Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Overwhelmed

I was flipping through a slew of Writer's Digest emails that I hadn't caught up on, and realized the my knowledge of the written word is sorely lacking. Which made me feel overwhelmed and a bit like a fraud.

Who am I to think I could possibly be a published author? A writer, sure maybe, just for myself and to get it out of my head, but do I really have what it takes to be an author. I simply do not know.

I know nothing about formal plots and many of the writing terms are alien to me. Like what is a "leitmotif" and a "formula plot"? Most likely I have that same dazed look my clients get when I talk about LUNs, SANs, and SSL certs.

The last class I took in creative writing was most likely early on in high school, may ninth or tenth grade. I certainly didn't take any in college. I was concentrated on doing the bare minimum on my breadth courses and far more concentrated on the core courses required for my major. English, not being my strongest subject, was at the bottom of my list.

I can only take comfort in knowing that MaryJanice Davidson has several successful series of books, is a New York Times Best-selling author, and assured me that a college degree in English or Literature wasn't a requirement to getting published.

Yes, I will admit it. I'm a bit of an MJD stalker. I hope she doesn't mind too much, but she does give me hope that maybe, someday, even if it's self-published, I'll have a polished book for sale out there somewhere.

Even if I don't know what a leitmotif is.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

An Interview with Jess


I was debating about whether or not to post the first chapter of some of my books on my blog. So, as usual, I went to my writer's group – Grand Rapids Region Writers Group – with the question. There was some difference of opinion, but Simone Anderson answered the question I hadn't asked.

So, I'm not posting chapters here. Why? Because it is possible that a publisher may consider the work “published” and may not pick it up. Since I haven't decided if I'm going to self-publish yet (I'm still trying the traditional route of finding an agent) I decided to heed Simone's advice.

Her advice included the idea of posting interviews with (or of) my characters. Or at least that's how Jess has interpreted it and she hasn't shut up about being interviewed ever since. To ease my aching head and shut Jess up for awhile, I agreed to interview her.

So, with no further ado, here's my first ever interview with Jess Barker from the Jess Barker Mystery series. Hopefully it's not too silly and you may get a good giggle. And I've warned Jess that if she swears there will be a [bleep] posted as I'm trying to keep this blog somewhat G-rated.

JC:     Welcome Jess! So, how about telling everyone what's it's like to be you?

Jess:   What it's like to be me? How the [bleep] do you think it feels to be followed around by a bunch of dead people that won't leave you alone? It's kind of like being Tori Spelling when she's pregnant and the paparazzi are following her non-stop. Only no one can see my 'paparazzi' because they're frickin' dead and mine have the added "'bonus" of being able to follow me into the bathroom stall.

JC:      Ooookay....uhm, I did warn you I'd have to verbally “bleep” you, remember?

Jess:    Oh, so now you're going to play like you're a saint? You know your mouth is as bad as mine.

JC:      (I'm trying hard not to chuckle here) No, I'm not playing the saint here. Everyone who knows me, knows I can swear with the best of 'em.

Jess:   Fine. (she's pouting)

JC:     Wanna tell them anything else?

Jess:   Nope.

JC:     Sure?

Jess:   Positive. You're not doing this way I wanted you to, ya know. (she's still pouting)

Jess:   Quit being a [bleep] and telling them everything I'm doing or I'm walking sister!

JC:     All right, all right! Geez, you're grouchy tonight. What's wrong?

Jess:   I'm tired! My horrible boss made us all work overtime, and my dead groupies whined all night at me about paying attention to them so I haven't slept in over 24 hours.

JC:    Sorry. I know how grouchy they can make you. How about we talk about your work instead?

Jess:   'K. My actual work is pretty boring. The bad part is I work in a hospital so I'm always on alert to ignore the dead running around there. It's a bit tough because my two best girlfriend's work there too, and they don’t know about my stupid cursed gift.

JC:    So, from your point of view, interacting with the dead the way you do is a curse?

Jess:  Yes. A curse. Definitely.

JC:     Is there anything about work you do like?

Jess:   The good thing about work is that Maggie works with me and we get to see Cora fairly often. On occasion, I even get a long enough break to meet Paul for lunch.

JC:     Why don't you tell everyone about those three?.

Jess:   Well, Paul and I met in college. He's like my brother and sister all rolled into one. He's been my BFF since the first day we met. I mean, who doesn't love a good Drag Queen? Maggie is a genuine sweetheart, gorgeous inside and out and she always knows when I'm arriving at work, it's a bit unsettling. And Cora, well, she's feisty, a fighter, and a bit of a cougar. She's always got an eye on some cute young guy.

Cora:   Now wait just a minute! I am NOT a cougar.

