Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Drop It Like It's Hot



1. I totally meant to post a cheery little Merry Christmas message here on December 25th, BUT I got a little distracted by this.

2. That's right, my sister and I went to see Sherlock Holmes on Christmas Day.

3. I've been actively salivating ... er ... looking forward to this since I saw the first trailer in August.

4. It was well-worth the months of anticipation. Downey and Law are Holmes and Watson and the script is a masterful blend of humor, intrigue, complicated relationships, action, and Holmes' trademark brilliance. The new aspects brought to the two characters by director Guy Ritchie served to breathe new life into a well-loved classic. When the movie ended, I was more than willing to sit for another two hours and watch it again.

5. I didn't.

6. But only because I knew the next show was sold out.

7. The other day, the Scientist had a conversation with me that went like this:

Me: *responding to some sort of amazing trick the Scientist did with his new Nerf gun* Hey! That's really cool!

Scientist: Mom. *shakes head with pity* Please don't. You aren't hip anymore. You need to accept it and move on.

Me: *gives spawn the Beady Eye* Not hip?

Scientist: Totally not.

Me: Really? Have you ever dropped it like it's hot? No? Well, come back to me when you have and then we'll talk.

8. I bet he tells his friends I'm crazy to cut short the inevitable speculation when they come for a visit.

9. Tonight, we spent an hour at Chuck E. Cheese, that bastion of noise and chaos.

10. While we were there, I saw an EMO EIGHT YEAR OLD.

11. I do not jest.

12. He had the skinny girl's jeans, at least a two sizes too small, that only covered half of his captain's quarters. His shirt was also two sizes two small and he had the whole emo hair thing going on (All the better to do a hair-flip, Mom!).

13. I truly believe in self-expression and will allow my children to choose their clothes, hair style, piercings etc. as long as they don't look like they're part of a Vegas show. Yanno, the kind where singles are the only currency available.

14. But I don't get an 8 year old emo.

15. Just don't.

16. Either he's supremely messed up or supremely confident in who he is.

17. I'm rooting for confident.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Ninjas, Emo Edward, & a California Stop (Or Why My Cop Friend Can't Pull Me Over)



1. We have our very own Christmas Ninja.

2. Her name is Spastic Kitten and the FDA has yet to approve a medication that can fix what's wrong with her.

3. Yesterday, I went with my sister (who is visiting from Arizona for the week of Christmas!), Paul, his wife Kelly, Myra, and her husband Ethan to see New Moon.

4. I was the only girl in the group who hadn't planned on seeing the movie when it came out.

5. It was better than the first movie.

6. Which wasn't hard to do since the first movie was le crap.

7. There were parts I enjoyed and all of those involved a certain werewolf. The CG was cool and Taylor Lautner's acting made up for K-Stew's total inability to emote. The two of them had chemistry on screen (through no fault of K-Stew, I can assure you) and that was nice. Plus Billy Burke's acting is always a treat. (He plays Bella's father.)

8. What wasn't as nice?

9. Emo Edward.

10. EMO. Edward.

11. Without a shirt.

12. Which, it turns out, is NOT his best look. (I can sum it up in two words: misshapen nippleage. Once seen, it can't be unseen. I may need therapy.)

13. Add a burgundy robe over shirtless Emo Edward and he looked like a young Hugh Hefner.

14. However, Paul had his gun (He has to be armed everywhere he goes. Part of the job.), and I felt reasonably entertained with the notion that any rabid Emo Edward fans could be dispatched with ease.

15. Plus, the gun isn't registered to me and I'm really good at looking innocent when the other option is spending life behind bars.

16. Speaking of Paul's status as a cop, he tried to pull me over after the movie.

17. Yes, he did.

18. Not because I was speeding. (Though he did make a ridiculous claim about me making a "California stop" at a red light while I was turning right. Totally bogus because everyone knows you can't afford to sit on your booty when there's a stream of oncoming traffic about to ruin your chances for a quick exit.)

19. He followed me, flashing his lights (which I ignored) and apparently even tried to call me (my phone was still on silent from the theater) because he wanted to give us our Christmas presents.

20. He caught up to me at the next red light where, since I wasn't trying to turn right in front of oncoming traffic, I was fully and completely stopped.

21. He pulled up beside me, got out of the car, and walked up to the window, already yelling.

22. I can only imagine what the cars behind me thought.

23. I warned Paul if he ever tried to pull me over I wouldn't stop.

24. I wasn't bluffing.

25. Until tomorrow, peeps!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Commercial Fiction: One Writer's (Probably Intelligent) Rant



Today, I read something that made me mad. I won't link to it because I refuse to drive more traffic to this person's site, but in a nutshell, this writer stated that agents and publishers are choking off the existence of literary fiction by forcing the masses to only read commercial fiction which, by this writer's definition, is "low-brow and unintelligent." The writer speculated on the lack of talent, work ethic, and intelligence in those writers who would write commercial fiction and stated they must be writing it because they wanted publication enough to suck up to what publishers wanted.

As a writer of commercial fiction, this offends me deeply. Here's why.

1. The writer makes a big fat assumption that I write commercial fiction because I'm not smart enough to write something else. I despise sweeping statements that classify an entire group of people as if there aren't nuances to everything. Frankly, if someone is too elitist or ignorant to realize that there are individual people with individual choices behind every commercial manuscript published, I'm not ready to give credence to anything they say.

More to the point, I write commercial fiction because it's what I love to read. I'm intelligent, educated, well-read, experienced, have a firm grasp of the English language and many of its subtleties, understand the craft of writing, have mastered much of the art of story-telling, know how to weave symbolism into the thematic fabric of my work, and can plumb the depths of the human condition with one finely crafted sentence. I could write anything I want to and I do. I write commercial fiction. Not because I'm unable to write something else. Because I love it.

2. This writer's assertion that her manuscript hasn't been published because agents and editors refuse to allow "real" fiction to fall into the hands of the adoring public smacks of both sour grapes and a stubborn refusal to take her rejections like a big girl and move on. We've all written something that won't sell (With, perhaps, the exception of Stephenie Meyer.). We've all been told "no." Most of us will hear the word "no" far more often throughout our career than we'll ever hear "yes." Does that mean agents and editors have banded together to refuse our masterpiece a space on the hallowed shelves of Barnes & Nobles because we're too intelligent for the masses to comprehend?

No.

It means write something else. And then something else. And something else again until you write something that will sell. It's called paying your dues. Practicing your craft. Hitting your stride. Finding your niche. Getting lucky with the market.

If a writer thinks she should be entitled to bypass this because her manuscript is important enough to be called literary fiction, she needs to wean herself off the Entitlement Wagon and join the real world. No one owes you a publishing contract simply because you typed "The End." I don't care what genre you write.

3. Which brings me to what really bothered me: the assumption that literary fiction is somehow more important than every other genre out there. This is elitist snobbery at its worst. It's like saying classical is the only true music out there and everything else is a red-headed step-child crowding the airwaves and filling up the concert venues and night clubs because the masses are too stupid to realize better music is out there. I can't get behind anyone who believes one form of artistry takes more thought, more work, or more craft than another. Or that one genre is more important than another.

Different genres exist because tastes differ. That's something to celebrate. I enjoy bypassing rows and rows of genres I don't care to read on my way to the rows and rows of genres I love. Why? Because other shoppers are crowding the rows I ignore, discovering new authors or buying from those they already love and that's a good thing.

A good thing.

It's good that smart, talented, artistic writers like Nora Roberts, Stephen King, Laura Lippman, Maggie Stiefvater, J.K. Rowling, Dean Koontz, Jeaniene Frost, Lillith Saintcrow, Julia Quinn, Nancy Werlin, Lisa Mantchev and a host of others buckled down, worked like ditch-diggers, and wrote what they loved.

And I must make it clear that I'm not taking aim at literary fiction or those who love to write it. I'm responding to one writer's attitude only. I think lit fic has just as much place on a bookshelf as manga or romance or thrillers or YA and I believe all authors deserve respect for pouring themselves into their craft.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to get back to crafting my own piece of commercial fiction in which themes of abandonment, choice vs. nature, and what must be sacrificed for the greater good go hand in hand with fainting goats and stealing a flock of chickens.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Happy Anniversary



Yesterday was my 15th wedding anniversary. Clint had to read The Night Before Christmas on stage at the Grand Ole Opry before the Radio City Rockettes performed so we decided that would be the perfect anniversary date. A friend offered to watch the boys (and ended up voluntarily cleaning our kitchen which was a sacrifice of the above and beyond variety!) and off we went.

We entered through the backstage door (the one marked Artist Entrance) and hung out backstage for a bit until the stage manager escorted me to my seat to wait for Clint's reading. I sat for a bit, noticed it was a mostly sold-out venue, and then the announcer read Clint's bio and he came out on stage.

He sat in an old-fashioned wing-back chair in front of a mic, opened the book, looked up and said "I'm going to read The Night Before Christmas. But before I get started ..."

And I knew he was about to pull a fast one.

He continued "My wife is somewhere in this crowd. C.J., where are you?"

I sort of waved my hand and they put a spotlight on me. Heads turned from all directions to stare.

Then he said "Fifteen years ago today, I was married to my lovely bride. I'm so blessed to have her as my wife. I love her. She's my soul mate. I hope we have thousands more years together."

And the whole crowd (me included) went "awwww!" Then they clapped and he continued on with his reading. I was blushing. First time in ... well, I don't actually remember the last time I blushed.

After he sat down with me (and those around us congratulated us on our anniversary...except for the one guy who complained Clint had now raised the bar impossibly high for the other husbands in the crowd), I kissed him and told him he was good present-wise for the next five years. It's not every girl who gets honored from the Grand Ole Opry stage in front of a thousand people.

