Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Top 10 Reasons I Will Never Be Good at Writing Erotica

Damn, now I'm gonna get a bunch of stupid crap mail because I said erotica.

Anyone who knows me for more than a few days will know that I get stupid when the topic of sex comes up. I'm stuck as that 12-year-old prepubescent girl at that party where all the kids were making out, and I freaked and called my mom to come get me. First, because it was gross to be listening to the slurping and groaning of a bunch of hormone-crazed 12- and 13-year-olds; second, because I was the only one who didn't have a partner staring at her un-chest (I didn't wear a bra until high school, and even that was only because the boys made it a game to run their hands down girls' backs and then make fun of them when there was no bra in place--that shit would NOT fly today. Can you IMAGINE? Do you know how many boys I could've sued--AND BEAT--for sexual harassment, starting in, like, fifth grade? YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE. By the way, I have BOOBS now. They ain't huge, but they also don't sag to my knees like YOUR wife's 'cuz she's pushing 40 and those plump little fun pillows were great when you guys first got together, you rubbing your face in between 'em like they were kittens, and now she's pumped out a few kids, and HA! Her boobs sag. And I don't have neck and shoulder problems because of my size Z boobies, and they're not disgustingly wrinkled or stretchmarked like your wife's. Who gets the last laugh now, hey, bitches? *ahem* Sorry. Digression.); and third, no smoochy-smoochy for me because I was scared shitless that someone would look at my un-chest and then, out of desperation because all the best girls were already liplocked, he'd try to slip me the tongue or something. Boys that age wear braces. Braces attract food particles and bacteria. French kissing means tongues. Ergo, I'd be sucking that kid's lunch and dinner out of the metal patchwork in his mouth. I'm nothing if not a germaphobe. It makes me gag a little just to think about it, in fact.

Your future is poking you in the face. And elsewhere.
So, as a grown-up, miraculous as their conceptions may be, I have four children. Hence, I had sex four times. (That's the story we've given the kids, so let's just go with it, in case they ask you.) It's not that I don't like the S Word ... I just have other things I could be doing. Like laundry. Or writing. Or reading. Or writing. Or organizing my book collection. Or writing. Or answering one of Kendon's 4128 daily questions. (He's very clever, that boy. And he loves his penis. It makes me uncomfortable. I'm trying not to pass my neuroses onto him, so relax.) Last year, when I was clawing my way through the 18th draft of my book, one of my critique readers came back with the comment that there wasn't enough mushy love between the characters. Uh, they're teenagers who just met. I don't want them getting friggin' pregnant at 18. Been there, done that, screws everything up. (Love you, my boy. It's not your fault your dad said he only had one working testicle. Omigod, I smell a defamation lawsuit coming on.) ANYWAY, I did what every self-respecting young adult novelist would do: I put on my warmest coat and my fingerless gloves, took myself to the local Tim Horton's coffee shop parking lot (hey, Americans, Tim Horton's is Canada's answer to Starbucks + Dunkin Donuts ... DOUGHNUTS!!!), and I blushed through two pages of my main characters making out. I used the requisite love scene words--"warm, soft, full"--and Gemma and Henry macked on each other for a few minutes. I felt so NAUGHTY watching them, writing down their smoochy, touchy-gropey antics. It was, like, so voyeuristic. 

That's why I don't write erotica. I can't. I'm not one of those gals who watches porn, not for any particular moral reason -- it just grosses me out. I've pretty much giggled through every example I've ever seen, always watching between squished fingers, laughing loudest in time with their groans and screeches. Yeah, real mature, I know, but ewww. No one has boobs that big, a wiener that long, or does It for so many unprotected, unfinished hours. Really? Really? It's almost as bad as telling girls they can have a stalker, bloodsucking boyfriend who will love and protect them for all eternity and all they have to do is act weak and pathetic, and then their futures will be full of fancy yellow Porsches and tuition to Dartmouth. ICK.

This doll's mouth looks like a cervix. Seriously. It does.

So, the Top Ten Reasons, beyond the ones I've already given you, that I will never be any good at writing a bona fide love scene:

10. I cannot say the "M" word. Say it in my presence, and I turn four shades of red and cram my fists into my ears. Don't tell me I've done it, and I'm just being immature because self-pleasure is the ideal form of safe sex. That's my business, not yours. But I can tell you, the amount of Purell involved will negate all the fun. (Besides, if God wanted me to pleasure myself, he would've made me a hermaphrodite.)

9. The church people when I was 8 told us that kissing and touching was very, very bad, and that God will always be watching. As such, my entire sexual life, I've envisioned a creepy, pervert God sitting in the corner of the room, flanked by nuns as they cluck their tongues at me. Yeah. Real romantic. THANKS, God.

8. I can't think of other words to use in place of the scientifically correct terminology. Nothing says romance like writing a hot, steamy love scene and then plugging science into it. That's why romance writers come up with words like "manhood" and "joy stick" and the aforementioned "fun pillows." (No serious writers really use that one. It's just funny.)

7. Again with the giggling. I don't know where it comes from, or why I giggle. But I do.

6. I have a hard time lying to readers, telling them something other than the absolute truth. And penises are funny looking, no matter what size/shape they're in. Omigod, I'm giggling again.

5. In line with the truth mentioned in #5, nothing spoils a love scene faster than the characters being interrupted by their 6-year-old who is thirstier than a Bedouin and who just had a dream the Reeks from Geonosis are invading his bedroom. (That reference will be useless unless you live with Star Wars geeks. Reeks are scary creatures with horns and slobber.) Talk about a buzz kill ...

4. You'll notice that romance writers never talk about the post-coital clean-up process. My love scenes would be so clinical: She rose from the bed, stuffed an Egyptian cotton towel between her finely shaved but moderately cellulite-puckered legs, and made her way into the rose-scented bathroom to tidy her girlie bits, to be sure to pee for at least ten seconds like the gynecologist advised so that she was sure to sterilize the area to avoid a bladder or yeast infection. ROMANTIC, huh? Yeah, you're hot now, aren't ya?

3. My DAUGHTER reads my work (and someday, my sons might, too). Think of your parents having sex. Once you're done retching, think about writing a sex scene and then handing the book to one of your kids and saying, "Here, honey, enjoy." Can't. Do. It.

2. I don't care how many times you say that "those shops" sell "marital aids," and "marital aids" are meant to spice up your love life, that "it's normal and indicative of a normal, healthy, loving relationship." Omigod, we are NOT spending money on THAT when there are plenty of good books I don't have yet. You were just kidding, right? Yeah, that's what I thought. Now get me to the bookstore.

1. Cynics make the worst lovers. "That's it? You want me to get excited about that? Oh, baby, baby, do me. Yeah, just like that. Okay, good. Satisfied? Now can I go have some ice cream cake?"

Save your comments about how I've obviously not met the right lover -- I've had my share, thanks (WHORE!) -- or that it's not the size of the hat but the magic in the rabbit. I know for a FACT that rabbits possess no magical abilities whatsoever. Neither do cats, dogs, llamas, goats, sheep, or bears, just for the record.

