Friday, February 25, 2011

On grammar, Blake Crouch's RUN, and birthing babies in multiple states/provinces

~Dirty Grammar Bite~

When writing numbers, particularly YEARS, this is how it goes:

~the 1980s (NO apostrophe. Common mistake = 1980's. Nope. Not good.)
~the '80s (Make sure that apostrophe is indeed an apostrophe and not a closing single quotation mark. Apostrophes are to be used any time you are abbreviating a number or even a word. In a contraction, the apostrophe takes the place of missing letters/numbers. Example: can't. The apostrophe stands in for the "n" and "o" in cannot. In the case of our example ("the '80s"), the apostrophe stands in for the "19" in the number. Capiche?)
~She is in her eighties. Or, She is 102.
~Street numbers (avenues, etc., inclusive) that are less than one hundred are spelled out: First Avenue, Ninety-fifth Street, but 120th Avenue.

When it comes to writing numerals in word format, there are going to be those folks who disagree with me, who follow AP and other styles. That's cool. I follow the Chicago Manual of Style like a slave, so don't crucify me if you like using numerals for everything over ten. I'm down with that. Whatever you decide to do, be consistent. That's most important. Oh, and the rules about the apostrophes and numbers still applies, no matter what. That's just basic grammar, babes.

While we're on the subject, I just had the conversation about comparative and superlative forms with still-at-home-under-the-weather MiddleBoy. I reminded him: fun, more fun, most fun (but funny, funnier, funniest). Make a note of it. (Apple ran an ad campaign here for the iPod. They used the word "funnest" in their posters. I almost cried, just because we don't need to perpetuate stupidity. It flourishes just fine on its own, thanks to the Kardashians, Paris Hilton, and Jersey Shore.)

OH, and just for the record: I got into a pissing match once (yes, a pissing match) on Facebook with a girl from high school about the comparative and superlative form for the word STUPID. (We didn't like each other in high school; we're not friends now. It was a pissing match hosted on someone else's wall. There is a reason why I've changed my name a few times...) STUPID can be either stupider/more stupid or stupidest/most stupid. They're both right. If you want proof, email me and I'll send you the relevant Chicago and Webster's passages.

Enough boring grammar. These things just come to me while I'm sitting at my desk, which is in the living room, while the kids' TV channel blares in the background (someone save me from the KidPop commercials...Justin Bieber is painful enough when he sings, let alone a bunch of tweens whose voices haven't cracked yet) or reading our small community newspaper or driving in the car and observing readerboards or thumbing through the magazines in my shink's waiting room. It sorta eats at me, the misuse of simple grammar. But I'm neurotic that way. I know I offend in my daily usage, but as punishment, I flog myself repeatedly with a mace, the spiked tips dipped in snake venom, just so I will be reminded to not re-offend during subsequent opportunities to communicate. Snake venom can really burn, especially when it's embedded in those fleshy holes left by the mace, but I'm growing more and more immune. It's a process.

In other news: I'm very excited. I get to review Blake Crouch's forthcoming RUN, which is described as such:

Picture this: A landscape of American genocide...

5  d a y s  a g o
A rash of bizarre murders swept the country…
Senseless.  Brutal.  Seemingly unconnected. 
A cop walked into a nursing home and unloaded his weapons on elderly and staff alike. 
A mass of school shootings. 
Prison riots of unprecedented brutality. 
Mind-boggling acts of violence in every state.

4  d a y s  a g o
The murders increased ten-fold…

3  d a y s  a g o
The President addressed the nation and begged for calm and peace…

2  d a y s  a g o
The killers began to mobilize…

Y e s t e r d a y
All the power went out…

T o n i g h t
They’re reading the names of those to be killed on the Emergency Broadcast System.  You are listening over the battery-powered radio on your kitchen table, and they’ve just read yours.

Your name is Jack Colclough.  You have a wife, a daughter, and a young son.  You live in Albuquerque , New Mexico . People are coming to your house to kill you and your family.  You don’t know why, but you don’t have time to think about that any more. 

You only have time to….

Doesn't that sound SWEET??? You know it does. And you know you're going to want to buy it. If it sucks, I'll definitely let you know. But Crouch has some killer street cred, lots of titles, and some important friends, so I'm sure it's going to be a breakneck read. I can't wait! (Doesn't hurt that I like his name. One of my kids has that name. It's a good name.)

