Monday, December 31, 2012

One Good Thing...

I was in a quandary; what do you get your 101 year old grandmother for her birthday? She has everything she needs and more than she wants. I thought about 100 stems of flowers, but in November, even carnations cost a small fortune and she gets tons of flowers. She once told me it was like a funeral home with all the bouquets and arrangements she received. Even though she protested she didn't want anything, I couldn't let her birthday pass without something.

In the end, I gave her nothing--but wishes and hopes and dreams.


It's a decorative mason jar filled with wishes like, "A bowl of your favorite ice cream." Here are some others:

*The smell of fresh cut grass
*Knowing how much you're loved
*A great book to thrill you
*A day without annoying phone calls
*A happy day
*Hope for the world
*Quiet time with God
*A spectacular sunset
*Remembering where you left your keys
*A visit with the new baby ducks
*An emergency bottle of wine in the cabinet

Some were very personal to her:
*A Republican president
*A decadent birthday cake
*Eating dinner in your jammies
*Osama Bin Laden's obituary
*The smell of snow

Once I got started, it wasn't hard to come up with 101. I could have gone on for 200 or more. Sadly, my grandmother passed on--at 105--and she saw almost all these wishes come true. I have her jar sitting in my office and when I browse through the wishes, it makes me smile and feel like she's dropping in for a visit.

And it's inspired me, as the New Year approaches, to create not a wishing jar, because we're all always wishing for something, but a "Blessing Jar." This is not my idea, I heard of it from somewhere and I wish I could give them proper credit but I can't remember who to thank! I'm taking a plain mason jar (which held pickles (and still smells like them- gotta remember to leave it open to air out) and whenever I can, I'm going to put in a slip of paper of something good that I've been blessed with. The first good thing for 2013 is that I'm alive to see it rung in, and to have the opportunity to accomplish and be and learn and give so much more than 2012.

Wishing you all many blessings, opportunities, hopes and dreams,

Char

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Next Big Thing Meme

What's the next big thing you ask? I was tagged by the adorable Cesya McRae Cuono (The Collector, Battle Scars) and the remarkable Shannon Delaney (13 to Life series, Weather Witch series) to join their blog tags for The Next Big Thing Meme. So, here it goes:

What is the working title of your next book?
Blonde Ops, which is co-authored with Natalie Zaman, or Lethal Dose, my solo novel.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
Our editors at Thomas Dunne (St Martins) Books, Peter Joseph and Kat Brzozowski, came up with the idea for Blonde Ops (‘Jane’ Bond, Roman Style), and Lethal Dose was my NaNoWriMo project.

What genre does your book fall under?
Blonde Ops is YA hacker adventure humor (is that a new genre?) and Lethal Dose is a sci fi adventure.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Hmmm. For Blonde Ops, I think Bec Jackson, the main character would be great played by Chloe Grace Morelz (500 Days of Summer, Hugo, Dark Shadows). Of course my co-author may disagree… For Lethal Dose, I would like the main character Dalen to be played by Sean Faris (Christmas With Holly, Bonnie& Clyde, Burn).

 What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? Blonde Ops –Bec Jackson is a non-conformist teenager who becomes “Jane” Bond, and goes to Italy, taking her hacker skills to save the First Lady. Lethal Dose- Dalen doesn’t poison anyone who doesn’t want it—or deserve it.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? Blonde Ops will be published by Thomas Dunne (St Martins) and debuts Spring 2014. Lethal Dose is on my laptop, awaiting the final chapters and mucho polishing before it goes to my agent.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Blonde Ops took several weeks for the first draft, but that was working from a detailed chapter by chapter synopsis. If you add synop & ms writing time, a little less than six months. Lethal Dose was written as a NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) project, so it took 28 days (I skipped the last two, but I guess I should have finished it.) I’m hoping to finish it by the end of December, so two months!

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? I think Blonde Ops could be compared with Ally Carter’s Uncommon Criminals series. Lethal Dose I really have no idea because it involves science fiction elements and a teenaged poisoner. Maybe you know one?

Who or what inspired you to write this book? Our agent, Natalie Lakosil of Bradford Lit, sent our book Sirenz to Kat and Peter. They were looking for someone to write a book based on an idea they had. Our style meshed with their need. As for Lethal Dose, the idea of a teenage poisoner, who helps support his family a little like Katniss in Hunger Games, roaming around different planets because Earth was destroyed by an asteroid fascinated me. I wanted to do something completely different from the Sirenz series and Blonde Ops.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Hmmm. For Blonde Ops, I think Bec Jackson, the main character, would be great played by Chloe Grace Morelz (500 Days of Summer, Hugo, Dark Shadows). Of course my co-author may disagree… For Lethal Dose, I would like the main character Dalen to be played by Sean Faris (Christmas With Holly, Bonnie& Clyde, Burn). 
 

Who or what inspired you to write this book? Our agent, Natalie Lakosil of Bradford Lit, sent our book Sirenz to Kat and Peter. They were looking for someone to write a book based on an idea they had. Our style meshed with their need. As for Lethal Dose, the idea of a teenage poisoner, who helps support his family a little like Katniss in Hunger Games, roaming around different planets because Earth was destroyed by an asteroid fascinated me. I wanted to do something completely different from the Sirenz series and Blonde Ops.

What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest? Blonde Ops has fashion, technology, international intrigue, an Italian hunk… And Lethal Dose has a male main character who uses poisons, but with a caveat- he doesn’t poison children, the innocent, or for political/monetary gain.

Now that you've gotten your sneak peek, let me tell you about my co-horts-

I met Cesya at PAYA (Pennsylvania loves YA). Another person with a severe obsession for writing and reading, we chat on FB and she was the first to intvite me to The Next Big Thing Meme blog tag. Look for her book, "The Collector" to debut shortly- she's started the countdown on her blog.

Shannon I met at Unmask the Writer Within, a Halloween event thrown by friends Melissa Marie and Patricia Locatelli and the Mysteries on Main Street Book Store. (Great peeps, all!) We've done a few signings together and keep in touch via FB too. Watch for her new series, The Weather Witch a 'stormpunk' novel which debuts soon too.

