Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Weight Gaining Lifestyle

A little while back I did a Facebook on writing as a weight gaining lifestyle. There's just something about sitting in a chair for hours on end that just seems to attract the pounds. It also stimulates the desire for unhealthy snacks, a lethal combo. (I admit to giving in to temptation.) I've been getting a lot written these past months, and right now I'm deep in editing a book I started earlier this year. Plus I've been doing critiques for various partners and writing story for he Arlington Almanac - I even got a fan letter! Add in the work I do at a local senior center and I have no life beyond sitting at a computer, or with pen and paper. So I'm growing by hips and pounds.


A friend laughingly said this all sounds like a topic for a workshop. I say, sign me up - although I think she was suggesting I give the workshop. So I'm asking, how do you handle the sedentary nature of the writing profession? Have you discovered the secret to jogging while writing? Or found a twenty-fifth hour to use exclusively for exercise? Or do you just no longer care. And, if so, I really do envy you.

Anyway, just for giggles and kicks I've set up a poll. You're all invited to make a selection. And please - I'd say pretty please with sugar on it, but that just defeats the whole purpose, if you want to comment on how you combine work, exercise and writing, please do so. I need all the help and suggestions I can get.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Another day off

I went to the movies and saw District 9. I thought it would be good. I hoped I'd enjoy it. I was wrong.

It was amazing!!

I'm not normally a movie critic, so take this with a grain of salt. But this movie had everything I wanted from a film. A strong but flawed protagonist I found myself at first reluctantly, then whole-heartedly rooting for. A strong antagonist who mirrored the protagonist in every way, so much so that I had to root for him as well, alien or no. A truly evil villain I could hate in good conscious. (In fact, we got two good villains for the price of one.) And an adorable and spunky child to boot.

This is more than just a science fiction movie. It's political satire at it's best, there's a location that is new to most of us, Johannesburg South Africa, and therefore exotic, there's a government and business conspiracy (there really are a lot of secrets in District 9) and a good buddy picture.

So help me, the aliens are uglier than the guy in the Predator movies. Yet, somehow they aren't hard to look at, and actually kind of endearing, although the idea of inter-species prostitution did strike me as going a little far. Speaking of which, this shoes that the human race will go on, even if aliens were to invade. There will always be someone, probably several someones, who will figure out ways to profit from the deal. And, as always, the child is endearing, no matter what he looks like.

The human's biggest fault is that he actually trusts the officials around him and thinks he is doing a worthwhile job. The alien's biggest fault is that he is just too darn honest.

Of course there will be a sequel. There has to be. I need to know. I just hope they're wrong and it doesn't take three whole years.

In the opinion of this amateur film critic - five stars. And I think I'm going to see it again.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Good News

I've just been told that my novel, Damaged Goods, is a finalist in the Mainstream Category of the 2009 Golden Gateway Competition. Too bad you can't see my trying to float on air right now. Especially since in my heart of hearts I didn't really think a story about a prostitute and a would-be murderer really had a chance in - well, in hades. Right now I'm doing some last minute touch-ups, the judges thought it needed more body language and setting, before the story goes in front of the final judges.

And it get's better. My YA novel, Pull My String, finalled in the Reveal Your Inner Vixen contest. That involved a high sexual tension scene from the middle of the story as David discovers the depth of his feelings for Yolanda, the girl who belongs to the school's chief bad-ass.

Be still my beating heart.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


I've joined Goodreads, an readers/writers networking site. I'm posting my WIP's there, along with reviews of other works. Come take a look at Damaged Goods, Pull My String and Life Sucks.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

I'm Back

Sorry, but after the BIAW week I took a short rest that became just a little longer. By the end of the week I had a complete plot, about 110 pages and 22,000 words and I just needed some time to myself. Not too long, though, because now I'm editing and adding story. My first writing class gave me a distinct difference between Plot and Story, and I've found that helpful. I am a plotter, so my first tun through is to get the plot points. My second run, or first big edit, adds in Story, the emotional context. Then I take another run to add in setting, and finally I'm into pure editing, which frequently means cutting. I have finally learned that less can mean more.

