Thursday, October 28, 2010

Scenes from Halloween

Halloween is my all-time, absolute favorite holiday.

My mother says it's because we didn't observe it at my house when I was a kid. Maybe. I think it's because the weather is finally cooling off down here, and outside is just perfectly right for the event--windy, dead leaves blowing, full moon... and everyone's so excited, something hilarious typically happens.

So in honor of the occasion, I present my Top Three Favorite Halloween Memories starting from least scary to... well, most silly.

1. The Country Fair-McCue Road.

In elem-middle grades, I went to a private school that had a Country Fair every year on Halloween. There were games, dunking booths, crafts for sale, fair food, etc.

That was all fun when I was little, but when I got closer to high school, I realized the teenagers would always take off and run around to local "haunted" sites while all the children and parents were at the fair. (Back then you got your drivers' license at 15 and I had an older brother.)

There were two sites near where we lived that had several legends around them. The first was McCue Road. It led back into the woods and started off paved, but eventually it turned to gravel. Supposedly two dead bodies drained of all their blood had been found wrapped in garbage bags back on the gravel part. Naturally, that meant there was a coven of witches doing Black Sabbath rituals that we had to investigate.

The other was a grave at this Civil War-era cemetery in Zachary, La. I don't remember the name, but the grave had bars installed across the top because the legend was it contained the corpse of a witch. One by one the bars had been removed by... teenagers... and supposedly when the last bar was gone, she'd come back and kill us all.

All sorts of stories about cars going dead and then failing to start, power windows going down and not going back up, headlights going out and not coming back on, etc., were told by kids who'd tried to steal bars off the grave.

(To me that didn't make sense because wouldn't she want to come back? So why mess with the teenagers trying to release her?)

Nothing ever happened to us on these trips, but the memory of being 13 and allowed to tag along with the cool "big kids" on those adventures is still pretty vivid. It forms the basis of my Halloween love...

2. My Hero.

In college I dated a guy who was six-foot-two, 200 pounds--big guy. He stomped around town in Size 13 Docs, was the lead guitarist in a band. Mr. Cool, right?

He was also the youngest of nine kids--good south Louisiana Catholic family--and claimed when he was out running one night he saw the Spirit of Death (a dark shadow) rise out of a gutter and go into a house in his neighborhood. The next day (he said) the man who lived in that house died of a heart attack.

My boyfriend was also a major campy-horror-movie fan. Like the super B- variety. He made me watch The Evil Dead. And the sequels. Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Piranha! (the original)...

So he and I went to this haunted house one Halloween--you know, the pretend kind where people dress up and try to scare you? Many of you have never seen me in person. I'm not so big. I'm about five-foot-four, and I weigh between 120 and 130 pounds, depending on if there are cupcakes in the house.

At one point on our haunted tour a fellow dressed as Leatherface with a chainless chainsaw ran out toward us. Immediately my giant boyfriend lifted me off the ground by my upper arms and threw me in front of him, at the guy with the chainsaw.

Me: What are you doing?!?!
Him: (panicked) They won't hurt a girl!
Me: They won't hurt anybody! It's all fake!

We all know that was a completely illogical response, btw. They always hurt the girl.

3. Trick or Treat.

As I said, we didn't celebrate Halloween at my house when I was a kid. Well, my paternal grandmother thought that was a lot of ridiculousness. So one year when my brother and I were visiting her at Halloween (we were very young), she decided to take us trick or treating around her small hometown of Liberty, Miss.

I was very much a pleaser as a child, and I just knew we weren't supposed to be doing this. Internally, I was all a-fret because "if Mom found out..."

I was also a pudgy little kid. I was never very tall and until I hit puberty, I was ... well, fat. There's just no other nice way to say it. I didn't like to sweat and I liked to eat. Two plus two equals four.

So we went to several houses, got bags filled with candy. Me: Hey, this Halloween business ain't so bad! Then my Mammaw said we had to go to one more house. It was someone she knew, but at the time, I wasn't aware of that.

My brother and I walked up to the door and knocked and "REEE!!!" An Evil Witch jumped out and released a blood-curdling screech! My brother took off like a rabbit, but I knew I'd never out-run her. I closed my eyes and started swinging my Halloween bag with all my might.

