Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Flying Leap Into 2010

2010 is not a leap year, but if it were, it would be a piping hot bowl of terrific. Alas, we must wait until 2012 to enjoy the enticing debauchery of that February day that may, or may not, exist. In my time thriller, Until Midnight, the entire back story hinged on a February 29th many years earlier in which a group of scientists used the day as an outside-of-time excuse to engage in all manner of behavior unfitting to respected scholars.

For 2010, we have the Universal Pictures release, Leap Year, starring Amy Adams as a woman with an elaborate scheme to propose to her boyfriend on Leap Day, according to some far-fetched Irish custom and Matthew Goode as a hunky Brit who annoys her to the point that any other man pales in comparison. Yes, this is recycled chick-flick plot, but we're not shooting for Shakespeare here, people. Although no respectable romance writer can land a contract for a romantic comedy these days, Hollywood is eating them up. Such is the cycle. What's hot in Romancelandia will be hot in Hollywood in, say, five years, and vice-versa. People want to laugh. Especially women, who always carry more than their fair share on their shoulders at any one time. And guys, you're all geeked-up on multiple viewings of Avatar. Am I right? The universe must have balance.
What new movie are you excited to see in 2010? What was your favorite of 2009?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

For the Love of Pete...and Vortex Readers

Over the holidays, I read an article about the hidden traps of online communities. You didn't know there was a boogey-man lurking behind that phone booth, did you? Or, so I've been told, there is a strong possibility of contracting MacGyveritis around here if you are already of the female persuasion. Always, you could be Rickrolled. Okay, time to be serious.

Those who received RWA's Romance Writer's Report know the article. Most of the cautionary tales involved things we writers know intuitively: watch what you say, don't join a community/blog just to promote your books, beware the time-suck. But something the author, Corrina Lavitt, touched on was a more insidious problem: a community can become so comfortable, so familiar, that it forgets about its silent lurkers.

I'm the first one to stand up and say I'm guilty of alluding to jokes or commenters without giving proper linkage to catch my newer, silent visitors up. For that, I shall Rickroll myself. I do think it's easy for blog owners to become comfortable in the familiar and forget to nurture that which is growing. I see you, lurker Vortex reader, and I get that sometimes there's nothing to be said besides, "For the love of Pete, what is she talking about?" (and who, exactly, is Pete? Pete Thornton?). I appreciate all of you, silent or otherwise. My true "itis" is cliques. Hate them. Everyone is welcome here at the wacky table.

Speaking of wacky, I'm co-coordinating a writing contest for the next month and I'd be remiss if I didn't pass along it's shiny awesomeness. Aside from the fact that wonderful things happened to me the year The Night Caller placed first, the Great Expectations contest is often mentioned alongside the Daphne and the Molly in romance writing circles for consistent, high-quality critiques. The deadline is tomorrow, so what are you still reading this blog for? Go forth and enter!
Are there any hidden traps you've noticed in online communities?

Monday, December 28, 2009

Removing Web Footprints

Like my phone booth? It screamed, "Pick me! Pick me!" while seeking out the new and different. I suppose, like everyone, I'm looking more ahead than behind this time of year. We'll see if the booth takes me where I want to go. Not sure if I'll keep him just yet. Is it me or is there a reflection of a face on the left side?

At my request, The Wild Rose Press has returned rights to me for "The Lost Highway," part of the Love, Texas Style anthology. To those of you who had the opportunity to read my time travel romantic short over the past two years, thank you. It was the perfect way to dip my toes into the publishing pool. To those who haven't read it, I'll still be giving away the final few copies from time to time. As I'm removing the cover art from my web-carbon footprints, I can't help but wonder how many of the 665 views on YouTube might have been from outside my mother's abysmal circle of knitting friends who can navigate cyberspace or Bon Jovi fans on a drunk-click binge. Some of them might have actually stayed for the home-grown promotion. Some day this will evolve into a 10 second prime time spot where I'll promise to kill off my bestselling hero if you do not buy my latest, ala James Patterson, but for now, I'll hold fast to my delusion that it was riveting. Meanwhile, seeking a place to give "The Lost Highway" new publishing life is on my 2010 to-do list.

What's on your 2010 list?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Martha Stewart Was Never a Bond Girl!

Guys, you may have to check your man card at the door to get into the 007 Bond Girl blog today. We're talking....shhh!...decorating. I know! I have no idea what came over me. If you need a visual, like most men do, here's a cheat sheet for you:

Nate Berkus
(Oprah's Interior Design Guru)

John DeSalvo
(Romance Cover Art Model)

Jonas Armstrong
(Yes, Jen, this one was for you)
Remember, real men wear pink and can see past Martha Stewart's days up the river. Be sure to leave me a comment so I know you took one for the team.

Monday, December 14, 2009

On Shiny Noses and One-Trick Poses

In anticipation of Tuesday, when I'll once again strap on the thigh-high boots and slip into my Bond girl persona, I can't help but want to get these newsy items out of the way. They're cluttering my brain and could impede my ability to create a coherent non-time-travel-ish post. Believe it or not, not everyone gushes at the idea of time travel. I know! Crazy, isn't it?

This past weekend, I flipped through channels aimlessly and landed on the sequel to Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Rudolf's Shiny New Year. Who knew there had been a sequel? Better yet, who knew that Santa and Father Time would send Rudolf on a time-traveling adventure? Nevermind that the monster bird, Eon, would blow his nasty old breath and send Rudolf spinning in the wrong temporal direction. It happens. Mostly in the form of a nasty old plot siren at the end of your rewrites saying, "Wouldn't it be better if you changed your protagonist's internal motivation for the entire book? Hmm?"

CBS is now jumping into the science fiction hour of ratings power by developing a series called Murmurs. The drama involves a group called The Commission who must repair alterations in time known as "murmurs" to ensure history remains untouched. No doubt they'll follow their proven CSI formula and have female agents with mummy-tailored, cleavage-enhanced shirts, a moody leader with only one expression in his acting repertoire (ala David Caruso), and camera angles and neon lights to simulate the fun not found in any office setting. Anywhere. Score one for time travel though.

Time travel back to this post where I was considering entering my novel in the Next Best Celler contest. This was the one sponsored by Dorchester Publishing and where authors post their stories in bite-sized increments hoping to hook their readers into a serialized, frequent experience. The five most-followed romance manuscripts have been announced and have a shot at becoming Dorchester's newest author. Search by title to read the entrants' stories from the beginning.

Those teachers across the pond really know how to plant the seeds for our next generation of time travel obsessed authors. Imagine being called out of a mundane junior high school day in England to see a time machine parked in the teacher lot and witness a company of theater actors in period costume stumble out, teach about their era, and jump start a research-based history project. So much more engaging than staring at Dee-Snyder-ish slideshows of French Revolutionary leaders in the coma-inducing dark in Mr. Coffee-Breath's class. In a futile attempt to re-summon a link for you to view this foil masterpiece, the article seems to have vanished into the ether. Or my imagination. Or another time.