He's definitely a keeper!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Monday. That Pretty Much Says It All



1. I'm finished with December's query workshop now.

2. The next one will begin mid-January.

3. Several clients have requested I do a synopsis workshop as well.

4. I think we all know how I feel about writing a synopsis.



5. However, the truth is I can write a good, 5 page synopsis in less than an hour.

6. I'm just not sure how I do it.

7. I need to sit down and figure out my method, do a little research, and put together some lessons.

8. Critiquing five pages of synopsis will be a LOT more time-consuming than critiquing a one page query so the price for that workshop will have to reflect that.

9. A conversation I had two nights ago with Daredevil:

Daredevil: *creeps down the stairs after bedtime and tries to sneak past me while I'm writing*

Me: What are you doing?

Daredevil: Getting a snack.

Me: A snack? After all the dinner you ate tonight?

Daredevil: Dinner? What dinner?

Me: What do you mean "what dinner"? The dinner you inhaled earlier.

Daredevil: I don't know what you mean.

Me: Barbecued chicken, carrots sticks, garlic bread. Remember? You cleaned your plate and had extra chicken.

Daredevil: *pauses to think and then shrugs* Sorry. Doesn't ring a bell.

And THAT is why I work extra hours, folks. I'm raising mini-vacuum cleaners who routinely clean out my pantry with no memory of having done so.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Truth About Raising Boys



1. People will say things like "You live in a zoo." This is totally untrue. A zoo has paid staff to clean up the messes, people willing to give you popcorn and cotton candy, and, most importantly, cages that actually keep the dangerous animals where they belong. YOUR life is a safari. Think of it as a wild, dangerous adventure through mostly uncharted, crocodile-infested waters with breath-taking rapids, incredible scenery, and zero bug-repellent.

And poo jokes. Lots of poo jokes.

2. People will say raising boys is easier than raising girls. This is also untrue. It's not that boys are harder, it's that they are different. Comparing the two is like comparing downhill skiing with riding a sled coated in Crisco down the sheet of ice currently adorning your roof. Both are a wild thrill but only one has ALMOST CERTAIN DEATH as a viable side-effect. Boys' brains are flooded with testosterone before birth. This short-circuits every thought-pattern that doesn't end with them trying to achieve world domination through death. Theirs or someone else's. They aren't particularly picky.

3. People will say boys aren't nearly as emotional as girls. This is nonsense spouted by those who don't understand how to recognize emotion in boys. Girls get upset and scream, cry, pull out someone's hair, or go sulk in their room with their cell phone. Boys get upset and shoot their brother in the face with a Nerf shotgun, explode a can of leftover paint on the neighbor's driveway, and do their best to burn down everything in a seven-block radius. If you're pregnant with a boy, go ahead and add riot gear to your baby shower registry. And liability insurance. And a lifetime supply of chocolate.

4. People will say unenlightened things like "Why do you have a lock on the OUTSIDE of your son's bedroom door" or "Who hides their chef knives behind the bags of frozen peas in the freezer?" These people do not understand that you are doing what you must for the good of society. And so you don't exceed your daily ration of Prozac.

5. People will balk at the noise level in your house and ask you how you can possibly tune out something that sounds like a herd of moose challenged a rabid parrot and a hormonally-challenged pack of hyenas to the war of the century. They don't realize that your noise-tolerance has grown along with your children as an act of self-defense. You are now skilled in recognizing the "I'm bleeding and probably broke fifteen bones" scream from the "You opened the bathroom door while I was peeing and now you must die" scream. It's all in the nuances.

6. People will remark on your children's behavior while you are out in public. If your boys have been replaced by aliens and are acting like perfect gentlemen, people will think you are Mother of the Year. It's okay to accept these accolades under false pretenses. It won't be long before the aliens grow tired of risking life and limb and find another host. When your non-alien infested boys let loose in a grocery store, burping the alphabet while trying to pop a wheelie with a cart full of soup cans all while remarking at top volume that the man in front of you MUST be pregnant, you are left with three options. A) Run. B) Pray a hole opens up and swallows you and when it doesn't, run. C) Have in place a Family Emergency Plan For When Boys Are Boys In Public (FEPFWBABIP for short). This is easy to implement. You simply give the agreed-upon cue (a blast from an air-horn usually does the trick) and the boys scatter, meeting up at the car in five minutes. Those precious five minutes are enough for you to deny you've ever given birth to a boy to every onlooker on the premises. To really sell it, buy something pink. Anything pink.

7. People will think you're joking when you say you wear a hazmet suit to clean your boys' rooms. Of course you were joking. You don't wear a hazmet suit to clean your boys' rooms. You wear two. You know this is a necessity of life since while boys understand a myriad of fascinating, wonderful things like architecture, skateboarding, and the quantum physics needed to force their younger brother into the hamper, they don't understand clean. They use dirty socks as bookmarks. They hide half-eaten snacks under their mattress. They load the blades of their ceiling fan with legos and wait for you to turn it on for the day's entertainment. You take your life in your hands every time you cross through the doorway into their bedroom.

8. People who understand items 1-7 will mistakenly offer you their sympathy when they hear you have a household full of boys. This sympathy is misplaced. Yes, boys are loud. Yes, they get creative with glue sticks, popcorn, and the family dog. Yes, they once held a Pee For Distance contest in the middle of the cul de sac while every neighbor was out on their front porch. But you wouldn't trade one second of your adventure because boys are also enthusiastic, affectionate, smart, funny, talented, and endlessly entertaining.

Even when what they're doing will probably lead to someone's imminent demise.

Monday, December 7, 2009

I Know Someone On The Naughty List



1. This is Tinks the Terror and Spastic Kitten's first Christmas with us.

2. As of now, the score is Kitten Power - 3, Glass Ornaments - 0.

3. Also, we can't put wrapped presents out because Spastic Kitten has some sort of holly-jolly paper deficiency in her diet.

4. She is soooo on Santa's Naughty List.

5. My birthday is two weeks to the day after Christmas.

6. Starshine's birthday is five days after mine.

7. He's finished his monologues on what he'd like to get for Christmas and has moved on to birthday.

8. Today the discussion went like this:

Starshine: Hey Dad! Know what I want for my birthday?

Clint: What?

Starshine: Barbie dolls!

Clint: WHAT? Really? Well...if that's what you want.

Starshine: Yup! It is. Oh, and also? I'll need some M80s.

9. He won't be getting either.

10. No matter how much fun his father thinks that would be.

11. With my luck, I'd end up with Barbie parts clogging a toilet or spontaneously combusting beauty queens setting my broiler on fire.

12. If they could do both of the above to me with nothing more than Hot Wheels and Legos, doll parts and firecrackers would probably be enough to level the entire house.

13. I'm in the middle of December's query workshop--the part where I start reading through and personally critiquing queries.

14. This part of the course always makes me wish I were a literary agent because I always see so many really cool projects I'd love to request.

15. CASTING STONES is coming along nicely.

16. I'm having so much fun writing it and I really think the dark layers and complexity play nicely with the slapstick-on-a-page humor. It's like I Love Lucy meets Buffy The Vampire Slayer. With some barnyard animals thrown in for good measure.

17. I've had the flu for almost a week now. It just won't go away. I'm not flat on my back anymore, thank God, but I can't seem to kick it completely.

18. Which is highly inconvenient because my life isn't built for taking a break.

19. And yes, Tricia, if I'm still sick I'll go to the doctor.

20. I can fit that in on Friday.

21. You can hit me when you see me on Sunday.

22. It's nice to have friends who nag you because they love you, isn't it?

23. I want to send my agent a Christmas gift but don't want to send something she'd hate.

24. I make pumpkin bread for all my neighbors and thought, wouldn't it be nice to send her some too?

25. Now I have to figure out if I can afford to ship pumpkin bread to NYC and have it arrive fresh and in one piece.

26. I'll let you know how that goes.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Rules? We Don't Need No Stinking Rules!

There is much discussion within the writing community about rules. Rules for how to plot a book before you write. Rules for how to write--what should go where and when, what you can and can't get away with, and for Pete's sake, GRAMMAR people!--and rules for what to do with your writing when you're finished. Rules for how to approach an agent or editor.

It's enough to make a girl go a little crazy.

Don't get me wrong. Some rules are necessary. Like the one that says stalking a literary agent into a restroom and handing your manuscript under the stall door is TABOO. That's a good rule.

And the rules of the craft, the basic understanding of how to write a compelling sentence, an excellent paragraph, a knock-em-dead chapter, and work it all into a HOLY COW good book are necessary.

To a point.

But in every writer's life there comes a moment when you have to throw out some rules and start experimenting. It's how you gain a Voice that sets you apart from others. It's what defines your style.

When does that moment come? I don't know. I'm sure it's different for every writer, just like how every writer chooses to approach writing a book is different. Maybe you have to be good enough within the "rules" to be able to break some by choice. Maybe you have to practice long enough to start feeling constrained by the old school ideas.

I'm not here to tell you what rules YOU should break. (Though I definitely wouldn't hand my manuscript to an agent under a bathroom stall unless she'd specifically asked me for toilet paper and I had nothing else available.)

I'm here to tell you the rules I break. I didn't start off doing this. In fact, it took a few drafts of my first manuscript for me to realize my Voice was dependent on not just my ability to craft a compelling sentence, but my ability to artistically and strategically throw some rules out the window.

Rules I Break:

1. I love using fragments. Love it. Really. I use fragments to both establish my character's voice and to manage the pacing of a scene. Sue me.

2. I start sentences with And or But whenever necessary. I'd been told by a published author that was her biggest pet peeve. And yanno, if I did it every other sentence, it would be my biggest pet peeve too. But, I don't. I only do it when it works in dialogue or, again, for pacing.

