Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The love of the diver for his world of wavering light. His world of pearls and tendrils and his breath at his breast. Born as a plunger into the deeps he is at one with every swarm of lime green fish, with every coloured sponge.

As he holds himself to the ocean's faery floor, one hand clasped to a bedded whale's rib, he is complete and infinite. Pulse, power and universe sway in his body.

- Mervyn Peake

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Gah! This Blog Has Been Abandoned!

Abandoned at least until January 1st, for no other reason than I married a wonderful man who is a store owner.

It is the Christmas season, the season we celebrate Christ's birth -- and the final quarter of the fiscal year that keeps my children in shoes and tuition and Rick Riordan novels for the rest of the year.

So I will see you lovelies after the Christmas rush.

Until then, go discover a new cabernet that marries nicely with dark chocolate, shop and write well. Let me know what I've missed when I get back, okay?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Breaking Bad, With Books.

Watching a rerun of Breaking Bad last night got me thinking about my habits.  First, if you're not familiar with Breaking Bad, it's about a suburban drug dealer and how his -- work -- affects his family.  But my habit's not anything like that, no way.  My indulgence? 

Books.  Lots of them.

"Helen, that's not so bad," you say, but maybe so. I'm a bit OCD when it comes to these pulpy pages filled with Garamond typeface. 

Here's how it works: If I buy one book in a series (and I like it) then I HAVE to purchase the series.  AND, if I buy the first set of that series in hardcover or trade, I HAVE to finish out the rest of the series in the same format.  That way, My Hunger Games hardcover matches the Catching Fire hardcover and so on.  Hardbound Forest of Hands and Teeth slides right next to its companion novel, Dead Tossed Waves. However, my Twilight trade soft (you have one or two of the series too so just admit it and move on) which I didn't "hardcover love" will match the rest, though I must admit I loaned out my copy of shark-jumping Breaking Dawn with the request, "Keep it.  It's yours."

I borrow a book on my to-be-read list from the library, read it or not, and if I love it, buy the actual.  So, tell me writers -- how do you buy your books?  And, if you love the first of a series, will you purchase the rest of the set?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Man Who Shuffles and a Fenceline Secure

The Shuffler scrapes his feet along the mottled carpet, every shade of red and brown and blue. The perfect hue to hide the grit from our Midwestern boots. The perfect shade to catch errant drops from the cups of coffee poured into 8-ounce squeaky styrofoam cups flavored with a double shake of desert dry creamer. 

It's what you'd expect, public coffee in the public library -- samovar'd all day long until it's burnt old and thick like oil: just how the Shuffler likes it.

I come here to write because often it's just me and Ruby the Red Dell holed up in the Reading Room.  Here, the "Quiet Please" signs taped north and south on the cool blue walls are my sentries, deflecting noisy riff-raff like the zombie fence in The Forest of Hands and Teeth.

But he comes too, daily I suppose because when I'm here, he's here, the old man tall as a bookshelf who sways back and forth.

I wonder if he knows what I'm writing while he sips and reads.  What he'd think of my stories about world-building and impossible beings that negate the very true National Geographic articles he folds out in his corrugated hands.

We're a silent odd team, the man who shuffles and me.

Snapping up Ruby, I stow my gear into the bag, ready to pick up and shuttle kids and dogs and other breathing things to wherever.  With a polite wave, I signal my departure and he winks, rising to walk coffee bar to magazine rack and back again, making sure his fence line of familiarity is secure.

I need a quiet place to write, even the sparky static of soles against carpet is almost too much noise for me to concentrate, so I'm curious: Where do you like to write?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Worst Advice Ever: Spoiler Alert--It Involves Pretty Tissue Paper.

Dawn Metcalf, whose debut YA novel, LUMINOUS, is due out next spring, offered up on her blog a terrific post on How NOT to Get Published.  Her "tips" are hilarious and brought back memories of the day I received some really bad advice.

One of Dawn's pointers on Screwing Up Royally: Ignore The Blather. She writes, "You know those helpful bits of information professionals put on their websites or submission pages? Who needs 'em? Certainly, this is put there to weed out the mindless drones who can't think creatively for themselves. Do anything it takes so that *your* piece of genius stands out from the crowd! Perhaps try colored paper with pretty graphics in the margins, purple ink..."

And another: "You want to be remembered? Send chocolate, cookies, balloons, potential swag, buttons, postcards, bookmarks . . . a list of potential actors who can star in the movie..."

