Saturday, April 30, 2011

Zoinks, Zelda and Zoe! (Oh My)

Wow. It's the final day of the challenge. I can't believe it. It seems like only yesterday, I was blogging about my sister-in-law and wondering what the hell I had gotten myself into. It's been fun. I've found a lot of great new blogs to follow and have had wonderful conversations with legions of new people. I think the A to Z Challenge has served its purpose.

But before we put this challenge to bed (oh, I am so tired), we still have to tackle the subject of the letter Z. And it's going to be a bit of a potpourri entry as you've probably already gathered from the title.

First up:


What can I say except that if I ever saw a ghost, I'd probably say something much worse than "Zoinks!"

That's right, gang. I said worse than Zoinks!

Friday, April 29, 2011

You Might Be A Writer If...

Yep. I've posted this one before. But most of you haven't read it so I'm feeling okay about it. But look, I've got a lot going on today. I've got a royal wedding to watch and a manuscript to prep for my newest CP. That's right. I have a new CP. Given what happened with the last one, the thought of a new one fills me with equal parts glee and terror. Well, right now it's probably more sixty/forty in favor of terror but that's all right. I have a horoscope that tells me that I should show my work to a wide variety of people because it'll lead to overwhelmingly positive feedback. And that's already happened here on My Pet Blog. I have the very best readers ever. Thanks for stopping by and commenting as frequently as you have. I appreciate it.

So anyway, moving on, today's post comes from an article printed in the January 2011 edition of The Writer magazine. It's written by Lisa Shearin and is entitled "You Might Be A Writer If..." It's a take off on Jeff Foxworthy's "You Might Be A Redneck If..." routine. I personally find it to be very true and very very funny. Not all of the following apply to me but most of them do. What about you?
1. You keep a pen and pad of paper next to your bed- and the stove, and the couch, and the dining room table, and the toilet and the…

2. You have a favorite punctuation mark.

3. You’ve been known to argue with someone on the usage difference between en and em dashes.

4. You’re completely and utterly addicted to fountain pens. You have more bottles and colors of ink that you have pens, and use this as an excuse to buy more pens.

5. You get caught up in plotting your next scene and put the cereal in the fridge and the milk in the pantry.

6. The salespeople at the local Staples know you.

7. While in Staples, you should never be left unchaperoned in the briefcase aisle. (One briefcase is never enough.)

8. The stacks of your old manuscripts and rejection letters officially constitute a fire hazard.

9. You desperately want Crayola bathtub markers, so you can write down the great dialogue that comes to you in the shower.

10. All you want for your birthday are more fountain pens and journals.

11. You don’t take medication to quiet the voices in your head, but you get paid to write down what the voices say.

12. If you didn’t have book contract, you’d be writing anyway.

13. You just know you’re on an FBI list of people to watch because of the books you’ve ordered: books on poisons, how to dispose of a body, government conspiracies, secret societies, planning the perfect crime, espionage secrets…

14. Your surgeon orders your glasses taken away before you’ve finished memorizing the operating room for a scene in your next book.

15. When you’re not writing, you get this persistent twitch in your left eyelid.

16. You proofread your tweets and text messages before sending.

17. You take more writing paraphernalia on vacation than you do clothes- and don’t mind if it rains.

18. You’re talking to a real, living, breathing person and suddenly stop because one of your characters interrupted you.

19. You think sleep is way overrated. Who needs more than three hours, anyway?

20. Your novels are backed up on your laptop, your netbook, your husband’s computer, two thumb drives- and you’re seriously toying with the idea of getting a safe-deposit box.

21. You don’t mind extra-long waits at the doctor’s office, because it gives you more time to write.

22. And, finally, you know you’re a writer if you look at yourself and see a writer. Everyone else looks at you and sees an obsessive-compulsive, anal-retentive insomniac with a pen fetish.

Before I go, I just need to post one more Y related thing. The Man was very excited about the Y post today because of this song. So in honor of all the nice things he does for me, and all the bitchy writer crap he puts up with, I'd like to post this video:

Thursday, April 28, 2011

X Marks The Spot

Come on, kids and follow me! We're bound on an adventure which shall surely lead us to buried treasure and make us rich beyond our dreams!

All right, so I'm totally lying about that.

I guess this post can be considered a treasure hunt of sorts because I am going to list the places I most want to visit and explore. So maybe the treasure won't be gold doubloons or anything but maybe it would be discovering some little out of the way bookstore in Ireland (where I bought Harry Potter books) or the best damn chocolate cake on Las Vegas strip. Maybe it'll be some little out of the way bookstore in Yekaterinburg, Russia filled with books I can't read (still didn't stop me from buying yet another set of Harry Potter books though). Or maybe it'll be a hysterical night spent with loved ones in an Orlando night club. At least I'm told it was hysterical. My memories of that night are coated with a long island iced tea flavored haze.

The point is, I want to go and see what I might see and these are the places where I want to go next. Not in any particular order:

1. Australia and New Zealand- The Man and I had tentatively planned a two to three week tour of the land down under for next year, to celebrate our fifteenth year of not killing each other. But since he can't stop talking about the Sandals resorts (friends of his jsut came back from one and of course they had to have a great time. A girl just can't catch a break some times) or Caribbean cruise ships (of death), it's not looking good. But I desperately want to go here and I want to see it all. I found a very cool sounding eco tour of New Zealand that sounded like heaven. I'm not sure about the sleeping in a hostel part of the trip but the rest sounded terrific.

2. England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales- I'd love to disappear here for a good month or so just so I could be sure to have enough time to photograph everything in sight. I've been to Ireland before and saw only the smallest section of it. Kilarney, Blarney and the Ring of Kerry. Of course, the Ring of Kerry was so fogged in the day of our tour we didn't see much other than our lives flashing before our eyes every time we had to pass a car on those tiny twisting roads but still, it was one of my best days ever.

3. Alaska- It just seems like it would be really damn pretty. I don't really have a whole lot to add to that. It's just always struck me as a place I'd really like to go.

4. Ah, you know what? There isn't a number four. Not right now. Not really. I really want to get through trips 1-3 first. Plus, I forsee a tropical paradise vacation on my near future. I am a horrible person for not being overly excited about this, I know, but cruise ships scare the crap out of me.

I should keep an open mind though. I didn't think I'd enjoy Las Vegas as much as I did (at least I did enjoy it until the video roulette machine turned on me and stole all my money). And if I hadn't gone to Vegas, I never would've gotten to go to the Grand Canyon.

So where do you like to travel? Or where do you hope to travel to in the future? And are you as worried about a Y topic as I am? Tell me in the comments!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

W Is For Whedon

I don't know if you know this about me but I'm completely slightly obsessed with Joss Whedon. I'm not stalking him yet or anything. It's not like I'm hiding out in the bushes outside his house with my face pressed against his living room windows. And that's not just because I have no idea where exactly he lives. Although, if I did, I admit I might consider hiding in the bushes out the house. Probably wouldn't press my face up against the window though. I wouldn't want to leave smudges. That would be rude. And I wouldn't want to be rude.

I first started watching Buffy The Vampire Slayer at the start of its third season with the episode Anne. That's the one where Buffy's run away from Sunnydale and is calling herself Anne and waiting tables in L.A. It was written and directed by Joss Whedon. I think it was a scene toward the end of the episode where Buffy, battling a seemingly endless onslaught of goons, pauses on a platform, weapon in hand, and glances behind her to the left (It's the shot that closes out the show's opening credits until season six). It looked so bad ass that I was immediately in love with both the show and its creator.

And I haven't looked back since.

I went on to watch Angel (Joss appeared as Numfar in the episode "Through the Looking Glass") and you already know my feelings on Firefly (where Joss appeared as "man at funeral" in the episode "The Message"). I even watched every single minute of Dollhouse. Joss showed up in the Veronica Mars season two episode "Rat Saw God" and directed some of my very favorite episodes of both The Office and Glee.

Joss's movie Serenity is my favorite movie of all time. I'll even go see The Avengers when it comes out because Joss is directing it. I do protest this movie a little though because that movie is the reason why there's no sequel to Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog.

Have I ever mentioned how much I love Dr. Horrible? Because if I haven't, I've certainly meant to...

I love what he does with story. I love how in the span of a single episode he can make you laugh and then make you cry. He will go for the jugular and make you beg him to hurt you just a little bit more (stolen from which Buffy episode written and directed by the master himself, kids?). Did you see the season two finale of Buffy? Or the season five finale? What about the season five episode The Body or season six's masterpiece Once More With Feeling? There is some seriously awesome writing to be had there. And that's just one small part of one series.

Joss will do what needs to be done for the best interests of the story and that is exactly the philosophy I want to keep with my writing.