Finally, rocker David Bowie's son, Duncan Jones, formerly known as Zowie Bowie of what-the-hell-was-my-father-thinking fame, is developing a time travel movie called Source Code, fresh off a Best Debut Director accolade at the British Independent Film Awards. According to Variety, Source Code is "a story about a soldier who finds himself repeatedly placed into the body of another person just before the detonation of a bomb on a commuter train." Jake Gyllenhaal is in negotiations to take on the lead role. Um, negotiate? What, the degree of his awesomeness? Sign him up, Mr. Jones. Me thinks Mr. Prince of Persia has the same affinity for time stories as someone else we know. Mmmm?
There. I think I have it all out of my system so tomorrow I can speak of something relatable and grounded. Or as grounded as a Bond girl can get. Be sure to pop back tomorrow and follow the stiletto boot prints to my alter-blog.
Until then, let us know how you would spend the time if I gifted you an extra hour today.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Three Coherent Quotes

I'm holed up at Casa Vortex with a nasty case of Strep. Thankfully, all I can expose you to is cyber-breath. The debilitating body aches are gone; the bowling ball that was my head yesterday has returned to normal. Hooray for coherent thought.

One of my ambitious holiday gift projects involves writerly sayings. My search for inspiration online netted me more than I'll ever use, but I found a quote that could not have been more perfect for me:

"Without a pen I feel naked, but it's writing that is my exhibitionism." ~Carrie Latet

If we were to meet at, say, a holiday party, I'd be the one blending into the curtains at the room's periphery. I'd stare out the window and you'd think me aloof. Really, I'd be be so painfully trapped in my introversion, I'd long for the pate to sprout lips and start a conversation so I wouldn't have to. Speak about Desmond Morris's fifth stage of intimacy? I'd rather skewer my eyeballs with a fireplace poker. Write about it? Now you're talking. Maybe I view the playground of the mind as sacred, something that loses its magic when drizzled out past the tongue.

Here's another quote that made me stop and think:

"No man should ever publish a book until he has first read it to a woman." ~Van Wyck Brooks
Mr. Brooks was a historian, biographer and American literary critic just after the turn of the twentieth century. He received a Pulitzer in 1937 for his novel, The Flowering of New England. This quote makes me want to read something he wrote, even a snippet. Do his words slant romantic? Is there a subtle rawness only a woman could appreciate?
Lastly, I found this one:
"One writes to make a home for oneself, on paper, in time, in other's minds." ~Alfred Kazin
What a perfectly-wrapped gift this quote is for me. It is as if the writer must ask for permission to enter a reader's mind, dance that awkward moment of first introductions and engage in a subtle give and take until residence is established. And, there is the time thing. The ultimate time travel for a writer. The days and months I spend in creation answered months, even years, later in the reader's hours of experience.
Do you have a favorite quote? Share it, and tell us why it speaks to you.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

But the Fire Is So Delightful

It's a round-up of awesomeness here at The Vortex. Yea, have I been the Queen of Less-Than-Fruitful-Multi-tasking but not so busy that I failed to keep up with temporal and writerly links of awesomeness.

Remember Physics of the Impossible, that ultra-fascinating non-fiction book by rock-star-to-time-travel nerds, Michio Kaku? In a fit of pure inspiration, the powers that be at the Science Channel have translated the bestselling book into a series that began in early December. Already, they've covered parallel universes and light sabers. Light sabers, people. I'd roll my hair into two sticky-bun-shaped saucers if I could get my hands on one of those.

If the thought of LOST returning in mere weeks has Sawyer-esque wisecracks slipping off the tongue at your holiday festivities, why not feed your sarcasm with the Top 70 LOST quotes from Seasons 1-5? And while we're on the subject, the just-released season five DVD set features LOSTUniversity. Who wouldn't want to be schooled on how to survive the jungle by Josh Holloway? Ants? Sure I'll eat them if you'll share my airline-seat-as-recliner.Link

And finally, for those moments when your scene isn't flowing, why not try the authormatic? Three minutes of pure mad-libs-type fun. If you try it, be sure to leave yours in the comments for us to enjoy.

I'm firmly entrenched in an epic holiday battle between what I want to do and what I must do, so posts may ride the coat tails of randomness right now. While holing myself up to write in a mountain cabin with a fire and a raging snowstorm outside seems unlikely, it's still on my list for Santa. Someday, it will happen. Right about the time this guy shows up on a rescue snowmobile with a three book contract in one hand and a box of Ho-hos in the other.

What do you hope to find in your stocking this year?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Hoarding Inspiration

So awhile back I was watching the CMA awards, because that's how I roll when I'm not listening to Elvis or vintage Metallica, waiting for my main music squeeze to perform when he rolls out the first few notes of a song I thought would remain in obscurity forever. He has those-the heavily-banjo-ed, borderline Hee-Haw ones that will forever be trapped between more commercial radio releases. I never dreamed this quiet, sad, painful little song would reach so many. Damn and double damn. One, because I'm selfish, and it was my perfect little find when everyone else was singing his number one hits. And two, because it hit me during the perfect time this past summer when the planets aligned and story lightning struck. Now, as with everything on the pop-culture radar, freshness eventually stales. I fear editors-especially in romance-will see a surge in this unique setting, at this unique time, with this unique human experience. Yes, author voice does ensure no two stories are the same, but one has to only say, "Vampire" to witness the eye rolls and see how that theory has played out.

I am also in full-hoard mode this week because I had to surrender my old satellite box for the new HD one. A Kleenex moment to rival the commercial of the soldier coming home at Christmas. The Elvis movie Roustabout, gone(which, incidentally, was the Yang to the previous Yin of fictional inspiration this summer). Forty MacGyver episodes, gone. And while watching him try to escape a nuclear reactor in ninety seconds would make it all worth it were in experienced in high-def, sadly, it is not to be. Put me on a 52" beach with Josh Holloway come January and I'll bring the suntan lotion, though. With my DVR cupboard bare, I'll turn to the best high def experience around: writing fiction.

What do you do with your inspirations?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Ten Reasons My Muse is Thankful

Every so often, writers need to belly up to the bountiful table of blessings because, let's face it, the starlight moments are few and far between. It's easy to let the weight of the literary world, with all it's rules and rejections, take us far from our intended course. With that in mind, and before the tryptophan short circuits creative thought and lapses me into a food coma, I offer up a Vortex 10 filled with writerly blessings.

Top Ten Reasons My Muse is Thankful:

1. We collaborate on love scenes unworthy of The Literary Review's Bad Sex in Fiction Prize.

2. I do not beg for clarity of thought from her at ungodly pre-dawn hours.

3. My DVR stash/Netflix account is a See's Candy Store of visual hero inspiration. And no calories!

4. My large-capacity water heater is golden for those lengthy plot-pondering sessions in the shower.

5. My glee is not found in typical female traps-handbags, Jimmy Choos, maid service-but in office supplies so she can vomit organizational details in technicolor.

6. When the perky spinning instructor at the gym shouts, "You can see the finish line," the muse and I SO know it's not about visualizing a country road through a vineyard. We hear "You can see the signature line!" and "You can see the B&N book signing line!"

7. I don't go all postal on her when she va-cays for a few days. Even muses need mental health days.

8. I respect that she's trying to boldly go where no one has gone before.

9. Her people-watching skills have elevated waiting in a public place to an art form. Who needs CNN at the airport when we have Larry the Disenfranchised Horse Jockey carrying a Euro-bag housing a suspicious device?

10. From the time we became acquainted, I've never once abandoned her.

For my American friends, I hope you have an amazing Thanksgiving weekend. For all others, I hope you, too, find a quiet moment filled with peace and blessings.

This Thanksgiving, cherish the time spent with your family as a reminder of why you moved very far away from your family

Monday, November 23, 2009

Please Pass the Awesome Sauce

Yeah, I know. It's been a week. And while I'd like to regale you with fantastic adventures and narratives about how kind my muse has been to me of late, I cannot tell a lie. My day job took over, my muse went on sabbatical and I abandoned my blog to the black hole of non-regular posting death.

