Monday, December 14, 2009


Have you read those Sookie Stackhouse novels?  They're by Charlaine Harris.  Fun, light-hearted vampire novels that are the inspiration for the True Blood series on HBO.

In them, Sookie, our heroine, can overhear what people are thinking.  She's not really psychic, she's more like an unwilling eavesdropper.  That's how I felt during travel a couple of weeks ago.  I didn't read anyone's mind.  I didn't have to, people were putting their lives on broadcast everywhere I went. 

Now, I've heard some authors say they love nothing more than to be the unnoticed fly on the wall during a juicy conversation among strangers.  And, you know, I think I might agree with them.  But, the truth of the matter is, like Sookie's overheard mental snippets, most of what people say isn't that interesting.

I travel alone most of the time.  I am quite content with my own company, and aside from general pleasant and polite platitudes, I keep my mouth shut.  I have books, an MP3 player, my Blackberry and an active mind to fill my silences.  When I do engage in conversation (especially in public places) I am not the strident sail, I seek the attention of no one except the person with whom I am in conversation, nor do I share at length the banalities of my day or the privacies of my mind.

Apparently this puts me in the 99th percentile among travelers. 

A philosophy professor of mine once said, "You can't learn anything with your mouth open."  I took it to heart and attuned myself to listening, rather than being the one to spout off my "intelligences" to those who were only waiting for an opportunity to cut in and talk back at me.  The quote has served me well over life, but there are times when there's simply nothing to be learned from someone else's open mouth.

I cannot tell you how many boring, go-nowhere, mean-nothing, fill-the-silence conversations I was party to while a captive audience at the airports and in the airplanes.  It was enough to make me feel faintly homicidal.

Have you ever read a manuscript by a beginning author who feels the need to capture the reality of conversation?  They don't use dialogue as a tool for advancing the story, giving insight into character or expressing a mood.  Instead they put quotes around everyday conversation.

"It is nice to meet you.  What is your name?"
"My name is Sara.  What is your name?"
"I am Jackie."

It's English 101 taught in Herzegovina.  And it's enough to make you slam the book shut and turn the author around for a good ass-kicking.  That's what it was like traveling the weekend after Thanksgiving.  I was stuck in six different airports and on five different flights at one-time or another, and I swear to Joseph, nobody had anything interesting to say at all, and every one of them said it at length. 

My mother tells me I need to be more patient, she's probably right.  But instead I would rather people just shut the hell up.  If you don't have anything interesting to say, don't sit anywhere near me.

Just Finished: Bedded For Passion, Purchased For Pregnancy 
Just Finished: Black Silk 
Just Finished: Elizabeth's Wolf 
Currently Reading: F Is For Fugitive 
Currently Reading: Conspiracy In Death

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Fat-Bottomed Girls You Make The Rockin' World Go Round

I am three days back from a 6 day stay in Antigua. 

I hung out with my mum and stuffed my face daily from the all-inclusive restaurant.  We drove, and beached, and met relatives, and got lost and got tanned.  Essentially, we touristed.

I tourist.
You tourist.
He / she / it tourists.

And we slept.  Man, did we sleep.  One day we got up, had breakfast, went to the beach for an hour, took a nap, had lunch, then sat in the back of a cab for three hours being driven around on a tour, took another nap, got up and had dinner, then went to sleep for the night.  Oh yeah, baby.  We slept.

Our room wasn't luxury, but it was completely comfortable.  Here's the view from my bed.

What you can't see is that between that patch of grass and that swathe of ocean is a tidy bit of beach.  It really was just that simple a matter of walking out of the room and wading into the ocean.

The best thing about the room, which my mother didn't seem to appreciate, and I didn't much think about one way or the other until I hit civilization again,  was that there was no TV, and no radio.  Just the sound of the waves hitting the shore.  (Oh, and the AC which mum insisted on having on 24/7)  And Lord, blessed, hallelujah - my Blackberry didn't work there either.  No texts.  No e-mails.  No phone calls. 

We could hear tree frogs every night singing to us.  During the day there was no canned laughter.  No whining about the political motives of this party or that.  No doom and gloom forecasts of how the economy / job market / church / world / you are going to hell.  Just, ocean.

The first TV I heard in the airport on the return trip was CNN talking heads, earning their shekels by predicting all of the above.  I wanted to stick my fingers in my ears and scream LA LA LA LA LA to escape it.  No wonder so many of us are on anti-depressants.  We can't turn around without some expert telling us how bad the world we live in is.

To my regret I only had one pure beach day.  And I got me a little tan.  Here's me on the beach. 

See that big round thang bouncing up and down in the distance?  That's all me.  I know many women who would be mortified of shots of themselves in a swimsuit -- especially shots from the rear.  But this image just makes me smile.

Look at that!  One healthy, working body, out there on the beach.  Hair blowing, knees moving, flesh jiggling.  It's a good thing.  I have known far too many people who would happily trade places with me in order to have all parts of themselves work like God intended, and damn the extra fat.  Hell, I know more than a few people who would love to have the extra pounds too, so I'm gonna celebrate mine and share it with the world.

The shots from the front aren't as enlivened.  Further, they show my face--and since I've been on the net ('93) I've made a conscious effort to keep both my face and real name off the web.  So you won't be seeing any of those shots.  But how could I resist sharing that juicy bodonkadonk with all the other real women out there? 

Here's where we had breakfast and lunch. 

Migrating birds from the States joined us for every meal, but they were tiny little finches, not big bruiser pigeons, so it was very clean.

And here's the view from that spot.  I stood just outside the deck area for exposure purposes. 

I swear, no retouching.  It looked just like that.

I'll stop now.  I know there's very little in the world more boring than other people's vacation photos.  But I had such a pleasant time I couldn't resist.  I hope you all had a wonderful week after Thanksgiving too.


Just Finished: The Lovely Bones 
Just Finished: When You Call My Name 
Just Finished: Dead Girls Are Easy 
Just Finished: His Perfect Match 
Just Finished: No Limits 
Just Finished: Hummingbird 
Currently Reading: F is For Fugitive

Friday, November 27, 2009

Quick one

Last week, Friday, I had an unexpected conversation with my mother that resulted in unexpected vacation plans for us both.

By tomorrow I will be here:
The image was shamelessly stolen from, so if you're ever looking for a sailboat ride in the Leeward islands, please consider them.

I'll be gone for a week.  I'm taking my writing notebook and some books to read with me.  And my blackberry.  The laptop stays at home.

Wish me fun.  :-)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Dance the edge of sanity

I once wrote a college paper on schizophrenia called Dance The Edge of Sanity.  The paper got an A, but the professor tried to edit the title to Dancing The Edge of Sanity.  I guess she didn't appreciate my artistic integrity.  Nor was she a fan of the Indigo Girls.

I've been thinking recently about skill levels.  Those attained in both writing and in dancing.  I'm a West Coast Swing dancer.  I've been at it for about two and a half years.  I have no desire to earn a living at it, but I do know a number of pros who make their living teaching the dance and attending events.  They have a passion for WCS that I will never share.

They eat, live and breathe it.  All of their friends come from the community.  They are constantly sought after partners whenever they hit the dance floor.  I, however, just like to dance.  I've learned enough to enjoy myself, but I still feel like a beginner out there.  Mostly because I compare myself to those pros.  I compare myself to those who spend a lot of money on lessons, or have been practicing for over a decade, or are willing to put in the hours to make sure they become a "success" at this dance (whatever success means to them.)

External measurements of dance skill (aka judging) simply aren't that important to me.  I need it as a creative outlet.  But I don't much care if I'm never foot-perfect or achieve the label "Champion."  I do it because it feels so damned good to groove to the beat.  It's something I do for myself, and recently I've gotten feedback from my dance partners that my joy in dancing brings them joy too.

I tell them I'm a beginner because I still feel like one.  But they tell me, "No.  You're not."  I'm comparing myself to the pros.  They're comparing me to true beginners.