Right now I have a deadline - Tomorrow I have to have a short story for my column in in the Arlington Almanac, a local magazine I've been writing for during the last year and a half. It's quarterly for God's sake, so you'd think I could come up with one story every three months. But no, I'm feeling dead in the water. So today and tomorrow is dedicated to making that story happen.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

BIAW - the end

Even after taking yesterday off to do a little playing, this has been an exhausting week. Productive, but dizzying. I have 126 pages, and almost 21,000 words of Neill's journey through a sucky life. Not only dies the poor boy loose his boyfriend, but his grandfather hates him, this girl won't leave him alone, and now he's got to deal with a dead teacher and a brother in prison. I'd feel sorry for him, but I know how the story ends.
“I don’t want you to hate me.”

“I could never hate you, Kalif.”

“Never?” My brother laughs.

“We’re family.”

“You need to know, I loved you from the first moment I saw you. I knew I had to stop being a coward and protect you, no matter what it cost.” He swallows as if his throat is on fire. It’s like he’s about to make some confession. But I know my brother like I know myself. He never killed anyone.

“It’s okay, Kalif. You’ve always been the best brother anyone could ask for.”

“Maybe. But I’ve been one lousy father.”

“No you haven’t. Sierra -”

“I’m not talking about my daughter.”

Kalif falls silent. His eyes glaze. He’s no longer staring at me. His eyes burn through my skin as he stares at something I can’t see.

“I met your mother in college.”

“No.” My chest pounds like I’m in a marathon and my brain refuses to believe what I think I’m hearing.

“I thought she was just another student.”

Don’t say this. Please.

“I didn’t know. How young she was, I mean. Didn’t find out until too late she was just sixteen. She told me she was eighteen and I believed – wanted to believe. Prescott’s daughter hated the tight leash he kept her under, she liked escaping and hanging around the campus. Hanging with me.”

Come to think of it - I do feel sorry for Neill. Because not even he is who he thought he was.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

BIAW - Day 6 - playing hookey

I cheated today and did precious little writing. Fortunately my writing's ahead of schedule and I promise to make up for today's slackoff tomorrow. I did do a critique on a new work for my CP Angela. And I entered the Golden Rose contest with my YA, Pull My String. Then I just took a day off and headed for Chicago's Midwest Buddhist Temple and the annual Ginza festival.

I can't tell you enough how I love the Taiko Drummers. If you've never heard them, find the nearest place in your area that has a club and go see. If you have, you understand exactly what I mean. The Ginza festival includes a group from the Chicago temple, and a group from St. Paul, Minnesota. Together, those men and women are awesome.

Also, take a look at the little Japanese Dancer.

In my youth I tried a number of different religions - I was born a Baptist, tried out Catholicism in college (they had this insanely handsome priest) and I've studied Islam. Went Ecumenical for a while, and tried a Lutheran church that ended up being too Hellfire and Brimstone for my liking. I didn't stick with that long enough to see if it was just that one church or the entire denomination. I've been a Methodist for about seventeen years now. Truthfully, I don't see all that much difference between this and my old Baptist beginnings. At the Ginza festival, there's always a discussion during intermission about Buddhism. Today's discussion was largely question and answer. Learning that some of the core of this religion is a belief in impermanence, interdependency between all things, and cause and effect, leaves me wondering if there isn't a little Buddhism in me too. Especially now that I know that Karma is actually "the sum of who you are."

Guess in my case, Karma really is a bitch.

Friday, August 7, 2009

BIAW - Day 5

This isn't as bad as NaNoWriMo - I only have to suffer through two more days. And this story is zinging. Maybe because this is the first time I've tried a sequel, so I know most of the characters already - although I never knew Neill lived with his older brother. Or maybe because I'm doing 1st person again. My last 1st person POV novel zinged too. Anyway, today I worked on the scene where Neill confronts his brother about a possible affair with his teacher. As usual, it's all about Neill - which is as it should be - he's the hero and he's sixteen. All this is leading up to the moment they find the teacher dead, with his brother as the prime murder suspect.
Kalif’s hands tremble. “I haven’t felt like this since the night mom and dad died.” He heaves a sigh and turns to look at me. “Relax, I’m not repeating that stupidity again. But at a time like this I almost wish I were still a drinking man.”

