Monday, June 29, 2009

Friday, June 26, 2009

First Line Winner

We have a first line winner. Whoot! And it only took a week. Now for the big (or not so big) reveal:

Walking Man will receive a four disc DVD set of Alfred Hitchcock: The Legend Begins. Some of the twenty offerings are shorts from his classic series Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Some are his early full-length thrillers dating back to the late 1920's. It's not much of a secret around here how much I adore Hitchcock. I think writers can learn a tremendous amount from the way his stories unfold, what he chooses to share and not share, with the audience. There are few things better than watching one of his suspense movies, lights-out, during a thunderstorm. Congrats, WM. Email me ( with an address you'd like it sent to. Thanks to everyone for offering up their first lines. They were all amazing.

What are your plans for this weekend?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Good Causes, Britney, and Randy Time-Traveling Buggers

First, a few housekeeping odds and ends...then onto the meat of the post:

Our first line contest still has no winner, so I've cleared the votes and put up the two finalists. Please vote again so someone can be subjected to the awesomely bad torture that is my quirky giveaway. I promise, it'll be a fantastic way to spend an evening if drunk. Or nostalgic. Or both.

Todd Wheeler, faithful Vortex visitor, began his annual summer reading program this week. I've participated for two years now, and his personal quest to support literacy in his area has turned into quite the event. All readers need to do is visit his blog and fill out an ultra-speedy form when they finish reading a novel. For every 25 people who participate, Bear Pond Books will donate a book to the Children's Literacy Foundation. Prizes and surprises are lurking, too, so head over and participate as you're blowing through your to-be-read pile this summer.

Also, because I know you're chomping at the bit for more time-travel-in-the-media news, Britney Spears is in talks to play the lead role in The Yellow Star of Sophia and Eton, a time travel film in which Sophia creates a time machine and heads back to World War II, where she starts a romance. I know, right? Ass chaps and glitter gloss abound. H.G. Wells would be rolling in his grave at the horror.

Or would he?

All kidding aside...well, mostly...H.G. Wells is the meat of today's post.

Surprisingly, I just finished The Time Machine for the first time, and I have a confession to make. I skipped. Like a six year old in pig-tails, I did, over long, self-flagellating passages where Mr. Wells simply liked the sound of his own voice. I know I'm coming from a modern literary perspective and there were amazing attributes to his yarn, but at one time one of his many mistresses must have exclaimed, "Wellsey, your exposition on setting details proves your scientific, detailed genius. More, more!"

Britney would say, "Dear God, if I have to read about the fabric the future race is wearing one more time, I shall have to exterminate myself on my own perfume!"

Actually, what sparked the most interest to me was the short biography of H.G. Wells at the beginning of the Penguin Classics edition. It very politely alludes to his lifelong pursuit of love that was never fully realized. Of course, I wanted to dig deeper. Was it unrequited? Was he unable to balance his prophesies with love's enduring nature? Was inbreeding the one common ground he shared with Britney?

Penguin Classics left out a choice nugget. Apparently, H.G. Wells was the Hugh Heffner of Victorian England, engaging in wild, passionate, scandalous love affairs only to move on to the next woman. His sexual prowess revolved around a stable of women, with his first cousin-wife as matriarch, who would continue to intermingle, care for each other when ill, and support his forward-thinking, globally-acting need to spread his philosophies and seed in his time. So much for romantic notions. I did arrive at one conclusion, though: if my heroine ever returns via time travel to Victorian England, she should run into the hero distinguishable by his glorious bat-wing eyebrows. It worked for H.G. Wells, didn't it?

This is his Hair Club for Men pose. He doesn't look like a randy bugger, does he?

The chic magnet

Monday, June 22, 2009

Today, I'm a Bond Girl

I'm blogging over at the 007 Nobody Writes it Better blog today about favorite reads. Show the awesomeness that is Vortex readers by popping over and saying hi. Though there is no time travel to be found in Bond-landia, I'll drop one juicy tidbit here: Mira Sorvino's favorite book is A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking. A girl after my own heart.

