Posts Tagged ‘reading’

I’ve been trying to write something about Christmas for a couple of days now, and it’s just not working for me. Which is a surprise, because I LOVE Christmas. Not the presents – I could take or leave those, to be completely honest – but all the other stuff that goes along with the holiday: the decorations, the cookies, the cards, the general spirit of niceness that people seem to have (provided you’re not facing them down over a deeply discounted TV, I guess). I look forward to all of it, all year long.

Unfortunately, I’m just not feeling it this year, and I can’t figure out why. Every time I try to write in detail about all the things I enjoy I end up getting sidetracked by the things that make me crazy. Like that creepy ass Elf on the Shelf, like, WHAT is appealing about a doll that is supposed to move while we’re sleeping? I’M ASKING. Nightmare fuel, jesus.

So rather than subject you to my stressed-out, seasonally-depressed rant, we’re just going to skip out on a real entry this week. There will NOT be a chapter posted on Sunday, either; I’m in the last big push to get everything done around my house before my kids cover it in wrapping paper and the blood of their weaker siblings (two weeks off school, y’all, send help) so I have to focus on that right now. The good news is I’m off school myself until the end of January, so I should be able to get ahead on the book a little bit and there hopefully won’t be any further delays.

Much love to everyone. I hope you enjoy celebrating whatever it is that you celebrate at this time of year. Try not to kill your relatives. See you on the 27th!

(Author’s note: Swear to god, I thought today was Friday. It is NOT. You see what I’m dealing with over here?)

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It’s the middle of December, which means two things are rapidly approaching: Christmas, and the end of most college fall semesters. We’ll talk about Christmas next week, since I just can’t even right now, so this week we’re going to have a little chat about the second thing.

I’ve mentioned it before, but I’ll do it again – back in September I embarked on my first foray into college since dropping out right before my sophomore year, way back in 2002. My initial experience is pretty much a blur, since I spent my freshman year going to school full-time, working full-time and doing things I’m really not going to tell you about because my mother reads this and who upsets their mother right before Christmas? Not this chick. The point is, I spent that one year 12 years ago chronically exhausted, and as a result I don’t really remember much about it. Going into this semester I was fresh, and excited, and ready to learn.

I learned things, all right. I learned things I never expected to learn. Like? Well…

I’m A Terrible Judge of Age

I spent the last 13 weeks sitting next to a girl, and it wasn’t until this past Tuesday that I realized she was not, as I had assumed, a college-aged student. She mentioned to someone that she needed to pass the class we were in in order to graduate high school, and subsequently revealed that she was 16 years old. I had two reactions to this. 1) The immediate realization that, in some cultures, I’m old enough to be this child’s mother. Followed quickly by 2) Frantically trying to remember everything I’d ever said to this girl, on the off-chance I was going to find her actual mother waiting in the parking lot to rip me a new one for corrupting her daughter. Which was silly, since I don’t really talk to anybody, let alone in minor-corrupting ways. But still. Wow.

In the opposite direction, I sat next to a woman for several weeks before it came out in discussion that she was in her 60s. Considering I’d pegged her as 40 at most, I had to resist the urge to rub myself all over her, with the hope that some of that age-defying awesomeness could be absorbed through creepy osmosis.

In a different class, the 30-year-old who sat behind me looked 12 and referred to the father of her two children as her “baby daddy”. The 33-year-old next to her looked like her face lost a fight with a mack truck. I fell vaguely in love with one of my professors (in a strictly academic sense, given the guy looks like Doc Brown only crazier, if that’s at all possible) and pegged him as being in his 40s, after he mentioned his 17-year-old son. Then he talked about being in college in the ‘70s and I was like, whaaa? Older than my dad, y’all. Let’s all mourn that missed therapy session for a second.

Doc Brown, for my younger readers. You make me sad.

All I’m saying is, I’m glad I’m not trying to date any of these people. Given how terrible I am at this, it would only be a matter of time before I was on the evening news screaming, “I thought he was 18!”.

Nobody Wears Pants

I’ve spent the last 9 years almost exclusively with small people I’ve made. Part of that job has involved extolling the virtues of clothing to individuals who want nothing more than to strip down and swan-dive off of my sofa. “Finally,” I thought, “I can go be with people who understand why it’s important to stay dressed in public.”

WRONG.

I didn’t know this before I started spending my mornings walking across campus, but apparently some people have a serious misunderstanding as to what pants are. Leggings? Are not pants. I mean, they kind of are, but you have to wear long shirts or sweaters and keep your crotch covered. Nobody looks good otherwise. Tights? Also not pants. REALLY, REALLY NOT PANTS. If you’re getting dressed in the morning, and you think to yourself, “These look just like leggings, only slightly more sheer – I’ll be fine”, you are mistaken. We can tell, and also, we can see your bazinga. You can get pants for like $10 at Wal-Mart. Fucking buy some.


Source, god love her

College Boys Are Not Subtle

I call them boys because they make me feel old, but they could be men I guess. See that age issue above for why I’m not sure on that. Whatever they are, they’ve provided me with endless entertainment over the last few months.

One morning, walking back to my car, I had a guy walk past me, give me a look, and then do a straight-about face and attach himself to my rear. He was following so close I considered getting checked for STDs when I got home. Part of me was hugely uncomfortable, as I couldn’t figure out what the hell he was doing and anyway, if my boobs (which are pretty awesome) had attracted him like a moth to a flame, he couldn’t see them anymore from where he was, so what the fuck? Another part of me was amused because seriously, fellas, if you’re going to whip around like that and then try to act like you were going in the same direction as the object of your affection? You look like a directionally-challenged idiot. We notice. We ALWAYS notice.