And don't feel too sorry for my husband. Remember ... I'm a writer. I earn money by making shit up. :o)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Get Punc'd: Get to Know the ELLIPSIS!

Dots, dots, everywhere. A writer in my Facebook feed the other day was going off on how much she hates the ellipsis, suggesting that writers who rely on them are somehow inferior or deficient. Sort of how I feel about folks who rely on adverbs to make their writing more interesting. Adverbs do not make your writing more interesting. Adverbs make you sound like a fart head. But, I didn't disagree with Miss Anti-ellipsis on the FB wall. What's the point? Opinions about the mechanics of grammar and writing are as varied as facial hair counts between an Asian and a Greek boy in the throes of puberty. It's not something to get your knickers in a knot over (the grammar, not the hairy--or unhairy--boys). And omigod, before you get all up in my grill about me being a racist because I pointed out the obvious (stereotypical) hair count disparities among two separate races of human being, STOP. I'm not a racist. I make fun of all races equally, including my own. Which is, uh, white? A sad mix of blood stemming from stereotypically drunk, cheap, and cold-hearted bastards? (SEE--now you know where my family is from. You're a RACIST!) Yeah, something like that. Save your hate for when I say something truly offensive. Because I might. I've been known to do it, especially while driving.

So, back to the dots. The ELLIPSIS, ellipses plural. Let's start simple. According to Wikipedia:

The most common form of an ellipsis is a row of three periods or full stops (...) or a pre-composed triple-dot glyph (). The usage of the em dash (—) can overlap the usage of the ellipsis.
The triple-dot punctuation mark is also called a suspension point, points of ellipsis, periods of ellipsis, or colloquially, dot-dot-dot.

For those of you who are not grammar geeks or writers in need of a more solid answer to this dotty conundrum, scan forward. From the Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition, an ellipsis is defined as such:

An ellipsis is the omission of a word, phrase, line, paragraph, or more from a quoted passage. Such omissions are made of material that is considered irrelevant to the discussion at hand (or, occasionally, to adjust for the grammar of the surrounding text. Chicago style is to indicate such omissions by the use of three spaced periods (but see 13.51) rather than by another device such as asterisks. These points (or dots) are called ellipsis points when they indicate an ellipsis and suspension points when they indicate suspended or interrupted thought (see 13.39). They must always appear together on the same line (through the use of nonbreaking spaes, available in most software applications), along with any following punctuation; if an ellipsis appears at the beginning of a line, any preceding punctuation (including a period) will appear at the end of the line above. If they prefer, authors may prepare their manuscripts using the single-glyph three-dot ellipsis character on their word processors, . . . usually with a space on either side; editors following Chicago will replace these with spaced periods.

CLEAR AS MUD, right? You guys wouldn't believe how much debate happens around this pesky grammatical beaut. (Need proof? Here's a comment stream on Typophile.) But hark -- wait -- what is that fascinating little note about the suspension points? Perhaps I'm just splitting hairs (again with the HAIR references!), but lads and lassies, THAT IS WHAT WE DIALOGUE SCRIBES USE MOST OFTEN. Suspension points, NOT the almighty ellipsis. So stop hating on it. It's mean and makes you look evil and sinister. Hatin' on innocent little grammar marks. I mean, seriously, what did they ever do to YOU? Someone's got some mommy issues. (I can give you the number to my therapist. Email me separately.)

Seems we writers are using suspension points, and not the ellipsis, when our characters are stumbling over their tongues. (I know Bella has a lot of stumbling abbity abbity doh! moments -- am I the only one annoyed by that scene in Twilight in the hospital where she sounds like she's about to stroke out when Edward says he's bailing? Yeah. I thought not.)

Let's see if this helps -- and I will quote the section I think is closest to what we all tend to use. If you want specific info about how to use the ellipsis in a formal document, to represent missing quoted material, spend the $65 and get your own Chicago Manual. You know you spent at least that getting a subpar mani-pedi last month (which has now totally grown out and you're looking all Sasquatchy again with that hair growing out of the tops of your toes). It's high time you invest in your grammatical future. I mean, at least get the Associated Press style guide, at the very least -- but hiss hiss, scratch scratch -- AP doesn't espouse the serial comma. I heart the serial comma, and unless you tell me otherwise, I will edit all your crap with serial commas intact. 

(Sections referenced for your viewing ease.)

FIRST AND FOREMOST: Section 13.39 addresses most closely what we writerly types are faced with, so much so that it may serve to answer our most pressing dialogue/quotation issues (I wonder if the mother of certain sparkly vampires referenced this section . . . likely not. She didn't have to. That's what a team of editors is for. *envious sigh*):

Faltering or interrupted speech: Suspension points--also used to indicate an ellipsis--may be used to suggest faltering or fragmented speech accompanied by confusion or insecurity. In the examples below, note the relative position of the suspension points and other punctuation. (For the use of suspension points to indicate ellipses, see 13.48-56.)

"I . . . I . . . that is, we . . . yes, we have made an awful blunder!"
"The ship . . . oh my God! . . . it's sinking!" cried Henrietta.
"But . . . but . . .," said Tom.

Interruptions or abrupt changes in thought are usually indicated by em dashes. See 6.84. (Let me know if you need to know what the hell an em dash is.)

Notice how there is a space after the last word, between it and the first dot, as well as before the first letter of the subsequent word. It's a confusing place to be because I inserted the spaces between dots here manually (Blogger doesn't modify them for me), but Word does. When you type three periods next to one another, Word modifies it into a proper ellipsis. But then to add a space after that third dot makes the sentence realllllly spaced out. It looks weird, especially if you click on the little button that shows you all the nonprinting typographical markings (you can do this by clicking on the "" icon in your Word menu. Turning this on shows you the markup in your document and is helpful to avoid double spaces or unnecessary hard returns). What do you guys think about the spacing and the way it looks, rules be damned?

IF THIS SCRATCHES YOUR ITCH, scan down. Skip the next really boring part. I'm nothing if not thorough.
Jovie, ready for action. Coffee, check. CMoS, check. Great hair, check!

Thus, more rules to cross your eyes:

13.50: When not to use ellipsis points: Ellipsis points are normally not used (1) before the first word of a quotation, even if the beginning of the original sentence has been omitted; or (2) after the last word of a quotation, even if the end of the original sentence has been omitted, unless the sentence is quoted as deliberately incomplete (see 13.53).

(*Interestingly, I had this situation come up in a recent edit when one character walks into a room where another is engaged in a heated conversation on the phone. The author had used an ellipsis at the front of the dialogue to indicate that the conversation was in progress and ongoing. As a matter of style choice, I left it intact. I liked what it suggested to the reader.)

13.51: Ellipses with periods: A period is added before an ellipsis to indicate the omission of the end of a sentence, unless the sentence is deliberately incomplete (see 13.53). . . . (<----Here, the period comes first, and THEN the ellipsis happens to indicate missing text.)

