Tuesday, March 31, 2009

My Poor Melon



As some of you who follow me on Twitter and Facebook already know, I have a concussion. This is, of course, no surprise since I am the Queen of Unlikely Injuries. I'd like to say this particular injury was interesting, glamorous, or at the very least, not self-inflicted.

Unfortunately, I can't.

It all started when someone's kid ordered a bottled orange cream soda. I hurried back to the wait aisle, snatched open the door of the refrigeration unit we keep stocked with salads, cole slaw, butter, creamer, and bottled drinks and found that the day shift person responsible for stocking the unit had failed to do so.

This is not surprising. Irritating, but not surprising.

With no handy bottles of orange cream soda at my disposal, I was forced to race to the back walk-in cooler, where we store crates of the stuff on a bottom shelf. The space between the bottom and middle shelf is about three feet. Plenty of room to lean fully across the shelf and reach the case of soda nestled against the back wall. I leaned, grabbed the soda, yanked it out of it's box, and stood up.

Sadly, I missed a very important step in the whole procedure. I was supposed to lean, grab the soda, yank it out of it's box, back up, and then stand.

Turns out backing up was fairly important.

I slammed the back of my head against the thick metal bar of the shelf above me. The pain was instant, as was the nausea, but I didn't collapse there. I'm thankful. It would have taken them an hour to find me and it's cold in there. Instead, I wandered out of the cooler, one hand clutching the orange cream soda, the other clutching the back of my head. By the time I reached the wait aisle, I knew I was in trouble. The room was spinning lazily around me, my stomach was actively protesting everything I'd ever eaten, and my eyes had long since given up any pretense at focusing on mundane things like walls or people standing in my way.

I placed the bottled drink on my tray, responded to a friend's worried query with a request for her to take the drinks to the table, turned around and found myself on the floor.

The filthy, nasty, dirty floor.

I can't over-emphasize how desperate I had to be to be willing to lay my head down on the restaurant floor. There are filthier places to be, of course, but all of those involve raw sewage or rotting trash. I didn't care. I couldn't stay upright. I could, however, vociferously protest my manager's insistence that he call an ambulance.

"No ambulance," I said, lying there on that filthy floor, trying to make my stomach stay where it should. "NO AMBULANCE."

I'm not sure why that was so important to me, though I think it probably has something to do with my last ambulance ride. My manager, the newest managerial presence in our store and therefore not yet acquainted with my particular brand of stubborn, shook his head and looked helplessly up at my friend, who glared and said, "Never mind. I've already called her husband. He's on his way."

When he arrived, I was in the office (my manager and co-workers had hauled me in there) waiting to go home. I refused to go to the E.R. They would only tell me to take it easy. Once my hubby realized I wasn't dying, he rolled his eyes and asked if, for once, I could maybe injure something other than my head.

I rolled my eyes and told him this should be proof positive that I should be banned from all forms of housework and restaurant work. The only "work" I've never injured myself on is writing.

I think once writing starts paying some bills, he'll be much more receptive to that argument.

It's now Tuesday morning and though I've argued fiercely (and felt a little better each day), my hubby has stepped in and made a dr.'s appointment for me. Apparently, he's worried I might still die from this. I wonder if the dr. will take my side and advocate me as a candidate for disability? Clumsiness is a handicap, right?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Toss A Bull Into The Orchard



I did a lot of babysitting during my teenage years, and most of it wasn't very memorable. A few temper tantrums or fist fights to break up. The occasional potty training mishap. And one rather unfortunate incident with a hot burner and a (used to be) pretty little stove cover which I'd rather not revisit.

But one night of babysitting is etched into my brain with the indelible ink of WHAT WAS I THINKING and solidified with a healthy dose of NEVER DO THAT AGAIN.

And I won't.

Unless the right set of circumstances presents itself, of course. If it does, I'm absolutely certain I will once more find myself doing what, any other day of the year, would be an unthinkable course of action for me.

It all started when a family friend called up asking if I could watch their seven kids at the last minute. Seven is not a number to be taken on by the inexperienced or faint of heart. Since I was neither, and since I was perpetually short on shoe money, I agreed.