It feels the same with my writing now.  I've attended a number of writer-focused events recently.  And despite being unpublished (and unsubmitted, frankly) I've realized, I'm no longer a true beginner.  Unlike my dancing, I have put in the time in the past year to LEARN the craft of writing.  I have read, and read, and read.

I've read how successful authors do it.  I've read what sought-after agents expect.  I've read about editors' professional expectations, and most importantly, I've read books.  Books that show me how it's done.  Through all of that I have learned my craft, yet I know I still have a lot to learn.  But, when faced with the questions and expectations of a true beginner I wonder "how the hell can you not know that?"  Forgetting there was a time when I was just as clueless. 

Now, when I stand before a master of the craft, I am humbled.  I think I'll never be that skilled, that imaginative, that subtle.  And you know what?  Just like my dancing, I may never be, because just like my dancing, I don't PRACTICE my writing enough.  I know the basics.  Now I have to do them.  With my dancing, I am perfectly satisfied to sit back and let others enjoy the glory.  I have no agenda, and therefore don't feel the least bit compelled to work towards ephemeral "success."  With my writing, I'm going to be published, dammit.  That is my success line, that is the hurdle I will sail over.   I am going to grab that glory for myself.

A speaker I heard this past weekend said that of the 100 people who set out to write a book, only 10 will succeed in finishing it.  And of the 100 people who succeed in finishing a book, only 10 will follow the path to finding an agent or editor and seeking publication.  Of that number, guess how many succeed?  Your guess is as good as mine--I stopped listening and patted myself on the back for being in the 10% who actually finished their novel.  The point is, success can only be achieved by persistence, by practice, by sitting down and DOING IT. 

They say that to want to make a living as an author you have to be insane.  Well guess who's dancing the edge of sanity?

With that written.  I'm going out dancing.

Currently Reading: Night Play
Currently Reading: Ty's Temptation 
Currently Reading: F is For Fugitive 
Currently Reading: Genderflex

Monday, November 23, 2009

My secret adult love

I'm a girl.  I'm prone to girly things like pedicures and chocolate addition.  I have way too many hair care products and understand instinctively the need to swing my hips when I feel that tingle between my thighs in the presence of a beautiful man.

But one thing I've never really succumbed to in my girly existence is the movie star crush.  Like most girls out there I've enjoyed a good looking face attached to a well-cared for body.  My biggest teenaged crush was Greg Louganis.  *ahem*  Yeah.  The whole sexuality thing sort of evaded me back then.

I don't know what exactly I thought Greg and I were going to do together.  I was 12, and though not exactly naive, I just knew that if he ever met me, we'd be the best of friends and have lots of babies.  Woe betide anyone who told me he wouldn't be interested in the likes of me.  I think my mother was rather relieved at my taste in men.

Over the years I liked many more TV / movie stars, but no one else made it on to my wall after Greg.  I'd think of these stars with a smile.  I'd admire their looks and physiques as a kind of art.  Beautiful to look at, lovely to hold.  But my mind never took the next step towards assigning inner goodness (and therefore luuuuv) to that outward beauty.

Then came Mr Ewan McGregor.  It was many, many years later.  There was an extra element this time.  He sang.  The physical beauty was matched by something on the inside.  As crushes go, it was short-lived--even for a crush.  I was partly in love with his character from Moulin Rouge, I was partly in love with the packaging.  I knew I was being shallow even as I dreamed and lusted.  And the truth is, I was probably just in a receptive mood when I watched the movie, and all of my need for a hero was transferred on to his beautiful self.

But now, now... I've grown.  I'm an adult.  And now my crush means something.  It has surpassed the physical and reached a transcendent place of admiration.  Now it's about more than the character, it's about the man.  And that man is Mandy Patinkin

You've seen him in other places.  You probably remember him from The Princess Bride.  A character so consumed with revenge that he becomes a master swordsman, knowing that when opportunity strikes, he won't have to rely on luck to reach his ultimate goal. 
"Offer me money." 
"Power too.  Promise me that" 
"All that I have and more. Please." 
"Offer me everything I ask for." 
"Anything you want." 
"I want my father back, you son of a bitch."

But I'm not talking about the young, passionate Mandy.  He was a caricature with clear motivations and goals.  No, I'm talking about the adult Mandy.  The complex, overdeveloped man who can smile at a murderer and befriend him because he knows that what he gains in the exchange, while it may tarnish his soul, is for the greater good of mankind. 

See, in my new place I have extended cable.  For the majority of Americans this is no big deal, but I had been living on Limited basic for many years, and all the things that others take for granted in their daily viewing was lost to me.  Now, however, I have access to daily marathons of Criminal Minds.

Criminal Minds, for the uninitiated, is another one of those FBI crime shows, where a team of good guys gets called in to stop the bad guy.  It's not ground-breaking, it's just well done.  The team of FBI good guys are called Profilers.  It is their job to show up and figure out what kind of person commits this kind of crime, and then help the locals use that information to track down said bad guy.

Mandy is one of the head profilers.  He's often stuck in the position of reasoning with and empathizing with the bad guy so they can find the hostage or bodies or whatever they need from an offender before they cart him off to jail.  Mandy plays it so well.  He is soft-voiced with melting compassionate eyes and the sweetest smile and somehow, he never loses his humanity, even while confronted by the lack of humanity in his interviewees.

His character loves art, and cooking.  He is self-controlled and private, the mythical shaman who, while seeming to remain untouched, absorbs all the negativity around him yet retains his serenity.  And he sings too!  Criminal Minds is one of the darkest of the crime dramas.  They don't hesitate to show the blood.  They call a murder a murder without celebrating the perpetrator.  They show how devastating a toll work like that takes on the people who do it.

Then, he was gone

In my investigation as to why the soul of the show and my newest crush abandoned Criminal Minds, I discovered lots of theories.  Primary among them was the idea that he was merely playing his Prima Donna card again, as he'd reputedly done in other projects.  But the theory that I believe, the one that spoke to me, said that the darkness of the show got to him and he couldn't handle it any more.

Something about that resonated in me.  He knew it's just pretend.  He knew he's being well-paid for his efforts.  He knew his reputation would take another hit for walking off the project, but he didn't care.  He had to protect his soul over and above any material gain.  That, to me, was heroic behaviour. 

He had a weight of expectations on him.  A prime-time show on a major network.  He had co-workers counting on him and he stuck it out for as long as he could.  But when it came right down to it, protecting his soul from the damage of exploring and inhabiting the gutters of human experience was more important than anything else.  Many people labeled his actions as selfish.  I see them as the strongest kind of heroics.  After all, character isn't about someone else's opinion, it's about doing what's best - regardless of what other's think. 

How many of us would have the courage to walk away from something that lucrative?  To do what's best for our soul in the face of overwhelming expectations?  Is it more heroic somehow to stick around and be emotionally and mentally filleted day after day when there's an exit door directly behind you?  He faced it as long as he could, then stood up and said Enough.  Effectively saving himself to fight another day. 

Any heroine worth her salt would stand behind her man, er, crush when he makes the grown up choice to walk away from the pain instead of pretending he doesn't care.  This heroine couldn't find a picture from "behind" Mandy, to simulate the experience, so Mr. Patinkin, if you ever want to provide me with an opportunity to support you in real life, just give me a call.

Just Finished:Undead and Uneasy 
Just Finished: Kiss of The Night 
Just Finished (skimmed): Coyote's Mate
Just Finished: Harm's Hunger 
Just Finished: Knightly Dreams 
Just Finished: Mine To Possess 
Currently Reading: Ty's Temptation 
Currently Reading: F is For Fugitive 
Currently Reading: Genderflex 
Currently Reading: The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I miss Intimate Moments.

Silhouette Intimate Moments that is.

I read a book this morning that struck me in its dedication to character development.

I've been trying to NaNo, and after two days I was stymied by my lack of subplot.  My other books started with a vision.  Like a schizophrenic, I could see my character in front of me, crystal clear, at the beginning of the big changing moment in her life.  I knew who my heroine was, I knew what she was facing in that moment, and though the story wasn't written for me by any means, I had enough there to build a whole world.

