Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Now THAT Is How You Play A Villain



Clint and I went to see The Dark Knight the day before I left for San Francisco. I was both excited and nervous to see it. With all the hype, the ticket sales, the gushing reviews over Heath Ledger's performance, I was worried the movie wouldn't hold up.

Plus, it's 2 1/2 hours. A movie has to be truly incredible to hold my interest for 2 1/2 hours.

The movie opened and I leaned forward, watching intently. Waiting for the fantastic. The amazing. The absolutely magical to happen.

It did.

From the moment Heath Ledger walked into the room and performed the disappearing pencil trick, he had me in the palm of his hand. Disturbing. Haunting. Mesmerizing. He stole every scene he entered. I couldn't look away. I searched his eyes for something false, something to hint at the man who won my heart in A Knight's Tale and it was gone, submerged beneath madness, viciousness, and careless disregard for everyone, including himself.

Heath Ledger became the Joker and I became a believer.

I knew the movie was 2 1/2 hours and I started worrying that it would end. I wanted more. I still do. I want to go see it again just to soak in the nuances I missed the first time around. The other actors around him did a fine job but honestly, I didn't care. I barely saw them. I only had eyes for the Joker.

He was insane, logical, cruel, manipulative, charming in a terrifyingly predatory way. He was everything a villain should be. The kind who stays with you for days afterwards.

I adore a well-done villain and I have to say, Heath Ledger's Joker is one of the best I've ever seen. Ever. He captivated me, seduced me, and scared me more than Voldemort and Hannibal Lecter combined. He was unquestionably brilliant-worth every word of "hype" written and then some.

I had difficulty sleeping afterwards. I was both disturbed and inspired. I still am. I can't imagine how difficult it would be to bring the Joker under my skin, let him settle into my brain, and then transform myself into him for the camera. No wonder Heath needed sleeping pills. I almost needed them myself just from watching his performance.

Incredible. If Heath doesn't win an Oscar for this, I say we introduce a little anarchy ourselves.

I can't wait to go see it again.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Monday's List



1. I checked my stat counter again last night to see if any new "key word searches" popped up and lo and behold, I found this search parameter landed someone on my blog:

2. Redwine murders wife.

3. Not yet, he hasn't, though if I ever experiment with canned salmon and soup again, he just might.

4. I am completely in love with the Dark Knight soundtrack.

5. I am once again master of the laundry. The formerly elected general in charge of the infamous Hamper Mutiny has been charged with treason and sent to its demise via some hot water and a scoop of Arm & Hammer.

6. Now I'm going to have people searching for Arm & Hammer landing on my blog too.

7. I'm nearly ready to leave for San Fran. All that's left is writing my one sheet, running some copies, and organizing my workshop binder.

8. Oh, and choosing which shoes to pack, of course.

9. I am not looking forward to flying.

10. I can only hope that a) dealing with the airport is easier than I expect, b) I'm not seated next to anyone who talks too much and bathes too little, and c) my breakfast stays exactly where it belongs.

11. I'll be writing the finishing touches to SF on the plane.

12. Daredevil had a friend stay the night so I have four boys underfoot this morning.

13. Thank God for the wii.

14. My hubby and I are going to try to get a sitter so we can go see The Dark Knight tonight.

15. I'm excited about San Fran but I'll miss seeing my family for nearly a week!

16. One of my favorite commercials:



17. Just a reminder that my new poetry blog is up. You can view it here.

18. Why is it necessary to constantly remind boys of the following?

*Don't pull your brother's pants down.

*Flush, already!

*Don't chew on anything that doesn't qualify as food-this includes throw pillows, table legs, and your brother.

*Shoving things under the couch/bed/pile of laundry does not constitute cleaning up.

19. Reader Question: What is your favorite "older" movie? (by older, I mean over a decade)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Random Weekend Fun

In the continuing saga of How Did People Find My Blog, I thought I would share the latest key word searches others have used to bring themselves to me (besides the obvious searches for either my name or literary topics).

1. Deli names: Again. I begin to feel bad that so many people are looking to me for inspiration for their burgeoning business. Let's help them out, shall we? Anyone have some good deli names?

2. Free book downloads: Not here, but I did post a link to Tor who is giving away free downloads through this Sunday. However, if you want to read my book, you must either qualify as a critique partner or shell out the cash.

3. Nostalgia redwine: Hmmm...either you're missing me and/or my hubby's family or you don't realize you can solve your problem with a quick trip to the liquor store.

4. Orchestral free bird: I don't know what to say. I really don't. What is an orchestral free bird??? I get "orchestral" and I certainly know "free bird" but I have a hard time putting the image of a dignified, classical music concert with the unfortunate mental picture of a drunk redneck screaming "Free Bird!"

5. Imminent heart failure: Let me give you a piece of excellent advice. If you're in danger of imminent heart failure, the answer to your dilemma does not lie with Google.

6. One-legged king pigeon: Ah yes, the torturous yoga pose for the disgustingly flexible. No visual examples of that here on the blog and you should be grateful for it. Very grateful.

And my personal favorite:

7. Bowling for idiots: My favorite game. I currently hold the high score but any of you are welcome to challenge my title.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Poetry Blog is Up

I've started a new blog for poetry, songs, and the occasional creative rambling (perhaps...had to give myself some leeway just in case.)

There's a link on the sidebar but you can check it out at Write of Passage. I've posted one poem today and I'll post one or two a week, I think. Perhaps more. Possibly less. How's that for definite?

Also, I'll head over there and put up a disclaimer, caveat, whatever you want to call it-feel free to copy and post any poem you enjoy onto your own blog as long as you give me credit for the writing and you link back to my blog so others can read me too. =)

Behold the Mighty Flatulent One!

Last night, I met up with Kailani at Borders, one of our favorite haunts. Borders has books, coffee, music, books, cool journals, games, books, Bertie Botts Every Flavor Jelly Beans, books...it only lacks an international cheese aisle and 200 square feet devoted to stilettos to make it the Most Perfect Place Ever.

But I digress.