To this day I remember hearing nothing but a high-pitched shree and feeling all my precious candy falling around my shoulders and disappearing through the cracks in the porch. At some point, I took off running. I was not pursued because the "witch" was bent over, hyperventilating with laughter.

I remember seeing her talking to my grandmother through the driver's-side window at the car, and I crept back and got in the backseat. We had to drive a few blocks before we found my brother...

So there you go! And I'd love to hear your stories... now I'm thinking this should've been a blogfest. Regardless, get out, scare some children, eat some candy, watch a scary movie, be safe. But most of all have a very, very


Monday, October 25, 2010

Revision Reaction

Reaction isn't the right word for what's buzzing in my brain right now, but I wanted an alliterative title... I need Jessica's help.

What's the R word for "revision performance anxiety"? Or "complete and total revision panic attack"?

For those of you completely lost, ten days ago I got a "revise and resubmit" request from my personal top-pick agency. Like the only agency I ever wanted to query from Day 1 last year when I decided to pursue this novelist thing seriously.

But you don't just query one agency. That's crazy, right?

Still, every writer who's ever played a role in my life as a reader (or a writer) is handled by these guys, and working with them would be like... I don't know. Like the seal of approval as a novelist. Or something.

So it happened. They're giving me a shot. And ten days later, I still haven't started revising.

Oh, yes. I've made lots of notes. I've discussed it ad nauseum with crit partners and local betas and JRM. I've told them my ideas for approaching the requested changes and everyone's given helpful suggestions and been so super-supportive. ((big hugs))

And yet I sit here staring at the compuer screen. My throat's tight and it's possible my stomach has completely closed up. I can't seem to open the document...

What's the problem, right? I've worked as an editor for more than a decade. It's really not that big of a deal. Hello? Mountain? Molehill? Just do it already.

Well, I'll tell ya (as I told another crit partner who's vying for sainthood)... I'm not really sure where to begin. I mean, I've never revised a book before.

All my revisions have been on short, feature-length news stories. And that's just a matter of beefing up the lede and other things I won't bore you with here. The gist: it's pretty straightforward (and quick) work.

In this case I've been given some guidance but nothing terribly, terribly specific. And I feel very, very overwhelmed. Like throw-the-whole-thing-out-and-just-start-all-over overwhelmed.

... and well... There's this other thing...

I've been afraid to say it out loud in case somebody hears me. Come close and I'll whisper it... shh...

What if I do all this work, make all these changes, think I've got it perfect and then they come back and say, "Right. Well, nice try, thanks--Pass."



Then what?

All that time, the energy, the neglect of family/friends/house/appearance/fitness... And in the end, They passed.

In my mind, the idea of that happening is, well, it's me under the desk for a month. At the very least.


Okay, now that I've reread all that, I look at it and think, "Who is this person? God, what a ninny! Just shut the whining and do it already."

You never know unless you try, right? And so what? What if they do say "no thanks" after all that and pass? Nothing ventured, man. It's not about the agency, it's about my ability to tell a compelling story that people want to read. These guys don't represent King or Grisham or Rowling and they all seemed to manage just fine.


And as my finger hovers over the "delete" key, I pause...

I know part of our blogging writers' community here is sharing this kind of stuff. So I hesitate to wipe out this pathetic mess of a post in favor of giving you something cheery and upbeat that will make you giggle.

Anybody else out there felt this way? Or feeling this way? Or got some advice for the ninny taking up space in my head?

Til Thursday... I'm opening the document now, dangit.

And if you need a giggle, here. I give you... well, I was going to give you some pining for the fjords. Instead I give you the Queen Victoria Handicap. Love~ <3

Friday, October 22, 2010

Another reason I love this place - The Writers

I was just assigned this local guy to interview, and I thought you all might find his story fascinating.

He's a fellow writer, Murray Dunlap, and in 2008, he nearly died in a car accident. He suffered a severe head injury but he's still writing. You can read about other times he nearly died at this link: (Link)

This is the link to his website, where you can learn more about him and what happened: (Link)

Have a great weekend, guys!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Book Review - Someone Like You

Since Monday's post, I've been feeling very out of it not being a daily blogger. I've received so many encouraging notes and well wishes, I've wanted to say a big THANK YOU! every day.

