was sent off-planet, after which the force fields locked so that spacecraft couldn't come back.

Why?

Well, it was actually a conspiracy. A heroic general and the most powerful politicians in a party went off-planet to great fanfare to christen a new colony. They were supposed to be gone a month. But while they were gone, two ambitious businessmen and a young chemist who desperately wanted to prove himself, arranged for a coup following the release of a chemical that would obscure the sky.

Why?

You see where this can go? How broad or how deep you'll be forced to drill down if you just keep asking why? How you will start thinking about aspects of your characters or plot that you never would have explored on your own? I just hope I remember these lessons when I achieve duckhood.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

THE LIBRARY IN HEAVEN

It must be massive, Heaven's library. I thought at first that maybe everybody got their own, full of the crispest, most beautiful editions of all their favorite books. But now I think it must just be the one library, so that the denizens can roam the endless rows during their endless stay, tracing their greaseless fingertips (even if they just ate chocolate and barbeque, because there must always be chocolate and barbeque in Heaven, but nobody will ever be smudged).

They can discover any book or all the books or just peruse.

Imagine days spent stringing together first lines together into a story unto itself.

Weeks learning about the river deltas of the world below.

And of course, all books would be instantly translated and understandable, 'cause Heaven's a little bit Star Trek, too.

Monday, September 19, 2011

THE FUTURE, IT KILLS ME

So I clicked on the NPR link to hear about a robot talking to a robot, and then my head exploded.

I hope your experience is similarly delightful.

NOSE TO THE FRELLING GRINDSTONE

I'm throwing myself a little party. This is what happens when 1) I have no other topic to blog about, and 2) I've cracked 40,000 words on a manuscript that I have abandoned three times because it was Too. Flipping. Hard.

This is the opposite of a pity party. It's a "Oh Holy Carp, I Didn't Know You Had It In Ya, Kid" party (I play both the person saying that and the "kid"). So, bring your folding chair and dancing shoes, your drink of choice and snack of first resort. Shall we listen to some records, maybe smoke some of the funny stuff (I am, of course, referring to candy cigarettes or those old school clown cigarettes that actually spray water - funny, right?), or streak through the virtual streets? I'm up for it!

I'm not done, of course. Nowhere near it in fact. I'm thinking this draft will wind up somewhere around 75,000 and will require extensive editing as well as some after-the-fact research to clear up some details I've only glossed over (but highlighted to attract future attention).

But I've overcome my fear of something new (sci fi) and broken a few of my own rules (outline, write first and edit later) and the words are still flowing. The characters are denser and crawling deeper into the rabbit hole.

So, to all of you grinding through this chapter, that scene or them thar plot point, please know that you're en route to smoother waters. Just keep working.

Also, as a PSA, don't google images for "party time". It's...disturbing.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

THE LAST BOOK

Death row inmates get a last meal.

I'd be more interested in my last read.

If you never got to read another book again, what's the last one you would choose?

A worn favorite to lose yourself in one last time?

The longest book you could find, to draw things out?

Would you risk something new and untried?

Monday, September 12, 2011

5 STEPS TO SURVIVING THE SOGGY CENTER OF YOUR BOOK

There are hundreds of instructional books for writing stories and novels.  Many of them are even good. And yet, writers continue to moan about falling into the purgatory that is the center of their book. Plots that start off with a bang and end with a boom ramble and stagnate through the middle.

Faced with this very issue the other night, I climbed onto the treadmill. If I wasn’t able to conquer the shapeless middle of my book, I might as well work on my own.

Five minutes in I was fine. Feeling good about choosing to exercise instead of cruise the Internet or eat the rest of a pan of brownies (there weren't that many left). Hopeful that I’d soon be in good enough shape to go on a decent run with my son in the jogger without inspiring good Samaritans to call emergency services.

Ten minutes in I was sweating and my muscles were straining. It was hard. It was repetitive. I wanted off. I could count at least eighteen things I’d rather be doing.

And that’s when it hit me. That is what a reader feels like when the book sags. When the writer decides that now is the time to reveal the entirety of the characters’ massive and surprising (!) backstories. When the writer dispassionately plods down a contrived path toward red herrings in an effort to complicate the story. When the writer loses her or his way and wanders aimlessly through clever dialogue and sudden-onset “tension” between characters with Nothing Else Happening.

So, to toss out a metaphor, while writing a novel might be a marathon, writing the middle of that novel is a single workout that you don’t want to complete.

