Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween Flash, a creepy story... bwahahahaha!

All this pumpkin carving and decorating put me in the mood to write a spooky story. Not a scary one-- I'm a huge baby and I can't stand anything scary! But spooky is fun... I hope you find this creepy short story as fun to read as it was to write. Happy Halloween... bwahahahahahahaa!!!!!

Isadora's Kitchen

Brandon shut his car door, the metallic thud echoing through the dark, still street. Window upon black, vacant window stared out at him. Construction on the upscale master-planned community had begun a year before the housing crisis, and none of the houses sold. Now the entire neighborhood stood deserted, the sidewalks left unfinished, some houses only half-built and covered in ghost-like sheets of billowing plastic.
He blew into his cupped hands before jamming them into his pockets. Signs of ‘No Trespassing’ had been tagged with graffiti. Brandon kicked aside a can of Rock Star as he approached the only house with a dim hint of light flickering from somewhere deep within its half-painted frame.
Isadora popped open her lip gloss, running the wand back and forth over her lips as a high-pitched scree whistled through the room. She hated tea, but she was bored. The bitter aroma filled her nostrils as she read the leaves at the bottom of her cup. A mortal boy would visit her tonight? Not exactly thrilling news. What would he want? Muscles? To be free of pimples? Her gaze slid to the near-empty fishbowl on her kitchen counter. Inside, a toad stared out with buggy, glistening eyes.
“You wanted a date with the Homecoming queen, didn’t you, Toady? Didn’t you?” She tapped the glass, punctuating each word as she said, “And. You. Got it.”
The toad’s throat stretched in a quick hiccup. 
Isadora smiled. “There now, Toady. Soon you’ll have a friend.” She leaned forward, close enough to the glass that she caught her own violet-eyed reflection. She licked her lips, enjoying the sight of herself as she whispered, “Or maybe I don’t want to wait so long for a taste of frog-leg stew.”
Toady’s suffering croak gave her a moment’s fiendish glee, and she could hardly help the cackle at his expense. A pounding at the door silenced her, and she rolled her eyes. “Humans.”
Brandon slammed his fist against the door. “Hello? Is anybody in there?”
The door opened, revealing a black-haired girl with pale skin that almost glowed. “Isn’t the customary greeting, ‘Trick or Treat?’”
He swallowed, his eyes darting to the dead frog in her hand. His jaw dropped. 

It was true. She was a-- a--
“I believe the word you’re looking for is witch,” she said. “And before you ask, yes, I can read your mind. If I feel like it.”
He let out a misted breath. “I need help.”
“Why should I help you?” she asked, mocking in her half-laughter.
Warnings blared through his skull, but Brandon said, “I-- I can pay.”
She sauntered inside, leaving the door open. Brandon shut it behind him, watching as she tossed the dead frog into a boiling pot, licking her fingers afterward. “You can pay. What could you possibly give me that I would want? Money?” She snapped her fingers. A blaze of blue fire sprung up from her hand, burning itself out and leaving a wad of smoking cash in her fist. “I make my own.”
“Please, it’s my girlfriend--”
“Oh.” She smirked, returning to the the pot with the dead frog in it. “Isn’t it always about love?” She stirred the brew before dimming the fire and sitting down at the breakfast nook. “So, is she flirting with some other guy? Cheating on you? Texting your best friend behind your back?”
“I don’t know,” he said, his voice cracking as he thought of his sweet, angelic Rebecca. Her powder blue eyes and sunlit hair... her shy, sweet smile. “Everything was perfect. At least, until Homecoming. Now she won’t answer my calls or texts, she ignores my tweets. I don’t know what went wrong.”
The witch gazed at him with her chin in her hands, a soft smile touching her blood-red lips. “I can help you.”
Brandon exhaled in a burst of relief. “Thank you. All I want--”
“All you want,” she said, walking toward him with a slow click-click-click of her spike-heeled boots, “is to be together again. Right?”
He nodded, and despite the warm room, a shiver raced up his spine.
“Do you have a picture of her?”
“Yes, uh--” he took out his phone and showed her the background image.
“Lovely girl,” she murmured. “Are you sure you want my help?”
“Yes, definitely.”
“Very well,” she said, ladling out some frog soup and pouring it into a teacup. “Just drink this.”
Brandon took the cup. His hands became slick. “And... Rebecca will love me again?”
The witch’s smile broadened. “More than ever,” she purred.
Brandon gulped the rancorous brew, his stomach clenching as bile rose in his throat. “What’s it going to do to me?”
“Nothing,” the witch said. “I just wanted to see you drink from your friend’s remains.” She snapped her fingers. “But this, on the other hand, will do a lot.”
Blue fire whirled from her fingertips, swirling toward him and ramming him in the chest. He gripped the edge of a table, his body stinging and burning as if he were filled with a thousand furious wasps.  
“What's happening to me,” he cried. “No! No! Please!”
“There, there,” Isadora crooned, scooping up the now soft, furry human. “You’ll be with your precious Rebecca soon enough.”
Isadora searched the house, making fetching whisper-noises as she did. “Here kitty-kitty... precious kitty.” 