It's why my religion on Facebook is seriously listed as W.W.J.W.D?

Joss is Boss.

Have any favorite Joss Whedon moments I didn't mention? Have another writer you'd totally stalk if society didn't deem it crazy? Tell me in the comments. I swear your secrets are safe with me.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

V Is For Vinnie And Ellie

Yesterday I wrote about my penchant for writing unhappy love stories. But that's not always the case. When the story calls for it, I am more than willing to write happy endings.

Vinnie and Ellie is an example of this. This WIP was the result of my first foray into the world of NaNoWriMo back in 2009. I set out wanting to write a chick lit novel, just to see if I could do it. And I guess since the story's still unfinished, whether I can do it remains to be seen.

Anyway, Vinnie and Ellie is the story of Lavinia (who calls herself Nia and is called Vinnie by her friends) and the drop dead gorgeous Llewelyn (who calls himself Lew and is called Ellie by friends). They meet, they fall in love, complications arise but at the end of the story, when it's all said and done, these two will have a happy ending. It's not quite written yet but I know that's where it'll end.

The scene I'm going to post below is their very first meeting. Or part of it anyway. They meet in a bar where Lavinia is celebrating her new unexpected unemployed status with a fifth of whiskey. Enter Lew, a guy just looking for a beer and place to sit.


“This seat taken?” a man’s voice asks.

I don’t look up. “Does it look like it’s taken?”

“No, but I didn’t know if maybe you had a boyfriend-“


“Or girlfriend-“

“Oh, how very progressive of you.”

“Maybe using the facilities or something,” the man finishes.

“No,” I say, looking up finally. “That seat’s not taken.”

The man to whom the voice belongs appears to be the textbook definition of ‘tall, dark and handsome.’ His eyes are blue and his dark hair is cropped close to his head. He has some stubble on his face but it only adds to his rugged good looks. He’s wearing a tee shirt and jeans, both of which do a lot to promote his athletic build. He smiles at me as he slides onto the stool, revealing his very white and very straight teeth.

“So you’re here on your own then?” he asks as he signals to Frank.

“Just me and my friend, Jack.”

Frank comes over and my newfound, yet entirely unwanted, companion asks for a beer. Whatever’s on tap. He’s not picky. Frank pours Sam Adams. When the new arrival receives his pint, he throws some money down on the bar and takes a swig of the beer. Frank looks at me as he gathers the money. It’s a look I’ve seen before. Is this man bothering you, Nia? I shake my head slightly. Nothing I can’t handle. Frank nods and turns to the register.

“Jack?” the tall dark stranger asks as he sets his beer down.

Not too bright, this one. Probably gets by on his looks. He probably makes women everywhere crazy with those well muscled arms of his. He then dazzles them with his baby blue eyes and easy grin and washboard abs so they don’t notice his total lack of wit. Too bad for him I’m immune to such manipulation.

Probably immune to such manipulation.

I indicate my glass. “Jack. As in ‘Daniels’?”

“You want another?” Frank asks me.

I nod and Frank pours me another whiskey. I do not throw any money on the bar and Frank walks away to tend to some other patrons.

“Come here often?” the man asks.

“Wanna know my sign next?” I ask. “Look, if you’re trying to pick me up, I’m not interested. Save us both some time and hassle, you know?”

“Who said I was trying to pick you up?”

“You certainly seem like you’re trying to pick me up.”

“Just making conversation.”

“Just checking.”

“I think I may have stumbled on to why you’re here alone,” he says.

“I’m sitting here at this bar alone,” I say. “But I am not alone in this building. I have a friend-“

“Besides Jack?”

“Who dances,” I say and point over my shoulder in the general direction of the dance floor. “She’s over there.”

He looks over his shoulder. “You don’t dance?”

“Haven’t had enough to drink yet to consider it.”

“So you’re one of those.”

“Whatever that means.”

“So touchy,” he says. “You always like this?”



“What do you care?”

“Are you new to the concept of conversation?”

“I didn’t ask you to sit here.”


“Nor did I ask you to converse with me,” I say. “In fact, I think I’ve done quite a lot to discourage conversation.”

“Also true.”

“And yet,” I say.

He grins. “Here I am.”

“Yes, here you are. So, what are you? A glutton for punishment?”

“Not especially.”

“Lose a bet?”

“Not that I recall.”

“Someone put you up to this?” I ask, looking over my shoulder to see if Susannah is having a good laugh at my expense. She isn’t. She’s thrown herself into a very energetic, if slightly intoxicated, version of the Robot.

He laughs. “You know, I don’t know why but I kind of like you.”

“I don’t know why either.”

“Can I ask your name?”

“If you’re asking me if you’re capable of forming the words which will form a sentence inquiring after my name, I think the answer is ‘yes.’ I don’t know you very well but I have faith you could handle it.”

“If I asked you your name,” he says then, “would you tell me?”

“Ah,” I say. “Now there’s a valid question.”

“And the answer?”

I look him over and have a sip of my drink. “Nia,” I say. “My name is Nia.”

“Nia,” he says. “That’s nice.”

“I’ve always thought so,” I say. “What’s your name?”


“Like short for Lewis?”

“Like that, yeah,” he says.

He looks over his shoulder again.

“Am I keeping you from something? Someone?” I ask. “Wife? Girlfriend? Boyfriend? Your mother?”

He shakes his head and looks back at me. “I’m flying solo tonight.”

“Left your entourage at home, did you?”

“I don’t really know how much of an entourage it is,” he says. “No wife, no girlfriend.”

“Boyfriend then.”

“No boyfriend,” he says. “Although that’s very progressive of you.”

“I do try to keep an open mind.”

He snorts into his beer. “I do have a couple of friends but they’re spending the evening with their wives and girlfriends.”

“Wives and girlfriends?”

He shrugs. “They like to keep an open mind.”

“An example for us all,” I say. “So, what’s wrong with you?”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re good looking, kind of nice, entirely single and apparently free of any emotional baggage and yet here you are, sitting alone talking to an overly hostile woman in some smoky dive on a Friday night. So what’s wrong with you?”

“Only kind of nice?” he asks.

I shrug.

“What’s wrong with you?” he asks.

“What makes you think something’s wrong with me?”

“You’re good looking, kind of nice-“

“Kind of nice?” I interrupt. “That’s one hell of a curve you’re grading on.”

“Entirely single but unfortunately broke from excess emotional baggage fees,” Lew finishes.

“And you still have to wonder what’s wrong,” I say.

“Maybe I’m just trying to be polite.”

“This is you trying to be polite?”

“Is this you trying to be polite?” he asks.

“Who says I’m trying to be polite?”

He smiles again and even laughs. “No one within earshot,” he says. “Another round?”

Monday, April 25, 2011

U Is For Unhappily Ever After

Okay, this is going to be an über short post because I am so very far behind in just about everything and I really need to get caught up. Or, die trying, as the case may be.

Anyway, a while ago, I was looking at a publishing company's website and reading their list of FAQ's. One of the questions asked something along the lines of, "My story's a romance but it has a tragic ending. Is that okay?"

The short answer was No. No, it wasn't okay because, as the site explained, it wasn't a romance then. A romance means a happy ending and that's what they wanted for their readers.

I don't have a problem with that. If they only want to publish stories with happy endings, that's their business. They can do whatever they want. I do, however, kind of take issue with the idea that if a love story doesn't end happily that it's not a love story.

And not just because I have a tendency to write love stories with unhappy endings.

Or maybe it is. I don't know. So I'm opening up the floor for discussion. What do you think? For me, romance is not synonymous with a happy ending. Look at Romeo and Juliet. Very famous love story. Very famous tragic ending. Lancelot and Guinevere. Tristan and Isolde. That whole Love Story movie. There are countless examples of love stories without a happily ever after and we still count them as love stories. Don't we?

On the flip side, there are countless number of the opposite. Insert Disney movies here. Insert any number of genre romance novels. Happy endings are good. I like happy endings. I just don't think they're what defines a romance.

But again, I ask: what do you think?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

T Is For Tam. River Tam.

That's right. I found another way to talk about Firefly and Serenity. Today's all about one of the most ass kicking characters around. And I mean that in every way possible.

She is, of course, River Tam.

If you're unfamiliar with the awesomeness that is River, you really don't know what you're missing. The remedy for this is to go out and watch all fifteen episodes of Firefly followed by repeated viewings of the Big Damn Movie Serenity. As in Immediately.

Raise your hand if you're sick of hearing me gush about this show/movie. Now raise your hand if you're like me and you can't get enough.

Yep. That's what I thought.

