Happy New Year!!!!

I see I still have some questions to answer for the Q&A, which ends at midnight tonight. Midnight in New Jersey, I should say. Well, heck, it doesn't really matter since I'm not going to sit down an post the answers until tomorrow after I see Avatar.

Speaking of questions, I'm still looking for more in the form of "What is your favorite ____?" You can post them here or back where I answered the Infamous Harry Potter questions.

Speaking of Harry Potter, have you all checked out the awesome, A Very Potter Musical? This is a fan made parody show that takes you through all seven books. It's beyond cool.

Happy New Year's and stay safe. Here's a funny video with the voices of the South Park kids dubbed over a scene from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Harry Potter & South Park 7 (cartman Gets Bitch Slappped) - Click here for this week’s top video clips


Q & A Part I

As part of my continuing effort to remain out of blog prison with a bunch of angry garden gnomes, I have been asking folks to post "What is your favorite _____?" questions that I will endeavor to answer right here.

I'm looking forward to the questions and the beads of sweat forming on my prodigious forehead as I hatch the answers. I'll continue to take answers right up until New Year's Eve, and will answer the last set of questions New Year's Day. All of you -- my faithful death eaters -- er, I mean my loyal and not so loyal followers, you can ask more questions right here, or on where I answered the Infamous Harry Potter questions.

So, without further ado....

Annie's questions:
Q) What's your favorite song from the 1980s?
A) Why not start with the most difficult question of all time. The 1980's - High School. College. MTV playing music videos. There are so many possible answers, one more trite than the next. I will go with Don Henley's, New York Minute, off The End of the Innocence.

Q) What's your favorite season and why?
A) Summer. I can walk the pug at 11pm in shorts and a t-shirt. It doesn't get dark till late. Barbecues!!! I don't have to shovel.

Q) What's your favorite movie BESIDES Harry Potter?
A) Now who said my favorite movie was Harry Potter? None of the HP movies are at the top of my list. My favorite movie(s) are Kill Bill, Volume 1 and Volume 2. Quentin Tarantino at his best. Uma Thurman. Lucy Liu, Daryl Hannah, David Carradine. The music. The action. The BLOOOODDDDD!

Frankie's questions:
Q) What's your favorite ice cream?
A) Chocolate Peanut Butter. The peanut butter chunks are critical.

Q) Who was your favorite teacher? (dig into the memories, kiddo)
A) I attended the State University of New York at Binghamton (oh, SUNY Beeee, oh SUNY Beee). Professor Warran Wagar taught two particular courses I took: History of the Future and World War III. Yes, those were real courses and were phenomenal. The lecture hall was enormous and his courses were always full. He was a fantastic teacher and he turned all of us on to reading a lot of fantastic science fiction.

Q) What's your favorite tree/plant?
A) Red dogwood for the color. Also, most any evergreen in winter. My least favorite? My neighbor's cottonwood tree that sheds cotton all over my backyard, rendering it useless for several weeks each summer.

Q) What's your favorite sky? (Weird, I know. Sunset, sunrise, storm, etc.)
A) Sunset on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. The horizon is stunning.

That's all for now. Keep those questions coming!!!!


The Gernumbli Gardensi award

My buddy and fellow New Jersey resident, Annie handed me out a blog award, and I'm going to post that sucker up here later this week. She's the sweetest thing - really she is.

For now, though, I most humbly accept this award of the Gernumbli Gardensi, or, as it is more widely known, the Favorite Gnome Approved Blog Award. It's all down to Mireyah. What ever would I do without this young lady from down in Loooziana.

Here are the rules, and I must follow them, lest I wind up in blog jail with a bunch of angry garden gnomes. All of you folks reading this, please go ahead and post a bunch of "What is your favorite ___" questions. Post them as comments right here on the faulty brain. I'll be taking questions right up until New Year's Eve, and will post answers throughout the week up through New Year's Day, at which time I'll nominate some folks for this most excellent award.

And now, so as to keep the Gernumbli happy...

The Infamous Harry Potter Questions

Favorite Book?
I was going to say Half Blood Prince because of Tom Riddle's backstory, Harry & Ginny's budding romance and Hermione winning out over Lavender Brown. But then I realized my favorite chapters and scenes were actually in Deathly Hallows, and it's the book I've reread most. It's sprawling. It ties up a million loose ends. It's emotional.

Favorite Chapter?
I have two, both from Deathly Hallows.
Chapter Nineteen - The Silver Doe. Ron returns. That whole chapter is just chock full of stuff.
Chapter Thirty-one - The Battle of Hogwarts. Ron & Hermione kiss (I mentioned it before). The diadem is destroyed - thanks to Crabbe, who dies. Fred dies. *sniff*

Favorite Scene?
The final battle - Molly Weasley shoves Harry out of the way and stands between the girls and Bellatrix. "Not my daughter, you bitch!" There. I just got goosebumps again. The woman was a lioness.

For laughs, though, when Kreacher brings Mundungus back to Grimmauld place and whacks him with a frying pan... Physical humor. :-)

Favorite Muggle?
Dudley. He was a product of his parents -- not a good one -- but in the end, he completely came around. Leaving Harry tea outside his bedroom, wondering where Harry would go, and admitting Harry saved his life. In the end, I liked Big D, and hoped that "nineteen years later", he was Uncle D to Harry & Ginny's kids.

Favorite Teacher?
Minerva McGonagall - She was tough but fair, and who couldn't love how she stood up to Umbridg?. Who wasn't outraged when she took all those stunners to the chest in Order of the Phoenix?

Favorite Class?
For one year, I think potions with Horace Slughorn might have been cool. I could do with a shot at Felix Felicis. Over the long run, though, Defense Against the Dark Arts, except for the year with Umbridge. I like hands-on type stuff.

Favorite Gryffindor?
Ron Weasley - the dude is just too funny. He's like Ben Stiller in all the "awkward guy" Ben Stiller movies.

Favorite Hufflepuff?
Ernie Macmillan - He's hilariously pompous.

Favorite Ravenclaw?
Luna Lovegood! - “Luna, my love, if you feel the need to burst into opera or speak in Mermish or any other unique talents, do not suppress it! You may have been gifted by the Gernumblies!”

Favorite Slytherin?
Horace Slughorn. Oh, does it need to be a student? Hmm. Snape. Courage like that doesn't come cheap.

Favorite Defense Against the Dark Arts Prof?
It's a toss up between Remus Lupin for his overall goodness, and Alastor Moody (Barty Crouch Jr.) for his sheer nuttiness.

Favorite Quidditch Match?
The one that Harry wasn't in - in Half Blood Prince. Ginny is the seeker. They win and she and Harry have their first moment of snogging at the party.

Favorite Quidditch Player?
Harry - because he is human and does make mistakes and does lose.

Favorite Wand Ingredient?
Phoenix feather. But only from Fawkes

Favorite Wizard Band?
The Weird Sisters. Because, well... yeah. Probably not Celestina Warbeck, the singing sorceress.

Favorite Library Book?
Moste Potente Potions - if Hermione hadn't figured out how to brew polyjuice potion, how would they have managed to get the locket in Deathly Hallows?

Favorite Text Book?
One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi by Phyllida Spore. Because.... well the author's name is just so perfect.

Favorite Hogsmeade Store?
The Three Broomsticks - Yeah, that was such a typical answer, but I don't like to drink with goats wandering about the place. That leaves out the Hog's Head.

Favorite Diagon Alley Shop?
Tie between:
Ollivander's wand shop - I'd love me a wand.
Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlour - I love me some ice cream!
Flourish and Blotts - I love me a book store.

Favorite Weasley Twin?
This is impossible for me to say. They were both hilarious. George lived. Fred died. And I still feel bad about it.

Favorite Fight?
Mrs. Weasley killing Bellatrix Lestrange

Favorite Couple?
I had a back and forth with Mireyah about this one. I was heavily leaning toward Harry & Ginny because the build up and actual romance all occurred in one book. And I like Ginny because Harry does and for all the same reasons. Talk about bringing us into the character's POV!. But in the end, I'm going with Ron & Hermione, because it took much longer to build, had many fits and starts. The hospital bed scene when an unconscious Ron makes his choice of Hermione over Lavender was great. The whole Ron reading about how to interest witches was fun and all, but it was Ron being artificial. The real thing - the culmination occurred when Ron said they needed to get the house elves out of Hogwarts during the battle. Hermione dumping the basilisk fangs and jumping him then... that was way cool.

Favorite Scene in a Graveyard?
For sheer creepiness, the first true creepiness - in Goblet of Fire when Voldemort is brought back to life. For sweetness, in Deathly Hallows when Harry & Hermione walk the graveyard in Godric's Hollow.

