Saturday, December 31, 2005

Janus-head day

It's been a long December
and there's reason to believe
maybe this year will be better than the last
I can't remember all the times I try to tell myself
To hold on to these moments as they pass
--Counting Crows, "A Long December"
My one and only resolution for 2006:

To become a better, more successful writer, without forgetting how to live.


Oh, and go to the dentist.

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Friday, December 30, 2005

Retroactive Reading Resolution

In 2005 I resolve to read more books.
--me, December 31, 2004
Okay, I didn't really make that resolution, but I wish I had, because I read 52 books in 2005.

For most of the years I've been a writer--going on eleven now--I haven't allowed myself to read fiction. I considered it a waste of time because it was something I enjoyed, and the Puritan in me (who has nearly been exterminated, praise God) ordered myself to get back to work.

Then this February, after I received a publishing contract, I realized how clueless I was about the contemporary fiction market, not to mention the half-century of classic fantasy novels that had preceded me. I decided that reading was part of my job. Once it turned into a chore, I did it happily. (Okay, maybe the Puritan's not quite dead. )

So I set aside one hour per day--no more, no less. I have an oven timer that I add an hour to every night before I go to bed. Right now it says 8:55, which means I'm nearly nine hours behind on reading, which is fine. Eventually I'll catch up, maybe if I come down with a cold or find a particularly addictive novel.

Rather than listing all 52 books I've read this year, I'll just give you the Book of the Month, as determined by my book journal.

January: Goddess of Spring by P.C. Cast
February: A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L'Engle
March: Bloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore
April: Old Man's War by John Scalzi
May: Saturday by Ian McKewan
June: Loving Soren by Caroline Coleman O'Neill
July: Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison
August: Wicked by Gregory Maguire
September: The Destined Queen by Deborah Hale
October: Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
November: The Stand by Stephen King
December: Dark Lover by J.R. Ward

The last one deserves a bit of discussion. I started reading this vampire novel with much reluctance and skepticism, because it seemed to contain everything I hate about dark, pretentious vampire novels:
  • Tortured alpha males (who deserve a rant of their own one day on this blog)
  • A complex underground vampire society with archaic structure and laws (haven't vampires caught on to the whole democracy thing yet?)
  • Extreme sex and violence (uh, wait, I actually don't have a problem with those).
The characters even had names spelled in a way (Rhage, Tohrment, Phury) that made milk come out of my nose I was laughing so hard (and I wasn't even drinking milk at the time!) . I was prepared to loathe it. After 89 pages, I still loathed it, although slightly less than planned.

Then I loved it. It was funny, sexy, intriguing, and each character carved a little spot in my psyche and made a nest. When it was over, I wanted to read it again from the top, and even though I adore winter, I wanted it to end, wanted May to come so that I could read the next in the series.

In short, I felt the same way about this book as 99% of other readers. As they say, 100 million Bon Jovi fans can't be wrong.

Come back this time next year to find out what I resolve(d) to accomplish in 2006.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Firefox FUBAR

Sorry for the sidebar monstrosities occurring in Firefox browsers. Something's up with the template, and it'll be fixed shortly. In the meantime, read this blog in the perfectly adequate and deliciously flavored Internet Explorer.

Best wishes,
Bill Gates

UPDATE: It's fine now. Don't listen to Bill.

Sympathetic Characters

The other night I was sitting in church waiting for the Christmas Eve service to begin. As ordered by my sister, who directs the choir, we had arrived fifteen minutes early, which was her way of making sure we arrived on time.

Anyway, I'm sitting there listening to the pretty music when suddenly I think of Ciara*, the main (human) character in my vampire series. She had a happy childhood, and Christmas was a big part of that, but as she grew older she came to believe that her family's happiness had been based on a foundation of falsehood (mainly because her parents turned out to be liars and cheats preying on the faith of others). I realized how sad Christmas would make her feel now, having no family and feeling so bitter about religion.

Then I started to feel sad.

There are real people in my life, mind you, who are spending Christmas in poor health and/or spirits. But there I was, sitting in church feeling sorry for poor little Ciara*, who, I should mention again, DOES NOT EXIST.

Have I gone too far in my fictional fantasy life? Or have I invented/discovered/been blessed with such a vivid, complex character that she's become real to me on a deep emotional level? Either way, I haven't felt this close to a character since I wrote Requiem, which is going on eight years now.

