Saturday, May 26, 2012

On Why You Probably Don't Want Me on Your Writers' Panel

So ... Friday. I went to Vancouver, which for those of you who aren't familiar with local geography, it's about 35 km or so from my house, but it takes minimum one hour to get where you need to be because of traffic, construction, and the fact that we have ONE FREEWAY here. Seriously. One. Highway 1. That's its real name. Maddening. "But that means less pollution! Better for the environment!" WRONG. It means more idling and more stop and go and more road rage as bungholes who should not be driving are allowed to do so, which is pretty much everyone except me and GET OUT OF MY WAY. There is a reason I do not commute. My blood pressure.

I Googled Hwy 1 signs for you. I found this instead. He-he, it says "hump."

ANYWAY, I got up early, set aside the fuzzy bathrobe and pink Crocs in favor of GIRL CLOTHES and high-heeled shoes (O.M.G.), and went to the Big Bad City. Ended up parking a million blocks (okay, four) away from the venue where I was headed and then had to walk -- in heels, remember! -- those million (four) blocks. Yes, I have blisters. With BLOOD. They hurt. I had to drink an extra beer last night just to make up for the pain. (Okay, that's a lie. I did not drink any beer last night. I thought about it, but then I remembered how I had to wear my Suckie (translation: fake Spanx) to hold in all that extra beer-and-Oreo fluff around my once-wee waist. My intestines were so squished, they were like HEY! WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON IN HERE?! BLURG!)

I arrived at my intended locale after that super-long walk: the Holiday Inn on Howe Street. No, I was not undercover on a top secret mission. I was not exposing an elaborate killer-for-hire scheme or pretending to pose as a mole for the illicit, top-secret PTA meetings going on all over the country. (Those parents -- they're scheming. I'm telling you.) Nope, I was headed for something far more sinister: a panel for first-time authors. Me, a panelist. Like, people asking me questions and wanting to know shit about my shit. I know, right? Me? What, were they desperate? Someone call in sick? There should've been a disclaimer in the program. We have Fantastic, Super-accomplished Writers 1, 2, 3, and then Jenn. Yeah, everyone else was booked. Sorry, due-paying members. 

So, we get into the room, we sit on the little platform at the front where we have water glasses and breath mints and name placards! So legit! Conference attendees start to filter in (including a long-lost comrade who I hadn't seen since the Writer's Studio days in 2007 -- hey, Ayelet! Happy reunion all around!). I meet the other panelists, ridiculously smart people with resumes and award lists longer than my hair (which has gotten quite long, for the record). Yeah, Canadian writers are smarty-pants. They always write about important, meaningful stuff. I mean, one panelist did a graphic memoir on her mother's decline and subsequent death from friggin' Alzheimer's. God, I was having chest pain just thinking about it. Needless to say, I felt a bit out of place.

And when that happens, I get nervous.

When I get nervous, I get silly and say stupid things.

And here's the best part: THEY GAVE ME MY OWN MICROPHONE.

It looked something like this. Only with foam on the mic part. You are IMPRESSED, no? I sure was.

I know, right? *shakes head* Fools. They had no idea what they were asking for when they gave me my own microphone (even though the little green light on mine didn't light up so I had to test it by talking like Darth Vader. It totally worked.). Not only THAT, but I was the last person to speak. Seriously? Could anything have been more AWESOME? Everyone else talks, says their important stuff, impresses the crowd with their amazingness, and then, uh, it's my turn. 

Yeah. I know. It was just that rad.

I started talking. Really fast, I'm sure, because it sounded fast to me, and that's usually a bad sign. I said some stuff about my book, held up the pretty paperback example that will soon, if not already, be unavailable and told folks not to buy it because there's a better one in the works (I think I actually used the word "sucks," but I can't remember), and I'm pretty sure I said "pee-pee" at one point to express excitement over one thing or another. I can't be certain, but I'm pretty sure I said pee-pee. It's coming back to me in little snippets. Something like, "I am so excited about ____________, I made pee-pee." Yeah. That totally sounds familiar.

Everyone else was so composed and well-behaved (Canadians are good that way). I mean, the guy next to me read one of his poems. Something about a river. He was so smart, I still have no idea what he was talking about. I forgot my dictionary because nobody told me I'd need it. Then again, it could've been the nerves because I knew as soon as he was done with his poem, it would be my turn to play with my very own microphone. (I did mention that they gave me my OWN, right?) And I cannot focus on YOU when it's almost time to talk about ME! Gahhhhhhhh!

