Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Open Letter To Whoopi Goldberg

Dear Whoopi,

Yesterday, in your position as co-host of The View you quantified Roman Polanski's crime as "not rape-rape."

I'll be honest. I don't care if Polanski's legal team was able to plead his charge down from rape to sex with a minor. A 43 year old man giving drugs and liquor to a 13 year old girl and having sex with her is RAPE, regardless of any plea bargains. I defy you to read the actual transcripts of the trial and call it anything less. In fact, I defy you to read those transcripts and not feel sick at the severity of his crime.

For you to call it "not rape-rape" implies there are degrees to the act of forcing another to have sex. That's like saying "Well, it wasn't murder-murder" when someone chooses to take the life of another. The end result is still one person dead by another person's hand. The same concept applies to rape. The end result is one person violated by another.

Setting aside the unbelievable response of the French ministry (Calling the arrest of a child abuser a travesty of justice? Go get yourself some priorities.), the sad but unsurprising Hollywood petition for Polanski's release being circulated by Woody Allen (Is anyone shocked Allen refuses to see anything wrong with Polanski's behavior?), and the technicalities of a Supreme Court judge considering overturning the lawyer's plan to count a mere 45 days of being held for psychiatric evaluation as consequence enough for violating a child, the real issue I have here is your coining a new term "rape-rape."

How many years have women fought to have rape seen as the heinous crime it is? It used to be rape only counted if you were a woman with a spotless life and enough money or influence to make the charges stick. It used to be children accusing adults of rape weren't believed or protected. It used to be date rape wasn't something the law took seriously. It used to be true that a woman who'd been raped was then judged on her choice of outfit, her alcohol consumption, her lifestyle, or what side of the tracks she came from in case the lawyers could spin it to say, in effect, "she asked for it."

Sometimes all of the above are still true but we've fought to change that. To stand up for ourselves. To protect our children. To say that if anyone, anyone, chooses to force themselves upon another, they deserve the full consequences of the law.

There is no such thing as "rape-rape" and not rape. There is only a predator forcing himself upon his prey. You shame the women of this country by suggesting anything different. How many teenage girls saw you call Polanski's despicable act "not rape-rape" and decided to keep quiet about their own situation because they might not be taken seriously? How many girls heard your words and formed opinions about what boundaries they could and could not draw for themselves with men?

Your words, indeed, your attitude are unconscionable. You have a daughter. I seriously doubt if a 43 year old man got her high and drunk and had sex with her you'd be parsing it out to see if it was really "rape-rape." I bet you'd hunt him down with every intention of seeking justice for your daughter.

Why would you deny it for someone else? Because the predator happens to be a talented, respected Hollywood director? I can't imagine any other reason. If the exact same situation happened only the perpetrator was Joe the Garbage Man, you'd be calling for his head on a platter. Wouldn't you? Or are you so out of touch with reality that you really think there is ever a situation where a middle-aged man should be allowed to have sex with a teenager?

As for your benevolent understanding of Polanski's decision to flee before his sentencing because the Supreme Court judge (who'd decided the lawyers' finagling to commute his sentence to the paltry 45 days served under psychiatric evaluation didn't constitute justice and was considering overturning the lower court's decision) might give him "100 years," I ask you this: Would 45 days be enough justice for your daughter?

In case you're searching for an answer, I'll give it to you: NO.

Polanski, armed with his expensive legal team, needed to face the music. If he was unhappy with the judge throwing out his lawyers' arrangement, he could file for a mistrial or an appeal. He could have worked within the legal system. He chose not to. He fled justice and I accord him no sympathy for that.

I am deeply disappointed that another woman could ever excuse his behavior or fail to see the seriousness of rape. Every rape. Every time. No matter what. With only 6% of rapists ever serving jail time for their crime, our country has a long way to go in stepping up to the plate to protect its citizens. Your words put weight on the wrong side of the scale.

Shame on you, Whoopi. Turn in your estrogen card. You don't deserve to carry it anymore.

Sincerely,

C.J. Redwine

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Rewrite! Twilight Contest Entries

The qualifying contest entries are each assigned a number and listed below. One of these entrants will win a critique of her first chapter. The top five will go into a drawing for a free 50 page critique. Please vote for up to three of your favorite entries in the comment trail.

ENTRY #1

My mother drove me to the airport with the windows rolled down. The newly chill air kissed my cheek.

“Are you excited?” she asked the obvious mom question.

I gave her my most heinous “whatever” look, and then turned away from her. I hid the smile that crept over my lips. If she knew how excited I really was it might blow her mind. Me, who hasn’t shown interest in anything for the better part of three years. Me, who took a chance and for once was rewarded. Me, who is leaving home for the first time, traveling across the country, starting a new life. I shivered.

Mom sighed and flipped her Dorothy Hamill ‘do, causing it to feather slightly when it landed.

“I hope you have a better attitude when you meet your roommates.”

I tried my sweetest voice, “Oh, mom, I will.”

This time she did the eye rolling. “Come on, Care, we only have a little while before you’re gone for a whole semester. Do you think you can drop the attitude?”

“It’s not an attitude, it’s a lifestyle.” I winked.

She started in on watching my manners, somehow jumped to laundry and circled back around to “do unto others”. I half listened. I mean, I will have THREE WHOLE MONTHS of freedom; I owe her a little consideration.

The truth is, I’d done all the damage I could do in the junky public school I’d attended for the past two years. I started searching for an alternative at the beginning of the year, sent out piles and piles of applications, essays, all that crap that private schools want. Luckily, when I decided I wanted to jump I didn’t have to worry about grades. They were there, all lined up on my transcript. A after A after A.

So I’m off to Dallas to the most prestigious girls’ school in Texas, and a hell of a lot of other places. Yes, I said girls’ school. But it’s located in the center of Dallas, not exactly cut off from the world. There will be boys. Lots and lots of boys. I can feel it.