Speaking of kids: I am the ONLY PERSON I KNOW who has had a baby in all three western U.S. states plus British Columbia. Vancouver, Washington, 1990 (first year of college + baby = umm, trouble...); Portland, Oregon, 1993; Tarzana, California, 2001 (Amy Brenneman from Private Practice had her baby in the room next to mine, six or so months ahead of me--I know--I was there the night she delivered 'cuz I worked in labor and delivery for a brief time. Yay for Random Tidbits You Don't Care About!); and New Westminster, B.C., in full view of the now-defunct/destroyed Labatt's Brewery, in 2004. (Canada loves beer!) I should get a medal for being so damn procreative and for diversifying not only the gene pool but for screwing up the genealogical efforts of my great-great-grandchildren. Ha ha ha...they're going to pull their finely groomed hair out trying to retrace the convoluted path of where their great-great grandparents came from. *giggles behind cupped hand*

Dudes, YESTERDAY I had thirty "likes" on my new Facebook page for my book, Sleight! If you haven't liked me yet, you totally should. It legitimizes my existence in ways I never thought possible. Yeah, so, I'm a mom and wife and stuff, but seriously? THIRTY people like me! (Well, if you subtract my husband, my mom, my dad, my sister, my best friend, and my daughter, then there are really only twenty-four people who like me, but whatevs. I'm so excited!) I will have lots of info forthcoming about the BOOK, the WEB SITE, the RELEASE DATES and FORMATS. Yeah. It's allllll good. This is really a fun way to pull myself out of bed every morning. 

It's Friday. I have to work this weekend on stuff other than words, which totally depresses me. Work sucks. Money should just come to be because I'm so dreadfully charming and adept with comma placement.

FUN TASK FOR THE DAY: Post your favorite (dirty) jokes in the comments section. I need a pick-me-up that doesn't involve a bottle opener or corkscrew.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Bringing back some old reviews on writer-relevant titles

Hello, dahlings...

I've added some reviews on GoodReads for some writing-related books I covered for a small writer-focused newsletter back in '06 and '07. They're good titles. And since I tend to harp about grammar and stuff (because I'm a know-it-all), I thought I'd share. Just in case you haven't heard enough from me today. Don't will be quiet for a few days after tomorrow. No more fun 'til Monday at least. I have to take pictures of people's children all weekend. And that's just a lot-o-work.

Check out the reviews for Sin and Syntax and Fondling Your Muse at my GoodReads page (links to pages are embedded in book titles. I hope!). While you're there, FRIEND ME. There are a few more...I just have to dig them up. There were some dead links on my blog because the sites where the articles were parked have changed their formats, so... I suppose one of these days, I'll re-build and re-post. For now, I am wasting far too much time looking for old documents when I should be making NEW ones.

Oh, I made an author page on Facebook. Check the badge in the right column. I've been a busy beaver today. And thanks to Megg Jensen, Karly Kirkpatrick, Angeline Kace, and Angela Carlie, I have new friends!

Prince VooDoo. He's cute, huh?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sick kids, eye strain, and cocaine...just another Wednesday on the new planet

When my kids are sick, I feel like a bad mom. Like maybe I didn't do enough to protect them from the bugs or maybe I didn't drink enough water when I was pregnant so as to support healthy immune function once they were hatched. Or perhaps I don't serve enough immune-boosting foods (this is likely; if it's green, they pretty much won't eat it, unless it's mint) and thus are prone to inhaling and incubating all the detritus that floats around the classroom. Alas, MiddleBoy called me from the office again, just two hours after being deposited at school (late). Total hours done in school this week: 1.75. Size of brain: shrinking. I am worried. Why a headache in a 9-year-old? I'm Googling encephalopathy as we speak.

OnlyDaughter is working on Smallville today. So is her dad. Lucky me -- he drove her to set at 5:30 this morning so I didn't have to. Win! I received a text from Husband that wardrobe outfitted her and made her all purty, and the crew loves her. She's a good kid. Seventeen going on thirty. Mature, articulate, and oh-so-tiny-and-sweet. And it's great that Dad is there to pop in and check on all 4'8" of her. I worry. That's my job.

OldestSon, the Soldier called to talk about moving out of his house and into temporary housing in preparation for deployment. I think he's nervous. He won't admit it because he's all tough and soldierly. I'm scared shitless. I don't support this war, haven't ever supported this war, but I have to support my kid. Even though it scares me to death and his participation contradicts everything I believe in. Doesn't matter. It's not my life, and considering a lot of the boneheads he graduated with are still living in their parents' basements, unemployed and drinking too much and spending their days with their good friend X-Box, I am very proud of my boy. He's doing it, all on his own.