The cat appeared at the top of the stairs, her powder blue eyes almost human. It let out a pitiful meow. 

“Poor Rebecca, you must be hungry. Not used to cat food yet, I suppose,” she murmured, stroking its silky fur. “That’s all right, today I have a treat for you.” She dangled the once-human mouse by its tail. “A treat and a trick.” Isadora dropped the squealing, panic-stricken mouse into Rebecca’s waiting paws. “Now it’s really Halloween.”

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Stepping Out of the Writer Cave

(Another mobile blog post-- ack!! I fool myself into thinking I'm multi-tasking if I'm not sitting down at the computer *grin*)

The Writer Cave.

Writer friends probably know what I'm talking about... it's a time warp. Five hours melt away in the space of re-reading the same scene/query letter/synopsis... or when things are flowing, chapters fly beneath our fingers. There's little concern for things like sleep or hunger-- those are annoying distractions, burdensome necessities of our human existence. We emerge, squinting and ravenous, probably in desperate need of a bathroom.

But that's only the deepest level of the writer cave. I make my way up through the cave, still immersed in the writing world. Blogs, twitter, agent research... critique partner emails, phone calls, meeting up for lunch to talk out our plot issues... all of that, while not a direct part of my current story, still keeps me connected. I'm in the writer world. On some level, I'm still in that writer cave.

For me, it's important to step completely away sometimes. Maybe that's why I don't tell my non-writer friends that I write books and am pursuing publication. Not that it's a tightly guarded secret or anything!! Anyone can Google my name and find their way to my writing-- and yes, a friend or two has-- but I don't let it become a big deal. I've learned that letting too many people into the writer cave makes it a bit too crowded.

With that in mind, I'm stepping out for the day and meeting three non-writer friends for a girls' day ~happy dance~ I do LOVE talking about writing and hashing out plot issues and meeting up with writer friends too, but sometimes it's good to get in touch with other parts of who I am. Maybe with a day at the beach or a trip to some touristy part of town, or just going to my mom's and watching Steel Magnolias while we eat too many cookies-- whatever it is, I think the writer part of my brain absorbs it all and is better for it.

What about you? Do you ever feel sealed up too tight in the writer cave? Stepping out can be hard... writing is such a big part of who we are. What do you do when you come out?