13.52: Ellipses with other punctuation: Other punctuation appearing in the original text--a comma, a colon, a semicolon, a question mark, or an exclamation point--may precede or follow three (but never four) ellipsis points. Whether to include the additional mark of punctuation depends on whether keeping it aids comprehension or is required for the grammar of the sentence. . . .

It does not build, . . . nor cherish the arts, nor foster religion. (<---- See how the comma happens according to the actual quoted material, and then the ellipsis follows?)

As to Endymion, was it a poem . . . to be treated contemptuously by those who had celebrated, with various degrees of complacency and panegyric, Paris, and Woman, and Syrian Tale . . . ? Are these the men who . . . presumed to draw a parallel between the Rev. Mr. Milman and Lord Byron?

(That's a super-long example, but notice where the punctuation is placed according to the needs of the writer.) 

13.53: Deliberately incomplete sentence: Three dots are used at the end of a quoted sentence that is deliberately left grammatically incomplete.

Everyone knows that the Declaration of Independence begins with the sentence "When, in the course of human events . . ." But how many people can recite more than the first few lines of the document? 


There are MORE rules. Oh, so many more. What YOU have to decide, O Writerly One: Are you using an ellipsis, or suspension points? Hmmmm? I think I'm using suspension points. (Likely too often. DAMN! Adverb alert. Whatev . . . ) I'm gonna stick with that and hence follow said rules. Oh, I feel so happy and smug now. Miss Anti-ellipsis was hatin' on the wrong punc all along.

THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO DO: No matter what style you are using -- Chicago, AP, MLA -- be consistent. Throughout. Don't flake on yourself halfway through the document. Find what works for you and COMMIT. Oh, and communicate your needs/wants/desires with your editor (because you ARE paying a professional editor, aren't you? I mean, if you are, then he/she/it should be able to follow up on this stuff for you. If you're not hiring someone to look over your stuff, then you're a boob who is going to make us all look like retards. OMIGOD, she used the "R" Word. Someone call Becky from Glee!).

A few other wee bites:

~FYI: The word "copy editor" is often spelled "copyeditor." I prefer the first. Either is fine. I think Chicago uses "copyeditor," but I don't like the "y" and the "e" squished together like that. It makes my palms sorta itchy. Bill Walsh, likely the World's Most Amazing Copy Editor (author of Lapsing Into a Comma, Elephants of Style, long-time copy editor for The Washington Post -- check out, uses the two-word method. Even though he's a newspaper man, and thus doesn't use Chicago but likely AP, I adore him. Thus I will use the same two-word method. Just to clarify, you know, for you purists trying to trip me up with your "copyeditor" rhetoric. Blah, blah, blah, go bark at someone else.

~When you find yourself unsure of something really basic, USE A DICTIONARY. Dictionaries are amazing sources of information. I recommend Webster's New World College. Pretty much any Webster's product is awesome and is considered an industry standard.

~When using the word "awhile" vs. "a while" (copied from Webster's on my Mac for simplification) -- READ THIS CAREFULLY:

awhile: adverb
Means "for a short time": stand here awhile. ORIGIN Old English āne hwīle "(for) a while."
Usage: The adverb awhile, meaning "for a short time," should be written as one word (we paused awhile). The noun phrase, meaning "a period of time," especially when preceded by a preposition, should be written as two words (Margaret rested for a while; we'll be there in a while).

Is it an adverb or a noun phrase you seek?

~Check your use/overuse of the word "half." Do it. I dare you. Do a word count in your document and see how many times you've used it. Now go back and figure out if it's necessary (unless you're writing a cookbook, and then, disregard). It's not. Change it. You sound ineffectual and your character sounds wishy-washy.


Enough boring grammar shit. I'm totally snoring on my keyboard. (Okay, I'm so not, but that's because I'm into this stuff, like some people are into Star Wars or Dr. Who (I've never even watched a single episode of Dr. Who, despite the fact that I live in Canada and folks here are sorta rabid about it).)

I write/edit for LitStack. Check us out and feel FREE to recommend topics. 

I'll have a review coming up for The Maid by Kimberly Cutter. BEAUTIFUL BOOK, guys. Seriously. And I'm not just saying that because I have Joan (Jehanne) of Arc's autograph tattooed on my left forearm. Cutter's book is beautiful, haunting, and inspiring. I don't typically read historicals, but this one pulled me right in.

I don't know what else to talk about. I could complain about not having adequate uninterrupted time to get anything of import accomplished secondary to the needs of my family, as evidenced by the fact that my last blog entry was almost two months ago . . . But then someone will whine at me and tell me that I should be grateful that I have kids/a family because there are lots of folks in the world who don't have either who wish they could. Yeah, I know. Thanks for making me feel like an asshole. Like I don't spend enough time every day flailing the cat-o-nine tails into my squishy flesh.

I read other folks' blogs about how they have time to write and work out and volunteer at Various Social Events, and it floors me. You people have clones, right? That's it. You're cloned. There are at least two of you being wonderful, losing your post-baby fat (especially since said baby is now seven), serving peanut-free cupcakes at the Halloween party and doing community crafting sessions ahead of the school's annual Christmas craft fair and delivering Meals on Wheels to the elderly and infirm and sitting in as treasurer for the PTA and organizing a team for the Cancer Walk/Global Cleanup/Food Drive. It's awesome that there are folks who have the ability to do all this shit lovely stuff, but maybe, could you just develop a little crack dependency or vodka-for-breakfast problem so that the rest of us don't look so damn lazy and uninvolved? Wait. You're a hoarder, aren't you. That's IT! I knew it! Oh, I feel so much better now. Instead of growling at you when you walk by tomorrow, I'm going to paste on that self-satisfied smile I'm so good at, knowing that you have to crawl over mountains of hamster poop and old magazines to get to your half-buried crockpot. VICTORY!

One last thing: Sleight's sequel, Stratagem, has obviously been delayed. Remember your manners, kids. I had some bad mojo happen this summer and thus have run into a few issues getting the book done, especially once September hit and I was faced with the piano/acting/soccer/work schedules of the four other members of my household. Just for an example, it has taken me three and a half hours, with about 412 interruptions to break up fights, clean up messes, make breakfast, reload a stapler, find someone an eraser, help someone find warm socks without holes, change laundry, give the cat treats so he'd stop yanking on my sweater, and deal with iPod issues to write THIS post alone. Imagine how effing frustrating it is to find more than 32 seconds strung together to finish a 120,000-word book. (I curse a lot.) Oh, and I've been working, too. I'm a copy editor, remember? SO, look for an early 2012 release for Stratagem. I'll let you know if anything changes. And yeah, I'll get a cover soon. I just am sorta particular about what I want, and I have to find a graphic designer who isn't going to cost the equivalent of my daughter's first year in college. But thanks for asking. Sorry I'm not like other indie writers who release books every 27.2 days. (Then again, my books are always over 100K words. Many writers hover in the 50-60K range. I wish I knew their secrets. Oh, right. Write less.)