Favorite Villain?
Voldemort - honestly, he had the most depth. He was the most three dimensional. Bellatrix was incredibly over the top and was a lot of fun, but pretty one dimensional.

Honorable mention goes to Umbridge.

Favorite Trewlany Prophecy?
Hmm. THE prophecy, or the one in Prisoner of Azkaban? THE prophecy is surely the linchpin of the whole thing, so it's key. But I like the little details more sometimes. Consider the tarot card reading in Half Blood Prince, where she's wandering Hogwarts and muttering, "A dark young man, possibly troubled, one who dislikes the questioner." She got it right!

Favorite Ron Line?
At the end of Deathly Hallows, after Peeves has just finished his victory song, "... And Voldy's gone moldy, so let's all have fun." Ron utters - Really gives a feeling for the scope and tragedy of the thing, doesn't it?

Of course, in Order of the Phoenix, there is this chestnut - Accio Brain!

Favorite Dumbledorism?
For goosebumps (Order of the Phoenix) Don't be silly, Dawlish. I'm sure you are an excellent Auror, I seem to remember you achieved 'Outstanding' in all your N.E.W.T.s, but if you attempt to — er — 'bring me in' by force, I will have to hurt you.

For simple amusement (Half Blood Prince - referencing the Gaunts) The shock of her desertion may have contributed to his early death – or perhaps he had simply never learned to feed himself.

For shedding a tear - (Half Blood Prince, upon their return from the cave) "I am not worried, Harry," said Dumbledore, his voice a little stronger despite the freezing water. "I am with you."
I love that line because Harry had told Hermione & Ron that he had nothing to worry about because he would be with Dumbledore.

Favorite Beast?
Dobby - I loved Dobby. My son loved Dobby. He wanted to know who died before he read the book, and I remember being sad when I had to tell him Dobby had died.

Favorite Movie?
For staying close to the spirit of the books - Sorcerer's Stone.
Overall - Goblet of Fire.

Favorite Scene in the Hospital Wing?
Half Blood Prince - Bill recovering from his werewolf bite, and Fleur standing up to Molly, asking if she thought Bill would no longer want to marry her. She then declared she was beautiful enough for both of them. I did get chills during this moment.

Half Blood Prince - Honorable mention to Ron recovering from the poisoning, and muttering Hermione's name in his sleep. The film did this justice.

Favorite Method of Getting to Hogwarts?
The Hogwarts Express, of course.

Favorite Patil Twin?
Tricky. Padma was a prefect, good student and very quiet. Parvati was outgoing and loved divination, but... she really stood up for her friends (she did so for Neville when Draco took his remembrall). I'll go with Parvati as she was a Gryffindor.


Official Kissing Day Blogfest

See the details and full blogroll of the Official Kissing Day Blogfest.

This is a scene from my WIP novel, Mythos. Our protagonist, Zydeco, is one such Mythos, a former mythological creature who was banished to our world, where he has become a sixteen year old human. In this scene, he is at the prom with his girlfriend Tameina. Having been a Griffin for most of his life, he's not adept at dancing. The incredibly sweet Tameina has him on the dance floor and is trying to make him feel comfortable.

“It’s easy,” said Tameina, teasing my neck with cool hands as we moved. “Just go along with me.”

I nodded. “I can do this.” When I gazed down at her, I realized I was looking down her dress.

“Hey,” she said, freeing a hand and cupping my chin with it. “I’m up here.”

“Sorry,” I said as an involuntary giggle escaped. Shutting my eyes for a second, I contemplated just how uncomfortable dancing made me feel, and vowed to avoid it in future.

But when I opened my eyes, her heart shaped face had broken into an endless smile. “Kiss me.”

I took a breath, as if I’d forgotten how to do so, but now remembered. And then I leaned in and kissed her. We moved with the music, unconsciously, eyes shut. The touch of her skin on mine and her delicate scent filled my senses. The dance floor was empty except for us.

A tap on my shoulder and a throat clearing in my ear made me open my eyes and pull back. Mr. Borkin stood beside me, something twitching beneath his thick beard. “Why don’t you two take a short break?”

Hand in hand, Tameina and I walked dreamily to the table. Maybe this dancing thing wasn’t so bad.

Okay, I'm not looking for any critiques, and in fact, I just wrote this scene a couple of days ago. It surely needs tons of work, but it's a start. It was between this kissing scene and the scene in which Zydeco realizes he quite likes Tameina and asks her to the prom.


Over the Top

I nearly forgot to say thanks to Mireyah for this prestigious award, which will definitely man up this blog in a way that filthy sweat socks and the stink of oil and gasoline could never manage.

As part of the deal, I'm supposed to answer the following questions with one word each. I'm not massively outgoing, but once I get started, I'm not good being brief. Let me give it a go.

1. Where is your cell phone? Pocket

2. Your hair? Limited

3. Your mother? Florida

4. Your father? Autograph on the moon

5. Your favorite food? Cheeseburger

6. Your dream last night? Nyquil

7. Your favorite drink? Diet Cherry Vanilla Doctor Pepper

8. Your dream/goal? Published.

9. What room are you in? Family room.

10. Your hobby? Writing.

11. Your fear? Loss

12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Published, writing full time.

13. Where were you last night? Home

14. Something that you aren't? Sure

15. Muffins? Chocolate chip or blueberry

16. Wish list item? Empty - I'm not easy to shop for

17. Where did you grow up? Long Island

18. Last thing you did? Helped my daughter w/ her legos

19. What are you wearing? Sweater and jeans

20. Your TV? ESPN

21. Your pets? Black Pug

22. Friends? Yes. Few good ones.

23. Your life? busy

24. Your mood? even

25. Missing someone? Dad

26. Vehicle? Prius - cheap fillups

27. Something you're not wearing?  Um, hat?

28. Your favorite store? Borders

29. Your favorite color? Green

30.When was the last time you laughed? An hour ago

31. Last time you cried? About three years ago. Dog hit by car and died.

32. Your best friend? In North Carolina, hardly ever talk. Dang.

33. One place that I go to over and over? Work.

34. One person who emails you regularly? No single person

35. Favorite place to eat? Ruth's Chris Steakhouse - can't afford it very much

And today's Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol posting:


I Used To Be Funny

Because I'm busy writing Creatures (finally, again), and because I appear to be sick as a dog (the thermometer doesn't lie), I'm posting something I wrote a couple of years ago for web site on which I was to be a regular columnist. Sadly, it never launched. I hope you enjoy. And now I'm going to make some tea.

I used to be funny. Actually, this might not be true. I may never have been particularly funny. You see, the key difference between me, twenty years ago and the me of now, is that the me of now spends much more of his waking life lucid. Now that I think about it, I spend much more of my life awake. What if I was not as funny as I thought? Oh heck, most 20 year-old guys think they are funny. At least that’s what the 20-year-old girls said back then. Therefore, by my very 20 year-old nature, I was funny. In any case, I digress.

Things seemed a lot funnier twenty years ago. Don’t get me wrong, though. Things are funny now. I laugh like a 12-year old boy when on Family Guy, I see Peter Griffin put on Stewie’s onesee to prove that if he’s fat, then little matricidal Stewie is also fat. Moreover, when Mr./Mrs. Garrison explains evolution on South Park, stating that, in conclusion, we are all descended from retarded monkey-fish-frogs, well, I laugh like a retarded monkey-fish-frog might. Nevertheless, the fact that I need to sit in front of a cartoon on TV in order to laugh like that is a leading indicator that laughter is more difficult to come by nowadays. Didn’t we used to just sit around, drinking Seagram’s 7, chasing it with Dr Pepper, cackling because we forgot what was so funny? It seemingly always started with Pink Floyd’s The Wall, or the Who’s Tommy, and a bottle of Seagram’s, or some cheap Vodka, but somewhere along the way, there was cackling laughter. I am certain of it.

So, what happened? Darned if I know, but I have some ideas. First came the whole “job” thing. Having to go to the same place, every day for most of the day kind of sucks the pleasure out of going to bed at four in the morning. Let’s face it people. Your only concern at that hour was, “Will I have enough Captain Crunch when I get up?” and “Idiot - Don’t forget to set the alarm clock for noon. You have classes starting at 2:45pm, Tuesday through Thursday, and tomorrow is – oh, it’s Friday. Turn off the alarm.”

Next, you get married. I do not believe the event itself has a huge immediate impact on how funny you are. However, after being married for several years, a couple of things are likely to happen. One is kids, and for those with young kids, we will assume you are reading this at work or you are home and it is after 10pm and you are just hanging on to consciousness. The other thing that happens is something I like to call “selective retention” and I will come back to it shortly.