When we first meet River, it's at the end of the first half of Firefly's intended pilot Serenity. Captain Tightpants kicks the lid off the big mystery box and there she is-- naked and asleep. We find out she's a fugitive from some government mad scientists who've been using River as a lab rat for years. Her brother's given up everything in order to free her and now they're both on the run. We don't know what's been done to her. Over the course of the series, we learn that she's off the charts brilliant and off the charts traumatized. In the epsiode, Ariel, we learn some of the reasons why. She's also a seer. And in the episode, War Stores, we learn she has some mad sharpshooter skills. But it isn't until the Big Damn Movie that we really figure out what's going on.

(I'd like to take this opportunity to growl at the Fox television people who decided to cancel Firefly before Joss got to tell his story in full.)

Two of my favorite River quotes:

"Also, I can kill you with my brain." (From the unaired episode Trash)

"No power in the 'verse can stop me." (From the episode War Stories)

One of my favorite quotes about River:

"She is fine. Except for being still crazy, she's a picture of health!" --Malcolm Reynolds in the BDM.

And then there's the action stuff. As I said yesterday, the River Tam bar fight scene in the BDM, rocks my world. I want to learn to kick ass like that. No way would I be nearly as graceful or successful, but it sure would be awesome. I found a clip on YouTube that is just this scene, no additions or editing, but it doesn't have any embedding capabilities. If you want to see it, click HERE. Below I'm posting a clip that does have embedding capabilities. It's kind of a River Tam tribute film:

The title of this clip, "River Tam Beats Up Everybody" is inspired by the XKCD comic of the same name.

If they made that movie, I would be the first one in line. Who's with me?

Anyway, this blog has gotten very long as I thought it might so I'm going to end it here. We're having a River Tam party in the comments today so post your favorite River Tam moments, quotes, facial expressions, whatever you want. Let's celebrate River!!

Oh, and have a great holiday weekend, everyone.

Friday, April 22, 2011

S Is For Smorgasbord

I thought about making S stand for Shitty Day since that's what I've been having (both literally-- damn my cat's lack of bowel movement control-- and figuratively) lately but I am going to rise above it all (or at least as high as I ever get-- no drug jokes please.) because in the immortal words of Penny, "any time you're hurt there's one who has it worse around." So instead of writing a rant I will write about some of my favorite S things.

S Books:

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson- It's not the first time I've mentioned this book on this blog and it probably won't be the last. I really can't say enough good things about this book. You should read it if you haven't already. It won't take you very long. It's brilliant. It really is.

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater- The first novel in her Wolves of Mercy Falls series. A great start to a very interesting series. The third book in the series comes out in July. I already have my copy pre-ordered. This novel also introduced me to Stiefvater's other novels, most notable Ballad.

A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin- The third novel in his epic Song of Ice and Fire series. I couldn't read this book fast enough. Really drove home the point that Martin does not take prisoners in his writing. You know, in case the first two novels weren't proof enough of this. The fifth book in this series comes out the same day as Maggie Stiefvater's book. And yeah. I already have my copy pre-ordered. I really can't wait for July. And not just because the chance of snow will be significantly less than it seems to be this month.

S Movies:

Serenity (2005)- Written and directed by my hero Joss Whedon, Serenity is the Big Damn Movie based on the best gorram show to ever be stupidly canceled by the Fox television network. River Tam's bar fight scene is something I never get tired of watching. Best line (well all right, one of the best lines)? I aim to misbehave.

Shakespeare In Love (1998)- I really adore this film (directed by John Madden, written by Tom Stoppard and Marc Norman) and I could watch it over and over again and occasionally do (much to The Man's delight). Joseph Fiennes was robbed-- robbed I tell you!-- of an oscar nomination. But as much as I love this movie, I still think Saving Private Ryan should have won for best picture.

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)- Written and directed by Frank Darabont, this is, I think, the best Stephen King adaptation currently out there. It's beautiful and symbolic. The scene where Red plays the harmonica just a little teeny tiny bit blows my mind every damn time. Best line? Get busy living or get busy dying.

Stranger Than Fiction (2006)- Written by Zach Helm and directed by Marc Forester, this is one of the very small number of Will Farrell movies I actually like. And by like, I mean 'adore' because this is such a great movie. There are a lot of great lines but I'm partial to this one: Little did he know. That means there's something he doesn't know, which means there's something you don't know, did you know that?

S Television Shows:

Supernatural- I heart the Winchester boys. I have no idea how this season's going to end but if one thing's for sure, it's that I'll need oxygen before the end credits come up. And to think, I almost gave up on this show in the middle of the first season. I know. It's not something over which I am proud. The important thing is that I have stuck with them. In the immortal words of Dean Winchester: "Do you think it's 'cause we're awesome? I think it's 'cause we're awesome." Oh yes, boys. It most definitely is. Did you see this season's episode where they get sent to an alternate universe where they are actors on a show called Supernatural? Hi-larious. Really. This week, the Winchesters go back to the wild, wild west. I'm so very excited.

Scooby Doo- Couldn't not mention my favorite animated canine crime solver. Sorry, McGruff but you ain't got nothin' on Mystery, Inc. I've always wanted to have a Great Dane named Scooby Doo so I could stand at my door and shout "Scooby Doo! Where are you!"

S Activities:

-Sleeping. As an insomniac, I just don't get to do this enough. I really do love it though.
-Snoozing. See above.
-Singing in the shower. I thought about posting a video here of me singing but it turns out that's above my technical know-how. But I really can sing. Nicely too. In key and everything. Well, mostly in key. There are even people out there who would even attest to this fact. If you're one of those people, feel free to say so in the comments.
-Swearing. I'm the daughter of a sailor. And I swear like it.

S Music:

The Swell Season- I don't know if you've heard of them, but they're amazing. This duo is made up of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. Did you see that movie Once that came out in 2006? Well, they were the two main characters and they won an academy award for the film's song "Falling Slowly". Below is a clip of one of my favorite songs. It's called "Leave" and the ending is really just something else. This version happens to only feature Glen Hansard. But go check them out. You don't be disappointed. Well, you mightbe if you're a die hard heavy metal fan or something but other than that, you'll probably find something you like. Anyway, here's "Leave":

So that's all on my end today, kids. In the comments, I invite you to tell me your favorite S things. Bonus points to anyone who's brave enough to tell me their favorite swear. Mega Bonus points to anyone whose favorite swear makes me laugh. Yes, I am ten years old.

Happy Friday, all.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

R Is For Running Rampant

Back in high school, I don’t remember which year, I succumbed to peer pressure.

Don’t worry, mom. I didn’t do drugs. I didn’t drink. I didn’t smoke. I didn’t skip class. Much anyway.

I joined the track team.

All my friends were doing it. They lured me in by telling me how cool it was, how cool it would make me…well, I don’t think they actually said that last part (they knew I was pretty much a lost cause in the coolness department) but I’m pretty sure it was implied and so I caved and became a member of the track team.

My friends were big runners. They’d been on the track teams (indoor, outdoor and cross country) for years and the only running I did was either for the bus or the forced laps the PE teachers made us do around the gym every class. The best time ever was that time I broke my toe. The gym teachers were still going to make me run so I came to class the next day with a multi paged (yes, seriously) letter from my mother which memorably contained the line “My daughter does NOT need to be repeatedly slamming her broken toe against the hard gym floor!” Underline, underline. Needless to say, by the time the teachers finished reading my mother’s dissertation, I didn’t have to run. Ever again, if I wanted.

I heart my mom.

But I did run again. One of my friends also had special permission to not run on the hard gym floor. She ran outside on school grounds for ten to fifteen minutes and then came back to rejoin the rest of class. Occasionally, she brought another student with her. Once, she asked me. I think that day she was probably feeling particularly desperate because she had never asked me before (and never again, as it turned out). I was excited because I thought it meant we would run out of sight of the gym and then hang out for ten to fifteen minutes before returning to class.

We didn’t.

This friend went on to kick ass and take names at the Air Force Academy and become a hard core board certified surgeon. I went on to fold jeans for a living. Coincidence? I think not.

But yeah. Those bad influence friends of mine eventually got me on the track team. I ran sprints because they were fast and the race was over quickly. I usually only ran the 100 meter dash and maybe the occasional relay because I was that Not. Into. It. And since I was a clueless awkward teenager (who grew into a clueless awkward adult--I’ve always liked symmetry), I never learned to run properly.

Shin splints are a real bitch.

Now every spring for the past few years, I develop a deep urge to run. I’d like to be one of those serious (or semi serious) runners and so every spring I lace up the crappy running shoes I bought for $10 at Payless and try to run around the neighborhood. I then spent the next few days crying over how badly my shins hurt.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Shin splints are a real bitch.

I really need better running shoes.