Now someone tell me a joke.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

October. That means Thanksgiving is almost here. Yes it is. Don't argue with me.

Look what BLOGGER went and done did...they made themselves SPIFFY! So spiffy, in fact, I'm a little lost. And right when I was about to go and get me some WordPress action. Just in the nick of time, Blogger, in the NICK of time. (Jury might still be out. This is sort of a ridiculous layout. Feedback, please!) Wait -- I need a photo here, to make this entry look visually appealing and to catch your attention. QUICK! What picture shall I use? Omigod omigod omigod, I'm sorta panicking. I got nothin'. I might have to Google more images of Mark Strong to give you something to stare at. I know I enjoy staring at him VERY much. You're welcome in advance. WAIT! I found one! THIS was my birthday breakfast. 

I turned FORTY on September 19. We went to a fabulous new joint here in town where everything is francais (that's FRENCH, for you hillbilly types). This photo, snapped on my cell phone, doesn't do justice to what is happening to my taste buds at this very second, but yes, that is a crepe, filled with fresh fruit (banana, pineapple, kiwi, strawberry, honeydew, cantaloupe...what am I forgetting?) on a thin layer of very fresh, light custard. It was awesome. Best breakfast EVER. Or at least so far. I didn't feel like dying after we left. No post-meal regret or tear-inducing stomach spasms. I call that a win-win! The morning prior to this caloric funfest started with a very lovely $40 Chapters gift card stuck through the mail slot (thanks, Bobbie!) and a gift card for the movies from my darling Janey-O. I got me a new cardigan to carry on with the slovenly writer look I am so good at. And it's RED. Saucy, I know. Kids made me some cards. Husband made butter chicken for dinner. All in all, I made it to forty, and the day wasn't so bad after all. 

RE: I mentioned Thanksgiving in the post title ~ Remember, lovies, I am in CANADA. That means Thanksgiving is in October. As in, a week from tomorrow. On a Monday. MONDAY?!? No, I have not adjusted to eating turkey before the Halloween costumes have been sewn. CanNOT. Not even after ten years. Thanksgiving is four days in November when the Macy's Parade is on, when the National Dog Show trots across the screen, when I put on the fat pants Wednesday night late and don't look back until I'm nursing a vicious tryptophan hangover on Monday morning when I'm lying on the floor, flailing about in mashed potato and gravy leftovers, begging the children to just bring me some cranberry sauce and that will make it all better. Mommy needs cranberries...please, have mercy on my bloated soul...

Whisper one word about how I didn't blog the entire month of September, and I'm outta here. If you haven't figured it out yet, I'm not good with blogging. In fact, I sort of avoid it, sort of how I avoid Pap smears until at least the third reminder follow-up call. Then I finally shave everything nice and purty, go in and throw on the paper gown, put my feet up in the stirrups, scoot my ass to the edge of the table, and PRAY that she's warmed up the speculum. (Boys are so lucky that they don't have to do this. Speaking of, it's time to start nagging Husband again about having his prostate checked. Spread 'em, boy!) That's sort of how I feel about blogging. I have to warm up the speculum before I get going. Plus, who the hell CARES what I have to say? Shit, I usually can't stand the sound of my own voice, and I'm am certainly not going to give you advice about anything useful. Unless you have a dirtbag ex and you need someone to remind you how much of a dirtbag he (or she) is/was. I'm super good at that. If nothing else, I will steal your angst, bottle it, and channel it into some written fantasy about torturing dirtbag spouses.

And tonight, all I really want to do is make fun of the people over 30 who are getting their patronus and house assignments on Pottermore. But that would be rude. And I think a lot of my friends over 30 are on Pottermore, so I shouldn't giggle. (But I still will. Nerds.) I'm sure Evelyn Hussy Lafont will sic her patronus on me now that I've mentioned this, but whatever. (Nerds.) I'm still giggling. You guys...really? Okay, I collect rubber ducks. I guess we're even. (Okay, we're totally not. Nerds.)

I'm sort of addicted to that new TLC show, "Long Island Medium." I mean, I don't get the whole Jersey thing with the long nails and the frosted hair and the ginormous personality, but that's because she's from Jersey, and I'm from Oregon. She (her name is Theresa) likely wouldn't understand why I like wool sweaters, Levis, and combat boots and how I've only ever been for a manicure twice, once when I got a job as a hand model (YES, a hand model) and another time when this psychotic ex-friend of mine insisted that it would change my life when all it really did was make my cuticles hurt and make me feel like there was shit on my fingernails. Because there was. THING IS, I want to meet Theresa. I totally want her to do a reading for me. I think I will put that on my to-do list for the future. Go to medium. Connect with important dead people in my life. I don't believe in ghosts, and I really want to. Although, it must be said, I don't want to be like certain OTHER people in my life who are convinced they can commune with the dead. Those aren't dead people whispering to you in the middle of the night. It's wine. Less wine = fewer dead people visiting your room. Just sayin'...

I think it's time for another picture. Hang on...let me see what I've got. <<<<<------ Okay, there you go. That's visually interesting, right? A fat beagle and a glorious Lazy Brown Cat, sharing a moment in the dying hours of summer? Fine. Whatever. I have to migrate iPhoto from the old computer but it won't stay on long enough to make this happen. Cut me some slack. And while you're at it, wish Boyfriend, proper name Kovu, a Very Happy Birthday on October 5. He will be 13, which in cat years, is hella older than you. Show some respect. (He bites, so you might want to just play along.)

Updates real quick like, and then I gotta go put the spawn to bed:

a. My eldest child came home in September for his two-week leave from Afghanistan. Much fun was had by him, his first return stateside since turning 21, and we were able to spend some precious hours in his presence. He's back in the 'Stan, not to return to US soil until March 2012, so keep thinking happy thoughts for him. Please. He's a good boy.

b. I've had some amazing, terrific, fantastic lovies inquire about the status of the follow-up to Sleight. Book 2 is called Stratagem, and because I am working on several projects at once, because I am a meticulous re-writer, and because I'm just now getting back into the swing of things after a rather disastrous summer (in terms of writing), Stratagem will not be released this fall, as I'd hoped. Don't be pissed. Remember, you love me. We're friends. I just can't shit it out, guys. I can't. It's like Mr. Reiland's seventh grade algebra class all over again. I wasn't understanding the material, so I wasn't turning in the assignments. Eventually, my grade bottomed out and my mother and stepfather had to come in for a conference. I was diagnosed by the school counselor with perfectionism, and as a result of said affliction, I refuse to turn anything in until it's PERFECT. I don't want to give you half-assed work. I know I'm not fast and awesome like some of the other writers in the Realm, but I'm me. They're them. And I'm writing. For those of you who are friends of mine on Facebook: every time you see me post something ridiculous or irreverent, it's because I've been interrupted by one of the many members of this household (animals included), OR because I'm struggling with a transient case of writer's block (some writers claim this so-called ailment never haunts their doorstep, and those writers are what I like to call arrogant fartyheads whose time's a'comin') that requires some sort of visual stimulation OR it might be because I am in a trough in the creative cycle and, well, I just can't write for shit. I'm not perfect, but my words have to be as close to such as possible. FOR THE RECORD: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern debuted week before last, to rave reviews and an impressive showing on the NYT bestseller list. It's supposed to be fantastic. I have not purchased it yet, but shall. Soon. At Portland's Powell's books on September 17, I picked up said book and opened to a random chapter. The chapter was called STRATAGEM. Yes, I almost cried. Instead I started rambling to the stranger next to me, until he inched away quietly, tiptoeing so I wouldn't lash out and knock off his John Lennon glasses. Let it be noted that it was MY WORD FIRST. I did not copy her. Gahhhhhhh...