The impact of having children cannot be overstated, unless you have only one. Let me say right now that, if you only have one, it does not count as having kids. It is not much different from having a dog. You need to feed it, give it shelter, let it crap on your lawn, express its anal glands every now and then, and groom it. Well, maybe not groom it. It is not that complicated and things do not get very challenging. Remember. This is relative. With one child, anything you find broken in your home was obviously broken by that child. With more than one child, I promise that without surveillance cameras in the house, you will never know which one did it. I am also convinced that if you did have cameras, they would figure out how to disable them just as soon as they learn to walk.

Now, for those with kids (plural), you may notice that you do not have a whole lot of time to be funny while you deal with the constant bickering. You will realize, that if these small, noisy creatures with flailing arms and legs that invariably find your balls were adults, they would be diagnosed as psychotic. Once you do realize this, you are right there with me. You may find humor in the creativeness your children show in being psychotic, but do not let them see you laugh. They will not stop trying to make you laugh, and believe me; their attempts are as funny as the knock-knock jokes they keep “inventing”. Your teeth will hurt just listening to iterations five through seven. We do love them though.

I also mentioned “Selective Retention”. This best describes a phenomenon I noticed that occurs after several years of marriage. Here is some background. I recall being more than just funny years ago. I once was useful. When we got married, I could cook. I could fix things. I could build things. Nothing complex, mind you, but I held my own. I also knew what plans we had for any given night or weekend. Well that’s all shot now. I hardly ever cook – maybe some pancakes or eggs for breakfast. I don’t fix or build things, at least in my own house. Not that I wouldn’t try, but I am not allowed to anymore, and this is probably wise. However, I can still build IKEA furniture with the best of them, and nobody can take that away from me. I can no longer keep track of where I am supposed to be, and who I’m supposed to be with. Which kid am I taking where? How long do I stay? Who do I give this thing to? The kid will point to the right parents? Cool. Heck, my selective retention even bleeds to my work life. Microsoft Outlook is, for better or worse, my eWife. She tells me where to go and when to get there. If she doesn’t know about it, then I don’t know about it. If the mail server is down… sorry, I’ll be in my office until someone comes and gets me. You may be wondering how this relates to being funny. Well it doesn’t, exactly, and I hope you don’t feel bad about having been led down this path. However “Selective Retention” is, in my mind, one of the many reasons why some of us are not what we once were.

Then of course, the world is a somewhat depressing place. We are all much more on edge and 9/11 was definitely a big reason. My kids were seven and two years old on 9/11, and, hundreds of miles away from me. My flight had landed in Boston’s Logan Airport about 30 minutes before the planes hit the towers. This was not funny. How do you protect your kids from things you cannot directly control? When I eventually got home, Comedy Central was not on the air. Was humor dead?

As the years have passed since that horrible day, I have noticed life rolling on, much as my children grow. They are relentless about that. There is humor and even though I’m not funny anymore, I can still recognize the kind of humor that makes me laugh. When I watch a Family Guy or South Park episode, and my wife comes in during one of those scenes that leave me choking with laughter on the sofa, she laughs too. Of course, she will only laugh the first time she sees it, but will also deny it ever happened. She might have mentioned that what she was really laughing at… was me. Well now -- maybe I am still funny.


The Superior Scribbler

I'm pretty sure I owe Mireyah any and all followers I've got on this here blog o' mine. She's gone and given me a couple of them new fangled blog awards! I really like the most recent award, especially because the image you see here on the left (unless you're on a Blackberry or something) is about what I look like when I'm writing with a manual implement of scribbling. Okay, the dude has more hair, and his tongue isn't sticking out, and I generally sit at a keyboard, but still. That's how I imagine myself.

Mireyah - all kinds of thank you's. You've no idea. As Shakespeare said, "With great power comes great responsibility." And even if it was Spiderman's Uncle who really said that, the point is, I need to pass on this Superior Scribbler award to five blogs have I quite enjoyed recently.

Here they are, in all their crowning glory. 

Dutch Hill News - Annie McMahon's got such a positive outlook, and y'know what? She lives in the Garden State, too.

Brooklyn Arden - Cheryl Klein's blog and tweets are always interesting. Her talks on writing are fabulous as well. I've followed her ever since she spoke at SCBWI NJ a couple years ago.

Help! I Need a Publisher! - I can't tell you how many writing/publishing/editing tips I've picked up on Nicola Morgan's fantastic blog.

Jo Treggiari/Feltus Ovalton - Jo's blog is chock full of interesting stuff, and she's constantly tweeting equally interesting bits about writing & publishing. And I'm still waiting to hear her fabulous news!!!

The Spectacle - I've been following these ladies' blog for months now. The six writers know how to put together constantly engaging discussions about books and writing, most of which leave me itching with something to say.


When you CAN put a book down

I read a lot of books - relatively speaking, I mean. I'm a slow reader, because I take in every word and can often recall entire passages. Sadly, my son has inherited my pace, which makes getting through all his Advanced Lit reading in high school a bit painful. My daughter has no such problems. In fifth grade, she cranks through books, having inherited this ability from her mom. She'd read every Harry Potter book on her own by the age of nine. She finished Deathly Hallows in less time than it took me.

So reading is an investment for me. Between working, writing, the occasional TV show, sports, family, etc., a book has to engage me fairly quickly. It has to make me want to know what's going to happen early on. This may be one of the reasons I read a lot of YA nowadays, apart from the fact that it's also what I write. These books often grab right away.

Some of my favorite recent non-YA books were either "immediate grabbers" or offered up familiar characters. Sandman Slim -- not exactly YA -- is a great example of the former. This book grabbed me by my earlobes and dragged me along. The Lost Symbol is a solid example of the latter. Robert Langdon is a braniac/everyman sort of hero.

And then we have the books that I grab with every intention of reading cover to cover, but for one reason or another, I bail. The worst example is a high fantasy novel I picked up at the local library a couple years ago. Honestly, I don't remember what it was called. At the time I was reading a lot of high fantasy because, technically, I was writing high fantasy. (That's debatable, but it's where my story landed). The book seemed interesting enough - it took place in a completely fictional world, and I fully expected to be immersed in a whole mess of world building.

I made it through two chapters before I returned it to the library.

It was here I discovered my lack of passion for "true" high fantasy. Lord of the Rings is the primary exception, but generally I need a little grounding in "our world". I want to experience the journey into fantasy with the characters. If I'm going to invest in learning all the intricacies of an entirely new world, then I need to like the characters a whole lot. I didn't like them. Not soon enough anyway. And so I didn't experience the fantasy because I'd checked out.

Then we have Stephen King. I love his collected works. But it's kind of like Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel in that, as many of their fans have said over the years, "I prefer their old stuff." The man writes tomes. Going back to The Stand, It, The Talisman (my 3 favs) - these are long and I adore them. His later work is a bit more literary, which is cool and I quite liked Duma Key and the Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. One of his most well-received books of a few years ago -- Lisey's Story -- is still sitting on my night stand. I'm a little less than halfway through it. It's good, but it's kind of my rebound date. When I don't have another book to read, I go back to it and read some more. But it doesn't hold me like the others do. I suppose if I spend enough time with it, we'll go all the way.


Oh, and I can't wait to read The Dome.

My final example is Douglas Coupland's, Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture. I couldn't put down his book, Microserfs. It's really one of my all time favorite novels, because of the characters and the setting (I'm a techie, geek writer, after all). Since I'm a gen-X'er, I decided I had to read this book, and so I began. I read about fifty pages before putting it down for good. Up until that point, it was three characters telling a variety of little stories, while revealing bits of character detail and back-story. It didn't grab me and was taking me too long to get through. It just wasn't for me. I've become crotchety and impatient.

I feel bad when I put a book down for good (or cheat on one book with another, only to return later, tail between legs). Do I give everything a fair shake? Yeah, I think I do. Fifty pages, minimum. All bets are off after fifty pages, though.


Birth of a Novel - Part 7

This is the thirteenth entry in my Birth of a Novel series of posts, where I talk about the development of my new YA urban fantasy.

I was well into chapter ten of Mythos when I realized I hadn't chronicled chapter nine. Doh. Chapter eight ends with Zydeco and Blaine seeing an awful thing. It's bad tidings for the Mythos in the city. Chapter nine takes place weeks later, and the Mythos are living in these somewhat dark times, worried about themselves, their families and friends. I returned to Blaine's apartment for brunch, this time with Magenta joining everyone. As opposed to our prior visit, however, the mood is far more somber.

Alright, I need to come clean now. I was struck by the mood in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, when all the witches and wizards are in constant danger of disappearing, of losing their own friends and family. People go into hiding. People run. Some people stay and fight, but often lose. There are many books along these lines, and they always remind me of Germany, Austria and Poland before and during World War II. For the small population of Mythological creatures living in a large city, it's a microcosm of all of the above. Mythos is a smaller book, and Phineas Malice is neither Lord Voldemort or Adolf Hitler. He has his own reasons for what he's doing, but I wasn't going for anything so overly evil. Hmm. I hope I haven't sold Malice short. He is evil. Really he is.