So now I pass the torch to my fellow KidLit author and friend, Alissa Grosso (Popular, Ferocity Summer). I met Alissa through Natalie, we had a very nice lunch at a tea house, and we've been doing signings and meeting at the annual SCBWI conference together since then. She has a new book coming out, but I'll let her tell you about it...

And between Cesya, Shannon, Alissa and myself, it looks like there will be plenty of exciting books coming out. Stay tuned!

Char







Monday, December 17, 2012

Counting Down and Adding Up...

This is my little author tree in my office.


 See the owl ornament on top, the squirrel in the middle and bottom, and the acorn toward the right? Those were all gifts from Nat, in 'honor' of my middle grade novel, Evolution Revolution: Simple Machines (languishing in publishing purgatory). The swan was also from Nat for Sirenz Back In Fashion. The diamond ring in the blue box I bought for Sirenz Back In Fashion.

From another view:

(You can see the ring ornament better.) The two bells are because I play in two, sometimes three bell choirs in my church. I love music, but since my jaw surgery, I can't sing in the choir or play violin in our Festival Orchestra. :( But I have my bells. The red shoe (fabulous!) I bought myself for the debut of Sirenz. Down at the bottom left, there's a Barbie ornament from Nat that is a fashion window that lights up! That was for when we were working on Sirenz, dreaming of the day when we'd be published. The little pink tree under the bells has little ornaments of....shoes! :) I think the hubs bought that one, but I can't remember. The feather is for Sirenz Back In Fashion, from Nat. (You'll have to read the book to understand the significance, along with the ring box.) Underneath you might be able to see my dragon and wizard ornaments (I have a small collection, and a story to go with them).

One more view:

Yep, another squirrel and red shoe ornament. People understand I have this obsession with ornaments and Christmas--both have to mean something. You can't see it, but there are two other ornaments that don't really show up in the pictures: a bronze ornament at the top, underneath the star, depicting the Holy Family, and a Nativity scene underneath the tree which was hand carved in the Holy Land. It's a reminder for me to keep the holidays in perspective. No matter how much success I have, or don't have, not even my little tree is all about me. There are bigger things, like the meaning of the holiday.

So for all you traveling for Christmas, Channukah, the Solstice, the New Year, please be careful, be kind, be generous, be the kind of person you dream you can be.

Holiday Blessings,

Char

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

What I DIDN'T Get Out of NaNoWriMo

I got my little award certificate for reaching the goal of 50,000+ words (actually 51,115) in 28 days.What didn't come with the award certificate?

A complete draft. 50,000 is probably about 3/4s of my book, tentatively titled Lethal Dose. It's a sci-fi, which tend to be longer than other genres except high fantasy. So I'm not done. I figure I have another 25,000 -35,000 words to write.

A perfect manuscript ready to go out. Notwithstanding the manuscript being incomplete, this draft is so rough I would be embarrassed to have my name on it if it went out now. My main character, Adara, is now a guy named Dalen. (Adara became the little sister). Guys think differently so I'm going to have to reword some of the dialogue and inner thoughts. (As if I understood how males think in the first place. My life, surrounded by the males in my house, would be simpler if I did.) I know there are gaps in time- hard to keep track of the days when I'm writing as fast as I can to meet a goal. Accuracy and fine details aren't in the queue. Some scenes will need to be deleted entirely, others reworked.

Pressure. There was no pressure from liaisons to pony up each day to meet my quota of blood, sweat and words, which was good since I missed a large chunk of time from Superstorm Sandy and had to play catch up (which makes me even prouder. Don't I deserve a special golden certificate, for achieving goal under fire?) Not once did I get an email or flag when I visited the NaNoWriMo site to update my count that I was seriously behind a lot of other people across the globe. There was no shame, just little emails from both pubbed writers and facilitators with pick me ups and encouragement in a special mailbox if I wanted to read them. Sometimes I did out of curiosity, but let's face it, I'm anal enough that I'll finish the ms even if it probably should be scrapped. I can't leave unfinished business.

A offer of a contract. I've already told you that the ms is both unfinished and in rough shape. I didn't go into this insanity (50,000 words when you have Halloween clean-up, Thanksgiving prep& dinner, then Christmas prep to do- who in a normal frame of mind would even consider doing this? But obviously enough crazy people do.) thinking that editors will soon be begging me to consider offers, and deluging my agent with promises and gifts. NaNo doesn't work like that. You're on your own to create a work and where it goes after that is up to you; no one is waiting anxiously on the sidelines while you bring up your word count.

The feeling of abandonment. On December 1, our little Central Jersey group had a gathering at the Bridgewater Library. There was candy (to help bring up our blood sugar from having skipped some meals to make it under the wire no doubt), camaraderie as we shared our triumphs and trials, and continuity as we talked about taking our ms or our writing to the next level, and looking ahead to next year. Not once was anyone left out as talk turned from individuals to the group to the organization. The municipal liaisons (as our heroic leaders are called) talked about opportunities for leadership, organizing write-ins (our group had numerous ones), and possibly adding more chapters in the Central Jersey area. If anyone felt abandoned, it was through no fault of others.

Overall, I didn't get coddled, but I got support. Writing is a solo sport, even if it's done in a group. So will I do NaNoWriMo next year? If I don't have a deadline looming, if I'm not out promoting Sirenz or Blonde Ops, or jetting to Hollywood to talk movie deal (as if). So yeah, I think it's a good way to jump start a new project.


Char 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

It's Beginning To Look Like...

I'm going to enjoy Christmas!

I did NaNoWriMo! I'm a winner! (For those not of the writerly persuasion, it means National Novel Writing Month and the goal is to write a book of at least 50,000 words in one month's time. I did.) Now I'll have a project to polish, edit, revise, keep me sharp over the cold winter months and when I'm in between Blonde Ops and Sirenz 3 work, and edits for another book my agent is chewing up.

So thrilled that I've succeeded at that--it was hard--Thanksgiving really threw me for a loop since I entertained 9 people for dinner. All that cooking, cleaning, organizing, then cleaning after company left, then decorating for Christmas I got behind by THOUSANDS of words. But I turned off the TV and glued myself (figuratively) to the desk. I am victorious!

