I remember the sound of your November. . .

It's the last day of NaBloPoMo, guys. Until later, when I have two specific photos to post, this is the placeholder.

"Winter"
by Joshua Radin

I should know
Who I am by now
I walk
The record stands somehow
Thinking of winter
Your name is the splinter inside me
While I wait

And I remember the sound
Of your November downtown
And I remember the truth
A warm December with you
But I don't have to make this mistake
And I don't have to stay this way
If only I would wait

The walk has all been cleared by now
Your voice is all I hear somehow
Calling out Winter
Your voice is the splinter inside me
While I wait

I remember the sound
Of your November downtown
And I remember the truth
A warm December with you
But I don't have to make this mistake
And I don't have to stay this way
If only I would wait

I could have lost myself
In rough blue waters in your eyes
And I miss you still

I remember the sound
Of your November downtown
And I remember the truth
A warm December with you

But I don't have to make this mistake
And I don't have to stay this way
If only I would wait

This is Not an Uplifting Post--Warned

I'm blessed. I'm insanely, unfairly blessed. I have a strong, supportive husband, three beautiful sons, and a growing writing career. I'm also manic, the survivor of a father who committed suicide 26 years ago, and a survivor of my own attempts.Right now I'm happy. I know how blessed I am, and how much I deserve the love of my family.

Last night my sister called me to ask if I knew why every police officer in our small Alabama town was parked at a local pharmacy (my husband is a local firefighter, hers a local police officer, but both were working). I didn't.

This morning at church, I learned there had been an attempted homicide/successful suicide a block from my house. A man had chased his wife all around town, had fired at her, and when she ran into the drug store for refuge, he had gone to the back of the building and turned the gun on himself.

Not long after having last night's commotion at the pharmacy explained we heard even more saddening news; this morning another local man--for whatever reason, many of which I can imagine--took his life, leaving behind two small daughters.

Two suicides in a tiny Southern community, in little over twelve hours. I can't accurately guess what led to those points in those lives, but I cried for them to have fallen there. I cried for the woman, who must have been both terrified and at a loss, and I cried for the daughters, because I know what that feels like.

But mostly, I cried for the men.

They say suicide rates leap during the holiday season because people feel so much more alone and unloved than at other times of year, that the 'unattainable' taunt of love and hope is too much to bear. I would like to remind readers, both those who suffer from emotional troubles, and those who love them, this is the time to hold your loved ones close, to make sure they know how amazing and important they are to you, and how willing you are to help them with whatever needs they have.

Now, when fictional holiday cheer threatens to overwhelm, is the time to embody real hope.

I might be at my best when I'm bossing someone around.

Personal Notes: I routinely horrify my dryer.

Getting over heartbreak, and in particular first heartbreak, is like having the flu (stick with me, I promise I'm going somewhere with it). So, you're (heart)sick, and you need medicine to help you get better. Your doctor prescribes an antibiotic, and he tells you to make sure you take it all, no matter what. You get home, your mom makes you hot Jasmine tea with honey and lemon (or she SHOULD), and you basically become a cave-dweller under your sheets, fighting off all the fluids at least someone is trying to force down you. You take your antibiotic religiously because you feel like complete dog poo and you're willing to do anything to make that stop.

You continue this on Day Two and Day Three... But then, Day Four. On day four you actually feel a lot better. You're still pretty weak and you can only eat tiny little portions, but hey! You think, "I'm over the touch part, in the home stretch!" so maybe you forget to take your antibiotic at breakfast and lunch. But you're not worried, it's only a little slip-up, and it can't do much damage, right? I mean, it's only ONE TIME! You messed up ONCE, no big.

By Day Five you feel great again. In fact, your are some serious restless and you can't wait to go out with your friends and find out what all you missed. Annnnnd, you totally forget your antibiotic at home, just like you do for the next two days. After that, it's too easy to say, "Hey, I'm healed, no point driving myself nuts having to schedule meds."

But what's happening inside your body is WAR. The virus you have isn't dead. It's just playing dead so you won't notice it running around, learning the tricks to get AROUND your freakin' antibiotic, because YOU gave it a break. You closed your mouth and opened the floodgates, because now that virus is in HYPER DRIVE. Survival of the fittest, baby, and your already-weakened immune system is not up for this crap.

Your antibiotic is called Time. I'm pretty sure your HMO covers it. Take all your medicine. It's a very, very nasty bug, love.

I am totally adoring this trend . . .

Personal Note: We're going to a family bonfire (er, I mean a bonfire hosted by family, not one where we roast our relatives) and there will be various foods cooking on sticks, old tool style. As you might guess, there will be S'mores. I'm not big on S'mores. For one thing, I'm kind of a DO NOT MIX THE FOODS variety of OCD, and secondly, the concept of a square millimeter of my skin getting *shivers* sticky for a nanosecond freaks me out like you would not believe. Adhesives are a personal Hell, folks. Anyway, as irony would have it, I was tapped to bring along the fixin's for the S'mores. I got all the regular stuff, and then, because I'm a wild and crazy guy (I need a Steve Martin here), I bought a large bar of Hershey's Cookies-n-Creme chocolate, to experiment with. I'll let you know how that turns out.

And now, for the main feature of this blog post. I know I've not been writing a lot of helpful blogs right now, but I'm claiming holiday chaos. I'm not doing a lot of revision or other writing, either, because I know myself; if I try and interruption after interruption were to dog me I would eventually try to kill someone. And I love all the people I live with. I did not give birth to three of them only to take their lives back in a homicidal rage X number of years later.

So, I've been posting rather egoscentric, fluff posts (you're probably getting another one tomorrow, just forewarning, because my betas, friends, and readers have their own opinions of who would make good Dionadir characters, and I am entirely pro-supporting-reader-insight). I do plan on writing more thoughtful posts by the start of next week, promise. But for today, as with yesterday, I give you this kind of awesome bit if 'Yay! For me!" news.

This morning my husband surprised me buy going to Dell.com and sitting me down to pick and choose the features I wanted for my Christmas present, a new Dell Netbook (Don't worry, Bales; I made absolutely sure it came with the newest edition of Microsoft Office, and Windows 7, so I'll still have SpellCheck, which we know is something I desperately depend on). N. even paid a little more so I could have the Product (Red) colored one. You guys know how I feel about supporting charities whenever financially possible, and since that shade of red is my favorite (hello, look at my hair!) it's a Double Bonus, right. Anyway, it'll look like this:



It won't come in for anywhere between one and two weeks, but it finally sort of sank in I'd have a computer all my own, just for my work. That's what N. said. It's a gift to show his faith in my writing and how much he supports my dreams. And now I think I'm gonna cry.

;)

To Steal an Exclamation . . .

Personal Note: Um, Happy Thanksgiving! May your families forget all the grudges for the day, and you have enough turkey to knock you all out, if they don't.

OHMYAPOSTROPHES!!!


The fabulous, probably-doesn't-think-highly-enough-of-herself Brianne Heavy has written a couple of tunes; the first, "Guardian", is inspired the first Dionadir novel, Silver, and the harder second is an untitled anthem for the trology's very own tortured bad boy, Ian.

GO. LISTEN. TO. THEM.

Photog Blog Part Deux

Personal Note: I just got Google Wave, have no idea what to do with it, and I need to make some mach-n-cheese, while I blog here. BEAR WITH THE NEOPHYTE!!



In the role of Drew Christian:
Logan Lerman*****Thomas Dekker

In the role of Melusine:
Saffron Burrows****Lena Heady


In the role of Delia Leighton:
******Cassie Steele**********Elisabeth Moss*****Olivia Thirlby****

In the role of Charles:

Andre Braugher


In the role of Cassandra Leighton:
******Ashley Benson*******


In the role of Jack Campbell:
****Anton Yelchin****


In the role of Matthias Locke:
*William Mosley*
In the role of Victor Solis:
****Jonathan Cake****
In the role of the 'mystery rescuer/Ian Smarrito:
****Matt Lanter****

In the role of Horace Huckleby:
***Rick Hoffman***
You'll notice the absence of Jules. She and Sebastien are the only ones I can't find the right actors for. And now, after all that posting and resizing I'm finished for today. Woohoo!

Photog Blog

Personal Notes: At the bottom of the post today, due to its overwhelming cuteness, and the pixel blitz this blog is hosting today. Also, I have to post today, so it looks like things are rocking in two parts.

I'm not quite as computer savvy as I'd like to be. I'm a total internet junkie, one of those people who either keeps her email open in the back tab of her browser, or checks it thirty times a day, and I love the social networking, etc., but the programming aspect? Well, let's just say I wish I were more Geek Chic (my husband is; I married an adorkable). I have friends who would know what they were doing if I asked them to webmaster something for me, they just won't be asking me to lend my expertise, because I would break something (hey, there is power in knowing your limitation, too).