Here are my five steps (order up to personal preference):
  • Change up your playlist. Parallel: Change the location to a place your characters don't know. Where they will be uncomfortable or surprised. Add or remove a character. Has the all-knowing crutch stopped answering his phone, leaving your peeps to fend for themselves. Has the supportive, fatherly supervisor been replaced by a hard-ass more interested in properly completed paperwork than results? If your character doesn't know what's coming up next, neither will the reader. This is what makes readers turn the page.
  • Think of the end goal. That hike you want to be able to complete without passing out. The pants you bought two years ago that still have the tags on them. Those target numbers your doctor sternly lectured you about. Parallel: When you started the book, was your goal to type out a certain number of words, or to finish a story that would entertain and satisfy the reader, even if you plan to be the only reader? Aren't you eager to type "the end" on a book that horrifies or delights or makes your first grade teacher tear up (in a good way - don't write books for revenge on primary school teachers. That's just petty)
  • Monitor your progress in two-minute increments rather than staring down the next thirty. Parallel: Work scene by scene. Don't worry about hitting three thousand words a day, or completing a chapter. Worry about ramping up this scene, having your characters emerge further down the plot path than when they entered it.
  • Look at the runners around you. Parallel: Think back to similar books and see what the authors did to keep you reading to the magnificent end. I'm not advising copying other books. That would lead to a very sad state in literature. I'm saying look at the devices, where and how tension was turned up, and see if there are opportunities for derailments and re-railments (let's play "is it a word!") in your story.
  • Tough it out. Just keep going. One foot in front of the other. Parallel: One word after the other. Sometimes no trick in the known universe will help. Sometimes it's just a matter of grinding through the process until it gets easier. Eventually you will hit a smoother patch, you will finish and, even if you don't love the story, you've completed it. That's a phenomenal accomplishment. And the rest? The tightening up, the transitions, the de-triting of the dialogue? That's what revisions are for. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

THE MORE YOU KNOW

I asked my husband to put together some quirky things about me that I might be able to use for a humorous FAQs post. He must have misread the question because he sent me back a random list of physical abnormalities and symptoms of severe mental illness.

I can't believe we've been married all these years, and I only just found out he has trouble reading.

Friday, September 2, 2011

HAPPINESS IS HARD WORK

I started to read an article the other day* about slightly depressed people seeing the world more accurately than non-depressed people (and also severely depressed people). Something about the lack of "positive illusion", from self-image to understanding of conditions in the world. I was interrupted and didn't finish the article.

But it got me thinking.

I mentioned it to a coworker. Rather than asking more about the theory or expressing an opinion regarding its truthfulness, she shook her head and raised a hand. One of those do-not-pass,-do-not collect-$200 moves.

"I don't think about things like that." She launched a smile. "I just accept the world as it is. That makes life so much easier."

I looked at our charcoal and taupe office, the mundane tasks we repeat hundreds of times a week. I understood the glazing over, driving past and tuning out of the truths of the world or our own situation (which likely little resembles the dreams and aspirations we had in our early years, our formative years, our experimental years). I understood, but the statement also blew my fucking mind.

I consider looking at something, whether an object a person or an idea, and asking what else it could be to be the highest form of hope. And I think that accepting the world as it is is tantamount to saying you've run out of hope. That you've given up. This is one of my biggest fears, along with having my appendix burst and kill me, or having my hamstring sliced by so shadow-dwelling foe.

Of course, by accepting the world as it is - free of menacing appendices and knife-wielding fiends laying in wait - my coworker is probably more content than I. I like to think that, by recognizing flawed and incomplete things and working to improve them, I can occasionally elevate myself from content to truly happy. Even if it's only for a moment.

* Please note that my definition of "the other day" spans from three days ago to thirteen years ago, give or take about a month.

Friday, August 19, 2011

CLOSING IN THE WALLS ARE

I'm falling out of love with my writing space.

I'm grateful that I have writing space at all, but it's feeling cramped and dirty and disorganized. I could be noticing this because winter is on its way (it's Alaska-September might toss a couple of nice days our way, but I've already resigned to the inevitable) and I'm mentally rebelling against months of choking seasonal claustrophobia. Or possibly because I'm having some trouble transitioning from one project to another so I'm looking for things to distract me.