Received another ARC yesterday for a novel coming out in May called The Summer Without Men. Review forthcoming on Best Damn Creative Writing Blog (I gotta read the book first, a'course). And in continued support of my fight against overuse of adverbs, this fancy-pants book I'm reading right now contains the worst adverb I've seen to this point: unqualifiedly. That hurts.

Rachel from Books I Done Read finished Sleight (my book) and said she liked it. The review will pop when the book is available for purchase (April), but that's sorta nice. A thumb's up, preliminary review (I haven't received the official written version yet). Feels nice. My ego is happy, for the moment.

I am stumbling across blog after blog after blog of publishing advice and suggestions and marketing tips and OMIGOD, I now have eye strain. For real. My eyeballs hurt, vision is blurring, and my eyelids are swollen. Saw a medical professional yesterday (okay, FINE, it was my shrink, all right?), and she agreed that my eyes look a little funny. Sorta puffy and red. I should stop reading. But I might miss something! Gah! I feel like a little kid who is resisting bedtime because she might miss out on the Costco-sized bag of M&Ms (peanut, no less!) her mom bought but has been hiding because the children eat too many.
I wish someone would invent a pill/food that would take the place of sleep. Sure, there's always cocaine, but it's illegal, expensive, and it destroys the lining of one's nose (or so I hear). Funny thing -- in 10th grade, I had Mr. Clark Hoss for history, my first class directly after lunch. And every day, I'd get a bloody nose within five minutes of class starting, because I'm prone to that sort of thing (blessed genes), never mind the fact that I found history class to be a terrifying exercise in madness. Whose brain can remember all those dates and people? One day, Mr. Hoss pulled me aside and asked me if I had a cocaine problem. I guess it was because my nose was bleeding and I was sort of...hyper. Like Sniffles the Mouse. But, seriously? Mind you, I didn't talk back to Mr. Hoss. He played football for the Philadelphia Eagles at one point in his life. (I just Googled him--he played for the Eagles in 1972). He was a large, intimidating man with blond, curly hair and a no-bullshit policy. Of course I wasn't using coke -- first, my parents were broke, and thus, so was I. No money = no cocaine. Not necessarily a bad thing. A lot of my fellow classmates were using, though, because cocaine was the drug-du-jour back in the '80s (and the school district I was in was affluent. Not us. Just everyone else.). Nothing says "I'm ready to learn!" like a white powdery substance dusted across one's nostrils and upper lip after climbing out of your best friend's BMW.

But I was a scrawny, hyperactive nerd with an overdeveloped sense of moral responsibility and a raging guilty conscience. Accidentally stealing a pen from the library made me nervous. Coke wasn't my bag, baby.

Why the hell am I talking about this?

Oh. Yeah. Cocaine would keep me awake. Guess I'll have to settle for coffee. Lots and lots of coffee. Ohhhh, my eyes are burning again! Make it stop! I think my eyeballs need a "me-day."

No time. There are M&Ms (peanut!) to be consumed.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Monotonous Monday

~Dirty Grammar Bite for Today~

I keep seeing/hearing this on TV and it makes me a little nutty. Less vs. fewer, from The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th Edition (5.202):

"Reserve less for mass nouns, or amounts--for example, less salt, dirt, water. Reserve fewer for countable things--fewer people, calories, grocery items, suggestions. One easy guideline is to use less with singular nouns and fewer with plural nouns."

Currently, there are commercials running that promise "less cavities" and "less calories." Not. Don't believe 'em. They're liars. If they said "fewer cavities" and "fewer calories," then I might buy the products they're schilling. Otherwise, not so much. Faulty advertising practices probably means their products will give you cavities AND make you fat. That's bad.

Another thing I wanted to address: genre. People who read books know what they like. Some folks like fantasy, some like romance, others like thrillers, horror, action, or crime stuff. Some like it all, whereas other readers are fussy and will only read authors they know and trust. Lately, I've actually started talking about my book project, out loud, and I've found that explaining what the book is has proved challenging. Not everyone is a nerdy bookface. Not everyone understands what genre and target market means. And writers, like every other profession, often find themselves lobbing blobs of jargon about that perhaps they understand, at the inherent risk of alienating potential readers. It's fun to learn what stuff means, and when we know what we're saying and use said words properly in conversation, we feel as though we belong to something greater than ourselves, that we are a collective of creatives rather than individuals holed up in dank attics and slouched over desks in cluttered kitchens. But thrusting our industry-centric words around in an environment in which not everyone is a player in the business of words will not earn us friends. Or readers.