But you know what I can do? I can copy, resize, and post a few dozen pictures of people I think might be good fits for playing characters from the Dionadir trilogy . . . and yes, I know how egotistical that kind of sounds, but trust me, every writer I've ever know has tried to find an actor who embodies their character. It's not just me. All you writers, quit ducking and running. Own your arrogance.

In the role of Jocelyn Oliviero:

Margarita Levieva********Brooke Nevin*********Jessy Schram*******Kara's sketch of Joss


In the role of Sebastien Solis:

Kara's sketch of Sebastien for ref.


In the role of Tristan Solis:

*****Grant Alan***************Travis Van Winkle*********Christopher Egan


In the role of Bronwyn Solis:
****Deborah Ann Woll*************Zoe Boyle*****FeliceFawn, Aleksa*********Molly C. Quinn





video

I'm Sorry, I'm Stealing My Husband's Man Card Today


Cheerios are a Peaceful Cereal

I haven't a had a bowl, yet. I'm kind of starving. But it's okay, because I know where I keep the breakfast food.

The Holidays are a questionable time to start major revisions. "Go ahead and put them aside until all the triptophan and Santa cookies are out of your system," you suggest, and normally I'd agree with you. Hades, it might even be good from a "process" stand-point, give me that edge of a little more objectivity when I tackle it. But the this is, there's a ton of stuff to change, and even though I've written quite a bit of it down, shared with other people, using them as human flash drives, and even organized a rough timeline/changes synopsis. And yet, I'm still worried I'll forget it all. I'll forget the "why?" of a lot of it, as in why someone does what they do, or why something unfolds the way it does. If you didn't gather yet, the "why" of things is second only to well-developed characters to me. So, it's important.

*sigh*

When I buckle in (I do have a family to take care of/hang out with), it seems to be working out, though, so there's goodness in that. And I'm okay knowing it will take at least two, possibly three drafts, like writing a whole new book (my ego smarts at that a little, but the rest of me has sucked it up).

Okay, I need my coffee and other sustenence. We can't all be only Maxwell House's slave.

The Pimp and the Proper

Personal Notes: Outside of books, I am very hard to buy presents for. Not only am I one of those people who A. would rather have many smaller/moderate-sized presents than one big one, and B. would rather get nothing if it's not exactly what I wanted, but it took at least five years of gift therapy to train me not to have a panic attack when opening presents. I was always afraid of letting down the giver. You think I'm bad about it now? You should have seen me from years 16 to 20, when I was dating him.

So, if you look at us, my husband and I are obvious opposites. I'm colorful and chaotic and so obviously full of "look at me!" flair. N. is very laid back and kind of "everything I buy is black, brown, or white". It's been ten years, but I've finally introduced some color into his wardrobe.

Anyway, a random person on the street would probably look at us and sort of boggle. How? And then they would probably guess someone as traditionalist-looking as him would only be with someone as frenetic-looking as me for one reason. Yes, that one.

But I'm here to tell you, it is NOT SO. When it comes to love and privacy, I'm a closed book.

Which makes you consider surface people vs. under-the-surface people. One of the things I have to re-examine during this rewrite is "What are my main characters like on the surface?" vs "What are they like underneath that?" It kinda of comes down to motivation, one of my favorite subjects. But it also comes down to inherent differences like Boy vs. Girl.

Take for instance television shows. I'll admit it, I'm a sucker for just about anything that has a song and dance number in it, and that includes Fox's new hit show, Glee. Frankly, I don't really care about the characters (a first), but it's a show where people sing every week, awesome! N., has a slightly different view of it. He's thinks it's corny, and he openly mocks the shallow stupidity of the plotlines.

For you rare guys out there reading, ask yourself, "How do I react when someone I care about doesn't like/makes fun of/puts down something I like?" The answer is probably something like, I shrug my shoulders and move on two seconds later.

Not a girl. A girl will take your insulting the object personally. You are attacking something she takes pleasure in, therefore, you are attacking her. Whatever you say about it you're saying about her. Maybe this is some sort of weirdo, twisted, object-based maternal instinct to protect the things we care for, but that's how we roll.

It's not Mars and Venus. It's not even Manhattan and New Orleans. It's not The Rules (Gah, remember that?!? ACK!) but it's something to think about the next time you send your characters out on a date and the guy has some wise-crack remark to make . . . then again, if your chick is feisty and has a snark or two rolling from between her lips, that's okay. He'll get over it by the next paragraph. *snort*

In Which I AssUMe a lot and hope I don't bruise anyone's butt.

Personal Note: A lot of things that wake up other people make me sleepy. Showers. Eating. Not wearing my glasses (my eyes don't want to focus, so they keep telling me I'm tired so I'll close them. Also, Dayquil just makes me want to puke, and doesn't do jack for preventing drowsiness.

In lieu of a real post, I'm telling you about four songs I just discovered and love, to act as a place holder until I get my act together and write a real post.

1. "One in a Million" by Monty Are I. Brianne just told me about this one today and I liked it right away. She's right; it totally suits the new 'entitled, arrogant' thing Sebastien's rocking on the surface.

2. "The Sound of Settling" by Death Cab for Cutie. *shrugs* Just like it.

3. "Rooftops" by LostProphets, a song that may sort of wrap up the entirety of the big theme for book three of the Dionadir trilogy. It's rather . . . revolutionary. I am 85 per cent decided I'll try to use a section of it in the epigraph.

4. "Breaking" by Anberlin. The very first time I heard this song (day before yesterday?) a character butted into my head and would not leave me alone. I've got a query blurb, title, and first line, all amazing. I'm not posting them here because frankly, um, I'm afraid someone random will steal them*. That's how much I love them.

*Not you, of course, loyal readers. I'd never mean you.

*****

The Suck Stops Here OR Inspired by a Teacher

Personal Note: I was almost a teacher, in the traditional sense. It's true; if I hadn't taken a semester off school to plan my wedding and prepare for transferring colleges (which I was doing before I knew I was getting married, just to make that clear), and then I hadn't found out three weeks after the wedding I was two weeks pregnant with Gabriel, I would have gone on to finish my degree in education. My grandfather was a teacher, so besides having a natural affinity for it, there was that added bonus of making him especially proud, a little nod of respect in his direction.

But . . . I'm not a teacher, as in one who goes to an education institute with a lesson plan book, and tries to carve what's in it into the heads of non-adults. Some may argue that I'm my children's first teacher, or my readers' teacher, but the truth is, "teaching" isn't what novelists are generally paid to to. We're paid to entertain, to illicit emotional responses, not help you memorize your times tables (I only know up to my tens--stupid math *grumble, grumble).

My job as a writer is to imagine the intensities of life, but its heartbreaks are small and insular, and at the end of the day, only my own. When there's grief in my working life, it belongs only to me, or possibly a few fictional people. It doesn't affect others in some negative way. Rejection is personal. Tragedy is empathetic, but easily set aside, because it's of the 'make-believe' variety. Failure doesn't fail anyone else, and if I give into it, it is always, always my fault, not a result of the impossible restrictions put on me by some higher authority. I have all control over the quality of results my efforts produce. If I do the work, I'll reap the reward.

In my personal life, I'm insanely blessed. I married into the most amazing family, and they all live within fifteen minutes of my house. My husband is the perfect compliment to my needy, anxious personality. He's always telling me to "Just breathe". He's no nonsense, and logical to a fault. I've probably referred to him as a Vulcan on more than one occasion. My sons are all amazing kids, beautiful and typical, but also huge-hearted. I get to stay home and be here for them, because my husband makes enough money on his own. Even though I could sometimes scream, that's amazing in this economy.

So why the Hades am I whining about the opportunity to make a mess better? Why am I complaining about being given enviable guidance on the road to my own dreams, especially when all I have to do it TAKE IT? I don't have to sit by and watch other people lose themselves in the crush of reality, knowing there's nothing I can do about it. I have freedom.

My best friend does not.

It looks like an episode of PopUp Video in My Head.

Personal Notes: Last night I read another chapter of New Moon to my husband, but before I closed the book I saw the title to the next chapter. It was "Paris", and since I couldn't remember anyone going to France I wracked my brain trying to remember WHY it was called Paris. "Oh, riiiight," my brain said. "From Romeo and Juliet." And from there my brain went to Baz Luhrman's version, Romeo + Juliet in which Paul Rudd played Paris, and as almost always, when I thought of Paul Rudd I thought of my favorite role of his, as academic snob former-stepbrother, Josh, in Clueless. Clueless is based on Jane Austen's Emma if you didn't know. So, there you have it, the way my mind leaps from thing to thing.

