Thursday, January 29, 2009
Homeowners Insurance. Taxes. Speeding Tickets. Gifts for the newly married couple. All in the past month. None of them left that warm-family-fun-night-on-the-outside-of-the-cardboard-box-smile on my face.
Stocks? Fageddaboutit. No one ever spins my number, nor will I get that fifty grand back it took to buy into it. Sound familiar?
And what of birth control? There is no mention of choice when it comes to expanding the plastic family. Twins! More Twins! Suddenly, the back of my pink Studebaker is packed to the brim with immaculate conceptions I must now fund nursery school and full college tuition for. Millionaire estates? Not with the Brady Bunch +1 wedged like a pair of skis down the middle.
I planted a tree last year. Granted, it wasn't on Arbor day, but my Charlie Brown Oak has yet to yield a life tile worth $100,000. Unless I'm planting an evergreen that'll someday grace the White House lawn at Christmas, it's about as Life-based as earning a $90K salary being a teacher.
This newest game of Life is not the one I remember from childhood. Where spinners were engineered to spin without launching across the floor, skyscrapers stayed in place, and the path was not so winding. Maybe the earlier version gave us all the hope without any of the reality. Viewing it from the trenches doesn't elicit quite the same jubilation as staying up late on a summer night at Grandma's house when I was ten.
Still, there was something about drawing the Life tile that read Write The Great American Novel $100,000 that inspired a renewed appreciation for the game. Where, for a short time, possibilities lay out in front, jaded editors didn't lurk behind jagged green mountains and the only true sweat I broke was betting on whether that novel would put me in Millionaire Estates or a white plastic Countryside Acres home that, most likely, didn't have a heater that rattled and kitchen tiles that snapped loose like gunfire when the temperature dropped.
For one glorious hour, wealth hadn't come from a series of lucky spins, but from a renewed sense of possibility and enough loved ones clustered around the kitchen table to fill my pink car.
And that, Sir Milton Bradley, is a life well lived.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Kurt Vonnegut's 8 Rules For Writing Fiction
Everything You Need to Know About Writing Successfully-In Ten Minutes by Stephen King
Monday, January 26, 2009
In some realms.
Such is the word guyliner. Think Jack Sparrow, only not a pirate. And not Johnny-Depp-can-get-away-with-this-hot. Three cosmetic companies are now marketing toward young men. Does this mean I'm firmly beyond the generation that understands why eyeliner is jumping the emo/punk ship and pilaging the rest of the male society?
Richard Alpert (Nestor Carbonell on Lost)
We know the Dharma camp stockpiled enough supplies to sustain the Oceanic survivors for eight seasons, but Nestor most likely hoarded the eyeliner under his cot. This seemingly everywhere leader of The Others wears more, even in suited attire, than all the women on the island combined. Is this so we can keep his character distinct in our minds from the nine hundred other secondary characters? "Oh, yeah. Here comes the metrosexual with the semi-automatic weapon." Is it a signal to the audience he's from another time? The year David Bowie applied more blue eyeshadow than aforementioned elderly relative? Yet, somehow, this may be the one normal guy on my list who can pull it off.
Exhibit B: David Cook
No, no, no, no, no. Just no. The slow evolution of David Cook from American Idol-humble to a man at the mercy of a eyeliner-wielding stylist is just wrong. We get the whole rocker thing, but even the quasi-red beard cannot pull you into Jack Sparrow Arrrrg territory. Just because Cook spouted the term in front of 22 million people and turned it mainstream doesn't mean he should own any part of it.
Brian Austin Green
This is enough to make me wish someone would start chanting, "Donna Martin graduates!" to distract me from enduring the eye burn. If you don't know who this is, no fear. One more dip into the Maybelline pool for this actor and he'll be on the second season of Confessions of a Teen Idol.
Exhibit D: Emo-Spidey
The words eyeliner and superhero should be banned from occupying the same sentence. This was such a misguided decision by make-up artists working on the movie that the term Emo-Spidey has its own place in the urban dictionary beside crappy movie. We love dark and tortured in the script, not on the eyes.
Lest you think I'm not all up into guyliner, I offer Exhibit E:
I confess to having a thing for Jared Leto since his My So-Called Life days. He gets a free pass from me for being in the music industry, though if I saw him on the street I'd chase him with a Q-tip and a jar of Vaseline. Make-up remover. Geez, people.
