Saturday, June 30, 2012

FandomFest, Day 1

Dear FandomFest:

Thank you for presenting the perfect pair of goggles, right when I needed to buy them.


Thank you for making that Denny's in Kentucky extra delicious.

Thank you for having so many marvelous authors and readers.

Thank you for giving me a fantastic excuse to dress up.


Thank you for introducing me to the tour-brained but brilliant John Scalzi, who dubbed me STEAMPUNK GIRL. I will struggle to live up to that epithet. At least until I can join Kalayna Price as USA TODAY BESTSELLING GIRL.

Thank you for slowing down. I woke up at 5:30, and I'm ready to snoozle.

<3, d.

p.s. If you're into steampunk costuming, that outfit breaks down as follows:
goggles: $60 2 Dames Bazaar at FandomFest (big splurge!)
tan lace bolero shrug: $20, Ebay
tank: $1.91, thrift store
corset: $45, Damsel in the Dress (on sale!)
stagecoach skirt: $39, Damself in this Dress (on sale!)
tights: $4, Target (on sale!)
boots: $30, 6pm.com (on sale!)
cog and propeller earrings: $5 at FandomFest

= Steampunk can be pretty affordable when you shop sales and reuse pieces!

Friday, June 29, 2012

NEWS!

I am OVER THE DAMN MOON to announce that my YA Savannah paranormal, SERVANTS OF THE STORM, just sold to Simon Pulse for publication in spring 2014.

Get ready, y'all-- I reckon I'm gonna corrupt your chirren. WITH HURRICANES.

*

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

inside the locket


If you ever wondered
what Tish found in the locket...

*

I couldn't help commissioning a portrait by Fyodor Pavlov
an artist I found on tumblr.
His work is occasionally NSFW,
but that's *exactly* how I pictured the image in the locket.

DARE ME TO WHAT?
*

Saturday, June 23, 2012

why I want to write YA

Beware, friends! This post is SERIOUS. And DARK. And yet so very, very TRUE.

As you surely know by now, my first book is in print. It's basically a grab bag of all the things I like: romance, magic, horses, fuzzy woodland animals, pretty clothes from long ago, adventures, submarines, sea monsters, ghosts, fancy jewelry. Although there's an overall theme of easy things are worth nothing, it's not meant to be deep, and it's clearly an indulgent sort of a read. An escape. Fluff.

But I'm not all fluff, kids.

Sang is not the darkest world in my head. My life now appears easy, but it's been a long fight to get here. One of my goals as an author is to publish YA books for and about teens, not only because I enjoy reading them and writing them, but also because I hope to find ways to connect with kids who might be having some of the same struggles that I did in high school.

I was a geek back when being called a geek was considered shameful. I was smart and shy and socially awkward, and I was bullied horribly in middle school. To this day, the smell inside a bus makes me sick to my stomach. Although I hit my stride in high school and found strong friendships and  mentors, there were dark patches that I mostly kept to myself. The only way I could cope was by writing poetry and painting, alone in my room. I still have all my poems in their original notebooks, along with song lyrics and quotes and things that made me feel connected to something, anything, when I was floundering. When I had no voice, I whispered to myself.

This blog? Isn't the kind of place I can share those experiences. The stories need to be told, but they're the sort of stories that can only be shared with real, live human beings, when you can look into their eyes and say, This happened to me. It might be happening to you. But it's going to be okay one day, if you just hang in there. Because just as I couldn't tell people about it then, I find it hard to speak about it now, to put things in print where someone could contest it or argue it or in any way lessen what occurred.

You seemed so normal. 
You seemed happy. 
You got good grades. 
You never told anyone. 
You were fine.

When someone tells you their secrets, those are the wrong things to say, folks.

All around us, strangers are silently carrying burdens that we can't begin to understand. We pass on the sidewalk, share elevators, hold the door to the bookstore with a smile, and we have no idea what dragons are curled around the hearts of people we've never met, quietly squeezing or fanning a flame or waiting for the right moment to strike. I learned long ago that surviving is sometimes the best way to fight back, that living is the best revenge. But that's not enough.

