Monday, March 28, 2011

You've GOT to see THIS!

This is the just released book trailer for Jessica Bell's highly anticipated debut novel, String Bridge. Not only is this trailer hauntingly beautiful, but its music track features Jessica singing the lyrics and accompanying herself on the guitar. She IS my definition for crazy-talented!

Enjoy the video first, then read on to learn how you can be in the running to win fabulous book prizes, including signed copies of String Bridge!

Here's a blurb from Jessica's blog post today:

I would really like to get the trailer for String Bridge circulating around the Internet. Do you think you could help me out?.....It's easy. All you have to do is link to my BOOK TRAILER somewhere on the web. In return, I am giving away FIVE books (from a choice of fifteen) -- so that's FIVE WINNERS (open internationally)....

For all the contest information, shoot over to Jessica's blog post (LINK here). See you there!!

Oh, and Jessica? Congrats on this awesome trailer, and on all your successes, present and future!


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

My Second Crusader Challenge Entry

The Challenge:

Write a flash fiction story (in any format) in 100 words or less, excluding the title. Begin the story with the words, “The goldfish bowl teetered” These four words will be included in the word count.

Inside a Fishbowl

The goldfish bowl teetered on the table’s edge.  Marilyn jerked back her finger, leaving another greasy fingerprint.  Inside, tiny swells crashed, sloshed backward.  Marilyn glared at the fish.  It hovered, serene, unaffected by the waves she caused or by her unwavering vigilance.  She scowled and jabbed the bowl again.  Too hard

The bowl plunged from its perch.  Shards of wet glass splattered across white, sterile tile.  The goldfish floundered, gills gaping and yawning, sucking useless air.  Marilyn’s mouth twitched.  Balancing, she stomped, ground her heel. Lab coat-clad men scribbled on clipboards on the other side of the plate glass windows.

(100 words)

Check out other challenge entries by Crusaders HERE!

Thanks for reading!              


Monday, March 21, 2011

Field Trip ~ Mortuary

Artwork by ~En-Gel

We rode together in Courtney's Yukon to the funeral home.  It was the first time I'd been in her car, even though we go back nine years.  Actually, in all that time, I'd never met her outside the hair salon.

With gas prices so high, it didn't make sense to drive separate cars the seventy miles, round trip.  But the real reason?  Neither of us wanted to be alone with our thoughts.

Courtney had called me the night before.  Again, I'm usually the one calling her, to make my hair appointments.  But she'd remembered months ago I'd asked about her training, and about whether mortuary beauticians also learned their trade in regular beautician schools, or if there were specialized schools for that industry.  At the time, she told me there hadn't been anything in her curriculum about mortuary hair and make-up techniques.  But she had worked on deceased clients.

Our eyes had met in the mirror.  See, I was crafting a character at the time and was seeking avenues for research.  I picked Courtney's brains that day, the whole while she worked on my hair.

So she thought of me when her friend contacted her last week.  

Her friend's family was in the throes of tragedy.  Courtney's friend's brother-in-law, Carl had been going through a lot recently.  Work sucked.  He'd been fighting with his brother.  His girlfriend split with him.  But no one thought he'd take his own life.  He was just twenty-four.

On the phone, Courtney asked if I'd like to go with her in the morning to cut Carl's hair.  It's one thing to want direct experience when researching for fiction, but the reality of this situation took my breath away.  Still, I couldn't -- wouldn't -- pass up the opportunity.  I wanted to know too much.

Of course, I wanted to be able to describe the inner chambers of a funeral home.  What you see, smell, hear.  But I was more curious about the people who work there.  I'd read that mortuary staff view their work primarily as services they provide for the surviving family, to comfort them and minimize their grief, by laying their loved one to rest in a way that honors that life.  But the staff works, hands-on, with dead bodies.  How, I wondered, do they maintain a level of professionalism that weaves compassion with the detachment necessary for their line of work

We walked into the funeral home.  A faint smell of cut flowers hung in the air.  My heart was pounding.  I couldn't really feel my feet as I walked down the carpeted corridor to a glossy, wooden door with a plague that read 'Business Office.'

