Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Plug It Up! Plug It Up!

A frame grab of a live video stream of operations to stop the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is seen on June 24, 2010. The Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion on April 20 that caused a massive oil spill and killed 11 workers continues to spill oil into the Gulf Coast despite BP's effort to cap the leak. UPI/BP Photo via Newscom

Are you a Stephen King fan? If so, those words might bring back his debut novel, Carrie, and the memorable shower scene that opened the movie. These days, we’d like to shout this at BP, but it’s going to take a lot more than cotton to stop this leak.

I've been following this story sporadically. It’s too depressing to do otherwise. Last night I was watching Anderson Cooper and it got worse. Cooper’s job is to take a story like this and drum up outrage. Here’s a prime example: due to the Jones Act of 1920, foreign ships have been turned away from joining the clean-up effort within a certain distance of our shoreline. Yes, you read that right. Other countries have volunteered to help and we said no. Unbelievable. If your house was on fire, would you refuse a firetruck made in Belgium? Read more here.

CNN reporter Anderson Cooper lays down on the bow of an air boat to take a picture as Governor Bobby Jindal (R) safely removes a fishing net from the oil contaminated water in Pass A Loutre near Venice, Louisiana May 26, 2010. Louisiana Governor Jindal gave a tour of the area to reporters showing the damage of the oil spill. BP launched an ambitious deep sea operation to choke off a gushing oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday, but President Barack Obama cautioned Americans there was no guarantee it would work. BP is under intense pressure from Obama to bring a swift end to the five-week-old spill that threatens an environmental catastrophe and has ignited a political storm. REUTERS/Sean Gardner (UNITED STATES - Tags: DISASTER ENVIRONMENT)

We’ve all seen the footage of oil gushing into the ocean. Ugh. I’d like to see something else. Do you remember the scene in Apollo 13 where they gather engineers in a room, dump a pile of random stuff on the table, and say, “They can’t get rid of their carbon dioxide. They’ll suffocate. This is the equipment they have. Fix it.” And they did. As far as I know, there’s no cameras focused on a set of engineers working furiously to plug the oil leak, but BP’s website is posting pictures and updates on what they’re working on.

The blame game is in full swing. Go ahead, pick one. BP is an easy choice, when you hear they may have put profit over safety. Or the politicians who okay’d drilling in the first place. Or how about us, the people who gobble up oil and gas at a rate of 17 million barrels a day?

A wall painted with protests messages against British Petroleum (BP) and U.S. President Barack Obama is pictured as Obama's motorcade travels from New Orleans to Grand Isle, Louisiana, June 4, 2010. Guessing BP's ultimate liability for the worst oil spill in U.S. history has become something of a parlor game on both sides of the Atlantic. The company said on June 28 it had spent $2.65 billion so far on its response effort. With the first of two relief wells not expected to be ready until August, that total is certain to soar. Cleanup costs are likely to be only a small fraction of what the oil giant ends up paying. Analysts at Credit Suisse have said BP's cleanup and legal costs could reach $37 billion. Goldman Sachs & Co analysts projected $33 billion. Raymond James & Associates analysts, noting a more plaintiff-friendly U.S. legal system in environmental cases, projected $62.9 billion, after taxes. Picture taken June 4, 2010.   To match Special Report OIL-SPILL/BP-LIABILITY    REUTERS/Jason Reed/Files (UNITED STATES - Tags: DISASTER POLITICS ENERGY BUSINESS)

I don’t know, but here’s what we all want:

Monday, June 28, 2010

How To Kill Your Husband With Three Simple Words

Hello Blogger World. I had a fabulous weekend. The spouse and I took our little chickens to Cascades Indoor Water Park at the Greek Peak Resort in Cortland, NY. It’s just outside of Syracuse. We had a blast!

The indoor water park boasts slides of all sizes from pink pip-squeak to the mind-blowing whirlwind of green death. I say, go for the green! It scared me silly and afterwards I said to my husband, “Wow, that was fun. You should try it. I dare you!”

Oops. You would think I’d know better, especially after all the head injuries this poor man has experienced during previous family trips. See this blog. But no, I said the words and he took the bait.

I managed to haul my two daughters over to the bottom of the slide just in time for them to see Daddy land badly, smack his head on the concrete bottom, and flail about, unable to find the surface. After a quick round of rock, paper, scissors, the loosing lifeguard hopped in and helped him up. (Kidding, the lifeguards were awesome. Not one made fun of my cellulite. At least, not when I could hear it. Hmmm . . .)

