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30 Covers, 30 Days – Redux

30 Oct

On Tuesday, NaNoWriMo will begin posting covers for the 2011 30 Covers, 30 Days challenge. I was the gleeful recipient of a cover last year (go day twelve!), and I made a collage of the entire collection. For old time’s sake, here it is again. Can’t wait to see the latest batch!

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The Society of Unicorns & Other Exotic Goats

31 Aug

Society of Unicorns coverI’ve been at it again. Well, at a couple things.

One, I’ve turned back to my original novel and am about to embark upon a great restructuring. I think people are getting tired of hearing me say I’m going to turn it into a trilogy. It’s probably a novice move. But, hey, did you know I’m turning it into a trilogy? Yeah. I am.

Meanwhile, I’ve been using the stock/resource section of DeviantArt as a box of crayons and Photoshop as a coloring book. I made a temporary cover for book one using a fabulous tree background by Smoko-Stock and a vintage “fairy” photo. Ain’t it cute?

I’m also dipping a toe into the critique pool again by joining YouWriteOn, a UK site where you can post opening chapters of your novel and have them reviewed on a one-for-one basis. Each review you do for another writer earns you one credit. You use credits to “buy” a critique for your own chapters. The divvying of assignments is random, there are eight areas on which you can rate the writing with stars (narrative voice, plot, dialogue, etc.), and they require at least 100 words of written review after that. It all seems quite organized and fair. I’m not a UK citizen, and I didn’t even consider that when posting, but so far so good. I’m still waiting to have someone balk at my Americanisms, though.

I’ve also posted chapters to DeviantArt and requested critiques, but radio silence over there, although I’ve had views.

See, this is where you all come in. I know I have some awesome writers who read the blog, some avid readers, too. I’d love it if folks would visit my DeviantArt or YouWriteOn pages and take a look. Leave me a comment, even if only to say hello.

Please and thank you and all the best.

Novels & Nostalgia

13 Aug

Every so often, I drag out my journal from 1993, the year I studied abroad in Russia. At a rate barely faster than that of glacier migration, I’ve been transcribing the yellowing handwritten thing into a Word file. I was tired last night and needed inspiration, so I chose a Russian classical playlist on iTunes and searched the web for a photo of the Smolny Cathedral in the snow. I found a good one on Google Images. Then realized it was from this blog.

Oh yeah. The blog. How I have scorned it!

I’ve devoted most of my summer to revising my NaNoWriMo 2009 novel and ordering various proofs. I’m finally at a good resting point. A few kind souls have volunteered to be beta readers, I have the cover I want for now, and so I’ll pull back from it for a while. If anyone wants to join the beta brigade, let me know. I have pdf and epub versions.

Here’s the cover:

Nocturne Cover (proof three)

Click on the image below for a link to the first two chapters (on Deviantart.com)

Those of you who read my 99th Page blogfest entry will recognize some of this. I moved a middle chapter from my original novel to the beginning of this one (the alternate version).

Now I’m waiting for the next prompt for NPR’s Three-Minute-Fiction…

Proof!

23 Jun

For the very first time, after three years of writing fiction, I completed a novel! I’m laughing maniacally every time I remember typing those magical words, “The End.”

I have a novel with a beginning, a middle, and an end! Whoa… [Laughs maniacally]

(So there’s some explanation for my absence from the blog.)

Thanks to the kind sponsors of NaNoWriMo, I had a code for a free proof copy. It arrived today! [Muhahaha!]

It has some errors, and I’ve made a few corrections to the story itself, so there will be a second proof, but, in the meanwhile…BEHOLD!

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Ears Spiting Faces All over the Place!

20 Jan

Imitrex is a cruel mistress. Perhaps that’s why it shares so many letters with dominatrix. (Oh boy, the hits I’ll be getting now.)

