Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Tawna's tag answers

Tawna Fenske was very prompt in her response to my "exam" that I sent her way -- and, like everyone else's books, make me feel a bit like a lightweight. But I'm a firm believer in different strokes for different folks. And yes, I do realize that I'm blogging twice in one day, but very possibly later this week the day-job and the family will complete my relocation to slap-dab-crazy, so I'd guess I'd better do it now.

Thank you muchly to Cynthia for “tagging” me with this one. I was an English major in college (would you like fries with that?) so it got me thinking about all the really swell books I’ve read over the years. Actually, none of the ones on this list were required reading in college. Go figure.

I actually can’t think of anyone else to tag next, but here are my answers anyway.

1) One book that changed your life:
DH and I have always been avid world travelers, and I happened to read Franz Wisner’s memoir, “Honeymoon with my Brother” right after we returned from a month in Australia and Fiji this past summer. That’s when we started talking seriously about the idea of selling most of our earthly possessions and moving overseas. It’s still too soon to tell whether we’ll really make the leap, but I credit that book with sparking a fantasy that’s become a recent focal point of my life.

2) One book that you've read more than once:
I obsessively re-read books, so there are tons of these. I’d have to say that Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal Dreams” or Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” are my favorites to read over and over and over.

3) One book you'd want on a deserted island:
Tough call. I’m fascinated by Mary Roach’s “Stiff: the Curious Lives of Human Cadavers,” so that’s a maybe. I also adore Judy Blume’s “Summer Sisters.” (Er, could I possibly choose two more drastically different books?!)

4) One book that made you laugh:
David Sedaris, “Me Talk Pretty one Day.”

5) One book that made you cry:
Anything that involves and animal being sad, hurt, or killed. I adored “The Dogs of Babel” by Carolyn Parkhurst.

6) One book you wish you'd written:
“Player Piano” by Kurt Vonnegut or “Welcome to Temptation” by Jennifer Crusie (again with the drastically different books!)

7) One book you wish had never been written:
I can think of a few I’ve hurled at the wall in frustration, but can’t actually remember their names (and out of kindness to my fellow authors, wouldn’t name them if I could!)

8) One book you're currently reading:
“A Thousand Days in Venice” by Marlena de Blasi, our book club pick of the month.

This was fun. And it makes me want to go home now and re-read some of my favorites!

Tawna Fenske

I've been tagged

Sorry about the delay, Steph, but I just realized I HAD been tagged! Whoops!

1) One book that changed your life: I don’t mean to sound crass and money-grubbing, but it would HAVE to be a tie between The Millionaire Next Door and The Automatic Millionaire.

2) One book that you've read more than once: Hands down, Gone With The Wind, oh, and To Kill A Mockingbird, oh, lemme see … Little Women – oh, shoot, they just said ONE book.

3) One book you'd want on a deserted island: I get just one? Aaack! I read too fast for me to have just one. Uh, maybe The Complete Works of William Shakespeare? That’d keep me busy for a while.

4) One book that made you laugh: I love humor … so, hmm … I guess any of Mary Kay Andrews’ books – that woman has southern humor nailed DOWN.

5) One book that made you cry: Blessings by Anna Quindlen. I “read” it as an audio book, and I sat in the car on a hot July afternoon, sobbing at the ending.

6) One book you wish you'd written: Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson.

7) One book you wish had never been written: Ewww … I dunno. There are tons of books out there that make me weep for the trees sacrificed for them – I’ll color in broad strokes here and say any poor knockoff book of any really good author.

8) One book you're currently reading: Falling Off Air by Catherine Sampson.

And now, hmmm ... who to tag? Well, obviously Cindy Miles and even if Tawna doesn't have a blog, I'll give her space here ... and, hmmm ... Tammy.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Cartwheels and other impossibilities

I'm trying to teach my daughter how to do a cartwheel.

Quite a feat, seeing as I myself can't do one.

I've researched on the web, and all they say is it's a matter of timing -- one, two, three, four.

But Kate wants to be a REAL cheerleader, and apparently all REAL cheerleaders can do cartwheels.