Like:

Maybe it's time to paint

Or perhaps install some shelves

Or go shopping for new drapes

Or download that new Uzbekistani noir songs for writers album

Or learn a foreign language so that I can describe my discontent in Yezidi

Okay, so I'm totally looking for a distraction. This means that I must eliminate them, and fast, so I can get to the next level. That's right, I do live my life like a video game!*

So tomorrow I'll spend a couple of hours cleaning, which will mostly involve selecting cleaning music**, dusting and trying to keep the cats from eating lemon-scented Pledge***

And then everything shall be wonderful and the words will flow like wine. Or, if they don't, the wine will flow like wine.

Do you have a designated writing space? In your home or out? Anything you want to change about it?

* A boring-ass video game.

** This is actually the same music I always listen to.

*** I don't know what mineral deficiency causes them to lick up cleaning products. I just...I do my best to keep them out of them, okay?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

AUGUST 2011 AW BLOG CHAIN

This month's prompt is The Continuing Story of a Song. It's a two-pronged doozy.

Step 1: Choose a song. 

Step 2: Continue the story. Read the post before yours and continue the story in any direction you see fit. Your continuation must be based on, inspired by, or in some other way influenced by your song choice.



My lovely fellow participants are:
Story beginning
orion_mk3 - http://nonexistentbooks.wordpress.com (link to this month's post)
BigWords - http://bigwords88.wordpress.com/ (link to this month's post)
AbielleRose - http://stainedglassinthenight.wordpress.com/ (link to this month's post)
Ralph Pines - http://ralfast.wordpress.com/ (link to this month's post)
hillaryjacques - http://hillaryjacques.blogspot.com/
 YOU ARE HERE
Darkshore - http://dustinbishop.wordpress.com/ (link to this month's post)
pyrosama - http://matrix-hole.blogspot.com/ (link to this month's post)
Diana_Rajchel - http://blog.dianarajchel.com/ (link to this month's post)
Inkstrokes - http://drlong67.wordpress.com/ (link to this month's post)
soullesshuman - http://eventideenvisions.blogspot.com/ (link to this month's post)
Alyzna - http://alynzasmith.blogspot.com/ (link to this month's post)
Cath - http://www.cathsmith.com/wprs/ (link to this month's post)
dolores haze - http://dianedooley.wordpress.com/ (link to this month's post)
Alpha Echo - http://writersramblings81.blogspot.com/ (link to this month's post)
pezie - http://www.erinbrambilla.wordpress.com/ (link to this month's post)
jkellerford - http://jennykellerford.wordpress.com/ 



We are Stars - The Pierces


The branches, bowed by heavy leaves, parted, revealing a sloping band of white sand. Chris paused, his eyes adjusting to the diminishing light. The sun exhaled a final pastel sigh and disappeared. Before it went, he saw her, motionless at the water’s edge. Sand ground through his sandals as he walked to her.

He stopped an arm’s length away, admiring the way the thin sheath she wore draped the curves of her body. She turned, and sweat bloomed cold across his back.

“I saw you,” she said, casually, like they were in the middle of a conversation. Like she was alive.

“A-Allison?”

“You aren’t like those people. You want more. Like me. This is the place where you can find what you’re looking for.” Her hair drifted around her head, though there was no breeze. She raised a pale hand, and her smile reached her milky blue eyes. “Let me show you.”

He recoiled from her, slogging backwards through the cloying sand. She tilted her head to the side. The smile fled her face.

“Chris?”

“This isn’t…this isn’t happening.”

“Please don’t be like this.”  She followed him, her movements eerily stilted. “We know what you want, what you came here for. We can give it to you. Just let us in.”

Christ, he’d had too much to drink, or too much sun. That was it. “High UV index,” he stammered, turning when his heel landed on hard ground. Leaves slapped against his face. He ran.

The lights of the resort bobbed in the distance. He’d go back, ask for the doctor. They had a doctor; he’d seen her tending to a man who’d sliced his finger on coral while snorkeling. Chris looked over his shoulder; darkness stared back. He slowed, pressed the back of his hand against his forehead. He was burning up.

He’d take a cold bath, sleep with the AC on. Tomorrow he’d stay in the shade beside the pool. Talk to the people there, maybe find someone to have dinner with. A breath fluttered across his left ear. He spun, hands raised, but saw nothing. He ran again, barely able to make out the path, his feet sliding in his sandals.