We browsed, bought books (My TBR pile is ridiculous at the moment and since I'm about to get a duffle bag full of free books in San Fran-Oh happy thought!-I won't get through this pile until October.), and then headed over to Friday's for dinner.

It was fairly busy at Friday's, just a few open tables, and the noise level was comfortably loud (we work in a restaurant, we're used to it). We enjoyed our dinner and were lingering at the table, talking above the volume throughout the room, when it happened.

A table three rows over and two rows up was filled with what appeared to be college-aged boys.

That wasn't particularly amusing.

The table burst into laughter loud enough to gain the attention of most of the dining room.

That wasn't tremendously funny either.

In the middle of their laughter, one of the boys emmitted a sustained stream of virulent flatulence, pushed along by his copious laughter, that was loud enough be heard clearly throughout the entire restaurant.

That was freakin' hilarious.

The dining room sat in stunned silence for the 1.7 seconds it took to process that No, that wasn't a whoopee cushion and Yes, a fart scoring a 6.8 on the Richter scale just scorched through the restaurant and then the whole place went up in laughter.

Not polite little chuckles where you try to spare anyone's feelings.

Gut-busting, tears rolling down your face laughter.

Fortunately, the college-aged boys didn't mind. I don't even think they noticed. They were too busy laughing themselves.

Week In Review



1. I learned this week that a spa in Washington D.C. offers pedicures a la carp.

2. I'm not sure I'm down with sticking my tootsies in a tank full of fish and letting them nibble away.

3. But maybe that's just me.

4. I've crossed two more items off my conference To Do list: writing my logline and ordering updated business cards.

5. Ordering the business cards took three and a half hours.

6. Why? Because every time I told Vista Print to do something, it balked, did things halfway, or made it seem like I was on the right track but then fooled me in the end with much evil laughing on the part of my computer.

7. Soooo, the process took 3 hours of me nearly yanking my hair out in frustration and half an hour after my hubby got home and took over the process.

8. The lesson learned (as he so gently pointed out to me) is that I should never, under any circumstances, try to do anything that requires technical finesse until he is home to help me.

9. Stupid Vista Print.

10. I will be cleaning house all morning today.

11. I don't think it's possible to overstate my elation at this prospect.

12. Daredevil's party is tomorrow which means my hubby is knee deep in cake at the moment.

13. Daredevil wants a Black Pearl cake *wipes a tear of pride from my eye* and I'll post pics later.

14. I have two new ideas for creative outlets for me.

15. One, I might set up a poetry only blog.

16. Also, I'm thinking about writing short stories, customized to the person's preferred genre, as birthday presents for my friends.

17. Autographed of course, though if I find them on ebay, I'll hunt my friends down and force them to eat pickled pig's feet as punishment.

18. Reader Question: What do you think of my new creative outlet ideas?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Impromptu Pitching

There will be opportunities for impromptu pitching in San Fran (and no, not because I'll be stalking my favorite agents into the bathroom and cornering them...although I may lie in wait outside the door. mwuhahaha) and it's wise to have a short, "impromptu" pitch ready that flows easily in conversation.

There's a big difference between what will sound great on paper and what sounds natural when you talk.

So, with that in mind, I've created my logline (a one to two sentence description of my project) to use for those elevator meetings with agents or editors. Here you go:

My book is about a girl who is more than human and thinks her supernatural abilities are only useful for delivering some vigilante justice on the streets of New York City. When another non-human comes to town and hunts her down, she has to choose between claiming her birthright and unleashing a demon army onto humanity or losing the only man she's ever loved.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Hump Day Hodgepodge



A few interesting things from this week:

*I found a truly amazing eye liner. Usually, eye liner lasts all of 20 minutes on me, especially when I'm working. This stuff lasts all day and at the end of my shift, I still look like I just put it on. And the best part? It's not expensive. You can pick up Jane Be Pure Mineral Eyeliner Gel at your local drugstore.

*The air conditioner on the 9-4 refuses to work. We bought a freon charge or something of that nature and the obstinate vehicle still blows nothing but hot air. The downside to this is that with the weather in the 90s and humidity abounding, rolling down the windows doesn't improve the sweatbox-nature of our vehicle. The upside is that now I don't have to upgrade my gym membership to include the sauna.

*I've agreed to write a short story for an e-zine published around Halloween. The genre will be something along the lines of Gothic Romance and even though I'm focused on SHADOWING FATE, ideas are starting to spark.

*Starshine and I had a very interesting conversation today. We were in the car together, running errands, when we began talking about the fact that I won't see him for a week while I'm in San Fran.

Me: I'll miss you.

Starshine: I'll be camping. But I'll miss you too.

Me: Even though I'll be having fun, part of me will wish I was with you.

Starshine: Yes, even though I'll be fishing, part of me will wish I was with you.

Me: *smiles* That's nice.

Starshine: Yeah, no matter what you do, part of you always wants to be with your family.

Me: Aww *more smiling*

Starshine: Instead of being alone.

Me: Yes.

Starshine: In a dry desert.

Me: A what?

Starshine: With no water.

Me: Umm

Starshine: And no air.

Me: No air?

Starshine: And you can't breathe and then you just die.

Me: Well...

Starshine: Then you'd wish you were with your family instead.

Me: Yes, I guess you would.

Starshine: Instead of a mountain...

Me: Hey! Look at that car!

Starshine: Oooooh, shiny!

And thus I distracted him from describing another death scene. It's nice to see my imagination carried on in the next generation even if it does hijack a perfectly nice conversation with visions of despair.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

One Week To Go



One week from today, I leave for the beautiful city of San Fransisco and the whirlwind of RWA Nationals.

My To Do List:

1. Buy an incredible gown to wear for the Golden Heart/Rita Award Ceremony

Status: Done

2. Pick which pair of stilettos to wear with my gown.

Status: Done. I think. Oh heck, I'll bring two pair.

3. Make a list of what to pack so I don't do something really dumb like arrive in San Fran with nothing but stilettos and spare underwear.

Status: Done. I'm pretty sure I even remember where I put it.

4. Finish SHADOWING FATE and send to agents who've requested it.

Status: 5 chapters left, requesting agents all updated on my progress.