It’s a gamble. It’s a deal with the devil. (Again. Devil. Dominatrix. If I get a zillion hits a day for Tigger when I’ve never even typed that word until just now, merely posted Eeyore’s picture… Hello, future misled search engine victims!)

ANYway.

Here’s the thing with Imitrex. It takes your migraine and sucks it right out of your head. No more migraine. Yay! Miracle!

HOWEVER, the makers of the drug are clearly fans of stories like “The Monkey’s Paw”. Its help comes at a cost.

Imitrex takes your migraine from your head — miracle — and crams it into every other cell of your body — the horror! At least, that’s what it does to me. No headache, but my skin hurts, my muscles hurt, I get puffy, my throat aches, I can’t eat or drink, my jaw feels tense and achy, my heart beats strangely, I feel heavy as granite. Oh, the fun we have! It’s still better than a migraine, but it’s crushingly awful for the first hour or two.

Oh, and tee hee hee — you must, simply must, take it at the very first sign of a migraine. Since I don’t get auras or any of those signs, it means I have to take it at the first sign of a headache. But what if it’s a normal headache and will go away with Tylenol? Then I won’t have to suffer psychedelic assault and battery for no good reason. But if I take Tylenol and it doesn’t help, by the time I know that, it will be too late, and I’ll have my brain replaced by a black vortex of howling pain.

In short, it’s a gamble, and one I’ve had to make for the past four days. I’m resisting a fourth Iminatrix right now, and my brain is messing with me. Here’s a trammeling of pressure and pain and — whoops — it’s gone. It will be back as soon as I start to relax. Snarl.

In other gambles this week, I ordered a pair of  shoes that were on clearance but still cost just enough that I got mad when they felt like walking on rocks. People swear they feel like heaven once they mold to your foot and get broken in…most of the time. If not, you’re still out the price of the shoes since they’ve been worn and are no longer returnable. I got lucky. One or two wearings (yeah, I took the chance), and they do feel nice.

Writing? Not sure. I was draping myself morosely across the furniture last weekend, bemoaning my lack of productivity, and then I remembered I’d just scrawled out 2500 words. It felt like nothing. Not effortless, just insubstantial. I’d already forgotten it. Two nights ago, I wrote 1500 words that I thought were quite useful, but when my husband read them to me aloud, I realized the scope of just how vastly wrong they were.  So am I writing? Yes. Am I happy about it? Hmm.

The good news is that my revised sections are great! The bad news is number four on this list over at the Office of Letters & Light.

Wishing you all a great week.

What Were They Reading When You Were Born?

10 Jan

A fun dealie-bobber, courtesy of the fine folks at the Office of Letters and Light today. We’ve all seen the site where you can find out what the number one song was on the day you were born. Now there’s a literary version!***

If you go to Biblioz and enter the pertinent data, you’ll find out the fiction and non-fiction bestsellers from the week you were born. (Be sure to use the correct date format of DATE-MONTH-YEAR, not MONTH-DATE-YEAR.) Then your job is to come back here and report your findings in the comment section below.

I did it. I was imagining happy little families out in the happy little maternity ward waiting room, reading happy little stories, awaiting my birth.

Which books were they, I wondered.

Well. Lemme tell ya.

THIS:

AND THIS:

Is it any wonder I turned out the way I did?

What were your books? I look forward to the answers.

*** Brilliant reader M. Howalt pointed out that BibliOZ can be used as a tool for writers who are researching a particular time period for their stories!

“Show Me Yours” Blogfest

3 Jan

Today, I’m celebrating the Show MeYours blogfest by posting an excerpt from the novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo 2010.

____________________________________________________________________________

Novel Title: The View from Upper High Hog
Summary: An outrageous former Vaudevillian finds herself strong-armed into raising a Russian orphan in Cold War Era Arizona.
Scene: Set in 1962, this is the novel’s opening, narrated by Elizabeth, the now-thirteen-year-old orphan raised by Bebe Rosenthal (a.k.a. The Fabulous Bette Noire). After this scene, we go back in time to hear the real story of how Bebe wound up with Elizabeth.

