Saturday, June 30, 2012

Honey, I don't understand what blogging is.

Writer's block of the blog is a dreadful thing.

But every conference we go to, every Twitter post, every agent or author interview screams on-line platform and must and you and necessary. But sometimes, I just think to myself, all I want to do is write books, tell stories, weave magic. I don't feeling like expounding on writing or doing another interview (though I love my interviewees!). So then what? Stories about my dogs?

Radio silence.

Tonight's topic is courtesy of my sweetie, who, upon being asked "What should I blog about?", replied, "Honey. I don't understand what blogging is."

Ah hah! My topic.

Errrrr. What is blogging? I mean, really. Why do we blog?

I blog because it's fun to meet people in the writing community. I've made online friends who if I saw out in the real world, I'm sure I'd greet with a hug and a smile. Plus sometimes it's fun to talk about random shizz or dig a little into someone else's life.

Why do you blog?

I will never need to read Fifty Shades of Grey if I have this in my freezer. The best ice cream flavor for summer. Hands down!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Why I Can't Wear Black .

It all started with Duchess. Somehow, I got it in my head I wanted a Great Pyrenees dog. I couldn't survive until I had one. So, my sweetie, being the sweetie that she is, contacted Pyr Rescue and Duchess came to live with us. Alas, that was a short-lived relationship and I won't go into the sad details.

So, next go round, I decided I wanted a Pyr puppy. We saw a sketchy ad in the local free classifieds about some non-registered Pyr puppies over the mountain in Tennessee. We showed up and found two pups left, in a child's playpen, in a carport, with no doggy parents to be found. Lady said her husband had gotten them from his job site for free. Hmmm. She wanted $150 each. This was a rescue situation for sure.

One of the pups had goop in his eyes. When asked if she'd gotten vet care for him, the lady said no. Sweetie whispered to me, "We're taking both of them."

"Hey, Lady," she said. "Would you take $75 for the pair?" Lady did.

I think Otis is the bottom one.
Do you know how much waste two monster puppies produce? A lot. Anyway, Otis (thusly named because he sang like Otis Redding the whole car ride over the mountain) and Elmo (because it sounded good with Otis) came home. Elmo had what's called Entropion - his eyelids were turned in, causing his lashes to irritate his eyes. Vet said it would cost about $125 to fix though he might outgrow it. Since we knew we could only keep one, we picked Elmo.

Otis, still kicking at age twelve, has followed my friend Julia and her family from Atlanta to St. Louis back to Atlanta and now to Alabama. I'm still his auntie.

Elmo, who outgrew his entropion, lived to the ripe old age of ten. Which is pretty good for a dog his size.
Sweet, sweet Elmo.

The day we had to let Elmo go was a sad one. We knew he was in pain from his arthritis and we'd taken him to the vet to see if we could do something for pain management. While there, our vet gave him an examination. His belly was bloated, which concerned her. She drew fluid and found blood. A splenic tumor she surmised, fixable with expensive surgery, but with his age, his size, and his advanced arthritis, very risky. We made the difficult decision to set him free.

Because our vet was super busy that day, we had to wait for the awful moment. So Sweetie talked to Elmo, she told him when he got to the other side, if he felt like it, to send a call out to the Pyrenees universe and if there was another Pyr that needed us, that it might be okay.

Not a week after he was gone, I got an e-mail with the heading: HATE TO DO THIS TO YOU. It was from friends and fellow Pyr owners telling us about their friends in Georgia who'd found a young male  Pyr roaming. They'd been unsuccessful in finding his owners. Would we take him? Their vet in Georgia agreed to do his neuter, microchip and vaccines for shelter pricing. I forwarded the e-mail to sweetie.

"It's a sign!" she replied.

Enter Henry. Now known as bad dog Henry.
Who's bad? Me? You must be confusing me with another dog.

Two weeks later, Sweetie is standing in the driveway when a neighbor pulls up in her van, with a Pyr inside. "Hey, I found your Pyr," she said through her opened window.