JC:      Well, hello Cora, Maggie, Paul. Nice of you to join us. Is this the way it's always going to be? I try to interview Jess and you three jump on in?

Paul:    Oh, quit it. You love us all and you know it. (Paul grins as he plants kisses on our cheeks)

Maggie:  Hi, JC! You know perfectly well that wherever Jess is we're not too far behind. Someone's gotta keep her on the sober train.

Cora:   Seriously! I'm not a cougar. I'm forty, fit, and fabulous. What man in his right mind wouldn't want me?

Paul:   Well, me doll. You're just not my type. You know you don't have the 'right parts' for me. (Cora sticks her tongue out at him making him laugh)

JC:      Enough you two. C'mon you guys. I'm trying to interview Jess and it's becoming a three-ring circus (like usual) in here!

Maggie:   We're sorry. What else did you want to know?

Jess:     Aw, [bleep]! Give it up JC. We're done here. Let's take this circus on the road and go get something to eat. I'm starving and want something chocolate!

JC:       Fine. But I get dibs on the hot fudge!

Sorry folks, this is what goes on in my head on a routine basis. Welcome to my world!





Wednesday, January 18, 2012

New Business Book

A friend of mine just released his first book today. Self published on lulu.com, he's working on getting it into Kindle and Nook formats.

Here's the blurb on it:

This book is a collection of 9 BlissPoints. They are unique marketing concepts that the author has developed over the past 22 years of marketing for Hi-Tech Start-ups and Fortune 500 organizations. These BlissPoints have enable him to see things differently, no matter the situation. They are examples where he has stolen the show and literally moved the spotlight away from the traditional and focused it on the unusual or the unique. Each point is a different area where he has found success by emotionally connecting to his audience and by doing things a little differently. The author believes in going against traditional thinking and exploiting things that others have missed. So, here's his challenge to you: "Look for the value and overcome the fears that keep you from stepping out on stage, whatever that stage may be. Go ahead! Steal the show." 

He's always had GREAT ideas for IT companies, so I thought I'd share. There may be something in there for authors too.  I can tell you, he has a loyal fan base from the various IT camps and we love him enough to follow him into his new career of writing about business.

Just thought I'd share.
Stealing The Show

Monday, January 16, 2012

Musing on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

(I liked this one enough I decided to post it here as well as the GRRWG blog).

I didn't realize that my day to blog would fall on Martin Luther King, Jr. day. Perhaps that's because I haven't gotten this particular holiday off in over a dozen years. (Which isn't all that big of a surprise, after all my job is in IT and we typically do our biggest work on days when no one else is working.)

So, I started looking at some of his quotes. Everyone knows this one and it remains my absolute favorite:


"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."
Martin Luther King, Jr.

I was young enough when he was killed to not really get the importance of his death. Kids tend to be too self-absorbed to get some of the bigger events in their life. At the time I was more concerned about my math homework and recess than anything else. It wasn't until later on that I figured out how important he was.

This quote always gets me thinking about doors opening and paths not taken:


"All progress is precarious, and the solution of one problem brings us face to face with another problem."
Martin Luther King, Jr.

There are times when I'm involved in various groups that I wonder if Dr. King truly understood what he started for the rest of us. The Stonewall Riots came just a year later, helping bring the homosexual community together to take on the oppressive laws throughout the US (of which many are still on the books to my great dismay). Just two years later the first Gay Pride marches were held in LA, Chicago, and New York.

I believe our lawmakers have tried to make laws that will protect us all from discrimination, I'm just not sure they work well. Perhaps that's because some lawyers want to interpret the intent of the law, while others look for loopholes. Why don't we try simpler language? For instance: "A company is to interview all skillfully qualified candidates." (Already the lawyer in my head has a dozen questions). Can't we just use common sense?


The year that Dr. King died, women were given protections from sex discrimination by an Executive Order, and affirmative action plans were required for hiring women. A year later, my home state of California, adopted the "No Fault" divorce law, allowing divorces by mutal consent. In contradiction, men still had legal control of whether or not their wives worked and where they would live - in California of all places! Luckily that law has since been axed.  This was the year I started paying attention to women's rights as I had one grandfather who constantly told me what professions were "appropriate" for girls, of which a Veterinarian was not one, and another one who told me girls could be anything we wanted to and that my chavenistic grandfather was full of it.

"Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better.
Martin Luther King, Jr. "

This quote always brings to mind several friends who are talented, outspoken people, many of who are Gay. While minorites and women have come a long way, the Gay community as a whole hasn't seen as much progress. And the sad part is, they've been there for the rest of us all along. It is fairly well understood that making progress for one oppressed group helps bring the other groups forward as well. I was quoted over the summer as saying something along the lines of "It is now our time to stand up for the LGBT community, as they were there for women in the 70's". I do feel responsibility to be an ally and to help move understanding of this community forward. And it makes me incredibly happy to see the current generation being more tolerant in general when it comes to orientation, skin color and gender.