The second book in the series, Bad to the Bone, takes place between Halloween and New Year's, so I'll get to deal with her dealing with Christmas next year. In that book, she meets her spirituality issues head-on when a religious cult threatens the lives and livelihoods of her friends.

But first, between now and the middle of February, I get to write Book One, Bad Company, without interruption. No more stopping to do another draft of Eyes of Crow. It's straight sailing at a blistering pace until "The End."

And since I'm twelve pages behind schedule, I better get back to it now.

*that's the proper Irish pronunciation KEY-ra, not See-AIR-ah like that perfume or that pop singer who doesn't know how to pronounce her own name.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

A Heartwarming Hanukkah Tale

For those of you who don't routinely read Rob Staeger's blog, Laughing at the Pieces, check out his mortifying holiday party story.

Sorry, Rob, but it was too good not to share with total strangers.

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Monday, December 26, 2005

Real Rich, just not Real

Forbes magazine, which routinely publishes lists of the wealthiest companies and individuals, has now ranked fictional characters. Find out if Montgomery Burns could buy out Richie Rich, or whether Lex Luthor will die with more toys than Bruce Wayne.

None of them, it turns out, can hold a gold-plated candle to the world's wealthiest character: Santa Claus.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

It's my Christmas, too

Truly He told us to love one another
His law is love
And His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break
For the slave is our brother,
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
What kind of pinko hippy crap is that? Peace and love and equality? That's limp-wristed left-wing talk, the kind we ought to suppress if we're ever to defeat the Turrrists.

Hey, wait: it's the second verse of "Oh Holy Night."

Because, y'know, we liberals hate Christmas. It's such an affront to our heathen, God-hating values. When we wish each other "Happy Holidays!" it's not out of respect for other religions, it's because we want to destroy Christmas. At least that's what Bill O'Reilly and other right-wing pundits who have nothing better to talk about would have you believe.

Let me tell you about the best Christmas sermon I ever heard. A few years back I made my husband drive over an hour so we could attend the Christmas Eve midnight service at my old Episcopal parish, the place where we were married and where, as a teenager, I felt connected to something magnificently spiritual for the first time in years.

Anyway, the priest, (whom I didn't know, as my old one had since retired), asked us why Jesus had been born. Answer: "Because God wanted us to fall in love with Him."

I was blown away by the idea of a deity reaching out, not to condemn or to smite, but to woo. That God might want our love as much as we want his, or possibly twenty billion times more than we want his. That to win such love he would become a helpless baby in dangerous times.

Turning Christmas from a day of love and joy into a political wedge issue, as the Rabid Right has done, dishonors everything the holy day stands for and yes, it dishonors the person in whose name we celebrate.

But I won't let them ruin my Christmas. Because if that happens, the Turrrists--I mean, O'Reilly and Limbaugh--will have won.

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Friday, December 23, 2005

Deleted Requiem scene

As a little Christmas gift to readers, I've posted the lost prologue (PDF format*) to Requiem for the Devil, which takes place in Bethlehem about a day after the Nativity.

The short prologue, like the epilogue, is written in objective point-of-view, which means the reader is not privy to any character's thoughts. My editor at Warner decided to cut it, thus robbing the book of its structural symmetry but not, I admit, of any crucial story elements.

Personally, I thought the prologue worked because it showed how Lucifer, until he met Gianna, truly did not comprehend the meaning of love, and was particularly confounded by the nature of his Father's love for humanity.

Be charitable when you read it; I wrote it several years ago when my style was a bit less sophisticated. And have a happy holiday, whichever one(s) you celebrate.

*Download the free Acrobat Reader from Adobe here if you don't have it (you probably do). I'll post an HTML version of the prologue as soon as I can format it.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Holiday favorites

Rarely had the words flowed from my penny pencil with such feverish fluidity.
--Jean Shepherd, In God We Trust (All Others Pay Cash)
A Christmas Story beat out It's a Wonderful Life as the best holiday movie of all time in IGN's Top 25 list. I liked that they included other holidays besides Christmas, thus allowing one of my all-time faves, Groundhog Day, to make the list.