After that, I vowed to keep my mouth shut. But then I tried the orange slide of shriekin’ good times on an inner tube. Dude! I told my husband it was sooo much more fun than the green one. I can’t believe he listened to me. He did manage to get down that one uninjured.

Sorry, honey. My bad.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Why John Hart's The Last Child Is My Comp.

Lots of reasons. First, his story revolves around a missing girl—Johnny Merrimon’s twin sister. Mine does too—three-year-old Melody Miller. While his missing person has been gone a year at the book’s open, my prologue features the kidnapping. Yes, my prologue does not suck! Something actually happens in it.

What I love about The Last Child is the number of plot twists and turns. And the ending! I did not see that coming. Hart did a masterful job. I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but he goes beyond red herring characters into another dimension—a red herring plot. If you love thrillers, read this one. You will be very happy.

At the outset, my book reads like a typical kidnapping investigation—as if such a thing exists. Then the main suspect, the father, dies in a car bombing and the specter of terrorism comes in. This is my red herring plot, but I’ll stop here—don’t want to give too much away.

As I read The Last Child in great gulps over two days, this scene grabbed my attention:

The Chief studied the dense growth. “Give us a minute.” His assistants melted away. “You, too, Yoakum.”
“Me? Hand on his chest. Eyes shocked.
“Get lost.”
Yoakum got behind the Chief before he started goose-stepping, but Hunt was in no mood for humor.

Now here’s my version, written years before The Last Child was published. Pinky-swear!

Luke and Eddie both recognized the signs. Eyes narrowing to slits, both hands clenching and unclenching as Lieutenant Cavanaugh pushed his six-foot-three-inch frame up and down on his toes like an impatient ballerina. Up, down, up, down. From his left hand swung a sealed bag holding something pink.
“Detectives Frawley and Sikes. How nice of you to join us. Sikes, how close are we to entering Melody into NCIC’s database?”
“We’ve got the descriptive and medical, just waiting on the dental.”
“Okay, let me know when that’s done. Would you excuse Frawley and me for a moment? We need to have a word.”
“Of course, Lieutenant,” said Eddie, mimicking Cavanaugh’s tone. As he walked behind Cavanaugh he pushed up on his toes three times in rapid succession. Luke bit back a smile.

Mr. Hart, we seem to be on the same wavelength. Spooky!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Hot Topics from the 1850's

Good morning all. Hello, Clyde.

You're wearing sunglasses? Rough night, chickie?

Ha. No another migraine showed up Saturday night. It looks like the my computer screen is doing the bump and wave this morning, so the glasses stay.

Sure, that's what they all say.

Zip it, Clyde. Let's get back to researching the 1850's.

Good, I need a nap.

I'll make you eat those words, boyo. Someday. One of the more bizarre things I've come across was in John Hope Franklin's The Free Negro in North Carolina 1790 - 1860.

Slave quarters on a plantation in Georgia, USA. Wood engraving c1860

What's that?

Right before the Civil War, many free negro petitioned the state government to willingly become slaves.


Yes, you read that right. Free persons of color legally became slaves.

Why in the world would they do such a thing?

I'm glad you asked, Clyde. Here's the deal. For years, white slaveholders were not too keen on the free negro population. They were terrified their slaves would be overcome by envy of their free brothers and revolt. So the whites did everything they could to prevent contact between free negros and slaves. No intermarriage without permission and fines. No trading goods or services. No visiting on the Sabbath. No playing cards. Transgression of such were met with fines and possible slavery.

The Old Plantation 1800. Anonymous 19th century watercolour.

So the free negros were cut off from the slave population, many of which were family. And the majority of whites would have nothing to do with the free negros socially or commercially. In fact, many petitions were brought before the government to force the free negros to either leave the state or become slaves. Some chose slavery.

So how does this fit into your book, chum?

I'm not sure yet, Clyde. But I want to capture what it felt like to live in a country on the verge of civil war. The time of the large plantations was just about up. This gives me ideas for some potential parlor room debates.

Will you have a free negro character?

I might. Good idea, Clyde. Now you can go to sleep.