I don't know if you heard (maybe on Twitter, or dA, or Facebook, or MySpace, because I'm pretty sure I told EVERYONE), but I'm changing the book. Again. But I'm not just changing the ending or the beginning, or cutting/adding scenes. The most recent rejection I got shed some really helpful light on weaknesses throughout the book . . . like the fact that it didn't make a whole lot of sense my main character's parents were dead. I know this character, and the rejecting agent was right; she's not a character mired in grief. So, guess what? I have to resurrect some people. Secondly, um, there's not a lot in the way of the heroine and her hero getting together, and frankly now that I've thought about it, the heroine probably wouldn't stand the hero for a good long time, until she got to know him beyond his entitled, know-it-all surface. Sparks of a different variety are to be expected.

But it's more than that. It's asking yourself what the underlying point is in this book, what moral is this story supposed to tell the reader. The old overall theme was shallow and bland. Granted, I do believe love can kick anything's butt, but 'anything' is a very general term. You know what isn't? Bigotry. "Bigot" is defined as 'a person who is intolerant of or takes offense to the opinions, lifestyles or identities differing from his or her own'. In my book (both literally and figuratively) it's also synonymous with "stupid".

I realised all the pieces were there for this part of my belief system to come through, and without preaching or bashing readers over the head with the message. There are outsider characters, forced away by societal norms. Outsider characters who choose a more diverse culture. Characters who feel threatened by these outsiders. Within this sub-culture I've created, bigotry flourishes. Against "normal humans", against "different and outcast", against anyone who doesn't believe there's anything wrong with variety. I mean, yeah, too much of anything, including variety, is dangerous, but wisdom's the watchword, folks.

So, inside my head there are these sort of helium-infused, free-floating tattoos of text on the air, and they drift above me, here and there, waiting (somewhat impatiently) for their turn while I go line-by-painstaking-line through another of their compatriots, making the alterations needed.

I am absolutely terrified, but a very wise woman told me yesterday, and I quote, "And *every* time I've had a major aha moment, it's on the heels of absolute despair that I'll ever think of something." That's the line I keep going back to, because I know great things have happened for this writer (hello, her agent is the Steven Tyler of agents), and I know greater still things will happen for her. So, if she's gone through this rigamarole, survived, and come out of it with a better novel to offer each time, I should believe I can do it.

Smash

I have to break SILVER again, so this may be all you get out of me today.

Today's P.S.

If you want a chance at some new reads, head over to Suzie Townsend's blog because she is rocking the contests right now.

Items up for grabs:

Kelly Gay's A Better Part of Darkness
Mindful Musing's Shiver
Debut offerings over at Ash Elizabeth's blog
Some Nancy Holder books
Hush, Hush and Fallen

Go to Suzie's blog for details.

How My Jeans Are a Holy Commitment

Personal Notes: I won't tell my husband I'm wearing his Gamer shirt if you won't. And I promise not to spill coffee on it.

So, Sunday morning my husband and I are getting ready for church, and usually that means some sort of skirt/dress or nice pants for me, but that morning I'm digging through my closet for a pair of jeans and a comfy sweater. The following conversation occurs:

Me: In case you're wondering, yes, I'm wearing these to church.
N.: Okay . . .
Me: I've got children's church today. God and I have an understanding. I'll cram as much of His love into those little heads as I can, as long as I can do it from the comfort of my Levi's.
N.: Well, in the Bible it says something about preparing yourself to be in the presence of the Lord* . . . "
Me: Well, I might have to chase them . . .
N.[laughing]: Ah, hence the jeans.
Me: Exactly.

This got me thinking about how much I love my jeans, and how I will wear them until they are D-E-A-D, dead, because I love them so much. I'm like that with lots of stuff I love. In college I actually put together a 4by6 FOOT poster board type thing and collaged the Hades out of it with things to represent all the things I loved. And then I threw a big party and ambushed all my closest friends at the door, insisting they go through their purses and wallets, and pick something to add to the collage. I wrote to out-of-state friends and had them mail stuff. I kept the thing through three moves and for six years. After that it had disintegrated beyond moving again. And you know what? I MISS IT. I miss that big poster collage of the things and people I love (in fact, maybe I need to make a new one. Be on the lookout for--fairly flat--stuff to send me, if I do, because I love you people, too, and I'd want you in on it).

When writing, I'm just as much of a pack rat. I write way too much in my first drafts. With Silver the first draft was more than TWICE the word count** of the final product. Even last week I shaved another 5K off the manuscript, a large part of it a scene--some of you know it as the 'temptation circus' scene--I have always loved, but it had to go. It was a speed bump, and great as it was it just didn't belong anywhere in that book. I couldn't fit it anywhere, which royally bit, as far as I was concerned.

But I didn't delete it, which is where the moral comes into this whole thing. The scene was like my jeans; perfectly broken in, comfortable, made me smile. I couldn't just trash it, even though there was a huge grin-like rip under the right rear pocket, which invariably showed off my Grumpy Bear Underoos. Even though I'd gotten paint on the thighs, and the hems had kind of shrunk a little. I couldn't get rid of it. I loved it too much. Even after I finally surrendered to the truth of it never fitting in that book, I gently copied-and-pasted it into an 'outtakes' file. You know, just in case.

And lo and behold, what happened when I let go? The scene--albeit, divided into two parts like a pair of cut-offs--settled into the places where it belonged as if it always had, in the second Dionadir novel, Golden.

So here's this. Don't mourn the scenes you love but have to cut. It may just be a case of reincarnation. Make them a nice electronic coffin and wait to see what happens.

In other news, look at the new pretty thing I'm a part of! Especially if the words "young adult" feature prominently anywhere in your life.

*And now no one can figure out what the Hades he was referencing, not even my amazing pastor/dad-in-law. *laughs*

**Because when you're ready to get serious, agents/editors are interested in knowing your word count, not page count. Page counts are relative, depending on formatting, whereas word count in concrete. Just a little FYI for my young ladies.

There was this Dodo. It Went That Way--->

I'm not sure I could ever be perky as either Lorelai or Rory Gilmore, even though I adore them to bits. I realize this morning (as I was waking up, so possibly fear) I'm more of a Lane Kim. I am totally cool with that.

As a little girl I was truly, madly, deeply in love with sugar. I even remember one occasion when three of my cousins and I stayed up till after all the adults had crashed, then all four of us snuck down to the kitchen and had ourselves a brown sugar extravaganza. I was probably around six or seven. Just imagine it, dozens of miniature Barbie teacups and containers, carefully packed with a very tanned version of sugarcane, and spirited away to be consumed amongst shushed giggles.

I also didn't consider something "dessert" unless it had 80 percent of its calories from something over-refined and under-recommended. People tried to tell me fruit and nuts were sweet, but I was pretty sure those people were herbally influenced, and therefore didn't know what they were talking about.

It's still true as an official grown-up I'm the the junk food junkie/sugar-toothed one between my husband and myself. It's one of the ways I know I'm actually thirty, not 20, like the mirror might have me believe. But, I've learned the subtlety of sweetness. I can put one of the hard-won pecans* from the tree in our back yard and distinguish all the flavors, including sweet, as my tongue runs through them.

I have also learned (though in no way mastered) the sweetness of subtlety. See what I did there, with the word swapping? I'm realizing presentation is at least half of what makes a good story worth hearing. It's not enough just to take all your nifty facts and figures out there, with a neon sign blinking, "This is a PLOT POINT! Revel in the genius/tragedy/sneakiness of it!" It's not enough to know your story, or novel, or whatever. You have to know it well enough to know just how to tell it. Or sell it, as the case may be.

It's a fine line, one I need a lot more practice at. My writing is a lot like my cooking, I think; anybody'll tell you the food I put in front of them is usually pretty nom-worthy (I have a tendency to ignore or eye ball measurements, so sometimes my experiments fail, another way my writing and cooking are alike), but there's been some Devine intervention involved if the food doesn't look like something that came out the waste end of a nuclear reactor. Hey, I'm keeping it real here, people.

So, kiddos, question for today: Where do you consider the line between subtlety and confusion to lie (lay? Hey, Authoress, gimme a hand here)?

*If you need some pecans for a pie or something, come on over. Our tree went insane this year and they're really good.

What do you mean 'contracted'? I didn't sign for a package of germs!