Funny thing is, years ago I went to a writing seminar where I was told, "Don't query, stand out!"  The basis of the the Speaker's recommendation?  "James Patterson sends out a beautiful media kit."

I bet he does.
My cheeks burned red, but I raised my hand. "But Nathan Bransford says we have to put together a query letter," I said.  "A synopsis too."
She advised that, instead of a query letter, I should send to each of my Fantasy Agents an 8x10 photo of yours truly with my full manuscript and a biography and cover sheet, printed on--wait for it--pretty colored paper. My mug shot and bio were to be affixed, not with a regular paper clip, but I was to run forsooth to find the most sparkly paper clip at Staples, ideally, a novel star or heart shaped clip.  Lastly, we were to wrap the bundle in colored paper tissue before we sent it off priority mail.

I didn't heed the Speaker's advice, but I knew it all along: write the hook, form an enticing query, craft the synopsis, and if Fantasy Agent requires, affix my most awesome five or ten first pages. Nothing fancy, just good words written well.

Still, I cringe when I picture my four-pound package landing unannounced on Janet Reid's desk.  And the bonfire that would ensue. 

So that's my story.  Tell me, what is the worst writing advise you ever received?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Romeo and Juliet and Tight Leather Pants.

You know the story: two lovers from feuding families fall desperately in love and then they die.

Chicago Shakespeare Theatre (CST)'s Romeo and Juliet pimps my shakespeare with a cavernous opening scene, grunged up with graffiti, grit and flashing gates. It's all very 2010, but the Bard's message is still there.

Crossing family means certain death.

I'm not going to review the play because there are those who do that for a living, and I have to admit it's hard to dislike anything in the venerable CST (the gasp-inducing views of the Chicago harbor from the second and third floors are worth the ticket price).  I will opine that Ariel Shafir as the ill-fated Mercutio, fills the theatre with charisma whenever he’s on stage.  He walked -- no -- ran away, with the production.

Sorry Romeo. For me, it's Mercutio forever.

Ariel Sharif fights to his death in Romeo and Juliet.

Mercutio is a hottie, but the stars of this story are the gel-haired boys, Romeo’s posse, young men who play with swords, dressed in tight leather pants and dark-washed jeans.  Who taunt and tease and flirt. They are boys on the doorstep of adulthood. These are the children who must die at the hand of their parents’ foolish conflicts.

But the crux begins with two families, Romeo's Montagues and Juliet's Capulets, strife-ridden with heirloom problems and absentee parents. Like many of today's YA novels . . . with a few less thou's and sirrah's, of course. . . Romeo and Juliet plots family against family, child against parent.

And some of those parents are gone or missing.

Who knew? Shakespeare was one of us--writing absentee parents into his YA plots. Romeo and Juliet uses the Missing Mom trope as metaphor: she's physically present, but emotionally and supportively absent from her children and family. Shakespeare supported the trend: dysfunctional familial relationships make for good plot, and as agent Mr. Bransford said, "It's inevitably going to be a rare book that features a happy, stable child with happy, stable parents."

Absent, missing, or disinterested parents?  A new trend in Young Adult Fiction or nothing new.  Parents have been AWOL since Lady Capulet tossed over her parent card to Juliet's nurse. And, to quote Chicago reviewer Chris Jones, "If you can't believe in Romeo and Juliet, what's left to love?"  What indeed?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Need a spotter? I'm Your Girl.

Mitchell, my baby Golden, puppy-barked at the deep-throat gurgle bouncing across the water.

I sloshed through cold dew, barefoot, to the end of the dock.

"Thought you'd be up," Bruce said from the water.

I took a long sip of hot sugared Breakfast Blend, surveying the empty seat. "Looks like you could use a third."

Cade twisted the boat's steering wheel, lining up the Mastercraft with my pier--a perfectly executed parallel park, sleepy lake style. "You wanna come?"

The water was all glass and mirrors and floating cottonwood spores. "Let me get my ski."

It was a win-win, helping out two ski buddies, an impromptu summer morning slicing wake on ribbon smooth water, the best I'd seen all summer.

I'm a decent skier; an even better spotter. 

The way I see it?  It doesn't matter whether you're writing or critiquing, dune mountain climbing or skiing--you've got to have backup. Heck, you may have the most pimped out 5.7 liter V8 boat with a tower rack, non-factory glitter paint, and a badass O'Brien slalom named Betty--  Excuse me. I digress. 