“…for goodness sakes remember why you’re there. This isn’t public school where your little schemes will be forgiven because of your grades. Your state test score isn’t going to bring down their average,” she squinted and looked off to some unknown place, “I don’t think they even take state tests there.” She looked over at me and patted my knee, “ I hate to say it Cara, but you’ll be one of many there. Nothing special.”

Gee thanks ma.

Schemes? I don’t do schemes. I prefer to think of them as psychological art. It takes a lot of thought and preparation and yes, even sweat to make people line up and do your bidding without them knowing.

“Are you listening to me?”

“Of course mom, I’ll be good. I promise.” At least until I get bored.


ENTRY #2

Mai mommeh driveded me 2 da arport wit da windows rolled down. Sum goth keeds pointd nd laughd. Nd then a bee stung me an I dyed of anaphlactic shck.

Now, all ur prizes are beelong to ME!


ENTRY #3

My mother drove me to the airport with the windows rolled down. As my mother continued to make the radio louder, I sighed and leaned back in my seat ignoring her.

I dragged my hands down my face with disbelief. She was actually making me go through with this. I had been joking when I had said it sounded like fun. But who knew she would take me seriously.

She smiled as she turned down her tunes a bit. “Isn’t this just going to be great? Just the experience you need to make some new friends.”

As she said that all I could sadly think was one simple fact. I had no friends. I didn’t want to do this. No matter how good it was for me.

“Oh come on. Don’t be like that. This camp is a chance for you to finally meet some people going through the same thing as you.”

Yes continue mother as I sit here dying of private humiliation. Well more public then private. We were still only in a residential area. And she was announcing to the world I was going to camp. Fat camp. My mother isn’t really the best person to tell your secrets to. Seeing as she is a chatter box.

She smiled as she continued to talk, and I continued to ignore.

I chanted silently to myself that I will be thin and beautiful after this. I will finally get a boyfriend. I continued this all the way to the airport.

I just wish California could be farther away.

--

Standing outside waiting for a cab in San Jose isn’t the easiest thing to do. Especially when even there all the beautiful tan blondes seem to get the first ticket to everything. Including the cab ride.

All I could think was, ‘I would have been better off walking to the horrid place that shall not be named.’ But heck Im going to fat camp. I don’t have that type of energy or motivation yet.

I sighed sitting on my suitcase. My eyes widened as I fell to the pavement after my suitcase had buckled under my weight.

I could hear some kid laughing. But I was used to it. Used to all of it. I groaned getting up and looked at my suitcase. I broke my suitcase. By sitting on it. Maybe fat camp was a good idea.

Kicking my stupid suitcase I waved trying to get a cab. Another failure.

I groaned again wanting to just fall to the floor with my face buried into my hands.

A cab stopped but no one got in. It was right in front of me. I looked at it quizzically then looked to see if there were any blondes nearby. None.

But there was a boy. All he did was smile at me, “All yours if you want it.”

I looked at him. He had to be joking. But he wasn’t. I smirked then got into the cab.

All I could simply think was, ‘Great mock the fat kid by getting her a cab.’ I had no idea he was being nice.



ENTRY #4

My mother drove me to the airport with the windows rolled down. She hates the way the wind tears at her hair. But she didn’t say anything because I was the one who rolled them down. Inside her head she was probably having a little celebration.

Fi rolled the windows down! Fi made a conscious decision to interact with her environment!

That’s the problem when your mother is a child therapist. She reads into everything and still doesn’t understand. She glanced over at me several times right after I hit the window button. I could see the hope in her grey eyes. She can hide it from her patients, but I get a front row seat for all her emotions. Especially the ones pertaining to me. I’m not really sorry about her distress and subsequent hope. Just that I can’t abate them both.

Sometimes, in my head, I stand and look back across that depthless chasm, back across to the life that was. It’s only just a little wider than the distance I could leap. I know even if I got a running start it would widen at the last moment before my foot hit the other side and I would fall, devoured by the in-between. There’s no bridge that can span that chasm. And if there was a bridge, I wouldn’t cross it anyhow. But I can’t say that to my mother. She wouldn’t understand. Like the windows. She thinks I wanted them down because I wouldn’t feel so trapped with the wind swirling all around me. But I rolled them down because it would make her happy since I did it.

“Oh Fi,” She blurted after the silence had stretched as far as she could bear. “This is going to be good for you.” Her fingers tapped the steering wheel.

She loved how her engagement ring spun on her finger when she wiggled it.

“And you don’t have to leave town. Or drive, if you don’t want to. You’re father will arrange everything. Your friends can keep in touch by email, like me. He’s gotten high-speed internet. He’d better have gotten it. He said he would.”

This is my mother’s code way of saying, ‘You won’t wander into the woods, will you? You won’t drive if you don’t have to, will you? Friends will talk to you again. You just have to make the first attempt at reconnecting.’

I let her talk. It made her feel better and I couldn’t, so why bother stopping her?

It’s not that I almost died that disturbed her so much. It’s that it didn’t bother me. It’s that I enjoyed those few moments touching something else no one could. She feared - deep down knew - that I still clung to that feeling. I hadn’t looked death in the face. I’d kissed it full on the mouth. The world had seemed small and petty since then and I wanted no part of it. But mother kept trying.



ENTRY #5

My mother drove me to the airport with the windows rolled down. And the top down. In the pouring rain.

“It will be cleansing,” she said as we pulled away from the cemetery. I wanted to think it was a way for her to hide any potential tears that might, just might, seep out of her eyes. Not that I’d ever actually seen her cry, even when my brother tried to kill himself with a razor blade and she found him in the bathroom.

But I wanted to see her shed a tear now. I wanted to know that she had some feelings left in that black shriveled piece of coal she called a heart.

I pulled the sopping curls off of my face, trying to capture the stray hairs that whipped sideways in the wind. Gathering them at the back of my neck, I twisted the hair into a bun and secured it with the elastic band around my wrist. My black skirt was collecting a pool of water and I groaned with the knowledge that I’d be cold and damp, sitting in an airplane for the next three hours. Perhaps I’d invest in a Seattle t-shirt and shorts in the airport souvenir shop.