So, here's what my house looks like: First, my tree. It's a little plain (you can't see all the decorations with the low light). I like a little more glitz and I'm one of those annoying people that have a THEME, but this year I'm over at my brother's house.But the cats like it and the plastic balls keep them amused and me sane. I put jingle bells on the lower branches. When they ring, I go running with the water gun. Good target practice. >:)


This is part of my nutcracker collection. I have over 75. (No thank you, I don't want any more. I'm the one who has to unpack/pack them every year. I have one that is over 3 feet tall.) I've found out that people react strangely to them; either they're freaked out by them (one of our friends), they like to do unspeakable things with/to them (another friend) or they look relieved that they don't live in my house (most people). But, I really would like little nutcrackers for the main characters in my books. I wonder if I can find someone to make a little Shar, Meg, Hades.... (If you know of anyone who does this, call me but don't tell the hubs.)


The piano from my Great Uncle Wilbur is under there. This is my hubster's domain- the Christmas Village. We have tons more, but this year a number of factors (like not doing the pre-planning) limited the size. We have a bookstore (of COURSE!), cathedral, church (hubby's family Catholic, mine Protestant), toy and general stores, hotel, Christmas tree farm, school, train station, clock tower, baker, butcher,trees, skating pond, bridge, and yes, a WalMart (my mother thought she was being funny.). That's another collection we have enough of (unless...no, never mind.)


The final stop: my unique bookcase. Each cubby has books and a poinsettia flower,and a few extra nutcracker soldiers stand guard. Like every book fanatic, I need more space. (It would just be easier to live in a library. So if the Apocalypse occurs, I'll be there. Zombies don't read, I'll be safe.) I'm sure you can see the blue Sirenz cover...


Next week, my office tree and the outside of my house. I like to spread the glee out.

If you don't celebrate Christmas, I wish you peace and all good things. And don't be scared, it all goes back in the box on New Year's Day.


Char

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanks

This week there will be many posts about being thankful. Yes, I'm jumping on the wagon. I'll try not to be sappy.

I'm thankful for people. (Not all, because some aren't worth it.) My family and friends top the list, but I'm also thankful for Dr. Gianacopoulis, the surgeon at Children's Hospital of Pennsylvania, who rebuilt the disc in my jaw, relieving me of years of pain when others wouldn't touch me. I'm grateful for all the wonderful 'writerly' people I've met, my editors, agent, people from the SCBWI, aspiring young writers at schools and signings who talked and bought books. Not least among people I'm happy to have in my life are those who give the most--in return for nothing: police officers, firefighters, first responders, our troops and the National Guard. And finally, people I can't name--because I haven't met them; strangers who do some small kindness for me and future friends in the making. I look forward to learning their names.

The world is a wonderful place, full of mystery and adventure and culture. I'm thankful for Mattituck, the small town where I lived from age 12 to 21, where my high school graduating class was the first to break 100, where there was room to lay in farm fields, daydreaming, to see the ocean's waves smashing the shoreline after a hurricane, to walk for miles through woods without No Trespassing signs. And St. Thomas, where I've vacationed and hope to run away to after the hubs retires and the kids are out of the house. I'm in awe of its aqua waters, 85 degree days, brightly colored tropical fish, and it being a part of the US. My dream is to set up an umbrella, plop my tush into a comfy beach chair and read or write for hours, then swim till I die. In Florence, Italy, I walked where DaVinci and Donatello and the DeMedicis strolled. I saw DaVinci's La Pieta, I sat in cozy sidewalk cafes, the smell of espresso wafting on an autumn day. I crossed over the Ponte Vecchio, that famous bridge with its shops. It may sound funny, but I'm thankful for--New Jersey. Originally I was an unwilling transferee, but NJ has given me Rutgers, my first home, doctors who helped me conceive my sons, good neighbors and friends, George Street Playhouse, and the Bridgewater United Methodist Church.There are so many places I want to see in this world. I won't get to see them all, but I'll find something wonderful in each place.

It may sound silly, but being grateful for working in McDonalds? As a dishwasher? A house painter? All my jobs--paralegal, secretary, hotel maid, office manager, store clerk, professor's assistant, newspaper reporter, mom, author--have enriched my human experience. I know what it's like to work for under minimum wage, bepaid less than a man for the same work, and to be fired. No one can accuse me of feeling 'entitled' or not understanding reality as I worked to buy my own cars and the insurance, managed a budget, lived within my means, and paid for my own college. Experiences like this made me appreciate life, broadened my mind, and kept me motivated.Yes I'm thankful for them--and glad not to have to do most of them ever again!

Being thankful for things sounds a little shallow, but wait. I'm not going to list my Coach bag (previous year's model, bought on sale) or other such thing. (Not even my pool.) I will mention- that hot cup of chai latte tea in the morning or when I'm stressed. Then there's the hubster's BBQ ribs, rich in dripping spices on a summer's eve. I love my chattering squirrel who sits in our backyard oak tree, who pilfered the bird seed and savored the apple cores I threw out. Okay, I have to mention my pool; I love to swim and it's given me days and summers of pleasure, exercise and fun. One last thing; my grandmother's topaz ring. She got it from Tiffany's for her 16th birthday (1923!). She left it to me. We shareda love of English grammar, indulged in arguments, and enjoyed glasses of wine.It reminds me of her and how much I miss her.

My thankful list is long, but it's diverse, strange, complicated and it's me. Wishing you all people, places and things to be thankful for--

Char

Monday, November 12, 2012

One Grain of Sand...



I missed last posting my blog the last two Mondays with Hurricane Sandy then the Nor'easter. After living like a pioneer woman for several days, and my hubby running off to work where it was warm, I threw the kids into the car and went to my mommy's. She had heat, power, and internet.

But I'm back- doing NaNoWriMo, laundry and mom things. I've caught up on almost everything (except the time on my Bowflex).

Overall, losing power was a nuisance; I still had all my stuff, my house. Some people weren't so lucky. And it's time to pitch in. Even if times are tight financially, we can all do something- even if it's just a little. One grain of sand, by itself, is nothing, but it you throw it on the beach, it becomes part of something bigger.

Besides giving through my church, Nat and I are donating a special prize pack of Sirenz and Sirenz Back In Fashion with swag, the diamond ring bookmark, gift cards and more. We're joining over 160 other YA authors like Holly Black, Josh Berk, James Patterson, Sarah Dessen, Lauren Oliver, Wendy Mass, Jon Skovron, Jerry Spinelli, Simone Elkeles, Libba Bray, and too many more wonderful ones for me to list, for YA For NJ. We're all donating books for an auction that will bring much needed food to depleted food banks. A lot of people are suffering, and we're pitching in.