5. Plot out my daily schedule for Nationals on a grid so I arrive at all of my appointments and receptions with time to spare.

Status: Done, but not by me. My hubby stepped in yesterday and organized my whole itinerary for me to lessen my stress. Because he's awesome.

6. Figure out how I'm traveling from airport to hotel 1 to downtown and back to hotel 1 and then from hotel 1 to hotel 2 the next morning.

Status: Done, again by my hubby.

7. Buy various items needed by me in San Fran (new foundation, business casual clothes, sparkly eye shadow).

Status: Done, finished up today.

8. Download and print off worksheet outlines and organize in binder.

Status: Not yet, but I now have a list of which outlines to download so it's only a matter of time.

9. Send an update to agents currently considering DTR and offer them a look at SF instead.

Status: 1 down, 2 to go.

10. Do the whole e-ticket check in thing for my flights.

Status: Can't do that until 24 hours before I fly. Have I mentioned I hate to fly?

11. Polish my pitch for SF and write a one sheet to use for my pitching session.

Status: Not done but I'm pretty happy with the hook I have so it won't take long to finesse into a one sheet.

12. Write a log line to use for impromptu pitching.

Status: Not done. The thought of doing it makes my stomach hurt but it's on the list. It will get done.

13. Get my hair cut.

Status: Not yet.

14. Get a manicure.

Status: Doing that right before I leave.

15. Print off first chapter of SF to use for any workshops/pitching as needed.

Status: Will do that at the same time I print off worksheet outlines.

16. Print off cell phone #s of fellow finalists.

Status: Same as #15

17. Sleep at some point.

Status: 4-5 hours a night is enough, right? Right??

18. Breathe.

Status: Once I land and am safely in my hotel. Then I'll breathe. I think.


Note: My laptop is traveling with me in case I find time to keep you updated while I'm there. =)

Free Books!

If you love fantasy or sci fi, head over to Tor's website. The publisher is giving away free e-book and wallpaper downloads now through Sunday (I think). Yay for free books!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Monday's List



1. Today is Daredevil's 9th birthday.

2. We'll be spending a chunk of it at Chuck E. Cheese.

3. This doesn't bother me because I'm adept at ignoring copious amounts of background noise (I live with boys, remember?) and because the kids will spend an hour happily playing while my hubby and I get to sit and talk.

4. I spent four days revising a chapter on SHADOWING FATE this week.

5. I don't think the dictionary definition of "frustrated" accurately conveys the depths of my jaw-clenching, head-beating-against-my-keyboard angst.

6. The solution came to me Saturday night at work while I was making an apple dumpling for a table.

7. I left the dessert sitting there, whipped out my ordering pad, and jotted plot notes to myself.

8. The book will be finished this week if it kills me.

9. In other news, I had a Murphy-In-Charge night at work last week...I won't go into all the gory details but the final straw was the moment I was frantically working to make hot fudge sundaes for my last table (after already having to go tell them we were out of the original dessert they'd ordered) and NOTHING was stocked on the prep counter.

10. I scrounged for sundae mugs, went looking for hot fudge sauce, threatening the ice cream with an immediate appointment with a sink full of hot water if it didn't just scoop already...

11. Then the whip cream container had an air bubble of some sort. I didn't know this, of course, until I pressed the nozzle and shot whip cream all over the freakin' counter.

12. People were watching the circus that was me trying to make sundaes with varying degrees of amusement and sympathy.

13. I fixed the whip cream debacle, snatched for the chopped peanuts container (one of those salad dressing containers where you slide part of the lid open and pour the contents out), and poured some into my hand so I could sprinkle them artistically over the top of the sundaes.

14. Only the nut container wasn't where it was supposed to be.

15. In its place was a container of thick, gooey vanilla flavoring.

16. I stood there, wild-eyed, whip cream covered, holding a hand now running over with rich, syrupy vanilla and dared anyone, ANYONE, to be the first to laugh.

17. I realize it might be difficult to kill with just a handful of vanilla flavoring but I was going to give it my best shot.

18. We saw Journey to the Center of the Earth this week. In 3 D.

19. The kids loved it, I was moderately entertained, and we all ate too much popcorn.

20. The real entertainment value lies in the 3D glasses we were allowed to keep (thick black square-shaped shades-yes, the shape of evil!-that remind me of the glasses worn by that crazy inventor in Honey I Shrunk The Kids).

21. Starshine and Daredevil wore them all through Walmart afterwards and I came downstairs recently to see them playing gamecube while wearing not one, but two pair of 3D glasses each.

22. Apparently wearing just one interferes with their ability to see the screen but layering their accessories solves the problem.

Pitching

Today I've posted helpful links at Swords & Stilettos for those writers approaching pitching opportunities at National conference. Check it out and get those One Sheets ready to wow any agents or editors you meet!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

DON'T Keep the Change!

I just saw an article about Zimbabwe issuing a 100 billion dollar bill.

No, that is not a typo.

Yes, it says 100 billion dollars.

Here are three good reasons why this is a bad idea:

1. That's one piece of money you don't want to accidentally put through the wash.

2. Sucks if you lose it.

3. How on earth could you ever cash the thing? There will be signs at every store reading "We cannot break $100 billion dollar bills here, fool".

Friday, July 18, 2008

Come And Get It

This website is giving away a free download of a story-writing software useful for writers, poets, and other creative sorts. As of this post, there are 13 hours left to take advantage of the free download. =)

Cotton-Eyed Joe

Where did you come from? Where did you go?

I have a stat counter so I oughtta know.



I've had a stat counter at the bottom of this page for a while now. I don't remember to check it very often. I remember to check the actual stat counting website even less.

But tonight, I checked in and found a function that tells me what keyword search people used to land on my blog.

There are some very interesting combinations. Here are my top 10, either for amusement factor or because they're just too disturbing to keep to myself:

10. Zuchinni near sidewalk - Well, yes, I once posted about the Master Gardener and his unique zuchinni pruning method.

9. Love Jet Li - I do, yes. You too? Great! We're like, twins separated at birth or something...oh, leaving so soon?

8. Unique deli names - Honestly, people, there are WAAAAAY too many of you looking for this. Pause and think for a moment. Don't you think if you lift a name for your burdgeoning business from another deli, it loses the quality of being "unique"? Better to go to one of those name generator sites and take your chances.

