Monday, January 31, 2011

When the angels don't sing

After a reasonably productive week of tweaking two of my short stories and sending them into submission land, I'm gearing up to get the next two ready to go. Seems I've gotten a bit lax with my submission juggling. More like I dropped all the balls and let them gather a warm coat of dust.

In wandering over one of these dusty short stories, I discovered that it just didn't quite click for me. Something isn't quite there yet. It's been through a brief round of critiquing and it was sent out into the wide world twice, but found its way back home. Darn you, trail of bread crumbs!

I like this story. It was something different for me, as I tend to write more male pov and its one of my very few fantasy shorts. I've edited, revised, tweaked, reread ten times but that certain angels singing 'Yes, this is it!' feeling I get when I'm ready to send a story out is eluding me. I'm hoping my wonderful critique group can point me in the right direction.

Children of the Leaves - When Hemina's body and her tree dwelling people are attacked by a God in need of a phsyical form, she finds that her Goddess is missing and someone has to take up the slack.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Special Guest: Chrystalla Thoma

I am very excited to announce that we have a special guest today! All the way from Cyprus, please welcome author, Chrystalla Thoma.

Jean: Hi Chrystalla. Welcome. Can you tell us a few things about yourself?

Chrys: Well, I’m Greek. *allows time for the appropriate bouzouki music to start playing and handsome Greek men to dance and smash plates* I come from Cyprus, an island in the Eastern Mediterranean, right underneath Turkey, above Egypt, and next to Syria and Lebanon. Which makes for an interesting culinary and musical culture – oriental pop, rock and Greek music, mousaka and taramosalata and hummus!

Jean: The closest I get to anything Greek is the occasional gyro or baklava binge, but handsome, plate-breaking men sounds very enticing.

Most authors love cats and live in remote houses. Are you like that, too?

Chrys: I own no cats and no house – but I do have a hybrid energy car (a Toyota Prius)! I possess herds of wild books that graze on my shelves and floor, and I’m married to the best husband in the whole world, imported from the tropics of Costa Rica. *waves at Carlos* I have lived for some years in France, England and Germany, and am now immune to foreign (i.e. non Greek) cooking. *g* As a world traveler, I am definitely a typical author.

Jean: Excuse me a moment while I protect my discarded characters from your wandering herd of wild books. While I do that, why don't you tell me about your upcoming book?

Chrys: “Dioscuri” is a modern, urban fantasy version of the ancient Greek myth. Dioscuri was the name given to the twin brothers Kastor and Polydeukes, Zeus’ sons with Leda, one of whom is mortal and the other immortal. Zeus mated with Leda in the form of a swan and she gave birth to two eggs. When they cracked, the Dioscuri emerged, along with Helen the Beautiful, the very same who allegedly caused the downfall of Troy…

Jean: I see. Break the eggs to make a story… Where is the story set? What happens?

Chrys: The ancient gods have woken again in Athens, and there is war. The two brothers fight against the monsters. When the mortal brother, Kastor, dies in battle, his immortal sibling Polydeukes takes things in his own hands and makes a dark deal with the Underworld. A deal Zeus will sooner or later discover and all hell will break loose.

Jean: *shudder* I've studied enough Greek Mythology to know that deceiving Zeus is never a good idea. Where can people learn more about you and your work?

Chrys: “Dioscuri” is coming out with MuseItUp Publishing in March 2011. You can find me and my stories here:

You can follow my ramblings about Greekness and mythology and about my stories here:

Thank you for having me here!

Jean: Of course, anytime! My host of discarded characters thanks you for not stepping on them during your visit.

If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading any of Chrystalla’s work, head on over to her blog and get started. My personal favorite is World of Shells. I think of that story every time I look at my daughter's hermit crabs.

Thank you for visiting, Chrystalla. Keep those great stories coming!

Monday, January 24, 2011


Yes, yes, I'm writing and all that, but I'm also trying to relax more this year. You know, keeping that crazy superwoman six feet underground. So far, I've been fairly sucessful.

I've found joy in critiquing again. After a thousand some crits in three years, I was getting a smidge burnt out. I stepped back last October and took a few months off. That felt darn good. Now, I'm getting back into sharing the writing wealth, reading some great stories, flogging people with rubber ducks (its a long story) and meeting writers I've not worked with before. So far, I've avoided overcommiting myself in that regard. So far.