In this book I started with a backstory.  She is the sister to my hero of Never A Bridesmaid.  We know what happened to her from the previous book, and though we don't know all of the details, we know enough to help inform her character.  I knew where I wanted to start this book for her.  She had to be in a place where she was ready to receive the love of her hero.  I had to create that crystal-clear, life-changing moment for her.

So even though I didn't have that crystalline image in my head, that picture of her in the exact crossroads where she could slide back into unhappiness or step forward with faith into her future, I still had enough of her to start the book.

But shit.  Okay, I've started the book, now where do I go?  Where's my subplot to go hand in hand with her emotional growth?

A lot of romance books I've read recently are more accurately labeled romantic suspense.  Someone is in jeopardy--usually the heroine--and there's a love story intertwined in there too.  There's a killer, or stalker, or other kind of psychotic out there trying to possess or endanger the heroine.  And the hero, with all his life-skill and badassedness is gonna stop him.  Romantic Suspense makes for a compelling read.  There's a built in page-turn going on there.  Is the bad guy gonna get her?  And if he does, how will the hero save her?

However for me, that's always a bit of a cheat.  It's a romance.  The hero and heroine are never going to die.  The bad guy is always going to be stopped.  It's why I don't actively seek out RS.  There's no real suspense there.  In fact, even the mysteries that I do read, unless they're single title (which they are not) have the same set up.  The lead detective of the series is going to live to solve another mystery, so I can never buy into any scenario where her life is in danger.  (Secondary characters are in a much more precarious situation and I do admit to biting my nails for them from time to time.)  But I'm a romance reader, I'm in it for the happy ending.  I'm not in it for the murder mystery. 

In the development of any romantic mystery something is usually sacrificed (for word count), and that sacrifice is usually in the character development, in the emotional connection.  The sitting down and talking it out, the happy non-adrenaline-infused moments are what really allow the reader to believe in a true HEA.  The couple that can talk out their problems (not just kill them) is the couple that's going to last.

So now I'm looking for a subplot for my NaNo book, and I know without a doubt the emotional growth my heroine needs to experience.  I know what holes in her character need to be shored up by the love of her hero.  But none of this will be served by the traditional life-in-danger trope.  And more than that, how many of us can really relate to that level of stress and fear?  How many of us have been the objects of a serial killer's obsession?  How many of us have been stalked by a psycho who leaves clues in our mailbox, and whose actions have left room and time for police presence?

In comparison the book I read this morning was much more relatable.  The hero had made mistakes in his past that he was working to overcome.  He was also working to overcome things that are a lot closer to home for most of us - familial disapproval, community judgement, personal disappointment in the way he's lead his life.  The heroine is struggling with the same things, but from a different perspective; and recognition of that similar struggle in each other is where they find their connection.  Watching them admit their personal lacerations and how they've been scarred by them is what brings us into a deep understanding of these characters, and also what lets us know that they have enough faith and trust in each other to weather the roughest of life's storms.

In my subplot search I had forgotten that vitality and that page-turning quality can be created from simple emotions.  No one has to be planning a betrayal.  No one has to be behind the door with a glinting knife.  The simplest Will She or Won't She set up of trusting in love is enough to keep the reader glued to the page.  It's something we used to get all the time in Silhouette Intimate Moments, and it's something I miss.

Just Finished: The Road To Adventure 
Just Finished: Rogue's Reform

Friday, November 6, 2009


Please note; The word KERFUFFLE only has one L in it.  A single L.  Locate it.  Learn it.  Love it.

The second half of today's PSA relates to the sympathetic character.

I started a book at the beginning of the week that I don't think I'll name because I don't think I'm going to finish it.  Why? because I just don't care about the heroine.  Or the hero, even. We're romance readers and writers on this small blog.  We are used to our H & H being larger than life.  We have gotten used to them having transcendent beauty, and, at least in the heroes, we're used to them having slightly more money than God.

As mere mortals, we generally find their lives enviable, but we still wouldn't want to be them because with Mo' Money, Mo Problems.  Even so, we love these guys and gals.  Our soul aches and our heart breaks for them... our eyeballs go dry for the love of them.

Unless we can't stand them.

So, this book I can't bring myself to finish... *sigh*  We have the amazingly, stunningly, breathtakingly beautiful woman who has a vice or two.  Her vices are greed and vanity, oh yeah, and pride.  And then there's that bit about thinking she should get a pass on breaking the law because things haven't gone well for her.  And all men should fall for her, because she's so hot, and she knows it.

And though she's broke as a joke, she won't confide in her loaded family because--even though they've never treated her as less than--she feels like an outsider.  But she's only broke because of making idiotic financial decisions based on greed.  The Feds are after her for insider trading, and she feels persecuted because, you know, she's so hot, and the female investigator is just jealous.  And why isn't the hero wrapped around her finger like she needs him to be - doesn't he know she's hot?

And let's talk about our hero for a second.  He thinks she's hot.  But, you know, he's rich and successful and has had groupies throwing themselves at his hot self for years, so he can resist.  Even so, she's the most beautiful of the beautiful women he's ever known.  Therefore, of course, she is not to be trusted. 

*rolls eyes*  I got about seven chapters in before I just couldn't turn another page.

Beauty is good.  Inner beauty is better.  Vice is fine, TSTHOW (too shallow to hang out with) is not.  Confidence has its place, but humility is more attractive.  Oh yeah, and don't expect your readers to be sympathetic to a character who puts her own security in jeopardy out of greed, breaks the law while doing so, is caught, and thinks she should get off scott free.
When you're a new author "they" tell you to read.  Read everything.  Read the good and the bad.  Examine it all.  Learn what makes the good, good, and how to emulate it.  Learn what makes the bad, bad, and though you won't be able to do so entirely, try to avoid it.

I've read craft books, and countless blog posts on writing.  I've read thousands of books, both good and bad.  I have, I daresay, a bit of an instinct about how and why a book isn't working, though I still can't always identify the elusive IT that makes a good piece of writing work.

I know in the past I would have continued to read this book--especially after having invested seven chapters to the cause--but not this time.  There was nothing more to learn from my foray between the pages of her writing effort.  The writing was fine.  Lively even.  The plot, I'm sure would have gone somewhere eventually.  But those damned characters.  I'm sorry, I just can't give a rip for the poor blonde bombshell who broke the law but is still living in style with her rich family and wants a free pass on breaking the law while she's so harassed by the rich, gorgeous hero who hasn't done anything to her except keep his pants zipped.

I have learned all I needed to know from that book.  Keep your characters sympathetic.

In other news, I'm a maroon (deliberate misspelling of "moron" based on my deep and abiding love of Bugs Bunny).

Early this year, I learned that I have a very difficult time writing daily.  I can think about my story daily, mentally plot, learn my characters, etc. ...all of the other internal work that goes along with writing a book.  But sitting down and writing daily is something my mind balks at; the creative well needs time to re-fill.

Two to three good writing sessions a week can provide me with many workable pages.  Trying to force it provides me with a pitiful amount of pages.  I'll be back on the NaNo horse tomorrow after two days off.  I can feel the words bubbling up inside me. 

Just Finished: Shattered Dreams 
Currently reading: Heather's Gift 
Currently reading: Dance With The Devil

Monday, November 2, 2009

So Phoenix doesn't seem to fit my blogging lifestyle...

I wonder what that's all about?

I've done just as little here as I ever used to do in Tucson, I just feel like I'm doing it in a cooler place.  Meanwhile, I haven't said a thing on here in almost a month (aka 3 weeks).

Quite honestly, I expected to be a tad overwhelmed mentally by Phoenix.  I thought the freeways would cow me into submission.  I thought the hustle and bustle of it all would drain my brain and the never-ending city block after city block would leave me longing for some wilderness.  That hasn't happened.