Sweetie explained, "Can't be ours. We have a new one and he's up in the pen."

Neighbor got out of her van with the Pyr on a leash. "It has to be yours. I asked everybody else and nobody's claiming him. Besides I've got to go to the doctor." She hands Sweetie the leash and drives AWAY!!!
Walter is sure the camera is a weapon of abuse - terribly camera shy

From work I say, "Oh, I'll pick him up and take him to the shelter." Sweetie says, "Oh let's give him a night to relax."

The next day is Wednesday, the shelter is closed. On Thursday, I call from work. "I can meet you at the end of the road and take him to the shelter."

Sweetie says, "His name is Walter."

And this is why I can't wear black.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Four C's - Classes, Conferences, Crit Groups, and CP's

As I trudge along through yet another WIP, I figure it's time to talk about how I've grown as a writer. The four C's come to mind and I'll talk a little about each of them here.

This was the first step I took. I joined SCBWI and attended a regional conference. I've now attended three and consider this to be such an amazing step in my writer journey. Great information, awesome peers, and the opportunity to hear from industry insiders. Going again this fall - I just can't get enough!

The next step for me was hooking up with Joy Neaves (formerly of Front Street Press, now with Namelos) and taking her classes through the Great Smokies Writing Program. These workshop style classes have been utterly invaluable for seeing my work through a reader's eyes. My fellow classmates are quick to point out where I'm not making myself clear and allow me to see my work through different lenses. Plus having it happen in real time with real people gives me the chance to ask questions when I'm feeling a bit daft.

Critique Group
Through Verla Kay's Blue Boards I hooked up with my on-line crit group. We are a small group of seven writers at all different stages but all writing either MG or YA fiction. We communicate through a Yahoo group and go through ups and downs of activity. This group is my go-to spot for throwing out a new idea, the first few chapters of a shiny idea to gauge interest and possibility. Whenever I need a short crit, in a hurry, these gals are the ones.

CP's - Critique Partners
Probably the most valuable part of the writer journey is finding trusted CP's - writers who are willing to read your entire manuscript and tell you like it is - good, bad, ugly and everything in between. I am so lucky to have Pat Esden in my corner as well as all the awesome #wipmadness folks who have stepped up to the plate to read my wild words. Over time, not only has my writing improved, but so have my critting skills. Finding the right CP partners is a bit of a hit or miss proposition, but by agreeing to read people's work, I've found some folks I trust.

If you have questions about how any of this works, shoot me a comment, or if you have your own magic "C" tell me about it!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Would Katniss have let Rue win?

I'm traveling, visiting my folks, attending a high school reunion, and catching up with family.
My nephew has discovered he's a reader. He's twelve and this year has read the entire HP series and the Hunger Games trilogy. He advised my mother go see the Hunger Games, which she did and she actually thought it was really well done. Cool, right? Mom is in her seventies.

So, today I'm floating on my back in a blue pool under the hot Alabama sun (jealous, right?) and I was looking at this big long leaf pine tree. Which made me think about what was nesting in the upper branches. Which made me think about Katniss tying herself in the tree, and how when the fireballs chased her toward the Career Tributes and how she escaped. Then I thought about little Rue pointing at the Tracker Jacker nest.

Which made me think, if Rue had not been shot and if Rue and Katniss had been left, would Katniss have sacrificed herself and her district for Rue? And I thought YES. I felt like I knew her character so well, not a single doubt entered my mind as I came to that conclusion. And then I thought, that is some kick-a character development.

And in it is a lesson. Know your characters so well that if a reader has a hypothetical "what-if" question, they will be able to conclude how your character will behave.

Agree? Disagree? Discussion? I'll be checking in periodically, when I'm not in the pool or eating oyster   po-boys here:

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Memories of High School You - Samantha Verant

As a young adult writer, the foundation for most of my writing starts with my own teenage experience.  Times, fashion and music have changed but that overall quest-for-self is still the same.  So in that spirt, I share these bi-monthly interviews:  Memories of High School You.  

