Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Year in Review. (Original title is... SO not original.)

I guess December 31st is a day for reflection, but

Moved into my new office, with my lovely new furniture.
Played a lot of Rock Band (in the first part of the year)
I voted in the Democratic primary for the first time in my life. (I've voted democrat before, but never in the primary.)
Prom Dates From Hell came out in paperback.
Wrote a new book. Then wrote it again in the revision process.
Went on an actual vacation.
MY Starbucks closed. And I have not gelled with any of the other three within 3 miles of my house.
When to San Francisco for the RWA Conference, where I was a finalist for the RITA award.
Hell Week came out in August.
Cleaned my office and found lots of stuff. Photographic proof of cleaning.
Did lots of random stuff in October.
Let Twitter do a LOT of my posting for me! Yay for microblogging!

Also, judging by my tags, I watched a lot of movies and did a lot of quizzes and memes

It was kind of fun to review my year via the blog!  On the whole, it was a very mixed year.  Lots of shake up, some real crappy things, but some exciting things, too, that give me hope that 2009 will be a time of change.  


Monday, December 29, 2008

"Infinite" word choices

My C.S. Lewis quote of the day:
"Don't use words too big for the subject. Don't say "infinitely" when you mean "very"; otherwise you'll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.
"

I'm trying to decide if this is good writing advice, good philosophical advice, or both. As writers, we choose our words carefully, eschew vague words like 'very' 'just' 'some', etc. Theoretically, 'infinitely' would be a better choice than 'very.' But only, I guess, if you mean infinite. (Of course, we're also taught to ban "ly" words, so maybe it's a moot point. However, I take this as a suggestion rather than a rule. Actually, I take just about everything in "how to write" books as suggestions, though you have to learn the 'rules' before you can break them.)

There are two things at work here. One is, is it really infinite? There's this thing you run into writing fantasy, where you have to be careful using words metaphorically. I just finished reading a book where one non-human creature kills another by snapping her neck. There was a pretty good description of what happened next: Her body turned to jelly and slid to the ground, the weight pulling her head from [the executioner's] hands. Then next chapter, someone mentioned finding the body, and I was like: what? Didn't it turn to jelly? I'd thought that was a pretty convenient way to keep humans from discovering the non-human things in their world. I had to go back and read again, and realize it was figurative. Hee!

Then there's the issue of the 'bigness' of the word. I do find myself running into this problem where sometimes if I choose too big a word early (in the effort to be evocative and whatever), then I leave myself with nowhere to go. I think that's one of the challenges with being a novelist, is that you're not just choosing the right word for that sentence or one fictional moment. The most perfectly crafted sentence doesn't exist in a vacuum. It has to fit with all your other sentences. In fact, the MORE perfect it is, the more it's going to stick in the reader's brain, the more you have to be careful not to repeat it.

When writing Hell Week, I came up with this awesome turn of phrase. It was so awesome, I knew I could only use it once, and I wanted to use it at the PERFECT moment. So I set it aside. And then never put it in. Doh! Fortunately I had opportunity to use it in Highway to Hell, so it didn't go to waste.

The whole word choice thing struck me today, because I'm at the point in the revision process on The Splendor Falls where I'm trying to find those turns of phrase, and fit them into the whole picture. It IS rather like painting, and making sure each daub of paint contributes to the aesthetic whole. But then the metaphor breaks down, because writing has to be good close up as well as far away.

And my family wonders why I whine and angst over every word choice!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy Everything!

Happy Hanukkah, Y'all! And Happy Yule. It's cold outside, and actually feels like Midwinter!

Oh yeah. And Happy Birthday to me!

Having a holiday birthday is always a mixed blessing. The combo Xmas/Birthday presents can be good and bad. I never got to bring cupcakes and whatever to school, because we were always out for the break. On the other hand I've never had to go to school on my birthday. :-D It's true that the day always got lost in all the hustle and bustle. But with all the candles and decorations and cheer, it's like the whole world is celebrating your birth.

So, raise a glass of egg nog for me, you guys. :)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Yuletide Ruminations

Christmas Quiz/Meme/Questions/Dodge for having to actually think of a topic. :)

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?
I love wrapping in paper, but gift bags are so quick and easy and reusable. I tell myself the reusable part is the real reason I use them, but mostly it's because I'm "wrapping" things at the last minute. When I do wrap in paper, I like to use plain (recycled) paper and decorate it myself.

2. Real tree or Artificial?
I grew up with an artificial tree. One of those really fake pipe cleaner looking ones. When I had my own house, we got a real tree for years, and I loved it, but not the mess. Now we have an artificial one--pre-lit, even--and I put out real greenery on the mantle and such.

3. When do you put up the tree?
On or as close to Saint Nicholas Day (December 6) as possible. (Being Dutch, my family always celebrated St. Nicholas Day, which was awesome, because it was like having a mini Christmas before the fact. My brother and I would put out our shoes and in the morning we'd have chocolate. Mmmmm.)

4. When do you take the tree down?
Epiphany. Well, theoretically, Epiphany. Usually we take down the decorations and around about the end of January Mr. RCM gets around to putting the tree in the attic. (This was 99% of the reason I went with a fake tree. I was tired of vacuuming up pine needles on Valentine's Day.)

It does make me sad to see trees out by the curb on Dec. 26. (Once, I even saw someone put theirs out on the 25th!) I guess it's too ingrained in me that Christmas is the START of Christmas, and it goes for 12 days. But in America, Christmas starts with Thanksgiving (or Halloween, lately), and ends as soon as presents are opened. (I just deleted a freaking dissertation about how American Christmas has little or nothing to do with actually celebrating the Nativity.)

5. Do you like Egg Nog?
I love it. With and without alcohol.

6. Favorite gift received as a child?
I loved just about everything. Usually I got Barbie stuff, and it was hard to go wrong with that. One year I got a Barbe mobile home, which was awesome, because it made a pretty great space ship (the Battlestar Galactica or the Millennium Falcon, depending on my mood).

7. Hardest person to buy for?
My in-laws.

8. Easiest person to buy for?
My mom. My BFFs.

9. Do you have a nativity scene?
We used to, but my dog (Trini) ate Balthazar, and it was never the same after that.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards?
Mail. Unfortuantely, it looks like I'm going to miss the boat on those (again) this year.

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
Well, a gift is a gift. :)

12. Favorite Christmas Movie?
Ironically, given my fear and loathing for the jolly old housebreaker elf, I love Santa Claus is Coming To Town, the 1970's Claymation movie, where Fred Astaire voices the mailman telling the Santa Claus origin story. I love the songs, I love the Burgermeister Meisterburger, and I love the subversiveness of it--It's a godly story, wrapped up in a secular red suit.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?
I'll let you know when I do.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?
Among family, no. But I have passed on a nice present that didn't suit me to someone I knew would love it.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
Speculaas.

16. Lights on the tree?
Oh yes, definitely. See above re: pre-lit. Best Idea Ever.

17. Favorite Christmas song?
Too hard to narrow it down. I'm always hearing one and going Oh I LOVE that song. I do thing there should be a rule that no one can sing "White Christmas" but Bing Crosby, just as no one should ever sign "Blue Christmas" but the King.

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home?
All my family lives within an hour of me! (We used to travel up here for Christmas, and while I like being close to the folks, there's a certain excitement in travelling. Stress and excitement.)

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer?
Yes, but I have to sing it to remember them. "You know Dasher and Dancer..." etc.

20. Angel on the tree top or a star?
We have a pointy tree topper thing right now, but we've had stars and angels before.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?
We did big family presents at Oma's (my grandmother's house) on Christmas Eve, and mom and dad presents on Christmas Morning. Now we do our "in house" presents (from each other and.. um.. the dogs) when we come home from the late Christmas Eve service. It's after midnight, so it counts. :)

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year?
Rampant consumerism. Greed. In other words: Santa Claus.

23. Favorite ornament theme or color?
Red and white.

24. Favorite for Christmas dinner?
Turkey and dressing and cranberry.

25. What do you want for Christmas this year?
World peace. And for the hooligans across the street to move the junker that's been parked opposite my driveway for the last two weeks.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Internet is Weird

There's a delightful reader's group in Dallas that was kind enough to invite me to their Holiday Tea this weekend. I had a wonderful time. (Oh my gosh, delicious scones and clotted cream. Worth the drive in themselves, but the company was lovely as well.) But it's funny, because I'm so use to readers with a lot of Internet savvy. YA readers, SFF readers... Well, I can't even really limit that, because there are Romance-centric blogs like Dear Author and Smart Bitches Love Trashy Books as well.

Anyway. Several people at my table didn't know what Twitter was, and I can't completely blame them. It's hard to explain to someone who doesn't basically live connected to the Internet, whether their phone or their computer. Personally, I love microblogging. Its perfect for those short random thoughts that you don't want to make a whole blog post about. I don't feel like i have to come up with a BIG IDEA to blog about. Piddly little ideas will do. Then periodically they're accumulated into a blog post, which is great. But I don't feel like I've Spammed my friends list with my often banal ramblings.

Mostly I LIKE reading people's random thoughts during the day. Except... I have one person on my following list who... Okay. Friday, when I woke up from my post Dramamine coma (I don't fly well), 22 of the 40 most recent posts were from one person. I wouldn't mind, really, except that it pushes everyone else off the page.