I admit A Christmas Story is my favorite holiday movie, too. I can't explain why a movie about something so shallow as a Red Ryder BB-gun should instill such fervent love in me and so many other fans. It's the most unsentimental film for the most sentimental holiday, and yet somehow it works.

Favorite Christmas TV Special: Muppet Family Christmas, which you can't get in its original version anywhere due to the expense of paying royalties on such songs as "Sleigh Ride" and "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town." Grrrr....but if you can find the original on e-Bay, it's worth it for the icy patch.
Runner-up: Northern Exposure Christmas episode. I still cry when Holling sings "Ave Maria" for Shelley, and get the chills when the tribe performs the Raven pageant.

Favorite Christmas album: The Bells of Dublin by the Chieftains. It has everything: reverent hymns, jaunty reels, and Elvis Costello singing about poisoning the entire family ("St. Stephen's Day Murders").
Runner-up: Vince Guaraldi's A Charlie Brown Christmas

Favorite Christmas cookies: Those candy cane cookies with the peppermint extract and the red food coloring in one strand of dough that you wrap around the other strand and shape into a candy cane before baking.
Runner Up: Peanut butter cookies with a Hershey kiss in the middle

Favorite single rendition of a Christmas carol: Loreena McKennitt's version of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen"
Runner-up (one of many): Kim Carnes's "O Little Town of Bethlehem"

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Meme of Sevens

I was having a totally unproductive day and just starting to feel guilty about it when I saw this on Robin D. Owens's blog. So here goes (note: lists are not all-inclusive, but just the first things that came to mind):


7 Things to Do Before I Die:
- see a whooping crane in the wild
- take Chris to Scotland
- visit India
- see Karl Rove in jail
- attend the Delta Blues Festival
- learn another language (this week it's Gaelic)
- grow old


7 Things I Cannot Do:
- play the drum solo from "Wipeout"
- eat veal
- bungee jump
- understand general relativity without having it explained to me at least once a year
- drink gin
- stand still while brushing my teeth
- tolerate crowds for long periods of time


7 things that attract me to people:
- sense of humor
- kind eyes
- creativity
- sense of humor
- intelligence
- open-mindedness
- did I mention sense of humor?


Instead of 7 Things I Say Most Often (the majority of which can't be printed on a family blog), I'm taking the liberty of changing it to 7 Things I Would Never Say:
- "My favorite reality show is..."
- "Those poor Yankees."
- "Tell me more about the consistency of your baby's diaper contents."
- "Why yes, I'd LOVE to go to the mall!"
- "That's too much ice cream."
- "President Bush really understands the problems of working Americans."
- "Make mine decaf."


7 Books or Series I Love:
- The Time Quartet (series) by Madeleine L'Engle
- Final Dance (Luna series) by Christie Golden
- The Dark Tower (series) by Stephen King
- The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
- Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder
- Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
- anything by me


7 Movies I can watch over and over:
- Groundhog Day
- Pleasantville
- A Christmas Story
- Miracle on 34th Street
- Lord of the Rings trilogy
- Adaptation
- Saved!


7 people I want to join in (no pressure, and feel free to change/add your own questions):
- Rob
- Sharon
- Andrew
- PC Cast
- Greg
- Mark
- Allen
- Anyone else who wants to--just link back, please!

Intelligence rules in PA

It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the [Intelligent Design] Policy.
-- U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III

Lies make baby Jesus cry.
--Rod (or possibly Todd) Flanders, "The Simpsons"
In what is not so much a surprise as a relief, the U.S. District Court ruled that "intelligent design" could not be presented as an alternative to Darwinian evolution in science classrooms.

The judge ruled that it clearly violates the U.S. Constitution, which, though one of the world's most intelligently designed entities, is of little importance to religious nutballs who, unsatisifed with merely turning the brains of their own increasingly numerous offspring into oatmeal (the unflavored kind), want to foist their beliefs on everyone else's children, thus driving this nation further into the Dark Ages, where it will provide the world with nothing more useful and innovative than outlet malls and seven-pound hamburgers.

Where was I? Oh yeah. Yay justice!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Relief

I just turned in both the revisions to Eyes of Crow and the outline for Book 2, Voice of Crow. In a sadistic twist of the calendar, they were both due today.

Now I can start thinking about Christmas. It feels like I'm back in college, when I couldn't begin to get into the holiday spirit until after exams and papers were finished.