On Monday, I could not have felt any worse had my head been duct-taped MacGyver-style to Titanic's anchor. Death and snot and all. Rearranging the deck chairs of coherent thought that day proved just as futile, so I slept Rip Van Winkle-style. Time-wise, not on a grassy knoll.

On Tuesday, I could have sworn a time-warp occurred at a Starbucks in north Dallas. You see, a friend came over five hundred miles to see me, for a few hours, just conversation. No shopping, no sight-seeing. She and I over a hot drink and the best soup I've had all season. Three hours passed in one precious blink. What a treasure I have in her.

On Wednesday, though I cannot divulge why, the pissboy scene from History of the World Part One, kept replaying in my mind. Though, on this particular day, it most certainly was not good to be the King.

On Thursday, I almost posted a haiku about my dentist, but I couldn't figure out how to make exasperate and con-artist adhere nicely to the required number of beats. In his own mind, and I'm sure his mother's, he missed his calling as a stand-up comedian. But when a temporary crown falls off three times in one week just breathing air, all things dentist cease to be entertaining. Even the whoopie-cushion-esque jokes when your Levi's hug the vinyl chair too long.

On Friday, I watched New in Town. And, while the always-handsome Harry Connick, Jr. was a visual treat that melted nicely into my weary sensibilities, the bizarre, post-plastic-surgery-movement that Renee Zellweger's once-beautiful face twisted into with each line of dialogue was more than enough to toss me out of my story-world-suspension nearly every scene. Why do women do this? My mother, at 70, is still one of the most beautiful women I know. Her strategy? Protect what God gave you, don't try to change it. And be a good person. Over time, long-term emotions wear on our faces like a worn set of radials. Her road-wear suggests laughter and the grace of time. I can only hope to be so lucky.

So what if they're excuses? They sounds infinitely better than I sat, I tried, I uttered, "Ugh" and gave up. This week promises more time, a few extra breaths, at least one more dental visit and a monumental backlog of ideas for the Vortex.

Tell me one event in your life I missed last week that could only be described as one piping-hot bowl of awesome sauce.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Haunted Swing

While doing turn-of-the-century amusement park research for my current WIP, I came across some ingenious ways park owners came up with to thrill their customers. Times were tough, but the Ferris wheel, a promise to see the land as only birds had before them, was enough to make even the stodgiest penny-pincher empty his pockets. Me? I like the simpler pleasures just down from the bawdy burlesque shows. When I read about the Haunted Swing, I knew it had to be part of my novel.

Picture this: a tiny room, a wooden swing long enough to fit four comfortably, cables affixed to each end that hang from a bent iron bar that bisects the room and rotates crank-style, walls dark and Gothic, the only light coming from the midway through the plank's uneven cracks. Customers sit, an attendant pushes the swing. The ride begins as all other swings do. After several full movements, the swing's amplitude increases. It feel high. Higher than any of them are comfortable with. They realize the attendant is gone from the room and the light coming in from the cracks takes a full 360 degree rotation around them. The trapdoor in their stomach opens at the full-circle ride. They scream.

You can imagine in the early 1900s what a thrill this would have been. Of course, the passengers never moved any higher than a ordinary park swing. It was a mere trick of the mind. The attendant would step out of the room and crank a lever which rotated the room a full 360 degrees around the bar. Cool, huh? I would dance in a burlesque for a chance at that ride.

When Googling to try to find out more about the Haunted Swing, I came across this little scientific nugget. Yes, the X-files theme music drew me in, but there is some solid science behind this supposed "Haunted Swing" in Argentina. Who knew?

What's your favorite amusement park ride? Don't forget to tell us where it is.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Creative Blogger? Me? Pshaw.

Vesper, ye of the wish-I'd-written-that prose, has awarded The Vortex a creative blogger award. I shall try to give my acceptance speech before someone jumps on the podium and declares it should go to another with far greater soul and fashion sense. My candy-apple posts and pop culture cracks hardly seem worthy of such a thing, but I do have moments of serious navel-gazing introspection. Like here. And here. But for now, the award's rules state I must offer up seven trivial things about me. I'll strive for fresh here, as my prior memes are just this side of the TMI border:

1. I've always wanted a Jeep, but I settled for a Toyota. I love driving my standard shift and think everyone should have one so drivers will stop 4-way multi-tasking behind the wheel and just drive.

2. A large percentage of high school and college I b.s-ed my way through because my writing was like a new penny, mint-clean and eye-catching but not worth much. The teachers/professors who saw through it were the ones I most admired.

3. I've chased tornadoes multiple times with teams of meteorologists.

4. My greatest fear is being submerged underwater in my car.

5. When I was five, I decided to be a teacher. I never once wavered from that decision and never understood people who can't find their place in this world.

6. Ave Maria makes me cry. Every time. Unless sung by chipmunks.

7. I carry a blown-glass smiley face in the bottom of my purse. It was given to me by a very special person and I always seem to re-discover it when I most need it.

I usually break meme rules and refuse to pick someone to continue it, but since the challenge is given along with accolades and adoration, I choose:

Jen, Melanie, Sherry, Pam, Robin, Laughingwolf and Sandra this time around.

Thank you, Vesper, and thank you all for being such a special part of my blogging world. On the topic of trivial randomness, we'll usher in the weekend with this question: Other than the standard items (credit cards, money, driver's license, etc.) what is one interesting item you keep in your wallet?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Jeeves, Revealed

It occurred to me this past weekend (and thanks to big sis) that the items stored in my DVR represent a perfect cross-section of my personality. I suspect it is that way for everyone who uses this technology. It's true, I have an aversion to commercials. Sometimes I'll start a movie I can't finish; and like a debutante commanding a servant, I'll declare, "Finish recording this, Jeeves!" and he does. But most likely of all, I hoard things I adore and want to revisit like a Christmas memory. With as much flourish as I can muster, here's my list:

Project Runway - 1 episode
I'm not much into reality shows or fashion, which makes this all the more surprising, but I do liken it to writing-having to create something from inspiration.

Flash Forward - 1 episode
Need I say more? Really.

Ghost Hunters - 20 episodes
I'm pretty sure I've seen them all, so these just sit and fester until I can sort through them.

Metal Mania - 3 hours
Because VH-1 thinks the only people who enjoy going down this black leather-studded memory lane are awake at 3 am on a Sunday morning.

Psychic Kids - 2 episodes
Yes, Chip is annoying, but he's armed with a shrink to keep it from derailing into wacky Paranormal State territory.

The Perfect Storm (movie)
Because I've never seen it

It Happened at the World's Fair (Elvis movie)
Because my uber-Elvis-fan mom never saw this one, and I'm saving it for a girls movie night when she visits.

Roustabout (Elvis movie)
Because the universe sent me inspiration for my WIP right around the same time I watched this in an Elvis marathon. Elvis is a bad-boy carny worker. Fancy that. So is my hero.

Keith Urban: Road
Because for the first time in five touring years, I didn't get to see his concert.

Keith Urban: Love
Because, well, who needs an excuse? It's Keith Urban. Yum.

The Thorn Birds - 4 episodes
Because I adore this miniseries and knew a father-what-a-waste in my past. Don't all good little Catholic girls?


MacGyver - 34 episodes
And that makes Marilyn our lucky winner today with a guess of 17. She'll get her choice of an autographed copy of Love, Texas Style or a $5 Starbucks gift card.