____________________________________________________________________________

Bebe was gone. Bette Noire was in her eyes.

And Bette Noire wanted me to shut up.

It was party time, so I grew dim in the part of the living room I called Downstage. Bebe called it my box seat — a small bay window where I hid with books and dreams of Prince Charming, curtains drawn. But not right then. Right then I was a prop in Bebe– Bette’s routine.

“C’maaaan! Who’s the brat? You ain’t no mama. Ain’t never been!” Bebe’s friend kicked his feet onto our chipped coffee table, popping a cigar back in his mouth like a pacifier. She favored him with a smile, but I didn’t like his winks — not at me, not at Bebe, not even at her fearless stage persona, The Fabulous Bette Noire. He looked like a cartoon on a cocktail napkin. He smelled like wood polish and poison. I hoped he’d choke on a pistachio so he’d shut up.

But he didn’t, and others ogled my thirteen-year-old gawkiness until I itched like I was covered with flies. I hated when downstage became upstage. At least I could always count on rescue, whether smiling and merciful from Bebe or otherwise from Bette.

No smile that time. Just Bette’s narrowing eye. Here it came.

With a flourish, the Fabulous Bette Noire put her fingers in her mouth and whistled until she shattered every eardrum from here to Kingman, grinning at her guests’ shock.

Spotlight regained.

When I pulled my hands from my ears — I knew the danger signals — she was laughing into the imaginary heights of our low-ceilinged bungalow and positioning herself between olive velveteen curtains. Our front window was her favorite stage, our floorlamp her spotlight. That night, she was accompanied by reflected stardust glitter from our aluminum Christmas tree.

When all eyes returned to her, Bette launched into a well-worn monologue: the story of our origins. She had this whole routine she performed at parties.

A wave of her cigarette, the rasp of her voice, and she reached my favorite part. “So they lead me in. They sit me down. They ask if I wanted a drink. Well…” A knowing look, and the room laughed on cue. She held out her hands, a string of smoke curling upward from the cigarette between her fingers. “But then, instead of a drink or some happy hour grub, there she was! Wrapped in a blanket like a little shnookum sausage in a casing, all pink and round-cheeked. I looked that Miz Scott right in the eye and told her flat out, ‘No thank you, ma’am. I always keep kosher!'”

She always paused here for laughter. The woman knew her timing.

“But apparently they knew I was bluffing because, next thing I knew, I was sitting in a train, watching the prairie go by, holding that little sausage, and wondering what to do next. A sausage! I figured I’d donate her to the diner car. Then she opened her eyes for the first time, stee-retched out that neck… And I realized. She wasn’t a sausage at all. By those giant pea-green eyes, I knew I had myself a turtle. I said hi how are ya, and the turtle belched — the raunchiest noise I’d ever heard.” A shrug. “What are you gonna do? I fell in love. We’ve been together ever since.”

Love. She said loved me. Made all the staring men worthwhile.

Problem was, I knew the story was total baloney.

Bebe didn’t meet me until I was four, more beanpole than sausage, eyes wide open all the time. Maybe I burped, but more likely I just wore her ears out, babbling in Russian until she could teach me enough English to understand I needed to shut up.

[Click for next chapter]

Something Stupid

29 Dec

As I fumble my way back into writing after dealing with the holidays, a son with a bad case of toothache, and Drama in Real Life (we’ve come down with a bad case of The Economy over here), I thought I’d fill in the posting gaps with a little bit of nonsense I discovered in my files today. I wrote it in late October as work on my NaNoWriMo novel (about Bebe, an aging Vaudevillian) rekindled inspiration for my main novel, set in 1969.

Music plays a big part in painting my fictional worlds.

I’m sure it makes no sense to those who haven’t read my novels, but just consider it a promise that I’ll be back soon with something more relevant.

