Monday, February 28, 2011

Caution: May Contain Nuts

I used to feel envious of those who followed their passion. That is, until I finally accepted mine and realized loving something—wanting it—carried another set of burdens.
I never knew what I was getting myself into when I jumped into my writing aspirations full steam. There were no warning labels listing toxic ingredients or harmful side effects. I had to find it out all on my own through trial and error, a few Jack and Cokes, and a tear or two. But I’m not going to leave you dangling like a participle, I’ll share the wealth.  
 Here’s my list of warnings.
1)   Once you release the voices in your head, you will never have a private conversation again. The voices will always there, lurking and eavesdropping on everything you do or say. They want to be heard and will stop at nothing to make that happen. They will summon the heir of Slytherin, call on the Gods, whatever they must to do find their way to paper. I wouldn’t tell my husband this, but half the time he is talking to me, my characters are shouting over him.

2)   Your little feelers are going to be hurt. Don’t bother developing a thick skin, but don armor or a wet suit—something that is impenetrable or so slick the negative slides right off. Don’t get caught up in what’s great about your writing, figure out what stinks and try to fix it. Search out ways to improve yourself, not fluff the ego. If you like fluff, you’ll wind up with lackluster beta readers who respond with a simple “I like it” instead of critical hard-nosed readers. Rewriting and editing is where the real writing begins. If you want to be good, you have to pay the price with some crappy writing. If you’re reading this thinking, My stuff is good. Whatchu talkin’ ‘bout? Let it simmer for a few months while you write another novel and read books on writing.
3)  You won’t read a book the same again.
One of the things I miss, pre-writing days, is reading indiscriminately. It's harder to just read for the pleasure of it. Your write-brain will see a typo or a weird sentence and file it away. You’ll continue in the book finding more mistakes, loopholes in the plot, unlikable characters, or whatever else and wonder how in the heck the author became published while you’re filling up a binder with rejections. I know some writers who don’t see the faults as they read, but I don’t understand how. I’m editing my own stuff and a handful of others all the time. My mind is in constant edit mode.

4)  Your spouse/family will resent the computer.
My husband knows I work hard, but sometimes the hard work I’m doing takes away from the family. I am a stay at home mom, so I can’t lock myself in an office and write for a certain amount of hours a day. I find the time when I can. Twenty minutes here or there. Whatever I can while still managing the household. Your thick armor will help as you battle through this section. Now, my husband’s snarky comments slide right past me. He can’t even throw me off with an eye roll anymore. I’m like a ninja—a couch ninja with a laptop of fury.
*My husband is one of my biggest supporters, but sometimes my writing gets in the way. It’s my fault, not his.

5)  You need to start a blog.
This one killed me. I’m a reluctant blogger. I’m doing it because I want to hobnob with other writers, learn, grow. But writing a blog is a bit like a raid on my panty drawer and I don’t like y’all peeking at my unmentionables.
Since I’ve been blogging, I’ve learned to get passed my privacy issues (a bit) and learned to actually like blogging (a bit). I still don’t get the twitter stuff #ff, @,or the followers who say they are following and then immediately delete you. Whatevs to them. Seriously? 
6)   Can’t go it alone. It takes a village.
I wouldn’t be where I am without my critique group. They keep me in check while respecting my voice and creativity. If you can find a good group do it. My group is probably different than most. Half is comprised of beta readers who write and don’t like to share their work until they are finished. The other half emails chapters as they go. Find a group that works for you, establish goals, and get rollin'. It helps.

I could probably go on, but I don’t want to make this blog too long; so what are on your writer’s warning label? Gas? Irritable bowel syndrome? A twitchy e-y-e? What advice would you offer to a wannabe writer hungry for a publishing contract? 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Genre Hopping: My Own Trouble With Tribbles

I’m usually the type of girl who hates change, but when it comes to writing, I can’t make up my mind. I’m a genre hopper. I know that’s bad, but I can’t help it. I started writing women’s fiction and then popped over to suspense thinking that was my home. I’ve had some great responses on both from my beta readers and a few writing contests, but I’m hesitant to pursue either project. I don’t want to be tied to one genre, especially when I have a hankering to try sci-fi/fantasy--darn you, Captain Kirk.
My husband loves Star Trek (Original Series) and I’ve been making fun of him for years. I’ve watched the newer stuff with Patrick Stewart, but never with old school Kirk and Spock. I think my husband must’ve tied me down or something because one day, I started watching and couldn’t get enough.
I love the shows. They are creative, romantic, suspenseful, and laugh-out-loud hilarious. My kids love them too. It is the one show we all watch together without grumbles or complaints. But now, I have a problem. I have two books sitting around collecting dust with a third ready to do the same because I’m told to find a genre and stick to it.
That’s not fun. I like to challenge myself, see if I have the writing chops to actually pull off something out of my realm--if I have a realm.
I get the reason why I’m supposed to stay monogamous, build a brand yada yada yada, but what if I choose incorrectly? 
So how do I know, how do I settle on just one?
Someone told me to pick the genre I read the most. Great advice, but I don’t just read one genre. I’m an impatient reader with a short attention span. I will stick to any book as long as the writer hooks me right away.
So what’s a writer to do who hasn’t found her niche? Lately, I’ve been experimenting with writing exercises with random photos, writing the first thing that comes to mind. I have a few photo challenges on my blog, each in a different genre. And still, I want to try more.
Shoot some advice to a genre-hopping writer. Help me find my home. Was it easy for you find your genre and stick with it?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Photo Challenge: Ramshackle