Seriously. I've been nervous, excited, working, trying to keep up with everything else, but I have not missed how great you all are with the well-wishes, the advice, the crit partners ready to read again. You guys are truly amazing. Thank you, and so much love~

Now for our Book Review!

Someone Like You is another Sarah Dessen title, and if you've been keeping up, you know I'm a fan. I literally finished this book in a matter of days and would've reviewed it sooner, but you know. Life.

SLY opens on the main character Halley at "Sisterhood Camp," where she's supposed to be learning self-esteem and in turn, getting along better with her parents (read, her mom).

Halley's mom is a psychologist, and prior to the start of the book the two were model parent-child relationship close. But over the summer, Halley and her best friend Scarlett have started branching out more and as a result, she's done the whole withdrawal from the parents thing.

In the first chapter we learn Scarlett's love interest Michael Sherwood has been killed in a motorcycle accident and then just a few chapters later we learn Scarlett's pregnant. Sort of an interesting dilemma.

Scarlett's mother encourages her to have an abortion, but when Scarlett refuses, her mom decides she'll put the baby up for adoption. Scarlett is also opposed to that.

Now all of that is just the backdrop to what happens to Halley, our main character. The book follows her first love with Macon, who was also Michael's best friend.

Both guys were pretty fast and loose with the ladies, and Dessen cleverly works that side of Macon into the story. The reader sees everything through Halley's eyes, so he starts out as this grief-stricken, but adventurous cute boy who often doesn't make it to school or encourages her to cut class or who drives to her house in the middle of the night.

And while Halley thinks it's all romantic, the reader also begins understanding Scarlett's warnings and the cautionary tales from another girl who isn't exactly Halley's friend.

The story culminates with Halley having to make a choice about who she really wants to be and how far she's going to follow Macon. Hence the title.

You know me, I always seem to give Dessen's books A++s, but in this case I especially like how few if any of the characters in Someone Like You do what you'd expect.

I like how Dessen works in Michael's official, model girlfriend's attitude of not really caring so much about families or doing the right thing and then contrasts it to Scarlett's choice and the subsequent fallout in public opinion. Even Macon's more than just a two-dimensional bad boy. So I highly recommend this book.

Heads up to moms, the book does contain some language and scenes of alcohol and drug use, but these scenes are handled in an accurate way. I remember having the distinct thought that my daughters should read this book when they're in high school.

I'm still working on revisions over here--you guys have a great weekend! Thanks again to all of you for just being so awesome. Love~ <3

Monday, October 18, 2010

When several things happen at once

Friday was an odd day. I'd finished the first draft of WIP3 the night before and I remember telling a few of you that I was feeling many things... excited, euphoric, exhausted, a little nauseous.

No worries! Knock out a few paying gigs and rest. Right?

Wow. Then out of nowhere Dream-come-true Agency replies that they liked BNN and would I please make a million changes? And if I did, they'd be happy to look at it again.

Can I just say, that's such a surreal place to be.

On the one hand, they're basically saying what you sent wasn't so great. But on the other hand, it's a bit like a sneaky vote of confidence... the whole "we think you just might be able to pull it off anyway."

I totally had a moment.

Suddenly it was all very real... and naturally, I went under the desk. Did that just happen? And can I pull this off? Me? Some little no-name girl from south Louisiana who likes to daydream? (I mean, that's who I am in my head, right?)

In other news, I agreed to be the photographer for our local magazine (in which I'm traditionally a writer) and take some shots at the Bon Jovi concert. They were here as a part of those free "Concerts for the Coast" to attract tourists back to the beach.

You see, the oil spill did more than damage the Gulf. It almost finished off what the recession started in the economy of south Baldwin County. Many more people lost their jobs, one local fisherman took his life...

While I was there, I looked at these guys who've been entertaining crowds of 30K+ off and on since they were in their 20s and I wondered what kind of surreal moments they had.

