Tuesday, June 28, 2005

No! No! Bad! Baaaaaad!

This and this made it past my meticulously constructed anti-clown fortress because of Majikthise and Kung Fu Monkey.

Going to hide under the stairs now and croon "Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam" until the shaking stops.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Batman Begins: The Antidote

We saw Batman Begins last Saturday, thus completing our mini-Christopher Nolan festival (we watched Memento Friday night--amazing movie that will twist your brain in ways you thought it couldn't go).

Batman Begins was, in a word, terrific. It wasn't perfect--the film editor in me wanted to cut the parts where characters shout exposition at each other, however necessary it was to get the information across. But it felt real to me in a way that no other movie of its genre ever has.

Aw, heck, I suck at writing reviews, at transforming my gut reactions into words more eloquent than, "Whoa, cool." So read Film Freak Central's review to see what I thought of it.

On a more personal level, Batman Begins was the Batman movie I always wanted to see. Scratch that--it was the Batman movie I needed to see ever since Joel Schumacher's soul-annihilatingly awful Batman & Robin, which was the single most painful moviegoing experience of my life.

Chris O'Donnell surfing down through the atmosphere, Arnold Schwarzenegger saying, "You're not sending ME to the COOLER!", the pointless, celluloid-munching romance between George Clooney and whatever vapid model was trying to make the leap to acting that year--these memories used to throw me into bouts of hyperventilating apoplexy, the kind that you normally only see in survivors of wars or natural disasters.

But now I can look back and smile, knowing that the franchise is now safe in the hands of a man who understands Batman enough to know that he would never put nipples on his armor.

P.S.: Cillian Murphy as Dr. Crane/Scarecrow: was there ever a more adorable, huggable, stuff-in-a-bag-and-take-home-able villain? I think not. Those eyes, those cheekbones, that verging-on-heroin-chic fair skin...I'm done fer.

P.S.S.: On a related note, I refuse to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. After the extensive makeup work Johnny Depp underwent for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Pirates of the Caribbean, covering every bit of his natural sex appeal, I thought my attraction to him was as impervious as Kevlar.

NOT. SO. The trailer to Charlie alone was a serious threat. Depp freaked me out every time he opened his mouth. Shudder. I may need to watch Chocolat again to rekindle the swoon.

Because Batman Begins proves that there's an antidote for everything.

Friday, June 24, 2005

This One Goes to Eleven

...and beyond, of course.

Tonight marks eleven years since Christian Ready and I became husband and wife (not man and wife, because he was already a man when I married him, if you know what I mean--bow chicka bow!).

I can best characterize our marriage by telling a little anecdote we recounted over the breakfast table this morning. A few years ago we went to a friend's wedding where the officiant went on for several minutes about how much work is involved in marriage. This guy made it sound as if marital fulfillment was a Sisyphean chore, never complete, like weeding the garden or cleaning the kitchen sink.

We looked at each other during the sermon and realized we were missing some essential piece of life that seemed so obvious to everyone else. We were so busy having fun and making each other happy, we forgot to work at it, forgot to put "love each other" on our to-do list.

Now you may shake your head and go, "Jeri Jeri Jeri, just wait until you hit hard times, then you'll realize how much work marriage really is." Well, we've had hard times. What Hamlet called "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" have hit us as sharply as anyone else. Deaths, layoffs, medical problems, wet sock feet from puddles outside the shower--you name it, we've been through it.

Life hasn't always been easy. But being together sure is.

Oh, and I don't mean to sound smug. Just impossibly, ecstatically grateful.

Honey, I hope this counts as a card, because I forgot to pick one up last night. Pretend there's a teddy bear or something at the top of the post. Love ya!

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Hope for Hubble

The Baltimore Sun reported yesterday that a Senate subcommittee has approved the down payment for a possible Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission, without which it will die by the middle of 2008.

Longtime Hubble champion Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski made it happen, of course.
"I have long said that Hubble is the greatest scientific instrument since Galileo's telescope," she said in a written statement. "That's why I wasn't going to let it die without a fight."
It's good to know that some Democrats still know how to stand up for what they believe in. Go, Babs!

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Fight Mannequinism

No, it's not an early Christian heresy espousing the inherent duality of God, it's the tendency to become frozen by apathy into a state of nonaction.

Thanks to Carole for sending this amusing site my way.

And God bless the Ad Council. Both of Him.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

What? No "CPO Sharkey"?

Note: Not much blogging today because I'm trying to finish a project. I picked up a summer research job with a criminology/public policy professor at University of Maryland. Maybe I'll make enough to buy a new washing machine (ooh, the wild ambitions of the thirty-somethings). Anyway, here's a post I wrote last week and forgot to publish.

