Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving Flash: Humans and Aliens

I woke up with an idea for Thanksgiving-themed Friday Flash. I guess I like using the holidays as a springboard for shorts *grins* And in other news, I'm so excited about our first Christmas in our Very Own Home that I went out today and got our Christmas tree!!! (Already. Yup, it'll be a dried out shrub by Christmas :P)


Humans and Aliens

The spray of steaming water came to a stop as the shower control panel flashed from blue to orange. Vivica raised her arms. A gust of warm air spiraled around her body, drying her in seven seconds.

Vivica dressed quickly. Her palmcon flashed blue and she held it to her hand, not bothering to affix it properly before creating a thought, I’m going primitive and won’t be communicating today! Hugs and happy Thanksgiving!!! She added warm fuzzies to the thought before releasing it from her mind and skimming the communications sent to her. Most were conversations she didn’t bother accessing, but… a Private Thought from Liam?

Her heart pounded. Did Liam want to begin communicating? She couldn’t suppress the smile at her lips. It was more than the fact that Liam was cute-- what morphling wasn’t? But Liam, he had a way of looking at her--


Why did she always let herself get carried away when it came to him? Fine, he was one of the few nice genuinely nice morphlings at school, but that didn’t change the fact that most of his kind thought they were superior. It wasn’t a coincidence that morphlings were tracked for space travel, while earthlings ended up testing for classes like Fundamentals of Programming. Sure, let the earthlings do all the encoding.

She set the palmcon aside and headed downstairs, her mind made up. If she accessed the Private Thought, Liam would see that she’d accessed it. Whatever Liam wanted, it could wait.


The smell of cinnamon rolls filled the house and that-- combined with the sight of Mom in the kitchen opening a feast box-- made it really feel like Thanksgiving.

“Good morning sugar-shine,” Mom said, her soft brown eyes crinkling in a smile. “Want to help?”

“Definitely,” Vivica said, starting on one of the smaller boxes. It looked like the utensil box. As soon as she had it opened she recognized the food holders and stirrers, but something new caught her attention. Twin blades affixed to a handle. “What’s this?”

Mom checked the insert card. “It looks like a skinner. It’s for removing the outer layer of skin from vegetables.”

Vivica checked the side of the box and felt a gush of excitement. “You decided to try a lower primitivity level this year!”

“What can I say? You talked me into it.”

“Stellar!” Vivica loved creating their own food, just like earthlings did centuries ago, before instant molecular generation made food preparation obsolete. Not that she’d want to do it every day, of course.

“Why don’t you generate a cinnamon roll while I get the rest of these boxes opened,” Mom said.

Oh, the cinnamon roll scent was only an artificial air enhancement. Vivica didn’t complain, though. It was tradition that Mom lifted the parental food controls for holidays, and cinnamon rolls were her favorite.

In two seconds she was cramming her mouth full of the soft, icing-covered rolls. “These are celestial,” she said, generating another. “Where are the vegetables? I want to try out the skinner.”

“The food box is over there,” Mom said, reading the virturkey manual.

Vivica licked her fingers and found the food box. It opened with a faint hiss and a billow of chill mist.

“Be sure to seal it properly,” Mom said. “The last thing we need is to have a ruined feast with all our visitors coming.”

“Who’s coming besides Gram?” she asked, her fingers going numb as she dug through the icy food box.

“Uncle Nando and Annia,” Mom said.

Vivica almost squealed-- that meant baby Mayica would be coming too!

“And Liam from school. You know him, right?”

Liam? The numbness in her fingers went straight to her chest. “Why? He’s not family, and-- and-- they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving-- and why?”

“His parents have been sent on interplanetary assignments, you know that.” Mom sent her a sharp glance. “I might teach Social Ideology but I’m not blind to the cliques at school. You’ll be civil to him--”

“They’re the ones who aren’t civil, acting all high-and-mighty with their telepathic powers--”

“Stop it. All morphlings don’t act that way. Liam’s a kind boy and I’m not letting one of my students sit alone in a dormitory on Thanksgiving.”

Vivica exhaled shakily.

“Try to think outside your sphere, Vivica. He’s curious about the custom, and I think a little lonely without his parents.” Mom rubbed the frown from her brow, looking tired. “Didn’t he send you a palmcon about this? He told me he’d let you know.”

Vivica felt herself blush at the memory of what she’d thought that message from Liam might have been. How stupid was she? Of course he was only letting her know that he was coming to Thanksgiving. A morphling would never date an earthling.