I came the closest this evening as I ever had to doing my first ever cartwheel as I was showing her how you get a running start, do a little skip and then commit. Only, I landed funny on my left hand, and I messed up my little finger.

It wasn't a bad injury, but just enough to make me worry. I've made my living at writing for so long that I have long been concerned about what would happen if I injured my hands or fingers. I've had one near miss -- a friend of mine slammed a car door shut on my hand once, back when I was working at my old newspaper. I was terrified that I wouldn't be able to type. Thankfully, the hand was okay, and I could.

But it made me wonder ... does Nora have a policy with Lloyd's of London on her hands? What famous actress was it that had her legs covered by Lloyd's? And could I ever write by dictating?

I have had to make adjustments. For years I wrote longhand, but I have fibromyalgia and my hands couldn't take it. I went from a ballpoint to a big fat fountain pen, and finally I just had to start using a computer -- it was a tough transition because I was used to words flowing out with the ink, not on the screen. But I was glad I'd done it when I wound up working at a paper on deadline.

Still ... if I do eke out a career in this writing business, maybe I should at least give the Aflac duck a call, huh?

Oh, and anybody who has a no-fail method of teaching a five-year-old a cartwheel ... I would so appreciate it if you'd share the recipe!

More movies ... and a failing

Thanks, Cindy M, for the Demi Moore suggestion -- you know Paranormal well, so I know I'll love Half Light. I'll just have to close my eyes until I get past the demise of the five-year-old ...

Which brings me to a failing I have. Before Kate, I could watch almost anything and it didn't bother me (well, except for slasher/horror flicks, which I've never liked.) But since I've had Kate in my life (nearly five years, can you believe how time FLIES?), I cannot watch movies where children get hurt -- or worse. I can't even watch small-screen stuff where that happens.

I know they're trying to tap into emotion and get a visceral response ... but it just throws my over-load switch and fries my circuitry. It's the same way when an animal gets hurt -- a dog or a cat or any family pet in a movie. I just cannot bear to watch it.

I don't suppose I'm very different from other moms, so I'm assuming this isn't odd.

Speaking of kidlets, Ricky made another trip to the video store ... came back with that Disney movie In The Wild or Out of the wild or something like that.

I have to share my reactions to this, because I got a flash of what agents/editors think when they see a project. At first I was thinking, "Haven't I seen this before?"

And I had ... the opening was not very different from Madagascar.

But then it took a different turn and had some hugely comic elements, and the animals were negotiating the wilds of New York. I was thinking, huh, maybe this has some merit after all -- especially when the lion was attacked by a poodle that strongly resembled how I see Miss Snark's beloved Killer Yapp.

So I'm enjoying their travels through NYC, and I'm thinking, "yeah!"

Ennnnh. Wrong Answer buzzer going off. The movie dissolves into the requisite trip to the requisite jungle isle so that the zoo animals can make their requisite faux pas as they try to find their inner requisite jungle wildness. Hugely reminiscent of Madagascar ... and I don't think as well-done from that point.

But Kate enjoyed it ... and I think Ricky got the movie free (our video rental store is shaking in their boots at NetFlix, so they give away loads of free movie rentals.) He also rented Eight Below and a movie I'd never heard of called The Weatherman. But it's got Nicholas Cage -- I think it's got Nicholas Cage in it. Could be wrong. Anyway, one of the actors I like usually, so I don't think it will be a hardship.

To go back to the toon flick I saw tonight, and how I channeled agents/editors while watching it:

Let's assume, for the sake of argument, there was no such thing as a synopis.

That being the case, at the query stage, if the writing was phenom, I would have probably asked for a partial. Then I would have got the partial, and it would have ended at the part where the zoo escapees are navigating NYC, and I would be thinking, "Pretty darn funny -- send me the full."

But then, I would have gotten the full, and the MS would have completely fallen apart for me.

So, not to dis Disney, but I would have sent them a nice (probably personal to some extent) R, saying, "story has promise, but a bit too predictable."