_____________________________________________________________

Bob Dylan and George Harrison stopped by today to say, “Hey, what the hell, man? Your main novel heard you were seeing some floozy from the ’30s. What about 1969?”

I’ve been pining for their stupid novel, missed it so much that I was an emotional wreck at the sight of them, wanting to fling myself into their arms, but I didn’t want them to see that.

I said, “What about it? Main Novel’s refused to answer my calls or see me for months now. I’m tired of weeping into my pillow. I have to move on.”

Bob held out a hand. “But Main Novel loves you. It just got…confused.”

I turned my back.

They said, “All right, man. We didn’t want to do this, but now we’ve got to call in The Beach Boys.”

One by one, the Beach Boys filed into the room, and I faltered. They lined up behind Bob and George and gazed at me with big sad eyes. They said nothing, just hummed in quiet harmony. They knew how protective I feel toward the character they represent.

Sergio Mendes slipped through the door, apologizing for being late, said Mama Cass took too long at the diner. Looking out the window, I saw Jose Feliciano shuffling up the front walk, feeling for each crack with his white stick, and I threw out my hands.

“Okay! Okay! I admit it. I miss you and want to come back. No more!”

The sound of approaching mambo drums ceased, leaving a moment of quiet in which I could hear one last fading wail from Jimi Hendrix’s guitar.

Bob nodded at the file for my primary novel and made an impatient gesture, but I shook my head.

From the back room, I could hear Hoagy Carmichael and Scott Joplin warming up on the piano, hoped they wouldn’t come out here.

“It’s just… You came at an awkward time. I’ve already got plans with my rebound prequel for the next month.”

There was grousing and mumbling among the men, and I wondered if I was crazy, risking this longed-for reconciliation, but at last George said, “Okay, but if we decide we’ve waited long enough, you’d better be ready to drop everything and come with us.”

That pissed me off. “Excuse me?”

Sergio placed a hand on George’s shoulder. “He means please. Please come back, if we need you. Being dead makes George uptight.”

I relented. Nodding, I showed my guests to the door.

At the foot of the front steps, George turned back. “You’re just lucky we didn’t have to involve that Maria Cortez.”

A voice behind the hedgerow said, “It’s Marisa Elena Talbot Cortese, you bastard!”

One last beat from the mambo drummers sent the men scrambling.

I closed the door and patted Antonio Carlos Jobim’s head. He’d been hiding his face in a pillow, feeling awkward because he’s in both books. He asked which book I was going to do.

I said, “I don’t know. Might get ugly if Bebe goes to battle with Marisa.”

But, hey, it would make a hell of a story.

I Love the Smell of Inspiration in the Morning

14 Dec

The smell… You know that smell of old books? Smells like…a short story.

I’ve always heard it, how you’ll be going about your business, and one day something smacks you across the face, giving you a story to tell where once there was none. Ah, inspiration. I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words, had bursts of inspiration regarding stories I was already in the midst of telling, but altogether new stories just don’t bloom that way for me.

I had a minor taste of it last year when my husband, who was fetching a late night snack from the grocery store, accidentally butt-dialed me. At first, all I could hear was NPR — only, I didn’t realize it was NPR. It sounded like my husband was discussing drugs, kidnapping, and smuggling with some woman. A Coen-esque short story bloomed from that, but I’ve never gone further than the outline.

Today, however, I was reading the blog of John Gall, the book designer who led the 30 Covers, 30 Days project for NaNoWriMo, and he had a link to this…

Click to visit Ms. Morrison's site

…an artist, Rachael Morrison, whose project is to go through MOMA and smell each and every one of their 300,000 books, cataloging their unique scent.

Holy…

I LOVE old book smell. I worked at a circa-1970s library as a teenager, and every time someone would return a book from the much older main library downtown, I’d know immediately and snatch it up to hug it and breathe in its musty scent. Aromatherapy for the hopelessly insane.

I also have an odd love for lists and cataloging.