7. Villain character sheet- Did I do one of those here? I'd forgotten.

6. Can a star shine brighter for a split second? - I don't have a freakin' clue. This is a literary blog. No science-type questions allowed.

5. Using newspaper on a charging bull - Listen carefully. Newspaper is no match for the horns of a bull. If you persist in thinking it is, you deserve whatever you get.

4. Which Death Eater Are You? - Voldemort, of course. If I'm going to do something, I'm bloody well going to be in charge. Which death eater are you? Clearly one who must obey me.

3. Monkey Love - Hie thee to a psychologist. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Do not mistake a veterinarian for a psychologist.

2. Telephone Solicitor Murder - Soul sister, I've wanted to murder untold numbers of telephone solicitors. I feel you. However, may I suggest that leaving a search trail in your PC with the term "murder" in close association with the type of victim might not be the best method for getting away with the crime.

And my personal favorite:

1. Square, The Shape Of Evil - You are my hero. Sort of. I mean, it's totally cool that you get that reference to pop culture but really, what did you expect to find on the internet? You do realize that this view, while hilariously funny when espoused by Plankton, is not universally accepted, right? Ask any woman. Supermodel Thin is the shape of evil.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

My First Online Interview

I was interviewed today at this author's blog. Head over, read my interview, and leave a comment for me. Show the love, people. Show the love.

Also, there are giveaways to two commenters!! Yay for free stuff!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Ooh

I was browsing youtube this morning looking for something inspiring for my Get Creative! post on Swords & Stilettos and found this guy.

Watch, be inspired, and come share your inspiration on S & S. =)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Plan

All of my fellow GH nominees are now trying to come up with speeches in case we win. The goal, of course, is to speak with a modicum of dignity, not forget the names of our husbands or critique partners, and avoid such obvious faux pax as tripping up the stairs or initiating a wardrobe malfunction while reaching for our notes.

Here's my suggestion.

We can model all of our acceptance speeches after those Geico customer commercials (C.J. is a real Golden Heart winner, not an Experienced Public Speaker, so we've hired one to interpret for her).

C.J.: OMG!

EPS: I find myself deeply honored and excited to be up here onstage accepting this award.

C.J.: Holy Freakin' Cow!

EPS: While bovines did not actually play a part in the creation of my winning manuscript, several others did and must be thanked.

C.J.: WOOOOOOO!

EPS: Thank you to the contest judges, my fellow Pixies, my critique
partners, though not one of them clapped eyes on this particular manuscript, my family, RWA, other writers in the building, and especially to Nora Roberts for not entering my category using a psuedonym and therefore torpedoing my chances from the start.

C.J.: OMGHOLYCOWWOOOO! !!

EPS: I appreciate this honor and apologize for the not-so-brief flash of well-endowed breast I gave this assembly as I reached for my
speech. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to run to the bathroom and
revisit my dinner. Thank you.

No Cardboard Cut-outs Here!

I love reading books by authors who know how to create vivid, real, three-dimensional characters for me. I'm a big fan of plot twists, suspense, and humor, don't get me wrong, but if all of that is coupled with cardboard-cutout characters, I'm just not interested.

Loving three-dimensional characters and learning how to write them are two different things. Here are a few tips on how to do it well (please add your own in the comments section if you think of anything I've missed!):

1. Give your characters a past. Your character's life doesn't start on page one of your manuscript. He/she has friends, family, schooling, hobbies, first dates, injuries, lessons learned, camping trips, vacations, fears and reasons for those fears. Characters don't spring fully-formed into adulthood. They are shaped by their past and the choices they've made. You don't have to give every detail of that past in your writing but you should reference it comfortably to give your readers a sense of what formed your character.

2. Give your character a unique voice. I can't stress enough how important this is. Every character in your book should have responses, expressions, and thought patterns that are unique to them. Take the time to get into each character's head before writing their POV to make sure the words are authentic to that character. If you're worried you have characters who sound alike, highlight every character's dialogue or POV in a separate color and then compare.

3. Give your character flaws. Heroes and heroines who never exhibit poor reactions, wrong choices, out of control emotions, or Achilles heels are just annoying. Readers don't want pristine, never-makes-a-wrong move characters. They want characters they can love, flaws and all. Often a character's flaws are useful in driving the plot toward the Black Moment. Don't be afraid to let your characters make bad choices, over react, or nearly lose everything because they've got a blind spot the size of the Pacific.

4. Give your character room to grow. Let your characters start the book with something to learn, something to attain, some unbearable choices to make and see what happens. Throw in obstacles, yank out support, strip away their options until you, the character, and the reader can't see any way for a happily ever after to happen. Do all that and then see what your character is made of and let them cope.

Anything else you'd like to add?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Taking a Stand

I saw this headline today. Bravo, ICC. It's about time the world did more than watch a few relief agencies do their best to stem an overwhelming tide of violence and hate against the Darfur tribes in Sudan.

Wow. Just--wow.

Who Do You Love To Hate?



We're talking about the Villains (yes, yes, these deserved to be capitalized!) we love to hate over on Swords & Stilettos today.

Come by and tell us about your favorite Villain as well as the ones you just can't take.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Monday's List



1. We saw Get Smart on Sunday and I laughed until I cried through much of it.

2. I believe Steve Carrell to be the best comedic actor working today. Light years beyond anything the likes of Will Farrel and Jim Carey are producing.

3. Carrell's genius lies in the fact that he never once points a neon sign toward the jokes/slapstick/humor. He maintains his air of dignity as best he can, oblivious, willfully or otherwise, to what the rest of us find so funny about his current predicament, and delivers his lines with dry wit and perfect timing.

4. No overacting for him, thank God. Let the frat boys crowd into theaters for more brain-cell-killing Farrel and Carey movies. I'm sticking with Carrell.