Personal Note: When I was a little girl we played this imagination game (I dunno, maybe little kids are still playing it?). I really liked it, especially when it worked right. One kid balled up her fist as tight as she possibly could for at least a whole minute while another kid rubbed the clenched fist (now that I'm an adult I understand this has to do with circulation and nerve-endings, but you don't know that when you're a kid . . . probably). After the minute passed, the fist-clencher was advised to AsSlowlyAsPossibleOpenYourFingers! and then the other kid would pinch each of the clencher's fingertips, finally pinching a little skin in the center of the former fist. It was supposed to feel like he or she was drawing a spiderweb--connected to each of your fingers--away from your palm. As a side note, if you're planning on trying it, I suggest cutting your nails first, because, um, ow.

I know me. I know I will passive-aggressively hide from something like there's no tomorrow if I'm afraid of failing at it. I know that's a bigger hurdle to my writing than anything else. It's not the many, many time-consuming needs of my small children, or my slightly taller husband. It's not a lack of knowing what should happen (trust me on this one, my characters are all about blabbing, and giving me WHAT FOR if I fail to write them the way they'd like). Okay, sometimes it's that, a little, but not often. Nope, my biggest creative juice evaporator is fear of failure.

I am a pro at failure, and I specialize in the Half Off variety. As in, I get a project halfway done, and then I'm off it. And I'm flighty like you would not believe. Just a few minutes ago I angrily whispered a four-letter word because I somehow read my eldest kid's basketball form wrong and missed the evaluations (don't worry, he'll still play) this morning. Because I am just that talented. I'm familiar enough with failure to have learned every once in a while you just have to salvage what you can and move on from there.

But what do you do when your failure becomes paralytic? When your fear makes you too scared to move? What combats the fear?

When I was about nine our pastor, a tiny German man named John Lamb who I'm pretty sure endured some rather heinous things, preached a sermon about fear. He asked the congregation, "What do you think the opposite of fear is?" As is my usual answer, I said "love". I'm big on love, if you didn't know. He said good answer, but not the one he was looking for.

The answer was, the opposite of fear is faith. Fear is the power that whispers in our ear of consequences we're not sure we can survive, while faith is the belief we can always get back up again. Faith conquers fear because it takes away fear's power to end us. Or our dreams.

My Sunday school teacher likes to quote John Ortberg when we talk about fear. Here's a Biblical fact, and even if you're more scared of Christians than you are of the bogeyman (or maybe to you we ARE the bogeyman, whichever), it's still kind of cool. There are 366 mentions of fear (and suggestions for combating it) in the Bible, one for every day of the year, and then an extra, for that really bad day . . . like when the very first Full request you ever got comes back as a No.

P.S.


It's To Write Love on Her Arms Day.


Get out there and give someone some hope.




A Cool Thing Happened Today on the Way to the Forum

Don't ask me why none of the formatting will work in this blog post. I don't have a clue.


Personal Notes: Mostly this! See that? 10,000 page views at deviantArt. Granted, it's not a lot in comparison to some, but it's all mile-stone-y and whatnot for me, so I think it's nifty. Sorry the screenshot's so blurry. My copy's much sharper. ???
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Most of the authors I know use music while they're writing, and the same can certainly be said for me. In fact, if you take a gander to the left and scroll down a little you'll see both a link to my own (ever-morphing) book playlist, as well as a big orange doohickie telling you a bit about my recent Pandora activities (I keep that there because I'm lazy, and it's a quick reference if I want to look up something I heard a few days ago).
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I'm not sure I do the whole soundtrack thing the same way most people do. I say 'not sure' instead of 'don't' because I'm not stupid enough to assume. The thing is, it's not so much the books, or even the situation IN the books the music applies to. For me, it's the lives of the people to which the soundtracks go. Yeah, multiple people, multiple soundtracks. I base my music on what each person feels about the scene. In a few minutes, when I get down to the skin-crawling business of destroying a few people's happiness, at least two, perhaps three, songs will apply to that scene, because at least three people will be involved (I'm sort of hiding from this scene, actually; I need to do it justice, and that's scary, especially since it's on the heels of a scene that turned out beautifully for setting up tragic consequences).
*********************************************************
In case you're curious, here's an idea of what I mean. It's not terribly up-to-date, but it's not ancient, either. Oh, and the song that applies most completely to the upcoming scene? Framing Hanley's "23 Days"
*********************************************************

"23 Days"

Your kiss was a perfect drug
It gave me the perfect high
And cheaters fall in love
They all deserve to die
***********************
I need to feel you again
I need your lips on my skin
For one night I could be him
Well I could be better
***********************
In your eyes I thought
I saw tomorrow
Now all I see is wasted time
***********************
Can we pretend it’s always been ok
We never lost it all, lost it all
Can we pretend we never left this fate
We never lost it all, lost it all
***********************
This towns not much of a friend
After twenty-three days
My patience has reached it’s end
But I’d take you back anyway
***********************
Hold your breath
You make the perfect sounds
This is what a love is made of
And baby you are missing out
***********************
In your eyes I thought I saw tomorrow
Now all I see is wasted time
Can we pretend it’s always been ok
Never lost it all, lost it all
Can we pretend we never left this fate
We never lost it all, lost it all
***********************
Let’s reintroduce our shadows
And watch them become one
This room is out of oxygen
And I’m not nearly done
***********************
The familiar face of your body
Is how I know this is right
I’m not asking for tomorrow
I’m just asking for tonight
************************
Can we pretend it’s always been ok
Never lost it all, lost it all
Can we pretend we never left this fate
We never lost it all, lost it all
*************************
The familiar face of your body
Is how I know this is right
Why worry about tomorrow?

BEWARE: I have about as much coffee in me this morning as I do sense.

Personal Notes: I involuntarily assign personalities and bried histories to innanimate objects, mostly numbers. I'm pretty familiar with 1-10, but if someone throws a number at me my brain tends to humanize the number within a minute or so. I think it's a little less of a 'condition' and more a 'quirk' in my case (I know there is an actual diagnosis for this, but I don't remember it, so if you do, pipe up).

My husband and I were married in 2000, not terribly long after the epic Titanic made girls everywhere sigh and start trawling art classes for a boyfriend* (the boys, it must be pointed out, where extremely willing to take on *ahem* figure models so as to hone their anatomy skills).

Just like our lives, N.'s CD collection and mine blended together. He brought country music, and I brought divas into the fold. But, still. My husband's a VULCAN, all about the logic and getting things done. His work ethic is so strong I get exhausted just reading his To Do list. He's military, and has gone into a career field that often requires he run into burning buildings. He tells people the ways things are, rarely pulling punches (though, don't think he isn't gracious, he is; just don't let him catch you doing something ridiculously brainless, or he'll laugh at you). Clearly he is not a sissy boy. Sissy boys ran followed him around, panting and saying 'Hey, boss!' in school.

So you'd never in a million years expect him to WEAR OUT my Celine Dion CD, would you? And yet, he did. He looped that thing every day for a month just after our wedding.

Last night, approximately nine years after the CD weirdness, he comes home from the video place with an Ashton Kutcher indie flick. I've never been exactly keen on Ashton Kutcher movies, so you'd think N would know better and gotten the new Gerard Butler number, but nooo. It's Kutcher, and worse, it's pretty much every inch of Kutcher, in his birthday suit. N. got it, thinking it was a romantic comedy. Um, hi, did he read the back cover of that thing? Dude nookie-ing his way through L.A., until enter the actress I first saw as Joss, whom (of course) he falls in love with.

Short moral of this story, kids? Don't assume anything. You want to make sure your work creates a paritcular reaction, get out there and start asking questions.

Sarcasm in B Minor

Personal Note: In honor of Sesame Street's 40th birthday yesterday, a confession: At somepoint in my early childhood I had a nightmare about Sherlock Hemlock. I've never been able to look at him the same. I absolutely adore the rest of the characters (although Elmo's referring to himself in third person drives me nutes), but Detective Hemlock is persona non grata with me.

I live on the Gulf coast, and as you may have heard, Hurricane/Tropical Storm Ida stopped by my house yesterday. Don't freak; she was just a little storm. compared to Ivan five years ago, who was a Cat 3 hurricane when it decided to use our coastline as a bar stool.

Ivan was trouble, but Ida's just been a nuisance, mostly keeping me from getting finished quite a few things I wanted to have done by Monday. Such as fine-combing the Silver manuscript another time before sending it off to someone who asked to read the whole thing, or keeping up the blogging. If I'd gotten those things finished yesterday, as I'd liked to have, today I could get back into writing Silver's sequel, Golden. More and more about it is coming to me, and I'd love to explore that potential. I've got so much about Ian, and Sebastien, and Joss, plus everyone else, finally bubbling up in my head again.

Should I Scarlet this post and say tomorrow is another day? For this one, I've got a headache.