Looks about right.

I saw this kind of thing all semester long. They stare at asses, they stare at breasts, they stare at your non-pants and try to figure out if they’re allowed to look at your thong. (A girl on my campus likes to wear black tights with a sheer-crotch, belly shirts and lace thongs. It’s awesome for everybody involved, not least being the poor boy-men I’ve been stuck walking beside who give themselves whiplash trying to determine what to do with their eyes.) Unlike grown men, who in general have perfected the glance-and-assess-without-being-pervy, their timing is off. They stare for too long. They physically move their heads up and down, rather than just their eyes. They walk into things.

The thing is, I don’t think the majority of them mean to be pervy. They just haven’t mastered what they’re doing yet. I feel more pity for them than anything else. It’s okay, Baby Bear. You’ll get it someday.

Creative Types Are Assholes

I’m working toward my A.A. in Creative Writing, and, uh, I write things here, so I’m including myself in this category. I just didn’t realize it until I started spending hours a week with other creative people. We can be dicks.

The people in my writing class were a fascinating mix – shyness, humor, uncertainty, and unbridled ego. That last one belonged to one guy who I gave serious consideration to tracking down and beating in the parking lot after he told the rest of us we didn’t enjoy poetry because we weren’t smart enough to understand it. And he was serious; he genuinely believed that his tastes were superior to ours, and so was his intellect, because of what he read.

The Pessimist

I read everything. Romance, mystery, horror, sci-fi, fantasy, literature, non-fiction – I’m not picky. Well, I am picky, but not about genre. I don’t believe that there’s any genre that is better than all the others. No, not even literature. Each offers something different, and I enjoy them all for different reasons. Including, yes, poetry. Just not metaphor-heavy poetry, and I think I know why: I spend my day deciphering the language of the half-literate, mostly uncivilized people I live with. I don’t have time to contemplate what the night moon stands for when I’m still trying to figure out what I can and can’t do to avoid pissing off my daughter’s imaginary friend. Who is a pig. That flies, I think? I don’t fucking know.

At any rate, he was judgy, and it pissed me off. And the entire semester was like that – somebody was judgmental of something somebody else read, or said, or wrote, and by the time we had our last class I was really glad I didn’t have to see his stupid face ever again. Except I will, when we end up in the same writing class with each other next semester.

Kill me now.

Community College Is Not Clown College

Since I’m going for my A.A., it should be obvious that I’m going to a 2-year school. I might end up going for my 4-year degree, I might not; in this industry, the degree doesn’t really help you get book contracts or readers, so it’s not like I’m spending all this tuition on future job security. That doesn’t, however, mean the degree, either 2- or 4-year, is entirely useless. It’s all about the work you put in and what you’re willing to squeeze out of the experience.

Recently, an acquaintance expressed disdain for community college, and derided someone she knew who was proud of the GPA they earned as a student at a c.c. For a few days I was bummed out over what she said. Then I decided, you know what? Fuck that.

Unless I severely screw up a final paper I have due next week, it’s looking like I’ll finish this semester with straight As. I don’t have less than a 98% in any of my classes, and in some of them my grade is a full 100%. That doesn’t mean the work I’ve done has been easy; some of those 100s are the result of extra credit work I did, and some are because I spent hours studying for a test or working on a paper that I got a perfect score on. At no time during any of this have I been free to half-ass my work and still do well. I’ve worked hard for the grades I have, and yeah, I’m damn proud of them, community college or not.

I have attended a 4-year school in the past – Penn State, actually, which is a name I think everybody knows (although maybe not for the best reasons). As I mentioned before, the year I spent there is a bit of a blur, but I do remember most of the professors I had, and here’s a fact: the professors I’ve had this semester were miles and miles above those I had at my fancy, prestigious four-year institution. With one exception, and I say that only because it’s an online class and I suspect my interpretation of the prof’s behavior is skewed by the medium, all of my professors have been kind, funny, interested in helping their students do the best they can and wicked smart. Now I’m not saying you can’t find that at a four-year school; you can, and you do. What I am saying is that community college does not equal sub-par professors, easy classes and a joke degree. (I’m sensitive about this, and I readily admit that.) So that person who sneered at community college and their friend’s pride can take their sense of superiority and bite me.

 

BOOK RECOMMENDATION

I know! I have one! I read something not related to school, and I’m super happy about it. Not sure I’m happy with my choice, though. Hugh Howey’s I, Zombie is an interesting take on the zombie apocalypse, as it’s told from the point-of-view of the zombies themselves. The idea is that the zombies are still fully conscious and mentally intact, just trapped inside their zombified bodies and unable to control what they’re doing. It jumps between a few different people, each with different experiences before and after the onset of the apocalypse. I don’t want to say I enjoyed it; that feels weird, since it’s graphically violent and pretty disturbing. It did, however, make me think, and sometimes maybe that’s all I can expect out of a book. If you’re not bothered by violence and grossness, check it out.

And hey, while I have you here and we’re talking about books, has anybody read Marrisa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles? I read the first 5 chapters of Cinder, and I’m trying to decide if it’s worth buying the books and reading further. The story seems interesting – I do love modern twists on fairy tales – but I’m hesitant. Input appreciated.

I guess that’s all I have. I’m off to work on a paper and study for yet another final exam. See you Sunday!

Feedback Friday

Posted: December 6, 2013 in Feedback Friday
Tags: , ,

So. Were you surprised, when Caleb up and disappeared with that car? I know I was. I didn’t know he was going to do it until it was done. I’m not real thrilled with him right now.