“Are you okay?” my mother yelled.

I ignored her. Of course I wasn’t okay. My father had died the week before and she didn’t call me until twenty-four hours later. Twenty-four hours. Who does that? I hadn’t even known that he was admitted to the hospital in the first place. Her excuse? “It was just a heart attack. The doctors said he’d be fine.”

But she didn’t have an excuse for not calling me after he went into cardiac arrest on the operating table. That was just her way of doing things - keeping secrets and manipulating events to suit her needs.

I dashed off the drops gathering on my eyelashes, glad I had foregone even the waterproof mascara that morning.

“Are you too cold? I can turn up the heat?” She was good at these insignificant gestures; the ones that made her look like a doting mother.

“I’m fine.” I muttered. It was spring and the weather had warmed up quickly. The rain was a cool relief against the heavy oppressive heat that hovered around us during the funeral.

The rain shifted, coming in at more of an angle. I kicked at my purse with my toes, nudging it further under cover of the dashboard. My single expensive accessory, and she was determined to ruin it with her idiotic notion of driving with the top down.

But it wasn’t really the handbag that bothered me. There was something much more important inside. An item that symbolized the one thing she personally couldn’t destroy, or ruin, or exploit, or manipulate. My secret. The secret that got me through the last six days with my sanity in tact.

It was my ultrasound picture. I was pregnant and she didn’t know, wouldn’t know. Ever.



ENTRY #6

My mother drove me to the airport with the windows rolled down and I hated every minute of it. The wind whipped my perfectly straightened hair into patterns resembling a tornado after-effect.

What did mom care with her short cut? It’s not like anyone would be looking at her at the airport. Me, on the other hand, I had to meet my dad at the other end. A man I’d only seen a handful of times in my sixteen years. I wanted to impress him with my new-found maturity and sense of style. But now my hair would just resemble a tumbleweed in a bad western movie.

“Are you nervous about seeing your father?” Mom’s voice rose above the traffic noises on the freeway.

Now she decided to play the concerned parent?

“A little.” If you gave them a hint of what they wanted to hear, they usually left you alone.

She threw me a worried glance. “We don’t have to do this, you know. You could still come with Joe and me to Florida.”

“Don’t sweat it, mom. I’ll be fine. Besides, dad’s looking forward to this. I don’t want to disappoint him.”

I had a vague flashback of my dad cooking pancakes for me in his tiny kitchen. Must have been eight years ago or so. He seemed so lonely, even then to my young eyes, and I always felt the need to protect him. Take care of him. Now I’d have my chance.

“Well, you know you can call me anytime, if you’re not happy, and we’ll send you a plane ticket.”

I smiled, knowing she meant well deep down. “I know, mom. I’ll be fine. I’m looking forward to meeting some new friends in Forks.” Total lie, but mom didn’t care. It’s what she needed to hear.

“You’ll make lots of friends. I just know it.” She grinned at me and winked. “Maybe even a boyfriend.”

I groaned. “Mom. You know I don’t care about that.”

“Maybe that nice Jason boy, or was it Jacob. He always seemed polite.”

“Whatever.”

I had a flashback of a handsome, native boy with long flowing black hair and beautiful black eyes, fringed with crazy lashes that most girls I know would kill for.

At last mom pushed the button to roll up the windows. I tried to pat my hair into some semblance of normalcy, but, just like my life, my hair had a mind of its own.

Untameable.

As we took the turn on for the airport, a strange flutter in my stomach told me my life was about to take an irrevocable twist. A turn that would change me forever. Chills ran down my back and goose bumps rose on both arms.

“Time to face your destiny,” I mumbled under my breath.

Mom parked the car in the nearest spot to the door. “Come on, Bella honey. It’s almost twilight. You know that’s the bewitching hour.”

Mom and her superstitions. I sighed and jumped out of the car, grabbing my bag from the back seat. What could possibly be bewitching in the Hicksville, USA?

I guess I was about to find out...



ENTRY #7

My mother drove me to the airport with the windows rolled down.

Two degrees, whiteout conditions and a chill stiff enough to freeze dry skin in nanoseconds, but she insisted. More sensible living things were burrowed in safety, but not us. Snowflakes swirled around us, barely able to settle and mound into drifts. The speedometer and stereo face were layered by a delicate lace of tiny flakes and frost was etched in spidery fingers on the inside of the windshield.

I shivered and blew into my fingers, trying to encourage blood flow to return. I knew better than to roll the windows up. It was easier to suffer bitter cold than it was to breathe in the unmistakable smell emanating from the back seat.

He had been rolled up for months, neatly burritoed within the worn threads of his prized antique Navaho rug, along with the 45, a bloody kitchen carver, his ID and credit cards. It was late September when the deed was done. She and I managed to wrestle him to the backseat. I parked the car in the far reaches of the back lot and we spent the next three months ignoring the rusting Fiesta and its fermenting contents.

I turned toward the mound in the backseat. My initial thought was 'He would die if he saw that blood stain,' then I caught myself. The idea was so preposterous, I almost laughed out loud. The passage of time did little to lessen the effects of decay. Granted, he was smaller now, his flesh no doubt sunken and compacted, but he still stunk.

What was worse was the odor had permeated the velour upholstery, the padded dash and the nubby carpeting. I sniffed at my parka and caught a whiff of hair as it blew past my nose. A thin layer of decay covered everything. How could anyone ignore it?

My mother and I shared an uneasy silence as she plunged on, her mind on one goal. The airport. At first, she navigated the freeway slowly, following the furrows left in deep snow. She would not acknowledge me. She couldn’t. I was unwelcome cargo, a colossal complication, another tedious chore to tend to so she could at last wipe her hands clean of her life. She needed to complete the task and close the circle.

I could never forget this. Her breath, thick and heavy, as it filled the car in a rush of warm steam. Her knuckles white and bony as she clutched the icy steering wheel. The serious determination in her cool, blue eyes. My brain took notice and imprinted it on my nerve endings, my cortex and medulla. I could hear synapses ringing in my ears from the images of this wondrous horror.