My goal is that my words will one day be in the hands of kids like I used to be-- kids who need first an escape and second, the knowledge that the person who wrote them was a victim, too. That no matter what people do to you, if you can live past it and get stronger, you can kick a bunch of ass. That the pain, as they say, will one day be useful. That dark places breed fabulous monsters, and you can bridle them and ride them down whichever paths you choose.

Sometimes, when the worst finally happens-- that's when you realize you're free.

It gets better, y'all. I promise. I hope one day we'll get to trade stories.





Friday, June 22, 2012

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

James Bond of the attic

Yesterday, I did something that surprised me: I climbed up into the attic with a flashlight in my teeth, crawled into a dark, dusty hole, and fixed an electrical problem. Like James Bond.

Now, if you know me, you know that home repair comes as naturally to me as navigating highways, which is to say, not at all, and please bring a hot bath, glass of wine, and copy of Pride and Prejudice so I can recover afterward. Electricity, especially, is not in my comfort zone. I couldn't even make a light bulb glow in high school physics, and that was with a clear diagram and a teacher standing over my shoulder, directing me and informing me that I was wretched at physics and should probably just accept that and move on, preferably to someone else's classroom.

But I've started to realize that many of life's mysteries are really just puzzles, and with enough motivation and googling, one can solve them.

This year, with our beloved handyman moved away, I have:

* fixed a clogged sink by removing the S-bend
* fixed my own broken vacuum
* replaced two doorknobs and turned a third around
* managed to transform at least one modern Transformer (a blue one)
* and now, deactivated a bum attic fan while keeping the upstairs AC running

And the coolest part is that when I asked for help, it wasn't my guy friends who helped me. It was all women! On Facebook and then in person, my girlfriends gave me a quick primer on how to use wire caps, and then it was just a trip to the breaker box and a few quick twists. Boom! Fan disconnected, switch flicked, AC on, upstairs blessedly cool again.

Before now, I would have panicked and crowdsourced a new handyman and paid a few hundred dollars for five minutes of mysterious work done in the attic. But I'm beginning to understand that the secrets of the world, many of them, are open and waiting to be discovered. Problems can be broken down and solved. I can fix lots of things, sew lots of things, work patiently at most things until the solution is unlocked. In today's world especially, the internet holds all the answers. I even have a friend who taught herself how to knit in one night on YouTube. When we ask the right questions, we can empower ourselves by solving our problems on our time, in our own way.

Was I scared, when I held my wire nippers out to cut wires that I was... pretty sure were on the right breaker switch? Yeah, I actually was. At 95% sure, I knew that if I was wrong, I was going to get a serious electrical shock. And, yes, I pretended I was a spy deactivating a bomb and talked to myself in a James Bond voice. And yes, when I didn't blow myself up, I yelled WOOHOOO!, because with risk and research and work comes a moment of victory that shouldn't be ignored.

The older I get, the more I realize that solving my problems myself is empowering.

And yesh, Miss Money Penny, I like that verra much.

*

Monday, June 18, 2012

my infernal internal soundtrack

Two songs are obsessing me right now, becoming the soundtrack for my writing.

This one, presented in acoustic version because I don't like the video for the studio version:




There's a fork in the road
I do as I am told
Till I don't don't don't don't don't don't....

I... sing along to that quite a bit.

And here's the second one, by The Veils. I was obsessed with their album Runaway Found for a while, writing an entire book to it. The music is like that-- it worms its way into my thoughts.




I don't watch a lot of videos these days, as I get obsessed with the songs, and they make me see scenes in my head, and those scenes have nothing to do with what was originally intended by the artists or directors, and then I have an emotional schizoid embolism like Quaid in Total Recall.

I need a soundtrack to write. Music is symbiotic with the words, and I develop a Pavlovian response to it. When I hear the soundtrack, I'm plunged into that world. The music makes me see things I wouldn't otherwise, and as I can't drink absinthe constantly, it's the closest I can safely get to that state where the membrane between imagination and reality is thin and glittery. When I get stuck while writing, I drive and blast music or, when very desperate, draw a hot bath in the dark and force myself into a trance-like state while listening to the music. Although the music doesn't start the story, it's the momentum that keeps it going.

