Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Girl vs. Lawn

Recently, I have become responsible for mowing my own lawn.

This probably doesn’t sound like a big deal to a lot of you. Or maybe it sounds lazy or sexist (after all, I can clean house like nobody’s business). But it is what it is... Or was. I have never had to mow the lawn before.*

It didn’t start well. It didn’t start at all, because the first thing I discovered was that the lawnmower was kaput and would take an Actual Lawnmower Repairman to fix.

Since the Home Owners Association won’t let me get a herd of goats (even a small one), I had to get my hands on a functioning lawn mower. And since an Actual Lawnmower Repairman costs money, and I am going to be the New Mower of the Lawn, I decided to get a rechargeable electric mower because it’s:

• Better for the environment
• Not dependent on my filling it with gasoline, which is icky and smelly.**

But the situation is getting dire, because the grass is now two weeks long. And I have small dogs. I’m worried I’m going to lose one of them.

Worse, I’m worried what might be taking up residence in my lawn. My suburban back yard could turn into a scene from Death in the Long Grass.

Or there could be gnomes. Or velociraptors.  This could happen:

So I look up what I want online and go to Home Depot. They have rows and rows of mowers: riding mowers with cup holders, push mowers with air conditioning... It’s a car lot of lawn mowers, but there is only ONE electric mower model in house. And it’s out of stock.

So the Home Depot Associate says: Well, I do have one in the back. It’s a return but it works perfectly well.

Me: Sold.

We get the thing in the Jeep and get it home and I call @peterthefencer to come over and help me get it back OUT of the Jeep, and then I charge it up and I read the instruction manual and I look up online How to Mow a Lawn.

Apparently there is a Great Debate over side to side mowing versus a spiral patterns. I mean a Great Debate. It’s like the Big-Endians and Little-Endians. I went with: However the heck I can manage to push it.

Because my bargain basement returned-but-working-perfectly electric rechargeable lawnmower is not self-propelled (none of them are). It’s RCM propelled.

And here’s what else I found out. My yard only LOOKS flat. That five degree slope is like freaking Everest when you’re trying to turn a lawnmower on it. Especially when one’s small stature puts one at a severe leverage disadvantage.****

The first time took me an hour and a half and a couple of breaks. There may have been pointing and laughing from the pothead teens across the street. There may have been some swearing. There may have been gnomes.
Not My Lawn

But at last it was done! It looked (mostly) great. I felt such a great sense of accomplishment!  I was high-fiving the dogs and doing a victory lap around the yard (a slow, tired victory lap).

And then I realized I was going to have to do it again the next week.

And the week after.

And twice a week in full summer. You can’t give those gnomes an inch, or they’ll encroach right back in.

I think I hear them singing their Elton John war chant right now.

Maybe I’ll clone some velociraptors to keep them out. That would take care of my home security as well. Though I suspect if the HOA objects to goats, they won’t go for genetically engineered dinosaurs, either.

But if I had velociraptors, I wouldn’t have to worry about the HOA, either.

Jurassic Security System

*Ironically, I have mown a pasture before, but that was on a tractor. Not the same thing as wielding a Toro in the suburbs.
**Mostly this last one.
****This is why I’m in equal danger from gnomes as I am velociraptors. Also, gnomes are creepy.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Awesome Things

There has been no new blog post for a week because...

1. I'm eyebrow deep in rewrites.

2. I taught/led/participated in six workshops/panels at DFW Writers Conference, which was awesome and cool and gave me the boost I need to dive back in to reason number one.  (See P.S. below.)

3. My Friend Kate linked to this on her Tumblr and I've watched it five times:
 Happy Reading / Writing / Final Exam Taking / Whatever is keeping YOU busy this May! TTYL!

PS  Are you a writer? Want to experience the awesomeness of an RCM class from the comfort of your own couch? I'm teaching Loglines, Queries and Pitches through the Young Adult chapter of RWA ONLINE the last week of June. Here is a link to register. It's $20 for non YARWA members, but even if you're not ready to pitch your book, it's valuable information on things to make sure you put IN your book to make it irresistible when you do get ready to submit.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Brimstone cover reveal and a little something extra

I've mentioned before that the first two books of the Girl vs. Evil series are being released in a new edition in September.

Without further ado, I present the cover of BRIMSTONE.

Here's the cover copy:
Slinking down the streets, hiding in the shadows, always lurking just out of sight, evil follows Maggie Quinn. It's no ordinary, everyday evil, either—it's Evil with a capital E, and whatever's behind it, it clearly wants Maggie.

But Maggie isn't the type of girl to go down without a fight. She has a few powerful tricks up her sleeve, not to mention a best friend who's a witch, and she's declaring open season on demons.
BRIMSTONE is available on September 11, 2012.

In honor of Maggie's new digs, I'm giving away something.

Answer these three questions in the comments section correctly to enter to win a signed copy of your choice of any of my books (including BRIMSTONE, you just have to wait a little longer).

1. What is one thing Maggie is afraid of?
2. What's Maggie's preferred way of dispatching demons?
3. What is the name of Maggie's best friend?

Bonus (for tie-breaking):

4. What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?

Good luck!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Earth's Mightiest Heroes

Here's what is obvious about The Avengers:  It is an awesome thrill ride, absolutely jam packed with action, badassery, wit, and heart. It's that truly rare thing: a movie that is both fun to watch and really, really well-crafted.

Here's what is less obvious:  It's a story about superheroes that is really about humanity. 