We were led by a young, round woman, whose red beaded necklace jingled as she walked, to the end of a back hallway.  She asked us to wait there and she'd "pulled him out."  Courtney and I exchanged a nervous glance as the woman disappeared behind a door.

My body was in a heightened state of awareness but my mind had gone into numb survival mode.  I felt like I'd accepted a dare and passed the point of no return, only now I questioned whether I wanted to -- could -- follow through.   Too late.  The door opened again and the woman ushered us in.

Carl lay on a gurney in the center of the small room.  He was dressed in a suit but covered from the chest down by a blue blanket that hung halfway to the floor.  I could tell that beneath the blanket his hands lay folded on his stomach, and his shoes lay flat so that his heels faced each other, toes pointing at the walls to the left and right.  The floral scent of the hallway was gone, replaced by what smelled like my fifth grade science classroom, the week we dissected fetal pigs.  Only stronger.

Courtney told the woman she'd brought a drape from the salon.  The woman thought it wasn't necessary, that normally they simply placed towels under and around the head to catch the hair clippings.  From a wall of cabinets to the right, the woman retrieved two white, bath-sized towels.  She plopped the short stack on Carl's chest.  Carefully, she slipped a hand under Carl's head and lifted, pulling the neck stand away.  His neck was surprisingly pliant.  With her free hand, she snapped open a towel and maneuvered it to cover the end of the gurney.  It started to slip, and Courtney grabbed the towel and held it until the woman had the neck stand back in place.

She tucked the edges of the bottom towel  under Carl's shoulders, then draped the second towel across his chest.  She pulled the center edge up under his chin and flattened the rest down the backs of his shoulders.  When she was satisfied, she asked Courtney if she needed anything, then left us alone.

By now, I'd been in the room about five minutes.  My heart rate had slowed, but when I walked closer to help Courtney get her hair dryer and clipper cords plugged in, I noticed my feet were still numb.

I've been to wakes and funerals.  This was not the first time I'd looked at a dead person.  But it was the first time I'd stood over one, close enough to see the wrinkles in his skin, the glisten of glue holding his lips closed, the stitches, barely visible, woven into his eyelashes.

Courtney misted Carl's hair with a water bottle, working the humidity in with her fingers.  "Feels like mannequin hair," she commented.  She worked the scissors at increasingly complicated angles, cutting as best she could considering her client was flat on his back.

During this time, there was a shift in my sub-conscious mind.  All remnants of fear dissipated.  I was at ease on a level that I couldn't have imagined fifteen minutes before.  It was surprising to realize.  It was very clear to me that Carl was not there.  His life-force, his soul, his energy had moved on, and we were attending to his human shell, left behind.  I can see people's auras.  I tried hard to see Carl's.  There wasn't anything to see, not a shimmer, not a color, not a thing.

Going around Carl's ear with the clippers, Courtney touched him.  She'd been trying hard not to come in contact with his skin, out of respect, I think.  But she looked at me after she nudged him.  "He's so cold," she said.  

I moved next to her, hovered my hand above his face.  Cold radiated from him.  With as much gentle reverence as I could muster, I grazed the tip of his ear with the the top side of my index finger.  It was stiff, velvety soft, and cold.  Sadness squeezed my heart.  Things could have been different for this beautiful human being.  So sad.

Within thirty minutes, Courtney was finished.  I asked her how she was feeling, as we packed up her gear.  She said she never feels sad in here, working on people she knew.  But she anticipated breaking down at the wake the following evening.  She said that's when it usually hits her.

The atmosphere in the car on the way home was more animated than the ride there.  We talked a lot about what we'd just experienced together.  I felt the exhilaration that follows a long period of fearful anticipation.  Or maybe it was because I'd just lived an hour wholly present, in the moment.  Either way, I felt good.

It took a few hours, though, before I didn't think I smelled formaldehyde everywhere.



Friday, March 18, 2011

Think Positive ~ Good Things Follow

The power of positive thinking can never be understated.

After months of mild, lingering depression, I have finally turned a corner.  It wasn't easy to pull myself out of my computer chair, but once I did I was able to put into action a plan I'd devised to combat my sadness.