This family of seven lived out in the country, surrounded by farmers, dairies and the miles of neatly planted orchards that stitch one small town to the next in California's Central Valley. I arrived with a couple hours of daylight left to burn, greeted the children, and was introduced to the concept of playing hide and seek in an orchard.

As a side note, let me just say that small children playing hide and seek among skinny little peach tree trunks have a distinct advantage.

We'd been playing in and out of the orchard and the rolling stretch of green-brown grass covering their backyard for twenty minutes when one of the boys ran up to me and breathlessly announced that the neighbor's bull had gotten loose again and was in the orchard.

I had the boy repeat this ridiculous statement twice, my brain trying the words on for size and rapidly rejecting them.

He pointed back into the trees. I followed the line of his arm and there he was--the biggest bull I'd ever seen (The fact that he was the only bull I'd ever seen has no bearing on this story.), staring across the scant thirty feet separating us with murder in his eyes.

At least, I thought it was murder. It could have been simple assault and battery, but I wasn't going to hang around dissecting nuances.

I called the children to me, using a whisper (All the better to not aggravate the bull) that nevertheless carried across the entire yard and issued the following rallying cry: "To the house! Now! But, move slowly. We don't want him to charge."

The children refused to obey. The girls settled back into their game of "house," carting a rather irritated feline around in a tiny pink stroller that bumped precariously across the wooden porch of their home. I dismissed them. The bull wouldn't charge the porch. Not when he had three juicy targets sitting right out in the open.

That one of those targets was me did not escape my attention. Reissuing my command to the boys, I gestured forcefully toward the porch before freezing, hand in mid-air, my eyes glued to the bull. I didn't know if there were hand gestures that meant "Charge the idiot human!" to the bull and I decided I could wait a few more years before finding out.

Rather than obey me, the oldest boy said a sentence that shifted my course of action irrevocably. He said, "Want me to get him out of the orchard for you?"

Excuse me? I glared at him, all thoughts of hoisting the two boys over my shoulder and sprinting for the porch temporarily forgotten. Who did he think was in charge here? If I needed help, I'd bloody well ask for it. Besides, the day I let some nine year old display more courage than me was the day I'd turn in my stilettos for a pair of rubber galoshes.

I couldn't leave the boys on their own to handle the bull. My sense of responsibility and my tremendously competitive nature wouldn't allow it. So, I heard myself say the unthinkable: "I'll do it."

I'll do it?? I'll chase a bull out of an orchard? With what? Sheer attitude and a shiny pair of pink Jelly shoes?

With plans like that, who needs obstacles?

I stepped away from the boys, walked toward the bull, and said, "If he charges me, run into the house, take the girls with you, and call for help."

"He won't charge. He'd get his horns stuck in the tree trunks," the six year old informed me.

His horns.

Until that moment, I hadn't truly examined my nemesis. I was too mesmerized by the "I stomp girls like you for breakfast" expression in his eyes to tear my gaze away.

I stopped walking and considered the rack of death mounted atop the bull's head. Suddenly, the phrase "take the bull by the horns" began to sound incredibly foolish. Combine the horns with the bull's homicidal leer (Don't think bovines can leer? Think again.) and the only thing moving me forward was my innate refusal to back down from any challenge issued to me, even if the challenge was from another species.

"Here. You'll need this." The nine year old shoved a stick in my hand.

A stick. A slim piece of wood versus two feet of perfectly honed horn. What was I going to do, smack him in the face as he crushed me to the orchard floor?

Sensing my ignorance, the six year old piped up. "Hit the tree and yell to herd him in the direction you want him to go."

Noise? Noise and attitude? That was my plan? The negatives to this course of action were too numerous to name, though my regrettable lack of herding skills could certainly head the list. On the plus side, I had plenty of experience in dealing out noise and attitude.

I crept closer, not fooled in the least when the bull simply stood there. Chewing. Trying to lull me into a false sense of security. No doubt hoping I'd believe he was munching on grass when I knew full well he was simply masticating the remains of whichever babysitter used to watch these children.