As such, today I will risk looking like a moron (I'm good at that) and provide a few definitions for folks who might not otherwise know better. There is the chance that I am the last person in the reading world to understand this stuff, and if that's true, then I apologize in advance for rambling about stuff you already are privy to. I've mentioned before...I'm a slow learner.

YA = young adult ... While not technically a genre but rather an age classification, YA books are geared toward an adolescent crowd, often featuring an adolescent protagonist facing those pesky coming-of-age conundrums, even as they relate to post-apocalyptic life (The Hunger Games) vampires and werewolves (Twilight), falling in love with one's guardian angel (Hush Hush), or trying to break every bone in one's body to deal with the pain of being a teenager (Break). When someone tells you they have written a YA novel, it doesn't mean it won't appeal to grown-ups. These are often referred to as "crossovers," i.e., young adults and adults enjoy the story, for better and for worse (look at Harry Potter--not just for youngsters!).

Urban fantasy = A sub-genre of fantasy. When thinking of fantasy, one might think of dragons and magicians and all those medieval elements. However, a true fantasy includes some element of magic and/or the supernatural in its setting, plot, and/or theme. As such, urban fantasy takes place in an urban environment, i.e., a city. The story can be set in any time in history, but the element of the city is an important one. FYI: Not all urban fantasy has vampires, werewolves, or dead people as part of the story. When my book began to take shape and I realized it would likely be labeled an urban fantasy secondary to the supernatural components of the story, I railed against it and tried to find a way to call it magical realism. Because that's what it feels like to me. It's set in modern times, in a fictional city in Washington State that could be Any Small Town, WA, and it lacks magic wands, shapeshifters, and vampires. Not that I have anything against all those marvelous things--but the market has been saturated with YA urban fantasy projects, and I, like so many other writers, wanted to find a way to stand out. Alas, it only has shades of magical realism but isn't quite smart enough to be definitively qualified as such. Bummer. I was feeling so sassy and intelligent there for a sec.

More on fantasy, pulled from the Fiction Database (

  • Epic Fantasy (EF) -- themes of grand struggle against supernatural, evil forces. Generally set in alternate worlds
  • Heroic Fantasy (HF) (Sword & Sorcery) -- swashbuckling heroes engaged in exciting and violent conflicts. Tends to be set in pseudo-medieval settings
  • Alternate history – Set on Earth with a different historical twist
  • Dark Fantasy– Horror novels with a supernatural element

Paranormal = Just like it sounds. Ghosties and ghoulies and long-legged beasties (okay, maybe not the beasties part, but definitely otherworldly creatures, especially spirits, dead people who reanimate, and apparitions). Some of the definitions floating about online suggest that all paranormal stories are romantic at their core, otherwise known as paranormal romance. Twilight definitely fits this (I only use Twilight as an example because it's a widely consumed book). Bella the human + Edward the sparkly vampire = love and romance and hybrid vamp/human babies. HOWEVER, paranormal can be un-romantic. I don't know about you, but The Exorcist (a novel before it was a movie) didn't scream "love" to me. Unless you're kinky and into that sort of devil-love thing...

Cozy mysteries = I wanted to include this definition because until this weekend, I didn't know what the hell it meant. I'd heard it used, but I didn't know how to classify it or what books came from this sub-genre of mystery. Apparently, according to the Fiction Database, a cozy mystery is a whodunit in which there is "very little onstage violence, usually amateur sleuth." Oh, I feel so much better now. (No, I don't write cozy mysteries. Just for the record.)

Now that you've been bored to tears, if you want to read something funny (caveat: LOTS of swearing), check out Chuck Wendig's latest post about instilling sadness into the heart of your stories ( This guy is a comedy god. I bow, humbly, before his Terrible Mind.

Other than that...on the homefront: Middle Child is home sick with a headache and maybe the pukies (we're still waiting). Smallest Child and Only Daughter went to school (hurray!). Army Son is scheduled to deploy to Kandahar in/around two weeks from today. *Gulp* And I need a refill on my coffee. Congrats. You're now up to date on Shit You Didn't Really Care About.


Jovie is a cowgirl.

Originally appeared on ChicMom, but now on GoodReads: REVIEW of cracktastic YA, *Break*

Break Break by Hannah Moskowitz

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What were you doing during your junior year in high school? Chasing boys? Cheering on the home team? Worrying about the perfect prom dress (or if you were even going to make it to prom)? Fighting with your parents because of their crazy restrictive curfews?