Phoenix uses an irrigation system that keeps it a lot greener than Tucson ever was.  I feel like a wastrel seeing so much green grass and trees in the heart of the desert, but it feeds something inside me that I used to have to leave Tucson to get.  That sense of nature, that connection to the growing and living world.  Of course, it's all artificial here.  It's not like living in a place where it, say, rains... but it's good. 

In Tucson I had a totally different appreciation for nature.  Tucson is the sort of place where you have to appreciate nature or it will kill you.  That's how it is.  The insects will try and kill you, the reptiles, some mammals (two-legged ones too), and yes, even the plants will try and kill you.  As will the sun.  You learn to respect and celebrate life in all its forms there, because surviving is so hard outside of an air-conditioned home and without running water.

Phoenix is much bigger than Tucson geographically but, like most big cities, it's really a collection of smaller cities bound together by common weather and a freeway system.  But it doesn't feel like that.  At least not to me, not yet.  I moved to a kinda ritzy area called Scottsdale.  I'm like, five minutes from downtown, my quiet little condo is halfway between two main drags and I can get most everywhere I need to go just by taking the surface streets.  I've only hit the freeway two or three times since getting here.  I feel like I live in a small town with unlimited access to a big city and all it has to offer.  It's kinda cool - except I'm having a hell of a time finding an all-night grocery store out here.

I'm still looking for a roommate.  It's such a buyer's market it's hard to get a response, but I keep plugging along because 1/ the landlord needs to fill that second room, and 2/ I wanna save on my utility costs.  So we continue looking, but I'm not having much luck.  If you know someone who lives here and wants to move to Old Town Scottsdale and live with a Cool Chick while we trade witticisms and watch Criminal Minds marathons let me know.  (It's a no benefits kind of situation for any eager pervs out there.)

Maybe one of the reasons I haven't been blogging much is because I'm so far behind on my Google Reader.  2 days of No Internet Access while I moved from Tucson up here and waited for Phoenix Chicks to get the hell out of my way.  Followed by 5 more days of No Internet Access while I waited for Phoenix Chicks to cancel their service so Cox would hook up mine.  (Really, Phoenix Chicks? Really??) and then 4 more days of No Laptop after I tripped on my cord and broke it and had to wait for the replacement to come in from Amazon while I prayed that was the only thing broken. 

Add to those hardware interferences the fact that I was unpacking (no, I'm not finished yet, get off my back!), and learning where things are in my new city, and hanging out with my new, cool writer / blogger friend. Hey Gurl!!  And, of course, reading too.  Oh, I also finished crocheting a blanket and started another one too.  All combined, I'm now 488 posts behind on my Reader.

The nice thing is though, I don't totally miss it when I don't have access.  I'm happy to spend time catching up, but I'm able to walk away from the blogs a lot more readily.  This is progress.  I've learned SO MUCH from the writer and reviewer and editor and agent blogs.  Culling new gems of crazy-useful information is becoming a more rare experience, therefore I don't feel as if I'm getting as much return for my time spent.  Instead I can and will spend that time writing now.

So said: I started NaNoWriMo.

Today's progress: 1021 words

If the blogging gods call to me, I'll let you know how it's going.  If they don't, you'll see my NaNoWriMo progress tick up on the counter to the right daily.  If any of y'all wanna join me in supporting each other through this torturous endeavor, drop me a line and we'll get our writer groove on together.

Just Finished: Holiday in Death 
Just Finished: Dark Slayer 
Just Finished: Night Pleasures 
Just Finished: Awaken My Love 
Just Finished: All Together Dead 
Just Finished: Someone To Watch Over Me 
Just Finished: Divorced, Desperate and Delicious 
Just Finished: Torn 
Currently Reading: Night Embrace 
Currently Reading: Heather's Gift

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Phoenix Has Landed

Here I sit in my new living room under the starlit skylight watching my old TV on my new cable set up.  Okay, I can't really see through my new living room skylight right now as the light is on inside, but tonight as I lie in my bed I will see both the moon and the stars through my bedroom skylight from my sloppily made bed under my handmade blankets.  I crochet.  Did I forget to mention that before?

I now have tile floors and my feet are constantly filthy.  Why didn't I know this about tile?  When I had carpet, it kept my feet clean, now my feet are cleaning the tile instead.  I'm thinking of investing in a steam mop to take care of the first layer of dirt for me.  Unless someone tells me they're all shite and I may as well use a kleenex and spit.

There have been worse moves in the history of the world.  Does any relocation ever go smoothly?  My highlights involve The Cat, The Girls, The Movers and The Stupid Cat all over again.

First of all, I should tell you, my cat is a bit of a moron.  She can be incredibly sweet and the best cuddler in the world, but common sense is not her friend.  Any kind of sense is not her friend.  She is always in hyper-survival mode, all the time.  Things she is afraid of include, but are not limited to, the vacuum, men, the sound the the toilet flushing, random body movements and looking at her funny.  I wish I was kidding.

So, as you can imagine, me packing and cleaning the old apartment kind of put her on edge.  But the cherry on top of her psychotic sundae was sticking her in a travel bag on Wednesday afternoon, then driving two hours north in the hot sun to a hotel.  Even though I'm about the only person in the world she trusts, she totally wasn't talking to me by the end of the day.  In fact, as soon as I let her out of the bag that night, she slunk under the hotel bed and stayed there. 

I couldn't sleep, that night.  I fell asleep at midnight, woke up at 2am and spent the next four hours trying to get back to sleep / reading (Covet by Ward).  Polly poked her head out from under the bed a total of three times, for about 10 seconds each, then hauled ass under the bed again.  She didn't drink, she didn't eat, she never used the litter box.  I wouldn't have been surprised if I'd found her tits up under the bed from the stress of it all the next morning.

If only I was so lucky.

No, indeed, she wasn't tits up.  She wasn't under the bed at all.  She wasn't in the bathroom, or behind the couch, or under the chair.  You know where that little so-and-so was?  She was IN the effing boxspring.

I'm gonna tell y'all a secret.  A big, ol', don't-tell-anyone-this-is-the-Internet secret.  I destroyed hotel property to get her out.  Oh, the shame.  I called her, I begged her, I poked her, I hit the mattress and under it with a broom handle - but the dumbass was so traumatized she didn't move.  She just curled into a little furry ball and stuck in her spot like glue.  So I had to rip the underside of the boxspring open to get her out.  Then hauled ass out of the hotel because housekeeping was knocking and I had to get me and my illegally-checked-in cat, out.

So we bundled ourselves back into the stuffed, hot car, called the new landlord, and in a hopelessly naive and misguided move said, "We're leaving the hotel, can you meet us with the key?"

Wouldn't you know it?  The chicks who were supposed to be out yesterday, were still in.  They were SO in, that at 11am, their place looked like mine did a week before I moved.  Some things were in boxes, all the furniture was still there, clothes were still hung in the closet.  Really, Phoenix Chicks?  Really??

But I have a psycho cat, and it doesn't really matter how unprepared the soon-to-be-former tenants were, I CANNOT keep trucking the cat around.  She will die, if for no other reason that I will have to kill her.  So we arranged for me to leave her with food, water and litter in the bathroom and I walked out leaving my cat behind in my new apartment that was still populated with its old tenants.

Then my landlord showed his true gentlemanly side, put me in his car, and drove me around the area to show me the town.  He also took me to lunch with two friends of his.  After which we retired to his house and sat on his couch watching TV while I petted his dogs and he silently fumed about the squatters in his rental.   

By about 5:30pm I was tired of the waiting.  Even if the Phoenix Girls did get out, there wasn't going to be time to fully clean the place before I took possession.  So I took myself to a hotel for the night (yes, the landlord paid) and abandoned Captain Psychotic to her bathroom haven.

The next day the movers were supposed to deliver.  See those little words in the previous sentence "supposed to"??  *sigh*  They "forgot."  No worries.  I was a day behind in the move-in anyway.  Thank God the only schedule I had to keep was my own. 