This week I'm introducing you to high school Samantha Verant. Sam is a Blue Boarder, blogger, and Twitter friend, as well as an awesome "as-needed" critique partner. She's funny, sassy, has an incredible story to tell, plus..get this..she lives in France. So when I wake up at crazy a.m. for school she's usually still on Twitter! Be sure and check out her deets below, you'll want to follow her.

Tell us about your high school, public or private, size, demographic, location?
I went to three different high schools – a private girl’s Catholic school located in the North Shore of Chicago’s suburbs (think John Hughes land, but in poly uniforms and brown socks), The Chicago Academy for Performing and Visual Arts (a.k.a. The Academy) – which was like ‘Fame’, save we didn’t dance in the hallway singing hot lunch jam, and a regular public high school outside the suburbs of Boston. Regina, the all-girl school, was by far the largest, coming in with about six hundred students. The Academy was the smallest – one-hundred students. And just the right size, Cohasset High School (CHS) had four hundred students. I guess I went a little Goldilocks in high school. Wow - sounds a bit like my college experience!

Were there cliques at your high school?  What were they?  Who did you hang with?
The Academy definitely had its cliques. The ballet dancers hung with the ballet dancers, the artists with the artists, and the actors with the actors. There was some overlap, but not much. I was lucky at both Regina and CHS. Really, you were just friends with people or you weren’t. People weren’t classified as popular or losers. Of course, there was high school drama and a couple of very mean girls (I’m looking at you Sarah D.), but there weren’t cliques, per se. I was, for lack of better words, a social butterfly, but always had a core of five-or-so close friends. Like glue, we’re all still friends today. They kept me around; I was the weird one, always ready with a wacky story.

Above: With Tracey from Regina. We’ve been besties for over twenty-five years.

Did you have a memorable teacher?  Good or bad?  How did they influence you?
I had many memorable teachers, but there are two who influenced me more than the others. The first was my English teacher (and also drama coach) at CHS. Mr. Emmons and I are now Facebook friends. And I feel so weird calling him Ron. :0) Anyway, he was one of those kick ass cool teachers who actually gave a damn, the kind who was personally invested in the success of his students. The other teacher was Ms. Lucas, also at CHS, and my art teacher. It was because of her I traded in arias and monologues for a paintbrush and pastels, ultimately deciding to major in art (advertising design) at Syracuse University. Because of them, and many years later, it seems I've found an outlet for all my creative endeavors. Now, I can paint worlds, sing on the page, and act out scenes with words.
(Art teachers make a huge difference!)
Just don’t ask me to dance the ‘lambada,' plot, and chew gum at the same time. Oh snap, we want the vlog of that!

Did you have an inkling as a teenager that you would become a writer?
No, I thought I’d be an academy award winning actress or a singer. Such a shame I was a lousy actress. I can still do a mean karaoke, though. As for my writing, I’ve been told I have a great voice. But more on that later.

I could have been a cast member on GLEE! Maybe. Not. Besides school plays, I kind of went numb on auditions.

What book had the biggest impact on you as a high school student?  How?
Well, it wasn’t Grapes of Wrath, that’s for sure. A bunch of us rented the movie and bought the Cliff Notes. Looking back, the books I was drawn to were supremely messed up. Like Flowers in the Attic. I also ‘borrowed’ my mom’s potboilers. A little Jackie Collins, anyone? Yep, I went right from Judy Blume’s Blubber to Wifey and Forever.
On a more serious note, my dad had me read a classic a week every summer. Which could have been torture for some, but not for yours truly. I loved, loved, loved to read. An advanced reader, I picked up my first books at the age of three. Yep, I was one of those geeky kids who couldn't wait to get the summer reading list.

