Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Still Alive

New foster puppy. Revisions to vampire proposal. Thanksgiving/family. Revisions to manuscript. Outline for next book.

Sometimes blogging is the last thing on my mind. But my mom said people might worry about me if I didn't post. So I'm posting.


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

A Brief Observation

I normally try to keep politics out of this blog, but since I work with words, and politicians occasionally utter ridiculous words, this seemed relevant:

In this AP article, Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham note that "If the election were tomorrow, we'd be in trouble," implying that Republicans would lose big time because the country is in deep doo-doo due to their party's policies and mishaps.

What they fail to acknowledge is that if the election were tomorrow, they wouldn't be sitting there admitting that things are bad. They'd be singing the praises of their perfect President and blaming everything on the Democrats. And because whoever uses the nastiest rhetoric gets the most votes, the Republicans would be in no trouble at all and would undoubtedly increase their margin of power.

Today, honesty is politically affordable. Once that calendar flips to 2006, I predict that prices will jump. Too bad there's no stock exchange on moral values.

Monday, November 21, 2005


Yeah, I know, I promised to start my new series, "Priceless Advice," today, but it ain't happening. I haven't finished everything I wanted to accomplish on my revisions, and the writing has to come first.

That and Monday Night Football. PACKUUURRRRS!!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Top 25 Fantasy Movies

Each Friday, IGN Film Force adds to their 13-part series on the top 25 movies of each genre. I was glad to see that their Top 25 Fantasy Movies included films that included magic of the non-sword-and-sorcery type, films like Groundhog Day (one of my favorite movies, period), Babe, and Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.

If I could wave a--er, magic wand--and change the list, I'd include more like these (Big, Pleasantville) and give the boot to crapfests like Excalibur and The Clash of Titans.


Friday, November 18, 2005

Priceless Advice: Intro

Published authors love to toss out advice with the cheery benevolence of bead-throwers at a Mardi Gras parade. And why not?

After all, we've crawled on our knees and elbows through the battlefield, marveled at our survival, and now assume that we succeeded in finding an audience because We Did Something Right. That Something must be shared, must be handed down to new writers with such conviction that they believe it originated on a stone tablet from Mt. Sinai.

The problem is, most advice is based on our own experience and therefore may not apply to the writer beginning a career two, five, ten, twenty, or even fifty years after we did. Not only does the business change over time, but what works for me won't necessarily work for you, due to differences in temperament, style, and circumstance.

Beware of writers who say, “You must do it my way.” For example:

“You must outline your entire novel before you begin.”


“You must not outline your novel before you begin.”


“You must turn clockwise three times standing on your knuckles while chanting the lyrics to “Ragtime Gal” before you sit down at your computer. If you don’t know the words, look them up, or watch that Warner Brothers cartoon with the singing frog. You want to be a writer, don’t you? DON’T YOU??!!! Then DO IT!! It’s the ONLY WAAAAAAYY!”

My cynical side (it’s really more of a “chunk” than a “side”) wonders if some published writers give bad advice on purpose so as to reduce their competition (see Mark Leyner’s Et Tu, Babe for a pants-wettingly hilarious rendition of this maneuver). That's just the kind of thing I would do--I mean, the kind of thing I could imagine a paranoid, insecure, very bad BAD person doing.

But I digress, further and further. Story of my life.

Yesterday I read an article in a writing magazine that dispensed the most laughably unrealistic and rigid advice imaginable. It was intended to inspire and motivate, but it made me--and many other writers, no doubt--feel inadequate and guilty for falling short, for being merely human. (More on that Monday.)

I'm starting a weekly series of blog posts debunking some of the most popular bits of conventional wisdom and mythology surrounding the writing life. When the series is finished, I'll post it somewhere else on the website so it can be read all at once, in a (hopefully) more polished form.

Eventually I'll get around to the one piece of advice that's not horse-hockey: To be a writer, you must write.

Come back Monday for Part One: Writing Routines, or Can I Get a Bouncer for My Office Door?


Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Man in Black

Occasionally a movie comes around that I promise myself to see, regardless of reviews. I try not to even look at the reviews, in case they're bad. Walk the Line, the new Johnny Cash biopic, was one of these movies.

This morning I couldn't resist peeking at to get an overview of the critics' reception. Walk the Line has an 81% rating, which means it's good. Very good.

Anyone who knows me well, or even has passed me on the street once or twice, knows that I hhhaaaate country/western music. Actually, it's only C/W in its slicked-up, botoxed, jingoistic contemporary manifestation that I hate. You know, the men and women whose butts have never graced a saddle, whose clothes and teeth are oh-so-shiny, and who claim that President Bush has a place in Heaven reserved right next to Jay-sus and anyone who says different should be strung up like one of them peen-yatas.

My grandmother used to say, "That Johnny Cash can leave his shoes under my bed any day." (When I was a kid, I thought that meant that he could stay over at her house, as I often did, so they could both fall asleep watching Perry Mason.) As I grew older, I pretty much forgot all about him (Cash, not Mason--okay, I forgot about him, too). A 2003 family trip to Memphis awakened my dormant fascination with all those country and blues legends that formed the infant rock 'n' roll--Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, and of course, Elvis Presley.

