A writer who loves fantasy, avoids reality, and who knows the value of hanging a death skull outside my door to ward off uninvited visitors.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Not-So-Marvelous Avengers Flick

Okay so, here's something people may not know about me: I'm a HUGE movie buff. It's one of the things my hubby and I love to do together so very much. We talk about the movies after they're over, read reviews and very few times agree with them (usually though, we gawk and "WHAT" at movie reviewers' views about certain films). One of the things we do a lot is read a few of these often-misguided reviews before we see a movie, just to get an idea of what to expect; historically speaking, when reviewers hate movies, we tend to go in knowing it's a great film, and vice versa. We never read spoilers, because, let's face it, where's the fun in that? But, with The Avengers, it was hard not to get swept up in the hype surrounding this flick, what with all the marketing (apparently Marvel allotted approx. $100 mil just to get us to believe it was an amazing experience we just couldn't live without seeing). They were wrong. So very very wrong. To show you just how wrong they were, I'll break some parts of this review up into two sections: "What we read", and "What we saw".

Now, before we get started, for those who might think this movie in particular just wasn't our cup of gamma, not only do we love movies, we especially love super-hero movies. In fact, we LOVED Ironman 1 and 2, Thor, Captain America, etc... We loved all the actors in those movies as well, just so you know.

Here goes: My review of Marvel's: The Avengers.

It was a fun film, right from the get-go. Full of action. Funny as hell. Great dialogue. Great banter among the cast. The best super-hero movie of all time. AND, the piece de' resistance: The BEST rendition of The Hulk (and Banner) ever, which was masterfully-played by Mark Ruffalo.

NOW...SPOILER ALERT (if you haven't seen the film and want to judge it on your own first, come back here later...

The movie had a s..l..o..w start, in terms of giving us what we went there for: THE super-heroes. Of course being a writer myself, I know that sometimes fiction (regardless the medium) requires a slow start in order to set-up what should prove to be well worth the wait. But, that's not what this was. This movie's slow start was toooo slow-going in its attempt to gather the heroes to battle Loki, who's stolen the tesseract, an important artifact that could potentially provide the world with unlimited clean energy.

But, see, Loki had more lofty aspirations, feeling it was too important for us to simply use it as a way to shoot Big Oil the proverbial "finger". No, Loki wanted to use the tesseract to open a gateway in order to bring in an army so he could take over Earth and rule without mercy, because (boo-hoo) he couldn't rule in his own world. **insert evil laugh here**

Then there's the FACT that most of the movie made no sense. Here you have this "God" and he wants to rule our planet. Okay, lame, but I'll bite. But why force the Hulk out? There was mention of that being one of his intentions, but nothing came of it....well, nothing but the one of the ONLY mildly chuckle-worthy seconds of the movie, when, at the end of the film, the Hulk thrashes Loki around repeatedly, then throws out his one line of dialogue, which I cover in the next section, BTW.

This movie had some of the best dialogue and banter ever found in any super-hero movie (or any movie, period). Also, this movie had, without question, some of the funniest and best humor in any film. Especially an action film.

FACT: Much (if not most) of the dialogue was lame, petty, insignificant, artificial, forced, unnatural, and down-right awkward, all of which completely defied the abundance of rumors that claimed the banter and dialogue was AMAZING. It wasn't. Believe me. Any writer worth his goods should be able to spot this, even with the most advanced ear plugs available firmly in place. Now, we both know and love the writer/director of this flick, Joss Whedon (creator and master behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly). An artist, in terms of comedy and witty dialogue known as Whedon-speak. But, as Whedon-speak has no place in ANY adult-riddled action film that wants to be taken seriously, sadly, to our surprise, Whedon's ability to write comedy fell short.

This movie had, without question, the best Bruce Banner and Hulk ever portrayed throughout Marvel's history of trying to bring them to life for our viewing pleasure.

This was one of the things my hubby and I were both anticipating more than the movie itself. We both loved Edward Norton's portrayal of the Hulk and Banner in the reboot of The Hulk movie, a few years ago. So, hearing all this hype about the new Hulk, played by Mark Ruffalo (an actor I like very much), we couldn't wait to see Mark's version of this tormented character that we love so much. We'd read that Ruffalo brought a unique and often-missed humanity to the character. When we read this, we agreed that we could see it, only because Ruffalo has that sensitive appeal to him. Boy, did EVERYONE miss the mark (no pun intended) on this one. So, if you're like us, and you LOVE the Hulk, don't go in expecting to get a gree-eye full of this entertaining rage monster. No sir. In total, this movie features him for a whopping fifteen minutes (give or take), at best, and he comes in waaayyy into the film. We'd also read that he finally speaks. *underwhelming finger-twirl*. He has one line. It was funny. But, it was one line, just the same. So pray someone doesn't fart loudly in the theater or you'll miss his astounding one-liner, believe me.

Some of the best action ever found in an action flick. A FUN movie.


The action was typical. Fast-moving. Short shots. Blah, blah, blah. Nothing exciting or even note-worthy here. Nothing new. Nothing worth remembering in great detail to one day look back on with that lingering sense of, "WWWWOOOOOWWWW! That was incredible. Now, I wanna see it again."

One of the best 3D flicks ever made.

God, where do I start? I'm a HUGE advocate of this format. I own a 3D T.V. and Blu-Ray player, and I love watching 3D at home. But, in theaters, particularly in IMAX, I love how it brings you into the film; and for $17 a pop, it better! I love how it really puts you there. Consumes you like 2D never will. But this time....*head shake* it SUCKED, simply because The Avengers wasn't filmed in 3D. It was converted after the fact, and it shows. So much so, it left me wondering if the 3D aspect had slipped away, forcing me to lift my glasses several times throughout the film. Frankly, I feel like the theater ripped us off, stealing our $17 a head with a lie that it would be an IMAX experience, when in reality, it was an, "I spent what on THAT?" experience.

So, to recap: Save your money. Don't buy into the hype. Wait for it to come to Blu-Ray, and hell, if you wanna see it in 3D, buy it when it hits the bargain bin. Trust me, it'll look better at home anyway, and you won't feel like hunting down all those reviewers who made you lose over two hours of your life that will NEVER be worth remembering.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

A Shameful Day Indeed!

My friends, it is truly a sad sad day. A day I honestly never saw coming. Today, I actually got excited about finding hangers in one of our guest bedrooms. Yes, hangers. **head hangs in domesticated shame** See, in preparation for this trip to Pittsburgh with my Dad, I've been busy doing laundry, which I never throw into a dryer when there are shirts involved (not all that interested in walking around in clothing that shrinks to doll-sized proportions). So, I hang the shirts to dry...only I've run out of hangers. So, there's one load I couldn't do. But, as I went into one of the guestrooms, there they were, sitting on the bed, as though mocking me to all laundry hell. And the worst part is.....I actually squealed, "OMG, Hangers! Yay!" I can't believe it's come to this point in my life that finding hangers excited me. **for shame**

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Nightmare on my street....

Okay so, this is truly terrifying. Last night, as like 1 a.m., we had a break-in. My hubby and I were in our room watching "GRIM", and we heard this weird long beeping sound. My hubby muted the T.V. and sure enough, we heard it in the living room. We raced out there and just as we got to the living room, the alarm went off. Before we could reach the alarm pad, the alarm company called. I answered the call just as my hubby's mother turned off the alarm. The alarm company told me (after I gave him my password) that the alert was coming from the front door. I went over and almost fell over.


My heart almost stopped. I quickly closed and locked the door. My hubby grabbed some knives and checked the house while the company stayed on the phone with me. Everything was clear, but still, when I hung up with the company, I called the cops. The cop that came found no sign of someone having tampered with the dead bolt on our door. He suggested that perhaps we didn't lock up completely or something and that the wind might have blown the door open. This door is solid mahogany, three inches thick and weighs a ton. There is NO way an ordinary wind blew it open thing. Besides, my hubby and I are compulsive about turning the knob and checking that the door is completely locked. And we do this several times each time we lock it, just to be sure, and all that.

Anyway, the cop said he and the other cops who were currently at a party a couple of blocks away would canvas the neighborhood. You know, the idea of having some stranger in my house is one of my worst nightmares. I literally had chills all last night. Oh god....to think of what could have happened. And worst still....what if they come back?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Toddlers and Trouble In The Making

The other day, I was watching Say Yes to the Dress; seeing as how I've always loved wedding gowns, it's one of my favorite reality shows. in fact, I've always said that if I had chosen to become a fashion designer, it'd be designing wedding gowns. But, that's not the point of this blog. No, this post is abotu one thing, and one thing only:

Child Beauty Pageants.