You can help two ways: first, by spreading the word. Tell everyone their favorite authors are doing this. We'll be on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/yafornj and on Twitter at @yafornj. Second, bid on a book. (It should start around Nov. 30th.) Even if you may not be interested in a book, give it as a gift to a family member for the holidays or birthday, donate it to the library or a school.

Because everybody, and every bit, makes a difference to someone.


Char


Monday, October 29, 2012

Ready? Set... NaNoWriMo!

Uh, that means WRITE! For those not in the know, NaNoWriMo means National Novel Writing Month. It's a yearly event in which writers-aspiring and published-try to write EVERY day during November (and yes, you have to write on Thanksgiving Day, or do double duty to make up for it). We try to either write a complete new novel, or finish an novel that's been started. Here's the link if you want to try it: http://www.nanowrimo.org/

Yes, it's a bit daunting. But there are things you can do to make it less so, and help guarantee your success (finishing the novel, not getting it published. That's a whole different story and numerous blogs.).

First, let me brag that I've never left a novel unfinished (whether it was good, again, another blog story) so that should give me some street cred to give advice. Additional bragging (hey, I'm entitled, I've worked hard) is that I have two published books, two more coming out, one in revisions with my agent, another book 2/3 finished and ideas for two others.

So, if you think you're just going to sit down and write that opus you're wrong. You'll get stuck at some point. And that's probably why if you're a veteran (lots of unfinished manuscripts in the drawer?), you know this is true. Before heading into that writing jungle, consider what I'm doing to avoid that:

1. Write a synopsis- about a page, no less. It will give you just enough detail to give you a general direction.

2. Do a character list. What do they look like, what are their names, their family histories, their jobs/grades, what's unusual about them, what are their talents, who do they like, etc. You don't have to know everything, and you may change things about them, but remember you're just getting started. The better you know your characters beforehand, the better you'll know how they'll react to whatever you throw at them.

3. Write out synopses for several key scenes or turning points that you know you want in the story; how your two main characters met, how someone was betrayed, a major fight scene. Sometimes it's easier to build around a scene (it's how some writers turn short stories into novels).

4. If you can, do a chapter outline. You aren't chained to it, but you won't get lost or stuck because you don't know where the story's going. Mull it over and if while writing your manuscript during NaNoWriMo you don't like it, or have discovered a different direction that is better, then deviate.

5. Do some research.I'm planning on writing a sci-fi story and need to find a suitable star system that has earth-like planets in the Milky Way. I've got to have information on why/how humans got into space. If you're going to write a western, you'll need to know what guns will be used, clothes worn, where the action takes place. By having information, you can refer back to help move the scenes along and add those very important details that give depth and fine tune your direction.

6. Build your world. My Sci-fi world will have humans, humanoids (look like humans but are not Earth-born), and non-human species. I need to know what they look like, do they trade in metallic money, does everyone have access to spaceships? What is the political system?Where does my story take place? As much detail as you can gather NOW will help you envision your story, and you won't have to stop and figure out the answers.

7. Make plans for when you can't write. Going to Great Aunt Henrietta's for Thanksgiving? Or having 25 people you have to shop/cook/clean for? You can write twice as much the day before or the day after, or on the following weekend. A lot of people fail because they didn't manage their time well and once they fall behind, they give up.

Remember, the purpose of NaNoWriMois to get you to write that book--from title page to The End. It doesn't have to be perfect (and it won't be), it just needs to be started and finished. Perfection will come with revisions (LOTS of revisions), along with more depth, character development and fleshing out.

So a little prep work now and it'll be easier (I swear!) to successfully complete your NaNoWriMo challenge. Good luck and let me know how you do, and if my list was helpful.

P.S. I'm working on my new Ultrabook with Windows 8 and still trying to figure somethings out- like how to shrink this page and access Word so I can put my fancy signature. Maybe next week...

Char



Monday, October 22, 2012

Do I Look Good In This?


Yes, this is my front door. After Sirenz was pubbed, I just had to have it.

But it brings to mind something that's been annoying me a bit lately. Is life really about keeping up appearances, choosing the 'right' accessories/clothes/candidate/cause/friends/whatever?

I don't think so, but yet it seems like life is high school eternal. We judge each other by so many different standards (what brands we buy, who we vote for, which book we read, etc.), it's a wonder any of us talk to anyone. (Notice I used 'we' and not 'you'.) But it is wearying trying to remember and continually maintain the appearance that we either want or (think we) need to have, or are trying to change.

What if we all just said, "What the hell! This is me. Deal, or don't, stay, or go." Isn't that what brought the Great and Terrible Oz down? (Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!) He had to appear something he wasn't.

That kind of makes the Wicked Witch of the West a bit of a heroine, don't you think? She didn't buy into appearances (the dress is a dead giveaway). The only reason she wanted the shoes was for their power, not because they were pretty and sparkly and had cute little heels and... were sexy. With her, what you saw was what you got.

So instead of thinking that the saying "It's all about the shoes" refers to having great/perfect/the 'right' appearance, I'm choosing to think it means it's about achieving our heart's desire (I never said she was nice) and not letting how others perceive us stand in out way.

Char

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

EEEEEEEEK!

It's scary time!

For authors, that can be while you're waiting for an answer to a query, a revision on a proposed contract, the night before a book launch--or the result of a review by Publisher's Weekly or Booklist. (brrrr! gives me the shivers just thinking about it!)

For non-authors, it can be anything else. There are a number of authors and bloggers doing posts about what scares them. Some are funny, some are serious, some are 'Are you kidding me?' Being totally forthright, here's what REALLY scares me:

1. Immense suffering, especially if it's near end of life. Okay, I'm wimping here, but having had a fractured skull and assorted broken bones, an ulcer and numerous surgeries, I know what pain is. I can't imagine being in unrelenting pain for days, months, years...

2. The future of the world for my children. Let's face it, a number of countries, like Iran, Syria, Libya, some of the Baltic states, Venezuela, have leaders or terrorist groups that are probably certifiable. There is the possibility that one of these will 'go nuclear.' They don't care about anything but winning at that moment, and looking down the road to a world food/water/air supply choked with radiation just doesn't  figure into their what-happens-the-day-after plan.