More than that, however, I could see a woman going about this job, ledger in hand, saw the story unfolding. It has nothing at all to do with the real woman, of course, or the MOMA’s library, or anything else. But…ah… It became more difficult not to dive into a story than to put it off. So I wrote my first short story in at least a decade. I’m thrilled! And so grateful to Ms. Morrison and her eccentric art project!

~***~

Tell me I’ll have this kind of flash again. Tell me where you find inspiration or the odd places it’s found you, whether for writing or art or any sort of project.

On Snippets & Scarves

10 Dec

I like to knit. I can knit like the wind (or…something that actually, um, knits) as long as it’s in a straight line. I only find time to knit about once a year, so I lose all my knitting wisdom and have to start over from scratch. But man am I good at those long fringed rectangles I call scarves.

Since NaNoWriMo ended, I’ve transferred my compulsive energy into pounding out stitches instead of words. At first, I felt guilty. It seemed like procrastination or escape from my stories, but I realized the other day that it’s actually more of a meditation tool. Instead of sitting blankly before my laptop with nothing more to show at the end of the day than a few lame Facebook posts and useless knowledge gleaned from StumbleUpon, I now have a fuzzy and functional work of art and all the purls of wisdom (yeah, had to go there) I gained from each stitch. (Insert weaving stories comment here.)

I think it’s my inner editor who knits while the rest of me goes into self-hypnosis, listening to my novel’s soundtrack and daydreaming the stories I want to write.

Inspiration is like a cat. Chase it, and it runs, skirts around the sofa, shudders as you touch it, then spends an hour cleaning your stink off its fur. Okay, maybe not that last part. However, if you’re doing something else, inspiration is all around your ankles, slithering and striking its forehead against your leg, begging for attention.

And inspiration, like an ornery cat, loves a wiggling ball of yarn.

Now I just have to get back to the writing so that my prose doesn’t suffer the fate of my knitting skills.

~***~

Anyone have other suggestions for productive procrastination? Because I don’t want to go back to alphabetizing the lint on my living room carpet…

~***~

My NaNoWriMo novel is taking a hiatus right now, but I’ve been putting a few scenes out there for the world to sample. I have three sample chapters on my writing site, and, despite my terror, I read 500 words of a chapter to my regional NaNo group this past weekend. No one hurled rotten tomatoes. I’ll take that as a good sign.

I’m also submitting a 500-word snippet for the following blogfest (click image for link):

As always, it comes with the terror of showing my writing and the worse terror of putting it out there and getting nothing back except the faint, sparse sound of crickets.

I look forward to reading others’ excerpts, though.

(P.S. – Went to the happiest amusement park on earth again yesterday for my birthday. Thursdays trump Saturdays, every time. People were thoughtful, polite, friendly, and said crazy things like please and thank you and sorry. Also, my soda was topped by a birthday candle floating on a lemon slice, it being my special day and all. I’ve never blown out the candle on a Diet Coke before.)

It’s December

1 Dec

What do I do now?

Well, the first thing is to annoy you delight you with excerpts of The View from Upper High Hog on my writing site, where it joins such treasures as excerpts from last year’s NaNoWriMo novel and the latest draft of my main work in progress. (It’s truly a rainbow-splendid candyland of amateur writing, and who doesn’t love that?)

Next on my list is sleep. And then I’ll try to break the habit of consuming mass quantities of gummy bears.

“30 Covers, 30 Days” 2010 – Final Collection

30 Nov

All thirty covers are in! (The last one substituting for the previously blank Day 10.) Some fabulous work this year. I’ve spent a long time staring at each one and enjoying.

Click image for larger version

Click here for full scale version

 

Also, here’s the usual way, starting with Monday, November first

Click here for full scale version

Lastly, a traditional calendar view (Sunday through Saturday)

Click here for full scale version

For a full list of titles, authors, synopses, and designers, go to NaNoWriMo’s Index of Covers.