This Social Media Networking thing has made etiquette a very complicated thing. For instance, on MySpace I frequently get friend requests from people who are simply building a mailing list. I frequently get comments like this: "Happy Thanksgiving! Don't forget to go buy my book!" Even more annoying are the ones that pretend to know me. "Hi! Hope you're doing well since we last chatted. My new book comes out on Friday!" Grumble. If you're ever wondering why I don't make more use out of the bulletin and event features on MySpace, now you know why. I hate feeling spammed, so I'm hyper-sensitive about not doing it to other people. Which is stupid, because there ARE people (waving) who friend me because they've actually read and enjoyed my books!

Or possibly my banal ramblings on this blog. :)

(By the way. If you want to follow me on Twitter you can find me here.)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Girlfriends and Geekery

Cool stuff on the Internet. If you're shopping for a sff movie geek fan (like me) here's a list of suggestions: Holiday Guide 2008: Best Movie Fan Gifts. My favorites: The Hellboy II BPRD Messenger Bag (because I can never have enough bags) and the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade Action Figure set. (Because I'm totally pretending that crystal skull movie never was made.)

I'm here with my girlfriend. We gabbed into the night just like the old days, and it was awesome. C. and I go way back. Way back to a time of few responsibilities and lots of freedom to write fanfiction during boring classes, stay up all night playing roleplaying games cards, discussing how we would save the galaxy world, and have long, leisurely shopping trips scouring used bookstores and toy shops for books and action figures collectible figurines.

Now we have jobs and spouses and responsibilities, but we've remained friends all these years, through some pretty crazy things. My visit this week is kind of a Christmas present to us both, since we just don't have the luxury of getting together like we used to. (Now it's not the travel expense, it's the time!) Our interests have changed... Okay, not really, Now we discuss as-yet-unwritten books while getting manicures, and shop for action figures between window shopping for purses I can't really afford (see above, re: I can never have enough bags). Anyway, we've grown up in the unavoidable ways, but I treasure the fact that our friendship incorporates the new us as well as the old us. And there's nothing like someone who knows what a complete and absolute dork you can be, and loves you anyway.

Besides, we have to stay friends, because she knows where I've buried all the bodies.

What about you guys? Do you have a friendship that's transformed with time and (relative) maturity?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Travel Time

I'm off to the airport in the morning, going to visit a friend out of state. Early enough that I *really* should be in bed by now. But I've always been a last minute packer. Actually, it's not the packing, it's all the squaring away of stuff before I leave. Making sure I have the files I need so I can work from the laptop, making sure I have itineraries and directions, gate information for me and my drivers. Packing the right clothes for the forecast weather, all the medicines I could possibly need (because they don't have stores in Alabama), etc. etc.

It doesn't help that, since I'm only gone for a few days, I'm right on the borderline of whether to check a bag or not. My clothes all fit into a carry on suitcase, but I still need to bring my laptop and manuscript (as well as a bunch of books). I could carry a tote instead of a purse, but really, the suitcase is too heavy for me to wrestle into the overhead bin. (It's a leverage thing. I'm short, so I have to basically do a standing press, lift the thing all the way over my head, straight armed, to get it into the bin. Which I could do, if not for the aforementioned books.)

So anyway, I would check it without a thought if it weren't for the extra $15. Which pisses me off to pay to check a bag that if I wasn't a weakling, I could carry on with me. Grrrr.

I love to travel, but getting where you're going (unless it's part of the journey) is a pain.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Puppy Love

There was frost on the ground this morning. The dogs were like: what the HELL is this? We did not order iced tootsies. (Both of them are low to the ground, so they get chilled bellies, too. At least it makes them hurry.)

Lizzie has become a puppy barnacle. It's very cozy, but not very conducive to work. When she was tiny, she fit easily in my lap, even with the computer. Now I have to try and type with the laptop pushed out on my knees to the very end of arms length, because there's a dog taking up the space. She used to curl up in this perfect little ball, but now she sort of sprawls across my legs and over one arm. (I tried to get a picture of this with the MacBook camera, but it's impossible to do without showing my raggedy-ass sweatshirt, and I DO try and maintain some standards of professionalism in this journal.)

I would feel very loved and appreciated--that my dog wants to be in physical contact with me constantly--but she's not discriminating. Basically, if you produce body heat, she's on you as soon as you sit still. And if you're standing, she'll beg to be picked up. I know I shouldn't reward that behavior, but she does this little move where she shifts from foot to foot (to foot, to foot) as if the floor is too cold to bear. What can I do? Her cuteness is the boss of me!

I mean, could YOU resist this face:


Thursday, December 4, 2008

This is very sad. I've started several blog posts, only to run out of steam on them because they seemed so inane.

So I've decided to post about the most inane thing imaginable. TV. You know one of my favorite show on TV right now? Well, not right now, because it's on hiatus, but there was a Christmas episode on last Friday, which reminded me. Psych. It's on USA, and I love it so much (plus I see ads for it ad nauseum, because I watch a lot of USA and SciFi Channel, which cross advertise) I'm always surprised when people haven't seen in.

The premise is this slacker (James Roday) with a photographic, hyper-observant attention to detail fakes being a psychic so he can work with the police to solve crimes. Dule Hill is his sidekick, and the straight man of the duo. The comedic chemistry is perfect. The crimes are usually nothing too complex, but really it's about the dynamic duo's ridiculous investigative shenanagins. Quite possibly there are more intricately crafted things on TV, but what I love about Psych is that it invariably puts me in a good mood. There's a lot to be said for that.

It's sort of funny, though. The characters are supposed to be in their mid-twenties, I guess, but you can tell the writers are slightly older than that, because sometimes their pop culture references are little out of synch. Judging by Shawn's youthful obsessions, he would have been a kid in the 80's--an aware kid, I mean, more than a toddler.

Anyway. It starts back up in January (Friday nights), and when I looked up the website so I could link to it, I saw that the show is renewed for a fourth season. Yay! You can also watch full episodes online. (Wow. I'm pimping this show so thoroughly, you'd think I had stock in it or something.)

After my first new tv show frenzy, here are some of the other things I'm still watching: Fringe, House, Bones, Eli Stone (a new discovery for me), and the Mentalist, which ironically is like a serious version of Psych. (Ex-fake psychic helps the FBI solve crimes.)

What about you guys? What shows are you watching that no one else seems to know about?

Monday, December 1, 2008

One of the things I love about Thanksgiving weekend is the ability to lay around and do nothing (if I want) so that's what I did. Thursday I cooked an AWESOME dinner, watched the parade, then the Cowboys game, then the Texas/Texas A&M game. Friday my brother and his family came over and we watched movies (Speed Racer, Journey to the Center of the Earth) and played our annual marathon of Rock Band. (Mr. RCM had been practicing to get ready for the event, the rat.) Otherwise I read, watched movies, ate lots of leftovers.

Though yesterday I did go and meet Candy and Shannon at the bookstore for gossip and goals and girl time. It's funny that I talk about C&S like everyone should know them, like extensions of my own self. (Though locally, that's likely, because we travel in a pack to book signings, writer's group, RWA meetings, etc.) I was having dinner with my editor in San A. (At Mi Tierra, because it's just not a trip to San A without eating at Mi Ti's.) and I said: "Blah blah blah Candy and Shannon--oh, those are my friends/critique partners/support system--" and my editor said: "Yes, I know, because you always mention them like FIFTY TIMES." Well, maybe that last bit was just in subtext. But suffice to say, it's hard for me to have a conversation without at least referring to them.

One of the reasons why is that we meet regularly to keep each other on track with personal and professional goals. Sure, we shop together and go out to eat, and do all those those things. But we try to meet at least every few weeks (lately it's been more like once a month) to make our goals. This came out of Candy's Fast Draft class, which is a little like NaNoWriMo--you write your first draft really fast--but operates largely on accountability. You have a group, you announce your goals to the group, and every day you have to say whether you acheived that (or not).

Anyway. So Candy, Shannon and I do this yearly, monthly, and weekly. Every year at the RWA Conference (because that's where this started) we say our goals for the year: What we want to see happen, something we have limited control over (i.e., in July 2005 it was selling my first novel), and then what we're going to do to try to achieve that (i.e., five query letters out by Labor Day, etc.). I did, and it did, and the rest is history.

This year's goal was better management of my internet presence. MWF blog posts, figuring out Facebook, organizing my MySpace, etc. Well, I did pretty well with the blog posts for a few months, though I really fell off the wagon these last few months. Still indifferent with Facebook, though I've added some old theatre friends that I found through another old theatre friend (wave to Allison). MySpace... well, that's a full rant post on its own. (Short version: I LOVE when readers, schools and libraries find me on MySpace. I enjoy connecting with other writers. I don't enjoy the spam.)

ANyway. December's goal is the revision of The Splendor Falls. I got it back from my editor last week, and after reading through it, I've sort of fallen in love with that story all over again. You go through these phases with a book: first you're infatuated with it, then you dive into writing it, and then it becomes difficult, and you actually have to work at the relationship, then you're just glad to turn it in and not be embarrassed by it, and then you see it again after a brief absence, and you remember why you loved it in the first place.

So here's my little Zonku word meter for my December goal.