He’s calling us criminals, you know,” said Magenta. “Drug dealers.”

Edward nodded. “Yes, I’ve noticed that.” He narrowed his eyes and spoke in a barely audible voice. “I wonder what he was.”

Magenta shook her head. “Well, thank you for brunch, Emma. Edward.” She didn’t lean in for a kiss. She wasn’t like that. Instead, she took their hands and smiled. “But if I don’t get out of here and have a smoke, I’m going to bite someone’s head off, and what kind of gratitude would that show?”

What with all of this going on, plus constant studying for finals, Zydeco's mind isn't entirely focused on the fact that he's asked Tameina to the prom. The pair of them have spent an awful lot of time together studying, and he's clearly got strong feelings for her. He's so worried about his future, though, that he hasn't been able to organize his thoughts on the matter. The chapter ends with a reminder that certain aspects of a teenager's life are immutable. I'm surprised at how easy I find developing the Zydeco/Tameina relationship. It feels really sweet and honest and I hope it comes across that way.

Overall, I think I did alright with this chapter. I already know I need to go back and add a bit more background tension - that someone is always watching and that peril lies just around the corner.... Because it does, truly. MWAHAHAHAHAHA

But first, they need to get to the prom. Its going to be like Carrie without all the blood. >-)

Thanks for reading and stay tuned!

Feel free to jump ahead to my next Birth of a Novel post
Or to read about the last chapter, saunter on back to the previous entry.


The Maze Runner - Review

I recently finished reading The Maze Runner, by James Dashner and I've put a version of this very review up on goodreads, but figured I'd throw it up here as well.

Let me say this up front. I liked the plot and will probably read the second book in the series. The relationships seemed a bit forced at times, and the extremely slow manner in which information is revealed to the main character and the reader is a bit annoying.

On to the details.

The Maze Runner is a book that starts with the main character, Thomas, having lost his memory and not knowing where he is or who any of the kids around him are. He's in a community of self ruled kids, called Gladers, who live in, you guessed it, the Glade. The glade is this place with a house/homestead, the slammer, cemetery, etc, and is surrounded on all sides by the maze. Each Glader also has a job to do - quite sensible.

Thomas is generally irritated because it seems like everything is a great big secret. I shared that feeling with him and quickly became annoyed that he and I were in the dark. Once he learns some of the simple truths, I began to wonder, why was revealing that information so painful?

In any case, stuff happens, secrets are revealed, and bits of memory come back. The characters are definitely colorful and often fun to read. I sort of cared about them - sort of. Thomas develops a relationship with Chuck - the younger kid who shows him around and befriends him. I won't ruin it, but there is a development with Chuck that presumes we believe that Thomas is emotionally invested in the younger boy. I didn't buy it. Thomas is only in the Glade for a number of days, so it was hard for me to believe.

Alright, I've complained enough. The plot itself is quite engaging and I never once considered abandoning the book. The end was a series of twists and turns that still left me wanting a bit more. So despite my earlier misgivings, the book succeeded for me.

Now for the CYA - I wasn't paid for this lame review nor was I encouraged to write it. I grabbed the book (the unabridged CD's actually) on my own account because it had some buzz. My fourteen-year-old son now has the actual book and is about to read it, too.


Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

It's almost Thanksgiving. Glee is about to go on, so time's running out. Therefore, in honor of tomorrow's L-tryptophan overload and anything else we might partake in that'll make us sleepy and comfy, Happy Turkey Lurkey Day!

(Sorry about the commercial, but we have to be all legal and on the up and up.)


Wizard Swears

This is for my kids. Voldemort's Nipples!!!!!


My brain is addled today

Random thoughts for the day.

Why do I keep watching Speed Racer on HBO? It must be the pretty colors.

What does appendicitis feel like? I could have sworn it was that, but I'm relieved it's not. Not a fan of scalpels.

Why does the pug keep flopping onto her back and across my laptop demanding attention? It's rude, right? No, it's not cute. Get off the dang laptop, Tink! You're collar is tttttttttyping.

Is Christina Ricci's hair a wig in Speed Racer? It has to be, right? Oh, and she's from New Jersey. Speaking of which, Rutgers is ranked again.Go, Scarlet Knights!

I thought that Michael Jackson naming one of his kids "Blanket" was a joke on that South Park Episode. Then I saw the name in a magazine at the doctor's office. Now I feel bad.

I've just finished writing the blog entry for Frankie (it's scheduled to post Friday morning) on the mechanics of writing. Don't follow the link until at least Friday. Maybe I'll come back here tomorrow and update the link to point directly to the post. It's a good post, I think. Maybe I ought to post writing/publishing tips here as well. Eh. We'll see.

Rachel (the ten year old) plays guitar really well, and she only started this summer. She's written a song to perform during Thanksgiving and it's really really good. I mean, really. Her guitar teacher came by this week and couldn't believe it, and he's been educated on songwriting. He's also the elementary school music teacher AND he told my wife he knows people in the publishing business and wants to talk to me. Perhaps I will work from home during her next lesson.

The Maze Runner is pretty cool so far.

Do I really want to read that new Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy book by Eoin Colfer?

Glee is good and Fringe is weird. And neither is mutually exclusive. Case in point. I am good and weird.


Birth of a Novel - Part 6

This is the twelfth entry in my Birth of a Novel series of posts, where I talk about the development of my new YA urban fantasy.

Before writing this chapter (tentatively chapter eight), I grabbed my trusty green sasquatch composition notebook and sketched out the rest of the book, starting from now. And the more I scribbled, the more sparks that began to shoot from my head. Backstory appeared in a few brain cells - well a lot of brain cells. Plot points zoomed into focus. More character traits flopped around like a fish wanting to jump back in the ocean.

My goal? Make Zydeco's life utter misery, while amping up the story. While the story arc reaches its inevitable climax, he has to face losing everything. And I mean everything. He has to be utterly alone. And then when he has the slightest chance of not being alone, he has to make a decision that, if things go poorly, will guarantee total and complete despair. If things go well, he still won't have everything he wants. This is one of those moments. Your protagonist desperate wants/needs two things. Now make it impossible for him to have both.
Oh, the anguish. In the end, it boils down to how courageous I am as a writer. I know that in the end, he will not have everything he wants, but how much do I want to give him? Can I, for example, do to Zydeco & Tameina what Philip Pullman does to Lyra and Will?

Only time will tell.

As for this chapter, Zydeco and Blaine witness something ... horrible. It involves our nasty pal Hunter and his evil boss, the deputy mayor, Phineas Malice. Dang, I love that name. What do they see? Let's just say it does not bode well for the future of the Mythos. And it kind of starts the Wicked Witch of the West's hourglass on Dorothy's life, if you get my drift.

Two black creatures appeared low in the sky, large as bulls, with horns to match. They plunged through the air on deformed and bent wings and fell on the sheep-wolf. The carnage was over in seconds, the two flying demons bulleting back into the sky, each carrying half the prey's bloody carcass with it.

I also had a little fun with setting here, imagining an abandoned drive-in type theater inside a big old city park. Whereas most of the bits of city setting come from one or more actual city landmarks, this does not. I liked the idea and went with it. Writer's privilege, you see.

Hummm, what else? There is a small aftermath of what they've seen. Blaine is actually spooked, and concerned for his future. I worked a bit on his relationship with Zydeco, here. They've been best buddies (and big toe, Sergeant Hulka) forever, even when Zydeco was a griffin and Blaine a little gnome. Zydeco really would do anything for his friend, and I try to show that.

But of course, they are also just a pretty funny pair, so...

"Dude," I said, leading the way back down the road. "That was just … was that what I thought it was?"

Hands in his pockets, Blaine tried to kick a pine cone, but missed. He grunted. "What? Bloody evil incarnate?"

And so, we keep writing. The next chapter's theme is, living your life despite the undercurrent of fear. This should be fun. It's right there in my head and in the sasquatch notebook. :-)

Thanks for reading and stay tuned! Now, on to the next chapter!!!!

To read about the last chapter, slide on back to the previous entry.


Honest Scrap Award

Well, it sure took me long enough to make mention that my most awesome pal down in Loooosiana, Mireyah Wolfe, gave me an Honest Scrap Award something like two weeks ago!!!! Man, am I lousy and a serious procrastinator. But, it's really a privilege to know Mireyah -- check out her cool blog -- and all you wonderful writers out there, and I will be forever in your debt, especially you folks at the YA forum on WDC. (You know who you are.)