The lights got closer. He heard laughter. He wouldn’t leave again. He’d stay there, stay amongst the living. He laughed, a high-pitched cackle. God, he was delirious. He burst onto the manicured lawn, slowed to a hasty walk as a foursome in the hot tub fell silent, watching him. He pulled open the first door he found.

Music assailed him, and his shoulders dropped in relief. A woman slid out of the crowd, arms flailing, and collided with him. He grabbed her to steady her, to steady himself. She was warm, smelling of floral perfume and perspiration. She was alive, and he never wanted to let her go.

“Are you alright?” he asked.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

BORN OF WINTER: Roots of a Character

At just past midnight on August 1st, summer quietly packed its bags and fled the state. We had a nice summer, especially compared to last year (record-setting rainy spell, not-FTW), but now it is done. Over. Finito.

It's been raining and windy, with warnings of gusts up to 80 mph. As I write this I'm watching our mature may trees being tossed by the wind, and hearing them scraping against the second story deck. Inside, the ficus looks peeved.

The rumors about Alaskans hibernating aren't untrue. It's time to retreat. To books, both reading and writing. To art, little crafts and attempts at projects far beyond my talent and expertise. I will clean obsessively. (When trapped in a small space, it's best if you maximize that space by storing every mobile item and removing every room-taking-up mote of dust.)

I will spend hours at the computer, engineering elaborate vacations (to destinations exotic, warm or both) that I will never take. That's actually how my novella releasing in January from Carina Press came about. I'd written a few scenes for my own amusement, then closed the file. Winter arrived on cold, hard feet, and I wanted to go to Hawaii. I wanted sweet, humid air and warm, lapping waves. My main character decided that sounded pretty damn good. Only, where all I had to do was buy a plane ticket, she had to escape bombs, fangs, and a brewing street war.

She might not be able to make the perfect escape, but she'll take you for a hell of a ride.

Don't Bite the Messenger - Carina Press - 1.16.12

Sunday, July 31, 2011

5 MODERN WRITER COMPLIMENTS

It used to be, the greatest compliment you could pay a writer was that they kept you up reading all night. I remember pretending to fall asleep until my parents went to bed, then switching the bedside lamp on to surreptitiously read. I'd close the book on the last page, and look up to find the clock displaying 3:00 a.m., or daylight glowing on the other side of the curtains.

Things are different now. Following are five modern compliments for compelling writers:

  • I stayed up until 2:00 a.m. to download your new book on release day.
  • I signed up for a Pilates bootcamp because the studio provided day care during classes. I didn't do the Pilates. I just dropped the toddler off for an hour and read your book in the locker room.
  • I paid airline wireless fees because I couldn't wait another two hours to read your next book.
  • I didn't check twitter/facebook/blog stats once while reading your book.
  • I made a taxi pull over before crossing into Canada so I could download your newest title onto my Kindle.
I have happily done at least three, and possibly four of these things.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

IN THE PIT OF DESPAIR *cough* I MEAN - IN THE REVISION CAVE

Because I'm working on another round of edits for my Urban Fantasy novella Don't Bite the Messenger *cough* 1/16/12 *cough*, I likely won't be posting much this week - unless I'm desperate to procrastinate. There is a 50/50 chance of me hitting that stage.

In the meantime, I offer for your listening pleasure (or not) music featuring prepositional phrases (and, in one case, profanity):

Linkin Park - In the End


I'm on A Boat - misc. SNL


Somewhere Over the Rainbow - Iz


Monday, July 25, 2011

AND JUST LIKE THAT, IT'S GONE

I keep losing the book I'm reading. It's a collection of Raymond Chandler stories, not very long, and I've been reading it for nearly five months. I'll read a few pages, set it down, and when I look back down it will be gone. Vanished. Not even a puff of smoke or an oversized shoe print to mark its passing.

It always turns back up, the same page marked, nary a new scuff on its thick paper cover.

It's a collection of mysteries, but it's not one of those books that opens its mouth and inhales you, so that you're watching dark shadows expecting its characters to come creeping out. I don't stand outside my house, hand on the doorknob, resigned to the likelihood that inside will be a strange man (or a not so strange man) with a gun, calmly smoking a cigarette.

Anyway, I going to try to finish it this weekend. Because it's good, but also because I'm tired of this game. If this is the paperback's answer to enhanced e-books, I think someone is barking up the wrong entertainment tree.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

EPIPHANY

I recently discovered an author who makes me laugh to the point of tears no matter what mood I was in when I opened her books. This is a rare and beautiful thing. And, better yet, she has released lots of books. Under two names, no less!