Also, we still have no first line winner, people. Vote. Send others to vote. Change your vote. Someone's words will reign supreme.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Spreading the Love for Blogger, Fathers and Sweet Democracy

May I just take a moment today to exclaim "Sweet, sweet Blogger!" and do a Toyota jump? The time suck that shall heretofore be known as the WordPress Fiasco last night made me appreciate my home sweet home in the blogosphere. Never fear, I scheduled my 007 post for Monday and all is right with the world.

I also want to give a huge, happy shout-out to my Dad. I've mentioned him before here and here and here but my still-favorite way to honor him is the ultimate time travel for Father's Day.
This is Iowa, circa 1940. Isn't he cute? Love you, Dad. Wish we could be together.

Now, let's exercise our democratic freedoms, shall we? Vote in the sidebar for your favorite first line of a story inspired by this photo
before midnight CST Sunday. The winner will receive a DVD collection to be revealed on Monday. It's not really that it's a grand secret, but more than I fear its awesomeness in my mind might translate to yawns and an otherwise less than exuberant voter turnout. But free is free, right? Now you really want to know what it is, don't you?

Vote, vote, vote and if you see your Dad this weekend, remember what a blessing it is to be able to hug him.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Another First Line Challenge

Photographer Vincent Bousserez expresses his art using miniature plastic people caught in moments of the mundane and the surreal. Of course, this one spoke to me. Check out the rest of his collection when you are finished with your one-line masterpiece.

Participation time. Write the first line of the story...
We'll put it up to a vote on Friday. The most popular receives a classic DVD collection (hint: fear, dreams, dread, suspense, oh-and romance) from moi. Sounds like a win-win to me.

Who's first?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Blog Launches, Secret DVDs and a Time Traveler's Wife

Good to see there was no time-traveling debauchery while I was sans-computer, though how fun would that have been? Alas, I have no IKEA shelves yet so the photo will have to wait, but I'm posting this from my new writing digs and know I can create some hot and damn inspired fiction here.

Be sure to pop over to the 007 blog launch today. Gail Fuller will be chatting up authors Melissa James (Harlequin Romance) and Robyn Grady (Silhouette Desire and Modern Heat) and giveaways abound. Bookmark the site so you can find me there next week. Not sure what I'll be packing as a Bond Girl yet.

Saturday as I was decluttering for painting prep, I found a blog giveaway I have yet to give away. Our last First Line Contest here at the Vortex was such a success, I'm resurrecting it this week. On Wednesday, I'll post a photograph. You post the first line of the story. We'll put them all up to a vote and democracy will choose who wins a classic DVD that's close to my heart.

For now, I'll leave you with the just-released movie trailer for The Time Traveler's Wife. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Three Writing Wishes

I am fresh off a binge of cold food and air-conditioning after living without for twelve hours. Somehow, cold cantaloupe and 75 degree air blasting on my neck seems celestial today. Almost indulgent. Almost. Those window-rattling, frog-strangling thunderstorms never turn out quite as romantic as they do in books, do they? Never once did a hero in my novel lean over and ask the heroine for a Craisin.

Tomorrow, the flooring Gods (okay only in my mind) descend to grant me the first of three writing space wishes: a wood floor. What are the other two you ask? I'm staring at a not-quite-what-I-had-in-mind test spot of Eddie Bauer burgundy for the walls, hoping it'll stop looking like red velvet cake and more like Aggie Maroon (whoop!) Wish three? I'm glad you asked.

I finally made it to an IKEA store last week and bowed in homage at the perfection that was the bookcase section, a vast territory of adjustable shelving that brought tears to my eyes. You mean I won't have to trip over knee-high book stacks anymore? Rejection letters can be dressed in a wallpaper-covered box to lessen the blow and add visual interest? My bra crystals of creativity will have a parking space? (long story, ask me when I hit the NYT list)