She glanced at the clock and sped up. I felt the car slide toward what I assumed was the shoulder and the ditch beyond. I held my breath and grabbed the door handle. Did she want all three of us to die?



ENTRY #8

My mother drove me to the airport with the windows rolled down. It did little to dissipate the smell of sulfur, but I've grown to like my own scent—especially now that I've found the perfect blend of amber, patchouli and rosewood to transform it into something, well, sexy. I reached back to scratch my right horn, a small mahogany ram's curl, grown darker with the blooming velvet. It bothered me all the time now, keeping me in a low-level state of arousal and frustration, but of course, I didn't tell Mom that.

"Cover it, Angie," she hissed at me between clenched teeth, a breath of smoke puffing through her lips. She was not best pleased about this trip or its timing, but this was the first interest my father had ever shown in me, so she agreed to it.

"It's covered."

"You got enough bump-ups for your hair?"

"I'll have the biggest hair in Los Angeles. If things go sour, I'll get myself a job as a drag queen."

I was only half joking. At 19, I'm six-feet seven, and for all I know I might still be growing. Angel-demon hybrids are exceedingly rare, so until I meet another, my life is just one joyful surprise after another.

I hate being boxed in a car. It makes my wings twitch, and even the shoulder pads can't hide the motion. I'd been dressing like a Boogie-Woogie Bugle Girl for a couple of years now, so it was no wonder people thought I was a man. When I was a child, the other kids were rather cruel. Now they avoided me. I suspect my eyes flash red when I get pissed, just like Mom's do.

"Are all angels as big as my father?" I blurted, then wished I'd held her tongue. Mom puffed out another smoky breath then sucked the swirling smoke back in. She nodded once and turned on the signal to exit into the terminal lane.

"Stay away from the others, Angie. They are nothing but trouble." she swallowed, and to my alarm, a blood tear welled up in her dark eye, "They are worse than Satan. At least you know where you stand with the Prince of Lies."

"I'm sure Father won't let any harm come to me."

She slammed on the parking brake and turned to me,
"You don't know that. You know nothing about him. You're not his first daughter and you won't be his last. Of course the others," she waved her red claws dismissively, "Half-human. Bunch of milquetoast music majors. 'Daphne's at Julliard!'" she mimicked, "Beatrice just joined the New York Philharmonic."

"I can't carry a tune in a bucket."

"No, Angela Gabriella, you can't. But you can fly," her smile was feral. "And if one of those prissy bitches gives you trouble, you can eat her."

Since I'm a subprimatarian, it was our running joke. I laughed for her as I climbed out of the car.

"Sure, Mom. I'll do that."



ENTRY #9

My mother drove me to the airport with the windows rolled down. The radio blared "Sweet Home Alabama" so that neither of us had to say a word. I kept my arms crossed over my chest like a shield while I stared at the nothingness that was Nebraska.

"Don't put your feet on the dash please," she said in her tone that grated just the right way, but I slumped my sneakers off nonetheless.

"Honey, it's only ten more miles to the airport, are you sure-"

"Yes mom, I'm sure. It's settled."

"I was going to ask if you wanted a bite to eat, but if you want to to talk-"

"I don't." I tried to turn the radio up, but she just turned it right back down. Typical. For the forty-seventh time I wished I had a car of my own so I didn't have to endure this together. What can I say? I like numbers. I would have paid for a taxi myself, except they don't come out in the middle of nowhere.

Her voice cut through the quiet.

“Why?”

"Fulbright," I said, snapping around, "does that word mean anything?"

"Of course it does. But to Germany?"

"I want to go to Germany," I said, hoping that would settle it, at least until the airport. She glanced at me then focused on the road again. I didn't see the point. There was no one there.

"You could use your bioengineering here. You would make a brilliant doctor."

"No mom. No."

"Why not?"

"Because I want to have a life, a real life. Not this. I want to do something, be somebody. I can't do that here." The song ended and went to commercial.

"I just want you to be happy," she said and a pebble of guilt plopped in my stomach. "I don't think you will find it out there if you can't find it here." Well that killed the mood. I closed my eyes, reciting algorithms to keep from completely hating my mother. I didn't want to end it this way. But she had to bring it up, she just had to. We rode in silence for two miles. Then she flicked her blinker and took the exit. I said my last goodbye to Nebraska.

"I wonder if they have meatloaf in Germany," she mused. It was her way of lightening the mood. I appreciated it, but couldn't find the words to tell her.

"I wonder if you can see the sky there," she said. I blinked. It was an old joke that ran between us since I was four. We had lain on the grass while she tickled me and said there was no sky like a Nebraska sky. We always said it as the last thing whenever we talked about what we loved best. Apple pie, the smell of freshly shucked corn, and always the Nebraska sky. I glanced out the window and looked up.

I had to admit, I would miss the sky.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Jonathan's Playlist

I'm trying something new while writing Lilli's book. Usually, I listen to two or three instrumental soundtracks per novel but somehow, that just wasn't cutting it for Lilli. I do have the Death Sentence soundtrack (hauntingly beautiful) cued up in my iPod for atmospheric scenes, but I needed something else to get under my character's skin.

I decided to use an free online music source to create playlists of songs that my main characters listen to. For Lilli, that meant branching out into soulful R&B and country, two genres I usually avoid with something very akin to horror.

Jonathan's playlist is more my style. Because I have nothing better to blog about at the moment, I thought I'd share his list with you. Lilli's will be posted another day.

JONATHAN STEWART'S PLAYLIST:


There And Back Again by Daughtry

Never Too Late by Three Days Grace

Animal I Have Become by Three Days Grace

Crash by Cavo

Ghost by Cavo

Life Is Beautiful by Sixx AM

Indestructible by Disturbed

Remedy by Seether

Pig by Seether

Water by Breaking Benjamin

Death of Me by Red

Also, he plays the piano to relax when he's alone. Some samples of his preferred pieces:

Piano Sonata #14 by Beethoven

Piano Concerto #9 by Mozart

Friday, September 25, 2009

Contest Link

Looking for the Rewrite! Twilight contest and your chance to win a professional critique of your work? Go here.