Wicked as They Come was written to Like Vines by The Hush Sound. The Mysterious Madam Morpho was written to Gotye's Making Mirrors, minus the two weird hippie songs in the middle and Bronte, which is the saddest song I've ever heard. Wicked as She Wants started off with Divine Comedy by Milla Jovovich. And now, the second novella is dominated by these two songs.

If you ever hear a song that you think I'll dig, please let me know. I find most of my music by serendipity, and I'm always glad of a new little obsession.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

for no good reason.


I'm just going to put this over here.

skål!

I have no culture. 
But once a year, for one night, I'm Swedish.


Photo by my favorite Swede, Jim Axelsson.


I know, I know. It's kind of strange, because there's probably not a drop of Swedish blood in me, and I'm all the wrong colors, and most of the food is still a mystery. But it's so much fun that I look forward to it every year. 



Therefore, here's my guide to having a fun Midsommar.


First, the kids swim. And then we all dance around a maypole and sing fun songs about how frogs don't have ears or tails, but pigs do, and then pigs say NERF NERF NERF. (Note: the first time I danced around the maypole, I thought the song was about half moose-half duck animals that lived in Sweden, and I really wanted to see one. But I was wrong.) And then the children use a pool net to hook goodie bags from behind a fence. They find this so exciting that they all beg to be Swedish.


This year, they got lots of glow-in-the-dark and fiber optic stuff, so they glowed all night.


Which was kind of great, because then we could tell if anyone had fallen in the pool.




Then there's the traditional Riding of the Liöns, but which is like a lion, but stone, and with an umlaut.




Just kidding. that part's not required. It's just an extra added Midsommar bonus.

Then, once the children are fed and sated, the adults sit down under a long tent decorated in the Swedish colors of blue and yellow and have a traditional Swedish meal. There are things you'd expect, thanks to Ikea-- delicious meatballs, potatoes, lingonberries. But then there are mysterious, fantastical things, like perfectly boiled eggs with pink squiggles (THAT AREN'T ICING, WHICH I FOUND OUT THE HARD WAY) and shrimp-things with eyeballs and interesting cheeses in the shape of the maypole and mustard in a TUBE.

You have to sit boy-girl-boy, and you're not allowed to sit next to your spouse. There are little carousels of airplane-sized Swedish liquors strategically placed all along the table, and you start out very picky. By the end of the night, we're all daring each other to try the nastiest ones we can find, especially a very bitter one called Bäska Droppar, which was once voted "the worst liquor in the world". It's kind of a fascinating experience, as the aftertaste is 1000 times worse than the actual drink, such that you take a big swig and say IT'S NOT SO BAD, LOSERS, and then ten minutes later you feel like you ate a frog.




And that's one of *my* Midsommar traditions. Since the hosts' beautiful house is out in the woods by a pool, they have an abundance of frogs and toads. You have to yell to hear each other over their little froggy love songs. And I get all excited and make a ridiculous spectacle out of myself, chasing them around in my heels and fancy dress and scooping them out of the pool and forcing them on all my friends.



Because, honestly, how many times a year can you get drunk and kiss frogs?




That's Gary. He was small and sticky and adorable, and I carried him around for fifteen minutes, until he tried to hop down my dress.


There were also toads, but they weren't as much fun.


Another Midsommar tradition is that everyone has cake and Swedish coffee, which is like jet fuel. Every year, the cake is from Publix, and therefore delicious. This year's cake was, in all honesty, the best Midsommar cake I've ever seen. It was all blue with white and yellow swirls, and it said GLAD MIDSOMMAR. And in the middle of the cake was a UNICORN.




EXTRA ADDED BONUS: Debbie got a picture of the cake!!!!