So, let me pass this swell award on to some other great blogs.

1. Chasing Dreams
2. Medeia Sharif
3. Jennifer Murgia
4. The Spectacle
5. Jo Treggiari/Feltus Ovalton


Birth of a Novel - Part 5

This is the eleventh entry in my Birth of a Novel series of posts, where I talk about the development of my new YA urban fantasy.

I had just completed chapter seven of Mythos, when as I read Scott G.F. Bailey's excellent piece, Some Thoughts on Middles, it struck me that this is exactly what I'm up against. A middle. Act II. Act I of Mythos is really about setting up the conflict (plot), whereas Act III resolve the conflict (plot climax and denouement). Act II is the bridge that should do two things. First, the plot has to evolve--the chess pieces have to move--until the characters are ready for the climax. Second, the characters have to develop further-- Zydeco, Blaine, Tameina and everyone else.

Certainly Zydeco changes as a result of the events of the book. That's got to be a given. Scott makes a fantastic argument, though, for treating Act II to its own beginning, middle and end.  What does it mean? It means that Zydeco should change as a result of the events of Act II. He needs to show up in Act III different than he was in Act I. How he reacts during the penultimate scene may vary from how he would have had the same thing occurred in Act I.

I've gone off and rambled myself silly, haven't I?  Jay! What about chapter seven? All you've done is talked about what happened after you wrote the thing? I mean, really!

Okay, okay. So, chapter seven. It's back to Zydeco and Blaine, and carries over from the slight cliffhanger of the prior chapter. I really do love these characters, and there are really two relationships I get a kick out of exploring. Zydeco and Tameina - it's fantastic to develop those two as a couple, especially because they're friends first, and because each of them is ever so slightly damaged in their own peculiar ways. Zydeco and Blaine - total best friends, and they're like a well oiled machine. It's like they riff on one another. One could finish the other's sentence. They're funny.

We get to see Blaine's bedroom, which I found fun to describe. In chapter two, I showed one of Zydeco's mythological skills. As a former griffin, he has enormous strength. It is my conjecture that a being, part lion, part eagle would be, well, strong. So there. I've decided. It's fantasy. My book, my rules. In chapter seven, I got to write about his acute hearing. I alluded to it in a prior chapter, but came right out and demonstrated it here.

I held a hand up and leaned across the desk. “Need to concentrate.” Pressing my ear close to the screen, and my eyes shut, I let all thought drain away, focusing on the noise three stories below. I imagined myself as I had been, seeking out prey. The irony wasn’t lost on me that Hunter was now the hunted, but I let it go. I listened. And after a few moments, I heard.

“How many?” said Hunter, his high-pitched voice carrying over the light Sunday traffic.

A pause.

“When?” Another beat. “Right. Okay. And the cockatrice?”

I opened my eyes. This confirmed it. They knew what Octavio was. But, how?

The boys set out in search of Hunter and his crew--there's bad tidings afoot in the park. I get to take them out of their apartments and school, and into the big city park. I get them moving. I get them snooping.

I'm very careful not to set Mythos in a specific city. At least in first draft, the fictional city does not have a name. I may name it later, if I think it's worthwhile. But in my head (and on paper), there are pieces of New York City (my home base), Philadelphia, Boston, and San Francisco. The outside of the library in one of the earlier chapters is very much a re-imagined NYC Public Library. This park is a combination of Philadelphia's Fairmount Park and New York's Central Park. I even threw in a seemingly bizarre landmark - an ancient obelisk -- that does really exist in Central Park. Interesting history behind it, I must say.

Within minutes, however, Malice and company were gone, and Blaine and I were alone on what looked like a road cut through an underground forest. Birds chirped, likely from the overhead canopy that blocked out the sun. A family of squirrels chattered and chased each other around the base of a tree along the edge of the road.

We slowed to a jog and then a casual walk.

“Lions, and tigers, and bears, oh, my,” said Blaine.

“A Griffin, a gnome and some squirrels, you mean.”

“Ruin all my fun, why don’t you.”

Chapter seven, we hardly knew ye. Before I move on to chapter eight, which continues the events of seven, I need to go off and sketch out Act II as a beginning, middle and end. The three acts of Act II, if you will. By doing so, I think the rest of the "middle" of Mythos will just FLY by.

By the way, I'd love feedback from anyone who's been following this thread.  As you write, do you face the same questions? Do you have the same fits and starts? Does what I'm writing sound remotely interest?

Thanks for reading and stay tuned! Now, on to the next chapter!!!!

To read about the last chapter, shimmy and shake on back to the previous entry.


Catching Fire - the mini-review

I finished Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins today, and as promised, I'm back to comment on it. I will, of course, try like heck to avoid spoilers. However, since the die-hards have already read it before I did, there's little chance of spoiling much.

For me, the book can safely be divided into two halves - Before the Quarter Quell, and everything else. Like I said last time, the first half moves a little slower as we're taken deeper inside Katniss Everdeen's head. She's living/suffering the fame of a Hunger Games victor. She wants for little now, except emotional stability. She and all the victors are striving to avoid daytime boredom and bad dreams at night.

The capital still expects her and Peeta to be an item and more. She's quite unsure of where her heart lies. Is it Gale, who, up until the games was her closest friend, who she teamed up with to feed their families over the years? Or is it Peeta, who in many ways saved her life after her father died, who truly loves her, and who lived and nearly died by her side in the games?

On this point, I have my opinions and preferences. I'm hoping for Peeta, simply because I'm selfish. I've seen them together. I've seen all they've been through and I've seen his devotion to her. Most of what transpired between Katniss and Gale occurred off the page, before the Hunger Games began.  The only thing I'll add to this is that this love triangle is NOT resolved in Catching Fire.

As a looming backdrop to all this, we have President Snow and the capital's oppression threatening to come down on the districts, from which the hint of rebellion emanates. And of course, it's all Katniss' fault.

And then there is the quarter quell, a once-every-25-year event, where the book picks up some serious steam. There are more characters, many of them with interesting back stories and strong personalities. But the second half is all about moving the plot along, and getting it ready for book three. Whereas the first book dwelled for a good long time on the games and the players' strategy, the incidents and challenges here are more gimmicky, but no less thrilling.

And yes, there's a cliffhanger ending. A good one too.  And now, we have to wait until next year for book three???? Blast!!!

Oh and, I wasn't paid, coerced, asked, begged or anything untoward to write this lame review, I got hold of the book all by myself.


Happy Halloween!!!

It's Halloween and it's raining. The decorations outside are soaked. My daughter is going bonkers as a result, and writing is most certainly not an option today.

Here's something from funnyordie.com in honor of the holiday!


Writer's Blah and Catching Fire so far

Why is this taking so long? This Mythos chapter feels like the gestation period of an African elephant. *sighs* I'm able to get out 300-500 words at a clip, and sadly, I've hit that most hideous of writing walls. No, it's not the writers' block thing. It's called writer's blah, and it stems from being pooped from work every night. I want to lie in bed with the TV on in the background, while reading until my eyes threaten to leap from their sockets. Perhaps I just need to catch up on some sleep, or maybe brew some strong coffee? We suffer for our art, do we not? Okay, okay... What are you doing with your fingers? The worlds smallest violin, you say? Yeah, yeah. How original. *sticks out tongue*

On a separate note, I've got the unabridged CD set of Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins, and listen every moment of my mobile life - a.k.a. driving to and from work.  I usually have one book by my bedside and another playing in the car. Y'know, I was really looking forward to this book, but was worried about how I'd feel about revisiting Katniss and Peeta after the end of the last book. I'd read about Catching Fire and the forthcoming third book in the series, and I had this nagging feeling that I wasn't going to like what I read.

I'm happy to say I'm enjoying it so far. It is a bit slower - more like a slow boil compared to the rolling pace of the Hunger Games. But there's more about Katniss learning about herself so far - more character development here. I've got an opinion on her inability to choose right now between Peeta and Gale, but I'll reserve judgment until I get to the end. When I've finished reading/listening, you can be sure I'll post my mini-review of it right here. I'll also be sure to check out the Catching Fire discussion on The Spectacle.

I'm off to post a comment on Tamara's excellent Chasing Dreams blog, because she's commented on a few Catching Fire items I've noticed right away.


The Lost Symbol - Yeah, I liked it. So what?

I finished reading Dan Brown's, The Lost Symbol yesterday, and I have to say, I liked it more than I thought I would. Once I started, I couldn't stop, and given that I'm among the slowest of readers, this kept me up nights. It's got good old Robert Langdon from both Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code. Once again, there's a secret society -- the Masons this time. And there are historic locations to visit, although this time said locations are much newer than the aforementioned novels.  The story takes place in Washington D.C. You also have a well-funded and thoroughly cracked bad guy as well as the interesting science of Noetics.