So I spent an hour on the phone negotiating with them to get my furniture delivered.  In fact, because they forgot me, I insisted that I get a fresh crew that would have energy to deliver at an upstairs unit without going at half speed because it's 100 degrees and their second delivery of the day. To be fair, they didn't deny culpability at all, and gave me a break on their charges when they did deliver.

It was literally a case of a day late and a dollar short.

All good now, right?

Except one of my windows doesn't have a screen, and I took a nap on Sunday morning then woke up on Sunday afternoon missing my cat.  I tell you, after all her shenanigans I was so tempted to not even bother looking for her.  But my responsible pet owner side insisted I put in a token search.  So I alerted my new neighbors, and spent the rest of the night calling and calling and calling for her.

Imagine.  Six weeks of arranging my world so the cat can stay with me.  Paying extra for deposit so the cat can stay with me.  Turning down and rejecting good living situations so the freaking cat can stay with me.  I'm in my new home for forty-eight hours and the cat jumps out the window.

Twelve hours later Polly showed up again.  I don't know where she was.  I don't even particularly care.  She was back, and this time I was the one that wasn't talking to her. 

Just Finished: Definitely Dead
Just Finished: Bad Moon Rising
Just Finished: Covet
Just Finished: The Mommy Bride
Just Finished: Her Baby, His Proposal
Just Finished: A Woman Without Lies
On Hold Until I Get It From My New Library -  The Boy Who Never Grew Up
On Hold Until I Get It From My New Library - The Screwed Up Life of Charles The Second 
Currently Reading: Fantasy Lover 

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Part Two

The move progresses.

Unfortunately, not at the happy and problem-free pace one would hope for.

Do you remember Mr normal, non-creepy, drama-free, chill dude from last week?  I called him up and said I liked the house, liked the neighborhood and would like to move in.  You know what he said?  Nothing.

He didn't answer the phone.  Nor did he return my message.  Not the first one, not the second.  Neither did he answer my e-mail.  *rolls eyes*  Honestly, people.  It's a roommate situation, not a date.  As a friend of mine said, "he turned me into a psycho ex-girlfriend," making me call all the time, waiting for some crumb of attention that's never going to come.  Tell me men, how hard is it to just say, "no" or "the room is already rented"?

Anyway, that was a disheartening experience.  The first place I saw where I could really imagine myself living, and he didn't want me.  Even worse, he couldn't bother to tell me he didn't want me around, so I wound up wasting four whole days of finding another space - putting me into panic mode instead of ahead-of-the-game mode.  But find another space I did.

It's a bit more expensive than the first place, and it's in a snootier part of town, but it's sooooo cute!  It's the kind of cute where I might be forced to post pictures once I move in.  The landlord believes in colour, so he's painted the walls with strong bold colours - each room is different.  And he upgraded the joint to a state where HE would want to live, not just a state where it's livable.

There are skylights.  Two of them - and one of them is going to be over my bed.  My BED people!  He closed in the patio in order to get more room.  There's a walk-in closet and tiled floors.  It's also pet-friendly.  I am a happy Venus.  I made three trips to Phoenix, saw about twenty places, and put over 800 miles on my car in order to find the right fit.  I deserve skylights, dammit.

On the other side of the coin, the packing progresses on pace.  As do the daily asthma attacks brought to you by the letter D (for dust).  My groovy, fantastic friend (GFF) boxed up my kitchen yesterday.  All the cupboards are empty, and I've been attempting to empty out my cleaning supplies on each new surface as it is uncovered. 

I've been forbidden to purchase anything edible, and have been given instructions to eat out of my fridge or off the few dry goods I was allowed to keep on the counter.  I'm trying to approach it like a stay at a Residence Inn, but it's beyond weird to walk into my kitchen and see it so bare.

I have a suitcase packed - out of which I'm living.  My cat is FREAKING OUT and my bathroom is stripped clean of all girly things.  All my books have found a box to inhabit and I was ordered to return all checked-out books to the library and NOT to pick up any more because if I get them, I'm going to read them.  Ummm, yeah, no.  I mean, yes, of course I'll read them.  That's the point.  But, she thinks I'll read them instead of packing while not under her eagle eye.  She is right.  But if I don't read, I go crazy.  So I couldn't agree to that latest edict.  But I did pick up the pace on the solo packing to prevent getting in trouble.  Yes, I'm scared of her. 

The movers are going to come by on Sunday.  My first-born has already been promised, and after GFF packed my kitchen I've also pledged my second-born, so the movers are going to have to settle for good, old-fashioned legal tender, but I have a feeling they'd prefer a limb instead.  Or maybe two, both an arm and a leg.  I researched them though, and they get high marks for customer satisfaction, plus they were upfront about their quote and I'm willing to believe that they won't screw me over.  Still, I'll be a one-armed, one-legged, childless wonder when this is all done.

In other news, I broke a tooth last week.  I haven't gotten in taken care of because I can only handle one emergency at a time, and right now moving is taking up all my stress.  I don't have the effort for dental stress too.

The moment my eagle has landed in the new home, I get to find a dentist.  Ugh.
Make that a one-armed, one-legged, childless, toothless wonder.


Just finished: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society
Just finished: Eight Grade Bites: The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod
Just finished: Undead and Unpopular
Currently reading: Pride & A Pregnancy Secret
Currently reading: The Boy Who Never Grew Up 

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

So I was reading this book the other day...

No, I'm not going to tell you which one. 

And I realized halfway through that even though I was enjoying the story, I wasn't buying it.  You see, in this book, the heroine was afraid to get serious about the hero because someone in his family had treated her badly before.  The setup is a lot more complex than that, but that's the gist of it.

Now, in all the set-up and character building and world building etc, I understand that there's not always room for everything a reader would like to see.  But the thing is, in this book, the whole crux of her internal obstacle rested on the fact that his family had treated her badly, and even for the sake of love, she wasn't willing to put up with being treated badly again.  I buy it.  I totally do.  We girls need love, but we need dignity too, and one can't come at the expense of the other.

However - for all that the author went on and on about how badly the heroine was treated, she never SHOWED us. 

At first it was a teaser.  A good way to keep your reader interested in the heroine's emotional turmoil.  Little bits of this and that were told to us through third-party eyes.  There were allusions to the humiliations she'd suffered.  Occasionally she'd even speak about it in her own words, but only to say that she wouldn't speak about it. 

The set-up slowly moved from titillation to frustration.  Through all 400+ pages we hear about how awful this family was to her.  But the author never showed us.  Ever.  I needed a flashback.  I needed the moment she broke and said, "no more" or, conversely, the moment she was first broken by those bastards.  Something to feel and touch and taste how awful it was to be in the heroine's shoes, so I could truly get behind her objection to being with her hero.

Imagine talking to someone about Hurricane Katrina.  The story I got felt like the perspective of someone who had watched it on TV.  They glued themselves to the set, they memorized every statistic and cried along with the nation, but that isn't the story I'm interested in.  That's a story I already know.  I want the story of the survivor on her roof.  The person trapped in that hellhole stadium, the guy trying to hold on to three kids with only two arms as he wades through rushing storm water.  The Anderson 360 type of stories are the ones that bring the pain home to a place that pierces my heart.  The rest is talking heads and manufactured sympathy.

The author never delivered.  There was a second or two in real time when the author gave us a sneer from the family so we could understand that the dislike continued through to today, but what the book was begging for was a good ol' fashioned flashback.  Is there some new rule about flashbacks I haven't heard yet?  Like the anti-epilogue camp and the no prologue war?  I know there's a whole "write in the now" thing, and there's a (proven) theory that once you start talking in the "had" you're taking your reader out of their need to turn the page because you're no longer talking about the current story ... but it's easy to avoid that.  I know it's easy, because I've not only read it, I've done it, and if a brand-new baby writer like me can do it, a published edited author sure can.

