Thursday, December 8, 2011

Best of the Best Part Deux

So I return to give you all another heaping helping of my recommendations for super great gifts for the holiday season.

These are my recommendations, based on what I have read and also my desire to support other authors. I read a wide range of items, so I like to create a broad spectrum.

Here we go!


5. "I'm the Vampire, That's Why" by Michele Bardsley
It is, in fact, a series called "Broken Heart." Real world style moms and dads are turned into vampires, and how the heck are they supposed to get their kids to listen to them now that everybody gets to stay up all night? It's a fantastic, funny, sexy series, and not to be missed.

Check out Michele Bardsley here: http://www.michelebardsley.com/

Pick up her books here: http://amzn.to/rRIFpA

6. "Death's Daughter" by Amber Benson

I freaking LOVE this series. It's the stories of Calliope Reaper-Jones who just happens to be Death's Daughter trying to live in real world New York without all that macabre stuff. But due to her heritage she is repeatedly sucked back in and must balance her duties with her desire to move up in the real world. So snarky, so similar to people I know, and Amber B. is a total sweetie.

Check out Amber Benson here: http://amberbensonwrotethis.blogspot.com/

Buy her books here: http://amzn.to/rsNVyb

7. The Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
If you don't know who Terry Pratchett is, then you are either A) dead or B) missing out on some of the best British humor since Douglas Adams. Discworld is fantasy gone awry, with wizzards who are in constant peril, Luggage that is so dangerous you can't go near it, and a world that rides on the back of a giant turtle. Seriously. Pick up one of these books, and be prepared for a big investment in the rest of the series.

Check out Terry Pratchett here: http://www.terrypratchettbooks.com/

Go buy the books here: http://amzn.to/vyBUgW

8. The Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series books 1-10 by Laurell K. Hamilton
Okay, so there are more than 10 in the series; in fact, I think it's closer to 20 at this point. I recommend the first 10 because they are the best: the characters have unique personalities, there are multiple plot lines, the sex is good, and they read very fast. After book 10, I lost interest. BUT, that's not to say you won't. Her heroine, Anita Blake, is (in the beginning) as sassy, bad-ass, and stubborn as you want, she raises zombies for a living, and after much debate begins dating the undead. She's a hell of a character and one you want to revisit over and over again. So check it out.

Check out Laurell K. Hamilton here: http://www.laurellkhamilton.org/

Buy the Anita Blake series here: http://amzn.to/shyW9r

9. The Domain Trilogy by Steve Alten
Steve Alten is a recent fave of mine: I grabbed "Domain" at a discount store, and got totally hooked. It's a Mayan prophecy book, and it's nothing like you'd expect in a seriously good way. This deals with the Mayan world as more of an alien civilization, the connection between modern people and mythical ones, and the ultimate battle that is coming. Books 1 and 2 are astounding, getting grittier with each story, and I'm waiting on Book 3. Steve A. also writes a "Meg" series, regarding the Megaladon shark, and I can't wait to, er, sink my teeth into it. Har, har. And Mr. Alten is a very genuine, encouraging person. Just FYI.

Check out more about Steve Alten here: http://stevealten.com/

Buy the books here: http://amzn.to/vyUSGN

10. Anything by Eloisa James, but I will recommend "A Kiss at Midnight."
I may be the last person you'd expect to really go for a tried-and-true romance novel, but I Admit it: there are times when even I like a good old-fashioned bodice-ripping, melt you at the knees book. Eloisa James has a plethora of books to choose from, and they vary so widely in how they go about that it's easy to pick up one and want to sample them all. "A Kiss at Midnight", for example, is a Cinderella story, and it's fantasmic! Loads of good stuff. Don't be afraid to give the romance novel a shot: I promise it's worth the effort.

Check out Eloisa James here: http://www.eloisajames.com/

Buy the books here: http://amzn.to/sGDp0S

11. "Circle of Isis" by Ellen Cannon Reed
I would be remiss to not include a good starter for my personal choice, Egyptian paganism. I really enjoy this book because it gives simple methods for how to use the gods in your own life, and how to look back on past traditions (as best we can) to use them today. Personal advocation here :)

Check out more of Ellen Cannon Reed here:http://bit.ly/sxGbu6

Buy the book here: http://amzn.to/s73bAQ

12. And finally, the obligatory and thoroughly fabulous: "1001 Great Ideas for Teaching and Raising Children with Autism or Asperger's" by Ellen Notbohm, Veronica Zysk and Temple Grandin

I think everyone knows that I have a child who is on the spectrum, so Autism is my cause. Having a child on the spectrum can be more difficult than you would imagine, and I am even one of the lucky ones as my child does not have as many challenges as so many others do. It's impossible to know where you're going when you first get the diagnosis, and how do you know where to turn?

This is a great place to go to. Temple Grandin, one of the authors, is a real world hero: having taught herself to live with autism and how to function in the real world, she is a legend. Most people don't know how to interact with a child on the spectrum, and the fact is, you never stop learning. I will be learning for the rest of my life. This book is a great map to help you on your way. It's also a wonderful guide for those who just want to learn.

Check out more here: http://www.ellennotbohm.com/
And here: http://www.templegrandin.com/

Buy the book here: http://amzn.to/s9UAza

Now to my favorite bit: advocacy. This holiday season, if you're not into buying gifts, don't know what to get, or just want to do something different, may I suggest donations? There are so many places that need funding, so many people who need help. I have several that I am always championing for:

1. Autism, re: Arizona Autism United, Autism Speaks, SAARC, S.E.E.K.
www.azaunited.org
www.autismspeaks.org
www.autismcenter.org
www.seekarizona.org

2. March of Dimes
www.marchofdimes.com

3. St. Jude's Children's Hospital/Phoenix Children's Hospital
www.stjude.org
www.phoenixchildrens.com

4. Child Crisis Center
www.childcrisis.org

I am huge into helping out children. They are the ones who need help the most on so many levels, and it is they who suffer because of budget cuts, program cuts, bad decisions, bad environments, etc. So if you don't feel books are on the list this year, consider donating to one of my favorite places. Or find one of your own. I don't think anything fits the holiday season better than giving.

So that wraps it up for now! I hope every single person is enjoying the season no matter what you celebrate, even if it's nothing at all. Love those around you. Be kind and patient. Give something back to the world and smile. Remember that there is always a reason worth living, and even the smallest person can change the course of the future.

Wait. I've heard that somewhere before...

10 points and a cookie to the person who can tell me where that came from!

Happy holidays in advance, and many blessings forthwith!

Maggie

Monday, November 28, 2011

It's HEEERREEEEE

It's that marvelous time again! Time to tear out your hair--or the hair of whoever's standing next to you--as you struggle to realize WHY you didn't get those presents earlier in the year.

Never fear, dear readers, I have the perfect solution!

Actually, make that TWO or more perfect solutions. If you're here, then that means you're either a terrific friend, an avid reader who stumbled upon a random blog, or you got misdirected and are questioning why you are here. Whatever the reason, there is hope for the holidays, because I am going to give you the rundown on some of the best deals you will ever hope to get.

Books are generally on 80% of people's wish lists; if they're not, they're probably my husband or just like him. So what are some great ideas for the book lover?

Silly you! Here are my picks and self-plugging:

1. "What Might Have Been" by Margaret Mater.
Seriously. If I didn't plug myself, what good would I be? Here's the links you can go forth and spend:

www.eloquentbooks.com/WhatMightHaveBeen

http://manicreaders.com/index.cfm?disp=bookDetail&bookid=6958

http://amzn.to/sAWlgn SUPER good deals here.

http://bit.ly/se3erR Barnes & Noble

Fantastic, right? Just google me (you dirty you!) and I pop up quite a few places.