Writing has been slow, but I've just about go my second short ready to spring into submissionland. Which is good, since that one has a January 30th cut off. Novel work is on hold at the moment during operation re-freakin-lax.

So what the heck have I been doing? Watching tv. I don't do that very often, but my evil husband signed us up for Netflix. Evil Netflix has full seasons of my favorite, long-lost tv shows. Call it reenergizing the creative juices.

My mornings are filled with episodes of Stargate Atlantis. Evening brings an episodes of Earth 2 shared with my children, which is perfect for introducing kids to Sci-fi--very famly friendly compared to much of what is out there currently. Next up in the queue: FarScape.

What a better thing to share with my kids, than my love of sci-fi tv? I have to bring them over to the geek side before they get too exicited by friends and teen stuff. I don't have much time left.

What are your favorite sci-fi shows?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Only ten days left!

All this month, Elena over at Your Write. Except when your Rong, is holding contest wherein you must write a 100 word sentence in the hopes of winning $100. The amount of the prize depends on the number of participants.

So far we're all in the running for $24. Come on people. Someone wants to win big. Join us. You know you want to spew out a hundred word monster setence too!

Check out the link above for all the current entries and visit some great writer's blogs. You just might find some new procrastination destinations... err... blogs to follow.

My 100 word offering:
Gentle blue waves lapped against Ciralia’s pale shoulders as she fluttered her long, slender arms around her in order to maintain her view of the great wooden ship with its crew of dirty, land-dwelling, dark-skinned men who were running to and fro with buckets on long ropes, throwing water on the bright orange fires that licked hungrily at the sun-drenched timbers, spreading and growing faster as if mocking their futile efforts, and she smiled knowing that their beautiful white bones would soon adorn her underwater kingdom far below the glittering surface that men foolishly claimed as part of their realm.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Things I learned by hosting a book drive

You may have caught wind of the worldwide bookdrive to benefit National Novel Writing Month that took place last October through December.

My region managed to gather roughly 2,200 books. After typing in all the ISBNs of the books recent enough to have them, about 600 were accepted to Better World Books, who will be selling our donated books on behalf of The Office of Letters and Light . A percentage of those sales will go to fund their writing programs, including NaNoWriMo. The rest of our books will be sold in a local book sale (happening in my garage) this spring. The proceeds will go toward our regional donation to OLL next NaNo season.

As the bookdriver for our region, I learned some interesting things about books, subjectivity and love.

1. Asking writers to give up their books, even for a good cause, is like asking them to pull their own teeth.

2. When picking books to donate, I discovered my bookshelves were subconsciously divided into three areas. Nostalgia (top shelf): books I keep for the memories. Love: books I will read over and over or are of a series I loyally follow. Storage (bottom shelf): books I will not read again, but I haven't found another home for.

3. There are books that many people buy and read because they are popular. I have a lot of them in my garage right now (a lot of the same books, I might add). Popular does not equal love.

4. I currently have 1,600 books in my garage just sitting there until spring that I can read. Awesome! Not that I have the time, but still...

5. Of those 1,600 books, about 10 looked interesting at first glance. That rather reminded me of this 'subjectivity' thing that we're always getting harped on about by agents and editors. The 'not right for me' phrase went through my head 1,590 times as I picked up each book to scan it. I wasn't skimming bookshelves, with only a spine to attract my attention. I had each book in my hand and had to turn it over (and, of course, spend a couple seconds skimming the blurb by habit) to locate the elusive ISBN number. I got a good look at every title and cover. Still, 1,590 books were not for me--sadly a good third of them were even genres I regularly read. And these are published books, with every tool available to grab my attention. Don't worry lonely novel submission, I love you.

6. I discovered that even if the book is free and sitting in my hands, I will very likely overlook a new author, interesting cover, snappy title and possibly awesome back cover blurb because I'm looking for names I know and trust to deliver a good story. Damn. That doesn't bode well for most of us, does it?

7. Book Regret. People will donate books and then realize they miss them and want them back. Awww. Love.

8. A room full of used books smells far more pleasing than a room filled with used clothes.

9. People leave things in books, including book marks. Lots and lots of bookmarks. Many of those were mid-book. Does this mean the reader never finshed reading? We'll never know. The most unusual thing I found was a photo of ice. It may have been an ice cave, it was hard to tell.

10. If you tell people about a book drive and remind them as often as politely possible (in person, by email, and by handing them flyers) for two and half months, some of them will follow through and deliver. However, there will always be one or two that pop up two weeks after the fact and announce they could get piles of books if they were given a few more weeks/months. Procrastination at its finest.