3. Internet security. I'm barely able to maintain this blog and it frightens me when hackers can get into the Defense Department, my credit card, ANYWHERE. People who spend their lives hacking don't do it simply for fun; they do it to show they can, and that they have control. The TV show "Revolution" might not be so far fetched and a hacker could someday shut it all down.

4. My children being drug or alcohol addicts, being diagnosed with a mental disorder that ruins their lives, or having severe health problems. As a parent, the hardest thing in the world is seeing your children suffer. And woe to the person that causes that...

5. Freaky aliens like in "Aliens." Really, that movie scared me so much, it's the biggest fear I have about space exploration. I wonder if Captain Kirk met Alien, or Predator, if he would have survived even with all his technology. I have more faith in Captain Piccard, but still... gruesome way to die, see no. 1 above.



That's my black cat, Mink. Does he scare YOU?


Char

Monday, October 1, 2012

And The Winner Is...


Let the clean out commence!

The first winner (there are two, I'm feeling generous) is Tanya Contois because she's never read anything by JR Ward and that must be remedied. She chose Ward's Dark Lover. Send me the addy and it'll get in the mail!

Second winner is Yvonne Ventresca. Because she's read my manuscripts, offered great advice, driven to events with me, gives me birthday presents, tolerates my rantings about a certain vamp series, keeps me motivated and is just an all-around great gal, I'm giving her I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga.

There MIGHT have been a third winner (hey, clears out the clutter faster!) but SOMEONE didn't choose a book!

So next time I host a giveaway, you MUST choose a book. I need a commitment- I like knowing definitive answers. And I don't want to have to make any more decisions than I have to. I will be adding more books to the pile as I read them.

Happy reading!


Char

Monday, September 24, 2012

Fall Cleanup

I've washed all 33 windows, 2 storm doors and mirrors in my house (some of which are dirty again...). Now I'm cleaning out my office.

I can't keep every book I get- and since I tend to pick up a lot of books at Book Expo America, I have a LOT of books. Some are autographed from either BEA or signings. I would need to displace a child and take over their room to keep every book, and much as they sometimes annoy me, I'm not kicking out a kid. So, I'm going to do a giveaway. Sending a book to everyone who asks is just too expensive, but I'll try to make this a more recurring feature and slowly whittle down the pile. Here's some of the unautographed books up for grabs:

-Dark Lover, by JR Ward
-The Shadow Girls, by Henning Mankell
-I Hunt Killers (ARC), by Barry Lyga
-Fury, by Elizabeth Miles
-Gimme a Call, by Sarah Mlynowski
-Wither, by Lauren DeStefano
-Exposed, by Kimberly Marcus

The person who has the best reason for a particular book wins it. You don't have to give me a sob story about choosing between gas for the car or a new read. If you're funny, silly, sarcastic, angry, demanding, whatever, and catch my attention, I'll send it to you. Only rules are that you can't write more than 5 lines (I don't want to read a book length reason) and it has to be posted in the Comments by next Monday morning. By that afternoon, I'll announce the winner and they can send me a shipping address.

Have fun!


Char


Monday, September 17, 2012

Jane Eyre & Me

Jane and I share a character trait; some might call it a flaw, some an attribute.

"Did anybody ever see such a picture of passion!"
"...virulent passions..."
"But you are passionate..."

Like Jane, I feel things intensely. Some might argue too intensely. My mother wanted me to be a lawyer because I could argue my point of view, right or wrong, with such passion. Or, maybe I should have been on the stage- her pet name for me was "Sarah Bernhardt." (Actress from my grandmother's time. Think dramatic diva.)

Either way, like Jane Eyre's Aunt Reed, my mother feared that passion and not common sense ruled my actions. And at times it did. Still does. But like Jane, I cannot seem to dampen those passions. On Facebook, I've started deleting all the political advertisements/posts because I cannot seem to stop myself from commenting.  "...for it seemed as if my tongue pronounced words without my will consenting to their utterance: something spoke out of me over which I had no control." As a writer, you must not offend any segment of the populace and as I'm told often enough, "It's better to say nothing."

That doesn't mean I can do that, even if I wanted to. Jane understands where I'm coming from- speak first, regret later. That's probably why I loved reading  Jane Eyre. (And it has nothing to do with the fact that Ms. Bronte and I share the same first name.)

But while such passion may push friends, yes, family too, and acquaintances to a distance, it also serves as a constant supply of motivational energy. When I get fired up about something, I generally tend to stick to the project until I've finished it--or turned to something new. (Very rarely does it fizzle, but that doesn't mean it can't die a sudden death.) My passion is directed toward my children and family, my writing/career, reading, swimming in my pool, abhorring the cold, and enjoying life.

So Jane and I want to know, What's your passion?


Char

Monday, September 10, 2012

What's In YOUR Closet?

Fall's here (pardon me while I wipe a tear). Gotta bring out the sweaters, socks, jackets, and election wear. Here's what I'm wearing this year:


Not the shirt (while it's pretty, new, orangey and very flattering), I'm talking about my campaign buttons. I was lamenting last week on Facebook that we really need a third party since a lot of people are unhappy with the two frontrunners. I asked someone to step up to the plate.

And he has.

Hades.

He's running for Prez, and because of that whole 'free will' thing (which he is bound by, luckily for us), he's campaigning for your vote. His platform: he can make everything perfect-if we give up free will and let him be our new leader. (I haven't heard anything about a running mate; I think he likes to be top dog.)

Hades is running under the Olympian party. If you want to show your support, enter to win a campaign button; either "Ladies for Hades" or "Haute House" (I'm guessing that he wants to do some 'redecorating'. I'm fearing for the presidential portraits. Hades doesn't like to share the limelight with anyone, let alone a mortal.) Just leave a comment and which button you'd like.

Next Monday, I'll pick 5 winners.

Just remember, any deal you make is between you and him!


Char

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Labor Pains

Did you know that Labor Day was created to honor all the gains made by labor unions? And give a day of paid rest to union workers. Well, hey, what about us non-union workers? Doctors, parents, freelance writers, minimum wage earners, office workers, etc. (I think there are more union than non-union workers because teachers, police officers, nurses, government workers, and most other occupations seem to be repped by unions.) Being a non-union worker seems to be a minority...