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
500 / 120,000
(0.4%)


What about you guys? Other than the holiday stuff, what are you trying to accomplish before the end of 2008?

Monday, November 24, 2008

San Antonio Rose

Just call me San Antonio Rose today... I'm here for the ALAN Conference, a conference on YA literature. It's been fun so far, in that I've gotten to meet face to face some authors that I know online. I got kind of a late start this morning, so I'm missing some of the morning panels. There are some I'd like to see this afternoon. One thing it brings home to me, though, is how behind I am on my reading.

I'm on a panel tomorrow with Sarah Mlynowski, E. Lockhart and Mariah Fredericks: Love and other Four Letter Words. Great title. I hope I can say something insightful and pithy. I have definite ideas about what's romantic, and what makes a good love story in a book, though that's not the central element in the Maggie Quinn novels. Though relationships are important. Maggie is actually a good example of a young adult finding her place in the pattern of relationships that we have as adults: There's our love of our family, romantic love, and the deep friendships we form. There's betrayal, and trust issues, and the changing patterns as different types of relationships take precedence over the others.

I would go kind of fangirl over my company on the panel, but I've decided I need to be more professional. (We will not talk about the fangirl noise that escaped me when I met Rick Riordan last night. I was being very cool and composed, shook his hand, said how glad I was to meet him, and that I was a bit of a fan. Then I hear this girly "hee!" and realize it's me! Oh well. Compared to some inarticulate blathering "conversations" I've had, I was a *paragon* of composure.)

It is funny, though, how many people I don't recognize from their name but from their book title.

Anyway. I'm happy to be back in San Antonio. Someone remarked on it being a rather dated city, but I prefer "old fashioned." As I'm sitting here, I realize there's truth in that. The buildings downtown are all quite old. Even the newer restaurants along the river have the old facades. San Antonio was built up un the 50's and it looks it. There's a comfortable shabbiness about it that's very South Texas. The outlying parts, where Fiesta Texas and SeaWorld are, are glossier. But even the touristy parts of downtown--the Market and the Riverwalk--are decades old. But I like it that way. It hasn't changed much since my parents came here on their honeymoon, and... I don't know. I like that. I don't think things have to be reinvented just because they're old.

But there is free internet downtown! That much has changed. :-)

Almost done with my coffee, so I'd better get a move on my day!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Houston is depressing and a Name Game

So, I'm down here in Houston, visiting Alexander Hamilton Middle School. (Shout out to random googlers.) Staying in a Holiday Inn Express, which is a new hotel for me. All I can say is, those loyalty programs did their job on this one. I wouldn't have picked it otherwise. And I might have been a little closer to where I'm going. As it is, I'm by the airport, which would have been nice if I'd decided to fly. (Which I should have done.) But on the other hand, I got on the road much later than I intended, because UPS put my box on the wrong shelf in the truck. (Now, I love my boys in brown, who delivers my stuff in a careful, timely manner, except the one day I'm waiting on something to take out of town with me. *sigh*)

Anyway. I guess airport hotels are basically all alike. Business hotels are all alike, depending on how high or low end you go. This one is clean, neat, the breakfast is pretty good, and I have a surprisingly big fridge and a microwave, which would be awesome if I was going to be here a little while. I was thinking it might be overpriced, but I'm not used to traveling during the week. When I'm on a vacation, I pick small, local hotels, and when I'm on business, it's usually a convention rate. So what do I know?

When I used to come to Houston from Victoria, most of what I did was either on the south side, or in the hospital area. Or we went to Galveston. :-( Guys, the local news shocked me. The Hurricane damage really got preempted by the banking crises, and then the election, but it's still really bad here. I was especially sad to hear about all the layoffs from UTMB. The damage to this university hospital on Galveston already forced them to halt a lot of programs in research and low income services. Now they're laying off well over a thousand people. (Mom used to work for UTMB, in a satelite clinic.)

(The news is depressing all around. Good Morning America is talking about how no one is going to buy stuff for the holidays, or hiring extra workers for the holidays, or in general. Ugh. Such a vicious cycle.)

So for fun, a NAME GAME!

1) WItnesss PRotection Name: (Mother's and father's middle names)

Marrianne Wallace

2) NASCAR Name: (first name of your mother's dad, father's dad)

Eugene Robert. (Heh. This thing really works!))

3) STAR WARS name: (the first 2 letters of your last name, first 4 letters of you first name.)

Clrose or Morose (Bleh! Both of those are icky.)

4) DETECTIVE name: (favorite color, favorite animal)

Green Otter? (Uh, not so much.)

5) SOAP OPERA name: (middle name, city where you live) [note: Like frost_light, from whom I stole this, I'm changing this to the city where I was born.)

Anne Victoria

6) SUPERHERO name (second favorite color, favorite alcoholic drink, optional "the" at the beginning):

The Pink White Russian. (heh! The White Russian isn't a bad name for a superhero.)


7) FLY name: (first 2 letters of first name, last 2 letters of your last name)

Romo

8) GANGSTA name (favorite ice cream flavor, favorite cookie)

Mint Chocolate Chip Snickerdoodle (Hee! Snickerdoodle!)

9. ROCK STAR NAME: (current pet's name, current street name)

Lizzie Sublet (eh. Can't use my last one, either, because that would be Lizzie State Highway 279)

10. PORN NAME: (1st pet, street you grew up on)

Vicky Pepperidge

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

On Pomegranates and Pomeranians

I had the weirdest craving yesterday-- for pomegranate of all things. (Heh. I misspelled that, and it autocorrected to "Pomeranian" which would have been an entirely different post.) Which is weird, because I don't like pomegranate juice, or any kind of flavoring. But the real thing? Had. To. Have. Some.

Maybe it's because I don't eat them often, because they're kind of messy. Pomegranates are one of those foods where the ratio of work to edible payoff isn't really in it's favor. Sort of like oysters and Cornish hen. I'm sure that in cultures where you have to work for all your food (i.e., can't just run down to the grocery store for the easy open package) then no one would complain. For that matter, I'm not complaining. Because while I was sitting here pulling open the sections of fruit yesterday--Well, not sitting HERE because this is a new laptop, and as I've said, eating a pomegranate is messy business--I was thinking how satisfying the actual act of eating was, picking out the seeds one by one. It serves that hand to mouth motion that makes me eat bad for me things, like chips and dip, and Smarties.

(I love Smarties. I open the packs, and sort them by color, then reward myself while I writing. Write a paragraph, eat a smartie. OR sometimes, when it's not going so well, write a sentence/word/letter, eat a smartie.)

Fresh coconut is another one of those foods I love but rarely eat because it's too much trouble. I won't touch dried, toasted, canned, packaged or otherwise processed coconut, but ohmygod, it's so good when you pry it right out of the shell, a hard won trophy.

But it does make me wonder who first ate these things. Someone really hungry, I'll bet. It makes me think of that Johnathan Swift quote: "It was a brave man who first ate an oyster."

What about you guys? Do you have something you love to eat, but save for special occasions/deep cravings because it's a lot of trouble?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Library Event on Thursday!

Hey guys. I'm talking at Grand Prairie Public Library on Thursday (November 13th) at 4:30 PM. This is a talk for teens who want to know what goes into writing a book and becoming a published author. I'll give concrete tips on developing your ideas for a novel, and what happens next. There's going to be pizza, prizes and fun. It's at the main branch (901 Conover Drive, Grand Prairie, TX).

Monday, November 3, 2008

Back in the Saddle

You may (or may not) have noticed I wasn't exactly faithful in updating my blog over the last... Okay, well, October. I would like to say I've been jetting around the world (I haven't) or I've already completed the next book (I haven't). But after finishing the rewrites on The Splendor Falls, I needed a bit of a brain break.

Which is not to say I've been idle. Just the opposite. I've just been busy doing stuff that isn't active writing. I'm teaching a class next weekend and the North Texas RWA retreat, so I've been reading about how to apply the "Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind" philosophy to writing. I'll probably post more about this in the future, because I was surprised how much this applied to how I think and work creatively.

The upshot, however, is that I've been doing stuff that's not writing this month, so that I can refresh my subconscious. Some people call this "refilling the well." You guys who are doing NaNoWriMo (and I'm unofficially with you--more on that later) will find that after you've been outputting a lot, you need to set away occasionally and do something that involves INPUT rather than OUTPUT every now and then.

So here's what I've been doing during my computer/internet break:

1) Sewing. Mostly this involved three(!!) Halloween costumes, but I've also made huge strides in a big embroidery I've been working on for about two years. (Picture here.)I might be finished with it, if I hadn't discovered....

2) Mystery Case Files for the NDS. Oh my God. These hidden item games are so addictive, it's like crack. Big Fish Games has a bazillion of them for PC and Mac, but I like playing this on the DS because I can hold it close to my face. I like to have things that occupy my hands while I watch TV, which I've needed more of, because I've ALSO discovered...

3) Supernatural on DVD. I'm now addicted to the adventures of Sam and Dean Winchester. I remember why I didn't start watching this from the beginning. The premise-Hardy Boys meet Kolchek the Night Stalker (or Buffy, if you prefer), is very like the Maggie Quinn: Girl vs. Evil premise (Nancy Drew meets Kolchek). And yet they're somehow also really different. Anyway. I'm only halfway into the second season (I have, after all, not spent the entire month on the couch... and also Netflicks only sends 3 DVDs at a time), but I'm hooked.