Friday, June 18, 2010

I Wear My Sunglasses At Night

Hellooo blogger friends and readers,

This was supposed to be the week of great accomplishments. Mucho research. Queries sent far and wide. Instead . . .

Instead, little Bear got sick. Poor munchkin got an ear infection. There goes Tuesday, Wednesday, and, just to be safe, Thursday as well. But there was still one workday left. Right? Please?

NOT. Thursday I got smacked with monster migraine #33. Okay, I don't really keep track. But I spent the afternoon/evening hiding under the covers waiting for the sun to go away. I think I should move to Forks. Is it as sunless as the Twilight books claim? Then again, why not go whole hog? Antartica in the summer, northern Alaska in the winter. Perfecto.

Vampire in coffin

All I need to do is file my incisors to sharp points and get over my love of garlic bread. Curse you, light sensitivity!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

This One's For You, Marti Green

I picked up Karen Young’s Blood Bayou because the back cover description sounded familiar—similar to the plot from someone I met at the NYC Pitch and Shop Conference. Hi Marti!

Cypress swamp in the Everglades of Florida

Camille Vermillion is a lawyer who belongs to the Truth Project, an organization that frees wrongly convicted criminals. When one of her Truth Project clients is set free, he’s in the hospital a day later after a violent altercation with the police. They suspect this poor schmo slaughtered a woman in Blood Bayou. The Truth Project is shut down and Camille heads home to the bayou to find the real killer, but ends up reuniting with her ex-husband, lawyer-turned-pastor Jack.

After a little digging, I found many positive reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. But I’m having trouble joining the rah-rah band. The killer’s identity is easy to figure out, but this is a tricky thing for an author to balance. With no clues, readers might feel the author pulled the baddie out of the proverbial hat at the last minute. But if the clues are too easy, then a savvy reader may think, “Wow, what an excellent red herring! I can’t wait to see who it really is.” Then comes, “That’s it? It was Mr. Butler? But, but, . . . that’s way to obvious!” Then again, maybe Young wanted us to know so we could squirm whenever the killer and the herione interacted.

Another downer was the endgame. The villain corners Camille and she pulls the old let-me-get-you-talking-so-you-don’t-kill-me-immediately-like-any-self-respecting-killer-would trick. The villain falls for it and explains what he did and why and what he had for breakfast. This gives the hero has plenty of time to save the girl.

There were highlights. The thriller part was the least interesting to me, but the relationship between Camille and Jack was very well done. I loved Jack’s character and the evolution he goes through, especially the part where he helped a young man whose life he had ruined. That was strong. It makes me wonder what this book could have been if the serial killer part was gone and it just dealt with Camille and Jack’s past and present. A deeper look into these characters would have been delicious.

Monday, June 14, 2010

My Not So Amused Muse

Hello Writers,

It’s time to get serious about starting that second book.

Yeah, right. I’ve heard that before.

Shut up, Clyde, no one asked you. This is the week. Time to get some serious research underway. We’re going historical.

That’s funny.

No, not hysterical, doofus, historical. Clean out your ears, pal.

And how far are you plannin’ on going back, little missy?

A worker prepares tobacco leaves for drying in Deli Serdang district in Indonesia's North Sumatra province May 24, 2010. A state plantation company's official said the leaves will be exported to Bremen in Germany to make cigars. Some 84 tonnes will be exported to Bremen this year, according to a manager. REUTERS/Tarmizy Harva (INDONESIA - Tags: BUSINESS)

I’m glad you asked, Clyde. We’re going back to the late 1850’s to a tobacco farm in rural North Caroline-y.

I’m asleep already.

Har-de-har-har. You’re a real card, Clyde.

Yeah, ace of spades.

Anyway, I’m trading in the paranormal for the history-angle, but this will be a thriller.

If you say so. What’s so nifty about this particular time period?

I need slavery.

Excuse me? You better watch yourself, paleface.

You ain’t whistlin’ dixie, Clyde. And neither am I. This is a heavy subject and I won’t be treating it lightly. Note to self: do not rip off one of Stephen King’s ‘magical negro’ characters.

Say what?

I’m not making this up, Clyde. It’s on Wikipedia. A ‘magical negro’ is a person of color endowed with a saint-like personality and sometimes, magical powers such as Mother Abigail in The Stand, or John Coffey in The Green Mile, or Dick Hallorann in The Shining. As much as I love these characters, I don’t want to copy them. Their job is to help out the struggling white characters. I think I'll let mine struggle.