Covering All My Bases

It's kind of all personal today. I'm giving you the first chapter of the novel, Silver. No stealing, because I'm not sweet enough not to sue you for it.


“If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.
And if I have prophecy and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”

1 Corinthians 13:1-2, NIV


“Hey baby, I don't wanna be your Superman.I just wanna be your man and I'll be super, baby.You'll be standin' in the sunshine,I'll be standin' right here in the rain.You save me and I will save the day.”

“Save the Day” by Train.



Chapter One: Dead Boy Stalking

The stench has a real mosh pit quality going for it, as if Body Odor has gotten bored hanging out by himself, called up his buddies, Stale Beer and Cigarettes, and the three of them have leeched onto the skeeze now standing way too close to my best friend and me.

The source of the smell hovers close, his dirty jeans near our faces. “Did it hurt?” he asks, leering at Jules through shanks of muddy brown hair.

Jules looks up at him from her seat on a root of our favorite tree in Garrett Park and stares him down in a way only someone as classically beautiful as she can.

“Don’t bother finishing that tired line,” she warns. “First, no it didn’t hurt when I ‘fell from heaven’, though my mother may have a different answer for you. Secondly, you’ll think the consequences excruciating if you don’t leave before I get my bag open.”

He throws his hands up, warding her off. “Hey-hey, babe, I just wanta talk,” he says, and then aims his yellowed grin at me. “What about this itty-bitty friend of yours? Whadda ya say, cutie? You up for some action?”

I edge closer to Jules, my stomach souring. Jules raises one arm, a small canister dangling from her finger. “What Jocelyn is up for is watching me spray about two ounces of cayenne into your eyes.”

The creep sneers at her like a cartoon vampire threatened with garlic. “Baby, you don’t know what you’re missin’. I could show you a coupla things.”

“All the same, I prefer my world left unrocked, thanks.”

He leanes in, deciding to risk the macing, but a pair of long, black slacks blocks him out before the creep gets within range of the spray.

The new guy has circled around from behind the trunk of our tree, facing away, and the smooth motion hasn’t allowed us to see his face, but he isn’t anyone I recognize from my vantage point.
“If you attempt to show either of them anything--and let’s be clear I mean ever--I will take immeasurable pleasure in breaking several of your bones,” he warns.

My ears perk up at the silky, confident sound of his voice. He has just a touch of some kind of accent.

“You could try, pretty boy, but I bet you couldn’t break an egg,” the creep laughs. The grating sound reminds me of anti-smoking ads.

The boy cocks his head at an inquisitive angle, and for a second the air feels electric, a fission waving through the atmosphere. “Au contraire, my grimy friend, I make an omelet to-die-for, but that’s neither here nor there,” he says, then flicks his gloved hand in a dismissive gesture. “Run along.”

Something about our rescuer must freak McGreasy out, because his eyes bulge, the wheels in his brain visibly spinning as he backpedals. “Yeah, well good luck with these two. They don’t know how to have fun, anyway,” he growls before taking off down the hill at an anxious lope.

Without waiting for us to thank him, the mystery man turns his head slightly, just short of letting us see his face. “Ladies, let’s not make a habit of this, shall we?”

His long strides take him out of earshot in seconds, leaving us staring after him.

“Wow,” I breathe, somewhere between amused and perplexed. “Who was that masked man, anyway?”

“No idea,” Jules answers. “But did you see the color of his hair? Hi-oh, Silver, away! ”

I nod, but don’t mention how the stranger’s only direct remark to us had sounded more condescending than heroic to me.

*****
I make it in just as my mother checks on something delicious-smelling in the oven, the scrape of the door clasheing with the wistful hum coming from the kitchen. I don’t recognize the song, but don’t question it. Mom and Dad like lots of stuff from what they consider “far away, simpler times”. Of course, they’re only in their mid forties, so, really how much different does that make?

I hang my coat on the rack and squat to wrestle with my sneaks. The shuffling tips off Mom to my presence; she calls for me to get ready for dinner, ducking her head around the doorframe. “Would you mind setting the table? I’ll be up to my elbows in greens in a minute, and Gracie is due to wake up.”

I nod, grinning because Mom hasn’t asked me to help with the food. Her few attempts at teaching me to cook failed so miserably no one lets me do anything more culinary that nuke stuff.

My little sister’s giggles erupt from her room as I come back from washing my hands. I tiptoe to her door, turning the knob slowly so I can lumber in, sniffing everywhere in an impression of her favorite kiddie show character.

Gracie’s laughter gets louder the closer I get to her until I ask, “What smells like . . . sunflowers?” and sniff at the edge of her toddler bed. “Why, it’s you!” I exclaim, and swing her up onto my hip, snuffling at her neck.

Back in the kitchen, I belt her into her booster seat so she can watch while I lay out the flatware and Mom trades out a juicy pot roast for a tray of dinner rolls. Mom smiles softly at us over her shoulder and resumes humming.

“Catchy tune,” I say. “What is it?”
Mom’s smile takes on a dreamy note. “An old Gershwin number called ‘Someone to Watch over Me’. Your father played Jimmy Winters in the play, you know.”

The father in question walks into the room as if on cue, slides his briefcase onto the bar, and bends to kiss Mom’s cheek.

I stare at him. “Really? You sang in something?”

“Is your mother telling on me, again? I assume you refer to my singular foray into musical theatre. Don’t look so flabbergasted, Joss. We’re braver about a lot of things when we’re young. Unfortunately, I expect you’ll learn that for yourself as time passes. Take your chances now, while you’re still young enough to believe in them.

*****

The next morning Gracie’s asleep in bed beside me. I slide myself out as quietly as possible, uncurling her tiny fingers from the end of my braid. She’s already up and downstairs before I get back from my shower.

I round the corner at the bottom floor to see her studying the strawberry swirls in her oatmeal. Mom’s standing near Dad, sliding bacon onto his plate while he writes last-minute notes on a legal pad for his teaching assistan. Dad teaches my nemesis subject, math, at the tiny liberal arts college here in Staunton.

Bending to kiss her oatmeal-streaked face, I ask Gracie, “How are you this morning, sweetie?”
Mouth stuffed with breakfast she grins and points to her lips.

I compliment her. “Oh, forgive me. I see Miss Manners has done well with you.”

Dad already has the coffee going, so I make a full-on advance toward my morning I.Q.-booster, taking a travel mug from the cabinet. Mom shoots me a disapproving look, but I shake my head at her. “Mom, I’m sixteen. I don’t think you can blame coffee for stunting my growth at this point. Besides, I’m two inches taller than you,” I tease.

Dad, ever the diplomat, clears his throat. “You’re both beautiful. All my pixie ladies are. Joss honey, you better get going if you don’t want to make Jules wait.”

“Good point,” I say. “Mom, you don’t need any help this afternoon, do you? I thought I’d have Jules drop me at Garrett after school, knock out my homework before break starts.”

“That’s fine, sweetheart, but make sure you stay in the shade. You know how easily you burn,” she cautions.

“And I’d like you back before dark,” Dad adds.
“Dinnertime at the latest,” I promise as I pluck a muffin from the bowl on the table. Blueberry. Yum.

“Duly noted. Call if something changes.”

“Roger that.”

*****

It takes a kind of performance art to navigate the clogged arteries of Lee High’s hallways, dodging limbs and squeezing through spaces not normally reserved for the human body. The kissing couples, sneaking smokers, and furtive freaks I wind my way around don’t have a prayer of seeing a Master of Stealth Mode like me. Finally, I hold my breath, sprint like a kid playing tag for the safety of my homeroom desk, and drop gratefully into my seat, exhaling, “Base!”

I shove my mittens into my bag and something whooshes by my ear, making me jump and look up. Across the room Drew Christian, AKA Drew the Adorable, smiles shyly at me and calls an apology. He nods at the floor by my feet where a rainbow-striped hacky sack rests against my left Sketcher.

I toss the ball back, blushing when his dimples sink deeper into his cheeks as he thanks me. The bell rings, and Drew slides into his own desk, tapping a pencil against his thigh in his own internal rhythm.

I sigh, wishing at least one of us had more guts. It’s been a ‘crush at first sight’ situation for me, and I’m pretty sure it is for Drew too, but I can’t seem to make a move. Any time he tries to talk to me, I practically go mute, like there’s an invisible hand smacking over my mouth.
Kids trickle into the room, getting settled while our homeroom teacher, Mrs. Meyer calls roll. I’m too busy trying to make sense of the messy stack of papers I need for my first class to look up when she says, “Oliviero, Jocelyn,” but I give her a little wave to let her know I’m here. Meyer continues down her list, ticking off names.