Lest I become too preciously relevant with all this political stuff:

MSN lists the ten coolest TV shows not yet on DVD. I agree with most of them: who wouldn't want to spend an evening with our old friends from "WKRP in Cincinnati"? I was too young at the time to stay up 'til ten for the groundbreaking "Hill Street Blues" or "St. Elsewhere," so those would fill in a vital blank space in my TV-watching canvas. And of course, no David Lynch fan's repertoire would be complete without the second season of "Twin Peaks."

I was going to suggest "Northern Exposure," but hurrah!! just in time for my birthday, the first three seasons have finally been released.

So instead I'll add "Bosom Buddies." Sure, it was a ripoff of Some Like it Hot, but it featured good slapstick and a young Tom Hanks in a wig--what could be better? I confess, I had a crush on Peter Scolari, replaced by Michael Keaton the following year (I cried when "Report to Murphy" was canceled).

What show would you add to the list?

Sunday, June 19, 2005

They've looked at clouds from both sides now

Have you ever looked to the west about half an hour after a summer sunset and seen wispy, luminescent clouds stretch pale blue tendrils across the sky?

No? Then you need to get out more, and move north if possible.

These spectacular clouds--called noctilucent clouds--are actually on the very edges of Earth's atmosphere, almost in outer space itself. Astronauts on the International Space Station have seen them from above (clink the link to see photos), and those at 40 degrees latitude or more on Earth can see them routinely from below.

We live at about 39.5 degrees latitude, and I know I've seen them many times. I just thought they were clouds. I didn't realize they were "space clouds," or as I've decided to call them, "space-cicles."

Noctilucent clouds are formed of ice crystals, which are more common in the upper atmosphere now, due to two factors: 1) global warming: while greenhouse gases cook the lower atmosphere (the part we live in, unfortunately), they cool the upper atmosphere; 2) higher levels of space dust, as a result of no-one-knows-what.

Whatever the reason, they sure are purty.

Saturday, June 18, 2005


So very, very long ago, it seems, I mentioned that the acquisitions committee of a major publisher was considering my proposal for a fantasy trilogy. Then later I teased you about it again, before realizing that negotiations were still in the works.

Now it's finally final, finally finally final. On Halloween 2006, Luna Books will release the first volume of my trilogy, tentatively titled Aspect of Crow. This will be my first publication by a traditional print publisher--the kind that gives advances and sends its books to real, non-virtual bookstores, bookstores that have shelves and coffee shops and bored employees who pick at their eyebrow rings while concentrating very hard on ignoring you.

Anyway, Luna is the new fantasy imprint of Harlequin Enterprises. Before you go imagining some kind of bodice ripper (which technically no one writes anymore, anyway), be advised that Luna is fantasy first. The amount of romance varies from book to book, from "none" all the way up to "bunches" (to use sophisticated statistical terms). The only thing they all have in common is a strong, complex female protagonist who uses her own abilities to save the world--or at least her part of it. She doesn't stand on the sidelines watching the blokes take care of everything. Anyone who grew up reading fantasy and wishing the women would actually do something besides waft around in frilly gowns, check out these books.

I've read most of the Luna offerings so far and have enjoyed them all. The fact that I can remember each of them vividly is a testament both to their variety and quality. I only hope I can measure up to the caliber of authors--people like Mercedes Lackey, Catherine Asaro, Christie Golden, Robin Owens, and many more.

A few years ago, several people in the publishing business told me to pretend I was a new writer, that having been e-published carries a worse stigma than never being published, even though my e-publisher was Time Warner. The funny thing is, the whole Luna deal began because an editor there loved Requiem and wanted to bring me on board. So rather than hurting my career, the e-publishing venture led to what, by any measure, can now be called "my big break."

I'll tell you more about my new book in a few weeks, when I've started the second draft. Right now I'm trying to forget it so I can revise with a fresh eye. I still dream about it, and I still wake with shreds of the Lord of the Rings soundtrack playing in my head (I wrote to it nonstop the last few weeks).

Mark your calendars: next year I'm having the biggest Halloween/book debut/Election Week bash you've ever seen. Or possibly the only one you've ever seen.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Science Friday

  • Sweet, dude!
Scientists at the USDA have added a chemical to table sugar to create an environmentally friendly pesticide, according to this article on LiveScience.com. The pesticide leaves no chemical residues and can't penetrate human skin. It's currently used against a mite that has decimated honey bee populations but the EPA is looking to approve it for household use against wasps and cockroaches.
  • Deep Impact: the Not-Movie
This July 4th, a portion of NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft will collide with Comet Tempel 1. The collision--or at least the resulting BAM!--will be visible to the average backyard telescope on Earth. Principal Investigator Michael A'Hearn of the University of Maryland (Woo! Fear the Turtle!) says that the mission is designed to learn more about the interior makeup of comets, which will teach us a lot about how the solar system was formed. Also, it's nice to know what happens when a comet explodes, in case one ever heads our way...
  • Their Honors Have Honor
On Monday, the U.S. Conference of Mayors unanimously passed a resolution requiring cities to try to meet or exceed standards set by the Kyoto Protocol. The Protocol is the global warming treaty ratified by the international community earlier this year, with the glaring exception of the United States. These cities can do it; Toronto did.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Hold the escargots

"Clown taste is like French cooking."
--this ad


Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Bawlmer is Hot, Hon!