Good thing ’cause you, madam, are no Stephen King.

Thanks for pointing that out. I’ve read a thing or two on slavery that weren’t part of my junior high curriculum, Clyde, but the hour growth late. We’ll continue this conversation on Friday.

I’m holding my breath.

You do that, Clyde. It keeps the bs to a minimum.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Wacky Wednesday

Hello Cyber Friends,

Wednesday was an awesome day, both as a mother and an aspiring author. So why, oh why, did I leave the camera home all day? Should I blame my age or my hair color this time?

Fire Hat Beside Control Panel

The field trip with Big Bear was not to the airport terminal as anticipated. We went behind the runways to the airport fire station and got a close-up look at all the nifty trucks, smelled the locker-room, witnessed the flash-fried helmet of one lucky fireman, and saw the bunk rooms. Ooooh, ahhhh. And just as we were leaving, they got two calls! A deep hand cut and someone else with a hearing aid stuck in their ear. Hopefully all is well with these folks now.

An airman stands next to a Black Hawk helicopter at a base near the village of Nakhonay in Panjwai district, southern Afghanistan, June 7, 2010. REUTERS/Denis Sinyakov (AFGHANISTAN - Tags: CONFLICT MILITARY)

The second part was a stop at the National Guard hangar. The kids were in seventh heaven climbing all over a real Black Hawk helicopter (above) and the enormous Chinook (below). I was really cursing my camera-less self there.

ODIHAM, ENGLAND - JANUARY 13: Pre-flight checks are made before a Chinook helicopter takes off at RAF Odiham on January 13, 2010 in Odiham, England. Two of the eight new Chinook Mk3 helicopters that are to enter into military service were unveiled to the press today at the base. Military think tank 'The Royal United Services Institute' has suggested that the total number of Britain's trained armed forces personnel is likely to be cut by up to 20% over the next six years partly due to the rising cost of new sophisticated weapons systems and commitments in Afghanistan. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

That night I went to see Margaret Atwood. Her talk was the opener for a conference on the Future of Reading. This included her take on the e-book revolution. She likened it to the dawn of the automobile age. There were several different cars around vying for the market, even electric ones, but in the end only a few won out. In her opinion, people will want both paper and electronic books.

Digitally generated image.

On the importance of literacy, she pointed out that one of the most significant emerging sectors in the business world is comprised of woman in third world countries with cell phones. I had no idea.

Overall, she was funny and very sharp. I did wait in the autograph line, but didn’t have the nerve to say anything. As she signed my copy of The Year of the Flood, she remarked that my first name was romantic. I smiled and thanked her.

Thanks mom, for picking a first name slightly off the beaten path!

So what signed books reside in your collection?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Your Autograph, Please

Hello fellow bloggers, today is an exciting day. I get to go see reknowned writer Margaret Atwood speak tonight. And there's a book-signing afterwards! Coolsville. My spouse has counceled me to be the last in line for autographs so I might have a moment to speak with Ms. Atwood. Uh, you expect me to speak to her? Yeah, right.

Right on, says hubby. And make sure you tell her your pitch. Uh-huh. Somehow I can't picture pulling this off.

"Hi, I'm an aspiring author."
"What? What am I writing? Well, when a psychic kidnaps a little girl, an FBI agent fights to keep her out of custody, because the kidnapper is no criminal; she's on a rescue mission!"
"Oh, no. NO, you don't need to call security ma'am. I'll leave quietly."

But first, I get to take Big Bear on her class field trip to the airport. Yowza. I hope we get to ride the luggage conveyor. What else are we going to do? Help check I.D. cards at the security gate? Learn to look at ordinary citizens like they may be carrying dangerous substances in their underpants?

Maybe we'll see Ms. Atwood there. But then she would really think I am a stalker. Especially when I come up to her at the book signing later and say, "Hi, I'm psychic. The FBI kidnapped my book!"

Monday, June 7, 2010

Life Imitates Art-Writer Panics

Hello fellow writers,

Have you ever had something in your wip happen after you've written it? Well I did the other week and it wasn't pleasant.

My novel opens with the disappearance of a three, almost four-year-old girl. (Don't worry, she's fine and back home by the end of the tale.) I have a three, almost four-year-old girl.