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Monday, October 18, 2010

Blog Swap: The Truth Hurts by Dana Elmendorf

Hi everyone!  Dana Elmendorf here from A Squirrel Amongst Lions.  I get the honor of being a guest blogger on Diana’s blog.  It’s a fun way to mix things up because let’s face it, sometimes blogging needs a swift kick in the pants.  Seeing as Diana is my critique partner and all, I decided to take her suggestion and write about what I’ve learned from critiquing.  
The fact is…the truth hurts.  
It’s never easy to put yourself out there, especially when you’re a newbie like me.  As much as we know our manuscripts need work, we all cringe at being told what needs to be fixed.  But it’s the whole “forest for the trees” issue.  You need the eyes of someone else to point you in the write direction. (Yes, I’m trying to be punny.)  
Depending on the voice behind the critique, sometimes I need 24 hours to pout before I can move on. I’ve critiqued for several different people and vice versa but Diana is the steady voice I trust to be honest but kind.  We fit together like a couple of puzzle pieces, though we don’t look, write or act anything alike.
What have I learned from critiquing?  
I’m a WASinator, zapping the passive voice out of any document.  My grammar stinks.  Commas are my mortal enemy.  Fixing someone else’s plot holes helps me with my own.  Nothing is ever perfect because there is always room for improvement.  Being critiqued trained me to be a better critique partner.  But most importantly, critiquing has made me a better writer.
Whether you use a group or exchange with a friend over the internet, a critique partner is key. Sure, you have to decide at what stage to bring that partner in but your writing will not grow unless you have the voice of a trusted fellow writer to help you (or at least some one in the publishing industry).  Yes, family and friends are great cheerleaders.  They can edit grammar or give you advice but there is that something extra only a fellow writer can add.  A special knowledge that comes with writing a book itself: plot arcs, character voice, world building, etc.  
So even though the truth hurts, they don’t call it growing pains for nothing.  Each step of the way you learn a new trick, see a new way to spin your words and before you know it, you’re on your way to being published.  Diana Paz is a fabulous critique partner and I am so grateful she has shared so much of her knowledge with me. 
And now for the dirty gossip I found will snooping around her blog.  Did you know that Diana Paz once—
*************We apologize for this technical difficulty.************
*******The blog post you are reading will return shortly.*********

--Can you believe it?  And I have pictures to prove it!
Thanks Diana, I hope you’re not too mad at me for telling everyone your little secret.
Back to you Di.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Blog Swap!

My blog is being hijacked! On Monday, October 18th Dana Elmendorf from A Squirrel Amongst Lions is taking over my blog, with the promise to give it back if I hand over enough nuts to get her through winter! Blog topic to be determined... I'll be at her blog, wreaking havoc and probably doing irrevocable damage-- Dana, are you SURE you want me to take over your blog? *BWAHA-HA-HA-haaaaa!!!*

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Just Avoiding Dinner

I have so much to do I can't even begin. Starting with making dinner. But since I'm on blogger, procrastinating, I wanted to say thanks for everyone's brilliant blog comments on my little *cringe* okay, long rant this week about romance novels. I almost deleted it the second I posted it!! Normally I keep things kind of light on my blog-- but then all the comments came, and then my lovely and sometimes critique partner Natalie devoted a whole blog-post to it, so I figured it might be okay. And wow, lots of new followers.

~waves~ Hi new followers!!!

Okay, enough procrastinating. Dinner must be made. Fun fact number two thousand ninety two about me: I'm a horrible cook. My twitter-friends saw a picture of the boiled noodles I BURNT the other night, eek! Who burns noodles??? I do *blush*

[My brain cannot BELIEVE how many exclamation points and *asterisk actions* I've used. It's appalled.]

Okay. Really. Time to make something for dinner. Reeeeeeally. It isn't going to make itself. Unless... (makes a phone call to super-husband...)...

...(ends phone call with super-husband).
Okay dinner really isn't going to make itself. *sad sigh*

Monday, October 11, 2010

In Defense of Romance--YA or otherwise.

Eek, this is a rant; fair warning!