My point is, if you don't have a spotter, if you're working without a posse, you'll probably get to where you need, but it's not always pretty, not always safe.  And not very smart.

Advice to Writers wrote well on his blog when he quoted West: "Writing is a solitary occupation. Family, friends, and society are the natural enemies of the writer. He must be alone, uninterrupted, and slightly savage if he is to sustain and complete an undertaking."

Truth AtoW, and it helps to turn off Tweetdeck and Facebook, but sometimes we need a nudge, a poke, a tweet or shout-out to affirm, "Yes, we're all in this together."

I spot you, you spot me.

Go out on a limb; spot someone, follow a newbie without being followed back.

You spot me, I spot you.

Read a manuscript for a friend. Befriend the new mom in the car pick-up line. We're all new somewhere, sometime--it's only the location that changes. Make a difference.  Be that person, whether we're sharing air and breath or in a virtual world.

Are you ready?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Kindle or Nook, Ipad or pulpy print: What's your reader?

I finally got the nerve to go digital.  I'm talking e-book reader.  Yes, I know.

I went to my book wall, gathered all my beauties and told them what I was about to do.  Most of them took the news pretty well, except for hardcover Hunger Games--she pulled out her quiver and bow, aimed, but I was able to talk her out of the shot.

Hardcover Shiver looked at me with his soulful wolf eyes, but I'm a cradle Catholic.  I know how to handle guilt.

Fountainhead smirked; Howard Roark went back to standing naked on the cliff.

"We'll see you again," they all said.

Amex in hand, I clicked to Amazon.  And guess what the heck ever? Temporarily Sold Out. The Kindle, all the jaunty little screens in cool graphite gray sold out until mid September.

Amazon nicely advised me to order now to reserve my place in line.

Pre-order?  Look, Amazon, it's like this: I pre-order books.  I've pre-ordered Mockingjay, anticipating rich pages set in not-too-flouncy Adobe Caslon, though I'd settle for Garamond. 

Place In line?  Maybe for Modest Mouse or Muse tickets, definitely for Radiohead (as if they'd ever) but for a Kindle?  Hmm.  Maybe karma is wagging its craggy Graveyard Book hardcover finger to reconsider.

I'm second guessing my Kindle choice--maybe the Nook or the Ipad is the reader for me. So now I wonder if you can help me.  Which e-reader do you love?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

"Do you feel lucky, punk?” and other awesome misquotes.

If you're like me you love movies!  And, whilst writing a scene that was perfect only for the big Darth, I had to look up a quote from the big man in black.  This is how I remembered it:  Darth Vader telling Luke Skywalker "Luke, I am your father" is a line most movie fans will never forget ... or it would be, if it had ever been said.
The line, from The Empire Strikes Back, was never actually said and is the most misquoted line in movie history.
A poll asked over 1,500 movie fans to name their top movie misquotes with 17 percent voting for the Star Wars blunder.

Real fans will of course know that it was "No, I am your father" delivered by David Prowse in the jaw-drop moment that has been eternally misquoted since its release in 1980.

Number two comes from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs where “Magic mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?” has been turned into the “Mirror, mirror on the wall…” (15 per cent).

Clint Eastwood’s most quoted one-liner "Do you feel lucky, punk?" got third place with real fans knowing it was "Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya punk?"

Casablanca’s "Play it again, Sam" came in fourth place as the line was actually never spoken in the movie where "You played it for her, you can play it for me ... if she can stand it, I can. Play it!" was said.

Not that we’re one to argue with Hannibal Lector, but the chilling Silence of the Lambs quote in fifth position is also a lie. "Hello Clarice" was in fact more a "Good evening, Clarice"

The Top Ten Movie Misquotes were as follows:
  1. “Luke, I am your father” – Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) (17%)
  2. “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?” - Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) (15%)
  3. “Do you feel lucky, punk?” - Dirty Harry (1971) (13%)
  4. “Play it again, Sam” – Casablanca (1942) (12%)
  5. “Hello, Clarice” – Silence of the Lambs (1991) (10%)
  6. “Beam me up, Scotty!” – Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) (9%)
  7. “Frankly, Scarlett, I don't give a damn” – Gone with the Wind (1939) (7%)
  8. “If you build it, they will come” – Field of Dreams (1989) (6%)
  9. “I don't think we're in Kansas anymore, Toto” – The Wizard of Oz (1939) (5%)
  10. “Mrs. Robinson, are you trying to seduce me?” – The Graduate (1967) (4%)
Thus and muchly, Darth is now quoted correctly in my chapter. 
Tell me, how about you?  What's your favorite movie quote of all time?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Peeking Through the Curtains with Google.