What band could you not get enough of in high school?  Were you an album or a CD kid? Cover art you remember?
I was an album kid, usually ‘borrowing’ the cool stuff from Dad- New Order, Talk Talk, David Bowie and Roxy Music. I also loved alternative music- like Romeo Void, Siouxsie and the Banshees, General Public, and Heaven 17, to name a few. Of course, I loved me some Madonna, The Beastie Boys, The Go-Gos, and Bananarama, too. I made a lot of mix tapes for my friends.

What was the fashion rage - the one article of clothing you either got, or didn’t get that rocked your world?
At the time, brands like Guess and Girbaud Jeans were the rage, along with some Madonna inspired items like lace tanks, mini skirts and jelly bracelets. Man, I was such a child of the eighties. I remember a skirt I absolutely loved. It was the same one Molly Ringwald wore in the Breakfast Club. I also wore a lot of black. Still do.

What hobbies, activities, sports were you involved in that influence your writing today?
Not only was I a cheerleader, I was involved in both the art and theater clubs. (I’m full of hypocrisies, see?) But I think theater had the biggest impact on my writing, giving me the means to bring characters to life. I put myself in the scenes, become the characters, and write from their point of view, thus giving them (and hopefully my writing) a distinct voice. I use art to color my worlds! Again with the theatre - I'm starting to feel like an anomaly on my own blog!

Good kid or wild child or a little of both?  Details? (Mwaahaa)
Besides mouthing off and not cleaning my room, I never really got in trouble. Still, good grades and all, I was more on the wild side. What my parents didn’t know wouldn’t kill them. I hung out with a fast-moving champagne drinking crowd of Gossip Girl like kids in Chicago. We’d go to teen parties and then hit the nightclubs, dressed to the hilt – heels, mini-skirts and so much make-up you’d need a sander to scrape it off. If asked, I was twenty-three (you never said twenty-one). As for employment, I was a back-up singer for…WHAM!  That last bit...Wham...priceless.

Girls gone wild. (That’s me, trying to look all Robert Palmer girl on the far right).

Did you have a favorite phrase or slang word?
I use cheesy and weird a lot. You should hear my French husband say weird. It’s hysterical – as in you’re word. Even funnier? Kadunkadunk. Nope, being an English teacher is not in my future.

If you could say one thing to your high school you, what would you say?
Hey, you’ve always been involved in the arts, and you’re wildly weird and creative, but instead of aspiring to be an actress or singer or artist, why don’t you give writing a shot? Focus, would you?

Thinking of the characters you’ve written, is there one who embodies more of your high school self than others? What attributes do you have in common? Differences?
Okay, so I totally relate to one of my middle grade characters: Maverick Mercury from KING OF THE MUTANTS. See, he’s on the search for his true identity, something that took me many years to find. But unlike Maverick, I don’t have a tail (that you know of) and I’ve never been a sideshow attraction (even though I’ve felt like one at times.) I also wrote an edgy YA where a girl dies and comes back to life as a goddess. Supernatural powers aside, every girl has an inner goddess, but not every girl realizes it. (I’m still trying to find mine!) And I’m really excited about an MG I’ve been working on since 2007. It was my first book, but it’s always held a place in my heart so I’m rewriting it. I’m an animal freak! My pet project, SURVIVAL OF THE WEIRDEST is a fantastical adventure about two kids who play a role in saving the earth’s creatures from extinction. There is so much of me in this book! And finally, I’m working on a series of stand-alone YAs, dealing with obsessive love…and death. The first one is entitled FLYING BACKWARDS. It asks two simple questions: if you could travel back in time to change something in your past, maybe save somebody you love, would you do it – no matter the consequences? And what if the future isn’t so bright? Okay, fine. I may not be able to travel back in time, but I do love hummingbirds and I did change the outcome of one particular event…