I think "Walk the Line" is one of the most romantic songs ever written. It reminds me of myself and how, um, flighty--yeah, that's the word--I used to be before my sweetie came along and discovered a well of devotion I didn't even know I had.

As sure as night is dark and day is light
I keep you on my mind both day and night
And happiness I've known proves that it's right.

Everybody together now: Awwwww.....

Yeah, shut up. Anyway, I'll let you know how the movie is.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Carpal Tunnel of Love

Whatever the muscle is that makes the mouse button click, it hurts. No more typing today. Instead I'll reread the manuscript of The Eyes of Crow and try to figure out what's good about it before I start tearing it apart for the final draft.

May all your metacarpals remain well-lubricated, and may all your Christmases be white. Okay, so I suck at the affirmation thing. Catch you tomorrow, y'all.


Monday, November 14, 2005

Buddy, Part Two

Buddy went to his "forever home" yesterday. It was the fastest we've ever had one of our fosters adopted. A good thing, too, because I was really falling for him.


Sunday, November 13, 2005

Pickup Lines

Saw this on Laura Anne Gilman's blog [UPDATE: and mystery writer J.A. Konrath's blog) and decided to be a copycat, but since I don't have any short stories (not a fan of the form, and it's apparently not a fan of me either), I'll include first lines from all my novels rather than just my works-in-progress, and I'm going to include the full first paragraphs, just 'cuz.

Hope they grab you and make you wanna get to know me better, maybe take me home with you, rather than throw a drink in my face and call the bouncer.

Waiting in Ambush (never-to-be-published first novel):
He took a long swig of cold water and thought, it’s just not the same without scotch in it. But those days were behind him now, like the gray highway unraveling in his rearview mirror.
Requiem for the Devil (Warner, 2001):
Some days it's good to be the Devil. November 7, 1997, started out as one of those days, and ended as something quite different.
Rivers in the Desert (as-yet unpublished third novel):
The word sprawled across the hood of the black sport utility vehicle, block letters in yellow spray paint.
The Forgetting (unfinished direct sequel to Requiem):
The American wet dream is self-employment, or so they say. Own your own business and be your own boss. Take orders from yourself instead of the Man. Work hard, be clever, and someday you, too, can be a software kingpin or a drug tycoon.
Angel's Gambit (unfinished eventual sequel to Requiem):
Killing babies was against Agatha's nature, but not nearly as much as standing by and watching the world burn.
Bad Company (vampire novel-in-progress):
Family curses never die, they just get watered down. In Greek mythology, the Curse of the House of Atreus began with a guy making soup du jour out of his own son. But I’ll bet anything that generations later, the Curse only made the Atreus family forget to send each other birthday cards.
The Eyes of Crow (Luna, 2006):
The dog would not die.

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Saturday, November 12, 2005

Transition time

I got feedback on The Eyes of Crow from my editor yesterday (she liked it a lot--whew!) and have to turn in the final manuscript as well as an outline for Book 2 (The Voice of Crow) by December 15. The edits she asked for were not numerous or major, but since this is the final final draft, it's my last chance to make the book as strong as it can be. Therefore I plan to use the full month-plus to "perfect" it.

So I will spend this weekend in one last glorious immersion in the vampire novel, writing as much as I can. Then comes the transition period. It's excruciating, quite frankly. I don't know how writers can flip back and forth between projects like they were interchangeable pairs of pants. For me it's like tearing off one personality and squeezing into another one. (Why this brings to mind some sort of comic book supervillain, I'm not sure.)

The fact that these two projects are so different doesn't help. One is contemporary, set in a fictional version of my town; the other takes place in an invented world recognizable as earth but with few modern trappings (and no slang--aaugh!). One is comedic; the other serious. One is skeptical and sarcastic; the other deeply spiritual. If my two heroines were to meet, I don't even know if they'd like each other, although they could probably have an hours-long conversation about dogs (and boyfriends who bear a remarkable resemblance to Cillian Murphy).

Both women are equally "me;" they're just different parts of me. Neither enjoys being stuck in a drawer.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Starship Earth

Last night when I took the dogs out for Penultimate Potties, I looked up at the sky, as always.

Venus hung low to my right, the moon sat in front of me, and Mars was off to my left. Seeing these three heavenly bodies at once in their respective positions, I had the sensation of being As in, my planet's position was no longer just an abstract bit of knowledge plucked from an almanac. I could imagine looking down on the solar system and pointing out each of the four orbs.

I don't know if I'm making any sense here. It must seem kind of "Well, duh." But I thought it was cool.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Democracy can design intelligently

I won't comment too much on this development because the subject makes me hyperventilate with rage and call well-intentioned if willfully ignorant people really bad names. All I'll say is "Yay."

And this:

This story, and recent developments in Kansas, prove how important it is to vote in every election, not just the biggies. Examine carefully the platforms of candidates for your local and state school boards. The Religious Right is famous for planting "stealth candidates" that seem innocuous but once elected fight to change school curriculums to concur with their narrow belief system.