So why the resurgence? Must Jack Sparrow walk the plank for his fashion crimes against the male species?
Friday, January 23, 2009
For she-who-writes-constipated-ramblings-at-Faulkner's-altar, it was a challenge easily overcome. If I can, so can you.
For inspiration, read those who've come before. Even Sue Grafton is represented. Here's mine:
Let's have some Friday fun. Your turn...
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
All must be accomplished before the vaunted closing of the fortress doors which paw swipes cannot penetrate. But nature, he will call. And the kittens will be ready, waiting.
These are our two new kitties, saved from the shelter on Christmas Eve. Angus, left, is named outwardly in homage to Angus Young (inwardly a devotion to one of MacGyver's secret first names-he has three. Who else would know that?). A befitting name for a creature who acts not like a rock star, but more like a three-day binge hangover. Ginger, right, is the only redhead I'll ever profess to love and is most responsible for my wicked muse's revival.
Friday: Six Word Stories
Monday, January 19, 2009
Ten Random Things Distracting Me From Writing This Week:
1. Moving an Elderly Relative
Though the compensatory free dinners at IHOP provide a modicum of motivation, enduring a critical banter with the waiter worthy of a presidential debate makes the dry pancakes lodge in my throat. The stench of the senior menu's pan-crusted Tilapia is at battle with my strawberry syrup. Said relative's directive to the chef about the degree of fish doneness lest it bring on "explosive diarrhea" inspires a war in my stomach. Time suck: 2 days.
2. Waiting for Garage Door Repairmen
Apparently, it is in vogue for the young males of our local species to impale themselves against garage doors. While this mating/loyalty-to-pack ritual might prove mildly entertaining to the sociologists among us interested in the decline of civilization, damaging the door to the point of collapse is not. Should you choose to darken my driveway again and impale my pricey new garage door, you leave me no choice but to disable the safety beam and tether you in its path. Time suck: 3 hours and counting...
3. Changing Toilet Tissue Rolls
To some of you, this may seem silly. But for every other human who draws breath at Casa Mitchell, I shall purchase this t-shirt as a reminder that (a) it doesn't take a genius to work the spring-loaded plastic holder and (b) at any moment, your smarts will be traded for a hottie, mullet-wearing, bomb-from-gum making Phoenix Foundation operative lest we fail to ingest the lessons of the empty tissue roll. Time suck for a year: enough to line edit my final draft.
4. Time Travel to My Awkwardness c. 1980's
An afternoon at a roller skating rink has the power to simultaneously bring back a flashy "Heartbreaker" flat-chested shirt moment and enough sting in the glutes to inspire a break dance move worthy of pre-saved M.C. Hammer. Do not blow past me, Mr. I-most-likely-impaled-your-garage-door. Gum revenge is sweet. Ask MacGyver. Time suck: 2 hours, 15 minutes.
5. Frying Pan Sticker
Placing a bar code sticker with NASA adhesive on the non-teflon shell of the pan is smart. Placing it where it sinks into the conduction structure, unreachable by a WD-40 pen-wielding hand is pure genius. Twenty broken toothpicks later, I command the residual glue to, "Burn, baby, burn!" Time suck: 20 minutes.
6. Travels With My Cats by Mike Resnick
Could I begin to touch this time travel short story with my worthiness as a writer? I think not. In an interview, Resnick admits this Hugo-award winning story is the one he's most proud of. It has romance, love, cats and time-travel. Squee! Time suck: 25 minutes, but worth every one.
7. Build Your Own Time Machine at The Science Channel
At first glance, the promise is enough to make me a forever fangirl of Michio Kaku, famed physics professor who touts this feature on Science Channel commercials. After a grueling trip through what time is, the fruitless results are disappointing. No simulation. No games. Very backhanded, not-so-humorous retro. Good for the basics, but hardly worthy of The Science Channel. Time suck: 13 minutes.
8. LOST teasers promising major devotion to Sawyer's plot line this season. Need I say more? Time suck: 1 hour.
9. American Idol
Okay, I swore I wouldn't do it again this year. Nothing on it ever comes within a galaxy of the music I listen to (Daughtry-pshaw!), but I needed a wicked laugh after a flat tire fiasco this week. I always wish Seacrest would bitch-slap some of these devoted family members who were never honest enough with their beloved to say, "This is not your thing, honey." It is my fervent hope I am not the William Hung of the writing world. Time suck: 1 hour, 10 minutes.