Anyway, during my show, I saw this commercial for Toddlers and Tiaras. I couldn't believe what I saw. For those of you who used to read my blog over on Myspace, you all know that I once blogged about this issue before. Now, I'm not one for repeating myself all that much, but on this topic, I can not hold my blogging at bay. The idea that child pageants even exist is absolutely abominable. And that show, Toddlers and Tiaras is (no pun intended) the reigning example of how utterly criminal the practice of child pageants is. Little girls verbally battling it out backstage to win a stupid crown and maybe some money? And some of these girls are talking about "kicking so-and-so's butt". WHAT? Come on! These are little girls who'd rather be playing with their dolls and sipping imaginary tea, rather than being forced to practice sexy dance moves sure to entice the sickest individuals on the planet, sporting layers upon layers of makeup and dressing like mini-hookers, and overall, being trained to believe that beauty is the cornerstone to a happy life. Hell, there was even a major scandal about a woman who had her five-year-old daughter injected with Botox and had her teeth whitened. It was in the news a while back and when I heard it, I almost fell over for horror! That woman should have been jailed for life and prevented from ever seeing her kids again!

The truth is, most of the mothers of these girls are nothing more than selfish, narcissistic people living vicariously through their kids, making them take in candy-coasted doses of the very poison that comes with competing to see who's more beautiful, when in fact, they're just indoctrinating them into a way of thinking that beauty is everything? I mean, these little girls don't know the value of beauty yet. They don't know what money really is. Let's face it, they're not competing with the hopes of winning enough money to one day go to college in order to avoid the ultra-pleasant experience of taking on so much loan debt that the gift of graduating is the honor of moving into their parents' basement. These girls are forced to compete. Period! I once saw the show, more out of horror-driven curiosity than anything else, and boy did the show fall short of my expectations. There they are....little girls telling their parents they don't want to go here or do this, and they're parents demand they fall in line, suck it up and do as they're told.

Meanwhile, the mothers are living it up, no doubt do it on the money the girls win (if any money is involved, I mean). But even if there's no money, so what? The mothers are still coasting through the pageant life on the wings of the pressure they put on their daughters to win at all cost, just so the mothers have the privilege of being "the mother of the beauty queen". Like it validates their own existence or something. In their minds, it makes these mothers special. Yeah? Does it? It makes you special to be able to take credit for treating your child like a sudo sex slave. Because that's what they're doing. They're not dressing them in sweet little outfits and teaching them the value of being a good person. No. They're teaching them that beauty is key in life...that losers are ugly....that unless they win, they're useless in life....and it's all based on their looks. THEIR LOOKS? They're little girls!!!!!!!!!!

Wake up, you selfish, self-serving, self-absorbed child abusers.....PEDOPHILES ARE YOUR AUDIENCE AND THEY LOVE YOU!!!!!!!!! Think about that the next time you put your daughter into a getup straight off the latest "Here it is, come get some" runway! Let your kids be kids! Give them the gift of being able to look back on their childhood with fond memories, not memories of torturous practice sessions on how to walk sexy! They have their entire lives (after 18 yrs old) to make choices like that for themselves. They don't need mothers who dictate how to win some stupid crown just to make said mothers proud enough to walk down the street with the ability to say "Yup, my daughter won the crown. Aren't I fabulous?" They need mothers who'll hold and hug them, and show them that they're loved no matter what they win or lose in life.

Well, there it is. I can't begin to tell you how infuriated I am about this. But, I guess, for now, this blog should at least scratch the surface of a topic that needs severe investigation and resolution!!!!

Any thoughts? Where do you stand on these pageants and practices involving children?

When you're done here, check out this eye-opening article. Parents of Children on TLC's 'Toddlers in Tiaras' Hurting Their Kids, Critics Say

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Thorne is Coming!

Okay so, after much debate, I've decided to publish the Thorne book myself. You know, I've been tossing this idea around for a long time now. Held back only by the stigma that goes with being a self-published author. Well, my mind was officially made up when I came across J.A. Konrath's blog one day. Do Legacy Publishers Treat Authors Badly? is the title of the actual post that changed my view on this matter. It was so unbelievably enlightening. And, FYI, to those who might read this and say, "What else would you expect from someone who self-publishes?" J. A. Konrath has been published by some of the biggest houses, and because of his experience, he's taken his career into his own hands. And he's not the only one, btw, though I don't really want to sit here and spew off names like I'm going down a checklist.

Now, even though I don't have any first-hand experience in the industry, based on my research and findings, I truly couldn't agree more with Konrath's assessment. So, my mind is made up. Screw the stigma of self-publishing...which, by the way, was obesified (yes, I'm creating a new word here....live with it) by an antiquated and extremely elitist opinion that ALL self published authors are hacks. Yes, there was a time when anyone and everyone with a particular thought that they felt the entire world needed to read about, without the remotest consideration to things like quality, editing or correct spelling; hell, there still are some out there. But, things have changed. Authors have grown. Not to mention...technology has changed. Thank the stars for ebooks, huh?

Today, there are countless great authors who've decided to take matters into their own hands, simply because, when it comes to authors (the bread and butter of all pub houses), generally, the industry can be...oh, how do I put this...unfair with regards to authors. I don't want someone to come in and dictate what THEY believe is the best treatment for my years of blood, sweat and tears. I don't want THEM to tell me how to write MY book, when, after waiting close to 18 months in some cases, THEY'LL give it a whopping few months to take off or fail. I don't want ANYONE to tell me I can't do things MY way! No author wants that.

So, there it is. I've decided to put THORNE out there myself. My hubby and I will design the cover (as we did with the original cover that everyone loved), and come up with another amazing cover. And when it's done, Thorne will be released. I'll let everyone know. I really want to thank everyone who's supported me through the years here. And I want to thank Konrath for his insight.

Peace! Can't wait to get it out there.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Cleaning is for Schmucks!

Gotta clean today. God, I hate cleaning. Spend all day dusting, wiping, sweeping, mopping, and basically running around in a desperate attempt to get a leg up on the dust that, it seems, is just hanging around waiting for you to blink before it falls back down on the very furniture you just finished cleaning. HMPH! What a monumental waste of time. Time that could be better spent on...oh, I don't know, watching grass grow, or paint dry, or even counting the patterns on a textured wall.

I swear the universe is laughing at me at this very moment. Watching me. Just laughing its proverbial ass off!

So you know what. I'm not gonna clean today.

I'm going shopping, then taking in a flick or something. Ah, submission. It's a beautiful thing when done right.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

To Outline, or Fly Free (As some say)

Okay so, today I was on Facebook, and saw a post involving a good friend of mine, Garrett and a friend of his. They were talking about outlines...something I have developed an opinion about, so I weighed in. So it got me thinking about outlines in general.

You know, clearly every author works differently. We all have our own ways of bringing our stories to life. Some like to wing it. Let the story direct itself, with the author being the vehicle. Way back when, during my first attempt to write a novel, I took that path of winging it, and about eight chapters in, found myself absolutely lost. I literally hit the proverbial brick wall, and eventually realized there was no story there. So I abandoned the whole project, set aside my computer, and decided to really get to know the writing life; being a writer since I was a kid, with poems and short stories, I'd never delved into writing an entire book before.

My hubby and I (he's also a writer) often talk about writing, stories, characters; we can literally talk about it for hours on end. He's the one who showed me the value in that little thing called an outline. I'd never considered doing one before. So, when I sat down to write that story that went nowhere, I did it without a plan. How could this happen, I asked myself. I mean, I had started this because I'd heard the voices of my characters in my head, and not in the "Yum, tasty Checkers," sort of way. I was absolutely stumped, and beyond frustrated.

My big mistake was thinking that wanting to write was enough. See, for me, what I learned in an utterly frustrating and most Rogaine-inspired way was that without a plan, there's little to no follow through, and if the end does come, it'll be through a crap load of blood, sweat, tears, broken plates, many collectibles lost in the battle to break through that brick wall I'd hit, and a sudden need to find a hat big enough to cover the bald spots born during this so-called creative process.

Well, when I started working on the Thorne series, I fell so deeply in love with the story and the characters. I mean, I really wanted to do it (and them) justice. So, I took the time (a year, to be precise) to plan everything from the entire series, the characters (and their arcs), to the city, the world, the magic, the history. Hell, I even created stores, shops, shop owners, employees, and all their back-stories, just to really and truly bring this world to life. Then I plotted out all the books, so when I was ready to start writing the first book, I wouldn't fall into that same pit of "give me something to break". When I was done with the outline, the story pretty much wrote itself.

And therein lies the problem some authors see with outlines. Personally, I prefer this method, but like I said, we all need to find our own way of doing things. There are authors who say outlines ruin the process because it deprives them of surprises during the writing process. But, from what I've seen, those authors can sometimes find themselves stuck. Those are the authors who sometimes say they don't know how the story will end, what will happen in the book, or where they're taking it. And that's fine, if it works for them. I personally don't like staring at a blank screen, begging for something to strike. I love sitting around, thinking about the story, picturing it in my head like a movie, hearing the characters talk to each other, and especially those major epiphany-laden "AHA" moments when I unravel a plot point that I'm trying to make as powerful as possible. Authors who plan things out are the ones who can sit down with someone and talk about their work-in-progress.....simply because they know what they're doing with it.