I was also there with a mob of friends who had no clue what was buzzing around in my little pea-brain, and who as far as I knew, weren't thinking about the world of book publishing. We had a great time.

At one point in the night, I looked down at the cuff of my jeans and I noticed it was filled with the soft white sand this place is famous for. As I looked at it, I remembered a time in my life when I thought the greatest thing in the world would be to live at the beach.

That made me smile. And right then I wished I could push all 35K of those nice people away and just sit down and stare out at the water for a while. That always helps me put things in perspective.

Big thanks to my bleeps and crit partners I leaned on Friday. I hope you know you can always lean right back if you need to. Looks like I've got some work to do. Til Thursday~ <3

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Flip Side of Falling in Love

Yeah, so Monday's post was about falling in love with your characters, and I admitted I typically fall in love with the male protagonists in my books. But that's because I create them to attract my female MCs, who in turn wind up feeling like my closest friends or even family.

All this love is a good thing we decided because it keeps us engaged in our stories...

Now here's the problem: Because I love them, I never want my MCs to get hurt. Or to suffer. And like my actual friends and family, I try to protect them.

And I've been zinged for it by crit partners. "This one should suffer more/longer," they say. Or JRM says something like my writing will only improve if I can get over this. JRM is also a huge Stephen King fan, whereas I am not.

A while back in this post (link) I wrote about how I'd gotten this idea for a new story that was different from anything I'd ever written. It was dark and velvety and wouldn't end happily. (Remember that?)

Well, here we are. I'm in that story and female MC is up against a really nasty character. So far I've gotten her out of every close call with him. But he's coming back now.

She has a plan for dealing with him, and I want her to succeed...

But it doesn't really make sense for her to succeed. She's only 17 and inexperienced in what she's planning to do. She's also pushed away one person who could help her and has the other completely in the dark. Still, if she's successful, I'm afraid it would feel like one of those deus ex machinas.

So I'm sitting here trying to get her out of it. Alternatively, I'm thinking of a way to make really nasty villain suddenly have a change of heart...

That doesn't work either.

Maybe her fellow can get wind of what's happening and swoop in and save her... Ho, yeah. I'd get zinged for that one too. I know.

So that leaves me with hurting her. Ugh! I don't like it at all. Then I think, I'll just put this one away. Or scratch it all out and forget about it. Let her ride off into the sunset with male progatonist and pretend there's no evil in her world. Disney.

And anyway, who says I have to write something completely different?


So tell me, bleeps: you guys ever been here? Written yourself to a place you didn't like? What did you do? Go with it regardless? I'll take any advice ya got.

In the meantime, I'm just over here thinking about it. Monday, hopefully a book review. Til then, have a great weekend~ <3

Monday, October 11, 2010

Falling in Love Again

I confess. I fall in love a lot.

In the last year, I've fallen in love with four guys. The first three were named Jack, Julian and Jordan and then I read Clarissa's hilarious post about how "there are 26 letters in the alphabet, why as writers do we tend to get stuck on two?" (Insert big laugh.)

Wait... huh?

So the fourth was named Beau.

I'm talking about the male leads in my books, of course.

Naturally, I love my main characters. They're typically amalgams of females I've known, characters from movies or books, women I've interviewed, my imagination... And then I put them in tough situations and see how they get out.

But there's always a fellow there. And how can you not fall in love with him?

He's usually an amalgam of guys I've known or interviewed, characters from books or movies, my imagination...

Sometimes he's not interested in my MC (Jack) or he's interested but something's keeping them apart (Julian) or she's completely out of his league and he doesn't even try (Jordan).

Or he's in her league and does one great thing after another for her, but she refuses to let him help her or involve him deeper in her problems (Beau).

I'd like to think I'm not alone here. I mean, don't you have to fall in love with your main characters to write a compelling story? Or is this all a function of the type of stories I write. (YA)

Perhaps if I were a male (or still a female) writing action-packed fantasy or mystery-thriller novels, I'd think of my MC as more the idealized version of me or someone cool I'd like to hang out with...

I don't know. I'd probably still fall in love with them. But that's just me.

I'd love to hear about your MCs--are you in love with them or are you just good friends? You think this is all a function of genre? Is it possible to write a good story and not fall in love with your MCs?