If you have never stepped foot in an IKEA store and you hold a man card, run. Away. Fast. For men, I can imagine it is the equivalent of a perfume counter, a bargain Neiman's bin and a bridal gown sprint all rolled into one cute little industrial Swiss package. Never mind that there are instructions when you enter and people fortify themselves with flat carts, yellow bags large enough to fit an Asian elephant, maps and Danish rolls before ascending into PHASE ONE: THE APARTMENTS. It's like Martha Stewart time travel: you won't be back that way again, so seize the moment and indulge in that electric pink office chair you'll abhor when you get it home. Follow that blue arrow and spend, spend, spend. But no, it doesn't end there. You just think you're finished when the elevator descends into PHASE TWO: DECORATIVE CRAP. Might want to stop for a refueling of Swedish meatballs, the shoppers in this phase are anti-establishment ants scrambling against the arrowed-flow for $1.25 wine decanters and bamboo plants stretching to the florescents for escape.

What if there is a fire, you ask? You must navigate mattresses, pass through the technicolor tunnel gauntlet of the kid's zone whilst careful not to trip over life-sized giraffes and ask an associate in a bright yellow polo. They can direct you to safety after your credit card number is entered securely into their system.

In all seriousness, though, I'm going back. Two six-shelf, adjustable bookcases await my return. Wish number three, fulfilled. Or wait, maybe wish three was Josh Halloway mopping up the spilled caffeinated beverage on my desk and saying, "That last line? Brilliant!"

I'm breaking down the computer after this post, so everyone play nice over the weekend. I'll return with photos of my new writer-space next week.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Curious Case of Time Travel

First today, a new bookmark put out by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission encouraging teens to time travel via a book. Time travel is everywhere, all I'm sayin'...
As you may guess, time travel is all over my Netflix account, too. Today on the writerly chopping block: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Not a time travel, perse, but close enough to my warped sense of holy-Batman-something's-up-with-time and in complete alignment to my appreciation of the Adonis-form that is Brad Pitt to warrant a post. Sadly, I haven't read F. Scott Fitzgerald's original short (very sparse) story as I'd intended to. My Time Twistin' bookmark is parked in H.G. Well's The Time Machine. One classic at a time, people. That said, any of my issues with the movie may be rectified by reading the original. As it is, I love an author who pays homage to his most classic character (Daisy) by revisiting the name in another work. This is either a self-gratifying stroke of Fitzgerald's ego or the boy had issues with an unrequited love named Daisy during his lifetime.

The film's tag line is simple, even borrowed from some phrase Crazy Aunt Edna of Disney-wanted-me-to-draw-for-them-fame used to spout, but wholly inspiring: Life isn't measured in minutes, but in moments.

So true. For Benjamin Button, portrayed with a certain nostalgic, Gump-esque quality by Brad Pitt, life is lived in reverse. He is born in post WWI New Orleans, a defenseless, grotesque infant of advanced age. Abandoned by his father, he is raised in the nurturing cocoon of an old folks home, loved and cherished. Where his body progresses to a more youthful state with each passing year, his restless spirit follows until he ventures out into the world to experience the same firsts and lasts we all do. He experiences love, some would say a more difficult state than aging backward, in all its complex forms: maternal, unconditional, romantic, friendship and reminds us of its fragility and transient nature in our own lives. The movie is of Titanic proportions, both in running time and its inevitable end in the viewer's mind. Cradle to grave. Strangely, in reverse, not all that different. But we're willing to make the journey to spotlight the guideposts of our own lives.

My issue with the movie was not what some viewed as an unsympathetic, cold protagonist, nor in the nagging question that plagues almost every scene: Why do the people surrounding him accept this so unflinchingly? but in that oft-used writer's tool: the bookend.

The movie opens with a blind clockmaker constructing a clock for Grand Central Terminal in 1918 New York. The movie closes with said clock. That the timepiece runs backwards is a hit-the-audience-over-the-head metaphor of epic proportions, but nowhere in the film is the thread of this bookend ever connected to Benjamin's story. Any assumption of reincarnation is a continental reach. Connect it for us, Mr. Screenwriter Eric Roth, and I'll be a forever fan of this quiet tale.

For now, I shall fortify my bleak attention-span of late to trudge through H.G. Well's opening line:

The Time Traveller (for so it will be convenient to speak of him) was expounding a recondite matter to us.