Thanks for playing, everyone. Now it's your turn. Tell us what treasures lurk in your DVR.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A Vortex 10 Weekend

Top Ten Things Learned on A Writing Adventure Weekend:

1. Patty Love is not a hamburger joint. The mannequins in whips and proximity to Condoms-to-Go should have been my first clue. But Laura Ingalls does not venture often, nay-ever, to that part of Dallas. So I did what any tourist would do. Take a picture!
Sadly, I was laughing too hard for it to show clearly. Thankfully, it was too blurry to capture any tom-foolery in the silver car and said driver did not pursue us for inadvertently snapping his license plate.

2. Physicists come in all kinds of beautiful, kind packages. Angela, so great to meet you!

3. Margie Lawson was, and is forevermore, my rock star of fiction writing.
4. Bestselling fiction author Harlan Coban has characters with eyeballs that could compete in the Olympic Games.

5. Backloaded power words on the first two pages of my WIP: change, Pier, thrills, beach, gravity, shit-canned, truth, spiked. Can I mine more by changing sentence order? Oh, yeah.

6. A sensible black tote is a black hole that swallows red pens needed for Margie's EDITS system. Dialogue cues be damned!

7. Wine tastes infinitely better when shared with the best critique partners. Evah.
8. Everything in the South is filled with nuts. Including the South, itself.

9. One Big-Gulp, Super-Empowered passage per book. Too much of a Big Gulp is a very bad thing.

10. Sometimes the most dazzling moments are unexpected ones on a two-floor elevator ride.
I hope everyone had an amazing weekend. Wednesday, we're tackling what the shows stored in your DVR or Tivo say about you. I have a special sumpthin-sumpthin for anyone here who, before Wednesday, comes closest to accurately guessing how many MacGyver reruns are stored in mine. Guess away...

Friday, November 6, 2009

North Texas Two-Step Conference

I couldn't be more excited today to meet one of the people most reponsible for where I am today as a writer. Margie Lawson is not only the queen of deep edits and most likely the root of my highlighter dependency, but her online class hooked me up with arguably the best edits partner in the universe (Hi Jen!). This weekend's writing conference is not only about reconnecting with chaptermates I haven't seen for awhile, but remembering I still have so much to learn about fiction writing-the most valuable and humbling lesson of all. Pictures Monday. Have a fantastic weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Not a Gourd in Sight

Cornucopias abound. Okay, maybe not, but I was in Hobby Lobby today selecting a basket to put together for this weekend's North Texas Two Step Writing Conference and have Cornucopias on the brain. Why not here, you ask? Splendid idea.

Yay for me today that I won a free copy of fellow Wild Rose Press author P.L. Parker's short romance, Heart of the Sorcerer. P.L. has been on my authors-to-watch radar since I learned she adores time travel romances almost as much as Carl Sagan trapped in a parallel universe of Harlequin-only reads. This one sounds like a treat. Thanks, P.L.!

Have I talked about my adoration for all things Archie McPhee before? Like how I would give Rick a Bigfoot Action Figure for good luck on his hunts or empower Walkingman with an Angry Mob Playset when he witnesses injustices on his home turf? And who doesn't need a Holy Toast Virgin Mary Toast Stamper? Before I face that blinking cursor each morning, I know I could use a miracle. I actually walked into a room about three weeks ago that had this backwards clock, and after five full minutes, decided we could never cohabitate.

And, just to clear out my blog folder, here is a random picture from Milan fashion week, whenever that was. If you ever witnessed my pajama-bottoms-as-writing-attire, you'd know my commitment to fashion lies firmly in the 100%-cotton-with-cute-flying-pigs-on-it realm. If you can possibly tear your eyes from his pec-tacular display to his right hand, maybe you can explain why Italian boxers carry purses--?


Why Theo makes me want to go to confession? Oh wait, the truck and tags around the neck threw me off for a moment.

See? Cornucopia.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Time Travel is Like Laser Chest-Hair Removal and a Chisel in One

If I were a gomer, which I am, I would get totally geeked out about this juicy bit of science news. If you're a gomer, read on and we'll pretend the future of our planet depends on our collective knowledge.

Remember these scientists of Large Hadron Collider fame? Well, it seems we're a year down the road of their supposed breakthrough discovery and the CERN dancers in white labcoats aren't bringing on the funk so much anymore. Yes, they did warn of the possibility of some unfortunate repercussions-aside from their noxious dancing-when the LHC powered up for only nine days last September, not the least of which is time travel.

Now, some physicists are theorizing that the problematic collider is being prevented by its own future. The theory is that the reaction scientists are hoping to create with the LHC is so damaging to nature that it will ripple back through time to prevent the Collider's inception. Like a Collider skate punk going back to snuff out Gramps Collider.

If this idea has you amped up, you can read more about these "otherwise distinguished" scientists staking their sanity and reputation on something so whacked out that I might write them into a novel. Only one would be dark, moody and bare-chested with a tattoo of the future and the other would be a slightly more agile, kick-ass version of me.
So the me that is me couldn't leave well enough alone. . .
Mr. Nielson and Mr. Ninomiya, you are my rock stars.

Got the dark hair right, anyway.

Friday, October 30, 2009

A Bond Girl Halloween

Boo. I'm at the 007 Blog today offering up new romantic Halloween ideas along with some old favorites. Pop over to say hello and have a great Halloween!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

An Epilogue to a Bite

Please get a full assessment of your physical appearance before committing to a bare-chested Hulk costume

Where was I yesterday? Among other things, I had my nose bitten (yes, it was human; no, don't ask), was fingerprinted for the FBI (no, it does not speak to my Bond Girl status), and prepped yet another Golden Heart entry. Will third time be a charm? Who cares when it's an excuse to buy a great dress and sit near Nora Roberts? Kidding. Sort of. So you see, yesterday was full, not the least of which was finding this great little diversion for Halloween.

Visual aid time. Someone hit the lights, please.

I'm a huge fan of short film, as evidenced here and here and here (an awesome one for Halloween, too, BTW). This new animated short, Epilogue, is just the brand of creepy I love in my Halloween, more Hitchcock and Twilight Zone than Saw and serial killers. If you have four minutes, I think you'll enjoy it, too. I love the jerky style of animation. It adds so much to the tone.

Tomorrow, I'll strap on my knee-high Bond Girl boots and sizzle the 007 Blog up with Romantic Halloween ideas. Some of you may remember I did this last year, but the muse has had time to concoct more ideas for you and that special someone to celebrate Hallow's Eve. Be sure to come back and show me your fangs. Please, no biting. I've had enough of that this week.

What did you think of Epilogue? Why the 911 call at the beginning?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Will Bear Grylls Fit Into My Pocket?

The anvil that is FastDraft has lifted and it's long past time for fun around The Vortex. After much contemplation about the nature of such fun, and after a rather lengthy time-suck game of "I'm going on a trip and I'm bringing..." game at the dentist today, and after a particular rousing two-part MacGyver rerun where he entrusts his pocket knife to Merlin, of Knights of the Roundtable fame, it occurred to me such a thing has yet to be attempted here. True, the game loses the memory-challenge aspect in blog form, but we can more than make up for that in creativity, right? I'll start:

I'm going back in time and I'm bringing a SwissFlame800

...because my Girl Scout training neither perfected my ability to use a flint or a glass lens to start a fire nor did it help me channel my inner heroine like this beaut.
As an aside, there is a blog devoted to MacGyver. Who knew entire posts could be devoted to the love of duct tape? Must. Not. Read. Song. Lyrics. Creeeepy.

Who's next?
I'm going back in time and I'm bringing...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

On Addictions and Lifelines

The universe sent me gifts today.