Again, I'm not remotely saying one way is better than another for everyone. It's just the way it works best for me. So, what's your favorite method of writing? Are you a planner or a winger?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

TOR Update.

So they said no in a form rejection that, frankly, surprised me. I was sure my book would fit in nicely there. Oh well. Life goes on. My book WILL be out there someday. Someday I'll look back on these blogs about yesteryear and laugh. But for now, I'm pushing on, determined to get this out to the world one way or another. It's taken every ounce of my heart and soul to put write, and I refuse to let anyone in this industry tell me I can't do it!

Magic in a New World

Okay so, I've been hard at work on my new series. Well, the first book in the series, anyway. Actually, what I've been working on is putting the magical world together; you know, creating the magic system, the beings, the rules, and all that. It's so much fun, I gotta say. I really do love writing. It's so much a part of me that I actually think about it 24/7; I could be watching T.V. and in the privacy of my thoughts (and outwardly too, since my hubby's a writer as well), I'm rewriting the show or movie I'm/we're watching. And when I read, sometimes I rewrite parts in my head. Even as a kid, I used to spend a lot of time saying things like, "Imagine if...". I guess I just can't seem to turn that part of me off, even for a minute. Not even growing up. But hey, I don't want to. It makes me who I am.

Maybe it's just a writer thing, you know? I love that. I love writers, you see. I find them to be among the most creative bunch of people in the world. People with endless imaginations, generally expansive vocabs, and extremely out-there ways of thinking.

Anyway, the point is, the new series is coming out great. Like I said, I'm working on the magic system, and honestly, I can't wait to get back to the writing part of it. I actually started the book, and got about 232 pages in. But I took a break to iron out some details and get a better feel for the world I'm creating for this series. Like the THORNE series, it takes place in a city, of course. But this one takes place in our world. And I made a really cool, amazing decision, which will be revealed later. Like when the book's ready to go, I mean. I think people who read both this book and the David books are really going to be like, "Ohhhh." At least I hope so.

Anyhoo, just wanted to update everyone on what's going on with the new series. So, a quick recap. It's a first-person, YA urban fantasy. I can't wait to post part of it. I posted the original first chapter here a while back, but I've rewritten it, so it's really different now. Better.

Have a good one:)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Agent update

Okay so, you all know I submitted to the Ethan Ellenberg Agency a few weeks ago. According to their guidelines, if an author hasn't heard back from them within two weeks, they're to assume it's a "NO". So, as it goes, it's clearly a no. Oh well. As I mentioned before, I'm a silver-lining kinda gal. So, if an agent isn't interested, then it's obviously not a good fit for either side. If they were, they sign the book.

Well, no time to cry over another rejection. Countless authors have walked the same long road, and many of come to that point where someone says yes. And it only takes one, as they say. I'm still hoping to find that yes. For now, I'm keeping my hopes high and my fingers crossed for something better. TOR. Yup, I did it. After a long inner debate as to whether or not I should hit up this publisher myself, I took the lunge. TOR is where my book belongs. They have such an amazing reputation, and frankly, it would be an honor to be part of the TOR family of authors.

So, the other day, I put together the submission package, which included the first three chapters (up to 10k words) along with a synopsis. My fear is that they'll reject it for my own stupidity. See, it wasn't until after I sent it off that I realized that I had forgotten to include my email addy and phone number. Even though I did enclose a SASE. Hopefully they won't flat out reject it for something like that. Oh, and another line of stupid just hit a second ago, when I went back to the letter I sent that and found that it mentions how I'm including the first three chapters, when in reality, since they allow you 10k words, I actually included the first four chapters. Oh god. Please don't let them turn it down because of that....

Here's hoping.....

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The River, The Dolls, and The Chills That Kept Coming

Okay so, the hubby and I finally found time to watch a new show, which aired this past Tuesday, Feb 7.

**huge thanks and a major shout out to the inventors of the DVR.

Anyway, so ABC ran the pilot of The River, a new paranormal drama from Oren Peli, the genius behind the Paranormal Activity, which were, without question my favorite (and in my opinion the scariest) ghost movies ever. I honestly can't thank Oren enough for the chills that run up my spine each time I think about his "P.A." movies, or whenever I hear the slightest sound in my house at night, or when I feel like someone's watching me. Yeah, I'm not scarred at all.

Enter, "The River", a haunting show about a famous explorer/adventure/tv star who went missing in the Amazon. The show (which we're told is the footage from his wife's attempt to find him) opens six months later, when, after learning that her husband's private beacon was picked up, his wife leads an expedition into the Amazon in search of her husband, Dr. Emmett Cole. At every turn, it seemed, the closer they got to the signal, the creepier the show became; sounds, voices, and frightening discoveries that I won't give away here, as I'm not a walking spoiler.

One thing I will tell you all is this: there was this one part, where they entered an area of the jungle. In the center of this area was the most horrible thing they could have stumbled upon. It was this enormous tree full of old, beat up, broken, dirty, and terrifying dolls, all of them either hanging from the branches, or simply tied to the tree in one way or another. One of the creepiest moments in that scene was when one of the dolls' head turned on it own.

**gotta go to a happy place**

Now, I have to say....there are several things in this world that absolutely terrify me to no end: listed in no particular order, mind you...although the last two are easily the top ones.

#1 Zombies: A fear that keeps me at the ready in the event that the zombie apocalypse ever breaks out.

#2 The Dark: A fear that ensures I'll never loose my eye sight due to eye strain (that's my rationalization and I'm sticking to it).

#3 And the worst one of all: DOLLS! I hate them. Even as a kid, I hated them. And I know why. When I was little, I went to my friend's house (she was three years older than me. There, I discovered her and her older brother, along with some friends of his watching some movie. Of course, I happened to walk in at the worst possible moment: there was this woman trapped in a small room, and these bald, pale-faced dolls with black eyes were tearing into the walls to get to the woman. It scared the hell out of me, and I've never forgotten it; I also have forgotten how I ran from the house so fast, I almost got hit by a car charging across the street to my house. And let me tell you, for a long while, I tried to get over that fear of dolls, but it seems Hollywood was adamant that my fear stay right where it was; a fact I came to realize after watching Poltergeist for the first time, long after that incident with the dolls. And what did it get me, but another fear I stand by, even today: my next biggie. #4 Clowns....nuff said.

Anyway, there it is. The River is a great show that might have sat better with me had it come with a personalized warning about the doll scene.

So, what are some of your fears?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Gender Wars

You know, my hubby and I were talking today about relationships and the general gender differences. In this day and age, why is that men and women still feel the need to feed into stereotypical gender wars?

We see it everyday.

Men: "Come on, Dude. You can't let a girl beat you."

Women: "Yeah. Girl Power."

Women who don't like sports go for guys who do, and then they complain about how the guy's obsessed with the very thing she knew about from the get-go. And men; they like women who take care of themselves, and yet, when their girlfriend or wife gets her hair done or goes shopping, the men complain, claiming the woman's obsessed with her to-do's. I can go on and on about the various ways men and women can nip at each other, but right now, I'm more interested in what you think about the whole thing.

1. So, where do you stand on the Gender Games?
2. What do you think is the biggest difference between men and women?
3. What would you change about either, if you could?
4. In terms of individual aspects, what do like most (or don't like) about the opposite sex?

I'm dying to see how people answer this.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

First Chap of my new book

Okay so, as far back as I can remember, I've always loved YA books, so I knew I'd inevitably throw my hat into the YA ring someday. Well, for a few months now, I've been working on a YA series about a small-town girl who moves to the big city, where she soon discovers that the world around her isn't what it appears to be, and neither are the new people in her life...namely, her new friends and Jack, her first love. So, I really would love to get some feedback here on this, the first chapter of the book.




When I got home from school, I found my parents huddled at the rustic, dining room table, grinning like kids with a juicy secret. It didn’t surprise me to see them there since they were both authors and were virtually always around. But Dad, he was currently working on his second novel, with a nagging deadline right around the corner. And Mom, she was in the I-can’t-wait-for-you-to-read-this-chapter stage of her first book; she’d been raving for the past few weeks about how she was dying to finish it. So why they were slacking off in the middle of the day like that was beyond me.

Tempted as I was to ask them about it, I just sighed and went to my room. I felt kinda bad not feeding into whatever surprise they clearly wanted to share with me. My parents, Jessica and Jonathan Chase were, without question, the only interesting people I knew. They were the highlight of my life, and no, that wasn’t sarcasm. I really do love being around them. They’re easy-going, laid back parents who actually see me as a person, and not a mindless, fragile object they have to watch over until it’s time for me to head out into the world.