How do we find you now? 
So glad you asked!
Well, I now live in France, where I’m married to a Frenchman I dumped on a platform at Gare de Lyon twenty-two years ago. I apologized to him three years ago. (There’s a story in this. In fact, I tell it in my memoir, entitled SEVEN LETTERS.) I spend my days step-mothering two tween-aged French kids who lost their mom to cancer in 2006 – kids who don’t speak English, kids who think McDonald’s should get a Michelin two-star rating. When I’m not renovating kitchens or cooking or pretending I don’t understand the kids when they mouth off, I write. Like so many of my friends, I used to have an agent. Unfortunately, she left the business, and, to make a long and stress-filled story short, now I don’t. I’m making other plans now. 
As for my MG and YA works, I’m thinking I may need a pen name. Any ideas?
You can stalk me at the following places (Be forewarned: I stalk back):
MY FACEBOOK PAGE (Go ahead, like it!)
In sum, thank you so much, J.Ro! This was a lot of fun. Let’s do the time warp again! It’s just a jump to the left… You too, Samantha - I laughed so hard reading some of these answers. And hey, send me a  mix tape would you?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Winner of No-Name Baby and I'm a Winner!

The winner of Nancy Bo Flood's No-Name Baby is:

Angelina C. Hansen

This was Rafflecopter's pick but I think it's sort of cool how it played out since I know Angelina is a big historical fiction fan.

And as for me, Robin over at Robin Writes has awarded me the Kreative Blogger award and asked me to answer 10 questions.

  1. What is your favorite song? Gosh, this is a tough one. So I think it will have to be my favorite song this week, which I'm saying with a blush - Lady Gaga's Stuck on F'ing You - It's so naughty but has a catchy refrain. 
  2. What is your favorite dessert? Ice cream - practically any flavor, though I just discovered Ben & Jerry's Willie Nelson Country Peach - summer perfection.
  3. What ticks you off? Just happened. The gang of boys who whine their 4-wheelers and dirt bikes back and forth all summer long. Soooooo irritating.
  4. Favorite Pet? They're all my favorites and I have and have had too many to list.
  5. Which do you prefer, black or white? I'm a shades of grey kind of girl - oh wait - that now has an all new connotation doesn't it? Has fan fiction ruined the subtleties of life forever? Gah!
  6. What is your biggest fear? The Zombie Apocalypse comes before a publisher tells me YES!
  7. What is your attitude mostly? Look for the silver linings and remember you are the master of your destiny and the president of your own ideas.
  8. What is perfection? No stress. Seventy degrees. A glass of good red wine. People I love. A good dog by my side and a fine horse in the pasture.
  9. What is your guilty pleasure? Twitter
  10. What do you do when you're upset? Process. Endlessly. Then pull up my boot straps and move on. Chocolate helps, too.
And I'm passing this award on to Angelina C. Hansen since she won the book above!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Do You Have a Twitter Voice?

I saw a tweet today that got me thinking about this. Someone was jokingly referring to needing some professional help with their "Twitter Voice." I laughed, moved on, then went back and re-read it. Because the thing is, the dude had a point.

How you come across on Twitter can make a difference in other's perceptions of you. There are people who are so carefree and easy on-line that I can't imagine they ever even have a hangnail in real life. Then there are people who are so full of snark and snarl that I picture them hanging onto a bottomless bourbon bottle, flipping off passing cars from an interstate overpass. There are serious tweeters, link tweeters, promotional tweeters, encouraging tweeters, people who tweet cool photos, cute kids stories and of course, the ever-present porn spam tweeters. 

But it begs the question - are you conscious of your on-line presence? Do you have a set modus operandi for your Internet persona? Are there certain words, discussions, attitudes that you've forbidden yourself?

I can't say as I do. I cuss a little. I get a little political. I link a little. Sometimes I tell cute kid stories. I guess my on-line voice is about just being as close to me as I can be - and not getting too negative. Definitely no flaming. The high road is the only road for me when it comes to interacting with others in cyber space.

So tell me - your Twitter voice, soprano or alto?