I stopped four trees away, gripped the stick like it might somehow save me, and slammed it into the tree trunk with a sharp thwack!

The bull bellowed.

He did not grunt. He did not issue a pleasant how-do-you-do. He did not gently call to any other cows in the area, hoping to poke fun at the idiot city girl who came to her appointment with Death armed with a twig.

He bellowed.

Somewhere in the years of reading everything I could get my hands on, I remembered that wolves or dogs or giraffes or some other breed of animal needed a show of dominance to establish who was master. I figured that probably applied to recalcitrant bulls as well so I bellowed back.

Mine was far less impressive.

The bull thought so too and took a step toward me.

I banged that stick against the tree trunk, screaming at the top of my lungs, and calculated how fast I could shimmy up the trunk before the bull could reach me.

Before matters could get that far, the nine year old raced past me, stick in hand, and gave the bull a stinging slap on the side. I was already moving toward him, sure I would have to dive between him and the bull and charge his parents serious hazard pay when the bull grunted, turned his head away from us, and ambled slowly back to his own pasture.

Just. Like. That.

Turns out, he was a eunuch. Or whatever you call a bull who no longer has his goods. Apparently, that makes a difference.

I told myself under no circumstances would I ever voluntarily face off with a bull armed with nothing more than a stick and pink Jelly shoes, but I would. If I felt challenged to prove myself. If I felt I had to protect someone. The right combination of character triggers can make a person do just about anything.

If it's true in life, it's true in writing. A pretty ordinary character can be made to face a bull in an orchard if the right circumstances are present. And the outcome can be funny. Suspenseful. Tragic. All depends. The above story wouldn't be nearly as interesting if I'd had to chase an obedient little lamb out of the trees. Where's the conflict? The need to step beyond what's comfortable? If your character always stays within her comfort zone, your reader will use your book to cure her insomnia. If, however, you understand what makes your character tick, you push her emotional triggers, and you make it authentically impossible to back down or turn away, you can push her into doing the unthinkable.

The trick to good writing is to know your character well, understand what triggers her deepest emotional responses, and then throw as many bulls in the orchard as you possibly can.

Ambition. He's Got It.

A few days ago, Starshine and I were discussing his plans for the future. I approached this topic with a great deal of interest. This is the child who announced at his kindergarten graduation (After a string of other kids said stuff like "Fireman," "Cowboy," and "Soldier") in answer to the "What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up" question--"I want to be an ice cream truck man. But my mom is going to drive the truck."

Naturally, I figured any occupation that left me OUT of the equation would be an improvement. I was pleasantly surprised. The conversation went like this:

Me: So, what do you want to be when you grow up?

Starshine: *considers this seriously* I think I want to work on cases.

Me: Cases?

Starshine: Yeah, you know. Gather evidence and help the cops arrest the bad guys.

Me: Wow! That's really cool. You want to be an investigator.

Starshine: Like with the FBI.

Me: I like that. You want to be an FBI agent. *is busy thinking how having her son as an FBI agent totally trumps Paul's county sheriff status and thus grants her some sort of immunity for any future crimes committed.*

Starshine: And if that doesn't work out, I have a back-up plan.

Me: What's that?

Starshine: I'll be a kindergarten teacher and teach the kids stuff like the color indigo, and how to read, and how to write their name.

Me: Cool!

Starshine: I'll give them a piece of candy to keep them quiet.

Me: Hmm.

Starshine: And if both of those don't work out, I'm just going to be an anteater.

Me: An anteater?! Why would you want to be an anteater?

Starshine: *gives me the "Gee, Mom asks some pretty stupid questions" look* Because I want to eat ants.

And thus ended our discussion of future career options for Starshine. =D

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Great Opportunity!

Get noticed, get feedback, get an agent.