But it had been a long day, fraught with boring classes designed to lower I.Q. points by the second, and an endless parade of gossipy, dim-witted, hum-drum nimrods that share the collective belief that all is great and dandy in Bumpkin Land, the tiniest, most uninteresting hole in America.

Honestly, the only smile-worthy moment of my day was when I punched one of the brainless Bumpkinites that I’m always oh-so-thrilled to be around every freakin’ day of my life. Her name’s Marley Waters. She’s this horse-faced pig in my English class who’d decided that this would be a good day to test her chances of survivability by telling the entire small-town-and-still-smaller-minded school that I had a crush on our tenth-grade history teacher, old Mr. Anderson, a bald, bow-tie-wearing relic who smelled like feet and a variety of foul and mysterious cheeses.

“Zoey?” Mom’s voice seeped through my door, deep and serious, which alone was enough to rattle me; she’d never taken that tone with me before.

“What?” I grunted, hurling my plaid backpack at my closet door.

“Zoey, your mother’s calling you. Now get in here.”

I kicked off my sneakers and shot them at the wall beside my wooden dresser, then popped my head outside my room. “What?”

“Zoey Chase, get over here this instant, Young Lady!”

Great. First Mom, now Dad? He’d never Young-Lady’ed me before. Not even when I got into that fight with Cheryl Mosley, back in eighth grade; I’d discovered she was the one who’d told everyone I was born a boy because someone had told her that her boyfriend liked me.

Somewhat shaken by Mom and Dad’s newfound experiences, I couldn’t help but wonder if the Principal of my school had called to rat me out for punching Marley, the horse-faced pig.

“Zoey!” my parents shouted as one.

“Coming.” I lumbered into the dining room with as much interest as I had in throwing on a wicker hat and dancing around a haystack; sadly, that was the pastime of choice in this kill-me-now part of the world. “What is it? I’m tired.”

“Tired?” Mom crossed her arms. “You wanna trade places? Because anytime you wanna be thirty-five, you let me know.”

Dad leaned forward, clasped his hands and looked me dead in the eyes. “Plant it.”

“Why?” I muttered suspiciously, still wondering if the Principal had called.

“Zoey, for the love of…would you just sit down?!” Mom slid a chair out for me with her leg, her face matching the impatient tone of her voice.

“If this about the pig…in my defense, she deserved to get punched.”

Mom’s forehead tightened in curious confusion. “Uh, no. But we’ll get back to that later.”

“Never mind. It’s not that interesting,” I mumbled, taking a sudden interest in the hideous, oval, multi-colored rug at my feet.

“Knowing you, I doubt that.”

“Zo, we have something to tell you,” Dad said, in this sort of haunting tone.

I plopped down in the wooden chair, officially worried to all hell. The only time we gathered at the dining room table like this was when, for better or worse, something serious was about to rock the Chase household. This was where I found out that Dad had landed his first book deal; that was a good day; we went to Nancy’s Diner to celebrate that night. Not glitzy, I know, but this is Bumpkin Land, and sad as it is to admit, the aluminum sheeting on the wall over the diner’s counter is about as glitzy as it gets in a town built for, and run, by Bumpkinites.

This table’s also where I found out Nana, my great-grandmother, had been diagnosed with cancer. We were really close, she and I, so losing her was really hard. She used to visit a lot, and even though she’s been gone for almost a month now, I sometimes feel like she’s still around. It especially hits me when someone comments on how much I look like her, what with having the same pale (bordering on vampiric) complexion, light-green eyes and nearly-black hair that she had, back before she turned to the gray side of the tracks. Unlike Nana, however, who tended to wear her hair short, mine has always been long, down to my waist, although you’d never know it, since I always wear it up in a ponytail.

Similarities to Nana aside, most of the time, people who never got to meet her, argue that I look more like Dad than I do Mom, using our overly-expressive eyes a prime example of what Dad brought to the Zoey party. He has one of those young faces with hints of gray at the temples, which tends to throw people off and leave them whispering their theories as to his age. To this day, few know he’s actually thirty-eight years old.

A lot of people also insist I look like Mom. The same people who have a tendency to point out how time had definitely been a friend to her. And they’re right. She’s a wrinkle-free thirty-five-year old, who looks more like twenty-five, and stands at whopping 5’ 3 inches, with almond-shaped eyes that are the same chestnut-brown as her shoulder-length hair. I sometimes get a kick out of watching the biscuit-loving women of Bumpkin Land take their ogling husbands and run, when Mom enters a room.

Personally, I only see bits and pieces of myself in them. For instance, height aside, my heart-shaped face, I owe to Mom, while the thickness of my hair, I owe to Dad. It still haunts me though when I see pictures of Nana. Back when I was ten, I once found a picture of her, and actually tried to convince Mom that she was mistaken when she insisted it wasn’t me in the photo.

Mom side-glanced Dad with a glint in her eyes, while he threw her a mysterious grin.

I looked at her, then at him. “What is this? What’s going on?”

Dad placed an arm across her shoulders and dropped his other hand on mine. “So listen…as you know, your mom was always Nana’s favorite granddaughter.”

“I know,” I replied quietly.

“Well…as it happens…she left a…a will,” Mom said with slow intent. Then she paused, leaving her last word hanging out there all alone, as she looked at Dad again, then at me.

Funny, this careful construction of suspense was something I’d expect from my sometimes-melodramatic father. Not her. I guess the fusing of two minds into one is what seventeen years of being married to your best friend will do to a couple.

I couldn’t take the waiting anymore, so I finally said, “And? What, she left you something? Oh god, don’t tell me it’s the bird’s nest hat she bought when she came to visit last year. Please don’t tell me you’re actually gonna wear that in public.”

Mom and Dad looked at each other again, then she said, “She left me the apartment.”

I sat there, frozen in disbelief, like in the movies, when someone says something and everything pauses to the sound of a record scratching. “No. No, you don’t mean…the apartment in…in…the city?” I barely got the words out.

Mom nodded slowly.

My eyes swelled. “So that means we’re—”

“Well, now hold on,” Dad said. “We’ve been discussing it and—”

“Discussing what? What’s there to discuss?”

Dad straightened his back. “What to do, I mean. Do we sell it? Or do we move there? You know, we could get a small fortune for the place, what with it being in Middletin.”

My heart nearly stopped, my hopes dying like an oxygen-starved animal. “You couldn’t have opened with that?” I got to my feet in a huff. “Why would you get my hopes up with all this drama, just to tell me we’re staying here?” I turned away from them, gearing up for a good stomping back to my room.

“Honey, don’t go.”

I turned back to Mom with a drag of my head.

“Jon, I told you not to tell her this way.”

Dad started to laugh. “What, and miss this? Miss that?” he said, pointing in my direction.

Confused, I inched closer to the table. “That’s not funny.”

“Yeah, it is,” muttered Dad, through a lingering chuckle.

“You’re so gonna pay for that,” I said, throwing a playful sneer his way.

Mom slid my chair out further. “Zo, sit down, please.”

After a second, I slid down into it, my eyes narrow.

“The bottom line is this,” Dad took on a more serious tone, “we’ve lived here all our lives, and we love it here. But we know you don’t, and with the success of the book, now we can finally afford to give you the sort of life you’ve always wanted.”

“What do you mean? I…I love it here, too.”

Dad tilted his head at me in an all-knowing way. “Zo, come on. You don’t think we see how unhappy you are here?”

Amazing. I’d spent my life trying to hide my true feelings about this place, and I thought I’d done a great job, with the exception of a rant here and there. Well, apparently I was wrong. “I’m sorry.”

Mom stopped me with a lift of her hand. “Don’t be. We understand. This place isn’t for everyone, we know.”

“Anyway,” Dad said, “since you two boredom-mongers need it fast and open, here it is. We’re moving to the city.”

“Is this another one of your jokes? Because if it is, I swear I’m gonna make lives hell here ‘til I graduate.”

They just shook their heads.

Without a word, I got up and went to my room.

“Zoey?” Mom called after me. “You OK?”

“I’m fine,” I said, pressing my back to the door, trying my best to contain my euphoria.

The city. I couldn’t believe it. We were finally leaving Bumpkin Land and all those Bumpkinites behind. My heart started racing something wicked. I danced around my room, squealing and shaking, as city shots from movies rampaged through my mind. I ran to my closet-like thing, pulled out my Buick-sized, red duffel bag and tossed it over by the bed. Then I grabbed Old Boxy. That’s what I called this hard-as-steel suitcase Dad bought for me back when I was thirteen, for our trip to Disney World, where we went to celebrate the release of his book.