So anyway, I finished reading the book.  I never got my flashback and I was left with a vaguely unsatisfied feeling.  I wish I knew, in the grand scheme of things, whether this was an editorial or authorial failing.  Was the editor the one pushing for the flashback to be taken out?  Or was she pushing for more info on why the heroine was so resistant, not realizing that by doing so she was only whetting reader appetite?  Was the author unaware that she'd only provided appetizers and skimped on the meat?  Is the author firmly anti-flashback and wouldn't be caught dead writing one?  I'll never know.

I do know what I'm doing with the book though, I'm putting it on my PBS bookshelf as it's in high demand, and when someone snaps it up, I'll be more than happy to pass it on.

Just finished: A Promise To Cherish

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Time to love

I read a review the other day where someone said that they didn't buy the HEA because the amount of time from when the heroine met the hero, to when they declared their undying love, was too little.  It was only a matter of days, or less than two weeks, something like that.
This is an issue I've faced in my own writing.  I tend to be very H & H focused and don't give a lot of page time to side-stories and subplots.  To me it's all about the journey H & H travel once they meet each other, and often, I put them in situations where they don't want to be away from each other.  They meet, recognize the chemistry, and then act on it - staying together until the end.

Sometimes I see the need in my work for the H & H to have more time together.  Not time on the page, but simple physical time in terms of days and weeks.  But I feel like wedging in those days slows down the story.  Usually my work is designed just like the books say - pile on problem after problem, only giving partial solutions until the ultimate Black Moment demands that everything either comes together or falls apart. 

This, by necessity, creates me writing long, intricate days where a lot of things happen to H & H that draw them closer emotionally while they solve their problems together.  They are not allowed to rest and re-coup.  They don't have down time to sit and bask in the shiny, happy presence of each other.  They battle their personal odds at greater stakes each time.  And they don't take two weeks off in the middle to date and spend time gazing at their navels thinking "does she or doesn't she?"

So how do you find that balance?  Readers want, need and deserve to have a story that constantly moves forward.  But characters deserve to have their futures built on something more stable than seven days of crazy and some damn good boinking. 

I'm moving right now, and one of the things I'm doing for myself is taking the time to digest each potential living situation so I'm not making a rash decision.  I'm taking the time to deliberate on both my needs and my wants - and that's just about a temporary place to rest my head for the next few years, not who I'm going to have children and build a life with.  Why would I expect any less consideration in my characters?

In fact, in Orion's Kiss, I went back and added an extra day for H & H to get better acquainted before they took off on a mini road-trip together.  I knew he needed more time to care enough about her to want to travel with her, and she needed more time to trust him with a few of her secrets.  Yet, the plot and tension advances based on a couple of timelocks, so their trust in each other develops in a pressure-cooker.  And their personal revelations are the result of both stress and necessity.  The whole 400 pages take place in a matter of five days. 

In Never A Bridesmaid they have maybe a week together before the Black Moment.  Sure they go through some tough things during that week, but is seven days really enough to know that you want someone in your life forever?  

It could be that in my writing my characters live the way I never would in reality.  I'm not talking about aliens and bone-melting orgasms.  I'm talking about letting my characters take risks and jump in with both feet in situations where I'd be a lot more cautious.  My life wouldn't sell as a book, but my characters are living a steroidal version of life.  It has to be harder, better, faster, stronger for them.  Otherwise my readers will fall asleep. 

Regardless, I suspect I'm still going to have to rely on a willing suspension of disbelief.

Currently reading: E is For Evidence

Monday, September 14, 2009

I spent the weekend looking for a new home.

I am lucky in many ways. Some I'm not willing to post publicly, some relate directly to this post.

For example, right now, I am lucky to not be working, because it gives me time to search carefully for a new place to live.  I am lucky to have a brilliant, wonderful, friend to help me move.  I am lucky to be able to afford enough gas to spend two days driving all around hell & gone (aka Phoenix) in search of the perfect living situation. And I am lucky that it's a buyer's market so I had a plethora of choices.

By the time I headed north on Friday I had 24 people / places on my list to visit. I couldn't get to all of them, I didn't even want to. Let me give y'all some hints when offering a place to rent in your home.

First of all ... make sure it doesn't smell. I know sometimes it's tough to recognize scents in your own home, but a fair application of baking soda, or maybe, I don't know, opening a window, should do the trick.

Secondly ... don't offer the broom-closet under the stairs and expect to pay off your mortgage. I saw so many small rooms that would barely hold my queen-sized bed, much less my bed and dresser - and had people asking $500+  for the privilege of that space.  Do a bit of market research folks, I can get my own apartment for that money and not have to put up with you.

Third ... don't be creepy.  This one is mostly for the men.  Specifying you'll only have a female roommate because you're divorced and women "make a house a home" whereas men "tend to be slobs," means that you're actually looking for a housekeeper / live-in mistress, not a roommate.  And do I really need to say that you shouldn't mail me a "roommate interview" questionnaire that reads like a dating profile?  "Two things that  people first notice about me" is not an acceptable question to ask a roommate.

It's also none of your business what I do for a living, or how I make my money.  It might come up in conversation after we've met, but really all you should be concerned about is if I can cover my financial obligations to you.  Okay, okay, maybe it is your business to a small extent, but I don't like it and I can tell when you're judging the answer, so just fuck off already.

Fourthly ... when you claim that you want to welcome someone into your home, make sure there's room for them.  Move your crap out of the room you're renting (isn't that obvious?) and have some space in your home for them to put their stuff.  Lots of folks are moving with more than the clothes on their back.

Fifth ... don't expect anyone to maim or hobble their animal for you.  Thank God no one asked this of me, but some of the ads and contacts were implied.
"Is your cat declawed?" "No." "Ooooh."
"I don't mind a cat, but can it stay in your room?"  "She's shy, but I can't promise she'll never explore." "Humph."
Let me remind you again, it's a buyer's market - and I can get an apartment.  I'm looking for a room in a home for 2 reasons, to save money and to give myself a social contact in a new city.  But neither of those things are going to compel me to chop off my cat's claws at the first knuckle, torturing her unnecessarily, leaving her defenseless and maiming her.  Neither am I going to lock her up in a 9x9 room for the rest of her life.  She deserves freedom of movement within her domain, as we all do.

Sixth ... this is a combo.  If someone wants to see your place, call them back.  If you actually want to rent the joint, answer the phone.  If they are driving out of their way to meet with you for the specific purpose of renting a room, don't make them meet you somewhere else first unless there's a damned good reason.  Be willing to show a place if you want to rent it - ie don't tell a prospective renter that you "don't do looky-loos."  Don't be pushy, elitist or rude.

OTOH, I did meet some lovely folks.  One of the roommates at the first place I went wound up coming dancing with me that night.  And proceeded to share 1/4 of her life story with me.  There was the guy who was willing to paint the room any colour I wanted.  Isn't that sweet?  Then there was the guy who needed to move out because his mother was terminal - he was one of the friendliest and kindest strangers I met all weekend. He even offered to help me find a job where he works, whether I took the place or not.

So, with all of these caveats and nice folks and 400 miles worth of driving, where did I wind up?
Nowhere.  Yet. 


But I did find a really good space that I think I can live in.  I wanted to give the guy a minute to think it over, so I didn't call him today, but I do plan to ring him tomorrow and ask if he'll have me.  When all was said and done I went with the chill guy who was calm, friendly and normal on the phone.  He was the same in person.  I didn't smell any drama or creepiness in the air.

He offered not just a room, but also space for me to live in.  The rooms and house were clean without being sterile.  The neighborhood was beautiful.  The price was fair.  I can actually see myself living there.  I've spent more than a few minutes mentally arranging myself and my stuff in his house and it works.  It's not the perfect living situation.  I don't get my own unicorn and a thousand dollar stipend for waking up in the morning, but it's pretty damned good.

Tomorrow I'll make the call and see if he was as impressed with me as I was with him.  If not, I have someone else on backup who also has room for me and my stuff, but her neighbourhood consists of tract homes and the price isn't as good.  If both of them turn my ass down, I can spend another day up in Phoenix looking for perfection, but I think I'll just go with an apartment instead.  I'm used to my own company and know I won't be disappointed with it. 