Recently I read a book on writing by Janet Evanovich, author of the Stephanie Plum series, in which she stated, “Your character doesn’t do anything you don’t want him to do.” Now, I realize she’s a millionaire best-selling author, and I’m decidedly not, but I’m going to go ahead and disagree with her anyway.

I’m not crazy. I know my characters aren’t real. I made them up. However. I will absolutely argue that a character does, in fact, do something you don’t want him to. Or he tries. Obviously the writer has ultimate say over what goes down on the paper; if I really didn’t want that car to disappear, I could have prevented it. But the realization came to me, just a few moments before it did to Maddie, that he took it. He was gone. So I wrote it down. And you know what? When I thought about it after, yeah, it made sense. Of course that cowardly little prick stole the car and ran. Of course he did. Why wouldn’t he? I wanted him to stick around, I had other plans for him right now, but Caleb is Caleb. Go do your thing, C. We’ll see what he’s been doing when he comes back. (No, I don’t know. But he’ll tell me. I hope.)

Okay, I know. I do sound crazy, don’t I? I don’t think I am, though. The thing is, I don’t consciously make characters. I have roles I want them to fill, and I then I kind of just…wait. For them to show up. If you go read the original blurb for this book (What Is It) you’ll see that I envisioned Maddie’s mother and mother-in-law as slightly different than they turned out to be. I knew Marion was a bitch; I didn’t know she was a stuck-up society bitch until I started getting to know her. I knew Grace wasn’t perfect, but I didn’t know in what ways until she started talking. I finally had to force a name on Vinnie, because that reticent sonofabitch just wasn’t telling me what his was. (And I’m still not sold that it’s Vinnie, but he did this to himself. Cough it up next time.) They’re not real people, but I have to treat them like they are, just a little bit. Otherwise it starts to feel forced and wrong-note, and then I might as well just stop.

I’m sure not every writer works like this. We all have our own quirks. This is mine. And it’s left us with a stolen car and a missing kid, in the middle of what Vinnie believes to be a very bad situation. Should be interesting, seeing how they work this one out. I hope it’s interesting anyway. If it’s not, don’t blame me. That would be Caleb’s fault.

All right. I’ll concede to being, perhaps, 50% crazy.

Alright, so let’s talk about the elephant in the room first. I think you and I can both agree that last Sunday’s offering, Chapter 11, was not the greatest thing ever. I don’t think it was terrible, but I definitely wasn’t thrilled with it.

Here’s my problem: I don’t write in a linear fashion. I never have. I have a vague outline, with scenes I foresee happening listed, and when I feel inspired I check the outline, grab a scene and write it. The phone call where Maddie learns that Bill is dead and Jack is still in the hospital? That was the first scene I wrote for this book. It’s hard for me to write this way, moving steadily in a this-then this-then this fashion, because that’s just not how my mind works. So I’m going to stumble, and last week was definitely a stumble. If and when this is finished, and I format it into a cohesive e-book, odds are that Chapter 11 will be cut, or reworked completely. So think of it as a peek at crap you’d never see otherwise. A cut scene! There we go. That’s what it was.

(Of course, cut scene or not, I’m stuck with what’s there, and unfortunately Maddie now thinks Vinnie is an effing lunatic. Getting them into bed should be fun. Also, why in the hell did I give everybody –ie/-y names? Maddie, Vinnie, Jessie, Chrissy, Holly. AHHH.)

Another thing that’s an issue for me is that I write everything long-hand. Everything. Eventually it gets typed up and printed (twice, once to edit and once for a final draft), but before that it goes into a marble notebook. I’m addicted to them.

I suspect I am the only reason these still exist.

This is how I end up with chapters that are relatively short – something that is 3 pages typed is more like 9 pages hand-written, so I find myself icing my wrist, then typing it up, only to realize that it’s not much when it’s converted. So if you find yourself thinking “Jesus Liz, that chapter was fast, THANKS FOR NOTHING”, please just take a moment to shed a tear for my right hand, which is at this point threatening to find itself a new goddamn place to live.

Enough about that. Let’s talk about cool stuff I found! Like this fantastic marble-notebook necklace, from etsy artist IMCreations, made on recycled Scrabble tiles. That’s so awesome I can’t even stand it.

Seriously, this lady is my new BFF. She’ll find out soon.

I also found an adorable little typewriter necklace at ModCloth (which, I believe I have already stated, is doing its best to bankrupt me with their crap). I have fond memories of banging away on my mother’s typewriter, in the days before computers were a thing and you had to be careful what you were typing because typewriters did not fuck around with backspace, son. You could go back, of course, and type over whatever you’d typed the first time, but good luck figuring out what the hell the end product you wanted there was. Some typewriters had a key that let you throw up the equivalent of white-out over whatever you were trying to delete; I’ve used those, and it was never perfect. They were a pain in the ass, really, but I loved my mom’s, and I love that necklace.

PS: ModCloth also has quotation mark earrings, because of course they do. They’re a little big for my taste, but cute. (And no, I don’t work for ModCloth, although for god sake maybe I should.)

I came across IdealBookshelf this week, and guys, this is such a cool idea: you can have a painting or print done of your favorite books, and the artist does them up like a bookshelf, uh, shelf, which you can then hang. The prices are crazy high, but I think it’s pretty neat. They have prints available of pre-selected books too (like a Harry Potter set, or just Science Fiction).

If you’re in the market for art, and you’re weird like me, you might like the Periodic Table of TypeFaces.

SquidSpot

Forget everything else; this right here is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.

BOOK RECOMMENDATION

Y’all, I haven’t read shit, other than TWoP recaps, Cracked articles and mail-order catalogues, all while hiding from my children in my cold garage. Do better than me, is all I can say today.