Don't forget to check out the book trailer http://bit.ly/tYbV1Y

2. "In Plain Sight" by Michele Briere
Needing a new book for the Kindle? Check out this fabulous first offering from Michele: it's Sci-Fi. It's pagan. It's adventure. It's fantabulous!

Buy it here: http://amzn.to/ugENG6

3. The Mists of Ireland series by Erin Quinn
I LOVE the series: it's Ireland and magic and studly guys and likeable females... great romances for the lady you know needs a new series to read.

Buy them here: http://amzn.to/t7yQOQ and then check out her website: http://www.erinquinn.info/

3. Jennifer Ashley/Allyson James
The "Stormwalker" series as Allyson James is one of my favorites. You have a Navajo main heroine who is as kick ass as you like, a great guy named Mick who is a dragon, and loads of Navajo lore and Arizona landscape to keep you interested. Buy them Now.

Get them here: http://amzn.to/s7KXNF Then check out her website here: www.allysonjames.com

4. Richelle Mead's "Succubus" series.
Never has being a succubus been so entertaining! She's smart, sexy, and doesn't want to drain the life out of any more men. Richelle writes so wonderfully, you can't help but laugh at the pitfalls her characters get into.

Get them here: http://amzn.to/sU6YQm and go to her website here: http://richellemead.com/

Well, kids, that's my update for now. I will return with further recommendations.

In the meantime, you've got some good ideas, so go forth! Purchase! Support your local writers! Be kind to small animals and put your shoes away!

All righty. Have a great day, guys!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Settling in and Moving On

There are times when I think I could just sit at the desk and stare at the fountain outside for hours. Since we recently moved, one of our balconies now overlooks a giant fountain in the main parking lot. I'm not usually a water person. I appreciate water and all, but it's not my focus; I'm an earth sign. My son is a water baby. Still, it's hypnotic to watch the way the water rises up and continually falls down in a never-ending rush, spraying out over the three tiers and cascading back into the pool at the bottom. The sound itself entwines the senses, sort of like white noise, blocking out all sorts of random real world noise.

I'm pondering bad karma. A friend of mine told me I've accumulated quite a bit of it here in Arizona, that I'm not supposed to be here. Here, as in Arizona, or here, as in Mesa/Phoenix? It's a fair question, and I do believe she has a point. Since we've been out here, we've experienced bad vibe after bad vibe: constant financial distress, many problems with the cars--each incident right after another, dissatisfaction in our marriage, my husband's job woes, my job woes, etc. The only thing that's worked out has been (finally) the service for our son.

It's quite a conundrum. I love Arizona, I love the area we're in. I love the fact that we can drive two hours in any direction and hit something really neat. I've always felt a connection with the place--although maybe that's more with different areas. Like Tombstone, for instance. Or Sedona.

On the flip side, my hubby has been unhappy here nearly since he got here. With the bad things that have happened, I can't say as I blame him.

We have a history of moving out here. We got here in October 07. Moved two years later. August 2011, and we just got into a new place. Two years seems to be the key where we keep moving. Well, as we just now moved I don't see us going in the immediate future.

But if we were to move, where to? We had thought of Las Vegas before my son got his services, as some of my family is up there. Kansas, while the place where the rest of our families reside, is the last place I want to go back to. I hate Kansas; sorry, but it's not where I want to be. Love all the people, but not the actual living there.

So what's the right answer then? If we don't belong here, then where do we belong?

All I know is I am sick and tired of trials and tribulations. I want to rest. I want to relax. I want to be able to enjoy life instead of surviving it. Those moments of respite are thirsted after like--pun intended--water in the desert. I crave stability, peace and an ability to enjoy things. I don't want an ulcer. Or an aneurism. I feel like I'm going to have both sometimes.

It can't be time, though. Of course, I've never been good at reading signs, omens, that sort of shtick. Usually things have to smack me in the face before I get it.

I'm adrift right now, in so many ways. I don't feel like there's a good port anywhere. (Erg, sea metaphors.)

Maybe the truth is, there is no safe harbor.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Pre-Dawn Thoughts

It's 5 a.m and I am awake, getting ready for work.

The nice thing about this time of day is that it's quiet... except for the hamster that is currently going to town on her wheel. And the occasional yowl from one of my cats. But other than that, quiet.

We finally finished moving, and now comes the dreaded unpacking and organizing. The nice thing about it, is it's yet another opportunity to go through old items, rationalize what to keep, and give away others to needier homes. Yesterday I gave away a couple of purses and a hat, among other things, to a friend.

The writing process can be very similar. Rather, the editing process. It's interesting: whenever I go through past works, I can be very hard on them. I bemoan certain creative decisions, long for new ones, and ponder the justification of starting over again.

I have stories I've written at different periods in my life that certainly reflect those times, thus affecting the voice in each story. Can't say as I'm pleased with all of them, but then I wonder, should I change them? After all, the voice of each story is unique, and sometimes it's very difficult to recapture that voice once it's been dormant for awhile. If I'm lucky, a little tweaking is all I need. In the more standard scenario, a very big rewrite is required.

Then again, if I could focus on one thing at a time, I'd probably accomplish a lot more!

Perhaps my ability to wax eloquent will come after my first cup of coffee. I'm going to assume that. In the meantime, have a great day, all!

Maggie

Monday, August 8, 2011

Lazily Lapsing and Other Proactive feats




Good morning, all!



Last I spoke, I was obsessed with Harry Potter. Still am, but I think I'm managing to get my life under control now. I will merely say this: the first time I watched the movie, I was grossly disappointed in it. It was not the way I'd pictured it at all. So many things were left out or altered! Gah!

Then I got my disappointment out of the way, and saw it again, and cried like a little girl throughout the whole thing. Being able to appreciate it as it is, it does seem a fitting end. Except for the fact they blatantly did not have Harry repair his wand. What??? Don't look at me like that--Harry loved his phoenix wand, and he made sure to repair it before getting rid of the Elder Wand!

Okay, okay. Fact: emotional journey, utterly complete, and there better be a hell of a lot of deleted scenes on the DVD. And I want to huggle the entire cast.

As of late, I've been inundated with loads of new ideas for books. Sadly, I have not been inundated with loads of words to write, nor time to use. What's a girl to do? I currently have some new folders on my computers with ideas ready to use. Now the words need to come back.

I think it's time for a visit to my old friend and muse, Thoth. After all, he's the Guy with the Words.



It's very difficult to shove through the blockage of words and get going again. A few things that I find helpful are:

1. Leaving it alone. Sometimes when it's all ready, everything will start back up on its own.

2. Having a writing sprint. Just write for a short amount of time, about anything, it doesn't have to make sense. http://writeordie.com/ It's a fabulous tool. Make sure you have the volume up or the evilness will not work.

3. Do a search online for writing exercises: there are some great ones at about.com. I.e: take a picture and write a story about it. That's one I'm saving for the writing group.

4. Write about your day in the form of a monologue. You can make it simple, straight forward, or embellish it.

5. Keep a dream journal. Sometimes inspiration will come from those kooky things in your subconscious. Make sure it's by your bed so as soon as you wake up you can write it down. Great fodder there!