Has writing completely screwed up the way you watch movies or read books? It very nearly has for me ... tomorrow (or Sunday, whenever I get a chance to blog again), I'll blog about two vastly different books that completely shut off my inner line-editor.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Lakehouse

My dh, wonderful soul that he can be, recently rented me the dvd of The Lakehouse, with Sandra Bullock and Kenau Reeves. I loved the pair in Speed, and I'm a diehard Bullock fan. Reeves? Eh. He's hit or miss for me. Some of the stuff he's done is great -- others, not so great.

But The Lakehouse is one of his great ones -- at least I think so. This is a wonderful love story, the kind I love, because it brings out all sorts of baggage that the characters have been hauling around.

My dh tried to watch it ... but the format just was too much for him, and he couldn't get into the whole "two-times-existing-at-the-same-time" deal. Me, I'm much more forgiving about deals like that. As long as the universe you create follows the rules you've created, I'll go along with your premise.

Of course there were some weak points (ones that I won't share because of spoilers), but overall, the theme is one that I have always liked: it's the little decisions we make that bring us to the big ones. To follow a dog -- or not. To make a left-turn ... or not. To grab that extra cup of coffee, to choose that particular firm to do whatever professional service you require.

My own dh and I wound up together based on just such a small decision. My sister and I decided to eat lunch at a steak house. Yup. That's what ultimately led to three years of dating and a marriage that has lasted for nearly 16 years.

When we were leaving the restaurant, my sister ran into an old friend of hers -- who worked with my dh. My dh saw me, recognized me as a customer he'd always liked, and later that night (I kid you not) saw my picture in his local newspaper. With a little help from Ma Belle Detective Agency, he tracked me down, called me up and asked me for a date.

I said no ... but I just had to see this guy, this complete stranger, who'd called me up. So I went on a re-con mission to scout him out. He asked me again ... I said yes.

And the rest is history. See? A small decision ... my sister and I could have opted for McDonalds instead of the Western Sizzler. But maybe it was destiny, you know?

The Leaning Tower of Books

I used to shake my head over readers/writers who had towering To Be Read piles of books. I was such a voracious reader that a paperback rarely lasted more than an afternoon, and a hardback might have taken me two or three days, tops.

But in the last year, I've found myself more and more relying on audio books to get my reading in while I do my daily commute.

Part of it is because the time I used to spend reading is now devoted to writing -- and carting Kate to and fro from all her extra-curricular activities. Part of it is that fear that I will unconsciously copy others in my genre. I remember listening to a best-selling author talk, marveling at how he said he couldn't read within his own genre any more. At the time, I thought, "If you write mysteries (which he did), you must prefer them, so why wouldn't you read them?"

Ahhh ... Now I know. I don't read romances while I'm actively writing -- save those of my CPs, who don't write in the same sub-genre I do. One writes paranormal with yummy ghosts (that's Cindy Miles who's releasing SPIRITED AWAY in the spring), one writes romantic comedy with heroes to die for, one writes romance with a liberal dose of mystery (or mystery with a liberal dose of romance), and one writes women's fiction with a healthy dollop of romance.

So all those other authors? Well ... I just have to wait until I take a break between projects. My TBR pile gets higher and higher ... And my reading addiction seeks its fix in the audio books of another genre.

What about other writers? Can you read within your genre while you write?

And readers who are not writers -- do you go through authors and genres until you're satiated? Or do you jump around?

For both readers and writers, how do you choose new authors? That's a tricky one for me ... But I guess that might make another blog entry, huh?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Changing Tastes

Sunday night I bit the bullet and washed an armload of turnip greens and roots -- well, I had help, as Kate decided she wanted to assist in the endeavor. It took me, no joke, from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. to get the turnips washed, stemmed, in the pot and cooked -- along with the peas and rice and cured ham that went with it. I did NOT fix cornbread. The labor in the turnips alone was sufficient to say, "I love you!" to my family.

Kate, of course, took one look at the heap of turnips on her plate and scowled. "I don't LIKE turnip greens, Mommy!"

