Thursday, March 29, 2012

Anthropological Me

Spring makes me crazy. 

I want to do crazy things like buy a bicycle and bike to the grocery and the coffee shop like I lived in some quaint English village on BBC, ignoring the fact that in a few weeks it will be 90 degrees by 8:30 in the morning and the closest coffee shop is the Starbucks on the Interstate. 
Not me.

I would fill the basket (because of course the bicycle would have a basket on the handlebars) with delicious fresh produce that I will bring home and actually eat. And maybe a baguette. Spring makes me want to be the girl from the Anthropologie catalogue. 

Hey, maybe I’ll go to the farmer’s market instead! 

Or maybe I’ll plant a vegetable garden, in addition to the flower beds I want to put in and lovingly tend, even though the summer heat and drought watering restrictions will doom them to a short, but beautiful, existence. 

Not my house.
Spring makes me break out my rose scented dusting powder so I smell as old fashioned as my name.

Apparently spring turns me into Miss Marple. All I need to do is solve crime. 

I have coffee on the porch. I clean my office and find utility bills from 2008 behind my desk. I make huge stacks of books to give to the library. I actually dust my ceiling fan. 

None of this will last, of course. By the end of May I’ll be hibernating during the daylight hours, away from the heat and car exhaust. I’ll contribute to it by driving to the grocery store for Tostitos and Reeses peanut butter cups. 

But at least the weather will no longer be such a temptation pulling me away from work. 

Do you get spring fever? What do you long to do when the weather gets nice, even if it’s totally impractical. 
(P.S. In looking for pictures, I discovered that not only does Anthropology carry bicycles like the one above, but cruiser bikes have become quite the thing. If I point out that I had one of those in college and was mocked for it, does that make me a hipster?)

I cannot lie...

... this fox amuses me. And it looks eerily like my dog Penny on a bad day.  

Funny Animal Gifs - Animal Gifs: This Is How I Feel About the Subject
see more Lolcats and funny pictures, and check out our Socially Awkward Penguin lolz!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Teaser Tag

Today's post is one of those memes where you tag people, which I haven't seen since I moved over from Livejournal. Awesome. So someone tagged me, and here you go. If you're a writer, feel free to play along in the comments. 
  • Go to page 77 of your current manuscript.
  • Go to line 7.
  • Copy the next 7 lines/sentences and post them as they're written. No cheating.
  • Tag 7 other victims... er, authors.

Thanks to Candace Havens for giving me something to post about today.

Just how much magic were we talking about here? Maybe I should work up to that, in case it was a terrifying answer.
“Let’s start with the basics,” I said. “Who had means, motive and opportunity to kidnap Alexis Maguire.”
Carson folded his arms and leaned against the bookcase. “It would take a phone book to list all the people who would have reason to want to stick it to Devlin Maguire. Money, power, revenge…”

So there's that. Now, I'm off to work on it so you can read it soon!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

In which my subconscious takes me to school...

A Freudian psychiatrist would have a field day with the dream I had last night. (Okay, this morning, after I went back to bed after feeding the dog. It's Spring Break, y'all.)

I dreamed I was living in the apartment that I lived in while looking for this house. And it was full of trash and broken old stuff and simply useless things. (Anyone who's ever taught kids knows what I mean. I LOVED that little Suzy gave me a Hannah Montana Christmas ornament made out of macaroni, but I did not mourn its demise by squirrels in the attic. Hypothetically.)

So, anyway. It's not Hoarders: Buried Alive bad, but this apartment in my dream looks like my kitchen junk drawer, only all over. So dream me decides to start throwing out the actual trash. And then throwing out the broken stuff. And then throwing out the stuff that is meaningless bricabrac. Then all the clothes that are too big, too small, too gifted-by-my-great-aunt-Ida.

And in the process, I discovered an entire room in this apartment that I'd forgotten it had. A room with a closet big enough to be an extra room for either a study or a sewing room, with a closet of it's own. (I"m sort of obsessed with closets, which is kind of Freudian in itself.)

The psychology behind this is so clear, I'm not even going to point it out. Except I am.  Once we get rid of the useless and broken things we're holding onto, we find time/space/energy/emotion for things that are important.

THEN--here's the kicker. When I finally did get my butt out of bed, I'm eating my cereal and Mom comes out of her "suite" and she's looking sort of shell-shocked, so I ask her what's up. She's doing this Lenten "cyber retreat" of reading and stuff, and today's reading was about how we should never be so attached to material things that we wouldn't be willing to give them up. So she said, clearly shaken, "What if I had to give up my sewing machine?"

Now, Mom owns the BMW of sewing machines. It's got all this embroidery stuff, and a computer, and it does everything but sliced your bread for you. And quilting/embroidering is her THING, if you know what I mean.  She can't get around very easily, but she can make beautiful things with this machine. Unlike little Suzy's macaroni Montana, this gives her great joy.