That's me. Lots of trials, not many tales.
The scariest part about this is that they recorded the ENTIRE THING. The audio file will be available for members only via the Writers' Union of Canada website, and I am cringing already. There will be serious writerly types paying their dues, going to the TWUC members-only forum, clicking download on this audio file, thinking that they're going to get some consequential, impressive publishing advice from a panel of four. From three, they will get those things. From me, they get some bad jokes about urine. Why do I have a feeling this is going to come back and haunt me?


Nah, I'm pretty sure I made some sense at one point. I talked about bloggers and how they rule (and also how they are very protective of one another -- because they/we are -- and how sometimes the whole process feels like high school, because it does ...), how bad covers will kill your book, how fun it is to hunt for crappy covers and point and laugh over beers, how an EDITOR IS A MUST, how my editor is the Best Editor in the Whole Wide World, how self-publishing is not for the lazy or those without an entrepreneurial spirit, how self-publishing can and does open doors into other area of publishing, how it's good to get your name out there via online magazines and social media, and how different everyone's process is. Because it is. Many of us are doing this, but we're all doing it differently, with goals and results vast and varied. 

There is no right answer. There is only do or don't do. (And doo-doo, but I totally did not talk about THAT, I swear. At least I don't think I did. Only time will tell.)

When all was said and we were done, our hour and fifteen minutes expired, a beautiful older woman came up and asked about my editor (who, BTW, is getting her PhD in English literature, with specialty in post-colonial theory and 19th- and 20th-century British lit through UBC -- yeah, her brain is so big, she has to carry it around in a rucksack). I gladly shared my editorial experiences with this lovely lady, gushed about how great the last ten months have been working with Genevieve. And then this woman, in her heavy European accent, said, "I almost fell off my chair when you said you have a 22-year-old child. Did you become sexually active when you were ten?" As awesome as this compliment was, I had to giggle because this woman said "sexually active" out loud. I told her she's my new best friend. (For the compliment. And because she said a variant of the S Word in public. I really am a 9-year-old boy.)

So, thanks, Writers' Union of Canada, specifically Betsy Warland, for allowing me to be on this panel at your most respectable annual general meeting. It was cool. I promise, if you invite me again, I will not  talk about bodily functions. (Maybe.)

Now we get to watch David Beckham say "strawberry buh-nah-nah smoothie" because I want to lick him.

Xs and Os ...

Friday, May 18, 2012

Sharing the TBR list -- what my friends are reading!

SO ... about that giveaway ... we have a winner! Rafflecopter chose Ana Lucia Arroyave of Guatemala City, and she in turn chose INSURGENT for her prize. Smart Rafflecopter ... Ana Lucia takes good care of me, tweeting and commenting and keeping in touch. I love hearing from my friends far and wide. Otherwise, it's just me and the computer and the words (well, and the Fat Beagle and Boyfriend the Cat and the rubber ducks and my kids when they're home from school). Really. It gets lonely here. That's why I'm addicted to Facebook.

Boyfriend the Cat. Has a tiny gambling problem. Waiting for me to show my hand. He always wins.
As part of the giveaway thing on my FB fan page, I asked folks to list what they're reading, and I compiled a list for you to copy / paste, in case you're NOT on the FB bandwagon. Some great recommendations, especially for fans of YA. Here goes:

Incubus Dreams – Laurell K. Hamilton
Near Witch – Victoria Schwab
Insurgent – Veronica Roth
Immortal Rules – Julie Kagawa
The Selection – Kiera Cass
Glimpse – Stacey Wallace Benefiel or Carol Lynch Williams?
Hourglass and Timepiece – Myra McEntire
City of Lost Souls – Cassandra Clare
Bloodlines series – Richelle Mead
The Fault In Our Stars – John Green
Midnight Rescue – Elle Kennedy
Everlife – Kyani Swanigan
Under the Never Sky – Veronica Rossi
Black Heart -- Holly Black
Article 5 – Kristen Simmons
The Scorpio Races – Maggie Stiefvater
Until I Die and Die for Me – Amy Plum
Pure – Julianna Baggott
A Dance With Dragons and Game of Thrones – George R. R. Martin
Poseidon – Anna Banks
Defiance – C. J. Redwine
I Hunt Killers – Barry Lyga
Changeling – Kristin Cashore
Fire – Kristin Cashore
Bitterblue – Kristin Cashore
Working Stiff – Rachel Caine
Cinder – Marissa Meyer (**I LOVE THIS COVER!!!**)
Fall of Angels series – Keary Taylor
Descendants – R. Lynn
Demon Boy – Penelope Fletcher
Fat Is the New 30 – Jill Conner Browne
Wither and Fever (Chemical Garden series) – Lauren Destefano