3. I don't use the hero's journey or a formula stating at which point in my book I should hit each next escalation of plot. I don't think those are bad things at all. They just don't work for me. They shut down my imagination. I'm a more organic writer (Look! Pesticide free!) and while I do a blurb and some one sentence chapter plotting ahead of time, I let the book and the characters tell me when I need to slow down or speed up. Pacing for me is something I can feel as I write. Trying to shut down that sense and use diagrams etc. instead makes me slightly homicidal.

4. While I do read heavily in my genre (and two other genres that interest me), I don't agonize over whether the story I'm telling fits perfectly within my genre. I just get to know my characters, flesh out the plot, discover its twists and turns, and do my absolute best to remain authentic and truthful to MY story. I think that helps give me a unique Voice. I think it probably also gives my agent a headache. So, yanno, use this one at your own risk.

5. I write in first person. There isn't actually a rule against this, per se. But there's plenty of scuttlebutt warning new writers away from this. Some told me it was too risky. That until I had an established sales record, no editor would touch it. Some told me no agent would sign me either. I tried third person and it worked. Sort of. But my Voice comes alive in first person. And my Voice is what attracts (or repels) readers from my books. I decided first person fit best and plunged into it and I've never looked back. And guess what? My agent loved that I wrote in first person.

Which just illustrates my point. You can break any rule you want to break if you know how to do it well. And maybe you won't do it well at first, but that's what practice is for. So, go ahead. Be a rule-breaker. Experiment. Find what makes your Voice stand out and then practice that until it knocks 'em dead.

What rules do you break? What rules do you absolutely hate to see broken?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Also

For those who would rather donate any amount you choose instead of purchasing coffee, there's a Donate button the sidebar now. The money goes into a separate adoption account. Thank you from our entire family for helping bring our daughter home.

Java For Johanna

Okay, here's the deal. I would feel really strange fundraising for anything other than my daughter. :) The truth is, we're getting close to hearing from China with permission to travel and we still need 6k to bring her home (China has raised its fees several times and we've had to redo documentation here in the states due to China's delay).

Many people have asked us how they can help. There's a fantastic company here in Nashville that roasts its own coffee and donates $5 for EVERY bag purchased. It's linked straight to our adoption account. If everyone we know purchased a bag for themselves or a friend, our account would be full and we'd be ready to bring her home.

If you're interested in helping us bring Johanna home (and you want to give/drink coffee for Christmas!), please go here. And please, pass the link along to anyone you know who would be willing to drink a little java to bring an orphan home.

Thank you! We truly appreciate you.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Note To Self, Part Doh!

When one is distracted by music, Twitter, and the Chow hound's obsession with a little rubber ducky and one takes a large gulp of one's drink, forgetting that one has switched from Peach Tea to Diet Coke, one should remember the following tips in coping with the surprise:

1. Do not gasp in shock.

2. If one catches oneself mid-gasp and realizes one is about to fill one's lungs with Diet Coke, one should not clamp one's throat closed while still keeping one's lips closed.

3. One should remember in such a scenario that the only remaining viable opening prepared to absorb the momentum of one's mouthful of Diet Coke is one's nasal cavity.

4. When Diet Coke forcibly enters one's nasal cavity one should not reflexively snort.

Diet Coke, the new sinus douche.

Starshine Discusses History

Starshine: Hey, Mom. Have you ever heard of the shotgun heard 'round the world?

Me: You mean the shot heard 'round the world?

Starshine: Yeah. Did you know it wasn't really a shot the whole world could hear? It was just something that affected the whole world. Kind of a rip off, if you ask me.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Note To Self:

Although the skill to time one's exit precisely through a pair of automatic doors is a thing of beauty, one should always take into account the possibility the doors might not open all the way.

Ouch.

Starshine's Christmas List

Today, we asked Starshine what BIG item he wanted for Christmas since we have a fairly expensive present already purchcased for each of his brothers. We said keep it between $80-$120. Here are the answers he gave:

1. A coupon book including coupons for parents to clean his room, do his homework, and punch each other for the entertainment of their spawn.

2. A box of Nutcrackers (25 please!) to create his own Nutcracker army.

3. A gun. A real one.

Is it wrong that I'm actually looking at the Nutcracker army as a viable option?

Fun Contest, Great Prize!

Fellow writer Shannon Messenger is running a fun contest on her blog. Tell her what you'd change about Edward Cullen and you could win a signed copy of Twilight! If that sort of thing floats your boat, head over to her blog and join the party. :)

Friday, November 27, 2009

I Succumbed to The Crazy



1. It's 5:30 a.m. the Friday morning after Thanksgiving.

2. I've been up since 4.

3. Why?

4. Target. Door busters. Boys who love electronic gadgets for Christmas.

5. Ugh.

6. It's my first time braving the crowds on Black Friday because crowds generally make me behave in ways that could get me arrested.

7. (Case in point: the time I rammed another shopper's cart out of the middle of the aisle during back to school shopping.)

8. (The other "case in point" I can't tell you about because the police still don't have any suspects and why put myself on the radar if I don't have to?)

9. I got to the store at 4:40 a.m. (it opened at 5) and discovered the line was already wrapped around the building.

10. I'm an amateur. I get it.

11. I also got what I came for by making up for lost time--I refused a cart and instead employed the old bob, weave, and ram technique to reach my quarry before it was sold out.

12. Now I'm home and my right eye has developed a twitch.

13. I just read an article discussing the recent death of UGA's bulldog mascot and PETA's public suggestion that UGA should forgo purchasing another bulldog for the school and sink their money into an animatronic dog instead.

14. I frankly don't care one way or the other what UGA does and I bet PETA doesn't either.

15. Why do I say that?

16. Because the logic used in the PETA statement is ludicrous.

17. They say:

... acquiring a dog from a breeder perpetuates the animal overpopulation crisis while causing another dog waiting in an animal shelter to be condemned to death.


18. I'm trying to understand their reasoning.

19. They're saying that by purchasing a bulldog from a breeder, UGA is condemning a dog in a shelter to death.

20. Very strong words.

21. The only way that logic holds together at all is if UGA's alternative would be to rescue a bulldog from a shelter instead of buying one from a breeder.

22. But that isn't what PETA wants.

23. PETA wants them to use an animatronic dog instead.

24. Which doesn't do one thing to save dogs in animal shelters.

25. I think the only thing PETA wanted out of this was a headline.

26. As a fierce animal lover myself, I get disgusted by PETA's frequent headcase reasoning and blatant bids for publicity that do nothing to actually find needy animals a good home.

27. *steps down off her soapbox*

28. And that's what you get from me if I'm forced to brave crowds so early on a Friday morning.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Reminder

Today is the last day to register for the upcoming online Query Workshop at the discounted rate of $35. Tomorrow the price goes up to $40. Go here for more info and to register.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Grand Prize Winner!

Congratulations to Jennifer Parker, author of the Rewrite! Twilight entry #1. Your number was picked out of a hat to be the grand prize winner of a 50 page manuscript critique by yours truly. Email me at cjredwine01 (at) yahoo for further instructions and congratulations!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Yay for Blog Awards!



Thanks to Shannon Messenger, I was nominated for the Honest Scrap award. Apparently, the purpose of this is to make me tell 10 honest things about myself. As if you didn't already have enough of my life shoved in your face on a near daily basis.

Here goes:

1. This isn't the first blog award I've received. I think it's the fifth. But usually the process of claiming, reposting, and nominating others feels really overwhelming to me and my five minutes of free time so I thank the nominator and move on. In fact, I was nominated today for another award on a different blog. It remains to be seen if I find the time to pick that one up, though I was deeply honored.

2. I used to lick play doh. It never tasted good. But it looked pretty, so on the off chance that this time it would taste how it looked, I licked it every time I played with it.

3. My favorite color is red because it's dramatic, bold, fun, lively and still maintains some classy sophistication. I once read that when you describe your favorite color you describe yourself so I guess I should subtract sophisticated and add loud to the list.

4. I once grabbed an electric cow fence while it was on. I don't recommend it.

5. If I had to choose an international destination for a dream vacation, I wouldn't head for the tropical beaches. Instead, I'd do a tour of castles in Ireland and England.

6. I don't like the smell of flowers.

7. I read the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy for the first time while I was in fourth grade.

8. I once wrote in my diary that I would grow up and marry John Schneider (Bo Duke from Dukes of Hazard). I later taught his daughter when she was in junior high, was invited to his home for a Christmas party (while I was 8 months pregnant with the Scientist), and had my husband announce the contents of my diary in front of John and his very understanding wife.

9. I refuse to eat green beans. In any form. Don't cover them in cheese and bread crumbs, call it a casserole, and feed me a bite. I promise I'll vomit on your shoes.

10. I played basketball and volleyball in junior high. I wasn't talented at either, but I was fast, aggressive, and had no fear of the other players so I ended up playing more often than not.

At this point, I'm supposed to nominated other bloggers. However, I've also run out of time. So, if you choose to share ten honest things on your blog, snag the logo, link back to me, and leave me a comment directing me to your post. (I seem to have embraced the concept of socialism! YOU do the work for ME and I'LL reap the rewards. Awesome.)

Beam Me Up, Scotty!



1. In my last post, I invited commenters to guess which two items on my list of things researched for Casting Stones weren't true.

2. The correct answer is: buttermilk pancake recipe and the founders of Oliver Springs, Tennessee.

3. Sadly no one got the right answer so no prize this time, but I've learned my lesson.

4. I'll make the next guessing contest easier. =D

5. In other contest news, I'll be posting the winner of the 50 page critique tomorrow!

6. Starshine recently decided to speak to us using interpretive dance as his main mode of communication.

7. Of course, if we don't get his meaning right away, he follows that up with his usual stream of consciousness.

8. I work every day this week through Thanksgiving which means we'll be eating a late dinner on T-day.

9. I have no idea why any of you would find that fact interesting.

10. I had a commenter recently volunteer to be a moderator on this blog.

11. *looks around at her regular readers*

12. I had to turn her down since all of you are generally so well-mannered there's really nothing to moderate.

13. That seems like a small oversight on your part.

14. Perhaps you should step up your game.

15. I find when I'm totally focused on writing a particular story, I can't enjoy reading for pleasure.

16. I get mad because the book is trying to distract me from my characters.

17. Yes, writers are a strange breed.

18. We listened to J.J. Abrams' commentary on the movie Star Trek last night and it was a master's class in effective story telling, pacing, and attention to the littlest details to get everything just right.