So. Much. Awesome.

Wait. Maybe that's obvious, too. Some part of superhero stories reflects our human condition. But a lot of times, the superhero is a larger than life Greek Tragedy figure who serves to Teach Us A Lesson. With great power comes great responsibility. The mutants in X-men represent the scary Other that must be controlled or killed. The X-men fight to save a society that hates them. Batman is… Well, Batman is just wackadoo. 

(Which sort of brings me to the trend of "dark" in superheroes. There's a certain breed of "super" that is watchable/readable because it IS so removed from what we are. Deadpool, Spawn, anything by Frank Miller. I feel like Nolan's Batman, for all that I love the mind-twists that Nolan does with that, gets further away from his humanity, even as he makes sacrifices (or "sacrifices") for the good of Gotham or whatever. )

But okay, back to the Avengers. With the notable exception of Thor, everyone on the Avengers team started off as an actual human. They were transformed by science or technology.  The team was assembled by a human. Contrast that with the X-men [geek warning], who exist in the same comic book universe. They are mutants, different at their genetic core. Magneto calls them homo-superior, the next wave in evolution. Whenever the Avengers and the X-men show up at the same comic book party, there's a distinct difference: The Avengers are Earth's Mightiest Heroes. The X-men are Earth's outcasts, who fight for a world that hates and fears them. 

Both of those are cool stories worth exploring, but they're different. The X-men are mutants in search of humanity.  The Avengers, in all of their origin movies and to some extent here, are humans who need to find their inner superhero. 

And what's really cool about that is that the director (Joss Whedon, for those of you living under a rock) allows for  moments when the most non-superpowered people in the film find their inner hero.  Men and women on the street. People with no powers at all but the fact that they volunteered for a tough job. Dweebish SHIELD agents. 

Those are just moments, light touches that flavor the movie but don't detract from the central story. This band of humans (or Asgardians) has to find their inner superhero, and then they have to find (stumble and fight, really) their way to being a super-team. 

The thing that really blows my mind in this movie is how Whedon gives every single member of the team a character arc that seamlessly fits into the whole picture. Managing to give every character their moment without dragging down the story or the pace (except one or two scenes, maybe) is pretty amazing feat. 

Equally amazing is that you don't notice the craftsmanship and the intricate framework of character story and overreaching theme while you're watching. You're just being blown away by the logarithmic awesome that's on the screen. 

Here's something else I loved about it. Whedon holds nothing back for the sequel. He goes full out, how-could-you-ever-top-this spectacle. He shoots down EVERYTHING. 

There were so many hero shots, so much something something ominous badass, so much heart-twisting sniffle, cheer out loud, laugh, snort, gasp and squee in this movie I cannot wait to go see it again for stuff I missed. 

So… highly, highly recommend this movie, both for the craft, the intelligent script, and most of all for the not-holds-barred spectacle of awesome. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

For DFW Writer's Workshop members. (You know who you are.)  Wednesday, May 9th I'm leading a mini-workshop on pitching your book to an agent or editor, in preparation for the DFW Writers' Conference.

If you did not get the handout in an email from DFWWW, you can view it online here or download it here (download starts automatically).

I will not have paper copies at the workshop, so print it out or bring it on your phone/tablet/parchment scroll, whatever.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

My Day at Ye Olde Faire

So, don't tell anyone, Internet, but on Sunday I played hooky from book revisions to go with my girlfriends to the nearby renaissance festival, Scarborough Faire. No, my friends are not named Parsley, Sage and Thyme. That would be weird (but awesome). Though possibly not as weird (but awesome) as some of the things we saw at the ren faire.

One of us had never been to such a thing before, and marveled at the amount of work people put into their costumes and crafts.

Only one of us dressed in costume. (Though more of us could have, if we'd been so inclined. As someone once said, "Fandom means never having to ask yourself 'But where will I wear that?'")
One of us measured distance by pub lengths. We'll call her "Sage" because it starts with the same letter as "Sarcastic." Sarcastic people are even funnier when they're slightly drunk.

One of us asked a whole lot of weaponry questions and made many friends with reenactors that way. (Seriously, if you want to get on a nerd's good side, just ask him about his hobby.)

All of us had a great time, which I will recap for you in a feature I like to call…

10 Things We Said at the Ren Faire

1) *Cannon shot goes off* "Another tribute has fallen." *beat* "Hungerrrrr Gaaaames!"

2) "We should start a band called 'Chain Mail Bikini.'"

3) "There were no health codes in the renaissance." Me: "I am SO not eating here."

4) "Where do you suppose I could get a headman's axe like that?"

5) "Do you think they have the chupacabra in the Museum of Monsters?"

6) *Handsome knights ride bay on horseback.* "Dibs on the paladin."

7) Thyme: "Do you think that lady would mind if I take a picture of her dress?" Sage: "Yes. I'm sure she put all that work into her costume so people would NOT be impressed by it."

8) *Guy with wheelbarrow goes by.* Parsley, "Bring out your dead!"

9) Me: "Who's your new friend." Parsley, dressed as a witch with a cat-type thing on her shoulder, "I don't know, but he totally made out with my familiar."

10) "Want to make something art in the renaissance? Put an 'e' on it."

And finally, pictures:




I am, by the way, a natural with the bow. HUNGGGGER GAAAAAMES!!!!

Okay readers. Poll time!  If you could time travel to any point in history (AND have running water and sanitary food preparation conditions) when would it be?