I've also read a bunch of books and watched a number of movies, which I'll post about separately. No sense in overdoing it the first day back!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Since I talked about movies last post, I'll mention the book(s) I'm reading this week, when I can get my eyes to focus (see below, re: sinus/cold/whatever misery... I've been resting a LOT, shouldn't I be getting better?).

THE IRON HUNT
, by Marjorie M. Liu. I'm a fan of Marjorie's anyway, so this foray into Urban Fantasy thrilled me, not least because I thought it was different from the boilerplate tough-girl vamp/demon/whatever hunter. (Which, don't get me wrong, I love.) This world has a lot of layers to it, and the book is an engrossing, but not a simplistic read. The narrator doesn't come right out and explain things, and sometimes you're learning things as she does. However, loved her demons, loved the writing, loved the texture of this one.

THE PINK CARNATION, by Laura Willig. (Actually, I think the real title is "the Secret History of the pink carnation.") This is a premise, that I love: Modern Day Heroine comes across journals/letters/eye-witness/etc. that tell(s) a parallel story from the past. In this case, she wants to discover the identity of "The Pink Carnation"--a spy of the Scarlet Pimpernel stamp. It's Napoleonic War spy stuff, so I'm inclined to like it anyway, but I really am enjoying the story. My only quibble is that the historical characters' dialogue occasionally teeters right on the edge of too modern in cadence and informality. Oh, and the head hopping between POVs, but not everyone finds that as distracting as I do.

Finally...

CHALICE, by Robin McKinley. I make no secret of my McKinley love. I'm a fangirl. Chalice was wonderful, told with rich descriptions and emotions, and what I've come to view as a McKinley-esque blend of the practical with the magical. (In Sunshine it was the baking of the cinnamon rolls. Here it's beekeeping and honey.) Mirasol hold the position in of "Chalice" in her land, and she's responsible for holding everything together: people, animals, earth energy. She's landed in the role with no training, so she's researching and sort of making it up as she goes along during a critical time, when the demesnes has a new Master (an inherited position of magical authority) who seems ill suited to the job. She has to shore up his position magically, and it comes down to a challenge for the mastership and she saves the day in an unexpected way.

What I love about McKinley's heroines is that they are unexpectedly strong. She usually pushes them to the end of their endurance--and makes you feel that as a reader--before giving them victory. They're not tough in the butt-kicking chick way that many strong females are portrayed in contemporary novels, but have to dig deep to keep going, and find reserves that no one would expect them to have.

There's a bit of a Beauty and the Beast thread in the story, the transformative power of love. I think it's interesting how often that comes up in McKinley's writing. It's one of my favorite themes (and fairy tales) and maybe that's no coincidence.

What have you guys been reading lately?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Movie Rambles (Cold Medicine Version)

I'm starting to get confused what I put on Twitter, and what I post on the blog. But I may have mentioned my sinuses have taken my head hostage in our ongoing battle for skull supremacy. The catch-22 with cold and sinus stuff, at least for me, is that any drug that's actually effective on my symptoms usually knocks me on my butt. But since I've got a couple of days to relax, I figured I might as well take advantage of it and see if I can regain the upper hand.

(The sad thing is, Lizzie is all congested, too. :-( *I* won't go to the doctor, but I might have to take her to the v-e-t.)

Anyway. I have some thoughts on what I've been watching. Bear in mind these are filtered through a Robitussin filter.

The Forbidden Kingdom. This was a really fun movie. I enjoyed it SO much more than The Bank Job (Mr. RCM's pick). Jackie Chan and Jet Li. About 75% extended fight scenes, 10% story, 15% stuff that was just cool to look at. A definitely recommend.

Penelope. A charming movie. Like any fairy tale, follows a definite formula, but that's okay when they freshen it up here and there. Penelope deserves her happy ending, which is more than you can say about a lot of fairy tale heroines, and James McAvoy (whom I understand many people find to be quite the heart throb) was a charming non-prince. Recommended for those who appreciate sweet but quirky romantic movies.

Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan. This was on one of the movie channels yesterday. I haven't watched it in ages. Bear in mind, I was warped by formed by my early exposure to 70's Sci-Fi reruns, thanks to my mother. So I grew up with Kirk, Spock and Bones as sort of honorary TV uncles. I was going to post that Khan was my favorite original series movie, but then I remembered how much I enjoy The Undiscovered Country. But allowing for melodramatic acting and dated special effects, Khan is a close second. The story manages to call back to history to please the fans, but it stands alone for the non-fans. It actually uses the age and experience of the original characters as plot and character points. (It was basically about being old enough for the past to bite you in the ass, whereas later they sometimes tried to ignore how old the characters had gotten.) I liked the point that Kirk had always cheated death, and for most of the movie, that trend continues. Which is why the ending is so AWESOME. (And still makes me sniffle. Shut up. Honorary TV uncles, people.)

I have very mixed feelings about bringing Spock back (spoiler!) in the third movie, but if they hadn't, he wouldn't have been around for The Undiscovered Country, but we might have been spared Spock's "brother" in that fifth movie that was so bad I have blocked the name from my mind. But in general, I think it's cheating to kill a character in an awesome self-sacrificing way, then bring them back. (I'm looking at you, Buffy. But I got on board with that when it was clear they hadn't just hit the resest button.)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

October Catch up

I missed my Monday update due to a severe attack of lazy yesterday. Though to be honest, I really feel like I've missed the first part of this month, since I had my head down working on The Rewrites. So here's the catch up post.

1) Law of diminishing returns. Speaking of my re-write-a-thon last week, there's a point at which you're better served sleeping than typing stuff that sounds great to your euphoric brain only to discover later that you weren't actually writing in English.

2) FenCon. I hit "send" on The Rewrites at 2:30 PM, then got in the shower (you're welcome) and was on my way to Dallas for the con by 3:30. I had a great time, but Friday afternoon/evening I was so tired (see above, re: Rewrites and Diminishing Returns), not to mention elated, that I was sort of punch-drunk. At one point, this involved a giggle-fit of such epic proportions that I just had to give up on coherency.

3) Relaxation. So I'm taking this week off, in theory. Of course, what I'm really doing is reading this ginormous stack of books that I've accumulated, ditto the beginning of the new television season. I also have this idea I might get back on track with my exercise regimen (heh). But mostly I'm sitting on the couch reading and watching TV. (It doesn't help that I have had this sinus thing going on for weeks, and now that I'm not powering through, it's sort of catching up with me. Yay for drugs, I guess.)

4) The New Book.... has a title! The Splendor Falls. It's from a Tennyson poem. Probably a very obscure reference, so I will provide an handy link to the poem. It's quite different from the Maggie books, but also sort of not. I mean, it's still an RCM book, so it's going to be smart and droll and there's going to be magic and mystery. There's even more romance, which was fun to do, and it's not quite as LOL funny, though I think there's still a lot of humor in it. You'll be hearing more about it in the future.

5) Scotland. And oh yeah! I'm leaving for Scotland in 18 days. I've been so involved in getting the book done, it totally snuck up on me!

Friday, October 3, 2008

What a week.

I have done nothing this week but write, edit, rewrite, delete, move, rewrite again...

And that includes sleep! I'm off to FenCon as soon as I throw some clothes in a suitcase. I don't even know what's clean. If I'm dressed in nice clothes, it's because I have nothing else to wear.

I'm clean, though. I did take a shower. Um, finally.

Ah, it's such a glamorous life.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

FenCon

I'll be headed to FenCon tomorrow, which is a terrifically fun SFF Convention in Dallas--Addison, actually. This will be my third year to go. They have some terrific guests this year. I'm especially looking forward to meeting Doris Egan. (If you're a House, M.D. fan, she's a producer for that show, as well as an author of a couple of books on my keeper shelf. The cover has come off Gate of Ivory.)

If you've never been to a con, this is a nice one for newbies or oldbies alike. There are some great guests, and because it's not so huge, you never know who you'll sit down next to in the bar. (But if it IS in the bar, it may well be me.) There's also a strong music track, which I always say I'm going to go and enjoy, but am always so busy I just end up buying the Music GOH's CD and wishing I'd seen them in person. (I like this years musical guest just from their name Three Weird Sisters.

Anyway. Here's the whole schedule, and here's what you really want to know. Where *I* will be. (Besides the bar):

Friday 8:00 PM Addison Lecture Hall
What Fuels Your Engine? (M)

Description: What do you put in the tank to keep you running at the keyboard/easel? What movies, music, books that might not be genre-related do you engage to keep the creative batteries charged?
___________________________

Friday 10:00 PM Trinity 3
Liars Panel

Description: Round out your evening with tall tales from convention veterans. once the door closes, don't believe anything you hear.