Lilli Stone: Book One, Chapter One

I gave you the blurb for Lilli's book last week and now I'm ready to share chapter one with you. To read the rest, you'll have to buy the book. :) Of course, the book won't come with the visual aids I've embedded in this chapter just for you...



Chapter One

Some days fate hands you calorie-free chocolate and dates with men who don’t live with their mothers. Other days it sets fire to your hair, slaps five extra pounds of water weight across your stomach, and slams you face-first into the side of a barn.

Since every single interaction with my mother in living memory felt like the latter, it took every ounce of courage and desperation I had to turn onto the winding gravel driveway leading past the expanse of well-tended lawn to the front of her house. Truth be told, there were about a million places I’d rather be.

A Jamaican beach. Antarctica. The bottom of the ocean.

Okay, that last one is a bald-faced lie.

I think.

I once read a human being can go five minutes without air before nature takes over and it’s ashes to ashes. I can’t speak to the truthfulness of this statement since my personal record is two minutes three seconds. I’ve thought about building up a tolerance bit by bit until one day it’s “Voila! Five minutes of no oxygen to my brain!” but I never got around to it. I’ve been pretty busy. Still, facing the prospect of an imminent reunion with Mother after my five year absence made holding my breath under water indefinitely sound tempting.

My mother owned a farm on twenty-four acres of gently rolling hills complete with a handful of livestock and a faded red barn built an acre behind her elegant white plantation-style home. The mountain rushed up to meet the edge of her property, its forest sneaking across boundary lines to reclaim the land inches at a time.

Rascal Flatts filled the interior of my bright orange 1965 VW bus—It was cheap. Don’t judge me.—and I cranked the stereo I’d installed the year I left tiny Bird’s Eye, Tennessee for Hollywood full of plans I’d rather not discuss now.

Did you know that when an ostrich sticks his head in the sand he thinks he’s hiding from his enemy? Never mind the six feet of feathered ostrich tookus waving in the breeze for the world to see. The bird thinks if he can’t see you, you can’t see him. I guess that makes the ostrich about as smart as a toddler. It’s a wonder they aren’t extinct.

My VW crested the hill and I pressed the gas pedal, sailing past the gracious southern exterior of the plantation house with a crinch-crunch of gravel. What’s good enough for the ostrich is good enough for me. I might have to put that on a t-shirt.

I didn’t ease my foot onto the brake pedal until I’d reached the barn. Parking on the far side of the structure, out of view of the house, I turned off the ignition and sat in silence, staring across the fenced-in pastures at the grand splendor of the mountain beyond them.

I bet the ostrich isn’t extinct because it takes a humdinger of a predator to bring one down. I mean, seriously. Have you ever seen a pissed-off ostrich? They’re like a two hundred pound feathered Jet Li.

Twilight settled across the eastern sky, chasing the last buttery rays of September sunlight across the western edge of the mountain and ushering in the fog that clung to the Smokies like a second skin. In another few minutes, the mountain’s shadow would swallow Bird’s Eye, a premature darkness outsiders found ominous and residents took for granted.

Because I itched to crank the VW’s engine, slide her into reverse, and creep past my mother’s house, putting off the inevitable for another few hours, I yanked the keys out of the ignition and rammed the door open with my shoulder. A stiff breeze poked brittle fingers through my black May The Force Be With You t-shirt as I climbed out and stuffed the keys into my jeans’ pocket.

I glanced at the forest spilling with mad abandon down the side of the mountain and pressing against Mother’s property. Thick ribbons of fog slithered around tree trunks, belly-crawled across the ground, and hovered at the edge of the property as though uncertain of their welcome.

Nearby a cicada chirruped madly as I trudged around the side of the barn and headed toward the entrance. I’d worn my red Chucks for courage—and because any shoe without a heel irritated my mother—so I stepped carefully. I had no desire to sink ankle-deep into any recent bovine bowel movements.

Although, if I did I could at least pretend my mother’s lack of welcome for me had more to do with the substance lingering on the bottom of my shoes than with my general failure to live up to who she thought her daughter should be.

As I reached the barn door, a hawk’s piercing cry ripped the air and the hair on my arms rose as an overwhelming certainty I wasn’t alone settled into my stomach, churning with the peanut butter crackers and bottled water I’d consumed while making the last leg of my drive through Tennessee and leaving a faint metallic bitterness in my throat. I stopped walking and scanned the farm, my eyes sliding over the house, the barn, and the yards of white fencing neatly dissecting what used to be crops from the cattle before coming to rest on the mountain.

For one breathless moment, I fancied some thing mingled with the fog churning across the forest’s floor, but a thudding sound against the far side of the barn cut short my speculation.

Which is sort of a good thing since twilight plus creepy fog often equaled crazy optical illusions, and I hardly needed to add raving-like-a-lunatic to the list of things wrong with me in my mother’s eyes.

Blowing a deep breath into the rapidly chilling evening air, I abandoned my plan to hide out inside the barn and headed toward the source of the sound I’d heard.

Back when Dad was still a willing part of our family, the farm was a real farm with multiple crops, several head of cattle, a handful of horses, and Mr. Pinks the hog. After Dad left, Mother hired others to work the land and milk the cattle for a while but she soon decided crops were more trouble than they were worth. From the looks of things, she’d made the same call about most of the cows as well.

Another thump sounded from the far side of the barn and I grinned. Mr. Pinks, it seemed, had survived Mother’s half-hearted attempt at farming. I attributed this to her refusal to eat pork.

I rounded the barn’s western corner, expecting to see Mr. Pinks banging around his pen and froze.