5. Saw the preview for the upcoming Mummy III and holy cow! I'm so going to see that.

6. I haven't seen the other two...Paul is trying to remedy my woeful lack of movie experience but he is only human...but this, this, looks amazing.

7. Jet Li, a three-headed dragon, the Wall of China, buried armies coming to life again...need I say more? It's right up my alley.

8. I'm so close to finishing SHADOWING FATE, I can taste it.

9. I'm at that stage where I hate to go to sleep because I just want to spill the words across the page and finally see it all come together.

10. Plans for this week:

1. Finish the last few chapters of SF.
2. Write synopsis for SF (because I LOVE torturing myself in this way. Love it.)
3. Do a final read-through, edit, adverb seek-and-destroy on the manuscript.
4. Send it off to agents who've requested it.
5. Write a pitch for SF to use at the RWA Conference at the end of the month.
6. Eat, sleep, and breathe somewhere in the middle of all that.

11. I found the perfect dress to go with my gold, diamond (NOT the real variety, are you crazy?)encrusted stilettos.

12. Now, let's just all pray that if I have to walk up a set of stairs to reach the stage, I won't pull a C.J. and walk into the platform, trip up the stairs, or somehow manage to expose parts of myself that NOBODY signed up to see.

13. Also, if I'm called to stage, we'll pray that whatever comes out of my mouth when presented with a microphone doesn't entertain the audience in a wow-did-you-see-that-train-wreck? sort of way.

14. I learned this week that one of my fellow Golden Heart finalists was actually a classmate of mine at Pepperdine. We had Speech 101 together (and a few other humanities courses as well).

15. Small world, yes?

16. Drat. Now that uber-annoying song is stuck in my head. Here, I'll share: It's a small world after all, it's a small world after all, it's a small world after all....

17. Thought you'd enjoy that.

18. I find the results of last week's poll to be very interesting: Most of you want a housekeeper (I second the notion!), many of you want a personal assistant (yes! please!), a few of you want a private chef (how nice would that be?!), and one lonely little rebel went for the chauffeur. :)

19. I actually didn't think anyone would choose chauffeur when they could have a housekeeper or personal assistant, but one of you out in cyber land has your crap so together, all you need is someone to drive you around.

20. Or maybe you're just lusting after a really amazing car in which to stash your chaffeur?

21. I found one for you:



22. Reader Question: If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Week In Review



1. It's been a busy week: writing, working, writing, cleaning, swimming, writing...

2. Not too busy that I haven't found myself tremendously entertained by a few things, however.

3. At the pool this week, Starshine and Daredevil were playing a game that appeared to involved one of them floating while the other tried to hang onto him, apparently using his brother as a mini-lifesaving device.

4. Since this scenario was repeatedly unsuccessful (how many times must a child be dunked before he realizes he is not a lifeboat?), I decided to investigate.

5. I asked the following very innocent question: What are you doing? and received the following answer, shouted across the neighbor-infested pool:

6. We're Boobies!!

7. Having already established early on in my career as a mom that the ground never once opens up to swallow me, you'll understand why I didn't waste any breath praying for that and instead, lunged for the pool in an attempt to quiet my children who were still earnestly trying to explain, at the top of their lungs, that they were boobies.

8. Once I reached them and asked, quite calmly, for a more detailed explanation of their game, Daredevil looked at me and said (in a "Wow, Mom sure doesn't know much, does she?" tone): You know. Those things floating in the water outside the restaurant we ate at in Florida. Boobies.

9. Ah. Buoys. I corrected their pronunciation and hauled myself out of the pool.

10. This week I read an article about the annual running of the bulls in Pamplona and discovered that the runners use a rolled up newspaper as a tool to gauge the distance between them and a charging bull.

11. I have to tell you, if the only thing between you and a charging bull is a little rolled up newspaper, you have more problems than just estimating distance.

12. I also read an article about aggressive dog breeds, published in the Applied Animal Behaviour Science journal, and the number one most aggressive breed is (drum roll please to allow all of the usual suspects to fall out of your mind): the dachshund.

13. The Chiuaua was second.

14. I knew there was a reason I love big dogs.

15. Tomorrow, hubby and I are joining Paul and Kelly for a double date and going to see (finally!!) Get Smart.

16. I've been waiting for this for three months.

17. The rest of my weekend will be spent subduing the laundry, waiting on tables, and writing the last few chapters of SF.

18. Finally, in the spirit of leaving the most entertaining item 'til last, I saw another article this week that discussed various products one might use to remedy beauty faux pas. (Oddly, none of the products addresses the recurring 80's horror show that is the bubble skirt.)

19. Most of the products were run-of-the-mill but one...one had me laughing until my sides ached.

20. The name: Subtle Butt

21. The purpose: A garmet shield designed to absorb the stench caused by unladylike farts and replace it with a more pleasing aroma.

22. So now, instead of having to blame the dog or the person who just walked by, you get to explain to others why every time you walk, your backside emits the odor of green meadows and fresh cut flowers.

23. I can't help it. I'm still laughing.

24. Reader Question: What's the most interesting thing you learned this week?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Own Your Own Piece!



I've been thinking lately about what it means to own your own piece of the artistic landscape. Understanding your unique Voice, whether that be in literature, painting, jewelry-making, cake decorating, web design, pottery, gardening..., is crucial to establishing your self-confidence as a creative person.

We're surrounded with incredible examples of creativity, masters of their craft, and while I always advocate steeping oneself in the masters to learn, to be moved, and to gain inspiration, there's an inherent danger in admiring others when we've yet learned to accept and admire our own talent.

When you own your own piece of the artistic landscape, you can appreciate someone else's work and pull from it lessons to use in honing your own talent without falling into the trap of comparing yourself and coming up short. Comparing yourself leads to fear which cripples your artistic instincts until you turn away from that inward light and allow your budding talent to whither and die.

For example, I greatly admire the writing style of Dean Koontz. He has a languid, liquid prose that spills gently across each page, gathering in his readers and surrounding them with imagery that feels like poetry come to life. If I were to compare myself to Koontz, I would hang my head and bemoan the fact that I will never write with such poetic ease, wrapping my scenes with paragraphs of description that feel like fine wine and slowly dancing my readers through a manuscript of lush word choices.