Wow, right? It's like a twelve-grain power bar on a mental liquid diet.

What did you think of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button?

Saturday, June 6, 2009

A Bond Girl's Education

If Vortex visitor Barbara was a Budda statue, I'd rub her belly this week because she's on a gol and dang winning streak here. I want some of that yum-luck water from Canada. Congrats, Barbara, for taking home the Love, Texas Style prize from Lara Hogg's blog giveaway! Send me your snail mail addy, again, Barbara and I'll get it right out:

As for the rest of you, I need your help. The 2007 Golden Heart finalists have banned together to launch a group blog, 007 Nobody Writes it Better, on June 15th and I'm thrilled to be part of such a talented, up-and-coming group of writers. Of course, we played off the James Bond theme since we were the 007 girls and because it makes us, well, cool. The problem is, I know precious little about being a Bond girl. Do I need a sexually suggestive code name? Three story jacked heels? A concealed weapon?

Crash course: take me from Twilight Zone-Laura Ingalls to Bond girl. Leave all the essentials in the comment section, including your favorite Bond girl and the best Bond movie I should add to my Netflix account.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Cyclist

Yesterday, I walked along the wide, busy neighborhood street that has become a cutback for half the city trying to access newer areas with inadequate roads. I frequent the street enough to know drivers rarely acknowledge the stop sign buried in the overgrowth of a dogwood tree. Pedestrians engage unwittingly in a game of chicken to get to that other side. At the street's conclusion, a community pool surfaces from the ten block stretch of brick facades like an oasis filled with pretentiousness and middle-age paunch.

I had seen the man on the bike before, a bizarre, unbalanced two-passenger contraption, presumably for an adult and child, but more like shrapnel fashioned into some semblance of a seat and pedals in the man's contrail. Always, the miniature co-pilot seat was empty. Did the noxious rattle indicate he'd gotten it second-hand? Perhaps from a father who'd enjoyed it with his son decades ago when the frame didn't creak against the fractured road? Did he long to fill it with pint-sized companionship?

The man is of average build, forgettable beyond his overtly dark mustache and sinewy legs as if the bicycle provided his only means of transport. He races along the street, on his own cutback agenda, as if suburbia were a predator and stopping meant he'd be eaten alive. The rattle, like a hundred marbles revolving in a cement mixer, overpowers whispers from sleek foreign cars and the occasional grueling sample of Fergie bouncing from a passing rag top.

My steps carried me at a purposeful, but not demanding, pace beside this stretch of road. Past the hypocritical covenant matron. Past the man who escapes his wife by sitting in his recliner in the garage in hundred degree heat. Past the empty house that will forever be known as the sex-offender's house.

Unseasonably cool, a kick of optimism sprinkled with almost-righteousness to my gait after having finally hauled myself off to the gym, I clipped along the road a good six blocks before I heard it. The rattle came from an otherworldly distance in the rare-June air, this time more like ten marbles. Muted and controlled. I slowed, waited, watched.

The bike emerged from a side street, two masses in tandem: sinewy legs racing tedium and another shorter set of legs dangling, not moving, like a pale flour sack that had sprouted limbs. Late afternoon traffic streamed by, smothered the delicate rattle until such time as he had neared enough for me to see sweat dripping from the man's down-turned face. The child, no more than four and helmeted in baby blue, stared straight ahead at his father's printed t-shirt, or perhaps nothing. The seat's structure lifted the boy under his arms as a parent would collect a child, preventing his round, inert body from slithering free.

And the man's race became apparent.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Two Doors

There is the obvious interpretation. There is me, standing in a gauzy white gown, the clock's tick marking my breaths. I am closer to dreams than reality. Always the fear that never the two shall meet.

Then, there is not who I am on this day, right now, but what I do. Writers hesitate, hover, between two distinct states of existence with each phrase that slips free. We seek absolute perfection when trying to recapture the innocent texture of our morning peach's skin against our tongue, a glimmer of realism to quench the reader's palette, yet lay it into the fertile loam of a landscape that exists only in our minds. Is story magic, then, in that unassuming intersection where reality meets dreams, each yielding to the other?