Liam approached the Hanover household-- Vivica’s home-- unsure of what to expect. He understood the disdain many earthlings felt for morphlings. Centuries of oppression against them couldn’t be erased in a few generations’ time, especially since Vivica’s kind had almost been obliterated in the aftermath of the Invasion.

But all morphlings weren’t the same.

He shifted the platter of food he brought and pushed the notifier bell.

“Hi Vivica,” he said when she answered the door.

“Hello.” Her mouth turned down, her gaze wary.

He didn’t need to analyze her mood to know she wasn’t thrilled to see him.

She moved out of the doorway and he stepped inside, inhaling deeply. The scents merged together, baking bread and sizzling virturkey, apples and brown sugar, all of it too complicated to be mere artificial air enhancements. “It smells great in here. Did you participate in the feast preparation?”

She nodded, her eyes downcast as she pressed the doorway access pad to shut it.

His lips parted, as if his body anticipated his need to fill the silence, but his mind came up with nothing to say.

Ms. Hanover came to the entryway. “I’m so glad you could make it, Liam,” she said, her smile warm and welcoming.

“Um, this is from my mom,” he said, handing her the platter of janifrass his mom teleported this morning. “She sends her gratitude for including me in your celebration today.”

He caught the way Vivica glanced at him. He couldn’t read her thoughts without touching palms, and for that he was grateful.

“Tell your mother, it’s a pleasure to have you,” Ms. Hanover said. “Vivica, take Liam into the family room and introduce him to everyone, while I finish up. Dinner will be ready in a few minutes.”

Vivica’s lips formed a thin line. “Come on, Liam.”

Vivica’s grandmother greeted him courteously, but he sensed falseness in her reception. The rest of her family welcomed him brightly, even little Mayica with her gummy grin. He couldn’t help laughing as her emotions washed over him with an openness he wasn’t accustomed to. Earthlings were usually careful with their feelings, and morphlings were born already possessing telepathic speech and cognitive abilities. Babies were quite unique in their artless expression of emotion.

Mayica gurgled in speech patterns mimicking enthusiasm, her arms and legs synchronized to her excitement. Liam relinquished himself to the desire to make her laugh.

Pressure built in the back of his mind and he glanced up, the trace of a smile still on his lips as he met Vivica’s gaze.

Her cheeks flushed with heat and Liam blinked, his mind faltering. She turned away, and suddenly he very much wanted to read her thoughts.

“Dinner’s ready,” Ms. Hanover called.

Everyone headed to the dining area, complimenting Vivica and her mother on the food spread out on the table. He and Vivica were seated beside each other, a fact that sent his senses into overload. He didn’t know what to make of that, or of the increase in heart rate he detected in Vivica. He shouldn’t be reading her vitals. It was a step away from analyzing her emotions and that was unforgivably rude. But she was so close. Her breathing so unsteady… almost as if… as if she--

“Before we take our turns saying what we’re thankful for this year,” Vivica’s father said, holding her mother’s hand in a strictly earthling form of affection, “I’d like to welcome Liam. I hope this is the first of many visits from you and your family.”

Liam found it difficult to meet anyone’s gaze, and dropped his. “Thank you,” he said.

Each member of the family gave thanks for something, and he didn’t miss Vivica’s grandmother’s severe tone when she said, “I’m thankful to be living in a free world. Some people seem to want to forget that it wasn’t always that way.”

The atmosphere changed, the air becoming tighter.

“Yes,” Ms. Hanover said smoothly, “thanks to earthling rights activists like Liam’s family, much has changed for the better over the past century.”

Everyone seemed to relax, and Mr. Hanover carved up the virturkey, which glistened in shades of deep, caramelized browns over moist white protein. The dishes were all rich with flavor, with unusual combinations like chopped bread soaked in a savory juice, or starchy vegetables mixed with cream.

“Seconds, Liam?”

“No thank you,” he said, “I’ve almost doubled my caloric needs already.”

He sensed everyone’s humor before their laughter bubbled across the table. Vivica offered him a smile, and he again wondered about her heart rate earlier, the way blood had rushed to her cheeks.

It was almost like an attraction response.

That thought left his mind blank.

Everyone headed for the family room again as the smell of baking apple and pumpkin pastries filled the air. Some of Vivica’s family members played games, others engaged in verbal communication.

“Hey,” Vivica said, sitting in front of some kind of fire producing device. “Want to roast marshmallow?”