An old friend of mine is a talented photographer. He posted a photo on Facebook a while back and it had me thinking about where a writer’s inspiration comes from. I've been stuck on my own writing. (stupid blogging lol) So, I decided to challenge myself and write a quick story for a random photo. I try to roll with my first impression and give myself a time limit, which is definately challenging to get it all out. These stories are not edited and rough, so keep that in mind. My goal is to get my brain working, not produce perfection. Thanks for looking.

Photograph by Cliff Bryce click here to see more 

Twenty-five years slipped away the minute Claire Davenport caught a glimpse of her childhood playhouse tucked in the far reaches of her family farm. Her feet rooted to the forest floor while her eyes surveyed the place she vowed to leave behind and never return. Despite the overgrowth and ramshackle appearance, it was as if she’d never left.
            “Do you want to go back?” her husband, Michael, asked.
            Claire clutched his hand without tearing her attention from the shack. “No, I want to do this.” She exhaled and forged a smile. “I can do this.”
            She may have wanted to push through her doubt, but her mind refused. Claire stood frozen, gripped by the memories of her sister and the last time they’d been in this very spot. A moderate breeze stirred the leaves in front of her, lifting them high in a circular dance.
            “She’s here.” Claire’s voice mingled with the sounds of the fluttering leaves. “I can feel her.”
            With one careful step after the next, she ambled forward. Michael lumbered behind, his heavy footfalls offering his wife reassurance and safety. The smell of time bit at her nose as she neared the door. Claire balled her fists and turned around to face Michael—she was ready.
            “Are you sure you want to go in there? There’s no telling what’s been living inside.”
            Claire nodded. “Help me up.”
            Michael hopped onto the porch and peered inside before offering her a hand up.
            He lifted her to the stoop and stepped to the side, allowing her full access into the playhouse. She rubbed her palms against the front of her jeans then held her breath as she pushed the door open. The hinges shouted their resistance with a piercing shriek, sending her heart racing, but it didn’t stop her curiosity.
            “Stay away from the center,” Michael said, “the flooring looks in bad shape.”
            Claire eyed the bowed floorboards and hugged the walls as she wandered through the room. She searched her memories to transform the dank interior into the cottage she remembered. It once was the envy of all the girls in town, if only they knew the real price of such a luxury. Claire crouched down and picked up a brittle fragment of the pink and red rose-filled wallpaper.
            “My mother and I picked this out,” she said, “Lizzy hated flowers, but my mother insisted a girl’s dollhouse needed frilly white curtains and tea-roses on the wall.”
            Michael leaned against the doorframe and smiled. “You’re still a girly-girl.”
            Claire looked down at her three inch heels and shrugged. “Lizzy and I used to play in here for hours every day—hiding mostly.” Her face grew solemn. “It’s smaller than I remembered.”
            “Are you sure you’re okay?”
Claire inhaled and nodded as she returned to a standing. “No, I’m . . .” She paused as her eyes found her reflection in the window on the opposite wall. She inched forward, stepping over branches and debris, until she stood directly in front of the window. She lifted her trembling hand to her cheek and titled her head. “Even with the same face, Lizzy and I were as different as petticoats and blue jeans.”
“Claire! You in there?” a man’s voice roared through the shack.
Claire whipped around, her eyes wide. “He’s here.”

What do you do to find inspiration? Do you have favorite writing exercises that challenge and get you back on track?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Why My Husband Is Not My Ideal Reader