I'd love to do a thing where, maybe monthly, folks share what they're reading, what they've discovered lately. Feel free to post in the comments about what's on your list, what you've been sent for review, what you're buying. Any genre, from any pub date. Don't feel that you have to list current titles. If you're reading Lord of the Rings for the umpteenth time, share it!

For Mother's Day, the offspring gave me An Abundance of Katherines (John Green) and Insurgent. I'm still reading the GORGEOUS Juliet by Anne Fortier (not YA), and the list of books queued RIGHT here on my desk is, well, ginormous. I need more hours in the day. DON'T WE ALL?!

In the next week or two: Book news, plans for future giveaways, and more domestic hilarity.

Now it's time for a gratuitous picture of Mark Strong because I loves him and he is my Lucian:

Tell us what you're reading. 
Tell us what you liked, your newest literary crush, or the one book you will never, ever read as long as you live.
Tell us your favorite book-to-movie adaptation, or the one that made you weep tears of blood.

And then, tell us a joke.

Add to the list. Make it mighty.

Xs and Os ...

Thursday, May 10, 2012

MY VERY FIRST GIVEAWAY! Only a year late ...

Because I'm groovy this way, and because I've never done a giveaway before (I'm slow on the uptake and I didn't know what to give away, especially since gifting children or pets is illegal) AND because it sounded like fun based on my insatiable desire to know what other folks are reading AND because I wanted to talk to my Facebook friends, the list of whom has exploded over the last week, thanks to the Accendo Press blog hop giveaway thingie ...


Like me if you want. There's a post there that gives instructions on how to enter the giveaway AND asks you to participate in the conversation. I want to know what you're reading! 

OR ... if it's easier, just click on the WELCOME, which is in the header bar doohickey:

See where it says WELCOME? Over there ---------------- ^^^^^^^

CLICK on it, and it will take you to the Rafflecopter entry form for the giveaway! Yay!

Or you can click on the link to go direct: 

What you could WIN: Either a copy of The Fault in Our Stars by my current author crush John Green ...

or Insurgent by Veronica Roth (just released last week) ...

OR ... within reason ... your choice of a book. On the Rafflecopter entry form, the question asks you what book you'd choose if given the choice. And I might just give you that choice! Unless, of course, you ask for the complete Harry Potter series in hardback ... that ain't gonna happen. I got a kid who needs college in just a few short months and another who's probably gonna need braces to take care of those ginormous bucky teeth.

SO. WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? It ends Tuesday night (May 15) at MIDNIGHT EASTERN, so that's 9 p.m. Pacific. Don't make me do the math for all the time zones. You already know math is not my strong suit. Otherwise I would be a mathematician and we wouldn't be here talking to each other because I'd be too busy counting stuff and, uh, and ... what the hell do mathematicians do, anyway?

WHEN ALL IS SAID AND DONE, I am going to compile a list of everyone's books that they've noted they're either reading now or are excited to read soon so that we can pick each other's brains and read LOTS of amazing books! I will share the list here and on the FB page. There's nothing more awesome than discovering new writers.

Thanks for stopping by. This is so much fun. I've never done a giveaway. What the hell was I waiting for? #slowpoke #nonetoobright

Xs and Os ...

P.S. For those of you hoping for news about Stratagem, all I can tell you is ... I'm working on it. I hope to have news soon. Don't give up on me. You totally don't want to do that because the news could be a slice of epic pie.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Food Is Dumb and the Emergency Tools Pocket

I'm a moderately whiny person. If you haven't figured that out yet. I used to be an extremely outspoken person, until I moved to Canada, and then that loud-mouthedness sort of waned a little as I realized that not everyone gives a shit about my opinion. THAT is a very American thing. (No offense, fellow Americans, but you do tend to see things a little differently when you live away from your home country for a while.) Americans are loud. We have big mouths. We have opinions about everything. If you disagree, and likely you will if you're American, and likely you will comment or e-mail to tell me I'm wrong, that Americans are a docile group of peacemakers, to which all of the commenters from foreign countries will call you a Crazy Yankee, which is TOTALLY MY POINT, it's because you've never lived anywhere but America for more than a year at a time. Try it. I dare you to not see that we tend to be the loudest, most obnoxious SOBER people in the pub. (Note: Once alcohol is introduced, all bets are off. Especially until I can get to Ireland and conduct a scientific investigation involving serious quantities of Guinness to prove my hypotheses and formulate an educated conclusion.)