I hoped to find her on twitter, thinking her feed would at least occasionally make me spew my beverage of choice on surfaces of convenience. I couldn't find her by a simple name search, so I went to her website, where I discovered that she did not tweet. I was astounded! How could this prolific author not be on twitter?

Lightbulb.

Actually, the revelation wasn't mine. I believe she explained that she's not on twitter or other social media because she's busy, you know, producing the books that threaten to make me pee myself - in a good way. Or, in the good way, because hilarity is the only good cause I can think of for spontaneous incontinence.

But I digress. I love twitter. I love it the way other people love bacon-wrapped scallops or Glee or facebook.

I reduce my usage when I'm writing toward a deadline, whether for a submission or when responding to edits from my agent or editor. But I've gotten to the point where I don't think I can let it go. I don't want to, for one thing. I've cultivated a wonderful list to follow. I learn a ton from it. I get news before it breaks through the regular media. I am inspired and touched by these tiny little feeds throughout the day.

But it does take time away from my writing, as does cruising forums, blogging and following blogs, checking stats and sales, and researching both subjects and craft.

What about you guys? What's your online kryptonite?

Monday, July 18, 2011

WHAT'S THAT, YOU SAY?

I'm not one of those people who can write well while listening to music. Oh, I've written to music, but the amount of time it took me to decipher and edit those bits was nearly as long as it took me to write them. When reading through a first draft, I can tell within a few words when I've reached a part that I wrote with my headphones on. They look something like this:

He put her arm on her shoulder and booked glory dining table. 


"This isn't the fist time," she said. Pungent. "Also I need to bick up my cleaning."


"The pigs," he said, shaking his head and running her hand through his hair. "Every time. Fuck."


She kissed him and meant it. 

Touching stuff.

So, how about you? Can you write through distractions? Do you have to have the television on as a backdrop to your scene? Do you have a set playlist to attract the muse? Do the pigs really, every time?

LISTENING TO: Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before - The Smiths

Monday, July 11, 2011

FISH ON

Every once in awhile I leave work -- squinting like a mole -- and venture into the great outdoors.

I'm in Alaska, after all. The last frontier. The land of the midnight sun. Where the men are men, and the fish are yummy. This is a quick look at Resurrection Bay and the bounty it holds.





IT'S NOT A TUMOR

So, the good news is that I don't have a tumor.

Wait, let me back up.

About ten days ago I started having some weird symptoms...so weird I couldn't even explain them until my doctor started asking me questions and prompting me with words that sounded vaguely related to (or at least rhymed with) the issues I was having.

I got sent for x-rays and EKGs and PIBBs (of the "Mr" variety) and all other kinds of stuff. I got lost in not one, but two hospitals. I did learn that doctors will walk right past a plainclothes person in a restricted area, but a nurse who spots you from fifty yards away will stop in her tracks and sprint down the hall to corral you. Just in case you were wondering.

Anyway, following my first x-ray my doctor called to say that I needed to go back to the hospital for another one, because the radiologist had Found Something. I was already all stressed out, and she described this Something in foggy terms and, by the end of the conversation I believed that one of my ribs was growing a smaller, sharper second rib that was arcing downward and which could, at any moment, pierce my lung. Of course, she said nothing of the sort, but panic and a strong imagination are not the best cocktail.

I went back for the second x-ray (got lost again) and, hours later, received an urgent and apologetic phone call from the hospital saying they'd taken the wrong x-ray due to some paperwork issues, and that I needed to come back again. That was a Friday. I was going out of town for the weekend, and told the very nice woman that I'd be in on Monday. She didn't like this idea, but since no amount of bending caused me even the slightest amount of lung deflation, I figured a few days wouldn't hurt. How fast can a bone grown a second, selficidal second bone?

So I went back today (and did not get lost-huzzah!) and received my third and fourth x-rays, after which I got caught in the middle of a rather awkward position (they left me in an oval-shaped room which seemed like the perfect opportunity to practice my short-track speed skating form. p.s. you can't hear the techs until they've opened the door and p.p.s. never attempt any sort of athletics while wearing a hospital gown). So then the head doctor person who'd discovered the Something came in and assured me that it wasn't cancer and that I should be fine. And, inside my head, I heard the zipping sound of a record needle scratching off the record.