There's a lot to like. The pacing was excellent. The whole thing takes place in a span of about 24 hours. And, despite Dan Brown's propensity to get into the minutia of history and locations, it's not over the top. The story takes place in the U.S. Capitol, and sheds an entirely new light (for me, at least) on familiar and less familiar landmarks.

Character-wise, it's hard not to root for Robert Langdon, although he plays quite the skeptic at different times in the book. He's a noble guy, thoroughly human, and mostly tries to do the right thing. There's one scene featuring Langdon later in the novel (no spoilers here) that had me biting my nails and debating if I needed to flip to the back of the book, something I never ever do.

Bad guy wise, it worked for me, in a Dan Brown kind of way. You have the, as I said, well funded whack-job bad guy, and it's clear he's ruthless enough to ... nah, no spoilers. But as in his other books, there are government agents involved, and you begin to wonder who is on whose side. The bad guy's interesting backstory is revealed over time right through the big twist near the end.  There are a few major supporting characters, and their sub plots are equally interesting. I cared about them, and wished all sorts of harm on Mr. Evil.

Dan Brown shifts point-of-view constantly in the book, and just about every character, no matter how major or minor, gets their say. Each point-of-view change either gets its own chapter -- there are a lot of small chapters, including a few one-pagers -- or a specific scene in a given chapter. None of this got in the way for me. Each person had something important to say to me, and provided "information" I might have not picked up from another character.

This isn't as good as The Da Vinci Code or Angels & Demons - it packed less of a punch for me - but it's way better than Digital Fortress and Deception Point. Of course they're making a movie out of it, but I find the books far more engaging. These books are so densely packed with interesting "stuff" that I don't think translates to a "pops-off-the-screen" film. But, I'm sure I'll go see it anyway.

Now for the official disclaimer. Nobody asked me to write this fairly lame review. I bought the book myself, but don't have the receipt. I'm not receiving any compensation or reward for doing so. Frankly, Dan Brown doesn't need my help. However, I've been tweeting every now and then while I read the book that I am in fact doing my part to help Dan Brown save the publishing industry ... again.

Now I'm off to listen to Suzanne Collins', Catching Fire on unabridged CD while driving to and from work. I also picked up a sci-fi book - The Quiet War, by Paul McAuley.


Birth of a Novel - Part 4

This is the tenth entry in my Birth of a Novel series of posts, where I talk about the development of my new YA urban fantasy.

Yeesh. (Once in a while, start a blog post with Yeesh.)

This chapter took a while to get started. I made the mistake of thinking too much about the plot as I sat there staring at a blank page. My plot outline in Mythos is much lighter than it was for The Children of Midian. It's really driven by the characters, which is kind of fun. The problem was that my next major plot point could not possibly take place at the current point in the story.

I stared at that blank page for one heck of a long time before deciding to go back to my character notes and my trusty green sasquatch notebook. Lo and behold, I found this big 'ol pile of stuff about my characters I wanted to get on the page. There was also some back story I wanted to slip in. Off I went, excited as can be. I wrote one tiny little scene with Zydeco stopping by Blaine's place at night, only to find his slightly kookie grandmother, Ava, at the door, and Blaine not home. Cute scene, but a massive disappointment in terms of progress.

Fine, I said to myself. I'll make up for it next time. Oh, and while I'm at it, I thought, I'd best add some tension to this chapter. You can't just have people jabbering on about stuff forever, or you wind up with one of those chatty, but yawn-inducing "tea scenes", as Don Maass puts it. So, next time came and I jammed out this good scene outside Zydeco's apartment building with Mr. Patel, and my favorite character, Dr. Tension.

Good, good, I thought. Now, I wanted a scene upstairs with Zydeco and Magenta. And with me laying on Dr. Tension's couch, I began this crazy scene with Zydeco walking in on Magenta as she hacked away at something on the kitchen counter. There were rivers of blood flowing onto the linoleum, and Magenta looking around wild-eyed. You see, I thought it would be neat if, instead of buying from a butcher, she bought whole animals from a supplier and slaughtered them herself for the meat. I mean, she was a dragon and all. Dr. Tension was furiously taking notes from his chair while I typed away on his couch.

The scene began to spiral out of control and added all kinds of complications and unnecessary loose ends I was completely unready to deal with. Here's a lesson. Tension for tension's sake isn't a good idea. It was then I decided to bail for the night and go read The Lost Symbol. The next night, I tossed that entire scene and wrote a new one, that I'm genuinely pleased with. We have a bit of tension, and some chuckles courtesy of Magenta. Sometimes, she's Costello to Zydeco's Abbott. I also add some back story, revealing the name of the "world" from which all these mythological creatures came: Parable, and the world to which they thought they were headed: Fairway. I like those names. No idea why. Anyway, there's no blood flying through this scene, but there some pretty good cursing. Here's a sample:

Magenta shook me awake.

The lights were on and she stood over me with her hands on her hips. “What are you doing all slumped over on the wall? You’ve got a perfectly good bed, I thought.”

“Yeah, um….” Using the back of my hand, I mopped up the drool that ran from the corner of my mouth down my chin. I dragged myself to my feet. “How was the movie?”

She slid into her red wing chair. “Unbearable.”

I rubbed my eyes. “Why? What did you see?”

She sighed. “Eragon was playing at the second run theater. I had no idea. If that little bugger tried to climb on top of me, I would’ve eaten him, bones and all.”

I'd also been meaning to write Zydeco at Blaine's apartment with his family. Blaine is a gnome who lives with his family of gnomes, you see, and in my book, gnomes have an English accent. I have an eccentric grandmother, and the uptight cousin of Blaine's who she picks on mercilessly. I wrote that scene last night - long one, too. The entire time, bits of Fawlty Towers were playing in my head, but I don't think it really mattered. I actually kept thinking of Ron's Aunty Muriel in Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows. It was a brunch scene, and no tea was served. What do gnomes eat for breakfast? Omelettes, heavy on the mushrooms. A tiny sample (Aidan is Blaine's older cousin):

Aidan turned to me. “Didn’t you used to fly by the garden and snatch our Blaine up into the air?”

This brought me back and I nodded. “Yep, it’s true. I did.”

“I kept thinking, here’s this griffin come to snatch my little cousin. He’s done for. But then a few hours later, there you’d be, descending from the sky, with little Blaine clinging to your back, laughing his bloomin’ head off.”

Blaine was smiling, his eyes distant. “Great fun, that was. Nearly fell off once or twice.”

I need to do a little more plotting on the next few chapters, and continue to work on Zydeco's voice so that he brings that "mythological creature" perspective to life as a human. Good thing I'm still writing the first draft!

On to the next chapter!!!!

To see what I thought about the last chapter, slide on back to the previous entry if you like.


How would a griffin see our world?

This is the question for the day. Say you have a novel about mythological creatures who journeys from the mythological world into our regular work-a-day world. When these creatures arrive, they assume a human form, and assimilate over a short period of time. They fully experience human emotion. They ultimately see the world through their human eyes. However, they also carry with them a few of their mythical characteristics.

Consider this. Zydeco Cashcan is my protagonist in Mythos. He was a griffin. In our world, he is a teenager. He feels and act like a teenager. A griffin is half lion, and he carries with him the strength and hearing of such a beast. These are his unnatural powers, and that's all well and good. He's also unafraid of anyone or anything in our world, but that's not unique to being a griffin. Humans can be that way as well. He remembers his life as a griffin, and specific events from that life directly impact his human behavior.

I had also added what I thought was an interesting detail, where Zydeco was a 112 year-old griffin, which translated to a 16 year-old human. It's the whole "dog years" deal. A 112 year-old griffin is a teenager! But the good folks helping me out reading Mythos have all asked why he's not acting old, or at least seeing things through an 116 year-old POV. This was a tad frustrating until I realized the solution was right there. Drop it. The age-as-a-griffin thing was just a minor point, one I thought was a nice, but unimportant detail. I'm removing it.

Here's the question, though, and it's the one I'm pondering based on some really helpful feedback from some writer friends of mine. Because Zydeco lived as a mythical creature in a very different world, how would this general experience color his view of our world?

As a human, he lives and attends high school in a city with all its trappings: lights, buses, cabs, subways, noise, roads, tall buildings, school, books, coffee shops, tourists, televisions, people - loads and loads of people, etc. None of this applied to him as a griffin. He lived outdoors, and certainly not with millions of people crammed into a small area. He didn't get his food from a refrigerator in his apartment or at the school cafeteria. He didn't drink coffee, take the subway, spend money or go to the library. 