Now, unicorns aren't a part of the Midsommar tradition. But the unicorn on this cake was magical. And the children got very excited about eating it-- the unicorn, not the cake. So an adult had to cut the cake with surgical precision, divvying the Swedish Midsommar unicorn into sections as skillfully as a butcher dividing a carcass. One kid got the horn, one kid got the face, one kid got the body, several kids got hooves, and one girl considered herself "very spoiled" because she got, and I quote, "ALL THE BUTT."



I ate the D in GLAD. And then I ate everyone else's unfinished cake, because LOOK AT ALL THOSE BOTTLES, YO. Not all mine, BTW. I have learned the hard way that I can't outdrink the Swedes--although I do have to have at least a couple of mini-bottles so that I can keep up with the traditional Swedish drinking songs about throwing the drunken sailor in bed with the Captain's daughter, watching the money roll in to your family of degenerates, and having a little string of liquor down the back of your throat. After every song,  everyone yells "Skål!" and takes a drink. And there are *a lot* of songs.

As your basic American mutt, I can't tell you how much it means to me to be included in this beloved tradition. To be invited in and treated like family is a great privilege, and I love to see everyone and catch up and watch the decade's worth of photos scrolling through on the big TV all night. I get to see one of my favorite roommates from college, hang out with another writer, and make jokes with a guy who worked with the wife of a guy I went to high school with. 

Sitting there by the pool, eating and drinking and laughing by lantern light as frogs peep-- it's one of my favorite nights of the year.

GLAD MIDSOMMAR, EVERYBODY!

Friday, June 15, 2012

the artist's conundrum and my tramp stamp

On one side: You can do anything! Dream big!

On the other side: Know your limitations. Beware Hubris. Pick your battles.

La Primevere et La Plume by Alphonse Mucha

It's a struggle I've always... um... struggled with. I can do anything-- except the things I can't do.

See, I have this vision of a back tattoo. Mucha-inspired. Art Deco. Big. And it will cover up that line drawing I did when I was 20 that is now universally called a "tramp stamp". When I was 20, we just called them "tattoos".

But I've come to realize over the years that my art skills constantly disappoint me. I'm not the artist I want to be. I can draw better than most people, and I can do great things with murals, but there's just no style to it. And the tattoo I'm trying to cover up is one of my own designs, and... I don't like it. I only see its flaws.

And yet.

How do I explain to someone else exactly what I want? What if they do a lot of work and it's not quite right? I have an artist's eye for detail and color and proportion, and nothing less than perfection will do. Working with someone on that kind of complicated collaboration takes time, work, back and forth, money-- in short, responsibility. And I don't have the mental space for that right now.

So do I do it myself and possibly hate it?

Or really commit to it and have someone else do it?

It's time to admit that I can't do everything. I can't be everything I dream of. There's room for me to improve as a writer, but history shows I'm topped out as an artist and probably shouldn't design anything I'll have to see in a mirror every day for the next sixty years. I'm finally old enough and wise enough to recognize my own limits, at least in regards to needles, patience, and permanence.

As for my own art, I'll stick to things that come with a DELETE button.



*

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Ebay is calling you, and you should totally give in.


It started out easily enough, with this.

Then I started seeing My Little Ponies on tumblr. Not the new ones, which are awesome-- the old ones. The ones I knew and loved. Turns out lots of people collect them.

I don't know why it never occurred to me before that. As a geeky girl in her prime with a hot internet connection and some Paypal cash, I could buy as many freakin' ponies as I wanted. But then it clicked.

I COULD HAVE AS MANY PONIES AS I WANTED.

I started researching MLPs online. The different generations, where to find them, how to clean them and fix their frizzy hair.

Suddenly, I found myself on Ebay, bidding for a few old favorites from my childhood. Not the ones I had and (FOOLISHLY) gave away. The ones I always wanted and missed, or couldn't get because my best friend got them first. Parasol was the first one. Then Firefly and Skydancer's pal, Starshine.