Here's a chance to have your project reviewed by one of the agents at The Knight Agency. Submit three compelling sentences (150 words max) about your completed, unpublished manuscript to submissions@ knightagency. net. Write BOOK IN A NUTSHELL in the subject line or it will not be deemed eligible. One submission per project, please. Twenty of the best submissions will be chosen and requested by various agents who will then give feedback on your work...and it may even lead to possible representation. Hurry, the deadline is April 20, 2009. Winners will be notified by May 1, 2009.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Coming Up!

Two of my favorite actors, Johnny Depp and Christian Bale, in a movie together. I can't wait.

"Knowing" How To Do It Right



I didn't put this pic up because I think it's funny. I put it up because WHAT SANE PERSON DEFROSTS CHICKEN IN A BATHTUB? Blech.

I went to see Knowing last night with my hubby and Paul and most of it was really good. Suspense! (My hubby jumped at one point and now wants a t-shirt that says "I Had The Crap Scared Out Of Me By A Flaming Moose") Heart-rending moments! Interesting concept! (Albeit a tad predictable, since I called the ending twenty minutes before we got there.)

BUT ... there were three things that were just plain wrong and, as these are common mistakes writers make in books as well, I'm going to dissect them here. I'll try hard not to give any spoilers away, but it's a possibility so don't read any further if you want a totally unsullied movie-viewing experience:

* In Knowing, there are these seriously creepy albino-looking Whisper People that are stalking Nicholas Cage's kid. These Whisper People are so unbelievably freaky, they sort of melt out of the woods and once even walk right into the kid's bedroom at night when he's sleeping and wake him up with horrible consequences. These are not people you want anywhere near your kid and Nicholas's character has already had one run-in w/them, trying to chase them away, and he lost, to put it mildly. At one point in the movie, Nicholas Cage and the woman who is helping him (whose daughter is also being stalked by the Whisper People), drive w/their kids to a trailer in the middle of nowhere and then leave their sleeping children in the car while they investigate the inside of the trailer.

This is a serious breach in believable character motivation. I'm a parent. I can tell you with absolute certainty that if creepy Whisper People were after my kid, I wouldn't leave his side for one second until I was sure the danger was gone. This was a cheap ploy by the director to make sure the next piece of his movie could happen as he wanted it to happen. Authors do this too--sacrificing authentic character motivation for the sake of shoe-horning something into the plot. Don't do it. Readers always know the difference.

*In a later section of the movie (SPOILER ALERT HERE), the Whisper People steal both children from the woman, who then races after them in a car and is broadsided and killed. Nicholas Cage is a few minutes behind her, is informed by onlookers that freaky strangers stole the car with the children in it, and then comes upon the accident that killed the woman.

Authentic character motivation would have Nicholas do the following: Race to the ambulance to see if he can get information on the whereabouts/direction the Whisper People were heading with his kid, then peel out of there at 110 miles an hour trying to catch up to them and rescue the children.

What Nicholas Cage does: Approaches ambulance and stands quietly while the paramedics try to revive her. When she's pronounced dead and the medics leave the vehicle to try to help someone else, he enters the ambulance, sits by her side, brushes the hair from her face, and then discovers she's holding something in her hand that is key to the plot. THEN he leaves and races after his kid.

Again, this is a contrived scene guaranteed to give the director the easiest method of giving Nicholas certain information but it does not work. Why? Because all parents in the theater know that if Whisper People had their son, they wouldn't stop for anything, not for anything, to get to him in time.

*Finally, the ending left all of us completely non-plussed. I don't think I've ever had cause to accurately label my emotions with the word "non-plussed" until last night. I won't go into details, but all of us sat there in silence for a few moments, waiting through the credits to see if there was one last scene to fix things, but there wasn't.

Don't do this to your readers. Finish things in a way that leaves them satisfied. This is possible to do, even if you're writing a series and are setting up the next book. Leaving a reader non-plussed at the end of your novel is a great way to have your name crossed off the Authors I Must Read list.