I recently moved my blog back to Blogger from WordPress; I liked WP's analytics, the ability to track the progress of your blog. Google's Analytics tool is also powerful, a useful tracking tool you can insert into your blog's HTML code. Honestly, I didn't realize that Google has such outstanding analytical reports, though I should have figured.  After all, it is Google, duh.

Analytics tracks your links from Facebook and Twitter as well as other referring sites, which is really cool.  It also provides detailed data on direct hits, or direct URL's to your blog, as well as other data you'll probably never need or use.  That's cool too.

Let's face it, if we take the time to create and maintain a blog, it's important to know from where your hits, or clicks to your blog are coming. And, unless you're Stephenie Meyer or Stephen King, you're probably doing the bloggity blog thing yourself. Like me.

Stop me if you've already heard this one, but it goes something like this: In your Google main Account Page, click on Google Analytics. This link pops up the Analytics site, but read this Google blog first; it provides step-by-step instructions on how to set up your account and how to find the HTML code snippet needed for your blog.  Then comes the scary part. Pour a nice cabernet -- Jordan 2005 is always good -- click the red wine glass twice on your computer screen and repeat after me: I can insert my own code I can insert my own code.

It helps to be a tad fearless of the virtual monster called HTML, but trust, it's not hard to insert Google Analytics into your website, or blog. I did it, inserted the snippet of creepy code provided by Google, right in the middle of scary HTML where Google instructed.  My blog looked the same, the earth continued to rotate; and Voilà (or if you're from Indiana, Well Lookie There): 24-hours later, precious, tangible data.

Disclaimer: Save a copy of your original blog template FIRST.  The Google blog walks you through it, and though it takes a couple of days for your trending report to cook up and boil into data there is good news:  Google Analytics really works and I added the HTML code myself.  The bad?  My tracking data/hits/visits on my new bloggity blog thing really stink; but then again, that's a different Jerry Springer Show.

What's on XM 47? Metric, Help I'm Alive.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Back to Blogger, Oy Vay.

Moving back home to blogger after a long, bedbug infested stay at Wordpress.  Please excuse the funky line edits/breaks/captions as the import from WP was a little, awkward.  Have a Super Saturday!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Evil Minions and Gleeks in a Big Bad Mashup.

"Santana Lopez in Glee is arguably a version of the Dragon Ascendant, taking over Quinn's role as The Libby when Quinn's status as a Fallen Princess (she suddenly became unpopular when her pregnancy was revealed) made her do a Heel Face Turn.  However, considering that Sue Sylvester is the real Big Bad it's more like Santana was just upgraded to The Dragon from being an ordinary minion."

It's not Glee gone rogue, it's tropes:  storytelling devices and conventions that a writer can reasonably rely on as being present in the audience members' minds and expectations.

The tongue-in-cheek site that authored the Gleeful opening paragraph of this blog is "TV Tropes," because TV is where the writers started, but don't be fooled. It's a valuable tool for anyone writing fiction that features a main character and supporting cast - in other words, it's a useful tool for anyone writing fiction.

According to the TV Tropes web geeks,  tropes transcend television. They exist in life. Since a lot of art, especially the popular arts, does its best to reflect life, tropes are likely to show up everywhere.  Oddly enough, many of these tropes originated in literature, and even today there are books with enough cultural impact to spawn TV Tropes.

Any trope is here, sorted into a mind-numbing array of sub-tropes, but the Tropes manage to swerve away from cliché.  The word clichéd means "stereotyped and trite:" in other words, dull and uninteresting. There are no dull or uninteresting entries here.  The site is full of 'aha' moments with spot-on tropes that will cause you to view your neighbor, brother, high school bully or favorite action hero in a left-of-center, altered light.

TV Tropes main page also has useful toys including a pitch generator with hilarious results. My favorite? A pitch for the spoof, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes:

Tomatoes. You pickle them for your ketchup. You squish them for your tomato juice. You cut them to pieces and feast on their raw corpses in your salads. You treat them like vegetables.

And they're not going to take it anymore. 

Makes me want to double check the karma of the Beefsteaks in my garden.  Perhaps pulpy mutiny abounds.