The last time I was teaching, I tried running. The school was (and is) filled with hardcore outdoors men and women. They’re the sort who run marathons for fun. I was the one who crapped out on the half mile loop around her neighborhood and then spent three days rolling around the school building in her rolling chair because her shins hurt too much to walk. Of course, I was also the one who had to contribute the chair thing to laziness because I didn’t want to admit I had crapped out on the half mile loop around my neighborhood.

So go figure that back in January, when I set my yearly goals, I set one saying the following:

Train to run a 5K. I don’t necessarily want to run a 5K but I’d like to know I’m capable of running a 5K.

I blame this goal on the seriously insane amount of white wine I drank on New Year’s Eve (You'd think the New Year's Day hangover would've been enough to discourage that goal but it wasn't). But since the goal was set and published on this blog , I am determined to accomplish it because I hate not accomplishing my yearly goals.

I haven't done much work on it yet. Blame the snow and ice-- yeah, that's it. The snow and ice. Between January and now, I have mostly run around my house once or twice a week. It’s not really getting me anywhere. So I did a Google search on training for a 5k and found this site:

The Couch to 5K Plan

This is a three day a week plan that claims it'll have me running 5Ks in two months. I'm planning on starting this in earnest come May (or maybe June) so I should be able to run a 5K by July (or possibly August). Wonder how it'll work out. Considering my track record where running's concerned (yes, pun intended), I'm sure it'll be a rousing success.

I'll be sure to keep you posted on my progress because I know you'll be on the edge of your seat for this one.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Q Is For Quandaries

I'm going to warn you now. This isn't going to be a very good post. Not that anything I've ever posted here has been some kind of high literature or anything. It's just that I'm kind of winging it today. Actually, strike that. I'm totally winging it today. I signed up for the A to Z Challenge a while ago (like in February) and had a set list of topics worked out well before the beginning of the month, Q included, but as my brother will tell you, I've still had problems settling on topics for certain letters (M, I'm looking at you). You should see the topics page in my notebook. It's just one big blue and black scribble now. Maybe I'll write about this! Maybe I'll write about that! Oooh! This would be good!

Because here's the thing: I can't make a decision.

Unless that decision involves buying books. Then I'm probably a little too good at making a decision. Especially since that decision always ends up being 'yes!'

But in other things, I have a much tougher time. Take yesterday for example. Yesterday I wore pajamas while I worked on Second Nature. But I really wanted cake so I spent so much time weighing the pros and cons of going to the store to get a damn piece of cake. All day long I did this. Cake is good and I want cake. But I don't need cake. I need to work. But I'd work better if I had cake because cake is good and I want cake. But I don't need cake...

There are just some days when I can't stand being in my head.

So if I have that much trouble making a decision on something as minor as baked goods, then how the hell am I supposed to make a decision about something that really matters?

I am, of course, talking about writing. I have these stories, these manuscripts, and I really do want to do something more with them than print them up and stick them in three ring binders. I would like them to be in actual book form and I would like people, even if it's only friends and family, to have the opportunity to purchase said books and maybe even enjoy reading them.

And there are so many possibilities out there to make this happen now. Traditional, indie, self publishing, whatever-- but which one do you pick? How do you decide which one is right for you?

So I keep researching. I've read books on the subject. I've read articles and people's blogs about their personal experiences and I'm no closer to making a decision than I've been at any other time.

But that's only part of it. The other part is what to do with the manuscript itself. Effigy is a long book. A very long book. Not George R.R. Martin long but still, it comes in at 195,506 words. There are some publishers out there I think would be a good fit for me but they don't want anything over 120,000 words. Making my book right for them would involve me splitting Effigy into three separate novels. I've considered this before (Of course I have. I've considered just about everything and I just can't decide what's best.) and some days it seems like the smart choice but then the next day, I've managed to talk myself out of it.

Maybe that's the real issue. I make decisions all the time. It just sticking with what's been decided that's the problem.

I don't want to make the wrong decision. I love this book and I don't want to screw this up. Consequently, I'm currently so paranoid about making the wrong decision that I've decided to not decide. I know that this, in itself, is a wrong decision but it feels like a safer one than picking a path that just might be the wrong one.

So the question today is: how do you make decisions? And I don't necessarily mean writing. I mean anything. For example, how did you decide what to eat for breakfast this morning? Eenie Meenie Miney Mo? Rock Paper Scissors? Dart board? Pro-Con list? Tell me. Because I really want to know.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

P Is For Pens and Pencils

Hi. I'm M.J. And I'm addicted to writing utensils.

I hear the first step is admitting you have a problem. But here's the thing: I don't really think it is a problem. Which, sure, is something an addict would say but I'm a writer. I need writing utensils like I need oxygen. Maybe even more than I need oxygen.

Well, maybe not.

Still, I could be addicted to far worse things than pens and pencils. All right, so The Man can't stand the idea of me taking an unchaperoned trip to an office supply store out of fear of what exactly I'll come out with this time. But at least I'm coming out of the office supply store with writing utensils and notebooks (another post for another time, I suppose, although I would like to mention how much I am in love with Staples Sustainable Earth line of notebooks) and not laptops or whatever else they sell at office supply stores (honestly, I don't often get past the pens and notebooks aisles).

The point is I like writing utensils. I have quite a variety of them. I find I need a variety to keep up with my writing moods. This is going to sound crazy-- and I own that-- but some pens don't go with some moods. Some days I need a purple pen. Others are a black or blue ink day. Some days have to be in pencil. There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to my madness (I would be shocked if there was). It's just the way it is.

The important thing the poor souls lucky people surrounding me have learned is to not mess with whatever writing utensil I happen to have selected that day. This lesson usually comes after the poor soul lucky person accidentally picks up my pen and writes something mundane with it. A grocery list, for example or a merchandise restocking list. Then, when I see it happen (and I always do so don't think you can get away with it), we have the following completely insane rational conversation:

Me: Did you just use my pen?
Them: Uh...
Me: You did. You used my pen. And you used it to write what exactly? Oh, that we need milk? We need milk that badly that you had to go ahead and use my pen?
Them: Well, it was just-
Me: It was just what? Tell me what it was.
Them: Lying there. It was just lying there.
Me: Oh, so you thought you would just pick it up and write 'milk' with it? Do you have any idea what you've done?
Them: I really don't.
Me (shaking pen): This is my special writing mojo pen and you have just ruined it. I will never again write anything brilliant with this pen and it's all your fault.
Them: It's a just pen.
Me: I don't even know you. get the idea. It's insane, I know, but I'm a little crazy quirky the way some writers are. So just know that if a writing utensil is lying anywhere in the vicinity of one of my notebooks that it is OFF LIMITS and we'll get along just fine. Nothing to it. Easy peasy.

I thought I'd end today's post with a list of my top ten favorite writing utensils. This list is constantly evolving as I stumble across new pens and pencils but here's where things stand today:

10. Mechanical Pencils. They're great and I really like them. They just don't write as nicely in my current notebook. Hence the demotion.

9. Bathtub Markers. Yep. You read that right. Bathtub markers. Perfect for getting down those shower epiphanies. Even if they may have possibly turned my grout blue. Blueish.

8. The pens Heather and I stole found abandoned at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas. Those pens write really nice and I would consider planning another trip out to Vegas just to steal find more.

7. Pilot Precise V5 pens. Especially the pretty colors like purple and teal.

6. Pilot G-2 clicky top gel pens. Especially the pretty colors like purple and teal.

5. Papermate Silk 1.6B clicky top pen. I first found this one when signing a credit card slip at a local restaurant. I resisted the urge to steal it and instead made The Man drive me to every store in the valley that would possibly sell pens. When I couldn't find them, I special ordered them off the internet. I find they're good for brainstorming. I wrote my synopsis with these pens. Drawback- they sometimes leak. But I will gladly suffer that for a decent synopsis.

4. Sharpie Clicky Top Pens. Especially the purple ones. Pretty!

3. Santoro Tutti Cuti "hippy chick" pen. I stole discovered this pen just lying around all unattended at work one day and wrote some pretty awesome stuff for my 2009 NaNoWriMo project with it. I have been obsessed with it ever since. Of course, it's since run out of ink and I can't seem to find a replacement for it anywhere. I even did a Google search that turned up nothing. Sad.

2. Sharpie Fine Point Pen. This used to be my absolute favorite pen. Especially the purple ones. I have an entire pen case full of them and once wrote a poem extolling their wonder. Sad. I know.

1. Pilot Varsity Fountain Pens. I don't remember how I came across these. It was probably during one of those unchaperoned office supply store visits. Love how these write. Plus, it comes in purple. A huge bonus in my world.

Today's question: What's your writing weapon of choice? And do you really think the pen is mightier than the sword? I have both sitting in my closet. Maybe I should test out that theory...