(I had so much fun on this one last year.)
___________________________

Saturday 10:00 AM Oak Ballroom
Sci-Fi Channel Cage Match Round 2

Description: This is the channel that killed Harry Dresden and gave us wrestling and bad B-Movies. On the other hand, they've given us Eureka, and they show Doctor Who. We met in the ring last year, yet no winner was declared. Who will survive round 2?
___________________________

Saturday 12:00 noon Addison Lecture Hall
Blended Genres

Description: Mixing "Gilligans Island" with "X-Files" might sound like a great idea...but does it always work? How can a writer successfully combine two or more established genres? When should they leave well enough alone?
___________________________

Saturday 1:00 PM Pecan Room
Reading

Description: I'm giving away books and stuff, and reading from Highway to Hell, or possibly even the new gothic novel. The important thing is, it'll be entertaining and possible profitable, because did I mention I was giving stuff away?

___________________________

Saturday 6:00 PM Oak Ballroom
What the Heck Do Pirates have to do with SF?

Description: Why? Every convention does this as a theme. How did this happen, and how long will it take to die? Or will we still be singing pirate songs and wearing parrots in 2058?

___________________________

Sunday 11:00 AM Addison Lecture Hall
How Faithful are Sidekicks? (M)

Description: What are the pros and cons of using sidekicks in stories? are they better left to the comic books or do they have a place in the traditional story? and what happens when they turn against you?

___________________________

Sunday 12:00 noon Trinity 3
Whedonverse

Description: All things Joss! Buffy, Firefly, Dr. Horrible, you name it, we got it!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Opera Cat Announces Booksigning in Austin

(Heh. I just typed "Austen." Lit nerd!)




Okay you Austin-ites. I'm going to be in town to celebrate Teen Read Week. I'll be doing a signing at the Barnes and Noble at the Arboretum (10000 Research Blvd. Austin, TX 78759) on October 15th at 7:30 PM. It's a weeknight, but it's your one chance to come out and see me. (Until Highway to Hell comes out in the spring, anyway.) There will be other authors there, too, so, you know, you can come see them, too.

(I've been saving this LOLcat, because it cracked me up for some reason. The Handel reference, I guess. I sang that duet in performance. Music nerd!)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Where the magic happens

Last week, after I posted that I'd cleaned my office, someone (thank you, Rantie) asked where was the photographic evidence of said muck out. In on honor of this site I ran across (www.on-my-desk.com, and seriously how do those people keep their desks so neat?), I'm posting pics of my office. (Disclaimer. This is a week after the clean up. I think I've done pretty well keeping it up.)

So, here we go. My office, the annotated version. Because It's funny how, when you look at your personal space through the eyes of a perfect stranger, you see how... kind of weird you might possibly be.


Notes:
• Horses and ships. If you ever decide to send me an Xmas present... It's sort of weird I don't write about horses and ships, actually. Because that's what I dig.

• Yes, I have a St. Nicholas out in September. It's because... uh... He's also the patron saint of sailors.

• Yes, those are THE shoes I got on super-duper sale. Yes, they are in my office so I can look at them whenever I want to. (I'm going to wear them to <a href="http://www.fencon.org">FenCon</a>, by the way. So don't look for the short person, because these shoes make me 10 feet tall.)

• Bottom shelves. Ugh. Repository of crap.




I don't even know where to start on this one. Sweater I never wear in the summer because my office is always warm. Reading glasses--not because I'm OLD but because I stare at the screen for hours and hours (and sometimes even type). Water bottle, because one catastrophic spill is enough to learn me my lesson. And of course, the postie notes.

Oh, and one thing that does not show in the pictures is the October issue of TEEN VOGUE. (It's actually just out of frame.) And why, you may ask, do you have a copy of TEEN VOGUE? (You know, because the broadsword and tiara will engender NO questions, I'm sure.) Because of this:



SQUEEEEEEEEE!!!!! That's absolutely all I can say about that.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Movie Report: The Other Boleyn Zzzzzzz

I want to be witty and incisive about the world today, but I'm having trouble keeping my eyes open. I'm holding off on coffee because I'm seriously considering going back to some horizontal surface OTHER than the one where I tried to sleep last night and trying to catch a few more Zs.

Long story involving pet sitting Mom's sausage dog (not that bad) and the hellcat who hates me (who, at 18 years of age, can't really be bothered to try and destroy me anymore, so has settled on annoying me to death), rewrite frustrations, and sundry other things.

One thing that SHOULD have cured my sleeplessness: the movie version of The Other Boleyn Girl. So today's semi-coherent post should be appropriate report on this semi-coherent movie.

I really enjoyed Phillipa Gregory's novel. She took some liberties with the gaps in biographical information, but the really scandalous allegations about Anne Boleyn (i.e., incest) she left insinuated. The story stayed firmly with Mary Boleyn (the title character, after all), and though our sympathies were with her, Anne came off as ambitious, driven, sometimes ruthless, always conniving, but intelligent and complex. Henry VIII was not always admirable--where women were concerned, he always seemed to be after the next shiny bauble--but you got why he was that way. All the characters were complex and interesting.

The movie was absolute dreck. I can't even work up a really good rant about it, because it was that boring. The characters were cardboard thin (Henry is a tool, Anne is merely a vindictive bitch who wants what her sister has, Mary is a doormat), the plot makes no sense, the history was either out and out wrong, or abbreviated to the point of incomprehensibilty. It's not even a case of I know too much about the period to just enjoy this movie for a pretty costume drama (the costumes were quite pretty). It's that if I didn't know the Boleyn story already, I would never have been able to understand what happened in this movie.*

I do have one rant. It's feminist and spoilery -- for the movie, not for history, since I assume y'all know how Anne ended up (beheaded) and who her her daughter was (Elizabeth I). (I love how the film treats this as a big reveal at the end. Once again Hollywood assumes Americans are idiots.... Oh, wait.)

Okay, so in the movie, after Anne has been holding out sex until Henry divorces Catherine and marries her, she tries to put him off once too often (until she has the ring and the crown) and Henry rapes her. Not rough seduction, no euphemism, no lie there and think of England. While the camera focuses on Anne's face, not the action, there's clothes tearing, and screaming and crying.

Since the book is all from Mary's POV we don't see what actually happens between Anne and Henry when they finally do the deed, though we do know she's been putting him off, using all the tricks she's learned in France to keep him interested while keeping her legs together. She does give in before they're actually married, and we're not given any details. But I don't RECALL there being any hint of it being forced.

So why this change from the book bothers me so much is the statement Hollywood is making. It's not enough that Anne paid for her ambition by, you know, getting her head cut off. She also had to pay for being a strong, manipulative woman by being raped. Anne made the unforgivable Hollywood sin of being in charge of her own sexuality, and of using that sexuality to lead a king around by his dick.** She was called a witch and a whore back then, and apparently we haven't come so far in five hundred years, because the makers of this film thought she didn't suffer enough before being tried and executed. And this makes me very very sad.

Fortunately, this movie is so very bad and boring, I doubt it will have a wide spread cultural impact.


I finally got my cup of coffee, but it hasn't kicked in yet, so I hope this post makes more sense than that movie did.


**The actual historical events were much much more complex than this, and Henry's wanting to marry Anne was the catalyst, but not the sole basis for England's break with Rome. But in the movie, it does come down to what Little Henry wants.

*For full disclosure, I should mention the Shotime series "The Tutors" also plays fast and loose with historical detail (rockstar!Henry, obviously), and yet it's been one of my guilty pleasures for two seasons. I mean, they had me at Sam Neill as Cardinal Wolsey, but there was no going back after they cast Peter O'Toole as the Pope. I think it's been picked up for a third season, but I'm not sure I'm going to keep watching it now that my all my favorites have gone to the block.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Yay for autumn

The irony of the first day of fall is this: It's been cooler for the last week than it is already at 11 AM today. :-P Predicted 90's today, which isn't all that odd for Texas in September. But ugh.

My office is weird. It's always colder than the rest of the house in the winter (which doesn't bother me that much, because I can bundle up) and in the summer it is significantly warmer. Which is a problem, because there's only so far you can strip down and remain decent. I don't need to garner a reputation with the FedEx guys.

It doesn't help that I really dislike being warm, especially while I work. I'll deal with it if I'm doing something outdoors, or rusticating for the weekend. I can read a book for pleasure, watch TV, whatever. But I have a terrible time concentrating when the room temperature is over 80 degrees. (The house thermostat is set at 78, but the office stays about 84 on a summer day.)

I think this has contributed to my funky work schedule, wherein I do most of my work at night. Part of it is the psychological freedom of the magic "after 10" hour, when everyone is asleep and the stores are closed and no one will call on the phone. But it's also the one time during the summer that my office is the same temperature as the rest of the house.

So, anyway. Thank goodness for the laptop. I'm off to (my) Starbucks were it's always freezing cold. I suspect this is to make people (like me) who come and work/talk/hang out buy more coffee. I have no problem with that.

Happy Autumn Equinox, everyone. :-)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Office Scavenger Hunt

Yesterday my desk reached a critical mass of clutter. My creative space is pretty indicative of the way my brain works. At the base level, everything is organized. There's a place for everything, and things are generally in them, maybe not alphabetized and color coordinated, but generally in the spot where I'll know where to look for them.

The reason I have to be organized on the ground level is so that I'm free to make a certain amount of mess while I work. Notes and books and scraps of paper and postie notes and iPod cords and Excedrin bottles and tubes of Burt's Bees Lip Balm. That's normal. As are the 12 lipglosses and assorted hair scrunchies. But when I'm REALLY hitting it, then there's an accumulation of coffee cups, drink glasses, candy wrappers, unsorted junk mail, bills I've paid but haven't filed yet, plus reams of paper drafts--the one with my editors notes on it, the next version with MY notes on it, the outdated section with my critique groups notes on it.