When I was in the sixth grade I had this teacher, Mrs A. Nobody liked her, and for good reason, really – she was rather mean. Looking back, she wasn’t really mean, she just had rather high expectations, expectations that our 11-year-old selves had little chance of meeting. Be quiet? Pay attention? Stop tapping on the fish tank? Be realistic, Mrs A. She was reviled, and feared, and viciously made fun of.

I loved her.

An environmental group in our county held a contest, and as part of that contest, every 6th grader at every school had to write and submit a nature-related poem. We had no choice; our teachers tied it to our English grade and made us do it. There was wailing and cursing (11-year-olds like to curse, it’s new and exciting and makes the bus ride fun) and gnashing of teeth, but eventually she brow-beat us into writing those poems. Mine was about wolves and the moon, or something like that. I’ve saved nearly everything I’ve ever written, no matter how terrible it is/was, but I didn’t save that poem.

I should have. Because I won.

I don’t remember what the prize was. Probably a savings bond. It doesn’t really matter. Because what I got, in addition to the certificate and the mystery prize, was a revelation. HOLY SHIT. I LIKE TO WRITE.

That was it; that was the beginning. A contest, a shitty poem and a bitch of a teacher who said, over and over, “You can do this.”

In high school, I wrote five books. Book 1: A group of friends murders one of their own and is in turn murdered by her “ghost”. Book 2: A shape-shifting teenager moves to a new town and eats her classmates one by one, then moves on. Book 3: A group of sorority sisters murders one of their own, and is in turn murdered by her vengeful father. Book 4: A teenager is murdered by her boyfriend, and her sister seeks vengeance. Book 5: A trio of teenagers are possessed by the spirits of vengeful witches. Who were murdered.

Don’t blame me. I read a lot of RL Stine and Christopher Pike.

I also wrote short stories, and poems. I started and abandoned dozens of other manuscripts, most of which are saved on floppy disks that no modern computer can read.


These went into a machine that had no internet and printed like a type-writer. I am old.

I’ve written, in one way or another, every single day, for 19 years. And this blog, right here? This is the first time, in my LIFE, that I’ve allowed anyone to read what I write. Before September of this year, I had a very strict rule: SHOW NO ONE. Not my husband. Not my mother. Certainly not a stranger.

Here’s what’s happened since I started putting up these chapters: words that I’ve written have been viewed over 1,000 times. People from 18 different countries have read my stuff. Maybe they liked it, maybe they didn’t. The point is that they read it. That’s scary, and exhilarating, and insane.

Now, I won’t lie and say that being read is ALL I want out of this thing I’m doing. I have kids, and a mortgage, and a shoe addiction I’m considering seeing someone about.


ModCloth will be the death of me.

(I hear what you’re saying. “Elizabeth, those are $120 worth of hideous.” To which I say, no friend. Those are $120 worth of amazeballs. Where would I wear them? Who the fuck cares?)

So yeah, someday, I’d like to get paid. But this? What’s going on right here, right now, with the viewing and the reading and the people sharing what I write with other people? This is awesome. This is something that I never, ever imagined would happen.

Thank you for making these last 2 months some of the best in my life. I love you for it.

BOOK RECOMMENDATION

I just finished reading Joe Hill’s Heart-Shaped Box, and it was fantastic. The premise, I admit, sounded kind of silly (says the lady writing a zombie apocalypse romance): guy buys a suit off the internet, ends up being haunted by the ghost of the former owner. How scary can this be? The answer: pretty damn terrifying. I can’t get over the fact that this was his debut novel (he has two others out now); it’s layered, and interesting, and the horror isn’t in-your-face, which I liked. I slept with the light on the night I started reading it, and I don’t get scared easily. Only one other horror author has managed to do that to me, so I’m pretty impressed with Hill’s work. It’s also only $2.99 for the Kindle right now, so there’s that.

I’ll be back on Sunday with Chapter 11, which I hope doesn’t suck because honestly, I haven’t written it yet. Fingers crossed.

To get us started this week, I’m going to tell you a story. Which I do every week, but this one is different. This one is true.

A woman goes to the grocery store, alone, at night. It can be a pain in the ass to go after 10, since they start to stock, and the aisles become littered with pallets and stacks of product waiting to be shelved, but she goes anyway. She goes because it’s late, which means there are fewer people around. Shorter lines. Less chance of being jostled in a crowd.

She’s cautious, every time she does this. She carries her keys in her hand when she leaves; she watches the people around her in the parking lot, noting which cars they go to and if they get in, if they’re acting “normal”. She notices which cars have people sitting inside them, waiting. She puts her purse in the car immediately, then unloads the cart. She doesn’t take long.

On this night, she has a brief encounter with a man. In the dairy section, they get hung up, flummoxed by the pallets that are blocking the main aisle and unable to get past each other. She waits for him to go; he waits for her to go. Finally, she asks him which way he’ll be going, and he waves her through. “Sorry,” he says. “It’s okay,” she says, smiling. “It can be hard to navigate, with all this stuff in the way.” She’s already moving away from him, although she notes things about him, automatically: his slow walk, his heavy eyes, the way he stares, the fact that he has only 3 items in his cart. “Have a nice night,” he says as she walks away. “Thank you, you too!”

She heads down an aisle, down and around, and up another. Stops, to look at the options and choose what she’s here for. She talks to the man stocking shelves for a moment, to assure him that he’s not in her way, then sees what she wants. When she stands up with it in her arms, she happens to glance up, and there he is: the Dairy Man, peering down her aisle. He catches her eye. “Have a nice night!” “Thanks.” She’s not so friendly now; now she’s not smiling. She’s realizing, slowly, that she made a critical error, there in the middle of the shrink-wrapped boxes of cream cheese and yogurt.