6. Write a fan fiction. Seriously. Love Torchwood? Can't get enough Potter? Want to do Star Trek? Hell, want to continue a story that your favorite novelist could have done more with? Do it! Just get the words out!

So I hope those tips help out. I may even take myself up on them!

My wish is good writing to you all, and may the words come as smoothly as free-flowing milk chocolate.

Mmmmm, chocolate...



Maggie

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Summer goes on and Harry Potter Mania




Wow, it's been awhile since I've been on here! Sorry, I hope some of you peeps are still out there!

I don't know about you, but I'm flipping my lid, ready for the last Harry Potter movie. In fact, since I wasn't able to attend the really cool "Potter Week" where you can watch every movie in the theater before the midnight premiere, I'm running one at home. I watched the first two last night, got through "Prisoner of Azkaban" this morning, and tonight it's on to "Goblet of Fire!"

I want to take a moment to look at how much these guys have grown up through the series:






How crazy is that? Watching a Behind the Scenes, Emma Watson said when she got the part at 9 years old, she was still losing baby teeth. Daniel Radcliffe said he was in the bath when he found out; his parents hadn't wanted him to audition.

Check these out as well:












Yeah, it's a bit of a difference.

I've loved Harry Potter since my sister introduced it to me. I remember soaring through the first book, and then when I saw the first movie--which happened when me, my sister, her husband, and their oldest daughter had just got back into town from Kansas City and barely made the evening show--I was blown away. I took to the books like a crackhead. And to this day, they remain a pure joy for me.

What drew me in was not only the great style of writing (it appeals to both kids and adults, which is an amazing draw by itself), but of course the characters. Young Harry, finding out he's a wizard, being held back by his wizard-hating Muggle aunt and uncle, developing a hero complex and being thrust into adventure after adventure. The others--Ron, Hermione, McGonagall, Hagrid, Moody, Tonks, Lupin, Snape, Fred, George, Mrs. Weasley, Ginny, Malfoy, Lucius, Voldemort--every one was just as fascinating as the next. I could identify a bit with every one.

I remember going to the bookstore at midnight for the release of "Order of the Phoenix," the fifth book. And then the sixth, "The Half-Blood Prince." By the time the last book came out, I was working at Waldenbooks, and worked the midnight release. We announced to everyone that if one person spoiled the book for anyone else, there would be hell to pay. Seeing those sealed up boxes for days, and not being able to open them, had been hell.

It was such a bittersweet moment when I got to read "Deathly Hallows." I was dying to know what happened, and sad that the journey was over. I remember holding my breath, racing through the book even though I wanted to go slow and savor it.

It takes me away to a great place, where magic is what most people imagine it to be, where friendship, loyalty and bravery go toe to toe with maliciousness, cruelty, and revenge. Each character is flawed. That's a great thing. And I know so many who have grown up with the characters as well.

Now, I have an even better relationship with the series: it's helping my autistic son tap into his imagination. Yesterday, out of the blue, he took my besom (broom) off the wall, and began riding it as we watched "The Sorcerer's Stone." He then became frantic to find a pair of glasses, and then pointed at his forehead. I promptly took my eyeliner and gave him a lightning bolt on his forehead. For over half an hour, he flew along with Harry as he played Quidditch--changing into a red shirt as we do not yet have a cloak for him--and it was marvelous to watch. He would recite along with the movie at parts, and it made my heart burst with joy.





As any parent of a special needs child knows, it can be damn hard to connect with your child, much less get into their imagination. The fact that Harry Potter is helping my son do just that, it goes beyond words for me.

So as I go along with my Potter-thon at home, preparing for the Double Dose of "Deathly Hallows Parts 1 and 2" on Thursday, I have to say: Thank you, J.K. Rowling. You created a world that is always going to live on. It is a place adults and children alike can love and escape into, and it brings people together (even if my husband hates it). Thank you for what you made. It is something I think all we writers and would-be writers aspire to do.

Share your thoughts! What does Harry Potter mean to you? What's your favorite Potter memory/quote/scene/character?

The twins have really grown on me. And looking at the fabulous James and Oliver Phelps, can you really wonder why? /laugh/ I loved the characters, thought Fred and George were great. The fact that the actors are not exactly hard on the eyes is a bonus.

So here's one more, because they're just so damn handsome:

Friday, May 13, 2011

Creating Characters: The Sequel

Well, since blogger.com has apparently been having some issues, and my last post from the other day is playing hide-and-seek, I'm just going to try again. If it winds up as a duplicate, well, I'm sorry.

My original topic of the last post was Creating Characters. I know there are quite a few methods that works for different people. It seems that no one uses the exact same method, some use combinations, and some jump back and forth. I think the main thing is that for some stories, they practically write themselves. Others require a lot of effort. So I want to take a look at some of the ways to bring characters to life.

So you just had a revelation! You watched a movie, read a book, had a dream, or were just sitting in traffic when BAM! Your next idea has hit you. You can already see a synopsis spinning out from the wonderful idea you just had. It quickly turns into a plot, and there are some great events you have planned for it. Faceless, shadowy characters run around doing your every bidding. Great: part one accomplished. You have a plot. Now... you need characters.

Several people I've spoken with liken the process of character development to raising a child: they have their own temperaments which evolve on their own, and will often fight back if you try to derail their progress. Others find it a slow evolution, where each point is painstakingly researched before the whole thing comes together. Here are some great methods I've picked up.

Some people start with a name, and they create the character around that. Take a name like Whitney, and she's going to be a doctor. A pharmacist. Go.

Other people start with the defining characteristics. Say your character is going to be doing some serious soul-searching on the road to discovering the murderer of his/her partner. Well, they're probably tormented, driven, brooding, determined, and oh, he/she has a fear of intimacy now because of the tragedy. I see... tall, dark-haired, green eyes, maybe a Morgan. Voila, a starting point.

Still others start with a picture. Do a random search on line for pictures, and sometimes one will jump out at you. "Yes! That's who my character is!" I have recently starting doing that as a helper: in some cases, when I'm having trouble getting a clear visual on my character, if I have a real picture to work with, it also helps remind me later on so I don't get details confused. Quite often, and too frequently, I can't find one picture that embodies all my character's physical appearance, so I find several pictures that each contain an element of what I need.



Like this.


One method of development described in a book I read, is to create a profile for each of your characters. Through this, you keep a record of their height, weight, physical characteristics, personality traits, hates and loves, their history. It is a very detailed thing, but very helpful if you have some intense characters. It is also very helpful at times is you are dealing with a lot of characters; it's so easy to get lost in the crowd, that by having the references at hand you don't make the mistake of confusing Mary's love of baking with Sammy's hatred of pies. Or whatever.

I have used this method, and it really helped me out. I used it for finishing up "What Might Have Been." I was dealing with both Original Characters and Real Life Characters. I was pretty firm on the historical basis of the RLCs, but it was really good to have their charts handy, as well as the personality quirks that assisted in the storyline. For my OCs, it was really helpful so that I was able to remember what made them tick.

This, however, can be a lot of work, and some people don't do it. Many people just Write Characters On the Go. Nothing wrong with that; I do that too. Sometimes you have a vague idea of what you want your character to be, but you can't quite get the feel of them until you are writing them. Often the character will reveal him/herself to you through the dialogue, and then you're on a roll. You get the feel for how they talk, they reveal their appearance and personality.

I use this quite frequently. Many times I am not sure how the character is going to be; only when I throw them into the situation do I get to see how they react, and that gives me a way to deal with them. The only downside to this is when your characters shut up and won't work with you, you fall into a stalemate. Two words: Cock Block.