Anyway, yesterday I couldn't find the map I'd drawn of Bluestone Hill Inn, the setting of the RWIP. reWIP? Anyway. The revisions I'm trying to get done. So, I finally took some time and cleaned up my office. Here are some things I rediscovered in the process:
  • Floor in front of my bookshelves
  • Two pairs of flip flops
  • My Jane Austen Action Figure
  • Magazine turned to article on how to stay organized
  • Three lip-glosses of the same color that I keep forgetting I already own.
  • My favorite baby name book (for characters, don't anyone get excited)
  • Starbucks gift card (Yay!)
  • SFWA dues notice. (Oops. ☹)
  • Card from (Thank you!)
  • Three packages of Maggie Quinn Hot Mints
  • Thermacare heatwrap for arthritic hand (right) that unfortunately doesn’t do anything for arthritic mouse-button finger (index)
  • K. Hudson Price's birthday present. (Oops again.)

I guess I can add "my mind" to that. But that remains debatable.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Girl Crushes and politics

SNL can be hit or miss with the humor sometimes, but this one was dead on. Jabs at Palin and Clinton both but really skewers the screwed up way we think about gender and politics. It makes me want to bang my head against the wall the way people jump on an idiom as sexist, and ignore platform issues that are actually, you know, unfair to women. (And that's all I have to say about that.)

Now, on to my Tina Fey girl-crush (And yes, I realize the irony of using the word 'girl' in a post in which I crab about sexism. "Girl," like "Bitch" does not offend me except in a pejorative context.):




And speaking of girl-crushes, how about this piece of awesome:

Meg Cabot donating proceeds of Mia Thermopolis penned book "Ransom My Heart" to Greenpeace.*
(From www.dearauthor.com via

("[Fictional character] Mia Thermopolis will write a Historical Romance novel to be published by Avon A and all the proceeds will be given to Greenpeace. The plot of the book is described as this: Finnula Crais, “the fair Finn,” is an adventurous beauty with more than a few secrets of her own. Finnula needs money for her sister’s dowry, and fast. Luckily she happens upon a knight in need of rescue in a local tavern - a nobleman who evidently has returned home to England from the Crusades with saddlebags of jewels, money, and lots of it. Finnula reasons what could be simpler than to kidnap him and hold him for ransom? ").

That plot sounds fabulously ridiculous, and something I'd read for fun even if it wasn't for a good cause. Cabot has started an activism section of her website, which pleases me greatly, because a bazillion teens (and teens at heart) read her stuff, and as y'all know from my despairing posts about my neighbors wasteful habits, I don't think enough can be said about what each person can do to protect the environment.

Wow, I'm political today.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Writing tip of the day: Dialogue and Dialect

So, I was watching True Blood on HBO. (I seriously, highly recommend the books by Charlaine Harris. Go buy or check them out now.) And I'm thinking: Wow, they are really over exaggerating the rural Louisiana accents. Not one really talks like that. That's almost a caricature.

Then I was in the mall on Friday, and there were three girls, possibly two girls and their mother, and they were talking about finding their way around the department store. And I swear, hand to God, they sounded JUST LIKE the TV show. I mean, accents so thick you could cut through them, and that weird way that Louisianans sort of half swallow their sounds. East Texans do that, too. (They may have been refugees from Hurricane Ike.)

The thing about dialect (fancy word for accent) is that it can convey a lot about your character without your having to TELL the reader. It can show if they're educated, casual, precise, slow, smarmy, proper and formal... all kinds of things. If the way they speak changes in a certain situation, that tells us something, too. It's a very useful tool.

But in the case of a distinct accent, how do you handle this without driving your reader crazy or coming off like a stereotype?

The book I'm rewriting now is set in rural Alabama. The Alabama placement is more in the center of the mouth, which is why "I" sounds like "Ah" when they talk. (As in "Ah'm goin' t'the store.") To produce a Texas accent aloud, all you have to do is smile when you talk, and run most of your words together while still talking real slow. Also, it's "real" and never "really." In fact, you can discard the "ly" from most adverbs. i.e., run real quick, sneak real quiet, dance real graceful.)

As a writer, you don't really convey the pronunciation of things in your dialogue--at least, I don't. It's one thing when a character is first introduced, you might have your POV character note the way they talk by spelling one line phonetically. (I'll do that for any unfamiliar word, actually. In Highway to Hell, Lisa uses the word "bruja" (Spanish for "witch") and Maggie says (in narration): "It sounded like she said 'brew-ha' but with more spit in the 'h'.")

But what you do instead is reflect the dialect through the grammatical idiosyncrasies. For instance, the "ly" thing in the Texas accent. In dialogue, you dispense with it, and you can say something like "We was going real quick to the store, and then coming right back." Your eye reads it in an accent without your having to spell it out. If I had to write (or read) a book full of dialogue like "We wuz goin' reel quick tuh thuh store, an then comin' raht back." I'd drive a spike through my eye. It would be like reading a book written in LOLcat.

So, that's your writing 101 lesson for Monday. How to convey dialect without driving your copy editors and readers crazy.

Friday, September 12, 2008

New Cover!

Quick post today. Up to my eyeballs in stuff today.

But look! Amazon.com now has the cover for Highway to Hell. Now I feel free to post it, in all it's glory:


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

TV Rambles

Watched Fringe last night. Reeeeeaaaaally liked it. Wasn't sure I was going to get past the melting people on the airplane (What is it about JJ Abrams and planes?) but ended up completely engrossed. Since Lost lost me after the first season, I feel like I'm taking a chance here. But for now, I'm hooked.

Yes, I know I'm a freak because I don't like Lost. I also *hate* Desperate Housewives, and I'm sort of ashamed of my brief flirtation with Grey's Anatomy, like that guy you're sort of enamored of until you find out that there really isn't anything interesting underneath the surface charm.

I'm on and off again with House. I liked the first season, then his whole downward spiral got TOO too. But I watched last season in reruns over the summer, and the whole thing with the 30 intern elimination really hooked me back in. I think it really freshened the formula back up, which it needed.

I still haven't watched last week's Bones. I'm saving that as a reward to myself when I get my rewrites done. I confess, I watch that show for Bones and Booth. I don't even care when it doesn't make sense. I missed Terminator, too, but managed not to record it, either. I'm going to have to download that one.

What am I forgetting. By the way, my friend Candace Havens is blogging about the new TV season. In addition to being the author of fun, sexy books about kick-butt heroines with complicated love lives, she's also an entertainment reporter. (Which is how I saw the first two episodes of Tru Blood, which I will blog about in a separate post.)

See, this is why I have to get caught up on work. I love the new TV season, when everything has the possibility of being awesome.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Monday (well, Sunday night sortta) Madness

It IS technically Monday. And I seriously need to go to bed, because I'm off to Dallas in the morning, to do stock signings at many many bookstores. And then if I'm not dead, I'm going to make my compatriots go with me to LUSH at North Park Mall. I'm going with Candace, and she's nuts for all things Ed Hardy, and they've just opened an Ed Hardy store in North Park, so I predict she won't be hard to convince. (I am more of an Anthropologie girl myself. Or would be, if I had all the money I wanted to spend on clothes. I would at least have a wardrobe full of their sweaters. But I like to shop and get ideas. I have this dream I will someday be caught up enough on stuff that I can sew some adorable Anthropologiesque clothes, and no one will know the differences. I actually rock a sewing machine, though you'd never know it, the way I dress.)

Where was I? Oh, yeah. Stock signings in Dallas.

The funny thing about Dallas and Fort Worth is, people who are not from around these parts always lump them together. "The DFW Metroplex." And people who live in the MIDDLE lump them together, but really, it's a huge big deal (in my head) to go to Dallas, like it's the other end of the...

Oh my GOD, those IDIOTS across the street are dumping their beer bottle trash down the storm drain AGAIN! I swear before all that is holy one day I am going to catch them on camera and they are going to have a littering fine like you would not believe. These are the kids of the woman who runs her sprinkler for four hours, in the middle of the day, in the middle of a drought. Maybe I'll document that, too.

Though if I haven't documented the POT DEALING I suspect is going on over there, then I guess I'm never going to do anything. But you know, dealing pot stays over there. Well, except when their friends/customers drive their cars into the neighbor's house. (Tried to find the link to that post. I need to make better tags or LJ needs a better search function.) But darn it, stop wrecking my environment, idjits.

Now I don't really feel like writing about rampant brand name consumerism any more. Grump. Some people take all the fun out of things...

Have a good Monday, folks. Hope your days, and nights, are free of pot-smoking, littering idiots.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Fieldtrip to the 5 Randoms

The thing about a blog is that while you get the inner workings of my demented mind through my ramblings, if you want the answers to direct questions, you have to go to someone else's blog. Check out the interview with yours truly at this charming blog called the 5 Randoms. I like how their posts are in the form of lists. I like lists.

So, in honor of the 5 Randoms blog, here are 5 Random things I'm happy about today:

1) Got over a big hump in the revisions of the southern gothic novel. (Seriously, I've been working in circles for days, and last night I finally moved on to the next chapter.)