She makes her way through the rest of the store, going up and down aisles at random, since her list is all over the place. She sees him, Dairy Man, every so often, hovering at the end of an aisle. She doesn’t process then, but remembers later, that he doesn’t have anything new in his cart. The same three items rattle in the basket. He’s not shopping. He’s following.

For the last few aisles she doesn’t see him, doesn’t feel him staring, and she’s relieved. Then, as she’s walking past the entrance on her way to the register, it hits her: he’ll be outside. She looks at the doors, at the darkness on the other side that her eyes can’t penetrate, and she knows. He’ll be there.

She shrugs this off as foolish worrying. Don’t be so paranoid! And yet. She chooses the longest line to wait in. She lets someone go ahead of her; they have so few items, and she has so many. She stays for a moment to talk to the cashier, after her transaction is finished. She doesn’t do this with any kind of conscious intent; she’s not purposely avoiding. She remembers it, considers it, later.

And sure enough, when she steps through the doors, there he is. Dairy Man. Waiting right on the other side, with his cart and his bag, just standing there. He doesn’t do anything, not really. He steps toward her, toward her cart, tries to position himself in front; she angles away and keeps moving. “Have a nice night!” he says to her.

This time, she doesn’t answer at all.

She watches, the way she always does, the people around her. She throws bags into the trunk, not caring if things break. She watches the door, but he doesn’t come out. At least she doesn’t think he does. She’ll check her rearview mirror anyway, repeatedly, on the drive home. She won’t go for coffee, the way she’d intended; she won’t stop at the gas station, get out of her car. She goes directly home, where her husband waits, and her big dog.

During the drive she gets angry. But not, surprisingly, at him. No, for him she’s already begun to make excuses: he looked tired, he might have been drunk, he was just “slow”. Instead, she’s angry at her husband. Her brother. Her father. Angry at every man she knows who has never, not ever, gone to the grocery store and been frightened like this. Angry that they are exempt from all of it; the keys in the hand, the glances around, the strange men who hear politeness and interpret it as interest. Angry that she can’t shop in peace, and they can.

Angry at herself, most of all. Should never, she thinks. I should never have smiled at him.

Stalking is a common trope in romance novels. Between the books, movies and merchandising, Stephanie Meyers made $5.7 billion off Edward Cullen stalking the shit out of Bella Swann; EL James rakes in $1.9 million a week with Christian Grey stalking Ana Steele. These men do not “skate the line”. They do not walk the tightrope between “alpha” male and stalker. Edward Cullen breaks into a minor girl’s bedroom and watches her sleep; Christian Grey traces his girlfriend’s phone calls, gains access to her bank records, follows her clear across the country and then watches her eat a meal with her mother. These are unquestionably stalker behaviors. And yet women eat it right up. Women wish their significant others were more like these fictional heroes.

GoodReads has a list of books, titled “Stalkerific Romance Novel Heroes”. The list is 252 books long. Almost all of them are highly rated; I saw none that received less than 3 stars.

Last week I talked about the vampire mystique, and why a lead who is a vampire (or a werewolf, or some other kind of dangerous Other) would be attractive to readers. To my mind, the main part of the appeal is the impossibility of the situation; it’s why I, at least, can read books that contain these characters and not be repulsed. You’re not really going to encounter a vampire, let alone fall in love with one. There is a safe distance built into the story. Not so with something like stalking. That lack of safe distance makes me uncomfortable, not entertained. I assume that other women do have that safe distance, that buffer that allows them to enjoy the story without getting the skin-crawly feeling that I do. Maybe they’ve never experienced what it’s like.

I don’t intend to sit in judgment on women who enjoy it. Truly. Nor do I intend to sit in judgment on the writers who include it in their work. Everybody’s line is different. It is interesting to me, though, that so many authors have moved away from the alpha heroes who took what they wanted from the heroines sexually, who raped in action if not in name, but the stalking thing is still considered acceptable behavior. I wonder why that is. Is it easier to spin stalking/obsession into True Love than it is to spin assault the same way? Are most people just removed from the reality of what stalking is?

There are, of course, varying degrees of stalking. Being followed by a stranger in the grocery store is very different from being followed by an ex-boyfriend, receiving unwanted phone calls or e-mails, having gifts left on your doorstep. The one thing they all have in common, though, is fear. A man who stalks a woman is not Deeply in Love. He’s not Romantic. He’s not flattering his victim, or proving how truly irresistible she is. He’s trying to scare the shit out of her. That’s his goal. A normal man, a considerate man, understands when his behavior has crossed the line, when he is frightening the object of his attention, and he steps back. Apologizes. A stalker doesn’t. People who engage in stalking behaviors are not considerate. They’re not sorry. And, in real life, they’re sure as hell not hot.

BOOK RECOMMENDATION

The Gift of Fear. The author, Gavin de Becker, is a security consultant with years of experience with various criminal behaviors, including stalking. In his book, he talks about intuition, that “sixth sense” that tells people when something isn’t right (that little voice that said Dairy Man would be waiting outside), only to him, it’s not a super-sensory thing. We all have it. Our minds are working every second, recording details, noting things that are important and discarding things that aren’t, and it’s your mind that notices when things are off, that remembers on some level all the things that are Wrong about a situation and tries to direct your actions to take the Wrong into account. It’s a really good book. Check it out.

I know, I know; I missed posting on Friday. My fault. Won’t happen again.

Hopefully.

It’s almost Halloween, so let’s talk about vampires for a minute, shall we?