Next to Mr. Pink’s food trough, a man—a stranger, very Cary Grant meets Colin Farrell, fierce power packed into a tall muscular frame and restrained by casual poise—bent over a silver tripod, snapping black metallic pieces of something together. As Mr. Pinks snuffled the man’s shoes with loud piggy grunts, the man slid another two pieces into place. I sucked in a shocked little breath and eased my body against the side of the barn, praying to be made invisible.

Leprechauns can make themselves invisible at will. Of course, leprechauns are cursed with puce-colored skin so I guess they have more incentive than most. I’ve never aspired to being a leprechaun, despite the whole pot of gold thing, but I figured now would be a good time to convert because the man was assembling a gun.

He was standing in Mother’s pig pen, ignoring Mr. Pinks’ curiosity, so focused on his task he hadn’t heard my approach, and he was assembling a gun.

And not just any gun. A long-range sniper rifle. I might not know how to fire one—Mother’s fierce disapproval saw to that—but a girl doesn’t grow up in a mountain town without learning a thing or two about guns. Fact one: most of the men in town owned enough guns to make Charlton Heston look like an amateur. Fact two: many of those guns were rifles purchased with the express purpose of hunting or protecting the townspeople from the kind of big game lurking on our mountain. Fact three: a long-range sniper rifle is good for accuracy but not for stopping big game. In fact, long-range sniper rifles are pretty much good for only one thing.

Killing people.

Good thing I wore my red Chucks for courage. I was going to need it. I might have next to no relationship with Mother but she was family. You don’t let strangers shoot family. It’s like a rule.

The man slid the rifle onto the tripod with a cold kiss of metal on metal and shuffled his body awkwardly around to face the forest, dragging the gun into position.

Which meant he’d turned his back to me.

I left Mr. Pink’s habitually squeaky gate closed. Grabbing the weather-worn wooden slat at the top of his enclosure, I climbed up three rungs and vaulted myself into the pen.

The man slid a hand into the pocket of his battered leather jacket—Why do killers always gravitate toward leather?—and came out with a shiny brass bullet.

I wasn’t sure whom he expected to come walking out of the forest at twilight. The townsfolk know better than to be caught on the mountain after dark. Still, Mother isn’t the sanest person on the planet. Who am I to say she hadn’t taken up late afternoon strolls through the woods?

The bullet nestled into its chamber with a faint rasp.

I scanned the pen for potential weapons and found none.

The safety clicked off with a barely audible snick.

I crept closer, racking my brain for a plan.

The man’s posture tightened, a subtle shift of motion to stillness.

I was three feet away, crouched behind him as if I had somewhere to hide in case he turned around. I had no plan, no weapon, nothing but the element of surprise.

I kind of thought his gun took away any advantage to surprising him.

Then two things happened to force my hand. His finger squeezed the trigger back, a slow, steady journey toward disaster, and Mr. Pinks turned away from his dedicated exploration of the stranger’s shoes and noticed me.

At the sound of Mr. Pinks’ squeal, the stranger jerked upright. Abandoning caution, I rushed forward, slammed into his back, and knocked us both off-balance. We teetered for a moment, clutching each other, and then toppled headfirst into Mr. Pinks’ very full food trough.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Project: Rewrite! Twilight

Are you an aspiring writer who needs a professional critique of your work? Are you entering the Golden Heart and need a critique of your contest entry?

Do you enjoy bragging rights and the thought of taking on Twilight and shaping it to your own nefarious, er, I mean creative purposes?

Then this is the contest for you!

Rules:

1. Take the first sentence of Twilight (below) and use it as the beginning of a 500 word piece of writing. Hook the reader with humor, drama, suspense, or beautiful prose! I don't care if you stick with the vampire plot from Twilight or take us in a totally different direction.

2. Leave your entry in the comment section of this post. No anonymous postings or postings with profanity or explicit content will be considered.

3. You have until Saturday, September 26th. 8 p.m. Central Time.

4. I will take all the qualifying entries, put them into one post on Monday, September 28th, and assign each author a number.

5. Blog readers (and those you send this way) will read the posts and vote for up to three favorites in the comment trail. Voting will end Friday October 2nd at 8 p.m. Central Time.

6. Contest is open to any writer (pubbed or unpubbed) who feels like entering.

Prizes:

1. The entry with the most votes wins a critique of the author's first chapter. Feel free to publicize the link to everyone you've ever met. (Especially your crazy Great Aunt Bertha. We do crazy really well on this blog.)

2. The five entries with the most votes, along with a wild card entry of my choice, go into a drawing for a critique of the author's first fifty pages.

3. There will be one additional Rewrite! contest held in October and the top five plus wild card entries from that contest will also be in the drawing for the 50 page critique. That drawing will be held on or around October 25th to give me time to read before the Golden Heart entry deadline hits.

4. Authors may enter both contests but may only submit one entry per contest.

5. No substitutions, exchanges, or refunds although if you win and you don't actually need a chapter critique, you may give your prize to another lucky writer using any means you see fit.

6. Word to your grandma.

Rewrite! Twilight:

"My mother drove me to the airport with the windows rolled down."


Let the Rewrite! begin.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Contest Coming!

Do you

*love creative writing?

*think you could improve/transform/mangle the opening of any given famous novel?

*want a professional critique of your first chapter?


If you answered yes to any of the above, I have a contest opportunity coming just for you. Well, just for you and however many other people enter ...

I'll be posting the first sentence of a (insanely) popular novel. You will take that sentence and write an entry of no more than 500 words. Make it funny. Heart-wrenching. Lovely. Dramatic. Whatever works for you! I'll post all the entries and it's up to blog readers to vote for their favorites. You can post the link to Twitter, Facebook, your loops, your email address book...even to your crazy Great-Aunt Bertha and garner votes. Or you can leave your writing in the hands of Fate.

Personally, I've never found Fate to be very reliable.

The winner gets a critique of his/her first chapter. The top five finalists go into a grand prize drawing for a critique of their first fifty pages (That's Golden Heart length for those of you entering this year!) Grand prize drawing will happen on or around Nov 1st. Give or take a boy-jumping-off-furniture-and-breaking-both-bones-in-his-arm crisis or two.