For the most part, my husband is supportive of my writing aspirations. I know he hates the time writing takes away from the family, but he bought me my writing desk (aka laptop) and it’s been my faithful companion since. He may be one of my biggest cheerleaders, but he will never be my ideal reader—the person I write for.
I first learned the term “Ideal Reader” from Stephen King’s On Writing. In it, he says:
“He or she [ideal reader] is going to be in your writing room all the time: in the flesh once you open the door and let the world back in to shine on the bubble of your dream, in spirit during the sometimes troubling and often exhilarating days of the first draft, when the door is closed.” 
"I.R. will help you get outside yourself a little, to actually read your work in progress as an audience would while you're still working. This is perhaps the best way of all to make sure you stick to story, a way of playing to the audience even while there's no audience there and you're totally in charge."
I have two great friends who I strive to make wince, laugh, or cry as I write. I love those girls, but I don’t want them to know too much about my w.i.p. until I’m finished. So, the only option to bounce ideas off is my husband. The trouble is he doesn’t like reading. He’s a doer not a sitter. He grows impatient with idleness.
I’ve been stuck trying to finish my project from NaNoWriMo, so I thought maybe he could help.
“Can I run some ideas by you?” I bit my lip and glanced over to the TV. My husband was watching ESPN highlights or lowlights, I’m not sure, but he looked a bit tense.
“About your book?” 
The lack of interest oozed from his pores, but he managed a half smile.
“Yeah, but if you’re busy.”
He turned off the TV and faced me. “Sure, go ahead just fast forward to the parts with boobs.”
I withheld my eye roll. “I don’t write those kinds of stories.”
“No boobs?”
Perhaps, I was pressing my luck by continuing, but I needed help. The goof in front of me was my only option. I rambled on about my story, and he stared back at me nodding. He looked genuinely interested. Wow, he was really listening. Excitement slithered through my body. I’ve been stuck for days and now, I just may be able to get back into it.
“So what do you think? Should I keep going in this direction or is it not suspenseful enough?”
“Well”—he sat upright and scratched his head—“you lost me somewhere between the cabin and the policeman.”
“Cabin? There isn’t a cabin in my story, and I’m not sure if I said anything about a policeman.”
“A shack, I mean,” he said.
“The shack was in my last novel.”
“Oh, I liked the shack. You could bring in another shack.”
I didn’t know what to say; I just stared.
“So, no shack. Okay, what if you have Courtney—”
“Yeah, Chelsea . . . you could have Chelsea turn evil in the end. That would be a surprise.”
“That would.” I'm not sure if he realized the cause of my flat expression. I reached to the ottoman, grabbed the remote, and clicked on his game. “Thanks for the help.” I stood and inched past him. He patted my butt on my way by and smiled. I turned around wondering if he thought he was actually helpful or if he just played me. Either way, he just got out of any future plotting sessions and I’m more stuck than before.

Do you have an ideal reader? Is your spouse or significant other yours?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Is This Being Recorded For Quality Assurance?

I’m fortunate enough to be in a critique group with two of my best friends. I love these women. When it comes to writing, they are the wind beneath my wings, the ice in my diet coke, the ketchup on my mac and cheese. I rely on them to steer me in the right direction and to scream and shout when I’m not. We have a system, and our system works.
For the last year, things have been rolling smoothly. Then along came a nasty four-letter word: B-L-O-G.
That’s right, blog. Our free flowing creative brains are now full of muck. No more plotting discussions or writing exercises. The grand stories we’ve toiled over for months are collecting dust because of hopping, tweeting, and following. You’d think these ladies might feel resentful with all this blogging business, but they are like little girls at a slumber party, giggling and plotting.
No one’s safe from my blogging friends.
With phone in hand to take an easy picture or send a quick tweet, these women are blog ready. Their eyes search any room they inhabit for that one subject worthy of a new post. They listen in on conversations, awaiting a juicy tidbit in some poor sap’s life that will get a chuckle. A funny sign in a restroom or an embarrassing moment in a family member’s past. Nothing is off limits as long as names can be changed to protect the oblivious.
I’m not immune either. After telling one of them, who we’ll call “Unfortunate Mary,” about a problem with a friend, I knew I wouldn’t be safe again.
“I’m worried about a friend of mine,” I said during one of our early morning chats. “She’s having intense breast pain.”
“Does she think it's cancer?” Concern filled Unfortunate Mary’s voice.
“She read somewhere that too much caffeine causes pain and swelling in breast tissue, so she’s not worried about it.”
There was a long pause on the other end of the phone, which should’ve clued me in.
“Swelling, huh?” She paused again. “Hmmm. Interesting.”
I knew by the tone in her voice that Unfortunate Mary had a plan—a blogging plan. She’d already posted about the lack of curves in her upper body and the pitfalls of wearing a training bra as an adult.
“How much caffeine do you think is too much?” she asked.
“Are you kidding me? It causes pain.”
“But it could be a really funny experiment and depending on the swelling . . . ”
I finally managed to dissuade Unfortunate Mary, although I heard she has a fancy new coffee maker.

Are you an obsessed blogger too? Do you have a little notebook stashed away just in case you discover a new post idea? Is your phone chirping from the new emails/tweets on your iPhone at all hours of the day?  ;) 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Blogfest Bernard Pivot

Thanks, Nicole Ducleroir. This was a great idea to get to find new blogs. If you're wondering what I'm doing click on the Blogfest button on the right.

1. What is your favorite word? Perseverance

2. What is your least favorite word? How about a phrase. “This is not for us.”

3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? Something or someone who makes me laugh.

4. What turns you off? Know it alls who think they know it all without really knowing it all. You know?

5. What is your favorite curse word? Shit

6. What sound or noise do you love? I love the sounds of the keys on my laptop click-clacking at crazy speed.

7. What sound or noise do you hate? Whining….oh, the pain.

8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Writer, but if that can’t happen I’m considering becoming a ventriloquist or the dummy.

9. What profession would you not like to do? Waitress. Ug! I did it for years and just thinking about it makes my back hurt.