However, I don't think we are quite at the point where people are judged for the content of their character. We seem to be sliding backwards on that one. Perhaps technology is to blame for as we put more and more focus on what people look like (regardless of skin color) and less on who they are. Televeision, YouTube, and the anonymity of the internet, have made instant judgements incredibly easy, without forcing people to take the time to truly think things through.  Bullying has skyrocketed and too many teens and young adults are committing suicide over violent vitriolic posts on social media sites.

Still, on this particular holiday I have great hope that someday Dr. King may be able to look down and smile upon a nation that finally accepts people as they are and for who they are. Even though we may be taking a few steps back, we are still miles down the road from where Dr. King started.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

BioWare's Star Wars game

I work on tech all day, last thing I want to do at the end of the day is do more tech stuff. My poor, dear hubby asked me to learn how to play this new Star Wars game (think Star Wars meets World of Warcraft) over my Christmas vacation. I have yet to even setup an account.

Blogging after a day of techie stuff isn't so bad, it's quick enough and I can write in LibreOffice and do a cut-paste when I'm ready to put it up. Not quite the same as playing a game for hours or working on a web page, This Star Wars game eats up a ton of time, and based on what I've seen of the interface and how much he's on the keyboard, I'm still stalling learning it, even though I'd have my own personal tutor, I'm resisting learning something new.

I'm stalling on making a web site for myself as well. Tweaking code and designing pages after a day of troubleshooting broken tech isn't a passion of mine. So I'm always looking for help.If you have any comments on layout, colors, whatever, feel free to leave me a comment. I'm always working on my writing and blogs.

I'm also working on pulling excerpts from both the Jess Barker and Fey Life series to post. Problem is that Jess requires a bit of "editing" to make her language more family friendly.  Perhaps you'll laugh as I do at my characters from time to time.

Come on by this weekend, I'll hopefully have some more Jess stuff posted by then. Perhaps I'll add another page for excerpts and short stories.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Contest News!

An author from my writer's group is having a contest. If you like Paranormal Romance (or even if you don't), take a peek at her website. You can win a book or an Amazon gift card for simply answering a question.

Here's the link:
Sidney Ayers' Contest

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

My Characters Wreak Havoc - Again!

I'm SO glad to know that I'm not alone in having people in my head telling me their stories. But I often wonder if other writers have characters that make them laugh at inappropriate times and buy way too many of something.

For example, The Scot has me buying sewing machines like they're going out of style. I did manage to stop him after my last two acquistions: a gorgeous White treadle machine and an old Kenmore in amazing shape. But now I have to work on getting some of these machines out of my house, and try to get back at least what they cost me to begin with.  I am learning quite a bit about their mechanics though, and how to fix them, so there is a positive side to his "influence.  I mean really, how many of these can you keep around?



Jess had me laughing all morning with comments like: "Just because you're dead doesn't mean you can't be a complete asshat!" and "You're dead. I'm alive. Get over it and let me get some damn sleep!".  And the one that made me really snort today: "Honey, your boobs are all crooked, here let me fix 'em." (She was helping Jolita into a new costume).

Since I've been sick and on cold meds, when I laugh my co-workers stare at me strangely and ask if I'm okay.  What makes it funnier to me is her thick Texas drawl and the way some of her dead groupies whine at her.  Visuals of Jolita in a bad costume don't help any either, especially given that she looks a lot like the ever-gorgeous RuPaul.



Then there's Merie. She gives me images of God (who's a woman by the way) grabbing Satan by his blond curly locks, looking into his baby blue eyes and shaking him like a ragdoll while she chastises him for something evil he had his minions do. Again. And she has a habit of doing so at the most inappropriate times, like when I'm in the middle of some really difficult tech problem or on the phone with a customer or in a meeting with the owners of the company.

And finally, there's Collie. My fey-hybrid who's basically a  supermodel and an environmentalist - of which I am most definitely neither! She rants at me for throwing something out that she feels should be recycled. Actually, she's kind of annoying, but I adore Bambi, her vegan fey-hybrid servant who chastises Collie as much as Collie chastises me.

On the other hand, Collie does give me some really fun craft ideas. She's behind some of my latest additions to my fabric stash, and encourages me in trying new shopping bag designs to put on my etsy shop (www.etsy.com/pyrhaven). Bambi gave me the idea of modifying some apron designs that are really cute, but that makes my fabric stash grow even more.

I wonder if the IRS would understand writing off a fabric stash as a "mental health" issue?