Thanks to all who donated! If you're looking for good books, check out Better World Books. They offer free shipping worldwide, have a huge selection, and support many non-profit literary organizations, including my favorite, NaNoWriMo. :)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

To paint or write

In admiring Ian's paintings over at Views from the Bald Patch, I was urged to post some artwork of my own. I must admit that I put my painting supplies away almost twenty years ago, the oil sort anyway.

Way back in high school (we won't talk about how many years ago that was), my creative writing teacher wanted me to pursue creative writing. My art teacher wanted me to pursue art. I did my best to make both of them happy, drawing pictures for the school creative writing book and doing some writing for it.

Then there came an arts contest. All entrants could only enter one category. I could write or I could paint. Darn it. Both teachers tried their best to sway me to their cause. It came down to the fact that I personally liked my art teacher more. I painted.

I had a thing for fantastical peacocks at the time
(that floated on backgrounds and had absolutely no contact with the foreground)

I, along with the other involved students, went to the art show. I distinctly remember it being a long, awkward ride to some college in a car with my guidance counselor (our chaparone), his wife, and three other students. None of us won anything, but we all got a certificate. I have no idea where that certificate is now, but I still have my painting. It currently resides in the back of my husband's closet where it won't haunt me with the idea that perhaps I should have written something instead of painted.

It's not all sad though, I did enjoy many years of staining my carpet and clothing with paint after high school, and I still enjoy painting things, just not on canvas.
Christmas ornaments


and Fairies, amongst other things.

Monday, January 10, 2011

A productive weekend

My traffic cone, duct tape and chainsaw session finally wrapped up last night, but I came through with a finished short story that should be steamroller free. The Employer is a hopefully somewhat humorous fantasy tale about Sam and one of the worst jobs I could imagine. You know, if I were stuck in a medievalish fantasy setting.

Sam has a job to do. Unfortunately, that means he's been stuck in a cave, serving a bloodthirsty dragon for the past two years. He's watched the dragon eat countless innocent people and he's filled inventory books with pages and pages of tribute brought to appease the fire-breathing terror. Through it all, he's served his boss with devotion. But when supplicants start spouting off an odd phrase, Sam's loyalty is truly put to the test.

What's the worst job you can think of if you were stuck in a medievalish fantasy setting? Yeah, I pretty much wanted to say medievalish again. I'm happy now. Carry on.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Houston, we have a problem

My entry for the 100 words for $100 blogfest is here

Don't you just hate when you write a story and think it's great, only to read it a month later and realize it doesn't work at all? Ok, maybe you like when that happens. Each to his own. Personally, I hate it, and it just happened to me.

The second short story I wrote during NaNoWriMo should have been released to the critique hounds last week. I was on track for that to happen, busy rewriting here and there and getting rid of the general NaNo issues that come with vomiting a story onto a page in the midst of a ten hour, sugar and caffine infused write-in. Then that fatal moment came.

Three quarters of the way into the story, I realized that the twist I'd prided myself on fell flat. Not just flat, but run over by four lanes of highway filled with steamrollers flat.

This realization sucked, to say the least.

What sucked almost equally was that when double-checking the guidelines for the publication I'd planned to send this to, I discovered I also had to cut at least 850 words. And the tone was a dreadfully confused mix of dark humor and just plain dark. Oh, and the submission cut off is the end of the month.

Good thing I work best under pressure. Now I'm off round up my chainsaw, duct tape, and trusty stack of traffic cones. I'm not giving up on this one yet.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

But mom, they're only eight dollars

My entry for the 100 words for $100 blogfest is here

When my eight year old daughter announced that she'd love to get a hermit crab, I smiled and nodded. Like most childhood yearnings, I figured the love would pass if I gave it a little time. After all, we already have a dog and fish, and she has her own aquarium full of fish in her already cramped room.

Then, this year, she ended up getting her first grade teacher, the one that had introduced her to hermit crabs, as her third grade teacher. While this teacher no longer has the hermit crabs, I was persuaded to inquire as to the care and expense of those little shelled beasties. I was told it was easy, they were cheap and didn't smell. "Don't smell" almost sold me. However, I knew from my son's yearning for an anole (now dearly departed) at the same age, that I'd be the one that very likely ended up taking care of the new creature. I really didn't need more creatures to care for.