Of course, he has assimilated so now all of the above is "somewhat" normal to him. But, still... The fact that he was a griffin has to color how he sees the world now, otherwise he would be a one-dimensional super-hero. Doesn't it? Or, does it. Hmm. I'm trying to wrap my muddled brain around this. The stinkin' Jets game kept me up very late last night and left me disappointed and completely without sleep.

I look to my maternal grandmother as an example. She traveled alone to the United States as a young teenager, escaping certain death in a Polish concentration camp. She assimilated, but it certainly gave her a unique perspective. I need to find my inner griffin and then jump ahead a few years to life as a teen. 


Prospecting for lunar tang

Friday morning, my kids and I sat in the kitchen watching the live news coverage of mankind's latest lunar adventure. "We're bombing the moon!" shouted my son. Yeah, we launched some kind of kinetic missile at one of the moon's poles to see if we could, y'know, blow it up some. Our hopes were high that the projectile would hit the the man in the moon smack dab in the eye, thus causing him to sneeze all kinds of lunar boogers. That's technical terminology for causing some kind of dust and rock plume.

It didn't happen, though, and Matt Lauer was disappointed.

The space program has given us many wonderful things over the years, like velcro, dippin' dots and of course, tang. I figured if this whole thing worked out, we could thank them for a whole new way of digging residential wells. Heck, we were prospecting for water, right?

Don't get me wrong. I love NASA. My dad was one of the Grumman engineers who designed the lunar rover - his signature is up there on the rover even now. He also had a great sense of humor, and I think he'd laugh like hell at this video on FunnyOrDie.com.


Writin' on a Sunny Day

It's been a long bunch of days since I finished the last Mythos chapter. I spent one night at my son's high school helping the freshmen decorate their hall for spirit week. I did this until I realized I wasn't needed and then wound up going home and working (the actual stuff I get paid for) until I had to pick him up again. On Friday, my wife set off with some friends to see Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at Giants Stadium. That was kind of last minute, so the kids and I were on our own. This, of course, calls for dinner at Friendly's. Friendly's service being what it is, we were there for a couple of hours.

I finally got around to starting the next chapter somewhere around 10pm. Although Friday tends to be one of my more prolific writing nights, I'd almost fallen asleep in front of the TV during my time with the little kids. Coffee was in order. A mug of steaming Flavia later, I set out to write. I fired up MS Word, grabbed my character notes and Sasquatch notebook, which has all my plot ideas, and gazed up at the screen.

I believe I tweeted the word, "crap" at that point, because I came to the realization that my outline had a massive gap between the end of the last chapter and the next major plot development. After a change in musical accompaniment on VH1 radio, I began scratching out some ideas in the ol' green Sasquatch. Eventually, I buckled down and managed to scratch out 800 words. Not bad, considering I didn't think I had two paragraphs in me.

Saturday morning, I realized all I'd written belonged at the end of the prior chapter.  Phooey.  Okay, that chapter had been a little short.  Still, I've got some good stuff for the next chapter or two. There's another Zydeco/Magenta scene coming - really needed to build up their relationship some more. And then there'll be a funny scene with Zydeco and Blaine and Blaine's pad. Blaine lives with a family of former gnomes. I'm aiming for Monty Python. We'll see how it goes.

But wait, there's more. And it's not writing related. Well, maybe it is. I  joined my wife at the next Springsteen concert Saturday night. Since they're taking a wrecking ball to Giants Stadium when the football season is over this year (huge stadium next door being built for Giants/Jets), Bruce is playing the last set of concerts (5) at the stadium. Some highlights for you....

When there's an enormous (an 80,000 seat) edifice in the middle of what used to be primary parking for a football stadium, parking basically sucks. It took us 20-30 minutes driving at 3 mph through the parking roads until they got us into a lot. The tailgating was as good as any football game though. I only wish I'd had seats like these for the last Jets game I went to. 45 yard line, 30th row lower level. Dang. The music was, of course, awesome. This was the night to perform the entire Born in the U.S.A. album, and I got into Bobby Jean and No Surrender.

People watching - okay, there appeared to have been more beer consumed at the concert than at many a pre-season football game. At $8/8.50 a beer, people were drinking 4 - 8 per person. Jeez. We had a group of four couples behind and next to us (in their early 50's I'm guessing) who were royally toasted, and this one woman was dancing in front of her husband, basically dry humping him for about an hour and a half until they disappeared somewhere.  Actually, 3 of the 4 couples left, and only 2 of the women came back. One appeared as if she'd consumed and/or smoked something not fit for conscious beings. She swayed slowly with her eyes closed and a goofy smile on her face, nearly falling down once or twice.  Oh, and speaking of falling down...

A guy rolled/tumbled down the steps next to us. I'd say he fell about eight steps and took out somebody in the next aisle before stopping and getting to his feet. It took him a minute, but he seemed to get hold of himself and climb back up the stairs. No idea what happened to him.

Let's see. Oh, yes. They had these boom cameras scanning the crowd and projecting on these enormous screens on either side of the stage. There was a group moment of zen as a woman lifted her shirt and flashed her sizable pair for Bruce and 50,000 fans to see.

What else? Bruce brought a ten-year-old girl up on stage to sing a bit of Waitin' on a Sunny day with him. She sang right into the microphone, got a couple hugs and a picture with him. The girl is from our town - and is a friend of my daughter's. Heck, I even coached her in softball. This is like two or three degrees of separation, right? LOL.  Anyway, way to go Sarah! You done great!


Birth of a Novel - Part 3

This is the ninth entry in my Birth of a Novel series of posts, where I talk about the development of my new YA urban fantasy.

Let me start off by saying this was the first time I've written anything bordering on romantic. I've always been a "tension+action=plot with the occasional quiet interlude to let the reader breathe" sort of writer. But there I was, creating some teenage romance. Before anyone gets too excited (or horrified), it's nothing too squishy or explicit. Surprisingly, I knew exactly what I wanted and was able to pull it off. It was slow going, mind you, because I kept refining it. Normally, I let the words spill from my brain as they may and worry about cleaning it up later. The problem was that the muscle pumping behind my ribs was the real driving force for much of this chapter and the ol' noggin organ wasn't in sync. Hence the extra tweaking.

There were a couple things that made writing this scene quite fun. First off, Zydeco is really conflicted about the whole thing. It makes him extremely happy, but it also makes him think he's rejecting his past. As you might imagine, he's "all frigged up" inside, but to his credit, he's not acting that way.  Secondly, and most important to yours truly, I love these two characters, the other of which is Tameina. I feel like I know them and I am totally rooting for them. More so, because I know what terrible things I'll be doing to them as the book progresses. *evil grin*  So, it was unbelievably important for me to make these scenes very sweet. I tend to be more mechanical and less creative in my second and third drafts, so I was afraid to leave this stuff till then.

Okay, so where does that leave me? Ah, yes. The bad guy comes out in the open, more or less, and I dedicate about four pages to a preliminary good vs. evil stand-off. In business terms, it's the pre-meeting. You know the kind - it's like when Superman first meets Lex Luthor. It's not really "on" yet, if you catch my drift. I hope I built some "mood" suspense leading up to this meeting. Naturally, I'll wind up ripping it all out in later revisions, but for now it stays. :-)

Oh, and I have one simile I'm seriously worried about. I like it, but we'll see if anyone else does. I'm not sharing it here, though. *sticks tongue out*

What am I sharing? This bit.

“Why are you smiling?” I asked.

“Am I?” Her glasses reflected the green traffic light at the corner, and here, with the taxicabs zooming in and out of traffic, carrying fairs to their destination, it seemed ridiculous to think of her as anything more than a girl from school, a pretty, human girl who, along with Blaine, was my best friend in this world. And what she’d shown me in the library? Perhaps she has something, some ability, some kind of supernatural talent. Whatever it is, it doesn’t really matter to me. It is beyond hypocritical for we Mythos to doubt the unknown.

She gazed down at the fancy dinner I had provided for us, the corners of her mouth still raised upward. “I guess I’m just happy right now.”

On to the next chapter!!!!

To see what I thought about the last chapter, slide on back to the previous entry if you like.


A little Mythos and a lot of the agent/publisher list.

I seem to have forgotten that my blog isn't all about Mythos/Creatures. I have been busy writing, though. I'm in the middle of a chapter with its own complexities. It's really the first time I've ever written a romantic scene. I mean this sucker is by no means a romance novel, but there's teens with raging hormones, so y'know, it kind of comes up. But I really don't want to leave this chapter without certain aspects of it being "just right". I think I'm getting close to where I want it to be. But I'm ready to move on to the second half of the chapter.