When you feel down, it's so easy to isolate yourself and wait for it to pass on its own.  Sometimes it even works. But prolonged depression is a dangerous, slippery slope.  Before I realized what had happened, the sadness had lashed itself about me, binding my arms, my creativity.

This week has been different.  I feel light-spirited.  Happy!  I laugh with my kids, snuggle up with my husband, reach out to my friends.  It's been a really, really good week.

So what made this week different?

On Monday morning, I headed to the Athens Botanical Gardens, maintained by the University of Georgia.  The manicured lawns and plotted flower and herb gardens are gorgeous, but if you hit the trails beyond the electric enclosure, erected to keep deer and other forest foragers away from the plants, you quickly forget you are inside city limits.  The trails are rugged, like being on the side of a mountain.  There are stretches that follow the swift-moving Oconee River, or babbling brooks.  When the trails head up steep hills, you have to lift your knees and reach with your feet, hoist yourself up the knobby, exposed roots of forty-foot trees.  Really gets your heart rate up.

I was so invigorated from the four-mile hike that I went back yesterday.  I explored more trails, felt the sun on my face, felt my muscles working.

(I'm working on a little project, born from these hikes, and I'll share it next week.)

The other outing this week was a "writer's field trip," of sorts.  I worked on a character back during the holidays, a young woman afraid to live her authentic life, held back by the childhood death of her sister which she witnessed.  I'd decided she would choose, as a career, a hair and make-up artist in a funeral home.  Later in the story, as she faced her inner conflicts, she would leave that job to pursue her true life passions.  I'd asked my hair stylist if she'd learned in beautician school about mortuary work.  She hadn't, but she had been asked by family members to work on deceased clients.

Such a job came up this week.  She called me.  Would I be interested in assisting her?  Wow.  I was terrified, but I grabbed the opportunity.

On Monday, I'll tell you about that experience.

Until then, have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Congrats Carolina Valdez Miller!!!

Have you heard the AWESOME news?  The fabulous Carolina Valdez Miller has signed with an agent!!!

It was only a matter of time.  Someone of Carolina's talent, humor, and positive energy is destined for greatness.  And now, the next stretch of her path is bathed in light and she can see where she's headed.  I'm so happy for her!!

Help her celebrate by getting in on this fabulous giveaway. Here's the 411, directly from her blog:

Agent Signing Celebration Mega Giveaway

Winner 1: A 1st page critique from my agent Vickie Motter!

Winner 2:
slate-shasta-main-wifiA Kindle Wireless Reading Device

In order to win this one, you will need to follow all the blogs in the giveaway to qualify.

Winner 3:
escapingintotheopenSigned copy of Escaping into the Open: the Art of Writing True by Elizabeth Berg

Winner 4:
shadeSigned Hardback of Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready

Winner 5:
passingstrangeSigned Hardback of Passing Strange by Daniel Waters



(You will need to subscribe or follow her RSS feed)

One winner will win: 
WRITING DOWN THE BONES, by Natalie Goldberg
HOW NOT TO WRITE A NOVEL, by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman

One winner will win all three:
  • Stephen King's ON WRITING
    • Ray Bradbury's ZEN IN THE ART OF WRITING
  • Anne Lamott's BIRD BY BIRD

(In lieu of a follow, you will need to LIKE her Fan page)
Winner 1: A signed copy of MISFIT MCCABE (or ebook)
Winner 2: A signed copy of NOWHERE FEELS LIKE HOME (or ebook)
 Winner 3: A canvas book bag

One winner takes all 3:
A signed copy of THE DARK DIVINE
A signed copy of RAISED BY WOLVES

A $25 Amazon gift card

A $25 Amazon gift card

A Hardcover of Across the Universe

A Signed copy of PERSONAL DEMONS by Lisa Desrochers

(You will need to subscribe to her blog)

101 Success Secrets for Gifted Kids: The Ultimate Guide
A partial Critique

A $15 Barnes and Noble gift card

Winner 1: DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth

ANGELFIRE by Courtney Allison Moulton
ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by Stephanie Perkins
HEX HALL by Rachel Hawkins 
DEMONGLASS by Rachel Hawkins

To enter her giveaway, please click here and fill out the form on her blog.