“Are you having an affair with my teacher?”

The words hang in the air between me and my brother. I know I’ve crossed into a world I never wanted to enter.

I’m expecting him to swear, hit me, throw things.

Anything but the look of fear that tightens his jaw. “No.” He lifts his hands in a helpless gesture of surrender. “Not now.”

“But you did.”

Whatever he’s feeling it’s more than fear. Something moves in the back of my brother’s eyes. I could swear he wants to say more. I think if I were older he would. I think he wants to confess. But not to his kid brother.

“It was a long time ago.”

“Before or after you got married?” I say as I jump to my feet and run up the stairs to my room. I thought their marriage was tight. Proof love was possible. I know without some miracle I’ll never be married. I may find a partner willing to be with me no matter what people say. Maybe we’ll live together, have a civil contract and one of those civil ceremonies and try pretending it’s the same thing. But marriage, real marriage, would require a miracle.

If real love takes a miracle too, I am so screwed.

And not in a nice way.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

BIAW - Day 4

I am reaching what is usually the magical point for me in any story, the hundred page mark. By this point ideas are solid. Unfortunately this is also the time when flaws become visible. Amazingly so far, no glaring plot holes. I'm at 16,000 words, far ahead of schedule, and I see the road to the end of the story clearly.

Right now I'm busy plodding through the dreaded middle.
“Is there something wrong with me?”

“No.” Now I have to explain I’m not interested, and then she’ll want the details why and she’ll pout and another friend bites the dust. Why didn’t I just say something in the first place?

Her brows furrow like Sierra's does when her mother takes her toys away. “I thought you liked me. Is it because I’m a white girl?”

After biting back a laugh I say, “It’s because you’re a girl.”

She’s silent for a minute. “You don’t like girls?”

You could parade every model from the swimsuit edition in front of me and all I’d think was – interesting. Maybe, nice tan. “Call me crazy, but I’m gay, as in not exactly happy, but that’s life.”

“Gay? As in you hate girls?”

“Oh, I like girls. They make great friends. But I’m not interested in them in any other way. Julian knows I wouldn’t object if you two got interested in each other.” Yet, for some reason that thought does bother me. Calling Julian a man-whore’s a bit much. He just never met a girl he didn’t want to touch, and right now he’s popular enough that most of them want to be touched by him.

The girls at our table are the exceptions. Like a prophet unwelcome in his own neighborhood, our girls know him too well. But there’s a whole school full of girls for him to strut through. I don’t want Sheila one of his casualties.

“How do you know you’re gay?”

The crowd screams as Farrington scores again. People around us leap to their feet, jerking the wooden bench beneath us as we stare at each other.

“How do you know you’re straight?”

“Boys – some boys, make me feel -,” she pauses as if searching for words.

“Some boys make me feel hot, too.”

“But not girls?”

“Never.” Still, there’s something in her face that attracts me. I’ve never questioned being gay. But there is something calming about being with her. “I’ve known I was gay since I was twelve.”

“You wanted to have sex with guys at twelve?”

Why does everyone think its only about sex. “Is that what you wanted at twelve?”

She looks thoughtful. “No. I just … wanted to impress them. Wanted them to like me. To be around me. It made me feel good knowing a guy liked me.”

Bingo. “Especially the right guy.”

She nods. “I’d get all tingly inside when he’d smile or say hi.”

Ditto. I love that tingly thing. When Carl and I have sex, it will be extra.

Except its not gonna happen. He’s over there across the stands snuggling up to Wendy like she’s the last life preserver on the Titanic.

“Did you ever try being with a girl?”

“No. Have you ever tried being with a tree?”

“That’s gross.”

“Not really. I like trees. Think where the world would be without them.”

She doesn’t laugh. “Is that what you think of us?”

“Girls are all right. Okay to talk to, sometimes even interesting. But not that interesting.”