10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? “By the skin of your teeth.”

Monday, February 14, 2011

Romance and A little Fiction

Since it’s Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d write a post about romance in fiction. I suck at doing it; in fact, I get all woozy thinking about it. Hold on a second, I have to sit down.

Okay, I’m good.

Anyway, romance in fiction . . . I generally like a smattering of the love stuff in most of the things I read, but as long as it isn’t too flowery or too heated right off.

Love and romance permeate our lives through our spouses or our kids. When writers grab their shovels and pile on the problems for their characters, a sense of love intensifies the stakes. The MC has something more to lose, even if it is just a possibility of love.

I like when the writer prolongs the kiss for as long as possible without making the story painful. Too soon and I lose interest in the relationship, too long and I’m frustrated (not in the cold shower way) because I feel used by the writer.

I remember reading a certain YA novel about a beautiful undead dude in love with a clumsy girl who liked to eat a whole lot of scrambled eggs. This book had me screaming for them to “do it” already and it wasn’t because I wanted them to. I had enough. I grew so tired of the MC’s constant longing for her sparkly boyfriend. She grated on my nerves even before all the lust, but her melodramatic desires just made her seem weak and whiny.

Conflict is key in fiction; it is the most important thing and why we turn the page. Add emotion to that and we have a story. I think Jessica James did a good job explaining this further in her article “Secrets to Writing an Old-Fashioned Romance Novel”

“These [conflict and emotion] are really the two main ingredients of any novel, but they are crucial to the success of a romance novel. Love at first sight may happen in fairy tales, but the slow, often unintended, progression of a relationship is what engages a reader emotionally in a story. When the two main characters are at odds, when they must overcome obstacles that are often inadvertently caused by their own misunderstandings, the conflict created causes the reader to become engaged.”

Because I’m not the smooshy lovey-dovey kind of girl, I tend to like characters who are more reluctant giving it up to the utterly handsome stranger with his blazing blues. I like resistance. I like women who are smart but fallible. They make mistakes, and they struggle to find their way back on track. So don’t pull me along. Let me linger, let me wonder, let me hope for change.

How important is romance in the books you read? Do you like intensity? Have you ever found yourself let down by a love story?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Diet Pepsi and the New Skinny Can

I’m addicted to the bubbly goodness of Diet Soda. I used to be in a monogamous relationship with Diet Pepsi, but I’m no longer fussy. Diet Coke, Diet Dr. Pepper, whatever . . . just give me my caffeine and artificial sweeteners and all the other garbage that inhabits my liquid energy. Gimme, gimme, gimme.

I know it’s bad for me. I know it’s unnatural and filled with the devil’s intentions, but I want it. I dream about that first crisp bite slithering down my throat. The trouble with my addiction is my body doesn’t like caffeine. It makes me hyper and then I crash hard. In my freefall, I experience nausea, dizziness, and sleepiness.

So why in the hell do I drink it? I don’t know, maybe the answer is in the shape of the can.

Diet Pepsi is now causing a raucous with its new “skinny” can, which they are unveiling during fashion week. Surprise, surprise. Skinny can plus skinny broads in skinny clothes equals trouble.

Why is my chubby soda getting a make-over to this new tall and slender model?

The company says the design was made in “celebration of beautiful, confident women.”

Hmmm, as opposed to the ugly, chunky women who currently drink it? Are they calling me, their most devoted consumer, fat?

What message is Diet Pepsi sending to women? That we need to be tall and skinny to be “beautiful and confident?”

Apparently, even the National Eating Disorders Association is offended and claims the new skinny can is thoughtless and irresponsible.

Does this mean the skinny can will taunt women into starving themselves?

I think this is all ridiculous. It’s a can, people. A stupid can. It works just like the other fat one did, but it’s taller. Who cares? Do we really need to take offense at everything? Searching for ulterior motives instead of finding ways to make ourselves more secure with who we are—fat can or skinny can.

I am content that I’m a fat can type of gal. I could be a skinny can if it weren’t for the fat packages of Doritos filling the shelves—now there’s a problem. Where is the uproar on that one?

We all need to be accountable for what we put in our mouths. I know my diet soda isn’t good for me, yet I still drink it. That’s my bad. I don’t care what the can looks like or how it makes me feel as a beautiful, confident woman. I’m the only one with that kind of power.

Are you a fat can or a skinny can?

Here’s an article on the skinny can if you’re interested.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Hookers, Gaffes, and a Ball Joke

I love a good slip of the tongue.

Hold on pervies. This isn’t some x-rated post for Valentine’s Day. What I mean is I love the simple misunderstandings of language. The funny gaffes we make as we string words together in simple conversation.

One of the memorable things about the TV show “Three’s Company” was when one of the roommates overheard a conversation from another room and took what was said at face value.

My husband and I laugh until we ache when one of our kids say something unexpectedly. A year ago, my daughter decided to change the shape of her cheap-o wire shelves. She tore them down and started from scratch, joining the seams with a white plastic clip. She had nearly finished her project, but was missing one crucial piece. If she let go of the last joint, the shelf would collapse, so she yelled for help. “I need a hooker! I need a hooker!”