He sat beside her, again overwhelmed by his sensory response to being so close to her. She was a very lovely earthling. Beautiful. And passionate. She let her emotions out more often than any other earthling he knew.

She took two skewers and pierced a large mass of puffed sugar on the end of each, offering him one. Liam followed her lead, sticking his skewer into the flames, twirling it around and around like the thoughts that now turned in his mind.


She glanced up, her eyes glowing in the dim light.

“Would you ever consider…” his voice failed him, and his heart, which had beat the same steady rhythm since the day he was born, stuttered abnormally. He breathed deep, startled.

“Your marshmallow’s burning,” she said, tipping his skewer up. She leaned forward and blew.

His gaze remained on her lips. He forced them up to her eyes. “Do you want to do something sometime? Outside of school?”

She turned her face down, hiding from him. “You mean, socialize?”

No, not like socialize.

Like… courtship.

“Never mind, that was a thoughtless suggestion,” she said, her eyes sparkling with a challenge he didn’t understand. “Morphlings don’t socialize with humans.”

He sucked in a breath. The words human and alien were the worst kind of derogatory slurs, antiquated from the time of the Invasion. “I guess you’d notice more than I do,” he said, getting up. “Seeing as I’m an emotionless alien.”

Her mouth fell open. “Liam, wait.”

He’d never felt so close to anger before. How did she see him, if she could use that kind of word? He grit his teeth. How could he have allowed himself to use a similar one?

He paused in front of Vivica’s parents. “It’s been a pleasure, Ms. Hanover, Mr. Hanover.” He lifted his palm respectfully and they did the same, albeit slowly. “I’ll be leaving now.”

He reached the entryway but before he could hit the access pad Vivica caught up to him.

“I’m sorry,” she said, “I’m so stupid, I have no right--”

“You have every right to your feelings. You were lumping me with the prejudiced morphlings that inundate your life.” His speech pattern was too fast. He was allowing emotion to blur his mind and he couldn’t stop himself. “I’m aware of the systems in place that keep earthlings from advancing, and I can’t change what morphlings have done in the past, but I have a right to my feelings too.”

“What do you feel?”

He took her hand, pressing her palm to his. Their minds overlapped and he shuddered, his eyes sliding closed. Emotions coursed through his body and flowed into hers. This is what I feel.

He lowered his hand and their fingers interlaced. Her pupils were dilated. Her lips parted. He should apologize, but he wasn’t sorry. He’d seen her thoughts too, one in particular that she’d had over and over. He was having the same thought now, and he lifted her chin and kissed her.

The End.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I'm Not Qualified to Give Query Advice, But...

I'm procrastinating (when am I not?) and I figured I'd pay attention to my poor, neglected blog. My sweet friend Juliette @jterzieff on twitter started her agent search today, and that got me thinking about what words of wisdom I might impart. The advice I give here isn't specifically for Juliette because I don't know all her particulars. But she's the inspiration for the idea ~waves to Juliette!~

Sadly, I don't have an agent, so that makes me unqualified to give advice on the subject of querying them. Yet here I go anyway because I can't seem to stop myself.

Tips For Querying, For the First Time Querier, and without going into much detail about whether this advice comes after learning from my own experiences or not:

1. Finish the book. Reeeeeeeeally finish it. Yeah. Moving on.

Wait, did I say finish the book? I didn't mean get to the end. Or even checking so that it makes sense. The whole revision process is longer than you might think, oh first-time querier (at least, that's what I wish I'd known when *I* first started querying). 

There are layers and layers and LAYERS of revision. So... do it! Let the story sit a while, re-read it, have it critiqued, revise some more, when you think it's ready, have beta readers take a look, revise some more. When you think it's FINALLY ready, print it out and read the whole thing again-- and mark it up with a sparkly pink pen (or, um, whatever color. It doesn't *have* to be pink).

2. Okay, so now you're ready! Time to make a list of agents! Yay!!! ::dancing:: Woo hoo!!! 

Oh wait, you probably skipped past step one and already did this. You've been following your list of agents on twitter and reading their blogs and you know EVERYTHING about them! The names of their pets and whether they prefer Starbucks or Coffee Bean; their favorite food/books/movies; their disdain for TSA and their take on e-readers. Your agent list grows every day, it seems!

But...all that doesn't necessarily mean those agents that you've been following (stalking, whatever) on blogs and on twitter should make your query list. It merely makes you a fangirl/fanboy of theirs-- which is FINE. They are, along with authors, our rock stars. If they have a social presence, they're probably not averse to being loved and adored by you. 