10. Judging GH Entries I Adore
Historical romance writers brought their game when they submitted to the Golden Heart contest this year. Fifty pages were simply not enough for two of them. Perfect scores all round!
Time suck: 1 hour, 15 minutes.
Here's to a new week of productivity for everyone!
Saturday, January 17, 2009
As I worked, I noticed a closing distance between others gathered to wait. Soon, every chair was full, some double parked for groups preferring chit chat to isolation. They crowded my scant light, spoke of crock pot recipes while the Madam in my story collected the previous night's wood tokens for sexual favors, and swallowed my personal space with each passing moment.
An hour in, it happened. An interruption of such magnitude, I tossed the pages to the chair and scrambled away in haste. Though I am an eternal optimist and firmly believe in other's inherent ability to be good and decent, I would almost never leave my purse behind and trust it to strangers. I even take my laptop to the bathroom with me when I'm writing at a coffee shop. Imagine the interruption what you will. Perhaps the parking brake on my Toyota finally gave. Perhaps a blood-curdling scream ripped out my name from beyond my post. Imagine what you will, but it was immediate and important, and I fled for the moment.
Mini-crisis ended, I returned to my spot to find the woman in the next chair leaned over at a back-breaking angle to read my pages. She could not have violated me more had she slipped the credit cards from my wallet. For all that I can think to say in retrospect now, words failed me at the moment. I simply gathered my things in a huff and left, my greatest capacity for confrontation, as always, on page.
Later, I revisited the page she'd read-the one I'd carelessly opened to the world before it was ready. The truth is, the scene is almost unsalvageable, on the chopping block of worthiness in my plot, quite possibly some of the worst dreck in the entire novel. Had the woman picked up on my self-reproach in my scribbled margin comments: better dialogue, deepen, word choice, better, not in character, better? I know what I mean by better. I have faith in my ability to polish a turd.
The woman, however, I'm sure had misgivings. Would I have felt differently about her curiosity had she read my best? Is nosiness flattering when it meets with pride?
Part of a writer's defense mechanism is to be guarded. So much of us is exposed on the page, we nurture a fierce streak of protectiveness that may seem neurotic, at times, to others. Peer critiques become an exercise in trust. Agent submissions become an intricate ritual of letting go.
Trust. Fear. Protectiveness. All as inherent to human nature as curiosity.
All as much a part of the woman's story as my own.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
originally posted September 25, 2007
Something resonated with me a few days ago as I'm preparing a member of my family for a rite of passage in our faith. Naturally, thoughts turn to other times I've made a similar journey in the past. Times when the merest notion of "firsts" called for celebration. First steps. First words. Even first teeth elicit a special road marker along the side of the road each of us must travel.
But with time, as it does most other things in our lives, those firsts slip away, a fond memory recalled in less frequent moments as the years stretch on. In place of first words, the infinite cacophony of questions or complaints or merely the lyrics to a song unimaginable in that captured moment in the past, take over and the memory slips into black and white and shades of gray. Instead of first steps toward you, they sprint away in their independence.
But if there is a book tucked away of "firsts" for each of us, a memoir of childhood to be brought out and dusted off, what if there were a book of "lasts"? The last time we kissed our spouse. The last words exchanged between an elderly parent and a grown child. The last glimpse we had of our child. How different we would live our lives. How much we would savor each moment as it slides into the next. How much we would yearn for the next to never come.
Without time travel, there can be no known books of lasts. Thankfully, perhaps. A safe, albeit unsure, reminder of what is to come, we remain ignorant of these road markers, knowing they exist somewhere in the grand scheme of fate or merely the inevitability of our lives.
What did you do today as if it were written in your book of lasts?
I chose to repost The Book of Lasts on blogaversary week for selfish reasons. I'd forgotten its message. In the almighty pursuit of life, how easy it is to forget the blessings in each moment.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
originally posted May 26, 2007
Life became crazy this week. Never a long stretch of time where I could let unhurried thoughts live in the short story world I'm working on. In a place where my characters were, literally and metaphorically, pulled to the side of the road, a strong mental image surfaced.