And I want my rights!

It was Labor Day and I labored! I washed- INSIDE AND OUT- all 33 windows plus two storm doors and all mirrors in my house (it was a Windex day; cloudy and cool so the windows should be streak free. We'll find out the next sunny day, but I'm not going to look too closely....)

Plus, I changed sheets and did five loads of laundry, dishes, and straightening up. Then I worked on our new manuscript, Blonde Ops. (That was the only thing I didn't finish, but shhh, don't tell Nat, I'll finish it today. Really.)

But I did get a treat; my cousins Debi & Joe spent the weekend and we took them out to dinner. This is where we went....


Not being narcissistic, but we've been wanting to try this restaurant for about two years. I don't know, maybe it just spoke to me... ;)

So now it's back to school, routines, regular work days for most of us. One last thought as you groan and moan (hey, I'm right there with you- ask anyone, I'm a summer gal. As I put out my mums and fall decorations, I'll look longingly at my pool and patio bar, and I will be depressed until almost October):

My quote to live by:

Do what you can, while you can, because there are no guarantees that tomorrow you can.


Char


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

5 Reality Slaps For Your Writing

We all make mistakes, and I am owning up to these five. You should too, because I've seen this enough times when critiquing/reading to realize how pervasive these bad habits are.

1. You defy the laws of physics and other natural laws, and sometimes break them. For example, how can you have a window in the ceiling with light shining through when it's an underground room? If it's not completely underground, you need to explain this. I have 'warped' people from a muscle car to a minivan in the space of a page, and without the benefit of a transporter. You must make sure that people and things are in the proper place. Don't forget the correct time, too. I am notorious (ask Nat) about skipping over days. In Sirenz, we had to map out the days just so I know where the action is (apparently I like to breeze over to the weekend...) Do a timeline, it helps.

2. I, I, I... As Mr. Smith said in the Matrix films, "It's all about me..." (although technically the line is "Me, me, me; it's all about me.") But I see this a lot when it's first person point of view. One sentence after another starts out with "I." You've got to mix it up; start with a verb: "Slumping at the table, I..."
or an adverb: "Angry at her unfair accusation, I..." or an adjective: "Mottled skin covered my...." or whatever else. Just glance down the page and circle all the I's. Because sometimes, your I's frighten me.

3. You can't speak for me--or anyone else because your quotes are lost in text. If one character is in the spotlight, saying or doing something, you must start a new paragraph when the speaker changes. If not, this creates confusion over who was speaking (and a dense text). For example: "I don't like you!" she screamed. I cringed at the harshness of her voice. "What did I do to you?" It should be like this:
"I don't like you!" she screamed. NEXT LINE: I cringed at the harshness of her voice. "What did I do to you?" Not only does it separate the two characters by action and words, it clarifies the dialogue because the "What did I do to you?" is clearly identified with the first person POV, not the initial character.

4. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Okay, so you're describing something, let's say a road. You DO NOT need to keep saying "the road." Substitute the pronoun "it." See: "The road stretched lazily before me, winding down, luring me into the coolness of the woods beyond. It was hard packed dirt, and no tire tracks were visible, giving evidence of previous travelers. I wondered how many people had traveled this way, only to meet their doom." Now I could have said "the road" in all three sentences, but by using the pronoun "it" and the phrase "traveled this way" I didn't have to repeat myself and bore you. If you can't think of another word (thesaurus, where art thou?) then vary the sentence structure: start with a verb, an adjective, an emotion, something other than "the road." Do I need to repeat myself?

5. "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds," said Ralph Waldo Emerson. If you follow the same pattern of subject, verb, predicate sentence after sentence, Ralph is talking to you. Follow this: "Greta slowed down the car. Barry hopped in. Carrie asked them who had the tickets.Greta answered she did and drove to the concert." The sentences, even the last one which is more complex, all start the same way. This is a variation of the I, I, I, only now it's infecting the other characters' actions. Don't always start with the subject, do a change up, pull a surprise. And just because you throw some dialogue in between doesn't mean you've spiced things up. If every paragraph following dialogue follows with the subject/verb pattern, you're boring your readers and not progressing your writing skills.

Do famous authors do this? Why, yes, and they get away with it. But they're famous for some reason and you're not. And you don't want to be in the company of low skilled writers. Give your manuscript a good perusal and see not if, but how many times you have fallen into these bad habits. Now I have to go check my manuscript because I know I've violated all these rules somewhere. Happy searching/revising!


Char

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Deadly Visions



This is what I saw perched on the roof of our pool bar. Patiently they gathered, five, sometimes more of them. Then they'd circle overhead for long, lazy flights.

Waiting.

Waiting.

Calling their friends.

Two questions arise: are they here for the dead deer in the woods behind our house...

Or me?

I've been fighting a hell of a cold so there were times I felt close to Death's door. I was nervous about going outside to sit in the sun, like a vampire wanting to see daylight before bursting into ash (there's no sparkling here). In one fell swoop, they could sweep my cough-racked body away to their lair to chomp, rip and chew me at their leisure.

But they only wanted the stinky dead deer.

Lucky for me.

But now I'm starting to rise from the hole that was my sick bed and toddle about, zombie like. So that's why this post is late. I apologize for almost leaving this plane for the next, neglecting my post. Here's how I'll make it up to you:

http://bringya2pa.wordpress.com/2012

(No, couldn't get the hyperlink to work- you should know me by now that I have tech issues.)

It's a HUGE-MEGA-AMAZING-NOT-TO-BE-MISSED gathering of over 30 YA authors, and it's in West Chester, PA. (Stop whining, it's not that far.) There will be AUTHORS. And free swag. And AUTHORS. And books. AND AUTHORS. Am I getting through? There's nothing authors love more than meeting with people and talking about books: theirs, other people's, what's hot, what they can recommend, what they love, etc.

So spend a Saturday feeding your brain, getting back into the dreaded school/work routine (Summer's almost over, kiddies, back to work time!) and pick up some great books.

If I can battle death by cold to be there (last year we were staring the Grim Reaper down in the form of a hurricane and we STILL had lots of people show up), so can you! (by the way, I'm not infectious anymore.) We ALL look forward to seeing you there.