Just finished: Heartless 
Just finished: Too Hot to Handle
Currently reading: E is For Evidence 
Currently reading: Forsaking All Others

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Seven things you don't (want to) know about me

The fabulous Erika nominated me for a blog award.  The Kreativ Blogger award.  Ergo I am to share seven things about myself and then pass the award along to seven other blogs.  Here goes:
1. I've lived in three countries and am from a small, sub-tropical island.  Most people are floored when I tell them that I live in the desert by choice.

2. I make the best tuna casserole you'll ever taste.  That's probably because I use 5 different sources of dairy and never skimp on fresh ingredients.  But it takes about 2 hours to make -- all of them standing at the stove -- so I don't bother with it too often.

3. My toes are the cutest things ever.  They are connected to equally cute feet, but it's really the toes that stand out.

4. I prefer TV to movies and radio to a music collection.

I feel like I should qualify this though.  I have crappy, crappy cable - the lowest level of service they will even bother to hook up.  (I get channels 3-16 and CNN, but six of those channels are in Spanish or are shopping networks so I only really get about eight stations.)  As a result,  I'm not addicted to TV.  I don't watch reality shows (except SYTYCD, BABY!) I just like the scripted, prime time stuff.  And I'm usually doing other things when the TV's on - commercials are the savior of any multi-tasker.  When I turn it off, it's all about the reading.

In my house I listen to my MP3 collection, but when I'm in the car it's all about radio.  It's one of the ways I hear new music.  On road trips though, it's back to the MP3s. 

5. I don't drink.  I tried to learn how, but it was a dismal failure.  Most of the time I just stick to water.

6. It takes over 2 hours (sometimes 3) to "do" my hair from start to finish ... and it usually lasts about four days when done.  My hair looks pretty damn fantastic when it's done, but I'm always so irritated that I have to plan more than 2 uninterrupted hours in my day to devote solely to hair, that I rarely bother to do it.  When my hair is not done, it looks like ass.
So, yes.  Most of the time my hair looks like ass.  (And not cute J.Lo booty ass either, but overweight-sweaty-plumber-crack ass.)

7. I have a hummingbird feeder on my patio and one hummingbird has set up camp in the pine tree about 10 feet away.  It spends all day defending the feeder from any interlopers.  And there are many interlopers.  I get a weird, sick satisfaction from watching them fight for the nectar I provide.   

I did a quick Google search for Kreative Blogger Award and got over seven million hits.  I'm sure as heck not gonna wade through them to find out where this thing started, but I'm happy to pass it along to a few sites that bring a smile to my face and mebbe a couple of random ones too.  Unfortunately, I only have a few followers, so I doubt they'll ever see it.  But never let it be said I didn't do my part in passing the luuuuuuuuuuuv along.

Hot Chicks Dig Smart Men

Margaret and Helen

The Intern

A Hook A Line and A Girl (random)

Infinite Learners (random)

Stonekettle Station

3 Twisted Sisters (random)

Just finished: Dangerous Lover
Just finished: To Kiss A Texan
Currently reading: Santa Olivia

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The End Of The Book

No, not mine.

I mean all the physical books out there. The fiction. The joyous, well-written novel that half of us are striving to create, and the other half are striving to find in our TBR.

I like reading paper books. I've mentioned it before. The e-reader has no allure to me, except for this month, when I'm moving, and contemplating putting more than half of the books I own on PBS so I won't have to pack them. (The other half is jealously guarded from the packing fiends who would have me donate them to a library.)

Anyway, I like reading paper, and as any author knows, books, stories have a rhythm. They have a pace of highs and lows they follow to keep the reader interested and on edge and turning the pages. Some talk about the W plot, some talk about The Black Moment, others merely refer to the near simultaneous need for the internal and external conflict to resolve themselves just before the book ends. It's all about keeping the reader so interested that they can't wait to find out what happens next.

Which brings me to my quibble about the ends of books. I don't know when it started. I don't know what marketing "guru" decided that this was the perfect way to waste more pages, but I have serious issues with the Promo Chapter. You know, that extra 10 or 20 pages at the END of the book I'm reading which trick me into thinking there's going to be another twist, another conflict, another obstacle thrown in the path of my hero and heroine before they get their Big Happy so I'm mentally (and physically) set up for one final gut-wrenching conflict and instead they try to shove another book down my throat while I'm wondering why I feel shafted.

There's all this talk about a demand for shorter word counts, and publishers finding ways to cut back. Well here's an idea... give those extra words back to the author whose name is emblazoned on the front of the book, or cut out those promo chapters altogether and save a tree or two.

I HATE the Promo Chapter.

It throws off my internal reader pacing. It leads me to believe there's more book coming, and then pulls out unexpectedly, leaving me very unsatisfied. (Yes, it's THAT frustrating.) Now, this may be the one advantage an e-reader has over paper... the digital reader doesn't have the visceral connection to the turning of the pages. To watching the thickness of product slowly but surely switch from the right hand side to the left. The heft and the weight of pages held back first by the thumb and then by the pinkie finger (or vise versa if you're a lefty). The satisfaction of another three / four / five hundred pages devoured, to then be discarded and replaced by a new, equally satisfying weight.

All of that is lost to the digital reader.

What is surely gained, however, is the joy of never again being the victim of the bait and switch set up by the Promo Chapter. No more putting the book down now because you don't have time to read 30 more pages, only to pick it up hours later and discover you had plenty of time to read the five pages that truly signaled the end of the book. No more bringing one book with you to finish in the doctor's office, only to discover nines pages later that you've been gypped and you should have brought the one you were just starting with you instead. No more teeth-grinding when you flip from page 343 to page 344 and see The End when you were expecting to see a new chapter heading instead.

I've read thousands of books in my life. I've read maybe a dozen promo chapters. Probably less. When I get to the end of the story I'm reading, I want that to be very near the end if the pages I'm holding in my hand. A page or two for the publisher to promote upcoming releases, a few of the authors previous or future releases complete with back-cover blurb . . . that's really all that should be back there. A chapter of a story I didn't purchase and can't finish even if I do start reading it is not only wasteful, it's irritating.

When you've set me up (by the sheer volume of pages left to turn) for more story and then leave me hanging, I get pissed. So pissed that I am not going to look favourably upon anything you try and sell me. That's right. I'm already going into it with a bad attitude. Such a bad attitude that 99% of the time I don't even read it at all. In fact, I wish I could rip out those cockteasing pages from the back of the book and use them to line the litterbox. I just have too much respect for the spine of the book to do so.

Just finished: To Have & To Hold
Currently reading: Wolf Tales V
Currently reading: Santa Olivia

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Blatant thievery

I read this post from Janet Reid's site.
(Don't get too excited.)

And it led me to this post from Susan Adrian's site.
(I told you not to get excited. It's closed now.)

I composed my short ditty. It was a good one too. It was also twice the required length.

Then I went and read a book and a half.

I came back the next day and edited my epic 100 word novel. It lost two characters, some humor and a whiff of backstory subtlety. I just hope it still makes sense I've cut so many words.

It's now the appropriate length, but, alas, it's too late to enter. So I'm putting my little entry here. And you're all welcome to compose and post your 50 word entries too.


Stephen was wearing a tiara. He hated losing bets.

"That thing sure is sparkly." He looked up at his boss.

"Yes sir. I'm testing it for Rhinestones International. Is your response positive or negative?"

"I don't care, princess, just get me one. Roleplaying night is coming up. I'm feeling frisky."


Just finished: A Not-So-Perfect Past
Currently reading: Wolf Tales V

Friday, August 28, 2009

I have very few close friends

... but the ones I hold dear are 24k solid gold.

Today I finally put in my notice to move out of my apartment. If you follow this blog at all, and not many of you do, you know that I've been hemming and hawing about getting out of this place for a while now.