So I told Mom, "You'd sew by hand." She thought about it a moment, then her shoulders relaxed, and she said, "Yes, I would. I could still make beautiful things."

Of course she could. My ninety year old grandmother is partially blind, but she still knits beautiful sweaters.

I once gave up the Internet for Lent. I allowed myself one e-mail check a day. That's it. No message boards, no IM chat, no surfing.  Now, this was before I was writing for a living, but I would say about 80% of my social activity was online. (Okay, 90%, but I don't want y'all to think I was a freak.) My friends lived in other states, I was participating in a writing message board, and IM chat was a big part of my day. It was REALLY hard. And that was before Twitter and Facebook!

But I still wrote. I wrote a lot. (It was just a hobby then.) I wrote by hand, to stay away from the computer. And I found time for a lot of other things, too. Of course, they were all indoors, and I didn't do anything so radical as go make face to face friends. But giving up the computer did not make me any less of who I am.

So, I'm curious. What could you get rid of easily?  And what could you give up that would be painful but possible?  Would it change who you are, or would it give you more space in your life to BE that person?

p.s. Maybe the theme for today is Thinky Thursday? 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Teaser Tuesday - Hot Cover

Here's a taste of the cover of Brimstone, the two-in-one reissue of my first two books. Let's hope the book is as hot as the cover:

And here's a teaser from a randomly picked page inside:

        You wouldn't think that a day could go downhill after dreaming you were on the roll call for Hell. But it did.
        "Have you voted for the class song yet?" A student council drone shoved a half-sheet of paper in my face. Astrobright Orange is painful at any time of day, but at seven-thirty a.m. it was vomit inducing. Also, the only thing perky I want in front of me at that hour is a coffeemaker. Since the drive-thru line at Take-Your-Bucks had streched to Canada, I was still severely caffeine deprived.  

Monday, March 12, 2012

Movie Monday - John Carter [of Mars]

No spoilers, I promise. Not least because I think you should go see this movie. In the RCM rating scale, this rates “Full price ticket, worth the extra for 3D.” 

Here are the short review, before I wax all thinky about character and genre and stuff: This is a really entertaining movie, visually stunning, and damned fun to watch. 
  1. Exciting stuff happens right away. Airship battle within the first minute. Awesome. 
  2. The (important) characters are really likable. Some of the others aren’t really fleshed out, but who cares. (More on that in a minute.)
  3. The script was nicely written, turning a couple of expectations upside down now and then. For a story that basically set the formula for this sort of movie, that was nice. 
  4. There are beautiful people in this movie. And they’re not wearing much clothes. And weirdly, that wasn’t cheesy or skeevy. It makes perfect sense. 
  5. Beautiful includes the Tharks, the nine-foot tall, green, six-limbed race of desert dwellers. They were so expressive, they could have flown them here from Mars and I wouldn’t have been surprised. 
  6. Dejah Thores. She's the precursor of Princess Leia in the books. In the movie she's just the coolest heroine ever. 
Could you pick apart this movie? Probably, if you worked at it. But why would you do that? This isn't a Serious Movie of Great Cultural significance. (Except maybe to SciFi nerd culture, of which I am a member.)  Personally, I'm glad it's not. I would LOVE to see more movies of this type and less dark, angsty depressing things. 

Just go. It's a terrifically fun movie. (More ramblings about character and genre and stuff below this picture of aforementioned beautiful people.)  