Of course, if you're just not feeling your characters, then it's possible they're just not coming together right. Look at how they are so far. If they are acting contrary to what you think they should be, then you may consider one of two things: 1) Change the way you're imagining them. If their actions are actually helping your plot, then look at reimagining them the way they are trying to come out. 2) If nothing helps, if they don't feel right and nothing is fitting, consider scrapping them and getting some new ones in. Or, you may also have to look at your plot, and see what's not working. But that's another story.

There is no right or wrong way to develop your characters. Find a method that works for you. Hell, I've known one or two people to use the RPG format: roll some dice, consult a handbook to give your character some traits, and BOOM! Instant character. That's the basis for Dungeons and Dragons, Vampire: the Masquerade, and every other role playing system. You create characters, and then play them. It is very simple, and sometimes you find you want to do more with them. Like give them a real story.


Look at that: everything you could want to know about your character. Consult your local gaming store for advice. Everybody has one. You know you do. That's right, you.

So, there you are. Some great ways to help create your characters. I love the process because it's awesome to step into someone else's shoes. It can be a huge challenge, though, if you step outside your comfort zone. Writing about things you are not inherently familiar with, or careers you're not familiar with, definitely require some research and a heart-to-heart.

Creating characters can be a great way to explore aspects of your own personality: things you are comfortable with and want to inject into the character; things you are not comfortable with and want to address, and things that are so taboo that you can only process them by writing about them. After all, each character tends to be a little extension of you and your thought processes.

Think about that.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Creating Characters

Hello, all!

I'm loving the fact that here in Arizona we're still enjoying the last few days of nice weather before the Heat hits. Seriously, we've had the whole apartment opened up and letting in a glorious cross breeze without any air conditioning. It's wonderful, and I'm also mourning its impending doom.

It's May! Which means... so many things. Phoenix Comic-Con is on this month which, for a certified nerd like me, it's the best time of the year. Last year was my first time; now I want to dive in and indulge.

Today I want to talk about creating characters.

How many times do you get suddenly struck with inspiration for a storyline... through a dream, a plot point in a movie/book/TV show that gives you an idea, something someone says, etc. It can happen any way, any time. You're intrigued! You're excited! There's a great story waiting to happen! But what do you need first?

Characters.

Oh, the characters. They can be your best friends, your worst enemies, and independent voices that won't listen to you. Like children. Only you can't discipline them.

Once you have your plot, you already have a sense of shadowy figures who will be carrying out your story. Sometimes as soon as you think of it, you can almost see them. But for most of us, like me, it takes a lot of time and development with them. Many times they evolve just as you are writing, no planning needed. Other times it helps to sit down, list out who is in the story, and then give them profiles and histories.

I have done both methods. With "What Might Have Been," as it has actual historical characters in it, I was able to write down some of their more notable aspects and work with that. Obviously I'll never know if I matched their genuine personalities, but the way I wrote them felt honest and workable. With my OCs (original characters), I did the same: I wrote them profiles and histories. It helped a lot. Through that, I was able to keep my facts straight (age, hair color, eye color, preferences, etc.). I don't know about you, but when I go to town writing, sometimes I forget the little details. So if it's written down in one spot, I can just take a quick peek and move on.

Those are great, if you're inclined to take a lot of time to really get to know your characters. It is definitely an individual preference, however. A lot of writers I've spoken with merely learn about their characters as they write them. They have no formal outline or profile to look at; their ideas simply flow and they learn through trial and error how each character is formed.

I have tried both ways. I can say this: I like profiles because that helps me flesh out little details and keep track of them easily. Somehow that feels more real. It is also very helpful if you are writing a very in-depth novel; the more characters you have to deal with, the more chance you have to be disorganized.

I have also tried writing on the fly. This is what I tend to do with the novels that are not as in depth. It is also a great plan for simply writing. It is true: when you just say "GO" and write, the characters do speak for you, you don't have to think about it. And then there are times when they shut up and won't cooperate with anything you try.

My favorite part of creating characters is mixing attributes from people I know or from myself along with new flaws or strengths. For instance: I'm starting a new story that involves writing from the POV of a serial killer. Not only is this a TOTAL departure from anything I've ever tried to write, but it's from a mindset I know nothing about. For this character, I am doing a lot of brain work, trying to see into the character's mind, the thought processes, and I'll be honest, it's a little disturbing.

That's one of the great things about writing, though: being able to walk through the minds of people you have never met or known, and give them life. Taking this character again, she begins as normal as everyone else, and the journey she embarks on is not only a physical journey but psychological as well. I think it's going to be really fascinating to see where it goes.

Another of my favorite things regarding the creation of characters: we have the ability to take incredible journeys with them. I find that my characters must be relatable. If the character is too perfect, it's intimidating and unlikeable, and I find myself hating the character. On the other hand, if the character is too flawed, I don't like them very much either. Still, I prefer the overly flawed character to the too-perfect one.

Recently I've begun checking out the internet for pictures. I find that on occasion it helps to have a visual reference for characters' features. Often I find several pictures that have the features I'm looking for. It's not always necessary, but it can come in handy, especially to keep you going sometimes.

In conclusion, I love making my characters. I think it's a great experience, especially when they fight you on some of your decisions. I think that's the moment you know that you have created a fully viable character.

Have a good one!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

My Review: "In Plain Sight"

At long last I have returned. Honestly, the breaks I take...

But I will delve into that later. Today my goal is to share my thoughts and opinions on the now-available e-book "In Plain Sight" by Michele Briere. It is her first book, and quite unique in a variety of ways.

For starters, it's a pagan fiction book written for pagans by a pagan. That is, I think, pretty darn rare these days. Many authors may do research on one form of practice, use that for their story, and that's groovy. However, I think the usual approach, when used, is strictly on a New Age/Wicca path. That's fine too. The nice thing that Briere does is that she dives straight in, referencing techniques, terms, and accoutrements that practicing pagans are familiar with. She also dives off the path and involves things that are not strictly part of the Wicca movement. Talk about off the beaten path!

Here is the synopsis:

The little gray aliens have been taking people from Earth for thousands of years. When a pilot kidnapped from Earth crash lands one of their ships in the Thayan Empire, an empire populated by millions of humans with Earth ancestry living side by side with the tall, furry, felinoid Thayans, the Thayan government decides it's time to find Earth and do something about the reaping. The Thayans didn't count on help from magic-wielding Earthers.

Read the ENTIRE FIRST CHAPTER for FREE at the author's homepage, http://www.babylong-rising.com!

Written by a Pagan for the Pagan audience, and anyone else who likes to have fun with their science fiction, this story is filled with humor, love, laughter, adventure, drama, space ships and magic.


Yes, you read that correctly. Intrigued yet?

So the story begins with Ninah, a regular lady who has received a lovely inheritance and is trying to figure out what to do with it. Instead of heading to New York and blowing it all, she actually heads off to Seattle--after much resistance. Just north of the city, actually. It's there that she finds her purpose: to build a temple that all pagans can practice at.

While she's there, she meet some extraordinary new people: Rick Myles, the local sheriff, who has one of the most balanced temperaments ever; his twin sons Ivan (that's EE-van) and Pavel; Dr. Severance Allen, doctor and practitioner; his partner Shara, a dojo instructor. There's a handful of others--some local, some definitely not--who form a tight band.

Part of the plot involves feeling out ley lines and shifting energy in the town, which is named New Babylon. As Ninah continues to develop in her magical talents, she also develops some strong new relationship ties as well.