NBC’s Dracula premiered last night. I’ve been looking forward to this show for weeks, not least because Jonathan Rhys Meyers – who I first saw on The Tudors, where he was a startlingly hateful and yet compelling Henry VIII – plays the infamous vampire, and I could watch that man read the phone book, provided he was shirtless while he did it. But also, I love vampires. Loooooove them. Huge fan of The Vampire Chronicles; I’ve seen countless adaptations of the original Dracula story. My two favorites are probably Dracula 2000, which reimagines the centuries-old vampire as Judas Iscariot, forced to walk as the undead as punishment for his betrayal of Jesus Christ; and Shadow of the Vampire, which fictionalizes the filming of the classic Nosferatu (John Malkovich is super, super creepy and absolutely perfect as the unhinged director of the film-within-the-film). I like twists on a familiar story. Probably why I love Once Upon A Time so damn much.

NBC’s show has tweaks to the original, but I don’t yet know if they’re compelling enough to carry a series. Rather than enemies, Dracula and Van Helsing are, if not friends, at least partners, working together to take down the mysterious Order of the Dragon, who appear to be vampire hunters? Or stampers out of the occult in general? I’m not sure. The men are pinched and jerky, and the sole female member has boobs that tuck up under her chin. That’s all I got. Mina and Lucy and Harker are there, and I think Arthur Holmwood made an appearance, though they didn’t use his name. Dracula is masquerading as an American, and oh, Meyers’ American accent is terrible. I really couldn’t figure out if it was supposed to be terrible, or if he’s just not good at it. It was distracting, either way.

The Daily Beast described it as “Gothic horror by way of Harlequin romance”, and yeah, I see that. They complained that it wasn’t scary, which I also agree with. BUT. I think maybe it doesn’t have to be? I mean, sparkly vampires aren’t in the least bit terrifying, but the Twilight series made bank. It doesn’t have to be scary to be appealing.

People wonder, I know, why the vampire thing is such a big deal now, particularly in romance. What’s the appeal? Why do women like that? And I think it’s a silly question, really, when one considers the age-old truth: good girls like bad boys. Ask any woman who stayed with a shitty boyfriend for long after she should have, and she’ll tell you – he was a dick, but he had goodness in there. Somewhere. Buried down deep, maybe, but she’s sure it was there. Vampires are bad; they’re undead, murderers, grossly unappealing on their face. But a vampire who loves a woman? Who can be tamed by her affection, who can hurt others, yes, and be evil, yes, but never hurt her? Well. Swoon. And Rhys Meyers, whatever else he is, is swoon-worthy. For real.

I don’t know. I wasn’t super impressed with the premiere of this show, but I’ll watch it again next week, to see where it goes. If you watched, what did you think?

On a different note, can I just yell at The Walking Dead real quick? DON’T TAKE MY FLU, MOTHERFUCKERS. Now granted, the new flu, or whatever is killing people, isn’t the cause of the zombie apocalypse, but seriously. Coughing, hemorrhaging, coming back from the dead? Sigh.

Speaking of the flu, oh-ho-ho, it’s spreading my friends. Shit, as they say, is about to hit the fan. Come back tomorrow and see what I mean. It’ll be worth it! Promise.

Happy Friday everyone!

Before I jump in to all the cool stuff I want to talk about this week, I want to chat just a little bit about the chapter that went up this past weekend. It was short, I know; most of the chapters I’ve been posting have been between 1500 and 2500 words, which is about 4 to 6 typed pages. Chapter 7 was just a touch over 1200, about 3 pages of text, so not quite as long as I’ve been posting. There was a reason for that: Chapter 7 and Chapter 8 were originally one full chapter, and I broke them apart into two. The second part, which will go up this Sunday, is 2600 words on its own; if I’d posted them the way I originally wrote them the chapter would have clocked at a little over 3900 words, which is significantly longer than anything I’ve put up for you to read. On paper, that might not be so bad; turning 10 or so pages isn’t much more of a hardship than turning 6. But on a computer? I was iffy on that. I feel like the attention span for reading online is a little bit shorter, in general, that it would be for reading a book, and the last thing I want to do is annoy or lose anybody who is currently enjoying the story. (Which I hope is a fair number of people!)

So let me ask you, the readers, a question: How have you felt about the length of the chapters that have gone up so far? Too long, too short, just right? I personally think I made the right call in splitting the last chapter up into two, but I’m not the only one whose opinion on this matters. I’m asking because if, in the future, I end up with a monster 4,000 word chapter again, my tendency will be again to split it, unless someone can make a case for not doing so.

Okay, with that out of the way, let’s talk zombies! This week was a great week for zombie fans: the new season of The Walking Dead premiered, and the Canvas.net class based around the show opened up. I’m not sure yet how I feel about the show – except, of course, HI DARYL – but the online course, so far, is fascinating. They’re making liberal use of clips from the show to illustrate lesson points, which I think is super helpful in making facts relatable, and also have actor interviews that pertain directly to the week’s lesson. In short: awesomeness. If you’re not doing this, you seriously should; enrollment is open (and it’s free!), so you can sign up anytime. There’s also no grade, so if you want to just go through the lessons on your own, without having to worry about assignments or discussion forums, you can do that.

In exciting news for this blog, a profile and link went up at postapoc.net, an online database that brings together all kinds of media relating to the apocalypse and post-apocalyptic fun-times. If you’re interested in that kind of thing I really encourage you to check the site out; there are independently-created games, online serials like this one, websites about prepping and survival – lots and lots of cool stuff. I’m very excited to be part of that, and to have the chance to maybe bring in a few new readers.