This post refers to The Lost Highway, my first published work. When I finally got around to finishing the short story that summer, doubt crept in as it always does. I wish I could tell the writer I was then that it would become my proudest accomplishment to date.
Monday, January 12, 2009
Many thanks to everyone who chimed in with comments and those who came back faithfully each day to discover the next installment. What a fun way to start 2009.
This week marks the two year anniversary of this blog. For some writers, having a blog is the thing to do. A buzz. Something agents and editors preach in the name of platform and fan base. For someone like me who labors for far too long in the desolate stretch of novels, mostly in secret, hoarding words as if their glimmer will die if shared before it is time, a blog is a balance. Dark prose to light banter. Creative isolation to an impulsive need to reach out. For those who came in the beginning, and for those I've met along the way, thank you. I am blessed to have had the chance to express myself and humbled that others should listen.
Each day this week, I'll revisit a post from the previous years. Some I chose because they continue to step forward in my memory. Some I chose because they marked something worthy along the way. All I chose because they are the perfect time machine to the writer I was in that moment, on that day.
Snapshots at a Kroger
originally posted May 12, 2007
I remember this day in vivid detail. I still make grocery lists on the back of my drafts. I still lose them occasionally. I still wonder.
Friday, January 9, 2009
For the seventh and final installment, I give you a montage series that does a far better job preserving our memories of the finest kisses on film:
Great graphics and choices. Music, not so much.
Movie's Best Kisses Top 30 (30-21)
Movie's Best Kisses Top 30 (20-11)
Movie's Best Kisses Top 30 (10-1)
As promised, everyone who leaves a comment anywhere in the Seven Midnights of Kisses series by Sunday at 11 CDT will be entered into a drawing to receive a DVD of one of my favorite movies. No kissing in this one. I promise. At least I don't remember one. When would he have had the time? Ah, but you knew it would have something to do with time, didn't you? Good luck, everyone, and happy commenting.
The Time Machine, a Choose Your Own Adventure-style YouTube time travel experience, is gaining momentum. Help Chad, Matt and Rob get to their 12 o'clock meeting without dying. Start here to begin the adventure.
Travis Erwin, a women's fiction writer from Texas, recently lost his house to a fire. Erica Orloff and Stephen Parrish have created a virtual habitat for Travis and his family where you can purchase a brick to help him rebuild. Every little bit helps.
Also, contemporary romance author Gemma Halliday is organizing an auction to benefit one of her devoted young readers who, along with her mother, recently became homeless. Be sure to visit www.romanticinks.com from January 19-26 to browse some of the amazing gifts for writers and readers that have been donated. Read about this teen's journey through homelessness on her blog.
Lastly, and far less importantly, I'll be celebrating my two year blogoversary next week. Two hundred and forty three posts of time travel, Vortex 10s and writing. We'll be time traveling a bit next week to revisit some of my favorite posts.
Until then, have a great weekend everyone!
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
For context, John Wayne plays Sean Thornton, a man with a dark past who returns to Ireland to reclaim his homestead. While there, he begins a tumultuous relationship with a poor maiden, portrayed by Maureen O'Hara.
In the kiss-fandom arena this scene polarizes people. Some rank it with Casablanca and Gone with the Wind and herald its coveted place in romantic film history. I'd like to have those women to dinner. Over a mandarin pecan salad, we'd discuss exactly which part excites them: the category four hurricane blowing outside the thatched hut or the drunk, animalistic noise that erupts from John Wayne to set the mood. Quiet man, indeed. Aside from the Rick Astley overcoat(again with that-a prevalent costuming choice for heroes in kiss scenes), and the homage to a romance novel's clinch cover at 1:19, it will go down in my book as the worst movie kiss ever.
After I torment my cats with The Duke's beastly cry one more time.
Someone be the Tony Kornheiser to my Michael Wilbon. I just don't get it.
Monday, January 5, 2009
According to a recent Blockbuster Video poll, Ghost's pottery scene kiss was voted the most romantic of all time. Yes, it is a Soundtrack Kiss, but it's also a veritable treasure chest of phallic symbols and absent dialogue that makes this kiss a delight to ad lib.
0:11 Sam: Oh, Molly, that is sooo G.I. Jane.
0:14 Molly: Either you licked my fingers or the magic hand sanitizer fairy slipped in through the window.