Then I discovered a stubborn, rebellious streak. I like the G3 ponies, the one that came out in the early 2000s, back when I was busy wearing collared shirts and working in cubes and trying to figure out what the hell to do with myself. I had no idea they ever existed, because I was too busy pretending I could be serious. And they're cheap, because no one else is fangirling. So I bought a few of those, too, including Round 'n Round, the one up there in that photo.

She was the first one to come home, and I set her on the shelf with a feeling of anticipation. The feeling of a collector, starting a collection. She needs a little upkeep, but I'm waiting. I'm waiting for Parasol, Firefly, Starshine, Bee Bop, and Amber Locks to come home, and then we'll have a Pony Prettifying Parlor Party, and SQUEE.

Guys, I'm telling you. If there's something you always wanted to collect, START NOW.

It feels so good, giving myself permission to love something I already loved. To accept that while I try to keep clutter at bay, I can donate one shelf in my office to something carefully cultivated and tended, something that makes me smile every time I glance over. Those things you wanted in your childhood--that you wanted and couldn't have?

You can have them now.

Go on. You have my permission.

And if any of y'all are looking to unload some ponies, hook me up.

I have a wishlist...

*


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

on not budging


Sometimes, the parakeet gets a little balky.

No matter how much pop music I turn on and sing along with, no matter how many bits of his favorite seeds I sprinkle around myself like a giant birdy cupcake, no matter how much coaxing and smoochy-smooching I do, he just won't sit on my shoulder while I'm writing.

Yes, part of that is because when the garage door opened, a big bug ran over my leg and I jumped up screeching and accidentally kicked his cage and lurched around like a drunk bear, and he had a total wiggins.

But the thing is-- parakeets, like writing, take time. They can't be forced, but they can't be neglected, either.

Some days, you get 5000 words down and feel like a boss. Some days, getting 500 words is like pulling teeth out with pliers. Your own teeth. And the pliers have motor oil on them. Hell, some days, you only get five words, and they're all the F word, because F the writing, that's why.

But you keep trying.

It came up in conversation last night that whatever you're doing right now is the best predictor for what you'll be doing in five minutes. So whether you're sleeping, working, cleaning, or zoned out on Hoarders, chances are, you'll be doing the same thing in five minutes, because human beings are programmed for inertia. I mean, it makes sense. A cave girl who was working to stay alive would need to forage and hunt and cook, and as soon as the work was done, she would sit down and zone out to conserve the calories for which she had worked so hard.

But when you apply it to everyday life in 2012, it means that if I'm idly browsing boots and watching Twitter debates on dream casting for Outlander, I'll probably be doing it in five minutes, and then five minutes after that, and then nothing gets done and the day is over and I have nothing to show for it and feel like a zombie.

That's why even when the words don't come, I try. Even when the bird won't sit on my shoulder, I'm singing to him. And starting today, I'm going to make more of an effort not to waste time doing nothing when I could be dedicating myself to doing something.

In short, I will now fight inertia like a knight jousting on an ostrich.

If inertia is not budging, then by God, I will budge.

*

Monday, June 11, 2012

Saturday, June 9, 2012

on cogitating and the writing process

Sometimes, this blog gets quiet. And that means I'm cogitating.

You'd be surprised how much of writing doesn't happen on the page or behind this laptop. It happens in my head. And when I have, say, two months to revise a big novel, write a 30k short story and come up with a complete synopsis for an even bigger novel, I get a bit lost in there.

Here's how it works.

1. My editor buys 2 e-novellas, which means that SHE OWNS ME. This is a great thing. But it also means that I don't get to tell the three stories rattling around in my imagination. She has specific things in mind, which means I have parameters. That makes it a little harder.

2. Any time I'm driving or near water, I'm cogitating. Brainstorming. Trying to find the right way. I don't really know how to explain it, how I know when the path is the right one. It's like standing in the middle of a swamp and looking for the solid chunks of land that will support your weight and allow you to continue rather than sink. You can tell when I'm on the right path because I'm looking into space, smiling, completely ignoring you. In this case, what I need first is a feeling for the heroine--who she is, what she does for a living, what will make her real to the reader. Deciding that will drive the romance and action.