I remember going through one or two historical romance novels a week as a teen. I don’t know WHY that genre appealed to me so much at the time; maybe because there were always teenage heroines going on unbelievable adventures. Stowing away on Viking ships; escaping from medieval convents; stealing into the night in disguise, only to be captured by evil villains-- I mean, I gobbled those stories up. They were so different than my real life. The romance was heavenly, the action and adventure beyond my wildest dreams, and nothing in the YA section could even come close.
I LOVE romance novels, YA or otherwise. I’ve loved them since I was twelve. I can’t be alone. Sales-wise, romance is the most popular genre in fiction (there are statistics here from RWA and also here listed on Wikipedia, I’m sure AAP has something but I have a query to re-write and a synopsis that wants to kill me, so I don’t have time to dig up the exact numbers. It’s crazy though, like 46 percent of paperback sales, and twelve percent of ALL sales-- that’s more than one in ten books-- which means romance dwarfs all other genres in sales *gasp*).
So what’s up with romance being a dirty word? My friend-- a guy-- told me that when he sees someone reading a romance novel, it’s like they’re advertising that they’re lonely and sex-deprived. What the-- seriously dude? Nooooooo!
When I see him reading a horror novel, I don’t AT ALL imagine that he wishes he could be out murdering people!!! Since when do we read the things we want to happen to us in real life? Do readers of sad literary novels want the endings of their favorite books to actually happen? With tragic deaths and all that? No-no-no-no!
But that’s just one person, right? Or so I thought. My other friend, also a guy, told me he thinks it’s weird that I have romance novels in my bookcase, “like all your trashy books are classic literature or something.” Ummmm, guy, I love you, but I have books that I enjoy reading on my bookcase. Some are hard-core fantasy novels, some were written five hundred years ago, some are romance novels, some are young adult fiction, some are historical dramatizations-- the bookcase is about the books I love! Me. It’s MY bookcase GAH!!! 
So in his opinion, I’m allowed to have all the books I love on display... except romance novels because they’re somehow less??
Is it a guy thing? Is it??? (Sorry, that’s more rhetorical nonsense for anyone playing the rhetorical questions game). NO IT’S NOT A GUY THING! It’s a Diana’s-friends-thing, apparently. My awesome friend-who-I-adore rolled her eyes at a book I chose because it was from the romance section of the bookstore. Her words were, “Come on Di, really? A romance novel?” It was accompanied by her head dropping sideways, look of embarrassed pity. Hey friend-who-I-adore, I refuse to feel embarrassed about the books I choose to read. I hadn’t read a historical in a while and it looked good. Don’t try and shame me, please :(
There’s nothing wrong with reading any genre, in my opinion. But that brings me to the reason for this blog post. I googled up “YA romance” because I wanted to see if any new books came up. You all know by now, I’m a huge fan of romance novels, and much like my little sisters, YA romance especially gives me that intense, brand-new love feeling I like to read about. So almost at the end of my search page I come across a post by someone trashing YA romance. And I find a few more articles and posts like it. It makes me want to defend the genre. 
Just like horror-readers don’t read about murder because they’re on the brink of a killing spree, romance readers-- YA or otherwise-- don’t read about love because they’re about to go find a stalker boyfriend or give up everything for an unhealthy love. Not now, and not as a teen did I ever model my real-life relationships after books, tv shows, movies, or anything else. No more did I expect to find real-life dragons and ogres after reading a fantasy novel-- come on people, are YA romance-haters really suggesting that teens can only read realistic romance books? Does that mean they can only read about realistic everything-else? No science fiction, no horror, no fantasy, because they might start believing the world is really that way??? 
As a teen, I would NOT have been a reader if the only books out there portrayed normal, balanced, healthy relationships with normal, balanced, healthy characters. That’s what I wanted out of my REAL life, not in the stories I read.
The stories I read were there to thrill me, shock me, make me think, make me laugh. I wanted the girls in the story to do horrible things that I would never do in my safe little life. If books hadn't shown me, I'd have watched television shows that showed me. I'd have found a way to see exciting, marvelous things. Somehow
The Twilight Factor:

One article suggested that Twilight started girls on a crazed desire for unhealthy stories. I can’t agree. Unhealthy stories have always been popular with teen girls. It’s not like teens were reading wholesome, well-balanced books and all of a sudden Twilight came along and they went off the deep-end. Teens were finding their way to unwholesome stories-- be they in book form, TV shows, movies, music, whatever-- and Twilight merely directed an energy that was already there. If Twilight hadn’t come along, those teens might not have turned to BOOKS for their unhealthy stories (unless they were like me, and knew where to look), but they would have turned to something. They might have latched on to the latest 90210 or Buffy spin-off, or found some other outlet, but whatever the case, girls who enjoy that kind of story are going to find a way to hear it.
There is a kind of girl-- and I was one of them-- who liked to watch princess movies and pretend to be Ariel/Jasmine/Belle/whoever for a little while. Not every girl is this way, but a lot of girls are, or there wouldn’t be a market for them. Some of those girls grow up and want older versions of those tales of romantic adventure. It doesn’t mean they’ll defy their father and ask a sea-witch for legs, or disguise themselves and escape the palace, or agree to live with a beast with rage issues. It just means they like a story about romance and adventure. 
They. Just. Like. The. Story. So, let them like it. 
They’ll still grow up and be successful if that’s what they choose. If they’re smart enough to pick up a book, they’re already showing signs of intelligence, especially considering all the other ways they could be spending their time.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Tilling Dirt, Reading, Movies, Other Stuff I've Been Up To.

~waves~ I just wanted to say hi. Here are the things I've been up lately:

Tilling Dirt

Sorry, no writing metaphor in this. We're just turning over the dirt in our grassless, weed-filled backyard. And yeah, it's as crappy as it sounds. We can't even use a motorized dirt tiller thing because our sprinkler system was installed so shallow and our "soil" has massive rocks in it. So the work is medieval-style, with a hand tiller. It's back-breaking stuff. And we're barely half done!!! I keep thinking, imagine if we lived in Little House on the Prairie times, and we HAD to do this to EAT?!! So thankful I'm not on a prairie.

Books I've Been Reading:

Paranormalcy (Soooo addictive; definitely one of my new faves)

Firelight (Thank you Tina! This is one of the BEST YA romances ever!!)

The Summer I Turned Pretty (Thanks Dana! An absorbing read, I finally finished it!)

Darklight (I LOVED Wondrous Strange and Darklight was even better!!! I can't wait for Tempestuous!!!!)

The Iron King (Love-love-love the Midsummer Night's Dream premise and I can't wait to read The Iron Daughter!!!!)

The Duff (Haha, super funny and cute. I liked it)

Movies at the Theater: 

Easy A Wow I really LOVED this movie!! Especially all the references to famous literature and 80's teen love movies (two of my favorite things in the whole world!).

The Other Guys If you like Will Ferell you'll enjoy it; Mark Wahlberg does fine. Overall it's a wait-for-rental IMO.

DVD Rentals:

Iron Man 2 Loved it, it's even better than the first IMO! Robert Downey Jr is perfect as Stark.

Prince of Persia It was fun. I'm a big fan of adventure movies.

Date Night Soooooo hilariously FUNNY!!!! I love Steve Carrel and Tina Fey, together they were brilliant!

Writing Stuff:

I'm getting ready to query, eek!! I'm not super "open" about what I'm querying, and especially not who I'm querying, but I will say that I love querying :) It's exciting. I've spent a lot of time re-re-RE-revising this book, and I'm anxious to find out if the changes have made a difference. And I'm also excited because as soon as I get going with queries, I'll focus my energy into revising a different book (the one I just finished writing), and as my lovely Tina knows, it needs work.

Other Stuff:

I hate cooking. But I love baking. Amalia sent me a heavenly chocolate chip cookie recipe and I've been stuffing myself with chocolate chip cookies ever since, yummmmmmm.

I'm sick, did I mention that? It's a head cold with a cough and my nose is running like a faucet and-and-and-- *sniff* Well. You know. So I hope you're all doing better :)

And that's about it! Minus lots of extremely boring stuff.  So what have you been up to?