Maybe it's my bleary mind-truly bleary, for the well of words is running dry, and I find it increasingly difficult to complete verbal thoughts-or maybe it's that I feel so out of touch with the overwhelming left-brain part of me that dominates my normal day-to-day that I pick up on things not neatly constructed into expectations, but the gifts are there. Something as simple as sitting in a coffee shop this morning, digging deep for a cathartic scene and the music piped into the space, into my brain, is the perfect soundtrack for the moment...a resonance of harmony and angst and grief and all the fuel I needed for the space of the two minutes it took to purge myself through my character.

And it's not just today, it was throughout the Fastdraft process. Secondary characters walk into my life, even a brief glance and I know it is them and they walk out again. I see symbols where I'd been a thousand times and never payed attention. My fingers fly across the keys before the thought is even a conditioned muscle memory inaccessible except in this vacation world of the right brain. Everywhere around me things resonate, the weather parallels my story, my mood. It's hard for someone who doesn't write to understand, but it is the stuff of addictions. The sense we are creating something larger than ourselves we cannot quite understand but something we have faith and trust is there. How many things in life can we say that about with any certainty?

I'd edit this, but it is the truest sense of where I am at the moment. Tomorrow marks the end of this novel's Fastdraft session. I have yet to figure out the exact black moment, though I know the ending. I have every confidence I've set up the perfect storm and it will come to me like the universe bestowing a gift when I least expect it. When I return from this right-brained vacation, I will return to post-it notes and lists and all the meticulous things I fill my day with which I'll need for the slow-endurance marathon that is the meditative draft, everything I'll need to get it right, but for now, I'm beyond grateful for the experience, the story that was gifted to me, and me alone. There is magic, as much for the writer as for the reader.

Many days, one in particular, I wanted to give up. I walked that dangerous precipice of self-doubt that comes around during every project where I felt like a fraud and crumbled into a crippling ball of nothingness. Some visitors asked me along the way why I bothered blogging during this time. Without the accountability I may not have come back from the edge of that island. I had to have something to put up, a magic number to justify the hours, the days, and so I pressed on. Thank you, everyone, who stopped by. You were more of a creative lifeline than you'll ever know.

Today's word count: 6421

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Day Seven: 1 Week = Eternity

My hero takes my breath away. Too many Halloween Oreos. Uh. Did I brush my hair today? No, really. Did I?
Day Seven: 7044 words

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Can't See the Forest For the Word Cloud

My word cloud pretty much sums up the past few days. The epiphany, mercifully, happened today.

A huge thanks to those of you checking in to see if I was still alive, sneaking away on tippy-toes. Yes, I see you and I adore you all.

Day Five word count: 112
Day Six word count: 6424

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Day Four. I Take Mine Dark. Like My Plots.

Such a love-hate thing I have going on. When it happens all in one day, it feels schizophrenic.

Need. More. Chocolate.
Today's count: 6816 words

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Day Three: The Smell of Progress

From the land of Am-I-Coherent?

Did someone seriously slap an author-I use the word author loosely here-at a book signing today? That degree of excitement would be a serious improvement over the guy who went on a diatribe about rattlesnakes and the pubescent boy that muttered, "I think my mom reads those things" at my signings. Bitch-slap me if it'll put my release on a top CNN headline. I can take one for the team.

Today, I steered clear of Starbucks. I think Walkingman messed with my Fast Draft mojo, so went to Coffee Shop #3. They're having a music fest Friday night. I'd SO be there *cough*unlikely*cough* if they'd fix the lone toilet in the women's restroom. Oh, and yeah, tell me it's broken AFTER my sixteen-plus ounces. What of the men's room you ask? Pshaw! Some of the male patrons were using it as their office with a capital O, if you know what I mean. No, thanks anyway. It was a battle-royale at day's end between my bladder's crippling need to go home and the sweet spot of magic that comes during Fast Draft long about day three.

Today's word count: 6754 (and I teared up twice! And it wasn't even the stench from the men's room!)
Total since Monday: 18,536

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Day Two Yadda Yadda

Tsk. Tsk. Tsk. A pathetic showing of words today: 4,818.

In my defense, I encountered a time-bomber this evening. We all have those in our lives right? Pure detonation of intent. Still no excuse.

Oh, and lest anyone think these are golden words-4,818 of them-to that I say, "Ha!" Fast draft is about spewing the subconscious. Sometimes they come out in a flash of blinding brilliance *cough* never *cough* and sometimes they'll look more like this gem:




Because who can enjoy a love scene written at the speed I can wolf down a granola bar? No thanks.

Tomorrow is Starbucks, incentive to make up for today's deficit. Thanks for the well-wishes, everyone!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Seriously? His Hair? And Day One Progress

Today's word count: 7,024.

And lo and behold, I pop out of my hole to find this newsy tidbit about Elvis's hair. I love me some Elvis as much as the next too-young-generation-girl-who-should-have-been-front-and-center-at-the-Classic-Comeback-'68, but purchasing his hair is just wicked creepy.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Perfect Pair of Slippers

I'm fascinated by the processes other writers use to produce pages. Not so much the planning or research phase, but the arse-in-chair, blinking cursor phase. Creativity is like a fingerprint-no two persons are alike-but I'd be willing to bet other writers have rituals they talk themselves through when it's time.

Ten years ago, when I began writing in earnest, I modeled other writers' processes. Some begin the writing day reading literature they adore, akin to getting their toes wet in a sacred literary pool. I tried it and found my writing took on the cadence of what I'd read, it had been too fresh, too familiar. Some writers journal-slop pages to get the hand and brain juiced then erase and begin on their project. Mostly, I found my slop filled with self-deprecation. Not the best launch to a writing day. I've tried re-reading the previous day's work, re-reading much more than that, deep visualization/meditation, shoving the cats out the door, checking my emails, nursing that sacred first cup of my favorite beverage in the morning (different, depending on the season), lighting a candle, playing music; and sometimes, when the writing still didn't come, I'd hug my knees and rock back and forth in the corner spouting in tongues.

Okay, that never happened. Almost never. Seriously, it took years to groom myself to a ritual that works. And it didn't follow any paved path of well-intended writers who had offered me advice along the way. It came from me like a gift I'd possessed all along but didn't know how to unwrap it.

Starting Monday, I unwrap that gift again. It's been awhile, this creating new text, as I've been saturated with revisions of two manuscripts for the better part of this year. I have no doubt I'll find those well-worn comfortable slippers of creation inside the box. I would share the magic if I could, but we all know my slippers wouldn't fit you-especially the breezy hole near the big toe where unexpected ideas slip through.

For these two Fast Draft weeks, you'll find my posts simple, daily and accountable. I hope you'll stop by occasionally to say hello and toss me some chocolate for sustenance if I slip into tongues. I also hope you'll forgive me for not visiting elsewhere, but I look forward to catching up with everyone on the back end.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Tell us about the best pair of slippers you've ever received.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Da High Concept. Da High Concept.

In my heated pursuit of high concept this time around, I'm always on the lookout for book-deal blurbs that scream "I-left-dozens-of-editors-salivating-at-auction-for-this." I think I found it today; and-what do you know?-it's time travel. Shocking, isn't it? Here it is:

Michael Sullivan’s Necessary Heartbreak, an inspirational time-travel novel about a single dad who has lost his faith and is struggling to raise his 14-year-old daughter when they discover a portal leading back to first-century Jerusalem during the tumultuous last week of Christ’s life.