Unless.

Unless I'd already understood that the strength of my writing style is spare, lithe, swift-moving prose where every word must convey both emotion and character and where my two sentence descriptions at the beginning of each scene must be tiny masterpieces crafted to instantly light the movie screen in my reader's mind with unforgettable sensory descriptions designed to stay with them through the remainder of the scene.

Then, I wouldn't hang my head. I wouldn't envy Koontz or feel discouraged or toss in the towel. Instead, I would study his imagery, delve into his word choices, his attention to detail, and apply it to what I must accomplish with MY Voice.

I can do that because I own my piece of the artistic landscape. I know who I am as a writer, what I'm best at writing, what will work for my Voice and what won't. I'm not a writer of lush, page-long descriptions like Koontz. I'm not a master of creating an incredibly large cast of instantly recognizable characters like Rowling. I'm not a world-builder like Tolkien. I'm a writer who delivers fast-paced, imaginative urban fantasy with plenty of humor, grit, and heart.

When I read King, Rowling, Roberts, Koontz and others, I don't feel discouraged. I feel inspired and challenged. The beautiful thing about art is that there is always room on the shelf, the gallery, the store front window, the flower box, or the bakery display case for one more master.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Where In The World Is C.J.?

Where have I been this week? It's a toss up between being locked into the back office of the restaurant, orienting new employees to all the finer points of their new job (THAT is the bathroom you may use, THAT is the parking lot you may use, THAT is not a word you may ever use in front of the guests and Seriously? We're discussing tampons? Yes, that THWACK you heard was the sound of my head banging voluntarily against my desk.) and being locked inside the Adventure Science Center which, while having the definite advantage of being family friendly and thus giving me much-needed time with my kiddos, is also home to the Farting Slide.

Yes, that's right.

A slide. That farts. On purpose.

It's the mode of exit from one's climb through the lower intestines.

Starshine and Daredevil found it impossible to resist.

Speaking of bodily functions, Starshine has been working hard to develop a talent that he alone, out of all three boys, possesses. No, I'm not talking about communing with aliens or the ability to drop non-sequitors into any conversation.

I'm talking about being able to swallow air and then burp on command. This kid can swallow air and then forcefully expel what seems like far more air than he could ever have swallowed in the first place. Really. One little gulp and out comes the Star Spangled Banner with a side of Jesus Loves Me. Trust Starshine to be the one kid able to thumb his nose at a tried-and-true law of physics and get away with it.

As we drove home from the ASC, he burped. He belched. He answered questions with foul expulsions of air. He delivered appropriate sound-effects to his brothers' not-so-successful efforts and I had finally had ENOUGH.

I explained as much to him. ENOUGH. No more burping on demand. No more swallowing air and then conducting conversations in belches while expecting everyone around him to be suitably awed. No more demonstrations of musical ability via bodily functions at home, the grocery store, or church. Especially church.

Starshine's puzzled response: "But Mom, burping is Joy."

And yes *sigh*, he belched his answer.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Puce Hamburger?

Head on over to Swords & Stilettos for our latest activity designed to spark your creativity! And see what the words hamburger, jiggle, galactic, political, and puce have in common. :D

See you there!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Surfin' USA



Taking a well-deserved vacation from medieval brawling, Juan Pedro visited the fair islands of Hawaii and learned three valuable lessons:

1. Going swimming while wearing a suit of armor provides excellent protection from sharks and jellyfish.

2. Also, the ladies love a man who can surf while carrying a sword.

3. Unfortunately, the consequences of spending hours in salt water while dressed only in metal are too horrible to discuss.



*New readers confused by the appearance of our blog mascot Juan Pedro should click on the label below and read through the back posts to appreciate his history.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Monday's List



1. In the course of watching an episode of Dirty Jobs (there's a man with a sense of humor I can appreciate!), I learned that honey, one of my favorite condiments, is essentially bee vomit.

2. I haven't yet recovered from this revelation.

3. How is it possible for one boy to lose three pairs of flip flops in the space of one month?

4. I dreamed last night that we received our packet of info from China and our daughter had shoulder-length hair.

5. Starshine has announced to me that he does not want me to give him more than 10 grams of sugar a day.

6. He then asked if having a piece of banana cream pie (left over from the 4th) for breakfast would violate this new principle.

7. I have the last few chapters of SHADOWING FATE outlined now.

8. That's a huge relief because I've figured out where every twist goes, what revelations to save for the end of the book (oh yes, I'm leaving you with a definite "Oh crap!!" moment to hold you until the next book!), and in what order I need to place the remaining scenes.

9. I've started listening to the soundtrack from Equilibrium and now I'm using it while writing SF as well.

10. One of my friends needs to have a Pampered Chef party next month so I can get some cool stuff.

11. It's been too long.

12. I want some more stoneware. :)

13. ABC Family had a Harry Potter weekend and we watched Prisoner of Azkaban together yesterday (yes, we have it recorded already but we watched it with commercials...no, I'm not sure why. I wasn't in control of the remote.).

14. I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed that story.

15. I need to go back and re-read the entire series again.

16. Daredevil just started on book one. We'll see how that goes.

17. I'm working 12 hour days tomorrow and Wednesday to cover for someone's vacation.

18. Yes, I'm thrilled to be locked inside the restaurant dealing with strangers for 12 hours.

19. What? Isn't my excitement coming through?

20. My bad.

21. Reader Question: What series of books have you re-read or would you like to re-read?

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Week In Review



1. We did not continue our tradition of blowing up cakes this 4th.

2. Instead, my hubby (and our new neighbor) and my children experimented with what would happen if you threw a lit M90 into a bucket of water (serious water displacement), what would happen if you piled used fireworks containers on top of an M90 (serious bonfire), and how high Mom's voice could go if you stuck a handful of lit sparklers into an empty Diet Coke can.

3. I can tell you this: if Daredevil thinks he's ever going to get his license or his own car or, for that matter, his own book of matches, he's got another think coming.