Old Boxy was covered in bumper stickers from dozens upon dozens of cities its previous owner had been to. I knew the minute I saw it in the window of Gorman’s Second-Hand Goods that day, that I had to have it, if only to live vicariously through someone who’d actually broken through the borders of this nothing town. Every time I see Old Boxy, it kills me that, to-date, the only sticker that didn’t come with it was the one I’d added after our trip to Disney. My own said little contribution to the reality that there was an entire world out there, just waiting for me to explore it.

I propped open my duffel on the bed and went to work, yanking every T-shirt and pair of jeans from my closet and shoving them into the bag without the slightest interest in folding them. Wrinkles be damned. I had a new life coming to me. One I’d been waiting for…well, all my life. When the duffel begged for mercy, I plopped Old Boxy onto the bed, gathered up all my books—there were a lot of them, more than I realized—and stacked them in the suitcase. Then I brought over all my movies and threw them in, followed by the million-or-so framed pictures of my parents and me that were scattered all over my room. When I couldn’t fit anything else in—and luckily, there wasn’t anything else I needed to put in Old Boxy—I stuffed some socks in the little empty spaces to make sure all my most-valued possessions were tightly packed.

My room-raid was topped off when I took down my poster of Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, which I carefully rolled up and slid into the art tube I bought the same day I bought the poster. It was last year, at the town’s annual garage sale. It’s actually considered a big event around these parts. Everyone comes down to Main Street and spends all day trying to pawn all their it’s-garbage-to-me-but-you-can-have-it things on all the Bumpkinites on the hunt for a second-hand bargain.

I happened to be walking by one of the tables with my parents, when I noticed this poster with a partially-faded section sticking out from under a pile of fishing books. Curious, I slid the books aside and just stood there, staring down at the image, which grabbed me from the minute I caught a glimpse of the haunting diner in the poster. It was, in fact, the first time anything had grabbed me in this place, so I had to have it. The greedy Bumpkinite behind the table must’ve seen the glint in my eyes, because despite the poster’s $1.00 sticker price, he jacked it up to $20.

As much as I wanted to tell him off, I bit my tongue and dipped into my allowance to buy it. But it was worth it, because for the first time, I felt a glimmer of hope that something could stir me out of the Bumpkin Land-induced state of absolute numbness. I hung the poster up the minute we got home and spent an hour just staring at it. Staring at the people in the diner and at the empty street. I mean, I was so lost in the loneliness and isolation of the entire image, that I actually dreamt about it for days.

With Nighthawks safely tucked away and everything packed up and ready to go, I stood at my door, my duffel in one hand, Old Boxy in the other, and the art tube under my right arm. I looked back at my room. It was so barren, it was almost sad. Now that there was no longer the slightest remaining hint of my ever having lived there, it looked like any other typical country bedroom, with pale yellow walls, a sheer, white curtain and a slanted roof.
For a second, I actually felt bad about leaving. Not the town. The town can kiss my ass.

I mean this place. My house. I was really gonna miss it. My entire uneventful life had played out here. I’ve never made friends in Bumpkin Land, but only because in all my sixteen years of life, not a single person in this town has failed to bore me to all hell. I’m not including my parents, of course, because if it wasn’t for them, I think by now, I’d have slipped into a catatonic state just for the fun of tuning out.

I mean, I truly think it’s humanly impossible to care less about Sally Allswat’s newest straw hat, or Mr. Baller’s latest battle with a fish he still refers to as Fishzilla, which he snagged down at Mueller’s Pond last summer; in all honesty, the thing was more like a sardine, but I kept that little nugget of truth to myself. After all, who was I to crush someone’s fantasy, when so few exist in this crap-hole. There is so much dead space here that the Nothing-To-Report Gazette actually found both those stories news-worthy and plastered them all over the front page.

It’s so infuriating being stuck in a place where I’ve never met anyone I could connect with. A place where not one soul has a single interest apart from hayrides, staring up at all the little lights from heaven, which normal people call stars, and gossiping about the lives of everyone around them. People that share the common belief that BLAH was the very definition of chic.

But, here in this house, because of my parents, life was different. They were the only two people I knew who actually had interests, like Mom with her photography—she was a nut about it—and Dad with his knack for story-telling. We’d had a lot of amazing times here, laughing over the dinner table in the country-style kitchen that Mom loved, talking about movies and shows we watched together, not to mention the annual three-person birthday parties we’ve shared.

I still remember this one time back when I was fourteen. Mom and Dad were in the kitchen, having a bickerment about how much cheese she should put in a dish she was making. Bickerment was a term I came up with back when I was ten. It was literally the best way to describe their almost-comical way of arguing because of how rare and unimportant the issue always was, and how with a smile, the entire thing was laughed off and set aside like it never happened.

So there they were, having one of their bickerments about the cheese. Mom wanted it more on the heart-friendly side, while Dad believed it wasn’t truly cheesy if you could still see the pasta. I’d left the kitchen for just a second, and when I came back, Mom and Dad were covered in, not only cheese, but also flour, salad dressing, and a wide variety of utterly unidentifiable remnants of food. When they saw me standing there, Mom turned to me, a piece of pasta clinging to her cheek, and threw a handful of mac and cheese at me, bringing me into, what turned out to be, one of the funniest and most memorable dinners ever to unfold in the Chase house.

My excitement over the move suddenly weighed on me. I felt so guilty. Like how I imagine it would feel to turn my back on a friend. But as fun as it had been—not in the town, but here in this house—it was time to move on.

I went out to the living room, where my parents were snuggled on the sofa next to the fireplace, watching an early episode of the new Battlestar Galactica, one of our favorite shows.

“I’m ready.”

My parents looked at me for a second, then giggled.

“I knew it!” I barked, dropping my things. “We’re not going anywhere, are we?”

Mom got up. “Of course we are, Zo. But not until next Thursday. The movers’ll be here on Wednesday to pick up our stuff, so Aunt Milly offered to be at the apartment to meet them.”

With a sigh of relief and an inward thank god, I picked up my gear, heaved it all over to the entryway and dropped it on the hardwood floor.

“What are doing?” asked Dad, looking up at me.

“Just making sure it’s all ready to go,” I answered over my shoulder. There was no way I was gonna take any of it back to my room. It’d be like tempting fate, and not a single part of me was aiming to stare down the barrel of that gun.

The week crawled by like time was playing with me. I barely slept a wink the night before the big day, so the minute the sun came up, I jumped out of bed. With a spring in my step, I threw on the jeans, pink T-shirt and sneakers I’d left out last night, then gathered my hair into my usual ponytail and headed out to the now-empty kitchen.

Mom and Dad were by the sink, talking over coffee, laughing about who-knows-what. And that would have been okay had they been ready to go. But no, they were still in their robes. It was like they wanted to put off our escape from hell as long as possible.

“What’s this? You know, I’m pretty sure they’re not gonna let you on the plane dressed like that.”

“Morning, Honey. Hungry? Your father bought doughnuts.”

“Doughnuts? No. When are you two getting…wait, what kind of doughnuts…no wait, never mind. You should be dressed already. Come on, get a move on,” I said, slapping my hands together.

They just looked at me, giggling, so I took Mom by the arm to hurry her along.

She hesitated and nearly dropped her mug. “Can we please just finish our coffee in peace?”

Dad took a casual sip of his. “Yeah, where’s the fire?”

Mom held out a brown box from Nancy’s Diner. “Relax. Here, have a doughnut.”

“Relax? No. No, I wanna get out of here before…hey, is that a Boston Cream”?

END of Chapter 1. So, any thoughts?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Journey We All Take As Writers

This morning, I checked my messages over on FACEBOOK and found one by a good friend of mine, Garrett. He asked me something that got me thinking not only about my personal journey as a writer, but also those of other writers out there. In essence, when do we move on to another story? When do we convince ourselves it's time to walk away and begin something new?

I think it's a question every writer eventually asks him/herself. I mean, how can we not? We put ourselves out there in the most vulnerable way, expressing our thoughts, our emotions and the stories that make us who we are today. Without such deep contribution to our work, it can easily fall flat, bordering on two-dimensional. So, with so much vested in the books we write, when is the right time to walk away without feeling like we're actually taking the easy way out of being dragged down by our own sense of perfectionism?

Being a perfectionist myself, I can tell you what I told Garrett. Only we can judge for ourselves when the time is right. I still remember when it began for me. The day I first started working on David Thorne, back in 2003. It started with my drawing a creature I created, which I still have. She'll make her debut appearance in book four (I believe it's four, if not five). I remember so clearly, sitting there, in bed, with a sketch pad leaning against my legs, pencil in hand, my mind filled with a sense of giddiness I hadn't felt before. So I drew her, thinking, "Is this ever going to be anything?". Then, it was like the floodgates opened, and out came a million other creatures, characters, ideas, names, story lines. But most importantly, possibilities. I loved it. I literally thought about the book (and the series as a whole) 24 hours a day, driving, cooking, shopping. It didn't matter. I was consumed.