19. Have I mentioned I want Star Trek for Christmas?

20. Reader Question: What's one Thanksgiving dish you could eat for breakfast, lunch, or dinner?

Monday, November 16, 2009

It's A Bird! It's A Plane! It's A ... Goat?



1. There is so much wrong with that picture.

2. Bad enough we have to defend ourselves against them on the ground.

3. Now they have the ability to drop out of the sky like horizontal-eyed goat bombs.

4. *is not pleased*

5. When we took the kids to see the sneak peek of A Christmas Carol, we were handed those blocky, black plastic Hey! I'm A Whiz At Calculus And Other Impractical Math Functions! 3-D glasses.

6. Daredevil put his on and they slid to the end of his nose.

7. Looking at me over the rims, he put his finger on the bridge of the glasses, slid them up his nose, and said "Get your nerd on."

8. I nearly peed my pants laughing.

9. I spent the weekend with some dear friends in the eastern Tennessee mountains.

10. They'd graciously offered me the use of their upstairs guest room to have a writing weekend.

11. It was wonderful to write Casting Stones and be able to look out the window at the setting for Casting Stones.

12. We even took a quick trip to a tiny mountain town so I could really get the feel for it and I found Lilli's Mother's house, exactly as it's described in the book.

13. Win!

14. Friday night - Sunday afternoon I wrote over 11k on Casting Stones.

15. Double win!

16. I'm having so much fun with this story.

17. Here's a challenge for you. The following is a list of items I researched lately for Casting Stones. Two of them are false. Can you guess which two?

*The average running speed of a flock of chickens

*Cargo space in an Audi R8

*The founding families of Oliver Springs, Tennessee

*Surnames used often in eastern Tennessee

*Hunting knives

*The location of the Colgate toothpaste factory

*What started the Chicago fire of 1871

*A recipe for buttermilk pancakes

*Harley Fatboys

Leave your answers in the comment section. All correct entries will go into a drawing and the winner will have a short piece of fiction written in their honor.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Point A to Point B

The other day, a (probably) well-meaning co-worker (eavesdropped) overheard a conversation between a friend and me regarding Casting Stones, the book I'm currently writing. (Please note it is no longer known by the generic Lilli's Book One although that title had a certain State The Obvious charm to it.)

In the conversation, my friend asked how the writing was coming along and I told her I needed to really get a chunk done in the next few weeks to hit my deadline. (By chunk I mean Holy Nearly Unattainable Word Count, Batgirl!) I then explained that it usually takes me around 4 1/2 hours to craft a 3000 word chapter.

The (probably) well-meaning co-worker chimed in with the pithy advice that if I already know what is going to happen in each chapter as I sit down to write (And yes, on this book, I actually DO know what's going to happen before I write the chapter ... I know. My Pantser universe sort of cracked and fell off its axis this time.) it shouldn't take 4 1/2 hours. I should just discipline myself to start at point A and end up at point B.

Easy.

I'd really love to finish the story of what happened to my (probably) well-meaning co-worker but as they've yet to find his body, I think I'll just keep quiet.

But, here's the deal. In writing, 1 plus 1 hardly ever equals 2. Usually, it equals something like 7 give or take 3 to the square root of 52347059 with a margin of error as wide as the entire state of Alaska.

Here's why:

1. I start the chapter at point A.

2. Point A may or may not be exactly, to the nanosecond, after point B in the previous chapter.

3. If it is exactly, to the nanosecond, after point B in the previous chapter, I still can't just jump in without looking both ways. I have to figure out a clever way to re-orient the reader to the thread of conversation/action because the reader may have taken a bathroom break between chapters 14 and 15 and been distracted by a totally unexpected opportunity to stalk Johnny Depp through the streets of her neighborhood as he canvased the local streets looking for the perfect location for his next movie. (Please note this is the ONLY acceptable excuse for putting one of my books down before you've reached the end. Well, that and childbirth. And Zombie Goat interference, of course.)

4. Most likely, I choose to move past some unimportant, mundane tidbits between chapter 14 and chapter 15 and I have to set the scene while still picking up the thread of action/conflict/dialogue. This means I have to carefully consider time of day, weather, angle of the sun, shadows, local foliage, animals indigenous to that location, my chicken-scratch hand-drawn map of local businesses, streets and homes, vehicles (make, model, color, condition) passing by, wind? no wind?, scents, home decor, character's clothing ... and no, I'm not kidding. All of that info goes into my head, bangs around, settles, and I spend TIME carefully crafting two or three measly sentences that perfectly (I hope) set the scene with appropriate sensory detail for the chapter to get from Point A to Point B.

5. How much of my 4 1/2 hours does that take?

6. Depends. Some days I have to Google and Google and Google yet again before finding what I need. Then I have to figure out how to translate that into words without using obvious cliches or truly stupid phrasing (I refuse to admit how often the latter is discovered by yours truly upon re-reading a chapter the next day.).

7. So ... goody! 150 words done! Only 2850 to go!

8. I spend the rest of the chapter trying to get the characters from Point A to Point B while layering in setting, sensory detail, increasing emotional conflict, giving hints about secrets yet to be revealed, pushing the main conflict forward, double and triple checking every sentence of dialogue to make sure it A) rings true for that character, B) furthers that character's agenda, C) furthers the story's conflict and D) doesn't sound supremely idiotic upon re-reading.

9. Oh, yeah, and I also have to do all of this while writing in first person so all of this (including other character's secrets, agendas, and voices) have to come through the filter of Lilli's voice without losing their own.

10. And I have to be sure to set myself up for point A in chapter 16 without giving too much away too soon or losing momentum and treading water while my characters sit and stare at each other wondering when their story-teller is going to get her act together.

11. And sometimes (Hang on for the shocker, those of you who know me well) the words won't come.

12. They. Won't. Come.

13. The image I want to describe remains tantalizingly just out of reach, flirting with the edges of my brain like a ... a ... a thing that flirts with the edges of my brain.

14. And sometimes the words that do come sound good at first but end up painting me and my characters into the kind of corner where all good stories go to die.

15. Other times words flow easily and I have a brief egotistical moment of sheer elation where I think Leonardo DiCaprio had it all wrong and I am truly the King of the World.

16. But most times, each sentence takes effort. Focus.

17. Time.

Since I think great art must cost the artist something, it's a bargain I'm willing to make. But writing, really good writing, isn't about starting at Point A and ending up at Point B. It's about what happens in between. And what happens in between takes time.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

10 Things I Need According to Google

I just performed a quick Google experiment by doing a search for "C.J. needs." Here are the top ten results:

1. C.J. needs a laxative: If I was the C.J. in question on this post, I'd be handing out certain consequences and repercussions to the person in my life who thought my internal plumbing emergency worthy of a blog post.

2. C.J. needs to become the region's highest appellate court: Um. *looks around* I thought I already was.

3. C.J. needs a hip replacement: I'd feel sorry for this C.J. if I wasn't sort of jealous. I'd rather need a hip replacement than worry I might need a lobotomy instead. (Have you read how many times I've hit my head in the last few years?! Oy.)

4. C.J. needs a vacation: Preach it, sister.

5. C.J. needs numbers: Hm. 12. 3894. 9495793857892020. There you go. Glad to help.

6. C.J. needs to go: Perhaps this C.J. should hook up with C.J. #1.

7. C.J. needs to have a Dairy Queen: A whole Dairy Queen? Really? Cause I'd settle for just a blizzard.

8. C.J. needs to offer a sacrifice: Fine. You can have my flip flops. Yes, I own a pair, but they were a GIFT. Also, you can have my hubby's ratty gray shorts which he refuses to throw away.

9. C.J. needs to shoot more: I totally agree. Who wants to give me a gun for Christmas?

10. C.J. needs help with algebra: Isn't that the truth. Actually (and I believe my high school math teacher will back me up on this) I'm beyond help. Waaaaay beyond help.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Friday Flashback

Today's Friday Flashback post comes from July 2007. The month I discovered the invention of the Hind Motion Sensor Tanktop. Enjoy.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Wash, Rinse ... No, really. Rinse.



1. We went to a sneak peek of the new Christmas Carol with Jim Carrey on Monday night.

2. It was WOW amazing.

3. Not suitable for younger kids because thankfully the producers stuck to the dark, chilling aspects of the story and there are some freaky cool visuals.

4. I might be going to a sneak peek for New Moon in two weeks.

5. Some of you hate me right now.

6. Others of you are laughing your fool heads off at me.

7. I'm doing it for Myra.

8. Myra and I don't see eye to eye on music, clothing, tv shows, most movies, and how to drive on a freeway, but we love each other so that makes our friendship work.

9. Plus, we're both sort of aliens on this planet.

10. V!

11. Saw it. Loved it.

12. Anna, the V spokesperson, is a spitting image of my agent Holly.

13. Minus the eeeevvvviiiiillll, of course.

14. Although, something tells me Holly could flip a switch if she were so inclined.

15. One last thing:

16. When one is tired, and one decides to take care of basic personal hygiene needs, one should strive to remember to rinse off before one exits one's shower, towels dry, and then wonders what in the world is wrong with one's hair/face/body/towel.

17. This public service announcement has been brought to you by the words "really?" and "insane" and by the number "to the 92384782nd power."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I Beg Your Pardon?