The room’s rustling murmur stills when she calls “Solis”. Bodies swivel to stare at a new kid sprawled in the center desk. I’m not sure how we missed him before. He isn’t the kind of person you overlook. Still, one second nobody’s there and the next the guy who’d played savior for Jules and me yesterday sits in the middle of the room. He lifts one black-gloved finger in acknowledgement.

Meyer looks lost for a second, but apparently finds his name on the roster, checks it, and picks up where she left off.

I—along with the rest of the class--study this teenage ninja, able to sneak into high school classrooms undetected. Almost white hair spills back from a beautiful, compelling face, pale features cutting a sharp fineness around eyes blazing a degree too brightly, like storm clouds lit from behind. For a moment they trap mine, and something in my core recoils. He watches me with an awful clarity, like he knows all my dirty little secrets, maybe even ones I don’t know about.

I drop my gaze to his chest and notice how his silvery-grey sweater outlines his wide shoulders and smooth abdomen. Darker corduroy pants wrap around his legs as if made for him. Monochrome doesn’t work on most guys. It does on him.

Lee’s typical “It” girl, Chrissy Anderson, gapes at him, her mouth working open and closed like a goldfish. I silently bet even money she’ll have his phone number before the day’s out.

Mrs. Meyer finishes doing her thing and releases us back into the wilds of higher education. At the end of the day I hurry outside to find sanctuary in a BMW parked in the student lot.

Jules sits behind the wheel, laughing at my rush. “Honestly Jocelyn, you’ve lived in Virginia for all sixteen years of your life; you’d think you’d have adapted by now. Are you purposefully fighting it off?”

“It’s an under-appreciated talent, not giving in to Staunton’s schizo weather. I think I should get a little plaque or something.”

Jules laughs again, this time with me, instead of at me. “I’ll get on that as soon as I’m back from Aspen.”

“What time’s your flight leaving?”
“Six, or I’d invite you over to defrost, but you know how Gram and Gramps feel about punctuality. Better not risk being late to the airport.”

I shrug. “It’s no big. You still have all your cool points for giving me a ride. And speaking of cool, you’ll never guess who showed up in homeroom this morning. The Blonde Avenger himself. I missed his first name because I couldn’t find my stupid history homework, but his last name’s Solis.”

Jules face lights up with mischief. “I can do better than that. I think he must be a twin, because we had a new boy in Trig today, except he’s the first one’s polar opposite. Named Tristan, has gold-blond hair, kind of curly, and enough muscles to win a grudge match against a garbage truck. You talk to yours?”

“Um, no.” I grimace.
She settles into her seat, hand on the gear shift. “Of course not. I don’t know what I was thinking.” She gives me a dirty look. “At least promise me you’ll attempt to have fun—and by ‘fun’ I mean ‘talk to Drew’--during the break, okay? Oh, and don’t forget it’s your turn to drive when we get back. I can’t always have a toasty Beamer ready at your beck and call, no matter how impressive you meteorological denial skills.”
*****

Garrett Park is deserted with the surprising exception of the first-nameless Solis kid. If I could will him away all would be right with the world.

Careful not to let him see, I sneak a look at him. He’s leaned against the far lamp post, his body relaxed and careless, arms crossed loosely in front of him, but his gaze doesn’t match. It bores into me, too intense, too focused.

Stop staring at me. Stop staring at me or I’ll march over there and smack you silly.

He doesn’t budge, and luckily for him, I don’t have it in me to actually hit anyone. A shame; some senseless violence might do the trick. I realize that isn’t exactly a Zen outlook, but then violence is a passionate emotion and passion is considered good by most people.
Oh, come on! I just want to sit under my tree and read my book for a while, listen to some tunes in peace. It’s not too much to ask.

I fumble for my handy-dandy Mp3 player, turning it up until it blares a ‘burst your eardrums’ volume, and tell myself to concentrate on my textbook, but immediately a flash of light draws my attention to the fluffy white splotches freckling the sunny sky. The lack of storm clouds doesn’t surprise me, but the silence following it does. Still, lightning means rain, and rain means time to seek shelter. Even Park Boy appears to know this, as he’s disappeared. I wrap up my headphones and tuck my book safely away in my backpack.
My search for a haven from the storm ends in front of Vinyl, the tiny music shop next to the Bookstack. I suck in a much-needed deep breath and walk in on shaky legs. More than likely Drew’s working inside, therefore my ability to use multi-syllable words is about to bail on me.

Sure enough, he stands, behind the counter waiting on another customer. He throws me a distracted grin that should come with its own warning label: Viewer Beware! Direct Contact May Induce a Trance-like State. I duck behind a rack of CDs for safety’s sake, and pick through them until I find one I want to check out.

By the time I’ve scanned most of the new releases Drew’s finished with the other customer and nods me over. His dimples hit me full-force as he says, “Hey, Joss. How’s things?”

I do my best to disengage my “idiot gear” and answer. “Fine, thanks. You?”

“You know, getting in billable hours. I’m saving toward a new camera. My old Nikon’s shot.”

As if I don’t have everything about you memorized already. I nod and pass my CD over, a twenty resting on top.

He holds up the punk album. “Out of everyone who comes in here you are by far the most unpredictable. Last week you bought country, and this week you pick this?”
“That’s me. I like to keep people guessing.”

Another silent flash brightens the air. Drew’s eyes flicker outside. “Unbelievable storm, huh? All the visual effects you could ask for, but they forgot to crank the bass.”

“Yeah, crazy,” I nervously agree.

Drew’s grin widens, and he punches numbers into the register. A shifting image in the mirrored wall behind him catches my eye as he gets out my change. Park Boy is holding up the bricks across the street, watching me again. Drew says something, but I miss it and have to ask him to repeat himself.

“I said break’ll speed by too fast to settle for ‘fine’. Maybe someone could help you slow it down.”
I almost ask if he feels like volunteering, but two things stop me: One, I still make the Cowardly Lion look like Hercules and two, Park Boy has given me a disgusted look, shoved himself from the wall, and taken off down the sidewalk.

That’s done it. I scoop up my sack, mumble something insensible to Drew about him having fun too, and scramble out the door after Sir-Stares-A-Lot. I might not be able let an adorable boy know I dig him, but Heaven help me if I can’t tell some jerk his one-man investigation isn’t appreciated.

Outside I scan both sides of the street but he’s disappeared. A flare of white flashes onto Frederick so I take off after it at top my speed. I’m so breathless by the time I reach the bend my, “Hey! Hold on! ” comes out barely audible. He doesn’t stop. I’ve lost him.

*****

My mother doesn't know it, but she's trying to kill me. I get home only to find my stalker sitting at my kitchen table, and my mother grinning at him like he’s the son she’s always wished she’d had.

“Jocelyn, I’m so glad you’re home. It’s the most wonderful thing; I’d like you to meet Sebastien Solis. His mother was my best friend in college, before she had to go back to her family in Scotland.”

He must have gotten there just before me, because he’s still wearing his coat and gloves when he rises from his chair and offers me his hand. “Actually, we’ve bumped into one another a couple times already, Mrs. Oliviero, but we’ve not had the opportunity to properly introduce ourselves.”

I can’t refuse with my mom standing there all thrilled and stuff, so I make myself smile at him and shake his hand as if I haven’t understood his inside joke.

“Sebastien tells me he and his siblings have come to the states because Mel wants them to experience a little of what we have to offer before they settle on colleges.”

“It’s a little early for that, isn’t it?” I ask. “I mean, you’re a Junior like me, right?”
“It worked out better for our American relatives for us to come this year.”

My mother beams. “I wish Mel had told me she was sending you, but no matter. You must all stay for dinner. I’m making fried chicken.” Sebastien protests, but my mother won’t listen. “No, I insist. Call your brother and sister, and we can all get to know one another.”

I expect him to refuse again; instead he grins at her and says Tristan and Bronwyn are busy for the evening, but he’d love to stay.

Mom beams some more and tells me to take Sebastien to the living room and keep him company. Thankfully, she doesn’t see the irritated way I jerk my head at him to follow me.

“I’m sorry,” he says as he sits on the sofa, out of earshot of my mother. “Did I do something to offend you?”

“Gee, well you could explain why you’ve been following me, Eddie.”

“I have no idea to what you’re referring.”

“Puh-leeze. You’re everywhere I go today, first the park and now Vinyl. You’re studying me like I’m some kind of science experiment.”

“Begging your pardon, but I haven’t . . .”

“Yes you have,” I huffed. “Explain.”

His eyes harden, and he crosses his ankle over his knee. “Fine, I’m guilty of looking at a pretty girl. Fortunately, finding you interesting isn’t a punishable offense, so you’re out of luck if you want to press charges.”

“What an arrogant thing to say! Look . . .”