Here's the kicker: you're reading, and then all of a sudden an entirely new angle kicks in. We go into outer space, aboard a ship called the Sentinel. From here, we realize there is a group of aliens called the Thayans who are working their collective butts off to try to protect planets from the little gray aliens who go around abducting people. A kidnapped pilot from earth lands on the ship, and the Thayans--a furry cat-like race who are quite advanced--decide that it's time to take a stand against the little guys.

Interesting fact: the Thayans also live and work with humans who decided to remain among them.

So, we have a science fiction work that combines real elements of the fantastical and a host of fabulous characters. Add in the hint of real romance, magic-wielding, and some pretty excellent action sequences, and you get one hell of a debut.

I will admit: the first time I read it through, I was not expecting the sci-fi twist, and it threw me for a loop. But as I read through again, I realized what is really great about it: it breaks the mold in ways. The story is filled with very real people who practice real things: pagan magic, love for all (male-male, male-female, etc.), and a very human drive to move forward.

One other thing I value is that the book is written in a very readable fashion. It's not full of purple prose, which when I read it, again threw me off; I didn't realize how many novels really do involve that sort of writing. It's written in the style as if a good friend of yours is talking--someone a bit sarcastic, full of passion, realism, and well-wishing. If that makes sense.

So here's the good news: it's a fresh story from a promising author. I myself have not read anything comparable to it before, and it's a wind of fresh air. Likeable characters, a desire to see people working for the better, well-written, and filled with changing emotions.

Here are my other thoughts: For those who are very cookie-cutter with their books, this will throw you totally off-balance. It is a far cry from most traditional stories. If you are unfamiliar with paganism, you will have a semi-difficult time understanding some of the terms involved. There are a couple of periods when the story seems to slow a bit, but once you get through it then you get involved once more.

The over all message of the book, to me, is that love of your fellow beings (not all human) is possible. Not all beings are hateful. There are fantastic things in this world that some people never see, but maybe they might if they opened their minds a little. It's a great debut, the start of a series, and I cannot wait to follow more magical adventures.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Networking, Coffee, and Decaf

Good morning, world!

That would be my sleep-deprived, overly chipper self, here. Got about four hours of sleep last night, and killing time till I get to go speak with a man from Aflac. Yes, you heard me right: Aflac. And no, it's not about me buying insurance, it's about me selling.

*crickets*

Yeah, I know, pretty weird. Well, I need more income, so I'm checking it out. On the bright side, I'm enjoying a delicious cup of Seattles Best Coffee with one small container of half and half, and one small irish cremer. Just made my day.

No, not decaf. Are you insane???



I wanted to give a shout out to a good friend of mine. Can't remember if I did it already or not, but I will do it again! Michele Briere, wonderful lady that she is, recently published her first e-book called In Plain Sight.

I'm giving you a heads up about it today, and then I'm going to do a full review on it in a day or so. I was actually privileged enough to read the first draft... or whatever draft number it was. Anyway, I got to read it before you could buy it, and that's always exciting.

Michele is a very talented writer, and she's created a very unique universe with her story. The most intriguing aspect is, like any really good work of fiction, it leaves you wondering how much could be real. A blend of science fiction, mythology, real life, magic, and action, In Plain Sight is the first in a trilogy, I believe.

Check it out here:

http://www.amazon.com/In-Plain-Sight-Kalaama-ebook/dp/B004L623N6/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1301583412&sr=8-2

Naturally, it's also for Nook:

http://search.barnesandnoble.com/In-Plain-Sight/Michele-Briere/e/2940011941252/?itm=10&USRI=in+plain+sight

So go check it out, and then tune back in for my review.

Three cheers for first time writers!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ain't, Shan't and Won't

I don't know: it sounded good at the time!

Well, I ain't going to make too much of it. I shan't waste too much of your time. I won't make things boring!

So last week was my book event, and thanks go out to Donovan and Adam Montierth--and Jason!--for having me at the Book Rack. It's their family store, and it's one of the cutest little places I've ever had the pleasure of being in. A real personalized touch that can be felt the moment you walk in the door, the Book Rack has become one of my new favorite places. So if you're ever in the West Valley, head down to Signal Butte and the US-60, and go visit the Book Rack.

The guys were awesome and gave me a great display table, and out front was a big sign "Come meet Margaret Mater!" That was a first, and really cool to boot. I loved the area, and it was a great time. See below!



Since the event was a weekday, and just after spring break, the timing probably could have been better. But on the plus side, I got to talk to a few new people, including the guys at the store, and it was a very pleasant afternoon.

I'm also please to say they've invited me back for a second chance: Wednesday, April 20th, 2011, at 1:00 p.m. That's right, all, I will be back, and you WILL come out! Come on: a super bookstore, lovely weather, and me, your friendly literary guide. Mark your calenders and come on out!

In other news, I've been too distracted by the gorgeous weather around these parts to make much use of my brain. In other words, I've been putting off writing again. Bah! Well, that, and the stress has been getting to me.

But no more!

Things are going to change, and I will move forward: in life, writing, and the pursuit of merchandising.

That's all for now. Ta, loves!

But before I go, I will leave you with a little picture, just because I can:




*Don't sue me; it's not mine.

Monday, March 7, 2011

New Book Event!




Wow, it feels like it's been forever. I keep day dreaming about going back to Disneyland, and remembering all the fabulous things we did there, like eating at the Blue Bayou restaurant inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. And getting Cirdan his first Mickey Mouse ice cream sandwich, then Mickey waffles. Going broke and trying to figure out how to get through the rest of the trip. (Lucky for us, payday hit while we were there.)

The funny thing is we hit all sorts of weather in California. For Wednesday and Thursday, it was off and on cloudy. Friday started okay but ended in pouring rain so we had to abandon the big Fantasmic show we were going to see. Boo. On Saturday, the wind coming off the ocean was freezing. And as we moved, we hit more rain. Then leaving Nevada after dropping my sister off, we hit more rain. Then sleet. And then snow. Yes, snow. All the way into Arizona. Crickey!



False advertising, California! You were neither totally sunny nor warm! *shakes fist*

Oh, and Cirdan lost a tooth the last day we were in California. Yup, woke up on Saturday morning and we were playing around, and one of Cirdan's bottom teeth came out. The day before we left for Vegas, one of his bottom teeth came out. So now he's got this adorable, gaping smile.



The beach... God, what a time. I LOVE the ocean. I love the smell of salt in the air. I love the sound of the waves crashing on the sand. I love finding seashells. And I HATE how bloody cold the wind is coming off the ocean! Yeah, it was cold. But we ate at a great seaside diner called Ruby's, and saw dolphins in the water. How cool is that? Cirdan got into picking up seashells, but he didn't care for the water. Mary and I took off our shoes and waded on in. Not too bad, and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to wade into the ocean.



This was the first time that my husband and son have seen the ocean. It was momentous, and wonderful.




Speaking of momentous and wonderful... I have my first NON-Borders book signing! (Good thing too, the way things are.) Yes, my friends, I will be hosting a new event at THE BOOK RACK in Mesa, AZ. "What Might Have Been" is still making the rounds, and, thanks to one of my fab co-workers Mr. Don Montierth, I shall be once more scribbling in books and chattering on about Tombstone. Faboo!

Ah, see how much I've grown up?