You're welcome. *slurp slurp*
ANYWAY: Back to the whining. I tend to whine loudest when I have to do things I hate doing. Like a two-year-old in a hot car on a long road trip through the San Joaquin Valley where the windows can't be rolled down because of the dust and I'm out of Goldfish and Cheerios and my diaper's wet and the dumb dog stole my Sippee cup and I haven't had a nap and I can't sleep, anyway, because the driver thinks she's Kelly-friggin-Clarkson and won't stop singing even though she's causing deafness in animals for miles around, goddammit! *ahem* Because I have a herd of children, there is always something I'm supposed to be doing for someone else, often that I loathe, but I do it because it I don't, I look like an asshole. The Other Moms don't freak out when they have to unload dishes or fold laundry. The Other Moms devote lots of time to the various fundraising activities. The Other Moms don't go into the kitchen at 5:15 p.m. and start slamming things around.

That's because the Other Moms are mindless sheep.

Or maybe it's because they're better people than me. That's more likely the case.

As a result of my ongoing struggle with my lack of maternal perfection, I whine very loudly about grocery shopping. I. HATE. FOOD. I'm not one of those people who wants to be a foodie or wants to know foodies or likes watching cooking shows or reads dumb foodie magazines or who gets a boner over sloppy pictures online of a filet mignon prepared creatively with the shredded heart muscle of a wildebeest and freshly plucked, shaved tuber tendrils with orange sauce or who gives a rat's ass about the best time of the year to eat _________________ or what foods complement each other or WHATEVER. 

My daily menu? Bowl of cereal in the morning, likely Frosted Flakes or Lucky Charms. The more sugar, the better. (The healthy stuff makes me fart.) Around noon, and after at least two cups of coffee, I start to feel jittery and gross. That's usually my sign that I should eat something else. Granola bar is up next. Maybe a banana. That makes the jitters stop. Midafternoon snack is an open-faced peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Dinner is whatever I'm forced to make for the children. THIS is the extent of my interest in all things culinary. If it doesn't come in a package or take fewer than five minutes to make or involve the words "sealed for your protection," then it ain't for me.

So going grocery shopping presses all those buttons that piss me off. FIRST, I hate tight parking lots. I don't like jostling for spaces amongst other dumb people who think they have every right to be there but in truth, they're only there because I haven't used the laser beam hidden under my hair to vaporize them. After we park, there is the question of finding a suitable coin to rent a cart. (Yes, in Canada, you have to have a coin to free a shopping cart from the caddy. You get it back when you return the cart, but no quarter, no cart-y.) Likely I will be faced with waiting for some ridiculously slow person with a stumpy leg and two canes and a bad eye trying to free a cart, although he keeps dropping his quarter because his gnarled, arthritic hands are like blobs of bent flesh and he has absolutely no hand-eye coordination left in the one milky eye through which he stares at me. And then I feel obligated to help said person load his oxygen tank, not because I'm nice but because I want him to get the hell out of the way so I can get this misery over with.

Proof. Dumb, EH?
Inside, the fun really begins. It's crowded. Even the kindergarten teacher is here, as I discover while debating the price of extra lean ground beef versus ground turkey, and if the children will notice the difference. (Save me the vegetarian speech. I was a veg for six years and nearly starved to death. Why? Because I hate vegetables. Woman cannot exist on diet Coke and Red Vines. Actually, that's a lie. She can. I did. Likely to the detriment of my now-hollow bones.) We shop at a discount grocery store because food in Canada is RIDICULOUSLY expensive. We fill our basket with extreme frugality: this morning, we dropped $308, for a week's worth of food for five people, three of whom are still wee. We're not talking name brands, either. And very little meat. Too expensive. We shop the sales. We buy healthy crap (boring) and splurge only occasionally on the family-size back of Chips Ahoy (Kendon's favorite). Lots of soup. Pasta. Dog food (for the dog -- we don't eat the dog food). So, YEAH, eating is expensive here. 