When I told my mom about my new venture, which in all honesty, had been brewing in me since I was a kid, she asked when I'd start writing (I was still in the development stage). I told her what I'd told my hubby on day one. "I'll start writing it when I know I'm ready." And so I did....exactly one year coincidentally...from the day I drew that first creature. In that year, I developed the characters, their back stories, the world, the magic, the history of the magicals and the tales that brought them to present day. I even created stores, shops, restaurants, the food they ate, the music they listened to, the hobbies they had, how they played. I mean, every conceivable detail. And when I was done, I started writing the first book.

Interestingly, the original first book was nearly 700 pages. I finished it three months later and when I was done, I actually sat back and smiled. I thought I would explode. I ran to my hubby and shouted over and over, "I did it! I finished! I wrote a book!" He was so happy for me. But then he said something that I will never forget, as it still haunts me today (and we still laugh about it to no end, believe me).

He said, and I quote, "Now the hard part starts."

I looked at him like he was crazy. He'd been there with me every step of the way as I worked on this book. He knew how much of myself I'd put into it. That was the hard part, fun as it was. But I wrong. Not about the fun aspect of creating and writing DT. But about the hard part beginning with typing that last word in the book.

Of course, the next day, it made sense. That was when I started the dreaded editing process. A process every writer hates more than bomb-wielding nut-jobs. Okay, maybe not that much, but you get the idea. I went through that book over and over, changing this and rewriting that for six months. And when I was done, it was sightly longer, though tighter. That's when I began looking up agents and publishers. I'd never done anything like that before, so just seeing the term Literary Agent online made me squeal like a school girl, and it yet terrified me. Had I bitten off more than I could chew? Was I in over my head? I'm nobody. Did I really think I could do this? I mean, what the heck's a query letter? What's a synopsis? What bio? It was all so foreign to me. But I dove in and learned as much as I could through Google searches and writing forums. The most unnerving thing I uncovered was that my 119k word middle grade book was waaaay too long for that market, and even longer still for a debut novel.

So I took two chapters out of the book, and wrote an entirely new one around it. THAT became the current first book in the series, and what was left behind became book two. So it actually worked out beautifully. But of course, now I had to start rewriting and reediting all over again. My blood curdled just thinking about it, what with all the rounds of edit and rewrites I'd just gone through with the original book. But it had to be done, so again, I dove in, head first. It took a long time to get it to where it is now, and even today, I can't go back and look at it because I know, as a perfectionist, it will never be perfect.

"Books are never finished, they are merely abandoned." -Oscar Wilde

How true is that? Oh god! So, I walked away. Honestly, I love the book as is. I'm immensely proud of it. So I say to all authors who ask themselves if it's okay to put it down and start something new: Just do it, because when that last breath leaves us one day, the last thing we want to say is, "I wrote A book."

One more thing I'd like to add before I end this. I want to thank my hubby for always being there for me. Ready with amazing ideas and unending inspiration, support and love. Without him, I would never had be able to push ahead. I know how that sounds, but he has always been there, ready to give me his thoughtson every aspect I approached him about. Never judging. Laughing with me, not at me. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

So, it's important to have a great support system.

What about your journey? Are you a perfectionist? Share it here and inspire others with YOUR story.

Friday, January 27, 2012

I Love My Kindle

Okay so, as many of you who follow me on Facebook, I recently bought my first Kindle Touch 3G. Thanks, by the way, for all the advice and info on my new toy. So far, I'm loving it! I love that I can sync it with my Android and read books from either. This weekend, I'm diving into the first book in the Hunger Games trilogy. There's a Hunger Games movie coming out soon, so I want to finish the book before I see the flick. Don't want to be veered from the author's vision, and all that. When I'm done with the book, I'll post my thoughts on it here.

Anyone else read it? If you have, share your final comments on it here, but please, no spoilers.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Getting Back Up Is the Hardest Part About Falling Down

Okay so, I just queried Ethan Ellenberg, of the Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency. They are, without a doubt, top notch! Fingers crossed. I know I said I was done with this process, but the truth is, I want it. I want it so badly I can taste it. I want my book to fall into the right hands. I want readers to fall in love with my characters, my stories, all of it. I just feel this is the right thing to do for me...going the traditional route. Who knows. Maybe one day I'll look back and wonder, but for now, it's what I have to do. I don't want to live my life under that proverbial question mark. The one that will haunt me with the eternal mystery of what would have happened had I not taken this step.

Truth be told, it's taken me a long time to be able to do this again. Query agents. Those of you who know what happened to me and numerous other authors at the hands of one unscrupulous b*****d, know that those types of scars can leave a lasting impression on one's confidence. Well, mine was damaged to no end. I suddenly found myself beat down, and frankly, I hated feeling that way. I hate the idea that that loser took us all for such a horrible ride. I hate that it's taken me so long to get back up. But I'm here. I'm up again, and honestly, I will NEVER let anyone beat me down like that again.

So for now, I'm back on track. Doing what needs to be done to realize my dream as an author. Anyone else who feels the same, I congratulate you, my friend.

I'll post updates as to what happens with the query to Ethan Ellenberg.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Ghosts That Would Not Be Ignored

Who here believes in (and is afraid of) ghosts? I kinda' sorta' believe in them only because I've had some chilling encounters that still give me goosebumps.

The first one took place when I was about fifteen years old. I remember being home alone (I lived with my mom and 5-yr old little sister at the time). I was in the kitchen, when all of a sudden, I got this sense that I was being watched, so I turned to the counter that led to the dining room. And then I saw it. A thin, pale forearm dipping below the counter, as though someone was there and had just ducked out of sight. I freaked! I didn't know what to do. Should I call the cops? And tell them what, I asked myself. "Hi, there's an arm in my house." I felt like an idiot just thinking about that call, so instead, I looked around for a knife. Sadly, the closest thing to me was a spatula. Before I could grab it though, my mom and sister came home. They found me still standing in the kitchen, shaking. I checked around the house, but there was no sign that anyone had been there but me.

Okay, now that I think about it, that wasn't so much scary as it was ridiculous. Now, that is. Back then, it scared the hell out of me. I guess you had to be there.

A moment of silence to let the blushing smirk on my face pass with a little dignity.

Now, here's the encounter that was downright frightening. It's the kind of story that opens a movie about a haunting that ends with a resounding, "Holy crap!"

This was a long time ago. My mom and her boyfriend were going to Venezuela for four days, so they wanted me and my hubby to stay at her house to watch over my then 15-yr old little sister. The first night we were there was a Wednesday (I remember it clearly because Dawson's Creek was on). At the time, our dog, Gypsy, had just had eye surgery, and she needed some eye drops applied every day. So just before eight o'clock at night rolled around, my hubby went home to give Gypsy her drops really quick. My sister, who'd left when he did, went to my older brother's house. He and his wife lived two doors down, with both my father and little brother.

So there I was, alone in my mom's house, curled up on the sofa with the remote and the giddiness that came with watching Dawson. Not five minutes into the show, I heard voices coming from my sister's room. I didn't freak out, only because I knew it was the T.V.. I got up to turn it off, then came back to the family room, and after I sat down, I heard the T.V. again. Now I freaked because I'd just turned it off. What could I do but get up to do it again, but I did so thinking something must be wrong with her set. So again, I turned it off, but this time, just as I turned my back on the T.V. to leave the room, it came on again. A chill came over me so badly, so I turned back to the room slowly, shaking, not having a clue as to what to do. I was sure someone was in the house, screwing with me. I looked around for something to protect myself with, but the closest thing at my disposal was a flat-heeled shoe that could have easily passed for a slipper. Yeah, go ahead and laugh. Hell, my hubby still refuses to let me forget what my weapon of choice was.

So I grabbed the shoe, which, no doubt would have done nothing more than make the intruder die of laughter before he could attack his slipper-wielding killer. Anyway, so, with shoe in hand, I checked on the other side of the bed where the T.V. was, but there was no one there. I giggled to myself and made to go back to the family room, when suddenly, there was a thud in the hallway in front of me. My first thought was, "Holy crap, someone IS in the house." Now, what would any self-respecting person do in such a situation? Run? Call the cops? Grab a knife? Any of those would have sufficed in preserving my dignity. But no. I ran to the phone, shoe still in hand, and called....wait for it...my little sister.

"Jenn, someone's in the house."

"I'll be right there," she said firmly before hanging up the phone.

Yeah yeah, get it out of your system now.

I went to the kitchen and this time, I grabbed a knife. A BIG knife. Not two minutes later, I went over to the front door in response to the sound of keys. I looked out the peephole and nearly died of laughter myself. My sister had brought our little brother, Chad, who was like eight at the time. He was standing in front of her, his face pale, his hand shaking as he tried to insert the house key. My sister was behind him, her face scrunched up in attack mode as she held out a broom in front of herself like a sword.