Aside from the social aspect, you need a separate list of agents that you should be targeting for your BOOK. It really shouldn't have a lot to do with their social awesomeness (although social awesomeness can be added to your notes). The List of Agents for Your Book should have more to do with the kinds of books the agents represent. Gathering info from places like Querytracker is a good way to start. You can narrow your search down to specific genres, and check out statistics on wait time and request rates.

Making a list on Querytracker isn't enough! You should investigate the agents on that list FURTHER, by reading the preferences and guidelines on their websites, checking out what places like Publisher's Marketplace and AbsoluteWrite have to say, and adding notes to each accordingly so you don't waste time double researching. If you can find interviews or a writer conference recap, even better!

3. Create a dedicated email address for your queries. 

This is a wise move. Not only will it look more professional than pinksparkleberry337, it'll help you! If your query email is never used for anything else, you'll always know that a new email means something agenty... and every time you get a new email in your normal inbox, you won't spaz out.

4. Write the query letter. 

Some people say write the query letter first. I'll probably try that with my next book. Whatever the case is, write the query letter and DON'T SEND IT!!! Just like with your book, please don't send off the very first attempt at the very first query letter you've ever written, because then if you receive rejections it might just be your query letter and not your book. Revise it. Have others read it. Have someone who's never read the book read it and ask them if they're confused. And also, after all that tweaking, be sure to triple check the final version. Sending a query with a typo is sooo embarrassing. Moving on.

5. When are you querying? Does timing matter? Shall we query in September? April, June, and November?

I don't know. I'm not the type that makes my querying status public, nor will I share my statistics, but I will say that overall, I don't query around the holidays.** Also, some think the end of summer is best, but really, I say meh. If the book is really ready and brilliant, it's really ready and brilliant. I've seen blog buddies and twitter friends make agent announcements all year round.

A final bit of advice...
  • Be prepared, absolutely and unequivocally, for rejection. 
  • Don't let even the smallest part of your brain expect that you'll be the Lucky One who gets an agent the first time out. It'll only make rejection harder, and if you ARE the Lucky One, you'll be just as shocked and delighted if you hadn't let yourself expect it.
  • Try your very hardest to develop selective amnesia. If you can send out queries, let's say in batches of five, and then find the strength inside yourself to move on with life as if you hadn't just sent them out, you'll probably be a bit more productive and less of a wreck than if you obsessively check your email and talk incessantly about the querying process... HOWEVER, seeing as how this is your first time ever querying, that advice is absolutely impossible to follow. So, go ahead and obsessively check your email and talk incessantly about the querying process :D
WAIT!!! Did I mention rejection is hard? It's HARD, but if you've done everything you can possibly do for your book, for really-really-reals-- and you're not just *saying* that because you're in a rush and excited to query-- AND you want to be published, then facing rejection is your only option. 

From what I hear, rejection doesn't end when you get an agent.

And in conclusion, congratulations! You're a step closer to your goals!!! Querying is exciting! You can do it! You'll learn about yourself in the process! And one day you'll have an agent and you'll see everything you've gone through as steps to prepare you for your future as a published author.

**This no-querying-around-the-holidays rule I set on myself should be VERY interesting for me, as I near completion of revisions of my novel right around the holidays. Critiques are coming back in, I'll be sending out beta reads next week... it'll be tempting to just send out my book once I get the beta comments back, but that'll likely be smack in the middle of Decemeber. My advice to myself, let another round of beta readers get to it. Or let it sit for a while, to be re-read again in a week or two. Querying later is always better than querying too soon, right???? And why am I in such a rush, anyway????? (I-don't-KNOW!!!).

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Visiting at Natalie Murphy's Blog Today!

I'm not here today, I'm guesting at Natalie Murphy's Blog, The Sound of the Rain . She's having surgery (or had?? I'm setting this post to go up automatically ahead of time. It's like I'm speaking to you from the past!!) so this week a few of her other devoted admirers (myself included) are stepping in to help. 

You'll be very proud of me, I turned on my brain and wrote a writerly blog post for her, with practically no silliness! I even stayed on the subject!

So hop over to Natalie's Blog  and find out what I learned at a writer conference last summer about character development!

Synchronizing blog posts in three... two... one...


(Really Diana. No massive explosion. You wrote a blog post, you didn't become a spy or whatever it is you're imagining. ~weary sigh~ It's better when you let me be in charge. And stop watching so much Bourne Identity. -Your Brain.)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

¡Diana en Español!