After I clarified what she had said, I left her without a hooker and ran straight for her father. He misunderstood my tears of laughter and hurried to investigate.

“What’s wrong?” he asked her.

“I need a hooker.” My daughter stomped her foot to the ground.

“A hooker?” His lips curled and soon we both collapsed onto the floor, laughing.

“What’s so funny about hookers?” Frustrated tears filled my daughter’s eyes.

What isn’t funny about hookers? Who wouldn’t laugh at that?

Our hooker fun didn’t end there. During Christmastime, my daughter was outside helping my husband hang the lights. She ran into the house shouting. “Dad needs you to go to Wal-Mart to get some more hookers.”

I knew the economy was bad, but . . . I wonder if Wally’s price matches their hookers. Double coupon?

(In case you don’t get it, there’s a little clip thingy people use to hang Christmas lights or as my daughter called “a hooker.”)

Yep, we love us a good hooker joke. But we’re also partial to a good nut, ball, or Woody joke (thank you, Toy Story). Perhaps we love these innocent slips because we are a PG family. We’re careful what our children watch and what we say, so when something comes up we can’t help but laugh.

The funniest part is my kids’ response. They have absolutely no idea why we’re so amused. They stare at us with dulled expressions or simply continue playing.

After hearing a real-life blunder from a friend of mine, I couldn’t help add it in my first novel, Reply Hazy, Try Again about a woman who reluctantly returns to her high school reunion in attempts to reclaim her life after the death of her husband.

With a bit too much eagerness on her face, Paige snagged Avery to fill out the questionnaire.

“Thanks for the soda,” Avery yelled to John before Paige whisked her away.

Jessica and her crony, Tiffany, stopped them before they reached the table.

“Hello, Avery,” Jessica said. “How’ve you been?”

Avery looked to Paige for reassurance and then back to Jessica. “I’m great. Thanks for asking.”

“Sorry to hear about Kevin.”

“Thanks, Jessica. That’s so kind of you.” Avery’s cinched her fists.

“This is a lot of fun isn’t it?” Tiffany piped up. “My husband is having the best time.”

Jessica cast Tiffany an evil stare, causing Avery to question Jessica’s motives for the impromptu chitchat.

“Isn’t that your husband over there, with the cane?” Paige asked.

“Yes, he’s recovering from surgery. This has been exactly what he needed.”

“Surgery? What kind of surgery?” Avery asked out of sheer politeness.

“Oh, he had a hip replacement,” Tiffany said.

“Isn’t he a little young to have his hip replaced?” Avery took a large drink of Diet Coke.

Tiffany shrugged. “He was born without any balls.”

Avery’s large mouthful of cola sprayed Jessica like a sitcom style spit take. She stood fuming as beads of soda dripped down her face and onto her yellow chiffon dress. Avery coughed uncontrollably watching Jessica stomp off toward the restroom.

Paige’s mouth hung to the floor as she patted Avery on the back. “Did you say he was born without . . . balls?”

“Yes. Oh, Nooo. I meant ball joints,” Tiffany said. Her hand covered her mouth, while her face turned crimson. “Ball joints,” she said once more before rushing after Jessica.

Avery rotated between coughing and laughing hysterically. Paige clutched her around the waist so she wouldn’t fall over and nodded at curious bystanders as they passed.

“Oh, wow.” Avery wiped the tears from her eyes and took in a satisfactory breath. “That was the best laugh I’ve had in a long time.”

Do you have any favorite gaffes or slip-ups in language?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Photo Challenge 2: The Death Pods

This photo was taken by Cliff Bryce. Click here to view his other photos.

Finding Inspiration: My Weekly Photo challenge.
An old friend of mine is a talented photographer. He posted a photo on Facebook the other day and it had me thinking about where a writer’s inspiration comes from. So, I decided to challenge myself and write a quick story for a random photo. These stories are not edited and rough, so keep that in mind. My goal is to get my brain working, not produce perfection. Thanks for looking. Here's my attempt at Sci-fi/fantasy. Yikes.

The desolation mocked me, echoing through my tired mind. Nothing of my life remained—nothing that mattered, anyway. The League considered me a deserter. My sentence was death, which didn’t seem so bad as long as the executioner was quick about it. I just might accept my fate, but I had more than my own needs to consider. Patrick needed me, and I needed to get home for the last time.

I don’t carry sentimentality as the other survivors do. Memories were a burden; a ploy the League used for their own gain. I’ve shut my recollections out for so long each picture blended together like a kaleidoscope of black and gray, save one. Locked away, deep within my mind, was the map to my home, the lavender smell of my mother’s hair, and the calloused touch of my father’s hand.

“Kira, are they going to find us?” Patrick tilted his head upward, his chestnut eyes regarding mine.

My mind instantly filled with images of the Keeper and his army. “Maybe, but we have to try.” I liked to spare him as much of the truth as I could, but he knew; he’d already seen far too much death to believe anything but pain would follow us. He also knew how determined the Keeper was to find me.