On a much more personal note, here’s where I have to let go of the leash and let my inner 13-year-old fan girl run around like a hyperactive yappy dog: I MET ANNE RICE LAST NIGHT.

A couple months ago we got a new bookstore in my town (thank GOD, it was terrible being without one), and somehow, through dark magic I don’t know about or understand, they arranged for Anne Rice and her son Christopher to come to town, record a radio interview in front of a live audience and then do a book signing.

This might not seem like a big deal, but a) we are a TINY town. Like, I seriously don’t know how they convinced them to visit us. Stuff like this does not happen here. And b) ANNE FUCKING RICE, PEOPLE. I’ve been reading her books since I was old enough to start stealing them off my mother’s shelves. Plus, I’ve always considered her to be an inspiration; when I start to become despondent over my writing career (or lack thereof) I remind myself that she didn’t write her first book, Interview with the Vampire, until she was 32, and sold it when she was 33. A lot of writers seem to think we need to “make it” in when we’re “young” or we’re failures who will never amount to anything. (As someone who turned 30 this year, I consider that still ‘young’, but I most certainly didn’t a few years ago.) She’s a reminder to me, along with a few other authors, that there is no too late.

ANYWAY. I snapped tickets up and took my mom to this thing last night, and it was amazing. I wasn’t sure how it would go, since I didn’t know much about how she interacted with her fans and knew even less about her son; I was nervous all day leading up to the event.

Let me tell you: Anne Rice? Nicest person ever. She interviewed so well for the show (which is supposed to air in 2 weeks on public radio – I’ll link to it when it’s available so you can strain your ears and hear me clapping), she was kind enough to answer questions from the audience after the interview recording was over, and the signing? She was so, so gracious. They had rules set up beforehand that indicated she would sign multiple books for people but only one would be personalized, and we were welcome to take pictures but there would be no posed photography. People being people, of course, they went up with armloads of books that they wanted personalized – and she did it. (And I mean arm. loads. Some people had tote bags FULL of books. It was ridic.) Many people also ignored the “no posed photography” thing and asked to be allowed to stand with her and Christopher for pictures. And? She let them. Happily, it seemed; she granted every request, smiled sincerely and seriously never seemed put-out by any of it. Considering there are people out there who charge for autographs, I was so impressed. I love her even more now than I did before.

I took two books with me, which were actually two copies of the same book: The Witching Hour. I’ve read almost all of her other books, including the entirety of the Vampire Chronicles, but Witching Hour remains my absolute favorite. My original copy, which I filched from my mother many many years ago, has been read and re-read so many times that it’s falling apart. Literally – the cover, title pages and first few pages of the manuscript are gone, lost who-knows-where. I don’t need them; I know most of the book by heart anyway. I’ve never been terribly upset about the condition of the book, up until I realized I wanted her to sign it but didn’t really want to present her with this shabby, torn-apart copy. My mother, being awesome, purchased a new hardcover copy for me to have signed (which I’m in the middle of reading, because of course I am), so I brought that with me. I also, at the encouragement of my mom, brought the old copy.

You guys. I gave her that old, battered, beat-to-hell book (which is the one I chose, in the end, to have personalized) and she thanked me for bringing it. She told me she loved to see books like that, books of hers that have been obviously well-loved. I was so worried about offending her, and she was thrilled to see it.


She then offered to personalize my other book too, so I could put the old copy away for safe-keeping. When my mother followed behind me and thanked her for signing my old book, she said very seriously that she was honored to do it. I didn’t hear her say it – I was too busy standing off to the side forgetting to take my mother’s picture, because ANNERICEOHMYGOD – but I thought my mom was going to cry.

I’ve never met someone famous before. I’ve fantasized about meeting Vincent D’Onofrio (we bang like rabbits, naturally) but have never really considered what it would be like to meet and speak to someone I admired so damn much. The fact that it happened, and that she was such an incredibly kind and wonderful person, will go down as one of the best experiences of my life.

Now, if the bookstore could just figure out how to lure Stephen King here.

BOOK RECOMMENDATION

This week’s recommendation is non-fiction, but still in the romance area. I bought and read Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches’ Guide to Romance, which dissects the romance genre and takes a hard (and hilarious) look at all the parts, good and bad. The authors are huge fans of romance novels, so rather than coming off as someone ripping on the genre for the sake of snobbiness it reads very much like two people who love the books and want them to be the very best they can possibly be. The phrase “man titty” is used with wanton abandon, and dick euphemisms abound. If you’re a fan of romance, I really urge you to check it out. They also have a website, which I admit I haven’t spent much time at but plan to browse more in-depth when I have free time. So, next year some time.

That’s it for today. See you Sunday!

Warning: we’re about to get all Not Safe For Work up in here.

I want to talk about sex with you for a minute. Something that’s been on my mind as I progress through writing this book is, what’s going to happen when it comes time to get Maddie in bed with her hero? Not just how to achieve that milestone in a somewhat natural manner – that’s an issue I’ve been mulling over for weeks, with no resolution of as yet – but what, exactly, is going to happen.

Sex in romance novels is approached in a number of different ways; there are varying levels of “heat”, and really, there’s something out there for people all along the comfort spectrum. You prefer lots of emotional connection and kissing, but no sex/no premarital sex? Got that. You want down-and-dirty details? Got that too. It’s something I really like about the genre: there’s all kinds of sex out there, and you can pretty easily find what you like without having to read stuff that makes you squirm (in a bad way!) or pulls you out of the story.