Monday, April 18, 2011

O Is For Opening Lines

I'm not going to tell you how to write opening lines. Everyone knows the opening needs to grab readers and hold their attention so I'm not going to lecture. Who am I to tell you how to write an opening line for your WIP? I'll tell you: I'm an unpublished nobody who's a little punch drunk because her beloved Red Sox managed to win two whole games in a row this weekend and in one of those games, her boy Jacoby Ellsbury hit a three run home run. Woo Hoo!

That's right. I said two whole games. In a row. That doubles the number of wins we've had so far this season. It's a mark of how badly the season's going so far if that's what makes me giddy.

The Red Sox don't actually have anything to do with me being an unpublished nobody (even if they are quite the distraction from April through October) but I just really wanted to mention that they won two whole games in a row. We're going to turn it around and we're going to win the World Series! This year is the year!

Again, I find myself digressing. But you should be used to that by now.

So what was I saying? Right...opening lines. The American Book Review published a list of their picks of the 100 Best First Lines from novels (also on their site they have a list of the Top 40 Bad Books and 100 Best Last Lines...check them out!). Some of their choices I expected. Some I'd never heard of. They included:

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." --Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

And while it's also a truth universally acknowledged that I am in no way, shape or form a Jane Austen fan, I do like this line. They also included this classic opening:

"If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth."I --J.D. Salinger, The Catcher In The Rye

Again, not a book I was overly fond of (I know, sacrilege!) but an opening I definitely appreciate. The next quote I'm going to use comes from a book I've never heard of but this opening is just wild. Check it out:

"Ages ago, Alex, Allen and Alva arrived at Antibes, and Alva allowing all, allowing anyone, against Alex's admonition, against Allen's angry assertion: another African amusement . . . anyhow, as all argued, an awesome African army assembled and arduously advanced against an African anthill, assiduously annihilating ant after ant, and afterward, Alex astonishingly accuses Albert as also accepting Africa's antipodal ant annexation.
" --Walter Abish, Alphabetical Africa

I could just go on and on. After all, there are 97 other lines on this list. But don't worry. I'm not going to post the entire list here because that's way too much. But you can check out the entire list on your own here.

I do, however, want to bring up a couple of opening lines that didn't make their list. First and foremost is this one:

"Mr. and Mrs. Dursely, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you'd expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn't hold with such nonsense."
--J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

"This is my favorite book in all the world, though I have never read it." --William Goldman, The Princess Bride

And last, but not least, is this:

"There's a guy like me in every state and federal prison in America, I guess-- I'm the guy who can get it for you. Tailor-made cigarettes, a bag of reefer if you're partial to that, a bottle of brandy to celebrate your son or daughter's high school graduation, or almost anything else... within reason, that is. It wasn't always that way."
--Stephen King, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption

Great story. Great movie. I once had a very stubborn student who was very against reading. I gave him this story after learning how much he liked the movie and all of a sudden that kid was getting in trouble for reading in his other classes when he was supposed to be doing class work. I don't know what happened to him after he left our program but I hope he's doing well.

Before I go, I am going to take the opportunity to post the opening lines of my WIPs Effigy and Second Nature. I've worked pretty hard on them and I think they turned out all right. One group of my students read the opening to Effigy once. They read it out loud which was strange but kind of neat. The student who started the reading stopped after the first lines and looked up at me with wide eyes and said, "Whoa! MJ!" I think he meant it in a good way...


Darian Coileáin didn’t mind killing. The sound of a well made blade slicing through flesh and bone didn’t bother him. The blood he wore at the end of a battle washed away as easily as dirt gained from a day of plowing. When others vomited or sobbed over the atrocities they had seen or committed, Darian prepared for the next encounter. He never doubted it would come. King Nathan Maoilriain desired above all else to expand his already great demesne and Darian desired above all else to give his king what he wanted.

And Second Nature:

Death had come to Quatara. It came in the form of two twisted creatures silently slipping through the night cloaked forest. Their names were unknown to the inhabitants here as they were seldom seen in this land and any unfortunate enough to lay eyes upon them were never left in a condition to be able to tell others of the horror they had witnessed. Death was their singular talent and they had come to Quatara to once again practice their art. Someone would die before the dawn.

All right. That does it for me. Now it's your turn. What are your favorite opening lines? Or, post the openings from your own WIPs. Or just let me know that the Red Sox winning the World Series this year is a pipe dream, even if it's only April and there's still plenty of time to stop sucking. Your choice...

Happy Monday, all.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

N Is For NaNoWriMo

If you're a writer, who has spent any significant amount of time online, you've probably heard of NaNoWriMo. But then again, maybe you haven't. I (in my usual behind the times style) didn't know what it was until two years ago when a friend from high school asked if I was participating. I had to go out and Google it because I didn't know what the hell she was talking about. I checked out their site and decided to go ahead and give it a try.

What the hell, right? Nothing ventured, nothing gained or something like that.

Anyway, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It's been around since 1999 where there were 21 participants and six winners. In 2009, there were 167,150 participants and 32,178 winners (me among them). The goal is simple: write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. You win if you reach the 50,000 word mark.

You can write whatever kind of novel you want; you just can't write a single word of it until November 1st. You can write as many notes on your project as you like in the meantime though.

My first foray into NaNoWriMo was spent writing a chick lit/romance type novel. I'd read some pretty bad examples of this genre and had decided to put my money where my mouth was. I called it "Choose Your Own Adventure" and started off with nothing but the main character's name (Lavinia). I stayed up until midnight on Halloween night so I could start right away...and ended up staring at the cursor on the word processing program thinking, "What the hell did I do?"

It turned out all right though. The story came together a little at a time. There was some real junk to be found in there because you're supposed to just write. not edit. Just write. It doesn't matter if the story is crap. The goal is to reach your word count and that's it. Write a crappy first draft of something. That's what the month is all about. You can edit to your heart's content come December.

So that's what I did. I thought I'd get to December and never look at this project again but something strange happened. The story evolved into something I actually liked and kept growing and changing to the point where I stopped trying to predict where it was headed and just went along for the ride. I started to care about the characters. I even created a story specific soundtrack for it (a sure sign that I have committed to the project). By the end of the month, I had almost 60,000 words and no ending. I also had to change the title because the old one just didn't fit the story anymore. It's currently called "Vinnie and Ellie" (which I hate but I haven't yet thought of anything I like better) and it's one of my favorite projects. Of course, it's still unfinished because of my tunnel vision where my fantasy series is concerned, but I do look at it every now and again and am reminded just how much I really do like that WIP.

So last year, I think it was January, I came up with an idea for NaNoWriMo 2010. So I started scribbling notes. I spent nine months scribbling down ideas for this book. It was going to be a YA urban fantasy novel about a sixteen year old demon hunter whose mother (unaware of her daughter's after school activities) sends her to a program for troubled teens. A sort of "Buffy goes to juvie" story. I was so excited about it. It was going to be awesome. It was going to be the best damn book anyone had ever read. I was so in love with this story and I hadn't even written a word of it.

Then came November and all of a sudden, I was back in front of my computer, staring at a blinking cursor and thinking, "What the hell did I do?"

That's right. Despite all my careful planning and note taking, I hit a wall. The awesomeness in my head was not translating well onto the page. I didn't think I would make the goal and either did the NaNoWriMo progress chart. It kept telling me that at my current rate of production, I wouldn't finish until well into December. But, thanks for a last minute all nighter held on November 29th, I managed to get the 50,000 words (the project currently sits at 51k) but boy, was I depressed that it hadn't gone as well as I had hoped.

I stopped working on it and didn't look at it again until January 2011. I was surprised to find that parts of it didn't suck as badly as I recalled. I call it Solstice and there is some really good stuff in there (Well, so says me. I'm the only one to have read any of it). It just needs work because it's still very unfinished. It just needs a middle. And an ending. And a beginning. Much like "Vinnie and Ellie", I go and look at it once in a while and work on it a little bit more.

Next year I should really make a goal of finishing some of these WIPs I have sitting around.

But that's next year. This year, I have no plans for NaNoWriMo. I mean, I'm planning to participate but I have no idea what I'm going to write. I know it's only April and so there's plenty of time to come up with something but I don't like this idea of not knowing. I wonder what it'll be and if I'll end up loving or hating it.

Anyone else out there participate in NaNoWriMo? Did you win? Did you love it? Hate it? Did you know that Sara Gruen's novel Water For Elephants was a NaNoWriMo project?

Tell us your experiences and have a great weekend...

Friday, April 15, 2011

M Is For Mouse

Today is all about getting back to normal. Normal is the watchword. Big's meds seem to be kicking in (amazing how much quicker that happened once he stopped throwing them up all over my rug) and you can feel the stress in the household slowly starting to melt. Much like that big ass pile of snow out in the driveway. But the fact remains that we are behind. In everything.