Hundreds of tropes are broken down by male and female characters, incuding how to write for my favorite, the Badass, and answers the question: Why All Guys Want Cheerleaders - this, despite the fact that the cheerleaders are almost universally presented as shallow, bitchy and led by The Libby.

Veronica: Heather, why can't you just be a friend? Why do you have to be such a mega-bitch?
Heather Duke: Because I can be.
Aah, high school. The Libby; I'm familiar with this trope, though I was the Anti Libby. You see, I was in the band, and  though I don't have the inclination to search for the Band Geek Trope, I'm certain it's detailed in the website somewhere.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Fifteen months, 362 pages and 94,457 words. The End.

Squee! I typed The End. Seriously, what other six letters with a space can give a writer that much pleasure?

Unscrew the Asti-Spumanti or Mountain Dew and Sharpie your name on a plastic party cup, because I just sent off my Badass Novel (BAN) to two First Readers.

Agreed, my manuscript is still  a little rough, a few typos left in just to see if the FRs really read the darn thing, but the bones are there, with a lot of muscle. A little fat.

Even if I never get this thing published, I've marked one big thing off my bucket list: Written the Big Badass Novel.

Laundry? Paint the kitchen? Mais non! I'm going to spend the next week working on my "I'm a Real Writer, Yes I Am" website because luckily that's what one of the things I do in real-life, before I get back to the edits from my First Readers.  Then off to query agents whilst enticing them with fresh baked snickerdoodles.  Didn't I read somewhere that agents love snickerdoodles? Maybe it's cupcakes.

But for now, join me. Pour yourself an Asti, douse a Ritz with extra Cheese Whiz; c'mon there's plenty for everyone.  Then sit back and let's enjoy the steam coming off the Dell.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Word of the Year.


Definition: a man who adopts a traditional masculine style in dress and manners


"Think of him as the anti-metrosexual, the opposite of that guy who emerged in the 1990s in all his pedicured, moussed-up, skinny-jeans glory. That man-boy was searching for his inner girl, it was argued. The retrosexual, however, wants to put the man back into manhood." — Lini S. Kadaba, Philadelphia Inquirer, Apr. 7, 2010

Submitted by: West4th, NY

Thanks to uber-favorite geek site

Monday, June 21, 2010

How do You Know When There's Too Much Wind?

From my window where I should be writing, I'm watching a sailor.

He's hoisted his crisp white main sail, rimmed with a smaller triangle of ink--ten inches of black, like an IKEA dinner plate. Odd, being on the lake at full mast after dark.  He's losing wind fast during this static air night. I know he should consider bringing both sails down before dark, yet for some reason he resists and both are billowed full.

Just another boat, but this sailor caught my fancy.   While most of the windmen around here boast main sails bearing flashes of gaudy color, angular rainbow stripes and the like -- this one is remarkable.

The attire? Simple and clean. A garment Jackie Onassis Kennedy (or her sister) would have worn: not too much color, a subtle statement in a Walmart world.

An elegant dress for a windy day.

It reminds me of writing, how as authors we are tempted to pack our manuscripts with ancillary words, and how sometimes, we need an oddly placed reminder that one well-chosen word is better than many bright sails.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

It All Happens in the Thinktank

Writing takes a lot of time.  So does laundry.  And cooking.  And cleaning.

I suppose I should toss in a couple of "real job" hours in there as well.

And Finding Things, Lost and Hidden.  That takes a lot of time, too.

What I need is a laundry knight, a self-starter with a bright shining team to swoop in, and not only bring the dirty clothes down from their smelly spot in the hamper, but sort and wash them in my basement laundry dungeon-- the room unabashedly known as the thinktank of this Sparkly household.  Hopefully, once done folding, mister fancypants will slip on those shiny *metallic is so hot right now* thigh high boots he's tucked into the laundry basket (see photo) and bring everything upstairs.

Until my chain mail'd dude in lather appears, or until my Badass Novel is finished, the piles reach epic proportions. I wonder if this has anything to do with my sudden yen to climb Mount McKinley.  I'll bring my gear and scale the mess -- tomorrow.  After I finish one more chapter.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Ladle Up a Steaming Bowl of Writer's Block Soup.

Sparkly Hubby walked into the kitchen this morning and sniffed. "What are you doing?"

"Making soup," I said.

He peered into the steaming pot, grabbed the spoon, stirred the carrots. Sampled the salted rice and onions. "You know, it's going to be eighty today," he said mid-taste, as though I couldn't feel the humid air flowing in from the kitchen window.