Hola amigos, sólo quería mandarles un mensaje rapidito para contarles de lo chistoso que es mi familia--

Just kidding-- I promised I wouldn't do a whole blog post in Spanish! Hopefully I haven't scared anyone away with a confusing foreign language intro *soplando besos* This idea was inspired by @mrsmica Michelle Ristuccia who has my kind of humor hehe.

ANYWAYYY, in my last blog post, I mentioned that some of my family was visiting from Miami and Costa Rica. I'm happy to say that so far, everyone's having a fabulous time, yay!!

I also mentioned in passing that my first language was Spanish. I've gotten a couple of emails, comments and tweets about my idioma materno, so I figured what better way to further procrastinate revisions than to post a blog about it! After all, this is my blog and it's totally random, as the header states. So I shall blog about totally random things! *tosses confetti*

More Than Anyone Wanted to Know About Diana's Linguistics:

To be clear, my first language was Spanish, but my best language is English. Here's how it happened in my case:

Because of my grandfather's work, my mom went to high school both in Costa Rica and the United States. My mom lived in Miami when she found out I was coming along. She went back to Costa Rica to be with her mom while she was pregnant with me. I'm her first kid, so that seems reasonable.

We moved permanently to the United States when I was two years old. My mom spoke to me in both languages until around kindergarten, at which point it was English only. She read to me A LOT in English. 

I never went through ESL classes.

I don't speak with an accent in either language. I'm good at faking accents though *grins*

I dream in English. I think in English. Except if I spend a long time talking in Spanish. Then wonky things happen. 

***side note*** Long-time blog followers might have come across a post or two that mention that I was teased and bullied as a kid. If not, now ya know. I was teased and bullied as a kid.

A lot of the bullying happened from issues that are difficult to explain; a lot of it was from my own awkwardness (which, of course, bullying only perpetuated); and a lot of it probably stemmed from me not looking like the peer groups I felt a kinship with and tried to belong to. 

This, in part, led to me resenting myself, my heritage, my language, etc. I refused to speak Spanish for a loooooong time. I took French all through high school (and incidentally, I fell in love with the language) and no surprise, I was emotionally mixed up as a teen. 

Shocker, right? A YA writer who didn't have a peachy teen experience ~wow and gasp... so original~ :P 

Anyway, I don't bring a lot of "issues" onto my blog (I don't think) but bullying is one I try to be open about. Because it sucks. ***end side note***

So, as a kid I didn't want to have anything to do with Spanish. 

By the time I got to college, I swung to the opposite end of the spectrum, and became kind of engulfed in learning about my cultura nativa. I minored in Spanish, read Spanish literature, wrote papers in Spanish. I'm the queen of typos two languages.

All through college I was a bilingual instructional aide. I spent three solid hours a day speaking Spanish. Much wonkiness happened in my brain.

There ya have it. More than you wanted to know? Yeah, that's what I thought. 
I love having a blog.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

An Update... Spanish 101

As of yesterday, Nathan Bransford is no longer an agent, or even in publishing. He took a job as a social media something-something at CNET. In case you somehow missed it on twitter, now you know. Let the speculation begin!

In totally unrelated news that I'm too sleepy to transition into properly, I'll be off blogger/twitter/etc for a while. I have family flying in from Miami and Costa Rica (actually, they arrived yesterday. Again, I'm sleepy. I should have waited until I was awake before blogging but I have SO.MUCH.TO.DO for la familia's big visit).

Basically, they want to "see" California. And so... I will show them. (It feels like I should insert an evil laugh here. And so... I will show them..... BWAHAHAHAHA!!!!). Universal, Disney, Hollywood, the beach, the mountains, drunken celebrities, whatever that want to see. Ten days of gozando al máximo.

I don't know if I've ever blogged that my first language is Spanish. Having la familia here from far and wide has me thinking in Spanish. It's making blogging un poco difícil. Which reminds me (another sleepy tangent), I saw someone randomly do an entire blog post in their native German once. I'm not saying it wasn't cool, but I couldn't read a word of it. I won't do that to you all, no se preocupen.

So la familia is staying for ten days. Not all at my house. Some here, some at my mom's. It'll be fun (I'm an OPTIMIST, people). When I go to Costa Rica they're always awesome, and I'm determined that they have as good a time here as they give me when I go there. DETERMINED. That being said, my beloved family (read, crazy people I'm connected to through bonds of blood), is a boisterous group, and things tend to go comically awry (or horribly wrong) no matter what we do.

Good times ahead.

Pura vida.

And I need a white mocha.