It is a strange thing to discover that you're not very, very sick when you never knew that someone-a trained professional, even-thought you were very, very sick. I'm not sure if my doctor told me that, and my brain, after taking a look at the mess I already was, decided that I didn't need to hear it, or if she had her own ideas and opted not to add to the tension I was already carrying.

I left the hospital without the relief I should have had, but since I'd entered it without the fear and doubt I could have been carrying, I guess I'll call it a good trade. And now, of course, this scene is playing over and over inside my head:

Thursday, July 7, 2011

THE POWER OF PUNCTUATION

To whoever googled "super impudent sex" and ended up on my blog, I'm sorry to have disappointed you. I  just haven't had time to get that post together.

Also, is it supposed to be "super-impudent sex" or "super, impudent sex"?

Oh, the power of punctuation

Sunday, July 3, 2011

TRIFECTA OF DOOM

Alright, folks. I'm up to my knees in Personal Crises, and up to my neck in Revisions. Also, I believe I just cracked a filling, rounding out the trifecta of doom.  So, give me just a couple of weeks to get things sorted out, and I'll be back. Same Bat posts, same Bat blog.

And, if you find this post depressing, the antidote is here:

Sunday, June 26, 2011

DO KINDLES DREAM OF PRINTING PRESSES?

My kindle has a kind of decorative screensaver, where the faux ink pulls together and forms itself a soft picture, usually of an author. (This isn't specific to mine, I'm sure.) Sometimes the pictures are of other things. Like the typeset of a printing press. At least, that's what I think it was, and that's what I told my three year old son it was when he asked.

I said: the person puts the letters and numbers in this box, and then the person puts ink on it, and then the person presses it against a piece of paper. And then the person repeats that, until we have a book.

And that's when my son fell in love with the printing press. Kids these days, what with their whiz-bang gadgets and their whippersnappin' Playtendos (shout out to Cobra!).

Today he asked me to show him more pictures. I googled printing press and showed him a couple dozen machines, modern and antique, automated and painstakingly manual. He asked how they worked, and I pointed out the things that I recognized. Paper reels. Gears. Levers. I don't actually know how any iteration of the press works, so I made the process up. It might have involved steam power, hobs and alien technology, which may have made it slightly more exciting than the real thing. I'm not sure.

Earlier tonight, my son mimicked setting type and printing a book, which he then presented to us, carefully pointing out and describing the pictures and telling a wonderful story of a small hob who works on a printing press. I think it was magic realism, where the object of the story is telling you the story of the story. Or something.

And I wonder, how many printing presses will be around when my three year old is my age? How strange is it that he learned about the printing press by seeing an image on a electronic reader? How disappointed is my son going to be in his mother when the zombie apocalypse comes along and, as one of earth's last survivors, he decides to start printing books to tell their story, and finds out I made the whole process up?

These are the things that keep me up at night.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

SOME WEEKENDS ARE BETTER THAN OTHERS

On Friday night, we found the skull of a baby griffin...


On Saturday night, we sailed a fleet of red velvet pirate cupcakes...


Can't wait to see what Sunday brings.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

DON'T DROP THE LIVER!

I'm revising. Well, I'm about to be revising. Right now I'm performing triage on the edit letter. Later, I'll lather my arms up to the elbows in toner powder, don a mask, and perform surgery. It won't be major. Setting a bone here. Extracting a tooth there. Tying some ligaments in knots so my patient will fall when he tries to walk. Just kidding. That would be a hypocritical disavowal of the Hippocratic Oath - not that I've taken it. I'm not a doctor. I just nod when cab drivers ask me if I am, so that I can hear all about their gross medical conditions.

Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes. Revisions. My last revision was MAJOR. We're talking Worf's spine replacement in Star Trek TNG. Serious stuff.

This will be more like the game Operation. Some anxiety and mild jolting but nothing, you know, deadly.

I hope. These could be not-so-famous last words.

What makes you twitch when you're revising?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

I HAS LEFT THE BUILDING

I'm on a mini-vacation. Just a few days out of town, living out of a single, rolling suitcase in a single, hopefully not-rolling room. (We had a nice little 5.2 earthquake on Thursday, so I'm a little leery of, well, the planet right now.)

I have a row of miniature products all lined up in the bathroom which, because they are just smaller versions of my regular products, make me feel as though I've contracted adult-onset giantism, but without the changes in proportions.