2) A friend who I thought had dropped off the planet touched base in her LJ yesterday.

3) There was exactly enough cream for my second cup of coffee this morning, so I don't have to go to the store until this afternoon.

4) Even thought we're not done with the heat yet, I can feel the turn of the season coming in the cool damp of the air first thing in the morning.

5) Hell Week was on an end cap when I walked through B&N the other day. Right in the mail flow of traffic into the mall. Squee!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Consumerism, or, if I blog about it, can I write that purse off on my taxes?

Wow. I just LOST an entire day. How does that happen?

The booksigning on Saturday was Maaaahvelous. I had a great time, and the B&N at Hurst was awesome. They put me right up front, there was a poster with the new art--which attracted lots of attention.

Then afterward I grabbed some dinner with my girlfriends and then we went shopping. I was looking for a fall purse, and the only one that just made me keel over with wanting was out of my price range. Considering I still haven't fixed the AC on my car, I would have a hard time justifying the price tag.

But not that hard a time. See:

Air Conditioner vs. Kate Spade Bag
A/CPurse
Texas is hotter than armpit of HellI've already lasted since May
It will still be hot until OctoberIt's September now
Will no longer arrive everywhere windblown and sweatyWill arrive everywhere stylishly accessorized
Will increase resale value of carWill increase shallow, consumer-based happiness
Will last until sale of carClassic shape will be in style forever
...Can by 4 purses for price of 1 A/C
...No A/C gets better gas mileage, better for the environment.
...Don't drive Jeep that much anyway.

I guess I'd better get to work, or I won't be getting either.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Heart stopping events this weekend

First things first. Don't forget there's a...
BOOKSIGNING for

HELL WEEK (Maggie Quinn: Girl vs. Evil book TWO)

on SATURDAY, August 30th

2 to 4 PM at the Hurst Barnes and Noble


Pertinent details, including a map to the location here.

Right now this is the only signing I have scheduled for this book. Someday, when I'm so famous I have people chanting my character's names like nineteen-sixties schoolgirls at a Beatles concert, then I'll have a bunch. ;-)

However! This is not the only event going on this Labor Day weekend. On Monday, vendors for the Texas State Fair will compete to become this year's equivelent of last year's favorite state fair food: Fried Cookie Dough.

I swear, I could not make this stuff up. Highway to Hell, MQ book 3, takes place in South Texas, and my editor kept making remarks in the manuscript along the lines of "For real?" And I kept telling her, this state is way more quirky than I could invent.

This years contenders are: Texas fried jelly bellyes, deep-fried s'mores, fried banana split, and chocolate-covered strawberry waffle balls. (And if you think that last thing is not like the others, don't worry. Quote from the Star Telegram article: "frying the strawberries in a chocolate coating keeps them firm." I think the word you're looking for is CRISPY.)

But the most nauseating thing on the list: Chicken fried bacon. (Mr. RCM read this to me while I was eating breakfast. I did not thank him for it.)

Says the inventor (Glen Kusak of Yoakum Packing Co.): "As you know, everything is beter with bacon on it, and Texans like everything chicken fried... That was the thought process behind it."

The Star Telegram article is here if you don't believe me.

I won't be having fried bacon at my booksigning, but I hope y'all will come anyway!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Shelf-life support system

Thank you guys for the congrats and celebrations for HELL WEEK. Mom and I went to the nearest Barnes and Noble and I signed stock and she put the stickers on. The nearest Borders didn't have their copies out yet. The computer said they were "on the way." Yay!

Which reminds me to tell y'all something--As a reader, there are a ton of authors I love that don't get nearly the attention and bookseller love as some high profile books do. Stores have limited shelf space, and if you figure half of that is taken up by Twilight books, and half of what's left is taken up by Gossip Girls books, that leaves a small space for everyone else. I'm not bitching about that--it's just business. Those are what's selling, so that's what's going to be in the store.

However, here are some things you can do to help an author you like stay alive on the shelves:

1) If the book isn't out on the shelf, ask about it. It might be sitting in a box in the back (happened twice to me), they might be out of stock. Booksellers do notice who's getting asked about, and it generates buzz, which generates book orders.

2) Talk about the books to your friends. The best marketing in the world is word of mouth. (Or word of blog.)

3) If possible, buy your favorite authors' books when they first come out, even if it has to go in your to be read pile for a bit. The first two weeks of sales are the most important for accounting reasons I don't completely understand, except that, again, this generates "buzz" that makes bookstores order more books.

4) Don't forget your library! If you have a small book budget, you can do the same thing at your library. If they don't have the book you're looking for, request it. They can get it from inter-library loan, or they may buy their own copy(ies). Just like booksellers, librarians pay attention to what readers ask for.

5) This kind of goes without saying, I hope, but always be polite in your requests. :-)

I mention these things not (only) for selfish reasons. A lot of readers, if they don't see what they're looking for, will just go home and order it from Amazon.com. But before you do that, asking about the book at the store can make a difference. You can help the authors you enjoy by letting your bookseller know you love them!

ANyway. I celebrated Book Release Day with a piece of cheesecake. Banana Cream Cheesecake form the Cheesecake Factory. Yay for cake!

Then it was back to work. Because in the end, that's the only thing an author can control--writing the next awesome book!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Happy HELL WEEK day!

Hey you guys! Hell Week comes out today. Run to the store and pick it up. Unless you're coming to the booksigning on Saturday, then you can wait until then. :-)

Here's the bullet on the book:

HELL WEEK, by Rosemary Clement-Moore, sequel to the award winning PROM DATES FROM HELL, comes out today, Tuesday, August 26th!

College Freshman Maggie goes undercover to write an article about sorority rush for the newspaper, and gets more than she bargained for when she pledges a group of girls with supernaturally suspicious good luck. She has to use her wonky psychic abilities to solve the mystery and shut down the Sigma Alpha Xis before they make her stay on Greek Row permanent when Hell Week rolls around.

What people are saying about the second book in the Maggie Quinn: Girl vs. Evil Series:

"When you need a Buffy fix, grab a copy of Hell Week. From danger to humor, romance to mystery, this book has it covered!"
--Melissa Marr, author of the bestselling Wicked Lovely.

“Maggie’s snarky humor and quirky personality keeps this novel’s first half light, but the second takes a dark, page-turning twist.”
— Kirkus Reviews

"The first book was a great start, and this installment is top-notch fun and a satisfying follow-up for older teens. Great dialogue and smart, interesting relationships that grow and change make both books a joy to read."
–VOYA

Read more about HELL WEEK--including an excerpt--here.


And if you're in the Dallas Fort Worth Area, come to the book release party and signing on Saturday, August 30!

Booksigning Info here on Special Booksigning Info Page!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Deleted Scene -- Hell Week

It doesn't matter how many times you've seen the movie. If you fall asleep with Aliens on the TV, you're going to have some bizarre dreams.

Fox Movie Channel was running Aliens last night, and it was the version with the useless stuff they added back into pad the movie when the movie ran on broadcast or basic cable. They needed to make up for all the stuff they cut, of course. I have mixed feelings about that. On one hand: yay for extra Hicks, Hudson and Vasquez, even for just a few lines.

On the other hand, most of the time when stuff gets edited out, there's a reason. Generally, when I look at the deleted scenes on the DVD, I can see why they left them out. Of course, there are always exceptions, but mostly it's repetitive stuff, or filler that doesn't serve the story or ramp up tension. Random bits of coolness that don't go anywhere. Clunky dialogue or exposition.

Exactly the stuff that authors cut out of their manuscripts. I was whinging about cutting something out of Hell Week (a way awesome scene that went in the wrong direction) when my friend Shannon suggested I could always do a "deleted scene" section of the webpage. And suddenly, it became easier to cut. Maybe it's the same for directors.

Anyway. In honor of HELL WEEK coming out TOMORROW, here's a deleted scene. Not the one mentioned above, because that includes a MAJOR spoiler that is actually in the book. But here's a taste of HW from the first draft (there may be typos) that was cut for redundancy, but is still pretty cool:


I was hard at work on Tuesday’s column when Instant Messenger pinged to let me know that Ov3rl0rdLi5a had logged on. I’d seen her [online] a couple of times since we talked on the phone, but hadn’t messaged her. I wasn’t sure how to go about it, whether I should apologize, when I didn’t really think I’d done anything wrong, or if I should just talk to her and pretend nothing had happened. After all, it wasn’t as if it were the first time we’d had that argument.

It was, however, the first time I’d admitted I didn’t really trust her anymore.

Even while I was thinking about it, a message window popped open.

Ov3rl0rdLi5a: How are things?

I stared at the three words a moment, then typed: That’s a very open ended question.

Ov3rl0rdLi5a: It’s a start.

With my fingers on the laptop keyboard, I could sense the tentativeness of that opening, the hopeful olive branch. It was unlike Lisa to extend herself first. That had always been my role.

MightyQuinn: I miss you, too.

Ov3rl0rdLi5a: Thanks. Silence for a few minutes. I didn’t sense anything in it. I don’t know if that meant I’d imagined the feeling earlier, or if she’d gone away. Then she typed again. So really. How are you?

MightyQuinn: Ghostwriting a column in the ESU paper. Photo credit on Friday. Maybe again on Tues. All A’s in classes. Lost 5 lbs.