I don’t know what Hannah Moskowitz did to keep it real during eleventh grade. And considering she’s only nineteen, those days were, well, like, yesterday. I know one thing she did do, though. She got herself a little publishing deal with one of the biggest houses in the country. In the world. She wrote a book called Break, and it is easily the most uninhibited, mind-numbing, high-concept YA (young adult) book I’ve ever come across.

From the back cover: Jonah is on a mission to break every bone in his body. Everyone knows that broken bones grow back stronger than they were before. Jonah wants to be stronger—needs to be stronger—because everything around him is falling apart.

YA isn’t just for the under-20 crowd anymore. And even though Break was published by a children’s imprint, it’s anything but juvenile. Moskowitz has infused a maturity into her work that clearly relegates her in the realm of prodigies—human beings that age shouldn’t know the stuff she’s writing. The story sounds simple enough—a kid hell-bent on self-destruction who finds that breaking his bones provides the rush and release other kids get from cutting, huffing, or drinking. But Jonah, and the life he is surrounded with, is complex and entangled. His baby brother never stops crying, for undiscovered medical reasons; his parents are embroiled in a taut, passive-aggressive, not-in-front-of-the-kids marriage; and his not-much-younger brother suffers from deadly allergies to milk, and pretty much everything else on the planet. Moskowitz’s vivid description of the mother’s sloppy lactation habits alone is enough to make the reader scratch her head and say, “How the hell did she know about this?” Moskowitz writes with a level of profundity unseen in most adult writers I read (and I read a lot), infusing deep psychological underpinnings in the latter scenes of the book where Jonah comes unraveled, or quite literally, broken.

The best advice I’ve ever received from a writing instructor was that, as writers, we must inject tension into every single scene. Moskowitz has done this; each page is ripe with tension of varying shades, from the stomach-curdling description of Jonah’s bones as they snap to the sexual tension of a seventeen-year-old boy involved in a relationship with his “non-girlfriend” Charlotte. The interpersonal relationships between Jonah and secondary characters are believable and heartbreaking, another testament to Moskowitz’s skill as a gifted teller of stories.

Moskowitz has a poet’s sensibilities in her tight, terse sentences, choosing every word for its merit rather than the beauty of its sound as it rolls off the tongue. If you have a sensitivity for the “F” bomb (which the writer uses with regularity), Break might turn you off, but understand that her choice to include such language is completely in alignment with Jonah’s character. The dialogue is true to type, and honest in its presentation. More compelling is the fact that Moskowitz wrote Break from an entirely male perspective, while she is female, not a small feat in any literary undertaking.

It is interesting to note that after reading Break, I emailed the writer to ask how many of her own bones she had broken in the process of writing this book. She emailed back within moments: none. Yeah, it’s that good.

Beyond my fascination with Moskowitz’s knack for shock value lies a visceral, educated writer who packs a powerful punch into every single sentence. On her acknowledgments page, she gives a thumb’s up to Chuck Palahniuk, a phenomenal novelist who twists humor and the macabre into a lickable candy stick at every turn. I am a diehard Palahniuk fan, and Moskowitz is the Palahniuk of her generation. If he hasn’t read this book, he should; it’s like listening to Gershwin and hearing the threads of Rachmaninov in the piece. Delicious. He would be so proud of sweet young Hannah.

Moskowitz, whose next book Invincible Summer is due out in 2011, is a cutting-edge up-and-comer to add to your must-watch list. This first example of her talents promises a long career of smart, excoriated fiction that sucks the reader in and holds them by the throat for the duration of the story. Break is a quick read, but one that will leave a lasting impression long after the final page has been turned.

And check out her blog at


View all my reviews

Friday, February 18, 2011

On barf, writer blogs, Kandahar, and my book

My youngest child, age 6, woke up puking this morning. (For those who are keeping count, I have four children, aged 20.667 down to the baby, 6.58 years. As I've said before, I'm a slow learner. Hence, four children.)

Puking is so incredibly disgusting, but it breaks your heart when it's coming out of the face of a really small person. Feel better soon, KennyG.