Don't make me send those buzzards to your house...


Char



Monday, August 13, 2012

Bling Ambition

My adorable niece Lauren is part of my muse for Shar in the Sirenz series. She graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology, works for a major department store in buying, and lives in NYC. When we get together, the conversation is usually about fashion, trends, and living in the city. One particular conversation centered around a pair of Christian Louboutin heels covered in Swarovski crystals.

Stunning.

Glittering.

She wants these shoes (sorry, I can't get a picture of them even from the official Christian Louboutin website because they're from several seasons ago and have been eclipsed by glitzier versions).  But here's what they look like; take a gold lame high heel, of course add the signature red lacquer bottoms, and cover entirely with sparkling Swarovski crystals.

Unbelievable. She wants them for her eventual wedding. Being the magnanimous aunt, I offered to buy them for her.

$3,395 was the price.

I choked and almost swallowed my tongue.

"You want these shoes, which you'll wear only TWICE (once for the wedding and once maybe for a fancy New Year's party and that's it because if you ever have a baby, your feet will get fatter and you'll never fit into them again)."

I rescinded my offer.

Sorry, but I can't see spending that much money on a pair of shoes. (I've seen lots of videos on youtube about enterprising women making their own versions; they painstakingly glue THOUSANDS of crystals onto a pair of regular shoes.) I'd offer to do that (I could watch Vampire Diaries while doing it), but I know it wouldn't fly with her.

While I wouldn't spend that much on any shoe, I do understand (in part) her desire to have them (going past the obvious materialistic sense that today's generation is obsessed with. Sorry, Sweetie but your group is all about the name.). Everyone needs a goal to strive for that doesn't have to do with getting a promotion, or acing a test, or losing ten pounds; it's about a goal for personal, FUN, outrageous reasons. Something just for yourself. My goal is to make a bestseller list--not for the money or prestige, but because it's always been a dream. (Those other things can follow, thank you.) Just to say I'm a best selling author is my Christian Louboutin dream. Lauren will have to work very hard to save the money for those shoes, just as I'll have to work very hard on my writing. Will our goals change the world, make it a better place, do something for someone else?

No.

But we all need something just for "ME;" whether it's an outrageous pair of shoes, a listing in the Top Ten, a climb to Mt. Everest, or a tattoo on the tush.

So work and save Sweetie. When I make the Top Ten, you can wear your pretty shoes to my party.



  Auntie Char


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Words I Want To Kill

(Warning: explicit language!)


I'm all for freedom of speech- let's make that clear. In no way do I want to infringe on anyone's rights to say what they will regardless of what I or anyone else may think, say, or believe.

But I want certain words to die a rapid death and disappear forever into oblivion. In no order of importance (or disgust) they are:

Nigger. Why is this word still around? If no one used it, especially around the younger generations, it would die out. I don't care if you're black, white, pink or striped, there is NO justification for this word. And I would think it's even WORSE when a member of your own race uses it. Save me from the 'it's art' argument when it's used in music or literature. It's NOT art--it's an example of humankind at it's lowest.

Cunt. Without trying to be sexist, I'm thinking mostly males use this word (and maybe it was made up by one). It's crude, offensive, adds nothing to speech or literature or music. When I hear that word, I really want to smack the user, sooo hard. Don't use it in my presence.

God damn/Jesus Christ. It doesn't matter whether you're Christian or not, it's blasphemy for those of us who are. It deeply offends us. I wonder if you used a curse which offended other faiths if you'd get  away with it. Please use your brains and your heart and substitute another word--there are plenty of curses.

Sexist uses of pussy, misogynistic use of bitch, and curses for the sake of being 'cool' also tick me off.

So let's all be more creative, more considerate and kill these puppies off. Any that steam you?


Char





Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Oddities

I'm a little off kilter this week, having visited family, then had other family visiting me. Trying to get back in the groove, so this post will be random stuff I think you might (or might not) like to know.

1. The new kitten, Mink, is feeling just fine thank you. His birthday is May 19th, same day as my eldest son. Kitten likes to tease larger cat. (Not smart, Mink, not smart.) I wake up numerous times to make sure that Mink hasn't been eaten by Casey.

2. Was reading a publications magazine, and it featured a book on writing by an author "soon to be a best seller." ?  Either you are, or you aren't. Can I put "hoping to be a bestseller soon" as a tag line? Would probably make as much sense. Let's all tagline our dreams!

3. I love squirrels. So much I wrote a MG novel about them. He evolves intellectually rather than physiologically. Here is my inspiration/motivation diorama:


Editors who don't snatch up Evolution Revolution: Simple Machines will just have to pay more for it later on. (And yes, I claim ownership of the squirrel that lives in the backyard oak tree.)

4. I don't want to hear about the Michael Jackson family drama. Or Snooki. Or how Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattison smooched in public. Ditto: all famous people (but will make exception for Ian Somerhalder).

5. I'm tired of politics, don't care about the Penn St football team, or to hear any excuse by the family of the Colorado movie theater (allege) killer for his actions.

6. Thank you Mother Nature for the rain, even the copious amounts, but it's too late to save my meditation garden AND ALL THE MONEY I SPENT ON FLOWERS. You want flowers? Send some free my way, revive the crispy/rotten plants I have, OR WAIT UNTIL NEXT YEAR.

7. Going to Stones Crossing Swim Club for a book signing. I like talking about writing and books to teens, kids, adults- whoever will listen. Whoever shows up gets chocolate and bookmarks. (It's worth going to....) I promise to try and be entertaining.

8. I need a vacation that doesn't involve squabbling, decisions, making other people happy.

9. My edits are going slower than I anticipated.

10. Awesome thunderstorm yesterday! I love watching them. (You can call me crazy- our house has been struck 3 times- each time with just me and a different son. People rush out of my house when thunder is heard...)

So, have a nice week! I promise something substantial next week.


Char

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Addition and Subtraction

This is the addition:



This is Mink (unless my sons come up with a better name for the little guy). He's a rescued barn cat. Poor thing had the worst case of ear mites the vet had ever seen, plus a sinus infection, possibly worms, and undernourished. But he's adorable and we love him.

My sidekick is not amused.