3. I begin to find the path. Certain things become concrete. It's no longer "Maybe she's good-hearted but streetwise?" It's now, "Frannie is good-hearted and streetwise, and she runs a pet shop. She has trust issues following a broken heart." Almost like building a bridge, as each attribute is decided, it stays in place and I move on to the next step.

4. I start writing things down. Indecipherable things. At stop lights, while half asleep, in the drive-thru line to get an ice cream at ChickfilA. I leave myself little messages all over the place. Names, scenes, lines. But I don't really need the notes, as the act of writing them solidifies the story further.

5. I have the five major pieces of the story. a) the heroine meets b) the hero; there is c) an impediment, followed by d) a big, dramatic climax. Lastly, there's e) a follow up or big reveal, something that leaves the reader sated. As long as I know what those five points are, I'm almost ready.

6. Once I have enough pieces, I start cogitating on the opening scene. Sometimes, I already know it. Like right now--it starts with a guy face down in the gutter. Sometimes, I have to go through the same feeling and testing, looking for just the right bit of mushy ground to hold my weight. Wicked as They Come was like that. The opening scene changes with every draft, and if I had one more revision, I would totally change it to get the action started sooner.

7. I have the opening scene. I have the opening line. It runs on repeat in my head, and I know I'm ready to write.

8. I go shopping, buy a steampunky Alexander McQueen vest for $15, get an ice cream cone, and eat it while barreling through the night with the windows down, singing to Call Me Maybe. Because when a story comes together, I feel utterly complete and filled with energy and joy.

*

Inspired by Deanna Raybourn's post on Janice Hardy's The Other Side of the Story blog. Process is a fascinating thing, and I find it comforting that no two writers do it the same way.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

things I already miss


Watching these two selkies run for the water.


*



Bringing our very own pirate to the Pirate's House.
And eating lots of shrimp there.


*



Ocean-flavored kisses.


*

We're back home.
I'm exhausted.
And I'm going to sleep.

We'll pick up the parakeet tomorrow.

*

Monday, June 4, 2012

returning to center


That's what I look like when I'm 100% happy. No makeup. Definitely no hair care. No fancy, practiced smile. No dangly earrings. Just me, at the beach, after throwing myself into the waves until I'm exhausted.

I only get to do this... maybe two hours a year. If I'm really lucky.

But it's when I feel the most myself, the most centered, the most right-where-I-belong.

I wasn't born near the beach. I didn't go there very often as a child, although I remember perfectly every time I did. The seaweed in my bathing suit at Panama City, the smell of the elevator at Daytona, the vine tunnel in Hilton Head that you ran through, pursued by angry mosquitoes, to access the ocean. And yet I love the beach so much that I'm almost a different person there. I relax. I don't worry. I wear skirts. I sit outside. I stand differently, walk differently, eat differently. When I'm here, time stands still, and half of what I say is simply some new iteration of "I love the beach," or "I'm so happy right now."

And the funny thing is that it has never occurred to me to move here. I have never contemplated that I am simply a body moving through space, untethered, and that with some minor changes, I could spend every day of my life by the palm trees, salt on my skin and sea air in my nose.

In my every day life, I get stuck in cycles and ruts. There are rhythms to family, to the seasons, to hormones, to work obligations, to the creative cycle. And after a while, I get cagey. Anxious. Almost frantic. Like there's a time bomb ticking, somewhere out of reach. And we've finally figured out that it's the sea, calling to me. As soon as the date's written on the calendar, I calm back down, knowing that I'll get to be here, right where I am, right, where I need to be, close enough to hear the waves.

Sometimes, the place you belong isn't an always, it's a sometimes. And that makes it all the more important.

*

Saturday, June 2, 2012

a great day. RAWR.




Don't feel too sorry for him, big-hearted types He was a kitten eater.

Just kidding. But he was responsibly harvested from a program that takes pride in having personally corrected alligator endangerment. Each decapitated head represents 1/17 of a gator released into the wild.

That's a statistic I can believe in.

Also, his tag features an alligator with a top hat and cane, and that's all I really  need.

*