Ov3rl0rdLi5a: So… good then.

MightyQuinn: Yeah. Freaky good.

Ov3rl0rdLi5a: You mean… freaky freaky?

I had to force myself to type it: Maybe.

A long pause. Then: You haven’t made any deals with any demons have you?

MightyQuinn: No!

Ov3rl0rdLi5a: Sorry. Bad joke.

MightyQuinn: Very. I stewed for awhile, and then forced myself to admit: Did join a sorority.

Ov3rl0rdLi5a: ROFLMAO

MightyQuinn: For the column. I’m undercover.

Ov3rl0rdLi5a: Wait. Serious?

MightyQuinn: Yes.

She didn’t answer, but my phone rang.

#
For the whole store, check out Hell Week in stores tomorrow!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Chortle

Random thing that made me smile.
cat
more animals

That's it from me today. I have a ton of work to do. Yesterday I spent so much time on this website about how to use your time more wisely that I used up all my time. O.o

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Random but facinating... With pictures!

One of my readers tagged me with this meme/quiz thing, and since she was nice enough to post her opinion of Prom Dates From Hell in her blog, I thought I would jump on board. (I suck at tagging people, though, so it likely dead ends here unless someone voluntarily posts their answers.)

What was I doing 10 years ago?
Working for peanuts (and not a lot of money) at the theatre, where I got to play Titania in overalls:


And also a dog named Sylvia:


And oh my gawd. My hair was so long!


What are five things on my to-do list today?
Edit, edit, blog, gym, edit. Clean my bathroom, but that's been on the to-do list all week, and I expect it will be there tomorrow.

Oh, and do some stuff to get ready for the Booksigning on next Saturday! (August 30th, 2-4 PM, Hurst Barnes and Noble. Y'all know I"m going to be annoying as hell about that, right?)

Snacks I enjoy:
Popcorn, edamame , and oh my god, I can’t even keep these things in the house. The mango chutney flavor is like crack, I swear.

Oh, yeah, and pancakes. Or, you know. Any kind of bread.

Places I've lived:
North Texas, South Texas, and East Texas. Have only visited West.

Things I would do if I were a billionaire:
Travel all over the world.
Have a summer house and a winter house. And maybe one secret house that only I knew about. :)
Buy some congressmen to get them to support environmental issues.
And staff. I'd hire staff to do stuff for me.

And the people I'm tagging:
Heck, if you wanna play, go for it. Notice that I set the bar high with embarrassing pictures of my past!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Nice Surprises

I mentioned earlier that Tera Lynn Childs is giving a way a lot of books, including mine, as part of her Olympics Contest. Today is the day you can comment for a chance to win a copy of HELL WEEK, so go over here to her blog or here to her myspace to do so.

So here's MY nice surprise today: Rain

Yes, with an exclamation mark. It's raining here in Texas, and unlike other parts of the country, we're glad for it. I am, anyway. Mid-summer always means blistering heat and dried up everything. The weird thing about Texas is that it often stays humid, even though you never get rain. Even this far from the Gulf, sometimes I go outside and wonder why it's so darn sticky when we're in the middle of a drought.

And of course, living in the metroplex, it's even worse, because the concrete and dome of air pollution turns everything into a hot box. A poisonous hotbox.

But we've had a couple of days of actual rain, and get this--it's not even supposed to get into the nineties today! Ahhh. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Synchronicity

I went to brunch then bookstore browsing with my buddy Kristi today. I have this weird things where sometimes I get my friends’ names mixed up. I know that probably sounds awful, but here’s why: They all start with the same two sounds. And those two sounds are often designated by the same letters.

Consider, if you will, my BFFs of longest standing: Cheryl and Carole. Not identical, but similar. Add to that, my newer-but-equally-BF BFFs are named Candy and Shannon. Then there’s the aforementioned separated-at-birth friend Kristi, and the fact that my editor is named Krista, and it gets confusing in my brain. There’s this new girl at DFWWW (my critique group) whose name is Kristin, but I’ve decided I can’t be friends with her unless she changes her name. (Just kidding, Kristin.)

My first online writing group had two Kris's: Senior and Junior. First boyfriend (lasting all of one recess period): Kiki (short for Christian. He was from South Africa.). Jr. High crush: Chris. Friends in college: Karen, Charlotte, Sheryl. (My sorority big-sis, Tish, only ENDED with a SH.)

Okay, maybe I'm just finding a pattern in all this only in hindsight. But there is weird synchronicity in life. Like the summer I worked at Shakespeare in the Park, and there were five guys named Steve, or the year I had crushes on five successive guys name Mark. Or the fact that I have bad luck with girls name Jennifer. (Not saying I haven't known nice Jennifers, just that I have bad karma with some of them. Though this could be law of averages. There are a LOT of Jennifers in my generation.)

What about you guys? Any inexplicable patterns that keep popping up in your life? Any strange confluences of minor details?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Win Free Stuff

In honor of her book, Oh. My. Gods., and tied in with the Olympics, author Tera Lynn Childs is doing a really massive book give away. Here is her explanation. Basically there's a chance to win a daily prize every day, and a big gold medal prize, too. Check it out for more info.

I mention this because on Decathlon Day, she's giving away a copy of HELL WEEK, my brand new, hot off the press book about sassy psychic girl reporter Maggie Quinn. Which did I mention, comes out on August 26th.

This has reminded me that I promised to give away a copy of HELL WEEK, too. In honor of school starting next week, I'll be having a comment and win contest as well. (On a much smaller scale. But then, Maggie only takes on evil sorority girls, not decedents of Greek Gods.)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

New Obsessions

I have a new obsession. I’ve discovered LUSH. Candy, Shannon and I stumbled across the store while in San Francisco, because there was a six foot tall man dressed as a fairy princess outside the door.

I’d heard of this stuff before, and I’d even been to the website. But with my super sensitive sniffer, I was leery of ordering products without smelling them first. With skin products--from makeup to soap to laundry detergent, it’s the chemically derived dyes, perfumes and preservatives that get me. So I’m I’m really in love with their hand and body creams though. No preservatives, nothing artificial. No animal products (not in the ones I got, anyway). I’m in love with Ocean Salt and Dream Cream.

And smelly stuff I can actually enjoy! I’m nuts about this Ceridwen’s Cauldron bath melt. Man, did my luggage smell great when I got home. (I did put it in a zip lock bag, because of the whole “melt” part.) And it made my skin so soft!

Granted, there are a lot of Lush products I would never be able to use. Too floral, too jasmine, too much patchouli. (Cannot do patchouli. I would make a lousy hippie.) Some were just too much scent, period. But the stuff I DID like… oh, wow.

I tried one of the bubble bars in the hotel, and it worked great. I couldn’t wait to get home and take more baths. See, I love to take baths, though I don’t very often because the master bath has one of those huge garden tub things, which I hate because it uses twice the water I need for a good soak. (Sigh. What’s the point of a ‘luxury’ tub if I won’t use it because it’s wasteful?)

So, I have a plan to set up the downstairs guest bath for my baths. Only I forgot what our last house guest discovered-- that the tap isn’t working right! It only puts out hot water! It used to put out cold water, too, but not any more, damn it.

Grumble. So now I have all this bath stuff I can actually use, and I can’t take a bath. I guess that will motivate me to get the tap fixed before the next time I have someone over to stay. Anyone know a good plumber?

So, what about you guys? Are you a bath lover or strictly a shower person?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Routines

So, my mom kicked me out of the house this morning. Nervy, since it’s, you know, my house. Half, anyway.

Apparently while I was in California Mom developed a morning routine. One that did not include my shuffling downstairs and irregular and unpredictable times, leaving a trail of manuscript pages, pens and pencils, computer cords, jump drives, and coffee cups. Nor does it include my growling while she chirps to herself, talks to the dogs, puts on her music and dances around while she putters and straightens up and generally is… chipper. I am not a person who appreciates chipper in the morning.

So this morning she’s like, you know where you get a lot of work done? “Starbucks. Why don’t you go work there this morning. Have a coffee on me.”

That’s where I am now (though I’ll have to come home to post this). MY Starbucks, by the way. The one closing in the indeterminate future. They’re getting my business until that happens.

Routines. I’ve been trying to get into one since coming back home. (Apparently it’s going to involve removing myself from the house for a couple of hours several times a week.) Last week I was pretty productive. Though I didn’t really stick to a fixed routine, I did better at knocking out my to do list. (I think a written list is key for me.) But I didn’t get to the gym, and that’s not so good. I was shocked that I didn’t gain any weight in SF. I love bread, so you know that was not going to be a good city for my diet. But I guess all the walking helped.

My family was always big on routine. You could set your clock by my dad’s schedule. Mom, too, likes things to happen in a predictable way. No one can figure out where I came from.

It isn’t that I’m flighty or disorganized. In fact, I’m an avowed control freak. Anyone who has traveled with me (sorry Candy and Shannon) has experienced this. I don’t leave the hotel without a plan and a map. But at home, in my own, organized environment, I’m not a routine kind of person. I guess it comes down to a routine being different from plan.

What about you guys? Are you an orderly, scheduled type of person, or do you like to fly by the seat of your pants? Or like me, a mix of both?