Tune in tomorrow for the writing prompt and have fun!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Throwback Thursday

I've decided to post links every Thursday (Or most Thursdays. Or the occasional Thursday. Or just today ... we'll see.) to some funny posts buried in the annals of this blog that newer readers may have missed.

Today's Throwback Thursday post gives my late beloved cat Taz a starring role. For the non-cat-loving men reading this post, farts are involved. You know you're going to read it.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Deep Thoughts - With Starshine Part Dos

Starshine: "Hey, Mom! Did I finish my twenty minutes of reading?"

Me: *checks clock* "Yes, you did. See? I told you it wouldn't be that hard."

Starshine: "Know where I was?"

Me: "Where?"

Starshine: "In the restroom. Time really flies when you're on the toilet."

Deep Thoughts - With Starshine

A recent conversation with Starshine, transcribed here for your enjoyment. So, er, enjoy:

Starshine: "Hey Mom! We should get a platypus!"

Me: "Really? Why?"

Starshine: "Because then we wouldn't have to buy milk anymore!"

Me: "..."

Starshine: "Didn't you know that a platypus sweats milk?"

Me: "Holy Gag Reflex, Batboy, that's disgusting."

Starshine: "I think the word you're looking for is useful."

Next Query Workshop Starts Soon

My next online Query Workshop starts October 11th. Learn how to write a query, where to research agents, and get multiple professional critiques of your query to help you polish it to perfection! Space is limited. Go here for more info.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Back Off My Bubble Gum



1. The glorious monstrosity pictured above was parked in a Kroger parking lot yesterday.

2. I laughed myself stupid when I drove by it.

3. A black 70's Lincoln--with a gold cross covering the oval window--precariously perched on a set of 22s.

4. The phrase you're looking for is Geriatric Pimp-mobile.

5. Also Word To Your Grandmother.

6. And maybe Street Cred--it's not just for those under 80.

7. And yeah, I know the owner of the car is probably some nineteen year old guy who thinks he looks FLY cruising for chicks in the Kroger parking lot with his ancient catholicized (Remember the gold cross?) Lincoln bouncing to the beat of Eminem on his 22s...

8. Speaking of cruising the Kroger parking lot (Yeah, it happens. What better place to find women than a grocery store? Makes perfect sense.), I went grocery shopping late Sunday night and was treated to the site of two of the coolest teenage boys EVER.

9. They were cruising Kroger in their mom's mini-van.

10. Mini-van.

11. With both sliding doors wide open.

12. So everyone could hear Rasheeda sing "My Bubblegum."

13. Teenage boys + mini van + silly song by female artist = cool?

14. I began to put two and two together.

15. I have a mini van.

16. With two sliding doors.

17. And a radio.

18. It's not too late to be cool! Of course, as a matter of pride, I'll have to crank a far different song. No way I would be caught listening to something proclaiming I'm the kind of girl you take home to your mama and you know you want to chew up all my bubblegum.

19. I promise you if you chew up all my bubblegum, I'm coming after you with a spork.

20. I'd crank Disturbed instead.

21. I can see it now: 35 year old mother of three cruising the parking lot (groceries safely installed in the trunk), both sliding doors open, with Indestructible pounding through my speakers--every teenage boy in the vicinity would implode from the sheer wrongness of it all.

22. Yeah, that's all I've got for you today. *grabs van keys and heads out to screw with people's heads*

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Way I Write

Lately, I've seen various blog posts and Twitter conversations on methods of writing. Most of those end up being discourses on how a writer can properly organize her story before writing with the end goal being a streamlined writing experience and the ability to produce a finished novel in a relatively short amount of time (varies by writer) with less revision necessary.

I took a peek at several of those methods and I don't mind telling you that a couple of them had me nearly in hives before I'd finished paragraph one. That doesn't mean they aren't wonderful, helpful, amazing tools for the right writer. It just means I don't write that way.

So, I thought I'd throw my hat into the ring and tell you how I organize my story before I write.

Remember the previous post? The one giving a blurb for Lilli Stone Book One? The one that had 5 paragraphs giving basic character intros and outlining the conflict and stakes?

That's it.

That's what I do.

Of course, I've spent months (in this case years) with these characters in my head. Getting to know them. To know the setting. The conflict.

I have no doubt that things will shift, grow, change, and surprise me as I write but that's part of the fun for me. I fully realize another writer reading that sentence might feel as close to breaking out into hives as I did when I read someone's process involved a 14,000 word outline.

The mere thought of an outline running past, say, five paragraphs makes me want to lock myself in a loony bin.

That doesn't mean I'm not organized. Or that I'll take exponentially longer to produce a polished novel. It just means I'm wired differently than those who find a comfortable creative outlet with detailed planning before they write.

I'll tell you this: The real work of writing is revising. It really is. No matter what you do to get to those glorious two words "The End" on your first draft, you aren't done yet.

My "outline" consists of knowing what major plot points hurtle my characters from page one to The End. What happens between those plot points is a delightful surprise. I keep character arcs, emotional conflict, plot conflict, setting the scene, sensory detail...all the bits and pieces that weave together to form a cohesive story...in my head, for the most part. I jot some notes. Sometimes I can jot out a sentence or two for the next few upcoming scenes. Anything further out than that and I'm lost. I really am.

Because how can I know what happens next--what REALLY happens next--until I get there?

I guess that's the main difference between those of us who write with outlines and those of us who don't. Some of us can see what happens next before we get there and some of us need to see it happen in real time.

With all the available tools, methods, books, and advice out there, I'll only add this: Finish a book.

If you need an outline to do so, make one. If you need a story board with post-it notes, run to Staples and stock up. If you need to plow through your rough draft to find out what happens next, plant your butt in the chair and put your fingers on the keyboard.