I've gone into detail on the things that didn't work for me in this movie, but to give them credit, most of it worked. I was scared, I jumped once (though not because of a flaming moose), and I spent the entire freaky Whisper People In Kid's Bedroom scene hoping to one day write a scene as scary as that. I just feel that with a little more work, and less reliance on what was easy and convenient, this movie could have been amazing. It's a good lesson to writers to never take the easy road and to always do a check to make sure your character's actions are rooted in authentic motivation.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Pick A Topic, Any Topic



1. I'm going shoe shopping this morning.

2. Before you think anything along the lines of "Ooh, how exciting!" or "C.J. must be thrilled," I'll tell you that this is the one instance in which shoe shopping is not cause for an endorphin rush.

3. I'm buying a new pair of shoes for work.

4. My uniform requires clunky black athletic shoes with slip-resistant soles--exactly the kind of shoes I wouldn't be caught dead in outside of work.

5. My old ones, however, have been worn so long my feet feel like someone is pounding iron spikes into my heels when I walk.

6. Once a month (or so) I treat myself to a drink from Starbucks or one of the many Starbuck-look-alikes.

7. Yesterday, I tried something new. Something non-coffee.

8. This is because it was warm outside and the Starbucks in our town refuse to serve decaf frappuccinos.

9. The world is not yet ready for the experience of C.J. post-grande caffeine consumption.

10. Anyway, I tried some new drink (with a pretentious name like Verrano or something close to it) that was Mango Banana Orange.

11. I love mango, banana, and orange but somehow, combining those flavors in this drink ended up canceling them all out and leaving nothing but a vaguely fruity froth.

12. Not so good.

13. In other news, I got my contract (signed by both Holly and myself) in the mail the other day and she'd stuck a tiny yellow post-it to the paper that simply said "Yay!".

14. I'm going to keep that post-it as a reminder that someone in the know believes in me.

15. I read a book the other day that did many, many things right and only two things wrong.

16. The "wrongs," however, carried some weight.

17. For one, the author had a super scary villain, pretty much unstoppable, and he was seriously creeping me out as he stalked her heroine and then poof! He's found dead with a note from some other criminal saying he wanted to do the heroine a favor.

18. That fizzling sound you hear is all the suspense draining out of the last third of the novel.

19. Also, the fizzling sound you hear is my irritation at the author for choosing such a convenient way to get rid of her scary problem child.

20. The second thing the author did wrong was to write a who-done-it and reveal the murderer at the end as the person who initially found the body.

21. That in itself is hardly a writing crime. The problem is that we were in that character's point of view when she found the body and nothing about her internal thinking raised a single red flag.

22. This is astonishingly convenient for an author who wants to set the reader up with various red herrings to follow and then give us a big reveal at the end.

23. However, it just doesn't work. Even when I looked back and saw the one "out of place" phrase she used, it still doesn't work.

24. Why?

25. Because if I've murdered someone and then I've "stumbled" across the body, I'm not going to be thinking anything other than "That's right, you had it coming! You thought you were so special, but I showed you, didn't I? And now I'm going to put on the act of the century and get away with the whole thing!"

26. Finally, I've recently discovered that the secret frothy ingredient in an Orange Julius is egg white.

27. No thanks.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Blow Out Some Candles

Or not. The older we get, the more hazardous that is.

Happy birthday to my dear friend Kerry Allen! I can't imagine my life without you in it.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Don't Start Something You Can't Finish

Dear Considerate Neighbor,

I want to thank you for graciously allowing your miniature poop-machine to leave his smelly offerings on my property as you walked by. One would think I would be irritated, but I've reconsidered my initial ire. After all, isn't the act of letting your dog take a dump in my yard a compliment of sorts? It's like saying, "Hey! My dog likes the smell of your grass!" and who doesn't love to hear something like that? I know I do.

Taking it one step further, however, to allowing your tiny turd machine to cop a squat on my walkway, thereby ensuring I would NOT MISS the stinky little trophy on my way to my van this evening ... well, that was a stroke of genius. I mean, if the poop remained solely in the grass, at the edge of my yard, I might miss the slippery evidence of your brief, but memorable, presence in my yard. I might lose out on the opportunity to fully appreciate the incredible gall, er, I mean commitment to peaceful co-existence with one's neighbors which you so clearly have in spades.