Now, the longer post that I wrote first, then decided it was a little thinky and long. But hey, maybe you're trying to kill time until your coffee break. 
Okay, some of you know, I’ve been looking forward to the John Carter [of Mars] movie for a long time. Like, before it was even greenlit. (Greenlighted?) I think I covered some of the reasons in a previous post, but basically the John Carter of Mars books (along with the Danny Dunn Mysteries and A Wrinkle in Time) were my introduction to science fiction. 
Basically, they were pulp fiction, which meant they were highly creative and entertaining reads that required a certain amount of suspension of disbelief. There’s internal logic and consistency, but you have to go with the flow that this guy is transported to Mars without really understanding why. 
And that’s exactly how this movie is. Highly entertaining, with interesting people who do interesting stuff.
The characters are engaging, though some are given more dimension than others.  Likewise, the different cultures of Mars (their politics, sociologies, ideologies) are only touched on, not explored. But you do get a sense that there IS a culture there, except that we’re too busy action/adventuring to delve into it. 
Which is as it should be. John Carter has a lot to accomplish in this movie. He’s a cool character with a good backstory for his baggage, and his job is to do stuff. Manly stuff, wearing little clothes and wielding big weapons. (I’m not mocking. All the actors fully commit to this basic, intrinsic concept of the genre, which makes it come off as truly badass.) 
His other job is to be there to interact with the more interesting characters in the movie: the Tharks (a tall, green, six-limbed desert-dwelling race) including Tars Tarkas and Sola, his allies, and Dejah Thores, the most awesome awesome action hero I’ve seen in ages. 
Dejah Thores, in the books, is the ancestress of Princess Leia. Even though her plot function is to be rescued, she’s also an intelligent and competent woman in her own right.
In the movie... She’s just flat out awesome. She’s a brilliant scientist, as self-sacrificing princess, a fierce rebel and warrior, and a slyly intelligent operative--not in her own interest, but with the goal of saving her city, and the whole planet. John Carter is really likable with his aw-shucks genteelism and rebel spirit. But honestly... He’s not that complex. I don’t think that’s a flaw of the moviemakers. I think that’s just the character.
Maybe Im giving too much credit here, but I don’t think so. The screenwriters have an impressive pedigree (including Michael Chabon, Pulitzer prize winning novelist who gets SciFi’s pulp heritage).  I simply love that they inverted the pulp expectation. John Carter is a likable rogue who runs on emotion and muscle, and the “chick” is brilliant and complex. 
I know Disney dropped the “of Mars” from the title because they didn’t want to alienate (ha ha) people who think SciFi is for nerds. (Even though the same people who think that will go so see The Avengers and The Hunger Games which are both--wait for it--SciFi.)  And I think that it's SciFi pedigree might be why it didn't do so well on opening weekend. That and reviewers who can't just enjoy a movie for what it is without trying to make it what it's not. Not every genre movie has to be The Dark Knight. 
Anyway. Back to genre books and suspension of disbelief. 
In genre books (Mystery, Romance, Fantasy/Science Fiction novels... Basically everything segregated from the mainstream “Fiction” shelves in the bookstore) I think there is a contract between the reader and the writer. The writer asks the reader to believe one impossible thing, and in exchanges promises that everything else will make sense if you just go with that. 

And there’s the writer’s obligation no matter what the genre: Provide internal consistency and interesting people doing interesting things. 
This movie definitely does that. Go see it and give SciFi nerd history some love. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Friday Finds: Endangered Species

You know how you come across things in that free association way that is my downfall on the Internet? Seriously. It's the reason I can look up bomb-sniffing dog training and somehow end up reading all about the mating habits of the South American Tree Climbing Water Buffalo. 

Which is my way of saying I can't remember who or what linked to National Geographic photographer Joel Satore's project to record studio photographs of all the endangered species in captivity. 
One of my favorite animals. (From

The goal of the project is to show what's at stake. Some of these species only exist in captivity, some of them in such small numbers that they won't exist at all anymore. 

I had no idea about that last bit, that zoos have to make difficult decisions based on limitations of breeding numbers and plain old finances. Sometimes a species just can't be saved, and sometimes they have to just let it go in order to put resources into saving species that have a better chance. 
Otters Are Awesome! (See more @ photographer's website.)

Anyway, the pictures are stunning, and you can see them and read about the behind the scenes action on the National Geographic Field Test Blog. There is also a gallery on Satore's website, where you can purchase signed prints, which support his project. 

(Photos are @ Joel Satore and you should go to his website to see them in their full glory.)

Here is my attempt to photograph the only endangered species at my house. (Endangered in that if she eats another one of my shoes, I may kill her. Not really.)

Penny (aka Princess Fang) snoozes in MY studio.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Book News -- Brimstone

Cue the trumpet fanfare. I have a new-to-many-of-you book coming out in September. Yes, THIS September. BRIMSTONE is now available for pre-order on Barnes and Noble and Amazon. (It's not listed yet on Books a Million or IndieBound, but it will of course be available wherever awesome books are sold.) 

BRIMSTONE is the new two-in-one edition of the first two books in the Girl vs. Evil series.* The cover is still under wraps, but here's the description:

Slinking down the streets, hiding in the shadows, always lurking just out of sight, evil follows Maggie Quinn. It's no ordinary, everyday evil, either—it's Evil with a capital E, and whatever's behind it, it clearly wants Maggie.

But Maggie isn't the type of girl to go down without a fight. She has a few powerful tricks up her sleeve, not to mention a best friend who's a witch, and she's declaring open season on demons.

I know some of you are going to be SO excited to see Maggie Quinn's name in the summary, but if you're already a fan, here's the bad news. It's not a new book. (That that you might not want a copy of the cool new edition.) 

But here's the good news: it's a chance for more people to become fans of MQ and her crew. So I hope that you'll recommend it to all your friends and librarians, and maybe we'll see more of the Girl vs. Evil adventures in the future. 

BRIMSTONE comes out September 11, 2012.  

*If you simply can't wait, Prom Dates from Hell and Hell Week are still available separately in paperback and e-book format.