Monday it's back to work on the vampire novel, the first draft of which I plan to complete by the end of January. I need fifty pages a week to accomplish that goal, which is a stretch but far from impossible, unless I have substantial revisions on Eyes.

Speaking of the vamps, my editor loved my revised proposal and is popping it "upstairs" for approval. I had another proposal get shot down at the higher levels, so it's by no means a done deal. Word won't come back until at least next month, so in the meantime I'll just pretend it's sold and work hard accordingly. I really wish I'd done that last year for Eyes, but I didn't want to jinx the process.

Must go. The Beasts require ritual sacrifice--I mean, dinner.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

There's no "THE" there

I just got word from my editor that the title of my novel will be Eyes of Crow instead of The Eyes of Crow, because it looked better on the cover. As far as I'm concerned, they can change my name to Eustice P. Tiddlywinks if it'll help sell the book.

I hope to have a cover mock-up soon to tell you about, though I probably can't post anything other than the final version. I'm dying to see it. The only thing I know for sure about it is that the word "The" won't appear.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Scrooge Moment #1

I'd be in prison for arson by now if I lived next to this dude.

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Saturday, December 10, 2005

Zack, Part Two

Zack's been adopted! But we'll have him for another week because he has to be neutered before we can let him go. I guess the rescue org wants to make sure he's not going to go out and create any more little Zacks. So today we're going to attempt to put up our Christmas tree with the "help" of a puppy.

To prepare for this ordeal, I've made up a list of Top Ten Cute Things About Zack, to which I can refer when my thoughts turn less than charitable.


10. He has black ticking (that's dog people-speak for little spots) all over his body, except his legs and face, which have brown ticking. It's like he's wearing a matching hat-and-glove set.

9. To impress the cats, he does this goofy, paw-flinging, head rotating "dance" that makes Elaine from "Seinfeld" look like Paula Abdul.

8. He loves to chew Nylabones. This has never happened before in history, since most dogs show more interest in C-Span than Nylabones.

7. He'll toss a ball for himself to chase if no one is close enough to do it for him.

6. When he gets really riled up, he makes noises like a Tauntaun.

5. When his ears go up, he looks like those old Mickey Mouse symbols, and suddenly his head appears too big for the rest of his body.

4. I mean, come on, look at him.

3. Christmas carols knock him out like a handful of Quaaludes.

2. Sorry, I'm all out. But nine is enough, right?

And the Number One Cute Thing About Zack is (drum roll, Paul):

1. When he skids to a stop, he uses his face to break his fall.

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Thursday, December 08, 2005

Revisions and outline

I just finished the latest round of revisions (hopefully the penultimate round, or at least the pen-penultimate) for The Eyes of Crow. Once again, I made a lot of changes to the second half of the book, and for the first time since the very first draft, I'm really happy with the novel as it stands. I've finally accomplished everything I wanted to do with it*, even finding a way to show a battle scene first-hand from a non-combatant's point of view.

So I'm putting it aside for a few days while I work on the outline for Book 2 of the series, The Voice of Crow. Creating an outline for an unwritten novel mostly involves sitting around and staring into space, asking, "What if?" Yes, I get paid to daydream, and yes, I do know how lucky I am.

The series proposal I submitted to Luna included a detailed outline of the first book and rough, one-paragraph outlines of the second and third. The second book called for the death of one of the main characters. After spending several months with this person, there's no way in hell I'm killing them. Not no way, not no how.

I'm also splitting the point-of-view (POV) among three characters in the second book, whereas Eyes is from the POV of the heroine only. I prefer a single POV in both reading and writing, because it provides greater psychological intimacy, but the story in Voice demands to be told by more than one character, one of whom will be in a different part of the world than the rest of the main cast. In my opinion, Story should determine Style.

I suppose at some point I should stop talking about the outline and go write it. Maybe that point is now.


*except write a drinking song

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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Lewis lamented Disney's "vulgarity"

In a recently discovered letter from 1959, C.S. Lewis dreaded the idea of a live-action version of his classic fantasy tale, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
Anthropomorphic animals, when taken out of narrative into actual visibility, always turn into buffoonery or nightmare....If only Disney did not combine so much vulgarity with his genius.
Come Friday people will gather around Lewis's grave to listen for that unmistakable spinning sound.