Stay awake, get involved, and get your butt to the polling places every November (and don't forget primary and special elections, too). Lecture concluded.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


It's been a long time since I've wanted to do nothing but write. Since Friday morning, the first draft engine has been puffing away, adding over fifty pages to my vampire novel. I finally decided to let myself go into full First Draft Mode while I wait for revisions from my editor on The Eyes of Crow. E-mails go unanswered, newspapers go unread, pets go unfed (yeah, right).

The cool thing is, I'm writing to tell myself the story, not to achieve a daily page count and not to meet the specifications of any particular publisher*.

I really hope this series gets bought, because when I'm writing it, I'm more than happy--I'm downright cheerful. The main character (a human) is smart, sexy, and sarcastic, and she doesn't take any crap--unless it furthers her own goals, of course. She's a liar and a thief by nature and upbringing but trying her best to put those talents to good use.

If you can call preserving the emotional and professional well-being of a half-dozen vampires a "good use."

Obviously I've been putting all my writing energy into the book, because this post is pretty lame. Forgive me, and allow me to skedaddle back to my current obsession.

*Luna is considering an offer on it under my option clause, but I have no idea yet what they think of it or if my editor has even read the proposal. I'm in that awful/wonderful limbo place where I can still imagine the magic phone call from my agent telling me I can quit my day job and replace that '93 Honda and the refrigerator that freezes the milk and rattles so loudly it drowns out the stereo, even though I know that they probably won't want it and neither will anyone else, because that's just the statistical reality of the business. (That's not to whine or fish for reassurances or compliments; it's just the fact, Jack.)

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Buddy, Part One

Our new foster dog arrived Sunday after a two-day odyssey from Harrodsburg, Kentucky. His name is Buddy, and you can't have him!

Just kidding. Technically, he's available for adoption, but technically I love him. I took some fantastic pictures of him yesterday and will post the best one here as soon Chris can teach me AGAIN how to reduce the size of the file.

Buddy's a bit on the timid side, but he's friendly once he gets to know people, which takes all of two minutes. The weird thing is, he won't venture beyond our kitchen, living room and dining room. It's as if there's a force field holding him back. It's as if


someone cast "Circle of Protection: Mutt" at the threshold of our hallway and stairs. (This spell allows Meadow to pass, since she's a purebred greyhound.)

He and Meadow have started to play, although he has yet to lose the "Let me put your head in my mouth" game as quickly as she would like. She may have met her match.

The cats, meanwhile, think a shy dog is a marvelous thing. "I love the smell of fear in the morning," Misha says. "Smells like--victory."


Sunday, November 06, 2005

It's all about Dotti

Sue Burkhard, one of the fine people on my greyhound listservs, has a dog named Dotti Hi Socks (aka, Snotti Dotti, Naughty Dotti, and the list goes on). The antics of this beleaguered owner and her incorrigible dog have entertained us on the list for years. Now Dotti's stories are available in paperback for the unsuspecting general public.

An article in the South Bend Tribute tells the story of how Dotti came to destroy--er, enrich Sue's life, why she's donating all profits to Animal Aid of Southwestern Michigan, and a lovely picture of Dotti in a hat to hide her intimidating ears.

Stories include "Dotti Hi Socks Ate My Bedroom," "Dotti Hi Socks Ate My W-2," and "Dotti Hi Socks is Trying to Kill Me."

My favorite is "Dotti Hi Socks Stole My Date," in which we find out how she acquired the nickname "Dotti Ho Socks."

Friday, November 04, 2005

No cream for this kitty

I just found this clever blog-story about a vampire cat entitled Death Sucks. It's updated every week or so with a new chapter. (Hint: unlike most blogs, the newest entry is at the end, so start reading at the top of the web page, or you'll be as confused as I was.)

I'm not usually one for reading fiction online. First of all, most online novels and stories, well, suck*. They're on the web in the first place because the writers couldn't find a publisher, or gave up after getting a couple of rejections or, worst of all, were afraid to submit it for fear of rejection. Second of all, it hurts my eyes to read too much text at one time.

But this one's funny and well-written enough to keep me interested in spite of all that. The chapters are short and can be read in a few minutes. I hope it finds a publisher one day.

*When I say "online," I mean posted on a web site, not an electronic book. Many e-books are awesome. For instance...

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Day of the Dead

was yesterday, but Andrew's comment on the Halloween post reminded me of this lovely op-ed by Diane Cameron in the Baltimore Sun.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


To avoid thinking about what happened one year ago today, let's look ahead, shall we? Yesterday was the Negative One-Year Anniversary of the official release of The Eyes of Crow. Keep an eye out for an annoying, self-aggrandizing countdown to appear on this blog's sidebar, just as soon as my webmaster can figure out the JavaScript applet to make it happen.

I'll start now: 363 days, 4 hours, 38 minutes to go! Synchronize your watches! Pretend you care! Leave comments that repeat the word "SQUEEEEE!" to show your enthusiasm!


This Side of Salvation

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“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**


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Jeri Smith-Ready

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

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