4. I have to take a moment to express our entire family's deep gratitude to those who are serving or have served (and to the families of those who serve) in our military. We honor your service and your sacrifice.

5. We took the kids to Nashville Shores on Thursday because my hubby had a radio gig there. Translation: we didn't have to pay to get in. ;)

6. There are pools, fountains, huge buckets that relentlessly fill and then dump icy water on everyone foolish enough to be in a fifty foot radius, water slides of every description, banana boat rides, a lake to swim in, and various other forms of entertainment, all revolving around water.

7. We spent most of our time in the lake because it was the only body of water that was actually warm. Again, we had to reiterate our No Talking To Strangers Rule for Daredevil (although when he pointed out to one woman that she was unlikely to fit into the single intertube she was determinedly wedging over her hips, he was entirely accurate. His problem has never been honesty. His problem is tact.)

8. The 9-4 is beginning to make a strange, high-pitched digital ringing noise while I drive it.

9. I applied all of my considerable mechanical expertise to the problem and was able to rule out slamming my hand against any portion of the dashboard as a possible cure.

10. One of my biggest pet peeves at work is people who drop things on the floor and then don't bother to pick them up, leaving their discarded forks, napkins, or entire pieces of chicken for me to scrounge for after they leave.

11. This is appropriate behavior if, say, you've been held captive all of your life in a baboon habitat and therefore can't be expected to know any better, or if you're the kind of person who is too lazy to pick up after yourself but rich enough to make it worth my while.

12. A $50 tip should about cover my loss of dignity.

13. If you are one of the many who either has no family history with baboons or isn't prepared to spot me a Grant, then you should jolly well lean down and pick up what you've dropped.

14. The other night I waited on a family that were demanding enough to set my teeth on edge. When I checked on them after their dinners arrived, I was informed that their daughter (who was easily 10) had dropped her fork and needed another.

15. I don't find that irritating in the least. I'm uncoordinated, remember? I know all about dropping things you meant to keep.

16. What I did find irritating was the evidence of the dirty fork lying there on the floor. I'd had enough.

17. I held out my hand and said, "I'd be happy to bring a clean fork out. I'll just take the dirty one back now."

18. The woman looked confused and said, "Oh, it's right there on the floor."

19. "I'll wait," I said and I did. I stood there with my hand out, waiting, until the woman looked at her daughter and instructed her to pick up the fork and hand it to me. Then I smiled and politely retrieved a new fork for them.

20. I like to think it was a character building experience for them all.

21. Reader Question: Tell me one of your biggest pet peeves.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

One-Legged King Pigeon

I need a viable exercise plan for summer time because my current "toss the kids into the air while at the pool" routine isn't doing much to build lean muscle and disguise my addiction to Hot Tamales (which are of the devil).

Fall through Spring, I walk 1.6 miles around our neighborhood, about half of that uphill. Summer, though, I don't because a) it's freaking hot and I really don't want to do something embarrassing like pass out or walk into someone's mailbox (which I have not done and if the man living in the white two story with the wrap-around porch says otherwise, he's a dirty, rotten liar) and b) the kids are home and I don't pay enough taxes for the kind of emergency response team needed to mop up after leaving three boys on their own for 20 minutes.

Someone suggested jogging but I have to be honest here - I won't willingly run unless something meaner is chasing me with the intent to cause serious bodily injury. This includes running on a treadmill. Treadmills require either excellent feet/eye coordination or the ability to multi-task regardless of distractions. I possess neither. Last time I tried running on a treadmill I very nearly did a flip-flop-and-shoot-off-the-back-end-into-the-wall that would have earned me a cast, a trip to the hospital, and a pair of shiny new dentures to replace the teeth I'd left impaled in the carpet.

I need something indoors, where I can take advantage of the air conditioning, and something not likely to send me careening into innocent bystanders.

Yoga has been suggested as well and I can try that on my wii fitness. At night. When there are no witnesses to see what happens when a woman with plenty of flexibility but no sense of balance attempts to hold Fainting Goat for two minutes. Oh, don't give me that look. There are positions called Walking The Dog and One-Legged King Pigeon. I'm sure there's a Fainting Goat.

I can do sit-ups and push-ups at home. Of course, both of those would be much easier if I didn't own pets. Push-ups are apparently an invitation for my cat to wind her way under my upraised body and then raise her tail to give me her best angle as I settle back to the floor. Sit-ups are accomplished with much firm commands to my large Chow hound to Go Away. Lie Down. No, Not There. Somewhere Else. Somewhere That Does Not Include Any Body Part Of Mine. No, You Are Soooo Not A Lap Dog.

So I need a summer exercise program that doesn't include walking or jogging or treadmills or complicated yoga. Any ideas? :)

Pep Talk

You Make Me Laugh

I love authors who can make me laugh, especially when I don't see it coming and I end up laughing out loud for five minutes, desperately trying not to snort the mouthful of Diet Coke I was in the act of drinking.

I still remember one scene from an early Stephanie Plum book (author - Janet Evanovitch) where Ms. Evanovitch gave me a one-two punch of physical comedy and dry wit that made me laugh so hard, I couldn't see the book through my tears. I reread the scene three times and laughed just as hard each time.

Humor is a significant element in my own writing. I like the effect of combining humor with dark urban fantasy as well as with romance. If I can keep you on the edge of your seat with my suspense and still surprise you into laughing, I've done my job.

I think humor is one of the hardest things to write. I've read many books where the author clearly tried to be funny but failed. Ouch. That's a fate best avoided.

Here are my tips for writing humor well:

1. Use your natural sense of humor. My sense of humor runs heavily toward sarcasm and quick retorts so I use those in my books. I rarely get puns or laugh at the kind of humor displayed in such theatrical travesties as Dumb & Dumber (really, the name says it all) so I don't ever attempt to use those devices in my writing.

2. Keep the humor within the Voice of your manuscript. If something doesn't fit your Voice, it can't be included without sounding forced. I've written lines for SHADOWING FATE that made me laugh until I cried but they aren't in the book because as much as I loved them, I just couldn't make them work within their scene and the humor needs to weave into the fabric of the story seamlessly.