Until tonight, I hadn't considered piles of poop on my walkway to be anything other than rude, boorish, inconsiderate behavior worthy of junior high boys and nothing more. I now realize the error of my ways.

Judging by the size of your dog's offering, he weighs a mere six pounds soaking wet. My dog is eighty pounds of Chow hound and is blessed with a very healthy appetite. As soon as I figure out which walkway belongs to you, I'll bring my dog on by to return the compliment.

Happy walking.

C.J.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Got Quirks?

Here's a must-read post by agent Barbara Poelle (Haven't queried her w/your romance, mystery, historical yet? WHY NOT???) on how to create quirky, lovable characters.

Off to find some hair bands ...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

How to Query Win!

Moonrat posted today on how to win over an agent with a stellar query. Good stuff!

Gimme Back That Fillet-O-Fish!



1. That new McDonald's fillet-o-fish commercial is a menace.

2. At first, I mocked it. I mean, come on, a singing bass serenading two guys in an attempt to reclaim his already cooked buddy?

3. I said things like "What did that ad team smoke for breakfast when they came up with this winner?" and other equally unflattering observations.

4. It wasn't until last night that I realized the true genius of the ad.

5. I can't get the stupid song (And it is a stupid song!) out of my head.

6. Gimme back that fillet-o-fish! Gimme that fish!

7. *bangs head on desk*

8. In other news, I finished revising the ending for SF, added two chapters and wrote an epilogue.

9. My CPs liked it, there were no glaring instances of absolute idiocy, so I sent it off to Holly.

10. Now I wait to see if it's submission-ready or needs another tweak.

11. In the mean time, I'm interviewing some people on the Crescent City area of California (thank you Jared for the hook up) and talking with Paul about the inner workings of a jail.

12. And I'm debating on names for my main antagonist in Twisting Fate. I've narrowed it down to Victor or Vincent, but am open to other suggestions.

13. Needs to have an edgy, convict vibe to it with an element of cool.

14. A few days ago, as Daredevil was leaving the house to catch the bus, he turned to me, clasped my hands in his, and said "Don't let the flame die out, Mom. Don't let the flame die out."

15. He then exited stage right.

16. I really should put him in children's theater.

17. By the way, I'm on facebook for any of you regular blog readers who haven't found me there yet.

18. Reader Question: Batman vs. Ironman. Who wins and why?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

My Vote Goes To

I posted a new poll today on scariest cinematic villains of all time. Naturally, with so few slots, I couldn't give us a full range of options, so I picked three that scared me senseless because they had an element of chilly intelligence combined with a seductive charisma.

And yes, yes, I realize Norman isn't actually a true villain at the end of the movie, but you spend the entire movie afraid of him so he works.

My vote has to go to the Joker, the only villain to ever seduce me and scare me from the first second he walked onto the screen. The only villain to ever make me forget to watch anyone else in the movie.

Here's the scene in which the Joker first stole my heart.

And here's a perfect example of why the Joker makes such an excellent villain--he has no code, no rules, no conscience, and a startling ability to get under people's skin and make them do what he wants them to do in a matter of seconds.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Why Stories Get Rejected

Ever wonder why your story never makes it out of the slush pile? Here's a witty little post to enlighten writers on the top 24 (or so) things that torpedo your chances of getting a request for a full.

I laughed myself silly on the description of 2nd person POV.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Helpful Info

My agent, Holly Root, posted a very informative Q&A session with aspiring authors, giving some perspective on what is selling and how to decipher an agent's response to your project. :)

Friday, March 6, 2009

A Case For Poirot?

This article about a famous British restaurant shutting down after scores of customers suffered vomiting and diarrhea shortly after dining there caught my eye, mostly because the cause of the gastrointestinal distress remains a mystery. Britain's Health Protection Agency and the restaurant's infamous head chef--who has earned an incredible 3 Michelin stars--are baffled.