Hon is a feeling that you have in your heart.
-- Denise Whiting, founder of HonFest and owner of Cafe Hon and the Hon Bar
International travel experts Frommer's has listed Baltimore as one of this year's top ten up and coming summer destinations.

I'm not kidding. Here's what they say:

If you've never considered Baltimore, now is the time. It's undergoing a cultural renaissance that goes beyond baseball and steamed crabs. Check out the fascinating medieval art, suits of armor, and Egyptian mummies at the Walters Art Museum. Then, fast forward to the American Visionary Art Museum where the offbeat and funky works will engage your imagination. Go "down under" at the always popular National Aquarium in its new wing devoted to "Animal Planet Australia" opening this fall. Top off your day by visiting one of the new ethnic restaurants that have been popping up in neighborhoods like Fells Point, Mount Vernon, and Little Italy that make dining an event unto itself.

A Must: Shop 'til you drop on Antique Row, where you'll discover silver, porcelains and chairs of all sizes and shapes.

No, I'm really not kidding.

But why spend the day in a stuffy art gallery when you could be attending the HonFest in Hampden? Sorry, it's over for this year (I meant to post this blog last Friday), but mark your calendars for HonFest 2006 (Saturday, June 10, 2006, on W. 36th St.), where you can celebrate big hair, cat's-eye sunglasses, and good old-fashioned charm. The event features the "Best Hon" contest, including prizes for "Li'l Hons," as well as a life-sized "Hon-Opoly" game, and--new this year--the "Hon Run."

Baltimore, Maryland, a city with a proud history, where our national anthem was written and our young democracy was defended from the ravaging Brits. Where Babe Ruth was born, and Edgar Allen Poe decided to die.

Come for the museums, stay for the Hons.

(Yankee fans, stay home.)

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

First draft finished

The prose is clunky, many minor characters lack names (they tend to be referred to as "[horse lady]", "[dead guy]", "[other dead guy]", ["?????"]), and a few scenes have no endings. But this ugly duckling's got swan genes, I just know it.

A novel's first draft can be compared to the sketches of a sculptor*: the basic form is there, you can sort of tell what the final version will look like, but it's just the beginning. The real work comes when I pick up the hammer and chisel in a few weeks to begin Draft 2.

I finished it Monday, then took yesterday off--no chores, no work (including blogging), no writing. I finished reading three books and started a fourth. When noon rolled around--my usual writing time--I started to get antsy, then bored, then depressed. Who knew I was such a workaholic?

I guess I'm addicted to the feeling of words rolling off my pen or keyboard. A day without writing is worse than a day without sunshine--with a heat index in the high 90s, I'll take a few clouds right now.

Though I was originally planning to take off two days in a row--you know, create one of those "weekends" I've heard so much about--I'm back in the saddle today, bloggin' 'til 9, then tackling the horror-movie-sized weeds in the front garden. Noon will find me back in front of my beloved laptop, revising a proposal for my agent.

By the weekend I'll be adding to a first draft of a Requiem sequel that I started back in 1998. I don't know if it'll ever sell, but it may be my last chance to write something simply because I love it. Especially if I'm the only one who ever does.

*Bonus: When I Googled "first-draft sketches of sculptures," I came across this site, a Photoshop contest showing famous artists' early works, stolen from the "archives" of their childhood art classes. My favorites are "Whistler's Mommy" and Mondrian's "Math Doodle." Be sure to check out both pages.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Chapter Last

Today I'll be finishing the first draft of my latest novel. It's been--gulp!--three years and a month since my last first draft (not counting those two screenplays).

I already feel a little post-manuscript depression, which reminds me of the emotional letdown after the closing of a play. The difference is, I have no one to share it with, no one with whom to have a beer and reminisce about the time the prop guy accidentally turned on a bandsaw backstage during the leading lady's death scene. I suppose I could have a nice glass of whiskey and remind myself, "Hey, remember that time you misspelled 'reticence'? Hah." But it's not the same.