Have a great week, guys~

Friday, October 8, 2010

The House is Not For Sale

The Koors house is empty now.

It was quiet and their American flag was waving on the front porch when I walked out to get the paper early this morning, but no one was home.

It made me think back to when we first moved here six years ago. We didn't know anyone in Spanish Fort. Richard had lived in Mobile his first time through, and I didn't know what to expect from this tiny, country town on the bluffs of Mobile Bay.

The night we arrived it was storming. I'd driven with Dad from Baton Rouge to Indianapolis, where Richard and his dad were waiting for us. Our friends helped us pack and then the four of us drove two loaded pickups and a Penske 13 hours to south Alabama.

I didn't know anyone when I moved to Indy either, but by the time I left, I knew so many awesome people. A big group of us still keep in touch, mostly through Facebook and L O S T discussions. I miss them. Sometimes very much.

In Indy, Richard and I lived in a duplex on North College Street that was a few blocks down from Atlas grocery. Atlas was where David Letterman had been a bag boy as a teenager.

It was a small, old-school grocery, but I liked it because they carried andoullie sausage and authentic Louisiana ingredients for making gumbo and jambalaya. Tough stuff to find in the Midwest.

Atlas closed while we were still on North College, and I was so disappointed. But soon after a nice fellow opened a restaurant called Yat's a few blocks down and eased the pain.

I met him once. Louisiana people always seem to find each other. He was from New Orleans and sold large plates of etoufee and creole jambalaya with maque choux and a slice of French bread for $5. I stopped missing Atlas.

The other side of our duplex was vacant several months until a mixed-race couple from Cincinnati moved in with their roly-poly baby boy.

Their names were Corey and Megan and the little boy was Alex. Megan had long light-brown hair and she was a painter. She practiced "attachment parenting" and had an alternative immunization schedule for Alex. I think she was planning to breastfeed him until he was five or something.

I had no idea what "attachment parenting" was and Catherine got her immunizations by the book. But I was also nursing, so we had something to talk about.

Corey was light-skinned and a sculptor. He converted the shed where we were supposed to park into a studio where he hammered and welded wood and metal items together to make strange-looking figures.

I crept out there one night to peek at what he was doing, and I was amazed at how nice the former parking shack now looked. He showed me some of his pieces, and I commented that he made a door for the entrance. It was good work.

Corey was the first person I met who did that style of art. I'd only known painters and one mixed-media artist up to that point. He was tall and skinny with a goatee, and he wore dreadlocks.

They were both super-nice kids, and I remember thinking how young they seemed. I wasn't very old myself, but they seemed much younger.

I remember thinking they should've kept moving from Cincinnati to California, but they ended up buying a house on Winthrop Avenue in Broad Ripple.

We bought a house on Winthrop also, but less than a year later we sold it to move here. We made just enough money on that real estate deal to put a downpayment on this house.

It only took a few days to meet my neighbors in Spanish Fort.

First, I received a hibiscus plant from Sue Ronk with a welcome card and her telephone number. Next came a peace plant from Marilyn Allen with a card and a note that her high school daughter babysat. Last came an Easter lily from Miss Betty Koors.

Miss Betty was 85, and she brought it over herself. Then we walked around my elaborately planted yard and she told me what everything was. Miss Betty's yard was also elaborately planted, and she made some grumble that Miss Retha (the previous owner) bought everything and didn't know when to stop.

I imagined they had an unspoken yard competition going on, and grinned. Miss Retha was also in her 80s, and I met her at the closing when she teared up as we all signed on the dotted lines.

I felt bad that she was crying about us buying her house and made some comment about how the girls would love the upstairs bedroom that was decorated with wallpaper featuring bunnies in a flower garden. She left us her telephone number and a note to keep in touch. She also left us her cat, Snowball.

Catherine was 17 months when we moved here and Laura was 6 months. They loved Snowball and the yard and playing in the bunny room. I loved carrying them across the street and talking to grumpy Miss Betty. We had the same birthday.

Miss Betty died three years ago, and Nina came to live with Mr. Jerry. He can barely walk and has Altzheimer's. Last week Nina died.