It really doesn't matter how you get to The End as long as you get there.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Rough Draft In Progress

I've mentioned Twisting Fate (sequel to Shadowing Fate) on the blog and even posted a (Pantser in Progress, Will Probably Change!) blurb for it. What I haven't mentioned is that I'm also working on book one in a new series at the same time.

Since I don't have a deadline yet for TF, I have the luxury to divide my writing time.

Naturally, I have no title yet. Shadowing Fate was Alexa Tate Book One for months and I'm afraid the same will have to be true for this new series. (Hang on, long time blog readers, Earl is finally getting his day!)

I give you: Lilli Stone Book One

First line: "Some days fate hands you calorie-free chocolate and dates with men who don't live with their mothers. Other days, it sets fire to your hair, slaps five extra pounds of water weight across your stomach, and dumps you head-first into your neighbor's pig trough."

Setting: A small town in Tennessee near the Smokey Mountains

Premise:

All Lilli Stone wanted from her life was a career as an actress, a date with Johnny Depp, and one perfect day when her bi-polar mother forgot to be disappointed in her daughter. Instead, dropped by her Hollywood agent and fired from her waitressing job, she returns home to Tennessee to care for her senile Gramps and her (slightly psychotic) Great Aunt Beatrice. She expects to fade quietly into the fabric of small-town living without a single ripple to show she ever left.

Her mother has other plans.

Jonathan Stewart is a private investigator specializing in tracking the kind of creatures most people don't believe exist. When an outbreak of terrifying supernatural events hits eastern Tennessee, he traces the source to a tiny town nestled in the shadows of the Smokey Mountains. Opening a private investigation office as a front for his paranormal research, Jonathan heads into the mountains to destroy the cause of the crisis.

His first foray into the heart of the Smokeys meets with disaster. Now, Jonathan is injured, unable to continue his research in the field, and a demon of unspeakable darkness has his scent. Worse, the residents in tiny Bird's Eye, Tennessee have taken Jonathan at his word. Over-run with clients spouting complaints about missing ATVs and murdered roosters, Jonathan needs help. When Elizabeth Stone tells him her daughter is an ex-FBI agent returning from a five year stint in deep-cover and is looking for work, he jumps at the chance to hire her.

Now, trapped in a lie of breath-taking audacity, Lilli must take on the role of a lifetime or risk exposing her mother's mental illness to the entire community. Taking online private detective courses by night, she spends her days trying to look like she knows what she's doing. One fainting goat, two instances of shooting inanimate objects, and three high-speed chases using stolen lawnmowers later, Jonathan is getting suspicious and Lilli is running out of excuses.

Meanwhile, the demon set loose in the mountains is closing in and someone in town wants Jonathan and Lilli dead. Will Jonathan and Lilli learn to trust each other in time to defeat their common enemy or will they take their secrets with them to the grave?

Friday, September 4, 2009

Shh: Mind Reading In Progress



1. Since I'm in the process of applying for jobs, I've been reading a ton of job descriptions online.

2. Most make perfect sense.

3. Today, one job description said the following: Mandatory Skills: Communication. Must effectively communicate as pertains to the giving of information. Communication skill required is only verbal and written.

4. Well, that's a relief!

5. My mind-reading powers, while formidable with my own children, are a bit rusty when it comes to the general public. Although, they could be excluding body language which is a shame because I'm really good at that.

6. Also, I appreciated the definition of how to effectively communicate because, yanno, communication isn't always about the giving of information.

7. Sometimes, it's about... well, it's about ...

8. ...

9. Starshine had his follow up visit at Vanderbilt and got his cast sealed up.

10. This time, he went with a black and white striped cast.

11. When I saw it, I commented that I really liked it and said it reminded me of the Jolly Roger and was very pirate-ish.

12. Starshine looked at me and said, quite sternly, "It's not pirate-ish. It's prisoner-ish."

13. Nice to know he's setting his life goals high.

14. Speaking of Starshine, guess who I caught jumping on the furniture this week?

15. That's right.

16. When I reminded him (in a less than calm voice) that not one week ago he'd snapped both bones in his arm by pulling a similar stunt, he looked sheepish and admitted that he'd forgotten.

17. Forgotten.

18. One week later.

19. I admit I thought I had a bit more time than that.

20. *considers just duct taping Starshine to a wall for a while*

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Twitterpated



Once upon a time (say about two years ago) I had enough time on my hands to browse the internet, read agent blogs, visit writer web sites, and make friends among the commenters there. That slim margin of web time has disappeared from my schedule. At most, I have snatches of a few minutes here and a few minutes there that I can guiltlessly devote to reading stuff on the web for fun.

I've had to cut out visits to agent blogs unless one of the ones I follow on Twitter posts a link to something I think I really shouldn't miss. I don't go to author websites, even authors I consider my friends, unless they too post a link on Twitter and I realize it's something I should pop over to see. Livejournal was the first site I let go and that was a tough decision since I genuinely LIKE the people I follow there and who follow me. But keeping up with two blogs and reading pages of entries sucked time I just didn't have. I do, however, keep up with my LJ friends on Twitter. *waves at Katy and Annette*

Twitter works for me because it's quick. And it keeps a running log of conversations I'm involved in. I can answer someone, go to work, hit the grocery store, critique a chapter, and clean out my inbox and then log in to Twitter to see their reply and continue the dialogue. I find it easier to network and keep up with the people I really enjoy on Twitter.

My point is this: If I can't get to your blog regularly, post a link to something important and draw my attention to it on Twitter. I'll go. If you aren't on Twitter but you enjoy my strange brand of humor, join Twitter and follow me. It's usually worth your while (Though slaying the Laundry Dragon is a frequent topic. As are were-llamas and Zombie Goats. And you might get hit in the face with a sparkalay cupcake. Don't say you weren't warned.) and if it isn't, you can un-follow me without me ever discovering your treachery.

Despite the stupid name (Twitter? Really? Like we're all darling little sparrows?), it's a fantastic way to network and keep up with friends when you've got major time constraints. At the moment, short and sweet is the only option I've got. :)

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