So today I am going to cheat a little bit on the A to Z Challenge and post a short story I wrote a while back. It's not the first time this story has appeared in this blog so some of you will have seen it/read it before. But most of you haven't seen it before and so I feel okay about posting it again. Sorry about the cheat but I really need to get some stuff done today. It's the story of our household one morning when a mouse decided to put in an appearance. Hijinks and hilarity ensued.

Our regularly scheduled posts will resume tomorrow. I hope.

The Story of an Hour

The day began as any other day. The Gator Girl sat poised on the floor, bedside, waiting for any sign of movement to take as an invitation to jump up on the bed and cuddle between her parents. The Big Brave German Shepherd lay dejected on his bed on the floor, lamenting the hard truth that he was just too damn big to get on the bed without the aid of a crane.

Slowly, The Man got out of bed. The Gator Girl followed him. He walked slowly across the room, dragging his feet in his search for clothing. The Gator Girl did not drag her feet. The Gator Girl has never dragged her feet in all her life. She pranced.

Taptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptap filled the air. The sound roused the Big Brave German Shepherd who immediately came in search of his mother. The Woman was not amused. The Woman had been up late trying to close out a draft of her synopsis project and had been hoping for a modicum more of sleep and so The Woman lay in bed, her eyes firmly closed in order to give the illusion of sleep. The Woman had learned long ago to fake it until she could make it.

The Man, having finally gathered his clothing, left the bedroom now in search of a shower. With his absence, the Gator Girl sprung back on the bed and nestled close to The Woman. The Big Brave German Shepherd lay back down as well, with a thud that shook the bed. Still, The Woman did not move.

She didn’t even more when the bedroom door opened once more and The Man returned.

“Hey,” The Man said.

The Woman chose to ignore him. The Gator Girl, who has never ignored anything in her whole entire life, leapt off the bed with joy. The Big Brave German Shepherd didn’t move.

“Hey,” The Man said again.

The Woman reluctantly turned her head to look at The Man.

“There’s a mouse hanging off the shower curtain,” he said.

The Woman had to think about this. She understood all the words individually but, placed together in a sentence the way The Man had done, they seemed to lack all comprehension.

“There’s a what where?” she asked.

“There’s a mouse hanging off the shower curtain,” The Man said.

The Woman thought some more. Mouse. Hanging. Shower curtain. Huh.

“The cats are freaking out,” The Man continued.

Mouse. Hanging. Shower curtain. Cats.

“You mean a real one?” The Woman asked, slowly coming out of the illusion of sleep.

“Yes, I mean a real one,” The Man responded, his tone minutely questioning The Woman’s intelligence. “Look, you can see it from here.”

And with that, The Man opened the bedroom door. Both the Gator Girl and the Big Brave German Shepherd were prancing now, alight with the possibility of breakfast. The Man did not let them pass. The Woman lifted her head from her pillow and squinted into the bathroom.

The Woman was not wearing her glasses and was still slightly groggy from sleep, or the lack thereof, but, after a moment of squinting and focusing, she saw a dark shape at the top of the shower curtain. After a little more squinting and a little more focusing, she could see that it was, indeed, a mouse hanging off her shower curtain.

The Woman said a not nice word. The Woman actually said several not nice words.

The Woman sat up slightly and took in the sight. The mouse was clinging for his dear little life at the top of her shower curtain. The two cats were sitting on the floor, tails swishing and eyes riveted to their prey.

The Woman said more not nice words.

“What do we do?” The Man asked.

“What the hell do you mean ‘we’?” The Woman said.

The Woman normally liked to think of herself as one of those hairy legged bra burning feminist types who needed a man like a fish needed a bicycle but the truth remained that she shaved her legs year round, actually appreciated a bra’s support and was not about to deal with a big fat squirmy mouse and his little wormy tail.

No, The Woman was going to find herself a bubble and move into it, post haste.

“How am I going to take a shower?” The Man asked.

“Yeah,” The Woman said.

She sat up fully now, accepting the fact that any hope of further sleep had dissipated upon the first uttering of the sentence ‘There’s a mouse hanging on the shower curtain.’”

“If only we had two and a half bathrooms in this house,” The Woman continued. “Oh wait. We do.”

“Yeah, but,” The Man protested, “my shampoo’s in there.”

“I don’t even know why you’re worried about that,” The Woman said. “You can’t leave me with that thing in there.”

“I kill the spiders,” The Man said. “It’s only fair that you kill the mice.”

The Woman said several more not nice words.

“What if we got one of the buckets from the basement,” The Man said.

“Again with the ‘we’,” The Woman said.

“And like knocked the mouse into it,” The Man said. “Could he climb out?”

The Woman didn’t respond. No, The Woman was too busy imagining the absolute horror of either standing there holding a bucket with which to catch a big fat squirmy mouse and his little wormy tail or knocking a big fat squirmy mouse and his little wormy tail into a bucket.

“I hate nature,” The Woman said.

The Woman actually liked nature. The Woman actually loved nature. She enjoyed spending time in the Great Outdoors. She did not, however, enjoy it when the Great Outdoors was hanging from the shower curtain in her bathroom.

“How am I going to get my shampoo?” The Man asked.

“There’s shampoo in the other bathroom,” The Woman said. “Just use that.”

“Right,” The Man said. “Hey, are you going out today?”

“How else am I going to buy a bubble in which to live?”

“Because I’m thinking we’re going to need some mouse traps or poison or something.”

“Very astute of you,” The Woman said. “Can you, like, close the bathroom door for a moment so I can get the dogs downstairs without their interrupting the standoff?”

“Can you imagine the Gator Girl with a mouse?” The Man asked.

“Yes,” The Woman said. “Yes, I can. Which is why, in the absence of any mouse removal solutions that don’t involve me holding a bucket, I want you to close the bathroom door.”

“The mouse can fit under a door.”

“What is wrong with you?” The Woman asked. It was possibly that she had screeched this question but she would never admit it. “Just close the damn door!”

The Man closed the damn door and The Woman took the dogs downstairs. She prepared their breakfast. While she did so, the Gator Girl puked. Twice. Because the morning hadn’t been awesome enough.

Meanwhile, The Man took his shower in the other bathroom using the other shampoo found there. He was still pondering solutions. They had pretty much decided upon letting the cats (one of which was so fat that some time spent chasing a rodent would be beneficial to its health) deal with the mouse but The Man decided to try and expedite the process.

“How long do you think the mouse can hold on?” The Man asked.

“Don’t know,” The Woman said. “Don’t know how long he’s already been there.”

“Well, he’s going to get hungry at some point,” The Man said.

“Well, I think when faced with hunger or the two cats waiting to satisfy their own, I think the mouse just might choose hunger.”

“Right,” The Man said. “Hey, do you think I should put a ladder in there? Could they climb a ladder?”

The cats, in fact, could climb a ladder. The Woman found that one out one night when The Man had used the ladder to access the attic and while it was set up, one of the cats (Scaredy Cat) had also used it to access the attic. The ladder was then taken away, before Scaredy Cat could exit the attic, subsequently leaving Scaredy Cat stranded and crying for help. The Woman related this story to The Man but The Man did not appear to be listening.

No, The Man was scheming.

The Woman left him to his planning and took the Gator Girl outside. She then took the Big Brave German Shepherd outside. While she did so, The Man was busy fetching the step ladder and setting it up in the bathroom for the cats’ use. The Fat Cat didn’t seem to get it and Scaredy Cat just wasn’t interested. The Woman got back inside in time to watch The Man attempt to teach Fat Cat to use the ladder.

The Woman would’ve sold her soul just then for a video camera.

“Hey,” The Man said. “I’ve got to brush my teeth. Can you, like, watch my back while I do it and make sure the mouse doesn’t jump on it?”

The Woman, again, didn’t respond. Instead, she left the cats to watch The Man’s back and went outside once more to clean up after the dogs. She paused when she heard the sounds of freaking out dogs and then decided she really didn’t want to know. When she returned to the house, The Man was standing at the top of the stairs.

“Did you hear me scream?” The Man asked.

No. No, The Woman had not heard that. The Woman, against her better judgment, asked what happened.

“I put Fat Cat on the ladder,” The Man said. “On the second step so it wouldn’t be as easy for her to get down and she realized she was closer to the mouse and then, when she was climbing up to get him, he fell.”

He fell. Oh joy.

“So he ran under the vanity,” The Man continued.

Under the vanity. Oh joy.

“And Fat Cat went after him,” The Man said, “and was battering him around some and he came out from underneath the vanity and Fat Cat swatted him around some more and now he’s in the heater.”

In the heater. Oh joy.

“And now Fat Cat has her head stuck under the heater,” The Man said. “You should come see it. It’s funny.”