Beyond the vomitus that has been spread about my bathroom and the concomitant Lysol/Clorox odors now wafting through the rest of the house, I've been spending far too many late nights looking shit up on the Web. I've been doing research. Tons and tons of research, about self-publishing, e-books, marketing, Kindle Boards, GoodReads (BTW, if you're on GoodReads, friend me), what a self-pubber SHOULD do and should NOT do, how to sell yourself, how to sell your book, how to make your blog attract more readers, how to, how to, how TO. I think my eyes are bleeding. (And I really should be writing. Too much work trying to figure out how to sell the book when I should be concentrating on writing it. Rest assured: Book One is done. But if I want readers to take me seriously, I gotta get Book Two finished. My young friend Alanna will be happy to know that Henry and Gemma will not be stuck in the skies above Turkey forever, and that yes, they will kiss. Again. But they're not having sex. Not yet. If I tell you why, I'll have to kill you.)

Funny thing is, writers who take the self-pub route have a completely different approach as to how they carry on their business, each as different as the books they've written. Some folks write in one genre; this scares me as I've written this young adult novel, with plans for it to be a trilogy, but then I think that might be it for me in terms of YA. I write different stuff...with swear words and really dark themes. Not stuff for sweet, romance-hungry minds. I mean, the YA market is saturated. And I don't do vampires, werewolves, or faeries. I do like blood, though. And mean people. And I like it when the mean people are made to be bloodied. That's sorta fun...

By staying with one particular genre (thrillers, mysteries, crime/police procedurals, romance, young adult, etc), these self-publishers have been able to build their business, their "brand," their platform. (I'm beginning to loathe that word.) I've learned lots from Joanna Penn of the Creative Penn, Joel Friedlander of the Book Designer, JA Konrath, Scott Nicholson (he answered my dumb questions via Facebook messages...nice guy). Amanda Hocking (recent self-published phenom) and Zoe Winters (another self-pub with remarkable success) apparently have used the Kindle Boards to boost their business and establish friendships. And a gal named Victorine Lieske has broken all the rules and had self-publishing success with only one book on the shelves. A lot of the advice coming from seasoned self-publishers says that shelf space begets success, i.e., the more titles you have, the more you will become noticed. Thanks, Victorine, for disproving that like a shoddy 8th grade hypothesis at the county science fair.

I could go on and on. But I won't. Because if you're here, reading this, chances are you don't give a shit about all this self-publishing crap. You don't want to hear about writers building platforms, holding giveaways, and inviting other authors to cross-post on one another's blogs, or how Borders Books has filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and is closing 200 stores in the US, how the face of publishing is changing. I'm guessing you don't want to hear about how I have to figure out a way to make social media work for me, and all it does it make me feel like an old woman because I do not get the point of Twitter. I'm not clever enough to come up with something witty to say every ten or fifteen minutes like some of those Twits do. (I don't think they like being called that. Oops.) And, no, I don't think the Twit-o-sphere cares about what color shirt I'm wearing (the blue one, or maybe the bluer one...) or if I should have creamer or milk in today's coffee.

One of the issues the writing-centric blogosphere seems to talk a lot about is that writers who have blogs should offer something on said blogs in order to build a following. A lot of writers have writing and editing advice, how-to stuff, what to avoid in fiction, how to kill your characters, how to write dialogue, etc. Most of it is really basic, and thus a total snorefest (God, that sounds pretentious), though there are those few gems that I've found to be pretty helpful. I won't list them here because you don't give a rat's ass. I don't blame you. There are few things more painful than having to listen to someone go on about something you don't really give a ding's dong about.

And frankly, I don't want Planet Jenn to be a spot on the Web where folks come for writing advice. I have NO business giving anyone advice about anything, except maybe if they're going through a divorce and there are kids involved. My advice to you: get a good lawyer. And never, ever believe your ex if he tells you he will keep the kid(s) until you get back on your feet at that new job, even if it's just for a month or two. Those exes, they're crafty little scoundrels, lemme tell ya. When it comes time to bring the kid(s) back home because you're now on your feet, the ex's crazy mother will chase you down the street with a baseball bat and then call the police on you. It happens, people. Don't ever let go of your babies.

But, I digress. Blogging, Jenn, we're talking about blogging. So, um, anyway--I'm not going to use my blog as a platform for anything other than talking about what's making headlines on Planet Jenn. And right now, there is a fair amount splashing itself across the Town Square news ticker.

My oldest son, the one who is 20.667 years old, is preparing to leave for Kandahar with the US Army's 515th Sapper Company. He leaves on/around March 7. He's brave and ready. I'm scared shitless.

I am a mother whose son is going to war. I never, ever thought I'd have to say something like that.