We wandered into pet stores over the months to pick up dog and fish supplies. Each time, I'd find her peering into the hermit crab tank.

"But mom, they're only eight dollars. I have eight dollars. Can I get one? Please, please, please?"


For her birthday, she asked for a hermit crab. She didn't get one. Months passed. For Christmas, she asked for a hermit crab. Oh, fine. After all, we already had a vacant ten gallon aquarium and greenery left from our anole adventure. How much more could an eight dollar hermit crab need?

December found me on covert missions to the pet store to price out supplies. I cleaned out our tank and santized it. I cleaned the greenery, climbing log, spray bottle and requiste, shallow stone bowl that had been up in the attic. I purchased a pre-boxed hermit crab kit for $24. Awesome. We're done.

I put everything in the tank, wrap it up all pretty and hide it in my bedroom.

Two days later, it occurs to me that this preboxed kit doesn't include the dirt all the care sheets say they need. I go back to the pet store. Hermit crab soil, $3. Oh, and they need a salt water bowl too, $8. And the sand included in the pre-boxed kit is sized for a tiny plastic tank. I'll need more, $8. They like coconut houses to hide under, $6. That's gotta be all I need. Right?

I sneak all my new stuff in the house, discreetly open the wrapping paper, put the new purchases inside and hide it in the bedroom.

Four days before Christmas it occurs to me that opening an empty tank isn't all that exciting and pet stores will be closed on Christmas. Then I envision getting to the pet store only to find they are sold out of the hermit crabs and my daughter crying. I should really get a hermit crab right now. I sigh, go back to pet store and get the $8 hermit crab. As I'm standing in line, I realize that I don't have anything for top of the tank. Duh. $12 for a screen top.

I creep back into the house, sneak into the attic to get our former cricket keeper container and run to my bedroom. I again open the wrapping paper, put the new top on the tank and close it up. Then I figure out that I'll need the dirt now for the crab to live in while we wait for Christmas. And the food. I bite back a scream, open the wrapping paper again, locate the required items and then hide the crab behind some stuff on my dresser and the tank with the other hidden presents.

Christmas morning finally comes. Squeals of delight fill the house as my daughter opens her hermit crab tank, and then box containing the crab which is soon named 'Shelly'. The tank is gleefully set up. Shelly is released. Hooray!

The next morning I am informed that, "Shelly is lonely. The care instructions say they like friends. I still have $8, can we go pick out a friend?"

At this point, everything is set up and she's got the $8. I shrug. The pet store people about know me by name now. "Sure, why not?"

The pet store only has two crabs left to choose from. She picks a rainbow shelled crab, soon to be named, 'Wiggly'.

I notice that the tank we get the crab from is nice and warm. I remember reading that humidity is important and our house is incredibly dry. If we want healthy, happy crabs, we'll need a heater. The ten gallon sized heater is $24. I bow my head and take a deep breath.

"Mom, look! We need to get a pretty shell in case they want to change shells."

Of course we do. Spare shell, $3.

"Mom, do we have salt water? The ones in the tank do."

I'd remembered to buy the bowl for the salt water, but not the solution to make it. Yet another smack the forehead moment. Bottle of salt water, $4.

"I don't think they like the powder food we have. Shelly didn't touch it."

Shelly hadn't touched it in five days. I had to agree. Bottle of pellet hermit crab food, $5. The misting bottle we had was also missing its spring and no longer sprayed. New misting bottle, $5.

$110 later, I have two happy hermit crabs, one ecstatic daughter, and I am duly reminded that nothing ever costs "only eight dollars."

Saturday, January 1, 2011

100 words for $100

All this month, Elena over at Your Write. Except when your Rong, is holding contest wherein you must write a 100 word sentence in the hopes of winning $100. The amount of the prize depends on the number of participants, so write your monster sentence and join in!

And so, without further ado, I offer you my effort at a remotely coherent one hundred word sentence. Take a deep breath. Go.

Gentle blue waves lapped against Ciralia’s pale shoulders as she fluttered her long, slender arms around her in order to maintain her view of the great wooden ship with its crew of dirty, land-dwelling, dark-skinned men who were running to and fro with buckets on long ropes, throwing water on the bright orange fires that licked hungrily at the sun-drenched timbers, spreading and growing faster as if mocking their futile efforts, and she smiled knowing that their beautiful white bones would soon adorn her underwater kingdom far below the glittering surface that men foolishly claimed as part of their realm.