As for me, I'm off on a writer's field trip.  I won't say where I'm going, but I will say it's going to be the most gruesome, fascinating research trip of my writing career.  Wish me luck!  *hopes she doesn't pass out*

I'll share details later.  Until then, have a great day!


Monday, March 14, 2011


It's supposed to snow in northern Japan.

As if the monster 8.9 earthquake and ensuing tsunami weren't enough, or the terrifying 400+ aftershocks -- some up to 7.0 on the Richter Scale, now search and rescue operations will be further hindered by snow. Temperatures will drop to the 20s and 30s, while whole communities have no electricity, or experience rolling blackouts, as experts scramble to avoid a nuclear meltdown disaster. My heart goes out to survivors of this horrific natural disaster.

Puts things in perspective, doesn't it? I've been wallowing in my creative slump for too long. Yeah, it sucks feeling blocked. But I'm warm. I'm not hungry, or thirsty. Everyone in my family is safe and accounted for.

Today, I'm grateful for all I have. But that just doesn't seem good enough, to me.

I will celebrate what I have. It's an honor to have a roomy, beautiful home to live in. Beginning today, I'm going to kick-start my trusted daily cleaning schedule. Monday is Power-Clean-the-Kitchen Day. Each day this week, I'll focus on another room in the house. By next week, the whole house will sparkle and I'll shift into daily maintenance mode. A house is shelter, but it's more than a building. It protects my family life, keeps us together and safe, healthy and happy. I'm grateful for it.

When I'm finished cleaning, I'm getting out of the house! Away from my computer, away from my blockages. Many of you suggested last week that I stop trying so hard to write, get outside, commune with nature, breathe. I'm driving to the Botanical Gardens in Athens. There's a great five mile nature trail that follows the Oconee River before wrapping around the wetlands that give rise to deciduous forests. I'm taking along fruits, nuts & raisins, and plenty of water. I'll have my camera and my journal. I'll celebrate my good health, my vitality, and the beautiful, powerful planet -- capable of supporting life...capable of whisking it away.

Today is about being grateful, celebrating blessings. And praying for those whose blessings lie on rubble.

What are you most grateful for?


Thursday, March 10, 2011

GOT To Work It Out

It's been quiet on this blog.  The only muscles I've been working lately are trained in a place like there, in the image to the left.  My writing muscles?  Tight.  Cold.  Atrophied.

Is this what writer's block is?  When you stare at the screen and nothing, I mean NOTHING inspirational comes to mind?

I touch the computer keys; my fingertips settle into the grooves.  But they just sit there.

I grab a pen and notebook.  Go downstairs.  To a cafe.  To a park bench.  I doodle little cartoon characters.  They don't have arms.  They can't write, either.

Something's going to happen.  This has to pass!

But not today.   It's ten a.m., and I'm sick of staring at this monitor.
Think I'll go to the gym.

Hope you're having more writing luck than me today!


Monday, March 7, 2011

The Liar Society Virtual Launch Party

HUGE congrats going out to Lisa and Laura Roecker, blogger superstars and authors of just-released The Liar Society!

Join them today on their blog Lisa and Laura Write, where they're celebrating their debut novel with a virtual launch party.  Throughout the day they'll share snippets of video from the live launch party held over the weekend and offer chances to win prizes.  It's going to be a blast!

See you over there!


Friday, March 4, 2011

Gone But Not Forgotten!

Today is the Gone But Not Forgotten Blogfest, hosted by the lovely Erinn Alicia, Holly, Pam and Quinta.  As Erinn explains on her blog, "Nothing is meant to last forever...Sadly there are many AMAZING shows no longer on the air.  Does this mean we forget them? No!...List your top 5 TV shows no longer making NEW episodes. They may still be on the air but in syndication.  These shows may be GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN."

Here's my List of Top 5 Favorite TV Shows No Longer in Production:

5.  ROSEANNE -- Every character: hilarious. Every episode: hilarious.  This cast never shied away from hard-core issues facing working class American families.  But while they tackled topics like teen pregnancy, debt, infidelity and masturbation, they infused every scene with irresistible humor.  If a syndicated episode is airing on TV Land today, my channel surfing halts and I watch, even if there's only seven minutes left in the show, to the end.  Still so good!   