Patrick nuzzled his head against my shoulder. I drew him in, feeling the warmth of our bodies mingling. I thought he might drift to sleep; it’d been a long day of travel and his legs were half the length of mine, but his body refused to slacken. “Do your people have weapons?” he asked.

“Mmmhmm,” I answered, hoping it was enough. I hated the taste of lies, but such hope still permeated his young body. He returned his gaze to mine, searching for truth. I smiled and ran my hand over his matted hair. “I won’t let anyone hurt you. I promise.”

He stared off in the distance; the moons of Arlon greeted him from the east. I knew we only had four days to make it home before darkness swallowed our planet. And the darkness wasn’t kind to strangers, nor was the cold.

Patrick finally relinquished and fell asleep. I carefully laid him to the ground and covered him with a large finnola leaf. Its broad size would warm and protect him while I gathered food for our journey.

The scarcity of food had driven many people to do unspeakable things, but my mother and father taught me well in the art of gathering. Despite the bleakness of the land, there was always nourishment. I wandered through the abandoned and weather-beaten shacks, filling my bag with cardinal berries and everroot. Singly, they carried a bitter taste but when joined together they produced a flavor reminiscent of licorice.

With a few nuts and grasses added to my satchel, I made my way back to Patrick to claim as much sleep as my mind would allow. That’s when I saw them. I knew what they were immediately. Abris Domix. The Death Pods. The first thing my parents taught me about gathering was which plants to avoid—which produced pain or death not nourishment.

I bent down and carefully caressed the brittle plant in my hand, its crisp fibers warning me not to proceed. The look of it shouted of evil with its gray color and barbed stem. I shouldn’t have thought the things I was, but I knew there might come a time when promises of safety and security meant nothing. Patrick had witnessed the murders of his entire family at the hands of the army. I wouldn’t allow him to feel what his loved ones had experienced.

I cracked the pod open and cradled the tiny seeds in my palm. Their honey-like aroma filled the air, coaxing the bearer to savor in its sweetness. I closed my eyes and welcomed the scent, hoping the need to use the seeds would never come.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Second Writers' Platform Building Crusade

An opportunity to build your online platform thanks to RachWrites. Read an excerpt from her post below and if you're interested click on the link and join the crusade.

"There are so many of us out there. Aspiring authors, bloggers (whether established or beginning), industry peeps, even published authors, all of whom want to build their online platforms. We write insightful posts and articles, actively blog within the blogosphere, take part in challenges, competitions, and contests galore.

We have the passion and the drive to make it, but…we could all do with a bit of support.

So I started thinking. What if we link all these people together? What if we create a way to meet people in a similar position, people who genuinely want to help build our online platform while at the same time building theirs? People who want to pay it forward in the spirit of writerly writerness and blogging beautificity (and see it come back to them in turn).

And so my Writers’ Platform-Building Crusade was born."

Want to join? Click here to go to Rachwrites  Crusade begins Feb. 1-Apr. 30

The Mismatched Maven and the Grumpy Vampire

I hate to be late for anything.
My palms sweat. My heart races. I can’t take it. Punctuality is my only compulsion. I can go to sleep with a sink full of dishes, no problem. An unmapped floor simply calls for a shrug of my shoulders and a comfortable pair of shoes. Coloring outside the lines? I say why conform. Matching socks . . . who needs the work—not me.
I’m pretty laid back for the most part. It’s just that damn clock that has me right where he wants me with his tic tock, tick tock, coaxing me to get the hell out the door or I’m gonna be late. I hate that clock.
Having kids really takes my dilemma up notch. I heard all about diapers, binkies, poop, croup, gas, and colic when I was pregnant, but not one person prepared me for my new life as a late person. Did you hear that? Even alluding to the word late quickens my breath and sends my heart into overtime. Right now, the keys on this computer are click-clacking at an overwhelming pace.
It doesn’t help that my husband has the urgency of the DMV. He is perpetually five or more minutes late and he pisses me off because he’s bestowed his turtle-like speed onto our two children. Mornings have not been the same since.
Today’s example:
7:50 a.m. Alarm goes off. I wake my daughter, who is less than cheery to see me. She takes about five minutes to get downstairs. Five minutes! Do you know what can be accomplished in 300 seconds? She doesn’t.
She collapses onto the couch.
“What were you doing up there?” I ask, trying to remain composed.
She mumbles something inaudible in reply. I normally would’ve asked for clarification, but time is ticking. I’m just about to go fetch her some clothes when her four- year-old brother wakes up.
“Good morning, buddy.” I love his morning greetings full of joy and smiles, but something happened from his bedroom to me that nixed his usual pleasantries.
He stomps over to the couch and collapses, screaming about the light. “It too tunny. It too tunny.” He points to our living room window where beams of sunshine filter inside.
I run to the window and close the blinds, making sure not an ounce of tortuous light comes through. Not only do I want my son safe from the death rays, but that stupid clock has me in a stronghold.
I steal a quick peek over my shoulder, 8:00 a.m. I have thirty minutes before her dad leaves for work. If I hurry, he can take her to school and my Vampire son won’t combust in my car.
“Strudel. Strudel,” the vampire boy chants.