The Woman did go see it. The Fat Cat indeed had her head wedged under the heater, her tail still swishing madly. Scaredy Cat was nowhere to be found.

“He’s got nowhere to go now,” The Man said.

Satisfied at a job well done, The Man removed the ladder and went to work. The Woman went downstairs to check her email and possibly write a blog about the morning’s events. In the middle of an email to a friend, The Woman heard a thud and the pitter patter of mammals on the move. She looked at the ceiling. The noise stopped. The Woman finished her email and went upstairs to investigate.

And by ‘investigate’, The Woman meant she was only going to stand at the top of the stairs and peek around the corner.

The bathroom was empty. There was no sign of Fat Cat nor her prey. The standoff had ended, leaving The Woman with an unsettled feeling that the big fat squirmy mouse and his little wormy tail had somehow managed to slip past Fat Cat and was now, once again, running free with his little mouse feet, within her walls.

“I hate nature,” The Woman said again as she slowly made her way back downstairs.

The End

Thursday, April 14, 2011

L Is For Lyme Disease

Obviously, L was not meant to be about Lyme Disease but that's the answer the vet came back with yesterday and so today I am blogging about Lyme Disease. I should probably thank Big for contracting a disease that lends itself so well to the A to Z Challenge.

So yeah. Lyme Disease.

I hate ticks. Now more than ever. I didn't even realize such a thing was possible.

We arrived at the vet yesterday afternoon and I launched into a monologue of what had happened between Sunday and our arrival at the office on Wednesday. We fertilized the lawn but I swear I didn't let the dogs on it! Big tripped on a chair at my mother's house on Monday! I gave him a cheeseburger Monday night! He hasn't eaten since breakfast Tuesday. He hasn't had water. He hasn't done this. He has done that. The Best Vet In The World very nicely listened to my panicky ramblings calm, very calm, dissertation and then proceeded with the exam.

And came back with Lyme Disease.

Here's what I said when the Best Vet In The World told me:

Me: Lyme Disease? Are you kidding me?
Him: Nope. Not kidding you.
Me: But it's April.
Him: Yep.
Me: There's still snow on the ground. Especially where I live.
Him: I'm sure there is.
Me: Then how- when- how? Lyme Disease?
Him: Yep.
Me: But it's April!
Him: The incubation period can be weeks but it can also be months.
Me: But he was negative for it in August.
Him: Yep.
Me: And you vaccinated him for it in August.
Him: Yep.
Me: That can happen?
Him: Yep.
Me: (Beat) Lyme Disease? Really?
Him: Really.

Here are the symptoms for a dog who has Lyme Disease:

-Reluctance to move or a slow, painful gait
-Swollen joints that are warm or painful to the touch
-Pain in the legs or throughout the body
-Fever, fatigue or swollen lymph nodes
-Loss of appetite

Okay, so maybe there is some credence to this theory.

The good news is that it's treatable in the form of an antibiotic. Because of Big's size, he gets five pills, twice a day, for the next four weeks.

This is what I said when I heard that:

Me: Five pills twice a day? So ten pills total.
Him: Yep.
Me: Ten pills a day.
Him: Yep.
Me: For the next four weeks?
Him: Yep.
Me: Swell.

Big's pretty good about taking meds but that's when I can put them in some peanut butter or a piece of cheese or something. This method will not work for these meds because he (a) still won't eat anything and (b) can't have dairy products with these meds because calcium renders them useless. They will also make him sun sensitive. Or, I guess since the dog's already sun sensitive, they'll make him more so. I now need to be on the look out for sunburns developing on his nose and ears.

And the fun just keeps on leaving.

The Best Vet In The World says the antibiotic will make him feel better soon. As in Friday or-- at the latest, by the end of the weekend. This is excellent news. And not just because Big just threw up bright orange bile all over my living room rug.

Clean up, aisle nine.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

K Is For Keeping Calm

K was not supposed to be for Keeping Calm. K was supposed to be for Kicking Ass. K was supposed to be my love letter to the sublime River Tam and Buffy Summers and maybe even Sydney Bristow.

So why isn't it?

Because there's something wrong with Big.

If you're new to this blog, Big is my 8 year old German Shepherd. And there's something wrong with him which means that I will find it incredibly difficult to focus on anything other than what's wrong with him until I know what's wrong with him.

Yes, I am crazy protective and possibly over reactive dog mom whose dogs are her kids. The vet probably cringes when my number pops up on the caller id.

But Big's my kid and there's something wrong with him. So that's that.

He's incredibly clingy. Some of you familiar with Big will be laughing at that idea because he's such a Mama's Boy to begin with (in that long standing male German Shepherd tradition), but this is a new level of clinginess that I can't explain. He can't let me out of his sight. Generally, he's content just knowing I'm in the same house or on the same floor of the same house. At his worse (until now), he'll sleep out in the hallway just outside of whatever room I happen to be in.

But now? He's my shadow and the very second I stop moving, he sits on my feet and then lays down so I can't easily get away. And since he's 130 pounds and I'm not, I don't ever get away easily.

This has translated into a sharp increase in the level of anxiety in our household. Big's anxious which makes me anxious. But this is nothing to the anxiety that the Gator Girl feels and projects. She knows something's off with Big too and for her, it translates to a need to tag him at each and every opportunity.

As you can imagine, this has done wonders for Big's anxiety.

You know that riddle you did in school? The one with the man and the rowboat and the goat, the wolf and a bag of oats? The one where the man had to get all three items across the river but could only put one thing at a time in the boat and could only leave certain things together because otherwise things could get eaten?

That's been my life the last twenty four hours.

Even The Man noticed the anxiety and Big's new super fun weirdness when he came home from work yesterday. It concerned him enough to do a Google search (I have no idea what his parameters were) where he apparently found a site that suggested that perhaps Big was clingy because I was pregnant.

Cue spit take.

I'm not pregnant.

This morning, however, his symptoms seem to have expanded from the clinginess. He's not eating, not drinking, he's shadowing my every step with even more voracity and he's crying whenever he's had to walk up something (i.e. a flight of steps or even the one step to get in the car). So I called the vet this morning and left a message because they have later office hours today. Then I put Big in the car and broke some land speed records to get down in the area (our vet is an hour and fifteen minute drive away. There are lots of vets in between but this one is the best one) so that when they call back, we can be seen immediately. Or, if they can't see Big (they will. They do every time he's had an emergency), I'll be closer to the emergency room vets.

But until then, we're keeping calm. Or trying our damnedest. It is important that I remain as calm as possible (even though I am honestly FREAKING OUT) because dogs are so sensitive to what we're feeling. The smallest thing we feel gets magnified for them so Big knows that I'm worried. I just have to keep him from knowing how worried I am because I don't want him to be any more worried than he already is.

Oh-- there's the phone. That'll be the vet because no one else would be stupid enough to call me right now. Chat later...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

J Is For James and Jason

I'm going to go ahead and start this blog off by saying what could possibly be the most controversial thing ever said here on My Pet Blog...or possibly, anywhere else in the world. Are you ready?

Daniel Craig is the best Bond ever.

This will outrage some of you, I'm sure. Some of you may even be screaming "WHAT?!?!?!" at your monitors right about now. I know some people love Roger Moore or Sean Connery (my second choice, definitely) or even Pierce Brosnan. And I know of one person (all right, one television character) who thinks that "Timothy Dalton should win an oscar and beat Sean Connery over the head with it!" (Bonus points if you Name That Reference!)

But I have to say Daniel Craig kicks ass. Both literally and figuratively. Did you see the opening to Casino Royale? The opening fight scene on the crane and in the Embassy? Or what about the hotel fight scene in Quantum of Solace? This Bond does not screw around-- although he does actually screw around later in the film (wouldn't be a Bond film otherwise)-- but you know what I mean.

A Bond who comes with nifty gadgets is cool. I mean, who wouldn't want a rocket belt (Thunderball) or a projectile shooting cigarette (You Only Live Twice) or a watch equipped with a laser beam cutting tool (Never Say Never Again)? Daniel Craig's Bond does have his share of nifty gadgets (an Aston Martin will a glove box filled with weapons and a defibrillator...not to mention the bulletproof windshield) but more importantly he has the ability to beat up bad guys with his bare hands. And that's what I really like in my 007s. Plus, there's this:

Hello, Salty Goodness!

Monday, April 11, 2011

I Is For Influential Authors

If you're anything like me, you can find inspiration anywhere: random people you see on the street, television, movies, music-- my synopsis of Effigy took eight months to write. I had ten different drafts, ten different openings, ten different approaches and none of them were right. It was pretty frustrating. Then, one evening, I happened to be watching So You Think You Can Dance and Mia Michaels choreographed a number to a Gavin DeGraw song that contained a line that put a spark in me that ended with a four and a half paged synopsis. So, thanks Mia Michaels for choreographing that dance to that song that night. You ended a very long frustrating time for me and everyone who had to listen to me bitch about my inability to figure out the pain in the ass that was my synopsis.