I took a look at a list of popular items served up by the chef and I believe I may have our first clue:

*Bacon & Egg ice cream
*Parsnip cereal
*Raspberry Sorbet made with crushed raspberries and dry ice
*Deep fried meal worms (injected with tomato paste because, of course, that makes the whole experience palatable)
*Nitro green tea

And, my personal pick for the likely cause:

*Snail porridge

As this is arguably one of Britain's most popular fine dining restaurants (reservations need to be made months in advance), I think perhaps the real mystery is why none of them have yet realized that garden pests do not make acceptable breakfast food.

Insert Clever Title Here



1. I now have kittens piling onto my desk each morning, sprawling across my keyboard, and chewing on various body parts when the mood strikes.

2. Tinks tried chewing on my nearest body part a few days ago and we came to an understanding.

3. She doesn't bite The Girls and I don't lock her out of the office.

4. Of course, my idea of "we have an understanding" could just be her idea of "biding her time."

5. Lost rocks this season.

6. The boys are all well enough to go to school today, which means I have uninterrupted time to write.

7. I need to revise the last few chapters, tie up some loose ends, and then run it through a couple CPs before sending it off to my agent.

8. Yes, I'm finally getting used to saying "my agent." :)

9. I saw part of a show recently where a family kept some unusual pets--including a cockroach farm. Inside their house.

10. A. Cockroach. Farm.

11. COCKROACH

12. They claim the cockroaches make excellent pets.

13. I think that qualifies them as lunatics.

14. Reader Question: What's the most unusual pet you've ever owned?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Linkage

I've come across a few items of interest to the writing community lately and decided to post some links for those of you who might be interested.

First, here's an excellent post on how to analyze contest results and use them to your advantage, written by fellow Pixie (Golden Heart Finalist) and amazing writer Anne Barton.

Next, a member of my local RWA chapter learned of a new romance magazine currently accepting submissions of short stories for publication. I don't know anything about the magazine itself, so do your research and see if this might be an avenue of publication for you.

Finally, Writer's Digest (If you don't buy their yearly Writer's Market to stay current on who's buying and where/how to submit, you should.) is holding their annual writing contest. Deadline is coming up in May.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Flushed Away

Enjoy the laugh, provided by humorist Dave Barry.

THE COLONOSCOPY
by Dave Barry

I called my friend Andy Sable, a gastroenterologist, to make an appointment for a colonoscopy.

A few days later, in his office, Andy showed me a color diagram of the colon, a lengthy organ that appears to go all over the place, at one point passing briefly through Minneapolis. Then Andy explained the colonoscopy procedure to me in a thorough, reassuring and patient manner.

I nodded thoughtfully, but I didn't really hear anything he said, because my brain was shrieking, "HE'S GOING TO STICK A TUBE 17,000 FEET UP YOUR BEHIND!"

I left Andy's office with some written instructions and a prescription for a product called 'MoviPrep,' which comes in a box large enough to hold a microwave oven. I will discuss MoviPrep in detail later; for now suffice it to say that we must never allow it to fall into the hands of America's enemies.

I spent the next several days productively sitting around being nervous. Then, on the day before my colonoscopy, I began my preparation.

In accordance with my instructions, I didn't eat any solid food that day; all I had was chicken broth, which is basically water, only with less flavor. Then, in the evening, I took the MoviPrep. You mix two packets of powder together in a one-liter plastic jug, and then you fill it with lukewarm water. (For those unfamiliar with the metric system, a liter is about 32 gallons.) Then you have to drink the whole jug. This takes about an hour, because MoviPrep tastes - and here I am being kind - like a mixture of goat spit and urinal cleanser, with just a hint of lemon.

The instructions for MoviPrep, clearly written by somebody with a great sense of humor, state that after you drink it, 'a loose, watery bowel movement may result.' This is kind of like saying that after you jump off your roof, you may experience contact with the ground.

MoviPrep is a nuclear laxative. I don't want to be too graphic, here, but: Have you ever seen a space-shuttle launch? This is pretty much the MoviPrep experience, with you as the shuttle. There are times when you wish the commode had a seat belt. You spend several hours pretty much confined to the bathroom, spurting violently. You eliminate everything. And then, when you figure you must be totally empty, you have to drink another liter of MoviPrep, at which point, as far as I can tell, your
bowels travel into the future and start eliminating food that you have not even eaten yet.