Now that's an author who married two unlikely genres. Fist bump to you Mr. Sullivan for creating your own little Christian time travel high concept. What else can I marry time travel with? Time travel women's fiction? Done. Time travel mystery? Done. Time travel cookbook? No, really, the world doesn't need anything I cook. Past, present or future.

Speaking of high concept...

Last month while brainstorming said high concept novel, I ran across a list of odd occupations that included "Fantasy Broker." Apparently, there are people out there who pay obscene amounts of money to these brokers to orchestrate everything required to make one fantasy come true. It all smacks of Mr. Roarke, does it not? Imagine my delight when I learned Fantasy Island is being turned into a reality show. I am SO not a reality show person, but I cannot deny my youthful affinity for this post-Love Boat morsel. Mark Burnett and other developers are shooting for emotion-driven fantasies (does Josh Holloway count?), but it leaves me wondering if they'll preserve the darkish themes of be-careful-what-you-wish-for and the twisted moodiness that made it wicked-better than Gopher in high-waisted pants. If it smacks of Extreme Home Makeover or a Sally Jessie Raphael reunion show, I'm out.

What would your completely-P.G.-rated-I-won't-embarass-the-resident-Laura-Ingalls fantasy be?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Click Your Heels Three Times

And head over to the Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood blog where I'm standing at the fork in the yellow-brick road between small press publication and Golden Heart eligibility for unpublished romance writers. Show the love by commenting and I'll show it right back with a chance at a detailed first chapter critique or an ultra-sexy coffee mug.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Chew On This Research. Swallowing Comes Later.

I think I've visited every baby name and symbolism website known to mankind. Oh, and the most extensive database of Catholic Patron Saints. Ever. (Did you know there is a patron saint for dog bites?) Is this why it takes me what seems like a thousand moons to craft a novel? Is perfection so elusive that one superstitious wrong-turn of a key symbol or a character name has the potential to railroad the entire project?

This is the part of pre-writing I dislike. Nothing yet seems inevitable. Seldom does a location or secondary character name fall into my lap whole and perfect and ripe to enter the pages of my story. In the past twenty-four hours I've created entire government agencies and their subversive counterparts, invented a tattoo symbolic of said subversive group (a bizarre hybrid/reflection of well-known time symbols along with symbols of the group's nefarious intent) plopped a hundred year old seaside pier in North Carolina, divined an entire family of names that might be common eighty years from now (will classical still be in or will we all sound like Star-Trek walk-ons?) and birthed a heroine who is all the things I am not. None of my choices have gelled or settled into rightness, and I'm doubting each and every decision as if it were etched in granite.

So you'll understand my disorientation this week. I am at once on one of nine fictitious islands of monks named for Saint Giles, picking my way through a seaside port I've never visited, and studying the engineering behind turn-of-the-century Ferris wheels, all while wondering if I'm on the right path.

This makes me think of Stephen King's fossil analogy. In On Writing, he speculates that our stories already exist within us like a fossil waiting to be excavated, a skeletal foundation that can only be discovered slowly and precisely using instruments in the writer's toolbox. Somewhere deep inside my mind, the next novel, nay-the entire series, is there. Does that make them inevitable? Does this mean the choices we make as writers are already carefully crafted, awaiting the moment when light will reach them? Are our stories, then, fated to be ours or can we truly control their direction?

In five years, that fictional isle of monks will exist, not in some nebulous far-off glimmer, but in the absolute of my mind, through weeks and months of sweat and words. At what point is that transition? The end? Book three? The moment my feet sink into that fertile first chapter?

I'll let you know when I reach it.

Next week, along with my inaugural post over at the Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood, I'll be tackling the fun part of my research: a mirrored fun-house. Alone.
Pictures? Count on it.

For now, tell me the best fictitious town name you've ever created or read about. Chewandswallow doesn't count. That's mine.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Knowing All About a Vortex 10

Remember the medicine-head commerical where the red balloon floats high above the decapitated cartoon character body? That's so me today. But since I'm a glass-half-full kind of gal, what's better than an alternate-state reality to concoct a Vortex 10? Today's topic: the 2009 release Knowing starring Nicholas Cage.

Ten Ways the Movie Knowing Would Have Been Tolerable on a Nyquil-Induced High:

1. The black duster-clad alien/human hybrids might have broken into a fog-laden rendition of Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus", giving them an entertaining value beyond belching a light storm from their mouths.

2. The numerical sequence the protagonist triest to decode might have resembled the optimistic spreadsheet of Harry Potter-like sales from my debut release.

3. Rose Byrne's hysterical portrayal of a worried mother might have been more drama-hysterical and less ha-ha hysterical.

4. The black pebbles could have led me back from the abyss of schitzophrenic genre. As they stood, they were a mere metaphor for the ka-ka that was the ending.

5. I could have imagined a different, better plot in the protagonist's house that looked more like a Disney soundstage than a real residence.

6. The sunspot could have lit a fire under me to want to go past 1 hour and 40 minutes on my DVD counter.

7. I could have pretended the symbolic tree at the end was my happy place instead of the heavy-handed religious propaganda that made virtually no sense given the character's set up.

8. It might have made sense that a mother would leave two hunted children unattended in a car during a pre-apocalyptic bedlam.

9. Nicholas Cage might have morphed into someone who less-resembled the guy who rotated my tires last week.

10. My laughter during the scene where Nicholas Cage runs out to fight the Depeche Mode guys, strikes a bat against a tree and screams, "You want some of this?" might have eclipsed the next, oh say, seven scenes.

Okay, so I was harsh. I really, really wanted to like this movie. It contains a time capsule for the love of Pete! The woo-woo factor (minus the alien thing) is so completely up my alley, but in the end, it didn't hold together.

What's the latest I-just-shaved-two-hours-off-my-life film-stinker you watched?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Two Fist Bumps and a Snap

I hope Wells-y will forgive me for missing his birthday on Monday. National Geographic News has a great article on the staggering number of H.G. Wells's far-off, science-fiction predictions that have come to fruition over a century later. Maybe his time travel machine is, in true science-fiction form, far more elaborate than necessary. But no contraption for temporal travel will ever be as sexy as his. Hmm?

So in thinking of today's post; and given the number of red-blooded American males who've mentioned dabbling in romance writing of late (for which I give two fist-bumps and a snap) and those faithful blog readers whom I love with all my heart but think romance is trash, I'm pulling out my soapbox. I can picture Wells-y tugging on his lapels, saying, "Here, here, now, let the lady speak! Quiet your grumblings. She will not be speaking on the subject of Fabio, though he would look good on my time machine, no?" Ahem...

I am a fairly recent romance novel convert. I was a good little Catholic girl who did everything I was told, grew up oblivious to the birds and the bees (I had nun leaflets, people), and treasured books, just not the ones near the Safeway check-out line. You remember those, right? The nurse with the phallic hypodermic needle and the man running away from her on the cover? Whew! Those Harlequin Medicals had some covers that would put King to shame, but I digress. I grew up a sheltered optimist who believed everyone knew and witnessed love as I did.

When the writing bug bit, I hadn't considered romance. I started with middle-grade fiction and mysteries but my critique partner noticed I kept hooking people up in the literary sense.

CP: What about a romance?

Me: Pshaw. Right. I don't think so.

CP: No, really. Have you ever read one?

Me: Those trashy novels? Not for me.

CP: Just read one. Then you'll know.

My dear, sweet critique partner must have known the secret. Start someone with the right romance novel and they're hooked for life. Kathleen Woodiwiss was like the first hit on a Geiger. From that book on, I was forever calibrated to writing romance.