I've been watching the seemingly endless Appendices to the Lord of the Rings movies lately. What an amazing team effort. Clearly it was stressful, but it seemed fun at times, and the four-year slog just added to the enormity of the collective accomplishment.

In comparison, novel writing feels lonely. I love what I do because I crave creative independence. But sometimes I long for collaboration again, the way it was in theatre. An obsession is much more fun when it's shared.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Book bloggin' Part I: Oprah ruins Americans' summers

With a good reading-group leader, they'll make it through As I Lay Dying. And they'll make it through Light in August. But they're going to start The Sound and the Fury and say, 'What is this?' (feigns throwing a book over shoulder)
--Richard Howarth, mayor of Oxford, MS, William Faulkner's hometown
Last week, Oprah Winfrey picked the above three William Faulkner novels as her summer reading choices. I appreciate her attempt to produce a more literate America, but five minutes with The Sound and the Fury may cause readers to gouge out their own eyes, thereby limiting themselves forever to audiobooks and books written in Braille.

Sure, everyone has their masochistic literary tastes. I'm a huge Thomas Hardy fan, and Fyodor Dostoevsky is my ever-lovin' sweetheart (literarily speaking, of course). But I wouldn't suggest to my audience of millions--er, dozens--that they should lug The Brothers Karamazov or Jude the Obscure to the beach (although Jude would fit in the sveltest of beach bags, if you're interested).

One has to wonder if Oprah is compensating for what Jonathan Franzen insinuated were her questionable literary tastes, after he rudely rebuffed her choice of his own novel The Corrections for her book club. Last year Oprah recommended Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, and millions of copies flew off the shelves, resulting in bruises, concussions, and countless cases of shoulder tendonitis. How many people actually read all 838 pages has yet to be determined.

A group of contemporary authors has recently written Oprah to ask her to please start recommending books by writers who still draw oxygen. We need the sales, and for many writers her book club was the difference between languishing forever in anonymity and languishing forever next to an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

Anyway, reviewer Jesse Kornbluth has some alternate suggestions for easing your way into Faulkner's inscrutable little world. But if you'd like to enjoy your summer, the Washington Post Book World just released its editors' picks for best books of the season.

I'm excited about The Good Wife by Stewart O'Nan. Last year I listened to O'Nan's Night Country on tape, and it ranks as one of my favorite Halloween-related experiences ever. I've also heard good things about Pearl by Mary Gordon. Two of my favorites, Bebe Moore Campbell and John Irving, have new novels appearing in July.

Will I be reading any of these? Nope. As a Jeri-come-lately to the world of fantasy, I've got several decades of that genre's classics to catch up on, as well as keeping on with new trends. But I couldn't resist Loving Soren by Caroline Coleman O'Neill, about the woman who tried to save my favorite philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, from himself. I'll let you know how that goes.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Dare I care?

Not to gloat, but the Yankees are under .500 again. And my hero-turned-traitor Randy Johnson has taken much of the blame for the Evil Empire's terrible season. My curse is working.

Okay, I'm gloating. But when Johnson left the Diamondbacks for the Yankees, it pretty much ended my love of baseball. No exaggeration there. It butchered my happiest baseball memory, that of the 2001 World Series, when Johnson and Curt Schilling won a joint MVP Award for their decimation of the Yankees' lineup. To me, Randy Johnson had always epitomized a quiet integrity, so different from the pompous prima donnas from the Bronx.

(Hmm, maybe that's why he doesn't pitch well in pinstripes: deep down he knows he doesn't belong there.)

I disowned the sport to the point where I didn't care that my childhood dream of a Washington baseball franchise had come true. In my mind, baseball was a fictional story that had a happy ending in the Red Sox 2004 World Series victory; anything else was a non-canonical sequel. Only the Orioles' unlikely success and the Yankees' continued mediocrity has coaxed me back, tentatively, to the sports page.

Maybe it's temporary. Maybe I'm a fool to love again. Maybe the Yankees' $200 million payroll will give Steinbrenner a return on his investment, and the myriad injuries the O's have taken to their lineup will finally hobble their march to the playoffs. Life will return to normal, and baseball will bring me pain once again, all the sharper for having once broken the addiction.

Or maybe the forces of good in this world are starting to wake up.


This Side of Salvation

This Side of Salvation, Jeri's new contemporary YA novel!

Now available in hardcover and ebook.

“A smart, well-rounded, and unpredictable tale...bringing to light issues of belief versus free will, spirit versus body, and family versus self.” —Booklist, **Starred Review**


Order from Indie Bound, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon.com.



"Shattered," a Shade novella!

Available here on this website as a free download in all major ebook formats, as well as a printable PDF (now with photos!).

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Jeri Smith-Ready

Jeri Smith-Ready is a Maryland author of books for teens and adults.

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