We're in Seattle, and I actually brought my camera this time, which I've mostly forgotten on every vacation for the last ten years. So, if I run into anything cool, I will be sure to share. (There are rumors of naked bicyclists. That, if I am forced to witness it, will not be shared. I just...those parts should not be exposed to those seats.)

What's your favorite destination for a quick retreat? The Sahara? The cabin by the bug-infested lake? Home alone?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

JUST ANOTHER DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD

Our neighborhood is fairly mundane. Small, single-family homes with small, single-family yards. However, the houses on average probably hold five kids. We have one. More than a few have none. The others are making up for it. When the school bus stops here in the morning, the spawn of this neighborhood (a single street, and not terribly long) take up about 2/3s of that bus.

Into this copious abundance of children are drawn a particular creature: the mobile ice cream truck. I used to think that ice cream trucks were nice, probably because they weren't around where I grew up. What's not to like about someone driving at pedestrian speed past your house, delivering creamy, iced treats without a mercenary markup? I'll tell you what: these dudes are vicious. Territorial as lions and vicious as sharks.

The first truck I noticed was blue, and playing an instrumental version of Under the Sea (from Disney's The Little Mermaid) in eardrum-splitting range. He had sole reign of the neighborhood our first year in the house. The next year, two more trucks showed up - a white one and a red one - speeding into the neighborhood to avoid detection, then slowing and blaring their own music. One was a festive rendition of a Mexican folk song, the other a kind of jazzed-up march. I rather liked the second. They'd creep about, until the blue truck arrived, and which point they would speed away.

The incursions went on for the better part of the summer, after which there was a lull. No ice cream trucks, no music heralding their arrival. After about a week, the blue and the red ones returned. It's been two years, and they still patrol the streets daily, though never at the same time.

Based on the rudimentary evidence at hand, and a certain street smarts I've cultivated over the years, I believe that the blue truck called a meeting under the guise of developing a schedule within which all parties would be allocated territories and time slots. And then he attacked. White truck obviously didn't make it, but red and blue struck a deal. If red would help hide the body, blue would allow it some market share. I never saw anything in the paper to support this, but it's clear something happened.

I wonder sometimes if white truck left someone behind, a widow with a lantern burning in her window, waiting for her brave but ultimately very gullible spouse to return.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

BOTTOMS UP

The weekend is nearly here, my dears. Pat yourself on the back if you made it through intact. If not, gather your dropped pieces in a bag, throw them on ice, and pray you run into a doctor sometime soon. *Imagines streets filled with people wandering aimlessly, pushing wheelbarrows or pulling red, aluminum wagons, small human flotsam and jetsam wriggling in ziplocks*

Anyway, in celebration of the weekend (and with a hat tip to the mighty Margo Lerwill) I offer you a few timely drink recipes. Bottoms up.

Cross Party Vote
1 part bourbon
1 part Coke Zero
sour mix

Summer in the City
2 parts red Gatorade
1 part vodka
ice
garnish with strip of discarded newspaper

The Kindle
1 part vodka
2 parts 7-Up
ice
(layer grenadine and midori in a shotglass next to The Kindle, but do not add to allow Kindle drinker to drink)

The Long Goodnight
2 parts gin
1 part muddled mango
lime juice

Midnight Sun
an 24-pack of canned beer
a pickup truck
a river
friends

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

RITUAL AND ROUTINE

How do you start your writing day? Do you sneak in an hour and a half before your world wakes up? Grab ten minutes here and there throughout the work day (also known as ninja-writing hi-ya!)? Do you only write on weekends, or practice the ancient art of BIC (butt-in-chair) every day, come hell, high water or reruns of Firefly?

I write at night, after the day job, after the kid has been fed, watered and put to bed. After the flowers have been addressed and the cats have been attended to. I might do nothing but trim and polish. I might waffle over a couple of hundred words. Last night I laid down 1,700 words. That's a very good writing day for me.

How do I prep my writerly brain? I wake the laptop, grab sustenance (usually popcorn and water - it's not as dire as it sounds. that's what I choose), let Pandora do its thing and play a game of electronic mah jong solitaire. This allows me to shake off the crap the day has dropped on me, and helps me to focus. If I can't focus after that, then I'll email someone, clean something or - if I'm in a particularly bad way - work out. Then, repeat the earlier steps. If I still can't focus, it's because Something Bad is nagging me, or because I'm too tired to actually fire up the brain. On those nights, such rare nights, I'll drag a book to bed and let it sing me to sleep.