"I know."

"Having trouble with something?" he asked.

I nodded.  "Third to last chapter."

"Still?"  He closed the lid with a tinny clang.  "That's what I thought," he answered.  "At least the soup's good."

He was right, the soup's good. The writing? Not so much. Sometimes it doesn't matter what you do, the words don't flow.  Taking a physical break works for many writers.  Me too.  There's nothing like slathering a fresh coat of paint on a wall to dislodge the verbal logjam, but I can't do that today: I have a Frankenfoot.  A walking cast, the result of a nicely *don't ask* broken toe.

So today, instead of ladders and latex, a stainless pot would free my words.  Jerry Seinfeld would be proud, 'cause the guy, well he's funny, uses lots of words, and he likes his soup.

Beef with brown rice on the menu. I chopped veggies and mixed broth, all the while plotting.  "Do I really kill off  X?" I wondered to myself, "or will a nice maiming do the trick."  I continued my mental diatribe: "Will anyone notice if I switch point-of-view, because honestly, X's 'big scene' would resound so much better in first person, not third."  Important things, killing-off and point-of-view, at least to a writer; quandaries best solved over a glass of Cabernet, but not this early. It wasn't quite wine-thirty anywhere in the midwest.  Maybe in Germany, where they sip lager with their Goetta and eggs, but around here, I've got a rep to maintain. At least around my kids: no wine before noon.  Just broth.

Around lunchtime, the rice cooked al dente, the buds still firm but plump and full, we gathered on the deck in swimsuits, and ladled up a steaming bowl of soul-warming, word-inspiring soup.

Served best today with a glass of icy cold tea, because after all, it was eighty degrees outside.

Friday, June 4, 2010

All in the Name of Research.

As luck would have it, we'd parked the truck and its padlocked trailer right by the "No Overnight Parking" sign, safe and out of the way.  The accident happened at that marina, three hours from home after we'd spent the day Waverunning through the bayous and channels of Spring Lake Michigan -- research for my Badass Novel.  Car burglary? Nah. Fender bender?  Nope.

The accident was far worse than either of those:  You see, I dropped our keys in the lake.  It's a murky lake with zero visibility, but that wasn't the bad part.  The missing key ring, wedged somewhere in the muck and mire at the bottom of Mill Point launch, included two keys -- the ski trailer's padlock keys, and our truck keys.  Yes, the truck that would drive us out of the marina and back to our room promising warm towels.  Back to dry clothes.  Out to a nice dinner.

Black Keys, the band, not to be
confused with my keys in a black lake.
Did I mention GMC emergency lock-out service doesn't stay open past five o'clock anywhere in this world?

With nary a word other than, "I can't believe you dropped the keys in the water," which he repeated over and over, Sparkly Hubby searched for almost two hours, treading water and diving for stainless.  In the meantime, I pled with GMC on my cell to please find a dealership, locksmith, Harry Potter, anyone who could make our two keys magically appear.  I'd have settled for a time traveler even, a shape-shifter to help me backspace to the moment right before I lost my grip on the wet metal -- sunk in half a second with a sad kerplunk.  But alas, there was not a car dealer or time traveler available, perhaps because it was past closing time:  time traveler's must be nine to fiver's too.

Finally, as dark threatened, my friend Blackberry, not GMC, helped us locate a locksmith who could carve a truck key for just under a couple of hundred dollars. A key which he would personally deliver . . .  in the morning!

A frantic call to the harbormaster at our hotel secured a rare available boat slip for the night -- the Holiday Inn housed a marina.  In the dim light, we bid farewell to our truck and trailer, but first, we left a note under the windshield wiper, on paper bummed from a Good Samaritan, penned for the Spring Lake police, pleading to please not tow our stuff.

We loaded up shivering and bemused, yet in amazingly good spirits onto the Waverunner and idled up inky Grand River to the hotel.  Maybe this was how Ernest Hemingway felt coming in from the beach.

In the morning we climbed back on the Waverunner and met the locksmith at Mill Point launch.  Two hundred dollars lighter, we opened the door to the GMC.

The moral of this novella?  Every writer needs a terrific support system, and I am glad to say that my support system is unparalleled.  You may think you have a super Sparkly Hubby, but mine is the bestie-best.  Because he didn't kill, or even yell at me when I dropped the keys.  And he still thinks I am a good writer.  And today's his birthday.  Oh, and we found the perfect location for my story.