c. Check out LitStack, an awesome site for READER-CENTRIC news and reviews and even some occasional short fiction. Don't go to LitStack if you're looking for advice on publishing or writing. Go HERE for that: Chuck Wendig's Terrible Minds. (Caution: Not for those who are easily offended by the use of the F Word or who don't want to risk shooting coffee out their noses during a mid-drink guffaw.) Otherwise, check it: LITSTACK, baby! It rocks.

That's all the updates I have tonight. I think. There are likely more. I will blog again soon with said updates. If I can find a paper gown to put on first...

Xs and Os

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Little Miss Tardy, sat on her lardy-ass, eating her Red Vines and...

California was a bust. There ain't no gold in them thar hills, folks. (Okay, actually, there is gold in them thar hills. Experts estimate that 90 percent of California's gold reserves are still tucked safe and sound within their mountains. And me without my pickax!) We've been home for a bit now, though before crossing the 49th, we did manage a day trip to Multnomah Falls...
...during a respite stop in Portland, Oregon. Man, what a pretty city. So glad I was born there. OH, and the hospital where Yaunna was born? It is now the Adidas headquarters. How hilarious is that? Those are giant Adidas shoes. GIANT.
For the Twihards, we went to St. Helens, Oregon, which is the actual location where Twilight was shot. We stopped in at the little souvenir shop and gabbed with the store owner, sharing our stories about this series of movies that, ironically, has followed us around. Yaunna, now 17, was brought home to a St. Helens' house that is a stone's throw from the one they used as the Swan residence in the first film. The subsequent films have been shot up here in Hollywood North; Yaunna was an extra in New Moon and would've been in Eclipse had she not had a doctor's appointment that day; the house they use as Jacob's--and it IS an actual house--is about four minutes from here; the recreated Swan residence was in South Surrey for a bit. Now it's been boxed up and moved on. This movie, somehow, it haunts us. Anyway, I'm rambling. Would you expect otherwise?
Duh. It wouldn't say VAMPIRE PARKING ONLY. The fact that Dr. Cullen is a vampire is a secret. Sssshhhh!

The alley where Bella tries to make her getaway from those sleazoids who Edward later says were thinking vile, disgusting thoughts. Ooooooh, he's so tricky with that mind-reading stuff, isn't he? I just want to learn how to flip my car around like that. Maybe not in a minivan, me thinks...

Now that we're back home and recovered, there is the question of this little book I'm trying to finish, too, which is an interesting story unto itself, alas, a story I cannot share with you at this juncture. You don't want to hear it, anyway. It involves a lot of teeth gnashing, swearing, loss of hair, pacing of floors, and overconsumption of all the wrong foods.

This post will be brief and full of nothing interesting. Why? Um, because nothing interesting has happened lately? I mean, sure, there's that whole thing in Libya. That's pretty cool. And there's all these wicked storms that are knocking down outdoor concert stages (Note to planet: STOP HAVING CONCERTS DURING THUNDER & WIND STORMS). Certainly I could go on at length recapping a plethora of interesting news stories, but if you want that, you can check CNN, CBC, BBC, Reuters, and KTLA, just like I do. Every. Single. Day. Several times a day, actually. I'm easily distracted. Oh, and TMZ. I have to get my gossip fill, though, I must admit, I couldn't give a rip about the latest nuptials involving one of those pompous Kardashian princesses. Seriously. Don't we have other celebs doing more newsworthy things? Like, saving rainforests or swimming nekked with leatherback tortoises? I love you, Ian Somerhalder! Guys--watch "Blue August" for us and tweet me about how the beauty of those sparking blue waters are rivaled by the blue embedded in Ian's eyeballs. Do it. For me. We can't get this show in Canada. *shakes fist in air* Curse you, Canadian programming!

Thing is, I'm working. On stuff. I don't like to talk about stuff I'm working on because I am superstitious. But rest assured, words are being spilled, as is blood now and again. Don't give up on me. Thou shalt not forsake me. 'K?

Xs and Os...

Friday, July 1, 2011

GoodReads Giveaway Winners, Mark Strong, and My Kids' Super-Big Mouths

FIRST UP: GoodReads winners -- there were 1874 entries for the Sleight giveaway on GoodReads. Two winners were drawn from the entries, taken care of by the lovely people at GR. Congrats to...

Cindy Monitor
Emma Krutulis
Ladies, your signed books will go out next week as it is Canada Day here today, and 4th of July on Monday. I will be mailing out of the US (I cross the border to mail books as the service/cost is so much better!), so be ready! Thank you to everyone who participated. And tell me this, non-winners: If I offer a discount on the e-book of Sleight for a limited time, would you feel compelled to purchase? Are you a physical book sorta human? What about a discount on a paperback, purchased direct through me? Just wonderin'. It seems that with 1872 non-winners, a girl would at least attract a few new readers, but what do I know. And as I am doing a mailing next week, let me know so I can count you in!

Don't despair if you didn't win this time. I have giveaways coming up on a number of other blogs. I have to continue to push this book into the faces of potential readers. Have you shared it with anyone today (or conversely, have you warned anyone to stay away)? Word-of-mouth, people. Let's make it happen.

One other thing: to the awesome, amazing, fantastic humans who have taken the time out of their busy lives to write me emails and post on my Facebook wall -- I promise you it is me who is responding. It is not an assistant. The thought that I would have an assistant makes me giggle a little, but unless you count a 17-, 9-, or 6-year-old, or even one temperamental 12-year-old Brown Lazy Cat on the payroll, it's just me. Promise.

Onto the news you likely don't care to know:
Driving in the car yesterday, en route to accomplishing a variety of annoying tasks (remember, everything is annoying when I am away from my computer. I like being home. I do not like traffic. I especially do not like traffic when everyone is leaving work early so they can get their three-day weekend started sooner. Today, Friday, is Canada Day. Like 4th of July, only not).

Kendon, age 6: "Mommy, if you think Mark Strong is so hot, why don't you ask him on a date?"
Me: (laughing loudly) "I wish."
Husband: "Heyyyyy..."