“But guys blow your gasket?”

I’d never have put it like that, but she’s got the idea. “Some guys, anyway.”

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

BIAW - Day 3

I think I'm liking this crash way of writing. Being the kind who likes to create scenes and does not start at the beginning, go all the way to the end and then stop, I've got the outline of my complete story down in ninety pages and 10,000 words. I even managed to put together a synopsis, unheard of for me this early in the process.

Today its the scene where our hero, Neill, meets the new girl in school, and the new teacher, and has an immediate reaction to both. Is he wrong about his sexuality - or is something else afoot?
The first time mom called me a contrarian I had to look it up. I’m proud of that word, it describes me perfectly. Explains why I have French fourth period instead of the Spanish that ninety percent of the students taking a language attend.

Spanish classes are always packed. Most Farrington students have no trouble getting good grades there. The school’s forty percent Hispanic. Like most of the other kids in the who didn’t learn Spanish in their homes, I got my share on the playground tangling with friends who did. I swear as fluently in Spanish as I do in English. Better. Mom never punished me for the Spanish swears she didn’t understand, so I used those most often.

I take French.

Less frantic. Fewer students.

But today there is a new student. Blondie.

She settles into a seat next to mine as we wait for our teacher. Once again I find myself studying her face. Something draws me, and I wonder if I’ve met her before.
She turns. “Where’s your girlfriend?”

It takes a few seconds for me to realize she means Yolanda and I almost burst out laughing. “My friend, not my girlfriend.”

“Her loss.”

It won’t take her long to know how unimaginable that would be. And not just because I’m gay and don’t want or need a girlfriend. The great Yoyo Dare and anyone except David Albacore? Even if I was into girls it’d never happen. The long fist of David Albacore would reach across the state and strangle me, or anyone else, who tried to put a move on his Dare. I’d live longer putting a move on his little sister.

The door opens and a woman walks in. We’re all wondering who the new teacher will be. Mr. Faber unexpectedly retired just before finals. Normally that would mean we’d have to suffer through a string of subs for weeks, maybe even until the end of the semester. There aren’t a lot of spare French teachers in the Chicago Public Schools, and fewer still with so little seniority they can be transferred to an inner-city school at a moment’s notice. But we were told the Principal was lucky enough to find someone willing to take the post.

This woman’s tall, blond, pale skinned, and, except for her eyes being a smoky gray instead of green, she looks enough like Blondie to be her sister.

Or her mother.

I turn my head and see Blondie do an eye roll that would make a sister proud. She looks like she’d disappear if she could, but since she can’t, she stares at the wall and mutters “Welcome to my world.”

The woman in the immaculate and totally out-of-place in this world, anyway, dark velvet suits leaned against the desk and smiled at us. “Je m'appelle Alison Grant. Je serai votre nouveau professeur.”

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

BIAW - Day 2

I made today's quota - barely. I also have plot details worked out. I know Neill's real parents, I know what he wants to be when he grows up and why kissing Sheila is as bad as kissing his 3 year old niece. I know how he and Carl get back together, and I even know who killed his real mother and how he or she gets caught. Anyway, at 6800 words, here's today's scene, as Neill tries to explain to his brother Kalif how he feels about his breakup with Carl.

Just say it.
“Neill, I have to get back to my patients.”
“Carl and I …” God, this is so damned painful. “We’re not a couple anymore.”
Kalif’s eyebrows pulled together. “I don’t understand.”
“He broke up with me.”
“Well, I’m … I’m sorry.”
No. He’s not. I can tell by the way his hand pats my shoulder. The little nod of his chin. There’s that look on his face when he’s satisfied he’s been proven right about something.
It’s just a cold, Mrs. C.
I knew you’d prefer red instead of green.
I told that old man it was cancer.
I knew my little brother wasn’t really gay.
“It’s not a phase, Kalif. I'm not going out to find come girl to take Curt’s place.”
He and Lilah pretend they’re okay with my being gay. I guess they tried, but looks like it was never real.
Mom and dad are the only ones who really accepted me as I was. My parents would have accepted anything.
Brother’s suck.
And I don’t mean that in a good way.