Transcript of a conversation I had with a Sweet Old Lady today at work. For this to make sense, you need to know when I get tired, my voice gets hoarse at odd moments. Sort of like a teenage boy going through the Change but without the squeaks. Today, I was tired:

Me: *sets plate of food in front of SOL* Here's your chicken pot pie. Do you need anything else right now?

Sweet Old Lady: Oh, thank you. Actually, I want to ask you a question.

Me: Sure.

Sweet Old Lady: How many times do you get mistaken for a man?

Me: *blinks for a second in silence* Um ... I don't understand.

Not So Sweet Old Lady: A man, dear. Someone of the masculine persuasion.

Me: I know what a man is.

Crossing A Line Old Lady: So? How many times?

Me: Never. *wants to ask how many times old lady gets mistaken for a jackass but really good insults are wasted on the mostly deaf*

Dancing A Jig On My Last Nerve Old Lady: Never? Oh, I can't believe that.

Me: *speaks through gritted teeth* Really? Why is that? I look like a man to you?

About To Meet Her Maker Old Lady: Of course not, dear. A man has much stronger shoulders.

Me: How comforting.

As Good As Dead Old Lady: But, you have a very masculine name, dear. I'm sure people mistake you for a man all the time.

Me: *tries to understand the logic* So ... you think C.J. is masculine?

Devil's Handmaiden Old Lady: Well, dear. If you want to be feminine, you must not use initials.

Me: So the fact that I don't LOOK like a man or SOUND like a man wouldn't clear up the confusion?

The Witch: Oh, well, dear. I wouldn't say you don't sound like a man.

Me: You caught me. I'm C.J. Monday-Thursday but on the weekends I'm known simply as Fred.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I Can Yell, I Can Paddle, But I Can't Do Math



10 Facts About Me As A Teenager:

1. I used to drive a black and white striped '79 Dodge Caravan to school. Orange interior. Funky transmission--had to drive with one foot on the gas at all times. If I ever got the combination of gas & brake wrong, the van would backfire--something subtle...along the lines of a sonic boom. Twice. It was the sort of vehicle that made semi truck drivers worry I might slam into them and send them flying. My friends and I called it the Land Barge and joked the military would swoop in one day and reclaim it as their secret weapon in a ground war.

It's gone now. I'm guessing Homeland Security has it as a sort of mobile bunker for the President in case things go south.

2. I was a cheerleader. For two years. By accident. No, really. I went to a small private school and was one of the only girls in junior high who didn't spend her lunch hour practicing cheers. When tryouts for the high school squad came around, none of those girls tried out. There weren't enough girls trying out period. One of my friends said she was going out for it and asked me to come with her. I did. Next thing I knew, I was on the squad.

I totally sucked at dancing or coordination of any kind but I could perform every jump better than anyone and (Hang on to your teeth, folks, 'cause this is a shocker.) I excelled at yelling.

Weird, I know.

3. I entered high school one year ahead in math. This was because I was really, really good at every other subject (I know, you hate me.) and it was inconceivable to the teachers that I wouldn't be just as good at math. Took me two years to prove them horribly, spectacularly, irrevocably wrong.

I think my algebra teacher still has the eye twitch he gained from trying to teach me concepts that simply refuse to take root in my brain.

Turns out all that bunk about needing advanced math later on in life only applies to situations where I have to help my kids with their own homework. It's like a vicious math cycle.

4. I once slammed a ping pong paddle into my gym teacher's family jewels. By accident. It didn't endear me to him.

5. I was never popular. I wasn't shunned, but I was never "cool." Or, if I was, I managed to be totally oblivious to it.

Since I highly doubt the cool kids actually had it any better, I don't mind.

6. I never tried drugs or alcohol. Given my later experience with Everclear laced cake (Hello, floor!) and Tylenol Cold (Wow! How many heads do I have?!), I think this was a wise decision on my part.

7. I was a "Pick-a-Little" lady in our school's production of Music Man. I was also prisoner number #6 in our production of "Hiding Place."

8. I played clarinet in our marching band. We took awards all over our district. I once played in the state honor band as well.

9. I missed being salutatorian by 5 tenths of a grade point. The class that cost me that honor was P.E. For reasons why I didn't get an A in P.E., see #4.

10. I once stuffed my bra with socks to make myself look more curvaceous before heading to the grocery store with a friend. (Because if you want to look curvaceous, the grocery store is the place to do it!) I didn't realize until I returned home that the socks had shifted during my drive and therefore my curves looked like gravity and a good strong wind had played tag with my boobs.

Turns out that was just a harbringer of things to come.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Don't Look Now, But She's Blogging Again!



1. The last two weeks were a blur.

2. I packed a new, full-time work schedule, running a two-week online query workshop, dealing with the flu (for everyone but the Scientist), and writing another 5k on Lilli's story into those two weeks.

3. Side note: Lilli's Story is now tentatively titled Casting Stones.

4. One thing I did not successfully fit into that two week framework was blogging.

5. Castigate me, attack me with slander and calumny, and smite me with a wet noodle.

6. Feel better?

7. Today I've been interviewed at MeanKitty! Stop by and say hello.

8. Starshine walked into his karate class the other day, looked at the assembled peeps, and yelled, "Greetings, Conrads!"

9. He also asked a few in-depth questions regarding the day of his birth (not at the karate class. In the car on the way home.) including such gems as "Did it hurt?" "Why?" And "Wouldn't it have been easier to just have me cut out of you?"

10. He then followed up that discussion with the following observation: "Well, it's good you aren't a bat!"

11. Me: "Why?"

12. Starshine: "Because then you'd have to give birth while hanging upside down so gravity really wouldn't be your friend."

13. That's an interesting silver lining.

14. I'm now offering manuscript critiques ($30 for 25 pages or $1.20/page for a whole manuscript) and have two clients so far.

15. The fact that both of these clients also took my query workshop and so know the kind of in-your-face honesty I provide either speaks well of their thick skin (Though I'm not unkind, I must stress.) or their determination to bring their writing up to the next level.

16. Speaking of writing, here are a few things I've researched for Casting Stones:

*Audi R8

*How fast a flock of chickens can run. Oh, yes. It's been clocked.

*The Smoky Mountains

*Leprechauns

*Tattoos

*Borderline Personality Disorder

*Lawn Gnomes

*Remington shotguns

You know you want to see how all of that comes together. ;)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Deep Thoughts -- Or Something Sort Of Like It

Here are a few gems gleaned from conversations recently with my boys:

Scientist: You know, if you go to hell, I bet it isn't the heat that gets you. It's the humidity.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Starshine: Hey cool! A toothpick! Now I'm all set if I get arrested.

Me: Why?

Starshine: Because I can pick the lock on my handcuffs with a toothpick and then use it as a weapon!

Me: I'm sure every cop in this county is disturbed to hear that.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Starshine: I'm really glad you haven't been guillotined yet.

Me: That makes two of us.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Blog Topic, Blog Topic, Where Art Thou?

My hubby informed me I needed to blog again. He's absolutely right. The only problem is, between churning out Lilli's book, working, and running my online query workshop (Plus my weekly obligatory attempt to take over the world ... oh, it's going to happen. Brace yourselves, peeps.), I've been too busy to think of blog topics.

And, for once, my spawn haven't wreaked mayhem and destruction upon middle Tennessee so I can't even fall back on that for inspiration.

Plus, THANK YOU GOD, no one has recently seen fit to spit food into my gaping mouth.

So, you see the dilemma. I need to blog but I have nothing to say. I mean, I'm sure I've got plenty to say but rather than nonsensical ramblings, I'd like to present myself in a somewhat coherent fashion. Ergo, I need a topic.

Although, I've done pretty well blogging about not having a topic, yes?

Here's where you come in. Various peeps on Twitter jumped into the fray and tossed ideas my way. Some have merit. Some ... well, you'll see. I thought I'd put every suggestion (both from Twitter and culled from the somewhat scary depths of my own stream of consciousness) into a list for you, my faithful blog readers, to vote on those you'd like to see turned into a post. You can vote for as many options as you like and can even add a topic to the list via the comments section if you feel tremendously inspired.

Without further ado, I give you:

The List Of Potentially Entertaining And Moderately Enlightening Blog Ideas (TLOPEAMEBI for short):

1. Darth Vader vs. Lord Voldemort: Who wins?

2. So You Think You Can Dance: A review from someone who just doesn't get it.

3. The time in junior high when I caused an irritating boy to become mysteriously tangled up in his folding chair seconds before I sent his skinny patoot flying across the floor.

4. Various uses for the bedazzler: It's not just arts and crafts!

5. Did Tom Cruise really need to be in a hospital gown for his eye exam in Days of Thunder? An esoteric discussion on the merits of presenting aesthetically pleasing gratuitous samples of man candy just because we can.

6. Liverwurst: Meat by product? Or nuclear waste in a tube, guaranteed to cleanse your colon for you whether you like it or not?

7. The top ten strangest items lying around my office. Trust me ... there are some WEIRD things in there. And I'm not just referring to myself.

8. Get Me Started 2009: Commenters give me a first sentence and I turn some of them into a piece of creative writing on the blog.

9. Why I would make an excellent reality tv star.

10. Q & A session: leave me a question in the comment trail and I'll answer them all in a separate blog post. Naturally, you may ask me about anything except the details of my not-so-secret machinations to take over the world.

Get voting!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Grossest Thing Ever

Today at work the grossest thing ever happened to me.

I do not exaggerate.

I mean I do, but not this time.

The. Grossest. Thing. Ever.

I was leaning close to an elderly man, trying to hear what he was saying to me, when he accidentally spit food into my mouth.

He spit food into my mouth.

Yes, dear reader, I gagged out loud right there in front of him.

Also, I retched, though thankfully without results.