How do you do it, folks? How do you write

Thursday, June 2, 2011

BEDTIME READING

Kid got a little out of control tonight. There was an interrogation, then a mention of zombies. I tried to calm him down with a little light reading. He wasn't having Dr. Suess.

Count Zero, by William Gibson

Bloodshot, by Cherie Priest

And yes, those are Thomas the Tank Engine PJs.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

YOU CAN CALL ME FLOWER IF YOU WANT TO

I've never been a big blogger. My posts tend to be short, and inconsistent. I'll follow blogs, ravenously gobbling up posts the second I see them hit, for a month or so, only to drift away...and then back a few months later. Sometimes I'll surf the links of my visitors, acquainting myself with colorful and diverse lives, catching pieces of heartbreak or success.

I grew up in a small town, before the Internet became a staple. I'm not used to being connected to people across town, let alone around the world. I find that I quite like it.

Blog stats tell strange stories.

For the past two weeks, I have been googled by Canadians more than U.S.-ians.

My lovely Lithuanian followers - fourteen a week, every week for nearly a year - have gone away. Migrated, perhaps. Maybe they're just on summer break. It could be that I offended them. What did I say, Lithuanians, that you have forsaken me? *weeps*

My blog continues to be listed on some Indonesian website that appears to be related to finding jobs throughout Southeast Asia. Visitors come to peer at my posts. I feel like I should post interview tips of something to reward them for their perseverance.

Australia continues to follow strong, week after week. Rock on, my dears.

Blog responses also tell tales of my visitors. Many of you are querying and either scared stiff about the process or stubbornly trudging on. A number of you are parents, raising mad little children in mad little homes. You want to be musicians, singers, visual artists and writers. You want to get more sleep and more exercise - in that order - eat good food and watch more movies. You want to read more and write better. Good for you all.

I feel like I should do something for you all. Would you like some kind of matchmaking to introduce you to one another? A recipe swap (my best friend says this suggestion makes me old...and lame)? Maybe a contest: coffee, book and a cookie?

Monday, May 30, 2011

EYE OF THE BEHOLDER

Despite the long weekend, I'm still so busy that there's no time for love, Dr. Jones. Once I have some time to think and then process said thoughts into words, I promise I will. In the meantime, I'll leave you with some art, compliments of my son. I believe it's from the British High Creeptastic period.

Cloud O'erhead, We Walk Nonetheless On Our Improbably Tiny Legs

Friday, May 27, 2011

IN WHICH I SAY "NAY"

Every now and again I am hit with, nay, I am well-nigh overcome with the burning desire to play a bass guitar really freaking well. And I can't do it. I don't know the first thing. My fingers, they are not nimble. I'm tone-deaf. I can read sheet music as well as I can program DOS basic (really slowly, with much teeth-grinding and a very rudimentary product).

But I want to. Oh, how I want to.

You got any overwhelming and completely unexplored desires, kids?

P.S. This post was brought to you by a crippling, sudden-onset desire to play bass.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

AN ODE - TO BETA READERS

The funny thing about beta readers, those brave folks who volunteer (or, let's face it, often are drafted) into reading early versions of your stories, is that they always find things in there that you didn't intend.

A couple of offhand comments become themes. Serious scenes become funny. That flash of brilliance that you clutched to your bosom and beamed over is now "confusing, vague, are you high? why do you keep dropping shite like this right in the middle of otherwise decent stuff?".

I have a few writing tics that are PRONOUNCED in early drafts.

  • Longgggggggggggg sentences
  • Word repetition of words while writing words
  • Pronoun disagreements. "He reached out with her arm" :facepalm:
  • And I have become the easiest target a couple of homophones could ever hope to find. You know, if they were sentient and cared about making people use them.


So buckets of thanks to my betas, for looking past my unintentional tense shifts, fragmented sentences, tangents and tragic authorial breakdowns, to find the story. And, kisses and virtual chocolate for telling me what the story I wrote sounds like outside of my head.

Betas, I adore you.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

SHORT TERM

I walk into the house. It smells terrible.

Me: I shall light this pine-scented candle that found its way to our home around Christmastime. That will be most lovely, despite the way that it quickly becomes overwhelming.

two seconds pass

Me: What the hell smells so piney? Are trees growing through the foundation of my very home, bringing with them a scent reminiscent of Christmastime?

:facepalm:

This is what happens to a writer's brain just before, in the middle of, or after a project. It is a sad reality.