After an action-packed evening, I finally got to sleep. The next morning my wife drove me to the clinic. I was very nervous. Not only was I worried about the procedure, but I had been experiencing occasional return bouts of MoviPrep spurtage. I was thinking, 'What if I spurt on Andy?' How do you apologize to a friend for something like that? Flowers would not be enough.

At the clinic I had to sign many forms acknowledging that I understood and totally agreed with whatever the heck the forms said. Then they led me to a room full of other colonoscopy people, where I went inside a little curtained space and took off my clothes and put on one of those hospital garments designed by sadist perverts, the kind that, when you put it on, makes you feel even more naked than when you are actually naked.

Then a nurse named Eddie put a little needle in a vein in my left hand. Ordinarily I would have fainted, but Eddie was very good, and I was already lying down. Eddie also told me that some people put vodka in their MoviPrep. At first I was ticked off that I hadn't thought of this is, but then I pondered what would happen if you got yourself too tipsy to make it to the bathroom, so you were staggering around in full Fire Hose Mode. You would have no choice but to burn your house.

When everything was ready, Eddie wheeled me into the procedure room, where Andy was waiting with a nurse and an anesthesiologist. I did not see the 17,000-foot tube, but I knew Andy had it hidden around there somewhere. I was seriously nervous at this point.

Andy had me roll over on my left side, and the anesthesiologist began hooking something up to the needle in my hand. There was music playing in the room, and I realized that the song was 'Dancing Queen' by ABBA. I remarked to Andy that, of all the songs that could be playing during this particular procedure, 'Dancing Queen' had to be the least appropriate.

"You want me to turn it up?" said Andy, from somewhere behind me. 'Ha ha,' I said. And then it was time, the moment I had been dreading for more than a decade. If you are squeamish, prepare yourself, because I am going to tell you, in explicit detail, exactly what it was like.

I have no idea. Really. I slept through it. One moment, ABBA was yelling 'Dancing Queen, feel the beat of the tambourine,' and the next moment, I was back in the other room, waking up in a very mellow mood. Andy was looking down at me and asking me how I felt. I felt excellent. I felt even more excellent when Andy told me that it was all over, and that my colon had passed with flying colors. I have never been prouder of an internal organ.

*Thanks to Mom for the email.*

Take That, Father Time!

Victoria's Secret has invented a bra that claims to reverse the signs of aging and make The Girls younger.

My question is, why didn't they take that technology one step further and make underwear to match?

*Thanks to Kerry Allen for the link.*

Monday, March 2, 2009

Got Pants?

If you've ever reached the middle of your manuscript before figuring out what your book was really about, you might be a Pantser.

If you start a scene thinking it's going in Direction A, only to be totally derailed by the actions of your MC who suddenly decides to go in Direction B, you might be a Pantser.

If your characters ever catch you by surprise, you might be a Pantser.

If the thought of outlining your novel before you write it gives you hives, you might be a Pantser.

If you start a 95k word novel with the vague premise that your MC is going to start in Location A, run into some pretty big Nameless Trouble, and eventually arrive in Location B with her lessons learned, you might be a Pantser.

If part of the excitement of writing is figuring out the story as you go, you might be a Pantser.

If your initial synopsis is filled with phrases like "Something BAD happens here followed by something WORSE" and "Hero somehow saves the day," you might be a Pantser.

If your idea of research is to do a quick Google while you're already in the middle of a scene, you might be a Pantser.

If the idea of creating a series bible that covers the next seven books sends you running for the nearest fifty pounds of chocolate, you might be a Pantser.

If you're unable to answer the question "Where did you come up with this?" with any degree of coherency, you might be a Pantser.

If you throw two characters into a situation just to see what happens, you might be a Pantser.

If you are delightfully surprised to find you've unconsciously set up a pretty cool plot twist waaaay before you realized that plot twist existed, you might be a Pantser.

If you read this list and agreed with three or more items on it, you might be a Pantser!

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