Chad and Jenn (today)

They came into the house and we all stood there by the entryway, as I told them what had happened. After I finished, we all heard a loud thud against the wall in the hallway that led to my mom's room. We all froze.

"Well, I have to go home now," my little brother said flatly, as he backed away towards the door. He ran like his ass was on fire, let me tell you.

After he left, my sister and I heard the thud again, only this time, it was closer. She ran to the phone and called my dad, who quickly came over and checked out the house, to no avail. He told us to relax because the house was locked up and safe, then he went home. A few minutes after he left though, we heard it again, and when we looked towards the hallway, we noticed that a side gate outside, which we could see from the living room, was wide open. A gate that was always locked, mind you. This time, we called the cops and told them someone was in the house. They were amazing. The dispatcher told us to stay on the phone until the cops got there, which they did a few minutes later. They came in, and while one checked out the house, the other stayed in the kitchen with us, complimenting the house, the decor, the sofa. Hell, he even flirted with me. At the time I thought, "Thanks and all that, but shouldn't you be looking around for someone to arrest?" Now though, thinking back, he was probably trying to distract us from our own fear. Ten minutes later, the first cop came in and said the house was locked up. He also asked if we drank.

"She's too young, and I don't drink," I told him.

"Well, you might want to start now. Have a beer and relax. And if anything happens, call us back."

My hubby came back not five minutes after the cops left. We told him what had happened, so he checked out the place for himself, then, as it goes, we all decided to watch a horror movie. Yes, a horror movie. Talk about asking for it, huh? The problem was, the wall where the sofa was, had a giant opening next to it, and anyone sitting on the far end of the sofa would have their back to that opening, which was pitch black with the lights turned off. My sister and I squabbled over who'd sit there; neither of us wanted to be the first victim. I lost that battle. I don't remember what we saw, but after the movie, we decided to go to sleep. My sister insisted she sleep with me, so my hubby slept in her room, while Jenn and I slept in my mom's room.

I still remember having this dream where I woke up to find a man in black standing over me with a double barrel shot gun aimed at my face. I woke up so quick. Jenn was sitting up, just looking at me with this terrified look on her face. Just then, my hubby came into the room, looking so confused. He asked if either of us had just been walking in the hallway that led to my sister's room. We said we'd just woken up and had left the bed yet. Then he said he'd been woken up by the sound of high heels and he thought it was Jenn getting ready for school. Then Jenn told us about this dream she's just had, where she'd woken up to a man in black pointing a double barrel shotgun at her face. Chills raced over my spine. She and I had had the same freakin' dream. Then she told us about how so many times, my mom and her had heard voices in the house. And that, this one time, Jenn had come home from school and heard a car gearing up in the garage, so she checked, thinking it was my mom. But the garage was empty. Then she topped off her little ghostly revelation with a fact that I still feel to this day, should have been told to us long ago. She told us that the previous owner had committed suicide in the house. Needless to say, we left and spent the day with my dad.

So, do I believe in ghosts? Kinda, sorta. But have I actually seen them? No. Have I felt/heard them? Uh, yeah!

Who else here has experienced ghostly encounters? Please share!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

A Writer's Dream

As many writers do, I have many goals. I want to touch people, make them think and see the world a little differently, make them laugh, cry and cheer. I want to leave an impression on readers, with stories that they can relate to, about characters they'd love to be friends with. I guess these aren't all that original. But then, they don't have to be, do they? They just have to be genuine. I mean, let's face it. There are two types of writers in this world. Those who dive into this industry strictly for money, guided by the delusion that they'll indeed strike it rich.

Then there are those who become writers solely because of their love for the art of telling a story in a way that nestles its way into the hearts and souls of readers. Those are the writers whose passion carries them through enough rejections to paper the Vatican, the long caffeine-riddled nights sitting in front of a computer, the even longer, fingers-crossed days spent waiting for a door to finally open and welcome in their ideas. These are the writers who touch people, only with their ability to reach some deep part of their readers, but also with their strength, perseverance, and willingness to stand by their dreams. Those are the writers who make up a corner of this world I'm proud to be part of.

So, curiously. What would you say is/are your ultimate dream goal(s)? Where do you stand on this difference in writers?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Line It With Silver And Reach For The Stars

Perception can be a tricky thing. It can break us, or give us the strength to fight back.

"Back when I began querying agents for my first book, I jumped into that dark part of the game like a champ. Smiles, big hopes and wild imagine-if's. But, as the rejections rolled in (as they do for so many of us, sadly) I felt the weight of disappointment and self-doubt settle in, like an unwelcome visitor. But, it forced me to turn my back on the empty, form rejections, and figure out why I was getting them. Because of that, I learned so much about the business, agents, and publishers, as well as what they're looking for during that initial contact period. It was my silver-lining moment. Now, when the rejections come, I look at them in a different light. A light that tells me it will happen when the time is right and the road is mine to travel."-C. L. Freire

That's what I wrote on Dax M. Tucker's blog the other day. He's a writer I came across through Twitter. I left that comment in answer to an entry that found quite thought provoking, centering on a subject I related to in both my writing and personal life. It was about the The Power of Perception.

He wrote about how we see things, events and the like, and how we respond to them. Not directly, mind you. But more, how we deal with them, personally. He closed with a question, which, if we're true to ourselves and answer honestly, helps us get to know ourselves better. It was a post I highly value and appreciate.

Personally, I'm a true believer in the silver lining moments of our lives. Those moments when we come to a crossroads, and have the opportunity to ask ourselves how we'll deal with those times that test our strength, courage and confidence during this long journey we call life. I choose to take these tests and learn from them. I refuse to let them keep me down. I refuse to allow them to dictate where my life will go, where my road will take me, and what will happen to me along the way.

So, it got me thinking about what other people have to say on this matter. How do you handle those little moments? Are you a silver liner, too?

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Golden Globes and The Non-Jokes That Filled The Night

So,, The Golden Globes were on tonight. Well, Sunday night, to be exact. I just read a T.V. blog post that claims the host was as funny as last year. Well, no offense to the host or to the folks who made such a (questionable) claim as to his sense of humor, but I saw the opening. That's when the host is supposed to be as his/her funniest, in order to open the show.

Needless to say, I didn't laugh once, but instead, my hubby and myself both spent those minutes we'll never get back, rolling our eyes from the moment the host stepped out on stage, to the moment he introduced Johnny Depp (the first presenter). Not only didn't we laugh once, but every time the camera panned across the audience, the celebrities there offered their own variations of an eye roll, followed by the, "Oh, crap, the camera's watching. Let me smile as though I actually believe he's making me laugh, when in reality, I'm thinking about him having large amounts of monkey poop heaved directly at his head."

Actually, now that I think about it, we did laugh...but only in sharing the thought of seeing the host covered in the same poop he was flinging during his supposedly-funny monologue.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Publishers and the Wake-Up Call They So Much Need

Why are publishers so ignorant about what readers want? In checking the websites of various publishers lately, I've found that they seem intent on ignoring the changing environment of readers and technology. E-books, for instance. They've been shattering print book sales for the last couple of years, and yet, publishers are only NOW hoping on the E-book bandwagon as though it's something THEY'VE discovered. Also, they're still intent on restricting word count limits to numbers like 30k for middle grade books. Have they NOT heard that books like Potter began around 75k? A big FYI to publishers.....children ARE capable of reading more than ten words, you know. Don't make the mistake of underestimating the readers. Give them what they want. Good Books!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Bull, The Chatterbox, and The Tornado I Desperately Hoped For

Okay so, Friday (yesterday), The 13th, it turns out, I went to the doc with my hubby. First off, I AM NOT a morning person. Neither is my other half. Yes, we like to sleep in sometimes, wake up to some coffee and generally start our days with a kiss, a smile, and many laughs. This was not that day. See, my hubby had a doctor's appointment. Neither of us had slept very much, so we were both exhausted. Naturally, what better time to hit up a doctor's office to sit around over an hour for an appointment, for which we were ten minutes early.

See, I don't get that. Why is it that every doctor LOVES to overbook? It's like their patients don't matter. Like our time means nothing. UGH! So there we were. Waiting. Watching the clock not tick away; it was downright teasing us. Meanwhile, I felt like those people in movies that are on the verge of a nervous breakdown, where every single sound and room-filling irritation is amplified, bubbling up inside like a pressure cooker about to explode.

There was the clock that was more like a novelty item, set there to perpetuate the illusion of passing time.

There was the woman with the baby that refused to allow anyone within a ten-mile radius to retain their ability to hear.

There was the Chatterbox who believed she was sitting in her living room, sharing every mundane detail of her even-more-mundane existence with someone who she simply did not allow to speak; I swear, at one point, I even told my husband that I didn't think she was talking to anyone because of how her mouth ran non-stop for forty-five minutes.