Now, here’s where it gets tricky. If I don’t run upstairs and pick out my daughter’s clothes, I can’t guarantee what she’ll look like. I’m sure you’re rolling your eyes and saying, ‘what about your mismatched socks? Why can’t she wear whatever she wants?’
Okay, so you think you’re smart, I get that. Here’s my answer. Socks don’t matter because pants cover them, hellooo, and kids are too mean to appreciate a good blend of plaid and stripes. When she’s all grow’d up she mismatch her duds all she wants.
With the pesky clock egging me on, I decide to roll with my daughter’s clothing choices and pop a couple strudels into the toaster. I fill two cups with juice, glancing at the microwave. 8:20. Deep breath. Vampire boy is content and not a pile of ash. My daughter was humming in her room. Things were going good.
8:25. My daughter’s gleeful hum should’ve been a warning. She bounces down the stairs wearing hot pink and black lace leggings with her white socks pulled up high and a small blue shirt.
“Do you think that looks good,” I ask, trying to curb the quake in my voice.
She hugs her arms across her body. “Soooo comfy.”

I stare at her for a moment, debating. Do I march her back into her room, which would hurt her feelings, or do I improvise? I toss her a pair of black boots just as her dad comes up the stairs.
“I’m leaving in five minutes,” he says.
300 seconds? No problem.  
My daughter finishes her strudel and juice, then slips on her coat. A kiss goodbye reminds me that we forgot about her teeth, but vampire boy needs me. Apparently, the cat hopped onto the windowsill and moved the blinds. Death rays careen toward him; so, I do the only thing I know and pop a piece of Orbitz gum in her hand. Don’t judge. The clock made me do it.

**Disclaimer: My husband would like the one or two readers I have to know that my portrayal of him is a gross exaggeration. He says he is always on time and lateness is a thing of the past. I say mmmkay to that and that's about it. You can also insert an eye roll with that mmmkay if you like.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Super Bowl Heaven: Jalapeno Popper Dip

This is one of my fav new dips. My only variation is to put italian bread crumbs on top and broil until topping is browned.  Soooo good. Tastes just like a popper.  It's great with crusty bread and tortilla chips.

Finding Inspiration: My Weekly Photo challenge.

A good friend of mine is a talented photographer. He posted a photo on Facebook the other day and it had me thinking about where a writer’s inspiration comes from. So, I decided to challenge myself and write a quick story for a random photo. Keep in mind, these stories are not edited and rough.My goal is to get my brain working, not produce perfection. Plus showcase some great photos. I'm hoping to do this at least once a week. If you are a photographer and would like to participate send me a message. Thanks for looking.

Photograph by Cliff Bryce click here to see more pics

I ain’t much of a sneak. I tend to mind my own business most of the time. But something about that old man provoked me. Maybe it was the way he glared at me through those gnarly eyebrows like he knew better. I ain’t dumb. I know lots of stuff. Just ask Miss Johnson. I bust through a whole mess of fractions before snobby Lexi Carter had a chance to draw that stupid little heart over the “i” in her name.
My mama works at the nursing home down the block from my house. I don’t get to see her much on account of my old man being in jail and all. So, when I can, I walk down and share a Coke with her. That’s where I first laid eyes on the old coot.
His name was Clyde Sullivan Jr. What the hell kinda name was Clyde anyway and what possessed Clyde Sr. to pass his misfortunes onto his lemon-faced son? Anyway, I was waitin’ for my mama’s shift to get over and popped a squat in the hall, when he came wanderin’ by with a wooden box tucked under his arm. He peered at me sideways and curled his upper lip, looking meaner than a rattler. Ol’ Clyde mumbled something under his breath, no doubt thinking he was clever. What he don’t know was that I got 20/20 hearing. That fool called me a ragamuffin and shook his head.
My smarts probably weren’t with me when I decided to follow the old bear, but I couldn’t help it; my feet started walking. For being a lopsided fart, that man walked faster than any other old person I knew, and I know plenty.
He didn’t seem to notice me truckin’ on behind him. Of course, grownups don’t tend to pay me no mind, anyhow. Boys like me just sort of blend in, I s’pose. My uncle calls me puny and even though I’m smaller than other twelve-year-olds, I sure as hell ain’t puny.
Clyde disappeared into the last room on the right, which stopped me cold. I didn’t much like going into patient’s rooms. That’s where most of ’em pass on. I learned a lot about death since my mama started workin’ here. The first week she’d come home with puffy eyes and a red face. She never said nothin’, but I knew she’d been cryin’. Nowadays, she just pours herself a bit more whisky and calls ’er good. No more tears. I guess whisky ain’t so bad.
I slid against the wall so’s Clyde couldn’t see me listening at the door.
“How ya doing, Earl?” Clyde said. “You’re looking pretty with that new haircut.”
I didn’t want to admit it, but I kinda liked ol’ Clyde’s voice--strong and deep. A true southern gentlemen.  
“Whaddya say . . . how ’bout a game to get your heart a pumpin’.”
I leaned over some, just so’s I could catch me a better look. I thought it was a good idea, at the time, but I lost my balance and fell flat on my face. Clyde’s head whipped in my direction so fast; his face scrunched and wrinkled with them hairy ol’ brows drawn together. I thought for sure I was going to get a lickin’ from mama for bothering the patients, but that old man did something I never imagined.
“Can you play chess, son?” he said.
I stood to my feet and slapped my hands up and down on my worn blue jeans, not that I cared so much about a bit of dirt, but I didn’t want any bad luck sticking to my body—death germs and such.
“Well, do ya?” Clyde asked.
“No, sir.” 
“What’s yer name?”
“Denny. Denny Warren, sir.”
“Grab yourself a chair, Denny Warren. Me and Earl are going to teach you the only game worth playin’?”
I looked over to Earl, propped up like a rag doll in his wheelchair. He stared straight ahead, wordless and unmoving. Death didn’t seem too far behind. I paused for a minute; I didn’t want to feel death that close. But as the sun shone through the window and cast shadows on Clyde’s wooden chess set, I knew I wanted to be nowhere else.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Children's Book Review: The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn

Many blogs review adult fiction and nonfiction, but I have many friends who are busy moms with no time to read the big stuff. Their literary adventures come in the smaller variety, in children's books. So here is one of our favorites.

It's time for Chester Raccoon to go to school, but the only place he wants to be is with his mom.

Mrs. Raccoon tries to ease her little one's worries by reminding him of all the fun things he'll be able to do, but Chester's tears simply wouldn't ebb. That is, until Mrs. Raccoon shared the secret of the kissing hand. She spread his fingers into a fan and kissed her little raccoon in the middle of his palm and told him that "whenever you feel lonely and need a little loving from hom, just press your hand to your cheek and think, 'Mommy loves. Mommy loves you.' And that very kiss will jump to your face and fill you with toasty warm thoughts."

I will never forget the first time I read Chester's story to my daughter and the expression on her face--warmth and happiness with an eyeful of tears. And despite the emotions that roll through my little one as she listens, she always requests for a second read.

My daughter gives this book: 1 star, 1 cheerio, 1 bubblegum, and an old crumpled up snowflake.  (I asked her how she rated it and that's what she said. Whatever all that means.) 
I give it five stars. *****

Friday, February 4, 2011

Whoever Spelt It Dealt It!

Last night my little family crowded in our bed and watched an episode of Star Trek (original series). Yeah, we’re dorks. It’s the one show we watch together with minimal grumbling. So, we’re watching Spock struggling through “pon farr,” which I think means he was in heat or something—I dunno—when a funky smell wafted through the room. 
I glanced over to my husband, who immediately said, “Don’t look at me.”
We’ve played this game many times before so I continued to glare, hoping to discourage any further nastiness from invading my nostrils. Then a little giggle turned my attention to my daughter, who stared back at me with her big chocolate eyes. She may have looked as innocent as Winona Ryder with an armful of clothes, but her guilty giggles said otherwise.
“Are you kidding me?” my husband said. “That was impressive!”
“I got gas,” she answered, rubbing her tummy.
“Flaggulence?” my husband said. He’s been teaching her bigger words lately, so he couldn’t resist popping in a good one, and I couldn’t resist correcting him.
“Flatulence, you mean. The word is flatulence.”
We debated for a bit as another funk permeated the air. When he finally conceded to me, I started thinking about all the words I’ve heard people say incorrectly.
In my critique group, we’ve all had a few doosers. My sunshine and roses friend (she’s the happiest person I know) corrected my ’script when I wrote, “twitter patted.” Her chicken scrapes in the margin suggested I change it to “twitter painted.” She swore on a stack of bibbles that Thumper coined the term in Bambi and that I was wrong.
Another writer friend wrote “making in front of” instead of “making fun of.” I couldn’t help but make in front of him on that one—come on now. Was this a joke? A pigment of my imagination, or did this well educated man not know this simple phrase?
So, I popped in my ear buds and started listening to “Secret Asian Man” and thought of some more malapropisms (verbal slips and gaffes) and some of the more common ones writers face every day as we plug away on our stories. I mean we want to be taken seriously, right? We have to send in our work with as little errors as we can. How are we ever going to rise above the plush pile if we don't?
And many more…
Not sure the difference, check out this helpful grammar site here.

What are your favorite malapropisms? Share your favorites.
Also, follow me. I need some faces in my friend box. I need friends. If you follow me, I will respond in kind.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Under Construction!

I'm new at blogging. I originally started a blog on weebly, but I'm experimenting with blogspot too, trying to find my home.

Any advice or insight into this blogging craziness, please shoot me a message.

You can find some of my other posts on in the mean time.