I then went back into the kitchen area where I proceeded to gag and retch every time I thought about it. One of my co-workers is pregnant, and just the sound of me gagging had her gagging too. Then, my manager started up and it was like a chain of dominoes.

Gagging dominoes.

I asked for peroxide, mouth wash, or at the very least, hard core bleach with which to rinse out my mouth. In the absence of those items, I settled for gargling with Coke. I've heard it eats oil and rust off a car engine. Surely it killed whatever old man germs were lingering in my mouth.

And yes, dear reader, I've been gagging--miserably and with volume--the entire time I typed this post.

Off to find some peroxide.

*gags*

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

All In A Day's Work

Me: Hi! Welcome to Cracker Barrel. Can I start you off with some sweet tea?

Woman: I'd like coffee. Starbucks, please.

Me: *laughs for a second before realizing woman is serious* Um. We don't have Starbuck's coffee.

Woman: But, it's my favorite!

Me: Yes. But you're in Cracker Barrel. We have Royal Cup coffee.

Woman: But I don't want Royal Cup. I want Starbucks.

Me: I realize that. But you're in CRACKER BARREL.

Woman: Well, you really should consider getting some Starbucks coffee in here. Everybody loves it.

Me: Do I really need to explain the concept of franchising to you?

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Professional Critique For Hire

I'm now offering a professional critique of your first twenty-five pages! If you want the kind of feedback that will help you hone your plot, strengthen your sensory detail, flesh out your characters, edit your grammar, and streamline your pacing, this is the critique for you. Plus, I help you figure out if you've started in the right place. :)

Go here and check out the sidebar for the details. If you purchase a critique, you'll get an email from me with instructions for sending your twenty-five pages to me.

Winner of the Rewrite! Twilight Contest!

Entry #5 by Nikki is the winner! Nikki, you've won a free first chapter critique from yours truly. Please contact me via cjredwine01 (at) yahoo (dot) com for further instructions.

The top five entries qualifying for the 50 page critique drawing are:

#5 by Nikki

#7 by Joanne Huspek

#1 by Jennifer Parker

#8 by Keri Stevens

#9 by Heather Zundel

Wild Card entry picked for 50 page critique drawing: #6 by Sue Ann Mason

Tune in later this month for another contest and more chances to win a free critique!

Friday, October 2, 2009

My Life Is A Sitcom

Really. It is.

Case in point? Yesterday afternoon.

Yesterday was a big day for me. I was meeting my fabulous agent Holly Root at a downtown bookstore in the evening. Now, I've already signed on the dotted line, she has full access to this blog, and she's seen my Twitter feed. If she was going to go running in the opposite direction, she's had ample opportunity.

Still. One wants to arrive at the first meeting with one's agent with a basic resemblance to a mostly-normal, fully-functioning humanoid.

I certainly had every intention of A) Not wearing my yoga pants with the gigantic hole in the nether regions and B) Staying away from substances that cause me to be more of a lunatic than usual (caffeine, alcohol, unlimited access to Hot Tamales).

Instead, I woke up with my left eye burning. Burning. Every time I blinked. Every time I didn't blink. Burning.

Not fun.

Also, not conducive to driving. Working. Walking with any sort of depth perception. Given my already shaky hand-eye coordination record, every step I took with my burning, refuses-to-work-right left eye was an act of unmitigated hubris for which I fully expected the universe to slap me into the nearest tree.

Halfway through the day, after countless eye-checks using mirrors, lights, and other people, I realized I couldn't handle it on my own. I would have to *gasp* go to my eye doctor.

I don't like going to my eye doctor. Not that he isn't a very nice man. He is. But he's an eye doctor. He thinks terms like corneal ulcer and retinal detachment are exciting conversational options. I get nauseous at the sound of someone rubbing their eye.

I can deal with puke, blood, and a host of other bodily functions but eyes totally gross me out. Why? Who knows? Remember, I'm the woman who's deathly afraid of moths. Do you really expect my other phobias to make sense?

After performing the sadistic "Hey! Here's a great idea! You sit very still while I shoot air into your open eyeball!" routine, he had me sit in a chair and try to read a tiny little chart of letters positioned approximately five miles away.

This is another sadistic routine. There's no way you can read the bottom line without the help of NASA's Hubble Space telescope. And why would you want to? It doesn't say anything interesting.

After failing to read the bottom line with my air-puffed eyeballs, the doctor had me rest my chin on a metal platform he'd recently pulled out of a freezer and look straight ahead while he scanned my eye with a magnifier.

He found nothing, and that's when the real fun began.

Because he needed a better look at my eye, he announced he would be A) dyeing my eye and B) rolling up my eyelid with a stick.

I informed him that I would not be showing up to my first ever meeting with my literary agent sporting an eye in shades God never intended.

Also, I informed him that the last time an eye doctor rolled my eyelid up with a stick, I nearly vomited on his shoes and if he was wise, he'd cover himself with some plastic.

He laughed, but grabbed the trashcan just in case.

Moments later, he'd dyed my eye a heinous shade of yellow. Not sunshine yellow. Not lemon yellow. Radioactive urine yellow.

And then he rolled my eyelid up with a stick.

Yes, dear reader, I gagged. Out loud.

He made several oohs and ahhs and then announced he'd found some sort of lesion on my eye. It had an official name but it was so nasty sounding, I promptly repressed my knowledge of it as soon as it left his mouth.

He then said he wanted to roll up my other eyelid for comparison. Um ... hello? Gagging? Retching? Really?

He was most insistent. He grabbed my eyelid, wrapped it around his little stick of torture, and it snapped back into place.

He thought that was sort of funny. I threatened to kick him in the shins.

He managed to roll it up correctly the next time *cue gagging* and then rhapsodized on and on about this, that, and the "Do I seriously care?!" for a few seconds until my feet starting swinging in the general direction of his legs.

Seemingly unaware that a girl who nearly vomits when her eye is examined might not be interested in a host of visual aids detailing the nasty lesion on her eye, he began discussing my condition with what I can only term indecent enthusiasm. He even googled it to show me enlarged images.

I refused to look.

Seeing that I was shockingly uninterested in revisiting the contents of my stomach, he told me the lesion would heal in 48-72 hours and I should put tears in my eyes (from a bottle, not from banging my finger with a hammer) every two hours. And then said I was free to go.

Wait, what? I'm meeting with literary agent in three hours. I have an eyeball that looks like radioactive urine. I. Don't. Think. So.

Of course, the only way to get rid of my radioactive eye was to flush it. I responded to this delightful procedure in much the same way as the eyelid rolling only with considerable more dialogue. None of which, I'm afraid, is fit to print.

In the end, I had two normal looking eyeballs again. And my eye doctor got his afternoon torture fix.

I wonder if I can just count that as my yearly exam and be done with it?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Open Letter To Whoopi Goldberg

Dear Whoopi,

Yesterday, in your position as co-host of The View you quantified Roman Polanski's crime as "not rape-rape."

I'll be honest. I don't care if Polanski's legal team was able to plead his charge down from rape to sex with a minor. A 43 year old man giving drugs and liquor to a 13 year old girl and having sex with her is RAPE, regardless of any plea bargains. I defy you to read the actual transcripts of the trial and call it anything less. In fact, I defy you to read those transcripts and not feel sick at the severity of his crime.

For you to call it "not rape-rape" implies there are degrees to the act of forcing another to have sex. That's like saying "Well, it wasn't murder-murder" when someone chooses to take the life of another. The end result is still one person dead by another person's hand. The same concept applies to rape. The end result is one person violated by another.

Setting aside the unbelievable response of the French ministry (Calling the arrest of a child abuser a travesty of justice? Go get yourself some priorities.), the sad but unsurprising Hollywood petition for Polanski's release being circulated by Woody Allen (Is anyone shocked Allen refuses to see anything wrong with Polanski's behavior?), and the technicalities of a Supreme Court judge considering overturning the lawyer's plan to count a mere 45 days of being held for psychiatric evaluation as consequence enough for violating a child, the real issue I have here is your coining a new term "rape-rape."

How many years have women fought to have rape seen as the heinous crime it is? It used to be rape only counted if you were a woman with a spotless life and enough money or influence to make the charges stick. It used to be children accusing adults of rape weren't believed or protected. It used to be date rape wasn't something the law took seriously. It used to be true that a woman who'd been raped was then judged on her choice of outfit, her alcohol consumption, her lifestyle, or what side of the tracks she came from in case the lawyers could spin it to say, in effect, "she asked for it."

Sometimes all of the above are still true but we've fought to change that. To stand up for ourselves. To protect our children. To say that if anyone, anyone, chooses to force themselves upon another, they deserve the full consequences of the law.

There is no such thing as "rape-rape" and not rape. There is only a predator forcing himself upon his prey. You shame the women of this country by suggesting anything different. How many teenage girls saw you call Polanski's despicable act "not rape-rape" and decided to keep quiet about their own situation because they might not be taken seriously? How many girls heard your words and formed opinions about what boundaries they could and could not draw for themselves with men?

Your words, indeed, your attitude are unconscionable. You have a daughter. I seriously doubt if a 43 year old man got her high and drunk and had sex with her you'd be parsing it out to see if it was really "rape-rape." I bet you'd hunt him down with every intention of seeking justice for your daughter.

Why would you deny it for someone else? Because the predator happens to be a talented, respected Hollywood director? I can't imagine any other reason. If the exact same situation happened only the perpetrator was Joe the Garbage Man, you'd be calling for his head on a platter. Wouldn't you? Or are you so out of touch with reality that you really think there is ever a situation where a middle-aged man should be allowed to have sex with a teenager?