So, my blog posts in the near future are probably going to be about my boy, as long as he doesn't forbid me to talk about it, and most assuredly about my book (do you want to know what it's about? I can drop the veil of secrecy because if anyone wants to steal my ideas or laugh at me, they're gonna, anyway) and my (mis)adventures in becoming an "indie publisher," maybe some grammar stuff here and there when I just can't take anymore bad grammar in the e-books I've been reading lately, and about whatever the hell I find funny, sad, or totally irreverent. Like this:

Did you hear about the solar flare that happened on Valentine's Day? No, not the one in your neighbor's bedroom after he gave his wife the diamond tennis bracelet (gross), but the real one that happened on the surface of the sun. Yeah, apparently it disrupted GPS and radio communications in China for a little bit. Once a solar flare does its thing (which sort of looks like a shockwave on the NASA video), it takes the charged particles, called a coronal mass ejection (that sounds so naughty!), approximately eight minutes to reach Earth. That's when the potential for disruption can happen. Oh, and auroras, all over the world! So pretty! Apparently, the light shows have been pretty spectacular up north the last few days (see what I mean?). The solar flare that happened Monday was the largest in four years; the sun runs on an eleven-year "weather" cycle, and we are at the tail end of one that is scheduled to end in 2013-2014. The brains who study this stuff say that even though the flare was impressive (rated as an X2, which is pretty big), as of Thursday the 17th, it was not expected to cause any disruptions to electrical services here on the Third Rock. So, gadget addicts and device divas, rest assured, you and your electronics are spared. For now. Until the next solar storm dances its way through the stratosphere, which, according to scientists, could be any time. And the next year or two will prove interesting as the solar cycle winds up for the end of its eleventh year. (2012 Doomsdayers, go away. I don't want to hear from you. Freaks.)

So, yeah...that's the way the cookie crumbled today. Although no one's really eating many cookies because they sort of hurt when they're hurtling back through one's nostrils...


Monday, February 14, 2011

That blue typewriter along the margin...

...was where it all started. My older sister, who recently passed away (love you, Shell), was born with cerebral palsy. She couldn't use her hands very well, certainly not to hold a pen. So she had a sky blue Smith Corona electric typewriter that looked something like this:

I loved it. I think I used it more than Michelle did. My first story (I was 5, maybe 6) was a ridiculous epic about a trip to a dentist. Had I known at that time that dentists would become a totally scary part of my future, I perhaps would've chosen a different topic to write about. Maybe bunnies or unicorns. Or maybe unicorns who spear bunnies with their horns and then host barbecues for their troll friends. Unicorns and trolls are friends, right?

My favorite part of that keyboard is the chunky, fat button of goodness on the right--the return key--isn't it just delicious?

The reason this is important: when you hit that button, you've moved onto a new line. Maybe that line is a continuation of the prior line, a sentence still incomplete. Maybe it's a new thought, on a line all its own. Maybe a poet is using the sky blue Smith Corona, like my buddy Shakespeare (although they didn't have typewriters, or electricity, in Shakespeare's day, I suppose), and that new line is an introduction to a sparkling-fresh, compelling thought that will leave its reader breathless and wanting more. Maybe you just like to hit the button because it's so damn big and fun and it makes the coolest sound. (I have yet to find a keyboard that gives me the same clicky sound satisfaction. Maybe my friend Lauren's keyboard--it has a nice click to it. Very satisfying, indeed.)

When you hit that button, no matter what you're writing or have written, it is a commitment to move forward. You're moving on, skipping to the next part of the page. After you hit that button 10 or 20 times, you've moved to the bottom of the page. Time to insert a new page. Clean, white, begging to be desecrated by whatever is clanging around in your cranium. It's weird, really, but the Big Blue Button wants you to hit it. It's begging you to hit it.

By hitting it, you're making a decision. You're moving ahead. You're moving.


That's the important part.

I'm trying to do that. I am awaiting my turn at an e-formatter (March 10th is my date); I'm working on cover art options. I'm going to offer my YA paranormal/magical realism tome as an ebook and perhaps as a print edition in the future. I'm moving ahead, even if it is in a way I never imagined I would consider. (I'm a snob. There are a lot of us out there. This guy is one: And this fellow has had mad success stemming from his self-publishing endeavors. He earned himself a fat, multi-book deal with Crown, subsidiary of Random House. He earned it, for reals. Lots of hard work marketing oneself. It can happen.)