It's strange to look across the street and not see somebody poking around in that gorgeous, over-planted yard. I don't know that they'll sell the house, but I'll be curious to see who moves in.

I'll have to bring them an Easter lily and tell them I have no idea what all's planted there. I never cared much for gardening.
Note: This is a repeat post from April. I don't normally do this, but today Mark's having a yard sale of Ms. Betty's things down at his house and it just seemed right. I never told her when she was alive how much I enjoyed knowing her, but I hope she knew anyway.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

What's your major?

The other night JRM asked me who I wanted to be when I grew up as a novelist (i.e., when IT happened). And I couldn't answer. I mean, I've written almost four books now, and while they're all YA, the subject matter in some is very different from others. And I really like them all...

Then I got to thinking, J.J. Abrams gave us Felicity and then Alias and then L O S T ... all very different from target audience to subject matter. And while you'll get different things from his shows, I bet you can tell they're all his joints.

Although, I suppose you could argue that once L O S T became the huge hit that it did, he hasn't done much differently. (See: Star Trek, Fringe, Cloverfield.)

So I got to thinking. Is it possible as a novelist to just write the stories you love? Or do they have to be all the same genre?

In my case:

  • Debut Novel, which I still hope eventually sees the light of day, is a YA romance-slash-mystery. (And the first in a series.)
  • Brand New Novel is more of an edgy YA romcom.
  • WIP1 is more of a coming of age YA. (First chapter's up on The Writing Show--woo!)
  • WIP2 is YA romance-slash-SciFi.
  • WIP3 is YA (light) historical romance.

I think I have a very distinct storytelling style, and at least they're all YA with romance... Just tell me now. Is this BAD?

What about my bleeps. What's your major? Do you stick to one genre when writing?

I suppose like most entertainers, once I figure out what the public wants from me, I'll probably just keep giving it to them over and over and over 'til I drop.

Unless I become a Grisham or a King and then I can write whatever the heck I want because I'm living on my own private island in the South Pacific...  (*a'hem,* what? Sorry, I dozed.)

In other news, I do apologize for being so slow making the bl'rounds these days. I'm at 45K words on WIP3--SQUEE! The end is in sight, and I'm feelin it!

In other other news, doing my interview today with Paula B. at The Writing Show. I'm hoping not to sound like a complete scatterbrain and will let you know when it's available for your listening enjoyment (and/or nonstop teasing fun!).

Until Monday, Love~ <3

Monday, October 4, 2010

Coming Full Circle

So I interviewed a lady last week who in high school dreamed of becoming a teacher and working with kids, establishing community programs and stuff like that.

She was from Kentucky and in the summers she traveled to Vegas and worked with the schools there establishing adult learning programs and summer continuing education activities.

She did it, right?

Then she joined the FBI and was a special agent for 27 years. She lived in Philly, Vegas, Mobile (which is how she ended up in my neck of the woods), and when she retired to Fairhope, she became a Master Gardener.

Now she says her most fulfilling activity is working with the Fairhope-Point Clear Rotary Youth Club. They have a Junior Master Gardener program and last year she spent five months teaching 12 fifth graders all about horticulture, organic farming, community gardens, recycling, and more.

LTM: So would you say you've come full circle?
Cool Lady Interviewee: Yes. But I think everybody does that, even though they might not realize it.

Naturally, when I interview someone and s/he offers a reflection like that, I see if it applies to my life and where I am.

Way back when I started blogging I wrote a post about why I abandoned the dream of writing books as a teenager ("How High School Influenced My Writing Career"). I pursued a degree in English, taught high school one year, then went back and got my master's and became an editor.

I did that and PR work for 12 years before stopping and having children. Or more accurately, before my children stopped me. My little ladies weren't exactly planned, but that's OK. I get the best surprises...

And now here I am, dreaming of becoming a novelist again. At least now in my dreams I don't look like Jane Austin in that big ole dress scratching away furiously with my feather pen. (I revise so much, that would be a disaster.)

So I wonder Have any of you come full circle? Or were you just always amazing like that--You put the goal in your sights and never gave up the dream.

Personally, I'm glad I came back around. Love~ <3