Monday, August 3, 2009


I'm in a BIAW (Book In A Week) challenge. As if NaNoWriMo isn't enough. My personal challenge is 3,000 words a day. So, it's almost the end of day 1, and I have finished 3600 words (a bit of a future cushion always helps.) I've started a new book, I'm always at my best at the beginning. This one is tentatively titled Life sucks, and no, it's not another vampire story. I recently completed and submitted a YA novel called Pull My String. While waiting - hoping- I'd get a bite, I decided to do another YA. And, while the original was not supposed to be a series, I thought, why not use the same school, setting and characters? Why reinvent the wheel? So, this one takes place a few months after PMS ends, and one of the minor characters, a gay junior named Neill, is the antagonist for this book.
Anyway, here's the beginning:
Chapter 1
The first day of second semester should mark the beginning of the end. In a good way. The school year’s half-way over. I know we still have to wear boots and heavy coats, and the clouds in a sky more putrid and gray than blue promise there are more blizzards in store before there’s even a hint of spring. The negative temperatures eat at the end of your nose and there is absolutely no reason for us to be standing here at the foot of the staircase instead of following the other students up to the entrance to Farrington High School.

With first semester finals out of the way there’s supposed to be a light at the end of the tunnel. Not a wind chill ripping through my guts that matches anything January can throw at me.

“I just want to be normal,” Carl says again. “Is that too much to ask?”

For Carl to be normal he has to dump me.

Even bundled in that bulky down jacket with the cap pulled down to hide his hair and ears, the sight of Carl’s big body leaves me feeling loopy. Maybe I didn’t think we could really be a forever couple, but I do love him.

He can’t be abnormal. If he’s abnormal, what does that make me?

I try making a joke. “We’re not abby-normal.” Stupid, and way below my usual standards. The cold stings my face, turning every sound I make into frozen clouds that hang in the air in front of my face, stinging my cheeks and growing larger with every word. “There’s nothing wrong with us, except we’re standing out here freezing our butts when we should be inside.”

He shakes his head. “My uncle says it’s a choice I have to make. He did, and it worked for him. I’m going to try. You can handle this, Neill, you’re strong. I tried, you know I did. But I can’t deal with this anymore.”

Strong? It’s ten below and snowing and every word he says leaves me ready to melt out here. “What’s not normal is denying what you are. What about us?”

“There is no us anymore. I won’t be gay anymore.”

Just like that. As if he can turn the way he feels off.

Maybe he can.

“I’m tired, Neill. I’m tired of being a homo, faggot, or fudge packer and having my mother crying and praying because her son’s on the fast track to hell.”

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Beginning at the beginning

My first YA novel, Pull My String, details the story of a 17-year-old boy in Chicago's inner city as he tries to separate himself from the history of violence in his family and falls in love with a girl who thinks her only value is sex.

Starting today I'm working on a second. I didn't intend this to be a series, but once I decided to do another YA, it only made sense to reuse the characters rather than create a whole new universe. So this story stars a minor character, Neill Mallory, a junior on my mythical Farrington High School on Chicago's south side. Neill is gay, and is suffering from a breakup with a long time boyfriend who has decided to try the straight life. His father and stepmother have always seemed to accept that, but he sees the truth in their reaction to his news. But that pales when he finds out there's been a major lie going on in his family, a lie that began before he was born. His supposedly dead mother isn't. And she shows up in his father's life after her husband's death, wanting to resume the relationship. Worse still, he discovers this isn't the first time she reappeared in his father's life, and he has a half-brother out there somewhere. Worst of all, she ends up dead, and his father's picked up for her murder. Neill will need to take a new look at what makes a happy couple, and at what makes him happy. And, hopefully, get his parents out of jail and rescue his half-brother from foster hell. All before his seventeenth birthday.

And did I mention there is this girl Neill will have to deal with?

Other characters from PMS (really I didn't have that in mind when I gave it the title) will show up, including Barney, Yoyo, and a sneak guest appearance from David Albacore. And I might even reveal Tyrone's dark secret.