So, here's the important stuff:

THE BOOK RACK
1752 S. Signal Butte Road
Suite #108
Mesa, AZ 85209
480-380-0044

Wednesday, March 23 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Kind of an odd time, I know, but still. So if anyone in the area can make it, come on out and have a chat with me! I'd love to see you!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

What a Week!



Just got back today from our first family vacation. I won a trip in December to go to Disneyland, and we were finally able to go. Picked up my sister in Las Vegas, and off we went!

It was beyond fantastic. I remember a lot of things from going there as a child to the last trip about seven years ago--nearly eight, now. So much has changed and so much has stayed the same. I wish the weather had been a bit kinder; cloudy and cool for two days, and then Friday was a lot of sprinkling, spitting, and then pouring rain. Did I mention it was cold?






We had the great fortune, however, to stay at the Grand Californian Hotel and Spa on the Disney lot. It...is...amazing. Beautiful, courteous, and just plain fabulous. Have I mentioned how much I love turn-down service? You get a handful of chocolates; there is nothing bad about that. The lobby has a TV with constant Disney toons and kid-sized rocking chairs and regular chairs.

Three words; Tower of Terror. It. Is. Awesome. No matter how much of my stomach is still hanging above Anaheim in limbo. Freaking love that ride.

Cirdan had a great time, although Disneyland seemed for more overwhelming for him than California Adventure did. In CA, he discovered the Grizzly River Run ride, where you get to white-water raft. He LOVED it. Especially the fact that mommy got super wet every bleeding time. I think we did it 8 times over 3 days. Of course, there was Toy Story Mania. And he got mad at daddy when we decided not to take him on the Matterhorn.

And what kid does not like the spinning tea cups? It's a tradition. Happily, he was not totally enamored of Small World, thank the gods.

I'll probably go into more detail later; I'm still adjusting to being back home with complete internet access. I'm not that well adjusted into the instant notifications via a handheld device yet; that's my husband's forte.

My son and husband got to see the ocean for the very first time. Lots of seagulls, and we even saw a few dolphins! We went to Huntington Beach, and ate at Ruby's on the pier. SO amazingly good.

On Saturday we got to meet the fabulous Amber Benson! For those of you who don't know, she played Tara on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." She is also a fabulous writer. Her books include the Ghosts of Albion series, her Calliope Reaper-Jones series, and a children's book, "Among the Ghosts." She was at Dark Delicacies in Burbank; I was super excited when I found out her signing coincided with the last day of our trip.




Can I just say, Amber is incredibly nice and sweet. She spoke to everyone, was very personable, signed everything, and jumped up and down for photos. When I managed to tell her how much I love her work and her writing, she said, "Oh, thank you so much! Come here!" And she gave me a big hug.

So the fangirl in me is happy. The mommy in me is happy. And now... I have to deal with reality once more. Boo on that.

Night, all!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Small Tale

Once upon a time, there was a young woman who never knew what she wanted. She drifted aimlessly from one man to another, believing that each one would help make her complete. Alas, the young woman never really realized that in her quest for a relationship and for meaning, she had no idea what to do with one when she found one.

Her endless cycle continued when she was with one man for seven years. Even when their relationship turned to poison, and another woman was introduced, still she stuck around. It occurred to her to leave the relationship, but at the same time it made her heart ache unbearably to do so. And so she remained.

There were times when she watched her former lover with the new lover that she began to contemplate walking away, preserving what was left of her dignity. The younger model was surely no match for her, and yet knowing that he preferred this one to her was not enough to make her leave. He whispered sweet words in private, how he longed to keep her close and he couldn't bear for her to leave. And so she remained.

There came a point in the twisted menage a tois that the lover chose to go back to her. In fact, they became engaged. The young woman was thrilled that she was being chosen, that her efforts over the years had paid off and she would finally be rewarded.

Still, the young woman should have known better. As surely as he had been unfaithful to the younger model with her, how could it not be expected that he would be unfaithful to her with the younger model once more? Still, the young woman was blinded by her desire to have this relationship work. But was it really that? Perhaps it was a combination of that desire along with the sweet words that were continually fed to her like subliminal messages. 'Please don't go,' he would say. 'I love you and want to make this work. If you love me, you will stay here, with me, and only me. Why do you need to go out with your friends when you have me? It would hurt my feelings if you left me here.'

And still, the young woman remained. The blinders on her eyes left her narrow-visioned, and she did not realize the truth. In fact, things were looking up: the younger model would be leaving, moving far away, and it would finally be just the two of them. Oh, how the young woman rejoiced. There was nothing that seemed sweeter!

Until one day.

There came a day when her sister called to her, as they lived close by. Her sister told her that a terrible thing had happened. She could see the hesitation in her sister's eyes, but she could not imagine what could be the cause.

'Please, just say it,' she begged her sister.

Her sister took a deep breath, and revealed the venom within: 'She's not going after all because she's pregnant. She's coming back.'

At first, the words did not sink in properly. The young woman blinked, trying to understand what was happening. A very curious sensation was rising within her, something hot and fiery, something that felt as if it were stretching its wings and would make her explode with the force of it.

Finally she had a name to the feeling: rage.

Confronting her lover, she left. Only to return the next day.

Promises of fidelity and a new life were wrapped around her ears. Desperate for the heartache to stop, she believed. She wanted so badly to believe that she could still have that perfect life and relationship.

Time passed on. They remained a couple, much to the disgust of those around them. The lover sneered at them, telling the young woman that they were trying to rip them apart, and it would be better for her not to see them.

'It can be just the two of us,' he would tell her. 'We don't need anyone else.'

And she believed. In fact, when her family would invite her over, she would face an agonizing decision process: going would mean having fun and seeing her family, but going would also make her lover very upset. It was the same with invitations of her friends: to go would be to set free and enjoy a carefree time, but her lover would be angry, as her friends would likely tempt her.

So she remained.

More time passed. At long last, she made a friend who was somehow able to reach her slightly. The new friend invited her to come visit her, first in California, and then on a stunning week-long getaway to Europe.

These invitations infuriated her lover. Convinced that her new friend was trying to steal her away, to corrupt her mind, he tried and tried to make her see how foolhardy this was, that this new friend was a poison to her.

And yet... the young woman did not relent this time. She enjoyed her new friend, and saw something strange whenever they spoke: hope. In the veiled aura of her life, whenever she spoke with her friend, she could see the cracks that surrounded her, and began to wonder what else was out there. For the first time, her veiled life felt like a prison.

So she visited her friend in California. And then she went to Europe.

This was the beginning of the end. After all, once you see your life as a prison, and the lover in your life as a captor, what else can you do but try to break free?

In Europe, the young woman found the freedom she had been searching for. The world was not covered in threats and ties that restrained; it was filled with wonder and beauty and mad British boys that made her laugh and see the sun. Thousands of miles away from her lover, with almost no contact, and the young woman found something else: possibility.

When she returned home, it was with a desperate secret, one that she knew would likely be a punished offense if he knew: she had met two men in Europe, and had found pleasure. Her friend had been correct: there were other men out there in the world, men who could be kind and loving without being Machiavellian and cruel.

Still, all secrets will out. Her lover, angry with her upon her departure as well as her return, sought to find whatever secrets may be there. And after much searching for her journal, he found what he was looking for.

Enraged and infuriated, for the first time it appeared that he might take his love of mental abuse to the physical realm as well. But he did not. In fact, he did something that she had realized would likely happen, but did not truly brace for: he ended their relationship.

If there was an iron-clad rule that made ex-lovers automatically separate, it's likely that things would have been better for both. But there is not. In fact, her now ex-lover remained in their shared dwelling. While she cried and tried to deal with the fact that not only had he abandoned her, but she was also pregnant, she also had to determine who the father was.