4.  FRIENDS -- I'll never forget the first episode I ever saw of Friends.  I was in Bangui, the capital city of the Central African Republic, welcoming in the new group of Peace Corps volunteers, fresh off the plane from the States.  I'd been in the bush without electricity or running water for a year, so things like standing under a running shower or watching a television were bizarre luxuries.  The new recruits had brought a VHS tape with three episodes of Friends. "What's Friends?" I asked.  Their jaws dropped.  "YOU don't know FRIENDS??" they gasped.  I realized that day what a difference a year makes.

3. SEINFELD -- Thursday nights, all six of us 'house-mates' in Washington D.C. got together for the best TV line-up of the 90s: Northern Exposure (which was actually on CBS, I think...after which we'd switch to NBC), then The Simpsons, then Seinfeld.  We may or may not have partied through those evenings....all I remember is LMAO during Seinfeld.  Funniest show about nothing, evah.

2.  GUIDING LIGHT -- I started watching Guiding Light with my aunt, my cousin and my grandmother the summer I was ten.  In 33 years, I rarely missed an episode -- with the exception of the stretch between early 1994 and late 2000, when I lived overseas.  Even when I was a college student, I made sure I never scheduled a class between 3:00 and 4:00.  Some may say it's silly, but a cast you've known for so long, whose children you see born and raised, become your extended family.  I cried like a baby on September 18, 2009 when the final episode aired.  Still so sad...

1. LOST -- I watched the pilot of LOST in September 2004.  I was moved, mesmerized, and completely hooked on the show.  I never missed an episode, but I can't claim to have figured out, or even remember, a majority of the story-lines.  Everything about this show appealed to me: how at the outset the viewer was as much a stranger to the characters as they were to each other; how each character's layers were peeled away through flashbacks; how the themes of science and faith collided over and over.  I loved watching for "Easter Eggs," the important clues, images, and people inconspicuously present in the background of different scenes.  And to mark the turning point in the series, the writers introduced flash-forwards, where instead of seeing into a character's past, we saw him in the future.  As if that didn't twist our perceptions enough, the writers created flash-sideways, which offered glimpses into alternate realities.  The viewer was left, disoriented at times, to figure out what was really going on.  For me, it was all brilliant.  LOVED it!  Can't wait to watch the whole series again on DVD.

Any of your favorites appear on my list?  What shows would you add?

And to hop to the other participating blogs, check out Erinn's Mr. Linky list at Something to Distract Me.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Literary Fiction Crusaders

Short post today because I'm sooo behind visiting all my awesome fellow Crusaders' blogs this week.  It seemed wrong to keep posting on my own blog when I haven't reciprocated the lovely visits I've enjoyed.  So instead, I'd like to introduce you to the kindred spirits in my Crusading Group.

These authors are literary fiction's newest voices!  Check them out today  J

Group 12 – Literary Fiction 

1. Claire Gregory (All the World's Our Page) Literary fiction, adult fiction (focussing on Australian family saga and First World War topics) 

2. LV (Literary Friction) [Twitter] Literary fiction, erotic fiction, contemporary, psychological 

3. Pam Parker (Finding Meaning with Words) [Twitter] Literary fiction (novel and short stories) 

4. Nicole Ducleroir (One Significant Moment at a Time) [Twitter] Literary fiction, women's lit, mainstream 

5. Nikki (Raising Marshmallows) Picture books, YA, Literary Fiction 

6. Pensheep (A Writerly Pensheep) [Twitter] Speculative fiction, literary fiction 

7. Linda Katmarian (Scheherezade's Journal) Mainstream fiction, literary fiction

8. Danette (There's a place I dream) [Twitter] Literary fiction

9. Len L (Conversations with Self) MG, Literary women’s fiction

10. Tina DC Hayes (Tina DC Hayes, Author at Large) Romantic suspense, literary fiction

11. Alberta Ross (Alberta's Sefuty Chronicles) [Twitter] Dystopian (post apocalyptic post-climate change speculative science fiction) 

And for a full list of the talented writers taking part in this Crusade, visit this page at Rachael Harrie's blog!

Have a fantastic Hump Day!