But once again I digress because today, while I am talking about inspiration, I'm focusing more on the authors and writers who have been my inspiration, the people who have made me say, "I want to write like that!"

Hmmm...I smell a list coming on. Here are my top ten (in chronological order):

1. The Secret of the Unicorn Queen crowd- This was a series of six MG books that my mother came across for me back in middle school. It was about a girl who fell through a portal into a parallel universe and took up with a group of unicorn riding rebels until she could find her way home. They were written by different authors but I had to put these books/authors on my list because these are the books that inspired me to write my own fantasy series. Talk about influential. They are: Josepha Sherman, Gwen Hansen, Suzanne Weyn and Dory Perlman.

2. Ellen Emerson White- Well, if you know me at all, then you know she has to be on this list. I came across her novel, The President's Daughter, in the school library in the seventh grade one day when I was tired of being harassed about my Sweet Valley High obsession. I haven't looked back since. I wanted to be her main character, Meg Powers, when I grew up. I still kind of do.

3. Cynthia Voigt- An amazing writer for young adults. I was/am particularly enthralled with her novels that revolve around the Tillerman family as well as those in the Kingdom series. I love the way she writes her main characters. Dicey Tillerman kicks ass. Talk about a strong female character. Go out and read Homecoming right now.

4. William Faulkner- I read a lot of his books in my later high school career. The one that inspired me the most was As I Lay Dying which helped me to start my novel (in progress) How Many Angels.

5. Robert B. Parker- Of course Robert B. Parker had to make this list. I'd like to thank Ellen Emerson White for having her character, Meg Powers, read Spenser novels. I've always loved Parker's sense of humor. Conversations between Spenser and Hawk are really the best.

6. Laurie Halse Anderson- I first read her novel, Speak when my sister, B, recommended it. It's now one of my all time favorite books. This woman is an amazing writer and if you read nothing else in your lifetime, read Speak. Then read Twisted and Wintergirls. If you let yourself get turned off by the fact that these are YA novels, you are cheating yourself.

7. Joss Whedon- C'mon. My religion on Facebook is listed as "W.W.J.W.D.?" How could I not put him on this list?

8. Philippa Gregory- A historical fiction writers, she's created so many novels that I have found to be just so affecting. The way she writes historical fiction is the way I want my fantasy novels to read. Realism and gravitas. That's what I want.

9. George R.R. Martin- His series, A Song of Ice and Fire, is a must for any fantasy writer. Talk about realism and gravitas. I could only dream of writing a fantasy series like this. I love fantasy that makes me forget I'm reading fantasy.

10. Stephen Lawhead- I mentioned him the other day when I wrote my "H" entry. I really love the way he writes. I'd like to be able to do what he does with voice and imagery.

So that's ten, huh? Already? All right then. This is what we're going to have to do...

Okay, I lied. I'm going to include just two more because I feel I'd be remiss if I didn't mention...

11. Suzanne Collins- I picked up The Hunger Games because I'd been reading so much about it on other blogs and Facebook and whatever. So glad I did because it's really the most amazing story. I read it in one sitting because there was no good place to stop reading... and isn't that the mark of a great writer?

12. J.K. Rowling- I don't even have words. You know why she's here.

Now it's your turn: who are the writers whose work you've wanted to claim as your own? Or, what inspires you?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

H Is For Hodgepodge

I'm off for the day. I'm taking the pups to obedience class where we just may be able to work outdoors for the first time in months. It's very exciting. So here, for you today, are a few of my favorite H things...

H Books

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. The first novel of an amazing trilogy. Don't be turned off by that whole YA thing...READ THESE BOOKS.

Hood by Stephen R. Lawhead. The first novel in a trilogy that retells the Robin Hood legend. The writing in this book (and the two that follow it) is so damn beautiful. This ain't your Errol Flynn Robin Hood (nor your Mel Brooks either). I love the second book in the series, Scarlet, even more. READ THESE BOOKS TOO.

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling. I couldn't talk about H books without mentioning the Harry Potter series. You shouldn't have expected me to try.

Friday, April 8, 2011

G Is For Genesis

Or, how I became a writer.

It's an interesting story. Actually, I don't know that. I have no idea whether this story will interest you or if you've already hit the 'next' button on your blogroll. I don't even know if such buttons exist so, there you go.

As you may have already suspected, I don't know a whole hell of a lot. What I do know is that I'm that person Rainer Maria Rilke was talking to in Letters To A Young Poet when he said:

"Search for the cause, find the impetus that bids you write. Put it to this test: Does it stretch out its roots in the deepest place of your heart? Can you avow that you would die if you were forbidden to write? Dig deep into yourself for a true answer. And if it should ring its assent, if you can confidently meet this serious question with a simple, “I must,” then build your life upon it. It has become your necessity."

My answer is a resounding "I must." And this is how I got there:

I always liked to read as a kid and I know I used to scribble down stories and little poems. One weekend, I remember commandeering my mother's electric typewriter (yep. That's how old I am) and a corner of our basement so I could write a murder mystery story à la Ten Little Indians. I think someone died from poisoned breakfast cereal.

But my first real memory of really writing stories comes from my year in seventh grade. The English department was trying out some new experimental program where our reading classes were spent reading any books we wanted and then writing a summary about them in a special notebook. (I read a lot of Sweet Valley High books back then.) Then we had writing classes where we could write anything we wanted: poetry, short stories, anything. I wrote short stories. My best friend, Amanda, and I wrote a lot of corroborating stories. Of course Amanda was very much into Stephen King at the time and so our corroborations were pretty much twins in a bad horror movie. I don't remember a lot about those stories but I do remember one of them contained the following line:

...and then the eyeball popped out-- Ping!

We were very impressed with ourselves. Our teacher, I think, was sick.

Seventh grade was also the year I wrote my first fantasy story. And it was bad. I mean, really bad. Really, really bad. It involved pterodactyls and talking unicorns. And pop tarts (what can I say? I really liked pop tarts. Kicked toaster strudel's ass.). I don't think I ever let anyone read it. I don't even think I still have a copy of it anywhere. But you know, even as I think about it, I still think that somewhere in that piece of crap of a manuscript, was something good.

Well, maybe not.

I got more serious about writing when I hit high school but still it wasn't what I wanted to do with my life (I think at that time, I wanted to be an actress). English classes were no longer devoted to reading and writing what I wanted so I spent my time sitting in the back of the classroom reading and writing what I wanted anyway. In high school, I wrote the first draft of what is now known as How Many Angels. I also wrote a new fantasy novel, something that's come to be known as the very first draft of what is now known as Second Nature. My friend, Ben, came up with the title. Gone were the pop tarts and pterodactyls. I kept the talking unicorns though (C'mon! Those things are awesome!). My CP was a girl who lived, quite literally, over the river and through the woods from my house. We would trade stories and poems all the time in school. She was a much better writer than me and I'm sure she still is.

But I kept at it. Writing, I mean. By the time, I got to my second year of college, I had had twelve different majors and Second Nature had seven companion novels (which pretty much ended the series) but still I didn't think that maybe I should be a writer. No, then I was pretty convinced I wanted to be a photographer (even though I didn't-- and still don't-- know how to work a camera) or an opera singer (that I might have been able to pull off) or a computer programmer (Yeah all right, so I didn't even make it to the end of that first class before I changed my mind). It was just anything but a writer.

Meanwhile, I wrote some other things: some poetry, an autobiography (of all things), another mystery novel (never finished. I don't even know who the bad guy was supposed to have been) and a young adult novel among them. I took a creative writing class and had a semester of people falling over themselves to tell me what a talented writer I was. I even broke up with a boyfriend who had had the audacity to clean up my dorm room while I was in class because in the cleaning process he ruined my carefully arranged and perfectly sensible to me scattering of notes on my revisions and future plans for How Many Angels. He thought it was just a bunch of paper.

It wasn't.

But I don't think it ever really occurred to me that I should maybe be a writer until the summer before my junior year of college. I'd transferred schools, met The Man and was working three jobs. But that summer was also the summer I found myself wanting to go back to the fantasy world I'd created. It was like an obsession. No, it wasn't like an obsession. It was an obsession. I couldn't think of anything else so I decided I had to go back there to write new stories in that setting. But since there was no way forward (I mean, that series was done moving forward. Trust me.), that only left going back.

So I wrote a prequel. And thus Effigy, and my so called writing career, was born because once I'd started writing that story, even that terrible, terrible first draft (no pop tarts. I promise.), I never looked back.

And the rest, as they say, is history.