Alone and yet not, the young woman sought solace anywhere she could find it. Guilt made her a hermit, and her ex-lover approved of this. In fact, he suggested to her in a moment of extreme weakness that they could remain intimate while he sought another place to live.

In her weakness and desperation, she agreed.

For the next few months, as she prepared for her child, she submitted in ways that she had never done previously. As much as she had given of herself before, it was nothing compared to the desperation that inhabited her now. Wanting to stay with her lover, knowing that her actions had caused her heartache, she tried everything to stay with him now. All the past looked cloudy.

When she was seven and a half months pregnant, her ex-lover announced he was moving to another state. Terrified at being left alone after so long, she made a frantic bid to keep him there once more: she asked him to marry her. He refused.

She helped him move his things out, waddling all the way. And on a cloudy day in May, she watched her ex-lover drive away, and she cried as she had never done before. She was alone.

But it wasn't the end.

Even when he was gone, he tried to keep tabs on her. He said it was for comfort purposes, to make her feel better. Every night she had to call him, let him know what she was doing, how she was doing.

Not a week after he left, the young woman had her child. Joy is usually associated with new life, but for the young woman it was as if despair had been given form. A child of her own, with no father in sight, it looked to be the worst event of her life. She grieved, knowing that she had to carry on now for the sake of this new life. A son.

Eventually, after many calls with her ex-lover, her brother in law had enough. One night, when he was calling her, her brother in law refused to let her answer her phone. Terrified, the young woman stared at the phone, knowing he would be angry if she did not answer. The phone went silent after many rings.

But a minute went by before it rang again. She tried to answer it, but her brother in law would not allow it.

At last, her brother in law picked it up. And he let loose a diatribe that had been brewing for years. Furious with what had been done to his sister in law, he told the anathema exactly what he thought, and that he was not to contact her again.

When he hung up the phone, the young woman stared in wide-eyed wonder. Surely it had not just happened! Even though the distance between them was hundreds of miles, it was as if she could feel the rage building.

Something changed, however. As she listened to the words her brother in law yelled, they seemed to penetrate the fog that clouded her mind, and in those words were truths she had not dared to face.

The man she had loved was a monster. He had abused her to the point where she felt guilty for upsetting him, had not dared to leave the house for fear of the rages he would impart on her. Even when he was no longer hers to call her own, she felt devoted and doting on him to the point where she was little more than a slave. She realized that her venture to Europe that caused the breaking point, and it was later that she realized it was the best thing that could have happened to her.

She would never have had the strength to leave him. Only forced separation had done it. She realized with muted horror that she would have remained in that waking dead state for as long as he would have permitted it, slavishly devoting herself and spurning her own life.

Suddenly there was light in the world again.

With a child to raise, she felt the world was still an impossible giant, but at least she could do it without the threat of anger pointed at her every day. The ties that had bound her were finally cut.

With a heavy heart, she faced the world again, free for the first time. Pure love is as selfless and giving as all the stories say. It is a sad truth that that love can be tainted, twisted and used to someone's own means. What the young woman had first thought was love grew sick, mutated into an obsession that nearly ruined her mind.

Today the young woman is still in the light. She doesn't have to worry about answering the phone anymore. And her little boy is growing up in pure love.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A New Day, A New Issue, and an Excerpt!

It's cold. It's windy. Arizona is not supposed to be that way. But, I can hardly complain when loads of my friends are buried under blizzards from Kansas to New York. Here it is, February, and these nasty snowstorms are hitting the country. Kind of weird to me. I am ridiculously glad I live in a state where if I want snow, I can drive two hours. If I don't, then I'm pretty safe staying where I'm at.

I wish I had a better outlook today. Due to some outstanding credit debt, bad things are happening, and I need to figure out what to do about it. I am hoping that it can be solved quickly without the judicial process. * sigh* This is a new one on me. I am not happy.

Meanwhile, my brain, while it longs to actually get out some more ideas onto computer chip, has stalled. I was on a great roll. Now, however, I think Karma has decided that I need some comeuppance for the good I was getting, and I've been hijacked. Ironic, really, because when stress hits, I can sometimes escape into writing with gusto. Nope. I am denied.

So. Due to the shitty nature of things, I've impulsively decided to post an excerpt from one of my WIPs. Feel free to read, comment, criticize, etc. Anything to help me get back on track!

The title is (tentatively( "The Play's the Thing."

Lina Harper is a Chicago barista who is good at her job, enjoys the customers, and loves the theater. With such a great musical center in the city, it's difficult not to. Her friend, Tiffany Day, encourages her to join her for stagehand work on an upcoming musical starring Lina's favorite actor of all time, James McKenna.

James McKenna loves his work, but hates the drama, especially with his on-again off-again girlfriend Chloe. After an explosive break-up, he heads to Chicago to begin work on a new musical. Acting has always been his passion, but the theater is where his heart lies.

As production begins, James meets Lina. Quiet, clumsy and capable of turning six shades of red when he speaks to her, Lina intrigues him in a new way. For Lina, it's a matter of trying to remain on her feet around the actor. But as the work on the musical thrusts them together day in and day out, there's a new sort of rhythm starting up between the two.


Okay, likely the worst summary ever, but I hope you get the idea. The excerpt is after a particularly grueling day in rehearsals, and Lina has nearly been kicked out. Enjoy.