I also spent time last night with something I've neglected for over a month. I have been maintaining a list of publishers and agents for the middle grade and young adult market. I do this in my portfolio on Writing.com. Since I write in the realm of MG/YA, and a lot of my writer friends do the same, this started out as a way for me to share with them some of the info I'd found. Considering all that I've learned from these folks, it was the absolute least I could do.

Medeia Sharif complimented me today on the list, and this caused me to go back and look at it in the larger sense. I'm generally in there adding or editing the content, validating the links and whatnot. This time I just looked at the whole. The first thing I noticed was that I actually began this thing over two years ago. What? Are you kidding me? Has it been that long? Sheesh.

I also noticed the size. My list currently has 36 publishers, and 104, count 'em, 104 agents. It's like I'm a stalker or something. I've also got some other helpful links on the list. I try to update the page about once a month. Change appears to be a constant within the publishing industry, so there's never a shortage of new information to put out there.

So please check out the list, use it, share it, and I'll try to keep it up to date. And if you have anything you think I should add or drop, please let me know!


Birth of a Novel - Part 2

This is the eighth entry in my Birth of a Novel series of posts, where I talk about the development of my new YA urban fantasy.

What a week. I don't want to bore anyone with my personal life, but let's just say it made writing a smidgen difficult. But it's all good now. And, as Howie Rose would say after a rare Mets victory this season, "Put it in the books!" A few things before I get into this chapter.

I alluded to this in a prior post, but my new working title for this book is now called, Mythos. I like the name better, and it's what Zydeco and all his creature pals call themselves anyway. It's pronounced "Mith-ohz" - not "Mith-ohs". :-)

The other bit of business is that I combined the previous six chapters into three. I was originally going for the, "the chapter is done when I think it's done" approach, but really, the chapters were too short. Thanks to Mireyah for reaffirming my belief in that. As a result, I've decided to drop the chapter numbers from the title of the Birth of a Novel series. This way, I won't have to renumber in case it happens again. And trust me, when I revise, nothing will ever look the same. So, y'all, we're inaugurating the rest of the series with the sublime title of "Part 2". The next post may well be "Part 3". Or maybe it won't. Maybe it'll be "Part 2, the sequel".

On to the book!

This chapter began with all kinds of fits and starts. I think it took me a few hours of constantly interrupted writing to get one page written. Still, one page is better than nothing, right? But in the last two nights, I've been on a role.

We're deep into Zydeco and Tameina now. That's what this is all about. Developing them. How do they act around each other? What mysteries do they hold? We all know Zydeco, being a mythological creature holds many mysteries. Guess what dudes. Tameina is not just this one dimensional girl who adores Zydeco. Okay, she totally digs Zydeco, but that's beside the point. You know how Shrek is an onion with layers? Or so said Donkey? This girl has layers. She is complex. She has layers and DUM DUM DUM!!!!! she has secrets too.

Most of this chapter takes place in the city public library. There's one bit where they walk up the great stone steps to the front door of what many readers may assume is the New York City public library. Probably because Zydeco initially notices the marble lions. That library is definitely the inspiration, but this novel takes place in a fictional city. There's a bit of New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and maybe some San Francisco in this city. Anyway, much to Zydeco's surprise and dismay, only the back half of the marble statues are lions. Hint hint. I'm not divulging anything else.

Anyhow, a little taste of this chapter -

We plopped onto the plastic stools attached to a round cafeteria table. I tore into a bag of chips before we split a snickers bar. Damn, I love snickers bars. Sadly, though, I encountered a slight eating disorder right then, and somehow a large uneaten hunk slipped down my chin and hit the floor despite my feeble attempts to catch it.

Tameina snorted, and then covered her mouth, her eyes wide. Apparently this disorder was catching.

I picked up the chocolate from the linoleum floor. It lay in my hand mocking me.

That's cute. It reveals nothing, except the fact that they both are on the slobbish side of life?

I do have some concerns about this chapter. I didn't really move the plot to the next crucial point yet. That will be in the next chapter, as it is presently mapped out. You see, I had this idea about a bizarre room in the library where strange things happen. As I began to write the scene, serious doubts crept in as to whether this was a good idea. It wasn't central to the story, and as I've learned, if it ain't what makes the choo-choo go, then it's just slowing the train down.

But a funny thing happened as I wrote it. The characters took over. They showed me the way. And while it's not central to the key plot line and conflict, it definitely moves along an idea I had about a subplot for Tameina. And it makes her that much more complex. I think I like it. We'll see what my awesome YA group members think when they critique it.

The next installment is sitting here, just a'waitin' for ya.

To see what I thought about the last chapter, hop on back to the previous entry if you like.


Writing and Reading

News on Creatures, a.k.a. Creatures of Knucklehead City. I have a new name - Mythos. The Mythological Creatures refer to themselves by that name, and I think it's slicker than Creatures. It was while reading Sandman Slim that I realized my characters needed to refer to themselves in a much niftier way than, "Creatures". Know why? My mythological creatures are all seriously cool.

Also, I have come to the realization that the chapters are too short, and that, fortunately, chapters 1 and 2 belong together, and the same for 3 & 4, and 5 & 6. So, on my next Birth of a Novel post, I'm going to have to rejigger the chapter numbering for those of you who've been following along.

Speaking of Sandman Slim, it is one of those books that keeps you turning the page. There are no chapters, only scenes. And the pace is frantic - it just keeps going and going and driving and driving and you can't put it down because just when you think you're about to hit a moment of calm, BANG!

Okay, okay. So now the last few books I've read were not YA. I need to jump back into some YA, lest I lose my YA voice. I suppose I could watch and listen to me son, but he mostly complains about all the homework in high school. That wouldn't make for a super interesting character, eh?

I've got some ideas, but if anyone reading this has any recommendations, please pass them along. They don't have to be fantasy or sci-fi, although I'm almost ready to read Ender's Game again. Please, no vampire books. I've read Dracula and that is the bible. Okay, if there's a truly unique YA vampire book that isn't the same as everything else, then by all means. Oh, I've already read the Graveyard Book... which I also loved. Of course, that's middle grade, but still, great book.


Birth of a Novel - Chapter 6

This is the seventh entry in my Birth of a Novel series of posts, where I talk about the development of my new YA urban fantasy.

It took a week to finish this chapter. Why, you ask? Life got in the way, dangnabbit! I finished ch 5 last Friday, then I was busy all weekend with family and friend commitments. Then it was Monday, a holiday, and we took the kids to see Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince in IMAX (a bit of 3d thrown in), so we were out most of the day. Finally, I got down to a bit of writing Monday and Tuesday night, then it was Freshman parent night at my son's high school on Wednesday. Then Thursday I worked on Frankie's awesome blog. So here we are. Friday night again. My friend Friday. Apparently, I'm a productive writer Friday nights.

Wow, what a rant.

In a nutshell, this chapter is the follow up to chapters 1 & 2, starring Zydeco, Blaine & Octavio, with a couple new characters thrown in. Blaine's got himself a date for the prom, but Zydeco doesn't! Zydeco is the obvious prize and everyone knows it, but he's just... oh, I don't know. Let's say he's saving himself. Sadly, he's saving himself for a time that's already passed.

I weaved in the official antagonist, via the network news. He's a funny looking little guy who goes by the name of Phineas Malice. Like the name? Is it evil enough? Think of Phineas as a cross between Teddy Roosevelt and a walrus. Oh, and he has henchmen -- Hunter is one -- and he's the Deputy Mayor of the city.

I'm not going to go into too much detail about what really happens in this chapter, but it's pretty important. Let's just say, you won't be hearing from Octavio for a while.

The tricky part of this chapter was the fact that I had the three characters you know: Zydeco, Blaine & Octavio. But I also introduced two minor characters - who, I think, will reappear later on. Five people inclusive in one scene. For me, that's tricky business. How do I keep them from being talking heads? How do I keep the reader from feeling like they're a pinball? I think I managed it.

At the same time, I needed to introduce the real bad guy. Phineas is the Emperor to Hunter's Darth Vader, by the way. In any case, I didn't want Phineas interacting with anyone just yet, but I wanted the threat of him hanging low over our beloved characters. In coming chapters he will definitely hang lower. Wow, that sounds weird. Anyway.

I had a couple of metaphors and similes, and some imagerythat took me a while to get right too. I hope they came out okay, and aren't sledgehammers.

So, here's how the chapter ends - it certainly doesn't give anything away, but it so typifies Zydeco and Blaine's relationship (which will make future events stronger when I put Blaine in some serious danger).

I stared at him. “You know what? You’re depressing me, Blaine. I rely on you to keep my funny valves lubricated. What a disappointment.”

He lifted his head and faced me. A smile worthy of the Grinch appeared on his face. “How vulgar.”

The next installment is floating around here.

To see what I thought about finishing chapter five, you can zip back to the previous entry if you like.