“Sebastien.”

I blank. “Huh?”
A conceited grin plays at the corners of his mouth. “My name? It’s Sebastien. If my mother had wanted people to associate me with a vampire, I’m sure she’d have christened me ‘Lestat’, instead.”

I blink at him, surprised he’s caught the vamp reference, and then I frown because of how easily he’s made me feel small and immature. Seriously, something about this guy stirs me up. It isn’t fair. I think. He was rude first.

“You were saying . . .?” He goes on.

“Whatever. You’ve satisfied your curiosity. There’s nothing even remotely interesting about me so you can get on with your own business.”

“Ah,” he murmurs, “I beg to differ. You do all sorts of interesting things. Take for instance how you blush when talking with a boy, or how you read outside this late in the year? Not many people would risk the chill of a fall afternoon in the park, even for a good tale. You want something to create body heat, get the heart rate up.”

He practically purrs the word “heat,” his implication pooling liquid and thick somewhere low in my body. I shift backwards a little.

He leans closer, matching me. “It’s difficult to ignore a lone girl catching up on her library finds, you see. By the way, do you always talk with your hand whirling about like that, or do you only do it when you’re nervous?”

“Do you always interrupt with random commentary?” I counter, and check the urge to shove my hyperactive hand in my pocket. “By all that’s holy, I just love books more than the average bear.”

“Oh, no. Now you’ve done it.”

“Done what?”

“A pretty girl with a brain? Even without considering our mothers’ prior relationship it would be impossible to ignore you after learning of your literary prowess. I’ll have to see how this plays out.”

I grin too sweetly. “Oh, it’s a brilliant beauty you’re looking for? In that case, you should ask my friend Jules to show you around town. She knows all the historically significant spots.”

He laughs again, not the least bit put off. “I think I’d rather have you.”

And Then The Whole World Bought More Windex 1

Personal Note: My pillow is at least 26 years old. So is my teddy-cat, Charmkin. No, I do not want to hear about the dust mites. Spare me.

Ten at-one-time high-profile writers are sent to a retreat in the backwoods of some mid-western state. To help instill a sense of community within the group of story-tellers the well-meaning, too smiley organizer puts up a huge dry-erase board and encourages the group to write a Next Line story*

The writers draw numbers out of a hat to determine the order in which they'll add to the story. The line-up turns out like this:

1. Kanye West**
2. Stephen King
3. Jude Devereaux
4. Robert Jordan
5. Stephenie Meyer

And the story begins thusly:

"I'ma let you get back your writing but I wan't y'all to recognize my book is better than all y'all's...but only 'cause Beyonce didn't put one out yet. [Kanye leaves the room]

What the hell? Who let that guy have the marker? For God's sake, give me that thing. [Mr. King puts a big X through Kanye's lines]

The story begins (again) thusly:

He hated the birds. Their small, glassy eyes reflected his image back at him, backward and upside down. Somehow the picture looked more like him than the real thing. [Mr. King stops and passes the marker to Ms. Devereaux]

[Ms. Devereaux smiles mischievously at Mr. King and squeezes an 's' before the 'h' in the opening "He". She changes all the pronouns into the feminine form] The story continues thusly:

SHe hated the birds. Their small, glassy eyes reflected her image back at her, backward and upside down. Somehow the picture looked more like her than the real thing. Only fatter, because Jen spent too much time running to be that pudgy. The only things her sleek body ate with enthusiasm were miles, all the better to attract the eyes of the muscle-dripping men who ran alongside her.

[Ms. Devereaux stops writing and offers the marker to Mr. Jordan, who chews on the end of it while he studies the board. Finally he picks up the story, which continues thusly:]

SHe hated the birds. Their small, glassy eyes reflected her image back at her, backward and upside down. Somehow the picture looked more like her than the real thing. Only fatter, because Jen spent too much time running to be that pudgy. The only things her sleek body ate with enthusiasm were miles, all the better to attract the eyes of the muscle-dripping men who ran alongside her. Jeniver Corliss needed the brutes to notice her. The diversion wouldn't work if she didn't capture their attention entirely, letting them snap at her elf-quick heels, just out of reach. She couldn't let their minds ponder when the druid priest, Rolf, had disappeared from her flank.

[Mr. Jordan thinks for a bit, then adds in some more punctuation before wiping the marker down with his shirt and waving it in the direction of Ms. Meyer. Ms. Meyer, however, declines. "I brought my own!", she perks, and pulls out a sparkly blue marker from her purse. The glittery ink looks very bright next to the black of the previous lines.]

SHe hated the Birds, their small glassy eyes reflecting her image back at her, backward and upside down, only fatter, because Jen spent too much time running to be that pudgy. The only things her sleek body ate with enthusiasm were miles, all the better to attract the eyes if the muscle-dripping men running alongside her because Jeniver Corliss needed the brutes to notice her (the diversion wouldn't work if she didn't capture their attention entirely, letting them snap at her elf-quick heels, just out of their reach). She couldn't let their minds ponder when the druid priest, Rolf, had disappeared from her flank. Jen wouldn't let him down, not when his last words to her before he'd snuck down the alternate path had been professions of love.

"Don't be afraid, Jeniver," he'd whispered in her ear, keeping up with her easily. "I won't let anything happen to you, I don't care what others think about us. I'm here for you forever." And then he'd left, into the thick, dewy undergrowth of the wet forest.

[Ms. Meyer sits down on her little log seat, smiling, pleased. Mr. King scowls, looking like he might begin cursing again. Ms. Devereaux offers Mr. Jordan a mint to suck on.]

[There's a disturbance outside, a rackety slap of something against the door. The knob shivers and then tears out of the wood. A large Great Wit*** humps its way to the board. It snorts, a bubbly, snorkly sound, and uses a fin to grip the marker, proceeding to make comments.

"This doesn't give me a reason to care." "Too much description about characters, not enough plot." "Where's the conflict?" "Bless my flippers, ALIENS IN CHAPTER FOURTEEN!"

Finally the shark circles the entire story and notates, "Form Rejection", before taking a bite out of one corner of the board.

1. Disclaimer: I love every one of these writers, and have at least one of each's book in my collection. I wouldn't "pick on" them if I didn't.

*Where each person writes one or two lines, then must let someone else have a go. Usually the previous writer folds down the paper so only his line can be seen, making the next person have base her writing on only a sentence of so.

**Kanye stole his spot from Dan Brown, and since technically Kanye's written a book, they let him stay.

***Cousin of the Great White shark, only snarkier.

I only know one person who can say "antcipation" better than Tim Curry

Personal Notes: When I went to Baldwin there was math professor there who was very cool, in a almost suburban beatnik kind of way. I thought he looked very much like Tim Curry, and didn't hesitate to tell him so. My father's name was also Tim. That's how Joss's uncle Tim got his name and his profession.

Time Warp!

I've been thinking about things like generations and progress. My thinking sort of involved The Breakfast Club, for no other reason than Judd Nelson was so pretty to look at in it.

I think a lot of what makes something from one generation (slang, fashion, pop culture) has less to do with what year the reference comes from so much as how confident you (or your characters) use it. Okay, so 'cool' is probably going to be around until the next Ice Age, when it will become too ironic to endure, but aside from that there are definitely things out there today's teens would look at you blankly for mentioning.

Except, saying something unknown in a way that says, "I assume you are as cool as I am, and therefore know exactly what I mean." Because then you confidence those readers/listeners into agreeing with you that the thing you just said was totally the way it should have been said.

I was still in the single digits when most of John Hughes' flicks came out, not a teenager, not his intended audience. Still, his movie Pretty in Pink remains tied with Henson's Labyrinth as my all-time favorite. Both movies influence my writing. Both make at least cameos in my first, then second, novel, respectively.

If you're unsure if a reference will work, the way to play it is put it out there in such a way that makes the reader want to know what you're talking about. You have to make them willing to Google it.

I like the "Twenty-Five Years" rule, myself. If it was cool forty years ago, it's probably cool again now. You want proof? Visit a high school (stop by the office first, though. They frown on random, unknown elements wandering around). Look around. See anything familiar? If you're 30-35 like me, you're gonna. Side ponytails, gelly slippers, shirt dresses. The styles are screaming, "The Eighties called and they want their stuff back!" I've noticed things tend to re-trend every twenty-five years like that. I forward-thinker will save all her clothes during adolescence because her grandaughter could save a lot of cash that way.

So, really, the point is, nothing really goes out of style, so go out and experiment. Except with blue eye-shadow. I can pull it off, but you can't. I'm sorry, what's that you're saying? Really? Are you sure? Oh, well, okay.