But beyond the cost, what is the POINT of food? Why doesn't someone invent a pill or a paste or some way that all of our nutritional needs can be met without the need to spend SO MUCH TIME and MONEY wasted on something that we will enjoy for mere moments and then shit out within 24 to 48 hours? I am vexed.

The next set of problems presents itself: My fingers are sticky from touching the handle of the cart and I forgot to grab the Purell out of the car. Then there's the malodorous, morbidly obese woman in the Hawaiian-inspired muumuu with the flaking skin and feet shoved in sandals, revealing toes begging to be dipped in fungicide who's totally blocking the bread aisle with her cart that is loaded with enough processed food to see a small country through the apocalypse. There's the hipster who's Too Cool for School as he dances down the fruit aisle to music only he hears and then totally bogarts all the fresh raspberries for his smoothies. Then there's the new-to-town folks who don't understand the very culture-centric concept of Personal Dance Space and as such are standing WAY TOO CLOSE to me and I can smell not only what they had for breakfast but that they likely haven't showered in a week or so, and it's making me a little bilious. Top this shit off with a rush on toothpaste because it's on sale AND the fact that there's an empty shelf where the peppermint tea used to live, which pisses me off in a way only a tax auditor can.


By the time I get to the register, I'm three Xanax away from an inpatient stay.

Not me at the grocery store.
But the fun ain't over yet, folks, nooooooo, there's more. We have to pack our own groceries into the bags that we brought with us to the store. Customer service? Uhhhh, huh? Speak'a da English? No customer service here. The checker shoving your shit down the conveyor is as good as it gets. She might grace you with a smacked bubble from the cud gum she's got stuffed in her maw. Even the oxygenated stump-legged pirate from the shopping cart caddy is struggling to shove his bratwurst and Hungry Man dinners into his cloth shopping bags, which is a virtual impossibility considering he needs to keep himself upright with both hands solidly on both canes. His checker stands, watches, checking her text messages, while her lane, Aisle Five, line piles up with impatient, sighing customers. No one wants to help the almost-blind arthritic guy, even after the plastic tube to his oxygen tank disconnects and a strange hissing sound is coming from the child seat of his shopping cart.

What do I do? You're thinking I went over to help him. 

Nope. Instead, I dig into my purse, into my Emergency Tools Pocket (every girl should have one of these: pocket knife, sewing kit, cyanide tablets), and I extract THIS:
Mine was black, actually.
I walk over to Aisle Five and this is how it goes -- I'm in red. Tanya the checker's in blue:

"Hi, Tanya the Checker. Put your phone down and help this poor fellow."
"Excuse me? What, are you my mother?"
"If I were your mother, I would've drowned you years ago. Now help this guy."
"Fu*k off, four-eyes."

At that point, I step closer.  

"Hey, I know you're probably texting your boyfriend about the fact that your rash has gotten worse, but can you hear that hissing sound?"
Tanya listens for a moment. "Yeah. I hear it. So?"
"Do you notice how this poor fellow in your line is turning a weird shade of blue?"
"Yeah. I guess."

Then I pull out the lighter:

"Checker Tanya, that hissing sound is his oxygen tank. The little plastic tube is disconnected, which means pure oxygen is spilling from the little silver hole thingie in the tank. Before dropping out of seventh grade, did you learn that oxygen + flame = BOOM?"

At this point, Tanya stops chomping her gum.

Me, lighter held steady: "I think you should help Mr.--" [I lean over to Mr. ___________ whose milky eye is now VERY wide as he stares at the lighter.]

The man says, "Gunderson. Bob Gunderson."

"Thank you, Bob Gunderson. Now, Checker Tanya, I think you should help Bob Gunderson with his groceries and stop being an asshole, or I'm going to flick this lighter and make that text you sent your last words. Are we clear?"

Tanya nods aggressively and moves realllllllly quickly. Everyone is super quiet. I like it when it's quiet. Except for the biddies on Aisle Four:

"Is she a terrorist?"
"No. With all those Lucky Charms, she's gotta be a mom."
"Oh, right."

Between you and me, the lighter was dead.

The only downside to being in the back of this police cruiser, other than the fact that it's sticky and the seat's hard and it smells unholy? I won't get my quarter back from the cart caddy. 

Xs and Os, lovelies ...