Let's get some basics out of the way. Romances are not written to a formula, though they do have one thing in common: a happy ending. Nicholas Sparks and Robert James Waller do not write romance. They write love stories. There is a difference. Tragic endings are not inversely proportional to how awesome the characters' love is. This seems to be a guy-writer thing, like they don't trust themselves to dig in and get their nails dirty with the innards of a relationship conflict, so they inject death. Any writer can write death, decay and destruction. Those are the easy roads. And please don't stand behind the "real life" placard. My grandparents and parents have seen their share of tragedy, but they all found their happily ever after. That's "life", too, baby.

And, just as any genre in publishing has boundary-pushing tomes, romance has fringe exceptions to the one-man, one-woman monogamous relationship. Some romance novels contain more sex or more explicit sex than others. I liken this to a candy store. One customer might go for the old-fashioned lemon drops. Another, licorice whips. But in the end, they all leave satisfied customers. Yes, the term bodice-rippers had its much-deserved genesis in the 70's, but last time I looked that was nearly forty years ago. Show me a science-fiction book written back then and I'll show you a cover even more egregious than a woman's bodice clutched by a man in tight breeches and a bad mullet. All genres evolve, though I'll be the first to defend those early works responsible for my love of romance.

I crack as many Fabio jokes as those silver-tongued lashers in the Safeway check-out line. But when I'm asked what I write, I no longer shy away from saying it. "Romance." Sometimes the lashers look at me as if I broke wind, but it feels good to own it now. I write stories that remind our ever-pessimistic society that there is hope. Love can and does endure. My readers' lives may be filled with tragedy, but I can think of no greater gift to give them than four hours of remembering the heroism and love we are all capable of. Are romance novels escapist? Yes. Is Jim Butcher or Dan Brown's work escapist? Hell, yes. Escapism is intrinsic to fiction.

Romance novels consistently out-sell every other fiction genre in the publishing industry. It is fertile ground open to many, but tread lightly. Successful romance authors know they cannot chase numbers without a healthy respect for the genre and its readers. Our reader might be a mother in line at the Safeway check-out. She might be a soldier in the Army or a brain surgeon looking to restore her hope after she lost a patient. Our readers are different races, creeds and stations, but they all open our pages seeking that one thread of humanity that can overcome anything: love. (And if that doesn't work, a mental picture of Fabio on a time machine might.)
So continue to make bump and grind jokes or strike a righteous pose when you open Oprah's latest pick. I might even laugh along with you at the line that compares a Ford F-150 to a black stallion, but make no mistake: your disdain for romance novels is more an indiction of your ignorance of the genre than any story on the page. Read one. A recent one. Ask me or a dozen others on this blog for a recommendation. Then, and only then, will I respect your informed opinion.
It's Soapbox Thursday, apparently. I'm stepping down. Anyone else Wells-y can help onto the soapbox? Air your biggest injustices. Discuss how wrong it is Fabio chose to endorse butter instead of, say, hair products. Tell us your favorite romance novel so that we may fight the good fight. Or just pop up and say hello.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Ruby Slippers, Migration and Pie Charts

The inspirations over the weekend were...well, inspirational. Thanks to everyone for putting their hottie on loan for consideration and/or tolerating the creative burden of romance writers. It is strenuous work, searching for heroic perfection, but we persevere.

Today is a special day in the blogosphere for all unpublished romance writers. To commemorate the opening day for RWA's Golden Heart 2010 submissions, the 2009 Golden Heart Finalists are launching their group blog, the Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood. To celebrate, we'll be giving away ultra-sleek black and red mugs (perfect for your writing beverage-of-choice) and free manuscript critiques to get your pages ready for the Golden Heart. I ducked into the post-lineup a week or so into October, but you can find me hanging out there all this week. Stop by and say hello.

If you're keeping up with A Novel's Migration, the journey of Joyce Manard's release Labor Day, Vortex winner and frequent visitor Todd has posted a comment in official thread and has a bit about it on his blog. Be sure to pop over there and comment if you wish to be next in line.

Lastly, in honor of Oprah's latest pick, very few of which I follow or read, this pie chart because I adore pie charts more than Oprah:

Have a great Monday, everyone!

Where did you find inspiration over the weekend?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Horror Novels and Hotties

Before I venture into dangerously superficial territory in the Vortex, I wanted to pass along information on the Fresh Blood Contest. Dorchester Publishing is seeking the best horror novel by an unpublished author. The winner will receive a contract for publication in Leisure's 2011 lineup as well as a 2011 limited-edition hardcover release sponsored by ChiZine Publications. Novels must be 80-90K words. Submission deadline: September 30, 2009. So many of my writing peeps who visit here write horror, I had to post. This mushy romance-girl has your back.

I'm populating my new work-in-progress and could use your help. This feels vaguely like a "casting call" to me. I suppose it is. I'm looking for inspirational photos of characters to populate my novel. I'm not one of those romance writers who does cartwheels over traditional cover models. I populate my novels with real men the reader and I create together. I give them just enough and they take it and sprint to their nearest fantasy. Thing is, my inspiration must start somewhere, and that's where this Friday party comes in.

Link away. Drop celebrity names. Send me your cousin's photo if he looks anything close to Drew Fuller. I need an alpha-male/warrior type, a professor-type, a lost soul and a swashbuckler-type. All brothers, all mid-to-late twenty-ish.

See how nicely I balanced the post to reflect the male-female Vortex-reader population? Horror novels and hotties. I love Fridays.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Bond Girl Day

Join me over at the 007 blog today where we're discussing time travel (okay, I have little self-control when it comes to TT) and amazing things done by our ancestors.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Is That a Planet in Your Pocket?

How long has it been since I sent you on a linkerific treasure hunt? Too long, really. My bookmarks floweth over with dazzling gems of all things writerly and time-centric.

Before I get into the first one, let me first say how delicious it was to browse Half Priced Books over the weekend and discover a "Sundial Day Planner." What does such a planner look like? I'm glad you asked. It was hard for me to see past the awesomeness of organizing my day around a circle the size of a dime, but after my left brain considered if such a thing were useful I decided I didn't need a quarter of the page to pencil in sleep whilst the details in my 3 to 6 pm life karate chop each other for day planner real estate. Great if you're a non-linear thinker, just like this next link:

Beware the Visual Thesaurus. Pretty soon you'll be looking up profanity to see how it shakes out in visual representation, right? Seriously, though, it's a great idea generator. I'm sure you can imagine what entering "time" into the search box did for me. Try the random word option under the search box if you don't want them to bother you for a downloadable trial.

Behold: Eris. Students at the School of Applied Arts in Geneva have created a timepiece based upon the newest dwarf planet in our solar system. What makes this a treasure, though, is the catalog writer's delirium that anyone will a.) wear this in a rubber lanyard around his/her neck or b.) shoved into the pocket of a man's dockers. Let's just own that this timepiece is a $450 paperweight that will roll off your desk at the slightest orbital shift.

And finally, thanks to the Mannahatta Project, I can travel back in time to 1609 New York and get in touch with my inner Pocahontas. I could wax philosophical about the importance of remembering a forgotten ecosystem that didn't involve an F.A.O. Schwartz and a couple hundred java huts, but that wouldn't be much fun, would it? Happy Monday, explorers!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Pampered Vortex 10

Sometimes I have trouble shutting off my mind. Such was the case yesterday. Instead of melting away into a viscous puddle under the very capable hands of a masseuse (a four month old birthday gift--the massage, not the masseuse), bizzare thoughts lurked at the periphery of my awareness. How else to diffuse those than a Vortex 10 List? Sounds like more fun than drowning a novel's worth of toxins with Evian.