The lowest level is generally called “sweet”, although I’ve also seen it called “traditional”, “sweet traditional” and “inspirational”. In a sweet romance there’s no sex, or at least no sex before marriage. When it does happen, the writer doesn’t describe it; you, the reader, know it happened, but it happens off-screen, so to say. Books in the Harlequin Heartwarming series adhere to this formula; if that’s your preference, you can grab a book from anywhere in that line and know what you’re going to get, sex-wise. Sometimes there’s a religious overtone to the lack of sex – “inspirational” is generally code-word for the presence of that element. Religion is not, however, always a factor. A hugely popular example would be the Twilight series: those books have an over-arching romance, lots of anticipation, but when the pay-off comes – on the main characters’ wedding night – Meyers fades to black on it.

The next level up would be “mild” – sex is present, but the scenes are few and far between, and when they happen there isn’t a lot of detail. Focus here is on the emotional aspect, not necessarily the physical. You’ll find this in the Harlequin Desire line, as well as in books like J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series.

When you get into books that are “hot”, that’s where the sex gets more detailed, albeit with heavy use of euphemisms. Despite its billing as “erotica”, this is where I’d put the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy. There’s an argument to be had there, I’m sure, and we can have it if you want, but personally that’s how I’d rate the series. Yes, there are erotic elements, but when it comes to the language used, it doesn’t make it across the threshold. When the female lead only ever uses “down there” to describe her hinterlands, you don’t have erotica.

The “hot” category is pretty broad, and honestly it could have a spectrum all its own to describe the various ways authors approach sex. On the lower end I think you’d have your “he throbbed”, “she ached” kind of descriptors; upper end, “steely rods” and “creamy mounds”.

Of course, at the highest level you’ve got your erotica – explicit sex. Here’s where your cocks and dicks show up. The Harlequin Blaze line (Slow Hands is a good one), or the previously recommended The Boss and The Girlfriend would fall here. There are a number of ways to reference this category: erotica, romantica, erotic romance. Like the hot category, there’s a spectrum here – you’ve got explicit sex that enhances the story but doesn’t take center stage, and you’ve got stories where the sex ends up being the focus in many ways, rather than the romance aspect.

So where does Maddie’s story fall? There’s going to be sex – it’s right there in the title, after all. I find the turgid members and dewy ladygardens silly, so euphemisms are out. On the other hand, overly explicit language can jolt me out of a story; I’ve no problem with dicks, but “cunt” is a word that makes me flinch. Not sexy. I realize I’m not the reader here, but if I try to force something I’m not into, I think that’ll end up coming across as stilted and awkward. I also don’t want the sex to detract from the story, which I fear it can if I screw up the approach; the point of the whole thing is Maddie’s journey, from where she is now (broken, floundering, dealing with the loss of everything she’s used to shore up her identity) to who she can eventually be – awesome, hopefully. The sex is incidental, not the main event.

We’re still a ways off from the sexin’ (sorry if that’s a disappointment!), so I have time to figure all of this out. Until then, what do you think? Do you agree with my book examples for the various sex levels? Got an author who you think handles the sex angle well? Wanna fight about 50 Shades? Leave a comment, or hit me up on Twitter.

See you Sunday!

Feedback Friday

Posted: October 4, 2013 in Feedback Friday
Tags: , ,

Can you believe it’s October already?! Some of my friends are already Christmas shopping. Christmas. I haven’t even nailed down what my kids are wearing for Halloween yet; don’t talk to me about Christmas. Lunatics.

We hit Love in the ZA’s one month anniversary this week, on the 1st, and can I just say? THANK YOU. Seriously. More people are reading and telling their friends about my little project than I ever imagined, and I appreciate it more than I could possibly say. Special thanks to my husband, who’s been taking those business cards he had made and shoving them into the hands of every poor sap he meets, and my mother, who I think hired a sky-writer or something. (Not really. She just knows everybody back home and isn’t afraid to strong-arm them into talking about her daughter. She’s fierce.) You guys have all been great readers so far; I hope we have another fun month together. I think you’re going to enjoy it. (Hint: VENGEANCE IS COMING.)

The other week I mentioned the contest that Harlequin has going on; chapter submissions are starting to go up, so if you like romance and want some first looks at the manuscript possibilities, check those out. I see some interesting ideas there! Next month they’ll narrow the field to 10 complete manuscripts and put them up for public consumption/voting, so keep that in mind – it’ll be a great chance to essentially read 10 free romance books AND get a little say in what you think should be published. Win-win!

I want to talk about libraries for a second. When I was a kid I had a tiny shelf in my bedroom where I kept all of my books, which my dad would force me to purge every so often to make room for new stuff. (Who makes a writer get rid of books? I mean really. I love him, but the man is damaged.) I always dreamt that some day, when I was a Real Grown Up With My Own House, DAD I’d have a whole room dedicated to being a library. In the meantime, I’d spend hours drooling over pictures of other peoples’ amazing libraries. Which brings me to BookRiot’s Libraries of the Rich and Famous, a three-part series from last year that they kindly compiled into one post last month, for maximum library porn in one space. I’m more than a little in love with Professor Macksey’s library, mostly because it looks like the kind of book deathtrap I mentioned last week.

You know that guy is awesome to have coffee with.

BookRiot has lots of cool articles, obviously for book lovers, so go waste time over there. We won’t talk about how much time I spent clicking last night; some things are private, you know?

(I have a library now, by the way. And I never get rid of a book. HAHA DAD.)

Last thing for this week: this Gatsby t-shirt.

Skreened

Oh. Em. Gee.

BOOK RECOMMENDATION

My brain is completely fried this week, after reading nothing but textbooks and articles for classes, so let’s do this: YOU give ME one. Romance and/or sci-fi, what would you recommend? Comment here, or let me know on Twitter: @lizz_lake.
See you Sunday!