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Sunday, December 04, 2005

Decking the Halls

Got into the Christmas spirit last night and put out a decoration:

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Saturday, December 03, 2005

Shadow of Venus

No, it's not the title of a goddess-possessed serial killer novel; it's the real thang. According to SpaceWeather.com, the planet Venus is at its closest and brightest during the first weeks of December this year. If you can find an area with little to no artificial light (yeah, good luck), you can actually see a faint shadow cast by the planet's light.

If you can't find that kind of place, you can check out these pictures of a British photographer who did.

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Friday, December 02, 2005

SQUEEE!-worthy news

Right now I'm going to promise not to post about every little mention of me in the media, or every good thing that happens to me over the course of the next few years in relation to my writing career. Because that's obnoxious, and I would hate another writer who did that, just on principle. I would want to reach through my computer screen, smack them upside the head, and go, "Bully for you, you self-absorbed braggart!"

So bear with me as I do backflips over the mention of my book in the January 2006 issue of Romantic Times Bookclub Magazine (available on newsstands now). On page 10 (in a sidebar, at the bottom, on the left hand side, last line that continues into the next column--yep, you found it), the article talks about Luna's plans for 2006. After some blah-blah about how great the imprint is, and how readers are seeking out Luna titles for their fantasy fixes, it reads:
Mercedes Lackey, Catherine Asaro and P.C. Cast are back this year with new tales, and debut talent Jeri Smith-Ready joins them with the evocative Native American-tinged fantasy, THE EYES OF CROW (Oct.).
When I saw it, I shouted "COOL!" so loud I scared the cat. Then I felt slightly creeped out, seeing my name in a real magazine. It was like the Eye of Sauron was checking me out from the center of Mordor, except instead of being one big red spooky eye, it was like thousands of little happy sparkly eyes--the eyes of readers. Readers not living in Mordor.

You know what I mean. Even after having a book published and writing two blogs, I still get squeamish over the idea of strangers thinking about me. I'll get over it, again.

I suppose I ought to get back to revisions now, so that come next year those sparkly eyes have something decent to read.

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Recap

My week:

Thursday we had a Thanksgiving dinner that couldn't be beat. It was a traditional Italian Thanksgiving, meaning we consumed six courses over the course of six hours. The courses were spaced apart so that it never felt like I was stuffing myself. There was time to drink plenty of wine without falling down. It wasn't until the middle of dessert that my stomach finally yellow-flagged* my brain.

In Thanksgivings past, it always seemed an injustice that we would spend days getting ready for the big meal, which would be then over in 20 minutes.

Summary: Me like food. Me like Italian Thanksgivings.

Sunday we picked up our new foster puppy Zack, who hails from Garrett County, Maryland. He's a beagle mixed with something that has spots. Tails of Hope pegs it as an Australian Cattle Dog, but my guess is a pointer or springer spaniel, which would be much more common in hunter-riffic Western Maryland.

The shelters always seem to underestimate the dogs' ages, so that the adopters end up with dogs much larger than they expected. So instead of a 7-month-old beagle mix, he could be a 5-month-old foxhound or coonhound mix. When he gets neutered, our vet can make a better estimate of his age.

Anyway, he's freakin' adorable, and full of energy. Right now he's sleeping off a morning romp in the snow with Meadow (yep, it snowed last night, apparently only on our street).

Last night I had a screaming, skull-twisting migraine headache and therefore couldn't properly celebrate the first appearance of my name in a national magazine (see next post). It felt like my right eyeball was going to explode. It's gone now, or at least only lurking in the background, waiting for me to do something dumb like stare at a computer screen for hours on end.


*That's a NASCAR term, to show that I'm "of the people."

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Thursday, December 01, 2005

Zack, Part One


If a picture's worth a thousand words, a video (QuickTime, 7.6MB) is good for at least a million.

Download QuickTime player or RealPlayer.

P.S.: My digital camera doesn't do sound, so enjoy your trip back in time to silent Home Movies of Yore.

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NEW RELEASE!

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**

More about THIS SIDE OF SALVATION

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

NOW AVAILABLE!

Shattered

"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!).

More about "Shattered"

About the author

Jeri Smith-Ready

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

Learn more about Jeri...

Photo © Geoffrey C. Baker

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