I need to find a way to write-off that two hundred dollar key as a research cost.  I'll reimburse him, just as soon as I sell my book.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Is it a War, or is it a Wii?

photo by TIMEBusy Son book time tonight. He scanned his book shelf and asked, "Mom, what is dubayou, dubayou, eye, eye mean?"  Me, the Chief Finder of Things to do in a video-game-free household, continued folding socks, misinterpreting the question as another nudge in the gaming arena of Things Wanted Really Bad. 

"That's a wee, honey.  A computer game by Apple," I answered. "You know, like an XBOX." He pulled out the old National Geographic off the shelf, Sparkly Hubby saves them, and showed me the mushroom cloud.  He pointed to the cover.  "No, like this," he said. 

World War Two, I saw with a jolt.  Oh. Just a war, not a Wii.

I'd dumbed my son down. A random question; a busy mother's 2010 answer, age appropriate, so I thought, for a tiny dude.   

That said, I'm fortunate -- no spoiled -- that the first that comes to mind is a video game, not a war.  Hopefully our not-so-tiny dudes never will know what it feels like to beach on Normandy, rifle in hand, or swelter in a quiet tunnel in Vietnam. 

I'm following the political strife in beloved Bangkok, not prime time for American news, but rich fodder for the BBC.  The subway station we had trouble exchanging ride tokens?  Gone. The humongous shopping mall at the end of the MRT line? Demolished.  Burned to smithereens by the rebel supported Red Shirt Army.  Seriously, how close can close be?

How much do we take for granted our freedom?   

On this Memorial Day, a sincere Thank you to all who have served.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Okay, Sometimes Sucked is the Right Word.

My Midwest Fellow Fellow Lara just blogged about the most appropriate time to use the word sucked. When? Whilst talking about high school gym, of course.

When Did Suck Become Okay?

Dropped off Sparkly Hubby at work due to a minor car malfunction. On the XM? His favorite news program: CNBC. Keep in mind, I'm a Fox news girl, but it was on, so I listened.  An announcer commented on a story, and used the term "that really sucked."  It piqued me.  Then he used it again, same context, next sentence.  That did me in.

Now, I'm supposed to be writing so I'll make this quick (I'm good at that). I'd like to know: "when did the word "sucked" become mainstream?"

I've heard it often-- news commentators, radio personalities, everyday conversation -- even my favorite librarian at the downtown branch. Kelly Clarkson sings that her life would suck without me.  Well, that's getting a little too personal, and to be perfectly honest, I really don't know Kelly that well.  Still, does all this mean saying something sucks is okay?  Is this the bottom of the word barrel? 
I looked up sucked on, one of my all time favorite websites.  Though dictionary.doc acknowledges the use of sucked as slang, my friend the thesaurus ignores it, as if it will go away real soon.

I admit, I use the word because sometimes it fits.  Sometimes no other word will do.  But really, news announcers, public figures, Kely Clarkson: when did it become *okay* to use  slang, wavering around the derogatory area of colloquialisms? Is to too darn hard to say, "it's terrible that you dropped your iPhone into the Lake," or "the fact that I wrecked your new Prius makes me feel terrible."  Or, "the sushi could have been fresher."  Do we really have to tell our mother or father, co-worker or lover, that our day, hamburger, drive to O'Hare really, breath, sucked?

Well, maybe everything except the drive to O'hare, which really does suck . . .

Sunday, May 9, 2010

My Fellow Fellows.

What an experience.  Back home from my Fellowship weekend with nine other amazing writers.

Many thanks to the Ball Foundation and Jama Bigger of the Midwest Writers' Group -- it was the weekend of a lifetime for any writer.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I'm a Jolly Good Fellow

"Congratulations!  Your synopsis and 1,000-word manuscript have been selected for the 2010 Midwest Writers Workshop Fellowship."  Well, heck thanks, MWW!

What the hay! I'm a Fellow! Looking forward to an intense weekend of revising my manuscript with some industry experts. 

We nine Fellows will spend Friday and Saturday writing and revising manuscripts in progress under the direction of three veteran writing coaches. The fellowships will pay the writers' retreat costs, other than travel and incidental expenses.


"This retreat experience has been an extraordinary event for the previous Fellows. We are very happy to continue this intensive opportunity for writers with serious works in progress," says Jama Bigger, Midwest Writers Workshop director.

Well, all righty then, write on.