And finally, there was the absolutely charging-Bull-of-a-woman who stormed into the office so savagely, she actually slammed the door into my hubby, who was sitting by the entrance. She was a real charmer, that one! And to add a little sugar to her bowl of bitchy charms, instead of apologizing, as any normal person would when they cause pain and suffering to others, she had the audacity to tell my hubby that he shouldn't sit there. It was all I could do not to grab that Bull, drag her out to the street and toss her like the trash she was, under a moving car.

Between the screaming baby, the seemingly-broken clock, the for-the-love-of-god-please-shut-her-up Chatterbox, and the savage Bull, I swear I felt like my nerves were on the verge of giving up. I could literally feel my hands shaking. I didn't know what to do. Should I get up? Pace around? Throw the Chatterbox unmistakable dirty looks? Toss the trashy Bull under a car? And all the while, reality kept nipping at my ass. I was stuck there, with no choice but to wait.

And then, a taste of peace set in for the briefest of moments when the Chatterbox finally ended her loud, annoying, obnoxious, conversation-dominating phone call. I closed my eyes and took in the peace; the baby's mother had shoved a bottle of milk in her mouth, so the baby was back on my she's-so-cute side. And not a second after I closed my eyes, the Bull's phone rang. And she was off.

"Hello?" she said so loudly, I felt it in my bones.

I turned to my hubby and whispered in his ear, "Is there a hidden camera in here or something?"

Believe me when I say, I could actually HEAR a ranting blog writing itself in my head.

He laughed, catching the attention of the Bull, who promptly got up and took her call outside. Yup, in that one split moment, she earned a teensy portion of my forgiveness and whisked away (to a minor extent) the vast array of very disturbing thoughts rumbling around in my head.

I mentioned to my hubby how that was very polite of her, and how rude it was to take a call in front of people who want to sit in peace. Of course, the Chatterbox must've heard me; I could tell by the, "Ugh, whatever," face she threw me. But I didn't care. Hopefully she got the point.

So, all in all, it was a crappy experience, filled with endless waiting, a screaming baby, a trashy Bull, an obnoxious Chatterbox, and the desperate hope that a natural disaster (of the minor variety) would take aim at certain people in that office.

Fun times! So much for the whole, "Friday the 13th is just some silly superstition" thing.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Harry Potter will live forever....apparently

Okay so, I'll be the first to admit that I personally enjoyed the Harry Potter books. Though I did have my problems with the entire series, but, I'm not here to bash Rowlings or her books. No, I'm more on a mission to find out one thing.

Why is the reading world intent on believing that any author who writes about a wizard or a witch or even just magic, is attempting to ride the coat-tails of a popular series?

I mean, come on. Really? And now, it's also a fact that if you write about vampires, you're trying to hitch a ride on the popularity of Myer.

When did this become a society of readers who believe that every wizard is an HP knockoff, and every vampire is a clone of those ever-lovable (COUGH * GAG!) sparkly, softball-playing vampires (who are the least vampiric vamps in history)?

It's not about WHAT you write. It's HOW you write, the story you tell, how the characters are written, how the story unfolds. That's what distinguishes one book from another. And for people to say that ANY book that uses the term wizard or the word magic is an HP clone is simply defunct of any brain activity.

I've actually read so many reviews of various books that are compared to HP (for instance) for the most amazingly mundane reasons. Like if it's a story about an orphan, naturally it's from an author who copied Potter.

Neither Potter, not Twight (the entire series, mind you) are even remotely original. And there's nothing necessarily wrong with that. I mean, books have been around for a helluva long time. There's always inspiration. But there's also a little thing called DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS. Different story angles. Different characters, settings, worlds, myths, etc...

It's high time people stop comparing one book to another, in terms of crying CLONE based on story aspects that authors like Rowlings and Myer used when writing their own versions of what's been around longer than they themselves have been around.

Why not read books and allow them to stand on their own? Judge them on their own merits. Take them for what they are. Simply enjoy them for what they are, and stop demeaning those hard-working authors who simply love to write.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Job, The Shark, and The Brain Cells That Failed To Fire

Okay so, I have a problem. It's a problem I'm sure a lot of people experience on those dreaded days when we clear away the clutter that somehow found its way into our lives in the last week. Those abominable days when we pull out the Windex, pour on the Pledge, and overall tend to those home invading dust bunnies that seem determined to become a permanent fixture in our lives. Yes, folks. I'm talking about cleaning day. Ugh! Is there a more grotesque term in existence? What a monumental waste of time. A time more boring than, oh, I don't know, watching paint dry, or grass grow, or even sitting and pondering the wonders of our own toenails.

See, I have tile floors, which I hate with every fiber of my soul and want to change every time I open my eyes. I also have five cats. Even though the cats generally stay out in the closed in terrace, they come in for about an hour everyday, and with them comes hairballs so big, I still find myself checking to make sure the cats aren't bare-a** bald. And, as it goes, that tile floor needs vacuuming with a hair-ravenous machine that, like the Terminator, simply will not stop until it gets the job done. Unfortunately, most companies like to tout their weapons of no destruction as the best and most efficient vacuum in the known universe.

Believe it or not, I've actually bought six vacuums in the past year. Yup, I've literally run the gamut of vac companies, from Hoover and Eureka, to Bissel and the latest let-down: Shark. Every one of them has been returned a week later, once the joke fell upon us. That is to say, once we became enlightened to the monster we call FALSE ADVERTISING.

And so, I give you the latest in the IT'S GOING BACK Winter Line.

The Shark Navigator Lift-Away Pro Bagless Upright Vacuum Cleaner

See, my problem with this machine is not--for once--the suction power itself so much as the same problem every other vac has had in addition to the suction issue. This damnable machine has this joke of a vac tube that is all of about two feet long. Naturally, the box goes on and on about the convenience of this tube, for jobs where you need to get into corners and such. But what the box fails to mention is how every time you try to use the tube in a place further than two inches from the vac, the vac tips over! Now how the frick does that help anyone, um?

I mean, there I am, trying to feed that side of me that doesn't want to live with dust bunnies and cat hair, and all I've got to work with is two inches of tube reach! Come on! What brainiac came in to work one day and decided it was a most fabulous idea to make a vac with a two-foot gesture of a tube for those hard-to-reach places? Did he intend it to be used only in a smurf's house? Because he really should have put that on the box, you know.

When are these greedy, lying, cheating vac companies gonna make something actually worth buying, using, and keeping for more than a week? You know, as penance, I truly believe that the makers of such useless gadgets should be forced to ditch their $500 Dysons and use their own products everyday. And not just on their floors. No sir. I'm talking those tight corners high up on their cathedral ceilings. Yeah. And behind things. And under things that require more than their paltry 2 feet of tubing length.

I'd pay to see that. Wouldn't you?!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Working It! The Gender Game That Stumps Us All

Well, I saw the new show called, Working It. Apparently, it's caused a lot of controversy among the transgender community. Honestly, I think they should either watch the show and see it for what it is, or find something else to watch. I'm not trying to sound flip here, but the truth is, it's just a show about two guys who dress like women to get jobs, simply because of the limited opportunities today. It's not a show that mocks anyone. In fact, the show doesn't even take itself seriously enough to warrant more than a resounding, "What was that?" All in all, the show was barely okay, in terms of funny. I mean, I laughed once or twice, but that's it.

Now, something else I'd like to comment on. Guys, this one's for you. You look at women all the time. You ogle them to the point that your eyes roll around like those creepy dolls. You lose all sense of your name, age and other vital info we learn as kids. And yet, when it comes to dressing up like a woman (for instance, on Halloween, or just on a dare), you haven't a clue. Here's a tip. Women don't walk like John Wayne. Women don't swing their hips like their trying to bump the people standing four feet away on either side of them. And finally, w.Women don't talk like helium is the newest trend to hit the streets.

Let's face it. Women are generally feminine. They're soft-spoken (unless we're angry, and then it's everyone man for himself). And we walk with a gentle swagger to remind men that our hips were meant to be admired. And before any men go off and start with, "Hey, I'm a man. How am I supposed to know how to act like you?" Well, pay attention, boys. After all, the very thing you're attracted to, should, by now, be as familiar to you as your best friend.

And to all you women out there. Despite popular misconception, men don't openly scratch, fart, burp and shout...for the most part, anyway. No. Those special little moments of joy they save for their wives and girlfriends. So when you're out, acting like a man (again, in costume, I mean), pay attention to your man (and every other one around you), and ask yourself how they really act.

The fact is, when dressing like the opposite gender, it's funnier when taken seriously, and not just played for laughs. Because in the end, like the new show, Working It, playing it over the top tends to leave it falling flat...on it's proverbial a**.