0:21 Sam: I'm one spin away from igniting this sheet on the lamp, but passion knows no fire safety. Did you know I was a dancer?
0:52 Molly: With a stomach like that, I can almost forget you look like that guy from that awful movie, Roadhouse.
1:10 Molly: I'm opening my mouth, but there's no rain.
1:20 Sam: I perfected this sway. I call it the Johnny Castle sway.
1:41 Sam: Did you get pottery goo in my hair? My coiffure looks like Liberace in silhouette.
Ad lib, ad nauseum, Vortex readers...
Sunday, January 4, 2009
To the tabletop finale in Sixteen Candles:
If the photo isn't enough to jog your memory, try this yummy tribute to Jake Ryan, complete with the original kiss scene at 4:20. Who isn't instantly transported back to the 1980s when the Thompson Twins' If You Were Here accompanies the moment?
My favorite soundtrack kiss is Never Been Kissed. Any kiss that lays out the plot's climax right in the title, builds toward it the entire duration of the movie and inspires an entire grandstand to break out into spontaneous kisses gets my vote:
Who would have guessed The Beach Boys? But, somehow, it's perfect. Neither of these pop-culture-esque kisses are spectacular in and of themselves. There's no tempest blowing their hair or heightened moment of impending separation. They're simple and unforgettable because they join our own embedded memories of the songs to the character's experience.
What's your favorite soundtrack kiss?
Saturday, January 3, 2009
Would that I could, I'd whip out my John Madden electronic pen and BOOM...break each of these down for you with exaggerated arcs and Xs and Os until one stood triumphant. For now, I'll just throw out the penalties and let you make the call. And yes, I have been gorging on too much football.
Rain Kiss #1: Breakfast at Tiffany's
2:18 and 4:25 Requisite Gaping Mouth in the Rain
2:43-3:40 Almost an entire minute where he fails to assist her in locating "cat". Yes, he stands there in his Rick-Astley-flasher-overcoat looking handsome, but there should be a penalty for his inertness. Like a right hook from the squished cat, who happens to be penalty #3: full body contact interference due to feline.
Rain Kiss #2: The Notebook
0:32 Requisite Gaping Mouth in the Rain
0:05 Positive yardage for the costume designers capitalizing on the inherent sexiness of a soaked white shirt, which is then negated by the shorts beneath Rachel McAdam's dress at 0:06
0:22 Just in case she's mathematically challenged, he takes the opportunity to expound on the three hundred sixty five day reference. Penalty for the writers insulting her intelligence and the audience's just before the kiss.
It's your call: Which is the better rain-soaked kiss scene?
Friday, January 2, 2009
Perhaps only dangerous should you want to kiss an Italian chef at midnight, the pasta and meatball kiss is by far the most famous animated kiss in screen history. Given their species' affinity for sniffing each other's hind quarters, this authentic culinary treat, complete with a serenade from a beefy accordian player, makes the romantic list every time.
Yes, there are the cliched chocolate dipped strawberries, succulent fruits and alcoholic drinks that only reach their full potential when shaken with tongue, but this leaves me wondering: Should chewing and kissing be a simultaneous show of affection? What would Miss Manners say regarding the serious breach in open-mouth mastication? Does anyone but a dentist need to have intimate knowledge of our intended's molar landscape? If I'm offered a meatball, does it mean true love?
Today's armchair call: Best food for kissing?
Thursday, January 1, 2009
New Year’s Eve…ah, the night of a thousand expectations, none as important as that midnight kiss.
In honor of that preeminent smooch, I thought we’d start the year celebrating Seven Midnights of Kisses. Each day will feature a kissing morsel for your viewing pleasure. Lest this make you how-bout-dem-Broncos-types squeamish, there will be no swooning here. Only writers and movie fans acting as armchair referees. We’ll ad lib, analyze and disassemble the moments until all that is left is a virtual smile capable of making you forget how staggeringly forgettable your own midnight New Year’s experience was. The more you comment, the more you’ll be entered into a drawing to receive one of my favorite DVDs devoid of any osculation. After seven days, we’ll all be like pre-pubescent boys wiping our collective tongues.
First Midnight: From Here to Eternity
A kiss between Army Sergeant Warden (Burt Lancaster) and Army Captain's wife Karen Holmes (Deborah Kerr)
What were they really thinking? You make the call.