Recently, in my life, there have been distractions, and travel, and emotional upheaval. Through all of that, there has been the desire to move on to the next plane of wherever The Great Spaghetti Monster In The Sky decides to take me. But, at the heart of that has also been fear, and procrastination and that awful paralysis suffered by people stuck in the crosshairs crossroads of life.

During the distraction my friends were nowhere to be found. For the most part I didn't tell them what was going on, and we're close enough that we can maintain a solid friendship without living in each others' pockets. During the travel, I was nowhere to be found, and even if you had been able to stick me to a map with a straight pin, I would have wiggled my way free to another destination within days anyway.

But during the emotional upheaval? They stuck to me like the best kind of glue. I could shout, cry, obsess, second-guess myself, challenge them, talk with them and then demand my privacy - and they were still there. And I love them for that.

One really good thing came out of the emotional upheaval however. It was decided that it was time to get off the pot and just fucking move already. So do you know what one friend did? She spent this entire week helping me pack up my life for a final farewell from this apartment and then she accompanied me to the office today to sign the official Notice To Vacate.

She's a moving champ. I'm a moving imbecile. (Apparently you don't put neatly boxed items into another box to move them, they just travel on their own. Who knew?) She stood over me and made me throw away papers. She sat on the bed and folded all of my clothes and then cheered me on when I grudgingly found a way to part with some of them and send them to charity. She did more runs to the garbage and Goodwill with bags full of my crap than I can count and she not only helped me find boxes, she spearheaded the search, then came back to my place with me and wrapped my goods and packed them into said boxes, which she then taped up and labeled and stacked in my living room.

I will admit she's not a total paragon. When faced with my lingerie collection* she might have killed me if she'd been able to get away with it, however by then her forensic evidence was all over the apartment. And she keeps telling me I'm not allowed to buy any more food. But a girl's gotta eat, right? Through it all though, she has maintained her good humor, and patience, and willingness to kick my ass help. She even sat on my computer one night and helped me search for a new place to live while I sat on my couch and shredded my little fingers off.

If I can't find the right place to be in my new city, coincidentally, her city, she and her boyfriend are even willing to put me up while I look. And I made sure she checked with him, and then spoke with him myself to make sure I wasn't treading on toes; he's totally on board. I know a big part of that is because, even when I'm not around, she speaks well of me to him - and really, can you ask for anything more from someone?

She plans to come back and do some more in the up-coming weeks, and my orders are to keep going, even when her eagle eyes are not upon me. With her considerable help, I am feeling less daunted by the whole project. It now seems like something that can be done instead of a feat of impossibility visited upon me by the gods. It's kind of scary, but I think this might be what normal people call "optimism." I am not familiar with the concept, so someone will have to enlighten me.

And she didn't just do this because I asked for her help, she volunteered because she knows me and loves me and wanted to help. She is a goddess among friends. She is a goddess among human beings, even. I cannot thank her enough for all the work that she has done. I offered her a choice between my first and second born child, she said she'll take the first.

Just finished: Nice Girls Don't Have Fangs
Just finished: Bet Me
Just finished: Finger Lickin' Fifteen

*I fully admit right here, right now, that I have an unhealthy fetish for pretty bras combined with matching panties. I know and love every one of my bras, and refuse to give any of them up. Last count hovered somewhere around 50 bras with at least 2 matching or near matching (in colour) panties for each bra.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Now, I mentioned that the dryer died yesterday too. What I didn't mention is that it died in the middle of me washing my sheets, mattress pad and body pillow. Because of this, my mattress is nude, and remained so all night long.

Also, because of this, I elected to sleep on the couch last night. You'll be surprised to learn that I didn't sleep that well. First of all because I was on the couch. Secondly, because of the big ass cup of coffee I'd had earlier that day and thirdly because, hello? Squirrel.

So I woke up with the sun, not long after 6am. I resisted the urge to hop into the bathroom for my morning pee because I hadn't heard the trap snap shut at any point last night. I could, however, still hear the rhythmic squeal and screech of distressed squirrel emanating from the eastern side of my apartment. I turned my head and saw the cat doing that slow motion stalking thing that cats do when there's a bird or mouse-shaped toy nearby. Only she was facing in the wrong direction. When I went to bed last night, the squirrel was trapped in the bathroom, pulling at bits of carpet and knocking over my shampoo. When I got up this morning, apparently the state of the union had changed.

I put both feet on the ground and went to investigate what I feared was going to be a squirrel-led coup, starting with the bathroom and then slowly taking over my life, one room at a time. I was lucky. It wasn't sitting on my uncased pillows lording it over me and the cat with its beady eyes spelling out the terms and conditions of this new dictatorship. It was, however, out of the bathroom. WTF?

*sigh* I look at the bathroom, the door is still shut. I open it. There's the trap, sitting innocent as you please and unsprung on the bathrooom floor. You know what else is on the bathroom floor? The little rug I had left OUTSIDE the bathroom door last night (it usually lives on both sides of the door jamb, providing protection for the carpet there), as well as ample evidence of the squirrel chewing on both the rug and the apartment carpet on its route to escape.

My bathroom floor now is littered with carpet shavings, and the squirrel has won this round. I check the door clearance. When the door is open, there's maybe 2 inches free until it hits the linoleum floor. With the door closed, there's maybe 1 inch of airspace (without the extra rug) between the bottom of the door and the carpet, but apparently, one inch is all some squirrels need.

Now this thing is loose in my bedroom. My worst nightmare. I grab the trap and re-close the bathroom door, hopefully securing it from further invasion. I back myself into the bedroom and see a flash of tail as the squirrel takes refuge behind the desk in the corner of my room. I lay the trap at in front of the desk, knowing it's a useless action as I do so.

I slip into the bathroom, happy to be using it in peace and notice that it doesn't smell like it usually does. Could it really smell like this just from being closed up for 12 hours? That's not right. Then it occurs to me. I'm likely the olfactory victim of Eau de Squirrel Piss. Great. I retrieve a scented candle and put it to work, the cleaning will have to wait until my visitor is gone. Then I retreat to the couch to finish my book and take my mind off things.

I still hear the squirrel squeaking as I read, but I've gotten used to it by now and tune it out. I've also left the balcony door wide open, just in case the little bugger wants to move on to its next conquest. I know I'm not that lucky, but it's 6:30 in the morning and there's nothing left to do.

Maintenance knocks on my door at 8:30am. I thought I'd have to call him, but no, he swung by looking for the full trap I was supposed to leave on the stairs overnight for him to collect. I break the news to him. He takes it like a man.

He says he'll be back with a broom and squirrel-grabber-thingymawhatsit to get this thing out. He returns in minutes and beats the square foot behind the desk with his broom, trying to get some movement. Nothing. Then the poor man has to get down on his hands and knees in my messy bedroom and poke and prod at all the available crevices trying to roust this thing out.

But first he has to move some things, like my oversized teddy bear, a hamper full of clothes and my big bag o' porn. (I thought he was gonna strain a bicep). It's a good thing he doesn't have allergies, or the dustbunnies and cat hair would have laid him out flat. I'm sitting on my naked mattress wondering how many dildoes I have left out in plain sight, he's on the floor searching for rodents. We finally decide it's probably under the bed and he shoves the thingymawhatsit under the bed while I bounce up and down on top of it.

The squirrel flees with a thump and a streak of gray fur.

We abandon the bedroom (I close that door behind me too) and start searching the living and dining room for signs of the intruder. After 5 minutes we decide it's all clear and congratulate ourselves for the well-run execution of our extermination campaign.

Then we remember the dryer, the likely point of entrance for my overnight visitor. Mr Maintenance man gives it a cursory inspection and says he'll be back, but in the meantime, can I clear away the extra clothes so he has full access? Not a problem I say, and start scooping up clothes as soon as he leaves.

It seems I'm not done with the squirrel just yet. I look at the newly cleared space and see my visitor has left behind a scatological calling card. A personal Fuck You for both me and my laundry room floor. Maybe the squirrel had some coffee yesterday too.

Currently reading absolutely nothing.