Then I had to explain why married people can't date other folks, and how Mark Strong is a big, famous, beautiful movie star who would not give me the time of day if I bought him a Rolex and a megaphone. Here he is, just in case you're confused:
He's Lord Blackwood from Sherlock Holmes. He's Godfrey from Robin Hood. He's Frank D'Amico in Kick-Ass. He's Sinestro in The Green Lantern, among a ton of other stellar performances (RocknRolla, Young Victoria with Emily Blunt, Body of Lies with diCaprio and Crowe, assloads of British stuff because he's British, and we all know that British actors are hottttttt). BUT, he is also my villain. Lucian. While writing Sleight, it was Strong's face I envisioned the entire friggin' time. And as Lucian is my favorite character, I tend to be a little...obsessed...with Mark Strong. I can't help it. I'm so ashamed. (Okay, I'm totally not, but it helps if I at least attempt contrition so that Husband doesn't worry that it's Mark Strong I'm fantasizing about...even if I am. Omigod, shut up!!!)

Back on task: After the errands were finished, we treated ourselves to cheeseburgers. We never go out to eat (have I whined about how stupid expensive everything in Canada is? What? Not today? Okay. This is me whining: Canada is stupid expensive), but we decided that as no one wanted to cook (Husband...I never cook...) and no one wanted to do the dishes (Yaunna...lazy arse), and considering I hadn't eaten my daily granola bar and last ate hours prior, my morning peanut-butter-on-wheat-toast, and thus my eyes were sorta buggin' out of my head from starvation, we went for cheeseburgers.

I ran out of beverage and didn't want to bother the waitress for a refill, especially as I likely wouldn't finish it and that would then be wasteful. (I have a guilty conscience, on so many levels.) Instead, I plunked my straw into Brennan's root beer, as we were sitting adjacent, and we slurped together, like sweethearts at a soda fountain. He scrunched his 9-year-old face up in an attempt to be older than he is -- what he called his "movie star face" (the same one he and his dad use when making fun of Robert Pattinson and Ian Somerhalder) -- and said to me, "I'm Mark Strong. And you're beautiful."

Again with the Mark Strong reference. I've damaged my children.

Husband, sitting across the table, says, "Hey, don't you look at my wife that way, you mean MarkStrong, you." Brennan giggled, movie-starred his face once again and said -- yes -- he really said this:

"Well, maybe you should shed a few pounds there, buddy."

OMIGOD. He said that, out loud. Good thing my husband has a killer sense of humor. He howled, although I wouldn't be surprised if it did sting a little to hear something like that from his kid. Even in jest. And Brennan! Shame on you, child! Telling your dad to lose weight. Even if YOU weren't telling him that, even if was MarkStrong telling him that... Husband isn't a fatty. He just doesn't wear the same size pants as he did when we got married. Neither do I, though. 

It was funny. Maybe you had to be there. Out of the mouths of babes.

Next post: Why Feral Cats Are Meant to Stay Feral

Happy Canada Day!
Happy 4th of July!

Xs and Os...

Monday, June 20, 2011

On trying to blog more often...and reasons why I likely won't -- and Book Stuff

Breaking News: A fantastic review from Lisa at Baffled Books has come in just tonight, and you should totally read it. Because it's awesome. And I am not ashamed to admit that I love hearing positive things with regard to my work. Why? I've spent many, many months on this book. Almost two full years from conception to completion. And then some. So when someone says nice stuff, I will tell you because I love it and it makes me happy. When someone says something nasty about my work--which they have--I usually cry and binge on too many carbs, followed by intensive questioning of the validity of my existence, all the while repeating "Teacher said I spell good" and scraping the innards of at least ten Oreo cookies across my bottom teeth (even Canadian Oreos, so you know the despair must be bad). When I have reached critical mass in the hemoglobin-to-sugar ratio in my bloodstream, I resurface and carry on, hoping that another Lisa will come along and point out all the things I tried SO HARD to do correctly.

Getting ON with things... I have no excuses for so much time between posts. Other than the fact that I can't think of what to talk about. You probably don't want to hear me whine about the weather anymore (it is still raining), or the Canada Post strike that has kept me and the rest of the country from receiving or sending mail since last Tuesday, or the fact that I have two American Oreos left in the package (*Note: From the inception of his blog post to now, one of these Oreos has been consumed.) and I neglected to restock in my haste to get back across the border from Point Roberts, Washington, Friday before last. Did I tell you they pulled me into Customs when I drove over? They wanted to know what I was doing with all those books (thank HEAVENS they weren't packaged up before I left!) and if they had been sold, i.e., had I made a profit from them (no, officer, they're gifts for my darling bloggie friends--then I had to explain what bloggers were and why they're so important to me), and then they inspected my CAR and when the guy came back in, he wanted to know who Kim Norman was. (Those of you who received books will notice the return address is for a Kim Norman. That's my mommy. She lives in California, so if a book were to be returned as undeliverable, it would go to her instead of being shredded for insufficient postage back to O Canada). 

It was creepy that he paid so much attention, although I know that's his job, and thank heavens he's thorough, but honestly, the only way out of Pt. Roberts is by sea. Last time I checked, my Honda is not amphibious. If you're not familiar with where Pt. Roberts located, it's this little spit of land just at the bottom of Vancouver. Instead of it belonging to Canada, it is Washington State territory. I have no idea why. Whatever. It's a bit of pain to have to go into a different country to send mail, but guys--come on--the postage for a single book from Canada to the US started at $12.41. (I even sent one from BC to Ontario, a province IN Canada, and it cost $12.78!) For me to mail from Washington throughout the US, I used media mail, so they were all around $3 or so. THAT is a substantial savings.

So...yeah...definitely worth the drive. AND I bought gas and saved $.80 a gallon. Those of you who are whiny about the cost of gas in the US? I paid $1.34 a litre the other day. A gallon = 4 litres. That's $5.36 a gallon AND the Canadian dollar is currently worth more than the US dollar, so we are getting screwed harshly, without dinner or even an after-dinner mint.

I feel like Syndrome in The Incredibles. "Oh, ho ho! You sly dog! YOU GOT ME MONOLOGUING!"