Casey has a point; she was here first, she's the princess, this is her castle. But changes- additions to our house, to a project, to our lives--upset the balance. To maintain that balance, there has to be a subtraction elsewhere. Do I give Casey less snuggle time? Give up some writing time? Cut down on sleep? The extra time with Mink has to come from somewhere.

Just like my writing projects. I'm working on my own stuff, but have joint projects. When I get a new idea or want to revise my stuff, do I take time/energy away from joint works, or steal it from housework time, free time, reading time, family time?

Or maybe just work smarter, freeing up some time.

It will have to be a little of both.

Yeah, I'll let you know how that works.

In the meantime, I have to play referee; spending more time on something that's not built into the already tight schedule.


Char

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Disclaimer: If i suddenly stop posting posts. haha, its because i did something wrong and I have to wait for one of my children to fix it.
PS: my mom will update this soon, i just might have fixed all her problems for about 3 months, then she will probably find a new way to hurt her poor computer xD PEACE (5th time fixing her accounts with gmail and blogger, ugh)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

When, In The Course Of Human Events...

Those are the words beginning one of the most powerful, world-altering documents. Even if you're not American, read them. If you have any sense of the human spirit that yearns to be free, they will move you.





If not, then you'll never understand how we feel about the Fourth of July.

In the words of Patriot Patrick Henry:

Give me liberty, or give me death.


Char


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Don't leave, I'm here!

I've been busy! Went to Book Expo America to meet new editors for new book I'm co-authoring with Natalie, attended an NYC Rooftop party with so many other amazing authors and bloggers, and then it was a 3 day NJ Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators conference where Natalie & I  presented, signed and schmoozed. Phew! So I am a little behind. Sorry to disappoint.

Allow me to indulge just this little bit....


This is the prize pack for the Sirenz Back In Fashion giveaway. We're listed on a number of blogs, so read the interviews and guest posts (each are different!) and enter to win. You get a SIGNED book, bookmarks, a large diamond ring paperweight, gold chocolate coins all in a pretty pink bag! And read their reviews; they've all taken the time to read the book and write their thoughts. (They won't all be 4-5 star, but that's okay! We each have our prefs.)

So please show some love to the bloggers for their incredible generosity for being part of our blog tour and enter to win! Here's the list (I couldn't put all the links in. Sorry! But Google them.) Some may be later than date shown and some may not appear at all- LIFE happens, but there are plenty of other stops. Happy traveling!


Sirenz Back In Fashion Blog Tour

Date            Blog                                                                                
6/1              Bea’s Book Nook-Bridget 
                    review

6/2              Live to Read-Lindsay 
                    review- Sirenz

6/3              Live To Read-Lindsay 
                    review- SBIF

6/5              Reading Lark-Andrea 
                    giveaway/guest post 

6/6              The Book Faery-Kristi 
                    review/giveaway

6/7              Me, My Shelf & I-Amber
                    interview/giveaway/guest post 

6/7              Word Spelunker-Aeicha 
                    giveaway/guest post 

6/8              Letters Inside Out-Amanda 
                    giveaway/guest post 

6/8              Truly Bookish-Lilly 
                    interview/reviews/giveaway

6/9              Bookhounds-Mary 
                    reviews/giveaway

6/9              What’s Your Story?-Ashley 
                    review/giveaway

6/9              Operation Awesome-Amparo 
                    reviews/guest post 

6/11            Buried In Books-Heather 
                    review

6/12            Buried In Books-Heather 
                    interview/giveaway

6/13            Bookworm Lisa-Lisa 
                    spotlight/giveaway

6/14            YA Novel Reader-Rachel 
                    review/guest post   

6/15            Mel’s Book Blog-Melissa 
                    reviews/giveaway

6/15            Paranormal Reads-Sabrina 
                    review/giveaway

6/16            Fragments of Life/Precious Shusky 
                    review/interview  

6/17            A Beautiful Madness-Emilie 
                    review/giveaway

6/18            Icey Books-Hafsah 
                    giveaway/guest post 

6/18            Oasis For YA-Jessica
                    review/giveaway
                                     
6/19            Book Chic Club-James 
                    review/interview

6/19            Livre de amor-Grace 
                    reviews

6/20            Quill CafĂ©-Keri 
                    review/guest post 

6/20            In The Hammock-Carrie 
                    reviews/giveaway

6/21            Electrifying Reviews-Alex 
                    review

6/21            Page Turners Blog-Michele 
                    review

6/22            Book Brats-Megan 
                    review/interview

6/23            Book Passion For Life-Jessica 
                    review/giveaway/guest post 

6/25            Well Read Wife-Mandy 
                    review/guest post 

6/25            Amaterasu Reads-Kai 
                    review

6/26            Beneath the Cover Reviews-Melissa 
                    reviews/interviews/giveaway

6/26            YA Love-Sarah 
                    review

6/28            Paranormal Book Club-Bella 
                    interview/review/guest post 

6/29            I’m a Reader, Not a Writer-Kathy 
                    interview/giveaway

6/30            Sassy Book Lovers-Stacey 
                    feature

7/1              Starry Sky Books-Chelsey 
                    reviews

7/1              Jean Book Nerd-Jean 
                    review/interview

7/2              One Page Reviews-KM- Katie 
                    review

7/3              Ever After Ester-Brenna 
                    review/guest post 

7/4              Katelyn’s Tales of Books and Bands-Katelyn 
                    review/giveaway/guest post 

7/5              Moonlight Book Reviews-Erika 
                    reviews

7/5              Short and Sweet Reviews-Mandi 
                    review
                  
7/7              Aine’s Realm-Andrea
                    review

7/7              Badass Bookie-Lisa 
                    review/giveaway

7/9              A Backwards Story-Bonnie 
                    review/guest post 

7/10            All Things Books-Tanya 
                    interview/giveaway /review

7/11            Cupcake and a Latte-Wendy 
                    review/giveaway
                  
7/11            Vamp Chix-Michele 
                    giveaway/guest post 

7/12            A Book Lover’s Review-Trini 
                    giveaway/review

7/12            Better Read Than Dead-Kristin 
                    review/giveaway

7/13            Boyish Booklover-Cody 
                    reviews/giveaway

7/                IB Book Blogging-Bailey 
                   review

7/                YA Book Nerd-Jennifer 
                    interview