Not being cut loose meant not being free to run away with her tail tucked between her legs. As it was, she could feel the tension in the theater that had yet to dissipate with the abrupt ending of her own dramatic scene. In an effort to get past the ugly event, she slowly moved to her knees and began working on the project she had originally been attempting to complete.
Lina tried to swallow down the burn in her throat, to make the angry flush fade from her face, but her traitorous body was having none of it. Staring hard at the floor, she blinked furiously until the tears backed off. She would not let anyone see her cry.
She could feel the sympathetic looks from some of the others boring into her from all sides. No one wanted to be in her shoes.
“You know, if you keep at it, you might discover the bones of the stagehands before you.”
Raising her head too fast, Lina startled to find James McKenna standing over her, an impish grin on his face. Her gaze flicked back down to see the rather impressive dent in the floor she had made. She was supposed to be realigning the carpet, not pulling out the insulation beneath.
“Oh... crap.”
Crouching down beside her, James chuckled once. “Don't worry. Just shove the insulation down here, pull up the panels like this... and good as new.”
The floor was complete once more, rather than looking as if an incompetent gravedigger had gotten to it. Sighing deeply, Lina ran a hand through her hair. “Thanks,” she muttered, struggling not to raise her face again and risk setting off the impending meltdown. The last thing she wanted to do was go Mount Vesuvius on James McKenna. They were getting along so well.
“You okay?”
Lina winced, still staring at the floor, and nodded a little too enthusiastically. “Sure, sure. I'm super.”
James gently touched her arm, and she slowly looked up at him. The calm, slightly amused expression on his face set her heart beating just a little faster. “If you're so super, then why are you trying to create an underground set?” he asked gently.
Swallowing hard, Lina abruptly looked away, certain that if he gave her more concern then she would most certainly cry. “It's just—well--you saw,” she mumbled. “I screwed up. I guess I should be glad I'm still here.”
“I am.”
She was going to get whiplash. She whipped her head back up so fast, she felt her neck complain. The confusion on her face served to say more than anything else. “Huh?”
Tilting his head, James gave her a reassuring smile. “I mean it. I see you working your ass off here every day, and you seem to love it.”
“Yeah, I guess so,” she said faintly.
James hesitated for a moment, then reached forward and brushed back a loose strand of hair that was falling into her face. Lina froze. “You make it... I don't know, more pleasant here,” he explained. “I like knowing that you're going to be here.”
“Just because I go get you coffee every day.”
He shook his head, watching her carefully. The discouraged look on her face was slowly receding. He could tell how close to the edge she was, and he was determined to bring her back from it. “No, that's not it. Well, maybe a little,” he amended with a grin. “I like knowing you're watching me. Does that make sense?”
Lina shook her head slowly. “Not in the slightest. I think you're trying to pay me a compliment, but it's coming out a little jumbled.”
“Oh, good. You do understand.”
Lina released a quick burst of laughter, surprising herself. The utter absurdity of the entire conversation was at least enough to help her regain her self-control. She had learned that James had a quirky sense of humor, and now she felt she could safely add the ability to play to the needs of women in distress to his list of talents.
“That's better.” James sounded pleased. “I was afraid I was going to have to do something drastic to get you to smile.”
The smile remained on her lips as her mind momentarily sidetracked with ideas on what he could do to get her to smile again. Lina shook her head. “James, I don't know why you're taking the time to cheer me up, but thanks. I appreciate it.”
“It's no problem. I hate to see anyone get brutalized like that. It's tough to handle sometimes. Just be glad you're not in the cast. I know it seems he's bad enough to the crew, but you haven't had to deal with him when you can't get your lines right.” James grinned widely at her. “Look, don't worry about Robert. He'd probably have an aneurism if he wasn't trying to make everyone's lives miserable.”
Lina shook her head, still trying to get past the horrific day. She took a deep breath, then exhaled, trying to release the rest of the tension. “No, it's fine. I know I wasn't doing my best today. I'm just surprised he didn't throw me out.”
“Don't look a theater producer in the mouth. Besides, maybe he's getting soft in his old age.”
Lina snorted. “If that's soft, I'd hate to see him as a hard-ass.”
Slowly standing up, James extended a hand to Lina. With another brief look of incredulity, Lina accepted the gesture. “You ready to get out of here?” he asked, glancing around. The theater was emptying out fairly quickly, only a few people lingering behind.
“Most definitely.” She paused, looking shyly up at him. Being so close to him was very disorienting. For a second she imagined saying something witty and clever, something that might make her more interesting. Instead, she decided to accept the opportunity to leave without making a further embarrassment of herself. “Have a nice night, James.”
“Hang on.” James studied her for a full minute, his bright blue eyes searching her face. One side of his lips curved upward. “Come out to dinner with me,” he said. “I'd like to talk to you some more.”
Lina felt her eyes pop open wide, then quickly tried to hide the expression. “What—really?” she asked uncertainly. “You want me to go to dinner with you?”
James nodded. “Absolutely. After what you had to put up with from Robert, you look like you could use a drink, not to mention some food. Besides,” he added. “I like the shades of red you turn when I talk to you.”
She tried to glare at him, and failed miserably. Winding up with pursed lips and the telltale flush rising in her cheeks, she sighed. “Well, I'm glad I can amuse you at least,” she muttered.
When she tried to look away, James touched her arm, the one small touch sending a little jolt through her skin. “Hey. Kidding. Sort of.”
Lina rolled her eyes, then glanced down at herself. Her jeans and red v-neck were smeared with dust. She was reasonably sure that her hair was frizzy, and whatever make-up she had on was faded. There was no way she was dressed to go get dinner.
James seemed to pick up on her thoughts. “You look fine, you know. I like a woman who works hard and doesn't need to preen.”
As her gaze found his, Lina felt a smoldering heat rising inside of her. His eyes were playful, one of her favorite looks of his. That half-smile he wore seemed tailor-made for her, and she couldn't help smiling back.
“All right, I could use some food.”
Quirking a grin, James nodded. “Great. There's a new place just down the street from here.”

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Truth

Yesterday I was feeling frustrated with quite a few things. It seems sometimes there is just too much going on inside of my head. Having slept and gotten up in a crabby mood today, I've had a bit more of a chance to look at what's really bothering me. I don't like waking up crabby because I tend to snap at whoever's around, and it's my son in the morning. Granted, today he was moving slow and in his own world, but hey, not a big deal.

No, I read a note from my bank which says that they are going to convert my savings account to a non-interest checking account because I went over transaction limits or something in the past year. Not sure what it's about so I have investigate.

Moreover, there's some days when it feels too hard. Too hard having a child, a special needs child at that. Too hard to be creative in the slightest; I feel like the burst I had the other day was a strike of random chance. Too hard to get through the day without screaming. Laundry, dishes, vacuuming, cleaning: it's a never-ending cycle, and I do it by myself.

I think I hit the crux. I'm mad that I'm doing everything by myself. And I do it because I've spoken to him in the past and nothing ever changes, and I accept my lot. And then at some point it just becomes too much again, and I start to erupt inside. Why must I always do it by myself?

Marriage is hard. Living with someone is hard. I sort of want to laugh at people I know who get engaged. They're so excited to get that ring on their finger, oh it's going to be a happily ever after, I get to be with this person forever. I shake my head and mutter to myself, "Just give it a year or two. Trust me. Then you'll see what it's really like."

Okay, so I'm ridiculously cynical sometimes. I had a conversation like this a few weeks ago with some friends, at which time I made a case for reality vs. romance. I won't go into the details, but basically there's an illusion we have (and I do think this is geared more towards women): that we will find someone out there who will shower us with love and romance for the rest of our lives. It's a great idea. But you have to take reality into consideration.

Who really wants to think about picking up someone's dirty socks forever? Or getting pissed off because the dirty dishes were left on the counter for two days? Or cleaning the catbox/birdcage/whatever because if you don't do it, it won't get done? Or trying to be creative with food while staying on a budget?

I like romance books. I do. I think they offer a great escape. But I have yet to come across one that deals with the aftermath of romance. It's all swooning sighs, hard-muscled bodies and heaving breasts, lots of sex, stupid decisions by characters that actually can be pretty realistic, candlelight, and satin sheets. Or a wooden bed on a pirate ship. Whatever.

That's great. There's a lot to be said for courtship. In the books. Would a book that explored the effects of romance be as successful? Who knows? I hate to say it, but I think romance is just a farce. It's part of the process that is supposed to lead to copulation and reproduction. And I can hear the catcalls and boos from the peanut gallery; yes, I can.

I suppose it's easier in the books. There's a limited time in order to accept the conflict and find the resolution, and usually it does happen. Occasionally, I have come across a book where the conflict isn't resolved, where there is no happy ending. I find a sort of refreshing air to those. Life is like that. There isn't always a happy ending for the featured couple or individual or what have you. We all like the idea that things will work out in the end, that no matter what troubles come our way we can find a happy resolution. It's one of the ideas I keep promoting to myself and those around me: keep a positive outlook and things can work out that way.

I'm just a pot of conflicting viewpoints, aren't I? I resent romance, yet I crave it. I don't necessarily believe in a happily ever after, but I secretly wish for it. I want to get past the negative things and find the positive aspect in any situation, and actually I do pretty well with that. But I am allowed to have my slip and slide moments.

I guess I'm tired of doing all the housework and getting none of the romance back. But you gotta give to receive. I know that, too. Maybe if I can get my head on straight I can get more of this





To get back to this






To avoid ending up like this