Sorry. Trying to focus. Thing is, Danny from Bewitched Bookworms, now a dear friend who, in her non-Ph-D-in-biology life is sort of a graphic designer (you should SEE her early thoughts for the cover of Stratagem: Book Two!), told me I have to start blogging more. She said that people want to know stuff about the authors who're writing the books that people are reading right now. I cannot imagine that anything could be more boring than listening to me talk about writers and book-related crap (which is sort of why I haven't done any grammar posts...Grammar Girl does that so well, we really don't need me bungling my way through it now, do we?). As such, I've tried really hard to avoid shoptalk but haven't always succeeded, I know. Although if you DO want to follow my reviews for other people's books, you can totally do that over at the Best Damn Creative Writing Blog
Yaunna's rose + macro lens = pretty picture.
I don't post often because I don't want to talk about my sales numbers (which, for the record, I don't share) or the marketing strategies I've employed (which, for the record, I don't share because then you will realize I have no idea what I'm doing), or the fact that someone gave me a two-star review on GoodReads the other day (which, for the record, sucks) and I had my feelings hurt, despite the 22 five-star reviews and 18 four-star reviews that are there, too. I felt better when I looked at the other books this individual has rated, and she is one of those folks who tends to rate everything low, almost as though her scale has fewer stars or she's waiting for the next War and Peace to come knock her socks off. Once I realized this wasn't a rating assigned out of spite, that she gives a lot of books two stars, indies and traditionally published alike, at least I felt a little better that she wasn't out to get me. (Another note: I was just looking through stuff and saw that she has rated the book twice: one was four stars; this latest rating is two stars. I am baffled. Another reason why the GoodReads system might be wee flawed.) I hate it when people don't like me. It's inevitable, and there are lots of people I don't like, so it's only natural for humans to develop a distaste for others as part of the process of being human. I'm trying to evolve and not be that person who, when at a party, if everyone in the room loves me except the sulky chick in the corner, I will go and try to win her over. I should just move on. Her loss. I have cookies and if she doesn't like me, I won't share. And since there are only two left,--make that one--I guess that means more for me.

You wanna know another reason why I don't blog often? I started this post six eight TEN hours ago. I have gone to one soccer game, grocery shopped, consumed an ice cream sandwich on the drive home, tidied the house, eaten butter chicken, bathed two dirty stinky boys, talked to my dad (and then Mom and then Sister, and then Dad again) on the phone, nursed an injured 6-year-old after he fell off the counter in the bathroom and gave himself one hell of a bruise on his pelvic bone (he wanted to write Happy Father's Day in the steam on the mirror--yes, sweet, but I lectured him after the tears dried), checked on the soccer player's might-be-swollen knee, read fifteen pages of Garfield comics to aforementioned 6-year-old, taken a brief catnap, and talked to some dearies on Twitter in the time since the writing process for this very post was initiated. It's nearly impossible for me to get ANYTHING done in my house. 

Side note: The Vancouver riots this week? They're all over. Look for the photos of the thousands of volunteers who cleaned up the city, the partylike atmosphere as Vancouverites reclaim what is theirs. Don't be afraid to come here. The losers responsible for the carnage are being picked up by the authorities, a few more every day, as the investigators sift through more than 1000 hours of video footage and countless photographs submitted by an outraged public. The response by the citizenry in support of the police is unprecedented on a global scale: this is OUR city, and we will make the evildoers pay. (Omigod, I just channeled George W. there for a sec. Evildoers. I'm really sorry. Back to regularly scheduled programming.)

For those of you who don't know, when I'm not huddled in my car scratching words onto paper, I take photographs. (I'm also a copy editor. Let me know if you need your crap copy edited. I can hook you up for reasonable coin.) I had eight clients yesterday, including the four-year-old twins who played Manny in Diary of a Wimpy Kid 1 & 2. They are friggin' ADORABLE, and I even got their autographs. Yay, me! I try to keep these two (three?) lives separate, but seriously--you have to see this photo. Oh, my sweet lord. Isn't he precious

If you want Sleight-centric news, go to Facebook and join the party. If you have the book, take your photo and upload it so we can share the love! I have a number of reviews and Q&As coming up in the next few weeks, so if you're into it, you can get your fill of all sorts of random tidbits.

I'll stop now. That's another thing I've been told: my posts are too long. I sorry. I just have so many thoughts racing through my brain that I never know which ones to ignore and which ones to share. Imagine how frustrating it was to be my first-grade teacher...before my filters grew in.

Xs and Os

Monday, May 30, 2011

Howdy ... it's MONDAY and it ain't rainin'...

SO... Had a lovely review post on May 27 on a blog called, and it cross-posted to the Twilight Saga Facebook page. If you are visiting me from there, HELLO, and welcome to Planet Jenn! It's fun here. You should totally stick around and tell me about yourself.

There are lots of different ways to get your hands on Sleight. For KINDLE, NOOK, in PDF, in PAPERBACK, and SIGNED PAPERBACK! Short of having me come to your house and read it to you, I've done my best to feed your reading stomach.

Check the sidebar for purchase details. If you get stuck, can't find it in paperback, or want more info, leave me a comment or find me on Facebook at Jennifer Sommersby. Come on over and say hi. If you stand on a rooftop and wave wildly and shout my name, face north and westerly. I'll be waiting and listening patiently. And if you hear barking, don't worry. That's just the Fat Beagle, and she's harmless, especially if you have anything left over from your lunch.

Friday, May 27, 2011

On catching up, Sleight in paperback, and The Mood Ring

Hello, my people. I'm not going to apologize for not posting since the 11th as I know you know that Life and Such gets in the way. And the last couple weeks have certainly done that, so let's get on with the news, shall we?

First, a shout-out to all those poor souls who have suffered so greatly from these crazy tornadoes and storms ravaging the US, as well as the monumental floods and fires in different regions of Canada. I've become friends with so many of you on Twitter and Facebook, and all I can say is, we're thinking about you. I know that amounts to a hill of beans when your houses and even family members have been destroyed, but, yeah...we're pulling for you in that cosmic sense. Mother Nature needs a spanking, and not the fun kind but the kind that leaves welts and will send her to her room for a little while to think about what she's done.

I mentioned in my last post that I'd been "rearranging furniture," and I left that big announcement to my blogging buddies, aka, the world's kindest supporters ever (book bloggers are way better than even the most expensive Cross-Your-Heart bras, man. They support, cushion, and uplift, with no uncomfortable underwires! Not that my barely A cup models require underwires, but you catch my drift). Thanks to Danny at Bewitched Bookworms for planting the seed that led me to change my cover for Sleight. She provided the creative impetus, held my hand through the process of revamping, and we set to finding new images that would better represent the innards of my book. With the expert search-and-destroy skills of Angeline Kace, I was able to put together a fantastic new cover (it's splattered all over the place now, so lax am I in my blog posting duties) with a few stock images, and I do believe that the girl on the cover really speaks to the character I'd always envisioned as being my Gemma. For the next cover, I want to do the photography myself (I've been known to make that photography thing a habit), maybe this summer in California with a lanky, red-haired friend of my little sister's and a desolate desert landscape to best hint at what's coming in Stratagem: Book Two. (Ashleigh, if you don't have a lanky, red-haired friend, find one and lock her in your studio until I arrive. Just feed her Oreos and Red Vines.) Stay tuned. I'll try to be more organized with my announcement next time. Promise.

I will be organizing a GoodReads giveaway next week, for the paperback, as--guess what--wait for it--the Paperback Saga of 2011 might be over! THANK YOU to all the folks on Twitter and to all the reviewers who have been endlessly patient with me while I boxed my way through this debacle. I won't go into the details, but I will tell you that I have four proofs here, all of which had their own errors (including proof #2 that was missing Chapter 9!) and precluded me from approving the book weeks ago. This should have been taken care of by the end of March. It is now the end of May and only now are we seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I will admit: that light is not perfect. Already I know that the finalized version has a blank page in it (p. 151) due to an extra hard return I didn't catch. But, fingers crossed, all will be well, and the story itself will be free of errors and full of imaginative pleasure for my awesome, awesome readers.