3. Never explain the joke. Seriously. Weave the humor in - add a moment of physical comedy, toss in a one-liner, or do a quick back-and-forth between two characters and move on. Trust your readers to get the humor and you have a tightly-written, fast-paced book with the added benefit of making your readers laugh. Pause to explain the joke or belabor the point and you have an awkwardly written, clunky manuscript that shoots itself in the foot.

4. Do not, under any circumstances, tell your readers that something or someone is funny. I think this is worse than explaining the joke because it's risky and it's lazy.

Risky because what if you've just told your reader that the hero appreciates how funny the heroine is and your reader is rolling her eyes wondering what the poor addled hero smoked for breakfast because she (the reader) hasn't laughed once at anything the heroine said? I remember reading a book that did exactly that - gave me bland, useless dialogue between the hero and the heroine and had the hero laughing heartily and thinking about how funny this girl was. I literally rolled my eyes, snapped the book shut, and never opened it again.

This is lazy writing because this is "tell" instead of "show" and any writer worth her salt can do better than that with some effort. If you've truly woven humor into a character, you won't need to take out a billboard to advertise it.

5. Be willing to experiment. Insert humor when it's least expected. I do this often. Many of my scenes are combinations of dark suspense, difficult emotions, and laugh outloud one-liners. I have to pay careful attention to the depth of emotional turmoil my character is experiencing so that the one-liners match (or so that I know when one-liners would take away from what I'm building). Try different approaches to humor and see what fits your Voice and your character best.


READER QUESTION: Which authors make you laugh? Do you have additional tips for adding humor to your writing?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Quote of the Week

The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life. ~William Faulkner

Art As Inspiration




Today at Swords & Stilettos, we're viewing an eclectic selection of art and seeing where our muse takes us. Come see the creative responses already generated and then post your own! You don't have to be a writer to get in on the fun. :)

Jumpstart Your Creativity

Guest Blogger - Becky Clark

I used to hate any form of exercise, even leisurely walking, unless that leisurely walk took me to the ice cream store or Starbucks. Or both. That was before I started writing. That was before my sweet, angelic baby girl turned into Alien Toddler.

I started writing when my daughter was one year old. I started walking because if I put her in the stroller and gave her a lollipop (I know — bad, bad mommy), she wouldn’t scream or otherwise make my nerves go taut as a violin string for at least 20 minutes. I knew every morning I would have peace and quiet, time to gather my frazzled thoughts. Soon, those walks became addictive. Sometimes, I went for two walks a day. Sometimes even three, depending on whether or not Alien Toddler felt like napping.

I soon learned another benefit of daily walking. It was a great way to work out the kinks in my WIP. Almost like magic, for the scene I was having so much trouble with, the plot point that had me staring at the blinking cursor until I could see it in my sleep, the solution would pop into my head. Oftentimes, my mind would be overflowing with so many great ideas, I’d extend the walk (with more lollipops) until I couldn’t wait to get home and onto the computer (after Alien Toddler was napping, of course).

Creativity guru Julia Cameron urges all of us artsy fartsy types to take regular walks at least once a week to restore our spirit and nourish our creativity. In her book, Walking in this World, she says, “The truth is that walking holds our solutions.” Before the walk, we’re stuck. After the walk, we’re miraculously unstuck.

Walking clears your head and focuses your thinking, it pulls your awareness away from relentless mind chatter to the gentle rhythm of the walk. The repetitiveness of each step after step gradually brings you into an almost meditative, deeper state. And this deeper state is where your creative mind is free to let go, to explore the possibilities and all the “what if’s.” This is when the magic happens.

It’s no secret that exercise and creativity go hand in hand. Stephen King is known to be an avid walker. Henry David Thoreau wrote a book on it. And St. Augustine said, “Solvitur ambulando”—“it is solved by walking.” Great minds, great walkers.

I’m not telling you to go out there and walk as fast as you can until you’re all hot and sweaty and cursing my name. I’m talking slow and leisurely, people. Easy does it. Nourish that inner muse, don’t give it a heart attack.

Next time you’re stuck with your writing, instead of beating the tar out of your computer or scarfing a bag of Hershey’s Kisses, trying going for a walk instead. Your muse — not to mention your waistline — will thank you.

Becky Clark walks almost daily but swears her internal critic is following her. FYI—She survived the Alien Toddler years; said A.T. is now an Alien Teenager. When Becky’s not walking, she writes contemporary romance. Her most recent manuscript is a 2008 Golden Heart finalist.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Win A New Book!

Head over to Swords & Stilettos to celebrate the release of Yasmine Galenorn's Dragon Wytch, leave us a comment, and you could win your own copy!

Contest ends Wednesday night so don't delay!

Learn From Example

I read a new-to-me author this past weekend and loved the book enough to recommend it to my readers who enjoy dark urban fantasy.

The Iron Hunt by Marjorie M. Liu

As my Writing Process post today, I decided to catalogue what I think Ms. Liu did right:

*She opened with a killer sentence. Instantly grabbed my attention. I literally stopped and reread to make sure I had it right.

*She plunges the reader straight into action, with some veiled references to things that would be explained later. I enjoyed being able to get an instant sense of the stakes in the novel without being overburdened with details before I cared about the characters.

*Her first person POV pulled me into her m/c and never let me go.

*Ms. Liu's descriptions are haunting, dazzling, and gloriously mesmerizing by turns. I found myself rereading certain passages just to soak in the beauty of her world-building.

*The pace is quick enough to keep me turning the page. I was reluctant to put the book down, even for some much-needed sleep.

*Ms. Liu's imagination runs freely outside the boundaries of more conventional urban fantasy and I thoroughly enjoyed hanging on for the ride.


Were there things in the book that didn't wow me? Yes, a few. Some loose ends left dangling too long for my taste as a reader. Some conversations drawn out that still gave me too little information. Not enough time/exploration of the m/c's relationship with her love interest, although the bond between them is clearly portrayed.

Still, Ms. Liu delivered such a solid, fast-paced, imaginative, and beautifully rendered story that I soaked it in 'til the last page and am left itching to get to my library to check out the rest of her books.

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