It took me back: how many times had my own mother washed and cooked fresh-out-of-the-garden greens for me? And how many times had I thanked her by saying, "I don't LIKE turnip greens, Mama!"

I was an avowed greens hater until I came home from college for Thanksgiving and I tried some after years of barely tasting the stuff. They were, gasp, good. Had I been missing something all these years?

Hmmmm ... nope. I don't think so. At the same time I avoided anything green and leafy, I had a few other preferences: milk chocolate over dark; big white-columned houses over the cozier "English cottage" variety; trendy clothes over the classics; Louis XVI over Shaker; cozy mysteries over thrillers; Coca-Cola over tea.

I think that our tastes evolve, just like life. Our tongue becomes more tolerant of the more complex, less straightforwardly sweet tastes as we grow older. Why is that?

Scientists say that babies come into the world with a prediliction for all things sweet, so they can find their mother's milk and survive. That may be true. But I have another, more poetic, theory.

I think as we grow up, life reveals more of its own complexities. We grow and change ... and our tastes reflect that.

What sort of things did you like when you were younger that you can't abide now? (An example -- I adored Juicy Fruit gum when I was little, but now even its sweet smell makes my stomach roil.) What sort of things did you not like as a kid that you like now?

Monday, October 16, 2006

Gotta share!

Cindy Miles, my very first Critique Partner -- the one who encouraged me to join RWA and who very kindly yanked my head out of my butt when it came to passive voice -- has got her cover!

Yes! I didn't think I could be any more excited than the day she called me and told me she'd sold -- but I'm just as excited to share her cool new cover with you guys. It looks like a movie poster, IMHO, and I can assure you that the book is GREAT! It's coming out in May of 2007, and it's called Spirited Away. It features a hunky ghost and a tenacious archeologist ... just put it on your to-buy list now!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

I'm On The Web!

Yup, I'm really on the world wide web! My website is up and running, thanks to the patient folks over at Stonecreek Media!

Of course, the first thing that I did once I checked it out was to google myself -- and it's amazing what turns up! My blog shows up ... but so does a few more Cynthia Reeses ... there's a California realtor, an Atlanta make-up artist, a softball player ... my doppelgangers have quite interesting lives.

I do wonder what they'll think when a book comes out in April with their (my) name on it!

What's the funkiest thing you've ever turned up when you googled yourself? (Or somebody you know?)

Monday, October 02, 2006

It Never Gets Any Better

Right now, all those pubbed authors who told me that it would never get any better, that I would always feel that panic rising about submissions, that nothing would ever get "old-hat" (unless you're La Nora, but there's only one La Nora, right?) ... well, all of those guys would be sagely nodding their heads at me right about now.

Because ...

Well, it never gets any better.

I sent off my MS of UP FROM ROCK BOTTOM last Wednesday by Global Express. Usually it takes eight days for mail to wind its way from middle Georgia to Macon, Ga. to Miami and then to Toronto. It has to go through Customs and everything.

So that was eight days I could relax, right? I requested e-mail updates from USPS about my tracking, and I ordered myself to get busy planning my next book and getting my webhosting and domain names straightened out.

Imagine my surprise when I got an e-mail from my own lovely editor, telling me that the MS was on her desk. Gasp! Chortle! I was seized by the inexplicable urge to catch the next flight to Toronto and rip it from her hands and shriek, "It's not done yet! NO PEEKING! I'm not ready for you to look at it!"

But of course, at this point, I am done with it. I've done all that I can until I get an expert's opinion about what to do next -- and she's the best expert I know. She's a jam-up editor!

Compare that plethora of panic to my phobias a year ago. Back then, I worried and fretted about whether it had got there. Did the absence of the returned self-addressed postcard mean that the mechanical wizardry that runs our mail service had chewed up my MS and spit it out?

I wasn't worried about what an editor would think of it -- at least not immediately. I took weird insulating comfort in the certain knowledge that, when it got there, my work was safely in the confines of a towering slush pile.

Not on my editor's desk. Not like now.

Guess it just goes to show.

We writers worry about everything.

It never gets any better.