As for your benevolent understanding of Polanski's decision to flee before his sentencing because the Supreme Court judge (who'd decided the lawyers' finagling to commute his sentence to the paltry 45 days served under psychiatric evaluation didn't constitute justice and was considering overturning the lower court's decision) might give him "100 years," I ask you this: Would 45 days be enough justice for your daughter?

In case you're searching for an answer, I'll give it to you: NO.

Polanski, armed with his expensive legal team, needed to face the music. If he was unhappy with the judge throwing out his lawyers' arrangement, he could file for a mistrial or an appeal. He could have worked within the legal system. He chose not to. He fled justice and I accord him no sympathy for that.

I am deeply disappointed that another woman could ever excuse his behavior or fail to see the seriousness of rape. Every rape. Every time. No matter what. With only 6% of rapists ever serving jail time for their crime, our country has a long way to go in stepping up to the plate to protect its citizens. Your words put weight on the wrong side of the scale.

Shame on you, Whoopi. Turn in your estrogen card. You don't deserve to carry it anymore.

Sincerely,

C.J. Redwine

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Rewrite! Twilight Contest Entries

The qualifying contest entries are each assigned a number and listed below. One of these entrants will win a critique of her first chapter. The top five will go into a drawing for a free 50 page critique. Please vote for up to three of your favorite entries in the comment trail.

ENTRY #1

My mother drove me to the airport with the windows rolled down. The newly chill air kissed my cheek.

“Are you excited?” she asked the obvious mom question.

I gave her my most heinous “whatever” look, and then turned away from her. I hid the smile that crept over my lips. If she knew how excited I really was it might blow her mind. Me, who hasn’t shown interest in anything for the better part of three years. Me, who took a chance and for once was rewarded. Me, who is leaving home for the first time, traveling across the country, starting a new life. I shivered.

Mom sighed and flipped her Dorothy Hamill ‘do, causing it to feather slightly when it landed.

“I hope you have a better attitude when you meet your roommates.”

I tried my sweetest voice, “Oh, mom, I will.”

This time she did the eye rolling. “Come on, Care, we only have a little while before you’re gone for a whole semester. Do you think you can drop the attitude?”

“It’s not an attitude, it’s a lifestyle.” I winked.

She started in on watching my manners, somehow jumped to laundry and circled back around to “do unto others”. I half listened. I mean, I will have THREE WHOLE MONTHS of freedom; I owe her a little consideration.

The truth is, I’d done all the damage I could do in the junky public school I’d attended for the past two years. I started searching for an alternative at the beginning of the year, sent out piles and piles of applications, essays, all that crap that private schools want. Luckily, when I decided I wanted to jump I didn’t have to worry about grades. They were there, all lined up on my transcript. A after A after A.

So I’m off to Dallas to the most prestigious girls’ school in Texas, and a hell of a lot of other places. Yes, I said girls’ school. But it’s located in the center of Dallas, not exactly cut off from the world. There will be boys. Lots and lots of boys. I can feel it.

“…for goodness sakes remember why you’re there. This isn’t public school where your little schemes will be forgiven because of your grades. Your state test score isn’t going to bring down their average,” she squinted and looked off to some unknown place, “I don’t think they even take state tests there.” She looked over at me and patted my knee, “ I hate to say it Cara, but you’ll be one of many there. Nothing special.”

Gee thanks ma.

Schemes? I don’t do schemes. I prefer to think of them as psychological art. It takes a lot of thought and preparation and yes, even sweat to make people line up and do your bidding without them knowing.

“Are you listening to me?”

“Of course mom, I’ll be good. I promise.” At least until I get bored.


ENTRY #2

Mai mommeh driveded me 2 da arport wit da windows rolled down. Sum goth keeds pointd nd laughd. Nd then a bee stung me an I dyed of anaphlactic shck.

Now, all ur prizes are beelong to ME!


ENTRY #3

My mother drove me to the airport with the windows rolled down. As my mother continued to make the radio louder, I sighed and leaned back in my seat ignoring her.

I dragged my hands down my face with disbelief. She was actually making me go through with this. I had been joking when I had said it sounded like fun. But who knew she would take me seriously.

She smiled as she turned down her tunes a bit. “Isn’t this just going to be great? Just the experience you need to make some new friends.”

As she said that all I could sadly think was one simple fact. I had no friends. I didn’t want to do this. No matter how good it was for me.

“Oh come on. Don’t be like that. This camp is a chance for you to finally meet some people going through the same thing as you.”

Yes continue mother as I sit here dying of private humiliation. Well more public then private. We were still only in a residential area. And she was announcing to the world I was going to camp. Fat camp. My mother isn’t really the best person to tell your secrets to. Seeing as she is a chatter box.

She smiled as she continued to talk, and I continued to ignore.

I chanted silently to myself that I will be thin and beautiful after this. I will finally get a boyfriend. I continued this all the way to the airport.

I just wish California could be farther away.

--

Standing outside waiting for a cab in San Jose isn’t the easiest thing to do. Especially when even there all the beautiful tan blondes seem to get the first ticket to everything. Including the cab ride.

All I could think was, ‘I would have been better off walking to the horrid place that shall not be named.’ But heck Im going to fat camp. I don’t have that type of energy or motivation yet.

I sighed sitting on my suitcase. My eyes widened as I fell to the pavement after my suitcase had buckled under my weight.

I could hear some kid laughing. But I was used to it. Used to all of it. I groaned getting up and looked at my suitcase. I broke my suitcase. By sitting on it. Maybe fat camp was a good idea.

Kicking my stupid suitcase I waved trying to get a cab. Another failure.

I groaned again wanting to just fall to the floor with my face buried into my hands.

A cab stopped but no one got in. It was right in front of me. I looked at it quizzically then looked to see if there were any blondes nearby. None.

But there was a boy. All he did was smile at me, “All yours if you want it.”

I looked at him. He had to be joking. But he wasn’t. I smirked then got into the cab.

All I could simply think was, ‘Great mock the fat kid by getting her a cab.’ I had no idea he was being nice.



ENTRY #4

My mother drove me to the airport with the windows rolled down. She hates the way the wind tears at her hair. But she didn’t say anything because I was the one who rolled them down. Inside her head she was probably having a little celebration.

Fi rolled the windows down! Fi made a conscious decision to interact with her environment!

That’s the problem when your mother is a child therapist. She reads into everything and still doesn’t understand. She glanced over at me several times right after I hit the window button. I could see the hope in her grey eyes. She can hide it from her patients, but I get a front row seat for all her emotions. Especially the ones pertaining to me. I’m not really sorry about her distress and subsequent hope. Just that I can’t abate them both.

Sometimes, in my head, I stand and look back across that depthless chasm, back across to the life that was. It’s only just a little wider than the distance I could leap. I know even if I got a running start it would widen at the last moment before my foot hit the other side and I would fall, devoured by the in-between. There’s no bridge that can span that chasm. And if there was a bridge, I wouldn’t cross it anyhow. But I can’t say that to my mother. She wouldn’t understand. Like the windows. She thinks I wanted them down because I wouldn’t feel so trapped with the wind swirling all around me. But I rolled them down because it would make her happy since I did it.

“Oh Fi,” She blurted after the silence had stretched as far as she could bear. “This is going to be good for you.” Her fingers tapped the steering wheel.

She loved how her engagement ring spun on her finger when she wiggled it.

“And you don’t have to leave town. Or drive, if you don’t want to. You’re father will arrange everything. Your friends can keep in touch by email, like me. He’s gotten high-speed internet. He’d better have gotten it. He said he would.”

This is my mother’s code way of saying, ‘You won’t wander into the woods, will you? You won’t drive if you don’t have to, will you? Friends will talk to you again. You just have to make the first attempt at reconnecting.’

I let her talk. It made her feel better and I couldn’t, so why bother stopping her?

It’s not that I almost died that disturbed her so much. It’s that it didn’t bother me. It’s that I enjoyed those few moments touching something else no one could. She feared - deep down knew - that I still clung to that feeling. I hadn’t looked death in the face. I’d kissed it full on the mouth. The world had seemed small and petty since then and I wanted no part of it. But mother kept trying.



ENTRY #5

My mother drove me to the airport with the windows rolled down. And the top down. In the pouring rain.

“It will be cleansing,” she said as we pulled away from the cemetery. I wanted to think it was a way for her to hide any potential tears that might, just might, seep out of her eyes. Not that I’d ever actually seen her cry, even when my brother tried to kill himself with a razor blade and she found him in the bathroom.

But I wanted to see her shed a tear now. I wanted to know that she had some feelings left in that black shriveled piece of coal she called a heart.

I pulled the sopping curls off of my face, trying to capture the stray hairs that whipped sideways in the wind. Gathering them at the back of my neck, I twisted the hair into a bun and secured it with the elastic band around my wrist. My black skirt was collecting a pool of water and I groaned with the knowledge that I’d be cold and damp, sitting in an airplane for the next three hours. Perhaps I’d invest in a Seattle t-shirt and shorts in the airport souvenir shop.

“Are you okay?” my mother yelled.

I ignored her. Of course I wasn’t okay. My father had died the week before and she didn’t call me until twenty-four hours later. Twenty-four hours. Who does that? I hadn’t even known that he was admitted to the hospital in the first place. Her excuse? “It was just a heart attack. The doctors said he’d be fine.”

But she didn’t have an excuse for not calling me after he went into cardiac arrest on the operating table. That was just her way of doing things - keeping secrets and manipulating events to suit her needs.

I dashed off the drops gathering on my eyelashes, glad I had foregone even the waterproof mascara that morning.

“Are you too cold? I can turn up the heat?” She was good at these insignificant gestures; the ones that made her look like a doting mother.

“I’m fine.” I muttered. It was spring and the weather had warmed up quickly. The rain was a cool relief against the heavy oppressive heat that hovered around us during the funeral.