One morning my older daughter comes up to my bed and instead of demanding milk, she tells me her little sister isn't in her bed.

view of a road sign saying panic button

I freak. It doesn't matter that I've been conscious for less than two seconds. My mind goes for the worst. There's been a lot of yard workers in the area with the annual spring spruce-up. One of them snuck through my daughter's bedroom window--was it locked?!--and took her just like Elizabeth Smart. Elementary my dear Watson.

So I dash to my bathroom, grab my glasses and yell at my husband to get up. Little Bear isn't in her bed. Emergency, EMERGENCY!

The three of us practically fall over each other going down the stairs and there is the little pumpkin, laying on her designated couch-potato spot, snuggling with her blankie and doll. Ready for her daily cartoon fix.

My husband relishes this tale. He claims next time, she'll make us eggs.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Contest Lost and New Contest To Enter

Hi Blogger/Aspiring Writer Folks,

Well, I didn't win the Creepy Query Girl's Query Spoof Contest. WAAAAH! But at least I was a contender. Yes, me. I was number 4, Dude! Below is my totally awesome surfer dude spoof query. I'm quite proud of the little bugger.

So on with the next contest! Christi Goddard, who coined the awesome word 'craptastic' and survived being Janet Reid's chum, is having a short story contest. Rules? Not too many. Aim for 500 words. Deadline is June 15. Prizes (6!) are cash. Coolness. So get yourself over to A Torch in the Tempest and enter now.

Lit candle, person standing behind glass in background

Dear Agent-dude:

Was Up!? Um, I’ve got a cool idea for a book ’cause, like, I saw on your webpage that you represent books, but dude! I don’t recognize any of those other author’s names. So anyway, I think I can help you out.

Okay, so like this little girl lives with her mom and dad. Like, duh. Oh! She also has an older sister, who is, like, fifteen maybe? And an older brother, who is, I don’ know, let’s say eight. Oh yeah! The little girl is five. So weird sh*t, sorry, starts happening in their house like chairs moving by themselves and their dog, like, barks at the walls.

Then, this is really cool, the little girl gets sucked into another dimension during this hugefreakin’ thunderstorm. The parents don’ even know, ‘cause like, this crazy wacked-out tree comes into the kid’s bedroom and tries to eat the brother. Did I tell you the brother and sister share a room?

So then the little girl’s voice comes on the TV, on a channel with, you know, just static. Wait. Do they have channels like that anymore? Okay, maybe this happened a long time ago. I’ll have to work it out. Anyway, the family hires this ‘little person’ who is a real sichic? Physics? Um, and this little person helps the mom go into the other dimension and get her kid back.

But wait! I almost forgot the best part. First the mom falls into their empty swimming pool. No. She falls into the hole where the swimming pool is going to be. And there’s, like, skeletons in their. Really gross ones. And, like, we find out the house was built on a graveyard, and the ghosts of those corpses are totally pissed off.

So I attached the first hundred or so pages. Sorry if the font cheeses you out, but I really think Curlz ‘MT’ is the only way to go. Don’t you? To conserve space, I don’t have, like, margins or double space or any of that crap. Cool.

Check ya later!

Awesome Writer Dude

Oh Dude!

I like totally forgot to tell you the name of my book! Wow. Okay, it's Ghost In Your Closet, or do you like The Ghost Who Came For Dinner? Because, in the end, dude! The ghost eats the house. Wicked.

Awesome Writer Dude

PS I don' know the page count yet,'cause I'm like, not finished and my Frolf tourney starts this weekend. Schweet!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Nathan Bransford's 'Rock Paper Tiger' Contest

People playing rock paper scissors, (Close-up)

Stop what you’re doing, writers, and go check out this contest posted Tuesday, June 1. Enter and have super-blogger and agent Nathan Bransford read an excerpt from your wip. How cool is that?

All you need is a 500 word or less action/suspense sequence. You can grab one you’ve already written or make one up from scratch. Deadline is tomorrow.

I know my chances for winning are small, but I could really use the prize—a query consult. So back to the forums I go. I’ve posted my latest query for mangling, um, constructive criticism and I need to go comment on others.

Time to spread the love!

Also: The Creepy Query Girl has posted the finalists for her Query Spoof Contest. So go vote for your fave! Although I'm partial to the Poltergeist spoof, the Twilight one made me laugh the most.