*heads for her Neutragena facial cleanser*

Terminating a romantic relationship is a difficult thing to have done.

Personal Notes: There's a cake in my kitchen, waiting to be iced. I am avoiding it like the plague. Who even knows why.

The above subject translates into, "Breaking up is hard to do...especially after you've done it." The reason for this is simple.

A. A friend of mine is suffering through that wonderful feeling of post-break up, and

B. A character of mine is about to be, and . . .

They're both facing the same kind of pain, because breaking up--present tense--is only half the fall out. In fact, it might even be the easier part. It's momentary, singular. It might hurt more sharply than what comes, but who's to say an insistent, unceasing ache is any less miserable than the stab of a second?

It's a short post. What does one do after a break up? The answers are individual and private, but it's still a really good question.

My Aunt Wanda Always Made Me Clean My Plate

Personal Notes: I am here to witness to you, my friends. You remember how your mothers begged you to eat all manner of green, possibly slimy things when you were younger, even promising you'd love them once you got older? Well, guess what? I'm older. I love Brussels Sprouts . . . after I drown them in butter.

I have a lot of relatives. By 'a lot' I mean my mom was the youngest of ten kids, and every single one of them took the Biblical directive "be fruitful and multiply" to heart hardcore, sometimes as many as five times. And since my mom was the youngest sibling, a good 98 per cent of my first cousins are old enough to be my aunts and uncles. There is too much Crazy to measure.

But first, about my Aunt Wanda. My Aunt Wanda was one of those hard-working, veggie-canning, produce farming kind of ladies, and most of the time she scared the Hades out of me. To understand this, you'd had to have met her, because part of the Fear of Aunt Wanda was the fact she had these unbelievably feline/Morticia Adams eyes. They were incredible, but super intense, and that made her stern, no-nonsense demeanor especially effective.

Aunt Wanda was not a woman who believed in wasting things. It didn't matter if you were ten or twenty, if you filled your own plate your eyes better be on the same page as your stomach because you were practically going to be licking that sucker clean. You were going to finish. I remember getting way too much for my then-40 lb. body to take in, but I sat there at the table, picking my way over my dish for two hours because Aunt Wanda had given me the Evil Eye and told me to. One way or another, I was going to see that meal through, by God! More, I was going to do it right. Aunt Wanda had three dogs, but did I get to shove off any of my unwanted food on them? Noooo. I had to do clear it myself.

Which brings me to how this has anything to do with writing. This IS a writing blog (mostly), after all. I'm writing my second novel. It's a sequel to my first novel, and by now I'm pretty tight with the mental workings of the Dionadir world. Not long ago I sort of polled my amazing, multi-national, intuitive teen beta readers about what they thought would happen next, and what they hoped would happen. Their answers kind of surprised me. They said they wanted it to get messy. People should end up broken and bleeding, emotionally speaking. The more victims, the better. One reader summed up, "I really want it to go there." She said this with an almost disturbing amount of zeal.

Wait, what? You want me to torture the people we all love? I know we all love them, because we've gushed over them together. Well, blog reader, yeah, they want me to take the characters so far out of their comfort zones they'll need a worm hole to get back.

At first I kind of recoiled at the thought. Then I recoiled at my recoil, because I remembered being a bit self-righteous on the same point when Meyer's Breaking Dawn came out and I thought she totally chickened out at the end of it. Nothing bad really happened to anyone. No one was ever in any real kind of danger. All those characters may just as well been wearing marshmallow puff suits for all the trouble they were facing, which seemed to me to be a total cop-out because the whole thing was set up to be epic.

So, okay, I kind of get it, now. Characters being your creations, you love them, and like anything else you 'birth', you don't want anything really, actually bad happening to them. The idea of causing long-lasting damage doesn't sit well. But I also know a little about forward progress and momentum. I know when a kid first learns to Karate chop a board his sensei tells him to aim for the space on the other side, not the board itself. If he concentrates on his end point being the board, he'll just break his hand. I know when a ballerina spins she must go several inches further around than what she feels is a complete turn, because if she comes out of it too early, it throws her balance off. In order to succeed, both must push the limits of what feels comfortable, and natural, and conclusive.

In writing, it feels wrong to stretch people beyond their limits, to risk snapping them. But following through is important. It's the only way to get where you want to end up.

Sometimes wrong is right.

And to think I had so many ideas earlier.

Personal Notes: My husband fell in love with me when we were both thirteen. I used to pace between the aisles of desk every morning in our homeroom. I've always paced/wandered around while talking on the phone, too. We're thirty now. Today, I realized pacing is contagious, because he was totally strolling around our yard on his cell phone.

Husbands: I paces them.

I had at least three subjects to bring up earlier. And they were helpful, great subjects. I got zip, now. Can't remember jack. It's like somewhere between then and now I put my brain back into the jar of ichor on my bedside table. Why is that? How come I only come up with the good stuff when my body is too occupied with the mundane to allow the writerly part of my brain access to a keyboard? I personally think it has something to do with circulation. I bet I'd be in trouble during channel surfing if I were a boy.

I vaguely remember having a new take on the whole, "Why Do I Write YA?" subject, but wouldn't you know it, in a completely unknowing kind of way, the awesome Mrs. Susan Adrian beat me to it. I can picture what I was doing when I thought if it, even, but that's about it. I need a push pin to stick into my cranial site map.

So, until I figure out what it what I wanted to say, this is what you're getting. I promise to be more interesting, just as soon as I figure out how to get all that literary blood out of my toes and back into my finger tips where it belongs.

Also? I think the letter "P" may be involved.

What? Sesame Street was an important part of my childhood.

Perception

Personal Notes: I (apparently) have a tendency to place things haphazardly about, wherever I am at the moment I need to set something down, or take it off, or whatever. This drives my husband nuts. He hates how I don't really have a "spot" for anything in the fridge, or a hard-and-fast place for any of my pens or notebooks, but the thing that really gets him, the thing that will have him gritting his teeth because he has to ask me to fix it for possibly the third time in a single day, is my leaving my shoes everywhere. I leave them under the desk, in the middle of the bedroom floor, sitting in front of the couch, in short, wherever I am when it occurs to me, taking off my Sketchers.

My mom says with my dad it was socks. That rocks my world.

Situation No. 1.

A middle aged man lives alone in an old two-storey house that hasn't been redecorated since his granny put down her lace doilies. As far anyone can see, he has no job, no source of income, though his friends all have careers (one is even a MLB player). He spends every day with a group of small children, probably between the ages of about five and eight (four neighbors, all male), including one young girl who we assume is not his daughter, and probably not a relative, because she refers to him by his first name, without a title. This last little girl lives with him. On occasion, the boys come over for a slumber party.

What conclusions do you draw about this man? How do you feel about his interactions with these young children?

Situation No. 2

Your vacation takes you to a state known for it's poor education standards, racism, sexism, an ultra-moralistic streak, and drawling accents. As it must for at least all vacations, it's raining one day. You decide to go to the video store and rent something at least until the weather lets up. You pick your flick and approach the counter where you find a very petite, bubbly, teenaged salesgirl waiting to help you. She's engaging, knowledgable, helpful . . . and obviously VERY pregnant.

What do you think now? How do you react? How do you feel about her circumstances, and if you find yourself judging her, do you feel guilty for writing her off somehow, even if it's only momentarily? How do you percieve her?

Perception is a powerful thing. We're geared toward certain view points from the moment we're old enough to understand the consequences of anything, even as simple as "crying=food", as infants. When you write, think about your audience, and what factors are going to influence how they see the situations before them.

Situation No. 1 was taken from a popular Disney children's series called Bear in the Big Blue House. In fact, it is my youngest son's favorite. He's particularly fond of the "Potty Time" and "Dance Party" episodes. The main character is a fantabulous, extra-large-n-fluffy bear named, well, Bear. Ocho is his little bear niece or whatever she is, and their friends are a small blue mouse, an electric purple set of twin otters, and a neon green striped Lemur. The whole set up is designed by The Henson Company, so you know it's charming, excellent quality programming. As a life-time lover of all things Henson, I totally approve.

Situtation No. 2 is taken from personal experience. I live in a tiny, backwoods, extremely Southern town, that strangely enough gets a LOT of tourists because we have gorgeous beaches, and yes, sometimes it rains. And yes, for two years I worked at a video store. I worked there right up until two weeks before I gave birth to my now-two-year-old. A lot of people looked at my little stature, my kind of baby face, and my great big, distended belly and gave me really dirty looks, because they, incorrectly, assumed I was a pregnant teenager, probably one who dropped out. I was 28 at the time. Married for 7 years at that time, and Ben was my third son. I graduated from high school in '98, and went on to college.

Perception, people; consider it.