The rain shifted, coming in at more of an angle. I kicked at my purse with my toes, nudging it further under cover of the dashboard. My single expensive accessory, and she was determined to ruin it with her idiotic notion of driving with the top down.

But it wasn’t really the handbag that bothered me. There was something much more important inside. An item that symbolized the one thing she personally couldn’t destroy, or ruin, or exploit, or manipulate. My secret. The secret that got me through the last six days with my sanity in tact.

It was my ultrasound picture. I was pregnant and she didn’t know, wouldn’t know. Ever.



ENTRY #6

My mother drove me to the airport with the windows rolled down and I hated every minute of it. The wind whipped my perfectly straightened hair into patterns resembling a tornado after-effect.

What did mom care with her short cut? It’s not like anyone would be looking at her at the airport. Me, on the other hand, I had to meet my dad at the other end. A man I’d only seen a handful of times in my sixteen years. I wanted to impress him with my new-found maturity and sense of style. But now my hair would just resemble a tumbleweed in a bad western movie.

“Are you nervous about seeing your father?” Mom’s voice rose above the traffic noises on the freeway.

Now she decided to play the concerned parent?

“A little.” If you gave them a hint of what they wanted to hear, they usually left you alone.

She threw me a worried glance. “We don’t have to do this, you know. You could still come with Joe and me to Florida.”

“Don’t sweat it, mom. I’ll be fine. Besides, dad’s looking forward to this. I don’t want to disappoint him.”

I had a vague flashback of my dad cooking pancakes for me in his tiny kitchen. Must have been eight years ago or so. He seemed so lonely, even then to my young eyes, and I always felt the need to protect him. Take care of him. Now I’d have my chance.

“Well, you know you can call me anytime, if you’re not happy, and we’ll send you a plane ticket.”

I smiled, knowing she meant well deep down. “I know, mom. I’ll be fine. I’m looking forward to meeting some new friends in Forks.” Total lie, but mom didn’t care. It’s what she needed to hear.

“You’ll make lots of friends. I just know it.” She grinned at me and winked. “Maybe even a boyfriend.”

I groaned. “Mom. You know I don’t care about that.”

“Maybe that nice Jason boy, or was it Jacob. He always seemed polite.”

“Whatever.”

I had a flashback of a handsome, native boy with long flowing black hair and beautiful black eyes, fringed with crazy lashes that most girls I know would kill for.

At last mom pushed the button to roll up the windows. I tried to pat my hair into some semblance of normalcy, but, just like my life, my hair had a mind of its own.

Untameable.

As we took the turn on for the airport, a strange flutter in my stomach told me my life was about to take an irrevocable twist. A turn that would change me forever. Chills ran down my back and goose bumps rose on both arms.

“Time to face your destiny,” I mumbled under my breath.

Mom parked the car in the nearest spot to the door. “Come on, Bella honey. It’s almost twilight. You know that’s the bewitching hour.”

Mom and her superstitions. I sighed and jumped out of the car, grabbing my bag from the back seat. What could possibly be bewitching in the Hicksville, USA?

I guess I was about to find out...



ENTRY #7

My mother drove me to the airport with the windows rolled down.

Two degrees, whiteout conditions and a chill stiff enough to freeze dry skin in nanoseconds, but she insisted. More sensible living things were burrowed in safety, but not us. Snowflakes swirled around us, barely able to settle and mound into drifts. The speedometer and stereo face were layered by a delicate lace of tiny flakes and frost was etched in spidery fingers on the inside of the windshield.

I shivered and blew into my fingers, trying to encourage blood flow to return. I knew better than to roll the windows up. It was easier to suffer bitter cold than it was to breathe in the unmistakable smell emanating from the back seat.

He had been rolled up for months, neatly burritoed within the worn threads of his prized antique Navaho rug, along with the 45, a bloody kitchen carver, his ID and credit cards. It was late September when the deed was done. She and I managed to wrestle him to the backseat. I parked the car in the far reaches of the back lot and we spent the next three months ignoring the rusting Fiesta and its fermenting contents.

I turned toward the mound in the backseat. My initial thought was 'He would die if he saw that blood stain,' then I caught myself. The idea was so preposterous, I almost laughed out loud. The passage of time did little to lessen the effects of decay. Granted, he was smaller now, his flesh no doubt sunken and compacted, but he still stunk.

What was worse was the odor had permeated the velour upholstery, the padded dash and the nubby carpeting. I sniffed at my parka and caught a whiff of hair as it blew past my nose. A thin layer of decay covered everything. How could anyone ignore it?

My mother and I shared an uneasy silence as she plunged on, her mind on one goal. The airport. At first, she navigated the freeway slowly, following the furrows left in deep snow. She would not acknowledge me. She couldn’t. I was unwelcome cargo, a colossal complication, another tedious chore to tend to so she could at last wipe her hands clean of her life. She needed to complete the task and close the circle.

I could never forget this. Her breath, thick and heavy, as it filled the car in a rush of warm steam. Her knuckles white and bony as she clutched the icy steering wheel. The serious determination in her cool, blue eyes. My brain took notice and imprinted it on my nerve endings, my cortex and medulla. I could hear synapses ringing in my ears from the images of this wondrous horror.

She glanced at the clock and sped up. I felt the car slide toward what I assumed was the shoulder and the ditch beyond. I held my breath and grabbed the door handle. Did she want all three of us to die?



ENTRY #8

My mother drove me to the airport with the windows rolled down. It did little to dissipate the smell of sulfur, but I've grown to like my own scent—especially now that I've found the perfect blend of amber, patchouli and rosewood to transform it into something, well, sexy. I reached back to scratch my right horn, a small mahogany ram's curl, grown darker with the blooming velvet. It bothered me all the time now, keeping me in a low-level state of arousal and frustration, but of course, I didn't tell Mom that.

"Cover it, Angie," she hissed at me between clenched teeth, a breath of smoke puffing through her lips. She was not best pleased about this trip or its timing, but this was the first interest my father had ever shown in me, so she agreed to it.

"It's covered."

"You got enough bump-ups for your hair?"

"I'll have the biggest hair in Los Angeles. If things go sour, I'll get myself a job as a drag queen."

I was only half joking. At 19, I'm six-feet seven, and for all I know I might still be growing. Angel-demon hybrids are exceedingly rare, so until I meet another, my life is just one joyful surprise after another.

I hate being boxed in a car. It makes my wings twitch, and even the shoulder pads can't hide the motion. I'd been dressing like a Boogie-Woogie Bugle Girl for a couple of years now, so it was no wonder people thought I was a man. When I was a child, the other kids were rather cruel. Now they avoided me. I suspect my eyes flash red when I get pissed, just like Mom's do.

"Are all angels as big as my father?" I blurted, then wished I'd held her tongue. Mom puffed out another smoky breath then sucked the swirling smoke back in. She nodded once and turned on the signal to exit into the terminal lane.

"Stay away from the others, Angie. They are nothing but trouble." she swallowed, and to my alarm, a blood tear welled up in her dark eye, "They are worse than Satan. At least you know where you stand with the Prince of Lies."

"I'm sure Father won't let any harm come to me."

She slammed on the parking brake and turned to me,
"You don't know that. You know nothing about him. You're not his first daughter and you won't be his last. Of course the others," she waved her red claws dismissively, "Half-human. Bunch of milquetoast music majors. 'Daphne's at Julliard!'" she mimicked, "Beatrice just joined the New York Philharmonic."

"I can't carry a tune in a bucket."

"No, Angela Gabriella, you can't. But you can fly," her smile was feral. "And if one of those prissy bitches gives you trouble, you can eat her."

Since I'm a subprimatarian, it was our running joke. I laughed for her as I climbed out of the car.

"Sure, Mom. I'll do that."



ENTRY #9

My mother drove me to the airport with the windows rolled down. The radio blared "Sweet Home Alabama" so that neither of us had to say a word. I kept my arms crossed over my chest like a shield while I stared at the nothingness that was Nebraska.

"Don't put your feet on the dash please," she said in her tone that grated just the right way, but I slumped my sneakers off nonetheless.

"Honey, it's only ten more miles to the airport, are you sure-"

"Yes mom, I'm sure. It's settled."

"I was going to ask if you wanted a bite to eat, but if you want to to talk-"

"I don't." I tried to turn the radio up, but she just turned it right back down. Typical. For the forty-seventh time I wished I had a car of my own so I didn't have to endure this together. What can I say? I like numbers. I would have paid for a taxi myself, except they don't come out in the middle of nowhere.

Her voice cut through the quiet.

“Why?”

"Fulbright," I said, snapping around, "does that word mean anything?"

"Of course it does. But to Germany?"

"I want to go to Germany," I said, hoping that would settle it, at least until the airport. She glanced at me then focused on the road again. I didn't see the point. There was no one there.

"You could use your bioengineering here. You would make a brilliant doctor."

"No mom. No."

"Why not?"

"Because I want to have a life, a real life. Not this. I want to do something, be somebody. I can't do that here." The song ended and went to commercial.

"I just want you to be happy," she said and a pebble of guilt plopped in my stomach. "I don't think you will find it out there if you can't find it here." Well that killed the mood. I closed my eyes, reciting algorithms to keep from completely hating my mother. I didn't want to end it this way. But she had to bring it up, she just had to. We rode in silence for two miles. Then she flicked her blinker and took the exit. I said my last goodbye to Nebraska.

"I wonder if they have meatloaf in Germany," she mused. It was her way of lightening the mood. I appreciated it, but couldn't find the words to tell her.

"I wonder if you can see the sky there," she said. I blinked. It was an old joke that ran between us since I was four. We had lain on the grass while she tickled me and said there was no sky like a Nebraska sky. We always said it as the last thing whenever we talked about what we loved best. Apple pie, the smell of freshly shucked corn, and always the Nebraska sky. I glanced out the window and looked up.

I had to admit, I would miss the sky.

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