As such, the paperback is now available via CreateSpace and Amazon (links in the margin). I also will take orders for signed copies, although because shipping from Canada is $12.41 per book (!!!), I will be heading to Point Roberts once every few weeks for order fulfillment. Point Roberts is a teeny American town that is landlocked by Canadian soil. I called the posties there today, and my new buddy Scott said we could get the media mail rate and save up to 75 percent in costs, PLUS the books will arrive to US recipients way, way faster. I'll keep you up to speed with that progress, as well. Like I said, there is light, friends! LIGHT, I say!

Jenny over at Into the Morning Reads had a clever idea. She "interviewed" Gemma, from Sleight, and Autumn, the main character of Angela Carlie's Dream Smashers, and it is up on her blog. Pop in and share the love. Jenny is an incredible supporter of indie writers. Thanks, babealicious! We HEART you!

I will also have news about a few other paperback giveaways with other fantastic blogger folks, but as you probably know by now, I'm a little slow to get things moving. I'll blab about it here as soon as I have stuff to blab about.

Authors: I am re-hanging the shingle for copy editing/proofreading services. Click the link in the bar above if you're interested.
Jovie, fueled & ready to edit.

And on with the show. IN OTHER NEWS... My nine-year-old son participated in his school's Heritage Fair event this year, where each of the grade 4 and 5 students were expected to choose a topic relating to some aspect of Canadian history and put together a thorough presentation, subject to judging by a panel of teachers and community members at a school-wide event. Brennan's project, on John A. MacDonald (Canada's first prime minister, for my fellow Americans who are as clueless as I was about this fellow's identity), was selected to advance onto the next level, which required his attendance for the two-day Regional Fair at the Burnaby Village Museum. Yay! A day off school! So what if it was two days of history stuff. A Friday off from school is a bonus for most school-age kids I know.

The Friday morning of day one, Brennan left the house, a $10 bill tucked in his pocket, with express instructions to use it for drinks and snacks to supplement his brown-bag lunch. He was nervous and excited, ready to wow the new panel of judges with his barrage of facts about a man who led a surprisingly sad life, despite his success in the political arena and his subsequent assignment to the face of certain Canadian paper notes. (Hey, Canadians--is MacDonald on all the money? Canadian money is pretty. I'd like to have more of it. I'd keep it in a jar on top of my fridge...)

When Bren arrived home that Friday afternoon, his excitement fueled not by the goodie bag of Canadiana gifted by the Heritage Fair Council but rather by the very cool acquisition he'd made while on the museum grounds: his very own mood ring. A mood ring!

He feverishly set to explaining the significance of the ring's color (er, colour) spectrum to me and his six-year-old brother, and tried to ignore Kendon's insistence that one of us get stressed out to see if the ring would indeed turn black. (Side note: Kendon's favorite color is black. This started after their older sister went through a black-nail-polish phase when little Kendon was three. If she painted her nails, she had to do his, too. He was the only preschooler, a boy, no less, who went to play group with black fingernails. Who was I to censor him? At the time, I was in the early stages of a premature midlife crisis and had convinced my hairdresser to add blue stripes to my then-blond hair. It was a hit with the under-six crowd. "Kendon's mommy has blue hair!" -- an announcement met with uneasy smiles and weary glances by more conservative parents at the preschool. Like Kendon's predilection for black nails, the blue hair faded, though not before turning this weird greenish color, and we went reverted to our colorless, conformist selves. *Sigh.*)

Back to the ring: Brennan wore it to school, with a pride only Gollum could truly appreciate, and passed about the tiny, poorly translated color chart amongst his friends while they tried their best to manipulate the ring into its corresponding shades representing happiness, relaxation, or anger. After that first week, the novelty waned, as often is the case with nine-year-olds, and the ring was left alone on the top of the dresser. It clearly was not the One Ring to Rule Them All.

Until this morning.

Brennan, sweet child that he is, presented unto me his precious ring. "Put it on, Mom. It will tell us what kind of mood you're in." I obliged, and the ring immediately adopted a dark blue hue.

"That means you're relaxed." Funny, considering I hadn't yet had coffee and Kendon was refusing to put his pants on, instead running through the house in his birthday suit yelling, "Who wants to see my penis?" Yeah, he does that. He's six. I hope he grows out of it, sooner rather than later. Could be awkward when he and his older brother start dating.

I patted Brennan on the cheek and shooed him off to brush his teeth and feed the fat beagle while I chased Kendon down and wrestled him into his pants while he chirped at me, "Don't look at my junk!" After I dropped them off at school, I found myself staring at the ring, hoping it would turn the color that showed I was indeed relaxed and happy and satisfied. Blue it stayed.

And it got me to thinking. Wouldn't it be nice if mood rings really did work? If people could just look at our hands and see how, or if, they should approach us for conversation? I'm a mood swinger. Some days I'm up and I smile and hold doors for people and pinch babies' cheeks and let dumber drives cut me off without cursing at them from behind the wheel; other days, I live in what I call the Pit, clawing at the muddied walls through which effluence is seeping, dirtying my cuticles and tearing my nails to shreds. Tell me you're like that, too. You are, right? 

My days--at least the time not absorbed by the other creatures in my household--have begun to revolve around checking sales numbers and rankings, writing articles and blog posts, searching for reviewers, stressing about paperback issues, editing photos for last weekend's clients, and/or scratching a few words down on the WIP, if I'm lucky. I try not to worry about the host of things I have every right to be concerned with: my son in a freaking war zone, my husband's totally unglamorous, on-again/off-again Hollywood job, my daughter's health issues, and then there was that whole End of Days thing that didn't pan out. Reason told me it was ridiculous; caution told me anything's possible. Let's ask the folks suffering through tornadoes and floods and tsunamis and earthquakes if it feels like End of Days. Their answers might surprise us all.

I know lots of folks in my current social realm have bigger brains than I do and they blog about super-interesting stuff. I wish I could promise that I will share the secrets of the universe, that I know the trick to writing and editing and publishing a book that the whole world will adore. Thing is, I don't know any secrets. I don't really even know what I'm doing. None of us do, but that's why we're doing it. We're trying, some succeeding better than others, and that's what I have to continually remind myself. Yeah, yeah, I know, it's a competition, and I'd be richer/more successful/more beautiful if I paid closer attention to the stuff that works for other folks. But I don't know from one day to the next what color the mood ring will be. Some days, I want to walk away from all this creative stuff and hide under my covers. Some days, I do do that, in a completely figurative way. But then, I yank myself up, throw on my mom jeans and my favorite "K is for Karate" T-shirt, and I sit my ass in the chair. 

Even if the mood ring is black. Those days are the hardest, but as my BFF Lauren often reminds me, "Patience, darling, patience."

Right now, the ring is a rainbow of colors. At this moment, I must be okay.