10 Random Thoughts on a Massage Table:

1. Please don't match me to the guy in black scrubs that looks like a cross between the blond guy from Simon and Simon and Lurch. Could someone have pity on this guy and give him a detoxifying treatment? The smacked-out rings under his eyes haunt me and not in a romance novel kind of way, either.

2. Dear God, is someone butchering that exotic bird in the distant meadow?

3. Seriously, was that just a karate chop to my left buttocks?

4. I saw this move on COPS once to apprehend a suspect, only there wasn't a pan flute soloist in the background and I'm not wearing a t-shirt that says Mess with me and you mess with the entire trailer park.

5. Did she just put the hair clip she used on me back into the same drawer I saw her pull it out of? Sweet Barbicide, where are you?

6. Apparently shading in the feet on the pre-massage questionnaire "troublesome areas" means avoid like leprosy. No wonder she's overcompensating by working tension from my collarbone. Does anyone have collarbone tension?

7. I painted my toenails Sparkling Nectar for this? What's the Chinese translation for "A kingdom for my feet! I wore the cruel shoes today!"

8. Is the overly-loud second hand on the clock meant to be a relaxing rhythm to get in touch with my heartbeat or a cosmic reminder I could have written 500 words in the time it's taken her to turn my scalp into a relaxed greaseball?

9. If she reused the hair clip, what of the sheets?

10. Why does my middle finger lift when she rubs the writerly tension from my forearm?

I've had six massages in my life, but they've all been gifts. Were it left up to me, I'd have given the money to the guy that stands with a sign under the interstate overpass in hundred-degree heat. Okay, maybe I'd have kept the one from the Brazilian guy on the ship in the Atlantic Ocean, but that's all. Romance writers have to master the concept of haunting eyes, right?

What's your favorite thing to do to relax?

Monday, September 7, 2009

An Open Letter to a Poster

Dear GTR,

Let's just say it. We've met before about six months ago. I know you don't remember me, but I remember you. The juxtaposition of your mysterious post initials and the allure of your ancient language makes you unforgettable. I know you bestow your random affections on other bloggers: middle-aged Worlds of Warcraft gamers who reside in their mother's basement, PTA moms sharing bundt cake recipes, one perhaps named Ethel who spread seeds of knowledge about her tomato crop from her farm in Illinois. Only rarely does your silver tongue reach it's glorious intended audience.

Your words are a siren's song to my heart. When you mix phrases like "toot Valentine's color screen and sexuality as News" and "romantic novels," you have only to add the magic words "time travel" and I'll be forever yours. Translating your timeless Chinese characters into words meant only for me and for an intimate three thousand others-words like "concubine cinema" and "harem movie"-makes me reflect on the genius behind such poetry.

Are you twenty-something with bad hair? Do you travel through your days with a sticky hand plagued with carpal tunnel, your only true companion? Are the whites of your eyes bleeding from the seventy-two straight hours you've been staring at a computer screen in the dim shadows of a black-lit, velvet poster of Jessica Simpson? Inspiration must come from somewhere, no?

Rest assured friend, your efforts have not gone unnoticed. That you pillaged three dozen days of posts showed me your commitment to spreading your wisdom. Thank you for holding time captive so that I am the last in my writing class to complete my assignment. Thank you for illustrating time theory: what took you mere moments has translated to an hour, maybe more. These are the distractions filled with lasting memories.

Some may call you a malicious tool, but not I. Should the need arise in a future novel, you, GTR, will be the secondary character who meets his fate in the most poetic form of justice befitting such a man. I'll remember those yellow teeth. Inspiration must come from somewhere, no?


Frustrated (but not in the way you're hoping)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Getting Digi With It

Are you ready to embrace technology today? I am, so follow me.

Next Tuesday, Anthony Zuiker, head poo-bah behind the CSI: investigation empire, will celebrate the release of his latest brainchild: the Digi-novel. In what he believes will be a "jolt to traditional book publishing," his book-movie-website experience invites participants to read the crime novel, Level 26, log on to the book's website every twenty pages or so during the reading experience and view a "cyber-bridge", a three-minute film clip tied to the story. Readers can join in on book discussions, even contribute to the story. He predicts every television show in the next five to ten years will engage their audience in such a way, so why not books? The digi-novel concept came to Zuiker during the writer's strike, but he's hardly the first to attempt a perfect fusion of literary and media entertainment.

On September 29th, fans of ABC's Castle can purchase Heat Wave, a crime novel written by the series' protagonist, Richard Castle. So it's a case of the tube driving the book, but once this technology fusion hits big, no one will be able to tell where one experience starts and the other stops.

A year or more ago, I had the perfect plot in mind for this sort of reader interaction. It was Romancing the Stone meets time travel. A wild chase around the globe and through time, complete with a mini-site experience and links on the e-book version to places and clues that would give the reader an edge figuring out the mystery along with the characters. In my mind, it was epic and fun and all the wonderful things I enjoy about becoming immersed into a novel. But I put the idea aside. Why?

My primary goal as a writer is to launch a reader into a story and keep her there. Inviting a reader to link to stimuli outside the parameters of my book invites distraction and the put-it-down-and-not-come-back disease all authors fear. Let's face it, today's consumer has the attention span of a gnat. She links up to a map of Death Valley to find out where the shifting stones of Racetrack Playa are and I've lost her to half a dozen other time-suck links. Still, the idea is intriguing.

What do you think? Are you a reading purist or do you like your novel sprinkled with lagniappe, that little something extra that quenches our thirst for an interactive experience?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

I Know I Haven't Posted a Photo, But My New 'Do Is Not This One

The matronly fashion is me some days. Not red, though. Never red.
This is so me today. Talk amongst yourselves. What topic appeals to your imagination today?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

It's a Par-tay. I'll bring the Mullet, You Bring the DVD Player

It's Friday(almost), and I'm feeling torn. Shall I tell you about how one man successfully united a leopard bikini, a mullet and a gold timepiece? Or shall I gush over perhaps the best time travel movie that no one has ever heard of and you must see, like yesterday?

Maybe I'll do both and call it a party.

Okay, successfully is a bit of a stretch. But in his prime this guy knew how to impress the ladies. Not only is he cognizant of time, but the vapor effect in front of the electrical plug reminds us of his ability to disappear into a fog-laden temporal shift to an era where his mother told him how rad he looked.

Now, on to the movie. Yesterday was too recent. You should have seen Timecrimes two years ago. First let me say how giddy I am that has foretold of this movie's future remake for 2011 from its present foreign film status. That means Hollywood has gotten wind of its wicked loveliness and it's in development as we speak. It's the perfect suspense/thriller, sprinkled with horror on the plot skeleton of time travel. Though it is in Spanish, the producers have dubbed English voices over the dialogue and it only becomes like one of those Godzilla-OMG-their-lips-don't-match-what-they're-saying on the extreme close ups.

In the movie, a man accidentally travels to the past and meets himself, triggering a series of mysterious events that lead to a shocking crime. Oscar-nominated short-film director Nacho Vigalondo brilliantly weaves the mundane of an ordinary man's day with a gripping and intricate cautionary message: do not diddle with time travel. Watch this when you're in a quasi-intellectual mind warp mood, ala Memento. If I told you any more, leopard-bikini man would be mad.

Seriously, what was he thinking?