If I do this, then maybe, someday, I'll be able to say thanks but no thanks to the folks who didn't believe in me the first (and fifteenth) time around. And I'll say LOADS of thanks to the folks who WILL believe in me, or who, at the very least, will believe in my story. It's not for everyone. I know that. But it's fun. I think you'll like it. If you don't, well, we'd probably still be cordial to one another in line at Starbucks. I might even buy your coffee for you. Well, that is if the book sells. Otherwise I will probably give you googly eyes in the hope that you'll buy coffee for me instead.

In the meantime, I'm gonna keep hitting that Big Blue Button. I'm gonna keep moving, one line at a time.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Brain. Is. Tired.

I think it (the brain) might be misfiring, actually. Maybe a remnant from yesterday's headache. Or maybe it's because I'm immersing myself in uncovering all-things-self-publishing, jump-started not just by continued grappling with the ongoing process of agent rejection but by reading articles such as this and this. Do you have any idea how many folks out there have opinions, blog entries, Web sites, marketing packages, advice, links, etc., that provide insight into the world of self- and independent publishing endeavors? I've found a few good ones, thanks to Scott Nicholson and his list of friendly friends who know what they're talking about. But...omigod...I'm totally overwhelmed.

The myths surrounding the process of self-publishing are numerous; the greatest of them all, which I am embarrassed to admit I've bought into over the years of reading agency and author blogs, attending conferences, and listening to the well-heeled dole out their well-heeled advice, purports that self- and independently published authors are nerdy losers who can't get traditional publishing contracts. But the folks I'm finding online who have had some mad success with peddling their own work, without the help of agents and Big Time Publishing Houses is...inspiring. Interesting. Enlightening. Seems that times they are a'changin'. (For an interesting perspective on just HOW the publishing industry might be able to survive despite itself, read this, a fascinating opinion piece by Computer World's Mike Elgan. Hunh. Whodathunk it?)

I'm obviously on the fence here. But thriller writer JA Konrath has published traditionally and independently, and has a bitchin' blog devoted to his adventures as a scribe making money in this crazy industry (A Newbie's Guide to Publishing). Dude's a bit smarmy, perhaps, but it's definitely part of his charm. I'd have a glass of whiskey with this bloke and just watch him and his friends roast the neighbors. Too much fun.

So now I'm looking for concepts for cover art -- words, visuals, ideas, extracted from the book (thanks, beta readers!) -- to be converted into images in the brain of a sublimely talented graphic designer. I know my limits, and thus won't handle this task myself. I suck at graphic design simply because I am not a graphic designer. Folks think that because I have a camera, and I take photographs, I must have a shred of artistic talent. I don't. Taking photos of people's cute kids, a plastic duck, the neighbor's new puppy vs. designing an eye-popping book cover that screams BUY ME? Two completely different skill sets. Like I said, I know me limits, lassie.

JA Konrath (and others) offer links to some really talented humans (here) who, for a reasonable price, design that all-important book cover and lend some kick-ass legitimacy to self-pub'd work. Think about it -- when shopping on Amazon, Chapters/, Barnes &, et al, if you come across some hysterically pathetic book cover, does it make you want to pay the $.99 or $2.99 and download the e-book for that Kindle/Kobo Santa brought you? Does it make you want to tear into the fiction that you hope is only slightly less lame than the writer's cat draped in velvet and pasted on the front of the book with the help of Photoshop Elements? I promise not to put my cat on the cover of my book. Probably a good idea because I don't have a cat in the story. Just a girl, a boy, a couple of elephants, a circus, and a really, really old book.

What I've learned today (and sort of already knew): Stupid cover art will make you look stupid. Period. There's a reason the Big Publishing Houses employ graphic designers. Even if the writing is brilliant (which, let's face it, just like with music and art, a lot of it is gonna blow chunks--this is true of traditionally published books, as well) and the cover art is completely retarded, no one is going to take you seriously. (And stop being offended by my use of "retarded." It's the perfect word for this scenario.)

In the meantime: I will be interviewing Hannah Moskowitz and reviewing her book Invincible Summer as soon as we can get our hands on the ARC (advanced reading copy, for those who are keeping track). Watch for reviews and contributor posts on Best Damn Creative Writing Blog. Just waiting for the ARCs to come in for books so I can do the really hard job of -- ho hum -- having to sit on my ass and read. Wow, that sounds so tough. And because I'm reviewing, I won't even feel guilty about indulging in some good books. Win-win!

Alas, this post has taken the entire day to write, between breaks to deal with a sick kid and Internet side trips, and now I have to drive another un-sick kid to soccer practice. (Call me a soccer mom and die. Just sayin'...)

Lates, turkeys...